Analytics

Improve Conversion Rates With Data Democratization

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One of the most critical components of web analytics and conversion rate optimization is interpreting data, analyzing it, and turning it around like a Rubik’s cube. For instance, you can rotate and arrange the traditional 3x3x3 cube in 43 quintillion ways – 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 to be precise. Similarly, you can build billions of models from your data. However, only one of these models will give you the best conversion rate, and this is the elusive Holy Grail you must find to maximize your efforts.

Let me illustrate this with another example. As you can see in the image below, there are 3 expressways you can take to go from Chicago to Wyoming. The shortest route is the 196, but if you take a detour and go via 131, you might end up adding an hour to your journey. There are a couple of other routes to get there too, but both will take longer.

maps

Image Source: Google Maps screenshot

In the same way, any of your conversion tactics can prove lucrative and get you to your goal, but one will get you there faster than the others.

So how do you find the perfect, elusive model to reach the optimum conversion rate? The answer lies in data democratization, data decentralization, and data transparency. Let’s dig a bit further into the whys and hows of revolutionary data processes so you can play around with the data you’ve collected and find your conversion sweet-spot.

Data Democratization

We have more data than ever before, sometimes more than we know what to do with. If you were to narrow down data and scrutinize bounce rates on Google Analytics, you would probably start with entry and exit pages, then move on to user flow, keywords, location, language, device, browser compatibility, site speed, and more.

This is just one issue (bounces) and one data source (Google Analytics). Now imagine you add legacy data, POS transactions, social media conversations, survey results or feedback collected from trade events, and make inferences from the pool of data available: even if you are an insatiable data glutton, you’ll be quickly overwhelmed!

It is inappropriate, impractical, and immature to restrict data to the elite few, whether they are CEOs or domain-specialized data scientists, and expect them to make sense out of it for everyone. This is why 2016 has been heralded as the year of data democratization. Data democratization ensures everyone in an organization has access to data, and is therefore in a better position to make decisions.

Finish Line, an athletic apparel and footwear retailer with nearly 700 physical and online outlets, uses POS data, loyalty data, social streams, and beacon data to improve one-on-one communication and up-sell to customers. The results were impressive: Stephanie Bleymaier, Director of Digital Personalization and Loyalty, reported a 50% increase in email open rates and a 30% rise in return on social media ad spend. Guess where that would have taken conversions?

Related Class: Leverage Social & Customer Data for Email Relevancy

Other departments were able to “increase their efficiency...by tapping into the data pool,” Stephanie said. The first priority for any decent collaboration and data management tool is making data available to all users, ensuring healthy debate, consensus, leading to quicker, more informed decision-making.

The idea of data democratization may cause worries over security. But to protect sensitive data, you can use a sophisticated collaboration tool that offers secure file sharing, access control and group or individual level permissions, ensuring data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. For instance, campaign tracking and project management tool WorkZone allows users to share sensitive data and plans securely with a particular team, giving each person access to just the right amount of information.

workzone

Image Source: WorkZone screenshot

With this tool, users can send emails, comment, make changes or record meeting notes to data resources that are relevant to them. WorkZone also automates the approval workflow, sending requests to managers, tracking responses, and recording access. This way the entire team stays informed, and you have an organized, time-stamped record of all activity.

Data Decentralization

As we saw above, data democratization bought a significant jump in email open rates for Finish Line, but democratizing doesn’t happen on its own. You need to make your data more intelligent and intuitive for any layman to understand. A standard practice of data democratization is to collect data from all touch points and make it available to each and every user. This is known as data centralization.

From the conversion point of view, data centralization is an exercise in profiling every customer, by collecting data on their preferences and behavior from CRM, point of sale, logistics, customer services incident management, and other systems, integrating all of it in one common data bank. When you enter a particular query about the customer, their data is processed, de-duplicated, and cleaned to give you accurate search results in a simple, transparent and aesthetically pleasing format.

This is how data is crunched, in a cost-effective way in large organizations.

This is the way things have been done up until now.

This is a bad way to democratize data.

Data centralization makes your analytics sluggish and its results are unintuitive. Here’s an analogy: say you are a data scientist or a user, your furniture is your data, and your house is a storage unit. Data centralization means you put all your furniture in one single unit or a room so you have a single point of access. Now imagine finding and pulling something out of such a room.

Data decentralization means letting your data stay where it is, so each unit is able to localize, process, and analyze data in an agile manner. This way, you go directly to the kitchen if you need to access the chopping table, and consequently, get the job done quickly.

Telecom major Vodafone successfully kept their decentralized systems in operation and created a unified view of customer data for their customer service agents, while minimizing data replication by using Denodo’s data virtualization platform. Denodo added a data virtualization layer to legacy systems, liberating data by keeping it where it was, but allowing users to get a complete, updated view of customer data, even though it was scattered across disparate sources.

denodo

Image Source: Denodo

Vodafone was able to reduce average service response time from 6 to 2 minutes. They also found better upselling and cross-selling opportunities, retained more customers, and stretched the usability of existing data infrastructure as a result.

Related Class: Drowning in Data: How to Effectively Leverage Web Analytics

Data Transparency

The last piece of the puzzle is to increase the clarity and comprehensibility of data. When I say “data transparency,” I mean inside and outside the organization. In a bold move, Omniconvert (formerly Marketizator) announced a product revamp strategy that allows marketers and customers to decide on the features and capabilities for what they call “the first democratic CRO software.”

Source: Omniconvert screenshot

Perhaps Omniconvert’s strategy is risky. But it is also rewarding. It allows organizations to build products while maintaining close contact with their communities, ensuring customers get what they want. With this master stroke, Omniconvert has banded experts and users together to create a successful product that has the features and agility of an open source platform while maintaining the reliability and robustness of proprietary software.

Valentin Radu, CEO and founder at Omniconvert is optimistic about the move since “everyone can publicly see the priorities of the features as they are voted for.” The whole voting system is completely transparent, as every planned update with new features is publicly shown on the site. There’s also video streaming of all the kick-off meetings, making the whole process more engaging and open-sourced.

