Want to give your small business a marketing boost? Try one of the ideas below.
They’re inexpensive, and they work.
Here’s the list:
- Set up your Google Business Profile
- Get featured on local list posts
- Get listed on directories and marketplaces
- Get more reviews
- Target seasonal events
- Do SEO for your existing pages
- Run a giveaway of your product
- Partner with influencers
- Leverage existing pages and spaces
- Turn one-time purchases into subscriptions
- Bundle your products
- Create a referral program
- Set up drip campaigns
Basically, doing this will improve your rankings in local search queries and Google Maps.
Setting it up and optimizing it only take 30 minutes—a low-hanging fruit. If you’ve not done it yet, I’ll recommend you do it now.
Recommended reading: How to Optimize Google My Business in 30 Minutes
“Best of” lists exist for almost anything in almost any city. You can find the best spas in Singapore:
Or the best spin studios in London:
These pages usually get a decent amount of traffic and will expose your business to readers. So your goal is to appear on these pages, which feature lists that fall under topics relevant to your business.
Here’s how to find these pages to pitch:
- Install Ahrefs’ SEO Toolbar
- Search Google for something that’s likely to return relevant lists for your business
- Look for blog posts with traffic
For example, if you own a ramen restaurant in Singapore, you can search for “best ramen restaurant singapore.” This gives you a list of “best of” pages you can pitch to. Use the SEO Toolbar to see which of these pages get traffic:
If you find that you’re not featured on any of these pages, find the site owner’s or editor’s email address. Then give a pitch, requesting them to include your business. But don’t expect to be included just like that. You’ll usually have to invite them to sample your product or service.
Don’t just search for the most obvious terms. Try thinking out of the box too. For example, if you’re a glamping provider, the most obvious term may be “best glamping Singapore.”
But glamping is an awesome date idea too. So why not pitch to be included in topics like “best date ideas Singapore”? There are plenty of other ideas too: best outdoor activities in Singapore, best things to do in Singapore, best things to do with kids in Singapore, and so on.
Google is only one way people find businesses online. There are other directories and marketplaces people use too. For example, they may use Yelp to find restaurants, TripAdvisor to find hotels, or Avvo to find lawyers.
Likewise, your goal is to appear in any relevant directories so that people can easily find your business. To look for suitable directories, Google “[type of business] near me.” Then look for directories in the search results.
Another method is to use Ahrefs’ Link Intersect tool, which is a tool that shows you who’s linking to multiple competitors, but not you. Here’s how:
- Go to Link Intersect
- Enter a few of your competitors’ homepages in the top section
- Enter your website in the bottom section
Then, hit “Show link opportunities.”
Look through the list and see if there are any directories. For example, this site looks like it is a directory and links to all three competitors’ sites.
Go to the website and see how you can be added to the directory.
In all, 93% of consumers say that online reviews have influenced their purchase decisions. So the more positive reviews you have, the likelier it is for someone to buy from your business.
Not only that, typically speaking, if you want to rank higher on directories or marketplaces (#3), it is likely you’ll need more reviews. One thing, though: On most of the major directories, it is against guidelines to offer incentives for reviews. As a result, you may be penalized for doing so.
So how can you get more reviews?
The simplest way is to make it easy for people to review your business. Create a link that your customers can access easily so that they don’t have to figure things out. The fewer hoops to jump through, the more likely customers will leave a review for you.
The timing matters too. Ask them to review your business only if they have expressed satisfaction. It may be after a customer compliments you on the delicious food at your eatery or shares a positive Net Promoter Score (NPS) online.
No matter which country you reside in, there are plenty of seasonal occasions and events that people are willing to spend good money on. Examples include Valentine’s Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and Singles’ Day (Asia).
Your business should capitalize on people’s willingness to spend.
One way you can do this is to find seasonal topics and rank for them. Here’s how you can find these topics:
- Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
- Enter a few relevant keywords
- Go to the Matching terms report
- In the Include box, enter a few holiday keywords (e.g., Black Friday, Father’s Day) and choose Any word.
From here, eyeball the list for relevant topics you can target, then create content that ranks for it.
Recommended viewing: Holiday SEO Tips to Maximize Organic Traffic
One of the reasons is most of these pages aren’t optimized for SEO.
If you want to rank high on Google and get passive, organic traffic over time, you have to optimize your pages for SEO.
