SEO to Know: 5 Ways Small Businesses Can Compete With Giants

Small businesses are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to competing in a crowded marketplace—and no marketplace is more crowded than the Web. That’s a lot of competition for those precious few spots on the first page of search engine results.

SEOIn almost every industry, there are giants. You know them; everyone does. They’ve been around since the beginning of the Internet, have a natural audience, and have everything they need to dominate in the realm of search engine optimization (SEO).

How can a small business hope to compete?

The secret is in how SEO works. If you have the answers your customers are searching for, you wind up on top. Here’s how to get attention.

1. Work Your Niche

Big businesses try pretty hard to be all things to all people. You win if you concentrate on one thing. Find your niche and dominate it. Make your content relevant to your niche and repeat your message in different ways on every page. What’s unique about your business? Find your unique selling point and let it permeate your company culture, social media, and website content.

2. Go Hyper-Local

Small businesses have the advantage when it comes to location-specific goods and services. Google’s Pigeon update put local businesses at the forefront of mobile search. Using geo-location built into smartphones, Google shows users businesses that meet their needs and are in closest proximity. By mentioning specific neighborhoods or location-specific ingredients or interests, you move closer to the top of the search.

Location-specific ingredients, you ask? Local brewery Black Husky Brewing makes a beer called Sproose II IPA, which has the true taste of the great Northwest. It’s made with spruce tips. Chipotle grew quickly from a small business to a big business with a unique selling proposition: “fast casual dining.” It’s fast, but not fast food, locally sourced, fresh, and far more nutritious than traditional fast food…but still cheap and ready to serve.

3. Become the Authority

Remember, big businesses don’t have to work that hard. They concentrate big budgets on traditional advertising. Your best bet is to do the opposite and drive traffic through content and social media. Share your industry expertise on your blog and on major publications. The more relevant content you can produce, the more likely you are to add the value Google is looking for.

Every business has the opportunity to become a publisher. Use your platform to provide as much information as you can—and be sure it’s the information your customers are searching for.

4. Spread Your Fame

Link juice is still valuable. To gain valuable inbound links, you can approach influential writers in your industry or write interesting content and submit it for publication on big-time or industry sites. You can also sponsor an industry report. Good quality reports, like Deloitte Digital’s survey “Navigating the new digital divide,” earn more inbound links and mentions than any other type of content.

5. Be Human

Big corporations can appear to be cold and faceless. Call them and you may spend hours on hold, or get lost in the phone system twists and turns. Small businesses have an easier time being warm and human. Make everything about your customer service and social media personable and friendly—and that will become your reputation. Personal service makes you stand out, plus, it earns you recommendations and social media mentions, which pump up your SEO.

One last thing: If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website, build one. It’s useless to work on SEO if more than 60% of your potential customers won’t see your website when they search on their mobile devices. It’s time to go mobile in 2016!

Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Use the free and easy Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool to find out. Now’s the time to go mobile, but how? Check out this handy and comprehensive FREE guide to making your website mobile friendly.

Download: The Smart Marketer's Guide To Making Your Website Mobile Friendly

Getting to the top of search engine results and staying there takes constant and consistent content marketing maintenance—and it’s totally worth it. Solid SEO strategy can help you compete with the biggest of the big boys for prime real estate on search engine results pages. Try these 5 tips to work your way to the top!


Why Content Marketing Is Like Playing a Video Game

Why Content Marketing Is Like Playing a Video Game by Cultivate CommunicationsDriving your content can be as fun as playing a video game. Seriously.

Content marketing campaigns — much like video games — come with a set of tools, goals, an overall game plan, and (here’s the best part) a SCOREBOARD to keep track of your successes.

If you do content marketing well (and use the right tools), the analytics you can generate with today’s marketing automation programs can be exhilarating — like an engaging, saga-style game of Halo, not a quick round of PAC-MAN. Here’ why . . .

Content marketing relies on:

  • Telling a good story
  • Implementing a strategy
  • Having multiple players join in

Once you get into content marketing and see how you can influence your results with different tactics, tools, connections, and a little bit of trial-and-error, your marketing program can be transformed into a satisfying — and addicting — game of sorts, too.

So how do you get your own game of Content Marketing started?

