5 Black Friday and Cyber Monday Infographics That Make your Head Spin

Today is Black Friday. After a day of relaxing and eating Turkey in the US (in other parts of the world the phenomenon is rising as well) people go shopping. Shopping for deals. Black Friday however no longer is just an offline experience anymore. Digital plays a big role, which means a lot of people are finding the deals online as well. Black Friday is even followed by Cyber Monday, which is only online.

This means a lot of pre-work and a lot of data. On this Black Friday we therefor give you not one, but no less than five infographics about the Digital part of Black Friday (and Cyber Monday). Enjoy!

Black Friday by the Numbers

via Forbes

 

Black Friday eCommerce Statistics

via Nextopia

 

black-friday-ecommerce-stats

 

Black Friday Twitter Predictions

via SocialBro

twitter-black-friday

 

Black Friday vs Cyber Monday

via AddThis

addthis-black-friday-cyber-monday-2014-infographic

 

A guide to reaching Black Friday & Cyber Monday Shoppers

via Brickfish

black-friday-cybermonday

Post from Bas van den Beld

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Brand Sentiment – The Future of SEO?

Since its inception in the ’90s, Google has relied on link signals to evaluate the quality and trustworthiness of webpages to determine their rankings in organic search results. This has been the backbone of their algorithms and helped them deliver superior results, leading to their current dominant position in search.

However, link signals have been subject to abuse from spammers and SEOs as well, and over the years Google has worked hard to filter such manipulation attempts from its algorithms, striving for pure search results that genuinely reflect the quality of the websites being shown.

As anyone working in the SEO industry knows, this is a fight Google is struggling to win. The continued pivotal position of link signals in Google’s ranking algorithms means that weaknesses continue to be found and exploited, and the link graph’s usefulness as a measure of quality is increasingly diminished.

Earlier this year Google admitted to having experimented with search results that don’t use link signals, and by their own admission it generated very poor results indeed. So it seems Google is stuck with using links as a key ranking signal for the foreseeable future.

Or are they?

Brand Sentiment as a Replacement for Links

Much has been written in recent times about using alternative signals for ranking purposes. One possible measure that keeps cropping up is brand sentiment; the general perception of a brand’s quality and value as determined by the collective mentions of that brand on the whole web.

Brand sentiment, on the surface, seems like an ideal metric to complement – and potentially even replace – links as a ranking factor. Google is seriously committed to delivering the best possible search results, to ensure they maintain their dominant market share. If Google struggles to show quality websites in its SERPs, users might opt for different search engines that provide more reliable results.

So Google wants to make sure their results provide the best experience for their users, limiting the incentive to use rival search engines. Brand sentiment as a ranking factor makes perfect sense in that context. If Google can consistently show webpages in its results from companies that deliver great products and services, as determined by positive brand experiences mentioned online, users will continue to trust Google’s results as the best, and the implied quality and trustworthiness in high rankings is proven true.

However, as others have written about before, brand sentiment has its own issues. It’s not a mature technology by any stretch. The intricacies of human language can lead to many false interpretations of a subjective experience. Sarcasm, for example, leads to all kinds of false positives in many brand sentiment analyses. And customers can have mixed emotions towards a business, with some positive aspects and some negatives as well – a level of nuance that sentiment analysis has historically struggled with.

Promising Developments

There might be good news on the horizon for Google though. The field of sentiment analysis is abuzz with new technologies and startups that show promising developments. At the recent Web Summit in Dublin (of which I wrote a mixed review) one startup exhibiting there caught my attention: Adoreboard, a local startup, has built a platform that measures brand sentiment as determined by in-depth analysis of vast amounts of online data, and summarises this in a simple metric: Adorescore. Ranking from -100 to +100, this score seemed to provide an accurate reflection of how people feel about a given brand, as expressed by online mentions including social media, blogs, news sites, comments, etc.

What I liked about Adoreboard is that their brand sentiment score, whilst seemingly superficial, is actually composed of 24 distinct emotions, reflecting the complex nature of human feelings towards a company or brand.

Adoreboard Emotion Analysis

To me, such a technology might well prove to be the holy grail of organic search in the future. With the ability to discern varying emotional attitudes towards a brand, and incorporating these in ranking signals in the right context, search engines could easily decrease their reliance on link signals and shift towards detailed brand sentiment instead.

For example, in a sector where repeat purchases are common, an emotion like loyalty from a repeat customer might carry more weight than fear expressed by a first-time buyer. The ability to automate the discovery of these emotions in different contexts is a very promising development in sentiment analysis, which could well pave the way for this technology to be used in search engine ranking algorithms.

The Future of SEO

I don’t expect brand sentiment to become an overnight replacement of links, but I do believe we will see early implementations of this technology in organic search results in the near future. It’s too promising to be ignored, and has the potential to solve a lot of problems for Google and other search engines in the long term. Google has previously acquired a sentiment analysis startup, and it’ll be worthwhile keeping an eye on future acquisitions to see which technologies Google finds worth exploring.

What this means for SEO is clear: as Google focuses on ranking websites that deliver positive brand experiences, SEO will need to shift some focus to telling positive brand stories online – beyond the confines of the company’s own website. Moreover, businesses will be forced to deliver better products and services if they want to compete in organic search, which can only be a good development.

There will of course be new shortcuts discovered, and fake sentiment placement (astroturfing) might become a valid tactic. In this area Google will find some unlikely allies: social networks like Facebook endeavour to filter fake accounts from their platforms, which would help Google keep brand sentiment signals honest and trustworthy. Equally, advertising standards regulation mean that paid placements should be declared, which allows Google to filter the sentiments expressed there as well.

The gray area in paid placements is of course a fertile ground for SEO at the moment, and with brand sentiment in the picture it will remain so. Outreach will continue as a cornerstone of effective SEO; brand sentiment will only enhance the value of that tactic.

Brand sentiment is not the definitive cure for spammy search results, but it does give search engines an extra tool in their arsenal in their efforts to keep their results reliable and trustworthy. I don’t expect links to be replaced as a signal entirely, but I do foresee a future where ongoing SEO is as much about promoting positive brand experiences as it is about generating links.

It’s a future I would embrace wholeheartedly.

Post from Barry Adams

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What drives more traffic to your site, Email or Social Media?

Inbound marketing as a term has been around for many years, we have seen it morph and change slightly over time, but fundamentally its simply about driving traffic to your site from other platforms/websites (and doing it efficiently). I have been asked the $64m question a lot in the past as more and more brands look for the answer to drive traffic to their site, and whats the best platform or channel to not only syndicate your message, content, comms, offers and sales – but which to allocate time, budget and man hours in making sure that the traffic comes flooding in.

This question has been asked of me three times in the last month – “..should I focus on social media or email for driving traffic to my site?” To put it simply, I believe you need both but this article will focus more on, if you had to choose only one, what would it be.

Social Media is More About Driving Traffic

With consumers always being “turned on” via the array of portable devices and smartphones and that  Facebook has 1.23bn users worldwide, with a massive 170m signing up during 2013 alone, obviously makes it a channel that brands need to be both visible and communicate in. But a great social media strategy means that you need it to be a two way and engaging experience, not one that you can use to just syndicate content or push new releases of products and sales and hope that followers will always click your posts to come to your site.

The Cycling Bug have 30k followers for their Facebook page, but continually add posts about their content only, to drive traffic back to their site.

Each article The Cycling Bug adds links to their website, where you have to sign in or register to read further, (which is highly annoying when I am subscribed to their email and Like their Facebook page) they post straight to Facebook. They have done very little in terms of using social media as a two way channel to engage with their 30k followers, no doubt they see nice spikes of inbound traffic from social media, but they would benefit more from using the platform to engage, ask the followers what they like, want, surveys and fun questions to keep them interested and of course be “social”.

