Content Marketing Lead Generation Tactics

Content marketing is one of the most important SEO factors in 2017. This should be no surprise to anyone. Google has long rewarded websites with relevant, quality content. What this means however, is that if small businesses want to compete with big businesses, they need to effectively use content marketing to generate a steady flow of leads. And if done correctly, content marketing will also create awareness, build trust, convert leads, serve existing customers, and help you generate referrals too.

The good news is that you don’t need as much content as you might think. Focus on quality over quantity. Consider writing just one or two blog posts a month, but make sure you adhere to the following system for using content marketing to generate a steady flow of leads.

Content Marketing Lead Generation

  1. Build a list of 6 of the most useful content ideas for your ideal customer
  2. Create a lead generating content upgrade for each of these 6 ideas
  3. Start promoting each idea in social media and advertising

Step 1 – What content should you produce?

The key factor here is to remember who your ideal customer is and remember that effective, lead-generating content is going to be content for that ideal customer. Using your knowledge about your business and your customers, and tools like the Google Keyword Tool, Spyfu, or Semrush, develop a list of core content topics and assign one or two to each month for the next twelve months.

Each theme should be a significant topic related to your business or industry and represent an important search term. Think about it as if it were a book. Each month is a chapter in what could be a book at the end of the year.

Step 2 – What exactly are content upgrades and how do I create them?

The idea of driving someone to your website or landing page and enticing them to give you their email address in exchange for something they are looking for is standard marketing procedure these days. However, the idea of bait for lead capture has evolved. The basic idea behind a content upgrade is this:

Write a great blog post and then when people show up to read it offer them an “upgrade” to the content (check list, video, case study) relevant to the topic in exchange for contact information.

If you can do this correctly, you can effectively convert visiting traffic to a lead funnel. The benefits of content upgrades are:

Creating Content Upgrades

One of the best ways to create a content upgrade is to look at your Google Analytics data and find the most popular content and then consider way to personalize a content upgrade for these posts. Hubspot has a great post from 2016 with 20 example of lead generating content – 20 Types of Lead Generating Content to Put Behind Your Landing Pages.

You don’t have to overthink this. Most people just want a snack – they aren’t looking for a manual. Here are some ideas for good content upgrades:

  • a checklist based on a how to post.
  • take a longer list type of post and then expand on the first 10 in more detail.
  • create a list of tools related to a particular type of advice.
  • create and offer a screencast showing readers exactly how you do something.
  • share a template.

Step 3 – Start promoting each article using advertising and social media

The Field of Dreams mantra just isn’t applicable anymore. If you build it, people won’t really come and they probably won’t find you online. You have to promote your content on social media. Here’s some advice from one of my favorite marketing blogs – Kissmetrics: 17 advanced methods for promoting your new piece of content.



How Not To Get Hacked – Six Easy Steps

There’s been a lot of talk about Russian hackers these days, and while the thought of getting hacked by the Russians (or anyone else) often conjures up thoughts of Jason Bourne, most incidents of hacking are actually much less sophisticated. Let’s face it, hackers, like us, often take the easy way out and go for low-hanging fruit. The good thing about this is that it’s relatively easy to avoid getting hacked. What follows is a simple primer – how not to get hacked – six easy steps.

How Not To Get Hacked Step 1:

Create Strong Passwords

The first and most important rule is to never use the word “password” for your password. Don’t use these passwords either:

  • 123456
  • 123456789
  • qwerty
  • 1111111
  • 123123
  • qwertyuiop
  • 123321
  • 666666
  • 1q2w3e4r5t
  • google

These were the most commonly hacked passwords in 2016.

What all of these have in common is that they are painfully obvious. It is very important to choose your passwords carefully. Don’t use the name of your dog or cat or children. All of these are easily guessed. Strong passwords are cryptic – a meaningless string of numbers, letters, and characters. It’s also important to not use the same password for everything. Your Gmail or Yahoo password shouldn’t be the same as your Facebook password and that shouldn’t be the same as your bank password. Imagine if you were one of the billion or so Yahoo users who were hacked! The hackers would suddenly also have access to your bank account and your social media presence. They could learn everything about you at once.

Check HERE to see if any of your email account passwords have been compromised. If they have (and they probably were), make sure you go change the passwords at the sites where you have an account (or you set up an account eons ago).

