The Converging Worlds of Digital PR and SEO

An integrated digital marketing strategy has become essential to the success of nearly every brand’s online presence. It’s no longer a sustainable option to focus on one element of digital marketing in isolation. After all, an exciting content marketing asset is nothing if no one sees it, so it must always come hand-in-hand with a well planned PR strategy. But does this really mean that the two worlds are colliding and become one and the same?

“Media convergence has been accelerating over the last few years and now finally many brands are producing comprehensive multi channel media plans that transcend both on and offline. The key thing for us is that they understand how each channel is performing and have the agility to adapt the media mix swiftly based on near real time performance data.”
– Neilson Hall, Illuminate

What’s happening and why?

Search Engine Optimisation took the marketing world by storm when it was first discovered. As individuals began to understand the nuances of the Google (and Yahoo, Ask etc.) algorithms, the ability to tweak a website in order to increase its rankings quickly became a very valuable asset. Fast forward ten years and it’s fair to say that many of the efforts seen today are dictated by the known elements of the Google algorithm. As an industry that relies upon this mysterious, unknown quantity, we have often found ourselves working in an almost entirely reactive culture.

At certain points in the last decade, the success of many online businesses has hinged upon the speed on which their SEO efforts can adapt to such changes to the algorithm. The industry as a result, became a sector of fortune tellers, looking to predict new trends and expected updates to future-proof our sites. In recent years the main theme that we have seen in the majority of Google updates and new products they have been creating, is a completely user-centric focus. The time where SEO meant meeting the requirements of robots is over, and today it is a much more ‘human algorithm’that we are working with.

Panda and Penguin, the most well known algorithm updates in recent years, are not just there to make life harder for SEOs. Look at the core of these updates and the objectives clearly relate back to improving users’ online experiences. In short:

  • Penguin reduces the impact of, and even penalises, sites which have paid for their link profile in a manipulative manner and therefore, those whose content is not proportional in its usefulness to the volume of links it has. In principle this means it should be the clients with the most link-worthy content for the user that rank the highest.
  • Panda on the other hand, looks to limit the ranking ability of sites which are producing duplicate content internally or using substantially similar content to other sites. This encourages sites to produce their own, high quality, valuable content for its audience, once again improving the standard of high ranking websites as a whole.

Let’s now turn our attention to the new products launched by the Google brand. Google Now has turned the people’s favourite search engine into a virtual assistant in their pocket. Recent surveys show that individuals are more likely to trust a snippet from Google for up to date news, than some of the previously most well-respected news publishers online. With this in mind, the next step for Google Now in providing the information people are looking for in such a personalised format seemed almost inevitable.

“Of course SEO and digital PR can, and does, exist in isolation. And I’m sure that some businesses still see the world this way. But bringing the two together must be the way forward for our industry – or that’s certainly our thinking. The ability to deliver our content and SEO aims via targeted media, with targeted messages to audiences that matter for our clients means they win twice.”
– Tom Salmon, Epiphany

Driving change: The Evolution of Link Building

The primary catalyst for the present shift in the SEO industry has been seen across the link building landscape. The tactics of buying links from sites with the highest Domain Authority on the basis it would directly lead to higher rankings just don’t work anymore. The rise of articles on how to think like a PR or ask for links from bloggers better has led to new pressures on this branch of SEO to go outside the box and really earn those links, rather than just build them.

building links

This is the clearest sign of these two services becoming far closer than they once were, as it has becomes nigh on impossible to gain links from an online form. Instead, the focus is on how we build personal relationships with bloggers, journalists and other sites in order to appeal to the human side of them and the stories we have to offer. This is a skill that so many PR professionals have as it often sits at the core of their work, but it can be and area where the traditional SEO sector is lacking in expertise. However, just because you’re currently lacking the skill doesn’t mean you can continue without it. It’s time to learn and adapt to the ever-changing industry that we work within.

At Optimise Oxford, Stephen Kenwright spoke about the approach he takes towards links and the metrics that he now considers to be important…

“Link building is still heavily focused on metrics that don’t mean anything. Even Moz doesn’t suggest that Domain Authority is an indication of how much PageRank is passed from one site to another; it’s a guess of how a website will perform in search results based on the links that are pointing to it. It’s possible to measure more meaningful data, such as how much traffic is referred via a link and whether that links has driven conversions or assisted conversions. Links take longer to build – and so are more expensive than before – so we absolutely need to be as granular as we can be about how much each link contributes to the bottom line.”
– Stephen Kenwright, Branded3

Transferable Skills

Skills in common do not equate to being the same job entirely, however there is so much that these two sectors can learn from one another to help move the industry forward as a whole. So how can we learn from one another?

“They use the same tactics but SEOs need to get with the wider PR agenda and consider message, audience, and reputation rather than being focused purely on links. Most are moving in the right direction. Similarly, pure digital PR people can learn from the technical and analytical parts of SEO. On page SEO is a skill many PRs don’t want or need to acquire, and for many SEOs PR strategy and reputation management are an irritation. It’s the middle, majority ground that has merged, and that’s for the best.”
– Claire Thompson, The Care Locker

The need for SEOs to understand digital PR and integrate some of the skills into their working habits has clearly increased, so now it’s time to talk practically about which skills to learn now.

Content Ideation

There’s often a great deal of emphasis put on generating links after content has already been created, however take a step back and put on your PR-hat before this. When you’re working on a campaign specifically to attract attention outside of your owned assets, from the very early stage of ideation you need to be aware of the type of stories that will get coverage.

The start of a creative campaign should not be solely based upon keyword volumes. Instead it should identify who your audience is, and in turn which types of target publications they will be reading. When you know the sites you’re targeting for coverage and understand their audience, you’ll be able to provide journalists with value and know how to meet their, and their readers, expectations. If the publication tends to talk about emotive, human stories rather than tools and infographics, you probably need to adapt how you position your content accordingly. It needs to be about the story underlying it all; A data-based piece without an interesting narrative behind it will likely remain an undiscovered gem upon your website.

Content Ideation

Relationship Building

Once your campaign has been created with journalists and bloggers in mind, it is time to create the types of relationships that will ensure you get the promotion you want. The short-term game of a quick, nicely worded email will work in some cases, but for the bigger targets we need to think bigger.

Each time you meet an individual in a professional environment it’s important to consider the value they may add to your business going forward. It should go without saying but be nice. So often the SEO community can be dismissive of individuals who don’t work closely in the same sector or might not understand the complexities of multi-funnel attribution, but connecting on a human level can add infinite value in the future. When meeting a journalist or blogger for the first time, use the opportunity to see what sort of information they look for in a story or pitch, take note of the typical complaints they have, and make sure you avoid making those errors in your future outreach strategies.

“Understanding that editors don’t care about shiny tools that help users to buy from you, editors care about stories with a conflict/controversy. This quote describes what news is perfectly: “When a dog bites a man that is not news, but when a man bites a dog that is news.”

Before pitching to editors your digital asset you need to make sure that it has enough depth for them to write around 500 words. You would struggle with pitches like “Hey, we just build this calculator. Want to write about it?” since there’s probably max 5 sentences editors can write about your asset itself.

Press releases are perfect when you want to show how your asset can solve a popular problem. The reason editors will write about your asset is because of THAT popular problem, not because of your asset.

If you’re a business owner with different departments still working in silos, you need to get your SEOs and PRs in the same room ASAP. There are so many ways these two disciplines compliment each other perfectly.”
– Tanya Korobka, Lucky Attitude

What does this mean for the future of SEO?

“Gone are the days when you could simply build a client a new website. Be it a migration or a new build, a collaborative effort between developers, SEO teams, UX specialists, PR experts and many more interested partners is required. Digital Marketing as a concept is all based around an exceptional website and to achieve this all project stakeholders must work effectively and efficiently together to deliver the best results for the end client.”
– Stuart Rex, Ridgeway

The converging trend we see here between SEO and Digital PR is not unique to just these two services. Across digital marketing as a whole the services and teams working within it are seeing closer and closer integration. Look at the quotes in this article; they’re coming from Paid Media specialists, SEOs, Digital Marketing Agencies, PR professionals and Web Developers, all of whom understand that their products and services now work together far more collaboratively than ever before.

I would argue that this unification of digital marketing elements is most visible across SEO and Digital PR, hence why I selected it as the focal point for this article. Time and time again in the industry these terms are becoming interchangeable and departmental lines are blurred. But what does this really mean for these two industries?

“I think the core difference is in the frame of perspective and metrics used. PR professionals are focusing on reputation, sentiment, affiliations and engagement, whereas SEOs are looking at SERP rankings, link metrics, traffic and on-site stats.

