Get Ready to Kick Off 2016 With These Marketing Tips

While there may still be two months until the new year, it’s never too early to start thinking about your next year’s marketing strategy. Resources and budgets need to be allocated with plenty of time to plan ahead, especially at smaller companies. In fact, thinking about your strategy now and contacting Virtual Focused Marketing can save you a lot of headaches down the road — and keep you one step ahead of your competition.

But where do you start? What 2016 trends do you need to account for when you start planning for next year? We’ve got you covered with a few research-backed tactics that every B2B company should be thinking about before 2015 comes to a close. Let’s take a look:

Put a measurement plan in place… for everything.

It’s difficult to measure your success if you don’t already have benchmarks in place. Even if you’re just kicking off your lead generation or content marketing efforts, it’s important to start somewhere.

For example, the 2016 B2B Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report from Content Marketing Institute found that only 30% of B2B marketers believe their organizations are effective at content marketing — down 8% from last year. However, of the organizations that do believe they are effective, 55% have recorded definitions of what success looks like for their marketing efforts.

Start by listing a few goals for each segment of your marketing efforts (email, lead generation, content, etc.). Then, think about useful ways to measure your progress, whether that’s looking at your month-over-month growth as a percentage or diving deeper into your pipeline metrics. Isaac Payne, Senior Marketing Analyst at Pardot, provides a good rundown of various ways you can measure your efforts in this expert interview. You can also check out this infographic for more information on metrics worth measuring, as well as metrics that should be avoided. Having these metrics on hand can also help you justify that budget request for next year.

Pay attention to your organic traffic.

Many marketers get so caught up in their lead generation and paid programs that their organic efforts fall by the wayside. Now that buyers are conducting so much of their research on their own time — and on their own terms — your organic traffic is more important than ever. Today’s B2B marketing landscape is seeing a drastic shift from “me” to “you,” meaning that buyers are looking for valuable information that’s personalized to their needs, not a generic sales pitch about your company.

Make personalization a priority in 2016. Position your company as a helpful resource to your buyers by using targeted content and personalizing the web experience, and your buyers will start coming to you all on their own.

Invest in video.

According to Cisco, video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic by 2017. While many marketers are reluctant to dive into video marketing for fear of running up their budgets (or running down their resources), videos can actually be produced with very little up-front investment in time or resources, and can greatly benefit your lead generation and thought leadership efforts. In fact, highly-polished and professional videos can be produced with nothing more than an iPhone, and you can construct your own “studio” just by taking a quick trip to Home Depot.

Start thinking today about how you can incorporate video into your content marketing strategy for next year. With two months to prepare, you can enter the new year with ideas in place, scripts at the ready, and equipment on deck.

Revive your database.

The end of the year is a great time to reevaluate the health of your database, whether you’re using a marketing automation tool, an email service provider, a CRM, or another system. There are a number of tools marketers can use to clean out old or duplicate leads — but another great option is to run a re-engagement campaign to extract any lingering value from your database.

You’ve already spent time and money acquiring all of the leads in your database. Before you bid your old or inactive leads adieu, try re-engaging with them using top-of-funnel resources like an infographic or fun blog post. The goal is to revive their interest in your product or service so that when 2016 rolls around, you hopefully have a pool of “new” leads to work with.

These are just a few tactics to get you thinking about your B2B marketing strategy for the new year. Pick and choose the ones that work best for your company, use them all, or check out a few additional ideas here. Good luck!



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The Click-Through Catch-22

The most effective methods for boosting click-through rates are also the most challenging to implement.

Email marketing is kind of a big deal.

Marketers can leverage the channel to engage with customers in nearly every part of the customer lifecycle. Consider the following data from Ascend2 and Dun & Bradstreet NetProspex’s report “Email Marketing Trends—B2B Benchmarks for 2015”: Sixty percent of the 195 B2B business, marketing, and sales professionals surveyed use email to boost engagement; other main objectives include increasing lead generation (57%), improving acquisition and retention (43%), and enhancing lead nurturing (42%). And respondents seem confident in their ability to meet these objectives. In fact, 91% consider their email marketing somewhat or very successful at achieving company goals.

“Probably the primary reason why [email has] been so effective in a variety of areas like engagement is because most marketers are following best practices [of] opt-in email marketing—so people want to engage with them,” says Todd Lebo, partner and CMO of demand generation solution provider Ascend2. 

