Working 50, 60 hours per week, or even more?
Are you enjoying it?
Do you ever wonder what it would be like to work a more balanced workweek? Like, say maybe 40 hours per week or so?
Or, what if you could be like one of those dream stories you hear and put in a 15-20 hour week, while still making an income that more than exceeds your lifestyle’s needs?
It’s up to you as to how much work to put in on your e-commerce business. Some owners like the high demands of 70+ hour work weeks.
But others don’t see it that way.
If you want to work less hours, consider using outsourcing like this:
1. Only Do What You’re Really the Best At
Do you know your business skills? Have you ever made a list of everything you do in a day, and compared that to what you’re really the best at?
Do all of those tasks require you to be there? Could someone else, with just a little bit of training, do them just as well as you, or nearly so?
If you haven’t prioritized the tasks you need to take on, consider doing that. You’ll often find opportunities where you could hand simple or menial tasks off to someone else.
2. Don’tÂ Outsource What Really Differentiates Your Business
Is customer service one of the top reasons people come to Â your company, and not others? While helpful, outsourced services and vendors are never as committed to your company and your philosophy as you are.
If customer service is your major point of differentiation, for example, do it yourself or hire employees.
3. Outsource Services Where You Need the Expertise
What do you know about website design and conversion rate optimization? If you’re already an expert, great. No need to outsource that.
But let’s say your expertise is traffic generation. Don’t spend your time trying to design your website. Instead, find a company that charges fairly high prices for that service and leave it to them.
You can also learn their expertise, but that takes years of trial and error.
4. Outsource Your Marketing, If You’re Not a NaturalÂ Marketer
Marketing has two major aspects:
1) Positioning/branding (how your customers think of your company, compared to others)
2) Visibility to your market (most often represented as “SEO”)
For one thing, SEO’s getting too time-consuming to do on your own. And for another, most e-commerce companies don’t focus on branding or positioning (which also eat up a lot of time). But, when you find the right position in your market, sales come so much easier.
It’s really something that gets overlooked often. And it’s one area where it makes sense to use someone else’s outside expertise.
That’s the gist of outsourcing here in 2016 and beyond. Think of outsourcing at your business as a puzzle. You have to identify the pieces and assemble them in a way that makes sense for your business.
Have you ever looked at the average on-page time for your blog posts? Does it leave something to be desired?
Simply go to âBehavior Ă Site Content Ă All Pagesâ in Google analytics. You should get at least 1 â 2 minutes in your blog posts. If you donât get that, youâre not doing enough to be useful or original.
That means you lose out on more sales.
Itâs getting harder to write blog posts that stand out. As you know, the internetâs getting bloated with information. And much of it is the same old thing.
So what do you do to write a blog post that stands out, gets read and shared, and generates you all kinds of back links?
1. Focus on âNew and Differentâ
âNew and differentâ gets attention. It works in every facet of business for every kind of customer.
Itâs tough to write ânew and differentâ information. You may have to create dozens of blog posts that end up being the same as everything else out there first.
Thatâs okay. Itâs part of the process of getting to a successful place.
And to make that happen, you have to do the actions in #2âŚ
2. Research What Works
With content, you have to know your surroundings. You have to learn what your competitors are up to.
Fortunately, Buzzsumo makes that easy. With their free search, you can see the top 10 most shared content types on the keyword you enter. And that ranges anywhere from the past 24 hours to the past year.
See what those posts talk about. Take an original slant on what they say. Or, expand on something they mention.
3. Put A Good Half Hour Into Your Headline
You should write multiple variations of your headline until you get one that really blows readersâ minds.
Fortunately, there are two tools that make this process easier so you know the headline you come up with will be effective:
â˘ CoScheduleâs Headline Analyzer
â˘ The Advanced Marketing Instituteâs Emotional Marketing Value Analyzer
I aim for a score of 70+ with CoSchedule because theyâve based their tool on research of digital headlines that work. For the EMV analyzer, I want a score of 50% ideally, but Iâll leave with 35% or more if I have a 70 or greater with CoSchedule.
Thereâs no such thing as a âperfectâ blog post. Basically, all you do is make something ânew and different,â and then make your post far more useful than any other like it. Do that, and youâll be fine.
Considering different blog post types?
Awesome for you! Youâre starting to advance in content marketing sophistication much more than any of your competitors.
Very few, if any e-commerce SMBs, consider writing different types of blog posts. They just want to get as much information out there as possible. Or, at least thatâs the way most people think when they start content marketing.