Over to You

These are just a few ways you can liberate data and make it more accessible to users, getting you to your goals faster. How does your organization use data in creative and intelligent ways to increase conversions? Let’s hear your stories in the comments below!

Tracy Vides is a content strategist and researcher who gives small business and entrepreneurs marketing and social media advice. Tracy is also a prolific blogger - her posts are featured on Engadget, She Owns It and Usability Geek. Connect with her on Twitter @TracyVides for a chat anytime!

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Leverage Social & Customer Data for Email RelevancyDrowning in Data: How to Effectively Leverage Web AnalyticsHow to Create a Data-Driven Culture

Visit the Online Marketing Institute  to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here.

 


How to Get More Traffic to Your Blog in the New Year

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For most of us, the new year is motivation to sort out our digital mess, clear the inbox and fix old bugs. I like starting a new year with the feeling of old stuff being sorted. This way I feel better prepared for new projects and challenges in the New Year.

As business owners and marketers, one of the things we tend to put off is sorting out our blogs. We’ve become accustomed to handling small inconveniences and bugs. Many of us can  barely find time to publish new content let alone find the time to research the  countless new plugins available or update old articles.

Well, I hate to break it on you, but getting all that technical staff in order is probably more important than publishing new content. Lack of security opens you up to the risk  of losing all your precious content. . Slow pages and broken links means lost readers and conversions. You need to start thinking about your blog performance now, so you can  start the new year with a better converting, more successful blog. So what to do to first?

Fear not, this checklist will take you through the complicated lists of plugins and tools, so  you can get right down to execution.

Step 1: Fix or remove broken links

One of the most widespread issues with a website of any age is broken links. Broken links present both SEO and usability issues. The more broken links your site has, the less trustworthy it looks both to a user and a web crawler. You may have no control over pages that go down over time (resulting in broken external links) but you are fully responsible for the links that you have on your pages, even older ones.

It's impossible to keep track of broken links and images, even if you have a smaller site. You need a reliable tool to handle this for you.

Netpeak Spider is an ideal solution for larger-scale websites. It's a desktop program, so you won't have compatibility issues with your browser. It’s also fast, and very flexible - you don't have to be an SEO expert to use it. Just run the tool regularly and fix new errors as they are found. Look for errors in red, those are the most important to eliminate.

netspeak

If you have a small blog, make sure to install the awesome Broken Link Checker WordPress plugin. It may slow your site down if you have too many pages, but it works great for blogs with under ~500 articles.

To avoid slow-downs and downtimes, you should disable automatic crawling to make sure it will run a new report on demand.

The plugin saves a ton of time by letting you remove broken links right from its dashboard.

linkchecker

Step 2: Keep an eye on your site security

Did you know that around 37,000 websites are hacked every day? It's no joke! Even with some security measures taken, you still run the risk of getting hacked. Huge sites, with multi-million dollar budgets like Yahoo! and LinkedIn are regularly hacked, and WordPress is not the most secure environment out there.

A proactive measure is submitting your website to  Google's Search Console. They have one of the largest databases of compromised websites, and they almost instantly know once a new site has been hacked. They will send you an email once they notice anything weird with your website so you can take measures on the spot.

Now that we have monitoring in order, make sure you have taken these steps:

  • Always update your WordPress version as soon as possible, and update your plugins as well.
  • Always install well-trusted plugins. Search Google before installing anything and only install from the wordpress.org website.
  • Never keep "admin" as a user. Come up with a different username for the blog administrator and use a powerful password (later versions of WordPress will generate a good one, so just go with it).
  • Use Login LockDown to limit login attempts.
  • Never login to your blog using public WiFi, never give anyone admin access unless you know and trust them, never give anyone permissions to upload anything to your blog (use standard contributor permissions for your site contributors).

Step 3: Make sure you address downtime timely

How often is your site down? According to these stats, even the most popular hosting providers have terrible uptime numbers. Your site may be down without you even realizing. Being offline is one of the worst thing that can happen to a digital entity. It means your website visitors have nowhere to click, no way to get in touch with you, and no way to engage.

Try Monitority to be notified whenever your  site is down. The tool is absolutely free and the moment your site goes down, your email is pinged so you can look into the problem right away. If you have a few sites to manage, give Pingdom a try. It has some cool analytics and monitoring reports you'll find useful. Pingdom also talks to the monitoring dashboard with Cyfe.

cyfe

Step 4. Find better keywords for your old content

Your content can be outstanding, and people may still not be able to find it. That means wasted effort. It's a new year coming, time to make the most of your old content so you’re ready to create new articles.

Try Serpstat to discover good keywords and optimize older articles. Just take a core term from your article, run it in Serpstat and set the competition filter between 0% and 3% to discover relevant phrases that may take you on top of Google's search results page.

results

Step 5. Try and push those search positions higher

There are tons of search queries that your site is already ranking for. You may be unaware of those because they rank below the fold and hence they are not sending too much traffic. However, these are often keywords that have huge potential.

Try Google's Search Console "Search Analytics" feature to show you which search queries are driving traffic to your blog. Make sure to check a box called "Position" (for some reason, it's unchecked by default). This way you'll see your page average position for each search query.

analytics

If the average position of a keyword is 5 or lower but it's driving traffic, this means two things:

  • It will send tons of visits if it's #1 or even #3.
  • It is not that hard to push it higher, without additional effort.

What to do with these keywords:

  • Discover which exact pages are ranking for the term.
  • Use this WordPress plugin to send more internal links to that page.

Usually, this quick exercise results in 2-3 higher positions and therefore better traffic.

Are you ready to take action? Hopefully this checklist will get you started. Happy New Year!

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Visit the Online Marketing Institute  to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here.

 


5 Major Content Marketing Trends You Can Expect in 2017

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Ah, content marketing.

