When it comes to marketing for your business, there are two fundamentally different approaches, and focusing on one may be better suited to your business plan. Find out how vertical markets and horizontal markets differ, learn which aspects are similar, and determine which approach to marketing may be the right focus for your business’s marketing plan.
What Is a Vertical Market?
A vertical market is a set of goods or services focused on meeting the needs of one niche, service, or industry. For example, a business selling textbooks and supplies for classrooms has focused completely on the education industry and its associated range of schools. Another example is a business that produces professional grade table saws. That business has chosen to focus exclusively on the construction and home handyman niches.
Often, businesses focusing on vertical marketing appeal to other businesses in that industry. They can choose to widen their vertical target by offering more items in their industry of focus, or building control over steps in the production process. This may mean producing some of the components required to manufacture their original product as well.
What Is a Horizontal Market?
By contrast a horizontal market is a set of goods or services focused on meeting the needs of numerous individuals across several industries or markets. For example, a paper goods supplier can sell to a number of different industries as well as local consumers needing paper for home printers. Another example is a business providing security services; stores, schools, banks, and many more business types across several industries have a need for security officers, and a business that provides them would have a horizontal market.
Horizontal market businesses would not be likely to sell vertically to other businesses of the same type, since other paper suppliers do not typically have a need for outside product and other security firms do not typically have a need for security. However, they may choose to expand horizontally and offer services to more types of industries.
Which Approach Is Right for Your Company’s Growth?
Both markets offer room for expansion. As mentioned, you can expand your business vertically by increasing focus into a specific niche or looking to see how you can offer services or products to other businesses in the same industry. A common theme in expansion seems to be: “always expand your vertical.” Your business is already in that particular niche, has made connections, and built clientele, so without spending more marketing dollars, you may be able to increase revenue.
Vertical expansion is digging deeper into the niche market by offering more services to that market and gaining a greater market share. This is often done by building new products, or acquiring part of the supply chain, as Salesforce did with ExactTarget (the email marketing software that recently acquired Pardot, thus also being absorbed into the Salesforce suite). [Learn more about Salesforce acquisitions here.]
Horizontal expansion, however, is purported to be easier. Offering the same set of products to new industries requires no new manufacturing expenses and may lead to dominating the market for your product or service. Your business may also be able to partner with other businesses to reduce competition or seek joint opportunities. In addition, you can market your product or service to a general audience, increasing the types of products you can offer existing customers.
Example: You offer a writing service to fishing and fishing-related businesses. Horizontal expansion would be to offer your service to related industries, such as hunting, conservation, wildlife and traditions, as this Outdoor writer has.
Chances are your business has potential to grow in both horizontal and vertical markets. Reflect on the products or services you offer and compare the potential of offering them to businesses or individuals within your industry or more products across a wider range of industries.
Whether you’re looking to expand your marketing horizontally or vertically, Master Web Creations can help you gain visibility and increase your conversion rate. Contact us for more information.
The basic aims of marketing is three-fold. First, you must locate potential customers who may have an interest in your product or service. Then, you need to engage with potential customers and make them aware that your brand exists. Third, you must drive their interest in purchasing.
However, it is impossible to take any of those steps without data. Without data, you’ll have trouble identifying consumer needs, or how potential consumers access your information. You’ll miss consumer trends that can help guide your marketing dollars toward the current and most effective strategies, or risk pouring money into strategies that don’t work. In other words, data should be the driving force behind all of your marketing decisions.
How Is Marketing Data Collected?
To get a better understanding of data-driven marketing, a basic understanding of where data comes from is a key factor. Some data types consistently used by online marketers include:
- Captured data. Captured data generally refers to all data based on consumer behavior. Businesses typically use Google Analytics to compile data such as clicks; in addition, queries entered into a Google search result in data such as keyword frequency, location, and more.
- Transactional data. Purchases produce transactional data, and they can tell a business which products consumers are buying, which retailers experience the highest volume, and more.
- User-generated data. User-generated data is collected by simple observation of users’ reactions and interactions on social media sites, or on rating sites like Yelp or Foursquare. This data can help gauge consumer opinion.
- Collected data. A consumer filling out a survey, pre-purchase lead, or some other form generates collected data. The data collected may be contact or demographic information that helps a business gauge which populations are showing interest.
- Compiled data. Compiled data refers to a larger set of data, such as census or internet usage data, which can reveal larger trends.
- Created data. Created data refers to a set of data produced by a company’s individual research. For example, a business could choose to perform a study or form a focus group to gather data about a population’s reaction to a new product.
How Do Companies Use Data?
In order to more effectively reach consumers, a business will analyze a set of data to determine the information collected. For example, a recent survey revealed that only 25% of potential customers are willing to pay more for faster shipping – a rate that dropped over 20% from two years ago. A business wanting to increase online sales would determine whether its shipping rates are competitive, and whether changes to the tiers of shipping it offers would generate more purchases.
As always, however, you must weigh marketing data against existing data. Perhaps the business in the previous example stands to take on significant expense by absorbing customer shipping costs. The business would then need to determine if the expected increased revenue (yet another set of data) would be substantial enough to offset the additional shipping.
Another killer example of a data-driven marketing strategy is that of Greenpal, a Nashville lawn care service. Their Google Ad campaign targeted the entire metro area, with a resulting CTR over 1% and conversion rate over 10%. These are good numbers but there was room for improvement. The CEO of Greenpal and his team found that a market segment in a particular area was a price-sensitive demographic. They targeted those zip codes with a cost-friendly appeal and an appropriate landing page. This resulted in a 200% increase in CTR and 30% improvement on conversions.
