How to Vet a Digital Marketing Agency

How to Vet a Digital Marketing Agency

Why You Should Listen to Me

You may be asking yourself, what gives this guy the audacity to give me advice on Digital Marketing.  That’s a fair question.  I may have spent the majority of my career in Financial Services, but I’ve spent the better part of the last few years as a freelance digital marketer.  What most people don’t know about digital marketing agencies is that many of them outsource a lot of the work to freelancers like me.

In one instance I was hired by a digital marketing agency to do SEO project management.  They’re biggest client was another digital marketing agency.  So I was a freelancer working for an agency who was working for an agency who was hired by the client.  Think about how many layers existed between me and the client and how many people were making money off of the relationship.

I have agencies approach me everyday regarding whitelabel relationships.  Where I essentially take their services, mark them up and charge as high of a price that I can, outsourcing all of the work to them while I simply manage the relationship.  In my humble opinion, you should avoid these agencies.  In my experience they tend to care about selling you the product or service that gives their business the most ROI, not the product or service that will give your business the most ROI.

I want to help you identify the right agency or the right freelancer.  There are so many “churn and burn” agencies out there that go out and sign as many clients as they can and in doing so they sacrifice quality of work.  As long as they are signing clients faster than they are losing them, they’re happy.  It doesn’t exactly bode well for client experience unfortunately.  That is probably why most of my clients have a horror story or two.

Know What You Want

The first step in any process should be knowing what you want and understanding specifically what you want to get out of it.  There are many facets to any digital marketing campaign.  As I mentioned previously, many agencies are going to sell you on the services that give them the most ROI.  So it’s important to identify which components of Digital Marketing provide your business with the most ROI, not the other way around.  Don’t blindly trust the person that’s trying to sell you on their service.  Do the research and come to your own conclusions.

Take a hard look at your competitors and see which aspects of their digital marketing campaign appear to getting them the most traction.  Even if you have to look outside your niche or industry, find an example of a company doing it in a way you want to emulate in some way.  As Picasso said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal”.  Don’t just copy your competitors best ideas, do your best to improve upon them while staying true to your own voice and brand.

Learn the Basics

In order to get the most out of any service, it’s important to understand the process.  Knowing the basics can really useful in identifying the best candidate for your business.  The easiest way to learn is by doing.  I highly recommend trying to do it yourself, even if just briefly.

If it’s SEO (search engine optimization) get a free trial membership to SEMRush or MOZ.  Do a little keyword research and optimize a page on your website for a target keyword.  If it’s social media management on Facebook, trying posting every day for a month.

In the process of learning, you may discover that you actually enjoy some components of the digital marketing process.  You can then engage with the parts of the process that you enjoy and outsource/delegate the rest.  The key is to still have an understanding of the processes you aren’t directly involved with.

Do They Practice What They Preach

This is my favorite litmus test for any marketing agency.  Do they practice what they preach? Are they actively implementing all of the services they are selling you on?  My favorite postings on Upwork are the Lead Gen companies looking for help generating more leads.  If you can’t generate leads for your own lead gen business, how do you expect to do it for your clients.  For me it’s a relatively simple way of disqualifying a potential service.

It sounds pretty logical, but just do your due diligence to make sure they are drinking their own kool-aid so to speak.  If an agency is pushing Facebook Ads, but they aren’t implementing any of their own, that should tell you something.  I once worked for digital marketing agency that got all of their clients utilizing local in person networking events.  They had a lot of clients and it blew me away that they were able to close all of those deals considering they didn’t implement any of the services they were selling their clients on for themselves.

Working with a digital marketing agency that doesn’t implement it’s own digital marketing strategy is like hiring an obese trainor to get you back in shape.  It probably isn’t going to work out.

Ask The Right Questions

Ask For Specific Examples

Identify prospects that provide specific examples that directly apply to your business.  If it’s SEO, ask what keywords they would target and why. If it’s Facebook Ads, ask for sample ad copy etc.

There are so many digital marketing agencies shopping around cookie cutter template proposals.  Learn to look past the fluff and identify the prospects that have taken the time to customize their proposal to your business.  If they didn’t take time to customize their proposal, it should tell you that they are most likely shopping the same proposal at scale.  In my experience working at digital marketing agencies, these types of relationships are not sustainable because they rarely yield results for the clients.

Agencies shopping proposals at scale tend to have more clients that they can really manage, so they’re consistently sacrificing on quality.

Ask About the Structure of Their Firm

Ask yourself if they have full time employees or if they are outsourcing the work to other agencies.  Keep in mind that it’s really easy to generate a company email for someone.  It’s relatively easy to create the illusion of a team.  I’m not saying all white label agencies do bad work, but I do think they do a poor job of being transparent.

Not in all cases, but sometimes these agencies will put up a website that creates the illusion of this big company with a huge staff so they can justify charging big prices to big clients.  The reality is that in many instances these agencies are nothing more than a very small nucleus of full time employees paired with a small team of virtual assistants and part time freelancers.  I should know because I’ve worked as a freelancer for multiple agencies with this structure.

Ask if They Implement Their Own Strategies

Any SEO professional can drive traffic to low difficulty keywords.  But it takes a skilled professional to dive deep and find keywords that will actually lead to conversions and not just drive traffic.  Any influencer can buy followers and buy likes, but only a legit influencer can help sell out your next launch.

Another reason why it’s so important to understand the basics of the underlying service before hiring any agency or freelancer.  Try to have an understanding that most metrics are vanity metrics that can be manipulated.  Once you have a basic understanding, do some background research into each agency.

If they are pitching Facebook Ads, check out the success of their own facebook ad campaign.  If they do Social Media Management, check out the last months worth of posts on all of their agency social media pages.  When it comes to social media, I like to look at the comments because they are harder to fake.  You can buy followers, you can buy likes and you can even buy comments.  But it’s relatively easy to identify comments that are real and genuine vs something a bot left behind.

Proposals and Case Studies Are Over Rated

I’m going out on limb with this one.  I’m not making the claim that case studies and proposals are not compelling.  I’m also not making the claim that all of them are worthless.  However, they are overrated as whole in my humble opinion.  Here is why I say that.

Templates are Free and Easy to Find

Google “free SEO proposal template” or “free social media management proposal.  In many instances it’s as easy as entering a few simple fields.  Client Name, Business Name, Client Email and then a picture of their logo and your logo.  Most of the proposal is generated for you.  You will begin to notice that it’s extremely rare to find proposals and case studies that contain content that is curated specifically for your business.  Unfortunately most contain fluff material that be broadly applied to any business.

Numbers and Metrics are Easily Manipulated

Most SEO professionals can drive traffic to low competition keywords.  Not all can develop a SEO strategy that will drive traffic that actually leads to conversions.  Most Social Media Influencers can get you likes and followers.  There are few influencers that can really drive real sales.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the metrics that are cherry picked and taken out of context, especially if you don’t understand the underlying topic.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to do your homework!

Understand if Your Goals Align With Your Budget

The easiest way to get burned when hiring a digital marketing agency is having unreasonable expectations that do not realistically align with your budget.  Here’s why.  If you’re expectations far outweigh your budget, you’re opening yourself up to being pitched fraudulent services.

For instance, an SEO agency or freelancer may be promising first position rankings for next to nothing. What they aren’t telling you is that they’re most likely utilizing “black hat” techniques that yield short term results, but leave you vulnerable to potential penalties over the long term.  It could also take shape in the form of an influencer who is offering to promote your business for what seems like a low price given the size of their following.  What they aren’t telling you is that their followers and likes are not organic because they have been purchased.

So take the time to understand the price range for the given service you are looking for.  If you do have a limited budget, rather than hire an agency, consider finding a freelancer with limited experience.  In my experience these people are usually highly motivated to build out their body of work and therefore willing to work for less so they can gain experience to justify charging more in the future.

Conclusion

Selecting and vetting a marketing agency is no easy task.  It’s imperative to the process to take the time to understand the basics of each of the individual aspects of digital marketing that you are interested in.  If not, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by what you don’t understand and that can easily influence you into making the wrong decision.