Influenced heavily by Google’s algorithms, content marketing has the undivided interest of entrepreneurs and internet marketers around the globe. Marketers know that using content for SEO is more affordable than traditional advertising, but improvements to search engine algorithms (and rapidly changing consumer demand) means it’s never been more difficult to stay in the limelight.

2017 will usher in a new, dense tangle of requirements for content marketers; but before we take a glimpse at the upcoming challenges, let’s take a moment to review what happened to content marketing in 2016:  

Content Marketing in 2016 Became:

  • Saturated. Statistics show that over 2 million blog posts are published daily, in addition to millions of YouTube videos, GIFs, infographics, and other types of written and visual content. Simply put, the amount of content online is cluttering the digital world.  
  • Focused on “Behind the Scenes” Strategies: The enormous amount of visual and written media released in 2016 made content marketing heavily dependent on “behind the scenes strategies” like promotion and outreach.
  • Ruled by Niches: Marketers today have two options: make your content visible, or allow it to become lost in the jungle. To make their way through the thicket of blogs, videos, and infographics, effective marketers used niche sites to zero in on their target audience.

With this background information in mind, let’s take a look at 5 content marketing trends you can expect in 2017:

1. Visual Content Will Become Crucial

We’ve already seen  the power that Facebook Video and YouTube Live hold. In 2017, this growing demand for visual media will skyrocket. A combination of live and staged videos will be used by brands that are openly embracing the inevitable change from written to visual media.

What to do:

Visual content is arguably one of the most time-consuming types of content creation.  Thanks to improvements in technology, creating branded videos and images isn’t as difficult as it once was.

Without a budget:

Startup companies and small businesses already have the tools they need to begin creating visual content: company cell phones and computers. Through a combination of social apps like Snapchat, and broadcasting sites like the ones listed below, your business can start building a visual content strategy that won’t stretch your budget.

A few (free) sites to consider include:

It's also a good idea to publish visual content on free sites like Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr, which have a primarily visual focus, and massive audiences.

With a budget:

Brands with a small marketing budget should consider pairing the free solutions above with the work of a professional videographer, photographer, or media agency. Professionals like these can help to plan a unique visual content strategy that captures your brand’s unique personality. 

2. Shifting Focus to Data and Retention

Marketing is an industry driven by two factors: results and data. For content marketers, showing how a blog can drive return traffic and therefore sales is difficult - without the right tools, that is.

What to Do: If you’re not already using analytics tools to track your basic content marketing efforts, it’s time to get started. Many agencies use Google Analytics to track basic site data, then expand on that tool with diversified metric tracking tools like:

  • Bitly
  • Linkody
  • Cyfe
  • SEM Rush
  • Hubspot Marketing Automation
  • Ahrefs
  • Kissmetrics
  • CrazyEgg
  • Piwik
  • SimilarWeb
  • Moz OSE

Be sure to learn more about how data analytics can be leveraged to improve the quality of your website, and increase conversions.

3. Mobile Compatibility Will Be Key

These days, it’s rare to see millennials (even baby boomers!) without a cell phone clutched tightly in hand. Google has monitored the shift from computers to mobile phones closely; as a result, it’s rumored that the Goliath of search engines will make mobile users a  key focus in upcoming algorithm changes.

What to Do: If you don’t already have a responsive website, it’s time to invest in one. Content that is easy to read on mobile devices will be critical in 2017. Once a site is set up to support mobile, it’s time to craft content strategies that cater to mobile users. Mixing up content lengths and trying new formatting tricks are just two ways to optimize content for mobile use. A few other ideas include:

Integrating a mobile content strategy with mobile oriented PR and outreach can increase your exposure to audiences who primarily access the Web through mobile devices.

Remember: it’s likely that shorter-form content paired with minimal visual content will become more important as time goes on.

4. Distribution Will Rule

The internet is saturated with content – everything from plagiarized to carefully written articles can be found in just a few keystrokes. Because of the immense clutter, promotion of existing content will matter just as much as the quantity that’s produced.

What to do: Although there are hundreds of ways to promote content, social media and vertical content platforms will be essential in 2017.

Social platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter will become marketing staples as we progress into the new year. To reach very specific audiences, vertical platforms are highly recommended. A few “mainstream” examples of these emerging platforms include:

Industry: Home & Garden

  • Houzz
  • Zillow
  • Better Homes & Gardens

Industry: Pop Culture

  • Pinterest
  • Snapchat
  • Instagram
  • StumbleUpon

Industry: Internet Marketing

  • Moz
  • Hubspot
  • Contently
  • SEMRush

5. Interactive Content Will Be a Hallmark of Content Leaders

In 2017, brands using interactive content (such as quizzes, questionnaires, and worksheets) will become the thought and trend leaders of the content marketing industry. A few brands already engaging in interactive content include Buzzfeed, The Content Marketing Institute, and Kissmetrics.

How to do it: Whether you want to code your own interactive content or use a site that builds them for you (like ThingLink), start producing  interactive content of the kind  listed below.

  • Quizzes / Polls / Surveys
  • Interactive E-books
  • Interactive White Papers
  • Calculators
  • Responsive Images
  • Games
  • Maps
  • Interactive Infographics

Conclusion

By mixing a variety of these interactive assets into your content marketing strategy, you can attract and retain site visitors in your target audience.

To stay competitive in 2017, online marketers will need to stay agile and adapt to emerging content marketing trends. Creating mobile-friendly content and websites will be essential to maintaining a competitive edge: once a site is optimized for mobile, build systems for creating and distributing visual content assets. After reviewing updated data on returning visitors and bounce rates, adjust your strategy to boost retention and conversions.

Angela Higbee is the director of the content marketing agency, Progressive Creativity. She spends most of her time doing business and reading; away from “the desk,” she can be found with family or exploring the Colorado outdoors with her dog.

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: B2B Social Visual Storytelling on Instagram, Pinterest & TumblrLeveraging AnalyticsMobile PR & Content Marketing

Visit the Online Marketing Institute  to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here.

