The 1-2 punch to get more new customers and more repeat purchases

Your customers are your greatest asset

The one thing shared across all great ecommerce companies is a large, loyal customer base. The keys to building that kickass cusotmer base are well known, but easier said than done:

  1. Getting new customers
  2. Turning each new customer into a high LTV fanatic.

Acquiring new customers is top-of-mind and top-of-spend for most ecommerce companies we speak to every day. But, there’s something that we don’t see happening enough, and that’s getting the most out of each customer to accelerate growth. Focusing on building great customers, who will then in-turn help you get more new customers causes a snowball effect and accelerates your growth. That’s the 1-2 punch.

A self-feeding engine of growth

Here we look at using Alliioop and ReferralCandy, to gain more first time customers and then turn them into the repeat purchasers that increase overall LTV and drive explosive growth.

The chart below shows the amazing growth impact of repeat purchases. Getting from 1 purchase to 3.5 purchases per customer per year will drive your growth and margins–almost 20x over five years. It’s the difference between a slow growth grind and an accelerating rocket.

revenue growth of repeat purchasesA graph illustrating the power of repeat purchases for your company growth

The reality is, you cannot do this without customer referrals or a deep understanding of your customers and their behavior allowing you to better serve them. To rely too heavily on paid customer acquisition is not sustainable.

Turn your customers into referrers – and better customers – with ReferralCandy

At ReferralCandy, they think of your existing customer base as your best source of new customer acquisition. If you are an ecommerce merchant, you already know the importance of getting word-of-mouth sales on your online store. If your product is able to solve your customers’ needs and you provide them with a great shopping experience, it’s very likely that they will recommend you to their friends and family.

If you don’t have a referral program, however, there’s very little you can do to encourage your customers to keep referring you to their friends and family. Think of your customers as your best salespeople:

  • They know your future customers personally
  • They are recommending products and services in an altruistic way
  • They are trustworthy to their audience

There are several studies proving that referral programs help business get better customers (they’re more profitable, they’re less likely to leave, and they have higher lifetime value) but you can also use them to build loyalty with your existing clients. Your customers will keep you in mind for future recommendations – but also for future purchases.

ReferralCandy makes it very easy to set up an effective referral program, reducing friction on the customer end and improving the customer experience. Choose your rewards – cash, store credit, discounts or free products, easily share your program through email and on site pop-ups and that’s it! ReferralCandy allows a scalable and highly cost effective channel to drive new customer acquisition. Once they become a customer, Alliioop enables you to drive more effective and timely engagements with your customers and increase repeat purchases.

Building a kickass customer base just got easier

Building a large, loyal customer base takes time and effort–and both art and science. It requires that you understand what makes customers tick–and what doesn’t. It’s not always about sending discounts and special offers, though those do work.

Referrals are one part, but you must also deliver well timed content, advice, product recommendations, as well as those special offers to add value, build appreciation and drive loyalty. That’s exactly why we created Alliioop.

Getting results with Alliioop

Alliioop is will make you more effective in doing the two most important things for growing your loyal customer base.

  1. Sell more to your existing customers by automatically sending emails and Facebook ads at the right moment, triggered on data and behavior–not hope and luck.
  2. Attract more customers that are just like your best customers by building a Facebook Custom Audience with your high-lifetime customers and attract more of the same.

Make your Shopify site soar

Getting started and realizing results is easy with our Shopify and Facebook integrations. Plus our pre-built reports and segments come to life right after you turn it on, with these key capabilities:

Reporting: We’ve pre-built a suite of reports that will show you everything from high-level conversion metrics, to campaign performance, LTV and the details of every customer path. You get insights highlighting what you should do next to increase conversions.

Segmentation: Sending highly targeted messages requires powerful segmentation. You can segment on anything and the segments are dynamic–meaning people are added and removed from segments in real-time–not stale, static lists.

Facebook: Keeping your Facebook Custom Audiences fresh and on target is cumbersome. We automatically add and remove people from your Facebook Custom Audiences based on their behavior. This keeps your audiences fresh and your ads more on target–and effective.

Anonymous user tracking: We can show you what users did before they gave you their email address. So you get the real time-to-purchase picture and can personalize welcome messages with products they previously viewed or abandoned.

Automation: Driving all these engagements requires serious automation. Alliioop monitors all your customer behavior and triggers the engagements automatically. So as you build more granular targeting over time, we manage all the delivery so you can scale.

Use Alliioop and ReferralCandy together

The key to making this work is using the 2 solutions together to maximize your growth. Take your existing customer base and empower them to refer their friends and family (after all – they get a benefit as well when they refer someone who makes a purchase) with ReferralCandy. Use Alliioop to gain insights you’ve never been able to glean before and better understand, segment and engage with your customer base. By only sending timely and relevant messaging you’ll show your customer you understand and respect them more than your competition.

Click here to schedule a personal demo and learn how Alliioop can help you grow your ecommerce company. If you’d like to see ReferralCandy, click here.

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The Definitive Guide To Leveraging Social Media for Online Sales

71% of Internet users in the United States actively use social media networks.

That means (almost) three out of four people can potentially be reached, interacted with, and persuaded through social media.

Marketers everywhere are trying to harness social media to improve customer experience, boost brand awareness, and increase sales.

Andrew Hubbard turned a $4,000 investment in Facebook ads into $36,449 in profits.

And, it’s not just for marketers.

Online retailers are also using social media to drive revenue.

A women’s online clothing store supporting a non-profit wildlife conservation organization saw a 192% increase in social media sales with Facebook leading to new customer acquisition.

So, to help you increase sales for your business, I’m going to show you how to use social media to drive sales.

To begin, you have to use the right social channels to reach the right people.

Use the right social channels to reach your target audience

As much as we’d all love to master every social platform, it’s about as likely as winning every lottery by only playing Powerball.

Just like the same winning numbers aren’t going to score you that sweet jackpot for every active lottery game, no blanket strategy can net you big wins on every network.

Why?

Because the preferences, demographics, and interaction styles change between each.

Some of this is the result of design constraints.

But some of it comes down to plain old user bases, which is why it’s so important to choose your channels wisely.

Facebook may be the crown king of social media in terms of growth and frequency of use, but that doesn’t make it the best choice for your business.

social media platform usage frequency

Because there’s one crucial thing you have to remember about Facebook.

Just because it reaches more users than other networks doesn’t mean it reaches more of your users.

And that’s ultimately who matters most when deciding on a social platform.

Just look at the social channels these top brands choose to engage with their audience.

how brands engage using social media

As Michelle Vroom, founder of Vroom Communications explains, “Each channel is used in different ways, and should be used in different ways. There’s no ‘one size fits all.’”

Carnival Cruise is an excellent example of how to leverage the right social channels to reach your target audience.

Carnival Cruise Line wanted to reach more “rookie” cruisers. It also wanted to keep its costs down to a minimum. For them, Pinterest was a golden goose.

Its campaign on Pinterest saw a 14% increase in click-through rate while its CPC was as much as 71% lower than the same outreach tactics on other networks.

carnival cruise lines pinterest

How did they get such money-saving numbers while boosting customer acquisition?

By going to the right network to reach the right people.

After all, who’s more likely to go on a first-time cruise: a college freshman still shopping a Top Ramen diet or a family that pulls in an income in excess of $100k?

According to Pinterest’s self-reported demographics, the latter accounts for 40% of their user base.

pinterest demographics

Flight Media saw similar results when they doubled down on their Instagram efforts. Instagram didn’t just surpass Facebook, but it became their top social media performer.

To the tune of 58% of their total lead generation.

Check this out.

136 instagram leads

And all of that happened in just a few months.

So, as you can see, identifying your target demographics and meeting them on their platform of choice can help rake in new customers and save on marketing spending.

And sometimes, as demonstrated in the above examples, that platform isn’t always Facebook.

Use paid promotion and buyable pins to increase sales

Paid promotion programs vary between networks in terms of delivery and cost, and you can’t throw a stick without hitting a sales-boosting success story.

Don’t believe me? Check these out.

57st. design, a high-end furniture design house and retailer, get at least 35% of its revenue directly from Pinterest, using its “Promoted Pins” feature to great effect.

sales from pinterest

Here’s another.

OGX, a beauty and hair care retailer specializing in natural and exotic ingredients, pulled its U.S. sales up by 8% using Facebook’s advertising platform.

ogx facebook sales

And all of that in four weeks. When you consider there’s barely a grocery store in the U.S. that doesn’t feature OGX’s products, that sales lift is huge.

Let’s make it a trifecta and look at one more.

Pringles, the tube of chips that makes us uncomfortably aware of how much we can eat in one sitting, nets a 2.9x ROI on promoted tweets for every dollar spent.

pringles ROI return

So, if a paid promotion isn’t part of your social media strategy, you’re missing out. But how do you find the program and format that fits your products and budget best?

Start by experimenting with A/B testing.

ab testing ad sets

That’s what SHEIN, an online fashion retailer, did with Instagram’s paid promotion program.

Running three concurrent experiments with different ad formats, SHEIN tracked its conversion rates with Facebook pixel to land on the format that worked best for its customers.

Best as in 8.5% more than other ad formats for a total of 23% conversion lift.

23 percent conversion lift

They’re not the only ones who know the value of an excellent side-by-side, either.

AdEspresso uses a similar approach for their Facebook ads.

adespresso facebook ad tests

That said, paid promotion isn’t the only way to bring customers in directly from a social platform.

Pinterest, where 93% of users use pins to plan purchases, is also a gold mine of potential increased revenue.

Buyable pins, which allow users to complete their purchase Pinterest, have yielded some awesome results for e-commerce stores looking to grow sales and new customer acquisition.

buyable pins from pinterest

Did I mention the best part yet? They’re free to use for approved businesses.

Look at the results for Gardener’s Supply Company, an online retailer of landscaping supplies.

Using buyable pins boosted its sales by 300%, and 95% of the pin purchases were new customers.

buyable pins boost

FlyAway BlueJay saw similar results. Buyable pins drove 20% of the retailer’s sales, and 100% of the purchases were from brand new customers.

jetblue buyable pins sales results

Holly Feld, owner of FlyAway BlueJay, said this about her experience with buyable pins:

“Buyable Pins makes Pinterest more user friendly for both people shopping for the perfect gift and for businesses trying to reach new clients.”

This is the gist of it:

Every social network has a paid promotional program that can turn over a massive profit and put your sales into the stratosphere.

On Pinterest, buyable pins can take you even further into the e-commerce cosmos.

So, get out there, shop your options, and get ready to open your doors for new customers, stellar ROI, and huge traffic with paid promotion.

