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It is often said that niching down and making your offer specific to a particular need and section of the market is the key to success. Rick Carlson, our guest today believes that this idea is still under-appreciated. Rick is the CEO of SharpSpring, an all-in-one marketing automation platform that has experienced great success in its young life. We hear from Rick about his career in the marketing sphere, what he has chosen to give his attention to and the events leading up to the founding of SharpSpring. We chat about the company’s base in Florida and why Rick decided to keep the company in his home state instead of one of the other startup hubs in the US. From there, Rick takes us through how SharpSpring approaches customer acquisition and their own marketing before we talk about finding the right type of customers and how he does this. The conversation ends off with the customary questions, with Rick opting to share his favorite business podcast instead of a book! For all this and a whole lot more from someone who is making great waves in the marketing world, and doing things slightly differently, join us on Leveling Up today!


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What to Do When Your Business Growth Hits a Wall

Ever heard the phrase, “What got you here won’t get you there?” Even if you haven’t, you probably know what it feels like.

Let’s say you’ve been experiencing a string of successes, growing nonstop, when you suddenly hit a wall. Then, no matter how hard you keep trying to repeat successful habits, you just can’t get past this bottleneck. It’s like everything you’ve learned so far no longer applies.

What gives?

Scaling Up Has Multiple Stages

Let me give you a more concrete example of why this happens.

When you’re first growing a business, you might hire a bunch of friends in the early days. You guys are working together and things are actually working out really well. Before you know it, you’re getting sales into the pipeline. You are growing 100% month over month.

When you’re really small, this kind of growth is very possible, and it seems like growth is effortless.

So you hire a couple people, first contractors and then full-timers, and they do a really good job for you. In the first year, things are going really well and you hit six figures in revenue. The very next year, you’re on track to do seven figures.

But to go from six to seven figures, there are significant changes you have to make. You have to start thinking about scalable processes and you may consider bringing in more senior and experienced help. But you haven’t done any of this before, so you don’t know this ahead of time.

Instead, you keep trying to do the same things you did in the past, but without any sign of success.

Related Content: How to Scale Your Business to 9 Figures Per Year

How Do You Get to the Next Level?

Whenever a company starts out, people wear a lot of different hats. Everyone’s open to doing a lot of different things. But when you start to get to the seven-figure level and beyond, you need to hire more specialists. And when you look at companies that do over $100 million per year, you have lots of investment in operations and layers of management, too.

But aren’t generalists better, you ask?

Not always. For example, let’s say one of your best friends helps you build up your company and he’s a generalist marketer who’s really good at getting a lot of different things up and running. In the early days, that might be enough because he’s basically like a Swiss army knife for marketing.

When you’re running on a shoestring, a self-funded budget, a Swiss army knife is a great investment.

But your friend might not be the person who will take you to next level of success with your marketing. For that journey, you need someone with a more specialized set of skills, someone who really understands the nuances of your niche. Specialists are more tuned into the cutting-edge stuff that will give you an edge over the competition.

Related Content: How We Doubled Our Traffic by Using this One Tactic

Hiring and Firing for Growth

The mistake that many companies make in this exact situation is they say, “Okay, let’s just stick with these guys. They’ve done a good job.” And then you stick with them for a couple years, but your growth kind of plateaus, because what got you here won’t get you there.

Granted, you have an emotional tie to the people who stuck things out with you when the company was growing. But at a certain point you have to ask yourself, “Is this person truly the person who will take us to the next level? If not, what do I need to do next?”

If you don’t feel 100% confident in your conviction that this person is the right person, then you’ve got to make a change. Maybe you need to help them adjust to another role. But if that person doesn’t want to move into another role, then you’ll have to make a difficult decision.

You don’t necessarily have to fire anyone. Many people can and will adapt to a new role if they like the company and if they’re compensated well. Those are the people who work really, really hard, and who love to learn. But some people may just want a standard 9-to-5 job, and they don’t want to learn new skills for new roles.

I’ve been in situations before where, as a manager, I had to make those kinds of decisions. Let’s say you hire someone who’s really good at content writing, for example, and they were able to handle all your content marketing. But now you need to produce way more content, maybe even multimedia content, and you need an editor-in-chief rather than a full-time writer.

Not all writers make good editors, and vice versa, so this is an example of something that could become a bottleneck.

Related Content: When Business Growth Stalls: Persevere or Give Up?

Get Advice from People Who Are Already There

You need to think about these things as you continue to grow because there are people who have had a lot of experience in your niche who know exactly what to do in your situation to get to the next level.

If you’ve hit a growth plateau and aren’t sure why, consider auditing your company. Ask yourself:

These are the questions I ask myself all the time. I’m constantly looking at where Single Grain is today and where we need to go next. We’ve made some huge transitions in our time, from a brick-and-mortar SEO agency to a completely remote PPC team back to an in-person team that’s really good at paid advertising. There have been a couple of major paradigm shifts, but everyone on the team understands that we make these changes to grow the company, and everyone has to learn as needed.

So, ask yourself this question every now and then: “Do we have everything we need to take us to the next level?” Because what got you here won’t necessarily get you there.

This post was adapted from Eric’s Facebook Live videos: Growth 90 – DAILY live broadcasts with Eric Siu on marketing and entrepreneurship. Watch the video version of this post:

When Business Growth Stalls: Persevere or Give Up?

Almost six years ago, when I was at Treehouse, I saw growth stall out at a large scale for the first time. Treehouse had 50-60 people back then, but we only had five months’ of cash in the bank.

Before I came on to help with marketing, growth had already been for two years. Our business was teaching people how to code online, how to do web design, how to ideate a great product, how to build a great team, etc. But for whatever reason they couldn’t make marketing work.


Digital Marketing Is Crucial to Growth

Dave McClure said, and I’m paraphrasing, that the biggest issue startups face is that most of them absolutely suck at digital marketing. They have a ton of cash, but often misspend it wildly. This wouldn’t be as big of a problem if digital marketing weren’t absolutely crucial to growth.

Worse, there still aren’t many schools that teach you this marketing stuff. There are good message boards out there like:

There are also a lot of courses out there, too, like:

Figuring Out What the Hell Is Going On

Anyway, going back to Treehouse. When I first got there, I said to myself, “Okay, I need to stop the bleeding right now.” So I decided to shut down the ads. Not too long after that I got promoted to lead the marketing team and the original marketing lead of two years instantly quit. So there was literally no onboarding and no knowledge transfer.

Learn More: How to Onboard New Hires

I had one month to both onboard myself and figure out what was going wrong. The CEO even pulled me aside and said, “If we don’t figure out numbers this month, we’re going to have to let you go.” So less than a month into my brand new job, I was already almost on my way out. For that entire month, I was just trying to figure out, “What the heck is going on?”

When your back is up against the wall, how do you react? You can either piss your pants or you can do something about it.

At the time we had a 4-day work week and I was putting in 7-day work weeks. Moral of the story: when you’re trying to figure out why growth is stalling, you might have to put in the extra effort. You might have to say goodbye to some of those weekends and goodbye to spending a lot of time with your friends. This is your baby right now, and you’ve got to save it.

When growth stalls, you have got to be willing and able to pull out all the stops and put in the time. I shut down advertising. I was working a lot. I didn’t ask my team to work overtime. I was just putting in the additional hours myself.

In hindsight, that was probably the wrong move. I probably should have told my team, “Hey, guys, it’s on us to save the company. We’ve only got five months worth of cash left in the bank. Let’s buckle down and do this together.”

How We Reversed Treehouse’s Fortunes with Marketing

After cutting down on ad costs, I started looking at the numbers. I pored through the analytics, AdWords, and every ad campaign we had been running. Facebook ads weren’t good at the time.

What I found was that we were seeing some semblance of traction with YouTube advertising. Based on the numbers, and because I really had nothing to lose, I decided to double down on YouTube advertising. And that’s exactly what skyrocketed our user growth and took us to the next level.

Related Content: A Step-by-Step Checklist For a Successful YouTube Ad Campaign

We also started looking at SEO. I kept asking myself, “How can we improve our SEO?” The first thing I did was bring in a managing editor. We hired a bunch of writers from a bunch of different web design sites, too. At the same time, we didn’t want to rely 100% on YouTube, so we diversified our ad channels and did a site redesign.

It all ended up working out for us and within that first month we were able to double our numbers. The month after that I think we were able to double our numbers again and we just kept growing and growing. Today, Treehouse is a $100 million dollar company.

Long story short, if your growth is stalling and your marketing is failing, you really only have one option: look at the numbers and act accordingly. You have to be willing to shut things down, stop the bleeding, and hire and fire as needed. You have to be willing to believe in what the data is telling you and stick things out until good things happen.

