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Majority of SMBs doing SEO are in-housing

Nearly 80 percent expressed confidence about knowledge of best practices.



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Already doing SEO? Add these two things to optimize for voice search

Not sure how to optimize your webpages for voice search? Contributor Bryson Meunier lists 12 ‘how-to’ tactics and suggests two of them are the real workhorses in driving traffic to your site.

The post Already doing SEO? Add these two things to optimize for voice search appeared first on Search…



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How Local SEO Fits In With What You’re Already Doing

Posted by MiriamEllis

islandfinal.jpg

You own, work for, or market a business, but you don’t think of yourself as a Local SEO.

That’s okay. The forces of history have, in fact, conspired in some weird ways to make local search seem like an island unto itself. Out there, beyond the horizon, there may be technicians puzzling out NAP, citations, owner responses, duplicate listings, store locator widgets and the like, but it doesn’t seem like they’re talking about your job at all.

And that’s the problem.

If I could offer you a seat in my kayak, I’d paddle us over to that misty isle, and we’d go ashore. After we’d walked around a bit, talking to the locals, it would hit you that the language barrier you’d once perceived is a mere illusion, as is the distance between you.

By sunset — whoa! Look around again. This is no island. You and the Local SEOs are all mainlanders, reaching towards identical goals of customer acquisition, service, and retention via an exceedingly enriched and enriching skill set. You can use it all.

Before I paddle off into the darkness, under the rising stars, I’d like to leave you a chart that plots out how Local SEO fits in with everything you’ve been doing all along.

The roots of the divide

Why is Local SEO often treated as separate from the rest of marketing? We can narrow this down to three contributing factors:

1) Early separation of the local and organic algos

Google’s early-days local product was governed by an algorithm that was much more distinct from their organic algorithm than it is today. It was once extremely common, for example, for businesses without websites to rank well locally. This didn’t do much to form clear bridges between the offline, organic, and local marketing worlds. But, then came Google’s Pigeon Update in 2013, which signaled Google’s stated intention of deeply tying the two algorithms together.

This should ultimately impact the way industry publications, SaaS companies, and agencies present local as an extension of organic SEO, but we’re not quite there yet. I continue to encounter examples of large companies which are doing an amazing job with their website strategies, their e-commerce solutions and their paid outreach, but which are only now taking their first steps into local listings management for their hundreds of physical locations. It’s not that they’re late to the party — it’s just that they’ve only recently begun to realize what a large party their customers are having with their brands’ location data layers on the web.

2) Inheriting the paid vs. organic dichotomy

Local SEO has experienced the same lack-of-adoption/awareness as organic SEO. Agencies have long fought the uphill battle against a lopsided dependence on paid advertising. This phenomenon is highlighted by historic stats like these showing brands investing some $ 10 million in PPC vs. $ 1 million in SEO, despite studies like this one which show PPC earning less than 10% of clicks in search.

My take on this is that the transition from traditional offline paid advertising to its online analog was initially easier for many brands to get their heads around. And there have been ongoing challenges in proving direct ROI from SEO in the simple terms a PPC campaign can provide. To this day, we’re still all seeing statistics like only 17% of small businesses investing in SEO. In many ways, the SEO conundrum has simply been inherited by every Local SEO.

3) A lot to take in and on

Look at the service menu of any full-service digital marketing agency and you’ll see just how far it’s had to stretch over the past couple of decades to encompass an ever-expanding range of publicity opportunities:

  • Technical website audits
  • On-site optimization
  • Linkbuilding
  • Keyword research
  • Content dev and promotion
  • Brand building
  • Social media marketing
  • PPC management
  • UX audits
  • Conversion optimization
  • Etc.

Is it any wonder that agencies feel spread a bit too thin when considering how to support yet further needs and disciplines? How do you find the bandwidth, and the experts, to be able to offer:

  • Ongoing citation management
  • Local on-site SEO
  • Local landing page dev
  • Store locator SEO
  • Review management
  • Local brand building
  • Local link building
  • And abstruse forms of local Schema implementation…

And while many agencies have met the challenge by forming smart, strategic partnerships with providers specializing in Local SEO solutions, the agency is still then tasked with understanding how Local fits in with everything else they’re doing, and then explaining this to clients. At the multi-location and enterprise level, even amongst the best-known brands, high-level staffers may have no idea what it is the folks in the in-house Local SEO department are actually doing, or why their work matters.

To tie it all together … that’s what we need to do here. With a shared vision of how all practitioners are working on consumer-centric outreach, we can really get somewhere. Let’s plot this out, together:

Sharing is caring

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”
- Jeff Bezos, Amazon

Let’s imagine a sporting goods brand, established in 1979, that’s grown to 400 locations across the US while also becoming well-known for its e-commerce presence. Whether aspects of marketing are being outsourced or it’s all in-house, here is how 3 shared consumer-centric goals unify all parties.

sharedgoalsfinal.jpg

As we can see from the above chart, there is definitely an overlap of techniques, particularly between SEOs and Local SEOs. Yet overall, it’s not the language or tactics, but the end game and end goals that unify all parties. Viewed properly, consumers are what make all marketing a true team effort.

Before I buy that kayak…

On my commute, I hear a radio ad promoting a holiday sale at some sporting goods store, but which brand was it?

Then I turn to the Internet to research kayak brands, and I find your website’s nicely researched, written, and optimized article comparing the best models in 2017. It’s ranking #2 organically. Those Sun Dolphins look pretty good, according to your massive comparison chart.

I think about it for a couple of days and go looking again, and I see your Adwords spot advertising your 30% off sale. This is the third time I’ve encountered your brand.