Treehugger has over 470k fans on Facebook and still only posts about content on its site. Their fans maybe different from The Cycling Bug, but no more passionate about the category and why they follow them (I love cycling and all the interesting and amazing posts on Treehugger). If you look through the posts on their Facebook page, their fans are highly engaged and comment a lot, but I am yet to see a reply from Treehugger, suggesting that they use social media for inbound traffic only. Again, I would offer a high percentage of their traffic comes from social as a referrer, so it may work well for them, but cant help feel that they are missing out on engagement.

Treehugger Facebook Page - State of Digital

If you work on your brand Facebook page, you will know that organic reach has been in sharp decline over the last 12 months. Earlier this year Ogilvy reported that a decline of around 49% in organic reach to around 6% of fans seeing posts and brands with over 500k followers hit a measly 2% (a post I wrote earlier this year saw Facebook organic reach around 9% in some cases), Ogilvy also released a great post called Facebook Zero on slideshare – which is a must read for anyone involved in a brand Facebook page. With organic reach on the decline, brands need to think more about the objective of their social media offering and what they want from their fans/followers.

In a nutshell, using a social media platform for inbound traffic can work well, but make sure to;

Be social and active to users engagement
Engage beyond just posting content, sales and product launches
Set firm KPIs on why you are using it
Dedicate budget and resource to the channel – its going to cost more for the results you saw 12 months ago

If You Email Consumers Will They Come?

Email seems to have been the backbone to brands for the last 15 years and more, where the size of your database become bragging rights over other companies and can open a lot of doors when it comes to partnering with other brands. Emails get delivered more than 90% of the time (over the organic reach of Facebook and as long as they are not deemed “spammy“), where you’re straight into someones inbox when they log in, unlike being bounced down the timeline and missed. I have to admit though, I am not the best for organising my inbox so theres a few oldies in there.

Via email you can afford to offer the multiple messages and engagement tactics as I have previously talked about, albeit from one engaging subject line. There are multiple benefits to using email to drive traffic to your site as one single email can serve as a product launch, competition, survey, service message or better still to gain more personal data about your customers all in one communication.

Size (a footwear and clothing retailer in the UK & Europe) uses two types of comms via email, a newsletter and product push or sale offering. Size are great at a niche market (anyone who knows me and my Adidas footwear collection will understand) and drive traffic to their site via very targeted emails. They also post product and content on their Facebook page to 108k fans and engage frequently to anyone engaging with their posts.

Size-Synopsize Newsletter - State of Digital

A fortnightly newsletter email from Size (nicely named Synop-Size), includes interviews, service information for Christmas, a new store opening and links to their shop categories.

Size Product Email - State of Digital

A product based email from Size is simple, clear and direct offering their latest product release, with deep links into their site.

Size Facebook Page - State of Digital

Size Facebook page does all three – gives information on new stores, product releases, service information and they actively engage with questions and comments.

More Targeted and Space for Information

Email gives you more options to be more targeted and offer content that is relevant to each of your consumer needs, plus you can also be a lot more creative in the design of your message and content as a whole, over Facebook.

The biggest benefit, is developing a deeper understanding of your customers and their behaviours more in a way that you may struggle to do in social media. Adding a rich layer of customer data is quite simple to do via email and all trackable too. Asking your customers via a survey about themselves, likes, dislikes(great if its incentivised for a better response rate), getting them to log in to the account area and complete missing information will give you a better understanding of who they are and what they like.

As mentioned earlier, where consumers are always switched on, you cant rely on consumers always having a Facebook account or following you on your brand Facebook page, but you can rely on them having an email account, its part and parcel of them having a social account in the first place and is the digital wallet for everything online.

For those who don’t engage with consumers via email, or perhaps haven’t set up an email database, its really not as hard or complex as you think. There a so many companies, templates, email service providers (ESP) which are relatively inexpensive to use like MailChimp, where its free to send emails to 2000 subscribers and you can also customise the package you need on the amount of subscribers you have and how many times you want to email them, from a few hundred pounds per month. There are more complex and expensive CRM systems that store your customer web behaviour when they click from an email to your site – so you know what pages they visit and where they spend their time.

Email Gets My Vote Every Time

Social media for inbound traffic is no more being seen as an owned channel, its a paid channel where brands will have to add more budget and resource into driving traffic to their site. Paying for inbound traffic doesn’t come as a surprise as thats what brands have been doing for years, via search engine marketing, outreach, advertising etc.

If I had to choose between social media and email for driving traffic to your site, then I’d go for email every time. It will allow you to gain that deeper understanding of your customers, build up a database that you can communicate to as and when you want, with the targeted and relevant content that they are looking for. Even if you don’t go for the complexities of “personalisation” via segmentation, and stick to keeping it simple, you can offer far more messaging in one email than you can in a social media post…. Plus having a database of customers you can “talk” to will bring longevity to you and your business over time, afterall if you gained their trust for them to leave you an email address, then its a pretty clear indication that they are interested in what you have to sell or say.

(For some ideas around migrating your Facebook fans into your email database, read Migrate Social Fans into CRM)

Post from Russell O’Sullivan

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What New SEOs Don't Know Unless You Tell Them: A Reminder from Outside the Echo Chamber

Posted by RuthBurrReedy

SEO experts spend multiple hours a week reading blogs, social media and forums to stay abreast of the latest search engine developments; we spend even more time testing and measuring tactics to figure out what works best for our sites. When you spend so much of your time thinking, talking and learning about SEO, you can get lost in the echo chamber and take your eyes off the prize of growing your clients’ businesses.

It’s easy to get excited about the new and shiny developments in search and to hang on Google’s latest announcements, but there’s no point in switching a site from HTTP to HTTPS if it doesn’t even have appropriately keyword-rich title tags. There’s no reason to run a button-color conversion rate optimization test on a site that’s still using the manufacturer’s default description on product pages. Sometimes your traffic is plummeting because you haven’t checked for new 404 errors in 6 months, not because you’ve been hit with a penalty.
Think horses, not zebras, and don’t forget one important fact: Most people have no idea what we’re talking about.

What clients don’t know

Running a business, especially a small business, is way more than a full-time job. Most business owners these days understand that they need to be doing something for their business online, but once they get beyond “have a website” they’re not sure of the next step.

Photo via
Pixabay

Moving back into agency work after several years in-house,
I was surprised by just how many businesses out there have never gone beyond that first step of having a website. The nitty-gritty of building a search-friendly website and driving traffic to it still aren’t that widely known, and without the time or inclination to become experts in marketing their websites, most small business owners just aren’t spending that much time thinking about it.

Hanging out in the SEO echo chamber is a great way to stay on top of the latest trends in digital marketing. To win and keep our clients, however, we need to step out of that echo chamber and remember just how many website owners aren’t thinking about SEO at all.

The good

Relatively few people know or understand digital marketing, and that’s the reason we all have jobs (and most of us are hiring). The strapped-for-time aspect of business ownership means that once someone decides it’s time to get serious about marketing their business online, they’re likely to call in an expert rather than doing it themselves.

There are some really competitive industries and markets out there, but
there are also plenty of niche and local markets in which almost nobody is focusing on SEO in a serious way. Take a look at who ranks for your target keywords in your local area, using an incognito window. If the key phrase isn’t appearing consistently on the search results page, chances are nobody is targeting it very strongly. Combine that with an absence of heavy-hitting big brands like Amazon or Wikipedia, and you may have a market where some basic SEO improvements can make a huge difference. This includes things like:

Adding keywords to title tags and page copy in an intentional, user-friendly, non-keyword-stuffed wayClaiming local listings with a consistent name, address and phone numberBuilding a few links and citations from locally-focused websites and blogs

It may not seem like much (or seem like kind of a no-brainer), but sometimes it’s all you need. Of course, once the basics are in place, the smartest move is to keep improving your site and building authority; you can’t rely on your competitors not knowing their stuff forever.


Even in more competitive markets, a shocking number of larger brands are paying little to no attention to best practices in search
. Many businesses get the traffic and rankings they do from the power of their brands, which comes from more traditional marketing techniques and PR. These activities result in a fair amount of traffic (not to mention links and authority) on their own, but if they’re being done with no attention given to SEO, they’re wasting a huge opportunity. In the coming years, look for SEO-savvy brands to start capitalizing on this opportunity, leaving their competitors to play catch-up.

