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Local SEO: The Complete Guide

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Local SEO: The Complete Guide

Local SEO is the way forward if you want to get more customers to your local business from organic search.

But what is local SEO, how does it work, and which ranking factors matter?

In this guide, you’ll learn how to rank your business on local search to get more customers through your door.

Chapter 1. Local SEO basics

First, let’s explore what local SEO is, why it matters, and how it differs from “regular” SEO.

What is local SEO?

Local SEO is the practice of improving your online presence to get more business from local searches. These searches take place on many search engines, but local SEO focuses on optimizing for Google users.

Why is local SEO important?

Local SEO is important because many people use search engines to find local businesses.

In fact, according to Google:

  • 30% of all mobile searches are related to location.
  • 78% of people who search for something nearby on their phones visit the business within a day.
  • 28% of searches for something nearby result in a purchase.

In short, customers are searching for your business. If you’re not there, you’re leaving money on the table.

How does local SEO work?

Local SEO is a game of two halves because Google shows two types of search results for local searches. These are “map pack” results and organic “blue link” results. You can rank on both of them.

Infographic of types of results on Google SERP

Map pack results

The map pack (aka local pack) is a Google SERP feature that shows the top local business listings and a map. It often appears at the very top of Google’s search results for local searches.

Organic search results

The “regular” organic search results are the “10 blue links” that we’re all familiar with. They usually appear below the “map pack” results.

Chapter 2. Local SEO keyword research

Local keyword research is the process of understanding how people search for the local services you offer.

It’s important because you want to optimize for what people search for. 

Let’s go through how to do this.

1. Find service-based keywords

Most people don’t think about the different ways that others may search for what they do.

For example, if you’re a plumber, some customers will find you by typing “plumber” into Google. But others will search for queries relating to specific services like “drain unblocking.”

For that reason, you should begin by brainstorming and listing the services you offer. This will help you maximize your presence for queries your customers are searching for.

Here’s what that can look like for a plumber:

  • Drain unblocking
  • Boiler repair
  • Boiler installation
  • Boiler servicing
  • Radiator installation
  • Burst pipe repair

To expand this list, use the service keywords as “seeds” to find more services people are searching for.

For example, if we plug the services above into Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and check the Matching terms report, we see keywords like:

  • gas boiler installation
  • combi boiler installation
  • electric boiler installation

Matching terms report results

If you offer those services, you may also want to consider targeting these keywords.

Here’s another way to find “missed” keywords:

Plug a competing business into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, go to the Top pages report, and look for URLs that map to services.

Top pages report results

2. Check search volumes

​​Keyword research tools show you national search volumes. If you want search volumes for your state, city, or town, you’ll have to use Google Keyword Planner.

GKP results with location turned on

Unfortunately, Keyword Planner has its issues:

  1. It shows broad search volume ranges (e.g., 1K-10K), not absolute numbers.
  2. It groups keywords and shows a combined rounded search volume.

For that reason, checking the relative popularity of keywords at the national level tends to be more productive. This is because what happens in one city is likely to be similar in the next.

You can do this with a keyword research tool like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.

For example, the tool tells us that more people search for “boiler repair” than “boiler installation” in the U.K.:

Keyword Explorer search results

This is probably the case whichever city we’re in, so it’s an excellent way to prioritize keywords.

3. Check for local intent

Local intent means that searchers want to shop nearby. If that isn’t the case for your services, it’s not a local SEO opportunity.

To check a query for local intent, Google it and check the results.

If there’s a map pack and/or some local “blue link” results, it has local intent.

Google SERP for "boiler installation"; map pack and "blue link" result can be seen

If there are no map pack and local “blue link” results, it doesn’t have local intent.

No map pack and no local "blue link" results

You can still target keywords without local intent, but it’s not a job for local SEO.

4. Assign keywords to pages

Your homepage is unlikely to rank for all your service keywords. So you’ll need to target some with separate pages.

To assign keywords to URLs, think about which services they map to.

If they map to very different services, such as “boiler installation” and “burst pipe repair,” assign them to separate pages.

If they map to the same service, such as “drain unblocking” and “drain unclogging,” assign them to the same page.

You can learn more about this process in our local keyword research guide below.

Learn more: How to Do Local Keyword Research

Chapter 3. Local SEO ranking factors

You may recall that local SEO is a game of two halves because there are two ways to rank. The first is the map pack, and the second is the “regular” organic results.

