Archive | May 2018

Quote of the day!

“It’s a sign of your own worth sometimes if you are hated by the right people.”


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Is responsive web design enough?

As mobile-first indexing nears, the need to optimize for mobile has never felt so pressing.

Even in its current iteration, mobile search is incredibly important for advertisers and businesses of all sizes. Consider these statistics:

  • According to BrightEdge, 69 percent of mobile searchers stated they were more likely to buy from a brand with a mobile site that addressed their concerns.

Now, with mobile web design, speed takes precedence over almost any other ranking factor. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if half of the web is seriously optimized for mobile search.

According to Think with Google, 70 percent of mobile web pages take 7 seconds to load visual content above and below the fold.

Common mobile site errors include:

  • Blocked JavaScript and cascading style sheets (CSS) files.
  • Failed redirects.
  • Poor graphical interfaces (e.g., tiny text and poor image pixelation).
  • Clunky search functions.
  • Obtrusive interstitials.

Fixing many of these issues requires investing in a responsive content management system (CMS) and the right configuration for your mobile site.

Yet many questions remain as to what configuration truly works best for your website. Responsive web design has dominated the industry as the preferred configuration, but as the mobile web becomes more competitive, should the industry move on?

Is responsive web design enough?

Now, creating a standalone mobile website is good from the end-user perspective, but it severely diminishes your website’s equity from a search engine optimization (SEO) perspective.

Beyond this, mobile domains can be a costly investment and even more costly to maintain.

My digital marketing firm uses responsive web design (RWD), as well as accelerated mobile pages (AMP) to create a truly mobile-friendly website for our clients. But we must remember that responsive web design was not designed for speed, it was designed for designers.

Chances are your CMS has a responsive web design plug-in.

RWD web pages take advantage of fluid grids to render images and on-page elements in proportion to their device. For technical teams, this presents clear advantages to mobile design, including:

  • Responsive handling of on-page layout for different devices.
  • Retaining all content on a single uniform resource locator (URL), as opposed to an m. domain.
  • More cost-effective than creating a standalone mobile site.
  • Sites can be accessed offline using hypertext markup language 5 (HTML5).

While RWD does have its advantages, it was mostly created as a low-cost way to optimize websites for mobile search devices. It was also a way to complete this with little effort as possible.

Problems with RWD websites still persist:

  • Slow loading speeds: above 10 seconds without proper onsite optimization
  • Designers still need to optimize for touch, as opposed to scroll-and-click interfaces
  • Data visualizations need to be optimized for small screens (i.e., charts and graphs)

So, why is this important? While RWD is an effective solution for small businesses and publishers on a budget, many established businesses are already making the switch to higher-speed configurations, such as accelerated mobile pages and progressive web applications (PWA).

Is AMP the answer or a red herring?

AMP represents Google’s big push to speed up the internet, but is it only on its terms?

As a quick primer, AMP is essentially an HTML framework that works the same as a content delivery network, serving stripped-down versions of web pages to increase page speeds. AMP is ideal for publishers who serve news articles and blog posts. It’s very similar to Facebook’s Instant Articles format.

AMP is currently being employed by multiple search engines, and even AdWords ads. Using the “Fast Fetch” tag, AMP continues to become faster and easier to implement.

According to Google, over 900,000 domains have already adopted AMP, and that number continues to grow.

In fact, numerous publishers have reported astounding success after switching to AMP:

Google has also made it no secret that it prioritizes AMP web pages for its mobile news carousels.

Mobile web speed obviously has a huge impact on the user experience and your conversion rate.

Using Google’s cache, web pages with AMP load 2x faster at one-tenth the latency of traditional web pages. But herein lies the issue with AMP.

While we’d consider faster loading speeds as contributing to more valued user experience, it’s the sacrifice that AMP needs to undergo that has severely limited its digital marketing value and adoption.

Since AMP is loaded using Google’s cache and served as a different version of the original document, clicks are hard to track since they technically don’t occur on the publisher’s website. This has a significant effect on engagement. By serving a watered-down version of a web page, AMP is great for serving informative blog posts, but there’s an obvious disconnect between the initial click and further engagement with the site.

This means that publishers and e-commerce stores must theoretically offer two different versions of their offerings. AMP is essentially search-result ad copy.

As a side note, another thing affecting AMP’s adoption is Google’s failure to communicate with its customers.

Ask the average web user what an AMP article is or if they could recognize one, and you’ll probably receive a blank stare. Ironically, Google is doing a disservice to its own user experience by not properly communicating the importance and advantages of AMP to individual users. Instead, it’s relied on publishers to make the switch of their own volition.

Does this mean that AMP is a red herring that should be ignored? Not exactly, and it all depends on your website. Unfortunately, there’s another configuration that threatens RWDs hegemony and AMP’s burgeoning adoption.

What about progressive web apps?

You may be familiar with PWAs, although very few sites actually leverage this genius technology.

PWAs are websites that act like an app in every way but don’t require a download.

PWAs are accessed through the web browser and utilize Javascript or CSS, along with HTML, to create nearly instantaneous load speeds. Leveraging their universal resource identifiers (URI), PWAs are linkable when bookmarked or shared by a web user.