From inside the echo chamber, it’s easy to forget just how well the fundamentals of SEO still really work. In addition to the basic items I listed above, a website should be:

Fast. Aim for an average page load time of under 5 seconds (user attention spans start running out after 2 seconds, but 5 is a nice achievable goal for most websites).Responsive so it can be viewed on a variety of screens. Mobile is never getting less important.Well-coded. The Moz Developer’s Cheat Sheet is as good a place to start as any.Easy to navigate (just as much for your customers as for Google). Run a Screaming Frog crawl to make sure a crawler can get to every page with a minimum of errors, dead ends, and duplicate content.Unique and keyword-rich, talking about what you have in the language people are using to search for it (in copy nobody else is using).Easy to share for when you’re building awareness and authority via social media and link building.

So life is good and we are smart and there’s a lot to do and everything is very special. Good deal, right?

The bad

SEO being a very specialized skill set has some serious downsides.
Most clients don’t know much about SEO, but some SEOs don’t know much about it either.

There are a ton of great resources out there to learn SEO (Moz and Distilled U come to mind). That said, the web can be a ghost town of old, outdated and inaccurate information, and it can be difficult for people who don’t have much experience in search marketing to know what info to trust. An article on how to make chocolate chip muffins from 2010 is still useful now; an article on PageRank sculpting from the same time period is much less so.

Outdated techniques (especially around content creation and link building) can be really tempting for the novice digital marketer. There are a ton of “tricks” to quickly generate low-quality links and content that sound like great ideas when you’re hearing them for the first time. Content spinning, directory spam, link farms – they’re all still going on and there are gobs of information out there on how to do them.

Why should we care?

So why should we more experienced SEOs, who know what we’re doing and what works, care about these brand new baby n00b SEOs mowing through all this bad intel?

confused

Photo by
Petras Gagilas via Flickr

The first reason is ideological – we should care because they’re doing
bad marketing. It contributes to everything that’s spammy and terrible about the internet. It also makes us look bad. The “SEO is not spam” battle is still being fought.

The second reason is practical. People billing themselves as SEOs without knowing enough about it is a problem because

clients don’t know enough about it either
. It’s easy for someone engaging in link farming and directory spam to compete on price with someone doing full-scale content marketing, because one is much, much more work than the other. Short-term, predictable results feel a lot more tangible than long-term strategies, which are harder to guarantee and forecast. Not to mention that “X dollars for Y links” guy isn’t going to add “There is a risk that these tactics will result in a penalty, which would be difficult to recover from even if I did know how to do it, which I don’t.”

How can we fix it?

SEOs need to educate our clients and prospects on what we do and why we do it. That means giving them enough information to be able to weed out good tactics from bad even before we make the sale.
It means saying “even if you don’t hire me to do this, please don’t hire someone who does X, Y or Z.” It means taking the time to explain why we don’t guarantee first-page rankings, and the risks inherent in link spam. Most of all, it means stepping out of the echo chamber and into the client’s shoes, remembering that basic tenets of digital marketing that may seem obvious to us are completely foreign to most website owners. At the very least we need to educate our clients to please, please not change the website without talking to us about it first!

Since terrible SEO gives us a bad rep (and is annoying to fix), we also need to actively educate within the SEO community. Stepping out of the echo chamber in this case means we need to spend some time talking to new SEOs at conferences, instead of just talking to each other. Point brand new SEOs to the right resources to learn what we do, so they don’t ruin it for everybody – for heaven’s sake, stop calling them n00bs and leaving them to learn it all from questionable sources.

As SEO content creators, we should also take time on a regular basis to either update or take down any outdated content on our own sites. This can be as simple as posting a notification that the info is outdated or as complex as creating a brand new resource on the same topic.
If you’re getting organic search traffic to a page with outdated information, you’re passively hurting the state of SEO education. A declared stance on providing up-to-date information and continually curating your existing content to make it the highest quality? Sounds like a pretty strong brand position to me, SEO bloggers!


Some people are going to read this post and say “well, duh.”
If you read this post and thought it was basic (in every sense of the word), go out right now and fix some of your blog posts from 3 or 4 years ago to contain the latest info. I’ll wait.

The takeaways

There are still a ton of markets where just the basics of SEO go a long way.Don’t get distracted by the latest developments in search if the basics aren’t in place.Brands that are getting by on their brand strength alone can be beaten by brand strength + SEO.Old/bad SEO information on the web means people are still learning and doing old/bad SEO, and we’re competing with them. Branding and positioning in SEO needs to take this into account.Clients don’t know who to trust or how to do SEO, so we have to educate them or we’ll lose them to shysters (plus it is the right thing to do).Bad SEO gives all of us a bad reputation, so education within our community is important too.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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Stop Using the Wrong Metrics to Measure Content

Over the course of the last few years, online marketers everywhere have started to recognise the importance of content as a marketing tool, not just for the benefit of search engines but also for the purpose of: building and engaging with an audience; increasing loyalty & retaining customers; increasing the performance of marketing channels among other benefits.

Naturally as businesses start to invest in something, measurement systems are built to report on the performance of the content that they produce. With all the analytics software that is available, it is a bit of an oversight to spend resources producing content without following up and understanding how it actually impacts KPIs. But whilst this is great, and should be encouraged, often the ways that businesses measure the performance of content are very rigid and not applicable to all goals and metrics.

For example, likes and shares as a metric is one that everyone is guilty of using. It’s an obvious KPI for a content piece to show how many people read it and then enjoyed it enough to tell their friends on Facebook that they like it.

But actually if you want to increase the likes, shares, tweets or retweets of all your posts then all you need to do is paste as much content about: how awesome cats are; how difficult it is to decide whether Nicholas Cage is good or bad or how crappy Mondays are… Obviously that is quite tongue in cheek, but no matter how “on brand” you think your content is, if you’re only measuring on the appeal to your audiences sense of “what they like”, then you’re not necessarily telling them what they need to hear to increase their propensity to convert with your brand, which is what you want!

Beyond Social Metrics

Now I’m not trying to say that likes & shares are a bad metric to use, obviously it’s extremely important to produce stuff that people like and engage with through social because otherwise you’re boring! What I’m saying is that if you’re focusing on social engagement as a reporting measurement then you will have probably at some stage said a sentence along the lines of: “Yeah, it didn’t do as well, but that’s because it’s more of a brand piece”.

Which is fine, but then what are you measuring that performance on?

Understanding the fact that different content serves different purposes is key to having a well rounded marketing strategy. Yet so many marketers are then not following this through by setting different goal posts for different marketing purposes to understand how your content performs in that field.

Here’s a useful post that I wrote that goes through the process of measuring content against business goals (conversion rate, average order value etc.). The principle is that, using Google Analytics, you can make direct comparisons between segments of your users that have been exposed to your content campaigns at different points in their journey with your brand.

This is such an important point when it comes to understanding the stuff that’s on your site. There are many, many different kinds of users on your site and they behave very differently based on their previous interactions, exposure, intent, etc. Thinking that a content piece serves them all equally is not proper marketing and if you think that’s an obvious point then why are they being measured equally?

The process of then putting this into practice and measuring the pages on your site according to what they were made for is not actually that hard, it just takes a bit more planning during the content creation process:

1. Identify your user segments

Depending on the scope of your marketing, the size of your site and the depth to which you want to analyse, you can have anywhere from 5 to 500 different user segments to use in your analysis. These could be segmented by level of exposure to different marketing campaigns or channels, entry & behaviour in different areas of the site, previous conversion history, you can go as deep into it as you’d like – the point is to identify & segment your key customer audience groups that you are trying to influence with the content that you produce.

2. Track everything as events!

No analytics package works properly straight out of the box, even the ones that take a lot of setting up, take more setting up in order to track the things that you should be tracking in order to get the performance data that you need.

Simple exposure to a page does not necessarily tell you that a user has absorbed the contents held inside, in the same way that a “like” is not the only way to tell you that a user has paid attention to the contents.