 


Know Thy Customer

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Colorful crowd of shopping people. Happy people holding shopping bags

Retail seems to be taking a beating. For many companies foot traffic – and earnings – are in decline. The health of the US department stores and malls are “wavering between merely unwell to terminally ill,” depending on who you ask. Revenue from e-commerce is steadily increasing but can’t yet fill the gap created by weak in-store sales. (In Q2 of 2016, e-commerce sales accounted for only 7.5% of total retail sales).

The problem is consumers are shopping differently today, with a focus on online shopping and buying ‘experiences’ over ‘stuff.’ Smartphones and fast Wi-Fi / LTE are accelerating the change.

Industries that have been slow to respond are hurting. Department and discount stores like Macy’s and Sears have been forced to close brick-and-mortar stores. Even Wal-Mart decided to close more than 150 stores in 2016, in order to focus on improving their position in e-commerce with its $3.3 billion acquisition of Jet.com.

It’s yet another internet-age saga of change happens, adapt or die and all of that. But it’s true, the status quo keeps failing us lately.

Gary Vaynerchuck recently summed up the times very bluntly but honestly: “If you are running [TV] commercials for a brand that targets consumers 22 and under, you’re a *&^%face.”

It’s hard to know why we systematically resist change, but what we do know about the market today is this — know your customers. Really. Do it.

Do You Know Your Customers And Prospects?

The American retail industry was once facilitated by face-to-face transactions and dominated by predictable consumer shopping patterns. That’s gone. Today, retail is in the hands of the consumer – and the consumer wants one-touch purchasing and free overnight home delivery.

Retailers have reacted to changing consumer behavior in a wide variety of ways, including closing down physical stores, creating made-to-order products, offering in-store pickup, coordinating multi-channel offers, creating differentiated products, conducting brand collaborations and partnerships, and focusing on e-commerce.

All of these strategies are important and should be based in one critical piece of the puzzle—accurate, true customer profiling. Marketers are still relying solely on either old-school fictitious personas from creatives, based on anecdotal evidence. Or they use some data and do predictive modeling, but do it all manually, relying on human power instead of computing power.

Creative development, messaging and customer acquisition (prospecting) are lagging far behind, even as many other aspects of marketing today have become rigorous, highly automated and data-driven.

Cloud-Based Technology

Improving these specific marketing disciplines is certainly the job of predictive marketing—which is essentially the practice of customer profiling and prospect discovery. Yet, predictive marketing is a large hurdle for brands and agencies today.

This is because, when it comes to predicting which consumers will love and buy your brand—and how to best message and reach those prospective consumers—even the most advanced retailers and their agencies still rely on large physical data science teams and predictive methods that are decades old.

“74% of marketers using dynamic content powered by predictive intelligence, rated it as absolutely critical or very important in helping them create cohesive customer journeys.”
— Salesforce Research

Brands and agencies have yet to automate predictive marketing and move it to the cloud.

Fortunately, there’s a marketing platform that does just that.

If retailers commit to building better, data-driven profiles of their customers and the same for finding net-new customers, they’ll improve their ability to draw and retain more valuable customers. By learning to love automation, retailers might be able to – not just keep up with changing consumer behavior – but even get in front of it.

OMI will be launching exciting new Facebook and Content marketing classes in the New Year. Stay tuned. In the meantime, browse over 400 classes in the digital library at OMI. Ready to start learning? Sign up here.

 


How to Maximize Your Blog and Work Smarter, Not Harder

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How to Maximize Your Blog and Work Smarter, Not Harder

How to Maximize Your Blog and Work Smarter, Not Harder

Reduce, reuse, recycle. You’ve heard the mantra, only now it doesn’t just apply to saving the planet. This mantra can also be applied to marketing, specifically digital marketing. Rather than ramping up content creation, it’s time that digital marketing professionals work smarter, not harder.

Here are a few tips to help you maximize the content on your blog and work smarter.

Build Themes into Your Editorial Calendar

An editorial calendar is not merely a holding place for blog topics and content ideas. It’s the ideal place to put down in writing the overall trajectory of your content marketing strategy.

Start by building themes into your editorial calendar. The easiest way to do this is to pick a larger topic for each month and have all the blogs for that particular month address certain aspects of that topic.

For example, an editorial calendar for a corporate recruiting firm may cover resume writing in May, preparing for an interview in June, and negotiating benefits in July. In May, the four blog posts will cover the main things to include in a resume, common resume mistakes, tools for checking grammar in resumes, and unique takes on resumes. Each of those blog posts will roll up to the general topic of resumes for month.

Repurpose Blogs into Downloadable Guides

A successful content marketing strategy does not rely solely on creating blogs. Rather, it incorporates multiple types of content to appeal to a variety of potential clients.

Instead of starting from scratch for each ebook, case study, white paper, or how-to guide you create, look to your blog. You can take content from a blog, especially a popular or well-received blog, and repurpose it into a white paper that can be gated and downloaded from the website. Or if a particular blog discusses what works, use a particular client to demonstrate how those approaches work and create a new client case study.

Turn a Blog into a Visual

Many marketing departments are fully utilizing their awesome designers or design team. Take advantage of their wonderful skills by having them turn a blog or ideas from a few blogs into a visual, like an infographic, tip sheet, or chart. This is one of the easiest ways to repurpose content, mainly because it requires chopping down content to the very basics so that the visuals tell the bulk of the story.

A great opportunity to create a visual content piece is a how-to article. How-to blog posts are the easiest to convert into an infographic or a presentation because a visual can take the place of a 200-word description. For example, if the recruiting firm creates a blog on what to include in a resume, they can work with a designer to turn it into a downloadable visual that a job seeker can reference while drafting his or her own resume (without writing new content!).

Use Analytics to Pick Topics

When topics aren’t resonating with prospects, ditch them. Stop covering topics that prospects and clients don’t care about. Eliminating the topic duds is a great way to streamline your process and focus on what matters to your potential clients.