How We Saved Single Grain When It Was in the Red

Fast forward to Single Grain, a digital marketing agency that I run. When I came to Single Grain, it was doing even worse than Treehouse was. It was actually in the red. I had to figure out how to turn things around dramatically, and fast.

Keep in mind that the Treehouse turnaround happened in about eight months, though things started to really turn around in my first three months there. When you have a good product and a good team, fixing the marketing isn’t that hard.

But before I came to Single Grain, there were a lot of issues with their internal processes and deliverables. It was primarily an SEO-focused company and Google’s Penguin Update basically stomped all over their services.

What Single Grain did in the past just wasn’t working as well anymore. Clients weren’t seeing the results. So when I came to Single Grain, I decided we had to shift direction. We had to add services like pay-per-click and content marketing. At the same time, I decided to shut down our primary lead source (ads) because we were becoming too reliant on it.

Related Content: How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy if You Are a Beginner

I wanted us to become self-reliant, so I started to diversify our lead sources and our organic traffic began to grow.

Top Digital Marketing Companies of 2017 - Single Grain

Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

I started the Growth Everywhere podcast at the same time, and fortunately I was meeting a lot of great people. I also joined Entrepreneurs’ Organization and Young Entrepreneur Council.

Basically, I did everything I could to not put all our eggs in the same basket.

And it was tough. Making too many drastic changes is never a great idea—especially if you have a lot of people on a team. It can ruin the culture and that’s exactly what happened at Single Grain.

In hindsight, although things still worked out in the end, I probably should have done things a little slower. I probably should have gotten people’s feedback and spent more time talking to the team. But I just figured, “Hey, we need to move really quickly.” And so we did.

We already knew SEO wasn’t going to cut it for us anymore, so first we bet on content marketing. That didn’t work out so well. But when we bet on pay-per-click—that’s the main service we offer today, paid advertising—it worked out really well for us and today it’s our biggest service.
Single Grain PPC services

We had a lot of process-oriented issues to fix, too. Operationally speaking, there was no documentation for a lot of the things we did. Financially speaking, it was a house of cards. Overall, the Single Grain turnaround took a lot longer than the Treehouse turnaround. I took over Single Grain 3 years ago and we didn’t really start seeing very positive results until about 1 year ago. So the turnaround took 2 years total.

Double Down on What Works

Long story short, double down on what’s working and ignore the rest until you’re profitable. Move faster, too. I should have moved faster on a lot of important things. In hindsight, I probably should have let people go faster instead of trying to let them hang around and protect their paycheck.

What I learned is that as a business owner, you obviously want to protect your employees. But you can’t try to play God or anything like that. This is why layoffs are a thing. Sometimes, you have to do what’s necessary to preserve the company. You may have to let people go, and you will definitely have to make tough decisions.

My advice: make the tough decisions faster. Don’t be afraid to do that, because there’s no silver bullet that’s going to get you there. It’s all about persistence.

Power Through Things and You’ll Make It

At many points at Single Grain, during that 2-year turnaround period, I could have chosen to give up. Even in the first year when I didn’t own the company yet, I could have chosen to give up. I could have thrown in the towel.

Ironically, before I came to Single Grain I wanted to see if I could save a company that was on its way down. This wasn’t the smartest move on my part.

Think of it this way: if you want to go from -$100 to +$100, you have to make $200. But if you go from $0 to +$100 you just have to make $100. From an investment standpoint, it’s far easier to start from zero and get into the green than it is to start in the red and do the same thing. When you do that, all the momentum is working against you.

Learn More: Why You Should Run Marketing Growth Experiments Every Week

That’s what happened with Marissa Mayer and Yahoo. She was very well equipped to run that company and she turned it around a little bit in the beginning—but it was too little too late. Eventually Yahoo was sold to Verizon and it was a pretty significant loss at the end of the day.

Even though Single Grain is now successful, my recommendation would be to start from scratch as a business owner rather than buy and try to fix a failing business. But if you’re going to try to save something or grow something that’s stagnant, you’ve got to power through it. That’s ultimately the best recommendation I can give as a fellow business owner.

Most people give up too quickly. Most people throw in the towel too easily because they can’t take the pain. But if you can take the pain and you can weather the storm, you’re going to be that much better at business than 99% of the competition.

This post was adapted from Eric’s Facebook Live videos: Growth 90 – DAILY live broadcasts with Eric Siu on marketing and entrepreneurship. Watch the video version of this post:

Why It's Crucial to Set Expectations Upfront

Are you setting expectations with your clients?

If you don’t set expectations, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

As a digital marketing agency, Single Grain clients are sort of a mixed bag. Some clients are much more demanding than others.

Single Grain digital agency

We had one client who wanted four hours of in-person time from one of our team members every week. That’s 16 hours of time each month just spent talking to them. We had other clients who worked at much bigger companies and only needed a report every month or so.

If a client has an expectation for you to meet four hours every week and those expectations aren’t clearly aligned at the very beginning, you’re just asking for trouble.

Any time there’s a mismatch between what you’re willing to do and what the client expects you to do, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

It’s the same for personal relationships, too.

Let’s say you’re an entrepreneur and you’re dating somebody who is aligned with the 9-to-5 lifestyle. Sometimes your workdays won’t align. If the other person wants to spend a romantic evening with you, but you’re so dead tired that romance is the last thing on your mind, there’s going to be a clash of expectations.

I was just reading a thread on Facebook the other day where someone asked:

“Hey, is combining marriage and entrepreneurship not necessarily a good thing?”

Somebody else replied:

“Well, if your spouse understands the entrepreneur lifestyle, then it’s an asset. If your spouse has more of a 9-to-5 kind of mindset, then it’s not the right fit. It can cause a lot of trouble.”

Related Content: When the Client Is Wrong: How to Handle Difficult SEO Customers

How to End a Bad Relationship

My point is, you have to clearly set expectations with clients at the very beginning of the relationship. If you don’t set those expectations, you’re going to set yourself up for failure. Unsurprisingly, our one client who wanted 16 hours of face-to-face time per month didn’t last.

We said, “Hey, it’s okay. We understand where you’re coming from. Totally makes sense, but unfortunately that’s not for us. We can’t do that. We’d like to point you in the right direction of somebody who can help you with that.”

But if we had just set expectations with him the first time he asked for that kind of special treatment, we could have avoided the problem in the first place.

Bad relationship

Let’s say you don’t set expectations up front, but you talk about them later. In this scenario, there needs to be a little give and take. Sure, maybe your client is taking advantage of you a bit, but at the same time you let them get used to that. So that’s their expectation. If you want to scale that back, you need to give them something else in return. If you don’t, then the relationship is going to churn.

Here’s the thing with relationships. They either start or they end. If you’re in a service business, your job is to retain your clients for as long as possible. That means doing the best job that you can and meeting their needs. But it also means meeting your own needs so that a long-term arrangement is beneficial to everyone involved.

Related Content: How Due CEO John Rampton Turned His Frustration in Slow-Paying Clients into His Own Successful Business

How to Set Expectations with Employees

Setting expectations is also crucial for new hires. For example, let’s say one of your employees has a 9-to-5 shift. Sometimes things happen at home and people come in late. I totally get it. But if you consistently come in 45 minutes late, then that’s a problem.

There’s a misalignment issue because other people on the team are coming in early. If all of a sudden everybody else starts coming in 45 minutes late, it’s going to spiral out of control. Expectations no longer matter.

I was talking to one of my friends about this, and he mentioned that when he began his startup, people would come in pretty much whenever they wanted. But once they got to 100 employees, people had to come in on the dot. Granted, that’s not necessarily the case for every company.

But in a service-based business, it’s important to have people come in on time, and you can’t really make exceptions. Even if somebody’s a top performer, if you’re making exceptions or playing favorites, it rubs everyone else the wrong way.

If you guys can’t get on the same page and it’s your business, then it might be time to make a change. It’s the same for business relationships and personal relationships. There needs to be alignment, but there won’t be alignment unless people talk things through and expectations are set early on.

This post was adapted from Eric’s Facebook Live videos: Growth 90 – DAILY live broadcasts with Eric Siu on marketing and entrepreneurship. Watch the video version of this post:

GE 20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

This post originally appeared on Single Grain, a growth marketing agency focused on scaling customer acquisition.

As marketers, we know that there are a million things we could be working on at any given time: e-books, white papers, blog posts, webinars, paid advertising, e-mail marketing.

They’re all important, but part of running a successful business is about putting your focus on the highest-leverage activities. That’s the stuff that brings you the most bang for your buck — the stuff that helps you justify the ROI of your job to your boss.

