Chips Ahoy, or homemade chocolate chip cookies?

I’m hoping you chose homemade. Unless, like myself, you’re an awful baker. Then I understand.

When it comes to quality, it’s hard to justify the assortment of dusty, crumbly discs that lay within the Chips Ahoy carton. On the other hand — when made properly — homemade cookies have the potential to bring you as close to a religious experience as a 12-gram pastry possibly can.

We’re here to explain some ways to help your digital marketing strategy be a little more homemade and a little less factory-formed. Here’s our breakdown of the best ways to avoid cookie-cutter digital marketing.

Know Your Brand, And Wield It

You can’t sell a product if you don’t know what it is.

The trick is, you have to know what you’re selling. Whether you’re running a high-staff company or selling homemade crafts on Etsy, you likely have a good understanding of what it is you’re selling to your customer. You probably know your product inside and out.

But in digital marketing, you aren’t just selling your product. You have to sell your business first. In all likelihood, a larger portion of the effort behind your digital marketing strategy is going to be placed on selling your business rather than your product.

Here’s why: out of all the tactics used in digital marketing — paid advertising, search engine optimization, social media, email campaigns — only a couple of them are going to have the primary job of selling your actual product to the end-customer, with the most obvious example being your website. Once a visitor stops by your website, it is then the website’s job to make the sale. But it’s the job of all those other tactics to get visitors to your site in the first place.

This is why we say you must know your brand, and wield it. Your brand is your business’ biggest unique selling proposition; it’s what sets your advertising apart from everyone else’s advertising. Your brand needs to be conveyed, integrated, and optimized across your digital marketing tactics.

It’s because of this that businesses need rock-solid brand foundations. You need to know what you stand for, why you stand for it, and how your business enacts those tenets on a daily basis. Your brand identity isn’t just for internal morale and wishful thinking. If done right, a smart and thorough brand manifests across your marketing materials — both print and digital — to create stronger marketing campaigns and more customers.

If your brand is cookie-cutter, your marketing will be too. And it is going to affect sales.

Flank Your Competition With Content

For some hyper-specific businesses, getting a foothold in the market is fairly straightforward. When you don’t have a ton of competition, simple press releases and commonplace marketing tactics might get the job sufficiently done.

It’s a lot tougher for those trying to break into more popular market niches. Businessmen and women who want to find footing in fields like health and lifestyle, self-improvement, beauty supplies, or e-commerce (just to name a few) are going to struggle — god forbid you are trying to start an app. The first few pages of Google are a cross-industry bottleneck, and there are millions of professionals trying to force their way in.

To fight back, businesses need an alternate route to attention. One of the most effective methods is through content. Whether it’s articles, videos, infographics, or presentations, content can be the supplementary digital marketing tactic you need to push your name out in front of your competition.

The key to content is to make it trustworthy and valuable to either your target customers or your industry peers. Often times, your content doesn’t even have to directly relate to what you’re trying to advertise. As long as you can present useful, honest information with authority, the content is valuable.

More than anything, content provides a way for the end-user to differentiate your business from the competition through the assertion of your humanity. Content is your opportunity to showcase some creativity and personality outside of promotional channels. You can write an article in your own voice, not the voice of your business.

With good content, an end-user can find themselves identifying with you as a person in a way that rarely happens with a brand. This is how you outflank your competition. Put your individuality on display through your content, and the customers will recognize it.

Own Your Limitations

Apart from a vague brand identity, one of the most commons errors found in digital marketing is inefficient resource allocation. AKA, people spend too much and waste too much time.

If you’re a small business owner seeking growth, the internet is an amazing platform for you to find it. Unfortunately, businessmen and women who are not digital marketing savvy attempt to combat their own inexperience by simply throwing as much time or money at their digital marketing campaigns and hoping it sticks. That doesn’t work.

When that happens, we end up with a digital advertising space flooded with unoriginal, generic advertising methods that not only overcrowd the market space but turn away customers for everybody. People shopping online are smarter and fewer patient shoppers than anywhere else. They won’t tolerate lazy marketing, and when they’re hit with yet another “6 Ways To Improve Your Kitchen” article, they flat out leave the marketplace altogether.

