Content Marketing Best Practices: Content Writing in 2017

I don’t like the concept of “optimizing content for search engines.” It kind of gives you the wrong idea about the process: as if you are supposed to write content for flesh-and-blood readers and then, constrainedly, optimize it for bots.

Many writers do so. But instead, these days you’d better keep the requirements of SEO in mind before and while you create your piece of content. This doesn’t mean you should make your content machinelike - it’s about understanding how your article’s vocabulary and structure can influence your rankings.

We’re going to talk about three aspects a writer should consider in 2017 in order to write a good piece of content that will also attract more organic traffic.

  • Semantically related words
  • TF-IDF
  • Featured snippets

Semantically related keywords

The release of the Hummingbird algorithm back in 2013 made the topic of semantic search extremely important. Here’s an explanation provided by Danny Sullivan:

Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words. The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words.

Semantically related keywords are one of the signals to Google that the page matches the meaning of the query and, thus, the searcher’s intent.

Let’s say, you are searching for “city bike.” You can easily guess which one of the two articles below will be more likely to satisfy the searcher’s needs (unless the searcher is Jay-Z):

So, to keep up with Hummingbird’s requirements, you basically need to find relevant words to build your article around to show Google that your content is really valuable by understanding the language your users speak, the terms they use, the questions they ask and the formats they prefer.

Easier said than done, of course. But not impossible. There are several ways to approach this challenge.

Start by taking a look at the SERP. Pages from Google’s top 10 tend to have a lot in common in terms of content. Quite often, you’ll be able to identify these similarities at a glance, like with the query “best city bike”:

1. Lists and guides rule the SERPs
2. Adding a year to a title definitely helps

Next, find out if there are terms that Google considers identical to your target keywords. For example, here we see that Google seems to treat “best city bike”, “best urban bike” and “best commuter bike” as the same term.

Also, explore autocomplete suggestions. These are probably the most exhaustive source of real people’s questions, pains and problems. You can use many of them as ready ideas for your articles:

Grabbing these data manually can take a lot of time. There are tools that scrape, organize and sort related words and Google suggestions: see them in the “Tools to Use” section at the bottom.

TF-IDF

You’re probably asking yourself at this point: OK, I’m sure that words like “and”, “the” and “with” can be found on every page in the Google top 10. Does that mean I should use them to get higher rankings?

Not at all. And this is where TF-IDF comes in.

The term TF-IDF is an abbreviation of “term frequency - inverse document frequency.” The two parts of this abbreviation are two separate metrics used to calculate how important a word is to a specific document.

TF (term frequency) defines how often a word is found inside a document; IDF (inverse document frequency) stands for how often the word is encountered in a larger set of documents, often called a “corpus.” IDF is meant to reduce the weight of words used frequently within the corpus that have little importance (articles, prepositions, etc.). This way, less weight is given to terms with a high TF and IDF and more weight is given to terms with a high TF and a low IDF.

So why is this concept essential for a writer these days?

At first sight, TF-IDF may seem like a scientific explanation of why keyword stuffing is important. You identify a nice keyword (for example, “city bike”) with a clearly low IDF, you put it into every paragraph of your article and show Google that your content is super-relevant compared to your rivals’.  But it doesn’t work like this. Google’s algorithms are trained to identify pages stuffed thoughtlessly with keywords and penalize them.

There are several SEO tools that use TF-IDF for keyword analysis. For example, SEMrush’s SEO Ideas and SEO Content Template tools rely on TF-IDF to provide you with a list of words to use in your content - your list will be sorted automatically according to the number of documents each word was encountered in.

Featured snippets

So you gathered a beautiful set of semantically related words, made sure these words have a good TF-IDF, and you expect your content to make it to the first page of Google and boost your organic traffic.

But there’s a risk that almost no one will click on your properly optimized snippet with a catchy headline, because there’s someone who monopolized the first screen and captured all the searchers’ attention.

This “someone” is a featured snippet.

Featured snippets -- so called “zero positions” -- are the boxes shown right below the number of results found for your query. The goal of featured snippets is to provide you with content that fulfills your request without your having to click on any search result.

Most of featured snippets actually monopolize the first screen. As a result, the click-through rate of the content within it increases drastically - some studies report a four-fold CTR growth- and the other pages in the top 10 don’t get as many clicks as before. This is why organizing your content to appear in the featured snippet is crucial.

How to optimize your content to earn a featured snippet

There are actually no sure-fire recipes to get your content into this box. However, some tactics have worked for SEOs and are worth trying.

Identify your pages that already rank in the top 10

If you start by figuring out which of your website’s pages are already ranking well and concentrating on those, it will save you dozens of hours. Sad but true, only a miracle can make you appear in a featured snippet if you’re currently in the 98th position. Google tends to pick the pages from the top 10 for featured snippets. If you are in the top 5, even better.

Target question-based keywords and provide structured answers

It’s easier for Google to understand the searcher’s intent from the query “how to draw a dog” than from the query “dog drawing” (are you looking for beautiful drawings of dogs or do you want to draw a dog yourself?). Besides questions, there are words that narrow down a search intent quite a lot: “best”, “recipe” and “instructions” for example.

When it comes to answers, write the way you speak. The easier it is to understand, the better. “How to cook spaghetti? - Start with boiling water...”.

If a query starts with “how to” breaking your article down into steps is a must: use numbers or subtitles to divide your content logically.

Make sure to use header tags properly

Search engine bots love clear markups and flawless code. If they can easily scan the structure, extract the most valuable information and index it properly without spending any additional crawl budget, it definitely helps you get higher rankings. A correct use of H1-H6 tags is crucial if you want your content to be included in the featured snippet. Some SEOs, including Barry Schwartz, recommend also using Schema.org Markup.

Keep working to take snippets from your competitors (and defend your spot once you got one)

Nobody can guarantee that once a page gets into the featured snippet box, it will stay there forever. Google can remove your website (see this case study by Glenn Gabe) and replace it with another one, or just leave the page without a snippet (which is actually what happened with the “best city bike” SERP while we were working on this article):

Analyze what you could improve on your page and keep working. When it comes to highly competitive keywords, it’s really worth the candle.

Tools to use: SEMrush solutions

There are a number of SEMrush tools that can help automate the most time-consuming parts of your work. Let’s take a look at how they do it:

SEO Ideas

SEO Ideas tool helps you identify semantically related words. But there’s one important detail: it only gives you the words used by your successful rivals from Google’s top 10. There’s no point in analyzing hundreds of SERPs for a given keyword. Why look at those who are ranking lower than you?

You can find insights on semantically related words in the “Semantic Ideas” section:

They come with a detailed analysis of how many rivals use each of these words and how frequently each of them is encountered on their pages:

SEO Ideas will also notify you if any of your website's pages are ranking in the top 10 and have a good chance of appearing in featured snippets, with actionable recommendations on how to improve these pages:

SEO Content Template

If you just need to optimize the text on a single page without going too deep into detail, SEO Content Template is an extremely actionable yet simple tool. Simply enter one or more target keywords and the tool will analyze the first 10 pages from Google that rank for these keywords, and give you recommendations on:

  • Semantically related words to use on your page
  • The readability score you’ll need to achieve
  • Text length
  • Relevant backlink sources
  • Basic SEO recommendations, like length of page title and meta description

You can also get some insights on how to organize your content without leaving the tool - we’ll show you excerpts of your rivals’ texts with your target keywords highlighted:

Keyword Magic

It would be nice if you could type in a target keyword and see the semantically related words separated into groups, get quick estimations of search volume, keyword difficulty and competition level in one tool. Oh, and see the SERP features triggered by each keyword as well.

This tool does exist. Keyword Magic tool makes it easier by showing you all the information in one tab.

If you need more data, for example, the click potential or average difficulty for a keyword group, use the “Export to Keyword Analyzer” option.

How to write content that succeeds in 2017: Key Takeaways

  • Spend time on keyword research and defining an SEO-friendly structure before you actually start writing. Stuffing ready articles with keywords and adding subtitles just because you need to will seem unnatural, both for humans and search bots.

  • Focus on adding valuable words associated with your topic instead of repeating the same keyword throughout your article.

  • Use multiple sources to enrich your list of related keywords. Explore your and your competitors’ social media pages for keyword ideas and questions to answer. Conduct a TF-IDF analysis. Ask your technical support to observe and note the terms your customers really use.

  • Make good use of tools to automate the research processes.

  • Many actionable takeaways can be easily found by simply looking at SERPs. You can discover which content formats are used by your top 10 rivals or borrow some nice ideas for headlines.

  • Use lists and “step-by-step” formats to increase your chances of earning a featured snippet. “Keyword-based question + direct and concise answer” is another proven format for getting into the featured snippet box.

  • If you write an evergreen piece of content (a guide, for instance), don’t hesitate to mention the current year in the title. You’ll eventually get back to this article to update it, so a “2016 guide” can then be renamed a “2017 guide” when you add new valuable information to it.

  • You can’t earn a featured snippet unless you’re already ranking high. To get results faster, start by optimizing the pages that are already ranking in the Google top 10 for your target keywords.

  • Pay careful attention to your formatting, tags and markups. Make sure these are used correctly and make your content clear, structured and easily crawlable for Google bots.

  • If your competitor has already earned a featured snippet for your target keyword, it’s not written in stone. Any other website can replace theirs sooner or later, so why not yours?

Passing the mic to you

Have you already incorporated these best practices into your everyday content routine? Or do you consider them newfangled or too far removed from the actual work of a content creator? Let us know in the comments!

[By Elena Terenteva] [From SEMrush Blog]

Advice From CMOs: Stop Saying 'Digital' and Practice Straight Talk

The U.K.'s Marketing Society gathered chief marketing officers together to discuss what they regard as the elephants in the room that make for uncomfortable conversations. Here's what they talked about at an Advertising Week Europe panel:

"Stop using the word digital," said Zaid Al-Qassab, chief brand & marketing officer of telecommunications group BT. "The word is causing enormous problems in clients and agencies and the work we're getting."

Mr. Al-Qassab said that in the old days when he did print and billboard ads, he wasn't called a "paper marketer" as he is called a "digital marketer" today. The word digital moves the focus to clicks and likes, rather than customers, and is used heavily in briefs sent to agencies, he said, leading to 300 social media ideas from the agency, and clients asking for something that will "go viral."

David Wheldon and Zaid Al-Qassab Credit: Shutterstock/Advertising Week Europe

David Wheldon and Zaid Al-Qassab Credit: Shutterstock/Advertising Week Europe

"Write a brief that's about your customer and business results you hope to achieve," he admonished. "Let's talk about target audience and how to sell to them."

Lisa Gilbert, an American who moved to London about five months ago as chief marketing officer at IBM for the U.K. and Ireland, advocates what she calls straight talk.

"It gets rid of ambiguity and gets straight to the truth," she said, conceding straight talk might be considered rude and that there are cultural nuances to consider. "But if used with care it can be an amazing tool. You have to have the courage and emotional fortitude to deliver straight talk. It's hard to have honest conversations."


David Wheldon, chief marketing officer of Royal Bank of Scotland, said he actually has a small elephant in the office meeting room precisely to remind people not to ignore the elephant in the room. He said he also serves as president of the World Federation of Advertisers, and in that capacity he finds that digital practices aren't transparent enough about how data is being used. He also has concerns about ad fraud.

Lisa Gilbert Credit: Shutterstock/Advertising Week Europe

Lisa Gilbert Credit: Shutterstock/Advertising Week Europe

As marketing head of a bank, "We need to be transparent. You need to know what we're doing with your money," he said, adding that he'd like to see other parts of the marketing ecosystem held to the same standard.

Dave Trott, an outspoken longtime creative director, said "All the ads are done for clients and the sole job of ad agencies is to do work clients like. Clients call this collaboration. It's not collaboration. It's obsequiousness."

Mr. Trott cited a study that found 89% of advertising isn't noticed or remembered. He said that with total U.K. adspend at $26 billion, that's billions of dollars "of background wallpaper."

He also criticized marketers for allowing very junior clients to judge campaigns in the early stages, often knocking out the riskiest work so that senior clients only see a few ideas at the end and wonder why the agency didn't do better.

In rebuttal, Mr. Wheldon stressed marketers' responsibility to train less experienced execs: "You don't get great future clients by saying 'I'll do all that and you can bugger off'."

[By Laurel Wentz] [From Advertising Age]

Will my organic rankings suffer if I don’t have a blog?

A client wants to develop a content strategy so they can rank for more keywords but isn’t sure if they can muster the resources to create a blog. Sound familiar?

When budgets are tight, it’s often tempting to put more money behind your paid media campaigns; after all, you can actually see which ads and optimizations are generating the most revenue each month.

