SEO Is Like Organic Gardening

John McDougall talks about how doing natural, long-term, effective SEO is like organic gardening.

What Is SEO and What Do SEO People Do?

A lot of people ask, “What is SEO and what do SEO people do?” Seems kind of farfetched, or it feels like a Rubik’s cube with some of the stickers worn off, where you can’t really get it to work no matter how hard you try.

Well, there’s the Miracle Grow approach — the old school SEO, where you just buy some spammy backlinks, throw some keywords in your pages — or the long-term approach that the good SEOs take.

So, my compost bin has biochar — charcoal that I’ve burnt some wood and made a home for microbes — eggshells, banana peels, leaves, seaweed, and salt marsh hay. Good SEO is like that, in the sense that you need good content that’s really fertile, and that’s going to attract people, that’s not BS. You can’t just sprinkle some SEO fairy dust anymore on your site.

Good Content

So you need good content. You need people to link to your site. And getting links now is really more like PR. You can use Help a Reporter or to try and convince reporters that your site’s worth linking to, but you can’t just get that stuff easy or buy directory links on fiver or something like that.

Good User Experience

The other thing you need is a good user experience. So when people go to your site, if you have a slow-loading site where it’s hard to navigate, that’s not going to work. You don’t want people to bounce off your site and go back to the search result pages because Google can see that. They just were talking yesterday on Search Engine Land about click-through rates. So, when you do get to the top of the search results, because you put some good content on your site with good title tags and meta descriptions, people see that in the search results. If it’s interesting, and not just a keyword in there, they might be more likely to click it and then they go to your site. So, all of these factors play into SEO.


Then you want your brand to be recognized. So if people are searching for your brand, Google can pick up on how many people search every month for your brand terms and your people that work at your company, your blogger names. So, do you have credibility? Do you have authority? Is your site a real fertile ground where you are taking your time to build it out right, or again, are you just sprinkling fairy dust or Miracle Grow on your site?

Those old types of thinking are not going to work in 2022 and 2023 and beyond. So think like a gardener, in a way. Get your hands dirty and you get really rich black soil and you’ll end up with really good results in SEO. Think short term and you’ll lose. And when you do SEO right, you end up with a bountiful crop.


So, in order to get there, you can use a tool like Screaming Frog, go and crawl all the pages of your competitor’s sites, list out how many pages they have for each topical category and if you want to be really well known for “edible loofa” or whatever your topic is, you need lots of pages on that content. So you can’t just have a page and throw some keywords on it. These days, really good SEO is creating potentially hundreds of pages around a specific topic, at least a dozen, and use something called topic clusters to tie those pieces of content together, and that’ll give you great results.

Social Media

There’s another thing I forgot to mention, if we’re going to extend the analogy of organic gardening and organic SEO, and that’s adding nitrogen into your compost. So, I crush up lobster shells and add fish guts and things like that, and that helps break down the compost more quickly. And I put a thermometer in and make sure that it’s hot and that really speeds things up. And one thing that can speed up your organic SEO, while it’s not a direct contributor in the Google algorithm, is social media.

So, if you have great content and you not only get it shared on your social media profiles, but say you do a podcast with another high-level expert and you get on their social media, they’re going to spread that content faster than you can if they have a larger audience. We did that with a bank and we got on NerdWallet and NerdWallet sent us thousands of visitors a month. We just couldn’t replicate that in paid ads. So if you want to speed things up, use social media and that can also help your organic SEO.


Stay tuned for more in this series on “What Is SEO” and “What Do SEOs Do”. We’re going to be going over things like how SEO is like being an auto mechanic or a contractor building a house, how to lay a foundation or how to take apart an engine. There are a lot of things you need to know, step-by-step how this stuff works. And some of the advice on the internet is a little broad in general, but we’re going to go into the weeds on it and show you how to do it without a lot of headaches, how to get some of the technical stuff done quickly, and then use podcasting and videos and things like that to just talk, and the content will come flowing out on your site with minimal effort.

Google Business Profile

What Is Google Business Profile and How Do You Claim Your Listing? (Podcast)

In this episode of Digital Marketing Madness, John Maher and John McDouggall from McDougall Interactive chat about Google business profiles. They explain the importance of these listings and give listeners tips on how to claim their profiles.

John McDougall: Hey, I’m John McDougall and this is Digital Marketing Madness. This podcast is brought to you by McDougall interactive. We’re a digital marketing and SEO agency in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Today, I’m here with our VP of Multimedia and Digital Marketing, John Maher, and we’ll be discussing what is Google Business Profile and how do you claim your listing? So, John, what is a Google Business Profile?

What Is Google Business Profile?

John Maher: Hey, John. Yes, so Google Business Profile actually used to be called Google My Business. I’m having a hard time getting that through in my head, because I’ve called it Google My Business for so long and Google keeps changing the names of their things. Google Search Console used to be called Google Webmaster Tools, and then they changed the name, so they keep changing the names of things and I can’t catch up, but it is now called the Google Business Profile.

And basically it’s a free business listing from Google. When you search on Google for a business name or even a type of business, you just type in “pizza restaurant” or something like that, Google will show you a little map of your area and a few listings of local businesses that match your search. If you’re searching for a company name, usually they’ll just pop right up into that company name unless there’s a couple of companies that have that similar name or something like that.

But if you’re searching for a type of business, often they’ll show you the map and a few local businesses that match that search. Again, you’ll see it with the map there, and then you can click on one of those listings and see the details of that business, some photos inside the business and outside on the street view of the business, the location of the business, their address, the hours that they’re operating and what services or products they sell, that sort of thing.

