Tag Archive | "Can’t"

Can’t Tell if Your Social Media Campaign is Really Working? Here’s What You Need to Know

The number of companies integrating social media into their marketing campaigns has been growing steadily over the past decade. Some businesses even rely solely on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to promote their goods and services. However, measuring the impact these campaigns have on their business remains a challenge.

A 2015 CMO survey underlined this difficulty, with only 15 percent of participating marketers being able to quantitatively measure the effectiveness of their social media marketing plans. Meanwhile, a recent MDG Advertising infographic shows that not much has changed with regards to measuring the effectivity of social media marketing and its impact on a company’s ROI.

According to the accompanying MDG report, only 20 percent of companies said they were able to determine the success of their social media campaigns while 44 percent could not determine social media’s impact on their business. This problem also affects marketing agencies, with 28 percent facing challenges in measuring the effectivity of social media. However, 55 percent of said agencies claim they could somewhat determine the ROI generated by social media while a mere 17 percent could accurately measure it.

[Graphic via mdgadvertising.com]

Challenges of Measuring Social Media Campaigns

Because social media is a relatively new (and constantly evolving) marketing channel, measuring its true impact of ROI remains a conundrum for many businesses. What’s more, a lot of companies remain unsure of social media’s place in the big picture.

There are other reasons why measuring social media impact remains complicated.

  • Businesses Have Different KPIs: Brands have their own goals, values, and propositions and the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) they want to measure depend on these. However, KPIs can change depending on the direction the company wants to take. This makes it hard to set specific metrics and data points.
  • Data is Limited: Each social media platform has its own set of analytics. Some tools engage followers while others show demographic information. It would also require companies to do a lot of mining just to put everything together.
  • Qualitative Results are Hard to See: It’s easy to see quantitative results such as the numbers of comments, likes, and shares. But the more important question is the kind of action consumers are actually taking — the qualitative results. For instance, are they buying products or just sharing content?
  • Business Impact is Hard to Determine: ROIs are about returns and investments. Even if companies are able to tie their social media campaigns to their KPIs and business goals, most remain confused as to what it means for their bottom line. Companies would have to consider the number of people working on social media accounts and their salaries, social media software, and advertising costs and compare them against KPIs.

Best Ways to Check Effectiveness of Social Media Drive

Despite the ambiguity, social media does have a positive influence on a company’s sales and revenue. The question now is how to measure and quantify this impact. Knowing the following metrics of your campaigns can help you measure their effectiveness:

  • Click-Through Rate: While click-throughs are a key metric, companies should do more than just track clicks. They should also focus on metrics geared towards specifically designed landing pages and content. Companies should also look at click-throughs in relation to bounce rates. High bounce rates imply that the site’s content is not delivering on the call-to-action or headline’s promise.
  • Conversions: Whether it’s a sign-up, filling out a form, or an online sale, companies should have a goal when it comes to conversions, especially when creating paid ads. This is significant as it provides direct ROI numbers. Conversions are also relatively easy to track. Some companies utilize lead generation forms while others opt for pixel codes.
  • Engagement: This metric is more than just the volume of likes a page or post has since it doesn’t give a clear indication of commitment. A meaningful engagement that results in brand awareness, product interest or sales are the best testaments to the impact of social media activity. Companies should put real effort into having a dialogue with their audience and influencers.
  • Traffic: Identifying the actual value of traffic is about checking the share of driven traffic and the actions generated by click-throughs. Tools like Google Analytics makes tracking the impact of social media on site traffic simpler. Companies should look more closely at how much of the site traffic was driven by social media since this will provide you with concrete numbers that you can work with.

Remember, you can’t market what you can’t measure (at least not effectively). So, before you run a social media campaign, be sure to set up adequate analytic tools that measure the data that correlates with the outcome you desire. For many businesses, picking the right tools and correctly assessing the data they collect comes with a learning curve. However, once you get past that hurdle, you can use the data to grow your business by leaps and bounds.