Earned media is not so cut-and-dried. However, creating and developing blog content should be regarded as a long-term investment. And as any good financial advisor will tell you, it’s best to start saving early. There is evidence to suggest that investing in a blog today will pay dividends for years to come.

Why should I have a blog?

No matter if your website is focused on e-commerce, lead-gen or self-service, there is what I like to call a “finite keyword set” that constrains you, whether you realize it or not. This concept of a finite keyword set is dictated by the fact that you want to serve the most relevant content to users at all times. By this notion, you would never post a recipe for lemon ricotta cookies on your fashion e-commerce site. (Or would you? We will revisit this idea later.)

Ideally, at the most basic level, your website should provide an expert level of knowledge about your subject matter — this will help ensure you meet Google’s quality guidelines. However, if your goal is to truly dominate the SERPs and outrank the competition, you need to start thinking outside the box to expand the breadth and depth of your content.

Simply put, a blog allows you to gain search engine results page (SERP) real estate, which can provide additional touch points for users to discover your brand. In creating new content, you will inevitably be expanding your keyword set — though I highly recommend performing keyword mapping (using Google’s Keyword Planner tool) and pre-planning your strategy to avoid keyword overlap and URL confusion.

Do note that recent changes have made it increasingly more difficult to get accurate keyword data from Google. In order to see “normal” search volume ranges, you will need to have a significant amount of ad spend with Google. It may be helpful to sync up with your paid search team to create a workaround.

SEO’s role in the conversion funnel

It’s no coincidence that appearing more times in the SERPs can lead to an increase in click-through rate; however, it’s important to fully understand the role that SEO plays in the conversion funnel. If you’ve ever heard an SEO lament that the last-click attribution model fails to give proper credit, this is because SEO is frequently used for discovery/awareness purposes. Knowing this, you may decide to create certain informational landing pages using more general keywords as opposed to long-tail.

When a consumer enters the funnel, they might not even realize they’ve begun their buying journey. Some consumers will begin their journey by researching the product or service they want and comparing offerings across brands. However, others might be looking to solve a problem — and while reading helpful answers, they discover the need to make a purchase.

The strategy here is to assist and educate consumers in their most vulnerable moments while they’re still brand-agnostic. Organic search campaigns will have a different impact on consumers depending on when they interact with them.

In the model below, we can see that both social campaigns and organic search are the first touch points a user will interact with. This tends to vary by industry, but the important thing to note is that while having an early organic presence is crucial, SEO still assists with conversions during other phases of the purchasing process.

Expanding breadth & depth of content

When creating content, ask yourself what consumers might be searching for before they need your product. For example, if you sell stainless steel cookware, a common question might be, “Are Teflon pans bad for your health?” Here, the consumer may be researching out of sheer curiosity — or potentially researching to purchase. In either scenario, creating a blog post about this topic not only educates the consumer, but also increases the likelihood that they will keep your brand top of mind when it comes time to purchase.

While creating educational/persuasive content can easily align with your brand, it’s also important to create content focused on semi-related topics, which helps to expand the scope of your keyword relevance. To begin the ideation process (keeping cost in mind), it’s helpful to thoroughly study your competitors’ blogs to get a sense of the topics they cover. It’s also worthwhile to dive into their backlink profile and see if they’ve captured the interest of high authority sites and publications (you can even reach out to some of these sites if you see a good opportunity).

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive solution, there is a host of paid platforms that can help you identify gaps in your own content; however, this may be cost-prohibitive.

While publishing content on expected topics will help to grow your keyword set, the best way to cast your net is by covering loosely or indirectly related topics. Think back to the e-commerce example from above. Time and time again I defer to Nordstrom and their success with creating recipe blog posts that rank for a substantial number of keywords.

On the surface, there may appear to be some dissonance between these two ideas. The focus here is not on the product mix itself, but rather on understanding consumers on a more fundamental level and positioning oneself as “helpful” even before users have entered the discovery phase.

While Nordstrom uses this page to drive consumers to their in-store restaurant, let’s assume that this were not the case. When developing loosely or indirectly related content, start by creating a user persona that can help you visualize your consumers’ lifestyle, behavior and needs.

For the purposes of this example, we’ll assume the following:

  • Nordstrom customers are rather affluent (HHI $100,000+).
  • Mostly female, tend to skew a bit older (36–45).
  • The average customer is a stay-at-home mom with children.
  • She occasionally entertains and likes to bake from scratch.
  • She’s willing to pay more for something if it will save her money in the long run.

With this information, it’s no coincidence that Nordstrom has chosen to post a recipe for “Best From-Scratch Lemon Ricotta Cookies.” In order to tie this to their product mix, Nordstrom could easily link this page to the bakeware landing page. However, someone searching for a recipe is looking to satisfy an immediate need and probably isn’t looking to take out their credit card.

The strategy here is to appear as frequently as possible in the SERPs for your target consumers, helping them solve their everyday dilemmas. Nordstrom knows that consumers who have more frequent interactions with their brand are likely to keep it top-of-mind when they need to purchase. According to a 2013 global Nielsen study, 60 percent of consumers prefer to buy new products from brands familiar to them.

The key takeaway here is the SERP real estate that was able to be realized. This recipe page ranks for 266 keywords, 16 of which appear on page 1!

Obtaining featured snippets

As an added benefit, creating a blog will increase the chances of your content appearing for featured snippets and quick answers. The benefits of featured snippets are that even if your page does not rank in position 1, it can still appear above all other search results — as in the case of another recipe from Nordstrom.com.

While many rich snippets are dependent on structured data markup, featured snippets are organically pulled from your on-page content, which reduces the need to constantly monitor your markup implementation. Google has yet to release official guidelines for obtaining snippets, but there are several studies that outline how to improve the chances of your pages appearing and provide industry-specific tips.

At minimum, your page should focus on a target query — this will be the keyword for which you want the snippet to appear. In this example, it’s “shrimp and asparagus risotto.” Looking at the Domain Authority of the website that currently holds the featured snippet is a good way to assess your level of competitiveness.

Final thoughts

In short, content creation, particularly blogs, is critical if you want to expand your brand presence. As an added benefit, an influx of fresh content requires Google to regularly crawl and index your site, and fresh content is a consideration when Google ranks your page in search results. Moreover, if your website lacks on-page content due to aesthetic purposes, a blog is an excellent way to augment your content offerings and target specific queries.

While it may be intimidating to commit to a blog, know that a weekly or biweekly content cadence may be all you need to start seeing return visitors. If you’re unsure where to begin, start by creating a list of evergreen vs. seasonal content, and capitalize on any upcoming topics that would be of particular interest to searchers. If creating a blog is out of the question, creating informational landing pages will also aid in your keyword efforts.

So, how does this pay dividends? The long-term goal is to obtain backlinks in some capacity. Not only will this help to increase your Domain Authority, it will increase exposure across the web and help drive traffic to your site. Most importantly, if you’ve been lacking social content (or posting without adding much value), share your new content and make sure to engage your followers in the conversation. After all, user feedback may be some of the most valuable.

[By Stephanie LeVonne] [From Search Engine Land] 

Facebook Bots 101: What They Are, Who's Using Them & What You Should Do About It

Back in April 2016, Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch of Facebook's Messenger Platform -- a new service that enables businesses of all sizes to build custom bots in Messenger.

In the days following the announcement, the tech and marketing space lost its mind. Thousands of articles were penned about the news, each one speculating on what an open Messenger platform could mean for businesses.

Why all the ardor? For starters, Facebook Messenger already has about 900 million monthly active users worldwide. Not registrants. Not people who got forced to download it when Facebook spun it out of the standard Facebook app. We're talking about active users who have adopted Messenger as a primary communication channel.

Anytime a company as forward-looking as Facebook opens up a platform as heavily adopted as Messenger it should raise eyebrows. So the early excitement, well, it's justified. But what comes next is entirely undefined. And as marketers, we have an exciting opportunity to help shape it.

As Zuckerberg put it in his keynote, "No one wants to have to install a new app for every business or service they want to interact with.” And bots are much different than disjointed apps. In other words, building into the already popular Facebook Messenger app could enable businesses to get in front of customers without that added friction.

At least, that's the potential ...

What Is a Bot?

"Bot" is a generalized term used to describe any software that automates a task. Chatbots, which anyone can now build into Facebook Messenger, automate conversation -- at least the beginning stages of it.

What's special about the bots you can build on Facebook Messenger is that they're created using Facebook's Wit.ai Bot Engine, which can turn natural language into structured dataYou can read more on this here, but in short, this means that not only can bots parse and understand conversational language, but they can also learn from it. In other words, your bot could get "smarter" with each interaction.

You've undoubtedly heard of artificial intelligence (AI). And this is a type of AI. Natural language interface is common in most chatbots, but by opening up the Messenger Platform and providing developer tools like the bot engine, Facebook has made building an intelligent bot easier.

How People Find Bots in Facebook Messenger

So, now comes the classic marketer question: If you build it, will they come?

The answer? Maybe.

Users are able to search for companies and bots inside Facebook Messenger by name, so you'll probably get some users that way. But, as with any new pathway into your company, you're likely to find that adoption of this communication channel within your customer base won't happen without some promotion. Facebook is trying to make that easier for businesses and organizations as well.

Here are a few tools and updates they've released to help simplify that connection:

Messenger Links

If you've created a Page for your business on Facebook, Messenger Links will use your Page’s username to create a short link (m.me/username). When someone clicks that link -- regardless of where they are -- it will open a conversation with your business in Messenger.

Customer Matching

If you have phone numbers for customers and pre-existing permission to reach out to them, you can find them on Facebook Messenger via customer matching. Conversations initiated through customer matching will include a final opt-in upon the first Facebook Messenger communication.

                                                         Image Credit: Facebook

                                                         Image Credit: Facebook

Messenger Codes

Messenger codes are unique images that serve as a visual thumbprint for your business and bot on Messenger. If you are familiar with Snapchat codes, these visual cues act in the same way, redirecting anyone who scans them using Messenger to the corresponding company page or bot.

                                             Image Credit: Facebook

                                             Image Credit: Facebook

Messenger Buttons

You can embed these buttons, provided by Facebook, into your website to enable anyone who clicks them to start a Messenger conversation with your company.

                                            Image Credit: Facebook

                                            Image Credit: Facebook

For all of the above, if you haven't developed a bot, the result will be a standard Messenger-based conversation. So you'll want to be sure you're monitoring that channel.

5 Examples of Branded Facebook Messenger Bots

Written definitions of bots are one thing, but sometimes it helps to understand how a bot works in action. Let's take a look at a few early examples ...

1) 1-800-Flowers

The example Mark Zuckerberg lauded in his keynote was the ability to send flowers from 1-800-Flowers without actually having to call the 1-800 number. A user, Danny Sullivan, subsequently tried it by sending flowers to Zuckerberg himself and documented the five-minute process here.

The bot took Sullivan through a few floral options and then confirmed shipping details.

                                                    Image Credit: Marketing Land  

                                                    Image Credit: Marketing Land  

2) Wall Street Journal

With the Wall Street Journal bot, users can get live stock quotes by typing "$" followed by the ticker symbol. They can also get the top headlines delivered to them inside of Messenger.

3) HP

HP created a bot for Messenger that enables users to print photos, documents, and files from Facebook or Messenger to any connected HP printer.

                         Image Credit: HP  

                         Image Credit: HP  

4) Facebook M

Facebook is releasing its own bot for Messenger, a personal assistant bot named "M". M can answer a wide range of requests -- from restaurant recommendations, to complex trivia, to last-minute hotel rates in the city.

Its flexibility is due to the fact that M is actually a bot-human hybrid. As Facebook’s chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer told Recode: "It’s primarily powered by people, but those people are effectively backed up by AIs." While the bots act as a first line of defense in fielding questions, the difficult questions are quickly routed to human assistants.

                                                      Image Credit: The Next Web

                                                      Image Credit: The Next Web

 

5) Healthtap

Healthtap is an interactive healthcare provider that connects users to advice from medical professionals. On the heels of the platform announcement, Healthtap created a bot that enables users to type a medical question into Facebook Messenger and receive a free response from a doctor or browse articles of similar questions.

You can see here how the conversational interface works. The user in this example is inquiring in natural language about a specific health concern. From the user's standpoint, this is similar to texting a friend.

            Image Credit: mobihealthnews

            Image Credit: mobihealthnews

This set up also helps the company filter inbound requests by solving some patient questions with existing responses first and then surfacing unique queries for live response.

(Intrigued by these examples? Engadget has a longer list of bots that are either released or under development for Facebook Messenger.)

