Month: October 2017

4 Reasons Social Media is The Future of Customer Care [Infographic]

by

Editor's Note: Josh Wardini is a community manager for Websitebuilder, where a version of this article first appeared. He joins us today to discuss the way that social media is transforming customer support with a simple infographic that explains it all.

 

Social media has quickly become a worldwide phenomenon reaching every corner of the international free market economy. By harnessing social media, brands big and small have managed to reach more customers from a vast array of backgrounds, countries and regions than ever before.

One of the biggest changes ushered in with widespread adoption of social networks is a gap in the way that customers interact with brands. In conventional customer care, businesses relied mainly on call centers and a small army of representatives to handle inquiries over the phone.

In the still-developing online economy, formal storefronts do not exist; nevertheless, customers looking to make a purchase continue to require customer care.

In response to this need, many of the world’s largest brands have recognized that social media is the most effective way to interact with and support customers. In the future, more will adopt this strategy until it becomes the industry standard for customer support.

In the following infographic, we summarize statistics on social media use and customer support preferences to help you make the best decisions for your brand.

Here is a four point summary:

1. Social Media Adoption

Social media is one of the fastest growing forms of technology in the past 30 years. Its adoption rates far surpass the adoption rates of conventional media forms, and most other new technologies. Seven in ten Americans use social media daily, and in the last 10 years saturation has gone from 5% in 2005 to 69% in 2016.

With so many users and potential customers on social media, brands have a growing and potentially unlimited reach.

2. Customer Preferences

90% of users have communicated with a brand on social media. In studies, 34.5% of respondents expressed a strong preference for this form of customer care. At 24.7%, website and live chat came in second, while email cam in third at 19.4%. Preference for conventional telephone support has dropped to less than 16.1%, showing the public attitudes have radically transformed.

Brands hoping to reach clients where they're at should listen and respond accordingly.

3. Software & Innovation

With software companies now creating products to help businesses better interact with their clients, the innovation is finally catching up to demand. Social business software is expected to be a $37 billion industry by 2017. These new products will continue to help streamline the online customer care process, and bring down support tickets as frequently asked questions are handled with machine intelligence and databases.

4. Decreased Cost

On average, it costs $1 to solve a customer issue on social media, while conventional call center interactions cost 6 times as much. Furthermore, social media agents have proven to be 167% more efficient, which marks significant savings for a brand while increasing the overall effectiveness of their customer service program.

Learn more about the growing predominance of social media support with the infographic below. Feel free to save for future reference, or pass it along to your colleagues!

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Developing a Social Media Customer Service Plan

Measuring the Value of Social Media Using Simple Analytics

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media market

 


Perfecting Digital Content Strategy for Real Estate Professionals

by

Editor's Note: Sundeep Kapur, Industry Training Director at The Online Marketing Institute, is an educator and digital evangelist who has helped brands define and implement powerfully effective digital strategies. He joins us today to discuss how realtors can improve their content strategy to gain the interest of prospects. Don't forget to join our upcoming webinar to learn more.

 

Nowadays, the search to buy or sell property tends to begin on the Internet. A few words typed into the search box can yield so many pages of "useful” results. But given the piles of information returned by search engines, what can you do to make sure your brand reaches those who may be looking for it?

For real estate professionals, this struggle is an important aspect of maintaining an online presence. When every other part of your brand is properly tailored for prospects, being found and seen is the deciding factor in the formation of new business relationships.

Here are seven considerations that can increase the visibility of your content to potential clients, and keep them coming back to your company for more:

1. Getting Attention

Attracting interested visitors begins with your ability to grab and keep their attention. Headlines, formatting and image usage can influence the behavior of readers, and raise sign-up rates for relevant offers. What keeps a consumer engaged are the following factors –

  • Is your content relevant to what they want– is the information useful or important?
  • Is your content engaging – is it interesting to the seeker of information, and does it invite questions or offer food for thought?
  • Is the information you provide up to date?

2. Using Multimedia Content

A message can be delivered by words, pictures, and video. Supplementing text with images is a good idea, because overly wordy or difficult articles often prompt visitors to look elsewhere for the information they want.

Adding powerful images or infographics help to keep readers engaged. Top it off by using video to deliver a summarizing conversational snippet. Focusing on a multimedia content strategy will draw in more readers, and aid them in retaining information.

3. The Right Length

Studies have proven time and time again that Internet readers click away from articles that are too long or too short. Avoid “walls of text” without any breaks, and steer clear of making redundant or unnecessary points. Be especially wary of paragraph size: what looks small on a desktop computer can look exponentially larger on a mobile device.  

The sweet spot for an article is three to five paragraphs of useful information broken up by one to three pictures. You can also add a 30 – 60 second video to further personalize your message and keep readers interested.

4. Maintaining a Presence

Your digital channel strategy should prominently include your website and social media. Maintaining an active account on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter will not only give prospects an opportunity to learn more about your brand and keep up with the latest content, but gives them an extra channel to ask questions or express concerns.

Those you seek and serve will also appreciate content published to YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest. Bear in mind that these visually oriented websites have different purposes: YouTube is a good place to publish ‘edutainment’, or content that is both educational and entertaining. Instagram is for “oh-wow” moments, and Pinterest is where people look for tips, mainly in the form of condensed infographics.

5. An Appealing Structure

Your communication style should incorporate a proven five-step formula.

