Build Your Own Brand 5-Day Challenge Begins Next Week!

Join the free Build Your Own Brand (BYOB) Challenge today and create the brand you’ve always wanted. The challenge kicks off in one week!

Build Your Own Brand 5-Day Challenge Begins Next Week!

Today, I’m excited to announce the biggest challenge ever presented to the readers of SmartPassiveIncome.com.

Drum roll, please. Now introducing a challenge for the ages:

The 5-Day Build Your Own Brand (BYOB) Challenge!

Before I get into the details of the Build Your Own Brand Challenge, first, a little history. Back in 2009, I published one of my very first YouTube videos, which was called How to Build a Blog in Less Than 4 Minutes and Write Your First Blog Post. As of today, this video has been viewed nearly 250,000 times, and has provided a quick way for first-time bloggers and aspiring online business owners to get a website up and running, and just get the ball rolling on their online presence.

Getting that ball rolling is sometimes the most difficult step. That’s why I created that video—to help people break through that initial obstacle. The next, most difficult challenge is after you’ve had an idea and you’re ready to build upon your website and establish your brand online.

Many things have changed since I created that video in 2009. Over time, I’ve realized that in order to succeed with your website, a few more essential things need to be checked off the list for establishing your brand and making your mark on the internet. This is why I wanted to present this brand new challenge to you today.

What To Expect with the Build Your Own Brand (BYOB) Challenge

The BYOB Challenge will be a 5-day challenge structured like a course on the Teachable platform. For each day of the challenge, you’ll have a set of modules to complete, and within each module you’ll have a set of lessons and short videos that walk you through the process of crafting a high-quality, well-designed personal brand for your website.

This challenge is a much more robust, detail-oriented expansion of my 2009 video, but with the same end goal in mind: To help you build an amazing branded website from scratch. At the end of the 5 days, you’ll have a website with a clear brand, ready for you to begin creating content, build your audience, and eventually sell a product.

Unlike other challenges I’ve run in the past, this is not a reader challenge by way of a blog post. For this challenge, I want to do something different because, as you know, I like to challenge myself and experiment with new things to see if there are better strategies or approaches I can take along the way.

This won’t be like the 72-Hour List Building Challenge at 100Emails.com, where you are challenged to build your email list from 0 to 100 subscribers in 72 hours. (By the way, you can still enter the 72-Hour List Building Challenge if you need help kickstarting your email list, since the challenge is evergreen!)

Also, this challenge doesn’t tell you how to launch a course, make money from your website, or build your audience—although that may naturally come later as a result of the initial work you do. But at the end of the challenge I will give you resources you can use to keep going and move to the next steps.

Here are a few things you can expect in the BYOB Challenge:

  • It is built on Teachable, like a course, but structured as a challenge. Teachable is super user-friendly and easy to navigate.
  • It is 100 percent free to join the challenge. You can build your brand from the ground up . . . for free!
  • There will be add-on options for purchase. If you’d like a few bonus items to help you on your way toward building your brand, you’ll have options. But they are totally optional!
  • You are free to choose any hosting company and any email service provider that you’re most comfortable with. I will share my top recommendations based on my experience, but those are just suggestions.

The 5 days will be broken down like this:

Day 1 of the challenge will be about discovering what your brand is really about. You will use that time to come up with a clear mission and name for your brand.

Day 2 will include procuring your domain name and building your website.

Day 3 will be about making sure your website design and theme look professional and in line with your brand.

At this stage, your website branding doesn’t have to be perfect or too fancy, but it’s going to be great enough to instill confidence that your website and design is your home—to move forward with, produce content, and grow your brand.

Day 4 will be about setting up your website plugins and pages.

Plugins allow you to customize your website even further. There are a lot of amazing plugins, but I’ll share the minimal amount of plugins that you’ll need to build a successful brand. The last thing I want to do, in such a short period of time, is overwhelm you. You can always, at a later time, go back and add more plugins that make sense for your website goals.

In addition to that, I’m going to help you figure out what pages (About, Contact, etc.) you should start with.

Lastly, on Day 5 we’re going to focus on writing and publishing your content. And we’ll close it out with a plan for how to launch your new brand!

Sound like something you’d love? Sound like a challenge you’re ready for: To have your own branded website up and running in 5 days?

Sign up here to be the first notified when the challenge goes live!

At the end of this 5-day challenge, I want you to be proud of what you create; you can (and will) create something amazing and inspiring you can share with your community, your family, and your friends so you can start building your audience on a foundation you’re truly excited about.

People often tell me that they just need a good excuse to get started on the online business they want to create, or the website they want to build, or the brand they’ve been thinking about for years. That’s totally normal, and I understand!

But there are people out there waiting for you. They are waiting for you to create the thing you’ve always wanted to create. At 100 percent free to join, you no longer have an excuse! You can create the website and brand you’ve always wanted to.

That’s my challenge to you.

That’s why I created the Build Your Own Brand (BYOB) 5-Day Challenge. If you’re motivated by a challenge, and appreciate some guidance along the way from an expert who can walk you through the process toward a specific and meaningful outcome (building your brand!), you’re in the right place.

Are you ready?

Sign up here to join the waitlist for the Build Your Own Brand 5-Day Challenge that starts next week!

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SPI 286: How to Build a Brand that Stands Out from the Crowd

Welcome to October, and welcome to Branding Month here on SPI! This month is all about building your brand, establishing your stake in the ground, and most importantly, building something that lasts. Today, I’m talking about the best actions you can take toward building a brand that stands out from the crowd.

Starting an online business can be extremely daunting, and no wonder: There’s a lot of chatter out there and when you want to stand out from the crowd . . . well, there’s a lot of crowd to stand out from. In this episode I’m breaking down what I call “The Five Cs” for building a brand that’s truly distinct. I’ll be talking about how you can start from the ground up, how to understand your audience better so that you can better serve them, and some ways that you can follow through and build a great community. When it all comes together, you do more than just build a brand. You build an experience. This episode is jam-packed with tips and tricks; let’s start building!

Thanks for Listening!

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  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
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Three Must-Haves for Building a Successful Online Brand

Your guide to building an online brand that thrives. If you’re new, this is exactly where you should start; if you already have an online business, this is a fantastic refresher. Whatever your business’s goals are, this is the foundation that every online entrepreneur should have.

Three Must-Haves for Building a Successful Online Brand

This month here on Smart Passive Income, we’re going to talk all about branding. I have some great blog posts and podcast episodes lined up that are going to help you no matter what stage you’re at with your business—but for today, we’re going to start with the basics.

If you already have a brand up and running, this may be a great refresher for you. Speaking from experience, it’s always great to zoom out every once in awhile and ensure you have all of your foundational items in place.

If you’re thinking of building a business very soon, then you’re in the right spot, especially because I have a fun challenge set up for you starting mid-month that I’ll talk more about at the end of this post.

First, What You Don’t Need

A weird trend started to develop while I was in my early years of high school: All of the cool kids started to print their own business cards.

Did they own their own businesses?

No.

But printed on these cards were their names in fancy writing, a logo (usually clip art), and any clubs they were in and special talents that they had. The coolest of the cool kids even had their pager number on there too.

I started to see these cards being passed out, collected, and talked about. So, of course, because I wasn’t one of the cool kids—but I really wanted to be one of the cool kids—I designed and printed one of my own.