The best and last piece of advice I will give you is to not to ignore the human element.  The person you are potentially working with is just as important to the process as the service itself.  So many people get caught up in the numbers and they forget about the human element.  Don’t forget to ask yourself if you can work well with this person or team of people.  Communication can be one of the most important elements to any working relationship, especially if you’re dealing with remote workers who are not on site.  You have to be able to trust them to get work done effectively when you aren’t actively engaged in the process.  I would argue that the person behind the service is more important that the service itself, but that’s a conversation for another day.

 

6 Marketing Mistakes Most Financial Advisors Make in 2019

6 Marketing Mistakes Most Financial Advisors Make in 2019

The financial industry seems to always be late to the party when it comes to marketing. Other industries have been utilizing modern digital marketing tactics for years if not decades while financial advisors have largely been content with outdated marketing strategies. Regulation is no longer an excuse, especially if you’re an independent RIA.   It’s time for financial advisors to see the light and understand the value of marketing. Too many think digital marketing is the future when in reality it’s the now.  Financial advisor marketing has officially entered the digital age. Here are 6 marketing mistakes most financial advisors make in 2019.

1) Website Design

When it comes to prospective clients, think of your websites appearance as you would your own. You probably wouldn’t show up to a prospect meeting in shorts and flip-flops. Having a poorly maintained website is a similar to having a poorly maintained physical appearance. People trust and lend you more authority if have a well-maintained physical appearance and the same goes for your website.

Outside of having an outdated website, one of the most common mistakes financial advisors make is having a website that is not optimized for mobile devices. Make sure your website is mobile friendly and that it can still function properly when prospective clients find your website via their phone or tablet.

2) Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Having a website that is properly optimized for SEO ensures that you will get consistent traffic from search engines like Google. Especially if you have a niche or a local market that you are targeting. For instance, if specialize in financial planning for doctors. It would be very beneficial to set up a specific landing page targeting that keyword and other derivations of that keyword.

Create landing pages that target your primary keywords that tend to be more difficult to rank for. Create blog topic categories that match your landing pages. Then roll out blog posts within those categories that target long tail keywords that are easier to rank for, but are still niche relevant. In each blog post you link back to the relevant landing page as well as previous articles within that category. This internal linking strategy also improves your bounce rate.

I recommend using a keyword research tool to identify target keywords before developing the content for each landing page and blog post. I utilize SemRush currently, but MOZ, AHRefs, Majestic & Serped.net are all suitable alternatives.

3) Original Compelling Content

For those of you actively investing time and money into your digital marketing campaign, failing to generate original compelling content is the most common marketing mistakes most financial advisors make in 2019. It’s important to generate unique original content that speaks to your target demographic as a financial advisor. Too many advisors pay for content from blog writing services. This mass duplicated content is guaranteed to get you no interaction or views and will drive no traffic to your website. It creates the illusion of having a blog, but that’s about it.

Ideally all financial advisors should create their own long form content. A Blog, Vlog or Podcast are the most common pillars. Even if you only have time to roll out one piece of long form content a month, it really goes a long way. You can then edit your long form content into smaller pieces of “micro content” that can be shared across all of your social media pages.

4) Social Media Management

Even if you don’t have time to create long form content yourself, it is so easy to find a topic in your niche to comment on. Do a Google news search for any topic in the financial planning niche then share one of those articles on social media and give your take on it. If you want to be efficient, use a link shortener and write out your post in a word document before hand. Then you can copy and paste your post on LinkedIn, Facebook & Twitter in a matter of minutes. It takes minimal time and it’s an easy way to maintain an active social media presence.

Gary Vaynerchuk has something he calls a 79/21 rule regarding social media marketing.  Figure out which platform works best for you and dedicate 79% of your resources towards that platform.  Spend the remaining 21% of your resources spread out over the remaining platforms.  It’s a way of hedging your bets from a social media perspective should attention rapidly shift away from the platform that currently works best for your business.  That way if you are currently utilizing Instagram, but attention shifts to LinkedIn, you’ll have a headstart on your competition because you’ve been tacitly maintaining your LinkedIn profile the whole time.

5) Lead Generation

Even financial advisors that have new fancy websites can miss on this one. If your website does not function as a tool to generate leads, it’s nothing more than a digital business card. It’s important to ensure that not only is it easy for prospective clients to provide you with their contact information, but that you also provide them incentive. Creating “Lead Magnets” like a free E-book or a short informative video that you provide to prospective clients for free in exchange for their name and contact information.

6) Tracking Your Progress

It’s important to track the progress of your digital marketing so you understand which of your strategies are working and which have room for improvement. Integrating Google Webmaster tools into your website allows you to track all of the traffic going to your website. It has the added benefit of being a free service as well.

marketing mistakes most financial advisors make in 2019

 

I recommend setting up and optimizing the following properties within the Google Webmaster Tools: Google My Business, Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Google even offers free training on these so you can better understand and utilize these tools.  This way you can actually track the progress of your digital marketing campaign in a quantifiable way.

Conclusion

If you are implementing any kind of digital marketing plan as a financial advisor you are already a step ahead of most of your competition.  The biggest mistake of all is not implementing a plan of any kind.  That being said, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.  Do yourself a favor and avoid these 6 marketing mistakes most financial advisors make to ensure your firms digital marketing efforts are heading in the right direction.

Social Media Marketing – Which Social Media Platform Is Right for Your Business

Social Media Marketing – Which Social Media Platform Is Right for Your Business

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Social Media Marketing

Hopefully at this point, as a business owner, you understand the importance and the power of social media marketing. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. It doesn’t matter if you are B2B or direct to consumer. Social media marketing is one of the most cost effective ways to build brand awareness in today’s business world.

Consumer Behavior has changed quite a bit since the early 2000’s. Television and radio are no longer the most effective channels of advertising. Those two mediums are passive in nature, as people have no control over what commercials they consume via television and radio.  Unlike social media which is very targeted in nature and users are actively deciding to follow you.

It can be tough to know where to start if you have yet to make the transition, as there are so many different social media platforms to choose from these days. The first step is identifying your target demographic. Once you know more about your ideal client or customer, figure out which social media platform they are most likely to be utilizing.

 
 
 

Facebook Marketing – The All in One Social Media Platform

Facebook is a must for every business in my opinion. Consider the fact that 79% of all adults worldwide you Facebook. Creating a basic fan profile page is generally a good idea, even if you aren’t going to use it for lead generation. From a reputation management standpoint, if you don’t create the page for your business, someone else could. From a social media marketing standpoint, Facebook is the best place to start for any business.

Facebook has 1.18 billion daily active users that spend an average of 50 minutes on the platform. It doesn’t matter how amazing your product or service is if nobody knows about it. The first step is creating a Facebook “Fan Page.” Over 30 million businesses now utilize Facebook fan pages.

Facebook Marketing

Whether you are B2B or a straight to consumer business, Facebook is great way to create brand awareness. It’s also a great place to advertise as you can build target audiences. If you are an E commerce business or any kind of a media company, then you should be going all in on Facebook. Believe it or not people do a lot of shopping through their Facebook news feed these days. It’s also a lot of people’s primary way of consuming news of any kind as well.

Facebook is the most versatile social media platform out there. When they identify a cool new feature from one of their competitors, they always seem to find a way of integrating it into their platform. You can roll out simple status updates like twitter. They acquired Instagram, so if you take the time to link your instagram to your Facebook, you can upload something to Instagram and easily have it feed to your Facebook profile as well. You can post and share videos like Youtube. You can create stories and implement filters like Snapchat. Or even stream live content like Periscope.  So if you are thinking of dipping your toe into the pool of possibilities that is social media marketing, definitely start with Facebook.

Instagram Marketing

Instagram is one of the more visual social media platforms as it’s based around images and short videos.  As of the end of 2017, Instagram has over 800 million users. If your business is visual in nature, you should absolutely be utilizing Instagram in your social media marketing efforts. For the first 6 years, Instagram utilized a simple reverse chronological feed. Regardless of quality or engagement, you would see the most recent post first. Then in March of 2016, the sky fell and Instagram announced that they would be incorporating the use of an algorithm.   There are two pillars to Instagram growth now that they have switched to an algorithm.

