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The 9 Best Free Social Media Management Tools in 2018

With 2018 upon us, whether it be eating more vegetables or finally using that overpriced gym membership, you’re probably in full goal-setting mode. New Year’s resolutions are meant to be broken, right?

Perhaps when it comes to personal goals, but for marketing goals, now is the time to tackle your strategy with full-force.

best free social media management tools

Organization is one of the keys to success in marketing, so if you are not managing your social platforms with a social media management tool, that needs to change today!

Not only will using a social media management tool make your life substantially easier, it doesn’t need to go through rounds of budgeting approval – because there are many robust free tools out there to help you accomplish all of your social marketing goals in 2018.

Social management platforms will help you manage multiple social profiles in one place, schedule posts in advance, run contests, track analytics across platforms, and the list goes on. These tools really are game changers for your social strategy!

And lucky for you, I’ve rounded up a list of the 9 best free social media management tools to incorporate into your 2018 strategy, starting with my personal favorite, Hootsuite!

#1: Hootsuite

Hootsuite has a special place in my heart, likely because it’s the first social media management platform that I used at my very first job as a Marketing Assistant. At the time, I was managing the company’s social strategy before social advertising had really taken off. I can still remember the hours upon hours I would spend putting together a posting content calendar and setting reminders for myself to tweet at certain times. This was until I discovered Hootsuite and my life as a frantic Twitter bird instantly changed.

hootsuite free social media tools

So what does the Hootsuite free plan include? The free plan is decently robust with the ability to:

  • Manage 3 social profiles in one place
  • Schedule 30 posts in advance
  • Generate leads with social contests

The free plan also includes basic analytics for tracking followers and various growth and content statistics and two RSS feed integrations. Not too shabby!

#2: Buffer

Next up is Buffer. Similar to Hootsuite, Buffer has been in the social media management space for quite some time, and they are a respectable platform that allows you to manage multiple social profiles with ease.

With many overlapping features to Hootsuite, some of my favorite Buffer features include the ability to easily schedule content while browsing the web with their Chrome extensions. Buffer also suggests the perfect moments to post based on follower activity – pretty neat!

buffer social media free plan

While there are a variety of options for larger organizations and agencies, the free plan just may suit your social media management needs. Buffer’s free plan includes the ability to manage three social profiles, schedule up to ten posts, utilize their browser extensions and mobile apps (iOS and android) feature, and create and schedule content using their image creator and GIF/video uploader.

Unfortunately, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan in order to access link shortening and tracking, as well as their RSS Feed feature. Their paid plans range from $10 to $399 per month.

#3: TweetDeck

If Twitter is the bread and butter of your social media strategy, then TweetDeck is likely the best social management platform for you! TweetDeck will allow Twitter birds to use custom timelines, create and manage Twitter lists and searches, and add team accounts. It is also free for Twitter users!

tweetdeck free twitter management tool

While TweetDeck may not be the all-in-one platform you’re searching for, it is the perfect tool for social marketers managing multiple Twitter accounts where these live conversations are critical for business success.

#4: SocialOomph

Not only do I love the name of SocialOomph, I’m quite impressed by the wide range of features they offer for multiple platforms – ranging from the typical features like scheduling and analytics, to some interesting ones like keeping your DM Twitter Inbox clean to help with increasing followers. They definitely offer a wide variety of unique features for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest management, as well as the ability to manage and schedule blog posts.

While SocialOomph does indeed have a free plan, the features are limited and mostly lean towards Twitter management. On the free plan you can do things like schedule tweets, track keywords, shorten URL’s, and manage up to five Twitter accounts, but some of the more sophisticated features require a paid plan. If you’re looking to manage multiple social platforms aside from Twitter you will need to pay to play.

#5: Friends+Me

Friends+Me is another prime player in the social media management tools family. While Friends+Me puts the highest emphasis on Google Plus features, many other social platforms are supported. Friends+Me appears to get rave reviews from users, and has a beautifully designed website with plans available based on the size of your business. And yes, there is a free plan!

While the free plan is not super robust, it still allows for two queues (which is a destination to publish posts), the ability to schedule three posts per queue, link shortening, browser extensions, an integration with Zapier, as well as standard support. The free plan can also be used for a variety of social platforms like Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Tumblr. 

Pinterest and Instagram are supported as well, but you will need to upgrade. Plans range from $7.50 to $259 depending on if you decide to utilize monthly or annual billing.

#6: Likeable Hub

Likeable Hub brands itself as a social media automation platform with a wide range of advanced social media management capabilities to simplify your life. Upon visiting their website, don’t be intimidated by the long list of expensive paid plans. While they offer many sophisticated features for larger organizations they also have a robust app.

top free social media management tools

The free Likeable Hub app with help you schedule content, generate content creation ideas, generate leads, refine your strategy, and measure results. The app will empower you to do this all while on the go, making Likeable Hub the perfect solution for busy marketing managers.

#7: Social Pilot

If you’re an agency in need of tools for social media management, Social Pilot may be your best bet! This social media management tool will allow you to do manage multiple client social media profiles at once and do things such as bulk schedule posts in various queues, collaborate with team members, manage clients, utilize browser extensions, etc. Their free plan includes 3 connected profiles, 10 posts per day, and 30 posts per queue.

free social media management apps

If this doesn’t sound like enough for your agency, start a 14-day free trial with one of their more robust plans, which range between $100 to $800 per month.

#8: Post Planner

Are you struggling to get followers and engagement on your social posts? Perhaps you are even doubting whether or not social media makes sense for your marketing strategy? Post Planner believes you’re going about it all wrong!

Their science-based tool will help you find the right content to engage your audience, plan posts, collaborate with team members, recommend viral photos, top content, and GIFs, and the list goes on. While they don’t advertise a free plan outright they do have a free Pro app that is worth checking out. Their plans also start at only $3 month and go up to only $49/month at the high end.

#9: Zoho Social

Whether you’re a growing business or an agency, Zoho Social will help you manage multiple profiles, research relevant keywords, work with team members, and of course schedule posts from one dashboard.

2018 free social media tools

Zoho Social has many of the same tools and features that the other platforms have, but they also have Facebook lead ads, advanced reporting features, a SocialShare browser plugin, and CRM integrations. Zoho Social caters to agencies as well so marketers have the choice of choosing between the business or agency plans. Pricing for the paid plans ranges from $8.33 to $125+ for larger agencies. Zoho Social’s free plan allows you to manage 1 brand, and includes the URL shortener and SocialShare browser plugin.

I know, I know there are a lot of options here! Luckily, they all have free plans so you can experiment and find the platform that works best for your social strategy. At the end of the day you can’t go wrong moving onto a social media management tool – it will likely save you time, grow your social presence, and possibly even make you some money! 

About the Author

Margot is a Content Marketing Specialist at WordStream and nutrition graduate student at Framingham State. She loves all things digital, learning about nutrition, running, traveling, and cooking. Follow her on:

Twitter: @margotshealthub

Instagram: @margotshealthhub

Blog: http://ift.tt/2o7a6TV

from Internet Marketing Blog by WordStream http://ift.tt/2De2VO2

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What to Do When a New Potential SEO Client Contacts You

Posted by dohertyjf

Editor’s note: We originally published a different article by mistake due to an oversight and a valuable lesson in the dangers of copy-paste; you can see it live here. We truly apologize for the error.


If you’re an agency owner or solo consultant, you’re probably constantly thinking about getting new clients. And we’re inundated in this industry with too much advice around new marketing funnels, new marketing ideas, and “one weird tricks to 10x your traffic overnight.”

But something we don’t talk about enough is what you do when you actually convert that person into a real contact on your site.

I’m not talking about “a lead” here, because that word is used widely in our space and has come to mean everything and nothing at the same time. A lead could be an email address and it could be a long-form submission telling you everything about their needs, as well as their budget and their birth city.

What I’m talking about here is a marketing qualified lead (MQL) that you are going to turn into a sales qualified lead (SQL) so that you can turn them into a business qualified lead (aka a new client). (Note: I just made up business qualified lead, so don’t go around talking about BQLs. Or do, but credit me!).

Over the last two years I’ve helped a lot of businesses connect with great marketing providers through my company Credo, and through that I’ve been able to watch how agencies and consultants alike pitch work.

I see all sorts of strategies done to try to close a lead into a client, such as:

  • Send an intake survey to try to vet the lead more;
  • Send them a Calendly link to get them to schedule a call as soon as possible;
  • Send an initial proposal after the first call and then refine it with the client on the phone;
  • Send tracked proposals using a tool like DocSend so you can follow up depending on whether they’ve viewed it or not.

There are many more I’ve seen as well. Some work well, others don’t. This post isn’t going to dig into the various tactics you can use, as you should be testing those yourself.

What I care about is that you develop a sales strategy that sets a strong base and that you can build from into the future.

I also have a unique view on our industry, because I get to see what kind of sales process actually closes potential clients into actual clients. While you may be doing something that you think works really well, there’s a great chance that I know a better way.

And today, I’m going to give you a view into what I know closes clients, and the sales process that I use to close a high percentage of projects who want to work with me into clients.


What to do when a client contacts you

The first rule of sales in a service business like a consulting agency is that the earlier you reply to a prospective client, the more likely you are to close them into an actual client.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve tried to educate businesses that they should speak with multiple agencies and get multiple proposals, to understand what each agency has to offer and be able to compare them in order to arrive at the right decision for their specific business.

And yet, time and time again I see the first agency to respond to be the one to close the project probably 70% of the time.

This can absolutely be a templated response, and tools like Gmail’s Canned Responses or templates within your CRM of choice can help. I personally use HubSpot’s and push form entries there via Zapier, but there are many different options out there; I’m sure you can find one that connects your form technology to your CRM.

In your response, you have to include these three points at minimum:

  1. Respond as quickly as possible and thank them for contacting you
  2. Acknowledge the project they say they’re interested in
  3. Schedule a time to chat on the phone as quickly as possible

As I said above, I’ve seen many agencies send an intake questionnaire that’s a page or two long before even getting on the phone with the potential client.

I advise against this simply because this slows down the process. Some clients that you would otherwise win will simply move on to another agency. You’re giving them work when really what you need to do is remove friction from their decision to choose you.

This initial contact is also not the place to tell them all of the brands you’ve helped and the results you’ve gotten. If they’re contacting you, they’re already interested. Don’t make them think.

You have one goal with your response: to get them to schedule a phone call with you.


What to learn on the first call

If you’ve followed my instructions above, you’re getting the client to schedule a call with you (when you’re available) as quickly as possible. Don’t forget to have them include their phone number, as well!

Schedule the call for 30 minutes so that you can:

  1. Get an understanding for their project, and
  2. Not invest too much time into them in case they’re not qualified enough.

As a side note, if you’re getting too many “leads” (may we all be so lucky) that are not qualified for your business and thus wasting you or your salesperson’s time, then you may want to look at adding some friction to your lead forms. More is not always better.

