What Was The First Podcast You Ever Listened To?

For me, a standout experience was Dan Carlin’s “Hardcore History” Podcast.

It was one of the first shows I listened to, after a friend turned me on to it, and it continues to exemplify many of the reasons podcasts are so engaging and thought-provoking: A new take on historical events I never paid much attention to or didn’t understand, and which suddenly became totally riveting, thanks to Dan’s awesome storytelling style.

Compare and Contrast Story Telling

Historical storytelling podcastFor podcast newbies, I think the “Blueprint for Armageddon” series is an amazing place to start listening to a podcast. It is about the origins of the 1st World War, and how it morphed into the 2nd World War. Of course, this has been covered ad nauseam, but what Dan does so well is to compare and contrast historical events to present-day politics and equivalent theoretical scenarios. This technique really brings events of the past into life.

Of course, I may be biased a bit. I grew up and went to school in Germany – and as a child going to “Gymnasium”, the German equivalent High School, we were still reticent to talk about the 2nd World War and Germany’s role in it. We kept being told that we would cover it all in Senior Year – by which time I had moved to the United States. So for me, the podcast covered a portion of historical education I was not as familiar with as I should have been.

Hardcore History – Origins

And I just came across this article which tells the story of how Dan launched his show, and how it became such a hit and staple in the podcasting world.

Read the Full Story Here:

The post How Dan Carlin became a staple in the podcasting world appeared first on Discover the Best Podcasts | Discover Pods.

Most podcasters find that after the initial success of launching their show, podcast growth becomes harder. Meaning, it becomes harder and harder to gain new listeners and subscribers.

Growing a podcast audience by relying on iTunes New and Noteworthy, or promotions via social media, or submitting to all sorts of podcast directories is a finite thing. Yes, these are all good and necessary steps in promoting a podcast, but eventually, the growth slows down or stops altogether.

The Podcast Growth System

This is why I’ve been working to compile insights we have gained over the years in launching different shows for a variety of clients. For most, podcasting has become a great content strategy for growth. So I am very excited to announce the launch of a podcast marketing system, as well as a book that teaches these techniques.

The approach we have taken incorporate Podcast SEO. And I don’t just mean “Search Engine Optimization” on iTunes, Stitcher or other podcasting platforms, I mean optimizing podcast episode planning and websites for discovery on Google and Bing.

For podcasters, applying simple to follow SEO techniques represents a massive traffic advantage in optimizing the time they likely already spend creating show notes and episode posts. And, these techniques are much more sustainable and evergreen when compared to short-term promotional or paid campaigns (which of course also have a place in the system).

Keep It Simple, Stupid

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” –Albert Einstein

Podcast SEO Marketing Course

Learn more about how to grow your podcast with the “Podcast SEO Marketing Course”

SEO can seem intimidating, so we’ve tried to keep it simple, with video tutorials and easy to follow downloadable templates. In other words, an expert guide on how to grow a podcast audience, email list and web presence with podcast SEO marketing through step by step guides and practical SEO exercises for your show’s pages.

Any podcaster can learn to build a listener base and gain traffic for their podcast organically and without having to spend money on ads.

The ROI of Podcast SEO

Podcast SEO ROIYou question the ROI of spending time on SEO? I beg to differ, have a look at this graphic from the Positivity Strategist Podcast, it illustrates that the podcast is receiving $2,000 worth of clicks a month (This analysis provided by SpyFu analytics, who measure what we would have to pay in Google Adwords for the exact keywords driving traffic to the podcast website and show pages) This comes from the exact techniques we are teaching in this course.

Podcast Home Page Design

We also have some free video resources on our site pointing our conversion optimized design patterns that help grow your email list. Optimizing your podcast homepage for conversion and email sign up will help you grow your podcast subscriber base.


The Podcast Growth System

The Podcast Growth System 8 Tips


What Other Podcasters Are Saying

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Jeanne Bliss World renowned CX Author, Speaker, Founder at CustomerBliss

Rank as #1

"My goal was to rank as #1 on Google for the keyword ‘Customer Experience Podcast’. Polymash helped me get there, just Google it!"

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Larry Hagner Author, Speaker, and Founder of The Good Dad Project

The Real Deal

“Polymash is the real deal! I originally started working with Juergen to simply assist me with podcast production. What I received from him in service, dependability, turn around time, guidance, and coaching far exceeded my expectations. Without his help, I would not have successfully launched my podcast and re-branded my website. I cannot recommend him highly enough.”

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Robyn Stratton Speaker, Author & Founder, Positivity Strategist Podcast

Getting on page one of Google Search Results

“Polymash helped me get on page one of Google for my main business keyword, even though it is competitive! Now 65% of my site traffic comes from organic search.”

Coming Soon:

The Podcast Growth Show Podcast

Contact me here to be notified when it launches, and let me know your questions and what content topics you’d like us to most talk about on the podcast.

 

 


FREE 2018 Podcasting Resources Guide: Launch and market your podcast

  • check
    Gear Guides
  • check
    "How To" Tutorials
  • check
    Music & Sound Effect Libraries
  • check
    Software & Tools
  • check
    Guest Booking Services
  • check
    General Podcasting Sites & Groups
Podcasting Resources Guide

Where can we send your guide?

Traditional SEO matters for your podcast, now more than ever. Podcast SEO based marketing is also more of an opportunity, now more than ever. As is marketing your podcast using Facebook, provided you are willing to spend just a little bit of money. 

The reason I feel this is true is because the sheer number of available podcasts has been rapidly climbing. According to Variety, iTunes alone now has 500,000 active podcasts from which to choose.

And podcast Facebook marketing and SEO tactics that worked in 2017 are getting harder, with Facebook changing their algorithm and the the way content is featured in users feed.

The rise of so many podcasts is great for listeners but less so for podcasters who want to grow their shows.

So, unless your show is currently in the new and noteworthy section of iTunes, then getting listeners to discover your podcast needs to happen outside of iTunes.

This is why I often write about people being overly focused on iTunes statistics, instead of on growing their podcast email subscriber list and SEO optimization of their show notes to increase their organic traffic and Google rank.

In this post, I want to outline

  1. some common podcast SEO and podcast Facebook marketing mistakes we frequently see, and
  2. ways to avoid them in the first place. 

1

Podcast SEO Mistake: Weak Episode Titles, not based on SEO Research

What I often see:

Ad-hoc episode titles that indicate a lack of podcast SEO research and content strategy

I see episode titles consist of only the guest name, or the date of the episode, or even just of the episode number. And sometimes episode titles are just plain "gimmicky" - meaning a clever phrase or mysterious title that does not indicate what the episode is about at all.

I also see show notes pages that are SEO optimized, yet the episode titles does not contain any primary SEO keyword.


Why is it important to avoid weak episode titles?

iTunes and Google make your episodes searchable, and the episode title drives this. Make sure you take advantage of this. 

Do you want to grow your show? Then you need to approach your podcast as a content strategy. It means your show notes are the vehicle for Google and iTunes to make your episodes discoverable.

  • Weak episode titles fail to take advantage of the way iTunes and Google index your show.
  • Inbound content strategy means designing "content with a purpose". And the purpose means designing episode titles to achieve a goal. The goal is to get more people to discover and subscribe to your show. So, what should your episode titles look like to achieve this goal?
  • It's a User Experience (UX) issue - your listeners will benefit from clearer episode titles 
iTunes search is weak on individual episodes. And weak episode titles hurt you on iTunes as well as Google

While episodes are included in search results,  what you search for needs to be in the title of the episode. 

  • If I want to search for an episode about "bike maintenance", and the term "bike maintenance" appears in the description of the episode but not in the title, then I will never discover that episode or the associated podcast.
  • In fact, discoverability is regressing: A few years ago iTunes allowed podcasters to add keywords to their episodes to make them easier to find. This feature has since been removed. 


What to do instead?

Learn a little about SEO. Create a content calendar or plan based on doing some keyword research. Then form your episode titles around these.

The short version of improving your titles goes like this: 

  • Be listener focused - skip the gimmicks and make the episode title descriptive of what is actually being discussed
  • Be outcome oriented -  your audience cares about your show far less than you do. But what they DO care about is what's in it for them, what they will get out of listening, what it will help them do, in short what outcome they can expect. Including an outcome in your episode titles will attract more clicks in search results, both on iTunes and Google.  
  • Learn to research SEO keywords - basically terms that people search for a lot, but keywords that are not too competitive for your site. I use a tool called KWFinder, which has a freemium model so you can get started for free. And be sure to include your researched keyword in the episode title.
  • Learn to write great episode headlines - basically headlines that are SEO optimized, yet indicate the content of your episode. And are click-worthy - which is NOT the same thing as click bait.