Why Should Your Business Use Marketing Data?
You can use properly analyzed data to make decisions about where your marketing dollars are best spent. If consumers in your target market tend to spend a great deal of time on social media, analysis of data from their usage patterns, the types of ads they watch, and the types of content they share can help you invest in the strategies that are most likely to reach them. Likewise, if data reveals that your business blog posts aren’t producing as many click-throughs to your website as you’d like, you can seek additional data to guide your changes or focus your attention elsewhere to drive consumer reach.
If you’re ready to see how data-driven marketing can help maximize your business’s marketing budget, reach out to us today.
By now, every business owner should be aware that Google is the pervasive online search engine, netting just over 92% of all searches worldwide. However, with Google’s official blog announcing in 2015 that it has begun ranking websites based on their mobile site, and mobile searches hovering around 50%, the possibility of users searching while on the go is higher than ever.
When a mobile user enters a query for “widgets near me” or “best widgets in Funtown”, you want your business to prominently feature on the user’s search engine results page, or SERP. How are users making these local searches in 2019? How does this affect the way you approach your SEO? A look at these 5 trends could find some key points you’ve missed.
- Voice search. Voice search is growing – 30% of mobile users say they’ve used voice search in the past year, and the ubiquitous nature of Siri, Alexa, and the Google Assistant means that growth isn’t likely to slow any time soon. As a result, businesses may need to reconsider some of the keywords commonly used in marketing. Consider including phrases which more naturally fit the spoken word rather than the short and to-the-point language often used when typing into search engines.
- Page speed. Google announced last year that it would begin using mobile-first indexing when ranking websites for SERPs, using mobile page speed instead of desktop speed to determine site rank. Consider a potential customer, on the go and searching for your business’s product on their mobile device; if your page load time is too slow, your business won’t appear in the relatively small selection of websites that show on a mobile device. Consequently, you could miss a potential customer. In addition, customers report leaving pages that take too long to load, bouncing off most pages in under 4 seconds. Even if your business appears in the top several search results, you may still need to address your mobile page speed.
- Local listings. In order for Google or other search engines to return your business website as a good, local search result to meet a consumer’s needs, it must be able to find your business in local directories. This may mean inclusion on local review sites like Yelp, Foursquare, TripAdvisor or others, or simple listings in the Yellow Pages and Apple Maps. Your SEO should include optimizing your business’s inclusion in your 2019 plan to make sure you’re visible in local searches, as well as eliminating duplicate listings and checking contact information for accuracy.
- Google My Business. These short, to-the-point business listings are now commonplace on any local Google search. Businesses can input business category, contact information and opening hours as well as uploading photos, menus, and website links – ensure these are correct so users searching a specific category or opening time will access your My Business listing. Google users can then rate your business, increasing your business’s chances of visibility. An empty My Business listing can make your business appear closed or out-of-date; a lack of business information can lead the consumer to choose another business with fully fleshed-out information.
- User reviews. It’s no surprise that consumers trust businesses with positive reviews more than those with no reviews or with poor ones. As mentioned, Google uses positive reviews on sites like Yelp and Foursquare as quality local listings that can up your position on SERPs. In addition, users viewing positive local reviews on your website itself are more likely to choose your business over local competitors. Finally, your Google My Business page features a 5-star rating system directly within the block, as well as the option for users to expand and read written reviews. Positive reviews right on the SERP can help drive local users to choose your business over others without the same data.
These 5 trends for 2019 are certainly not the only SEO information you’ll need going into the new year, but may be just the boost your business needs to be competitive. Increasing your visibility to your local market can help you gain the edge on local competitors and give you the opportunity to win the customers nearest you.
Are you interested in learning more about how your business can gain more local visibility? Learn more at MasterWebCreations.com and Contact us ~ we’ll be glad to help.
Read the long-form article here: How to Make Content Matter: Content Strategy
In Part One: Content Strategy, we talked in detail about what a content strategy is, and how to create one. Now that you’ve decided what you want to do, you can make a plan to execute that strategy with a content marketing plan.
Content marketing is a program for creating, publishing and distributing content to attract customers. It is the link between brand awareness and lead generation. The content marketing program provides a strong foundation of content throughout the buying process which nurtures ongoing interest and builds trust.
Common components of content marketing include social media, blogs, visual content and premium content such as downloads and webinars.
Other parts of your marketing plan may include pay per click, which offers instant gratification through constant investment.
Content marketing keeps working after the initial investment. Published content will continue to convert even after you delete the content.
Both components work well together and complement one another, especially when baked into your well-balanced marketing plan diet. It is a long-term commitment that requires engagement and collaboration to see it through and succeed.
Step 1: Content marketing leadership
The budget and business structure determine the leading personnel, and you may have already identified them in the comprehensive content strategy. Executing the content marketing plan is at the top-of-the-funnel, where the conversion and closing funnel activities occur in email marketing or conversion optimization.
Most small businesses will have all marketing content and conversion funnel activities delegated to a single person. Ensure they are the right people to share your vision, create content, design images, follow best practices and perform optimization and audits. Make sure they know what you expect as the small business owner. The details of the content strategy keep you on track towards your goals.
