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B2B Local Search Marketing: A Guide to Hidden Opportunity

Posted by MiriamEllis

Is a local business you’re marketing missing out on a host of B2B opportunities? Do B2B brands even qualify for local SEO?

If I say “B2B” and you think “tech,” then you’re having the same problem I was finding reliable information about local search marketing for business-to-business models. While it’s true that SaaS companies like Moz, MailChimp, and Hootsuite are businesses which vend to other businesses, their transactions are primarily digital. These may be the types of companies that make best-of B2B lists, but today let’s explore another realm in which a physical business you promote is eligible to be marketed both locally and as a B2B.

Let’s determine your eligibility, find your B2B opportunities, identify tips specific to your business model, analyze an outreach email, explore your content with a checklist, and find an advantage for you in today’s article.

Seeing how Google sees you

First to determine whether Google would view your brand as a local business, answer these two questions:

  1. Does the business I’m marketing have a physical location that’s accessible to the public? This can’t be a PO Box or virtual office. It must be a real-world address.
  2. Does the business I’m marketing interact face-to-face with its customers?

If you answered “yes” to both questions, continue, because you’ve just met Google’s local business guidelines.

Seeing your B2B opportunity

Next, determine if there’s a component of your business that already serves or could be created to serve other businesses.

Not totally sure? Let’s look at Google’s categories.

Out of the 2,395 Google My Business Categories listed here, there are at least 1,270 categories applicable to B2B companies. These include companies that are by nature B2B (wholesalers, suppliers) and companies that are B2C but could have a B2B offering (restaurants, event sites). In other words, more than half of Google’s categories signal to B2B-friendly companies that local marketing is an opportunity.

Let’s look at some major groups of categories and see how they could be fine-tuned to serve executive needs instead of only consumer needs:

Food establishments (restaurants, cafes, food trucks, caterers, etc.) can create relationships with nearby employers by offering business lunch specials, delivery, corporate catering, banquet rooms, and related B2B services. This can work especially well for restaurants located in large business districts, but almost any food-related business could create a corporate offering that incentivizes loyalty.

Major attractions (museums, amusements, cultural centers, sports centers, etc.) can create corporate packages for local employers seeking fun group activities. Brands looking to reduce implicit bias may be especially interested in interacting with cultural groups and events.

Professional services (realty, financial, printing, consulting, tech, etc.) can be geared towards corporate needs as well as individuals. A realtor can sell commercial properties. A printer can create business signage. A computer repair shop can service offices.

Personal services (counseling, wellness, fitness, skill training, etc.) can become corporate services when employers bring in outside experts to improve company morale, education, or well-being.

Home services (carpet cleaning, landscaping, plumbing, contracting, security, etc.) can become commercial services when offered to other businesses. Office buildings need design, remodeling, and construction and many have lounges, kitchens, restrooms, and grounds that need janitorial and upkeep services. Many retailers need these services, too.

Entertainers (comedians, musicians, DJs, performance troupes, etc.) can move beyond private events to corporate ones with special package offerings. Many brands have days where children, family members, and even pets are welcomed to the workplace, and special activities are planned.

Retailers (clothing, gifts, equipment, furniture, etc.) can find numerous ways to supply businesses with gear, swag, electronics, furnishings, gift baskets, uniforms, and other necessities. For example, a kitchen store could vend breakfast china to a B&B, or an electronics store could offer special pricing for a purchase of new computers for an office.

Transportation and travel services (auto sales and maintenance, auto rentals, travel agencies, tour guides, charging stations, etc.) can create special packages for businesses. A car dealer could sell a fleet of vehicles to a food delivery service, or a garage could offer special pricing for maintaining food trucks. A travel agency could manage business trips.

As you can see, the possibilities are substantial, and this is all apart from businesses that are classic B2B models, like manufacturers, suppliers, and wholesalers who also have physical premises and meet face-to-face with their clients. See if you’ve been missing out on a lucrative opportunity by examining the following spreadsheet of every Google My Business Category I could find that is either straight-up B2B or could create a B2B offering:

See local B2B categories

The business I’m marketing qualifies. What’s next?

See which of these two groups you belong to: either a B2B company that hasn’t been doing local SEO, or a local business that hasn’t created a B2B offering yet. Then follow the set of foundational tips specific to your scenario.

If you’re marketing a B2B company that hasn’t been doing local SEO:

  1. Know that the goal of local SEO is to make you as visible as possible online to any neighbor searching for what you offer so that you can win as many transactions as possible.
  2. Read the Guidelines for Representing your business on Google to be 100% sure your business qualifies and to familiarize yourself with Google’s rules. Google is the dominant player in local search.
  3. Make sure your complete, accurate name, address, and phone number is included in the footer of your website and on the Contact Us page. If you have multiple locations, create a unique page on your website for each location, complete with its full contact information and useful text for website visitors. Make each of these pages as unique and persuasive as possible.
  4. Be sure the content on your website thoroughly describes your goods and services, and makes compelling offers about the value of choosing you.
  5. Make sure your website is friendly to mobile users. If you’re not sure, test it using Google’s free mobile-friendly test.
  6. Create a Google My Business profile for your business if you don’t already have one so that you can work towards ranking well in Google’s local results. If you do have a profile, be sure it is claimed, accurate, guideline-compliant and fully filled out. This cheat sheet guide explains all of the common components that can show up in your Google Business Profile when people search for your company by name.
  7. Do a free check of the health of your other major local business listings on Moz Check Listing. Correct errors and duplicate listings manually, or to save time and enable ongoing monitoring, purchase Moz Local so that it can do the work for you. Accurate local business listings support good local rankings and prevent customers from being misdirected and inconvenience.
  8. Ask for, monitor, and respond to all of your Google reviews to improve customer satisfaction and build a strong, lucrative reputation. Read the guidelines of any other platform (like Yelp or TripAdvisor) to know what is allowed in terms of review management.
  9. Build real-world relationships within the community you serve and explore them for opportunities to earn relevant links to your website. Strong, sensible links can help you increase both your organic and local search engine rankings. Join local business organizations and become a community advocate.
  10. Be as accessible as possible via social media, sharing with your community online in the places they typically socialize. Emphasize communication rather than selling in this environment.

If you’re marketing a local business that hasn’t created a B2B offering yet:

  1. Research your neighborhood and your community to determine what kinds of businesses are present around you. If you’re not sure, reach out to your local Chamber of Commerce or a local business association like AMIBA to see if they have data they can share with you. Doing searches like “Human Resources Event Seattle” or “People Ops Event Seattle” can bring up results like this one naming some key companies and staffers.
  2. Document your research. Create a spreadsheet with a column for why you feel a specific business might be a good fit for your service, and another column for their contact information.See if you can turn up direct contact info for the HR or People Ops team. Phone the business, if necessary, to acquire this information.
  3. Now, based on what you’ve learned, brainstorm an offering that might be appealing to this audience. Remember, you’re trying to entice other business owners and their staff with something that’s special for them and meets their needs..
  4. Next, write out your offering in as few words at possible, including all salient points (who you are, what you offer, why it solves a problem the business is likely to have, available proof of problem-solving, price range, a nice request to discuss further, and your complete contact info). Keep it short to respect how busy recipients are.
  5. Depending on your resources, plan outreach in manageable batches and keep track of outcomes.
  6. Be sure all of your online local SEO is representing you well, with the understanding that anyone seriously considering your offer is likely to check you out on the web. Be sure you’ve created a page on the site for your B2B offer. Be sure your website is navigable, optimized and persuasive, with clear contact information, and that your local business listings are accurate and thorough — hopefully with an abundance of good reviews to which you’ve gratefully responded.
  7. Now, begin outreach. In many cases this will be via email, using the text you’ve created, but if you’ve determined that an in-person visit is a better approach, invest a little in having your offer printed nicely so that you can give it to the staff at the place of business. Make the best impression you possibly can as a salesperson for your product.
  8. Give a reasonable amount of time for the business to review and decide on your offer. If you don’t hear back, follow up once. Ideally, you’re hoping for a reply with a request for more info. If you hear nothing in response to your follow-up, move on, as silence from the business is a signal of disinterest. Make note of the dates you outreached and try again after some time goes by, as things may have changed at the business by then. Do, however, avoid aggressive outreach as your business will appear to be spamming potential clients instead of helping them.

As indicated, these are foundational steps for both groups — the beginnings of your strategy rather than the ultimate lengths you may need to go to for your efforts to fully pay off. The amount of work you need to do depends largely on the level of your local competition.

B2B tips from Moz’s own Team Happy

Moz’s People Ops team is called Team Happy, and these wonderful folks handle everything from event and travel planning, to gift giving, to making sure people’s parking needs are met. Team Happy is responsible for creating an exceptional, fun, generous environment that functions smoothly for all Mozzers and visitors.