One of the highest leverage activities you can spend your time on is optimizing your SEO. If you can get even one of your blog posts ranked at the top of Google for a broad keyword, it could drive thousands more visitors to your site every month.

And if you’ve got the rest of your sales funnel in place, then those thousands of visitors could add up to some significant ROI.

In this post, we’ll cover 20 tactics you can use to boost your SEO rankings.

1.   Improve What Already Works

The best, most efficient way to make your content stand out isn’t by reinventing the wheel — it’s by building a better version of what has already been proven to work.

Instead of trying to create an epic 10x piece of content from scratch, look for the blog posts or videos that already perform well within your niche and build on it. Brian Dean from Backlinko calls this the Skyscraper Technique.

For example, let’s say I wanted to write an article for a new marketing blog about Facebook ads.

First, I’d do some research to figure out which blog posts about Facebook ads have a track record of generating a lot of links. There are a few ways to do this.

I could go on Google, type in a broad search term, and see what ranks near the top.

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

Or I could type a broad search term into a tool like BuzzSumo and immediately get a list of highly shared content related to my topic.

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

Next, I’d pick one of those successful pieces of content, and build on it.

One simple way to do this is just by making the post longer. For example, one of the top Google search results for “facebook ad strategies” is an article called “5 Ridiculously Powerful Ad Targeting Strategies.” To build on this idea, you might come up with something like “25 Facebook Ad Strategies to Grow Your Business.”

Another way to improve on existing content is by making it more visually appealing.

For example, this post on ranks at the top of Google for the search term “buyer journey,” mainly because of how the post is designed.

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

According to Brian Dean, by taking a post that is already proven and building on it, you drastically reduce the likelihood that your content falls flat because you’re writing content that has already worked.

2. Link Out to Influencers

An important factor for getting a post to rank high in the search results is having a lot of other influential people link back to it. One easy way to do this is by mentioning your industry’s influencers in your content.

When other people see their name mentioned somewhere on the Internet, they’re much more inclined to share the piece on their own social media, blogs or newsletters. And because industry influencers usually have large audiences, that means more targeted traffic back to your site.

For example, this entrepreneur curated an e-book full of the best Medium posts of 2015, and then sent it out to all the writers he mentioned within the e-book:

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

A simple e-mail like this sent to the right influencer could be the “tipping point” that makes your content go viral. In fact, according to Blogging Wizard, with the right approach you can get up to an 80% response rate from the top influencers in your industry.

3. Link to Your Lower-Ranked Content within Your Higher-Ranked Content

We all have pages on our blog that perform really well in search, and others that fall on page three, four, or even lower. And the frustrating thing is that some of our low-ranked content may contain amazing material. If only those poor blog posts could get a little push — like a share from an influencer or several more backlinks — they might go viral or rank at the top of SERPs.

One way to give the poor-ranking content a push is by finding the posts on your site that rank higher in Google and adding links within them to the pages that rank lower.

For example, HubSpot ranks pretty high for the search term “content marketing strategy.”

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

Within this post, they link to multiple articles on their blog about topics like list purchasing and developing a social media content calendar — neither of which rank as high.

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

This is a great way to give some of your lower ranked content the boost they need to get to the top.

Free Bonus Download: Want to download the PDF version of this post? Get your very own copy of it right here! Click here to download it free.

4. Write Emotionally Appealing Content

The best content is the kind that speaks to people’s emotions. Marketers who are able to connect with their audience can build a large audience of loyal readers relatively quickly.

Make sure you understand your market’s deepest hopes, fears and dreams around the subject about which you’re writing. Once you have a good grasp on this, you can weave it into your blog posts to show your audience that you really “get” them.

Steli Efti at, a SaaS product to help salespeople close more deals, does this really well.

Salespeople have a lot of hopes and fears around their job. For example, they might feel afraid of coming off as too “sleazy” or too fake.

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

They might be afraid of hearing a bunch of “no” responses from leads.

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

Or maybe they feel like they have no idea what they’re doing.

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

Because their content tells emotionally captivating stories that really “hit the spot” for their audience,’s blog has quickly become one of the go-to resources for salespeople.

Another great example is the Copy Hackers blog. Their content has a lot of personality infused into each post, which helps set the content apart from all the other marketing posts on the web.

Notice how friendly and fun this content sounds:

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

Businesses in virtually every industry can incorporate great storytelling and personality into their content if they understand their customers at a deep level. Even Pfizer was able to boost sales using this approach, according to this article by Cognitive Edge.

There are always a bunch of new SEO tactics popping up all the time, but at the end of the day, the best way to have your content reach more people is simply by writing stuff that they actually want to read! And one great way to do that is by writing posts that are fun and/or informative and appeal to the readers’ emotions.

5. Use Keyword Research to Gauge Demand

Writing long-form content consistently takes a lot of effort. So before you start climbing that mountain, it’s important to ensure that you’re writing content for which people are actually searching.

One easy way to do this is by using the Keyword Planner on Google AdWords. It’s easy to see how many people are searching for a particular keyword, and you can even uncover related keywords to base your articles around.

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

Another great tool for gauging the number of search results for a particular topic is Google Trends, where you can uncover search trends over time for keywords to see if they’re worth pursuing.

Or you could use BuzzSumo to see the number of shares that certain types of content get and which keywords are getting a high rate of shares.

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

Moz has a great guide on how to do keyword research for SEO, including how to judge the value of a keyword and understanding how to use long tail keywords.

By creating remarkable, long-form content around keywords that have a high search volume, you make it easier for your blog posts to rank high for a topic and generate a lot of traffic to your website.

6. Leverage Broken Links

Broken link building is one of the most effective white hat strategies you can use to grow your SEO rankings.

The first step is to figure out which websites in your industry have broken links to your own site as well as your competitors’ sites. There are quite a few search term variations you can type into Google to uncover sites with dead links. According to this guide by Neil Patel and Brian Dean, here are some of them:

For example, you can type in “marketing + intitle:resources” to find posts that are filled with a bunch of links.

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

Next, you’ll have to scour the page to find the broken links. An easy way to do this is by downloading a Chrome plugin called Domain Hunter Plus, which scans pages for dead links.

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

Once you activate the plugin for a particular page, you’ll get a list of dead links on that page. You can then export the list of links, send it to the site owner, and ask to replace the dead links with your own resources.

7. Use the Hub and Spoke Strategy

Relying on standalone blog posts to drive your SEO rankings is a losing battle.

A few individual pieces of content might appear high up on the search results, but there are better ways to get more mileage out of your blog posts. One tried-and-true way is the hub and spoke strategy.

Through this approach, you create one giant piece of content to function as the page that people land on directly from Google (your “hub”), and from that page, you link to a bunch of other relevant pages on your website (the “spokes”).

Your hub should be something that’s highly shareable, like a meaty post that people bookmark because of how informative it is and how many useful resources it contains. This way, your hub will rise in SEO rankings, and as a result your “spokes” will rise as well.

Copyblogger created a page called “Email Marketing: How to Push Send and Grow Your Business,” and within it, they’ve included supporting posts like “Why Vanity Metrics Are Worthless (and What Really Matters),” “37 Tips for Writing Emails that Get Opened, Read, and Clicked,” and more.

By creating a hub, or a “table of contents”-style guide around a topic in your niche that people can consistently refer to, you’re creating a larger piece of content that will rise higher and higher in search rankings.

And as a result, the content you link to within your hub will rise higher and higher as well.

8. Create High-Quality Roundup Posts

As I mentioned earlier, mentioning industry influencers in your content is a great way to help your content get more shares.

And roundup posts are an efficient way to do this on a larger scale. In a roundup, you curate posts from experts in your niche and share them with your own readers. This tactic is an easy method to build relationships with the right people in your field, generate a bunch of traffic, and improve your SEO rankings.

According to Crazy Egg, these are a few key characteristics that make a high-quality roundup:

Once you’ve sourced a long list of high-quality links around a topic that your audience wants to know more about, you can ask each influencer to share the post with their own audience.

For example, here’s an e-mail that someone sent to me after including some of my content in a post:

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

I ended up sharing it with my list of 20,000+ readers.

Free Bonus Download: Want to download the PDF version of this post?Get your very own copy of it right here! Click here to download it free.

9. Dominate Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are keywords that are more specific and “narrow” than broader short tail keywords.

For example, “facebook advertising” is very broad search term, but “facebook advertising for SaaS companies” is much more specific.

It’s natural to create content focused on broad, short tail keywords. We think that because there are a lot of people searching for these more general phrases, we should take take advantage of that. But in reality, creating remarkable content that is focused on long-tail keywords can boost your conversions.

