5 Local SEO Shortcuts to Ranking Your Local Website in Record Time

What’s the best marketing technique for your local business?

Answer:  Local SEO.

The majority of your potential customers are searching for your business online, and most of them are using mobile devices. Your only chance to reach them is by getting your local business website to rank high in the search engines.

And how is that supposed to happen?

Through dominance. You must master your local SEO, which used to be a tough beast to tame. What made it tough to tame was the fact that the “rules” of local SEO were in flux.

Today, however, you’re at an advantage. The techniques for ranking your local business website are relatively simple to implement.

Here are 5 shortcuts that will give you a powerful advantage.

1. Use your city name/neighborhood on every page of your website.

The most important component of local SEO is your website. Your website must include the name of your city or neighborhood.

There are a few reasons why this is important.

First, it’s critical for search engines to know what city you’re in. Second, website visitors need to know that your website is relevant to them.

If your business is located in a large urban area, you should also include the name of the area or neighborhood where you are located. A “Bakery in New York City” is rather vague, whereas a “French pastry café in Lenox Hill, Manhattan” is specific.

If you have a robust content marketing strategy, you can maintain a steady stream of local information in your blog articles and updates — the local softball team’s victory, the fire station’s fundraiser, etc. Regularily referring to your city, its neighborhoods, and its current events can improve your local SEO.

Here are a few bonus tips for extra SEO power:

  • Mention your location in your title tag. For example:  “Bob’s Crossfit, Los Angeles, CA”
  • Mention your location in your H1: “Top-rated L.A. Fitness Club”
  • Mention your location in your content.

2. Place your NAP in the footer of your website or on every page.

NAP stands for “Name, Address, and Phone Number.” This bit of information is the key to local ranking.

I recommend that local businesses place this information prominently on every page. Obviously, you don’t want to be accused of keyword stuffing. You do want to drive long tail traffic to your website, which includes local long tail queries.

3. List your business on local websites and directories.

As soon as your website is optimized, it’s time to get busy with directories.

Directory listings are to local SEO what backlinks are to traditional SEO. All things being equal, the local business with the most directory listings will rank higher and faster.

Local websites and directories vary from area to area, but the following directories are available everywhere:

  • Google+
  • Bing
  • Yahoo
  • Yelp
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • CitySearch
  • MerchantCircle
  • Manta
  • Yellow Pages
  • White Pages
  • Local.com
  • Foursquare
  • DexKnows

Get your business listed on as many high-quality directories as you can, but take heed:  Many of these directories want to charge hefty fees for the apparent privilege of adding a little extra exposure, tracking your metrics, or enhancing your listing.

In most cases, you don’t need the extra lift. A standard free listing is enough to signal to the search engines that you’re a viable business with a recognized presence in your local area.

That being said, you should fill out as much information as possible on these online directories. If you have the option to add the name of the business owner, photos of your locations, and a description of your services, by all means add this information.

4. Make sure that your NAP is consistent.

Google and other search engines use your NAP as the business’s unique identifier. For this reason, your NAP must be consistent across all websites and social media sites.

For example, it’s possible that your business may have changed locations at some point in the past. If you moved from 123 Main Street to 456 Elm Street, you will need to make sure that you’ve updated this information on your Facebook page, Google page, Yelp, Foursquare, and any other online directories.

5. Get reviews.

The better your reviews, the better your business will do.

Although the exact impact of reviews is unknown, we can be fairly certain that a greater quantity of user reviews on a site like Yelp can enhance a website’s ranking.

The biggest upside of reviews is that it attracts potential customers. Let’s say you were in the mood for sushi, so you compare two local sushi restaurants.

One has 500 five-star reviews, and one has 18 one-star reviews. You would probably opt for better reviewed restaurant, right?

Now getting reviews is easier said than done. It is often considered poor form to ask for reviews outright. It’s even worse to pay for reviews.

But there are ways to get reviews. The most effective way to get stellar reviews is to earn them through bend-over-backwards customer service and over-the-top customer care.

You can try other methods, too:

  • Place a reminder about online reviews near the checkout or exit doors.
  • Post URLs or QR codes in these locations as well.
  • Encourage your staff to mention the value of online reviews.
  • Incentivize those who leave a review by offering coupons, giveaways, or other perks.
  • Include links to your directory profiles such as Google+ or Yelp where you are eager to earn reviews.

Conclusion

It’s so important for businesses to understand local SEO and to do what it takes to rank.

Google is getting much better at returning relevant local results, but it’s still up to local businesses to take the right action.

With this solid understanding of what it takes to rank, you should see greater results, greater revenue, and superior business success.

What techniques do you rely on to help your local business rank?

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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Top Dos and Don’ts When Running Your First Startup

Launching a startup is, for all intents and purposes, one of the hardest things you’ll probably ever do in your life. It’s a giant leap of faith and one that involves a constant learning process for as long as your business exists.

Not to mention your passion for your startup tends to erode as time goes by, what with all the research, planning, and marketing you need to before your launch. And in the back of your mind, you’ll probably worry if you missed something or forgot to include a critical to-do in your plans.

In this article, I’ve put together a number of simple dos and don’ts to help guide you across the rocky landscape of startups. Starting a new business is always risky, but that’s what makes it so fun and rewarding in the end.

1. DO Your Research

Many people often think a good idea is all it takes to start a business. But ideas are so common, and chances are, even if you think you have a truly unique idea, someone’s thought of it before.

Facebook? Dating sites and Friendster were way ahead of the curve.

Amazon? eBay came first.

My point is that ideas are easy to find. But the thing that takes a great idea and turns it into a great business is execution. And for execution to happen, you need market research, which basically answers these questions?

  • Is there a market for my business?
  • Do you understand your target market?
  • What are my products and services?
  • What problems will my business solve?
  • Is someone else doing it?