What’s interesting is that SEOs are coming around to the understanding that in order to improve these metrics, they can no longer hack the system. They need to offer relevant, valuable content, communicate effectively with their users (through great UX and onsite content) and build their reputation and relationships with other influencers to boost trust and develop their reputation. What SEOs are realising is that alongside the back-end technical services they offer, they need to start valuing online Public Relations.

I think we need to stop worrying about the territorial war between PR and SEO. It doesn’t matter what we call the work we do; what matters is the result of the work we do. And at the moment, that means integrating traditional and technical SEO with an underlying Public Relations strategy and framework.”
– Aisha Kellaway, White.net

Does it fundamentally matter if you’re an SEO who’s got a good understanding of PR or a PR who can do SEO? To put it simply, we cannot bury our heads in the sand and keep using the same tactics that we have for the past 5-10 years. But that doesn’t mean that either SEO or Digital PR is ‘dead’. Instead, it means that there has been an evolution of the services offered. The important thing here is that as an industry we are having a positive impact on marketing as a whole, and producing some incredible results for brands.

Post from Hannah Thorpe

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The Google Analytics Add-On for Sheets: An Intro to an Underutilized Tool

Posted by tian_wang

With today’s blog post I’m sharing everything one needs to know about an underappreciated tool: the Google Analytics add-on for Google Sheets. In this post I’ll be covering the following:

1. What is the Google Analytics add-on?

2. How to install and set up the Google Analytics add-on.

3. How to create a custom report with the Google Analytics add-on.

4. A step-by-step worked example of setting up an automated report.

5. Further considerations and pitfalls to avoid.

Thanks to Moz for having me, and for giving me the chance to write about this simple and powerful tool!

1. What is the Google Analytics add-on and why should I care?

I’m glad I asked. Simply put, the Google Analytics add-on is an extension for Google Sheets that allows you to create custom reports within Sheets. The add-on works by linking up to an existing Analytics account, using Google’s Analytics API and Regular Expressions to filter the data you want to pull, and finally gathering the data into an easy and intuitive format that’s ripe for reporting.

The Google Analytics add-on’s real value-add to a reporting workflow is that it’s extremely flexible, reliable, and a real time-saver. Your reporting will still be constrained by the limitations of Sheets itself (as compared to, say, Excel), but the Sheets framework has served almost every reporting need I’ve come across to date and the same will probably be true for most of you!

In a nutshell, the Add-On allows you to:

  • Pull any data that you’d be able to access in the Analytics API (i.e analytics.google.com) directly into a spreadsheet
  • Easily compare historical data across time periods
  • Filter and segment your data
  • Automate regular reporting
  • Make tweaks to existing reports to get new data (no more re-inventing wheels!)

If this all sounds like you could use it, read on!

2. Getting started: How to install and set up the Google Analytics add-on

2A. Installing the Google Analytics add-on

  • Go into Google Sheets.
  • On the header bar, under your Workbook’s title, click add-on.
  • This opens a drop-down menu — click “Get add-ons.”
  • In the following window, type “Google Analytics” into the search bar on the top right and hit enter.

  • The first result is the add-on we want, so go ahead and install it.

  • Refresh your page and confirm the add-on is installed by clicking “Add-ons” again. You should see an option for “Google Analytics.”

That’s all there is to installation!

2B. Setting up the Google Analytics add-on

Now that we have the Google Analytics add-on installed, we need to set it up by linking it to an Analytics account before we can use it.

  • Under the “Add-ons” tab in Sheets, hover “Google Analytics” to expose a side-bar as shown below.

  • Click “Create New Report.” You’ll see a menu appear on the right side of your screen.

  • In this menu, set the account information to the Analytics account you want to measure.
  • Fill out the metrics and dimensions you want to analyze. You can further customize segmentation within the report itself later, so just choose a simple set for now.
  • Click “Create Report.” The output will be a new sheet, with a report configuration that looks like this:

  • Note: This is NOT your report. This is the setup configuration for you to let the add-on know exactly what information you’d like to see in the report.

Once you’ve arrived at this step, your set-up phase is done!

Next we’ll look at what these parameters mean, and how to customize them to tailor the data you receive.

3. Creating a custom report with the Google Analytics add-on

So now you have all these weird boxes and you’re probably wondering what you need to fill out and what you don’t.

Before we get into that, let’s take a look at what happens if you don’t fill out anything additional, and just run the report from here.

To run a configured report, click back into the “Add-Ons” menu and go to Google Analytics. From there, click “Run Reports.” Make sure you have your configuration sheet open when you do this!

You’ll get a notification that the report was either successfully created, or that something went wrong (this might require some troubleshooting).

Following the example above, your output will look something like this:

This is your actual report. Hooray! So what are we actually seeing? Let’s go back to the “Report Configuration” sheet to find out.

The report configuration:

Type and View ID are defaults that don’t need to be changed. Report Name is what you want your report to be called, and will be the name generated for the report sheet created when you run your reports.

So really, in the report configuration above, all the input we’re seeing is:

  • Last N Days = 7
  • Metrics = ga:users

In other words, this report shows the total number of sessions in the specified View ID over the last week. Interesting maybe, but not that helpful. Let’s see what happens if we make a few changes.

I’ve changed Last N Days from 7 to 30, and added Date as a Dimension. Running the report again yields the following output:

By increasing the range of data pulled from last 7 to 30 days, we get a data from a larger set of days. By adding date as a dimension, we can see how much traffic the site registered each day.

This is only scratching the surface of what the Google Analytics add-on can do. Here’s a breakdown of the parameters, and how to use them:

Parameter Name

Required?

Description & Notes

Example Value(s)

Report Name

No

The name of your report. This will be the name of the report sheet that’s generated when you run reports. If you’re running multiple reports, and want to exclude one without deleting its configuration setup, delete the report name and the column will be ignored next time you run your reports.

“January Organic Traffic”

Type

No

Inputs are either “core” or “mcf,” representative of Google’s Core Reporting API and Multi-Channel Funnels API respectively. Core is the default and will serve most of your needs!

“core”

/

“mcf”

View (Profile) ID

Yes

The Analytics view that your report will pull data from. You can find your view ID in the Analytics interface, under the Admin tab.

ga:12345678

Start / End Date

No

Used alternatively with Last N Days (i.e you must use exactly one), allows you to specify a range of data to pull from.

2/1/2016 – 2/31/2016

Last N Days

No

Used alternatively with Start / End Date (i.e you must use exactly one), pulls data from the last N days from the current date. Counts backwards from the current date.

Any integer

Metrics

Yes

Metrics you want to pull. You can include multiple metrics per report. Documentation on Metrics and dimensions can be found in Google’s Metrics & Dimensions Explorer

“ga:sessions”

Dimensions

No

Dimensions you want your metrics to be segmented by. You can include multiple dimensions per report. Documentation on metrics and dimensions can be found here.

“ga:date”

Sort

No

Specifies an order to return your data by, can be used to organize data before generating a report. Note: you can only sort by metrics/dimensions that are included in your report.

“sort=ga:browser,
ga:country”

Filters

No

Filter the data included in your report based on any dimension (not just those included in the report).

“ga:country==Japan;
ga:sessions>5”

Segment

No

Use segments from the main reporting interface.

“users::condition::
ga:browser==Chrome”

Sampling Level

No

Directs the level of sampling for the data you’re pulling. Analytics samples data by default, but the add-on can increase the precision of sampling usage.

“HIGHER_PRECISION”

Start Index

No

Shows results starting from the current index (default = 1, not 0). For use with Max Results, when you want to retrieve paginated data (e.g if you’re pulling 2,000 results, and want to get results 1,001 – 2,000).

Integer

Max Results

No

Default is 1,000, can be raised to 10,000.

Integer up to 10,000

Spreadsheet URL

No

Sends your data to another spreadsheet.

URL for sheet where you want data to be sent

By using these parameters in concert, you can arrive at a customized report detailing exactly what you want. The best part is, once you’ve set up a report in your configuration sheet and confirmed the output is what you want, all you have to do to run it again is run your reports in the add-on! This makes regular reporting a breeze, while still bringing all the benefits of Sheets to bear.

Some important things to note and consider, when you’re setting up your configuration sheet:

  • You can include multiple report configurations in the the sheet (see below):

In the image above, running the report configuration will produce four separate reports. You should NOT have one configuration sheet per report.

  • Although you can have your reports generated in the same workbook as your configuration sheet, I recommend copying the data into another workbook or using the Spreadsheet URL parameter to do the same thing. Loading multiple reports in one workbook can create performance problems.
  • You can schedule your reporting to run automatically by enabling scheduled reporting within the Google Analytics add-on. Note: this is only helpful if you are using “Last N Days” for your time parameter. If you’re using a date range, your report will just give you the same data for that range every month.