People want solutions that are tailored specifically for their situation. If you create a piece of content called “Facebook Advertising Strategies for B2B SaaS Companies,” you’d make B2B companies feel that you understand their specific situation a lot better than someone who wrote an article called “25 Facebook Ad Strategies to Grow Your Business.”

Even though you would be going after a smaller pie, you would dominate a much larger piece of it.

For more on how to identify and leverage long-tail keywords for SEO, see this guide: How to Identify Long Tail Keywords for Your SEO Campaign.

10. Develop an End-to-End Content Marketing Strategy

Whatever strategy you’re pursuing — whether it’s Facebook ads, SEO or anything else — the main point is to drive more prospects along the buyer’s journey to becoming customers.

That’s the main goal of content marketing.

SEO works best when it’s part of that larger content marketing strategy.

According to this guide by Salesforce Pardot (and this image from HubSpot), customers go through the following three stages before deciding to buy:

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

By creating high-quality content to serve customers at each step of the process, you’ll naturally rank higher in search results while also generating more sales.

Awareness Stage

At the awareness stage, customers are usually conscious that they have a problem, but they have no idea what the right solution looks like.

For example, if you’re selling services to help CEOs improve their content marketing, they might be thinking things like: “Ugh, I don’t want to waste hours and hours writing blog posts if I have no idea what the payoff is going to be” or “I need to outsource this but I don’t know how to figure out who’s the right person to handle it.”

At this stage, 72% of people immediately turn to Google to figure out how to solve their problems. They search for content that hits their specific pain points.

If you’re selling marketing services, a good piece of content to write might be something like “How to Speed Up Your Content Marketing Success.” This way, when customers search for their problem, your blog will be the first one they see.

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

An example of how HubSpot attracts customers who are in the “awareness” stage.

Interest or Consideration Stage

As potential customers start to gather more information about their problem, they look for ways to solve it in the “interest” phase. At this stage, evidence-based content starts to become a lot more valuable to them.

According to Crystal Clear Communications, 30% of buyers consult white papers at this stage of the process, 29% consult case studies, and 30% of buyer influencers look to detailed technology guides.

Again, if you’re selling marketing services, good content at this stage might sound something like “The Ultimate Guide to Getting More Leads Through SEO.”

You can present these guides at the bottom of your blog posts and ask readers to fill out their e-mail address in order to receive them. This way, you help people transition from the “awareness” phase to the “interest” phase, and you capture their e-mail addresses so that you can send them more content down the road.

HubSpot does this well — when customers start off in the awareness phase searching for something like “how to speed up content marketing results,” HubSpot’s blog post is the first thing they see on Google:

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

And at the bottom of that post, site visitors can sign up to get a free content strategy planning guide.

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

Evaluation or Decision Stage

Only after customers have done their research and figured out how to go about solving their problem are they ready to start thinking about purchase options in the “evaluation” phase.

At this stage, they’re trying to decide which service to buy. Good content here might be something like “4 Steps to Picking a Good Marketing Agency,” “Why Some Marketing Agencies Don’t Get Good Results” or something else along those lines. And in these posts, you can strategically position yourself against your competition by “teaching” your audience why you’re better.

Understanding what your customers are searching for at each step of the journey is super important — that way, you can create highly ranked content to help them along the way.

11. Track the Right Metrics

There are a few specific metrics that you can track to measure your overall SEO performance.

For example, one key metric for SEO is the average time that users spend on your content page. If your content is engaging, if it appeals to their emotions, if it’s useful, then readers will stay on the page longer in order to read more of your material. For more on the right metrics to track for your SEO, check out this post by Neil Patel: Quantify Your Results: The 14 Most Important Content Marketing Metrics.

If your website does not provide quality content, visitors will “bounce” off the page and “boomerang” to a competitor’s site.

Keep in mind that there’s no specific number here that can be considered “good” or “bad.” If you’re writing short-form content, for example, then you’re naturally going to have a low average time on your site. Or if you offer a great answer to a reader’s question, you might have a high bounce rate but also a high time on your site.

The number of return visitors is also a good metric to gauge how good your content is. How many readers come back to your site on a regular basis? If you’re sending e-mails to your subscription list regularly, how many people consistently open and click?

This is one of the most useful metrics that you can measure since return visitors are usually the most likely to convert to buyers.

12. Produce Expert Interviews

There are a lot of benefits you can get from associating yourself with experts in your industry.

Read More: 5 Steps to Becoming an Expert Content Creator (According to Google’s Phantom Update)

One of the best ways to leverage that association is by interviewing these experts and repurposing the content into a blog post. That way, you can rank high for the expert’s name and siphon off a large audience that searches for them.

For example, Groove did an interview with Neil Patel and repurposed it into a blog post. Now when anyone searches “Neil Patel interview,” Groove shows up at the top of the results.

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

Venture Hacks did an interview with Sean Ellis, which also ranks at the top of Google for “sean ellis interview.”

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

By interviewing influencers in your industry and turning it into a blog post, you can attract a chunk of that influencer’s audience to your own site through Google search.

13. Always Be Repurposing

Part of maximizing the effectiveness of your content marketing is repurposing your material as much as you can.

As Neil Patel and Aaron Agius write in QuickSprout’s Complete Guide to Building Your Blog Audience, there are at least seven different ways to repurpose a single blog post. Turn it into a:

  1. Infographic
  2. Whitepaper or guide
  3. Videographic
  4. YouTube video
  5. Webinar
  6. Slideshare presentation
  7. Podcast

This could skyrocket the reach of each post that you write.

Let’s say you published a blog post called “How to Leverage Influencers in Your Content Marketing.” There are tons of different formats into which you can repurpose this content to attract a wider audience.

For starters, you could take that content and make it native for different blogging platforms like Quora, Medium or LinkedIn — which allow anyone to reach a targeted audience of tens of thousands of people if the content is good.

Then, using a tool like Visme, you can take that blog post and turn it into infographic.

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

Noah Kagan found from analyzing 100 million articles that infographics get shared the most out of all types of content. This means that an infographic could potentially get more than double the reach of a single blog post, which makes it more likely to rank higher in search.

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

Then you could take the blog post and infographic and combine them into a compelling SlideShare presentation.

If you have a podcast, you could summarize the key points of the blog post in a quick 10-minute audio segment.

With a simple, structured system, you could skyrocket the reach of each piece of content you put out by making it “native” to several other platforms simultaneously, thereby increasing the likelihood that the content will rank high in SERPs.

14. Increase the Length of Your Posts

A simple way to get more reach on your content is just to increase its length.

Longer-form posts are more comprehensive, get shared more frequently, and lead to lower bounce rates — which is why they tend to be ranked higher on Google.

According to serpIQ, average length of posts at the top positions on Google are 2450+ words.

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

Not only does this help with SEO, but more time spent on your page means you’d be cultivating more trust between you and your audience.

15. Create Visually Appealing Content

Content that’s visually appealing allows readers to digest a larger amount of information in a shorter period of time. It’s much easier to look at a graph or an infographic that’s well designed than a huge 5,000-word blog post — and as a result, it’s more likely to get shared.

You don’t need to be a design whiz to create content that’s visually appealing either. You could use a tool like Snapguide to create beautiful how-to guides, for example.

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

Written content is still very important, but the way the content is presented is also important. The more visual, the better.

Free Bonus Download: Want to download the PDF version of this post?Get your very own copy of it right here! Click here to download it free.

16. Make Sure Your Site Is Mobile Optimized

According to Commonplaces Interactive, both Google and Bing have reported higher search traffic coming from mobile devices than computers.

That’s why these search engines boost content in search rankings that are mobile friendly.

If you’re not sure whether your site is mobile friendly or not, you can just insert the URL into Google’s Mobile Friendly site analyzer.

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

The easiest way to make sure that your site doesn’t get penalized in search results for this is by making it responsive. That way, it will “respond” to the device on which it’s being viewed, and won’t encounter any problems on any mobile devices.

17. Get Published in Major Media Outlets

By writing original blog posts on major media outlets, you can get a lot more exposure to your own site.

For example, Neil Patel wrote a guest post on

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

Within the post, he included multiple links back to his own blog, Quicksprout.

One thing you might want to be wary of is reposting content from your blog to a major media outlet. Although the exposure would be good, Google penalizes duplicate content in search results.

But writing original content for major sites could help build your credibility as well as get more backlinks to your blog. For more on this, check out How to Pitch a Guest Post to Editors at 104 Major Publications by Jon Morrow.

18. Use HARO to Get More Backlinks

Another quick way to get more backlinks for your blog is by using a service called Help a Reporter Out (HARO). This site is aimed at the tons of journalists out there who are writing stories on various topics and need quotes from experts.

