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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How to Get Started With Paid Search [Free Guide]

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@ktaylormighty

In 2016, 96% of Google's revenue came from paid search (or pay-per-click) advertising. Clearly, marketers are taking advantage of AdWords, but what does a great PPC campaign even look like? How do you ensure it drives ROI for your company? How do you even do a Google AdWords campaign?

To help you get started the right way, we're breaking down the basics of how to use paid search below.

The following is an excerpt from the ebook How to Use Google AdWords, just one of the resources included in The Ultimate Free Google AdWords PPC Kit we created with our friends at SEMrush. The kit includes the full ebook, a template, and a checklist -- everything you need to manage keywords, campaigns and ad groups successfully. If you'd like to access the full kit, click here.

How to Use Paid Search

All too often, companies -- small businesses especially -- think that if they just pay to be on a search engine, they don't have to invest time and resources in search engine optimization to rank higher organically. 

It's important to make clear that paid search is not a replacement for anything, but should instead be used to complement other inbound marketing strategies. Paid online advertising takes a lot of time and effort, a lot of resources, and a lot of management, and it's something you really need to invest in.

Let's take a look at some of the useful things you can do with paid search.

Landing Page Testing

One great way to use paid search is for testing and optimizing your landing pages. So, for instance, here's the search engine results page for "cat food for older cats", and you see some paid results for this specific search query:

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You can take that one ad and actually set it to go to two different destination URLs, and therefore, to two different landing pages.

So for a cat food ad, you could have one ad going to a page with one offer (a guide on feeding techniques for your older cat), and the other to a page for another offer (an actual product page for cat food).

You could also have the ad go to two different landing pages that are for the same offer. For example, if you wanted to test a feature of your forms, you could have two versions of the same landing page, each with a different form layout, and send the ad to each of those. This is called A/B testing, a very important and highly recommended practice for optimizing your landing pages.

Paid search is a great way to do landing page A/B testing because it allows you to direct traffic to your choice of pages, split this traffic to different pages, and ultimately find the pages that convert at the highest rate.

Finding New Keywords

In addition to landing page testing, you can also use paid search to find new keywords for your campaign. Google AdWords generates a Search Terms report that displays all of the keywords for which your ad has been displayed.

In other words, if you are bidding on the keyword "red shoes", Google might serve your ad when someone searches "red tennis shoes." Even though you did not bid on the exact word, the keyword "red tennis shoes" will be included in this report because that's what the user searched. The report also contains information about the performance of each of the keywords, so you can determine if it's worth adding that keyword to your campaign.

Below is a sample Search Terms report. On the left hand side is the list of keywords. The ones that show the green "Added" box next to them are the ones that are already in this paid search account.

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The keywords that don't say "Added" next to them are not currently included in the account. Again, this is a list of the keywords that people are actually typing into the Google search, so it is extremely valuable information.

Take, for instance, the keyword "search engine optimization tutorial'" from the list above. That is an excellent keyword for my campaign, and I'm not buying it yet. Not only that, but I wouldn't have known about that keyword unless I had generated this report! And to top it all off, I'm able to see that when somebody searches for this keyword and clicks through to my ad, they convert on one of my offers at a rate of 21%.

Now, this high conversion rate tells me not only that I should be buying this keyword, but also that maybe I should consider using this keyword for search engine optimization as well. Maybe I should make a landing page geared toward this keyword, or an offer built around this keyword.

You should use the information in these Search Terms reports, and also in Google AdWords' Keyword Planner, to discover new keywords that will help you further optimize all of your SEM campaigns. For more information on keyword research, check out this blog post: How to Do Keyword Research for SEO: A Beginner's Guide and the Ultimate keyword research checklist.

Getting in the Game

Another great way to use paid search is to, as we say, "get in the game" and rank higher than your competitors. Let's look at PetSmart.com, which holds the number one ranking in the organic search results for the phrase "cat food".

For the phrase "dog food", they don't rank number one, but they're still above the fold, meaning that you don't have to scroll down to see the result when the page comes up. This is great, of course, but their high rank for these keywords does not mean they shouldn't bother running any paid search ads.

If you do a little research, you'll find that "pet food" is also a big keyword in this space, and PetSmart ranks far below the fold for it. On top of that, they're not running a paid search campaign with Google AdWords either. But their competitor, Petco, does have a paid search campaign, and so their ad appears on the results page, while PetSmart does not. So this is a sample instance where running a paid search campaign makes a lot of sense.

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Paid Search Can't Stand Alone

When you think about how you should use paid search, one of the best ways to think about it is to use it as a complement to your inbound marketing efforts. You can use paid search to maximize your coverage on the search engine's result page (SERP).

For instance, here we have the search term "inbound marketing." You'll see that there's an organic search listing for HubSpot that ranks second on the page (just after Wikipedia), but we're also buying the keyword "inbound marketing," which displays our paid search ad for it.

So now we have that natural search ad, the paid one, and, if you scroll down the page, you'll find yet another organic search listing for HubSpot via SlideShare. This widespread coverage on the search engine results page for "inbound marketing" helps to establish HubSpot as an authoritative figure for inbound marketing, and drives more traffic to our pages.

The good news is -- you can do this for your business as well! Take the opportunity to establish your company as a leader in your industry by increasing your presence on search engines with paid search campaigns.

10 thrilling digital marketing stats we’ve seen this week

By Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

It’s that time of the week when we regale you with some glorious digital marketing stats.

This week’s roundup includes news about ecommerce reviews, CRO, AI, and digital payments. Be sure to head on over to the Internet Statistics Compendium for lots more.

Let’s get down to businesss.

Facebook native videos generate 530% more comments than YouTube

Quintly’s latest study involves the analysis of 187,000 Facebook profiles and over 7.5m Facebook posts from January to July 2017.

Alongside the discovery that 92% of these profiles used native video, it was found that Facebook native videos resulted in 530% more comments than YouTube videos.

Cementing the power of the platform, Quintly also found a 477% higher average share rate for Facebook native videos, and a 168% higher average interaction rate compared to YouTube videos.

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Majority of consumers think AI in marketing should be regulated

On the back of Blade Runner 2049’s release, a survey by Syzygy has revealed US and UK attitudes about artificial intelligence.

It found that the majority of respondents think AI in marketing should be governed by a key principle from the movie – i.e. that it should be illegal for AI to hide its real identity and impersonate a human. 85% of Brits agree with this sentiment, as do 79% of Americans.

The survey also found that 43% of Americans believe AI poses a threat to the long-term survival of humanity, while 17% feel anxious about the rise of the technology.

Meanwhile, 92% of Brits believe there should be regulation with a legally-binding code of conduct, while 75% think brands should need explicit consent before using AI in their marketing.

Negative reviews rise in November and December due to delivery issues

Trustpilot has analysed data from over a million online reviews left in November and December in both 2015 and 2016.

Results show that delivery was the biggest cause of complaints. The most common two-word phrases in one-star reviews were “customer service,” “days later,” and “still waiting” during October to December 2016. The appearance of “delivery” in one-star reviews rose to more than 19% in December – a 13.27% increase since October.   

Finally, there were more negative reviews left on 20th December than any other day of the year.

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Conversion rates on desktop more than double that of mobile

A new study by Qubit has found that mobile commerce still lags behind desktop when it comes to discoverability, conversion, and revenue.

In the analysis of data across 35 fashion and cosmetics brands since January of this year, it found traffic to each channel to be about the same – 45.87% on desktop and 44.7% on mobile. However, there are stark differences in other areas.

Conversion rates on desktop were found to be 3.35%, while conversion rates on mobile were 1.61%. Similarly, revenue per visitor (RPV) is more than double on desktop – £6.10 vs. £2.66 on mobile.

Lastly, the average number of products viewed per customer was also far higher on desktop – 17.99 on desktop and 13.65 on mobile.

Music improves the customer experience in-store

A study by Mood Media and Sacem suggests that music can improve the customer experience in-store, even in more ‘serious’ sectors such as banking.

When measuring the difference music makes in locations where it was not previously used, it found that 70% of customers had a more positive perception of a business’s image when music was playing, and 65% agreed that music helped to differentiate the business from its competition.

When sectors like banking and pharmacy were silent, only 33% of customers initially thought adding music would feel appropriate. However, 76% of customers agreed the music was a good addition once it was introduced.

Interestingly, customers in banking felt more comfortable having confidential conversations when music was playing in the background.

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Global digital payments predicted to reach 726bn transactions by 2020

Capgemini’s World Payments Report says that global digital payments volumes are predicted to increase by an average of 10.9% in the run up to 2020, reaching approximately 726bn transactions.

This is said to be heavily influenced by retail customers, who are increasingly willing to use online and mobile channels to adopt next-generation payment methods.

The report also revealed that by 2019, it is estimated that around 50% of transactions carried out using a credit or debit card will be made either online or via mobile.

Fewer marketers see CRO as ‘crucial’ to success

Econsultancy’s Conversion Rate Optimization Report, in association with RedEye, has revealed a dip in the perceived importance of CRO. 

In a survey of 800 marketers and ecommerce professionals, 38% of respondents said they still see it as ‘important’. However, just 50% now see it as ‘crucial’ – a decline from 55% in 2016. 

This percentage has fallen even further since 2013, when 59% of professionals cited CRO as ‘crucial’.

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Subscribers can download the full report here.

More consumers predicted to shop online this Black Friday

A survey by Market Track suggests that more consumers will choose to make online purchases this Black Friday, favouring digital commerce over traditional brick and mortar stores.

Out of 1,000 people surveyed, 40% of respondents said they expect to shop in physical retail stores on Black Friday. Meanwhile, 30% said the same for Thanksgiving compared with 50% last year.

In contrast, 80% said they are likely to purchases from Amazon this year – an increase of 6% from 2016. And while in-store shopping is likely to decline, Walmart came out on top as the top retail destination for the holiday season.

Snapchat is top social platform for US teens

Despite reports that Snapchat usage is declining among top influencers (with a 33% decrease in usage over the past six months), Piper Jaffray suggests US teens still can’t get enough of the platform.

In a survey of 6,100 US teenagers across 44 states, it found 47% of respondents cite Snapchat as their favourite social media platform – almost twice as many as those who prefer Instagram.

Just 9% of teens said they favour Facebook, while 7% said Twitter, and just 1% said Pinterest.

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Interactive video ads boost viewing time by 49% 

According to Magna, interactive video ads result in a 47% increase in time spent watching compared to non-interactive ads. 

What’s more, when consumers interact with a 15-second ad, brands can reportedly triple their time spent with consumers. 

6 Technical On-site SEO Hacks to Improve Crawlability and Increase Organic Traffic

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SEO is all about improving organic traffic to generate more sales. We often spend more time increasing the number and quality of backlinks (a major component of OFF page SEO) and forget to improve the technical aspects of the website.

This article will shed light on some extremely useful technical SEO hacks that can gain more qualified inbound traffic and improve the crawlability of a website. Let’s start! 

1. Optimize the Google Crawl Budget

Googlebots regularly crawls the existing and new pages on your site in the same manner as a regular human searcher might. This helps Google to understand the performance of the website as a slow loading time or a 404 page might degrade the user experience. 

