Hairdressers styling a man dressed up as an Hippopotamus

How Well Do You Know Your Clients?

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I Don’t know which half.

-John Wanamaker, advertising and marketing pioneer

This quote gets dropped around marketing circles all the time. Wanamaker lived back in the nineteenth century when determining which HALF of your marketing was wasted was a difficult proposition.

So how has Wanamaker’s quote remained relevant 100 years later? Because advertising has always lacked one essential thing: feedback systems

The feedback systems available to marketers at that time were slow and inaccurate. And the ones that did exist were often ignored by marketers. Why because they thought ‘Getting your name out there’ was more important than testing and tracking.

And the situation hasn’t improved much since Wanamaker’s day because many marketers still refuse to build one of the most powerful feedback mechanisms into their sales funnels: Surveys.

Surveys Help Build Marketing into Your Product

Dropbox owes much of its early growth to surveys.  They asked ‘How disappointed would you be if Dropbox went away today?  40% of the respondents said they would be EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED which indicated they had a very loyal user base.  This lead them to create one of the most successful SAAS referral systems to date.  

At the time, Dropbox was using AWS (Amazon Web Services) for their cloud storage service and they had a ton of excess space.  So by creating a referral program that rewarded their users by increasing their storage space, both Dropbox and their customers got what they wanted: 

  • Their customer’s eyes bugged out when they referred Dropbox to their friends to get up to 32gbs of storage.
  • Dropbox won because this excess storage space within AWS didn’t cost them anything extra. 

As a result of the program, their customer’s LTV (lifetime value) substantially increased and their CPA (cost per acquisition) went down.  This opened up many new advertising channels for Dropbox which put them on the fasttrack for world domination.

And it all started with a survey.

it’s All About Creating Feedback Loops

Surveys are one of the simplest but most profound feedback mechanisms available to you as a marketer. Savvy marketers SHOULD always be gauging their clients? satisfactions and dissatisfactions with their product or service.

Do they love it? If not, what don’t they love? How would they like it changed so they will love it? And once we get them to love it, how do we get them to refer others?

Yes, many of these questions are basic but I find the majority of marketers commit the sin of thinking they know their audiences inside and out.  You may know your audiences better than anyone else in your company but your audiences likes and dislikes are a fickle thing that changes more than we’d like to admit.  So surveys are a great way of aggregating real-time data to optimize your customer’s experience as well as minimizing the steps your potential customers take to discover your product’s aha moment.

Have you had a lot of success utilizing surveys?  I’d love to hear a few questions you use to illicit some great responses!

As we’ve helped businesses gain product market fit and scale growth hacking protocols, we’ve used four to five different surveying tools.  All of them have pros and cons but for my money (partly because it’s awesome and free), Typeform is hard to beat.  Btw, we’re not compensated by them in any way, this is a true recommendation! 🙂


How Negative Reviews Help Your Business

Handling negative reviews isn’t scary, difficult, or pointless. it’s a critical task that you should take very seriously. (Sorry to add to your to-do list.)

If you’re in business, chances are that you have more happy customers than unhappy ones. However, happy customers are less likely to leave a review online. When people have a bad experience, they are 21% more likely to leave a review than if the experience was a good one. 

Chalk it up to tribe mentality: humans are simply trying to protect others from having something bad happen to them too. 

In one study, researchers found that 86% of the respondents said their buying decisions were influenced by negative online reviews. Yikes!

So how can negative reviews possibly help your business? Read on to learn how to turn any negative review into a great opportunity. 

Stop ignoring the power of reviews (including negative ones)

Unfortunately, too many business owners assume that online reviews Don’t really matter. Perhaps they are so concerned with getting negative reviews they end up sticking their head in the sand and doing nothing. 

Even worse, some business owners mistakenly believe that since they didn’t sign up for a Yelp account, Facebook page, or Google listing, customers can’t review them there. This isn’t true. Unclaimed business profiles exist on all of these platforms and they continue to rack up reviews while their owners ignore them. 