How Not To Get Hacked Step 2:

Stop Trying To Remember Passwords…Get A Password Manager

As a website designer I need nearly 1,000 passwords in order to get my work done. Even if I had a meaningful and secure logical way of producing passwords, I would never remember them all. For the past 4 years I’ve been using LastPass. Basically LastPass creates extremely complex passwords (more than 20 characters if I want) and then remembers them whenever I go to a website. All I have to do is create one very long strong password that works as a master password. The master password will then unlock a secure, encrypted vault that contains each unique password for all of your accounts. Password managers also integrate seamlessly into Web browsers, so you can quickly log into any of your accounts from any of your devices. The basic version of LastPass is actually free. If you want to use LastPass on your mobile devices, then all it costs is $1/month.

How Not To Get Hacked Step 3:

Use Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication requires you to enter a password and choose whether to receive a second code via email or your cell phone.  Then, that second code is either texted to your cell phone or sent to your email so that further authentication steps will be required. The exact methods may vary, but two-factor authentication is a much more secure way to prove that you’re you.

How Not To Get Hacked Step 4:

Be Wary of Public Wi-Fi

If you take the right steps to secure your Internet connections, you will probably be okay with public wi-fi. However, avoid doing the following things while on public wi-fi:

  • Don’t check email.
  • Don’t access your bank accounts.
  • Don’t shop online.

In general, whether on public wi-fi or not, seek out websites that start with https:// instead of http://. That extra “s” is a critical level of security. Legitimate shopping, bank, and email websites all use SSL encryption.

For more information about the danger of public wi-fi, check out Norton’s post on the risks of public wi-fi.

How Not To Get Hacked Step 5:

Be Defensive and Watch Out for Phishing Tactics

Spoofs are cyber criminals who try to steal passwords from people who actually know how to come up with complex passwords. This is also called phishing. They’ll get you to click on a link leading to a spoofed website that looks exactly like the one at which you have an account. When you “log in” to the spoofed website, your user log-in credentials are stolen. Do not click on the link. Instead delete the phishy email.

How Not To Get Hacked Step 6:

Trust Your Instincts

If an email or website seems suspicious in any way, delete it or don’t visit it. Many of the attacks – an email phishing campaign for example – attempt to take advantage of our caution and reason by appearing to come from an authoritative source – like our banks, credit card companies, or even the IRS. But in reality, most of those entities will mail you multiple letters before any action is taken. If something – even mailed to you – looks suspicious, pick up the phone and call your bank. Don’t use the number on the suspicious mailing or email.

How To Avoid Phishing and Spear Phishing

Phishing is when someone sends you an email that looks like it came from a bank or service you trust. They try to get you to open an attachment that compromises your device or to click on a web link and to sign in on a malicious website.

Spear phishing is the same as phishing, except the email you receive is especially crafted just for you. The attacker has researched you well and knows who your friends, family and associates are. They may know who you work for and what you are working on. The phishing email received in a spear phishing campaign looks much more authentic, appears to come from someone you know and may refer to something you are working on. Spear phishing attacks have a much higher success rate.

Follow these two simple rules to avoid a phishing or spear phishing campaign:

  1. Never open an attachment unless you are 100% certain that someone you trust sent it to you. If you have any doubt at all, pick up the phone and call the person.
  2. Never click on a website link unless you are 100% certain that the person or organization that sent it to you is someone you trust. When you do open the link, check your browser location bar at the top for the following:
    • The location should start with https://
    • The part after https:// should be the domain name of an organization you trust. For example, it should say and not Everything from the first forward slash to the final forward slash in the location should be a name that you trust.
    • The https:// part should be green if you are using Chrome and it should also say “Secure” to the left.

If you receive an email that looks suspicious in any way, just delete it. Then pick up the phone and call the person who sent it to you. They may not know their email account has been hacked.

How To Avoid Social Engineering

Social Engineering is what happens when someone phones you and pretends to be an organization or individual that you trust. They will try to get sensitive information out of you including passwords, usernames and a description of systems that you have access to.

This kind of attack is common and is used to commit tax refund fraud. It is also used to gain access to your bank accounts. You will even find attackers trying to get access to your workstation by telling you that they have found something wrong and asking you to install their software to fix it.