When you sign up for HARO, you’ll get notified every time a journalist who is writing about a topic in your field needs a quote. Then you can send in a quick pitch offering a quote along with your business name and website URL.

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

This is a great way to get your name and blog on a news media site without having to write a unique guest post.

19. Understand Your Audience at a Deep Level

If you deeply understand your audience’s emotional experience at each stage of the buyer’s journey, you can consistently create high-quality content that not only sits at the top of Google’s SERP, but also drives sales.

The best part is that it’s actually really easy to understand your audience’s emotional pain points.

All you have to do is set up an autoresponder message for everyone who signs up for your e-mail list. As soon as someone subscribes, you can send them something like this:

Hey [name],

I get hundreds of “marketing” e-mails everyday from random companies that are just a pain to sort through.

I want to be different. I want to send you e-mails that you actually look forward to reading.

So to make sure that I send you the best possible content, I wanted to ask you a quick question… What’s the #1 barrier that’s keeping you from [whatever success you’re trying to help them achieve]?

Just “hit reply” to this e-mail and let me know. I read every response.

Thank you,

[your name]

You’d be surprised at how many people pour out their life story in response to that, which helps you to know exactly what’s going through their mind.

It’s even better if you ask for feedback at each stage of the customer journey. Derek Halpern of Social Triggers asks non-buyers for feedback right after they make the decision not to buy from him:

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

This way, you’ll know exactly how to create the right type of content that resonates at a deep level with your readers, gets shared, and ends up ranking high in the search pages.

20. Invent Your Own Terminology

This isn’t easy to do, but if you can do it, you’ll skyrocket the reach of your blog. People who invent terminology that catches on in their industry can really boost their SEO rankings.

For example, Brian Dean of Backlinko invented what he calls the Skyscraper Technique, which is a unique approach to creating content.

Now when anyone searches “skyscraper technique” on Google, his name is all over the web on multiple different sites.

20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings

To invent your own term, you don’t need to create some crazy new breakthrough idea in your industry. All you need to do is take existing points of view that are already out there, “repackage” them, and make them your own.

For example, Tim Ferriss wasn’t the first ever lifestyle design blogger, but he was the first to package up his ideas into the “Four Hour Work Week.”

Gary Vaynerchuk isn’t the first to talk about understanding the context of social media platforms, but he was the first to position as “Jab Jab Jab Right Hook.”

Putting It All Together

So there you have it — 20 ways to boost your SEO rankings!

As marketers, there are a lot of tactics out there that we could potentially focus on. But those who get world-class results get them by focusing on high-leverage activities that deliver real long term results.

Now I want to hear from you. What other SEO tips would you recommend? Leave a comment below!

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Dornubari Vizor LeadQuizzes

Hey everyone, on today’s show we have Dornubari Vizor, one of the co-founders of LeadQuizzes, a software solution that helps businesses generate leads through fun quizzes and assessments.

In today’s interview, we’ll be talking about how Dornubari’s digital marketing agency evolved into LeadQuizzes, how they acquired their first 100 customers using an early adopter program (and achieved a 25% conversion rate!), and what they did to get one client 100s of leads per month and a 500% conversion rate.

Download podcast transcript [PDF] here: How Startups Can Generate Leads for as Little as $.05 with LeadQuizzes (Transcript)

Episode highlights:

Resources from this interview:

Leave some feedback:

Connect with Eric Siu:

What Is Inbound Marketing

This post originally appeared on Single Grain, a growth marketing agency focused on scaling customer acquisition.

You’ve likely heard the term, you may even believe you have a good grasp of the basics. But chances are you’re thinking of inbound and content marketing as the same thing. People often confuse the two, much like Bill Paxton and Bill Pullman.

Inbound is the most popular kid at school these days, captain of the football team and holding the place of honor at the cool table. But for many of us, it’s an enigma. A mystery wrapped in a puzzle.

So what is inbound marketing? Let’s start with what it’s not.

Inbound Marketing = Content Marketing?

Afraid not. Many industry “experts” make this mistake, so don’t feel bad if you fall in that camp. It’s not the same thing. The terms are not interchangeable, despite the fact that many sites do just that.

Inbound marketing is any marketing activity that gets you found, that brings leads and customers to you rather than you heading out into the world to find them. Inbound is frequently done via content marketing, though it’s not the only way (social media participation is another, such as hashtag conversations on Twitter). It may include SEO, social media, videos, e-mail campaigns, podcasts, infographics, blogs, and webinars.

So, content marketing—the creation and distribution or useful content to connect and engage with a specific target audience—is just one inbound marketing tactic…but it’s perhaps the most important one.

What is inbound marketing

(Image source: DigitalRalph)

Put another way, all content marketing is essentially inbound marketing, but all inbound is not content.

“Inbound Marketing is about getting found online, through search engines and on sites like Facebook and YouTube and Twitter…” ~David Meerman Scott

And you want to be found online. Consider these facts:

It all begins with getting found. Just like the Hollywood starlet getting discovered while serving coffee at Starbucks.

Inbound tactics like content and SEO make you visible to a world that is increasingly looking for answers, information, products, and services online. It gets you on their radar without the pushy sales methods that everyone hates so much. This is a very good thing for your bottom line, but it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. It takes time.

“Content marketing is a long-term relationship. It’s not a one night stand.” ~Ross Simmonds

The Content Conundrum

Creating and distributing all that content—blog posts, e-books, slideshows, videos, infographics, podcasts, articles, case studies, white papers, graphics, webinars—can eat a lot of your workday.

But just look at the payoff:

And with billions of people online at any one time (primarily consuming content, hanging out on social media, and conducting searches), that’s a lot of attention and positive feelings coming your way.

So inbound marketing—and by extension, content—takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, but the ROI is unparalleled in 2016.

Free Bonus Download: Get a list of 10 inbound marketing statistics you need to know . These numbers will show you the full value of inbound marketing and can’t be found in this post! Click here to download it free.

How to Harness Content in Your Inbound Efforts

Content marketing needs concrete goals, a specific and identified audience, a distribution plan, and analytics to help measure and define success. Tall order? Sure. But well worth it.

“Marketing is telling the world you’re a rock star. Content marketing is showing the world that you are one.” ~Robert Rose

Your efforts need to be guided by your marketing goals, and those might include brand awareness, lead nurturing, conversion/sales, customer service, retention/loyalty, up-selling, or creating passionate subscribers (happy customers make fantastic cheerleaders in cyberspace and beyond).

Create and make available something that someone wants, and they’ll come to you. Right to your digital doorstep. All you have to do is open it and say “hi.” Connection made. Conversation started.

More Useful Stuff:

More Than Just Content: What is Inbound Marketing?

10 Content Marketing Myths that Are Killing Your Conversions

The Inbound vs. Outbound Debate Is Over

With apologies to Don Draper, outbound (or traditional) marketing is going the way of the dodo. It doesn’t speak to the audience, it speaks at the audience, shoving messages under their nose whether they like it or not.

Television and radio ads, billboards, online banners and popups, prints ads, phone calls, flyers, direct (i.e. junk) mail, and so on are all examples of outbound marketing. It’s aggressive in its pitch: Buy our product now! You need this laundry detergent because it will make your life beautiful, fragrant, and 39% better!

These are also known as interruption marketing tactics, because they do just that: they interrupt the audience’s television show or song or their perusal of the latest issue of Cosmo. And people hate being interrupted.

44% of direct mail is never opened, 86% of us skip through commercials (thank you PVRs!), and 84% of 25-34 year olds have bounced from a website because of in-your-face ads.

“We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in.” ~Craig Davis

And this is where inbound and content marketing come in and sink the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. Inbound marketing pulls the audience in and engages in a two-way conversation. It provides value by giving them something they want, need, love, or are interested in…with no strings attached or expectations.

They come to you. There’s no hard sell. In fact, there’s no sell at all. Inbound is about creating relationships, building awareness, providing a solution to some problem or pain point, and building trust.

Then, when it’s time to buy, you’re first in their mind. So:

“If you have more money than brains, you should focus on outbound marketing. If you have more brains than money, you should focus on inbound marketing.” ~Guy Kawasaki

So What’s the Big Deal?

Let’s look at some stats:

And you’ll be in good company. According to Hubspot’s annual State of Inbound report, 3 out of 4 marketers are now prioritizing their inbound efforts, and a whopping 84% of small businesses are primarily using the strategy.

Inbound marketing achieves a higher ROI than outbound methods regardless of a company’s size or marketing budget.

Want to increase your odds even more? Check your metrics at least three times per week, and let them guide your efforts. You’ll be 20% more likely to see a positive return on your investment.