What are the different types of posts you should have? Hereâs an overview:
1. Oldies but Goodies: How-To
âHow-toâ type content was the go-to even before content marketing erupted on the internet. Magazines and newspapers would use this type of content and rock it with results.
Your blog today is the same: it should have how-to posts to succeed.
2. Thought Leadership
Personally, I hate this term. Thatâs because thereâs no research shows âexpert contentâ results in more sales. However, I do use this term because thatâs how most businesses refer to it.
âThought leadershipâ content is okay. But I advocate for a different definition of what it is: new and different info that canât be found anywhere else. Thatâs because anything ânew and differentâ attracts more customers. Itâs just the way business and marketing works.
3. List Posts
Another standard for any content marketerâs repertoire, list posts get shared a lot. For added value, do a towering list post of 50-100 tips or resources. Thatâll shoot your shares up even further.
This one Iâve made up. The basic point is to take some form of conventional or accepted thinking out there, and then challenge it with your own opinion.
Thatâs going to attract attention because again, it taps into the idea of ânew and different.â
Donât challenge just for the sake of it. Only do it when you really believe you have a better way of thinking or doing things. Your audience will easily be able to tell the difference between these approaches.
5. Expert Roundup
Youâve seen these before: they collect the opinions of 100+ experts on a simple question. Theyâre huge because they build a lot of connections for you. Plus, they attract a ton of traffic. Naturally, you get lots of links and social shares too. Plus, your audience loves them.
A lot of work. But oh so many benefits!
6. Company Updates
Yes, you can talk about your company on your blog. Just make sure you do it on 10% of your posts or less. Get as personal as you can. Do an employee spotlight, or a department spotlight.
People want to get to know you personally online. Itâs a huge way to build strong relationships with your customers.
Those are six types of blog posts to have on your blog! Get âem on there to keep things fresh and interestingâŚand watch the interest and sales roll in.
SEO? It’s so tough these days it’s nearly impossible to do without the help of an agency. You can do a fair amount of it on your own.
But, it’s really hard to do it all yourself. And boring. Not all SEO tasksÂ are fun. And many favor introverted personalities that like numbers, words, and software.
How complexÂ does SEO really have to be? The truth is it does not have to be too difficult. In comparison to other knowledge-based professions, you don’t need to make it overly challenging to do decently.
That doesn’t mean it’s not time-consuming though. And it doesn’t mean you won’t run into snags and baffling problems from time-to-time.
But it doesn’t need to be complex. SEO can be simple. Here’s what to do to make sure you stay on track and don’t anger Google:
1. On-Page Optimization
This is easy. Pick 1-3 focus keywords for your page. Mention your most desired one in the title. Make sure the others appear at least once on your page.
Include synonyms and variations of the terms you want to rank for. But above all, make sure you write naturally.
A good way to do this is to write your page first. Then, go back and add the keywords. Include your most desired keyword in your URL too.
2. Regular Content
This needs to be your focus, as you know. To get attention and traction, you must write new and different content, or stuff that’s much more useful than anything like it.
And you have to promote. Content’s so bloated these days that it’s hard to find the really good stuff.
3. On-and-Off Page Links
Off-page links are still the strongest ranking factor for your content. This may diminish in importance in the future. But for now and the foreseeable future, they’ll carry a lot of power in how you rank.
Your on-site links carry a lot of weight too. Link to the most useful content on your blog. And link to other pages you want to rank highly (in nonchalant ways).
4. Be the Most Useful Source in Solving Your Market’s Problem
Your market has a problem that keeps them up at night. And they have other problems you can solve too.
To earn and keep their attention, make sure you solve their problem better than anyone else. Or, solve their problem in a unique way.
However you do that, you must compare yourself to other websites and businesses that solve the same problem you do. Watch them every day. And you must solve the problem even better than they do.
…Or, you’ll lost market share. The best solution gets the most word-of-mouth online.
When you get right down to it, today’s SEO really is this simple. But it ain’t easy. Focus on those things, though, and you’ll do just fine.
Ever heard the term “content saturation?” I’m not sure if he coined the phrase or not, but Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion was who I first heard it from.
As you might have noticed, when you Google almost any topic, there’s more sources on it than you could ever read. And that’s where the term “content saturation” comes in.
It means just like you think: on any subject, you can get more content than you ever would need on it.
