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

keyword-map-082417.jpg

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). 

image6.png

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.

5 tools, tips and hacks to maximize your SEO output

Columnist Brian Patterson believes that SEO success depends not only on your knowledge and skills, but on your ability to work efficiently. Check out his five suggestions for increasing SEO productivity.

Brian Patterson 

This article was co-authored by my colleague at Go Fish Digital, Chris Long.

Part of being an effective SEO is being incredibly efficient with the tasks at hand. You just aren’t going to have the time needed to go deeper and continue to add value if you’re spinning your wheels doing manual, repetitive tasks.

Because of this, we have always valued things that can make you more efficient: tools, scripts, automation, and even interns!

Today, we dig deep into our toolbox to pull out five of our favorite ways to maximize your SEO productivity output.

1. Automate Google Analytics data extracts & reporting

Generating monthly reports is one of those repetitive tasks that can consume a day or more at the beginning of the month (especially in the agency world!).

If you’re manually pulling data from Google Analytics, you need to be constantly checking that your date ranges are correct, that you’ve applied the proper segments, that you’re analyzing the right metrics, and that you’ve accessed the primary profile in the first place. Not only would automating this type of reporting save time, but it would also ensure consistency and eliminate mistakes.

And while scheduling reports in Analytics is fine, reporting can really be taken to the next level with the Google Analytics Add-On for Sheets. This add-on is a lifesaver for us during reporting time!

By adding this to Google Sheets, you can pull data directly from the Google Analytics API without ever having to log into the Analytics interface. To start, you’ll need to configure which metrics, date ranges, segments and profile the API should be pulling. Next, you simply run the report; the data is then loaded into your spreadsheet automagically.

The beauty of this whole system is that once you have set up your reporting framework, the amount of time spent gathering Google Analytics data each month should be drastically reduced.

For most of my reports, all I do is adjust the date ranges at the beginning of each month, and I let the API apply all my segments and collect only the metrics I need. I also create charts in the same spreadsheet that reference the cells this data gets pulled into.

With some very minor changes to the spreadsheet each month, I’m able to pull all of the data I need and have it formatted into easy-to-read charts.

This little add-on easily saves me about a day’s worth of work every single month.

2. Find internal linking opportunities with Screaming Frog

Internal links are one of the most underrated ranking factors in SEO. They not only allow you to optimize the destination pages for the exact keywords you want, they also provide a great opportunity to strategically distribute link equity in a way that targets your key landing pages.

Because of this, we’re continually providing clients with recommendations on improving the internal links on their websites. And from this, we have plenty of evidence that it works, even with some of the most competitive keywords there are.

For large and enterprise websites, it can be tough to find every one of those juicy internal linking opportunities awaiting your attention. The good news is that Screaming Frog comes with a “Search” feature that makes finding internal linking opportunities a breeze.

Before running a crawl of a website, simply navigate to “Configuration > Custom > Search” and add keywords you want to optimize for. Screaming Frog will then crawl the whole site and return URLs that use that text in the “Custom” report section. You can run a search for 10 different keywords at a time so you can include the different variations of the keyword you’re optimizing for.

You can also pair this search with Screaming Frog’s Include/Exclude feature to only search for opportunities in specific sections of your website. For improved productivity, I like to use the OpenList extension, which opens all of the URLs at once in separate tabs.

3. Scale keyword research with Merge Words

Google is better than ever at understanding the topic of a web page through its improved entity recognition. Better language processing allows Google to group related terms and understand their context.

This means it’s extremely important to not only understand your core keywords but semantically related terms as well. Keyword strategies revolving around concepts such as TF-IDF are gaining more traction among search professionals.

Google’s improved language comprehension means that your pages are capable of ranking for a much larger set of keywords than the ones they’re optimized for. While this is great for SEO, it can be intimidating to start keyword research with this in mind.

How are you supposed to determine all of the different keyword combinations you should be including in your content? And how are you to know which keywords to actually implement on the page?

Enter the Merge Words tool. This simple tool allows you to add words to three separate columns; then, as the name suggests, it will merge every combination of all of the terms you entered.

Now, instead of spending a great deal of time manually plugging keywords into your keyword research tool, you can quickly combine all of the different identifiers into Merge Words, then copy-and-paste that data into your keyword research tool.

An example of how this could be used is with an aftermarket car parts retailer. They could merge lists of all of the makes/models (Acura MDX, Acura TL, etc.) they provide parts for with all of the products they carry (headlights, seat covers, etc). The result is every combination of make/model with every part they provide (e.g. Acura MDX headlights, Acura MDX seat covers, Acura TL headlights, Acura TL seat covers).

They could then plug this list into the Google Keyword Planner to see what the most searched keywords were.

4. Scale SEO improvements with global changes

image courtesy of Pexels

SEO productivity doesn’t have to just refer to specific tactics to make the collection of data easier. Productive SEOs are also capable of applying this thinking to campaigns as a whole to scale their success. While page-level recommendations can be extremely beneficial, often times it can be tedious and lead to diminishing returns to solely optimize a website on a page-by-page basis.

Especially with larger enterprise websites, it can be hard to move the needle for a website’s organic traffic by just picking at individual pages.

For this reason, I believe the most productive use of an SEO’s time is looking for global improvements. These sitewide improvements can be the most beneficial use of time as the SEO or developers only need to make the change in one location and yet it can impact thousands of pages.

So, how can you identify changes that can be made on a global level? One we do quite a bit is tweak title tag and meta description template logic so that it includes important words, phrases, and modifiers that people commonly search for along with the primary keywords.

Another valuable sitewide improvement is to look for errors that are built into the website template. Once again, Screaming Frog is our best friend. Start by running a crawl of a website, then sort the reports Screaming Frog provides by “Inlinks.” This shows how many links on the site contain that error.

Oftentimes, we’ll find internal 301 redirects or 404 errors that have thousands of inlinks pointing to them. This is a great clue that this error is occurring site-wide, and a simple change to the template can fix this issue across a large quantity of URLs.

5. Make interns part of your company culture

This may sound like cheating, but sometimes a repetitive or tedious process just needs that human touch. We’ve found that these types of tasks are perfect for interns. They get to do real work, and it frees up our team members for more difficult and meaningful work.

Our summer internship program has been a great success, and we work really hard to make the internships a win-win for everyone involved.

The interns benefit because we pay them well and they get great hands-on, real-world experience beyond grabbing coffee and filing documents. Go Fish Digital benefits by having capable hands ready to take on some of the more repetitive tasks that need to be performed manually.

The program is also a great way to identify talent early, and several former interns have gone on to be great full-time team members with the company.

In running the program, here are some of the things we’ve learned that have really helped us run a strong, efficient program:

  • Take hiring interns seriously. Our hiring process for interns is not all that different from hiring full-time team members. There are several rounds, and we do provide a prompt for a work sample. They’ll be in your office for roughly three months and will have an impact on your culture, so make sure it is a positive one.
  • Onboard interns in groups. The “class” of interns tends to build a good bond as they have others coming on in their same situation. It also means you can train once, and get twice (or more) the output when it comes to delivery.
  • Minimize or eliminate work-from-home opportunities for interns. It takes a lot of self-discipline to be just as productive at home as in the office, and while we trust our team with this, we’ve had less positive experiences with interns working remotely.
  • Ensure that the interns are learning valuable skills. They should learn real marketing skills, and they should also learn how to be a good in-office team member.
  • Hold an exit interview with the interns so that you can provide each other with feedback. We actually didn’t do this at first, and a smart intern pointed out that they would really love some feedback on how things went from our perspective. It turns out that though they are less experienced, they also have some great insight from spending time working with the company, so make sure you get their honest feedback on the experience as well.

Final thoughts

Scaling, efficiency, and productivity are core tenants my company — and for good reason.

If you can find a better and faster way to do something, you increase your quality output while freeing up time to do the more thoughtful (and more rewarding) work required to be successful at SEO.

The Best Time to Post on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+ [Infographic]

Social media is one of the best ways to amplify your brand and the great content you’re creating. But it isn’t enough to just post content to social whenever you feel like it. Some times are better than others.

So, which one is best?

