There’s Gold In Them Thar SERPs: Mining Important SEO Insights from Search Results

Posted by AndrewDennis33

There’s gold in them thar SERPs…gold I tell ya!

Now, whether that phrase takes you back to a simpler (maybe? I don’t know, I was born in the 80s) time of gold panning, Mark Twain, and metallurgical assay — or just makes you want some Velveeta shells and liquid gold (I also might be hungry) — the point is, there is a lot you can learn from analyzing search results.

Search engine results pages (SERPs) are the mountains we’re trying to climb as SEOs to reach the peak (number one position). But these mountains aren’t just for climbing — there are numerous “nuggets” of information to be mined from the SERPs that can help us on our journey to the mountaintop.

Earning page one rankings is difficult — to build optimized pages that can rank, you need comprehensive SEO strategy that includes:

  • Content audits
  • Keyword research
  • Competitive analysis
  • Technical SEO audits
  • Projections and forecasting
  • Niche and audience research
  • Content ideation and creation
  • Knowledge and an understanding of your (or your client’s) website’s history
  • And more.

A ton of work and research goes into successful SEO.

Fortunately, much of this information can be gleaned from the SERPs you’re targeting, that will in turn inform your strategy and help you make better decisions.

The three main areas of research that SERP analysis can benefit are:

  • Keyword research
  • Content creation
  • And competitive analysis.

So, get your pickaxe handy (or maybe just a notebook?) because we’re going to learn how to mine the SERPs for SEO gold!

Finding keyword research nuggets

Any sound SEO strategy is built on sound keyword research. Without keyword research, you’re just blindly creating pages and hoping Google ranks them. While we don’t fully understand or know every signal in Google’s search algorithm — I’m pretty confident your “hopes” aren’t one of them — you need keyword research to understand the opportunities as they exist.

And you can find some big nuggets of information right in the search results!

First off, SERP analysis will help you understand the intent (or at least the perceived intent by Google) behind your target keywords or phrases. Do you see product pages or informational content? Are there comparison or listicle type pages? Is there a variety of pages serving multiple potential intents? For example:

Examining these pages will tell you which page — either on your site or yet to be created — would be a good fit. For example, if the results are long-form guides, you’re not going to be able to make your product page rank there (unless of course the SERP serves multiple intents, including transactional). You should analyze search intent before you start optimizing for keywords, and there’s no better resource for gauging searcher intent than the search results themselves.

You can also learn a lot about the potential traffic you could receive from ranking in a given SERP by reviewing its makeup and the potential for clicks.

Of course, we all want to rank in position number one (and sometimes, position zero) as conventional wisdom points to this being our best chance to earn that valuable click-through. And, a recent study by SISTRIX confirmed as much, reporting that position one has an average click-through rate (CTR) of 28.5% — which is fairly larger than positions two (15.7%) and three (11%).

But the most interesting statistics within the study were regarding how SERP layout can impact CTR.

Some highlights from the study include:

  • SERPs that include sitelinks have a 12.7% increase in CTR, above average.
  • Position one in a SERP with a featured snippet has a 5.2% lower CTR than average.
  • Position one in SERPs that feature a knowledge panel see an 11.8% dip in CTR, below average.
  • SERPs with Google Shopping ads have the worst CTR: 14.8% below average.

SISTRIX found that overall, the more SERP elements present, the lower the CTR for the top organic position.

This is valuable information to discover during keyword research, particularly if you’re searching for opportunities that might bring organic traffic relatively quickly. For these opportunities, you’ll want to research less competitive keywords and phrases, as the SISTRIX report suggests that these long-tail terms have a larger proportion of “purely organic SERPs (e.g. ten blue links).

To see this in action, let’s compare two SERPs: “gold panning equipment” and “can I use a sluice box in California?”.

Here is the top of the SERP for “gold panning equipment”:

And here is the top of the SERP for “can I use a sluice box in California?”:

Based on what we know now, we can quickly assess that our potential CTR for “can I use a sluice box in California?” will be higher. Although featured snippets lower CTR for other results, there is the possibility to rank in the snippet, and the “gold panning equipment” SERP features shopping ads which have the most negative impact (-14.8%) on CTR.

Of course, CTR isn’t the only determining factor in how much traffic you’d potentially receive from ranking, as search volume also plays a role. Our example “can I use a sluice box in California?” has little to no search volume, so while the opportunity for click-throughs is high, there aren’t many searching this term and ranking wouldn’t bring much organic traffic — but if you’re a business that sells sluice boxes in California, this is absolutely a SERP where you should rank.

Keyword research sets the stage for any SEO campaign, and by mining existing SERPs, you can gain information that will guide the execution of your research.

Mining content creation nuggets

Of course, keyword research is only useful if you leverage it to create the right content. Fortunately, we can find big, glittering nuggets of content creation gold in the SERPs, too!

One the main bits of information from examining SERPs is which types of content are ranking — and since you want to rank there, too, this information is useful for your own page creation.

For example, if the SERP has a featured snippet, you know that Google wants to answer the query in a quick, succinct manner for searchers — do this on your page. Video results appearing on the SERP? You should probably include a video on your page if you want to rank there too. Image carousel at the top? Consider what images might be associated with your page and how they would be displayed.

You can also review the ranking pages to gain insight into what formats are performing well in that SERP. Are the ranking pages mostly guides? Comparison posts? FAQs or forums? News articles or interviews? Infographics? If you can identify a trend in format, you’ve already got a good idea of how you should structure (or re-structure) your page.

Some SERPs may serve multiple intents and display a mixture of the above types of pages. In these instances, consider which intent you want your page to serve and focus on the ranking page that serves that intent to glean content creation ideas.

Furthermore, you can leverage the SERP for topic ideation — starting with the People Also Ask (PAA) box. You should already have your primary topic (the main keyword you’re targeting), but the PAA can provide insight into related topics.

Here’s an example of a SERP for “modern gold mining techniques”:

Right there in the PAA box, I’ve got three solid ideas for sub-topics or sections of my page on “Modern Gold Mining”. These PAA boxes expand, too, and provide more potential sub-topics.

While thorough keyword research should uncover most long-tail keywords and phrases related to your target keyword, reviewing the People Also Ask box will ensure you haven’t missed anything.

Of course, understanding what types of formats, structures, topics, etc. perform well in a given SERP only gets you part of the way there. You still need to create something that is better than the pages currently ranking. And this brings us to the third type of wisdom nuggets you can mine from the SERPs — competitive analysis gold.

Extracting competitive analysis nuggets

With an understanding of the keywords and content types associated with your target SERP, you’re well on your way to staking your claim on the first page. Now it’s time to analyze the competition.

A quick glance at the SERP will quickly give you an idea of competition level and potential keyword difficulty. Look at the domains you see — are there recognizable brands? As a small or new e-commerce site, you can quickly toss out any keywords that have SERPs littered with pages from Amazon, eBay, and Wal-Mart. Conversely, if you see your direct competitors ranking and no large brands, you’ve likely found a good keyword set to target. Of course, you may come across SERPs that have major brands ranking along with your competitor — if your competitor is ranking there, it means you have a shot, too!

But this is just the surface SERP silt (say that five times fast). You need to mine a bit deeper to reach the big, golden competitive nuggets.

The next step is to click through to the pages and analyze them based on a variety of factors, including (in no particular order):

  • Page speed
  • Visual aesthetics
  • Timeliness and recency
  • Readability and structure
  • Amount and quality of citations
  • Depth of coverage of related topic
  • How well the page matches search intent

If the page is lacking in any, many, or all these areas, there is a strong opportunity your page can become the better result, and rank.

You should also review how many backlinks ranking pages have, to get an idea for the range of links you need to reach to be competitive. In addition, review the number of referring domains for each ranking domain — while you’re competing on a page-to-page level in the SERP, there’s no doubt that pages on more authoritative domains will benefit from that authority.

However, if you find a page that’s ranking from a relatively unknown or new site, and it has a substantial amount of backlinks, that’s likely why it’s ranking, and earning a similar amount of links will give your page a good chance to rank as well.

Lastly, take the time to dive into your competitor’s ranking pages (if they’re there). Examine their messaging and study how they’re talking to your shared audience to identify areas where your copy is suboptimal or completely missing the mark. Remember, these pages are ranking on page one, so they must be resonating in some way.

Conclusion

Successful SEO requires thorough research and analysis from a variety of sources. However, much of what you need can be found in the very SERPs for which you’re trying to rank. After all, you need to understand why the pages that rank are performing if you want your pages to appear there, too.

These SERPs are full of helpful takeaways in terms of:

  • Keyword research and analysis
  • Content ideation and strategy
  • And competitive analysis and review.

These golden nuggets are just there for the takin’ and you don’t need any tools other than Google and your analytical mind — well, and your metaphorical pickaxe.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


Source: https://moz.com/blog/mining-seo-insights-from-search-results

Best Agile Project Management Tools

Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.

Running an agile team effectively is nearly impossible without the right software. 

But agile project management tools can make your life much easier. It’s the best way to collaborate with your team, manage changing tasks, and keep track of various projects at scale. 

In addition to the managerial perks of agile project management software, your entire team will benefit as well. These tools will make it easier for everyone to work efficiently, communicate, and meet deadlines. 

Recognizing you need to invest in agile project management software is only half of the battle. Finding the right software for your business and team is a different story entirely—which is why I created this guide.

After extensive research and testing, I narrowed down the top five agile project management tools available on the market today.  

The Top 5 Options For Agile Project Management Tools

  1. Forecast
  2. Monday
  3. Mavenlink
  4. Jira
  5. VivifyScrum

How to Choose the Best Agile Project Management Tools For You

There are certain factors that must be evaluated as you’re shopping around and assessing different tools. By following the buying guide I’ve outlined below, you’ll know exactly what to look for and what’s important in an agile project management solution. 

Agile Framework Preferences

The very first thing you need to consider is the agile framework you plan to use. For those of you who are already familiar with the concepts of agile management, you probably have a preferred methodology.

Do you want to use Scrum or Kanban? Lean? Crystal? Are you using agile framework variations such as Scrumban?

Depending on the answer, you’ll be able to find an agile tool that specializes in your preferred framework. It’s worth noting that not every agile project management software supports all agile management frameworks. So make sure the options you’re considering offer the methodology you need to implement. 

Collaboration Features

Team collaboration is a crucial component of agile management. You want to make sure the software you’re considering comes out-of-the-box with collaboration tools. 

Most solutions should come standard with features like team tagging, comments, file sharing, and other basic tools. Some software will have more advanced features, depending on your project type, industry, and team needs. 

Team Size

Just because an agile project management tool offers collaboration features, don’t assume that the tool will be robust enough for your specific team.

There are solutions on the market made for small teams with a handful of users. Those won’t be ideal for businesses that have multiple teams, hundreds of users, and multiple projects across several departments. 

It should be relatively easy to determine if the tool in question is built to scale. If not, you can always express those concerns with the sales team during a free trial or demo. 

Project Type

The complexity of your projects will also play a significant factor in choosing the best software for your team. 

For example, software development teams and internal IT departments typically have more advanced needs since these projects have a higher level of complexity. In these cases, you should avoid beginner tools and look for industry-specific solutions tailored toward your project needs. 

On the flip side, managers and teams who are just starting out with agile project management should be seeking basic solutions to manage simple projects. 

Reporting

The best agile project management software will provide you with detailed reports and advanced analytics about your projects. 

You can use these dashboards as a way to learn more about your team’s productivity, find out if the project will be completed on time, and if you’re staying on budget. As a project manager, this information is crucial to the big-picture operation of your business. 

Usability

The usability of an agile management tool is often overlooked during the evaluation process. But it’s definitely something that needs to be taken into consideration.

What is your technical experience? How tech-savvy is your team?

If you choose a rigid solution that’s tough to use, it can do more harm than good. So you need to find a balance between a tool that’s robust enough to handle your project complexity while still easy for your team to navigate. This is another reason why you should always take advantage of free trials and demos as you’re narrowing down different options. 

The Different Types of Agile Project Management Tools

Not every agile project management tool is the same. Before we dive into the reviews and recommendations, I want to quickly explain the different options. 

The easiest way to segment these tools is based on the agile frameworks that they offer. It’s also worth noting that some solutions will fall into more than one of these categories below.

Scrum

Scrum is one of the most popular agile frameworks because it can be used for such a wide range of projects. Over the years, Scrum has gained popularity because of its simplicity, easy implementation process, and proven productivity boost. 

With Scrum, the project manager will work closely with the team in terms of identifying and prioritizing functionality in the backlog. This backlog will contain whatever tasks must be accomplished to deliver the final product. 

Kanban

Kanban is the most popular visual workflow management methodology. Kanban boards make it easier for agile teams to manage various tasks in the project life cycle. 

Similar to Scrum, Kanban is built to help teams collaborate with high efficiency. 

The basic principles of Kanban include visual workflow automation, limited WIP (work in progress), and enhanced workflows. This process helps promote continuous collaboration and ongoing learning for agile teams. 

Lean

It’s common for software development teams to leverage the lean agile methodology. This iterative framework is highly flexible and doesn’t have rigid rules or guidelines. 

The main principles of lean management include team empowerment, enhanced learning, eliminating waste, delivering tasks as soon as possible, making decisions as late as possible, and seeing the big picture. 

Individuals and small teams will have more decision-making authority, as opposed to a hierarchical flow. Lean management also helps ensure that the entire team is productive for the longest amount of time. 

