Who Wants A Powerful Inbound Marketing Plan For Free?

This article was originally posted on Medium.

Do you want a simple Inbound Marketing plan?

Why not learn a perfect plan first before paying a dime for help?

In this post I’m going to pour out the same plan I’ve told countless clients while they were insisting on just an SEO campaign. I’m going to show you how simple it really is to craft a bullet proof Inbound Marketing plan that almost any business can do on almost any budget and how SEO is really just one part of the process.

I’ll follow this outline in this order which is important if you want it to work correctly:

  • Brand Messaging
  • Developing Personas
  • Analysis, Research & Goal Setting
  • Getting Traffic
  • SEO & How It Fits
  • Content Marketing
  • Social Networking

Brand Messaging

It all starts with your offering.

Good branding should be done at the offering level. Let’s take your offering and wrap it in a message that people can understand.

The key to good brand messaging is to keep it simple, stupid.

There are 2 rules to branding;
Be clear, not clever.
Be different, not better.

You’ll never be the best so get off of it. And what the hell am I buying from you? Honestly. Just tell me. Don’t beat around the bush or try to woo me.

Be ruthlessly clear and different in every way you can. No one should be able to out you, you. How about you buy this weight loss pill, it’s the best and it’s shaped like a diamond! No go? Ok, how about you buy this weight loss pill, it’s the only one that normalizes irregular hormones so you’ll burn fat safely. I just made that up. Don’t buy weight loss pills, silly.

To make an elephant statue from a single block of marble you simply cut away what isn’t the elephant. So in your branding, cut away what doesn’t matter and leave only what truly does.

Developing Personas

Now you need personas.

So what is a persona and how does it work?

A persona is a marketing concept for a grouping of people in your target audience that share the same marketing characteristics. For instance, a large portion of your audience may be C level executives at large corporations that have a pain point of financial trust, or middle managers at ad agencies that need creative help.

You need someone you’re pretending to tell your story to. Behind that persona is real people who we’ll be talking directly to later.

When you’re defining your personas I recommend naming them something memorable. For example; Jaded Jessica the ad agency middle manager who’s jaded because they don’t have a creative solution to offer their clients. Or Timid Tim, the CEO of a major corporation who needs a financial planner he can fully trust.

Grab this worksheet and fill it out for each different persona you might sell to. This is what it looks like:

Personas can be as simple or as complex as your offering and the pain points it addresses.

How many personas should you have?

I recommend no less than 3 personas.

If you have 3, then those are your 3 customers. That’s it. Think about them when you do anything for your business. How will it help them specifically?

Why 3? It’s a good number.

For real though, if you just have two you’ll notice through an 80/20 analysis that one means more than the other and you’ll end up focusing on one persona.

What happens if that persona no longer needs what you have?

If you’ve diversified your personas then you’ll always have someone who can use what you have.

Analysis, Research & Goal Setting

Let’s setup analytics on your site.

Which analytics platform should you use?

You’ve got optionsTons of them.

Just make sure it can track goals and specific events. We’ll call these conversions throughout the site.

Let’s say that again: Conversions

Set them up on your site so you can track progress on what works and what doesn’t. I recommend monitoring contact form submissions, purchase links, download links, anything of value. These are all conversions.

Landing Pages
Setup some landing pages on your site, at least one for each persona. Whether you’re using WordPress, SquareSpace, or some other CMS, you should be able to create landing pages on your site. If not, or if you just don’t want the technical hassle, do your self a favor and get an Unbounceaccount. You can create lot’s of amazing landing pages and get super nerdy with ‘em.

Unbounce is hands-down my favorite tool for building landing pages regardless of what site platform you’re on.

Unbounce is hands-down my favorite tool for building landing pages regardless of what site platform you’re on.

Once you’ve created said landing pages you need to have contact forms on them and set conversion metrics (e.g. goals) in your analytics platform. The contact form not only offers opportunities for your sales pipeline, but it should also subscribe new users to a lead nurturing program. Lead nurturing is just pedantic jargon for an email marketing campaign. Setup a MailChimpaccount and nag up to 2,000 people monthly with your emails for free,dude.