You should have an idea of who your best clients are and the kind of work they’ve hired you to do that you are best-in-class doing; you need to walk away from this first call at minimum knowing if they’re a good fit or not.

If they are a good fit, then you can move them forward in your sales process (usually a recap and another call).

You’ll also be able to use this process to qualify out the leads who on the surface seem to be a good fit because they were able and willing to successfully fill out your lead form, but when you dig deeper into their business and needs, you realize they’re not quite such a good fit. We’ll talk about this more in a minute.

On this initial phone call, you need to cover all of these points to determine whether you should pitch the work or not:

  1. What their business model is, so that you can understand if they’re profitable;
  2. The type of project they’re looking for, such as strategy or services or a combination thereof;
  3. Their internal team structure and their knowledge of the marketing channel they’re inquiring to you about;
  4. Whether the person you’re speaking with is the person who has final sign-off and budgetary control, or if they’ve been tasked with sourcing an agency but ultimately are not the decision maker;
  5. Their budget range;
  6. Their timetable for wanting to get started.

Thank them for their time and set their expectations about what you’ll do next and when they can expect to hear back from you.

Now your work really begins.


After the first call

Assuming the first call with your prospective client goes well, you’ll need a process to follow so that followups don’t fail and the process moves forward.

This part is important.

Right after the call, follow up with the person you spoke with via email to recap the call and reiterate your next steps.

First, thank them for their time. Regardless of whether or not you ultimately decide to pitch the project, you should be grateful that they decided to speak with you and not someone else.

Second, recap what you discussed on the call. I like to take notes with my CRM (I use HubSpot, as mentioned above) and then use those to write the recap. A CRM should integrate with your email system and allow you to email the prospect from directly within it so that you don’t have to move between your CRM and your email client.

Here’s a templated response that I use when replying to someone after our initial call:

Hi FNAME,

Thank you for the conversation today! I enjoyed learning more about your business and how we can potentially help.

As we discussed, COMPANY is looking for TYPE OF PROJECT. (recap the project here)

As I mentioned on the call, my next step is to spend some time reviewing your site and your project to determine if it is the right fit for me as well. I will follow up with you within 48 hours (NOTE: THIS CAN CHANGE IF YOU CHATTED ON FRIDAY, IN WHICH CASE SAY END OF DAY ON MONDAY) with my findings and where I think I can add value to your business. In the case that your project is not the right fit for me, I can suggest some other people you should speak with.

Thanks FNAME, and you will hear from me soon!

John

Now you can review their project and website metrics to see where you can add value, and if it’s a project that can be successful within the budget they have outlined for you.

Then, decide if you should pitch for the project or refer them elsewhere.


Deciding whether to pitch the work

Sales is all about determining who the right prospects are and are not, then optimizing your time to focus on the clients you want to sign — not on the ones that are a poor fit for your business.

Hopefully you know who your ideal customer is, in terms of budget but also the type of work they need (strategy, services, or some combination thereof) as well as the marketing channel(s). Once you know who your ideal customer is (and is not), you’ll have a much easier time determining whether or not you should pitch the work.

In my experience with seeing over a thousand projects introduced to marketing providers, the six factors mentioned in the “What to learn on the first call” section are the ones that reliably help you understand whether you should pitch the work or not.

Some of the factors to avoid are:

  1. Unrealistic expectations or timelines
  2. No or low budget
  3. No resources to get things done
  4. Their last four agencies haven’t worked out
  5. Going out of business “unless they get help”

I love that so many in the SEO industry are helpful and genuinely good people who want to help others, but if you start taking on clients that can’t pay you what you need to operate a profitable business or have had issues with many other agencies, then you’re doing yourself and your business a disservice.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard an agency say that they “pitched the work, but set the budget high” I’d be financially independent and retired to a mountain town in Switzerland by now.

Hear me loud and clear here:

You do not have to pitch every project that falls into your lap.

If the project doesn’t meet your minimum project budget, the type of client you can get outsized returns for, or is not within your core competency (your zone of genius), then you should not pitch the project.

Let me explain why.

If a client is below your minimum project threshold and you pitch them, you’ve wasted two people’s time. You’ve wasted your time by creating a proposal and potential project plan, and you’ve wasted their time because they took time out of their day to review something that they’ll never sign off on.

Second, if they negotiate back to try to get the budget lower, you’re going to spend your time to get a project that is smaller than what they ideally need and can afford. You’re literally spending time to make less money, when you could take that time to pitch and negotiate with someone who can easily afford your services.

Should you sign the project that is smaller than or right at your minimum while at the same time being at very top end of their budget, you can rest assured that this client will take up more time than they’re paying for because they feel pressure to make it work quickly. Unless you set expectations explicitly and are very good at saying no to requests for work that are outside of the scope of what they’re paying for, this project will quickly snowball and take up too much time, thus putting it in the red.

Don’t pitch a project that’s very likely to go into the red budget-wise. That is Business 101, and you will regret it. I promise.


Conclusion

I hope this post has been helpful to you in learning what to do when a new potential consulting client first contacts you or your agency.

First, speed is of the essence. While we want to believe that the best pitch will ultimately win the business, experience tells us that it is most often the first person to respond who actually gets to pitch and sign the business.

Second, get the potential client on the phone as quickly as possible. Don’t rely on email, as you can gain way more information on a 30-minute call than in a string of emails. People are busy and you don’t want to create more friction for them. Get them on the phone.

Third, you need to send a followup email within a few hours of the phone call where you thank them for their time, recap what you discussed, and set their expectations for what your next steps are and when they’ll hear from you again. Feel free to use my template and adjust it for your specific needs.

Fourth, decide if you want to pitch the project. Don’t pitch projects that are too small, outside your/your agency’s zone of genius, where what you have to offer is not their highest leverage option, or where they’re not set up internally to make the project successful. Your project will not succeed if any of these are true.

I am also writing an ebook, hopefully out in Q1 2018, about everything I’ve learned seeing over 1,100 projects come through Credo. If you’re interested to hear when it launches, sign up.

I’d love to hear your comments below and interact with you around better sales for digital marketing consulting work!

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8 Real, Data-Backed Predictions for PPC in 2018

In the world of PPC, 2018 is going to get bonkers.

Between Facebook making drastic changes to the News Feed and the “New AdWords Experience” set to become the only way to skin the cat, the rise of new ad platformsand the continuation of some of last year’s most popular trends, we’ve got a lot to look forward to (and probably some preparing to do)! To separate the most-probably from the pipe dreams, I dove into the data and came up with some ideas as to what’s lies ahead.

And so, without further ado, I present to you my eight data-backed PPC predictions for 2018!

#1. Facebook Ads Expand Beyond Your Social Feed

One thing should immediately stick out in the industry from the past year – Facebook’s growth is truly explosive. The ad platform added 4 million new advertisers in just 18 months, effectively doubling the network, and it’s posed to keep growing in 2018!

 facebook advertising growth metrics 2018 

But there’s ultimately a cap on the number of ads they can serve users while they scroll through their social feeds, which is why Facebook has been growing beyond just Facebook.com.

In 2015, the company made Messenger a standalone platform, and very late in 2017, Facebook introduced a way to monetize the new app with Messenger ads.

 facebook messenger ad 2018

Now we as we’re seeing Instagram looking to break their messaging equivalent Instagram Direct into a separate app, we should expect Instagram Direct ads to follow suite with ad similar ads.

But Facebook’s ad opportunities are even greater beyond their current flagship products. Over the years, Facebook has acquired 65(!) companies – and the tech giant has invested in everything from Fitness Tracking and Speech recognition to Rural communications.

Consider their $19 Billion purchase of WhatsApp in 2014. WhatsApp has over 1 Billion active users and is the most popular messaging application of all time. WhatsApp currently doesn’t support any kind of advertising and once said it never would. But recently, Matt Navarra and TechCrunch discovered that within the Facebook ad manager code, there was hints that WhatsApp message ads may be in our near future!

 whatsap messaging 2018

Facebook’s other major acquisition of 2014, Oculus VR, may also allow Facebook to break out of your social feeds into the fast-growing Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality space in 2018.

#2. An Explosion of New Search Ad Formats and Extensions

If 2017 taught us anything, it’s that Google isn’t happy coasting off its flagship search ads. Last year, AdWords retired the standard text ad it had relied on for 16 years to give advertisers more space with their expanded text ads. Google knew that even if search isn’t going anywhere, search was certainly evolving and how we advertisers answer searchers’ questions needs to evolve too.

 new ad formats coming to adwords 2018

Through the year, Google has improved their shopping ads to cater towards people differently. Shopping ads remain a staple in any ecommerce advertisers’ campaigns, but late in 2017, Google started serving Shopping Showcase Ads to people casually searching for top of the funnel, non-branded product searches. Google may soon also allow for people who are ready to purchase to convert via a “Buy on Google” extension directly on the SERP!

 google food ordering map ads

How we connect with customers via search ads has been evolving quickly too. Google enabled call extensions in 2011 allowing us to place a call directly from the SERP. Four years later, Google enabled advertisers more control over how they drive calls to their business with call-only ads and then two years later enabled call bid adjustments. In 2016, Google allowed us to connect to our customers via text with message extensions.

The next era of communication from our search ads may be with chatbots, as it appears that some brands are experimenting with new chatbot extensions per a late 2017 Bing Ads post.

 adwords local service ads

How Google Ads connects us to businesses is also likely to change in 2018. In 2015, Google began testing local service ads for plumbers and locksmiths in the San Francisco Bay Area. Over the years, Google has tested local service ads in more markets across the United States and for other services such as HVAC, Electricians, Garage Door, Carpet Cleaning, Towing, and even Tutoring and Maid Services!

As Google irons out legalities and liabilities to these services, you should expect them to become readily available to advertisers of all sizes in different local service industries in the US and abroad. Using these ads, searchers can find and directly book appointments through the SERP on desktop, mobile, and even via Voice Search.

voice search ads 2018

#3. Voice Search Goes Mainstream

Google advertises for its own products – a lot, in fact. If you’re paying close attention, you’ll realize that Google’s ads are never specifically about search. Instead, Google advertises its personal assistant app, or its assistant powered Android phones, or its assistant powered Google Home devices.

The subtle push to get people searching more has been effective – on Friday, Google announced that over 400 million devices are enabled with Google Assistant. For perspective, the US population is 323 million, so Google Assistants outnumber us! Add in Alexa, Cortana, and Siri enabled devices and it’s clear that Voice Search is more than just a passing fad. In 2017, 20% of all search occurs via voice search rather than a typed query, and ComScore estimates that by 2020, more than 50% of all search will be driven by voice search!

Optimizing for Voice Search will require a new search strategy. Knowing that people’s natural language is different from their typed queries, you’ll need to prep your content and your ads to answer their questions, rather than match their keywords. Have your content answer questions people will naturally ask their devices such as “Who”, “When”, “Where” and “How” as they complete their searches.