What is a Google Crawl Budget?

The number of pages that Google visits on your site during a single connection is referred to as the crawl budget. This crawl budget is different for different sites. An increased crawl budget means Google is interested in knowing more about your site which in turn can improve your search ranking positions (remember, rankings have over 200+ factors and crawl budget is just one of those).

Here is how Google defines crawl rate:

“Crawl rate limit Googlebot is designed to be a good citizen of the web. Crawling is its main priority, while making sure it doesn’t degrade the experience of users visiting the site. We call this the “crawl rate limit” which limits the maximum fetching rate for a given site. Simply put, this represents the number of simultaneous parallel connections Googlebot may use to crawl the site, as well as the time it has to wait between the fetches. The crawl rate can go up and down based on a couple of factors: Crawl health: if the site responds really quickly for a while, the limit goes up, meaning more connections can be used to crawl. If the site slows down or responds with server errors, the limit goes down and Googlebot crawls less.”

We can say that crawl limit is an excellent way to estimate the performance of a website in the search results as a better crawl budget leads to more organic traffic because it increases the importance of a website in the eyes of Google. In the words of Google ”An increased crawl rate will not necessarily lead to better positions in Search results.” The use of the word necessarily means that crawl rate indeed has an impact on the search performance and can be considered as a ranking factor.

How to Check Google Crawl Rate?

Login to the Webmasters search console and click on crawl stats under the crawl menu as displayed in the below screenshot:

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This will give you a clear idea about the number of pages that Google crawls per day along with the amount of time Googlebot spends in downloading the page.

Here are some of the ways through which you can optimize the Google crawl budget:

  • Increase the speed of the site as making a site faster improves the user experience and also increases the crawl rate. Efficient crawling automatically leads to better indexing and improved rankings.
  • Regularly monitor the crawl error report and keep the number of server errors to as low as possible.
  • Ensure you have proper AMP pages on your site so that it takes less time for Google to crawl such pages to improve the mobile performance of the website.
  • Reduce the excessive page load time for dynamic page requests. Dynamic pages take too much time to load resulting in time-out issues.
  • Make use of virtual private servers to improve the server response time.
  • Optimize images and reduce unnecessary JS and CSS.
  • Ensure to take the mobile-friendly test and fix any mobile crawlability or design issues that your site might be having.

2. Use HTML Tables for Direct Answer Queries 

Google loves to give direct answers to the searchers.

In this context, if your web pages provide direct answers to the commonly searched user questions related to your niche then you have an excellent chance of diverting lots of traffic from the direct answer box results returned by Google.

Here is what Google returns when the user types the query: MacBook Pro price

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The site macprices.net is ranking in the answer box on top of the regular search results because it uses proper HTML tables to give direct answers. Google loves HTML tables likes these, and this is the reason Apple gets defeated and wasn’t included in the answer box.

The crux of this experiment is, you need to first identify the question-based search queries then you can prepare answers in a tabular form by making use of HTML tables and structured data so that it becomes easier for Google to understand the content of the page and display it directly in the search results.

3. Leverage the Power of Internal Links

Internal linking still remains one of the most powerful SEO tactics. An internal link connects one page of a website to a different page on the same website. 

Proper internal linking helps to pass link juice more efficiently across the inner pages. Following the below tree structure for directories, subdirectories, and pages helps. 

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 Here are some of the ways through which you can improve the power of internal links: 

  • Create lots of actionable, authoritative, and high-quality content. When you have lots of content, then you can easily create a lot of internal links.
  • Do not always link to the home page. Instead, link out to deeper pages that otherwise have fewer links. The more internal links you have to your important pages, the better chances you will have to get them ranked higher up in the search results.
  • Follow Wikipedia if you are looking for an inspiration for relevant internal links. Contextual internal linking is far better than linking done at the bottom of the content.
  • Use breadcrumbs, as it aids in navigation and also raises the importance of inner category pages especially in the case of an e-commerce site.
  • Use relevant, natural, and do-follow links. Unnatural links that are not beneficial to the users but created for the sole purpose of internal linking will have a reduced CTR and time on page thereby reducing the overall importance of the website.
  • Diversify your anchor text when doing internal linking to remain safe from the penalties of Penguin. You can make use of tools like Internal Link Analyzer to check the current status of your internal links. 

4.  Increase the Word Count of Blog Pages to 2500-3000 Words 

If you want to rank for an informative search query like “how to improve WordPress SEO”, then make sure that you have at least 2500 words of content in your page.

Snapagency did a survey and found that blog posts having a word count of 2500 words or more received the maximum social shares.

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Similarly, pages having a word count between 2200-2500 words received the maximum organic traffic.

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Hence, the best blog post length that you should always aim for is 2500 words. Simply find out all the informative search queries based on Google Micro Moments that will help the customer to reach the end of the funnel. After that, create content that provides actionable and interactive text to help the user find answers to their problems or confusions. 

5. Optimize Your Site for Mobile Web Crawling 

Google has now moved to a mobile first index. While doing a technical site audit, it is crucial to review whether Google Smartphone crawler is able to properly indexthe contents of the website.

Here are some of the ways to have a mobile friendly site: 

  • Conduct a mobile friendly test and use the “Fetch as Google” option from Google to check for any issues.
  • Check the mobile usability report under the search console to check any mobile usability issues detected over time.
  • Make use of Tools like Screaming Frog to simulate mobile bot search behavior and ensure that the mobile pages are rendered properly.
  • Perform a log analysis and block spam bots so as to allow easy access to search engine crawlers. 

6. Regularly Update Your Sitemap 

As per Google,

“A sitemap is a file where you can list the web pages of your site to tell Google and other search engines about the organization of your site content. Search engine web crawlers like Googlebot read this file to more intelligently crawl your site. Also, your sitemap can provide valuable metadata associated with the pages you list in that sitemap: Metadata is information about a web page, such as when the page was last updated, how often the page is changed, and the importance of the page relative to other URLs in the site.”

Here are some ways to ensure that your sitemaps are proper and crawlable:

  • Update your XML sitemap every time you add a new page on your site.
  • Remove duplicate pages, non- canonicalized pages and improper redirected pages.
  • Use consistent and fully qualified URLs.
  • Do not include session ids.
  • Ensure the sitemap file is UTF-8 encoded.
  • Check the sitemap errors regularly under the Search Console.
  • Keep the sitemap size to less than 50,000 URLs so that the important pages gets crawled more frequently. If you have multiple sitemaps, then use a sitemap index file.
  • Have an optimized mobile sitemap. You can download the elements specific to mobile from here.

Follow the above technical SEO tips and you can instantly notice the difference.

Remember, both on-page and off-page are integral parts of an effective SEO strategy. Which on-page SEO hack has given you the maximum benefit? Please let me know in the comments below.

14 ways to get smarter with your content and SEO

Jim Yu

Contributor Jim Yu uses the SMART framework to prescribe a formula for SEO and content marketing success.

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Despite the many ways Google has changed the search game over the last five years, one truth remains: content is the vehicle that drives your consumer interactions, engagements, experiences and, ultimately, conversions.

However, only 41 percent of marketers think their organization is clear on what an effective or successful content marketing program looks like, according to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI).

Marketers aren’t just lacking confidence in their efforts; these are real and measurable deficits. In fact, only 20 percent of B2C and 50 percent of B2B content earns any engagement at all, my company’s research has found.

That’s a lot of wasted effort and resources invested in content that ends up just floating around the web, winning zero business benefit for its creators.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at content through the SMART lens. SMART is a goal-setting framework in which S stands for Specific, M for measurable, A for achievable, R for relevant and T for timely.

Below is my variation that explains how to apply search engine optimization (SEO) to your content within a SMART framework, giving you 14 concrete ways to make your marketing more effective and to win you more business.

S —  Specific content wins every time

Content is not about what your marketing team wants to say. It is about providing insight and information that your audience actually wants to hear.

SMART content is designed for a specific audience, based on your understanding of their needs, preferences and intent.

  1. Get to know your audiences.

There’s much more to this than keyword research. Where do your consumers live online? What’s their intent when performing certain types of searches or engaging your brand in social? What action are they most likely to take at that point? Understanding the audience you’re writing for is the foundation on which SMART content is built.

  1. Discover opportunities through topical research.

How well do you understand the competitive environment in the verticals for which you’re creating content? Today, you’re competing for eyes and clicks. Your competitors may be other companies, but you could be competing for space in the SERPs against media brands, bloggers, influencers and more. Without that bigger-picture, bird’s-eye view of relevant search and social spaces, you’re flying blind.

Evaluating the content gaps not covered by your competition provides you with opportunities to create engaging content that speaks to people in the key moments that matter.

  1. Choose content formats wisely.

Which media will you incorporate to best illustrate your message, engage your audience and reach people across platforms?

Don’t limit yourself; a single piece of content can incorporate several types of media, including socially shareable images, quick video clips and embedded media, like SlideShares.

This gives you various ways to convey your message, but it also allows you to appear in different types of search results (like Google Images) and on different search platforms (like YouTube or SlideShare’s internal search), as well.

M — Measurable content delivers on the metrics that matter

Content marketers are getting better at proving the business value of their activities. Just two years ago, only 21 percent of B2B marketing respondents to CMI’s annual content marketing survey said they were successful at tracking ROI. Now, in 2017:

  • 72 percent are measuring their content marketing ROI.
  • 51 percent are using a measurement plan to provide both insight and progress toward the business goals.
  • 79 percent are using analytics tools.

How can you make your content marketing efforts measurable?

  1. Choose metrics that matter and align with your business goals.

Which KPIs tell the true story of your content’s success? Ideally, you’re going to measure your content’s performance through the entire funnel, right from lead generation and audience-building to nurturing, conversion, sales and right on through post-sales to retention and evangelism.

Site traffic, lead quality, social shares, time on site and conversion rates are among the top metrics used by B2B marketers to determine content success. Priorities are similar for B2C marketers.

  1. Make search engine optimization a core component of content creation.

Improve your visibility and key metrics like engagement, time on site, sharing and conversions with strategic content optimization.

Apply readability standards and optimize title tags, meta descriptions, subheadings, images and text in line with current SEO standards.

Keep visitors clicking and engaged with smart internal linking that both improves user experience and resurfaces your most popular, highest-converting content.

  1. Accelerate with automation. 

Machine learning is growing in importance in search, especially where data sets are large and dynamic. Identifying patterns in data in real time makes machine learning a great asset to understand changes in your customer base, competitor landscape or the overall market.

Ideally, your content automation system will include reporting to tell you not only how each piece is performing but also make recommendations to help you focus on your most valuable opportunities.

Automation allows you to manage routine tasks with less effort so that you can focus on high-impact activities and accomplish business goals at scale.

A — Actionable content is always on & ready for activation

By actionable content, I mean that which is ready to answers users’ questions but also is valuable way beyond the initial period of promotion after publishing.

  1. Empower your content creators with technical SEO support.

Last month, I wrote about the importance of balancing technical and non-technical SEO within your organization. If you want your content to perform its best, you need to support your creative team with a technically sound, optimized online presence.