The regularity options are hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly.

4. Creating an automated report: A worked example

So now that we’ve installed, set up, and configured a report, next up is the big fish, the dream of anyone who’s had to do regular reporting: automation.

As an SEO, I use the Google Analytics add-on for this exact purpose for many of my clients. I’ll start by assuming you’ve installed and set up the add-on, and are ready to create a custom report configuration.

Step one: Outline a framework

Before we begin creating our report, it’s important we understand what we want to measure and how we want to measure it. For this example, let’s say we want to view organic traffic to a specific set of pages on our site from Chrome browsers and that we want to analyze the traffic month-over-month and year-over-year.

Step two: Understand your framework within the add-on

To get everything we want, we’ll use three separate reports: organic traffic in the past month (January 2016), organic traffic in the month before that (December 2015), and organic traffic in the past month, last year (January 2015). It’s possible to include this all in one report, but I recommend creating one report per date period, as it makes organizing your data and troubleshooting your configuration significantly easier.

Step three: Map your key elements to add-on parameters

Report One parameter breakdown:

Report Name – 1/1/2016

  • Make it easily distinguishable from the other reports we’ll be running

Type – core

  • The GA API default

View (Profile) ID

  • The account we want to pull data from

Start Date – 1/1/2016

  • The beginning date we want to pull data from

End Date – 1/31/2016

  • The cutoff date for the data we want to pull

Metrics – ga:sessions

  • We want to analyze sessions for this report

Dimensions – ga:date

  • Allows us to see traffic the site received each day in the specified range

Filters – ga:medium==organic;ga:landingpagepath=@resources

  • We’ve included two filters, one that specifies only organic traffic and another that specifies sessions that had a landing page with “resources” in the URL (resources is the subdirectory on Distilled’s website that houses our editorial content)
  • Properly filling out filters and segments requires specific syntax, which you can find on Google’s Core Reporting API resources.

Segments – sessions::condition::ga:browser==Chrome

  • Specifies that we only want session data from Chrome browsers

Sampling Level – HIGHER_PRECISION

  • Specifies that we want to minimize sampling for this data set

Report One output: Past month’s sessions

Now that we’ve set up our report, it’s time to run it and check the results.

So, in the month of January 2016, the resources section on Distilled’s website saw 10,365 sessions that satisfied the following conditions:

  • organic source/medium
  • landing page containing “resources”
  • Chrome browser

But how do we know this is accurate? It’s impossible to tell at face value, but you can reliably check accuracy of a report by looking at the analogous view in Google Analytics itself.

Confirming Report One data

Since the Google Analytics add-on is an analogue to what you find on analytics.google.com, in your account, we can combine separate pieces in GA to achieve the same effect as our report:

Date Range

Organic Source/Medium

Landing Page Path & Browser

The result

Hooray!

Now that we’ve confirmed our framework works, and is showing us what we want, creating our other two reports can be done by simply copying the configuration and making minor adjustments to the parameters.

Since we want a month-over-month comparison and a year-over-year comparison for the exact same data, all we have to do is change the date range for the two reports.

One should detail the month before (December 2015) and the other should detail the same month in the previous year (January 2015). We can run these reports immediately.

The results?

Total Sessions In January 2015 (Reporting Month, Previous Year: 2,608

Total Sessions In December 2015 (Previous Month): 7,765

Total Sessions In January 2016 (Reporting Month): 10,365

We’re up 33% month-over-month and 297% year-over-year. Not bad!

Every month, we can update the dates in the configuration. For example, next month we’ll be examining February 2016, compared to January 2016 and February 2015. Constructing a dashboard can be done in Sheets, as well, by creating an additional sheet that references the outputs from your reports!

5. Closing observations and pitfalls to avoid

The Google Analytics add-on probably isn’t the perfect reporting solution that all digital marketers yearn for. When I first discovered the Google Analytics add-on for Google Sheets, I was intimidated by its use of Regular Expressions and thought that you needed to be a syntax savant to make full use of the tool. Since then, I haven’t become any better at Regular Expressions, but I’ve come to realize that the Google Analytics add-on is versatile enough that it can add value to most reporting processes, without the need for deep technical fluency.

I was able to cobble together each of the reports I needed by testing, breaking, and researching different combinations of segments, filters, and frameworks and I encourage you to do the same! You’ll most likely be able to arrive at the exact report you need, given enough time and patience.

One last thing to note: the Google Analytics interface (i.e what you use when you access your analytics account online) has built-in safeguards to ensure that the data you see matches the reporting level you’ve chosen. For example, if I click into a session-level report (e.g landing pages), I’ll see mostly session-level metrics. Similarly, clicking into a page-level report will return page-level metrics. In the Google Analytics add-on, however, this safeguard doesn’t exist due to the add-on being designed for greater versatility. It’s therefore all the more important that you’re thorough in outlining, designing, and building your reporting framework within the add-on. After you’ve configured a custom report and successfully run it, be sure to check your results against the Google Analytics interface!

Abraham Lincoln famously said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Good advice in general that also holds true for using the Google Analytics add-on for Google Sheets.

Supplementary resource appendix:

  • Kristi Hines’ Google Analytics for Beginners guide – See title.
  • Google’s Analytics Core Reporting API Documentation – Dig around here to find out how to build reports that give you exactly what you’re looking for!
  • Avinash Kaushik’s Analytics Resource – Discusses the Google Analytics reporting framework and how to think about metrics and sessions.
  • RegExr – General Regular Expressions resource.
  • Debuggex – Visual Regular Expressions debugging tool.

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Overcoming Objections on Your Landing Pages – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

[Estimated read time: 9 minutes]

How do you take your potential customers’ problems and turn them into a conversion success? If you’re having trouble with low conversion rates on high-traffic landing pages, don’t worry — there’s help. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares a process to turn your landing page objections into improved conversion rates.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about overcoming objections on your landing pages in order to improve conversion rates. So this a process that I have stolen part and parcel from Conversion Rate Experts, a British consulting company that Moz has used a couple of times to help with our campaigns. Karl Blanks and Ben Jesson have just been phenomenal for this stuff.

Look, they’re not the only ones who do it. A lot of people in conversion rate optimization use a process similar to this, but it’s something I talk about and share so often that I thought, hey, let’s bring it to Whiteboard Friday.

Enter a problem…

So a lot of the time marketers have this problem where a lot of people are visiting a page, a landing page where you’re trying to sell someone or get someone to take a conversion action, maybe sign up for an email list or join a community or download an app, take a free trial of something, test out a free tool or buy an actual product, like in this case my minimalist noise-canceling headphones.

They are very minimalist indeed thanks to my subpar drawing skills. But when lots of people are visiting this page and very few are converting, you’ve got a conversion rate optimization problem and challenge, and this process can really help you through it.

So first off, let’s start with the question around what’s a low conversion rate?

The answer to that is it really depends. It depends on who you are and what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re in business to consumer ecommerce, like selling headphones, then you’re getting what I’d say is relatively qualified traffic. You’re not just blasting traffic to this page that’s coming from sources that maybe don’t even know what they’re getting, but in fact people who clicked here knew that they were looking for headphones. 1.5% to 2%, that’s reasonably solid. Below that you probably have an issue. It’s likely that you can improve it.

With email signups, if you’re trying to get people to convert to an email list, 3% to 5% with B2B. Software as a service, it’s a little bit lower, 0.5% to 1%. Those tend to be tougher to get people through. This number might be higher if the B2B product that you’re serving and the SaaS product is a free trial or something like that. In fact, a software free trial usually is in the 1.5% to 2% range. A free app install, like if people are getting to an app download page or to an app’s homepage or download page, and you’re seeing below 4% or 5%, that’s probably a problem. Free account signup, if you’re talking about people joining a community or maybe connecting a Facebook or a Google account to start a free account on a website, that’s maybe in the 2% to 3% range.

But these are variable. Your mileage may vary. But I want to say that if you start from these assumptions and you’re looking and you’re going, “Wow, we’re way under these for our target,” yeah, let’s try this process.

Collect contact information

So what we do to start, and what Conversion Rate Experts did to start, is they collect contact information for three different groups of people. The first group is people who’ve heard of your product, your service, your company, but they’ve never actually tried it. Maybe they haven’t even made their way to a landing page to convert yet, but they’re in your target demographic. They’re the audience you’re trying to reach.

The second group is people who have tried out your product or service but decided against it. That could be people who went through the shopping cart but abandoned it, and so you have their email address. It could be people who’ve signed up for an email newsletter but canceled it, or signed up for an account but never kept using it, or signed up for a free trial but canceled before the period was over. It could be people who have signed up for a mailing list to get a product but then never actually converted.

Then the third one is people who have converted, people who actually use your stuff, like it, have tried it, bought it, etc.