Structured data will also be preferred over semantic data. If you ask your Google device “Where can I buy a copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban?” it won’t show you the nearest answer or even the cheapest – but it will show you the answer that Google can find the easiest, and that will likely be in an advertisers merchant feed or serving a local inventory ad.

#4. The Rise of Visual Search

Visual search may sound new and experimental to many advertisers, but Pinterest actually grew their platform almost entirely as a visual search engine. Pinterest may not the largest search engine, but it’s effectively grown a monopoly on visual search and more than doubled their revenue each year in the past 2 years!

2017 pinterest ad revenue growth

Visual search is something that’s clearly caught the attention of the big search engines, as both Google and Bing are beginning to play with the feature. In the past, Shopping ads were introduced when people were searching for images, but Bing is preparing this to enable users to search within images themselves.

This visual search would allow users to find that item that they must have – and serve them ads for it along the way.

2018 year of visual search

#5. Search Audiences Replace Search Keywords

The keyword isn’t dead – but it’s no longer what controls your paid search. In 2014, we saw keywords lose their meaning when close variants were automatically introduced and then again in 2017 we saw exact match type keywords serve to additional queries including reordered words with functional words added or removed. The keyword is no longer the best way to control who sees our ads – but audience targeting may replace it.

Google’s been slowly expanding its offering of audience solutions over the years – first allowing us to target returning visitors with Remarketing Lists of Search Ads, then our customer lists with Customer Match (first by matching users email addresses, but now by phone number and address as well), and similar audiences for search campaigns. Advertisers can target their ads by demographic and recently based on life events.

On the horizon, Google has plans to allow advertisers to target based on consumer patterns (such as frequently visiting certain types of stores, restaurants, or attending live events), as well as via In-Market Audiences for search ads.

in market for search in 2018

#6. Increased Automation Takes Control Away from Advertisers

Keywords aren’t the only thing that advertisers are losing control of. In 2017, Google also retired multiple ad rotation settings that advertisers used to test ad copy in their accounts. Google’s penchant for creating ad extensions on behalf of advertisers is nothing new, but they recently also began testing out creating ads for advertisers too – which may have some brand-sensitive advertisers worried.

increased automation in adwords 2018

Many campaign types, including shopping ads, dynamic search ads, smart display campaigns, and Google’s experimental local service ads are all created and managed without targeting keywords or full control of your ad copy!

#7. Unchecked Brand Problems Get Worse

The Google Display Network is the largest display network in the world, spanning 3 million websites and apps. YouTube is the largest video sharing network with over 1 trillion videos. Even Facebook is quickly growing their audience network.

All this reach provides advertisers with unparalleled opportunity, but not all that content is the best place for you to have your brand associated with.

display ad placement

I’m sure HR Certification Institute didn’t intend their brand to appear at the top of “The 7 Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Products of 2017.”

Some content online isn’t going to be the safest place for your brand. Unfortunately, a consequence we pay for a free and ever-expanding internet is also a growth in sites that feature fake news, polarizing politics, and at time malicious and hateful content.

In 2017, many brands found their ads on these kinds of sites or videos and pulled their advertising as a result. Although Google and Facebook are both making efforts to prevent this kind of content from serving ads in the future, in an age of increased automation it’s unlikely that the situation is destined to get better. Brand advertisers need to be particularly cautious of what kind of sites their ads show on and exclude inappropriate sites to prevent their ads accidently showing there.

#8. New Bing Ad Targeting May Outpower AdWords

Google’s strong hold on the search market and Facebook’s fast growth have many saying the two companies are effectively making the digital advertising market a duopoly. The Wall Street Journal estimates that 77 cents of every new digital advertising dollar in 2017 was spent on either a Google or Facebook property.

new bing ad features in 2018

Although the digital marketing industry is currently booming, duopolies seldom are efficient markets and generally hinder new growth. In order for a new competitor to rise, they usually need to be willing to drop considerable resources in technology capital to compete. So all eyes are on the other 3 largest tech companies to rise in the market – Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon. Apple has put some investment in advertising, but they’re unlikely to compete with Google at that level. Amazon advertising has grown recently, but most of Amazon’s revenue still comes from product sales.

Microsoft may be our best change to compete against Google and Facebook. Although Bing is certainly an underdog, it does reach a surprisingly large 35.6% market share of the US Search Market. The preferred search engine of Microsoft’s own products (Windows, Edge, Office, Skype, Xbox) as well as the preferred search engine of Amazon’s Alexa – Bing can certainly compete in a growing voice search market.

But Bing’s real power might be in another Microsoft product – LinkedIn. In 2016, Microsoft bought LinkedIn for $26 Billion and invested in it a lot since. Similar to Microsoft’s Bing, however, the largest professional social network is still definitely in Facebook’s shadow.

Where Microsoft could steal the show, however, is if they were to partner their search and social networks together. PPC pros already know that advertising on both search & social can improve both the performance on both networks and even increase the number of repeat visitors and branded searches. But where Bing would really shine is if it were possible to leverage LinkedIn’s ad targeting directly on the SERP. LinkedIn, like Facebook, offers a myriad of ad targeting methods including by a user’s education, skill, and job title and far surpasses Google’s limited demographic search targeting.

In Conclusion

PHEW! 

Well, there you have it. If even half of these exciting predictions come to fruition, the way SMBs develop strategies and spend ad dollars could look profoundly different when next year rolls around.

Let us know what you think of my PPC prediction for 2018 on social media or in the comments below, and be sure to check out our blog throughout the year to see which of these predictions are coming true!

About the author

Mark is a Senior Data Scientist at WordStream, focused on research and training for the everchanging world of PPC. He was named the 5th Most Influential PPC Expert of 2017 by PPC Hero. You can follow him on TwitterLinkedIn, Google +, and SkillShare.

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8 Real, Data-Backed Predictions for PPC in 2018

In the world of PPC, 2018 is going to get bonkers.

Between Facebook making drastic changes to the News Feed and the “New AdWords Experience” set to become the only way to skin the cat, the rise of new ad platformsand the continuation of some of last year’s most popular trends, we’ve got a lot to look forward to (and probably some preparing to do)! To separate the most-probably from the pipe dreams, I dove into the data and came up with some ideas as to what’s lies ahead.

And so, without further ado, I present to you my eight data-backed PPC predictions for 2018!

#1. Facebook Ads Expand Beyond Your Social Feed

One thing should immediately stick out in the industry from the past year – Facebook’s growth is truly explosive. The ad platform added 4 million new advertisers in just 18 months, effectively doubling the network, and it’s posed to keep growing in 2018!

 facebook advertising growth metrics 2018 

But there’s ultimately a cap on the number of ads they can serve users while they scroll through their social feeds, which is why Facebook has been growing beyond just Facebook.com.

In 2015, the company made Messenger a standalone platform, and very late in 2017, Facebook introduced a way to monetize the new app with Messenger ads.

 facebook messenger ad 2018

Now we as we’re seeing Instagram looking to break their messaging equivalent Instagram Direct into a separate app, we should expect Instagram Direct ads to follow suite with ad similar ads.

But Facebook’s ad opportunities are even greater beyond their current flagship products. Over the years, Facebook has acquired 65(!) companies – and the tech giant has invested in everything from Fitness Tracking and Speech recognition to Rural communications.

Consider their $19 Billion purchase of WhatsApp in 2014. WhatsApp has over 1 Billion active users and is the most popular messaging application of all time. WhatsApp currently doesn’t support any kind of advertising and once said it never would. But recently, Matt Navarra and TechCrunch discovered that within the Facebook ad manager code, there was hints that WhatsApp message ads may be in our near future!

 whatsap messaging 2018

Facebook’s other major acquisition of 2014, Oculus VR, may also allow Facebook to break out of your social feeds into the fast-growing Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality space in 2018.

#2. An Explosion of New Search Ad Formats and Extensions

If 2017 taught us anything, it’s that Google isn’t happy coasting off its flagship search ads. Last year, AdWords retired the standard text ad it had relied on for 16 years to give advertisers more space with their expanded text ads. Google knew that even if search isn’t going anywhere, search was certainly evolving and how we advertisers answer searchers’ questions needs to evolve too.

 new ad formats coming to adwords 2018

Through the year, Google has improved their shopping ads to cater towards people differently. Shopping ads remain a staple in any ecommerce advertisers’ campaigns, but late in 2017, Google started serving Shopping Showcase Ads to people casually searching for top of the funnel, non-branded product searches. Google may soon also allow for people who are ready to purchase to convert via a “Buy on Google” extension directly on the SERP!

 google food ordering map ads

How we connect with customers via search ads has been evolving quickly too. Google enabled call extensions in 2011 allowing us to place a call directly from the SERP. Four years later, Google enabled advertisers more control over how they drive calls to their business with call-only ads and then two years later enabled call bid adjustments. In 2016, Google allowed us to connect to our customers via text with message extensions.

The next era of communication from our search ads may be with chatbots, as it appears that some brands are experimenting with new chatbot extensions per a late 2017 Bing Ads post.

 adwords local service ads

How Google Ads connects us to businesses is also likely to change in 2018. In 2015, Google began testing local service ads for plumbers and locksmiths in the San Francisco Bay Area. Over the years, Google has tested local service ads in more markets across the United States and for other services such as HVAC, Electricians, Garage Door, Carpet Cleaning, Towing, and even Tutoring and Maid Services!

As Google irons out legalities and liabilities to these services, you should expect them to become readily available to advertisers of all sizes in different local service industries in the US and abroad. Using these ads, searchers can find and directly book appointments through the SERP on desktop, mobile, and even via Voice Search.

voice search ads 2018

#3. Voice Search Goes Mainstream

Google advertises for its own products – a lot, in fact. If you’re paying close attention, you’ll realize that Google’s ads are never specifically about search. Instead, Google advertises its personal assistant app, or its assistant powered Android phones, or its assistant powered Google Home devices.

The subtle push to get people searching more has been effective – on Friday, Google announced that over 400 million devices are enabled with Google Assistant. For perspective, the US population is 323 million, so Google Assistants outnumber us! Add in Alexa, Cortana, and Siri enabled devices and it’s clear that Voice Search is more than just a passing fad. In 2017, 20% of all search occurs via voice search rather than a typed query, and ComScore estimates that by 2020, more than 50% of all search will be driven by voice search!

Optimizing for Voice Search will require a new search strategy. Knowing that people’s natural language is different from their typed queries, you’ll need to prep your content and your ads to answer their questions, rather than match their keywords. Have your content answer questions people will naturally ask their devices such as “Who”, “When”, “Where” and “How” as they complete their searches.

