I’ve always said that SEO is a huge deal, and it doesn’t take long as a web designer and digital marketer to understand why. Once you are managing several sites and have a chance to dive into the analytics of a site, a distinct pattern begins to emerge. Even though site owners spend a lot of time attempting to drive traffic to their site from social media and from other referral sources, they inevitably get over 60% of their traffic from search engines.
The conclusion I have drawn, which is shared by many other digital marketers, is that local SEO – the practice of optimizing web pages in order to benefit local businesses – is some of lowest hanging fruit in the online marketing space. It can literally make or break your entire business. Personally, I have been able to create two profitable and sustainable businesses off of local SEO. One, as you can guess, is White Hat Matt, based on this very site. The other is Tritheos Coaching Services, my triathlon coaching business.
If this infographic, originally developed by Go Globe, doesn’t convince you about the fruitfulness of investing some time and energy into local SEO, nothing will. Infographic by- GO Globe Hong Kong
Before we go any further in our course, Digital Marketing Strategies and Tactics to Grow Any Small Business, we’re going to have to dispel some common online marketing myths.
You’re likely to be resistant to the strategies I’m going to present in future modules because of the prevalence of myths that often persist in the name of common sense.
How do these myths come about?
There are at least 4 causes:
Assumptions about who your website visitors are and where they come from is incorrect. This affects your strategy in how you build trust with your audience and how you can meet their needs.
Assumptions about what’s important to your website visitors is incorrect. This affects the information you choose to provide to them.
Assumptions about how your visitors travel through your website is incorrect. This affects your content hierarchy, menu items, call-to-action buttons, and the offers that you present on your website.
4. Assumptions about how people consume content on the web is incorrect. This affects how you construct your sales message.
These assumptions are then perpetuated en masse until you begin to believe them.
Now, let’s bust through some marketing myths so we can help you grow your small business!
Myth #1 – No One Will Read All That
It is commonly asserted that because people don’t like to read, your website content should be short and to the point.
My caveat is that no one will read all that unless: (a) you are sharing information that people want to know, OR (b) you are trying to sell something and people need to know what they are buying.
The inverse would be if you’re not trying to sell anything or don’t have important information to share and you decide to create content about something anyways; then, yes, no one will read it. But if that’s the case, why are you putting it online?
The problem with this myth is related to incorrect assumption #2 and #4. Quite often people new to online marketing do not distinguish the differences in the willingness of others to consume content for random social media updates, versus the amount of content needed to create a lead, versus the amount of content needed to make a sale.
Short and to the point is necessary for a facebook update, but does that mean it’s what’s necessary for creating leads for $5k products, or even selling a $50-100 product?
Let’s dive into 3 areas where more content generally performs better – sales, conversion rate optimization, and SEO.
Long Sales Pages Tend to Do Better
Contrary to popular opinion, copywriters, conversion rate optimization experts, and SEO experts agree that longer sales pages tend to do better.
That’s simple: People want to know what they are buying.
In the words of famous entrepreneur Neil Patel, co-founder or Crazy Egg and Kissmetrics:
“Conversion Rate Optimization is like dating. So, if I go up to a random person…and I say, ‘will you marry me right now…chances are she’d say no. Why would she say no? [asks for response from audience]…exactly, you don’t know them. That’s the way the internet works too. Why would you expect someone to just come to your website, and you say, “Hey, buy something for $1000” and expect them to say ‘okay, here’s my credit card’…but once you get to know someone, they are much more likely to say yes.” (from: Neil Patel’s Top Ten Rules for Success)
These are intelligent words from Neil put into common sense lingo. People are generally not going to buy from you if they don’t trust you. They don’t trust you if they don’t know you.
Similarly, they won’t trust your offer if they don’t know exactly what they are going to get.
King of Copywriting David Ogilvy puts in his two cents on why lots of information tends to do better on sales pages:
“Direct response advertisers know that short copy doesn’t sell. In split-run tests, long copy invariably outsells short copy. But I must warn you that if you want your long copy to be read, you had better write it well. In particular, your first paragraph should be a grabber…Long copy sells more than short copy, particularly when you are asking the reader to spend a lot of money. Only amateurs use short copy.”