On my day off, I’m doing a local search for your brand, which has impressed me so far. I’m ready to look at these kayaks in person. Thanks to the fact that you properly managed your recent move across town by updating all of your major citations, I’m finding an accurate address on your Google My Business listing. Your reviews are mighty favorable, too. They keep mentioning how knowledgeable the staff is at your location nearest me.

And that turns out to be true. At first, I’m disappointed that I don’t see any Sun Dolphins on your shelves — your website comparison chart spoke well of them. As a sales associate approaches me, I notice in-store signage above his head, featuring a text/phone hotline for complaints. I don’t really have a complaint… not yet… but it’s good to know you care.

“I’m so sorry. We just sold out of Sun Dolphins this morning. But we can have one delivered to you within 3 days. We have in-store pickup, too,” the salesperson says. “Or, maybe you’d be interested in another model with comparable features. Let me show you.”

Turns out, your staffer isn’t just helpful — his training has made him so well-versed in your product line that he’s able to match my needs to a perfect kayak for me. I end up buying an Intex on the spot.

The cashier double-checks with me that I’ve found everything satisfactory and lets me know your brand takes feedback very seriously. She says my review would be valued, and my receipt invites me to read your reviews on Google, Yelp, and Facebook… and offers a special deal for signing up for your email newsletter.

My subsequent 5-star review signals to all departments of your company that a company-wide goal was met. Over the next year, my glowing review also influences 20 of my local neighbors to choose you over a competitor.

After my first wet, cold, and exciting kayaking trip, I realize I need to invest in a better waterproof jacket for next time. Your email newsletter hits my inbox at just the right time, announcing your Fourth of July sale. I’m about to become a repeat customer… worth up to 10x the value of my first purchase.

“No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.”
- Reid Hoffman, Co-Founder of LinkedIn

There’s a kind of magic in this adventurous mix of marketing wins. Subtract anything from the picture, and you may miss out on the customer. It’s been said that great teams beat with a single heart. The secret lies in seeing every marketing discipline and practitioner as part of your team, doing what your brand has been doing all along: working with dedication to acquire, serve and retain consumers. Whether achievement comes via citation management, conversion optimization, or a write-up in the New York Times, the end goal is identical.

It’s also long been said that the race is to the swift. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch appears to agree, stating that, in today’s world, it’s not big that beats small — it’s fast that beats slow. How quickly your brand is able to integrate all forms of on-and-offline marketing into its core strategy, leaving no team as an island, may well be what writes your future.

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3 Ways to Get What You Want by Doing Your Homework

"I can't tell you how many cold sales emails I get from people who demonstrate they have no idea what my company does." – Sonia Simone

Polly Professional has a lot going on today. She has a blog post due, a podcast script to write, an employee review to conduct, two client meetings, and she’s meeting her cousin Penny for dinner.

And then it comes. Ding.

An email from Steve Stranger.

Maybe he’s a sales pro trying to set up a “quick meeting to discuss his company’s solutions,” but it’s clear he has no idea what her company does or what Polly’s role is. Or maybe he needs a job, and he figures that being her second-cousin’s college roommate has got to qualify him for something. Or he wants to write for her company’s blog, even though he doesn’t understand the audience or the topic.

Worst of all: Maybe he wants to pick her brain.

Polly grits her teeth and counts to 10, then deletes the message. She considers marking it as spam, but she’s feeling kind-hearted today.

But she is never, ever going to answer Steve’s email.

Why? Because Steve failed to respect her time. He didn’t do his homework.

When you approach someone without doing your homework, you send a clear message: You think your time is more valuable than theirs.

It’s annoying for Polly — but it’s murder on poor Steve. Let’s face it … sometimes we need to ask folks for stuff. There’s nothing wrong with that. Helping one another out is an important part of business.

Steve could have spent a few minutes preparing for that request — and Polly would have been a lot more likely to consider it. Here’s how to do your homework, so you don’t end up like Steve.

#1: Know their work

I can’t tell you how many cold sales emails I get from people who demonstrate that they have no idea — at all — what my company does.

Unlike kind Polly, I often do mark them as spam.

When you’re approaching a person or an organization, take the time to understand their work.

If they have a blog … read it. Not just a week’s worth of posts — really look at it. Have they identified their most popular posts? Read those. Yes, all of them.

Look over their website, their podcast, their YouTube videos, their white papers — any content they’re putting out. If it’s an individual, take a look at what they post on LinkedIn or the other social platforms.

What recurring themes do they address? If their content tells stories … what’s the moral? What do they see as their unique winning difference? What kind of language do they use to talk about that?

What do they do? How does that make money? Who are their customers? How do they serve those customers?

“You can observe a lot by just watching.” – Yogi Berra

And that brings us to the second point …

#2: Know their audience

Taking some time to look through a company’s website and content is pretty common-sense, even if people often don’t do it.

But smart networkers know that it’s just the beginning.

Whether you’re trying to reach a person or an organization, take a look at who their audience is. These are readers if you’re approaching a blogger, viewers if you want to connect with a popular YouTuber, and customers if you’re approaching a business.

Influence comes from an audience. The audience is the battery of the system.

This used to be somewhat hard to do, but social media has made it much simpler.

Do they have blog comments? Read them.

Do they have a Facebook or LinkedIn presence? Tune in to the audience conversations there, not just what the influencer is saying.

And when I say “tune in,” realize I’m talking more about listening than I am about weighing in.

You can socialize later — it’s often a good idea. But first, understand who you’re socializing with.

You’re looking for what’s energizing this audience. What do they complain about? What are they worried about? What do they struggle with? What problem do they turn to this influencer or company to solve? How’s that going?

