Three fundamental factors in the production of link-building content

Three fundamental factors in the production of link-building content

One of the most overused phrases in content marketing is how it is an ever-changing landscape, forcing agencies and marketers to adapt and improve their existing processes.

In a short space of time, a topic can go from being newsworthy to negligible, all while certain types of content become tedious to the press and its readers.

A vast amount of the work we do — at Kaizen and many other similar agencies — is create content with the sole purpose of building high authority links, making it all the more imperative that we are conscious of the changes and trends outlined above.

If we were to split the creative process into three sections — content, design, and outreach strategy — how are we able to engineer our own successes and failures to provide us with a framework for future campaigns?

Three important factors for producing link-worthy content

Over the past month, I’ve analyzed over 120 pieces of content across 16 industries to locate and define the common threads between campaigns that exceed or fall short of their expectations. From the amount of data used and visualized to the importance of effective headline storytelling, the insight is a way of both rationalizing and reshaping our approach to content production.

1. Not too much data — our study showed an average of just over five metrics

Behind every great piece of content is (usually) a unique or noteworthy set of data. Both static and interactive content enables us to display limitless amounts of research which provide the origins of the stories we try to communicate. However many figures or metrics you choose to visualize, there is always a point where a journalist or reader switches off.

This glass ceiling is difficult to pinpoint and depends on the type of content, and the industry or readership you’re looking to appeal to, but a more granular study of good and poor performing campaigns that I performed suggested some benefits of refining data sets.

Observations

A starting point for any piece of research is the individual metrics, whether it is cost, type, or essentially anything worth measuring and comparing. In my research, in the content campaigns that exceed our typical KPI, there was an average of just over 5 metrics used on each piece compared to almost double in campaigns with either a normal or below satisfactory performance. The graph below shows the correlation between a lower number of metrics and a higher link performance.

Graph of various metrics and high link performance

An example of these findings in practice can be found in an infographic study completed for online travel retailer Lastminute.com that sought to find the world’s most chilled out countries. Following a comprehensive study of 36 countries across 10 metrics, the task was to refine these figures in a way that can be translated well through its design. The number of countries was whittled down to just the top 15, and the metrics were condensed to have four indexes which the rankings were based on. The decision to not showcase the data in its entirety proved fruitful, securing over 50 links, covered by the Mail Online and Lonely Planet.

As an individual who very much enjoys partaking in the research process, it can be extremely difficult to sacrifice any element of your work, but it is that level of tact in the production of content that distinguishes one piece from another.

2. Simple, powerful data visualizations — our analysis showed highest achievers had just one visualization

Regardless of how saturated the content marketing industry becomes, we are graced every year with new and innovative ways of visualizing data. The balancing act between originality in your design and an unnecessarily complex data-visualization is often the point on which success and failure can pivot. As is the case with data, overloading a piece of content with an amass of multi-faceted graphs and charts is a surefire way of alienating your users, leaving them either bored or confused.

Observations

For my study, I decided to look at the content that contained data visualizations that failed to hit the mark and see whether the quality is as much of a problem as quantity in terms of design. As I carried out the analysis, I denoted the two examples where one visual would incorporate most or all of the study, or the same illustration was replicated several times for a country, region or sector. For instance, this study, from medical travel insurance provider Get Going, on reliable airlines condenses all the key information into one single data-visualization. Conversely, this piece from The Guardian on the gender pay gap shows how it can be effective to use one visual several times to present your data.     

Unsurprisingly, many of the low scorers in my research averaged around eight different forms of data visualizations while high achievers contained just one. The graph below showcases how many data-visualizations are used on average by high and low performing pieces, both static and interactive. Low performing static examples contained an average of just over six, with less than one for their higher-scoring counterparts. For interactive content, the optimum is just over one with poor performing content containing almost nine per piece.

Graph on analyzing the performance of static and interactive content types

In examples where the same type of graph or chart was used repeatedly, poor performers had approximately 33 per piece, with their more favorable counterparts using just three.

It is important to note that ranking-based pieces often require the repetition of a visual in order to tell a story, but once again this is part of the balancing act for creatives in terms of what type and how many data-visualizations one utilizes.

A fine example of an effective illustration of the data study contained in one visual comes from a 2017 piece by Federica Fragapane for Italian publication La Lettura, showcasing the most violent cities in the world. The chart depicts each city as a shape sized by its homicide rate, with other small indicators defined in the legend to the right of the graphic. The aesthetic qualities of the graph give a campaign, fairly morbid in the topic, an extended appeal beyond the subject of just global crime. While the term “design-led” is so-often thrown around, this example proves how effective it can be to integrate visuals effectively through your data. The piece, produced originally for print, proved hugely successful in the design space, with 18 referring domains from sites such as Visme.co.

An example graph of integrating visuals effectively through data

3. Pandering to the press — over a third of our published links used the same headline as our pitch email subject line

Kaizen produces hundreds of campaigns on a yearly basis across a range of industries, meaning the task of looking inward is as necessary today as it ever has been. Competition means that press contacts are looking for something extra special to warrant your content’s publication. While ingenuity is required in every area of content marketing, it’s equally important to recognize the importance of getting the basics right.

The task of outreach can be won and lost in several ways, but your subject line is, and will always be, the most significant component of your pitch. Whether you encapsulate your content in a single sentence or highlight your most attention-worthy finding, an email headline is a laborious but crucial task. My task through my research was to find how vital it is in terms of the end result of achieving coverage.

Observations

As part of my analysis, I recorded the backlinks of a sample of our high and average content and recorded the headlines used in the coverage for each campaign. I found in better-performing examples, over a third of links used the same headlines used in our pitch emails, emphasizing the importance of effective storytelling in every area of your PR process. Below is an illustration in the SERPs of how far an effective headline can take you, with example coverage from one of our most successful pieces for TotallyMoney on work/life balance in Europe.

Example of effective headlines for high-link performance

Another area I was keen to investigate, given the time and effort that goes into it, is how press releases are used across the coverage we get. Using scraping software, I was able to pull out the copy from each article where a follow link was achieved and compare it to the press releases we have produced. It was pleasing to see that one in five links contained at least a paragraph of copy used in our press materials. In contrast, just seven percent of the coverage within the lower performing campaigns contained a reference to our press releases, and an even lower four percent using headlines from our email subject lines.

Final thoughts

These correlations, similar to the ones discussed previously, suggest not only how vital the execution of basic processes are, but serve as a reminder that a campaign can do well or fall down at so many different points of production. For marketers, analysis of this nature indicates that a refinement of creative operations is a more secure route for your content and its coverage. Don’t think of it as “less is more” but a case of picking the right tools for the job at hand.

Nathan Abbott is Content Manager at Kaizen.

The post Three fundamental factors in the production of link-building content appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

A story about Schema, structured data and robots

A story about Schema, structured data and robots

Once upon a time, a little robot came to a site to figure out what it was about. The robot read some words and followed some links and said: “Well, there are a lot of mentions of this particular word, so this page must be about that!” She sent out orders to the mothership to file the page in a giant register so the page could be retrieved for this particular term. The robot worked long hours to get all the pages she could find in that register.

After a couple of years, the robot was very experienced and smart. Her programmers trained her to read better so she could figure out what a piece of text was about. She could even distinguish in what cases it would make the most sense to show it. She even started to use context to judge a piece of text instead of just finding mentions of that particular term.

But, smart as the robot was, her makers needed outside help to get her to fully understand the world. The robot did not have the capacity to grasp all the knowledge and she needed help connecting what she knew.

Luckily, some smart humans built something incredible called SCHEMA: a giant thesaurus for robots just like our little hero.

In it, she found everything she needed. It told her what she could look for to determine a particular page was about a product, an event or a person. She learned about movies, books, authors. About recipes, ingredients and cooking instructions. She found out how people relate to each other, to past events and to abstract concepts that were always a mystery to her. Everything she read was instantly clear to her — she was so happy!

Websites using this SCHEMA thesaurus well, helped robots like her to make sense of the world. She finally knew everything. In return, she could reward those sites with spectacular shiny stuff in the search results. But she could only reward those sites that implemented it well and that was a problem.

She soon found out that there was much to be desired. Many sites offered only small pieces of magical SCHEMA and none of it was interconnected to sources that could help her do her job better. She tried asking for help — pleading for site owners to improve their use of SCHEMA, but to no avail. Until, years later, a massively popular plugin for the biggest content management system in the solar system offered to help the little robot.

Nervously, she looked at the internals of the SCHEMA implementation of the plugin codenamed Yoast SEO 11.0. “Wow, this is just what I need!”, she said. “I’ve never seen this before. This is SCHEMA that I can read and understand. It is complete, it shows me where pages reside and how people and organizations connect. Most importantly, it is interconnected! No longer do I have to guess where everything goes. It’s all in a graph — a neat little package —, ready for me to gobble up!”

And all was well in the world.

(Yes, your author has read Marieke’s posts on storytelling)

Results of using Schema structured data

Schema-powered structured data is one of the hardest, most abstract pieces of web technologies to describe, while also being one of the most important ones. I hope the story above has made the concept a lot clearer for you. Now that you’ve formed a mental image of what we’re talking about here, let me show you what adding structured data to your site can lead to.

A better understanding of your site

We always say you should do everything in your power to help both search engines and searchers to find out what your site is about. Using structured data gives you superpowers in the eyes of the search engine. Since you are labeling the most important parts of your content or site elements and connecting them to other parts, you are making sure that search engines truly understand your site. No longer do they have to guess about what everything means — you can just tell them.

Getting stuff into Google’s Knowledge graph gets a lot easier once you add relevant Schema to your site. Not only that, other platforms like Pinterest love this kind of data as well.

Rich results

Another reason for implementing structured data is the spectacular shiny stuff our robot heroine promised: rich results. Rich results are enhanced search results and they come in many forms, from star ratings to fully enhanced recipe snippets. Many are powered by structured data, but sometimes, you get them without doing anything — besides having an awesome site, of course.

Here is an example of a structured data powered rich result:

An example of a recipe rich result, powered by structured data
This is a recipe result (not currently supported by Yoast SEO)

With the new structured data implementation in Yoast SEO 11.0, you get a firm foundation to build on. While you’ll have a bigger chance of getting rich results by using Yoast SEO, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get them — in the end, the search engines decide who gets what.