Conversion Rate Experts throw their hat into the ring on this subject when they say:
“Marketers have been debating for a long time about how much copy to include. In general, write as much as it takes to communicate your entire sales message and to overcome all the likely objections. You are aiming to condense as many persuasive arguments and as much relevant information into as little text as possible. Conveying all of this information will usually require more words than most websites currently use.
Include all the information that customers could possibly require in order to make a purchase. (Note that it doesn’t all need to be on the main product page.) Make sure to address all the common objections that your customers bring up. Compile a chart of objections and counter-objections, and then rank them in order of importance.”
According to the Crazy Egg blog, conversion rate optimization studies have been performed on advertisements for years. Crazy Egg relays the findings:
“A second team of scientists found that readers of an industrial magazine were significantly more likely to read ads containing long, rather than short, copy. The researchers “found that short copy is less effective in arousing the interest of readers. The results suggest that longer ad copy is needed to communicate the type of information sought by industrial prospects, empirically confirming beliefs held by the advertising industry.”
Free Trials Achieves the Same or Better Effect than Long Sales Pages
Now, this doesn’t necessarily prove that a longer page with more written content always wins. Just having length doesn’t mean you’ve provided the most relevant information. In fact, buyers can get to know you and your product/service through other means, such as with a free trial. Neil Patel is also famous for “reversing the sales funnel.” That is, he allows users to try the product before they buy it, either through a free trial or freemium version of his software. This takes away much of the risk of the unknown on the part of the buyer. Instead of having to take a leap of faith and make an educated guess about whether or not a product will work for them, they are able to test-drive the product. This seems to be more effective than having a long sales page.
Conversion Rate Experts also comments on this technique when they write:
“In general, do whatever you can to get the product into the customer’s hands. If you’re so confident in your product, prove it by taking some of the risk.”
But, not all industries can employ the “try before you buy” approach. This works particularly well in the SAAS industry; it also works in car sales. But it doesn’t work that well when you can’t physically examine the product and can’t use a free trial. If that is the case you’re going to need a convincing argument about the superiority of your product, and in most cases it is going to take some length to say it.
Barry A. Densa, from Melissa Global Intelligence, sums it up when he writes:
An Important Case Study Where Long Form Content Won
This screenshot below shows the sales improvement achieved by Protalus, maker of an over-the-counter corrective insole, by moving to a longer sales page:
They comment on their rationale for moving to a longer sales page:
“On a landing page, you must overcorrect because you lack the back- and-forth conversation in a live selling situation. Below is the list of key elements on the winning page.”
They go on to state the key elements to their sales page which basically amounted to answering customer objections, including (1) Price too high, (2) Not sure it will work, (3) Not sure it will work for my specific condition, (4) Difficulty navigating the website.
The conversion optimization company then added sections specifically addressing each objection. The result was a page 5 or 6 times as long as the original. This increase in sales page length increased sales by 91% in 6 months.
The Protalus case study highlights a belief commonly held by pro copywriters. In a live sales situation, you can answer your customer’s questions at that moment. But on a sales page on the web you don’t know which questions or objections your visitor will have…so you need to answer all of them. This overcompensation often means you may arrive at a significantly long sales page.
Sales Page Length and Conversion Rates For Different Types of Offers
We’ve already covered how a longer sales page isn’t an absolute necessity because there are ways of communicating your message, overcoming objections, and demonstrating the value of your product/service through other means. But does this mean that long copy always wins where free trials or video are unbecoming? Bob Kemper, Director of Sciences at MECLABS and an authority on analyzing long versus short copy, relayed his findings on hundreds of A/B tests comparing short to long copy.
He found that (a) inexpensive purchases generally required shorter sales copy, (b) short copy generally performed better with products that were purchased due to emotional, impulsive, or want-oriented buying behavior, (c) if you’ve already established good brand identity and trust with your prospective buyer, not as much information is required because they already know and trust you.