Unfortunately, there's no perfect answer. Different businesses may find different days and times work best for them. In fact, timing often depends on the platform you're using, how your target audience interacts with that platform, the regions and corresponding time zones you're targeting, and your goals (e.g., clicks versus shares).

 

Download the free social media content calendar template here to plan and organize the timing of all your social media posts. 

 

That said, there is ample data out there on the best times to post on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Earlier this year, the great folks at CoSchedule looked at a combination of its own original data and more than a dozen studies on this very topic -- from the likes of Buffer and Quintly, just to name a couple -- and compiled it into the infographic below.

Bookmark this post as a go-to set of guidelines, and refer to it next time you need to find the optimal posting times for your business.

 

The Best Times to Post on Social Media

With many businesses facing a growing global audience, varying time zones have become a growing concern, especially when it comes to the best times to post.

To start, let's take a look at the U.S. About half of the country's population is in the Eastern Time Zone, and combined with the Central Time Zone, that accounts for over 75% of the total U.S population.

Given that sizable share, if you're targeting a U.S. audience, try alternating posting times in Eastern and Central Time Zones -- we'll get into those specific times in a bit.

If you're targeting users outside of the U.S., conduct some research to find out where they live and which social media channels they're using. That kind of data is available through studies like Smart Insights' Global Social Media Research Summary, or We Are Social's annual Digital Global Overview.

1) Best Time to Post on Instagram

Instagram is meant for use on mobile devices. Half of its U.S. users use the app daily, though it would appear that many engage with content more during off-work hours than during the workday.

  • In general, the best times to post on Instagram are on Monday and Thursday, at any time other than 3-4 p.m.
  • The best time to post videos is 9 p.m.-8 a.m., on any day.
  • Some outlets have reported success on Mondays between 8-9 a.m., correlating with the first morning commute of the week for many.

2) Best Times to Post on Facebook

People log in to Facebook on both mobile devices and desktop computers, both at work and at home. How it's used depends heavily on the audience.

  • On average, the best time to post is 1-4 p.m., when clickthrough rates have shown to be at their highest.
  • Specifically, 12-1 p.m. is prime time on Saturday and Sunday.
  • During the week, the same goes for Wednesday at 3 p.m., as well as Thursday and Friday between 1-4 p.m.
  • The worst times are weekends before 8 a.m. and after 8 p.m.

3) Best Times to Post on Twitter

Like Facebook, people use Twitter on both mobile devices and desktop computers, both at work and at home. How it’s used also depends heavily on audience -- but people often treat it like an RSS feed, and something to read during down times like commutes, breaks, and so on.

  • Good times to tweet average around 12–3 p.m., with an apex at 5 p.m. -- which makes sense, given that it correlates with the evening commute.
  • Weekdays tend to show a stronger performance, though some niches might have more active audiences on the weekend. 
  • If your goal is to maximize retweets and clickthroughs, aim for noon, 3 p.m., or 5–6 p.m.

4) Best Times to Post on LinkedIn

Roughly 25% of U.S. adults use LinkedIn, largely for professional purposes, during weekdays and the work hours. It's used with slighly less frequency than some of the other channels on this list, with more than half of users visiting less than once a week

  • Aim to post toward the middle of the week, between Tuesday-Thursday.

  • When aiming for a high clickthrough rate, post on these days during times that correspond with the morning and evening commute -- roughly 7:30-8:30 a.m. and 5-6 p.m. -- as well as the lunch hour, around 12 p.m. 

  • Some have also seen a positive performance on Tuesdays, between 10–11 a.m.

5) Best Times to Post on Pinterest

Pinterest users skew heavily female, and 25% of users are active on this channel daily.

  • Interestingly enough, Saturday evenings are said to be the best time to reach users, especially between 8-11 p.m.
  • Some have also seen a strong performance on the later side of Friday afternoon, around 3 p.m. 
  • Contrasting many of the other channels we've listed here, evening commutes tend to be some of the worst times to post to Pinterest. That could be due to the fact that it's not as "browseable," with many pins requiring navigation away from the channel.

6) Best Time to Post on Google+

People love to debate whether or not Google+ is a social media channel worth investing in -- though according to my colleague Chris Wilson, some marketers have experienced success with it.

But if you're going to use it, you might as well do so effectively -- which includes posting at the optimal times.

  • People seem to be most active on Google+ during the start of the workday, between 9-11 a.m.
  • That's especially the case on Wednesdays, around 9 a.m.
  • Some marketers have also seen success during the lunch hour, posting between 12-1 p.m.

There you have it, folks. Happy posting, tweeting, and pinning.

7 features you’ll only find in the new AdWords interface

Advertisers getting used to working in the new UI will find some bonus capabilities.

Ginny Marvin 

ven though the New AdWords Experience (AKA the new user interface) doesn’t quite have feature parity with the current AdWords yet, it actually offers some exclusive features. They can be hard to identify without some hunting, so we’ve gathered them here in one place.

The new interface has been steadily rolling out to more advertisers over the past year, and Google says it will be available to everyone by year-end. Those with access can still navigate back and forth between the two interfaces. It can take some time to get used to the new look and layout, but the new features should give advertisers an added incentive to get comfortable working in the new interface. We also wrote about the handy new visualizations in the interface that can save analysis time.

Here’s a rundown of what’s currently only available in the new UI and some other exclusive new features that will be coming in the months ahead.

Available now

Promotion extensions

Unless you have beta access in the old interface, the only way to access the new promotion extension is via the new UI. Promotion extensions allow you to show and link to a specific offer in text ads. The tag icon in this extension helps it stand out on the page. Here’s what the setup looks like in the new interface:

 

Household income targeting in search

Household income reporting and targeting is available for search campaigns from the Demographics tab in the new interface. In the old interface, household income targets can only be applied via location targeting.

A chart at the top of the page makes it easy to quickly see how your campaigns perform along household income segments. Bid adjustments can be set at the campaign or ad group level. 

Audiences page

A new Audiences page offering a single place to manage audience targeting and optimizations was shown at Google Marketing Next during the productivity portion of the live stream.

I’ll also point out the new terminology used for audience targeting in AdWords. “Target and bid” is now called “Targeting,” and “Target” is more aptly called “Observations.”

 

Coming soon…

There are several new features in the works that will be rolling out to the new interface over the next few months.

Landing page performance

Advertisers will be able to get insights on their various landing pages in one place. The new landing page screen will be similar to the ads and keywords pages. The aim is to help advertisers optimize for better user experiences and improve ad performance, particularly on mobile. This could start showing up in the new interface later this year.

Custom in-market audiences

In-market audiences are coming to Search campaigns. Google will also be launching custom in-market audiences that can be tailored based on the advertiser’s website, campaign performance and business goals. Look for this later this year.

Google attribution

This was the big new product announcement from Google Marketing Next. The new free attribution product will be integrated into the new interface. The exact timing on this is still TBD, but I’m guessing we’ll see it before year-end.

Store sales measurement uploads

Retailers that capture loyalty program emails at the point of sale can import store transactions into AdWords directly or through a third party. Exact timing is still fuzzy, but it will launch in the new UI at some point this year.

And that’s what we know so far. Going forward, we can expect Google to keep rolling out new features in the New AdWords Experience instead of the current interface.

5 common mistakes made by B2B paid search novices

Looking to incorporate paid search into your B2B marketing mix? Columnist Pauline Jakober provides some advice for starting off on the right foot.

Pauline Jakober 

Here’s a common scenario in the B2B marketing space:

You’re a member of your B2B company’s marketing team. As part of that team, you’ve become accomplished in a variety of marketing channels, including email marketing, content marketing, organic search, trade shows and so forth.

But your team hasn’t yet taken the company into the paid search marketing channel. And as the most “digital-savvy” member of the group, you’ve been tapped to head the initiative. You’re excited to take on this responsibility, but you’re also nervous.

Before you start, you should know that when it comes to PPC, B2B marketers tend to trip up in certain specific areas. To give you a leg up, I’m going to describe five common mistakes that B2B paid search novices tend to make and how you can avoid them. Good luck!