Instagram Marketing

The first pillar is engagement. Engage with your followers that are taking the time to like and comment on your posts. Respond to every comment you get. Go out of your way to return the favor by liking and commenting on their posts as well.  Doing so ensures that your posts will show up higher on their feed when they first open the app. Obviously this can be time consuming, but it’s absolutely essential to organic growth when you’re first starting out.  This is one of the most effective ways of creating a loyal following on Instagram.

The second pillar to growing your followers organically is the use of hashtags. Effectively using hashtags allows you to reach new audiences within your niche. Getting into the coveted “Top 9” for any relevant hashtag will have a significant impact on your growth. The maximum number of hashtags is 30, so the more the better. Make sure all of the hashtags you implemented are relevant to the post itself or at the very least your business. Research trending hastags within your niche before you post and utilize a mix of highly used hashtags and others that are less common. If you have a specific location or service area, make sure you also mix in some location based hashtags as well.

Twitter Marketing – Social Customer Service

Twitter is a network for conversation, not a mass messaging channel.  Twitter is multifaceted from a social media marketing standpoint.  Twitter is also becoming the top option for social customer service.  Close to 35% of consumers prefer to customer service via social media now. Twitter is utilized by younger demographics more than older. 36% of 18-29 year olds use Twitter and between 21% and 23% of 30-64 year olds use Twitter. The numbers fall off a cliff from there.

Twitter Marketing

Source – Sprout Social: https://sproutsocial.com/insights/new-social-media-demographics/

So if your target demographic is older, Twitter may not be the best option.  Don’t make the mistake of using it as a bullhorn, as you will most like get limited engagement. Even if you already have a massive following, it doesn’t ensure that they are going to see every tweet you put out there. Even the top brands and celebrities aren’t seeing the level of engagement they once did.  Start thinking of Twitter more of as a direct line of communication, like a telephone.

The Twitter algorithm attempts to show it’s user the Tweets they’re more likely care about. So it rewards the brands and users that share content their audience actually wants to see. If your followers are engaging with your tweets, then your future tweets are more likely to show up in their feed when they first login. One way to ensure this is by creating one on one conversation’s with your followers.

Twitter can also be used for lead generation. Put yourself in the shoes of your potential client and search for keywords related to your business or a problem your business tries to solve. Send direct replies to individuals who may be interested in your service or product.

LinkedIn – The Social Network for Professionals

LinkedIn is a must if your business is B2B.  If you are B2B and you have yet to integrate LinkedIn into your social media marketing arsenal, now is the time. Known as the social media network for professionals, there are currently over 467 Million registered users and 133 million of those reside in the US. Even if you aren’t going to utilize it as a lead generation tool, I still believe it is worth setting up a basic company page as it can improve the legitimacy of your business.

When it comes to generating B2B leads, LinkedIn is by far and away number 1. LinkedIn comprises more than 80% of business’s social media leads. All the other platforms put together only amount to just over 19% of lead generation. The first step in utilizing LinkedIn for lead generation is to create a company page for your business.

LinkedIn Marketing

Source: https://cdn.business2community.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/linkedin-b2b-infographic.jpg

Generate a captivating image in the header that draws people in. Create a clear and compelling pitch in your company description. The first few lines are the most important. To get past this part of your LinkedIn page, they must click the “see more” button. So you have to grab their attention right out of the gate to compel them to continue reading or they won’t read the rest. Identify your target audience, define your value proposition and define your product or service as efficiently as you can in those first few sentences. Once they click the see more button, the link to your company website appears.

It’s also important to utilize the recent updates section for those prospects that scroll past your link. Post updates that are directly aimed at your target audience. Keep in mind with every update that your goal is to get clickthroughs from people seeking information about the product/services your company provides.

LinkedIn can also be used to find prospects. So there is more to it than the inbound techniques I’ve outlined above. Utilize the advanced search section of the website to identify the exact type of people you are targeting. There is a small caveat to this tactic. The bigger your personal network, the greater your chance of finding prospects. If you take the time to build out a very specific search, be sure to save it for later.

Another way to prospect on LinkedIn is to join and create Groups. There is most certainly an existing group for whatever niche your company occupies. A great way to find blocks of leads is join a relevant group and maintain some level of activity within it. You also have the option of starting your own group. Once you have joined and interacted in enough existing groups, you may identify an opportunity to form your own.

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Youtube Marketing – Utilize the 2nd Largest Search Engine

Youtube is a lot more important than most people think. Did you know that youtube is actually the 2nd largest search engine on the Internet? You probably thought it was going to be Yahoo or Bing. Youtube is also amazing because you can embed any of the videos from your Youtube channel on to your site itself and you can also share those videos across all of your other social media platforms. Not only is it great for for social media marketing, it’s also great for SEO. Google owns Youtube, so it’s no surprise that it carries weight in terms of their algorithm.

A common misconception is that you should only have a Youtube channel if you are going to be an active vlogger. Even if you are only going to put up a few videos to utilize on your site, it’s better that any video you embed on your site come from a Youtube channel under your companies name than from someone else’s channel.

 

 

From a marketing standpoint Youtube is a great way to build authority in your niche. Especially if you don’t have an actual location and your brand only exists online. Nobody does this better than Gary Vaynerchuck.  It’s a way for you to put a face to your business and humanize your brand. Modcloth is another perfect example; they’ve created a virtual store that simulates the experience of walking into a vintage clothing store.

If Youtube is a good fit for your business, there are many strategies you can implement. Honestly I could do an entire post on Youtube in and of itself, but I’ll touch on a few here. Just like the other platforms, consistency is key. If you aren’t rolling out consistent content, you aren’t even trying. Figure out what topics are trending within your niche and put your brands spin on them.

Reach out to influencers in your community and see if you can interview them on your channel. Lion Zeal built an entire SEO community utilizing this tactic. He interviews successful people within the SEO community and asks them questions that bring real value to other people within the niche. It’s a win win for everyone involved. It boosts his channel’s presence and the person being interviewed also gets some free exposure. The audience gets information that is truly hard to come by. The real lesson here is that to get a consistent following you have to post consistent content with real value. The same lesson for every platform really.

Snapchat Marketing

Snapchat is the new kid on the block in terms of social media marketing.  However Snapchat has more than 178 million daily users, so it can’t be ignored. Not necessarily the place I would start if you haven’t fully developed your other social media platforms. If your target audience is younger, then you should absolutely consider rounding your social media presence and start churning out regular stories on Snapchat. There is also upside in that you can save those stories and repurpose them on Instagram and Facebook.

Snapchat social media marketing

Source – Sprout Social: https://sproutsocial.com/insights/new-social-media-demographics/

Snapchat is more raw than the other social media platforms. Consider that when posting as each post doesn’t need to be curated and edited the way your content does for the other platforms. It honestly only takes a few minutes out of your day to throw up a few posts to your story each day. Snapchat is a great way to give people a sneak peak behind the curtain of your company.

Once you generate a substantial following, you can utilize Snapchat to create offers that are exclusive to those who follow your company on Snapchat. You can also create custom geo filters for as little as $5. Snapchat has also integrated ads to their platform. However if your target demographic is primarily older and a younger audience would have little or no interest in your products or services, then Snapchat may not be a good fit. More than 60% of 13-34 year olds who own smartphones use Snapchat. If that is your target demographic, you should absolutely consider adding Snaphchat to your social media marketing strategy.

Pinterest Marketing

Pinterest is another social media platform that can’t be ignored. Especially if you are in E-commerce and your target demographic are younger women. As of Jan 2017, there are 150 million active monthly users and 70 million of those reside in the US. 45% of women use Pinterest when compared to only 17% of men.

Pinterest social media marketing

Source Sprout Social https://sproutsocial.com/insights/new-social-media-demographics/

 

One of the first places to start with Pinterest is making sure that all of the images on your website are “pinnable.” This way someone can pin a picture from your website without having to navigate away from your site. Pinterest’s main function for it’s users is to enable them to save images that they find valuable for later use. One of the first things brides to be do is create a pinterest board full of wedding imagery.

 

So if your target demographic includes young women in a significant capacity, then I would absolutely create a pinterest account for your business.  Start creating pins for your product or service.  Join as many groups as you can as that is a great way to circulate your pins to the masses.  Pinterest also started implementing the use of hashtags recently, so be sure to utilize relevant hashtags for all of your pins.