If you need a more involved platform there are marketing automation tools such as HubSpotMarketoPardotEloqua and I’m sure many more to follow. Most of these don’t just do email, but landing pages, conversion forms, CTAs, analytics, blogs, CMSs, the whole nine yards.

I recommend taking your product or service offering and writing your best sales pitch into a simple ebook or PDF document that’ll sit behind your contact form. When I say sales pitch I really just mean if you could only get one customer and you had to give them everything in order to get that one sale, give it to them. Don’t schmooze them with silly gimmicks. I mean sell to them like you sell to a bored teenager in today’s Netflix, DVR, Twitter, ad-less, 1 second load-time impatiensphere.

Your PDF should speak to the persona by answering each one of their major pain points, or contentions about your product/service/industry.

Finally, it should offer a gentle nudge in the right direction, a CTA if you will. (CTA = Call To Action)

Buy Some Traffic

Now that we’ve got our personas targeted with landing pages and answers to their problems, let’s bring in some people who fit those personas.

Though I’ve been “doing” SEO over 8 years, I highly recommend you start with an AdWords campaign. Even more so now that Google (not provided) is among us.

Trust me, you don’t want to invest 6-9 months and tens of thousands of dollars in genius content creation and social network back-and-forth, link building efforts, etc. only to find out the keywords you targeted don’t convert.

It’s better to spend a couple thousand dollars and a month or so to find outspecifically which keywords will bring you sales. You should run ads to get enough clicks so that you close a few conversions from your site. Then track down the source of those conversions in your analytics and focus all efforts on those few keywords, ad-copy variations, etc.

Go back to your landing page solution and run some A/B tests on design variations. If you’re not using something sweet like HubSpot or Unbounce then sign up for Optimizely and generate multiple versions of your landing pages without knowing jack about code.

Optimizely offers idiot proof CRO and A/B testing.

Optimizely offers idiot proof CRO and A/B testing.

Optimize your ad campaigns by bringing them from either broad to phrase, or phrase to exact match if you’re getting plenty of traffic, or the other way around if you’re not getting enough traffic. Also, run a negative keywords query report to find any BS keywords you need to exclude from showing your ad. This’ll drop your average CPC. There are lot’s of other things you can do to optimize your AdWords campaigns as well including:

Lowering your ad position to decrease CPC. This one is often overlooked as people tend to think you should be #1 but it can cost 10x more to be there for not 10x more clicks.
Launch a remarketing campaign and install the script on your site to bring back visitors who may have forgotten about you.
Optimize your landing pages from an SEO perspective in order to increase your Quality Score and lower CPC. We’ll get into a little more SEO stuff shortly. ;)

Now you’re probably wondering “Jeremiah, you just recommended buying ads, but I thought this article was about Inbound Marketing!” Well spank you for asking helpy helperton! The type of ads I’m recommending are only on search engines and only after people have searched for keywords that are directly relevant to your business. This means they’re ultimately Inbound.

SEO — How It Fits

There’s really no voodoo to SEO anymore.

Back in the day I’d tweak a few title tags and watch my clients roll in cash.

Not really, but it used to be a lot easier than it is now. Now you have to be totally legitimate if you want to win. There’s no quick and easy way, but there are shortcuts. I’ll get into some of those in a bit.

SEO nowadays is pretty much made up of three major buckets, each representing a different weight to the search engines:

Onsite Technical = ~25% of the search algorithms but if your site isn’t crawlable or accessible to the engines then it should be 100% of your concern. No amount of further optimization or marketing will save you from your site being completely inaccessible to the engines. Stroll over toWooRank and give your site a quick once-over. They’ll list a few major technical issues on your site and a few ways to address them. This should never be a replacement for a quality technical site audit from a company likemine. ;) But it’s a great place to check for free and quickly.

