The Top 12 SEO Tools of 2018

There's nothing quite like a sudden Google algorithm update to leave marketers feeling equal parts confused and concerned. It seems like they wait for you to get all of your ducks in a row and then unleash an update that makes your efforts instantly obsolete.

Sure, they're pretty open about that fact that they're doing this for everyone's own good -- each algorithm tweak brings us one step closer to more relevant search results, after all. However, there is still some secrecy behind exactly how Google evaluates a website and ultimately determines which sites to show for which search queries.

That said, there are a number of tools out there -- some free, some paid -- that help you to look at your own site the way that Google sees it.

These tools are critical to your organic search strategy because they allow you to focus on the elements of your site that Google deems important. In this post, we'll walk through 10 such tools that all help you run a site analysis like a marketer ... and a Google bot!

SEO Monitoring Tools

  1. Google's Webmaster Tools
  2. SEMrush
  3. HubSpot's Website Grader
  4. Check My Links
  5. BuzzStream
  6. Moz's Pro Tools
  7. UpCity's SEO Report Card
  8. Woorank
  9. Screaming Frog's SEO Spider
  10. Found's SEO Audit Tool
  11. Remove'em
  12. Varvy's SEO Overview Tool

 

12 SEO Monitoring and Keyword Tools for 2018

1. Google's Webmaster Tools

Cost: Free

Purpose: Site Analysis

Perhaps the best way to understand the way Google sees your site is to ask Google. Google's Webmaster Tools are novice-friendly resources that explain the fundamentals of Google search.

For example, Google's Fetch as Google tool allows you to see a particular URL as Google sees it, which is critical when troubleshooting for poor SEO performance. The information returned can help you modify the page in question for better results, and can even help you isolate problematic code when you believe your site's been hacked.

 

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Another great feature of Google Webmaster Tools is PageSpeed Insights. This SEO tool measures the performance of both your desktop and mobile site in terms of speed. With mobile search queries surpassing desktop searches, page speed is becoming increasingly important to businesses that want to hold on to their visitors.

"PageSpeed Insights evaluates how well a page follows common performance best practices and computes a score from 1-100 that estimates its performance headroom," according to Google Developers. That score can be Good, as in 80 or above; Medium, as in 60 to 79; or Low, as in 0 to 59.

2. SEMrush

Cost: Free

Purpose: Keyword Research

SEMrush is a super elaborate dashboard that reports on the performance of domains as a whole and their specific pages. The website offers numerous toolkits, one of which is an SEO toolkit.

Below is one of the toolkit's flagship features, allowing you to plug in a website page to see for what keywords it's ranking, what the page's rank is for that keyword, the keyword's monthly search volume, and more.

 

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The rest of the SEO toolkit allows you to compare your page performance to competition, analyze backlinks from other websites to your site (also known as link building), research appropriate keywords, and take advantage of similar on-page SEO opportunities.

3. HubSpot's Website Grader

Cost: Free

Purpose: Site Analysis

Back in 2007, HubSpot released a tool called Website Grader that helped businesses uncover search engine optimization opportunities. Because a lot has changed since then, the company has released a new and improved version of the tool.

 

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Website Grader is an online tool that generates personalized reports based on the following key metrics:

  • Performance. The tool will analyze your site's page size, requests, speed, and similar key SEO metrics.
  • Mobile Readiness. The tool will see if your website is mobile-friendly in terms of responsiveness and viewport settings.
  • SEO. The tool will determine if your website is easy to find -- both by humans and bots. This determination will take factors like page titles and meta descriptions into consideration.
  • Security. The tool will look for things like an SSL certificate. This serves as a way to prove to visitors that your site is both authentic and safe for contact information submissions.

All you need is your website URL and an email address to get started. Simply plug in your information and you can expect a score (1-100) as well as a detailed report in a matter of seconds.

Aside from Website Grader, HubSpot also has a handful of paid SEO tools to help you better direct your efforts.

For example, within the HubSpot Blogging App, users will find as-you-type SEO suggestions. This helpful inclusion serves as a checklist for content creators of all skill levels. HubSpot customers also have access to the Page Performance App, Sources Report, and the Keyword App. The HubSpot Marketing Platform will provide you with the tools you need to research keywords, monitor their performance, track organic search growth, and diagnose pages that may not be fully optimized.

4. Check My Links

Cost: Free

Purpose: Link Optimization

To ensure that your links on a webpage -- whether external or internal -- actually work, consider Check My Links.

This broken-link checker makes it easy for a publisher or editor to make corrections before a page is live. Think about a site like Wikipedia, for example. The Wikipedia page for the term "marketing" contains a whopping 711 links. Not only was Check My Links able to detect this number in a matter of seconds, but it also found (and highlighted) seven broken links.

 

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The tool highlights all the good links in green, and those that are broken in red, making it easy to spot the ones that don't work or are no longer active.

5. BuzzStream

Cost: Free 14-day trial, then paid plans from $24/mo

Purpose: Link Building

BuzzStream might be the most inexpensive way to manage your outreach to the people who can provide inbound links to your website.

Although backlinks to your website are critical to ranking well on Google, the outreach you do while link building can feel a lot like cold calling. BuzzStream makes it easy to research the appropriate people, come up with effective email messages, and track who's accepted each link request. Your link building queue looks like this:

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Image via BuzzStream

BuzzStream helps you identify candidates for outreach based on their industry and how engaged they are across various social networks -- so you know who will be most receptive to your backlink request and boost your ranking on Google.

6. Moz's Pro Tools

Cost: Free 30-day trial, then paid plans from $99/mo

Purpose: Site Analysis

The Moz Pro subscription serves as an all-in-one tool for increasing your business' search ranking. Moz's collection of research tools provides subscribers with the resources they need to identify SEO opportunities, track growth, build reports, and optimize their overall efforts. 

For example, the Crawl Test tool employs Moz's own web crawler, RogerBot, to analyze up to 3,000 links on a given URL. Once completed, users then receive an email report that details the data for each page the site links to.

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Image via Moz

This is super helpful if you're looking to identify "crawlability" factors, such as duplicate content and redirects that could be influencing your SEO performance.

7. UpCity's SEO Report Card

Cost: Free

Purpose: Share of Voice

SEO Report Card by UpCity lets you analyze your website to determine how it stacks up against your competitors.

 

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In exchange for a bit of your contact information, SEO Report Card will serve up a report that covers the following:

  • Rank Analysis. A snapshot of where your website ranks on Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. Your ranking is based on the main keyword you select when putting information in to build the report.
  • Link Building. A detailed account of the number of websites that link back to your site.
  • On-Site Analysis. A look at how successful you were in incorporating your main keyword throughout your site.
  • Website Accessibility. A section focused on your site's load time and ease of accessibility for crawlers.
  • Trust Metrics. An overview of your site's level of trust or authority.
  • Current Indexing. An indication of how many of your site pages have been indexed.

8. Woorank

Cost: Free 14-day trial, then $49/mo for a Pro Plan or $149/mo for a Premium Plan

Purpose: Site Analysis

Woorank's in-depth site analysis helps marketers reveal opportunities for optimization and improvement. This analysis takes into account the performance of existing SEO initiatives, social media, usability, and more.

 

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Each report is divided into eight sections:

  • Marketing Checklist
  • SEO
  • Mobile
  • Usability
  • Technologies
  • Social
  • Local
  • Visitors

Spanning across 70+ metrics, it would be hard -- if not impossible -- to not uncover opportunities for improvement.

As a bonus, Woorank makes it easy for users to download their reviews as branded PDFs. This makes company-wide distribution and presentation more streamlined than ever.

9. Screaming Frog's SEO Spider

Cost: The LITE version is free (with limitations*), and the paid plan is $160/year

Purpose: Site Analysis

The Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a search marketer's best friend.

