Month: August 2013

5 Steps to A/B Test like a Growth Hacker


All marketers seek ad nirvana through A/B testing in hopes of discovering the right ad to landing page combination. You turn to AdWords to create dozens of ad haikus and let them run their course. A/B testing like this is an accepted practice. Sacrifice a few good ads for the greater good, right? I know I have contributed my fair share of wasted AdWord haikus over the years.

If you have limited dollars to spend, this method can be expensive. You need to do A/B testing like a Growth Hacker. Here’s my story.

When I first launched in 2010, I had $500 per month to spend on advertising. This small budget forced me to find free alternatives to testing messages quickly so I could apply this small budget on ad copy and landing pages that converted.

Step 1: Leverage Your Fans

I turned to social media. My fans became my focus group. My hypothesis: if I knew what my current audience was interested in, it would help attract a similar audience in paid media.

Social media provided instant and ongoing feedback. My goal was to test what keywords drove my fans to share, click and convert.  Using social media I could test and prove messaging in real-time using the immediate data generated by free social media and website analytics tools. My fans minimized my risk by providing feedback before I pulled out my credit card for paid media.

Cost: $0.00

Step 2: Stuff Tweets With Keywords

My approach to social content creation was the same as if I was setting up an AdWords campaign. I created a list of keywords and phrases I wanted to test. Next, I wrote a series of status updates and tweets that included the keywords. At this point, I was looking to see what combination of words would compel people to share or click.

Cost: $0.00

Step 3: Reuse, Reformat and Recycle

To a social media purist, this next step may be considered blasphemy. In a nutshell, I shared the same piece of content several times (you would not have known that unless you clicked through.)

For example, if I were sharing an infographic instead of just sharing one update with a link, I would create several tweets highlighting one section of the infographic. Over the course of a day(s), I would share each update. Each update contained a valuable keyword(s) from my test set from step 1.

Cost: $0.00

Step  4: Monitor Actionable Data ONLY!

When it comes to analytics, I like to work with a simple set of data. Ultimately, I was looking for conversions. The following simple data points were enough information I needed to set my AdWords campaign up for success.

  1. Content Analysis: What status updates are generating clicks, retweets and sales?
  2. Demographic & Psychographic Analysis: Who is my content resonating with?
  3. Sentiment Analysis: What are the popular themes or keywords?

I also learned a lot from my fans. I paid particular attention to the words they used when they shared one of my updates with their audience. Many times I discovered keywords I hadn’t thought of.

Cost: $0.00

Step 5: Scale Paid Media

Now I was ready to spend. I had a good idea of the keywords and content that resonated with my audience, and I knew who was already attracted to Armed with this data, I started my first AdWords campaign. I continue to hone my skill and test.

Cost: $500

Get your message and content in front of your best prospects at exactly the right time. 

Watch the tutorial—How to Leverage Earned & Owned Media to Create Effective Paid Media Programs—and learn proven strategies for saving money in your paid media programs by leveraging earned & owned media. Access it now FREE with a trial to the Online Marketing Institute. Activate trial now.


3 Things Every Agency Must Invest In To Grow


Last week, I attended BrightEdge's Share 13 event in San Francisco, and during the event, I realized there is a real problem looming that many leaders sitting behind the front lines are missing— there is a complete lack of  investment in the future. I listened to many  speakers talk about the commoditization of search, and while having lunch with Performics' President, Eric Papczun, I was taken aback by the number of challenges he encounters daily.

Let's face it—digital agencies are on the front lines, battling to achieve a great ROI on their social and digital efforts. They are the warriors. They are the taking the heat. They are learning what works, what doesn't, and what will get them shot down. Respect for the effort is a must.

Unfortunately, most of our digital soldiers are ill equipped to make the most of their undying efforts, and this will cause most brands and their agencies to get less-than-ideal results. What we really need on the front lines is huge investments in ammo (or budget) to do it right.  The future is right here and now, and if we don’t invest in our soldiers, we can’t expect them to have the fire power to strategize and execute correctly.

Okay, enough of the military analogies. Lets get to the point—we must invest and fight for resources in 3 areas:

1)   Innovative strategies—look at the map before sending troops

Investing in innovative strategies is hard because, as Eric put it, “we are too busy executing for the client—we aren’t given room to think for them." For example, today many popular content marketing strategies focus on applying them to social media. So much time is spent creating crafty tweets, Facebook posts, and hopefully great written and visual content, too, but rarely do we spend the time to plan and map out content that is useful and smart. We are just adding to the already very noisy space and hoping volume overcomes a lack of real planning.

2)   Digital tactics with room for experimentation—instead of quickly executing and trying to hammer down ROI

Yes, digital budgets are growing, and averaging around 25-30%–sometimes even up to 50%.  But we need more, because digital is the most efficient and accountable form of marketing, with the greatest potential for enormous market share gains, since the rewards far outweigh the risks.