I asked Team Happy Manager of Operations, Ashlie Daulton, to share some tips for crafting successful B2B outreach when approaching a business like Moz. Ashlie explains:

  • We get lots of inquiry emails. Do some research into our company, help us see what we can benefit from, and how we can fit it in. We don’t accept every offer, but we try to stay open to exploring whether it’s a good fit for the office.
  • The more information we can get up front, the better! We are super busy in our day-to-day and we can get a lot of spam sometimes, so it can be hard to take vague email outreach seriously and not chalk it up to more spam. Be real, be direct in your outreach. Keeping it more person-to-person and less “sales pitchy” is usually key.
  • If we can get most of the information we need first, research the website/offers, and communicate our questions through emails until we feel a call is a good next step, that usually makes a good impression.

Finally, Ashlie let me know that her team comes to decisions thoughtfully, as will the People Ops folks at any reputable company. If your B2B outreach doesn’t meet with acceptance from a particular company, it would be a waste of your time and theirs to keep contacting them.

However, as mentioned above, a refusal one year doesn’t mean there couldn’t be opportunity at a later date if the company’s needs or your offer change to be a better fit. You may need to go through some refinements over the years, based on the feedback you receive and analyze, until you’ve got an offer that’s truly irresistible.

A sample B2B outreach email

La práctica hace al maestro.”
– Proverb

Practice makes perfect. Let’s do an exercise together in which we imagine ourselves running an awesome Oaxacan restaurant in Seattle that wants to grow the B2B side of our business. Let’s hypothesize that we’ve decided Moz would be a perfect client, and we’ve spent some time on the web learning about them. We’ve looked at their website, their blog, and have read some third-party news about the company.

We found an email address for Team Happy and we’ve crafted our outreach email. What follows is that email + Ashlie’s honest, summarized feedback to me (detailed below) about how our fictitious outreach would strike her team:

Good morning, Team Happy!

When was the last time Moz’s hardworking staff was treated to tacos made from grandmother’s own authentic recipe? I’m your neighbor Jose Morales, co-owner with my abuela of Tacos Morales, just down the street from you. Our Oaxacan-style Mexican food is:

- Locally sourced and prepared with love in our zero-waste kitchen
- 100% organic (better for Mozzers’ brains and happiness!) with traditional, vegan, and gluten-free options
- $ 6–$ 9 per plate

We know you have to feed tons of techies sometimes, and we can effortlessly cater meals of up to 500 Mozzers. The folks at another neighboring company, Zillow, say this about our beautiful food:

“The best handmade tortillas we’ve ever had. Just the right portions to feel full, but not bogged down for the afternoon’s workload. Perfect for corporate lunches and magically scrumptious!”

May I bring over a complimentary taco basket for a few of your teammates to try? Check out our menu here and please let me know if there would be a good day for you to sample the very best of Taco Morales. Thank you for your kind consideration and I hope I get the chance to personally make Team Happy even happier!

Your neighbors,
Jose y Lupita Morales
Tacos Morales
www.tacosmorales.com
222 2nd Street, Seattle – (206) 111-1111

Why this email works:

  • We’re an inclusive office, so the various dietary options catch our eye. Knowing price helps us decide if it’s a good fit for our budget.
  • The reference to tech feels personalized — they know our team and who we work with.
  • It’s great to know they can handle some larger events!
  • It instills trust to see a quote from a nearby, familiar company.
  • Samples are a nice way to get to know the product/service and how it feels to work with the B2B company.
  • The menu link, website link, and contact info ensure that we can do our own exploring to help us make a decision.

As the above outreach illustrates, Team Happy was most impressed by the elements of our sample email that provided key information about variety, price and capacity, useful links and contact data, trust signals in the form of a review from a well-known client, and a one-on-one personalized message.

Your business is unique, and the precise tone of your email will match both your company culture and the sensibilities of your potential clients. Regardless of industry, studying the above communication will give you some cues for creating your own from the viewpoint of speaking personally to another business with their needs in mind. Why not practice writing an email of your own today, then run it past an unbiased acquaintance to ask if it would persuade them to reply?

A checklist to guide your website content

Your site content speaks for you when a potential client wants to research you further before communicating one-on-one. Why invest both budget and heart in what you publish? Because 94% of B2B buyers reportedly conduct online investigation before purchasing a business solution. Unfortunately, the same study indicates that only 37% of these buyers are satisfied with the level of information provided by suppliers’ websites. Do you see a disconnect here?

Let’s look at the key landing pages of your website today and see how many of these boxes you can check off:

My content tells potential clients…

☑ What my business name, addresses, phone numbers, fax number, email addresses, driving directions, mapped locations, social and review profiles are

☑ What my products and services are and why they meet clients’ needs

☑ The complete details of my special offers for B2B clients, including my capacity for fulfillment

☑ What my pricing is like, so that I’m getting leads from qualified clients without wasting anyone’s time

☑ What my USP is — what makes my selling proposition unique and a better choice than my local competitors

☑ What my role is as a beneficial member of the local business community and the human community, including my professional relationships, philanthropy, sustainable practices, accreditations, awards, and other points of pride

☑ What others say about my company, including reviews and testimonials

☑ What my clients’ rights and guarantees are

☑ What value I place on my clients, via the quality, usefulness, and usability of my website and its content

If you found your content lacking any of these checklist elements, budget to build them. If writing is not your strong suit and your company isn’t large enough to have an in-house content team, hire help. A really good copywriter will partner up to tell the story of your business while also accurately portraying its unique voice. Expect to be deeply interviewed so that a rich narrative can emerge.

In sum, you want your website to be doing the talking for you 24 hours a day so that every question a potential B2B client has can be confidently answered, prompting the next step of personal outreach.

How to find your B2B advantage

Earlier, we spoke of the research you’ll do to analyze the business community you could be serving with your B2B offerings, and we covered how to be sure you’ve got the local digital marketing basics in place to showcase what you do on the web. Depending on your market, you could find that investment in either direction could represent an opportunity many of your competitors have overlooked.

For an even greater advantage, though, let’s look directly at your competitors. You can research them by:

  1. Visiting their websites to understand their services, products, pricing, hours, capacity, USP, etc.
  2. Visiting their physical premises, making inquiries by phone, or (if possible) making a purchase of their products/services to see how you like them and if there’s anything that could be done better
  3. Reading their negative reviews to see what their customers complain about
  4. Looking them up on social media, again to see what customers say and how the brand handles complaints
  5. Reading both positive and negative media coverage of the brand

Do you see any gaps? If you can dare to be different and fill them, you will have identified an important advantage. Perhaps you’ll be the only:

  • Commercial cleaning company in town that specializes in servicing the pet-friendly hospitality market
  • Restaurant offering a particular type of cuisine at scale
  • Major attraction with appealing discounts for large groups
  • Commercial printer open late at night for rush jobs
  • Yoga instructor specializing in reducing work-related stress/injuries

And if your city is large and highly competitive and there aren’t glaring gaps in available services, try to find a gap in service quality. Maybe there are several computer repair shops, but yours is the only one that works weekends. Maybe there are a multitude of travel agents, but your eco-tourism packages for corporations have won major awards. Maybe yours is just one of 400+ Chinese restaurants in San Francisco, but the only one to throw in a free bag of MeeMee’s sesame and almond cookies (a fortune cookie differentiator!) with every office delivery, giving a little uplift to hardworking staff.

Find your differentiator, put it in writing, put it to the fore of your sales process. And engineer it into consumer-centric language, so that hard candy buttons with chocolate inside them become the USP that “melts in your mouth, not in your hands,” solving a discovered pain point or need.

B2B marketing boils down to service

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”

- Charles Dickens

We’re all in business to serve. We’re all helpers. At Moz, we make SEO easier for digital and local companies. At your brand, _________?

However you fill in that blank, you’re in the business of service. Whether you’re marketing a B2B that’s awakening to the need to invest in local SEO or a B2C on the verge of debuting your new business-to-business offering, your project boils down to the simple question,

“How can I help?”

Looking thoughtfully into your brand’s untapped capacities to serve your community, coupled with an authentic desire to help, is the best groundwork you can lay at the starting point for satisfaction at the finish line.

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St. Patrick’s Day Google doodle includes hidden word written in ancient Irish ogham alphabet

Google recruited Irish artist Ross Stewart to create the image depicting a scenic Ireland landscape with a stonemason arranging rocks.

