In this guide, I want to take the opportunity to explain to you exactly what SEO and SEM is and how it can help you take your business to a whole new level if done correctly.
But first, some stats.
Fact #2: Google receives over 100 billion searches each month according to Mashable.
Fact #3: 61% Of all marketers, feel that improving their company or business SEO is one of their top priorities.
Fact #4: 81% Of shoppers, research a service or product online before making a purchase
Fact #5: 72% Of local customers, perform a search before they visit a store in their area.
Fact #6: Local searches can lead 50% of mobile visitors to a store in one day.
Looking at these stats, it is clearly evident, that any business whether offline or online utilising search engines is essential.
The 3 Most Popular Search Engines
Google is by far the most popular search engine, in fact, over 68% of people use Google as their primary search engine.
Google accounts for approx. over 96% of all mobile search traffic globally!
When it comes to the desktop, Google accounts for over 81% of all desktop search traffic and the rest is divided between Bing, Baidu, and Yahoo.
Yahoo used to be one of the more popular search engines in the late 90’s.
Today however, Yahoo is making little to no impact on the search market as they are only responsible for approx. 1.2% of mobile searches globally, and on desktop they are responsible for 7% of all global searches.
Bing was founded in 2009 and like Yahoo, it’s not really making an impact on the search market.
Which Search Engine Should You Put Your Time and Money Into?
I would suggest that all efforts should be aimed at increasing your company’s visibility in the worlds most popular search engine, and that would be Google.
This where you are going to get the best ROI.
Improving SEO To Help Grow Your Business in South Africa
In Part 1 of the Beginner’s Guide, I mentioned how important it is to ensure you appear on the first page of Google.
The percentage of people that actually view the second page of a Google search results is little to none, and more than two-thirds of all clicks go to the first five search results in Google.
To improve your business rankings, take a step back and find out how a search engine actually works.
If you’re a solo entrepreneur looking to take your business to a whole new level, then this part is especially for you.
How Search Engines Work
One thing to understand is that if you are searching something in Google, you aren’t searching the web, you are searching Google’s index of the web (or at least as much information as they could index).
With that said, if your business or company’s details are not in the Google’s index, then you are missing out.
Google indexes as many websites as they can, but it’s up to the owners or web masters of the company to make it easy for Google to find.
Google is able to find this information and display it on the web through the use of “Google spiders”.
Spiders are bots designed by Google whose sole purpose is to crawl the web and index the information they can find.
In return, when you search for example, “How high is Mount Everest?”, Google then goes into its index and finds every page that includes those keywords.
In this case, there would be over a thousand different results, so, how does Google decide which pages to show first?
They do that by asking over 200 different questions like:
- How many times does the page contain the specific keywords?
- Do the keywords appear in the title, header tags, and URL?
- Does the page include synonyms for those words?
- Is the page from a quality website or is it low quality?
- Does the page look spammy?
- What’s the page’s page rank?
- Does this page have any links pointing to it?
These are just some of the questions Google needs to ask itself before compiling all the information and determining each page’s overall score.
The amazing thing, is that this all happens in half a second after you submit your search!
To make your page appear on the first page of Google, you need to ensure that you take all these questions into consideration each time you publish a page or create a website.
And this is where Search Engine Optimisation comes in.
Now that you have an idea of how search engines work, let’s look at the two main ways to optimise your page or website for search engines.
On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO, What Is The Difference?
On-page SEO is basically what the title suggests.
It’s optimizing the page you want to rank for and improving key elements on the page that is connected to Google’s ranking factors.
This would include the headline of the page, page structure, content, etc.
These are Google ranking factors that aren’t necessarily under your control. For example, the total amount of social media mentions, websites linking to your site, the authority of your site and more.
The Most Important Factors Of On-Page SEO
Your website structure, in my opinion, is definitely one of the most essential ranking factors.
If it’s not designed and correctly, Google won’t be able to access your content.
You might have all the necessary information on your site to help customers understand your services and products, but if your website is not designed to allow Google’s spiders to crawl your content, then your website might as well not exist.