And so basically it helps to increase your visibility across all Google services. So when somebody’s searching, it’s good to come up in the organic search results. And it’s good to do Google ads in some cases and be in the ads as well. And then if you can be in a third place on the page of search results and be in those local listings, that just adds more visibility to your company.

Google Business Profile Vs. SEO

John McDougall: And what makes that different when you’re trying to come up than regular SEO?

John Maher: The regular SEO is really more about what’s on your website, the content, whether you have good content on your website, your usability and user experience on your site. Of course, links to your website are still important as well. Those are all still good and still important with the local SEO and coming up in the Google profile and the map listings. But really, it’s more based on your standing in the local community.

So Google pays attention to things like the number and quality of your Google reviews and your proximity to the searcher’s location, or if it can figure out where the person is searching from, especially if they’re on a mobile device, they can tell with the GPS exactly where you’re searching from, so it’ll give you results right in that local area, but it will go by your IP address otherwise. So it would give you searches in your general area.

If you’re doing a search where you include a town or a city name, again, if you’re just searching for pizza restaurants, Boston, Massachusetts, or something like that, sometimes it’ll show you the listings that are closest to the center of that town. It’s a little bit tricky, because again, there’s a lot of factors here and it goes by the reviews, and so high quality reviews maybe are going to be up there more than if you only have one or two stars. But otherwise if, all things equal, sometimes Google will put just the places that are closest to the center of the town, and have those come up, but just obviously there’s not much you can do if you have a business and you’re on the outskirts of the town, you might have a difficult time without really ramping up the amount of reviews and things like that that you have.

Importance of Using Accurate Addresses for Google Business Profiles

John McDougall: And some people game it and people used to get bogus locations, but we don’t recommend that because you don’t want to fake it.

John Maher: Yeah. You just have like a PO box in that town or maybe one of those temporary offices and you use that as your address or something like that. Sometimes it worked, but Google’s getting smarter all the time, so it’s not generally the best idea. I would also say that one important thing to remember is that if you ever change your address or even if you haven’t changed your address in a while, you still want to make sure that your address and your name of your company are the same everywhere where your company is listed on, on the web.

So just all of these like local directories or whether it’s on Yelp or different places like that, you want to make sure that your address and your phone number and the name of your business, what it’s called, are all the same on Google and all of these other services. That helps Google to trust that this is a real business and you’re managing it and you’ve got your ducks all in a row.

If Google sees that your address that you have listed on Google is different from an address that you have on Yelp and then it’s different from an address that’s on some other service, all of a sudden it puts up a little red flag and Google goes, “I don’t know if we can trust this. I don’t know whether or not I have the right address, or whether they have the right address,” and so that distrust makes them maybe not put you up at the top of the listings.

John McDougall: Yeah. Think about how many times agencies and different people move and especially if you have a little bit of a generic company name, maybe even hard for Google to figure out, is this the same company, because there are three different addresses and they might not know that it’s actually you that moved. If you’re a Italian pizzeria or something like that, and then you’ve got three different addresses, how does Google know? It’s not three different companies? It could be.

John Maher: Right, they might just think it’s a brand new listing for a different company and not one company that moved, or something like that.

John McDougall: Don’t make it hard for them to figure that out.

How a Strong Website Supports Your Google Business Profile

John Maher: Right. I’d also say that you don’t want to ignore your website, though. I am saying that, yeah, it’s important to have your Google reviews and make sure your address is up to date, but you don’t want to ignore your website either. Google does want to see that you have a complete user experience and your website is listed on that local listing on Google and that people can click on that and go to your website. If people do that, and then they bounce right off of your website because you have a bad user experience, that could hurt your local listing as well. So don’t just ignore your website. You do want to keep your optimization up on that as well.

How to Claim Your Google Business Listing

John McDougall: Yep. And so how do you claim your listing if you don’t know how to log in and make edits to your Google Business Profile?

John Maher: So you want to go to and using a Google account, whether it’s a Gmail address or some other email address that you’ve set up as a Google account, you want to log into That’s the Google Business Profile manager. And in there, you want to click, “Add business,” and then it’ll ask you for the name of the business. So you type in the name of your business. And if Google knows about that business already, it will show up in a little list of search results.

And if you recognize, “Oh yeah, that’s my business. I recognize that’s my town that I’m in and that’s my address,” so you can then click on that and say, “Yes, that’s my listing.” If you don’t see that, if your business doesn’t pop up when you search for your name in there, then you might need to start a new listing. Either way, once you do that, whether you’re claiming an existing listing or you’re starting a new one, you then want to fill out all of the information about your business. There’s a form there. It’ll have the name of your business, what type of business it is and the industry that you’re in, what your business hours are, what your address is. It’ll ask you to maybe upload some photos, things like that.

So you want to go ahead and fill that out as completely as possible, and then you need to verify that listing, and Google will usually do this by sending a postcard to your business address. Occasionally, you might be able to get away with clicking an option to have them call you at your phone number, if they maybe already have your phone number listed for that business, you might be able to just click that option, and then Google does this automated phone call where your phone rings, you pick it up and it just says, “Hi, this is Google with your code.” And you write that code down, go back into and put in that code to verify your listing.