Social Media Marketing Conclusion

Social Media Marketing can be very intimidating to those who are new to it.  It’s easy to build it up in your head and it gets overwhelming, I get it.  Don’t overcomplicate things.  Research your target demographic.  Once you’ve identified your ideal client, simply figure out what social media platforms they likely utilize.  Go all in those social media platforms to get your content in front of your target audience.  This will drive traffic to your website and increase sales over the long term.  

I’m not saying it will be easy.  Nothing in life worth doing is easy.  Social Media Marketing is no different.  Of course there will be trial and error.  Each platform has there intricacies. Take your time and do some research on the social media platforms you’ve identified as the best fit for your business.  Trust me, there is plenty of material out there so you have trouble locating information.  At the end of the day you can always outsource it to an expert.  I may know a guy if you’re interested.

The Great Wealth Transfer – Financial Advisor SEO & Social Media Marketing

The Great Wealth Transfer – Financial Advisor SEO & Social Media Marketing

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$30 Trillion Wealth Transfer Looms

 
The intergenerational transfer of wealth on the horizon will create both risks and opportunities for the financial planning industry.  Around $30 trillion in assets are expected to pass from the baby boomers, one of the wealthiest and largest generations in U.S. history, to Gen Xers and Millennials.  Preparing for this transition will be critical for any financial advisory firm.  How advisory firms prepare and handle this long-term trend will determine which succeed and which falter.
 
 
 

Future Market Shares Are Up For Grabs

This issue of aging baby boomer clients looms over the financial advisory.  “Studies regularly show that when wealth passes to another generation, in the majority of cases, the heirs change financial advisors,” said Gauthier Vincent, head of Deloitte’s U.S. Wealth Management practice. “The relationship between assets, asset owners and financial advisors is unraveling before our eyes.”

 

How advisory firms prepare for this transition will determine which succeed and which falter.  The oldest baby boomers are entering their 70’s, so the transition has only just begun.  As it accelerates, there will be an unprecedented amount of assets and clients up for grabs.  It’s inevitable that there will be a huge shift in market shares and there will be winners and losers.

 

Millennials Have Financial Advisor Trust Issues

The truth is, all financial advisors have their work cut out for them.  A 2017 Scottrade study conducted by Harris Poll found that 67 % of Millennials and 64% of Gen Xers feel their advisors sometime recommend products and solutions that are in their advisor’s own best interest.  The same study found that only 22% of Baby Boomers and 15% of Seniors feel the same way.

 

Just 18% of financial advisers say they are prospecting Millennials.  Ignore Millennials at your own risk, someday this will come back to haunt you.  There is no debating that at some point Millennials will be the largest generational segment of high net worth clients.  The “Great Wealth Transfer” is already underway & Robo Advisors are coming for you!

Millennials Are the Future

Relative to their elder counterparts, millennials may have fewer assets currently, but don’t let that fool you.  It’s a common misconception that appealing to them takes an unreasonable amount of time and money.   Yes it will take a effort.  Yes you will have to invest time and in certain cases money, but there are very few things in life or business worth doing that are easy or free.

 

Financial Advisor Social Media Marketing

 

The current perception is that most Financial Advisors work with people with a minimum of $500k to $1 million in investible assets and it’s ok for them to ignore everyone else.  I’m not here to tell you that appealing to the next generation is going to produce real ROI in the short term.  I’m not telling you to go out there and sign as many Millennial clients as possible, regardless of their net worth.  I’m just telling you not to ignore them completely.  Learn to speak their language now.  That way when the wealth does transfer to the next generation, you’ve positioned yourself to do business with them when it will equate to real ROI.  It’s similar to contributing to an IRA or qualified plan in your twenties.  It’s all about preparing for the future.

 

If you completely ignore appealing to the next generation of clients, I guarantee some of your competitors will.  I’m already seeing a huge uptick in the number of RIA’s that are implementing a more modern approach to their marketing efforts online.   SEO & Social Media Marketing do take time, so those who start now have a competitive advantage over those who are late to the game.  You also have to consider that not all of your competitors are human.

Robo Advisors Vs Human Financial Advisors

Robo Advisors should scare you.  They are already engaging the next generation of clients by affording them access to low cost, automated investment opportunities that were generally reserved for the ultra wealthy, like tax-loss harvesting.  Betterment, one of the behemoths in the industry, already has over $10 Billion AUM. Another example, Personal Capital, is an all in one platform that provides free financial planning tool in addition to access to an actual human financial advisor.  They have $5 billion in AUM as of October 2017.

 

Robo Advisors are carving out huge chunks of market share.  According to the consulting firm A.T. Kearney, AUM by robo-advisors will grow by 68% annually to $2.2 trillion in the next five years.  When it comes to Millennials in particular, consider the burden of hiring a real life Financial Advisor vs going to the App Store and scanning your fingerprint. 

 

Low Fees & Minimums Have Millennial Appeal

Robo Advisors have much lower account minimums if they have minimums at all.  Not to mention they usually have much lower fees.  A traditional financial advisor will typically charge somewhere around a 1 percent annual fee to manage your portfolio. Robo-advisors generally charge an annual fee between 0.25 percent and 0.50 percent of assets.  

 

Combine those factors with the fact that Millennials don’t depend on face to face human interaction and you can see why they are gaining so much market share.  Andy Rachleff, the CEO of Wealthfront, which has $5.5 billion AUM, recently said, “Young people would prefer to deal with software rather than people.”  As it turns out, he may have a point.  If you don’t believe me, read this and then check out the comments section.  Millennials have serious trust issues when it comes to financial institutions, including financial advisors.

The Market Gets to Decide

There is obviously another side to this argument.   There are a litany of articles stating that robo advisors will always fall short of their human counterparts.  Three guesses who wrote most of those articles.  Surprise surprise, a considerable amount are written by a Financial Advisors themselves.  So obviously there is a little bias depending on who you ask. The truth could lie somewhere in the middle.  Hybrid models that combine the best of both worlds could very well be the wave of the future.

 

As one of my mentors Gary Vaynerchuck always says, “The market gets to decide…  The cream always rises.” Financial Advisors can talk about why they are superior to robo advisors until they are blue in the face and vice versa.  In the end it’s not going to be up to any of them.  The market gets to decide.

Millennials Live & Communicate Online

 

Financial Advisor Social Media Marketing

 

As the wealth does transfer to Millennials and Gen Xers they will have to decide where and who to invest with.  Millennials communicate and do business in a completely different way than their baby boomer counterparts.   As I have discussed before, they grew up online and with social media.  So when they are making the decision of where to invest their newly found wealth, where do you think they will go to do their research?  Advisors need to understand how truly connected this new generation is.  Not just to each other, but to information.

 

Millennials want anyone they do business with to have a presence online.   That absolutely includes Financial Advisors.  The first thing they’ll do when considering investing with you is Google you.  They’ll review your social media profiles and comb through forums looking for reviews of your firm.  These generations trust businesses that have clean websites, robust social media profiles & positive reviews.  Businesses that lack these things are merely an afterthought.  The financial advisors that have the foresight to build up their online presence now will have a clear competitive advantage over the ones that do not.  

 

Especially when you consider that Millennials and Gen Xers are much more likely to NOT trust Financial Advisors compared to their predecessors.  So you can count on them doing in depth research of your firm ONLINE before they sign with you.  If you don’t manage your online presence, there could be negative reviews hurting your firm that you aren’t even aware of.

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Put Your Content Where The Eyeballs Are

Everyone has a smartphone these days.  People are glued to their mobile devices.  If we have a second of downtime, we pick up our phone.  That’s just the way it is nowadays.  Next time you’re at a restaurant, count how many people are looking at their phones.  People barely put down their phones to drive, it’s crazy.  A huge chunk of that time is spent scrolling through their various Social Media platforms.  

 

Plenty of Financial Advisors are rolling out premium content.  The problem is they aren’t putting it where the eyeballs are.  Why not share that amazing content you are already producing in places where it will get way more reach.  Sites like StumbleUpon, Medium & Flipboard are popping up everyday.    The more places your content lives, the more reach you will have.  It also happens to be a huge boost for your SEO too.