So, what route is there to take for businesses who can’t afford to learn the ins and outs of digital marketing? Simple: cut your budget.

Don’t allocate more money for digital marketing; work with less, and you’ll be forced to use the money wisely. Cookie-cutter digital marketing is barely effective on a large scale, so a reduced budget is going to be aggressively unhelpful to your business.

With a smaller budget, you can allocate funds to the aspect of digital marketing that will improve your business the most in the short-term. Break down what your business needs are today, and begin to build out a focused digital marketing strategy that will have an impact tomorrow.

Does your website look like it was made in 2009? GIve it a revamp. Are your social media accounts active and effective? Start reaching out. Are you trying to grow your brand’s recognition and become a thought-leader in your industry? Start creating valuable SEO blog posts for traction.

All of these tactics are valuable to a business, but simply dumping finances into them and moving on isn’t going to net you nearly as much return as a focused, deliberate, and engaged effort on a singular improvement.

Target As Specifically As Possible

You know how businesses are always told to “find their niche”? In digital marketing, you need to find your niche’s niche.

Digital marketing becomes cookie-cutter when it’s crafted and executed to appease the lowest common denominator. It’s sole, shallow focus is engagement at all costs, and in the long run, it costs your business time and money. It ends up being the vanilla ice cream of advertising — and not even Ben & Jerry’s. We’re talking store brand.

If you want scalable results, don’t market with vanilla ice cream. Localize your campaign strategies and target the audience you know will give you the most conversions.

Consider the same tactic in the direct marketing sphere. Not every business needs a billboard. If your audience is smaller, harder to reach, or only active in certain locations and destinations online, there’s no reason for you to advertise anywhere else.

Too many people advertise on a generalized, wide-breadth scale because they don’t know any better. In reality, the places you make the most out of your digital marketing aren’t going to be the largest, but the most concentrated.
Conclusion

All the tactics we’ve listed here aren’t just applicable to your digital marketing strategy. When implemented, they manifest across your business practices, from production and sales to employee interactions and culture.

Good digital marketing is the fruition of brand utilization, localized strategies, and confident execution. Know who you are, demonstrate why that’s valuable, and own the lane you carve for yourself.

Don’t allow your online presence to become just another cheaply made, mass-produced box of cookies in the aisle of online advertising. Make it custom to your needs and abilities; that’s hope you get something with homemade quality.

Mix Up Your Strategy

Looking for more help? Contact us today — we can start talking about what digital marketing approach is best for your business.

“Content? Do you mean blog posts? We don’t run a blog, we run a business.”

“Hi, our 600-word-keyword-swamp article isn’t ranking on Google’s first page, what gives?”

“Look, these animated videos are cute, but where’s the ROI? Why did we make this?”

Have you heard these before?

Have you said these before?

Yea, you’re not alone.

Conference rooms across the country play stage to the same scene: business professionals nodding respectfully at one another as they pretend to understand what their Content Strategist is talking about.

Content is the cornerstone of how a business makes its mark on the internet. And as an SEO aficionado, I have to tell you — I really hate content.

Not because it’s bad; far from it, actually. I call it a cornerstone because it really is that important. It’s not feasible to run an effective digital marketing campaign in today’s age without content of some kind. The reason I hate content is because of how confused we all are about it.

Confusion — Constant Confusion

The first problem with content is the varying definitions polluting the business atmosphere. Everyone brings their own assumptions about content to the table and then gets frustrated when those assumptions are challenged.

Some business owners consider content as mere blog posts. Someone else might see it as explainer videos and infographics, while another person believes content to be press releases and print marketing materials. When everyone comes into the room with such drastically different and exclusive perspectives, it’s not easy to find common ground on what’s best for the business.

Here’s the truth: everyone’s right. Content is vague because it refers to a lot of different things.

Simply put, “content” is published materials that provide a solution to a target audience and market your business at the same time.

The kind of content you wish to create can be any or all of the above examples. It’s entirely dependent on what your business wants to achieve, how you want to be perceived, and in what ways you want to grow.

Under this definition, content should be one of the most invigorating discussions happening within companies. It’s an outlet for exploration, an oasis of creativity in the doldrums of spreadsheets and invoices.