The only way to know the difference between a dud and a winner when it comes to your blog posts is by reviewing the analytics. If you have Google Analytics installed on your website or blog, take a look at the traffic and track the downloads of your content pieces. We always suggest looking at a couple of months of data to weed out seasonal traffic spurts.

If a particular blog post does well, add more topics to your editorial calendar that address different aspects or takes on that particular topic. Using the recruiting firm again, if they wrote a topic on how to dress for an interview and it got 2x as many views as a topic on how to clean up your social media when job hunting, they should add more topics that discuss dressing the part for an interview.

Not sure where to start with Google Analytics, you're not alone?  Take, Getting started with Google Analytics, to learn to identify your preforming channels, and how to optimize them. 

Promote Your Blog Posts

It’s very rare that a blog post goes viral after sharing it on one social media channel. Don’t produce 20 blog posts hoping to hit on a topic that will have a viral reach. Instead, focus on producing 5 – 10 quality blog posts and spend time promoting them.

First, share them on all your social media channels. If you have multiple blog posts to share, be sure to share each post multiple times (at different times and days of the week). This will enable you to reach a higher portion of your audience and put more eyeballs on your blog posts.

Next, pay to promote your posts. Sponsoring your posts on sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest enables you to reach users that aren’t part of your existing audience. Allocating a portion of your budget to promotion enables you to maximize the value of your blog posts. Even a small budget can have a dramatic impact in helping your post reach a brand new (targeted) audience.

Want to learn more about how to get the best visibility for your blog posts?  Take Getting Your Blog Content Shared On Social Media, for practical tips that work really well to get more of your blog content shared.

In an ideal world, you have the bandwidth to create a ton of blog posts, but in the real world, there just isn’t time. By following the tips here, you can maximize the blog posts you are able to create and increase the ROI of each one.

Want to learn more about any of the topics discussed in this article? Visit the Online Marketing Institute  to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here.

Jeremy Durant About the Author: Jeremy Durant is Business Principal at Bop Design, a B2B web design and digital marketing firm. Jeremy works closely with businesses in need of a website, marketing and branding strategy, helping them to develop their unique value proposition and ideal customer profile. Jeremy received his BA from Merrimack College and his MBA from California State University, San Marcos.

 


The VCR Is Dead, But Video Is Fast Forwarding

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The last remaining VCR manufacturer ended production last month, signaling the end of the Be Kind, Rewind Era.

To be honest, news that VCRs were still on assembly lines past the century mark is shocking, especially with the rise in digital video viewers. Even more remarkable are the advances we are seeing this year with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), underscored by the massive Pokémon Go audience.

It seems pretty clear that our methods of delivering video content have changed drastically. What hasn’t shifted over time is our fascination with video itself.

A Look at Video Today

Adults in the U.S. now consume 99 minutes of digital video each and every day. That’s 38 more minutes than just a year ago.

To date, live streaming video is available on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter – with Instagram and Snapchat releasing their own versions of collected videos from live events. Two million VR headsets will be sold by the end of this year. Though, to be fair, this medium isn’t expected to go mainstream for another six to eight years. In technology, that feels like a lifetime.
Augmented reality, however, soared past virtual reality this year with the introduction of Pokémon Go. This location-based mobile app blends the real world and the fictional world for some insanely impressive video gaming. Some are concluding the gloss is fading, but 9.5 million users can’t be wrong…right?

From live streaming to virtual and augmented reality, I think it’s fair to say we’re not in Kansas anymore.

Where Video is Headed

Digital video natives are leading the way, tapping into cord cutter audiences that abandoned cable television for online and streaming programs.

Tastemade, the fifth-largest video publisher on Facebook and born from a tiny YouTube channel, now amasses triple the number of viewers as The Food Network. Apple announced recently it’s working on augmented reality behind the curtain, calling it a “core technology.” Amazon is working on original VR and AR content, because of course they are.

The VCR has left the building, but I predict we are only at the beginning of the future.

New video technologies are gaining traction, reshaping not only how we watch videos but also how we become a part of them.

This article was originally posted on the Reach Analytics blog.

 


How to Increase Your Content Visibility in Google Knowledge Graph

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How-to-Increase-Your-Content-Visibility-in-Google-Knowledge-Graph

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Varun Sharma is a digital marketing expert and a director of the fastest-growing digital agency in India, KVR WebTech. You can also subscribe to Varun's personal blog at varun-sharma.info.

As a digital marketing expert, I inevitably find myself struggling to keep up with the happenings around the world. I’m always keen to grab more and more knowledge from everything I come across, but it can be difficult.

I wonder about the enormity of the human mind. From the day we are born till the moment we die, our brain collects, loads, and stores everything. This immense knowledge aids us in dealing with our routine.

What’s even more exciting about our minds is that we can think of one thing, and thousands of other relevant thoughts will pop in our heads. It’s amazing how our mind is reshaped by the information it grabs every minute.
thoughts-process-answers-processThe way our mind acquires, operates, and responds reminds me of the Google Knowledge Graph.

Google Knowledge Graph is the largest warehouse of knowledge in digital history—and it’s doing it with your help.2 (highlight to tweet) This revolutionary system has changed the definition of the online search process.

What Is Google Knowledge Graph?

Google launched a new system in 2012 to improve its search process, Google Knowledge Graph, aiming to provide an enormous amount of information in an organized way and make it accessible universally.

In a nutshell, Google knowledge graph is a systematic way of organizing facts, people, and places to improve the relevancy of search outcomes. With this approach, users now get quick access to surplus information and the option of exploring related subjects within that search.

At the launch of the Knowledge Graph, Google Product management Director Johanna Wright said, “We’re in the early phases of moving from being an information engine to becoming a knowledge engine, and these enhancements are one step in that direction.”

Google Knowledge Graph does this by organizing information into “Entities” and the “Relationships” between them.