If you are like me, then you are probably not a web developer, and this can get overly technological, however, bear with me, as I will try and make this as simple as possible.
In a nutshell, the more your website is accessible to Google, the better you will rank.
1.1. It’s All about the user experience (UX), so make sure to put the user first
1.1.1 SEARCH AND BROWSING YOUR WEBSITE
Google is always trying to find ways to benefit its users, and if your website is not designed in a fashion where someone has a great UX when they are visiting your site, then sooner or later that will come back to haunt you.
The first order of business is to ensure that your website is easy to understand a.k.a user-friendly.
Make sure people can easily find the content they came for.
One of my favourite things to do is to ensure that the search bar is prominent on the webpage ,thus you can use the search bar to find what you are looking for.
1.1.2 KEEP YOUR SITE SIMPLE
Research has shown that if a website page is filled with banners, different colors, pop ups, and menus, people end up leaving it within seconds.
Why? Because they are overwhelmed with what is happening on the page.
Think about it like this, liken it to going shopping for a printer. What’s the first thing you do when you get to the shop?
You look for a capable professional to help you. You do this because, if it were up to you to browse through all the printers and pick the best one suited to your needs, and most likely end up being overwhelmed and buy the wrong one.
The same rules apply to your website, you need to ensure that your website is not overwhelming. It needs to be user friendly and efficient.
1.1.3 ENSURE YOUR SITE IS MOBILE FRIENDLY
With more and more people using their smartphones to browse the web, it’s essential that you ensure you cater for them.
Google has also released a few major press statements confirming that they are planning on improving the user experience on mobile.
Improving user experience is one of the major driving forces behind the project “Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)”.
Search Engine Land has confirmed that nearly 60% of all searches are now happening on mobile devices.
Here is a breakdown of the what percentage of users that are searching on mobile devices
- Food and Beverage = 72%
- Health = 68%
- Sports = 68%
- News and Media = 64%
- Lifestyle = 62%
- Automotive = 62%
There are different ways to check if your website is mobile friendly, but my favourite is Google’s Mobile Friendly Test.
You can add your website URL in the available field and see what Google has to say about your website.
Make sure to send the report to your developer if you see that it’s not a 100%, as I can guarantee that it’s affecting your rankings.
1.2. Make It Easy For Google To Crawl
Like I mentioned before, the better “the spiders” can crawl and index your website, the better it can report back to Google.
A sitemap is a simple way of allowing search engines to understand your site structure.
See it as a roadmap to where you have saved the most important content you want users to find when they are searching the internet.
If you have a developer, make sure to confirm with him or her that they have uploaded a sitemap to Google and other search engines.
1.3. Speed Matters
When was the last time you stuck around longer than 10 seconds to wait for a web page to load?
The chances are you can’t remember. It’s a fact that we have less patience in a world where everything is instant.
On average, if a web page loads longer than 5 seconds, visitors start getting annoyed.
The sad thing is, it’s not only the visitors that get annoyed, but it’s also Google’s spiders that need to crawl your website.
A website loads slowly due to clutter in the code, high-res images, and unnecessary scripts.
With that in mind, the spiders struggle to crawl through all the clutter and eventually leaves before getting to the most relevant content.
A fast loading web page increases the experience of the user and allows the spiders to get to its core content which can then assist Google in indexing your website.
I usually use Google’s Speed Test Tool to ensure that my website is on par.
Like the Mobile Friendly Test, just add your URL in the field and see what Google has to say.
If you aren’t happy with the results, make sure to pass it on to your developer to look at, as there is no doubt that it’s affecting your SEO.
1.4. Keywords and URLS
I’m sure you know what a URL is, but even if you don’t, it’s the link you want visitors to click on to visit the specific web page you want them to see.
Keywords play a significant role in SEO, especially when it comes to the URL. They can help Google identify what the link is all about without having to crawl it.
Often I browse a site and and have a look at its URL, and most of the time the URL is something like, www.domainname.co.za/2016/09/12/store/products/77654
If you were a Google spider, what would you think this link is all about?
We see it as a store selling product, but looks are deceiving.