Without proper research, you can’t make reliable forecasts of market readiness, which can lead to disaster within the first few months of your startup’s existence.

2. DON’T Jump on Bandwagons

One of the fastest ways for a startup to die in its first few months is if chases the product mechanic instead of answering the unique demand and reason for that product.

Simply put, if you think the product mechanic for a photo-sharing app will work for a video-sharing app, and want to build your startup around that premise, you’re taking a HUGE risk

Don’t just jump on bandwagons and copy the latest trends. Instead, do your research on what consumers need, using the results to develop a way to answer their needs.

The need should determine the product, not the other way around. In other words, you can’t make assumptions based on a product certain model, and make a new product hoping that it will do the same.

3. DO Have a Partner

Single founders will almost always find it impossible to get funding. It’s not a coincidence why successful startups were helmed by at least 2 founders.

  • Apple? Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak
  • Facebook? Mark Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz, Eduardo Saverin and company
  • Snapchat? Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, Reggie Brown

As such, a business partner is a natural solution, as you can have someone to share in the work without worrying about pay—at least until you get funding.

Do note that business partnerships can be a fickle thing. And in my many years in business, I’ve learned firsthand why many business partnerships fail, with reasons ranging from personal differences, poor communication, confrontation, different goals, and a lack of time.

3. DON’T Get Carried Away by Positive Feedback

Most startup founders are ready to get thrashed by their potential customers, peers, and venture capitalists, but what many of them don’t expect is to get a ton of positive feedback.

While positive feedback is always a great thing to hear, I’ve seen how startup CEOs fall into the trap of confirmation bias, especially in the early stages of their startup. What happens is the CEO, who naturally loves positive feedback, overvalues the good things people have to say about his company, which affects his decisions and judgment.

But unless the positive feedback actually translates to sales or funding, all you have are words. Kind words, sure, but words that have no effect on your bottom line nonetheless.

Intrigue vs. Appeal

If a venture capitalist or prospect looks at your product, tells you it’s exciting but doesn’t actually invest in your company or pay for your product, you have something that’s intriguing, but not appealing enough to warrant any money.

You’ll see this scenario many times in the startup landscape: promising companies with exciting ideas that failed to take off because of a lack of focus, or creating a product that’s all bells and whistles, but doesn’t actually solve problems.

4. DO Be Careful With Who You Bring On Board

As a startup owner, it’s important to keep your ear to the ground for great talent just waiting to be tapped. However, talent is just one part of the equation. Work ethic, coachability, and a shared vision are just as important factors when choosing a potential member of your team.

So how do you start?

References offer a great way of gauging a candidate’s reliability, more so if it’s an internal recommendation. When looking at a resume, always check for a reference to an old boss or former employer. Remember, your startup’s reputation is one of your main bargaining chips, so it’s important for an applicant to have people who can vouch for him.

You can find more pointers on hiring employees in my article, 6 Traits Every Employee Must Have.

5. DON’T Underestimate the Value of Legal Assistance

A legal battle is probably the most disastrous thing that could happen to your startup. Even if you’re completely and 100 percent innocent, it still won’t change the fact that a lawsuit could last for months to years.

And that’s a distraction that could cripple a startup’s potential, taking away money that would’ve otherwise been used on R&D or marketing. Simply put, lawsuits are expensive, time-consuming, and emotionally and mentally exhausting.

So even if you don’t think you need one now, get a reliable lawyer on your team ASAP. When things go awry, at least you have some on call to represent you in court and help you to protect your business, its ideas, and assets.

6. DON’T Ramp Up Too Soon

Any startup would be thrilled with the prospect of scaling. After all, growth is a good thing, right?

Well, it’s not so black and white. While growth can translate to increased profits, you should only scale if you’re confident your business processes are problem-free and you have product/market fit.

You’ll often hear about “growth hacks,” but these all depend on whether or not your product is actually ready for market demand, otherwise you’ll only hurt your brand’s reputation.

Knowing When to Scale

Pay attention to your startup’s key performance indicators (KPIs), which should tell you if your product conversions have achieve a target product/market fit that signals the need to scale. Your KPIs will tell you if your products or services are doing the job people are paying the, to do. Make sure you get a positive answer to this question, otherwise scaling prematurely will only burn you in the end.

7. DO Invest in the Right Tools – DON’T Cheap Out

Startups need to make several investments even in their early stages, which is why funding is so important.

By investments, I’m not referring to office supplies, but technology tools: servers, marketing SaaS, CMS, software, and other similar tools.

As you might have guessed, these tools will cost a pretty penny, but it’s not money wasted at all. Andp if you skimp with these tools, such as analytics and SEO software, the problems they cause might hurt your business to the tune of thousands of dollars. If a tool’s price seems too good to be true, it most likely is.

8. DON’T Be Too Eager to Move Into an Office

Some of the world’s largest corporations had humble beginnings. I’m talking ‘garage humble’. So there’s no reason to be insecure about not having an office address.

And besides, who needs an office when you can go remote? When your resources and cash reserves are low, you need to take drastic measures to ensure your startup’s survival.

And when it comes right down to it, if you look at the cost-to-benefit ratio of an office, it turns out not to be a necessity if you make the right changes to your business in terms of business processes, hiring, and company culture. In truth, offices are overrated, especially when you can do so much on a computer connected to the Internet.

Of course, the question of going office-less will ultimately depend on the nature of your business and its unique needs. If you value face-to-face customer interaction and know it has an effect on your bottom line, then having your own premises might be critical.

9. DO Focus on Sales

Many startup owners sometimes miss the forest for the trees, spending far too much time on design, their website, and other things rather than going out there and closing a sale. These things cost money, and unless you have a client to build your profits from, you’ll soon empty your reserves.

This may seem like common sense, but it’s something that should be mentioned nonetheless. You should be selling first before anything else.