Ranking factors vary depending on where you want to rank—but some are important for both.

Venn diagram showing some ranking factors "overlap," i.e., some factors are important to both "map pack" and "regular" results

Below, we’ll look at what SEOs believe are the most important factors for each.

Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business)

A Google Business Profile is a local listing with information about your business. It’s free and allows your business to appear in the map pack and Google Maps.

What SEOs say

In all, 36% of SEOs think your Google Business Profile is the most important ranking factor for the map pack. And 6% believe that it’s important for the “regular” organic results. That’s according to BrightLocal’s survey.

Bar graph showing percentage of SEOs who think GBP is most important ranking factor for "map pack" and "regular" results, respectively

This isn’t surprising, as you need a Google Business Profile to stand any chance of ranking on the map pack.

Business Profile signals are increasing in their perceived importance for the map pack over time too.

Table showing perceived importance of GBP signals over time for map pack and "regular" results, respectively

Beyond rankings, Google states that customers are 70% more likely to visit businesses with a complete Business Profile. They’re also 50% more likely to consider buying from them. So it’s clear that a complete and optimized Business Profile is essential if you want to attract more business.

Best practices

Many of these best practices come from Google itself:

  • Be specific when setting your business category
  • Set your business hours (including holiday hours)
  • Add your address (if you have a storefront)
  • Set your service area (if you visit or deliver to customers and clients)
  • Add the products or services you offer
  • Add photos
  • Ask customers for reviews

Learn more: How to Optimize Your Google My Business Listing in 30 Minutes

NAP citations

A NAP citation mentions your business’s name, address, and phone number online. They usually appear on business directories and social media profiles.

Sidenote.

There are also NAPW citations that mention your website. 

What SEOs say

BrightLocal’s 2021 study shows that 7% of SEOs think citations are the most important ranking factor. That’s true for both the “map pack” and “regular” results.

Bar graph showing percentage of SEOs who think citations are most important ranking factor for "map pack" and "regular" results, respectively

In other words, they’re somewhat important—but not as important as they used to be.

The perceived importance of citations among SEOs has been declining since 2014.

Table showing perceived importance of citation signals over time for map pack and "regular" results, respectively

That said, citations can still help searchers discover your business online. This is because directories often rank on the search results for local queries. So if you’re in those directories, the people who click on them in the search results may find your business. 

Best practices

  • Get listed with big data aggregators (in the U.S., these are Data Axle, Localeze, and Foursquare)
  • Submit to other big players (in the U.S., these include Apple Maps, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Bing Places, and Facebook)
  • Submit to other popular directories in your local area and industry
  • Keep your citations consistent (same name, address, phone number) everywhere

Learn more: How to Build Local Citations (Complete Guide)

TIP

Here’s a quick way to find industry and local directories:

  1. Paste your homepage into Site Explorer
  2. Go to Link Intersect
  3. Enter the homepages of a few competing businesses in your area
  4. Set the search mode to “URL” for all targets
  5. Click “Show link opportunities”

This will show you sites linking to one or more of your competitors, but not you.

Link Intersect report results

If a website links to many competitors, it’s probably a directory where you can also add a listing.

Reviews 

Reviews refer to the quantity and quality of reviews on your Google Business Profile and elsewhere online.

What SEOs say

BrightLocal’s 2021 study shows that 17% of SEOs deem reviews the most important ranking factor for map pack rankings. But only 5% see them as most important for regular organic rankings.

Bar graph showing percentage of SEOs who think reviews are most important ranking factor for "map pack" and "regular" results, respectively

Reviews have also grown in their perceived importance for map pack rankings over the past few years.

Table showing perceived importance of reviews over time for map pack and "regular" results, respectively

But reviews aren’t only about rankings. Getting reviews on your Google Business Profile and elsewhere builds trust with Google and customers.

Best practices

Many of these best practices for getting more reviews come from Google itself:

  • Remind customers to leave reviews (you can create and share a review link in Google Business Manager)
  • Focus on getting reviews on your Google Business Profile
  • Respond to reviews to build trust (you’ll need a verified Google Business Profile to do this)
  • Don’t offer or accept money in exchange for reviews (it’s against Google’s terms)
  • Don’t discourage bad reviews or request good reviews from customers (it’s against Google’s terms)

Links

Links act like votes for your site from other websites.

What SEOs say

BrightLocal’s study shows that 31% of SEOs deem links the most important signal for ranking on regular organic search. And 13% think the same for map pack rankings.