Site structure and hierarchy, meta data, mobile readiness, internal linking, site speed, coding errors and other technical SEO factors can all affect your content’s ability to rank.

Further, they can affect readers’ ability to access and enjoy the content and then take next steps. Get your technical and non-technical SEO in order to set your content team up for success.

  1. Optimize for activation across multiple channels.

Search engine marketing is the second-most commonly used paid content promotion tactic, next only to social advertising.

Push your content to social channels like Twitter and Facebook, but don’t forget other channels like LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+.

Ideally, you’re going to have some understanding of your audience on each platform and which channels will be most receptive to each new piece. Make sure you’re optimizing your social posts for the platform on which you’re posting — cutting and pasting the same post across all channels doesn’t cut it.

R — Resonate with content promotion in relevant channels

Even if you build it, they will not come until attracted. The competition for eyes and minds is fierce; increase the efficacy of your organic efforts and promotional spend by targeting the right people in the right places at the right time.

  1. Amplify in social channels for early traction.

Low spend minimums on channels like Twitter and Facebook make it affordable to run experiments against different audience segments and see where your content resonates best.

Plus, that initial boost of activity gives your content authority and appeals to the social networks’ ranking algorithms, helping you get more organic reach.

If you are tracking and measuring correctly, you can see which audiences are not only engaged, but converting. That’s where you want to allocate your content-promotion budget, rather than having some predetermined amount of spend per channel that runs its course regardless of performance for each piece.

  1. Syndicate and use paid promotion to reach targeted audiences outside your existing network.

Syndication takes content you’ve already published on your site and republishes it elsewhere, exposing you to another publication’s audience. You might be able to find organic syndication opportunities, and there are plenty of paid syndication services like Outbrain, Taboola or Zemanta.

If you’re looking at large-scale syndication, read Danny Sullivan’s caution on using links in syndicated piecesfirst to stay on the right side of Google.

  1. Don’t forget email!

Your consumers want to hear from you. In fact, 86 percent want to receive emails at least monthly from companies they deal with, a MarketingSherpa survey found in 2015.

Make your call to action (CTA) to click through and read the content crystal-clear. Avoid placing competing CTAs in your email, and resist the urge to try to sell in every communication. Your content is designed to do the work of helping them take the next logical step.

T — Tangible business results are derived from SMART content

KPIs like social interactions and site visits give you a great idea of how well your content performs in search and social, but you need tangible business results to prove value.

  1. Make content profitable with CTAs that drive performance.

What action would you like readers to take? Which of your site’s conversion pages is currently converting best and generating the highest-quality leads? These insights will help guide your CTA selection, but remember, your CTAs should also match the consumer intent you’re targeting with each piece. Don’t forget to include embedded performance tracking for both site traffic and conversions.

  1. Incorporate elements that support multiple business functions.

Make your content multidimensional with elements to build brand authority, inspire or educate on product (or service), encourage engagement and more.

Incorporate testimonials into your content, where they can serve the purpose of providing social validation within the context of an existing consumer experience. Develop author personas to give your content greater authority and build the profiles of key employees and executives.

  1. Improve ROI with ongoing content management and optimization.

How much content does your organization have sitting on-site and around the web? Each piece is an opportunity for ongoing traffic and lead generation, but only if it’s kept in line with constantly changing SEO standards.

Updating your entire catalogue of content every time Google releases an update would be a task so astronomical in scope that it’s not even worth considering doing manually.

Bringing it all together

Intelligent marketers are beginning to move the needle on content performance by embracing SEO and content as one. While it is true that both disciplines have high degrees of specialization (for example, technical SEO or branded content), the most prolific and tangible results come from a combination of both.

SMART content is always on, always optimized, and — most importantly — profitable.

22 Facebook Statistics that Every Marketer Must Know in 2017

Brad Smith

Size matters online.

Here’s why:

At the start of 2017, more than 65 million local businesses had a Facebook page.

Because bigger and better.

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There’s no shortage of Facebook case studies to follow (or copy).

But with great amounts of case studies comes great amounts of migraines.

So skip the series of Google searches.

In this article, you’ll find the 22 Facebook statistics that you absolutely can’t-do your job without.

These stats will cover everything you need to know before you launch your next campaign, from audience demographics to Relevance Score to ad engagement. Curious to see them all? Here they are:

  1. At the start of 2017, more than 65 million local businesses had a Facebook page.
  2. 79% of online adults use Facebook.
  3. 42% of consumers do not follow brands on social media.
  4. 42.2% of people like or follow a page so they can get an exclusive offer.
  5. Every Facebook user has more than 1,500 stories competing for a spot in their newsfeed at any given time.
  6. However, only about 300 of those stories are chosen to appear in the newsfeed.
  7. 40.5% of people say they prefer ads that are directly related to their interests.
  8. Ads with a Relevance Score of 3 cost about 73% more than those with a score of 8.
  9. They are 167% more expensive than ads with a score of 10.
  10. Ads with a score of 8 have a 77% higher CTR than those with a score of 3.
  11. Ads with a score of 10 have a 158% higher CTR than those with a score of 3
  12. 34.7% of people who unfollow a brand on Facebook do so because of low-personality or uninteresting posts.
  13. 57.5% of people who unfollow a brand do so because of an excessive amount of promotional posts.
  14. Shorter Facebook posts get 23% more interaction than longer posts.
  15. Posts with photos receive 179% more engagements than other posts.
  16. Videos are the most shared post type, with 89.5 average Facebook shares
  17. The average number of videos posted by a page was 24 per month.
  18. The average length of a Facebook video was 3 minutes and 48 seconds.
  19. The average person only watched a Facebook video for10 seconds.
  20. 85% of Facebook videos are watched with the sound turned off.
  21. People are 1.5x more likely to watch video on a smartphone instead of a desktop.
  22. Square video takes up 78% more space in a mobile newsfeed than landscape video does.

You can Jump straight to the one that picks your curiosity or keep reading! We’ve got one down and another 21 Facebook stats to go.

Facebook Users: Who is on your page?

Who exactly is on Facebook, to begin with?

The easy answer is pretty much everyone. Here are a few Facebook user statistics that may surprise you.

79% of online adults use Facebook

For every five adults who use the internet, four of them are using it to check Facebook. This should give you a good idea of how many people are on Facebook. In a recent study, the Pew Research Center goes on to break things down a bit:

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So, that’s the thorough answer to our prelim question.

But of course, all these people don’t like your business page specifically. Which has more to do with them than you.

42% of consumers do not follow brands on social media.

Some people just aren’t very liberal with their likes. Many of us tune out messages from brands we don’t recognize.

But that doesn’t mean you can give up. We’ll talk more about how to reach this group later.

First, let’s explore why your loyal fans clicked Like in the first place.

42.2% of people like or follow a page so they can get an exclusive offer.

They say it because it’s true.

Offering incentives to customers, like special deals for Facebook fans or access to online contests, increases your number of likes.

But that’s not the only way to attract fresh faces to your page. There are plenty of other things you can try, too.

Ever put up a winning post that really spoke to people?

Ever felt a small part of yourself perish as that post moved further down the page due to new posts taking up the top spot?

Well, get ready for a good old-fashioned resurrection.

Try pinning your greatest post to the top of your Facebook page, so new visitors will always see it.

Hubspot’s Facebook page pinned a fun video that really grabs a visitor’s attention:

Your whole goal with new visitors is to get something out of them.

You need a click, comment, like, or view. (Because you can use that to re-target them later.)

Pinning top content is literally the lowest hanging fruit you can imagine.

And the longer the post stays pinned to the top of the page, the more those numbers will grow.

Faking social proof at its finest.

Pinning posts can get newbies engaged with your cream-of-the-crop content straight away. But how do you draw said newbies in the first place?

Like a moth to a flame or a blinding light? (Except, without the whole bang, zap, dead, part.)

As the numbers said, many people hesitate to like a brand at all.

You can combat this by running your best ads for the people who need them most. Or, at least, are most likely to need them most. Lookalike audiences.

These are tailor-made Facebook audiences made up of people who share important traits with your current fanbase. The only major difference is that they’ve yet to take the plunge.

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With lookalike audiences, you’re not targeting randoms who’ve never heard of you. You’re only targeting customers who are likely to be interested in your product.

You can stand out to these people right away by acknowledging the fact that they may have no idea who you are. Yet. 

Fashion company Tobi does this well:

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(Yes, I’m up with the fashion game. Don’t judge me.)

This ad displays another great benefit of lookalike audiences: you can use them to offer exclusives only to the hard-to-get leads you’re trying to draw in.

Facebook Demographics: Who finds your ads relevant?

If you had 1,500 emails in your inbox, you wouldn’t answer all of them.

I know I wouldn’t. The delete button would be soon to follow.

If you did want to answer some of them, you’d prioritize. You would answer the emails that were most important to you and ignore the rest.

And then you would take a very long vacation.

The moral of that story is that Facebook is a lot like you. It thinks in terms of importance, or relevance.

And it won’t bother a user with an irrelevant post.

Every Facebook user has more than 1,500 stories competing for a spot in their newsfeed at any given time.

That’s a lot. Right? Too many, in fact.

Which is why…

However, only about 300 of those stories are chosen to appear in the newsfeed.

Those 300 are the “relevant” posts, according to the Facebook algorithm.

But that word “relevant”… what exactly does it mean in Facebook-speak?

Many many things. For starters, it means an ad or post is connected to someone’s interests.

Why does that matter?

40.5% of people say they prefer ads that are directly related to their interests.

That’s more than double the amount who would prefer to see unrelated ads.

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When people see ads that speak to what they care about, they engage.

And engagement matters on Facebook.

It increases your ad’s Relevance Score, for starters.

A higher Relevance Score means you’re paying less for engagement with your ad.

But how much less? Get ready for a data-dump:

Ads with a Relevance Score of 3 cost about 73% more than those with a score of 8

(Much too much.)

They are 167% more expensive than ads with a score of 10

(Multiply that against your Cost Per Lead.)

Ads with a score of 8 have a 77% higher CTR than those with a score of 3

(Getting warmer.)

Ads with a score of 10 have a 158% higher CTR than those with a score of 3

 

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As you can see from the graph above, even one extra point can increase CTR significantly.

So how do you increase your Relevance Score?

First, check what your Relevance Score is in the first place. It could be 10, for all you know.

It could also be less than 10. A lot less. (It’s most likely a lot less than 10.)

And if it’s lower than you were hoping, your next step is to ask why.

Don’t assume that Relevance Score is a direct reflection of your ad copy. Even the best-written ad can get a low score if it’s run for too broad of an audience.

Exhibit A: this ad.

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When we ran this ad for a broad audience, Facebook gave it a whole 2.9 points.

Little did the folks at Facebook know we were testing them.

And the test continued when we narrowed down the audience. Now, the ad only ran for users who had visited the our site in the past 90 days.

And the results were dramatic.

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The Facebook custom audience increased the ad’s relevance across the board.

One of the reasons Facebook custom audiences work so well is because they allow you to make your ads more specific.

People don’t like to be treated like a name on a giant list. By narrowing down your audiences, you can say specific things in your ad that only apply to a small group.