And if you’re using content marketing to promote your blog, it means that it’s now more difficult than ever to write content that stands out and attracts attention.
While it is challenging, it’s not nearly as hard as you think. And it’s far from impossible. Here’s what you can do in 2016 and beyond to make yours stand out:
1. Write Something “New” and “Different”
This one takes some time because you have to know what’s available on your subject in your niche. You have to know what’s really knocking it out of the park. And you have to know what most businesses do.
Fortunately, a tool like Buzzsumo speeds up this process. They have a free search, which scours the entire web for the posts with the most social shares on the keyword you search on. You can also use their free demo to get their full search options.
Those posts you find are your top competition. Now, it’s up to you to top those. If you want a lot of attention, you’ll have to get posted on a guest blog. It’s incredibly difficult to publish only on your own blog and grow it.
2. Do The Same Thing As Your Competition, ButÂ Make Your Content Much More Useful
If you’re not an original thinker, or you’re afraid of risk, you don’t have to write new and different ideas for your niche.
Instead, you can simply do what your competition does…except go much farther into depth. Did they write a 3,000-word blog post?
Great, go 4,000 words, create your own graphics, and a video or two. It could take 20-40 hours to write your guest blog post.
But don’t worry because the revenue and traffic you generate over the long-term will be well worth it.
3. Keep An Editorial Calendar
As you research content ideas, you will think of ones that simply knock it out of the park. Write them all down in a spreadsheet. You don’t want to lose any.
You may not even use most of them. But eventually, you will find a few that stand far and above the rest.Â Your editorial calendar is a “secret weapon” that helps you create unique content ideas that get attention.
Is it easy to create content that stands out? No. Is it simple? Yes. With enough dedication, you can do it.
Let’s say you want to start an e-commerce business, but you don’t have any money. Loans aren’t an option for you. And you don’t want to approach friends or family for money (Hey! I don’t blame you.)
One huge edge on the internet involves the words you use to describe the products you sell. Ever read the product descriptions at a website, and feel like you’re reading absolutely the same thing you’ve read at about a dozen other websites?
That indicates a huge problem with the copy. Change it to highlight more value about your product, and you can earn more sales because you’ve shapedÂ people’s perceptions.
Here’s how you can do it, even if you don’t fancy yourself the next Bill Shakespeare:
1. First, Find Products That Can Be Sold on Quality
Don’t be mistaken, writing potent marketing copy is not about finding a chintzy product and showing how it’s going to solve all your problems. Today’s consumer is smart and educated, and for the most part, they’ll see right through it when you’re feeding them baloney.
So, don’t feel like you need to do that.
Instead, find products that truly are a step higher above others in terms of quality.
2. Find a Product You Believe in and You Yourself Would Buy
Again, this is another way in which you avoid feeding your ideal customer marketing hype. You’re going to do much better marketing when you actually believe in the ability of your product to solve your target consumer’s problem better than any other.
3. Focus on Emotions, But Remember Consumers Aren’t Stupid
A lot of business do think consumers are idiots. That’s part of the reason why you see such dumb commercials on TV. Businesses think using silly jingles get people to remember them and buy.
That works on some people.
But, the power of that is diminishing because of the internet, education, and comparison shopping. That said, consumers do buy on emotion.
So remember to tell them how they’re going to feel happy, excited, relieved, or have fun with your product (whatever’s appropriate). That’s what they really want, and they hope your product can do that for them.
4. Sell the Benefits and Experience, Not the Facts about the Product
The benefits are what consumers get when they buy your product. The facts, or “features,” are what it has or does.
For example, here’s what you could talk about with a leather chair that vibrates and heats:
â˘ Vibrating massage helps you feel comfortable and relax
â˘ Heating takes the tension and stress out of your muscles, putting you completely at ease
Where many company websites simply say:
In both cases, you get the same thing. But one tells you that you do, where one does not. Which chair would you rather have?
Don’t know about you, but I’d rather have the first one.
So those are some marketing copy basics. Remember, you don’t need to manipulate, exaggerate, or deceive to sell. You can be honest and straightforward, and reap lots of sales without selling your own soul.
With user experience, there isn’t a “one-size fits all” approach. Every website has different tactics that will and won’t work.
That being said, there are some high-level guidelines you should follow. And then you can test out the detailed minutia from there.