Here’s a selection of what we do at the moment. You can find a complete overview of all Google’s current rich results in the Search Gallery:

Logo and social profiles in the Knowledge graph

If you have an Organization, you can get its logo to show up in the Knowledge panel. The same goes for social profiles. Simply add these in the settings of Yoast SEO and they’ll eventually show up.

The Yoast Knowledge panel
Your organization might get a Knowledge panel like the one above

Personal graphs

The personal Knowledge panel of Joost de Valk

If you have a site representing a person, you can add the necessary social accounts. Your image will be grabbed from Gravatar. You can set this in Yoast SEO. Not every person will get a Knowledge graph panel — there’s more at play here. Google combines this input with other sources to build a panel. Once you have one, you can claim it and suggest edits.

Articles

Search engines might do cool stuff with articles marked up with structured data. For news publishers, this is important because this might also mean a top spot in the news carousel. For this, you need NewsArticle Schema in your articles and our News SEO plugin provides this for you. Yoast SEO itself, automatically adds regular Article structured data to your articles, including information about the author and how the page connects to the main entity of the site.

An example of a Top Stories carousel result
For some outlets, working with structured data helps them get in the Top Stories carousel

Local business

An example of a local panel

Our Local SEO plugin takes care of everything you need to get your local business correctly visible in the search engines. You can add opening hours, geographical information, contact information, business locations — including multiple locations under one name, et cetera.

Breadcrumbs

A breadcrumb is a navigational tool that helps searchers and search engines figure out where they are on your site. If you activate this in Yoast SEO, you might get something like this in the search results:

An example of a breadcrumbs rich result
An example of a breadcrumbs rich result

Products

Our WooCommerce plugin adds a cool possibility for getting rich results for products. If you combine this with other structured data, you can get really expansive rich results in search results with ratings and everything. You can also be featured in image search and different product carousels. In addition, Pinterest will pick up the main product on your page more easily.

An example of a rich result with reviews, ratings and product information
An example of product, ratings and reviews schema in action

Structured data is hot

This article, including the adventures of our little robot, aims to show you a small sampling of structured data powered search results. Working with structured data was always hard, but we’re fixing that — and you don’t have to do much for it!

Yoast SEO 11.0 has a completely rebuilt structured data framework that adds more sensible, and more importantly, interconnected structured data to your site. Search engines can pick this up and do interesting things with. We’re not done yet, because we have a lot more cool stuff coming up!

Read more: Schema structured data is hard, but we’re making it easy

The post A story about Schema, structured data and robots appeared first on Yoast.

Top 19 Instagram marketing tools to use for success

Top 19 Instagram marketing tools to use for success

Instagram is a phenomenon of our time. The photo-sharing app has 7.7 billion users by now (and counting).

One billion people use Instagram every month and 500 million use the platform every day. Its engagement is also 10 times higher than that of Facebook, 54 times higher than Pinterest’s, and 84 times higher than Twitter’s.

All kinds of businesses ranging from your teen neighbor making earrings to huge corporations and media are on Instagram. And for a good reason — 80% of Instagram accounts follow at least one business.

Instagram business statistics

[Screenshot taken from the Instagram Business homepage]

At times when Facebook is becoming more and more Messenger-based and Twitter revolves around politics and social issues, Instagram stands to be the platform for friends, strangers, and brands alike.

It’s no surprise we’re so serious about Instagram marketing and the tools that help us with it.

Below is the list of such tools which covers everything from filters to analytics.

19 top Instagram marketing tools

1. Grum

Grum is a scheduling tool that lets you publish content (both photos and videos) on Instagram. You can publish from multiple accounts at the same time and tag the users. You can do that right from your desktop.

Price: Starts at $9.9/month. Offers a free trial for 3 days.

2. Awario

Awario is a social media monitoring tool that finds mentions of your brand (or any other keyword) across the web, news/blogs, and social media platforms, including Instagram. By analyzing mentions of your brand on the platform, it tells you who your brand advocates and who the industry influencers are, what the sentiment behind your brand (positive, negative, or neutral) is, as well as the languages and locations of your audience. It also analyzes the growth and reach of your mentions, and tells you how you compare to your competitors.

Price: Starts at $29/month. Offers a free trial for 14 days.

3. Buffer

Buffer is another scheduling tool. However, it includes Instagram among other social networks rather than focusing on Instagram alone. With Buffer, you can schedule content to be published across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. You can publish the same or different messages across different platforms. You can also review how your posts are performing in terms of engagement, impressions, and clicks.

The tool can be used by up to 25 team members, and you can assign them the appropriate access levels.

Price: Starts at $15/month. Offers free 7-day or 14-day trials depending on the plan.

4. Hashtags for likes

Hashtags for likes is a simple tool that suggests you the most trending relevant hashtags. Knowing the most popular hashtags in real time helps brands keep up with trends, bandwagon on the news, and ultimately grow followers.

Price: $9.99/month.

5. Iconosquare

Iconosquare is a social media analytics tool that works for Instagram and Facebook. It shows you the metrics on content performance and engagement as well as on your followers. You’ll discover the best times to post and understand your followers better. The tool also analyzes Instagram Stories.

Besides analytics, you can schedule posts, monitor tags and comments about your brand.

Price: Starts at $39/month. A free 14-day trial is available.

6. Canva

Canva is a design tool that is a great fit for marketers and companies that don’t have an in-house designer. Among other things, Canva helps create perfect Instagram stories. Stylish templates and easy design tools ensure that your Story stands out, which, again, isn’t easy in the world of Instagram.

Price: Free

7. Shortstack

Shortstack is a tool to run Instagram contests. Contests are huge on this platform, they cause loads of buzz, increase brand awareness, and attract new followers. They are a practice loved by marketers.

ShortStack gathers all user-generated content, such as images that have been posted on your content hashtag, and displays them. It also keeps track of your campaign’s performance, showing your traffic, engagement, and other valuable data.

Price: Free up to 100 entries. Paid plans start at $29/month.

8. Soldsie

Soldsie is a handy tool that helps you to sell on Instagram and Facebook using comments. All you have to do is upload a product picture with relevant product information. Users who are registered with Soldsie can simply comment on the photo, and Soldsie will turn that into a transaction.

More expensive Soldsie plans are also integrated with Shopify.

Price: Starts at $49/monthly and 5.9% transaction fee.

9. Social Rank

Social Rank is a tool that identifies and analyzes your audience. You can identify influencers among your followers, see who engages with your brand and with what frequency. You can sort your followers in lists that are easy to work with (for example: most valuable, most engaged, and others).

You can also filter your audience by bio keyword, word/hashtag, and geographic location.

Price: Available on request.

10. Plann

Plann is an Instagram social media management tool. It allows you to design, edit, schedule, and analyze your posts. For example, you can edit the Instagram grid to look just as you wish. You can rearrange, organize, crop, and schedule your Instagram Stories. All exciting stats, from best times to post and best-performing hashtags to your best-performing color schemes are available. And you can also collaborate with other marketers to run your Instagram account together.

Price: Free, paid plans start from $6/month.

11. Social Insights

Social Insights is another platform that offers many important Instagram marketing features, such as scheduling and posting from your computer, identifying and organizing your followers, and analyzing followers’ growth, interactions, and engagement. You can add other team members without sharing your Instagram login.

Price: Starts at $29/month. A free 14-day trial is available.

12. Instagram Ads by Mailchimp

If you’re already using MailChimp, its Instagram Ads feature might come in handy. The tool lets you use MailChimp contact lists to create Instagram campaigns. The whole process (creating, buying, and tracking results of your ads) is, therefore, in the familiar place and powered by data.

Price: No extra fees if you’re using MailChimp.

13. Unfold – Story Creator

Unfold – Story Creator is an iOS app that makes lifestyle, fashion, and travel content more professional-looking. The app offers stylish templates, advanced fonts and text tools, and exports your stories in high resolution so that you can share them to other platforms besides Instagram.

Price: Free

14. Picodash

Picodash is an Instagram tool that finds target audiences and influencers on the platform. It lets you export your and your competitors’ Instagram followers and following lists, users that have used a specific hashtag, posted at a specific location or venue, commented or liked a specific post, as well as tagged users. You can also download any account stories or highlighted stories.

Price: Starts from $10 for a Followers/Hashtag Posts export. You can also request a sample of 100 for free before you order a full export report.

15. Wyng

Wyng is an enterprise-level platform that finds user-generated content with a specific mention or hashtag, exports it, and gets the rights to this content. This is very helpful for running contests. Instagram is, however, a tiny fraction of what the tool covers.

Price: Available on request. A free 14-day trial is available.

16. Afterlight

Afterlight is the iOS/Android image editing app that makes your content look more professional and refined. It offers plenty of unique filters, natural effects, and frames.

Price: $2.99

17. Sendible

Sendible is a popular social media management platform that lets you run accounts on different social media platforms, including Instagram. It’s integrated with some other tools that are useful for Instagram, such as Canva. The tool does scheduling, monitors mentions, and tracks the performance of your Instagram posts. You can also team up with other marketers and work together on your Instagram marketing (and other) goals.

Price: Starts at $29/month. A free 14-day trial is available.

18. Olapic

Olapic is an advanced visual commerce platform. It collects user-generated video content in real time, publishes it to your social media channels (including Instagram) makes it shoppable, measures and predicts which content will perform best. It goes far beyond Instagram and even social media. What is more, it obtains rights for the content for you so that you’re able to use it across your advertising, email, and offline channels.

Price: Available on request.

19. Pablo

Pablo (made by Buffer) is a platform that lets you easily create beautiful images for your Instagram marketing purposes. You can choose photos from Pablo’s own library which includes more than 500,000 images, add text (25+ stylish fonts are available) and format. The resizing option for various social platforms, including Instagram, will ensure your image fits perfectly.

Price: Free

Conclusion

As you can see, there’re plenty of tools to choose from. Check them out, spot the ones that you need, and take your Instagram marketing to a whole new level.

Aleh is the Founder and CMO at SEO PowerSuite and Awario. He can be found on Twitter at @ab80.

