Digital Marketing 101

Everything you ever wanted to know about PPC, SEO, and Content Marketing.
It’s not voodoo magic. Arm yourself with the information you need to hold your agency accountable for results.

Overview

What You'll Learn

Let’s face it: digital marketing is complex.

But your marketing partner shouldn’t use that as an excuse to keep you in the dark as to what they’re doing and how, exactly, it will push the needle for your business.

Your digital marketing partner needs to educate you so you can understand the importance of the three main elements of digital marketing:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Pay-Per-Click (PPC)

Content Marketing


We wrote a 6,500-word guide complete with all the information you need to make an informed decision when hiring a digital marketing agency.


In this guide, we’ll take away the curtain. We’ll teach you:

What SEO, content strategy and PPC are–

How to implement digital marketing correctly

How the elements of digital marketing work together to drive traffic, nurture leads and grow your business

 

And here’s the kicker:

You don’t even have to give us your information.

If you like what you read, get in touch. If you don’t, then don’t. (But we think you’ll learn a lot either way).

So go ahead. Give the guide a read—you have nothing to lose.

Chapter One

SEO: An Overview

An overview of search engine optimization: What it is, why it’s important and how to implement it

SEO isn’t magic—it’s a strategy-driven way to attract relevant traffic to your site and drive leads.

It’s a combination of on-site content and off-site signals that indicate to Google that your content is worth displaying to its users.

Simply put, on-site SEO + off-site SEO = results. You need both components to rank organically.

What you need to know about SEO: 3 elements of any successful SEO strategy

Here’s why SEO is important: when someone comes to Google (or Yahoo or Bing) with a question, Google wants to provide the right answer. And they want to do it quickly, so the searcher doesn’t stop using their search engine.

They use an ever-changing algorithm to find, save and provide the information they think most closely aligns with what a searcher wants.

Whether the searcher is ready to buy or simply learning more about your service, you want to be visible in results.

There are hundreds of factors that affect where your site falls in search engine results. But they can all be distilled into three main components: your link profile, your knowledge of your target audiences and the quality of your content.

  • Build a robust link profile

    Think about it: if you’re looking for the ”best lawyer in St. Louis,” you want to find the best. Not the worst one. Search engines look to external signals—links, mentions and reviews—on other sites to determine which sites have the most authority on a topic and the highest relevance to its users.

    The signal that Google takes the most seriously is your ”link profile”—the collection of links from other sites pointing back toward useful pages on your site.

    Google takes each inbound link as a ”vote” of confidence in the usefulness of your site’s content and the authority of your business.

    If a small, lesser known blogger links to you, you’ll get a couple votes. If a bigger, more well-known site links to you, you’ll get a whole bunch of votes.

    Google takes a holistic look at your votes to decide how reputable you are in your industry and whether to rank your pages.

  • Know your target audience really well … and talk like they do

    You need to know what your audience wants, and how your product addresses those needs.

    What are your customer’s pain points? How do they stand to benefit from your product and service?

    Once you know the answers to these questions—and have content addressing them on your site—you have your customers in the palm of your hand. But you still have to make sure they find your site.

    But how?

    We do extensive keyword research to find out how your target audience talks—and searches—about your product or service.

    For instance, you might think you’re selling ”fitness programs,” but if your target audience almost exclusively searches for ”weight loss videos,” you won’t appear in Google search results when a customer is looking for your product.

    We’ll direct you toward those phrases and keywords that will get you found by your target audience, and implement them into your content strategy.

  • Create really good, useful content
    Useful, well-written, user-focused content will always win out over sparse copy that screams, ”BUY, BUY, BUY!”

    Why?

    Well, first off, Google wants to solve problems and answer questions so that users continue to use their search engine.

    And second, the vast majority of your users aren’t ready to buy.

    Just give the people what they want: useful content that addresses the intent of the search.

    Let’s take an obvious example: Someone who searches ”buy marketing services NOW” probably has a different intent than someone who searches ”how does SEO work.”

    Maybe the searcher is ready to buy; maybe they aren’t. Be conscious of the intent behind the keywords you’re trying to rank for.

    You need to write content that addresses the needs of searchers at every stage of the buying cycle: those who don’t yet know they need your service, those who are researching your product and those who are ready to buy.

    Buyer behavior is changing. The digital age customer now goes through about 70-90 percent of the decision-making process before even calling you.

    Answer all of the questions a lead might have during the buyer’s journey, and you’ll see results in the form of rankings and new business leads.

Why the SEO company you choose matters

There are many ”tricks,” you can use to get around Google’s algorithm and appear in search results. These tricks are called ”black hat” SEO.

But Google isn’t dumb. They know when they’re being played.

And you should know: legally, Google does not have to display your site at all. Trying to trick Google can result in a penalty, meaning your site won’t be visible to searchers at all.

So if you’ve heard an SEO agency promise results that sound too good to be true, they probably are.

At Digital Strike, we don’t play games.

We’re just really good at optimizing sites and their online footprints. We want long-term results, not quick plays that get results, only to earn a penalty.

We have your best interests in mind, and will work tirelessly to make sure you see results in the form of targeted traffic to your site. Then, once they’re on the site, we’ll drive conversion.

Chapter Two

On-site SEO

On-site SEO strategy: How we can grow your bottom line by optimizing your site’s structure, content and metadata

Yes, there are different kinds of search engine optimization (SEO). We talked a bit in Chapter One about SEO in general just to give you a big-picture idea of what it is.