Designed specifically for the SEO-minded, this program crawls the websites you specify, examining the URLs for common SEO issues. This program simplifies and expedites an otherwise time-consuming process -- especially for larger websites. It could take hours or days to manually evaluate the same URLs.

Take a closer look at how it works: 

 

The Java program is fairly intuitive, with easy-to-navigate tabs. Additionally, you can export any or all of the data into Excel for further analysis. So say you're using Optify, Moz, or RavenSEO to monitor your links or rankings for specific keywords -- you could simply create a .csv file from your spreadsheet, make a few adjustments for the proper formatting, and upload it to those tools.

*Pricing limitations include: You can only scan 500 URLs per website, and you don't have full access to configuration options and source code features. To remove these limitations, users can purchase a 12-month license for around $160/year.

10. Found's SEO Audit Tool

Cost: Free

Purpose: Site Analysis

Want to rise above your competitors on search engine results pages?

(Who doesn't?)

The SEO Audit Tool by Found is an easy-to-use tool for marketers looking to identify (and solve) common SEO errors on a website.

 

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Simply enter your URL and receive an instant automated SEO audit of your site. Found's SEO Audit Tool is broken down into three main parts:

  • Technical issues. This reports on factors like domain canonicalization and XML sitemaps.
  • Content issues. This focuses on influential factors like keywords and meta data.
  • External link analysis. This aims to evaluate the quantity and quality of external links.

Similar to Woorank, once you run a report, the tool makes it easy for you to download the results as a PDF to be easily shared within your organization.

11. Remove'em

Cost: $249 per domain or a subscription option starting at $99/mo

Purpose: Link Building

Have you ever purchased links? Spammed the comments section on a string of blogs using the same message and link? If so, we'll forgive your bad judgment just this once ... but Google won't.

Artificial or unnatural links have the potential to seriously hurt your search ranking. To clean them up, check out Remove'em:

 

This helpful tool scans your backlink profile and turns up a list of contact information for the links and domains you'll need to reach out to for removal. Alternatively, the tool also allows you to export the list if you wish to disavow them using Google's tool. (Essentially, this tool tells Google not to take these links into account when crawling your site.)

12. Varvy's SEO Overview Tool

Cost: Free

Purpose: Site Analysis

This SEO auditing tool provides users with information regarding their domain strength, links, image SEO, social counts and mentions, page/technical SEO, page speed, and more.

The comprehensive report is prepared in less than a minute, and dives deep into different aspects of your website's performance. You'll notice that the tool employs green checks, red Xs, and yellow exclamation points to denote the severity of the issue.

One of our favorite features is the detailed image overview:

 

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This section of the report focuses on the strength of the images your website employs by analyzing the alt text. If you're using too many words, missing alt text, or the alt text appears weak, the tool will notify you so that you can make any necessary changes.

Getting Started

You'll never get a look behind the Google curtain to learn everything they know (or don't know) about your site. But by leveraging SEO best practices and getting the most out of tools like those listed here, you can greatly increase the chances that your website will show up in response to the right search queries.

Check out the original post by Tom Demers here.

MyLabBox Appoints OAK Digital as Affiliate Agency of Record

MyLabBox, the first nationwide at home screening test for STD's, has elected OAK Digital as its agency of record for affiliate management and content partnerships.

MyLabBox works to keep private lives private by offering at home STD screenings. Along with afforable prices, MyLabBox provides its customers with fast and accurate test results.

OAK Digital, a global affiliate and growth agency servicing ecommerce companies, will manage growth through content partnerships.

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2018: The year of influencer marketing for B2B brands

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Total brand spending on influencer marketing was $81 billion in 2016 and is projected to reach $101 billion by 2020, according to a 2017 study from the Association of National Advertisers and PQ Media.

It’s not stated how much of that investment will come from consumer or B2B brands, but it’s clear that influencer marketing has become an integral piece of marketing programs today.

For consumer companies, if you have a product or service with mass consumer appeal, there are thousands of influential consumers (called creators) that you can “hire” and activate through paid campaigns. Companies like OpenInfluence and Clever have access to thousands of influencers as a part of their opt-in influencer network. All you need is an idea or campaign and a sizeable budget. And the great thing is, you can start tracking your program instantly.

How B2B is different

For B2B brands, it’s not that easy. Technology and business influencers can’t take a video of your SaaS (software as a service) platform or snap a photo of your data center and drive sales any time soon. It just doesn’t happen that way. Also, an influencer with a large following on Snapchat or Instagram doesn’t have much credibility with B2B buyers, unless they happen to work in IT themselves — which isn’t a typical scenario.

Also, B2B buyers don’t typically click on a link from an Instagram post, go to a corporate website and purchase software. They usually start the purchase process reading reviews, verifying specs and Googling everything under the sun. This behavior is usually the result of a conversation they had with a peer or co-worker. They spend hours, days and sometimes months researching the technology, asking questions and bouncing ideas off their network.

The minimum average sales cycle for enterprise software is six months. Even though social media has accelerated this cycle, it’s still much longer than the cycle for consumer products. It’s said that B2B buyers get as far as two-thirds through the purchase journey before they contact a vendor, and that’s only if the vendor’s capability meets the basic technical requirements.

How influence works in B2B

Sadly, reaching B2B decision-makers isn’t easy. They are sophisticated, well-educated and skeptical about sales and marketing. That means that — even if it’s more difficult than for consumer brands — the most effective way to overcome this skepticism is by influencing their decisions through trusted third parties — influencers. Consider the following data points:

  • Content shared from and created by influencers provided 11x higher ROI than the average display ad after 12 months, according to a case study conducted by Nielsen Catalina Solutions for TapInfluence.
  • 92 percent of marketers that used it in 2017 said that influencer marketing is effective at reaching audiences, a Linqia survey found.
  • 71 percent of marketers believe that ongoing ambassadorships are the most effective form of influencer marketing, a 2016 Altimeter Research study for TapInfluence discovered.

So, it’s clear that influencer marketing is reputable, but how is it implemented for B2B brands? It starts with understanding the 1:9:90 model.

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The first reference to the 1:9:90 model was in 2006 by The Guardian’s Charles Arthur, who said that “if you get a group of 100 people online, then one will create content, 10 will ‘interact’ with it (commenting or offering improvements) and the other 89 will just view it.”

Since then, the 1:9:90 model has been adapted into various methods to find, segment and activate groups of people online. I have been testing and refining influencer marketing programs for large B2B brands and have altered the definitions:

  • The 1% Influencers: These are the opinion leaders and content creators. In the consumer world, they’d be known as ‘trendsetters.” They can reach the majority of their market when they write, Snap, tweet or publish just about anything online. They can create new markets, buzzwords (e.g., “Digital Transformation” or “Enterprise 2.0”) and new product categories. Five years ago, this group consisted only of traditional media and the large analyst firms. Today, influencers can be anyone — media, authors, consultants, second- or third-tier analysts and anyone else with a specific point of view, has some degree of intelligence and has a large audience.
  • The 9% Promoters: People in this group are extremely active in social media. They are also very active participants in forums like Reddit. They recommend products and services, coffee shops, consumer products, sneakers — you name it. They have a point of view about everything and will share it freely with just about anyone willing to listen. At times, they will over-share their brand experiences within their communities, whether good or bad. They sign up for newsletters, leave Amazon and Yelp reviews, download content, comment on it and share it — any action that lets their peers know exactly what they think. This 9 percent is the audience that can potentially make or break the conversation.
  • The 90% Market: This is everyone else. It’s easy to reach this audience with a $3 million-dollar Super Bowl ad if you have the budget. They are experts at consuming content. They read, learn and absorb everything online. They Google everything — discovering new products, reading reviews and consuming news content. They do not publish anything, nor do they contribute much to the conversation. But don’t neglect them, as their strength lies in numbers. It’s this portion of the 1:9:90 model that decides how compelling the other groups are at telling your brand’s story — and it’s all based on their purchase power and behavior.