You can use a simple technique to avoid social engineering scams. Usually the individual will claim they’re from a reputable company or organization. Simply hang up, find the organization’s central number, call back and ask for that individual or someone in the same role.

Using the callback method is an effective way to defeat social engineering.

Staying Safe Online: The Connect4 Cyber Security Survival Guide

Today I’m publishing a guide that I hope will help improve your personal online security. This guide focuses on the basics – how to reduce the life-altering risks we face as we navigate the internet.

This is a Cyber Security survival guide. I’m going to start by giving you a clear picture of the current state of Cyber Security. Then I’m going to prioritize what you should be protecting. I’m going to focus on the biggest risks and I will explain how to reduce the risk for each category.

If you find this useful, please go ahead and share it extensively.

Current State of Cyber Security

Would you believe it if I told you that there’s a 66% chance that your data has already been stolen and will be stolen again and again? Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter whether you use secure passwords, two-factor authentication, are young or old, or which websites you visit or businesses you do business with. At various points in your life, your data will be stolen. And in all likelihood, it will be stolen repeatedly.

Today, 64% of Americans have already had their data stolen through data breaches. That is almost 2 out of three people.

In the past 3 years we saw the first data breach of more than 1 billion user accounts with the Yahoo breach. That breach affected 1 in 7 people on our planet! In the United States, the OPM breach included the data of our top spies, including their fingerprints and personal data. Even our intelligence services can’t protect highly confidential personnel data.

Data has been stolen from private companies, intelligence agencies and the military. Even cyber security companies have had their data stolen.

How Data Is Stolen

Even if you use a strong password, two factor authentication and best practices for security, your data will still be stolen because the companies whose services you use in some cases will fail to protect their own networks and systems.

How to Prioritize What to Protect

If data breaches are the new normal and if you accept the premise that they are inevitable and unavoidable, the problem we need to solve in our personal and business lives becomes “How do I reduce the risk and the impact of a breach?”

It’s helpful to start this conversation by trying to prioritize what we need to protect. I’m focusing on the really important, upper level things and this is my prioritized list so it’s possible your list could be in a different order.

  1. Information about us that could help criminals target us in the real world.
  2. Our financial means – savings accounts, ability to borrow, and our assets.
  3. Sensitive personal information – medical records, tax data and other private data.
  4. Our ability to earn an income through our reputation and our ability to provide products or services to people.

Preventing Criminals from Targeting Us in the Real World

In most of the developed countries, it is rare to hear stories of real-world targeting of individuals through information they have ‘leaked’ into the cyber realm. But in developing countries where there’s a greater disparity of wealth, or if you happen to be a superstar or athlete in a developed country, it might be good to:

  • Never show high value items (like jewelry or cars) online.
  • Share your location in general terms, and if you want to share a specific location, do it after you have left that location.
  • Don’t share information that may indicate when or how much you’ve been paid.
  • Consider making social profiles only available to people you have approved.
  • If you work for someone or some entity with access to highly confidential information, avoid disclosing who your employer is and what your job title is. This includes public websites like LinkedIn.

Protecting Your Financial Means

I’m not concerned with credit card fraud in this section. That risk falls on the vendor and transactions can be reversed. Instead, I’m focused on the kind of risk that can have a permanent impact on your financial well-being.

If an attacker is able to authorize a wire transfer from your savings account, they can empty your bank account and the funds may never be recoverable. This risk applies to savings accounts, checking accounts and investments like brokerage accounts and money market accounts.

If they are able to borrow in your name, it can permanently damage your credit score and your ability to borrow money to buy a home, for example.

I suggest taking the following steps to reduce the risk of large scale financial fraud:

  1. Make a list of savings and investment accounts. Audit each account to determine how you prove your identity when transferring funds and get a clear idea of what an attacker would need to do to commit fraud on each account.
  2. Implement any additional security provided by your banks or brokerages:
    1. callback to a predetermined number.
    2. authorization from multiple parties prior to transferring funds.
    3. two factor or hardware-based authentication.
    4. limiting transaction size when not in person.
    5. real-time alerts.
  3. Monitor account statements weekly. Make this a routine.
  4. Place a credit freeze on your credit report if you are in the U.S. This restricts access to your credit report and makes it difficult for thieves to open up accounts in your name.
  5. Place a fraud alert on your credit report – also if you are in the U.S. This lasts 90 days and forces businesses to verify your identity before issuing you credit.