The main advantages of PWAs include:

  • Ability to work offline.
  • Universal access on all devices and web browsers.
  • Comparable load speeds with AMP.
  •  Faster transitions between web pages and navigation than traditional mobile domains.
  •  Native app-like interfaces.
  •  Indexable and linkable.
  • Ability to send push notifications.

Primarily, PWAs are used by e-commerce stores to create faster checkout times and a better end-user experience. PWAs can increase engagement on your site and increase conversions through their ability to leverage offline resources and push notifications to continually communicate with users.

But there are also drawbacks to PWAs. It’s a rather costly investment and incredibly difficult to implement, meaning you’ll probably have to hire a professional web designer to do so.

A larger concern would be: why not just invest in an app? Users visit hundreds of websites weekly and have numerous apps stored on their phone. Their primary demand, above all else, is fast loading speeds, which AMP provides.

With this in mind, which mobile configuration is best for your website, as we embark on the mobile-first era?

Which mobile configuration is best?

AMP is ideal for publishers who only seek to drive more traffic to their blog or publication. Many website owners have struggled to implement AMP because many CMS’s still don’t have a plug-in available. Even still, with Google’s new mobile “AMP Stories,” WordPress and many notable CMS’s struggled to properly implement AMP.

On the other hand, PWAs work across all browsers, and progressive enhancements have made them secure from viruses and unwanted content.

In terms of speed, PWAs and AMPs both have nearly instantaneous load times. The biggest difference here is the speed of navigation that comes from PWAs, as all web pages will be hosted in this format, unlike AMP.

From a ranking perspective, AMP may be a ranking signal (no one knows yet), but if PWAs host nearly identical loading speeds, I don’t see AMP as possessing a clear advantage over PWAs.

From a web design perspective, AMP is a nightmare, as it strips away many of the graphical and user interface elements of the native design. On other hand, PWAs are able to render and serve all of your design elements in an app-like display, which makes them more user-friendly.

After switching a hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS) PWA, AliExpress improved its conversion rate by 104 percent across all browsers.

Finally, PWAs are responsive to different browsers and can react to user permissions to create a smooth checkout experience.

In the end, the best solution is to combine both for a truly fast, homogenous experience. Major brands, such as The Washington Post, have already done this. With the greater search visibility and speed of AMP articles and the app-like interface of PWAs, combining both could significantly increase your user signals and offer a better experience for users.


The need to go mobile cannot be overstated, although we’re already past beating the dead horse. Responsive web design is a great first step, but I don’t believe it goes far enough for businesses competing in a competitive niche. This is especially true for publishers.

For e-commerce platforms, combining AMP with a PWA design truly offers the best mobile configuration available today. All I can say is, make the switch to a mobile-friendly website before it’s too late.

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Solopreneurs who fear SEO may be dead need to believe in reincarnation!

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Solopreneurs who fear SEO may be dead need to believe in reincarnation!
Is SEO really dead? Almost every solopreneur in content marketing would like to know. Neil Patel, the renowned internet marketer, has an article where he shows the same question being asked as far back as May 2010! But even those who do believe that SEO, after all these years, is finally dead, seem to accept there there is now going to be an SEO “reincarnation”. The old SEO is gone forever – but it’s place is going to be born a new being that seems to fit in with a “technological leap” we are about to experience.

As lay marketers (without the jargon), even we can tell that SEO earlier used to be more about singular keywords and page optimization, and Google ranking was the key. Now it seems to be more about broader user engagement. Keyword research is not the top priority any more. Other things like topic research, keyword intent, conversion rate, performance metrics and social media impact have become more important. But the real interesting thing is what experts see on the horizon. SEO is going to be impacted by the Internet Of Things (IoT), Voice-Search, and Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality. The new reincarnated SEO isn’t fully here yet, but it could be arriving any moment!


A brief history of SEO – then and now. Are you at least at the present?

If you are into things like keyword research and keyword stuffing and black-hat backlinking and other such tactics, you are too old to belong to the present, is my guess. After a series of algorithmic changes from Google, you will have surely noticed that Google has become … well, more “intelligent” and more “human”.

Earlier, when Google was nascent, it used to behave more like a machine. It searched web pages for keywords, and the more keywords it saw on a page it thought the page was a good fit for a searcher searching for that keyword. Google also linked the quality of web pages to the idea that if more good sites on the same topic were backlinking to that web page it must be a good page. All this, as I said, was a machine’s way of sensing a good web page from a bad one.

Slowly, over time, Google started building in more intelligence and human-like analytical abilities into its machine. It developed the idea of Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI). What that means is when somebody, for example, searches for “ankle injuries”, Google now also shows related things like shoes designed for people with ankle pains. It senses the relationship between things smartly – and most importantly, it senses the searcher intent, and supplies answers accordingly.

Therefore, there is no more need for content marketers to stuff “ankle injuries” as a keyword about 40 times in the same article, and neither is it necessary to get 500 backlinks to the web page all with the anchor text as “ankle injuries”.

In fact, nowadays, we marketers too have to guess at searcher intent and do “topic research” rather than just “keyword research”. We have to gather information that is in-depth and fully valuable to the person with an ankle injury – for example, why ankle injuries happen, what can be done for them as first-aid, what sort of shoes to wear to prevent worsening, what kind of medical attention may be needed, how to get it cured etc.