The post St. Patrick’s Day Google doodle includes hidden word written in ancient Irish ogham alphabet appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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Unlocking Hidden Gems Within Schema.org

Posted by alexis-sanders

Schema.org is cryptic. Or at least that’s what I had always thought. To me, it was a confusing source of information: missing the examples I needed, not explaining which item properties search engines require, and overall making the process of implementing structured data a daunting task. However, once I got past Schema.org’s intimidating shell, I found an incredibly useful and empowering tool. Once you know how to leverage it, Schema.org is an indispensable tool within your SEO toolbox.

A structured data toolbox

The first part of any journey is finding the map. In terms of structured data, there are a few different guiding resources:

  • The most prominent and useful are Google’s Structured Data Features Guides. These guides are organized by the different structured data markups Google is explicitly using. Useful examples are provided with required item properties.

    Tip: If any of the item types listed in the feature guides are relevant to your site, ensure that you’re annotating these elements.

  • I also want to share Merkle’s new, free, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Structured Data Markup Generator. It contains Google’s top markups with an incredibly user-friendly experience and all of the top item properties. This tool is a great support for starting your markups, and it’s great for individuals looking to reverse-engineer markups. It offers JSON-LD and some illustrative microdata markups. You can also send the generated markups directly to Google’s structured data testing tool.

  • If you’re looking to go beyond Google’s recommendations and structure more data, check out Schema.org’s Full Hierarchy. This is a full list of all Schema.org’s core and extended vocabulary (i.e., a list of all item types). This page is very useful to determine additional opportunities for markup that may align with your structured data strategy.

    Tip: Click “Core plus all extensions” to see extended Schema.org’s libraries and what’s in the pipeline.

  • Last but not least is Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. It is vital to check every markup with GSDTT for two reasons:
    • To avoid silly syntactic mistakes (don’t let commas be your worst enemy — there are way better enemies out there ☺).
    • Ensure all required item properties are included

As an example, I’m going to walk through the Aquarium item type Schema.org markup. For illustrative purposes, I’m going to stick with JSON-LD moving forward; however, if there are any microdata questions, please reach out in the comments.

Basic structure of all Schema.org pages

When you first enter a Schema.org item type’s page, notice that every page has the same layout, starting with the item type name, the canonical reference URL (currently the HTTP version*), where the markup lives within the Schema.org hierarchy, and that item type’s usage on the web.

*Leveraging the HTTPS version of a Schema.org markup is acceptable

What is an item type?

An item type is a piece of Schema.org’s vocabulary of data used to annotate and structure elements on a web page. You can think about it as what you’re marking up.

At the highest level of most Schema.org item types is Thing (alternatively, we’d be looking at DataType). This intuitively makes sense because almost everything is, at its highest level of abstraction, a Thing. The item type Thing has multiple children, all of which assume Thing’s properties in a cascading in a hierarchical fashion (i.e., a Product is a Thing, both can have names, descriptions, and images).

Explore Schema.org’s item types here with the various visualizations:

https://technicalseo.com/seo-tools/schema-markup-generator/visual/

Item types are going to be the first attribute in your markup and will look a little like this (remember this for a little later):

Tip: Every Schema.org item type can be found by typing its name after Schema.org, i.e. http://schema.org/Aquarium (note that case is important).

Below, this is where things start to get fun — the properties, expected type, and description of each property.

What are item properties?

Item properties are attributes, which describe item types (i.e., it’s a property of the item). All item properties are inherited from the parent item type. The value of the property can be a word, URL, or number.

What is the “Expected Type”?

For every item type, there is a column the defines the expected item type of each item property. This is a signal which tells us whether or not nesting will be involved. If the expected property is a data type (i.e., text, number, etc.) you will not have to do anything; otherwise get ready for some good, old-fashioned nesting.

One of the things you may have noticed: under “Property” it says “Properties from CivicStructure.” We know that an Aquarium is a child of CivicStructure, as it is listed above. If we scan the page, we see the following “Properties from…”:

This looks strikingly like the hierarchy listed above and it is (just vertical… and backward). Only one thing is missing – where are the “Properties from Aquarium”?

The answer is actually quite simple — Aquarium has no item properties of its own. Therefore, CivicStructures (being the next most specific item type with properties) is listed first.

Structuring this information with more specific properties at the top makes a ton of sense intuitively. When marking up information, we are typically interested in the most specific item properties, ones that are closest conceptually to the thing we’re marking up. These properties are generally the most relevant.

Creating a markup

  1. Open the Schema.org item type page.
  2. Review all item properties and select all relevant attributes.
    • After looking at the documentation, openingHours, address, aggregateRating, telephone, alternateName, description, image, name, and sameAs (social media linking item property) stood out as the most cogent and useful for aquarium goers. In an effort to map out all of the information, I added the “Expected Type” (which will be important in the next step) and the value of the information we’re going to markup.
  3. Add the starting elements of all markup.
    • All markup, whether JSON-LD or microdata, starts with the same set of code/markup. One can memorize this code or leverage examples and copy/paste.
    • JSON-LD: Add the script tag with the JSON-LD type, along with the @context, and @type with the item type included:
  4. Start light. Add the easier item properties (i.e., the ones that don’t require nesting).
    • First off, how do you tell whether or not the property nests?
      • This is where the “Expected Type” column comes into play.
      • If the “Expected Type” is “Text”, “URL”, or “Number” — you don’t need to nest.
    • I’ve highlighted the item properties that do not require nesting above in green. We’ll start by adding these to our markup.
    • JSON-LD: Contains the item property in quotation marks, along with the value (text and URLs are always in quotation marks). If there are multiple values, they’re listed as arrays within square [brackets].

  5. Finish strong. Add the nested item properties.
    • Nested item properties are item types within item types. Through nesting, we can access the properties of the nested item type.
    • JSON-LD: Nested item properties start off like normal item properties; however, things get weird after the colon. A curly brace opens up a new world. We start by declaring a new item type and thus, inside these curly braces all item properties now belong to the new item type. Note how commas are not included after the last property.
  6. Test in Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.
    • Looks like we’re all good to go, with no errors and no warnings.

Side notes:

  • *address: Google’s documentation list address, nested within PostAddress as a requirement. This is a good indicator of why it’s important to review Google’s documentation.
  • openingHours: Multiple times are listed out in an array (as indicated by the square brackets). As the documentation’s “Description section” mentions – using a hyphen for ranges and military time.
    • Note: Google’s documentation uses the openingHoursSpecification item property, which nests OpeningHoursSpecification. This is a good example where Google documentation shows a more specific experience to consider.
  • telephone: Sometimes you need to add a country code (+1) for phone numbers.
  • image: URLs must be absolute (i.e., protocol and domain name included).

TL;DR:

  • Schema.org’s documentation can be leveraged to supplement Google’s structured data documentation
  • The “Expected Type” on Schema.org tells you when you need to nest an item type
  • Check out Merkle’s Structured Data Markup Generator if you want to try simply inserting values and getting a preliminary markup

Thanks!

A huge thanks to Max Prin (@maxxeight), Adam Audette (@audette), and the @MerkleCRM team for reviewing this article. Plus, shout outs to Max (again), Steve Valenza (#TwitterlessSteve), and Eric Hammond (@elhammond) for their work, ideas, and thought leadership that went into the Schema Generator Tool!

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Optimize your AdWords account with these hidden gems

Scanning your SEM accounts for ways to improve? Columnist Pauline Jakober believes that the slower summer months are the perfect time to work on optimizations you might not normally have time for.

The post Optimize your AdWords account with these hidden gems appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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When Data Just Isn’t Enough: The Hidden Context that’s Key to Content Loyalty

Posted by ronell-smith

(Image source)

When the client asked to “go mute” during our monthly client call, there was no reason to sound the alarm. After all, being able to talk through what they’ve heard as a team, in private, was normal. But when the always-skeptical global marketing director said the COO (who has been in the room for the 10 minutes of analytics discussion) wants to take the discussion offline for a bit, but wants you to hold on, I knew things had likely gone off the rails.

“Thanks for holding, you guys,” says the head of marketing upon taking the phone off mute after what seemed like an eternity. “Tim was just in here, and he had some questions about the data. He expressed concern that it appears [the team] is simply regurgitating a bunch of numbers.”

After it was explained that the numbers actually exceeded everyone’s expectations for how the site would perform after the redesign, the link detox and having new content in place, she made things crystal clear.

“Let me cut to the chase,” she said. “The numbers are great. We’re happy with the numbers. But this the same thing our last agency provided us: great data. What we’re looking for is someone to share what the data is telling us about what to do in the future, so we can focus only on those areas that are likely to benefit the brand. We’d like to know what will help us attain success in the future, not what [your team] thinks will lead to success in the future.”

What this client needed was the Oracle of Delphi, not someone to analyze their data.