You want to interview them.

You can use three methods, and I recommend some combination of all of these. You can do it over email, over the phone, or in person. When we’ve done this specifically in-house for Moz, or when Conversion Rate Experts did it for Moz, they did all three. They interviewed some folks over email, some folks they talked to over the phone, some folks they went to, literally, conferences and events and met with them in person and had those interviews, those sit-down interviews.

Then they grouped them into these three groups, and then they asked slightly different questions, variations of questions to each group. So for people who had heard of the product but never actually tried it, they asked questions like: “What have you heard about us or about this product? What would make you want to try it, and what objections do you currently have that’s stopping you from doing that?”

For people who sort of walked away, they maybe tried or they didn’t get all the way through trying, but they walked away, they didn’t end up converting or they didn’t stick with it, we could say: “What made you initially interested? What objections did you have, and how did you overcome those? What made you change your mind or decide against this product?” Oftentimes that’s a mismatch of expectations versus what was delivered.

Then for the people who loved it, who are loyal customers, who are big fans, you can say: “Well, what got you interested? What objections did you have and how did you overcome them? What has made you stick with us? What makes you love us or this product or this service, this newsletter, this account, this community, and if you did love it, can we share your story?” This is powerful because we can use these later on for testimonials.

Create a landing page

Then C, in this process, we’re going to actually create a landing page that takes the answers to these questions, which are essentially objections, reasons people didn’t buy, didn’t convert or weren’t happy when they did, and we’re going to turn them into a landing page that offers compelling explanations, compelling reasons, examples, data and testimonials to get people through that process.

So if you hear, for example, “Hey, I didn’t buy this because I wasn’t sure if the right adapters would be included for my devices,” or, “I travel on planes a lot and I didn’t know whether the headphones would support the plane use that I want to have,” great, terrific. We’re going to include what the adapters are right on there, which airlines they’re compatible with, all that kind of information. That’s going on the page.

If they say, “Hey, I actually couldn’t tell how big the headphones were. I know you have dimensions on there, but I couldn’t tell how big they were from the photos,” okay, let’s add some photos of representative sample sizes of things that people are very familiar with, maybe a CD, maybe an iPhone that people are like, “Oh yeah, I know the size of a CD. I know the size of an iPhone. I can compare that against the headphones.” So now that’s one of the images in there. Great, we’ve answered the objection.

“I wasn’t sure if they had volume control.” Great. Let’s put that in a photo.

“Is tax and shipping included in the cost? I didn’t want to get into a shopping cart situation where I wasn’t sure.” Perfect. We’re going to put in there, “Tax included. Free shipping.”

“Is the audio quality good enough for audiophiles and pros because I’m really . . .” well, terrific. Let’s find a known audiophile, let’s add their testimonial to the page.

We’re essentially going one by one through the objections that we hear most frequently here, and then we’re turning those into content on the page. That content can be data, it can be reasons, it can be examples, it can be testimonials. It’s whatever we needed to be to help get people through that purchase process.

Split test

Then, of course, with every type of conversion rate optimization test and landing page optimization, we want to actually try some variations. So we’re going to do a split test of the new page against the old one, and if we see there’s stronger conversion rate, we know we’ve had success.

If we don’t, we can go back to the drawing board and potentially broaden our audience here, try and understand how have we not overcome these objections, maybe show this new page to some of these people and see what additional objections they’ve got, all that kind of stuff.

This process is really powerful. It helps you uncover the problems and issues that you may not even know exist. In my experience, it’s the case that when companies try this, whether it’s for products or for services, for landing pages, for new accounts, for apps, whatever it is, they tend to uncover the same small set of answers from these groups over and over again. It’s just a matter of getting those four or five questions right and answering them on the landing page in order to significantly improve conversion.

All right, everyone. Look forward to your suggestions, your ideas, your feedback, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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Could there be a new generator in the electric world of search?

 

Search is like electricity: it is all around us; we don’t see it, it just lights everything up. Search has now become so pervasive that most users are not aware of their search habits. They may not be consciously searching nor aware that search is offering a service without being asked. In modern search experiences, be that on the web or within other online services, we are expressing our intent with natural semantics. We speak up and the artificial intelligence makes sense of our words by marrying them to a myriad of other signals and deliver us the information we are, or will be, looking for.

That small electric charge powering the delivery of the right information to online user is perceived as rolling thunder in economic spheres. During the recent financial report reflecting on its second financial quarter for 2016, Microsoft announced that its search advertising revenues excluding traffic acquisition costs grew 21% year-over-year, citing Windows 10 as one of the catalysts for this important increase. This resulted in a raft of articles in the press about what was seen as a paradigm shift in an industry that many thought immovable.

Let’s face it, for many advertisers, search was once regarded as an altogether different type of electricity: static and taken for granted. But I am not certain that Thomas Edison once thought that his lightbulb would be able to communicate, self-regulate its intensity, replace alarm clocks, etc. So even the most established of services can be disrupted. It takes smart connections between users and technology, between innovation and people’s needs… In the end, this press spotlight on our industry has led many actors to revisit their preconceptions about their media mix decisions.

Many had indeed not realised how much the Bing Network had been growing and how Microsoft strategy continues to add scale. The most recent comScore market share report shows that Bing is continuing to gain steady traction and growing fast globally. Bing-powered search accounts for nearly one-third of search market share in the US. Overall, Bing has more than doubled its market share since launch in that market, and internationally the same trajectory is followed: in the UK, the Bing Network is nearing the 18%; in France, it has reached 11.9%; in the Netherlands, 10.4%.

Search: Bing Ads Market Share in Europe - ComScore Oct. 2015, Cedric Chambaz

Scale and volume are crucial for our advertisers and agencies. This is why Microsoft is focusing on three fronts to drive such momentum:

  1. Organic growth: Bing has been growing organically over the past 5 years, and Microsoft is committed to create industry leading destination search and going beyond the search box in innovative ways.
  2. Integration in consumer software: Bing’s integration in Windows 10 has already helped deliver additional volume and scale. There are currently 200 million devices running Windows 10 today, and growing.
  3. Partnerships and syndication: Microsoft has been partnering with market leading brands to provide unique search experiences. Many ignore for instance that Bing is the search engine serving web results for Siri on iOS and Amazon’s Echo for instance. AOL and Yahoo searches are also powered by Bing. Gumtree and Ecosia in Europe have recently joined the bandwagon…

This approach is shifting the perspective from which advertisers informed their marketing investments: it is less about unique web users and more and more about ecosystems of devices and services. As Carat Head of Media Futures, Dan Calladine, pointed out in his “Top 10 trends for 2016” presentation, mobile search is creating a more level playing field, and new mobile search experiences like personal assistants such as Cortana or Siri are likely to accelerate that disruption. In 2015, Bing for instance has already seen a +63% click through rate growth year over year thanks to features like Location Extensions, Mobile Sitelinks, App Extensions and more. And we can all expect to see further innovation on mobile ad products. After all we are all in in search, whatever the device or its operating system (Bing Ads Editor for Mac is coming and campaign monitoring apps are available on both Android and iOS)

So yes, search is electrifying. And the recent progression of Bing in that industry is adding more intensity. Bing is already outpacing the market with an annual growth of 19% in North America and Europe according to Adobe Media Optimizer which measured in Q3 2015 a 10% increase in paid search all up. That is all the more notable that in the same time that growth is not achieved at the expense of its quality. ComScore outlined that Bing users tend to spend 22% more than the average internet users. Personally that was enough to get my light bulb moment… What about you?

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Why there is more to PRing a tech start up than you might think

There is more to PRing a tech start up than just exposure or acquiring new customers. Instead it is often about providing proof of concept to allow the investor community to understand the ‘investability’ of the proposition. In fact, arguably, the biggest mistake of a tech start up is to get bogged down in the detail – for example, focusing solely on its customers and ignoring the value of a robust reputation within the wider customer and stakeholder community.

Firstly, get your head around the jargon, then discount it and focus on what matters

If you want great PR and to secure funding then you need to be able to talk the talk, as well as walk the walk.

With so many tech start ups out there, it is easy to weed out which ones have less of a chance of success based upon their comprehension of the tech start up space.

I find that journalists are bombarded with stories on new tech start ups and the first thing they do is test if there is any meat on the bones of the business. Do they have a plan that goes beyond the proposition? In short, do they have a business plan than can be invested in?

Any business that can’t explain its funding model is often not going to get the exposure it needs.

Unfortunately, the other problem is it is easy to get lost in the jargon. The term ‘tech start ups’ is an often overused and misunderstood term. The definition is used so often that in some circles its use has become meaningless.