Structured data will also be preferred over semantic data. If you ask your Google device “Where can I buy a copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban?” it won’t show you the nearest answer or even the cheapest – but it will show you the answer that Google can find the easiest, and that will likely be in an advertisers merchant feed or serving a local inventory ad.

#4. The Rise of Visual Search

Visual search may sound new and experimental to many advertisers, but Pinterest actually grew their platform almost entirely as a visual search engine. Pinterest may not the largest search engine, but it’s effectively grown a monopoly on visual search and more than doubled their revenue each year in the past 2 years!

2017 pinterest ad revenue growth

Visual search is something that’s clearly caught the attention of the big search engines, as both Google and Bing are beginning to play with the feature. In the past, Shopping ads were introduced when people were searching for images, but Bing is preparing this to enable users to search within images themselves.

This visual search would allow users to find that item that they must have – and serve them ads for it along the way.

2018 year of visual search

#5. Search Audiences Replace Search Keywords

The keyword isn’t dead – but it’s no longer what controls your paid search. In 2014, we saw keywords lose their meaning when close variants were automatically introduced and then again in 2017 we saw exact match type keywords serve to additional queries including reordered words with functional words added or removed. The keyword is no longer the best way to control who sees our ads – but audience targeting may replace it.

Google’s been slowly expanding its offering of audience solutions over the years – first allowing us to target returning visitors with Remarketing Lists of Search Ads, then our customer lists with Customer Match (first by matching users email addresses, but now by phone number and address as well), and similar audiences for search campaigns. Advertisers can target their ads by demographic and recently based on life events.

On the horizon, Google has plans to allow advertisers to target based on consumer patterns (such as frequently visiting certain types of stores, restaurants, or attending live events), as well as via In-Market Audiences for search ads.

in market for search in 2018

#6. Increased Automation Takes Control Away from Advertisers

Keywords aren’t the only thing that advertisers are losing control of. In 2017, Google also retired multiple ad rotation settings that advertisers used to test ad copy in their accounts. Google’s penchant for creating ad extensions on behalf of advertisers is nothing new, but they recently also began testing out creating ads for advertisers too – which may have some brand-sensitive advertisers worried.

increased automation in adwords 2018

Many campaign types, including shopping ads, dynamic search ads, smart display campaigns, and Google’s experimental local service ads are all created and managed without targeting keywords or full control of your ad copy!

#7. Unchecked Brand Problems Get Worse

The Google Display Network is the largest display network in the world, spanning 3 million websites and apps. YouTube is the largest video sharing network with over 1 trillion videos. Even Facebook is quickly growing their audience network.

All this reach provides advertisers with unparalleled opportunity, but not all that content is the best place for you to have your brand associated with.

display ad placement

I’m sure HR Certification Institute didn’t intend their brand to appear at the top of “The 7 Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Products of 2017.”

Some content online isn’t going to be the safest place for your brand. Unfortunately, a consequence we pay for a free and ever-expanding internet is also a growth in sites that feature fake news, polarizing politics, and at time malicious and hateful content.

In 2017, many brands found their ads on these kinds of sites or videos and pulled their advertising as a result. Although Google and Facebook are both making efforts to prevent this kind of content from serving ads in the future, in an age of increased automation it’s unlikely that the situation is destined to get better. Brand advertisers need to be particularly cautious of what kind of sites their ads show on and exclude inappropriate sites to prevent their ads accidently showing there.

#8. New Bing Ad Targeting May Outpower AdWords

Google’s strong hold on the search market and Facebook’s fast growth have many saying the two companies are effectively making the digital advertising market a duopoly. The Wall Street Journal estimates that 77 cents of every new digital advertising dollar in 2017 was spent on either a Google or Facebook property.

new bing ad features in 2018

Although the digital marketing industry is currently booming, duopolies seldom are efficient markets and generally hinder new growth. In order for a new competitor to rise, they usually need to be willing to drop considerable resources in technology capital to compete. So all eyes are on the other 3 largest tech companies to rise in the market – Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon. Apple has put some investment in advertising, but they’re unlikely to compete with Google at that level. Amazon advertising has grown recently, but most of Amazon’s revenue still comes from product sales.

Microsoft may be our best change to compete against Google and Facebook. Although Bing is certainly an underdog, it does reach a surprisingly large 35.6% market share of the US Search Market. The preferred search engine of Microsoft’s own products (Windows, Edge, Office, Skype, Xbox) as well as the preferred search engine of Amazon’s Alexa – Bing can certainly compete in a growing voice search market.

But Bing’s real power might be in another Microsoft product – LinkedIn. In 2016, Microsoft bought LinkedIn for $26 Billion and invested in it a lot since. Similar to Microsoft’s Bing, however, the largest professional social network is still definitely in Facebook’s shadow.

Where Microsoft could steal the show, however, is if they were to partner their search and social networks together. PPC pros already know that advertising on both search & social can improve both the performance on both networks and even increase the number of repeat visitors and branded searches. But where Bing would really shine is if it were possible to leverage LinkedIn’s ad targeting directly on the SERP. LinkedIn, like Facebook, offers a myriad of ad targeting methods including by a user’s education, skill, and job title and far surpasses Google’s limited demographic search targeting.

In Conclusion

PHEW! 

Well, there you have it. If even half of these exciting predictions come to fruition, the way SMBs develop strategies and spend ad dollars could look profoundly different when next year rolls around.

Let us know what you think of my PPC prediction for 2018 on social media or in the comments below, and be sure to check out our blog throughout the year to see which of these predictions are coming true!

About the author

Mark is a Senior Data Scientist at WordStream, focused on research and training for the everchanging world of PPC. He was named the 5th Most Influential PPC Expert of 2017 by PPC Hero. You can follow him on TwitterLinkedIn, Google +, and SkillShare.

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How to Get New Clients at Every Stage of Your Business

Posted by dohertyjf

I remember when I first went out on my own to build my business. Because I planned to bootstrap the product into existence, I needed to pick up some consulting work to cover my own bills before I felt comfortable taking time to build my product.

I had a sizable group of peers that I contacted to let them know that I was no longer with my last company and was looking to bring on a few new clients. Within a week, I had to stop taking introductions because I was so busy! If you’re a brand-new freelance consultant, this post has some goodies for you.

I have other friends who are purposefully freelance consultants with no current plans to scale beyond it. In fact, they’ve resisted these opportunities because they enjoy what they’re doing so much, and are able to charge a premium for it. This post will help you out.

Some of my friends are at a different stage. They’ve worked for themselves for 3–4 years or longer now and are growing an agency beyond themselves and their own skillset. Along the way, of course, they’re figuring out the challenges of growing headcount and types/sizes of clients while they themselves learn to level up as a CEO, as a manager, and as a sales executive, since agency founders are often the salespeople for the first few years of their company’s existence. The client acquisition strategies change. This post is also for you.

And finally, agencies often decide that they are ready to expand beyond their main core offering and offer tangential services that they are either being asked for actively or where they perceive an opportunity exists. Since they already have a functional and maybe even (wildly) profitable services business, how can they justify taking time away from that to build out a new service offering? The mindset and strategies change once again. We’ll get into some of those.

Building a service-based business is hard

Over the last two years, I’ve worked with over 150 agencies and have seen over 800 businesses (it’s probably closer to 1,000 at this point) looking to hire an agency or consultant. I’ve also worked in-house, as a solo consultant, and for a quickly growing boutique digital agency.

After the experiences I’ve had seeing everyone — from new scared-out-of-their-wits solo consultants all the way to long-established agencies looking to grow their practice — I decided to take a step back and reflect on the strategies I’ve seen both work and not work for consulting entities at different stages of growth.

That’s what we’ll cover today. If you’re a new consultant, an agency looking to level up the size of your accounts, or an agency looking to move into new service offerings, you’ll find something in this post for you.

Along the way, you’ll hear from consultants and agency owners at different stages of their business and what they did to get to where they are currently. After all, war stories are way more fun than “here are x steps you can follow to also be amazing” anecdotes.


New consultants

Tell me if you’ve seen this happen before: a friend is tired of their job, gets laid off, or otherwise finds themselves unemployed. They decide that they’re going to give freelance consulting a go.

Three months later, they’ve taken a new job at a new agency and are repeating the cycle they went through before.

Screenshot 2017-06-28 10.38.26.png

Sound familiar? If you’re in the digital marketing consulting world, you likely know at least a few, if not closer to a dozen people where this has held true.

I’m not going to say that everyone goes back to traditional employment because they’re having a difficult time getting new clients, but this is far and away the largest reason I see. They get a few months in, they have too few clients paying them too little, and so they panic and go take a job doing what is comfortable. They’ll repeat the cycle in a few years again.

I get it. The beginning of working for yourself can be terrifying. I’ve been there. Saw a therapist, got the t-shirt, am I right?

What if I told you that you could avoid this if you really want to? That you could use some proven techniques to get new clients that pay you what you’re worth?

Overcoming common “new consultant” fears with strategic thinking

You’ll hear entrepreneurs who have built and sold their companies (sometimes multiple times) tell you to take a “burn the ships” approach, where you set off and don’t give yourself a time limit or an out if you can’t make it work.

The problem with this is that it’s a fallacy brought about by survivorship bias — defined as “the logical error of concentrating on the people or things that made it past some selection process and overlooking those that did not, typically because of their lack of visibility.” Often these entrepreneurs look back and talk about how they could have done it, or how they did it for their second or third business once they’d already made quite a bit of money.

Quite simply, if you want to set yourself up for success, you should already have replaced (or have a clear path to replacing) your income from your day job before you even go out on your own.

You can do this by picking up freelance work on the side from your day job. Get one or two clients that pay you every month and learn how to manage those. Learn what it takes to retain these clients and even grow the accounts.

Next, figure out the minimum amount of money you need to make every month while only working the number of hours you want to work before you take the leap. If you have two clients, you can probably get two more pretty easily. If you spend 10 hours a week on these two clients and only want to bill 30 hours per week (which is actually quite a lot), then you know you can bring on four more clients at the same level (and fewer clients if they pay you more) and have the lifestyle and income you want.

It’s simple math.

The “new consultant” sales mindset

Clients come to solo consultants instead of agencies for a very specific reason. They want direct access to your specific brain and to be able to speak with the person actually doing the work. In fact, I’ve seen many companies come through Credo who need multiple services (not just strategy) across organic and paid, but they don’t want an account manager setup like they’ve had before with an agency.

This, plus your experience, is your competitive moat. During the initial discovery call with every potential client, don’t forget that you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you. You need to learn:

  • What they are specifically looking to accomplish through retaining someone’s services;
  • What their expectations are for how quickly they will see this;
  • If they have resources to get done what you recommend, or if you have time to implement what they need;
  • Whether they’re willing to pay you what you are worth.

Assuming all of these check out, then in my opinion, you’re good to move forward with the proposal process.