The best marketers monitor:

It’s not just about traffic.

(Source: Compfight)

The CMI and MarketingProfs B2B Content Marketing Report paints an equally impressive picture:

But wait (you might be saying), that’s all great for B2B businesses. But I’m in the B2C arena. Fear not! CMI has you covered, too:

That’s the big deal. The very, very big deal.

Free Bonus Download: Get a list of 10 inbound marketing statistics you need to know .These numbers will show you the full value of inbound marketing and can’t be found in this post! Click here to download it free.

Get Onboard with Inbound

But how do you put it all together? Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. No cookie-cutter template that’ll work for everyone. Inbound marketing may be a fickle toddler, but there are plenty of best practices and insider tips to get you started.

How We Use the Web

Think about your own Internet usage. What do you do online? If you’re like most people (and let’s assume you are), you spend a lot of time conducting search queries. We have the collected knowledge of human civilization at our fingertips and in our pockets. Literally. And that’s pretty amazing.

We can instantly find the answer to virtually any question. Those answers can spin us off in new directions, leading to different questions, and introducing us to new websites, brands, and personalities. It’s a smorgasbord. An all-you-can eat buffet. And it is glorious.

Billions of searches each month means billions of opportunities to connect. 2.3 billion social media users means more opportunity to engage than you can shake a virtual stick at. Americans check their social accounts a remarkable 17 times each day! In short, there’s a huge, captive, and engaged audience out there waiting to meet you.
What is inbound marketing

(Source: Pixabay)

Using inbound tactics—with a healthy dose of content—brings a steady flow of laser-targeted traffic to you. You know they’re interested in whatever you have to offer before you even shake their hand (digitally speaking) because they followed your link, or downloaded your content, or commented on your wall. You have what they want.

Don’t blow it by trying to close the deal on the first date. Get to know them.

Inbound Recipe for the Modern Marketer

So, what do you need to succeed? Inbound is a diverse creature. It’s not just content. The best inbound marketers use a mix of:

The goal with inbound is to get known and spread brand awareness. You want to have your name on the tip of everyone’s tongue and grow your fame and authority.. Be visible. Be approachable. Be helpful. But don’t try to sell too soon. Modern consumers are sick and tired of aggressive sales tactics and most will simply walk away if you do it.

That’s the beauty of inbound…you’re selling without selling. The relationship that you cultivate—either real or perceived—makes the sales part almost automatic. People buy for emotional reasons. They buy from brands and companies they know, trust, and love. And inbound marketing grows all of that for you.

Inbound and the Buyer’s Journey

Let’s stop and consider for a moment the way we shop and buy. Even when you physically head out into the real world, that journey often starts online.

A Nielsen survey commissioned by Google found that over three-quarters of consumers conduct searches on their smartphone while on the go, and over half of them want to make a purchase within the hour.

So start with search. Understand that proximity matters to them…they want their search results to be nearby (use location indicators and keywords). And make purchase immediacy a priority (make it easy for them to buy online, to contact you via e-mail or phone, or find your physical location).

This all falls into the sales funnel, whether it starts online and migrates to the real world, or takes place entirely in cyberspace.

The Inbound Sales Funnel

Your inbound marketing needs to walk them through your funnel, from top to bottom. What you provide and offer at each section will be the difference between a successful sale and waving bye-bye as they claw their way back to the top and out.

What is inbound marketing

(Source: Greenhouse Agency)

The inbound sales funnel is typically divided into three sections, and each one requires its own ingredients:

It’s paramount that you create some way to collect details (e-mail and names) in the middle. That turns a nameless prospect into a warm lead. And that’s a very good thing.

If you remember one thing, remember this:

Overall, you’re trying to increase the volume at the top of your funnel with your SEO efforts, targeted and valuable content (blog posts, infographics, videos), active social media participation, and well-researched PPC campaigns, while increasing conversion at the bottom of your funnel by making your offer too good to refuse, and serving up personalized (get their details!) and actionable next-steps. Close the deal…but only at the bottom.

The Buyer Decision Process

The traditional buyer decision process looks like this:

  1. Problem or need identified
  2. Information and research
  3. Evaluation of available options
  4. Purchase decision
  5. Post-purchase evaluation

This can easily be applied to our inbound funnel:

  1. ToFu – Problem/need identified, and research stage
  2. MoFu – Evaluation of options
  3. BoFu – Purchase decision, and post-purchase evaluation

See? It goes together like Bert and Ernie.

Just remember that your work is NOT done once you get that sale. Follow up afterwards to create loyal, satisfied customers. Bad word-of-mouth can kill you in 2016 because anybody can reach millions of people in a matter of minutes, so go that extra mile.

Free Bonus Download: Get a list of 10 inbound marketing statistics you need to know .These numbers will show you the full value of inbound marketing and can’t be found in this post! Click here to download it free.

Final Thoughts

So, do you have a plan? Like a good reporter, you need to ask the right questions when sketching your inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing is not going away anytime soon, and for that we should all be thankful. It relies on brains, not budget. It literally allows the small guys—the mom ‘n’ pop businesses—to compete on a global scale.

Through SEO, social media engagement, PPC, content distribution (especially blog posts, videos, and visuals), and live appearances, you can pull prospects to you.

What’s inbound marketing? The marketing you’ve been waiting for: affordable, uber-effective, and possible for everyone.

If you’re ready to get found, get connected, and get that sale, let the experts at Single Grain handle every step of your online marketing so that you can concentrate on delivering an amazing product or service.

The Quick & Practical Guide To Google Tag Manager

Analytics and tagging aren’t the sexiest topics to entrepreneurs and marketers because they want to be working on things that have the highest impact on driving the needle.

But not implementing the proper tagging and tracking solutions leads to an overall slowdown in your marketing operations.

Not implementing a tool like Google Tag Manager is like letting debt snowball. In the technology world, people like to use the word technical debt. In this case, we can call it analytics debt.

First, we need to define what Google Tag Manger is. At a very high level, it helps marketers decrease the need to reach out to your engineers or IT team to add/remove/modify tracking codes on your website.

This means there’s no need to ask for:

Basically, you’re no longer at the mercy of your developers/IT team and they’ll be a lot happier knowing that everything is safe in one place. As marketers, speed is everything—this means testing new tools and vendors in days rather than weeks.

For those visual learners like myself, here’s a quick introductory video:

Other key benefits:

Here’s how to get started with Google Tag Manager:

Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager

What Are Tags?

Google Tags make it easy to add conversion tracking, analytics, remarketing tags, and more. These are small snippets of code that can be Google Analytics/AdWords tags or non-Google tags (such as Facebook pixels).

Here’s an example of a tag we use to track who is clicking on our ‘Services’ page for our digital marketing agency:

Google Tag Manager

A few key points on what’s happening here.

The naming convention:

How To Set Up A Tag

Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager

This is a very simple implementation of a tag. You can certainly add complexities down the line for whatever you are trying to do.

Watch this video to get started with tags:

What Are Triggers?

Triggers will determine whether a tag is fired or not fired. More simply put, these are ‘rules’. Here’s what one of our triggers looks like:

Google Tag Manager

For Triggers, there’s the option of selecting different events. In our case, we chose to look for people who are clicking on specific text (‘Content Marketing‘).

How To Set Up A Trigger

Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager

What Are Events?

An event is an action. For example, if someone clicks on your phone number, you can tag that as an event and have it fire in Google Analytics. By doing this, you’ll be able to consistently measure actions that you deem important.

How To Set Up An Event:

Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager

What Are Macros?

As you continue to add to GTM, you’ll be adding repetitive tasks. What if you had the ability to create shortcuts for these tasks? That’s what macros are.

Here’s a video explanation:

What Are Some Practical Use Cases for GTM?

Where To Go From Here?

For more in-depth training on setting up Google Tag Manager, I highly recommend watching videos from GTM Training on YouTube.

In terms of practical use cases, here are some:

Here are some of my favorite videos from GTM Training:

Bonus: Google Tag Assistant

Google has a browser extension called Google Tag Assistant that allows users to see specific tags that are on each page. This helps with testing/implementation.

Bonus: iPullRank’s Complete Guide to Google Tag Manager


At the end of the day, Google Tag Manager is not only helpful for organizing all your tags; it opens up the possibilities for doing more with your web applications and speeds up your site by consolidating all the snippets that you had lying around before.

Give it a shot and let us know in the comments below what you think!


Ultimate Recipe for Effective Customer Lead Generation

This post originally appeared on Single Grain, a growth marketing agency focused on scaling customer acquisition.

It’s as annoying as hell, isn’t it?