Event tracking through Google Analytics can be used to track loads of interactions on the page that give you more information about how the user has behaved on your site. Take advantage of this and measure as many desired interactions as possible because this can be both your performance metrics and also your segmenting tools to understand your content performance against the goals of the business (making money!). At the very least, you should be tracking:

Scroll depth (has the user actually read the whole article? How long did it take them?)
User commenting
Clicks through to other articles (they’ve seen it, liked it and so read more)
likes/shares/tweets/other social engagements
video plays (and stops/finishes), pdf downloads etc.

3. Apply your conversions to your user segments

Once you have created your user segments and you have a complete list of desired actions on your site then you can start applying one to the other!

There are two approaches to this side that each has value to find out different things:

How much have different user segments engaged with content pieces – what’s the percentage of users who read the whole thing (scroll depth), what’s the engagement rate, follow through rate, etc.
What is the influence of that piece on that particular user segment – does it increase their propensity to convert? Encourage them to re-convert? Upset and increase their value?

This is a case of identifying the type of user that the particular piece of content is targeting and then understanding how that particular segment both behaved with the article and then behaved after having engaged in a certain way.

Where to take this

The whole point of this approach is that there are many different types of users who come to your site, many of them might convert, some have converted and some will. On top of that, these are broken down into many different stages of buying or searching, which means your content will not serve them all equally. What you do with this approach is identify what the purpose of your content is, for different user sets and understand whether it has met that goal.

You can then start to make better decisions on the content that you place around your site, based on the knowledge that you have on your user segments and their response to what you produce.

Post from Andy Miller

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How To Select The Perfect Clients

Posted by Bill.Sebald

I truly believe in the power of partnerships. There have been some incredible partnerships that changed the fabric of our culture. Larry Page and Sergey Brin. William Procter and James Gamble. The Olson Twins.

Good partnerships provide support, motivation, and complementary skills, often allowing you to overcome hurdles faster and create some truly marvelous things. In consulting or any agency work, the concept of “partnership” should be the backbone of your relationship. Like a puzzle piece, sometimes the fit is initially difficult to find – if available at all. The truth is, you’re only secure if your clients are walking in the same direction as the flow of your service. If they’re walking against the current, you have what I believe to be the most detrimental predicament a service provider can have –
a rift. That’s a truly offensive four-letter word.

What kind of rift are we talking about? Let’s do a little calculating.

First think about what you or your agency is really good at. Think about the components you have the most success with; this may actually be different than where you’re most experienced. Think about what you should be selling versus not (even if those items are currently on your menu – let’s be candid here, a lot of us casually promote services we
believe we should be selling even though it’s not a fully baked product or core competency). Think about the amount of time you really spent challenging a given service to make sure it’s truly impactful to a client versus your own bottom line.

Next, think about your past client debacles (if you haven’t stopped to perform a postmortem, you should). Chances are these led to events that cost you a lot of time, pain, and possibly money. They are the memories that make you shudder. Those are the days that made you dust off your resume and think about a career change.  

Finally, how many of these past clients should have never been signed in the first place? How many simply weren’t a fit from the start? How many simply never had a shot at being successful with you – and vice-versa? This computation really needs serious consideration. Have you wasted everyone’s time?

There can be a costly fallout. I’ve seen talented team members quit over clients that simply could not be managed. I’ve seen my colleagues go so far as to cry or start seeking therapy (in part) because of overwhelming clients who were not getting what they expected and a parent company who wasn’t providing any relief. Sometimes these clients were bound to an annual contract which only made them more desperate and angry. Rifts like this can kill your business.

This should never happen.

Client/agency relationships are marriages, but marriages start with dating

I really like this 2011 post from A List Apart called
Marry Your Clients. A few years old, but nothing has changed. However, my post is going to talk about the courting part before the honeymoon.

My post also assumes you make more money on longer consulting relationships. If you’ve somehow built your model through routinely hunting new business with the expectation you’re going to get fired, then that’s a different story. For most of us however, on-boarding a client is a lot of work, both in terms of hours (which is money) and brainpower. If you “hit it off” with your client, you begin to know their business more intimately, as well as their goals and KPIs. The strategies get easier to build; they also tend to be more successful as you become aware of what their tastes and limitations are. You find you have things in common (perhaps you both enjoy long walks to the bank). You often become true partners with your clients, who in turn promote your ideas to their bosses. These are your most profitable engagements, as well as your most rewarding. They tend to last years, sometimes following your point-of-contact to their next jobs as well.

But you don’t get this way simply because both parties signed a legally-bounding document.

The truth is not all parties can work together. A lot of client/agency relationships end in divorce. Like in romance, sometimes you just aren’t compatible.

A different kind of online dating

After my first marriage went kaput, I’ll admit I went to Match.com. For those who never tried online dating, it’s really an exercise in personal marketing. You upload your most attractive pictures. You sell yourself above everyone else. You send communications back and forth to the interested parties where you work to craft the “perfect” response; as well as ask qualifying questions. I found it works pretty well – the online process saved me from potentially bad dates. Don’t get me wrong, I still have some awkward online dating stories…

Photo from Chuck Woolery’s
Twitter profile

With consulting, if we’re supposed to ultimately marry our clients, we should obviously be allowed to see if there’s a love connection. We should all be our own Chuck Woolery. I tend to think this stage is crucial, but often rushed by agencies or managed by a department outside of your own.

Some agencies seem to have a “no dating” policy. For some, it’s not uncommon to come in to work and have an email from a higher-up with the subject, “congratulations – you’re now married to a new client!” Whether it’s a client development department, or an add-on from an existing client, your marketing department is suddenly forced into an arranged marriage where you can only hope to live up to their expectations.

This is a recipe for disaster. I don’t like to run a business on luck and risk, so clearly this makes no sense to me.

But I’ve been there. I once worked for an agency that handed me a signed contract for a major underwear brand – but I didn’t even know we were even speaking to them. Before I had a chance to get the details, the VP of digital marketing called me. I did my best to understand what they were promised in terms of SEO goals without admitting I really had no clue about their business. The promises were unrealistic, but being somewhat timid and naïve back in the day, I went with it. Truth is, their expectations did not fit into our model, philosophies, or workflow. Ultimately I failed to deliver to their expectations. The contract ended early and I vowed to never let that happen again. Not just for the stress and anxiety it brought upon my team and me, but for the blatant neglect to the client as well.

With this being something I never forgot, I would occasionally bring this story up with others I met at networking events or conventions. I quickly learned this is far from an isolated incident occurring only to me. This is how some agencies build their business development departments.

Once again, this should never happen.

How to qualify a client

Let’s assume by now I have successfully inspired a few things:

A client/agency relationship should truly be a partnership akin to a good marriage.
A client should never be thrown into a model that doesn’t make sense for their business (i.e., your style of SEO services), and process should be in place for putting all the parties in the same room before a deal is signed.

Now we’re up to number 3:

Not all relationships work, so all parties should try to truly connect before there is a proposal. Don’t rush the signature!

Here are some of the things we do at Greenlane to really qualify a client. Before I continue, though, I’m proud to brag a little. With these practices in place, our close rate – that is, the companies we really want to work with – is 90% in our favor. Our retainment is also very high. Once we started being prudent with our intake, we’ve only lost a few companies due to funding issues or a change in their business model – not out of performance. I should also add that these tips work with all sizes of clients. While some of our 20+ clients are smaller businesses, we also have household brands and public companies, all of which could attest to going through this process with us.

It’s all in the details

Your website is your Match.com profile. Your website is your personality. If you’re vague or promotional or full of hype, only to get someone on the phone to which your “car salesman” gear kicks in, I don’t think you’re using the website to the best of its ability. People want to use the website to learn more about you before the reach out.

Our “about us” page is our third most visited page next to the homepage and pricing (outside of the blog). You can see an example from a 
Hotjar heatmap:

The truth is, I’m always tweaking (and A/B testing) our message on the about us page. This page is currently part of a funnel that we careful put together. The “about us” page is a quick but powerful overview putting our team front and center and highlighting our experience (including some past clients).

