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Chris Auman

You’ve put a lot of time and money into developing a professional, custom website to promote your top of the line product or service, but your website visitation seems to be sporadic at best. Is the investment really translating into more sales? It can be hard to tell, but don’t worry, there are some techniques that we employ to find out.

If you’re an online marketer or sell some type of product or service through your website, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of something called A/B or “Split” testing. If you haven’t heard of it, or if you’re a little shaky on the details, what follows is a brief overview of the techniques, the benefits and applications.

What is Split Testing?

Simply put, split testing is nothing more than a tactic used by digital marketers to put you as in touch with your customers as you can possibly be.

As a business owner or web designer you may love the way a certain page looks or how a product description reads, but the cold, hard truth is that it doesn’t matter what you think — it’s all about how your choices influence your potential customer.

Split testing (sometimes called A/B testing) is used to test multiple versions of website components to see which ones lead to more conversions (Actions). Its purpose is to improve marketing efforts, and the reason it’s often referred to as A/B testing is because you’re showing potential customers two versions of a page, email, etc. You review metrics to see which page yielded the best results–A, or B.

What are the benefits of Split Testing?

Split testing can provide some substantial benefits to your business.

First and foremost, split testing eliminates guesswork. You’ll have hard data and metrics that you can use to steer your website in the appropriate direction, ensuring that you’re maximizing your return on investment (ROI).

Split testing will give you and your company cold, hard and measurable results. You can set up any number of parameters, but rest assured that a good split test can show you site visits, audience engagement, revenue and even something as simple as the number of clicks on a given webpage.

How and What to Split Test?

Getting started in split testing involves setting up analytics, which will normally use tracking codes to show results. 

Sales page headlines are among the most common components that are split tested. This is important because these headlines are often what will draw a potential customer to your website in the first place.

Page headlines will show up in search engine results, and the law of the land is that the customer will go with whichever headline is the most engaging. Split testing different options will let you know which option gets the highest number of conversions.

You can also test images in various areas of your website. If you have multiple logos or photos, it’s easy to test and see which ones entice visitors to click the most. This is extremely useful, as customers generally respond to visual components like photos and video more than written long-form copy. Don’t believe me? Test it! You can easily set up a test to see if written copy generates more conversions than a video.

And speaking of conversions, one other component that often gets tested is the call to action prompt.

Do you get more sales by placing an “Add to Cart” tab on the page, or do customers respond better to “Order Now”? Split testing can make it crystal clear.

Split testing is one of many tools used by our team at Sanctuary to help its customers design websites that are beautiful, informative and most importantly, convert visitors into clients. Split testing, combined with other digital marketing tactics provided by Sanctuary will ensure your digital marketing efforts are successful and turn your marketing investment into real results.

Split Testing 101 – What you need to know

google-mobile-first-indexAnother Google update?

We know what you mean. It seems Google is constantly changing and tweaking their algorithm in an effort to improve their search experience and accuracy. We should be grateful, as these changes help our customers better connect with the services or products they’re searching for, it still seems like a huge task to keep up with the latest “best practices” for your website when it comes to search.

But don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Read on to understand exactly what this new “Mobile-First Index” entails and what your company needs to do to stay ahead of the game.

What is Google Mobile-First Index?

Mobile vs Desktop: How Searching the Internet has Changed

Mobile devices are so much part of our lifestyle these days that finding an individual without a smartphone or tablet is like finding a needle in a haystack. Being as the internet isn’t even 30 years old, it’s amazing how much we take for granted having all this information available right in our pockets or purses.

As so many people use their mobile devices to search the internet, it has become the practice for web marketers to create a mobile version and a desktop version of a website by utilizing ‘responsive design’. This way, when someone is searching from a mobile device the mobile version appears, and vice versa. Mobile versions of websites are created to be faster, easier, and more efficient for use from mobile devices.

Google has found that the majority of internet searches performed are mobile, as opposed to from a desktop computer. Even so, when deciding how to rank websites in the search, Google has (up to this point) looked at the desktop version of websites.

With the upcoming “Mobile-First Index”, however, Google is planning to switch over to looking at the mobile version of websites instead.

Google’s Index and Its Role In Search

In order to better understand this new update and what is meant by “Index”, let’s take a look at how the search engine works.

Did you know there are over 1 billion websites in existence on the internet? When considering the gargantuan amount of data floating around out there, it no longer comes as a shocker that Google is constantly striving to make their search more efficient.

Not only do the “bad” webpages (read: inaccurate, spammy, etc.) need to be sorted out, but Google’s system has to be able to accurately identify what each of the “good” webpages (read: informative, easily accessed, etc.) are about so when a search query is made, those pages which contain what the searcher is looking for appear first.

In order to do so, Google has an “Index”. This index contains all of the webpages recognized by Google. When a search is made, Google sorts through all of these web pages to see which contain the search terms or “keywords” the searcher has entered.

Where does Google look for keywords?

  • In the Title. A webpages’s title is what you see first when performing a search on Google. It’s in big letters at the top.
  • In the Meta Description. This is the short paragraph found under the title which explains what the webpage is about. This is often a snippet of the page’s content.
  • In the URL. This is the “http.” part which can be found between the title and the meta description, and in the top bar after you click on the link.
  • In the Content. This is arguably one of the most important places where Google looks for the keywords. Not only does Google look to see that the right words are present, but also looks at the structure and meaning of the content to make sure that the page is really about what it says it is and holds useful and relevant information.
  • In the Headers. These are part of the content. They are at the headings at the beginning of paragraphs that break down the content to let the reader know what each section is about.

Don’t have a mobile site? Don’t worry, but…

Now that we know Google will be looking at the mobile versions of websites and understand the essential role the index plays in search, what about those businesses who haven’t made a mobile version of their website?

If you don’t have a mobile website, you will still be okay with the upcoming “Mobile-First Index”.

Google has directly spoken out on this issue, stating they will default to looking at the desktop site if a mobile one is not present. However, Mobile-First Index update aside, businesses should consider the importance and benefits of a mobile website.

However, even if you will not be drastically affected by the Mobile-First Index, your business is already missing out on many opportunities by not having a mobile version of your website.

Why Mobile?

Over half of website visitors will leave a website within the first 15 seconds, even on a desktop. Poor navigation, slow load times, incomplete information- these are just a few of the reasons why internet users abandon a site. That’s why it so important for websites to be built using the best practices and to be regularly updated and optimized.

We know that the majority of users are searching from mobile devices. Mobile users, even more than desktop ones, are looking for quick, accurate information. They’re on the go and they’re used to everything being, quite literally, right at their fingertips.

Some of the problems mobile users encounter are the same as those experienced on a desktop, such as slow load times of pages and pictures. However, their are some issues that are unique to mobile web surfing alone.

One of the biggest problems is page size. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as trying to view a webpage that doesn’t quite fit to the screen of your phone. You pinch, swipe, turn your phone on it’s side, but the words still come up too big, too small, or disappear over the edge of the screen and refuse to be coaxed into view.

Mobile-websites are specially designed to avoid these sorts of issues, providing users with a clean, simple layout allowing for frustration-free navigation.

The moral of this mobile story? Having a mobile version of your site is a good idea, even without the upcoming Mobile-First Index. Internet users will often leave a difficult to use website for a competitor’s site. This loses website traffic and, most importantly potential customers!

With that said, let’s get back to the Mobile-First Index.

Making the Most of the Mobile-First Index for your Business

How will the Mobile-First Index affect current rankings?

The Mobile-First Index is not yet fully in effect, as Google will be testing this change over the course of the next few months. Even after the change takes effect, if you are already performing well in the search rankings, you should continue to do so. Google does not expect to see a drastic change in rankings, as websites who are providing quality will still be recognized. Companies that wish to add an extra boost to their rankings, however, can benefit by the update by optimizing their mobile website.

Google Recommends: Responsive Websites

Not all mobile version websites are created equal. In light of the Mobile-First Index, Google has stated that those with a responsive website or a dynamic serving site, should not need to make any changes.

What is a “Responsive” Website?

To understand a responsive website, it is easiest to think of a glass of water. If you take the water and pour it into a bowl, the water takes on that shape. The same will happen no matter what size or shape container you choose.

This is exactly how a “responsive” website works. It recognizes what sort of device the user is on, be it smartphone, tablet, or desktop, and molds the website’s content to suit the device.

My Website isn’t Responsive…Now What?

Consider making changes to your website. Even if your site is responsive, follow through with the below checklist/steps-to-take to ensure your website is ready for the Mobile-First Index.

3 Steps to Ensuring Your Website is “Mobile-First” Ready

  1. Test the Structured Markup of both the mobile and desktop version of your website. Google Webmaster provided a link to their Structured Data Testing Tool. Your mobile and desktop sites should be near equivalent. Note: Google Webmaster also recommends “avoiding large amounts of markup that isn’t relevant to the specific information content of each document”.
  2. Verify your mobile website is accessible to Googlebot by using the robots.txt testing tool.
  3. Verify the mobile version of your site in Search Console. Many website owners have verified their desktop version, an action that does not automatically verify your mobile site.

Considering Building a Mobile Website?

As we said before, even without this new Google algorithm update, having a mobile version of your website is a no-brainer in this mobile age. However, if you are planning to build a mobile website, make sure to build it right.

A broken or malfunctioning mobile website will hurt rather than help your business, especially with the Mobile-First Index, in which instance it would be more beneficial for Google to resort to looking at your desktop site.

Having a team of professionals on your side who understand the in’s and out’s of Google makes it easier to keep up with the latest search updates and best practices. We’ll ensure your customers are able to easily find and connect with your business online, meaning you’ll have more time to devote the customers themselves.

If you are interested in building a responsive website, or have more questions about how the Mobile-First Index will affect your business, the team at Sanctuary is here to help. Please give us a call at: 330.266.1188 or contact us for a free assessment.

Mobile-First Index: A Heads Up on Google’s Latest Change

cross-channel-marketingConsumers engage with brands using a wide variety of different platforms and mediums these days. You need to engage your customers where they’re at and with a consistent, unified voice. A unified experience across channels such as your website, Search Marketing, Social Media, Paid Advertising, In-Store and Email Marketing will strengthen your brand and make it easier for customers to engage with your company.

The following are a wide variety of pro tips and advice that will help you get started with cross-channel marketing or take your efforts to the next level.

Email – The Heart of Cross-Channel Marketing – Tony D’anna

Integrated data is at the heart of a solid cross-channel strategy, but as you peel back some of the layers, you can see that email is the centerpiece of any good cross-channel program.

There are many advantages to centering your marketing strategy around email. Email is the most direct channel, it boasts a higher ROI than any other channel and it helps build loyalty and relationships on a much deeper level than any other channel. Strategic marketers try to capture email addresses across all channels. Once you have an email address you can track click data, do behavioral targeting on your site, and use these insights to inform your mobile, social media and in-store strategies.