How the Knowledge Graph Works

When you look up a person on Google, say “Barack Obama,” Google will refer to its data bank (the Knowledge Graph) and will display everything about Obama. Google’s Knowledge Graph is its own pool of data, where all the information is collected from authoritative sites. The search results are presented based on a user’s search patterns.

This is similar to how our mind functions. When we think of a person in our life, say our best friends, our mind immediately presents a picture carousel before us comprised of their names, faces, families, good and bad moments we shared together, etc.

Here, the data we look for is known as “Entities.” Knowledge Graph revolves around these entities and their “Relationship” with one another and utilizes them to organize relevant data for presenting in the search result. These entities real-world things, including individuals, places, organizations, works of art, movies, and so on.

Google no longer takes a search query as a string of keywords, but rather as distinct entities.

Below is a simple Entity Relationship Diagram:

entity-relationship-diagram
While “Barack Obama,” “Oval Office,” “USA,” and “President” are entities here, they are related to each other through relationships: “Work In,” “Located In,” “Lives In,” and “Designation.”

If you want to know the different entities on your web page, read this comprehensive post from Barbara Starr.

The Significance of Google’s Knowledge Graph

There are several English words with multiple meanings. Interpreting such words depends on their context. Till now, Google ignored the actual context used in phrases. With the launch of Knowledge graph, Google has greatly improved its semantic search; it can actually understand the meaning of a given word and its relationship with the entities.

Gone are the days when the Google search process was based on keyword match. The Knowledge Graph works just like our mind and is easily able to distinguish between the various search queries and their meanings. With the Knowledge Graph, Google has now become more flexible. It is now capable of understanding the objective of a particular search query and answering successfully by refining the search result.

5 Types of Knowledge in the Knowledge Graph

Google divides the Knowledge Graph into five main types.
Google-knowledge-graph-types

The Google Knowledge Graph is smart, and you’ll need to get smart as well to utilize it in the most efficient way. You’ll need to cultivate a better understanding of how users can get things they’re looking for in the search. Here are six tips for increasing your visibility in Google Knowledge Graph.

1. Build Your Brand Presence in Wikipedia

Knowledge Graph collects information from authoritative sources in order to ensure data reliability and accuracy. And what could be more promising than Wikipedia?

Having your brand on Wikipedia hooks your online presence up to a high-value online encyclopedia. Wikipedia is an influential data source, open for all, but it does follow strict guidelines on what information it accepts. To get listed your page on Wikipedia, follow these tips:

  • Get mentioned in third party sources like newspapers and magazines.
  • It’s important to have multiple users contribute to the page.
  • Collect and include references to other reliable sources
  • Get referenced in other Wiki pages. This helps to bolster your notability.
  • Encourage an active discussion page.

If you can create a Wikipedia page for your brand successfully, you’ve got a higher chance of increasing your content visibility in GKG.

2. Register Your Brand in Public Data Centers

Besides Wikipedia, Google also refers to sources like Wikidata.org to retrieve relevant information about entities. Wikidata.org acts as a secondary repository for Wikipedia and Wikisource that records statements and their sources, which in turn helps in reflecting the diversity of information available and ensuring that it is verified.

Similarly, the CIA World Factbook is a reference resource that offers detailed information about the demographics, geography, government, communication, economy, and military of the 267 international entities around the world.

Registering your brand on these data centers ensures Google will collect verified information about your business.

3. Organize Your Content by Schema Markup

Schema markup is a set of predefined code that defines elements of your webpage and support search engines to return the best search results to users for a given query. Schema helps search algorithms understand your page content and provide additional information about the entities in an organized way. This is what the GKG demands.

If you really want to increase the visibility of your content in the GKG, put effort into defining important things on your website. Structured data can be used to mark up all kinds of items, including products, places, organizations, individual, events, and even recipes
implement-google-knowledge-graphYou'll Also Like

4. Make Your Social Media Profiles Optimized

Your social media presence serves as evidence that your business is an online entity. When you stay updated on your social profiles with regular posts and reviews, it informs Google that you’re actually using your page. Moreover, Google Knowledge Graph displays information about your social media profiles when displaying information about your business in the search result.

Also, make sure to have a Google+ page for your business. Out of all the social media channels, Google+ has the most impact on Google Knowledge Graph. In order to create your knowledge graph, Google will use the information obtained from your Google+ profile much more extensively. In addition, use Google+ author relation tag to make your recent posts and other valuable information visible.

5. Get More Mentions

A mention from the right blogger can trigger a cascade of great press for your business. Getting more mentions on the web helps you increase your brand awareness and credibility, which ultimately gets you more traffic. The more you get mentions, the more chances your business has to be recognized by Google Knowledge Graph. Sharing great content with consistency and regular tweeting are just some of the ways you can get more mentions on the business.

6. Optimize Your Google Local Business Page

According to Google, over 73% of online activities are associated with the local search. In order to learn and evaluate the companies in their area, customers often turn to local search. By appearing in the Google Knowledge Graph, you can keep your business at the top of the local search results and can get the maximum traffic.

Make sure that your Google Local business page has a 100% score, with all the information filled in completely. This means in addition to filling in the required text fields, you should fill in the optional ones as well. Your page should also contain product or service keywords in the description, customer reviews, and your contact details. This will help Google get complete and viable information about your business.

While it’s your job to provide as much information possible about your business, your place in the Knowledge Graph also depends on the Google’s ability to synthesize the information it receives over the web. Still, when it comes to user search queries, Google Knowledge Graph can have a huge impact on your content visibility.

Google Knowledge Graph is not about quick wins and tricks—it’s about high-level reliable marketing efforts. The basic aim of Google Knowledge Graph is to give useful information to the readers and allow them to make the best decision.

This article was originally published by ConvenienceandConvert.com

 


Over 90% of Companies Lack Digital Skills – And What You Can Do About It

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Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 1.26.02 PM

What is the digital talent gap?