Crystal

The Crystal agile methodology is another popular software development framework. It’s lightweight and typically comprised of a family of agile processes. These include Crystal Orange, Crystal Clear, Crystal Yellow, and others.

Each individual framework has its own unique rules and characteristics based on factors like project priority, team size, and more. 

Crystal puts emphasis on the interaction between the processes and people involved in a project. Some of the key principles of Crystal include simplicity, teamwork, collaboration, and the ability to improve processes. It promotes high user engagement while removing distractions and bureaucracies. 

Other Types of Agile Project Management

There are lots of other agile frameworks out there. When you consider the variations and combinations of some, this number is in the dozens. 

Other popular types include LeSS (large scale Scrum), SAFe (scaled agile framework), feature driven development (FDD), extreme programming (XP), dynamic systems development method (DSDM), Scrumban, adaptive software development (ASD), agile-agile hybrid, and FAST agile. The list goes on and on. 

#1 – Forecast Review — The Best Collaboration Features

Forecast is an all-in-one project management and resource management solution. It’s built for project-driven companies that want to empower teams, automate operations, and unite all projects into a single tool. 

With Forecast, you can automate tasks for project planning, resource allocation, and more. The software is powered by AI technology to help simplify monotonous tasks. 

Here are some of the top reasons and why Forecast ranks so high on my list:

  • Keep the big picture in mind with real-time operational visibility
  • Analyze decisions and financial health of projects
  • Admins can set different permission levels for each user (clients, collaborators, etc.)
  • Simple and organized backlog of project tasks
  • Easy to plan sprints and track progress
  • Automatically get notified about key updates in your workflow
  • Continuous and fast delivery of products and tasks

Overall, Forecast has everything agile teams need to improve communication. Create and assign task cards, file sharing, dependencies, subtasks, comments, and priority lists are just a handful of examples.

It’s a popular choice for agencies, consultants, and software teams. Forecast also has solutions for project accounting and business intelligence. The software seamlessly integrates with other popular tools that your team is using.

Forecast’s AI will learn from your previous projects and suggest the number of hours that should be allocated to similar tasks. 

Plans start at $29 per seat per month (with a minimum of 10 seats). Try it free for 14 days; no credit card required. 

#2 – Monday Review — The Best For Agile Beginners

Monday.com has quickly become one of the most popular agile project management tools on the market today. It’s trusted by 100,000+ organizations worldwide, including some big names like Coca-Cola, Adobe, Hulu, and the Discovery Channel.

This is a great choice if you’re new to agile management and need a solution for basic projects.

It’s one of the easiest ways to plan, track, and deliver team projects from a single workspace. Here are some of the other reasons why I like Monday so much:

  • Deploy in minutes with hundreds of customizable templates
  • Integrates with tools like Slack, HubSpot, G Suite, LinkedIn, Teams, and more
  • Automate repetitive tasks to save time and avoid human error
  • Visual data with Kanban boards, timelines, maps, calendars, and more
  • 24/7 customer support with a 10-minute average response time
  • Track the progress of your projects and make data-driven decisions
  • Set project goals and empower stakeholders

Monday.com makes it easy for teams to collaborate. You’ll benefit from features like file sharing, task assignments, task priorities, visual boards, and other ways to see what everyone is doing at a glance. 

It’s a popular choice for remote work, marketing, creative teams, HR, sales, and more. While Monday does have tools for software development, IT, and construction projects, it’s definitely better for simple projects.

Plans start at just $8 per seat per month (with a minimum of three seats). You can try Monday.com free for 14 days with an unlimited number of users; no credit card required. 

#3 – Mavenlink Review — Best For Agile Management at Scale

Mavenlink is another all-in-one solution for project management and resource management. It’s a modern way for teams to collaborate from anywhere, which is perfect for remote work.

In addition to improving your team’s productivity on the operational end, Mavenlink provides deep insights into the financial performance of your projects and business as well.

Some of the top features, benefits, and noteworthy highlights of Mavenlink include:

  • Rich insights for data-driven business decisions in real-time
  • Flexible way to manage resources and project tasks
  • Real-time automation tools
  • See all projects at a glance with complete project portfolio view
  • Easy to assess the health and status of specific projects or portfolio of projects
  • Reusable templates to replicate success
  • Consistently deliver projects on-time
  • Improve project performance
  • Extend workspace with popular integrations (Salesforce, Xero, Slack, HubSpot, etc.)

Mavenlink is great for larger teams that need to manage projects across multiple departments. This works fine if you’re just using it for a handful of projects. But it works just as well if you have a project portfolio of 500+.

For small teams and enterprises alike, Mavenlink has a plan for everyone. Rates aren’t available online, so you’ll need to contact their sales team for more information. 

Try Mavenlink free for ten days.

#4 – Jira Review — Best Agile Project Management Tool For Development Teams

Jira by Atlassian is a bit unique compared to some of the other tools on our list. This agile project management software is built specifically for software development projects.

With Jira, software teams of all sizes can plan, track, and release exceptional products.

Let’s take a closer look at Jira’s top highlights for agile management:

  • Plan sprints, create user stories, and distribute tasks for software teams
  • Prioritize complete team’s work in context with full visibility for everyone
  • Real-time visual data reporting
  • Choose a pre-built workflow or create your own custom solutions
  • Integrate with hundred of developer tools out of the box
  • Connect software team’s work to your product roadmap
  • Scrum boards, Kanban boards, roadmaps and agile reporting

Jira is arguably the safest project management tool on the market today in terms of data encryption and compliance. It integrates with 3,000+ apps in the Atlassian marketplace as well.

Software teams, look no further—Jira is the best option agile project management tool for you. 

The tool is free for up to ten users. Paid plans start at just $7 per user per month. Try it free for seven days.  

#5 – VivifyScrum Review — Best All-in-One Agile Management Tool

VivifyScrum is a versatile agile management solution. It’s trusted by small teams and large organizations alike.

Regardless of your team size and project complexity, this tool can help manage everything from a single platform. 

Here are some of the top reasons why you should consider VivifyScrum:

  • Unlimited Scrum boards, unlimited Kanban boards, and unlimited items
  • Custom boards with built-in team collaboration tools
  • Built-in features for invoicing clients and tracking payments
  • Time tracking and team management features
  • Create custom workflows with agile boards
  • Reporting and analytics with burndown charts, Scrum metrics, and more

The software comes with mobile apps, API access, file storage, unlimited integrations, unlimited active sprints, and so much more.

VivifyScrum starts at $10 per month for small teams. Contact the sales team for more information on Enterprise pricing. Regardless of your team size and project management needs, you can try VivifyScrum free for 14 days. 

Summary

The only way to effectively manage an agile team is with the right project management tool. Which agile project management software is the best?

It depends on what you’re looking for. Factors like project type, team size, and other considerations must be evaluated for you to make an informed decision.

Follow my methodology and recommendations described in this guide to find the best agile project management tools for your unique situation.

The post Best Agile Project Management Tools appeared first on Neil Patel.


Source: https://neilpatel.com/blog/best-agile-project-management-tools/

The Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn Stories

The Marketer's Guide to LinkedIn Stories

LinkedIn Stories are here, and the first thing you might be thinking is, “How can I use them to grow my business”?

We all see how powerful stories are for brands on platforms like Instagram. Over 500 million people use Stories each day, but how can you use this social strategy to boost your professional reputation on LinkedIn?

In this guide, I’ll show you how to use LinkedIn Stories and share strategies you can start implementing today.

What Are LinkedIn Stories?

If you’ve ever made a story on Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat, LinkedIn Stories operate in pretty much the same way. You create a short video of up to 20 seconds, and once you upload it, the video is available for people to see for 24 hours, and then it goes away.

LinkedIn Stories updated

Users can post as many Stories as they like, making it easy to quickly jump in, record a quick update with what you’re doing, and then allow your connections to check it out.

So, why stories? Why do I think LinkedIn is starting to roll out something so casual on a platform geared towards networking and digital resumes?

Because we’re living in the “age of sharing,” and the more you share, the bigger your brand becomes. Stories are a great way to share all of those imperfect moments in your professional life, and I think that’s what the Senior Director of Product Management, Pete Davies, is going for.

The format will help kickstart conversations and nurture the relationships that are core to everything that happens on LinkedIn.

Why Should Your Business Create LinkedIn Stories?

Now let’s talk about some of the reasons why you should consider implementing a LinkedIn Stories strategy in your business. If you’ve been using Instagram or Facebook Stories for a while, you’ll likely be able to come up with a plan pretty quickly; if not, here are some reasons to take notice.

Pull Back the Curtain

One of the best ways to generate attention for your business is to show people what’s happening behind the scenes.

Show your network there’s a personality behind the business. This helps create a more personal experience. When people see you’re more than a “brand,” you’ll build the trust that’s so necessary when trying to get someone to do business with you.

Taking this even further, you can use this strategy to give your connections some insight into your process.

For example, if you run a print on demand shirt store, use LinkedIn stories to show people how you make your shirts and why they should choose you over someone else.

There’s a great opportunity here for you to separate yourself from the competition without having to hard-sell anyone.

Document the Hustle

In years past, we were so focused on making everything perfect. We needed to buy the best equipment and do everything to ensure no one ever saw us make a mistake.

Those days are long gone.

We’re living in a world of constant connection, and we can’t be afraid to document what we’re going through as it’s happening. For those of you who are already doing this, that is excellent news. If you’re not, now is the time to get started.

Don’t be afraid to show your connections that you’re a real person with faults. If something is going wrong, do a story and explain to your colleagues what happened and how they can prevent the same thing from happening to them.

Doing this shows authenticity, and people don’t hire a brand; they hire people.

On the flip side, share your triumphs and successes as well. If you just closed on a huge contract with a big client, create a story explaining how it went and what you think you did well.

You don’t have to give away sensitive information, just let your network know what you’re winning, and it might motivate them to reach out and connect with you.

Increase Engagement With LinkedIn Stories

Stories on LinkedIn provide the most significant opportunity for engagement. On Instagram, as much as 25% of users swipe up on branded stories. Now we’re taking this same thought process but moving it to a platform entirely dedicated to business networking.

There’s a lot of power here.

Keep in mind that, even though your stories might not result in a direct sale, you’re generating awareness around you and your brand.

LinkedIn allows you to engage with the people you need to directly talk to for access to new opportunities.

For example, let’s say the Director of Marketing at a company posts a story about their SEO strategy, and you are interested in working with them. Here’s your chance to directly reply to that story with some tips and ideas you’ve used in your own business.

Keep in mind that you may get a generic response to something like this, but you’re increasing the person’s chances of checking out your profile to see what you do. If you’re active on LinkedIn and your profile is well optimized, you just might find a message in your inbox.

How to Create LinkedIn Stories?

Creating LinkedIn Stories is simple. It works the same as every other platform.

You’ll go into your LinkedIn app and click the “post” button at the bottom. Once you do that, you’ll see a new button titled “share a story.”

LinkedIn Stories Post

When you click it, you’ll be able to record a video or take a picture and customize it to your liking.

The story uploads, and once it’s done, you’ll find it at the top of your LinkedIn home with all the stories from your connections. This is a fantastic way to put your name at the top of everyone’s page.

Keep in mind that LinkedIn Stories are only available on the mobile app. You can’t create or view them from your desktop.

What Makes a Successful LinkedIn Story?

If you’re sitting there right now, wondering, “What steps do I need to take to create the best story?” Selling with LinkedIn Stories is easy, and I’ll guide you through it.

Looking at Instagram as an example, 50% of businesses worldwide create an average of one story per month. So, you can see where the low hanging fruit lies here. You have an excellent opportunity to generate a lot of free attention for your business — with the right strategy.

Here are the most important metrics to consider when determining the success of your LinkedIn story.

Grab Their Attention

The first thing you’ll notice about LinkedIn Stories is they don’t offer a preview at the top of the screen like Facebook and Instagram. This makes getting the initial click a bit more difficult.

You can’t create a clickbait thumbnail to get people to click on your story. So, your LinkedIn profile picture needs to get the attention of your audience.

Keep in mind that LinkedIn is a professional network, so use a professional headshot on your profile. This is not the place for a picture of your cat or your car; you need to dress and look the part.

Think about your target audience and dress to get their attention. An agency owner pitching agriculture businesses might not look the same as one pitching boutique coffee shops, right?

Start Strong

The average person only watches 40 to 60% of your story, so you must grab their attention right away. If you start with a boring message, chances are they’ll swipe away and assume your Stories aren’t worth watching.

Consider starting your story with the most exciting part of the video. While you only have 15to 20 seconds, take those first five seconds to speak directly to the camera and call out your audience.

If you’re trying to reach agency owners making $100,000+, call them out right away. Address a pain point or issue they might have within the first five seconds, and you’ll increase the chances of keeping them around for the next 15.

Keep Their Attention

At around the 10-second mark is where you will start losing people. They’ll swipe to your next story or move on to a different profile. You need to hold their attention by keeping it as interesting as possible.

Consider using props, bring in other people, and utilize statistics that draw in your audience and speak to them directly. Every business should have a customer avatar. If you don’t, now is the time to start!

Figure out exactly who your ideal customer is and bring them to life with personality traits, demographic information, pain points, and desires.

You should know exactly who they are, what they want to hear, and what you need to say to make them stick around.

Close It Out

While Stories are meant to be informal, it doesn’t mean you can’t have an objective in mind. You should always be looking for ways to convert the people watching your Stories.

These are great opportunities to get free attention, so make the most of it.

Keep in mind that a lot of people have likely swiped away by the time you get to your last five seconds. That means these people are highly interested in what you’re saying and may want to learn more.