But to make it valuable for a business, it has to be done right, and there’s no single blueprint everyone can abide by to create valuable materials. Good content is custom content, and to make it takes a lot of effort and some unorthodox thinking to design stuff that sticks. Bad content, on the other hand, is shallow, unoriginal, and tacky, all of which damages your brand.

Here’s an example:

This is quintessential bad content.

McDonald’s UK was attempting some sort of joke, but they butchered the slang so egregiously that it doesn’t even resemble the meme it was meant to be. The engagement numbers are high for this account, but most of the replies are entirely negative or mocking. McDonald’s is an incredibly image-conscious company, so I think it’s fair to say this was a botched content attempt.

Messy instances of improper content like this occur all over the place. And because it’s such a tricky art, most people tend to stop trying to understand content fully. They designate it to someone else on the corporate hierarchy and concern themselves with more tangibly evident business practices, foregoing what can be an impeccably significant benefit to their methods.

It’s really a shame because the blueprint for good content does actually exist — just not in the form everyone wants. It isn’t step-by-step, it doesn’t have diagrams, and it isn’t color-coded, but it is a bit easier to follow than IKEA’s.

All it takes to make good content is working with a single question: what does the search engine want?

Search Engines Don’t Simply Want Content

Businesses often purport their practices are focused toward one goal: “Give the customer what they want.” As common as this dogma is, it doesn’t often transfer over to a business’ SEO strategy. Usually, it’s because they’re forgetting a critical part of the equation.

Your customers are already telling someone exactly what they want: Google. Your potential customers tell Google what they’re looking to buy every single day. The consumer’s top confidant is freely available for you to access; all you have to do is use it the right way.

But here’s the important part: Google is working for the searcher, not for the business.

Let’s look at some examples of this. Go to Google, and type in something generic. Or, here, I’ll do it for you.

 

 

So let’s break this down. When you search something you want on Google, the algorithm is designed to bring you the best solution options possible. In this example, you may see my search and see just the three businesses featured. But those businesses are shown to me because of my search location and history, not because Google wants to help those businesses.

More specifically, the primary thing Google offered in response to my search is an array of solutions. Google didn’t bring me to ads by these three pizza places, it brought me to a Google Maps portal which I can filter by rating, price, cuisine and hours. All before I even have to scroll down the page!

As a search engine user, this is what I want, and it’s probably what you want too. Google knows you don’t want to be shown a billboard of ads when you use their search engine. Searchers want solutions, and Google wants to give them the best ones.

Here’s one more example.

 

Pay attention to the URLs of the top ranking results. Again, my search didn’t bring me to ads by bands or artists, or even ads by concert venues in New York. Google wanted to provide me the best solution to what I wanted, and they did that by connecting me to popular, high-traffic aggregate sites. Google responded to my request by doing what they see as best for me as a user, not best for the businesses. There’s a distinction here.

All of this is to say one simple thing: search engines look for solutions, not for billboards. Good SEO strategies convince Google that your site offers the solution. Often times, content can be the answer. It’s not the only answer, but it works, and that’s where the value comes from.

Content is especially valuable for searchers who go to Google with a question, or just a general phrase. My example searches were all directly related to a product and narrow in terms of potential solutions, but just consider how many searches you do yourself that are less obvious. What about the person with abstract searches like “how to know if you’re ready to be a parent,” or “pros and cons of social media,” or “how to market my business better”? This is where aggregate, informational, and in-depth content shines.

But to do it right, you have to go beyond the article. Good SEO strategies involve your entire website, top to bottom.

Content: Just One Slice Of Your Website’s Pie

Google loves websites that provide solutions. So how does it define a solution?

As you can imagine, the process is pretty complex. Google’s algorithm accounts for over 200 factors when it decides what to show a user after they search something. Some of the most important factors include your domain authority, the individual page’s authority, the quality of the links within a page, and the keywords used in the page’s headlines, subheads, and body text. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

This is where SEO strategies earn their reputation for leaning on blog posts. What better way to incorporate the most prominent factors than a well-researched, long-form article? However, don’t forget that content goes beyond text posts. Google wants good results, whatever form that takes.