  1. A powerful and intelligent headline will grab attention instantly, and make your content stand out.
  2. Discuss features of your product, services or solution - these are important, distinctive qualities that could be listed on a package.
  3. Describe the function of these features, or the purpose that they are meant to serve.
  4. Explain the benefit of your value proposition. This is where features and functions become practical: how will they help your prospects’ lives?
  5. Finally, use a call to action to motivate a decision in your readers to sign-up, buy, or get more information.

6. Thinking About Psychology

Consumer behavior is driven by three simple attributes that you should understand if you want to communicate with them effectively. These are need, value, or aspiration. A need is a basic necessity that has to be fulfilled. Value is a deal that the consumer finds valuable, but might forgo if they are not motivated to act immediately. Aspiration is what the consumer dreams about in abstract terms.

These categories often crop up in the buying cycle, and they’re useful for thinking about how to market yourself and your services - what might be a need for one consumer could be an investment value for another and completely aspirational for someone else.

Integrating Better Content

As the above tips should demonstrate, increasing the value of your brand for web searchers isn’t rocket science. A little digital pixie dust can help your content rise to the top. This includes making sure that the content you create is relevant to the seeker, that you use the right words to optimize your content, and that through effective calls to action you are able to generate engagement and user feedback.

To help you create personalized digital magic for your brand, the Online Marketing Institute is hosting a webinar on November 16th. Register for free to learn more about key digital channels including social media, search, email, mobile, and the power of interactive multimedia content. Our approach to learning will focus on ideal practices to help you become digitally visible, assist with engagement (from attracting to qualifying), and getting the buyer/seller to interact with you.

 


A Realtor’s Guide to Digital Selling: Leveraging The Web to Find Buyers

by

Editor's Note: Sundeep Kapur is the OMI Training Industry Director, digital consultant and successful real estate agent. To celebrate our new Real Estate learning series and upcoming webinar, he joins us today to discuss how realtors can use the power of the web to boost their business.

How can you leverage the power of digital media to attract buyers to your property listings? As a real estate professional, you already work hard to connect buyers with sellers - earning their business is even harder, and your time is limited. The digital storefront, on the other hand, is always open. Buyers peruse online listings 24/7, and sellers are always looking for the best way to make an impression. Both buyers and sellers are looking for three things:

  1. A trustworthy brand
  2. Relevant advice
  3. Easy access to information

Starting with your profile, here are some ideas that can enhance your digital presence to address clients’ needs, and win their business:

Profile Do’s

Build and maintain a website that clearly identifies your value proposition – think of it as a digital business card that tells the consumer:

  • Who you are
  • Your expertise
  • The area(s) that you serve.

Your site needs content that can engage readers – think useful, important, and entertaining.

Leverage social media channels to describe yourself – good platforms include LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. A LinkedIn profile should provide a succinct overview of who you are as a business, your experience, and your value proposition. A good Facebook presence is similar, but expands to include content like images and articles - being a Facebook brand constitutes a balance of professionalism and personality.. Twitter is also a great way to be found online - tweet useful information, follow people relevant to your business, and learn the art of tagging (#hashtag) key content.

The content you share doesn’t have to be original, and you may have little time to create it - but consider curating and publishing relevant articles that your prospective clients will find useful. Mix up your content with text, pictures, and even video: good multimedia content goes a long way to keep people engaged, and raises your visibility in the digital world.

Collect leads by offering something of value, and using a form on your website called a lead form to capture the contact information of prospective clients. Your value or incentive could include valuable information on buying or selling; the lead form you create should be as simple as possible – contact information, area of interest, and permission to get in touch via digital channels (allowing them to opt into your messaging).

Email leads as soon as possible, and use your messages to learn more about their needs. Keep emails short, and include a short survey (one or two questions) that will allow them to share additional information about their requirements. If it makes sense, send out two to three messages spaced at regular intervals, each containing information that builds on the last.

Because so many consumers now use smartphones, your strategy to connect with them should be “smarter.” Ensure that the content you share is brief and your website is responsive. Just because the consumer has a phone with them at all times does not mean that it is okay to message them excessively. Make every interaction simple, engaging, and useful.

Stay in touch with those you serve by providing a useful amount of information on a regular basis. Determining frequency can be a challenge, but an ideal goal is to ensure that every question asked on your digital channels is responded to within a day. This encourages prospects and clients to ask questions, and reduces your posting burden.

What Drives Success

Successful digital brands ensure that the information they share is current, that they have conversations to nurture a relationship with the consumer, and that they are timely in responding. Being responsive does not mean that you have to monitor your digital assets around the clock: a well-defined strategy of organizing the right information, automating responses to frequently asked questions and adding a personal touch goes a long way in driving digital success.

Consumers seek approachable brands that inspire confidence and earn trust. You build confidence by providing relevant information and showcasing your thought leadership. Trust comes from good customer experiences and (digital) word of mouth. Being approachable comes from a combination of a number of factors, including your ability to respond quickly and personably.

Listings abound and buyers are out there looking. As a real estate professional you work hard to connect the buyer and seller. You are busy, and there are so many hands to shake/contacts to make.

  • How can you leverage the power of digital to attract buyers to your listing?
  • How do you get sellers to list with you?
  • How do you answer their questions/concerns 24x7?
  • How do you bring them in/convert them?
  • How do you nurture these relationships forever?

To find answers to these questions and to learn more about using the web to boost your real estate business, join us for a FREE webinar on digital best practices and dramatically increase your success.

 


Automation vs Personalization in Your Marketing Campaigns

by

Editor's Note: Dario Supan is a content marketer and editor at Point Visible. Today he joins us to discuss the twin paradigms of automation and personalization, and how to balance them in your marketing campaigns.