Onsite Content & Usability =~25% of the search algorithms look at content for relevance meaning anything from text and blog articles to videos, images, ebooks, web apps, etc. We’ll dive into the world of content momentarily. The delivery of that content is increasingly important. Search engines can see how people use your website and determine whether or not your users are having a good experience. Engines will reward those sites with good usability with high rankings. Think Amazon or Wikipedia.

Offsite Everything Else =~50%+ of the remaining search algorithm and that + means it’s increasing. If you think about it, the first half of the equation; onsite technical, content and usability can all be easily controlled and manipulated. But building inbound links from relevant trusted domains and getting original followers to share and mention your brand on the various social networks is much harder to manipulate. That’s why it’s so important to the algorithms. The best part about this difficult element is that if you build the best content you can find, they will link and share it.

Invest In The Best Content You Can Find

When I say the best content you can find I’m putting an emphasis on “find”. In the end, we’re going to create good content that people on social networks will be happy to share, search engines will be happy to promote and your target personas will find.

People will “bubble up” whatever they’re interested in and they find valuable on social networks. That’s exactly what Google wants too. They want to know what we’re talking about and what we like.

Now that we know our target personas, what keywords those personas are using to drive sales due to our ad campaigns, we know our landing pages convert into leads, and our site is well optimized for search, it’s time to start building some content to bring traffic in from organic and social sources.

Where should you start building quality content?

I recommend looking at your sales process first. What are some of the questions everyone seems to ask about your offering or industry? Chances are there are more people that have those same questions. You should answer them with a blog article.

Conversion Rate Experts helped SEOmoz jack up their revenue by breaking down Rand Fishkin’s bulletproof sales process into one long landing page.

Conversion Rate Experts helped SEOmoz jack up their revenue by breaking down Rand Fishkin’s bulletproof sales process into one long landing page.

Then when someone asks that question online in the form of a search query (which more people are doing now than ever before proven byHummingbird’s Conversational Search) odds are they’ll find your post.

There are so many opportunities to write about your offering. For starters, get a stranger who truly doesn’t care about your business to critique it for you. Write down everything that comes to mind, you’ll find a list of blog articles.

There’s definitely a science to writing effective headlines and you should start your blog articles there. Why? They make a promise the article needs to keep. You’ll find it easier to stay on track with a good headline leading you, and readers will be more likely to look for that promise to be fulfilled by reading your post.

Write a long list of headlines and consider each of those a new blog article. Then come up with ways to argue against some of the headlines you’ve started, or maybe dive deeper into specific elements of each article with a new article.

The goal here is to completely cover every area of your business with information unique to you and answering the problems of your personas.

Part of this content process can actually take us back to our PDF we created before. Maybe by now we have all kinds of interesting info we can add to it. Beef that page count up and pitch it on your landing pages and ads as “37 Pages On Home Energy Savings” for example.

One of my favorite ideas is after you feel your blog has exhausted a topic, take all the articles on that topic and reformat them into a big sexy PDF document. Now pitch this to your email subscribers with a new landing page built specifically for this document and topic.

Hang Out With People On Social Networks

Don’t go try to lock down every damn social network, spreading yourself thin. Odds are your target users are only in a couple places. If it’s Twitter, then go to Twitter. If it’s LinkedIn, go to LinkedIn. You may not know for sure at first, try them all until you do know. But at some point, you’ll realize there’s one or maybe two social networks that really bring you the most quality traffic, sales, influence, content shares, etc. Maybe you get content shares on Twitter, but sales on FaceBook. Tweak your strategy to reflect this reality.

Ultimately, the best way to choose the one or two social networks you really need to be on is to find out which ones you like the most. It’s not rocket surgery.

If you like Twitter more than any other network odds are you’ll participate on Twitter more than any other network. If you really don’t care then survey some people that fit your personas and ask them what social networks they look at most for business related stuff. Keep in mind, just because I use FaceBook 32 times a day doesn’t mean I want to see SEO solutions there. I keep it personal on FaceBook and Twitter is more business for me.