This is why you’ll sometimes see videos pop up at the top of searches even though you aren’t searching under Google Videos.

 

Google knows that some things are better shown than read. More importantly, Google can identify which content has solved a user’s problem in the past, and they push that content to the top. “How to” searches can often bring up videos, infographics, and diagrams because the that’s what best serves the user. Notice how the secondary tabs under the search bar have even realigned — you may never have noticed, but depending on your search, Google will reposition the tabs next to “All” depending on which content best provides you the answer you want.

So how does your website factor into all of this? Well, your website can provide a solution that Google and end users want in a variety of ways. Articles, videos, and graphics are one aspect, but SEO tactics must be considered on all levels.

On the frontend, this means that your website’s pages must be designed to convert or to funnel visitors toward a conversion. It’s a basic principle, but you’d be surprised how many businesses believe their sites are easy to navigate when they simply aren’t.

If your promotional content links back to a website that is improperly designed, it’s going to affect how much a visitor trusts your site. The layout, ease of navigation, and invasiveness all contribute to your website’s user experience, a pivotal factor for a strong SEO strategy.

Here’s a scenario: you spend a ton of time and effort writing a great article. It gets picked up by Google, and you happen to snag a searcher with that snazzy headline you spent 25 minutes writing. But when they go back to the site that article is hosted on, they don’t like what they see. It’s a hodgepodge of ugly formatting, non-modular layout, and timed pop-up boxes asking them to join some newsletter.

You’ve probably been this user before. What happened? Did you stick around very long? Of course not. Most users in this situation back out of the content and go find some other solution. Even worse, they probably won’t trust any content they see from your domain in the future. There go your future content’s engagement numbers.

All that effort put into content, and it wasn’t supported properly. All you end up with is another business owner who fell victim to the glittery allure of “content.”

Conclusion

Look, content isn’t the bad guy here. It’s actually the best guy.

Content will drive traffic to your website, progressively build your domain authority on search engines, and ultimately contribute to your business’ conversions and total value. But it needs to be understood and created in a total SEO context, or else it’s just a waste of time.

Content isn’t the savior of your SEO strategy. It’s just the tip of the arrow. You still need a good bow to hold it in place, and a skilled marksman to hit the target.

So don’t put all your eggs in content’s basket. Find marketers and content managers you can trust, and work with them to create a custom, total content plan for your business, your market, and your niche.

Content is worth your time, but you need to believe in it first.

A CDN can be the critical edge a business needs to perform better, cut costs, and retain more customers. Whether you want to become a game-changer in your industry’s digital space or just get your YouTube video to play without buffering, CDNs can be part of the answer to addressing slow page load times and improving website performance.

What is a CDN?

Infographic provided by Digital Connect Mag

CDNs are systems of servers dispersed geographically across a region. These servers will store a website’s content — texts, images, and pages, for example — for later retrieval, with each server having a copy of that content.

When an end user goes to load a website or platform, they will be connected to the CDN closest to them to retrieve the content data. Using a CDN allows for websites and their content to load faster and download quicker. In short, CDNs improve the quality of your website for the end user by distributing the workload to the server closest to them.

CDNs are often confused with cloud services like iCloud or Google Drive, but there is a distinction. In a cloud system, all the data is stored in a single data center, with the cloud’s software service being remotely available to end users. In CDNs, the information is dispersed to multiple data centers across regions. To use a food analogy, cloud computing is like breaking off a piece of a big pie to give to a user, while a CDN is like making a smaller copy of the pie for the user to access. There’s overlap in function, but they aren’t quite the same.

CDNs are strategically placed around a region according to volume expectations, so areas near cities and coasts often have the highest concentration of servers. However this method also benefits rural areas, as they no longer have to rely on connecting to an origin server that may be in a distant data center; if there’s a server location closer to them, that’s what they connect to.

Advantages of Content Delivery Network

Here’s the breakdown of all the ways a CDN can benefit your business’ website.

Improve Speeds

The most immediate improvement to a website is the speed at which it operates. When a CDN distributes your website’s data across its servers, what it is doing is effectively creating a local version of your content for end-users to access. So instead of your website’s origin server bearing the burden of all traffic and requests, the local server handles it.