A quick word on pricing

If you’ve never worked for an agency before, you should ask agency friends or other freelance friends what they charge per hour, then use that as a benchmark. If you want to raise your rates, then do it slowly with new clients until you hit a ceiling. Now you know your price ceiling for the current services (whether strategy, implementation, or both) you offer.

New client acquisition channels

Now that we have the common fears identified and you’re armed with a better sales mindset, let’s explore the strategies you should leverage first to build your consulting practice to a base where it sustains your lifestyle and you’re able to remove the stress of starting from the equation and eventually think about growth.

The strategies I always counsel brand new solo consultants to use are:

  • Referrals – Ask your circle of professional peers if they know anyone looking for what you have to offer;
  • Referrals – Ask your friends and family if they know anyone that might need what you’re offering;
  • Agency white label – Approach agencies in your area to see if they need help on a contract basis with their clients;
  • Teaching – This is a longer-term play, but a great way to get clients in the long run is to teach others how to do what you do. I’ve seen it hold true that if you teach people how to do what you do, they’ll want to hire you to do it for them.

These are the easiest and most direct ways to get introductions to potential clients who are highly likely to close into clients.

Long-term this does not scale, but it can get you to the point of covering your expenses, allowing you to breathe a little bit and invest for the future. And if you’re smart about it and haven’t signed yourself up for 60+ hours per week of billed work, you can have a great life balance.

To give some real-world examples, I reached out to two of my friends who became solo consultants in 2013/2014.

First is Tom Critchlow, who went solo in late 2014 after two years at Google New York. When asked how he got his first consulting clients, Tom said that his first leads came from direct referrals from a friend:

“Since that first lead I’ve gotten about 80% of my clients through referrals from my direct network,” he shared. “I’d definitely emphasize the importance of a strong network and ensuring that you’re communicating with your network often to keep them up-to-date with what work you’re doing.”

Next I chatted with Michael King, who has since built his agency iPullRank into an industry powerhouse, and asked him how he got his first clients when he left the NYC agencies he worked for. To get his first, he shared that thought leadership played a huge role:

“My first two clients came through two different methods of thought leadership. One came via a post I’d written for Moz about content strategy, and the other came from a panel I spoke on. Overnight, I went from 0 to 10.5K MRR.”


Solo consultants happy staying solo

If this is you, then congratulations. In my mind, you’re finding nirvana in a lot of ways.

Solo consultants with more years of direct consulting experience are able to charge good hourly rates and monthly minimums from clients, according to my data.

solo consultant pricing.png

Once a consultant has survived the initial push to get new clients, the journey is far from over. In fact, many solo consultants have come up against this and gone through droughts where they were between projects.

This brings up the question: How can solo consultants, who can only realistically bring on a limited number of clients before they become too numerous, keep a strong potential client pipeline?

Define your niche and build processes

The answer is usually to tightly define your niche and then, depending on your niche, to build processes to deliver high quality work.

High-touch strategic consulting does not scale. It also does not have to scale if you charge a high hourly rate ($300/hr for strategic consulting that drives large revenue increases is not crazy, and may even be too low), in which case you can work with just a few clients and still create a great income for yourself.

When you’ve defined your niche, whether affiliate marketing driven by content or local SEO for realtors, then you put together the strategy to reach them.

This should go without saying, but if you’re asking how to define your niche, then you aren’t ready to be a highly paid solo consultant yet. Hone your craft and discover who you love to do work for, then go serve those customers on your own.

Once your niche is defined, you can focus on that group.

Targeting your ideal audience

As mentioned above, the toughest part of being and staying a solo consultant is managing your workload and saying “no” or “not yet” to potential clients, while at the same time protecting your downside should a client decide to stop your services for any reason, whether your fault or because of internal actions.

The best solo consultants that I know, who also have a strong pipeline of potential clients, have built this through:

  1. Content. They produce content related to their target market’s problems and thus become a thought leader in that niche. This will often lead to recurring columns in industry publications.
  2. A strong referral network. They know the who’s who of their niche and are their go-to when someone needs the consultant’s specific skillset.
  3. Speaking. Getting a one-off or set of speaking engagements in front of your target audience often directly drives potential clients and cements you as an expert in their minds.

The goal is to build your own name as an expert so that you consistently have potential customers approaching you to see if you can work with them, while also knowing your limits and when you may next have available time.

The goal isn’t to magically be able to get new inquiries when you need them (though this may happen if you’ve built this system), but to be able to go back to a group of people who have already inquired about your services and tell them that you have some availability. A pro move is also to ask if they know anyone who may need your services, as well.

Creating processes

Not every consultant desires working with large clients who each pay the equivalent of a full-time salary. Some consultants prefer working with smaller clients, mostly small or local businesses, because of the unique challenges that these clients face.

In this case, the challenge is to work out how you scale quantity without sacrificing quality or client retention. There are many ways to do this:

  • Find an agency or group of consultants you trust that you can outsource certain parts of the project to;
  • Leverage technologies like HubSpot, Moz, or others that allow you to automate a lot of the work;
  • Use tools like HubSpot, Calendly, UberConference, or others to help scale scheduling and admin parts of the business;
  • Use virtual assistants, bookkeeping services like Bench, and payroll services like Gusto to alleviate a lot of the business operations so you have more time to work for clients.

As Francois Marcil of Ehook.co shared:

When you have over 10 clients, the time spent attending meetings is the biggest obstacle to serving all your clients well. For this reason, I reserve 2 days of the week for meetings and 3 days for work. The rule is strict, and I inform my clients from the start.”

When a solo consultant sets up these processes, it not only makes their life a lot easier and their clients happier (which leads to better retention, which leads to a healthier business), but it also sets them up for success should they decide later that they want to start an agency. In this case, their processes of both acquiring and managing new clients will let them generate the cash flow needed to make the leap to employing someone full time.


Agencies leveling up

Some business owners don’t feel the need to constantly push and grow their business. They’re bootstrapped, their business affords them and their employees a great lifestyle, and they have no desire to take on more responsibility with their business. If this is you, then I’m a bit envious and encourage you to enjoy it.

If you’re anything like me, though, you’re never happy with maintaining. You always want to be growing, to be learning, to push yourself and your business to see what it’s capable of. If you’re on this course, then keep reading.

Your strategies have to change a bit when you go from being a solo consultant to growing your agency. A lot of your processes are going to break or need tweaking as you grow the number of people working on accounts. Your challenge now becomes managing the growth of your headcount while maintaining quality and bringing in great new clients at the same time.

This is likely way too much for one person to handle, so at some point you’ll be forced to decide what you are great at (and love doing) that is also instrumental to the business’s success. Then hire out for the rest.

Let’s focus on the sales part, of course.

At the beginning of your journey as a brand-new consultant, you were likely heavily dependent on one-off referrals from family and friends. But referrals don’t really scale.

As you’re looking to grow your business quickly, your channels have likely shifted to:

  • Speaking. If you have a dynamic founder who is a keynote-level (or heading in that direction) speaker, this can be great lead generation;
  • Strategic partnerships with investors or other agencies;
  • Your own search traffic and thought leadership on your own website;
  • Your own advertising of your services online.

You’re facing the unique challenge of increasing the quantity of potential clients contacting you while not sacrificing quality. While difficult, this is absolutely possible. You can grow your revenue by:

  1. Targeting new clients who have similar traits to your existing ideal clients;
  2. Growing accounts by upselling your existing clients to other services you offer that they need;
  3. Defining a specific niche or type of company where you get outsized returns, and then target them specifically through content, speaking, education, or both.

Sales changes as you grow. You’re looking for long-term sustainable clients as it is four to ten times cheaper to retain and grow your current clients than to get new clients (source). If you’re investing in landing new clients, you should not also have to worry about retaining your current clients. If you are, then you are simply refilling a leaky bucket and you will not grow.

Michael King of iPullRank is no stranger to the challenges that agency founders face as they grow, but he’s successfully transitioned from solo consultant to now managing seven figures in agency income. So what does he do differently?

“The difference is really that it’s far more dire,” he shared. “The maintenance of payroll becomes the battery in your back to have to just figure it out. Whereas when you’re by yourself and you have a low month or you lose a client, it’s not that big of a deal.”

Johnathan Dane of KlientBoost credits lessons he’s learned about sales along the way in growing KlientBoost from himself to $4M in revenue in just a few years:

“We’ve been very fortunate to have 99% of our sales come from our content, and when that happens, our sales cycle is drastically reduced because the potential client already likes us and has found value from what we’ve given them,” he said. “So even 2.5 years in, I still handle the inbound sales — which I know isn’t scalable — but you gotta allow yourself to still have some fun.”

I should also note that at this point, you should have someone dedicated to sales and onboarding new clients full-time. This can be filled by the founder if the founder is stellar at sales, but most often I see this role being given to a dedicated sales executive who hopefully also has marketing experience, or has proven their aptitude for learning and applying it so they sell the right work.


Agencies moving into new service offerings

At some point, you may max out your growth in your current niche and with your current offerings. At the same time, you want to continue growing but don’t have the option of increasing client budgets. Or, maybe a new platform emerges (think: Snapchat) that has the opportunity to be big and you want to be an early mover in helping your clients get exposure.

But moving into new niches is hard when you’ve established yourself in another service offering and that’s how you’re known. Every agency has a primary service offering, so how do you move into new niches?

There are two main ways:

  1. Think of this new service offering as a startup in and of itself. It is responsible for its own profit and loss (P&L), as well as landing its own new clients;
  2. Upsell your current clients into this new offering as well.

This is hard. Brandon Doyle of Wallaroo Media, who went from being a generic SEO agency to leading the way in travel marketing and Snapchat from their offices in Provo, Utah, knows this firsthand:

With a background in SEO, we strongly believed in its ability as a channel,” he shared. “We utilized SEO and evergreen content to carve out a name for ourselves both in the travel space, and more recently as a leader in Snapchat-related content, strategies, and news. The latter paid off, as we were just recently named an official Snapchat Agency Partner!”

Will Critchlow, CEO of digital marketing agency Distilled (full disclosure: I used to work for Distilled), also knows a thing or two about moving into an adjacent vertical. The agency recently become recognized for not only SEO, but creative content and outreach services, too:

“All our moves have come from the passion of the team,” shared Will. “Team members saw an opportunity, started doing part of the solution, and pitched the rest.”

Finally, your marketing will change as you seek traction in this new vertical. The topics you write about, the people you reference, the outreach you do, and the places you choose to interact will necessarily change.

This is specifically why I recommend tasking someone specifically with building out this new area. At Wallaroo, this was Brandon. At Distilled, this was Mark Johnstone who was previously an SEO consultant who had an interest in big creative content and Tom Anthony with an interest in technical A/B testing for SEO.


Conclusion

Consistently generating new potential projects at every cycle of your business’s growth is the best skill you can learn as a services business owner.

Leave a comment about the channels you’ve found to be the most effective!