Leverage emotion to draw customers in

Content with high emotional impact is three times more likely to achieve mega success than campaigns without it.

high vs low performing content marketing

And, it’s not just for B2C organizations. Emotional marketing can be hugely profitable for both B2C and B2B organizations.

Here’s what Michal Zarankin, the former head of digital marketing for Pendo, had to say about it:

“I think that the strategies and tactics to make an impact on people’s decisions lay in the same places for B2C and B2B. B2B marketers should use emotional marketing if it makes sense for their entire strategy.”

But hold up: what exactly is emotional marketing and what makes it so different from other types of marketing? And more to the point, what can it do for your sales?

Emotional marketing, at its core, is storytelling.

And, it’s powerful enough to boost your repurchase rate by as much as 300%.

emotionally engaged customers

Emotional marketing is taking real-life situations and using them to drive a point home, whether that’s to prevent teens from texting and driving or get people to buy more of your products.

We might love stats in the marketing world, but consumers respond better with emotions. 31% of advertisers reported significant gains with the use of emotional marketing.

emotion and logic in advertising

But just how significant?

Beats, the now-premiere headphone company, climbed to the top of consumer’s wishlists with three different story-based campaigns that were rooted in emotion.

The most remarkable part of Beats’ success is that almost all of the campaigns started with little to no budget.

You read that right.

Its product rose to acclaim through campaigns that could barely cover the monthly rent in most metropolitan cities – if at all.

Here’s another example of emotional marketing driving sales.

Back in 2008, a Subaru was nothing special. Dependable, decent, but it didn’t strike a chord with anyone. That all changed with the “Love” campaign.

subaru love

Turning its focus to emotional storytelling, Subaru rose from the ashes of lackluster reception and is currently riding a 73-month long streak of growth, netting 647,956 sales in 2017.

Since launching their emotionally-charged campaigns, Subaru’s marketing has evolved, but the core of it – the emotional resonance – has stayed the same.

Subaru officials put it this way: “Our target demographic is experience seekers. It’s the same as eight years ago, only we are reaching more of them, in better ways.”

Let’s look at one more example of emotional marketing in action, this time, specifically on social media.

Knorr, a food and beverage brand, wanted to get millennials talking (and buying) its products. Thus, the “Love at First Taste” campaign was born.

love at first taste

Wildly creative, this campaign leveraged emotional connection with other people – intimacy – to grow its reach across its target demographics on social media.

It used YouTube to drive its film content, Facebook to get shares flowing, and Twitter to spark the conversation with millennials.

The results went well above its expectations.

love at first taste results

Globally, they saw a 13% rise in purchase intent across all demographics! That’s insane, especially when you consider the previous year’s increase came in at a paltry 1.25%.

OK, you’re sold.

Emotional marketing is effective for sales, offline, online, and when used in social media.

But, how do you incorporate that into your social media strategy?

First, understanding your audience is key.

The more emotional reactions you can elicit, the more shares and engagement you’re going to get with your posts.

branded content emotional engagement

One of the most reliable ways to use emotional marketing on social media is using milestones.

Over half of millennials have made a purchase for a milestone after seeing the associated products on social media.

purchase after seeing brand on social

Here’s a sample of milestones – and their brand associations – you can use as inspiration for working into your social media.

Knorr, our above example, leveraged “relationships.” Subaru used “family,” and Beats used a combination of “personal accomplishment” and “professional.”

milestones consumers share on social media

Here’s how it all breaks down:

Emotions are like a roadmap for your products.

As SmartBug Media’s Jennifer Lux explains…

“If you can truly understand the sentiments that drive buyers’ actions, you can cultivate an engagement strategy to result in those collective emotional triggers along the path to purchase.”

So, stop writing bland posts and start incorporating emotion-driven marketing and milestones. Your sales and followers will thank you.

Deliver more than a sales pitch

Do you remember the last time you got trapped in an uncomfortable conversation with a neighbor running one of those catalog businesses?

How, thirty seconds into the conversation, you started wishing for a meteorite to deliver you from their sales pitch?

Your customers feel the same way. They don’t want to listen to you sell, sell, sell.

That lands you in spam or annoying territories (or both). And that translates into losing followers, especially your older users.

brand behaviors that cause people to unfollow

So you need targeted content to keep your social media from self-sabotaging.

Which is a cinch if you’ve got a content marketing budget set up and a writer on hand.

And if you don’t, it’s worth investing in one. The best content marketing strategies include both curated and original content.

Curated content may save you time, but the extra effort and expense required for original content can have a significant impact on directing users to your website.

More traffic means more sales opportunities.

But in case you’re not sold on the necessity of original content, consider HotPads.

Using original content, the online rental marketplace was able to pull in 4000% more traffic in just seven short months.

more traffic results

At this point you might be thinking: OK, why not just go with all original content then?

Beyond the time and money investment, you should be sharing both curated and original content with your audience because both help your audience.

And more to the point, because both drive consumers on social media to make purchases.

brand actions on social that prompt consumers to purchase

So make sure your social channels aren’t just one long sales pitch after another to keep your customers happy (and more importantly, consuming).

OK, there’s one final pillar you need to hit to leverage social media to drive your online sales. It’s a simple one, but it’s vital: being social.

Increase revenue with influencer marketing

Engaging with users is critical to keep them coming, but it isn’t limited to direct conversations.

In fact, there are a lot of creative approaches to engagement that have yielded some powerful rewards.

Take Nicaila Matthews’ approach.

She used a five-day social media challenge to build her business and help her users reap the rewards with her. The numbers are pretty staggering.

built side hustle case study

The setup was simple.

Matthews used a combination of organic social growth and paid social advertising to spread the word of her free challenge and direct users to a sign-up page.

Her challenge helped users grow their own Instagram followings and featured five live sessions (that later became evergreen content after the challenge ended).

Using live engagement and great content netted Matthews 1,020 leads in just five days.

She then used those opportunities to upsell her premium product packages and start moving leads into conversions. Brilliant, right?

Want an even savvier way to drive users to your products without having to create a lick of content for it?

Let users generate your content instead.

Better yet, use an influencer to net content, sales, and engagement.

The ROI on influencer marketing has been estimated up to as much as eleven times higher than traditional marketing techniques.

11x higher ROI

Here are just a few companies that have yielded some epic rewards with influencer marketing.

Daniel Wellington, a watch company, built its entire sales strategy on influencer marketing and sold its one-millionth watch within three years of launch.

Want an even more staggering result?

Foodspring, a culinary upstart catering to the fitness-minded consumer, grew its earned media value 750% in one year thanks to influencers.

foodspring instagram audience

Influencer marketing isn’t just for newcomers looking to make waves. Well-established brands like Bigelow Tea have netted some impressive results, too.

To the tune of an 18.5% increase in sales.

But in case you’re not sold on influencer marketing yet, let’s look at one more example.

Gerber Lil’ Beanies boosted its national sales by 5% thanks to a comprehensive influencer campaign.

This campaign netted Gerber Baby almost 10,000 pieces of content and a quarter million interactions across different social platforms. Which is crazy when you consider this:

It had just under 350 influencers working to promote its products. Which means for every influencer, it netted roughly 800 engagements!

OK, that’s all well and good, but how do you capitalize on influencer marketing if you’re working with a baby-sized budget? Go for influencers who already want to promote your product.

Alternatively, reach out to “micro-influencers.”

These homegrown social media players can deliver high engagement, they’re easier to find than macro-influencers, and they’re often significantly cheaper.

why micro influencers

Ready for some good news?

Finding influencers that fit both your budget and niche is easier than ever.

One of my favorite tools for finding influencers is Influence.co.

influence.co homepage in 2018

Organized visually and including an exhaustive tagging system, Influence.co makes it easy to filter influencers by industry, follower count, local area, and so much more.

Think of it as a freelance platform specifically for influencers. One that puts the power in your hands to find the perfect people for your budget and products.

You can start by checking out its collections, the hand-selected cream of the influencer crop.

influence co collections

But the real power of this platform is its advanced search.

influence co search

Check out the options for filtering influencers.

filtering influencers with influence.co

Nice, right?

With Influence.co, it’s easy and free to find the right people to work with your brand.

Basically, here’s the deal.

Social media can drive sales and generate leads, but you have to be involved and get the right players on the board to see the bucks roll in.

Reach out to your users, get involved in the community, and work with influencers to drive your online sales, bulk up your content, and elevate brand engagement. It’s that simple.

Conclusion

The most important aspect of using social media for online sales is going where your customers already are. Different demographics like different networks.

Find your target demographics and build your presence where they’re already comfortable. That isn’t always going to be Facebook.

Once you’ve nailed down your networks, use paid promotion to get some serious ROI and sales traction. The “buyable pins” on Pinterest are also a great option for online retailers.

Want your products to stand out in the sea of social media? Leverage emotion to engage with your customers…and their wallets.

But don’t just focus on your products. Users will drop like flies if your channel is a day-in, day-out sales pitch.

Instead, give your followers a combination of stellar original and curated content to make your brand worth following.

Finally, leveraging your social media to get people invested in your products requires one simple but pivotal action: be social.

Engage with users, whether it’s through user-generated content or clever campaigns like the one run by Nicaila Matthews to generate over 1k leads in five days.

Alternatively, bulk up your content and boost your sales by turning to influencers. Don’t think you have the budget for influencer marketing? Reach out to “micro-influencers” instead.

They’re often cheaper, well-trusted, and much easier to reach than star-studded endorsements. Influence.co is a great way to find them.

The social media game may not be the easiest around, but it can be rewarding with the right metrics and approach. Use this guide to give your products some pop with social media.

What social media strategies have you leveraged to increase sales?

About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.

6 Tips for Building Your Marketing Career

You’ve read the books. You’ve watched the videos.

You’re convinced that you belong in marketing.

Now, all you have to do is put that resume out there and wait, right?

Unfortunately, that won’t cut it anymore. Getting into marketing is easy. But how do you make it big?

That’s a different ballgame with its own set of rules.

And when you look at the projected growth rates for the marketing field – an increase of up to 10% by 2026 – you can’t afford to not get savvy with those rules.

marketing jobs percent change in employment

That growth might be good news for the economy, but it can create challenges for the beginner marketer.

Luckily, there are a few tricks you can use to get the edge on your competition.

Here’s a peek into my rulebook for crushing it in marketing. Use these strategies to boost your marketing career and leave the competition behind.

1. Improve your communication

Whether it’s social monitoring tools, voice search, or multi-channel marketing automation, technology regularly changes the way we reach our audiences.

But it’s a lot to keep up with.

71% of marketing executives use six or more types of marketing technology in their day-to-day lives.

marketing executives using marketing technologies

Trying to master one, let alone six, can be daunting and downright impossible for new marketers.