Before we explore online reputation management (the practice of actively responding to reviews and collecting more), let’s first look at why reviews matter:

  • People read them. 86% of consumers across all age groups read reviews for local businesses, while 95% of millennials (people aged 18-34) do the same, and 91% of millennials trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations. 
  • People base their decisions around them. There are all sorts of studies that demonstrate the influence of online reviews, including: 72% of consumers Don’t take action before they read a few reviews; 70% of consumers need to read at least 4 reviews before they can trust a business; only 6% of consumers Don’t trust online reviews at all. Let that sink in.
  • They have a huge impact on SEO. Your Google My Business page helps drive traffic to your website from organic searches. Gaining more online reviews is one of the top ways to improve your Google My Business listing, which can help you rank in the map view of high-value keyphrases such as ‘Fresno defense attorney’ or ‘San Francisco credit union.’

Now that you understand how important online reviews are, it’s time for you to look at getting negative reviews in a different light.

The benefits of getting negative reviews

Reviews are important – even the negative ones! Now it’s time to make negative ones less scary.

There’s actually a silver lining to receiving negative reviews. Here are some of the benefits:

  • Makes your listing more realistic and trustworthy than only having positive reviews
  • Shows how you handle conflict (based on how you respond to the negative ones)
  • At the very least, when you respond, it shows that your business has a pulse and is managed by real people

Just think of some of your own recent experiences with searching for products and services online. When you discover a business with only good reviews, you might assume that many of these are fake, or were written by family and friends. 

Most people are reasonable and they understand that mistakes happen and life isn’t perfect. Your favorite restaurant probably has dozens of negative reviews from when the waitstaff was swamped, and yet it’s still your favorite restaurant despite occasionally long wait times. 

When potential clients and customers are checking out your online reviews, they Don’t expect perfection. However, they will harshly judge the way that you respond to negative reviews. You have the opportunity to make a good impression on dozens or hundreds of people with your response. 

The impact of how you respond to negative reviews on Yelp or Google can be more impactful than a business with a bunch of good reviews.  

Tips for handling negative reviews

Your responses matter. 89% of consumers read businesses? responses to reviews, which gives you a critical opportunity to tell your side of the story. While some online platforms show the top review first (typically the longest and/or written by a top reviewer), many display them in reverse chronological order. 

Since 90% of people read fewer than 10 reviews to form an opinion about a business, that means that if you’ve gotten negative reviews recently, some readers won’t scroll down far enough to get to the good ones. Responding to negative reviews allows readers to form an opinion of your business that isn’t solely reliant on dissatisfied customers.  

In order to make a good impression on the people who will read your response for weeks or months to come, follow these online reputation management tips:

  • Don’t write canned responses
  • Don’t come across as defensive or aggressive
  • Don’t fail to address the issues brought up by the customer
  • Do respond within 7 business days
  • Do respond as the business owner, not an employee
  • Do get help writing the response from a sensitive, well-spoken employee if needed
  • Do have a system in place for making use of feedback (track similar issues monthly or quarterly in a spreadsheet so you can find common threads and fix problems in your business)

Have you ever received an insincere apology before? they’re very obvious. The same goes with how you respond to negative reviews.

Essentially, you want to write like a human: apologize for the issue or error and address it in a way that is personalized (not robotic or insincere). 

How to get more positive reviews

Reputation marketing isn’t just about responding. It also requires that you actively collect more positive reviews from your happy customers in order to balance out the negative ones. 

Getting more positive reviews actually represents your business more accurately. Since people are more likely to leave negative reviews, you’d be doing yourself, your business, and your potential customers a disservice by expecting your reviews to balance out all by themselves.

To get more positive reviews, send follow up emails, follow up SMS, or even run Facebook ads to a custom audience of your existing customers. Let your customers know how much online reviews help you and remind them that it will just take a few minutes of their time. 