Read next:

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How to Actually Make Money Online in 2019

How to Actually Make Money Online in 2019

What’s the fastest way to make money online in 2019?

Well, let me start by saying this:

If you’re looking for a get rich quick scheme, then this isn’t for you.

If you’re looking to build a real business, then this IS for you.

Still here?

Good because I’m going to show my complete Client SEO system for building a real service business.

It’s not easy and you’re going to have to work.

The cool part is that a client SEO business DOES allow you work from anywhere (from your laptop).

You just have to commit to doing the work.

Let’s jump right in.

Don’t forget your free downloads! GET ACCESS to 52 lucrative SEO niches, our client prospecting sheet, and proven workflows for landing more SEO clients.

Client SEO System Overview

The Client SEO System is going to show you:

  1. How to pick a niche to land SEO clients in.
  2. How to get real SEO results and build your portfolio as fast as possible.
  3. How to use the outbound system to land SEO clients fast.
  4. How to stack the inbound system with the outbound system to take your income to another level.
  5. How to convert your prospects into paying SEO clients.
  6. How to make your clients love you so they stick around and continue to pay you for years.

Remember:

The key to succeeding with the Client SEO System is to act on what you learn.

I’m giving you the framework and steps, but you’re the one that’s responsible for your success. I believe in you and I’m super excited to help you through your journey.

Now I’m going to show you how to pick a niche and make competition irrelevant (Hint: most people think there’s only one way to niche down, but there are actually 4 different techniques).

Pick a Niche

The first question I need to cover is whether you should niche down or have a general focus.

There’s no wrong answer here. But, it’s generally going to be easier to niche down because there will be less competition. It also makes your marketing and sales process more targeted.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t take on clients in other niches. It just means that your brand’s identity only focuses on one or a few a niches.

Now most people don’t realize, but there are many different ways to niche down.

For example, most people think niching down is choosing an industry like HVAC or plumbers. This is a good approach, but as you’ll find out in a second, there are a few different angles you can take.

Let’s start with the most common way of niching down which is on the industry level.

1. Niche Down on the Industry Level

I recommend targeting niches that have a high customer value.

Need a niche to target? Here are 52 lucrative SEO niches to go after.

For example, a single customer for a personal injury lawyer could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. That means that you can charge a premium for SEO because the ROI for the personal injury lawyer is enormous.

On the other hand, companies with low customer values won’t be able to to get an ROI on SEO services unless they’re able to make up for the low customer value with sales volume.

For example, a supplement company I worked with had a low customer value, but they had enough sales volume to justify their investment in premium SEO services.

The main takeaway here is to target industries that can actually get an ROI from using your SEO services.

Here’s a list of some industries with high customer values.

Now let’s talk about the second way you can niche down, which is to target specific locations.

2. Niche Down by Location

So, instead of choosing a niche, you’ll choose locations to go after.

When I first got started, I choose smaller cities that were high on the wealth scale. For example, instead of targeting Los Angeles, I went after Santa Monica, Glendale, and Beverly Hills.

Santa monica SEO

These cities have a lot money flowing through them, but the competition is lower than Los Angeles.

One way to determine how wealthy a city is, is to look at how much police officers and firefighters are paid.

For example, according to Indeed, on average, police officers in Beverly Hills make about $80,000 per year.

Beverly Hills Police Salary

This is 37% above the national average.

Police officer and firefighter compensation is usually public record, so you can find this information out with some quick Google Searches.

That said, if you’re new, you should target lower competition, high value cities in the beginning.

Then, as you begin to build a portfolio and website authority, you can venture into more competitive cities.

The third way to niche down is on both the industry and location level.

3. Niche Down by Industry and Location

For example, you could target lawyers in Beverly Hills. Or even get more specific and only target personal injury lawyers in Beverly Hills.

Now obviously, your pool of prospects will be much smaller with this approach, but it can be effective when you’re starting out.

In general, focus is always the best route.

The final way to niche down is on the service level.

4. Niche Down on the Service Level

Instead of offering full-service SEO as your primary solution, you can splinter your service into micro services.

For example, you could specialize in technical SEO, SEO content creation, link building, or local SEO.

What’s interesting about this approach is that micro services can be used a “foot-in-the-door” tactic to land larger full-service SEO contracts.

As you’ll be finding out soon, this is one my favorite methods for landing clients.

You can also become known as a “link building guy” or whatever identity you want.

Many SEO agencies have been successful using this approach.

A good one to study is Page One Power.

Page One Power

They specialize in link building and they’re very successful because their marketing material and sales process is streamlined for closing link building contracts.

Remember:

Focus is good.

So, there are four ways to niche down:

  1. By industry. Choose an industry with high customer values
  2. By location. Focus on smaller, wealthier cities
  3. By industry and location
  4. Niche down on the service level by splintering micro services from your primary service.

Now it’s time for me to show you how to build a portfolio of real SEO results even if you’re not an SEO expert.

Get Results

Here’s something that most gurus won’t tell you:

You need to get real SEO results before taking on clients.

Here are three reasons why you need to prove that you can do SEO before taking on clients.

3 Reasons You Need Results Before Taking on Clients

1. The First Reason are Ethics

Companies that invest money with you are under the impression that you know what you’re doing.

This doesn’t mean you need to be an industry-leading expert to take on clients. You just need some results to prove your competence.

What if you don’t have results right now? Don’t worry because I’ll be showing you some ways to build your portfolio as fast as possible.

With that said:

It’s highly unethical to provide SEO services if you’ve never ranked or gotten results.

Think about this way:

Would you knowingly hire a supposed plumber to fix your pipes if they’ve never fixed a pipe before? It’s unlikely and super risky for you.

When you hire a plumber, you assume they A) know more about plumbing than you do and B) they’ve actually practiced plumbing and have experience.

Now imagine if you did hire a supposed plumber that had no experience or knowledge and he or she destroyed your pipe or flooded your house?

You would be fuming if you found out that this person lied to you and made you believe that they were competent.

That’s brings me to the second reason why you need results before taking on clients and that’s:

2. To Protect Your Reputation

If a company pays you to do SEO, but finds out you have no experience and never gotten results, then your reputation will be on the line.

Sure, it’s possible that you’ll figure it and get the client results, but it’s highly risky for you and them. If you don’t get them results, they might wreck your reputation.

That’s why you need to learn how to actually get SEO results.

The best way to think about this is quote from Warren Buffet:

warren buffet quote

Buffer is implying that your reputation means everything and you should think about what actions you should or shouldn’t do to protect it.

The third reason why you need results before trying to get clients is because:

3. It Makes Your Sales Process 10x Easier

There is no greater persuasion vehicle than demonstrating that you actually know what you’re doing.

Building a deep portfolio of SEO results should be a priority if you’re planning on working with clients for the long-term.

Now let me show you a few methods you can use to build up your SEO portfolio quickly.

How to Build Your SEO Portfolio (Fast)

The first and most hated method is to:

Work for Free

I know you probably just rolled your eyes at this idea, but hear me out for a second.

First, it’s easy to close someone if you simply say: “I’ll help your rank for some lower competition keywords for free because I’m trying to build my SEO portfolio.”

Then, once you get these clients some results, you can convert them into actual paying clients.

The key is choose a small number of very low competition keywords.

Your goal in this process is to get results quickly (so you can add it to your portfolio) and to demonstrate to the client that you know what you’re doing.

If they client has a decent website, you should be able to rank for some low-competition, micro long-tail keywords pretty quickly.

After you’ve achieved some results, I recommend pushing for referrals. You can say something like, I’ll help you rank for x, y, z for free if you send me some referrals.

This is the fastest way to snowball your portfolio and monthly income.

The second method, which takes much longer, is to:

Build a Niche Website and Rank for Low-Competition Keywords

This is similar to the example above (and it’s the approach I personally used).

You’re technically still working for free, but you’re in complete control and you’ll be the one to reap the benefits of the success of your niche website.

Remember, that each keyword you rank for is a success that you can add to your portfolio.

The goal is to demonstrate that you’re more competent at SEO than the companies you’re pitching. That’s it.

If you do that, you’ll land clients.

The third method is to:

Build a Local Website and Rank for Low-Competition Keywords

In particular, keywords that your target market wants to rank for.

For example, if you’re targeting HVAC companies, you could rank for a super long-tail keyword phrase like “best HVAC company in Beverly Hills CA”.

This is a powerful method because you’re actually demonstrating in their target market.

Those are the best ways to build up your portfolio quickly. Focus on demonstrating SEO skills by getting real results.

Now let me show you my Outbound System for getting new clients. These methods are powerful for anyone trying to land their first client quickly.

Use the Outbound System

The first question is, what is outbound marketing?

Outbound marketing is often referred to as push marketing, but it means that you’re the one pushing for new clients. You’re the one reaching out to qualified prospects and trying to persuade them to become a client.

This is different the inbound system (or sometimes referred to as pull marketing), which is the process of attracting leads to your business using inbound marketing.

In layman’s terms:

Outbound means you’re going out to get clients and inbound means they’re coming to you.

Now before I can show you the outbound methods, I need to show you:

How to Find Prospect Contact Information

Since you’ll be sending emails, this is critical.

Hunter.io is my personal favorite tool.

Just enter the target company’s domain and let Hunter.io work its magic.

hunter.io

Sometimes it won’t produce any results and that’s why you’ll need to Viola Norbert as a backup option.

Open Viola Norbert and enter the first name, last name, and domain of the prospect you’re trying to reach.

viola norbert

If these two tools don’t produce any results, then I recommend using LinkedIn to find the point of contact you’re trying to reach.

Those three tactics should help you find most company’s point of contact information.

Now let me show the process.

Strategy #1: Identify a Point of Leverage

Some possible leverage points you can use are:

  • The company is ranking on page 5 of Google or worse for their most important keywords
  • The company is paying for Google Ads but has no organic search visibility
  • The company doesn’t have an SSL certificate installed
  • The company’s website isn’t mobile friendly
  • The company’s website loads slowly
  • The company’s website doesn’t have Google Analytics or a Facebook pixel installed
  • The company hasn’t claimed or properly set up their Google My Business listing
  • The company has inconsistent NAP-W (Name, Address, Phone, or Website) information

Now what you’ll do is:

Gather a Large List of Prospects

Then go through each of these items. Then mark if their website or company is displaying any of these points of leverage.