But SEO is a topic so vast and so complex that you could literally write a book on it. So we did.

The first three chapters of this guide are dedicated to the various types of organic search engine optimization: on-site and off-site SEO.

Let’s launch into this chapter’s topic: on-site SEO.

On-site SEO is the process of optimizing the metadata, coding and content of a page to quickly communicate to Google the purpose, intent and value of individual web pages.

Along with off-site optimization (covered in Chapter Three) on-site optimization will help drive traffic to your site and, more importantly, convert visitors into cold, hard leads.

Generally speaking, there are three overarching aspects of any optimized page:

  1. The structure (including both the navigation and the technical, back-end coding)
  2. Metadata
  3. Content

Clean page and site structure—how users navigate your page—improves the user experience and allows search engine bots to more quickly navigate and index your pages, which can improve both your rankings and conversion rates.

Metadata quickly communicates to Google what your site is about. By including targeted keywords in your title tagmeta description and image alt text, Google better understands the purpose of your page. And, if done right, meta descriptions and title tags also entice a searcher to click on your link.

Content—especially well-written content—is the crux of on-site SEO. Good content will always win over sparse, keyword-stuffed content. Pages, blogs and downloadables that are shareable, informational and worthwhile will achieve big SEO wins for your company.

Below, we’ve explained the guiding principles we’ve found most helpful over years of executing SEO strategies for companies big and small.

User experience

Does the user know what your site is about and how to use it?

We put this first because users always come before search engines.

In the old days of SEO, there were ways you could structure your site to ”trick” Google into thinking your site was better than it was.

No more.

Google’s—and all search engines, for that matter—goal is to provide its users with a good experience. Otherwise, they risk losing traffic to other, more helpful search engines.

That’s why search engine algorithms have changed over the years to account for usefulness to the user.

Google already tracks how its users engage with your content. If searchers continually click out of your site the moment they enter, Google will be less inclined serve up your site in search results and you’ll lose out on potential leads.

Search engine algorithms are getting smarter by the day, becoming better able to exactly match search intent with search results.

Looking to the future, your on-site SEO strategy will become a push for optimized user experience—clear, well-thought-out content and an intuitive site structure will win. Black-hat tricks and runarounds will not.

It’s always important to remember: Search engines don’t pay your bills. Your customers do.

Even if you already have a steady stream of traffic, you aren’t guaranteed conversions.

To convert site traffic into leads, you need to lay out your on-page SEO strategy first and foremost for the user.

Gear your site toward your target audience—publish useful, keyword-driven content and structure it logically—and search engines will take notice. Sales will follow.

At the beginning of any client relationship, we look at how your site is serving your customer.

Then we’ll make recommendations that will improve user experience and increase conversion.

Meta Tags

Can the search engine easily determine what your page is about?

Meta tags tell search engines what your page is about.

Search engine algorithms are getting smarter every day, but they still rely on clues—meta tags—which give the overarching idea of your page.

Title tags are the most important meta tag. The title tag appears as the blue link in Google search results. It should include the keyword you’re trying to target for the search engine. But it should also be readable and enticing to the user, or they’ll scroll right past your result.

Meta descriptions—another type of meta tag—aren’t really a Google ranking factor, but they increase the likelihood that a searcher will click on your site. Meta descriptions are essentially teasers for the awesome content you have on your site.

Basically, search engines look to your meta tags to determine the purpose of your page and the value it will offer to its users.

We write meta tags that will not only increase the appeal of your site to search engines, but also to users.

We will repeat: sales, leads and traffic come from people. Not search engines.

Site Structure

Is your site structured in such a way that the search engine—and user—can easily navigate it?

When a user comes to your site, she should quickly be able to find what she is looking for.

It’s the same with search engine crawlers—they should be able to navigate and parse through your content quickly.

No page should be more than a few clicks away, no matter where a user lands on your site. There are two ways to go about this: intentional site navigation structure, and interlinking.

Good site navigation establishes an easily understandable hierarchy of your website’s pages. It can be in the form of tabs, interlinking structure, buttons, etc.

Your navigation should be strategically structured, so anyone on your site can quickly determine your key services, products, markets, as well as any uniquely valuable resources—blogs, whitepapers and guides—that they might find useful.

Internal links are another way to aid in navigation. As site visitors skim your content, they might find a topic that piques their interest and want to learn more about it. If you have a page that explains this topic in greater detail, you should link to it.

Not only does this aid in user site navigation, but helps search engine bots quickly find and index your most useful pages.

The best way to improve your structure is to perform a site audit. By looking at a map of your current site structure, you will more clearly see ways to improve your site’s navigation and usability.

Page Speed

Does your page load before the searcher gets frustrated?

Searchers expect sites to load fast.

With every additional second your site takes to load, the risk that a user bounces—meaning someone hits ’back’ the moment they hit your site—skyrockets.

And page speed affects conversions, too. Conversions can plummet by 7 percent after even a 1-second delay. Searchers do not want to wait.

Remember: Google’s goal is to give searchers the answer to their question without frustrating them in the process. Page speed is, therefore, one of their ranking factors.

So how do you increase your page speed? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but clean code, compressed images and browser caching can go a long way toward reducing page load time.

Responsive Design

Is your site optimized for all devices—desktop, mobile, tablet?

In 2016, mobile internet usage overtook desktop internet usage. Now, more searches are made on mobile than on desktop.

And Google has taken notice.