10. DON’T Be Afraid to Go Out and Meet People

As a startup owner, it’s absolutely necessary to go out there and get your hands dirty. If you’re serious about getting VC funding, you need to go out and build relationships with the people important to your business and industry.

Talk to your potential customers and find out what they want when buying your product or services. Ask what their pet peeves are and learn out how to make them happy.

You should also interact with influencers in your industry, and even your competition. Simply put, you need to make your presence known. You can’t afford to keep yourself holed in, coding all day long.

11. DO Be Ready for Failure

Embrace the possibility of your startup failing. As much as 90 percent, or 9 out of 10, startups fail, so the odds aren’t exactly in your favor.

But don’t let that burst your bubble. The key is learning how to fail—I know, sounds like something Mr. Miyagi would say.

But it’s true. Failing quickly is better than failing over a prolonged period. If you’re gonna walk into walls, it’s better to be running into them full speed. After that, you get up, dust yourself and move on.

The best thing you can do for your startup is to brace yourself for failure, learn as much lessons from the experience, and move on to the next endeavor.

Remember, startups are all about trial and error. So rather than toeing the line all the time, you need to accept that you’ll get things wrong. Just be sure you’re not making the same mistakes over and over again.

Conclusion

The goal of this guide isn’t so much to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, but rather to help you avoid some of the most common mistakes other entrepreneurs make.

This shouldn’t stop you from taking risks all because you’re afraid of making mistakes, because you won’t grow with that mindset.

Every single entrepreneur has made and will continue to make mistakes. It’s just how the world of startups works. The key, however, is to learn from these startup mistakes to minimize the damage they might incur on your business.

Do you have any particular dos and don’ts you’d like to recommend for startups?

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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17 Writing Hacks to Write Killer Articles in Half the Time

Think about the articles you write. They’re good. People like them. You’ve been published in a few places.

Good job.

Now, what if you could double that?

What if you could write twice as many articles, write twice as many guest posts, get published on twice as many websites, make your articles twice as long, get twice the visibility, make twice as much of an impact, get twice the page views, site visitors, traffic, and conversions?

Wow. That would make a huge difference, wouldn’t it?

The more you write, the more of all the other good things in life come to you.

But how can you write more? Here are a few of the writing hack techniques that I use. If you pick a few of these, you’ll definitely be able to write way more than you do right now.

1. Have a list.

The number one thing that helps me write faster is this. I already know what I’m going to write about before I even start.

A lot of the time that people spend “writing,” isn’t actually spent on writing. It’s spent figuring out what they want to write about. This kills your productivity!

Before you ever sit down to write, you need to know exactly what you’re going to write about.

Write down your titles ahead of time. When you’re ready to start writing, just pick the next title in the list and nail it. Instantly, you can save anywhere from 20-45 minutes.

2.  Choose topics that you’ve mastered.

If you try to write on unfamiliar topics, it will take you a long time to write. The best topics for you are the topics you’re already good at.

If you’ve mastered a certain topic — like PPC example — then you have experience to draw on. Write about PPC. You’ve done this before. You know the terms. You understand the concepts. You don’t have to do as much research. All you need to do is write.

This can save tons of time. If you as a PPC expert tried to write an article on, say, hreflang for SEO, it would be tough. You’d have to do a lot of research. Basically, you’d have to teach yourself about the topic before you can explain it to others.

You should challenge yourself occasionally. But don’t purposely pick out tough articles. You’ll just waste your time and get frustrated.

3.  Type fast.

Typing speed is crucial for writing fast. If you’ve never taken a typing class, you may want to do so. Using the proper hand placement is an important part of learning to type quickly.

Unfortunately, some people still rely on the two-finger pecking method to type. You may be pretty fast, but you definitely won’t be as fast as you could be.

Many online courses are free.

Here are some sites that will help you to improve your typing speed:

4.  Create a routine.

Routines are what make you more productive. Turn your writing time into a routine.

  • Write at the same time each day.
  • Write for the same length of time each day.
  • Do the same things before you write.
  • Do the same things after you write.

When you create a routine, you’re teaching your brain to do something better and faster. The routine forms a muscle and neural memory, kind of like a well-worn path. The smoother and wider the path, the faster you can run down it.

If you try to write in a different place every time, you may be slightly more creative, but you won’t be more productive. The same music, the same coffee, the same desk, the same time — all of these will increase your writing time.

5.  Pick your peak times.

If you asked me to sit down and write an article at my non-peak time, it would take me a very long time — maybe 2-4 hours.

If you asked me to sit down and write an article during my peak time, I could do it in 45-60 minutes. No problem.

The difference has everything to do with peak times. The human body operates according to cycles called ultradian rhythms.

We can focus best in cycles of 90-120 minute cycles. Our minds are most alert during certain cycles. We don’t say 100% alert all day long.

Writing is a mentally demanding task. You should do your writing during your most productive time of the day. If you do so, you could turn a two-hour article into a one-hour job. It makes a huge difference.

  • Some people are night owls. They should write at night.
  • Some people are morning people. They should write in the morning.
  • Some people hit their stride in the middle of the day. They should write in the middle of the day.

Choose your most productive time, and use it for writing articles.

6.  Limit your research.

It’s easy to get distracted by doing a lot of research. Of course, your article should be well-researched, but you should also know when to stop.

I recommend doing your research before you do your writing. If you’ve done all the relevant research, then you possess a deeper understanding of the subject. You can write intelligently, and spend less time clicking between different tabs and searching for more information.

7.  Set up your workstations.

The best way for me to write an article is on my Macbook. I just need one screen, but I open two browser windows — one on the right and one on the left.

The window on my left is for writing. The one on my right is for research. I can easily switch between the two without having to close windows, move programs, or alt-tab between them.

Some people might want more workstations and monitors.

Find a format that works for you. If you’re a two or three minotor kind of person, then make sure you’re all set up before your start writing.