Should You Build a Bot?

Ah, see that's not the sort of question I can answer for you. Building a bot for Facebook Messenger, like any marketing or product endeavor, is going to take resources -- mainly staff time and expertise -- and may not result in the outcomes you'd like to see.

That said, here's my best guidance for how you can answer the question for yourself:

Do you have a clear use case?

One of the biggest reasons so many companies went astray in building apps for their businesses is that they saw it as just another version of their website. They didn't take the time to study how being on a mobile device would change the types of interactions their customers would want to have with their company.

Some tasks are just not well-suited for mobile. As a result, many apps sat unused. When you're thinking about a use case for Facebook Messenger, make sure you're thinking about it from the standpoint of the customer or user, not from the company's standpoint. That's the real driver of use.

Is your audience on Facebook?

This question is often too quickly dismissed by companies that see Facebook as a purely social platform, rather than one for businesses. Even if your audience doesn't currently use Facebook for business needs, you need to start by determining whether or not the potential is there.

If you have an audience who uses Facebook heavily in their personal lives, they're likely to adopt Messenger as a communications tool. And how they use Messenger may expand beyond how they use Facebook. Today, usage of messaging apps has actually outpaced that of social networks. And as new use cases arise, behavior evolves with them.

Can you support inbound inquiries from Messenger?

Don't open a communication channel with your prospective and existing customers if you can't support it. Even with the automation of a bot, you'll still need to carve out time to 1) promote it 2) monitor any questions your bot can't answer and 3) keep tabs on the overall customer experience you're creating with it.

If you've thought through the above three questions and think you've got a good foundation for a Facebook Messenger bot then dive in. There's a benefit to being an early adopter in this space. And as a newly open platform, Facebook Messenger needs thoughtful and strategic companies to shape it.

Have you used any branded bots on Facebook Messenger? What's your favorite use case? Share your thoughts in the comments.

[By Meghan Keaney Anderson] [From HubSpot]

Three ways brands are using emotional analytics to connect with customers

Social media has dominated my working life since its inception.

It’s been fascinating to see the evolution of brand communication as it moved away from brands talking at people, towards the creation of a dialogue with customers, fans and followers.

But now it’s time for the next step.

Emotional analytics allows brands to connect with people on a deeper, more personal, level. Unlike sentiment analytics, which simply allocates responses into broad positive, neutral or negative categories, emotional analytics tells brands what people are feeling and why. This, I think, makes all the difference.

I might take to Twitter after a bad experience with customer service, and while the post could be defined as negative in a sentiment analysis report, how useful is that “negative” tag to the brand? My post will be lumped in with tons of other “negative” posts, depleted of all context which could make it actionable for the brand.

Without deeper context, the brand can’t solve any problems. It can’t see that certain business practices make me frustrated, or that many other customers are experiencing a similar frustration for the same reason.

Brands that don’t know why a customer feels the way they do can’t tailor their products and services to meet specific needs and wants.

How emotional analytics delivers results

By using emotional analytics, brands can see if there’s a disconnect between the emotions that we want the brand to create, and those that real customers are experiencing.

A brand’s marketing team may want to promote the brand as inspirational and exciting, but how can it tell if it’s really delivering on this? Emotional analytics looks at how people are feeling, examines what topics they are having feelings about, and allows marketers the chance to change the narrative. 

Three ways brands use emotional analytics

1. Personalisation 

As part of its 20th anniversary celebrations, EasyJetused emotional analytics to discover what its customers felt about previous journeys they had taken.

It then used these insights to send customers personalised emails featuring their own history with the airline.

These emails were opened 100% more than regular email campaigns, with the word “love” being the most common word used by recipients to describe how they felt about it.

2. Compliance

Bloomberg allows its clients to track the emotion in text and voice communications, helping them prevent market abuse and remain compliant.

Think of all the times that we don’t say what we mean. When we say we’re fine, when really were angry. By analysing our emotional responses, brands have a better chance of spotting any hidden meaning behind our messages.

Businesses can apply this technology to their own internal communications and identify irregularities before they become problems.

3. Improved experience 

We’re starting to see more wearables that track our emotional responses. For retailers, these offer a way to improve and tailor their in-store customer service – from sending assistance to frustrated shoppers to knowing which customers would be more open to special offers.

When eBay launched its pop-up store in late 2016, it wanted to track how people felt when they shopped for Christmas gifts. The answer? Stressed. 88% saw their heart rate jump by 32% during their shopping experience.

Ebay wanted to use this data to take the stress out of shopping, and use the emotional insights to show shoppers what products they had connected with. The ecommerce giant tracked this data using wearables and in-store experiences, but it could gather the same sort of data online using emotional analytics.

Emotional analytics: using humans to turn emotion into action

From managing a crisis to refining a customer’s retail experience - if you understand the emotion that your brand elicits from a customer, you can take positive action.

Using human insight to get under the skin of the data means you can turn analytics into action, transforming your marketing, customer service and experience to resonate with customers. You can win not just their heads, but their hearts.

[By Tamara Littleton] [From EConsultancy] 

Hyperlocal marketing will soar in 2017: 5 tips to stay on top

The conversation about local search is not a new one; marketers have been discussing the importance of targeting customers by location for the past decade. Recently, it has been pushed back into the industry forefront with the rise of hyperlocal search and its relationship to mobile. Google Trends clearly show a dramatic increase in “near me” queries, particularly since mid-2015.

Hyperlocal targeting, or marketing to customers within your area based upon their location, has the potential to help brands answer the immediate needs of their prospects. Understanding how to optimize your content for these users can provide brands with an excellent opportunity for success.

Google has also been showing signs of pushing people toward hyperlocal. Back in 2016, Barry Schwartz reported a noticeable reduction in the number of pages offered for Google Maps search results, suggesting an effort to narrow the results down to a smaller geographic area. Google wants to better serve users by personalizing their results based upon their exact location.

Brands that do not prepare for the impending hyperlocal trends may end up seeing a considerable drop in both online and in-person traffic. According to retailers, as many as 82 percent of customers research online before making a purchase, which includes those who end up making a purchase in-store.

A poor online presence can harm a brand’s reputation and visibility, thus hindering business growth. Understanding the rise of hyperlocal marketing will be an important key to business success in the near future.

The relationship between hyperlocal and mobile

The increased focus on hyperlocal results can in part be attributed to the explosion of growth in mobile adoption. Mobile searches surpassed desktop back in 2015, and usage has only continued to grow. At the same time, our understanding of the user’s intent — and the impact of the digital ecosystem and mobile devices on the buyer’s journey — has improved.

It is important to note here that the buyer’s journey is no longer a linear path of relatively predictable steps that consumers follow until they make a purchase. Instead, this path has been shattered into a series of high-intent touch points that users may hit in any order, on a variety of devices, before they convert. For brands to reach customers during these high-interest points, they must be able to accurately interpret the user’s intent for particular keywords and queries, then design content that fits with that micro-moment.

Between 2014 and 2015, Google saw a 2x increase in “near me” and “nearby” searches, with 80 percent of those searches occurring on mobile devices. This indicates a rise in searches with hyperlocal intent, and Google refers to these searches as “I-Want-to-Go moments.”

                   Source: Micro-Moments: Your Guide to Winning the Shift to Mobile

                   Source: Micro-Moments: Your Guide to Winning the Shift to Mobile

The rise in searches indicating an “I-Want-to-Go” micro-moment also explains why the local 3-pack generally includes valuable information (such as the address, business hours and a “Directions” button) for those interested in making a trip to the location. A single click on the name of the business will also bring up more information, including user reviews. Google designs their search engine results pages (SERP) to have the optimal user experience, and this includes making it easy for people interested in contacting a business to accomplish their goal.

For brands to optimize for this micro-moment, they must similarly consider the needs and understand the intent of customers interested in going to or contacting a business. This means adopting a mobile-first mindset, which includes using mobile-friendly site design, keeping contact information prominently featured and including click-to-call buttons. The more you work to understand the needs of your mobile user, the easier it will be to draw local traffic.

Let’s look at an example of hyperlocal mobile listings in Google. When searching for hotels in Foster City, Calif., we see mobile results that display up to four ads, followed by the local 3-pack, which includes a map and three listings. Within the local pack, Google is displaying filters, such as “Deals” or “Cheap,” to help guide the audience to refine their queries. There is also the ability to select check-in dates for availability, and the listings themselves display pricing and reviews.

These features provide opportunities for marketers to refine and match content to searcher intent, which will factor into how you optimize your content pages and your Google My Business Page. (I discuss these options further in the Tips section below.)

Notice that when we refine the search query to a specific part of Foster City (Emerald Hills), the search results become “hyperfocused” on the business results. A search for “hotels foster city emerald hills” gives us the only hotel in the area. A map is also provided, along with “in Google” options to get more information. Four call-to-action buttons (call, directions, share, website), along with the address and business overview, are all prominently displayed, driving the audience to further engage.

What follows are five tips to succeed with hyperlocal marketing.

1. Master the basics

For your marketing strategy to succeed, you need to make sure that you have your Google My Business page ready and optimized. Fill out every field relevant to your business, ensure that your page has high-quality and appealing pictures, and verify that your business is listed in all the correct categories within Google.

Remember, every element added into your Google My Business page can provide important signals to assist with hyperlocal ranking and audience targeting. Your Google profile will determine how your business appears on the local 3-pack, so each step that boosts the appeal of your organization’s page will be beneficial. Encourage past satisfied customers to leave reviews to improve your business’s reputation and increase the positioning within the Google 3-pack.

2. Focus on your city and things of interest in that area

Develop localized website content that would interest people in your area. If you run a restaurant in San Mateo, for example, your site should focus on issues related to food lovers in the area rather than general information that would interest people everywhere.

Your content can also focus on local points of interest, such as landmarks and destinations, that people might use when looking around the area. For example, in Washington, D.C., people might search for “restaurants near the White House.” This can boost your geolocation targeting and help your business sound more appealing to those looking around a particular area.

3. If you have multiple locations, create local landing pages for each

To maximize your appearance in search, you want to have a local landing page for each of your destinations. This will allow you to optimize the content for each place and develop content that is more personalized for customers in that specific area.

Use keywords related to your location, such as the name of your city or your ZIP code. Do keyword research to find which words are applicable to your business and would be the most beneficial. Optimizing your local landing pages for these keywords can help draw in more traffic.

4. Include any structured data markup that relates to your business on your content pages

In order to provide Google with as much information as possible about your business, you may want to consider incorporating structured data markup (also known as schema markup) on your website pages where appropriate. Using structured data markup, you can precisely define various business attributes, including business type, hours, address, latitude and longitude, phone number and more.

Although Google may be able to glean this information simply by crawling your content, there is some degree of guesswork involved in doing so. With structured data markup, you remove that guesswork and make it clear to Google exactly what information is being presented on your page.

With your data properly marked up, it becomes easier for your business to appear for relevant queries. Note that on both Google Maps and the local 3-pack, users are able to filter queries based on business hours — so you’ll want to define your business hours with markup to help ensure you’re eligible to appear in these filtered results.

If you have multiple locations, mark up each one with the appropriate markup to ensure that potential clients can find your location nearest to them.

5. Track your progress on a local level

Once you begin to optimize your content for hyperlocal targeting, you need to make sure that you track your progress within the right location. This means monitoring the local search engine results pages serving your particular area. It will do you little good to monitor clicks and ranks for “Italian restaurants near me” on a national scale, for example, when you just want to rank for the keyword in the Springfield, Illinois area.

Instead, track your keyword rankings at your location of choice. The closer you can get to your exact business location, the more accurate your information will be. Use this kind of data to gain insight into the online local search experience of your target audience. You can then use this insight to guide your strategy as you move forward.

Final thoughts

Hyperlocal search has begun to grow as local search and the I-Want-to-Go micro-moment rise to a prominent position within search engines and the minds of consumers. Incorporating these tips in your local strategy will establish your brand strongly within this space and position you well for success moving forward.

[By Jim Yu] [From Search Engine Land]

14 of the Best Brands on Instagram Right Now

For a while now, it's been clear that Instagram isn't just a social network for selfies and brunch pics. In fact, Instagram has a whopping 600 active monthly million users as of December 2016, the last 100 million of which joined in the prior six months.

In a world where visual content remains a crucial part of any business' marketing strategy, Instagram presents a unique opportunity to visually represent your brand, celebrate its personality, and keep it top-of-mind for all those users who scroll through their Instagram feeds every single day.

Although they're few and far between, there are some brands out there -- in every industry, and with every type of target customer -- who are doing really, really well on Instagram. 