One final issue is the difference between asking for a sale and asking for a lead. Are you asking for payment right then and there on a website page, or are you just looking to get someone’s contact information? Regarding this distinction, Bob Kemper concludes:
“If you’re asking for $$$, people need way more information to make a decision and hence a long form page might be a more suitable option. In the end, it depends on the goal of your home page….long copy is the better performer when there is a rational, analytical, need-oriented motivation. Think consumer insurance products or many complex B2B offerings.”
What Kemper is saying here is that if you are asking for a visitor to make a purchase on the spot, you’re likely going to need longer content. If all you are asking for is a lead, such as someone picking up the phone, emailing you, or completing a contact form submission, you won’t necessarily have to counter every objection or answer every question, because you can do that down the road once your prospect begins to have more interactions with you.
What this all amounts to is the avoidance of making your website visitors and potential customers do all the heavy lifting. Give them some information about you, build some trust; don’t make them knock down your door to figure out who you are, what you offer, and what makes your business special.
Long Form Content Tends to do Better In SEO
In a landmark study of top search engine results, Brian Dean of Backlinko, in conjunction with Ahrefs, SEMRush, Market Muse, SimilarWeb and Clickstream, found that the top search engine results were, on the average, occupied with pages of about 2000 words of content. Here is a quick graphic that illustrates their findings.
As you can see, after about position #2, as word count decreases, rankings tend to decrease as well. This isn’t true for every type of content in SEO, but it is true for the majority.
“After removing outliers from our data (pages that contained fewer than 51 words and more than 9999 words), we discovered that pages with longer content ranked significantly better than short content. In fact, the average word count of a Google first page result is 1,890 words.
This correlation could be due to the fact that longer content generates significantly more social shares. Or it could be an inherent preference in Google for longer articles. Another theory is that longer content boosts your page’s topical relevancy, which gives Google a deeper understanding of your content’s topic.”
This is why Dean, in his post on optimizing on-page SEO, gives the following pieces of advice to posting long content:
“The SEO adage “length is strength” was supported by our industry study which found that longer content tends to rank significantly higher on Google’s first page. Aim for at least 1900 words for every piece of content that you publish.”
When it comes to social media, people will likely not want to read 1000 word posts. But when it comes to web users who have informational or transactional intent, they will be willing to consume large amounts of content.
In the case of someone with informational intent (think blogs posts and SEO), their goal is to accumulate knowledge, so of course they are willing to “read all that.”
In the case of someone with transactional intent (think business and sales pages), they want to make sure they are making wise use of their money (except in the case of impulse purchases), so they also need a good amount of content to make an informed decision.
Text vs Video vs Audio
One question we should answer before we finish off this section is: “Do I always have to use a ton of text?”
The answer for SEO is “probably,” because search engines are much better at crawling text then they are at understanding videos and audio.
For sales, however, you could communicate your message through video, audio, infographics etc. It really depends on the type of product or service you offer and your production quality over the variety of mediums at your disposal.
Here are some alternatives to using long form text content:
Physical product – consider doing an unboxing video and show your product works in action.
Software as a Service – offer a free trial of your product or freemium version. Even better, offer a live demo of your product right on your site. Elegant Themes, for instance, is crushing their competition by offering a live demo [link] of their front-end page builder, Divi. This way, visitors don’t have to go through the trouble of downloading or signing up in order to test out the product. Why gate your product when people can try it immediately?
Service – Offer some free miniature version of your actual service. For instance, I am a web designer and digital marketer [link] and offer 3 different free services in order to build trust and clinch a sale. I offer:
A free SEO-specific audit, where the user completes a form and their audit is delivered to them electronically. All of this happens automatically on my site and is initiated by the user.
A hands-on website audit, so we can understand what’s wrong with your site and how to fix it. In this case I take 1-1.5 hours and look at everything from search engine rankings, to website speed, to conversion funnel.
A discovery process that occurs before my proposal/estimate process, so I can understand what strategies to employ once I start a web design project and/or traffic and conversion campaign. This alone delivers a ton of value, helping prospects understand their competition, target audience, and available strategies and tactics.
