All Posts by sarahaboulhosn

A Beginners Guide to Content Marketing Funnels

A Beginners Guide to Content Marketing Funnels

If you’re in tune with the marketing industry, then you’ve seen the term “content marketing” floating around quite a bit over the past few years. While it seems like content marketing is just another buzzword in the business world, re-think that mindset because it’s a concept and strategy that is making waves and is here to stay. In 2015, almost 90% of B2B marketers expanded their efforts to create custom content to generate leads, engage users, and attract new audiences, and even more, companies are tackling this strategy head on and achieving exponential results.

If your brand is new to content marketing, you may be unsure how to create or curate new content to meet sales and marketing goals. In the past, companies used sales funnels to attract customers and increase their profits. These traditional tactics are now being replaced with softer selling content that adds value to the user and gains their trust before resorting to a hard sell, forcing brands to get creative in the ways they drive sales, and many are finding success using content marketing funnels.

Unlike sales funnels, which were intended to be a hard sell from the beginning and continue to up-sell along the way, content marketing funnels drive sales through an indirect approach of targeting audiences through different stages of the buying process and adding small pieces of value to the consumer for free before closing the deal.

These funnels held brands to generate quality leads, nurture and convert them into brand advocates, and end with a sale and new superfan of the brand.

What exactly is a content marketing funnel?

This type of funnel takes original content, created by your brand, and staggers into in various stages that ultimately end in a sale. The funnel can come into play at any step in the buying process, and leads can be converted into customers at nearly any stage, depending on where they first interact with your content. You’ll gain insight into what types of content generate what kind of users and you’ll be able to use that information to create even more content to widen the funnel and expand your brands reach.

The four primary steps in a content marketing funnel are “attract, convert, close, and delight.” These four variables are what keep your audience engaged, and your leads nurtured throughout the life of the funnel. Once you break down the process into these four phases, it will paint a clear picture of the purpose of all of your content, and the sales process will fall into place.

Attraction phase

You want your content to attract potential customers and mostly serve as a lead magnet. So the first step to doing this is to create content that your audience wants, or better yet, doesn’t yet know they need. There’s no need to resort to clickbait, but the material does need to be compelling enough that someone who is not familiar with your brand will want to click. Don’t be afraid to narrow your focus to one or two platforms when first starting your funnel.

This is also a great time to take a look at content you’ve already created and assess what’s worked well for your brand in the past. The material in this phase can range from a blog post or infographic to a Facebook ad or valuable email. Whatever it is, it has to be able to entice users to click something and urge them to want to learn more on the way to the next stage of the funnel.

Conversion Phase

In this second phase of the funnels, potential customers are evaluating your brand and deciding what additional actions they want to take. This step might ask them to sign-up for a free course, email newsletter, download a guide or something else that captures more of their information. The information they gather from this step will help a user determine whether or not they trust your brand enough to make a purchase.

The conversion phase is an excellent place to evaluate the success of your funnel so far. Take a look at what conversions you see from the initial click in stage 1, and what information users are giving in phase 2. If there’s a definite disconnect between the number of users clicking and the number of users downloading, you may need to re-evaluate the content you’re offering or even consider an alternative platform to the one you’ve been using.

Always make sure your content is aiming to solve a common pain point for your users. This is where your research skills will come into play as you’ll need to have done sufficient industry research to discover what your users are struggling with to offer solutions they’ll want to try out and eventually pay money for.

A few ways to convert clicks into solid leads at this point is to offer something a bit more robust than in stage one. That can include an ebook, a free consultation, invitation to a live webinar, or something else. It’s important not to lose momentum and to continue to increase the amount of value you’re adding at every step in the funnel.

The Closing Phase

Now we’re getting deeper into the funnel and closer than ever to making a sale! You’ve been able to attract users, and they’ve taken action to make it this far. Here’s the time to take those nurtured leads and finally make the sale. You’ve been able to gain the user’s trust and based on their past actions, there’s a good chance they’re ready to make a purchase. Take a look at what pieces of content they’ve interacted with the most. If you can’t identify this data from your analytics, don’t be afraid to send out a survey or ask them directly how you can help. They’ve come this far for a reason, so be patient, be consistent and don’t stop creating valuable content. After all, it can take up to seven touch points for a prospect to make a buying decision.