Again, on the issue of backlinks, where earlier there was a mad scramble to show our web pages as “highly-linked-to” by other sites, now there is a focus on “natural backlinks that are editorial”. In other words, people have to cite your web pages as a good resource and meld the backlink into the text of their web page as part of their natural writing.

You can’t just get your web pages submitted to some 500 third-rate directories and claim their listings as backlinks, and neither can you leave meaningless comments on other people’s posts, or try to write pathetic guest posts to pathetic sites, just to get the backlinks in the author bios of these posts. In short, you can’t game Google any more.

So what do experts recommend your SEO method should be for now, before even bigger changes come to the SEO world? First let’s see what you should no longer do, and then see what you should be doing instead.


The 3 silly old SEO methods that are well past their “sell by date”!

#1: Stop being obsessed with getting the No. 1 ranking on Google. So many marketers can’t seem to think beyond getting the top spot on Google rankings, but I can’t remember the last time I clicked the very first listing on the results page. Ranking Number 1 doesn’t have that strong correlation of increased website traffic that it used to have. Plus, today we have so much more going on in a search results page – we have ads, featured snippets, and question boxes. So, even after ranking on the top spot, your listing may get buried under all these other new Google features on the page. Your focus should instead be on maximizing your click-through rate. That happens when your headlines are catchy or you have a compelling meta description … or your relevance to the search query feels more “right” to the searcher.

#2: Don’t get fussy and over-optimize your focus keyword. The days are over for stuffing your opening paragraph (or indeed, your entire article) with a certain keyword – or trying variations like making it bold or italicised for extra effect. It’s more important to optimize your content for readability, user experience, and solving user queries. Google has gone a great distance in understanding the intent behind the keywords, and doesn’t simply match the actual keywords themselves. So the blog posts that will rank in the future will be the ones that provide the highest quality relevant answers and user experience. Aim to be the last content a user has to visit to solve his or her problem.

#3: Stop valuing search engines over people, and don’t write for Google. When Google has taken a lot of trouble to try and become more human-like, what’s the point of writing for Google instead of people? You no longer have to focus on satisfying a machine, you can be as natural as you would be, and write to please and tease people into taking action on your posts. The more natural and authentic your blog posts are, the more Google will love them, because Google too wants to satisfy people and not itself! The two phrases that must enter your writing paradigm are “searcher intent” and “user experience”. If the blog posts you write match “searcher intent”, they will be clicked and visited. If they provide good “user experience”, people will linger on the pages long enough for the pages to work their magic on them.


The new “topic clusters” for site structure are more meaningful tactics!

What are topic clusters? And why are they important? The answers are available in a very interesting article by Hubspot titled “Topic Clusters: The Next Evolution of SEO”. The author Mimi An writes:

“SEO is now shifting to a topic cluster model, where a single “pillar” page acts as the main hub of content for a overarching topic and multiple content pages that are related to that same topic link back to the pillar page and to each other. This linking action signals to search engines that the pillar page is an authority on the topic, and over time, the page may rank higher and higher for the topic it covers. The topic cluster model, at its very essence, is a way of organizing a site’s content pages using a cleaner and more deliberate site architecture.

Years ago, people posed fragmented keyword queries to search engines to find answers to their questions. Nowadays, most are comfortable posing complex questions to a search engine, and they expect an accurate and timely result. Searchers who want a specific answer also use many different phrases in their queries. And now search engines are smart enough to recognize the connections across queries. Algorithms have evolved to the point where they can understand the topical context behind the search intent, tie it back to similar searches they have encountered in the past, and deliver web pages that best answer the query.”

To explain this concept more fully, Hubspot have these diagrams and a video that I have reproduced below. You’ll notice that websites that focus on topics rather than keywords should follow a pillar-and-cluster model where a central “topic cornerstone post” or “pillar post” can be interlinked with a group of other posts, all on related subjects, thus making a cluster of great informational breadth and depth for the searcher of a topic.

Cluster ModelImage courtesy: Matt Barby

If you follow this principle of organizing deep and broad information on key topics related to your site’s niche, you should end up with a site architecture that looks like this image below.

Site StructureImage courtesy: Matt Barby

Changing from a keywords approach to a “topic cluster” approach will at least put you in the present of the state-of-SEO. But there are big new changes to keep track of even as you catch up with the present, so keep your eyes peeled on the oncoming concepts that follow …


Where the future and the total reincarnation of SEO can be expected …

Three trends are worth watching, according to experts. You may have heard of some of these, but here’s an explanation of how they can impact SEO …

SEO and the Internet of Things (IoT)

Although the words “Internet of Things” sound onerous, the idea is simple enough. It’s about the future of our homes when we all may be living in “smart” homes. The fridge will communicate with the oven, and the oven will communicate with the dishwasher, so they are all on standby and ready as our car has messaged them that we are heading home from work. Our TV and laptop screens will also prime up to show us recipes using what they hear from the fridge as available ingredients … and all in all, everything around our homes will be in sync, letting us live happily ever after.