Now of course a tech start up is something different. It’s a tech business that is looking to scale, perhaps even IPO, and is on an ambitious growth plan to world domination. Or at least that is the plan. Unfortunately, many tech start ups don’t secure the funding they need and struggle to scale.

So understanding the investor community’s terminology is crucial.  If you want to get the publicity in the right kind of places and open up conversations with the investor community, you need to learn about the various stages of funding. (friends and family, seed funding, Series A, Series B, IPO).  Know the difference between a bank, an angel investor, a VC and a private equity firm.  Understand that putting together a deal requires professional services partners, legal support and accountants, and knowing the right partners can make or break a deal.

If you want to get coverage in the serious tech media, then being able to explain the commercial model, and where the business is in this cycle, will make or break your reputation and the ability to be taken seriously.

Having spent a good deal of time in the tech start up space, the best infographic I can find to give when training new staff on how funding works is by Funders and Founders.

The numbers involved might change over time but this is a good introductory guide to the process.

Understand their objectives, business model, the technology and the people

Of course, before developing a PR strategy, any good PR gets a good briefing.  The brief is interrogated and sometimes what is laid out in the brief isn’t the real commercial driver behind the business.

Many tech start ups are of course trying to create brand awareness and develop a user base. However, in our experience there are so many other wider stakeholders who can make or break a business’s reputation.

For example, if a business is genuinely disruptive, then it is going to upset someone somewhere. Understanding this and countering any negativity can be crucial.  Look at Anti Uber protests, or Google’s own tax issues, for example. Also have a read of articles from those who are not on the hype train.  Our very own Barry Adams has written about tech start ups numerous times here.  There are plenty of dissenting voices.

Maybe you think that your small start up won’t attract criticism, or negativity. Think again. We have seen the market fight back against new entries to the market time and time again.

Know your friends but more over, know your enemy.

Arguably, a tech start up PR’s sole objective is to provide proof of concept 

This might seem obvious, but many tech start ups get bogged down in the day-to-day of developing a product and growing a business.

The single most effective piece of advice I can give any tech start up is to communicate what the vision of success is for the business.  This end goal might be to IPO, it might be to build a new category, to create the world’s best new web app, or to dominate a niche market.  Whatever the goal is, the commercial model behind the business needs to be explained in the most transparent way possible.

Complete transparency is of course impossible, but having a public facing narrative is crucial, even if your public facing narrative is only 1% of the total sum of the real, often commercially sensitive story.

This messaging needs to be closely aligned to the more expansive narrative for those working for the business under NDA, including investors and of course your PR agency.  This will involve more detail on the plan, allowing your suppliers and partners to make crucial decisions on your behalf.  They will become ambassadors for your brand, knowing what they can and can’t say on your behalf.

Proof of concept can take many forms. No one expects a tech start up to make a profit initially. But what are the milestones along the way to achieving this?  If a tech start up secures seed funding, what does the business plan to do with the funding ahead of securing series A?  When is the business forecasted to break even? How many customers does it plan to acquire? What is the cost per acquisition model? How will these customers be acquired? How will it invest the funding in new websites or marketing? What is the message to the market?

The list is endless of course, and there is no one size fits all.  But those that provide the greatest proof of concept will ultimately succeed.

Those that can’t provide proof of concept will fail.

Be prepared to be flexible and adapt to changes in strategy and evolving market conditions

Ideally a tech start up’s proposition is so undeniable that its strategy doesn’t need to swerve from its preordained strategic path.

The reality is that ‘shit happens’. Strategies change. Propositions are shaped. More often than not, learnings from customer acquisition data forces tech start ups to adapt or die.

A PR partner for a tech start up needs to be reactive to these changes.

My advice for any PR that wants to work with tech start ups is to prepare for late night and early morning phone conversations. You are along for the ride. Enjoy it!

Many PR agencies don’t like uncertainty and maybe tech start up PR is not for them. I’ve seen many agencies just simply unable to adapt to the needs of a tech start up.  My advice to any one choosing a PR partner for a tech start up is to choose wisely. Picking the wrong one can be a costly mistake.

Often the PR agencies that fail with tech start ups are dominated by time management controls and staff to income ratios. Arguably, those agencies that make successful partners are run by an owner manager who make it a high priority to service clients rather than monitor time. (I am biased… I am that ‘adaptable’ owner manager).

Be prepared for a lot of close agency-entrepreneur client relationship, for good and for bad

While it is often one of the investors that makes decisions about which marketing partners to choose, the chances are that during the seed funding and early Series A stage that a PR or marketing partner is going to be working closely with the CEO or entrepreneur. This has its pros and cons.  For both sides.

For the agency working with a founder means stress, hard work, and jumping through hoops at the drop of a hat.

For an entrepreneur, working with an agency can sometimes be frustrating.  Getting the most out of an agency is a fine art. They are a supplier, but they are humans too. Humans need managing and to squeeze that extra 20% out of an agency an entrepreneur needs to know what makes them tick.

The positives of this close working relationship is enormously rewarding. For the agency, they have the ear of the c-suite. Hell, the entrepreneur is probably the entire c-suite (for now). They are helping shape the future strategy of the business and that means the tech start up is able to deliver on its promises and is accountable for every pound, dollar, penny or cent that is being spent.

For the entrepreneur, it is a chance to work closely with a marketing partner and understand the reputation of the tech start up. Ultimately this is a reputation that will make or break the business.

Reputation is the great intangible that so many digital marketers fail to grasp.

Start ups: fail to understand reputation at your peril.

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Is Any Press Good Press? Measuring the SEO Impact of PR Wins and Fails

Posted by KelseyLibert

[Estimated read time: 15 minutes]

Is the saying “any press is good press” really true? Whether it happens as part of a carefully orchestrated PR stunt or accidentally, the potential payoffs and drawbacks when a brand dominates the news can be huge.

In our latest collaboration, Fractl and Moz explored how a surge of media coverage impacted seven companies.

By looking at brands that dominated headlines within the last year, we set out to answer the following questions:

  • Does positive press coverage always bring more benefits than negative press coverage?
  • Beyond the initial spikes in traffic and backlinks, what kind of long-term SEO value can be gained from massive media coverage?
  • Do large brands or unknown brands stand to gain more from a frenzy of media attention?
  • Are negative PR stunts worth the risk? Can the potential long-term benefits outweigh the short-term damage to the brand’s reputation?

Methodology

Our goal was to analyze the impact of major media coverage on press mentions, organic traffic, and backlinks, based on seven companies that appeared in the news between February 2015 and February 2016. Here’s how we gathered the data:

  • Press mentions were measured by comparing how often the brand appeared in Google News search results the month before and the month after the PR event occurred.
  • A combination of Moz’s Open Site Explorer, SEMrush, and Ahrefs was used to measure traffic and backlinks. Increases and decreases in traffic and backlinks were determined by calculating the percentage change from the month before the story broke compared to the month after.
  • BuzzSumo was used to measure how often brand names appeared in headlines around the time of the PR event and how many social shares those stories received.

Note: We left out a few metrics for some brands, due to incomplete or unavailable data. For example, backlink percentage growth was not measured for Airbnb or Miss Universe, since these events happened too recently before this study was published for us to provide an accurate count of new backlinks. Additionally, organic traffic and backlink percentage growth were not measured for Peeple, since it launched its site around the same time as its news appearance.

pr-stunt-header.png

I. How media coverage affects press mentions, organic traffic, and backlinks

We looked at seven brands, both well-known and unknown, which received a mix of positive and negative media attention. Before we dive into our overall findings, let’s examine why these companies made headlines and how press coverage impacted each one. Be sure to check out our more detailed graphics around these PR events, too.

Impact of positive media coverage

During the last year, Roman Originals, Airbnb, and REI were part of feel-good stories in the press.

Roman Originals cashes in on #TheDress

What happened

Were you Team Black and Blue or Team Gold and White? It was the stuff PR teams dream of when this UK-based retail brand inadvertently received a ton of press when a photo of one of its dresses ignited a heated debate over its color.

the-dress.jpg

The story was picked up by major publishers including BuzzFeed, Time, Gawker, and Wired. Some A-list celebrities chimed in with their dress-color opinions on social media as well.

The results

Roman Originals was by far the biggest winner out of the brands we analyzed, seeing a 17.5K% increase in press mentions, nearly a 420% increase in US organic traffic, and 2.3K% increase in new backlinks. By far the greatest benefit was the impact on sales — Roman Originals’ global sales increased by 560% within a day of the story hitting the news.

Beyond the short-term increases, it appears Roman Originals gained significant long-term benefits from the media frenzy. Its site has seen a lift in both UK and US organic traffic since the story broke in February 2015.

In addition to the initial spikes directly after the story broke, RomanOriginals.co.uk saw a solid lift in backlinks over time, too.