Step 2: Hiring a content marketer
Your specialist depends on your business needs. Some options include a blogger, a content creator to create and fulfill projects, an SEO specialist to identify opportunities or a creative social media manager.
Master Web Creations offers content development for small businesses and social media management following SEO best practices on WordPress websites.
If you have not reviewed your business plan and the content strategy, do it now, again. Verify your user personas align with your target audience demographics, and that the content types are on point. Review your content gap analysis and make sure your content is customer focused and that it maps to a point in the buying process. Follow your content strategy consistently! Provide genuine, unique and useful content.
Step 3: Content Marketing Tools & Technology
- A content management system (CMS), such as WordPress, removes the cost of an in-house or outsourced engineer for content marketing and website management.
- Analytics measure your content performance against goals. Most people use Google Analytics because it easily integrates with other Google properties, such as AdWords and Google My Business (GMB), though there are other website traffic monitoring services available.
- Project management software, such as Trello and many other options, help organize content, set deadlines and attach files. The following project management SAAS offerings have been reviewed for content marketers (as of 10/2017):
- Trello: free (upgrade with Mailchimp integration for $9.99/mo)
- teamwork.com: $69/mo.
- zoho.com: $25/mo.
- freedcamp.com: free
- avaza.com: $9.95/mo
- producteev.com: free
- kanbanflow.com: $5/user
- meistertask.com: $8.49/user (has limited use free version)
- Design software for presentations, cover photos, social images, infographics. If you don’t have a budget for Adobe Creative Suite, you can try Canva. There are also templates and guides for using PowerPoint to create infographics.
Step 4: Create Content
With multiple types of content assets to create, multiple people may be involved. Your strategy will become more refined as team members work toward a common goal over time.
- Blog posts: writer(s) collaborate with premium asset creators to write blog posts about those assets, and work with the SEO specialist to optimize conversions. Content types include how-to’s, lists, industry change discussion, timely news content related to business themes, infographics and slideshows.
- Premium assets: creators generate long-form content such as research reports, webinars, templates and tools to generate leads and build brand identity.
- Visual content: a designer can create templates for premium assets, but social media managers or bloggers can create complementary visuals such as infographics, slide decks or videos.
Remember to follow best practices: create content that helps solve problems, covers multiple formats and is deployed across multiple channels and devices.
Step 5: Distribute Content
The SEO Specialist should be involved in the content strategy to determine long tail keyword phrases based on domain authority, as well as set up, train or audit CMS end users to follow SEO best practices. Ensure your Google Search Console is configured to monitor your website search status.
Social signals can contribute to your search engine ranking, though it is not as important to Google as other engagement factors. Remember that the small business owner is not only the leader of their own content marketing, but also an influencer in their industry.
Some other content promotion platforms, tools and ideas include Buffer, Workado, CoSchedule (wp plugin), Udemy and Visual.ly
You can also share relevant content from other thought leaders to maintain your social connection.
Your email marketing list is a valuable asset. Remember to always treat your customers with respect towards their privacy. This is your end-of-the-sales-funnel opportunity to nudge them towards their purchase. Offer premium assets and discounts and continually grow your subscriber list.
Here, you can target your customers and draw those leads in by promoting your content with effective landing pages.
Step 6: Measure
The content strategy identified the goal metrics and responses. Report on those metrics monthly; continue doing what works and stop doing things that don’t.
Be consistent and patient – it takes time for you content to gain momentum. Promoting socially, it will have a limited life span on those platforms, but organically, the more you promote your content, earn links and improve engagement, the better the piece will perform.
Content Strategy Defines The Content Marketing Plan
What is the difference between a content marketing plan and a content strategy?
Content Marketing is the execution of the strategy. Content drives audience behavior through engagement.
Content Strategy is a discipline that involves managing the business assets – the content, its development and publication. The strategy identifies what needs to be done in a coordinated, cohesive and consistent system.
A strategy is a solution to move you from where you are now, to where you want to be (or, WHAT you want to do). The plan is how you will achieve the goal(s) (or, HOW you will do it).
What a content strategy is and what it isn’t
A content strategy is more than an SEO checklist, or monitoring metrics – time on site or pages per visit – to determine engagement. Content drives website design, marketing and customer exchanges. Content will not communicate metrics – content IS communication.
SEO is just one of many reasons to have a solid content strategy: consistent and meaningful content builds relationships (social), gains new customers (brand identity), encourages repeat customers (customer loyalty), and builds brand integrity and authority (organic SEO). It improves trust through value transparency, and reinforces the business’ core communications strategy.
Your content strategy is thereby a cohesive plan, with parts for multiple team players to coordinate, from content writers to marketing managers to the website development team. For small businesses, this can be two or three people: the owner, and the website/marketing manager, for example.
Content should follow Jakob Nielsen’s or the HHS’ content design Usability guidelines, especially improving user experience. The content draws the user to your business, and the website design allows people to access the content.
User experience encompasses all emotions, attitudes and experiences a user has around their interaction with a product, brand or company. In this context, content design usability is the ease of use of the information on the web.
There really are only four main guidelines for content design usability:
- Be succinct.
- Write for scannability. I’m not sure when the term was introduced, maybe in the late 90’s, but it is a commonly used industry term that hasn’t quite gained the vast array of citations required to be added to the dictionary. It means what it sounds like – capable of and practicable to scan. You can look at it quickly, and understand the information and determine whether the content meets your needs.
