Month: April 2015

Google Sends a Message: Get Mobile or Get Out

by

We’ve been hearing it for years: if you don’t have a mobile-friendly website, you’re going to suffer across the board. Searchers will bounce right off your site if it doesn’t load quickly or format well on their device, you’ll lose sales if your site layout doesn’t make for easy browsing, and shopping carts will be abandoned left and right if the buying process isn’t designed for mobile screens. And that’s just for ecommerce. Even I have to admit that when I’m searching, I question any business that isn’t up to date on this front. It makes me worry about their other business practices!

Mobile search

But even if you’ve been able to overlook all the warnings about the necessity of mobile-friendliness so far, you can’t afford to any longer. Google is introducing a new algorithm that will slam sites that don’t work well on mobile devices – making it very hard, if not impossible, to be found on SERPs viewed on a device, unless you’ve optimized your site for easy mobile browsing.

Related Class: Mobile Web and Responsive Design Fundamentals

Google is essentially throwing down the gauntlet, and sites that don’t rise to the challenge will be lost to the dregs of search engine results. And this isn’t just a problem for small business that haven’t been able to get going on mobile; recent studies, like this one by TechCrunch, indicate that nearly 45% of Fortune 500 companies are in trouble too.

How it Works 

As you’re probably aware, Google looks at a ton of different factors when ranking sites for SERPs. Over the years, digital marketers, business owners and web designers have tried to roll with each new update to stay on top. Google’s major updates can really shake things up, but the general trend has always been to reward quality original content, user experience, and authority. Generally speaking, every update makes it trickier to fool the algorithms with black hat techniques, keyword stuffing, and other practices that prioritize search bots over real life users.

Related Class: Mobile Search and SEO Fundamentals

Google’s latest update – called Mobilegeddon if you have a flare for the dramatic – is rolling out now, with some sites already feeling the impact. In a Google+ hangout Friday morning, Google’s John Mueller said that the update is “already rolled out completely” in some data centers. If you haven’t been affected yet, it’s only a matter of time (and not much time). Search engine results for desktop and tablet browsing won’t be affected – just smartphones, which constitutes a huge amount of traffic these days.

mobile search

What Google is Looking For

What does it mean to have a mobile-friendly site? You essentially have two options, and according to Google, one will not offer a ranking advantage over the other. The first is a separate mobile version of your site or page, and the second option is a website built with responsive design that responds to the device it’s viewed on. Both options will help you sail through this Google update, as long as you have some key elements.

  • Readable text (no zoom needed)
  • Links/buttons that are spaced out enough to be clickable without difficulty
  • Vertical scrolling as opposed to horizontal scrolling
  • Content or add-ons that won’t play or function on a mobile device (think Flash)
  • A design that scales to the screen to reduce zooming and scrolling

What You Can Do

For general update FAQ, as well as answers to some of your more technical questions, check out Google’s Webmaster Central blog on the topic. The best way to get started is to test your site for mobile friendliness. You can do this using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test here, or use your Webmaster Tools to access the Mobile Usability report. If you think your site is mobile friendly and it’s still getting a low score, you may have code or functionality that is blocking Google’s smartphone search bots from crawling your pages.

To learn more about adjusting your site to perform well in Google search results, check out this great class on optimizing your website from search expert Kent Lewis.

 


Final Warning: Big Data & Programmatic Are No Longer Optional

by

Marketers can no longer ignore the importance of programmatic advertising - it's time to incorporate this into your marketing strategies.

If you are spending more than $5,000 per month on advertising, then it’s time to wise up. And for anyagency, especially creative, this is even more critical. Plainly said, programmatic advertising is an absolute must in your portfolio of skills and marketing efforts.

programmatic

Forget about pixels, cookies, real-time bidding (RTB), and all the tech talk behind programmatic and instead think "smart advertising." I think the easiest way to define programmatic is basically this: serving an ad that has the best chance of being relevant, timely, and click-worthy for your intended audience. Essentially it’s matching the user’s behavior with your spending and targeting plans.