Ready to get inspired? Check out this list of brands that are thriving on Instagram right now, and what about their posts sets them apart. For each of these brands, we've included examples of their best posts. For some of them, we've also included their most popular Instagram post of all time in terms of engagement (i.e. combined total of likes and comments) thanks to data from Instagram analytics and management platform Iconosquare, along with an explanation of why it's so engaging.

14 of the Top Instagram Business Accounts

1) Califia Farms

Califia Farms natural beverage products have some of the most attractive packaging we've come across. In fact, it's so iconic that it won top honors in the global packaging design category from Beverage World Magazine.  Instagram is a perfect platform to showcase that cool, curvy bottle, and the folks at Califia don't shy away from doing just that --most of the brand's posts feature the beverage's containers in some way, whether they're the main subject of the photo, or more of an accessory in the context of the active, healthy lifestyle Califia's buyer personas love.

Something Califia does really well on Instagram is create fun, playful videos and GIFs. Check out this one, which they used to teach viewers how to used steamed non-dairy milk for coffee cocktails:

And this one, which is just plain fun to watch:

Take a sip, add a shot + enjoy your Ginger Lime Marg.

From Califia Farms (@califiafarms) ·

2) #FollowMeTo

Ever seen those photos of a woman leading a man by the hand in all different parts of the world? That pose was made famous by a couple named Murad and Natalia Osmann for their #FollowMeTo project. Their Instagram account is a mix of stunning images of the classic #FollowMeTo pose that have been edited beautifully, as well as some really interesting behind-the-scenes photos of their world travels -- including some fun photos of the "making of" the famous pose.

3) Lorna Jane

If your brand were a person, how would you describe its personality? Australian activewear company Lorna Jane has done an awesome job answering this important branding question with its Instagram content. Spend just a few seconds scrolling through these photos, and you'll quickly be able to name the target Lorna Jane buyer: a young, sporty, twenty- or thirty-something woman who values looking good while maintaining an active lifestyle.

The images posted by Lorna Jane, which often show the brand's clothing and accessories, as well as images of women who embody its target buyer persona, are colorful, playful, and inspirational, which is a perfect representation of the brand's essence -- in other words, its heart, soul, and spirit.

4) Letterfolk

Letterfolk is a small business run by a husband-and-wife team who create and sell beautiful, handcrafted felt letterboards. Each letterboard comes with a full set of characters so people can personalize the walls of their homes, which means endless room for creativity. Instagram is the perfect platform for them to inspire customers and aspiring customers with real customers' boards, as well as ideas they've come up with and staged themselves. Their Instagram content is funny, thought-provoking, and relatable -- all recipes for shareability.

Most engaging post of all time:

                 [Click to see the post.]

                 [Click to see the post.]

Why it's engaging: Not only is this photo showing a funny and clever message, but it's also very, very relatable for parents of young children -- a very large audience and also one of Letterfolk's target customers. It's also a very taggable photo, so the comment section is rife with Instagram users mentioning their friends' usernames so they can share in the fun.

5) Paris Opera Ballet

The city of Paris is known for many lovely things -- wine, cheese, and art are just a few. But that last one, art, is photographically captured on the Instagram account of the Paris Opera Ballet, or Ballet de l'Opera de Paris.

The account captures candid images of the ballet's dancers during performances, rehearsals, and backstage, giving viewers an artful glimpse at what goes into the ballet's productions. It also makes use of something called banners on Instagram, when larger photos can be divided into multiple pictures to create a tiled banner of smaller photos. (There are several apps available to pull that off, but to start, check out Tile Pic). 

The way this account highlights performance venues is noteworthy, too. The lower-right photo below provides a look at the theatre when it's completely empty, conveying a calm-before-the-storm feel that can generate excitement for productions.

6) Tentsile

"Stunning" is the first word that comes to mind when I scroll through Tentsile's Instagram photos. The company sells tree tents, what they call "portable treehouses" that will "literally take your camping experience to a new level." Their Instagram is full of shockingly beautiful scenes of their product in use in all matter of terrain: rainforests, mountains, beaches... you name it. 

Most engaging post of all time:

                                     [Click here to see the post.]

                                     [Click here to see the post.]

Why it's engaging: Contests draw engagement: It's as simple as that. In this particular case, Tentsile used an Instagram contest as a co-marketing play with a few of their partners by asking followers to follow three partner accounts to be eligible to win. In addition to following those accounts, they also asked people to Like the photo and "tag your 3 best adventures buddies in the comments below." That's a great way to expand reach and do co-marketing on Instagram.

7) Desenio

Look at the colors of any well known brand and you'll notice that they use the same colors over and over again -- in their logo, on their website, and in their social media images. Using the same colors over and over again is a great way to establish brand consistency and help consumers become familiar with your brand. That's what the Swedish online art print company Desenio does beautifully on their Instagram account. They use a lot of blues, greens, greys, and blacks, which evoke senses of calm, healing, luxury, and trust.

Most engaging post of all time:

             [Click here to see the post.]

             [Click here to see the post.]

Why it's engaging: At first glance, this post doesn't seem to stick out much from Desenio's other Instagram content. But what's unique about it is the universally relatable subject: a really beautiful, comfortable-looking bed in a beautiful bedroom, combined with hints of life like a laptop and some munchies. Many of the comments included exclamations of how beautiful and inspiring the setup is and how it's the commenters' "dream bedroom." To increase your comment rate, follow Desenio's lead by posting images of things and situations your followers aspire to in their own lives.

8) No Your City

The folks at No Your City produce a documentary series that captures the fascinating stories of people all over the world, but mostly in New York. The brand's Instagram account, though, is less about these stories and more about showcasing gorgeous images from the city itself.

What we love about these photos is how closely they follow the best practices for taking great photos with your phone. Each one of No Your City's photos seems to follow at least one of these recommendations, whether it's focusing on a single subject, embracing negative space, playing with reflections, or finding interesting perspectives. The photos are consistently stunning, and as a result, the brand has built a solid following.

9) Divinity LA Bracelets

Here's an example of a small business performing very well on Instagram. A beaded bracelet could have any theme. 

Most engaging post of all time:

Why it's engaging: Caption "Each Sea Turtle and Hatchling bracelet sold helps a Hatchling make it to the ocean." People tagged their friends to show them the cute sea turtles, or to say "WE NEED TO SAVE THEM!"

10) WeWork

WeWork provides shared office spaces in cities and countries all over the globe -- so it only makes sense that they should post a lot of photos showcasing their beautiful co-working communities. They do an amazing job photographing the spaces in ways that make followers like us wish we could jump into the photos and plop down with our laptops and a coffee.

They don't stop at posting photos of their shared workspaces, though. WeWork uses Instagram to capture and share moments from some of the largest branded events that members (and their friends) look forward to all year, like WeWork Summer Camp. Hashtags are used to label these events -- like #WWCamp -- and to encourage customers to share their own photos of the spaces, using WeWork's memorable slogan: "Do what you love."

Our favorite is the #DogsOfWeWork hashtag. Not only is it awesome because, well, dogs, but it's also a great way for the company to promote their laid-back culture while also inviting customers to interact with their brand on social. Near the end of each year, they actually choose the best photo submissions to the #DogsOfWeWork hashtag on Instagram and Facebook and put together a calendar for the following year.

Most engaging post of all time:

             [Click here to see the post.]

             [Click here to see the post.]

Why it's engaging: For all their beautiful photos of people and office spaces and dogs, some of you might be surprised that their most engaging photo of all time is a picture of a simple quote. This goes to show the power of motivational quotes on Instagram, which tend to perform very well. Instagram is, after all, a platform for inspiration -- and simple quotes that are inspiring and easy to digest are often welcome in a user's feed. Use free design tools like Canva, PicMonkey, or even PowerPoint to create these images easily.

11) Finfolk Productions

Ever wanted to be a mermaid? You can come pretty close, thanks to companies like FinFolk Productions. Believe it or not, silicone mermaid tails you can put on and swim around in are actually quite trendy in certain areas and for certain age groups -- typically young girls, which is one of Instagram's most . Finfolk Productions' Instagram feed is full of beautifully shot photos that play into the mermaid fantasy by looking more like mythical art than real people.

Most engaging post of all time:

               [Click here to see the post]

               [Click here to see the post]

Why it's engaging: One of the reasons this post was so popular is because it was accompanied by a long, heartfelt caption written by the company's founders -- which prompted an outpouring of supportive comments from their loyal followers:

Wish you could be part of our world? The good news is, you already are- just by being here! We might not always have custom silicone slots or Mythic tails readily available, but it's only because we are busy constantly creating and making mermaid tails for every type of mermaid, in every size or color, gender or nationality. Our company focuses exclusively on providing the highest quality mermaid tails in the world. Some companies may tell you they can make you something faster, or cheaper, but you will never find a more perfectly crafted mermaid tail than right here at Finfolk. A tail is an investment of time, money, and emotions- each one is unique and beautiful, just like you. We're here to make sure the end result makes it all entirely worth it. 
So whether you're just swimming by to enjoy the art, or grab a pair of leggings, or maybe you've invested and are patiently waiting to become one of the select few in the world with a fully custom silicone mermaid tail from Finfolk Productions, we love you and want to thank you for being part of our world. Stick around, we've got so much more to show you still. A&B
#finfolk #finfolkproductions #thelittlemermaid #littlemermaid #ariel #partofyourworld #mermaid #mermaidtail #disney #mermaidlife #finfolkmermaid

Commenters wrote that they love the founders for their dedication to beauty and quality, that they love the designs, and that they can't wait until they have a tail of their own. What it all comes down to, though, is brand loyalty. 

12) Shiseido

Shiseido started out as Japan's first Western-style pharmacy 140 years ago and has since developed into selling high-quality brightening and anti-aging skincare, makeup, and fragrance products. Their company mission is to inspire a life of beauty and culture -- a mission they portray beautifully through their Instagram content. If you take a look at their feed, you'll notice they post three images at a time so the posts appear in a row pattern on their larger feed -- a very clever and original way to organize their content.

Most engaging post of all time:

Why it's engaging: Back in late March 2016, Instagram started rolling out the ability to upload 60-second videos -- and we've seen some amazing Instagram videos from brandsever since, like the one above from Shiseido. But don't be intimidated by highly professional Instagram videos like theirs. You can post highly engaging videos on Instagram without a huge video team or a bottomless budget. Here's a step-by-step guide for making great videos on Instagram without breaking the bank.

13) Made in Sephora

Made in Sephora's brand personality is playful, colorful, feminine. They do a wonderful job of characterizing this personality in their Instagram content, using bright colors, patterns, and fun captions. The caption on the second photo below, for example, reads: "An easy-peasy smoky eye anyone? ;) #madeinsephora #smokyeyes #makeupaddict". They also diversify their feed with a lot of fun Instagram video content that gives off the same playful vibes.

Most engaging post of all time:

Why it's engaging: Similar to Tentsile, Made in Sephora used an Instagram contest to expand their reach and increase engagement on their post. In this particular case, the contest was part of the company's "Monday Giveaway" series, and it offered followers the chance to win a prize by tagging two friends in the comments with a specific hashtag.

14) Staples

The folks at Staples do a lot of things right when it comes to Instagram content, but there are two that particularly grab our attention -- engaging with followers by asking questions and including calls-to-action in captions, and staying true to the brand's playful-yet-practical personality.

When it comes to engaging Staples' followers, it's all about asking questions in the photo captions. For example, check out the second photo below featuring a series of emojis -- its caption reads, "That's pretty much our day. How about yours? Tell us in emojis." Scroll through the comments on that photo, and you'll see followers had a lot of fun responses. The caption paired with the first photo below -- the one with the cupcakes -- asks users to tag someone who they want to thank.

Staples does a great job staying true to brand by posting fun photos such as the "2016" shot written in office supplies and using the #OfficeHack hashtag to engage their following.

The folks at Staples also use Instagram to post cute videos and GIFs, like the one below that promotes its Office by Martha Stewart line:

Which are your favorite business-run Instagram accounts? Share with us in the comments.

[By Lindsay Kolowich] [From Hubspot]

Making the most of multichannel (with data’s help)

In today’s environment, you can pretty much forget about creating a simplistic, linear customer journey. It’s a lot more complicated than that.

The reason for this is that your prospects are highly active and mobile, operating across a whole variety of different devices, channels, networks and platforms.

In the UK, more than six out of 10 adults use at least two devices every day. And some one in four use three devices a day. Internet users have on average over five social media accounts.

The same person will interact with your brand at different times in different ways. And then there are those who are talking about you and not to you. 96% of people discussing brands online don’t follow the brand’s owned profiles.