One strategy we’ve used for many of our B2B clients is creating a postcard that outlines how to leave them a review on Google, Yelp, and Facebook.  This postcard is then giving out when the service is completed. While many people intend to go online and leave a review, most do not. So we have our clients call the customers back after a few days to follow up and ask how they’re doing.  Then they ask the customer to pull out the review card and they walk them through leaving a review.

One of our law firm clients has used this strategy so well that they’re now the top-rated personal injury attorney in California, with over 300 Google reviews!

Handling negative online reviews might never be your favorite way to spend an afternoon. But I hope you now feel empowered that getting bad reviews is not not the end of the world and actually, a great way to showcase your customer service.

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How to Run Facebook Video Ads Without Breaking the Bank

If you have a Facebook page for your business and you’re posting on a regular basis without using Facebook Ads, you’re wasting your time.

While the Facebook guru’s out there would have you believe otherwise, the only industries where you can get away with social posting with no ads are restaurants, sports, fashion, (and sometimes) animal causes. If your business is not in one of those categories, each of your posts only reach 6.5% of your fan base!  So when you factor in four to six hours a month to post on a regular basis, only reach a small percentage of your fan base, it just doesn’t make a ton of sense.  

Unless you’re also doing Facebook ads.

The thing is, so many businesses (and probably your competition) are already running Facebook Ads, so What’s the secret to managing effective Facebook Ads campaigns that create new customers AND Don’t break the bank?  Well, I’m glad you asked because that’s the focus of this blog post!

More specifically, we’ll cover why you should forget static image-based ads and commit to running video ads on Facebook, instead.

Video ads are expensive…right?

Whether your creative is a video ad or a still image, Facebook’s advertising platform is structured to charge the same. Because video ads often perform better than their still-image counterparts, Facebook rewards the better-performing creative by charging the advertiser less. This metric is Facebook’s Relevance Score.

So, with better performance potential and no additional charge from Facebook, the only barrier to entry is the cost of creating the video ad itself. 

And this is where the roadblocks have traditionally occurred since producing your own video ad usually meant you’d have to incur the following costs:

  • Model or actor fees
  • Location or studio rentals
  • Equipment rentals
  • Videographer fee
  • Editing fee
  • Audio licensing
  • Voiceover acting fees

These costs can easily exceed $20,000 which is cost-prohibitive for many businesses, so they end up skipping video ads altogether.

While we’ve used high-end production like this for some campaigns, this approach just doesn’t make sense for many of our clients.  So to still end up with high-quality video ads, we utilize stock video and simple editing software. 

Why you should use stock video for Facebook ads

You probably know all about stock photos. Maybe you use them on your website and in social media posts. 

But were you aware that you can affordably purchase stock video too? 

There are thousands of free and affordable stock videos on the web. Sure, there are some cheesy stock videos out there (same goes with photos), but there are also very simple, clean, and professional videos that business owners can use to grab the attention of their target audience as they’re scrolling their Facebook feed.

Especially for small business owners, we recommend that you first use stock video, even if you have the budget for a custom shoot. The reason for this is that you can test different creative concepts against each other. You can later create a custom video for the winning concept. What’s more likely is that you’ll get ROI without a custom video and you’ll decide to just keep using stock footage. 

There are so many reasons why video ads are worth trying (especially when using stock footage to save money):

  • Nearly 60% of marketers report that Facebook video ads drive more clicks. 
  • Video ads get shared more often, meaning you get free organic reach from those ads. 
  • Video ads provide more effective branding and brand awareness (Facebook ads come first in our two-phase funnel so people remember your brand when they’re searching for companies like yours).

Examples of using stock video in Facebook ads

We’ve run Facebook video ads for numerous clients. Let’s take a look at some examples and how video ads stack up against image ads. 

Here’s a video carousel ad that we ran for ZooLights, a holiday event at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo.

And here’s an image ad with date and time details that we tested as well.

From the campaign performance below, the video ad got much higher post engagement (9x), and it also received more clicks. 

We’ve also run Facebook video ads for several of our attorney clients.

This video shows someone being arrested for a DUI and being put in the back of a cop car.