  1. Know your mission — Content marketing isn’t just about putting out information. It’s about solving a problem and making it easy for people to understand the expert advice you have to share. People will come to trust and remember your business’s name if your content’s goal is to truly be helpful.
  2. Understand your audience — Just as you learn the characteristics of your avatar in gaming, marketing professionals should develop buyer personas to help them generate profiles about potential customers. Armed with such details, you can build more relevant content, which in turn leads to more customer/client engagement.
  3. Build-in the right keywords — Your website was built to include certain keywords, right? It’s the same with your content marketing pieces. They need to include appropriate words to catch the attention of both your prospects and the search engines. Be sure to use words that really resonant with your readers and maintain the point you are making without sounding contrived just to include certain keywords.
  4. Use great marketing analytics — This is where the fun begins. Today’s analytic tools (like Google Analytics and PURLs) really allow you to refine your marketing efforts. Once you study your analytics to see how to best attract the right audience, you can really hold their attention and keep moving your marketing plan forward.

And just like Super Mario Bros., to get yourself to the next level, you may fall into a few pits, but you’ll also collect gold coins along the way! (Can you hear the classic Super Mario Bros. theme song in your head already?!) As you get better and better, you’ll see your SEO ranking improve, more leads being generated, and your sales start climbing.

Up, up, down. Left, right, left. B, A, Start. Need a secret move to help you make it through the first few levels of your marketing game plan? Here’s a hint: Get a content marketing strategy in place. Learn why in 5 Reasons Your Business Needs Content Marketing.

Don’t forget, make it “Select, Start” at the end for two players. If you’re ready to move your game to the next level, connect with me on LinkedIn.

PS: Take a trip down memory lane with this theme song.

Never Use Personal Online Accounts for Your Business

Never Use Personal Online Accounts for Your Business by Cultivate CommunicationsTake a step back and think about this for a moment —
Today, the social web is evolving and integrating services with one another so fast that it’s hard to believe where we were only a few short years ago.

With how quickly technologies and our social ecosystem are evolving, many businesses have some catching up to do with respect to who actually “owns” their online accounts.

Where were we THEN . . . ?

  • Facebook was originally meant for college networking —
    finding that girl or guy you were crushing on or making a Friend request, with the intent of securing a date or a new pal. Today, Facebook is still used in that respect, but it has also changed in such a way that it’s become what email morphed into — a tool for your parents and grandparents to forward phony chain-letters, relay highly personal and embarrassing information about their last colonoscopy, and make ridiculous posts on public profiles/pages for the world to see (and laugh at). More importantly, though, Facebook is also used as an advertising, networking, and customer relations tool for businesses. Plus, it seamlessly integrates with other social media platforms and websites your business might be using.
  • Google Accounts (Gmail accounts) were still relatively new and, for the most part, not integrated with the myriad of services that they are today. Years ago, when businesses contracted web developers, standard practice (as a point of convenience) was to let developers add your business website to their client list within their own Google Account so they could manage and deliver analytics/reports for you. That was advantageous for developers, as it solidified a desirable client retention rate for them, since all of the business websites they handled were tied to the developers’ accounts. As a method of conducting business at that time, this was fairly standard practice.Then when the economy took a turn for the worse, many businesses found themselves in a difficult position — To save money and resources, they wanted to reign in control of their content and analytics and expand into the social web by themselves. The problem was that they didn’t have a Google Account of their own. The only efficient solution at the time, to maintain some semblance of control, was for businesses to have their web developer — the Google Account administrator — share the business’s analytics with them, so businesses didn’t have to “start over” in order to bring their account services together.

Yesterday’s convenience is today’s burden.

Social media began to boom, and in the frenzy to get businesses integrated and quickly established online, hasty methods were used. This is now coming back to bite people because without much forethought, employees’ personal accounts were used to quickly establish businesses’ presence on social networks.

Have you ever found yourself in the position of realizing that a terminated employee is the person who has ownership of your business’s Facebook page? That uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach . . . You’re not the only one who’s been there.

Soon mobile and smart phone technologies exploded, and in a short time, Google took full control of the web with Google Analytics, Places, Drive, Maps, Google+, YouTube, and more. Now your web developer has administrative control of your analytics. Your accountant created your Google+ page with his personal Google Account and claimed your Google Place location as his own. And the designer you have on staff created your Facebook business page under her personal Facebook account, effectively making her the administrator of your business account.

I think you’re starting to see how easily fragmented your business accounts can become these days, and how important it is to establish yourself correctly from the get-go. You’d do well to create some standard account set-up practices for your business.

So, what should you do to take control of your business online?

Learn from the past.

  1. If you are looking to have a new website developed or already have a website but need to set up accounts for your business, the first thing you need to do is establish a separate Google Account meant for your business ONLY. This account can be used to not only give you ownership of, but also tie together, your website Analytics, Google+ Account, YouTube Account, Google Places Account, Drive Account, etc.
  2. If you are planning on using any social media services, register your business with them under your new business Google Account ONLY. Do not use your personal information or email address in establishing these accounts.
  3. Establish and claim your location on Google Places with your new Google Account. Also take into consideration Yelp, FourSquare, and other mobile location-based social media services. They are fantastic tools, and you should be claiming your business on them, as well.