This allows for a drastic decrease in the server’s latency, and ultimately faster speeds on the site. Everything on your site is simultaneously sped up as a result; images, styles, scripts, plugins, buttons, and videos all benefit from utilizing a CDN’s local server.

Usability is one of the top contributors to a user experience, and speed is a massive factor in that category. CDNs will make your website run faster and lead to a higher chance of positive customer experience and reviews.

Stronger Security

When you implement a CDN, your origin server is given an effective bodyguard against malicious software or DDoS attacks.

Because the CDN server acts as the first point of entry for the user, it similarly acts as the point of entry for malware. The CDN itself has a firewall that will be the first line of defense in such a situation, leaving your origin server protected.

Built-In Analytics

Many CDNs offer a dashboard service that allows for the website owner to manage each and every tool the program offers right from your desktop.

Popular statistics found in typical CDNs include bandwidth usage, cache and non-cache hits percent, and content zone breakdowns. Information such as this is standard practice, and the vast improvements we saw are similarly common.

Detailed reports can be filed and sent to website owners so you can visualize the statistics and share them with partners, shareholders, or lenders. These reports can describe what kind of interaction your site received by the hour and other important user activity metrics.

These reports can often serve to bring insights into some areas of your website that services like Google Analytics might not cover.

Minimize Crashes

Every industry has a busy season, and nobody likes downtime. High traffic can cause issues for any website, and depending on the company, a website may be everything to a business. CDNs offer a way beyond crossing your fingers and hoping to ensure content is live on your site through even the toughest traffic spikes.

With CDNs, traffic can be distributed and balanced across networks and by region so your origin server doesn’t get overloaded with requests. This weight distribution helps lower stress for both you and your customer, as well as ensure increased protection of sensitive customer data like banking or social security information.

Save Money

CDNs can cut costs for businesses of all sizes.

Smaller businesses with low or moderate levels of traffic can find CDNs with shared hosting options. This is usually the cheapest method of implementing a CDN, and they can manage to store hundreds or thousands of accounts on localized servers.

Businesses with international reach are some of the main beneficiaries of CDNs. Foreign web hosting, security, and support systems can be extremely costly, but CDNs allow for stronger connections across massive distances. If your business is involved overseas, CDNs are one of the most cost-effective ways to retain a reputation of high digital service regardless of borders.

CDNs tangentially manage to make companies money as well as save it. A 2017 study found that retail companies which performed the strongest on last year’s Black Friday were those with site load times at or under 2.4 percent, with the top 10 having a 1.8 second average load time.
Consumers will choose a different seller if your website’s load times are less than stellar. By implementing a CDN, you’re taking a direct step toward ensuring potential customers stay on your page and trust the authority of your product.

Disadvantages Of A Content Delivery Network

A CDN can be a great boost for a business, but it comes with certain drawbacks. Make sure you’re informed and confident in which option best suits your website’s needs.

Initial Cost

The truth is the net benefit of a CDN is largely related to your business’ size, structure, and capabilities. While small businesses can absolutely save themselves money by using CDNs that offer shared hosting, there is going to be an initial cost, and in many cases the CDN will be another bill to worry about.

As with any business addition, it’s up to every owner to consult amongst themselves and determine whether the cost of the CDN is worth the investment. If you’re a business that counts on web traffic for a good chunk of your sales, then a CDN might be a good investment. But it’s important to budget wisely and budget specifically.

Throwing money and features at your website will not automatically fix it. The CDN can be worth the cost if you have the tools in place to run a successful online business — SEO content strategy, PPC campaigns, a consistent social media presence — but if you aren’t investing in those areas, you might not be starting at the right place.

Location Restrictions

When using a CDN, businesses must be conscious of what remote locations will be hosting their data, and if their content is affected by it. If you have international business, you need to know which countries restrict the IP addresses of which CDN providers.

This largely isn’t an issue for small businesses, but for companies with a global reach, or those who want a global reach down the road, it’s something worth considering.

Dynamic Content Security

While CDNs do provide another layer of security for DDoS attacks, they also open a doorway to more specific kinds of attacks.

CDNs are especially good at hosting static content. However, most dynamic content needs to be stored on the origin server, primarily because the local servers the CDNs are using don’t have the storage capacity for files types of that size from so many websites. So when a user goes on your website and requests dynamic content, the origin server is contacted.