If you understand the audience, you understand the influencer. If you understand the customers, you understand the company.

#3: Play along

You won’t always have this option available to you, but if you do, take it.

What’s your influencer or organization spending a lot of time thinking about these days?

Do they have a new product launching or a big promotion running? Do they have a book out? Maybe there’s a challenge or a community event going on. Maybe they have a charity they’re doing a lot of work with.

If you can connect what you have to offer with something they care about, it’s a lot easier for them to hear what you have to say.

Please stick with what you can readily find that’s been publicly posted online, though. Homework is good … stalking is not.

Do your homework and stand out

If all of this seems like it would take a lot of time … it probably takes about as much time to approach five people intelligently as it does to approach 100 like a monkey throwing paintballs.

Those five people will be far more likely to actually stop and listen to you, because you’ve respected their time (and your own) with relevant, pertinent communication.

And you’ll stand out … because most of what’s in our inboxes is paintball after paintball.

How about you … any tips you’ve found useful on doing your homework? Let us know about them in the comments …

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Helpful Tips for Doing Search in a Low-Volume Niche

Posted by Jeremy_Gottlieb

SEO — you know, that thing you do whereby everyone and their mother will find your site on the web. Easy, right? “Can you SEO this page for me?” or “We’re about to launch a webinar. Can you SEO-ify it, please?” I’m sure most of you reading this can probably relate to these types of questions and the ensuing pressure from bosses or clients. If you’re lucky, you work in a realm where there’s plenty of search volume to chase, featured snippets to occupy, and answer boxes to solve. But what about those who work in the low-search volume niches typically seen in B2B, or with companies pioneering a new product or service that no one really knows about yet (so they obviously can’t be searching for it)?

This blog post is for you, the digital marketer who toils and struggles to drive search visibility where there hardly is any. Let’s get to work.

Search, as I’ll refer to it here, includes both paid and organic. Neither of these may ultimately be the best channel for your organization, but after reading this post, hopefully you’ll be able to verify whether your search channels are humming along and working harmoniously, while leaving other sources of user acquisition to bear the brunt of the load. Three topics I will cover in this post are SEO, paid search, and CRO, but please keep in mind: these are not the only possible digital marketing actions that can be done for an organization in a low-search volume niche. This is just a glimpse into what may be possible, and hopefully it can spark inspiration for you or your client in ways you’d either forgotten about or hadn’t thought of. Whether you’re just starting out in digital marketing or you’ve been around for a while, I hope this will be able to provide some direction.

1. SEO

Sometimes I think of SEO as a skyscraper, though this may just be because I’m surrounded by them in Distilled’s New York City office (come join us!). In order to reach greater heights via SEO, you need to make sure the foundation of your building is in order. And what I mean by “foundation” is the technical structure of your site. Things that you’d want to check will include:

  • Is the link profile clean?
  • Does the site have strong internal linking?
    • Do pages get created and then fall into a black hole?
  • Can search engines crawl the site?
    • Are there noindex, robots.txt, canonical, or other tags that hide desired content from being ranked?
  • Has the site been hacked?
  • Are there descriptive and unique title tags and meta descriptions?
  • Is tracking set up properly (i.e. Google Analytics)?
  • Does the site appear trustworthy and authoritative?

Targeting transactional queries

Once the foundation is in order, it’s time to begin the keyword research. Establish which queries are most vital to the organization, how much search volume they have, and which ones are most likely to yield conversions, whatever that means to the organization. With your foundation in order, you can take the most important queries and try to match them to existing pages on the site, such as the homepage and key product/services pages. It may turn out that the queries an organization should be targeting don’t have pages available yet. That’s okay — you’ll just need to create them. I generally recommend that shorter-tail queries (two or three words) be targeted by primarily by product or service pages, with longer queries either handled by those very pages or by a Q&A section and/or a blog. This is just one way to handle a hierarchy and avoids a cluttered navigation with hundreds of long-tail queries and content, though it is by no means a rule.

Targeting higher-funnel queries

Once the key queries have been locked down and the content plan created, we can move on to more informational queries. It’s very likely that these more higher-part-of-the-funnel queries will require content that’s less sales-y and will be more informational, making desired conversions (like consultation signups) less likely from this crowd, at least on the first interaction. You’ll need to build strong content that answers the users’ queries and establishes the organization as thought leaders and experts at all levels of a particular niche.

Let’s say, for example, we’re responsible for driving traffic for an organization that allows people to invest in solar energy. Lots of people buy stocks and bonds and real estate, but how many invest in solar energy or power purchase agreements? Transactional-type queries, those most likely to provide us with customers, don’t get searched all that much.

Now, let’s take a look at some longer-tail queries that are tangentially related to our main offering:

These queries clearly have more search volume, but appear to be more informational. “CSR” (in the above example) most often means “corporate social responsibility,” a term frequently aligned with impact investing, where investments not only are expected to produce financial returns, but have a positive social effect as well. From these queries we’d be able to help provide proof to users and search engines that the organization is indeed an expert in the particular realm of solar energy and investing. Our desired audience may come to us with different initial intents, but we can begin to funnel people down the path towards eventually becoming clients.

As will be discussed further in this post, the point here is to drive traffic organically, even if that very traffic is unlikely to convert. With optimizations to the content, we’ll be able to solicit emails and try to drive visitors further into the funnel, but first we just need to make sure that we’re enhancing our visibility and driving more unpaid traffic.