[Featured image via Pixabay]

The post Can't Tell if Your Social Media Campaign is Really Working? Here's What You Need to Know appeared first on WebProNews.


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Why We Can’t Do Keyword Research Like It’s 2010 – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Keyword Research is a very different field than it was just five years ago, and if we don’t keep up with the times we might end up doing more harm than good. From the research itself to the selection and targeting process, in today’s Whiteboard Friday Rand explains what has changed and what we all need to do to conduct effective keyword research today.

Why We Can't Do Keyword Research Like It's 2010 Whiteboard

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard. Click on it to open a high resolution image in a new tab!

What do we need to change to keep up with the changing world of keyword research?

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat a little bit about keyword research, why it’s changed from the last five, six years and what we need to do differently now that things have changed. So I want to talk about changing up not just the research but also the selection and targeting process.

There are three big areas that I’ll cover here. There’s lots more in-depth stuff, but I think we should start with these three.

1) The Adwords keyword tool hides data!

This is where almost all of us in the SEO world start and oftentimes end with our keyword research. We go to AdWords Keyword Tool, what used to be the external keyword tool and now is inside AdWords Ad Planner. We go inside that tool, and we look at the volume that’s reported and we sort of record that as, well, it’s not good, but it’s the best we’re going to do.

However, I think there are a few things to consider here. First off, that tool is hiding data. What I mean by that is not that they’re not telling the truth, but they’re not telling the whole truth. They’re not telling nothing but the truth, because those rounded off numbers that you always see, you know that those are inaccurate. Anytime you’ve bought keywords, you’ve seen that the impression count never matches the count that you see in the AdWords tool. It’s not usually massively off, but it’s often off by a good degree, and the only thing it’s great for is telling relative volume from one from another.

But because AdWords hides data essentially by saying like, “Hey, you’re going to type in . . .” Let’s say I’m going to type in “college tuition,” and Google knows that a lot of people search for how to reduce college tuition, but that doesn’t come up in the suggestions because it’s not a commercial term, or they don’t think that an advertiser who bids on that is going to do particularly well and so they don’t show it in there. I’m giving an example. They might indeed show that one.

But because that data is hidden, we need to go deeper. We need to go beyond and look at things like Google Suggest and related searches, which are down at the bottom. We need to start conducting customer interviews and staff interviews, which hopefully has always been part of your brainstorming process but really needs to be now. Then you can apply that to AdWords. You can apply that to suggest and related.

The beautiful thing is once you get these tools from places like visiting forums or communities, discussion boards and seeing what terms and phrases people are using, you can collect all this stuff up, plug it back into AdWords, and now they will tell you how much volume they’ve got. So you take that how to lower college tuition term, you plug it into AdWords, they will show you a number, a non-zero number. They were just hiding it in the suggestions because they thought, “Hey, you probably don’t want to bid on that. That won’t bring you a good ROI.” So you’ve got to be careful with that, especially when it comes to SEO kinds of keyword research.

2) Building separate pages for each term or phrase doesn’t make sense

It used to be the case that we built separate pages for every single term and phrase that was in there, because we wanted to have the maximum keyword targeting that we could. So it didn’t matter to us that college scholarship and university scholarships were essentially people looking for exactly the same thing, just using different terminology. We would make one page for one and one page for the other. That’s not the case anymore.

Today, we need to group by the same searcher intent. If two searchers are searching for two different terms or phrases but both of them have exactly the same intent, they want the same information, they’re looking for the same answers, their query is going to be resolved by the same content, we want one page to serve those, and that’s changed up a little bit of how we’ve done keyword research and how we do selection and targeting as well.

3) Build your keyword consideration and prioritization spreadsheet with the right metrics

Everybody’s got an Excel version of this, because I think there’s just no awesome tool out there that everyone loves yet that kind of solves this problem for us, and Excel is very, very flexible. So we go into Excel, we put in our keyword, the volume, and then a lot of times we almost stop there. We did keyword volume and then like value to the business and then we prioritize.