When I think back to this part of my life, it makes me laugh hysterically, especially because I remember my own card saying I was a musician (true), and a karate expert (maybe not so true, although I did have a black belt). But at the same time, I know exactly why this kind of thing was happening.

It was fun and exciting to print these cards, to feel them in our hands, and to hand them out and share them with friends—the people who already knew our names and pager numbers anyway.

A little piece of cardstock made us feel like we were official, and that we had something more substantial than what we actually had, which was no business at all.

When I help new students through their entrepreneurial journey, it’s funny because many people who are at the start behave in a very similar way. For some, it’s literally the same thing—printing business cards—but for others it’s a customized blog theme, or having all of their social media profiles match perfectly. It’s swag like teeshirts, and the perfectly-branded email signature.

All of this stuff can be important and plays a role one way or another within a brand, but when you’re just starting out, you need to learn to differentiate between what you really want and what you really need.

Because your time and energy is limited, you must remove the focus you have on these attractive nonessentials and start to hone in on what is truly important in the beginning.

What are those must-haves? They are:

  1. A Purposeful Mission
  2. A Working Website
  3. An Email List

Let’s talk about all three:

1. A Purposeful Mission

I’ve written about the importance of approaching your business with a mission in mind, and really it’s at the root of all that you should be doing and the decisions that you make.

As I mentioned in a previous post about creating a Mission Statement, your Mission Statement defines what you or your business are about. It is action-oriented, determining what your business does, who it serves, and how it does what it does. It is the action you take now to fulfill your vision.

Jeff Sheldon from Ugmonk.com, who I interviewed in last week’s session of the SPI Podcast, has a very clear and simple mission statement:

Create high-quality, well-designed goods that I would want to buy myself.

It’s this mission that led to several popular products in his line to fully fly off the shelf.

Sean Wes’s (SeanWes.com) mission is also very clear and powerful:

I’ve made it my goal to demystify the path to building a sustainable, profitable, audience-driven business.

Sean is definitely someone to pay attention to. He’s someone who has been inspiring me as of late, especially when it comes to how clear his head is in terms of where he dedicates his time. All that supports the mission statement above.

He’s got a gorgeous book coming out called Overlap, which teaches you how to start a business while working a full-time job. You can learn more about Overlap here.

Do you know what your mission is? It doesn’t matter what stage you’re at in your business, it’s always important to remember why you do what you do, and the best part—it doesn’t cost any money to determine what that is.

2. A Working Website

In my online course, Power-Up Podcasting, I teach people how to start, launch, and market a podcast that matters, and also how to make sure it gets found post-launch.

What’s interesting is a common question I receive from students making their way through the course:

Do I really need a website to have my podcast?

The technical answer is, well, no. You don’t. You could easily set up your podcast using simply what you set up via your media host, with no website of your own at all.

But that’s crazy-talk.

Of course you’d want your own website!

You don’t need it to launch a podcast, or host your own video channel on YouTube, or crush it on social media, but in order to build a sustainable, long-term business, you should absolutely have your own website.

These marketing channels are where you go to meet new people and share a little bit about yourself. This is where you are utilizing other platforms that are not fully under your control to provide opportunities for relationships to start, and for you to share a bit about yourself with others.

Your website, however, is like your home. It’s where you invite those people you meet in outside establishments to visit so that you can make them feel more comfortable, allow them to get to know you even more, and eventually help them out on a deeper level. It’s where you can direct people, under your control, to what else you might have to offer. It’s where you can begin to serve them better.

One business idea I had a while back was to provide a service to help popular YouTubers get their websites up and running and help them start to build an email list. It really scares me that many of them have millions of viewers and millions of subscribers, but no real web presence other than their YouTube channel and social media.

All it takes is one mishap or one company decision to completely disrupt everything they’ve worked so hard for, and a website becomes almost an insurance policy for the popularity they’ve earned on those outside platforms.

Plus, let’s not forget Google and search engine optimization too!

When building a website, there are tens of thousands of different ways to go about it. There are options for hosting companies, website and blogging platforms, themes and designs, plugins, etc. It’s really confusing (which is partly why many people don’t even get started, and also why this challenge I’m putting together is so important), but it’s vital for the long-term success of your brand.

That’s why I say a working website—it just needs to work at first. Like with the business card example, it’s very easy to get lost in the “what’s the best way to design my website?” rabbit hole, which is a hole that many people never escape from. Yes, the look and feel of the website is important, but what’s more important is getting something up, rather than nothing.

It’s a ready, fire, aim approach, which means you can be a little off the mark at first, but then hone in on what works for you later on. You can always change things later and make improvements, and small purposeful and incremental improvements are always better when it comes to website-related items—so take that approach at the start. Take that big, bold action of getting started, and then slowly progress toward perfecting it along the way.

Plus, as you begin to publish content and begin to help people navigate through your brand and your offerings as they come, you’ll likely change and adapt to the audience that you eventually build, and can make adjustments as necessary to the website from there.

Start simple. Start simple. Start simple.

You just need it to work.

Work comes in many forms, however. Work in terms of just being ON, that’s first and foremost. Second, you want it to make sense. You want it to be easy to navigate and have some sort of structure to it. But the most important metric I want you to consider is how it’s working to help you build your email list—the third must-have for building a successful online brand.

3. An Email List

Is an email list necessary in order to build a successful online brand? Again, technically, no. It’s not. But you’re climbing a much steeper mountain without it.

The biggest mistake I made (and I made it twice) was not starting an email list right away.

On GreenExamAcademy.com, I didn’t build an email list mostly because I had no idea that I could. I thought it was a fancy thing big brands had access to, and because I was so new to online business back in 2008, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Eventually, I found out what an email list was after a mastermind group I was involved with suggested I sell my second product—an audio version of my LEED exam study guide—to those who had purchased the ebook version.

“It’s always easiest to sell to those who have already bought from you,” I was told.

Well, the problem was I had no idea how to reach out to those initial customers, other than one by one via email. I got the email addresses from the PayPal notification emails that were sent to me, and after sending over 500 emails, I was eventually banned from sending emails for about a half a day because I was sending too many within a specific time period.

I made the same mistake again when starting SmartPassiveIncome.com. The site was launched in October 2008, and I didn’t begin collecting email addresses until January 2010—almost a year and a half later.

That time, my excuse wasn’t about not knowing—it was that I didn’t think it was the right time. My site had just started, I wasn’t planning on selling anything, and I didn’t see the value in it.

So I get a few email addresses—maybe. So what then? Why is that important?

When I finally started to collect email addresses back in 2010, the importance of email became very apparent, very quickly. And as time went on, the reasons for having the email list revealed themselves even more.

At first, I saw a direct correlation between emails that were sent, and spikes in traffic to the website. This came because of broadcast emails about new posts that were published, and also the influx of visitors to older posts from my archive that were linked to some of the first few emails in the autoresponder sequence.

I also saw that emails that were sent to my list became great conversation starters. I was able to have a direct interaction with my audience because of it. I could ask questions and get answers back. I could get feedback for my work to help improve it. And, it also just showed people that I was a real person who took the time to reply.

Then, in 2013, something crazy happened—my website was hacked. SPI was down for an entire week after a DDOS attack left the site unusable, and during that insane week as I was trying to get things back online, I was still able to keep in contact with my audience to let them know what was going on. It showed me that even if my site was gone, I’d still have my email list so that I could set up shop elsewhere if I needed to. That’s huge for peace of mind.