The 1:9:90 model of influence can apply to any brand, large or small. The distinction between the groups is important, though. You can’t engage with or communicate with an influencer the same way you would with general consumers. But, whatever the differences between these three audience groups, each one plays a significant role in the content engine. If you can positively engage with an influencer or group of influencers and get them to talk about your company or product, you have the potential to reach the entire market.

Things to look for in an influencer

The process starts with identifying the right influencers. Sadly, many marketers use just one data point to determine which group of influencers to engage with, and it’s usually “reach.” While reach is a good metric, it’s not the only one. Consider the following:

  • Reach: How large is their social community across all digital channels — blogs, RSS subscribers, contributed posts, social? Reach is important because you’ll want to know that influencers can actually get content in their followers’ feeds.
  • Relevance: How often are they referencing topics and keywords that align with your business or describe your industry? Relevance will confirm that the influencer is “on topic” frequently and didn’t just share an article six months ago and then leave the conversation.
  • Resonance: When they create content, how far does it travel on the internet? Are others engaging with it? This metric helps separate real influencers from the ones that have large communities but no engagement. Or, in some cases, the ones that resort to shady tactics that make them appear to be more influential than they actually are.
  • Reference: Are they referenced by other influencers? In other words, are the other influencers in your program sharing, commenting on, liking or retweeting content?

One tool I use to help identify influencers is Onalytica. They have a unique platform that allows for both bio and content search. So, if you are looking for an influencer, say an editor, journalist or engineer, who is discussing “artificial intelligence,” you can find them quite easily and preview the content in real time.

Once you understand your specific market and realize what your marketing goals are for influencers, you’ll want to spend a considerable amount of time researching which ones can drive impact for your brand.

Check out the original post by Michael Brito here.

Art Naturals Appoints OAK Digital As Affiliate Agency of Record

We are proud to announce the recent addition of Art Natural to Oak Digital’s client list! Art Naturals is an essential oil and organic hair care company,

Art Natural believes that beauty treatments should come from the purest forms of nature. By gathering and extracting the finest ingredients in the world, Art Natural’s BPA-free, cruelty- free, and eco-friendly products offer essentials for your skin, hair, mind, body, and spirit.

Their growing popularity has earned them features in magazines such as Glamour, Bustle, and Allure. As Art Natural’s success continues to grow we could not be more thrilled to be working on their affiliate marketing program!

 

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The Highs And Lows Of Social Media Marketing In 2018

Between GDPR regulations, Facebook’s US congressional and European parliament hearings, evolving social media platform features and formats, the development of AI powered experiences, 'fake news’ and fake influence, there is a great deal keeping us social media strategists busy at the moment.

There is much to consider as budgets are scrutinised and marketers need to show business value through ROI or improved efficiency.

Against this backdrop, I’ve been speaking to social media experts from the US and UK who have kindly contributed to our updated Social Media Platforms Overview Best Practice Guide.

We couldn’t have chosen a busier or more disruptive time to update the guide, which highlights the major social media platform features, as well as providing statistics and options available to marketers when developing a paid, owned and earned strategic approach to social media marketing and communications.

Our experts are from agency, vendor and client-side, and span B2B, B2C and many industries and sectors. All were open and frank about the social media trends and opportunities and the challenges that they are contending with.

Here’s a flavour of just four of the topics covered in the 190+ page guide, with quotes from a few of our global experts.

 

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No slowdown in social media growth, no significant new social media entrants

The global growth of social media is documented by We Are Social’s immensely helpful Global Digital Reports.

According to the Global Digital Report 2018, there are 3.196 billion active social media users, which equals 42% of the global population. This is an increase of 5% from 2017.

In spite of this growth in users, the past 2-3 years have seen relative stagnation in the realm of social media. While there have been flurries of excitement around ad-free social networks such as Vero, Ello and Mastodon, ultimately, none of these platforms have expanded beyond early tech adopters into mass user adoption. 

Helen Wood, Planning Director at H&K Strategies, noted that Snapchat appears to be the most vulnerable amongst the big players due to a combination of many of its features being emulated in Facebook products, and the challenges of audience scale for advertisers.

It’s hard to see any new platform really breaking through and if a new platform does pop up, it’s highly likely that Facebook will find a way to somehow include the new popular functionality within their platform mix.

Snapchat, I’d say, is the one platform at risk; while it’s probably the most innovative and boundary-pushing of the big platforms, there’s no denying it’s struggling.

Influencer marketing - fake influence and fake metrics

As we see significant shifts in budgets towards working with influencers, we’ve moved from a period of throwing money around to a more considered and strategic approach. Nano- and micro-influencers are now as likely to be a part of an influencer campaign as the top- or mid-tier social media influencers.

The ease with which fake followers and engagement can be bought has also ushered in a need to understand fraud and to ensure due diligence. 

A influencer reputation tipping point was reached when vlogger Logan Paul was vilified in early 2018 for posting a video of a man who had committed suicide in Aokighara, Japan, in an area known as the “suicide forest”.

YouTube took action by suspending advertising on his channels. They have subsequently published guidelines and applied sanctions to content producers and influencers who pursue a ‘drive to the bottom’. Ethically and morally dubious approaches to content in the pursuit of subscribers and viewers is increasingly being called out and stamped out.

Jeff Semones, Managing Partner, Head of Social Media, MediaCom spoke to me about the change in focus on improving influencer choice and the possible sacrifice of reach for relevance. 

We also discussed the importance of metrics that ensure influencers metrics and data is interrogated by those with significant spend and that influencers are not left to be able to “grade their own homework”. 

Based on an uptick in budget allocations coupled with surging client interest across all verticals, we anticipate continued growth in marketers’ investment in influencer marketing.  We expect brands to increase overall spend as well as adoption over the next 12 to 18 months.

As the influencer space continues to mature and evolve, there’s a growing need for standardized metrics and unbiased reporting.  We predict the emergence of a new crop of service providers that will deliver objective and unbiased reporting, from a third-party perspective that’s currently lacking.  

This will address the current situation where creators (aka influencers) are essentially grading their own homework.  Eventually, the industry will also adopt a set of agreed upon, standardized metrics to aid efficacy reporting.

Bots and artificial intelligence in social media

In the guide, we consider recent the growth in bots and AI on social platforms, as well as their applications in customer experience, brand experience and marketing communications.

The consensus is that it’s an exciting time. We are at the very early stages of developing social AI experiences and figuring out a few things.

Developing new workflows, and reviewing AI applications through a both an ethical and human lens, are both critical.

If there is one important thing that we have learned through social media, it is that technology can be used for great things such as civil and environmental action, but can amplify the darker side of human nature. Fake news, fake influence, bullying and trolling are all examples of this.

Unless we underpin our adoption of AI with an ethical framework, we risk not only reactive legislation, but possibly much worse.

Stephen Waddington, Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum makes this point:

Ultimately, convincing people to interact with a robot requires a significant change in behaviour but it’s no more significant than previous shifts in technology.  There’s also a serious ethical challenge. If a bot creates content that breaches copyright or defames an individual or organisation, who is liable?

We’ve seen time and time again that legislature cannot keep up with the pace of technology, and in particular the internet. We’re at the early stage of the adoption curve of a technology that could prove incredibly exciting.

Social media data tremors - it’s having a very real impact!

All of our experts spoke of the deep implications of the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook story on trust between consumers, platforms and advertisers.

All agreed that ethical and regulatory ‘checks and balances’ are very much required to ensure that consumer data is utilised fairly and ethically for marketing purposes and that consumers can take back control of their data.

The line of questioning to Mark Zuckerberg in this week’s European Parliament testimony should give a good indication of how European Governments are focusing on GDPR compliance and will keep platforms such as Facebook firmly in their regulatory sight.