Then you’ll:

Develop a Customized Pitch

…based on the issue they have.

For example, let’s say the company is ranking on Page 5 or worse for their target keywords.

What you would do is pitch a free video audit to help them identify what’s holding their SEO performance back. Then, once they agree, you perform the audit.

Upsell Full-Service

After you deliver the SEO audit, you just ask them if they would like you to handle the SEO campaign for them.

How you approach the pitch will depend on your experience level.

If you’re trying to build a portfolio then it would make sense to either work for free or for a low amount as I described in the previous section.

You can also pitch a micro-service BEFORE trying to score the large full-service SEO contract.

This will turn your prospect into a paying customer, but without them having to make a big commitment up front.

Finding leverage is the key.

This will make you different than 80% of all SEOs because you’re taking the time to analyze these businesses and develop an intelligent, targeted pitch.

Here’s a Google Sheet template you can copy for prospecting, identifying leverage points, and tracking your outreach.

Now let’s talk about the second best way to land new clients and that’s partnering with other digital marketing agencies.

Strategy #2: Partner with Agencies

In short, you’ll do SEO for the agency’s clients on a white label basis.

That means you’ll do the work and get the results, but they’ll take credit for the results and communicate directly with the client.

You’re simply working on the backend.

This is a great arrangement in the beginning because:

  1. You don’t have to focus on sales (other than the initial sale with the agency) and…
  2. You don’t have to deal with direct customer service because you’ll only be communicating with the agency.

The downside are that the monthly retainers will be smaller per client because the agency has to make a profit.

The good news is that this is usually offset by the quantity of clients that an SEO agency will send you.

I used this exact method when I first got started.

In fact:

I had white label agreements with several agencies in the beginning and this was a great source of income. It also led to all kinds of other opportunities down the road.

I recommend combining both white label and direct-to-client to maximize your income growth.

The question is:

How do you actually land white label agreements?

Target Companies That Offer SEO Services

First, you have to know what types of companies to target. I recommend making a list of all digital marketing, internet marketing, SEO, PPC, graphic design, and web design companies.

Or, any type of business that may provide SEO services.

Secondly, you have to understand why an agency would even want to outsource their SEO to you.

Understand the Reason Why They’re Willing to Partner

The main reason why they are open to outsourcing is because it saves them time and doesn’t force them to hire and train employees. If an agency gets more time, they can focus more on bringing in new clients.

The most important part for them though, is to work with a competent SEO who can actually get their clients results.

But that won’t be a problem as long as you follow and execute the framework inside Gotch SEO Academy.

The last piece of the puzzle will depend on your level of experience.

Design Your Unique Selling Proposition

If you’re new, I recommend pitching the agency that you’ll work for free on one of their client campaigns to prove yourself.

You need to emphasize that they have nothing to lose by hiring you.

Trust me:

The long-term value of this approach is worth working for a free for a little bit of time.

If you do a solid job, a single agency could send you enough clients to replace your day job income.

At least that’s what happened for me.

There are a few other places you should monitoring and trying to score clients.

The first is the gigs section on Craigslist. I landed several clients through Craigslist when I first started.

Craigslist Gigs

You can use all the same leverage methods I’ve shown you to score clients here.

I also recommend setting up a profile on WeGrowth, UpWork, Freelancer, and even Guru. Constantly monitor these websites for new opportunities and apply to as many as you can.

Upwork SEO Jobs

You have nothing to lose by applying and learning what works during this application process.

I’ll tell you this:

I’ve hired many freelancers on UpWork and I almost always hire the person that has the best attention to detail.

For example, in my job posting, I’ll inject something like “write the word banana” in your proposal.

Upwork Job Posting

The people that don’t do it are automatically disqualified because:

  • It shows they didn’t take the time to actually read the job posting (which implies laziness or they don’t have enough time to service my company the right way)
  • It implies that they can’t follow instructions or have a low attention to detail.

These are bad qualities and that’s why I eliminate those possibilities at the onset.

The main takeaway is that putting in a little more effort than the average freelancer will produce far better results. Most people on these freelancing websites are focused on quantity.

I recommend focusing on quality.

Think about this way:

If you submitted just one detailed and thoughtful SEO proposal per day for 3 months, you will have sent off 90 quality proposals.

If you converted just 3% of these proposals into new clients, you would have 3 new clients and this is being very conservative as far as output and conversion rate.

Believe it or not:

Increasing your client base is sometimes nothing more than putting in consistent, quality work over time.

The best way to illustrate this is through a quick story I read from James Clear’s book.

In 1993, a 23-year old named Trent Dyrsmid was hired by a bank in Abbotsford, Canada.

Upon his hiring people didn’t expect much of him, but then they started to take notice how quickly he was progressing. Drysmid used a simple method each morning to excel at his new job.

He simply placed two jars on his desk and one was filled with 120 paper clips and the other was empty.

Then after every sales call, Drysmid would take 1 paper clip and move it to the empty jar and he didn’t stop until all the paper clips were moved.

This signified that he made 120 sales calls for the day.

And by using this simple and consistent method, Dyrsmid was making $75,000 per year (which is the equivalent of $125,000 today) within only 18 months and then landed another big job shortly thereafter.

The main takeaway here is that consistency pays off.

Most people aren’t consistent and won’t do this type of work. That’s your advantage.

Do the work and be consistent.

Those two qualities are the key to producing results using the Outbound system for landing new SEO clients.

Now it’s time to learn my proven Inbound System that makes leads and SEO clients COME TO YOU. Stacking this with the outbound system and you’ll never need to worry about getting new SEO clients again

Stack the Inbound System

Just to review:

Outbound marketing is when you’re searching for and reaching to potential clients.

Inbound marketing is when potential clients are searching and reaching out to you.

You should be stacking both methods together to achieve maximum results.

That’s because outbound is effective for getting clients quickly while inbound methods take longer to see an impact (and will require considerably more work).

Here’s the good news:

Once your inbound marketing picks up steam, you will get new leads and customers 24/7, 365 on autopilot.

And eventually, you can choose to stop doing outbound marketing altogether if you’re driving enough leads from inbound.

For example, I only used outbound methods for the first three or so months of starting my agency. Since then, my company gets 100% of its leads through inbound marketing.

Trust me:

It’s a lot easier to grow a company this way.

Before I jump into tactics, I need to explain how the sales process for outbound vs inbound is different.

The big difference between the two is that with inbound you’ll be responding to leads either through a contact form or through a direct phone call.

I recommend both types of conversion options when you’re focusing on client SEO, but I’ll cover this more in the sales portion of this training.

There are three types of inbound methods I’m going to show you:

  1. Referral generation
  2. Content marketing
  3. Paid advertising

The key to fully understanding inbound marketing is to understand how a content marketing funnel works and how a sales funnel works.

What is a Content Marketing Funnel?

A content marketing marketing funnel is broken down into three sections, the Top, Middle, and Bottom of the Funnel.

Content Marketing Funnel

These are often referred to as ToFu, MoFu, and BoFu. In short, you need to produce content at each stage of the funnel.

My process for doing this is as follows (and this applies to both products and services):

  1. I create ToFu content, which is usually an in-depth blog post targeting a relevant keyword.
  2. I create a free lead magnet to convert traffic into email subscribers. Depending on the offering, this may also be a call-to-action for the traffic to submit an application or submit a contact form. The goal at the MoFu stage of the funnel is to turn your traffic into leads.
  3. Then in the last stage of the funnel, I’ll produce BoFu content that’s focused on persuading the lead to become a customer.

That may come in the form of testimonials, stories, results, etc.

To show you this in practice, let me walk you through one of my sales processes for Gotch SEO Academy.

Keep in mind, this will vary for a service, but the general concept will be illuminated.

Here’s how my content marketing and sales process looks at a 30,000-foot view.

Content Marketing Funnel Example

  • At the top, you have traffic. This may come from organic search, paid advertising, or other referral sources.
  • At the top of the funnel, I have blog content.
  • Then within that blog content I promote a free lead magnet which my SEO 101 course. This is my MoFu content.
  • Then after a subscriber goes through the course, I offer them a limited time free trial of Gotch SEO Academy. This free trial is my BoFu content.

I also stack testimonials, frequently asked questions, and other types of BoFu content.

The goal at this stage is to turn leads into customers, so all your content should be structured to achieve that objective.

Notice how the content changes as you go down the funnel.

  • First, you educate.
  • Second, you add more value, but you ask for them to make a small commitment.
  • And lastly, you sell.

Believe it or not, the traffic part of this equation is the least important.

You can get enormous amounts of traffic, but if your funnel is poorly structured, that traffic won’t convert into customers.

And at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

That’s why investing time into developing an effective content marketing funnel and sales process is well worth it.

So, now let me show you how you can develop and execute an effective content marketing funnel and sales process so you can land more SEO clients.

The first method is what I call the Case Study method.

The Case Study Method

Here’s how it works:

You’re going to create an SEO case study about some results you’ve achieved. Preferably one that’s relevant to your target market.

Then, you’re going add a call-to-action in this case study for the reader to apply for a free SEO audit.

Then, all you need to do is drive traffic to your SEO case study.

In most cases, you’ll need to use paid traffic.

Method #2 is my personal favorite, but it’s also the most challenging.

Rank Geo-Targeted Pages

It’s the process of choosing locations and then creating geo-targeted landing pages that you’ll rank in Google.

For example, if you search for “St Louis SEO”, you’ll find Gotch SEO.

St Louis SEO

This single page was one of my biggest sources of lead generation when I was still taking on clients.

If you’re new, I recommend targeting smaller cities like I mentioned in the niching down section.

Select high-value cities and then work to rank those pages.

Trust me, it’s worth the effort. It just takes time and patience.

Then, on these pages, you can either have a traditional application form or you can pitch a free audit.

If you don’t have an existing client base or don’t have much authority in the SEO industry then I recommend using a free SEO audit to get your foot in the door.

These first two methods can work together as well. For example, you can promote your case studies on your geo-targeted pages.

The next method is to target informational keywords in the SEO industry.

Target Informational Keywords

Now I’ll be honest, this is a challenging one because of the competition.