Read the full article

Consistency – Bonding off-site and on-site messages – Rémi Aubert

Ignoring the bonds between off-site and on-site messages ultimately leads to a lack of consistency and, even worse, poor user experience. Off-site messages take many forms on many channels, such as advertising, communication on social media, email, or even in-store messages. And all these messages are part of on-site traffic acquisition.

The customer journey can start offline and end online and, conversely, lots of visitors use websites as information channels, then bounce, but convert in-store. One more reason to remain consistent!

Read the full article

Paid search and paid social – Make them work together – Josh Dreller

Social advertising is a great way to generate the interest and demand that search can fulfill. And the relationship between these two channels is even more complex than that. Social can generate awareness, which drives consumers to search. Once they convert, they may then broadcast your products or services to their friends and families on social channels, which then sparks more searches.

Truly understanding how your customer base is impacted by both channels working well together will build cross-channel synergy that has more power than each channel working independently.

Read the full article

User Profiles: Use mobile to strengthen cross-channel marketing – Cydney Goldberg

User profiles are one of the most important tools available for managing modern multi-channel marketing. These profiles are a treasure trove of organized personal data about the people who engage with your brand on each channel. You can use this detailed information about individual customers to build personalized marketing campaigns across multiple channels while still maintaining a consistent brand experience.

Read the full article

Personalization – Speak to each customer with a single voice – Steve Olenski

Your organization needs to have a single customer identity — a clear view of each customer that unites their behaviors across all channels into one comprehensive profile.

Today, certain technologies can link all the unique cross-channel identifiers of a customer together. Once you have a single unique identifier, you can really know your customers across channels and begin to:

Personalize interactions based on channel preferences and behaviors

Reach a more precise level of targeting and segmentation by using cross channel behavioral information in real time

And most importantly, integrate cross channel communications and speak to each customer with a single voice regardless of channel

Read the full article

In-store Email and Mobile Acquisition – Cherrill Hartman

The best acquisition strategies will target people in many different channels that range from in-store to online through social and across display.

Capture that critical customer data by asking for it at the checkout counter, offering an e-receipt and/or posting visual aids for mobile coupons. All of these strategies are great ways to boost your acquisition strategy. Some retailers are even going as far as putting photo-booths or other interactive digital displays in-store to create a fun and exciting experience, but not without grabbing that email address first.

Read the full article

Real-Time Moment Experiences – Assaf Henkin

Real-time data and agility go hand-in-hand, as being able to activate on crucial moments is an essential part of agile marketing. As we know, consumers value experience far more than any other aspect of a brand’s ad or media strategy. By utilizing real-time data, brands are able to leverage these moments, and deliver campaigns based on what’s happening in those moments. By making real-time data and execution a rule, marketers are able to scale and appeal to the digital consumer across mobile, social, video and display, precisely when those individual channels are more accessible and/or relevant to the viewer.

In advertising, political or otherwise, consumer mindset-in-a-given-moment should always be a central hub that connects to and guides the creative and messaging that’s delivered over the individual spokes (i.e. channels). By developing strategies rooted in an understanding of the target market, advertisers can serve effective and meaningful campaigns to receptive audiences across all channels.

Read the full article

Using Mobile Devices – Understand customer movement patterns – Vikrant Gandhi

Mobile devices can be used as a proxy to determine consumer movement patterns. Thus an increase in foot traffic in a store location, for example, could be attributed to an effective ad campaign. To enable this type of activity requires what can be best described as ID (or identifier) matching capabilities. For example, by mapping mobile devices to households, and by using mobile location data, it can be determined if a household that was served a TV ad led to actual store visits by consumers that were living in that house. Similarly, by associating an online ID with a mobile ID, the effectiveness of online campaigns to stimulate store traffic or sales can be measured.

Read the full article

Extend your brand identity – Jen Wetzel

Nothing is more important for marketing success than establishing 1-to-1 relationships with your customers. Add value to customer relationships with consistent and thoughtful communication throughout the journey, not just your initial engagement. Whether it is through an interactive on-site experience or a dynamic mobile experience, it’s important to recognize that every single interaction is an extension on your brand identity.   

Read the full article

Seek Professionial help – David York

Never be afraid to seek professional help.

For more information download, Visions From the Future of Marketing Automation: An Explorer’s Guide to Cross-Channel Marketing today. This report covers a host of use cases and best practices for a variety of apps that integrate seamlessly with your platform, including: SMS and MMS, calling and voice-messaging, payment and geo-targeting, direct mail and more.

Sanctuary Marketing Group can help you get started with an effective cross-channel strategy. Contact Us Today for a free consultation!

Read the full article

10 Pro Tips for Better Cross-Channel Marketing
NORTH CANTON shannon howard

Getting to the top of the business world is a goal for many of people and we recently met a rising star during a North Canton Chamber Lunch talk. Shannon Howard is now the Director of Comedy Development at NBC and she’s a local Hoover High School graduate.

Shannon Howard

How Did Shannon Start?

During the talk Shannon spoke about how her love of movies and TV sparked an interest in video production in high school. She was also exposed to many other creative outlets including writing, choir, art, and music that ultimately took her to college and helped mold her into the successful executive that she is today.

Why Is She So Successful?

During the talk it became clear that Shannon has been successful for one reason – she followed a natural path of passion. She has risen to success quickly and has remained successful because she loves what she does. Ultimately she probably doesn’t consider her ‘job’ to be work because she’s doing something that she enjoys so much.

nbc Logo

Shannon’s Key to Success

During the talk she was asked about her key to success, to which she replied with the age-old saying ‘It’s all about who you know’. That’s really all anyone needs to know who is trying to make it in the business world, and that’s why networking is so important.

Get Connected

It’s never too late to start connecting with people because you never know where those relationships will take you in your personal and professional lives. Connect with people on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social engagement platforms to maintain both personal and professional relationships.  Better yet, get out and talk to real people, because you never know how your paths will cross in the future.

Shannon’s Advice for Creative Types

I also asked her for some advice on helping my children find their way to the job of their dreams. My son could be her clone because of his love for TV and movies, and I’m sure his future lies in creative endeavors.. Her advice? Start learning now.. Let him watch TV and Movies if that’s what he loves. There are books and videos online, The North Canton Library has free resources, North Canton High School has classes geared toward video production as well as the usual creative outlets like music, art and writing. The art of writing played an important part of her education growing up, and is a critical part of her job today.

The main aspect of Shannon’s success was that she followed a path that she loved, and that’s good advice for everyone. Her success is a great example of how starting out in a small town doesn’t necessarily mean you are destined for small things.

We are always excited to see those from our local area find success.

Shannon Howard, A North Canton Success Story
What is mobile first?

We’ve heard a lot lately about mobile websites, responsive websites, mobile marketing and having a ‘mobile first’ approach to your website and digital marketing. Everyone at this point agrees that having a mobile website is important. But what does this phrase really mean?

What ‘Mobile First’ is not

Mobile First Design

Many believe that ‘mobile first’ means that you simply need to get yourself a website that’s optimized for mobile devices. Just ‘optimize it’, you know?

I think there’s still a large amount of people who think they need to develop a standard website and a second mobile version. This thought alone stops them in their tracks.

To some it means that you think about mobile being your main focus. Many people are developing websites that work good on mobile phones, but aren’t so effective on desktop computers. Mobile first does not mean disregarding desktop users.

I’ve even seen extreme cases where people have developed a site that completely disregards the desktop presentation in favor of a tiny interface that mimics a phone. In the example I saw, the developer completely hid important desktop interactions such as scrolling because they’re assuming that most users are able to move down the page using their finger!

Preparing your website presence for mobile visitors is important because the growth of users accessing information and not being tethered to a desk will be growing for a long time. But ‘mobile first’ does not mean developing a separate mobile website, focusing only on specific users and treating desktop visitors like they’re going the way of the dinosaur.

Mobile growth is huge, but we’re not even close to a point where we have the luxury of focusing solely on mobile visitors to our websites. Yes, we will still be using a mouse and sitting at a desk for many years to come in one form or another.

What is mobile first?

What does ‘Mobile First’ mean?

Mobile first simply means that you start developing your website user experience from the mobile visitor’s perspective and work your way back to the desktop — and even the TV. In the near future, experiences such as virtual reality may even require us to develop experiences that are larger than life.

‘Mobile First’ is a ‘Responsive’ approach to design which means that you start thinking about mobile users first, but you develop ONE effective RESPONSIVE website that’s laid out to deliver an effective experience for all users.

In his book titled ‘Mobile First’, Luke Wroblewski states: “Mobile design is the process of gradually applying constraints until an elegant solution remains.”

This is where you start.

This simply means that you begin with a focused, minimalist approach. What a user experiences on their phone is exactly what they need for that device and then as you move to tablet, laptop, desktop and beyond. You ‘enhance’ the experience in ways that benefit the user based on their screen size and their place in the world.

All visitors to your website are important. Not just the people on a mobile phone.

Why a ‘Mobile First’ Responsive approach to website design?


Summit Academy Desktop
Summit Academy Desktop

First off, we don’t want to build and maintain more than one website. Can we agree on this? Ok.

Removing Limitations:

Designing for mobile doesn’t have to be limiting. It can also help you think through ways to enhance your user’s experience and encourage mobile use. You can incorporate location detection, capture and input from a camera and connections through Bluetooth Proximity detection (device closeness to physical objects) just to name a few.


Summit Academy Mobile
Summit Academy Mobile

Starting with mobile helps you to design something that will work well anywhere, not just on mobile devices. Responsive website design is the the future. Not separate mobile website solutions.


Thinking about mobile users first also forces you to make decisions early that will affect important things like the speed of the website.


In ‘mobile first’ UX design, we’re forced to focus on the most essential elements of the presentation that fulfill our main goals.There simply isn’t room for everything. A ‘mobile first’ approach forces us to articulate our goals and cut everything else. It’s so much easier to just throw everything on the site and hope the user stumbles through the clutter. An ideal ‘Mobile First’ approach forces us to strip our site down to the essentials and then ‘enhance’ the experience later if needed.


Lastly, many people these days have an attention span of a 12 year old child. They’re busy, they’re distracted, they’re basically one eyeball and a thumb on a mobile device and barely more than that in the office and at home. Starting the design process knowing that this is your target audience will help you to simplify, simplify, simplify right out of the gate and apply that simplicity to all user experiences on any screen.

How Sanctuary Can Help With Developing a Mobile First Approach

Developing a mobile first approach requires a particular finesse and understanding of online technology and best practices. If you are looking for help with planning and implementing a mobile strategy, contact Sanctuary. We are located in the Historic Hoover District in North Canton, Ohio and serve the greater Akron / Canton area.