In all of these cases above, if you are able to choose a password, choose one that is complex (more than 12 digits and including uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and other characters), and use a password manager.

Protecting Your Sensitive Information

Sensitive data that you need to protect includes your medical data, tax data, and social security number. There are two surprisingly easy ways of protecting this information.

First, try to avoid creating data about yourself. If it doesn’t exist, you don’t need to protect it. You will frequently find forms that ask for your social security number or equivalent. Most of the forms don’t actually require it. Don’t provide it if it’s not required.

Second, the best way to protect data is to delete it. Once again, if it doesn’t exist, it doesn’t need to be protected. Don’t hoard sensitive data. When you do need to store and protect your sensitive data, encrypt it and use strong device passwords.

Protecting Your Ability to Earn an Income and Protecting Your Reputation

Most of us rely on some type of IT infrastructure to earn a living. Whether you are an architect, photographer or computer programmer, it is important that you secure the systems you use. Here are a few tips to secure your own systems and the services you use:

  • If you have a WordPress website, make sure that you have a malware scanner and firewall in place, and look into upgrading your security by using SSL.
  • Use a password manager like Last Pass to automatically store and generate long complex passwords that are different for each system you access.
  • Secure your phones, tablets, laptops, and PCs by using disc encryption when available and use complex passwords for device access.
  • Avoid adding data to systems that you need or use.
  • Enable two-factor authentication on all systems or services you use.
  • Keep backup drives in a secure place and destroy sensitive data that you don’t need. Never simply throw backup devices in the trash without either using a secure wiping software or physically destroying them with a large hammer.
Protecting Your Online Reputation

If you use social media, never simply ‘Share’ or retweet someone else’s post until you have fully read it, understood it and also understand any context around it. If you accidentally share something that is highly controversial without fully understanding what you’re sharing, you may find your professional reputation severely damaged.

Secure any social media accounts that you own. If your account is hacked, it may be used for spam which could damage your online reputation.

Secure any websites that you own. If your website is hacked, it will damage your search engine ranking and infuriate your customers if their data is stolen. This can have a severe impact on your reputation. If you use WordPress, install Wordfence which will help prevent a hack.

When installing apps on your smartphone, avoid apps that are aggressively viral. Some apps gain access to your contacts list and can SMS, private message or email your contacts a message from you that suggests they also sign up for the service.

How to do SEO for Small Websites

I hear it all the time: “My website or budget is too small for SEO.” “We don’t have the traffic…no one ever visits our site.” Believe it or not but you should spend time on SEO especially if no one visits your site. SEO for small websites is even more important than SEO for big websites.

The whole point of SEO is to make your website more visible. If you’re not doing SEO, your visibility isn’t increasing. Think about it – doing just a little SEO could mean the difference between having 0 visitors and having a few warm leads from your site.

Here’s how to do SEO for small websites with little to no traffic.

  1. Develop a content strategy – most small sites hesitate to create a content strategy because they think it’s too much work. It takes some work and advance planning, but it’s well worth it. In today’s world, people want answers – people are seeking authoritative answers to their questions. Do you ever turn to Siri for the answer to a question? Where do you think these answers come from? They come from people who create website content. Research long tail keywords. Plan ahead of time and try to publish two blog posts a week. Branch out to different content types. Share your content on all the big social networks like Facebook and Twitter. If you’re part of a niche group – like therapists – consider smaller social networks and niche sites.
  2. Nurture a following – marketing is interactive. Brands engage customers through social media and many top bloggers have ongoing conversations in the comments section. You need to identify your audience, build a solid value proposition, and then build your audience through guest posting and paid advertising.
  3. Optimize your site for mobile – truly optimizing a website for mobile devices is more than creating a mobile version. You have to change a lot but start with page speed.


You don’t need a huge website to get some of the best SEO results. Follow my tips for how to do SEO for small websites and your website will become more visible. The lesson is that it’s never too early or too late to learn the basics.