I believe the website’s more than a brochure. It’s a communication device. Don’t hide or muddle who you are. When I get a prospect email through our form, I always lead them to our “Are We The Right Fit” page. That’s right – I actually ask them to consider choosing wisely. Now at first glance, this might go against a conversion funnel that heats up the prospect and only encourages momentum, but this page has really been a strong asset. It’s crafted to transparently present our differentiators, values, and even our pricing. It’s also crafted to discourage those who aren’t a good fit. You can find this page
here. Even our URL provides the “Are We The Right Fit” question.

We want prospects to make a good decision. We care so much about companies doing great that we’d rather you find someone else if our model isn’t perfect. Sure, sometimes after pointing someone to that link, they never return. That’s OK. Just like a dating profile, this page is designed to target a certain kind of interest. Time is a commodity in agency life – no sense in wasting it on a conversation that isn’t qualified. When we do catch a prospect after reviewing the page and hear, “we went with another firm who better suits our needs,” it actually doesn’t feel like a loss at all.

Everyone who comes back goes into our pipeline. At this stage they all get followed up on with a phone call. If they aren’t a good fit from the get go we actually try to introduce them to other SEO companies or consultants who would be a better fit for them. But 9 times out of 10, it’s an amazing conversation.

Never drop the transparency

There are a few things I try to tell all the prospects I ultimately speak with. One, I openly admit I’m not a salesman. I couldn’t sell ice water to people in hell. But I’m good at being really candid about our strengths and experiences.

Now this one tends to surprise some, especially in the larger agency setting. We admit that we are really choosy about the clients we take on. For our model, we need clients who are flexible, fast moving, interested in brand building, and interested in long-term relationships. We want clients who think in terms of strategy and will let us work with their existing marketing team and vendors. We audit them for their understanding of SEO services and tell them how we’re either alike or different.

I don’t think a prospect call goes by without me saying, “while you’re checking us out to see if we’re a good fit, we’re doing the same for you.” Then, if the call goes great, I let them know we’d like a follow up call to continue (a second date if you will). This follow up call has been where the real decision gets made.

Ask the right questions

I’ve vetted the opportunity, now my partner – who naturally has a different way of approaching opportunities and relationships – asks a different set of questions. This adds a whole different dimension and works to catch the questions I may not have asked. We’ve had companies ready to sign on the first call, to which I’ve had to divert any signatures until the next conversation. This too may seem counter-intuitive to traditional business development, but we find it extremely valuable. It’s true that we could have more clients in our current book of business, but I can proudly state that every current client is exactly who we want to be with; this is very much because of everything you’ve read so far.

On each call we have a list of qualifying questions that we ask. Most are “must answer” questions, while others can roll into a needs analysis questionnaire that we give to each signed client. The purpose of the needs analysis is to get more granular into business items (such as seasonal trends, industry intelligence, etc.) for the intention of developing strategies. With so much to ask, it’s important to be respectful of the prospects’ time. At this point they’ve usually already indicated they’ve read our website, can afford our prices, and feel like we’re a good fit.

Many times prospects start with their introduction and answer some of our questions. While they speak, I intently listen and take many notes.

These are 13 questions from my list that I always make sure get answered on a call, with some rationale:

Questions for the prospect:1. Can you describe your business model and products/services?

What do you sell?
B2B or B2C
Retail or lead generation?

Rationale
: sometimes when reviewing the website it’s not immediately clear what kind of business they’re in. Perhaps the site just does a bad job, or sometimes their real money making services are deeper in the site and easily missed by a fast scan. One of our clients works with the government and seems to have an obvious model, but the real profit is from a by-product, something we would have never picked up on during our initial review of the website. It’s important to find out exactly what the company does. Is it interesting? Can you stay engaged? Is it a sound model that you believe in? Is it a space you have experience in?

2. What has been your experience with [YOUR SERVICE] in the past?

Rationale: Many times, especially if your model is different, a prospect may have a preconceived notion of what you actually do. Let’s take SEO as an example – there are several different styles of SEO services. If they had a link building company in the past, and you’re a more holistic SEO consulting practice, their point of reference may only be with what they’ve experienced. They may even have a bad taste in their mouth from a previous engagement, which gives you a chance to air it out and see how you compare. This is also a chance to know if you’re potentially playing with a penalized site.

3. What are your [PPC/SEO/etc.] goals?

Rationale: Do they have realistic goals, or lofty, impossible goals? Be candid – tell them if you don’t think you can reach the goals on the budget they have, or if you think they should choose other goals. Don’t align yourself with goals you can’t hit. This is where many conversations could end.

4. What’s your mission or positioning statement?

Rationale: If you’re going to do more than just pump up their rankings, you probably want to know the full story. This should provide a glimpse into other marketing the prospect is executing.

5. How do you stand out?

Rationale: Sometimes this is answered with the question above. If not, really dig up the differentiators. Those are typically the key items to build campaigns on.  Whether they are trying to create a new market segment or have a redundant offering, this can help you set timeline and success expectations.

6. Are you comfortable with an agency that may challenge your plans and ideas?

Rationale: This is one of my favorite questions. There are many who hire an agency and expect “yes-men.” Personally I believe an agency or consultant should be partners; that is, not afraid to fight for what they know is right for the benefit of the client. You shouldn’t be afraid of injury:

 

7. Who are your competitors?

Rationale: Not only do you want this for competitive benchmarking, but this can often help you understand more about the prospect. Not to mention, how big a hill you might have to climb to start competing on head terms.

8. What is your business reach? (local, national, international)?

Rationale: An international client is going to need more work than a domestic client. A local client is going to need an expertise in local search. Knowing the scope of the company can help you align your skills with their targets.

9. What CMS are you on?

Rationale:
 This is a big one. It tells you how much flexibility you will have. WordPress?  Great – you’ll probably have a lot of access to files and templates.  A proprietary CMS or enterprise solution?  Uh-oh.  That probably means tickets and project queues. Are you OK with that?

10. What does your internal team look like?

Rationale:
Another important question. Who will you be working with?  What skill sets?  Will you be able to sit at the table with other vendors too?  If you’re being hired to fill in the gaps, make sure you have the skills to do so. I ask about copywriters, developers, designers, and link builders at a minimum.

11. What do you use for analytics?

Rationale:
A tool like Wappalyzer can probably tell you, but sometimes bigger companies have their own custom analytics through their host. Sometimes it’s bigger than Google Analytics, like Omniture. Will you be allowed to have direct access to it?  You’d be surprised how often we hear no.

12. How big is your site?  Do you have other properties?

Rationale:
It’s surprising how often a prospect forgets to mention those 30+ subdomains and microsites. If the prospect envisions it as part of the deal, you should at least be aware of how far the core website extends.

13. What is your budget, preferred start time, and end date?

Rationale:
The biggest question of all. Do they even meet your fee requirements? Are you staffed and ready to take on the work? Sure, talking money can be tough, but if you post your rates firm, the prospect is generally more open to talk budget. They don’t feel like a negotiation is going to happen.

Conclusion

While these are the core questions we use, I’m sure the list will eventually grow. I don’t think you should copy our list, or the order.  You should ultimately create your own. Every agency or consultant has different requirements, and interviewing your prospect is as important as allowing them to interview you. But remember, you don’t have to have all the business.  Just the right kind of business.  You will grow organically from your positive experiences.  We all hear about “those other agencies” and how they consistently fail to meet client expectations. Next to “do great work,” this is one powerful way to keep off that list.  

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Brand-focused Content Marketing for the Finance Industry

The finance sector is often thought to be one of the more constricted industries when it comes to what you can and can’t do and in most parts, this is true. There are lots of regulations and strict guidelines which the compliance team need to follow which means that the Marketing Teams roles can sometimes be quite challenging.

We often get asked what you can do when it comes to marketing in industries that are heavily regulated and my answer will always be that you can do anything as long as you work as a team. Of course, you will always need to get sign off from compliance at every step of the process but the more you work together, the more you will learn. Essentially, this will mean that for future ideas that you want to run with, the process get easier.