Bar graph showing percentage of SEOs who think links are most important ranking factor for "map pack" and "regular" results, respectively

For many, this won’t come as much of a surprise. In 2016, Google said that backlinks are one of their top three ranking factors. Plus, many studies have found a strong correlation between links and organic traffic.

Line graph showing the more referring domains, the higher the search traffic

Links are increasing in their perceived importance for “regular” local rankings over time too. But their perceived importance for “map pack” rankings has stayed roughly the same.

Table showing perceived importance of links over time for map pack and "regular" results, respectively

Best practices

  • Get links from other top-ranking sites
  • Get links your competitors have (use Ahrefs’ Link Intersect tool for this)
  • Get local citations (these often have links)
  • Claim unlinked mentions
  • Reclaim lost links by redirecting old versions of your pages to new versions

Learn more: 9 Easy Local Link Building Tactics

On-page

On-page SEO is where you make changes to the content of a page to help it rank higher on organic search results.

What SEOs say

BrightLocal’s study shows that 34% of SEOs think on-page signals are the most important factor for regular organic search. And 16% believe it’s the most important factor for map pack rankings.

Bar graph showing percentage of SEOs who think on-page SEO is most important ranking factor for "map pack" and "regular" results, respectively

On-page signals are also growing in their perceived importance for local SEO. You can see this from the results of BrightLocal’s previous surveys.

Table showing perceived importance of on-page SEO over time for map pack and "regular" results, respectively

Best practices

TIP

One way to find details that matter to searchers is to check what top-ranking pages in your area talk about. You can do this by looking at the pages. Or you can use Keywords Explorer to find keywords mentioned on the top-ranking pages.

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Enter [service keyword] [location] (e.g., “boiler repair london”)
  2. Go to the Related terms report
  3. Hit the toggles for “Also talk about” and “Top 10”
Related terms report results

Here are some of the frequently mentioned keywords on the top-ranking pages for “boiler repair london” and what they likely infer:

  • "gas safe” – Searchers probably want an engineer who’s on the Gas Safe Register, the official gas safety body in the U.K.
  • "greater london” – Searchers probably want to know whether the business supplies this service in their area.
  • "gas boiler” – Searchers probably want to know whether the business can repair their type of boiler.
  • "emergency call” – Searchers probably want to know whether the business does emergency callouts.

It would be worth mentioning these things on your page.

Recommended reading: On-Page SEO: Complete Beginner’s Guide

Chapter 4. Local SEO tools

Let’s bring things to a close with a few local SEO tools you may find useful.

Google Business Manager

Google Business Manager, formerly Google My Business, is how you manage your Google Business Profile. Signing up for it is completely free and is something every local business owner should use.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a free tool for monitoring your website’s search performance. It tells you how much search traffic you’re getting, where it’s going, and what keywords it’s coming from.

Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker

Rank Tracker lets you track up to 10,000 keyword rankings for “regular” organic search by country, state, city, and even ZIP/postal code.

Ahrefs Link Intersect

Our Link Intersect tool lets you find websites that link to multiple competitors. This is useful for finding relevant local and industry-specific citations.

Grid My Business

Grid My Business shows map pack ranking positions for a keyword in the area around your business. It’s freemium and is useful for understanding if and where local searchers are likely to see your business.

Yext

Yext is a tool for syncing and managing business information across multiple listings. It’s useful for keeping citations consistent, although you can do this manually.

Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is a free keyword research tool from Google. It’s a useful source of search volume ranges at the local level.

Keep learning

Hopefully, you now have a pretty good understanding of how local SEO works. If you want to dig deeper and continue learning, check out these resources:

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SEO

Bing Revamps Crawl System To Enhance Efficiency

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Bing Revamps Crawl System To Enhance Efficiency

According to a recent study by Bing, most websites have XML sitemaps, with the “lastmod” tag being the most critical component of these sitemaps.

The “lastmod” tag indicates the last time the webpages linked by the sitemap were modified and is used by search engines to determine how often to crawl a site and which pages to index.

However, the study also revealed that a significant number of “lastmod” values in XML sitemaps were set incorrectly, with the most prevalent issue being identical dates on all sitemaps.

Upon consulting with web admins, Microsoft discovered that the dates were set to the date of sitemap generation rather than content modification.