Mobile First – What you need to know

In a new, ongoing monthly report, our company President Chris Auman strives to identify the one big digital marketing news story that you need to know about.

google-MobilegeddonThis month I wanted to make sure that everyone has heard about what some people are calling ‘Mobilegeddon‘.

It’s now a top priority to have a mobile optimized website

As of April 21, 2015, Google will be making changes to their search algorithm that will reward websites that are ‘mobile friendly’. On this date you will immediately see more websites in your search results that are considered by Google to be optimized for mobile phones. In the words of Google “Users will see a significant impact in our search results’.

This is actually an unprecedented move because Google hardly ever alerts us to changes in their algorithm, nor do they explain why some sites rank higher and some can’t be found. But in this case they announced ‘loud-and-clear’ that they will be expanding their use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. The goal: users will find it easier to get relevant, high-quality search results that are optimized for their devices. Websites that have not made the necessary changes will now be considered to be less worthy and relevant. Ultimately websites that do not pass the mobile-friendly tests will fall in the rankings and visits to the site will decrease because of it. (more…)

Google Mobilegeddon Is Here – What you need to know

If you’ve been operating within the world of digital marketing recently, I can almost guarantee that you’ve heard the phrase “Content Marketing”. Everyone is talking and trying to figure out how to ‘create content’ ad nauseam. What that means differs from person to person and from business to business. But the new answer and savior for every digital marketing ‘guru’ is to create more and more content and never stop.

This is really good advice considering what creating great content can do for you and your business.

But just creating content will only get you so far. I’ve felt this frustration firsthand as I’ve labored over a large piece of content and then watched with disgust as nobody discovered, shared or engaged with what I had to offer. Even though you might create the most amazing, valuable and cutting-edge content, it’s hard to get the word out to those who care if all you’re doing is writing and publishing to your blog.

It’s possible that your content could be a good long term investment as you show up in the search results over time. But you’re likely not getting that big boost that you need. You’re likely not getting the full ROI out of your investment. Creating great content takes time. It’s your own blood, sweat and tears that you’re producing and, if you’re like me, you have limited time to invest. You HAVE to make it work for you and then some.

‘Next Level’ promotion for your content

So in this post I believe we’re going to be talking about some ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking and tactics that most people are not using. In my experience, I believe that most people haven’t arrived at square one yet with their digital marketing strategy. They’re not even thinking about creating content, understanding what it can do for them and then actually having a clear strategy to ‘amplify’ that content and make it WORK for them.

If you’re reading this post then consider yourself on the bleeding edge of internet marketing. Congratulations because you’re likely far ahead of your competition if you can successfully accomplish even a little bit of what we’re going to propose in this article. Download our Content Amplification Checklist.

Why Content Marketing

Two things I learned from my grandpa: Helping others is everything and amazing storytelling gets you most places in life.@JoePulizzi

So, I won’t go deep into why and how content marketing can work for you. The information is all over the web including our website and blog. I would also checkout ContentMarketingInstitute.com, a great resource for educating and guiding you in your content marketing journey. But, to give you a snapshot summary, content marketing is important because without taking time for curating relevant content, search engines won’t care about you. People on social media won’t care to engage with you if you don’t have great stories to tell. You won’t have any landing pages to link your ads to. You’ll have nothing to send in your email marketing. You’ll have a stagnant website, a boring social presence and your overall digital marketing will be stale and just plain lame. In short, you’ll have nothing for prospective customers and clients to engage with. (If you are lucky enough that they actually find you online.)

Creating great content is the cornerstone of a successful digital marketing campaign. Creating great content is the foundation that everything else is built on. Creating great content is the glue that ensures all other tactics are successful. If you’re avoiding creating content for the long haul, you’re avoiding success.

Why Companies Fail At Content Marketing

So why do most people ignore and/or fail when it comes to content marketing? The simple answer is that it’s hard. It’s damn hard. It also takes time and the one thing that most of us lack is extra time in our days. Take it from me — I own a business and I know the struggle of time management. There’s never enough time so it keeps many people from getting to the starting line with content creation.

There are many other reasons why people can’t make content marketing work for them. I could go into it but I’d prefer to just link to a great, and brutally honest article by Trevor Young.

Some of my favorite reasons from his article include: lack of commitment, unwillingness to share or give something away for free, unwillingness to ditch your ego, or you simply aren’t able to create content that stands out. As Trevor states “The world does not need more ‘so-so’ formulaic content; we’re already seriously drowning in the stuff as it is.”

So true.

Some reasons for failure, in my experience, include lack of vision, stubbornness, a closed mind, inability to convince management and simple disorganization and laziness.

How to amplify your content

So, we’re finally getting to the heart of things here. If you’ve come this far I’m assuming that you’ve got the most important part of content marketing down — which is actually creating content. Now you’re looking for a system that will ensure you’re getting the maximum value out of your efforts.

Here you’ll be guided through several ‘phases’ that contain specific recommendations about how to properly amplify your content. There’s a lot to get to so lets begin.

Phase 1: Planning your Content Amplification Campaign 

Failing to plan is planning to fail. – Alan Lakein

With any ‘campaign’, planning is essential. Amplification starts light years before “Publish” during the planning stage. Just taking a little time in advance to block out some of the essentials will help you take your campaign a lot further.

1) Plan to produce the right type of content

Many times we can get caught up in the task of producing content without actually stopping to think if we’re creating the right type of content that will reach and motivate our target audience. You shouldn’t just dive in and start writing about random topics.

2) Confirm your target audience

To produce the right type of content, you and/or your team needs to confirm what your goals are. It sounds obvious but you’d be surprised at how many times people really don’t think about this important first step. Who are you trying to reach and what content will appeal to them?

Are you trying to connect with others in your industry? Are you trying to engage potential customers? This is an essential first step when you’re talking about amplifying your content because the answer to this question can take you in completely different directions with your tactics to reach your audience.

Just to give you one good example, our target audience is actually small business owners and marketers. For the most part, we don’t want to get too detailed about the technical side of digital marketing. We do not try to speak to hardcore SEO professionals or PPC masterminds. We want to provide solid advice about what they should be doing and then decide if they can/should do the work themselves or hire someone to do it for them. So our target audience has been defined and this will keep us from going too technically deep with our content.

3) Decide how you’ll measure success

Again, the last thing you want to do is just dive in and start creating content. Part of your plan should involve how you’ll measure success. Will it be to report on how many people landing on the page? How many shares you received? How many links the page garnered for your site? How many downloads? How many sales or calls? Maybe it’s all of the above. If so, you’ll need to decide that and make sure you have your analytics tracking code in place on all conversion points and have a clear way to decide if your investment in time, money, staff and other expenses all add up to a profitable ROI.

Maybe your measures are ultimately too hard to measure. Maybe you just decide that creating great content has too many intangible benefits and that’s ok too. Just decide this in advance and be ok with it so you can commit for the long haul.

4) Define your call to action

When you create content, what is it that you want people to do after they digest your content? Contact you? Download something? Share something? Subscribe to something? None of the above? All of the above?

The answer doesn’t have to be any of these but it should be something. You need to do everything in your power to make sure they know how to take the next steps. If you’re shooting for all the above then make sure that how you present each option is accomplished in a way that people can easily digest their options without being overwhelmed.

As an example, and it’s an extreme one, you could easily put a phone number, a contact form, a downloadable asset, options to share on social media, options to subscribe to social media and provide a way to sign-up for a newsletter, ALL at the bottom of your article. This obviously wouldn’t be ideal.

As you create your content, plan ways to sprinkle options throughout the content or integrate them as you work your way down the page. Sharing options should be at the bottom. Options to download an asset or subscribe could be integrated in the middle. Your phone number would be in the navigation, head and footer and in the last sentence of the content. If you’re producing a video, make sure that the video starts and ends with your branding, URL and contact information. Embed your assets on a page that has a contact form or related download in the sidebar. The options are endless but they need to be planned so you have some actionable goals that people can engage with.

5) Research content and articles around your topic

Many times you’ll already be an expert regarding the topic you’re writing on. But this shouldn’t stop you from researching your topic further. Many times you’ll just want to learn about something new and then write about what you learned and that’s ok too. Either way, research helps you to create better content. Taking the time to research and read about your topic before diving in is essential.

Beyond learning more about your topic and working on an outline, you’ll have the opportunity to see what you’re up against. Are there already pages and pages of great content surrounding your topic? Is there content online that’s better than what you can realistically produce? Then maybe you should try a different topic or plan to approach your topic in a different way. Maybe you just decide to create Skyscraper content (More on this later) and produce something that just blows away the competition. Knowing what you’re up against is important.

You should also do some research and document articles that you can link to within your content and plan to keep track of related contacts that you can engage with after your content is created.

6) Create an outline

The main goal of research for me is to work through an outline of my content. Many times I’ll find new information or get ideas about how to structure my content during the process. It really helps me to work through a solid outline before I sit down and just start writing away.

7) Decide what tactics to use

I wish it were true, but you can’t do everything and do it all well. Many tactics that we’ll discuss here might not work for all types of businesses. Many times you simply won’t have the budget to do everything and that’s a simple fact of marketing. Decide what you can reasonably do and do it well and focus your energies and dollars there.

8) Plan your assets in advance

Depending on how long it takes you to produce and edit your content, you might benefit from putting your assets into production as soon as you start writing.

  • Will you be integrating videos?
  • Will you offer a supporting download?
  • What graphics do you think you’ll need?
  • Can you create an awesome infographic based on your outline?

All of these things could be produced while you’re writing and/or creating.

Phase 2: Content Creation

There were 5 exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilization through 2003, but that much information is now created every 2 days, and the pace is increasing.Eric Schmit/CEO Google

90% of all data that’s ever been created was created in the last two years.IBM

90% of everything is crap.Sturgeon’s Law

1) Create GREAT Content 

I’d like to propose a change to the droning, tired-out mantra of “Create great content.” I’d like us to start saying, “Create – and promote – great content.” – @JoelKlettke

[Tweet ““Create – and promote – great content.” – @JoelKlettke @SanctuaryMG”]

Amplification: Content Marketing’s Missing Piece by Joel Klettke

If the stats and quotes above don’t speak volumes, let me clarify that there’s a lot of content being created these days. At one level that’s a good thing. The more information we have available to us the better. But for marketers and businesses we face an increasingly tough, uphill battle if we want our content to be found and stand out online.

So what’s the first step to solve the problem? You need to create great content. Not just your average ‘great’ content though. (ha ha) You need to create content that’s far and away better than the competition followed with a strategy to amplify your great content.