Man lists igloo on Airbnb for $200

What happened

After Blizzard Jonas had hit the Northeast, a man built an igloo in Brooklyn and listed it for $200 per night on Airbnb as a joke. Airbnb deleted the listing shortly after it was posted. Media pickups included ABC News, USA Today, Washington Post, Mashable, and The Daily Mail.

The results

Of all the PR events we analyzed, the igloo story was the most recent, having occurred at the end of January. Although we can’t yet gauge the long-term impact this media hit will have on Airbnb, the initial impact appears to be minimal. Since Airbnb is frequently in the news, it’s not very surprising that one PR event doesn’t have a significant effect.

Airbnb’s site only saw a 2% increase in organic traffic, despite an 83% increase in press mentions.

It’s also too soon to measure the story’s impact on new backlinks. However, the chart below shows the backlinks around the time of the story breaking relative to the new backlinks acquired during the rest of the year.

REI opts out of Black Friday

What happened

The retail chain announced it would be closed on Black Friday and created the #OptOutside campaign urging Americans to spend Black Friday outdoors instead of shopping. Major media outlets picked up the story, including CNN, USA Today, CBS News, and Time.

screenshot-time.com 2016-02-16 13-45-54.png

The results

While REI received great publicity by saying “no” to Black Friday, the media coverage appeared to have little impact on organic traffic to REI.com. In fact, traffic decreased by 5% the month after the story broke compared to the previous month.

REI.com did see a 51% increase in new backlinks after the story broke. Additionally, the subdomain created as part of the #OptOutside campaign has received nearly 8,000 backlinks since its launch.

When good press turns bad (and vice versa)

In addition to both positive and negative spins being put on a story, the sentiment around the story can change as more details emerge. Sometimes a positive story turns negative or a bad story turns positive. Such is the case with Gravity Payments and Miss Universe, respectively.

CEO of Gravity Payments announces $70K minimum wage

What happened

The CEO of this credit card-processing company announced he was cutting his salary to provide a minimum staff salary of $70K. It was hard to miss this story, which was covered by nearly every major US media outlet (and some global), and included a handful of TV appearances by the CEO. The brand later received backlash when it was discovered that the CEO, Dan Price, may have increased employee wages in response to a lawsuit from his brother.

screenshot-www.today.com 2016-02-16 13-57-32.png

The results

Initial spikes after the story broke included a 90% increase in press mentions, 139% increase in organic traffic, and 146% increase in new backlinks. But it didn’t end there for Gravity Payments.

What’s been most incredible about this story is its longevity in the press. Six months after the story broke, publishers were doing follow-up stories about the CEO signing a book deal and how business was booming. In December 2015, Bloomberg wrote a piece revealing that there was more to the story and suggested the wage increase was motivated by a lawsuit.

So far it looks like the benefits from the good press have outweighed any negative stories. In addition to the initial spike, to date GravityPayments.com has seen a 1,888% increase in organic traffic from the month before the story broke (March 2015).

The site has also received a substantial lift in new backlinks since the story broke.

Steve Harvey crowns the wrong Miss Universe winner

What happened

Host Steve Harvey accidentally announced the wrong winner during the 2015 Miss Universe pageant. Some speculated the slip up was an elaborate PR stunt organized to combat the pageant’s falling ratings.

While there was initial backlash over the mistake, after several public apologies from Harvey, the incident may end up being best remembered for the memes it inspired. steve-harvey-meme.jpeg

The results

It appears the negative sentiment around this story has not hurt the brand. With a 199% increase in press mentions compared to the previous year’s pageant, this year’s Miss Universe stayed top of mind long after the pageant was over.

After the incident, there was nearly a 123% increase in monthly organic traffic to MissUniverse.com compared to the month following the 2014 Miss Universe pageant. However, organic traffic had steadily increased throughout 2015. For this reason, it’s difficult to give Steve Harvey’s flub all the credit for any increases in organic traffic. It’s also too early to measure the long-term impact on traffic.

It’s also difficult to gauge how much of an effect it had on backlinks to MissUniverse.com. Judging from the chart below, so far there has been a minimal impact on new backlinks, but this may change as more articles related to this story are indexed.

For a brand that relies on TV viewership, perhaps the greatest payoff from this incident has yet to come. You can bet the world will tune in when Steve Harvey hosts next year’s Miss Universe pageant (he signed a multi-year hosting contract).

Is there any value to bad publicity?

Crafting controversial stories around a brand can have a huge payoff. After all, the press loves conflict. But too much negative press coverage can lead to a company’s downfall, as is the case with Turing Pharmaceuticals and Peeple.

Turing Pharmaceuticals raises drug price by 5,000%

What happened

You may not recognize the company name, but you’ve most likely heard of its former CEO Martin Shkreli. This pharmaceutical company bought a prescription drug and raised the price by 5,000%. The story made global headlines, including coverage by the New York Times, BBC, NBC News, and NPR, and the CEO had multiple TV interviews.

shkreli-daily-beast.png

Shkreli defended the price hike, saying the profits would be funneled back into new treatment research, but his assertions that the pricing was a sound business decision wasn’t enough to save face. He later stepped down as Turing’s CEO after being arrested by the FBI on fraud charges.

The results

Like Gravity Payments, the Turing Pharma story has had a long lifespan in the news cycle. After the story broke on September 20, press mentions of Turing Pharmaceuticals increased by 821% over the previous month.

During the month after the story first broke, turingpharma.com saw a 318% increase in organic traffic. Traffic also spiked in December and February, which is when Shkreli’s arrest, resignation as Turing CEO, and congressional hearing were making headlines.

Turingpharma.com also saw a significant increase in backlinks after the story broke. Within a month after the story broke, the site had a 382% increase in new backlinks.

While Turing Pharmaceuticals gained SEO value and brand recognition from the media frenzy, the benefits don’t make up for the negative sentiment toward the brand; the company posted a $14.6 million loss during the third quarter of 2015.

Peeple promotes new app as “Yelp for people”

What happened

A new site announcing a soon-to-be-launched “Yelp for people” app caused a huge social media and press backlash. The creepy nature of the app, which allowed people to review one another like businesses, sparked criticism as well as concerns that it would devolve into a virtual “burn book.”

wp-peeple.png

The Washington Post broke the story, and from there it was picked up by the New York Times, BBC, Wired, and Mashable.

The results

Peeple is an exceptional case since the app’s site launched right before the brand received the flurry of media coverage. Because of that, it’s possible that forthepeeple.com had not been indexed by Google yet at the time of the press coverage. Unlike the other brands we looked at in this study, we don’t have traffic and backlink benchmarks to compare from before press attention. But still, the Peeple story serves as a cautionary tale for brands hoping to attract attention to a new product with negative press.

Peeple received a 343% increase in press mentions during the month after the story broke. But since it was a new site, it’s difficult to accurately gauge how much of an impact media attention had on organic traffic and backlinks. Despite all of the attention, to date, the site only receives an estimated 1,000 visitors per month.

Since the story broke, the site has received around 3,800 backlinks.

An abundance of negative media coverage buried Peeple before its product even launched. By the time the founders backtracked and repositioned Peeple in a more positive light, it was too late to turn the brand’s image around. The app still hasn’t launched.

II. What marketers can learn from these 7 PR wins and fails

A substantial increase in press mentions, rather than volume, can yield significant benefits.

Overall, the stories about large brands (Airbnb, REI, Miss Universe) received more exposure than the unknown brands (Turing Pharmaceuticals, Roman Originals, Peeple, Gravity Payments). The well-known brands were mentioned in 148% more headlines than the unknown brands, and those stories received on average 190% more social shares than stories about the lesser-known brands.

Although stories about smaller brands received less press coverage than large brands, the relatively unknown companies saw a greater impact from being in the news than large brands. Roman Originals, Gravity Payments, and Turing Pharmaceuticals saw the greatest increases in organic traffic and backlinks. Comparatively, a surge of press coverage did not have as dramatic of an impact on the large companies. Of the well-known brands, Miss Universe saw the greatest impact, with a 199% increase in press mentions and 123% increase in site traffic compared to the previous year’s pageant.

Negative stories attracted more coverage and social shares than positive stories.

On average, the brands with negative stories (Miss Universe, Turing Pharma, and Peeple) appeared in 172% more headlines which received 176% more social shares than positive stories.

Have you noticed that the news feels predominantly negative? This is for good reason, since conflict is a pillar of good storytelling. Just as a novel or movie needs conflict, so do news stories.

That being said, there is such a thing as too much conflict. As we saw with Turing Pharmaceuticals and Peeple, company reputations can be irreversibly damaged when the brand itself is the source of conflict.

An element of unexpectedness is a key ingredient for massive press coverage.