Of course, there are various ways to measure success. For most respondents, the key metric is the click-through rate. Indeed, 73% of professionals consider the click-through rate the most useful metric when measuring email marketing performance. Conversion rate came in a close second at 71%; open rate and email ROI—the next top contenders—significantly trailed behind at 42% and 40%, respectively.

Conversion rate and ROI are still important to measure, Lebo notes, but unlike click-through rates, they can’t always be clearly tracked. “Every email should have an objective of having some sort of action that a click-through rate can measure,” he says.

Although the click-through rate is the favored metric, it’s also one of email marketing’s greatest hurdles. In fact, more than half of respondents (53%) cite low click-through rates as the biggest barrier to email marketing success, followed by lack of effective strategy (42%), lack of quality content (33%), and lack of internal resources (32%). And while 41% of professionals say their click-through rates are increasing, more than one quarter (27%) claim that their click-through rates are dropping; nearly one third (32%) of respondents say their rates aren’t changing at all.

“It’s hard to get people’s attention,” Lebo says. “There’s a lot of noise now.”

How can marketers fight stagnant and falling rates and get consumers’ attention? According to the report, including a meaningful call-to-action offer is the most effective way to increase click-through rates for 65% of professionals. Respondents also cite list segmentation for targeting (51%), message personalization (44%), and testing and observing (33%) as other impactful methods. As Lebo puts it, the secret to a successful email strategy is ensuring that it’s customer focused.

“When you’re sending out an email, for example, it should be more about providing value for readers than trying to pitch yourself,” Lebo says. “Obviously, all marketing is about obtaining a sale, but you first have to build that loyalty by having high quality content…It’s the first step of getting a sale.”

Then again, the most effective tactics can often be the most challenging to implement. “Proving that you’re providing value and truly building loyalty with your audience is a challenge,” Lebo notes.

And the numbers agree: 43% of respondents say segmenting lists for targeting is the most difficult method to execute to boost click-through rates, and one third say the same for including meaningful call-to-action offers (33%) and testing and optimizing (34%).

So, what’s a marketer to do? Lebo recommends focusing more on list quality and less on list quantity. “The size of your list really is an irrelevant metric,” he says. “It’s more about the quality of your list [and] how engaged that audience is to your brand. As you follow that path to click-through rates, you can have a smaller list that’s much more targeted and much more engaged with you and that will be a much higher value. As you start looking at your click-through rate, you’re going to have more success.”

He also advises marketers to be patient with their subscribers and to see where they are in their customer journeys.

“If you’re introducing somebody to your brand and you’re jumping out right away with offers to your products before they decided that they need the product [or] that they trust you as a provider, then you’re not going to be as successful,” he says. “Having the patience to build at a program, to look at your marketing funnel, and [to] provide emails and content that address the specific levels of the funnel is probably one of the most critical elements that marketers need to address.”


Shorter Subject Lines Up Engagement

Email Marketers have 11 more days to take advantage of the month with the highest click-through rates

The marketing platform Retention Science analyzed over 1 billion emails sent in the past two years to pinpoint what types of emails incite higher engagement rates. The company claims that the emails were representative of a cross-section of retailers and brands, and were normalized to account for various sample sizes.

The Holidays Are Key for Email Marketers

Email marketers preparing for the holidays should take note that click rates are highest in October (30%) and November (27%), according to Retention Science. Unsubscribe rates are also at their lowest in November (4%) and December (5%).

Retention Science states that this is likely because consumers are on the lookout for deals during the holiday season. Indeed, emails with percent-off deals are 38% more likely to be clicked.

Consumers are most likely to unsubscribe from emails in August (28%).

Subject Lines Should Be 5 To 10 Words

Shorter subject lines directly correlate to an increase in open rates, according to the report.

Email subject lines that range from six to 10 words have the highest open rates (21%) overall, while subject lines with five words or less followed closely behind (16%).

Retention Science states that open rates dramatically fall when subject lines are over 10 words. Subject lines ranging from 11-15 words have an open rate of 14%, while subject lines ranging from 16-20 words have open rates of 12%. Emails with subjects of 20 or more words had the lowest open rate overall (8%).

This is mostly likely tied to mobile, as more than half of all emails are now read on a mobile device. Many email providers, such as Gmail and Outlook, even limit mobile subject lines to a certain number of characters.  

Marketers should condense longer subject lines to ensure that their wording is not cut off when being read on a mobile device or application.