And bigger budgets will lead to great, breakthrough work that is truly creative, innovative, and smart. No one will argue that paid search and digital advertising budgets are under-funded. As Eric put it, “we continue to have to do more of the same, with less." That just won’t cut it for clients that want to grow profits and stay competitive. It's time to get the executives that care about growth involved. 

3) Our people—the proper bootcamp before front lines

Finally, it's absolutely critical to invest in people. Agencies provide smart thinking. Your clients aren't paying for technology, or basic execution. They're paying for your strategies, creativity, experience, and smarts.  And you are only as good as that last account manager's suggestion to use Mobile Responsive Design for next micro-site campaign. We must educate the people on the front lines. We must invest in them. Because that's how you can truly grow.

When investing in people becomes a line item up for discussion, that’s the time to walk out—there is nothing more important.

Want a copy of our new "Digital Talent Gap & Education Study", slated for release this Fall? Connect with me on LinkedIn, and I'll add you to our preview list. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this post—please reach out if you'd like to chat!


How to Conduct a Technical Site Audit and Boost Your SEO Efforts


There are three main aspects of a technical site review: architecture, technology and source code. The combination of these three elements being optimized for search will allow the content on your site to stand out from your competition. We will look at how to do a content review on your site in our next post. This post discusses how to do a technical site review.

With the burgeoning importance of Internet marketing, the Marketing Department and IT find themselves increasingly thrown together to achieve their goals. This is particularly so in search engine optimization (SEO), where Marketing needs to understand some of the boiler-room workings of Internet sites to optimize sites for search engine discovery. Merely understanding how to use keywords isn’t enough any more. Performing a technical site review requires the participation of both Marketing and IT in a true partnership. Marketers need to understand the elements and tools used to make websites sing—and what can make a site hard to crawl and result in a loss of search engine traffic.

The review should examine the site as others see it, keeping two key audiences in mind: search engines and directories (“spiders”) and people (prospects, customers, vendors, partners, shareholders, etc.). The purpose is to uncover anything that might block search engines, and result in Google reducing its evaluation of the site’s value, or result in site users being unable to do what you want them to do on your site.

Step 1: Crawl the Site to Check for Architectural Issues

The site needs a consistent layout and structure that emphasizes the content where you want visitors to focus. Where are the logical “buckets” of content? Sometimes it appears logical to have content in more than one place on the site. For example, if you are selling motorcycles and motorcycle accessories, it may make sense to you to have the information about Harley-Davidson T-shirts in the Harley-Davidson section of your site, and to repeat this information in your apparel section. However, Google doesn’t want to see the same content repeated in different areas of your site and will ding you for it.

Once the content is organized, you need to look at directory names. Every directory name has the ability to be scripted with keywords such as Motorcycle Helmets>Full-Face Helmets>Bell Helmets. Don’t let these descriptors get too long; you need them to communicate crisply. Longer descriptors may confuse or mislead, and usability is the guiding principle. The longer people spend on your site, the greater the value assigned by Google.

There are tools you can use to crawl the site and look at it the way Google sees it. One excellent tool is Screaming Frog, which has free downloadable versions for Windows, Mac OS and Ubuntu. The Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a small desktop program you can install on your PC or Mac which crawls websites’ links, images, CSS, script and apps from an SEO perspective. Screaming Frog will tell you where it has crawled and the pages it has found, reports 404s (missing pages), redirects, broken links, duplicate pages, and more. is another great tool. These programs will allow you to gain a good top-level understanding of architectural issues, including how pages related to one another (or don’t).

Step 2: Review Your Technology (CMS, Flash, etc.)

There are hundreds of content management systems available, from WordPress to Joomlah! Most of these systems incorporate SEO best practices. They have a default set of built-in options that can help or hurt SEO, depending, so these need to be carefully examined before implementing on your site. You particularly want to be able to look at and modify the page titles and meta descriptions. For example, the generic installation of WordPress—one of the most popular content management and publishing systems—does not allow this, but a plug-in from Yoast allows you to categorize WordPress pages with unique titles.

Title tags are good drivers of SEO rank if they are composed well. Title tags get picked up immediately by crawlers and help the search engine to rank your page in comparison to others., In addition, a well written meta description that is concise and has a benefits statement in it, will help to increase the click-through rate when your site comes up in the search results. A standard but not very useful meta description might say, “Full-face motorcycle helmet,” while an effective meta description might say, “Full-face motorcycle helmet meets highest safety standard.” Do research around your content and make sure the metadata relates to it closely.

Some of the technologies used in building websites can prevent the site from being effectively crawled. Flash technology for movies is fine, but sites built on Flash cannot be crawled thoroughly. Spiders can read only the links, and search results are poor as a consequence. Also, some Flash pages can have one URL, but have three or four content pages associated with it. You need to be aware of this and associate one page of content with one URL in Flash.  A best practice is not to rely on Flash to build your entire site but to use it on a page-by-page basis to enhance sections of the site that will benefit from the interactivity of Flash. Additionally, many of Flash’s features can be offered in a much more friendly HTML 5 format that doesn't raise barriers to search engines as Flash does.