First, let’s start by identifying pages on your site that do not currently get any search traffic. Here’s how to do this:
- Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
- Enter your domain
- Go to Overview 2.0 and scroll to the Organic pages by traffic chart
Click on the “0” bar, and it’ll show you all the pages on your site that do not get any search traffic.
Look through the list and note down those pages that are important to you. They should be your priority. Then follow the guide below on how to improve your pages’ rankings.
Recommended reading: How to Rank Higher on Google (6 Easy Steps)
Everyone loves freebies. Give away your product—and you’ll get to promote it, raise brand awareness, and even collect email addresses along the way.
Doing a giveaway is pretty easy. Set it up with a free tool like KingSumo, and you’ll be good to go.
You can even gamify the giveaway by handing out more entries if participants complete a set of actions. The good news? KingSumo does this automatically for you too:
American entrepreneur Tim Ferriss sold out wild sardines and Mizzen+Main’s shirts after one podcast shout-out. Kpop singer Hwasa sold out dishes at a local restaurant in Korea after she was filmed eating there.
Work with influencers to tap into their audience. Their followers trust them and are happy to buy whatever the influencer recommends.
This happens at Ahrefs too. Even without an influencer marketing campaign, an endorsement from an industry expert has led to a significant boost in sign-ups:
There are plenty of ways you can work with influencers. For example, if you’re a restaurant owner, invite them for a tasting session. Or you can give them your product for free.
However, unpaid engagements mean the influencer may not be inclined to promote you. If you have the budget, you can work with them on a paid basis. You don’t have to work with celebrities. You can always work with nano or micro influencers to reach more people at lower costs.
You can even combine this idea with other ideas in this article. For example, you can get them to join your referral program (idea #12) or partner with them to do a giveaway (idea #7):
Recommended reading: Influencer Marketing in 2021: Definition, Examples, and Tactics
Thank-you pages, cart pages, email confirmation pages, receipts, and more. Most businesses just leave them as is, but they’re actually underutilized real estate.
More can be done with them. You can add upsells, add cross-sells, collect emails, ask for reviews, etc., on these pages.
For example, after you sign up for Ramit Sethi’s email list and click “confirm,” you’ll be redirected to a page where he offers you a few free downloadable resources and a link to check out his paid course.
Other examples include Amazon showing recommended or sponsored products on its cart page:
Pret A Manger offers a monthly coffee subscription for only £20.
If you’re a regular coffee drinker, this is an amazing deal. So why would Pret do this? A few reasons:
- Guaranteed income – A person may not drink Pret’s coffee every day. That represents a “potential” loss of income. A subscription model gives Pret a fixed amount of sales per month.
- Habit building – There are lots of coffee options in the U.K. Pret is only one of them. But someone with a Pret subscription becomes more likely to get coffee from Pret and, therefore, build a habit.
If you have a product or service that is bought regularly, consider asking customers if they want to turn their purchases into a recurring affair. Coffee is one such product, but there are more.
For example, Onnit asks customers if they want to buy supplements on a recurring basis, as opposed to just a one-off:
If providing a subscription is not applicable to your business, then you can always offer customers the option to buy a bundle.
For example, Beardbrand offers customers an option to buy a bundle of three beard oils (with a discount as an incentive):
Frank Body upsells its original coffee scrub by offering a scrub kit:
Some satisfied customers may naturally recommend your products to their friends. However, most need prodding. This is where you can use a referral program—create incentives that encourage customers to tell their friends about you.
The success of your referral program depends on the incentive. For that, you can either give away a cash or non-cash reward:
- Cash rewards – For every new customer someone refers, you give them and the person they referred $X. Neobank Revolut is one such example.
- Non-cash rewards – For every new customer someone refers, you give them and the person discounts, store credits, free products, or more. For example, MeUndies gives away a $20 discount off the next purchase with every successful referral.
Which one should you choose?
If your product is not something customers buy frequently (e.g., a mattress), then a cash reward may be more enticing. If the product is often bought (e.g., clothes), then store credits for the customers’ next purchase may be more exciting.
Recommended reading: 10+ Top E‑Commerce Referral Programs to Learn From
When someone signs up for your email list, they’re starting to like you. They’ve consumed one piece (or a few pieces) of your content, decided they enjoyed it, and signed up for more. But at this point, they may not exactly know what you do or what you sell.
Creating an email drip campaign can help nurture the subscriber, introduce them to your products, and (hopefully) get them to buy.
So what is a drip campaign?