For example, you could turn a blog post you recently posted into a Story. Take the three most important points from the post and highlight them in a story. In the end, tell the viewers where they can find the blog post and prompt them to check it out.

There are a million different options, but you want to have some type of call to action at the end of your story.

You don’t have to ask someone to buy something directly, but you should always tell them what to do next.

Tips on Converting LinkedIn Story Viewers to Clients

If you’re on LinkedIn, I can bet you’re there to get clients. Why else would you use the platform? Networking and building connections are great, but the end goal of those efforts is to add more clients to the database.

Here are a few quick tips to help you get the most out of your LinkedIn story viewers.

Stay on Brand

On Facebook, users move 41% faster on mobile than desktop. While we don’t have data from LinkedIn yet, we can expect the numbers to be similar. You need to be quick in establishing your brand and representing it the right way.

When someone taps your story, they should get hit immediately with something that makes your brand stand out so they’ll remember it.

Even if you’re just quickly recording a story about going for a run before hitting the office, talk about how it impacts your performance at your business.

Provide Value

The best way to convert traffic is by giving something away. You don’t have to overcomplicate this. Provide free information, offer a short how-to, or show them how to solve a critical problem.

Revisit your customer avatar here and think of something that might be on their to-do list. What’s something that your ideal customer hates doing? Chances are it might be the very thing you do and offer to take care of it for them if that’s the case.

Always Have a Plan

Just because LinkedIn Stories are casual doesn’t mean you need to improvise all the time. Never fill the story with something that doesn’t have an objective.

Doing this one time will hurt your brand, and people might just swipe by you because they think you have nothing to offer.

Every time you put something out to your audience, you should have a plan in mind to provide value. Give yourself enough time to plan ahead and even consider developing a content calendar for your LinkedIn stories.

Conclusion

LinkedIn Stories are an exciting addition to the networking platform. Based on what the Senior Director of Product Management said, they’re trying to make LinkedIn appear less intimidating and more informal.

Have you ever had the opportunity to stand out and become an early adopter? Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t. Either way, LinkedIn stories offer a unique chance to jump ahead of the competition and get your content in front of your target audience first.

Why wait? Create your first LinkedIn Story right now and get ahead of the pack!

Have you tried LinkedIn Stories yet?

The post The Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn Stories appeared first on Neil Patel.


Source: https://neilpatel.com/blog/linkedin-stories/

10 Tips For Writing a Winning LinkedIn Headline

LinkedIn’s 690 million members include 180 million senior-level influencers, 63 million decision-makers and 10 million C-level executives. 

Hence, there are a lot of influential people on LinkedIn that have hiring power and purchase power. Whatever you hope to achieve from using the network, you’ll want to make a good impression.

Your headline is the first thing that people see aside from your profile picture. It’s how decision-makers will find you. It’s how you get people to notice you and what will make them want to visit your profile to learn more. Thus, it’s safe to say your headline is pretty important.

So, I thought I’d share my top tips for creating an effective headline with you. But, first, let’s look at the basics:

What is Your LinkedIn Headline?

Your headline is the tagline that appears under your name on LinkedIn and at the top of your profile page. The headline used to be limited to 120 characters. But, here’s some good news, LinkedIn extended the headline to 220 characters in 2020. So, you have a little more space to sell yourself, share your vision or whatever it is you’d like to express via your headline.

What Makes a Winning LinkedIn Headline

There are some important criteria for creating an impactful headline. The best LinkedIn headlines do the following:

Make Use of Keywords

Keywords aren’t the only thing your headline should include. But they are key to helping the right people find your profile. Keywords can include your job title, skills and areas you specialize in. Place keywords towards the beginning of your headline and then expand with further information.

Express Your Value

Expressing you or your company’s value means sharing more than the tasks you carry out. Your headline should be driven by the benefits of the services you provide and the kind of results you achieve. For example, rather than saying you do tax planning, you’d say you help businesses to save money.

Are Unique

A winning LinkedIn headline is one that stands out from the crowd. Think about how many people do the exact same job as you or offer similar services. You can give yourself a competitive edge and encourage more people to visit your profile by making your headline different.

Help You Meet Your Goals

You need to think carefully about why you’re on LinkedIn and what you hope to achieve. This should inform what you include in your headline (and the rest of your profile). If you’re not sure about what you can accomplish on LinkedIn or how to go about it, you may wish to speak with a social media consultant.

Now let’s look in more detail at exactly how you can create a winning headline:

1. Get Inspiration

By default, LinkedIn uses your job title and employer as your headline. What a snooze fest. If you want to do better, the first step is to get inspired.

Search for people in your field or who have similar roles to you. Take a look at how they’ve formulated their headlines. See what appeals to you and what doesn’t. Of course, you shouldn’t just nab somebody else’s headline. But, doing this will help you come up with ideas for how you want your headline to appear.

Also, pay attention to those who appear at the top of the search results for your industry. What keywords do they use? Note these keywords as they likely contribute to why these pros are doing so well in the search results.

2. Ask Yourself These Questions

When you decide to upgrade your LinkedIn headline to maximize its impact, it’s a good idea to have a little brainstorming sesh. Here are some questions that will guide you when you’re coming up with ideas:

  • How would you describe yourself to a new colleague if you only had five seconds?
  • What makes you different from others with the same job title?
  • Why should users click on your profile?
  • What are your most in-demand skills?
  • What are your biggest accomplishments?
  • What makes you unique?

3. Choose the Right Keywords

Include relevant keywords in your headline so that you appear in more search results. 

To do this, you’ll first need to think about who you want to find your profile on LinkedIn. A recruiter? A potential lead? Influencers you hope to connect with? And so on…

This will guide you in figuring out the right keywords to use. For example, you may include your specific skills or specialisms to get found by recruiters with the most relevant job opportunities. 

In this example, we don’t just have a “developer”, nor do we just have a “chatbot developer”, the user goes even more specific with the terms “Facebook Messenger Marketing” and “Automation Practitioner”:

Whereas, if you’re using LinkedIn to network and boost your authority, you may want to use broader terms. Your job role might be “Artworker” but in order to be found by more people, it’d be a very good idea to include the term “Graphic Design”.

4. Include Your Unique Selling Proposition

Keywords alone aren’t enticing enough to get users to visit your profile. State the value that you provide by doing what you do, in particular something that makes you stand out from the crowd.

There’s a simple formula you can use to express this: I help X do Y by doing Z. Here’s an example from an accounting consultant:

When she says “I help women build profitable businesses”, she outlines the beneficial results of her work, not just the tasks that she performs. You should do something similar.

You can also use data to drive your point home. Here an email marketer shares the average results he achieves:

There are tons of relevant data points you could include to prove your value, such as the number of customers you’ve helped achieve a particular outcome or the results of an impressive case study.

5. Share Your Achievements/Credentials

When you make self-aggrandizing claims on LinkedIn, people will either think you’re arrogant or full of it. Instead, you should go by the old adage, “Show don’t tell”. Show that you’re great at what you do via your achievements or credentials.

What’s your most impressive achievement? Have you won an award perhaps? Been featured on top media outlets? Sold a bunch of books? Grew a well-known company? Those are the kind of things you’ll want to share.

This professional shares the fact that he’s been a LinkedIn Top Voice honoree four times and sprinkles in some serious social proof by mentioning his work with Mark Cuban:

Furthermore, certain credentials that are recognized by people in your industry will give you clout. For example, in the marketing world it’s good to be Google-certified, like this pro:

Share credentials relevant to your position to show that you’re not just messing around, you really know what you’re doing.

6. Use Natural Language

Keep your headline free of jargon, particularly if you’re using LinkedIn for sales or lead generation. If a prospect doesn’t understand what you’re selling, you won’t have much luck.

Similarly, make your job title clear and simple unless you’re seeking a specific job role. Again, users you want to connect with may not understand what you do. Even if you think the term “Business Development Manager” is clear, trust me, simplifying it to “Sales Manager” is much more transparent.

Also, avoid buzzwords. After a time, every Tom, Dick and Harry will be using the same trendy terminology to describe their services. Thus, your words become meaningless.

And saying that you’re a “Guru”, “Ninja” or “Wizard” is a bit cheesy and old-fashioned. It won’t help you in the search results either. When was the last time you searched for a ninja on LinkedIn or anywhere for that matter?

Try to use simple, everyday language to explain your role or value proposition. Here’s an excellent example from a marketing professional:

Her target audience, small businesses, may not be familiar with or fully understand industry terms so she offers a straightforward, benefit-driven value proposition.

7. Don’t Put “Unemployed”

Even if you’re currently looking for a job, you shouldn’t put “Unemployed”, “Seeking New Opportunities” or similar in your headline. 

The thing is, recruiters or companies aren’t searching for the term “Unemployed” on LinkedIn. You only get a couple hundred characters for your headline, so it would be better to utilize that space for keywords that they are likely to search for, and your experience, specialisms, credentials etc.

You can show that you’re looking for work on your profile instead. At the top of your profile, you’ll see a section that says, “Show recruiters you’re open to work”. 

Simply, fill in details about the type of role you’re looking for and the location. You can even change the settings so that your current employers won’t see that you’re seeking work.

8. Share Your Mission

Maybe you’re not looking to promote yourself. Perhaps, you’re in the process of growing a startup or maybe you or your company are trying to achieve a wider goal that you want people to know about.

If this sounds like you, then you should definitely share your vision in your headline. In this example, the professional shares what he does “mass transit” but also why he does it “to reduce our carbon footprint and create a more connected community”:

You could use a similar formula. Start with the what and then go into the why. If you’re unsure about how to phrase your goals, you can always take inspiration from your company’s mission statement.

9. Show Your Personality

Like with any other social media platform, users skim through their LinkedIn feed, groups and even search results at speed. So, you need a headline that’s going to make somebody stop and take notice.

Get creative and use your headline to express your personality. Not only will it make you stand out but it’ll also make your profile memorable.

Here’s an example from an SEO manager with a quirky sense of humor:

Don’t worry, though. You don’t have to be the Kevin Hart of LinkedIn. There are other ways to express your personality via your headline. Perhaps, you want to project positive vibes or enthusiasm. 

You could even share a little personal tidbit about yourself. Maybe you do PR during the day and rule at Settlers of Catan by night… This kind of thing will also help start conversations between you and new connections.

10. Keep Your Headline Updated

It’s easy to set and forget your headline. But to get the most from it you need to keep it up to date.

Firstly, be sure to add new skills, achievements, career developments and so on when they arise. Your skillset will develop over time and your headline should reflect this.

Moreover, you may wish to test the impact of your headline and update it accordingly. When you make an alteration, keep an eye on the number of people who have viewed your profile. 

With LinkedIn Premium, you can also see who has viewed your profile. Therefore, you can discover if your headline is attracting who you want to attract or your target audience.

Conclusion

You can use your LinkedIn headline to get noticed by influential professionals and encourage more people to visit your profile. A winning headline combines relevant keywords and your unique value proposition.

Don’t forget to think carefully about who you hope to attract with your headline. And don’t be afraid to sell yourself as long as it doesn’t come across as too boastful.

Take the first step towards creating a great LinkedIn headline. Do some research to see what works well in your industry and brainstorm ideas for your own headline.

The post 10 Tips For Writing a Winning LinkedIn Headline appeared first on Neil Patel.


Source: https://neilpatel.com/blog/linkedin-headlines/

The State of Local SEO: Experts Weigh in on Industry-Specific Tactics

Posted by MiriamEllis

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the way we engage with local businesses. We’re ordering more food for delivery, spending more money in online shops, and checking for safety measures on the web listings of businesses of all kinds. But what do these new trends mean for the ways businesses market themselves online?

We asked five local SEO experts to zero in on the trends and tactics businesses across five industries should focus on to get ahead — and stay ahead — during this time. 

For more local insights, download our State of Local SEO Industry Report.


1. 70% of local marketers reported marketing budget cuts due to COVID-19, leading marketers to focus even more on the most impactful local SEO campaign elements. Which three local search marketing tactics are delivering the most value for businesses right now, and why?

Phil Rozek: Health and Wellness Services

1. Detailed, recent reviews — especially on Google Maps, but preferably also on other sites. 

2. Where applicable, a “telehealth”-type page that goes into great detail on what specific problem(s) the doctor or wellness profession can help with remotely. 

3. A detailed page on every specific service, procedure, or condition the practice handles, each with a section that explicitly states whether a telehealth or similar “virtual” option is applicable to it.

Joy Hawkins: Legal Services

1. Link building. A lot of businesses have a hard time getting quality links on their own, so when you have link building tactics at an agency that work, it can be a huge value add.  

2. Optimizing internal linking structure on the business website. Most websites for small businesses are not structured properly, and making a few adjustments to internal linking can make fairly impressive changes in the search results. It also impacts both the local and organic search results, just like link building.

3. Localizing content on the website. Taking existing pages on a business’ website and optimizing them for city, county, or state queries can have really great impacts on both local and organic results. We’ve also seen great results from optimizing for “near me” queries.

Tweet this!

Blake Denman: Home Services

For home services, identifying and reporting Google My Business spam/violations are the most impactful. Why? If you’re using accurate rank tracking and see that you rank #5 for a popular keyword in your target market BUT three of the listings above you are violating Google My Business guidelines, getting those listings updated or removed (depending on the violation) would move you up three spots. Knowing the Google My Business guidelines is crucial along with knowing how to spot violations. 

The second most impactful marketing “tactic” is implementing and maintaining a review building strategy. You can’t outrank a sh*tty reputation. 