The Delight Phase

Once the sale is made, take a quick break to celebrate, but keep in mind that the work isn’t done yet. The core of content marketing is relationship building and creating a genuine trust between your brand and your audience. This means continuing to nurture that relationship even once the check clears. This step is all about thanking the customer for their support and continuing to build the relationship. Use this time to gather testimonials, offer exclusive access to new services or products, or conduct surveys to get to know their thoughts on your customer experience. If you continue to nurture the relationship, your customers will become your brand ambassadors and in turn, spread your brand message organically.

When successful, effective content marketing engages audiences, generates sales and transforms users into brand ambassadors. As you continue to create high quality materials and content, your funnel will widen and naturally expand your reach. As a concept, content marketing is here to stay and continuing to explore new avenues to connect with your audience will help your brand thrive and grow.

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10 Ways to Optimize your Online Store for Search Engines

10 Ways to Optimize your Online Store for Search Engines

TLDR; Stick to the basics

An online store is not difficult to come by these days, but as many business owners quickly realize, successful e-commerce businesses take time and attention to maintain. Running an effective online store means more than having a good-looking website and good product. The success of an online store depends on a variety of factors including the product niche, brand visibility and even more importantly, how the store ranks in search engines.

As a business owner, your mission is to bring your business to life by attracting customers who care about your brand and value your products.

In recent years, there’s been a heavy emphasis on brands to get their marketing efforts inline with search engine optimization best practices. According to recent SEO data, nearly 96 percent of clicks on a Google search go to the first four items listed under a search. There are specific techniques you can implement to give your online store the best chance of achieving high search rankings.

An optimized online store can generate significant returns and help your brand and products rank higher in search engines and receive more traffic to your site. There’s a lot of information out there about ways to make your site more searchable and achieve higher rankings. I’ve narrowed it down to 9 ways to ensure your online store is not only SEO-ready but in the best position to make conversions and drive sales.

These steps may seem like basic information when it comes to optimizing your store, but if you’re not seeing the numbers you’re aiming for, it might be time to take a step back and audit your current strategy to assess which areas can use improvement to get your traffic and sales up.

1. Optimize your domain name

Do not take for granted the importance of an easily searchable domain name. If the brand is not well known, creating a domain name related to the product you are selling can make or break your store’s searchability. Clever names don’t always perform well on search engines, so be concise and clear with your name to give your brand the best chance of being found by search engines. If you’re passionate about your store’s name and have decided it’s essential to your brand, be sure that the rest of your store is properly optimized with the necessary keywords and topics that will lead people to your store.

2. Evaluate your Store Platform

If you do not see the results you want with your current store, it might be time to reassess the tools you are using to host the site. Take a comprehensive look at the platform you’re utilizing for your store and weigh it against other options in the market. There are dozens of tools catered to meet industry and niche-specific needs when it comes to your online store. Compare your current platform with other top e-commerce platforms to see if there is another option that may be a better fit for your product.

3. Include custom titles, URLs, and meta descriptions

It can be easy to overlook metadata when your store has dozens of products, but including appropriate tags and detailed meta descriptions can make a world of difference in the searchability of your site. Most platforms will allow you to customize the URL on every individual page. Use this opportunity to create a descriptive, custom URL for each product.

Having thorough meta-descriptions that accurately depict your products and include necessary keywords can make or break the searchability of your store.

4. Produce original descriptions

Don’t rely on graphics and imagery to do the bulk of the work describing a product. Writing short and compelling product descriptions helps search engines identify your product more quickly and paint a picture of your product to visitors. Avoid stuffing the description with keywords and make sure it sounds human and relatable to your target audience.

When writing a product description, focus on the ideal buyer. It helps to have a buyer persona already established. Putting a name, face and personality traits to your ideal buyer will help you better visualize who your ideal client is and make it that much easier to write a description that will resonate with them.