To address this issue, Bing is revamping its crawl scheduling stack to better utilize the information provided by the “lastmod” tag in sitemaps.

This will improve crawl efficiency by reducing unnecessary crawling of unchanged content and prioritizing recently updated content.

The improvements have already begun on a limited scale and are expected to roll out by June fully.

Additionally, Microsoft has updated sitemap.org for improved clarity by adding the following line:

“Note that the date must be set to the date the linked page was last modified, not when the sitemap is generated.”

How To Use The Lastmod Tag Correctly

To correctly set the “lastmod” tag in a sitemap, you should include it in the <url> tag for each page in the sitemap.

The date should be in W3C Datetime format, with the most commonly used formats being YYYY-MM-DD or YYYY-MM-DDThh:mm:ssTZD.

The date should reflect the last time the page was modified and should be updated regularly to ensure that search engines understand the relevance and frequency of updates.

Here’s an example code snippet:

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>

<urlset xmlns=”http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9″>

   <url>

      <loc>http://www.example.com/</loc>

      <lastmod>2023-01-23</lastmod>      

   </url>

Google’s Advice: Use Lastmod Tag After Significant Changes Only

Google’s crawlers also utilize the “lastmod” tag, and the suggestions on using it by both major search engines are similar.

Google Search Advocate John Mueller recently discussed the lastmod tag in the January edition of Google’s office-hours Q&A sessions.

It’s worth noting that Google recommends only using the “lastmod” tag for substantial modifications, which was not mentioned in Microsoft’s blog post.

Changing the date in the lastmod tag after minor edits can be viewed as an attempt to manipulate search snippets.

In Summary

Microsoft’s recent study and efforts to improve the utilization of the “lastmod” tag in sitemaps will result in more efficient and effective webpage crawling.

Publishers are encouraged to regularly update their sitemaps and lastmod tags to ensure that their pages are correctly indexed and easily accessible by search engines.


Featured Image: mundissima/Shutterstock

Source: Microsoft



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Everything You Need To Know

Now more than ever, marketing and sales leaders are taking a critical look at where to allocate their resources and how to staff their teams.

Attribution modeling is one of the best tools for providing clear guidance on what’s working, and what isn’t.

What Is Marketing Attribution?

Marketing attribution is the approach to understanding how various marketing and sales touchpoints influence the prospects’ move from visitor, to lead, to customer.

By implementing attribution in your organization, you’ll have a better idea of:

  • Which channels are most influential during different phases of the sales cycle.
  • Which content formats are more or less impactful in your marketing or sales enablement efforts.
  • Which campaigns drove the most revenue and return on investment (ROI).
  • The most common sequence of online or offline events that prospects interact with before becoming a customer.

Why Is Attribution Important In Marketing?

Analyzing attribution data provides you with an understanding of which marketing, sales, and customer success efforts are contributing most effectively and efficiently toward revenue generation.

Attribution modeling helps you identify opportunities for growth and improvement, while also informing budget allocation decisions.

With accurate attribution models, marketers are able to make more informed decisions about their campaigns, which has allowed them to increase ROI and reduce wasted budgets on ineffective strategies.

What Are The Challenges Of Marketing Attribution?

Developing a perfect attribution model that guides all of your decisions is a pipedream for most marketers.

Here are five challenges that result in inconclusive data models or total project abandonment:

Cross-Channel Management

This is a common challenge for enterprise marketers who have web assets across multiple websites, channels, and teams.

Without proper analytics tagging and system settings configuration, your web activities may not be tracked accurately as a visitor goes from one campaign micro-site to the main domain.

Or, the prospect may not be tracked as they go from your website to get directions to then go to your physical storefront to transact.

Making Decisions Based On Small Sample Sizes

For smaller trafficked websites, marketers using attribution data may not have statistically significant data sets to draw accurate correlations for future campaigns.

This results in faulty assumptions and the inability to repeat prior success.

Lack Of Tracking Compliance

If your attribution models rely on offline activities, then you may require manual imports of data or proper logging of sales activities.

From my experience in overseeing hundreds of CRM implementations, there is always some level of non-compliance in logging activities (like calls, meetings, or emails). This leads to skewed attribution models.

Mo‘ models, mo’ problems: Each analytics platform has a set of five or more attribution models you can use to optimize your campaigns around.

Without a clear understanding of the pros and cons of each model, the person building the attribution reporting may not be structuring or configuring them to align with your organizational goals.