At Koozai, we like the phrase ‘Brand Centric Search’. This essentially means that your brand needs to be at the heart of everything you do and this is particularly important when it comes to how you appear in the search results. Potential customers tend to research finance companies (and any other company for that matter) before they make a purchase with them. If you only secure a couple of the top positions for your own brand name, you could be losing out on that all important traffic and worse still, that traffic could be going to your competitors.

There have been some examples of marketing for the finance sector that I have come across that rank really well for brand terms and in this post, I have compiled different forms of content and tied them back to a real life example so you can see how it has worked for other brands.

As with everything marketing related, it is vitally important not to simply copy what someone else has done. Innovation is key and you need to make sure you are thinking up new ideas and uncovering the ‘whitespace’ that others have not yet tapped into. A lot of these ideas will also rank for your brand name meaning that you will have further domination of page one in the SERPs for your brand.

So, let’s get started.

The Trusty Blog

I see so many websites that don’t have a blog (still) and this is something that really does need to change. Every website needs a blog so they can populate it with fresh, quality content that helps that site be seen as a thought-leader as well as grow traffic and generate conversions. This is even the case in the finance sector.

Legal & General have a blog and they have approached it in a different way to normal. The blog ‘belongs’ to Nigel, who is their CEO and he gives weekly commentary on the issues affecting the financial services industry.

Legal and General Blog

 

The Mobile App

A good mobile app can be created for almost every business, you just need to work out what your target audience will want to download. If your competitor has already come up with the same idea, this is one example where you could potentially launch something with a similar concept but always try to add a unique spin on it.

I love this example from Aviva. You can

View your insurance policies
Look up all the advantages of being with Aviva
Get reminders when your insurance policies are due for renewal
Use their life cover estimator
Watch rugby on your phone with exclusive content
Xchange insurance policy details instantly if you have been involved in a motor accident

So you can see that features 1 to 3 would most likely be on any insurance companies app, but features 4 – 6 are unique to them.

My Aviva App

The Simple Survey

Surveys are a great way for you to collect lots of data that no one else is going to have as the answers you generate are for your eyes only (until you want to share it of course). It is down to you to craft the questions and make sure that you are coming up with questions that are unique so the data you obtain is more valuable.

Take this example from Moneysupermarket. They came up with a concept of ‘Make Do & Mend’ and they asked their audience how they made savings using their creative skills.

The data that they get off the back of visitors completing the survey is worth its weight in gold. They can put together lots of pieces of content using the data that is completely unique to them and their competitors will not be able to replicate unless they copy the survey exactly.

Moneysupermarket Survey

The Presentation

Slideshare is a great way of building an authoritative channel and sharing some really useful content in a visual format. Depending on the topic, Slideshare content can generate a lot of views and awareness for your brand.

You can also use Slideshare to repurpose content that has performed well elsewhere. For example, you might have written a great blog post or created an infographic and you can use that content to create a presentation you can attract a different audience.

This is an example from Confused.com where they split down an infographic and added it to Slideshare where it got an additional 300 views.

Confused Com Slideshare

The Infographic

This leads me nicely onto infographics. When done right, they can generate traffic, awareness, conversions, links and revenue but the idea needs to be unique enough for it to gain the attention.

A good way to create an infographic is by using the data that you generate from a survey, that way you know that the content is going to be unique to you and not have been done elsewhere. Obviously you need to make sure that the overall topic hasn’t been covered first!

Tesco Bank produced this infographic that shows readers how credit cards reflect who you are and what stage of your life you are going through. It is packed full of interesting statistics that readers of their blog would find interesting.

Tesco Bank Infographic

The Audience Engagement Campaign

I know I used Legal & General earlier with the blog example, but I really like the idea that they came up with for an engagement campaign. They dedicated a section of their site to the campaign which asked their audience ‘What would you say to your younger self?’ and then promoted it across all the social channels to drive awareness. In essence they were promoting their life insurance product, but they did it in a way that got the audience involved sharing their stories and then used this content to add to their site.

Legal and General Engagement Campaign

The Competition

Another way to drive awareness of your brand and collect valuable data at the same time is by running a competition. Everyone likes winning things and as long as the prize is off enough value and is targeted to your audience, they can work really well.

In the example Confused.com teamed up with Nectar and were giving their audience a chance to win 60,000 Nectar points with their Pinterest competition. All you had to do was create a Pinterest board to show Confused.com what you would do with a million Nectar points to spend. Each image had to be tagged with the hashtag #pinforpoints and the board had to contain at least 20 images.

Confused Competition

The Charity Page

If you support a charity, you can create a company page on sites like Just Giving and use this each time you do anything to raise money for a particular charity. These pages rank really well for brand terms and secure an extra spot on page one if they are kept up to date and used regularly.

The example below from Money.co.uk was set up so that whenever anyone in their team wanted to do something for charity, they would link to the company page and then all the charities being supported would appear at the bottom.

Money Co UK Charity

The Aggregator Pages

The main aggregator sites such as Compare the Market, Go Compare, Money Supermarket and Confused all list their suppliers on the site. Some of them even include entire supplier pages for each supplier showing all the different benefits and features for their insurance policies.

As you can see from this example on Confused.com for Admiral Insurance, the page is packed full of content all related to the brand and this ranks really well for brand terms.

Admiral

 

The YouTube Channel

YouTube obviously has a lot of authority and weight behind it already so if you can set up a channel that works well for you, it will be easy to get that ranking on page one if someone searches for your brand.

The channel can be populated with great videos that really showcase your brand in a good light and you can have full control over how your brand comes across.

Look at this example from Liverpool Victoria (LV). The channel looks vibrate and exciting and has lots of great video content that has been view thousands of times!

LV YouTube

Summary

There are lots of other content or websites that can rank for your brand name and this will be different for every industry so it is important that you do your research to work out what is going to work best for you. There maybe industry specific authority websites where you can create a profile and populate that with content so that it ranks or it could be that there are events that you could sponsor so you can get a company page on their site. Find what seems to work in your industry, try it and see if it works for your brand.

Like I said at the start of this post, before someone purchases anything but particually in the finance industry, they research the company first and dominating the results on page one for your brand is going to help.

Featured Image Credit: http://en.fotolia.com/id/62839619

Post from Samantha Noble

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Getting Started With Paid Promotions

Posted by anthonycoraggio

I’m receiving more and more questions from clients about how best to leverage paid content distribution and paid social platforms (here referred to together as ‘paid promotions’). There’s a lot of reason for increased interest—as content production has ramped up in digital marketing, it has become harder and harder to stand out from the crowd and reach the audience you want. Facebook shutting down companies’ free lunch social distribution has only further pressed the issue—and sometimes you’ve simply maxed out on other paid channels!

But more than simply being an extra ‘pay to play’ option, paid promotion is a crucial part of any holistic digital marketing strategy. By using the range of paid online promotion and advertising tools available, we can take more comprehensive control in presenting the best user experience throughout the funnel—delivering the right content, at the right time, to the right person. There are three primary functions of paid promotions:

Improve the breadth and depth of content distribution
Use powerful targeting to drive more qualified traffic
Capture, retain, and shepherd qualified users to ultimately produce conversions

How and why you might use paid promotions will of course vary quite a bit, but regardless of your end goal, there are two key tasks for anyone seeking to succeed in doing so. Do these two things right, and you will have laid a solid foundation for achieving your goals.

First…

1. Define and target a specific audience

Defining a target audience in digital advertising or paid promotions is a more exacting exercise than usual, because we’re actually operationalizing a definition that can be precisely carried out by setting controls in a PPC-like interface. Think of it like programming a computer—you need to break down your definition in extremely concrete, exclusive terms that are interpretable by the tool you’re using. Don’t despair though—it’s not hard to do, and if you’ve been a good marketer and developed some proper user personas you’ll be ahead of the game!