When another business has been active for just a fraction of the time that you have and yet still manages to eclipse your lead generation efforts, you’re left scrambling around trying to find any decent leads while you watch your smug competitor speed off to success.

How do they do it?

I’ll tell you. They’re not securing more business because they’re a better brand or even have a better product. No. They’ve understood the problem that is inherent with the majority of the sales and marketing advice you’ll find online: it’s incomplete.

It’s kind of like offering a 10-step guide that consists only of stages three to seven: you read it and think, “Wow, this is some grade A stuff!” but really, it’s pretty useless without the other five steps. The majority of free online advice isn’t intended to help you. It’s there to increase the profile and standing of the business that publishes it. 

Your competitors are leaving you behind because they’ve figured this out. Instead of following the advice of one business, article or e-book, they’ve compiled several sources into one comprehensive strategy.

You need the whole process, a list of all the actions and how to combine them to create an end product.

And that’s exactly what this article is: the full recipe for effective lead gen. But first…

What Is a Lead?

A lead, despite what you may think, is not a sale.

They are two different stages of the purchase journey that are often confused with one another.

Ultimate Recipe for Effective Customer Lead Generation

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A lead is nothing more than someone who has expressed an interest in your business. They’re the people who say, “Yeah, I might be interested in what you’re offering.” It’s your job to follow up on this interest and turn that lead into a sale.

But this is where things get more complicated. The stage of the buying journey from lead to sale isn’t as simple as a journey from A to B.

Hubspot’s got a great little guide on the different stages of the customer lifecycle. I’ve paraphrased the stages that are pertinent to us:

Lead – Leads are the first step in creating a customer. They’ve expressed more interest in your business than the average member of your target demographic but aren’t anywhere near the purchase decision point.

Marketing Qualified Lead – MQLs are the next stage of the sales funnel. These are the people who raise their hand and say, “This seems like a pretty sweet deal.” They’re interested and will likely purchase from you one day, but aren’t quite ready for it yet.

Sales Qualified Lead – An SQL is an MQL who has demonstrated an interest to purchase because they’ve got specific questions about what you offer. These are the people who need a one-on-one with your sales team.

Opportunity – Opportunities are the people who have become a real sales opportunity.

Customer – Someone who gives you money for your product or service. 🙂

But remember, this all comes after lead generation. For any of the above to happen you’ve first got to get those leads into the top of your funnel.

So how do you do that?

Free Bonus Download: Get ready to receive more actionable info on increasing the numbers in your funnel not found in this post! Click here to download it free.

A Top-Down View

One of the most effective and ethical ways to gather good leads that have a high potential to turn into an MLQ is with good old content marketing.

For the purpose of this guide, I want you to do something for me. Ignore the popular, often-spouted advice that producing content is enough. This isn’t Field of Dreams and you’re not Kevin Costner. Just because you build it, doesn’t mean they’ll come.

Creating content is just one part of the equation. All the successful online marketers you hear about, from Derek Halpern to Neil Patel, agree that creating content is only 20% of the work. You need to spend the other 80% promoting it.


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There are four key components to effective lead generation. I’ve outlined each stage and the order in which we’ll be examining them:

  1. Create a kick ass lead magnet
  2. Set up your lead capture landing page
  3. Establish a nurture campaign
  4. Generate traffic

Enough with the plan and on to the details!

Create a Kick Ass Lead Magnet

The first thing you need to do is establish a good lead magnet (or content upgrade). A lead magnet, as fantastically defined by Digital Marketer, is “an irresistible bribe offering a specific chunk of value to a prospect in exchange for their contact information.”

Ultimate Recipe for Effective Customer Lead Generation

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Why do you need a lead magnet? Well, as Peep Laja says, 95% of your visitors are not going to purchase on their first visit. They’re browsing or researching products available.

You want to be there for as many of those 95-percenters when they finally decide to take the plunge and purchase your product. But if you’re just funneling prospects through to product pages or random company pages it’s simply not going to happen.

It could take the prospect anywhere from a few hours to a few months to finally reach their purchase decision. Are they going to remember that single offer you made after all that time? Unless they have a photographic memory, nope. They’re going to go with the business they stumble upon when they’re finally ready—or the smart business who’s kept in touch.

How do you keep in touch? By capturing their email address.

How do you capture their email address? By offering a free, high-value resource for them in exchange for their details.

There seems to be some confusion online as to what exactly constitutes a good lead magnet, so I’ve listed the most successful kinds of lead magnets:

Creating a lead magnet isn’t as simple as choosing a format from the above list and offering some free advice. The primary goal of your lead magnet should be to solve a problem that your audience experiences.

Follow these three steps and you’ll know exactly what kind of lead magnet will boost your lead generation rate:

1) Research Your Audience

You’re going to need to delve deep into your audience research to create a great lead magnet. You want to know who your audience is, the problems they’re facing right now, and the solutions they need.

2) Find Their Overlap

Now that you know who your audience is and the problems they face, ask yourself how you can help them overcome these problems. Can you create a case study that explains how marketing managers can get better SEO results? Or a free e-book explaining which running shoes are best for different running styles?

Find the problem, figure out how you can help solve it, and give away that advice for free.

3) Create as High Quality a Lead Magnet as Possible

This last step is a bone of contention for many marketers. Should you really offer something of such high value that your new leads are amazed you’re not charging for it? Why not monetize the lead magnet and instead have a product to sell?

Well, you coneil-pateluld. But as we’ve already said, 95% of people who come across it aren’t going to purchase on their first visit. Would you rather see a slight raise in revenue from charging for the lead magnet, or capture the e-mails of a huge number of prospects for ongoing sales opportunities?

Neil Patel reportedly pays $30,000 for content that he gives away for free—content which has helped him create a marketing empire and brand himself as one of the Internet’s top marketing experts.

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It might seem crazy, but giving away high-value content for free really can work.

Free Bonus Download: Get ready to receive more actionable info on increasing the numbers in your funnel not found in this post! Click here to download it free.

Set Up Your Lead Capture Landing Page

Once you’ve gotten your lead magnet sorted out, you’ll need to set up your landing page. The landing page is the crux of this operation. It’s where users will decide if the offer is worth the cost of their e-mail address.

Single Grain Landing Page

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There’s a load of advice on the web which extols the value of various sign-up forms and pop-ups on your site. These can work, but they pale in comparison to the effectiveness of a well-optimized landing page.

Your prospects want to know what they’re going to get in return for their e-mail address. Trying to explain the full benefits of your high-value content is incredibly difficult when you’ve got limited real estate to play with, so establishing a specific landing page for the project not only gives you more room to detail the benefits, but allows you to drive specific, targeted traffic to it, thus increasing the relevancy of your page.

Unfortunately, landing page optimization is incredibly complex. If you’re serious, you’re going to need to implement numerous A/B tests, monitor your heat maps, and change nearly every element on the page.

I don’t have enough room in this article to go into depth on landing page optimization, but below I’ve listed a few golden rules:

The list is just the tip of the iceberg, so if you’re looking for more info, be sure to check out 10 Tips for Landing Page Optimization.

Landing pages are the backbone of lead gen. If you get it right you could see a huge increase in the number of leads you’re generating. I saw my own capture rate triple after implementing this incredibly simple page.

Have a Word Landing Page

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The key is to have a dedicated landing page for each lead magnet and to continue testing it to figure out which elements resonate best with your audience.

Nurture Your Leads

You’ve created a kick ass lead magnet and have set up a dedicated landing page. All that’s left now is to watch the leads roll in, right?


There are still two key areas that contribute to turning leads into customers. The first thing you’ll want to do is set up a comprehensive nurture campaign.

Digital Lead Management Process

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Those leads that you’ve captured didn’t sign up because they liked you or your product; they signed up because the lead magnet piqued their interest. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to buy from you. In fact, 50% of the leads in every system aren’t yet ready to purchase and around 80% of new leads never convert into paying customers.

A good lead nurturing campaign isn’t going to bring those numbers down to 0%, but it is going to drastically reduce them.

A good lead nurture campaign keeps your business at the front of your prospect’s mind for when the purchase decision has been reached. It also builds enough trust to make the purchase decision easier and can even gain you a few extra referrals.

Lead nurture campaigns can take many different forms, but the key to success comes down to three primary considerations:

  1. Ensure that each e-mail is useful.
  2. Give every e-mail a measurable goal (clicks, engagement, etc.).
  3. Measure and optimize (be sure to measure each individual e-mail as well as the macro conversion).

Get People Into Your Funnel

Congratulations, the framework of your funnel is now complete!

All that’s left is to get people into the top of your funnel so you can start growing your list and optimizing your campaign.