Mistake #1: Rushing to launch

Rushing to launch is a common mistake — and an understandable one. When your company has a big promotion or event on the horizon, you want to have your PPC campaigns in place to support it.

This is something I’ve seen many times with our clients. They will set a deadline for launch and insist on sticking to it, even if all campaign elements aren’t in place.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for having deadlines. But sometimes a premature launch can do more harm than good.

Most often, when campaigns are launched prematurely, the missing elements are:

  1. Landing pages
  2. Conversion tracking
  3. Integration with other marketing channels

Without custom landing pages in place, your conversion rates are likely to be lower. Sometimes much lower. And this can lead to questions about the viability of your PPC program.

Without conversion tracking, it’s impossible to know exactly how well (or poorly) your campaigns are performing. And it’s hard to justify any marketing program when you don’t have numbers to back it up.

Failure to integrate with other marketing channels can lead to lost opportunities. And even worse, you might end up pillaging your efforts in other channels.

Even if you work with a PPC agency, your marketing and web development teams will still need to take some responsibility for these elements. Yes, we can set up your accounts. We can even select your keywords, write your ad messaging and run them by you for approval.

But some elements — especially post-click elements — require your involvement.

If the delay in implementing these elements is just a couple of days, then that’s usually not a big deal. But anything longer is worrying.

Mistake #2: Making decisions before the data is in

One of the great things about PPC is the ability to make tweaks and changes on the fly with little effort. Few other marketing channels offer this much flexibility.

But this flexibility is also a curse. Sometimes, it’s hard to be patient and wait for more data to accumulate before deciding to change campaign settings and elements.

For example, we had a client who wanted to review and update their ad messaging on a monthly basis. For a high-click-volume account, this wouldn’t be unreasonable. But this client was only getting a handful of clicks every month on some campaigns. We simply didn’t have enough data to inform monthly decision-making. So sure, we could make updates every month, but they would be a shot in the dark.

Therefore, it’s wiser to time your decision-making by activity volume (e.g., “We’ll re-evaluate when we reach x number of impressions and conversions”) instead of by calendar (e.g., “We’ll re-evaluate in a month”).

Mistake #3: Not bidding on brand

In PPC, “bidding on brand” means bidding on your brand name as keywords. So, for example, when a prospect searches your name (e.g., “Acme Business Solutions”), your ad displays with the search results.

As a B2B paid search newbie, you might think that bidding on brand isn’t necessary. After all, your team has optimized your website, and it’s bound to show up in organic search results.

That’s a common conclusion, but it’s also false. I can think of at least four reasons why you should bid on brand:

  1. Organic results + Paid results = Greater brand presence. Combining your organic listing with a paid search ad helps reinforce your brand presence. In fact, to have an organic listing without an accompanying paid aid can lead to questions: “If these guys are so prominent in the market, where’s their ad?”
  1. PPC gives greater control over messaging and click-through pages. While organic listings are great, they’ll never give you the precise control of paid search. With a paid search ad, your marketing team can dictate your exact messaging and click-through pages.
  1. By not bidding, you open ad space to your competitors. If you decide NOT to bid on your brand, that doesn’t mean your competitors won’t. Why make that ad space available to your competitors?
  1. Branded keywords usually cost less. If you’re still not convinced that you should bid on brand, know that branded keywords typically cost much less than unbranded keywords — which should make your decision easier.

Mistake #4: Resisting certain ad networks or tactics

Sometimes, B2B marketing teams have biases against certain paid search ad networks, strategies or tactics.

For example, it’s not uncommon for B2B businesses to refuse to advertise on the Google Display Network. Or they’ll say they don’t want to run AdWords remarketing campaigns.

I’m not sure where these biases come from. Maybe they’ve heard negative things from their associates. Maybe they’ve read something bad online. Or maybe they’ve tried something in the past, got burned and vowed never to do it again.

But you need to remember that paid search is an ever-evolving channel. It changes all the time. And your business changes, too. Consequently, what didn’t work two years ago might work well today.

In addition, every B2B industry, market and business is different. We all have different products, competitors, brand awareness, budgets and regulatory environments. So an ad strategy that was a total dud for one B2B company could be a total winner for another.

Quite simply, you won’t know whether specific ad networks, strategies or tactics will work for your B2B business unless your team gives them a try.

If you don’t have the budget to try everything, then that’s understandable. But often, you can start with one ad network (typically Search) and generate some good results. Then, you can use those results to justify a larger budget and expand into other areas.

If you DO have budget available now, then why limit your results? As a PPC agency, we consistently find that clients who are willing to dedicate a portion of their budget to “experimental approaches” do better over the long run. Because experimentation is the key to discovering effective strategies and getting great results over the long term.

Mistake #5: Going it alone

Perhaps the biggest mistake I see B2B paid search novices make is trying to do everything themselves. I understand this, too. Your marketing director wants to keep PPC management in-house. He or she wants to start small and see how things go. And you want the opportunity to prove yourself and grow your expertise.

And why shouldn’t you? After all, those AdWords “how to” videos make paid search look so easy! Surely you could watch a few, do some reading, and then put together a campaign. And maybe you can.

But then something will happen — your ad gets disapproved, or your leads won’t convert — and then things get a lot more complex and problematic.

The biggest issue with this approach is that it doesn’t provide a true test of what PPC can do for your B2B. And it might just breed the kind of “PPC doesn’t work for us” thinking that becomes very hard to reverse.

Consequently, PPC might be taken off the table entirely — sometimes for years — until someone is brave enough to champion it again. And in the meantime, your competitors benefit from your absence.

Don’t let mistakes derail your B2B PPC marketing

So when striking out on your own with paid search, give your marketing and web development teams the time they need to do things right from the outset. Then, resist making changes until you have a data-backed picture of what’s going on. Be sure to bid on your brand, and don’t take any ad networks, strategies or tactics off the table unless you have a valid reason for doing so.

And most importantly, don’t wait to get outside help if you need it.

SEO case study: Zero to 100,000 visitors in 12 months

Columnist Andrew Dennis outlines the process he used to successfully build up traffic for a brand-new website -- without using any tricks or hacks.

Andrew Dennis on July 5, 2017 at 9:51 am

You need more traffic.

More visitors on your site means more impressions, more signups, more purchases — more revenue.

But how do you capture more traffic from search results that are becoming more crowded, more diverse, and evolving in the way they are delivered?

With SEO, of course!

Today, I want to share a process we’ve developed at Siege Media to earn links and visibility, and to increase web traffic for our clients. I’m going to walk through how we built a site’s SEO strategy from the ground up — growing from zero visitors to 100,000 — and share key takeaways that you can apply to your own strategy.

 

The general outline of our strategy was:

  1. Start slow and take advantage of “easy wins.”
  2. Focus on securing a handful of strategic links to important pages.
  3. Establish passive link acquisition channels to build momentum.
  4. Be intentional about content creation and its impact on search.
  5. Level up over time, and target higher-value opportunities.

Let’s dive into the case study.

Note: We had control over every aspect of the site, making it much easier to accurately attribute organic gains to the SEO work we were implementing, as well as to make SEO recommendations every step of the way. I have also anonymized the data to maintain confidentiality for the website.

1. Starting slow with a new site

Starting with a new site, we understood there were limitations.

At the beginning, we focused on opportunities with low competition and decent traffic value. We used SEMrush to determine traffic value and manual research to gauge competition.

Examining the search engine results pages (SERPs), we looked for results with:

  • bad exact-match domains.
  • a lack of big name brands.
  • low-quality or outdated content.
  • pages with low link counts.

Here is an example of this type of SERP, for [life insurance quotes in California]:

 

You can see that although some big brands are ranking (State Farm and GEICO), there is also a bad exact-match domain result:

 

Clicking this link shows the content quality is pretty low:

 

There are other poor results in the SERP, too:

 

Finding results with these types of pages would give us confidence that we could easily build something searchers would prefer.

Once we identified potential opportunities, we built best-in-class content targeting those specific SERPs. To separate our content from others in the space we used:

  • custom-built graphics.
  • clear, concise, compelling copy.
  • original photography.
  • optimal formatting — font size, column width, scannable text and so on.