And here’s an image ad from the same campaign that ran concurrently:

The rate of engagement with the video ad was much higher (4x) than with the static ad. 

When looking to drive higher rates of registration, Fresno City Community College turned to us for help with their Facebook ads. 

We ran this video ad:

And this image ad:

As you can see, the video ad gained more engagement (22x) with a similar amount of reach. 

There’s no one easy answer as to whether video ads are better or worse than image ads. It can depend on the other aspects of the creative used (concept, text, etc.). 

However, because video ads tend to perform better, they’re absolutely worth testing, especially when using free or affordable stock footage.

Where to find great stock videos 

If you want to use stock video in your ads, you need to know where to look for quality footage. These are our favorite sources for stock video:

As an example of what you might find, here are some videos of solar installation found in Adobe Stock. 

The pricing for most of the Adobe Stock videos is $79.99 each, which is a steal when you consider the cost of filming a similar video on your own. Pexels has thousands of free videos, but they’re more creative and Don’t cover all business use cases. 

How to pick the right stock videos

Now that you know where to look, you also need to know what to look for. You Don’t want to just choose any video related to what your business does. You need an overall concept for your ad, and to tell an engaging story.

Here are some different ideas for videos:

  • A potential customer experiencing the pain point you solve 
  • A satisfied customer whose problem has been solved 
  • An employee performing quality work, doing the service that your company offers so your customer doesn’t have to bother with it
  • Eye candy: focus on an image that is somewhat related to your product or service but is very interesting.  Wells Fargo did this using Promo by finding the video below of a dog catching a snowball in slow motion:

How to edit video ads

85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound. That’s why your video ad should make sense and be engaging even without sound. To do this, incorporate short text overlaid on your video ad, or make sure that the ad description is informative enough. 

Even though video ads are watched without sound a majority of the time, it’s still smart to include music and possibly voice overs in your ad so that the content is even more engaging for the people who do turn on the sound. 

Our top tools for quickly, easily, and affordably editing Facebook video ads are Promo, InVideo, and WeVideo.

Key takeaways

  • No one sees your organic social media posts 
  • Use social ads along with your social posts to effectively reach your audience
  • Static image ads are lame, focus on video ads
  • Video ads get better engagement, more shares, and more clicks
  • Instead of spending thousands of dollars on video production, use stock video

What to Do When Google Ads Don’t Work

Sometimes it’s fun to reminisce about the good old days of PPC. You know, when the Google Ads platform was called Adwords, things were simpler, and everything seemed to make more sense.?

I was just having a moment like this after optimizing a client’s Google Ads account: I thought back to 2013 when the majority of our Google Ad campaigns required much less work and still yielded strong results. Back then, we created a handful of ad groups with a few ads in each. Creating a great landing page wasn’t necessary since the client’s website usually did the trick. And we might have spent a few minutes per week optimizing ad performance.

Fast forward to today and we’re spending hours per week optimizing ad platforms, but that’s still not enough to create more customers!  In addition, we’re not only A/B testing landing pages with segmented messaging, images, and design, but we’re creating complex sales funnels. These funnels tie together video production, various ad platforms, sequenced email marketing campaigns, and attribution models, all designed to inform a customer, make them feel comfortable, and eventually land the sale…all while collecting all relevant data points.

While this digital marketing arms race has gotten more complex over the years, it’s also created an unintended consequence: the cost to acquire a customer in almost every industry has skyrocketed.

So while Google Ads remains a very viable customer acquisition channel, only the best campaigns produce an ROI.

Below, I’d like to share with you some of our most successful techniques that allow our Google Ad campaigns to perform in ‘the top 3% in the United States‘ (according to our Google Ads Rep). 

Here’s what we’re covering in this post:

  • The problem: why ROI from Google ads is declining
  • The solution: an introduction to our two-phase funnel
  • Examples of the two-phase funnel in action
  • Why the two-phase funnel works
  • One bonus tip
  • Key takeaways

The problem: why ROI from Google ads is declining

The buying process is no longer as simple as AIDA (Awareness – Interest – Decision – Action) would have you believe. Today’s consumers and B2B buyers tend to hunt for reviews and alternatives online instead of going with the first option they see. 