The slightly longer version:

  • Write down 7-20 versions of your planned episode titles - do this every time, and I can almost guarantee that the quality and click-worthiness of your episode titles will improve. We use a tool called CoSchedule Headline Analyzer to craft our episode titles.
  • For extra credit, plan ahead. If your show allows it, plan for content themes. This can enable you to implement a powerful SEO ranking technique called "cornerstone content", where several related episodes share links to one primary episode about the theme. We have consistently used this to SEO boost blog posts and episodes onto page one of Google search results.  
    • For examples of this, search for "podcast content strategy" - polymash shows up on page one, or google "customer experience podcast" - our client Customer Bliss shows up on page one, or "appreciative inquiry" - our client Positivity Strategist is on page one, or "podcast SEO course".
  • Learn a bit about SEO - think of it as an investment that will pay dividends for years to come. I offer a rudimentary free SEO course for podcasters, take advantage of this 5 day email course, or learn the basics of SEO elsewhere. This course covers how to research and create great episode titles in detail.
  • DIY or Done For You? If the concept of doing this yourself makes your eyes glaze over, invest in some help to make your show grow.


How difficult is this to implement?

IMHO, on a scale of 1-10, how much time & skills are required, and how big is the benefit?

7
Time
6
Skills
8
Benefit

2

Podcast SEO Mistake: Thin Content

What I often see:

Super short episode show notes with no value other than to be a placeholder for the podcast embedded player

After all the effort goes into planning, recording and publishing each episode, creating comprehensive show notes may seem like a pain. And this is exactly what some people's show notes look like - the avoidance of that pain. 

  • I often see podcast episode posts that consist of only the episode title, description and embed code.


Why is it important to avoid thin content?

Thin content can hurt your site's rank, and your episodes will never be easily found on Google

Ever since Google updated their algorithm to Panda, the focus has been on identifying "quality content". For Google, the term "quality" means providing the best content for someone conducting a search. A really short article or episode post is unlikely the best, highest quality content for any search term a user might have entered. Especially if Google can serve up someone else's 1,500 word article on the same subject.

  • Quality over quantity - you no longer need "a lot of content" for your site rank to increase. Nor do you need to publish content frequently, those days are over.
  • In fact, the opposite is now true: The presence of lots of thin content can dilute and lower your sites overall rank. And even though you may not be flagged for any specific "thin content penalty" or manual action by Google, you do want your episodes to be discovered. This is the real reason you want to act on this.


What to do instead?

Adapt the MVN Model: Minimum Viable Show Notes

Don't waste your time on creating mediocre show notes if you want to benefit from organic search. My view on this is providing value to listeners and visitors who found you through search results or referrals from other sites.

  • Some ideas for MVN: 700 words plus, an overview of concepts discussed, key insights from the episode, resources or downloadable PDFs from your guests and a lead-magnet or incentive to join your podcast email list. 
  • Use the Yoast plugin to help identify "thin content" - For SEO beginners, the plugin acts as an SEO coach on the bottom of each show notes page, and will warn of any basic SEO issues. Yoast recommends a length of at least 300 words minimum. And it also provides a "readability score". However, in my experience this is not enough to ever rank on page one of Google.
  • Consider adding a semi-automated transcript. Transcripts no longer have to be expensive, nor do they take long to generate. We've been testing a very affordable and highly accurate platform called Temi. It is an automated transcription service that provides fantastic results and great accuracy.
    • Temi does not handle strong accents well, so it may not be a good fit for everyone, but on podcast episodes that feature decent audio quality and well spoken English, the results have been amazingly accurate.
    • A nice new feature of the Temi platform is the ability to selectively highlight and export only selected parts of the overall transcript.
    • The benefit is that what's being talked about in each episode becomes actually indexed by Google. We've successfully used Temi transcripts to form the basis of SEO optimized show notes. No show notes posts including a transcript would likely result in "thin content".  
    • There is a free trial, so do yourself a favor and try this podcast SEO technique for at least one episode.
  • Include a lead magnet on your episode pages - Lead magnets are value-add incentives your visitors can download in exchange for an email address. 
    • For example, you could create a PDF summarizing the best insights from your first 25 (or whatever number) episodes. 
  • Do something about your existing thin content - it goes without saying that going forward I'd recommend making sure your show notes won't be considered "thin content". However, you may have lots of older episodes on your site like this already. In that case, consider going back and removing these from your site map, configuring each post to "noindex nofollow" or fixing them with better content.


How difficult is this to implement?

On a scale of 1-10, how much time & skills are required, and how big is the benefit?

8
Time
4
Skills
9
Benefit

3

Podcast SEO Mistake: Building a single podcast show page featuring a list of all episodes

What I often see:

I see podcasts being launched where the website and show notes are an afterthought. 

I recently helped a huge corporate client launch a podcast. Even though they spent plenty of time and money on creating and launching the show, their internal budget to update their corporate website was trimmed. So they decided to to create a single page for their podcast, with a simple list of all episodes.  

Most podcasters realize that their show needs to have its own podcast home page at least.

But then, perhaps to get their show launched quickly, they skip creating individual pages for each episode. And their podcast home consists of a single page they add on to over time. Such a single page often feature a list of all episodes, with podcast player widgets embedded. 

On the surface, this may seem user-friendly and efficient.


Why is a single podcast homepage less than ideal?

Not creating individual, episode level, show notes pages is a huge missed SEO opportunity.

  • A single page can only be SEO optimized for one, maybe two key phrases.
  • A single page can only have one page-title, and this controls how Google indexes and displays such a page in the search results. In effect, this time-saver prevents Google from indexing your episodes.
  • This makes it unlikely that any individual episode would ever rank or be discoverable. Basically, this is going back to the lack of episode level discovery that iTunes suffers from.
  • It also makes it impossible to have an interwoven link strategy, and SEO cornerstone content cannot be built based on a single page.


What to do instead?

Create an episode level show notes post for each episode, and a home page with a "podcast category" filtered post grid. 

After all the time and effort it takes to plan and create each episode, it seems almost silly not to spend the extra bit of time. Then design your podcast homepage to display these posts in a grid or list. Here's how:

  • Most modern WordPress themes allow you to create and assign a "podcast" category to assign these show notes posts to.
  • Then create a "podcast home page" that features an article grid, filtered on the "podcast" category.
  • If you want to try an easy way to do this based on "templates", check out Thrive Architect, in my opinion, the best visual page builder. This easy to learn system includes ready-made templates for podcast home pages.
  • Related issue and solution: Make sure to treat your podcast home page like a landing page, with a call to action above the fold. Read more about the effectiveness of that approach here.
  • Question: If time and budget allows, should you create an entirely separate site for your podcast - instead of just a podcast page on your existing site? A: yes, but if you already have a successful site, make it a subdomain (like podcastname.mysite.com) of your main site. This way, from an SEO perspective, your existing domain authority will trickle over to the new show.
  • What are some good ways to design your podcast home page?  We have a great video walkthrough post about the highly converting "Upside Down Podcast Website Design Pattern

How difficult is this to implement?

IMHO, on a scale of 1-10, how much time & skills are required, and how big is the benefit?

8
Time
3
Skills
10
Benefit

4

Podcast SEO Mistake: Forgetting or under-estimating the value of internal and external links

What I often see:

Show notes that have no links to anywhere. Or feature rudimentary links only to their guest's content

I see episode show notes that appear very complete and helpful at first glance. They can include a transcript, and even time stamps, are long enough to provide an overview or even a way to comprehend the entire episode at a glance.

For interview style shows I even see external links to the guest's home page, social media profiles or other content, and this is great and your guest surely appreciates the links.

But often what is missing are internal links. Links to other related episodes or blog posts on similar topics. Links that will allow a visitor, who is presumably already interested in your show's topic or the theme of the current episode, to discover other related content on your site. 


Why are links important?

Google thinks links are important. And Google's AI is improving in the way it uses links to index your site and understand what it is about. 

When people talk about "link building", they often mean incoming links to your show notes. And yes, these are most important, but internal link structure is also important, and is one of the things we see underutilized.

Having the right amount of links (vs. none) indicates more authoritative content to Google.  

Providing logical and interesting links as part of your show notes can also help increase the time on site and scroll time.

I've seen post increase in page rank by 20% after internal link structure was created.


What to do instead?

Create an internal link structure to related episodes, blog posts and pages on your site, in addition to external links 

Here's how:

  • Find related episodes with the same category or tag, and create links to them in your show notes.
  • Periodically, go back and revisit older episodes, and update these with links to newer episodes. I have seen this make a difference in SERP position. 
  • If you use the Yoast SEO premium plugin, it will actually present you with suggestions of previous articles to link to. Not a must have, but a nice time saving feature - however it is entirely possible to do this manually. 