But it’s extremely valuable once you rank because there is no better form of skill demonstration.

You’re building social proof and trust upfront and subconsciously before you even talk to a lead.

Think about it… if they’re searching Google, going to your page, and submitting a form, then what just occurred?

You just demonstrated that SEO works without talking or having to persuade them at all.

That’s why I always laugh when some gurus (who aren’t ranking for any keywords) claim that ranking for SEO keywords is a waste of time.

99.9% of my leads are directly attributed to SEO keywords that Gotch SEO ranks for.

Don’t let them fool you.

If you take this approach, make sure you start out by targeting longer tail keywords.

For example, trying to rank for “backlinks” or some other tough head of body keyword will require lots of links, content, and patience.

I recommend waiting until your website is more authoritative to target those types of keywords.

In the meantime, go after long-tail keywords and dominate those. You don’t need a ton of traffic to get qualified leads.

Create Public SEO Audits

The final inbound method that’s incredibly effective is to perform public SEO audits and then post them on YouTube.

I recommend looking at Chase Reiner’s YouTube channel because he’s done an excellent job using this strategy.

Chase Reiner YouTube

Audits are great way to demonstrate your expertise and they cost you nearly nothing to produce and publish. Just your time.

YouTube in general as a channel is, in my opinion, and untapped source for driving SEO leads.

There are only a few SEOs pushing hard on YouTube, so there’s a lot of opportunity there.

You can produce case studies or even general informational video content.

The ultimate goal of your YouTube content should be to educate, inform, and establish you as an authority.

In fact:

The ultimate goal of inbound marketing is to educate and to build the trustworthiness of your brand.

Trust is the key to sales.

You should be looking at every channel as an opportunity to add value and to build your brand’s authority in the industry.

In addition to your website and YouTube, you should also be adding value to Quora, forums, blog comment sections on industry blogs, and even in Facebook Groups.

Quora Answer

People have built entire careers just by adding value in Facebook groups and in forums.

While contributing to communities won’t always drive direct traffic to your website, it’s a way to build your brand.

As a result, people start to recognize the value that you bring, they will start to search for your name and brand in Google.

Branded Search CTR

This is beneficial from an SEO perspective, but it’s also huge from a business perspective. It’s only possible by adding massive amounts of value across multiple channels.

Now keep in mind:

You don’t have to do this forever. But in the beginning, you should be testing every channel and consistently producing value on them.

So, those are the best inbound marketing methods in my opinion and I’ve personally used each one.

There are other tactics such as webinars, but that’s not something I personally used to get SEO clients, so I won’t be covering that.

With that said, let’s review the inbound system:

Step #1 – Create Top of the Funnel Content

This may be informational content, case studies, YouTube videos, or even contributions to communities.

Step #2 – Create Middle of the Funnel Content

This may be a free SEO audit which requires a user to submit an application or it can be a free download which requires a user to submit their email address.

Either way, the objective at this stage is get a percentage of users to take another step in furthering a relationship with your brand.

Step #3 – Create Bottom of the Funnel Content

…That’s designed to persuade your leads to become SEO clients.

This will come in the form of testimonials, keyword rankings, traffic growth screenshots, case studies, frequently asked questions, or even a list of your happy clients that they can call.

And the final stage is creating an SEO proposal and following up on that proposal.

Now let me show how to convert your leads into paying SEO clients by using my simple step-by-step sales process. The best part is that you’ll close leads without being salesy or over-the-top when you use the system I’ll show you.

Sales 101

Many of the inbound marketing techniques require you to capture leads either through email or through an application form.

I recommend setting both up. Let’s start with email. There are three email providers that I recommend:

Mailchimp

Mailchimp is perfect for a smaller budget because you can get a good number of subscribers for free. I started out with Mailchimp, but then outgrew it and needed some more advanced.

Leading me to number two, which is Drip.

Drip

Drip is more focused on email automation.

I don’t recommend jumping into email automation when you’re new because it will likely be a distraction and there’s a big learning curve.

But once you’ve mastered many of the other skill sets, it will be worth looking into.

One other respected email provider is Aweber.

Aweber

It doesn’t have a big learning curve and is quite similar to Mailchimp.

After you’ve selected a way to capture email addresses, then you need a way for leads to apply or contact you. You can use Contact Form 7 to embed forms directly on your website, but I also love using TypeForm.

It’s free and it has some really amazing functionality. You can also use Gravity Forms, which is a more advanced version of Contact Form 7, but it’s paid.

What do you do after you’ve collected a lead?

Well, your initial outreach will depend on what they are requesting by filling out a form.

For example, if they fill out your SEO audit application, your outreach will vary compared to if they submitted your full-service SEO application. This part is common sense, so I won’t bore.

If they applied for an SEO audit, then reach out, thank them for their application, and let them know when their free SEO audit will be completed.

Believe it or not:

I recommend the same process even if they’re a full-service SEO lead. Once again thank them for applying and then ask if you can perform a free SEO audit.

What do you do after you’ve completed the audit?

This is the most important stage of the process, so listen carefully. You need to turn this lead into a paying customer.

That means you’ll send them a simple email about the completed audit and you’ll say something like:

“Hey NAME, I’ve complete your SEO audit and {attached | here’s the link}. The biggest actions you need to take to improve your SEO performance are:
1. HIGH IMPACT ACTION
2. HIGH IMPACT ACTION
3. HIGH IMPACT ACTION

These actions will have the biggest impact on performance, but there are many other actions/issues you’ll need to tackle (as you’ll discover in the audit).

Do you have a few minutes to discuss the audit this week?”

Or:

“Hey NAME, I’ve completed your SEO audit. Do you have a few minutes today or tomorrow to go over our findings?”

This method is a sneakier one because you’ll send the audit right before the meeting. So in a way, you force them to get on the phone with you.

The previous template is a value-first template, but it won’t drive as many phone calls as the second one.

You can vary these templates if you don’t want to talk over the phone.

I highly recommend you get on the phone because your close rate will be substantially higher.

Let’s assume you get them on the phone to discuss the SEO audit findings.

You don’t need to do anything complicated here.

Just talk about what you found and what they would need to do to make the changes you’re suggesting.

The only method I recommend here is to discuss how much work goes into the actions.

Remember, companies hire SEO experts because

  • It’s too technical for them to execute and…
  • they don’t have an enough time to execute

These two factors should naturally be demonstrated through your discussion.

Then, towards the end, just ask the lead if they would be interested in letting your company do the SEO for them (so they don’t have to waste time or effort to figure it out themselves).

If they “yes”, then tell them that you’ll develop proposal and get it over to them by the end of the week. And that’s it.

Now if they say “no”, then you should counter with a downsell.

Say:

“Ok, no worries. I know it’s a big commitment. Would you be interested in us fix your technical issues? This won’t require a monthly commitment or anything. It’ll just be a one-off project and we’ll make your website technically sound.”

If they say “yes”, then you’ll send them a mini proposal.

Remember:

The goal is to get them to pay your company money.

That’s when the relationship changes.

It may seem like they’ll never become a full-service client, but once there’s an exchange of value, everything changes.

Now let’s talk about proposals.

First, let’s talk what tools or software you can use to deliver proposals.

There are few different ways to create and send proposals.

My personal favorites are:

  • Google Docs
  • PDFs
  • Pitch Decks using Google Slides or Powerpoint
  • Proposal software such as Proposify, PandaDoc, and Nusii

I recommending testing each to see what works best for you.

But listen:

The vehicle for your proposal is by far the least important part of the process.

What matter most is the substance of the proposal.

19 Qualities of Effective SEO Proposals

Here are 19 elements you need to produce successful SEO proposals

1. They’re Personalized

There are some pieces of the your SEO proposal that can use templates, but the key to a truly successful proposal is to personalize it for the prospect’s situation.

The best way to accomplish this goal is by performing an SEO audit upfront before you send your proposal.

That way you can add your findings from the SEO audit in the proposal and create a personalized roadmap based on their situation.

2. Successful Proposals are Efficient

No one wants to or is going to read a 100 page proposal. The best way to think about this to use a quote from someone way smarter than me, Albert Einstein.

Einstein said that “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” That means your proposal should be efficient and gets to the point, but don’t go overboard and make it thin.

3. Use Opening Testimonials or Data

Think of this section as a quick hook to get the prospect to read your entire proposal.

Testimonials from successful clients, data proving your value, or data proving the value of the industry/service will work here.

4. Write Your Opening Statement

Your opening statement is nothing more than a big thank you and way to express gratitude to the prospect for them giving you the opportunity to work together.

It doesn’t need to be more than a sentence or two.

5. Outline a Scope of Work (Overview)

The scope of work section defines what you’re offering the prospect. Think of it as an overview of the service offering.

For example, you may something like: “Gotch SEO will conduct an extensive SEO campaign to increase traffic and customer volume through organic search.”

6. Define the Objectives

Outline the goals of the SEO campaign here. Be as specific as possible.

Some common SEO campaign objectives are: increase organic search traffic, increase the total keyword ranking positions, and drive more customers through organic search.

7. List the Deliverables

“Deliverable” is business lingo for what things are actually going to be done/accomplished during this service.

A simple deliverable is: “We build a keyword database of at least 1,000 potential keyword targets.” Be specific in this section.

Also, it’s a good idea to mention what deliverables will be dependent on the client. For example, if the client needs to approve content you’re creating, then make sure that’s listed.

8. Emphasize the Benefits

You should be emphasizing the benefits of your SEO service throughout your proposal, but it’s also a good idea to dedicate a section to it.

The one question you need to ask yourself is: How is my service going to make their business and lives better?

Some of the biggest benefits of hiring an SEO company are time savings, expertise, and most importantly, revenue growth.

9. Establish Realistic Expectations

Most SEO proposals skip this part because it’s not a “cool” topic. What you want to do in this section is be incredibly honest about what they can expect from an SEO campaign.

This section alone will eliminate a lot of headache down the road.

For example, you should outline how long it takes for an SEO campaign to pick up steam. In other words, how long it takes to see results.

I typically say 6-12 months.

Although this may seem like a “bad idea” on the surface, it’s actually genius because you’re eliminating prospects that don’t understand how much work goes into an SEO campaign and how long it actually takes to see results.