Email Etiquette Matters

Punctuation also affects email open rates and increases open rates by 9%, according to Retention Science. The study also reported that subject lines with question marks are 44% more likely to be opened than emails with exclamation points.

78% of consumers say email etiquette has an impact on their decision to engage, according to a recent study by Fractl and BuzzStream.

FoxType Labs recently released an online etiquette tool for email marketers interested in checking the tone of their emails.

The new tool analyzes sentence tone and structure to grade emails on a scale of 1 (impolite) to 100 (polite). The company aims to help writers correspond in friendlier tones and offers a free Gmail plugin for users.

Via:Shorter Subject Lines Up Engagement

5 Great Tips on SEO Friendly Web Design

As a small business owner getting ready to build your first website or redesign your existing one, you might wonder what you should be considering in terms of making your web design search engine friendly.

There are lots of things to take into account, but here are the five key things that you should know about SEO friendly web design and how it can benefit your visitors, too!

1. It Needs to be Responsive

For small businesses, especially local ones, having great rankings in mobile search is incredibly important. Why? For starters, 50% of consumers who perform a local search on mobile devices visit a store within a day of their search. What’s even more exciting is that 78% of mobile searches for local business lead to offline purchases.

If you want to do well in mobile search results, you will want to have a mobile-friendly design. Responsive design is the easiest to aim for because it offers a similar user experience to desktop visitors, tablet visitors, and smart phone visitors.

responsive design is the easiest solution for mobile-friendly web design

With responsive design, you don’t have to create multiple pages for different screen sizes. Instead, you create your website pages as you would normally, and the responsive theme or template will make sure it reshapes itself to fit on any screen size.

As far as platform goes, you can choose to run your website with static HTML template files with responsive design or content management systems with responsive themes. WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems that allows you to create a static website, blog, e-commerce store, forum, or anything else you want to run.

WordPress has also been widely respected as the best platform for SEO, as noted by Google’s former representative Matt Cutts. Combined with a responsive theme and an SEO plugin like WordPress SEO by Yoast (which SEJ uses), it is a surefire winner for search.

2. The Important Parts Need to be in the Text

While search engines are able to crawl more types of media, text has always been the best option for search optimization. This is why everyone is talking about content marketing – you need written content for every page of your website.

Your goal should be to include text on every page of your website. Even a small amount of text, such as a 150-word product description, is better than none. If you post videos or audio, include a text-based transcription on the same page.

Also, don’t forget the text needed for each page’s SEO title (50 – 60 characters) and meta description (150 – 160 characters). Both of these elements should be unique and should include main keyword phrases the page is to be optimized for.

A common mistake many local businesses make on their website is including important information in images rather than text. Google Webmaster Guidelines specifically states to “Try to use text instead of images to display important names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn’t recognize text contained in images.”

This tip is especially important for local businesses that put their address and phone number in header or footer images. Either take them out of the images or include a text version of them elsewhere on your website. In addition to being beneficial for search crawlers, it is helpful to visitors on mobile who want to click-through and call or copy and paste your address for directions.

And last, but not least, get some great text in your URLs. Make sure your website is set to show versus This helps boost the keyword optimization for your page and helps visitors know what content is going to be on the page when they see the link without additional reference.

3. You Must Optimize Your Images

When you do use images, you can optimize them with text for better search visibility. This not only allows you to further optimize your product page for a specific keyword phrase, but it gives your photo the chance to appear in Google image search results.

There are a few ways to optimize your images with text. First, you can rename your image’s filename to include specific keywords. For example, instead of uploading a picture on an air conditioning repair service page as IMAGE0001.jpg, change it to phoenix-air-conditioning-repair-services.jpg. This puts your page’s main keywords in the filename of the image.

Next, use all of the attributes HTML has to offer for inserting an image on the page. Continuing with the same example, you would have the following.

HTML attributes fro inserting images

In the above HTML code, you have alt text, which will be shown if the image cannot be loaded on the page or if the visitor is using a screen reader. The title text will be shown when someone hovers over the image.

Optionally, create a caption directly beneath your image that explains what it is. This should be one short phrase or sentence that shows how the image is relevant to the page, such as Bob’s AC & Heating offers affordable air conditioning repair services in Phoenix and surrounding areas.

4. You Need a Clear, Text-Based Navigation Structure

Another rule straight from Google Webmaster Guidelines is to ” Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.”