However, many are also concerned for a future where the platforms might self-regulate to the point where they hold back critical data that strategists require for effective measurement and analysis.

Once organisations cannot make effective business cases for social media activity, budgets and resources may be diverted elsewhere. 

Mark Frankel, Social Media Editor at BBC News, provided an interesting angle on the impact of platforms being too restrictive with data sharing in the light of the current data compliance issues facing them.

In many ways there is a fascinating moral/PR battle going on at the moment. Some people are arguing that there is no point being on these social media platforms - they are robbing you of your data and you have no control of the visibility of your content. 

On the other hand, the algorithms work for a reason, ensuring that the content that resonates with users interests and what they care about.

My fear about the data argument is that there is a danger of pivoting towards a world where we are no longer able to use data for audience analysis or successfully disseminating information, because of the theoretical risk of people’s data being mined for the wrong reasons.

These are just a few of the considerations in the ever-evolving world of social media marketing: a timely reminder of how social media must be viewed by marketers through a political, economical, social and technological (PEST) framework.

Check out the original post by Michelle Goodall here

The Armory Foundation Appoints OAK Digital As Search Marketing Agency

The Armory Foundation, an NYC based non-profit organization, has chosen to work with OAK Digital to drive event bookings through search engine marketing management.

Annually, The Armory Foundation hosts over 100 track and field events for more than 180,000 athletes ranging from elementary school youth to senior citizens. In 2016 two hundred and twenty members of the Summer Olympics competed at The Armory for International competitions.

OAK Digital, an affiliate and growth agency will provide next level digital solutions to The Armory Foundation as they continue to better the lives of children.

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The Latest Digital Stats From Across The Pond

 

We’ve got a great round-up of stats to see you into the weekend.

It includes news about the power of Instagram, missed email opportunities, luxury adspend, and everyone’s favourite royal couple. Check out the Internet Statistics Compendium for more, and enjoy.

Tweets of more than 140 characters generate greater attention

According to new research by theEword, longer tweets could lead to greater attention from users.

In contrast to the belief that brevity is the key to engagement, the study – which used eye-tracking technology to gauge attention – found that mobile users of Twitter linger for an extra 0.5 seconds if a tweet contains over 140 characters. Similarly, people can spend up to 0.7 seconds longer on tweets if it also contains an image.

Despite this news, the report states that there are still far fewer long-form tweets published on Twitter overall, with the majority of users under the (wrong?) impression that shorter is better.

Digital advertising predicted to account for 35% of total luxury adspend by 2019

Zenith’s latest report predicts that digital advertising will account for 35% of total luxury adspend by 2019. 

This is largely driven by hospitality brands, as 50% of luxury hospitality advertising will be digital this year - up from 47% in 2017.

Elsewhere, Zenith predicts that luxury automobile brands will spend 39% of their ad budgets on digital advertising in 2018, watch & jewellery brands will spend 28%, while fashion & accessory brands will spend just 13%.

Lastly, with digital advertising now responsible for almost all the growth in luxury adspend, Zenith has forecast luxury advertising in digital media to grow by $886 million between 2017 and 2019.

Social power of English premiership footballers greater than clubs

Ahead of the FA Cup final, Pitchside has revealed that individual players are becoming much more powerful brands than the clubs they play for.

In a study of 400 players from the Premier League, the social power of players was found to be an average of 2.38x stronger than their respective clubs.

On Instagram, the top 20 Premier League footballers share a combined total of 175m followers - almost three times as many as the top 20 clubs, who share 62.6m.

Instagram is clearly the place to be, as the platform continues to draw players away from other social media channels. Just 59% of players now have an official Facebook presence versus 91% on Instagram. Meanwhile, Instagram accounts for over 50% of the total follower base of the younger players, compared with only 38% across all the Premier League players.

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Retailers losing out due to poor digital marketing

A new report by Dotmailer – which involves the analysis of 100 retail brands across six sectors in the UK, US, and APAC - has revealed that businesses of all sizes are missing out on potential sales returns, as well as the opportunity to build longer-lasting relationships with customers. 

It appears this is largely due to failure to implement simple steps in the customer journey. 66% of retailers analysed failed to use any form of audience segmentation, and 56% failed to send abandoned cart emails. Meanwhile, 53% of brands failed to send an aftersales review email, and the average post-purchase evaluation score was 39% for all retail brands, highlighting an overall lacklustre experience.

When it comes to data, nine in ten brands scored a meagre 13% for personalisation, and retail brands scored an average of 31% in using customer-behaviour data to drive their strategy.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however, as 42% of brands scored 100% for UX - a clear indication that retailers have somewhat refined the user experience. See the study’s top 10 retail brands for email marketing and customer experience below.

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‘Royal wedding’ sees 188% increase in search interest

New search data from Hitwise suggests that excitement about the Royal wedding is reaching fever pitch ahead of the big day this Saturday.

In the past four weeks, there has been a 188% increase in searches for ‘royal wedding street parties’, with this being led by Brits in the East of England, predominately women (67% of which are aged 55 and over).

The data further reveals 54% of search traffic around the royal wedding is heading to news and media outlets, but another 15% is driving searches to retail sites. In fact, terms with ‘royal wedding’ were searched for nearly 80,000 times on Amazon since the start of May.

Meanwhile, research by MyVoucherCodes predicts that Brits are set to splash out £225m in celebration. Based on a survey of over 2,000 UK adults, London was found to be the most patriotic region, with the city predicted to fork out a collective £106 million on food, drink, and other memorabilia. Scotland was found to be the second most patriotic region, ready to spend £29 million.

Vodafone UK most quick to respond to social customer queries

Quintly’s latest report delves into how the UK’s 20 most valuable brands use social media. To do so, it looked at key metrics including follower performance, engagement, and customer service.

In terms of the brands that won and lost followers last year, Quintly says Burberry received the highest amount of new followers among all analysed brands on Instagram and Twitter, gaining 2,222,693 and 1,084,240 respectively. However, on Facebook, Marks & Spencer performed remarkably, gaining 463,088 followers in 2017.

On the other end of the spectrum is Shell, which lost over 400,000 fans in a single day on 4th April 2017. There was no scandal that could have caused this, so insight suggests that this was due to relocating followers away from a global page to a newly-created regional page. This is backed up by Shell’s high interaction rate. In March, May and December 2017, it received the most interactions, with over 4.4 million on Facebook.

When it comes to customer service, Vodafone UK performed the best, answering 3,374 out of the 18,996 questions they received in less than two hours. Three UK comes in second, answering almost 2,841 user requests in under two hours, followed by Sainsbury’s which answered 2,616 questions quickly.

Negative reviews from ex-employees are finally against Google’s guidelines

Google recently updated its review policies to clarify that reviews left by former employees are considered to be in violation of its guidelines. Columnist Joy Hawkins explains that this was (unfortunately) necessary.

Joy Hawkins

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I hear complaints from business owners and marketers all the time that the Google My Business guidelines are often ambiguous, and I tend to agree. It can be easy to read a guideline and interpret it incorrectly.

I have learned that the key to understanding the guidelines is through time and experience. Seeing what Google will and will not act on can provide insight into what things they really care about, and this can help you read between the lines.

Until recently, I had always assumed that reviews from former employees were considered to be in violation of Google My Business guidelines. This was based on the following two passages from their review policies page:

  1. “Make sure that the reviews on your business listing, or those that you leave at a business you’ve visited, are honest representations of the customer experience. Those that aren’t may be removed.” This is the golden rule at the heart of Google’s guidelines, which is why the company usually removes peer reviews or reviews you got your friends to write for you. (Note that a reviewer doesn’t technically have to be a customer, but they do need to have had customer intent — for example, if someone leaves you a negative review because you never called them back, that would still be considered a legitimate review because they intended to hire you and you exhibited poor customer service.)
  2. “Conflict of interest: Reviews are most valuable when they are honest and unbiased. If you own or work at a place, please don’t review your own business or employer.”