8. Use a comfortable chair or standing desk.

If you’re uncomfortable while you write, it will take you longer to do it. Instead of writing, you’ll be adjusting in your chair or trying to get situated.

It’s worth it to invest in a nice chair and desk.

Source

Get into a comfortable position, and write.

9. Make your time sacred.

Don’t let anything intrude on your writing time. That means no Facebook, no appointments, no email, no phone calls, no nothing.

It’s easy to give in to others’ demands for our time and attention. Whenever you do, you’re giving up crucial writing time. Protect your time.

10.  Take a planned break.

We all need breaks. If you’re not taking breaks, your mind is going to get worn out. Plan your breaks. If you prefer, you can use something like the pomodorotechnique to plan periods of productivity followed by a brief rest.

One of the best forms of breaks is a quick walk. You can stimulate the brain’s activity centers to make you think better when you sit down to write again.

Source

11. Drink caffeine.

Caffeine helps to boost mental focus and improve your alertness. It does, of course, have other side effects.

Source

You probably don’t want to get addicted to coffee, but be aware that it’s there for you if you want to use it in moderation.

12. Outline, then write.

When I was first writing, I discovered something that completely changed my approach.

At first, I would try to just sit down and write an article from point A to point B. It took a long time and was mentally grueling.

Eventually, I discovered that if I wrote my introduction, then my conclusion, I could write the rest of the article a lot quicker.

Then, I discovered something else. If I wrote my introduction, conclusion, and outline, I would go faster still.

Basically, I was writing the article in my mind before I typed it out on the screen. This simple technique saved me hours of time. Within fifteen minutes, I had the entire skeleton of an article on the screen. All I had to next was fill in the blanks.

I recommend this approach, especially if you’re unsatisfied with your current approach to writing and would like helpful writing hacks. Here’s what I suggest:

  • You already have your title and topic.
  • Write your introduction.
  • Write your conclusion.
  • Write your outline.
  • Fill it all in with more copy, images, and discussion.

13. Focus on one thing in each point.

I can write a whole lot better if I know exactly what I’m going to say in each point. This is why I make a clear outline. Every point has a purpose. I simply need to explain the point, and then move on .

14. Hire a copyeditor.

Editing takes a lot of time. Plus it’s hard to edit your own work, especially if you try to do it right after you finish writing.

I use editors and proofreaders to keep my work free of errors. You can hire a friend or family member, or you can even purchase services off Fiverr. It doesn’t cost much, and they will probably be able to do the work quicker than you can.

15. Set a deadline.

Most people work faster when they know that they have a deadline looming over them. If you can set realistic deadlines, you’ll probably be able to boost your writing time.

16. Give yourself a reward.

Dont’ forget to reward yourself. Writing is hard work. You’ve earned a break and a bit of a reward.

Rewards help to keep the brain in a loop of productivity. It’s the same cycle that builds habits.

Source

Obviously, you shouldn’t go out and buy a new wristwatch or handbag every time you write an article. Instead, you can eat a snack, visit your favorite website, or chill on social media for a while. These small rewards are the little hacks that keep you pushing towards your goal.

17.  Put on your headphones.

Any distraction can derail your productive zone. Many times, the background noise of a busy coffee shop or even an airplane ride can help you focus on your tasks. Other times, these noises are distracting.

Find out what works for you. If it helps to put on noise-canceling headphones, then go for it. I’ve experimented with white noise, trance music, classical music, and everything in between.

You can open up a website like asoftmurmur.com or www.noisli.com and let it play while you work.

Once you find a good source of focus noise, then use it.

Conclusion

The more you write, the faster you’ll get.

I would never recommend that you do something quickly and sloppily. That’s not the point. The point is to get faster and better. Ironically, some of your best articles will probably be the ones that you wrote the fastest.

What writing hacks do you use to write faster?

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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9 Things You Should Know about Growth Hacking Safely

Growth hacking sounds great. And it is.

If I went with my tendency, this article would be all about the glories of growth hacking. But since I’ve written all about those glories elsewhere, I’m going to do something different.

I’m going to tell you about its dark side.

Maybe “dark side” is too strong of a term. But there are some very real things in growth hacking that could destroy its effectiveness.

Here’s why I think this article is important. All too often, an eager-eyed entrepreneur, growth lead, or startup gets wind of the trend called “growth hacking. “

With zero clue as to what it really is, they dive in. Several months later — with no budget, no customers, and sad hearts — they realize that they totally screwed up growth hacking.

Growth hacking is grossly misunderstood. And the greatest violators of its integrity are they very people who should be using it — entrepreneurs and startups.

Growth hacking also comes with risks. Maybe the term “hacking” tipped you off to that. But, as you’re about to find out, it’s not the “hacking” vibe that gives growth hacking its edgy characteristics. It is, instead, a misunderstanding of what growth hacking is.

This article will provide some clear-headed instruction on growth hacking safely.Think of it as your kind uncle reminding you to buckle your seatbelt.

Make sure you understand what growth hacking is.

Understand what growth hacking isn’t.

Understand who’s in charge of growth hacking.

1. Don’t skip the basics.

What are the basics? Go back to marketing 101.

  • Who is your audience?
  • Where are they?
  • What do they want?
  • How do you reach them?

A mistake that I frequently observe is a rush for “growth hacking,” but a neglect of marketing basics.

Sometimes, it’s really bad. A business doesn’t even define their target audience. Instead, they try to pull out some growth hacking tactics, thinking that it will somehow, magically, make their company grow.

Growth hacking doesn’t work that way. Growth hacking builds on the foundation of sound marketing principles.

2. Set your expectations.

There’s a delicate balance between setting other-worldly expectations and staying realistic.

Because there are so many myths surrounding growth hacking, I challenge you to stay sane about your expectations.