The goal for marketers in this fragmented environment is to strive for a single customer view. You need to bring together all the multifaceted complexity of each person’s online footprint into one manageable, marketable unit.

In this post, we’ll show how marketers can make the most out of multichannel by gaining access to and harnessing all the data available about their prospect. We’ll see how data management platforms are the key to making sense of all the information now available to us.

The multichannel conundrum

An excellent explanation of the multichannel conundrum that modern marketers face was put forward as far back as 2011 by Tom Hoffman of Customer Strategist:

"It's become the norm that customers interact with companies through an assortment of channels. The more channels they use to connect with a given company, the higher their potential loyalty and spend. Conversely, the more frustrated they become when their experiences are inconsistent across channels when interacting with their preferred providers.
Unfortunately, few companies have equipped themselves to monitor, manage, or optimize their customers' multichannel experiences, thus increasing the chances of dissatisfaction, churn, and decreased customer value by failing to meet customer expectations."

In the five years since that, the challenges have only been exacerbated by the vast proliferation of data. Internet users are generating information about themselves at an alarming rate. One estimate puts it at 2.5 quintillion bytes a day.

Enormous volumes of untapped data

Unsurprisingly, this glut of disparate data is causing real headaches for marketers. We know that only 12% of data collected by businesses is currently analysed.

The sheer volume means that many of the insights that could be extracted and exploited are going untapped.

Silos and archaic systems

Yes, we’re still talking about silos in 2016. It’s the perennial problem of different departmental data banks, separated by virtual (or co-operational) walls.

Once again the issue is magnified by the flood of data now on hand - it’s more essential than ever to rationalise, streamline and combine databases.

Duplication of customers

Inevitably, siloed data leads to duplicate records, with customers existing in different places and inconsistent audience profiles resulting in disjointed marketing efforts.

It’s time to think of each customer not as an entry in each database, but as a single profile accessible to everyone in the business.

How data can help you to make the most of multichannel

The good news is this: There is a new weapon in the modern marketer’s arsenal. The data management platform is designed to address these very challenges and make data work the way it should.

Matching customer identities is the key to unlocking value from the plethora of data available to us today. Data management platforms do this by harmonising data from across multiple channels - including transaction data, online profiles, interaction records, cookies, device IDs and more.

Second and third party data is also incorporated, to build a single, silo-busting view of the customer.

Marketers are increasingly taking up the new technology. In one survey 35% of marketers in Europe had started using one within the previous year, and 26% within the last two years.

And it’s not just about programmatic adverts - 60% of DMP users harness them for more than just display advertising. In fact 55% of DMP users say it helps ‘create a targeted profile of the audience’ - the power to accurately segment and pinpoint audiences is a crucial benefit. 

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding, with 64% of marketers who use DMPs employing them ‘to drive higher ROI’. 

Overcome the multichannel conundrum

The multichannel conundrum is real, but it can be solved by the clever and intelligent use of data management platforms to make sense of the vast volumes of data generated.

By combining all available insights about each prospect or customer into one single view, you will gain the power to deliver an engaging and effective customer experience across all channels. 

Takeaways:

  • Today’s customer is operating across multiple channels, devices and networks, making the simplistic linear customer journey an outdated concept.
  • Focus your data management efforts on building a single, unified view of each customer.
  • Bring together information from different first, second and third-party data points.
  • Silos must be broken down and duplication of customers eradicated.
  • Data management platforms are designed to defeat the multichannel conundrum by assembling data from multiple origins into a central hub.

[By Chloe Young] [From EConsultancy]

More than 60 percent of Snapchat users skip ads on the platform

Snapchat has been promoting its ad products and encouraging marketers to pay to play. But the ad-supported revenue model doesn’t seem to work well for the platform as it is supposed to be, at least for now.

New stats from customer acquisition firm Fluent show that 69 percent of the 3,327 American adults surveyed online skip ads on Snapchat “always” or “often,” and that number goes up to 80 percent among 18- to 24-year-old, a target group that many marketers want to reach. Although Fluent doesn’t have ad abandonment rate for other social networks like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, its CMO Jordan Cohen thinks that 69 percent is a “big number for ad-supported companies.”

And most Snapchat users don’t consume news content on the platform. The survey reveals that 61 percent don’t follow any news organizations on Discover, while 50 percent don’t follow sports like ESPN and 57 percent don’t follow entertainment brands like E! and Daily Mail.

The reason boils down to what users are actually using Snapchat for, said Cohen. “I asked lots of millennials this question. It’s really about exclusive short, fun content,” he explained. “In addition to communicating with friends, they follow celebrities. They don’t really engage with ads or mainstream news outlets.”

Snapchat’s parent company Snap Inc. said in its first SEC filing that it generates revenue primarily through advertising. Currently, it offers three ad units: lenses, geofilters and Snap ads that are vertical full-screen videos. As a media buyer, David Song, managing director for agency Barker, thinks that earned is much better than paid on Snapchat, although his clients occasionally purchase geofilters.

“Honestly, I don’t think advertising works on Snapchat. If I see an ad from Taco Bell, I will skip it immediately,” said Song. “Snapchat is lovely for the end user, but it doesn’t know how to sell its ad products. Previously, it had a set rate instead of impression-based buys, and now, it is switching to a CPM-based model. In comparison, clients are very familiar with how to buy ads on Instagram Stories because it is part of Facebook Audience Network.”

Snapchat reportedly offers various ad packages around major events. For the Super Bowl package, the minimum ad spend was $225,000. It’s unclear what ad units marketers can get from those packages. Ivonne Kinser, director of digital marketing for Avocados from Mexico tested Snap ads for the first time through a partnership with Tastemade during this year’s Super Bowl, where the brand placed a 10-second video on the publisher’s Discover channel. This Snap ad saw a swipe up rate of 9.8 percent, compared to Tastemade’s benchmark of 7.5 percent, as well as a view duration of three minutes and 22 seconds versus the publisher’s benchmark of 2.5 seconds, said Kinser.

The media buy is based on a cost-per-view model. Without the Tastemade partnership, Avocados from Mexico would not have been able to afford Snapchat ads, Kinser noted. “For us, Snap ads are cost-prohibited,” she said. “I take pride on our approach. Many in the industry may think that we have pockets as deep as the largest consumer packaged goods brands. But the truth is that right now, our budgets are too small to afford Snap ads within a traditional media buy.”

From a creative perspective, Liam Copeland, director of decision science for Movement Strategy, argues that Snapchat ads carry value for fashion and entertainment brands. The trick is to film videos on iPhones using the front facing camera with the talent front and center — and with no branding until three to five seconds in, according to Copeland.

“The more organic the ad feels and the later the branding appears, the more likely a user is to swipe up to view long-form content or web content,” he said.

When it comes to targeting and measurement, Fluent’s Cohen believes that Snapchat’s major challenge is lack of ownership of marketing data, although the platform recently formed a partnership with Oracle to measure impact of ads on sales in stores.

“Facebook and Twitter also use third-party data, but those partnerships are complimentary to their proprietary datasets,” he said. “I don’t think Snapchat provides much proprietary data at the moment.”

A Snapchat representative said that the company is currently offering 10 targeting capabilities, including email, interest-based targeting and device ID matching.

[By Yuyu Chen] [From Digiday]

Prepping SEO for 2017: it’s all about the ROI

Tracking return on investment from SEO can be tricky, especially since it often assists other marketing channels. But columnist Janet Driscoll Miller lays out a plan for proving organic search's ROI and securing budget for the next fiscal year.

Fall is in the air, and that can only mean one thing for most digital marketers: budget season.

The approaching fourth quarter is often the time when companies begin the budget and planning process for the next fiscal year. And it seems that ROI, while always considered a top priority, has renewed importance now. Advertising Age recently reported that intense demand for ROI is causing companies to replace their CMOs at a rapid rate — as much as a 48-percent turnover in top retailers.

You’d think that ROI would be easy to track on digital, right? Compared to offline media, digital clearly has a tracking advantage. But integrating tracking correctly can be difficult, especially for what may be influencing channels and not the final purchase channel, which can be the case at times for organic search and SEO.

So what’s the answer? How do you integrate SEO into the tracking mix and prove the organic search channel’s ROI? How you’ll track ROI may differ based on the tools and data you have access to in your organization.

Determine your attribution model

If your organization hasn’t yet determined the attribution model to use, that’s where you’ll need to start. The attribution model is the basis for allocating credit to each marketing channel. There is no correct or incorrect attribution model or one that applies to all organizations. Each model is different, and you’ll need to decide which model best fits your business.

The most common attribution models are single-source attribution, measuring first touch or last touch. First-touch, as the name implies, gives all credit to the first channel or lead source that brought the customer or lead to your website. The first-touch channel is recorded and then never changed. By contrast, the last-touch attribution model credits the last channel the customer or lead used to come to your website. The last-touch channel is always updating as the customer or lead continues to interact with your site over time.

In part, these attribution models are most common because many measurement tools, like marketing automation or CRM (customer relationship management), often only have one field to store attribution data. Unfortunately, first- or last-touch attribution essentially ignores all of the channels that may have influenced a customer or lead in the process.

If you want to use a model that gives some level of credit to all channels that may have influenced along the way, consider a fractional attribution model, such as linear or time decay. Linear attribution credits all influencing channels equally, whereas time decay gives the most credit to the most recent channel and the least credit to the oldest channel for that customer or lead.

To track each lead’s or customer’s fractional attribution, however, you will likely need a new field created in marketing automation and/or CRM. I’ve often created what I call a “running lead source” field, which appends the last lead source to the end of the field every time a new channel is encountered by this lead:

I can then download my leads into an Excel spreadsheet and break apart and examine the array of data in this field. I also find this approach useful for reviewing which content pieces had an impact on the buying cycle for leads.

Set up Google Search Console

Ideally, your website(s) already have Google Search Console (GSC) set up. And I expect that for many, it goes without saying that GSC is an essential SEO tool, helping you to understand measurements that you can’t typically ascertain on your own.

For instance, when we advertise using Google AdWords or other paid search platforms, the platforms provide us with impression data and click through rate (CTR). This helps us to understand how many people, when presented with our message, seemed interested enough to click through.

With organic search, however, it’s a bit more difficult. You don’t know how many people searched for your keywords and the CTR — unless you use GSC.

However, there are a few pitfalls to avoid with GSC:

  • GSC only keeps the last 90 days of search history. Be sure to download CSVs of data from GSC before that data is erased.
  • HTTP and HTTPS must be tracked under separate GSC website properties. Ideally, you should move to HTTPS for SEO reasons too, but if you still use both HTTP and HTTPS, you’ll need to have a GSC website property for each and then combine impressions and clicks data from each. However, do not combine or average percentage data, like click-through rate. You’d basically be taking an average of an average, which is inaccurate. You’ll need to calculate this on your own after combining the raw impressions and clicks first.
  • Mobile sites and desktop sites may be tracked separately. If you have a separate mobile website (not necessarily a responsive site) such as m.domain.com, then you’ll need a separate website property in GSC to track it.
  • Subdomains must be tracked on their own GSC website property. I know, not ideal. But Google clarifies how GSC sees domains in this highlight:

If you have to create multiple website properties in GSC, you can now at least tie them together using Property Sets, which allow you to see the data in a combined report.

Optimize website analytics

Whether you use Google Analytics (GA) or another website analytics package, website analytics data is incredibly helpful for understanding ROI. With GA, there are several steps I recommend to help track ROI:

  • Add your site’s domain to the referral exclusion list. Recently, I shared how a tracking change in Universal GA causes many sites to incorrectly attribute some traffic to the site’s own domain as a referral. Fixing this problem for one of my clients caused them to see an uptick of 16 percent week over week in organic search traffic that had been previously attributed as self-referral.
  • Set up goals. Goals can be any call to action on your website, but for ROI, you’ll likely want to track goals that are directly attributable to lead generation or purchase, such as a request for a quote or even a newsletter signup. Remember to be judicious in how you use your goals, because each reporting view is limited to 20 goals.
  • Set up e-commerce tracking. I expect most e-commerce companies already do this, but if not, be sure to set up e-commerce tracking in GA. It can give you an immediate view into actual sales from various channels.
  • Use the Attribution Modeling tool. Setting up goals and e-commerce tracking also helps provide more information in the GA Attribution Modeling tool. This tool allows you to compare various attribution models and determine which channels are performing best.
  • Connect GSC to GA. It’s helpful to have much of GSC’s data directly in GA.

If you want to get really sophisticated, you can try to upload your offline sales data into GA as well, using Data Import. Data can be uploaded manually or via the API; so if you don’t have a developer who can help you, it can be a highly manual process. Data Import will then reveal much of what you need to know about sales data directly in GA, including lifetime value. However, it still does not allow you to personally identify specific customers or prospects — just overall trends.