Currently, your site ranks because of its desktop version.

That will change, and soon.

Google is changing to a mobile-first index, meaning that if your site isn’t responsive on mobile devices—iPads, Surface tablets, iPhones, Androids and the whole host of other products on the market—you will fall behind the competition.

As responsive web design becomes a competitive SEO factor, mobile-readiness is not a ”nice thing to have”—it’s an absolute necessity.

Useful, keyword-targeted content

Is your content optimized for what your target audience is searching for? Does your content satisfy the intent behind the search?

This might seem obvious, but if you want to rank for what you do, you need to write useful content about what you do (your services or products) and who you sell it to (your markets).

You also need to anticipate—and answer—any questions your ideal buyer might have at all point of the buying cycle. You also need to talk about your services and products using the words and phrases your ideal buyers use. That’s where keyword research comes in.

There are a variety of tools—Adwords Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, SEMrush and others—that allow you to see how your audience is searching for the products and services you sell.

Once you know how your audience talks about your business, you can use the same keyword phrases they’re using in your content.

That way, we create the opportunity for your site to appear when users search products and services you provide.

If, for instance, you use the phrase ”residential roofing contractors”—which your target audience is searching for—1-3 times in a really useful page about residential roofing, you stand a chance—along with a robust link profile—of ranking for that term.

But it’s not as simple as just choosing keywords and writing about them. Keyword targeting should also take into account the intent of a term.

For example, someone looking up ”how on-page SEO works” has a different intent than someone searching for the ”best SEO agency.”

The first searcher is looking for information, while the second searcher is looking for a service. These two pages should, therefore, look very different.

If your site uses the phrases your audience is using, and answer’s their questions, leads and sales will follow.

Chapter Three

Off-site SEO

Off-site SEO strategy: A crucial piece to the digital marketing puzzle

100 billion searches are made per month on Google alone. Google competes against other search engines (think Bing, Yahoo, Ask Jeeves) to retain that high level of search traffic.

As mentioned in Chapter One, Google goes to great lengths to make sure the results to each of those 100 billion queries are exactly what the searcher was looking for. They know if the user doesn’t find what they want, they’ll get frustrated and move on to another search engine.

So how does Google decide which sites are useful and relevant enough to display?

A couple factors. As you’ve already learned, having an optimized site helps.

But Google also looks around the web for outside signals to see whether you’re a relevant, reputable and useful site to display. The process of optimizing these signals is called ”off-site SEO.”

Here’s what Google looks for when deciding the reputability of your site:

  • Your ”link profile”

    Are other sites linking to yours?

    Your link profile—the number and type of sites linking back to pages on your site—is by far the most important off-page SEO ranking factor.

    Google trusts that if other sites think your content is useful enough to link to, then your site will probably be useful to their users, too.

    Earning links through relevant and helpful content will help you rise in the ranks of Google search results, driving relevant traffic to your site and ultimately drumming up dollars-and-cents business for your company.

    Each link is like a ”vote” of confidence in your brand.

    Earning a link from a well-known publication (i.e., Huffington Post, Forbes, USA Today) will earn more ”votes” than one from a little-known blogger. But all links matter and all links count.

    Still, it’s not a good idea to simply pay another site for links—in fact, unnatural links can result in a penalty from Google—you need to be strategic when building backlinks.

    Each digital marketing strategy that Digital Strike develops includes a robust, long-term link building strategy that will increase your site’s authority and drive business for your company.

    You need an audit of your current link profile. From there, you can target well-known bloggers, publications and sites relevant to your industry, so that Google—and your target audience—will see you as a trusted resource.

  • Off-site mentions of your company

    Are people talking about your brand?

    Google looks at more than just backlinks. When bloggers, publications, social media users and other sites mention your site—even without giving a backlink—Google takes that as a signal that your brand is popular or useful.

    Brand mentions matter less than backlinks, but are nonetheless important as an off-page SEO ranking factor.

    At Digital Strike, we aim to earn brand mentions through excellent content about your product that people can’t help but talk about.

Chapter Four

Local Optimization

Your 90-second-runthrough of local SEO

To rank locally, you’ll need to follow the on-site and off-site SEO best practices we already talked about in Chapters 1-3, and some other elements specific to the region or town you’re trying to optimize for.

We’ll first explain what local optimization is, and then explain how it works in practice.

Let’s start with the goal of local SEO:

To be seen by local consumers before they make a purchasing decision.

Local businesses—and, for that matter even big businesses like Target and Starbucks—rely on this.

Google can determine if there is local intent behind a search—or, in other words, if a searcher is looking for a local product or service to satisfy a need. Terms like near me, in Chicago or the addition of any other city name to a keyword indicate local intent.

As with all other searches—like the types of searches we talked about in Chapters Two and Three — Google displays the most relevant web pages and business listings in the results. But there are slight differences with local intent search results as compared with non-local search results.

Take this example:

You’re in Miami on vacation with your friends and you’re looking for a nail salon. You might search ”best nail salons in Miami” into Google.

There’s a geo-modifier in your search, so Google instantly knows your search has local intent.

Here’s what your Google search results will look like:

As you can see, Google splits local search results into two categories: the local 3-pack and organic search results. The 3-pack appears at the top of the results, with organic search results below.

Local searches—like yours, ”best nail salons in Miami”—often carry purchase intent, especially when done on a smartphone. If you are searching this, you want to go to a nail salon—if not today, then soon.