You gots to segment.

The result: an ad that speaks to an individual and not the whole wide world.

Here’s an example from Best Buy:

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This ad retargets customers who abandoned their cart. It’s giving them the final push they need to convert. It’s not generic. And that’s what makes it effective.

Great tactic, but unfortunately, not all of your ads will be retargeting ads like this one. In these cases, it’s helpful to have buyer personas.

Good buyer personas. Detailed buyer personas.

Try filling out this very detailed template from Blogger Sidekick to see if your buyer persona has what it takes:

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Know your customers better than you know yourself. Turn bits and pieces of basic info into a guide on that customer’s feelings and thought process during the buyer’s journey.

Those feelings could be very different for your different personas. Use that to your advantage.

By playing to those unique feelings in each ad, you can create a campaign that’s relevant from start to finish.

Facebook Ads: What makes an ad interesting?

There are two sides to every Like button.

When someone clicks the Like button the first time, that means Like.

But when they click it a second time, that means Unlike.

Confuses me too.

Convincing customers to Like your page is a day one thing. Convincing them not to unlike your page is an every other day thing.

34.7% of people who unfollow a brand on Facebook do so because of low-personality or uninteresting posts

(Show some sass, people.)

57.5% of people who unfollow a brand do so because of an excessive amount of promotional posts

That’s why it’s your job to make every post and every ad as interesting as possible.

Easier said than done? A little bit. Not everyone will find the same posts interesting.

That said, there are some tricks that’ll never fail you. That’s why cliche sayings like “less is more” exist.

Speaking of which:

 Shorter Facebook posts get 23% more interaction than longer posts.

If interaction measures how interesting a post is, the results are unanimous. Longer posts just aren’t as interesting as shorter ones.

TrackSocial quantified this in a recent study. The graph below illustrates their findings.

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Note the 1500+ point difference in response score between “tiny” posts (0 to 70 characters) and “large” posts (231 characters or more).

70 characters may seem a little light. But with the right words, you can keep all the important info in your content while cutting half the characters.

Start by editing out unnecessary words. For example, change “you can submit your application online” to “apply online.” Anywhere you can cut a word, get snipping.

(Meet concision: the most important lesson you’ve never learned.)

Meanwhile, you can also make your posts more interesting by posting about the things people are already interested in.

Create content that relates to your business and a trending topic.

There won’t be a clear connection between your company and every trending topic, but when there is it, take advantage of the opportunity before it slips away.

For example, Target doesn’t make a specific post for every individual product they sell. However, they do highlight products that they know people care about, like Taylor Swift’s new album:

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(Yes, I’m also a Swiftie. Quit hating.)

It can be tricky to figure out what to post. But thankfully, it isn’t tricky to figure out if you failed or not. If something isn’t getting the engagement, move that strategy to trash and switch it out with some surefire ways to make your posts interesting.

Chances are, you’re already familiar with some of them. For example, you know to post pictures when you can.

Posts with photos receive 179% more engagements than other posts.

However, videos still reign supreme.

Facebook Videos: How popular are they?

Let numbers talk the talk.

Videos are the most shared post type, with 89.5 average Facebook shares.

Of course, videos are complicated. They deserve their own subset of stats.

That subset is brought to you by Business 2 Community. They analyzed 500 pages that posted Facebook videos in the first three months of 2017.

Here’s what they found:

The average number of videos posted by a page was 24 per month.

The average length of a Facebook video was 3 minutes and 48 seconds.

The average person only watched a Facebook video for 10 seconds.

So Facebookers are missing a good deal of these videos.

Lengthwise. And sound-wise.

85% of Facebook videos are watched with the sound turned off.

Consumers are watching your video during college classes and office meetings, after all. Having the sound on would just be rude.
And very conspicuous.

Desktops tend to be conspicuous as well, which is why so many of us watch Facebook videos on our phones:

People are 1.5x more likely to watch video on a smartphone instead of a desktop.

In light of that last handful of stats, check out these best practices to spice up your next video post.

First things first: optimize for mobile.

The Jane Goodall Institute recently ran a test on their Facebook page to find out which mobile video format sparked the most engagement. They created the same video in both square and landscape formats, and then they tested them against each other.

The square video won this round. By what we like to call “a landslide.”

It received twice the likes and thrice the shares as the landscape video.

Square video takes up 78% more space in a mobile newsfeed than landscape video does.

Here’s an eye-catching square video from New Scientist:

 

Make sure your video has enough space to shine in the newsfeed by putting it in a square format.

Now that you’ve got the format covered, it’s time to talk about time.

You don’t want your fans to miss the best part of your video. And they probably will, if they’re scrolling away with more than three minutes to go.

Just as text posts are best kept short, shaving time off your video is essential to getting your entire message across.

Don’t tackle too many things at once, though. Focus on one story per video to make sure your viewers actually watch it until the credits roll.

Toms has mastered this concept. Every so often, their page posts a “We Are What We Do” video. These videos provide short stories about one person who relates to the company:

Typically, they’re short. As in, 15-seconds-short.

One of the ways Toms keeps the videos so short is by including the bare minimum of info in the video. Then, they link to explanatory pages in the text part of the post:

Note that they also include a quote in this area, instead of including the quote only in the video. This way, Toms makes sure that even the people who watched without sound will see the quote.

You may also choose to include subtitles in your video.

Finding the right font, font size, and font color to ensure your subtitles are legible can be tricky. One way to get around this is to leave a space for subtitles at the bottom of the screen, like this CollegeHumor video does:

 

As a result, the subtitles are easily visible and the message of the video is clear.

Even to those viewers stuck in a boring meeting.

Conclusion

Facebook has obviously become essential. But that means there’s more competition for the same eyeballs, too.

Start adjusting your strategy now to stay ahead of the game. Now that you know the numbers, you know how you can get them on your side.

Use pinned posts and lookalike audiences to encourage unfamiliar users to like your page. Increase your Relevance Score with target audiences and buyer personas. Avoid Unlikes by including videos, trending topics, and as few words as possible in your posts.

The Facebook stats are already out there. They’re not just for pretty infographics or automated tweets.

They’re to inform. They’re to guide your decision-making and strategies.

So that you do exactly what people are interested in to get more of what you’re interested in.

5 easy-to-miss SEO mistakes blogs make

Kristopher Jones 

Is your content great, but not ranking? Columnist Kristopher Jones shares some of the more common SEO errors bloggers and content marketers make.

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The digital marketing landscape has evolved significantly over the last two decades. And between Google’s ever-changing algorithm and the deluge of misinformation floating through the digital marketing sphere, it’s easy to lose sight of basic practices we should be employing in our own SEO and content marketing strategies.

With every new algorithm update and technological shift in search, we become obsessed with how the field of SEO will enter a wholly new paradigm, and we shift our focus to reflect this. Yet as much as the medium may change, the core principles remain the same — and it’s time to get back to the basics.

We all understand the secrets and best practices of SEO, so why do we often fail to leverage these tactics? Let’s explore five common blogging mistakes you may be making right now.

Unoptimized keyword structure

Despite the rise of semantic search and machine learning technology, keyword research should still take precedence when modeling an internal content marketing campaign. All on-site content should be thematically linked by topics and keywords to your overall business objectives.

If our content is simply covering topics and not keywords, how do we know what users reallydemand? Without keyword research, how can you truly know who your audience is and who you are writing for?

Keywords serve as the bridge between user intent and informational/transactional content. Keyword-optimized content helps to position individual web pages to rank higher organically and drive impressions for targeted searches. This effectively makes blog content a lead generator.

For on-site blogs, the focus should remain on informational long-tail keyword phrases. Common examples include question phrases beginning with how, what, when, where and why.

Other keyword ideas could include actionable phrases that are often searched for, such as the top “tips” and “hacks” to improve upon some process.

Bloggers often fail to optimize their headers, meta tags and content with targeted keyword phrases. Consider the fact that specific keyword phrases will often be bolded within the meta description of a SERP listing, potentially increasing your click-through rate.

Inadequate keyword research runs deeper than failing to optimize your header structure (e.g., title, meta description). Many bloggers fail to leverage semantic SEO, or similar keyword phrases with the same meaning. Semantic SEO allows bloggers to create more thorough and readable content that can drive impressions for multiple keyword phrases, answer more user questions and qualify your content to be a featured snippet — think of the rise of voice search.

On the other hand, over-optimized content could cross a dangerous line as well. Keyword stuffing, or possessing a high keyword density, will qualify your content as spam. Keyword stuffing also obstructs your content’s readability, which results in poor user signals.

Following SEO best practices, it’s still important to optimize all relevant site elements, such as URLs and meta tags, with targeted keywords to categorize and rank individual web pages. And aside from signaling to search engines the main focus of your on-site content, keywords also serve an important function for your site architecture.

Inconsistent internal links

Internal linking is probably one of the most overlooked aspects of SEO optimization, and issues with internal links frequently occur on SEO agency websites themselves!

There are many functions of proper internal linking for SEO:

  • Establishes paths for users to navigate your website.
  • Opens up crawling to deep linked web pages and increases crawl rate.
  • Defines site architecture and your most important web pages to search engines.
  • Distributes “link juice,” or authority, throughout your website.
  • Indexes linked-to web pages by the keywords used in the hyperlink anchor text.

While backlinks remain the gold standard of search engine ranking factors, their magic can be amplified through strategic internal linking.

Ideally, you’ll want at least three to five internal links per blog post, and a drop-down or navigation menu on your home page to provide deep links to inaccessible web pages. Just because a piece of content is posted to your blog, it doesn’t mean Google or Bing can automatically access it.

Conduct a thorough internal link audit and record which web pages have the most authority. Simply insert internal links on these pages to other high-value internal pages to distribute authority evenly throughout your domain.

Many websites display featured posts in a drop-down menu or on the home page to distribute authority to their blog posts. A blogger’s home page will be his/her most authoritative. Limit the number of links between each blog post and your home page to evenly distribute link juice throughout your domain.

Don’t overlook the importance of a sitemap, either. This will ensure all web pages are properly crawled and indexed — assuming URL structures are clean and keyword-optimized.

Finally, optimize all anchor text to categorize and drive impressions for linked web pages. Be sure to use varying anchor text phrases for each link so that you can rank your web pages for multiple search queries.

Poor page copy

As we often say in digital marketing, it’s important to write for readers and not search engines. Keep content light, don’t try to show off knowledge with excessive jargon, and write for readers on an eighth-grade reading level.

In most cases, on-site content is not about publishing, but building awareness around a need. I always suggest placing actionable tips in informational content to provide value.

Content marketing is as much a branding exercise as it is a marketing tactic. Consistent content production establishes your brand’s ethos and also creates your voice as an author. In turn, this establishes you as an authority in your niche.

Don’t sacrifice this authority with poor body copy.

Look over your blog post as a whole. What does a reader experience when they first encounter your web page? Consider the fact that the average attention span is estimated to be eight seconds. Optimize your header structure and meta tags to encourage easy scanability and communicate a clear purpose.