 

With advances in technology and especially in Artificial Intelligence, marketers today are faced with an ever-increasing list of tools and algorithms that exist to speed up daily operations. The goal of this article isn’t to argue whether automation is required; it's usually obvious to anyone that has ever worked on a larger marketing campaign that some level of automation must be employed.

But there is a question worth asking: should marketers automate everything they can, just because they have the ability to do so? This practice tends to come with a compromise - the more automated your campaigns, the less personal they become. As a result, the level of automation you should use depends on how personal you want your campaigns to be.

Automation in Marketing

Automation has made its way into the marketing world because it brings a tremendous number of benefits. Not only is automation a chance to free up internal resources and minimize costs, but it’s also a highly effective method for preventing human error. Furthermore, consumers want automation: a recent report by research company Forrester confirms that many consumers want self-service options available to them, so that they do not need to interact or engage with a brand if they don't have to.

There are also many ways in which automated marketing processes can benefit a business. Perhaps the most obvious advantage comes in the form of big data and predictive analysis, utilizing information captured from consumers and prospective customers to predict spending habits, interests, and future needs. With automation, this sort of analysis is without question quicker and more accurate than depending on human guesses.

Similarly, lead nurturing can also benefit from automation. A prime example includes email marketing campaigns where information and offers are sent automatically to a predefined list. Automation in marketing is so advantageous that email marketing firm Emailmonday reports half of all companies now make use of automated marketing in one form or another.

Automation Limitations

While there are many areas of marketing in which automation can be beneficial, there are issues surrounding the notion of fully automated processes. It is important to consider the idea of marketing evolution, and how processes that are effective in one context may fail to work well in another.

By default, automation results in a loss of personalization. Automation means you're working with scripted responses to resonate with individuals on a deeper level, using technology that is unable to deviate from linear, programmed processes. This doesn't always work out.

Interestingly, although many consumers are seeking self-service options in some areas, they are also looking for personalization in others. Adweek reports that more than half of all consumers want a customized experience.

The reason?

Customized experiences make customers feel valued, and may result in improved brand loyalty.

Personalization in Marketing

There are specific areas of marketing where fully automated processes are limited in their overall impact, including social media management and outreach campaigns.

Social Media Management

Let’s dive a little deeper into social media, because it's a large part of marketing nowadays. There are many tools that can be used to automate everything that happens on your social media pages from tracking, scheduling, and publishing your content, to automated message responses. 

One real-world example to look at is Oreo, who sent an automated Twitter reply to a user with an offensive username; a username which was then quickly plastered across Oreo’s feed. This was a silly and probably costly mistake which could have easily been avoided through human action.

Getting it right, on the other hand, is Smart Car USA, who made headlines for correcting a Twitter user who claimed that a single bird poop would total a Smart Car. Smart provided a detailed mathematical response showing the actual number of birds required to wreck a car, and the original poster confirmed that Smart did a great job.

Human Limits

As we can see, “human touch” can never be replaced. However, as your business grows, you obviously can’t reply to everyone. Sooner or later, you will have to use some sort of automation. 

As using tools to automate parts of your processes is unavoidable, the real dilemma is what level of automation you should use.

Take scheduling and promoting posts on social media for example: do you want to use the same featured image across all social channels? Are you reaching out to everyone with the same message? Are you sharing posts at the same time of day?

You can automate the whole process and not make a single change, but this may have a negative impact on your engagement levels and CTR as your target audience often consists of different groups of people that have different interests and needs.

How far should you take personalization then? Answering this question really depends on the niche you are in, your brand authority, quality of content and so on.

Luckily, this is where A/B testing can help tremendouslyTake some time to test how personalization affects the metrics you are focused on, and adjust your workflow to meet the preferences of your audience.

Outreach Campaigns

Moving onto outreach campaigns, it is essential to remember that this form of marketing relies almost entirely upon human interaction, rather than automation.

Smart Insights highlights this fact with their published outreach email open rate statistics. As anticipated, outreach emails addressed to both a first and last name are statistically more likely to be opened than those addressed to the first name only or last name only, showing the power of personalization within this specific area of marketing.

Chances are, you're using some of the available outreach tools already; finding opportunities and managing a high volume of email traffic is close to impossible without one.

The fastest (and laziest) approach is just to make a list of blogs/people you want to contact, and reach out to everyone with the same message.

Or you can put some effort in, and personalize your outreach template with things like:

  • Name of the person you are reaching out too
  • Name of the blog you want to be featured on
  • Adjusting the topics/areas you can cover depending on the content they usually cover
  • Adjusting the pitch if you know for sure they are accepting guest contributions
  • Adjusting the tone depending on the level of the authority the site you are reaching out to has
  • Referring to some of their previous work you liked
  • Scheduling the time of day when the pitch is going to be sent

What it comes down to is this: do you want to send 100 generic pitches in 20 minutes or 20 personalized ones in an hour?

You are still using a tool to automate your outreach efforts, but you are also in control of the level of personalization that will be included. The second approach can often end up being more time-efficient, especially when you want to connect with high-authority sites.

Remember not to take this too far. Researching every site to find a post you can refer to often isn’t worth your time but many other things on the list are.

Again, test and update your workflow according to the results you are getting. There is no perfect recipe that works for across every niche.

Finding the Right Balance

There are arguably some areas of marketing where personalization isn’t required, and by steering clear of available automated processes, businesses could be preventing themselves from further growth and development opportunities.