Expecting results like Airbnb or Dropbox may not be justified. Why not? Well, for one, remember the point above? Your audience size may be limited because there just aren’t enough members of the target audience. You may not have the same resources at your disposal.

Safe growth hacking is successful growth hacking. To be successful, your expectations should be high enough to make you hustle, but low enough to keep you focused.

3. Have a budget.

Growth hacking is not free.

Nothing in life is free.

Let’s just start with you as a growth hacker. It costs some amount of money to keep you alive, even if it’s only the amount of money necessary to purchase the substandard fare of ramen noodles.

Advancing up from ramen noodles, however, you’ll need to pay for other growth hackers, contractors, coders, designers, copywriters, SEOs, assistants, software, and other services that will enhance your growth hacking efforts.

Growth hacking is marketing. And marketing requires money.

Are there “free” growth hacking methods? Of course. Should you try them? Absolutely. But should you expect to hack your growth without spending any money whatsoever? Probably not.

4. Give it time.

We marketers are eager people.

Okay, so “impatient” is probably a better word.

Nowhere is this impatience on greater display than in the wild world of growth hacking.

On the one hand, we have every right to be impatient. Impatience is what fuels action. Besides, growth hacking is supposed to be fast. We’ve heard about Dropbox, Airbnb, and Quora, and how they exploded to millions of active users virtually overnight.

As Paul Graham said, “A startup is a company designed to grow fast.” How does it “grow fast?” It hacks growth.

But keep in mind that things do take time. Even growth hacking.

Let me explain how it takes time so you don’t misunderstand the speed/time distinction.

You will spend time preparing to grow. But the growth itself will be fast.

In the case of Airbnb, it took months for the startup founders to gain traction. They spent more of their time testing, trying, and hacking into Craigslist before they were able to see the massive growth.

Source

It’s okay to spend time — a lot of time, if necessary — on the foundational aspects of growth.

You’ll be better served by laying the foundation carefully and thoroughly than by spinning your wheels in a flurry of nonproductive activity.

5. Don’t annoy your users.

One of the core principles of growth hacking is retaining your users.

Once you lose your active users — your tribe, your loyal following — you’ve lost your reason for existence.

Burn this into your mind: Hang on to your existing customers! Hang on for life.

The danger is in engaging growth hacking techniques that annoy your users.

Growth hacking is great, but growth hacking that bugs your customers is notgreat.

I can’t help but remind you of point one above — “Don’t skip the basics!” The basics of marketing is understanding your target audience. The better you know them, the greater you will please them.

Never allow growth hacking to get in the way of a great experience for your users.

6. Don’t depend on a single individual to be your growth hacker.

Growth hacking is more of a mindset than it is a position or a set of tactics. A frequent mistake that I see organizations making is the believing that a single person can effectively make growth hacking happen.

In order for growth hacking to be successful, the entire organization needs to be on board, engaged, and pursuing growth.

Mattan Griffel makes this point in his Quora post:

There are lots of non-marketing decisions that affect user growth. Building viral product features is the most obvious, but there are many others (I’ll cover these in a future post). As a result, it doesn’t make sense to place growth hacking within a particular department like marketing or engineering.

The simple image that he uses helps to capture the idea of the cross functional role of growth hacking:

Source

If you’re lucky, you’ll find a mover and shaker who can spark the growth hacking revolution in your organization.

But don’t depend on it. Instead, focus on the pursuit of growth as a corporate behavior and mentality.

7. Make sure your team is diverse.

I’m a big fan of diversity in all of life, but it’s especially important in a growth team.

What kind of diversity am I talking about here?

Diversity of skills, background, and experience.

One does not merely hire a “growth hacker.” There is no formal training, background, or career path that produces a successful growth hacker.

The key is to create a team that is, first and most importantly, focused on growth! Then, you can determine the types of people who can successfully hack that growth.

  • It might be a coder.
  • It might be a designer.
  • It might be a traditional marketer.

You’re going to need to use several different methods of growth hacking, each of which requires disparate skills. Maybe you’ll need a copywriter for guest blogging, a designer to create infographics, a developer to run split tests, or someone else entirely.

Embrace diversity, or you’ll end up with the danger of a myopic attempt at growth hacking.

8. Focus on the big moves.

Growth hacking isn’t about small efforts. It’s about massive growth in a short amount of time.

The danger I’m focused on here is the danger of targeting small victories. Tracking micro conversions, obsessing over micro features, and targeting micro wins is going to result in overall micro growth.

An article from Intercom brilliantly identifies this danger:

At a lower-level, the danger of micro definitions is they result in micro efforts. For near-term growth-orientated product teams (often called “growth teams”) and marketing teams, focussing on the immediately measurable should not translate to focussing on the trivial. The size of the changes you’re willing to make, will directly correlate with the size of your returns. Put another way: A billion dollar company was never built off better button colors.

Make big moves. Create big waves. You’ll achieve big wins.

  1. You’re going to need to hustle. And hustle hard.

You’ve heard the glib advice to “work smart, not hard.” But the fact is, growth hacking is hard work.

“It is a story of pure unadulterated hustle,” according to one startup founder.

If you have a desire for growth hacking, you must have the chops for hustle.

Conclusion

I want you to do growth hacking safely. Why? Because growth hacking safely is about growth hacking successfully.

Sure, you’ll take some risks, as you should. No risk, no reward. By taking strategic risks, you are increasing your odds of success.

Take the right risks — the kind of growth hacking risks that will allow you to rise and grow with astonishing power.

What are the dangers that you’ve seen in growth hacking?

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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6 Reasons You’re Wasting Your Marketing Time

Avoiding time-wasting at the UDRP

Have you ever had an experience when you realize Oh, shoot. I’ve been wasting a ton of time!

I’m sure you have. I certainly have.

Some of my marketing experiences have led me to conclude that some of my approaches were a total waste of time. I want to share a few of those with you.