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What Rehab & Addiction Facilities Need to Know About Recent Google Policy Changes [Data]

There’s no hiding from the opioid crisis that became a national emergency in 2017. An estimated 20 million Americans, or one in every 12 adults, suffer from drug or alcohol addiction. These facts are important and difficult to dismiss. Addiction is a complicated disease with no simple cure. But nearly every recovery program agrees that the first step is to seek help. And as these 20 million Americans, their friends, and their families search for help, many turn to Google to find answers.

However, recent Google ad policy changes complicate the picture of what results people get when they search for keywords related to rehab and drug treatment.

According to a September 14 article in the New York Times, Google released a statement that the search engine has “started restricting ads that come up when someone searches for addiction treatment on its site.” Google cites that some rehab clinics advertising through Google AdWords do not provide the quality care that addicts need to successfully overcome their disease. In response, Google claims to have “stopped selling ads related to those searches.” Following an investigation from The Sunday Times, Google similarly pulled rehab ads in the United Kingdom last week.

It doesn’t appear that these ads have disappeared completely, however. Google Trends data shows that drug rehabilitation searches are steady, while data from 29 rehab facilities advertising through Google AdWords reveals that the number of ad eligible searches on these queries has decreased significantly – down 96%. But Google is still showing some ads on these queries.

google restricts ads for rehab and drug treatment keywords

Apart from their statement to the New York Times, Google has been quiet about the change to their ad policy. Advertisers bidding on rehab-related keywords were not notified of the change. They did not have their ads or keywords disapproved, but instead suddenly started seeing far fewer ad impressions from these keywords.

Although Google is certainly restricting ads for common terms like “Drug Rehab,” as it said it would, it does not take much work to find other common queries serving a full pack of rehab ads:

google ads rehab searches

It’s not clear whether Google changed how it serves organic listings for these rehab-related searches. If not, search engine users would be able to find those misleading or poor-quality sites anyway.

Google also did not announce additional restrictions for its In-Stream ads on YouTube or its image ads across the Google Display Network (although Google will continue to restrict advertisers from targeting individuals based on sensitive information related to these issues, such as through remarketing.) Additionally, Bing has not changed the way it serves ads for these kinds of searches.

Which Keywords Are Affected?

This policy change leaves rehab advertisers, good and bad, in a confusing gray area. All advertisers are showing fewer ads on rehab terms, but what is and isn’t allowed is unclear to many. Although advertisers are eligible to show on 96% fewer searches containing the word “rehab,” not all keywords are equally affected. Common searches and restrictive keyword match types, such as Google’s exact and phrase match keywords, are showing almost no ads at all, whereas ads are much more common on long-tailed searches, geo-related search terms, dynamic search ads, and modified broad and broad match keywords.

google adwords rehab ad policy changes

To complicate matters more, impacts to these ads differ vastly among different common semantic strings. Whereas Google is very restrictive of “rehab” keywords, it’s much more lenient on “treatment” and “addiction” related keywords, which still show about a third as much as they did before the new policy. Some advertisers may have discovered that “counseling” related keywords have been unaffected, resulting in twice as many ads from these keywords now.

ad eligible searches for drug rehab data

More complex and long-tailed keywords may also be further exempt from Google’s policy. Searches about different kinds of substance abuse are treated differently – keywords around “substance abuse” are largely ineligible for ads, whereas “drug abuse” or “alcohol abuse” keywords now serve even more ads.

google ads for rehab addiction facilities

The current drug and alcohol addiction crisis is a complex one and unfortunately may not have any simple viable solutions. Seeking help and starting a conversation will always be the first step to recovery, and Google and its advertisers have a real responsibility to provide answers to those seeking help. Google’s new ad policy may remove some qualified professionals from that conversation. At worst, the unclear policy change could restrict policy-abiding advertisers and open loopholes for sketchy advertisers to benefit from.

Data Sources

Data is based on a sample size of 29 accounts (WordStream clients) advertising on keywords related to drug and alcohol rehabilitation and similar services on the Google Search Network between September and December 2017. Ad eligible searches were calculated by estimating the number of ad impressions these keywords would have with 100% impression share.

About the author

Mark is a Senior Data Scientist at WordStream, focused on research and training for the everchanging world of PPC. He was named the 5th Most Influential PPC Expert of 2017 by PPC Hero. You can follow him on TwitterLinkedIn, Google +, and SkillShare.

from Internet Marketing Blog by WordStream http://ift.tt/2mHV2tZ

Facebook Makes Major Changes to the News Feed: Here’s How It Will Impact Your Business

Mark Zuckerberg, champion of the decades-old prom picture, the neighborly squabble, the adorable baby pictures, announced yesterday that the Facebook News Feed is about to undergo a fundamental shift. Because “passively reading articles or watching videos” is bad for human beings, Facebook is pivoting its core away from its current state (inescapable time suck) and towards becoming a platform that helps users have “more meaningful social interactions.”

Great for humans, bad for (most) brands.

How is the Facebook News Feed Changing?

Per Zuckerberg’s post, the goal of the News Feed is moving from “helping you find relevant content” to enabling those meaningful social experiences I mentioned before. As such, the litany of posts from news outlets and the brands you love (or love to hate) whose content you passively consume will be usurped by updates from your friends, family, and groups.

facebook news feed changes impact smb advertisers

This doesn’t mean branded content and—more importantly as far as I’m concerned—ads are going away; they’re simply taking a back seat in one of Facebook’s myriad placements.

It’s been speculated by some (including WordStream founder Larry Kim) that Facebook will push “all publisher page posts out of the news feed into a separate ‘Explore’ tab.”

facebook explore tab

Facebook tested this last year and it seems likelier than ever that a world in which posts from the people in your life and posts from news outlets/businesses will be siloed is coming soon. That being said, as of today, Facebook is not eliminating your Business page content from the News Feed. More on where it is going below.

How Will It Impact Your Organic Facebook Presence?

In a post titled “Bringing People Closer Together,” Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s Head of News Feed, outlined the changes in greater detail. Instead of prioritizing posts based on comments and shares, Facebook will now push content to the top of your News Feed that its algorithms predict will spark meaningful “back-and-forth discussion.”

But then he comes in with a flying elbow off the top rope:

“Because space in News Feed is limited, showing more posts from friends and family and updates that spark conversation means we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.”

Which means you’ll see highlights from your cousin’s flag football championship or notices from your HOA instead of gems like this:

say goodbye to branded content in the news feed on facebook

Very unfair, I know.

Now, people who actively want to see your page’s content front and center can totally still do so by adjusting their “See First in News Feed” settings. In order to convince your followers to actively choose to see the content you’re producing, though, you’ll need to step your game up.

The limited spaces in the News Feed now afforded to businesses will be given to those whose content sparks the same meaningful engagement that inspired this change in the first place. Creating live video or events or recurring series of how-to posts or news that addresses meaningful issues—anything that might lead to discussion and provide actual value to your prospects and customers—is the only surefire way to maintain some semblance of organic reach (which was already dwindling in favor of content boosting and ads anyway).

It’s Still Possible to Grow Your Business on Facebook

Soooo Facebook’s stock is, uh, dropping…

facebook stock post news feed change

But that doesn’t make much sense to me at all.

Neither Zuckerberg nor Mosseri mention the word “advertising” in their respective posts. Facebook generated more than $10.3 billion in ad revenue last year alone; it’s the primary way the platform makes money. As such, it shouldn’t come as a shock that people see this deemphasizing of business-related content and run for the hills. But Facebook still has to make money; ads aren’t going anywhere. In fact, the competition for prime placements is sure to increase given that News Feed is now a magical vortex of friendship and happiness.

With that, here’s what you can do in order to start, maintain, or grow your business’s marketing presence on Facebook in a post-News Feed world.

Create hyper-engaging organic content

This drastic shift is in an effort to make people’s lives better by improving the quality of the content shared on Facebook (and its engagement) by, in part, significantly reducing quantity. Brands sharing “engagement-bait,” superfluous listicles and the like, are going to fall by the wayside in favor of those who consciously decide to create content that truly makes people’s lives better.

create more engaging organic facebook content

Public content—posts from businesses, brands, and media—that encourages positive discourse among Facebook users will be algorithmically rewarded with coveted spaces in people’s News Feeds. Get out there and create some!

Optimizing ads for non-feed placements

The News Feed is the crown jewel of ad placements. This is not a secret.

It affords advertisers the most space, allowing you to do and say more interesting things about your product or service. If Facebook is going to reduce the number of posts in the News Feed afforded to businesses, it stands to reason that competition (and cost) for ads in the New Feed will increase exponentially.

Thankfully, between desktop, mobile, the audience network, and Instagram, Facebook offers a whole mess of alternative ad placement options.

facebook ad placement options alternatives to news feed

They include:

  • Groups
  • Right column
  • Instant articles
  • In-stream video
  • Instagram (feed and story)
  • Sponsored messages
  • Audience network

Start thinking about how you can leverage these alternative placements in your Facebook advertising efforts!

Making the most out of your ad spend and activity

If, for most businesses, organic content falls by the wayside, the importance of Facebook advertising for SMBs will increase exponentially. Even with the relative unknown we’re facing in terms of ads showing and with what frequency, knowing where to advertise on Facebook is barely half the battle; the how still takes the cake.

facebook ads grader

To find out how you stack up against your competitors, where you’re wasting ad spend, and who you should be targeting, try the Facebook Ads Grader today!

About the Author

Allen Finn is a content marketing specialist and the reigning fantasy football champion at WordStream. He enjoys couth menswear, dank eats, and the dulcet tones of the Wu-Tang Clan.

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What’s in Store for WordStream in 2018

When I joined WordStream as President in June of 2017, I jumped in head first to what turned out to be the highest-energy environment I’ve ever worked in by far. I’m thrilled and grateful to be part of a team that’s so passionate, and I’ve been so impressed by our hundreds of smart, dedicated employees who come to the office every day with a mission to help our customers succeed. Our customers run an amazing variety of businesses, employing tens of thousands of people and delivering products and services all over the world.

This week, I’m excited to begin a new chapter with WordStream. I’m stepping into the role of CEO, where I’ll continue to oversee our day-to-day operations as well as building and leading the team that is driving continued rapid growth through 2018 and beyond. My friend and colleague Ralph Folz will move into the role of Executive Chairman, where his focus will increase on external relationships, partnerships, and growth by acquisition. I’ll also be joining the Board of Directors.

howard kogan ceo wordstream

Introducing new hires at one of my first company meetings

2017 was a big year for WordStream. We landed on the Inc. 5000 for the fifth year in a row, the Boston Business Journal’s Top Places to Work list for the third year in a row, and were named one of the Boston Globe’s Top Places to Work for 2017. We were named the #1 highest rated search advertising software by G2 Crowd. We now have over 250 employees and power more than 10,000 advertisers and agencies globally.