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution:

Go back to the basics and then dominate them.

No matter what new technology rolls out tomorrow, your basic communication skills are always in demand.

For proof, take a look at the top skills employers want when hiring fresh graduates for entry-level positions:

top skills employers want

Over 80% of employers want to see written communication skills, and under 70% want verbal skills.

Comparatively, less than 60% of survey respondents highlighted technical skills as a top attribute. Less than 50% are looking for computer-specific skills.

computer skills employers want

That’s all great news for new marketers.

Whether you’re a fresh graduate or you’re making a career transition, you can develop communication skills on your own time.

And you can do it without spending any money or with only a small financial investment.

These skills will make you a better marketer. After all, what is marketing if not applied communication? And, it will make you a more employable in any industry.

It’s a win-win, right?

But how do you develop your fundamental communication skills?

It’s going to sound a little cheesy, but the answer that shows up in professional manuals is the same:

To become a better communicator, communicate more. And, specifically, write more.

As you practice your writing, let me give you a few resources to help you fine-tune your writing skills.

First of all, you should check out My Copyblogger.

become a member copyblogger

Besides their regularly-updated blog, Copyblogger offers e-training courses, webinars, and resources through their My Copyblogger membership.

Signing up gives you access to exclusive e-books that help you develop your written communication and marketing skills.

Look at this top-level preview of their e-book releases for members:

ebooks from copyblogger

With all of the e-books they offer, both long and short, Copyblogger is a killer resource for any marketer wanting to improve their writing.

Next, Grammarly is a must-have tool.

level up your writing chrome

Grammarly is part proofreader and part personal writing assistant.

It offers more help than just catching typos. It uses contextual analysis to understand what you’re trying to say, and then it helps you say it better.

It also tracks your progress and shows how your skills stack up against other Grammarly users so you can see the trends.

In turn, that makes it easier to figure out what you need to focus on improving.

accuracy and vocabulary on grammarly

It also tracks your total word count, and it will show you advanced errors if you’re a premium user.

Being able to track your progress isn’t merely a marketing gimmick, either. Monitoring your own progress can help you stay motivated, set realistic goals, and improve your quality.

Grammarly is probably the best all-in-one tool that you can use. But there are a couple of others worth mentioning.

The web version of Hemingway Editor is a free resource for improving your writing. It tracks passive voice, adverbs, and readability – all of which impact how your audience perceives your writing.

hemingway editor grades

Count Wordsworth is also a free analysis tool helps you polish your word flow. It tracks sentence length, syllables, and pauses.

count wordworth

Here’s the bottom line time:

If you want to get ahead of the technology rat race, then you need to get out of it. Focus on sharpening your foundational skills like writing to help your resume stand the test of time.

2. Specialize and socialize

Thanks to significant job growth, opportunities in marketing are expanding. But so is the competition.

And competing with other marketing hopefuls means that you’re going up against a field chock-full of communication experts.

It’s a lot to stack up against on paper. If you want to separate yourself from the pack, you have to specialize your toolkit.

In a 2017 study, the top-three skills that employers desired in new marketers were digital advertising, content creation, and content strategy.

demand for skills within digital marketing

Creating content and flaunting your curation skills can go a long way toward establishing yourself as a digital marketing guru. And here’s the best part:

You can get started free.

In fact, you can even convince other marketers to spread your reputation for you. How?

Create content for other people.

Specifically, create blog posts for major publications. It’s a great way to associate yourself with industry authorities and get your name out there.

But even more importantly, it also gives you the skill that 53% of marketers list as their company’s top priority.

inbound marketing priorities

This is probably why so many big-time marketers are such prolific bloggers. Take a look at this sample of the blogosphere.

The Ahrefs blog is full of data-rich (and often original) research, making it a great place to dive into the details of marketing’s technical side.

ahrefs blog header in 2018

This also helps establish the Ahrefs team as subject domain experts. Tim Soulo, for example, is a prolific writer for their blog.

tim soulo ahrefs blog

Tim doesn’t post to Ahrefs every day. But when he does, I know that he writes reliable blogs with research-heavy information about SEO.

He regularly introduces new ways of looking at data and marketing with rich technical details and an easy-to-read style.

And that alone is reason enough for you to follow him.

But his blog posts do more than get Ahrefs out there. They cement him as a quality writer and marketer.

Something he corroborates even further with his work at BloggerJet.

what's in my bag 2018 update

He even posts on Medium when he’s not posting to Ahrefs or BloggerJet.

tim soulo medium bio

Do you want another real-life example of a professional making blogs (even other people’s blogs) work for them?

Look no further than Ann Handley.

ann handley homepage in 2018

Part marketing legend and part writing genius, Hadley uses her expert skills to keep her name at the top of the marketing influencer list.

Ann’s work is both witty and relatable. Her blog reframes complicated marketing concepts into easy and digestible posts. I never come away from her work without laughing and learning.

I guess you could say I’m an “annarchist.” If you want to hone your content skills, you should become one, too.

subscribe to annarchy

But it’s not just her razor-sharp sense of humor that keeps readers coming back for more. She’s consistent, she’s authoritative, and she doesn’t hoard her talent.

In addition to her work with MarketingProfs, she also guests posts for Entrepreneur and for Huffington Post.

If someone influential enough to author two Wall Street Journal best-sellers still guests posts for other organizations, shouldn’t you consider doing the same?

So, how do you get started with guest blogging?

Although there are a lot of avenues for publishing content as a guest, one of the easiest – and one of my favorite – ways to get started is through Medium.

Ultimately, no matter how you choose to hone your communication skills, adding authoritative pieces to your name won’t just help you sound like a better marketer.

It’ll make you look like one, too. And that brings me to the next topic:

Your portfolio.

3. Grow your portfolio

Your skills can’t grow without the opportunity to sharpen them.

But you won’t get many opportunities until you demonstrate that you already have some of the skills that you need to improve.

Because you aren’t able to secure opportunities, your skills deteriorate and don’t develop. You miss out on even more future opportunities because no one will give you one to start with.

This starts a self-defeating cycle.

In a 2017 survey, 64.5% of employers indicated they preferred hiring candidates with relevant work experience. This was even true in the case of college graduates.

hiring preferences with work experience

So, whether you get into the marketing field through school or Internet hustle, you need experience in order to get more experience.

That’s frustrating, right?

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution to break the cycle and make you look pretty impressive, too.

You can volunteer. Specifically, volunteer with a nonprofit.

This will help expand your network and gain professional portfolio pieces.

It also helps signal your values to future employers and commitment to social causes like education and animal welfare.

You might even meet other marketers in the process. Radish Labs, a creative agency specializing in nonprofits, regularly promotes creative volunteerism.

radish labs creative volunteerism

Are you looking for ways to volunteer and beef up your portfolio but can’t find any local opportunities? VolunteerMatch is a great directory with plenty of remote opportunities.

virtual volunteer opportunities

With ample opportunities to grow your portfolio and get some serious Good Samaritan street cred, what are you waiting for?

Get out there and start making a difference for others to see a difference in your career.

4. Jumpstart your network

In some industries, it’s more about who you know than what you do. But in digital marketing, it’s about both.

And if you’re an inexperienced marketer, that can create a significant obstacle to launching your career.

It’s almost a chicken before the egg problem. How do you meet the right people if you don’t already know the right people to set up introductions?

After all, according to SilkRoad’s 2017 Sources of Hire report, employee referrals still lead the way as the top avenue for new job hires.

sources of hiring

It’s the same kind of defeating cycle as the “experience without experience” conundrum I described in the above section.

You can’t grow your network because you need a network first to look reputable and gain people’s trust.

Fortunately, the solution to ending this cycle is just as simple:

Log out and look to the offline world to bolster your online network.

Are you needing to meet people in the industry? Attend local meetings and conventions and then make your connection online.

Here’s the great news:

Two of the biggest marketing conventions – INBOUND and the Growth Marketing Conference – are still on the horizon for 2018.

Hubspot backs INBOUND.

INBOUND

inbound 2018 conference homepage

It includes all things marketing and selling in three strategy-packed days.

If you don’t want to commit to the sessions or their price tag, INBOUND also offers “community passes” for networking events. It’s a great option for new marketers with tight budgets.

inbound conference ticket in 2018

The Growth Marketing Conference is also well worth your time.

growth marketing conference 2018

Some of the biggest names in marketing attend the conference. It’s a two-day event full of networking events, tactical sessions, and innovative workshops.

Like INBOUND, this conference offers several tiers of participation, including access to networking and training sessions at a fraction of the full price.

passes to growth marketing conference 2018

Of course, one of the big downfalls of this approach is that the larger conventions tend to happen in larger cities.

But don’t worry.

Even if you can’t fit a major convention into your schedule, there are still a few other options for expanding your network.

You can host or join a local event through a service like Meetup.

Meetup homepage 2018

This not only cuts out your travel costs but it also helps you build a local network and find – or organize – events on your own schedule.

Lastly, even if you can’t find any offline networking opportunities, there are some online options for building your credibility and network.

One solution is LinkedIn groups. Take a look at the four most popular groups below:

popular linkedin groups

That’s pretty promising, right?

With three million connections possible, you should be able to find like-minded connections in no time and start growing your network.

5. Go big with data

If you want to beat the rat race, get ahead of it. And there’s no better way to get ahead than to develop some of the most in-demand skills on the job market.

And in 2018, that means you need to go big with data.

Statistics and analytics help marketers understand their audiences in a quantifiable way.

But that’s not all they can do.

Data-driven marketing techniques also help professionals make better decisions and acquire new customers.

They have the receipts to show for it, too.

Between 2016 and 2017, data-driven marketing expenditures and revenues rose to their highest ever, according to a DMA study.

data driven marketing spending and revenue growth

But despite this significant growth, the marketing world is still experiencing a major talent shortage.

The datasets keep expanding, but the talent pool and preparedness of organization are on the decline.

Check out this later 2018 survey about marketers’ confidence in the ability of their organizations to handle data for marketing:

confidence in organizational talent

So what does this mean for your career? I can tell you in one word:

Opportunity.

With data becoming critical for marketers and business leaders across the board, there’s never been a better time to learn how to analyze data.

And thanks to the advent of several e-learning platforms, it’s never been easier, either. Here are a few of the places where you can dig into data and earn your analytic credentials from home.

Coursera offers university-grade education at an elementary school price point. Usually, courses run between four to six weeks.

coursera homepage in 2018

Many of their courses provide free videos, and the selection for marketing analytics is huge.

coursera courses for marketing

And best of all, all of their classes are fully online, and they reward certificates upon completion.