- Use hypertext to break up long content. Granted, these four guidelines are from the 1999 edition of Designing Web Usability, they all still stand, and, I dare say, are more important now than ever. You aren’t just ‘writing for the web’ any longer – you are designing content for devices. Usability is a core concept of multiple disciplines – User Experience, Human-Computer Interaction, and more – which are crossing boundaries between classic graphic design and software development. But, I digress – that’s a conversation for another time.
- Have a process to adhere to defined standards. This is where a content strategy will define those standards and identify management and maintenance roles, including, where applicable, a web editor.
As part of your strategic planning and content design, you’ll make decisions about preferred tools, and asset management. WordPress is a CMS – a Content Management System, so the question is not ‘what will my site look like’, it is ‘what content will this system manage?’ When should the website content be published? Who will manage the system? What will it look like for them?
This is what a content strategy is all about. The content strategy document will answer all of those questions; lead to more questions, and will guide the next step in answering more questions.
Your business plan includes your marketing plan, which drives the content strategy, which advises the content plan. Remember though, that the strategy only identifies what you want to achieve. It is up to your skilled team leaders to decide on how to achieve it, allowing them the ingenuity to adjust the plan when things go wrong, or are otherwise directing the outcome to less than desirable positive results. That is true business cohesion.
Create a Comprehensive Content Strategy
A content strategy aims to create sustainable, cohesive, engaging and meaningful content. It defines what content will be published and why you’re publishing it. It covers key themes and messages, recommended topics, content purpose (which reflects user needs and organization goals), content gap analysis, metadata frameworks and other content attributes, SEO, content management, publication and development recommendations; and explains how to accomplish the defined goals.
Your content strategy will:
a) identify goals and how to accomplish them,
b) persuade stakeholders of the importance of meaningful content and
c) create a content profile for future success.
Four components come together to build a successful content strategy:
|Audience, Message structure and tone|
Identify Goals: What content is required? Establish tone, audience and message structure.
|Content maintenance tasks, tools and roles|
Workflow and Roles: Follows the content lifecycle to identify daily tasks, tools and management/maintenance roles.
|Content organization, accessibility and details|
Establish Structure: Identify how to organize, prioritize and access content. Map message to content, create detailed page tables, content bridging.
|Guidelines for sustainability and evolution|
Standards and Policies: Establish guidelines, standards and policies for the content lifecycle. Also, identify how to evolve and sustain the content strategy.
In the end, the content strategy as a deliverable defines:
- Purpose (how content will meet both user needs and organization goals)
- Themes and messages
- Content gap analysis* (includes the content audit and competitive analyses)
- SEO metadata and other attributes
- Content management
- Publication and development recommendations
- Content distribution strategy (including email marketing), which then will guide the content marketing strategy
5 Stages of the Content Lifecycle
- Analysis and Audit: competitive and objective analyses, environment evaluation and stakeholder interviews where appropriate. Here you will identify the content using personas, scenarios and perform the content audit. You’ll also identify the governance and budget. For small businesses, this usually involves a meeting, or several, to gather user personas, determine responsible parties for process delegation, audit or monitoring and discuss budget and conversion goals. You’ll also perform the competitive content analysis and current content audit where applicable. A guide to the content audit can be found near the end of this article.
- Strategy: Taxonomies, content development process, voice and brand identity. Here you will establish key themes and topics and build the content calendar. What information is most useful, unique and current to the user audience?
- Plan: CMS, metadata, migration plan, communications plan. This is when you will specify CMS features like metadata and content models, and use a wireframe or sitemap to explain interaction and content.
- Creation: writing, SEO, quality assurance. You may not only choose to publish from scratch, here is your opportunity to aggregate and syndicate. Here you should specify SEO best practices. We include content best practices in this article below the wireframe diagram. No matter the content format, it is helpful to produce content 4-6 weeks in advance and then schedule publication. This provides a good foundation and allows more time for content production.
- Maintenance: auditing plan, identify measurement of success, advisement. Create style guide for tone of voice, optimizations, community policy and linking policy. Address structure and standards. Write comprehensive copy decks. If you don’t have a copy deck or wireframe template, start using one. Here is an example of a wireframe for designing or presenting content.
What the content strategy document looks like in the end is entirely up to you – use Excel, Word, Power Point, any content design program you are comfortable with delivering. The content and delivery of your document or presentation should explain the important points, inspire discussion and be understandable. Here are some examples of content strategy document templates:
Best Practices for content creation
When the strategy understands the user well enough to have content structured around their communication methods, the resulting meaningful content will have the following attributes:
- Reflect user needs and organization goals based on market research, user research and website metrics analysis.
- Be clear, concise and purposeful
- Be factual and current
- Be accessible via website structure, varying devices and search engines
- Maintain consistent communication by following style guides
For a comprehensive guide to visual storytelling, view the SlideShare from the Content Marketing World 2015 by Buddy Scalera: Words + Pictures: Content Marketer’s Guide to Visual Storytelling He tells the story of Grok, who learns how to share an important life-saving message with his fellow neanderthals. Among other significant details supporting visual communication design on the internet, Buddy and Grok guide us to creating effective infographics and webpages that are easy to absorb and create personality for your brand and message.
Need help with your small business content? Learn about our content development services, and don’t forget to check our current promotions.
How to do a content audit
Perform a content audit to draw conclusions and guide the content strategy. The content gap analysis mentioned earlier includes the content audit and competitive analyses.