By building content that would best answer searcher intent and needs, we set our pages up to be successful in the SERPs.

More resources:

2. Securing a handful of links to important pages

Pages need links to rank in search.

But the number of links needed to be competitive depends on the page, site, niche, type of query and so on. Furthermore, search engines have become more sophisticated in how they evaluate links, placing more emphasis on quality and less on numbers.

What we learned from doing this project is that bottom-of-the-funnel pages really only need a handful of quality links to rank well, and from there, positive engagement signals would further validate the page as an authority in the eyes of search engines.

Of course, securing links to bottom-of-the-funnel pages is extremely difficult because these pages typically aren’t link-worthy. The purpose of these pages isn’t to inform or entertain; these pages exist to drive conversions, and that doesn’t usually compel other sites to link.

There are a few situations where serving direct value to your site aligns with the goals of other websites, and link opportunities exist. These opportunities involve hyper-focused link pages that are relevant to your content.

Using the same insurance example, a page like this would represent a hyper-relevant links page for a company that offers pet insurance:

 

This strategy isn’t sustainable for a long-term, large-scale campaign because these situations are limited. But we learned that you only need to execute on a select handful of these opportunities to be successful with bottom-of-the-funnel pages.

Other opportunities available to bottom-of-the-funnel pages include:

  • egobait — a specific person, brand, product or service, for example, is mentioned on your page.
  • unique product or service — resource pages that list the small number of vendors available.
  • discounts or promotions — the linking site’s audience is eligible for exclusive discounts.
  • local — resource pages exclusive to local vendors and service providers.
  • reviews — pages that review your product or service.

You can’t build a sustainable link acquisition campaign with these tactics, but you can secure a few quality links to your converting pages and drive initial engagement for your site.

More resources:

3. Establish passive link acquisition channels

Link building is really hard.

Link acquisition is a manual process that is ongoing, forever. My favorite description of link building came from former Googler Matt Cutts, who defined it as “sweat, plus creativity.”

Because securing links is so difficult — and we knew we needed links to grow traffic — we sought to establish passive link acquisition channels to amplify all our link-building efforts.

Part of our content strategy was to use high-quality, original photography, and this provided a perfect opportunity to attract passive links. Rather than copyrighting or watermarking our photos, we decided to use a Creative Commons license that allowed others to use the photos as long as they linked back to their original source (on our site).

For example, in the screen shot below, Ars Technica is citing the photo they used for their article.

 

Even massive publications like this need great photos and often turn to Creative Commons or other sites to do that.

Along with having your images cited, other potential ways to earn links organically include:

  • sponsorships and community involvement.
  • compiling original data or research.
  • being interviewed or quoted.
  • building a unique tool.

The key is to create something original, and then make it easy for others to cite (link to) you as the original source.

More resources:

4. Strategic content creation

Content drives SEO success.

It’s possible to secure a few links to bottom-of-the-funnel pages, but you’ll need middle and top-of-the-funnel content to sustainably capture attention and links.

Creating useful content for your audience is always a sound strategy, but you can take it a step further by being intentional and strategic about the content you publish. We maintained a relentless focus on SEO — creating every page with search, and the opportunities available to us, in mind.

To determine opportunity, we compared SEMrush traffic value against competition level.

Using the “pet insurance” example, we can analyze potential opportunities. For example, this site is ranking number one, which SEMrush estimates is worth $31.2K:

 

However, it looks like the competition for this SERP is fairly high with strong results such as Canine Journal, Consumers Advocate, Consumer Report and Nerd Wallet.

To find something less competitive, I’ll try [exotic pet insurance], where Nationwide is ranking number one and has a traffic value of $2.9K in SEMrush:

 

Looking right below the Nationwide result, I can see these pages ranking with bad exact-match domains:

 

Navigating to the page further validates this is a bad result:

 

This represents an opportunity to create content that would better serve users and have a great chance to rank.

Along with manually reviewing the search results, you can also use Moz’s Keyword Explorer tool to get an estimate of the competition and difficulty surrounding various terms and phrases.

Of course, investing into creating quality content is important, but the key takeaway for us was the success we saw from being strategic about the SEO impact of the content we created.

More resources:

5. Leveling up over time

Momentum is key in SEO.

As you build traction with your campaign, SEO tends to have a multiplying effect where your results will build exponentially. As you earn more visibility in search, you begin to attract more visitors — and if you satisfy the needs of those visitors, they will keep coming back (increasing traffic), endorsing your website (links) and sharing how great you are with others (social media, blogs, podcasts and so on).

We recognized our site was building momentum, and after six months of work, we started to raise expectations. We began to target more competitive spaces (which we avoided at the start), and because we had built a strong foundation, we were successful.

We established a solid baseline of authority and trust with our site, giving us the ability to compete for higher-value terms. Seeing early returns, we began taking even bigger bets on the content we created — not only investing in original design and photography but also adding interactive elements such as custom tools and video.

For example, in this screen shot you can see the payoff:

 

We targeted a very competitive, high-volume topic in the summer months of this year, and the result is more all-time highs, beating our previous numbers by a significant margin.

Another strategy that was fruitful was updating and improving old content using “Last Updated” post dates. Whether it be updating copy or adding a video, we found that small updates to existing content helped us in a variety of ways — it provided content freshness, increased click-through rate (CTR) and showed readers the post isn’t outdated.

For example, you can see Brian Dean of Backlinko executing this strategy here:

 

As we started targeting more competitive terms and earning more visibility, we began seeing significant gains in traffic, eclipsing 100,000 visitors by the end of month 12.

More resources: “How your old content can help with SEO” “Link Building Never Ends” Recap We didn’t use any secret tricks or hacks to grow traffic. Rather, we invested in building quality content, and we implemented various link acquisition strategies to match each stage of the project. As the site grew, so did our expectations and goals. To recap, here’s our process for growing traffic: Start slow and take advantage of “easy wins.” Focus on securing a handful of strategic links to important pages. Establish passive link acquisition channels to build momentum. Be intentional about content creation and its impact on search. Level up over time, and target higher-value opportunities. This is a repeatable, scalable process that we’ve found to be effective. Of course, you will need to tweak and adjust this process a bit to fit your unique situation and needs. However, I hope you can take the key lessons we learned from this project and apply them to your own strategy.  

More resources:

“How your old content can help with SEO”

“Link Building Never Ends”

Recap

We didn’t use any secret tricks or hacks to grow traffic. Rather, we invested in building quality content, and we implemented various link acquisition strategies to match each stage of the project. As the site grew, so did our expectations and goals.

To recap, here’s our process for growing traffic:

Start slow and take advantage of “easy wins.”

Focus on securing a handful of strategic links to important pages.

Establish passive link acquisition channels to build momentum.

Be intentional about content creation and its impact on search.

Level up over time, and target higher-value opportunities.

This is a repeatable, scalable process that we’ve found to be effective. Of course, you will need to tweak and adjust this process a bit to fit your unique situation and needs. However, I hope you can take the key lessons we learned from this project and apply them to your own strategy.

 

14 Essential Tips for an Engaging Facebook Business Page

 

Whether you're setting up a brand new Facebook Page for your brand, or you just want to make the most of your existing one, it’s probably a smart move -- Facebook is home to nearly 2 billion monthly active users.

It should be easy enough, right? Just slap together a photo, a couple of posts, and expect the leads and customers to roll on in, right?

Wrong.

If you're not creating a Facebook Page with a comprehensive strategy to get noticed, Liked, and engaged with, the chances of actually generating leads and customers from it are pretty slim. For example, you can’t just choose any picture -- you have to choose one that’s the right dimensions, high-resolution, and properly represents your brand. 

Download our Facebook Live guide to learn how to increase your social following and brand awareness through live video.  

 

But it doesn’t end there -- so we compiled the tips below to make sure you're creating an engaging page that takes full advantage of everything Facebook marketing has to offer.

14 Facebook Business Page Tips

1) Don't create a personal profile for your business.

We’ve come across many well-meaning marketers and entrepreneurs who create personal profiles for their brands, instead of an actual Facebook Business Page. That puts you at a huge disadvantage -- you’re missing out on all of the content creation tools, paid promotional opportunities, and analytics/insights that come with a Facebook Business Page. Plus, a personal profile would require people to send you a friend request in order to engage with you, and the last thing you want to do is make that more difficult for customers.