Get A Head Start On Your Competition

 Creating a robust online presence doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes consistent effort over an extended period of time.  SEO campaigns can take months to really take hold depending on the keywords you’re going after.  It takes even longer to build social media profiles with real depth and actual followers.  You also have to consider that if people aren’t getting their financial news & advice from you, they’ll be getting it from your competitors.
 
 
Acorns is a great example.  They’re a micro investing app that you can download in the app store.  They have a growing social media presence that is only going to get bigger as time goes on.  They already have have over 100,000 followers on Facebook & 10,000 followers on Instagram.  Millennials and Gen Xers get their news from their Facebook feeds.  Now they can get their financial news there too.  It’s time to dive in.  If you don’t, the future high net worth individuals of the world will be getting their financial advice from your competitors, human or robotic.

Conclusion

As you can probably tell already, I’m pretty passionate about this.  You may be asking yourself, “What authority does this guy really have?”  Well, I spent 8 years working in Financial Services and I still have active FINRA series 7 & 63 licenses.  I was the dedicated service contact to a RIA with over $2 billion under management for close to 2 years.  It was even a part of my life growing up as my Mother actually worked as the Operations Manager for a couple of Financial Advisors in the Bay Area.  So it’s safe to say I’m no stranger to the industry.  On the flip side, I also have the advantage of being Mark Zuckerburg’s original target audience.  Facebook launched in February 2004 when I was a freshman in college.  So you’ll be hardpressed to find anyone who has been using social media longer than I have.

 

The gist of what I’m getting at is that the industry is going to change because the client base is going to change.  Baby Boomers can’t live forever.  Things like SEO and Social Media Marketing take time to implement and those are the tools you need to appeal to the next generation of clients.  The firms that implement them now will have a serious competitive advantage over the ones that do not.  

Why Financial Advisors Should Be Utilizing SEO & Digital Marketing

Why Financial Advisors Should Be Utilizing SEO & Digital Marketing

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Financial Advisor SEO & Social Media Marketing

By and large, the financial advisor business has mostly been referral-based. Unlike most other industries, someone can’t easily find advisor reviews on websites like Yelp.  Just because that is the current landscape does not mean that will be the future landscape.  All business is moving online. 

That’s why Amazon scares the hell out of every brick and mortar retailer out there.  The fact of the matter is there is a huge void online in the financial advisor industry.  The first wave of advisors to shift their focus to internet marketing are going to cash in the most.  Mark my words.  Financial Advisor SEO & social media marketing are going to be an integral part of generating leads for all Financial Advisors in the future.

If your business is 100% referral based offline, you count on the kind words of your current customer base spreading to their friends and family by word of mouth.  Almost all communications are done electronically in this era, that’s just the truth.  The next wave of high net worth clients grew up communicating on Facebook, not on a landline phone.  This approaching faster than you think. 

For example, I was a freshman in college when Facebook was in it’s infancy and I’m almost 33 years old now! My Mom is almost 70 and she complains about how her best friend is always on her phone when they hang out, constantly scrolling through her news feed.  The future of all business is online, so get with it or be prepared to get crushed by it.  

What About FINRA and the SEC?

FINRA and the SEC have done an amazing job making it difficult for Financial Advisors to market online.  Anyone who has had the pleasure of obtaining their FINRA Series 7 & 63 licenses like I have is probably aware of FINRA Rule 2210.  Obviously you have to be careful what information you put out on your website & social media pages.  There is definitely plenty of wiggle room though.

 

FINRA Exceptions

FINRA defines retail communication as any communication (written or electronic) that is distributed or made available to more than 25 retail investors within any 30 calendar-day period.  A retail investor is any person other than an institutional investor. Regardless of whether the person has an account with the firm.  The rule also stipulates that all retail communications must be approved by an appropriately qualified registered principal.  Luckily there are exceptions to this stipulation.

 

The following retail communications are excluded from the filing requirements:

 

  • Communications that refer to types of investments solely as a listing of the products or services offered by the firm.
  • Retail communications that do not make any financial or investment recommendation or promote a product or service of the firm.
  • Any reprint or excerpt of an article issued by a publisher that has not been materially altered in content.  Except to comply with regulatory standards or correct errors and when the member has not commissioned the reprint and is not affiliated with the publisher.
  • Retail communications that do no more than identify the member or offer a specific security at a stated price.
  • General market commentaries or economic discussions that are not used for the purpose of promoting a product or service of the firm would be considered retail communications that do not make any financial or investment recommendation or otherwise promote a product or service of the member.

FINRA Acknowledges That Native Advertising Is The Future

In April of 2017 FINRA released Regulatory Notice 17-18 regarding Social Media & Digital Communications that expanded upon the Regulatory Notice 10-06 released in January of 2010.  In the more recent notice FINRA acknowledges that Social Media Marketing is the wave of the future.  

They cite an October 2015 study from the Pew Research Center that indicates that 65 percent of adults use social networking sites as compared to 7 percent in 2005.  They also reference a Business Insider article which indicates that “Native Ads” will drive 74% of all ad revenue by 2021. 

That article states that, “The rapid uptick in native’s share of display ad revenue can largely be attributed to the dominance of social platforms like Facebook and Twitter — which were early champions of native and rely almost entirely on native formats — as well as the introduction of new programmatic technologies that are making it easier for publishers and advertisers to scale native campaigns.”  It’s not the wild west, there are obviously rules that apply.  However the opportunity is there for those willing to go after it.

The Future is Online

When I was in highschool I knew a Financial Advisor (I won’t disclose the name) that had a genius old school marketing plan.  He and his partner would teach a class on Retirement Planning at local community colleges.  At the end of the course they would offer any of their students a free consultation. 

This strategy is amazing in one specific way to me.  They spent weeks demonstrating their value to their students.  Building up their trust and becoming an authority in the eyes of their students.  The value of their teachings far outweighed the monetary cost of the course itself.  By giving away all this amazing knowledge for a bargain price, they were able to build that trust factor.  Which created a perfect funnel ensuring people would actually show up to the free consultations. It also made it that much easier to convert that consultation into a client.

I urge you to implement the same strategy.  Only instead of in a classroom, do it online.  Don’t implement a sales strategy.  Give away information with real value for free. Discuss market conditions all while abiding by FINRA rule 2210 of course.  Build up trust with your audience online.  In the process you will create a huge internet paper trail. Even better, you will never have to sell because you built a brand instead.

SEO & Social Media Marketing is Word of Mouth Marketing At Scale

A lot of old school advisors are pretty staunch in their stance that their business is word of mouth referral based.  While I respect this opinion, I wholeheartedly disagree. What’s the real difference between being referral based offline and being referral based online?  The internet has greatly enhanced and optimized communication and it’s a lot more efficient. 

Think about how long it would take you to go to every friend you had and tell them something in person.   Now think how much easier it would be to give them each a call or text.  Now think how much more efficient posting a status to your facebook wall compared to any of that.  The internet is just a way to create these same referrals people are already giving you, but creating that conversation online in a way that is much more efficient and can scale in a way that word of mouth will never be able to.

SEO allows you to drive targeted traffic to your website consistently over time.  If you are a financial advisor who services a specific niche of clients, like medical professionals for example.  Ranking your website number one for the keyword, “financial advisor for doctors” and other variations of that keyword would bring your website visitors from ideal clients consistently over long periods of time.  

Financial Advisor Lead Generation

Reputation Management

Another important aspect of creating an online presence for your financial advisory business is reputation management.  If you do not set up profiles on all of the major platforms, what’s to stop someone else for doing that for you and then leaving you a bunch of negative reviews? 

 

Having a robust online presence allows one to get out of front of these conversations and create a narrative that paints a positive picture of your brand and creates a pipeline of future client leads.  It’s a lot better to be proactive than reactive when it comes to reputation management.  A negative review can really hurt you, especially if you don’t know it exists.

 
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Be the First Wave to Hit the Market

It is driving me crazy every single day thinking about how untapped the SEO & Digital Marketing space is to Financial Advisors.  These are both long term strategies.  There is no quick payoff, but just like any other great idea, the first ones to cash in always make the most. 