Key tips:

  • Target transactional queries with pages optimized for the ideal conversion
  • Target informational queries and modify pages to push the user deeper into the funnel towards more transactional pages
    • If a blog is perceived as a waste of resources and useless traffic, it’s probably not being fully leveraged

2. Paid search

Oftentimes, organizations will use SEO and paid search for their user acquisition, but will silo the two channels so that they don’t work together. Simply put, this is a mistake. Using paid spend for Google or Bing Adwords in conjunction with an organization’s SEO efforts will assist the company’s bottom line.

Get your tracking right

When beginning a paid campaign, it’s absolutely vital to set up tracking properly from the beginning. Do not miss this step. Without setting up tracking properly, it will be impossible to tie back conversions to paid and organic and see their relationship. If you already have paid attribution set up, double-check to ensure that there’s no double counting from having multiple GA tracking snippets, or if you’re using a landing page generator like Unbounce or HubSpot, that you’ve added in tracking on those platforms. Sometimes when using landing page generator tools (like HubSpot), you might elect to have an in-line thank you section display instead of redirecting someone to an external link. If you use an in-line thank you, the URL will not change and will make tracking more difficult in Google Analytics. This is not impossible to get around (events tracking can do the trick), but is something to keep in mind.

Bid on your money keywords

Without getting too fancy, a very important next step is to identify the transactional, important keywords — the ones that might be costly to buy, but that are worth the spend. Waiting for results from organic search or for the different channels to successfully harmonize may take longer than a boss or C-suite might be willing to wait for, so getting results directly from traditional paid search will require a strong setup from the get-go.

The magic of RLSA

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs) allow organizations to remarket to specific people who have visited a specific page on their site, either by bidding on keywords one typically wouldn’t bid on, or by altering the bid up or down. This doesn’t create new traffic; it only displays to those who have visited your site in the past. The magic of this is that when done properly, you can potentially achieve lower cost-per-clicks and conversions, as the audience seeing these ads is already familiar with your brand.

Let’s use, for example, the strategy of creating content around “what are alternative investments?” or “how to invest responsibly?”. These would be informational-level queries, representing topics people would like to investigate further. While the ideal scenario for our business would be that everyone would automatically want to invest with us, we know this isn’t likely to be the typical case. Instead, we’ll use organic search to earn traffic from less competitive, informational queries, and use RLSA to bid on queries that would ordinarily be too competitive for us, like “investing” or “how to start investing.” By using pixels and remarketing to anyone who visited our “what are alternative investments” page, we know that the person is more familiar with us and we can try to bid on broader queries that may have been either too expensive for us in the first place, or unlikely to generate conversions. In this case, because the user is already familiar with the brand, it can lead to higher click-through and conversion rates.

Much has already been written about RLSA strategies, so for more information you can begin here:

Advanced remarketing

Another option is to create more informational content for queries that are less competitive than some other terms, but that also isn’t as likely to get people to convert when they visit (i.e. most blog content). Let’s say that our blog captures email addresses, either through forms, popups, or some other means. With our captured emails, we’d be able to build an email list and submit it to Adwords, then target people in Google Search, Gmail, and YouTube. We can target existing users (people aligned with a particular email) or people who are similar to the audience and share similar web habits. With this tool, we can expand our potential audience.

If one were to run broad-match search ads against a general population (not one that had been cookied by a site), it would likely get very expensive very quickly and would be likely to have low conversion rates. Using broad match with RLSAs is a smart approach that mitigates the risk of complete budget destruction from people with little intent to convert, while allowing organizations to see what people are searching for; it can be an extremely powerful tool for keyword discovery.

By using broad search and RLSAs, your organization will be able to find out faster what people are actually searching for. Any keywords that cost money but that aren’t relevant or aren’t converting can be added to a negative keyword filter. Ones that are valuable should be added to exact match and, depending on the keyword, may be worthy of having content developed for it so that traffic can be captured without paying for each individual click.

Key tips:

  • Make sure tracking is properly set up
  • Ensure you’re bidding on transactional queries
  • Landing pages MUST have a clear goal and be optimized for one desired conversion
  • RLSAs can be used for keyword discovery and may enable you to bid on more transactional, generally competitive keywords

3. CRO

It’s not uncommon for organizations operating in low-search volume niches to also have fairly long sales cycles. The endgame of what we’re trying to accomplish here is to drive people from an informational mindset to a transactional mindset. We’re operating under the assumption that there are few searches for the service or good we’re trying to provide, so we’re going to get people to our service or good via the backdoor. The way we’ll do this is by guiding people from content that speaks to an informational query to our conversion pages.

To be clear, getting the ultimate conversion on our site might not require sending someone to a product page. It’s totally possible that someone may be interested in our ultimate goal after having landed on a tangentially-related page.

Let’s use the example again of the solar energy investment company. We’ll say that our ultimate goal is to get people to open an account where they actually invest in a power purchase agreement (PPA). Understanding what a PPA is isn’t important, but what should be conveyed is that getting anyone to actually spend money and link a bank account to the site is not a simple task. There’s friction — people need to trust that they won’t be robbed, that their financial information will be protected, and that their money is actually going where they expect it to go. Knowing that there’s friction in the funnel, we’re likely going to need multiple points of engagement with the potential client and will need to provide information and trust signals along the way to answer their questions.

Hunting microconversions

That said, our first goal should be to optimize and provide high-quality landing pages for the person who searches “solar energy investment.” Once we handle that low-hanging fruit, we need to move on to the tangential queries, like “what are the advantages of solar energy?”. Within this page, we should frame the benefits of solar energy and use multiple call-to-actions or banners to persuade someone to learn more about how to invest in solar energy. It’s totally plausible that someone who searches for “what are the advantages of solar energy?” has no interest in investing whatsoever and will leave the page as soon as their question is deemed answered. It’s also possible that they never even make it to the landing page itself because the Google SERP has answered the question for them:

We can’t be scared of this tactic just because Google is stealing content and placing the information within the search results. Featured snippets still have very high click-through rates (meaning users still visit that content) and we don’t know which queries will trigger featured snippets tomorrow or in six months from now. All we can do is create the best content for users’ queries.