In terms of prediction and data analysis, technology is often the preferred choice. However, in terms of B2C interactions, some degree of personalization is essential. It’s all about finding the right balance and learning how automated processes and personalization can both be used together to create the most effective and efficient marketing strategy.

Businesses may want to think of automation and personalization as two parts of the same unit, rather than as separate and distinct aspects. Automation can be very beneficial in learning what a customer wants; it’s a support system that enables us to offer the best personalized marketing through all stages of the sales funnel.

At the end of the day, to find the best solution, testing is key. All the research and statistics provided by companies and firms won't help you to meet the unique needs of your own audience - but understanding the general rule will help to find the specific one.

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Marketing Automation Strategy for Full Lifecycle Management

Social Media Strategy for Business

Testing, Behavioral Analytics & Metrics Best Practices

 

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

 

 


12 Tips for Creating Shareable Social Media Content

by

Editor's Note: Rachel Bartee is an experienced content writer, and joins us today to discuss several content creation tips that will encourage social media followers to like and share.

 

Content creation is a vital element in contemporary marketing strategies. However, while nearly 90% of all companies engage in content marketing on some level, few manage to produce contagious content that Internet users share. Without this level of engagement, content can hardly fulfill its true purpose.

Fortunately, there are many ways to create interesting content that is more likely to spread across social media, and in this article I will present you with practical tips for doing so. But first, let’s talk about what goes on behind the scenes of social media sharing -

What Motivates Users to Share Content?

There is a science behind what motivates users to share digital content. Researchers have discovered a number of psychological triggers that inspire people to engage in online activities, and here are some of the most important ones:

  • Social Approval: People love to express their attitudes and receive affirmative feedback from their circle of friends and acquaintances. Sharing content is a way to express one's personality to a group.
  • Communication: Humans are social beings. We all want to nurture relationships with other people, and digital content enables us to do this more easily and frequently.
  • Support Ideas: Social media is often used to signal support for ideas, political views and personal beliefs; in this is way, users connect with a greater, altruistic good.
  • Entertainment: At the end of the day, plenty of people use social media to wind down. Entertaining content includes humor, memes, videos, music, and more.

It can be difficult to segment the way people interact online, since these categories can and frequently do overlap. However, thinking about these basic motivations is still a useful starting point for developing content that will motivate users to get involved. With that being said, here are:

12 Tips to Make Your Social Media Content More Shareable

1. Create High-Quality Content

This seems like the most obvious point, and it is, but it's also forgotten too often. There are no shortcuts: shareable content is always high-quality content. If you focus on superficial topics and don’t invest enough time into research or content creation, you cannot expect your followers to become interested and engaged. This is one reason why longform content is doing better than ever.

Content development can take time and effort, so if you need professional help, here are some simple resources I have used in the past:

  • Blog Title Generator: This tool will show you the list of the most relevant topics in any given niche.
  • Headline Analyzer: Headline is the first thing that your readers notice and you have to come up with a catchy and intriguing solution. Headline Analyzer will tell you if you’ve succeeded.
  • Essaysontime: If you decide that serious content creation is out of your reach, you can always ask for help from this expert writing service.

2. Use Smart Structuring

Internet users read very quickly, and nothing will turn them off more than a "wall of text". Format your content intelligently by using numbered lists, bullet points and headers to easily highlight key information points.

3. Add Value to Users' Lives

Informative content is good, but if your readers and clients can’t put your words in practice then they will not benefit from what you publish. A primary goal of content is to solve users' problems and show how to overcome them; this will not only build brand loyalty, but it will keep them coming back for more. As long as the content you create is genuinely helpful, it's also certain to be passed around.

4. Keep Your Audience in Mind

Before ever creating or sharing content, think about your audience: ask yourself if it's something they would like to see and share with their friends. Once you have some ideas, you can even poll your audience to generate comments and perhaps initiate debate. This not only creates engagement, but gives you special insight into what they want.

5. Create Infographics

Infographics are informative but easy to understand. And because they come in the form of images, they are convenient for the majority of Internet users who mostly share visual content on social media. Using tools like Piktochart, you don’t even need the knowledge of a graphic designer to create a reasonably high quality infographic. The most important thing is to use your business expertise and data to create something your audience will find valuable.

6. Trigger Emotions

Some of the most successful marketing campaigns went viral because they sparked strong emotional reactions among users. A lot of studies have proven that emotions like happiness, anger, or sorrow have the power to engage people and make them share digital content. Do you remember the #ItCanWait campaign? Study how AT&T used narrative, art and user engagement to skyrocket this public safety campaign. Be careful not to co-opt causes that are unrelated to your business, since insincerity can backfire. But when you see an opportunity to contribute, do it well.

7. Remember the good old times

Talking about emotions, never forget nostalgia. Users universally enjoy content that hearkens back to old memories, and if you analyze your audience precisely, you can get an easy target for what will appeal to them. Consider this 90s themed commercial by Microsoft, aimed at Millennials to promote its Internet Explorer web browser (and be sure to notice the tremendously positive response it elicited):

8. Offer Incentives

People love free stuff. It’s a fact that you can occasionally use to boost interest in your products or services. Frequently social media pages will offer a giveaway based on a random drawing, and to enter the drawing users are simply asked to share, like, or follow a page. This can create a big ripple effect that more than compensates for the investment in a reward.

9. Exploit Trendy Topics

Staying up to date with trendy topics is obligatory for all marketers. You should always follow the latest industry news, and use them to create shareable content when appropriate. Consider how this Norwegian Airlines commercial provoked positive reactions by responding to celebrity news surrounding Brad Pitt.