Drip campaigns are a series of emails triggered automatically at specified intervals or after a user completes a specific action that you track. This can be as simple as introducing them to more of your content so that they become familiar with your brand (what we do at Ahrefs):
You can also create a multiday email series—like what Rhonda Patrick does after you sign up for her email list. In her first email, she offers immediate value: a free video and slide deck usually reserved for premium members:
She continues to send a few emails that feature premium content, giving subscribers a taste of the incredible value they’ll get:
Ten days and six emails later, Rhonda finally sends the call to action—sign up for her premium membership:
By then, you’d have received so much value from her that signing up is a no-brainer.
Think about the objectives you want to achieve with your emails. Then create an email sequence to bring your subscribers closer to that. But always remember to give value first—don’t just ask them to buy something from the get-go.
You can implement any of these ideas for your small business, but make sure they fit into your overall marketing strategy. Don’t chase a tactic for the sake of it. Remember that each one you execute should bring you one step closer to your marketing objectives.
Did I miss out on any cool small-business marketing tactics? Let me know on Twitter.
6 Things I Love About Zapier’s SEO Strategy: A Case Study
Zapier is an “automation platform.” If you look at this single phrase that defines its category, there is not much search demand: 200 monthly searches in the U.S. and around 1.1K globally. It doesn’t seem quite like a $144M ARR business opportunity. And judging by search demand, it’s not something you’ll promote with SEO.
Yet, Zapier’s blog alone brings 1.6M organic visits every month. That’s traffic worth about $3.7M and 67.5% of its overall organic traffic.
SEO is generally worth it if one of the following things is true:
- Potential customers are searching for what you sell or do.
- Potential customers are searching for solutions to problems your business helps to solve.
But there seems to be a third way. It’s when potential customers are searching for solutions you can improve upon or even disrupt. Zapier seems to follow this tactic exceptionally well.
The whole concept reminds me of using a back door. Here’s an example. This article about “to-do list” apps can’t possibly talk about Zapier directly because Zapier is not that kind of app.
So instead, the article introduces the app through a series of “back doors.” Here’s back door #1:
And back door #2:
There are even more back doors here leading to product marketing articles:
- Link to another blog post with more automation ideas
- Links to product landing pages explaining the entire integration with a given app (example)
- Link inside the “related reading” section
Why build these back doors? Because thanks to high-volume keywords and their long-tail…
… this one article gets 58.8K organic search visits monthly.
That’s a ton of traffic Zapier can channel to its money pages.
Add some more articles like that, and you’ve discovered the pattern behind the best-performing articles on Zapier’s blog.
But not only is the organic traffic impressive here. Rankings are too. There are 2,397 keywords with the “best” pattern ranking in positions #1–3 in the U.S. alone.
There’s more. Some of those “best” articles earned backlinks from hundreds of referring domains, including high-DR ones.
If you’ll like to replicate the “back door” tactic, the process can look something like this:
- Publish an article explaining a use case of your product
- Look for keywords with high search demand related to that use case
- Write an article directly targeting that high search volume keyword and insert a link to the article explaining the use case—that link is the back door
This way, searchers can get what they expect from an article directly targeting the broad keyword and then some more, thanks to your use case. Keep in mind, though, that some of those broader keywords can be tough to rank for.
There may be another approach to creating the back door. You can start from keyword research:
- Look for keywords with high search demand and are somehow related to your product
- See if your product can improve what people are searching for and write an article describing that use case (the back door)
- Write the article targeting the broad keyword and insert the back door inside the article
It may also be worth noting that this tactic is as good as the sign on the back door, i.e., the call to action. I mean, who wouldn’t want to automate their tasks for free?
Let’s take a look at the next biggest source of traffic after the blog.
So what are “apps”? That’s a bunch of product landing pages that get their traffic from pure demand for Zapier’s apps or features, right?
Not exactly. The main driver of traffic to those pages is demand for somebody else’s apps.
Zapier doesn’t simply list its apps. It lists other people’s app integrations with other people’s apps.
And if I’m not mistaken, we’re not necessarily talking about the demand that Zapier invented. We’re not talking about an out-of-the-blue invention like Metallica + Lady Gaga.
But why are we even talking about integrating Dropbox with Google Drive and not Dropbox and Zapier?
Here’s the thing. Zapier integrates with Dropbox, which can be integrated with YouTube, Gmail, Office 365, Notion, and tons of other apps. This means that Zapier integrates with the above apps too. On top of that, there are also three-way connections like Dropbox + Drive + Slack.