What if it were something like this, www.domainname.co.za/store/shoes/nike/nike-tanjun-running-shoe
Without even having to think about it for too long, we can immediately see that this company is selling shoes, and the page they want us to view is a Nike Tanjun Running Shoe.
The keywords here are the category name which in this case is “shoes”, the brand name which is “Nike” and the shoe name which is “Tanjun Running Shoe”.
This is easy to understand, not only for the user but also for the Google spider crawling your website.
Make sure to have a look at your website’s link structure, if it’s not similar to what I’ve indicated above, then make sure to ask your developer to look into it.
CONTENT AND HTML
Now that you have the basic website structure under control, it’s time to make a move on the content.
It’s difficult to differentiate the importance of one component over the other. In my experience content is the main entity that gets indexed and without it nothing will be crawled.
I believe it’s structure first, and then content.
Back in 1996, Bill Gates said that “content is king”. And he was right.
Think about it like this:
Google is all about the user experience. To keep its users happy, it needs to give them what they are searching for.
If they can do that by showing the most relevant content related to the users question first, the higher the chances of the user using Google again next time.
This is where the quality of your content comes in.
As a local business or e-commerce store, you need to ensure your pages provide value to its visitors.
What do I mean by this? Well, if someone is visiting a page on your website, the chances are he or she is looking for something.
In most cases, it might be a product or more info related to your services. This is your opportunity to provide value.
2.1.1 HOW TO ADD MORE VALUE?
One simple way to do this is to visit your competitor’s website. What are they offering that adds value to the visitor/potential customer?
- Do they explain the product or service in-depth which helps convince the user to make a purchase?
- Do they provide extra tips and tricks on how to use the product or service to get the best bang for buck?
- Maybe they already address all the question the visitor might have of the product before the visitor even thought of it.
If they are not doing this, ask yourself, why aren’t you doing it? This is your chance to go the extra mile and add more value. I have no doubt that it’s going to help not only increase conversions, but also boost your SEO.
Keywords are not such a big ranking factor as it used to be. However, it’s still important.
A keyword is a specific term you want to rank for when people are searching the internet.
If you are selling shoes, then your keyword would be “shoes.”
However, due to the competitiveness of the online world, long-tail keywords are becoming more popular.
Long-tail keywords are keywords that are more specific.
If you mainly stock Nike shoes, and you know people love the Tanjun Running Shoe, then your long-tail keyword would be “Men’s Nike Tanjun Running Shoe.”
This helps target more specific customers and can help increase conversions rates as well as overall SEO.
2.3 Bringing content and keywords together
You can rank for as many keywords as you want, but you will have to ensure you have the necessary content to support the keywords you want to rank for.
You can’t expect to rank for “Men’s Nike Tanjun Running Shoe” if you don’t have a page showcasing the shoe or actually stock it.
Another example is, if you want to rank for “Best Hairdresser in Bedfordview,” you need to ensure that your website and content supports that.
- Do you have a web page explaining why you are the best?
- Do you have a page with customers testimonials proving why you are the best?
No? Then how are you planning on convincing customers and Google that you are the best?
The better your content can support your keywords, the better you will rank in Google, the more you will outrank competitors and the more new business you will be driving your way.
This concludes the basics of on-page SEO. By no means are these the only factors involved in improving your SEO.
But by ensuring you have these basics covered, I can guarantee that you would start to see a growth in organic traffic in a few months.
The 3 Most Important Factors of Off-Page SEO
In the beginning of the article I’ve roughly mentioned what off-page SEO is all about, now let’s dig into how it affects your SEO.
This is actually simple but think about it like this. Where do you take your car for a service whenever it’s time for a fix-up?
The chances are, the car dealer you bought the car from, or alternatively, someone you trust.
The same goes with ranking higher in Google. Google will rank the page it trusts higher than the page it doesn’t.
1. How do you improve Google’s trust
Google likes websites with authority, and if your website has a low authority score, the chances are Google doesn’t trust it too much.
Two factors that determine your overall authority
1.1.1 Domain Authority – How popular your domain is, and how well-known it is in its space.
1.1.2 Page Authority – Which has got to do with the credibility of a single page.
If you want to view your website’s domain authority, have a look at this link.