So what happens if you buy into the myth that “no one will read all that?”
No traffic. People won’t be able to find you online from search engines.
No conversion. People won’t trust you enough to buy from you, won’t understand your offer, or won’t even bother contacting you.
Okay, myth #1 is sufficiently busted! If you read all the way to the end, then that pretty much proves my point. You read all that!
In the next article, we’ll move onto myth #2: Online Marketing = Social Media Marketing
But before we do move on, we need to answer how you are going put your long form content knowledge into use?
It’s difficult to give any advice that is “one size fits all.” If you’re just starting to get your small business online, here’s are some potential action steps you could take:
Begin writing down objections people have to buying your product or service, preferably during live selling situations.
Add an FAQ page to your site, answering all the objections you hear.
Add an About Page to your site. The About Page tends to be the 2nd most popular page on a site, on average. This will help build trust with your audience and add some personality to your brand.
Just making those 3 small changes would have a big impact on your conversions.
If you’re following this class on-line and keeping up with your coursework, here are your next steps:
If you haven’t already done so, sign up for Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing Course. You should have already watched “Inbound Marketing Fundamentals”
Watch “Planning a Long Term Content Strategy” and take the quiz at the end. Repeat the quiz until you score 100%
(Editorial Note: Since beginning creating this online course, Hubspot has restructured their inbound course offerings. We will be using the course “Inbound Marketing” primarily, but will also draw from the “Inbound” course.)
Have you ever wanted to move beyond marketing theory and into what it takes to successfully market a small business online? Our Digital Marketing Strategies and Tactics course will help your business develop new leads and customers in order for your business or organization to grow.
This article is to designed to help you navigate our course. The Digital Marketing Strategies and Tactics to Grow Any Small Business course is divided into 10 modules per term, for a total of 3 terms. This follows the conventional quarter system course schedule.
During each term the course is available in-person in the format of one, 1.5 hour class per every month, with approximately 1.5-2 hours of coursework which can be immediately applied to your business. The winter term begins January 1, 2019, and ends July 9th, 2019. Specific course schedule and registration can be found by using my contact form.
The 7 Components of a Successful Online Marketing Plan
How to Write Persuasively to Clearly Demonstrate the Benefits of Your Product or Service.
How to Employ Search Engine Optimization to Get Free Exposure and Traffic to Your Website
Whether Pay-Per-Click Advertising is Really Worth It
What is WordPress and Why is it the Best Platform for Small Businesses?
The Best Website and Online Marketing Tools to Help Small Businesses Succeed
The Unrecognized Value Behind Email Marketing
The Truth About Social Media Marketing
Affiliate Marketing and How to Start Creating a Supplemental Income Immediately
The course then repeats the same subjects for the following terms. Think of each term as proceeding from beginner, to intermediate, to advanced for each subject.
Module Subjects, 2nd and 3rd Terms
Google My Business
Marketing Strategy and Planning
Why Small Businesses Need Online Marketing
Several reasons exist for why small businesses need to invest time, effort, and even dollars into online marketing efforts. Some of these are obvious, such as the increase in computer and smartphone usage to research businesses and ultimately make buying decisions. But some of the strengths of digital marketing may be less obvious to the unaccustomed. Let’s dive into the top 7 reasons small businesses should get busy with their online marketing. Five of these reasons are conceptual in nature, while the other two refer to trends in consumer behavior. The first five will always be true, while the trends we have noticed (as of 2017) may change over time.
Five concepts drive the need for Online Marketing: Power,Ownership, Flexibility, Cost, and Control.
It will be noted here that these concepts are applicable only to the method of marketing espoused in this course. There are any number of online marketing strategies which can be employed which do not fit where the above concepts do not fit (online gambling marketing, marketing with a heavy emphasis on paid advertising, black hat SEO, etc.). We can define the method espoused in this course as: content marketing based primarily on one’s self-hosted website, where traffic is driven primarily by Search-Engine-Optimization, organic social media and influencer marketing.