In addition to career credentials, the forum can jumpstart your network and help develop your portfolio with peers.

Are you looking for a less academic option, or do you need to set your own schedule? If so, try Lynda.com.

lynda homepage 2018

LinkedIn acquired Lynda.com in 2015. Now, it’s a powerful resource for learning the ins and outs of marketing, SEO, content, design, and much more.

Unlike Coursera, the lecture series on Lynda.com consists of videos and guided exercises, so you can learn entirely at your own pace.

And, while you won’t have a forum to interact with other course learners, many of the videos include guided exercise files to help you practice your skills.

Plus, thanks to the integration with LinkedIn, you can automatically display your learning paths on your profile.

Check out a preview of some of the courses they offer for data analytics in marketing.

lynda analytics training

Lynda.com has classes that range from beginner to advanced levels. It has everything you need to hone your data skills from start to finish.

Another option is DistilledU.

distilledu learn seo

Some of the largest names in business like Adobe, eBay, and Capital One use DistilledU. It’s an at-your-own-pace, interactive training option for SEO marketers who want to learn more about the field.

They also offer classes for marketers of all levels. They have classes that can teach you the fundamentals of SEO.

distilledu seo basics class

And they have highly advanced classes, too.

analytics classes on distilledU

This makes it a fantastic resource for marketers of any experience level.

DistilledU offers annual and monthly memberships. So, whether you want to master marketing or just get a crash course in analytics, there’s a module to fit your schedule and budget.

Similar to Lynda.com, Skillshare provides e-learning for everything from design to data science to advanced marketing.

skillshare homepage 2018

Here are some of their course offerings that are currently popular.

skillshare courses

Instructors provide class projects to supplement video lectures with hands-on learning, making this ideal for those of you who prefer interactive education.

In summary, no matter what platform you choose, adding data analytics to your skill set is a great way to make yourself more attractive to future employers and outshine the competition.

6. Build your branding

Finally, if you want to step outside of your competition’s shadow, you have to build your branding and build it well.

That means that, besides developing your writing skills, you need to establish a distinct visual identity.

Without one, your brand can easily get lost in the fray, especially if you’re using stock images.

Getting lost means that your audience is ignoring you. And if your audience is ignoring you, you’ll never see your marketing career reach the next level.

But getting a grip on core marketing concepts and strategies is hard enough. How are you supposed to develop branding and make yourself stand out?

And what makes a brand’s visual style distinct?

No matter what channels you’re using, consistency is key.

Take a look at Content Marketing Institute’s homepage:

content marketing institute homepage in 2018

Now, take a peek at their YouTube channel:

content marketing institute youtube header

By keeping the typeface and colors consistent, they establish an easy mental link for their followers. Users know that if they see that shade of orange, they’re looking at something from Content Marketing Institute.

Here’s another example. Look at MarketingProfs’ homepage.

marketingprofs homepage in 2018

Now, here’s their YouTube channel.

marketingprofs youtube cover image

Again, you can see consistent colors and styles of images.

This is what it boils down to:

If your social media accounts don’t share branding, you’re making it harder for people to identify you as a marketer.

If you think branding is difficult, then think again. You can start your branding by creating a logo in about five minutes.

But if you want to take it a step further and you don’t have an army of in-house designers behind you, then you can turn to freelance boards for help.

Fiverr, Upwork, and 99designs are three of the most popular platforms for finding great visuals that fit any budget.

On Fiverr, freelancers (which they call “sellers”) provide service packages with their unique skills.

fiverr homepage in 2018

One of the upsides to using Fiverr is that they offer scalable bundles. These bundles will let you get as little or much design work as you need for a predictable price.

And because buyers reach out to sellers first, you won’t receive pitches that you aren’t interested in.

But that’s also the downside.

If you’re short on time, you can’t wait for offers and let the designers come to you. That means that this may not be the best option for marketers with a tight schedule.

Upwork (formerly oDesk) is another major freelancer board with a significant design community.

upwork homepage in 2018

After setting up a business account, you have the option of posting a job and letting the pitches come to you. You can also invite some of Upwork’s top talent to apply.

Unlike Fiverr, you typically pay by the hour or project. Freelancers submit their proposals along with their price estimations.

Upwork is ideal for both big and small budgets. It’s a great option to test the visual branding waters without making major commitments.

Lastly, 99designs is a freelancing platform that specializes in branding and product design.

99designs homepage in 2018

They provide matching services where they fit you with a graphic designer who meets your design needs. There’s also a contest option where the community competes to win your project.

The higher price of 99designs may not be ideal for your first project. But for those ready to commit, all design contests come with a 100% money-back guarantee.

No matter where you get your designs from, consistent branding colors are key for integrating older and newer designs seamlessly.

One easy way to do that is by using Adobe’s color system.

Here’s how.

Head to Adobe Color CC.

Click on “sign in” in the top-right corner. You want to be able to save your palette to share, so it’s important to get this step out of the way first.

adobe color analogous

Follow the link for “Get an Adobe ID.”

get an adobe ID

Fill out the sign-up form and click the blue “sign up” button to go back to the Adobe Color CC homepage.

signup adobe color CC

Once there, begin picking colors by manipulating the color wheel. Here’s the default suggestion for my orange.

adobe cc color orange

To play with the auto-generated palettes, use the left-hand menu to navigate. If you want to build a custom palette, you’ll need to select the last option.

Once you have a color palette you like, click the blue save button.

adobe color cc save button

It will then prompt you to name your theme.

name your theme adobe color cc

Click “save” and head over to “My Themes” using the top navigation menu.

my themes adobe color

You should now find your palette waiting in your library.

my library in creative cloud

Hover over your palette to see your saving and sharing options.

save share options for color palette

Hit the download button to share your palette with future designers.

Since Adobe is the king of design suites – 90% of creative professionals use Photoshop – anyone you work with can open the palette directly in their choice program.

You can even use the same palette to customize resume templates and give your credentials the same eye candy from start to finish.

By the way, don’t forget to check out Adobe Color CC’s “Explore” option for inspiration before you go.

adobe creative cloud explore button

Ultimately, whether you use multiple freelancers or none at all, using the same color palette throughout will give your brand consistency no matter who is at the design wheel.

Conclusion

The field of marketing is expanding rapidly, and experts expect it to keep growing.

That means that you have plenty of opportunities. However, that also means that you have plenty of competition.

So, how can you stand out?

For starters, don’t get too caught up in new technology. Keeping on top of marketing technology trends as a newcomer to the industry is expensive and time-consuming.

Instead, focus on dominating your fundamental communication skills.

Next, you can separate yourself from the competition by specializing and socializing.

Create content for other industry blogs or use publications on Medium to give your name authority.

Portfolio pieces are a killer way to make your resume shine, even if they’re unpaid gigs.

Volunteer your marketing skills with a nonprofit to polish your sample pieces. Plus you’ll make a difference in the world and your career.

Networking is still a vital part of landing a job. More new hires come through employee referrals than through job boards.

Building an online network can be tricky. One way to expand your network rapidly is to look to the offline world and attend industry conventions.

Candidates with data skills are some of the most in-demand hires in any industry, marketing including. Build your analytics skills on your own time to elevate your career potential.

Branding doesn’t stop at written content. Having a distinct and consistent visual identity is key.

Even if you don’t have designers on tap, you can find great (and cheap) freelancers through platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, and 99 Designs.

Establishing a color palette keeps your branding consistent no matter who is behind the design wheel.

Adobe Color CC is a fast, easy, and free way to set up a color palette that the vast majority of creative professionals can use later.

A marketing career can be challenging to start, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Follow these six strategies to give your career a boost and stay at the top of the trendline.

What strategies have you used to separate your skills from the marketing pack?

About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.

User Engagement: The Most Important KPI You’re not Tracking (but should be)

“The goal of a SaaS CEO should be to increase the profit they make from each customer (LTV), and lower the costs in sales and marketing that it takes to acquire each customer (CAC). Measuring Customer Engagement is a key tool that will help you achieve that goal, as it will allow you to increase your trial conversion rates, which directly reduces CAC. And it will help you lower your churn rates, which directly increases LTV.”

– David Skok, https://www.forentrepreneurs.com/customer-engagement/

I think every SaaS CEO would agree that user engagement is the lifeblood of any SaaS business.

These CEOs know that the SaaS business model is based on retention. And that retention is dependent on engagement. Unengaged users simply don’t stick around and certainly don’t continue to pay for a product.

So…no engagement, no retention. No retention, no business. Therefore, given the transitive property of SaaS…no engagement, no business.

If this is the case, then why isn’t user engagement one of the top KPIs for every SaaS business? Why isn’t it a metric that’s featured in every executive team meeting? Why isn’t it called out in board decks or posted on every company dashboards?

Probably because, up until now, user engagement has been a difficult thing to measure.

How do you measure user engagement?

Conceptually, calculating user engagement is pretty straight forward.

TOTAL USER ENGAGEMENT = {NUMBER OF ACTIVE USERS} x {AVERAGE ENGAGEMENT PER USER}

This is a simple formula your product’s overall engagement score. You can measure it over time by calculating it on a daily/weekly/monthly basis and it will indicate whether your total engagement is going up or going down.

engagement over time

Measuring the first part of the equation – Active users in a time period – is pretty easy.

The second part of the equation – average engagement score per user – is the tough part. But this is where the magic lies. So…how do you find the average engagement score per user?!?

Well….this is what Sherlock was built for.

Calculating user engagement scores in Sherlock

Sherlock was built as a user engagement scoring application – a perfect way to give your product data the important context that makes it actually useful.

With Sherlock, users weigh each of their important product events on a scale of 1-10:

sherlock engagement scoring

At which point Sherlock calculates an engagement score for each user based on the number of times each user triggered each event times the weight of the event. In practice, the calculation looks like this for each user:

total raw score sherlock

From there, Sherlock calculates a raw engagement score for each user based on the above model and then normalizes that score across a product’s entire customer base. The result is that every active user is given a score between 1-100.

top engaged users sherlock

Looks cool, but how do you get from here to overall product engagement?

Well…pretty easily. When every user has an engagement score, these scores can be aggregated to calculate engagement at several levels above the individual user level. For example, you can see engagement:

  • At the account level;
  • At the specific segment level; and, of course
  • At the product level

By aggregating these individual user engagement scores across an entire user base, Sherlock can calculate the second half of the product engagement calculation defined earlier:

TOTAL USER ENGAGEMENT = {NUMBER OF ACTIVE USERS} x {AVERAGE ENGAGEMENT PER USER}

Voila. You now have a KPI that you can use along side all the other important metrics that you use to assess the health of your business.

engagement over time

From here, you can start to assess your company efforts against this overall engagement score.