Before I jump into it, though, I want to make a quick disclaimer.

Every business is different. You may be doing some of the things I describe here as a waste of time. That doesn’t mean they are a waste of time for you or your business.

Maybe your unique situation, your past successes, your target persona, etc., all suggest that you should keep up whatever you are doing. That is entirely your decision to make.

In other words, take this list with a grain of salt.

That being said, if you are interested in winning back some of your time and making your marketing ten times more effective, then read on!

1. You’re focusing on the wrong social media platform.

Ah, social media.

Would you believe that some people say social media marketing is a waste of time altogether?

I’m not going to go that far. My experience in social media marketing has been pretty positive.

However, there are ways of social media marketing that drain enormous amounts of time and revenue.

This is to say nothing of the time spent on our personal social media exploits. Maybe that’s a waste of time?

Source

Instead, let’s talk about the platforms that you’re using for your social media marketing.

Are you using the right platform?

Everyone says, “You need to be using Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.” And I agree.

Some say, “You’ve got to use Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and Periscope.” And I sort of agree.

And some say, “You must use Snapchat, Vine, WhatsApp, and Twoo.” And I’m not sure if I agree or not.

What’s at the heart of the matter?

The deal is that there are hundreds of social media platforms. You have to choose the ones that are going to give you the best ROI.

Don’t assume that it will be Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or Twoo. Instead, research the heck out of your target persona, and know for sure. Then, validate your research through real-world testing.

You have the potential to waste months of time and give up thousands of dollars in revenue by picking and sticking to the wrong social media channel.

2. You’re creating and pitching articles to the big publications.

If you’re into content marketing and guest blogging, good for you.

Personally, I’m a huge fan.

Here’s something that I learned, though. Pitching articles to the big publications can be a soul-sucking waste of time.

If you land a contributor spot with, say Forbes, Entrepreneur, FastCo., TechCrunch, etc., that’s great! It gives your personal brand and business a massive boost.

But that’s a big if. The editors of these publications deal with hundreds of eager applicants each day. Your chances of landing a spot are slim.

Most of the people who write for the big-name publications have been introduced by someone who knows someone or they’ve carved out an identity for themselves by starting some big company or something.

It takes hours to research the publication, create a unique article, find the right person to send it to, and wait for a response.

You’re probably wasting your time.

What should you do instead? Target the smaller and more accessible publications that are within your niche. These publications are more likely to accept your guest post. Besides, many of these publications are directly in line with your target audience.

 

3. You’re split testing tiny, insignificant things.

Split testing is awesome.

Wasting your time split testing is not awesome.

As game-changing as split testing can be, it’s a risky game. Why? Because it’s so tempting to test minutiae, to test the tiny things that won’t make a big difference to the big picture.

You’ve probably heard the stories of the guy who tested his button color and scored a 5,000% boost in conversions.

Okay, that doesn’t happen most of the time.

Those “secret” or “shocking” conversion optimization lists are fun to read, but risky to implement yourself.

What’s going to give you the biggest bang for your marketing time?

Testing macro conversions.

I recommend that you continue testing micro conversions, but focus your split testing on the larger actions.

Source

Micro conversions are valuable insofar as they lead to macro conversions. But macro conversions are the money-makers and that’s why you should focus more time on them.

Source

4. You’re using too many social media platforms.

I touched on this somewhat above. The more social media platforms you use, the more time you are potentially wasting.

Why?

Your target audience is probably only focusing on a few social media platforms. Your goal is to find those platforms, engage, and see some value.

If you spread yourself too thin across too many social media sites, you become less effective at any one.

You can end up wasting a lot of time.

Some of the most time-consuming social media activities are learning the platform, analyzing your efforts, and curating content to post.

The more platforms you use, the more time you expend on these efforts.

Watch your social media usage carefully. If you feel tempted to broaden your social media net to include more sites, make sure you’re seeing some ROI.

5. You’re not promoting your blog posts.

If you go to the effort of writing it, then you need to promote it.

If you don’t promote your content, then you’ve wasted all the time that you spent creating it.

One great example of content marketing is Buffer. Their blog posts are long, meaty, and rich with information and research.

Here’s how long it took Kevan Lee, Buffer blogger extraordinaire, to write some select blog posts.

Source

You can see that he’s at around 3 hours for most blog posts, regardless of the word count.

The average 500 word post takes the average blogger from 1-2 hours.

Source

Wherever you are on the time/content continuum, I can safely assume that you spend quite a bit of time creating your blog posts.

That’s okay. Keep on doing it. Increase your speed and output if you can, but keep putting in the time to create the posts.

The place where you’re wasting your time is in not promoting it.

It seems contradictory that you’re wasting your time by not doing something thattakes time, but it isn’t.

Here’s why.

If you don’t promote your blog, then all the time that you spent writing it is wasted.

When you finish writing a blog post, you may feel a sensation of relief — a respite. You might say, “Ah. That’s done. Now, I can take a break.”

But in reality, your work has just begun. It’s time to promote, share, syndicate, inform, email, post, tweet, like, and spread the good news.

Kevan Lee of Buffer spends about seven minutes promoting his posts.

However, he has the benefit of an entire team to aid in promotion. Plus, he has an automated process.

Here’s how he explains it:

Each new post also goes out to our RSS email list. And this process happens automatically. Each new post is grabbed by MailChimp and sent out at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time.

Systematizing and automating the marketing process can really speed things up, so give this a bit of attention as you seek to save time.

6. You’re reaching out to the wrong influencers.

Influencer marketing is a great way to augment your marketing strategy.

If you don’t do it correctly, however, it can create some pretty big problems.

I’ve worked with businesses who’ve wrecked their brand integrity by choosing the wrong influencers. You can read about some of the dangers of influencer marketing in my LinkedIn article on the subject.