10. Organize Contests

Contests are a great way to engage your audience and inspire them to share your content. Users love to compete and they usually do it with their friends and colleagues, which is the main sharing motive for them. All it takes is a nice idea and a little bit of budget to launch the contest – just take a look at the KFC football challenge.

11. Be Funny

Your business is serious but your content doesn’t have to be. On the contrary, funny posts, images, and videos grab the users’ attention and promise you a fair portion of shares, so don’t run away from it.   

12. Use video content

Video is quickly becoming the dominant form of online content, and some studies even say that video content will make up 80% of all Internet traffic by 2018. As a result, you have to embrace video as part of your content strategy. This is also why Twitter – once known as the photo-sharing network – added video to its portfolio. This kind of content has a big potential to go viral, just like this Nike video did.

About the Author: Rachel Bartee is a content writer and a marketing consultant from Davenport. She is content-oriented and knows how to put words into action. She feels passionate about travelling and inspired by her morning yoga. Reach her on Facebook or Twitter.

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Introduction to Content Marketing Strategy

8 Steps to Discovering and Creating Content Your Audience Will Love

B2B Social Visual Storytelling on Instagram, Pinterest & Tumblr

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

 

 

 


Why Your Next Marketing Hire Should Be A Chatbot

by

Editor's Note: Josh R Jackson is a contributing editor at BestMarketingDegrees.org. To compliment the new Emerging Media classes in our updated catalog, he joins us today to explain the way chatbots are changing CRM, and how companies can benefit.

 

Because the chatbot is associated with a long history of frustrating and sometimes humorous responses to human questions, many Internet users roll their eyes when they hear the word chatbot.

And while some searchers ignore chatbox pop-ups habitually, many users fight the urge to close a window or end a phone call when they know a chatbot is on the other side.  

Nowadays, some of those users are pleasantly surprised to find that chatbot technology has come a long way in only a few short years. In fact, marketing teams might go so far as to say that chatbot technology has matured into the full-fledged industry called conversational commerce.

Why?

Because conversational commerce technology has emerged from its novelty phase when chatbots like Microsoft's Office Assistant and AIM's SmarterChild were cutting edge, and now it's —and it's riding a new wave of interest.

Source: Google Trends

In no small part, this chatbot renaissance is due to the proliferation and popularity of messaging apps which - along with brand name chatbots and personal assistants like Google Now and Amazon Alexa - have seen the marketing and AI potential of chatbots grow immensely.

Source: BI Intelligence

In addition, the modern marketing team's demand for 24/7 brand messaging and the ability to deliver a message when no one's available to take a call has worked double time to generate big waves of chatbot interest in platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

Source: Google Trends

This means that the modern marketing team's demand for constant messaging has made the online environment ripe for innovation in chatbot marketing technology.

And while the most obvious function of chatbots may be in the realm of customer relationship management (i.e., attraction and retention of customers) the role of chatbots is expanding to include other realms for innovation in marketing: most notably, corporate productivity.

Here's why your marketing team's next hire should be a chatbot.

Big Customer Service Potential

Customer service, and specifically customer retention, is arguably the biggest, best, and most time-tested reason to invest in chatbot technology for your marketing team.

Over the years, customers have grown begrudgingly accustomed to going through the menu-items listed by interactive voice response systems (IVR), the ancient ancestors of the chatbot, that direct customers to the appropriate party via telephone keypad.

Source: Rob Guilfoyle, CEO Abe AI (LinkedIn)

Ask almost any customer what they think of interactive voice response, however, and you'll find that it's not a very good tool for retaining customers, much less maintaining customer satisfaction.

Today, free-flowing chatbot technology enables customers to interact with an AI system that - like a real employee - creates a conversational experience and learns a customer's preferences. Fostering such a natural language exchange rather than forcing a rote, numerical interaction is much more likely to meet modern consumer expectations, which increasingly depend on our ability to query interfaces like we would Google.

This is why adopting chatbot technologies early, and especially those that can handle customers' natural language queries, is likely to pay off in the long run—or in the words of Rob Guilfoyle, CEO of Abe AI, "likely [to] see quick and demonstrable ROI by getting ahead of the adoption curve."

Even Bigger Corporate Productivity Potential

Perhaps for the obvious reason that chatbots can avoid the complications that arise from human error, chatbot technologies have the potential not only to revolutionize the way we think about corporate productivity (i.e., as a means to the end of "the bottom line"), but also the very fabric of corporate productivity itself.

After all, if chatbots can take care of all our customers' service needs, could it become more productive for marketing teams to channel their energy into higher order, less tangible concerns, like accomplishing acts of social good? Could productivity become less defined as a measure of quantity than of quality?

Barring immediate answers to immaterial questions such as these, the prospect of a non-human future where someday, somehow, chatbots could replace human marketers is both frightening and exciting.

This prospect is frightening because chatbots really are beginning to spell a monumental change in the marketing profession for customer relationship managers. It is exciting because chatbots have the potential to more easily automate a processes that annoys customers at the same time as they develop more productive relationships with them.

All that is to say, good chatbots with good AI will make good customers, giving users and consumers the cutting-edge experience they crave with a company that is future-oriented.

And what better way to retain customers than to impress on them that you always have their interests (and their future) in mind?

Need more reasons why your marketing team's next hire should be a chatbot? Take OMI's newest classes on Emerging Media to see how chatbots are changing online marketing.

 


How to Recover from an SEO Rankings Drop

by

Editor's Note: Anthony Tisara is a Content Marketing Strategist and SEO expert with My Biz Niche. Today he joins us to discuss recovery from an SEO rankings drop and troubleshooting guidelines that will keep your site on page #1.