For the visitors who are interested in the potential of solar energy investment, there are several ways that we can keep them engaged:

  1. Email capture popups
    1. This can be done via time-elapsed or exit intent versions
  2. Static or sticky call-to-actions (for products, demos, or email capture) either within the content or adjacent to the text in right or left-hand rails

AMP to accelerate traffic growth

Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are one of my favorite SERP enhancements that Google has made in the past few years. As a quick reminder, AMP provide cached, streamlined HTML that makes loading pages on mobile crazy-fast. AMP pages also show a little lightning bolt icon in the SERPs; eventually this will condition users that any page without a lightning bolt will be slow. They don’t allow for interstitials or popups, and even have their own area within search results. Google is heavily investing in this space and is incentivizing publishers to do so as well. Creating AMP variations of your organization’s content can be a strong idea for driving more web traffic, but it can come with some potential pitfalls that you should be aware of.

Tracking

AMP pages require their own Google Analytics tracking and it does not come standard. If you use a CMS or GTM that automatically places GA tracking code within the head, you will not automatically be covered with AMP pages. Make sure you set up tracking properly.

No popups

I just mentioned that email capture popups are a great way to ensure multiple points of engagement with users who otherwise may have just visited a particular site one time. By capturing emails, you can doing remarketing, send product emails, keep people apprised of updates with your organization, and create similar audiences, among other benefits as well. However, once you create AMP and they begin to replace your m. or responsive pages on mobile within the search results, your popups will no longer appear. While you won’t be able to get the true functionality of popups, a suitable workaround is to add email form capture in-line within your AMP content:

form-error.gif

When it comes to CRO for pages that receive organic traffic, it’s not the end of the world if a person doesn’t undertake an action; we’re not paying for them. Just by visiting our page, we can cookie them and remarket to them on search and other paid channels like Facebook and Twitter. We’ve extracted value from our visitors and they don’t even know it.

On the other hand, when a visitor arrives via paid search, we need to be doing everything in our power to make sure that the person undertakes a desired action. That desired action could be providing an email in exchange for a download, scheduling a consultation, purchasing a product, or providing other information. It bears repeating, though: if you’re paying for clicks and have not made a concerted effort to design your landing page in such a way that users are most likely to undertake the desired action, you’re wasting money. I do not claim that there is some sort of silver bullet that will work across every single niche and every single audience for every single product. Using a gated landing page for one client may work best for some, while soliciting user information via a form might work best for another. The only way to know is to test and see how users interact.

Key tips:

  • Some ultimate conversions have a lot of friction; don’t shy away from microconversions
  • If you already get traffic and it “doesn’t convert,” think critically about how it would be possible to re-engage with those users or what they might feel comfortable providing you with at their level of interest
  • AMP pages need separate GA tracking and do not allow popups

Tying it all together

Let’s recap this. When an organization cannot bank on a large enough search volume in its particular niche to provide the necessary runway for growth, it needs to think creatively about how to best harmonize organic and paid search channels. Truthfully, all organizations (regardless of the size of the search volume in their niche) should do this, but it’s particularly important in low-search volume niches because without it, growth is likely to be far slower and smaller than it could be.

For the sake of argument, we assume that the product or service doesn’t have much popularity, so we need to expand into informational queries, the topics that one would search before they know that they could use the service or product.

We need to ensure that we quickly and properly identify the transactional queries in our niche, and build pages that fulfill the intent of the user’s query. These pages should almost always have a call-to-action that allows people to take advantage of their interest immediately.

However, we’re looking for growth, so we need to think even bigger. We need to provide content for the people who are searching for queries that demonstrate some sort of interest in our niche, but don’t necessarily know that they want our service or product. We build out those pages, populating them with content and resources that fulfill the user’s query, but also provide calls-to-action that capture emails and/or drive users further into the funnel. People who don’t realize that they want your product or service may not react well to hard sells and high barriers to entry. Asking for an email address can be far more palatable and keep the conversation going.

If using AMP pages to gain more visibility, make sure that you have properly set up Google Analytics first and have added in email form captures at different points within the content, not just at the end — most of your readers won’t make it there. Depending on what our strategy is, we may also want to begin cookie-ing users for remarketing.

When using paid search, as with organic search, we need to make sure that we’re properly targeting the transactional queries we need — the ones where people are most likely to undertake a desired action. By using RLSAs we can also potentially bid on more generic, short-tail queries that might have yielded low conversion rates if we were to have exposed them to the broader Internet community at large, but could prove very successful if we only show them to people who have visited our site or specific pages. In addition to possibly converting at a higher rate than a regular paid search campaign, RLSAs can serve as a great keyword discovery tool without completely decimating your budget.

In the vast majority of cases, traffic for traffic’s sake is useless. If your traffic doesn’t undertake the actions that you want them to, chances are it will be declared useless and investment into content creation may decrease. I’ve seen it happen. Your traffic does not need to convert via buying a product or scheduling a demo the first time they visit, but if you have microconversions (like email capture) set up, you’ll put yourself in a much better position to re-engage with your visitors, find new similar visitors, and drive more conversions.

One last nugget of wisdom from Distilled’s own Head of PPC, Rich Cotton:

The main benefit of one agency running PPC and SEO is communication; aligning marketing messages, sharing data, keeping a consistent user experience, making lines of communication for the client easier. By ensuring that your PPC and SEO teams are working together, PPC can fill gaps in SERP exposure for organic, test new copy, and share important keyword data that PPC still has control of.