Think of your website’s organization and plan your link structure accordingly. Depending on the number of pages your website has, this could be as simple as creating a main navigation bar linking to the main five pages on your website. Or it could be as complicated as coming up with categories, subcategories, and the pages within each.

clear navigation structure

For user experience purposes, you should not go more than three levels deep with your links. Take Amazon, for instance. You already see top products when you click into a main category page, with the option to further limit the results by subcategories.

In other words, don’t be the website that makes visitors go from the home page to a category page, then a subcategory, and then another subcategory before getting to what they want.

In addition to clear navigation for your users, you should create simple text links in the footer of your website for the main pages on your website. This ensures that search crawlers (and visitors) can’t miss them.

text links in the footer of a website

5. Don’t Forget to Redirect

If you are redesigning a new version of your website, make sure you don’t lose any of your old pages. For example, you might have a page on your old website with the URL, and the new page ended up with the URL of

Once you delete the old page, people who visit that page will receive a 404 error, telling them the page no longer exists. If the old page ranked well in search for a keyword, and search crawlers find the page no longer exists, the old page will ultimately be removed from search results. Hence, any referral or organic search traffic you were receiving to that page will be lost, unless you redirect the old page to the new one.

Use 301 redirects to tell search engines that the old page URL ( is now the new page URL ( This will ensure you keep the traffic and SEO value for your page. Any links to your old pages will count towards your new pages when you use 301 redirects, which will help you maintain the domain authority you have built through your SEO efforts.

If you use WordPress, you can use a simple plugin called Redirection to create these redirects within your WordPress dashboard. Otherwise, you may need to contact your web hosting company or web designer to have them create a .htaccess file on your web server. The format would look like this:

redirect 301 /your-page /your-new-page

To make sure you have redirected the pages you get traffic to from the old URL to the new one, set your website up on Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools). It will tell you in the Crawl Errors report which links on your website result in a Not Found (404) error. These should be redirected to new links with similar content.

The same thing goes for updating the permalinks on your website. If you started with ugly permalinks ( and you want to update to keyword optimized ones (, then you will need to redirect all of the old URLs to the new ones.

Another thing you can do as a backup for any links you may forget to redirect is a customized 404 page. WordPress users can use the 404page plugin to create a customized page that visitors to their website will go to if a page on their website is not found or redirected properly.

This page should apologize to visitors for the content they were looking for not being found, and then direct them to the top alternative pages on the website instead. For example, you could include links to your homepage, main product page, main service page, contact information page, about page, support page, or blog.

In Conclusion

As you can see, SEO friendly web design isn’t just about search engines. Making your website search engine friendly will also make it visitor friendly, from the design to the functionality. Be sure to look at the various ways you can update your small business website in order to make it friendly for everyone, search engines and visitors alike.


Image Credits

Featured Image: Rawpixel/
In-post Photo #1: MPFphotography/
In-post Photo #2: Bloomua/
All screenshots by Aleh Barysevich. Taken September 2015.

via SEO 101: 5 Things Small Business Owners Should Know About #SEO Friendly Web Design by @ab80


Why you need to create a content marketing strategy

The most popular digital marketing mantra in recent years has been “Content is King”, and while the mantra itself may be a touch overused, it is by no means inaccurate. Now more than ever it’s incredibly important to create a content marketing strategy and make it your your own unique content marketing strategy if you hope to drive traffic and boost brand awareness from online channels.

This article dives into a bit of background on the recent popularity of content marketing, why you need to develop a content marketing strategy that is unique, and shows you where to find some of the newest strategies to set yourself apart from your competitors.

The History of Content Marketing

The early days of digital marketing are reminiscent of the Wild West: there weren’t many rules put in place, and those who took the biggest risks typically came away with the best results. But as the online channels matured, they realized that though many of the marketers were happy providing thin, uninformative content to their users, that content didn’t really provide the best experience for their users.

The networks needed to adapt. They needed to find a way to encourage all of the brands taking to their sites for advertising to spend time creating content that their audience would actually enjoy reading, and content that would eventually drive users back to their sites. They’ve done this by rewarding the marketers who take the time to come up with fantastic content and by penalizing those that think they can get away with churning out articles that don’t provide anything educational.

As this idea grew in popularity, marketers started to embrace the need to create quality content if they wanted to adapt in the online marketing world. Hence the idea of Content Marketing was born, and it has been increasing in popularity e

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 11.23.06 AM.png

ver since.

Why do you need to create a content marketing strategy and make it your own?