There’s an old saying in journalism: “When a dog bites a man, that is not news because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news.”

From a CEO paying all employees $70,000 salaries to a major retailer closing on the busiest shopping day of the year to a seasoned TV host announcing the wrong beauty pageant winner, all of the stories we analyzed were surprising in some way.

Surprising stories attract initial attention and then ignite others to share it. This crucial element of newsworthiness also plays a role in making content go viral.

A quick, positive reaction when the brand isn’t controlling the story may help boost the beneficial impact of media coverage.

A carefully orchestrated PR stunt allows a company to plan for the potential press reaction, but what’s a brand to do when it unexpectedly ends up in the news?

While this may sound like a bureaucratic company’s worst nightmare, nimble brands can cash in on the attention with a quick, good-spirited reaction. Roman Originals masterfully news-jacked a story about itself by doing just that.

First, it put out a tweet that settled the debate over the dress’ color and updated its homepage to showcase #TheDress.

screenshot-twitter.com 2016-02-15 13-29-22.pngSoon after, a white and gold version of the dress was put up for auction, with the proceeds donated to charity. Had Roman Originals spent too much time planning a response, it may have missed out while the story was still relevant in the news cycle.

Key takeaways

While most brands will never achieve this level of media coverage, the instances above teach pertinent lessons about what makes a story catch fire in the media:

  • A PR win for a little-known brand doesn’t necessarily require thousands of press mentions. For this reason, unknown companies stand to benefit more from riskier tactics like PR stunts. On the flipside, it may be more difficult for a large brand to initiate a PR stunt that makes a significant impact.
  • An element of unexpectedness may be a primary driver for what makes a news story go viral. When possible, include an unexpected angle into your PR pitches by focusing on what’s unique, bizarre, or novel about your brand.
  • Plan for the unexpected by having processes in place that empower marketing and PR teams to act fast with a public response to sudden media attention.
  • As we saw in our study, controversial stories are a big hit with journalists, but make sure your brand is the hero, not the villain. Look for opportunities to weave the “bad guys” your company is fighting into your pitches. Your company’s villain could be as obvious as a competitor or more subtle adversaries like the establishment (Uber vs. taxi industry).

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How are brands using VR?

It’s been widely hailed as one of the top trends for 2016, but just what does the realm of virtual reality mean for brands and how should they be harnessing it?

YouTube first introduced 360 videos back in March last year which was then followed by Facebook in September last year. These both allow users to view 360 videos on the apps and certain web browsers without the use of a VR headset. The popularity of 360 videos on both platforms has grown hugely since its introduction.

With Mark Zuckerberg making an appearance at the Samsung Galaxy launch over the weekend where virtual reality was a heavy theme, and a post published on Facebook talking about uptake to date and future plans, it’s clear that VR is a key part of Facebook’s ongoing strategy.

Samsung Gear VR, powered by Facebook’s Oculus, was released in November last year and since then more than 200 games and apps are available and apparently over 1M hours of VR video have been viewed on the platform. Quite big numbers in just four months I’m sure you’ll agree.

Which brands are using it?

Various brands have been jumping on the virtual reality bandwagon in the last few months, below are some recent examples from a variety of brands and industries.

Brands

GoPro created this great 360 video of New York City promoting their own ODYSSEY® camera which the footage was shot on.

TOMS allowed viewers to join them on a trip to Peru to see the work that their Giving Partners do.

Back in 2014 Marriott took the VR experience to a whole new level with the ‘Transporter’ a booth created whereby you place the VR headset and headphones on, close your eyes and have the full experience of being transported to a new travel destination

Publishers

Refinery29 have been using Facebook’s 360 videos to give fans an inside look at NYFW which would usually only be experienced by those on the FROW.

 

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VFiles NYFW Runway In 360 DegreesBetter than front row: watch the supremely cool VFILES #NYFW runway-concert in 360 degrees.

Posted by Refinery29 on Sunday, 21 February 2016

BBC Sport has been making use of Facebook’s 360 videos with content such as this Ski Sunday 360 degree perspective on the Kandahar downhill course in Chamonix.

 

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Wow! Ski Sunday’s Graham Bell gives you a 360 degree perspective on the Kandahar downhill course in Chamonix. #360video

Posted by BBC Sport on Friday, 19 February 2016

Musicians

Avicii released this 360 video for the single Waiting For Love which, when watching on a VR headset, allows you to move around the music video.

Films

In November last year the Hunger Games released a VR video allowing users to explore the world around them in a totally immersed way.

Deadpool also released their own VR trailer for the film released this month.

 

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See Deadpool everywhere (especially in theaters)Deadpool: 24/7, 360º a year. See Deadpool, now in theaters.

Posted by Deadpool Movie on Saturday, 13 February 2016

 

How much does it cost?

As mentioned, 360 videos can already be viewed on mobile and certain web browsers already. VR headsets range wildly in price, at the lower end of the scale is Google Cardboard where you can pick a viewer up for as little as $19.99 whereas Oculus Rift, which is now available for pre-order, is priced at $599.

I’m nowhere near an expert on creating VR apps or 360 videos, so I’m going to point you in the direction of both YouTube and Facebook’s information on 360 videos to start from there in terms of creating your own VR experiences.

So is it the future?

I see VR as very similar to social media in that social media has been so successful for brands (and celebrities) as it offers customers and fans a previously unknown behind-the-scenes view into its true personality and a chance to get closer to the brand.

VR allows us to do that even more and it captures user’s attention as they are forced to actively interact with the content in order to view more, which is perfect from a marketer’s point of view in an attention-poor society.

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Does Ad Viewability Always Equal Views?

Posted by rMaynes1

[Estimated read time: 6 minutes]

There’s a lot of talk about ad viewability at present, and with big players such as Google announcing in 2015 that it would only charge advertisers for 100% viewable impressions, it’s easy to see how it’s become such a hot topic in the digital marketing world.

But what exactly does it mean to be “viewable?” Does this mean people will look at your ad? We recently conducted a research study that set out to answer these questions.

Conducting the eye-tracking study

The study was conducted in two parts: an online survey of 1400 participants for quantitative data, and an eye-tracking study designed to observe actual behaviors of searchers online — more qualitative data.

The goal was to measure the type of ads people noticed and engaged with the most, determining whether behavior changed depending on the intent behind the search task (research or purchase) and the relevancy of the ad. We also wanted to determine how viewable online display ads truly are and what other factors influenced whether or not people viewed them.

Participants performed tasks in Mediative’s lab while being recorded using the Tobii T60 desktop eye tracker. The key metrics measured were:

  • Time to First Fixation – How long it took the searcher to fixate on an ad. A fixation is when we hold our eyes still and actually take in visual information. A typical fixation lasts from 100–300 milliseconds, and we generally fixate 3–4 times every second (Source: tobii.com).
  • Total Visit Duration – How long the searcher spent in total fixating on the ad.
  • Visit Count – How many times the searcher came back to look at the ad.
  • Percentage Fixated – The percentage of all participants who looked at the ad.
  • Percentage Clicked The percentage of all participants who clicked on the ad.

A participant conducting a calibration test on the T60 Tobii Eye-tracker in Mediative’s research lab

“The findings in this study are a powerful reminder to create engaging advertising programs that responsibly leverage first- and second-party data. Marketers are still better off complimenting user experiences than disrupting them.”

– Sonia Carreno, President, Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada

What is viewability?

“Viewability,” as defined by the Media Ratings Council, means an ad has 50% of its pixels in view for a minimum of one second. Essentially, an ad is viewable if there’s an opportunity for it to be viewed. 76% of ads in Mediative’s study were served in a “viewable” position as defined above.

An opportunity for an ad to be viewed, however, does not mean that it will be viewed. 16.6% of the ads that were served throughout the study were viewed. 50% more ads were viewed above the fold compared to below the fold, and ads above the fold were viewed for 87% longer.

Increasing viewability to increase views

Although click-through rate is a clear indicator of whether an ad was viewed or not, it doesn’t give the whole picture. It gives no measurement of how many ads were seen, but not clicked on. Therefore, CTR cannot be the sole measurement of a display ad campaign’s success. Ads can be seen, noticed, and influence a purchase — all without generating a click.

Buying a viewable ad impression is only the first step, however. Here are some areas for you to consider improving in order to maximize the chances of your display ads being seen.

1. Ad relevancy

The research showed that ads relevant to the searcher’s current task are 80% more likely to be noticed than ads relevant to something the searcher had looked for in the past. Additionally, ads relevant to the search query are viewed for 67% longer than irrelevant ads. Relevant ads were visited on average 2.59 times per visitor per page, versus only 1.6 times for irrelevant ads. Relevant ads received 5.7x more clicks.