With the internet at your prospect’s fingertips. They can (and will) research products and services before buying because it’s easier than ever to do so.

At the same time, more and more companies have begun advertising on Google. Before the 2010s and in the first half of the 2010s, the number of Google advertisers was far lower. Because of this increased competition, the cost-per-click has risen across nearly every industry. 

In addition, people have gotten used to clicking on Google Ads over the years so it now takes more clicks to produce a lead. 

So considering the rising costs of Google Ads and the amount of clicks they take to convert into a sale, the bottom of the sales funnel has gotten much longer over the last six years.  Which means your cost to acquire a customer could very easily outpace your customer lifetime value, putting you in hot water.

The solution: an introduction to our Thunder & Lightning two-phase funnel

What should you do about it?

Well, if you’re in B2B (where Google advertising is particularly complicated and costs are very high) you should stop using Google for the first touchpoint with a prospect. 

Instead, you need to create a two-phase funnel, with the first phase focused on building trust, not making a sale. We call this the Thunder & Lightning funnel!

  • Phase 1 on the Facebook Ads network (Thunder) – Because Facebook and Instagram have incredibly advanced targeting criteria, you should first build up a custom audience using Facebook’s ad network by getting your ideal audience to click on your ad. This allows you to build trust/value and educate your target audience, all without asking for the sale.
  • Phase 2 on Google (Lightning) – You then retain the audience that clicked on your ad, and you use Google remarketing so that your Google ads ONLY show up for someone who has searched a keyphrase you’re targeting AND has previously clicked on your Facebook/Instagram ad.

With this Thunder & Lightning funnel, you’re no longer spending money on expensive Google ad clicks from people who have never heard of your business. Facebook not only has awesome targeting capabilities, but it also costs far less for each ad click, so you can build up a worthwhile audience more affordably.

And for both phases, you can of course include location targeting to match the region where your business operates. 

Here’s the Thunder & Lightning funnel in a nutshell: use Facebook to identify the right audience, then use Google to capture prospects who are actively in the market for your product or service and who already know about your business. For B2B companies, the result is greater ROI than advertising on either platform separately.

Examples of the Thunder & Lightning funnel in action

We’ve addressed how the two-phase funnel can solve the common problems that companies face with Google ads, but what about specific, unique problems?

Let’s take a look at some examples:

Solar subcontractor

One of our clients is a solar subcontractor with a very unique customer base.  Instead of targeting homeowners, they only work with other solar contractors. So Google ads doesn’t yield a lot of business because they can only target solar subcontractor-related keywords across California.  

When we implemented the Thunder & Lightning funnel, we focused the Facebook ads on building an audience of solar contractors. We targeted project managers of large fortune 500 solar companies across the US with a variety of ad creative designed to position our client as the best solar subcontractor in California. Once we built up our targeted list, we then used Google Ads only as a retargeting tactic.

The campaign ended up creating a 550% ROI with Facebook Ads and a 478% ROI with Google Ads. 

B2B roofing company

With our B2B roofing company, it’s a similar story. Not every B2B buyer will include a word such as ‘industrial’ into their search query when searching for a roofing company, so we also targeted searches that could be conducted by consumers. We learned that by running ads for business-centric keyphrases, there was a lower search volume and also very high cost per click. 

When building the Thunder & Lightning funnel, we were able to protect our client from paying for consumer clicks even when targeting more generic keyphrases. This campaign has resulted in numerous large commercial contracts being won.

Commercial truck dealership

One of our clients is a commercial truck dealership that typically sells fleets of vehicles to other businesses. Yet there are tons of B2C truck shoppers who are looking for a vehicle that can tow their RV, which is not their target. So their Google Ads campaign was initially getting a lot of clicks from consumers, instead of their target audience.