Data Privacy

Since GDPR, CCPA, and other privacy laws were enacted, analytics data continues to get murkier each year.

For organizations that rely on web visitors to opt-in to tracking, attribution modeling suffers due to the inability to pull in tracking for every touchpoint.

How Do You Measure Marketing Attribution?

Measuring attribution is all about giving credit where it is due. There are dozens of attribution tools out there to assign credit to the digital or offline touchpoint.

Attribution measurement starts with choosing the data model that aligns with your business goals.

Certain attribution models favor interactions earlier on in the customer journey whereas others give the most credit towards interactions closer to a transaction.

Here is a scenario of how to measure marketing attribution in a first-touch attribution model (we’ll get to the different models next):

A prospect comes to the website through a paid search ad and reads the blog.

Two days later, she comes back to the site and views a couple of product pages.

Three days later, she comes back through an organic listing from Google and then converts on the site by signing up for a discount coupon.

With a first-touch attribution model, the paid search ad will get 100% of the credit for that conversion.

As you can see, choosing the “right” model can be a contentious issue, as each model gives a percentage of credit to a specific interaction or placement along the path toward becoming a customer.

If your business relies on paid search, SEO, offline, and other channels, then likely one of the individuals working on one of those channels is going to look like the superhero, whereas the other marketers will look like they aren’t pulling their weight.

Ideally, when you are choosing an attribution tool, you’ll be able to build reports that allow you to compare various attribution models, so you have a better understanding of which channels and interactions are most influential during certain time periods leading up to conversion or purchase.

What Are Different Marketing Attribution Models?

Marketers can use various marketing attribution models to examine the effectiveness of their campaigns.

Each attribution tool has will have a handful of models you can optimize campaigns and build reports around. Here is a description of each model:

First-Click Attribution

This model gives credit to the first channel that the customer interacted with.

This model is popular to use when optimizing for brand awareness and top-of-funnel conversions/engagement.

Last-Click Attribution

This model gives all of the credit to the last channel that the customer interacts with.

This model is useful when looking to understand which channels/interactions were most influential immediately before converting/purchasing.

Last-click attribution is the default attribution model for Google Analytics.

Multi-Touch/Channel Attribution

This model gives credit to all of the channels or touchpoints that the customer interacted with throughout their journey.

This model is used when you are looking to give weight evenly or to specific interactions.

There are variations of the multi-touch model including time-decay, linear, U-shaped, W-shaped, and J-shaped.

Customized

This model allows you to manually set the weight for individual channels or placements within the customer journey.

This model is best for organizations that have experience in using attribution modeling, and have clear goals for what touchpoints are most impactful in the buyers’ journey.

Marketing Attribution Tools

There are several different tools available to help marketers measure and analyze marketing attribution. Some attribution tools are features within marketing automation platforms or CRM systems like Active Campaign or HubSpot.

Others are stand-alone attribution tools that rely on API or integrations to pull in and analyze data, like Triple Whale eller Dreamdata.

As you are evaluating tools, consider how much offline or sales data needs to be included within your attribution models.

For systems like HubSpot, you can include sales activities (like phone calls and 1:1 sales emails) and offline list import data (from tradeshows).

Other tools, like Google Analytics, are not natively built to pull in that kind of data and would require advanced development work to include these activities as part of your model.

(Full disclosure: I work with HubSpot’s highest-rated partner agency, SmartBug Media.)

Additionally, if you need to be able to see the very specific touchpoints (like a specific email sent or an ad clicked), then you need a full-funnel attribution system that shows this level of granularity.

Attribution modeling is a powerful tool that marketers can use to measure the success of their campaigns, optimize online/offline channels, and improve customer interactions.

It is important, though, to understand attribution’s limitations, the pros and cons of each model, and the challenges with extracting conclusive data before investing large budgets towards attribution technology.

Fler resurser: 


Featured Image: Yuriy K/Shutterstock



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Lead Generation: How To Get Started

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Lead Generation: How To Get Started

Today’s consumers have an almost limitless amount of information at their fingertips. Podcasts, videos, blog posts, and social media – are just a few of the sources that can drive them toward one brand over another.

If it’s your job to attract these potential customers, you know the struggles of generating high-quality leads.

In this piece, we’ll take a closer look at lead generation, discussing the different types of leads you could attract and providing some strategies and examples for lead gen that you can put to use right away.

What Is Lead Generation?