2) Creating Skyscraper Content

skyscraper-contentI heard a great metaphor recently that explains the concept of skyscraper content. It basically states that you should imagine walking down a city street. You look up at the largest buildings around you and decide to build your own building. But you’re not going to build just any building. You’re going to build a skyscraper that’s 50 floors higher than everyone else around you.

This is what you need to do when you’re striving to create great content. Skyscraper content is what we all should aspire to. Content that is better and bigger than everyone else around us. It’s content that provides such amazing value that it just can’t be ignored.

Skyscraper content not only provides more information, it gives the user more visual value with included photos and graphics. Skyscraper content is supported with videos and possibly animations. Skyscraper content can be supported by detailed infographics. Skyscraper methodology gives the user multiple ways to digest the content.

As an example, the information you’re reading is around 8000 words. I’m going pretty deep here where this article could end up being 8-10 times more detailed than most other content out there on this topic. In short… I’m deep diving on this topic instead of skimming the surface and that’s what you need to do to create great content that stands out.

In the end, by creating skyscraper content you’re building a massive foundation that will support all you’re future amplification tactics across the board.

3) Quote and Link to Other Great Content and Influencers

One important part of creating amazing skyscraper content is backing it up with stats, quotes and supporting information from reputable sources. This provides more value and trust for your reader.

But lets talk about how this practice can help you amplify your content. When you provide a quote, especially from a popular influencer, you can link to their page where you found the quote. You can also reach out to them directly via email or social media and let them know that you quoted and linked to their content.

What this could do for you is garner a link back to your content and a possible mention on their social media. Therefore you’re content could be seen by all their followers and ‘amplified’ by just taking this one simple step that not only improves your content, but connects you with an influencer and their audience.

4) Content Optimization

Implementing proper SEO best practices should be a given. Making sure that you have the basics covered is a necessary first step that can actually take you a long way.

But we’ll assume at this point that you’ve got the basics covered. So let me offer up a couple bonus tips that many people don’t consider.

  1. Facebook Open Graph Tags: On page optimization is one thing, but what can you do to ensure that your content is optimized and displayed in the best possible way when people actually share on Facebook? Open Graph Tags allow you to specify exactly how your content will appear when shared. One of the big things is ensuring that the right image is used when the article is shared. To learn more you can click here and here.
  2. Twitter Cards: Another way to optimize your content for social media is through Twitter cards. Cards allow you to use photos, videos and media to enhance your tweets and drive traffic to your site. You can embed large images, videos and even galleries into your tweets to create a richer experience and to help you stand out amongst the crowd. When you’re done you can use Card Analytics to measure if you’re efforts were successful.

5) Setup multiple ways to digest the content

Have you ever been searching for information and you come across a result, click it, and then realize that the answer is hidden within a 5 minute video? You wish at that point that you could just scan the text and quickly find the information that you need?

The same thing can happen with long articles like the one you’re reading. Sometimes people just don’t want to read and they would prefer to sit and watch a video. Or listen to an audio clip or a full transcribed podcast. Many times if they like reading, they don’t want to scroll down the page in a long article. They want to click through multiple short pages to digest the content.

Maybe all I need is a checklist. I don’t want to build my own checklist from a massive article. I just need to download the checklist and work my way through it.

So if we can agree that people like to digest content in different ways, why not consider giving them that option. It takes more work but the results will allow you to effectively engage with a wider audience.

6) Browser and mobile testing

How many times have you completed a complex article, proofed it and hit ‘publish’? Everyone has done this without even thinking about testing. I would agree that it would be worth 5 minutes to double check that your masterwork is displaying properly on a few popular browsers and mobile platforms. The worst thing would be if you were found online and that person was unable to consume your content because there was an error on the page that caused it to display incorrectly for some reason. Consider a tool like www.BrowserStack.com for a quick way to check things before publishing.


Phase 3: Publishing Content 

How difficult could publishing be you say? All we have to do is hit the ‘Publish’ button and wash our hands of it, right? Well there are actually a few things that you can do to amplify your content when you properly publish your article.

1) RSS

One automated way to make sure that you’re content is distributed is by having an RSS feed on your site. RSS essentially allows you to alert people and websites when you published new content. If you use WordPress this functionality is built in by default.

2) XML Sitemaps

XML Sitemaps allow a website to alert search engines when there is new content on the website. It’s one file that lists all the URLs available. Having a sitemap and submitting it to the search engines won’t help your search rankings but it will certainly ensure that the search engines can easily find your new content. Click here to learn more about how to submit a sitemap to Google and here for submitting a sitemap to Bing.

3) Sharing Options on your page

Publishing a great article without integrating sharing options is a big mistake. It’s easy to do and you should integrate clear ways for people to do this on every page. You can do this manually with your own icons and the tutorials provided by social media sites, you can use WordPress sharing plugins like the one we use on this site (be sure to consider Monarch Social Media Share Plugin) or you can use social sharing services such as sharethis.com.


Phase 4: AMPLIFY Your Content. Turn it up to 11! 

There are three different media types at the disposal of content promoters: volume-to-11

  1. Owned (You own the channel)
  2. Paid (You buy the exposure)
  3. Earned (Others promote your content for you because you ROCK!)

For our purposes here I thought this 3 category approach would be a good way to organize my suggestions on amplifying your content marketing online and then take action where it makes sense.

I’d like to start with the owned media category because it can be the easiest and it can be free.

Paid advertising is available to anyone with money obviously. But many people are looking for solutions that don’t involve a budget so we’ll discuss options here second.

Then there’s the earned category. This is the most difficult way to amplify your content because there is a huge barrier to entry — people have to know, trust and believe in what you’re doing. This just can’t be had without a lot of effort and consistent and unrelenting dedication to quality.

Owned Amplification

What I see time and time again are great pieces softly plunked into the infinite space of the web by companies who are just hoping that somehow, somewhere, prince charming will find them and show them to the world… You might laugh – but are you still laughing when I ask what your amplification strategy was for your last post? If it was “Tweet it a bunch,” you did something wrong. ” – Joel Klettke

Basic Social Media Amplification:

It might be obvious to many but consistently following the basic best practices of social media marketing can be difficult for the best of us. Here are some best practices that you should consider:

  1. Post your content on all relevant social media. It only takes a few minutes to get it out there and link it up.
  2. A piece of content should produce 20+ snippets that you can share on social media over time. If you’re creating great content, get the full value out of it and make sure that you’re trying different ways to grab someone’s interest. Posting ‘one and done’ is not the best way to approach it if you’ve put a lot of time and effort into your content.
    1. A snippet can be any of the following:
      1. Variations of the title
      2. Short statements from the content
      3. Short quotes from the content
      4. Statistics from the content
  3. When you share, find creative ways to mention your expert sources when posting @influencername What this does is notifiy them that someone has mentioned them and they’ll take notice. The benefits of this simple tactic could be anything from them thanking you or retweeting your post to their followers to you building a personal relationship with them that’s immeasurable.
  4. Use hashtags that are related to your content. Hashtags are essentially categories on social media that people can follow. I believe every post should have at least one tag if possible. It’s a missed opportunity to post something and not tag it because you never know if that post would be discovered by a new partner, friend or client.
  5. When you’re posting to social media, there are different best practices for each platform. For more on this, read this quick but informative article about How to Optimize Your Content for the Top 5 Social Networks.
  6. Keep learning. Social media is a complicated and evolving tactic and to be effective you need to keep up. To learn more best practices consider this Social Media 101 guide from Moz.com.

Content Distribution:

Just publishing your content on your website is a missed opportunity. Be sure to distribute it elsewhere! Many people believe that you’ll be penalized for this practice because you’re creating ‘duplicate content’. There are no Google penalties for duplicate content unless a copy of your content ranks higher in the search engines on another website than your own. Most of the time that’s not going to happen so why not try and be discovered naturally on other websites? If exposure is your goal, then this is not a bad thing. Exposure is exposure.

You could probably write a book on all the ways that you can distribute content but lets talk a little about the basics.

  1. There are many websites that allow you to post your content (in full or in part) and link back to your website. Ideally you post the majority of your article and then link over to your website for the full article. Some of my favorites include:
    1. blogengage.com
    2. bizsugar.com
    3. triberr.com
    4. inbound.org
    5. slideshare.com
    6. docstoc.com
  2. Distribute your content assets. Even the parts of your content have value and can be distributed to amplify your message. Consider the following:
    1. Video distribution:
      1. YouTube
      2. Vimeo
      3. MetaCafe
      4. DailyMotion
      5. Blip.tv
      6. Viddler
    2. Photo and graphic distribution
      1. Google+
      2. Facebook
      3. Twitter
      4. Flickr
      5. Instagram
      6. Tumblr
      7. StumbleUpon
      8. Pinterest
      9. Photobucket
      10. FunnyJunk

Email Marketing:

Do you have a system in place to build a list of friends, colleagues, partners, clients and interested parties? Email marketing is a very effective way to ‘touch’ people on a regular basis if you have something of value to offer them. If we’re talking about creating GREAT content then you certainly do.

Consider sending out your content as a part of a newsletter or even as a solo email if the content is just that amazing.

Internal Linking:

This is a simple, but effective technique that won’t necessarily help you amplify your content immediately, but it will help bring continued visibility to your content over the long haul.

Simply find ways to link parts of your content to other content on your site. Over time you’ll have a web of content that’s related and that keeps visitors on your site.

This is a great way to increase the visibility of your content after you publish it, increase engagement and it can even help your SEO as you develop a strong internal linking strategy.

Repurpose and expand your content:

So you’ve created this great article and published it to your blog. But that’s just the beginning for the life of your content.

  1. If the content is extremely robust (ahem, like this article) consider packaging it up as an e-book and promoting it that way.
  2. Look at the various sections of your content and see if there’s ways to create even more detailed articles about each section. I could essentially write a whole blog post that focuses on how to repurpose your content and almost any other section of the content available here.
  3. Create an audio version of your article. People digest content in different ways and audio is another way that you can take a piece of content and get it into the ears and mind of someone new. All you need is a decent voice and a decent quality microphone and for under $50 and a little bit of time you’ll be in business.

Get your team and partners involved:

Do you have employees that are on social media? Have you asked them to share you content with their followers? How about partner companies? Talk to anyone and everyone that might be able to help you amplify your content. All you usually need to do is take the time to ask and you’re content will be placed in front of a whole new world of eyes and ears.


Phase 5: Paid Content Amplification 

Average lifetime of content on social media is about 3 hours max but as little as 18 minutes on Twitter.” – Moz Whiteboard Friday

If you’re lucky enough to have an actual budget to spend on amplifying your content, then this section is for you. Paying to amplify your content will not only increase your visibility but it will extend the lifetime of your content beyond what many ‘owned’ tactics can deliver.

Depending on your budget I think there’s always a way to pay to promote yourself. Again, you could probably write a book on this topic as well, so we’ll just quickly touch on some of my favorite paid tactics below.