How difficult is this to implement?

IMHO, on a scale of 1-10, how much time & skills are required, and how big is the benefit?

2
Time
2
Skills
5
Benefit

5

Podcast Facebook Marketing Mistake: Sharing like it's 2017, and avoiding paid ads

What I often see:

People avoid paid Facebook ads and publish their episodes on Facebook using Hoot-Suite, Buffer and other automated tools

The fact that iTunes is not a great vehicle for marketing your show is not news. So most launch and podcast marketing strategies of the past few years relied on Social Media, especially Facebook.

  • People post their episodes on Facebook, and rely on social organic reach and their followers and friends sharing their episodes.
  • In some cases, people don't even publish show notes on their site, they post on Facebook using direct links to iTunes or Stitcher. (In another post I write about why this is a terrible Facebook podcast marketing strategy)
  • Any launch contests or campaigns to promote their show are run only once, when their show has just launched


Recent Facebook algorithm changes have made it hard to reach new audiences.

This is true especially for brands or businesses with Facebook pages, whom these changes impact the most. For podcasters, organic reach of new episodes in Facebook feeds has suffered as a result. Adweek writes that

"The days of organic reach are definitely over. Businesses have to invest in ads on Facebook to get their content in front of their audiences."

However, there is some good news: This situation has created organic SEO and Facebook marketing opportunities

  • Paid ads on Facebook are more effective than before because the news feed is less crowded with organic business page results.


What to do instead?

Don't spend a lot of money. But spend some.

Learn about paid ads on Facebook, and allocate a tiny budget to get your feet wet. The hardest part is getting started. 

  • An easy way to start is to "boost" an episode post. If you have never done it before, it will at least walk you through the steps of setting up a Facebook paid ads account.
    • Pro Tip: Make sure you have great episode level artwork to promote on Facebook. Take it to the next level by using video of some kind as the Facebook "creative" content to promote your episodes. Check out Lumen5 for an easy / affordable way to design compelling videos with minimal effort.  
  • Keep your initial cost low - even if you only spend the amount of a cup of coffee per day, the insights gained will be valuable. You can compare how one episode fares vs another, in terms of engagement and clicks. And you can gain insights into what your audience responds to the most.
  • Make sure your site and episode pages are set up for conversion - meaning that your podcast page prominently offers Facebook visitors the option to subscribe to your show by email. This way you are not only attracting a new audience, but also "converting" them. For me, email subscribers are more valuable than anonymous listeners on iTunes.
  • Pro Tip #1: Add a Facebook Pixel  - adding a Facebook pixel to your site before you start will allow you to build custom Facebook audiences in the future. Facebook "remembers" people who have visited your site from one of your "boosted" or "sponsored" episodes. So when you launch a new season, or are running a podcast growth contest or promotion for your show, you can re-target this audience and increase the effectiveness of your ads.
  • Pro Tip #2: Run a campaign. Once you are familiar with Facebook marketing basics, run a campaign to promote your show. You can setup a contest, or drive Facebook traffic to your lead-magnet suggested earlier in this post. See how many additional subscribers you can get to opt in to your podcast email notifications.


How difficult is this to implement?

IMHO, on a scale of 1-10, how much time & skills are required, and how big is the benefit?

5
Time
8
Skills
9
Benefit


Conclusion - don't rely on iTunes or Facebook alone

Discoverability of podcasts on iTunes is at a record low. This is not just caused by iTunes, and it's opaque search features, but by too many podcasts on the platform. And Facebook may be a good platform to promote your show, but you have to "pay to play" 

  • Traditional podcast SEO and podcast Facebook marketing using paid ads has become a viable alternative for many podcasters in creating new reach. This approach can not only increase your listener base, but also increase your email list.

FREE 2018 Podcasting Resources Guide: Launch and market your podcast

  • check
    Gear Guides
  • check
    "How To" Tutorials
  • check
    Music & Sound Effect Libraries
  • check
    Software & Tools
  • check
    Guest Booking Services
  • check
    General Podcasting Sites & Groups
Podcasting Resources Guide

Where can we send your guide?

There is no universal step-to-step guide how to find and structure keywords. Your approach will depend on the number of factors such as:

  • Website characteristics (domain and page authority, number of referring pages and backlinks, anchor list)
  • Primary goals and priorities (brand awareness, traffic, applications, calls)
  • Competitive environment (industry, direct or indirect competitors)
  • Marketing team, budget and timing
Guest Post by Inessa Brown

Innessa Brown on keywords research for SEO

Inessa Brown is a member of the editorial team at magora-systems.com, a mobile app development company based in London. Her passion is all aspects of online marketing with a focus on the IT industry.


In this guest post she shares an approach that can be definitely applied to your website regardless of what priorities or budget you have. If you promote your business through mobile applications as well, you could find some useful SEO tips here.

 

Step 1. Seed keywords research

Start with analysing your product or service. How can you describe it with your own words? Ask your friends or colleagues how they might search for your business. For example, your are promoting a site with legal services. So you would think first about search queries such as “hire a lawyer”, “legal advice” or “law firm”. That is an easy approach to raising a keyword database for further steps and to boost your website with cornerstone content.

Step 2. Generate relevant keyword ideas

First of all, check what keywords your website is already be ranking in Google. To deal with it, you can use “Search Analytics” report from Google Search Console. Here you can filter the results by countries, devices or dates. The problem is that you are limited to 1000 keywords. The other issue is that report does not show the monthly search volume so you can make an analysis on the base on clicks, impressions and positions.

keywords research and search analytics

Then, check what keywords other websites in your niche are ranking for. To find competitors, just type in Google search your seed keywords that you have found after the Step 1. Once you found them, check through Google Search Console which keywords they are ranking for. It can happen that 2-3 competitors can provide you with enough ideas to keep your marketing team busy for a long time. If it still not enough, you can use tools such as Ahrefs to find competing domains and discover a lot of relevant keywords.

Finally, if you fill that websites in your niche still have not cover possible search queries or you make a business with unique products, use keywords research tools with a great database such as Ahrefs, SEMRush or Moz. For example, with Ahrefs Keywords Explorer you can filter keywords by search traffic, clicks, cost per click and even number of words in a phrase.

Also, do not forget about indirect keywords that can serve you as an additional source of traffic. With an example of legal services, you can consider phrases such as “what to do if I’m fined” or “how to check a business partner”.

Step 3. Follow keywords metrics

After first and second steps, you have collected thousands of keywords ideas. Now it is a time to structure them and choose those that work best for your business. Here is the number of metrics you can rely on:

  • Search volume. How many times do people put this keyword into Google?  You can search for the results considering only countries that you are interested in. Also, remember about seasonable search for keywords (e.g. Christmas gifts)
  • Clicks. It is a crucial issue because two similar phrases can have almost search volume, but a different number of clicks. It can happen due to Google search results features such as shopping results, image packs and so on.
  • Keywords difficulty. The algorithm is simple: the more relevant backlinks this keyword has, the more difficult it will be for marketers to promote it. However, do not give up with “difficult” words as they can be quite valuable for you business. We recommend always search for a balance between business value and resources needed. To avoid manual work, you can rely on SEO tools such as Google Adwords Planner (totally free) or SEMrush keyword research tool with free 7 days trial. One of our favourites is KWFinder that can check your keyword, analyse its difficulty and suggest alternatives with the lower level of competitiveness. Again, you can target the search to a specific country.KW Finder as a keywords research for SEO tool

Step 4. Structure your list

We believe you know that one page can be ranked for hundreds of keywords. So there is no need to create one page for one keyword phrase. There is an approach that you can use to structure your list when you think what pages to create. Customer Journey Stages Model:

Pre-purchase stages:

  • Brand awareness
  • Problem identification
  • Investigate solutions
  • Asses satisfaction of needs
  • Justify value
  • Purchase factors

Post-purchase stages:

  • Implementation
  • Customer success
  • Up-selling and cross-selling
  • Loyalty and advocacy

So you can map all your keywords through customer journey stages to generate more leads for your business. Also, you can group keywords by other factors. For example, find out which phrases bring your website the highest business value and allocate your resources on this list. On the basis of this list, you can develop high-quality content for your customers and be among the TOP ranked websites in the SERPs.

 

Introduction

Getting traffic to your website can be a brutal process, especially if you don’t know where to turn.  And paid traffic from Facebook or Google Ads stops as soon as you finish paying. So in addition to a paid strategy, it’s essential to make your site and your content search engine friendly so that you can gradually increase your rank and discoverability.