Our track record of growth has been impressive, but we’re not slowing down now, and today I’d like to share with you some thoughts on our current challenges, opportunities, and my vision for the company this year and in the future.

My First Six Months

I have a customer-first philosophy, so when I joined WordStream in June, my first order of business was to spend lots of time with our customers. From jumping on sales and consulting calls, to hosting events in our office, to visiting our customers’ offices, to talking to customers who are unhappy or leaving WordStream, I’ve done it all.

wordstream customer event

A workshop from our customer insight roundtable in November

I have heard countless stories of how WordStream has helped to both grow and simplify our customers’ businesses. The proactive suggestions that the software provides, the simplicity of the user experience, and the talent and compassion of our customer success reps are consistent themes across these conversations.

But our job is not done. To build on this success we are actively working on innovating within our existing ability to advertise across multiple online advertising platforms including Google, Facebook, and Bing (for example, releasing Smart Ads to automate display ad creation), as well as developing brand new product lines and service offerings to meet an expanded set of growth opportunities for our customers (such as the newly released Facebook Ads Grader).

wordstream smart ads software

Smart Ads makes it easy to build great-looking display ads fast

There’s much more to come as we move through the year, so watch this space for more new features and product developments that you’ve asked for.

Our Most Critical Asset: Our People

One of my favorite parts of my job has been my mobile “office.” I’ve sat in several different desks already, spending time with teams across the company, and I like moving around as a way to get to know our people and the specifics of how each different team functions. You can’t build a great company without great people, and our people and culture are two of our most powerful assets.

We are growing rapidly, and this trajectory presents both challenges and opportunity. We need to scale the way every aspect of our business works to support our growth in the coming years. Two excellent opportunities arise for our employees – the ability to take on new projects and technologies, and the ability to take on new roles and responsibilities. This is one of the core purposes of the organization, to provide professional development for our talent so that they are continually learning and preparing for what’s next.

wordstream best places to work

Accepting our award from the Boston Globe with WordStreamers from across all teams

If this sounds like something you want to be a part of, check out our careers page – we’re always looking for creative, driven people to join our engineering, product, sales, customer success, and marketing teams.

My Vision for the Future 

The digital advertising market is incredibly dynamic, with market leaders such as Facebook and Google driving constant innovation as well as hundreds of tech companies striving to disrupt the industry. To stand out in a crowded, fast-paced space, we must constantly challenge ourselves to listen more closely to our customers so we can truly partner with them, leveraging emerging technology to ensure we deliver the simplest and most valuable solutions available to businesses and agencies of all sizes.

We’ll add dozens and dozens of new employees this year, who will bring new diversity of ideas, experiences and richness to WordStream – furthering our vision and accelerating our progress. One way we’re powering that effort is through our new partnership with Hack.Diversity in 2018. We’ll develop new ways of going to market, new products and services, and new geographies. Through it all we will focus on making sure we stay close our customers, use them as inspiration for all we do, and deliver ever increasing value to them.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of our journey so far – we couldn’t do it without you. Here’s to a happy and prosperous 2018!

from Internet Marketing Blog by WordStream http://ift.tt/2mlovc6

Why Google AdWords’ Keyword Volume Numbers Are Wildly Unreliable – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Many of us rely on the search volume numbers Google AdWords provides, but those numbers ought to be consumed with a hearty helping of skepticism. Broad and unusable volume ranges, misalignment with other Google tools, and conflating similar yet intrinsically distinct keywords — these are just a few of the serious issues that make relying on AdWords search volume data alone so dangerous. In this edition of Whiteboard Friday, we discuss those issues in depth and offer a few alternatives for more accurate volume data.

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why it's insane to rely on Google adwords' keyword volume numbers

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about Google AdWords’ keyword data and why it is absolutely insane as an SEO or as a content marketer or a content creator to rely on this.

Look, as a paid search person, you don’t have a whole lot of choice, right? Google and Facebook combine to form the duopoly of advertising on the internet. But as an organic marketer, as a content marketer or as someone doing SEO, you need to do something fundamentally different than what paid search folks are doing. Paid search folks are basically trying to figure out when will Google show my ad for a keyword that might create the right kind of demand that will drive visitors to my site who will then convert?

But as an SEO, you’re often driving traffic so that you can do all sorts of other things. The same with content marketers. You’re driving traffic for multitudes of reasons that aren’t directly or necessarily directly connected to a conversion, at least certainly not right in that visit. So there are lots reasons why you might want to target different types of keywords and why AdWords data will steer you wrong.

1. AdWords’ “range” is so broad, it’s nearly useless

First up, AdWords shows you this volume range, and they show you this competition score. Many SEOs I know, even really smart folks just I think haven’t processed that AdWords could be misleading them in this facet.

So let’s talk about what happened here. I searched for types of lighting and lighting design, and Google AdWords came back with some suggestions. This is in the keyword planner section of the tool. So “types of lighting,” “lighting design”, and “lighting consultant,” we’ll stick with those three keywords for a little bit.

I can see here that, all right, average monthly searches, well, these volume ranges are really unhelpful. 10k to 100k, that’s just way too giant. Even 1k to 10k, way too big of a range. And competition, low, low, low. So this is only true for the quantity of advertisers. That’s really the only thing that you’re seeing here. If there are many, many people bidding on these keywords in AdWords, these will be high.

But as an example, for “types of light,” there’s virtually no one bidding, but for “lighting consultant,” there are quite a few people bidding. So I don’t understand why these are both low competition. There’s not enough granularity here, or Google is just not showing me accurate data. It’s very confusing.

By the way, “types of light,” though it has no PPC ads right now in Google’s results, this is incredibly difficult to rank for in the SEO results. I think I looked at the keyword difficulty score. It’s in the 60s, maybe even low 70s, because there’s a bunch of powerful sites. There’s a featured snippet up top. The domains that are ranking are doing really well. So it’s going to be very hard to rank for this, and yet competition low, it’s just not telling you the right thing. That’s not telling you the right story, and so you’re getting misled on both competition and monthly searches.

2. AdWords doesn’t line up to reality, or even Google Trends!

Worse, number two, AdWords doesn’t line up to reality with itself. I’ll show you what I mean.

So let’s go over to Google Trends. Great tool, by the way. I’m going to talk about that in a second. But I plugged in “lighting design,” “lighting consultant,” and “types of lighting.” I get the nice chart that shows me seasonality. But over on the left, it also shows average keyword volume compared to each other — 86 for “lighting design,” 2 for “lighting consultant,” and 12 for “types of lighting.” Now, you tell me how it is that this can be 43 times as big as this one and this can be 6 times as big as that one, and yet these are all correct.

The math only works in some very, very tiny amounts of circumstances, like, okay, maybe if this is 1,000 and this is 12,000, which technically puts it in the 10k, and this is 86,000 — well, no wait, that doesn’t quite work — 43,000, okay, now we made it work. But you change this to 2,000 or 3,000, the numbers don’t add up. Worse, it gets worse, of course it does. When AdWords gets more specific with the performance data, things just get so crazy weird that nothing lines up.

So what I did is I created ad groups, because in AdWords in order to get more granular monthly search data, you have to actually create ad groups and then go review those. This is in the review section of my ad group creation. I created ad groups with only a single keyword so that I could get the most accurate volume data I could, and then I maximized out my bid until I wasn’t getting any more impressions by bidding any higher.

Well, whether that truly accounts for all searches or not, hard to say. But here’s the impression count — 2,500 a day, 330 a day, 4 a day. So 4 a day times 30, gosh, that sounds like 120 to me. That doesn’t sound like it’s in the 1,000 to 10,000 range. I don’t think this could possibly be right. It just doesn’t make any sense.

What’s happening? Oh, actually, this is “types of lighting.” Google clearly knows that there are way more searches for this. There’s a ton more searches for this. Why is the impression so low? The impressions are so low because Google will rarely ever show an ad for that keyword, which is why when we were talking, above here, about competition, I didn’t see an ad for that keyword. So again, extremely misleading.

If you’re taking data from AdWords and you’re trying to apply it to your SEO campaigns, your organic campaigns, your content marketing campaigns, you are being misled and led astray. If you see numbers like this that are coming straight from AdWords, “Oh, we looked at the AdWords impression,” know that these can be dead f’ing wrong, totally misleading, and throw your campaigns off.

You might choose not to invest in content around types of lighting, when in fact that could be an incredibly wonderful lead source. It could be the exact right keyword for you. It is getting way more search volume. We can see it right here. We can see it in Google Trends, which is showing us some real data, and we can back that up with our own clickstream data that we get here at Moz.

3. AdWords conflates and combines keywords that don’t share search intent or volume

Number three, another problem, Google conflates keywords. So when I do searches and I start adding keywords to a list, unless I’m very careful and I type them in manually and I’m only using the exact ones, Google will take all three of these, “types of lights,” “types of light” (singular light), and “types of lighting” and conflate them all, which is insane. It is maddening.

Why is it maddening? Because “types of light,” in my opinion, is a physics-related search. You can see many of the results, they’ll be from Energy.gov or whatever, and they’ll show you the different types of wavelengths and light ranges on the visible spectrum. “Types of lights” will show you what? It will show you types of lights that you could put in your home or office. “Types of lighting” will show you lighting design stuff, the things that a lighting consultant might be interested in. So three different, very different, types of results with three different search intents all conflated in AdWords, killing me.

4. AdWords will hide relevant keyword suggestions if they don’t believe there’s a strong commercial intent

Number four, not only this, a lot of times when you do searches inside AdWords, they will hide the suggestions that you want the most. So when I performed my searches for “lighting design,” Google never showed me — I couldn’t find it anywhere in the search results, even with the export of a thousand keywords — “types of lights” or “types of lighting.”

Why? I think it’s the same reason down here, because Google doesn’t believe that those are commercial intent search queries. Well, AdWords doesn’t believe they’re commercial intent search queries. So they don’t want to show them to AdWords customers because then they might bid on them, and Google will (a) rarely show those, and (b) they’ll get a poor return on that spend. What happens to advertisers? They don’t blame themselves for choosing faulty keywords. They blame Google for giving them bad traffic, and so Google knocks these out.

So if you are doing SEO or you’re doing content marketing and you’re trying to find these targets, AdWords is a terrible suggestion engine as well. As a result, my advice is going to be rely on different tools.

Instead:

There are a few that I’ve got here. I’m obviously a big fan of Moz’s Keyword Explorer, having been one of the designers of that product. Ahrefs came out with a near clone product that’s actually very, very good. SEMrush is also a quality product. I like their suggestions a little bit more, although they do use AdWords keyword data. So the volume data might be misleading again there. I’d be cautious about using that.

Google Trends, I actually really like Google Trends. I’m not sure why Google is choosing to give out such accurate data here, but from what we’ve seen, it looks really comparatively good. Challenge being if you do these searches in Google Trends, make sure you select the right type, the search term, not the list or the topic. Topics and lists inside Google Trends will aggregate, just like this will, a bunch of different keywords into one thing.