More recently, when I made the decision to start creating my own products, the email list I’ve built has been instrumental in the success of the launch campaigns for those products. Both public launches for Smart From Scratch and Power-Up Podcasting surpassed six figures in earnings, and email, by far, was the number one referral source for sales.

For more information about setting up an email list, from what provider to start with to how to begin to segment your audience, click here for a free How to Start an Email List tutorial.

The 5-Day BYOB Challenge

If you already have an online brand, hopefully this has been a great reminder for you about the foundational items you should have in place.

If you’re close to starting and you’re ready to build a website of your own (or you’ve been meaning to but haven’t had the right excuse to get started), well I’m happy to let you in on a little secret.

For the past few months, my team and I have been working on a little 5-day challenge we put together to get people moving on this online branding stuff.

It’s called the 5-Day BYOB Challenge (BYOB = Build Your Own Brand). In 5 days, I’ll walk you through all of the steps you need to get a working website up and running, complete with a mini-campaign to help you build your email list.

It’ll be all you need to get that jump-start as you begin to build your audience and your brand online.

The unique thing about this challenge is that it’s not an email-based challenge, like some of my other challenges have been. This is a full-on comprehensive course with five modules (one per day), with several short lessons that will guide you through this entire process.

From honing in on your brand mission, to getting your domain name and building your website from scratch, to what design to use and what plugins to install, to what pages to include and even how to begin to think about collecting email addresses—it’s all here in this course that’s framed for a 5-day window of action. The cost for something like this could easily be in the $200-$300 range, but because I know how vital this is to everyone building a business online, I’m going to be offering this course for free.

Yep. Free.

If this is something you’re interested in getting access to once this goes live, then make sure you click the link below to register for the challenge now. It starts on Monday, October 16, and runs through that entire week.

Click here to sign up and register for the BYOB Challenge!

More info is available on the registration page, including some cool giveaways for people who complete the 5-day action plan. If you’ve been waiting for the right time to get started, here it is.

Thanks, and I look forward to working with you through this process starting on October 16!

SPI 285: Accidental Entrepreneurship and Design Commerce with Jeff Sheldon from Ugmonk.com

This month is crowdfunding month on SPI.com. I’m exploring all aspects of the process, from validating, to building your campaign, fulfillment after the fact, and everything in between. Today I’m talking to someone who’s been on the front lines of Kickstarter campaigns, Ugmonk.com founder Jeff Sheldon.

In May, Jeff launched a Kickstarter campaign for Gather, a minimal, modular desktop organizer. The campaign was 100 percent funded within 47 minutes, and reached $100k in under 24 hours. Jeff breaks down what made his campaign such a success, and what he learned from a previous campaign that helped him do things well the second time around. Jeff’s campaign went on to raise almost $500,000 and was 2,394 percent funded.

We’ll also be talking about the story behind the Ugmonk brand, how Jeff built honesty and transparency into its framework, and why having his mom as an employee is awesome. There’s lots to take away from Jeff: It’s an inspiring story about taking a simple but passionate idea and turning it into a successful, family-run business. Enjoy!

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes or download our mobile app.

Special thanks to Jeff for joining me this week. Until next time!

My First Trip to Europe, Ever! (And My First Time Vlogging)

On a recent trip to Europe (first time ever!), I started experimenting with vlogging. I’m really excited to start exploring this medium more, and I hope you like my new videos. Be sure to subscribe!

My First Trip to Europe, Ever! (And My First Time Vlogging)

I just got back from my first ever trip to Europe, where I spoke at an event called DNX Global, which brings nomads and other online entrepreneurs who don’t have a home base together to celebrate, get inspired, motivate each other, and learn. I was very thankful and honored that I got to present the opening keynote address. As excited as I was for the event itself, I was even more excited that it was taking place in Lisbon, Portugal. It was a great way to experience Europe for the first time.

Leading up to this trip, I got very inspired by a lot of my friends, including Cliff Ravenscraft, Michael Stelzner, and Leslie Samuel, who were all in a mastermind group with me. I was encouraged to attempt to create a vlog (a blog in video form), like the ones they’ve been doing, to capture the memories of this trip and also to share the behind-the-scenes of a trip like this where I go and speak.

I decided to invest in a camera, and invest in the time, to put a few videos together for you. Vlogging is a really interesting medium. Most vloggers upload their videos onto YouTube. I do that as well, but I’ve also been publishing my videos on Facebook, which has been getting great results. Vlogging gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at what’s going on in your life. Some people vlog daily—others just vlog every once in awhile. I decided to give it a go. Although I don’t believe I’m going to ever get into the daily vlogging scene, it was an amazing experience and experiment, and I can definitely tell you that I will be creating more vlogs like the ones I created for this trip, in the future.

Vlogging: A New Creative Outlet

Over the years of building the SPI blog and the podcast, both have been amazing. In the early days of those content mediums, I used my creative juices and artistic license to shape them into what they are today. Because I now have a team behind me, and because they have been going on for so long, the blogs and podcasts almost feel completely automated. Although I know the blogs and podcasts still have the Pat Flynn “flair,” because I hardly think about the production of them anymore, I have been missing that creative outlet. Vlogging has become a great place for me to be fully creative again.

For this trip, I decided to film on my own using a Sony RX100 Mark 5, or V, a little tripod and that’s it. It was an interesting exercise because I learned how to film myself while on the go; I learned how to break out of the comfort zone and actually film myself in public and talk to a camera while speaking in public. But I also found that I got very creative and I started to look at the world through a different kind of lens.

Here’s a screencap of my set-up (by way of an elevator mirror!):

London, Here I Come—With My Camera and Tripod!

You’ll see in the videos that are embedded into this post below that I had a lot of fun, I got creative, and it definitely made me feel very fulfilled to get these out there! Even if nobody ever watches them, they are worthwhile because at least they can be something that will help me remember the trip, and also a way for me to share the experience with my friends and family who were not able to go with me.

Now, I’m excited to share them with you!

I’ll definitely be back to Lisbon. AND, I’m going back to Europe soon—London specifically—to give the closing keynote address at the Youpreneur Summit for my best friend, Chris Ducker. I will likely be creating a vlog similar to the one I create for my trip to Portugal.

For now, you can watch my Portugal videos. Start with day one, which is when I leave my home in San Diego and take a plane to JFK and then to Lisbon. The second video covers my first day in Lisbon where I meet Azul, who is my book coach, and a few other people who help me find my way through town. Then I meet up with other speakers from the DNX Conference, and then speak, and then travel back home.

I hope you enjoy the videos! Please subscribe to my YouTube channel if you’d like to keep up with all of my vlogging. I look forward to sharing more videos like this in the future!

Check out my vlogging playlist below!

This just in! New 9/26 vlog: Why I NEVER Throw These Away (My Favorite Event Memories):

Calculating the ROI of Brand Awareness on Social Media

Proving the ROI of social media is a complicated task for any organization. But it gets even trickier if your organization is primarily using social to achieve business objectives that aren’t directly tied to revenue—like brand awareness.

Brand awareness is obviously crucial to your bottom line (if people don’t know about you, they can’t buy from you), so it’s important you know how to quantifiably prove how social media is impacting this goal.

When it comes to your brand, there are two main areas to focus on:

  • Awareness: Increasing the amount of people that know about your brand.
  • Perception: Changing how people think and feel about your brand.