And while you’re at it -- don’t create an additional public, “professional” profile associated with your business. For example, I already have a personal profile on Facebook that I largely keep private; the practice I’m talking about would be if I created a second, public one under the name “AmandaZW HubSpot,” or something along those lines. People usually do that to connect with professional contacts on Facebook, without letting them see personal photos or other posts. But the fact of the matter is that creating more than one personal account goes against Facebook's terms of service.

2) Avoid publishing mishaps with Page roles.

We’ve all heard those horror stories about folks who accidentally published personal content to their employers’ social media channels -- a marketer’s worst nightmare. So to avoid publishing mishaps like those, assign Facebook Business Page roles only to the employees who absolutely need it for the work they do each day. And before you do that, be sure to provide adequate training to those who are new to social media management, so they aren't confused about when they should be hitting "publish," what they should be posting, if something should be scheduled first, and who they should be posting it as.

To assign these, on your business page, click “Settings,” then click “Page Roles.”

Also, when sharing content on behalf of your brand, make sure you're posting it as your brand, and not as yourself. You can check that by going into your settings and clicking “Page Attribution.”

3) Add a recognizable profile picture.

You'll want to pick a profile picture that’s easy for your audience to recognize -- anything from a company logo for a big brand, to a headshot of yourself if you're a freelancer or consultant. Being recognizable is important to getting found and Liked, especially in Facebook Search. It’s what shows up in search results, pictured at the top of your Facebook Page, the thumbnail image that gets displayed next to your posts in people’s feeds … so choose wisely.

When choosing a photo, keep in mind that Facebook frequently changes its picture dimensions, which you can find at any given time here. As of publication, Page profile pictures display at 170x170 pixels on desktop, and 128x128 pixels on smartphones.

4) Choose an engaging cover photo.

Next, you'll need to pick an attractive cover photo. Since your cover photo takes up the most real estate above the fold on your Facebook Page, make sure you're choosing one that's high-quality and engaging to your visitors, like this one from MYOB's Facebook Page:

Keep in mind that, like profile images, Facebook Page cover photo dimensions also frequently change, so we advise keeping an eye on the official guidelines. As of publication, Page cover photos display at 820x312 pixels on computers, and 640x360 pixels on smartphones.

5) Add a call-to-action (CTA) button.

Since Facebook first launched the feature in December 2014, the options for brands to add call-to-action buttons to their Facebook Page's have vastly expanded. These are things like “Watch Video,” “Sign Up," or "Book Now" -- and each can be customized with a destination URL or piece of content of their choosing.

It’s a great way for marketers to drive more traffic to their websites, or to get more eyeballs on the Facebook content they want to promote. This is a great way for marketers to drive traffic from their Facebook Business Page back to their website. Check out how Mandarin Oriental uses the "Book Now" button in this way, to make it easier for viewers to make reservations.

To add a call-to-action to your Page, click the blue “Add a Button” box.

You'll then be able to choose which type of CTA you want to create, and which URL or existing content on your Facebook Page you want it to direct visitors to. To get data on how many people are clicking it, simply click the drop-down arrow on your button and select “View Insights.”

6) Fill out your 'About' section with basic information, and add company milestones.

We’ve arrived at one of the most important sections of your Facebook Page: the 'About' section.

Although visitors no longer see a preview of your “About” text when they land on your page -- instead, they have to click on the “About” option on the left-hand column next to your content -- it’s still one of the first places they’ll look when trying to get more information about your page.

Even within the “About” section, however, there are many options for copy to add. Consider optimizing the section that best aligns with your brand -- a general description, a mission, company information, or your story -- with brief, yet descriptive copy. By doing so, your audience can get a sense of what your Page represents before they decide to Like it.

You might also want to populate sections that allow you to record milestones and awards -- like when you launched popular products and services -- as well as the day/year your company was founded, or when you hosted major events.

7) Post photos and videos to your Timeline.

Visual content has pretty much become a requirement of any online presence, including social media channels. After all, it’s 40X more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content.

And while photos are a wonderful way to capture moments and an actual look at your brand, you should probably invest a good amount of time and other resources into video. The 2017 State of Inbound report cited video as the “main disruptor,” with 24% of marketers naming it as a top priority.

“Watch video” is one of the CTAs that Facebook allows brands to add to their Pages for a reason -- because it’s becoming one of the most popular ways to consume content. But it’s not just pre-recording videos. According to the social media channel’s newsroom, “People spend more than 3x more time watching a Facebook Live video on average compared to a video that’s no longer live.” So don’t be afraid to give viewers an in-the-moment look at what your organization does, but do make sure you’re prepared.

8) Determine the ideal timing and frequency for your posts.

An important consideration in your Facebook content strategy should be how frequently you post, and when. If you don’t post frequently enough, you won’t look as reliable or authentic -- after all, how much faith do you put in a brand that hasn’t updated its Facebook Page for several months? Post too often, however, and people might get sick of having their feeds flooded with your content.

Here’s where a social media editorial calendar can be particularly helpful. Like any other online content, it can help you establish a schedule for when you share particular posts according to season or general popularity. You’ll probably have to adjust your calendar several times, especially in the earliest stages of setting up your Page, since you’ll want to check the performance of your updates in your Facebook Insights (which you can navigate to via the tab at the very top of your page). Once you’ve observed popular times and other analytics for your first several posts, you can tailor your posting frequency and strategy accordingly.

Wondering how to schedule posts? You can either use an external publishing tool like the Social Inbox within HubSpot software, or the Facebook interface itself. For the latter, click the arrow next to the “Publish” button and click “Schedule Post.”

9) Leverage Facebook's targeting tools.

Facebook allows you to target certain audiences with specific updates -- be it gender, relationship or educational status, age, location, language, or interests, you can segment individual page posts by these criteria.

Just click the small bullseye symbol on the bottom of the post you want to publish, and you can set metrics for both a preferred audience, and one you think might not want to see your content.

10) Pin important posts to the top of your page.

When you post new content to your Facebook Page, older posts get pushed farther down your Timeline. But sometimes, you might want a specific post to stay at the top of your page for longer -- even after you publish new updates.

To solve for this, Facebook offers the ability to "pin" one post at a time to the top of your page. You can use pinned posts as a way to promote things like new lead-gen offers, upcoming events, or important product announcements.

To pin a post, click on the drop-down arrow in the top-right corner of a post on your page, and click 'Pin to Top.' It will then appear at the top of your page, flagged with a little bookmark. Just keep in mind that you can only have one pinned post at any given time.

11) Decide whether you want Facebook fans to message you privately.

If you want your Facebook fans to be able to privately message you directly through your page, definitely enable the messages feature. You can do so by going to your settings, clicking on “General” on the left-hand column, and then looking for “Messages” on the list of results.

Messages-2.png

We recommend enabling messaging on your page to make it as easy as possible for your fans to reach out to you -- but only do so if you have the time to monitor and respond to your messages. Facebook Pages now have a section that indicates how quickly a brand responds to messages, so if you don’t want that section saying that you’re slow to answer, you might just want to skip enabling that feature.

12) Monitor and respond to comments on your page.

Speaking of monitoring the interactions your fans have with your page, don't forget about comments. You can monitor and respond to comments via the 'Notifications' tab at the very top of your page. While it may not be necessary to respond to every single comment you receive, you should definitely monitor the conversations happening there (especially to stay on top of potential social media crises.

13) Promote your page to generate more followers.

Now that you've filled your page with content, it's time to promote the heck out of it.

One of the first things you can do is to create an ad promoting your Page. To do that, click the three dots at the top menu bar above your posts and select “Create Ad.” From there, Facebook will let you start creating an ad from scratch based on your goals -- things like reach, traffic, or general brand awareness. Choose yours, then scroll down and click “continue.”

After that, you can choose your targeted audience (similar to what you did with your promoted posts above), where on Facebook you want it to be placed, and your budget -- you can learn more about paying for Facebook Ads here.