If you want to be favored by the various advertising channels gain visibility online, you’ll need to start creating your own great content. This is typically long-form, educational articles, photos or videos that provide value to your potential customers.

One of the clearest examples of a channel that favors great, long-form content is social media. If you want to get social media shares these days it’s incredibly important to spend a solid amount of time creating great materials. This report–generated by BuzzSumo–shows Adweek’s average social media shares by length of content.


Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 10.57.24 AM.png

You can see that their articles containing between 3000 and 10000 words outperform the rest of their content by a significant margin–providing evidence that the more well thought out articles perform better.

Another example of advertising channels advocating great content is SEO. Many people who know about SEO have heard about the Google Panda update. This was a major update to Google’s algorithm that penalized all sites producing weak, or thin content from appearing high in their search results. Google, in their constant quest to create enough informative content to answer all of the world’s questions, absolutely favors in-depth content.

How Can You Create Your Own Content Marketing Strategy?

Content marketing is no longer a big secret, and there is a good chance that your competition is already taking full advantage of it to scoop up your potential clients. So if you want to get some of the newest, most actionable strategies, check out Virtual Focused Marketing.


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Production Company : BBC Films, Participant Media, Krasnoff Foster Productions, Shoebox Films.
Language : English.
Runtime : 109 min.
Genre : Drama, History.

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We’re all under pressure to create compelling content that is good enough to attract links. But creating that of quality can be time consuming and expensive. Video interviews with recognized experts in your industry are a terrific and affordable way to create outstanding content with the potential to attract many links.

Getting experts to agree to an interview is not as difficult as it might seem. Also the technology required is quite simple:

  • Skype or Google Hangout 
  • A recording device 
  • Software with minimal editing functionality 

This is the model used by, whose founder, Andrew Warner, has published interviews with over 1,100 entrepreneurs. For this article, I interviewed Warner about his approach.

First, let’s look at the type of links that interviews can earn.

What Sort of Links Do Video Interviews Attract?

From an analysis of the links that point to interview websites, it’s possible to see a pattern in the types of links they attract. The links fall into five major categories. Here’s a brief description of each.

1. Links from the Experts Themselves

The experts that are the focus of interviews are probably reasonably proficient at self-promotion – and that can work to your advantage.

It’s highly probable that they regularly survey and keep track of everywhere they’ve been published on the Web. If you do even a half decent interview with them, they’ll want to link and share the interview with others.

2. Links from the Interviewee’s ‘Tribe’

Experts have their own large following or tribe. Members of that tribe write about and link to content regarding their heroes.

Seth Godin’s book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, describes this best when he says an expert “assembles a large and influential tribe of people who look to him for leadership.”

That means they’re interested in anything that is published about their “leader,” and will often rush to be the first to share the latest news. This could ultimately result in some very nice links for you.

3. Links from Journalists Writing About an Entrepreneur

Journalists have to work quickly under pressure, and they desperately want to include quotes from the people they’re writing about. However, it’s not always possible for a journalist to track down entrepreneurs at the right time, especially if they’re under deadline pressure. If unable to get direct quotes in time, often journalists will search to find previously published interviews given by the person of interest. They can refer to the interviews found online for more quotes.

Here’s an example from an article in Entrepreneur in which an interview with Steven Boal of is quoted. Notice that this includes a link to the original interview source:


4. Links from Resource Sites

Once you get some popular interviews in your portfolio, you start to appear as a valuable resource able to attract those who compile lists of industry resources. The secret to becoming a resource is to publish interviews consistently – but you don’t need a top notch expert every time. You can look into getting interviews with predicted up and coming stars that are currently hungry for the attention.

5. Links from Many Different Niche Sites

Links can come from surprising niches that are not particularly part of your market focus. Links are a statement of interest – someone links to you because they like what you offer. So if your interview attracts links from an unusual source, it may suggest a niche that you can further exploit in your link-building.

So expert interviews attract some great authority links, but what is the most effective process for production?   

How to Create Expert Interview Videos

1. Start with People You Know

Building up the courage to get your first interviews can be daunting. So the best thing to do is to start with people that you know already – even if just vaguely. You’ll be surprised at just how open many people will be to the idea.

2. Do Your Research and Prepare Well in Advance

Don’t ask the obvious questions. Spend time researching what your expert has written about or said in the past. Look for details that you can expand upon, and think of questions your audience would like you to ask.