Anyway, if you want some user experience quick wins (and theÂ additionalÂ sales that come from said “quick wins”), here are some things to do:
1. Follow the “3-Click Rule”
Everything on your website should be accessible with just three clicks – not including the checkout process. The reason you follow this rule is that’s about how many clicks any user will make to find anything on your site.
A few users might go farther than that, but not many. So make everything easily accessed with 3 clicks.
If you’re thinking to add a few clicks beyond that for “SEO purposes,” don’t. Increasingly, SEO performance depends on user engagement. So if your page gets practically no clicks, and the clicks that do come don’t stay long, it’s not going to rank well anyway.
2. Don’t Use a Check-Box that Defaults to Subscribing People to Your Newsletter When They Check Out
Many sites do it, but it’s a huge no-no. The error in thinking is that you’ll exponentially grow your newsletter list.
You will see growth. But you’ll do more damage to your relationship with your customers than good.
When they see your newsletter they did not sign up for in their inbox, they’ll say, “What the hell is this?” And they’ll get irritated and unsubscribe. You might stay connected with a few customers. But it’s a short-sighted answer to a long-term problem.
It’s more worth your time to write a useful piece of content and give that to your users for free in exchange for choosing to sign up voluntarily. That way you get the people on your newsletter list who truly like you.
3. What to Do in the “Hero Area” of Your Home Page
The “Hero Area” is the section of your home page above the fold that users immediately see when they visit. It’s your first opportunity to get their attention, so you have to make it count.
With your hero area:
â˘ Don’t use sliders because no one watches it long enough to even see what’s on the second slider.
â˘ Don’t make it complex. A single promotion or message is enough for your users to focus on.
â˘ Do communicate your value. This could be a limited-time offer. You could also talk about “free shipping” or “no minimum orders.”
4. Home Page Navigation
Users don’t know your website well yet. So as you test the most frequently used pages on Â your website, those should go in your navigation.
Include the major categories of what you offer, and other major business information (About your company, FAQ, policies etc…).
You should also avoid product-level promotions. If you have just a few products, you can ignore that. If you have a lot of products and promote just a couple, that’s too narrow and chases a lot of would-be customers away.
There’s an Infinitesimal Level of Detail
I could write on what to do and what not to do for a series of many blog posts. Â But these are the major tips I have for you now.
And here’s some additional resources:
â˘Â 25 excellent UX examples from ecommerce sites
â˘Â 21 examples of user experience innovation in ecommerce
â˘Â 105 Ecommerce UX Tips: How to Seduce Visitors to Buy (some tips in this post originate from this source)
Ahh SEO…it gets more complex with each passing year.
Or does it?
In some respects it does seem to get more complicated. But you can actually stick with certain fundamentals over time that’ll keep you in pretty good shape.
Here’s what to do to get and keep high rankings:
1. Find Low-Competition, High-Converting Keywords
Of all these tips, this is the hardest and most critical to pull off. Optimize for the wrong keywords, and you struggle to convert. Optimize for the right ones, and the sales roll in over and over again for years.
So how do you find the “right” keywords?
Use keyword research tactics few other people use:
â˘ Browse the social media profiles of your target market to see what words they use to talk about products you sell
â˘ Insert your competitor’s landing page into Google’s keyword tool to find keyword ideas
â˘ Manually type keywords into Google, and look at the blue titles for each page. Ones that are not optimized with your specific keywords will be easier to knock off.
â˘ Run a quick PPC campaign first on each keyword to see how they convert
Remember, most people just enter their desired keywords into Google Adwords to find ideas. So if you do it that way, you’ll get the most competition.
2. How to Optimize Each Page
This isn’t hard to do, despite what you might hear out there. Each page should have a “head term,” a primary phrase you’re targeting.
You should get the head term in the page’s URL, search title, the meta description, the on-page H1 tag, and maybe another place or two in the text. You can add another 1-2 close variations of that head term throughout the text to add relevancy and rankings for those.
3. Images Can Give You a Nice Little Edge
Your e-commerce store should be loaded with images. Each image should have a descriptive “ALT” tag. Mention just 1 keyword in there, along with an accurate description of what the image is all about.
Google knows if you’re stuffing your image ALT tags with keywords, and it’ll dock you as a result.
4. Content, Content, and More Content
The #1 rule of content: be more useful than anyone else in your niche. That gives them reason to pay attention to you and not them.
After you’ve written an incredibly useful piece of content, go back and optimize it with 1 keyword or keyphrase about every 500 words.
You don’t have to publish a lot. 1000 words per week or so will do. But you do have to be consistent.