Big Data's Day

For all of you questioning "big data," this is yet another example of how our world is irreversibly changed toward mainstream adoption of it – and big data’s clear success. Retargeting, predictive lead scoring, big data, and programmatic platforms are creating the winners in nearly all categories of online retail, B2B, and services verticals. Harness programmatic (and its data) and win, or ignore it and fail…possibly to the detriment of major market share.

Related Class: How To Create a Data-Driven Culture

Let’s take a simple example:

Dumb Marketing: We can decide to spend $50,000 around the concept of "Digital Marketing Training" as our focus root keyword, and see what our click-through rate (CTR) and conversion rates are. This is akin to the old billboard on the highway…hoping we can catch the right person to notice us.

Smart Marketing: OR find some really targeted sites that fit our user persona of "agency digital marketing leaders," with users that have shown interest in learning digital marketing – and get the best price possible for that user we’re targeting. Then we optimize on the fly based on our CTR and conversion rates. Now, we’re serving the ad based on intent, profile of driver, and ultimately the person behind that wheel.

As you can see, you are likely to spend a lot less, for much higher conversion rates, simply because you are using data on users to give them the right ad at the right time. Not only does it give you much higher return – it will actually save you money in the form of advertising dollars.

How to Get Over the Learning Curve

Really, it’s not actually that hard. And if taken as an incremental improvement to your existing ads, social, and content marketing efforts, you’ll find it much easier to bite off.

  1. First, think old-school direct marketing. Direct in the sense that you can simply pick your most profitable target audience, and segment campaigns and messaging for those folks.
  2. Second, map back to your content marketing plan, where you’re already thinking about how your blog posts, tweets, Facebook posts, and the variations of your big content efforts (e.g. a big e-book download) manifest. You just need to add the layer of ad creative and ad text for these audiences. Frequency of social media pushes should help here.
  3. Last, think hard about how you want to measure success. Consider a good attribution model and how this fits in. Is it awareness you’re looking for? Impressions to the right audience can, alone, be hugely valuable. Is it building your cookie pool and getting them to your site for an interesting page of content? Is it capturing a lead for good list-building, or are you really trying to go for the direct sale? If the last, keep in mind how many touches it will take to get there.

With some clear goals, simple iterations of existing content efforts, and a little forethought around direct marketing segmentation, programmatic big data nirvana will be well within reach, even if this is completely new territory for you.

programmatic ad

Start simple and then improve and adjust over time, as you track results. And yes, this can get very interesting, and very complex fast… so if you get excited about exploring those possibilities then dive right in – and if not, start by sourcing it to your agency, platform provider, or even a new hire. It will pay off.

 


Squeeze More from Social with Social Media Management Tools

by

There was a time when you couldn’t schedule Facebook posts in advance, or coordinate tweets to go out at a certain time. The functionality on fledgling social media sites was minimal, and other app developers jumped in to fill that gap with social media management tools. I remember being pretty amazed with how easy and efficient TweetDeck made it to manage multiple Twitter accounts, and choose which tweets went out to which followers.

social media management

But now, most social media platforms have filled in all that missing functionality. Facebook now allows you to schedule in advance, backdate posts in the past, and offers detailed analytics for your posts. Twitter also allows for scheduling and promoted posts now, and you can even link your Twitter to Facebook so you can post once and reach both platforms. So are those social media management apps now obsolete?

Related Class: Social Media Marketing Best Practices for SMBs

Not at all. If you’re a busy marketer orchestrating multiple social media accounts…I don’t know how you do it without an app to consolidate and assist you. We all make the mistake of thinking of social media as a free tool, but really it takes a ton of time just to maintain, and even more time to really advance your brand and your reach.

Get a Bird’s-Eye View of Your Social Content

And social media management tools aren’t just for convenience – the best ones will help you put together your editorial calendar in a clean, simple way that makes it easy to see what’s posting when. This can help you keep an eye on balance, timeliness, and variety, so you’re posting the best types of content you can. And if you’ve decided to stick to the 80/20 rule (80% non-promotional posts, 20% self-promotion) for your social channels, seeing your schedule laid out in full can help you get the proportions right.