Now in this brave new world of silently communicating gadgets around us, Google is also going to be there. The idea will be that you may still want to search on your own … for example, if you need to search for a different recipe than what your TV or oven suggests, you may like to tap into the most convenient web browser available near you (perhaps on your fridge door or embedded on your dining table). Do you see how SEO can now become a new friend helping you intervene with your own searching, to upstage the devices around you that are making their own recommendations? In a sense, SEO may be the tool that still keeps you in command, without your life being vicariously lived by your “smart home”.

SEO and Voice Search

The difference in how we search the web in the future may be that textual search will give way to voice search. With voice search, more words will be spoken and obviously long-tail keywords will become more important. Let’s take an example: if you were typing into a Google search box you may think and write as few words as possible like “what is content marketing?” … but if you were speaking, you’d talk as you think, and say something probably like “… what is this content marketing thing … I mean, what’s it used for and why is it the thing that everyone’s doing?” You see what I mean?

Writing requires pre-thinking. Speaking requires concurrent thinking. So brevity of search terms is going to go for a toss. And what will Google then do? Most probably it will return just one suitable answer to your search – the topmost one it would probably have put on a page full of search results. This is all going to make SEO even more competitive. You’ll have to be the ultimate single-best-fit for the voice search terms, since only one result may be given to the searcher. I can imagine this already. The ruthless battlefield of SEO competition is going to be strewn with bodies!

SEO in AI and VR

AI is Artificial Intelligence and VR is Virtual Reality. Both these new technologies will end up creating wholly different user and brand experiences if they are incorporated into web pages. And that includes game-like content as well. Analysts say the VR and AI markets will be worth over $41 billion in the next five years.

Search engines will surely have to level up, to enable us to ask queries of such artificial or virtual elements of on-page experience that we have not quite encountered before. Who knows what creative marketers will create out of these technologies to enrich the web experience, and what we then may search for in these experiences that Google will have to serve up? It’s all out there as uncharted territory …

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Hooray! Google My Business descriptions are back

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Google My Business (GMB) recently brought back the business description field, which has caused those of us working in the local search industry to say “hooray” and raise eyebrows.

Here are a few things you should know about the description and some useful tips to help you make the most of this new change.

1. It shows at the very bottom of the Knowledge Panel

The visibility of the description is really poor, which makes me question how much effort to put into creating it.

It shows below the address, below questions and answers (Q&A), below Google Posts and below customer reviews. Because its visibility is poor, I would suggest utilizing Google Posts for messages you want to be right in front of your customers’ eyes.

2. It does not replace the editorial summary

Editorial summaries are the small descriptions that appear at the top of the Knowledge Panel for popular businesses. Not all businesses have these; they are manually written by Google and cannot be altered. Businesses that have editorial summaries can still add the GMB description. It will show above the Knowledge Panel.

3. GMB descriptions are no-shows on Google Maps or Google Maps app

Google My Business (GMB) descriptions do not show up on Google Maps on either browser or the Google Maps app. They only appear in Google search when the Knowledge Panel is visible. Editorial summaries, on the other hand, show in both.

4. Guidelines for the description

The GMB guidelines clarify what types of content you cannot include, such as obscene or sexually suggestive or content related to the sale of illegal products and services.

If you add content that violates the guidelines, you’ll find that when you try and save your description, Google will highlight the entire section in orange to signal it’s being removed.

5. Character limit: 750

You are given 750 characters to work with, but the first 250 are what shows in the Knowledge Panel. After that, the content is cut off, but it’s still in your GMB description. The decrease in characters from the previous 4,500 to 750 was probably done to cut the amount of spam showing in the descriptions.

6. The description field probably does not impact ranking

It’s too early to say for sure, but so far, we haven’t seen any major upticks in ranking for keywords highlighted in the description field. Instead of shoving as many keywords as possible in the description, I would focus on highlighting the unique selling proposition (USP) of the business.

7. Bonus tip

Use the text from your best-performing AdWords ad as inspiration in your Google My Business descriptions.

As Google continues to try and offer more information directly in the search results for businesses, it’s becoming more vital for businesses and marketers to measure traffic and calls from Google My Business in addition to Google Analytics.

We’re seeing a movement toward conversions happening off the website, and I think this will be a growing trend as Google continues to add more features like this. Features like the Google My Business description make it so a customer doesn’t even have to go to the website to get the information needed to make a purchase decision.

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The One-Person Marketing Plan for Startups

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Michael Brenner

Struggling to devise a marketing strategy as a one-person startup? We’ve compiled the best advice to help you stop making excuses and create that perfect marketing plan for your startup today.

There are well over 22 million one-person businesses in the U.S., and this figure is only expected to grow. Not all startups will get off the ground and become successful – given a staggering 80% of entrepreneurs don’t appreciate the importance of good marketing, that’s hardly surprising. And a large team of marketing professionals is no use, anyway, if you don’t know how to measure their effectiveness.

But if you know marketing is so crucial to your startup’s success and you want to start making progress, how do you find the time, energy and most importantly the resources to market your business well? Some of the most effective marketing doesn’t cost much. You just have to be creative.

Make connections and get referrals

There’s no better marketing than client testimonials and positive reviews. Referral marketing is all about using those crucial connections – be it customers, clients, friends, family or business connections – to promote your services by word of mouth or online.