Rather than competing, when drawing up attribution models, an integrated approach allows us to share the value driven and work holistically for the benefit of the client, rather than fight to prove that our channel was the more effective one. Your marketing dollars will go where they are most needed, not be argued over by inter-agency politics.

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When It Comes to Analytics, Are You Doing Enough?

Posted by JoannaLord

We all know analytics are important. As marketers, we spend a great deal of time in the data. We all, hopefully, consider ourselves part analyst in many ways. At the foundation of a good marketing team, there is an accessible analytics platform that is set up to provide actionable insights. We should always feel that the data is just a log in away. We should feel we have the data to make great recommendations, troubleshoot issues, and forecast our efforts accurately. We should all feel totally in control of our analytics, and use them daily.

But then unicorns jump out of pink clouds and fly around our heads, because that is simply not the case. Ever.

Maybe a handful of you work on teams that are doing all they can do as it relates to analytics. Maybe some of you have even staffed your team with a handful of full-time analysts. More likely, you may all be trying to use data in your jobs, but not doing it as thoroughly or as effectively as you wish you were.

So let's talk about that. Let's talk about the different types of analytics and common places to start with them. I believe the number one reason marketing teams aren't as data-driven as they should be is because data is intimidating. However, knowledge trumps intimidation. The more you know, the more comfortable you will be to put on that analyst hat. And analyst hats are cool. So let's jump in.


What are the different types of analytics?

The goal of all data analytics is to leave us more educated than before so we can perform better in the future. Sounds simple, right? Well, not really. A common misconception among marketers is that all analysis is equal, which isn't exactly the truth. There are actually three types of analytics; predictive, prescriptive, and descriptive. Most marketers spend the majority, if not all, of their time on only one of them: descriptive. As you can imagine, that leaves a lot of awesome data and innovation on the table.

Let's run through the three and talk through the differences…

Descriptive analytics:

Descriptive analytics is when we data mine our historical performance for insights. Often, we are just looking to get context or tell a story with the data. This is most certainly at the heart of what most marketers do on a daily basis, particularly in their web analytics. We look at how we are doing, and we try to understand what is happening and how that is affecting everything else.

Typical questions include: "How did that campaign do?" "What sort of performance did we see last quarter?" "How did that site's down time affect other performance KPIs?"

Predictive analytics: 

Predictive analytics takes that one step further. It's less about the questions, and more about the suggestions. It involves looking at your historical data, and coming up with predictions on what to expect next. This is most readily used in our industry when we try to predict how next month will perform based on this month's performance (month over month predictions or MoM). While it seems like an obvious next step for analysis, it's amazing to me just how many marketers stop at descriptive, and fail to push into this arena of predictive analytics. Often, it's because this involves predictive modeling which can, again, be very intimidating.

Typical statements include: "Based on the last few months of data and our consistent growth, we can expect to increase another 25%," or, "Knowing our seasonal drop trend, we can expect to slow down by 10% in the next 6 weeks."

Prescriptive analytics:

This is where things can get fun. Prescriptive analytics takes forecasting and predictions a step further. With prescriptive analytics, you automatically mine data sets, and apply business rules or machine learning so you can make predictions faster and subsequently prescribe a next move. Marketers tend not to think of this "as their responsibility." That is for someone else to think about and solve. I think that is a super dangerous mindset, given we are on the hook for hitting the company's business KPIs. Prescriptive analytics can be a very powerful catalyst for success at a company. 

Typical questions include: "What if we could predict when customers leave us before they do, what could we surface prior to that to change their minds?" "What if we can predict when they are ripe for a second purchase and suggest it along side other products?" "What if we can predict what they would be most likely to share with a friend, how would we surface that?"


So, are you doing enough?

I ask this because somewhere along the way, marketers began to believe that descriptive analytics was our job, and "that other stuff" was for someone else to figure out. At SEOmoz, we are working hard to have each team working on all three types of data analysis in a variety of capacities. It's not easy. There is a stereotype out there that you have to break through. Data can be fun. It can be accessible, and it can be part of everyone's job. In fact, it really should be.

Imagine this for a second: just think about how much could get done if every team felt empower to tell a story with the data, make predictions off of it, and then brainstormed ways to operationalize that data to prescribe next steps for the biggest gains.

That is what being an analyst means and I believe we are all becoming more of an analyst as this industry continues to evolve. The platforms out there make it easier than ever, and the competition is more intense then ever. Why not be part of something more than just telling a story with the data? Why not suggest the next move? Why not create crazy ways to use the data? I think it's time we all put our analyst hat back on and had a little fun with it.

Hopefully, breaking down the types of analytics above is a great reminder that there is more than just descriptive analytics. At the very least, you can share with your team to inspire them to do more with the data in front of them. Best of luck to you fellow data lovers!

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How to Create an Agile Content Marketing Strategy (and Stay Sane Doing It)

Image of Leaping Ballerina

I’ll admit it: I spent so much time this past year creating content that I didn’t make enough time to read. And reading is important when you’re a content creator. After all …

It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it. ~ Oscar Wilde

I’m determined to change, and I started by making time to read The Business Case for Agile Content Marketing by Copyblogger’s Brian Clark.

What exactly is agile content?

It’s the type of content that responds and adapts to the needs of your audience. It’s what is taking the place of traditional advertising for businesses large and small.

It’s the kind of content we should all be creating.

Here’s my take on Brian’s advice, but don’t stop with this post. Grab the full report: The Business Case for Agile Content Marketing.

Agile content starts with research

You have to start somewhere. At first, your content ideas will be based on guesses.