 

In the near future, people are going to be able to research financial advisors like they research their next big purchase.  Instead of asking a wealthy friend who manages their money, they will go online and ask their facebook friends.  The advisors that embrace this and are the first to create an online presence on these platforms will quickly become an authority. 

 

Think of the possibilities of no longer being limited to your geographic location when it comes to client prospecting.  The internet is global, becoming an authority online helps you cast a much wider net than just being the authority in your local community.  Quality leads are really hard to come by. The internet gives you the ability to scale these leads in a big way.  

 

Financial Advisor SEO & Digital Marketing Strategies

Hopefully I’ve convinced you this is a viable strategy at this point.  Let’s break down how it actually works and list actionable steps that you can take right now.

Financial Advisor SEO

Local SEO is going to be a crucial part of your strategy.  While not all clients are going to need to be able and sit down with their financial advisor, let’s assume that most of them will.  The search term “Financial Advisor + Your City” is going to be gold.  There are a lot of factors that go into local seo.  You’ll need to focus on being in the organic listings as well as the “Maps”. 

To get the ball rolling you will need to set up Google My Business.  From there build out as many citations as you can.  Research what citations your competitors are utilizing and duplicate their efforts.  Then start to develope a link building strategy by commenting on niche related blog posts.  Commenting on these Blogs also helps doing outreach to get guest posts.  Guest posts are a big part of the secret sauce for Financial Advisor SEO.  You can also implement more advanced strategies like PBNs (Private Blog Network) or sniping broken links.  You may want to outsource some of this to an expert as some of these strategies are complex and time consuming.

Create A Blog

Creating a blog is the key piece in generating authority online.  It also feeds into every other aspect of building your online presence, from SEO to Social Media Marketing.  Consistently creating blog content greatly enhances the SEO of your advisor website.  It’s also great because it easily creates content that you can share across all of your social media platforms. 

Roll out a blog post once at least once a week.   Then simply share it across all of your social media pages.   This creates a huge digital paper trail.  Doing this consistently over the long term is not only a great way to communicate with existing clients, it can also create a long lasting pipeline to future clients as well. 

 

Investopedia

Creating a profile on Investopedia can boost your online presence in several ways.  Finding and answering questions posed by other investopedia users is great way to demonstrate your knowledge in a way that brings real value to people.  Becoming an authority is a way to build up trust with your audience and potential clients.  Commenting on these investopedia threads and creating your own posts are both great ways to generate backlinks to your website.  Having backlinks from an industry relevant  website like Investopedia will be a big boost to your local and global SEO.

 

Social Media Marketing

Once you have a blog that is consistently rolling out content on the latests financial trends and current market conditions, you will need to set up all your social media profiles.  Every time you post a new article, tweet about it, share it on Facebook & LinkedIn.  Through up an Instagram post, pin an infographic on Pinterest.  If you’re an allstar, you will have a video element to your blog which you can then share on Youtube as well.  Rinse and then repeat.  Your blog is where your content lives, but social media is where you spread it to the masses.  Social Media is also a great opportunity to interact with your peers and build connections.

Conclusion

Financial Advisor Digital Marketing

 

The truth is this strategy is not for everyone.  If you are an Advisor who’s completely content with the status quo, then this definitely isn’t for you.  However, if you’re an Advisor that is still looking to grow your book of clients.  If you have your eye on long term sustainable growth, then you can’t afford to miss out on this opportunity.  The market is still wide open for financial advisors online.  The next generation of wealth grew up on Twitter and Instagram and they are definitely in need of common sense financial advice.  Grow your online presence, create authority, build trust and create a never ending stream of client leads.

How To Get Local SEO Rankings in 2017

How To Get Local SEO Rankings in 2017

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The Importance of Ranking Locally

If your business has a location or a service area, ranking your website locally is imperative to your long term success.  Doing local SEO is one of the most cost effective ways to generate leads over the long term.   There are two areas to focus on when it comes to local SEO, ranking your website organically and in Google Maps.  By doing so, you make it that much easier for people who are looking for your goods and services to find you.  The first step in making this happen is understanding the difference between the two.

Organic Vs Maps

When searching on a desktop computer, the first thing that pops up on the corresponding results page is a group of Map rankings.  This is commonly referred to as the “Snack Pack” in SEO communities.  Once you scroll past the map or Snack Pack rankings, you will see the organic rankings.  Ideally you will rank your site in both.  That way potential clients and customers will have two chances to click on your site. 

A common mistake is only focusing on the organic listings and ignoring the Map.  This is a crucial mistake because not only do the Map rankings appear before the organic listings, but when searching on a mobile device, they completely dwarf the organic listings because the screen size has limited space compared to a desktop.  A lot of people do not take the time to scroll past the Map rankings when they’re searching on a mobile device.

Optimize Your Website for SEO

Before you start blasting your site with links, it’s important to optimize your website.  The first and most important thing you do is to set up your NAP.  NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone Number.  I can’t stress enough how important that your NAP is consistent.  Not only across every page on your site, but on every profile you create in the name of your business, whether it’s Social Media or a business directory.  The most common place to list your NAP is on the footer of every page.

San Diego SEO

Another tweak you can make to make ensure you’re ranking in Google Maps is putting an actual google map on your about us or contact page.  Integrating a map into your site helps paint a picture that Google’s algorithm can pick up.  When someone does a mobile search in your area looking for goods or services that your business offers, your site will be that much more likely to appear in the results.

Google My Business

The next step in ensuring your site ranks locally is setting up Google My Business.  This one just makes too much sense.  If you want to rank in the world’s most popular search engine, it’s probably a good idea to register your business in their database.  As I mentioned in the previous section, make sure your NAP is consistent and accurate here.  Once you fill out a robust profile, take the steps to verify your business.  This entails Google actually mailing a code to the physical address of your business.  Once you receive the code in the mail, login to your Google My Business profile and enter the code and your business will officially be verified.

Another step you can take is uploading photos to your profile that have been Geo tagged at your location.  Obviously over time your client’s and customers will do this for you when they share their awesome experiences at your business.  In the beginning it will be up to you to get the ball rolling.  It’s as easy as taking a few photo’s of your store or office with your mobile device or anything else that geo tags your location.

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Citations Citations Citations

The definition of a citation in the world of local SEO is any website that allows you to reference your NAP and links back to your website.  In most instances these are sites allow their users to review your website as well.  The most popular sites out there that can be used for citations are websites like Yelp and Foursquare.  Any site that allows you to clearly list your NAP and also links back to your website can be used as a citation to improve your local SEO efforts.

One of the best citations strategies is to first identify your biggest competitors.  Next find out where what citations they utilize and duplicate their efforts.  Make sure you manage any pages that allow for customers to review your business.  Response times are imperative on sites that allow you to interact with them directly.  That is more relevant to reputation management and customer service, but still worth mentioning.  We all know how a bad Yelp review can influence a potential client or customer’s opinion of your business.  Setting up these profiles is never enough.  Ensure that you also actively manage these profiles to safeguard your business’s sterling reputation.

Local SEO Link Building

Getting quality backlinks to your site is one of the more difficult parts of SEO.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s easy to go out and buy a bunch of links to your site that are coming from irrelevant sources.  That’s a great way to get your website penalized in today’s local SEO landscape. 

As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, Google consistently updates their algorithm to penalize anyone who implements strategies that violate their terms of service.  Here are few ways you can safely build links to your website that will stand the test of time.

Guest Posts

Getting a guest post on a blog relevant to your industry is a huge win.  It allows you to place a link on a site that discusses information that directly relates to your business.  Doing outreach to bloggers in your niche/industry can pay huge dividends in improving your local SEO rankings.  Getting a quality guest post on a high authority blog is not always easy though.  Sometimes it’s as simple as paying a price or simply just writing a killer piece of content.  

 

Snipe Broken Links

There are a lot tools out there that allow you to find broken links relevant to your field.  Once you locate the broken links, reach out to the author of the content informing them of the broken link and also provide them with a replacement link.  A lot of website do not actively monitor broken links on their aged posts.  Most of the time they will take you on this offer because you are doing them a favor that also helps you out, so it’s mutually beneficial.