- Inventory existing content. You are not performing an SEO audit; you are building a profile for successful content for each category.Tip: use open site explorer for content performance numbers as wellMajor bonus tip: Use Excel functions and multiple worksheets for compiling and analyzing large amounts of data from multiple sources. VLOOKUP is the best function.Note any events that may have had a negative impact (such as bad PR). It couldn’t hurt to note any other events that influenced out-of-the-ordinary business attention (good or bad). For an in-depth guide to good and bad content inventory, see Moz’s Whiteboard Friday, Clean Your Site’s Cruft…
- List all internal site pages by category
Tip: use screaming frog site crawl by upper level hierarchy pages (categories), especially for larger sites
- Include http status codes, H1/H2, page titles, Meta description and word count. Filter out duplicates.
- Gather social metrics, number of page comments, page reviews, page authority (Moz or Majestic), and conversions.
- Gather each page’s element analysis (Screaming Frog works well here, too)
- Number of paragraphs
- Keyword repeats (term-frequency inverse document frequency) for top 5 phrases
- FK grade level and reading ease
- Number of heading tags
- OGP (Open Graph) markup (Facebook, Google, etc.)
- Social shares
- Spelling errors
- List all internal site pages by category
- Analyze the competition. Take a good look at your competitors’ successful strategies and tactics. Not to mimic, but to encourage your own goals. You can also run some reports on their content to give you a better idea of some areas you may need to improve upon (that aren’t already evident). Use Semrush, Ahrefs, Sistrix, Buzzsumo, a combination of these tools, or whatever your preferred competitive analysis tools are.
- Make recommendations for success based on your successful content, as well as your competitors’. Build a profile for emotionally significant content. You can dig in to Twitter trends further using Topsy. Remember that your summary is about the user and the content – the data just provides statistical evidence for your conclusions.
- Design a strategy based on those recommendations.
- The content strategy should align with the marketing plan; Identify and repeat your goals accordingly.
- Explain your methodology and data sources.
- Include a goals and analysis plan, which will outline what metrics to measure, when and where (social activities, breadth of scope, et cetera).
- Identify topics built on themes (not keywords), based on business value. “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” Content should support the essential topics (and doesn’t necessarily have to be about said topic). Include some examples. Good essential topics have the following properties:
- Works for multiple types of content, such as how-to pieces, discussions, and more
- Is understandable
- Allows flexible emotional tones.
- Identify audience (from personas already identified in your marketing plan) and the appropriate tones with each
- Identify content types (infographics, video tutorials, podcasting, etc.)
- Hierarchy – explain how you will rank content by identifying successful content, providing examples of other similar content, and listing example content type and titles according to the business (what rubric makes sense for the business).
- Content calendar: based on the aforementioned rubric, set a schedule in calendar format
- Tactics and Best Practice: Based on your collected data, write a policy for addressing significant occurrences (anything that was great or terrible 25% of the time). Address future staff and business changes and write policies to cover those. For example: Don’t duplicate content; Write descriptive titles; Include links in content (not at the end); Specify image size (page load); Follow taxonomy architecture; Etc. You can detail reasons for the policy as well.
- Include lots of examples, screenshots and markup to make it easier to identify essential topics and best practices.
- Outreach guidelines: how much to do and when, who to reach and how.
- Governance: Identify whom can create, publish and authorize content.
- Review: Specify procedures for measuring and tracking analytics to monitor and when to check them. Overview data interpretation (what does this mean, and why is it good or bad, what should the appropriate reaction be and why).
Remember that this is the strategy (the WHAT), not the plan (the HOW). According to General George S. Patton:
“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
For small business content marketing, once you identify important elements, you can streamline this checklist to perform a scaled-down content audit. A small business content strategy will likely have a small amount of content to audit, and a small-scale content marketing plan.
The content gap analysis
Your content drives relevant and valuable traffic, and identifying the gap between your current content status and where you would like to be will guide your content strategy towards connecting with customers.
For the content gap analysis, you’re going to take the data from the content audit and measure the distance between where you are and where you want to be in terms of metrics: Organic Traffic, Social Traffic, Conversions, Usability – whatever your content goals are – and prioritize your existing content for optimization.
Once you identify your current and future content topics and themes, review current search engine results for your top terms to identify the current trending content types or formats. For example, does Google rank a How-to, offer a featured snippet for a Definition, or are the bulk of first page results checklists or case studies? What you see there will allow you to fill any gaps, the part that isn’t being covered, or can you create more valuable content that provides better, more in-depth answers?
Congratulations on building your content strategy! Now that you know what you’re going to publish, stay tuned for How to Make Content Matter Part 2: Content Marketing Strategy, HOW to fulfill your project needs by creating and distributing content.
While there are many analytics guides available, our short guide includes updated instructions and screenshots so you may have your questions answered more quickly and easily. You can also start at the beginning to learn how to set your analytics account up for creating and tracking your website goals, finding important reports and applying filters.
What are your marketing conversion goals? What did you build your website to help the user do or learn? How effective is your website and your marketing campaign? Where is your traffic coming from?
Think about how you might count a conversion on your website. Now that the user is aware of your business, you’ve got to persuade them that your product or service is what they need and make them feel good about trusting you with their valuable time, attention and patronage. Setting and measuring goals helps you monitor the steps through your sales funnel so you can better adjust your tactics for improved leads, conversions and satisfaction throughout the customer relationship.
A conversion can be a series of actions, or just one action, like visiting a page, submitting a form, viewing multiple pages, or spending enough time to read your post or article. You might also choose to monitor search queries conducted so you may add easier access to a commonly searched term.