Lead generation is a marketing process of capturing potential consumers who show interest in your product or service.

The goal is to connect with people early in the buying process, earn their trust and build a relationship so that, when they’re ready to make a purchase, they buy from you.

But lead generation also serves secondary objectives, including building brand awareness, collecting customer data, and fostering brand loyalty.

With this in mind, it’s important to remember that not everyone who visits your store or website is a lead.

That’s why successful lead gen goes after specific targets, using a variety of platforms and strategies including:

  • Landing pages – Using a tracking pixel, landing pages collect information about visitors you can later use to target them for sales.
  • Email – Email is a great lead generation tool because the recipients will have opted in, which means they’re already familiar with your brand.
  • Social media – With unmatched opportunities for engagement, your social media accounts are a great way to encourage your targets to take action.
  • Blogs – A great way to establish authority and provide value, blogs are also a great place to promote specific offers.
  • Live events – When it comes to qualifying leads, live events are a great way to meet your target audience and quickly identify the ones more likely to make a purchase.
  • Coupons and other promotions – Offering a discount or free item is a great way to encourage targets to provide their contact information.

What will ultimately work best for you will depend on your niche and your audience.

As you experiment with different lead generation strategies, you may find one more successful than the others. This means you should probably make that channel your priority, whereas others may not be of any use at all.

But we’ll get to all that later.

First, let’s talk about leads.

The Different Types Of Leads

Sales is the engine that drives any business. Without sales, there’s no revenue. Without revenue, there’s no business. So, it’s kind of important.

But it’s a massive field. The approach a medical monitoring sensor salesperson takes is going to be very different from a used car salesman.

But both of them – and every other sales professional for that matter – have one thing in common: they need to spend most of their time pursuing the people who are most likely to buy.

In general, leads fall into seven categories:

  • Hot Leads – These leads are ready to convert. They are qualified and interested in your offering, and are the most likely to convert to a sale. For example, this might be the purchasing director who has had several conversations with you and received a product demo. They have purchasing authority and a timeline.
  • Cold Leads – These are potential customers who may be unfamiliar with your brand or offering. As of yet, they have shown no interest in what you’re selling. Generally speaking, these are the hardest leads to convert to sales.
  • Warm Leads – A middle ground between the two previous types of leads, these are people who are familiar with who you are and what you offer. They’re the type who watch your videos or read your blogs, but haven’t contacted you directly. Your goal is to warm them up into hot leads.
  • Information Qualified Leads (IQLs) – This is the kind of lead who has already shown some interest in your company and has followed a call to action. Maybe they signed up for your email newsletter or filled out a lead generation form. They are often looking for more information and will react positively to a nurturing campaign.
  • Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) – MQLs are one step further down the pipeline from IQLs. They are actively searching for a solution that fits their needs, and are trying to discover if yours is the right fit. These are the types of leads who will download your whitepapers, watch your videos, and attend your corporate seminars.
  • Sales Ready Leads (SRLs) – Sometimes called “accepted leads,” these are the bottom-of-the-funnel leads who are almost ready to pull the trigger on a purchase. It’s important to understand their budgets, purchasing authority, needs, and timeframe.
  • Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) – These leads are ready to buy and should be in communication with your sales team. They are considered very hot, however, you should be aware that they are likely still considering some of your competitors.

The Lead Generation Process

As you have probably gathered by this point, lead generation is a multiple-step process.

Yours will vary, depending on whether you’re focusing on inbound or outbound generation – but both should follow a similar pathway.

Step 1: Do Your Research

Before you start trying to collect leads, you need to gather as much information as possible about your target audience. You want to know not just who they are, but where they live, what’s important to them, and most importantly, what their pain points are, particularly those that are the most pressing.

It’s often a good idea to create customer personas, in which you define the demographics, budget, and needs of typical customers. You may want to consider social habits, professional experience, and even psychological traits.

Once you know who you’re going after, it’s time to identify where they are. Are they active on Facebook, or more likely to respond to an email? Again, this will vary depending on your specific circumstances.

This is also the stage where you should check out the competition. What are they doing? What differentiates your offering from theirs? And most importantly, why is it better?

Step 2: Create Great Content

By now, you should know what needs your offering fills for your potential customers. Use this information to create content that solves it.

Your choice of medium will affect your content format. For example, videos work great on social media, but you can’t embed them in an email.

Likewise, if you’re going after your target audience on Twitter, your lengthy blogs are going to need to be linked to, or at the very least truncated.