You need different strategies to achieve these objectives, and different metrics to measure them. In this post, we’ll focus on using social media to increase brand awareness and three ways you can measure that impact, depending on your level of social media maturity:

  1. Beginner: Driving brand awareness through social engagement
  2. Intermediate: Increasing social share of voice to gain a competitive advantage
  3. Advanced: Improving brand recall through social ads

Beginner: Driving brand awareness through social engagement

Why it matters

Social engagement metrics such as followers, likes, comments, and shares are sometimes called “vanity” metrics, since they’re often used by social marketers to toot their horn while neglecting to demonstrate how social is actually impacting business goals. But these metrics are the currency of social media, and they represent how well your brand’s messages are resonating and spreading. So if your main objective on social is boosting brand awareness, then these metrics are integral to proving success.

How to measure it

1. Set benchmarks

To prove how much you’re increasing brand awareness through social, you need a baseline to measure your progress. Choose a time period (either weekly or monthly) and use a tool like Hootsuite Analytics to gather the following metrics:

  • Reach: How many people saw your posts
  • Followers: How many new followers (or Page likes) you gained
  • Likes: How many likes your posts received
  • Comments: How many comments were left on your posts
  • Shares: How many times your content was shared or retweeted

It’s important to measure how these metrics change over multiple weeks or months so you can use the averages to establish your benchmarks.

2. Put your strategy in action

Once you’ve established your benchmarks, it’s time to implement a social strategy that you think will boost results (and make people more aware and engaged with your brand). Whether it’s a contest, social videos, a Twitter chat, or new visuals—it’s important to start with a hypothesis that you can clearly test and measure against your benchmarks.

3. Measure your results

Calculate the number of likes, comments, and shares your posts received over the same period of time you chose when establishing your benchmarks. Do the same for your reach per post and new followers gained. Compare this data to your benchmarks and, if all goes well, you’ll be able to prove that your social strategy is making more people aware of—and engaged with—your brand on social media.

Intermediate: Increasing social share of voice to gain a competitive advantage

Why it matters

Your social share of voice (SSoV) indicates how much people are actually talking to—and about—your organization on social, in comparison to your competitors. This can help you prove two important things: that all of your competitors are also investing in social media, and that you’re doing it better than they are.

How to measure it

1. Calculate mentions of your brand

Add all the mentions your brand receives, over a specific period of time, across all your social networks. (Hootsuite Analytics can help you see these numbers at a glance so you don’t have to gather this data manually.)

Don’t limit this to direct @mentions of your brand’s handle. Include indirect mentions and any potential misspellings of your brand name. For example, we would track all mentions of our @Hootsuite handle as well as indirect mentions of “hootsuite,” “hoot suite,” and so on.

2. Calculate mentions of your competitors

Like you do with your own brand, calculate how many mentions your biggest competitors receive over the same time period. Again, be sure to include direct and indirect mentions.

3. Calculate total number of industry mentions

Add the number of mentions your brand received to those of your competitors to get the total number of industry mentions for the specific time period.

4. Calculate your social share of voice

Divide the number of mentions your brand received by the total number of industry mentions and multiply by 100 to get your SSoV represented as a percentage.

Advanced: Improving brand recall through social ads

Why it matters

Simply making people more aware of your brand is a good thing—but making them remember your brand in a positive light is even better. Social media ads offer multiple ways of boosting and measuring brand recall.

How to measure it

A Facebook brand lift study helps you understand how your social ads are impacting ad recall, brand awareness, and message association. According to Facebook, “these metrics allow you to see how people really feel about your brand. Are people aware of your brand? Do they remember it? Do they want to buy from you?”

You can also use a Nielsen Brand Effect survey via Twitter to measure the impact of your Twitter ad campaigns on your brand metrics.

Use Hootsuite Impact and get plain-language reports of your social data to see exactly what’s driving results for your business—and where you can boost your social media ROI.

Learn More

The Definitive Facebook Marketing Guide for Business

Once a social network’s number of users climbs past a billion (yes, that’s billion with a “b”), it becomes impossible to ignore—especially for marketers.

Facebook is well past that figure, with a whopping 2 billion users as of June 2017, including about 183 million daily active users in the United States and Canada (compare that, for instance, to the 172 million viewers who watched the most recent Super Bowl). Those are some pretty big numbers, but don’t let them overwhelm you: your Facebook marketing campaign can incorporate the network’s free tools, as well as super-focused paid campaigns.

Let’s be clear right upfront: Facebook marketing is not the same thing as Facebook advertising. Yes, your Facebook marketing strategy can include advertising (more on that below), but since Facebook is, after all, a social network, your strategy should also include efforts to build lasting relationships and ongoing engagement through valuable content that’s not about making the sale.

Fortunately for small businesses, you don’t need a budget of Super Bowl proportions to get into the Facebook marketing game. Providing consistent, reliable, and valuable content that connects with fans and potential customers is your most important play. This Facebook marketing guide shares everything you need to know to develop and implement a winning Facebook marketing strategy for your brand.

How to create a Facebook marketing plan in 7 steps

Step 1. Develop your Facebook strategy

Before you dive into creating a Facebook Page for your business, you need to determine your Facebook marketing strategy. After all, your Page can’t help you meet your business goals until you determine exactly what those goals might be. Here’s how to create a strategy that makes the most of the time and budget you invest in using Facebook for business.

Define your audience

It’s impossible to target a message effectively if you don’t know whom you’re speaking to. When you’re first getting started with your Facebook marketing plan, you may not have much information to go on in terms of who is most likely to connect with your business on Facebook. The overall picture of Facebook demographics and your own brand intelligence about your customer profile can be the first building blocks in developing a sense of who your Facebook audience will be.

From there, you can use Facebook Audience Insights to drill down into the nitty-gritty details about potential customers on Facebook, giving you aggregate information about any group of users, including age, gender, education, relationship status, location, language, Facebook usage, and even past purchase activity. (For more details, check out our full tutorial on Facebook Analytics and Insights.)

Set goals

It can be tempting to focus on vanity metrics, like simply gathering as many Likes as possible. But unless those Likes are part of a broader marketing plan, they’re not going to provide a great return.

The goals will differ for every business, but they should all be based on actions that have a real impact on your bottom line—like generating leads, increasing conversions on your website, or improving your customer service response. But those are just broad categories of goals. You’ll want to make your goals much more specific and measurable, based on S.M.A.R.T goal-setting principles.

Everything you do as part of your Facebook marketing—every post, every comment, every ad—should work to support your goals. To keep things on track, it’s a good idea to distill the essence of your strategy down into a Facebook marketing mission statement for your brand. This will help you to maintain a consistent brand voice throughout your Facebook marketing activities.

Create a Facebook marketing plan

Once you’ve set your goals, you need to create a plan for how to achieve them. A key part of that plan is determining the right content mix. We recommend starting with either the 80-20 rule or the social media rule of thirds.

If you follow the 80-20 rule, you’ll use 80 percent of your Facebook posts to inform, educate, and entertain, and the other 20 percent to directly promote your brand. Remember that using Facebook for business is all about building relationships, and constantly pitching your product is not a great way to do so. But if you provide enough valuable content to keep your followers engaged, they’ll be open to learning about your products and services in those 20 percent of posts that offer a more sales-focused message.

The social media rule of thirds also prescribes a good mix of valuable content and promotional posts: one-third of your content should share ideas and stories, one-third should involve personal interactions with your followers, and the remaining third can directly promote your business.