Usually, a new domain has a score of 0 out of a 100. The majority of websites on the web has a domain authority score of 0-20.
Anything higher than 20 tells Google that your domain can be trusted, then it’s just a matter of how much.
Websites with an authority score of 100 out of 100 are usually companies like Facebook, Google, Youtube, etc. These are the most popular and trusted pages on the web.
Most universities and governmental websites usually have an authority score of 70 to 80 out of a 100.
You can always use that link to see what your competitor’s authority scores are. That will give you an indication if they are trusted more than you by Google.
Factors that can Affect Your Domain Authority
Bounce Rate – A bounce rate is someone that visited one page, and not another. This tells Google that the website was not as impressive or interesting and caused the user to leave after only one visit.
Now you can start to see how user experience plays a role in bounce rate. And that eventually plays a role in domain authority.
Domain Age – It’s sad, but if your website is new, you will, unfortunately, have to start at the bottom like all the others.
Links – Links can play a significant role in your domain authority. If high authority websites are linking back to you and if you are linking out to authoritative websites then the chances are your own domain authority will increase.
Think about it like this, who would you rather take a restaurant recommendation from? Your best friend, or a stranger?
Google works in the same fashion. If a high authoritative website links out to you, it’s telling Google that this website can be trusted.
The more people you have following you on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc., the more it can help benefit your SEO.
The two main factors that play a role here are:
The Number of Shares – This is the total amount of shares a page or website receives.
If your Men’s Nike Tanjun Running Shoe page has received over 500 shares, it tells Google that this page is popular and people enjoy its content.
That’s in a nutshell how a number of shares can play a role in off-page search engine optimization.
The Quality of Shares – I’ve talked about getting high authoritative backlinks from other websites, well, this is similar to that but just related to social shares.
Even though the number of shares plays a role, the quality of those shares is even more important.
Here are two easy ways to get more people to share your content
- Have a look at sponsoring key influencers in your industry
- Produce quality content that adds value to customers
Maybe you are not aware, but if you visit a website frequently, the chances are whenever you are searching something relevant to the company or business, the higher its pages will rank in your search results.
Google’s algorithms are intelligent enough to know when you are visiting a website frequently. If you are visiting it often, it must mean it offers some value to you.
With that in mind, if the search term you are searching for falls in line with the companies organic keywords, Google would allow it to appear higher in your search results.
There is no way of forcing people to visit your website often, but by producing quality content and offering them a ton of value, I can guarantee you they will be coming back soon or later.
Please keep in mind that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to improving your business and website’s SEO.
By ensuring you keep what is mentioned in this guide into account, and making some necessary changes, I do not doubt that you will start to draw more organic traffic within a few months.
I hope this guide has opened your eyes as a sole entrepreneur or business owner.
At the end of the day, you don’t need the skills to improve your SEO, you just need to understand the basics and know what to look out for.
At least now you know as a CEO, marketing director or business owner what to ask your marketing team or developer and what to do about it if your SEO is not on par.
Implementing 2 Advanced Google AdWords Strategies
Find out how Dynamic Search Ads and Call-Only Campaigns can give you that competitive edge you need on Google AdWords.
Let’s explore two advanced Google AdWords campaign types: Dynamic Search Ads and Call-Only campaigns. Give these two campaign types a try. They’ll let you squeeze even more from your AdWords account.
Dynamic search ads (DSAS)
Dynamic search ads are magical keys to reaching your customers. And the best part? Using them is easy once you master the setup.
What Are DSAs?
Google knows it’s hard to keep your campaigns perfectly in sync with your website. If you have an e-commerce site with thousands of products changing regularly, it’s a chore to be constantly creating new keywords, new ad groups and new ads inside your AdWords account.
DSAs were created to fill this gap. They let you show ads to excellent prospects who might be searching for items you sell on your site even if you don’t have a corresponding keyword for them in your account.
Why should you set up a DSA?