How are you new features affecting engagement? How about your new onboarding plan? What about your product marketing efforts? How about retention/churn/upsells? Etc.

And you will have a new KPI to help drive your important, high-level strategic decisions.

Taking the next level with engagement scoring

While measuring total product is important there are also many other reasons for quantifying user engagement scores. By quantifying user engagement, you can:

  1. Help prioritize your Sales efforts: If you have a free trial or freemium product, then it’s essential that your sales team prioritize their efforts on the accounts that are most engaged.
  2. Optimize your Customer Success efforts: Most of your CS team’s important efforts can and should be prioritized based on user engagement. From identifying
    upsell opportunities to re-engaging high risk users to everything in-between. All of it can be assessed and prioritized based on engagement-levels.
  3. Refine product messaging: Target users and accounts based on engagement.
  4. Identify potential advocates: Your most engaged users are your most likely advocates.
  5. Forecast your business: User engagement is a leading indicator of your SaaS business’ health. By quantifying engagement, you can start forecasting the future of your business.

Try Sherlock

To start quantifying user engagement for your SaaS business, you can signup for a free trial of Sherlock today.

Anchor Text SEO: Everything You Need to Know in 2018

There’s a lot of conflicting information about anchor text out there.

One site tells you to focus as heavily on your keywords as you can.

Another tells you to stay as far away from any kind of anchor text and backlinks as possible.

And another says anchor text doesn’t matter.

What are you supposed to believe?

Knowing what anchor text can improve your SEO strategy isn’t always easy – especially when you have a dozen conflicting messages trying to tell you what to do.

But in 2018, it’s essential to optimize your anchor text to attract more attention from search engines.

To help you out, let’s start from the very beginning.

Here’s what anchor text is, how it helps (or hurts) SEO, and what you can do to keep it optimized.

What is anchor text?

Anchor text is the clickable words that appear in place of a hyperlink.

For example, this is anchor text.

Anchor text allows you to add links within your content contextually. It also gives readers – and search engines – a better indication of what they’ll find on the other side of the link.

The anchor text usually relates back to keywords associated with the contents of the link.

However, not all anchor text is created equally.

Let’s take a look at the different kinds of anchor text you might find online.

Exact Match

An exact match anchor text is when the anchor text directly matches the words or phrases associated with the link’s contents.

Here’s an example of anchor text within an article.

anchor text in blog post

If the writer was hoping to target the keyword “chatbots,” this would be an exact match.

Partial Match

A partial anchor text match appears when your targeted keyword is within the anchor text, but it’s not an exact match.

Check out this example.

series on guest posting anchor text

Say the marketer’s targeted keyword was “guest posting.”

Using “a series on guest posting” is not an exact match, but it does still include the keyword.

This means it’s still targeting the keyword you’re trying to rank for, but it seems more natural.

Branded

Branded anchor text is when the anchor text features the company or individual’s name.

Here’s an example.

branded anchor text

This type of anchor text is frequently used when you’re linking to a company’s homepage.

Generic

Usually, anchor text is somewhat hidden within the content.

However, generic anchor text typically stands out and is obviously a link.

Here’s an example.

generic anchor text

This kind of anchor text usually associates with a call to action.

Generic anchor text is also sometimes called “natural” anchor text.

Images

Images can also be anchor text.

This text occurs when you click on an image, and it brings you through to a link.

However, the actual anchor text associated with the image is the alt text that you include.

LSI Keywords

LSI keywords, or Latent Semantic Indexing keywords, are words or phrases that closely associate with the keywords you’re trying to target.

These might be different names for the same principle or product, or other keywords closely related.

Here’s an example.

LSI keywords anchor text

The keyword “micro-influencers” is related to influencer marketing, without being a partial match.

Blog Title/Post Title

When the name of the anchor text you’re linking to is the full name of the blog title, page title, or content title, this is simply called Post Title anchor text.

Check out this example.

blog post anchor text

Like the example, this kind of anchor text usually appears when marketing a course, referencing a specific blog post, or showing off a page.

Naked URLs

A naked URL doesn’t have any anchor text at all.

Instead, it’s just a link to a page featured on your site.

Naked URLs may contain the “www” or might just be “Domain.com.”

Here’s an example from Sprout Social.

naked URL anchor text

The anchor text for this link is the link itself.

This can still appeal to keywords because subdomains typically include keywords.

They can also appeal to branded keywords, including the company name in the domain.

How does anchor text influence SEO?

Anchor text helps search engine crawlers and readers identify what the contents of the link contain.

As more and more websites link to a particular page with various forms of anchor text, the search engine can begin to get a better idea of what kind of content the site provides.

In a way, anchor text is like a keyword that others use to describe your content.

However, it isn’t simple enough to just use anchor text directly associated with the keyword you’re trying to rank for.

In the past, Google relied heavily on anchor text.

Unfortunately, this allowed marketers, writers, and webmasters to do something called “Google Bombing.”

This led to pages ranking for keywords that weren’t related to the content that was appearing.

The most famous example of this is in 2007 when a search for “miserable failure” would result in articles about President George Bush.

In fact, now when you search “miserable failure,” you get results about the Google Bomb.

google bomb search result

Google responded to this error in anchor text with the Penguin Update, which they launched in 2012.

Like most updates, the search engine released Penguin to help identify spammy listings and remove them from their rankings.

There are two particular triggers for Penguin.

First, links that seem to be purchased, resulting in a number of similar links appearing on low-quality websites around the same time.

Second, links that appear to use keyword stuffing.

This stuffing means that if your anchor text matches your keywords too directly, it could penalize you.

Julie Joyce from LinkFishMedia described anchor text’s importance to SEO by saying, “A site that has 75% exact match anchors has to look unnatural… when I overdo it and it works, it doesn’t stick.”

The idea is that if a website is linking to your content naturally, it will use a more diverse keyword phrase.

While keyword stuffing may help you get results quickly, any change in ranking will only be wiped away when Google discovers this strategy.

So, if you can’t link to the keywords that you’re trying to target, how should you use anchor text to improve your SEO?

Let’s take a look.

How to optimize anchor text for SEO in 2018?

When trying to control your anchor text, there is one thing you want to keep in mind – relevance.

To show Google that your anchor text and link is not black-hat, you need to prove it’s natural – even if it is strategic.

Let’s take a look at how you can do this.

1. Only include links when anchor text fits naturally.

One of the biggest reasons Penguin was first introduced was to stop website owners from adding anchor text just for SEO purposes.

This means they’re on high alert for anchor text that doesn’t seem like it fits.

With the Penguin Update, sites who over-optimized their anchor text saw severe penalties that hurt their web traffic.

To avoid this, you want each anchor text you include to fit naturally within the content.

For anchor text to be SEO friendly, it should be succinct and relevant.

You want your anchor text to describe the contents of the link as accurately as possible in as few words as possible.

Here’s how:

accurate anchor text matches URL

Using the anchor text “start a blog” then links directly to a page about how to start a blog.

It’s direct, to the point, and only features three words.

However, you also want to avoid using an exact match to your keyword as often as possible.

Are you confused?

You don’t have to be.

When trying to decide what to use for anchor text, consider what part of your sentence might spark your reader’s interest the most.

For example, if there is a statistic in your sentence, this would be a great place to include your anchor text.

Check out this example from a Kissmetrics article.

statistic in anchor text

Both readers and search engine will know you’re linking back to that site because it backs up your claim – not because you’re trying to stuff results for that keyword.

The same idea applies to quotes.

As mentioned, anchor text should be direct and to the point.

If you’re linking to an entire quote, this is usually much too long for anchor text.

Instead, make your anchor text the individual’s name or the resource you pulled the quote from like Oro Inc does on this blog.

named anchor text

Here, we have two bits of anchor text.

First, her name is anchor text pointing the reader to her Twitter. Second, there is anchor text pushing the reader to Kate’s blog.

Again, this can show that you’re using that link to support your data or claims.

Relevance is also crucial for anchor text and links.

First, the anchor text you choose to display on your website will influence what Google believes your page is about.

While it’s okay to have a few links that may seem out of context to a search engine, you want most of your anchor text to be within your industry.

If you’re in the finance industry and all of a sudden you have anchor text about baking cakes, this might be a red flag to Google and Penguin.

When adding links and anchor text, first think if it is necessary.

Does it provide value and help make your argument stronger?

Or are you just trying to squeeze in another link to meet some imaginary quota?

Don’t add links just for the purpose of adding links.

Instead, work links into your content as naturally as possible.

2. Make sure you diversify your types of anchor text.

Anchor text variation might be one of the most significant factors when it comes to using links for SEO.

When all your links are one style, this could cause a red flag.

For example, if the only anchor text you use throughout your entire website is exact match keywords, it might seem like you’re not putting genuine thought into what you’re linking to.

A natural link profile will include many different kinds of links.

Let’s take a look at what you want your optimal anchor text profile to look like.

It’s essential to begin by saying that an anchor text profile should look different depending on if you’re a national or local website.

Your homepage and internal pages of a website will also look different.

Let’s cover a national page first.

Serpstat recommends you break down your anchor text distribution like this.

anchor text distribution

The majority of your anchor text should be branded.

In fact, over half of your anchor text should be branded. This includes anchor text that is branded with a keyword.

You should also notice that exact match anchors are incredibly small.

In fact, you only want exact match anchors to make up about 1% of your entire link distribution.

A partial match should only be about 2%.

Maybe surprisingly, naked links should also make up a sizeable chunk of your link distribution.

Now, let’s take a look at how your sub-pages should compare.

SEOJet breaks down a website sub-page link distribution like this.

sub page link distribution

Notice how branded anchor text is much, much smaller than the homepage portion.

For sub-pages, “page title” anchor text had a significant influence on top ranking pages.

This influence typically occurs because page titles usually include the keywords you’re targeting, but they aren’t seen as “exact match” anchor text.

This allows you to easily target keywords within your anchor text without penalties for seeming unnatural.

But you’ll also see that “exact match” keywords are used much more frequently within sub-pages than they are on homepages.

Now, let’s compare this to a local homepage anchor text profile.

local homepage average ATP

For a local homepage, your anchor text profile can be much more diverse.

Unlike the national page, you only need about 20% of your anchor texts to be branded.

But you’ll also notice that your exact match keywords should still be incredibly low.

An internal local page should have the same anchor text profile as a national page.

Keep in mind that these percentages are just recommendations.

You may find that a different distribution brings you better results.

3. Stay away from low-quality or toxic websites.

Google loves high-quality websites.

When considering who to rank at the top of their results lists, they’re going to push sites to the top that they believe fit their list of important factors.

This means gaining high-quality links from awesome pages – and avoiding those that might hurt your “cool” factor.