If you can’t do it with the phone number, again, you have to watch for this postcard to come in the mail. And we have so much trouble with this sometimes with our clients, because that postcard that they send, it really looks like just a direct mail spam. It just looks like any other spammy direct mail thing that you’d get from any company. It’s just a little postcard. It has the Google logo on one side, and it does say on the back, “Here’s the code that you requested,” but somebody, an intern or the person who works at the front desk or whatever, could easily just grab that and just throw it right in the trash. So whoever gets the mail at your company, warn them that this is coming and say, “Hey, if you see anything coming that has Google on it, keep that, and show it to me,” because we see it all the time where like weeks will go by.

John McDougall: Then you got to go do it again and wait.

John Maher: And then you got to go do it again and now it’s another two weeks before you can get another postcard and so you don’t want to do that. So just watch for that postcard to come in the mail. Once you have it, you’ll have this code. Again, you just log back into that account and put in the code and that will verify the listing. Now, once you’ve done that, any change that you want to make to your business listing, you just log into that account. You can change the address. You can add photos, all that sort of thing.

Update the Hours on Your Google Business Listing

John McDougall: Photos, videos, offers, products, services, different things like that.

John Maher: Yeah. Look through all of the options. There’s all kinds of things that you can do in there. They even added recently with COVID, they added a place where you could link to COVID information on your website. So they’re always doing updates like that for whatever the latest thing is, and always update your business hours. If those ever change, you don’t want people to be showing up at your company or at your store. Google said that you were open and now you’re closed and that’s a bad user experience and you might get a bad review for that.

So definitely keep your hours up to date. Any holidays that you’re away, you can actually put those in there as well, say, “Hey, we’re closed on Christmas and Easter and on July 4th, we’re closed.” So you can actually put that in there so that Google will tell people when they look you up, that you’re closed on those holidays.

John McDougall: Yeah. Another part of that we saw recently was one of our lower clients had that their hours were nine to five, but there are two competitors that were ranking neck and neck with them with a similar amount of reviews, and similar other factors, but one was ranking better. Those two other people actually had said 24/7 365. They’re personal injury lawyers and they have a call center. So they are technically, they can take calls 24/7. And that’s an interesting factor. And if you’re a Google robot, you’re thinking, “Well, I probably want to show this one. Certainly I want to show this one, if it’s after five, if I’m Google.” And I’m preparing my results for my Google customers.

John Maher: Yeah. If somebody’s searching for lawyers and it’s 11 o’clock at night, yeah, Then maybe that person who says they’re open 24 hours a day or.

John McDougall: Yeah. And two of them are open and one is closed. What are you going to do? Put the one that’s closed up, like, hey, call these people. That would be stupid of Google. So it’s funny little things that you got to think about.

John Maher: Absolutely.

How to Connect Customer Reviews to Google Business Profile

John McDougall: And so since you said, and this is a fairly well known fact for most people in this space, reviews are important, especially in Google, formally Google My Business, now Google Business Profile. But how do you get the link to directly let people review you? How do you find that?

John Maher: So this is a lot easier than it used to be. You used to have to find your business on the Google map. And then you had to, once you found your business and clicked on it, you’d have to go up into the URL in your browser, and there was a code embedded in the middle of the URL. You’d have to grab that code and then you’d have to put it into this other part of the URL and put the code in the middle of that and then that would be your link that you could send people.

It was just this complex thing that nobody knew how to do and it was very hard to find. Now, Google Business Profile does this in a much easier way. You just log into your Google Business Profile and assuming that you have already gone through that verification process and verified your business, all you have to do is on the homepage of the profile manager is a box, if you scroll down to a part called “get more reviews” and in that is a button that says, “Share review form.”

And when you click that, it just pops up a little window that has a link and you can just cut and paste that link. And again, you could put this in an email and send it to a specific customer and say, “Hey, so glad that you had a great experience with us. Would you mind giving us a Google review? Here’s the link.” And if that person is logged into a Gmail account or another Google account and they click that link, it’ll pop right up in their browser with where they can leave a Google review for you for your company.

So it’s really, really easy. You might want to tell people, just give them a little reminder, “Hey, you do have to be logged into a Google account or a Gmail account in order for this to work?”

Just so that if it doesn’t work for them, they’ll go, “Oh yeah, okay, I should log into my Gmail account.” That’s useful to just give as a reminder, but that’s all you have to do. There are also some buttons there to share that link on social media. I think there’s one for Facebook and there’s other social media buttons, so if you wanted to share it directly to your social media, you can do that right with those buttons. But again, the easiest thing is just to cut and paste that link from the, “Get more reviews,” section on the homepage of your Google Business Profile.

The Importance of Good Reviews and How to Get Them

John McDougall: And it often doesn’t happen just on its own, even if you have happy customers. So I know we’re going to make a better effort to get out there and just send people the link because when people are, especially people are in a good mood when they’re like, “Oh man, you guys did an awesome job for us,” and then sometimes they drift off or they’re just not thinking about it, and it’s harder to get them excited to do it. So strike while the iron is hot, get it out there and get good reviews because Google really is looking at the idea of frequency of reviews.

Because if you have old reviews, you think, “Well, yeah, I have 10 or 20 or 50 or a hundred,” or whatever reviews you have, you might think it’s good enough. But if you don’t have any recent ones, Google will factor that in into what you rank and just in the trust of your site overall, because you might have been great a year ago or five years ago, but what if you’re just asleep right now? So they might assume the worst, Hey, they’re not even in business or whatever. They’re gone. So fresh, recent reviews is critical. So just like anything, make a small habit out of it.