As long as you set a low cost-per-click, dynamic search ads typically have a decent CPA and provide additional relevant traffic. They’re also great for research as you get to uncover new search terms that people are using to find your site. (You can use this intelligence after the fact to add new keywords to your account.)
Let’s say you’ve just started selling wrought-iron fire pits on your e-commerce site but you don’t have the keywords for them yet in your AdWords account. A new prospect – we’ll call her Kim – is currently online searching for this by name. Kim types it in verbatim: “wrought iron fire pits.”
If you have a DSA campaign set up, you’re in luck: Google instantly recognises that you sell these but don’t yet have keywords for the purpose. Thankfully, you don’t miss a beat with Kim – Google shows her your Dynamic ad, then she clicks, comes to your website and makes a purchase.
How do they work?
It starts with Google regularly scanning your website and keeping an index of all its pages. When you’re starting out, you can choose to point Google to your entire site – we recommend this for your first DSA campaign – although later on you can target specific categories within your site.
Google knows what keywords are in your account and, more importantly, what keywords are not there. This means they can make accurate judgments about when to step in and show your DSA ads.
When setting up DSAs, Google creates the headline and you write the description. They choose the final URL and you set the bid.
Here’s how to set up a DSA:
- Create a new campaign. One of the options you’ll see is to create a DSA campaign. We suggest not using that as it would limit your options further along. Instead, create a new Search campaign with “all features.” Your plan will be to only use DSAs inside that campaign.
- You’ll need at least one ad group to hold your DSAs, and one is typically enough if you’re just starting out.
- You still want to be split-testing, even though Google chooses your headline for you. So, create two different DSA ads with different body copy in each.
- Choose the target. Start with the “all webpages” default. Save the advanced targeting for later.
- Add in ad extensions just as you would for a regular campaign.
Ongoing management of your DSA
Review your data. Keep an eye on the search queries Google chooses, particularly in the first few days. This lets you add any new negative keywords that you don’t want your ads shown for. And it’s a good way to identify and add new keywords you hadn’t yet thought of for other functioning campaigns. (You can add these new keywords as negatives in your DSA campaign, which forces that keyword traffic over to new campaigns in your account. Your DSA campaigns won’t be affected.)
These allow you to create search ads where Google shows your phone number rather than a headline. As such, they only show on mobile devices capable of making calls.
A person clicks on your ad, which starts the process of calling your business directly from their mobile, rather than taking them to your site.
Why use call-only?
Call-only campaigns force people to call your phone number rather than visit your site. If generating more phone calls is high priority for your business, call-only campaigns are worth testing.
How to set up call-only campaigns
Setup is simple. You can create a new campaign from scratch or just copy your existing search campaigns and change the ad type. Replace regular ads with call-only ads.
Tip: Google wants to see individual ad groups with a reasonable number of impressions at the ad group level. So a small number of ad groups with more keywords in each one – generating more impressions per ad group – will work better for call-only campaigns.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com
The 5 Characteristics Of Social Media Websites That Go Viral
There is no formula for a site that goes viral but you can see what’s missing from those that don’t.
With the advent of the web 2.0 comes a shift from simple and bland web pages to dynamic and interactive web platforms. It is now possible to create a social media site that does not only attract new businesses, but also foster relationships and create opportunities for other people.
The possibilities are endless and the barrier to entry is becoming ever thinner that one has no other choice than to key in to the new phase. Or rather, the new craze.
Every day, we see another social media site popup with the claim to become the new Facebook or the new Instagram. Even more, we are bombarded with jargon such as likes, comments, shares and viral content – words previously that never had any significance in the grand scheme of things.
But internet entrepreneurs are not giving up on the dream to create their own social networks using newer ideas and strategies. According to get2growth, there are about 472 million entrepreneurs worldwide running 305 million start-ups annually, out of which 1.35 million are internet based.
Some of these entrepreneurs, who run social media networks, have found that the proven path to success is to have an intuitive idea plugged into a quick go-to-market strategy. Nevertheless, most importantly, finding the sweet spot between what’s important for the customer and what intrigues them is an important trigger for virility.
That is why the easiest way to create a social media website or forum today is to create a platform that is positioned to go viral. So, how do you go about that? This article provides some useful tips.