Either way, the key message is to provide much more content than promotional material in order to keep followers interested and engaged. Facebook’s algorithm changes will always penalize brands that leaning far too heavily into driving sales.

Facebook wants its users’ news feeds to be filled with content they want to Like and share, rather than sales pitches. As a brand marketer, you should want that, too—since all those Likes and shares help extend your reach and put your brand in front of new eyeballs, without any direct effort from you or your team.

The final part of your plan is to determine when and how often to post. Even though the algorithm means posts don’t appear in chronological order, you have the best chance of making it to the top of the pile if you post when your audience is most active on the network.

This will take some trial and error to pin down for your specific business (using engagement data gleaned from Page Insights), but research generally shows that the best time to post is Thursday or Friday from 1 to 3 p.m., so that’s a good place to start. Since it’s important to post consistently, create a content calendar to help balance your mix of content types and keep your posting schedule on track.

For more strategic planning ideas, check out our post on how to create a social media marketing plan.

Step 2. Create a Facebook Business Page

Once you’ve got your Facebook marketing strategy nailed down, it’s time to put it into action—which begins with creating a Facebook Page. Your Facebook Page is your business presence on Facebook, or as Facebook itself puts it, “a cornerstone of [your] online identity.”

It’s where you post content, engage with followers, and generally participate as a brand in the Facebook experience. It doesn’t cost anything to set up a Facebook Page or post content, which is great if you’re working with a limited budget.

Just how big can a Facebook Page following get? Coca-Cola has one of the highest brand follower counts, currently sitting at more than 105 million.

But you don’t need millions of followers to make a Facebook Page worthwhile. Neon Retro Arcade in Pasadena, California, has about 25,800 followers, but local promotions run from their Facebook Page have been successful enough that they’ve stopped advertising in their local newspaper.

To get started, follow these step-by-step instructions to create your Facebook Page, then use these key strategies to optimize your Page and connect with fans on Facebook to develop lasting relationships that lead to fierce brand loyalty.

Keep the following Facebook marketing best practices in mind to maximize the effectiveness of your Facebook Page:

  • Choose a search-friendly Page name: In most cases, this will be your brand name.
  • Set a custom or “vanity” URL for your Page that’s consistent with your handle on other social networks.
  • Make the most of your Page’s About section: Provide key information about your business, and let followers know how to get in touch with you.
  • Since your cover and profile photos are the visual first impression for your Facebook Page, make sure they accurately represent your brand and encourage potential followers to engage.
  • Add a call-to-action button, which provides an easy way for potential customers to get in touch with you, or even start shopping for your products. Set one up following Facebook’s detailed instructions.

For inspiration, check out our post showcasing lessons from six must-follow brands who have mastered the art of marketing through a Facebook Page.

Step 3: Start posting

Now you’re ready to start posting. First, let’s look at the different types of content you can post on Facebook.

Facebook text post

This is the most basic type of Facebook post. A text-only post can’t direct people to your website or drive conversions, but it can be used to spark engagement within Facebook itself. Asking a question can be a great way to get followers involved, like author and speaker Brian Tracy did in this text post:

Facebook photo post

Like a text post, a photo post is designed to build awareness or spark engagement within Facebook rather than supporting other business goals. And on that front, photo posts have plenty to offer. A study published in the journal Management Science found that adding photos to your posts significantly boosts the number of both Likes and comments.

Not sure where to find appropriate images to use in your Facebook posts? Check out our list of 20 free stock photo sites. And to keep yourself, and your brand, out of trouble, be sure you understand the basics of image copyright before sharing a photo you found online.

Also keep in mind that the “photo” in your photo post doesn’t really have to be a photo at all. It could be any kind of image, like an infographic, an illustration, or any other type of visual content, such as this illustration shared on the Hootsuite Facebook Page:

Facebook video post

A short video post can be very compelling if your product has strong visual appeal. Since videos start to play automatically in the viewer’s News Feed, even a video that’s only a few seconds long can be a great way to catch someone’s eye. What ice cream lover wouldn’t pause for a moment over this video from Haagen-Dazs?

Longer video posts have emerged as a form of highly shareable social content that can rack up thousands—or even millions—of views. Buzzfeed’s Tasty recipe videos are a prime example:

With people now watching 100 million hours of video on Facebook every single day, it’s clear that video posts can be an important way to connect with followers. Check out our 4 key ingredients of a perfect social video to get the most out of your Facebook video posts.

Facebook Live video

Facebook Live video is, not surprisingly, video broadcast live on Facebook. It can be a great way to interact with followers, or give them a behind-the-scenes look at your company, your product, or some of the key personalities involved with your brand. It’s also a great format to share announcements in real time, like this announcement of the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience tour:

Keep in mind that anything can happen when you go live, so be sure to prepare ahead of time by reading our complete guide to Facebook Live video.

Linked content post

A linked content post is exactly what it sounds like—a post that links to content outside of Facebook, like on your website or blog. This is probably the easiest kind of Facebook post to create—but you still need to think strategically.

To create a linked content post, all you need to do is copy and paste a link into the status box. Facebook will automatically pull the meta description and photo, so you get a great-looking post with very little effort. Then just add some text to tell readers why they should click through, and you’re set. While you’ll want to use most of your linked posts to share your own content, it can also work well to share content from other thought leaders in your industry. For example, Entrepreneur Magazine shared our post on how to create compelling Instagram captions.

So, how can you figure out exactly what to post about? One great way to learn what might resonate with your audience is to engage in social listening. Seeking out information about what your customers, potential customers, fans, and even competitors are saying and posting online can provide some extremely valuable insights. What do existing customers love about your company or your products? What challenges are people having that you know your product could help them address? How can you differentiate yourself from the competition? These are all questions that social listening can help you answer through your Facebook posts.

Have you Tweeted content that’s getting a great response? Share it on Facebook, too. Have a page on your blog that’s always getting new comments? That’s another Facebook post contender. For the best results, be sure to share your content using cross-promotion, rather than straight cross-posting.

Pinned post

A pinned post is simply a regular post that you “pin” to the top of your Facebook Page so it isn’t bumped down when you post new content.

You know that one piece of content that soars above the rest, that really captures your brand and shows potential followers exactly why they should Like your Page? Well, pin it.

You can also use this space to share important news, showcase an amazing video, raise awareness about a current campaign, or anything else that will get potential followers excited about engaging with your brand on Facebook. You can tell a post is pinned when you see a little blue thumbtack icon on the top left of the post.

Facebook marketing guide

You can only have one pinned post at a time, but you can change your pinned post as often as you like.

Step 4: Ramp up your Facebook Likes and followers

You’ve got your Facebook Page up and running, and you’ve started to populate it with great, compelling content using a variety of Facebook post types to meet your goals. Now it’s time to increase your Page’s visibility to get more followers, and increase the engagement with your posts.

First, make it easy for people you already interact with through other channels to find your Facebook Page. Link to your Facebook Page in your email signature and your branded communications (like your email newsletter). And incorporate Facebook Like and Share buttons on your website and blog to make it easy for people to find, follow, and share your Page with just one click.

On that note, make sure the content you post to Facebook is highly shareable. There’s no better way to expand your organic reach than by posting content that’s so great your followers share it for you. According to a study by the New York Times Customer Insight and Advertising Groups, “marketers should be focused on providing content that enhances consumers’ relationships with one another”—in other words, create valuable and entertaining content that followers with be happy to share with their connections.