Viruses and attackers can take advantage of this by organizing their attacks to be used through this dynamic content hand-off process. For many businesses, their origin servers don’t have the capacity or the infrastructure necessary to defend against this. Many CDNs are trying to find ways to defend against this, namely with limits on how much dynamic content requests a site accepts over a specific time frame. However, this method can result in legitimate users being denied access to dynamic content during high traffic times, so it is not a perfect solution.

Difficult Troubleshooting

Different CDNs have different levels of this issue. The core of it is this: when you have your data hosted on a lot of local servers, it becomes harder to make sweeping troubleshooting changes to your site.

Say there is a technical issue with your CDN’s local server in New England, but your business is in Georgia. If the CDN makes a silent change to your data, such as an update or an automatic edit, it can affect — and thus cause problems with — the local data files while not impacting the rest of the data on other servers.

Without a CDN, you would know that your site is having issues because you see it on your end. But with some CDNs, recognizing server errors can be slightly delayed due to the reporting and feedback system, meaning your site has an issue in one part of the country that it doesn’t have in the others.

These issues may be resolved by your CDN’s technical team without you realizing, but they also might go unnoticed. It all depends on which network you choose to go with, so be sure to do research on the response times and feedback options provided by any potential CDNs you are interested in.

Conclusion

CDNs, like anything else you use on your website, are a tool to drive conversions and sales. They can be critically beneficial, or a just another line on your expense report. The difference is in your business — your size, your product, your model, and most importantly, how devoted you are to digital commerce.

So, should you use a content delivery network? If you’re dedicated to making your digital storefront the best experience possible for customers, then yes.

But not all businesses need a CDN, and that’s completely fine. Some companies can best benefit from using a cheaper CDN with less hosting options and fewer server locations, while others might desire the lessened server burden and DDoS defenses.

We can’t sit here and tell you what your business needs because we don’t know anything about your business (yet). Our site uses a CDN, and we’ve loved it, but CDNs aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. They’re a specialized opportunity for improving your end-user’s digital customer experience. Their power and success are reliant on you.

Whatever your decision is, always be sure you understand the total scope of possible outcomes before busting out the credit card.

So…What Now?

If you’d like some help discerning whether your business should invest in a CDN, reach out to us today. We’d love to talk about what it will take to take your business’ digital presence to the next level.

Surprisingly, many business owners do not look at their Google Analytics.

And the ones that do are rarely happy with what they see.

High bounce rates.

Less than one minute average duration.

Low conversion rates.

WTF.

Sure, people have short attention spans and studies prove this. On the web, you have less than 8 seconds to woo a new visitor.

8 seconds?!?

Did I lose you already? I hope not…

If so, then I am not not doing my job right.

If you are still here, enjoy these tips on how to keep visitors on your website and create engagement.

(Note: The photo of the pretty little lady on the dock is key if you are following along)

1. Get rid of any baggage

No one likes someone, or something, with a lot of baggage: not web users, not Google, no one.

Over the years, you may have heard of people keyword stuffing websites, writing almost indecipherable content to reap the rewards of search.

Those days are long gone.

Google prefers nice, easy-to-digest content. Why? Because people like nice, easy-to-digest content. Google is for the people and your website should be too.

I once heard someone say, “Clarity is power.”

In writing this article, I further realized the importance of that statement.

The content on your website should be well-structured and presented clearly. Usually, content with high keyword density does not read clearly. Focus on keeping the content on your pages short, sweet, and relevant to your user’s search.

This goes beyond text and includes images, videos, advertisements, etc.

Everything else should be scrapped. This way there’s little to no doubt in the visitor’s mind.

2. Show a little skin, but not the whole thing

An effective website must achieve three things fast:

  1. Explain to the user what your site is about
  2. Create immediate credibility and trust
  3. Motivate the user to stay and investigate further

Remember: Nobody online has the time to really read. For users, skimming is winning.

Your website needs to have an obvious cue to tell the user what your site is all about. If your cue is aligned with what they are searching for, AND instills a feeling of stature, then the user will start digesting a little more.