Now that you’ve found your target network(s), what’s next?

I can’t tell you how many clients I work with that don’t have their Twitter bio filled out, or they’re using the default background and theme colors. Twitter literally gives you an inbound link in your bio, just type in your URL and it links it. It may not be an SEO friendly direct link, but it makes it easier for your followers to jump over to your site.

Fill out your Twitter bios! You won’t believe how many people don’t realize it can link to any site you want, just type in the URL!

Fill out your Twitter bios! You won’t believe how many people don’t realize it can link to any site you want, just type in the URL!

Jab Jab Jab

Take it from Vaynerchuk; jab jab jab right hook.

A right hook in boxing is often the finishing move, but it’s made up of a series of well placed and timed jabs beforehand. If you just go in throwing right hooks you leave yourself open for a simple takedown from your opponent. The same is true in social networks. If you stumble in like a cocain charged sales junky hocking your shit at everyone they’ll make you look so stupid your brand will be tarnished and you’ll lose followers.

Say fun human stuff, be a normal person, link to something silly then share something important that you want to promote. Chit chat chit and then ask for help.

I totally recommend Gary Vee’s new book Jab Jab Jab Right Hook

I totally recommend Gary Vee’s new book
Jab Jab Jab Right Hook

Think about it like this; you walk into a Starbucks and without making eye contact with your barista or even saying “hi” you just place your order. Sure you’ll probably get your order and be happy with it (if you even know what happiness is you antisocial dick.)

But what if instead you looked right at her and said “Hey there! How’s your day going so far?”, you’ll get a response and after 10 seconds of totally innocent banter you ask “What do you recommend?”. Sure you may know what you want to order already, but take a step outside your little comfort zone and find you might enjoy something different. The best part is the next time you come to this place, she’ll probably remember you.

That’s how social networks operate. They give you a chance to get outside your comfort zone, talk to real humans like a real human, learn something, share something, and grow with your community.

If a blog is a place for a business to let it’s proverbial hair down, then a social network is a porch for you to sit on with a beer and holler at your neighbors that stroll by.

Right Hook

Now your strategy can’t be all jabs. At some point you’re going to have to land a right hook.

Jabs are short, simple and repetitive, light impact. Right hooks are long, fully invested and should be well thought out and crafted before executed.

This is where you start to push your own blog articles, videos, ebooks, guides, web apps, calculators, tools, landing pages, etc. You answer people’s questions in short form on social networks and back up your answers with links to long form answers on your blog.

One of my role models Tim Ferriss is very good at delivering strong right hooks when he needs them. He has his audience so enraptured by what he says that when he asks for something we chomp at the bit to help him out.

Tim Ferriss delivering knock-out right hooks to a thriving audience.

Tim Ferriss delivering knock-out right hooks to a thriving audience.

For example; Tim will promote a book he truly likes and believes in on his own site where he gets a kickback of all sales. He’ll promote a startup that he’s invested in by recommending it to people who are looking to learn French for example.

An interesting thing to note here is that he’s helping himself by helping others more.

Once you deliver that right hook and give someone a link to one of your pieces of content or ask them to do something for you, switch back to jabs. Don’t bludgeon the shit out of your personas with right hook after right hook or they’ll delete you.

Every time you post a new blog article, carefully construct your right hook. Think about social proofs, psychological triggers, promises you can make with the least amount of words, etc.

Conclusion

Now you’ve gone through the entire process of building an Inbound Marketing campaign.

But wait…

Remember that landing page we created a while back? Well now it needs to be optimized a bit more to see if we can get more conversions from all this traffic we’re bringing in.

But once you’ve optimized your landing pages, you notice they don’t fully match your site anymore. Time for a quick UI redesign on your site.

But through the site redesign process a few technical issues have cropped up that need SEO attention.