How to add internal links to your website

Adding internal links to your website is a critical part of SEO as well as improving usability on your website. This post will provide you with the best practices for adding internal links to your website. But before we start, it’s important that you already:

  • have written content – pages or blog posts – on your site.
  • are continuously creating new content. Getting into a regular publishing schedule is important in order for this technique to work effectively.

Link from content-heavy pages to other content-heavy pages

The best internal links are those that connect one article to another. This creates a strong internal linking structure deep within the site. If your website navigation is decent, you’ll have enough linking structure to the site’s main pages such as the homepage, the about page, the contact page, etc. You don’t need to link to these pages!

Create text links using anchor text

The best links use descriptive anchor text. What do I mean by descriptive anchor text? Anchor text is the word or words that are linked to another page.

Your internal links should use anchor text. But not – click here. Click here is not descriptive. It doesn’t tell the user what the click will do or where it will go. I recommend linking using phrases that describe what the target link is about. Here are some examples:

If I want to link to an article about raising sheep, I would do it this way:

If I wanted to link to an article about Google Hummingbird, I would do it this way:

In each of these examples, I’m associating the subject of the link target with relevant phrases.

Do not do these things when creating internal links

  • Do not try to create an exact match between the anchor text and the link target. This technique, known as “exact match anchor text” has been associated in the past with SEO penalties through the Penguin update.
  • Do not use phrases like “click here.” This adds no value.
  • Do not link more than one sentence. An entire hyperlinked paragraph is clunky and unsightly. It makes for a poor user experience. Just stick to a few words or a phrase.

Every time you write an article or blog post, link to four or more old posts.

When you write a new piece of content, you should link to old articles. If you can, try to add five links.

Why? Google likes sites with new content and uses that as part of its ranking algorithm. Links from new pages add new page value to older pages.

Update old blog posts with new internal links

You’ll get the largest boost from your internal links if you combine it with another easy SEO technique – updating old content. When you update old content, Google will scan it again, re-index it, and likely boost its ranking slightly. Here’s a good process to follow when updating old articles:

  • Add a new paragraph of content at the beginning, explaining the updates.
  • Add several new paragraphs throughout, adding additional or updated information.
  • And most importantly, add several new internal links to the content you’ve recently created.

Adding links in places where it’s logical and value-added

Look for areas in the content where the subject matter overlaps. These are logical points of connection to create an internal link.

Broken Backlinks

Make sure you don’t have broken backlinks. These can hurt the final outcome!


How to Use Long Tail Keywords in Headlines

According to Worldometers, every day we are inundated with more than 2 million blog posts and 200 billion emails. No matter what you are writing – blog posts, emails, online ads, or anything else – the headline is a crucial element. How do you get people to stop and read what you write when there’s so much competing content? If you get the headline right, you will probably be positioned at the top of the search results pages. A truly great headline might even prompt people to respond and share your article. Keyword-rich headlines will improve your website rankings and increase engagement with your audience. Your target audience is looking for blog posts that will solve their problems and address the keywords they typed into Google’s search box.

Follow this 3-Step Process for Using Long Tail Keywords in Your Headlines

First Step: Research and choose long-tail search terms.

Let’s stay with Google AdWords Keywords Planner for our example.

On the dashboard, type in your main keyword phrase (e.g., start small business) and click the “Get Ideas” button.

You can see the long-tail keywords that we’ll integrate into our blog post headlines:

starting a small business checklist
best small business to start
steps to starting a small business
help starting a small business

Second step: Model popular and viral headlines.

You can’t just pick long-tail key phrases. You also have to identify viral content specific to your industry, learn from it, and then improve upon it.

When you find headlines that have been shared thousands of times on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., it means that you can get great results, too. All you have to do is study them and incorporate the underlying strategies into your own content.

How do you find these viral blog post headlines?

Visit BuzzSumo, input your main keyword (i.e., start small business), and click the “search” button.

The two viral headlines are:

5 Simple Ways to Start a Small Business ~ 102,658 Facebook shares
6 Things I Wish Somebody Had Told Me When I Started My Small Business

Third step: Create your headlines using the viral headlines as a model:

Original Headline: 5 Simple Ways to Start a Small Business

Keyword phrase to integrate: steps to starting a small business

Unique and keyword-rich blog post headline based on the model:

7 Steps to Starting a Small Business and Growing It
3 Simple Steps to Start a Small Business That You’ll Love

When I find a headline that makes me click, I’ll copy it, study it, and create a unique and better one.