What are all these new columns you’re showing me, Rand? Well, here I think is how sophisticated, modern SEOs that I’m seeing in the more advanced agencies, the more advanced in-house practitioners, this is what I’m seeing them add to the keyword process.

Difficulty

A lot of folks have done this, but difficulty helps us say, “Hey, this has a lot of volume, but it’s going to be tremendously hard to rank.”

The difficulty score that Moz uses and attempts to calculate is a weighted average of the top 10 domain authorities. It also uses page authority, so it’s kind of a weighted stack out of the two. If you’re seeing very, very challenging pages, very challenging domains to get in there, it’s going to be super hard to rank against them. The difficulty is high. For all of these ones it’s going to be high because college and university terms are just incredibly lucrative.

That difficulty can help bias you against chasing after terms and phrases for which you are very unlikely to rank for at least early on. If you feel like, “Hey, I already have a powerful domain. I can rank for everything I want. I am the thousand pound gorilla in my space,” great. Go after the difficulty of your choice, but this helps prioritize.

Opportunity

This is actually very rarely used, but I think sophisticated marketers are using it extremely intelligently. Essentially what they’re saying is, “Hey, if you look at a set of search results, sometimes there are two or three ads at the top instead of just the ones on the sidebar, and that’s biasing some of the click-through rate curve.” Sometimes there’s an instant answer or a Knowledge Graph or a news box or images or video, or all these kinds of things that search results can be marked up with, that are not just the classic 10 web results. Unfortunately, if you’re building a spreadsheet like this and treating every single search result like it’s just 10 blue links, well you’re going to lose out. You’re missing the potential opportunity and the opportunity cost that comes with ads at the top or all of these kinds of features that will bias the click-through rate curve.

So what I’ve seen some really smart marketers do is essentially build some kind of a framework to say, “Hey, you know what? When we see that there’s a top ad and an instant answer, we’re saying the opportunity if I was ranking number 1 is not 10 out of 10. I don’t expect to get whatever the average traffic for the number 1 position is. I expect to get something considerably less than that. Maybe something around 60% of that, because of this instant answer and these top ads.” So I’m going to mark this opportunity as a 6 out of 10.

There are 2 top ads here, so I’m giving this a 7 out of 10. This has two top ads and then it has a news block below the first position. So again, I’m going to reduce that click-through rate. I think that’s going down to a 6 out of 10.

You can get more and less scientific and specific with this. Click-through rate curves are imperfect by nature because we truly can’t measure exactly how those things change. However, I think smart marketers can make some good assumptions from general click-through rate data, which there are several resources out there on that to build a model like this and then include it in their keyword research.

This does mean that you have to run a query for every keyword you’re thinking about, but you should be doing that anyway. You want to get a good look at who’s ranking in those search results and what kind of content they’re building . If you’re running a keyword difficulty tool, you are already getting something like that.

Business value

This is a classic one. Business value is essentially saying, “What’s it worth to us if visitors come through with this search term?” You can get that from bidding through AdWords. That’s the most sort of scientific, mathematically sound way to get it. Then, of course, you can also get it through your own intuition. It’s better to start with your intuition than nothing if you don’t already have AdWords data or you haven’t started bidding, and then you can refine your sort of estimate over time as you see search visitors visit the pages that are ranking, as you potentially buy those ads, and those kinds of things.

You can get more sophisticated around this. I think a 10 point scale is just fine. You could also use a one, two, or three there, that’s also fine.

Requirements or Options

Then I don’t exactly know what to call this column. I can’t remember the person who’ve showed me theirs that had it in there. I think they called it Optional Data or Additional SERPs Data, but I’m going to call it Requirements or Options. Requirements because this is essentially saying, “Hey, if I want to rank in these search results, am I seeing that the top two or three are all video? Oh, they’re all video. They’re all coming from YouTube. If I want to be in there, I’ve got to be video.”