How does this work? Incentives such as discounts for introducing new customers to you can work, as can encouraging all customers to leave testimonials online. If you have trusted business contacts, see if they can recommend you to colleagues, customers and other businesses. You never know how wide your network is until you start exploiting it.

Make friends with influencers

Similarly to using your connections to your advantage, you should seek out new ones. There are bloggers and other popular influencers who are always looking for new products and businesses to highlight. You could pitch to do a guest blog, or an interview, or see if they would be interested in reviewing your product.

Getting creative and developing your networking skills will help drive traffic back to your own site and, in turn, hopefully turn inquiries into sales.

Identify your place within the market

You need to know who your customer base is, where to target your marketing, and how you compare against the competition already out there. You should know what you’ve got to offer, why it stands out, and why customers should trust you. If you don’t understand your startup’s core messages, you’ll struggle to devise an effective marketing plan.

Think of it this way – if a potential customer called you right now and asked you to describe your product, what’s unique about it, and why exactly this customer should buy from you, how would you answer them? Work that out, and you’re closer to devising a useful marketing plan.

Not sure how to go about finding your target market? Have a look here for some advice.


It’s important to understand what attracts visitors to your site, but also how long they stay on your site, and whether they come back. You want to know if they’re reading your articles all the way to the end, or fading out and never returning. Once you identify trends and problems, you can go about fixing them.

Getting familiar with analytics is critical to building a robust marketing plan – there’s no point running a site if no one stays long or comes back.

Social media

Marketing your business on social media doesn’t cost you anything, but is incredibly effective. Choose platforms like Twitter and Instagram where you can make short, sharp posts advertising your services and highlighting positive reviews. Social media platforms are also a great place for others to showcase your services and leave positive testimonials.

Email marketing

So long as you have a properly-curated list of potential clients and customers to target, email marketing can be incredibly effective. In fact, it has a reliable and very impressive ROI. It’s inexpensive and doesn’t take up much time – just don’t send out multiple emails a day or you’ll send the wrong message to potential clientele.

Aim for crisp, concise emails which highlight your unique selling points, deals and offers, and what your business has to offer.

Content marketing

Similarly as above, don’t underestimate the power of a well-run blog with great visibility and traffic. Engaging content, be it in video or written form, is a great way to make your business more personal and help customers relate to you. And, if you really don’t have the time to run a blog yourself, it’s relatively inexpensive to outsource the work to experienced writers.

Content marketing can involve much more than a blog, but this tried and true content form is a proven lead generator and it can also be used to build your company’s reputation as an industry thought leader.

Market yourself

There’s something particularly appealing about knowing you’re dealing with the person running the show. It’s all well and good spending money on expensive PR managers and a marketing team, but is that who clients really want to meet? Chris Dingman, CEO of The Dingman Group, doesn’t think so – given he went from a one-man startup to CEO of an international brand with offices in the likes of London and Denver, he knows what he’s talking about.

He didn’t spend money on marketing. Instead, his marketing plan is built around clients connecting with him as opposed to just a brand name. It’s not that he didn’t have a marketing strategy – it was just more personal and effective than hiring a large team of marketing experts.

Dig deep to see what you can offer clients. Does your personal story align with your brand, or do you have a special connection to the products you’re selling? It’s time to be resourceful and get brainstorming – key skills for any startup.

Focus on what matters

Ultimately, as a one-person team, you’ll struggle to find the time to implement every marketing idea and suggestion made to you. This is why it’s worth repeating how important it is to know your market. If you know who you’re targeting, and how they are most likely to find your services, you can focus your energy on delivering your business message in the right way.

You don’t need an expensive team to devise a successful marketing plan for your startup. All you need is the patience, resilience, creativity and resourcefulness to build a tailored marketing plan, directing your energy where it’s most effective by ultimately knowing your own business inside out. These are all skills you’re going to need to make your business a success – start capitalizing on them today.

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Why Your Brand Needs Social Media

Why Your Brand Needs Social MediaIn the digital World we are now living, in order for any business to grow quickly you need to be able to reach a wide target audience as soon as possible. Without an active social media presence, your business is on the fast track for failure.

There are now over 4-Billion users across the World that have a Social Media account. By not tapping into the power of that reach, marketing your brand to potential leads and customers becomes a lot more difficult.

    • 78% of small businesses now get at least one quarter of their new customers via Social Media
    • 61% of young people refer to Social Media as a part of their purchasing process
    • 27% of Americans check their Social Media networks at least three times per day
    • 35% of Americans check branded pages regularly as part of their Social Media activity
    • 27% of online time is dedicated to checking Social Media activity
    • 58% of Facebook users have liked a brand’s Business Page
    • 42% of Facebook users have mentioned a brand in their status update
Here are just a few of the benefits of how having a social media presence can benefit your brand.
Social Media Gives You a Wider Reach

With Social Media, it’s easy to market your services to a much larger audience. Not only does social media allow you to reach out to more people; it even lets you target the exact type of audience you wish to market your brand to.
Using Social Media for Business Boosts Your Site’s SEO

Search engine crawlers know which pages are consistently earning traffic and which are just floating out there, forgotten and ignored.
A killer content strategy for SEO is the most important part of earning top spots in search engine rankings, but driving traffic to your optimized pages will cause them to climb much faster in the search engine results pages.
Social Media Marketing Is Easily Sharable Marketing