#1 – Power
No one can debate the power inherent in presenting information in an an online format. Certainly, creating web content takes a lot of time, but your efforts can be multiplied because of the ability to reach a worldwide audience. Representing your business online is similar to being in two or more places at one time!
Many of you are familiar with the concept of an elevator pitch. Imagine being able to give the elevator pitch for your business to only one person. Now imagine giving the same elevator pitch to a group of ten in the same elevator. Now, imagine giving an elevator pitch to 10 people in 100 separate elevators located in 100 separate countries. Finally, imagine giving an elevator pitch to 10 people in 100 separate countries, yesterday, today, tomorrow, and for the next 100 days, but only having to give that elevator pitch one-time. Such is the power of having content related to your business available online.
Another powerful element in digital marketing (hence the term, digital), is the ability to deliver the message in multiple formats. Text, audio, images, infographics, video – all of these are preferable to different audience members at different points in time.
Personally, if I’m really intent on learning something quickly, I will gravitate towards text-based content such as blog posts, articles, online tutorials, etc. I can easily find the information I want by scrolling the content and looking at sub-headings. Many times, I will read the article in its entirety, if I have time. It’s also easier for me to return to the same article in order to re-read, cut-and-paste, or reference a certain section. This is currently much more difficult to accomplish with audio or video.
If I’m driving, audio, specifically podcasts, are my preferred method of consuming content. I can turn my car into a rolling University, maximizing my time in the car so I can focus on producing content when I am stationary and at my desk.
However, if I want to be entertained, perhaps while eating a meal, I will gravitate towards video. I have to interact far less with content. Video is slightly more passive, it seems, in that I can let the information come to me. As an added bonus, I rarely have to touch the trackpad of my laptop with dirty fingers!
#2 – Ownership
Unlike traditional advertising, the methods promoted in this course are not based on a pay-for-placement system. This is where “marketing” is much broader in scope than simply “advertising,”
If you think about paid advertising, it can usually be accomplished because the other guy – the one charging you – is delivering content in order to drive eyeballs to whatever medium he controls.
Newspapers could be considered one of the oldest forms of content marketing. Because people are willing to look at and read the newspaper, this opens up the opportunity for the newspaper company to be able to charge for space within the newspaper. You pay for access to their audience. Similarly, companies that operate billboards have some sort of control over the land where the billboard is located. This allows them to charge for space on a sign in an area that is highly trafficked.
Finally, we have pay-per-click advertising. Paid advertising only exists because people want access to the organic or unpaid results found in search engines. Indeed, according to Rand Fishkin of Moz, about 90% of the clicks go to the organic (or unpaid) results. While there is profit to be had in pay-per-click, the attractiveness of optimizing one’s site for the organic listings, a practice known as Search-Engine-Optimizaition, is undeniable.
When you own the platform, no one can charge you for the placement of your message. At a minimum, you’ll need to pay for a budget website hosting plan (~$5/month) and possibly a premium WordPress theme (~$50/one-time).
If you create content, there might be costs involved in the creation of the content itself, but no one can charge you to place the content on their medium. It’s only your time and effort involved.
#3 – Flexibility
This segways nicely into the 3rd concept we need to look at when discussing the advantages of online/digital marketing. Once a website or other piece of content exists, there are multiple ways to utilize our platform of choice, which is a website. All of the modules in this course – Copywriting, SEO, Email Marketing, Web Design – all seem to work in harmony to get results for the website owner, whatever the owner’s objective may be.
Personally, I certainly use my website for purposes that have a clear financial outcome. But I also use it for causes which I believe in deeply and which give me no monetary gain.
In addition to multiple types of website utilization, there are multiple ways to promote the message of that website or page.
We’ve already discussed SEO, the practice of making webpages more amenable – simultaneously – to human web users and to the search engines themselves. This is an immensely practical way of driving traffic to a website because of the minimal upkeep needed to continue driving traffic. But there are yet other ways to drive traffic to a website or piece of content. Social Media, E-mail, and even Paid Advertising come to mind. Even print advertising can drive a good deal of direct traffic.