To put it bluntly, you do not want your website to pose nude. You want to dress it up in a simple, sexy, sleeveless, black dress that accents the beautiful features of your business.

“Good Lord! What’s under that dress? And how can I get the content behind it?” These should be the initial thoughts that you leave your website users with.

3. Lead the horse to the water

Once you have aroused your user and peaked their interest, you need to get them moving in the right direction.

Set a goal and create a funnel.

Perhaps you want your visitors to watch a video on the benefits of your product before signing up for a free trial. Maybe you want to draw attention to a new service and exclusive offer.

Whatever you are trying to sell, wag your digital finger frantically and shout, “Hey, you! Come over here! Check this out…”

70% of small business websites don’t contain a call-to-action (CTA), according to a study published in Small Biz Trends.

Give direction if you want retention.

This might go against conventional wisdom, but people like being told what to do.

The simpler you make things for people, the less frustrated they will grow, giving more time for positive engagements.

4. Make em’ drink

“You can lead a horse to the water, but you can’t make him drink.”

That’s the old adage.

Generally speaking, it works pretty well.

But when it comes to your website and your business, you do not have to settle.

In the words of Don Vito Corleone, “Make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

Let’s go back to the analogy of the pretty little lady in the black dress…

So far, she has done a great job of tantalizing us and has our full attention thanks to elegant dress and actionable gesture. We’ve also determined that she has no baggage, she appears to be at the party without a date.

As result, we have followed her–all the way from the dinner reception area, down to the dock.

We are feeling pretty confident, especially since she directed us to follow her, but there is still a small uncertainty that keeps us from taking the plunge into the water.

At the dock, she kicks off her high heels and tosses them deliberately into the water.

“Go get those,” she says.

“No way,” you reply, inspecting your nicely pressed suit. “I am not a very strong swimmer.”

“Well, I’ll toss out this life preserver if you need it,” she continues, showing a thin smile. “If you bring them back, we can go back to my place later…”

Bingo.

Before you know it, you are running towards the lake fully-clothed like a bull that saw a flash of red.

“Cannonball!” you scream at the top of your lungs.

That, my friends, is how you keep visitors on your website and create engagement.

The cat’s out of the bag. The cheese is off the cracker. The secret is out.

While what happens behind the scenes to make it all measurable remains a mystery to many, search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) are the way of the future. Heck, they’re the way of the past and the present too, elusive as they may seem to newcomers to the online marketing industry.

Personal experience and opinions aside, more than 100 experts in the industry have agreed on a handful of secrets you need to know to create a more effective website. Does it all start with search engine optimization? You bet it does.

And it seems complicated to the average person. All the terms like long-tail keywords and backlinking and the inner workings of Google Analytics can make the whole thing seem much more transcendental than necessary to anyone who’s not an SEO expert or working for a SEO Agency. Yet that’s kind of the point. Just because electricity is complicated from an electrical engineer’s standpoint doesn’t mean the average person doesn’t know how to turn on a light switch.

The Best SEO Secrets

So what exactly are the mystical (so-called) secret ingredients for your business’ recipe for success? The experts have some pretty strong opinions that can be broken down into categories as outlined below.

Build a strategy / process and stick to it (3.63%)

According to research conducted by Small Business Trends, businesses that establish a plan from the start are twice as likely to be successful. The same can be said for having a strategy in place for the role SEO will play in your business. Taking time to put together plans for what your SEO efforts will look like and how it is managed is the first step, but it doesn’t stop there. Sticking to the plan over time, and staying consistent with it, is the most promising way to maximize its potential.

Lead (stay ahead!) of the market / change constantly / keep content fresh / measure and improve (9.33%)

Anyone with a Smartphone or table knows it’s true. Technology is advancing faster than the average person can keep up. What does that mean for SEO? SEO strategies are evolving even faster. Staying ahead of the curve by consistently producing creative, new and unique content in this constantly changing market is the only way to go.

Avoid being “spammy” (1.04%)

Google doesn’t want to upset its searchers anymore than you do, so it’s simple. Avoid techniques that could be perceived as spamming. If you don’t, Google will know and your efforts may end up being in vain.