The point that I want to focus on here is the time issue. It can seem like influencer marketing will save you time. After all, you’re relieving yourself of the time it takes to do marketing by letting influencers do it, right?

But what if you choose the wrong influencer? That produces the opposite desired-effect.

Besides, influencer marketing takes a lot of time by itself. Finding the influencers, determining how to contact them, reaching out to them, and pitching to them with an influencer proposal is very time-consuming.

Conclusion

Want to save some money? Then save some time.

There are plenty of things that can waste your time — WaitButWhy, MentalFloss, Buzzfeed, etc.

That’s okay, some of the time.

Don’t let your marketing activities be a waste of time. If executed properly, your marketing can be a lean, powerful, and efficient machine. It can generate leads, bring in customers, and make you money.

But instead, you’re spinning your wheels on stuff that doesn’t work, won’t work, and is just frustrating you.

This coming year, make it your goal to unleash the most effective marketing methods ever. Cut the fluff. Dispense with the time-wasters, and push ahead.

What things have you found to be total marketing time-wasters?

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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5 Tips to Create Content Marketing Videos Your Audience Will Want To Watch

Content marketing has evolved in recent years. It’s gone from strictly being based on blogs and written work also to include multimedia strategies. One of the most popular areas of content marketing involves the use of videos.

Audiences are often inherently visual, and videos are a great marketing tool because they’re easily digestible, they can put a face to your brand, make your company feel more personal to the audience, and they’re relatively easy and inexpensive to create.

Online videos have gone from a rarity in marketing to a must-have. With the prolific growth of videos in content marketing, the question becomes how to create videos that are going to be compelling enough for your audience to watch them, particularly in the face of growing video-based competition.

  1. Know Your Audience

When thinking about content marketing, knowing your audience is probably one of the most important things to remember, regardless of your message or your medium. If you’re creating a marketing video aimed at Baby Boomers, you’re going to have different references, a different tone and a unique overall approach as compared to something designed for Millennials.

  1. Capitalize On Something Timely and Relevant

Hootsuite created one of the most popular content marketing campaigns of 2015. The popular social media scheduling tool banked on the tremendous success of Game of Thrones with their viral “A Game of Social Thrones.” It was simple but clever, and it conveyed a message while also referencing something in pop culture that most of the targeted audience already knew about.

  1. People Profiles

Microsoft took the human element into consideration with their recent campaign, simply called “Stories.” Stories was designed to promote the many products available from Microsoft by creating feature stories and profile pieces of actual customers. The profiles are in-depth, and they go beyond simply showing how these people rely on Microsoft, but they really show unique elements of their lives. While it is content marketing, it’s also like human-interest journalism. The profiles aren’t in video format, but they could easily be translated into videos.

  1. Provide Value

Don’t just strive to entertain your audience (although this is helpful too). Great content marketing videos are extremely valuable to the audience. Timothy Sykes is a good example of someone who’s used content marketing to drive incredible success. This penny stock guru not only writes regular blog posts and highly

Timothy Sykes is a good example of someone who’s used content marketing to drive incredible success. This penny stock guru not only writes regular blog posts and highly detailed guides for current and future investors, but he also offers video lessons with real tips, tricks, and strategies. His video series bring his experience and expertise directly to the audience, and they’ve proven to be an important part of his general marketing strategy.

His video series bring his experience and expertise directly to the audience, and they’ve proven to be an important part of his general marketing strategy.

  1. Collaborate

As a final tip to make your videos more compelling, think about teaming up with someone else or another brand. Your videos don’t have to focus exclusively on your brand. You can find other authority members of your industry or community, or maybe even someone outside to box to bring a whole new perspective to your content marketing. The more closely that collaborator can appeal to your targeted audience, the better.

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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5 Epic Social Media Fails and How Not to Commit Them

The Internet is full of tales of woe about how people lost their jobs, lost their BFFs, or just lost their reputation by a social media mistake.

It’s scary stuff.

But where these articles fall short is on the advice side. It’s one thing to laugh, squirm, cry, or rant at the idiots doing the stupid social media stuff.

But what if it’s us? What if we’re the ones who are likely to commit the next major Facebook blunder or Twitter fiasco?

What then?

All those “stupid things people did on Twitter” articles suddenly don’t seem so funny.

Let’s take another look at those epic social media fails, and see what we can do about avoiding such mistakes, not just laughing at them.

1. Don’t defend yourself like this.

After landing a spot on “Kitchen Nightmares,” the restaurant-owning duo took some flak for the way that they ran their restaurant. When Amy and Samy heard the negative PR, they unloaded the heavy artillery in their defense.

The dealt it back a little harder than they needed to.

When things simmered down (a bit), and the couple had an hour or so to cool down, they posted this:

So, for whatever it’s worth, they said

sorry not sorry.

HuffPo’s Leigh Blickley, admitted

these people are freaking crazy.

The Internet loved to hate them. Parodies, cartoons, complaints, they had to deal with a lot.

 

But they dealt with it in the wrong way.

What’s the lesson for humanity?

People are going to say bad things about you. Deal with it.

But when you’re in the heat of a flame war, it’s easy to lose touch with your inner zen, and let loose with some salty language and a few well-placed insults. Touching keys with your fingers just happens. It’s hard to help it, right?

Yes, it’s hard. But wait. Just wait. When the haters rant and the bloggers begin ramping up their campaign, just wait.

You will gain more by staying silent than by trying to defend yourself. If you’re lucky, those in the Internet community not pouring forth vitriol will defend you. But if you’re not defended by the Internet’s gracious-hearted, a period of silence on your part will at least give the haters less ammunition to throw back at you.

Defensiveness is never a good PR move. Neither is sniping back at your critics.

2. Do not capitalize on tragedy.

When bad things happen, it’s never a good time for you to make a buck from it.