You’ll probably also be asked to add some creative assets or copy. Remember, you’re paying for this, so choose something that’s going to grab attention, but also has high quality and represents your brand well.

14) Finally, measure the success of your Facebook efforts.

There are a couple of ways to execute this step. You can use something like the social media reports tool in your HubSpot software, and you can dig into your Page's Insights, which allow you to track Facebook-specific engagement metrics. Here, you'll be able to analyze things like the demographics of your Page audience and, if you reach a certain threshold, the demographics of people engaging with your page and posts. As we mentioned earlier, the latter is especially helpful to modify your Facebook content strategy to publish more of what works, and less of what doesn't. You can access your Facebook Page Insights via the tab at the top of your page.

How have you set up top-notch Facebook Pages? Let us know in the comments.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in December 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

Internet Ad Spend Is About to Surpass TV Ad Spend [New Report]

 

There are few things I look forward to more every year than the release of Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report.

It’s clear, it’s visually interesting, and most importantly, the results are always fascinating -- with tremendous implications for marketers.

 

Meeker’s report is chock-full of data about how the way users operate online is changing. And man, are things changing. Voice queries are replacing the typical internet search, Netflix and other streaming services are replacing cable television, and social media is overtaking traditional cable TV habits.

Another way the internet is changing TV? Advertising. In her report, Meeker predicts that in 2017, spending on internet advertising will surpass spending on TV advertising for the first time -- and eventually exceed $200 billion.

In this post, we’ll dive into how this change is taking place, and what the future of advertising looks like -- in 2017 and beyond.

The State of Internet Advertising in 2017

Here's a visualization of Meeker's prediction -- which also shows the rapid trajectory of internet advertising spend since the 1990s:

Internet Trends 2017 Report from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

As you can see from Meeker’s slide, internet advertising spending will exceed $200 billion this year -- beating TV advertising spending for the first time.

The magnitude of this can’t be overstated -- the first television ad aired in 1941, and the first internet ad was placed in 1994. It took the internet only 24 years to disrupt and outpace the 76-year-old TV advertising industry -- making it almost three times faster and more agile.

Meeker’s report also outlined where the bulk of internet advertising dollars are spent -- and to nobody’s surprise, online advertising is growing at an explosive rate on Google and Facebook (20% and 62% year-over-year, respectively).

Internet Trends 2017 Report from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

This data means that the online inbound marketing world is disrupting -- and outpacing -- the traditional outbound marketing world. But it's reflective of other trends and changes, too.

What the Future of Online Advertising Looks Like

The Future of Online Advertising Is Mobile

Roughly half of all internet ad spending was on mobile advertising in 2016:

Internet Trends 2017 Report from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

And that breakdown is no surprise -- because people are spending more time online -- and more time online on their phones -- than ever before:

Internet Trends 2017 Report from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Meeker's report highlights this trend -- and points out the massive potential for growth in the mobile advertising space. There's an opportunity for $16 billion worth of growth as the amount of mobile online advertising catches up to the time people are spending online on mobile devices:

Internet Trends 2017 Report from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

This gap between time spent on mobile devices and money spent advertising specifically on mobile devices could be indicative of the relatively new mobile advertising space -- advertisers might not yet know how to engage such a new swath of potential prospects.

But it could also be a result of the rapid rate at which mobile ads are reported and blocked, too. As it turns out, internet users -- particularly on mobile devices -- are quick to block ads they're not interested in viewing:

Internet Trends 2017 Report from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

There's a huge opportunity for marketers and advertisers in the mobile online space, but it needs to be carefully and strategically done -- so as not to irritate users enough for them to block those ads. We'll surely continue to see more ads online -- and on our smartphones.

The Future of Online Advertising Is Social

Google is eating up the majority of mobile advertising revenue dollars, but it's followed closely by Facebook. What's more, revenue from ads on Google and Facebook made up 85% of online advertising revenue in 2016:

Internet Trends 2017 Report from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

So, as advertising spending and consumption shifts from TV to online, and specifically to mobile online, keep an eye on where ads start appearing online, too. Facebook online advertising revenue is growing faster than Google ad revenue at 62% year-over-year -- and as it turns out, ads on Facebook drive direct purchases, too:

Internet Trends 2017 Report from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Mobile ads and targeted pins on Pinterest see high purchase rates, too: 

Internet Trends 2017 Report from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

As users continue spending more and more online time within social media apps, advertisers will shift their strategy to create targeted, shoppable ads that live in social media feeds to keep users within apps and mobile devices and to make it easier for them to buy.

The Future of Online Advertising Will Be Closely Monitored

As the rates at which online and mobile ads are blocked by users indicate, many ads are perceived as obtrusive, disruptive, and unhelpful to many people. And it's true -- poor quality ads can drive people away from your site if they create a poor experience for your visitor.

Perhaps that's why Google and Facebook have started taking steps to penalize publishers advertisers that create disruptive, misleading, and otherwise low-quality ad experiences on their platforms in recent years. Mobile and social media advertising offer a lot of opportunity for reward, but marketers and advertisers need to be mindful of the high stakes when they start creating. Pop-ups, overlays, and clickbait could get you penalized and blocked from future success, so stay tuned for more guidance on mobile marketing and social media advertising.

No Mercy / No Malice: Shark Repellent — Fighting Amazon

Shark Repellent — Fighting Amazon 

26 MAY 2017

by Scott Galloway

The markets are a remarkable thing. No one person or firm (theoretically) controls them, and they have lifelike features, but aren’t even machines, much less organic. However, they are a raw reflection of our emotions and actions without makeup. Hold up a mirror to hundreds of millions of people, and the collective reflection can be seen in the real estate, art, coffee, and stock markets.

The market also looks sectors in the eyes and provides unadulterated feedback. Right now, the markets are telling Amazon, rubbing up against $1000/share,“God, you’re hot,” and the rest of retail, “I think you’re dying.” Things are bad in retail — share performance signals the market has decided many / most are going away. 

 

 

The perfect storm has hit retail hard. Specifically, concern over: 

— Stagnant middle-class wages. The greatest source of good in history, the American middle class, was hit so hard it still hasn’t gotten on its feet. 

— People are spending more on experiences vs. stuff.

— A retailer in Seattle is doing really well. 

— There are too many stores. 

Ok, yeah we get it … we (retail) are fucked. So what’s a girl (retail) to do? Some thoughts:[1]

Retool messaging to the street 

Store sales is the metric retailers lead with, and they will move up again in … 2025, after 20 percent of the supply (stores) goes away. Until then, retailers that derive more than 30% of their business online (and there are a lot of them) need to refer to that channel as their core business. As such, their core business is growing double digits, and their primary source of marketing, brick and mortar, sometimes makes money and is getting cheaper, as power shifts from landlords to tenants for the first time in ten years.

Double down on growth & Amazon-immune categories 

— Sephora stores in JC Penney have (sort of) kept the retailer relevant, and drive foot traffic. They also, last week, announced they were introducing a B2B unitto sell mattresses and linens to hotels.

— While Macy’s announced it was closing 68 of its 730 stores in January, at the same time they announced 50 new Blue Mercury doors in the next 24 months. In 2016 they opened four pilot concepts, 18 store-in-stores, and 24 freestanding doors.

— Home Depot has focused its fulfillment capabilities on products with non-favorable ship to weight ratios (80% of Home Depot SKUs weigh more than five pounds), playing offense against Amazon.

Organic intelligence — invest in in-store customer service 

— You know, humans.

— Best Buy blue shirts, Sephora Cast, Home Depot’s golden aprons. 

— Net-a-Porter has embraced messaging, as that’s increasingly how people communicate, and bots are lame.

Omnichannel through a shareholder lens 

— Investments in buy online pickup in store, in-store inventory, and flexible returns make sense but have to have pass a strategic filter.

— For instance Nordstrom found it better to enable free returns, as when they pushed “return in store” they found there was a 2-3 week lag, which in many cases led to the product being already discounted or on clearance. The increase in basket size from getting the consumer in store didn’t offset the pricing challenges of getting the inventory so much later.