Cornerstone content is a crucial element to help make this happen.

If you are familiar with basic SEO concepts:

Then read on, because one of the most effective ways to boost your site rank and traffic is to use cornerstone content.

Once you understand how cornerstone content can be applied to your website, you will notice improvements and clarity in the way Google algorithms index and rank your content, and the chance of your articles appearing on page one of search results increases. It takes a bit of time to kick in, but SEO activities are seldom a “quick fix”, and more often an investment in a long-term and ever-green approach.

This article will explore what to include with your cornerstone content, and how you can use it to boost traffic and link your existing content to it strategically.

If you are pretty new to SEO:

Some people think of SEO as a confusing and complex set of technical tricks for people to discover your content on search engines. The reality for many businesses and blogs is that there is a lot of competition out there for popular search keywords and that their site does not have the overall search engine authority to help them rank their articles anywhere near the top page of search results.

However, with a little work and patience, an investment in understanding how search engines work is well worth it. If you are new to the topic, please check out our completely free course on SEO, a resource designed to provide easy to follow steps and recipes to increase your site’s visibility and rank.

The course is geared towards podcasters, but everything in it also applies to blogs or business sites following a content strategy.

What is Cornerstone Content?

Cornerstone content is made up of your hero content, such as pages and blog articles on your website.  These should be your most compelling and essential pieces.

They should answer your site visitors most significant questions, explain your business approach and topic of interest in great details, and in general be content you are most proud of.

The articles should reflect your business, communicate the mission, and provide well-written explanations.

How does Cornerstone Content Work?

Cornerstone ContentCornerstone content relies on an internal link building approach. Most other articles on your site should repeatedly link to your cornerstone content by way of explaining important and repeating concepts on your site.

These multiple links then create a roadmap for search engines to recognize that these cornerstone articles are the most important pages your site has to offer, and this will increase the rank of these pages on Google and other search engines.

Cornerstone Content

click to see full size

Google loves well-organized content, and this overall linking strategy creates a spider web of internal links Google loves.

We’ve illustrated this spider web of links to your cornerstone content in the main graphic for this post, click on this small thumbnail to see the full-size version.

Using Categories to Select Your Cornerstone Topics

If you are already running a site with well-organized content, the likelihood is that categories help organize it.

One approach to cornerstone content is to create a hero “cornerstone content” post for each category. All the other articles in the category should then refer to and link to this post.

Of course, some people have way too many categories on their site, and from my perspective, this is a mistake. In my opinion, a handful of categories are more effective than dozens. Perhaps focusing on launching your cornerstone content is a good opportunity to clean up your categories and tag structure. There are easy methods for category cleanup out there to help do this.

Importance of Keywords

When you’re deciding on your cornerstone content, you need to consider the keywords you want to rank for carefully.

In our aforementioned SEO course, we provide many tools, tips, and tricks on how to conduct keyword research that is effective for your site.

Do not fall into the trap of trying to rank for keywords your site has no chance of ever achieving a page 1 result for – your keywords need to be commensurate with your current site rank, and this can be different from site to site. (We have a formula for that in the course)

For this reason, I like using the term “key phrase” better than “keyword”, which implies a single word. Often the key phrase will be a combination of two or more words that people are actually searching for on Google.

So you are looking for key phrases that are low in competition (The concept of keyword difficulty), but relatively high in search traffic.

In any case, you should make these keywords unique, and use them only once on your site – for your cornerstone article. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that repeatedly optimizing pages for the same keyword is helpful: it will only dilute the importance the Google algorithm assigns to the page.

Blog articles or pages?

There is often some amount of debate among SEO experts if cornerstone content should consist of blog articles or of pages on your site. Many marketers recommend setting up cornerstone content as pages. I agree, but there is no technical SEO advantage to creating pages over posts, they are ranked the same.

The benefit is that pages have over posts are

  • In most themes, pages do not display dates, and it is good for your cornerstone content to appear timeless
  • Pages can be organized in menu structures, making them easy to find

But there are ways to get around this, on some WordPress themes you can suppress the display of dates on blog posts.

SEO Trick

This brings me to another SEO trick: from time to time it is good to update your cornerstone content to keep it fresh. Personally what I do is to put a “Last updated XX/XX/XXX” at the very beginning of the post, and I have seen Google increase the post rank after doing this. So this is a “trick” to get a small additional boost for cornerstone content created some time ago.

As far as making cornerstone content easy to find, for me, most traffic is coming from search and social media.

This means people are likely to land on my blog, and not focusing on navigating my menu structures. So what I have done is to position cornerstone articles prominently and permanently on the top of my blog page, in a “sticky” manner. Besides, you can easily include blog articles in your menu structure if that helps.

So in my case cornerstone content is easily left as blog entries instead of converting these articles to pages.

Article Quality as Well as Length Matters

The goal of cornerstone content is to serve your site visitor, not just to increase your rank.

It goes without saying that your cornerstone articles should be of great quality, communicate your value proposition, are easy to read, have lots of images, and be SEO optimized with all the tips and techniques we teach in our free SEO course for podcasters and bloggers.

But how do you define quality? Spare a thought as to what would make a really useful resource for your audience and topic, one that people would love to share on social media, are likely to bookmark or revisit as a reference from time to time. If you can manage to make your page or post so compelling that people bookmark and share, then you will have won half the battle.

So a 300-word quickie article will not cut it, and the likelihood is that your site visitors would be more impressed and bookmark a 5000-word manifesto. Which brings us to length.

You SEO veterans out there will be aware that article length matters to Google. Google attributes more importance to articles over 300 words in length. Another inflection point occurs at 700 words, and then again at 2000 words.

So when it comes to cornerstone content, longer articles still are even better, but they should definitely be over 2000 words.

cornerstone content rankingWe’ve seen cases where we ranked a client’s page to be #1 on Google within a week, using a specifically designed and optimized long-form article for the search term desired.

Google “customer experience podcast” for example, and you should see our client’s article in position #1: What we did is to create an article to summarize the experience and insights for the first 50 episodes of her podcast. We SEO optimized the article, and her fans and listeners loved it and shared the article widely, and within a few weeks, her post ranked on the top for the desired search term.

Writing Clearly: A Confession And Three Tips

Cornerstone content should be written clearly. I have a confession to make, I seem to have a hard time doing this. There are tools out there to provide a “readability score”, and I tend to get a failing grade quite often. English is not my first language, but that’s just an excuse. So if you are like me and tend to express yourself with complexity, here are some tips  and tools to help:

  1. Keep your paragraphs super short
  2. Break up content with frequent headings
  3. The Hemingway App is a wonderful online tool that evaluates your writing in real time and then starts marking your content progressive shades of red as it gets too complex. It will keep you writing with Hemingway-esque brevity. And punish you for using too many adverbs:)
  4. Grammarly is another writing tool that is useful for both advanced spell chack and grammar suggestions, however it does little in terms of simplification.

Some Cornerstone Content Ideas For Inspiration

I am sure you can come up with a ton of ideas for your blog, site or topic, but here are some cornerstone content ideas for you to consider and to help get you started.

A Definitive Resource Guide

A collection of curated external and internal links, resources, sites, video, podcasts, books etc. Describe each resource and do not just provide a list of links, but go into detail about why they are useful and in what scenario they lend value.

A Manifesto Post

A detailed explanation of your worldview, philosophy, approach to your topics, summarizing your truths and then going into detail explaining your position. These can be controversial in nature, which adds to the shareability.

A Research Results Post

Conducting your own primary research around a topic in your niche is one of the best ways to build blog content that gets attention. Go into details, include graphics and references.

Tutorial Post

Create a multi-part tutorial on a topic you know your audience would love, but which also represents your site’s topic well.

Crowd Sourced Influencer Post

Bring multiple influencers together to answer a single question in short form. When you get 10 influencers to give you 300 words each on a single topic – you’ve got a powerful blog post.

Podcast Episodes Roundup

If you have a podcast summarize the insights and best resources gathered in your last 50 episodes.

Internal Site Linking To Cornerstone Content

cornerstone-content-incoming-linksOnce you have created a piece of cornerstone content, it is time to identify all the other articles on your site that should link to it. One approach would be to go into a list of every article within your chosen category or to use a list of related tags.

However, there is a more effective method to identify content that Google already thinks is related: Using Google Internal Site Search.

Go to Google and search for your keyword or key phrase in the following format: (for multiple words making up a key phrase, place these in quotes as in my own example below)

site:mysite.com keyword

So on my site, for example, this is what it would look like for a piece of cornerstone content about podcast production

site:polymash.com "podcast production"

This will result in a list of articles Google already thinks are relevant to the topic. The last step is to modify each of these articles to link to your cornerstone content article from within the text.

