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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

The State of Internet Advertising in 2017

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

Internet Trends 2017 Report from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

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

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

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

Internet Trends 2017 Report from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

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

What the Future of Online Advertising Looks Like

The Future of Online Advertising Is Mobile

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

Internet Trends 2017 Report from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

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

Internet Trends 2017 Report from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

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

Internet Trends 2017 Report from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

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

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

Internet Trends 2017 Report from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

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

The Future of Online Advertising Is Social

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

Internet Trends 2017 Report from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

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

Internet Trends 2017 Report from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

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

Internet Trends 2017 Report from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

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

The Future of Online Advertising Will Be Closely Monitored

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

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

No Mercy / No Malice: Shark Repellent — Fighting Amazon

Shark Repellent — Fighting Amazon 

26 MAY 2017

by Scott Galloway

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

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

 

 

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

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

— People are spending more on experiences vs. stuff.

— A retailer in Seattle is doing really well. 

— There are too many stores. 

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

Retool messaging to the street 

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

Double down on growth & Amazon-immune categories 

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

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

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

Organic intelligence — invest in in-store customer service 

— You know, humans.

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

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

Omnichannel through a shareholder lens 

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

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

 

 

Narrow vs. broad 

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

Need for Speed: Supply Chain

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

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

Partnerships

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

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

Cruel Truth

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

Best Bond Ever 

 

 

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

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

Life is so rich, 
Scott

A nice story about Roger Moore: 

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

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

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

How to compare paid search and organic search without sounding foolish

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Paid search growth has long outpaced organic growth

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

1. Segment query types and devices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion: Get rid of search partisanship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOI-blog-top-challenges4.png

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

4 critical areas to consider when performing AdWords audits

AdWords audits are a great way to win business and check on the health of an account, but columnist Matt Umbro notes that there are some aspects of an audit that are easily overlooked or underexplored. Don't make these mistakes!

Matt Umbro on May 12, 2017 at 12:41 pm 

Auditing a prospective client’s Google AdWords account is a tried-and-true sales tactic when hoping to win business. By reviewing accounts, missed opportunities may be found, while issues with campaign structure, settings and optimizations can be addressed. Many agencies have checklists and/or specific areas they review when auditing accounts. However, as AdWords becomes more complex and new features are released, the traditional audit doesn’t cut it anymore.

In this post, I’ll address areas that are often neglected or not given enough thought when auditing AdWords accounts. Some are more technical than others, but the theme is that one size doesn’t fit all. Too often, our preconceived notions don’t allow us to view accounts in a different light. Understand and be open to how accounts are set up as you conduct your audits.

Here are four common issues marketers run into when auditing AdWords accounts:

1. Misunderstanding conversion tracking

One of the first items to be reviewed is how conversion tracking is set up. After all, conversion metrics tend to give the most insight into client goals. Along with making sure the conversion pixel is firing correctly, an audit will assess the various conversion types and how they are performing. A good place to begin is the “Conversions” section within the “Tools” tab. You can see how conversions are categorized.

 

It’s then imperative to look at the actual web pages on which the conversions are occurring. Often, the URL will include some variation of “thank you” or “confirmation.” For example, www.example.com/thanksor www.example.com/order-confirmation. When the URL contains this form of confirmation, it’s easy to determine that the conversions are legitimate. But as more sites become responsive and utilize IFrames, they may not include a separate confirmation URL.

Historically, if you saw a URL in the web pages section that didn’t appear to be a confirmation page, your first thought may have been that it was a pageview conversion. For example, the URL www.example.com/email-newsletter contains the signup form and isn’t the confirmation page. Thus, conversions may be inflated because the pixel is firing on the form, giving an inaccurate representation of performance. Though this scenario still happens, there tends to be another explanation.

Some sites don’t have confirmation pages. Whether through an IFrame or the syntax of the site, when a form submission or purchase occurs, the URL resolves back to itself. Even though www.example.com/email-newsletter appears to contain the signup form, it’s actually the conversion as well. Here is where platforms such as Google Tag Manager or Google Analytics come into play. These platforms have the ability to track button clicks as conversions and showcase this data in AdWords.