Integrate marketing automation and CRM

While website analytics are helpful, they cannot identify individual buyers and how those individual buyers found your site. Also, it’s difficult to ascertain lifetime value of a marketing channel when you can’t ascertain the lifetime value of an individual customer through a given marketing platform. That’s where your marketing automation and CRM tools come in.

Unlike Google Analytics, which dictates in its terms of use that you cannot have personally identifiable information, marketing automation and CRM are all about personally identifiable information.

Earlier I mentioned the running lead source field I created in my Marketo and Salesforce.com platforms. This allows me to pull data from Salesforce, along with lead status and opportunity and value information to determine which lead sources contributed to actual qualified leads, opportunities and total sales.

Begin to measure and report

In every case I’ve seen, organic search plays a significant role, if not the most important role, in conversion. Here’s the model I like to use to demonstrate the value of SEO in an ROI report, showing all of the stages that an organic search visitor likely came through. I use this particular table in Excel to calculate B2B ROI from a first- or last-touch attribution model:

Another good report to run to determine the value of each channel is separate from ROI — Average Order Value (AOV) and Average Lifetime Value. If you are an e-commerce company, then you can likely track this by customer in your e-commerce platform. But when you’re tracking offline sales, you may need to calculate this yourself.

If you use Data Import for GA, you can track AOV in GA. Average lifetime value may be more difficult to track directly in GA, so you can use this table to help you calculate that:

Once you have a list of all of your customers from the organic channel, you can determine what the average lifetime value is across the organic search channel by dividing the total lifetime value of all customers in this channel combined by total customers in this channel.

These tables are important because, when run against other channels, you’ll often find that organic search has high values. This can certainly help justify your value and the value of your service to the company.

If you use a fractional attribution model, however, you can’t really use the table above, as you might double-count conversions and sales against multiple channels. That’s where things get a bit more complicated. You’ll likely need to assign a percentage value to each channel that touched the customer, then only attribute a percentage of that sale’s value to each channel.

Use conversion rate optimization to improve organic conversion

Once you finally know these numbers from organic search, begin focusing on how to improve them. If you’re driving lots of organic traffic to your site, but that traffic isn’t meeting your site goals (lead generation or purchase), then consider how you can test improvements to your site through conversion rate optimization techniques.

Since our ultimate measurement is ROI, it’s not enough for marketers to consider SEO successful just because organic site traffic is high. ROI isn’t about traffic — it’s about revenue. Do everything you can to improve that progression from organic search visit to conversion so that those visitors have a greater opportunity to influence your ROI.

[By Janet Driscoll Miller][From Search Engine Land]

13 uses for keyword research to help you win in the search engines

Google may have shifted its focus from keywords to "entities" in recent years, but columnist Stoney deGeyter reminds us that keyword research is still an important and useful part of the SEO process.

Ever since Google rolled out Hummingbird in 2013, there has been some question about the value of keyword research. Moving from a keyword-focused process to a topic-focused process has led some to devalue the long, arduous process of keyword research. Many wonder if it’s even worth the time.

After all, if Google no longer looks at keywords (Hummingbird), and people no longer search with keywords (voice search), we don’t need to research keywords, right?

Wrong!

As with most predictions of the death of anything related to web marketing — how’s that fork in guest blogging going? — more often than not, they turn out to be false. And in the case of keyword research, it turns out that it’s just as important today as it was in 2012. Maybe more so.

No, I don’t have a keyword research tool to sell you. But I do want to make sure that you don’t take a pass on keyword research because you think it’s no longer relevant to today’s SEO.

I could give you a dozen reasons why keyword research is still important. Oh look, I have! Plus one more for good measure. :)

1. Topical niche domination

There is no better way to get a full handle on any topic you want to dominate than to perform keyword research on that topic. Whether you want to write one exhaustive article or a series of articles, keyword research will show you every possible nuance of information that searchers are interested in.

Not only will keyword research help you write content for your products or services, but it will also give you plenty of ammunition for all your other content, such as blog posts, e-books, white papers, infographics and more.

2. Answering burning questions

Part of dominating a topical niche is answering questions that searchers have. There are great sites such as Quora and Clarity, where people ask questions that need answers, and social media is also a good place to monitor. But people still ask questions to search engines, and that presents an opportunity for you to provide the answer.

Due to low search volume, keyword phrases that are questions tend to get ignored. After all, you want to optimize where the money is! But don’t disregard these questions altogether. They can be the backbone of your blog content.

3. Making existing content more robust

You can always improve your content, am I write? (See what I did there?) Using your keywords provides ample opportunity to improve existing content, whether it is optimized text, a blog post or something else.

I’m not suggesting you rework your content just to add in more keywords for rankings. Instead, I’m saying you can use keywords to expand the depth and breadth of your content. Keywords can help you add in new information to keep content current or fill in some missing pieces that were not included and should be.

Remember, frequently searched keywords change frequently. Words that didn’t show up in research a year ago might be popular today. Continuing to perform keyword research to update your content keeps you current and allows you not only to make your content more robust but also to keep it evergreen.

4. Learning your customers’ “language”

Almost every business has a handle on the industry lingo. They know what their products and services are called, as well as the language used to refer to what they do. But what many businesses don’t have a handle on is the language used by those who are less familiar with the product or those outside the industry.

Keyword research uncovers the nuances of product descriptions, and even the problems that are in need of a solution. When you only use your known industry lingo, you miss the opportunity to meet the needs (let alone get the attention of) the rest of the world that is in need of your solutions. Why? Because they are looking based on their understanding, not yours.

Keyword research will let you see how potential customers view your product or service and write content that speaks the same language as them. This lessens the learning curve and keeps visitors more engaged with your solutions.

5. Improving your website’s navigation

One of the first orders of business for many of the sites we work on is using keyword research to improve the site’s navigation. Not only do we use keywords to establish new pages of content based on what searchers need, but those very same keywords become the link text for the navigation options.

This is just another step to learning — and using — your customer’s language to meet their needs. When visitors land on your site, having a navigation that uses the terms they searched helps them find the content they want.

When they don’t see familiar words, you increase the amount of time it takes for visitors to get the information they are looking for, which can lead to site fatigue. Too much of that and visitors leave in search for easier grounds.

6. New product or service research

When performing keyword research, it’s important you don’t stay so narrow that you only find keywords that are relevant for you today. By broadening your search a bit, you can uncover information that can help you expand your product or service offerings for a more robust business tomorrow.

Years ago, I had a client that sold bags of all kinds. Our keyword research indicated that many searchers were also interested in laptop bags. This opened up a huge opportunity for new business that they were not already targeting (or at least targeting effectively).

Keyword research can show you valuable new opportunities to offer products and services that you currently don’t have. That doesn’t mean you jump on those right away, but you can keep them in the back of your mind for when you’re ready to expand.

7. Finding high-volume opportunities

When it comes to delivering traffic to your website, there is nothing more compelling than optimizing for frequently searched keywords. This is one of the metrics that gives keywords value. No sense optimizing for keywords no one is searching for, right?

Optimizing for high-volume keywords gives you an opportunity to get a lot of traffic to your site, which can be a boon for business. Word of caution, though: Volume alone isn’t worth justifying the optimization of a phrase. You also have to look at the quality of traffic a keyword will deliver, among other things. But when the stars align, volume can be good. Really good!

8. Finding non-competitive long-tail opportunities

On the flip side of that, sometimes there are some highly profitable opportunities with the less competitive (and usually lower-volume) phrases. I’m talking low rather than no volume here. As long as a phrase has a potential to deliver traffic, it’s worth considering for inclusion in your optimization campaign.

Many times, these low-volume phrases are also very low on the competition scale, which can signal a big opportunity to create content where no one else has it. And that content can deliver rankings for which no one is currently competing.

Optimize for enough of these low-competition phrases, and you may find that collectively, they deliver more traffic more quickly than the high-volume phrases.

9. Increasing click-throughs from SERPs

Because keyword optimization is really all about creating content that uses the same language as your visitors, it’s important for you to use your keywords in a way that will entice visitors to click from the search results to your website.

This is where title tag and meta description optimization comes in. Don’t optimize just for search engine rankings. Additionally, write enticing title and meta description tags that compel searchers to click your result over competitors who are also ranked on the same page of the search results.

10. Understanding the searcher’s needs

Aside from getting the click from search results to your page, you also need to deliver searchers to the page that best fits the intent of their search. Keyword research can help with this.

We often think of keyword research as the process of uncovering phrases, but it is also the process of understanding them. It can often prove useful to perform a search for your keywords and assess the results. Follow a few links and look at the content. If all the results show similar content, this gives you a good idea of what searchers are looking for. If the content varies significantly, then perhaps even Google doesn’t know what searchers want.

When you can determine what information a specific searcher is looking for, you then have an opportunity to drive them to the… well, that’s my next point:

11. Delivering searchers to the most relevant pages

Only when you know the searcher’s needs will you be able to send them to a page that meets it. Not every search for a similar keyword wants the same thing, so you have to make sure to have content based on the need for a particular phrase.

Some searchers will be researching, some buying, some shopping and some just looking for how-tos. Each of these needs requires different content. By delivering the right content for the searcher, you will keep them engaged with your site and have the best chance of turning them into a customer.

12. Assessing your competition

While keyword research itself doesn’t often give you any information on your competition, you can take your keywords and use them for competitive research.

Use your keywords to find out what keywords your competitors are optimizing for or bidding on. There are plenty of third-party tools that will let you do that, or you can just plug them into the search results and see what you find. While knowledge itself doesn’t help you overcome the competition, it can be used to produce a strategy that will.

13. Establishing expectations of success

One of the most important factors in creating an effective digital marketing strategy is setting the right expectations. Without knowing what to expect, in terms of what success looks like and when it will be achieved, there is simply no way to “win” at web marketing.

Armed with the keyword knowledge that you get above, you can set some expectations and metrics for success. This can be important for keeping the right people happy and feeling good about how the campaign is going.

So I hope I have wiped away all doubt you have had about the value of keyword research. By taking the time to invest in keyword research, you not only get a list of keywords to optimize, but you can get the information necessary to ensure a successful web marketing campaign.

The Marketing Value of Publishing Niche Content

When it comes to content marketing, there are a couple of different strategic directions you can pursue. You can choose to publish a bunch of general content and attract a large volume of low-returning traffic, or you can publish very specific content and appeal to a lower volume of higher-returning traffic. Have you considered the latter?

What is Niche Content?

In the midst of writing and publishing content, it’s easy to feel like your efforts are falling on deaf ears. However, the data clearly shows that content plays a direct role in the purchase decisions of customers.

Unfortunately, many marketers are pursuing strategies where they try to please everyone. As you can guess, this rarely goes well. In order to generate healthy returns from your content, it’s much more important that you identify a niche and address the needs and pain points of this audience.

But what does niche content look like? Well, what better way to understand it than by looking at an example? Here are two: ThisGiftsForMen.com and Killerspin.com. The first is a website dedicated to gift giving ideas for men, while the second is a website all about table tennis and ping-pong. There’s no mistaking what either of these websites do. While they only appeal to a sub-segment of the population, they do a fantastic job of penetrating their audiences.

Six Reasons to Invest in Niche Content

Today’s generation loves personalization and craves tailor-made experiences. By developing niche content, you can appeal to millennial consumers and reach them in new ways. Specifically, you’ll enjoy the following benefits:

1. More Qualified Leads

When you’re targeting a very specific group of customers, it stands to reason that you’re going to attract more qualified leads to your website. In the end, this lowers bounce rates, enhances conversion rates, and increases the value of your website. There isn’t much more that needs to be said about this – it’s a pretty straightforward concept.

2. More Advertising Dollars

When your site attracts qualified leads, you’re subsequently able to generate more advertising dollars. After all, advertisers like to invest their money into sites that are able to provide isolated and engaged audiences.

Not only do niche audiences allow you to seek out contextual PPC advertisements, but you’ll also find opportunities for referring leads to other websites and making money from affiliate marketing.

3. SEO Prominence

“One of the fundamental principles behind how search engines work is that they establish the relevance of content to serve users the best possible results for their specific queries,” SEO specialist Tim Hand explains. “Since keyword relevance of a domain’s content boosts rankings for related searches, it makes sense for businesses to write content related to their field.”

Essentially, what Hand is saying is that niche content – specifically local content – is much more effective in gaining search engine prowess than simply producing fragmented content that fails to put a dent in any individual topic or niche.

4. Authoritative Reputation

Have you ever wondered how individuals and businesses become thought leaders in certain industries? Well, in most cases they target a very specific niche in the industry and write authoritative and unique content. Find a niche that doesn’t currently have a clear thought leader, and make it your own.