The third most important marketing tactic is understanding who your customers are, where they live, how you can relate to them, and what they care about. From a strategic standpoint, the more information you have on your target customers, the more you’re able to get involved in the local community that they belong to. For local search, I’m of the opinion that Google wants to highlight popular companies from the offline world in the online world. Start focusing on building a better, LOCAL brand.

Brodie Clark: Hospitality

For restaurant and hotel listings in particular, there’s certainly a lot that can be done to stand out from other listings. With COVID, both categories have been impacted heavily. Many listings needed to either be marked as “Permanently Closed” or the newly created “Temporarily Closed”. Three tactics that are important to utilize right now include:

  1. Effective attribute usage: There are now attributes in GMB for “Health & Safety” and “Service Options”. Both are extremely important right now, especially the mask-related attributes, which can give customers a lot of reassurance. The same goes for how hospitality businesses are operating with respect to whether there are in-store or pick-up options.
  2. Google Post notices: Google Posts are an effective way of communicating important changes to operations. The COVID-19 update post is a great one to use because it never expires. But there is the downside that other posts are buried (COVID-19 posts are given prominence).
  3. Proactive updates: For hotel listings, GMB can be a complicated space with how booking sites are deeply integrated into the UI. As COVID regulations change based on your location, details on these sites need to be kept updated quickly to reach customers and avoid negative experiences.
Tweet this!

Amanda Jordan: Financial Services

Make sure that your GMB listings use the COVID posts to share information about how you are keeping your clients safe. Our financial client created COVID landing pages for both personal and business accounts. This client saw a 95% increase in organic goal completions from February to March. There was also a 97% increase in organic goal completions YoY. Google posts that focused on coronavirus-related services and products have also performed well.


2. 75% of marketers agree that elements of Google My Business profiles (categories, reviews, photos, etc.) are local search ranking factors. Which three GMB elements do you recommend businesses focus on right now to influence their local pack rankings, and why?

Phil Rozek: Health and Wellness Services

Number one: reviews.  

Number two: categories — particularly the “primary” category.  

Number three: getting your “practitioner” GMB pages right, by which I mean you’ve got a detailed “bio” page serving as the GMB landing page, a primary category that reflects the practitioner’s specialty, and Google reviews for each practitioner from their patients.

Joy Hawkins: Legal Services

There are only four elements inside Google My Business that really impact ranking.  Since the first one is the business name, I’d suggest focusing on the other three: Reviews, the page on your website you link the listing to, and the categories you choose. For example, in this article, I detailed the difference between the family lawyer category and the divorce lawyer category, and which keywords they correlate to.

Blake Denman: Home Services

Specifically for the home services industry, adjusting your primary category in Google My Business when seasons change. HVAC company? Winter is fast approaching, your primary category should be changed to a relevant heating category instead of your summer category, AC. Your primary Google My Business category is going to have more of a ranking improvement than secondary categories. 

I hate to sound like a broken record, but take a look at all of your competitor’s listings for Google My Business violations. And finally, reviews are going to make or break your listing. If you haven’t implemented a review building strategy by now, you really need to get one set up ASAP.

Tweet this!

Brodie Clark: Hospitality

As a starting point, opening hours and whether a listing is marked as permanently/temporarily closed are major influencers of local pack rankings. Each is key to showing up at all, but incremental increases can certainly be achieved with gaining a high volume of positive reviews and making sure both your primary and secondary categories are set effectively. With categories, a great place to start is completing a competitor analysis with GMBspy Chrome extension.

Amanda Jordan: Financial Services

Reviews are one of the most important ranking factors, as well as being important for improving conversions. 

Second is the proximity to searchers — are there ATMs or branches that currently do not have GMB listings? New listings can help increase visibility in Google Maps.

Build local links. Now is a great time to work on link building. Try to find directories and organizations specific to your geographic location to join.


3. 90% of our survey respondents agree that GMB reviews influence local pack rankings. What advice can you offer businesses looking to maximize the value of reviews?

Phil Rozek: Health and Wellness Services

Stop going for easy, fast, drive-by email requests, and start trying to identify patients who might go into a little detail in their reviews. Lazy requests result in lazy reviews.  At the very least, don’t send “Dear Valued Patient”-type requests by email, but ideally you also find a discreet way to ask in-person, with a follow-up email to come later.  See my 2017 post on “Why Your Review-Encouragement Software Is a Meat Grinder”.

These days, more than ever, patients want to know things like what safety and hygiene procedures you follow, what wait times are like, whether the standard of care has changed, etc. Longtime patients are in the best position to write crunchy, detailed reviews, but you should encourage every patient to go into as much detail as they can.  Try having a designated “review person” who knows a thing or two about any given patient, and will take a couple of minutes to make a personal and personalized request. Do it because you want “keywords” in your reviews, and because a five-star review that doesn’t impress anyone won’t help your practice much.

Tweet this!

Joy Hawkins: Legal Services

Make sure you ask every customer for a review and come up with a process that is streamlined and easy to keep organized. We normally suggest using a paid platform for review management (we use GatherUp) because it can automate the process and send reminders to people who haven’t responded yet. 

Blake Denman: Home Services

Figure out the best method for earning reviews. Test email, texting, and in-person requests from your team, physical cards with a bit.ly link, etc. Test each one for a few months, then switch to a different method. Test until you find the method that works best for your customers. 

The other thing that really needs to be considered is how to get customers to write about the specific services they used when working with your company. Little prompts or questions that they could answer when you reach out will help customers write better reviews.

Brodie Clark: Hospitality

Getting reviews on GMB has never been easy. You can always try to take the manual route, but that’s impossible to properly scale. I rely on and recommend using GatherUp for hospitality business with multiple listings that need an integrated strategy to gather reviews effectively. The upside of using GatherUp is that you can capture first party reviews to use on your website or as an internal feedback mechanism. 

Amanda Jordan: Financial Services

My number one tactic for reviews has always been to have an actual person ask for a review during key points in the customer journey. For example, an associate that helps someone open a checking account, a mortgage advisor who is helping a family refinance their home, etc.


4. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 78% of local marketers agreed with Mike Blumenthal’s popularized concept that Google is the new homepage for local businesses. Do your observations and analytics data indicate that this concept is still correct? Has the role of websites for currently operational businesses grown or decreased as a result of the public health emergency, and what does that mean for those websites?

Phil Rozek: Health and Wellness Services

I’ve never been too much of that school of thought, and have been even less so since roughly the start of the COVID era: See my March 26, 2020 post: “Is COVID-19 the End of “Google As Your New Homepage?

For casual, drop-in businesses, where customers or clients don’t need to do much research or make a big decision, I could see how maybe Google has made the SERPs an almost-suitable substitute for the homepage. That may also be true of medical practices to the extent they have current or returning patients who just want or need quick information fast on a practice they’re already familiar with. But when people’s health is at stake, they tend to dig a little deeper. Often they want or need to find out what procedures a practice does or doesn’t offer, learn more about the doctors or other staff, learn more about insurance and billing, or confirm what they saw in the search results.

Joy Hawkins: Legal Services

I agree that Google My Business is becoming a more important factor, as there are a ton of options that Google is pushing out due to COVID-19 that you can take advantage of.

For example, you can use the online appointments attribute, which shows up prominently in the Knowledge Panel and the 3-pack. They also recently added online operating hours as an additional hours set. 

I think it’s important, though, for people to realize that Google My Business is mainly there to provide the opportunity to share more about what your business does and provide ways for customers to contact you. Most of the fields inside Google My Business do not impact ranking. Traditional SEO factors are needed to make sure your business actually ranks on Google, and then Google My Business will help ensure those customers see the right information. Additionally, Google My Business has not replaced the need for a website — it’s simply another place that needs to be monitored and updated frequently. 

Blake Denman: Home Services

Yes, Google My Business might be the first interaction people have with before (or needing) to go to your website. Websites are still really important — not just for traditional organic SEO, but for traditional SEO signals that influence Google My Business rankings, too. 

Since the public health emergency emerged, we’re seeing an uptick in traffic to websites. Yes, you can add certain attributes to your GMB listing to address public health concerns, but people need more information. What kinds of protocols are you taking? How far out are you booked? 

Brodie Clark: Hospitality

It really depends on the business type, but at the moment, many local businesses (especially in hospitality) are under a lot of pressure. This means they might not have the capacity to keep their websites updated or their GMB listings in check. So, they’re having to resort to food delivery services like UberEats — which has become far more mainstream in recent years, and I’m guessing there’s been an increase during 2020. And hotels, where I’m located in Melbourne, anyway, haven’t been able to operate for some time, but I probably wouldn’t be relying on their GMB listing to give the most up-to-date information.

Amanda Jordan: Financial Services

The role of the website has definitely grown for our financial clients. Websites are hubs for useful information, especially in the case of a crisis or for products and services that play a large role in your life. For many business categories, the information found on GMB listings is enough to get conversions. Consumers do significant research when choosing a financial product, and they need all of the information they can get to make a well-informed decision based on rates, fees, and policies.

Tweet this!

5. Only 39% of marketers feel that Google’s emphasis on user-to-business proximity always delivers high-quality results. In the industry, does Google tend to prioritize proximity over quality for core search terms? Would you say they over-emphasize proximity in your experience?

Phil Rozek: Health and Wellness Services

That’s truest in saturated industries, in my experience. But in more specialized fields, or for more specific (niche) terms, Google doesn’t seem to fixate on proximity as much. To some extent that’s because it can’t: Google needs to go a little farther afield to grab enough relevant results to fill up a page or a 3-pack.

Joy Hawkins: Legal Services

Absolutely. Proximity is one of the main reasons why spam is a problem in the legal services industry. Marketing companies will create lead-generating Google My Business listings and be able to get them to rank simply based on having keyword-rich business names. They create them in mass so they rank when people close to them are searching (due to the proximity factor).  

Here is an example of some of the spam we see in the legal services industry. 

Blake Denman: Home Services

Proximity for certain types of industries (restaurants, coffee shops, dry cleaners, etc.) are great, but for others, like home industries, they are not. Most home service businesses should not be displaying their address since they are a Service Area Business, but this doesn’t stop some from keeping their address up to rank in that city. 

Google does tend to prioritize proximity in the home services industry, unfortunately. 

Tweet this!

Brodie Clark: Hospitality

I think Google does a reasonable job at dialing up the proximity meter where necessary. If you were to pin keywords in a business listing name against proximity, keywords in the business name would win nine times out of 10. So in that instance, other signals should be dialled up further, but proximity may only be relevant in certain cases.

Amanda Jordan: Financial Services

Absolutely. With digital banking and the amount of trust we put into financial organizations, proximity isn’t a major factor when considering a financial service provider, but Google results don’t reflect that. 

Proximity is a much bigger factor when you’re choosing a place to order takeout from than it is when you’re choosing who to trust with your 30-year mortgage. Reviews should definitely play a bigger factor than proximity for fi
Source: https://moz.com/blog/local-seo-expert-roundup

Best Merchant Services

Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.

Merchant services exist to help businesses process credit card payments. You might know them by the name “credit card processors.” 

Regardless of what you call them, choosing the best merchant service isn’t easy. The “best” one is the one that is right for your specific business, and each of the following services offers particular features that may work for one company, but not for yours. 

That’s why, in this guide, I’m catering to each type of business and finding the right merchant service for your needs. 

The Top 6 Merchant Services:

  1. Square
  2. Flagship Merchant Services
  3. Helcim
  4. Payment Depot
  5. Fattmerchant
  6. Stripe 

How to Choose The Best Merchant Services For You 

Before we get into the best merchant services, we need to understand the criteria used to make these decisions. Keep all of the following factors in mind as you read through the reviews. 

Processing Rates/Monthly Fees

It’s all about the money, and credit card processing is not as simple as you think. You have to weigh the pros and cons with each gateway; otherwise, you can end up paying way more than you planned. 

We need to look at the processing rates first. To get a lower processing rate, you usually have to pay a higher monthly fee. If you’re processing payments at high volume, it’s worth it for you to pay the higher fee because your volume will make up for it. 

On the other side, if you’re not processing a lot of payments, having a higher transaction fee won’t hurt you as much as a high monthly fee would. 

Flat-rate processing is a simple solution for small businesses, but interchange pricing is generally more affordable. 

Services 

You want to look at what the payment processor offers in addition to credit card processing. Do they offer free POS systems, hardware, mobile payments, integrations, etc? Some merchant services even offer consulting, customer loyalty features, and invoicing tools. 

Sometimes the “extra benefits” you get from a merchant service provider can outweigh some of the negatives. 

The Type of Merchant Service Account 

There are two primary types of accounts, one is an aggregator (or middleman), and one is an ISO (or independent sales organization). Let’s compare the two and see why it’s important to understand the difference.

Aggregators 

These are middlemen working in between the business and the bank, offering an easy payment processing solution for businesses. Square is an example of this, and while they make it easier, they usually have higher fees and transaction costs. 

ISOs 

Payment Depot is an example of an ISO, and while they usually have a more strict acceptance policy, they offer lower rates and user-friendly software compared to a direct processor. 

Integration

One of the most important factors to consider is, “how will this integrate with my current systems”? 

Your payment processor should never get in the way or cause your conversion rates to decrease; it should complement your current process or even enhance it. Make sure you choose something that will easily integrate into your business without requiring too many changes or adjustments. 

The Different Types of Merchant Services

After much research and careful consideration, these are my top six merchant services for both in-person and online sales. 