Promoted Tweets

The concept is fairly simple and the subject of a wide variety of complaints, but the bottom line is that promoted tweets can be a very effective way to target and reach new followers that don’t know about you. It’s targeted interruption marketing but I believe it works and can make sense for many businesses and individuals.

The way this works is that you create a valuable tweet and then decide how you want to amplify the content. You can choose from any number of different options and spend as much or as little as you’d like. It’s really a no brainer so try it out the next time you have content or something to say that will make you stand out from the crowd.

Boosted Facebook Posts

Boosted Facebook posts are very similar to promoted Tweets. I really don’t have to say much more than you have the opportunity to pay to reach new people that could discover, like and share your content. It’s a great way to bring visibility to yourself and your content.

Sidenote: With Facebook it’s a little different than Twitter. If you follow someone on Twitter, they’ll show you everything from the people and companies that you follow. On Facebook, they don’t show you everything by default. You can change this but most people don’t know how and I think it’s presented this way by design to force companies to spend money to reach their followers. These are people that have said they wanted to connect with a company, yet Facebook decides when and if they’ll see the posts.

Just an example, I was working on a client’s campaign this week and they have about 1000+ followers. The last post we made to their timeline was seen by less than 70 people. This could be because people have not been checking their feeds but it’s more likely that Facebook just decided to throttle the post and force us to pay to boost the post to reach our followers.

Things are evolving with Facebook advertising but consider using your budget to reach new followers using boosted posts. You can control the settings when you’re boosting your posts and decide who, what, where and why people see your posts which can be pretty powerful.

Expand to other targeted/niche social media sites:

Not all social sites are right for everyone. Facebook is probably not the best avenue to engage with clients if you’re a manufacturing company. Likewise, if you’re a local cupcake baker, LinkedIn is probably not your first choice for an advertising spend.

Similar to Twitter and Facebook, you can reach a wide audience of professionals by paying to roll out a targeted update on LinkedIn. Targeted company update filters include company size, industry, function, seniority, geography, and language preference.

When it comes to the various social media sites, all of them need to make money so if they don’t provide options to amplify your visibility on their sites now, they will soon in the future. YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Foursquare, Reddit, and StumbleUpon are all options and that’s just scratching the surface.

Find out which site is the best fit for you and the type of content that you create and start experimenting. It’s an extremely targeted and affordable way to just jump in and get your feet wet and try something new.

Use Content Amplification services

A hot topic these days is the use of services that pay to distribute and amplify your content on other popular sites. Basically, you pay to have your content shown as an option. According to Outbrain.com, you can choose to have your content ‘recommended’ on over 100,000 publisher websites, including 800+ premium publishers such as CNN, Rolling Stone, FOX, Time, NBC News and Fast Company.

Does this sound too good to be true? It’s not. And actually it can be very affordable and effective. Check out some of the services below that offer this service and get started today!

Paid Email Advertising

Do you know of a partner or industry publication that sends out a newsletter or offers some form of email marketing to their list? Consider this as an option to put your content in front of their subscribers. If their subscribers are highly engaged and relevant to your subject matter this can be a no brainer.

Search Advertising

As with social media, the sky is virtually the limit when you’re talking about paying to advertise on search engines. You can start with the big boys like Google, Yahoo or Bing and spread out infinitely to other secondary and niche search engines like Wolfram Alpha and Duck Duck Go.

The majority of internet users use Google. That’s why they’re such a massive profitable company. But just because you use Google that doesn’t mean that others don’t. Advertising on other secondary search engines can be much cheaper and less competitive than Google. Just because someone uses Yahoo or Bing doesn’t mean that they’re any less of a client or customer. Any secondary search engines and niche directories can be much more targeted.

One note of advice: Advertising on search engines can be complicated. Getting the biggest bang for your buck usually involves more than just putting up an ad and spending money — especially on Google. Consider working with a Google Certified Adwords Specialist so they can advise you on all the right things to do. If you have a decent campaign budget, the extra cost savings and results that they can get for you will most certainly be worth it.

Press Releases

Ah yes, the old standby. I won’t go into detail about press releases — how to write them or even why they’re still affective here. There’s volumes of writing on the subject. But I’ve added this here as a reminder to not write them off just yet. Check out PRWeb.com to learn more about creating press releases and the costs involved.


Phase 6: Earned Content Amplification: 

The title of this section speaks for itself. It’s hard. It can be time consuming. Success is only found by hard work and it simply can’t be had by using tricks and shortcuts. If you try, you might find yourself worse off than when you started. Earned amplification is about doing amazing work and then buckling down and working even harder to do all the right things that get you noticed. Many times the amplification comes just from you doing great work, other times you have to be methodical about your approach to even dream about getting minimal results.

Are you scared yet? This section is not for the faint of heart. If you haven’t mastered the basics yet, consider bookmarking this section for future reference and study because you can’t go into it half cocked and spread thin. That’s a recipe for failure in my opinion.

Many of the tactics here deserve their own book or at least their own massive blog post. So I won’t try to cover everything in detail here. Use this as a jumping off point for your own exploration on most of these topics.

Link Building (Bonus: A very specific and effective strategy revealed)

Links are at the core of effective SEO. It’s what the Google algorithm was initially based on and it’s still extremely important today. Essentially Google considered every link to your site as a vote. Some votes carry more weight than others. But in general, the more the better. The more you have, the higher your site and content could rank in the search results above your competition.

There are volumes of information about link building on the web. Link: http://backlinko.com/link-building Some advice is amazing, some could cripple your site and things are always changing. So going into this section know that you should really do your homework with link building before you start or before you hire someone to do SEO for you. Proper and effective link building is not something that you can ‘do’ like we did in the old days. Links must be earned and that’s the way Google likes it. The days of ‘building’ links in volume are virtually over and earning links is becoming harder and harder due to the volume of content and the competition on the internet.

Again, do I have you scared? I apologize for that but my goal here is to be honest and give you good advice. Before going any further, let me just say this. If you’re considering an SEO firm and they say that ‘link building’ is part of their tactics, you need to dig deep and understand exactly what they’re doing. First, read this massive article on link building so you can understand what’s possible. Link: http://pointblankseo.com/link-building-strategies Then, once you understand what works and what can hurt you, force your provider to tell you exactly what they’re doing. If they mention anything on the list that’s moderate to low in value, consider looking elsewhere. Low level link building is not a successful tactic that will return results.

Link Building and Content Amplification

I’ve chosen one tactic to feature here and I believe it’s one of the best tactics I’ve seen in a long time to not only create links but to also amplify your content using a very specific and methodical approach. I won’t lie and say that it’s easy. But I believe it to be effective.

I should also confess that this is not my idea. I’ve stolen this process wholesale so I’ll promptly link over to my source here.

To get started, lets revisit a quote from the article above:

“There are WAY too many people in internet marketing today that think ‘great content’ is enough. They say, ‘if I publish great stuff, people will naturally link to me’. If only it were that easy…”Brian Dean

This statement summarizes what many people believe about content marketing but it’s not true. Cutting through the noise is increasingly difficult and just publishing content is not enough.

So without further ado, let me summarize this tactic with a quick to do list. For more detail please visit the post above.

  1. Create amazing skyscraper content. We’ve talked about this concept at the beginning of this article and Brian does a great job at explaining it to. This is essential to the process. If you can’t do this part then you might as well stop now. It needs to be content that’s longer, more up-to-date, better designed, more thorough and more valuable than anything else out there.
  2. As Brian states, this step is the linchpin of this technique. You have to research and reach out to people who have already linked to similar content. If I’ve lost you and you’re rolling your eyes, stick with me because the steps to do this are below.
    1. Use a tool like Majestic SEO, Open Site Explorer or ahrefs.com to export links to your competitors content into a spreadsheet.
    2. Weed out the junk so you only have solid prospects
    3. Email them with a very personal, targeted compliment and ask them for a link. Most people will not even respond, but you should get enough links to make this worthwhile.
    4. Keep in mind, even a small amount of quality links could return huge value. Not to mention that fact that you’ve connected with someone who might share your content now and in the future.

In summary, whatever tactic you use, know that the most valuable links come from reputable websites where your link is contained within related content. Links like this are HARD to come by and that’s the way Google likes it. You need specialized tactics like this to make any real progress that matters.

Phase 7: Relationship Marketing and Influencer Marketing

relationship-marketingI’ll admit, I’m not an expert on these tactics. Nor will I claim that I’m going to put even the slightest dent in the knowledge that’s available on the subject on these pages. What I’m going to do is try to introduce you to a subject and give you a point where you can jump off and dig deep on your own.

Relationship Marketing and Influencer Marketing are actually two different tactics in my mind and I’ll try to describe each below.

Relationship Marketing

For me, relationship marketing (as it applies to amplifying your content) is about connecting and staying connected with your customers, partners, friends and community (online and off). There might be variations but in general you want to stay top-of-mind with the people that matter and build a basic personal bond.

How that’s accomplished will vary, but in the end, the goal is to endear yourself to people. They should trust you and like you. They should feel that you have their best interest at heart and you’re working for them. They should feel confident that if they ever have a need or know someone that has a need in your area of expertise that they can go to you.

Relationship marketing is not about sales (i.e., Transactional Marketing). It’s about building and engaging in relationships and friendships that will help everyone involved without expecting anything in return.

Again, books have been written on this subject so let me offer some advice as it pertains to the digital world and social media.

How to use social media to build relationships

Many people say they’re on social media. Many companies say they’re engaging with their customers on social media. Many people feel that they’ve ‘mastered’ social media. But most of these people are fooling themselves because they’re missing the one thing that’s important — actual social interaction.

I’ll admit, it’s hard. I try to honestly engage with people on social media and it’s hard to find the time — even when you know it’s a valuable practice because ‘engaging’ and being ‘social’ is not a one way conversation. Most people are one directional and self promotional. They have no clue how to even direct a personal message or question to someone, let alone be strategic about it.

So, lets all agree to quit complaining and either get off social media or decide to actively engage with others. It’s actually easy to do if you can make the time.

10 simple ways to make a connection on social media:

  • Offer an honest, direct compliment without an agenda.
  • Share a post and let the person know that you did it by tagging them.
  • Take a quote from an article and post it along with a link to their article and tag the author.
  • #FollowFriday is annoying but there’s no reason why you can’t recommend someone to your followers at any time.
  • Start an honest conversation about a topic that interests them
  • Comment about something in their bio
  • Say something positive about them and tag them to a broad/related topic
  • Make an introduction or recommendation
  • Offer help, advice or solve a problem for someone for free
  • If they do follow you, personally thank them without using a social media autoresponder

A simple but effective process to engage and amplify your content

Below is one idea for a quick step-by-step process to effectively engage with people that might actually want to amplify your content. Why? Because you’re offering more than a one way marketing message — which is rare.