If that’s the actual functionality of the app and some of those connections have “impossible to ignore” search demand, then Zapier will need to create a landing page for each of those situations.
Guess what. That’s exactly what Zapier did. And it turned out beautifully, driving 16% of the entire organic traffic. Here are some of the top-performing integrations in terms of traffic.
Let’s see what’s inside that “apps folder.”
When you pick one of the apps, you get a landing page with a corresponding title, H1, and URL.
Then you add another app to the mix. Again, a landing page with custom H1 and URL.
But what if the customer wants to connect Google Sheets, Trello, AND Slack? This calls for another landing page (just one more connection before turning into a Rube Goldberg machine).
Perfect. However, the longer that “train” gets, the fewer keywords the consequent “wagons” rank for. The first page from the above gets an estimated 1.9K organic visits while ranking for 444 keywords. But the last page (Sheets-Trello-Slack) gets no organic traffic.
Thanks to programmatic SEO, Zapier was able to generate the pages instead of manually creating them. While the “human touch” quality of inserting unique content into each of those pages was provided by allowing owners of the apps to write it.
Check out Ryan’s case study to learn more about the effects of the programmatic approach over time. (Ryan started analyzing Zapier in 2018.) And while we’re at other Zapier case studies, this is also an interesting one by Jessica Greene: Does Updating Website Content Work? [Zapier Case Study].
Zapier uses this kind of landing pages to leverage branded search too.
Keyword research for “zapier” shows over 25K results in the U.S. And that list is full of branded keywords like these:
Most, if not all, of those keywords already have corresponding programmatically generated landing pages.
By the way, I won’t be surprised if it uses keyword research for market research. It can just see what people plug in Google to invite new partners or build new features.
There are probably multiple takeaways here. But the main one is search intent, if you ask me.
Zapier’s app landing pages get so much traffic from other people’s branded keywords because those pages align with search intent flawlessly.
If you look at the SERP for “google sheet integrations,” there are hardly any content types different from a product landing page. So the investment in devising a system to generate all of those app landing pages seems to work really well. Good thing Zapier didn’t try to target those with how-to blog posts. Blog posts likely don’t stand a chance here.
By the way, I find it fascinating that its Google Sheets integrations landing page ranks at #12 for simply “google sheets.”
I wonder if there’s anything SEO-wise it can do to jump back to the top 10 like in 2018.
What I call a self-building content hub (aka topic cluster) is a situation where you organize your existing content into a content hub structure and link new related content (subpages) as you create it.
Using this strategy, you can commit to creating more content only if the subpages make sense themselves. In other words, you don’t need to take big risks investing in creating or expanding a content hub.
Let’s look at the big picture to give this more context.
Some content marketers build topic clusters in a set-and-forget approach. You see an opportunity, design a topic cluster, build it, and that’s it. You never or hardly ever come back to it.
Nothing wrong with that.
But here’s the thing. If you continue to create more content on the same topic, that means that the initial cluster has been expanding all along. And a bigger topic cluster is usually a better topic cluster because it’s more comprehensive. All you need to do is to make the connection like Zapier does.
To illustrate, we’ve got this guide (a topic cluster, technically speaking) on remote work. In 2017, it was a set of 14 links. It contained only content developed specially for that hub.
But Zapier hasn’t stopped publishing more stuff about remote work. It’s been busy with creating more guides, listicles, videos, case studies, and reports.
So it’s included links to all of that new content in the hub. And right now, some five years later, that list of 14 links has grown to over 50 links and some embedded videos. All of them organized into seven categories, plus the initial guide from 2017.
But why create a content hub in the first place?
So let’s imagine it hadn’t created that cluster at all. Then it wouldn’t have amassed 4.4K backlinks from 1.1K domains to date. Nor would it have reached the point of 1.1K organic traffic every month to that single page. And that’s on top of the results that each of the linked subpages gets.
And like I said, Zapier doesn’t need to create more content for the hub. As it creates content, it can simply link subpages that make sense to the hub.
What if it hadn’t added all of those additional links to the cluster? That’s a tougher question to answer. But I guess that is part of the reason why referring domains to the pillar page keep growing steadily over the years. After all, adding more helpful content should make the hub more attractive, hence link-worthy.
Let’s not forget those links are, in fact, internal links that distribute link equity from the pillar page to the linked pages.
All in all, the whole structure of this topic cluster reinforces itself. More content makes the topic cluster more helpful and link-worthy. And when the pillar page gets backlinks, it “gives back” to the linked content by distributing link equity.