On the other hand, you’ll close the clients that understand that SEO is a slow burning customer acquisition strategy.

You’ll also get validation that your client understands the importance of patience. Trust me. You do not want clients breathing down your neck about results within the first couple months.

This section eliminates most of these issues upfront.

10. Outline the Timeline

This section is simply setting deadlines for when the deliverables will be completed. I recommend outlining the timeline by months.

For example, in month #1, you could say that you’ll finish the keyword database, you’ll finish the competitor analysis, and you’ll complete a deep SEO audit.

This will depend on your offering, but the key takeaway is that you’re giving them an idea of what to expect every month of the engagement.

It also holds you and your company accountable for delivering on what you promised.

Sometimes it’s good to have this type of motivation to avoid any possibility of slacking.

11. Establish the Project Lead

This is a very short section, but just write out who is going to be managing their SEO campaign. Explain who this person is, their accomplishments, and ultimately why they’re qualified to run the SEO campaign.

12. Reveal the Investment

Notice that I didn’t say “pricing”. You have to angle your service as an investment, not a cost.

The good news is that this is true. Investing in SEO can produce a return on investment.

It’s not like buying a car. You’re investing in a marketing channel because it’s going to make your company more money in the future.

That said, this section will show how much they need to invest to work with you.

I recommend offering three different pricing options. This is also known as tiered pricing.

How you price your services is up to you, but I recommend having a super premium option because it will act as a price anchor for the other options.

For example, in my SEO proposals, I’ll have a $3,997/mo package on the low end and a $14,997/mo package on the high end.

You know that most people won’t choose the premium option, but anchoring is a powerful method. $4,000 on it’s own looks pretty huge, but it doesn’t look that big if I showed you $15,000 first.

That’s the power of price anchoring.

One other tactic I recommend in this section is to itemize the deliverables in each tiered pricing section.

That way you can negotiate by removing unnecessary deliverables.

13. Inject Social Proof

Dedicate this section to testimonials, results, and case studies proving that you’re capable of getting this prospect SEO results.

14. Use a Action-Based Guarantee

While you can’t guarantee SEO results, you can guarantee that the work will be completed. I highly recommend that you do this.

15. Thank You & Call-to-Action

This might seem obvious, but you need to instruct the prospect to act. First, thank them again for the opportunity and then ask to sign the proposal to get started.

16. Use Scarcity

I recommend adding an expiration date to the proposal along with a special offer.

So, example, your proposal may say: “This SEO proposal is valid until December 14, 2019.”

Then, I like to add a special offer like: “If you sign-up by Friday, we’ll give you 20% off your first three months of service.” The goal here is to get them to act.

Remember:

The fear of loss is stronger than the possibility of gain (loss aversion).

17. Add a Signature Section

In most cases, you’ll need to discuss the proposal before a client signs on. That’s okay, but there are some prospects are ready to go, so give them that opportunity.

18. Check Your Grammar and Spelling

Your goal is to be as professional as possible and that starts with your grammar and spelling. Use Grammarly and Hemingway Writer to optimize this.

Hemingway Writer

And last, but not least:

19. Optimize Your Design

You can use Canva templates to create well-designed PDFs or you can hire a designer on Fiverr or UpWork. Either way, it definitely helps to have a presentable, well-designed and professional proposal.

20. Add a Credit Card Form (Optional)

I’ll typically add a credit card form on the proposal to push the envelope, but it’s not necessary. I recommend testing it to see how well it converts.

Now there’s one other big question:

When should you send your proposal?

I recommend setting up a phone call or screenshare BEFORE you send the proposal.

Then on the day of the conversation, send the proposal right before. That way you can guide the client through the offering.

As opposed to sending it to them and them scrolling to the pricing section.

The way you win over clients is through perceived value.

Pricing means nothing.

Your goal is to amplify your perceived value and the best way to do this is through the strategy I just outlined.

That’s all you need to know about developing effective SEO proposals.

Now it’s time to learn how to retain 95% + of your clients. Most people think retention is about customer service, but they’re wrong. There’s something far more important.

Make Your Clients Love You

No matter what anyone tells you, the key to making your clients happy is to get results.

There are some other factors that will determine their happiness level, but results are the lead domino.

Get them results and most clients will love you forever.

Keep in mind that there are some clients (probably less than 1%) who will never be satisfied. These clients are extremely rare, but you’ll know it when you encounter one.

That said, here’s how my client SEO process looks. You can replicate, modify, or add to this process.

I’ve tried to make this process as lean as possible so that A) you can get your clients results fast and B) you get turn a profit.

At a high level, the client SEO process is as follows:

1. Perform an SEO audit to find existing issues and research to analyze their competitors and find keywords and link opportunities.

2. Prioritize actions based on your findings and what will have the biggest impact on their performance. For example, making their site mobile friendly would be a level 1 action because it would have a big impact on their performance. Compare this to writing image ALT tag descriptions, which would be a level 3 action because it would have a low impact on their SEO performance.

3. You need to take action on your priority list.

4. Repeat critical actions such as creating new keyword-targeted content, optimizing pages, and acquiring backlinks every month.

This is the 30,000-foot view of an SEO campaign, but here’s what you might do month-to-month.

Let me show you how I would structure a 6-month campaign. Keep in mind that some of these actions will vary based on the client’s budget.

In month #1, you’re going to do the following:

  1. Perform an SEO Audit
  2. Conduct Keyword Research
  3. Analyze Competitors
  4. Find Link Prospects
  5. Fix All Technical/UX Issues

In months 2-3, you’ll:

  1. Optimize Existing Keyword Targeted Pages
  2. Create New Keyword-Targeted Pages
  3. Create Linkable Assets

Then in months 4-6, you’ll:

  1. Acquire Backlinks
  2. Create New Keyword-Targeted Pages (if the budget is available)

But now I need to cover something very important.

Should you do all the work or should you get help?

When you’re starting out, it may seem wise to try to do all the work yourself. But in reality, you should begin the process of getting help and building systems as soon as possible.

That’s because it’s only way you can scale your services and take on more clients.

Think about this way:

You can either spend more time working and retain more profit on a low scale.

Or you can have more time, but have less profit on a high scale.

Here’s how that looks from a numbers perspective:

Let’s say you have 10 SEO clients paying you $500 per month each and you’re doing all the work.

Technically, you’ll have a 100% profit margin in this scenario.

However, it’s not that simple when you consider your time investment. Let’s say your hourly rate is $50/hour.

That means you would spend 10 hours a month per client, which equates to 100 hours per month.

That means you’re working 100 hours to make $5,000/mo. This is a nice amount of money, but there’s a problem. You can only go so far until you’re maxed out. Let’s say you took on 10 more $500/mo clients.

That would put you at 200 hours per month or 50 hours a week.

It would be nearly impossible to bring on new projects at this stage.

Sure, you’re making $10,000/mo, but at what cost? This all assuming you’ll have incredible efficiency and you’ll work like a robot, which doesn’t happen.

In this scenario, you’re nothing more than a highly paid employee because you’re being paid based on the amount of hours you’re working.

This is okay in the short term, but in the long-run you want to flip this equation.

You DO NOT want to be paid based on the amount of hours you’re working.

Think about this for second:

Would you rather make $10,000 per month in pure profit and work 200 hours…

Or…

Would you rather make $5,000 per month in profit and work 50 hours?

I would take the latter any day of the week. But how is it possible?

It’s possible to stop being paid by the hour when you either outsource or hire employees.

As you probably know, I’ve done both and I prefer outsourcing.

Pretty much every single SEO task can be outsourced.

That means instead of spending your time servicing clients, you can spend your time selling new ones and keep your existing client base happy.

So, how do you do it?

It’s very simple.

Let’s say you have $1,000/mo client. Take 25-50% of your revenue, $250-$500 and invest into a service or individual freelancer. Then every time you take on a new client, you just repeat this process.

You’re still going to profit, but you’re going to be able to scale and have much more time.

Then, at a certain point, you’ll have so many clients that you’ll need to raise your prices.

But in the beginning, just take a small amount of your revenue and get help immediately.

This is exactly how I was able to get up to grow my monthly income so quickly with client work.

It wasn’t because I was a guru SEO. It was because I started looking for help right away. Don’t try to do everything yourself.

Take less profit and get help.

Ironically, doing so will actually produce more profit at scale.

For example, 100% profit at $10,000/mo is $10,000 profit.

But 50% profit at $50,000/mo is $25,000 profit. You see how that works?

Less margin at scale destroys high margin on a low scale. Not only that, you’ll be working less in the second scenario.

Review everything I just outlined because it will change your life and business.

The last big piece of client work that I need to cover is reporting and client support.

My recommendation is to:

  1. Send a monthly report outlining what deliverables were completed
  2. Send a performance report, which may come in the form of individual keyword ranking performance, total keyword positions according to Ahrefs, or Google Analytics organic search traffic growth.

Aside from your big monthly report, you should be updating your clients at least bi-weekly. Weekly is even better. Report positive changes in rankings and report big actions that were completed.

Clients want to stay in the loop and if they believe you’re working hard on the campaign, they won’t breath down your neck as aggressively. Lastly, don’t keep clients hanging.

If they send you an email, respond within 24 hours or less.

BONUS: 2 Powerful Client Acquisition Tactics

But wait, there’s more! Here are two my favorite (untapped) SEO client acquisition methods:

1. The FOMO Tactic

Let me start by defining what “FOMO” is… FOMO stands for fear of missing out. I won’t get too deep into the psychology of FOMO, but it’s a powerful principle that works almost all human beings.

The way you are going to leverage this principle is by finding influencers who don’t have a strong organic search presence. Then you will reach out to them and give them data showing how much traffic they are missing out on. Obviously, the end goal is to do SEO for them.

So, let me get a little more specific about these steps:

1. Develop a list of influencers (Instagram, YouTube, etc) who aren’t getting much organic search traffic. The key is to find influencers where the follower to organic search traffic ratio is way off.

For example, let’s say a fashion influencer has 100,000 followers on Instagram, but you estimate their organic search traffic is less than 10,000 visitors per month. This would be a prime candidate to reach out to. Ultimately, look for unbalanced ratios or little, to no organic search traffic.