This is what London Luton tried to do with their Facebook pic and comment:

The caption read, “‘Because we are such a super airport….this is what we prevent you from when it snows……Weeeee :).”

Tragically, the photo used was from an accident in which a child was killed.

Although it didn’t take place directly on social media, American Apparel did something similar during the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy. They had a sale.

That storm took 285 lives, destroyed 650,000 homes, and caused the loss of $75 billion in physical capital.

Not the time for a 20% off sale.

No, let’s not do sales during hurricanes.

Events like this are no laughing matter. It’s not a time for jokes, no time for sales. It’s not a time for marketing campaigns. It’s a time for mourning, for respect, and for tactful silence.

Advice: Implement a double-check approach for Facebook posts. If you have one person creating the posts, have another person check them before they are scheduled or posted. To simplify this practice, use a tool like Buffer or Hootsuite to create, review, and schedule posts before they go live.

3. Don’t cuss out your customers.

Any unkind words you say on Facebook about your customers will be duly noted.

Like this tirade:

Sorry you had to read that.

It happened, and it’s too bad, because that kind of customer service is what makes headlines, not pacifies customers.

In the real world, there are unpleasant customers. They do complain. Their complaints could be baseless and unnecessary.

But you still have to respond with patience if you want to keep your reputation intact.

Advice:  Instead of reacting to a customer’s insults, a short, brief, apology is all that needs to happen. You can’t successfully solve an irate customer’s angst in a Facebook thread, anyway. Please, don’t try.

Pigalle’s fiasco could have been sidestepped if they merely asked, “We are very sorry that you had an unpleasant experience. We are sending you a direct message with a personal apology from our owner, returning your $200 bill, and finding out what we can do to improve.”

Done.

4. Don’t ask your followers to defriend people.

The point of social media is to build relationships and connect the world in meaningful ways.

What was Burger King doing, then, by blowing up social media with its “sacrifice” terminology, and sending “angry-grams?”

They were shooting their brand reputation in the foot, that’s what.

Burger King went to the trouble of creating an application that allowed Facebook users to defriend people.

If you get rid of ten of your friends, you’ll get a free whopper. Pretty cool, huh?

So maybe Facebook friendships aren’t that deep. And maybe your friend list could use some pruning. But this is not how to do social media.

Advice:  Use and encourage social media for what it is intended to do — foster and sustain human relationships.

Cold-hearted defriending is not the way to run a great campaign. Instead, warmhearted encouragements go a long way in enhancing your brand reputation.

5. Limit user-generated content when you are facing negative publicity.

It’s no secret that some people don’t like the police force. For all the help and safety that these public servants provided, they have also been the recipients of negative publicity as well.

The New York Police Department attempted to face the negative publicity head on, by soliciting user-generated content in the form of a hashtag campaign, featuring photos of NYPD members.

Unfortunately, hashtag campaigns do more than elicit positivity. They can also generate negativity.

This might be a nice photo:

But this is not.

Active Twitter users, on the whole, did not possess very many positive photos of NYPD activity.

Advice:  If you’re going to ask for user generated content, do so on a neutral topic, and only when your brand is enjoying positive vibes.

Generally speaking, people are more likely to participate in a UGC campaign when they are either 1) extremely happy, or 2) extremely unhappy. On the whole, the public’s attitude towards the police force doesn’t skew positive. If anything, it’s neutral. In the wake of media coverage about police brutality, however, it may tend to skew negative.

That is not the time to launch a UGC campaign.

You as a brand have no control over what people can post on social media, and opening the floodgates will only give you a level of exposure that you may not want.

Conclusion

Social media is dicey territory. You’re taking a big risk by sticking your neck out in the wild and wooly world of customers, fans, haters, and unhinged erstwhile customers.

But for all the newsworthy negativity, there’s a ton of positivity. Social media is like anything innovation. It can be used for good, and it runs the risk of being used for ill.

What social media safeguards does your brand have in place?

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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3 Digital Marketing Guesses You Should Stop Making Today

Want to hear one of the worst things that a marketer can do?

Guess.

That’s the answer — guessing. Guessing rather than knowing often produces serious marketing mistakes.

Why is this true? Because our guesses are often wildly inaccurate and strategically dangerous. A guess-based approach to marketing could plunge your business into disaster.

That’s how marketing used to be.

In decades past, the success of a marketing director depended heavily on his or her ability to predict the future, often times by guessing. Guess well, and you were a success. Guess poorly, and your marketing career was short-lived. Marketers became adept at reading the tea leaves, and depending upon their gut and experience to make educated guesses.

Those days are long gone. Today, we’re floating in oceans of available data. Yet we still make guesses. 

Recent studies have shown that 79% of workers make uninformed decisions. 70% of marketers in one survey admitted that their data has limited capability and effectiveness.

The problem comes when we fail to 1) realize our need for data or 2) seek the necessary data.

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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The Ultimate Guide for Building a Perfect Content Strategy

 

Content marketing is big business. It’s become an industry unto itself, and with good reason. 60% of marketers create at least one piece of content per day and year over year growth in unique site traffic is 7.8x higher for content marketing leaders compared to followers (19.7% vs 2.5%). 

We’re in the prime of the content marketing rush and using quality content to enhance the customer experience. 

But before you can even hope to take advantage of the consumers generating more than 100 billion search queries a month for information, you need a content strategy.

You Can’t Go to War Without a Strategy

You’re not just fighting against your competitors out there. You’re waging a war against every distraction that takes the eyes away from your brand and your content.

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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6 Warning Signs That Your Social Media Marketing Efforts Are Failing

Do you sense that your social media marketing isn’t providing the outcomes you had hoped for?

Having a strong social media marketing strategy is growing more and more important for businesses and the success that they’re seeking.

Just a few years ago, social media could be viewed as a supplemental marketing effort, but the marketing world of today largely revolves around social media.

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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