Then if you want to get truly, truly accurate, you can go ahead and run a sample AdWords campaign, the challenge with that being if Google chooses not to show your ad, you won’t know how many impressions you potentially missed out on, and that can be frustrating too.

So AdWords today, using PPC as an SEO tool, a content marketing tool is a little bit of a black box. I would really recommend against it. As long as you know what you’re doing and you want to find some inspiration there, fine. But otherwise, I’d rely on some of these other tools. Some of them are free, some of them are paid. All of them are better than AdWords.

All right, everyone. Look forward to your comments and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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Say No to the Slump: How to Drive Post-Holiday Sales with Facebook Ads

B2B advertisers tend to see an influx of prospects after January 1. But for many businesses—online or otherwise—the post-holiday malaise is very real.

Today, I’m going to teach you how to use Facebook ads to turn the “ugh, January“ you’ve become accustomed to into the Q1 kickoff you’ve always dreamed of. The strategies I’ll touch on are broken out like so…

  • Brick and mortar: Improve foot traffic with carousel ads and store locators.
  • Ecommerce: Use holiday shopper data and Collection ads to cross-sell complementary products.

But first, let’s establish something…

The Post-Holiday Slump Is a Myth

Brick and mortar and ecommerce outfits alike sprint from turkey day to Christmas with reckless abandon, offering deals left and right; this inevitably leads to a perceived dry spell, a period in which consumers simply aren’t, well, consuming. As such, many choose to significantly reduce their online advertising efforts or press pause.

This is a silly idea.

Folks, there’s plenty of money to be made after the holiday season, and Facebook ads can help you get your hands on it.

post holiday facebook advertising for small businesses 

Stats time!

According to intel we got directly from Facebook, 65% of shoppers plan to keep shopping after Christmas. Why, you might ask? Because humans are consumptive beings who want, nay, demand stuff. New stuff. Shinier stuff. Stuff to complement the stuff we recently received or rediscovered in the recesses of a dusty desk drawer. In addition, January is a great time to take advantage of post-holiday sales.

Let’s give the people what they want…

For Brick & Mortar Businesses: Bring ‘Em Back in With Store Locators

You’re reading the WordStream blog. Based on that information alone, it stands to reason that a good chunk of your (or your clients’) business occurs strictly within the digital realm.

For others, driving potential customers to visit a storefront is just as important as earning sales online. And, in a country with nearly 30 million small businesses, it’s even possible to stumble upon some that rely solely on in-person interactions *gasp* to make a buck.

driving foot traffic to a physical store using facebook ads 

Regardless of which bucket you fall into, this much is true: you can use Facebook ads to push interested parties in your area towards paying your store a visit.

The Strategy

If you have multiple locations, Facebook will allow you to leverage the aptly named “Store Visits” campaign goal. This is a dynamic ad format that allows you to serve proximity-based ad creative to searchers in a dynamic fashion (meaning you don’t need to create a dozen separate ads).

facebook ads drive store visits campaign goal 

Fancy, huh?

Unfortunately, for those of you operating from a single location (which will be my focus today), you’ll need to get creative. Facebook doesn’t currently allow you to use “Store Visits” as a marketing objective. You can, however, combine reach or brand awareness campaigns with hyper-specific location targeting and carousel ads to simultaneously attract local prospects and point them in the direction of your store.

The variance in campaign objectives above is pretty straightforward. Brand awareness campaigns are all about serving your ads multiple times to the same people, which can be useful for advertisers with granular audiences. Reach campaigns, on the other hand, are a pure volume play, a wide net. Like straight up broad match keywords. Provided you nail down your location targeting, choosing “Reach” as your campaign objective will allow you to serve your ads to the maximum number of people within a concentrated area around your store.

 facebook ads proximity-based ad copy

To do this, create a new Facebook ad campaign using guided creation. From the Marketing Objectives interface, select “Reach” and name your campaign something inspirational.

drive in-person purchases with facebook reach campaign goals 

Now it’s time to forge your hyper-local audience. While adding demographic (age, gender) and detailed targeting (demographics, interests, and behaviors) that’s pertinent to what you’re peddling is certainly helpful, the key here is defining your location with laser precision. This ain’t gonna cut it:

 facebook location selection for driving in store purchases

Let’s say you own a store near Boston’s famed Prudential Center. Before selecting your target location in earnest, Facebook actually allows you to choose whether you want to reach everyone in a given area, weary travelers, recent visitors, or the fine folks who call your neighborhood home.

facebook location targeting variables 

If you want to get really fancy (and you live in a bustling metropolis with enough warm bodies to warrant doing so), you can create separate ad sets for the same location offering different messaging to Facebook users based on their relationship to area. Maybe travelers need to know about your coffee shop’s dope free WiFi and residents respond better to your “free kouign-amann after 10 lattes” punch card.

kougin amann 

Throw that sucker in a carousel and resistance is futile.

Now it’s time to add your target location. Add your business address and reduce the radius targeting to a distance that makes sense. If you live in a city, 1-3 miles can be broad enough to form the foundation of a sizeable audience. In less populous areas, you may need to extend your radius considerably.

facebook ads one mile targeting radius 

Once your location is set, establish your budget and ad set duration then continue to scroll down. You’ll want to pay close attention to both frequency cap and ad scheduling here; the former because berating your neighbors is uncouth and the latter because telling them about your store when it’s closed is a bit wasteful.

 facebook ad frequency and scheduling for driving in person sales

Simply adjust your ad scheduling to reflect operating hours and move on to ad creation, where you’re going to want to select “Carousel” and move on to the fun part.

 facebook ads carousel for smb driving foot traffic to local business

Enter your universally applicable ad text first, ensuring that it hammers home what makes your business special and either your address or proximity to an oft-visited landmark.

Now, you’re going to want to ensure that your carousel ad features three cards and that one of them (preferably the last one) is a map showing the location of your business. You can do this by checking the requisite box in the ad creation interface.

adding a map to your facebook carousel ad 

Cards one and two of your carousel should convey your unique selling proposition, a deal you’re offering, or a picture of your storefront (subtlety won’t do you any favors). Since your location probably isn’t changing any time soon, these two cards are the best place to A/B test ad creative in your foot traffic-driving campaign.

facebook ads drive foot traffic local business and restaurant example 

For each card, you can customize a headline and a description (they won’t show in all of Facebook’s ad placements). This is a great place to include exclusive offers that’ll drive traffic to your store. And while the map you added will automatically come with a “Get Directions” button, you can append it to your more aesthetically pleasing cards, too. From a measurability standpoint, you can observe reach metrics at the campaign level in Ads Manger:

facebook reach metrics 

Make sure that you test your ad creative frequently and ensure you’re fully stocked for the impending influx of customers ready to drop bread on your post-holiday wares.

For Ecommerce Businesses: Cross-Sell Your Newly Swollen Customer Base

You’ve got an Ecommerce site. You just spent a month luring prospects and dynamic remarketing to those who escape your clutches in an effort to lure them back. And it worked. You cleaned up in December!

Now what?

My friend, it’s time to cross-sell your customers.

If you’re unfamiliar with the practice, cross-selling refers to the process of pitching complementary items to a prospect or customer. You’re enticing someone with cash in hand with something supplementary. Amazon is the king of the cross-sale.

amazon cross-sell through frequently bought together 

Who doesn’t need ankle weights with their weight vest, am I right?

The “Frequently bought together” section of any Amazon product page is an attempt at leveraging social proof in concert with convenience to move more product at the point of sale. What we’re going to try to do with Facebook ads is a little different: we’re going to attempt to cross-sell the customers you acquired during the holiday season.

The Strategy

For our purposes, let’s say you sell grooming accessories. You know, ergonomic hilts, razor blades, shaving creams, badger hair brushes, and overpriced beard oil infused with essence of dollars past. If someone bought a razor (the most expensive item you sell), there are multiple angles from which you can approach a cross-sale; better still is the fact that these cross sales are recurring because the nature of your business is such that your customers constantly need replacements for your consumables.

sales vs cross-sales with facebook ads 

The key to cross-selling products with Facebook ads is custom audiences. Let me rephrase: the key to SMB ecommerce is custom audiences. If you’re rocking a five-figure product catalogue, you’re going to want to let Facebook automate your cross-selling with dynamic ads. That’s a topic for another day.

You’re going to start by creating custom audiences using the email addresses of people who bought your razors. Go to the audiences tab, click “create audience,” and select “Customer File.”

facebook custom audience is the key to ecommerce cross-sell 

From here, upload the email addresses of the people who bought your product during the holiday season. Since this isn’t your first rodeo— after all, we are talking post-holiday sales—I’m operating under the assumption that your Facebook Pixel is already configured to track purchases as conversions. If this is the case, create a new conversion campaign using your previous purchasers as the target audience:

facebook ads custom audience from customer email for cross-sell 

Now, since you’re looking to capitalize on a recent purchase in an attempt to cross-sell more of your products, you’ve got a handful of options in terms of ad creative. The one we’re going to focus on (because it allows you to promote multiple products without having to worry about creating a product feed) is Facebook’s new Collection ad. It makes creating dynamic, engaging ads that showcase multiple potential cross-sell opportunities super simple; all you need to do is plug your images into a premade template and voila, you’ve got an ad! The only drawback is that it can only be served on the Facebook mobile app. But feast your eyes!

facebook collection ads 

Now, this superlative example from Adidas is just that: the cream of the crop. You don’t need a big shiny video to make these birds sing. Observe.

First, you need to fill out the cover image and text portions of your Collection ad that precede the catalogue-like section. Where Adidas used a video, add an image of the product the members of your custom audience purchased during the holiday season (going back to our example, a razor handle).

 post-holiday facebook ads for ecommerce collection ads

In the text fields, hark back to the fact that the customer recently made a purchase but could really benefit from of your complimentary offerings (conversely, you could lean on a different trigger, like scarcity or FoMo: whatever seems prudent).

Next, you’re going to add the products you’d like to cross-sell into the “Product Lists” section. Facebook requires you to add at least 4 and up to 8.

facebook collection ad product list breakdown 

For each product, you can add a headline (name of product), description (probably price), and a destination URL. That last bit’s a doozy; you can send customers directly to the landing page for the product they deem most intriguing. To squeeze even more value out of this feature, add a separate UTM parameter to each cross-sell product destination URL. This will allow you to remarket to anyone who visits one of your product pages from a Collection ad and doesn’t purchase with a different ad that explicitly serves either a) the product they viewed as a single image ad or b) the three they didn’t view as a carousel ad.

Turning a failed attempt at cross-selling into regular selling: You’re welcome.

About the Author

Allen Finn is a content marketing specialist and the reigning fantasy football champion at WordStream. He enjoys couth menswear, dank eats, and the dulcet tones of the Wu-Tang Clan.

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