To create your Goals, click the Gear Icon and select Goals under the VIEW menu.
First, you’ll want to name your goal, so we will walk through an example of setting a Mobile ClicktoCall link to track calls through your website from mobile devices.
- Goal description
- Name: Mobile ClicktoCall
- Type: Event
- Goal details
- Category Mobile
- Action ClicktoCall
- Install the Tracking Code on your website
- In your HTML, to make a phone call link, add tel: to the href
<a href="tel:8007775555">(800) 777-5555</a>
- To add the tracking code to your link, add the onclick action, onclick=”_gaq.push([‘_trackEvent’, ‘Mobile’, ‘ClicktoCall’])”
<a href="tel: 8007775555" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'Mobile', 'ClicktoCall'])"> (800) 777-5555</a>
- In your HTML, to make a phone call link, add tel: to the href
You can now add Event tracking to almost any link. Google also offers Goal Types for Key traffic elements such as Duration and Pages/Session. You may set the Goal Value in the Goal details step, based on the stage in your Sales funnel process and how much the sale is worth at that stage.
Monitoring your website analytics becomes even more important when you invest in advertising campaigns – you want to track the reach and level of success and make adjustments along the way, or plan the next campaign accordingly.
With over 50 reports and options available in Google Analytics, we will cover some of the basics here, but for more training, you can visit the Google Analytics Academy and dive into one of the free courses offered.
At the top of the page, you’ll see the Audience Overview, to the right is the date range filter.
You’ll see a line graph with metrics beneath; hovering the metrics will give you a pop up definition of that metric.
Beneath the metrics on the Audience Overview page, you will find links to view the top ten of the following reports, which link to detailed report views:
- Operating System
- Service Provider
- Operating System
- Service Provider
- Screen Resolution
Google offers the following report sections in the left-hand navigation:
REAL-TIME Shows the number of people on your site now (within a few seconds), their location, keywords and referring websites, the pages they are viewing, and conversions. We find this feature most helpful when adding traffic Filters to remove your own visits from the results.
AUDIENCE Reports provide insight into audience demographics, new and returning visitors and their engagement levels, and networks, browsers or mobile devices they are using to access your site. Who are your website users?
ACQUISITION This section allows you to evaluate campaigns and referrals to compare traffic sources, site engagement such as bounce rate, pages/session and avg. Session duration, and conversion metrics that you set up in your Analytics Goals. What drove visitors to your site?
BEHAVIOR Reports on your website content, performance, search-ability and interactivity. You’ll want to review site speed, site search and events where applicable. What are the top pages of your website? How can you make your website faster?
CONVERSIONS Offers 4 sub-sections: Goals, Ecommerce, Multi-Channel Funnels and Attribution. For the sake of this short tutorial, most small business will only need to track Goals. Goals reports measure how well your website meets business objectives through conversion tracking, using the Goals you set up earlier.
When learning how to utilize Google Analytics, if you are looking for help, just click the Analytics University icon to pop up the guide for that section.
You should explore the reports and when you find one that you will want to check regularly, click the shortcut link to add it to your menu, or use the email link to send it to a team member.
Some of the key reports we highlight for our customers include
- A month-to-month comparison of Users, Avg. Session Duration, Pages/Session and Bounce Rate. Just select the Date range button, set the date range to Previous month, select the Compare checkbox and select the Previous period. You may need to adjust the Comparison date range to get a full month comparison, depending on number of days in the month.
- Current month traffic performance snapshot. This is the default audience overview.
- Key elements by source: Avg. Session Duration, Bounce Rate, Conversion Rate, Pages/Session. To generate these reports, visit ACQUISITION > All Traffic > Source/Medium (or Referrals). This will show you all of the results in a table below the line graph.
- Conversion Goals Overview by source. To view per session goal values, select ACQUISITION > All Traffic > Source/Medium and navigate to one of the Goals in the Explorer tab.
- Key elements and Conversions by keyword and ad (from linked Google AdWords accounts and Search Console property)
- Referring websites. Go to ACQUISITION > All Traffic > Referrals
- A month-to-month comparison of Social conversions by source. Go to ACQUISITION > Social > Overview and set the Date ranges for Comparison.
- We also periodically review seasonal trends and quarterly comparisons year-by-year, particularly around website redesigns.
There are a few reasons you may want to use Filters:
- Stop ghost/spam traffic from reflecting in your analytics
- One filter you might want to use is to filter by country, if you know you do not have any customers outside of the country, or do not want to track that traffic.
- Click ± Add Filter
- Name your filter, like “US/CA Traffic Only”
- Filter Type: Custom Include
- Filter Field: Country
- Filter Pattern: United States|Canada
- Verify and Save your filter
- Another filter which may help clean up your analytics is to include only your website hostnames, this also helps track and separate traffic by alias domain names.
- Click ± Add Filter
- Filter Name: Include Hostnames
- Filter Type: Custom Include
- Filter Field: Hostname
- Filter Pattern (for multiple domain names): (www\.)?(ourwebsite?|ourlocalwebsite|ourotherwebsite?|ouroldwebsite)(\.com)
- Tip: Always use a regular expression testbed, like regexr.com before testing and applying Filters.
- One filter you might want to use is to filter by country, if you know you do not have any customers outside of the country, or do not want to track that traffic.