If you see what looks like a pageview conversion, it’s imperative that you investigate how it is tracked. It could very well be that the button click is the conversion. Instead of telling the potential client that conversions are inflated, you’ve done your research to know how the conversion is set up.

2. Focusing too much on efficiency without considering volume

A few years ago, I analyzed an account’s efficiency against volume in an attempt to find the sweet spot. I wanted to see what the ideal balance was for hitting account goals but also increasing conversion volume. Needless to say, in many cases, either efficiency or volume needs to be sacrificed to improve the other. For example, if you want to bid on top-of-funnel keywords that are more expensive in an effort to capture additional traffic, your ROI will most likely decrease. This concept is important to understand when auditing accounts.

Audits look to uncover wasted spend. In a vacuum, there is nothing wrong with this philosophy. However, we know that many factors come into play when analyzing account performance. As an example, a keyword that has seen 100 clicks with one last-click conversion may at first seem to be ineffective, but when digging deeper, we may find that:

  • the keyword is assisting in the overall conversion funnel.
  • only 20 clicks have come from mobile, including the click that resulted in the conversion.
  • the landing page doesn’t continue what is stated in the ad copy.

Unless you conduct in-depth research, your audit won’t uncover these findings. The days of the all-in-one audit automation through Excel or other tools are gone. Though these tools still provide valuable data, they only scratch the surface. Solely reviewing efficiency is too basic a view when there are many variables to consider.

3. Disregarding mobile

I think we’re in the seventh or eighth “year of mobile,” but judging by many AdWords accounts, you wouldn’t know it. I constantly see accounts that have negative -100% bid modifiers on mobile devices, don’t have mobile ads, or aren’t making sound decisions based on the data. More often than not, accounts I audit see more mobile traffic than they do desktop and tablet.

In many cases, there is an absence of a mobile strategy. The audit should point out recommendations that will help the client have a more effective mobile presence and lead to better conversion rates.

Now that advertisers are again able to create mobile-specific campaigns, it’s worth discussing if a breakout is worthwhile. Since mobile bid modifiers can be set at the campaign and ad group levels, and advertisers can use IF statements to write mobile-specific ads, device-specific campaigns aren’t as necessary as they once were. My rule of thumb is to test a mobile-specific campaign if roughly 70 percent of impressions come from mobile devices.

There are still benefits to creating mobile-specific campaigns, including the ability to:

  • set keyword level bids at the mobile level instead of a using a bid modifier.
  • write mobile ads without using IF statements or ad customizers.
  • write mobile-specific ad extensions without having to check off the mobile-preferred option.

It amazes me that mobile isn’t taken more seriously, but an audit should uncover actionable insights that will point the account in the right direction.

4. Not running a search term cross-pollination report

Continuing the theme of digging below the surface, cross-pollination reports list which queries are triggering ads in multiple ad groups. Let’s look at a scenario where I have two ad groups around “coffee tables” and “oval coffee tables.”

 

Each of the keywords is in modified broad match. Therefore, a search for “oval coffee tables” could trigger an ad in either ad group. The solution would be to add “oval” as a negative keyword in the “coffee tables” ad group. By taking this step, we deliberately tell Google from which ad group we want our ad to show.

It’s one thing to say that the account structure is sound, but it’s another to prove it. If the cross-pollination report shows that few queries are triggering ads in the wrong ad groups, the structure is in good shape. Conversely, if many of the same queries are triggering ads in multiple ad groups, there is an issue with targeting and organization.

Final thoughts

Audits give great insight into how accounts are performing, but most don’t address larger account concerns. I challenge you to look at and ask questions related to themes and not just concrete numbers. It’s more important to discuss why efficiency and volume fluctuate instead of making an absolute statement such as, “If we cut x spend, our ROI will increase by y.” Or review how mobile is impacting the overall funnel, rather than just saying, “The mobile bid modifier should be x.” Though the tactical aspect has its merits, audits should lead to strategy discussions.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

How Google assesses the 'authority' of web pages

Google has no single authority metric but rather uses a bucket of signals to determine authority on a page-by-page basis.

Danny Sullivan 

 

Google’s fight against problematic content has drawn renewed attention to a common question: how does Google know what’s authoritative? The simple answer is that it has no single “authority” metric. Rather, Google looks at a variety of undisclosed metrics which may even vary from query to query.