Check For Vulnerabilities In Your Connected Devices

Last week’s DDoS attack on Dyn shut down portions of the internet. A DDos attack is a distributed denial of service attack. Dyn is a major DNS provider. The attack was created by a botnet that took control of a bunch of different connected cameras that still had the default passwords in use. In order to understand how to protect yourself, you need to check for vulnerabilities in your connected devices. And to do that, you need to understand what a DDos attack is and what DNS is first.

What’s a DDoS attack?

At the most basic level a distributed denial of service attack works like this. An attacker sends an onslaught of packets – essentially just garbage data – to an intended recipient. In the case of the most recent attack, the recipient was Dyn’s DNS servers. The server is overwhelmed by the garbage packets, can’t handle any new incoming connections, and eventually slows down significantly or crashes entirely. What’s new about this particular attack is that it’s now possible for an attack by a group of hijacked insecure network devices. The group of hijacked insecure network devices become a DDoS army that can work together to bring down a website.

What’s DNS?

DNS stands for Domain Name Servers. These are the internet’s equivalent of a phone book. Domain Name Servers maintain a directory of domain names and translate them to IP addresses. Without DNS, we would have to remember the IP addresses for websites instead of their easy to remember names. Google’s IP address is but most IP addresses are far harder to remember.

Why Should I Check For Vulnerabilities in Connected Devices?

Since last week’s DDoS attack was created by a botnet that took control of a bunch of different connected cameras with default passwords, it’s important to run a scan on your own network to make sure you don’t have any devices that are essentially open and accessible to an internet hijacking. To scan if you have such devices on your network, Bullguard Security created IoT Scanner. Go to the site, click the scan button, and IoT Scanner will look for open ports on your network.

If IoT Scanner comes back saying that your network can be breached, that means some device that’s connected to your Wi-Fi network has an open port that makes it accessible from the internet. This could be on purpose if you’re running a server or have some other device that you can access from outside your home network. If you’re not doing that and IoT Scanner says your network can be breached, then it’s a good idea to contact your IT professional and see which device has that open port.

Like most tools, take the results with a grain of salt and use this as a starting point to really secure your network.

Online Shopping? How To Get The Best Price

Thanks to dynamic surge pricing, retailers have made online shopping more complicated for shoppers. It used to be easy – practically any online shopping purchase was less expensive than one made at a brick and mortar store. With dynamic pricing – businesses set prices based on market demand and user browsing – online shopping requires creative tactics. Follow the tactics below and I guarantee you’ll get the best prices for anything.

Abandon Your Cart

This is the online shopping way of playing hard to get, but sometimes it really pays off. If you’re not in a hurry to order something, leaving items in your cart may prompt retailers to email you a discount code after a couple of days. “Did you forget something?, their emails might say. “Here’s 25% off!” Just make sure you’re logged in while you’re shopping or else they won’t have an email address on file to send a code to.

Open A Chat Window

Take advantage of any ecommerce site that has chat support. Many of these chat tech support people have the ability to offer you discounts or offer you items that are in stock but not yet on the website. This works particularly well for big companies. I’ve used this online shopping strategy with success on the Dell Outlet site many times.

Use Wikibuy

Wikibuy is a web-brower extension. With Wikibuy, customers browse Amazon while the extension searches through hundreds of sellers for better prices and coupons.

Shop on Mondays

Optimal shopping times and days vary depending on what you’re buying. Prices change based on the day of the week or month, and different retailers operate on different markdown schedules. In general, however, you can score the best deals shopping online on Mondays, especially if you’re looking to buy consumer electronics.

Set Up Alerts

There are ways to alert yourself about price drops and also to predict when prices may drop in the future. CamelCamelCamel lets users monitor price fluctuations for any item on Amazon.

Go Under Cover

Believe it or not, but much of the pricing that you see on Amazon is based on your own browser and purchase history. If you go incognito and eliminate some of the information that retailers have on you, you might find that prices are lower. One easy way of doing this is to browser in a different browser from the browser you’ll use to make your final purchase.

Be A Brand Evangelist

If you show interest in a brand by signing up for email lists, you will often get exclusive offers and early sale access. You also get a lot more junk email so there’s a clear trade-off.