It is highly likely you will look at the reviews and photos, consider your options and schedule a manicure or pedicure at one of the businesses listed in the local pack. In fact, the local pack has a conversion rate as high as 60 percent.

No wonder so many local businesses fight tooth and nail to get into the top 3 local listings or on the first page of local organic listings.

Here’s the kicker: ranking factors (think: reviews, link profiles, proximity) are weighted differently for the 3-pack results than they are for local organic results.


Ranking factors for the 3-pack and local organic*

*Data from Moz 2017 Local Search Ranking Factor Survey

Local 3-pack

Google My Business listing, reviews, website, directions and map

Top ranking factors: 

  • Proximity to searcher
  • Brick-and-mortar address in city of search
  • Quality and quantity of links to your domain

Organic Local

Web pages relevant to keyword search

Top ranking factors:

  • Quality and quantity of links to your domain
  • Your site’s domain authority
  • Diversity of link profile

The local 3-pack displays relevant Google My Business listings, although hundreds of other factors are taken into account when Google ranks one business over another.

Local organic results display relevant web pages—not business listings. Again, hundreds of other factors are considered, namely your on- and off-site SEO efforts.
Several prominent factors for each type of local search result are listed above, but there are much more than just three. Just look at Moz’s annual local search ranking factors survey.

So the question is this: If you are a nail salon in Miami—or any other local business—how do you generate business from the keyword, ”best nail salons in Miami”?

The answer is complicated.

And that’s why many marketing companies throughout the country have been able to build a business off of local search optimization.

Local businesses—and even national chains wanting to rank locally—need to optimize for local to generate leads. And few know how to execute effective local SEO.

But, the complexity of local SEO also allows other digital marketing companies to treat it like voodoo magic.

We don’t. We like to educate our clients so they know what they’re paying for, and so we can set reasonable expectations for how it might work.

For instance, you can expect transparency in the form of data-driven monthly reporting, and results in the form of leads and growth.

We know what we’re doing when it comes to local SEO. And, honestly, not a lot of people can say the same.

 

3 must-have components of your local SEO strategy

There are a lot of factors to consider when developing a local SEO strategy. But, like any other complex profession, there are basics that will set you up for success.

Take the medical profession for example: Your doctor might recommend you schedule a check-up every six months and appointments as different ailments arise.

Those two recommendations don’t begin to cover the complexity of what you—as a patient—need to do to stay healthy. Still, they’ll go a long way toward preventing disease and supporting your general well-being.

It’s the same with local SEO. There’s no way we could cover everything you need to do to rank and win business on one page. Or, at least, one page that you could read in one sitting.

But we, like the medical profession, have basic principles. The basics alone won’t guarantee results, but they’ll go a long way toward getting toward pushing you in the right direction.

Here they are:

  • Business Listings

    Can Google trust that you are who you say you are?

    You need to build trust with Google that you are who you say you are.

    Here’s how:

    Make sure your business name, address and phone number (NAP) is correct across the literally thousands of online directories. Otherwise, Google won’t want to show your site off to its searchers.

    Why?

    Because Google doesn’t want its searchers to get frustrated by a phone number that doesn’t work, or an address that’s incorrect and switch to Yahoo or Bing.

    Digital Strike’s team of SEO experts will set up your directory listings to be accurate, and check in to make sure they stay up-to-date. This way, Google will feel more comfortable showing your site off to searchers.

  • Reviews

    Do people like your brand?

    Reviews matter. Search engines don’t want to display content about unpopular businesses and products.

    Google, Yahoo and Bing want to provide valuable content or solutions from reputable sources so their searchers keep coming back.

    That’s why managing your online reputation is so important to SEO. We’ll help you manage your online reputation through review-building campaigns (requesting reviews from past customers).

    We know you’re going to reply to your good reviews. But it’s important to address your bad ones as well.

    We’ll be on the lookout for bad reviews. When they do pop up, we’ll let you know so you can respond to negative comments or reviews.

    With a well-managed online reputation, Google will feel comfortable displaying your site to its users.

  • Local Link Building

    Are other sites linking to yours?

    Links are one big way search engines measure relevance. The more sites—especially sites important in the city where your business is located—that link to you, the more relevant your business will seem to Google.

    If local newspapers, magazines and bloggers in your city are all talking about how great your business is, then Google will get the hint and display your business in its search results.

    But link building isn’t as easy as it sounds. It requires a comprehensive strategy.

    Quality and quantity of links matter. So does the content of the article in which your business is mentioned.

    Anyone can direct links to your site. But if best practices are not strictly followed, your site can be removed from Google altogether. Precise and intentional strategy is key to any successful link building.

    We’ve developed effective strategies for a variety of businesses big and small, and we can develop a customized solution for you, too.

  • Staying on top of local SEO trends

    Is your SEO agency keeping up with Google updates?

    We’ll say it once and we’ll say it again: the only constant in local SEO is change.

    Google is constantly rolling out updates to its algorithm so it better serves its searchers.

    Your SEO agency needs to keep abreast of these changes so you can stay ahead of your competition.

    Digital Strike’s local SEO team is working in the trenches testing what works and what doesn’t. Plus, we’re pretty passionate about local SEO, constantly reading and learning about changes in the local space.

    Many in the industry look to Digital Strike for advice when it comes to local SEO, listening into our monthly, partners-only local webinars for agencies.

    We are constantly re-thinking how we approach local because, otherwise, we—and our clients—would be left behind.