It is important to note that links in the sidebar of through a footer widget do not carry as much weight as links from within these posts themselves, so find a paragraph with some text from where it makes sense to link to your cornerstone content article.

External Links to Related Content

Don’t think that cornerstone content should link only to your internal articles. Providing links to other authority sites is helpful to the reader, and establishes other resources to consider on your general topic.

However, I have one caveat: I usually provide external links near the bottom of my articles, because I want to encourage people to read my article first before jumping off somewhere else. This also helps reduce my bounce rate in the process, another SEO ranking factor.

Case in point: Here are some great external articles on Cornerstone Content:

  • Copyblogger: Cornerstone Content Defined in 60 Seconds [Animated Video]
  • Yoast: Using cornerstone content to make your site rank

The Landing Page Approach

Another useful way of thinking about structuring cornerstone content posts is to take a landing page approach.

This means removing menus, distracting sidebars, and adding a table of contents near the top. Of course, you still want to enable your visitor to find menus and navigation for the rest of your site, but this menu can occur on the bottom of your page (Also sometimes referred to “Upside Down Home Page”, one of the inbound design patterns we often talk about.)

Summary

Cornerstone content should attract visitors to easily find core information about you, your topic, service or industry. When done right, it will serve your visitors and help put your other content into context, while at the same time helping you rank for more difficult and competitive keywords.

Using these simple tips and tricks will ensure your cornerstone content is ready to go.

If you have a podcast, then one of your top priorities will be to increase your audience size. After all, if you create a podcast to which no one listens, does it even matter?

So at first glance, you may think that running Facebook Ads would be an excellent vehicle to promote your podcast and help increase your listening numbers and subscribers. After all, Facebook will allow you to finely target your audience and do it in a very cost-effective way.

My point with this post is not so much to argue that Facebook is inherently a poor platform to advertise podcasts on, but rather to point out that there is a better way to do podcast marketing than most marketers recommend.

There has been a slew of recent posts on how to best advertise podcasts on Facebook, and I fundamentally disagree with the premise of these posts. Here is why:

So what’s the problem with using Facebook Ads to promote your podcast?

The issue has to do with where to send traffic once someone clicks on your ad.

So many marketers recommend promoting Facebook episodes by directly linking to the iTunes or Android episode pages.

  • They argue this is better than sending people to a show notes page on your site
  • In fact, many of these posts argue that you don’t need show notes pages at all, and can save the time and effort
  • They say that iTunes and Stitcher is after all where you want people to go to subscribe to your show
  • They advise that this is the best way to capture people on mobile devices, by targeting an iOS audience for the direct link to the iTunes episode, and by targeting Android audience and sending them to the Stitcher episode link

I fundamentally disagree with promoting your iTunes and Stitcher podcast links  for the following five reasons:

#1

It Costs Too Much

Sure, your ads may result in getting more subscribers to your podcast on iTunes and Stitcher, but Facebook podcast marketing ads should have a better goal than just to add listeners to your podcast. And the cost per new listener is usually quite high.

Think of it this way, in terms of analytics: “Cost per anonymous listener” IS NOT THE SAME THING AS “Cost per qualified lead or email subscriber.” You could be adding leads for your business, building your email list, increase the rank and traffic for your site, and building a digital asset for your brand.

Instead, you could be getting greater value and ROI from your Facebook ads by focusing on lead generation and list growth instead of on just getting more listeners.

#2

iTunes and Google Play Do Not Need More Traffic From Your Facebook Podcast Marketing

promote-your-podcast-on-itunesYou are paying for traffic that you are sending to iTunes and Google Play Music.

Really?

Instead, your site could be benefitting from greater traffic, rank, and authority.

#3

Blind Dates

promote your podcast with a blind dateiTunes and Google play traffic may slightly increase your subscriber and listener stats at Libsyn or Blubrry. Of course, this cannot truly be measured, since Facebook won’t know how many listeners subscribed to your show on those platforms.

More importantly, you don’t know whose these listeners are. Since you are not capturing their email address, you have much less of a chance to engage with them, even if they are big fans of your show. If you don’t manage to send them to your website and show pages, you are essentially going on blind dates – without ever even asking for a name. So, a very passive way to promote your podcast.

Instead, your podcast listeners could be coming to YOUR site, because you offer valuable additional episode information there. They could be signing up to receive podcast notifications via email, or finding links and resources about your guests, and downloading these resources from you in exchange for an email address.

So, during your podcast, make sure you mention an easy to remember episode show notes link like “mypodcast.com/132” – and mention this often, for example at the start of the show, create your own mid-roll segment inviting people to visit your site, and include it again in the outro.

#4

No Digital Sharecropping

facebook podcast marketing without digital sharecropping in promoting your podcastIn my opinion, too many authors, speakers, entrepreneurs and small businesses spread their entire online presence across 3rd party platforms. They want authority and recognition in their space but are also conscious of the promised audience, engagement, ease of use and time savings these platforms promise.

They post all of their valuable intellectual capital and thought leadership content on platforms like Medium, LinkedIn or Facebook instant articles. Their videos exist only on Youtube, their podcasts episode only on Soundcloud, iTunes or Stitcher. In other words, on platforms they themselves don’t own outright, but platforms that have a built-in audience and engagement.

In the long run, this is short-sighted

What to do instead? I am not proposing to avoid these platforms. However, I am saying that traffic to promote your podcast should land on your site.

And this content should live on your own site FIRST AND FOREMOST, and then be shared from there centrally, spreading out to 3rd party platforms for social engagement. Especially if you are using Podcasting as Content Strategy.

The effort involved in creating and maintaining your podcast show notes are well worth it in the long run and pales in comparison to the effort of actually creating your content in the first place. You need to build system for sharing from this central platform only once – the week to week effort of recording episodes and publishing show notes for them adds up only gradually, and much of the process and subsequent syndication of your content can be automated.

For our clients, we specialize in automation of the entire podcast production and publishing workflow, including automatically syndicating your episode content onto many other platforms. The content calendar tools and automation processes we use for this is the topic of another upcoming post, feel free to subscribe to our blog to learn more.

In short, having your own SEO optimized podcast show notes pages allow you to build a much more valuable asset on your site, audience, and email list. Would you not rather have free traffic and rank for your site? Would you not rather earn organic search traffic over time? And I think most marketers would agree that email lists are still the most valuable asset to build for your digital presence. Overlooking the SEO value of your show notes pages is one of the deadly podcast marketing sins I write about elsewhere on this blog.

The Importance of Building A Conversion Optimized Podcast Home Page

Podcast Website Design Patterns For Conversion And List Building

If you agree with the idea that your site is a valuable way to gain podcast subscribers, then you will want to build a great conversion optimized podcast home page. We recently published a video walkthrough which showcases a highly converting podcast website design pattern called “The Upside Down Podcast Home Page”.

#5

Analytics & Measuring Performance

How do you measure your investment in Facebook ads? For me the answer is how many people SIGN UP for your podcast or blog, NOT how many more listeners you might be getting on iTunes.

Before running ad campaigns on Facebook, you get to decide the “Goal” of each ad campaign during the setup process. Simply measuring “clicks to a website” is the weakest form of available analytics, yet this is the only goal you can use when sending traffic to iTunes or Stitcher.

Facebook cannot measure who subscribed to your podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or even if they listened to an episode after clicking on your ad. So how do you optimize or test your ads? If you are sending your ad traffic to iTunes and Stitcher as proposed by many marketers, then the only way you can tell if these ads are even working is to see if your Libsyn or Blubrry stats increased during the time you ran the ad. And of course, even then you don’t know the identity of the people who subscribed.

promote your podcast and know your numbers

A recent marketing webinar from SharpSpring pointed out that focus on conversion rate was by far the most important metric to measure.

A better goal is to measure “Conversions”, and Facebook algorithms are more effective in showing your ads to the best possible and highly “converting” audience. However, for this you need to install a “Facebook Pixel” on your site, so that actual sign-ups to your podcast email subscription list can be recorded on Facebook. Having a Facebook Pixel on your site is not complicated, there are great plugins for this. (My favorite is PixelYourSite, which makes installation and managing Facebook Pixels a snap)

Facebook then improves the targeting of who they show your ads to, based on who signed up, and builds in effect a custom audience for your on the fly during the campaign. This results in a much better use of your advertising dollar.

Conclusion

IMHO, having a highly converting home page for your podcast is critically important – to promote your podcast and build a subscriber list outside of iTunes. And so is having episode specific show notes pages. Most good podcasts already do. So if the way you promote your podcast is to be sending Facebook ad traffic directly to your episode pages on iTunes and Stitcher, I’d encourage you to do otherwise.