Or something like, “Hey, I’m seeing that most of the top results have been produced or updated in the last six months. Google appears to be biasing to very fresh information here.” So, for example, if I were searching for “university scholarships Cambridge 2015,” well, guess what? Google probably wants to bias to show results that have been either from the official page on Cambridge’s website or articles from this year about getting into that university and the scholarships that are available or offered. I saw those in two of these search results, both the college and university scholarships had a significant number of the SERPs where a fresh bump appeared to be required. You can see that a lot because the date will be shown ahead of the description, and the date will be very fresh, sometime in the last six months or a year.

Prioritization

Then finally I can build my prioritization. So based on all the data I had here, I essentially said, “Hey, you know what? These are not 1 and 2. This is actually 1A and 1B, because these are the same concepts. I’m going to build a single page to target both of those keyword phrases.” I think that makes good sense. Someone who is looking for college scholarships, university scholarships, same intent.

I am giving it a slight prioritization, 1A versus 1B, and the reason I do this is because I always have one keyword phrase that I’m leaning on a little more heavily. Because Google isn’t perfect around this, the search results will be a little different. I want to bias to one versus the other. In this case, my title tag, since I more targeting university over college, I might say something like college and university scholarships so that university and scholarships are nicely together, near the front of the title, that kind of thing. Then 1B, 2, 3.

This is kind of the way that modern SEOs are building a more sophisticated process with better data, more inclusive data that helps them select the right kinds of keywords and prioritize to the right ones. I’m sure you guys have built some awesome stuff. The Moz community is filled with very advanced marketers, probably plenty of you who’ve done even more than this.

I look forward to hearing from you in the comments. I would love to chat more about this topic, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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You Can’t Copyright Facts

The Facts of Life

When Google introduced the knowledge graph one of their underlying messages behind it was “you can’t copyright facts.”

Facts are like domain names or links or pictures or anything else in terms of being a layer of information which can be highly valued or devalued through commoditization.

When you search for love quotes, Google pulls one into their site & then provides another “try again” link.

Since quotes mostly come from third parties they are not owned by BrainyQuotes and other similar sites. But here is the thing, if those other sites which pay to organize and verify such collections have their economics sufficiently undermined then they go away & then Google isn’t able to pull them into the search results either.

The same is true with song lyrics. If you are one of the few sites paying to license the lyrics & then Google puts lyrics above the search results, then the economics which justified the investment in licensing might not back out & you will likely go bankrupt. That bankruptcy wouldn’t be the result of being a spammer trying to work an angle, but rather because you had a higher cost structure from trying to do things the right way.

Never trust a corporation to do a librarian’s job.

What’s Behind Door Number One?

Google has also done the above quote-like “action item” types of onebox listings in other areas like software downloads

Where there are multiple versions of the software available, Google is arbitrarily selecting the download page, even though a software publisher might have a parallel SAAS option or other complex funnels based on a person’s location or status as a student or such.

Mix in Google allowing advertisers to advertise bundled adware, and it becomes quite easy for Google to gum up the sales process and undermine existing brand equity by sending users to the wrong location. Here’s a blog post from Malwarebytes referencing

  • their software being advertised on their brand term in Google via AdWords ads, engaging in trademark infringement and bundled with adware.
  • numerous user complaints they received about the bundleware
  • required legal actions they took to take the bundler offline

Brands are forced to buy their own brand equity before, during & after the purchase, or Google partners with parasites to monetize the brand equity:

The company used this cash to build more business, spending more than $ 1 million through at least seven separate advertising accounts with Google.

The ads themselves said things like “McAfee Support – Call +1-855-[redacted US phone number]” and pointed to domains like mcafee-support.pccare247.com.