A user can easily share any marketing activity or advertisement that’s posted up on a social media website. This means that once you’ve shared a post, people will eventually ensure that it gets to your target market; the people who will actually benefit from your business.
A Strong Social Media Presence Builds Brand Loyalty

A recent study found that brands with active social media profiles have more loyal customers. It’s easy to imagine why. When you’re engaging and interacting with your audience on social media your brand become less like a corporation and more like what you truly are, a unified group of people who share a vision.
Social Media Gives You the Ability to Quickly Respond to Customers

Once you’ve shared any content on Social Media, it’s easy to keep track of customer responses and feedback given by social media users. Besides making the necessary changes as soon as possible, you can even respond to your customer’s queries and messages. This will help you engage with the audience better so they keep coming back for more.
Customers You Didn’t Know Existed Will Find & Buy From You

In the process of marketing on Facebook, you’ll probably end up joining a lot of groups related to your industry, products, services or target audience. By strategically posting content in these groups, you’ll help influence potential customers to go and check out your website.

11 Simple Ways to Increase Facebook Engagement

Facebook engagement refers to any action that someone performs on a Facebook page. This might include liking a post, leaving a comment, sharing one of your updates, clicking a link, viewing a video, etc.

Engagement is an important part of any Facebook marketing strategy as it can lead to better organic reach, which in turn can help drive traffic to your site—or even boost sales for your business.

Read on for 11 smart tips for driving engagement on Facebook.

Bonus: Download a free guide that teaches you how to turn Facebook traffic into sales in four simple steps using Hootsuite.

How to increase Facebook engagement: 11 tips that actually work

1. Select the best posting times and frequency

To get your audience to interact with your content, you have to post it during the times they’re most likely to be using the platform. Perfecting the timing of your social media posts can have a positive impact on engagement.

Know that Facebook’s complex News Feed algorithm can make it hard to get the timing correct, but it’s still possible to increase your chances.

Hootsuite’s social media marketing specialist, Amanda Wood, says:

“For us, Tuesdays are a bit behind other weekdays in terms of Facebook engagement. But 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. is still the most effective window on that day.”
Specifically, Hootsuite’s marketing team determined that:

  • The best time to post on Facebook is between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
  • And on Saturday and Sunday between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m.

Post at these times, and you can expect a greater number of likes, comments, shares, and click throughs to your website.

Of course, the best time to post will be unique for every brand. To determine which time works best for you, always consult Facebook’s Page Insights to track and analyze your engagement data. You can also use Hootsuite Analytics to stay on top of your engagement data.

2. Share valuable content

What does valuable content look like?

In our content marketing 101 guide, we recommend creating and sharing content that meets these five criteria:

  1. It is helpful to the audience. Are you actually solving their problem (“this is how you increase your sales”) or masking product information as advice (“how to increase your sales = book a demo with our sales team”).
  2. It is rooted in specific, tangible, and real customer problems. Saving time on social media is not a problem. But spending four hours trying to create social media reports for your boss in Excel is.
  3. It delivers on its promise. You know the problem (customer wants to drive sales) but does the advice actually show them how to solve it? To make the customer successful, your advice needs to provide concrete steps that helps them solve their challenges.
  4. Is it actionable. After reading the content, what can the reader go and immediately apply to their business?
  5. You are proud to share it. Is it something you’d share with your friends?

For more on creating and sharing valuable content, read our content marketing guide here.

3. Learn from your successes and failures

Track your performance. Figure out what worked, and do more of that. Determine what failed, and adjust your strategy accordingly.

The great thing about Facebook is that you don’t have to be a seasoned marketer to track what worked.

Case in point: Dr. Mark Sutor, a dentist, began creating Facebook Live videos to give average people actionable information on what to do with various dental issues. With no sizable budget or fancy effects, Dr. Sutor succeeded in getting thousands of views for his videos. With a customer base of approximately 5,000 at most, reaching that many people is significant for business.

For more on tracking Facebook performance, read our guide to using Facebook analytics.

4. Use compelling visuals

Visuals enrich your content and help it stand out on busy Facebook News feeds. Your audience is made up of visual creatures, so using images, graphics, and the like is a no-brainer.

An analysis of more than 100 million Facebook updates over a three-month period revealed that updates with images enjoyed 2.3 times more engagement than those without, according to a BuzzSumo study.

By simply including an image in a post, you get to enjoy at least double the engagement rate. That means double the number of comments, likes, and shares.
Adding images to your content is a quick way to get more engagement.

5. Ask your audience questions

Remember that one of the primary forms of engagement is comments from your audience. This is perhaps the most straightforward way to boost engagement since you’re encouraging responses.

Facebook itself recommends that you ask your audience questions, which is what it terms as an example of an actionable post to increase engagement:

“Share articles or blogs from your website, provide links to your newsletter sign-up form, ask your fans to answer a question or provide their opinions in the comment section of your post.”

Feel free to get as creative as you can with the kinds of questions you throw to your audience. Here are some examples:

  • What’s your favorite [fill in the blank]?
  • How do you [complete this action]?
  • Why do you [like this event or brand]?
  • Do you agree with [reference a notable statement, event, person, etc.]?