Leverage a powerful headline to pique reader interest, and nurture this interest with a strong introductory paragraph. Always insert clear transition phrases, and consider using animated GIFs and videos to give users a mental break between long chunks of paragraphs. These will also increase your average user dwell time.

Make your content visually appealing by utilizing white space properly and inserting images after every 400 words or so. This essentially chunks content and prevents information overload.

Finally, edit fiercely. Many writers live by the rule that about two-thirds of writing should be editing and reworking. Use tools such as Grammarly and the Hemingway App to create concise and clean body copy.

Unoptimized images and videos

Speaking of poor page copy, most bloggers still ignore image and video optimization. Unoptimized image file formats and sizes are the most common load time mistakes that deteriorate SEO performance.

All on-site images should be formatted as .jpg, and all vector images as .png.

Always optimize image alt text to position it to rank in a targeted keyword image search. The alternative text is what’s displayed when a browser fails to actually display the image and tells search engines the content of your image. (It’s also used to describe images to those with screen readers.)

When optimizing video files, host all of your video files in a single folder and create a video site map for search engines to index your videos. You should optimize the meta description of all video pages with targeted keywords for indexation. Leverage a call to action in your meta description and video annotations.

Video marketing can be distributed from multiple channels, as well as your blog. According to a recent survey by HubSpot, 43 percent of consumers want to see more video from content marketers.

Poor content promotion

This leads us to probably the greatest error that plagues bloggers and stumps small businesses. We’re told that a good piece of content should serve as a natural link magnet and even rank highly based on the merits of the writing itself. To be candid, from experience we’ve discovered this isn’t always true.

Consider the idea that a 10-hour project totaling 3,245 words, featuring exquisite content and imagery, is just as useless as a poorly written 400-word listicle if it doesn’t drive conversions or traffic. This is what I refer to as potential energy. Without a proper technical structure or any content promotion strategy at work, your awe-inspiring content is a dud.

What if, after writing his Theory of Relativity, Einstein had simply posted his theory on his front door and waited for someone to discover it? Content distributed over a blog on a young domain won’t gather backlinks or social shares without promotion.

Leverage your connections, and follow these strategies to promote content and allow it to compound over social media:

  1. Have influential members of your organization share and promote a piece of content.
  2. Contact influencers over social media to share content.
  3. Request a quote from an industry thought leader to place in your content; advertise this in your rich snippet on social media channels.
  4. Repurpose content into a video or infographic for greater shareability.
  5. Contact websites that have linked to similar content in the past.
  6. Submit your content to replace relevant broken links on authoritative sites.
  7. Run a paid advertisement campaign over social media to place content directly in front of targeted audience members.

Content promotion involves thorough audience analysis. Segment audience members into one of three boundaries based on habits, demographics and psychographics. Investigate what social media channels each audience segment uses the most and the points of time when they are most active.

Understand which pieces of content perform best over specific social media channels. The most viral content examples include:

  • “How-to” tutorials
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Listicles
  • “Why” articles

Content serves as an effective pull marketing tactic and inbound lead generator. Yet, if content is simply sitting on the shelf and gathering dust, it’s a lost investment.

Social and user signals factor greatly into organic ranking. Essentially, social promotion will draw users to your content, which will determine — based on their engagement — the efficacy of your content.

Conclusion

SEO agencies and content marketers often tell clients about technical and onsite errors they may be making. But sometimes it takes a little realism to take a step back and analyze our own campaigns for greater success in the long run.

Hopefully, you’ll take the news that your SEO content strategy is imperfect in the right way. It’s an opportunity to refine and improve.

Trending Keywords and How Google Populates Results

Chad Kodary

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How Does Google Populate Results?

There is this old joke in the internet marketing community: “Where do you hide a dead body? On the second page of Google.”

There is certainly a lot of truth to that as most internet marketers will only focus and fight for the top spots in the search results. But I was recently doing a deep dive for a keyword to see just how deep the rabbit hole can go and be surprised to see that by default, it doesn’t go very far at all.

For example, I was recently looking up the new Avengers movie “Infinity Wars” and was running through the pages almost mindlessly when I got stonewalled around pages 14-18.

The default search result wouldn’t let me proceed past these pages citing:

“In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries similar to the 162 already displayed. If you like you can repeat the search with the omitted results included.”

This makes sense, they are focusing on user credibility above anything else, but this led me to an interesting analysis of how Google is choosing these results.

How Much Content, on Google’s Search Engine, is Similar Enough to Be Omitted?

Following through on the number from before. I got to page 16 of Google and was shown 162 search results before Google determined that all other pages are similar enough not to merit population.

But when we look at the initial search results, it claims that there are about 5.1 million results. For the search term: “Marvel Infinity War.”

This was alarming information to me because any keyword tool that we use typically moves up to the 200-page rank and we can track our emergence of new keywords based on numbers similar to that. But if the search results are skewed and combined around 160-170 then we should be tracking for that number instead.

To test this, I went ahead and checked for moving companies and saw that I can go well into page 30 and beyond and still reveal that there are over 63 million results for that phrase.

This led me to believe that it must be about emerging news and get coverage. So I decided to do a query on Donald Trump, and sure enough, you can’t view past the 16th page.

This must have to do with trending content and keeping information as relevant as possible.

Testing Google Trends against the Outer Limits of the Search Results

So I checked out Google Trends to see if any more results came up and here are my search in order, not categorized.

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** = Two Anomalies came up when populating the results. At first, I went to page 17 and received no results followed by going back to 14 and getting no results; then I got to page 18.

What Do These Results Say About Google’s Prioritization of Trending Keywords?

Clearly, there is a need and desire to populate trending news and emerging content first. This is clearly to deliver as much important information as possible before doing anything else.

So while there may be countless results regarding a topic, they won’t populate mundane or referential information over breaking information.

But What About Trending Results and the First Page?

Additionally, we are going to look at how Justin Bieber plays a role in the search results. The trending story was how he recently hit a paparazzo with his truck.

The Top Stories showed CNN, TMZ, and Etonline as the top three stories on the matter. Though it appears that the story broke with People.com 13 hours before these other news stories.

So while the company that broke the story first has the highest organic search result, the breaking news stories have their rich snippets appear above the original story.

For The Record: People.com’s Domain Authority is 91, TMZ is 93, and CNN is 99.

So while they are respecting what might be the source of the story, they are also opening up a separate stream for the latest details in regards to the story.

How Can This Be Integrated Into SEO and Content Marketing?

The most important rule to follow regarding this information is to not keyword stuff or try and create content that doesn’t contribute to the story. But with this, we can extract information about Post Styles, Referential information, and Trade incorporation.

Post Styles – In regards to the information about Justin Bieber, both TMZ and CNN keep their post date in the article. So we can see that TMZ and CNN both posted articles today (7/27/17) in these circumstances the information might be better for deploying information.

Referential Information – Additionally, in the event of breaking news, posts and pages with referential information might be moved from their original rankings in favor of breaking news. So updating a post or a page to include information about the breaking news might be a good way to keep the post live.

Local Coverage and Trade Incorporation – Additionally, if you are looking for an interesting spin or angle on the topic to include on any website, try taking a trade specific look at it. If you are an internet marketing company that writes for a construction company in Ohio, try getting a professional opinion and statement from the owner on what they think might have gone wrong with the roller coaster ride. This sort of information will be great follow-up material for people who want to learn more about the story, and it increases the chances of the company being picked up by local news and circulated.

Conclusion

Google Trends can be a powerful tool for those who are near trending events. With the proper contribution to the discussion and incorporation into your company, you can potentially bring a surge of traffic to your site by giving unique perspectives on news stories that are otherwise being regurgitated by news outlets.

In the age of breaking news and being the first or most reliable first word on the matter, having subjective, speculative opinions of locals is a great way to add genuine information to the discussion.

7 Digital Marketing Strategies That Work: A Complete Guide

Written by Elissa Hudson

There's no question that, in the modern landscape, a big part of your marketing strategy is digital. Consumers and businesses alike are almost always online -- and you want to be able to reach them and observe their behavior where they spend the most time.

But when you're growing a business, it seems like this ever-evolving landscape can quickly become overwhelming. There's already enough to do -- how are you also supposed to create, fine-tune, and maintain an agile digital marketing strategy?

We've compiled a list of seven digital marketing strategies that marketers can adapt to help their teams and businesses grow, as well as a crash course on the meaning of digital strategy and marketing campaigns.

 

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

 

What is Digital Strategy?

In short: Your digital marketing strategy is the series of actions that are going to help you achieve your goal(s) using online marketing. The term ‘strategy’ might seem intimidating, but building an effective digital strategy doesn’t need to be difficult.

In simple terms, a strategy is just a plan of action to achieve a desired goal, or multiple goals. For example, your overarching goal might be to generate 25% more leads via your website this year than you drove last year.

Depending on the scale of your business, your digital marketing strategy might involve multiple goals and a lot of moving parts, but coming back to this simple way of thinking about strategy can help you stay focused on meeting those objectives.

Despite our simplification of the term ‘strategy’, there’s no doubt it can be difficult to get started actually building one. Let's see what a digital marketing campaign looks like, and then, we'll jump into those seven building blocks to help you create an effective digital marketing strategy to set up your business for online success.

What is a Digital Marketing Campaign?

It’s easy to confuse your digital strategy with your digital marketing campaigns, but here’s how to distinguish the two.

As we’ve already outlined, your digital strategy is the series of actions you take to help you achieve your overarching marketing goal. Your digital marketing campaigns are the building blocks or actions within your strategy that move you toward meeting that goal.

For example, you might decide to run a campaign sharing some of your best-performing gated content on Twitter, to generate more leads through that channel. That campaign is part of your strategy to generate more leads.

It’s important to note that even if a campaign runs over the course of a couple of years, it doesn’t make it a strategy -- it’s still a tactic that sits alongside other campaigns to form your strategy.

Now that we’ve gotten to grips with the basics of digital strategy and digital marketing campaigns, let’s dig into how to build your strategy.

How to Build a Comprehensive Digital Strategy

1) Build your buyer personas.

For any marketing strategy -- offline or online -- you need to know who you’re marketing to. The best digital marketing strategies are built upon detailed buyer personas, and your first step is to create them. (Need help? Start here with our free buyer persona kit.)

Buyer personas represent your ideal customer(s) and can be created by researching, surveying, and interviewing your business’s target audience. It’s important to note that this information should be based upon real data wherever possible, as making assumptions about your audience can cause your marketing strategy to take the wrong direction.

To get a rounded picture of your persona, your research pool should include a mixture of customers, prospects, and people outside your contacts database who align with your target audience.

But what kind of information should you gather for your own buyer persona(s) to inform your digital marketing strategy? That depends on your businesses, and is likely to vary depending on whether you’re B2B or B2C, or whether your product is high cost or low cost. Here are some starting points, but you’ll want to fine-tune them, depending on your particular business.

Quantitative (or Demographic) Information

  • Location. You can use web analytics tools like Google Analytics to easily identify what location your website traffic is coming from.
  • Age. Depending on your business, this may or may not be relevant. It’s best to gather this data by identifying trends in your existing prospect and customer database.
  • Income. It’s best to gather sensitive information like personal income in persona research interviews, as people might be unwilling to share it via online forms.
  • Job Title. This is something you can get a rough idea of from your existing customer base, and is most relevant for B2B companies.