But she was right. They were looking for all-important insight, insight that could not be gleaned from data alone. However, this agency and all the others she’d worked with had led her to believe the data is gospel. Follow it to the Promised Land.

She knew better.

Data alone is never enough.

Though many in online marketing prefer to see data as the be-all and end-all, at best data alone tells us what’s likely to be effective in the future. It does not provide the “if this, then that” clarity we crave.

The more we share “according-to-the-data” insight, the more we walk a tightrope that never ends. Data tells us what happened, can yield great insight into what’s likely to happen, and is at its best when used to discern what is happening.

However, in the real world, things change constantly and often without warning, a fact that cannot be accounted for via data alone.

“[Data] is an abstract description of reality,” writes Jim Harris on his blog, Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality. ”…The inconvenient truth is that the real world is not the same thing as these abstract descriptions of it—not even when we believe that data perfection is possible (or have managed to convince ourselves that our data is perfect).”

To be sure, data is integral to attaining success in the information-rich online marketing arena. Everything from our websites to our campaigns to conversions depends on it. In fact, data is a large part of what sets online marketing apart from traditional marketing, which can, at times, feel like so much guesswork.

But over the course of the last two years, through interviews with more than 300 folks in the content marketing/inbound marketing space, I’ve come to realize that many wonder if data (insofar as how it’s used to make decisions) isn’t as much a curse as it is a blessing.

(Image source)

In conversation after conversation, I’ve heard CEOs, SEOs, CMOs, PPC nerds, and content folks say the same things, which is summed up nicely by these comments from a director-level SEO at one of the most successful agencies in the US: “Even in those cases where we deliver to clients data that far exceeds their expectations, they often fire us. Heck, especially when we deliver those amazing results, they fire us.”

I think this occurs for one of two reasons:

  1. They realize data doesn’t yield the solution they’d hoped for, or
  2. They falsely believe data highlights the end-game, meaning they can now thrive on autopilot.

As any of us working in online marketing can attest, nothing could be further from the truth.

Data is an important part of a large picture, one that is as nuanced and as varied as it is ever-changing.

Because of that, we need context.

“Data doesn’t come with context,” says Tim Gillman, an analytics nerd at Portent Interactive in Seattle. “For example: measuring content. If your data says people spend ~15 mins reading your post, there’s always the chance that they simply left their computer for awhile. You don’t know for certain they were loving your content.”

I struggled with this reality for months, wondering what, if anything, could be done to bridge this gap, which would allow us to (a) be given the time to do quality work for our clients and (b) have clients realize the efficacy of our efforts.

I read big data and data science books, started following the words and works of big data nerds active on social media, in addition to listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos, and talking to as many people as I could to discern how we, as online marketers, can be successful.

Training ourselves to think about data differently

In the end, it was the sage words from Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen that helped me gain some clarity.

Data, at best, can only tell us about the past, he writes. It cannot help us see into the future.

For that, he adds, we need a theory for helping to explain what’s likely to happen. Taken together, both data and theory, serve to provide us with the building blocks of what can become the framework for success we crave.

To make this work, he says, we must go “dumpster diving” — hanging out in the real world, observing and noticing how things occur in real life — which will lead us to more effectively posit the hows (things really work) and whys (they work as they do).

Then, once we have the data, we use it to empirically assess the observed behavior, devoid of emotion.

The framework looks a lot like this:

  • Observe – Dumpster-diving in the real world
  • Theorize – Posit the how and the why
  • Test – Assess and compile data
  • Construct – Develop a framework for future efforts

With this model, we’re training ourselves to think about data in a different, but no less valuable, way. In the above scenario, data is an important part of the equation; it is not treated as the equation in its entirety.

This, to my mind, gets us closer to seeing data in the proper context. That is a part of the solution. But changing how we think about data won’t allow us to keep clients any better, won’t immediately make us better marketers and cannot, by itself, lead to better overall decisions being made.

For that to occur, we have to change two things: the data we act upon, and how we choose to act upon it.

A framework for finding your data goalposts

(Image source)

Without knowing it, Matthew Brown at MozCon 2015 provided us with the veritable playbook for how to use data to improve our content marketing efforts. During his talk, which was one of the best of the entire event, he highlighted the key to content marketing success: content loyalty.

The more loyal our audiences, the better able we are to sustain our content marketing efforts. (A loyal audience comprises the folks who most frequently visit your site.)

The key, Brown said during the talk, is to find the goalpost that helps you determine content loyalty for your brand, then optimize for that metric. So, instead of chasing Likes, shares, or links to your content, you’re focused on creating loyal visitors to your site.

This is important because one of the reasons content marketers end up getting lost down the data rabbit hole is we too often chase the wrong metrics (e.g., they highlight activity but don’t lead to conversions) or we attempt to track too many metrics, most of which don’t lead to the goal we, or our clients, are hoping for.

Here’s how such an effort could work for your brand, using the OTTC framework borrowed from Christensen’s work:

  • Observe
    Determine what comprises “loyal visitors” for your brand. It could be visits per day, per week, or per month. This is the crucial first step. Get this wrong and nothing else matters. What you’re looking for is the metric that correlates with visitors becoming loyal to your site. Put simply, you’re looking for the gotcha that says “These folks are now loyal visitors.”
  • Theorize
    Gather the team and spend some time thinking through what it is about your site and/or content that likely leads to these audience members becoming loyal fans and followers. Is it the length of the content? The number of images? The author? The amount of content above the fold? The number of ads?
  • Test
    Use the information gleaned from that meeting with the team to begin testing the various on-page elements until you have a good idea of what it is that leads folks to become loyal. This is the fun part. To make it even more rewarding, you can rest assured that many of your competitors won’t be following suit, as many of them are content to guess at what works, then throw more of the same at the wall.
  • Construct
    Develop a process by which you continue to optimize for content loyalty, in large part by creating the types and formats of content that you’ve uncovered as leading to content loyalty. Keep in mind, however, that this process is not static, as your audience’s needs are likely to change with time. But by analyzing the data, dumpster diving by interacting with the audience via emails, polls, Q&A, and sundry other methods of staying connected, your brand will be in great shape to continue putting the ball through the uprights.

Summation

This is a post I thought long and hard about writing. During this quest to better understand data and shine a light on how to make it work for us and not against us, I’ve developed a deep, sincere fascination for big data and the role it can play in answering some of our biggest questions.

I’m in no way anti-data. Hardly. What I’m against is the “data-tells-us-all-we-need-to-know” mindset I so often encounter.

I’m hopeful that, in the future, more and more of us are willing to be honest with ourselves and our clients, acknowledging what we know to be true: the data alone won’t save us.

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The Hidden Power of Nofollow Links

Posted by nicoleckohler

A few years ago, while I was still on the client side of things, I received an email from a blogger I was working with. As part of our fledgling link building program, my company had been sending out free products in exchange for a review and link to our site. Oldest trick in the book, right? However, the blogger’s email threw me off: she told me her policy was to nofollow links, and asked if this would be all right.

“Uh, sure,” I eloquently responded, having absolutely no idea what she was talking about, “just as long as there’s a link!” I then scrambled to look up just what in the heck a nofollow link was, and roughly five minutes later started cursing at my monitor. We’d just invested thirty bucks in a completely useless link!

While that may have been my viewpoint back then, my opinion on nofollow links has changed. Obviously, for those of us who are trying to earn links for our clients, receiving a nofollow link can feel like a slap in the face. But
these links have hidden powers that make them just as important as followed ones.

Here’s why nofollow links are more powerful than you might think.

Links build awareness

A link has a few different connotations these days. It could mean, “this is an article that supports my viewpoint, and you might benefit by reading it, too.” It could mean, “I do a lot of shopping here, and I think you should look at their cute dresses.” Or it could simply mean, “I like cat videos!” But at its very core,
a link is designed to create awareness of something on a different page.

When you’re out there trying to make people aware of your business, links are hugely important. SEO companies now offer link building services
because businesses realize how important they are. So to that busy CEO who sees his or her website traffic dipping, and believes that links will give them a way to get back on top, a successful link building campaign is going to be really desirable.

That busy CEO is probably going to flip out if you say “well, we got 50 new links this month, and 40 of them were nofollow.” But it’s important that neither you nor the CEO (nor their marketing team) discredit the power of a nofollow link. Links still build awareness,
as long as they are seen. They don’t have to be followed. They probably don’t even have to be clicked! They just have to be visible.

How many times a day do you see someone you follow tweet a link to an article with an interesting headline? Let’s say the article is really well written, and is on a site you don’t currently follow. So you add them to your feed reader. A week later, you think “oh, you know, that post I read is really relevant to this blog post I’m working on now!” So you link to it in your post. This accomplishes two things: one, it probably negates that original nofollow link from Twitter (more on that shortly), and two, it has made both you
and your followers aware of that site.

