The 6 Essential Sites Entrepreneurs Need to Master Digital Marketing

Often I get approached by new startups and budding entrepreneurs looking for assistance with developing and executing their digital marketing strategy from scratch. And my response is almost always the same…

Don’t hire me.

Let me explain:

If you’re expecting that a good idea is enough to get things rolling and you simply need a little help spreading the word to launch your business like a rocket ship, you’re dead wrong.

Seriously, I’m begging you…please save yourself the agony of watching your dreams get shattered.

Starting a business from scratch is hard. I know…I’ve done it multiple times.

It’s unpredictable. It’s time consuming. Often, the idea isn’t even validated yet. Plus, there are typically very limited financial resources so every dollar is crucial.

The truly good consultants, agencies and freelancers aren’t cheap (and not-so-great ones are a waste of time and money.)

Not Gonna Happen

Not Gonna Happen

And to really get a business off the ground, it takes a lot of time, covering a number of different areas (and often pivoting or re-prioritizing) to determine how to appeal to a prospective customer and where to concentrate efforts.

It also takes developing an intimate understanding of your customers that is often best gained from working in the trenches and interacting with them directly.

Then, it can take even longer to make enough of an impact that you’re generating meaningful revenue and cash flow.

Let me be clear…

I’m not suggesting that you forget about assembling a great team and learn to delegate to their strengths. And I’m not saying a good consultant isn’t well worth their rates.

But the simple reality is, unless you’re really well funded, it’s usually not going to be feasible to outsource the launch and growth of your business to any quality agency or consultant from conception.

Once you have some traction, some historical data, and some revenue, it can be a great time to engage capable experts to identify ways to optimize and scale and even help with execution. But not if it’s going to be such a huge financial stretch and burden that it puts your entire company in jeopardy every month if things don’t go exactly as planned.

In the interim, I want to set these motivated entrepreneurs on the right path towards building a foundation that is positioned to scale.

I don’t want to see entrepreneurs make the mistake of hiring mediocre (or worse) talent because they are uninformed, or simply because that’s what fits their budget. These businesses are almost always worse off as a result.

So, I’ll often direct them to some of my favorite resources that cover many of the fundamental elements of a holistic digital marketing strategy.

Without further ado, here they are:


BacklinkoBacklinko logo – Brian Dean provides extremely detailed, actionable posts covering what it takes to succeed at getting good search engine rankings in today’s ultra-competitive environment. I also like that Brian doesn’t publish a huge volume of posts that you struggle to keep up with. His comprehensive articles teach you what you need in one shot.

Be prepared…

While the tactics for SEO success are generally straightforward, they take a lot of effort to execute successfully especially when you’re starting from zero. Throwing together a few hundred words in a blog post does not translate to showing up on page 1 of Google.

Analytics and Conversion Rate Optimization:

ConversionXLcxl logo – I’ve talked a lot about how improving conversion rates is one of the single most important factors to growing your business. ConversionXL is packed with detailed articles on testing methodology, data analysis, consumer behavior & psychology, and much more.


What works for another site doesn’t mean it will work for you. So as ConversionXL advocates, track and measure everything so you can make informed decisions and not blindly follow “best practices.”

Inbound / Content Marketing:

hubspot-logo-darkHubspot – They literally invented the term inbound marketing. The premise of inbound and content marketing is rather than relying on traditional outbound hard-pitch sales tactics like cold-calling or advertisements, you can create content (blogs, whitepapers, videos, etc.) that is valuable to your target audience. You then focus on getting it in front of them via SEO, social media or other channels and naturally attract prospects at various stages of the sales cycle.

Hubspot publishes a large volume of posts on a weekly basis, but by subscribing to their newsletter I can get a recap of what was posted and pick and choose what is relevant to me.


copyhackers logoCopyhackers – Your website and marketing content is critical to your success. It defines your brand and impacts your conversion rates. And Joanna Wiebe is the queen of crafting compelling copy. Backed by psychological principles, you’ll learn to engage your audience and lead them towards your goals by clearly articulating your message, appealing to their emotions, countering their internal objections, and triggering them to take action.


wordstream_logo_13_1Wordstream – Larry Kim and team cover a variety of marketing topics, but the core focus is on PPC strategies including not just Google, but Facebook and more. Learn how to make the most of your ad spend.


Poor setup and monitoring of a PPC ad campaign can become a big problem very quickly. You do not want to end up attracting a high volume of irrelevant clicks, causing you to blow through your budget with no ROI.

Google representatives can help you set up your initial Adwords campaign. However, in my experience and what I’ve heard from others, I would only recommend them for specific questions or a review of your campaign, but not for initial setup.

This is one area where you may be able to find relatively inexpensive freelance resources to assist with setting up a basic campaign.


buffer-logo-318Buffer – This blog for the popular social app provides well-researched, comprehensive content that’s useful for all levels of social media marketers. As a very transparent company, you’ll get an inside look at what’s working (and not working) for their own business and others, along with industry tactics and trends based on real data they have gathered.

Awesome bonus sites to supplement your reading:

For SAAS startups:

Groove – Alex takes you along on his successful journey to building a strong business with growing MRR.

Saastr – Timeless advice for building, growing, scaling and exiting a SAAS company.

For Ecommerce, Analytics and Marketing:

Kissmetrics – A comprehensive marketing blog with lots of great contributors, primarily in the context of leveraging analytics and metrics.

SumoMe – Covers a wide range of marketing topics, but with super-sized posts. From extensive lists to detailed step-by-step tactics.

Shopify – Covers a wide variety of topics related to ecommerce business growth, including trends, tools, and operational advice.

Unbounce – While their core product is landing pages, the blog offers advice not just on landing pages, but site optimization in general.

Moz – Rand Fishkin is probably the more recognized authority on SEO and for good reason. The Moz community is made up of many of the top SEO and digital marketing professionals and there are a wide selection of valuable posts in the blog. I also direct anyone new to SEO to the Beginner’s Guide and highly recommend the Whiteboard Friday video series.

There are countless other sites that offer fantastic advice and even more detail on these topics. I like to think my blog is one of them. But I’ve found that by thoroughly reading through at least my top picks and keeping up with their latest posts, you’ll feel much more confident and capable of understanding how to create and execute an effective digital marketing strategy.

Furthermore, when the time comes that you’re ready to bring in more resources, you’ll have the core knowledge needed to vet candidates and distinguish between who truly knows what they are doing and everyone else. This is a critical skill, because making the wrong hire can be a huge setback.

When you’re ready, I’d love to talk about how to help you grow.

Have any others that are a must-read to add to the list? Leave a comment below!

*Note – if you are looking for strategic direction, I do offer a “Digital Roadmap” for both new and existing businesses that provides a very comprehensive, customized tactical overview and strategic action plan.

This can be a great resource for entrepreneurs looking to understand all of the digital tactics and how they fit together synergistically, how to prioritize them for their unique circumstances, and actionable guidance on how to begin executing them.

Contact me for more details if this would be valuable to you.

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