 

Business Listings/Directories

There are so many directories and listings based on niche/industry and location.  By simply searching for “your city” & “your niche/industry” you will find quite a few that are relevant to your business.  Go through each site and follow the prompts to getting your business and website listed in their directly.  In most cases it’s as simple as paying a one time fee, but in exchange you get a long lasting highly relevant backlink.

 

Niche Relevant Blog Comments

Almost every blog has a comment section to promote interaction with their readers.  Most blog comment sections have a field where you reference your own website.  This is a great way to create a niche relevant backlink. 

Just remember that most of these comments have to be approved by a moderator before they go live, so make sure you are providing real feedback and adding value in any way that you can.  Otherwise your comment will simply be deleted or ignored altogether.  If you consistently comment on a blog, it’s also a great way to gain authority with that blogger and potentially get a guest post on their blog. 

 

Private Blog Networks

Private Blog Networks (PBNs) are a staple to any SEO strategy.  They are a bit more complex than most of these strategies and can land you a penalty if not done correctly, so I don’t recommend them for beginners.  Building a PBN starts with purchasing a recently expired or expiring domain that already has a lot of links pointing at it, ideally that are relevant to your niche. 

Once the website is in your possession, refurbish it and put a post with a link pointing at the website you are trying to rank.  Doing this effectively requires making the PBN look as natural as possible and removing any footprint that may exist between your PBN and the page you are actually trying to rank.  The most common mistake is utilizing the same host on your PBN that you use for your money site.  

Conclusion

There are a lot of key factors that go into local SEO.   Always keep in mind that SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.  Knowing all the factors and how they tie into how you rank is definitely important.  Over the long term however, the most important thing is generating quality content.  Lee Oden, a seasoned digital marketer at TopRank Marketing, once said, “Content is the reason that search began in the first place.”  Google’s mission is to help its users find and utilize the most relevant content. 

If you consistently generate top notch content, you won’t have to convince people to read and share it.  They will want to all on their own because it’s worth sharing.  Then you won’t have to develop some sophisticated backlinking strategy!  People will start linking to your site on their own because you have become an authority in your niche and your amazing content is worth referencing. 

Humanize Your Brand

Humanize Your Brand

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Something that I don’t see emphasized enough to current business owners and companies is the importance of humanizing your business.  People are inundated these days with automated services, you call a number and you are given a pre recorded list of options, press 1 for yes or 2 for no, and by the time you get to a real person(if you get a real person) it’s an hour or more later. People are jaded, they don’t trust brands and see corporations as nothing more than faceless profiteers. Any advertisement shown to consumers is met with instant added scrutiny.

There is a solution to this that is a lot more straightforward than people might think however a lot of people don’t want to exert the time or energy to do these things, whether it is for your law firm, dental practice, commence company that specializes in selling dog trinkets, or even companies as big as Wendy’s or Taco Bell. People trust other people more than they do massive corporations or even small businesses.  To counteract this you have to make your brand seem more like a person, you need to humanize your brand.

Imagine that Your Company or Brand is a Fictional Character with their own distinct human voice. 

Brainstorm a personality for your brand, don’t think small when it comes to this, think big! Come up with a fictional character that perfectly represents and embodies your brand or company and flesh out the nitty gritty details. What does this character like, what does this character dislike, what’s their name, how do they dress? Are they calm in the face of something difficult, do they have perfect manners or are they a bit more brash?  These questions will help you imagine a real personality to serve as your brand’s avatar, and from there it’s easy to slip into that mentality. This is the best exercise to literally humanize your brand.
 
One company that we worked with, an commerce company doing over 7 figures a year, developed several fictional characters to implement into their customer service plan. The regular customer service reps Brian and Jason did not truly enjoy dealing with difficult customers and sometimes would meet criticisms about their product with slight hostility and defensiveness which does not get you very far in this business.  Customers really do come first and these types of responses were legitimately hurting their reputation. So we had them implement two women, Jessica and Sylvia, who were their “customer service alter egos.” These alter egos were filled with patience and compassion for their customers issues and were always looking to solve their problems and put their customers feelings first. It helped them to step outside of themselves and not view customer complaints as personal attacks towards their company. Think about how you can apply this tool of creating a fictional character to represent and humanize your brand. 

Engage in conversations with your clients, customers and audience

Don’t just post ads to your users; engage them in conversation. Exclusively posting ads reaffirms what they are already thinking about your company, that you are solely motivated by profit and lack any human aspect at all, and this makes them less likely to want to do business with you.
 
Ask them what they like and what they want to see more of, some of our most successful Blogging clients are consistently asking their audience what they want to see more of in terms of posts, videos, snap chats, etc. whether that be fitness tutorials, meal plans, make up get ready with me videos, or a how to create a Shopify store tutorial. Give your audience what they want, reward them for being engaged and involved in your brand, people love when you reward their loyalty even with something as simple as a like of their comment on Instagram. 
 
If you see your audience members commenting on an external thread, jump into the discussion. This shows that you’re paying attention, and that you care about more than just one side of the conversation. The more you engage with your users, the more likely they’ll be able to see you as a trustworthy, personal entity that they want to work with or purchase from again and again.  Yes this requires more work and it’s easier to just automate things to post on your social media sites however if you are going to outsource your company’s social media to a company like our’s, make sure that they understand the importance of engaging with customers and building brand loyalty. Anybody can automate tweets and Instagram or Facebook posts but the Social Media Management companies that can help you grow the most are those who understand the importance of honing your brand and engaging with your audience. 
 
When you engage with individuals, you’ll instantly cement those individuals’ loyalties, and you’ll look good to everyone else looking on.
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Have a Sense of Humor

Humor has a primal way of connecting and humanizing us. When we laugh together, we tear down walls and bond with each other—it’s why we’re more likely to laugh when we’re surrounded by people we care about than we are when we’re by ourselves. When you make your users laugh, you show them that you don’t take life too seriously. Breaking down the walls of business and showing your audience that have you a sense of humor and can poke fun at yourself or possibly them as done by Wendy’s shows that you can set aside the formal professionalism of your brand for just a moment to experience a humorous moment.
 
Obviously, the type of humor you use will be dependent on your brand, but self-deprecating humor and tongue-in-cheek references are both extremely effective. You don’t have to be a consistent comedian, but you have to throw out enough references and asides to keep your audience feeling good about you.
 
Earlier this year Wendy’s made headlines with their quippy Twitter banter and sassy responses to criticism or questions about their food.  
 
Wendy’s could have chosen to ignore the slew of messages that ridiculed them, but the brand chose to defuse the stand-off with clever humor.
 
When Amy Brown, Wendy’s Social Media Manager, was asked why she chose to approach criticism of their food with humor and what she keeps in mind  when communicating with Wendy’s vast Twitter audience. 
 
She said, “Interacting with our audience can be tricky, especially when fielding a high volume of requests and when trying to balance our engagement strategy with our customer care presence. For us, it’s important to remember who we are and what we’re trying to communicate — what’s our brand’s voice and purpose? The Wendy’s voice is a ‘challenger with charm,’ for example, which means that even when we’re shooting back a sassy comment, it’s with a smile and a wink. Having a strong sense of who our brand is and what we should sound like ensures that we’ll come across consistent in our communications, whether we’re handling a restaurant-specific complaint or gently roasting some of our followers.”
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Conclusion

These strategies are all meant to add a more human element to your brand, but there’s an even simpler strategy you can use independently or in conjunction with the tactics I listed above; be yourself. Instead of trying to mathematically calculate the perfect way to create a “human” brand voice or trying to predict all your users’ behaviors, just stop thinking like a corporation and start thinking like a person. How do you talk to people in your own life? How do you relate to people? These considerations should be the driving force for your branding campaign.

Branding Vs Sales

Branding Vs Sales

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Branding Is the Big Picture

The difference between branding and sales is simple. Are you trying to convert or are you trying to create an experience? The latter always wins.  It’s so easy to get lost in the trees and lose sight of the forest.  Chasing short term sales goals can often compromise your long term vision.  So many are in it for the quick sale and you are quickly forgotten in the current marketplace.  Generating high quality  content with real value and giving it away for free establishes you as an authority in whatever niche you’re in.  Doing this consistently over the long term allows you to build real trust with your audience.  If your content really does provide value to their lives, you won’t have to convince them to buy your product/service or share your content with their friends.