6. Consider post length

The length of your post is influential to how strong your engagement rate is. Facebook’s character limit for status updates is more than 60,000. Naturally, you don’t want to post anything near that long. Test various lengths and pay attention to what works best for your audience.

Always look to the data. One study by Express Writers found that posts with only 40 characters enjoy 86 percent greater engagement than longer posts.

Do you have something to write that can’t be contained in just 40 characters? If you do, don’t fret. The same study determined that the second-best performing post length on Facebook was 80 characters or fewer, which saw 66 percent better engagement than longer posts.

7. Experiment with different video formats

Video is the key to greater Facebook engagement, so giving your audience a variety of video types is a formula for success. The one factor that’s been driving markedly higher shares is video, according to a Buzzsumo study. It looked at 25 million Facebook posts from the top 10,000 publishers on the platform.

It’s important to leverage this enthusiasm for video by showing your audience various styles of videos.

Here are some ideas:

  • Inspirational videos that feature quotes set to music.
  • Facebook Live videos that let you broadcast live to your audience.
  • Educational videos that teach people how to do something very easily.
  • Behind-the-scenes videos that give your audience an informal look at and access to your brand.
  • Featured videos that show up on your About section for extra prominence.

8. Drive traffic to your Facebook page from other sources

Send the audience that interacts with you on other social channels to your Facebook page. You could simply include a link to your Facebook page within a tweet or include it on your Instagram bio.

Another option is to display your Facebook page on your blog. There are various WordPress plugins that let you show your page and some of the posts right on your blog. Naturally, your ardent readers who enjoy your content will be curious about visiting your Facebook page, too.

Include a strong call to action to increase the conversion rate of those clicking back to your Facebook page.

9. Join Facebook groups

You’ll increase your engagement when your content surfaces among relevant audiences. These are people who are in the same industry as you or who are looking to solutions to the problems your content addresses.

By joining the right Facebook groups, you get to connect with these relevant audiences. Facebook defines groups as:

“…the place for small group communication and for people to share their common interests and express their opinion. Groups allow people to come together around a common cause, issue or activity to organize, express objectives, discuss issues, post photos and share related content.”

Your participation in the appropriate group can therefore drive traffic and engagement to your Facebook page.

10. Engage with other relevant brands and pages

Engaging here doesn’t mean to overtly promote your page on other brands’ pages—just the opposite! It means to thoughtfully and sincerely post relevant content or comments to other pages and share other brands’ content when it’s relevant to your audience.

By being tactful in your approach, the brands and their audiences are likely to notice and return the favor.

Ideally, if you build a relationship carefully enough with other brands, you may even be able to hash out a mutually beneficial content-sharing agreement. This will give both parties a greater reach and larger audience to engage with.

11. Include a call to action

You can’t underestimate the usefulness of a good call to action (CTA) on Facebook. Studies show that using specific words on posts can help increase conversion rates.

Using call to action terms correlates with higher effectiveness across the board. The average engagement rate per post is greater for posts that use these terms than those that don’t, according to a TrackMaven report. The terms the study looked are “share,” “please,” “now,” and “like.”

Facebook itself introduced CTAs on pages in the realization that encouraging customers to take action drives business objectives.

Based on this data, it makes sense for you to include calls to action on the posts you publish, as well as on your Facebook page.

With these tips, you can expect to increase your Facebook engagement significantly.

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How to Build an Ecommerce Business Amazon Can’t Compete With

Today, giants define our world. A few big companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google shape our social lives, curate how we consume information, and influence what we buy. For the most part, this isn’t a bad thing: these titans offer wonderful products and services that make our lives better and help our businesses run smoothly.

But, as those of you who run small, ecommerce-powered businesses know very well, there is one giant who makes things very complicated. It’s impossible to be an online merchant and not have a point of view on Amazon. Love them, hate them, or something in-between — you all have a relationship with Amazon. Frankly, they can make it a real challenge for small businesses to grow past a certain point. But they don’t make it impossible.

Lately we’ve seen more and more HubSpot customers thrive in ecommerce, even though Amazon sells similar or even identical products as them. How can this be? I’ll tell you, but first let’s start from the beginning.

Nashua, New Hampshire is a quintessential New England city. It’s full of folks who love their Dunkins, wear Bean Boots 10 months out of the year, and pledge allegiance to Red Sox nation. It’s not a place you’d imagine one of the most influential technologies of the last 100-years might be born. But it is.

In August of 1994 21-year-old Dan Kohn put his new encryption technology to work to securely sell a Sting CD to Phil Brandenberger. It was the first sales transaction in the history of the internet, and it set off a series of events that would change the world forever.

That same summer, Jeff Bezos left his job on Wall Street to move to Seattle and found Amazon. Over the next 20+ years, the ecommerce industry would grow exponentially. A trend that is still up-and-to-the-right today.

Today, there’s nothing people won’t buy online. The internet has challenged us to buy things on the internet that we used to think had to be purchased in person. But now, no one thinks twice about buying eyeglasses, food, or even cars online. The convenience and speed of making purchases online means the majority of us check there first before buying anything.