The Reigning King: Hootsuite

The most popular social media management tool, by far, is Hootsuite. It allows you to manage and schedule for all your platforms in one place as you’d expect, but also includes detailed analytics and tracking, so you can see how your campaigns are doing in real time. If you’re invested in great analytics, and using them to shape your social media content choices (definitely a good thing!), Hootsuite gives you everything you need for better data-driven decision-making.

social media management

The major plus I personally see in Hootsuite is its freemium model scalability – you can use the free version before you commit, or opt for the pro version for only $8.99 a month, or even scale up to enterprise-level options.

Push Your Reach with Edgar

At OMI, we use Edgar, a social app that is similar in many ways to Hootsuite. The advantage to using Edgar is that it’s specifically designed to help you reach more eyeballs with your content posts, by repeating them at specific times for different purposes.

When using Edgar, you input your content (it currently supports Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) and file it under a category, like “Blog Post Promotion” or “Sales Offer.” Once you’ve set up a weekly schedule for when you want tweets or posts from these categories to go up, Edgar will randomize the content you’ve input for a great variety of tweets or updates – following your guidelines for when sales offers should go up, when blog posts are better, etc. So in terms of social media management, you’re completely in control without having to be literally hands-on with every post.

social media management

Since we all know that less than 10% of our fans/followers are seeing most pieces of content, you can get more bang for your buck out of every tweet or update by giving it more opportunities to be seen. This is especially helpful if you don’t have the budget for promoting posts or tweets to amp up your reach. Of course there’s nothing stopping you from scheduling repeat tweets or posts through Hootsuite or even manually, but Edgar saves all your content so you won’t have to write the update all over again.

Related Class: Finding Influencers to Amplify Social Reach

This is clearly not a guide to choosing your social media management tool; there are many that can get you started if you’re in the market. I’d suggest Search Engine Journal’s Top 10 Tools for Managing Your Social Media Accounts as a good jumping off point, but most established apps and tools will have their own comparisons, so you can see which works best for your needs in terms of functionality, frequency, extras (like photos, videos, etc.), analytics, paid promotion, and everything else.

Even if you’re managing just fine without social media management tools, you could be doing more, and doing it better, with a little help from these guys. Why not take a free tool or trial for a spin?

Want to learn more about spreading your content across many platforms for the biggest reach? Check out this class, led by marketing strategist Tom King: Personal Branding Through Content Distribution.

 

 


5 Tips for Getting Big Results at Work – By Doing Less

by

1.    Digital & Social Apps

Tip: Less content.

You’re just doing too much at the click of a finger, in the hope that someone will see it. For marketers, this usually comes down to trying to get more and more out to gain scale, and reach more people. But too often this is done without thoughtful targeting to get certain segments of your audience the content they actually want to see.

Related Class: Content Marketing Strategy for Social Media

Stop trying to do everything and be everywhere – adding another social media channel or doubling your business blogging will probably just dilute the quality of your content across the board. Be lean and efficient instead.

2.    Entrepreneurship

Tip: Less improvement.

Many of us try to improve existing programs in small and controllable ways. We budget for things we know, we optimize campaigns we’ve run before, and we try to “improve” what we already have. I’d like to challenge that notion for all – for both those working inside big organizations (i.e. intrapreneurs) and those running their own show.

entrepreneur

Think big. Try something new. Read, learn and challenge your own and your team’s way of thinking, and carve out time/budget to undertake new experimental things. This is how we make big gains, get big opportunities and make quantum leaps with the business or in our careers. Anyone can improve something; it takes a lot more work and effort to create something new.

3.    Productivity 

Tip: Less email craziness.

Email marketing is very effective, if done right – the right targeting, the right messaging, and the right testing. But if you’re not doing that, you’re causing real damage to your ability to see results. Users receive a ton of email every day, so don’t add to that clutter without thoughtful and specific planning. Just because email is largely a free tool doesn’t mean you should treat it as a free-for-all for spilling out unfocused content.