Your brand is more than your logo, name or slogan — it’s the entire experience your clients and customers have with your company, product or service.  Your brand strategy defines what you stand for, it’s the promise you make and the personality you convey. Your brand lives in every day-to-day interaction you have with your market.  At the end of the day there is only one thing that constitutes “brand.” It’s how you feel in the moment you interact with the product, service or business.  When I say a certain brand name, like “Apple” you have a very innate gut reaction to how you feel about that brand.  Branding is the Macro, it’s the big picture, it’s the long game.  Branding bleeds into every aspect of your business because it’s the DNA of your business and it’s everything you stand for.  

San Diego Branding

Brand Is Not Transactional

Whether you’re a massive corporation or a small business, you need to start thinking about business as a long term relationship, not a single transaction.  At the end of the what you’re doing is building a legacy.  Bring a ton of value to your audience so when you inevitably improve their lives in some capacity, when they’re telling stories at dinner or at a conference, they’re going to paint a positive picture of you and your business.  That is far more impactful on the future success of your business than closing a single sale that ends up having very little impact on someone’s life.

It’s so easy to get caught up in creating call to actions in every piece of content you roll out there.  Branding can be a lot like dating.  If you try and close the deal and sleep with someone on the first date, often you end up robbing yourself of the opportunity developing a serious longterm relationship.  The reason you’ll be relevant in 50 years is because you built a brand.  Building a brand is about giving your clients and customers value in every transaction and every interaction.  If you continue to put out the best content in your niche and if you distribute that content better than anybody.  Then you will win at creating a brand that will stand the test of time.  

 

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Define Your Brand

By defining your brand, you’re creating the foundation for all other components of your business to build on. Your brand definition will serve as your measuring stick in evaluating any and all marketing materials and strategies.  There is a lot to consider when defining your brand.  Your core values and mission are key elements to consider when defining your brand.  Amazon is one of the best examples.  They are relentless in their pursuit of customer service and delivering low prices and value to their customers.  Don’t believe me? Copy and paste www.relentless.com into your browser right now and see what comes up.  Jeff Bezos ensured that every piece of marketing consistently delivered on this message over a long period of time and he successfully built one of the biggest baddest brands this world has seen.

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Brand Strategy

By definition, brand strategy is a long-term plan for the development of a successful brand in order to achieve specific goals. A well-defined and executed brand strategy affects all aspects of a business and is directly connected to consumer needs, emotions, and competitive environments.  

Think about all of the successful consumer brands like Disney, Apple or Starbucks. We all know what each brand represents. Now imagine that you’re competing against a company like one of these companies. If you really want to capture significant market share, it’s imperative to start with a strong brand strategy or you won’t get far.  Almost every market is competitive, so separating your brand from your competitors is a must.  So ask yourself right now, what makes your brand stand out from the competition?

Branding Conclusion

It’s so easy to get caught up focusing on Sales and Marketing that you lose site of building your brand.  Branding is only successful if it’s consistent across all platforms of your business and it’s done so over the long term.  Do not compromise your brand strategy to achieve any short term goal.  At the end of the day, branding is what gives you lasting success in your market and separates your company from the competition.  It helps generate loyal, lifelong customers which in turn creates true brand equity.   Clients and customers will trust any product our service with your logo on it and be that much more likely to use their hard earned cash to purchase it.  

Beginners Guide to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Beginners Guide to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

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Learning search engine optimization (SEO) from scratch is an intimidating task.  I still remember the day I sat down and dug into SEO for the first time.  My background was originally in financial services and I knew literally nothing about what it takes to rank in google or other search engines for that matter.  I couldn’t tell you the difference between a registrar and a host.  I had no idea what backlink was or how to get one.  Page authority and domain authority were nonsense terms to me.  What is a SEMRush and where do I get one?  Once I got started though, I couldn’t get enough.  The more I knew, the more I wanted to know.  I have since completely immersed myself into the world of SEO and all it has to offer.  

Isn’t SEO Dead?

It’s funny, I quickly learned that this question was an inside joke for anyone who is serious about search engine optimization.  Google is consistently coming out with new updates to try and prevent the “Black Hat” SEO strategies from allowing people to cheat their algorithm.  It actually used to be relatively easy to “game” the system and rank any website for any given term.  While it is true that these “Black Hat” strategies are no longer viable, as long as there is demand to rank in google, SEO will be alive and well.  So don’t let the naysayers get you down before you even start.  SEO is a lot like everything else in life, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.  If you take shortcuts, they will come back to haunt you in the form of google penalties or even getting de indexed completely.

Where to Begin?

Search engines have two major functions: crawling and building an index, and providing search users with a ranked list of the websites they’ve determined are the most relevant.  The best place to start is defining some of the basic terms of SEO.  Here is a quick list for reference:

On Page: Any work done to the actual page/website that you are trying to rank

Off Page: Any work done outside of the page/website you are trying to rank

PBN (Private Blog Network): the process of acquiring expired domains and using them to point links at the site/page you are trying to rank

Money Page: the page/website that you are trying to rank and will make money from

Backlink: A link on a webpage that links back to your money page (the site/page you are trying to rank)

Web2.0: Any site that allows two way interaction

SEO Backlinks

On Page SEO

Now that we have defined some basic terms, let’s talk strategy.  SEO strategies are usually extremely simple in nature, but just because they are simple doesn’t necessarily make them easy.  You can’t just spam your money site with backlinks from all over the internet.  

First and foremost, it’s important to get your On Page SEO in order.  This way when Google crawls your website, it actually understands what your site is all about and what keywords it should be ranking it for.  It doesn’t matter how many links point at your site, if the on page isn’t in order, none of that will matter.  Look to have pages with robust content that are keyword rich.  All of your images should be optimized for the keywords you are looking to rank for.  There are also a lot of plugins available that help make this process as easy as possible.  My personal favorite is the Yoast plugin for WordPress site.  It’s user friendly and very intuitive.

Backlinks and Link Building

Backlinks will remain a vital Google ranking factor. But, effective link building is now about trust and popularity. Only a high-quality backlink works in this model. According to Copyblogger, domain trust/authority represents 23.87% of Google’s ranking algorithm.

SEO Backlinks

Backlinks can’t just come from anywhere. In a perfect world, your backlinks would be coming from popular websites with a lot of authority, that are also extremely relevant in the context of your business.  One of the best ways to obtain backlinks is just by consistently generating high quality, valuable content that people genuinely want to share with each other.  I love the 90/10 rule when it comes to link building.  90% of your time should be focused on generating high quality content while the other 10% should be spent on link building.  If you are struggling to generate a high-quality backlink to your site, it’s likely that you have reversed the rule.

For example, let’s say that you have a site all about French Bulldogs and you get an inbound link from an article directory. Google won’t recognize that website link as relevant to the subject of your site.

But, if the link acquired is from a site that’s related to dog training, like a dog food store or a discussion board that’s centered around dogs, you will not only improve your rankings, but your site will be relevant and valuable to those who visit it. 

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Mobile Optimization

You can’t perform well in Google’s search rankings today unless your site is mobile optimized.  On a desktop, you have a ton of space for flashy videos, animations, and photos.  Mobile sites don’t have as much space, so things need to be organized differently to make it more user friendly.

Make Site Speed a Priority

You’ve got about three seconds of load time before the average customer will bounce and search elsewhere.  That’s not much of a worry for a strong broadband connection at home on a desktop. But when signals can degrade on mobile, it can have a huge impact on conversions.  Consider this math: If your ecommerce site is making $100k per day in revenue, a delay of just one second in load time could result in as much as $2.5 million in lost sales annually.

Conclusion

The world of SEO can be complex, but most people can easily understand the basic principles. Even a small amount of knowledge can make a big difference. Free SEO education is widely available on the web, including in guides like this. Combine this with a little practice and you are well on your way to becoming a guru.  If not, that’s ok, I know a guy you can outsource that too 🙂