#4 – Cost
The simplest way to think about owning a website and performing content marketing is to think about renting versus owning a home. When you purchase a home, you pay one amount (although you may have a mortgage payment!), and can continue to utilize the benefits of the real estate as you please. With renting, you make recurring payments and are bound to the stipulations provided by the owner of how you may use the property.
This is very similar to owning your online content versus renting. If you advertise on someone else’s platform, let’s say it’s Facebook Advertising, you pay them on a recurring basis and they dictate where you can place the ad. If you create your own content on your own property, you can continue to derive benefits from that piece of content in a residual fashion.
#5 – Control
Within all 4 of these elements is the concept of control. When the message and content is produced on your own property, you have more control over the outcome traffic and conversion of the traffic. When you build your “house” on someone else’s foundation, whether that be Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, etc., they make the rules and can change the rules at anytime, leaving you as the business owner and content creator in the position of having to pivot. One can’t help but think of the mass demonetization of Youtube channels recently that were deemed too politically controversial by Youtube. When you own the web-property, you still have to pivot with changes in technology, the economy, and in your own industry, but these changes can be made according to your own schedule.
Of course, you don’t need to memorize or even know these concepts in order to start taking advantage of content marketing. I certainly didn’t when I started out. But knowing the advantages of digital marketing can certainly influence a business’s willingness to stick with their online marketing efforts.
Now let’s look at emerging trends in consumer behavior that make digital marketing even more attractive.
#6 – 97% of Consumers Search for Local Businesses Online
Currently, consumers are searching for information about local businesses at a rate that outpaces the amount of information given by the businesses themselves. This creates a massive opportunity for small and/or local businesses that decide to get savvy with their marketing efforts.
According to Eventility, 97% of consumers will search for local businesses online. Source: Forbes
In addition, according to research conducted in 2016, “50% of consumers who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited a business [for that search] within a day.” ( Source: Google)
The value of online reviews and the effect it can have on small businesses is staggering. Yet, it is perplexing that local businesses place so little value on online reviews.
According to a 2016 survey conducted by Bright Local, the seminal surveyor on the topic, 50% of consumers regularly check online reviews for local businesses, 41% occasionally check online reviews, and only 9% do not check online reviews. So, in total, 91% of those surveyed check online reviews at least some of the time.
In addition, 39% of people claim that positive reviews make them more likely to use a business, while 24% claim that negative reviews deter them from using a business.
Among the most popular types of businesses that consumers sought reviews for include: (1) restaurants (60% of participants searched for), (2) Hotel/B & B (40%), and (3) Medical/Healthcare (31%).
Finally, 84% of people will trust an online review just as much as they trust a personal recommendation. (source: Bright Local)
Conclusions Based on Consumer Behavior
These numbers have only increased in favor of consumers reading and trusting online reviews over the years the survey was conducted.
In our course, we’re going to teach you the best methods for reaching out to customers in order to garner positive reviews. According to Reevo, having online reviews results in an 18% uplift in sales. Adding reviews to your “digital portfolio” could be one of the easiest methods to increase sales!
We’ll also share some strategies for reputation management, i.e. what to do when you get a bad review.
Tying this all together is that for 54% of respondents in the Bright Local survey, the next step taken by consumers who read a positive review is to visit the business’s website. While creating a website cannot be considered easy by most of us, this seems to be the next logical step for businesses who do not yet have one.
In our course we’ll share with you the best tools on how to create a website, as well as give you some of the basics to get started in designing your own site.
The Need for a Small Business Online Marketing Course
While a vast amount of good information exists regarding the topics we’re going to cover in our course, few resources/websites have broken down the steps necessary to market a business from the perspective of a small business owner. Even fewer have created their content in a systematic fashion in order to take small businesses from point A to point B as quickly and efficiently as possible We have sifted through all the information that isn’t applicable or practical for small businesses.
Finally, we help you make the changes to your online presence in a hands-on fashion, considering your business’s unique circumstances.
If you can’t join us in-person in La Grande, Oregon, you can follow along with the articles, video, and audio presented on this site.