Links lead to profit

A nofollow link can also
directly lead to someone spending money on your company’s products or services. If you consistently create awareness and engage with people, those nofollow links may earn you way more than domain authority. Don’t believe me? Here’s the story of how I became a paying Buffer customer.

A few months ago, I saw a tweet with a link to
this case study about how Buffer responded to being hacked. I had no idea what Buffer was, but it gave me an idea for a blog post. After I wrote my post, I followed Buffer on Twitter. I engaged with them a few times (for example, mentioning them after my post went up), and they engaged right back.

Over the next few weeks, I visited the Buffer blog when they tweeted links to new posts, learned about their company, and admired the heck out of their content marketing skills. I’d say it was at about the two month mark that I decided to actually give them a try. A month later, I upgraded to the Awesome plan and began using it daily to manage not only
my accounts, but also our agency’s accounts.

To recap, this is how it all went down:

  1. I became aware of Buffer through someone else’s Twitter link
  2. I followed Buffer on Twitter
  3. I engaged with their content
  4. I tried, subscribed, and ended up forking over $ 10 a month (well worth it!)

This was all because of a single nofollow link. Over the course of three months, my general awareness turned into lifetime value for Buffer. That one nofollow link
directly led to profit.

You can make an equation out of this:

a + e = p

Awareness + engagement = profit. By becoming aware of Buffer, and having opportunities to engage regularly with them, I converted into a paying customer. This all happened because of social media, and all those links you see on social media are nofollow. (Who said there’s no ROI in Twitter?!)

Links lead to more links

A few years ago,
Joshua Unseth wrote a post for YouMoz explaining how a single nofollow link earned him a second link that was followed, increased his traffic, and boosted his article to the top of the SERPs for a specific phrase. His post, titled “The Importance of nofollow Links,” has a really great conclusion that stresses the importance of even a single link:

To put it into context, of the people that came to the article as a direct or indirect result of the nofollow, ~1% made a comment on the article itself, and ~2% blogged about it – actually, if you count this article, then the results were blogged about by 3% of the visitors.

While I don’t think that these numbers would hold on a site with more viewers, I think that they represent the way in which content ends up going viral. In the end, ALL IT TAKES IS ONE LINK, and its follow status doesn’t seem to make a difference.

I couldn’t say it any better! What Joshua wrote still holds true today – and in fact may be even truer, considering how many of us use Twitter to amplify messages and blog posts we enjoy, or rely on a feed reader to provide us with interesting content that we want to share on our websites.

Here’s a real-life example of the potential power of a single nofollow link. Back in March, we published two maps showing the
ISP landscape in the United States, and how the potential Comcast buyout of Time-Warner would affect it. The post was picked up by the Amazing_Maps Twitter account, which has more than 160,000 followers.

This was a nofollow link, obviously, as were the retweets that followed.

Two days later, we made it to the front page of the Huffington Post.

After HuffPo picked up the story, the maps spread to several other websites, most of which had followed links back to our blog post or homepage. But even if those links
hadn’t been followed, we still would have created new awareness of WebpageFX, our blog, and the work we do.

Like Joshua said: it only takes one. One link can lead to many.

How to make the most of your nofollow links

“Okay, Nicole,” I can hear you skeptics saying, “I’m on board. nofollow links are powerful. Magical, even. But you don’t see any of
my tweets getting picked up by HuffPo.”

Well, food for thought: we’ve published hundreds of blog posts, and only one of them led to a Twitter link (not ours) that led to HuffPo. Success on the Internet is all about being at the right place with the right content at the right time, and with all of the blogs, websites, and companies vying for attention, your chance at getting noticed is lower than low.

Here are some ways that you can make the most of your nofollow links, whether they’re on social media, someone’s blog, or elsewhere.

Motivate viewers to click your link. This might mean testing headlines, trying different tweets, or coming right out and saying, “look, if you click this, this cool thing will happen.” For example, Buffer found that one tweet earned a blog post 100% more clicks than another, just because they changed the language surrounding the link.

Increase your audience. Want more people to see, click, and act on your nofollow link? Get a bigger audience. This may be as simple as following industry figureheads who are likely to follow you back, directly asking for shares, or sharing your post multiple times. Try emailing people of authority and asking (nicely) for them to check out your content. If it’s really good, it may earn you a share.

Another trick: if you write blog posts or product content that references someone else, make sure they know about it. It may seem like you’re just trying to stroke their ego, but
it works. If someone wrote a blog post about me, heck yeah I’d tweet the link out to everybody I knew! (Unless it was bad. Then I’d just cry.)

Ensure your link is relevant. This, in my opinion, is one of the most important aspects of a nofollow link. So many links on social media go unclicked simply because the content isn’t relevant to them. This one is hard to control, because it’s pretty difficult to know when your audience is going to be in the mood for your blog posts vs. photos of puppies, but you can still get ahead by thinking very carefully about what you share, when, and why.

Make sure your content is relevant, too. Okay, so your link got clicked. Great! But your bounce rate is at 99%. Not great. You can write the best headline in the world, but if the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is empty, nobody’s going to stick around. Avoid misleading headlines, unfulfilling content, or just plain marketing to the wrong people.

This is honestly the biggest flaw of the ISP map I linked above. Lots of people checked out the maps, and even visited our blog to see the rest of the study, but then they left. Probably 99% of our visitors to that post have no idea who WebpageFX is and what we do. That doesn’t mean the content was bad, but it just wasn’t relevant to the kind of audience we want to attract (that is, potential clients).

Optimize your landing pages. What do you want someone to do after they visit your link? What’s the next step for this visitor? Keep them around a little longer. Use a related posts plugin to provide some additional reading, or try a service like snip.ly to suggest relevant content or links.

Don’t complain. If someone gives you a link and it’s nofollow, please don’t storm into their inbox with guns blazing. Maybe they just don’t know you well enough to follow your links yet. If you’re cool about it, the second link they give you may be a followed one. And even if it isn’t, you’re still getting exposure out of it, right?

A nofollow link isn’t the end of the world

As SEO professionals, I know we’re all aiming for followed links that pass a lot of “juice” to the websites of our clients. If we all had our way, earning links would be easy, every link would be followed, and Google would never, ever penalize websites for having too many links, or too many links of a certain type. We would all have millions of dollars, and would spend our days on the beach drinking fancy cocktails. Unfortunately… that’s just not the way things are.

Honestly, a nofollow link isn’t the end of the world, either for you or for a client. These links are valuable, and important for anyone trying to build their brand online. As I’ve shown, they hold significant power, and more than you might expect.

Instead of focusing on whether or not a link is followed, we should do our best to get those links in front of the right people at the right time, crafting content beyond the link that motivates conversions. As it is for everything in SEO, obtaining links is all about balance: the balance between followed and not followed, “juicy” links and dry ones.

In my case, that nofollow link I talked about at the beginning of this post went live, the blogger was happy with her product, and the review she wrote was fantastic. It led to a fairly high amount of clicks through to our site… and what do you know, even a few purchases. Seeing was believing for me, and now I’m an advocate of earning links in general – not just the followed ones.

Image Credit: Public domain images from Pixabay (links, beach); cat screencap from Maru’s YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/mugumogu); Twitter & snip.ly screencaps I took; Buffer blog (source linked in post)

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3 Quick Ways to Find Hidden Guest Blogging Opportunities

Image of Coin Operated Binoculars

Guest posting is a great strategy for building an audience — no doubt about it.

If you regularly write guest posts for legitimate blogs that feature quality content, your posts can be an amazing source of traffic and inbound links.

Guest blogging just works … when you do it right.

But finding quality guest posting opportunities can be a chore. Everyone who needs guest posting gigs is searching Google for terms like “guest posts.”

That means the bloggers that rise to the top of that search are completely inundated with guest posting requests. Your request will probably get lost in the shuffle.

Your job is to ferret out the guest blogging opportunities that no one else knows about.

Here are three quick ways to do great research that will move you one step closer to those powerful, yet lesser-known opportunities.

Topsy

I love Topsy.

I use it to come up with new blog post ideas, but you can use it to find guest blogging prospects as well.

Topsy searches the social web (Google+ and Twitter) for popular topics. By doing a search for “guest post” and limiting your search to articles shared within the recent past, you can find new guest post possibilities before your competition does.

If I wrote a cooking blog, I might search Topsy for ["guest post" cooking] and use the left sidebar to narrow down the results. I can ask Topsy to show me the links that were shared on Twitter within the last 13 days, and sort the results by date. At the time of this writing, Topsy showed me 37 results for that particular search parameter, and that means 37 new prospects who might be willing to publish a guest post from me.