After we set up their two-phase funnel to only show Google ads to small and medium sized business owners who had previously clicked on their targeted Facebook ad, their overall ROI drastically improved. 

Why the Thunder & Lightning funnel works

It’s important to understand some of the deeper reasons why the Thunder & Lightning funnel works. Yes, it’s about targeting, re-targeting, and being smart with your ad spend. But there is an important psychological factor at play: trust.

The Thunder & Lightning funnel works because it builds trust while simultaneously lowering your Google ad spend. Anyone who clicks on your ad is already aware of your company. Trust is the most powerful psychological marketing tactic there is.

The world’s best UX/UI doesn’t stand a chance against trust. 

Don’t believe me?  Google personal injury attorney Los Angeles.  The top three to four ads lead to outdated landing pages with below-average design and cookie-cutter content.  So why would these attorneys spend $150+ a click only to push traffic to these landing pages? That’s right, trust.  They’ve built trust within the community for months and sometimes years.  

So stop wasting your money by using Google Ads to ask for the sale before your customers know who you are.  Use Facebook and Instagram to convey your value, tell stories, and build trust…your Google Ads campaign will thank you for it!

Bonus tip

In our 2-phase funnel, Facebook does the hard work by finding your potential customers.  Then over time you build up your retargeting list to serve Google Ads to them. The biggest issue you’ll run into with this strategy is that Facebook only holds your retargeting list for a maximum of 6 months, then it’s gone!  

So keep your data by using a third-party analytics platform like Mixpanel when you start your campaign.  Similar to Google Analytics, these third-party analytics platforms track all of your advertising traffic, but they have the advantage of exporting the IP addresses of your website visitors. An IP address is a data point that both Google and Facebook uses to serve retargeting ads to your audience. By warehousing this IP address data yourself, it becomes your data, not Facebook’s!  This will allow you to build an incredibly targeted marketing campaign over time. 

Key takeaways

Here are some of the key takeaways from this post: 

  • Google Ads have become too expensive for many B2B companies because of increased competition, higher costs per click, and a longer buying process
  • Facebook/Instagram advertising offers great targeting and lower costs. When retargeting a Facebook audience on Google, you can find people who are actively searching for a business like yours (and have already been identified as an ideal customer).
  • Build a lot of trust with Facebook BEFORE heavily investing in Google Ads
  • Use Mixpanel to keep the IP addresses of your target audience
The Biggest Mistake We Made With Attorney Marketing

The Biggest Mistake We Made With Attorney Marketing

Mistakes are painful, especially when they cost you time and money. So while I?d like to say every attorney marketing campaign we’ve ever managed has been successful, there have been a few that were not. So after doing a review of each campaign, there was one issue they all had in common that was so powerful that it even overcame extremely targeted and optimized marketing:


The Missing Key to Credit Union Marketing: Attribution

As a financial institution, it can be very difficult to attribute a return on investment (ROI) on your marketing campaigns. Sure, you can use the Google Tag Manager to track all of your digital marketing efforts on Facebook and Google, but what happens once your potential member applies for a loan? For the majority of community banks and credit unions, they push their traffic to an online banking portal to run their credit. This is where the digital trail of many marketing campaigns goes dark, because Google won’t connect the dots between the clicks from your ads to new loan applicants because this data spans across two separate datasets.


Stop Ignoring SEO and Start Gaining Clients

Twenty or thirty years ago, it would have been hard to imagine a business that didn’t list their company in the phone book. Yet in today’s world, this is what many businesses are doing by not having an SEO (search engine optimization) strategy.

How does an SEO strategy affect your business’s ability to gain new clients’  81% of the US population searches online before buying a big ticket item, and 75% of those people never scroll past page 1 of Google’s search results.  

So simply put: if your business is not on page 1 of Google’s search results, your business does not exist to your potential customers!

Why Search Engine Optimization (SEO) matters

People are looking online for businesses like yours, so it’s your job to understand the steps you should take to make your website as Google-friendly as possible.  This process is referred to as SEO or search engine optimization.