John Maher: Yeah. And you can do it manually. Or if you have something like, marketing automation set up with your email platform, you can do it through that. Maybe it’s that anytime a contact that you have in your marketing automation becomes a customer, then three days afterwards, it automatically sends them an email with the link and says, “Hey, would you guys would mind giving us a review?” Again, or you can do it manually if you want to and just any happy customer that walks out the door, you go, you make a note, all right, on Thursday, I’m going to email them and ask for a review. But yeah, you want reviews? Ask for them.

Should You Use a Tool to Optimize Reviews?

John McDougall: Yeah. And there are software tools like Birdeye, and different things like that, I’ve seen some customers do well with them, but I’ve also seen if they then delete that platform, it’s a little sticky. Some of those platforms are a little funky, how they… I’m not saying this is Birdeye necessarily. I’m just saying some of them in general. Because I have seen a couple of good times with Birdeye being used and creating review buzz for contractors. But sometimes they filter away the reviews at a certain level or they hoard the reviews and they control the process. Whereas if you just email your customers directly that link, like you’re saying, I think that’s really the place to start. And then you’re not dependent on a tool to do it, but you do have to go take some action or use some automations to really get it going.

John Maher: Absolutely. Yeah. And we’ll go into more details another time on are there other things that you can do to optimize your Google Business Profile and adding photos and adding content and blog posts and all kinds of things that you can do with it. But-

John McDougall: Yeah, we’ll do a part two.

John Maher: Reviews are a great place to start.

John McDougall: Yeah, absolutely. All right, John. Well, good stuff today. And for more information about digital marketing and SEO, visit Please subscribe, rate and review this podcast on Apple Podcasts. Thanks for listening. I’m John McDougall. See you next time on digital marketing madness.

How To Do A/B testing - Getting Started

Getting Started With A/B Testing — The Ultimate Guide

Relying on your intuition alone to design web pages, write email copy, and run ads isn’t enough to optimize your conversions. The only way to truly know if your campaigns are optimized for success is by putting them to the test.

Enter A/B testing.

Many of you might be familiar with A/B testing and its basic concepts, but you’re just not sure how to get started. If you fall into this category, you’ve come to the right place.

This guide will explain everything you need to know about A/B testing, including its benefits, best practices, and actionable steps to get started.

What is A/B Testing?

A/B testing is a marketing experimentation tactic. It involves splitting your audience to test variations of a campaign to determine which variation performs better.

In simple terms, you show “Version A” of something to half of your audience and “Version B” to the other half. Then you compare the results of the test to see which one had greater success towards your goal.

Here’s a simple visual to explain how this works:

AB testing

In this example, Variation B is the clear winner.

Which CTA copy is better for your landing page? Get Started For Free or Sign Up Today. A/B testing gives you the opportunity to experiment with these variations.

Benefits of A/B Testing

There are many advantages to running A/B tests. Some of the top reasons why brands leverage A/B testing include:

Increase Conversions

A/B testing is arguably the best way to perform CRO (conversion rate optimization) on any digital touchpoint. When you create two versions of an email, landing page, CTA button, or campaign, it’s very easy to determine which version is converting at a higher rate.

More Leads

Changing the number of form fields on a page, adjusting the value proposition, or updating the image can really make a difference when website visitors are deciding whether or not to provide you with their contact information. Based on your experiments, you can determine which versions of a page are more attractive for lead generation.

Better User Engagement

Adjusting on-page elements will ultimately impact the user experience. When you figure out which versions are more pleasing for your user base, it ultimately helps drive engagement. You might discover that one variation has lots of friction while other versions make it easy for users to navigate and consume your content.

Data-Driven Decisions

A/B testing takes the guesswork out of your marketing decisions. You might have a hypothesis on something, but A/B tests give you actionable data that you can use. Measuring things like clicks, conversions, traffic, open rates, average time spent on the page, and other KPIs should deliver you clear results for how to move forward.

Data-Driven Decisions

Lower Bounce Rates

Testing variables like fonts, headlines, images, and color schemes can help encourage users to stay on your pages longer. Some design elements are not aesthetically pleasing and cause users to bounce within seconds of landing on a page.

Reduce Risks

A/B testing is a great way to make budgeting decisions with confidence. Before you start pouring thousands of dollars into an advertisement or a campaign that drives traffic to a particular page, you’ll know that the campaign is pre-optimized for the desired goal. This helps deliver more business value and increases the chances of success for your campaigns.

Increase Site Traffic

Adjusting things like blog headlines, page titles, and email CTAs can have a significant impact on how many people click a link that drives them to your site. As a result, you can quickly identify which variations result in the highest volume of traffic.

More Revenue

A/B testing reduces shopping cart abandonment rates, improves lead generation, and increases engagement. All of these factors help your business earn more revenue for the same campaigns. Since you’re getting data-driven results with A/B testing, you’ll also benefit from a higher ROI from your campaigns and landing pages.

Quickstart Guide to A/B Testing in 4 Simple Steps

The concepts of A/B testing are very straightforward. But getting started can feel intimidating for some people, especially for those of you who haven’t been through this before.

I’ve simplified this process into just four steps. Follow the instructions below to get started, as they’ll steer you in the right direction and set you up for success:

Step 1 — Identify Your Goal

A/B tests will yield lots of different metrics and results. But with that said, you should have a clear goal established from the beginning. This goal will ultimately be your north star as the experiment progresses.

Examples of goals might include:

  • Turn blog readers into email subscribers
  • Get more ebook downloads
  • Lower shopping cart abandonment rates
  • Increase the average time spent on a landing page
  • Increase the ROI of a social media advertisement

The possibilities are really endless.

You can ultimately run multiple A/B tests for different goals. But keep it simple when you’re first getting started. Stick with one goal for now, and get yourself familiar with the process before you expand.