It bears repeating here that Facebook is a social network. If Facebook users who try to interact with your brand are met with radio silence, you’re hardly playing fair at the “social” part of the social networking game. Being actively involved on your Facebook Page is key to creating engagement with followers. After all, if you’re not engaged with your Page, why should your followers be? Followers who find themselves talking into a void will quickly catch on and head for more interactive Pages. Your mantra here is reply, reply, reply.

Finally, part of maintaining a quality Page that encourages Likes is making sure it stays up to date. Schedule a monthly audit of your Page to check for and remove any outdated content, and to make sure your About section is accurate, current, and on-brand.

You can find more detailed strategies for increasing Likes and followers in our posts with 8 strategies for getting more Facebook Likes and 14 Facebook hacks.

Step 5. Consider creating a Facebook Group

Once you’ve started to build up your Facebook Page following, you may want to consider adding a Facebook Group to your Facebook marketing plan. With more than one billion people using Facebook Groups every month, it’s an audience too large to ignore. Think of Groups as the online equivalent of the office water cooler or your favorite coffee shop. They provide a place for people to get together to share information and ideas with like-minded users in an online community environment.

Creating your own Facebook Group can be an effective way to gather your fans in one place and encourage them to interact with one another, building an active community of people talking about your business. It’s also a key way to gather customer intelligence: what are people really saying about you? It’s like a focus group with unlimited members, and you can dive right in to facilitate conversation or ask questions.

Facebook Groups can also be a prime way to showcase your knowledge and experience while building important connections with your most engaged audience—after all, it’s a chance for them to interact directly with you. For example, Shirley Weir of Menopause Chicks offers a private Facebook Group as a place for women in her key demographic to come together and talk about highly personal topics, building trust and a sense of community while highlighting her expertise.

Facebook marketing

Your Group doesn’t have to be huge to create a lot of engagement: Between posts and comments, the 3,200 members of the Menopause Chicks Private Community Group generated 8,000 interactions in the month of August alone.

You can find step-by-step instructions on how to set up your own Facebook Group in our Facebook Groups 101 post.

Sometimes fans will create their own Facebook Group with a focus on your brand (search Facebook Groups for FitBit to see this in action). It’s a good idea to join these groups to make sure that the conversation is positive and factual, but in general this is a great thing, since it shows your brand has a dedicated fan base that’s really into what you do!

Step 6. Incorporate Facebook ads

Since the Facebook algorithm prioritizes content from users’ friends and family, you can’t assume that all—or even a majority—of your followers will see your posts organically. That’s where Facebook Ads come in.

Much like an ad on any other channel—traditional or digital—a Facebook Ad is basically content that you pay to share with a specific, targeted audience: it’s all about getting your brand in front of the right eyeballs and achieving your conversion goals. Because of their combination of a huge global audience and incredibly detailed targeting options, Facebook ads are highly effective: 95.8 percent of social media marketers say that Facebook offers the best ROI of all the social platforms.

Facebook has advertising options designed for business goals both on and off the network, from brand awareness and engagement to app installs and store visits. This video provides an overview of how to set up a Facebook ad campaign:

You can get more detailed instructions on how to launch a targeted Facebook advertising campaign in our complete guide to advertising on Facebook.

An important note here: Even if you don’t plan to use Facebook ads right away, it’s a good idea to set yourself up with a Facebook pixel now, so you’ll have access to important data when you are ready to launch your first campaign. A Facebook pixel is a simple piece of code that you place on your website to track conversions, remarket to people who have already visited your website, and build targeted custom audiences for future ads. The pixel will start collecting data as soon as you place it on your site, so you’ll have remarketing and custom audience information ready to go when you start your first campaign.

Step 7. Track, measure, and refine

The very first step in this guide was to set measurable goals. Now it’s time to look at how to gather the information you need to check your results against your plans, so you can see what worked and what didn’t—and how you can improve your strategy in the future.

You can track audience engagement with content on your Facebook Page through Facebook Insights, which allows you to measure Likes, reach (how many people saw your posts), and engagement (how many people liked, clicked, shared, or commented). You can also see which of your posts result in people unliking your Page, which provides critical information about what is not working.

Facebook Insights will also help you determine which post types are working best for your Page, so you can evaluate whether your current mix is working. There’s plenty more you can learn from Facebook Insights, and we’ve got all the details in our Beginner’s Guide to Facebook Analytics and Insights.

For actions outside of Facebook (like purchase conversions), you’ll need to use tools like Google Analytics, Hootsuite Impact, and UTM parameters. That may sound complicated, but we’ve created a detailed guide that walks you through the process.

Beyond simply tracking your success, it’s important to use the information about what’s working and what’s not to make adjustments to your strategy. The data will show you what you should keep doing, and which tactics you need to tweak. Through this continuous loop of goal-setting, measuring results, and tweaking your strategy, you can improve your Facebook marketing performance over time.

Once you’ve got the strategies in this Facebook marketing guide nailed, you can expand your Facebook marketing efforts by using Facebook to generate leads for your sales team, launching a Facebook contest, and incorporating Facebook Messenger to communicate with followers one-on-one and through chatbots.

There’s a lot to learn when it comes to Facebook marketing, and it might all seem a little overwhelming at first. The good news is you can get started simply without investing a dime and branch out into more complex strategies and paid campaigns as you gain more expertise.

Manage your Facebook presence by using Hootsuite to schedule posts, share video, engage with followers, and measure the impact of your efforts. Try it free today.

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How to Get More Out of Social Media—Tips from an Expert

If you’re building a social media strategy it can be hard to know where to start—or how to make it pay off in the long run.

In this episode of the Hootsuite podcast, we chat with digital marketing expert Amber Naslund about how to get the most out of your social strategy. Amber is the coauthor of best-selling business book The NOW Revolution, former SVP of marketing for Sysomos and advisor to Fortune 500 companies like AmEx, Coca-Cola, and Kraft Foods. She now works at Hootsuite as the senior director of industry leadership.

In this podcast you’ll learn:

  • The trick to getting more from your social investment
  • Social engagements tips for marketers
  • What metrics you should be tracking
  • Cools brands on social that you wouldn’t expect

Press play to hear the show in its entirety, or if you don’t have a set of headphones handy, read the transcription of our conversation below.

Q&A with digital marketing expert Amber Naslund

You’re an influencer and you’ve built your brand on social. What advice can you give to someone who is trying to build their brand?

I think having something to say is important, and then finding a platform to say it on. Back in the day I chose blogging, and I like to write so that’s what I did. And I didn’t set out to accumulate followers or an audience, I just really wanted to connect and help people who were dealing with the same kinds of problems that I was.

You need to have a perspective and be willing to get out there to engage with people and have conversations. It’s not so easy to do but it’s the one thing that drives everything else.

So having a clear purpose and message and putting out content that’s in line with that?

Yeah, and finding the problems or questions people have and looking for answers.

Have you found that there are some quick wins on social? Easy things that you can do that give you a good return?

No. And I think that’s the answer everybody hates. When people ask, “Are there quick things you can do to be successful?” And my answer is always, “No, it’s time, consistency, and repetition.” So having a consistent voice, being willing to create content, invest the time and doing it well. Not trying for shortcuts. You know, not trying to make something that goes viral or make something that’s super overly clever.