#1. Square – The Best For Transparent Pricing/Fees

Pros:

  • No monthly fee
  • Transparent processing
  • Free card reader
  • Great added features

Cons:

  • No ACH payment processing
  • Higher fees than desired

Square is popular for its credit card processing and POS systems, but it offers much more. It hosts features such as the “Card on File” feature, allowing users to store customer card information that works great for repeat customers trying to accumulate loyalty points and rewards of that nature. 

The processor also doesn’t have a monthly fee, and while Square’s features might not be as advanced as some of the other payment processors we’re talking about, for a POS without a monthly fee, you can’t beat the value. 

The one thing that stands out most to me is the transaction costs and how they vary whether you’re doing business in person or online.

For in-person sales, expect to pay 2.6% and $0.10 per transaction. For online transactions, it’ll cost you 2.9% and $0.30 per transaction. There are other instances, such as:

  • Virtual terminal transactions
  • Card-on-file transactions
  • And card-not-present transactions

These will cost 3.5% and $0.15 per transaction. 

Based on these numbers, Square is not the most affordable flat-rate processor, but the transparency makes it easier for you to understand what the rates are and how they’ll impact your processing based on volume and price. 

#2. Flagship Merchant Services – The Best For Great Customer Service

Pros:

  • Dedicated account manager
  • Free account setup
  • Free card terminal (with fees)

Cons:

  • Confusing ownership
  • Little information regarding price

Flagship Merchant Services cut the tape in 2001 and was acquired by iPayment in 2012. Now, they primarily resell iPayment, so keep that in mind. 

This company was one of the first to offer free account setup without any application or fees and real month-to-month contracts. They operate tens of thousands of merchants, and they have a strong reputation. 

Since they’re not a direct processor, most of their merchant accounts are set up through iPayment. iPayment uses First Data as their processor, and it can get confusing trying to figure out who is processing what through what service.

For retailers, Flagship does offer a free credit card terminal, but you’re responsible for paying account fees and insurance on that terminal to keep it up and running. 

For ecommerce, they offer either Authorize.net for processing and integration of an online cart onto your site. 

One thing that was a little frustrating about Flagship is trying to find information on their rates. If you go to their website, you’ll see that you need to fill out a form to get any info about what they charge. 

I’d like to see more transparency, but you may end up with a more catered package deal with this strategy. 

My favorite feature is that you get a single line of contact with the company when you purchase a gateway; they act as account managers. If you ever have a problem, you contact that specific person, and this isn’t a feature I’ve ever seen with any other merchant service.

#3. Helcim – The Best For Small Business 

Pros:

  • Limited fees
  • Fees based on volume
  • Free online store software

Cons:

  • Limited integrations
  • $199 for the card reader

If you’re a small business owner, Helcim might appeal to you. With this service, you’re able to process credit and debit cards online and in person. You can also do some of the following: 

  • Set up recurring payments
  • Send invoices
  • Collect payments

With a Helcim card reader, you can accept all major cards, including Amex plus Google Pay, Apple Pay, and JCB. 

Helcim charges $20 per month with transaction fees based on volume. They don’t have any contracts or cancellation fees, and they’ll wave your monthly fee if you don’t process any payments. 

Overall, Helcim is affordable but much more for in-person payments than they are online. Here’s a quick breakdown of their pricing structure: 

  • Monthly Volume: $0 – $25,000
  • In-Person: 0.3% + 8 cents (+ interchange)
  • Online: 0.5% + 25 cents (+ interchange)
  • Monthly Volume: $25,001 – $50,000
  • In-Person: 0.25% + 7 cents (+ interchange)
  • Online: 0.45% + 20 cents (+ interchange)
  • Monthly Volume: $50,001 – $100,000
  • In-Person: 0.2% + 7 cents (+ interchange)
  • Online: 0.4% + 20 cents (+ interchange)
  • Monthly Volume: $100,001 – $250,000
  • In-Person: 0.18% + 6 cents (+ interchange)
  • Online: 0.35% + 15 cents (+ interchange) 

Helcim offers nice features for those of you looking to integrate this payment gateway into your online store. You can add a checkout to your site for invoicing and customer registration while also accepting recurring subscriptions. 

#4. Payment Depot – The Best For Established Businesses

Pros:

  • No contract processing
  • Competitive rates
  • Easy to integrate online

Cons:

  • Best for high-volume business
  • Application process

Payment Depot uses a membership pricing model, making it simpler to understand but can sometimes result in you paying higher fees. Thankfully, Payment Depot’s rates are pretty competitive, and they include interchange-plus pricing for both online, in-person, and mobile payments. 

This strategy actually makes Payment Depot one of the most affordable payment processors for established businesses that are doing a certain amount of volume. 

Payment Depot accepts all major cards and contactless Apple Pay and Google Pay as well. You get next-day funding and integration with POS systems as well as ecommerce platforms such as: 

  • Shopify
  • Revel
  • QuickBooks
  • PrestaShop
  • BigComemrce
  • WooCommerce

And more…

I don’t think this is one of the best merchant services for small businesses because of how they structure their pricing. The transaction fees go down as you pay a higher monthly fee, and they seemingly force you to increase your plan because of strict processing limits. 

Here’s a breakdown of their pricing: 

Basic Plan

  • Fee: $49
  • Transaction Fee: $0.15
  • Monthly Limit: $25,000

Popular Plan

  • Fee: $79
  • Transaction Fee: $0.10
  • Monthly Limit: $75,000

Premier

  • Fee: $99
  • Transaction Fee: $0.07
  • Monthly Limit: $150,000

Unlimited

  • Fee: $199
  • Transaction Fee: $0.05
  • Monthly Limit: Unlimited 

So, as you can see – if you’re doing high volume, it would make the most sense to upgrade to the most expensive plan for the lowest transaction fees. 

#5. Fattmerchant – Best For Subscription-Based Businesses

Pros:

  • Simple pricing
  • Omni software
  • A solid choice for subscription businesses

Cons:

  • Higher monthly fees
  • Transaction fees are relatively standard

Fattmerchant is set up a lot like many of the payment processors. As you increase your monthly fee, your transaction fees go down. They offer Omni, which is where you’ll do your invoicing, payments, and reporting. The service is incredibly user-friendly, great for beginners, and it comes included with your monthly fee. 

While Fattmerchant is a great choice for budget-conscious business owners, it’s also a great option for subscription-based businesses. If you’re selling monthly coaching packages, agency services, or counseling, you’ll benefit from Fattmerchant’s structure. 

The processor accepts all major cards, including ACH, invoicing, Text2Pay, and more. Same day funding is available, and you get a free iOS and Android POS app and Bluetooth card readers that you can use on the go. 

They have two pricing plans:

  • Fee: $99
  • Annual Limit: $500,000
  • Card-Present Fee: $0.08 + Interchange
  • Card-Not-Present: $0.15 + Interchange
  • ACH Transaction Fee: $0.25
  • Fee: $199
  • Annual Limit: $5,000,000
  • Card-Present Fee: $0.06 + Interchange
  • Card-Not-Present: $0.12 + Interchange
  • ACH Transaction Fee: $0.25

Fattmerchant has a higher monthly fee than some others, but the company says that is how they keep their transaction fees down. 

#6. Stripe – Best For Online Payment Processing 

Pros:

  • Allows you to grow
  • Reasonable pricing
  • Great solution for online businesses

Cons:

  • Complicated setup
  • May require developers

If your business runs entirely online, Stripe is your best choice. It’s made specifically for ecommerce and internet business, and tons of startups and Fortune 500 companies trust Stripe. 

The company offers sophisticated software and APIs that allow online store owners to customize their checkout experience. You can use the pre-built integrations to connect a Stripe checkout right away and then customize it as you go along. 

That’s one of the main reasons why I love Stripe; it’s a payment processor that grows with you and allows you to change it as your business needs change. 

With all of these features and moving parts comes complications. It’s not the easiest to set up, and if you plan on utilizing the many benefits of Stripe, you’ll likely need a developer to handle it for you. 

Stripe offers a “pay as you go” strategy without monthly fees and transparent transaction fees across the board. 

  • Online: 2.9% and $0.30
  • In-Person: 2.7% and $0.05
  • International: Add 1% per transaction
  • ACH Direct: 0.8% maxed at $5.00 per transaction
  • ACH Credit: $1.00 per transaction

You can use all major credit and debit cards plus ACH, WeChat Pay, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and much more. Expect to wait two business days for deposits or pay a one percent fee to get instant deposits. 

Stripe integrates with WordPress, Magento, Squarespace, 3DCart, Zoho, Big Cartel, and more. 

So, by this point, you should know which of these merchant services is right for you. They all have their pros and cons, and you should choose according to the type of business you own.

Square is an overall solid solution for all businesses, but the transaction fees are a bit high, and scalability is lacking. 

I’m also a big fan of Helcim because they allow you to grow with your processor by increasing the monthly payment as your volume needs increase. 

Regardless of which choice you make, keep the important factors in mind and choose carefully, so you don’t regret your decision down the road. 

The post Best Merchant Services appeared first on Neil Patel.

Local SEO Consulting

Local SEO sounds cool and all but can it really help you scale your business in 2020?

The quick answers to these questions are Yes and Absolutely.

Now the more in-depth answer depends on what your business needs.

Do you sell offline?

Are you looking to double the customers that walk in your store, office, workplace?

Then Local SEO is what you must focus on. 

And you must do it NOW before your competitors acquire all of your hot leads.

Why hot you ask?

Because Local SEO is the best way to catch people looking to BUY now and narrow their choices only to your exact products and services.

You can’t miss these easy sales and in today’s post, we’ll go over not only how you can collect them but also what you need to do to guarantee your prospects come to you and not someone else.

Ready? Then let’s begin with…

3 Ways an SEO Consultant Can Help Grow Your Business

In good times and in bad times every business wants more leads.

That’s why automating and constantly optimizing your customer acquisition process is so crucial to your business growth.

Local SEO is an easy and extremely effective way to do it.

SEO Consultants can easily help you increase your reach and bring in more sales.

So here are 3 simple examples of how an SEO Consultant can help grow your business:

#1 Website SEO Optimization for Optimal Local Reach

I’ll assume you already have a website that serves as your tool to introduce people to your business and services.

If that’s the case then you need to shove your website in people’s faces on every occasion you get.

Website SEO (search engine optimization) is an easy way to rank your website on top of Google’s relevant to your business searches.

And more importantly to rank your website for Local Searches.

That means people that are specifically looking for services in your area.

Professional SEO Consultants will optimize your website for Local Searches without any problems.

And keep in mind that 88% of local-based queries done using a mobile phone end in either a call or visit to the business within 24 hours.

You wouldn’t want to miss these hot prospects.

#2 SEO Strategy Development

Of course, no real optimization is possible without a proper strategy behind it.

Your ideal SEO Consultant will create a step-by-step strategy that will maximize your organic reach.

The strategy normally consists of what to post in your blog (if you have one), what pages need urgent optimization, and what activities will bring the biggest ROI if done right now.

Then he’ll get all of that and put it into a specialized strategy depending on your budget, time, and goals.

More on the technical stuff and what to expect when working with your SEO Consultant further down the post.

#3 Keyword Research and Implementation

Why do you need keyword research exactly?

Well, many people think that just writing blog posts about their niche is going to get them the leads they desire.

And even though it will bring in some leads… the results will be far from optimal.

After your SEO Consultant is done with your keyword research, you’ll know exactly what keywords to target in your main pages, how many times to use each one, and how to spin your content so it matches with google’s latest engine rules.

Of course for Local SEO you must rank for the typical terms plus your city added to them.

But if you try to guess the right keywords (as many businesses do), you might end up empty handed.

The best way to ensure your keyword research success is to use Proven SEO Tools like Ubersuggest.

Try it out now and see the traffic you’ve been missing out on. 

If you like the numbers just continue reading this post to learn how to find the SEO Consultant that will guarantee your best ranking.

How to Get Started With Local SEO Consulting

Let’s dive into the process of getting started with your SEO Consultant Services.

First, you’ll need to prepare some materials.

No need to mention that a website is mandatory…

The next thing is the drive to grow big… I’m talking real BIG.

If you’re a local business trying to make ends meet then Local SEO is the thing that’s going to save your inevitable business death.

Remember that… 

72% of users who did a local-based search visited a store within 5 miles.

Now that your motivation is higher than ever, you need to find the consultant that will drive the traffic your business desperately needs.

How do you do that?

You focus on finding an SEO Consultant that is known to bring results in this field.

And more importantly… someone that specializes mainly in SEO.

Because you’ll find many business consulting gurus that will promise results in everything while they haven’t done crap in the past.

That’s what you DON’T want for your business.

An easy way to guarantee results is to work with a proven agency that helps businesses close to your size.

An instant recommendation is NP Digital as it is the best SEO Marketing Agency on the planet.

This exact blog is ranked on the first page of google for thousands of marketing terms and it uses the same exact strategies NP Digital will use for your business.

Book a call with a professional consultant now and get a strategy built specifically for your business.

Again, before enrolling in a long-term contract, you need to make sure you’re at the right place.

Having a website is a MUST and also don’t expect instant results.

At the very least SEO needs a week to be scanned by google’s engine.

But the best practice is to wait a couple of months while monitoring the results.

Your SEO Consultant will do that for you.

Just ask for a weekly/monthly report of the analytics behind the content you put out.

And speaking about analytics and tracking, let’s get into the ROI (return on investment) of hiring a Local SEO Consultant.

Measuring the ROI of Local SEO Consulting Services

Everyone can use big words but the only thing that matters at the end of the day is RESULTS.