AJAX (an acronym for asynchronous JavaScript and XML) is a group of interrelated web development techniques used on the client side to create asynchronous web applications. They allow great interactivity, such as mousing over a photo for more detail, and allowing information to load in the background. This is great for user experience, but unless you code the page correctly, it can confuse and block search engines from fully indexing the content. Search-engine friendly AJAX is well understood and can be implemented by most competent web developers, but it often must be listed as a specific requirement when building a site.

The lesson here is to use these technologies as an adjunct to your main content, and only where they achieve a useful purpose, such as usability.

Step 3: Review Source Code

The average site has a code:content ratio of 80:20. This means that one in five “words” on each page is user-friendly content. The rest is “spider junk food,” and it doesn’t help SEO. Offload code segments into cascading style sheets (CSS) and Javascript, including files. Aim for a code:content ratio of 55/45 or better.

Incorporate key phrase-rich names for files and directories that mirror the content of the pages. This will increase Page Ranking by increasing relevance. (Remember, anything that makes Google’s search results more accurate will help your ranking.) Key words and key phrases should be used throughout the copy, including headlines, subheads and copy. They should be repeated about five times per page (taking care not to sacrifice the quality of your content). Make sure they are used in page titles, file titles, link text, ALT tags and metadata within the media files. (Content creation programs have a means of embedding key words and phrases within the files they produce.) This will assure that when users perform a Google search, the right words and phrases will be included in the brief description search engines provide for each site.

Be aware that search engines—Google in particular—take into account where your site is hosted. If your site is hosted on a server where your virtual neighbors are undertaking dubious activities like phishing, living in a bad neighborhood will taint your site ranking. Your hosting server should be above reproach.

Search engines also take into account how fast your site loads and how quickly it can be browsed. Consider if your host server is optimized for your site. For example, if your server is in Connecticut and you are selling surfboards to Californians, images and media files may take longer to load for users. One way to test this is to use Google’s PageSpeed Service. Enter any URL and Google will give you a ranking for it and offer suggestions to make it load faster.

Make sure all images are optimized for compression. Have scripts load content first and interactivity second. If you have audio or video files, host them remotely to make the site loads faster without them. As they are large chunks of code, they can seriously slow down a site. Use a content delivery network to load these files quickly.

Most websites tend to grow organically. Things are added over time. Website managers  come and go, and sometimes the “rules” you started with get lost in the shuffle. I recommend doing a technical SEO site review at least at least once a year or whenever you are undertaking major revisions to your site’s structure or content This will assure that broken links, 404s, misdirected links, orphan pages, old content and other detritus gets cleaned up regularly. It also assures that, like your car, your site gets a regular tune-up to continue to perform at optimum speed.

Ensure your website gets found in the engines.

Watch the tutorial—Incorporating Good SEO into Web Design—and learn the common design elements that can hinder SEO, and how to work around these challenges to balance design and SEO. Access it now FREE with a trial to the Online Marketing Institute. Activate trial now.


How to Prevent Content Theft: What Marketers Need to Know


prevent content theftThe wonderful thing about content marketing is that you can reach thousands, even millions of people with your message. The downside is that thousands, even millions of people can steal your hard work. You spent the time, effort and money to develop your word, image, video and audio files. You own the work, and it’s worth just a little more effort to protect it from the lazy cyber-shoplifters who might want to pilfer your intellectual property (IP) for their own purposes. RELATED CLASS: Developing a Content Marketing Strategy

Protecting your content from content theft isn't hard. The hard part is remembering to do it. If you are putting your content on a third party site like Google Drive or Facebook, review your terms of service (TOS). Yes, I know that most people just scroll to the end and click “Agree,” but if you do that, you may be giving up your copyrights. For example, Google Drive’s TOS says Google can store, reproduce, or recreate any content on their server—even if you stop using the service. By contrast, the TOS for WordPress (operated by Automattic) contains the following verbiage: “By submitting Content to Automattic for inclusion on your Website, you grant Automattic a world-wide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, modify, adapt and publish the Content solely for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting your blog.” That’s not so bad, unless you object to having your blog promoted for free.

1. Protecting Your Photos

Whatever file type you are using, embed the copyright information into the metadata on the file. Image files have a set of metadata that was originally created for photographers to transmit technical details like f-stops, exposures and who the photographer is. You can use this meta-structure to embed keyword rich descriptions, background information and copyright information. All graphics programs like Photoshop, Paintshop Pro, Photoshop Elements, Pixlrator and Appeture have a way to embed this information, usually called “Properties” or “File Info.” This is helpful if someone just steals your image. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act allows you to go to any of the third-party publishers and prove the image belongs to you via this embedded data. They will take your pirated material off their servers and notify the thief. This is usually enough to stop most individuals in their tracks (at least when it comes to your material). People steal content because they are lazy and fighting it becomes more effort than it’s worth.