My interpretation here was that reviews left by any employee — current or past — would not be in line with Google’s review policies. After all, how on earth is an employee’s point of view an honest representation of a customer experience? An employee is not a customer.

However, when I tried to assist business owners in getting negative reviews from former employees removed earlier this year, I discovered that Google only considered reviews from current employees to be against its guidelines.

Stupid, right? I have tried to wrap my head around this, and I can’t understand what possessed Google to come up with that policy.

Here is a recent example. In this thread on the Google My Business forum, a business owner was trying to get a review from a former employee removed. They stated that the employee no-showed on her shift three times and was let go. In the review, the user states:

“Yes I am an ex employee. My opinion of [omitted] was the same while I worked there as when I stopped working there.”

She continues to argue that her opinion is the same as the customers’ and starts comparing them to one of their competitors.

In another example, an ex-employee reviewed a preschool and made negative comments about the business owner and mentioned that their inability to run the school well is why they can’t keep staff.

How Google considers these reviews reflective of a customer experience is beyond me. Yet in both cases, Google refused to remove the reviews and clarified that it’s not against their guidelines because the employee doesn’t currently work there.

The good news, however, is that Google updated their review policies on December 14, 2017, and it looks like reviews from former employees are finally now able to be removed. The new guidelinesare now in the Maps help center (they used to be under Google My Business), and they note that “posting negative content about a current or former employment experience” is no longer allowed, as it is considered a conflict of interest.

If you were one of those unfortunate businesses that had experiences like the two examples above, now is the time to contact Google My Business and ask them to remove the reviews. Hopefully, this time, you’ll get an appropriate response!

Going organic: Our top SEO columns of 2017

Search engine optimization saw another exciting year as readers consumed content on everything from video optimization tips to research on the latest ranking factors.

Jessica Thompson

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Another year has come and gone, and as usual, SEOs had their work cut out for them. Many issues were top of mind for SEO practitioners in 2017, from concerns about the impact of an unannounced algorithm update to speculation about the impending mobile-first index.

Our most popular SEO columns this year encompassed a wide variety of topics, suggesting that our readership wasn’t overly focused on any one particular trend. From illustrative case studies to detailed tactical guides — from YouTube optimization to technical SEO audits to the interplay between SEO and web design — our experienced and insightful columnists on Search Engine Land covered a lot of ground in 2017.

Wondering which organic search columns garnered the most attention from readers this year? Read on for our top 10 SEO columns of 2017:

  1. YouTube SEO: How to find the best traffic-generating keywords by Sherry Bonelli, published on 5/30/2017.
  2. How we hijacked Google’s SEO guide search rankings by Dan Sharp, published on 3/6/2017.
  3. Google site search is on the way out. Now what? by Paul Shapiro, published on 3/22/2017.
  4. How to check which URLs have been indexed without upsetting Google: A follow-up by Paul Shapiro, published on 1/27/2017.
  5. SEO Ranking Factors in 2017: What’s Important and What’s Not by Jessica Thompson, published on 10/25/2017.
  6. The complete guide to optimizing content for SEO (with checklist) by Nate Dame, published on 4/12/2017.
  7. 5 must-do technical SEO audit items in 2017 by Aleyda Solis, published on 6/22/2017.
  8. 5 massive SEO and content shifts you need to master right now by Jim Yu, published on 5/17/2017.
  9. SEO case study: Zero to 100,000 visitors in 12 months by Andrew Dennis, published on 7/5/2017.
  10. SEO & website design: Everything you need to know by Marcus Miller, published on 4/19/2017.

Google again showing third-party reviews in local results

Program has been in place since 2016 and involves direct, opt-in integration.

Greg Sterling on December 28, 2017 at 11:26 am

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Google is integrating third-party reviews into the Knowledge Graph for hotels. It apparently has been happening since 2016 and is entirely opt-in for the provider.

Google works directly with the third-party review source (e.g., TripAdvisor) to integrate the content. In the example below, TripAdvisor reviews for Southern California hotel Terranea are available under the “view Google reviews” link in the Knowledge Panel.

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Google got into trouble roughly seven years ago for “scraping” and incorporating third-party review content from sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp into Google Places without permission. Yelp saw the move as a kind of antitrust “extortion” and mounted a vigorous campaign against it.

One of the provisions of Google’s 2012 antitrust settlement with the FTC was that the company would allow publishers to block Google from including third-party reviews in “vertical search offerings” without their being excluded from the general index. According to the FTC statement announcing the settlement:

Google also has promised to provide all websites the option to keep their content out of Google’s vertical search offerings, while still having them appear in Google’s general, or “organic,” web search results. The FTC investigated allegations that Google misappropriated content, such as user reviews and star ratings, from competing websites in order to improve its own vertical offerings, such as Google Local and Google Shopping.

The settlement expired on December 27. However, in a letter to the FTC, Google said it would continue to adhere to the main terms, including enabling publishers to opt out of having their content being displayed in Google’s vertical results:

The commitments cover two main areas. First, Google agreed to remove certain clauses from its AdWords API Terms and Conditions. Second, Google agreed to provide an opt-out mechanism for websites to opt out of the display of their crawled content on certain Google web pages linked to google.com in the United States on a domain-by-domain basis. We believe that these policies provide additional flexibility for developers and websites, and we will continue them as policies after the commitments expire.

As mentioned, this reviews program involves Google directly working with publishers to include their content. It’s not clear whether this will expand to other categories such as restaurants or local services; however, I expect that it would over time.

Social media trends in 2018: What do the experts predict?

By Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

In 2017, Instagram reigned supreme, while sponsored content and ad transparency became big brand priorities. So, what’s on the agenda for the year ahead?

Here’s what our esteemed experts predict will be trending in the world of social media in 2018.

For more, check out these additional resources:

Trouble ahead for Twitter?

Will Francis, co-founder and creative director, Vandal:

I’m sad to say that 2018 may be the year Twitter’s cooling off turns into terminal decline. Their product increasingly lacks focus and is unwelcoming to newcomers, whilst stagnant user growth and internal issues remain signs of trouble ahead.

The recent doubling of the character limit is a classic tech product death rattle, achieving nothing more than further blurring of the proposition.

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Greater focus on messaging apps

Joanna Halton, founder, Jo & Co:

Chatbots/OTT messaging are coming of age. The last year or so has been all about the hype and innovators, but now businesses are seriously working out what value they can offer them and how they can incorporate them into their current systems and processes.

The results may be less sexy than some of the fun campaigns we've seen previously, but big players are banking on the technology making them big savings, especially from a customer service perspective. Juniper research forecasts that that this technology could save businesses $8 billion annually worldwide by 2022, up from $20 million this year.

Tom Pepper, head of marketing solutions UK, LinkedIn:

I think 2018 will bring something of an advent in the way marketers use messaging apps. We’ve already seen a growing trend for social media messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger - and even a rise in chatbots - but next year some of those tools are likely to be completely reinvented, giving brands a route to effectively communicate with audiences throughout every step of the marketing funnel.

Ephemeral content 

Will Francis:

As more people and brands adopt Instagram Stories and Snapchat, these fleeting photos and videos become increasingly the default language in digital. 2018 may be the year that ‘traditional’ social media posts start to feel stiff and corporate - just another marketing channel - whilst disposable content is where brand personality is crafted and true love and engagement earned.

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Augmented Reality

Joanna Halton:

We're going to see a lot more from AR next year. Not just from the likes of Snapchat's dancing hot dog that got more than 1.5bn views. But brands starting to look how they can use the technology in a way that suits them and their customers.