That’s the one thing you should care about when you’re trying to scale your business.

So no matter how friendly and easy-going your Consultant may be, you must always track his progress and whether he brings real profits to your business.

The last thing you want is to waste months of money and time on a leaking bucket that’s bound to break at some point.

Using tools that track all of your data is crucial.

Here’s a complete list of the best free SEO tools you can use or let your consultant use for you.

Also, you’ll need to be fully transparent with your Local SEO Consultant.

Any time something feels wrong, you go ahead and ask him so he can take a look and fix it if need be.

Keeping secrets to yourself is an easy way to fail in the long run even though it may feel easier at the current moment.

So be 100% truthful about what you want and build a relationship on trust and straightforward communication.

That’s the best way to work long-term and get the best results possible for your business.

4 Point Checklist For Finding the Right Local SEO Consultant

And now to get into the fun stuff…

An exact step-by-step process on how to find the right Local SEO Consultant for your exact business.

#1 Clear Your Mind About What You Need

I suggest you sit down and list everything you know about your business, niche, and goals before going into a call with a professional.

Even though you might think you can figure it out on the spot, you’ll always miss important details.

Just sit down for 5-10 minutes and write it down so you can be prepared for the call.

Especially for SEO Consultant Services, you need to clear out these questions:

What’s the main geographic area you want to target?

What are the main products or services you want to offer or present online?

Do you plan on activating other social mediums like paid advertising, social media accounts, email marketing?

Once you have these, you can move on to the next step.

#2 Finding The Right Expert For You

Your best match depends solely on your specific needs.

Do you only need Local SEO Consulting?

Do you even know what’s best for your online presence?

Most local businesses are unaware of the real power of social media…

So if that’s the case with you, the best approach would be to find a marketing agency that offers SEO Services combined with other online advertising skills.

Again, a quick suggestion is NP Digital, as it is the best marketing agency for SEO in the world.

Once you get on a call with a consultant that leads a team in such a big, result-generating agency, he’ll be able to look at your business and suggest the best and most efficient methods to grow your online presence.

And remember, you don’t need blank followers.

Having 1 million Instagram followers that don’t buy is like having 0 people at your store.

Don’t mistake followers with real customers.

A real professional consultant will give you the exact steps that will increase your sales together with your online presence.

But how to determine who’s a real expert and who’s not?

That’s simple.

Jump on a call with the first agency/consultant you think fits your best fit.

Have a call with him and look for:

  1. Communication Skills
  2. Previous Results
  3. Intuitive Future Thinking

Great Communication Skills are essential if you want to have a long-term positive relationship with your consultant.

Your mission on the call is to see if he can explain and break down hard terminology into simple to follow steps.

If he’s trying to sound smart by using terms you don’t know and he doesn’t bother to explain them to you, then he’s not your perfect fit.

After all, you want to know what’s going on inside your business.

Previous Results are obviously important. You can’t trust empty claims.

A good consultant will have a proven track record of helping people in your exact situation.

And last but not least Intuitive Future Thinking.

Sometimes you might encounter some “robots” that only know their own thing.

That doesn’t mean they are bad at it but it surely means that they’ll not be able to adapt to your business scaling ideas in the future.

So the contract will be bound to fail before you even sign it.

An easy way to check if the person on the other side is intuitive would be to ask him questions outside of his specialty.

You can’t expect him to know all the answers, so don’t look for the “correct” answer but rather look for the way he handles the conversation.

If he’s open to brainstorming with you even on something he’s not an exact expert in…

And if he’s open about it, making sure you know he’s not perfect in the field but he’s able to come up with real ideas on his own, then he’s a good fit.

On the other hand, if he ignores your questions and sticks to his “homework” then he’s that exact type of species I call “heartless robots”.

You don’t want to outsource an intuitive task like the SEO ranking of your website to a guy that can’t think outside of his box.

Once you find someone that fits these criteria and you feel can help you grow your business, it’s time to…

#3 Sign A Contract

I know that may sound scary for people that haven’t signed online contracts before but I assure you that the process is as simple as tying your shoes.

A respected marketing agency will have a contract starting process that you just have to follow to get started successfully.

The terms are made so they benefit you and what you already discussed on the indoctrination call you made.

#4 Measure and Track Results

As mentioned previously you’ve got to be open for a long-term relationship that benefits your business.

Tracking your ROI with SEO tools is crucial, you should sign up for some of them right now.

I hope that guide helped you clear your mind at least a little.

The one thing you should remember is that anything is possible.

Your business can grow bigger than you’ve ever imagined, so don’t limit your scale to what you think is possible.

Let a professional who has done this exact process before, do it for you as well.

Have you optimized your Local SEO before? Have you hired professional help to do it for you? Share your experience in the comments below:

The post Local SEO Consulting appeared first on Neil Patel.


Source: https://neilpatel.com/blog/local-seo-consulting/

Best Online Fax Services

Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.

Think back to the last time you saw one of those giant, clunky fax machines sitting around. 

It’s probably been a while, right? While that old-school hardware is undoubtedly outdated, faxing isn’t dead by any means. 

It’s actually very much alive. But thankfully, we have better technology. 

The best online fax services make sending secure communications via fax a breeze for individuals and businesses of all sizes with no ugly, expensive, or finicky hardware required. 

However, there are dozens of providers to choose from, which is why making the right choice is often more challenging than actually using the service. So to help make your decision easier, I narrowed it down to my top six recommendations—and reviewed them. 

The top 6 options for online fax services

  1. mFax – best online fax services for multiple users
  2. RingCentral Fax – best all-in-one online fax service
  3. HelloFax – best for cloud-storage integrations
  4. SRFax – most secure online faxing service
  5. FaxBurner – best mobile online faxing service
  6. Biscom 123 – most affordable online faxing service

How to choose the best online fax service for you 

There are dozens of online fax service providers to choose from. This makes it challenging to know which one’s perfect for your business, especially if you’re not quite sure what to look for. 

All of the options on this list are excellent. However, they may not work for everyone.

So, don’t forget to use the following factors as you go through the decision-making process to help you narrow things down and find the perfect fit.  

Number of users

As a business, you probably need multiple user accounts. Different services have different pricing plans, so it’s essential to consider the number of accounts you need. 

Some options may limit the number of users with no way around it. Others may offer extra user accounts with an additional monthly fee. So, this plays a massive role in how much you can expect to pay every month. 

With that said, most smaller businesses won’t have problems with account limitations. 

But large corporations with multiple departments who need faxing capabilities may run into problems with low-limit plans. 

Cloud-storage integrations

Most businesses rely on cloud storage tools. Whether you depend on Microsoft 365 or Google’s G Suite, your employees probably use these tools daily to create and archive documents. 

So, it’s important to consider these integrations if you and your team need to store documents you send or receive via online fax. 

This can help streamline your document management processes. 

Page limits

Most providers charge an extra fee if you go over the number of pages your plan includes. So, you need to consider your business’s needs when it comes to monthly fax volume. 

A lot of providers place low limits on this to encourage you to upgrade to a better plan. 

So it’s critical to choose a plan that offers enough pages per month along with a fair page overage fee (just in case). However, online fax services with unlimited plans are a better option for businesses that expect to send and receive high volumes every month.

Document archiving

If you’re using an online fax service to send and automatically digitize documents, it should come with document archiving as well. This can significantly streamline and automate your document management processes. 

Some online fax services provide online databases so users can easily store faxed documents. However, some don’t, and others don’t provide archiving features at all. Without this, you have to print, scan, and store everything by hand. 

Which… can be an incredibly time-consuming process. 

So, pay close attention to this as you decide, especially if it’s something you need now or may need in the future. 

Industry-specific use

There are lots of different all-purpose online fax services out there. However, sometimes particular providers are more suited to specific industries. 

Healthcare is an excellent example of this because you’re dealing with sensitive information and legal regulations regarding how you handle it. So, you need a service that’s secure and compliant with those requirements. 

However, healthcare isn’t the only industry like this. As such, it’s critical to consider your industry’s requirements and regulations before making your final decision. 

The different types of online fax services 

Not all online fax services are the same. 

So, before we dive into the reviews, let’s talk about the different types of online fax services so you know exactly what to look for as you go through the process. 

Web or cloud-based services

The most common online fax services are cloud or browser-based. All you have to do to get started is create an account, and you’re ready to go. 

Web-based fax services are known for high-quality faxes as well as ease of use. 

And they often offer a wide range of cloud-based integrations with platforms like G Suite and Dropbox, making life easier if you want to archive your communications on the cloud. 

Mobile fax services

Mobile fax services allow users to fax directly from their smartphones. Essentially, mobile faxing is as convenient and as easy as snapping a photo. 

Plus, you don’t have to wait until you’re at your computer or rely on team members sitting in front of a desktop to send and receive communications. 

Some providers may also support desktop or web-based use, while others are exclusively mobile. 

So, keep this in mind as you decide which provider is best for you and your team. 

#1 –  mFax Review – Best online fax services for multiple users

mFax is one of the most flexible and adaptable online fax services for businesses with numerous team members. Their flexible monthly plans allow up to 50 individuals to use the service. 

Operating as cloud software, there’s no need to install or download any programs. And you can easily access the mFax interface from any web browser on any device. 

With an easy-to-use interface and intuitive setup, it’s an excellent option for those looking to get started with their first online fax service.

mFax comes with various features and benefits, including:

  • Automatic cloud storage for sent and received faxes
  • Works from any device
  • Send and receive faxes from email
  • Multi-layered encryption for documents in transit and rest
  • Plans for small businesses and large enterprises
  • Easy to create and manage users and set account-level permissions
  • Print to Fax driver allows you to send a fax from a desktop to print

mFax also has a beta version of international outbound fax for 24 countries. So, you’re not limited to one particular country. 

Plans start at $7 per month for one user, making it super affordable for businesses of all sizes. Plus, you can try mFax for free or sign up for a product demo to learn more about it. 

#2 – RingCentral Fax Review – Best all-in-one online fax service

RingCentral Fax is another popular online fax service. With a solid feature list, flexible user numbers, and robust security suite, it’s my #1 all-in-one online fax service recommendation. 

Their unique fax scheduling feature makes it easy to send faxes for future delivery. This is particularly useful if you need to send international faxes to users in other timezones or have employees who don’t work standard operating hours. 

On top of that, you also get access to a ton of powerful features and benefits, including:

  • Groups of up to 50 email addresses to send faxes in one message
  • Choose from toll-free or local fax numbers
  • IOS and Android mobile applications
  • Up to 200 faxes in an online account
  • Create an electronic signature and add it to documents
  • View received and sent faxes online via a web browser
  • Securely transmit faxes over an encrypted internet connection
  • Send and receive faxes from any device
  • Block faxes without a caller ID

RingCentral Fax is a great all-around option for small and large businesses who won’t mind the slightly limited online fax storage (you can always store them elsewhere). 

Plans start at $17.99 a month, and there’s an unlimited plan for just $24.99 a month. 

#3 – HelloFax Review – Best online fax services for cloud-storage integration 

HelloFax is the best online fax service for integrated cloud storage. 

The service seamlessly syncs with G Suite, OneDrive, Dropbox, and Box. Users can also access their faxes directly on the HelloFax’s service from any web browser on any device. 

Plus, it’s super easy to use. Faxes arrive directly to inboxes as a PDF where they are easily viewable, downloadable, and shareable. 

There’s also unlimited storage for businesses that prefer not to use other cloud storage providers for their faxes. 

With HelloFax, you can: 

  • Send up to five pages for free by signing up
  • Quickly fax to previously entered fax numbers 
  • Additional faxes that go over the monthly limit are just 5 cents per page
  • Send faxes by email
  • Add and remove users at no extra cost
  • Send faxes to multiple recipients
  • Receive faxes with a paid plan 
  • Sign in using your Google credentials

Despite having cloud integration with multiple platforms, HelloFax still offers unlimited storage, which is excellent for businesses planning on sending or receiving high-volume communications.

There’s a free plan for up to 5 faxes per month, so you can try it free before you invest. However, most businesses need more than that, and you’ll need to upgrade once you reach that limit. 

But their paid plans are affordable, starting at $9.99 per month.

#4 – SRFax Review – Most secure online fax services

SRFax is a great option for businesses that have high-security concerns. Transferring information over the internet always comes with the risk of interception. 

And for specific industries like healthcare, security is even more paramount. 

Healthcare providers rely on faxing to transfer sensitive patient data. So, the fax services they use must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). 

SRFax provides multiple layers of data encryption while maintaining a user-friendly interface, making it an excellent choice for high-security industries. 

In addition to HIPAA compliant fax services, SRFax has multiple tiers and plans suited to all security levels and sizes of businesses. 

They also offer a variety of features and benefits to make your life easier, including:

  • 2048-bit SSL Certification, 2048-bit RSA public keys, and PGP encryption
  • 24-hour customer support hotline 
  • Plans come with unlimited authorized email addresses
  • Automatically download incoming faxes
  • Send faxes through an email account 
  • Intuitive dashboard for viewing existing faxes, sending faxes, and changing settings
  • Send faxes through the online dashboard

For any company that prioritizes high-level security, SRFax is an excellent choice. 

Pricing is affordable, with monthly plans starting at $3.29 per month. Or you can sign up for a non-healthcare specific 60-day trial to test it out before you commit. 

#5 – FaxBurner Review – Best mobile online faxing service

FaxBurner stands out from other online fax services for its well-designed, user-friendly IOS and Android apps. With FaxBurner, sending faxes is as easy as taking a picture, and you can receive them straight into your inbox. 