- Stop your own traffic from reflecting in your analytics
- Find your ip address if you don’t know it by asking Google search ‘what is my ip?’
- Click ± Add Filter
- Filter Name: Exclude my IP
- Filter Type: Predefined Exclude
- Exclude what? Traffic from the IP address that are equal to
- IP address: enter your IP address
- Verify and Save your filter
There are other guides to filtering ghost and spam traffic, if you find yourself subject to the likes of the notoriously violating SEMALT crawler, but we recommend blocking traffic from those sources in your htaccess file before hiding the traffic from analytics, which may save bandwidth and block potential DDOS attacks.
For more tips, visit the Moz Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics.
12 tips for small business social media growth
So, you’re using Hootsuite, right? And you have your content calendar planned for the first quarter of 2016. But you have such a small following, the content you publish is getting the response of chirping crickets. How do you grow your following and reach your target audience so you can actually accomplish your engagement goals?
Jason Demers of Audience Bloom has 39 social media follower growth tips for you, which we’ve updated and shortened to 12 easy tips for the busy small business owner.
- Reach out to influencers
Find your target market influencers, follow them, comment on and share their posts, and tag them in yours. When you gain new followers, follow them back.
- Include links to your social profiles & share buttons on your website and in your newsletters
Make sure your social profiles are easy to find and your website content can also be easily shared. Encourage newsletter sign ups on your social content, and vice-versa.
- Share your knowledge – post original, relevant content
Write timely content that appeals to your target market, but also share some relevant content from others, as in tip #1.
- Share popular posts
Follow others, comment on and share their posts, and tag them in yours. When you gain new followers, offer a thank-you message or access to exclusive content.
- Be engaging and responsive
Social media is another medium for customer support; answer questions, ask questions and correspond with your audience.
- Follow others to engage with
Part of reaching out to influencers, if someone follows you, follow them right back! Show your appreciation and communicate with them and their audience.
- Use hashtags
User relevant and trending hashtags to attract new followers.
- Include images and other media in your posts
Include quality images that can go viral, attract attention and can be both interactive and educational.
- Optimize your efforts – be active regularly
Post quality content frequently, at times that garner the most shares.
- Add social widgets to your website
Publicize your social accounts in-store, offering incentives for brand loyalty.
- Offer incentives, giveaways and conduct surveys or invite responses to questions
Post interactive content to encourage customer interaction.
- Be fun! Be positive!
Have fun, be genuine and use tactful humor for an open and encouraging social atmosphere.
Here is a link to our full infographic; share and link back to our detailed article:
Most small business owners can easily implement some important SEO tactics to help customers find and engage with their brand.
These tactics can help achieve some main strategic goals:
- Improve search results
- Connect with customers
- Build authority
These are basic guidelines that form the supporting structure for deeper analysis and planning.
Many of these strategies will fit service business marketing needs, or small local business plans.
We’ll start with the easiest-to-implement:
Implement Structured Data
Optimized your website for semantic SEO using structured data and snippets. Semantic search seeks to improve search engine result accuracy. The search engine attempts to understand intent and contextual meaning. Search suggest (the suggestions that pop up when you type into the search box) is one semantic search method which helps disambiguate some meanings. Structured data helps identify the context of your page topic to better serve the searcher.
For example, if your page keyword is focusing on “Panda”, the website structure and content provides the search engine with additional meaning. On our site, we would likely discuss Google’s algorithm update, “Panda”, but on a Milwaukee County Zoo page, they would more likely discuss the addition of “Dash”, the red panda. This is where structured data becomes a helpful SEO tactic. Use additional markup to provide context for “Panda”. This allows Google to determine whether to serve your page among zoological and biological pages, or among SEO and search algorithm update page results.
- Testimonials or Reviews
- 90% of consumers say positive reviews influence purchasing decision 
- Encouraging and responding to reviews improves engagement and reputation
- Schema.org markup
- Schema markup is structured data that identifies your content and enhances rich snippets used by all major US search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing)
- While it may not improve search rankings, it can improve click-through rates
More Website Data Tips:
- Use the Structured Data Markup Helper in Google Webmaster Tools to manually add snippets
- Ensure your website is mobile-friendly using Google or Bing test tools
- Use the Website Optimization Web Page Analyzer to test your website performance and page speed, or follow these easy tips for WordPress:
- Keep plugins updated; remove those you do not use
- Optimize images for the web: use appropriately-sized png files or sprites – try WP Smush
- For additional guidance, review our Tactics infographic from the SEO Today article.
Optimize and Plan Content
Including a content strategy as part of your marketing strategy will
- build relationships
- gain new customers
- encourage repeat customers
- build brand integrity and authority
Some important SEO tactics should be a part of that plan:
- Keyword Research
- Keyword research informs marketing and content topics
- Comprehensive keyword research targets interest and intent and includes both audience analysis and competitive analysis
- Content Development
- Following your content strategy and keyword research, develop useful content following a style guide.
- Use a content planning template to set a schedule for consistent, meaningful content
- Social Media
- Form connections with customers by posting engaging content and providing customer support via social networks
- Use a social media plan template and automated posting tools such as Hootsuite and WordPress plugins to schedule meaningful posts
More Content Tips
- Quicksprout offers a free tool to analyze your website and compare it to your competitors. Follow the quick guide to perform your competitive content research.
- Rinse & Repeat: Continue using these SEO tactics to refine your marketing strategies. Keyword research, content development and your social media marketing plan should be monitored and responded to accordingly.