Step 2 — Select an A/B Testing Tool

Next, you need to ensure you have the right tools at your disposal.

A/B testing tools can come in all different shapes and sizes. You can research the right tools based on your goal in the first step.

For example, let’s say you want to increase the average open rate of your monthly newsletter. You should be able to do this directly from your email marketing software.

So in this scenario, you probably wouldn’t even need to get a new tool. But you might have to upgrade your plan to access A/B testing features.

Here’s a basic example of this from Constant Contact:

AB Testing Tool

However, this type of tool wouldn’t help you experiment with a social media advertisement or test the CTA copy of a landing page button.

For landing page optimization, you could turn to a tool like Optimizely.

Landing Page Optimization

Again, it all depends on what you want to test.

For help finding the right software and additional recommendations, check out our reviews of the best A/B testing tools.

Step 3 — Pick a Variable to Test

Now it’s time to select your first variable for the experiment. There is seemingly an unlimited amount of things to test.

But to help steer you in the right direction, it’s best to stick with common elements. Examples include:

  • CTA button size
  • CTA button copy
  • CTA button placement
  • Headline size
  • Headline copy
  • Background colors
  • On-page image
  • Form field placement
  • Number of fields in the form
  • Email subject line
  • Email preview text
  • Buy buttons
  • Add-to-cart buttons
  • Product descriptions
  • Page design

The list goes on and on.

Keep in mind that you’re ultimately going to test multiple variables over time. But you need to stick with one for now. If you make too many changes at once, you won’t know exactly which variation impacted the results.

Was it the CTA button placement or the background color? Sticking with one variable per experiment is the only way to know.

Step 4 — Analyze the Results

Analyzing the results is the final step.

To do this correctly, you need to know which metric or metrics to track based on your goal. You should also set a minimum sample size to determine when the test is complete.

For example, running the test for a week may not be enough if you’re only getting 40 visitors to a particular landing page. You may need to keep that active until you’ve researched hundreds or thousands of people in your sample pool.

Then you need to decide how significant the results would be for you to make a decision.

For example, if the conversion rate on one page is 20% and the conversion rate on the other variation is 21.5%, can you confidently say that the latter is better? Probably not.

Choosing an A/B testing tool with good reporting features can make your life much easier as you’re going through this process. Here’s an example from Zoho PageSense:

Analyze the Results

Just keep in mind that more information isn’t always better. Don’t use a tool that’s going to overwhelm you with datasets that you don’t know how to digest.

A/B Testing Best Practices

I’ve run thousands of A/B tests in my career, both for myself and for my clients. Based on my experience, I want to share some quick tips and best practices for you to keep in mind as you’re going through this process.

  • Only test one variable at a time
  • Pay close attention to your sample size
  • Never make changes in the middle of a test
  • Start with a hypothesis
  • Make sure you’re getting data from reliable sources
  • Think closely about which variables you’re testing and why you’re testing them
  • Link experiments with the right KPIs
  • Always be testing

Following these best practices will increase your chances of success with A/B testing.

Final Thoughts

A/B testing is a powerful way to increase conversions, enhance the user experience, and make more money. But A/B tests will only be successful if you know how to run them and set everything up properly.

Use this guide as your blueprint for A/B testing.

Follow the step-by-step instructions and keep my best practices in mind. If you need additional assistance or have more questions about A/B testing, reach out to our team for a free consultation.

Social Media Marketing News

YouTube New Features, Google’s New WordPress Plugin and More Social Media Marketing News

Social Media Marketing News

Have you ever seen one of those funny shirts on Facebook with jokes like, “Scary without Coffee… I’m all BOO without my brew?” or perhaps those oddly personalized jackets with slogans like “Soon to be December Bride”

As a digital marketer that’s always up to date with social media marketing news, you’re familiar with Facebook ads and how advertisers are targeting you based on your interests and activity on the social platform. What you probably don’t realize is tons of people are making a business selling these shirts online. If you’re interested in this line of business, we have something for you here.

If not, we have other news that may interest you, such as YouTube’s bet against Instagram Stories and Google’s upcoming WordPress plugin.

Social Media Marketing News and Digital Marketing Trends to Check this December

1. YouTube Launches ‘Stories’ Competitor

YouTube Stories, formerly called Reels, was just rolled out last week after its failed debut a few years ago.

Now, YouTube creators with at least 10,000 subscribers can access its features.

YouTube Stories comes with its own set of tools, including features to add music, YouTube stickers, filters, and the ability to respond with images and videos on comments. Viewers can also engage with your stories through thumbs up, thumbs down, comments, and hearts. Of course, all the comment moderation tools on regular videos are also available on Stories so you can manage your community easily.

 2. Site Kit by Google Gives WordPress Users Easy Access to Google Website Tools

Soon, you won’t need a separate window to access your Google Analytics, AdSense, Pagespeed, and website console because Google’s Site Kit will make all these accessible directly on your WordPress dashboard.

For instance, instead of visiting your analytics dashboard, with Site Kit you can just go to the specific page on your website to check its traffic stats.

Google Site Kit

Search Engine Journal reports that you can also get notifications about your publishing milestones and consolidated data on the average traffic of your recent posts.

Google Site Kit Stats

Site Kit will be available for beta-testing early 2019, but users interested to see an early version can sign up to try it here.

3. Facebook Relaunches Search Ads

Facebook is competing with Google AdWords again with the relaunch of its ads in the search results and Marketplace section.