Keep the highest resolution images behind your firewall. Publicly accessible images should be the lowest resolution you can use that still looks good. Having the highest resolution image also helps to establish your ownership.

Also, any image that you have invested resources in creating should be watermarked at higher resolutions.

2. Protecting Your Audio and Video Files

Audio files also have a way to embed copyright and other information. The metadata are based on recording industry terms like artist, title, length, tracks, etc. Audio files do have areas where you can put copyright info, and you can also often put a synopsis of what you have covered in detail—especially helpful if you have a class lecture or something of a similar nature. Most audio editors will offer this ability.

Videos are a little trickier, depending on how the video was created. The metadata is there, but you can lose metadata when the video is converted. (This can also happen with Flash files.) QuickTime, Windows Media Player and audio editors will give access to this core data that is part of the video file and allow you to claim ownership. If you have converted from one file format to another you may have to re-embed your copyright information prior to posting. RELATED CLASS: YouTube: The Digital Video Advertising Opportunity

3. Protecting Your Documents

If you are making PDFs available for download, copyright information, author and other data are easily inserted in “Properties” and the same is true for Word. When making these files available, be sure to set them as “Read Only” files to prevent others from using your material and trying to hide their theft by changing the files.

On the non-technical side, protecting your material is like a PR campaign, and probably something you should be doing in any case. As soon as you post something, announce it on Twitter, LinkedIn, and all other social media sites that you use. This early announcement allows you to claim ownership. If you have an identifiable author, announce the availability of the material on the author’s Google+ page if they have one. This stakes a solid claim for intellectual ownership.

If someone has actually stolen your files, send cease-and-desist letters and get Google, (or whomever) to send the thief take-down notices. But the core of IP protection is actually getting the copyright information embedded on your webpage and in the file itself. If you put up a video, for example, show a copyright notice on your website somewhere. This gives you a defensible position to prove ownership of your intellectual property.

Do you want to nurture more leads to revenue with relevant content?

Watch Creating Content That Converts: Lean Content Marketing for Lead Generation. In just 30 minutes, you'll learn how to create a high-impact content marketing plan and put it into action immediately. Plus, you'll learn lean content marketing techniques to save time and resources, and how to build your content program around themes and personas. This class is available with a FREE trial to the Online Marketing Institute. Get instant access now.

Content That Converts


5 Ways to Turn Big Data Into Insight and Action


As it has been shown in a variety of ways over the past decade or so, the days of math-less, mindless, off-the-hip marketing have long set sail. So how do the once gun-slinging marketers of the past begin to tackle the voluminous unstructured data that is collected from nontraditional sources to harness the power of analytics? Big Data, derived from blogs, social media, email, sensors, photographs, video footage, etc. is and has always been the answer. Although Big Data isn’t new, most marketers are still wrapping their heads around the transformation of raw data into action. RELATED CLASS: Big Data, Big Analytics: Measuring What Matters

Data vs. Insight

In today's data-rich and data-driven environment, we are predisposed to gain our insights from data. But action doesn't always follow collection. A survey of 600 executives by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that 85% of the participants thought the biggest hurdle to unlocking value from data was not grappling with the sheer volume, but analyzing and acting on it. And gleaning the insights from the data is what makes the data valuable.

Merriam-Webster defines insight as the power or act of seeing. Keyword: Seeing. We must use the data to identify and see—to see patterns, trends, and anomalies. And once we gain this insight, its value is proven by the actions we take as result. Data that doesn't help you see isn't useful. So, in this instance, more does not always translate into better insights. In fact, according to the recently released 5th annual Digital IQ Survey, consulting firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) found that 58% of respondents agree that moving from data to insight is a major challenge.

In 1990, Stephen Tuthill at 3M helped make the connection between data and wisdom. His The Data Hierarchy outlines four important concepts: data, information, knowledge, and wisdom, with data being the raw items or events. Once we have the data, we can sort and organize it into information. Knowledge is then derived from the patterns that result from understanding the relationships between the data and other factors. Wisdom comes when we understand what to pay attention to—what has meaning for us.

So, rather than focusing on more data, we need to focus on capturing the right data and then analyzing it in a way that gives us the power to see (knowledge) and act (wisdom). Bernard Marr from UK-based Advanced Performance Institute reminds us that to get the most out our data "you need to know what you want to know." Once you know what you want to know, collect and organize the data.

Now what?