Let’s break down what bad links are.

what are bad links

Mostly, bad links are links that Google believes you’ve gained unethically, either outgoing or incoming.

On the outgoing side, you have much more control over who you’re linking to.

However, you need to be careful of broken links or people leaving spammy links in your comments section.

If you don’t monitor your comments, they may become bogged down with low-quality backlinks that hurt your reputation.

But the real problem occurs when you have bad incoming links.

Unfortunately, these can be more difficult to control.

Because you can’t delete these links from your website like you can with low-quality outgoing links, you’ll need to find and eliminate your association with them through Google.

If you’re not paying proper attention to where your backlinks are coming from, you could ruin your credibility without even knowing it.

Now, let’s talk about how you can find these low-quality links.

The Moz Spam Analysis tool is one way you can check the quality of websites you connect with.

moz spam analysis tool

The Spam Score, which their Open Site Explorer features, gives you a ranking of each link.

The tool uses 17 different flags to identify links that might be seen as spam, including things like content strength, if there is contact info on the page, or if the domain name contains numbers.

If a domain has fewer than four flags, it is considered a strong link.

However, if there are more than seven, this could be seen as a bad link and should be looked at.

If there are links with over ten red flags, this could be severely damaging to your online reputation.

Google allows you to disavow any low-quality links that you believe is hurting your online ranking.

When you disavow a link through Google, you’re letting the search engine know that you do not wish to associate your website with that link.

To disavow your backlinks, you want to begin by finding the low-quality links that would be damaging your site.

If you’ve already done this with the Moz Spam Analysis tool or another backlink tool, you can move on to the next step.

Through the Google Disavow Tool, you can upload your list of links to disavow.

disavow links

Keep in mind that it can take a few weeks before you start to see your links disavowed.

Let’s consider this case study IMPACT did on Udemy.

udemy backlinks

Upon doing a keyword audit, they found that just over 67,000 domains were linking to Udemy 6.35 million times.

If you break this down, it means that each site was linking to Udemy 94 times.

Unfortunately, this probably isn’t accurate and can bring up a red flag for Google.

With a bit of additional digging, they found that one website alone was linking to Udemy over 400,000 times.

udemy referrer domain

This kind of unnatural linking may not be Udemy’s fault or intention, but it can still cause severe damage with search engines.

When determining high-quality and low-quality links, you’ll also want to consider something called co-occurrence and co-citation.

Co-occurrence happens when you use similar keywords to other sites across the web.

These are similar to LSI keywords.

However, it can influence your SEO by allowing you to rank for terms you may not have been targeting.

Co-occurrence goes hand-in-hand with co-citation.

Co-citation happens when two different websites mention the same brand but do not link to that brand or website.

Those two sites then get connected through the mutual mention of the third website.

Both co-occurrence and co-citation can help you become associated with other high-quality websites.

4. Go deep with your anchors.

Another critical aspect of anchor text and backlinks is what content you’re linking to.

Google wants to see that you’re linking to valuable pages within a website.

Not only does this improve relevance, but it also seems more natural than if you’re just linking to a homepage or product page.

When deciding what to link to, choose the most relevant page possible.

If linking to a study, quote, or statistic, pull the actual page that information came from – not just the homepage.

Always opt for shareable content over surface-level generic pages.

Here’s an example from Moz.

moz blog anchor text

While the anchor text says “Moz blog,” you’ll see that the link pushes back to a specific blog – not just the blog page.

This kind of specificity pushes both Google crawlers and readers deeper into the page, creating more relevance and making a more genuine impression.

It seems much more natural to link to this kind of in-depth, specific content and will improve your credibility with Google.

However, it is okay to have some of your anchor text push back to a surface-level page.

For example, if you’re going to link to a specific brand, it’s okay to have that link push to the company’s homepage.

You don’t want these kinds of links to make up the majority of your distribution.

Conclusion

As with any SEO factor, you want to include anchor text and links within your content as naturally as possible while providing clear value to your readers.

If you’re merely stuffing links into your content, you can severely damage your reputation with Google.

This can make the already uphill battle of getting web traffic even more difficult.

Understanding anchor text and adequately optimizing each link can help improve your ranking while also driving traffic to your page.

Keep these four optimization tips in mind when creating your website and backlink strategy.

What anchor text strategies are you using in 2018?

About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.

How To Use Google Images to Drive E-commerce Sales Before Your Competitors Catch On

What if the biggest source of your SEO traffic wasn’t from the front page of Google?

At least, not the front page exactly.

Imagine that there was a backdoor of sorts that could lead to a healthy amount of organic traffic.

It’s a completely legal, whitehat SEO backdoor too, so there’s no chance you’ll be penalized.

And if you leverage yourself correctly, that organic traffic can naturally turn into a sale for your e-commerce site.

If that situation were to exist, it could change the SEO landscape for quite some time.

It may surprise you then to learn that our imaginary backdoor example already exists.

Because with some of the recent changes in how Google allows image searches, the front page has gotten a little bit bigger.

I want to show you what’s changed, and then give you some quick hacks that can help you drive more e-commerce sales by focusing on optimizing for Google image searches.

The new and improved Google image search

Google’s image search has been a stalwart feature of the search engine since 2001 when searches for Jennifer Lopez’s green Versace dress broke the Internet.

Since then, the service has been improved upon in stages and built into a massive image library.

Best guesses estimate that Google has indexed around one trillion images to date, and that’s probably on the conservative side.

So in February of 2018 when Google and Getty Images announced that they would be partnering up, it turned some heads.

The reason given in the press release was that this change was meant to provide a better experience for both Google users and visual content creators.

And according to a tweet from Google’s Danny Sullivan, this was also part of a broader effort by Google to help connect search users with helpful websites.

google search liaison tweet

That sounds a lot like normal, run-of-the-mill SEO talk on the surface.

And since most of the media coverage of this change centered around the fact that Google had removed the “View Image” option with this update, it was easy to miss the real change here.

To make the waters even muddier, Danny later tweeted that this particular change was part of a settlement with Getty Images.

Thus, it further cemented the idea that this change was just another ordinary Thursday for Google.

google search liaison google image tweet

But when you look a little deeper at what actually changed, this transition has a more significant impact than what you may believe at first glance.

Because while it seems that removing the “View Image” option and replacing it with “Visit” is just meant to annoy desperate college students, it’s actually a shift in the way we search via images.

Or, to put it more plainly, it means you can now try to rank for the front page of Google image search to get organic traffic.

One of the less-heralded statistics from the last few years is that 72% of search engine users search for images before making a purchase.

frequency of visual search

That means that when someone comes to your site via a search engine, there’s a good chance their search started with Google images.

Before these changes, websites weren’t typically in the limelight.

The uproar that surrounded the removal of the View Image option seems to indicate that most users searched for images to use for another purpose.

But now, if someone wants to download or save an image, they have to click through to the website.

That means you have an opportunity to sell to them now, where before they would never see your brand.

So in a way, Google has created a new and improved channel for customer acquisition that flew completely under the radar.

Let me show you an example of how this could work.

Say you search for a pair of binoculars to take hiking this summer.

You search for binoculars and then decide you’d rather find a set that looks more compact.

Here’s the “front page” of your search in Google.

binoculars google image search

None of this is branded, there aren’t any ads, and it’s fairly simple to browse through and find a set of binoculars that meets your needs.

If you click on an image, a window will expand and display a larger version of the image.

You’ll also see an option to Visit, Save, View Saved, or Share.

generate traffic from google image search with the visit button

If a user decides to visit this site, they’ll have generated traffic via a Google image search.

And since they’re in the mood to potentially buy, your best bet is to have these images attached to a product page like this one.

nikon binoculars product page

At this juncture, I want to point out that this is technically the “top ranked” image on Google.

It’s on a site for the brand B&H Photo Video, and very clearly linked to a product page.

So without knowing the actual stats of this site and page, I would say that there’s a good chance that more than a few sales have closed through the exact path I’ve shown you.

But the interesting aspect here is that this page is not on the actual front page of Google.

binoculars not on the front page

It’s not in the sponsored ads, nor is it competing with Amazon or Binoculars.com in the rankings below.

In fact, I scrolled through and didn’t even find this website in the top 10 pages on Google’s search results.

So it’s even more incredible that this image is at the very top of an image search, and it clearly displays an opportunity for more brands to do the same thing.

Especially considering that it wasn’t until my second visit that Google put sponsored ads into my image results:

binoculars ads appear on second image search

With this new visit-oriented searching system, Google has created a backdoor for small brands to sell with organic traffic despite otherwise strong search results.

E-commerce marketing professionals now have a viable window to create a new and improved channel for generating sales.

By focusing on the SEO of the images on your product pages, you can now rank on an image search that can result in more revenue for your business.

So for the rest of this article, I want to share some quick hacks that you can start to implement on your images in order to capitalize on this development.

Hack #1: Optimize file names and alt tags

As Google crawls your site, it relies on your site’s code to tell you if there are any images on your pages that contribute to the overall value of the page.

So when optimizing your images for SEO, the very first place you should start is by ensuring that the products on your site have descriptive file names and alt tags.

Here’s a relatively simple example of a descriptive vs. non-descriptive file name.

corgi puppies file name

If Google were to crawl your site and see a series of numbers followed by .jpg, all it can tell is that there is an image.

But with the keywords of corgi, puppies, adoption, and NYC added, Google can accurately assess the contents of the image and rank accordingly.

This is also part of what ensures that your image will appear in a Google image search to begin with.

From there, the next part of your image that you’ll need to optimize is your alt tag.

Much like your file name, alt tags signal to Google what your image contains.

Each alt text is embedded in the HTML of your website so that when Google crawls your site, it can “see” the image.

Here’s an example from the earlier binoculars page:

nikon binoculars alt tag

Notice that the alt tag, in this case, is the same as the product’s title.

It contains the keyword “binoculars,” and is an accurate description of the true contents of the image.

It’s a fairly straightforward bit of text that once again will make all the difference on a search engine results page.

And thankfully, it’s incredibly easy to set both your alt tags and change your file name if you’ve built your site on WordPress.

When you upload an image, all you have to do is select that image to see this menu:

file names in wordpress

From here, you can change your file name and alt text appropriately.

This will position your images so that when Google crawls your site, it can potentially rank you on its image search.

Without these simple elements, you’ll struggle to rank at all.

But image-based SEO that will help you truly stand out requires investing in some more complex techniques, like leveraging user-submitted images.

Hack #2: Use unique images

You may think that this point goes without saying, but the vast and repetitive use of stock photography online would seem to say otherwise.

Creating and using relevant imagery will ultimately help you draw a Google image search user in and convince them to click through to your site.