Qualitative (or Psychographic) Information

  • Goals. Depending on the need your product or service was created to serve, you might already have a good idea of what goals your persona is looking to achieve. However, it’s best to cement your assumptions by speaking to customers, as well as internal sales and customer service representatives.
  • Challenges. Again, speak to customers, sales and customer service representatives to get an idea of the common problems your audience faces.
  • Hobbies and interests. Speak to customers and people who align with your target audience. If you’re a fashion brand, for example, it’s helpful to know if large segments of your audience are also interested in fitness and well-being, as that can help inform your future content creation and partnerships.
  • Priorities. Speak to customers and people who align with your target audience to find out what’s most important to them in relation to your business. For example, if you’re a B2B software company, knowing that your audience values customer support over a competitive price point is very valuable information.

Take this information and create one or more rounded personas, like Marketing Molly below, and ensure they’re at the core of your digital marketing strategy.

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2) Identify your goals & the digital marketing tools you’ll need.

Your marketing goals should always be tied back to the fundamental goals of the business. For example, if your business’s goal is to increase online revenue by 20%, your goal as a marketer might be to generate 50% more leads via the website than you did last year to contribute towards that success.

Whatever your overarching goal is, you need to know how to measure it, and more important, actually be able to measure it (e.g., have the right digital marketing tools in place to do so). How you measure the effectiveness of your digital strategy will be different for each business and dependent on your goal(s), but it’s vital to ensure you’re able to do so, as it’s these metrics which will help you adjust your strategy in the future.

If you're a HubSpot customer, the Reporting add-on in your HubSpot software brings all of your marketing and sales data into one place, so you can quickly determine what works and what doesn't.

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3) Evaluate your existing digital marketing channels and assets.

When considering your available digital marketing channels or assets to incorporate into your strategy, it’s helpful to first consider the bigger picture to avoid getting overwhelmed. The owned, earned, and paid media framework helps to categorize the digital ‘vehicles’, assets, or channels that you’re already using.

Owned Media

This refers to the digital assets that your brand or company owns -- whether that’s your website, social media profiles, blog content, or imagery, owned channels are the things your business has complete control over. This can include some off-site content that you own, but isn't hosted on your website, like a blog that you publish on Medium, for example.

Earned Media

Quite simply, earned media refers to the exposure you’ve earned through word-of-mouth. Whether that’s content you've distributed on other websites (e.g., guest posts), PR work you’ve been doing, or the customer experience you've delivered, earned media is the recognition you receive as a result. You can earn media by getting press mentions, positive reviews, and by other people sharing your content on social media, for instance.

Paid Media

Paid media is a bit self-explanatory in what its name suggests -- and refers to any vehicle or channel that you spend money on to catch the attention of your buyer personas. This includes things like Google AdWords, paid social media posts, native advertising (like sponsored posts on other websites), and any other medium for which you directly pay in exchange for visibility.

Gather what you have, and categorize each vehicle or asset in a spreadsheet, so you have a clear picture of your existing owned, earned, and paid media.

Your digital marketing strategy might incorporate elements of all three channels, all working together to help you reach your goal. For example, you might have an owned piece of content on a landing page on your website that’s been created to help you generate leads. To amplify the number of leads that content generates, you might have made a real effort to make it shareable, meaning others are distributing it via their personal social media profiles, increasing traffic to the landing page. That's the earned media component. To support the content’s success, you might have posted about the content to your Facebook page and have paid to have it seen by more people in your target audience.

That’s exactly how the three can work together to help you meet your goal. Of course, it’s not compulsory to use all three. If your owned and earned media are both successful, you might not need to invest in paid. It’s all about evaluating the best solution to meet your goal, and then incorporating the channels that work best for your business into your digital marketing strategy.

Now you know what’s already being used, you can start to think about what to keep and what to cut.

4) Audit and plan your owned media.

At the heart of digital marketing is your owned media, which pretty much always takes the form of content. Every message your brand broadcasts can generally be classified as content, whether it’s your ‘About Us’ page, your product descriptions, blog posts, ebooks, infographics, or social media posts. Content helps convert your website visitors into leads and customers, and helps to raise your brand’s profile online -- and when it's optimized, it can also boost any efforts you have around search/organic traffic. Whatever your goal, you’re going to need to use owned content to form your digital marketing strategy.

To build your digital marketing strategy, you need to decide what content is going to help you reach your goals. If your goal is to generate 50% more leads via the website than you did last year, it’s unlikely that your ‘About Us’ page is going to be included in your strategy -- unless that page has somehow been a lead generation machine in the past.

It might more likely that an ebook gated by a form on your website drives far more leads, and as a result, that might be something you want to do more of. Here’s a brief process to follow to work out what owned content you need to meet your digital marketing goals:

Audit your existing content

Make a list of your existing owned content, and rank each item according to what has previously performed best in relation to your current goals. If your goal is lead generation, for example, rank them according to which generated the most leads in the last year. That might be a particular blog post, an ebook, or even a specific page on your website that’s converting well.

The idea here is to figure out what’s currently working, and what’s not, so that you can set yourself up for success when planning future content.

Identify gaps in your existing content

Based on your buyer personas, identify any gaps in the content you have. If you’re a math tutoring company and have discovered in your audience research that one of your persona’s biggest challenges is finding interesting ways to study, but you don’t have any content that speaks to that concern, then you might look to create some.

By looking at your content audit, you might discover that ebooks hosted on a certain type of landing page convert really well for you (much better than webinars, for example). In the case of this math tutoring company, you might make the decision to add an ebook about ‘how to make studying more interesting’ to your content creation plans.

Create a content creation plan

Based on your findings and the gaps you’ve identified, make a content creation plan outlining the content that’s necessary to help you hit your goals. This should include:

  • Title
  • Format
  • Goal
  • Promotional channels
  • Why you’re creating it (e.g., "Marketing Molly struggles to find time to plan her blog content, so we’re creating a template editorial calendar")
  • Priority level (to help you decide what’s going to give you the most "bang for your buck")

This can be a simple spreadsheet, and should also include budget information if you’re planning to outsource the content creation, or a time estimate if you’re producing it yourself.

5) Audit and plan your earned media.

Evaluating your previous earned media against your current goals can help you get an idea of where to focus your time. Look at where your traffic and leads are coming from (if that’s your goal) and rank each earned media source from most effective to least effective.

You can get this information from tools like Google Analytics, or the  Sources Reports in your HubSpot software.

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You might find that a particular article you contributed to the industry press drove a lot of qualified traffic to your website, which in turn converted really well. Or, you might discover that LinkedIn is where you see most people sharing your content, which in turn drives a lot of traffic. The idea here is to build up a picture of what earned media will help you reach your goals, and what won’t, based on historical data. However, if there’s something new you want to try, don’t rule that out just because it’s not yet tried and tested.

6) Audit and plan your paid media.

This process involves much of the same process: You need to evaluate your existing paid media across each platform (e.g., Google AdWords, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to figure out what’s likely to help you meet your current goals.

If you’ve been spending a lot of money on AdWords and haven’t seen the results you’d hoped for, maybe it’s time to refine your approach, or scrap it altogether and focus on another platform that seems to be yielding better results. (Check out this free AdWords guide for more on how to leverage it for business.)

By the end of the process, you should have a clear idea of which paid media platforms you want to continue using, and which (if any) you’d like to remove from your strategy.

7) Bring it all together.

You’ve done the planning and the research, and you now have a solid vision of the elements that are going to make up your digital marketing strategy. Here’s what you should have so far:

  1. Clear profile(s) of your buyer persona(s)
  2. One or more marketing-specific goals
  3. An inventory of your existing owned, earned, and paid media
  4. An audit of your existing owned, earned, and paid media
  5. An owned content creation plan or wish list

Now, it’s time to bring all of it together to form a cohesive strategy document. Let’s revisit what digital strategy means: the series of actions that are going to help you achieve your goal(s) using online marketing.

By that definition, your strategy document should map out the series of actions you’re going to take to achieve your goals, based on your research to this point. A spreadsheet is an efficient format -- and for the sake of consistency, you might find it easiest to map out according to the owned, earned, and paid media framework we’ve used so far.

You’ll also need to plan your strategy for a longer-term period -- typically, something like 12 months is a good starting point, depending on how your business is set up. That way, you can overlay when you’ll be executing each action. For example:

  • In January, you might start a blog which will be continually updated once a week, for the entire year.
  • In March, you might launch a new ebook, accompanied by paid promotion.
  • In July, you might be preparing for your biggest business month -- what do you hope to have observed at this point that will influence the content you produce to support it?
  • In September, you might plan to focus on earned media in the form of PR to drive additional traffic during the run-up.

By taking this approach, you’re also creating a structured timeline for your activity, which will help communicate your plans to your colleagues -- not to mention, maybe even help keep you sane.

Your Path to Digital Marketing Strategy Success

Your strategy document will be very individual to your business, which is why it’s almost impossible for us to create a one-size-fits-all digital marketing strategy template. Remember, the purpose of your strategy document is to map out the actions you’re going to take to achieve your goal over a period of time -- as long as it communicates that, then you’ve nailed the basics of creating a digital strategy.

If you’re eager to learn more about this realm, and how you can build a truly effective strategy to help grow your business, check out our simple guide to digital marketing strategy.

How to improve your SEO with user-friendly interlinking

Sure, backlinks are important, but columnist Kristopher Jones makes the case that internal linking is also a critical component of improving your website's search engine optimization and user experience.

Kristopher Jones 

At my startup, LSEO, we recently ran an internal link audit to help inform and refine our growth marketing strategy. With multiple freelancers and staff writers constantly contributing content, our site has more than tripled in size in the past two years.

Unfortunately, running a massive content marketing initiative with no central internal linking strategy in place had limited the spread of link authority throughout our website.

I highly recommend auditing your own internal linking structure to make sure you aren’t inhibiting a blog post from being crawled or receiving “link juice.” This is not only bad from an SEO perspective, but also from a business standpoint. Content that is not properly interlinked may not live up to its full organic ranking potential — or be found easily by users.

Let’s review some of the best practices of internal linking and show you why interlinking should still be a central concern of your SEO development.

The function and benefits of internal links

Function

A sophisticated internal linking structure provides SEO and user experience (UX) value for your website. Here are some highlights of internal link functionality:

  • Opens pathways to web pages previously less accessible to search engine spiders.
  • Helps organize web pages categorically based on the keyword used in the link’s URL and anchor text.
  • Improves user navigation by providing further ways to interact with your site.
  • Uses anchor text keywords to aid user intent.
  • Passes “link juice” between web pages (a purported ranking factor).
  • Organizes site architecture and communicates to search engines your most important web pages.
  • Helps promotional campaigns by visibly highlighting or featuring links on a home page or next to content.

Of course, there are instances of links that search engines can’t parse. It’s important to mention them so you don’t mistakenly use them:

  • Links in web pages that are disallowed in your robots.txt file.
  • Links in search bars or submission fields.
  • Links in embedded plugins, such as Java or Flash.
  • Links on web pages with more than 150 links.