For now, this option will only be available for ads in the ecommerce, automotive, and retail industries in the U.S. and Canada. Since Facebook is just testing this feature, Search ads will just be a repurposed version of News Feed ads labeled as “Sponsored,” so it’s going to have the same structure, complete with a headline, image, copy, and link to an external URL. You can’t create an ad specific for Search ads yet, and there’s no option to target specific keywords.

Unfortunately, we don’t have screenshots of this ad type as Facebook declined to share this with Techcrunch and other sites that publish social media marketing news, citing that the feature is still in testing and that the features may change as they gather more data.

4. The Birth of the Dabbing Santa Sweater and How People are Making Millions Selling Shits Online

Charlie Jabaley, co-founded Sreet Execs, a marketing firm that sells merchandise for celebrities, among other services. Unfortunately, his first few ventures selling merchandise and apparel for music celebrities weren’t as successful as he hoped.

But he kept at it, until he stumbled upon the idea that would eventually lead him to sell millions of dollars in hip-hop shirts—the Dabbing Santa sweater, a play on the dance stepped popularized by 2 Chainz’ Dab dance.

POD Dabbing Santa

His previous failures led him to believe that the old model of researching a product design for two to three months, and then spending a few more months making and stocking inventory, isn’t effective anymore. Like other retail businesses, Jabaley lost time and money on unsold inventory.

So to solve the potential inventory problem and minimize upfront costs, he turned to Print on Demand, a method where a supplier custom prints white-label products with your own design, so you can then sell them on a per-order basis. Since the supplier will only manufacture your items once someone orders it, you don’t have to worry about unsold inventory. You can quickly test designs with little effort.

How can you use Print on Demand?

  • Create original products for a niche – like the hundreds of designers and micro-entrepreneurs selling custom merchandise via their own online stores (like this one selling apparel and trinkets for engineers), or these individual sellers on Etsy cashing in on the unicorn trend.
  • Monetize your following – Like how popular stand-up comedian Ali Wong is selling shirts with her jokes on it.
  • Test products – Have apparel, accessory, or a home product idea you’d like to test out? There are print on demand suppliers for just about any product imaginable. Even if these aren’t your main products, you can easily create an extra revenue line that complements your main product offerings.

Because of the low-overhead, plenty of success stories like Jen Smith of Budget Babe and Michael Essany of Merch Momentum are published online, not only because they’re making a good profit selling Print on Demand apparel but because tons of people are starting to get into this business.

5. How to Nail Down Your Audience Persona

Folks at Bootcamp Media shared this article with great tips on creating an audience persona. Most articles on this subject would have you include the target audience’s location, job titles, estimate salary, gender, and the usual demographic stuff.

They suggest you go a bit further than that by creating negative personas—people you know that don’t want your product. It makes total sense. For instance, targeting marketing managers in the hotel and restaurant industry in one country will still give you a big, somewhat undefined audience. But if you create a negative persona with details like red flags, buying behavior you want to avoid, or goals that don’t fit in line with your offer; you can further narrow down your marketing efforts. You can even include these details in your content to tune out people you’re not interested in.

Social Media Marketing News and SEO News

The year 2018 is about to end. Were you able to accomplish your business and marketing goals this year? If not, what are your plans for 2019? What changes are you making to make 2019 a better year for your business?

As for us at McDougall Interactive, we’re going to continue improving our craft in helping businesses get on the first page of the web using search engine optimization, social media, and content marketing.

Google updates for SEO

Google’s New Chapter of Search and What it Means for SEO

Google updates for SEO

Google celebrated its 20th birthday last month. What started as a research project of two Stanford students, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, is now a powerful search engine with a network of information spanning over 190 countries and 150 languages.

The latest Google updates include three features made possible by AI and machine learning. Some of these changes are already underway and explains the algorithm updates we’ve seen this year such as Medic update last August.

So before you get surprised with another update, its time you understand Google’s plan for the next chapter of search and how that will affect your website’s traffic.

Three Upcoming Google Updates for SEO

1. Journeys

Most searches don’t end with a single query; people often come back minutes or days (in some cases) with new questions on the same topic.

With Google’s shift from search to “journeys,” the search engine will know what you’ve already read and what you intend to accomplish, so you don’t have to read the same info you did last time. To do that, Google will show the pages you’ve visited during your last session in a tab above the search results. Below that, you’ll see a list of pages you haven’t visited organized into different categories related to your search.

In the example below, the user searched for “Camping” and previously read articles about camping meals and choosing the best tent. Google also suggested related search terms like, “Camp tent for family” since it’s obvious from past activity that the user will be camping with their kids.

Previously read content can be organized in boards, a.k.a “Collections” like those used in Pinterest.

New Chapter of Search Journey Camping

So what’s in it for Google? For one, they will benefit from increased engagement, as users come back to their search collections. They can also use engagement data to determine what kind of content is often saved and revisited, so they can show more of those in the search results.

Google Updates Journey Camping Basics

While these features won’t be available until later this year, all these changes show how Google search algorithm changes has improved in terms of understanding a user’s intent.  It also confirms that they’re taking cues from popular social media platforms in terms of UI design.

2. Query-less Search

Google is a search engine, so users need to enter a query to use it. Social platforms, however, don’t require a query. Facebook and its kin are discovery platforms that show information based on a user’s previous activity and interests. Google is aware of this limitation and are working to overcome it.

To this effect, Google launched Google Feed last year to show users information relevant to them, like a centralized dashboard of news and other topics you’re interested in. Because of its 800 million monthly active users, third party publishers are starting to see its potential as reliable and free (for now) source of traffic.