Related Class: How to Build and Manage an Email List

So before your next generic eNewsletter goes out on Tuesday at 10 a.m., think “Is this really helpful to Peter, our best client?” And then redo that email with some thought behind it, and send the newsletter next week instead. Trust me, no one will call you to complain, “Hey, where’s my eNewsletter you keep spamming me with!”

4.    Priority

Tip: Less tasks.

Tasks will get you one thing – check boxes. It may feel good to check them off, but a long task list without major thinking about priorities is very detrimental to long-term objectives in both life and work.

Instead, create a task list and then sort it into a new list that is stacked by priorities that align with what really matters most – not just what matters in the short-term. For work, that may be what aligns with your quarterly goals or fiscal year planning, rather than your weekly deadlines.

priority tasks

The problem with a list of tasks is its effect on your daily routine – you might choose to run analytics reports instead of thinking about new product positioning, because short-term trumps long-term on your task list. We can keep doing these repetitive tasks to check them off the list, and never get to the really important stuff.

5.    Workplace Sanity

Tip: Less value on expectations.

Our world is in a constant state of flux. It evolves and changes every day, with or without us. Consequently, our expectations are bound to drive disappointment, since we just can’t control outcomes. So instead of expecting your co-worker or manager to do something, be something or have something for you… just let it happen.

Instead, value what matters most: your state of mind. Enjoying the work you are involved in right now. Enjoying discussions with co-workers without worrying about a specific outcome. Placing less value on the outcomes and expectations you think you need will help you flow through and succeed within the actual outcomes that eventually occur.

 


Perfecting PPC: 3 Expert Tips to Get More for Your Money

by

Once you’re up and running with a paid search campaign, it’s up to you (or your team) to follow it closely and make improvements and adjustments as needed. PPC campaigns aren’t just a ‘Set It and Forget It’ traffic boost; the data you collect can and should be used to optimize your ads for success, whether for you that means increased impressions, more click-throughs, or higher sales conversions from those clicks. But you don’t have to rely on just your data for optimization.

PPC

My blog last week highlighted the basics of launching a PPC campaign, with tips from an OMI class led by expert Allen Klein, Fundamentals of Paid Search. Now it’s time to take it up a notch, with ways to plan and adjust your campaign to get the best results for your ad spend – with more helpful advice from the above class, and insights from PPC expert George Revutsky‘s intermediate-level OMI class, 8 Elements of Highly Effective Search Marketing. Use data from your own campaign, and these recommendations from top experts, to get the most bang for your buck in every campaign.

1. Sometimes being #1 isn’t the best.

Seems oxymoronic, I know. But bidding to be the #1 paid search result for a keyword or phrase is often not the most cost-efficient way to get conversions. Revutsky explains this perfectly in his class: if you budget a set amount for your PPC campaign, say $1000, and bid high just to get to the top spot, you’re going to reach your ad spend limit with fewer click-throughs achieved, and as logically follows, fewer conversions/sales.

A smart PPC bidder would aim for spots 2, 3 or 4, which require lower bids but will still reach a lot of eyeballs. With a lower price per click, you’ll be able to afford more click-throughs, and thus more conversions, on your $1000 budget. The #1 spot may be good for the ego, but it’s not always good for squeezing the most out of your budget.

2. Double your visibility by bidding for keywords that you already rank for organically.

It’s not unheard of for businesses to disregard their best organic keywords when considering a PPC campaign push. After all, you’re already ranking up there above the fold for that term – why do an ad as well? Sounds logical, but actually you can much more than double your revenue by doubling up on one keyword or phrase with paid ads and organic SEO.

Think about the layout and number of results a searcher sees, particularly above the fold. It’s really not very many, so if you can be two of those results instead of just one, you’ll be significantly increasing your chances of a click and thus a sale. Revutsky found that this strategy brings in 46% more revenue and 23% more profit; watch the class for the full case study and a much better explanation than mine.