According to a study done by Capgemini Consulting in conjunction with MIT Center for Digital Business, they uncovered some staggering stats that will help us understand the phenomenon.

  • Over 90% of companies lack digital skills
  • 77% of companies considered ‘missing digital skills’ as a key hurdle to digital transformation
  • 87% of companies believe a digital transformation is a competitive opportunity
  • Only 47% of companies are investing in developing digital skills
  • Only 4% of companies are ensuring their training efforts are aligned with their overall digital strategy
  • Companies are spending no more than 20% of their training budget on digital
  • Only 30% of organizations mentioned HR as being actively involved in skills development

Companies across the globe felt the biggest holes in digital skill sets across their organization in the following areas: social media, mobile, internal social networks, process automation and analysis.

According to the same 2013 study, the below skills are most relevant for the digital age:

  • Big data analytics
  • Social media
  • Mobile devices
  • Cloud

To get a bit more granular, skills in this area range from light tech to heavy tech-centric skills. Light tech skills in the digital age include things like social media management, brand building online, online community management, virtual (webinar, presentation, etc.) facilitation, writing for different digital mediums, marketing automation tools management, customer service and public relations. Heavy tech skills in the digital age include things like user interface design, mobile device management, mobile device security, data analysis, app management and design, and much more.

The second half of the puzzle lies in corporations needs to match tech skills with business acumen. The true value of digital skills are born when they are combined with a deep understanding of the business. This is leading to an increased need for employees who have both technical skills plus business and leadership abilities.

So - what can companies do to ‘plug the skills gap?’

Let’s first take a look at what some companies are currently doing. Google partnered with P&G to implement an employee exchange program to help teach their employees how to sell things online. They focused on digital and search marketing to help bring their e-commerce into the 21st century. Nike partnered with Techstars in an incubator program to create new products.

Upskilling employees is an ideal way to empower those who already know your business, with the digital skills needed to close the gap in your organization.

And, this upskilling does not need to be ‘Google-sized.’ Small and medium sized business have options. There are ways to invest in current employees that don’t require you to be P&G or Nike.

Organizations, like ours - offer affordable options for digital and online training for companies of all sizes. We’ve been training teams since 2007 and have supported corporate teams as large as 10,000 employees, and as small as 10. We offer fully customized eLearning programs with the added benefit of leveraging over 400 + hours of existing high quality content taught by Digital Marketing thought leaders, authors, and leading practitioners.

We begin with an assessment to test employee’s digital knowledge to help us build a program to fill your skills gap and augment your employee strengths. We’ll then help design a custom based learning pathway comprised of classes that fit your organization's’ particular skill(s) gap. We also offer LMS integration, marketing support, reporting dashboards, and robust user role access to support any size organization.

We’d love to help you empower your team. Visit our Corporate Training Page or send us an inquiry.

 

 


Why You Should Use A/B Testing to Refine Your Online Marketing

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For those of us who work in marketing, we know the value of a hunch. That gut-feeling. We use it a lot to brainstorm new campaigns, solve problems, and direct our social media posts. There’s merit to the gut-feeling technique, it’s true. But there’s a downside too – your hunch might not always be right. In reality, it may always be wrong. That’s where A/B testing comes in.

What is A/B Testing?

A/B testing is a way to compare two versions of something (an email, a landing page, an ad, etc.), so that you can use analytics to determine which version is most successful. A/B testing isn’t unique to online marketing, but it is particularly helpful in this field, and in eCommerce especially. Here’s why.

When you’re putting together a website or ad campaign, there are many subtle changes and tweaks to make along the way. You choose what color to make the “Add to Cart” button. You opt for one image over another for your PPC ads. You change the copy on your landing page slightly. These choices might seem minor, but studies have shown again and again that customer behavior is majorly affected by them.

How Can A/B Testing Help?

A/B testing is actually ideal for trying out these kinds of changes. It’s a test for refining your online marketing, not completely overhauling it. Any eCommerce whiz can tell you that even small changes to the sales funnel can make big waves on the other end. Do you want to make those changes based on your hunch of what color looks best? Or your personal opinion on which text flows better? Or would you rather test out both options so you know for a fact that you’ve optimized in every way you can?

The real problem with relying on your gut is that it’s yours. Other people react differently to colors, words, images, even fonts. Your feeling about a certain choice might not be the majority’s reaction to it, and that’s who you should be trying to please! Even minute changes can be the difference between a considerable sale and an abandoned shopping cart, and I know which you’d prefer.

Email Marketing: A/B Testing in Action

Let’s look at an example of how A/B testing can help your email marketing strategy.

For many of us, our email marketing follows a standard schedule: weekly mailers with sales/offers, monthly newsletters, follow-up emails to encourage returning customers, etc. This probably means you’re pretty set in your ways – do your emails always go out at 11 a.m. on a Monday? Do they always have roughly the same subject line? Is the format the same?

You could be missing out on a chance to maximize the sales benefit for each email you send – but you’ll never know unless you use A/B testing to try out some changes and analyze the results.

Landing page test

First, you’ll need to decide which metrics matter the most to you for determining ‘success.’ You might want to track whatever constitutes a conversion for your business, whether it’s a sale or just downloading a free white paper. Click through rates are another good measure of your recipients’ interest, or you could track how many use a discount code included in the email. If you’re trying out different subject lines or timing, your open rate might be all you need to see results. Related Class: Metrics-Driven Demand Gen in a Multichannel World

The next step is splitting your mailing list into two groups – let’s call them A and B, for obvious reasons. If you’d like to compare two new ideas, you could send new, different versions to both groups. Or if you’re just looking to see how your current newsletters stack up against a slightly updated version, you could keep group A as your control group, and send group B the new email.

The key when making changes is to keep it minimal. Choose ONE aspect to change. This is important because at the end of the day, you’re looking for actionable results that can guide you going forward. If you change half the email, you won’t be able to put your finger on the one thing that really matters for increasing sales, conversions, CTR, etc.