The original authority metric: PageRank

When Google first began, it did have a single authority figure. That was called PageRank, which was all about looking at links to pages. Google counted how many links a page received to help derive a PageRank score for that page.

Google didn’t just reward pages with a lot of links, however. It also tried to calculate how important those links were. A page with a few links from other “important” pages could gain more authority than a page with many links from relatively unremarkable pages.

Even pages with a lot of authority — a lot of PageRank — weren’t guaranteed to rocket to the top of Google’s search results, however. PageRank was only one part of Google’s overall ranking algorithm, the system it uses to list pages in response to particular searches. The actual words within links had a huge impact. The words on the web pages themselves were taken into account. Other factors also played a role.

Calculating authority today

These days, links and content are still among the most important ranking signals. However, artificial intelligence — Google’s RankBrain system — is another major factor. In addition, Google’s ranking system involves over 200 major signals. Even our Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors that tries to simplify the system involves nearly 40 major areas of consideration.

None of these signals or metrics today involve a single “authority” factor as in the old days of PageRank, Google told Search Engine Land recently.

“We have no one signal that we’ll say, ‘This is authority.’ We have a whole bunch of things that we hope together help increase the amount of authority in our results,” said Paul Haahr, one of Google’s senior engineers who is involved with search quality.

What are those things? Here, Google’s quiet, not providing specifics. The most it will say is that the bucket of factors it uses to arrive at a proxy for authority are something it hopes really does correspond to making authoritative content more visible.

One of the ways it hopes to improve that mix is with feedback from the quality raters that it employs, who were recently given updated guidelines on how to flag low-quality web pages.

As I’ve explained before, those raters have no direct impact on particular web pages. It’s more like the raters are diners in a restaurant, asked to review various meals they’ve had. Google takes in those reviews, then decides how to change its overall recipes to improve its food. But in this case, the recipes are Google’s search algorithms, and the food is the search results it dishes up. Google hopes the feedback from raters, along with all its other efforts, provides results that better reward authoritative content.

“Our goal in all of this is that we are increasing the quality of the pages that we show to users. Some of our signals are correlated with these notions of quality,” Haahr said.

Authority is primarily assessed on a per-page basis

While there’s no single authority figure, that bucket of signals effectively works like one. That leads to the next issue. Is this authority something calculated for each page on the web, or can domains have an overall authority that transfers to individual pages?

Google says authority is done on a per-page basis. In particular, it avoids the idea of sitewide or domain authority because that can potentially lead to false assumptions about individual pages, especially those on popular sites.

“We wouldn’t want to look at Twitter or YouTube as, ‘How authoritative is this site?’ but how authoritative is the user [i.e., individual user pages] on this site,” Haahr said.

It’s a similar situation with sites like Tumblr, WordPress or Medium. Just because those sites are popular, using that popularity (and any authority assumption) for individual pages within the sites would give those pages a reward they don’t necessarily deserve.

What about third-party tools that try to assess both “page authority” and “domain authority?” Those aren’t Google’s metrics. Those are simply guesses by third-party companies about how they think Google might be scoring things.

Sitewide signals, not domain authority

That’s not to say that Google doesn’t have sitewide signals that, in turn, can influence individual pages. How fast a site is or whether a site has been impacted by malware are two things that can have an impact on pages within those sites. Or in the past, Google’s “Penguin Update” that was aimed at spam operated on a sitewide basis (Haahr said that’s not the case today, a shift made last year when Penguin was baked into Google’s core ranking algorithm).

When all things are equal with two different pages, sitewide signals can help individual pages.

“Consider two articles on the same topic, one on the Wall Street Journal and another on some fly-by-night domain. Given absolutely no other information, given the information we have now, the Wall Street Journal article looks better. That would be us propagating information from the domain to the page level,” Haahr said.

But pages are rarely in “all things equal” situations. Content published to the web quickly acquires its own unique page-specific signals that generally outweigh domain-specific ones. Among those signals are those in the bucket used to assess page-specific authority. In addition, the exact signals used can also vary depending on the query being answered, Google says.

How to Repost on Instagram: 4 Easy Ways to Reshare Content

Where most social media feeds are almost distractingly busy -- full of photos, videos, and text updates from friends and brands you follow -- Instagram is different because you can only look at one post at a time.