Now you’re probably thinking, how do I do that? Just throw the prospects URL into SEMRush or Ahrefs to see their estimated organic search traffic.

Take note because this will be primary leverage point when reaching out.

2. Do some basic keyword research to get search volume.

3. Reach out to the influencer(s) to gauge their interest. Use a template like this:

Hey [NAME], love what you’re doing on [Insert Platform]. My name is [Your Name] and I’m the head of SEO at [Your Agency]. I noticed that you have a large following on [Platform], but I wanted to give you a heads up that you’re missing out on approximately [INSERT TRAFFIC ESTIMATE] website visitors every month. Can I send you a quick video showing you how you can capture this traffic you’re missing out on?

4. Send a follow up sequence if they don’t respond.

5. If they do respond, then you need to show them the keywords they could rank for + how much traffic they could get from ranking for those keywords.

6. Send pitch email or get on the phone.

Just make sure your offer is “special” and that there is a deadline attached to it. If you don’t have a ton of credibility, then you use a free or ultra low priced offer just to get your feet in the door (free SEO audit, free keyword research + a SEO content strategy, free competitor analysis, free link prospecting, etc).

The key is add massive value upfront and remember that lifetime value is what really matters.

2. Client Thief Method

Strategy #3 is the most risque method because you are calling out low performing agencies.

The truth is that businesses pay to get results. They aren’t a charity and they want to see a return on their SEO investment. If an SEO agency isn’t achieving that goal, then there is no reason that a business should continue to pay them.

Of course, every SEO agency needs a fair shot. Which means that they should be given enough time to be properly evaluated.

To put that in perspective, most SEO campaigns pick up traction around the six month mark, but this can vary greatly based on website authority, website age, and various other issues that are encountered. So, in essence, the Client Thief Method is designed to attract businesses who are unsatisfied with their existing SEO campaign.

Here’s how it works:

1. Create a landing page using Leadpages or some other platform that streamlines the process.

2. Create a Facebook ad. Here’s are some ideas:

“Does your SEO agency suck?” or “Is your SEO agency not getting you results?”… we will audit your website and SEO campaign 100% free. No commitments. We will tell you if your agency is on the right track or if they don’t know what they’re doing. This analysis is 100% free and private (don’t worry, we won’t tell your agency). Your business deserves to get results when you are paying an agency. Don’t waste another day wondering if your SEO agency actually knows what they’re doing or not. Secure your free assessment today.

3. Send a video or text-based SEO audit (pdf)

4. “We can help” pitch. Nothing complicated here. You showed them the issues in the audit and now you are simply emphasizing that you know how to fix them.

5. Categorize your prospects based on sales cycle. For example if the prospect is locked into a contract, make sure you note that in your CRM. That way you can follow up in the future.

That’s All!

Client SEO is a powerful way to make money online if you’re serious about building a real business. Like I said, it’s not easy. But it’s worth it.

If got a lot value out of this guide, please share it.

Also:

Don’t forget your bonus downloads.

Talk soon!
– Gotch

We Analyzed 12 Million Outreach Emails. Here’s What We Learned

We Analyzed 12 Million Outreach Emails. Here’s What We Learned

We Analyzed 12 Million Outreach Emails. Here’s What We Learned

We analyzed 12 million outreach emails to answer the question:

What’s working in the world of email outreach right now?

We looked at subject lines. We looked at personalization. We even looked at follow-up sequences.

Along with our data partner for this study, Pitchbox, we uncovered a number of interesting findings.

Here is a Summary of Our Key Findings:

1. The vast majority of outreach messages are ignored. Only 8.5% of outreach emails receive a response.

2. Outreach emails with long subject lines have a 24.6% higher average response rate compared to those with short subject lines.

3. Follow-ups appear to significantly improve response rates. Emailing the same contact multiple times leads to 2x more responses.

4. Reaching out to multiple contacts can also lead to more success. The response rate of messages sent to several contacts is 93% higher than messages sent to a single person.

5. Personalized subject lines boost response rate by 30.5%. Therefore, personalizing subject lines appears to have a large impact on outreach campaign results.

6. Personalizing outreach email body content also seems to be an effective way to increase response rates. Emails with personalized message bodies have a 32.7% better response rate than those that don’t personalize their messages.

7. Wednesday is the “best” day to send outreach emails. Saturday is the worst. However, we didn’t find an especially large difference in response rates between different days that messages were sent.

8. Linking to social profiles in email signatures may result in better response rates. Twitter was correlated with an 8.2% increase, LinkedIn an 11.5% increase, and Instagram a 23.4% increase.

9. The most successful outreach campaigns reach out to multiple contacts multiple times. Email sequences with multiple attempts and multiple contacts boost response rates by 160%.

10. Certain types of outreach get higher response rates than others. Outreach messages related to guest posting, roundups and links have an especially high response rate.

We have details and additional data from our study below.

Most Outreach Emails Are Ignored or Deleted

You may have heard that it’s challenging to get people to reply to cold outreach emails. According to our data, poor response rates do appear to be the norm.

In fact, we found that only 8.5% of all outreach emails receive a response.

Only 8.5% of all outreach emails receive a response

This response rate is similar to what several cases studies, like this one from the Moz blog, have previously found.

The fact that 91.5% of cold outreach messages are ignored may not come as a surprise. After all, generic outreach emails like this are extremely common:

Generic outreach email

Fortunately, our research found several factors that helped certain outreach emails outperform the average. We will cover these findings later in this post.

But for now, it’s important to note that very few outreach emails receive a response.

Key Takeaway: 91.5% of outreach emails are ignored.

The Ideal Outreach Email Subject Line Length Is 36-50 Characters

Our study found that long subject lines get a significantly higher response rate than shorter subject lines.

Specifically, subject lines between 36-50 characters get the best response rate.

The ideal length for subject lines is 36-50 characters

To compare subject line response rates, we placed them into 5 buckets: short, medium, long, very long and extremely long.

And we found that long subject lines outperformed short subject lines by 32.7%.

Long subject lines get higher response rates than short subject lines

Why do long subject lines do best?

It’s likely because longer subject lines give you an opportunity to fully describe the content of your message.

For example, imagine a super short subject line like: “Quick Question”.

Subject line too short

At 13 characters, it’s impossible for your recipient to know what your email is about. It could be a question about their sales process. Or their lunch plans.

Plus, because it doesn’t note anything specific, it makes your outreach email seem generic before they’ve even opened it.

Contrast that with a subject line like: “Quick Question About Your Latest Blog Post”

Ideal subject line length

This subject line is much more specific. That way, if the recipient decides to open your email, they know what to expect.

However, it’s possible for your subject line to be too long.

For example, “Quick Question About Your Latest Blog Post About The Top 10 Paleo Diet Myths” is an extremely descriptive subject line. But it’s likely to get cut off by most inboxes (like Gmail):

Subject line too long

Key Takeaway: Long subject lines get 32.7% more responses than short subject lines.

Sending Follow-up Messages Significantly Improves Response Rates

Should you send follow-up messages to people that don’t reply to your initial outreach?

According to our findings, yes. We found that multiple outreach messages work better than a single message:

Multiple outreach messages result in higher response rates

While sending 3 or more messages results in the best overall response rate, sending just one additional follow-up can boost replies by 65.8%.

A single follow-up message can boost replies by 65.8%

Why do follow-ups work so well?

Simply put: people receive lots of emails in their inbox every day. In fact, The Radicati Group found that the average office worker receives 121 emails per day.

With 100+ emails to sift through per day, the chances of your single outreach email getting seen, opened and replied to is pretty slim.

But when you send more than one message, you have yet another chance to stand out and push through the noise in someone’s inbox.

Of course, there’s a right and wrong way to send follow-up messages.

Annoying follow-ups like these can damage relationships, lead to spam complaints, and overall, do more harm than good.

Annoying follow-up email

However, gentle follow-ups that provide additional context can improve conversions without burning bridges.

Gentle follow-up

Key Takeaway: Follow-ups can significantly improve outreach conversion rates. In fact, a single additional follow-up message can lead to 65.8% more replies.

Reaching Out to Several Contacts Increases the Odds of a Response

We looked at the effect that reaching out to several contacts at the same organization had on outreach conversions.

And we found that, compared to a single contact, sending emails to more than one contact improves response rates by 93%.

Reaching out to several contacts increases response rate

We also looked at how outreach success rate correlated with number of contacts. We found a clear pattern that more contacts leads to more responses.

Outreach reply rate is proportional to number of contacts

However, we did find a point of diminishing returns at 5+ contacts.

If you’re reaching out to a single-author blog, you probably don’t need to worry about sending messages to several different contacts.

However, multiple contacts becomes important when reaching out to large websites with dozens of employees. That’s because it can be hard to tell who exactly is responsible for which task (even with the help of an org chart and “About Us” page).

For example, let’s say that you’re sending an outreach message to a large publisher as part of a link building campaign. Should you email the author of the article? Or the editor of the blog? Or maybe the best person is the head of content.

It’s almost impossible to know without an intimate understanding of the organization’s inner workings. That’s why it usually makes sense to reach out to a single person. Then, if you don’t hear back, try again with another contact. That way, over time, your message should get in front of the person that is most likely to add your link to the post.

Key Takeaway: Having multiple contacts to reach out to increases your chances of getting through. In fact, outreach emails sent to multiple contacts can boost response rates by 93%.

Personalized Subject Lines Lead to More Replies

Personalizing emails is considered an outreach best practice. However, to our knowledge, there hasn’t been any research done to support this strategy.

That’s why we decided to investigate the effect of personalization on outreach email replies. Specifically, we compared the response rates between messages that did and didn’t use personalized subject lines.

Our data showed that personalized subject lines got nearly 1/3rd more replies than those without personalization.

Personalizing subject lines lead to more replies

Why do personalized subject lines lead to more responses?

Although it’s difficult to fully answer this question from our data alone, my theory is that personalized subject lines help you stand out in someone’s crowded inbox.

For example, take a non-personalized subject line like: “More Leads”. For someone that’s hurriedly scanning incoming emails from their iPhone, “More Leads” doesn’t compel them to see or open the message.