1Know what’s important to the users
What the user needs is the first consideration when you want to create a social media website that goes viral. Without fulfilling this need, there will be no need to create an online community in the first place.
That is why the first question to ask is, why should people use your site instead of the other available platforms? How do you create a unique social media site so that users will always have a reason to come back?
Think of it this way: Will a user become so excited about a feature or tool on your site that they encourage their friends to use it too? Or will your site help the user connect with their friends in a way other social networks do not?
If you can find the things that are important to the users and create your site around those things, then you would have a community that others will really want to be a part of.
2Integrate features that encourage interactions
Online interactions are the fuel on which online communities thrive. The desire to interact is why there will are forums and social networking sites, so it’s important that you integrate features that foster interactions and encourage users to create exciting content.
A good way to do this is to use a platform that provides powerful tools for creating beautiful social networks. Here you have two options: Use white-label social network creators; Ready-to-go solution like Ning; or build-it-yourself frameworks like Django (Python) or CakePHP (PHP).
The most important features to consider are the site layout, community building options (such as forums, pages and groups), call-to-actions, and the site navigation. The plan is to intuitively provide users the freedom to choose how they want to interact.
3Provide powerful visual and creative tools
Users make the rules when it comes to what is shared or recommended online, so it’s wise that social networking sites provide the tools to encourage required users’ behaviours.
For example, users tend to spend more time on sites that encourage some creative activity. If that activity produces a visual result and the option to share, the user will be more likely to share it with a friend.
A survey published on Adweek revealed that users are more engaged on Instagram than on Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter. Instagram is cozy. This lends credence to the claim that visuals and creative tools can help keep social network users engaged and even more willing to recommend content.
As you may know, Instagram allows more visuals than all the other platforms, with users sharing full-size landscape and portrait photos that may fill the whole of a viewers screen. This gives more content visibility and increase in user engagement and sharing, which is no surprise seeing the immense growth recorded by the platform even before it was acquired by Facebook.
4Push notification is a must-have
Creating a social media site that goes viral requires keeping users updated on the activities happening in their network. You never know which notification about something a user cares about will trigger an engaging discussion with potential to go viral.
Push notification provides real-time access to content on devices, especially mobile, and encourages return visits and more on-site activity, which are useful metrics for the growth of social media sites and any other site type for that matter.
Not incidentally, users tend to value push notifications more when the content delivered is useful. According to this survey, 70 percent of users were happy to enable push notifications on their favorite apps. This reportedly doubled click through rates when compared to email notifications and a higher response rate compared to when notification was not deployed.
Activities such as these improve the chances of making a social network go viral and quickly increase user growth.
5Create the set-up with “shareability” in mind
Building a successful social network requires that the end is considered right from the beginning. All functionalities must be planned according to the user behaviors anticipated. A social network set up to go viral will therefore, have to consider shareability right from the beginning.
The site setup should include layouts that allow users to easily access, interact, and share content. Features such as sharing buttons, call-to-actions, tagging, image size, and site layout can encourage sharing among groups and help position content in places where they are more visible.
The better user-interface, the easier it is for users to navigate through the site and access more useful content, which increases user engagement and shareability. However, do not forget to analyse and measure your social activity – the Holy Grail of engagement.
So, what plans do you have?
Creating a social media site that goes viral is never an easy task, but if you know what you are doing from the beginning and have a workable plan, you should be able to find some success.
You just need to come up with a strong idea that your users believe in. Something like a unique selling proposition that actually feels a need for the majority of users.
A simple change in the way a user report a story, tag photos or share their passion can be enough to make your social network the rave of the moment. But you need to have a unique plan to take you from zero to hero.
So, what is your plan?
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How To Talk Your Way To Success With Podcasts
Podcasting is taking the world by storm. Not only can it be extremely profitable, but it can be a great way to grow and market your business.
The rise of the average Joe
Some of the most successful podcasts in the world were created by relative unknowns.