An example of this is BMW's latest foray where users could see what a new X2 would look like on their driveway without having to visit a garage. When the newest Apple devices incorporate special features and promote their ability to support a technology, like they have with AR, it's worth keeping an ear to the ground about where it's going.

Depesh Mandalia, founder and CEO, S M Commerce:

The two big waves to ride in 2018 are influencer marketing, which has seen a continued year on year rise in importance for brands, and potentially augmented reality taking video to the next level. Instagram and Snapchat are investing heavily in the video experience.

This opens up opportunity for brand engagement in more novel ways, putting control into the hands of the end user to create new, rich, immersive experiences.

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Platforms and publishers working together

Tom Pepper:

Looking ahead to the coming year, I believe that we’ll continue to see social media platforms using assets like live streaming and original content to keep users hooked. In particular, I’m excited to see more partnerships formed between social media platforms and publishers.

Alignment with IoT

Depesh Mandalia:

In an ideal world I'd love to see social media converging with the internet of things to create an intelligence that's connected across your life. Imagine asking Alexa or Google Home for ideas of what food to order for home delivery, and recommendations based on your social connections or what others have recently ordered in your local area.

The potential implications are huge for both the end user and for brands. Perhaps this is where we may see AI converging right down the middle to give us faster, better options to the age-old question of what to eat tonight.

Better measurement

Tom Pepper:

Measurement is the word on everyone’s lips at the moment but, beyond that, we really need to help marketers truly exhibit the great work they’re doing.

I’d love to see marketers step outside their comfort zone and not just measure what they know through traditional marketing metrics, but focus their efforts on measuring business value too. Doing so will allow marketers to prove the impact their activity has on a business’s bottom line.

Variety within video

Joanna Halton:

It shouldn't come as a shock to anyone, but video is going to continue to grow as a predominant medium across social and digital overall. The predictions vary, whether it's Cisco's 80% of internet traffic by 2019 or Mark Zuckerberg's estimation that 90% of Facebook's content will be video-based by 2018.

Further supported by the launch of Facebook Watch and the success of Live. But either way, it's becoming the main way users prefer to consume content - especially mobile video. Marketers should consider that, according to the latest GlobalWebIndex report, mobile has now taken over as the primary way to access social media.

Brands will need to work out how they can use the variety of different video formats effectively as part of their content marketing plans.

10 Free Templates Every Small Business Needs in 2018

     

 

 

Written by Carly Stec

@CarlyStec

Owning or working for a small business can be extremely rewarding.

You have a good view of the business operations, your work is visible, and you have an opportunity to make a big impact during the company's critical growth years.

But then there are the less glamorous aspects -- from tight budgets and limited resources to lack of direction and leadership -- that can really start to weigh on you.

Use the free HubSpot Invoice Template Generator to create professional invoices in minutes.

It would be nice if someone would throw you a bone every now and then, right?

That's why we took some time to round up 10 completely free templates that you can lean on to streamline your workflow, save time, and get more done.

10 Free Templates Every Small Business Needs in 2018

1) Professional Bio Templates

Let's face it: Writing about yourself can feel, well, awkward.

The good news is we've created 40+ fill-in-the-blank bio templates that you can use to put together an impressive, professional narrative that you'll want to share.

Use these professional bio templates to give your team page a refresh. We recommended collaborating with a couple of colleagues you work closely with as you fill these out to ensure you're speaking to all of your awesome skills.

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2) Invoice Templates

For larger businesses, investing in paid invoicing software is a good way to keep your payments organized, but for small to mid-sized businesses, paying for a solution isn't always an option.

If you're looking for a cost-free way to stay on top of your billing, check out these free invoice templates for Microsoft Word. These invoice templates come in different colors and styles, so you can pick one that best suits your business.

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*Bonus* We also just launched a free invoice template generator that allows you to create professional invoice PDFs in just a few clicks. Check it out here.

3) Company Newsletter Template

Want to keep your contacts and customers engaged and informed about your business? Try sending a monthly company newsletter.

This clean and concise template makes it easy for you to plug in things like updates, accomplishments, awards, and upcoming events to share with your community.

You can also adapt this template to use internally for an employee newsletter featuring new hires, promotions, culture events, and changes in existing policies.

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4) Employee Timecard Template

Keeping tabs on employee hours is a really important part of running a business. Aside from ensuring your employees get paid (and get paid on time), having a log of hours can also help to resolve conflicts, evaluate employee engagement, and plan quotes in service-based industries.

With the help of this timecard template, you can keep all of your employee hours organized by week, month, and year. And don't worry about busting out that calculator: the template takes care of totaling each line for you.

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5) Business Letterhead Templates

An on-brand letterhead, while it may seem like a small detail, can go a long way when it comes to establishing credibility and trust through written communications.

In many cases, your letterhead serves as a first impression to potential customers, so you want to make sure it represents your business well. Additionally, your letterhead typically houses valuable contact details, so you'll want to convey that information in a really clear and concise way.

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6) Email Templates

Think about how much time you spending crafting emails on any given day. One hour? Two hours? More than five hours?

Aware that email can be a serious time suck, we created 15 email marketing templates to simplify all of your marketing and sales needs -- from PR and blogging outreach to customer reference emails.

These fill-in-the-blank templates are especially helpful when it comes to reducing the time you spend on emails that you're sending on a repeat basis.

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7) Meeting Agenda Template

We've all been in our fair share of meetings that have gone off the rails. But unproductive meetings suck up valuable time that could be better spent on impactful projects.

To keep things on track, try using a simple meeting agenda template.

Fill out this template a few days ahead of your meeting and send it out to all of the participants. Doing this in advance will give folks time to prepare for the meeting accordingly -- and ultimately eliminate any confusion.

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8) Infographic Templates

When you work at a small company, design resources can be hard to come by. But that doesn't mean your content creation efforts need to suffer as a result.

These free infographic templates can be used by designers and non-designers alike to create quality inforgraphics right in PowerPoint or Illustrator.

Use these infographic templates to visualize your latest research report, create a shareable blog post, or promote a piece of gated content on social media.

9) Social Graphic Templates

With the help of these Canva templates, you can create stunning social media images for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and more.

These templates are designed to meet the dimension requirements for each network, so you can spend less time hunting down accurate aspect ratios and more time boosting your social media engagement.

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10) Small Team Status Board Template

If you're working on a really small team -- let's say 1-10 people -- you might find this status board template useful.

The template provides a column for each member of your team where they can add high-level status updates. This can be updated daily, weekly, or monthly to keep everyone on the same page about priorities, progress, and opportunities for collaboration.

Not to mention, the handy color-coding system allows you to determine the current standing of the task (good, needs attention, waiting on someone, etc.) at a quick glance.

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Does Business Blogging Still Get Results in 2017? New Data from 1,000 Bloggers [Infographic]

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2017 marks the fourth consecutive year Orbit Media Studios has tapped the insights of 1000+ business bloggers to publish a research report on blogging statistics and trends.

In some cases, the annual blogger survey reflects subtle developments, but in others it reveals some significant changes. However, with four years of data in the books, a theme has clearly developed:

"Bloggers are reporting stronger results from content marketing," says Orbit Media’s co-founder Andy Crestodina.

"When asked to report on the effectiveness of their efforts, almost 30% of respondents reported 'strong results.' The vast majority of bloggers are seeing rewards from their efforts and meeting their goals, whatever they might be."

Click here to download our free ebook on how to start a successful blog for your business or project.

Each year, Andy delivers the survey’s findings in a meaty post detailing the data and expressing his conclusions. This year, the survey breaks down into 11 questions across three categories:

  1. Changes in the blogging process
  2. Blog content trends
  3. The promotion and measurement tactics business bloggers employ

Andy and I also collaborate each year on an infographic (see below) to present the most interesting findings in simple terms.