Use descriptors and offer solutions to common pain points that they can relate to their lives. Making sure the descriptions answer common questions will make them sound conversational and further engage your audience.

5. Research customer behavior to understand buying patterns

Search engine rankings are important, but can only get the customer to the site, not guarantee a sale. A lot of online retailers are unsure why their customers abandon their shopping parts without completing a purchase.

Understanding behaviors and buying patterns of shoppers can help them understand why visitors aren’t converting into paying customers. Creating a fully-optimized online store often requires running various tests and reports to identify gaps and implement changes to your sales process.

If you’re not already, begin tracking analytics on your site and creating consistent reports of the patterns users are taking on your website. Take note of where they click, how long they spend on each page, and at what point in the buying process they are jumping ship without completing the purchase.

6. Invest in content marketing

In a recent survey of marketers, 72 percent said relevant content creation is the most successful strategy when implementing SEO strategy. Writing blog content or working with contributors to create content about your product will make your store more searchable and generate a level of credibility for your brand.

When creating organic content for your site, make sure to use important keywords and meta descriptions and optimize your titles and backlinks to ensure prime searchability.

7. Use apps or tools to monitor your searchability

Apps like On Page SEO Checker can help you quickly measure your store’s searchability and monitor growth and traffic. Use this information to identify shortcomings as well as what content is working to drive traffic to your site.

There are also a number of tools that will allow you to effortlessly check the effectiveness of your metadata, image tags and site speed to identify if any of those factors are contributing to gaps in sales.

8. Utilize Sitemaps

An accurate and up to date sitemap will do most of the heavy lifting and explicitly outline to the search engine which pages it should pay attention to. Remember that Google ranks individual pages not just your site as a whole. While you won’t be penalized for NOT having a sitemap, for SEO purposes, sitemaps are essential at maximizing your rankings and increasing exposure to your site.

To make this process even more streamlined, most search engines, including Google, make it easy to submit your sitemap to the search engine directly.

9. Capture reviews and customer testimonials

Positive customer reviews can increase conversion rates by up to 4.6% and add another level of metadata and searchability to your side. A customer’s personal experience with your brand can create a level of trust that has a lot of selling power to compel unsure customers to make the purchase.

Potential users place a lot of value on the opinions of other users and customers before making a purchasing decision. A good testimonial can impact their decision more than the wording and aesthetics on your website. Last year, 92 percent of customers sited that they searched for customer reviews on a product before making their final purchase.

10. Optimize for Mobile

As of last year, mobile devices were the tool of choice for people accessing the internet both in their homes and on the go. Even if you’re doing everything right in optimizing your website, your search engine optimization efforts won’t be as meaningful in creating conversions if the site’s mobile interface creates a stressful shopping experience. Google has even made it known that their algorithm gives higher rank and priority to mobile-friendly websites.

Luckily, the prevalance of responsive websites and the ability to adapt your site for mobile is easier now than it ever has been, and doesn’t require much additional work for you as a business owner.

It’s common for online merchants to overlook the importance of SEO in their online stores when selling a high quantity of products. When done correctly, taking these steps to optimize your stores can produce exponential changes traffic and conversions. While it is a more involved process to make stores SEO optimized than it is for standard websites, the payoff makes the effort worth the time.

Sarah Aboulhosn is a writer and content marketing strategist. For more content to help you grow personally and professionally subscribe to her newsletter!

Remote Work Isn’t a Trend. It’s Common Sense.

Remote Work Isn't a Trend.
It's Common Sense. 

The numbers don't lie.

Remote work makes sense. If you’ve Googled the term lately, then you’ve seen the articles and the data backing up this statement. As someone who went from spending years sitting behind a desk dreaming of the outside world to living it and being happier and more productive than ever before, the benefits are glaringly obvious if you break it down.

In 2007 Occupational Outlook Quarterly reported that only 9 percent of the workforce was working remotely. Fast forward a decade at that number has skyrocketed. Today, nearly 43% of American workers report working remotely part of the time, and that number continues to grow year after year on a global scale.