3. Think carefully about ad location – and test your results.

When you’re setting up a campaign, there’s obviously a lot to think about and plan for. While it isn’t quite as easy as choosing a position on the page, you can help determine whether your ad appears at the top of the search results, along the side, or even at the bottom. Here’s how PPC ads typically layout: in mainline and side ads.

PPC layout

And here’s a heat map showing where searchers’ eyes generally go when their search results load:

PPC layout

So it’s pretty obvious that getting your ad to that top spot (even if it’s not #1) is going to get you a lot more notice and clicks. So how do you get there? Google has a great support page with tips for getting your ad to the top, but it really boils down to have a high Ad Rank for the keyword you’re bidding on – judged by your relevancy (CTR) and your bid. Mainline ads require a higher Ad Rank than side ads, so you’ll typically need a higher Cost Per Click to get up there. Google helps you figure this out by showing your estimated top page bid for different keywords.

The question of whether this increased cost pays for itself in PPC-driven sales is really up to you and your data; you’ll definitely see higher CTRs, but is the ROI worth the increased bid you need to get up there? Crunch your numbers and perhaps even A/B test the same ad in both mainline and side positions to see what works best for your campaign and your keywords.

Related Class: Google Shopping Overview

Again we’ve only scratched the surface of SEM optimization here – but I hope that these tips from two paid search experts will help you think strategically about what you can do to perfect and refine your PPC campaigns. There’s a lot more to learn, including how best to organize your campaigns and accounts, and how to use negative keywords to hugely improve your results.

Get the full rundown in the intermediate level class: 8 Elements of Highly Effective Search Marketing.

 


How To Build a Solid Foundation for Marketing Automation

by

There is a growing buzz around marketing automation and the results it can deliver for businesses. But what few people realize is that effective implementation, and subsequent success, is determined by many more factors than the technology alone. There are a number of key foundations that need to be in place first, to support the roll-out of a marketing automation platform.

marketing automation

Marketing Transformation Before Marketing Automation

Don’t try to fix a broken process with marketing automation - it won't work. A complete overhaul of your marketing strategy is necessary to achieve the results you want.

Just to give an example, many marketing teams struggle to provide the sales team with good quality leads through their marketing efforts, and a lot of the time, the handing over of leads to sales is all manual (due to not having an integrated email and CRM system), which is obviously very time consuming and inefficient. Many of these marketing teams then look at automation as a solution to their lead problems. WRONG!

Process is Key to Success

In order to convert more leads, you first need a solid process in place to attract more leads, which doesn’t mean buying email lists. That doesn’t count as lead generation – it’s called spam!

Automation will certainly make things easier, and will improve efficiency regardless of your foundation. But this alone will not allow you to achieve your overall goals as a business.

Related Class: Demand Generation: Sales and Marketing Alignment

In order for your marketing automation to really flourish, your content must be valuable to your audience, highly personalized and targeted to an engaged database. Sending your database irrelevant or uninteresting content is just wasted time. Get your content right first by finding out what your customers want, and delivering just that.

Hunch Based Marketing

At most companies, the marketing department is working from an outdated playbook when it comes to their marketing efforts - back when sales was still in control of the buying process.

Batch and blast, hunch based marketing is a thing of the past. Highly targeted, persona based marketing is the future!

Related Class: Building a Digital Persona to Drive Strategy

If you want to utilize marketing automation effectively, you need to ensure that your content is aimed at the right people. The only way to do this is through clearly defining your ideal buyer persona(s).

Your buyer persona, in layman's terms, is basically a stereotype (so to speak) of what your typical customer looks like. You can read more about buyer personas and how to create one in this blog.

marketing automation fundamentals

Persona based marketing allows you to accurately target your audience with the most relevant content, offers and services. This also gives you a clear insight into what they are interested in most, where they spend their time online and when they are there. This kind of information is the bread and butter of most modern day marketers and is vital for achieving success with your marketing automation platform.

To find out more about marketing automation, check out this class: Marketing Automation Strategy for Full Lifecycle Management. You'll find more tips and advice for starting out on the right foot when you implement a marketing automation strategy.