3. Keep the Technology Simple

You don’t have to meet exacting production standards to start publishing engaging video interviews. The value is in the content, not the standards with which they are produced. Recorded Skype calls or Google Hangouts are entirely acceptable.

4. Don’t Edit Out Mistakes

This may seem counterintuitive. Surely you need to execute the best production job possible – right?

This is an incorrect assumption. Editing to omit minor mistakes can soak up hours of work, and usually results in marginal improvement in the end product at best. 

Warner advises not to edit out small errors – or even worry about them. “Any interview you see on TV looks perfect, but behind the scenes it’s never like that. They just edit all the mistakes out, but leaving mistakes in gives an authentic feel.”

5. Concentrate on Quickly Getting Footage Live 

The sooner you get your interview live, the better.

You want your interview to remain fresh in the mind of your expert. Allowing an interview to remain idle may cause it to fade from your expert’s memory, and they may not give you the same level of promotion they otherwise would have done. 

6. Have a Process for Generating Interviewees

Experts are busy people regularly faced with navigating many demands in limited time. If they reject your proposition for an interview, it’s probably because they are busy at the time you ask. In many cases, getting an interview from an expert – especially at the start – comes down to luck: it’s just coincidence that they are available during the time you ask.

Therefore it would be wise to send multiple requests for possible interview times. One is simply not enough – you have to get into the habit of regularly sending out two, three, or even five requests each week. You will inevitably receive many refusals, but you’ll also get enough positive replies to keep you going.

Final Words

You can’t get better at conducting interviews merely by thinking about them – doing interviews is the best way to improve this skill set. The more you do, the more you will improve. This approach will allow your audience to develop a better appreciation for your content, which will be reflected in the frequency of their sharing and linking.  

Homepage image via Shutterstock


With all the recent shakeups in SERPs/local SEO it’s becoming increasingly important to have visibility into the performance of all your search channels, including local search. I’m a big believer in tracking clicks from a Google My Business page to a website and I’m constantly surprised that this is not something that all local SEO’s are doing. You can create a quick tracking URL using Google’s URL builder tool by following these steps:

1) Put the URL that is your GMB landing page URL in the Website URL field

2) Figure out a naming scheme
We usually use “gmb” for the campaign name and “local” for the source and “organic” for the medium (without the quotes). This allow us to more easily roll-up GMB traffic with all other organic traffic (which it essentially is).

3) Fill out the rest of the URL builder accordingly

4) Add your tracking URL to your GMB page(s)
When you are done filling out the campaign builder click “Generate URL” and you will be given a nifty tracking URL to use on your GMB page. It should look something like this:

Now you will be able to see traffic to your website from GMB showing up in your analytics package. If you use Google Analytics it will be in the campaign section, but you can also roll it up in reports and segments using local / organic as the source / medium. A couple of pro-tips before you run off and do this for all your GMB pages:

a) Make sure you canonicalize pages that are using tracking URLs
This will help prevent Google from indexing the tracking URL as separate from the core URL and will also show the pretty URL in a branded search e.g:

instead of

b) Set your URL parameters in GSC
Here we call this double bagging. Google takes canonical directives as suggestions and if you are doing this for thousands of pages it could theoretically pose a duplicate content problem. We don’t want this to happen to you so make sure you tell GOOG that these parameters are just tracking.


See How The Google 3 Pack Shake Up Works: 5 Ways to Adjust Local SEO

In early August, Google made some major changes to its “Local Pack” search results by opting to show three results instead of seven. Here are some ways to adjust strategy in order to stay on top of local search.

Google’s decision to show fewer listings seems to be motivated by mobile. “Three-pack” search results make desktop searches mirror those on mobile with more space for map results and reviews, but less contenders for top rankings. However, search results are hyper-localized, meaning that the three-pack changes pretty often.

Plus, there’s an opinion that the top 20 sites listed in the map view seems to be unaffected by the upgrade. This leaves some opportunity for businesses that don’t make the top three, though some opposite cases have also been reported.

So what should you do if you find yourself slipping out of view in light of the update? Contact Virtual Focused Marketing to get your footing back.

1. Don’t Panic

If you were No. 4 before the update, chances are your traffic hasn’t been affected much, according to Andrew Shotland, president at Local SEO Guide, Inc.

“While there certainly will be a loss in visibility and phone calls from those businesses that were in positions four through seven in the previous local packs, the truth is, those listings weren’t generating much activity anyhow. It is likely that this is one reason why Google removed them,” Shotland says. “In the near term, SEO consultants are going to have a challenge in explaining to the client who used to rank number four in a local pack why it’s no big deal that they are not on page one anymore, when last week they were touting how awesome it was to be ranked number four.”