  1. In the planning phase, we researched people who wrote similar articles to the one we’re working on. Hopefully you found them on Twitter and have documented their contact information or followed them directly.
  2. Direct message them or email them to say that you saw that they shared or created a similar piece of content and ask if they’d be interested in checking out yours. That’s it!
  3. From there see what happens. You might get ignored because, again, many people are not that interested in actually ‘engaging’ on social media. All they want to do is have a one-way conversation. But you WILL connect with people if you approach it in the right way and those connections will be GOLD as they will eventually follow you, link to you and amplify the content of someone they know.

Influencer marketing/Maven Marketing:

Influencer marketing as you might have guessed is about connecting with influencers to help you ‘spread the word’ and ‘take action’ vs. going after your target market directly.

But what exactly is an influencer in your mind? The right person could be completely different depending on who you’re talking to. Many times influencers are considered ‘rockstars’ that are trusted and very hard to reach. But an influencer could be someone local in your community. But in the end, an influencer is someone that’s trusted by many. If you can become trusted by an influencer, then they have the power to connect you or your brand to a larger audience of potential customers.

These days it’s becoming harder and harder to sell directly to people. People don’t trust advertising anymore. They want to be confident about their purchase or commitment, and quite honestly they’re empowered to do this with the internet. They can read detailed articles, they can read hundreds of reviews, they can essentially tap into a river of information before committing. This is where an influencer thrives because they’ve become a trusted resource too. When you’re trusted, people will listen to what you say when they’re looking to purchase.

Think of it like this. Do you trust someone that cold calls you and tries to sell you something out of the blue? Absolutely not. We’re all immediately skeptical when this happens. But if someone you trusted said that this person was going to call you and you trusted their opinion, you’d take the call, right?

Now, the big question. How can you connect with influencers? To be honest, the topic is way too deep to discuss here so I’m going to give you one general suggestion and one additional tactic to get you started and then leave you with some links to explore.

How to connect with people:

I saw a great but simple quote recently and that is “Network before you need it”. Networking online and off should be a constant for anyone that’s interested in amplifying their content, brand or personality online. I don’t want to sound like a stalker but you need to have systems, you need to have consistency and you need to be methodical.

Connecting with influencers through their blog:

It’s been said that 86% of all influencers operate a blog. (Technorati) So this is where I’d suggest that you start.

  1. Research prominent bloggers in your niche. How do you do this? Start with the links below:
    1. 3 social media tools to identify influential bloggers
    2. Influence marketing – How to find your industry leaders
    3. How to find influential bloggers
    4. What’s the best way to find influential bloggers in service management
    5. How to find influential people using social media
  2. Reach out to them in a creative, yet systematic way.
    1. There are many tools that you can use to approach this. (Link these)
      1. Inkybee
      2. Blogdash
      3. GroupHigh
      4. BuzzStream
    2. Here is a resource to get you started:
      1. A 10-Point Plan for Connecting with Online Influencers


In closing I’d like to leave you with a quote that pretty much sums up the subject of how to amplify your content:

“…amplification and promotion is a huge, ugly beast that can never be conquered in just one post.” – Joel Klettke

How to amplify your content is an emerging discussion and we’ve only skimmed the surface of knowledge and ideas. But I’ve provided you with a solid foundation and jumping off point. Good luck in your endeavors and lets all strive to amplify our content to 11!



How to Amplify Your Content
dropbox app of the month

dropbox app of the month

Dropbox: Simplify and Organize Your Life

Back in the mid 90s I started a website called Archive Digital . During this time the concept of digital photography and video was really starting to take off. I bought a fairly high end 8 megapixel digital SLR camera for a whopping $1500 and shot pictures until my heart was content.

What I quickly realized though was that all those great photos could disappear in a second if my computer or hard drive failed (and it did).

So, I set out to educate myself and others on the dangers of shooting digital photos and not having a reliable system for backing them up. I researched and reviewed the best CDs and DVDs for long term backup and recommended that you keep multiple copies. I setup software that would copy and store my photos on multiple external hard drives. At one point I even thought about creating an online system that could store digital content but at the time it was beyond my means to even consider it.

windows cloud star wars
Cloud Star Wars Imagery Source

Then the concept of ‘The Cloud‘ entered the picture and all my efforts seemed like a massive waste of time. Almost overnight services started popping up just like the one that I envisioned. You could easily backup your files online and trust that they’d never be lost.

The Cloud is essentially a large amount of networked/shared computers that store files. If one dies, the other computers store the data too and things just keep on keepin’ on without a hiccup. Many services even have multiple locations so that if one location was bombed (in theory) your files would be safe and sound somewhere in a mountain across the country.

The dream had been realized.

I tried several cloud services over the years like Carbonite (I still have files there somewhere) and Flickr   for my photos. All were good but ultimately there was always something missing.

The software was not reliable, the interfaces were hard to work with, uploading files and images was tedious. In the case of Flickr you could only upload around 100 files at one time. Ultimately you’d have errors, or the kids would unplug the computer and stop the upload, etc. I’d literally have gigabytes of photos just sitting on my computer just waiting to be annihilated because I just didn’t have time to upload everything!

Enter Dropbox

You may have heard of Dropbox. It has become the industry standard in cloud backups in my opinion and everything (and I mean everything) about the service is great. From the fact that it continually stores and restores your files to the hundreds of ways it can be integrated into your everyday life, you will never run out of ways to take advantage of this Cloud-based storage system. For example, after Dropbox is installed on your computer and syncing your files, you will find that once your smartphone is connected via USB Dropbox will immediate prompt you to backup images and videos from your device to your folders. Brilliant! Simple!

[Tweet “Backup all things digital with the @Dropbox app. Learn more from @SanctuaryMG #SMG #digitalmarketing”]

Oh, you do not plug in your phone to your computer all that often? Consider installing their device from the iOS or Google Play stores in order to automatically back up your phone’s photos as you capture them. And no, you will not have to issue a manual sync of any kind to their server — it’s all done in the background, both immediately and automatically. This feature alone is incredibly practical! Take a picture on your phone before it is automatically stored in your Cloud folder and then access and edit that image on your iPad, laptop or desktop computer.

Cloud Star Wars Imagery Source

App of the Month: DropBox
Local Search SEO Tactics Guide

In Phase 6 of our Massive Guide to Local Search Tactics we look at special challenges related to working with larger companies. The following are just a few suggestions to help you get started at the enterprise level.

Befriend the IT Department

When working at the enterprise level, you’ll often find that getting things done can be hard due to the tight control of important things like… updating pages on the website! So do what you can to become friends with the people in IT that might control things that the company considers “technical”.

You’ll find that making friends and gaining the trust of people in IT will show that you’re not a threat to their job and you’re trustworthy enough to get FTP access and their CMS to make simple updates and improvements to pages.

This may sound like a given since you’ve been hired to help them with their SEO, but many times IT can have final say over the marketing department (believe it or not). IT people can be controlling, territorial and even threatened by your requests to step into their world. So do your best to gain their trust first. Buy some lunches and/or beers and show that you’re not a threat and that you actually have the knowledge needed to not “break” anything on the website.

Cooperation – Many Hands Make Light Work

For larger companies, you might be working with hundreds or even thousands of individual locations. This can obviously be a challenge for multiple Local Search SEO Tactics Guidereasons.

First, there’s simply a lot to do. Just planning how you’re going to claim and optimize the basics for several hundred locations could take months or years depending on the budget available.

Second, most local SEO companies such as ours are not large organizations. So we’re essentially David taking on Goliath. We’re essentially a few individuals taking on a mountain of work.

So for this reason, consider what you can do to leverage all of your available resources.

Consider properly planning what needs to be done and then outsourcing the time consuming work to reliable and affordable freelancers.

Consider what resources you can tap into at the company. Is there a secretary at each location that can follow some simple instructions and chip away at a task over the course of a month?

Can tasks be given to management at each location so they have ownership over their own local marketing? Detailing specific tasks, working closely with them, following up and proofing their work can ensure that things get done right and in a timely manner.

Cross-link Nearby Locations with Geo-Anchor Text

Internal linking is important on your website to show that content is related and to help readers find related content. Building these “hubs” of information is a core usability and SEO best practice.

The same tactic makes sense for building hubs related to corporate locations in a geographic area. It can show the search engines that the company is a force to be reckoned with in the local area and it can help users find optional locations that fit their needs.

Most of all it helps the search engines to see that this company is an important service provider within that state or city and that it should be shown prominently. (In theory)

Learn That Less is More

You’ll find that when you’re dealing with companies that are larger in size, the work you can do can be extremely limited and slow unless it’s your full time job to manage their local presence online. You’ll also find that many competitors are not even doing the basics.

So the best thing to do is to keep your efforts focused and make sure that you’re not worrying about making huge leaps and bounds. Take small but solid steps over time and you’ll find that you’re actually making huge leaps and bounds over your competition.

  • Start with priority tactics and do them well. Don’t worry about volume. Example, it might be better to claim two priority citations per month for each location and do it well than it is to bulk claim citations and worry about volume. 2 citations per month is probably more than what the competition is getting.
  • Make smart, focused recommendations for the company staff to integrate. Provide simple tasks to stakeholders at the local level if possible and you’ll find that your small steps will help you climb that mountain in no time.
  • Keep your communication and reporting simple and to the point. People are busy… enough said.
  • Demonstrate ROI at a glance. Immediately show what you did and why it’s important. Show a visual graph of improvements over time if possible.

Use a Flat Site Architecture

This means that you should try and keep your clicks to a minimum and to keep your location pages near the top of the site architecture.

Each location on the site should have it’s own unique location page that’s indexable and it should be linked to other relevant locations in the state, city or neighborhood.

For example:





…or even better:

CorporateBeastie.com/Location/ (with store locator found prominently on the homepage)

Create Unique Service Pages for Each Location

One of the best things that you can do to further your efforts is to create and optimize unique location and/or service pages for each location in the company.

Each page should be unique and have content that’s specifically related to that location. This can be a massive job. Even if you can get past the bureaucracy, the work in creating the actual pages can be daunting.

But this hard work is an opportunity because it’s hard. That means that it’s likely that the competition is not undertaking the work and you’ll have a leg up on them.

Develop Regional Location Landing Pages

Getting a leg up in a region or state can start with developing the signal to the search engines that you have a large presence in that area.

From there, consider solidifying those signals by linking directly to your individual location landing pages.

Align Yourself with Other Campaigns/Tactics for Maximum Impact

Working with a larger organization has it’s benefits. Make sure to take advantage of opportunities to work with other stakeholders and see how you can align your efforts with other marketing initiatives.