A few easy things to test: if you usually email at 4 p.m., try 10 a.m. instead. If you usually use a standard greeting in the subject line, try something more discount/offer oriented. If you usually include a voucher code for a percentage off, try a buy-on-get-one voucher code instead. If you usually offer 15% off for returning customers, try 20% off instead.

Google Analytics Measurement for AdWords

The last step is sitting down with a big cup of coffee and all your analytics. Did the changes improve your key metrics? Or make them worse? Did offering a deeper discount pay off overall, or did you shrink your profit for nothing? Read over your results, compare outcomes, and then form steps or recommendations based on your data. It shouldn’t be surprising that continuing your A/B testing over a longer period will help you get more accurate data, less likely to be affected by random highs or lows on a certain day.

Goodbye to the Marketing Hunch

Overall, the clear lesson here is that if you’re not A/B testing changes to your website, sales funnel, or marketing techniques, you’re just relying on your own feedback to make decisions. Gather more feedback through testing, and it’s like a free focus group for your online marketing efforts! If you don’t have the time or personnel to manage A/B testing yourself in-house, there are many tools and services that will do the dirty work for you, for a fee.

Want to learn more about A/B testing for website design changes? See it in action and play along in this class, “10 A/B Test Studies.

 

 


How A/B Testing Strategies Can Help You Make Better Decisions

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A Q&A with Chris Goward, Author of "You Should Test That!"

This week, we are sitting down with Chris Goward, the author of "You Should Test That!", a book that teaches the processes, frameworks and techniques of scientific marketing to make better decisions and achieve industry-leading results. Featuring case studies of real tests plus many more examples of how companies are succeeding and failing in their websites and their marketing, we're eager to learn more.

What’s the premise behind your book, “You Should Test That!” ?

Too many businesses still use antiquated methods for decision-making with their marketing. They seek out so-called “best practices”, copy competitors tactics, and redesign their websites without A/B testing, to name just a few examples. I wanted to write a book that would provide a dose of inspiration in the new scientific marketing discipline as well as practical processes and frameworks marketers can apply directly to their marketing strategy. It really does contain detail on a lot of the methods WiderFunnel uses to consistently achieve winning results for our clients.

You’ve become a regular speaker at the top online marketing conferences. How did you get into conversion optimization?

I’ve always questioned current ways of doing things. In the early to mid 2000’s, I wondered why marketers accepted the status quo where ad agencies used their clients’ budgets to create self-serving campaigns aimed solely at winning awards for cleverness. I couldn’t understand why digital agencies were creating websites that ignored direct response principles and really couldn’t be more than poor copies of the old TV world.

I left the agency world in 2007 to create WiderFunnel based on the belief that agencies should prove their value. Since then, we’ve been running thousands of A/B tests on hundreds of websites across all industries to discover consistent persuasion and user experience principles that maximize companies’ online profits.

Related Class: Integrating SEM, Testing, and Analytics for Improved ROI

What are the biggest mistakes you see marketers making today?

There are so many!

  • Implementing the latest “tips & tricks” they see on blog posts. I’ve already said many times why tactical marketing tips and “best practices” don’t work. The problem is that they ignore your unique business context.
  • Consensus decision-making.
  • Getting stuck behind organizational barriers. I’ve seen turf battles, silos and competing priorities hamstring some very promising potential A/B tests.
  • Acting on usability testing or other qualitative methods to make website changes without testing those insights. I’ve covered before, the many reasons that usability testing alone is not reliable.
  • Testing too conservatively.
  • Not prioritizing effort correctly and wasting time optimizing inconsequential areas.
  • Using “before & after” testing rather than correct controlled test methods.
  • Drawing conclusions from inconclusive data. Often, it’s difficult for the conversion champion to hold off the pressure to make decisions without enough data.
  • Taking advice from “experts” who don’t do a ton of testing. If their primary business isn’t testing, testing and more testing, where is their advice coming from? You might be surprised at how little testing some of the industry’s pre-eminent figures actually do.
  • Over-emphasizing optimization tool selection before developing a strategy and process for optimization. Tools don’t solve marketing problems. Smart marketers with great strategy and ideas do.

What are the biggest challenges businesses face in adopting marketing optimization as a strategy?

I’ve been running an ongoing poll of marketers asking a similar question since 2012.

Interestingly, in 2012, most respondents said they faced resistance within their organization for conducting testing. This year, that’s the least likely challenge. Companies now know conversion optimization needs to be prioritized and there’s senior-level support for the strategy.

The biggest challenges marketers face in 2014 are in getting great results from their program. They either don’t have staff with deep testing experience, don’t have a reliable process, or face technical barriers. So, it’s good to see the market evolving to having support for the strategy. Now, the challenges are more about how to get consistent results.

eConsultancy did their own survey of companies doing conversion optimization and found that those who reported having a “structured approach” to their program were twice as likely to see large increases in sales. The disciplined, rigorous process alone determines a great deal of the success.

Related Class: eCommerce Testing to Dramatically Lift Sales 

What are your favorite website elements to test?

Really, I like any testing any area that gets results. And, that can be different for every website depending on where the conversion barriers are. Every website design, structure and target audience is slightly different. Some companies are adopting WiderFunnel’s PIE Framework for prioritizing tests to answer this question based on their unique context.

That being said, however, we’re having a lot of success this year adding the “Evolutionary Site Redesign” strategy to conversion optimization for our clients.

It’s a strategy any (and I believe every) company should use. Essentially, it means we’re testing the site-wide website templates in a methodical way. It results in a redesigned website without the risks of traditional “flip the switch” epic redesign. Using A/B testing of the overall design elements, companies are finding sometimes huge revenue improvements from improved navigation, information architecture, design credibility, merchandising, etc. and the resulting design changes can be just as dramatic.

In this class, 10 A/B Test Studies, you’ll encounter 10 such tests and can guess which page won. The answers will surprise you and the knowledge you’ll gain about how to conduct these tests and what makes some pages better than others will make you a more effective marketer.