Tim Ferriss’s 2007 book The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich was a phenomenon. The self-help/business book spent more than four years on the New York Time’s bestseller list and has been translated into
35 languages. To date, around 1,3 million copies have been sold. It’s fair to say that every author on the planet would be happy with this sort of success. When it comes to book publishing, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Now compare the success of The 4-Hour Workweek with that of Ferriss’s podcast, The Tim Ferris Show. At the end of 2016, the show reached 100-million downloads, meaning that since the creation of the show, individual episodes have been downloaded more than 100-million times through iTunes and other podcasting channels.
Ferriss hadn’t anticipated that level of success. In fact, he started podcasting on a whim, just to see what the response would be.
“I was burned out after The 4-Hour Chef, which was nearly 700 pages, and I wanted a casual but creative break from big projects,” says Ferriss on his blog. “Since I enjoyed being interviewed by Joe Rogan, Marc Maron, Nerdist, and other podcasting heavies who really move the needle, I decided to try long-form audio for six episodes. If I didn’t enjoy it, I would throw in the towel and walk.
“My rationale: Worst-case scenario, the experience would help me improve my interviewing, which would help later book projects. This is a great example of what Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, would call ‘systems’ (win even if you lose) thinking.”
So, he saw it as a win-win. Even if the response wasn’t great, it would have been a worthwhile experience. Ferriss also applied one of his regular approaches to podcasting, asking himself: What would this look like if it was easy? Some popular podcasts, like Freakonomics Radio, for example, are highly produced and have a strong narrative structure.
Ferriss knew that he was most likely to stick with it if he made it as easy as possible to do. So, instead of a complex podcast that required a script and heavy editing, he opted for a freeform conversational structure. He simply turned on the microphone, and started talking to people.
Monetising a podcast
Even though podcasts are generally free to download, they can create a nice revenue stream. But, as is often the case in the digital sphere, it’s a numbers game. You need some real traction before the money starts to roll in. Like banner ads, podcasts work on a CPM (cost per impression) model. Popular podcasts have sponsors who pay for a pre-roll message/ad at the start of the podcast. A typical figure is $18 (R234) per 1 000 downloads for a 15-second spot, or $25 (R325) for a 60-second message. Many podcasts have more than one sponsor, so you could make more per 1 000 downloads. Also, as the popularity of a podcast increases, the CPM rate also goes up.
“Premium podcasts tend to charge between $25 and $100 CPM. By ‘premium’, I mean high-converting, single-host, iTunes top-50 podcasts,” says Ferriss.
So, if your CPM is $50 and you’re getting 100 000 downloads, you multiply 50 with 100 to get an income of $5 000 (R65 000) per sponsor per episode.
Tim Ferriss could be making millions a year from his podcast alone, but he chooses not to monetise too aggressively.
“If I wanted to fully monetise the show at my current rates, I could make between $2 million and $4 million per year, depending on how many episodes and spots I offer. So why only ‘if I wanted to fully monetise?’ Because ‘fully monetising’ — bleeding the stone for all it’s worth — is nearly always a mistake, in my opinion,” says Ferriss.
“I want to convert casual listeners into die-hard, fervent listeners, and I want to convert casual sponsors into die-hard, fervent sponsors. This requires two things: Playing the long game, and strategically leaving some chips on the table. As a mentor once told me: ‘You can shear a sheep many times, but you can skin him only once.’”
Indeed, if you want to create a successful podcast, it’s important not to try and monetise too early.
“Novice podcasters (which I was) and bloggers get too distracted in nascent stages with monetisation,” says Ferriss. “In the first three to nine months, you should be honing your craft and putting out increasingly better work. Option A: You can waste 30% to 50% of your time to persuade a few small sponsors to commit early and stall at 30 000 downloads per episode because you’re neglecting creative. Option B: You can play the long game, wait six to twelve months until you have a critical mass, then you get to 300 000 downloads per episode and make 10x per episode with much larger brands. If you can afford it, don’t be in a rush. Haste makes waste. In this case, it can make the difference between $50 000 per year and $1 million per year. To reiterate a phrase more often used for blogging: Good content is the best SEO.”