Never forget your focus is on adding value. Each piece of content you create should serve a specific purpose, whether that’s educating your audience about your offering, building brand awareness or promoting a sale.

Step 3: Develop A Lead Generation Database

You can have the hottest leads on the planet, but they won’t do you a bit of good if you don’t handle them the right way.

You should create and use a lead database where you can record, study, filter, and segment your potential customers.

Ideally, you’ll want to get an automated CRM system to dramatically reduce the labor involved with this.

Most of these will allow you to tag leads based on the type and how hot they are. This allows your sales team to work through their lists in a more efficient manner, dedicating the most attention to those with the biggest chance of converting.

Step 4: Qualify And Score Leads

Not all leads are going to be in the same place in the sales funnel. Some will be ready to buy today, while others may just be getting an idea of what’s out there.

You need to adjust your approach based on this.

Most companies use a lead scoring system of 1-100, which indicates approximately where the lead is in the customer journey. They are assigned points based on their actions, with more serious actions resulting in more points.

For example, following your Facebook page could be worth 10 points, filling out a “Request a demo” form might be worth 20, and opening and reading an email could be 5. If a lead does all three of these, their lead score would be 35.

These numbers will give you a general idea of where they are from the following stages:

  • New leads, who have just made initial contact.
  • Working leads, with whom you have had contact and initiated a conversation.
  • Nurturing leads, who are not interested in buying right now, but might in the future.
  • Unqualified leads, who are not interested in your offering. These are sometimes called “dead leads.”
  • Qualified leads, or those who want to do business with you.

Obviously, you should focus more time and energy on the leads that have a higher probability of converting.

Lead Generation Strategies And Examples

The ways you can generate leads are practically endless, but in this section, we’ll discuss some of the more common strategies you can employ, plus give you examples of them at work.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is the practice of creating engaging and informative content that provides value for leads and customers, thereby generating interest in a business.

This can span both traditional and digital marketing, and is an important part of any successful marketing strategy. It can include things like newsletters, podcasts, videos, and social media.

You can use content marketing for any stage of the sales funnel, from growing brand awareness with timely blogs, creating demand or demonstrating thought leadership with white papers, driving organic traffic via SEO, building trust, and earning customer loyalty.

To make the most of yours, offer many opt-in opportunities and make them more enticing by adding discounts, guides, or something of value in exchange.

Email Marketing

Email remains a popular choice for lead generation for a good reason: it works.

A study by Mailchimp found 22.71% of marketing emails were opened, with some industries seeing even higher rates.

Whether you’re sending out a monthly newsletter or a cold outreach email to a potential prospect, email remains one of your best bets for generating new leads.

One of the more cost-effective means of generating leads, email marketing also allows you to segment your targets with customized content that promotes maximum engagement.

Another reason email marketing is a favorite for so many organizations is that it provides incredible opportunities for tracking. A quality CRM will give you a lot of useful data, including open rate, engagement time, and subscriber retention, allowing you to fine-tune your campaigns.

Social Media Marketing

Almost everyone is on social media these days, which makes it the ideal place to hunt down leads.

Social media platforms not only allow you to directly interact with your followers, but they also let you create advertising targeted at highly specific audiences.

Interaction is simplified thanks to multiple user-friendly CTAs like Instagram Stories’ skip option and truncated URLs on Twitter.

Screenshot from Facebook, January 2023

Social media is also a great place to run contests or share gated content.

You can use paid ads like the one above to target new leads,  share content that will generate them organically, or ideally, a mix of both.

Coupons, Discounts, And Free Trials

If you’re like many people, you may be reluctant to provide your email address to businesses in case they start spamming your inbox.

As a business, however, this can be a problem.

The way to overcome this trepidation is to offer people something of value in return for their contact information.

A risk-free trial or discount code is a powerful tool for overcoming sales barriers. And once a target has tried your offering, you can retarget them with additional offers to encourage a sale.

Give them a free gift, offer a coupon, or allow them to take your product for a test drive, and you’ll find many more people willing to give you their info.

Free pizza couponScreenshot from author, January 2023

Online Ads

Display advertisements are videos and images that pop up as you’re browsing websites, apps, and social media.

They, along with paid search and PPC, are a great way to reach your intended customers where they are.