 

For webmasters, few things are more horrifying than waking up to find their website has dropped out of page 1 of the search engine rankings for a particular keyword. They will naturally ask themselves, "Why did my website drop in Google?" over and over again, wondering why their coffee tastes more bitter than usual.

Panicking is a perfectly understandable reaction dropping in SEO rankings, but it’s definitely not the most productive one. In the midst of a crisis, online marketers have to keep a clear head and recognize that losing SEO points is not the end of the world. It’s not even the end of the website!

Websites fall in rank and recover all the time; this is simply the natural cycle of running a website, and it will happen no matter how hard you work. With that being said, after calming down, walking the road to recovery is the next crucial step. So in this article, let's discuss troubleshooting tips to determine why your SEO scores have gone down, and how you might recover them.

1. You got penalized by Google

Did you know that Google has webmaster guidelines? Whether intentionally or unintentionally, it's not very hard to play fast and loose with these rules. Google will automatically or manually penalize websites that don't follow these guidelines carefully, so reviewing them and auditing your site for compliance is important.

Finding out if you've suffered a penalty isn't too hard: pull up your Google Webmaster Tools account, and see if Google sent you any notifications about a penalty and the reasons for it. Dozens of Google penalty checker tools can also help with this step.

Whatever prompted the penalty—duplicate content, unnatural links, etc.—you just have to accept Google’s decision calmly and focus on fixing the problem. Remove the duplicate content, unnatural links, irrelevant keywords, or anything else that is strictly against Google's guidelines.

After cleaning up, send a reconsideration request to Google to recover from the penalties. Keep in mind, however, that getting back your position in SERPs can take some time.

While you’re waiting to recover, make sure to tighten up your website so future penalties are unlikely to occur. Employing honest white hat SEO tactics at all times is a good place to start. Don’t even think about trying to sneak in so-called black hat SEO tactics; Google’s latest though algorithm update dubbed 'Fred' is scrupulous, and you won't get away with it.

2. You lost important backlinks

It’s very possible that your rankings dropped because you lost backlinks from a high-quality website. There are several reasons why something like this would happen:

  1. The website with your backlinks could have gone offline
  2. Google may be having issues connecting to the host
  3. The page or content where your links were hosted may have been removed, updated or replaced

As a solution, you can contact webmasters and ask for links to be replaced, but your time and effort is better spent on building new, high-quality inbound links. The best way to do that, of course, is by creating more relevant and helpful content that will make your site attractive to other webmasters.

To prevent rankings loss in the future due to lost links, consider keeping track of backlinks to your websites using a variety of tools for that purpose. This will allow you to act before losing a backlink dings your site.

3. You need a better web host

Your website can check off all the "awesome" boxes. You can have all the bells and whistles like great content with rich anchor text, good SEO practices, and still suffer a rankings drop.

This can happen when your pages take an eternity to load, no thanks to your web hosting company.

No internet user wants to wait for extended periods of time to reach a website. According to statistics, if users have to wait more than 10 seconds for a page to load, they are almost certain to go somewhere else. This will cause your traffic to fall, which will eventually impact your rankings as well. Google has made it clear that website speed impacts Search Engine Rankings.

Speed tests can help to determine if your web host is bringing down SEO scores. If the problem lies with your web hosting company, find a better one. Even if your host is fine, your hosting plan may still cause problems: for instance, 'shared hosting' plans are popular because they are cheap. But a shared host serves hundreds and maybe even thousands of other websites.

Switch to a more expensive but infinitely faster dedicated hosting instead if your loading time stubbornly refuses to improve.

4. You redesigned your website

On the Internet, never underestimate the potential impact of small changes, much less big ones. If you redesigned your website immediately before experiencing an SEO drop, it’s likely that the launch had a negative impact on your search rankings.

You may have forgotten to install redirects, for one thing. It’s also possible that Google re-evaluated the relevance of your page for certain topics or keywords because of changes you made to content while redesigning the site.

When doing a site redesign, it’s always smart to have a 301 redirect plan in place. This way, you can send visitors to new and improved pages. In the process, you also get to tell Google to disregard the old page and rank the redesigned page instead.

5. Your competitor outranked you

Search Rankings are a competition, and sometimes going down doesn't mean you failed; it can mean someone else did a better job.

Getting to the top of a search page is one thing, but staying there is another. If you do not defend your position and keep an eye on competitors, sooner or later they will have their day at the top of the search engine mountain, pushing you down in the process.

Getting outranked by a competitor is an everyday fact of SEO life. Here’s one more fact of SEO life: your competitor’s rankings can fall too, and your site can take their place. Contrary to popular myth, SEO work never gets done. Just continue your optimization efforts. Monitor and analyze your competitor’s sites to get a clearer picture of what they’re doing, and adjust your SEO strategies accordingly.

6. The mysterious Google flux

At the end of the day, no matter how well you run your website, you are the mercy of almighty Google. And as Google tampers with its algorithm, unpredictable changes occur on a regular basis that upset the position of websites. This phenomenon is called "Google flux". Like a freak weather disaster, nothing can be done to prevent these fluxes, and if trial and error can't show you where you went wrong, maybe you didn't go wrong. Maybe you were the victim of Google updates.

On the one hand, this may seem depressing. But on the other hand, it can be comforting to realize that every dip in SEO rankings does not prove bad practice. To minimize the possible damage brought on by algorithm updates, just make sure to follow SEO best practices, and never put all of your eggs in one basket. Rank for several keywords so that a drop in one does not necessarily equate to a drop in another.