 

FREE 2018 Podcasting Resources Guide: Launch and market your podcast

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As a small creative agency owner, attending the occasional marketing workshop is a necessary investment, and I understand the value of marketing as a tool to reach my customers and grow my company to the next stage. However, like many marketers and entrepreneurs out there, I also know how important it is to continue my own education and to learn from the best out there. As such, partnering with and learning from people who have different and deeper experience with marketing is super important for me.

My partner and I have been attending a series of seminars and marketing workshops from Speaking Empire, a leading company that helps speakers and entrepreneurs figure out new and innovative ways to market their brand, and to become best-selling speakers and presenters in their niche. Their holistic system is based on selling from the stage, be it live at speaking events, or virtual stages via webinar, and the community they have built is full of entrepreneurs that have launched multi-million dollar businesses as a result of partnering with Speaking Empire.

During the last year we’ve attended multiple 3 day workshops and have been fortunate to meet and learn from many of these successful and inspiring people. Talk about JV opportunities, this alone has made being a member worthwhile.

What Is The Speaking Empire?

Speaking Empire Marketing Workshop LogoSpeaking Empire is a joint venture by Dustin Mathews and Dave Vanhoose to teach speakers, business owners and marketers to achieve their goals. From where I am sitting, they provide some of the best information out there regarding marketing, and Speaking Empire is a company that is committed to helping business owners and their companies reach their full potential.

Dustin and Dave founded Speaking Empire because they  believe that everyone has a message inside, and to help people find that message and then structure it into a way that communicates.

When you understand both the Signature Presentation Formula™ combined with Irresistible Offer Architecture™ you’ll have a powerful message.

By utilizing real-world tested methods and laying everything out in a simple and easy-to-understand manner, the team at Speaking Empire can help anyone achieve their goals.

A Marketing Workshop With a Difference

For my partner Robyn and I, investing in the time to attend the “Group Power Day” was one of the best ways to get started. We’ve also been to the “Presentainer”, where we learned presentation techniques and webinar formulas that entertain – but also help you sell in the process. You can check out this and some of their available seminars at speakingempire.com to see what they can do for you. They helped us immensely, and I know that other entrepreneurs and marketers like us can benefit from their services.

The last and most recent in the trifecta of workshops is we attended was the “Brand Response Marketing Workshop”, and I wanted to give a shout out to Dustin Matthews, the CEO of the whole thing, and Emerson Brantley, the copywriting workshop lead for the team. Here is what I got out of everything.

Dustin Mathews, CEO of Speaking Empire

Dustin Mathews at the Brand Response Marketing WorkshopWhen most people think of a CEO, they imagine some guy sitting behind a desk who can’t be bothered with day-to-day operations. Dustin, however, is very much a hands-on person who wants to make sure that everyone who attends his events is not only having a good time but is getting the most value out of the service. After all, if we are here to learn something, we want to make sure that we walk away more knowledgeable than when we arrived.

Marketing wTo that end, Dustin was excellent and provided not only advice and brainstorming ideas while we were working, but a host of tools and templates that we could use at our disposal. In the end, it really felt like he was there for our benefit, not the other way around.

PS, Dustin just launched his new book, called “The no B.S. Guide to Powerful Presentations”, check it out here.

Emerson Brantley, Copywriter and Workshop Lead

Emerson Brantley at the marketing workshop of the Speaking EmpireWhen it comes to implementing new marketing tools, many people are so eager to try them out that they don’t step back and examine the overall strategy behind it. Why are we using this tool to reach out to our clients instead of something else? What value are we providing for our customers that will make them come to us instead of the competition?

Thanks to Emerson, I started thinking critically about how marketing can be utilized as well as the role that copywriting has in the whole process. I liked that he laid everything out in a simple manner that focused more on the customer’s experience rather than the uniqueness of the tools we could use. That way, we ensure that our clients are happy and coming to us in the future. Emerson has had some amazing experience and results when it comes to copywriting and marketing, you can check him out at Web3Direct and see some of the amazing marketing case histories. Emerson helped me see things from a different perspective, which is why I appreciated his input and recorded a separate video testimonial about the workshop experience with him here.

The Upcoming Amplify Event

Amplify is the follow up event to the brand response marketing workshop By the way, there is an amazing upcoming conference called “Amplify” I can highly recommend.

If you want to craft a message that resonates, deliver that message with power, and build a platform that reaches the world then Amplify is for you.

If you’re a high-level business owner and you want to get your company to the next stage, then you most likely want to attend this exciting and worthwhile event. It’s a collection of the top minds and leaders in the industry coming together to help everyone succeed to their full potential. As such, you need to reserve your space now as they are limited. Find out more about the event and how you can participate here.

 

In today’s technological world, it has never been easier to connect with people from around the globe. While this interconnectivity is great for a lot of reasons, one aspect that has significantly benefited from it is the concept of a mastermind. Now it’s easier than ever to get a group of like-minded individuals together for various purposes, which is why they are becoming more and more popular. However, just because it’s getting easier doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of challenges, which is why you should be prepared before starting your own mastermind. No matter what your goal is, it’s important to have a strategy and a plan set up beforehand.

To help you get started, we are going to look at some of the key components that make up any great mastermind as well as go over the steps you should take to make it as successful as possible. If you put in the work, your group should be nothing but successful.

What is a Mastermind?

facilitating mastermindsSimply put, a mastermind is a group of individuals who come together to coach each other in order to achieve common goals. These can be related to a career, personal ideologies, or hobbies, but the point of a mastermind is to provide an organized and stable environment for these people to interact and work together to achieve success for each member.

So how is this different from a generic chat group or meeting space? Well, the main component of a mastermind is that everyone is there for a particular purpose. Maybe it’s to learn new skills that can be applied to a job or hobby, or perhaps it can be used as a means of networking. The underlying purpose is that everyone is there to get something out of the group, rather than relaxing and having it be a “hang out.” Overall, it’s meant to be a resource more than anything.

How Do You Start a Group Coaching or Mastermind Experience?

Thankfully, as technology grows, it is much easier to start a mastermind online than ever before. All you need is a platform that allows for users to communicate and share information and you are ready to go. To make the whole thing much more conducive to success, you want to use a platform that requires membership for entry. This ensures that you cultivate motivated people and that you can share sensitive information without it becoming public.

For most, the simplest path is to use private Facebook Groups, and while this is a simple and familiar way for members to communicate, Facebook Groups have some significant shortcomings, especially when used for paid groups. The nature of a timeline based conversation means that resources, topics and projects slide out of view and are hard to find. Setting up a simple membership site for participants in addition to having a Facebook group for simple chat and Q&A sessions is ideal. Also this allows the host to manage access and charge participants if so desired. (We get into the benefits vs drawbacks and how much to charge if at all later)

While the concept of a mastermind is relatively straightforward, execution is where most people experience problems. Because there are no specific guidelines for setting up a mastermind, it can be difficult for leaders and members to come together and stay organized. Thus, you want to make sure that you understand and stick to the following strategies to keep your mastermind on point and avoid running into common pitfalls. While there are going to be some minor differences based on your particular group, these steps are designed to help anyone manage and execute a high-quality mastermind.

​ START YOUR OWN MASTERMIND GROUP 

Use these 51 fundamental tips for success & profits

51 TIPS FOR RUNNING MASTERMIND GROUPS ONLINE

51 tips for running mastermind groups online
  • ​Is group coaching right for you?
  • Fundamentals & best practices
  • Monetization & when to charge
  • The best online platforms
  • Where the most leadership is needed
  • Managing rotations
  • And much more...

Core Components of Running A Group Coaching Program

As with any project, the primary thing driving your success is motivation. That being said, if you are trying to get your group coaching program off the ground while making it a side hobby, it can be difficult to maintain a strong momentum all the way through. As such, you first want to make sure that you understand what it’s going to take to get from a concept to reality, so it’s imperative that you get into the right frame of mind before you begin. If you aren’t mentally prepared to get your idea off the ground, then you could be dooming yourself to failure.

Once you have gotten into the right mindset, however, then all it takes is some planning and perseverance, and you can create a successful mastermind in no time.

Attendance

Usually, one of the biggest issues is getting your group to attend on a regular basis. Motivation is a huge problem for many people, meaning that if they aren’t actively engaged or getting some value from your mastermind, they are more likely to bounce after a few visits. To have a successful group, you need to ensure that members are in attendance regularly and are active within the community. Passive members should be removed or persuaded to get involved so that you don’t risk complacency taking over.