Non-personalized subject line

On the other hand, adding a bit of personalization makes your subject line much more compelling to the person on the receiving end of your message.

Personalized subject line

Key Takeaway: Emails with personalized subject lines boost response rate by 30.5%.

Personalizing Email Body Copy Can Significantly Improve Response Rates

As we just outlined, personalized subject lines are correlated with higher response rates (likely due to a higher email open rate).

However, we wanted to see if the benefits of personalization extended to the outreach email body itself.

Our data showed that personalizing the body of outreach emails also improved conversion rates. Specifically, personalized messages received 32.7% more replies than those that weren’t personalized.

Personalizing email body copy can significantly improve response rates

Generic outreach messages are easy to spot. For example, here’s one that I received a few days ago:

Generic outreach email – Guest posting

The telltale “Hi,” or “Hello,” is usually enough to let you know that this exact same email has been sent to hundreds of other people.

On the other hand, even a relatively small gesture, like using the person’s first name, can go a long way.

And for those that are interested in getting the highest reply rate possible, writing outreach emails from scratch (or working from a template with lots of room for personalization), seems to work best. Here’s an example of one such outreach email someone recently sent me:

Personalized follow-up email

According to our research, personalizing subject lines and body copy is correlated with above-average response rates. Yes, personalizing takes more time and effort. But the data suggests that this extra work pays off.

Key Takeaway: Emails with personalized bodies boost response rate by 32.7%.

Wednesday Is the Best Day To Send Outreach Messages

Several industry studies have set out to answer the “best day to send emails” question. However, most of these studies (like this one from GetResponse) are specific to newsletter messages. They also tend to focus on open rates, not reply rates.

Which is why we decided to look at how response rates differed based on the day of the week that messages were sent out.

Our data showed that Wednesday had a slight edge over the other 6 days of the week. Also, Saturday appears to have the worst response rate.

Best day of week to send outreach emails

However, I should note that the differences in response rates were somewhat small.

For example, when we looked at the response rate for the “best” day (Wednesday) to the “worst” day (Saturday), we found that messages sent on Wednesday had a 1.99% higher overall response rate.

Comparing outreach response rates Saturday .vs. Wednesday

In other words, according to this data, sending outreach emails on Wednesday vs. Saturday could theoretically boost your response rate from 6% to 7.99%. If you’re only sending a few dozen outreach messages per month, this may only lead to an additional reply or two.

However, this finding is more significant if you’re doing outreach at scale. That’s because, while 1.99% may not mean much in absolute terms, it amounts to a 33.1% higher relative response rate. Which is significant for those that send out a large amount of outreach emails every month.

We also compared response rates for messages sent during the week vs. those sent on the weekend.

And we found that outreach emails sent Monday through Friday had a 23.3% better conversion rate than emails sent on Saturday or Sunday.

Outreach emails sent on weekdays get significantly more replies than those sent on weekends

Key Takeaway: Outreach emails sent on Wednesday get more responses than any other day of the week. However, most small-scale outreach campaigns don’t need to organize their sequences based on the day of the week.

Linking to Social Profiles May Slightly Improve Outreach Response Rates

Do social profile links in the email signature affect response rates?

According to our study, they do. Messages that contained links to social profile links in the sender’s signature had an 9.8% higher average response rate compared to messages without them.

Linking to social profiles may slightly improve outreach response rates

We also broke down the impact of social signature links by social network. We found that linking to Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram profiles positively affect response rates. However, linking to Facebook profiles didn’t seem to make a dent.

Links to Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter may lead to more outreach replies

Why would social profile links lead to more responses?

I have two theories:

First, links to social profiles make you seem like a living, breathing person.

Brian email signature

I doubt that many recipients actually click on these social signature links. However, their mere presence may suggest: “I’m not an outreach robot. I’m a person that’s reaching out to you”.

Second, it’s possible that social profile links may not have any direct impact on responses at all. It could be a case of correlation, not causation.

For example, people that tend to be transparent may also spend more time personalizing their messages, which is the true underlying cause of the improved response rates.

While it’s impossible to glean the exact effect of social profile links on outreach response rates, they don’t appear to hurt conversions. Which makes them something worth testing.

Key Takeaway: Outreach emails that contain links to social profiles have a 9.8% higher response rate than those without social profile links. Links to Instagram and LinkedIn appear to be most effective.

Email Sequences That Involve Multiple Contacts and Multiple Messages Perform Best Overall

As I covered earlier in this write-up, follow-up messages and sending multiple contacts are correlated with higher outreach reply rates.

We also decided to investigate the combined effect that these two strategies had on conversion rates. Specifically, we compared reply rates between a single email to a single contact with a 3-part email campaign to several different contacts.

Our data showed that more contacts combined with sequencing yield a 160% higher response rate than sending a single message to a single contact.

Email sequences that involve multiple contacts and multiple messages perform best overall

Key Takeaway: Taken as a whole, campaigns that involve sequences that go out to several contacts perform significantly better than one-off emails to a single person.

Outreach Emails About “Links”, “Guest Posting” and “Roundups” Have Especially High Response Rates

We investigated reply rates between eight common email outreach topics.

Specifically, we looked at the reply rate for outreach emails related to:

  • Link building
  • Guest posting
  • Sponsorships
  • Infographics
  • Resources
  • Reviews
  • Mentions
  • Roundups

And we found that outreach emails about guest posting, roundups and link building all had an above-average response rate.

Outreach email response rate by topic

This is an especially interesting finding considering that many content marketing and SEO experts consider guest posting and roundups “dead”.

Guest-posting collage

However, at least according to our study, site owners are still largely receptive to pitches for guest posts and expert roundup invitations.

Emails related to sponsorships also tended to get a fair share of replies. I found this noteworthy as Influencer Marketing, which relies heavily on paid product placement and promotion, is growing. It appears that influencers are still happy to receive pitches from brands that want to sponsor their website, YouTube channel or Instagram profile.

Our data also showed that messages about infographics receive relatively few replies.

This may be due to the fact that infographics have lost the novelty they once had. Or that the most infographic-focused outreach is untargeted.

For example, I got this infographic pitch in my inbox a few months ago:

Infographics pitch

My site has never written about or even touched on holiday promotions. This was clearly someone that created a mediocre infographic with the hope that mass outreach would help get the word out.

Key Takeaway: Emails about guest posts, roundups, links and sponsorships tend to get the best response rates.

Conclusion

I’d like to thank Michael Geneles from Pitchbox for providing the data that made this study possible. I also want to give a shout out to Alex Gopshtein for digging deep into the data and making it easy to understand and digest.

And for those that are interested, here’s a link to our study methods.

Now I’d like to hear from you:

What’s your #1 takeaway from today’s study?

Let me know by leaving a comment below right now.

The post We Analyzed 12 Million Outreach Emails. Here’s What We Learned appeared first on Backlinko.

Schema.org is hard; we’re making it easy

Schema.org is hard; we’re making it easy

Getting a Schema.org implementation right on a website was – until today – enormously painful. There was not enough documentation and no good tools to help you to make it truly simple. The best implementations so far really are, sadly, still just a fragmented mess. Today, we’ve fixed that.

The best Schema.org implementations we see ‘in the wild’ often look something like this, when seen by Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool:

Fragmented Schema.org markup, showing disparate, unconnected entities

There are seven Schema pieces on that page, but they’re just that: seven pieces without context. It is not clear what their relation to each other is. To a search engine, this page is still a puzzle which needs solving.

In our implementation, which we’re releasing today, all of the pieces “stitch together”: we form them into a nested structure. Without this nesting, a search engine doesn’t know how all these pieces relate to each other, and what the most important piece on a page is. Our implementation also clearly and explicitly defines the “main thing” on that page. This removes all of the guesswork and adds a lot of context for search engines.

Let’s look at an example: a post here on Yoast.com. This post is an Article. The article is the main “thing” of a WebPage, which is part of a Website. This Article is published by an Organization and written by an Author. Both the Author and the Organization have social profiles attached to them. These separate blocks are now all woven together: it’s simply a nested structure.

The @id is the glue

The secret of our delicious graph is one simple “thing”: using @id to connect graph pieces to each other. We output separate pieces but by using those @id references, we connect them to each other.

Because we can nest them like that, it doesn’t have to stop at that simple structure: the WebPage has a position within the site, outlined by its BreadcrumbsList. The Author, the Organization and the Article have images. Etc. etc. etc. All of that data is combined.

Why did we develop this?

We didn’t just start implementing this for the fun of it. We are solving a real-world problem: as more and more people implement Schema.org markup, the situation shown in the screenshot at the top of this article is no longer unique. Lots of pages, with lots of separate Schema blocks, are a problem. In a call with Pinterest recently one of their engineers complained: all the Schema that WooCommerce put out was nice, but when there are related products on a page, they often can’t find the main product. Our implementation solves that and many other problems.

On every page, we output the entire graph for that page, and we clearly mark the mainEntity, so Google, Pinterest, and others are no longer left guessing. Every relationship is made explicit.

What do these changes mean for you?

This change has short-term implications: you have a higher chance of getting:

  • Correct info in Google Knowledge Panels and full support for Rich Article Pins on Pinterest, due to better Schema output from Yoast SEO.
  • Showing up in a News listing or carousel if you use our News SEO plugin, due to the new NewsArticle support.
  • Higher chance of product snippets in Google Search results if you use our WooCommerce SEO plugin and full support for Rich Product pins on Pinterest, due to better Product support in it.
  • Higher chance of good local listing snippets, due to better LocalBusiness schema in our Local SEO plugin.

Long term implications for the web

These changes also have long term implications: we weave a web of data. This type of machine-readable data makes it possible for platforms to build much cooler things. And we wouldn’t be Yoast if we didn’t do this all out in the open. We have a full set of developer documentation on how to do this, and how to interact with our Schema API. Everyone can integrate with this, everyone can build upon it; in fact, we encourage you to do that!

We’ve also documented all our output, so you can learn from it, copy it, play with it. The specification document explains it all more in-depth and explains all the fantastic research that Jono has been doing in this.

I’m deeply excited about this change and think it’s the start of something really big. Now, go upgrade to Yoast SEO 11.0 and check it out!

Read more: Yoast SEO 11.0: Structured data awesomeness »

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