Set up is quick and easy. Plus, the platform gives users a temporary fax number that expires after 24 hours without upgrading to a paid plan. 

On top of that, you also get various features and benefits, including:

  • No unprofessional looking ads or watermarks on free faxes
  • Digitally document signatures
  • Create cover letters within the app
  • Integration with cloud storage apps like DropBox
  • Email to fax option 
  • Phone scanning capabilities

For users who need the convenience and flexibility of a mobile-first fax application, FaxBurner is my number top recommendation. 

Free packages provide up to 25 inbound faxes and five outbound faxes a month. And their paid plans start at just $12.95 a month, making it incredibly affordable for most users. 

#6 – Biscom 123 Review — Most affordable online faxing services

If your business is just looking to send the occasional fax, Biscom 123 is an incredibly affordable option. As a leading telecommunications enterprise, Biscom makes online faxing simple for both businesses and individuals with a straightforward interface. 

You can also try it free for 30 days to see if it’s a good fit for your business, with no credit card required. However, it doesn’t maintain archival records of your communications. So, keep that in mind. 

Depending on your faxing needs, Biscom 123 offers various plans that allow you to send up to 300 pages with support for multiple team members. 

Plus, you can also:

  • Easily add up to four users in addition to the primary account holder
  • Send email faxes in just a few clicks
  • Fax from Android and IOS mobile applications
  • Integrate with Google Drive
  • Send multiple file formats and rich text formats for text faxes
  • Saves inbound PDF files in your email inbox
  • No limitation on file size or number of documents

Pricing starts at $7.99 per month. This entry-level plan includes 30 pages per month with a charge of 7 cents per additional page. So, it certainly won’t break the bank. 

Summary

mFax and RingCentral are my top choices for most users. They’re incredibly affordable and accessible for most businesses. Plus, they come with a ton of features to make your life easier. 

However, that doesn’t mean they’re suitable for everyone in every situation. 

So, don’t forget to consider the factors we talked about and take advantage of free trials as you go through the process of picking the best online fax services for you and your team. 

What company do you use to send online faxes?

The post Best Online Fax Services appeared first on Neil Patel.


Source: https://neilpatel.com/blog/best-online-fax-services/

The Trade Offs of Buying Instagram Followers

Like any shortcut, buying Instagram followers can be very tempting.

And why not? Just look at these ads:

“Get 100% real Instagram followers within 10 minutes!”

“Pay only $5 for 500 followers.”

“Increase your Instagram following by 25% at shockingly low rates!“

See? Tempting.

But let us warn you – don’t give in.

These shortcuts are never worth it. More so, because the Instagram algorithm is updated regularly to weed out low-quality and fake accounts and interactions.

Plus, the results are hollow, scammy, and… mortifyingly obvious.

In this guide, we’ll cover all points to give you a better idea about how buying Instagram followers works – or rather how it doesn’t work – along with actionable ways to increase your number of followers organically.

So, let’s get started!

How People “Think” Buying Instagram Followers Will Help Them?

Buying Instagram followers is usually done in two ways, each having different results:

More (Fake) Followers

You can indeed get more followers very easily and cost-effectively by spending money.

But Instagram can track down your fake followers who are actually shell accounts and can ban them. Moreover, you won’t get any revenue or engagement for your business.

Automatic Following and Unfollowing, With More Likes

This method is based off on the common Instagram etiquette – #FollowForFollow.

You follow an account, and that account follows you back. The catch here is that the other account gets automatically unfollowed after a few days

You have the option to choose how fast you want the bot to work where you’ll follow other Instagram users, who will then check out your account and give you a follow.

We know that this method sounds better than the first one, but it still isn’t an organic way to increase your true fans. Here’s why it doesn’t work:

  • People Can Tell You Bought Followers 

The bot can like several pictures in quick succession, tipping off Instagram users that you aren’t really engaging with them. Having a high-followers-to-following ratio is another indication.

  • Doesn’t Identify Accounts Who Will Follow You Back 

The bot cannot identify accounts who are bots, brand ambassadors, or inactive accounts. So even if you follow them, these accounts will not follow you back.

  • Inaccurate Customer Targeting 

It’s necessary to have an organic, loyal fan following if you want to boost your engagement in the long run. The bot often messes up targeting and adds accounts who have no genuine interest in your brand.

  • Unfollows Rather Quickly

Not everyone checks their Instagram regularly. So they can miss the bot following and unfollowing them, which again does nothing for your account. #MoneyWasted

Basically, you won’t have sustainable results in the long run.

How Buying Instagram Followers Affect Your Brand Negatively?

Before talking about why you shouldn’t buy Instagram accounts, let’s discuss why you choose to operate an Instagram account.

  • You want to connect with friends and family, giving them a glimpse into your daily lives. If this is you, why would you want to buy followers to have a bigger network? You don’t know them, and they definitely will have no interest in the posts you share.
  • You want to take advantage of the 1 billion Instagram users and sell your product or service. If you‘re a business or brand, fake followers have no use for you since they aren’t going to buy anything from you.
  • You want to influence your followers and potentially land lucrative deals from brands to showcase their offerings. If you’re an influencer, what’s the point of having fake followers when you cannot influence them? This will only make you look unreliable and fake.

In other words, buying Instagram followers is nothing but #Fail.

That said, let’s discuss the reasons why you shouldn’t buy Instagram followers in more detail:

Absolutely Zero Genuine Engagement

One of the main reasons why people buy followers is to boost their engagement. Well, right after increasing the number of followers.

The reality couldn’t be further from the truth, though.

Since you’re merely paying for fake bot accounts, the best engagement you can hope for is a generic “nice post“ comment.

If you‘re an influencer, your main job is influencing your followers‘ behavior and possibly steering them to buy products from brands with whom you share affiliate partnerships. 

But if they don’t engage with you, you aren’t influencing them at all.

Precisely why brands check out the validity of an “influencer“ before taking the plunge and working with them.

Your Competitors And Instagram Know You Bought Followers

There are some dead giveaways that scream you purchased your Instagram followers and likes, making your folly embarrassingly obvious.

  • Your likes-to-follower or likes-to-comments ratios are unnaturally high.
  • You have like-buying services following your account.
  • The accounts that like your post or follow your account have little to no activity in the form of posts, few followers, missing profile photos, and so on.

Trust us, people will know.

You’ll Have Mismatched Engagement

Human behavior is predictable, which is why you‘re likely to have a typical pattern of engagement if you have a genuine following. 

Markerly analyzed the Instagram accounts of 2 million influencers and discovered the following patterns:

  • Less than 1000 followers average about 8% engagement
  • 1000-10,000 followers average 4% engagement
  • 10,000-100,000 followers average 2.4% engagement
  • 100,000 followers-1 million followers average 1.8% engagement
  • Greater than 1 million followers average 1.7% engagement

Now, this doesn’t mean your engagement rates should exactly match these numbers – after all, they are just averages. But a noticeable difference would mean there’s definitely something fishy going on.

Instagram Will Punish You or Even Suspend Your Account

Instagram is ruthless when it comes to penalizing accounts with fake followers.

The platform has recently updated its terms of use to identify and remove fake accounts and is also removing any likes, follows, or comments that come from third-party applications created to grow audiences artificially.

You‘ll also violate Instagram community guidelines if you buy followers, which can trigger a reaction from moderators.

Fake accounts are purged constantly, so your followers can disappear at any time. There is also the risk of Instagram outrightly suspending your account due to these unethical practices.

Higher Vulnerability to SPAM

The majority of your bought followers will be fake, but there might be a few accounts that bring SPAM with them.

When you provide your email address for purchasing followers, you‘re basically providing opportunities for spam posts. These spammers will have access to your followers and deliver SPAM there as well.

Some of your genuine followers may end up following these accounts just because they see you doing it, and when they discover the quality of these accounts, they might end up unfollowing you.

No Income for You

Your fake followers won’t spend any money on your products, and neither will they refer people to you.

So what’s the point of spending money to buy followers when there is no benefit?

As mentioned before, brands don’t select influencers based on the number of followers alone anymore. They use a host of tools to get an accurate picture to avoid working with unworthy accounts.

When they find you bought your followers, which they will, they obviously won’t work for you. 

Hence, you won’t earn any income despite spending some serious money on increasing your fake followers’ list.

You’ll End Up Being Blacklisted

Let alone income, brands will outright blacklist you if they find you lack credibility.

Influencer marketing is based on trust, which is why brands want to partner with genuine influencers who built their following organically. And when they find you’ve taken a dishonest shortcut, they‘ll start questioning your worth as a business.

Instead, you can consider buying Instagram ads. Not only will this help you increase your reach, but you might also be able to pull genuine followers. 

Plus, if you have the budget to “buy“ followers, why not spend it on paid advertising instead?

Actionable Ways to Increase Your Instagram Followers Authentically

We can now agree that buying fake followers isn’t going to get you Instagram success, and will only affect your potential adversely.

So the question here is how you can get more Instagram followers.

The following are some of the best practices to increase your Instagram followers:

Create Useful and Relevant Content

The best way to make people stop scrolling through their Instagram feed and like your post or follow your account is to create content that genuinely interests them.

Think about your target audience, and make the value of your post clear by tying it to a specific purpose.

What do you want to post to be? Informational, educational, or entertaining?

Here are a few suggestions to help you with content creation:

Informational Content That Informs Your Audience

  • Interesting articles, stories, and other relevant content from around the world.
  • Research and analysis that explore a specific subject or area.
  • Latest local, national, and international news in your niche.

Educational Content That Teaches Your Audience

  • Step-by-step how-to guides that show the user how to accomplish something.
  • Tutorials in the form of photos or instructional videos.
  • Video reviews of products or services to help users with purchase decisions.

Entertaining Content That Helps Your Audience Pass Their Time

  • Celebrity-focused gossip, stories, and photos.
  • Quizzes, brainteasers, trivia, and other mental tests.
  • Humorous content to break the daily monotony of life.

Inspirational Content That Uplifts Your Audience

  • Inspiring photos and videos related to fashion, home, food, garden, and travel.
  • Thought-provoking perspectives or strong opinions on critical topics.
  • Personal anecdotes or stories to create feelings of empathy.

You can choose any content type according to your target audience and personal preference – just make sure it’s purposeful. Your audience should feel they‘re getting something out of your posts. 

If you still face difficulty in understanding the kind of content to post, you can hire a social media marketing agency or consultant to do the job for you. 

Our team at Neil Patel Digital has a team of experts that are highly skilled in creating Instagram posts that drive traffic and boost engagement.

Using Growth Tools Strategically

Hashtags are an excellent way to grow your Instagram and earn authentic followers. 

Effective growth tools, such as HashtagsForLife, will allow you to see how a specific hashtag is performing in your content area and provide you insights and analytics. You can also see its reach, average likes, and unique posts made using that hashtag.

These are some of the top Instagram hashtags:

  • #love (1,271,692,015)
  • #instagood (742,795,562)
  • #photooftheday (507,358,504)
  • #fashion (487,010,088)
  • #beautiful (463,668,566)
  • #happy (427,528,663)
  • #cute (418,686,470)
  • #like4like (417,887,839)
  • #tbt (413,049,020)
  • #followme (392,011,012)

Promote Your Instagram on Other Social Media Platforms

It’s normal for people who are on Instagram to also be on other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

So when you promote your Instagram on other networks, your followers will know that you have an account on Instagram as well, which, in turn, can drive traffic to the latter platform and simultaneously increase your followers.

Make sure your Instagram business account is linked to Facebook. This will enable you to share your Instagram post on your Facebook page, giving your Facebook friends and followers a sneak peek of what you have to offer on Instagram.

Try Instagram Ads

If you’re considering buying followers, you should give marketing with Instagram ads a try.

Choose an appropriate ad campaign objective like increasing your brand awareness or boosting your reach. 

Not only will this help you build your follower count, but will also get out there in front of people who’ve never heard about your brand and products, but want to.

Optimize your Instagram account

Optimizing your Instagram account can be an excellent way to get organic followers.

Your Instagram bio is like the homepage to your account, which is your brand. 

Think of a creative bio, add creative image captions, choose a good profile image and user name, and watch the magic unfold.

Doing this will help you build your brand identity as well as drive Instagram traffic to your site. You can also add links in your bio that direct your visitors to your site.

Top Tip: Make your Instagram as search-friendly as possible. If it’s too long, try to shorten it. Also, avoid adding numbers or special characters.

Follow a Consistent Content Calendar

Posting regularly on Instagram is a not-so-secret secret to lock in more followers. 

If you’re getting followers, you don’t want to make them forget they followed you in the first place, which is why maintaining a regular posting schedule is necessary.

You shouldn’t post more than two times a day to avoid spam – it’s the consistency that matters. 

Nearly 200 million Instagram users use their accounts daily, so even if you post a few times, it’s enough to get the followers rolling in. 

Just take a look at the above graph to know the best times to post to Instagram.

Follow the Follow + Like + Comment (FLC) Rule

You might have already heard about this rule, and it’s just as simple as it looks.

You should engage directly with your followers, follow different accounts, and like and comment on their photos. Try to do this repeatedly until you see a response.

In fact, when you FLC with a personal touch, you can have a third out of say, a hundred contacts that you engage with, follow you back.

Host Giveaways

Everybody likes free stuff, so why not get attention from other users by running a giveaway for your products, services, or merchandise?

You’ll find many businesses run a giveaway, where they ask the users to tag 3 to 5 friends and repost content. This can be a great way to boost your brand visibility and gain many followers quickly.