Organization

Whenever you are tasked with managing a group of people, it’s critical that you stay as targeted as possible with goals and duties that need to be performed. Essentially, you will have to treat your mastermind as something of a job where members need to stay active and participate on a regular basis. To help ensure that things run smoothly you have to be as organized as possible. Not only will it make it easier for your group to stay engaged but it will make leading so much more efficient as you can manage a larger system with less effort. Simply put, the more energy you put into the organization and planning the better your mastermind will operate.

Not only is it imperative that your platform is organized, but your members as well. If people are lazily meandering from one project to another without clear objectives or goals in mind, then the whole thing can fall apart as it becomes difficult to monitor success on a daily basis. The more you can manage the group, the better off you will be.

Leadership

If you are starting a new mastermind, then odds are you are envisioning yourself as the leader. However, are you up to the challenge? Can you keep members on point with various projects and discussions without being too bossy or off-putting? Are you able to manage your time efficiently and keep the mastermind running smoothly at all times? Again, this is all about putting yourself in the right mindset to deal with the grind that sometimes comes with running a mastermind. As with anything worthwhile, you have to take the good with the bad, so be prepared to handle all leadership duties that may arise. The reason some masterminds fail is that it starts to take more time and effort to keep things on track, and leaders fail to maintain a high level of motivation.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if someone else offers to be a leader of your mastermind that it can always be a great idea to outsource responsibility. While you may first think that you are giving up control of your group, the fact is that spreading out duties can make things much easier for you and allow you to manage more effectively. Don’t be afraid to lean on other people, especially if they seem willing and capable of helping out.

Time

Ultimately, the more time and energy you can spend running your mastermind, the more successful it will be. If all you are doing is putting in a few hours a week, then how can you be expected to stay on top of things? When starting out, your time commitment may not be too much, but as the group expands and gets more members, then you will have to start putting in extra time to keep things running well. However, if you are doing everything for free, then it can start to feel like you’re putting in too much effort without getting a return. This is where fees come in.

Fees: to Charge or No?

When you’re first starting a mastermind, you may invite a few of your friends or online colleagues and do everything for free. Most people start off this way because it is hard to ask for a fee when you are starting out. However, there’s a lot to be said for charging money to members, even if it’s a nominal amount. To help illustrate this point, let’s go over the pros and cons of having a free mastermind versus a fee-based group.

Benefits of a Free Service

In this case, it’s usually easier to cultivate new members initially because there is no obligation on their end. If you are trying to build your profile and group numbers then offering a free membership can help you succeed. Overall, being free is a benefit to members rather than management.

Downsides of Free Service

Ultimately, we run into the time constraint problem over and over again. If you’re not making money running a mastermind, then that means you are doing it in your spare time, which means that it’s more of a hobby than anything. This not only is the case for management but members as well. Because there is no financial obligation to attend, it can be hard to maintain high levels of active members. In the end, it can also feel like more of a drain than anything, which could lead to the whole thing fizzling out over time.

Benefits of Charging Members

While you may feel weird about charging people to access your mastermind, the fact is that as long as you are creating value, there is no reason not to charge. The benefit of doing so is that you can spend more time and effort making the group successful (since you’re being paid to do so), and members are more obligated to make it work as well. If you’re paying a membership fee to something, you are more likely to attend as a result.

Downsides of Fees

Overall, the biggest reason not to charge a fee is if you cannot provide value to your members. If you’re not able to spend the requisite amount of time and effort to keep your mastermind organized and successful, then charging a fee can turn your membership off completely, which means that your numbers will dry up.

When it comes to starting and maintaining a mastermind, the benefits can be phenomenal. As long as you go in with your eyes open and have a plan of action, then you can turn your idea and goals into actionable plans for success. No matter what you’re trying to achieve, a mastermind can be a fantastic way to get there.

Credit: MOZ

In the world of marketing, things have changed drastically from traditional methods. While back in the old days you had to rely on “interruption marketing” to find and approach your prospects with outbound ads and sales calls, with everyone online these days you can bring these prospects to you you. What’s changed is that massive amounts of content are written and consumed on-line, and leveraging this successfully is what’s known as inbound marketing, and it is fast becoming the dominant trend.

However, while most companies are focusing on inbound marketing as a means to an end, we at Polymash believe that everything you do should be intentionally designed to make your systems as customer centric and profitable as possible.

What are we talking about? Inbound Design. Today we’ll go over how your whole marketing campaign should be carefully crafted to maximize results. Don’t just generate content and hope for the best, design everything to be a funnel and you will notice your conversion rate increase immediately. Let’s take a look and see how it works.

Inbound Design vs. Inbound Marketing

For the most part, when people talk about inbound marketing they are referring to marketing techniques and its content designed to attract, convert, close and delight people visiting  your website.

Inbound design, on the other hand, is a design thinking approach making sure that your entire presence, including your site, emails, social profiles, content you share and other touch-points your customers may have with you are all expertly curated to provide value through relevant content, develop leads and convert them into new customers. Both of these systems work well together, but most startups, solopreneurs and companies are focused on the traditional marketing side rather than the design thinking side. We hope to change that.

Conversion Optimized Inbound Designs

So what do we mean when we say that your website should be crafted to generate conversions and leads? Well, that ultimately means that it needs to be more customer centric. It needs speak to the visitor’s likely needs, appeal to their desires and speak to their likely issues or problems, providing answers and being focused and engaging all the while. In other words, provide value without being salesy or pushing an agenda. Getting your audience to know, like and trust you gradually is the aim.

It’s Not Just About The Layout

So this implies that you need to design not only the layout of the site, but the entire visiting experience to bring your customers in and provide a call to action so that they take part in your business.

Simplify, often there are gains to be had by reducing the amount of information available on your homepage to its essentials, creating more white-space and thinking about the navigation hierarchy and pathways of likely travel through your site. Resist the temptation to talk too much about how great you, your company and services are. Make it about your site visitor instead.

The more quickly and clearly you can stimulate, engage and activate your clientele the more successful you will be and the more brand recognition and loyalty you will earn. Increasingly affordable marketing automation platforms allow you to recognize return visitors and even to adjust what information your site presents to them – all with the goal to be the most relevant source of information you can be. The goal is a more customer centric website.

So how do you achieve that level of success?

Developing Personas and Value Propositions For Each Visitor Type

user experience design services - persona developmentOK, so now you may be keen to start re-designing your site.  Most people understand that before you start marketing you should have a crystal clear idea of who your target audience is. Whether it’s Millennials who love hip hop music or Boomers who want to learn how to cook, you need to have your demographic dialed in and refined so that everything speaks to them directly. The best way to do this is to create and use personas that match your audience specifically. We’ve written extensively on this site about the  Value Proposition Design and UX techniques involved, so we won’t go into detail, except to address this question:

How do you assign anonymous site traffic to personas?

One way  is to produce laser focused content on topics particular to that persona, content that will educate them or even solve a problem. And then offer relevant premium add-on-content, e-Books, guides, tip sheets or other bonus materials they will very likely want to enhance their knowledge further. When registering for such downloads, your email service provider, forms software or marketing automation then “tags” the visitor with the relevant persona.

Instead of selling them on the product or service itself you want to create a strong feeling of trust first that will make them realize why your content, and ultimately your company is so valuable to them. Ask questions, provide examples, and make your pitch as educational, useful, entertaining and engaging as possible to draw your audience in further and further until they are wondering where they can sign up for more information.

Understanding Inbound Design Patterns

At its core, Inbound Design is all about making your website visits work more BOTH for your visitors, but also for your business.

Instead of it being a passive set of linked pages that lets people journey around your site without a plan, this journey should be DESIGNED by you.

So here are 2 inbound design patterns I’d like to share that are working particularly well for this, if you are courageous enough to deploy them. The first one is the concept of the upside down home page, pioneered by Brian Harris of Video Fruit. He’s graciously made a template available on Lead Pages, but this design can be deployed on many platforms, in fact I have a tutorial for doing this in the popular WordPress Theme “Enfold” we use for a number of clients.

1.) What, No Navigation? – Inbound Design Pattern #1 – The Upside Down Home Page Concept

Tip

To get the full effect of this design pattern, click on the image to the right.

Click on the graphic to the right to see or download a larger design template for the “Upside Down Home Page”. The reason it is called “upside down” is that there is no navigation menu on the top of your home page. None. Zip, zilch, nada.

This is also the reason why I said it takes courage to deploy this method, because most people are very set wanting to meet what they think are visitor’s expectations.

However, notice the massive amount of focus generated by the call to action button above the fold. It’s pretty much like a landing page, so there are only few actions on “upside down” home pages that can be taken. In other words,  you are taking control of your visitor’s journey on your site. Of course, if they do opt in, the thank you pages take on an important role to guide them through the rest of your site, but this is one way to accomplish what we’ve been talking about.