Getting From Data to Insight

1. Bring data to life with visualization

Having the data is one thing, analyzing and synthesizing it is another. Synthesis is where we begin to see the patterns. Once the synthesis is completed, you will need a way to bring the data to life. Data visualization greatly aids in this part of the process. Data visualization presents analytical results visually so we can more easily see what's relevant among all the variables, capture and communicate important patterns, and even support predictive models. Visualization is an important step for exposing trends and patterns that you might not have otherwise noticed.

2. Discuss patterns and the potential implications

Not all patterns are germane. Take the time to review and discuss each pattern and its potential implications. Talk about why you think each pattern is important and what it means. This is an essential step for going from information to knowledge.

3. Articulate the insight that emerged from each pattern

In one simple statement, articulate the insight that emerged out of each pattern or point of synthesis. We find it is helpful to capture insight on a Post-it Note and place it on a wall or flip chart to easily track each insight and see the "big picture" that may be emerging as we go.

4. Incubate the insights

Give yourself and your team at least a day away from the "board." When you and the team return you can take a fresh look and decide whether to make any changes.

5. Get reactions from others

Do the insights resonate? Once you are comfortable with the conclusions/insights you've captured, involve other people who were part of the initial steps to gain their reactions. Be sure to give them the context. The point of this step is to decide if the insights resonate and are compelling enough to make or affect key decisions. That is, to determine whether you have acquired the wisdom you need to act.

The success of this approach is contingent on the quality (not necessarily the quantity) of the data set, then following a process proven to identify core insights to support strategic decisions. Just like traversing your daily route to and from work, gaining insights from data becomes innate. Although intuition of the traditional sense is still a valuable tool to modern marketers, data has become the insurance policy in understanding our customers. Our ability to “read in numbers” has become paramount. For more information, read VisionEdge Marketing’s White Paper, From Intuition to Wisdom: Transforming Data into Models and Actionable Insights.

Take your web analytics practice to the next level.

Watch the OMI tutorial, 5 Fundamental Web Analytics Truths for a Data-Driven World with Feras Alhlou, and learn how to develop a web analytics practice that enables you to optimize what matters most to your business, and ignore the rest. Access it FREE with a 7-day trial to the Online Marketing Institute. Activate trial now.


3 Ways to Annoy Your Twitter Followers


Common sense says it's a bad idea to Tweet sexy photos of yourself a-la Anthony Weiner, but there are a few common Twitter sins I see marketers and businesses commit on a much more frequent basis. And while I'd certainly prefer to receive an automated direct message that promotes a blog feed over a photo of a politician in his tighty whities, these Twitter faux pas are likely to make your audience cringe—almost as much as you did the first (or second, or third...) time you saw a headline with the name "Anthony Weiner" in it. Avoid committing these sins at all costs.

1. Send Automated Direct Messages

“Thanks for the follow. Lets figure out how to work together!”

“Nice to meet you. I offer social media consulting services. Hit me up if you have any questions!!!!”

"Check out my blog on social media tips and subscribe to it, PLEASE!"

Okay, I get it. You're busy and you want to promote your product or service. Who doesn't? But the benefit of using Twitter for business (or any other social network) is the ability to develop personal, meaningful relationships with your audience. You can't automate this—it's an on-going process of communicating and getting to know people on a human level.

Assuming you have the ability to direct message a follower, it's because he or she followed you. That follow might be the first step in a meaningful relationship—don't waste it by making your first touchpoint an automated one. Plus, your chances of annoying your best customers by spamming them is huge. So if you have these set up, please turn them off. They are rude, irrelevant, and oh-so-obviously automated.

2. Pay for Fake Followers

Ever see a Twitter account that has Tweeted less than 50 times, but has over 10,000 followers? Unless this account is verified, a relative of Justin Bieber, or a texting friend of Anthony Weiner, chances are this person is a spammer and purchased fake followers. These accounts tend to promote links to “systems” that will make you a “millionaire in 30 days.” And of course, they identify themselves as “social media experts” with “proven systems for generating links and money”, and claim they’re “living the dream.” If being a spammer is your dream, by all means, go ahead and purchase followers. But assuming it's not, I'd avoid this at all costs.

3. Call Yourself as a Guru, Expert or Wizard

The people that call themselves “social media experts” are usually the ones that use tools to generate more followers and have auto direct messages set up. Enough said.

Learn how to grow a high-quality Twitter following (without a bot!) and ignite conversations with your audience.

In the OMI class, Twitter Best Practices and Tactics for Success, I reveal how to successfully leverage Twitter for your business. From engagement to growth tactics, you'll learn proven ways to grow your audience and develop meaningful relationships with them. Get instant access now—FREE.


4 Reasons Visitors Are Abandoning Your Forms, and How to Fix Them


Over the past four months we’ve noticed a pronounced trend: prospect lead form submissions are declining in raw numbers and in percentages of clicks-to-submissions. Yet other forms of campaign measurement, such as inbound calls and web activity, are rising. We’ve noticed this in the context of several different campaign types and companies, so we’re convinced it isn’t a trend restricted to one type of campaign or industry.