For example, if you were to search online for a lawyer in your area only to see something like this:

lawyers google image search

Chances are you wouldn’t click on that image.

So when in doubt, use a relevant and interesting image for every page on your site, and especially for your product pages.

Even if you have to invest in a professional photographer, the effort and money can be worth it.

The last thing you want is for someone to pass up your site because your image isn’t the most relevant to their search.

Hack #3: Leverage user-submitted images

The average Internet user is pretty skeptical, myself included.

That’s why so many brands now turn to social proof as a means to improve audience engagement and drive sales on their e-commerce sites.

But how can social proof help you get to the top of Google’s image search?

The answer lies in utilizing user-generated social proof image content strategically across your site.

Social proof is one of the best ways to increase trust in your brand and improve conversions.

Typically, this type of proof comes in the form of testimonials or case studies that brands leverage in various ways across their site.

But with how image-oriented our current social media lives are, we now see a vast amount of user-generated social proof content in the form of pictures.

boxed water instagram

Sites like Instagram and Snapchat have changed the way we interact with images, and can now further improve the way you optimize your images’ SEO.

The result means that you can start finding user-generated content by merely interacting with and incentivizing your social media audience.

The key to these images is that they have to be sincere and truly user-generated.

You also need to ensure that you integrate your user-generated images on the right page.

And of course, you need to ensure that you’re legally using the images you end up placing on your site.

But once you have all your ducks in a row, a great idea is to implement your user-generated images on your product pages.

vanity planet

As you can see, the bottom image scroll is comprised of user-generated images that used the #VPBeauty when posting on social media.

The company browsed these images for the highest quality options that it felt showed the best side of their brand.

Then, it embedded these images on their product pages to provide immediate social proof when a visitor sees them.

And since these images are on your website and can be optimized accordingly, they can rank on a Google image search and potentially bring more traffic to your site.

Hack #4: Reduce your load time

Fast loading images are one of the cornerstones of SEO.

If a user can come to your site and quickly load an image that contributes to their overall experience, Google has ways of noticing.

Recent studies have shown that images on websites are typically the largest elements that need to be loaded by a user.

In fact, images on average comprise more than half the data of most web pages.

average bytes per page

So when you’re optimizing your product page, there’s a good chance that the image you use is slowing down your site.

And since bounce rates tend to grow rapidly with longer load times, Google sees image size as a significant SEO factor.

That means in order to rank your images on either the front page or an image search, you need to find a way to create a smaller image.

That is where image compression comes in.

Image compression is the practice of taking a large, bulky image file and effectively shrinking it to a fraction of its size.

When there’s less to load, your site loads faster.

Generally speaking, image compression can yield results like this:

clear uncompressed image of man kissing dog

This image is clear, sharp, and pleasant to look at.

If I weren’t telling you it was a compressed image, you probably never would have guessed.

But look at what happens when you take this same image and compress it even more:

blurry compressed image of man kissing dog

The colors go all wrong, the lighting is poor, and it makes the image hard to look at.

This is the darker side of what can happen if you compress too much.

There isn’t too much difference in size between these two photos.

The first is about 350 KB, and the second is about 70 KB.

And when you compare that to a photo that may contain thousands of KB, then you begin to see how much this helps improve your load time.

So compressing images is a balancing act.

Go too far, and you get a bad image.

Don’t go far enough, and you’re undermining your SEO efforts altogether.

But how can you easily optimize your photos to ensure that they load faster and rank higher?

To start with, I recommend testing the speed of your site using Google’s PageSpeed Insights.

pagespeed insights 2018

This will let you methodically insert the URLs of your product pages to test how quickly they load.

If you see less than optimal results, PageSpeed Insights will give you a breakdown of which elements will improve your site’s load speed.

If you see the option to Optimize images, you can click the drop-down menu below to see what needs to be fixed.

optimization suggestion images

PageSpeed Insights will tell you the exact file or files that need to be compressed, as well as how big of a reduction it needs.

optimize image through pagespeed

Once you find out which files need to be compressed, I recommend using a site like JPEGMini to help you complete the task with just a few clicks.

Other options are TinyJPG or ImageOptim (Mac only). Choose lossless compression so you don’t lose image quality.

jpegmini compression

As you can see, there’s arguably no noticeable difference in the quality of these images to the naked eye.

But in Google’s case, it would notice a clear difference between the original file and the resulting compression that’s more than three times smaller.

This can drastically increase your load time, and even put you under the bar recommended by PageSpeed Insights.

All you have to do is upload your photo with a few clicks.

jpegmini compressor

Then let their system work its magic.

You’ll have a compressed file that’s indistinguishable from the original that’s much, much smaller.

In one case, a brand had let its site load speed drop to abysmal levels in a way that started tanking its traffic.

crap the bed traffic

It even got to the point where PageSpeed Insights showed a zero score for their optimization.

In a large-scale effort to combat this, it overhauled its image sizes and compressed the size of its web pages as much as possible.

As a result, it saw a return to “normal” traffic levels.

thumbs up traffic

This is a clear signal that image size matters when it comes to your SEO.

If you let your images slow down your site, then you run the risk of turning away your users and decreasing the chance of a sale.

And if your image is too big, it’s very likely that Google will rank another image over it in its image search.

So if you want to drive your e-commerce sales with image search, it’s highly recommended to start implementing crisp, compressed images on your product pages.

This will increase the chances of organic traffic, and could ultimately help you edge out your competition.

Conclusion

Google image search has come a long way since 2001, and it seems the ride isn’t over.

With its new partnership with Getty Images, the way we search and use images on Google seems to have changed in favor of the brand that gets there first.

Sites that don’t even rank on the top few pages of Google can still have a fighting chance if its images are optimized and rank well.

And since the majority of e-commerce shoppers browse images before they buy, this development has clear implications for online sellers.

So to help set your brand apart, you need to optimize your images for SEO before your competitors catch on.

Start by ensuring that your alt tags and file names are optimized so that Google can “read” your images appropriately.

And of course, make sure that the images you use are both relevant to your search and interesting enough to make a user want to click.

Then, start leveraging your social media presence to build a pool of user-generated content.

These images will provide social proof and allow you to optimize even more images for SEO.

And finally, take steps to ensure that large image files aren’t negatively impacting your site’s load time.

If you approach your images correctly, you will have further optimized your site for Google’s image search and put your SEO in a better position altogether.

Has your brand seen traffic from Google image search? What worked for you?

About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.

Why Problem Solving Should Be The Only Value Proposition You Use

There’s more than one reason why people love brands like P&G, Warby Parker, and Apple.

But, can you guess what these three brands have in common?

They all solve consumer problems.

P&G invented a better way to mop with the Swiffer.

Warby Parker created affordable, stylish glasses.

Steve Jobs of Apple introduced the iPhone as a “smarter mobile device.”

These brands manufactured their own value propositions by solving problems. They are creative problem solvers.

In the spirit of these creative problem solvers, I’m going to analyze the concept of designing a value proposition by thinking outside the box with problem-solving.

But before we dig in, we first need to understand how we got to this point.

We used to live in a world where “marketing strategies” boiled down to bombarding audiences with messages about how your product was the best.

If that seems a bit simplistic to you, that’s because it was.

And that begs an obvious question: Did it actually work?

It absolutely did.

Why did it work? Well, it was largely because of the media channels that dominated consumer attention.

Television and radio promotion had a massive impact on the effectiveness of a brand’s marketing efforts. Television advertising alone accounted for 2% of the US GDP beyond 1950.

And if I had to point to one thing that made these kinds of marketing strategies so successful, it would be the culture of the traditional consumer.

Passive media channels were a staple of that culture. Television and radio were constantly interrupting the user experience to throw in some ads.

With no other options available, the traditional consumer got used to the idea of repetitive ads being a part of daily life.

But all of that changed once the Internet started gaining traction.

Embrace the nature of digital media

The marketing rules of engagement changed suddenly and completely.

The experience went from passive to interactive. The average person gained the ability to pick and choose what marketing content they consumed with a simple little search engine:

google homepage 2018

This transition would end up determining the future of digital marketing strategies and fundamentally changing the way businesses communicate with consumers.

And it’s not that surprising when you stop and think about it.

In a world where ads were the status quo, consumers didn’t have much of a choice.

But the moment consumers became aware of a life without ads was the moment traditional marketing began its quiet death.

It’s how we ended up here today with 615 million devices that use adblock and 59% of millennials skipping ads on YouTube.

estimated youtube ad revenue

With their 92 million consumers, Spotify has a large usership that doesn’t even mind paying extra for ad-free streaming services.

spotify monthly active users

Of course, all of this speaks to a bigger issue.

To put it bluntly, the modern consumer plays by a different set of rules.

They reject the idea that a jingle or a self-promotional TV spot should be enough to earn their business.

If you want their attention, you’ll need to give them something that traditional marketing strategies can’t: real value.

Real value is about problem-solving

At this point, some small business owners might say, “Isn’t my product/service value enough?”

Well, the answer is yes and no.

Real value isn’t about how often you self-promote. It’s about problem-solving.

Having a valuable product or service is important, and it always will be. There’s no doubt about that.

Buffer didn’t become Buffer just because they had a nice interface. They built a brand around offering a social media solution for consumers looking for an easier way to share content.

buffer value proposition

There’s a reason Buffer has 82,156 paying customers. They have a 19-person advocacy team that helps their customer solve problems.

In this highly competitive, ever-changing digital media landscape, you need to stand out before and after the sale.

One of the easiest ways to convey the problem you are solving is with content marketing.

content marketing costs less

Particularly on social media, content is the key to developing a relationship with consumers.

Audiences are in constant need of new content that’s worth their time.

And when you’re trying to solve problems with your content, there’s one approach that just about every small business can get behind:

Educational content.

It’s the cornerstone of most successful brand blogs, and that’s for good reasons.

Sites like NerdWallet pride themselves on their ability to provide users with this kind of content.

NerdWallet ranks for more than 1.3 million keywords in the personal finance advice industry.

nerd wallet credit card keyword

Here’s what NerdWallet’s VP of Content, Maggie Leung, explained during an interview:

“At NerdWallet we see content people as an investment.”

But getting here isn’t easy.

To begin content ideation to achieve NerdWallet-status, you have to understand your audience.

And, to better understand your audience, you’ll need to use tools and strategies to help generate content ideas.

Your content isn’t just convenient. It’s the backbone of online authority, and it gives you the opportunity to connect with consumers.

And that leads us to the most important reason to focus on educational content:

It effectively sells the brand without selling a product.