5. Stronger Word of Mouth Marketing

Word of mouth marketing is one of the most valuable things a company can ever grow. With word of mouth marketing, you’re able to sit back and watch others enhance your brand’s reputation. There are many different ways to encourage word of mouth marketing, but high quality niche content is one of the top options in a marketplace that’s driven by sharing content on social media.

6. Less Wasted Time

One of the biggest downsides of appealing to a wide readership is that you never know who you’re speaking to. As a result, you have to provide a lot of contextual information when introducing new topics or covering technical concepts. This is a waste of time for you and may be a waste of time for some of your readers.

With niche content, you don’t have to worry about including superfluous explanations and detailed context. You can safely assume that your audience understands certain cues and get straight to your point.

Niche Content Equals Better Content

There are times when general content works well. Plenty of large websites pursue generalized strategies and enjoy high returns. However, for the large majority of brands and websites, niche content is the only way to stand out in a saturated marketplace that prioritizes personalization.

Be very careful when choosing your niche. Ideally, your niche will be closely related to your most profitable target demographic. Find things that appeal to these customers and build a foundation around these concepts and topics. It may take some time to build up your audience, but you’ll experience much better long-term results by honing in on a niche.

[By Larry Alton] [From Business 2 Community]

Only 1 in Every 4 Retail Customers Complete Their Online Purchase – How to Improve Conversions

Ecommerce sales continue to grow, generating over $300 billion in sales in the US alone last year. However, online shopping is generally an impersonal experience with lower levels of engagement as compared to the in-store experience. Unlike walking into a brick-and-mortar retail location where a shopper can touch the merchandise or ask sales associates questions, the online shopper typically only interacts with a live personafterthe sale – and generally only if there was a problem. As a result, online conversion rates are much lower than in-store conversion rates, 1% to 3% versus 20% to 30%.

Shopping cart abandonment is also continuing to rise. According to research performed by Baymard, the average rate is 68.07%. That means that roughly 1 in every 4 customers actually complete the purchase.

The number one reason why shoppers fail to complete their purchase is price. According to research conducted by Statistia in 2013, 56% of shoppers said that being presented with unexpected costs was the main reason they left without completing their purchase. This was followed by consumers just browsing (37%) or finding a better price elsewhere (36%).

Retailers can take steps to improve conversion rates and reduce shopping cart abandonment. While it may seem like an uphill battle at times when a shopper cites price as a major deterrent to completing the purchase, times are changing. Three years after this initial study was conducted, price of course remains an important factor for shoppers, but certainly not the only one.

More so than ever, a positive customer experience is mitigating the pricing wars. Industry statistics indicate that by 2020, the customer experience will overtake price completely as the key to competitive differentiation. Consumers are willing to pay more for positive experiences and this trend will continue for some time.

Here are key ways to improve customer conversions:

Collect Consumer Data to Personalize Experiences

Collecting consumer data during each visit and interaction with your brand provide key insights into a shopper’s behaviors, preferences, and purchasing habits. This data can be used to create personalized and highly contextual messages to create a positive experience and for retargeting when a cart is abandoned.

Salesforce.com asked consumers how they felt about their data being collected by companies to establish this comprehensive customer view. The overall feeling was that if their marketing data allowed companies to personalize offers, provide better customer service, or prevent situations in which they have to give the same information to multiple people over and over, then it was a good thing. One respondent said, “I don’t want to have to repeat my information to 5 different people when I call their support line,” and according to another, “It dramatically increases the likelihood that I would continue to give a company my business.”

Research shows that 45% of consumers are more likely to shop on a site that offers personalized recommendations, and 56% are more likely to return to a site that recommends products. (Invesp)

When deciding which types of personalization to utilize, consider the following statistics from MyBuy’s 2015 Personalization Consumer Survey. Consumers purchase more from brands who:

  • 53% – Suggests products based on browsing or buying behavior
  • 49% – Personalize online ads that promote offers and products from website activity
  • 48% – Send personalized emails based on past browsing and buying behavior
  • 48% – personalize the shopping experience across all channels
  • 33% – Show personalized ads in social media feeds

While there is obviously huge uplift when personalizing consumer interactions, many marketers are unaware of the negative impacts of sending impersonal messaging. A recent survey by Gigya revealed that 67% of consumers have unsubscribed from an email list when sent irrelevant information. An additional 43% ignored future communications from the company, and 32% stopped visiting the company’s website or mobile app.

Bring Shoppers Back to Your Site with Retargeting

Retargeting consumers through ads and emails with specialized offers encourage many shoppers to return to your site. A survey by VWO on ecommerce showed that 72% of all people aged 25-34 were very likely to buy a product they left in their carts if offered again at a discounted price (the average of all age groups was 54%). In a study by Compete, free shipping not only increases conversion rates, but also encourages 93% of shoppers to buy more products.

Other studies give further credence to these claims. A Deloitte study found 69% of shoppers are more likely to shop with online retailers who offer free shipping. And a ComScore study found that 61% of shoppers would quit their order if free shipping wasn’t offered.

Retailers should retarget through both ads and email. Amazon is a great example of a brand that brings visitors back with ad retargeting. According to AdRoll, a retargeting platform, “2% of shoppers convert on the first visit to an online store. Retargeting brings back the other 98%. Retargeting works by keeping track of people who visit your site and displaying your [retargeting] ads to them as they visit other sites online.” Triggered shopping cart abandonment emails can also bring customers back to complete a purchase. According to Business Insider, Initial emails sent three hours after a consumer abandons a cart average a 40% open rate and a 20% click-through rate.

Use Automated Marketing to Target in Real-Time

Using a marketing automation platform to create automated customer journeys ensures that the most optimal messaging is sent through the channels in which your customers and prospects are interacting with you. For example, campaigns can be created that recognize if customers have visited your website, browsed certain product categories, opened your emails or visited your stores.

By delivering automated, relevant content at the right time you can keep these consumers moving through the journey to increase conversion rates and lifetime value.

Online ecommerce brands lose revenue every day due to abandoned shopping carts and shoppers failing to complete their purchase. However, retailers can take steps to improve conversion rates and reduce shopping cart abandonment through the right mix of data, technology and analytics.

To learn how to target the right consumers at the right time with automated customer journey marketing,request a free demo of the DataMentors Marketing Cloud.

[By Larisa Bedgood] [From Business 2 Community]

Affiliate Marketing and CAN-SPAM Compliance

I watch many of my friends in the industry play very fast and loose with regulations, and I fear they’ll one day be in trouble. Ignorance is no excuse and since these are regulatory issues, the fine is sometimes less expensive than mounting a legal defense to it. Two of the main violations I see are:

  1. Not announcing that you have a financial relationship with the company – whether you’re the owner, an investor, or an influencer paid to promote the company is a violation per the Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements or Testimonials in Advertising.
  2. Spamming people with an affiliate offering that you don’t have any previous business relationship with and not providing any means of unsubscribing. Bloggers and small business people seem to do this quite a bit, thinking that anyone they meet that they can solicit. However, they could be paying a steep fine if they don’t stop violating regulations. Read What is the CAN-SPAM Act?

And even if the sender is compliant per CAN-SPAM, they still most disclose the financial relationship with the recipient. If you know someone that’s violating either regulation, send them a link to this article and warn them to stop.

You could be reported to the FTC and face fines of up to $16,000 for each separate email sent!

Here’s the full infographic from PrivacyPolicies.com:

[By Douglas Karr] [From Marketing Tech Blog]

Link Prospecting Tips and Tricks

There is no formal education or pathway into link building. Most professional link builders are self-taught or learned from a mentor who taught themselves — so if you want to enter into the SEO field (or need to bolster your own site’s link profile), it often means trial and error.

Due to the lack of formal education available, it’s vital that SEOs share their experience and expertise so we can learn and improve as an industry. Today, I’ll share my own experience to (hopefully) help you improve your link prospecting so you can find better sites that translate into better links.

Link prospecting requires research

Everything in link acquisition is predicated on research.

Whether it’s prospectingoutreach or audience discovery, research is a key element for success. Research is the only way to obtain the information and understanding of a page/site/niche/audience necessary to effectively secure links.

A firm understanding of how to use Google and search modifiers provides a solid foundation for link-building research, but I’ve found fostering the right mindset is what really leads to improved site-finding and link prospecting.

Here are some of my tips to help hone your link-building research.

Manual exploration

To take your link prospecting to the next level, you need to also incorporate strategic, manual exploration of the web.

Manual exploration is the expertise that experience grants. It’s about keeping your eyes open for potential opportunities all the time, no matter what project you’re working on. (Julie Joyce recently outlined a process she uses with spark files here on Search Engine Land.)

That doesn’t mean blindly surfing the web in hopes of landing on a relevant page. Strategic exploration builds on the research you’ve already done with understanding your industry, Google search and advanced search strings.

To perfect your prospecting skills, you must go beyond the surface-level results you achieve with Google, and really follow the breadcrumbs to find hidden opportunities.

For example, imagine you’re promoting a page that provides data on various performance tires. An advanced Google search on the query [car enthusiasts] will return prospects via restoration blogs and car news/review sites. But if you explore the results further, you might find a new avenue for fresh opportunities via the automotive racing niche.

This is creative thinking in link prospecting: actively following new ideas and opportunities while executing a proven tactic.

While the results you see in the SERPs often include worthy link prospects, if you investigate these sites further, you’ll likely find even more opportunities.

Here are some potential sources I use for uncovering further opportunities:

  • Partnership pages: Relevant partner sites are likely to link to you also.
  • Industry resource lists: Relevant content means potential for links.
  • Blog communities: Guest authors or commenters may have their own sites worth promoting to.
  • Backlink analysis: Sites that link to your prospect might yield more relevant opportunities.
  • Associations: View membership list for potential prospects.
  • Social communities: Search social communities or forums for relevant opportunities.

Through further investigation, you can find sites that are tangentially related to your site, where additional link opportunities may exist. In fact, this type of manual research can spark ideas for new avenues and strategies for your campaign.

Google search is an excellent place to start your prospecting process, but strategic, manual exploration will yield even more opportunity.

Sustainable campaigns rely on constant research and exploration fueled by industry insight and creativity.

Optimize your processes with tools

Introducing various SEO tools into your link research process can elevate your abilities and overall efficiency.

Backlink explorers, of course, jump to mind first. Tools such as:

Using backlink explorers is pretty elementary for securing links, and every link builder should have them in their arsenal. But there are some unique ways to leverage tools to improve your prospecting process.

BuzzSumo and BuzzStream can help find influential sites and personalities within your niche. Both can be invaluable, as they optimize processes and provide insight that improves the efficacy of your link development.

For example, you can set up BuzzSumo to alert you of unlinked mentions. And BuzzStream Discovery can help you learn more about potential link prospects prior to contacting them.

Furthermore, both tools can be used to track specific authors, which is great for determining which sites industry leaders value and interact with. These are sites you’ll want to vet but can be fairly confident are worth adding to your project’s list of sites.

Taking the idea a step further, manually reviewing other authors they commonly interact with will expand your network and potentially net further tangential link opportunities and sites worth exploring.

Mozbar is a great tool for link prospecting, as it provides surface-level data on any potential site quickly and easily. In fact, Mozbar can give you this information directly in the search results:

This can help you quickly identify high-authority opportunities within the SERPs. Of course, you want to avoid metric blindness, but having this information serves as a good baseline during your research process.

SEMrush is another worthy addition to your toolkit. Among other benefits, SEMrush can be especially helpful for checking the traffic of a potential prospect; you don’t want to build links to sites that are ghost towns.

Analyzing these traffic graphs can also provide insight into the engagement levels, as well as show which way the site is trending. Also, you can spot red flags where traffic suddenly dropped dramatically (i.e., penalization — not a site you want a link from).

SEMrush will also suggest competitors based on shared keywords the sites rank for in search. While you’re reviewing traffic for a prospect, see which sites share similar keyword rankings and SERPs with your link prospect (Simply flip over to the competitor tab within the Organic Research section). These could be extremely relevant sites to your link-building project and further expand your circle of sites outward, increasing your link prospecting efficacy.

Remember, while SEMrush is an excellent tool, it’s not Google. SEMrush is a third-party tool and doesn’t have full access to Google’s index, and it can’t report site traffic 100 percent accurately. You should always review third-party data with a grain of salt and manually check any information you glean from a tool.

To improve efficiency and efficacy, consider implementing the tools listed here in your research process.

Scrutinize top-performing pages in search

As an SEO, you should be consistently checking the rankings for the terms, keywords or phrases for which you want to rank.