    We’ll constantly update our partners and clients with new tactics, strategies and tricks we’ve found through our extensive research about and passion for local SEO.

Chapter Five

Content Marketing

Strategic content marketing: The fuel behind any effective SEO campaign

How a comprehensive content strategy can generate business and amplify SEO

Useful, well-written content pieces are the lifeblood that makes SEO work. No SEO campaign can reach its full potential without killer content that converts.

Think about it: even if your SEO campaign draws millions of website visitors a month, no one will convert into a lead if your content isn’t helpful.

Likewise, even the best content won’t convert if it never gets seen—good, white hat SEO tactics and paid search marketing boost the reach of your blogs, pages and premium content pieces.

And, because customers are making 70 to 90 percent of their buying decisions through online research before ever contacting your sales people, you cannot afford not to be absent from search engine results when they begin asking questions online about your services.

In the golden days of marketing, you could address a prospect’s questions through mass media marketing or a sales call and close the deal.

No longer. Content marketing is the new sales process.

A prospect’s questions are being asked and answered online long before you even know the lead exists. You need to have SEO-optimized content pieces armed and ready to answer your prospect’s question at the right time.

If you aren’t there to satisfy the intent of every search a potential lead is making, they will become your content-marketing-savvy competitor’s customer.

Creating a content strategy that answers your client’s questions and wins their business

The overwhelming majority of your website visitors aren’t ready to buy. You’re making a mistake if all the content on your site screams, ”BUY!”

You need a customized content strategy that addresses all the questions your ideal buyer might have from awareness to consideration to purchase—and everything in between—that will eventually make your future clients comfortable making a buying decision with your business.

Here’s what our content strategy process looks like:

  • It all starts with a meeting

    In order to determine how to best go about achieving your business goals through a content marketing strategy, we have to, well, know your goals.

    We’ll schedule a meeting to learn more about your company’s vision, brand, target audience and business goals.

    Only then can we begin developing a strategy that will help push the needle for your company.

  • Auditing the content you already have

    We believe in the old adage: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    If you have content that’s already working for you, there’s no need to change it. We’ll do a deep dive into what’s working, what’s not and where the holes are.

  • Develop a content gap analysis

    If there are questions that people are asking—and you’re not answering—we’ll note that in our formal content gap analysis.

    Our strategy will be built upon bolstering the weak spots and building upon what’s already performing well.

  • Learn how your audience talks about your industry, services and products

    The essence of any good content strategy is writing directly to your audience’s pain points, questions and desires. To do this, you need to know your ideal buyers better than they know themselves.

    How?

    It’s simple: research how they talk—and search—about your business, services and understand the key drivers that lead to a purchasing decision.

    You need to know the questions they’re asking before they know about your product or solution, while they’re researching their options and after they’ve decided to make the purchase.

    And you need to know which keyword phrases they’re using to ask these questions, so you’ll be present in search engine results as the answer.

    Once we know which questions your audience is asking—and how they’re asking them—we can develop a data-backed keyword list that will serve as the basis of our strategy.

    From there, we can determine the intent behind each search—information, product or service specifications, etc.—and write content that will satisfy that intent.

  • Creating a custom strategy based on your goals

    No company is the same, and no two of our content strategies are identical.

    We don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to content strategies—we’ll get to the root of your target audience’s pain points, and address them through well-researched blogs, guides and pages.

    A good content strategy serves to hold the prospect’s hand and push them further along in the buying cycle. Useful, helpful content gives prospects the nudge they need to advance from researcher to lead to paying customer.

    Sometimes, our strategy starts with building a sitemap that addresses your key services and markets.

    Other times—such as when you have a good site already—this strategy will mostly include informational blogs and premium lead generation content pieces to fill the gaps and drive conversions.

    We’ll tailor our strategy to your needs, goals and audience.

  • Content strategy execution (aka, writing)

    Only once we have the destination (your goals) and the map (our strategy), we’ll sit down to write. We’re really good about getting in the head of your target buyer, knowing their objections, concerns and questions—and addressing all of them.

    At Digital Strike, we operate by the belief that content marketing campaigns should achieve results. So we write content that works. After all, strategies are worthless if the execution is slipshod.

    We obsess over sentences, lose sleep over calls to action and, most importantly, write content that turns searchers into paying customers.

Chapter Six

Pay-per-click (PPC)

How PPC helps you get quick wins for your business

Most of what we’ve already talked about—organic search engine marketing—is a long-term play.

We build authority for your site over time through link building, content creation and citation building, and eventually you start ranking for the keywords you want.

Pay per click advertising helps you get quick wins, supplementing your long-term organic SEO and content strategy.

PPC also helps promote limited-time campaigns, win competitive industry keywords, and increase the reach of your organic SEO efforts.

It’s pay to play: you bid on the keywords you want, and you will appear in the search results.

Pay per click (PPC) advertising: An intention-based marketing strategy

PPC is the only digital marketing tool that will produce immediate results. And it isn’t disruptive.

Someone has a need: let’s say they want to order a pizza. They might Google ’pizza near me.’ If you bid on pizza-related keywords, you’ll appear in the results.

You’re giving them what they want: pizza. You’re getting what you want: a pizza order.

Everybody’s happy.

Essentially, pay per click advertising allows you to target based on intention.

Your ad appears at the right time (someone wants your service) in the right place (the top of the search results). And, just like that, you have an engagement, sale or lead.