 

 


How To Crush Your First Paid Search Campaign

by

Paid search campaigns are a critical element in a good digital marketing strategy, but not something that I have had to deal with much in my marketing roles. Basically I’ve done a lot of SEO, and not a lot of SEM! But I’ve been getting up to speed in recent weeks with OMI’s Search Engine Marketing classes, which encompass a great mix of topics like PPC, AdWords and local search.

Paid search

I started at the beginning with a class called “Fundamentals of a Paid Search Campaign,” led by Microsoft’s Paid Search Account Strategist Allen Klein.

With Basic, Intermediate and Advanced classes under OMI’s Search Engine Marketing umbrella, even a search marketing newbie like me can move quickly to the top levels. Here’s a crash course on paid search for other newbies – it’s a great jumping-off point if you’re thinking of adding paid search to your strategy (and you probably should be).

Fundamentals of a Paid Search Campaign

 

This class starts off with a clear message about how to create a successful campaign – the story of why Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos decided to start selling books and CDs online. Although no one else was really doing so at the time, Bezos saw that selling books would provide a large inventory that could be accessed easily. The other key factor was cost – he knew that the postal service’s Media Mail option represented a very cheap way to ship these items, and at a flat rate since it isn’t weight-dependent.

Maximize Efficiency

Why is this relevant to paid search? Because Bezos was able to dominate the market by creating a high level of efficiency for his specific niche. Easy inventory, cheap shipping and little competition essentially combined to create a super-efficient niche that allowed Amazon to establish itself. And once he did that…well, we all know how it went for him (net worth 34 billion in case you’re wondering).

The takeaways should be clear if you’re paying attention: Find that niche or fill a gap that maximizes efficiency, and establish yourself there.

In terms of paid search, this really means honing in on those keywords that work well for you, those ones you can always go back to for good results. They play to your strengths, but are unique enough not to play to everyone else’s strengths too. The reason for this is pretty simple – you need to get high Click Through Rates (CTR) to establish your paid search campaign and achieve a good position in the paid search auction.

AdRank = CTR x Your Max Bid

Okay, in reality it is a little more complicated than that – but your main focus should be on getting good CTRs so that your ads can be seen. Google describes AdRank as “calculated using your bid amount, the components of Quality Score (expected click through rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience), and the expected impact of extensions and other ad formats.” As always with SERPs, high quality content and landing pages are rewarded, but you can optimize in various ways to move yourself up the list.

Related Class: PPC and SEO: A Perfect Pair

CTR is really a measure of your relevance to the person searching; if your ad is highly relevant to the paid search term you’ve bid on, you’re likely to get a click. If you choose keywords based on factors other than relevancy, or write ads that don’t fit well with your paid keyword, you’re unlikely to tempt searchers. Once you’ve established a good CTR on your ad, more searchers will see your ad as your AdRank improves.

Reach and Relevance

When bidding on your chosen keywords for a new paid search campaign, you’ll need to choose whether you want exact, phrase or broad match searches to see your ad:

paid search

As this slide shows, exact match bidding will limit your reach considerably, but you’ll also have much more relevancy (read: higher CTR) to those searchers. Phrase and broad matches will help you reach more people, but will lower your CTR as you’re not going to be 100% relevant to those you reach. So what’s a paid search campaigner to do?

Allen Klein suggests waterfall bidding – place your highest bid on exact match, your second bid on phrase match, and third bid on broad match. This class really emphasizes being efficient in your choices, and exact match is the most efficient option. It’s also the best way to establish your ad when it’s new so you can move up the AdRank, making it a great place to start out with new paid search terms.

Ad Location, Optimization, and Best Practices

Where your ads will appear in search results will also have a big effect on CTRs and efficiency, but your budget may be the deciding factor there since ads are priced based on location on the SERP. I’m running out of space to address this fully here, so I’ll refer you to the expert:

Watch the full class here for more on optimizing your ads, keyword best practices, and bidding on ads in terms of page location.

 paid search