It really is about time and consistency, because having credibility in a space is a lot more about the long game than the short one.

What you’re saying is, marketers get stuck focusing on quick wins instead of looking at the long game?

Yeah, I think so. And I actually think looking for the quick wins can lead people into frustration because they’re chasing every new tool or platform, or they’re trying to emulate something that worked for somebody else and create an instant success. And there is no such thing.

I mean when I started, really people started noticing what I was doing back in 2004 or 2005, and then when I started to gain a following and an audience online, I’d already been blogging for ten years. So that ‘overnight’ success actually took me a decade.

What is your day to day like on social? How much time do you spend listening, engaging, curating, creating original content, posting original content? Does it fluctuate? Is it different or do you have a bit of a formula?

It’s actually changed quite a bit over the years, and today – I usually spend probably an hour or so in the morning over coffee. I use Flipboard a lot and go through topics that are of interest to me. I use Twitter a lot as a news feed. I have some of my searches set up in Hootsuite to watch for particular topics.

And I spend an hour of the day just kind of consuming that stuff, and then I spend probably another half an hour sharing stuff, both through my own Hootsuite platform. But that’s not a ton of my day.

How much time would you say that you spend throughout the rest of the day engaging on social?

I treat social media kind of the same way I do text messages. They’re always in the background. I usually have a tab open with my Facebook stuff, or I’ve got my Hootsuite columns up and my notifications pinging.

And I’m definitely always keeping half an eye on the engagement side of things because I know from experience that if you just pump a bunch of stuff out there and then don’t ever connect with the people who are communicating with you, you lose a lot of momentum and you lose a lot of relationships that are really valuable.

Do you have a favorite brand on social or was there a campaign that you saw recently that you really loved?

I have a couple, and they’re not the ones you would expect. One of the consumer brands that most people know is Lowe’s. I’m a bit of a home renovation junkie, and Lowe’s does amazing stuff. They’re one of the few brands that can quickly hop on a new tool or platform and do it really well and thoughtfully.

Vine is dead now but Lowe’s used to do this Fix in Six, a six-second video of little home reno projects, and they make it in a minute on Facebook. And they’ve adapted some of that to Snapchat. They’re really clever about using the uniqueness of those platforms to really shine. So I’m always impressed by what they do.

One of my favourite Facebook pages is actually the Police Department in Bangor, Maine. They are hilarious and so human it’s unbelievable. They talk about goofy arrests they had to make or things going on in the town.

They probably have some good stories.

Oh, it’s great, and it’s so small-town feeling. I mean they have an enormous following because people absolutely love what they do. You don’t have to be the traditional consumer brand to make an impact on social like they’re doing. And they picked one platform—Facebook—and focus on doing it really, really well. And it’s awesome.

And there’s a couple of other ones, like Royal Dutch Airlines does some really cool stuff online, and they do a lot of surprise and delight kind stuff with their customers.

Surprise and delight is something that we’ve actually talked about on this show before, but would you mind—just in your own words—going into that a little bit and what some of the advantages of that strategy are?

Yeah, sure. It’s really a very customer-focused idea where you’re paying attention to what your consumers are doing and how they’re either buying your stuff or engaging with your brand, and finding special little moments for people to feel seen and recognized.

So whether it’s thanking them for their business or showing up when they’ve had a bad day with a plate of warm cookies or whatever it is, to make them feel noticed and special. Because a lot of customers can feel like one in a sea of numbers and that they’re treated in volume, not individually.

So it’s taking those moments to find individuals and make them feel valued.

Absolutely. The beauty of doing that stuff through social channels is the audience that comes with it. So if you do something to connect with someone, you’re also benefiting by giving the warm fuzzies to the rest of your audience who is going, “Oh, I just observed something really cool.” And that in turn opens their minds to your company.

If you were given full control of a brand’s social strategy, what’s the first thing that you would do?

Believe it or not, the first thing I do is pare it down. Because I think most people try to do too much, and as a result their efforts are really deluded. I’d also do a solid audit of what’s happening and what we’re focusing on, and where we’re finding a success.

And I tend to pare things down to a few essential elements that we can repeat, do really well all the time, and do at scale. I think a lot of brands want to be everywhere and be everything to everyone, and that’s not a recipe for success on social. So if anything I’m the one who’s going to bring it back a few notches.

I think that’s really good advice, because a big problem for digital marketers is that there are so many new platforms coming out. There are always new tools and tactics, and I think people are getting really overwhelmed with the idea of having to be on all these different channels. And you can’t do them all well.

No question, and there’s already such an enormous amount of content and noise and people vying for attention, that I think the answer is not to be a sledgehammer but to look for the scalpel, where you can get really precise with the audiences you can reach and the kind of content you can do well, and do that. It’s much more effective in the long run.

From what you’ve seen and where things are now, do you have any predictions for social over the next couple of years?

I think artificial intelligence is going to make a massive impact in marketing. It’s already starting with little things, like bots.

It’s such a powerful set of technologies and capabilities, with the data that comes out of that. I think marketers have always struggled to quantify the value of our efforts. How do we know that marketing actually drove that sale or acquired that customer? I think as intelligence, artificial or otherwise, gets even deeper—and the more data we have—the smarter we get about what we can do.

Thank you for coming in and speaking with us. It’s been great.

Listen to the Full Episode

How to make sure your local search marketing is up to scratch

For local businesses, having a strong presence in local search results is fundamental to those all-important conversions.

Just to be clear, a “local business” refers to any business that has either a physical location that offers face-to-face contact with the customer, such as a showroom or shop, or one that offers a face-to-face service within a certain area.

When it comes to local search, it’s simple: if searchers can’t find you on the web, then frankly, you don’t exist. It’s the way of the modern world.

It’s all very well dominating the SERPs for your more general target keywords, but if you fail to rank highly for location-specific terms then you are missing an almighty opportunity.

When users are searching for a local term, they are far more likely to be looking for a service or product. Hence why the conversions on local search tend to be higher, and why you need to ensure that your local search engine marketing is up to scratch.

Of course all the usual SEO 101 stuff applies. Offer an unrivaled user experience, nail your on-site optimization, provide exceptional content and build quality links.

Those fundamentals will set you up for ranking well for local search terms, but there are extra steps you must take to differentiate yourself from the competition and really bolster your local SEM strategy.

Local business listings

The first place to start is with local business listings. Ensure that your business is included in all the major directories (Yell, Yelp, Thomson Local, etc.), as well as any industry specific ones. Some listings may already exist, and it may just be a case of claiming your business so that you can take ownership of the listing.

We recommend keeping track of all your business listings in one comprehensive spreadsheet to save you repeating or forgetting any entries. It also enables you to be consistent (more on this in the next point) in your information across all listings.

Remove all duplicated entries, as multiple listings for one business or location can become confusing, both to potential customers but also to Google. And we certainly don’t want to be confusing the Big G.

Be thorough but don’t be reckless. Avoid spammy directories as these could have a detrimental effect on your SEO. Deploy a spot of common sense to identify the spammy directories but if you are really unsure then it’s worth checking the spam score via Moz’s Open Site Explorer or via other similar tools.