Lesser known types of PPC advertising

PPC advertising doesn’t just occur in search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. Cost per click can also refer to social media advertising on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Social media advertising allows you to put your message in front of your target audience and track engagments (clicks, people reached, social interactions) over time.

Sounds easy enough, but advertising on social media requires intentional strategy about who you’re targeting, how much you’re paying per interaction and whether each campaign is driving results in the form of website traffic, lead conversions and sales.

You can’t simply ”set it and forget it.” Our team of paid advertising strategists has spent years perfecting their campaign strategy.

They know how to make sure your ad gets in front of the right audience, and that it converts.

And, because we provide you with a transparent results dashboard at the end of each month, you’ll know exactly how well our campaigns perform. You’ll remain in the loop from the start of the campaign until the end.

4 components of a successful PPC campaign

When it comes to PPC, our main goal is to drive leads and increase profit for your business.

We optimize so that your campaign attracts many clicks, and that those clicks convert to leads and sales.

We’ll tell you the whole story: where your money is being spent, where leads are falling off in the conversion process, what keywords are converting at the highest rates. We’ll even tell you when our initial strategy needs to change.

The digital world moves quickly.

You need a team that understands the PPC world inside and out and can modify your PPC strategy as the digital space changes. Plus, your company’s PPC team should be dedicated to continually optimizing your campaign.

Our team will send you a report every month detailing every success—and failure—and how we plan to make your campaign more efficient in the future.

Here’s what you can expect with a Digital Strike PPC campaign:

  • Goal-driven campaign build

    Your PPC campaign should be focused on a goal, whether it’s increasing calls, whitepaper downloads, newsletter signups or getting more people into your store.Digital Strike’s team of PPC experts will build a campaign with your business goal in mind.We’ll choose keywords that indicate the searcher is looking to buy into what you’re selling, and we’ll write ads that showcase the value of your service.

  • Landing pages that convert

    Once a searcher clicks on your ad, they’ll be taken to a landing page on your site.This landing page should urge the searcher to do something such as call you, download a white paper or request a free consultation.We track these engagements, and report it to you at the end of every month. Using the initial and lifetime value of your average customer, we’ll let you know how much you’re making off your PPC campaign.

  • Transparent and consistent reporting

    PPC is about results. You need to know whether the campaign is driving leads, and how much every engagement is costing you.

    We’ll give you a comprehensive summary of your campaign every month. In the report, we’ll tell you what’s going well—and what’s not. If something isn’t working, we’ll come to you with a plan to fix it.

    At Digital Strike, we’re problem solvers.

    PPC isn’t one-size-fits-all, and we’re constantly adapting keywords, spend and build to make sure you’re spending your budget efficiently and meeting your lead goals.

  • And the secret ingredient … Ongoing campaign management

    To quote Mike Tyson, everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.

    Everything might be perfect in the Excel sheet, but if the initial plan isn’t working your PPC management team needs to be able to adapt quickly.

    Maybe lots of paid traffic is coming to your site, but no one is converting into a lead. Maybe too few people are clicking on the ad. Maybe some keywords are converting at a higher rate than others. Maybe the cost per click is too much.

    At the end of the day, the goal of any PPC campaign is to drive leads for your business for as little money as possible.

    Our PPC managers will draw on their vast experience in paid search to make sure your business’ campaign is successful.

    Each month our team of PPC experts will go through your campaign and find ways to spend your budget more efficiently.

    They’ll get rid of keywords that aren’t converting. They’ll look at which ads were performing the best, and focus media spend on those.

Chapter Seven

Landing Page Optimization

How the right landing page is crucial to converting site traffic.

Let’s talk about landing pages.

Even better, let’s talk about landing pages that do what they are supposed to do … convert.

Any good landing page converts the traffic it receives. And yet, too often we see that website owners send traffic to general pages of their site that are not strategically designed and optimized to generate conversions.

As a result, they end up pulling their hair out trying to pin down why their sites don’t produce new sales opportunities.

Your site’s landing pages should be created with a focus on allowing visitors to accomplish a singular goal. This goal, after all, is the reason why they decided to visit in the first place.

Not executing on this singular focus and direction could be the difference between a business that consistently identifies and acquires new customers and one that struggles mightily to do both.

In this chapter of our Digital Marketing 101 guide, we’ll show you how to put yourself on the right side of that equation.

But first…

Let’s cover some of the basics.

What is a landing page?

By definition alone, a landing page is nothing more than what it sounds: a page upon which a visitor lands when arriving at your site.

If a page resides on your site and it loads properly – technically, it qualifies as a landing page – but this info is not the reason you’re here.

You want the goods. And if your site’s landing pages are going to deliver the goods for your business, they better do the following:

  • Cover a singular focus, topic, product, or service
  • Target the right audience via a specific marketing campaign (PPC, email, etc.)
  • Provide visitors with two core options: convert as a lead or leave
  • Allow visitors to commit desired action quickly and easily

This is not an end-all, be-all list.

Obvious points of concern — such as whether your pages are optimized for mobile devices, load quickly, etc. — have been purposely omitted. Vital technical aspects of your site can be found in Chapter Two of this guide.

The purpose of this chapter is to discuss how landing pages — when structured properly — can be utilized as the epicenter of your marketing efforts to ensure you’re getting the most out of the visits your site receives.

Especially when you are paying for this traffic. When viewed through this lens, the discussion regarding what an effective landing page actually looks like and what it should achieve starts to take on a much more intriguing and exciting twist.