The ability to buy and sell online has been a win for everyone involved. Consumers love the convenience, speed, prices, and accessibility ecommerce delivers, and entrepreneurs love that they can now turn limited passion projects into full time careers and viable businesses.

It’s a good time to be an Ecommerce SMB.

The ability to sell online has created thousands of new businesses — and there’s still plenty of room to grow. The increasing demand to buy everything online has made it easy to find an initial audience, software like Shopify makes it simple for non-technical people to create a web store, and powerfully targeted ads from Google and Facebook make it easy to expand your audience.

Getting started has never been easier — the challenge now is figuring out how to scale.

There are plenty of big, scary challenges for a small ecommerce business, but none are quite as terrifying as the elephant in the room: Amazon.

Amazon and a few others eat up the majority of the world’s ecommerce demand. They sell everything imaginable online and are only expanding. They offer the best prices, the fastest shipping, excellent customers service, and have massive brand awareness. For small ecommerce businesses, they can feel like a major roadblock. Some SMBs have managed to cultivate mutually beneficial relationships with Amazon, but many worry about getting permanently stuck on the wrong side of a losing battle.

What’s next in ecommerce marketing?

Most ecommerce entrepreneurs know that quickly after product market fit they’ll need to adapt their marketing strategy to compete with the giants. Competing with the likes of Amazon is obviously a challenge, but it can be done — and while all businesses are different, there is a common three-part formula to making it happen.

1. Meet modern buyers’ expectations.

You may not always be able to compete with the giants on price, but you have to rise to meet or exceed their level of service. The giants generally offer 24-7 support, fast shipping, and are generous on returns. Their level of service has become the industry standard. If you’re not already investing in building a great customer experience, now is the time.

Customers will understand if you can’t ship as fast as Amazon, but they won’t forgive you for not answering their questions quickly.

Start using tools like Facebook Messenger and live website chat to help customers in real-time in addition to email. Make sure you’re aware of customer issues through surveys like Net Promoter Score (NPS), and are encouraging customers who love you to leave positive reviews. Future customers trust those reviews more than your marketing message.

2. Modernize and personalize your marketing.

With the rising popularity of ecommerce, you’re not the only player in town –regardless of what niche your business occupies, you’re probably already facing competition. One-size-fits-all marketing emails and ads aren’t going to resonate with the modern buyer. Targeting your ideal buyers with standard, largely impersonal marketing messages won’t work. You need to make your messages as personal as possible to get their attention.

Look for signals you can use to make your marketing efforts more targeted. For instance, if you know a customer came to your site, put a product in their cart, but left before buying, you have a very strong signal that person is interested in that product. Target them with emails and ads that remind them why your option is the best.

This abandoned cart tactic is low-hanging-fruit and very effective. But it’s just one way of using data to improve your marketing. If you know a customer typically only buys from you during the holidays, make sure you email them with a special offer right before they typically buy to try and increase their purchase size. If a customer recently purchased a product, and you have a complimentary service you think they should know about, target them with ads for the service.

Make sure your ecommerce data and marketing tools are talking to each other — it’s the secret to unlock more powerful, more effectively targeted marketing strategies.

To make that happen, HubSpot now integrates with Shopify. It’s easier than ever for you to sync your data from Shopify into HubSpot, using it to seamlessly personalize your marketing campaigns.

If you’re able to use your web store data for marketing purposes, you can automate these new personalization tactics: abandoned cart nurturing happens automatically soon after someone leaves a cart, and you’re constantly welcoming new customers with a dedicated on-boarding email.

3. Build a brand that Amazon can’t touch. 

The online retail giants do a lot right, but the one thing they can’t do is be the single best player in any one given space. They offer everything, which limits them from truly going deep in anyone area. This gives SMBs space to build a brand and be the experts in their niche in a way that differentiates them from the giants.

HubSpot customer and Shopify merchant Kettlebell Kings sells kettlebells, and Amazon also sells kettlebells. But Kettlebell Kings has also built a community — something Amazon simply can’t do for every single category they occupy. Kettlebell Kings are active in the gym scene in their local community of Austin, Texas, offer workout plans, blog posts, videos, and Instagram content on working out with their products that their community loves. They’ve positioned themselves as experts and leaders in the workout and kettlebell space, and their branded product is a signal to their tribe of the companies’ quality and dedication.

They’ve built a memorable, community-driven brand around their product, and people are willing to wait a bit longer and pay a little more for it.

The same goes for HubSpot customer and Shopify merchant Love Your Melon. The company sells hats, and Amazon also sells plenty of hats. But Love Your Melon also stands for something that their audience cares deeply about. The company is dedicated to giving a hat to every child battling cancer in America. It’s something that drives their work, and they’re committed to telling the world about it. Their social media content celebrates the lives of families impacted by cancer, and their distinctive hats have become a product intertwined with a social mission. Their genuine passion isn’t something the giants can recreate.

Both of these companies have fully adopted inbound marketing. They aren’t just trying to get their product in front of people, they’re building a brand that pulls people in. It’s their secret to growth, and it’s applicable to every small ecommerce business today. Inbound marketing works for ecommerce, and it’s how you’ll grow.

Today we’re living in a world defined by giants. But it doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of room for small, savvy businesses to grow.

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