While looking at your analytics for SEO indicators of performance you notice some interesting new search queries you haven’t seen before. This leads you to create some new content ideas!

Now you have more to share with your audience of followers who are all sliding down your funnel.

You’ll realize about Inbound Marketing that it’s a cycle that needs attention on an ongoing basis, and you’ve built the foundation. Just rinse and repeat.

Enjoy!

The Secret Weapon To Google's Not Provided

What can you do about that big gaping hole of missing information known as (not provided) in Google Analytics?

We don't have access to organic keyword data from Google anymore and it's driving some people mad. The funny thing is there's one secret weapon for dealing with it and it's been here for years.

Google AdWords

Ok so it's not that much of a secret.

But seriously, Google AdWords still reports all keyword data to your analytics platforms, conversions and all.

For years we've recommended starting an SEO campaign with a research phase whereby we discover what target keywords we'll be aiming for over the course of the campaign.

In this phase we:

  • build a nice big list of keywords
  • sort them
  • and trim them down to the top keywords that have the most search volume
  • the lowest competition in paid search
  • all while being as relevant to our client's offering as possible

This is of course the cheapest and fastest way to perform keyword research. For our lower budget clients we went straight from this phase into setting up reports, writing Titles & META Tags, performing technical optimizations on the site and the litany of other SEO related tasks.

But for those clients who have the budget and are more keen to follow our undeniable Keep It Simple Stupid philosophy, there's a better way.

We take our target keyword findings one step further and start a small Google AdWords campaign, typically with minimum $1k/mo in ad-spend budget outside of our fee for such a campaign.

In this campaign we:

  • build out a variety of ads for each target keyword and iteration of keyword phrases
  • then we load in a pretty boilerplate list of negative keywords
  • set our match types appropriately for each keyword
  • install conversion tracking code wherever we want to monitor goals
  • launch the campaign

Shortly after launching the campaign we have a great idea of which keywords are driving conversions. Out of our initial list of 25 keywords, only 20 are driving impressions, maybe 10 are driving clicks with 5 or so driving the most clicks, and 2 keywords driving the most conversions.

Think about the granularity of keyword data we just obtained for a small investment in AdWords. Not only that but we know specifically which keywords will convert now. This is a sort of living lab for keyword research and performing content insights into searcher intent.

Also, it's not so bad that we got a few conversions for our client as well.

The next step is to take what we've learned from our keyword data and tweak our landing pages that ads are sending traffic to.

The best way to do this is use the target keywords in the page titles, headings and page copy for our landing pages. It's also not a bad idea to put your new target keywords for each page in the ALT attributes for images and filenames.

Optimizing your landing pages like this will increase your quality score in AdWords meaning; Google can see that your landing pages are more relevant to the keywords that are driving clicks through ads and will sequentially lower your cost per click (CPC) and increase the total amount of clicks you get due to a jump in page position for your ad as well as more clicks for the same budget.

This is the way to win at Google AdWords, but there's more to it. Now that you know which keywords convert, build whole content marketing plans around every imaginable permutation of those keywords.

Before you know it you won't need organic keyword data because you're fairly certain that through your Google AdWords data, rankings and top content reports in Google Analytics, your SEO efforts are working just fine.

Of course, you could always take it a step further and dig into various other keyword indicators to make up for that lost data.

No matter what happens, the way to truly win in Google is either create the next Wikipedia or Amazon (unlikely bro) or just play by Google's rules (much easier).

Simple Guide To Google's Hummingbird Algorithm

In this post I'm going to explain what Hummingbird is, how it works, and what you can do to help your site and content perform well in this completely new overhauled search engine brought to you by the 400lb. gorilla.

Back Story

When Google first announced Hummingbird, their first new search algorithm since Caffeine in 2009, it came as a shock to most of the marketing world. Despite that, Google dropped another bomb, announcing that the algorithm had actually been rolled out a month earlier, on August 30. Despite the shock, and the near panic that ensued, Hummingbird is quite similar to Caffeine, with a few minor changes designed to provide better quality real time results. Many of the search elements are the same, but the algorithm puts more focus on quality and helpful results, and offers more information previously only available via Google's Knowledge Graph. For businesses, that means quality is rewarded with better SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages), and as a result, more traffic.  