And your calls to action can vary greatly. Ask some empathetic questions above the fold that will identify what their most pressing interest  or problem is. Allow site visitors to self-identify and click on something here that offers value or will help guide their journey through the rest of your site. And if your marketing automation platform allows, these first clicks can help categorize your site visitors into the aforementioned personas.

Keep in mind you don’t have a lot of time for this, when youre site first loads you get about 2 seconds before the average person leaves, or bounces. So whatever is above the fold should pull your visitor in, provoke curiosity and provide a particular focus. If the site isn’t immediately grabbing their attention, then they are liable to bounce, and good design reduces your bounce rate and increases your conversion rate.

The rest of the Upside Down Home Page usually consists of testimonials and other social proof, since cold traffic does not allow for lengthy indoctrination essays on home pages.

And by the way, THERE IS A MENU, but it is small and at the bottom of the page, which gives this design pattern it’s name.

Variations

Personally I like variations on this concept where you present not a single call to action, but a set of three, each solving a different problem for a different persona. So here we are starting to combine what we were talking about personas above with the upside down home page layout, and when someone opts in to your offer, you

  1. Assign them a persona
  2. Vary your follow up sequence, messages and offers based on what they selected
  3. Change the layout and content of what they see on your site (assuming you have a marketing automation platform like SharpSpring that supports this)

In the end, the upside Down Homepage converts like crazy and builds your email list of prospects super fast.

2.) The Boxed Journey – Inbound Design Pattern # 2

Tip

To get the full effect of this design pattern, visit the site or click on the image and keep clicking until you see the image full screen in your browser

Inbound Design Boxed Journey Pattern

You may have to zoom or download this to see it in detail, or simply visit the link to Titanium Fitness

Another slightly more conventional approach is one we have employed often with much success. It combines some aspect of the Upside Down Homepage philosophy, but still has the conventional web site menu at the top.

Consider the redesign of a site we recently did for a client in the fitness sector. The site is for a local gym in St Louis called Titanium Fitness, and the proprietor had several very different target audiences she wanted to attract as clients.

Conventional Slider – with a difference

Conversion Optimization geeks like us hate home page sliders. But they can be used for good, here we made sure their most popular offer is above the fold, a Groupon Coupon deal for first time visitors to their Gym.

The “Boxed Journey”

The Boxed Journey section lives on the top of the site and is designed to let different categories of site visitors self select and choose which path through the site is most relevant and interesting to them.  Each box asks some challenging questions to an issue they are likely to want help with. And offers a solution, or at least some help with common problem they may be facing, implying that the solution is not far away.

Each box also offers direct navigation options to reach the portion of the site they are most interested in, and there the offer is repeated.

The owners were creative in working with us to come up with some relevant concepts, and we then produced the downloadable gifts. Now some people won’t opt in from the top of the page, and will navigate further down. But the “Boxed Journey” continues, because each offer box on the top has a related section where more detail is provided and the offer is repeated.

The goal is to get your site visitor to identify themselves by getting into a journey that provides them with your most relevant content, even if that content is varied.

Wait, Before You Go…

Don’t finish your blind date without asking for a name

You have a visitor on your site. They somehow came there via google search or social media or paid ads.

So don’t let them leave without asking their name! In the end, your layout has a lot to do with making that happen. That’s why you need to pay attention to where everything is and how your audience experiences it. And it’s OK to offer them one last chance at your goodies with an exit intent popup, just to be sure they know what they’re missing.

Creating Captivating Content

I guess you’re saying “duh” at this point. It should go without saying that your marketing materials should be incredible on their own, but we want to make sure that we’re covering all of our bases. Whether it’s a blog post, an image, or a post on social media, everything should be relevant your audience and make them want more.

Each blog post should ideally paired with a super relevant, hard to resist, very specific lead magnet or offer. It is this relevance that gets the audience to be more engaged with the material, the more likely they are to follow it to its source so that they can get more of what they like. While most companies are fine with a shotgun approach (quantity), you should focus more on the details (quality).

Designing For The Top of the Funnel

quality content with a purposeThere is one more thing that many people misunderstand about inbound marketing, and where the solution is to apply some inbound design thinking. And that is understanding the difference between content appropriate for the “top of the funnel” vs for the “bottom of the funnel”.

During your initial interactions with site visitors they may choose to download one of your e-Books, gifts or guides. your job here is to entertain, educate and inform, lightly. Initially these should be designed to be applicable to a broad majority of your site visitors and target personas.

As part of our content design services we often help design and strategize such “lead magnets”  for our clients, because we see too many clients with “one size fits all” lead magnets. At the top of the funnel, for first time site visitors, it’s OK for this material to not be very in-depth – the rule of thumb is that these guides should provide value but not take longer than 5 minutes or so to read. And in exchange, at this early stage in your relationship, you may only ask for an email address and not even a name in exchange for your resource or gift.

However, inbound design implies that the process of getting to know, like and trust your brand only begins here – your email follow up sequences are crucial here and also need to be designed to deliver value, introduce yourself and your brand, set expectations and share further valuable resources, and these will gradually become  more in-depth and even more useful to your audience.

Designing For The Bottom of the Funnel

This is where your contacts become interested in your most valuable content, your more in-depth resources, such as case studies or longer e-books. And it is here that start focusing on selling, converting and closing. At this point, your prospects already know, like and trust you, and that makes it way easier and improves conversion %. Your forms can be designed to ask for additional information, such as last name, phone number, industry, company size etc.

And with your audience having indicated increased interest, you can now provide more information about what you do and why you are their best option for filling that need or solving their problem. While the top is all about instant gratification, the bottom is where you can switch to more traditional outbound sales outreach techniques.

Often, this is where qualified leads get handed over from the marketing to the sales team. If you are a smaller business without a marketing department, this is where owning your own marketing automation platform can help you switch from lead generation to sales mode yourself.

Conclusion

In the end, Inbound Design should not be thought of as a tool, but as a philosophy that helps your business grow by becoming more customer centric. The more you think about your customers and the way they perceive and journey through your site and content, and the more this permeates through all your customer touchpoints and marketing materials, the more successful you will be in the end. Think of it as investing in your future.

 

Last updated April 24, 2017

Are you a group coach or facilitator?

mastermind online groupIn recent years the tools around facilitating and teaching masterminds online have really taken a leap forward. Video streaming, Blab, Periscope, Hangouts and other platforms like Zoom and Skype have matured to the point where meaningful group coaching can easily be delivered on-line.

The emergence of the “Mastermind Online” format

It is not only the technology that has matured. One popular and collaborative modality of group coaching is the mastermind concept. In the age of the solo entrepreneur, collaborative support and group coaching from peers and like minded entrepreneurs has become not only popular, but almost a necessary ingredient to success. And from our “inbound design” perspective, this format is hugely attractive because focus on the actual participant needs and agendas are built in.

Add to this the fact that physical location is no longer a huge obstacle in our ever connected world, and the mastermind format is a perfect formula for on-line collaboration.

In a peer group environment, facilitation and leadership is still required

Masterminds online revolve around the concept that all participants are getting equal time to talk about what they are working on, and taking turns so that one person in the group may have the “hot seat” and benefit from the brainstorming of all participants in that session. But this does not mean that masterminds can self-organize.

In fact, the role of the facilitator or founder of the mastermind is very important, when it comes to ensuring that people show up in the first place, stick to the agenda, and also in providing facilitator notes and a space for resources.

Supporting masterminds beyond video conferencing apps

Assistive technologies are springing up, and having a mastermind membership site to support the group can be a big bonus. Consider the following possibilities:

mastermind online appsBenefits to the mastermind online participants

  • A central place for replays of each sessions
  • Transcripts of each session
  • Facilitator journals for each session
  • On-line courses and other resources like e-Books
  • Discussion forums and threads for members (instead of Facebook groups where topics are lost in a timeline)
  • Event calendars

Benefits to group coaches and mastermind online facilitators

  • A sales page for your mastermind group
  • Multiple payment options, one-time, recurring, free trials, renewals, credit card changes
  • Automated payment processing
  • An affiliate referral system to reward your friends and colleagues who refer someone into your mastermind group
  • Affiliate Discounts for members who bring someone else into your group
  • Automated book-keeping and payouts to affiliates

 

​ START YOUR OWN MASTERMIND GROUP 

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51 TIPS FOR RUNNING MASTERMIND GROUPS ONLINE

51 tips for running mastermind groups online
  • ​Is group coaching right for you?
  • Fundamentals & best practices
  • Monetization & when to charge
  • The best online platforms
  • Where the most leadership is needed
  • Managing rotations
  • And much more...