User experience (UX)

Setting aside all of the SEO value of internal links, interlinking is valuable to your UX. A savvy interlinking structure should feature a functional drop-down menu and navigation bar with links to relevant topical content to satisfy user intent.

Providing clear labels for each link encourages further website interaction, which also has lots of SEO value. Not only does this increase user dwell time and session length, but the longer a user stays on your website, the more likely he/she is to complete a desired conversion.

Imagine landing on an awesome web page from a referral traffic source and a day later trying to find it. Unfortunately, without optimized anchor text in the URL or deep links to index the page properly, it may be impossible to find it through direct traffic methods, which is frustrating.

Link authority

Unlike backlinks, internal links have no direct impact on Google’s algorithm. But they do increase the flow of backlink authority that circulates from one page to another.

New blog articles are born with virtually no authority or recognition. With a deep link from the home page or a cornerstone page, you instantly transfer previously earned authority to that web page. That piece will be indexed faster and rank higher as a result.

Interlinking structure best practices

Site architecture

Your internal linking structure should follow a pyramid formation. Your home page rests at the top. Directly beneath lie cornerstone pages or category pages that deep-link to relevant blog or product pages. All pages directly within one link of the home page will be perceived as the most important to search engines.

The goal is to reduce the total number of links that occur between a web page and the home page. Your home page is your most authoritative, in part because it is the page that will receive the most backlinks. Leverage your home page’s authority to spread link juice evenly throughout your site, and position each web page to rank highly.

This leads us to the importance of navigation bars and menu functionality. As your website grows with blog posts, content and resource pages, these sophisticated navigation features will ensure that all web pages are still within two to three links of the home page.

Let’s explore the anatomy of link placements and which ones serve our UX and SEO campaign more.

Content links

Content is not simply a clever place to insert internal links for indexation, but they also aid our site’s UX. Placing a link in a piece of content serves as a source material and communicates to readers that you can stop reading to gather more information “here.”

Bolding content links makes them visually stand out from the rest of the content and beckons users to click on them. Ideally, you’ll want to place links in blog posts to other relevant blog posts. Relevancy is key because irrelevant links will disrupt your UX and result in bounces.

You should ensure that your web page contains no broken links. If so, redirect those links to relevant web pages. It’s also important that your web pages load fast to ensure a positive user experience and to stave off bounces. Additionally, make sure that any linked web page is not more than one click away from a conversion page and always contains a call to action in reach.

Some experts speculate that content links are more valuable than other navigational links, which brings up an interesting topic with interlinking: Do links in different page spots affect my SEO, and what are the best practices?

Hyperlink page positions

According to John Mueller of Google, “position on a page for internal links is pretty much irrelevant from our point of view.”

This doesn’t mean the position of important internal links is irrelevant from a UX standpoint. Ideally, you’ll place your most important internal links on your home page, in the navigation bar, or on a drop-down menu.

Within lower authority pages, it’s unnecessary to link back to your home page or contact page within content. It does not pass “link juice,” nor does it promote a positive UX. It is best to link only to other relevant posts here.

Footer links and sidebar links should link to relevant content or product pages. While a link to a cornerstone page in your footer will not be less valuable than placing it in a navigation bar, it’s generally a bad practice from a UX standpoint to have an expansive footer bar.

Placing links at the end of articles or on a sidebar to relevant web pages will encourage users to keep interacting with your website. This provides positive user signals to Google, which may indirectly affect website and page rank.

A great way to help index your content is to place link tags or keyword tags on content that will communicate to search engines the topic of that landing page.

Breadcrumb links and an XML sitemap also contribute greatly toward user and site crawler navigation.

Link relevancy

The essential component of Link-building 101 and Internal Linking 101 is relevancy. Optimize all anchor text to reflect the title or topic of the landing page being linked to. Placing irrelevant anchor text on a link will qualify your website as spam.

Be sure to create keyword variations for your anchor text structure. Constantly using the same anchor text for each link could qualify as spam and, if used for different landing pages, will result in keyword cannibalization.

Leverage your keyword research, and conduct a link audit to identify areas of content where relevant internal links can be placed. Ideally, you’ll want around three internal links for a piece of content, at least — perhaps more, depending on the word count.

Call-to-action links

I can’t fail to mention the importance of optimizing your call to action (CTA) to maximize your conversion rate. A CTA button should be big and bold and should be optimized for each device. Make sure your CTA is distinguishable from the background.

CTA positioning is important, and I recommend placing a CTA above the fold. QuickSprout often uses a slide-in CTA that gathers massive conversions.

Ultimately, you want your CTA to be present on each web page so that users are always one or two clicks away from creating a conversion.

Nofollow links

If you don’t want a search engine to count the link juice flowing through a specific web page, then you can place a rel=”nofollow” attribute on your link tag. These are often used in links found in comments and user-generated content to protect against spam penalties.

Unfortunately, this tag can sometimes cause a ripple effect and limit the authority flowing through other pages directly linked to that page. Google specifically advises against what it refers to as “pagerank sculpting,” and the nofollow attribute generally shouldn’t be attached to internal links.

Conclusion

When we think of link building, we often ignore the UX and SEO value of building out our own internal link structure. While backlinks remain the crown jewels of SEO, their effects can be amplified through a sophisticated internal link structure that spreads the wealth evenly throughout your site.

A Four-Step Guide on Keyword Mapping to Improve Your SEO and Content Strategy

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The most effective search campaigns all require one essential ingredient: keywords. As the foundation for your SEO efforts, keywords serve as an outline for both your site’s structure and potential content. Capitalizing on different points of entry is a smart way to increase traffic and expand your site’s sphere of influence – particularly because visitors aren’t always going to take the front entrance. 

For instance, a new study by HigherVisibility took a closer look at five of the most searched terms within six competitive industries to identify trends among the top-ranking URLs. The results revealed that a site’s homepage doesn’t always land within one of the top-ranked spots (e.g. within the wedding vertical, only one query – “wedding dresses” – produced a ranking homepage). 

In other words, your backlink portfolio should include more than links to your homepage, but how can you identify opportunities to expand your subdirectories? One solution is keyword mapping.

For those unfamiliar with this strategy, we will start by looking at how to produce a set of keywords, walk through a basic map template, and identify a few ways in which keywords can also be useful when brainstorming on-site content so that even those familiar with this technique can walk away with at least one new trick.

What is a keyword map?

In its simplest form, a keyword map is a framework for the keywords you have chosen to target that mirrors your site’s structure. Driven by research, the ultimate goals of the map are to help you discover where to optimize, what content to build, and where you can add new pages to attract more traffic. 

So where should you start? 

1. Begin by using one query to identify a larger set of keywords.

Your goal in the first phase of research is to gather as many keywords as possible that you want your site to appear for. Think outside the structure of your current site, and look beyond keywords you currently rank for – specifically those that your competitors are using for their SEO efforts.

Given that it is summer in South Florida, I’ll use “Delray Beach hotel” as our example query for this exercise. Using SEMrush, enter the query in the search bar and click on the section that offers “related keywords” (see below).

SEMrush related keywords tool

This particular query has more than 780 related keywords, so for the sake of simplicity, we will take a closer look at the top 50. Export these keywords into a spreadsheet (see below). 
 

Export keyword spreadsheet

Pro tip: I only left “search volume” and “keyword difficulty” to keep things simple, but SEMrush offers additional metrics like CPC and the number of URLs in organic search results.

2. Group keywords that answer the same question.

Once you have your set of keywords, the next thing you want to do is think about searcher intent – the goal being to bucket keywords that answer the same question. Begin by duplicating your spreadsheet and going line by line to pair similar keywords.

For example, when we take a closer look at the keywords generated from “Delray Beach hotel,” the first three phrases – “Delray Beach hotels,” “hotels in Delray Beach,” and “hotels Delray Beach” – are all very similar to our initial query. These would make ideal homepage terms, so they should be grouped together. 

The next keyword is a specific hotel in the area, and after scanning through the rest of the list, I noticed there are several specific hotels that made it onto the list. I grouped them together in red (see below).

By the end of this process, I had eight categories, including one miscellaneous group.

Groups of keywords

Pro tip: SEMrush also offers an advanced filter setting that allows users to easily eliminate words they don’t want included. In the instance above, any mentions of a potential competitor like “Marriott” could easily be filtered out.

3. Create potential URLs and bucket keywords accordingly.

One of your have organized keywords, you will want to focus on using each set of keywords to help visualize the structure of your site and potential pages.

Continuing with the hotel example, create subdirectories based on groups of three or more keywords (e.g. “oceanfront” or “beachfront”). This will help you design a logical path that is both visitor and search-friendly, ultimately improving your chances of ranking for these keywords (see below).

image4.png

Potential URL buckets

Once completed, your template should look something like this:

Final keyword bucket spreadsheet

Pro tip: If you have already got a site up and running with set URLs, don’t focus on whether or not you’ll need to rewrite any content or setup any redirects – simply ask yourself, “Can my audience use these phrases to find my site?” and rework anything later.

4. Finally, use the buckets to create potential URLs and brainstorm content.

One of the best things about keyword mapping is that it makes you think about your pages in terms of themes – helping you distinguish between which words would make great URLs and those that should be saved for something like a blog post or downloadable asset.

For instance, let’s take a closer look at the miscellaneous category, where “pet friendly hotels Delray Beach fl” ended up (see below). Although it has a higher keyword difficulty rating, you shouldn’t disregard the phrase entirely. Instead of devoting a subdirectory to it, use it as inspiration for a relevant blog post.

Keyword buckets for content inspiration

Pro tip: For even more content ideas, plug some of the miscellaneous keywords back into SEMrush. 

Once you have the URL buckets, start piecing your site together in a hierarchy that makes sense. Continuing with the hotel theme, start with the homepage on top followed by subdirectories (see below). 

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Keyword mapping with hierarchy

After that, fill in each subdirectory with potential content pages (I’ve zoomed in below, so it’s easier to see). 

Closer look at a subdirectory

Pro tip: Create new sheets for individual subdirectories to keep things organized and make it easier to view individual pages.

Remember That Keyword Research (and Mapping) Doesn’t Stop

Once your keyword map is complete, start producing the more optimized pages you designed – and then set a calendar reminder to revisit this process all over again. Explore verticals you haven’t targeted before or figure out if there are additional questions you can answer for your audience. The mapping process is a great way to make sure visitors are entering your site at a point that provides the value they are looking for – which is something search engines will love, too.

3 customer insights gained by keyword research

eyword research isn't dead, but it has changed over the years. Columnist Stoney deGeyter shares how keyword research can be used to gain insights into the needs and interests of your potential customers.

Stoney deGeyter 

Keyword research is underrated. Many SEOs have gotten the idea that keyword research just doesn’t hold the value it once did, especially in today’s environment of voice search, extreme long-tail phrases and so on.

However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Not long ago, I wrote a post outlining 13 uses for keyword research, but that really just scratches the surface of its value.