The most simple example is to champion the website. Make sure that anything and everything that goes out to the public has the website listed, or more specifically, a link to the individual location pages or unique landing pages that you’ve developed.

Use Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumb links can help your customers find their way around your site. Many people do not enter via the homepage so make it easy for them to understand where they are and get around.

Breadcrumbs also automatically link related pages. The most simple example is how individual location landing pages will all link back to the region or state pages — therefore reinforcing that your top level pages related strongly to the locations.

The Massive Guide to Local Search Tactics

Phase 1: Local Campaign Planning & Setup

Phase 2: Primary Onsite Local Strategies

Phase 3: Primary Offsite Local Strategies

Phase 4: Secondary Onsite Local Strategies

Phase 5: Secondary Offsite Local Strategies

Phase 6: Enterprise Specific Local SEO

Local Search Tactics Phase 6: Enterprise Specific Local SEO
Local Search SEO Tactics Guide

Local Search SEO Tactics GuideIf you’ve mastered the basics in the first four phases of our Massive Guide to Local Search Tactics, or you happen to have unlimited resources, consider some of the following tactics to expand your local footprint online.

Video Distribution

As mentioned previously, video can be a great way to expand your footprint online and another avenue to communicate with potential customers.

To get the maximum impact out of your videos, consider distributing them beyond your own site. Google’s YouTube is obviously the 1000 pound gorilla, but there are many other sites that you can use to distribute your videos online.

Some of the most popular include:


Photo Distribution

Getting the maximum exposure for your photos is important. Photos can be found in many ways which is a huge opportunity for your business to be discovered online.

Google Images catalogs your images from your website automatically. But don’t stop there. Here are a few options to get you started:


Social Outreach and Engagement

Engagement on social media is a world of it’s own and I won’t go into it in detail here. But let it be said, it’s an excellent way to expand your reach online and engage with local customers. Google+,FacebookTwitterTumblrFoursquare, etc. are all options. Even if you step into the waters slowly and have just a little bit of activity on these sites it can be a good thing.

A great place to start to learn about everything social media is this site: Social Media Examiner

Claim Unstructured Citations

Unstructured citations are basically listings of your business on websites other than traditional directories or search engines. Examples might include a magazine website, niche or local blog, social media site, newspaper website, event listings, government websites, etc.

Consider pursuing these citations once you’ve claimed and optimized your priority structured citations.

The difference is that structured citations are usually in a directory or searchable/sortable format that search engines and users can easily digest. Unstructured citations are a little more random where you might be the only business listed on the page. Structured citations are obviously much harder to establish but can be very valuable to your local SEO efforts.

Guest Blogging on Local Blogs

How do you get links back to your site? Well, it takes work. One way that you can do that is offer to create GREAT local content for other websites in exchange for a citation and link back to your site. To get started check out this link: A beginner’s guide to guest blogging

Develop a PR Strategy

Getting your business in front of the local media can be a huge boost to your local marketing and SEO mojo. Trying to cover PR strategy here is not possible but we can summarize it pretty simply: plan your schedule, craft your message, seek out your targets and engage on as many fronts as possible. Learn as much as you can about press releases, how to approach reporters, be newsworthy, research wire services and learn patience.

Get Involved with Local Events or Plan Your Own

Local events can be a great way to increase your visibility in the community – especially if the event is recurring like a weekly meet-up or educational series. If you’re already holding local events, make sure to list them on sites like YelpFacebook EventsLinkedIn, Zvents.com, Eventful.com and AmericanTowns.com.

Get Involved in Your Community

Look for ways that your business can become involved in the community. Links and marketing opportunities often follow. Not to mention the good things that you can accomplish. It’s a win-win proposition. Get started today.

Claim All Your Social Profiles

Google+, Facebook and Twitter are only the beginning. Visit knowem.com to expand your social presence online and ensure that other companies can’t claim your company name.

Monitor and Respond to Reviews

In addition to encouraging reviews online, you should have a strategy to monitor and respond to reviews. Not knowing that there are negative reviews online about your business is not an ideal situation. So consider these services to stay in-touch with your customers and try to turn a negative into a positive. Sometimes it just requires a simple response and you can’t do that without an effective system to monitor your reputation online.


Get Listed on Mobile/GPS Services

If you utilize the services of the primary data distributors mentioned previously (Localeze/Neustar, InfoGroup, Acxiom, etc.), you’ll likely get your information distributed to the top GPS/Map providers. But to be sure, consider listing your business directly on the priority sites listed below:

Navteq:  http://mapreporter.navteq.com/
Teleatlas:  http://mapinsight.teleatlas.com/mapfeedback/index.php

There are many other data providers and services. You can go direct and deep on this if you have the time. Start with the top free services like Google, Apple, Yelp, etc. and seek out the specific procedures to get listed on each if you don’t see your business listed in a timely manner.

Comment and Contribute to Local Blogs

If you can identify local websites and blogs that have high visibility in your area, engage with other users on the site or consider contributing content. Simply having a presence and being involved – even in small ways – can help to increase your visibility in the community. Without being too obvious or salesy, consider exploring creative ways to add your business name, address, phone number and links to the site too.

Give Reviews and Testimonials to Other Local Businesses

This suggestion isn’t exactly a marketing tactic for your business but if you do it right, it can help you to bring visibility to your business in the eyes of other local business owners. What you need to do is simply review other local businesses in a visible way. The tactic is simple and it provides you with an opportunity to say something good about your favorite local businesses and promote your business in the process.

Simply offer to provide a testimonial in exchange for a mention of your name, your business name and a link back to your website. What business would not want you to provide some kind words about their business and services online? This tactic will bring visibility to your business over time and will provide you with a valuable link back to your website. The link itself may or may not bring any SEO mojo but if presented correctly it’s just another way that a local client could discover you online.

Start a Scholarship for a Local University

What’s better than cheap promotion of your business? Not much. But if you can get cheap promotion for your business and get it from a local university while doing something good for a kid? Well, that’s about as good as it can get.

For this tactic you’ll have to spend some money to establish a scholarship but it doesn’t have to be thousands of dollars. In exchange for a modest yearly donation you’ll get all sorts of visibility and likely your own page on a university website that links back to your business. When building links there aren’t many opportunities that are better than your own page on a .edu domain with a link back to your website. Just think of all the opportunities that this small investment in your community will bring you.

Sponsor College Student Groups that Relate to What You Do

Investigate opportunities to support local college groups and activities that have something to do with your business. This will get you a ton of local goodwill, marketing and networking opportunities and will likely get a link back to your website from a .edu domain. The link may or may not help you with your local SEO but it certainly can’t hurt and you’ll have many opportunities to promote your business while helping to mold the next generation of…. well, whatever you do!

Sponsor Local Events

Not many things will get you on the radar of the locals more than sponsoring local events. This can sometimes be expensive but there are always opportunities within almost any budget. Sponsoring local business and community events is a great way for your business to be discovered by local people who may never have heard of you otherwise.

Consider local chamber events, community festivals, business networking or education series events and even your own small events at your location such as free lunch hour learning sessions.

Ultra-Refine Your Citations and Links

Building citations on high quality websites is an important local SEO tactic but many businesses don’t have the time or the knowledge to do it right. This is a huge opportunity for those of you “in the know”.

But how far do you go? Well, that question doesn’t have a simple answer because there are many factors such as the competitiveness of your industry and how aggressive your competition is online with their own SEO.

One thing that you can do before you worry about quantity is focus on QUALITY. Take some time to identify the best citations that apply to your business and then take a deep dive to make sure that they all match exactly. Making sure that your NAP (Company name, address and phone + your URL) is exactly the same on all priority citation sites could make a big difference when you’re up against your competition online.

Want more specifics? Check out this article about some specific tactics that will help you review your citations and find new one’s that Google has identified for your competition.

Claim Generic/Structured Citations

Once you’ve claimed all your priority citations, local citations and industry citations, consider manually claiming and optimizing more generic citations.

Keep in mind though, not all citations are created equal. So be careful where you’re spending your time in this area.

Structured citations are usually in a directory or searchable/sortable format that search engines and users can easily digest. But many are considered to be low quality and therefore low value to your SEO efforts.

Content Distribution

Why post your valuable content on your website when you can post it on your site and thousands of other sites? That’s a question that many people don’t ask often enough! (including myself)

We won’t go into specific tactics here but consider ways to not only publish your content on your own site but how you can use the tools and services available to you to distribute your content and potentially reach a much larger audience that you could with your own website.

But isn’t this duplicate content you ask? Won’t Google dislike tactics like this? The short answer is “no”. Having your content on many websites is inheritably not a bad thing and you will NOT be penalized for this directly. The only bad thing that could happen is that your content is returned in the search results from another site instead of your own. But if exposure is your goal, then this is not a bad thing. Exposure is exposure. Just make sure that you take any opportunities available to you to link back to your own site.

Also, there are options to distribute your content but not distribute the entire piece of content.Headline distributionSuggested Content Distribution, Newswire Distribution, Link Distributionand Paid Social Media Distribution are all tactics that you can explore.

Use Google Mapmaker

Using Google Mapmaker to improve your business information on Google Maps can help customers find you easier (especially if you’re location is not correct on Google Maps) as well as giving them more information about exactly how to get there with as little confusion as possible.

For a great, detailed overview of using Google Mapmaker click here.

Explore Microdata/Structured Markup

Microdata, Rich Snippets, Microformats, Structured Markup, it’s all the same thing. In the words of Google: Structured markup is a way of annotating information already on your website to help Google and others understand information more precisely. More specifically: Microdata is a way to label content to describe a specific type of information—for example, reviews, personal information, or events.

With local search optimization you want to use this markup to clearly define your business location and other important supporting information so there is no question about what’s on the page and how the search engines should use it.

Why is it important? It can help the search engines better understand your pages and it can improve your listings in the search results as this additional information may be displayed inline with your listings.

Again in the words of Google: Your addition of structured markup simply helps to resolve ambiguities by clarifying that 1) you are in fact referencing a business (e.g. you mean “Shalimar” the restaurant rather than “Shalimar” the city), and 2) you’re referencing a very specific location (e.g. the Shalimar in Sunnyvale rather than the Shalimar in San Francisco). When annotating reviews, you also clarify which text corresponds to the review of the particular business.

More information:




The Massive Guide to Local Search Tactics

Phase 1: Local Campaign Planning & Setup

Phase 2: Primary Onsite Local Strategies

Phase 3: Primary Offsite Local Strategies

Phase 4: Secondary Onsite Local Strategies

Phase 5: Secondary Offsite Local Strategies

Phase 6: Enterprise Specific Local SEO

Local Search Tactics Phase 5: Secondary Offsite Local Strategies
Local Search SEO Tactics Guide

After you’ve mastered the basics you can let the real work begin! The following secondary tactics can be extremely effective but like most good things, Local Search SEO Tactics Guidenothing comes without effort. Many of the tactics listed here in Phase 4 of our Massive Guide to Local Search Tactics are not one time tasks so be prepared to start working and never stop.