Answer these questions to set a concrete definition of the people that should be targeted with a given campaign or content release. These are typically going to be the criteria you actually enter into an interface when starting a promotions campaign on a tool like Facebook or StumbleUpon.


Demographic Information – Our ideal target for this content is…


Age
 Many platforms will offer simple age based targeting, usually in the form of your typical “18-24, 25 – 36” type brackets.


Gender
– Again, this is a simple demographic setting and is often available. Think about setting up separate ‘A/B’ versions to separately address men and women when relevant!


Education Level/Status
 – Is your audience in school? Have they completed a degree? Facebook and LinkedIn will let you drill in on these parameters.


Geography
– Be as specific as possible. Generally, the combination of a state/province and a metro area level is as granular as geotargeting options go.

There are a few more options you can find on places like Facebook -income level, marital status, employment status, and more can be particularly useful in B2C contexts.

Many platforms will also give you an opportunity to define your target audience by interests, so think about what relevant topics or subjects the target user might be particularly interested in or looking for while online! For example,
likes for travel blogs, language learning sites, famous travel writers, country specific cuisine, etc all can be used to converge on a very specific type of person.

2. Choose promotion channels

Once your target audience has been defined and the above questions answered with the best data available, you must consider the channels or platforms that will best make use of it. There are three major factors:

Which platforms have targeting capabilities and an audience that can best replicate the user profile using their targeting?

Remember to weight the user’s expected online behavior heavily in selecting platforms – while one might offer targeting to match the most targeting characteristics, if your audience does not actively use the platform’s core service it is of little value as a promotional channel. Which platforms can best present the media to be promoted?

It is important not to detract from the user’s experience of the content, or place it in a channel that does not fit it’s form. A long form video, for example, will not usually fare well in skippable preroll spots or on-site rollover placements. Remember also that use of different platforms can depend on device – and so might the usability of your content! What behavioral context is preferable to achieve your objectives for this piece?

I strongly recommend taking a few minutes to browse around as a user when making these decisions, in order to think less abstractly about the experience you aim to create. Choosing channels is often a case-by-case process, but for common objectives there are some simple, intuitive guidelines to keep in mind:

If you want your content shared, promote it on channels that have built-in sharing capabilities (social media, StumbleUpon). If you want users to feel they’ve ‘discovered’ a piece, focus on content plug-ins (Outbrain, Zemanta, etc), discovery tools (StumbleUpon), and more niche placements (subreddits, subject blogs)—depending on the accessibility/simplicity. If your goal is a high level of direct exposure for content at a low price, content discovery plugins and display ad networks can deliver. Cost is relatively low and inventory is high, so it’s easy to get eyeballs on your work. If conveying authority is important, officially sponsored or openly disclosed promotions on respected media platforms or with trusted individual publishers can be a good tool—though often more expensive.

It can be useful to combine these guidelines to plan for more complex goals. For example, if you want to convey a sense of ‘discovery’ but also encourage sharing, StumbleUpon Paid Discovery could fulfill both these needs—the sponsorship is subtle, the user is in ‘discovery mode’, and SU has a social sharing frame right on top of the page. If that audience isn’t engaged enough, you might bring traffic to a piece via Reddit and retarget for sharing on Twitter.

Planning for promotion should not be an exclusively post hoc activity—the content itself should be created with intended placement and utility in mind. Engage early in the process as goals for the content are first set, so that creative development and objectives do not ultimately conflict with the feasibility of promotions. Simply being involved in the conversation to flag potential problems is often enough!

Think outside of yourself…

One of the most critical parts of this framework is leveling what you want to achieve with what users will accept and value in a given medium, so I want to take a moment to reinforce the importance of this.

In answering questions of targeting and placement in a performance-driven world, it can be dangerously easy to think egocentrically, only in terms of what YOU want your customer to do in a given context—or more insidiously,
what you want them to want to do. Remember that as a marketer or advertiser you are necessarily carrying tremendous baggage, both in terms of product knowledge and expectations. It’s tremendously important to step back from your own (or your company’s) perspective and think as a user.

What you ultimately need to reach your goals isn’t necessarily what individuals using one of these channels wants when doing so, or are ready to do. Take the time to understand your audience and reach out to them in a way will resonate with the journey they are on. 

What considerations do you pay special attention to when promoting content? Are there areas of the discipline you’d love to learn more about? Hit me back in the comments!

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How Can the Value of Top-of-Funnel Channels be Measured – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Rand has talked many times about what he calls “serendipitous marketing,” where the work we do at the top of the funnel can take winding and often unexpected paths to conversions. One of the most common questions about content marketing, public relations, and other top-of-funnel efforts is how to prove their value. 

In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand offers up three ways you can attempt those measurements, along with a bit of perspective you can bring to your clients and higher-ups.

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard!

Video transcription

Howdy, Moz Fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to talk about the value of top of the funnel demand creation, sorts of channels and tactics, and how you can actually measure the value behind them.

I’m guilty of doing something. I’m going to own up to it. A lot of the time when I talk about these kinds of tactics, stuff that sits at the very top of the funnel that creates that demand or interest in your potential target market, I call them serendipitous and unmeasurable channels. It is true that many of them are very serendipitous, but it’s not entirely true that they’re completely unmeasurable. They’re just very, very hard to measure, but not impossible.

So today I’m going to walk you through that, not because I actually expect you to go and try and do this with every one of those serendipitous, hard to measure channels, but because I think you need to, as a marketer, have this in your toolbox and in your knowledge kit so that when your CMO, your boss, your client, your manager, your team says, “Hey how do we know that xyz is producing returns,” you can say, “Actually, we don’t know that.” Or, “We proved it once, and we have the data from then. We continue to believe that it will drive investment. But here’s how tough it is to measure, and this is why we continue to invest in it and believe in it as a channel even though we don’t have the proof.”

So bear with me for a second. You’ve got your classic marketing funnel. Top of funnel stuff is like creating that awareness of the issue, the problem, the challenge, your industry. Your middle of the funnel is where you’re showing off your solution. The bottom of the funnel is usually where you’re convincing folks to convert and then trying to retain people. So this is fairly simplistic. Most marketers are familiar with it.

The stuff that fits into this creating awareness bucket, that very top of funnel demand creation stuff, those are things like: public relations, getting in news and media and press coverage; a lot of social media engagement, especially social media that is not directly tied to either supporting your product or pushing your product is in that bucket; a lot of conferences, events, trade shows, booths; certainly all those coffee and beer meetings that you might have with people in your field, people outside of your field, and people who are curious; a lot of those serendipitous meetings.

Anything that it fits into what we call top of funnel, which I actually like the shortened acronym there TOFU, TOFU content marketing. Much of the content that content marketers invested in and create is designed to be kind of above the funnel, before people are actually interested in your product or solution. Actually, this includes a lot of things that are brand advertising focused, that are just creating awareness of who you are as a company and that you exist, without specifically talking about the problem folks are facing or your solution to that problem.

So proving the value of this stuff is insanely hard. Let’s use public relations as an example. The classic yard stick that PR professionals have traditionally reported on are number of stories and the quality of those stories and pieces, and where they’ve been published. That’s a lot like in the SEO world reporting rankings and traffic. They’re very high level metrics. They’re sort of interesting to know. But then you have to have the belief that they connect up, that the rankings and the traffic are going to connect up to conversions, or that getting all those print pieces on the web, getting those links, or whatever is going to convert.

This is tough. The way to prove the value of this is you basically have these three options. You can segment, meaning that you segment by something like an industry vertical, by the demographics of your target, pr by geography. I’ll give you an example of this.

So Moz might say, “Hey, we really think that among urban professionals in the technical marketing fields, that is who we’re going to bias all of our public relations efforts to over the next year.” So we’re going to tell our PR firm, our in-house PR person, “Hey, that’s what we want you to focus on. Get us the publications that are relevant to those folks, that are read by them on and off the Web. That’s where we want to be.”

This is interesting, because it means that we can then in the future actually go and measure like, “Well yeah, we had this kind of a result with that particular group that we targeted with PR.” We had this much lower result with this other group that we didn’t target with PR, that we could the next quarter or the next year. This is one way of doing it.