Traditionally, keyword research has been performed to better understand what phrases searchers are using to find the content, products or services you provide. But using keyword research for that is akin to treating the symptom rather than the problem itself.

Searchers type particular phrases into search engines based on multiple factors that are relevant to them. The question is, what makes those factors relevant? It’s the underlying motivation — need, desire and/or interest — that makes any particular phrase important. Your goal in performing keyword research should be to determine what that underlying motivation is.

With a little digging into keyword tools and some analysis of the results, you can learn a great deal about the audience using a particular phrase. Armed with that knowledge, you can create content that meets their needs and/or will be of interest to them.

And that is the point of keyword research, isn’t it? To create content that satisfies searchers’ interests, needs and desires? And to do so specifically for the audience you wish to target?

With the right focus, keyword research will help you create content that reaches the widest possible audience, generates more traffic and converts better. All it takes is looking at your keywords, not merely as search words but as information about the searcher.

Here are three things that you can discover using keyword research: Who your audience is, what they are interested in, and what their needs are.

 

Finding your target audience

Do you really know who your target audience is? Many businesses know a great deal about their target market and will even go so far as to create personas to help them zero in on them. But no persona can be fully fleshed out without looking at the keyword data for the products or services you sell.

You can learn quite a bit about your audience just by the keywords they use in the searches they perform. For example, business people will search differently — and use slightly different phrase variations — than students. And students will search differently from hobbyists, who will search differently from information seekers.

If you built your personas focusing on only one of these searchers, you could be missing out on traffic, sales, or even some great exposure that you wouldn’t otherwise get.

At the same time, the phrases themselves can be an indicator for you to know if you are able to provide the value being sought. For example, if you have no videos on your site, you cannot provide value to searchers typing in your keyword plus video. That’s an audience you just can’t (currently) satisfy.

Similarly, if you don’t have the type of detailed information or high-end solutions that business searchers are looking for, you can refocus your content toward the non-business audience.

In all of these searches, the primary keywords are often the same. What changes is the keyword qualifier. Even looking for the same product or service, each audience group will use certain words and qualifiers based on who they are.

Use keyword research to weed out audiences for which you don’t provide value and include those audiences for which you do. By focusing your content toward these audiences, you’ll find that you not only do a better job of targeting your audience but also increasing the value they receive when they come to your website.

Uncovering areas of interest

Now that you know who your audience is, you need to know their particular area(s) of interest. What compelled them to do the search to begin with?

Users have a wide variety of interests, and that’s what keyword research is for — to help you determine all the interests searchers have that you can meet. This knowledge helps you develop targeted content. (For sites with blog posts, these areas of interest are great content fodder that can keep you busy for months or years.)

 

Keep in mind, you’re not just grabbing a phrase and writing content to match. You’re looking through all your search phrases for similarities in these areas of interest in order to write a comprehensive blog post that will satisfy these seekers (or a series of blog posts, depending on the depth of the interest).

By looking at specific interests, you’re able to engage with your audience on their terms, addressing what they really want. This will help you produce better content that improves existing engagement rates.

Meeting searchers’ needs

One of the most important things you can get out of keyword research is finding the various ways that searchers are looking for what you provide. These variations can shed a good deal of light on the searchers’ particular area of interest.

Many businesses don’t look outside their own experience and knowledge in order to understand the different terminology used for the same thing. You may make a widget, but a good number of people might call it a gadget.

 

And for that matter, your widget might have X function, but searchers are looking for Y function. Can you add Y functionality to your widget or create a new widget specifically for that function? And instead of calling it a widget, should you call it a gadget?

Figuring out what your audience needs is critical to ensuring you are able to create content (and solutions!) that will meet them. When it comes down to it, each searcher wants to know, “What’s in it for me?” And it’s your job to tell them!

You hear a lot of talk about writing content that discusses the benefits of what you offer. But what is more important is making sure you’re addressing the desired benefits. Don’t focus on benefits no one wants or needs. Instead, make sure your content addresses the benefits your audience is seeking.

Final thoughts

As you perform your keyword research, you’ll find that there is a lot of crossover between these three categories. It’s not your job to cater to them all, but to find those that will prove to be the most valuable for your business.

Keyword research uncovers a great deal about what you need to know about searchers. Use this information to determine who you should be trying to attract to your site and what type of content will do the job. Stop thinking about keyword research in terms of the phrases themselves, but rather in terms of what these phrases say about searchers and how to reach them.

How to Do PPC if You Run a Small Business: SEMrush Solutions

We at SEMrush are aware that the most precious currency for a small-biz marketer is time. And we are sure there are no “bad” marketing channels; some are just used at the wrong time or in the wrong way.

Juggling them all can be tough, and this is what SEMrush was invented for: to help you make smart decisions by providing valuable data and removing the guesswork from your marketing routine. We want you to save time and valuable resources by approaching each of the main marketing channels the right way. 

If we look at 4 of the popular marketing channels in terms of time/outcome ratio, it could look like this:

 

For a business to survive, they need to get leads and make sales and save as much time as possible while doing so.

It sounds simple, but SEO takes time and being found in organic search isn't always something new site owners can wait on. So, for immediate traffic, most turn to pay-per-click (PPC). However, getting traffic is not synonymous with getting leads.

With an incredibly wide range of targeting options provided by AdWords, it is easy to pick the wrong strategy and end up watching your budget go down the drain (but this can be avoided).

Let’s discover some tricks that will help you plan a smart and well-thought-out PPC campaign with the help of SEMrush tools.

Start With the Right Keywords

Tools to use: Keyword Magic Tool & the PPC Keyword Tool

Once you have decided how much you are ready to spend on PPC, it is time to dive into the keyword research process. If your campaign budget is limited, you may want to set the maximum cost per click (CPC) that you are willing to pay. It is also a good idea to start with the “bottom of the funnel” keywords, in order to target users with high conversion intent.

Picking relevant high-volume keywords with low CPC may seem cumbersome, but with the help of the right tools, it is very doable. We have some examples of how to use the tools to find the right keywords. 

Let’s say you are promoting an online store that sells organic food; we will use this example term as a seed keyword for research. To increase your chances of reaching the users who are likely to make a purchase, you could also use words like “buy”, “cheap”, “delivery”, “near me” etc., in the broad match section. 

 

Don’t overlook the “Exclude keywords” option - it is extremely helpful to filter out irrelevant keywords (for example, cities or countries you don’t deliver to).

You have probably hundreds of possible queries, so now let’s define which of these are worth bidding on. If the keyword has decent search volume (1), reasonable CPC (2) and low competitive density (3), it is definitely a good candidate for your keyword list:

 

Try experimenting with different search terms until you feel you have gathered enough of them. Once you have a collection of terms, you can send them all to the PPC Keyword Tool.

 

(Note: the direct export from Keyword Magic to PPC Keyword tool is available only for paid SEMrush accounts)

The PPC Keyword tool will help you:

  • Organize keywords into groups and campaigns.

  • Filter out duplicate keywords, empty groups, and unnecessary symbols, making your keyword list neat and tidy.

  • Find and remove “cross-group negative” keywords that provoke competition among your own ads and make your CPC grow.

Once these things are done, you will have a keyword list that is cleaned up, organized properly, and contains only relevant keywords.

For more details on how to deal with PPC keyword tool and clean up your keyword list read this guide.

Creating Ads That Work

Tool to use: Ads Builder

The next step is working on ad creatives. There can be hundreds of other advertisers who compete for the keyword you are targeting, so your ad should be relevant and stand out from the crowd.

Besides the golden rule “use keywords in headlines”, there are lots of tricks that can increase your ad’s conversion. These are the techniques we figured out by analyzing the PPC campaigns of Australia’s top online retailers:

 

Once you are finished with building your keyword list with the help of PPC Keyword Tool, you can move on to creating ads without leaving SEMrush.

In the ‘Projects’ section, you will find the new Ads Builder Tool. It will automatically import the campaigns and keyword groups you have created earlier and take you to the next step: creating ads for each group.

 

In the image above you see that Ads Builder Tool can do the following:

  • Make sure you stay within the AdWords character limits (1)
  • Add URL paths and a destination URL (2)
  • Assign the new ad to a keyword group (3)
  • Get an immediate ad preview (4)

The tool also provides you with ad examples of your competitors. Whenever you run out of inspiration, take a look at their ads to find relevant CTAs.

 

Another time-saving feature you can take advantage of is the dynamic keyword insertion. It is especially helpful when you have a wide range of products from pretty much the same niche. Imagine creating separate ads for some dozens of keywords like “organic banana”, “organic avocado”, “organic monstera deliciosa“, etc.

Instead, you can just add a variable to your ad, and AdWords will automatically replace it with the keyword you are targeting:

 

As soon as you are done with composing ads, you can export them, together with the keywords, to AdWords-friendly Excel files.

Give Display Campaigns a Try

Tool to use: Display Advertising Report

Campaigns in Google Display Network are considered more effective for branding purposes. So, if you aim to get leads and conversions, this channel will probably not be your ideal choice. However, it can be useful when you are struggling to narrow down your target audience just using search campaigns.

An example would be if you are targeting small business owners. Whenever they need to find a logistics company, they would just search for “logistics company”; there’s no point for them to add “for small business” to the query. Audience targeting will be your helper in this case.

Also, display campaigns are where you can unleash your creativity and engage people with captivating visuals. With this in mind, the organic food niche is perfect for display campaigns. The audience is easy to define, and the ideas for visual ads are endless. At the same time, it is extremely hard to figure out which of the advantages are worth highlighting.

  • Should you be focusing on professional photos? Mouth-watering recipes? Special deals and discounts?
  • Would it be better to target desktop or mobile users?
  • Which websites would be the best to place your ads on?

In order to save resources and avoid reinventing the wheel, let’s take a look at what other organic food shops do when it comes to display campaigns.

The renovated Display Advertising report will show you how tight the competition in your niche is and how exactly your rivals are attracting customers:

- What types of ads they’re using (1)

- Which websites place their ads (2)

- How exactly their ads look (3)

 

We can explore this report to borrow some nice CTAs for text ads, as well as pick some visual ideas.

Here is the advertiser’s 2nd most effective banner that has been encountered 2,304 times on over 500 websites. Worth analyzing!

 

Click for the full report

Another bonus, you can filter the ads by device (desktop, tablet, mobile) and OS type (iOS vs. Android).

 

This analysis will help you plan a display campaign based on real data, instead of relying on spray-and-pray technique.

Bonus: Seize the Chance to Test User Behavior

PPC is also a fast, yet effective, way to test how user-friendly a page is.

Before you start driving massive traffic to your webpages, consider using a session tracking software. These tools allow recording users’ sessions to help you figure out what problems they are facing throughout their journey (for example, users miss the “Order” button because it gets covered by the chat window, and other cool UX oversights).

At SEMrush, we use Inspectlet. It has up to 100 free session recordings monthly, but for only $39/mo you can extend the limit to up to 5,000 sessions.

Wrapping Up: PPC As a Ground for More

With all the advantages the PPC channel has, there is one aspect you shouldn’t ignore: every click on your ad takes away money from your pocket. So the earlier you start thinking about how to diversify your traffic sources, the better.