For example, we recently helped a client create a banner ad campaign that ran on multiple web properties. The clicks exceeded any other banner ad campaign we’ve run on same properties and for similar offers. However the submission of prospect information to lead forms were subpar. The client was left scratching their heads, until they discovered a radical spike in traffic on the product pages on the corporate website, which coincided with this campaign. They wondered if there were any other factors causing this anonymous web traffic, such as a press release or trade show. After investigating, the client formulated the conclusion that the banner ad campaign was the main, if not the only reason for the spike in web traffic.

For another client, we ran a three-month pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign directing prospects to fill out a form to receive further information. The average cost-per-click was acceptable and overall volume of clicks was on target. However the percentage of lead forms submitted were below industry metrics. We tweaked the form page several different ways, hoping to increase the form submission rate, but nothing seemed to move the needle. We were getting discouraged until we received the call center report and realized that 800# call traffic had gone through the roof during the period of this PPC campaign. We searched for whether there could have been any other reason for this increase (besides the PPC campaign) and we could find none. Our only possible conclusion was that the PPC campaign drove the significant phone traffic.

Several other oddities in campaign performance over the last quarter lead me to conjecture about what is happening. Why are prospects failing to fill in their contact information on lead forms? I have four theories:

1. They don’t want a salesperson calling them, so they don’t fill out the form.

People suspect that the minute they fill out a registration page form, a salesperson targets their backs. And they’re probably right. Prospects increasingly want to dictate the time and terms of when they have a conversation with sales. They may form an interest in your product due to your campaign, but rather than fill out the lead form, they visit the website or call a sales 800# to get more information. Tip: Use track-able 800#s on your marketing campaigns, so you can attribute from which campaign a lead is coming.

2. They are browsing on a mobile device, and if the lead form isn’t optimized for mobile, it may simply too hard to fill out.

Thirty to sixty percent of browsing activity is from a mobile device. If the lead form isn’t optimized for mobile, then it may be difficult to read and fill out from a mobile device. Tip: Lead forms viewed from mobile need to be narrower in width, have bigger text, shorter forms, and bigger buttons to be more user friendly. RELATED CLASS: Fundamentals of Mobile Marketing

3. They want to research on their own.

Prospects are taking more control of their information gathering. Instead of responding directly to your campaign, they may instead go to the website or social media to do initial research. Or they may pick up the phone and call you. All of which are good things, but we need to offer good organization and content on the website. Tip: Install an anonymous website visitor tracking system, which will allow you to see from which company IP addresses visitors are coming. Sales can then target those companies in future outreaches.

4. They are looking for better or different content.

Prospects are getting more demanding about the quality and objectivity of the information you provide. They may also be looking for shorter or more in-depth content, depending where they are in their product purchase process. Tip: Provide a variety of content in a multitude of formats. It should be content that suits every phase of the decision process, from short demos to in-depth guides and application notes.

As we lose control of the prospect product research process, we need to provide more convenient, user-friendly ways for them to gather information, talk to the sales department, and evaluate your product on THEIR terms. This means campaign planning involves a lot more than just having a landing registration page form ready when we launch the campaign. We need to make sure all of our ducks are in a row, including an excellent website experience, a variety of well-developed content, and convenient access to speak with a sales rep.

Learn how to drive more conversions with better landing pages.

Watch the tutorial—B2B Landing Page Best Practices for Success—and discover proven techniques for creating and optimizing high-converting B2B landing pages. Access it FREE with a 7-day trial to the Online Marketing Institute. Activate trial now.


4 Things Web Designers Need to Know About SEO


Can’t We All Just Get Along? What Designers Need to Know About SEO

web design for SEOIt’s not uncommon that web designers and search engine optimizers disagree about approaches for design based on their concentrations. On the one hand, web designers want to ensure a smooth, enjoyable and functional user experience on the website. On the other hand, search engine optimizers want to ensure that the website can be found by searchers, driving traffic into the well-designed site. But good SEO doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice good design. So how can we break down theses disagreements and find a happy medium that fulfills both goals?

1. Don’t poke the bear.

In this scenario, the bear is Google. In other words, don’t anger Google by going against Google’s webmaster guidelines. As a designer, you certainly want your design and your website seen, so don’t risk being de-listed from Google because you failed to follow their directions. Bing also has webmaster guidelines, but generally they are pretty similar to Google’s. These rules are fairly straightforward, so incorporate them into your design plans.

2. Make sure search engine robots can index your site.

Even if you diligently follow all of the guidelines set by the search engines, if their crawling robots cannot access your website or certain pages within it, those pages will not be included in organic search results. That’s just a fact. Forms, Javascript, AJAX, Flash and more can hinder search engine robots from indexing all of the content on your website, so use them judiciously and balance what you’re trying to achieve from a design/usability perspective with what you want to encourage from an SEO perspective.