One PCCare247 ad account with Google produced 71.7 million impressions; another generated 12.4 million more. According to records obtained by the FTC, these combined campaigns generated 1.5 million clicks

Since Google requires Chrome extensions be installed from their own website it makes it hard (for anyone other than Google) to monetize them, which in turn makes it appealing for people to sell the ad-ons to malware bundlers. Android apps in the Google Play store are yet another “open” malware ecosystem.

FACT: This Isn’t About Facts

Google started the knowledge graph & onebox listings on some utterly banal topics which were easy for a computer to get right, though their ambitions vastly exceed the starting point. The starting point was done where it was because it was low-risk and easy.

When Google’s evolving search technology was recently covered on Medium by Steven Levy he shared that today the Knowledge Graph appears on roughly 25% of search queries and that…

Google is also trying to figure out how to deliver more complex results — to go beyond quick facts and deliver more subjective, fuzzier associations. “People aren’t interested in just facts,” she says. “They are interested in subjective things like whether or not the television shows are well-written. Things that could really help take the Knowledge Graph to the next level.”

Even as the people who routinely shill for Google parrot the “you can’t copyright facts” mantra, Google is telling you they have every intent of expanding far beyond it. “I see search as the interface to all computing,” says Singhal.

Even if You Have Copyright…

What makes the “you can’t copyright facts” line so particularly disingenuous was Google’s support of piracy when they purchased YouTube:

cofounder Jawed Karim favored “lax” copyright policy to make YouTube “huge” and hence “an excellent acquisition target.” YouTube at one point added a “report copyrighted content” button to let users report infringements, but removed the button when it realized how many users were reporting unauthorized videos. Meanwhile, YouTube managers intentionally retained infringing videos they knew were on the site, remarking “we should KEEP …. comedy clips (Conan, Leno, etc.) [and] music videos” despite having licenses for none of these. (In an email rebuke, cofounder Steve Chen admonished: “Jawed, please stop putting stolen videos on the site. We’re going to have a tough time defending the fact that we’re not liable for the copyrighted material on the site because we didn’t put it up when one of the co-founders is blatantly stealing content from other sites and trying to get everyone to see it.”)

To some, the separation of branding makes YouTube distinct and separate from Google search, but that wasn’t so much the case when many sites lost their video thumbnails and YouTube saw larger thumbnails on many of their listings in Google. In the above Steven Levy article he wrote: “one of the highest ranked general categories was a desire to know “how to” perform certain tasks. So Google made it easier to surface how-to videos from YouTube and other sources, featuring them more prominently in search.”

Altruism vs Disruption for the Sake of it

Whenever Google implements a new feature they can choose to not monetize it so as to claim they are benevolent and doing it for users without commercial interest. But that same unmonetized & for users claim was also used with their shopping search vertical until one day it went paid. Google claimed paid inclusion was evil right up until the day it claimed paid inclusion was a necessity to improve user experience.

There was literally no transition period.

Many of the “informational” knowledge block listings contain affiliate links pointing into Google Play or other sites. Those affiliate ads were only labeled as advertisements after the FTC complained about inconsistent ad labeling in search results.

Health is Wealth

Google recently went big on the knowledge graph by jumping head first into the health vertical:

starting in the next few days, when you ask Google about common health conditions, you’ll start getting relevant medical facts right up front from the Knowledge Graph. We’ll show you typical symptoms and treatments, as well as details on how common the condition is—whether it’s critical, if it’s contagious, what ages it affects, and more. For some conditions you’ll also see high-quality illustrations from licensed medical illustrators. Once you get this basic info from Google, you should find it easier to do more research on other sites around the web, or know what questions to ask your doctor.


Google’s links to the Mayo Clinic in their knowledge graph are, once again, a light gray font.

In case you didn’t find enough background in Google’s announcement article, Greg Sterling shared more of Google’s views here. A couple notable quotes from Greg…

Cynics might say that Google is moving into yet another vertical content area and usurping third-party publishers. I don’t believe this is the case. Google isn’t going to be monetizing these queries; it appears to be genuinely motivated by a desire to show higher-quality health information and educate users accordingly.