Geography actually is the most common way that I see a lot of startups and technology companies doing this. They basically focus all their efforts around a particular city or a particular state or region, sometimes even a country, and they’ll do this.

At one point, I actually did run a split test using Sweden and Norway, which were places where I visited several people from Moz over the course of a couple years, spoke at some conferences and events, and then we looked at our traffic from those countries, our coverage in those countries, our links from those countries, and eventually our conversions from those countries. We did see a lift, kind of suggesting to us that maybe there was some value in those conferences.

Number two, the second way to do this is you can invest in a channel or tactic for only one of your product lines. If we’re at Moz, we’re going to say, “Hey, you know what? We’re going to do a lot of public relations for Followerwonk specifically, but we are not going to do it for our SEO products. We’re not going to do it for Moz Local. But let’s see how that goes.” This is another sort of segmentation tactic and can be effective. If you see that it works very well for one particular product, you might try repeating it for others.

Then the third one is that you can invest for a limited period of time. Now what’s sad is this one is kind of the most common, but also the worst by far. The reason it’s the worst by far, at least usually, is because most of the work that goes into any of these types of channels, think about it, press and PR, or a coffee and a beer meeting, or going to conferences and events, oftentimes takes a long time to show its value. It builds upon itself. So if I’m doing lots of in-person meetings, some of those will filter back and build on themselves. If you hear about Moz from one or two people in Seattle, well, okay, that’s one signal. If you hear about it from 10, that’s another thing. That might have a different kind of impact on how our brand gets out there.

So this time period stuff I really don’t recommend and usually don’t like. There are cases where it can be okay.

In all three of these, though, what makes it so incredibly challenging is that we have to be able to observe a number of metrics and then try and take the segments that we’re supposed to be looking at, whether that’s time or a product or a vertical or geography, and we want to observe metrics like traffic. We might try to look at mentions, especially for PR and branding focused stuff. We might look at links. We might look at conversion rate and total conversions. Then we have to try and control for every other thing that we’re doing in our marketing that might or might not have affected those metrics as they apply to these channels.

This is why honestly that control bit is so hard. Who’s to say whether public relations are really because we did a big PR effort and we talked to a lot of folks? Or is it because our products got a lot better, customers started buzzing about us, and the industry was turning our way anyway? We would have gotten 50% of those mentions even if we hadn’t invested in PR. I don’t know.

This is why a lot of the time with these forms of marketing, my bias is to say, “You know what? You need to use your educated opinion, and you need to believe in and invest in the quantity of serendipity that you believe you can afford or that you can’t afford not to do, rather than trying to perfectly measure the value that you’re getting out of these.”

It’s possible, but it is tremendously challenging. These are some ways that you can try it if you’d like to. I’d love to hear from all of you in the comments, especially if you’ve invested in this type of stuff in the past or if you have other ways of valuing, of figuring out, and of convincing your managers, your clients, your bosses, your teams to go put some dollars and energy behind these.

All right everyone, we’ll see you next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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10 Conversion Optimisation Tips For Your Business

Sometimes it can be hard to see past vanity metrics to what really matters for any site – final conversions. You can have all the impressions in AdWords, all the clicks in Analytics, the lowest bounce rate; but if your users aren’t converting then what is the point?

Types of Conversion

A conversion can be anything you want it to be, ideally something that can be tracked.

Aggregate conversions are those which are taken as an average across a set of users. These may include:

Time spent on site
Number of pages viewed
New vs returning visitors

Final goals are those that form the last step in whatever your ultimate goal for the site is.

Some of the most common examples are:

Purchase
Form submission
Download
Sign up

 

Tip 1 – Test Your CTA

Call To Action – Split test your CTA constantly, really, you may be surprised at the difference a new CTA can make. Keep them focused on the benefits of following your conversion path and minimise distractions.

Examples include:

Order now vs Order Instantly
Test with and without exclamation marks if this fits your brand voice
Get a quote vs Get Your Quote
Now vs Today
Free Download vs Download Now
Sign Up vs Sign Up To Get Your Free [whatever it is]
Save Money vs Start Saving Today
Test writing in first and second person

 

 

 

Tip 2 – Home Page Content

Keep your content focused on the user. Too many sites babble on about things like their history, why they’re so awesome etc, before getting to the reasons the users need them and what they can gain from using the site. All that gumpf can be moved down the page, or even better, to their own specific pages.

No one has spare time any more. When a user lands on your page, tell them straight out what you do and how they can benefit. There are plenty of examples used in conference examples, most recently in my experience by Oli Gardner of Unbounce, where you can read everything above the fold on the home page of a site and still not have a clue what they do.

 

Tip 3 – Granular Landing Pages

Where possible don’t combine elements of your business on one landing page. If a user clicks a link for a certain product or piece of information via image search, paid, or organic, they expect to be taken straight to it.

Click minimisation is a fundamental element of CRO, and taking users to category pages to fish around in a sea of things they did not show interest in, or a different page to the one they were expecting will push them to look elsewhere.

Site Tuners Example

 

Tip 4 – Use AdWords Scripts in Paid Search

AdWords Scripts allow you to pull data from AdWords automatically using a little bit of JavaScript. It can be used to create highly customised reports, alerts, work with external sources, and automated to run as often as every hour.

In my opinion, one of the most useful pieces of script is the ‘Out Of Stock Items’ code that disables ads and keywords for items listed as out of stock on your site. This helps users convert by only advertising products and offers you can fulfil, therefore saving yourself from disappointing users when they realise they cannot complete a conversion, and ultimately increasing trust.

AdWords Out of Stock Script

For more scripts and how to set them up read my post Top 4 Free AdWords Scripts to Simplify Your Life

 

Tip 5 – Use CRO Tools

While Analytics and the like can guide you to a fair degree on conversion optimisation, there is only so much they can tell you. There are so many awesome tools out there which can give you a far deeper insight into user behaviour and where you can improve CRO.

Some top tools to try include:

Heat maps – can monitor and record clicks, mouse movement, and much more
User testing – find out how users actually behave on your site and what stumbling blocks they come across
Split testing tools – this is a huge subject all of its own, but you should be constantly split testing the fundamental elements of your site to improve CRO

You can read more about this and see which tools I recommend here

Crazy Egg Heat Map

 

Tip 6 – Research Your Competitors

Obviously I am not suggesting you plagerise the opposition, but you might get a few ideas out of it which you can then test on your own site.

 

Tip 7 – Make Conversion as Easy as Possible

Sounds silly, but does your site really give users every opportunity to convert? Make sure they are able to start and/or move through the funnel easily and quickly with as few distractions as you can.

 

Tip 8 – Search Bar

In my humble opinion every website on the planet should have a well functioning search bar. This cuts both clicks and confusion for your users, saving valuable time and helping them find what they are looking for as quickly as possible.

Asos Search Bar

 

Tip 9 – Simplify your Form

Ask for the absolute minimum information on your conversion forms to increase conversion rates. In my recent article about getting users to open your marketing emails, I found a great example of a good and bad form which you can see here:

 

Tip 10 – Review Your Design

It’s easy to spend so long looking at your site that you can no longer see the wood for the trees. User testing is great for this, as mentioned earlier. YOU may be able to quickly and easily navigate around your site, and find it attractive to boot, but users may not. Consider testing your design by moving elements of the site around, changing colors, fonts, text size and content. Test your navigation to see if users find it easier to move through the funnel when presented with more/less/different options.

 

Tip 11 – Create a Great 404 Page

Bonus tip! A lousy 404 page means less conversions. Fact. A poor 404 which makes it difficult to navigate back to other areas of the site will push users to search elsewhere. Create an attractive and effective 404 page to retain users and gain their custom. Find out how to create an effective 404 page and see some of the best examples in my post, How To Create an Effective 404 Page

 

Focus Lab 404 page

 

There’s about a million other tips and ideas still to share but for now set aside some time to test out a few of these and good luck!

Post from Laura Phillips

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