Topsy also gives you social sharing information at a glance. By examining how many times each blog post was shared on Twitter, you can ascertain which opportunities might translate into the best exposure for you and your brand.

Google+

Although Topsy does search Google+ for shared topics, it does so very poorly. The search that I ran above (for a guest post on cooking) showed me only three links shared on Google+, even using the “all time” filter.

But when I run the same search using the actual Google+ interface, I get a lot more results. That means more guest blogging opportunities for you — and probably in places that no one else is looking.

Once you find some good bloggers to connect with, you can use your Google+ account to comment on the articles, then add those bloggers to your circles. This a great way to connect with your target bloggers in a non-threatening, gentle way.

Then you’re set up well to build your relationship with them via social media interactions. A solid relationship with a blogger means that when you do finally reach out to him or her to ask for a guest posting gig, they’ll recognize your name — and that means you’ll be considerably less likely to go straight into the circular file.

Bing

Yes, there is another search engine!

Bing attracts about 165 million searchers every month, and is often listed as the second-largest search engine in the world.

Here’s why you should care about Bing — the Bing engine ranks their search results differently than Google. Why is that important? Because you can use the same search strings in Google and in Bing, and you’ll find vastly different results.

This means you can find some hidden opportunities for guest posting that your competition hasn’t discovered — because they’re not looking in the right place.

Searching the phrase ["guest post" cooking] at Bing brings up over a quarter of a million results, and in most cases, the overlap with Google results is pretty minimal. The top 20 results for that same search on both Google and Bing only show two overlapping results.

Over to you …

So, those are just three quick ways to find unique, out-of-the-echo-chamber guest blogging opportunities.

It’s important to research places like this for many reasons, not the least of which is finding and connecting with the new generations of writers and content producers coming online every day.

How about you? Are you spending time with any lesser-known outreach tools or communities?

Here’s you’re chance to drop them into the comments below, and make them just a little bit less lesser-known. ;-)

About the Author: Rae Hoffman (AKA “Sugarrae“) is a veteran in the affiliate marketing space and the CEO of PushFire, a digital marketing agency that provides SEO and PPC management services.

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26 Social Media Marketing Hidden Treasures You Never Knew Existed

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As more and more marketers have championed (or begrudgingly admitted) the importance of social media as part of a well-rounded marketing strategy, lots of cool tricks and tips have been published across the interwebs to help turn social media into a traffic- and lead-generating channel. But even with all that information, there is still some stuff that can’t be gleaned without just taking the time to poke around in the social networks.

But when you do take the time to investigate the nooks and crannies of popular social networks … oh man, is there some cool stuff there for marketers! This blog post is going to take you on a tour of the most popular social networks marketers are using, and show you the little features you didn’t know about — but will help you meet your monthly goals just a little bit faster and easier!

Things You Might Have Missed on Twitter

140 characters, replies, mentions, and retweets. What else is there to know about Twitter? A lot, as it turns out! Check out some of the nooks and crannies of Twitter that you may have missed out on.

Use Advanced Search

There are many complaints about the regular Twitter search, but did you know Twitter actually has an advanced search tool? With this feature, you can search for multiple words (and exclude words), hashtags, specific people who have tweeted, and even search by location. For marketers this is valuable to get specific data on what your audience is saying about your company, broken down by influencers, geography, and topic.

 

Screen Shot 2012 06 13 at 10.07.08 AM

 

Get More Visibility for Your Tweet Replies

If someone you follow begins a tweet with an @reply to someone you do not follow, the tweet will not show up in your tweet stream! As a marketer, you might want some of those replies you’re sending to get more visibility though, right? The solution is putting a period before the @reply at the beginning of your tweet (like this: .@reply) to make sure that any of your followers can see the reply, too.

Create Twitter Lists

Twitter lists are not utilized as much as they should be, because they are a great way to organize your users. Marketers can keep track of some of their competitors, customers, leads, and thought leaders in the industry. You can also make private lists if you don’t want others to see who you are keeping track of (or in what categories they are bucketed). You should also search for some of the public lists around topics you are interested in gaining a following for. For example, HubSpot might find lists of marketing thought leaders that we can follow!

 

Screen Shot 2012 06 13 at 10.23.34 AM

 

Save Those Searches

Using third party applications like HootSuite give you the opportunity to save searches, and reference them in the future almost instantaneously. For example, if you want to search for the term “#mobile” and see the results as soon as someone tweets about it, you can set up a column in HootSuite that will do just that. And while some of you may already know that, did you know that you can set up a search for multiple items. For example, you can type in “#mobile AND #marketing AND #apps” to make your search even more specific!

Things You Might Have Missed on Foursquare

There have been some recent updates to the Foursquare mobile app that give marketers a new opportunity to utilize location-based services. Let’s explore those updates, along with some of the oldies-but-goodies on Foursquare.

Use Foursquare Like a Traditional Social Network

The biggest update to Foursquare is that the main page is now a newsfeed! You know, the thing you see on Twitter and Facebook, those other social networks ;-) You can comment and like other people’s check-ins, and your pictures appear more prominently than before. This means marketers will now get more publicity when people check into their locations. Additionally, Foursquare will highlight brand pages that users’ friends like, giving more value to those companies who are active with the app.

 

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Create Foursquare Lists

In addition to “friending” other people on Foursquare, you can also create lists about anything you want … from companies to follow, to places to eat, whatever! And to get yourself included more on other people’s lists, be sure to update your profile, and create your own lists that others can follow. This will position your company as a Foursquare power user that others rely on, not just any ol’ business.

 

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Create Brand-Specific Foursquare Accounts

Brands also have the opportunity to create a Foursquare page. This gives companies — especially brick-and-mortar shops — the chance to market themselves and personally get in touch with their audience. Boloco’s Foursquare page is an excellent example of a brand who stays active on Foursquare by interacting with customers, posting tips and specials, and rewarding the mayor (or person who checks in the most) at each location.

Engage in a Two-Way Conversation

With the recent updates came the ability to tweet at particular companies right from the app. It also gives you the ability to send your check-in to a friend via social media or an SMS message. It’s important to make sure your company’s profile(s) are up to date so people actually want to interact with you.

 

foursquare1

 

Use the ‘Explore’ Feature

The Foursquare ‘Explore’ feature has been updated to be even more accurate and have better search filters. As you can see below, I searched for food near East Cambridge. A ton of results come up, but it also pulls up some of the nearby restaurants that my friends have been to so I can see recommendations. For marketers, if you are able to create a presence on Foursquare through specials and tips, more people will go to your company, helping you to be higher on the list. 

 

foursquare4

 

Things You Might Have Missed on Facebook

Facebook has been updating features and functionality left and right the past couple weeks, so it’s no surprise that there are some pretty cool tricks marketers can pull if they know where to look. Well, here’s where to look!

Drive Engagement to Show Up More in Newsfeeds

There is a lot of mystery behind the Facebook newsfeed. What has become clear due to their EdgeRank algorithm, however, is that the more people interact with you, the more your brand’s page will show up in the newsfeeds of your fans’ networks. For example, because I interact with HubSpot’s content, they frequently come up on my newsfeed, and that of my friends (even if they aren’t fans of HubSpot).

 

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For marketers, it’s critical to regularly post content that gets people commenting and liking — the more you’re able to elicit engagement, the greater your reach will grow as you’re introduced to a wider network through your fans.

Ask a Question

Asking questions on Facebook is a valuable tool for marketers to see better fan engagement and discern their opinions on important issues, which is why Facebook provides a feature dedicated to it. Didn’t know about the “Ask a Question” feature? It’s right there in your status update field!

 

ask a question

 

There are a few different settings for these questions, too. First, you can ask a certain group of people a particular question if you only want a particular sample. You can also allow people to submit their own answers, or close it off and only allow your own pre-set answers. This flexbility provides a lot of value for marketers trying to get a quick poll!

Don’t Use Images With Spaces in the Name

The Facebook API wll not show a thumbnail picture from a link if there is a space in the file name of the image. This is important for marketers to know as including a picture with a link often encourages people to click through the link. So instead of labeling your pictures “email product screenshot,” label it “email-product-screenshot” to ensure the link to your blog post about email products actually carries an image over to Facebook!

Things You Might Have Missed on YouTube

Everyone loves a video, and marketers, you can make people love them even more when you make use of some of these YouTube tips and tricks.

Use YouTube’s Extensive Analytics

YouTube has a ton of beneficial analytics for marketers, including views, subscribers, demographics, and audience retention. This helps you see what video content people are interested in, and what’s falling flat, especially when you look at the audience retention metric! It will even tell you when people are watching your full video, and where in the video people start to lose interest.