Display ads are particularly useful for targeting leads across the buyers’ journey, as well as promoting awareness and sales, promotions, or new products.

google search ads result for chairsScreenshot from Google, January 2023

Remarketing ads are a great way to reengage leads who have stopped short of a purchase, while non-intrusive native ads are perfect for extending your content marketing efforts.

Referral Marketing

A great way to find new leads is to let your existing customers find them for you. Encourage them to write reviews or recommend friends in return for a discount or something else of value.

AAA insurance referral adImage from AAA Insurance, January 2023

This is an excellent way to fill your funnel of leads – and make more sales. Referrals and online reviews give you an authenticity and trust level that no in-house marketing campaign can ever duplicate.

Did you know that when shopping online, more than 99.9% of people read reviews? Or that 94% of consumers acknowledged positive reviews made them more likely to support a business? And that’s not even including the power of personal recommendations from friends and family.

Referral marketing is a great tool for lead generation because it presents your brand in a positive light to more people.

Best Practices For Lead Generation

To ensure you’re getting the most out of your lead generation efforts, keep these tips in mind:

Use Your Data

You likely have a lot of information about leads and the types of strategies that work for them already at your fingertips.

Gather yours by looking at previous pieces that have worked well, whether it’s blogs that get a lot of reads, emails that have a high open-rate, or display ads that bring in a lot of traffic.

Look for general themes or things you did differently on high-performers. This will give you insight into the kind of things that resonate with your audience.

Be Consistent With Messaging

Make sure it’s very obvious to any web visitor or email recipient what action they should take next. Offer them a reason to click your links and keep your messaging clear and consistent.

You should maintain the same tone of voice across channels as you move prospects through the sales funnel. Remember, you’re not just interested in capturing data – you’re trying to create a customer.

A/B Testing

Every marketer knows the importance of testing different versions of collateral. This is because, no matter how well something is performing, it could always do better.

You should experiment with different headlines, images, body copy, etc.

Just remember to only test one aspect at once, lest you miss which change made a difference.

And again, don’t forget the opt-ins.

Use The Power Of CRM Technology

To ensure your sales and marketing teams are operating as efficiently as possible, but a lead generation platform to work for you.

The right tool can help you gather information about your targets, monitor their behavior on your website and identify what’s driving them to you.

Armed with this data, you can then optimize your pages and campaigns to better target your audience.

Create Enticing Offers At Every Stage

People at different stages of the purchasing journey want different things.

Someone who is just curious about seeing what’s out there isn’t likely to respond to a free demo offer, but someone who is further along the funnel might.

Make sure you’re offering something for every buying stage and that you have clear CTAs throughout your materials.

Integrate Social Media

Social media is the ideal platform for initiating conversations and interactions with leads at all stages.

While many marketers typically think of it as primarily for top-of-funnel targeting, by strategically using proven offers and other things of value, you can also go after those leads who are closer to making a purchase.

Clean Up Your Landing Pages

Users want information presented to them in a clean, easy-to-understand manner. No one is trying to read “War and Peace” to find a new vending machine supplier.

Put your important information at the top, and make it clear where visitors can input their information to contact you or get content.

Use Your Partners

Co-marketing is a great way to generate new leads because it allows you to piggyback on the efforts of partner companies.

Create mutually beneficial offers and you’ll spend the word about your brand to a larger audience, which will attract new leads.

Bring Your Sales Team In

Marketers prime the pump, but sales drives the action. Make sure to loop your sales team into the lead generation process early and often.

They will likely have personal insight into what works best to move targets along the purchasing path.

This will also ensure you remain on the same page as far as what terms mean.

Remarket, Remarket, Remarket

Almost no one makes a purchase on first contact, particularly in B2B sales. That makes remarketing an important arrow for your quiver.

It helps turn bouncers into leads and abandoners into customers – and it amplifies all your other marketing activities.

Make Lead Generation A Priority

No one ever said it was easy to find, score, and qualify leads, but it’s an important part of ensuring the growth and financial health of your business.

Nurturing customers and potential customers is hard work. But without it, you’ll struggle to make new sales.

This piece only covered lead generation from a high level, but hopefully, it has equipped you with some strategies you can employ to attract new leads and nurture existing ones.

If you only take a single thing away from this make it this: Put most of your efforts into higher-quality leads, because they’re the ones who are most likely to make a purchase.

And remember – lead generation is an ongoing process. You’re not going to see results overnight, but if you put in the work, you’ll start to generate the results you want.

Happy hunting.

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Featured Image: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock



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