Think about the American Express OPEN forum.

american express open forum in 2018

Here’s what Courtney Colwell, Director of Content Marketing at American Express OPEN Forum, told Entrepreneur about the forum:

“It all stems from our mission of helping these businesses do more business. With our small business customers, their growth fuels ours. It’s a win-win if we can help them succeed.”

They have 109.9 million cards in circulation and a valuation of around $18.3 billion. They don’t need to worry about selling their brand. This forum does it for them.

Or, take Irene Pavico, a videographer and post-production professional, for example.

Irene created a course called THE iPhone Film School to help people get started with video marketing that only uses an iPhone.

the iphone film school

She explains that those who are just starting out with making videos may not want to invest in an expensive camera. So, she wants to show you how to start off with the technology that everyone has: an iPhone.

Irene’s approach shows that she understands her audience. She breaks down pain points they have when getting started with video marketing and then solves them.

As far as educational content goes, there are typically two categories that you can focus on.

The most common one that businesses tend to tackle is the tangible solutions category.

Tangible solutions are all about the here and now.

No matter what industry your business is in, your audience likely has plenty of issues and questions that they need help with.

That’s why consumers are 131% more likely to buy from a brand after they consume educational content.

content vs control

It may not be glamorous, but consumers need and appreciate actionable advice that helps them deal with these immediate problems.

Bux implemented a knowledge base, and it helped them improve their first call resolution by 18%.

bux support centre

It’s easy to follow, it doesn’t ask for anything from the reader, and it’s objectively valuable.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

While actionable, tangible solutions are important, there’s more to value-driven content than the immediate future.

Can you focus on solving specific problems for your audience? You absolutely can.

Is that all your content can do for them? It certainly isn’t.

The flip side of the coin is thought leadership.

If tangible solutions are all about the short-term, then thought leadership is all about the long-term.

This is the kind of content that you’ll see industry leaders like Gary Vaynerchuk post:

gary vee i choose optimism

Gary is a thought leader that connects with his fans to inspire loyalty. He’s worth more than $160 million, and he employs more than 700 people.

When you’re creating thought leadership content, you’re not just looking to solve someone’s problem today. You’re looking to address the source of that problem altogether.

Just take a look at how brands are becoming thought leaders by addressing changes.

SEMrush does a weekly chat on Twitter where they talk about the latest SEO trends.

semrush tweet

Or, consider Content Marketing Institute’s webinars.

content marketing webinars

With thought leadership, you layer educational content with a breakdown of marketing principles that small business owners should be adopting.

And don’t think that this is exclusive to digital media. Any business can benefit from thought leadership.

According to CEO Omar Sayyed, the tie company Ties.com saw a 30% growth in revenue over the last five years by earning trust with digital content.

Here is an example of one of their top-performing pieces of content on how to tie a tie.

how to tie a tie

Thought leadership doesn’t just pay attention to symptoms. It identifies the illness and helps your audience cure itself.

As you can probably imagine, this is the most difficult kind of content to create. It requires a strong understanding of industry-wide issues and, more importantly, how to solve them. But if you do it well, the results will be well worth the effort.

Of course, there’s more to problem-solving than just crafting blog posts.

You could create e-books and give them away in exchange for email newsletter sign-ups like Mike Gingerich does.

Or, you can build brand authority through your email list with help from your blog at the same time. After all, email marketing has a median ROI of 122%, which puts other marketing formats to shame.

Or, you can treat social media like an extension of customer support by focusing on one-to-one interactions and addressing customer issues directly.

KLM, Europe’s airline industry leader, used Facebook Messenger to increase customer interactions by 40%.

At the end of the day, your marketing strategy exists for one reason:

To convince people that they should do business with you.

And if you want to showcase just how valuable you are, you have to solve consumer problems more efficiently and more consistently than your competition.

Focus on understanding your audience

At this point, it’s pretty clear that treating marketing as an opportunity for problem-solving appeals to the needs of the modern consumer.

So far, I’ve only covered what that looks like in a general sense.

If you really want to get your hands dirty, you need to see what it looks like in action.

That’s why I’m going to take a look at three brands that have managed to create compelling, valuable marketing content.

More specifically, I’m going to analyze how their particular audiences dictated their marketing strategies.

Why? Because understanding your audience’s needs guarantees that your marketing content will be meaningful, impactful, and valuable to them.

Here’s how Seth Godin puts it:

“Trying to appeal to everyone is almost sure to fail, for the simple reason that everyone wants something different!”

So, how do you do this? My advice is to start by creating buyer personas.

You’ve probably already created them for your product or service. Now’s your chance to expand on them.

If you haven’t updated your buyer personas in a long time, you can use this template from Xtensio:

user persona template

Overall, there’s a pretty clear correlation between your attention to customers and the success of your business.

In fact, one study found that 65% of businesses that exceeded their lead and revenue goals had updated their buyer personas within the previous six months.

The more information you have, the more you’ll be in tune with the problems of your customers. So, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

What social media platforms do they like to engage with you on?

Who are the industry influencers that they actively pay attention to?

What problem does everyone in your audience struggle with on a regular basis?

General digital media marketing principles are important, but they aren’t worth much if you can’t apply them to your unique marketing situation.

Businesses that have used problem-solving effectively

In this next section, we’re going to look at some marketing strategies from successful businesses. But as we do so, keep in mind that the goal isn’t just to copy them.

Instead, use them as a reference point for your particular marketing strategy.

No matter what tactics you choose, your content still needs to appeal specifically to your audience and provide them with value at every opportunity.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some businesses that have found success with problem-solving.

Mint

If you’re not familiar with Mint, here’s what their elevator pitch might sound like:

Struggling to keep your finances in order? Use our service to stay organized, get back on track, or start saving up enough cash to buy a house.

mint homepage 2018

After the company started, it grew rapidly. They managed to acquire 1.5 million users in their first two years.

But marketing a service like this is actually a bit tricky.

After all, who couldn’t use more help keeping their finances in order? How do you make a marketing strategy that targets most of the population?

Mint came up with a solution: Market to their two types of users.

The first group is already relatively financial literate. They’re looking to build wealth.

The second group is trying to budget as efficiently as possible. They’re more interested in keeping their bank account in the green than anything else.

How can I tell that these are their two types of users?

Taking one look at their official blog tells me everything I need to know.

mint blog

These blog posts target the extremes of their buyer personas, and Mint appeals to both equally.

With most of their audience likely falling somewhere between those two extremes, it’s fair to say that Mint managed to effectively cover their bases without diluting their message.

As for the content itself, it focuses on tangible, actionable advice.

And that makes perfect sense when you consider the audience they’re speaking to. People looking for concrete financial advice won’t appreciate vague tips.

Someone who’s struggling to manage their finances wants a roadmap to get back on track, not a study on the growth of a Fortune 500 company:

mint life blog post

Mint’s content is a mix of blog posts, interviews, and infographics that target younger audiences who are beginning to manage their money.

Largely because of their blog posts, their SEO strategy drove 20% of their total site traffic.

Mint drives thousands of visitors from their budgeting templates and budgeting spreadsheets alone.

mint keyword traffic

So, what’s the lesson?

You shouldn’t just make your content relevant to your audience’s problems in general. To make it as effective as possible, you have to be sensitive to their particular situation.

Slack

slack homepage in late 2017

If you’ve spent any amount of time in the tech startup scene, you’ve probably heard people raving about Slack.

And it’s worth all the hype it’s receiving.

When you need a messaging app that prioritizes productivity and ease of use, it’s hard to find anything better (especially if you’re working with a remote team).

This is why they’re worth about $5.1 billion.

With all the tools and integrations they offer, it’s easy to see why their taglines are “be less busy” and “where work happens.”

In fact, instead of focusing on content marketing, Slack aims to rank for keywords related to their integrations.

slack integrations keywords

With that in mind, you can already start to see what the Slack audience looks like.

You can picture a startup C-level executive looking for a credible solution to her workplace productivity issues.

Slack’s onboarding process is really where the magic happens. Slack has a deep insight into what their audience needs and they create a unique approach to onboarding.

slack onboarding

Right off the bat, you’ll see content that they’ve designed to improve overall workplace efficiency.

Slack even has articles for advice on naming channels and email templates for introducing Slack.

moving to Slack

Beyond that, Slack also opts to provide value with updates about their own product.

get the slack app email onboarding

And, admin users can opt-in for weekly summaries of activities.

slack weekly summary

They also offer instant notifications.

slack unread message sent email

Slack also keeps a blog with product updates, integration announcements, and tips for improving productivity.

The design their blog posts to ensure that the audience can use Slack to the best of their ability.

slack blog post

For them, it’s not about selling the product as much as it is about improving the user experience.

So, what’s the moral of the story?

Support consumers whether or not they’ve spent their hard-earned money on you. Always provide solutions to their problems as they develop.

Dollar Shave Club

At this point, you’re probably tired of hearing about how impressive the marketing strategies of Dollar Shave Club are.

dollar shave club homepage 2018

But acquiring 12,000 customers in their first two days is a little too impressive to ignore.

There are plenty of digital media marketing experts who are fascinated with this brand, and I’m one of them.

Why? Well, mostly because it’s a success story that proves that sound marketing tactics, regardless of the audience in question, can help your business excel.

To put it simply, Dollar Shave Club excels in their ability to create a unique consumer experience in an industry that desperately needs it.

And their audience, which is primarily men looking for a stylish, playful, and witty brand, can benefit from the content on the Dollar Shave Club blog.

dollar shave club blog

The articles have clear, eye-catching headlines, and they’re full of value — all while maintaining that unique DSC brand voice.

They even send personalized emails based on previous purchase history.

dollar shave club personalized emails

If you take nothing else from Dollar Shave Club’s example, remember that your ability to create compelling customer experiences is just as important as the advice you give in your content.

It’s not just what you say. It’s how you say it.

Conclusion

I get it.

Digital media marketing can be a bit overwhelming.

But there’s no getting around the fact that you need to stand out in your industry if you want your business to stay competitive.

The age of traditional marketing is over. Don’t waste time trying to plug holes in the Titanic.

Whether you’re new to the game or you’re trying to rebuild your marketing strategy, focus on the big picture: problem-solving.

Value drives sales. And if you want to increase sales, you’re going to have to find new and exciting ways to offer consumers more value.

With your blog content, be sure to address the problems of today as well as underlying issues that will lead to problems in the future. This will help you stay relevant while also establishing yourself as a thought leader.

In order to solve the problems of your audience, you need to understand your audience. You need to determine exactly who they are so that you can address the specific problems that they have.

And as you think through your strategy for solving the problems of your users, look to innovative brands for ideas. Just be sure to make each strategy your own and adapt them to your audience.

How have you focused on problem-solving in your marketing strategy?

About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.