Companies that rank on page 1 of Google search results acquire 91.5% of all traffic. The scraps are left to everybody else.

When you rank on page 1, you’re seen as an authority in your market, whether local, national, or global. Even if the highest ranked company isn’t the top rated or the highest grossing, it can seem that way to prospects. Younger, newer companies can quickly outrank you if you Don’t prioritize SEO.

You might be getting results from other strategies like business partnerships and paid advertising. But if you’re asleep at the proverbial SEO wheel, your competitors will easily acquire your potential customers.

Old school SEO tactics Don’t work anymore

When you’re researching SEO tips and services, it can feel like everyone is saying to do this and not that. Read too much contradictory advice, and you’ll want to give up.

Don’t worry. The reality is, there are things that work, and also black-hat tactics that are definite no-nos.

In the early days of SEO, black-hat activities included:

  • Keyword stuffing – You know those articles and pages that stuff the same keyword or phrase into every other sentence? Yeah, Don’t do that.
  • Fictitious link building – Sure seemed like a good idea at the time to set up fake websites to give yourself backlinks, but Google caught on and penalized the perpetrators
  • High volume, low quality content – Back in the day, sites used to churn out dozens of blog posts per week in a race that cared all about volume and nothing about quality. Boy do we feel bad for anyone who ever worked at a ‘content mill.

The old way of doing SEO will actually hurt your current rankings and lower your chances of appearing at the top of page 1, which means less potential customers.

it’s all about Google’s algorithm

We know what Google doesn’t want, but what about what it does want?

Google has created and continually improves one of the world’s most complicated algorithms that considers over 150 factors when ranking thousands of websites in a few milliseconds, for a single internet search.  It does this with no thoughts, feelings, or desires. The algorithm not only determines the rank of websites, but it also measures the desire and intent of the person performing the search, based on their online behavior.  Then it matches up all these data sets to display their search results.

In addition to how they gather data, Google is always updating their algorithm to deliver higher quality search results.  And while much has been said about the constant Google algorithm updates, only a few updates have had a big impact on best practices. 

Most updates are simply maintenance tweaks to their core algorithm, and minor features such as marking HTTP sites as ‘not secure.’ (No reason to freak out there, you should always have HTTPS sites anyways. An SSL certificate is always best practice, so that site visitors know that any information they enter on the site is protected.)

There’s much hoopla and hype, but fortunately what Google ‘wants’ so to speak, is clear. 

Google’s algorithm prioritizes:

  • Domain authority
  • User experience on site
  • Search term relevance
  • Updated content (you should post and update your content regularly, but never prioritize speed over quality)

Next up, we’ll explore the difference between onsite and offsite SEO, and then give you six actionable steps so you can apply everything you’ve learned.

So what does a modern SEO campaign look like?

Now that you understand the basics of what Google’s algorithm deems as relevant, let’s break a modern SEO campaign down into six steps you can start implementing today. 

1. Reverse engineer your top-performing competitors

Use the free tool called UberSuggest to see what key phrases your competition is currently ranking for. Then add those top keywords to your website by either updating the current content of your website, adding a new web page, or creating a blog post. 

Don’t worry if your competitors are out-ranking you!  You can also use Ubersuggest to spy on your competition to see why they’re ranked so high.  In my experience, it’s often because they have other relevant websites that link to their site. These are called backlinks and they’re a big deal in Google’s eyes (for more on backlinks, see #5, below). 

2. Use Ubersuggest for keyword research

In addition to competitor research, you can also use Ubersuggest for keyword research. Type in the kind of business you run and your location, and you’ll see dozens of related search terms that you can target in your current or new web pages.

3. Optimize your onsite SEO

Onsite SEO is the practice of making your website as Google-friendly as possible. 