Why you need effective landing pages

Effective landing pages breed growth within your organization.

Landing pages that convert traffic allow you to do the following:

  • Acquire new customers
  • Generate recurring revenue from past customers
  • Create new or build existing email lists
  • Maximize ROI on advertising dollars

A website without landing pages that convert traffic may as well be a brochure – countless pages of pretty pictures and a lot of words that most of us won’t read – they encourage more exploration and less focus on a singular goal.

This is aimless wandering mixed with information overload, and studies have shown that these factors combine to form one of the major factors why people leave websites without committing any action.

Ultimately, brochures await a slow death at or near the bottom of a stack of other mailers to be forgotten on the coffee table or kitchen counter.

A similar fate awaits your site unless you take the steps to build out pages that contain the elements needed to convert someone from a visitor into a potential lead or customer.

CASE STUDY: Landing Page Optimization Increases Our Client’s Engagement Rate By More Than 500%

The good news is, most of these elements may already be, in some shape or form, on some of your website’s pages.

Even if they are not, implementing them is not as difficult as you might think.

The key is, putting yourself in the shoes of your target audience.

Once you’re able to do this effectively, you’ll be able to clearly visualize what they will need to accomplish their, and your, desired goal upon arriving at your site.

Key elements of every effective landing page

Every great landing page contains certain elements that are required for success.

Exactly how these elements are executed can vary from website to website and business to business, but their mandatory existence is non-negotiable

If your landing pages are going to convert visitors into leads, they need the following elements:

  • Your unique selling proposition (USP)
  • A clear, unmistakable offer
  • The benefits of your offer
  • Social proof
  • A strong call-to-action (CTA)

As we go through each of these elements in more detail, you’ll start to see a patchwork develop that can be applied to a large amount of landing pages across your site.

Let’s go a little deeper into each of theses five elements:

1. Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

unique selling prop
Photo Credit: https://germanystartupjobs.com/identify-unique-selling-propositionusp/

 

Your USP is the benefit, the experience, the solution, etc. that you — and you only — are able to provide your visitors.

It’s the cross-section between what you do better than anyone else and what your customer wants.

Your USP is not a tangible product or service, rather, it’s the unique way in which your company can improve the lives of your customers.

We all hear or see famous USPs every day without realizing it.

For TOMS, the popular shoe retailer, its USP is not a stylish and affordable men’s or women’s shoe; it’s the promise that a pair of shoes will be donated to someone in need for every pair that is sold.

Dollar Shave Club’s USP is not necessarily a blade for men that outperforms that of Gillette; it’s the personal experience and inherent convenience that comes with receiving new blades at your door through a recurring delivery service.

The USP is where you address questions like “Why should I buy from you?” or “What makes you better than everyone else?”

Of these five elements, this is undoubtedly the hardest to implement, and most business owners have not considered their true USP until they are forced to do so.

Even more, identifying your USP can and probably will take time and research.

That said, if you are able to temporarily remove yourself from your role and, instead, define a singular benefit that your product or service provides your customers, nailing down your USP becomes easier.

2. Special offer

The offer you make to visitors of your site is the sales-oriented crystallization of your USP.

It’s there to give your visitors that little push, to motivate them to take advantage of and experience your USP.

Your offer is what makes your visitors raise an eyebrow. It puts them on notice and entices them to make their way down the page, where they’ll encounter the other elements.

If you’re a plumber, your USP may be that you’re able to reduce customers’ water bills, and your offer might be a free water softener with every repair.

If you sell software, your USP could be that you increase workflow by 50% while reducing operational costs, and your offer might be free setup assistance or a year’s worth of 24/7 support.

Whatever your offer — and you don’t necessarily need to give away the farm — make sure it’s unmistakably clear to whomever is reading it.

There can be no confusion, or else you run the risk of your message being convoluted, at which point you lose the ability to navigate your visitor down the path that leads to a desired action.

Need help promoting your unique brand?

 

3. Benefits of your offer

Because the Web offers up so much choice, every visitor to your site will want to know what’s in it for them, regardless of their unique situation and, in some cases, despite a high level of urgency in their search.

Again, why should they choose you over one of your competitors?

To clearly communicate the answer to them, it’s imperative that you do something that may seem a little odd at first: Do NOT talk about your company’s product or service.

Let that sink in a little…

To best communicate how your product or service will address your visitors’ needs, you must refrain from talking about your product or service.

This is a process known as building a story brand, introduced to the mainstream by marketer Donald Miller.

customer journey
Photo credit: https://medium.com/@geekrodion/building-a-storybrand-by-donald-miller-a9c0eb81cfbf

In short, consumers all want to be the heroes of our own stories, no matter how small or minute the victory may be.

You, the brand, must act as a guide in facilitating this victory by providing an appropriate product or service.

In order for this victory to be achieved, the visitor on your site must feel as if he or she is the one playing the role of the hero.

The copy of your landing page and, more specifically, your offer needs to reflect this type of thinking.

Rather than saying your service equipment uses only the most advanced technology, speak directly to the visitor by detailing exactly how this technology will improve their lives, allowing them to assume the hero role.

In the case of the plumber, even though his water softener may contain components that no other softener can match, the idea is to speak directly to the visitor by telling them that they can use the softener to reduce soap/shampoo consumption and benefit from softer skin and healthier hair.