Below are heat maps for web pages containing two big box ads. The page on the left features an ad that was irrelevant to the search task. The page on the right features a relevant ad. The areas in red had the most views, followed by orange, yellow, and green.

Your action item:

You can advertise on sites that are relevant to the audience you are trying to reach (e.g. a car ad on a car information site). However, adding data into campaigns and purchasing impressions in real-time will increase the relevancy of your ads, no matter the site the user is visiting. With demographic data and/or intent- and interest-based data, specific audiences of people can be targeted, rather than specific sites. This is more likely to result in a higher return on ad investments, as impressions land on the most likely buyers.

2. Ad type

In a survey, we asked people which ads they pay attention to the most on a webpage. The responses show that people believe they pay attention to the leaderboard ads at the top of the page the most. Our eye-tracking study confirmed that, yes, this ad type was noticed the fastest, and by the most people.

However, it was the ads to the side of the page (skyscraper ads) and within the page content (big box ads) that were viewed for the longest and received the most clicks. A November 2014 report by Google had similar findings, reporting that the most viewable ads on a page are those that are positioned just above the fold, not at the top of the page.

Your action item:

Don’t rule out ads that might traditionally have poor click performance. This doesn’t mean the ad isn’t seen!

3. Ad design

Poor display ad design is often to blame for a poor click-through rate; if people don’t notice the ad, they won’t click it. When it comes to online display ads, images, videos, and animations are more important than what’s actually being said with the text.

Your action item:

Invest in good ad creative. Keep ads simple, yet eye-catching. Ensure the ad features a clear call-to-action to indicate why the searcher should click on your ad so that they don’t lose interest.

4. Multiple ad exposures

Multiple relevant ads on the same page were viewed, on average, by 2.7x more participants and captured 2.8x more clicks than the individual relevant ads.

Multiple ads shown several times across different pages increase in engagement the more times they’re shown. The average number of clicks increased by 162% between one exposure and two, and by 39% between two exposures and three.

Your action item:

Consider advertising placements such as home page takeovers or run-of-site/run-of-network advertising, where multiple exposures of the same ad will be served. Retargeted ads will also likely result in multiple exposures to the same ad. When retargeted ads were presented to a searcher, they were viewed, on average, 65% faster than ads that were not retargeted.

In summary

Ultimately, what we’ve discovered through this research is that buying a “viewable” ad impression does not guarantee that it’s going to be seen and/or clicked on, and that there are many ways you can maximize the chances of your ad being viewed. It’s critical to understand, however, that online ad success cannot be determined by views and clicks to an ad alone. The entire customer’s purchase journey must be considered, and how ads can influence behavior at different stages. Display advertising is just one part of an integrated digital campaign for most advertisers.

For more tips on how to maximize display ad viewability, download the full Mediative paper for free.

Let us know your thoughts and questions in the comments!

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Google Ditching Paid RHS Ads – What You Need To Know

It’s been a while since Google shook up Adwords in a big way. We have to go back to the addition of ads at the bottom of the SERPS in 2011 and Enhanced Campaigns in 2013 to see fundamental shifts in paid search – putting aside all of the smaller adjustments to things like close variants and sitelinks that don’t noticeably affect the end-user’s experience.

I’m sure that if you’re an SEO reading this you’ll be wryly amused by our consternation and mild panic since change from Google is pretty much part of your job description. In the case of this latest update however, it’s likely that organic results are going to see some big changes too.

So what’s new?

Let’s remind ourselves how the SERPS “used” to look:

How the SERPs used to look

Depending on the query and the Quality Score of the advertisers, you could have up to 3 paid ads showing above the organic listings, with around 10 on the right-hand side. On some occasions, you could also see up to 3 ads below. This would mean that you could have anywhere from three up to thirteen or so ads per search.

As of now, you can expect to start seeing searches that look like the below – with no ads on the right hand side:

How ads will look now

How ads will look now

Weird right? In the place of the right hand side ads you have up to 4 ads above the organic listings and 3 underneath – a total of 7 versus the up to 13 we’ve seen historically. It’s a brave new world, ladies and gentlemen!

Now for some of the specifics. Some of the exact details are a little vague since Google haven’t made their customary announcement on the Inside Adwords blog and prior to the weekend all there was to go on was rumour and speculation from different agencies and users who have had different elements confirmed to them. Google have begun to confirm things though and we’re in a good position to update on what’s happening.

When is this happening?

The change is rolling out as we speak – with all ads regardless of language and locale being affected by the change as of Monday 22nd February 2016. As of this date you will no longer see any ads on the right hand side of the search listings with the exception of Shopping Ads, which will continue to show both above and to the right of the organic results. Image, news, map and Knowledge Graph listings will also be unaffected.

Knowledge Graph listings will continue as they are

Knowledge Graph listings will continue as they are

There’s some great information over at Moz which shows how the volume of changes has been increasing over the last few weeks although Google themselves say they’ve been testing versions of this since 2010 – which I can easily believe as not long after that is when the addition of ads at the bottom of the SERPs came in. Back in December users noticed the addition of a 4th listing at the top of the SERPs as part of the testing process – pushing organic results even further down the page and below the fold on many devices.

Interestingly Google have confirmed that 4 ads won’t show above every search query. Google told The SEM Post that the 4 ad option:

is designed for highly commercial queries where the layout is able to provide more relevant results for people searching and better performance for advertisers

They estimate that this will cover around 3% of queries, “where users express a deep intention to buy” – although personally when searching all of my results have shown 4 ads, but none of them have been particularly long-tail.

Why has Google done this?

The main reason that’s been stated is that this will bring the experience on desktop platforms more in line with mobile devices – which have worked this way for some time – thereby delivering a better experience for customers. It will also allow for greater space for both shopping ads and Knowledge Graph content.

The cynical among us feel that it’s designed to drive greater revenue for Google – going from 13 to 7 listings is a significant risk and they’d be unlikely to potentially halve their revenue without making sure of the numbers first. No doubt during their testing they’ve analysed the commercial impact and it pays off for them.

What will the impact be for paid advertisers?

First of all, we expect to see an increase in CPCs. Most other PPCers feel the same – that the cost to participate in Adwords auctions will increase, potentially significantly. This could have the effect of driving advertisers to other platforms, such as Bing or paid social – but only if the users are there too.

If you’re one of the advertisers currently in the top 3, it’s possible that you could see an increase in traffic and cost – be sure to keep an eye on your stats over the coming days to monitor the impact.

For retailers, the potential increased visibility for shopping is a boon. Last month it was spotted that Google were testing an expandable layout for shopping ads – if something like this was rolled out down the right hand side it would allow for significantly more PLAs.

expanded-plas

It could well be that advertisers will show restraint and we don’t see much in the way of CPC increases at all – unfortunately only time will tell.

What will the impact be on organic listings?

Most people believe that CTR on organic ads will decrease, particularly when 4 paid ads are shown as the organic results are pushed even further down the SERPs. Personally, I’m unsure and I think that organic results may see an uplift on a number of queries as there won’t be any ads on the right hand side to attract attention and cannibalise clicks. The improved visibility that Knowledge Graph searches will have is also a good thing for organic traffic as these elements will be more prominent on the page.

With Google’s stated purpose of showing 4 ads on more commercial queries, it may be that generic CTR takes a hit and that organic will really be able to shine on the long-tail of search.

What’s going to happen with all that white space?

Potentially, if Google are true to what they’ve said, nothing. If the plan is to bring the results more in line with mobile devices, then the RHS will stay empty. You’ll continue to see Shopping and Knowledge Graph content there as these searches are unaffected by the change, but that could be it.

My feeling is that Google will be unable to resist tinkering with the space – be it for more commercial gain or to introduce a new feature. Could it be that we’ll start to see some Google+ content in this space? You heard it here first, folks, even if Twitter doesn’t agree with me!

To wrap up

I’ve used a lot of words considering we’re yet to hear in detail from Google about their plans and rationale. That being said, I think enough of us have heard from our reps and agencies to have formed a fairly rounded-out picture of what’s going to happen. With the stated aim of rolling everything out by Monday 22nd, it shouldn’t be too long before we know for sure.

What should you do? Keep an eye on your CPCs and position reports. Speak to your colleagues in Organic and ask what they’re seeing – it’d be great to understand how this change affects both channels. I’d also like to urge prudence when it comes to bid changes – if we all panic and increase our bids in fear, then we’ll be stuck in an ever-increasing spiral of expense – let’s be measured and moderate and attempt to understand the impact before we react.

In the meantime, while we’re waiting to find out more and work out what to do next, you could do worse than listen to the Spotify playlist created around this very topic on Friday afternoon by Kirk Williams – enjoy!

Post from Arianne Donoghue

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