What is Hummingbird?

Google's Hummingbird algorithm is a search algorithm that relies on nearly 200 individual signals to rank pages in SERPS. Its focus is conversational search, which answers, converses with, and anticipates questions asked by users. Because Hummingbird's focus is on semantic 'conversational' phrases, it shifts the focus of keyword results towards slightly better quality results. Finally, it is also significantly more difficult to influence than Caffeine, making it easier for quality businesses to rank, and harder for spam and black hat websites to rank.  

Keywords & Search Terms

One of the most important changes that Google brought to search with Hummingbird is the shift in keyword importance. Where exact keywords and single important words were mainly used to rank websites and articles before, Google now uses semantic phrases, questions, and phrases of speech. Essentially, long tail keywords are now a good deal more important than they used to be.  

For example:

Panda: "Coffee Shop Baton Rouge"  

Hummingbird: "Where can I find good coffee in Baton Rouge?"

The result is a search system that features results based on questions, rather than keywords. You can also note from the screenshot that Google includes hyper localized results in the form of maps showing Google Plus Local Pages results, and also shows the business reviews in search, a markup that most definitely increases click-throughs for quality businesses.  

Because Google uses actual keywords, synonyms, and search phrases, it is important to integrate all of these into a keyword strategy. Google's Keyword Planner is an excellent resource for looking up and finding keyword recommendations based on single keywords.  

The following points are a basic keyword checklist for Hummingbird.  

·                     Research Synonyms and Use Them

·                     Use Long Tail Keywords and Semantic Phrases

·                     Aim For Low Density

·                     Quality First

While it is possible to utilize dozens of different synonyms and phrases, they should always remain semantic and should not affect the quality of the page in any way. One of the easiest ways to utilize search phrases is to integrate them into the page as headers or quotes, as though spoken or asked by the reader.  

Content

SEO has always been about content, but while content was 'King' in Caffeine, it is more like one of the leading members of a ruling body of parliament in Hummingbird. Content is still incredibly important, but quality and helpful information is now more important than length or a number of keywords. The most important goal is to make the content readable and informative for humans rather than search engines.  

Markups & Authorship

Markups are an incredibly important but often overlooked part of SEO. Anyone who wants to rank well in Hummingbird should pay attention to their markups, indexing, attributes, and other search engine entities. The idea of markups is to make it as easy as possible for Google to search and index. Obviously, the more easily Google indexes content, the better it comes up in search.  

Site Maps - Site Maps help Google to find and index individual pages. These are relatively easy to set up because there are multiple apps and websites dedicated to creating them.

MicroData - Pages can use specific Meta markups to tell search engines exactly what attributes their content is about. The process involves extra tags to help Google see what the page is about by including microdata markups like itemscope, itemprop, etc. Schema.org is one of the best free resources for finding individual markups based on the type and location of content. Some available markups include events, music information, and movie information.  

Authorship - Authorship is a markup that literally adds the author’s Google page to search results. It is valuable to businesses because it increases the perceived impact of the writer. Showing the authors name, face, and Google + follows in search improves the credibility and click-through rate of the author.

While Google did drop the number of 'authorship' results appearing in search as of the start of January 2014, it is still an excellent addition to any blog or content that would normally have an author. Check Google's guide to adding Authorship here.  

Reputation & Social

Social signals are another huge difference between Hummingbird and Caffeine. Some reports even suggest that positive shares and links from Facebook and Google Plus could affect SERPS as much as three times more than Page Rank (PR). While only Google knows the exact rate, it is still important to establish a positive online reputation via social sites like Google +, Facebook, and Twitter. Instagram, Tumblr, and other networks are also good for social reputation, but have less impact than the three main networks.  