3. Give them rich content to read and build a solid structure.

When you plan out your website’s site map, consider how the information should be structured. Avoid having very long pages that go into several topics, and instead break those pages up into specific topic pages. Ensure that the content you add to those pages (regardless of content type; i.e., video, text, images) is robust (not just one line on a page).

And don’t take shortcuts by copying the content of others – not only does this constitute copyright infringement, but Google may not list these pages because of its war on duplicate content, known as the Panda algorithm updates.

4. Trust data.

SEOs rely on data. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to dissect search engine algorithm updates and determine the best course of action. So learn to trust data. And learn to trust your SEO counterpart. SEOs don’t want to ruin good design… we just want to be sure that people find it! So don’t fear data… absorb it and learn from it. It will help you to refine your design and usability to keep visitors on your site longer and reaching your common goal of conversion.

Learn how to build and design your website with SEO in mind.

Watch Incorporating Good SEO into Web Designs, and make sure you avoid common design pitfalls that can hinder your search engine rankings. Learn how to see what search engine bots see when they crawl your website, and how to work around design challenges to balance design and SEO. Watch it now with a FREE trial to the Online Marketing Institute. Get instant access now.


5 Web Analytics Truths for Smart Digital Marketing


web analytics truthsIn the past, marketers were always looking for useful data—analytics data that would justify the dollars (and time) spent advertising and promoting their product or service. But now, there is often an over-abundance of data. It’s everywhere—web, mobile, social, offline etc. So where do you start? What do you do with the data? Here are 5 fundamental analytic truths you can follow to get you where you want to be.

1. Think People and Process, Not Just Technology

How do you measure ALL the data you have coming in? Well, in addition to the analytics tools (as we all seem to be obsessed with technology), it’s important to have the people and process in place too. Know how, and when, to bring in (or build) a digital analytics team. From there, develop a measurement plan for each of your marketing initiatives. This plan should be outcome-focused, and should include input from your various stakeholders to understand what matters to them. For example, your digital marketing manager would be interested in metrics such as visits by campaign, user interactions (engagement), conversions, and maybe repeat customer behavior. Your support manager, on the other hand, is probably not interested in any of the above. They want to know if those visiting the support portal are finding answers to their questions quickly, so KPIs such as issue resolution time would be very important to them. Take time and care to thoroughly understand your stakeholders’ measurement needs. RELATED TUTORIAL: How to Create a Data-Driven Culture

2. Segmentation—Do or Die

Today, there’s more to data than just total number pageviews (yes, many organizations unfortunately still report on total pageviews and miss out on all the non-pageview interactions such as video, downloads and rich media). Today’s analytics platforms such as Google Analytics, MixPanel, Flurry and others, are very powerful and allow us the ability to go beyond simplistic hit collection, and really dive into rich data and patterns. You can easily report and derive insights with visitor segmentation, have quick visibility into buyer or non-buyer behavior, group content by asset type, measure gated or ungated content consumption, and relatively easily run a cohort analysis. These are just a few views that could be utilized when segmenting your data. There are so many ways to slice and dice the data to help you gain the most beneficial insights on your visitors. Just find those that best suit your needs.

3. Gone Are the Visits—It’s All About the Visitors

With all this data readily available, we need to look beyond visit-based (or session-based) analytics to a more user-centric view. Again, the analytics platforms today provide the means to examine the entire visitor experience and user cycle. Explore data such as where visitors came from, what course they took between pages while on your website, and where they spent the most (or least) time during their visit and then in 2 or 3 visits later they converted and become customers. With this information, you’re able to gain increased awareness of visitors and how they interact with your content throughout the buying cycle. And, for the marketing ninja’s out there, bringing offline visitor interaction into the mix is not beyond reach these days.

4. Optimize What Matters Most

As we mentioned earlier, it’s past the time of just tracking click-thrus or pageviews. Now you want to optimize conversions on the all things digital. Take it one notch higher and optimize on the Lifetime Value of a customer. Put into place a system that gives you the ability to measure behavior and interaction across multi-devices and multiple channels for (most) users that come from mobile, web, etc. By tracking this way, you’ll have a more complete view of how each visitor interacts with your business a whole.

5. Deriving Insights Cannot Be Done in a Vacuum

You’ll maximize the return on gathering, reporting and analyzing data, when you do so consistently. Commit to the process and develop a list of priorities and a measurement “roadmap.” Audit what you have periodically. Websites and mobile apps are constantly evolving, so ensure your analytics implementation is in-line with such changes. Then, save time (and frustration), and move from manual to automated reporting. If you are not testing, it’s never too late! Go after some quick wins and shine like a star! Leverage data visualization tools such as Tableau and enable your stakeholders to have a clear path to insights.

Take your web analytics practice to the next level.