Of course, you could argue that a self-help guru like Ferriss has a much easier time launching a podcast than your Average Joe, and he certainly has an existing audience, but he believes that anyone can start a great podcast. Being a ‘famous’ person doesn’t guarantee success, and some of the biggest podcasts around were created by relative unknowns.
“Coming to the party with a pre-existing audience isn’t enough. Celebrities, YouTube icons, and bestselling authors start podcasts every week that get abandoned three weeks later,” says Ferriss.
“Like everyone else, at one point, I had zero readers and zero listeners. We all start out naked and afraid. Then your mom starts checking out your stuff, or perhaps a few friends give a mercy-listen, and the fragile snowball grows from there.”
Creating your own podcast
Starting a podcast is relatively simple and cheap. All you really need is a microphone, a guest and an iTunes account. As mentioned earlier, it’s better to start small, gain momentum, and then think about monetisation down the line.
“Upload at least two or three pre-recorded episodes when you launch your podcast. This appears to help with iTunes ranking, which — like bestseller lists — can be self-propagating. The higher you rank, the more people see you, the higher you continue to rank,” says Ferriss.
He also recommends that you keep things simple. “Most would-be blockbuster podcasters quit because they get overwhelmed with gear and editing. I decided to record and publish entire conversations (minimising post-production), not solely highlights. I also use a tremendously simple gear set-up and favoured Skype interviews for the first 20 or so interviews, as the process is easier to handle when you can look at questions and prep notes in Evernote or a notebook.
“As Tony Robbins would say: Complexity is the enemy of execution. You do not need concert hall-quality audio. Most people will be listening in the subway or car anyway, and they’ll forgive you if recordings are rough around the edges. Audio engineers will never be fully satisfied with your audio, but 99,9% of listeners will be happy if you’re intelligible and loud enough.”
Other ways of making money
The CPM/sponsorship model is not the only way to make money with podcasting. You are, of course, also free to approach companies about sponsorship outside the CPM model. If you’ve got a podcast that will align well with a specific brand, you could approach the company about funding the show.
You could also ask your audience to sponsor the show. Neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris has a popular podcast called Waking Up, which is created entirely through audience contributions. Harris doesn’t believe in the CPM model, since he thinks it can sometimes seem a bit greedy and also forces listeners to sit through a lot of ads.
The popular Joe Rogan Experience podcast typically has around 12 minutes of ads, while The Tim Ferriss Show usually has about six minutes of ads. Harris has no ads, but does ask his listeners for donations. Of course, only a fraction of listeners will ever decide to pay for the content you create, but if you have enough listeners (Harris has around 800 000 every week), a relatively small number is enough to make it worthwhile.
You can ask for donations through your own website, or through a service like Patreon, which is an American Internet-based membership platform that provides business tools for creators to run a subscription content service.
You should also keep in mind that a podcast can be a smart investment, even if you make no money from it whatsoever. A podcast can be a great way to position yourself as an expert or thought leader in a particular industry. So, instead of trying to monetise your podcast directly, you can use it as a form of content marketing to promote your products and services. Importantly, though, you should not be too aggressive in your marketing. If the podcast feels like nothing more than an extended ad for your business, listeners will be put off. Instead, focus on creating great content that will drive people to your online channels.
A podcast can also be a great networking tool. You might not be able to get a meeting with a successful CEO, but you could invite him or her onto your popular podcast. Once that relationship has been created, talking business becomes easier. You could also offer your podcast to customers as a platform to discuss their own business successes and challenges. Regardless of how you choose to utilise the medium, podcasting provides an excellent opportunity to speak directly to an audience that no entrepreneur should ignore. EM
“Like everyone else, at one point, I had zero readers and zero listeners. We all start out naked and afraid. — Tim Ferriss
Did you know?
Podcasts are the single fastest growing medium in the world.
The rise of Gimlet Media
Gimlet Media in the US was created a few years ago specifically as a podcasting company. Gimlet’s first season of its first podcast show, Startup, follows the launch of the company. It’s a warts-and-all look at how the company tried to secure funding, find offices and hire staff. If you want to get into podcasting, it’s definitely worth a listen.
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