Hire the right resources / use the right tools (3.11%)

You may know your company inside and out, but that doesn’t make you an SEO expert. And that’s ok. Turn to a reliable resource to point you in the right direction, guide the process and produce content that is more likely to reach a larger audience with a smaller investment of time on your part.

Use common sense/ there is no secret /stop overthinking it (12.44%)

True to the aforementioned light switch theory, experts agree that one of the biggest pitfalls people make in SEO is overthinking it. And it’s easy to do. But using common sense will pay dividends in your SEO effort. Think like you are the one doing the search. You are the one looking for the answer to a question. What does that answer look like? How does it read? What draws you to click on one resource over another? These are simple questions with simple answers that make SEO much less of a secret than even the experts like to admit.

Quality content (17.62%)

There is really no secret to this one. Readers want high-quality, unique content. It’s as easy as that.

Focus on networking and internal / external linking (15.54%)

Establishing an efficient network using internal and external linking methods is key. Back-linking will help keep users on your site, and external linking to reliable sources will help expand the scope of your content.

Embrace video (2.07%)

Video is among the many ways of the future of social media. As apps like Snapchat and features like Facebook Live continue to gain even more popularity, video is becoming a necessary element to effective SEO practices.

Do customer research /build relationships / be sociable /engage (13.99%)

So you have unique, high-quality content that needs to somehow make its way in front of the right people. This is where networking takes on a less technical form than before, requiring you to know your customers. Build relationships with them by being sociable and creating shareable content. Use a variety of platforms to reach as many people as possible, but don’t stop there. Most importantly, engage.

Don’t forget details (1.55%)

Little things matter. Making sure links work, landing pages look appealing and there aren’t any spelling or grammar mistakes are just as important to the overall success of marketing as anything else.

Usability / mobile friendly / make site faster/ avoid technical issues (6.22%)

If the tool is broken, users will move on. That’s why it is that much more important to make sure your web site is user-friendly. In this day and age, that makes being speedy and mobile a necessity.

Focus on keywords, particularly long-tail (10.36%)

They are not the only thing, but keywords are at the forefront of any conversation about SEO. Doing keyword research, understanding the elements of an effective keyword and using them correctly will help take any SEO effort to the next level.

If you succeed, keep the secret (3.11%)

Most experts agree, finding a SEO strategy that works for you can be hard work worth keeping close to the vest. In this case, sharing isn’t always caring for your business. If you find a secret that works well for you, use it! And share with caution.

The above categories and percentages were calculated based on 193 public responses on Quora on 12/17/2016. 

“I’m new to all of this. What’s one thing I should know about S-E-O?” asked the businessman looking to build a web design that could help his business grow.

I flinched. An explosion nearly detonated in my head. This must be some kind of trick question. There’s so much to know! So much to be said! How could one ever possibly sum up the secret of the world wide web?

But I regained my calm. Took a deep breath. The last thing I wanted was to beat this to death. “Well—,” I began. “If I can only say one thing, it would be this: There are too many thoughts on SEO that are simply amiss!”

I went on to say that businesses want results fast. They think they are going to get results, but fall flat on their ass. They think they can flick on a switch. They think if they write some keywords then they will become filthy rich. Then, when nothing happens—yep, you guessed it—they complain and bitch.

The problem is that most people form their expectations on the potential of the channel. But few ever really achieve a SEO trophy that they can place high on their mantle. Sure, there are amazing stories and case studies. But the thing is: If you want SEO success, you need patience and experience to be your best buddies.

Think back to the real ‘Horton Hears a Who’. Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

I wrote the above short poem to try and make light of a serious issue in the industry. Businesses need to rethink search engine optimization (SEO) and tame their expectations. SEO is a long-term initiative and needs to be grounded by long-term goals. Trying to achieve all the benefits of SEO overnight is impossible. My goal, and my team’s goal at Orpical Group, is to help business owners understand that SEO isn’t a task. SEO is a habit. With good practice and time people will search for your brand, product and services and one day see “Who” you are. The question remains: Are you willing to make the calculated investment?

Have other questions about search engine optimization, or your website? Want to hear me channel my inner Dr. Seuss and receive a free website analysis report? Call me at 856-448-5081 or email stefan@orpical.com.