At the risk of reducing the suspense, the answer to the headline above (and headline of the infographic), “Are bloggers still getting results?” is …

Yes.

85% claim their blog delivers strong results or some results. The number represents a 6% increase compared to the year prior.

Peruse the infographic below to discover more about the tactics business bloggers used in 2017 and how it compares to years past.

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PopSugar, Complex Team Up for Ad Deals

By Benjamin Mullin

As tech giants tighten their grip on online advertising, digital publishers are working together to sell ad campaigns

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In a digital advertising market dominated by Google and Facebook, publishers are teaming up to leverage their combined reach to win campaigns from major advertisers.

PopSugar and Complex, digital media companies that focus primarily on millennial women and men, respectively, agreed earlier this year to team up to jointly develop and sell branded advertising. The first example of that partnership is a campaign for the clothing retailer Banana Republic designed to run across both of their properties.

The branded campaign, called “From Where We Stand,” includes three documentary-style videos featuring celebrity couple Bryan Greenberg of HBO’s “How to Make It in America” and Jamie Chung of Fox’s “The Gifted” discussing how their different points of view fit into a shared identity. 

  • A Strategic Approach to Pricing

    Pricing is a sophisticated but underused lever for increasing profitability and gaining competitive advantage. It’s also increasingly important as new technologies and business models upend industries. In this first article in a two-part series, Tom Nagle, senior adviser to Deloitte Consulting LLP, and Georg Müller, managing director, Deloitte Consulting LLP, discuss highlights from the latest edition of their book, “The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing.”

Please note: The Wall Street Journal News Department was not involved in the creation of the content above.

In addition to running on PopSugar.com and Complex.com, the video ads are also appearing on the company’s YouTube pages and social feeds, including Facebook and Instagram. The publishers are splitting revenue from the campaign, which began in late November and is running until early December.

In recent years, several media companies have forged alliances to sell advertising across a broader swath of properties in order to compete with the enormous reach wielded by platforms such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook. Concert, a joint initiative from NBCUniversal and Vox Media launched in 2016, allows advertisers to buy advertisements across both companies’ digital properties. That same year, media companies including Gannett, McClatchy, Tronc and Hearst launched Nucleus Marketing Solutions to provide marketing services to customers in their collective advertising markets.

“In general, the marketplace consolidation that’s being driven by major platforms is creating an atmosphere where independent media companies need to present advertisers with novel ideas,” said Geoff Schiller, chief revenue officer at PopSugar.

Although he declined to provide a specific dollar figure for the Banana Republic campaign, PopSugar Chief Executive Brian Sugar said advertising alliances with other publishers have their trade-offs. On the one hand, he said, partnering with another publisher significantly increases the possibility of closing a deal because advertisers can reach a larger, more diversified audience for their buck. On the other hand, each publisher is left with half of the total price of the ad campaign.

The deal between PopSugar and Complex is their latest foray into branded content, which has been one of the few bright spots for publishers in digital advertising. Although branded content is difficult to scale, its bespoke nature allows publishers to differentiate themselves from tech platforms, charge a premium for campaigns, and appeal to advertisers who are trying to craft a tailor-made message.

CMO TODAY NEWSLETTER

“What we look to from digital publishers is a way to get original content developed in a disruptive way that is authentic,” said Mary Alderete, chief marketing officer for Banana Republic. 

PopSugar and Complex—which drew 34.2 million and 47.3 million visitors in October, respectively, according to comScore—both plan to pursue joint branded content campaigns with retailers next year. 

For PopSugar, branded content now represents roughly 60% of its total revenue, with advertising from retailers up 25% so far this year compared with the same period a year ago. Branded and sponsored content, which comprised 12% of Complex’s total revenue in 2016, will represent between 30% and 32% of the company’s total revenue in 2017, said Rich Antoniello, the founder and CEO of Complex.

 

“I think it’s really important to not try and just win on scale alone,” Mr. Antoniello said. “I think that’s where a lot of people make mistakes. The way to differentiate yourself and provide value to the advertiser is to bring storytelling and content development to the mix.”

Corrections & Amplifications
Mary Alderete is the chief marketing officer for Banana Republic. An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Ms. Alderete as the chief marketing officer of both Gap and Banana Republic. (Dec. 4, 2017)

7 Ways You’re Screwing Up Your Email A/B Tests

FACT: Email is an amazing channel for attracting, winning and retaining customers. Not to mention generating repeat business.

But there is one problem; it is really hard to get emails right for the first time.

What you consider an engaging subject line, recipients see as a dud. A call to action you believe would compel them to click, spurred no action whatsoever.

That is why it is important to A/B test your emails to find new techniques or elements that improve conversions.

Unfortunately, many companies launch split tests hoping for the best. They disregard the rules of A/B testing and commit some major mistakes rendering their efforts useless.

So, if you have been split testing emails but see no viable results, keep on reading. I am going to show you the most common A/B testing mistakes sabotaging your efforts.

Before we begin though…

Why You Should Always Start by Testing Concepts Not Elements

As it turns out before you even begin testing various email elements, you should identify a general strategy your audience responds best to. 

In other words, before you start fine-tuning the template, testing subject lines or modifying the call to action, you should first test two different marketing strategies against each other.

For instance, you could test two different ways to convert recipients – via email form or social media login. Or sending people to a landing page vs. allowing them to purchase the product directly via email.

And only when you have identified the winning strategy, should you start testing individual elements to improve conversions.

However, when you do, make sure you don’t commit any of the mistakes below:

Mistake #1. Testing More Than One Element at Once

By far and away, this is the most common mistake of them all.

You have so many ideas on how to improve email conversions. But the last thing you want is spending weeks to test every one of them in turn. And so, to speed things up a little, you decide to analyze them all at once.

You send different template variations under various sender names, using different subject lines, and including different copy in each test.

This results in so many email variations that, in the end, you can’t even tell if any of your ideas worked.

Time-consuming as it may be, you should always test only one element at a time.

Mistake #2. Checking Results Too Early

Since the majority of email platforms start delivering campaign results within 2 hours after sending, it is tempting to start analyzing a test’s performance right away, right?

However, by doing so, you miss out on some important data.

For one, users have different reading habits. Some open the email right away, flick it and either act on it or forget about it. Others put important messages aside to check out later. And as a result, might come back to your email a couple of days later.

And so, by analyzing results too early, you might miss important traffic and usage patterns, affecting the actual test results.

From personal experience, I can attest that the best time to start going through test results is about 2 weeks after launching the campaign.

Mistake #3. Ignoring Statistical Significance

80% of your test results are worthless. It is no different for almost anyone else split testing their emails.

And so, the challenge is to draw conclusions based only on the remaining 20%.

One way to achieve it is by identifying statistically significant results and weeding out those caused by pure chance. 

One way to do it is to use a statistical significance calculator. Personally, I use the one developed by Visual Website Optimizer, but you could use just about any similar app out there.

 

Mistake #4. Focusing on Too Small Sample Size

The number of recipients you include in the test affects the outcome. The smaller change you want to test, the greater sample size you might need.

For instance, let’s assume that you developed a hypothesis stating that using emojis in the subject line should help increase the existing 15% open rate by 10%. To conduct such analysis, you need to test this hypothesis on 8,000 people.

Using a smaller sample size will deliver statistically insignificant results.

So, before you launch the test, you need to calculate what sample size you need to receive viable feedback from. To do so, use the Optimizely’s sample size calculator.

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Mistake #5. Failing to Develop a Proper Hypothesis

A hypothesis is a proposed statement made on the basis of limited evidence that can be proved or disproved and is used as a starting point for further investigation. I am sure you have heard this definition already.

However, in email split testing, a hypothesis must have one other characteristic:

  • It must be applicable to different campaigns. 

So for instance, a statement such as “emails with animated pictures generate a higher CTR” would work as a hypothesis. Once proven right, it could be applied to many different campaigns.