2. Reviews Matter

Google has removed phone numbers and exact addresses from search results, but starred reviews remain. Therefore, businesses hoping to both crack the top three and see traffic from that ranking need to make sure they’ve got a high volume of good reviews, according to Shotland.

“Based on the current display, particularly the local finder, it does appear that ratings and reviews are much more prominent in the UI,” Shotland says. “So focusing on making sure your business has a high rating with a decent amount of reviews should be a priority.”

3. Specialize

To make sure you’re turning up in relevant local searches above your competitors, you should make search terms as specific as possible, according to Phil Rozek, owner of Local Visibility System.

“If you just got bumped off of page one because you haven’t made the top three, my first suggestion is to position yourself as more of a specialist, if possible,” Rozek says. “Dominate a niche, in other words. Try to rank for ’emergency dentist’ rather than ‘dentist’, or for ‘kitchen remodeling’ rather than ‘remodeling.”

4. Double Down on Link-Earning

Once you break into that hyper-specialized top three, Rozek says, you’re going to want to stay there. And increasing link-earning efforts is one of the best ways to stay on top of local search results.

“Even if you inhabit a smaller pond, you’ll still want to become a bigger fish. So to that end, I’d suggest doubling down on your link-earning efforts,” Rozek says. “Start with easy links, like joining at least one local Chamber of Commerce, joining an industry or professional organization, and maybe getting accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Of course, there’s an infinite number of other good links you can get, but those are a solid start and often overlooked.”

You can also monitor competitors’ link-building strategy using the SEO PowerSuite SEO Spyglass tool.

5. Make Sure Local Efforts Fit Into Overall Strategy

Changes like the three-pack updates are a given, and the best defense is a good offense, according to Mike Blumenthal, owner and local expert at Blumenthals. Local search efforts have to be integrated with a strong overall strategy to make an impact.

“I have long been a proponent of a mixed approach to local search that involves a strong website, a strong local presence, and strong locally-focused marketing campaign that keeps the brand prominence of your business high,” Blumenthal says. “If you follow this tactic consistently, you will have the best on-going position to deal with the constant change.”


Homepage image via Shutterstock

Strategic Marketing Services

2015.05.25 Rusty McMillen - What is Your On-Line Business Potential [Updated]

 “On the human chess board all moves are possible.”

Miriam Schiff

Your business potential is something that can be developed into a reality, especially in the online world through strategic marketing services.

Possibilities are always around you. With discernment, you can pick the opportunities that are right for your business. Currently, a couple of possibilities are evident for me and my e-commerce businesses—including business collaboration and creative visioning processes with team members. Indeed, when the creative and business sides of a marketing initiative are fused, remarkable results often ensue.

Have you identified all of the possibilities available to you and your e-commerce business? Are they appealing? Are you doing something about them? Select a possibility and imagine where it could take you.

Do you want something definite in your business to change? What work do you have to do to bring about this change? There is a space between possibility and reality. Fill that space. By identifying all the possibilities that exist around you, you can move forward. It is your choice when and how you pursue these possibilities if you want your business to grow

Strategic Marketing Services Include Ecommerce

Oftentimes, I hear small business owners say that they feel stuck in their e-commerce initiatives. There could be many reasons for this feeling of stagnation. A part of your e-commerce business might be overwhelming you: a cash flow issue perhaps, or a demanding client. You may not see any options available to you. If you feel stuck, identify the possibilities that exist for you. These possibilities can give you optimism, hope, and direction.

As possibilities open up, what will you do? You may have to remove obstacles. Perhaps support from an employee, a mentor, or a business coach will give you the inner-resolve to push forward.

Take some time to look back on where your business used to be, as well as the challenges of the past. What possibilities did you take advantage of, and which did you let go by? How did these decisions impact the state of your business? Were the consequences negative or positive, or did they have no impact? What can you learn from the possibilities you pursued and didn’t pursue? If you want your business to achieve its fullest potential, you need to learn from your past mistakes.

So, are you ready to take some action? If you are, do a “possibility review” right now. Pick one appealing possibility available to your business and resolve to pursue it.

Remember: there are clients out there that need the products and services that your business is offering. You can meet their needs. Don’t disappoint them

.via: marketing digest

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