Google My Business

So this technically falls under business listings, but it’s so important we’ve given Google My Business it’s own subheading. Arguably the most important business listing because, well, it’s Google. Remember to implement the following:

  • Claim your business via a verification process
  • Include accurate information: contact details, location and opening hours
  • Carefully select a small number of highly relevant categories to represent your business
  • Ensure up-to-date branding, such as in any images of logos or premises
  • Use high quality images to represent the business

Be comprehensive and accurate in the information you provide in order to strengthen your Google My Business profile and improve your chances of being featured in Google’s three-pack.

For further information, have a read of Google’s guidelines on representing your business. Don’t forget to also cover off the equivalent for Bing and Yahoo with Bing Places and Yahoo! Local.

NAP consistency

NAP consistency sounds a like a fancy term but the concept is very simple. NAP stands for Name, Address and Phone number, although it is sometimes expanded to NAP+W to include website address too. As mentioned above, it is crucial that your business information appears consistently across the web.

This is particularly important to consider if your business has changed address, contact details or even rebranded. Any mentions of your business will need to be checked and updated to ensure accuracy.

Simply google your business name (do the same with your previous business name if you have undergone a name change) and work your way through the listings. Maintain a spreadsheet of your progress so you can keep track.

Reviews

Reviews can bring both utter joy and absolute misery to any business owner. Unfortunately you cannot simply ignore them, as reviews are indeed used as ranking signals in the eyes of the search engine. This is especially true for your Google My Business reviews.

Not only are reviews important in terms of local rankings, they are also key in terms of click-through rates. According to a recent study by BrightLocal, 74 per cent of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more.

Apart from providing the most incredible customer service you can muster, how else can you seize some control over your reviews? No, this isn’t about getting your mum, brother and great-nan to write a review for your business. It’s about a bit of gentle encouragement and managing a bad customer experience before it reaches the review stage.

It is also important to check the rules and regulations of each review platform, as they all have very different policies on asking customers for reviews and responding to them.

We’ve had several clients who have received a negative one-off, anonymous review that is either quite clearly spam, or in some cases, a bitter competitor or personal enemy. These situations can get a bit sticky, but sadly there isn’t an awful lot you can do.

Generally people won’t be deterred by one bad review, and the best course of action is to encourage other happy customers to get reviewing. This will push the bad review down and push the average star rating back up.

Many review platforms allow you to reply to reviews. This can be a good opportunity to set the record straight but you have to be careful about it. For this reason, sometimes it is best to get someone who is not as emotionally invested in the business to either write the response or edit it before it gets published. Be professional, remain calm, and kill them with kindness.

Location pages

If you don’t already have location pages on your website, then you could be missing a valuable opportunity to target all the relevant locations. For each key location that your business operates within, create a page dedicated to that location on your website. This is easier if you have a unique physical address in each location, as it is important to include as much location-specific information as possible.

Where there is a physical location, be sure to include an interactive map and images to further enhance the page. If you do not have separate physical addresses, try including testimonials and case studies relevant to each location.

This will help you to avoid duplicating content across your location pages; it’s a fine art to differentiate the copy, but do it right and it can have seriously good effects on your local SEM strategy.

Schema markup

Once you have your location pages set up, the cherry on the cake is schema markup. The whole concept of structured data can sound very daunting to markup newbies, but it’s easier than it sounds. Schema markup simply helps search engines to understand what your website is about.

This is particularly important for local information, as it will help those spiders crawl your location pages and you’ll benefit as a result.

According to a study by Searchmetrics, pages with schema markup rank an average of four positions higher in search results. Now that’s a pretty good incentive. Get your head around schema markup and you’ll have that crucial advantage over your competitors in the local search results.

Ensuring your local search marketing strategy is up to scratch needn’t be difficult or convoluted. Follow the above steps and obey the usual SEO rules. With some hard work and perseverance, you’ll start dominating those coveted top spots and see your conversions skyrocket in no time.

Related reading

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How to write blog headlines that drive search traffic

Content marketing is a highly viable digital marketing strategy, designed to attract and drive traffic to your website or specific landing pages.

But you could be the best writer and still not attract qualified readers (or worse, any at all). The importance of an effective, attractive headline cannot be overstated.

Think of your audiences as hunters and gatherers. They’re constantly scanning and searching online for what they need. And most of the time they don’t find it.

A good headline that catches their attention and entices them to click through to read the rest solves their problem – and creates coveted lead generation opportunities for you.

Make headline writing (and perfection) a key component of your content marketing strategy. Follow these simple rules and you’ll appeal to audiences as well as search engines.

1. Use keywords

But just one. Including keywords in your headlines is important, as major search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing will place more emphasis on the versus the content itself. It might be tempting to create a witty headline, but save it for print.

If it doesn’t contain any context about the blog’s main message, there’s a good chance it will get buried in your website – and certainly won’t be found by a search engine.

2. Appeal to emotions

According to Copyblogger, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest (sad, but true).

You have one chance to get your reader to click; using power words will help. The Headline Analyzer tool from CoSchedule recommends using a balance of common, uncommon, emotional and power words to captivate your audience. Phrases like “what happens when” and “you need to” compel readers to discover the benefit of the article.

Which brings us to…

3. Be clear – and avoid clickbait

You’re working so hard to build trust with your audience – through everything you do. Don’t ruin it with a misleading headline just to get people to read a piece of content.

Consider the headline of this article. It is direct and to the point, letting you know exactly what you’ll learn from reading the piece. Headlines that let readers know they will find a solution to their problems, learn how to do something or receive an answer to their question provide a known benefit.

A confusing or unclear headline, on the other hand, could result in a prospective reader exiting your page and moving onto the next search result because they didn’t find the information they were looking for, also known as a “bounce.” While Google may not use bounce rate as a ranking factor, it means that the user won’t be discovering any of the other great content that’s on your site, let alone converting or doing anything else there.

4. Know your audience

What type of information is your target audience likely to be searching for? The best headlines are ones your audience will find value in because they’re focused on their wants and needs.

There are formulas to help with this: (definition + guide to + action + keyword + promise). An example headline made using this guide could be: “A free guide to designing successful infographics for B2B companies“.

5. Think in numbers

A list is often more compelling, because readers then have a clearer idea of what to expect. For example, “3 ways to attract more customers” or “5 healthy foods you should be eating for breakfast” lets readers know exactly what to expect from the article and delivers a benefit in a compelling manner. They also signal to readers whether they’re about to read a lengthy or brief article.

According to research by Outbrain, odd numbers attract on average a 20% higher click rate than even numbers, as the asymmetry makes them more likely to grab the reader’s attention.

6. Use words that captivate

In addition to strong keywords, using positive adjectives can also increase engagement. Try using words like “free,” “easy,” and “new” which generate more audience engagement. (Who doesn’t love free, easy and new information?)

Another best practice is to use phrases that suggest urgency, specificity and exclusivity, because readers want to get the “scoop” on information before anyone else.

7. Keep it short and sweet

Lastly, keeping the headline short enables your target audience to read the headline quickly, improving its chances of getting noticed before others. Email subject lines have their own specific guidelines too, but keep email in mind when crafting article headlines. If you’re sharing your blog posts via email newsletter, recipients will only see the first half of a sentence in the preview text.

The world of blogging is competitive, but search rankings make it easier for readers to find your content – and the answers they’re looking for.

Of course, the list above isn’t the holy grail of headline writing; there are additional strategies you might try in order to increase the effectiveness of your headlines, and in turn, improve your click-through rate and overall ROI. But you need to start somewhere.

Incorporate these practices into your regular blogging strategy, and you’ll start seeing more mileage from your content.

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