- Analyze your web and social metrics to see what is going well, or what might need more work.
To earn links, follow the content planning section tactics, modifying your goals. Don’t target social shares as a marketing goal. Focus on gaining target customers and customer loyalty by encouraging content loyalty and engaging with your customers. Here are some link earning tactics to aid your small business marketing strategy:
- Build your reputation online and off
- Offer your expertise online via forums and social engagement
- Market your online presence using traditional media: print, radio (based on your customer profile and industry, of course)
- Encourage reviews or invite testimonials
- Ask your most loyal customers for reviews or testimonials
- Monitor your online reviews and respond as quickly and appropriately as possible
- Do local SEO
More Brand-Building Tips
- Rinse & Repeat local SEO tactics: Be sure to update your name, address, phone as soon as the change happens and monitor your local SEO annually.
- Monitor your brand and reviews and continually encourage your customers to engage both online and off.
- Run contests and offer valuable freebies (this can vary widely based on your business type but you can get ideas by looking at other similar businesses).
- For more information on link-building and how we help our clients, visit How We Help Clients Earn Links and Gain Credibility.
Did you find these tips helpful? Have a question or suggestion? Let us know! Share the slide deck, like or comment below.
Having trouble with your website marketing or local SEO? Contact us to talk about it; we offer consultation and we can give you a quote for managing your website, marketing or social media.
Recently, we published “SEO Today,” which describes the evolution of SEO tactics, what is important today and why. It is refreshing to see others also writing similar detailed articles targeting a particular tactic. Jason Corrigan of Kissmetrics recently published a story on Entrepreneur about modern-day “Link-Earning” – formerly referred to as link building.
Relevant Content Earns Link Credibility
In the SEO Today article, we mention that keyword relevance has evolved to search query relevance. You gain relevancy surrounding search queries by the content on your page, and the content of other pages that link to your page. Your page’s relevance is then compared to other websites’, based on page content and search query relevance.
Master Web Creations works with our clients to develop relevant content that reaches audiences seeking information related to the product or service our client offers. In some cases, these are static pages optimized with calls-to-action. In others, these are short blog posts with photos.
The KISSmetrics article eloquently describes how links are earned and not built. “Business owners are tasked with the responsibility for creating relationships with relevant thought-influencers that offer high quality content to online consumers.”
Do you see what happened there? They provided a direct example of how this works:
- Create meaningful, share-able content (the Kissmetrics article)
- Share (or re-publish) on entrepreneur.com
- Share to Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and other social publishing platforms
- Earn references as a credible source (such as this article providing it as a relevant resource)
This builds the publisher’s page relevance and the author’s credibility for such search phrases as “how to gain link credibility.” The article at Kissmetrics is still the number 1 search result at google.
In terms of thought influencers, the small businesses we serve may have local community or industry resources online that consumers utilize. Where beneficial, we encourage clients to participate. Sometimes for small businesses, this is limited to having a business listing, or an enhanced business listing.
Earning Links Builds Credibility
In MWC’s SEO today article, we also talked about how social media plays an important role in marketing and customer service.
“Incoming links should evolve naturally as part of your marketing strategy as you build your online reputation”
We recommend building your brand identity and online reputation as part of your marketing plan. This strategy allows you to connect with customers and gain brand advocates both on and off the web. In the KISSmetrics article, they talk about how gaining links is similar to building real-world credibility. You must build experience in your realm to gain votes. This applies to both a political office in the real world, and a consumer website seeking better SERP results.
What this usually means for our small business clients is that increased connections with target customers builds brand integrity, both on and offline. Managing social networks helps keep track of the success of your marketing strategy and allows for immediate response to inquiries and interest levels, in turn building trust. We work with our clients to help keep that connection through periodic shares, social platform updates and content development.
KISSmetrics includes a useful graphic of the three A’s of content ranking which illustrates the relationships between relevancy, credibility and originality. It is something like this, but you could view the original work as well.
Use this chart to evaluate each incoming link. For example, when submitting your listing to a directory:
- Alignment: Does this directory reach your target audience?
- Authority: Is this a credible website?
- Authenticity: Was this website built for users or for spiders (i.e., search engines)? If you’re not sure, does it really interest you, is it easy to use and find information?
Master Web Creations now offers automated local listing services to increase citations, enhance your incoming links and optimize your local presence. Find out more about our local seo services and check your local citations for free on our website.
Similarly, when we develop and publish meaningful content for our clients:
- Alignment: Does this content answer a question or solve a problem? Does it apply to the target audience?
- Authority: Will this help build up the brand trust and business authority by being a knowledgeable resource? Is this content being published to places where many users are interested in this type of content?
- Authenticity: Is this content unique, or does it answer an old question/problem in a new and more thorough way than any others before it? Is it designed for the audience or is it just stuffed with useless keyword phrases that mean nothing to the reader?
We also offer content development and website design, always optimizing for search engines.
More About MWC
Here, at MWC, we are quality enthusiasts – we don’t just put out a message to make noise. We strive for meaningful and engaging communication, from content to presentation to delivery method. Do you need help with your marketing strategy? Do you have a specific question on a tactic you’re using or would like to try? Add a comment or contact us directly, we would love to hear from you and help you.
We’re also CSS-fun – check out the CSS3 Poster on the right. What’s fun is the fact that it uses no graphics (the link to the CSS page is at the bottom of the post), and similar to the sub-title, its 3-law-safe.