Once you’ve determined which keyphrases your competitors are ranking for, which ones they’re missing, and which are the most important that you want to rank for, you can: 

  • Target one main keyphrase per webpage, including related secondary keyphrases
  • Write meta data such as meta descriptions and SERP titles that include your target keyphrase
  • Place your target keyphrases sparingly in content
  • Publish fresh content monthly
  • Include alt image tags in all images on your site and blog posts
  • Create a consistent naming convention between page names and URLs
  • Optimize your website’s speed
  • Take care of other housekeeping things like SSL certification (HTTPS), setting up a 404 page, and sharing your privacy policy

4. Manage and update citations

A citation is an online directory that lists your relevant company information. With over 1,000 online directories on the web, it’s important that your phone number, website, and office hours are accurate and consistent across many of them.  Here are some of the most relevant citations you can optimize:

  • Google My Business
  • Facebook
  • Yelp
  • BBB
  • Bing
  • Yahoo (yes, some people still use it!)

In addition to these, there are usually industry-specific citations you should consider.  For example, if you’re an attorney, you should also optimize your citations within Avvo and SuperLawyer.

5. Increase domain authority with quality backlinks

A backlink is a link from one website to another, and they’re often a major contributor to any successful SEO campaign.  For example, a mortgage broker wants to create a high-quality backlink. So they reach out to Quicken Loans to write a guest blog post that appears on Quicken’s website.  The blog post credits the mortgage broker by mentioning their name but more importantly, Quicken Loans links to the mortgage broker’s website.  

Google loves this because you’re making their job easier: when someone searches the internet for ‘mortgage broker’ Google considers over 150 different factors that determine how a website ranks in a matter of milliseconds.  One of the biggest factors is the relevance of a website. So if Quicken Loans, one of the largest mortgage companies in the US, is linking to this mortgage broker’s website, this is considered a high-quality backlink and it results the mortgage broker’s website ranking higher. 

If you discover (after using UberSuggest) that your competitors are actively building quality backlinks, you definitely can’t skip this step or your chance of outranking them is very low. Even if your competitors Don’t have a lot of backlinks, you’ll quickly gain ground on them by establishing some.

In addition to using UberSuggest to see what links your competitors have, you can use HARO (Help a Report Out) to acquire backlinks on your own.  HARO helps journalists to source experts on a variety of topics.  The journalist provides some details about the article they’re writing and a few questions they’d like to ask an expert in that specific field.  Respondents email the journalist answers to their questions for a chance of being featured (and linked to) in their upcoming article. This is another free service and it’s very worthwhile since many regional and national publications request expertise.  The end result is that quality backlinks increase your domain authority which gives you a higher chance of ranking for your desired search terms. 

Backlinking is often viewed as the cornerstone of a modern SEO campaign.  Once your website is optimized (see #3), your SEO strategy must focus on gaining these kinds of backlinks to outrank your competition.

6. Optimize your Google My Business page

You’ve probably noticed the Google Map at the top of some search results pages, for things like ‘San Diego dentist’ or ‘Bay Area defense attorney.’

If you have a location-specific business, then you must show up in that local map. it’s featured very prominently above the rest of the organic results. What makes this difficult is that Google will only list three businesses, and to see more business listings you must click on the ‘More Places’ button, which very few people do.  

So to increase your chances of appearing, you must optimize your Google My Business page by inputting your address, phone number, website domain, hours of business, and photos of your business, employees, products, and happy customers.  

Lastly, you must get online reviews!  This not only produces more potential clients when they read your reviews, but it also factors into your organic ranking within Google’s online directory.  This step cannot be skipped over for any business! Companies that have a ton of positive reviews almost always rank at the top of Google which means they also get more potential customers.  

Key takeaways

Following these SEO best practices will ensure that your business stays relevant and your potential customers can find your website. But if you’re new to SEO, there’s a lot to take in.  So turn these six steps into weekly, monthly, and quarterly tasks. For example, you can check your citations quarterly, write a new blog post for a relevant keyphrase monthly, and ask for reviews from only your new, satisfied clients every week.

You can’t master SEO overnight, but if you want to create more sales and make it easier for your potential clients to find you online, it’s time to make SEO a priority.