 

 

Narrow vs. broad 

Play to Amazon’s weaknesses by curating selection vs. endless aisle assortment. Wayfair has more than 8M SKUs online vs. Home Depot’s 700,000. As Wayfair and Amazon continue to double down on endless aisle, Home Depot has narrowed SKU selection. 

Need for Speed: Supply Chain

Supply chain ninjas have been more disruptive than Amazon. There has been $27.8B in value transfer in apparel from department stores to online pureplays,mostly Amazon, since 2005. Over that same period, H&M and Zara added $28.2B in incremental global revenue. 

Consumers appear to view online platforms as more authentic than department stores. Asos and Farfetch are much stronger on Instagram than traditional department stores. When Fast Fashion puts a buy button on Instagram, engagement increases. When a traditional department store does, engagement decreases. Everything is moving to fast, relevant, and (see point 1) fast. 

Partnerships

Brands and retailers are mostly in this together. When Panzer tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia and Poland, the British, Americans, and Russians became less allergic to partnership. There’s a tendency for traditional retailers to go aggressively at online media opps and paid merchandising to offset traditional shopper marketing dollars that were going in store. Most aren’t doing this thoughtfully, more like throwing spaghetti up against a wall and see what sticks — which pisses off brands. 

Target and P&G are a model for cooperation in the face of the real enemy. When Amazon started drop-shipping from P&G’s warehouses, Target got angry. The reality is if Target had those capabilities, P&G would have presented the same opportunity. Retailers need to more tightly integrate their supply chain with key brand partners and think about flexible / integrated inventory sourcing models. 

Cruel Truth

The cruel truth of capitalism is each firm has finite capital. In the case of most retailers it’s increasingly finite as their stocks plummet. The cheap capital equation of intelligence x receptors is not in most traditional retailers’ favor. To be good or great at everything is to be truly great at nothing and to compromise trying to get there. Decide where you’ll be best in class, and where you’ll be just good enough (e.g., fulfillment). Walmart’s move to end ShippingPass, their Prime copycat for $49/year, this year is evidence of this. Instead Walmart lowered free shipping minimums.

Best Bond Ever 

 

 

James Bond and the 007 franchise hold a special place in the heart of anybody who grew up in the sixties and seventies. It was racy, but there were was little blood. A handsome guy saved the world in the name of the queen with charm and cool technology — 007 had a car that turned to a submarine; we got 140 characters. My favorite: Live and Let Die. Roger Moore’s wit, vs. the brawn of other Bonds, set against a seventies backdrop, and a stunning Jane Seymour, make for a work our grandkids will watch in film school. 

Moore passed away this week. Born to a policeman, he joined the Royal Army at 18 and rose to captain. The oldest actor to play Bond (seven films), and knighted by Queen Elizabeth ll for his philanthropic work, Sir Roger Moore made the most of his 89 years. 

Life is so rich, 
Scott

A nice story about Roger Moore: 

As a seven-year-old in about 1983, in the days before first-class lounges at airports, I was with my grandad at the Nice Airport and saw Roger Moore sitting at the departure gate, reading a paper. I told my granddad I’d just seen James Bond and asked if we could go over so I could get his autograph. My grandad had no idea who James Bond or Roger Moore were, so we walked over and he popped me in front of Roger Moore, with the words “My grandson says you’re famous. Can you sign this?” 

As charming as you’d expect, Roger asks my name and duly signs the back of my plane ticket, a fulsome note full of best wishes. I’m ecstatic, but as we head back to our seats, I glance down at the signature. It’s hard to decipher it, but it definitely doesn’t say “James Bond.” My grandad looks at it, half figures out it says “Roger Moore” — I have absolutely no idea who that is, and my hearts sinks. I tell my grandad he’s signed it wrong, that he’s put someone else’s name — so my grandad heads back to Roger Moore, holding the ticket that he’s only just signed. 

I remember staying by our seats and my grandad saying, “He says you’ve signed the wrong name. He says your name is James Bond.” Roger Moore’s face crinkled up with realisation and he beckoned me over. When I was by his knee, he leant over, looked from side to side, raised an eyebrow, and in a hushed voice said to me, “I have to sign my name as ‘Roger Moore’ because otherwise … Blofeld might find out I was here.” He asked me not to tell anyone that I’d just seen James Bond, and he thanked me for keeping his secret. I went back to our seats, my nerves absolutely jangling with delight. My grandad asked me if he’d signed “James Bond.” No, I said. I’d got it wrong. I was working with James Bond now.

How to compare paid search and organic search without sounding foolish

Which search channel is better: paid or organic? Columnist Andy Taylor argues that there is no simple answer to this question, despite what some practitioners may want to believe.

Andy Taylor on May 25, 2017 at 11:16 am 

ast week, I had the misfortune of encountering perhaps the most misguided thread on digital marketing I’ve ever seen on Twitter (which is saying something), in which an SEO declared unequivocally that “organic search traffic beats paid traffic for every single metric.”

 

To me, these statements seemed outrageous and even inflammatory. But much to my surprise, many SEOs caught onto this thread and were all about it. Et tu, Rand?

 

Realistically, I’m not sure what data can truly back up these far-reaching statements declaring dominance of organic search performance over paid search in every metric. And Rand’s caveat fails to address the real problem of this thread, which is its narrow-minded, one-versus-the-other premise.

In reality, some searchers will click on ads. Others will click on organic links. Marketers should be trying to capture both.

Let’s talk about the current landscape and dive into how there are better, more nuanced ways to look at performance comparisons between paid search and SEO — without all the bluster.

Paid search growth has long outpaced organic growth

It’s no secret to paid search and SEO managers that Google has steadily made updates over the past couple of years that have directly harmed organic traffic, including the addition of a fourth text ad above organic links on desktop, the addition of a third (and then fourth) text ad above organic links on phones, doubling the size of Product Listing Ads on phones, moving the Local Pack to the top of search results, and more.

As a result, overall organic traffic has declined Y/Y for the past several quarters, as shown in this chart from the quarterly Merkle Digital Marketing Report (registration required).

 

You don’t have to take our word for it — take a look at Google’s Q1 2017 earnings report, which showed a 53 percent increase in paid clicks on Google properties Y/Y. Even though that includes other channels, the vast majority is search, and if you think that isn’t coming at the expense of organic — well, you’d be wrong.

I don’t say this because I’m a paid search hack trying to butter up PPC. Our agency manages SEO as well — and does a fantastic job of it. I even lauded the strong organic growth we were seeing a couple of years ago in a presentation at SMX Advanced about Google’s declining paid search click growth at the time. If we were seeing big organic growth overall, I’d be screaming it from the rooftops and saying that every marketer needs to be throwing all their resources at organic.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case — because again, Google has been steadily making changes that directly harm organic search and help to keep paid search click growth strong.

 

So right off the bat, we have one metric that paid search has an advantage in. This is going to vary from brand to brand, but overall, this is the way things are moving for most marketers.

But what about all those other metrics that are supposedly amazing for organic and terrible for paid search? Anyone who understands how to do such comparisons correctly would be careful to provide nuance and specificity in explaining how performance metrics should be analyzed. Unfortunately, Twitter is ill-suited for such details.

Here are two tips for anyone looking to derive meaningful comparisons between paid search and SEO.

1. Segment query types and devices

If most of your organic search traffic is coming from searches for your own brand name, but a smaller share of paid search traffic comes from branded queries, performance is going to vary. Shocking, I know. As such, you should be segmenting traffic and conversion performance by brand vs. non-brand, as well as doing category-level segmentations within those buckets.

This was made harder by the rise of [not provided] obfuscating organic queries in analytics packages, but is still possible using tools such as Google Search Console.

Similarly, organic and paid search might derive different shares of traffic from different device types for a given brand. Device types tend to perform differently in all sorts of metrics, from click-through rate to conversion rate to bounce rate. Thus, this would throw off any overall performance comparisons and require that metrics be broken down by device.

In the case of analysis that declares some overall winner with zero nuance about how data was segmented, it’s almost guaranteed the individual didn’t bother making such segmentations. Declaring such overarching results apply to every brand in existence is just ridiculous.