Watch 5 Fundamental Web Analytics Truths for a Data-Driven World with Feras Alhlou, and learn how to develop a web analytics practice that enables you to optimize what matters most to your business, and ignore the rest. Access it now with a FREE trial to the Online Marketing Institute.  Get instant access now.


How to Measure the True Value of Social Media Marketing for Your Business


Measure Social MediaThe top 100 retailers on Facebook measured by the number of fans each have an average 1.2 million “likes,” according to ExactTarget findings. Clearly Facebook alone generates massive volumes of data.  Add to that billions more data points created as people tweet, “like,” chat and otherwise connect with brands and with each other on social platforms, and you find yourself drowning in the rapidly rising tide of social activity. So how does all that activity actually translate into business impact? Sure, you want your investments in social platforms and campaigns to convert likes into leads and conversations into customers. But the titanic volume of data generated in the social arena doesn’t give up insights that easily.

One thing is clear − more data is not the answer.

Top-line metrics like total number of Facebook “likes” in isolation give you a one-dimensional, current-state view of your social platforms. But that information provides no insight into what you can do as a marketing team to improve effectiveness. The top 100 retailers tracked in the ExactTarget study noted above had more than a million “likes” on average, but the engagement rate was only two percent. That suggests businesses don’t know how to interact and motivate fans on the social network.

What you need to do is make sense of all this data. You need to evaluate your marketing effectiveness holistically to assess social media impact on paid- and earned-media results. You need to determine if any of this social activity is actually translating into desired conversions on your website, or whether it is impacting paid-campaign performance.

“How do I do all that,” you say? By conducting some much-needed analytics across all the disparate channels of consumer engagement. By applying analytics, you can answer key questions such as:

  • What does it take to motivate someone who just “liked” your Facebook page to visit your website and make a purchase?
  • Do your Twitter campaigns generate any viral impact to change the cost per acquisition (CPA) of your SEM campaigns?
  • Do you observe different conversion patterns for consumers who initiate engagement with your brand due to social efforts versus paid campaigns or branded search?
  • And, perhaps most fundamentally, what’s the true return on investment (ROI) of your social marketing?

Three Steps To Moving “Likes” to Leads and Data to Dollars in Real Time

Let’s sum up the steps required to better understand the business impact of social media and how to improve its role in target audience reach, engagement and conversion – the metrics that make up our traditional marketing funnel. Think of this as a blueprint for transforming social-media investments into true business value:

1. Unify data for all social channels in one view.

You need to view performance of each social channel in a unified interface, a single go-to destination to assess impact of these investments in your marketing program. Start by collecting and bringing together the data generated by Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest and any other social-media channels. Your goal should be crystal-clear visibility in real time into what people are saying about your business, brand and the competition, and how they are responding to your marketing campaigns and promotions in these channels.

2. Compare performance of your social platforms in terms of reach and engagement.

Social analytics enables you to compare reach and engagement metrics across multiple social media changes. For example, compare the number of Twitter followers with Facebook fans in various geographic locations. Likewise, analytics will reveal engagement patterns such as volume and demographics by social channel, including Facebook “likes,” YouTube views and Twitter followers. You gain a window into what is trending on social reach and engagement by channel. Plus you can drill down into metrics by demographic or sociographic segments. Move beyond likes, retweets, shares, favorites and comments to analyze engagement patterns and who goes on to buy your products or services.

3. Analyze earned media's impact on owned media.

To assess true business value, however, you need to go the extra mile. It’s essential to identify what your social media efforts contribute to owned- and paid-marketing channels. Do you know, for example, the quality of traffic driven by social media to your website? How do visitors from different social media channels interact with your website in response to varied campaigns and promotions? How do their engagement patterns compare to those visitors who come from banner ads or organic search? Do specific social campaigns impact the CPA of specific paid campaigns? Are there any geographical differences in target audience behavior? How do changes in social sentiment about your brand affect reach and engagement on your website and who becomes a buyer? Likewise, how do changes in social sentiment for your competitors affect these same website metrics?

Social analytics gives you the ability to conduct drill-down assessments of social media impact on website performance and paid-media campaigns, as the four reports shown here reveal. For example, one compares social conversion rates – customers buying as a result of visits to social sites – with average conversions, while another shows website conversions as a result of visitors coming from social channels. This is highly relevant to the marketing team – and these metrics are actionable.

So back to the question we started with at the beginning. How can B2C companies find out whether social media investments are truly paying off? We all know that question has defied easy analysis. But now the data speaks.

Now the Data Speaks

Social analytics give marketers and social-media teams a way to finally identify the value of social media efforts in the broader marketing mix and what they contribute to the top and bottom line. You can even monitor what works and doesn’t by applying analytics to real time data, giving you the ability to optimize campaigns and promotions much earlier in marketing cycles to achieve even greater ROI benefits. Given such capabilities, how could we ever settle for less?

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