Links

Links have long been a factor in increasing PageRank, but one of Google's recent updates to Hummingbird actually makes it more difficult to do so. Most links from guest blogs are no longer applicable towards the Page Rank of a website, which promotes higher quality backlinks and articles on blogs. However, backlinks from guest blogs are still useful for gaining traffic and creating natural links. Consider the following rules when posting guest blogs for SEO:  

·                     Use Authorship

·                     Focus on Relevant Blogs with Higher Traffic

·                     Use Meaningful Anchor Text In the Body of the Blog

Speed

Google loves quality results so make sure your website is as fast as possible. While you don't want to sacrifice features for speed, it is always better to have a faster website. However, a number of sites that are quite slow actually do rank, so this won't affect your search results at first, only the amount of time that each person spends on the page.  

Mobile Optimization

Google Hummingbird is all about mobile search, so if your website isn't responsive, then it has to be mobile optimized. Make sure that the site comes up quickly and looks good on tablets and phones, because experts suggest that at least 40% of search is coming from mobile devices.  

Takeaways

Google's Hummingbird algorithm focuses on quality content.  As a result, anyone who is producing content with humans in mind shouldn't have anything to worry about.  

·                     Uses Dialogue Based Natural Search Phrases

·                     Keywords & Their Synonyms Are Important  

·                     Natural Links from Meaningful Anchor Text  

·                     Use Meta Data, markups, And Rel- Markups to Make Search Easier

·                     Establish Social Authority through Sites & Authorship

·                     Create Content for Humans

Essentially, Google's Hummingbird is more beneficial than harmful to businesses, mainly because it focuses on quality, brings up localized results, and uses social signals to reward businesses for popularity with customers.

The Basics of Building a Better Subscriber Base

A subscriber list is more than just a vanity metric. It’s key to any online business’s success and the most direct connection to your audience. It’s the validation of your audience, your presence, and your available reach.

I want to teach you why you need to invest in a healthy subscriber list, what kind of subscriber lists there are, and how to quickly build a broad subscriber list to use for your business’s advantage.

It’s rather simple.

Prioritize the ROI

I’ve made an acronym to help ingrain this concept in your memory and to help you understand the benefits of a subscriber list. That acronym is “AARR” or “the pirate subscriber motto” which stands for Amplification, Authority, Reach and Retention.

Here’s what I mean:

Amplification - The process of hyping your newest content to ensure that it reaches its maximum audience and sharing potential.

Authority - The trust → leads → followers cycle. It’s a network effect. The leader is all alone until someone joins in. High numbers are directly proportional to trust, which gets rid of hesitation.

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Why do you think people like Orman Clark (highly acclaimed web designer) throws his Dribbble, Twitter, RSS and Email subscriber counts at the very top of his websites like Themezilla and PremiumPixels? It’s a massive trust indicator.

Reach - For every person following you there is an average of 200 following them. This means that if you have 1,000 subscribers and every one of them shares your content you could have a potential reach of 200,000 users, and that’s on the conservative end.

Retention - The act of keeping customers. A subscription list is a tried and true method of transforming one-time customers into repeat buyers. Encourage customers to opt-in, and keep the relationship alive.

Choose the Highest Impact Methods

Email - The runner of the pack. Email is the most accessible and most widespread subscription method there is. Businesses are cut-throat to create a strong email list and you should be too. Any large department store will always hound you for your email address. This is because they can send you heavily targeted outreach at a moment’s notice of a promotion. Thinks AE, Express, Macy’s etc.

RSS - Not as prevalent as it used to be but still used to a wide extent. Google recently cut off their Google Reader service, but that doesn’t mean this medium is dead. Not by a longshot. Companies like Feedly still take great advantage of RSS to promote blogs and content streams. Tim Ferriss has implemented this on his blog and has more subscribers than most startups have customers.