Otherwise, Google stops caring about you.
SEO’s Simple, But It Sure Ain’t Easy!
SEO is fairly straightforward. But it’s not an easy thing to do repeatedly over time. You may have to hire help to take care of some of the gruntwork for you.
But if you keep at it, and you keep aiming to please your visitors, you’ll do just fine.
In business…it’s about getting every little edge that you can get over your competitor’s, isn’t it?
Don’t they always say,”The great ones pay attention to fine detail.”
Well, here’s something that I guarantee 99% of your competitors are not doing. In fact, most don’t even know about it.
It’s called “schema.” And it’s been in play for several years.
In a nutshell, schema helps search engines understand what your search result means, not just what it says.
And you’ll want to take advantage of it because it makes your search result more attractive than your competitor’s search results for specific searches. So you can get some more clicks that maybe you couldn’t in years past.
Here’s how you can make the best use of it so you snatch traffic away from your competitors:
1. Use Microdata
There’s actually several forms of metadata. Google’s only concerned about Microdata. So that’s all you need to deal with.
And since there’s a deal among all search engines to support microdata, you’ll make all the major ones happy when you use it.
Google supports rich snippets for reviews, people, products, businesses and organizations, recipes, events, and music. Since you most likely sell products, you’re good to go there.
2. If You Have WordPress, There’s Plugins to The Rescue!
If you have Genesis 2.0 or later, there’s great news: it automatically takes care of your schema microdata markup for you.
But if you don’t, there’s plenty of plugins to help you out. WP Social SEO Booster may be the only plugin that supports the “Article” markup. “Article” markup helps your blog posts be more visible to Google. It also supports Open Graph markup for Facebook.
The WP Rich Snippets plugin is a good one to use if you don’t mind paying $49. You can add all sorts of Â functionality to your website, like star ratings, prices, hours open, votes, and others.
3. If You Don’t Have WordPress, I Don’t Have Good News for You…
Unfortunately, without a simple plugin, schema is tough to implement. And it takes much more time and space than we have here. A good guide to use is this one from KISSmetrics.
Just know that once you have schema microdata implemented on your pages, you’ll get more clicks and sales.
Should you go out of your way to implement it at all costs right now? No.
Should you add it in step-by-step slowly over time to improve sales? Absolutely.
You read that title right.
Rankings are not a good way to measure marketing success.
Not by a long shot.
Every website owner’s obsessed with them.
But you shouldn’t be.
1. Google Can Take Them Away Completely…At Any Time
It’s not Google’s goal to annihilate SMBs from their search rankings. But remember, they are one of the biggest companies in the entire world.
So they have to keep finding new ways to turn a profit. Now, out of all their revenue streams, the money they make from PPC advertising is by far their biggest revenue stream.
Simple logic tells you it’s in their best interest to get you paying for PPC.
Recently, with local search rankings, they changed the 7-pack to a 3-pack. Now the official reasoning for this has nothing to do with increasing revenues.
But if you examine the results, they make PPC ads more obvious, and reduced the number of organic search results. Any sane person will recognize they’re going to keep doing things like this that push more businesses toward paid search.
2. There’s So Many Other Aspects of Marketing
SEO rankings are a part of your marketing success. But there’s so many other things that affect the success of your marketing too:
1. How you differentiate from the competition
2. The position of your product in your market’s mind
3. Conversion optimization
4. Quality of your copy and content
5. How hard you promote your copy and content
6. Other places you promote, like social media
7. The quality of your product photos
8. The functionality of your website
9. Timeliness and relevance of your marketing newsletter
So putting huge weight on Â your SEO rankings isn’t wise to do when you have all these other aspects that affect the results of your marketing.
3. Google Personalizes Results More Every Year
They do it based on search history, people in your network, and your location. So those rankings you see may not be what everyone else sees.
Google moves the target of SEO rankings so much…does it really make sense to invest your time and money in that?
What SEO Rankings Do
At the end of the day, your search rankings get you more exposure. And of course, it’s logical that the more exposure you get, the more sales you make.
But since exposure is just a part of your marketing, it’s not sensible to view your search rankings as your primary metric of success.
At the end of the day, conversion rate, how efficiently you make your sales, matters more.
Yes, SEO is important. And you should optimize your site according to Google’s SEO guidelines.
But, at the end of the day, you should view good rankings as a nice bonus, not the focus of your online marketing strategy.