Feed is now called “Discover,” and with this new name comes a ton of shiny new features. Aside from more videos and images, Discover will show topic headers that you can click to get more information.

Discover topic header

Like Pinterest boards, users can follow a topic they like so Google can serve them more info on the subject next time they check their feed. For instance, when you search “scuba diving,” Discover will show you different information ranging from basic signals to advance open water skills. And because of Knowledge Graph 2.0, Discover can soon tell your level of expertise on a subject, and show you information based on your skill level.

This improved Knowledge Graph 2.0 and Topic Layers functionality maps the user’s journey on search using Google’s improved understanding of the relationship between different search parameters, such as things, places, entities, and people.

What do these google updates mean for SEO? It’s no longer enough to include appropriate keywords throughout your content, you should also anticipate your visitor’s next question. Now more than ever, you need an SEO team that doesn’t rely on outdated practices like stuffing keywords and building links to any website that will accept them.

Discover, unlike social platforms, doesn’t have community building functionalities such as likes, comments, and shares. Some publishers may see this as blessing, since what users see on their feed won’t be determined by which content gets the most comments or likes. Users won’t be stuck in a bubble of opinions and content they agree with, like what happened with Facebook and Twitter feeds last election.

3. A More Visual Search

Previously, Google relied on alt tags, descriptions, transcripts, and meta tags to understand images and videos. With its improved computer vision, Google’s “understanding” of a video has improved to the extent that it can direct users to the exact time stamp within a video to answer a search query.

For instance, in the screen shot below the user searched “How to wipe mac” and Google’s 1st result is a video titled “How to erase and Factory Reset Your Mac” at exactly at 2:14 of an almost four minute video.

Google Updates Computer Vision

Google Images algorithm was also changed to rank pages with better images and content, specifically pages where the image is higher up on the page and plays an integral role in the page’s purpose. For instance, if you’re searching for a new trench coat, Google will prioritize pages dedicated to a specific trench coat design instead of a category page showing different trench coat styles.

The domain’s authority on the subject of your image search is also taken into account, so if you’re searching for low-carb meals, Google will prioritize content from food-related sites. You’ll also see more context in the image search results, such as image captions, and the title of the webpage where the image was found. And in keeping with the “journeys vs search” functionality, you’ll also see related search terms at the top of the image SERPs so you can quickly jump to different subtopics.

desktop redesign

It’s safe to say stock photos with no real connection to the site’s content are no longer enough. You have to at least add some text to the image to explain its relevance. Better yet, create your own screenshots, infographics, and graphs.

Media networks and solopreneurs making a living through their blogs aren’t the only ones who can capitalize on this opportunity. Google Shopping, the company’s bet against Amazon, allows users to purchase items directly from search and pay with Google Express. They’re using Google’s search functionality to bring consumers and stores closers, bypassing the need for Amazon and other third party sites.

Ecommerce retailers that don’t want to play on Amazon or Google’s terms, however, can take advantage of the changes in Google Image algorithm by building online stores with lots of high-quality images and descriptive captions near the top of their product pages so next time someone searches for items they’re selling, they’ll have more chances of appearing higher-up in the image search results. It’s important to note that these image improvements should be coupled with a responsive mobile design, as last year’s Black Friday reveals that about 30% of online sales were done on mobile devices (64% for Shopify store owners and 50% for BigCommerce).

Adapt Now

All these changes suggest Google is on a silent war with Facebook and other social media platforms. While their failure with Google+ set them back in the race to win back users from Facebook, it’s evident now that they’re getting ready to attack on another angle—this time playing on their strengths as a search engine.

LinkedIn Lead Generation

How Banks Can Use LinkedIn to Search and Connect with New Clients

LinkedIn Lead Generation

Sales in financial industries have always been a face-to-face, relationship-based business. Deals are discussed and won over lunch, sponsored events, seminars, and yes, on the fairways.

Unfortunately, these prospecting and sales strategies aren’t always scalable because they’re too expensive and time consuming for the average banker or financial sales consultant. There are only so many dinners and conferences you can attend, right?

Then there’s also the case of millennials, who, despite what the media say, also need the financial services and products banks offer. The news about them not earning or saving enough isn’t exactly true but what’s true is they’re a generation not keen on answering the phone. The popularity of “online-only” banks among millennials is proof of this.

You can hit two birds with one stone if you include LinkedIn lead generation strategies in your marketing efforts. Unlike networking events where you’re limited to the number of people you can meet per night, there’s no limit to the number of people you can reach online. Social media platforms like LinkedIn also let you filter prospects, so you don’t waste time and energy building a relationship with someone who’s not even your ideal customer.

LinkedIn Lead Generation Opportunities for Bankers

LinkedIn now has more than 500 million users worldwide, with over 138 million in the United States alone. Even more interesting, data from Pew Research Center shows that over 45% of LinkedIn users earn upwards of $75,000 a month, which makes many of them a good candidate for financial products.

LinkedIn Demographics

American Express and other financial institutions capitalized on the LinkedIn lead generation opportunity as early as 2013, according to Jennifer Grazel, who used to be Head of Global Marketing for Enterprise Services at LinkedIn.

An advisor from Morgan Stanley, for instance, uses a combination of the keywords “financial advisor,” “independent,” and “woman” to rise above the search results of her target client—female heads of households. Another advisor uses status updates, such as a job change or the start of a new business, as an opening to get in touch with existing connections.