Also recognize that at the end of the day, Flux is just as likely to boost your website for a certain keyword as it is to sink you, so it will theoretically balance out.

To keep your website at the top of Google search results, learn more about best SEO practices with our expert-guided classes on search engine optimization.

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

 


3 Ways Virtual Reality is Changing Brand Messaging

by

Editor's Note: Josh R Jackson is a contributing editor at BestMarketingDegrees.org. To complement the brand new Emerging Media classes in our updated catalog, he joins us to discuss three ways the Virtual Reality is changing brand messaging today.

Right now, virtual reality is on its way to become the most disruptive trend in the media marketplace.

How do we know this? Because in 2016, virtual reality became the first and foremost emerging technology on Gartner's Hype Cycle, meaning it has passed the point of no return and reached the slope of viability. This is the same slope surpassed by innovative technologies like ephemeral messaging (Snapchat), which became one of the most popular marketing tools to emerge in the last five years.

So what does all of this mean?

In short, we can conclude that the immersive media experience called virtual reality is about to become a marketing technology that's not only viable for heavy hitters like Google and Facebook, but also sustainable, productive, and accessible for mainstream audiences.

And when virtual reality reaches this point, it will fundamentally alter the way marketers distribute and target brand messaging.

Just think about the possibility of a VR platform that could offer a more engaging social networking experience than Facebook!

But reaching the next phase in Gartner's Hype Cycle can be a long and arduous process, especially if new questions arise about expanding scales and climbing costs. In other words, it's still too early to say who's ahead in the race for peak VR productivity - innovators and investors will have to take a backseat to the free market, and patiently watch what happens.

In the meantime, mass market potential for virtual reality and immersive media has approached its most lucrative phase. Now is the time for marketers to use every spare second they have to observe key developments in the VR marketplace.

This is all the more true given that VR has already begun to change brand messaging as we speak.

Here are the three biggest ways virtual reality is doing that -

1. Virtual Reality is Changing How Marketers Sell Experience

Because virtual reality is a rich media format that sells an immersive experience, the technology is already revolutionizing the marketplace for experiential marketing.

Most theme parks have already caught onto this use of virtual reality, as many now furnish VR headsets to enhance their guests' experience.

Source: Mirror Online (2017)

SeaWorld, for instance, recently installed wraparound headsets to give riders of their Kraken roller coaster an experience they will never forget.

When the practice of selling people an experience has become the secret ingredient for tapping consumer markets—and particularly the Millennial consumer market that is so large, expansive, and accepting of new technologies—marketers cannot afford to underestimate the power that virtual reality has to reach new levels of engagement with global audiences.

The question is whether or not this method of delivery for virtual reality can be sustained and scaled to fit smaller media for less cost, but still deliver an unforgettable experience.

Right now, interactive designers and VR enthusiasts are at work bridging that gap with headsets that can browse the entire Internet in 3D.

When you consider the possibility of being able to see every video on the web in three dimensions, you open up a new world of possibilities for thinking about engagement with brand messaging -

That brings us to our second point -

2. Virtual Reality Is Disrupting How Marketers Track Attention and Engagement

When the practice of using a mouse or smartphone declines in the face of VR adoption, what happens to metrics like click rate? How do we measure user attention span and engagement with brand messaging if people aren't using their hands to interact with applications?

Part of the answer may lie in the startup potential of an emerging technology called Virtual Reality Eye Tracking.

Source: DTG Technology Readiness Levels (2016)

According to a method used by world militaries to measure an emerging technology's usability—the Technology Readiness Level (TRL)—Virtual Reality Eye Tracking has reached its full potential: enabling full gameplay for disabled persons.

As a result, it has become possible to measure engagement in virtual reality simply by tracking where a user is looking at a screen, and the technology which makes this possible is more than halfway to mass marketability.

What this could mean for brand messengers is that VR headsets have the potential to render taps and clicks obsolete in the near and distant future, especially if eye recognition technology becomes viable for larger screens.

It also means that attention—arguably the most important metric for determining user interest—is well on its way to becoming the next big metric for measuring a brand's success at attracting and retaining an audience.

3. Virtual Reality Is Disrupting How Marketers Sponsor Social Good

What if I told you that VR revenues are much more likely to come from markets of professionals who are undergoing vocational training for careers in computer science, engineering, and medicine rather than movies and passive forms of entertainment?

Source: Oculus - VR for Good

Of course, virtual reality is good for gaming - Eye Tracking technology can testify to that fact. But because this feature is primarily being developed so that disabled and handicapped users can play games without the use of their hands, the technology can also be thought of as virtual reality that sponsors a social good.

There are many developing uses for virtual reality technology that might accomplish something similar. For example, Oculus sponsors a challenge for aspiring filmmakers in high school to use 360-degree video technology to produce content that can inspire a change in their communities. Medical doctors and interactive designers are currently at work on developing applications for virtual reality that provide pain relief to children.

Today's marketers can likely think of many applications for this type of content as the viewer market for it grows. There already are opportunities for 360-degree video ads (and ad networks) that might be used to convey brand messaging that is socially moving. The next question for online marketers might be how can we use virtual reality for brand messaging to tell even more compelling stories than we are already telling?

Conclusion

However you look at it, virtual reality is on the cusp of changing the brand messaging landscape for marketers everywhere. Will you be one of the pioneers creating change, or a reactionary on the sidelines?

To learn how you can be one of the pioneers, take OMI's newest classes on Emerging Media.