And while this simple, clean interface makes to easy to focus on the beautiful photography and interesting videos on Instagram, it also leaves something to be desired: the ability to easily repost other users' content

Download our essential guide to Instagram for business for more helpful tips and tricks.

But fear not: for every problem, the internet has afforded a solution. We tested out four different ways to repost content on Instagram in a few simple steps. All of these methods are free, but some require you to download an app from the iOS App Store or Google Play first.

How to Repost on Instagram: 4 Methods to Try

1) Use Repost for Instagram

Download Repost for Instagram for iOS or Android devices to share content from other Instagram users from your mobile device. Here's how to do it:

 

Open your Instagram app, and find a photo or video you'd like to reshare.

 

(Psst -- do you follow HubSpot on Instagram?)

Tap the ... in the upper-right hand corner of the post. Then, tap "Copy Share URL."

Open Repost for Instagram. The post you copied will automatically be on the homepage.

 

Tap the arrow on the right-hand side of the post. There, you can edit how you want the repost icon to appear on Instagram.

 

Tap "Repost." Then, tap "Copy to Instagram," where you can add a filter and edit the post.

                   

Tap "Next." If you want to include the original post's caption, tap the caption field and press "Paste," where the original caption will appear with a citation.

 

When you're ready to share the post, tap "Share" as you would a regular Instagram post. Here's how the post appears on your Instagram profile:

 

2) Use InstaRepost

Download InstaRepost for iOS or Android devices to share content from other Instagram users from your mobile device. Here's how to do it:

Open InstaRepost, log in using your Instagram credentials, and authorize it to access your account information.

 

InstaRepost will only show you a small selection from your Instagram feed. If you know what post you're looking for, head to the search magnifying glass to look at the Explore tab or enter a username. 

Once you've found a post you want to reshare, tap the arrow in the lower right-hand corner. Then, tap "Repost," then "Repost" again.

Navigate to your Instagram app, and tap "Library." The post will be saved to your camera roll.

 

Add a filter and edit the post as you would any other. Then, tap "Next."

 

Tap the caption field to paste the original caption. The repost won't include a citation, so we suggest adding one by typing "@ + [username]." Then, press "Share."

 

Here's how the post appears on your Instagram profile:

 

3) Use DownloadGram

DownloadGram lets Instagram users download high-resolution copies of Instagram photos and videos to repost from their own accounts. Here's how to do it:

Open your Instagram app and find the post you want to repost. Tap the ... icon in the upper-right hand corner of the post and click "Copy Share URL."

 

 

Navigate to DownloadGram and paste the URL into the field. Then, tap "Download."

 

Tap the green "Download Image" button that will appear further down the page.

 

You'll be directed to a new web page with the downloadable image. Tap the download icon, then tap "Save image."

 

 

Return to your Instagram app. The image will be saved to your camera roll, so edit it as you would any other Instagram post.

 

The repost won't include a citation, so we suggest adding one by typing "@ + [username]." Then, press "Share." Here's how the post appears on your Instagram profile:

 

4) Take a Screenshot

This method doesn't require any or other websites to repost on Instagram. It's worth nothing that this method only works for reposting photos. Here's how to do it:

Find a photo on Instagram you'd like to repost, and take a screenshot:

  • For iOS: Press down on the home and lock buttons simultaneously until your screen flashes.
  • For Android: Press down on the sleep/wake and volume down buttons simultaneously until your screen flashes.

Tap the new post button in the bottom-center of your Instagram screen. Resize the photo so it's properly cropped in the Instagram photo editor.

 

Edit and filter the post like you would any other Instagram post.

 

The repost won't include a citation, so we suggest adding one by typing "@ + [username]." Then, press "Share." Here's how the post appears on your Instagram profile:

 

Do It For the 'Gram

Now that you've learned how to repost on Instagram, you can diversify your profile with content sourced from friends, family, and brands. Use the methods above -- being sure to cite the source of the original post -- to quickly and easily reshare your favorite content. And if you're looking for more ideas for sourcing and creating Instagram content for your brand, download our free guide to using Instagram for business here.

Do you use any of these methods to repost on Instagram? Share with us in the comments below.

 

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.