Often described as an employee benefit, remote work is much more mutually beneficial for the employees and the companies who hire them than people realize. And while many still consider it an employee perk, large remote teams are reaping the benefits and aiming to educate other companies about their success building their remote teams.

Remote workers often have to deal with logistics and technicalities that would typically be taken care of by administrators or other employees when in an office. These minor distractions can eat away a lot of time, but also teach workers valuable lessons in time management and put out fires quickly.

Creating a global workforce of world travelers and independent thinkers

According to a 2017 survey of remote workers by DeskMag, 13% of remote workers consider themselves digital nomads, and 45% of freelancers and remote workers in coworking spaces spend one or more weeks per year traveling abroad.

Not all remote workers travel, but the growing popularity of the digital nomad movement offers what many consider to be the ideal balance of work and play through travel. Travelers are willing to test their limits and push themselves to do things outside of their comfort zones.

And while working and traveling at the same time may seem like the dream life, it’s not for the faint of heart. Aside from requiring a tremendous amount of self-discipline, it forces you to have the courage to put yourself in unfamiliar settings and locations while trying to maintain a steady and productive work style. Needless to say, this lifestyle can present its own set of challenges not commonly faced by traditional office employees.

Remote workers have more confidence and independence which comes from overcoming adversity, having to make on the fly decisions and take action without management peeking over your shoulder. It creates an increased awareness of how to make difficult choices and determine priorities.

It’s a growing movement that isn’t slowing down.

In a few weeks, CEO’s and founders of entirely remote companies will gather in the Balinese jungle to talk about the future of work. The Running Remoteconference will be the first of it’s kind, attracting global leaders who have successfully built and scaled remote teams and want to spread their message and passion for the remote work movement.

Bali has recently made a name for itself as a digital nomad hotspot, making it the perfect location to host such an event. The event has already attracted global audiences of entrepreneurs who are serious about building and scaling online teams. Leadership from online giants like Buffer, Github, FlexJobs, Todoist are all on board to share their stories and insight on how to grow and manage remote teams on a large scale.

This event will likely inspire other similar events in the future as more companies across all industries begin to recognize the enormous value of going remote. Building a remote team comes with its own learning curve, and as more companies jump on board, the prevalence of events to share advice and ideas on communication, building an employee culture and maintaining productivity among remote workers will prove to be exceptionally valuable to teams starting the journey.

The numbers don’t lie.

The internet is littered with statistics about employee retention rates, cost savings, and overall employee satisfaction when working remotely.

Overhead and business costs aside, the real value and savings lie in improved employee happiness and retention. Midsize companies around 150 people who experience a 10% turnover rate or higher are spending up to $1.57 million per year on training and onboarding costs for new employees.

A survey conducted by employee engagement firm TINYpulse, reveals that 8 out of 10 employees of remote teams are happy with their jobs and feel more valued in their position.

Focusing on employee happiness drives growth across all areas. Happy workers will invest more time and energy into the company’s goals and mission and are less likely to spend time looking for a new job or daydreaming about what their life could be if they weren’t trapped behind their desks.

Just last year, 82% of telecommuters reported feeling less stress in their lives. This contributed to higher morale among teams and lower rates of absenteeism or “checking out” during work hours.

Data from Global Workplace Analytics even reveal that 24% of remote workers can accomplish more in an allotted amount of time than traditional office employees.

Without having to deal with the distractions of time-wasting office procedures, impromptu meetings, and procedural minutia, it gives them time to focus on the meaningful work that leads to ultimate productivity and sense of accomplishment. While remote workers have to deal with their own set of distractions that come from working at home, cafes or coworking spaces, there is a level of accountability that encourages them to form their own productivity techniques.

No more excuses.

In the digital age, and with the number of resources at our disposal, technology has made it easier than ever for teams to connect, collaborate and create amazing things without needing to be in the same room, let alone the same country. Traditional offices are limiting themselves to not only the creativity sparked by flexibility and location independence but are also hindering their access to a global pool of talented workers.

At the core, the main resistance companies have when it comes to implementing remote work initiatives comes down to fear of change and the unknown.

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