Traffic generation comes in all shapes and sizes, so finding the right strategy for your brand will take a little trial and error. The below listed options are some of the more popular strategies. Try them out and see which brings you the best results for your business.

Paid Ads

Paid advertisements have been the marketer’s go-to for an age. It includes everything from a small ad in the local rag to a TV spot to digital-only promotion.

Modern advertisers tend to rely on PPC advertisements. These include Google Adwords, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

An effective PPC campaign isn’t an easy thing to implement. You need to discover which channel is going to give you the best exposure to your primary client base before following the best practices for an effective PPC campaign.

Guest Blogging


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A lot of marketing managers dismiss the idea of guest blogging if you’re trying to sell a physical product, which is silly. It’s a great way to drive interested traffic back to your site regardless of what it is you’re selling.

But remember, the key to an effective guest blogging strategy lies in the research.

Just like your lead magnet, you need to discover the problems that your audience is experiencing. Find the overlap between those problems and your knowledge and create an awesome article.

Your next task is to find a publication that your prospects regularly read and trust.

Since you’re piggybacking on the trust of the publication, making sure that your guest post is of the highest possible value is extremely important. If you get your article and targeting right, you should see a heavy backflow of traffic that’s not only great in number, but also in quality.  

Content Marketing

Content marketing is the golden child of the marketing world at the minute. Creating useful content that propels your site up the SERPs is something that every business wants.

In fact, brands that establish a well-founded content marketing strategy are proven to gather 67% more leads. Keep in mind, however, that lead generation with content marketing isn’t as simple as publishing a few posts on the company blog. This strategy is not for those looking for a quick fix. It takes time to build a solid reputation and influence Google’s scoring metrics to place highly in the SERPs.

There are different kinds of content, all of which will appeal to different audiences and have different purposes. To take a very general view, you can put content into three categories:

Social Media

Social media is taking over. By 2018, there will be 2.5 billion social media users spending just over 51 hours every month flicking between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the menagerie of other social platforms. 

On their own, social media networks are little more than traffic drivers. You need a robust content strategy to back up your SM campaigns. So a tweet isn’t going to get you a lead, but a tweet to useful content might.

The users on each platform have different needs and expectations, so you’re going to need to understand the various best practices and discover which social platform works best for your needs. You might find that irreverent Facebook updates drive high converting traffic for your brand. Or perhaps a strong sales-focused tweet is your best bet for engaging with your target demographic.

Play around, track your results, and see which is the best social media fit for your business.

Free Bonus Download: Get ready to receive more actionable info on increasing the numbers in your funnel not found in this post! Click here to download it free.


Next time you see an online article that focuses on a very specific aspect of sales or marketing, don’t immediately amend your own business practices to follow the trend because chances are, that article doesn’t cover the wider strategy. Do read what they’ve got to say, internalize the advice, and then ask yourself how it fits into the wider picture of your own business.

But if you follow these four key elements to effective lead generation—kick ass lead magnet, lead capture landing page, nurture campaign, and generate traffic—then you should be well on your way to surpassing the competition.

Do you have an effective lead generation recipe? Leave us a comment and let us know—we’d love to hear about your experiences!

gmail ads

What if I said you could still find targeted clicks for under $0.15 in AdWords today?

Clicks that converted at a low cost per acquisition?

With click-through rates up to 20%?

Sounds pretty unbelievable right? Take a look at this:

Gmail Sponsored Promotions

This is Google’s Gmail Sponsored Promotions. They brought it back recently and our team has been testing it out with AWESOME results.

Here’s an example of what it looks like inside of Gmail:

Gmail Sponsored Promotions

As you can see in the table above, the CPA numbers we’re getting are as low as $6.52! Our target cost per acquisition (CPA) is around $80, so that’s up to a 87.74% decrease in CPA!

Some of you are probably thinking, “Well, the numbers look good but the conversion volume and conversion rates seem low.”

Let’s talk about conversion rates first:

The image above shows conversion rates (CVR) of 0.25% and 1.27%—not super sexy numbers but it’s important to know that display ads don’t typically convert as well as targeted ads. You’re in a good spot as long as you have low cost per click (CPC) and high click volume.

Now let’s talk about conversion volume:

Gmail Sponsored Promotions

Display Impression Share’ means the number of impressions you’ve received out of the total estimated number of impressions you are eligible to receive. For these targets, it looks like there’s still room to grow. The best thing about Gmail promoted ads? There’s an abundance of targeting options to help scale your campaign.

In this post, you’re going to learn how to set up Gmail Sponsored Promotions for long-term success.

1. How To Create A Gmail Promoted Ad

First, log into your AdWords account and go into any Campaign that you have. Then select the ‘Ads’ tab, click on ‘+Ad,’ and select ‘Ad Gallery’:

Gmail Sponsored Promotions

After that, select ‘Gmail Ads’:

Gmail Sponsored Promotions

From there, you have four different ad options to choose from. For the sake of simplicity, let’s go with the ‘Gmail single promotion template’:

Gmail Sponsored Promotions

To show you just how easy it is, here’s an example of an ad I just created:

Gmail Sponsored Promotions

Expanded form:

Gmail Sponsored Promotions

2. How To Create the Ad

There are three sections to fill out to get rolling—but don’t worry, it’s easy!

In the first section, you’ll fill out the following:

Here’s what it looks like:

Gmail Sponsored Promotions

In the second section, you’ll fill out the following:

Here’s what it looks like:

Gmail Sponsored Promotions

In the third section, you’ll fill out the following:

When you’re satisfied, click on the ‘Select an ad group’ button right next to the ‘Save’ button at the top to pick the ad group in which you want the ad to be placed.

3. Important Settings

Here are the initial settings I like to go with when starting a Gmail advertising campaign. Keep in mind that your mileage will vary.

First, click on ‘Settings > All Settings’.

The key settings:

 4. How To Break Up Your Ad Groups

One of the most effective ways to maximize your AdWords campaign is to break your ad groups up into single keyword ad groups. What does that mean exactly? Unbounce wrote a great guide on ‘how to do AdWords right’ that I highly recommend checking out before proceeding further.

In a nutshell, each of your ad groups will have only ONE target to go after.

For example, if you were Adidas and wanted to go after people opening up e-mails from Nike, you would target in one ad group and customize the ad towards e-mail viewers.

To set up targeting, click on ‘Display Network’ and go to ‘Display Keywords’:

Gmail Sponsored Promotions

Then for each ad group, enter in one website you’d like to target. It could be a competitor, an organization, a blog or whatever your imagination comes up with. For example, if I wanted to run Adidas ads, here are a few different categories I could go after:

5. How To Find Targeting Ideas

Google Display Planner – This is a free tool that you can use to find placement ideas for popular websites, apps, videos, keywords, and more. Simply log into your AdWords account and click on ‘Tools > Display Planner’ and you’ll have access.

In the example below, I typed in as my landing page and clicked on the ‘Placements’ tab to find ideas for popular sites that I’ve never even heard of:

Gmail Sponsored Promotions

Jump in there and play around, and you’re sure to find a gold nugget or two!

Facebook Audience Insights – This is another free tool that you can find in your Facebook account. You can parlay the data that you got from Google Display Planner to glean more insight. Chances are if the properties are popular on both Google and Facebook, it’s golden.

Go to your Facebook advertising account and click on ‘Tools > Audience Insights’.

Gmail Sponsored Promotions

In the following image, I take a look at people who are interested in Copyblogger, Moz, and Unbounce. In particular, I’m interested in finding pages that are relevant to those three interests. I can then place them into separate Gmail Ad Groups.

Here’s how to get started with Audience Insights:

Similar Web – Similar Web displays such insights as audience breakdown, traffic trends and engagement, related mobile apps and similar sites. For the sake of this post, we’re interested more in similar sites and mobile apps. All you need to do is go to Similar Web and type in the site you’d like to analyze:

Gmail Sponsored Promotions

Take a look at:

Gmail Sponsored Promotions

The aforementioned three free methods should be more than enough to get you started.

Bonus: Using Gmail Ads for Content Promotion

More content marketers have been using Facebook advertising to supercharge their content marketing efforts.

Gmail ads are another way to add on to your content marketing efforts. Your mileage may vary, but at $0.10 a click, it’s definitely worth testing if you’re already putting significant effort into content marketing.

If you’re doing content marketing and haven’t been using paid advertising to help amplify your efforts, you’re missing out. For an intro on this, Digital Marketer has a great write-up here.


Now’s the time to give Gmail Ads a shot if you haven’t tried it yet. It might just be the next great growth channel for your business!

Have you had any success with Gmail Ads? Let us know in the comments below!

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