2. Take advantage of both paid and organic, and measure incrementality

But it’s not just about measuring how paid and organic search metrics compare on any given day. It’s also important to understand how they work together.

Every marketer wants to rank organically for every keyword that they might consider bidding on in paid search, preferably in the top spot. But it’s simply not possible for every site to rank on the first page of organic listings for every single query that might drive value for them.

Similarly, every brand would love to have an ad at the top of the page for every relevant query, but the economics of paid search are limiting. It’s not financially viable to bid to the top position for every term, and in many cases it’s not even feasible to bid to the first page of results given the expected return for a particular query.

So we have a situation where brands would love to have both paid and organic listings (since users are inevitably going to click both types of listings), but in which it’s impossible to actually achieve perfect visibility in both. Understanding how these two types of visibility work together, then, is key.

In the case of brand keywords, it’s certainly possible that a site might be able to pick up all of the paid search traffic it’s getting from brand ads through its organic listings. Of course, this is going to depend on factors such as if competitors are bidding on brand keywords and how many first page organic listings are occupied by the brand, but it’s possible.

Still, we find that the vast majority of brand holdout tests show that organic links do not pick up all traffic that goes to brand ads, such that brand ads have some incremental value. There is no way to say that organic “outperforms” paid when it comes to talking about this incremental traffic — you’re either getting it through ads or you’re not getting it at all. Period.

In the case of a non-brand query in which a site doesn’t even rank on the first page, pretty much all traffic coming from a paid search ad is incremental. Should you try to rank organically for that query? Absolutely, but it doesn’t mean you should forgo paid search just because you heard organic search is better in every metric.

Conclusion: Get rid of search partisanship

What I’m trying to get at here is that marketers should want to be “turned on” for as many different types of search visibility as possible, whether it be paid links, the local pack, the knowledge graph or plain old organic listings. Lauding one channel over another in sweeping statements is ridiculous and actually harms the discussion by completely ignoring important nuances.

What’s worse, pitting one channel against another is incredibly detrimental to moving the conversation forward on how the two channels work together. Given the complicated relationship between paid and organic search that varies from query to query, such search partisanship is only good for those who specialize in one channel to make the case for their specialty.

In that regard, I’m glad I work at an agency that manages both paid and organic search optimization, such that we can feel free to laud the benefits of both and talk about challenges and concerns in equal measure. We’re all about working across channels to squeeze every possible ounce of value out of search, whether it’s paid or organic, while single-minded folks clutch the pearls of the one channel they know how to manage.

In short: Be open-minded, think critically, and understand the nuances of comparing paid and organic search.

9 Inbound Marketing Stats You Need to Know in 2017 [New Data]

The inbound movement has always been about one thing: being relevant and truly helpful to your audience.

This approach shouldn't change, but as technology and internal company relationships change, marketers and salespeople must learn how to adapt to better serve their customers.

To better understand how our relationships with consumers and coworkers are changing, we collected data from more than 6,300 marketers and salespeople from around the globe, which we've compiled in the 2017 State of Inbound report. It examines the relationship between company leadership and employees, details on collaboration between marketing and sales teams, and a look at what the industry’s foremost marketers are adding to their strategy in the coming year.

Check out the full report here, or view some of the most interesting highlights below.

9 Stats You Need to Know From the 2017 State of Inbound Report

1) 68% of inbound marketers believe their organization's marketing strategy is effective. [Tweet this]

Last year, we started to examine marketers' thoughts on their organizations' marketing strategy and found that inbound marketers are much more likely to be satisfied with their organization's approach.

We're happy to report that this trend continued. 68% of inbound marketers believe their organization's marketing strategy is effective. However, the majority of outbound marketers (52%) do not think their strategy is effective.

2) 1/3 of marketers think outbound marketing tactics are overrated. [Tweet this]

It’s not simply the effectiveness of the inbound philosophy that encourages us, but the success of inbound when compared to alternative methods. Each year, marketers tell us that outbound practices are overrated.

While we admit we might be a bit biased, when we cut the data, marketers agreed. According to this year’s data, 32% of marketers rank outbound marketing practices such as paid advertising as the top waste of time and resources.

 

3) C-level executives and individual contributors disagree about the effectiveness of their organizations' marketing strategy. [Tweet this]

Over the years, we've continued to examine the relationship between marketers and salespeople. This year, we discovered an interesting trend in the data: Company leadership and individual contributor employees are struggling under a growing corporate chasm.

This means that leadership and employees often view their company, its performance, and its future very differently. For example, while 69% of C-level executives believe their organizations' marketing strategies are effective, only 55% of individual contributors agree. Leaders who want their business to grow must learn how to effectively communicate the organization's vision and goals with their employees.

4) Marketers struggle most with metrics-driven challenges. [Tweet this]

Marketers find tracking and making sense of their metrics a challenge. This year, 63% of marketers admit that their top challenge is generating enough traffic and leads. This is followed by 40% who struggle proving the ROI of marketing activities and 28% who are trying to secure enough budget.

All three of these top challenges are metrics-driven. Without the proper tools to track concrete campaign results, these areas will continue to be a struggle.

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5) Organizations with an SLA are more than 3X as likely to be effective. [Tweet this]

When we began publishing this report nine years ago, much of our data revolved around the adoption of inbound marketing. As the message spread, we began to see why it’s crucial for both marketing and sales teams to adopt the inbound methodology together. One of the main ways this is done is through a service-level agreement (SLA).

Despite the fact that only 22% of organizations say they have a tightly-aligned SLA, the benefits of having one are clear: 81% of marketers with as SLA think their marketing strategy is effective. In fact, there is no combination of factors more strongly correlated with marketing success than being both inbound and having an SLA.

 

6) 38% of salespeople say getting a response from prospects is getting harder. [Tweet this]

While marketers struggle with tracking the metrics of their campaigns, salespeople admit that getting a response from prospects is a growing challenge. However, as you dive deeper into the data, you see the problem starts long before salespeople begin contacting prospects.

38% of salespeople say that they struggle most with prospecting. While there is an abundance of new technology and platforms to help salespeople connect and develop relationships with prospects, many are finding it difficult to incorporate this technology into their daily routine. In fact, 19% of salespeople say they're struggling to incorporate social media in their sales process, and 13% say using sales technologies is now harder than it used to be.

7) Marketers think video and messaging apps have the potential to disrupt. [Tweet this]

As marketers prepare for the future, many plan to use a variety of content publishing platforms. In the past, content marketers poured their efforts into their email, website, and blog strategies. But with the rising trend of content decentralization, marketers are now seeing the benefit of publishing on a variety of channels.

In our study, marketers are paying more attention to video’s global appeal, with 48% planning on investing in YouTube and 39% looking to add Facebook video to their strategy. In addition, many marketers are experimenting with messaging apps, while others continue to focus on more visual platforms such as Instagram.

But don’t think the age of the blog is over. 53% of respondents say blog content creation is one of their top inbound marketing priorities.

 

8) 45% of salespeople say they spend over an hour performing manual data entry. [Tweet this]

Getting a response from prospects is not the only challenge salespeople are facing. According to our 2017 data, 45% of salespeople say they spend over an hour performing manual data entry. Another 23% of salespeople say their biggest challenge using their CRM is manual data entry.

The more time salespeople spend on data entry, the less time they have to do what they are skilled at: closing deals. Not only is manual data entry time consuming, it can also be detrimental to the business. Storing contacts in an unorganized way or not properly using a CRM can lead to a disjointed sales strategy. Businesses should look to sales tools that include automation, integrate with their other platforms, and provide insight into the full customer journey.

9) Marketers and salespeople don't see eye to eye on the quality of marketing-sourced leads. [Tweet this]

We know there's a disconnect between marketing and sales teams around the definition of a quality lead, but this year's report shows a drastic gap.

59% of marketers say they provide salespeople with very high-quality leads, but only 25% of salespeople agree. In fact, the majority of salespeople -- from the C-suite to individual contributors -- rank marketing leads last, behind referrals and sales-sourced leads. This data continues to highlight the importance of SLAs.

 

Want more data-backed insights? This is just a preview of the State of Inbound report. Download the report for free to discover how inbound marketing and sales is evolving.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in September 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.