What will all of this accomplish?

Here are a few obvious benefits for you:

  • You now have full control of all your online business accounts.
  • You can add managers to most of your accounts. Grant temporary or long-term access for your social media managers and developers so you don’t have to relinquish any control of account ownership.
  • You can claim your business as your own without the fear of the claim belonging to someone else.
  • No more fighting over account access — What’s yours is yours.
  • FREEDOM — If you decide to move on from one developer to another, you won’t have any problems with losing data, transferring ownership, or (in many cases) having to take the time to re-establish yourself.

Have you experienced the adverse effects of having fragmented business accounts online? How has it affected you or your business? Feel free to share your own stories, tips, and caveats below in the Comments.

The Smart Money Is on Content Strategy

{4 Ways Marketing Has Changed} Effective marketing is not a cost, it’s an INVESTMENT. *Interesting perspective.
I speak to CEOs every day about marketing. It’s startling how many of them view marketing as a COST. They erroneously lump marketing in with their other “cost of goods” line items and commoditize it. They look for ways to cut corners, and they implement hit-or-miss tactics without putting in the proper think-time or strategies. It’s no surprise, then, when they don’t receive the return on investment (ROI) they expected.

So, what should these CEOs do instead?
Change their viewpoint:

Effective marketing is not a cost, it’s an INVESTMENT.
If proper thought, implementation, and tracking are invested, marketing ROI goes up.

The old rules of marketing and PR no longer apply — Channel choices are multiplying every day. Technology is changing the way customers seek, find, and view your message. And customers expect any online or social media you use to be a direct line to your customer support, with answers within the day . . . or even within the hour!

Today’s marketing is about:

  • Presenting solutions FOR your customers – Marketing is no longer about presenting products  or technology TO your customers.
  • Using targeted content to establish your company’s expertise– You need to provide your customers with trusted and relevant content they can apply TODAY.
  • Engaging your customers on their terms – You must interact responsively with your customers and ensure that your message is displayed professionally and with proper functionality, regardless of the device they view it on.
  • Capitalizing on measurable marketing analytics – Yes! Measurable marketing is here. Using a content strategy, you can draw customers (and even potential customers) to you through your compelling, value-laden content. Then you can identify who your customers are, what content they want, and how they prefer to receive your message.

So when are YOU going to develop your own content strategy?

The companies that view marketing as an investment already have. The smart money is on them.

Search Twitter like a BOSS!

Twitter ButtonAre you one of the five hundred million voices on Twitter? As the race continues between social networks to grow their respective user base, a relentless stream of searchable real time information is being published daily. If you think Twitter is only for catching the latest sports news or mind numbingly stupid updates from your favorite celeb you’re missing the big picture, especially if you’re a business owner. At its core, Twitter is really a search engine that can be used to mine real time information about whatever fancies you, like what people are saying about you or your business right now.

Twitter’s official Advanced Search tool is pretty nifty and allows you to drill down very specifically to include, exclude or match any word or phrase, choose languages, hunt for positive or negative comments, geo-target, look for tweets to and from specific people and more. If you’re more of a fan of hotkeys and shortcuts, you can also type a host of search operators into the regular Twitter search bar to get the same results. At the time of this post it appears Twitter’s search operator page is down, but I did find a handy image of them here. Feel free to copy and paste the operators below into your Twitter search bar and start digging!

Operator Finds Tweets that…
search operator contain both “search” and “operator” (default operator)
search operator contain the exact phrase “search operator”
search OR operator contain either “search” or “operator” or both
search operator contain “search” but not “operator”
search operator -filter:links filter out all links
#SearchOperator contain the hashtag “SearchOperator”
from:johndoe sent from the person “johndoe”
to:janedoe sent to the person “janedoe”
@johndoe reference the person “johndoe”
baseball near:”Milwaukee contain the word “baseball” posted near “Milwauikee”
near:MKE within:30mi are sent within 30 miles of “MKE”
election since:2012-01-01 contain the word “election” and sent since “year-month-day”
winning until:2011-05-01 contain the word “winning” and sent up to “year-month-day”
beer: ) contain the word “beer” with a positive attitude
hangover: ( contain the word “hangover” with a negative attitude
traffic ? contain the word “traffic” asking a question
funny filter:links contain the word “funny” linking to URL’s
news source:twitterfeed contain the word “news” entered via TwitterFeed


P.S. The folks over at have put together a list of analytical spreadsheet scripts for Twitter (and more) that you can export search results to for further slicing and dicing.