 

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Insert Video Annotations

Video annotations are pop-ups that appear during your video. With them, you can give your viewer a message without interupting the video. Marketers can also take advantage of this to include a promotion or offer in the videos that doesn’t rely on the viewer getting to the call-to-action at the end of your video (you know, in case they drop off before that)!

For the Sake of Views, Don’t Reupload Videos!

There are a lot of edits that occur before the final video is ready. However, if you upload the video and begin to get views, you will lose those views if you reupload a new video. For marketers this is important to know because it will affect the analytics that show the success (or failure) of your video. Be careful everyone!

Edit Within YouTube for Minor Changes

A new addition to YouTube is the video editor tool. This allows you to make minor changes to your videos such as rearranging clips, changing audio, and cutting down your video. This new tool is great for marketers who need a simple, free tool to make changes instead of purchasing expensive video editing software.

Things You Might Have Missed on Instagram

Instagram is every mobile fan’s favorite visual social network, so make your mobile fans happy by improving your performance using some of these golden Instagram nuggets!

Search by Hashtag

Hashtags play the same role on Instagram that they do on Twitter. If you click the hashtag on your cell phone, it will pull up all of the pictures who used the same hashtag. This makes it easy for you markters out there to take your hashtag strategy, contests, and live events to the next level via Instagram, not just Twitter and Facebook!

 

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Tweet Other People’s Images

Instagram makes it super easy to tweet pictures out directly from the app. By clicking the three dots to the right of the “Like” and “Comment” buttons, a new window pops up with a pre-written tweet. This functionality provides a great opportunity for marketers to encourage their followers to tweet out their pictures in an easy and quick way.

 

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Get Analytics on Your Instagram Usage

Statigram is a desktop app that provides analytics for Instagram. The app gives marketers the ability to report on analytics from their brand’s Instagram usage. So you can decide if, you know, Instagram actually works for your business.

 

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Things You Might Have Missed on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is critical for all marketers, but B2B marketers, in particular. We’ve written a blog post that highlights 11 of the LinkedIn marketing gems we think you might be missing out on … but since then we’ve thought of even more. Here they are!

Put Keywords Next to Your Name

If you want to show up for a particular search term, include it right next to your name. For example, if you want to appear when someone searches for “B2B,” include it as part of your title within the ‘Name’ field. Similar to a search engine, LinkedIn will recognize that you have something to do with “B2B” and put you closer to the top of the list of results returned when searches are performed for the term.

 

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Get Recommendations From Customers

On LinkedIn company pages, there is a section where companies can get recommendations from customers about their products or services. You can even get multiple recommendations about various parts of your company — from your product, to your customer service, to your content!

 

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Create Targeted Product Tabs

Using targeted product tabs, you can change what product page your audience sees based on their personal characteristics, like company size, job function, industry, seniority at their company, and geographic location. For example, if you want small companies to see one product page and large companies to see another, that is possible!

 

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Use Applications to Add More to Your Page

Just like Facebook has plenty of apps to make your social experience better, LinkedIn provides applications that can let you market your company even better than you already were. For example, you could promote some of your presentations with their SlideShare app — and you know how important sharing quality content is for your social media marketing strategy!

 

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Things You Might Have Missed on Pinterest

While Instagram has captured the hearts of mobile users who love visual content, Pinterest has grabbed the rest of our hearts. So make the most of your Pinterest marketing! Here’s how.

Use Keywords When Pinning Pictures

When you include keywords that you want to rank for in a Pinterest search in the picture description, it will increase your chances of appearing in a user’s search. This is another valuable way for marketers to get the attention of their audiences using visual content, which we all know is sometimes far more appealing than the written word. Creating boards around specific keywords can also help your rank.

Drive Traffic, not SEO

Pinterest will significantly increase traffic to your website, but it will not help your SEO. The “Pin It” buttons that come up on Pinterest always link back to your site, but they are “no-follow links,” which do not send along any link juice to your website. This is important for marketers to know because when they see their website traffic increase, they may wonder what happened to SEO.

Check Your Default Settings

The default setting for Pinterest is for your page not to appear in search engines. For marketers, it’s important to turn this setting to “On” so you appear in the search engine results. After all, if you are putting in marketing resources to make Pinterest a success, you want it to come up in results!

 

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What other hints and tricks do you know about these social networks that might help marketers?

Image credit: meddygarnet

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The Hidden Factors in Accomplishing Your Online Marketing Goals – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

In this week's Whiteboard Friday, we go underneath the surface and bring to light some hidden factors in online marketing. These often overlooked details can have a huge impact in helping us accomplish our goals as online marketers. Please enjoy and don't forget to leave your comments below.

Please note that we shot this week's Whiteboard Friday on a brand new video camera and we still need to work out a few kinks. I apologize for the slight purple tint on the Whiteboard.

Video Transcription

Howdy, SEOmoz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I want to talk about the goals that we try to get people to accomplish on the Web, the things that we're trying to accomplish as online marketers, and what we're trying to optimize for, things like: click-through rate from search results; getting people to subscribe to RSS and e-mail; getting them to click links that are posted on social networks; getting them to share things on social networks, on blogs, on websites of all kinds; getting them to convert from browsing to buying; completing a free trial or downloading a white paper and giving you their information; staying a customer of a subscription product. These goals that we have are traditionally done through optimization tactics that we've talked about many, many times here. But there are hidden factors. There are things that hide beneath the surface that impact and affect all of these, all of the success rates and the conversion rates and the goal rates that you have. They can be so subtle sometimes and so hidden beneath the surface that we don't even realize what's going on. That's what I want to talk about today.

So in terms of impacting all of these items, there's traditional stuff that we know, we talk about. So things like, oh, and the click-through rate for the search results, I know that position matters. I know that getting a rich snippet matters. If I can have little stars next to mine; if I can have a picture, a photo, or a video, that usually increases click-through rate. I know that if I'm in special kinds of results, that can either increase or decrease my results. I know if I've got a listing and an indented listing below, that can help me. I know that with subscriptions to RSS and e-mail, I can test different buttons, different versions of the entry form; different calls to action. On links that I click, I can test different titles. All this kind of stuff, there are those traditional testing kinds of things, right?

So in that traditional CRO, that's been covered a ton of times. We don't need to cover this because you often know a lot of the things that are in there. You can find them. They're well-documented. The subtle stuff, the weird stuff is oftentimes around just two questions.

Number one: Does the product or service or thing that you want me to do meet my needs? It could be as simple as: Do I think when I click on this result in the search engine that it will answer the question that I originally asked? But there are so many subtleties that are involved in that, that we never think about, that doing traditional kinds of CRO testing and optimization, we'll never get there.

The second question is: Do I trust and like the brand and/or people behind the brand? This goes to fundamental marketing and branding awareness, and it is so pervasive in all the things that we do, whether it's in web marketing or in offline marketing, and yet oftentimes ignored by marketers like us, who operate in the inbound world of SEO and social media and content marketing and these kinds of things, because we're so analytics driven, that we see a lower click-through rate than we want, a lower conversion rate than we want, a lower subscription rate, a lower sharing rate than we want, and we think, hey, let's test these traditional types of CRO things. Sometimes the problem or the optimization tactics are at a much deeper level.

Let's start with the product/service meeting the needs. There's a bunch of things that go in here. Uptime and reliability is one of the biggest ones. So essentially, if I click a website and it is not speedy, delivering the things that I need, and consistent, I'm going to learn not to trust it, and I'm going to be less likely to click it. This is why you see things like speed being a factor, webpage load speed in Google's rankings, granted a very small factor, but certainly a much bigger factor when you're talking about, "Hey, I'm going to click this, and boy, it's going to take a long time."

I'll give you a good example. I personally think that a lot of the writing at Forbes is pretty darn good. Same with The Wall Street Journal, same with Bloomberg online. But they almost all have interstitial ads and very, very slow page load times. At least in my experience in the past, those websites have done that for me. Almost always have the interstitial, almost always takes a while to load, and then I have to wait through the interstitial. I hate it.

So if I see something else in the search results, a site in social media, I'm going to be less apt to share it. I'm going to be less apt to click on it. I've learned through the conditioning that those brands have given me that the uptime, reliability speed issues are problems.

Same thing with pricing. So I think Radian6 is an absolutely phenomenal product. I've heard great things about it, met the CEO, know some people there. Terrific product. Way too expensive! No way that I can justify affording it. Right now, I'm using Google Alerts and some combination of Google searches that I do every day, some other brand monitoring stuff that SEOmoz is working on in beta, the Blogscape Project, which of course I get kind of alpha access to.