Simply put, consider creating a content hub utilizing your existing content. You can then expand it with new subpages only if they make sense themselves.
Have a content hub already? See if there is any additional content you can link to on the pillar page.
Of course, creating a content hub from scratch is still a good idea. That’s what Zapier initially did and then expanded. As we can see from its results, it creates a new “entity” able to generate backlinks and traffic on its own.
Original research makes great link bait.
But what makes original research good enough to make people link?
This Zapier research shows that it’s not necessarily about the length of the study.
Excuse me while I use a completely made-up metric. But just to show how “efficient” that link bait is, there are 1.5 domains linking to that page per every word used to describe it. That’s including the title and the methodology note.
But are the linking domains any good?
Here are some of the +90 DR domains linking to this 637-word research, along with their traffic:
I think this bite-sized research is so powerful because:
- It answers a really well-posed question: How many Americans had a side hustle?
- Side hustles are a sign of the times.
- The research gets right to the point. It starts with the most important thing (the answer).
- There are graphics that tell the story, just waiting to be shared by linkers.
- After all of that goodness, I don’t think anybody has any problems with the study content including a soft PR pitch of Zapier and a few relevant links to its content. Naturally, those links help to distribute link equity.
Original research can get you hundreds or even thousands of links. But doing that is no small feat.
However, Zapier shows that this kind of content doesn’t have to be long to get a ton of links. You don’t even need to do it yourself (Zapier outsourced its own).
Just make your research timely, important to your target audience and/or the audience you want to pitch to, and get right to the point.
Some “auto promotion” here and there likely won’t be frowned upon. But first, give people what they came for.
Oh, and don’t worry if your report won’t take off on social media.
Remember that one of the reasons people use social media is entertainment. Even LinkedIn.
What struck me about Zapier’s SEO is how everything is densely interlinked.
- Links inside the blog posts to other content and product features.
- Links inside content hubs.
- Links from original reports.
- Links as breadcrumbs in the app directory.
- Links to selected content on the homepage.
And it matters because internal links help pages rank higher. Google utilizes internal links to:
- Discover new pages.
- Pass link equity between pages.
- Understand what a page is about.
But keep in mind these two caveats to using internal links:
- Theoretically, the more links you have on the page, the more they will compete with each other for clicks and “dilute” the authority transferred to other pages. So just watch out for “spamming” your pages with internal links.
- Too many internal links, especially inside the content of an article, can lead to poorer UX.
If Zapier is so good at SEO, why does it create content that gets little-to-no search traffic? Sometimes, those articles don’t even have any kind of search demand.
And why are they so… unrelated? Examples:
- Don’t work more when you work from home.
- How to be a good co-worker to your pets.
- Why I replaced my morning coffee with a cup of warm water.
- What a giant pile of laundry taught me about productivity.
- How a mid-day walk changed my energy levels—at work and at home.
Clearly, these articles haven’t been created for SEO reasons…
By no means is this an attempt to troll Zapier. I get it. All of the above titles are certainly an interesting read for people concerned about productivity and well-being.
My point is that while Zapier is great in SEO, it doesn’t make its content marketing only about ranking for keywords with traffic potential.
When you tie only SEO goals to your content marketing, you risk creating an operations-centric approach instead of a customer-centric approach.
A customer-centric approach is when you know certain topics interest your audience, so you pursue them. Even if they have 0 search volume and you won’t rank in a million years. But hey, your audience will still appreciate your effort.
One condition, though: You need to have a way to communicate with your audience directly, such as a newsletter.
When you’re great at SEO content, there is a temptation to focus only on SEO content that “converts.” It’s good to know where to draw the line.
If you’re trying to nurture an audience, develop a relationship with them, make them read every newsletter you send them, and make them trust and recommend your blog, then maybe it’s a good idea to take a step back and think outside of keyword research.
So if you have an opportunity to publish an interesting article that won’t necessarily bring you organic traffic, it still may be worth it if you can promote it via your direct marketing channels.
I’ve heard a couple of times from different marketers that they don’t pursue SEO because they are in “a new niche with no search demand yet.” I think Zapier’s case shows that if you dig a little deeper, you may hit a motherload of SEO opportunities. But you may need to enter through the “back door.”
After all, theoretically, there must be some kind of market demand that you’re building your product on. And if there’s market demand, you will likely find search demand.
Got questions or comments? Ping me on Twitter.
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