Social - Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Dribbble are all tools for building a social subscriber list. Having a strong social following is highly useful for a number of reasons far spread from just the “AARR” principles noted above. Think about how GoPro used their subscriber list to send out free products on a daily basis under the “Everything we make” sweepstakes. They were able to capitalize off of their audience to have constant a visitors stream to their site on a daily basis.

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Use These Tools to Get Up and Running Fast

Save time with the following tools and tactics:

Mailchimp is the first on my list. It’s easy, clean, user-friendly, and free up to 2,000 emails a month.

Mailchimp has many integrations with modern CMS’s like Wordpress. You can also link to a dedicated subscription landing page if you are throwing a link in a blog post or something of the sort.

Feedburner is a close second. It lacks customizability but its automation capabilities are robust. Google offers this easy service to create email subscriber lists for your blog or RSS subscriber lists simultaneously. Feedburner will let you see the reach of your subscribers and blog posts as you publish them (via email).

Hellobar is just a quick add-on to your website that can help generate more subscribers through targeted call-to-actions. It’s free for a small number of users and then $4.99 for a monthly subscription.

This easy to install javascript plugin helped Tim Ferriss sell more books of his New York Times Bestsellers “The 4-Hour Workweek”, “The 4-Hour Body” and “The 4-Hour Chef” using call to actions placed at the header of his blog.

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Using proper call-to-actions is always an efficient way of building out your list. Placing subscribe buttons in prominent places like Moz does on their blogs helps increase your subscriber base and lets people know where your business is at around the web.

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Final Thoughts: Ideas to Try

Put your new knowledge to use. Here’s how you can make the most out of your list:

  • To amplify visibility for new content production

  • To use in outreach campaigns for content promotion

  • To promote consistently updated newsletters for thought leadership in your industry

  • To promote new services, products, or company announcements.

Last but not least, remember to focus on the human side of the relationship. Remember that you’re talking to a customer on the other side of the computer screen.


Usability Impact On Search Engine Rankings

There are a limited number of variables that search engines can take into account directly, including keywords, links, and site structure. However, through linking patterns, user engagement metrics and machine learning, the engines make a considerable number of intuitions about a given site. Usability and user experience are "second order" influences on search engine ranking success. They provide an indirect, but measurable benefit to a site's external popularity, which the engines can then interpret as a signal of higher quality. This is often called the "no one likes to link to a crummy site" phenomenon.

Engagement Metrics

When a search engine delivers a page of results to you, they can measure their success by observing how you engage with those results. If you hit the first link, then immediately hit the "back" button to try the second link, this indicates that you were not satisfied with the first result. Since the beginning, search engines have sought the "long click" - where users click a result without immediately returning to the search page to try again. Taken in aggregate over millions and millions of queries a day, the engines build up a good pool of data to judge the quality of their results.

Machine Learning

In 2011 Google introduced the Panda Update to its ranking algorithm, significantly changing the way it judged websites for quality. Google started by using human evaluators to manually rate thousands of sites, searching for "low quality" content. Google then incorporated machine learning to mimic the human evaluators. Once its computers could accurately predict what the humans would judge as a low quality site, the algorithm was introduced across millions of sites spanning the Internet. The end result was a seismic shift which rearranged over 20% of all of Google's search results. This caused a dramatic drop in rankings for sites that have performed well in search for years simply because they had poor usability in their site design.

Linking Patterns

The engines discovered early on that the link structure of the web could serve as a proxy for votes and popularity - higher quality sites and information gained more links than their less useful, lower quality peers. Today, link analysis algorithms have advanced considerably, but these principles still hold true.

We expect the usability elements of websites to continue to grow as an important ranking factor in search engines as the web advances into a more user friendly medium.

Key Takeaways

  • Usability is a new and growing factor in search engine ranking algorithms
  • Improving usability on a website has a twofold effect; an increase in search engine traffic due to higher rankings, and an increase in conversions on the website due to improved usability
  • Google monitors user activity on your site after they click through from search
  • Sites with better usability tend to acquire more inbound links