Another example is American Express’ Open Forum, a LinkedIn group for small business professionals where Amex brings experts to share their insights in the group while members share their knowledge with each other. It’s not exactly a direct way to get client referrals, but this group increased brand awareness for Amex products specifically for small business while building their brand’s thought leadership in this niche.

In the same way, if you want to get in front of property developers to sell them big loans, you should frame your approach in a way that paints you as a thought leader on commercial lending. Otherwise, they’ll just see you as another salesman gunning for a big fat commission.

Using thinly veiled “financial advice” to sell financial products, such as mortgages, CDs, checking accounts, and even big loans and investment products, don’t work if it doesn’t include their business’s unique challenges.

How to Use LinkedIn’s Lead Generation Tools to Build a Client Pipeline

The principles of good networking are the same online. It’s all about finding the people you can add value to or have a common ground. LinkedIn has so many users that it’s impossible to meaningfully connect with every one of them, so you need to be decisive when identifying the characteristics of your ideal prospects.

Here’s how you can do that.

1. List Key Identifying Factors of Your Ideal Prospect

Find out as much information as possible about your ideal prospect.

  • What products or services are you selling? Who are your typical clients?
  • What’s their job title?
  • How big is their employer or company?
  • Are they limited to a specific industry?
  • Where are they located?
  • What’s their job seniority level?

For instance, let’s say you’re promoting equity investment products and most of your previous clients are executives in the IT industry who work for big companies.

2. Use Advanced Search to Create Your Prospect Pool

LinkedIn’s Advanced Search feature allows you to find people even if you’re not connected to them. For instance, if you search for “IT Executives” without using location filters or industry filters, you’ll get over 200,000 matches.

Linkedin General Search

But if you narrow it down to a specific location, industry, and job title, you’ll get a shorter list. Here’s what I got after using the following filters:

  • Location: Greater New York City Area
  • Job Title: Executive
  • Industry: Information Technology and Services
  • Connection: 2nd level

LinkedIn Lead Generation Advanced Search

You can even narrow down the list further using LinkedIn’s “Premium Search Filters,” found in business subscriptions or in Sales Navigator.

LinkedIn Lead Generation Sales Navigator

Notice the new search features not available in the regular advanced search:

  • Relationship
  • Function: so you’re not limited to searching exact job title matches
  • Years at current company
  • Company headcount: allows you to filter companies based on their size
  • Company type
  • Tag
  • Groups: allows you to search members of a specific group
  • Posted content keywords: searches for keywords a user has on their profile or status updates

It’s tempting to cater to everyone, to want a bigger prospect list. But as the saying goes, “If everyone is your customer then you have no customer.”

Besides, it’s easier to personalize your sales pitch when you have a good idea of who your customer is. It’s also more appealing to a prospect when they feel like you specialize in helping people just like them.

A Less Awkward Version of Cold Calling

LinkedIn Sales Navigator, InMail, and even the regular (free) version of the platform allow you to connect and send messages to individuals even if you’re not yet connected. Unlike cold calling or cold emailing, these LinkedIn lead generation tools give you the opportunity to learn as much as you can about the prospect’s situation and needs, before you send a message.

1. Personalize Your LinkedIn Invites

Don’t send the auto-generated invite LinkedIn provides, and don’t copy/paste a generic invite. LinkedIn invites are the online equivalent of a first impression, so put your best foot forward. Mention shared contacts, mutual groups, or anything you find genuinely interesting about the person you’re attempting to contact.

Keep it short though and resist the temptation to promote yourself or the products you’re selling. You don’t want to turn off your prospect before they even get a chance to know you.

Example LinkedIn invite script:

“Hi Amy,

We’ve never met but we’re both on several groups, such as GROUP NAME 1 and GROUP NAME 2. I also see that we’re both connected to Nate Smith. Appreciate it if we can connect on LinkedIn.”

2. Follow Up

Send a thank you note to prospects that approve your connection request. Don’t promote your services just yet, but this is a good time to suggest that you want to talk at a later time.

Example follow-up message:

“Hi Amy,

Thanks for approving my LinkedIn connection request. I look forward to talking to you at some point.”

Some of your prospects might reply and express mutual interest for a meeting, but most will not. Don’t worry, that isn’t the main goal of this message. You’re just building the relationship at this point.

3. Tell them About What You Do and How You Can Help

Warm up your prospect by commenting on an article they follow on LinkedIn pulse or sending them something you wrote that’s related to their group or professional interests on LinkedIn. It shows that you took the time to get to know them before selling them on something.

“Hi Amy,

I hope you’re well. I don’t know if you remember me, but I sent you a connection request a few weeks ago because we have a mutual connection, (Mutual Connection’s Name).

I saw that you’re interested in (Topic they follow on LinkedIn pulse/Group) and wanted to share with you this article I wrote: (Topic headline + URL). I think you’ll find it (helpful/gives a different angle on the topic).”

4. Ask for a Quick Phone Call or Coffee

This is the message where you tell the prospect what you do, and how you can help them. Below is a sample message you can customize.

Like the invite, you should mention names of mutual connections and common interests, especially if someone from a common group is a past client.

“Hi Amy,

I’m a (Your Job) at (Name of Financial Institution/Bank), and I’ve helped many (your target market) like yourself with their business financial needs. Steve from (a mutual group where you both belong) got his small business loan from us.

Would you be available for a quick 15-minute call or coffee to see if I can help you in any way? I would really appreciate it.”

Move the Conversation Out of Social

When a prospect responds to your message, ask for their email and phone number or find it online. LinkedIn is a great tool for finding and connecting with new prospects, but not everyone checks their LinkedIn account regularly.