Go After the Long Tail

Essentially the “long tail” is about selling less of more. Ultimately it will return more results than if you went after just a few high profile keywords (the head terms). For example, a head term (which is hard to rank for) would be “Furniture”. The long tail keyword examples of the furniture category could include such phrases as Furniture Showroom New York City, Oak Bedroom Furniture Ohio, High Quality Kids Furniture Miami and Contemporary Grey Couch Boston.

The long tail is, well, long. It can return much more traffic than if you just focus on one key phrase. You obviously don’t want to avoid the head terms. It’s just that we shouldn’t obsess and put all our efforts into ranking for a few terms like some companies do. If you understand the concept of the long tail, there is ultimately much more traffic there AND it’s easier to get.

If you can get local rankings for highly competitive terms in your area without killing yourself I say go for it. I’ve done it. But many times I’ve found that continually tackling the long tail brings in more traffic and helps to build up the overall reach of the site more than just continually pounding on 5-10 top level terms that you may or may not get.

My approach might be different than some too. I focus on content development and landing pages built specifically around priority terms. It’s hard and time consuming. But when you go after the long tail in this way you can get top rankings very fast and drive much more traffic than putting the same amount of effort into ranking for one or two competitive terms. It’s not always the case but it’s where we’ve seen a lot of success in developing targeted, local traffic.

Optimize Your Site & Priority Content for Mobile

More and more people are searching “on the go” which makes it imperative that your business is optimized for mobile tablets and devices. That means that your website information should be easy to read, easy to share and easy to engage with on all mobile devices. Mobile usage is growing every year and it’s a very important part of local optimization online. It’s going to become more and more important as the internet is accessible in more and more ways. (Think Google Glasses, embedded chips and other futuristic technologies)

Develop Local Landing Pages

Landing pages are individual web pages (other than your homepage) that visitors see in the search results. Work on developing keyword/location specific pages that relate to your business.

Example: SEO Company North Canton, Ohio — Search Engine Optimization North Canton, Ohio — Local Search Optimization North Canton, Ohio

These are all examples of individual landing pages that you could develop with unique content. The more content that you have on your site related to what you do, the more you’ll show up for those specific searches in your area.

Bonus: If you’re running pay-per-click campaigns you can use these pages and link them up to the individual keywords in your campaign to increase your quality scores and conversion optimization.

Create Valuable Content and Never Stop

In addition to setting up a blog and having an easy way to publish and manage content, you need a plan in place to actively create valuable content related to what you do.

This is one of the most difficult and time consuming tactics but it’s the #1 thing that search engines like Google want to see. YOU MUST CREATE CONTENT AND NEVER STOP.

Look at if from Google’s point of view. Who would you rather link to (all things being equal), a website with 10 pages that’s never updated or a website with 1000 pages on the same topic that’s being updated 3 times a week? Hopefully you see my point.

Google knows that it’s HARD to create valuable content. That’s the way they like it and for those willing to take the time and invest in content creation it will pay off.

Embed a Google Map on Your Site

One thing that might help Google understand where you’re located is to embed a Google Map on your site that shows the address and location of your business. If anything, it will help your customers find you and that’s the goal of all this, right?

Use Schema Markup Code

Schema markup code basically allows you to put simple code on your website that highlights important information about your business and location. This is a rare thing with SEO because it’s a simple tactic and search engines automatically treat this information as important information. Take advantage of it!

An example would be the following for the phone number field: Phone: <span itemprop=”telephone”>330-266-1188</span>

When it comes to local, there is one all-important aspect of schema that you should focus on first which is your company name, address, city, state, zip code and telephone number.

Beyond that consider all the options that apply to your business like payments types to testimonials.

Develop and Optimize Videos

Video can show up directly within search results. Ask yourself what you can do to optimize your videos so the search engines know that the content is related to a local business.

If you haven’t thought about developing videos as a part of your internet marketing strategy it’s a great tactic. Also consider that YouTube is one of the top 10 websites on the planet. People are always looking for information on YouTube and it can be a great outlet for you to increase your visibility online.

Optimize Website Photos and Galleries

Optimizing your photos is not only a great local SEO tactic, it’s a core SEO tactic. Consider everything from the file name of every image to the alt tag on the page.

The Massive Guide to Local Search Tactics

Phase 1: Local Campaign Planning & Setup

Phase 2: Primary Onsite Local Strategies

Phase 3: Primary Offsite Local Strategies

Phase 4: Secondary Onsite Local Strategies

Phase 5: Secondary Offsite Local Strategies

Phase 6: Enterprise Specific Local SEO

Local Search Tactics Phase 4: Secondary Onsite Local Strategies
Local Search SEO Tactics Guide

Like the primary onsite strategies recommended in phase 2 of our Massive Guide to Local Search Tactics, there are many things that you can control offsite in your campaign. Even though these tactics are not accomplished with your own website, you have absolute control to do as much or as little as you want with them. Dive in with Google+ and continue to build on your previous efforts using the following tactics.

Setup Google Places/Google+

Local on Google starts with establishing your business listing on Google Places and/or Google+.

Local Search SEO Tactics GuideYou should establish an account for your business and optimize it to the hilt immediately. Having an account allows you to control your company information online, engage with potential customers and increase your visibility.

But, what’s the difference between Google Places and Google+? The answer is not so simple…

Google Places: When Google began to focus on “local” and populating accurate business data on their maps product, they offered a way for businesses to establish an account, populate and optimize that data. You can still establish a Google Places account. Google may already have your business information listed but having a Google Places account allows you to control the data and expand it. (Now technically called Google Places for Business)

Google+: Google+ is the social arm of Google Local online. (Think of it as Google’s answer to Facebook.) Eventually Places will be combined with Google+ as one product. You can opt to establish a Google+ account for your business. If you decide to go this route you do not need to establish a Google Places account. Eventually all accounts will be merged as Google+. (Now technically called Google+ Business)

To confirm, this is all confusing and it keeps changing.

Basically what you need to do (at the time of this writing) is the following:

  1. EXISTING PLACES ACCOUNT: If you have a Google Places for Business page, keep it, optimize it, monitor it. Wait for the Google+ merge. You can merge this manually if you want to engage more socially.
  2. EXISTING GOOGLE+ ACCOUNT: The word is that eventually all Places accounts will be officially migrated to Google + Business accounts so you should probably just stick with your Google+ Business account and not establish a Places account. That way you’ll have one central account.
  3. NEW BUSINESS LISTING: If you are setting up a new business listing you could technically go either way or both. But if we’re looking for a definitive answer I’d say that you should stick with Mike Blumenthal’s advice and start with a Google Places for Business account and upgrade it later.

More Reading:

Google Places/Google+ Explained
Google Places for Business vs. Google+ Local
Getting started with Google Places for Business

Setup Bing Places

Setup of a Bing Places account is easy. Establish your account, follow the instructions to optimize it and move on. The Bing search engine powers Yahoo.com search results so it’s a “must do” step in a successful local seo plan.

More information:

10 Basic Bing Local Optimization Tips

Setup Yahoo Local (Localworks)

Yahoo Local listings are not as complicated as Google but they do have options. At the base level you need to sign up for a free basic listing.

At the time of this writing they did have several other paid options including a directory submission level powered by Yext. The value of paying for the Yext service is debatable and not something that we’ll address here at the moment. But increasing your citations is important as we’ll discuss later.

Submit to Primary Data Distributors

Have you ever wondered how Google Maps or your GPS have information about your business? Many times they get their information from secondary data distributors.

You can go directly to these sites and have them distribute your information to hundreds of websites and services.

As of 2014 here are the top companies. We won’t go into the specifics here because things are always changing.

  1. Neustar/Localeze
  2. Infogroup
  3. Acxiom
  4. Factual

More information: 

Keep an eye on David Mihm over at Moz.com as he continually updates us on the ever changing world of how these companies distribute data to sites and search engines.

Need help with your data distribution? Look no further.

Claim Industry Specific Citations

Citations are listings of your business on other websites. The basic information is Name, Address and Phone (Your NAP). More information can be distributed and uploaded to other websites including your website address, photos, videos and more.

Industry specific citations are important because they help search engines understand what your business does. The more citations that you have, the more Google will trust that you’re a legit business operating in your field.

We’re a local SEO company so it makes sense for us to be listed on various SEO directory sites, marketing industry directories, etc.

Industry specific citations can be either structured or unstructured citations. The difference is that structured citations are usually in a directory or searchable/sortable format that search engines and users can easily digest. Unstructured citations are a little more random where you might be the only business listed on the page. Structured citations are obviously much harder to establish but can be very valuable to your local SEO efforts.

Your industry citation targets will be completely different than the next guy but there are resources available to get you started with the basics.

More Information:

Best Industry Citations from GetListed.org

Looking for an easy way to find citations? Look no further.

Claim Local Citations

Local citations are listings of your business on other websites in your local area. The basic information is Name, Address and Phone (Your NAP). More information can be distributed and uploaded to other websites including your website address, photos, videos and more.

Local specific citations are important because they help search engines understand where your business in located and what you do (among other things). The more citations that you have, the more Google will trust that you’re a legit business operating in your local area.

We’re a local internet marketing company located in Ohio so it makes sense for us to be listed on any business directory that’s specific to Ohio or cities in our local area.

More Information:

Best sources for local citations.

Looking for an easy way to find citations? Look no further.

Claim Listings on Priority Citation/Directory Sites

Citations are listings of your business on other websites. The basic information is Name, Address and Phone (Your NAP). More information can be distributed and uploaded to other websites including your website address, photos, videos and more.

Citations are important because they help search engines learn more about your business. The more citations that you have, the more Google will trust that you’re a legit business.

Be careful about submitting your information to just any site. It won’t necessarily hurt anything, just consider the time that it takes because not all sites are created equal. Start with obvious choices like popular Yellow Page websites, Yelp.com, etc.

NOTE: Data distributors will send your information to most popular sites but they might only be sending basic information. To fully optimize your listings you’ll need to manually claim and optimize them.

More Information:

Looking for an easy way to find citations? Look no further.

Bright Local’s Top 50 Local Citation Sites

The Massive Guide to Local Search Tactics

Phase 1: Local Campaign Planning & Setup

Phase 2: Primary Onsite Local Strategies

Phase 3: Primary Offsite Local Strategies

Phase 4: Secondary Onsite Local Strategies

Phase 5: Secondary Offsite Local Strategies

Phase 6: Enterprise Specific Local SEO

Local Search Tactics Phase 3: Primary Offsite Local Strategies