 


A Simple Guide to SEO Keyword Research

by

Editor's Note: Chris Raulf is an educator and founder of Boulder SEO Marketing. He joins us today to share a simple guide for SEO keyword research that can skyrocket your website's position on search pages.

 

It goes without saying that people make billions of Internet searches everyday, from movie showings to nearby pizza places to oil changing services. Data consistently shows that Internet users typically select one of the first few search results, and if they find what they’re looking for, they stop searching. 

In fact, according to the statistics, more than 70% of all clicks go to the top five organic search results. So if your website shows up below #5, you’re missing out on a great boost for traffic to your website, and ultimately on sales.

If you want your business to grow and capture more organic search opportunities, climbing to the highest search positions is a good priority. And a great way to climb higher in rankings is to apply SEO (Search Engine Optimization) best practices.

Keywords - the word or words that people use to search for something in a search engine - are the foundation of SEO. In order to understand how people use search engines, you need to do keyword research in a scientific way. This is the first of many activities you can do to improve your website’s ranking in organic search results.

And it really does work! For example: my practice helped one client by applying a comprehensive digital marketing and SEO strategy to their business, and as a result, we doubled their Google traffic in less than 8 months:

In this article, I will explain the basic principles we used to do this so you can apply them too.

Let's dive right in!

What Are Keywords?

It may seem simple, but it's always best to start with basics. As mentioned in passing: a keyword is a word or string of words that people use to find something with a search engine. A keyword can be short tail, which is one word or two words strung together, such as “SEO,” “running shoes”, or “seo company”.

Keywords can also be long tail, which is three or more words strung together such as “SEO keyword research,” “running shoes for men” or “what are seo marketing packages.” Google continues to perfect its search algorithm and nowadays, long tail keywords seem to be the top choice for searching online. After all, users now expect Google to display a good answer to complex questions right at the top of the page:

Why Do Keyword Research?

You should do keyword research because it eliminates the guesswork behind choosing good keywords, and gives you confidence when executing an SEO strategy. During my SEO training classes and webinars, 80-90% of my attendees tend to admit that they haven't done keyword research.

And if they do keyword research, they are often surprised by what they find when I show them how to do it scientifically.

One of the most common and easily fixed mistakes made by SEO novices is trying to optimize for short tail keywords only, which are overly general and extremely competitive to rank for. People who use long tail keywords know what they want, and are more likely to convert interested buyers. 

Another mistake I frequently see is that people simply aren’t selecting the right keywords. This is not as mysterious as it may sound; they may optimize their site for internal terminology, product names, or branded terms, without realizing that this is completely ineffective on non-customers who have never countered those words before. 

By researching your keywords ahead of time, you can bypass many common mistakes, and forego trial and error by jumping straight to the most promising terms for your website.

A Brief Primer on Researching Keywords

Here are the key steps to doing keyword research for SEO at a very high level.

  1. The first thing to do is pick a research tool. There are many good choices, both free and paid. I usually recommend starting with Google Keyword Planner since it’s free, and made by Google. One of my favorite paid tools is SEMRush, because it provides many extra features that will help you to analyze the best keywords as carefully as possible. It should be noted that to take full advantage of Google’s Keyword Planner tool, you will need to set up and run an active Google AdWords campaign, so it isn't completely free in the end.
  2. Assuming you go with Google's Keyword Planner, you first need to set up an account. After doing so, you can start with keyword research and I recommend you do the following: If your website could rank number one on Google for only one search term, what would it be? Enter that term into Google Keyword Planner and you’ll see all kinds of data about it. The average number of searches per month is always interesting - it might surprise you in a good or bad way. You’ll also see that Google provides keyword ideas based on your keyword. These ideas are really useful to create a set of complementary keywords to use along with the primary keyword.
  3. Next, you’re going to download data about the source keyword and the keywords recommended by the tools so that you can analyze these three data points: Avg. Monthly Searches, Competition and Suggested bid data. Download the data to an Excel CVS file or to Google Drive as a Google spreadsheet.
  4. Now you should prioritize the keywords based on which ones you want to dominate, so add a column for priority (you may use a rating of 1-3, for instance). You should also categorize the keywords based on the products and services you offer. Essentially, the spreadsheet should look similar to the one below:

Next Steps

Once you know what keywords you want to focus on, you’ll need to assign 2-4 keywords to each webpage of your website. This process is called keyword mapping. Once you have properly assigned the right keywords, you’ll want to start optimizing the meta tags for each page. But don’t stop there! The more high quality content you develop with your target SEO keywords (i.e. blog posts, articles, white papers, case studies, etc.), the higher you’ll eventually rank in search engines.

Conclusion

There is a lot to keyword research and it’s impossible to capture everything in one article. However, I hope this short guide has given you a useful starting point. The Online Marketing Institute offers a ton of educational resources by some of today’s top digital marketing experts - take advantage of these resources so that you can achieve the results you’re looking for. I also invite you to read a guide that I recently published called SEO Keywords: The Step-by-Step Guide to Keyword Research.  

About the Author

Chris Raulf is the founder of Boulder SEO Marketing, a boutique digital marketing training and consulting agency located in beautiful Denver and Boulder, Colorado. Chris is an SEO training expert and teaches students around the globe to improve their website’s rankings in Google search results. His international background makes him one of few professionals in the industry who truly live and breath multilingual search engine optimization on a daily basis.

Learn more about Chris and Boulder SEO Marketing by connecting with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

 

A Step-by-Step Guide to Keyword Research

Optimizing Your Website in a Post-Penguin World

Keyword Mapping

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.