On the other hand, assuming that a particular subject line will fare better than another would not work. It applies to a specific campaign only and cannot scale to your other email efforts.

The lack of understanding of this important email hypothesis characteristic leads to conducting tests de facto without a hypothesis at all. Or in the best case scenario, using a weak hypothesis to try and improve conversions.

To avoid making this mistake, use the industry’s approved hypotheses. Jordie van Rijn collected 150 of them in this post.  

Mistake #6. Not Testing Segments

We all know that different audience segments might respond to your message in their own unique way. And thus, a hypothesis improving conversions in one segment might deliver no results in another.

Just take cultural differences as an example. Spanish recipients might have no problem with a high frequency of emails. However, emailing a couple of times a week might prompt subscribers from other countries to abandon your list.

And so, segment your tests to analyze different user behaviors.

Mistake #7. Sending Each Variation at a Different Time

To receive viable results, you should analyze no more than one variable at a time.

And yet, I see many companies unknowingly adding another factor to the mix: time. How? By sending each variation at a different time.

With this method, half of the subscribers might receive one variation at a time they are not busy and thus, susceptible to opening marketing messages. The other half, however, might get it in the middle of a busy day, resulting in many ignoring or even overlooking it.

As a result, the data gets skewed by different recipient behavior, depending on the time at which they received the email.

So, to guarantee the validity of the test, always send both variations at the same time to ensure that no other factor interferes with the test.

5 Super Quick Ways to Get More Messages on Your Facebook Business Page

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You’ve probably heard some buzz about Facebook Messenger of late, but most brands still don't understand how to leverage it effectively. With 2.4 billion messages exchanged between businesses and people each month, it's time to make the most out of the channel.

After all, 53% of people who message businesses say they are more likely to shop with a business they can message. And 67% of people say they plan to increase their messaging with businesses over the next 2 years. And, messages you send through Messenger will appear on a user’s locked phone screen -- so your odds of reaching a user are greatly increased from sending a follow up email.

Click here to download our free guide to attracting customers with Facebook.

 

So, how can you make the most of this network? We're outlining five quick wins you can start using today.

5 Ways to Get More Messages on Facebook

1) Optimize your page for messages. 

Having a Facebook page that encourages users to message your page is the first -- and easiest -- way to encourage visitors on your business page to message your brand. It seems overly simple, but just optimizing your page to point users towards messaging you can have a huge impact on the number of messages you receive from interested or curious potential customers.

Try:

  1. Setting your default Facebook Page CTA to Message Us.
  2. Prompting visitors to message your page with the copy in your business description.

2) Setup response assistant.

Response assistant is Facebook’s own version of a “baby-bot” and can help you field incoming messages -- even when you aren't around to catch them personally.

Response assistant allows you to: 1) set instant replies 2) stay responsive when you can’t get to your computer or phone and 3) set a messenger greeting. In each of these you can use personalization tokens and greet those who message your page with a personalized message. You can also include a link to your contact us page, FAQ, or even your phone number in these messages.

3) Comment on posts with your m.me link.

Facebook has a new feature that allows you to comment on posts with your brand’s messenger link. If you run a Facebook ad that people are asking questions about, be sure to reply with this link to continue the conversation within Messenger.

4) Run a “Send to Messenger” ad.

Messenger Ads are Facebook’s newest ad type. They allow you to target audiences just like any other ad, but you can encourage them to message you directly from the Ad. Keep in mind, you’ll want to have your inbox modified to ensure it is money well-spent. But, as this is a new Facebook Ad type -- the best time to experiment with these ads is now.

5) Commit to actually using it daily. 

The best way to make the most out of Facebook Messenger is to monitor the channel just like you would monitor your own inbox, or your favorite Slack channel. The nature of the conversational channel encourages on-demand action, so the more responsive you can be, the better.

Finally, keep it light on the channel, after all, it is conversational. Messenger is a great opportunity to showcase your brand’s personality using GIFs and emojis that appeal to your audience.

How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did

Kashmir Hill

Every time you go shopping, you share intimate details about your consumption patterns with retailers. And many of those retailers are studying those details to figure out what you like, what you need, and which coupons are most likely to make you happy. TargetTGT +0.52%, for example, has figured out how to data-mine its way into your womb, to figure out whether you have a baby on the way long before you need to start buying diapers.

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Charles Duhigg outlines in the New York Times how Target tries to hook parents-to-be at that crucial moment before they turn into rampant -- and loyal -- buyers of all things pastel, plastic, and miniature. He talked to Target statistician Andrew Pole -- before Target freaked out and cut off all communications -- about the clues to a customer's impending bundle of joy. Target assigns every customer a Guest ID number, tied to their credit card, name, or email address that becomes a bucket that stores a history of everything they've bought and any demographic information Target has collected from them or bought from other sources. Using that, Pole looked at historical buying data for all the ladies who had signed up for Target baby registries in the past. From the NYT:

[Pole] ran test after test, analyzing the data, and before long some useful patterns emerged. Lotions, for example. Lots of people buy lotion, but one of Pole’s colleagues noticed that women on the baby registry were buying larger quantities of unscented lotion around the beginning of their second trimester. Another analyst noted that sometime in the first 20 weeks, pregnant women loaded up on supplements like calcium, magnesium and zinc. Many shoppers purchase soap and cotton balls, but when someone suddenly starts buying lots of scent-free soap and extra-big bags of cotton balls, in addition to hand sanitizers and washcloths, it signals they could be getting close to their delivery date.

Or have a rather nasty infection...

As Pole’s computers crawled through the data, he was able to identify about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed him to assign each shopper a “pregnancy prediction” score. More important, he could also estimate her due date to within a small window, so Target could send coupons timed to very specific stages of her pregnancy.

One Target employee I spoke to provided a hypothetical example. Take a fictional Target shopper named Jenny Ward, who is 23, lives in Atlanta and in March bought cocoa-butter lotion, a purse large enough to double as a diaper bag, zinc and magnesium supplements and a bright blue rug. There’s, say, an 87 percent chance that she’s pregnant and that her delivery date is sometime in late August.

via How Companies Learn Your Secrets - NYTimes.com.

And perhaps that it's a boy based on the color of that rug?

So Target started sending coupons for baby items to customers according to their pregnancy scores. Duhigg shares an anecdote -- so good that it sounds made up -- that conveys how eerily accurate the targeting is. An angry man went into a Target outside of Minneapolis, demanding to talk to a manager:

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Target knows before it shows.

“My daughter got this in the mail!” he said. “She’s still in high school, and you’re sending her coupons for baby clothes and cribs? Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant?”

The manager didn’t have any idea what the man was talking about. He looked at the mailer. Sure enough, it was addressed to the man’s daughter and contained advertisements for maternity clothing, nursery furniture and pictures of smiling infants. The manager apologized and then called a few days later to apologize again.

(Nice customer service, Target.)

 Target's Andrew Pole

Target's Andrew Pole

“On the phone, though, the father was somewhat abashed. “I had a talk with my daughter,” he said. “It turns out there’s been some activities in my house I haven’t been completely aware of. She’s due in August. I owe you an apology.”

8 Digital Marketing Trends Set to Expire by 2018

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Written by Jasz Joseph

When it comes to marketing tactics, unfortunately there is no "Best if Used By" dates. But that doesn't mean what worked last year -- or even last week -- will work today. In fact, some of the most popular digital marketing trends have reached the end of their shelf life and are well beyond their expiration dates. 

As you are updating your inbound marketing strategies for 2018, consider tossing out these overused, under-performing marketing trends to make room for strategies that increase brand awareness, capture qualified leads, and help your sales teams increase revenue.

Click here to download our free guide to digital marketing fundamentals.

Check out the infographic from the folks at Kuno Creative below.

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