4. Social Proof

This is the part where you say, “But don’t take our word for it…”

No matter how sound your USP, attractive your offer, and substantial its benefits, visitors to your site will still relish seeing that others in their identical situation have improved their lives by using your product or service.

It’s no coincidence as to why product reviews take up so much room on Amazon.

In fact, a study conducted in 2017 found that 93 percent of consumers say online reviews have an impact on a purchasing decision.

You don’t need to be Amazon, but you do need to allocate a section of your landing pages for reviews and testimonials from past or current customers.

This could even be key excerpts from extensive case studies you’re created that detail how your services have helped another company excel in a number of areas.

If possible, be specific. Provide concrete, verifiable numbers that stand out and carry weight.

If your software increased the productivity of Company X by 300%, say so.

Doing so will go much further than a generic review from someone who says your “company is the best!”

5. Call-to-action

The CTA is the culmination of everything we have discussed so far.

It is meaningless without the other four elements, but it is also the reason why those four exist.

Your CTA is the goal you want each landing page visitor to achieve.

It can take many forms, but generally a strong, effective CTA contains most, if not all, of the following characteristics:

  • Uses action words
  • Creates urgency and/or scarcity
  • Minimizes risk Emphasizes on value
  • Generates curiosity
  • Avoids friction words
  • Cements benefits and social proof

Maybe your CTA is to download a whitepaper, watch a video, fill out a quote form, place a phone call, or sign up for a newsletter.

Ask yourself – “what is the exact business objective I want to achieve” – when creating the landing page.

When you can identify the explicit action each visitor to the page must take to allow you to accomplish this objective, that becomes your CTA.

There is no written rule, per se, for the exact look of your CTA or how many times it must appear on your landing page but oftentimes, your CTA will be in the shape of a button or form that allows your visitor to perform your desired action.

Keep in mind, though, studies have shown that your business’ industry may determine the color of your CTA button.

Always be aware of how much information you’re collecting in your CTA forms.

Visitors can easily be turned off by long forms, those that contain more than seven fields, so you should only ask for info you absolutely need.

Above all, make sure your CTA stands out from all other elements on the page, and that you make it crystal clear what you want the visitor to do.

The visitor’s opportunity to complete this action should be accessible at various points on the page, so as to acknowledge the fact that not every visitor will come to your page with the same level of intent or commitment.

The visitor that won’t answer your CTA until the bottom of the landing page is every bit as important as the one that doesn’t need to scroll at all — and vice versa.

PPC Campaign Not Converting? Let’s Talk About How We Can Help.

An effective landing page in action

Up to this point, we have discussed at length the best practices involved with creating effective landing pages.

Now, let’s take a look at a real-life example of a successful landing page and the difference it can make.

A&J Mobility

aj mobilityA respected member of the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA), A&J Mobility boasts five locations throughout Wisconsin as the state’s leading dealer of wheelchair accessible vans and other mobility equipment.

Thanks in part to a very favorable reputation, traditional media had worked well for the dealership in the past, but management also knew that a considerable number of competitors were pulling ahead in the arms race thanks to digital marketing — particularly paid advertising on Google.

A&J wanted a piece of the pie, and they wanted to acquire these new leads online at a very low average cost.

Early struggles lead to landing page redesign

New Google Ads campaigns were activated in mid-June 2019. Over the next six weeks, they accrued more than several thousand dollars in click costs, but results were stagnant.

The overall conversion rate was only 1.5% — well below the industry average — and we were spending roughly $220 per conversion.

Exasperated, both parties agreed that something further had to be done.

Up to this time, traffic had been sent to the main inventory page of the A&J site. This particular page contained all the info you could ever want about every vehicle in the dealership’s inventory, but it was largely void of many of the main landing page ingredients needed for advertising success and favorable ROI.

Our next goal had become clear: We needed to design an entirely new landing page.

This new landing page would contain the following key elements:

  • Main section that lists A&J’s USP (freedom for those who with disabilities)
  • The main offer (a call with a specialist to customize a van)
  • The benefits of the offer (getting a van that addresses unique customer needs)
  • A section filled with testimonials from previous customers
  • Strong and clear CTA form/button
PPC engagement rate grows by 530%

Once the new landing page was published and implemented, it did not take long to see returns.

The switchover in landing pages was made to start August. The results, nearly immediate, spoke for themselves over the final five months of 2019:

Data Findings

During the last five months of the year, not only did the average number of engagements — defined as either a phone call to a dealership location or a form submission to schedule a call with a mobility specialist — increase dramatically, but the dealership received them well below the average cost we had targeted back at the outset.

By the end of 2019, the numbers were staggering:

  • Increased average number of monthly engagements by 209%
  • Increased overall engagement rate by 530%
  • Reduced overall cost per engagement by 74%

A&J has continued to benefit from the engagements produced by the new landing page.

Through the first two months of 2020, the rate of engagement has exceeded that of the final five months of 2019.

The right landing page matters.

If you create the right pudding, you’ll see the proof, perhaps right away.

Summary

By definition, a landing page can be any ol’ webpage.

But a properly optimized landing page — one that successfully incorporates your USP, offer, offer benefits, social proof, and strong CTA — can make all the difference.

Anything less amounts to nothing more than a traffic net, so don’t leave anything to chance.

Of course, not every visitor to your site will do what you want them to do; this is an unavoidable fact.

But, as we have seen, with some understanding of what ingredients characterize every successful landing page, you’ll be able to give your site’s visitors what they need to engage your brand, increase your sales, and grow your company.

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