You’ll have better luck if you make those very educated guesses. And the way to do that is to spend some time and energy on market research. Use your research to figure out:

  • Who you want to reach
  • What challenges they have
  • What their deeply-felt desires are
  • How they’re currently meeting those challenges and fulfilling those desires

When you have an idea about all of the above, you can plan your content to meet these needs. But don’t stop there. It’s just getting interesting at this point.

Move right along to …

Shipping your content

Here’s the tough part.

You aren’t really executing on an agile content marketing strategy until you put it out into the world and start listening to feedback.

This is the reference to staying sane in my headline. It’s cold-sweat-inducing, nerve-wracking, and scary at first. But don’t worry, it gets much easier over time.

And it’s 100% necessary. After all, how will you know if your ideal customer is digging what you write if you don’t put it out there and see what happens?

Here’s a little secret: Those people you admire who have huge audiences who hang on their every word? They have a lot more to worry about than you do.

Let’s say you and a few friends decide to start a band. You start out by playing your living room, in front of a few more friends, and see what they enjoy.

You hone your set of songs, and you move up to playing at the bar down the street. You see what that audience likes, and keep working on new songs and styles based on what they respond to.

Eventually, you’re invited to perform at a college campus. Years later, (let’s pretend for the sake of this analogy) you’re playing for an entire stadium of fans.

It’s okay to start out writing for a small group. With fewer people watching, you can feel free to experiment and see what works. The stakes aren’t so high.

Embrace the process. Don’t take your content too seriously. Watch, listen, and move on to the next step.

Optimize based on feedback

Feedback comes in many forms. It can be comments, social media shares, or email open rates.

It could be people who attend your webinar, ticket buyers to your live event, or sales of your information product.

See what content your audience responds to, and build your business around it.

As Brian mentions, these first three stages are ongoing. You’ll find yourself constantly discovering new details about what your audience wants.

As new people join your audience, the needs you’re meeting will change. Welcome this change as it comes, and continue to make your best educated guesses about what they want, put it out there, and optimize based on your results.

Amplify your reach through connection

Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

If you really want to grow your audience, you have to be an advocate for your content. You have to be its champion.

Get out there and spread the word. Connect with others who can help send people to your pages.

Look for ways to ally yourself with people who have already developed an audience similar to the one you aspire to serve. Don’t be afraid to send an email sharing your latest post, asking if your connection’s audience might be interested in seeing it.

And when you can, attend events, and connect in person, too, because there’s nothing better than connecting face-to-face.

Spiral upward with repeat performances

The technique outlined here really starts to work when you commit to doing it over the long haul.

Research. Release. Optimize. Connect. And then, repeat.

Just like any promotional effort you put together for your business, agile content works best when it’s ongoing and consistent.

This is just a taste. If you want to see how all the parts work together, get the whole story right here.

What part of this process do you get stuck on? What have you done that’s worked really well? I’d love to hear about it in the comments …

About the Author: Want to get the best results from all that agile content you create? Studies show first-rate design increases credibility. Anyone can learn design techniques that get their content the attention it deserves: just get Pamela Wilson’s Design 101 series at Big Brand System.

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Marketing Management: What is your company doing to increase knowledge and effectiveness?

You’d think that with knowledge expanding rapidly, offering companies the opportunity to gain competitive advantage, CMOs would make sure their teams had outstanding training. Read on to discover what we’ve learn about training and career paths for marketers in our all-new 2012 Executive Guide to Marketing Personnel.
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Influencer Marketing – What it is, and Why YOU Need to be Doing it

Posted by Eric Enge

Content marketing is an increasingly hot topic these days. More and more people are starting to realize the potent role that high quality content plays in creating visibility for your brand on the Internet. Seth Godin was quotes a few years back as saying "content marketing is the only marketing left".

One of the biggest reasons for this is the intense competition that exists on the web today for nearly any commercial offering. For example, you can see this if you do a search on something like intitle:"lathe operation", as shown here:

Search Results for a Niche Product

Even this very niche oriented term generates over 7,000 results. Surely the end user only wants to consider a very few options. As I always like to say: "Google only needs 4 results, so how are you going to be one of the 4?" Superior content is one key component of this.

But, superior content is not enough. Unless the world gets to know about it your superior content will get you nowhere. You have to have a way to get the word out. This is where "Influencer Marketing" comes into play.

By definition, influencers reach a lot of people (often more than you do), and they have the ability to influence people's opinions.

Influencer Marketing Defined

Influencer Marketing is the name we give to the process of developing relationships with influential people that can lead to their assisting you in creating visibility for your product or service. This type of marketing depends on your having something great to offer your potential customers, and the audience of the influencer, and it also depends on your building a great relationship with the influencer as well.

In today's social web, there are a three major ways an influencer can have a big impact on your business:

Of course, they can also Like or +1 your content as well, which has a lesser impact, but is still potentially interesting. To recap the benefits of the influencer, they often have a larger audience than yours, or at the very least, a different audience:

Influencers have Different and Large audiences

However, the benefit is much larger than that. Let's say you had 100 followers in your Twitter account that shared a piece of content, and this results in 20,000 people seeing what they shared. This may result in 20 additional shares and 10 links.

Now consider the same audience being reached by one influencer. Those 20,000 connections will be much more responsive to the shared content because of the trust they have in the opinions of the influencer, and this much result in 100 additional shares and 50 links.

People more likely to trust influencer recommendations

That's a pretty hefty advantage. Further, the search engines actively calculate author authority, so they will also place more weight on the vote of the influencer.