You Can’t Have Bots Carrying You Towards Instagram Success

Fake followers might boost engagement initially, but in the long run, there’s really no benefit – both in terms of credibility and financial gain.

Instead of trying to pay your way into Instagram popularity, follow our highly effective tips to slowly but legitimately grow your followers.

It may seem daunting to create a plan to increase your follower count, but with an effective strategic plan in place, you’ll have your followers growing faster than a bot ever could.

Wondering where to start? Contact us here and let us help disrupt your industry.

The post The Trade Offs of Buying Instagram Followers appeared first on Neil Patel.


Source: https://neilpatel.com/blog/buying-instagram-followers/

Best Marketing Automation Software

Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.

Marketing campaigns get more complex by the day. 

Which… is great news for the consumer experience but a nightmare for you as a marketing manager handling thousands of moving parts (and countless employees) on a daily basis. 

To put it lightly, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. 

Especially complex technical challenges that most consumers and employees will never see or fully understand. 

But thankfully more and more automation tools are popping up to make your life a bit easier.

However, that means choosing the best marketing automation software for your business and team is harder than its ever been. 

From enterprise-grade solutions to the most affordable options, my team and I have researched, tested, and used just about every software you can imagine. And I can honestly say… that’s not an exaggeration. 

But the good news is that I narrowed it down to my top six recommendations, reviewed them, and developed an all-inclusive list of what to consider when making your final decision. 

The top 6 options for marketing automation software

  1. Freshmarketer – best for small to midsize businesses
  2. Pardot by Salesforce – best for B2B companies
  3. ActiveCampaign – best for email marketing automation
  4. Acoustic – best for enterprise multi-channel marketing automation
  5. HubSpot – best for sales, customer service, and marketing automation
  6. Act-On – best for marketing agencies

How to choose the best marketing automation software for you

I stand behind all of my top recommendations. However, choosing the right one for you isn’t always easy because it depends on various factors. 

So, before we dive in, let’s talk about how to narrow things down and find the best marketing automation software for your business. 

Type of business

B2B businesses have different marketing needs than D2C companies. 

Furthermore, marketing agencies present a new set of marketing automation challenges. Because of that, specialized software may be necessary to meet your specific needs at a reasonable price point. 

The size of your business matters too. Large companies run complex, massive-scale campaigns and have bigger pockets. So, small business tools aren’t a good match.

However, smaller companies will probably find enterprise-grade features confusing and wildly out of budget, which is why those small business tools exist in the first place. 

So, pay attention to who the software is built for when making your final decision. 

Number of contacts

Most pricing plans depend on the number of contacts or leads you have. The larger your list, the more you need to pay to maintain it and stay in touch with them. 

If you have tens or hundreds of thousands of contacts, enterprise-grade solutions are probably more cost-effective. However, that’s not the case if you have a few hundred or even a few thousand leads on your list. 

Just be sure to keep this in mind and remember that specific plans may limit the maximum number of contacts you can have. 

And if you hit those limits, you’ll need to upgrade to a higher plan or pay an extra fee.

Your marketing channels

Different marketing automation software supports various marketing channels. 

And there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. 

From SMS and email marketing to social media and push notifications, it’s crucial to choose a software that handles everything you need.

Smaller businesses with simple campaigns may not utilize a wide range of channels and can get away using a more affordable tool. 

However, large businesses with complex campaigns spanning numerous channels need something more robust to manage all the moving parts. 

Furthermore, some software includes varying channels in different pricing tiers. So, you may start on one level and need to move up to gain access to more marketing channels. Or you may need to move to (or integrate) a new tool altogether. 

It may help to map out your upcoming campaigns and decide which channels you plan to use.

Automation features

Automation is at the heart of every tool on this list. But some offer more advanced automation features than others. 

Do you need to score leads and prospects? Maybe you want to combine SMS, email marketing, and Facebook ads in the same customer journey. Or perhaps you need the ability to send hyper-targeted emails on autopilot. 

Regardless of the complexity of your campaigns, don’t forget to consider:

  • Split A/B testing
  • Automated email campaigns
  • Event and website tracking
  • Contact management
  • Visual customer journey mapping
  • Automated segmentation and personalization
  • Prospect and lead scoring
  • Dynamic content
  • Transactional emails
  • AI-powered recommendations
  • Action and logic-based triggers
  • Reporting and analytics

You may not need all of them, and some tools don’t include them. So it’s critical to understand what you need (and don’t need) before making your decision.

Additional features

It’s not uncommon for marketing automation software to include a handful of features typically found in a CRM tool, like live chat or customer support capabilities. 

Before making a final decision, it’s essential to understand which additional features you need to fill the gap between marketing and sales or customer service. 

You may already have these systems in place. So, you won’t need these additional features. But if you don’t, you might be able to save money, hassle, and time by choosing a software that includes everything you’re missing under one roof. 

Hubspot is an excellent example of this. 

It includes customer service, sales, and marketing automation tools in a centralized location to streamline data movement and foster automation across your entire business. 

The different types of marketing automation software

Marketing comes in all shapes, sizes, and complexities. 

From physical mailers and print campaigns to social media and email marketing, the best marketing automation software helps you build, automate, and optimize all types of marketing campaigns. 

Marketing automation software is often confused with customer relationship management (CRM). However, the two aren’t the same or interchangeable. 

CRM software focuses on sales activities, while marketing automation software focuses on marketing tasks. Going further, marketing automation software is for generating, nurturing, and qualifying leads. 

On the other hand, CRM software is to close the sale and foster communications or relationships after the sale. 

In a perfect world, the two systems play well together and create a seamless flow of data from your marketing team to your sales team.

Taking things further, there are numerous subsets of marketing automation software, including:

  • Email marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Advertising management
  • SMS marketing
  • Live chat

Each different tool is powerful on its own. But true marketing automation software lets you create and optimize customer journeys across marketing platforms for varying complexity campaigns. 

#1 – Freshmarketer Review — The best marketing automation software for small to midsize businesses

Around here, we’re big fans of Freshworks (if you couldn’t tell). 

Freshmarketer is their intelligent marketing automation platform built to help small to midsize businesses save time, attract the right people, nurture their audiences, and make more money. 

It’s my #1 recommendation for most users—and for a good reason.

From awareness to retention, you get all the automation features you need to gain more leads, turn those leads into customers, and keep those customers around for life. All while doing less work with better results. 

Plus, you don’t need any technical skills or a dedicated support team to get started. And it takes about a minute to get up and running. 

You also get access to incredible features like:

  • Email campaigns and contact management
  • Visual drag and drop customer journey builder
  • Website, form, and offline event tracking
  • Conversion rate optimization tools
  • A/B and split testing
  • Advanced personalization
  • Dynamic heat maps
  • Audience segmentation
  • Real-time funnel analytics

Furthermore, the software seamlessly integrates with Freshworks’ other tools, so it’s an excellent choice if you currently use or plan to use any of their business software. 

You can try Freshmarketer on their limited free forever plan or a 21-day free trial of their paid plans, which are incredibly affordable and accessible for businesses of all sizes. However, they depend on the number of contacts you have, so keep that in mind. 

Their plans include:

  • Sprout — Free for up to 500 contacts with limited features
  • Garden — $49 per month for 1,000 contacts (ideal for growing teams)
  • Estate — $99 per month for 1,000 contacts (best for large teams)

Just remember the cost for each plan goes up after you max out your 1,000 contacts. 

#2 – Pardot by Salesforce Review — The best marketing automation software for B2B businesses

As a B2B business, you market to other companies, which presents a unique set of marketing challenges. As such, you need a marketing automation tool built for the job. 

Pardot exists to help B2B companies build relationships and turn those relationships into revenue. Plus, it’s a fantastic marketing automation software built around the world’s #1 CRM. 

So, you know you’re in good hands. 

From lead generation to sales alignment, the software offers a wide range of features, including:

  • Dynamic content and data-based personalization
  • Lead-nurturing email automations
  • Prospect and lead scoring
  • Visual multi-part automation creator
  • Advanced segmentation
  • Landing page builder
  • Smart forms + drag and drop builder
  • Social media scheduling, profiling, and analytics
  • Lead activity tracking
  • Campaign performance reporting
  • Lifecycle and funnel reporting
  • Pardot Einstein for lead and behavior scoring

Furthermore, over 2.8+ million worldwide users rely on Pardot for their marketing automation needs, making it one of the most popular platforms on this list. 

But it is a bit expensive, so it’s best suited for larger businesses. Their paid plans include:

  • Growth — $1,250/month for up to 10,000 contacts and basic features
  • Plus — $2,500/month for up to 10,000 contacts with deeper automation + analytics
  • Advanced — $4,000/month for up to 10,000 contacts with AI and all features
  • Premium — $15,000/month for up to 75,000 contacts with supercharge features

They also offer a few add-ons that come free in the Premium plan. Those add-ons include Salesforce Engage ($50/user per month), Analytics Plus ($3,000/month), and Engagement History ($300/year). 

All plans and add-ons are billed on an annual basis. 

#3 – ActiveCampaign Review — The best for email marketing automations

Email is one of the most important aspects of digital marketing. All the tools on this list include email marketing in one form or another, but ActiveCampaign specializes in it. 

So, it’s an excellent option if you want to hone in and focus on improving your email marketing strategy. It’s also a super affordable tool that includes numerous automation features for leads anywhere in your funnel.

With that said, they also offer omnichannel automation, including instant messaging and SMS, live chat, and Facebook. 

So, you’re not limited to just email marketing automation with ActiveCampaign. 

Their most popular features cover leads at every point in the funnel, including:

  • Engage – Automation maps, site tracking, and subscription forms
  • Nurture – List segmenting, dynamic/predictive content, and event tracking
  • Convert – Contact and lead scoring, split actions, and win probabilities
  • Support – Predictive sending, SMS, A/B split testing, and ecommerce 

You can also set up numerous types of emails like autoresponders, targeted or triggered emails, broadcasts, scheduled emails, and automated funnels. 

And you can design those emails using their intuitive drag and drop designer, or start from one of their 25+ pre-made mobile-responsive design templates. 

Whether you’re just getting started or interested in scaling and optimizing your email marketing strategy, ActiveCampaign is an excellent choice. They offer everything you need to capture, nurture, and close leads at scale. 

ActiveCampaign offers four plans, with the price of each starting at:

  1. Lite — $9 per month with up to three users
  2. Plus — $49 per month with up to 25 users
  3. Professional — $129 per month with up to 50 users
  4. Enterprise — $229 per month with unlimited users

Each tier includes more advanced features, and pricing is based on the size of your list, starting for up to 500 contacts. 

So, keep in mind that you will have to pay more than the prices above as your list grows. 

#4 – Acoustic Review — The best enterprise-grade multi-channel marketing automation software

Acoustic offers an array of marketing automation products for centralized cross-platform multi-channel marketing. From personalization and email campaigns to web content management and experience management, they offer something for everyone. 

Acoustic Campaign is their marketing automation tool, encompassing mobile apps, push notifications, SMS, group chats, social media, ads, email, print campaigns, and more. 

You can also combine this with Acoustic Personalization and Acoustic Analytics for a powerful combination of campaign management, data, and using that data to deliver the right message at the right time. 

With Acoustic Campaign, you get access to powerful features, including:

  • Drag and drop campaign builder
  • Action, logic, and AI-recommended triggers
  • Seamless mobile and digital channel campaigns
  • Lead management and scoring
  • Split A/B testing
  • Customer journey mapping
  • Planning and budgeting
  • One-to-one ads and lookalike audiences
  • Advanced personalization
  • Reporting and analytics

Furthermore, they have a community forum where you can publicly ask questions. They also provide an online academy packed full of educational videos and training so you can get the most of your custom automation package. 

Note: Acoustic is built for moderate to large volume campaigns with countless moving parts. So, it’s perfect for businesses managing complicated campaigns across numerous channels. 

But it’s overkill for a lot of businesses and anyone running single-channel campaigns. 

Pricing isn’t available online, and you have to schedule a consultation to learn more. So, keep in mind that you won’t be able to sign up and get started immediately. 

#5 – Hubspot Review — The best sales, customer service, and marketing automation software

If you’re looking for an easy way to automate your sales, customer service, and marketing processes, Hubspot Growth Suite is an excellent and affordable solution. 

And the best part? Hubspot goes beyond automating your business processes. It also helps integrate and optimize different departments in one centralized location, thus streamlining your entire business’s workflow. 

This means teams don’t have to jump from software to software to get the information they need, and you can automate the data transfer process from one team to the next. 

However, their marketing automation capabilities are powerful on their own, with features like:

  • Blog post and SEO planning
  • Ad tracking and management
  • Social media management
  • AI-powered live chat
  • Email marketing
  • Forms and landing pages
  • Revenue attribution reporting
  • Visual workflow builder
  • Account-based marketing
  • A/B split testing
  • Predictive lead scoring

Hubspot offers basic features, like emails, landing pages, forms, and live chat capabilities for unlimited users absolutely free. So, you can try it out without spending a penny. 

Alternatively, you can sign up for a free demo to see all of their advanced features in action. 

The Growth Suite (sales, marketing, CRM, and customer service) starts at $50 per month for two users and up to 1,000 contacts, making it extremely affordable for most businesses. 

But they also have advanced plans for larger and more complex campaigns, including:

  1. Professional — $1,275 per month for advanced features
  2. Enterprise — $4,
    Source: https://neilpatel.com/blog/best-marketing-automation-software/