Pricing is wrapped in there by necessity. When you worry, "Hey, wait a minute. I'm attracting all these visitors. They're not converting or they're not taking this action." They may have heard, or they may know, or they may have seen that your pricing simply doesn't match their market, or they have fears around that. That's why I'm such a big fan of transparency here, because I think that you will weed out and save your salespeople time, and save your customer service people time, and save your website bandwidth, if you're transparent about this most of the time.

Features and perceived features. Features is: Do you do the thing that I want you to do? When I'm talking about features, I could mean in software. I could mean in a product, like I'm buying a digital camera, I'm buying a car, I'm buying a whiteboard pen, I'm buying a subscription to a software service. I'm looking purely for information. The features are: Do you do the things that I want you do to? Oftentimes, that comes through brand perception as well.

So I know that a lot of the times when I visit an eHow type of website, that it doesn't have the features that I want, which is a reliable source that I know I can trust. Wikipedia's the same way. I only semi-trust Wikipedia, and I trust it on some topics and not others, and I always want to back it up with something else from some reliable source where I know the person there or I know the brand there, because Wikipedia could be edited by anybody, and I don't necessarily know who's behind it.

So those types of brands, and this is even true sometimes at About.com, where the writers in some categories are phenomenal. Southern food, I think is terrific. Some of the digital marketing ones are good. Some of them are mediocre. It's a trust factor around the features and the perception of features. Perception of features is often very different from actual features.

We find, for example, when we survey customers of SEOmoz that they have no idea that we actually will help track their Facebook pages, Insights data over time, and their Twitter data over time. Many people don't even know that Open Site Explorer and SEOmoz are offered in the same subscription. So this is clearly a problem that we have had on perception of features, not even on actual features.

Presentation. The way and the style in which the features and the information and the pricing and reliability and the uptime, all of that is presented is another big one. The thing about presentation is that it's a layer that impacts everything else, not just up here, but down here as well. It's often done terribly, terribly wrong on the Web.

Because it ties so much to the, "Do I like and trust these people," let's talk about those. This question, when you ask the question, "Do I like and trust the brand, and the people behind the brand," that goes to a bunch of inputs that are very, very far removed, all so far removed from traditional CRO stuff. That's things like design and UX, which we talk about many times here on Whiteboard Friday and on the site. Higher quality, more professional, more consistent with what your audience is looking for, just does a fantastically better job than, "Oh yeah, we bought some stock photography of some people in an office working, and don't they look attractive, don't they have perfect skin? And now, you know, that's our homepage, and then there's Services, and Contact, and About. Great, we have a professional website!" No, you don't. No, no, you don't!

Design UX isn't just about that. There are other inputs like domain name and brand name. One of the biggest reasons that I'm often against exact- match domains is because it is so tremendously hard to build up any sort of branding. If you name industries, you will very, very rarely hear that the generic, exact-match domain for what we call that industry is a market leader, a brand leader, and because of that and also because, to be totally fair, a lot of people in the domaining sphere and the affiliate marketing and SEO sphere noticed the power that these had in Google and abused them tremendously. So now consumers have an association, particularly savvy consumers have an association, a brand association with exact-match domains. That is, "Oh, that's probably a low-quality site. That's probably not the real brand. I don't know if I can trust it if I click on that," versus actual brand names.

I'll give you some very good examples. In the world of office supplies I've heard of Staples, right? I've heard of OfficeMax. I've heard of Office Depot. But if it's OfficeSupplies.net, I'm sure someone owns that domain. It could even be someone awesome. Maybe it's a great site, but if I see it in the search results, I'm going to be mighty suspicious. That suspicion just naturally creeps in. That's why domain name and brand name are so tied together in the perception of trust and can substantially impact things like click-through rate and conversion rate and subscription rate, etc.

Accessibility of contact information. It's funny, I was just on an e-mail thread yesterday night, and some folks in the SEO sphere said, hey, have you ever heard of this particular - it was an enterprise SEO software provider. I went, "No, I haven't heard of them. This is the first time. Let me go check out their site." I see they try and say a few futures, but there's literally nothing, no one mentioned on the site; no people who are using it, no people who are associated with the brand. The contact information is "Fill out a contact form" or "Here's our office." I think it was somewhere in the United States; I can't remember exactly where. But other than a mailing address and a phone number, there was no human being listed, which made me very suspicious, because why would you not show off the team? Like, here's the exec team behind it. Here are our engineers. That kind of transparency is natural in the software world. Something's weird if it doesn't exist there.

Being able to find that information - a phone number, e-mail, contact forms, here's our Twitter and our Facebook, and these kinds of things - you just expect those from web companies. When they don't exist, you become highly suspicious.

The authenticity of the content. One of my favorite examples is there's a brand that's been doing a ton of fantastic infographics. I think it's MBAonline or MBAeducation.com, one of the online education providers with a very generic name. They really do great infographics. They sponsor some awesome stuff. Sometimes they'll get featured on a Mashable or even a TechCrunch, or something like that. Tremendous work, excellent work getting that brand out there.

But I always look at them and think this doesn't have a relationship with what the services that you're trying to sell, which is you're an affiliate for a bunch of online education providers, which can be a little bit of a nasty, sort of spammy, aggressive field. The challenge here is, hey, yes, you've got the infographic, you've got the link. But when you're trying to tie back into consumers and earn their business, those of us who are savvy and sophisticated, we sort of get a funny feeling, like something doesn't match up. The content is not authentic to the brand. Why is it being produced?

I think a great example of this is OkTrends, which is OkCupid's blog. They essentially have dating content that matches up with what people are looking for from their site. So, here's how to optimize your dating profile, and by the way, we're a dating website. Great, makes perfect sense.

Hey, here's an infographic about the rise of Twitter or Twitter click- through rates or something - and by the way, we're an MBA online education provider. Why is that? It seems like it's just for the links and attention and awareness and has nothing to do with the actual brand. Highly suspicious, particularly in spheres that are very aggressive.

Industry reputation, word of mouth. I'll give you another example. So, there was another provider that was mentioned on this string in the SEO enterprise space. No, I'm sorry. It was another enterprise software provider, but not in SEO. There were some comments of, "Oh, hey, should we use this? Should we use this other one?" Someone remarked on an e-mail thread, "You know, the CEO of this particular company has treated women employees very badly."

You would never find that on the Web, right? That's not information that you're going to see. If you start searching for reviews, you won't find it on their website. It's something that's word-of-mouth only, but it's made its way to enough influencers that now that is an influential thing in the perception of, "Do I like the brand and the people?" Very frankly, I trust this source, and I know the source knows the CEO there, and I don't. I'm probably not going to buy from this particular enterprise software provider, even if they meet my needs up here. This is the type of stuff that influences conversion rate, that is so subtle and so hidden, that you're never going to realize it from a traditional CRO-type of perspective. And yet, it pays huge dividends to go and investigate this stuff and understand that perception.

The final one that I'll mention here is familiarity with the brand and social proof of the brand. A great example here, go to SurveyMonkey's website. If you're not logged in, the homepage is a woman from Facebook, her picture, she's a statistical analyst there, and she's giving an endorsement to SurveyMonkey. Now, Facebook is a phenomenal brand; they're very well-known. Their business practices are respected. People know that they're a great data-driven company, and so the fact that they trust SurveyMonkey strongly suggests SurveyMonkey must be a great provider. So, they've created that social proof, and they're using a brand that you're familiar with.

When you combine those things, it's absolutely excellent and incredibly powerful. When I go to websites and I see a lot of social proof from either people that are anonymous or people that provide only their fist name or people that I don't know, it's less powerful. When I have seen a brand, six, seven, eight times on the Web, at a conference, in various types of ways - I've heard from someone over e-mail, I know someone who's used them, I've had an experience with someone from that company - those types of things strongly influence these. Building up all of this builds up your conversion rates and builds up all of these metrics that you think about as an online marketer, and yet, we often have so little control or so little even ability to judge and record these things.

What I want to suggest is that, to those of you who are doing web marketing, when you're thinking about these metrics, remember that these are all inputs. Don't necessarily use them as excuses, but make sure that you're taking some action on them. Make sure that you're finding ways to measure them. Make sure that these aren't the reasons why your rates over here are low, rather than the stuff that you focus on, because it can be incredibly frustrating to find that, hey, the reason that we're not making good sales is because no one is familiar with our brand, and we don't have the right social proof, rather than, oh, it's because I didn't write the title tags correctly, and I don't have a compelling description for the content, and the page isn't optimized well. It doesn't have a good flow and conversion process and funnel. Sometimes these two things are mixed up together, and I worry about those hidden factors.

So, I hope you've enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday, and I hope we'll see you again next week. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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