Leveraging the Influencer

As a fan of content marketing, chances are that you already have your own blog, and your own social media accounts. You probably already use these in tandem, and make sure that you follow similar content themes, and any time you create a new blog post you share it on your social accounts. When you do this correctly, you set yourself up for the following type of virtuous cycle:

Social Media and Blogs Reinforce each other

Doing this effectively is a great start. You can grow your audience over time because people who are already connected with you will share your stuff, and this does reach their audiences.

However, this works much more effectively if you can goose the process in two ways:

Both of these strategies lead to the influencer acting as an amplifier for your voice.

Building the Relationship

This is not really so different than making new friends when you move to a new neighborhood. When you go to that first neighborhood party, you don't walk around asking everyone there to give you $ 20. You ruin your place in the neighborhood by doing that. Doesn't work in the neighborhood, and it doesn't work in building relationships anywhere else either.

The process is really quite straightforward, as shown here:

Create Trust through Active Contribution

The major elements are:

As for interacting, the more personal the better. I built many of my relationships in the search industry by going to conferences and sitting in the front row when people I wanted to meet were speaking, and then being the first person up to speak to them, when the session was over. Face to face contact like that is awesome.

The following diagram tries to illustrate which types of relationship building methods are the most personal, and therefore carry the most value:

More Personalized Interactions Build Relationships Faster

It's also important to prioritize. Which people are worth the most effort? How do you decide? You might fly to a conference to go meet some critical person face to face. Others you might simply interact with on social media accounts.

Note that it certainly is possible to build meaningful relationships with people through social media only, but nothing beats face to face.

Opportunities are also important. Your first opportunity to make a big impression on someone might be to respond to a blog post, a tweet, or a Facebook update. Your target may ask for help with something, as Rand did in this November 2006 blog post:

Rand Offered up a Linkbait Idea

How did that one turn out you ask? Somebody stepped up and took it on:

Oh right, it was me. The analytics report published on August 27, 2007. Point is, jumping on opportunities like this makes a big impression, and can really accelerate the building of a relationship.

What are the chances someone will share or link?

Once you have developed a relationship, you still need to do the right things to get someone to share or link to your stuff. No one is going to share everything you do, because some of the stuff you do is not that good or not that relevant (don't be offended, no one is great all the time).

Here is a formula I have developed for the probability of someone sharing or linking to your content:

Chances Someone will Link to or Share Your Content

Let's look at the major elements:

Multiple Impressions Increases Share Chances

As you can see the reach of influencers is long. Not only can they get you links, they can give you shares that result in other people giving you links.

Summary

Learning to work the very human dynamics of people on the Internet is a critical marketing activity. This is not new. It has always been valuable to build relationships with influential people. The Internet simply gives us new mechanisms for doing that.

Communication and relationship building is easier than it has ever been. You can easily get started with social media or blog conversations, and that's great. Don't overlook the power of the old fashioned way though. More personal interactions still have the biggest impact.

Creating fantastic content is a must, so make that a key part of your plan. Then, supplement that by building the right relationships so you can get the world to know about all the cool stuff you are doing.

One last tip, add value to the audience at each step of the way. Even when you are creating content for your own blog, people are only going to share it because it helps others. Give, give, and give, and always be helping others. People will notice, and that's a good thing.

For those of you who are interested in more, drop me a line at info at stonetemple.com and I will send you our white paper on identifying influencers.

Eric is active on Twitter (@stonetemple) and Google+ (+Eric Enge).

  1. They can write a blog post / article about you.
  2. They can share information about you in their social media accounts.
  3. They can ask you, or permit you, to guest post on their site.
  4. Or, any combination of, or all of, the above.

    1. Develop relationships with major influencers so they are subscribing to your blog or following/friending/circling you in social media accounts. This is made possible by developing enough of a relationship with the influencer and having a history of creating content of interest to them. Here the payoff occurs when they choose to link to it or share it on a social network.
    2. You actively reach out to influencers and get published directly in front of their audiences. One example of this is writing guest posts for them and getting published in their blog. This also depends on having a credible history so they will consider your article. The payoff here is quite direct, and happens as soon as the content publishes.
    1. Start interacting with them. Treat it like you are developing a new friendship. When it comes to business, focus on providing value to them. If they have a question, seek to answer it. Don't spend any time telling them what value you bring, just deliver it to them.
    2. On an ongoing basis, show that you will be active in sharing their stuff to your audience. Even if your audience is much smaller, the give and take attitude will be noticed.
    3. Actively help out others. When you focus all of your attention on one person to the exclusion of others it starts to feel a bit freaky. Give value to others on a regular basis. Publish great stuff. Share other people's good stuff. Tip: if you discover great content from a little known author, the influencer you are trying to build your relationship with will be more interested than ever!
    1. Relevance – if it is not relevant to them, they are not going to share it, even if it's great!
    2. Uniqueness – Seth Godin likes to tell us to be remarkable. If what you create is not exceptional, no one is going to care, and no one is going to share.
    3. Quality Content – This goes without saying. Crap content will bring crap results and no amount of relationship building will change that.
    4. Trust in the Author – This is where the relationship comes into play. You can create great content, but if you are not yet trusted, your share rate will be far lower.
    5. Trust in Referring Sources – How someone learns about a piece of content is a factor in the share rate as well. If an authority tells you about it, you are more likely to respond by passing it on.
    6. Visibility – People can't share what they don't see. For example, if you create a great blog post and you tweet it once, a small percentage of your followers will ever see it. Tweets are here now and gone 5 minutes later. Even the most addicted tweetaholic misses some of their tweet stream.
    7. Impressions – Impressions is an interesting one. This is classic marketing in action. Marketing experts used to say that it took an average of 7 impressions per sale. Of course, all impressions are not created equal:

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