One of the most common ways SEOs employ backlink explorers is for direct competitor analysis, to discover which sites are linking to their competitors.

The truth is, you’re competing with any site ranking for your keywords in some way. Don’t limit your backlink audits to direct competitors only. Analyze the backlinks of ALL the sites ranking for your keywords, particularly the head terms.

What better page to scrutinize than the page already ranking for your keyword?

If you want to find a plethora of link opportunities quickly, simply see who’s linking to the pages currently ranking for your keywords. If you’re targeting competitive search queries, they’ll rank on the efficacy of those links (and of course, sound on-page and technical SEO). By analyzing the top 20 results, you should be able to find a multitude of link prospects — particularly if your page is a better result.

Keep in mind there are always more opportunities, so don’t backlink with blinders on. Truly examine each page you find, and keep your eyes open for additional opportunities.

The best link prospectors work in this way: Each link opportunity breeds a new link opportunity, and so on. Before you know it, you have a large list of sites by naturally exploring the online web of sites within your industry.

To give an example, maybe your resource isn’t a particularly good fit for one site, but on that page you find a broken link that points to a 404. Using the Wayback Machine, you see the content is relevant but no longer live on the web.

If you have a page that serves as a good replacement for that dead resource (or are planning to create such content), there’s every reason to expect the page in question would change the link to point to your page, instead — if you politely email them. Furthermore, you can use your backlink explorer to find all the sites linking to the broken resource.

Final thoughts

Improving your link-building skills is all about honing your ability to recognize link opportunities. You should always keep your head up and look for potential prospects beyond the obvious. A link builder’s job is to make relevant connections on the web.

As Eric Ward said, a link builder should “connect that which should be connected.”

Link-building will always be a manual process. It takes a human to understand where connections (links) make sense. Honing your ability to recognize these potential connections around the web comes with time, but hopefully, the processes and tips listed here will help you develop those skills more quickly and efficiently.

[By Andrew Dennis] [From Search Engine Land

Oracle Data Cloud’s study proves Promoted Pins drive in-store sales

People turn to Pinterest to find all sorts of ideas they can use in real life, like ways to occupy the kids, recipes for dinner and of course things to buy. 93% of Pinners use Pinterest to plan purchases, according to research done last year from Millward Brown. Millward Brown also found that Pinners don’t just browse, they actually spend—87% of Pinners have made a purchase after seeing a product they liked on the platform.

But people wouldn’t be able to discover products on Pinterest without the help of over 1 million businesses on the platform. So to help CPG and retail businesses measure the impact of their Pinterest campaigns on in-store sales, today we’re pleased to announce a new partnership with Oracle Data Cloud, parent of leading data brands AddThis, BlueKai, Crosswise and Datalogix.

Oracle Data Cloud measured in-store sales for 26 Promoted Pin campaigns across major food and drink, household goods and beauty brands, and the results were staggering:

Promoted Pins get people to buy more in-store

Since businesses are so welcome on Pinterest (75% of the Pins saved comes from businesses!), people are more likely to buy a brand’s product in-store after simply seeing a Promoted Pin. In comparison to ads elsewhere, Promoted Pins drive 5x more incremental in-store sales per impression.

Pinterest reaches more high income, existing customers

Pinterest over-indexes on high-income consumers: Nearly 40% of Pinners make over $100k each year. What’s more, the study found that compared to the national average, CPG brands are 3x more likely to reach existing customers on Pinterest—and those customers spent 16% more.

Engagement on Pinterest makes ads extra effective

On Pinterest, people don’t just scroll past ads, they click and save them to their personal collections. This high level of engagement is a huge signal of intent—Pinners save Pins so they can easily refer to them later, like when they’re at the grocery store and want to buy the brand of pasta they saw in a recipe Pin.

But keep in mind that when someone saves a Pin, they’re also distributing content. Each time someone saves a Pin, it spreads to their followers and more. According to Oracle Data Cloud, those earned media impressions double the incremental sales lift of paid impressions — campaigns are effective for people even if they didn’t get a specific paid impression. The study also found that more engaged Pinners are even more likely to have strong buying behavior. People who engage with Promoted Pins are 12% more likely to be buyers of that brand.

Together, these results prove that there’s a powerful connection between behavior on Pinterest and behavior offline, but it’s only the beginning—we’re excited to see more results from the partnership with Oracle Data Cloud.

[By Angela Reynar] [From Pinterest for Business

Use Power BI to Supercharge your SEO

Take advantage of Microsoft’s Power BI (Business Intelligence) rollout in 2016 to collect and analyze more data than ever before and find the SEO performance gaps you didn’t even know about.

If you’re not familiar with Microsoft’s Business Intelligence paradigm, then I heartily recommend you take a walk through their promotional material. The most pertinent part for SEOs is the ability to embed Queries in the latest Office 360 suite natively (without requiring Power Query extensions in Excel, for example), allowing advanced capabilities baked into Excel since 2013 to be accessed easily by anyone in your corporation (or client side) on the 360 platform.

Queries are fantastic because they allow you to parse serious quantities of data relatively easily and extend desktop tools to operate more like servers using SQL-like statements. If code is not your bag, the BI suite is designed to be largely WYSIWYG using 360 natively or their desktop BI interface. Of course, you can get “advanced” in your query building and drop “M” code in directly to create your own functions (You will end up doing this… and you will love it).

Imagine running INDEX MATCH or VLOOKUPs on five million rows of data instantly, and you’ll get a feel for the, well, power of Power Queries. In the screen grab above, a dataset of +20GB is transformed into a manageable table made available for analysis as a Pivot Table by an SEO for performance gaps. Calculations that would not be possible within Excel due to data size are easily handled by being transformed into data restrictions within the final SQL statements underpinning the data generation process.

Refactoring trivial operations into M can be challenging, especially when you get into the realms of calculation data based on the history of an earlier state of your data transformation process (Doctor Who has nothing on this!). In fact, you can simply run, say, a MIN / MAX across the generated data set to get a value to be referenced in a pivot table to get to the answer in an Excel formula. But you should push to move all logic into your data queries, as it allows all outputs to be made available robustly within the Data Model when your Queries run, meaning they become available to all Power Pivots in Excel for further segmentation. Again, you will inevitably start segmenting within your larger data sets to find the long-tail gold for performance improvements. Just embrace it!

You can also replace pretty much any VBA scripting you care to think of within M and the BI framework, which means automation of your data refresh just became a whole lot easier and more robust. Sharing data and dynamically updating the underlying data are also a cinch.

To see if we could leverage the power of BI for our clients, at QueryClick recently, we refactored a Search Console analysis tool to use power BI and found it allowed us to take granular day-by-day data across 250,000 search terms and match it against the equivalent time data from AdWords… again, instantly.

This allowed us to build on the existing tool to share AdWords’ performance data with its organic twin and better understand the user behavior and revenue value associated with the term to a level of detail that had previously been impractical to analyze.

In addition, as it is so easy to pull in additional data sources as Queries, we are now able to look at historic performance trends from the likes of Stat and calculate a “volatility” metric for the top positions and again associate that with the term — a level of data transformation and number crunching that would cause standard Excel approaches to shut up shop and go home for the day.

Why would that depth of data be useful? Well, it means we can assess the difficulty to perform in the traffic-driving positions (positions 1–3) and contrast it with the expected return (revenue per click behavior from AdWords behavior for the term historically).

That allows us to laser-focus on terms which provably drive revenue for a business and quantify clearly the impact of performance improvement in revenues gained and paid spend that can be tested for reallocation once a top position is achieved and SERP CTR behavior is higher than expected for the position (indicating searchers are overwhelmingly satisfied with the organic SERP call to action).

Of course, we can flip that analysis approach into reverse and use organic data to lead PPC insights. For example, we can show the revenue available for generic search term expansion where paid behaviour is better than expected — indicating a tight match between searcher intent and client product offer — and organic behavior is less than expected (suggesting some level of paid cannibalization).

In our first test data case for a UK high street retailer, we found £2.3m of additional paid opportunity in this scenario, and that’s just in the first pass! Flipping our data filter around to look exclusively at brand terms (We’ve used Power Query to reverse terms inserted into a table in the Excel workbook into a brand tagging mechanism for the data), we found £1.8m of spend on brand where organic behavior was extremely strong (more than 40 percent above expected CTR in the first rank position in the SERP) and eligible for testing for reallocation in the AdWords account to growth generation generic terms.

Big data is truly large data — much larger than the data discussed here — and so isn’t the right terminology, but Power BI allows larger-than-usual data sets to be easily and dynamically analyzed by an SEO with an eye to uncovering the opportunities and inefficiencies in a campaign strategy. I can’t recommend it highly enough and look forward to hearing about your favorite BI use cases.

[By Chris Liversidge] [From Search Engine Land]

6 Landing Pages Trends to Look for in 2016

Landing page popularity is on rise. MarketingSherpa found that 68% of B2B businesses use landing pages to get new sales leads for future conversion. And the graph below from Google Trends shows just how much interest is growing as we enter into 2016:

But simply creating a landing page doesn’t open up the floodgates to new leads. It’s got to be optimized for conversion.

So…what makes a landing page convert? What is the winning combination of landing page elements that can sway even the most hesitant visitors to cast their vote in your favor?

To answer these questions and make things even more interesting, I’ll demonstrate what makes a great landing page with examples of high converting pages from 2015. Each example in today’s post not only include the right mix of optimized landing page elements, but they also feature trends that have contributed to their conversion success.

Let’s begin.

1. Write headlines that play to your visitors’ basic needs

Your landing page headline is the first thing your visitor will see and read, so it must make an immediate impact on them. If it fails to make an impact, your visitors will abandon your page faster than it took them to read your headline. An effective headline doesn’t simply explain what your product or service can do, but it naturally tells the visitor why he or she clicked on the page.

For example, anyone looking to answer the question, “how can I manage my company’s social media networks better?” would likely be attracted to this Hootsuite landing page headline, which provides a natural answer to the question. The sub-headline provides further support and assures the visitor he or she has landed on the right page:

2. Use gifs for product demonstration

Demonstrating how your product works is extremely important if you want to demonstrate value to a visitor. In the past, this could be done with graphics or photography, but more and more landing pages are using gifs for product demonstration.

Gifs explain how the product is used in a quicker way than videos. Plus, they play on a loop for the visitor, so they don’t have to click “play” to see the product in action.

Here’s a gif Visual Website Optimizer uses on its landing page:

If you don’t have the time or budget to create a product demonstration video, use gifs instead. Or intersperse them with videos to give visitors a quick, digestible example of your product’s functionality.

3. Use full-screen background videos to tell your story

Videos have the potential to increase landing page conversions by up to 86%, according to anEye View Digital case study.  

The use of full-screen video allows you to autoplay it and engage visitors without annoying them. This background effect is an advanced feature using HTML5 video that replaces your page’s hero image.

Joybird furniture’s homepage is a great example of this. It also incorporates storytelling, allowing you to see how the furniture is made:

Or, how about this one from Story & Heart’s homepage:

With full-screen background videos, you have the opportunity to include more than a single image, which can help you tell a more complete and compelling story, and hopefully increase your conversion opportunities.

4. Create a 3D effect with parallax scrolling

With parallax scrolling your landing page background moves at a slower rate than the foreground, so a 3D effect is created as the visitor scrolls down.

The scrolling effect helps you tell a story on your landing pages. It also helps satisfy their desire to gradually learn more about your product or service. When parallax scrolling is used along with effective copy, you create a very professional and persuasive page.

Look how visually appealing and informative Rimmel London’s page is with parallax scrolling:

The Lix Pen page uses parallax design on their landing page to explain their cool 3D printing pen. Their pen follows you as you scroll up and down their page:

Parallax scrolling is an advanced page feature, but it sure portrays a clean and professional look to the visitor.

5. Use hidden menus instead of navigation bars

While there is no need to include navigation links on your pages, sometimes marketers still want to break up a long-form landing page with the help of a top navigation bar.

This is where hidden menus come in. If you must put navigation links on your page, the best way to do this is with hidden menus. That way the links aren’t as big of a distraction and only open up when the the user clicks them.

This Brian Hoff Design page uses a hidden menu button:

6. Spotlight your headline and form by splitting the screen into two columns

By splitting the screen into two columns, you can display two or more page elements with equal prominence. Do you think your landing page form deserves as much attention as your headline and sub-headline? Follow Salesforce’s example:

Instead of placing the form after the fold, Salesforce gives equal importance to all of its page elements. The two columns allow you to highlight specific landing page elements simultaneously without adding clutter to your page.

[By Fahad Muhammad] [From Autopilot]