  • Google doesn’t need to directly monetize it to impact the economics of the industry. If they shift a greater share of clicks through AdWords then that will increase competition and ad prices in that category while lowering investment in SEO.
  • If this is done out of benevolence, it will appear *above* the AdWords ads on the search results — unlike almost every type of onebox or knowledge graph result Google offers.
  • If it is fair for him to label everyone who disagrees with his thesis as a cynic then it is of course fair for those “cynics” to label Greg Sterling as a shill.

Google told me that it hopes this initiative will help motivate the improvement of health content across the internet.

By defunding and displacing something they don’t improve its quality. Rather they force the associated entities to cut their costs to try to make the numbers work.

If their traffic drops and they don’t do more with less, then…

  • their margins will fall
  • growth slows (or they may even shrink)
  • their stock price will tank
  • management will get fired & replaced and/or they will get took private by private equity investors and/or they will need to do some “bet the company” moves to find growth elsewhere (and hope Google doesn’t enter that parallel area anytime soon)

When the numbers don’t work, publishers need to cut back or cut corners.

Things get monetized directly, monetized indirectly, or they disappear.

Some of the more hated aspects of online publishing (headline bait, idiotic correlations out of context, pagination, slideshows, popups, fly in ad units, auto play videos, full page ad wraps, huge ads eating most the above the fold real estate, integration of terrible native ad units promoting junk offers with shocking headline bait, content scraping answer farms, blending unvetted user generated content with house editorial, partnering with content farms to create subdomains on trusted blue chip sites, using Narrative Science or Automated Insights to auto-generate content, etc.) are not done because online publishers want to be jackasses, but because it is hard to make the numbers work in a competitive environment.

Publishers who were facing an “oh crap” moment when seeing print Dollars turn into digital dimes are having round number 2 when they see those digital dimes turn into mobile pennies:

At The New York Times, for instance, more than half its digital audience comes from mobile, yet just 10% of its digital-ad revenue is attributed to these devices.

If we lose some diversity in news it isn’t great, though it isn’t the end of the world. But what makes health such an important area is it is literally a matter of life & death.

Its importance & the amount of money flowing through the market ensures there is heavy investment in misinforming the general population. The corruption is so bad some people (who should know better) instead fault science.


… and, only those who hate free speech, democracy & the country could possibly have anything negative to say about it. :D

Not to worry though. Any user trust built through the health knowledge graph can be monetized through a variety of other fantastic benevolent offers.

Once again, Google puts the user first.

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Why We Can’t Just Be SEOs Anymore – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

There's a movement happening in our industry, and many folks are changing their practices and titles from "SEO" to "online marketing, inbound marketing, and/or earned media marketing." Where did this shift originate from, and where is it taking our industry as a whole? Is it enough to just be an SEO in today's game, or are we missing the bigger picture?

In today's Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares his take on the shift from "SEO" to "inbound marketing" and what the future holds for our industry at large. 

Have something to add? Leave your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!



For your viewing pleasure, here's a still image of the whiteboard used in this week's video:

Video Transcription

"Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to a special edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I want to address an elephant in the room. It's a topic that I've talked about quite a bit on my personal blog, a bit on the primary blog, and I know it's a topic that gets discussed all over the marketing world, from Inbound.org to lots of blogs and news sites. It's:  Why is it that there's this movement from some folks in the field to change their titles, their names, their practices, from saying, "We do SEO," to saying, "We do inbound marketing," or, "We do online marketing, we do web marketing, we do earned media marketing"?

I want to try to try and take on that elephant right now. There are some really good reasons that I think we're seeing this shift happen, and I'm actually one of the proponents of this shift. I used to be very against it. I used to be very passionate about building only the brand of SEO. Now, I've revised my stance. I think that, as new data and as the world has changed and I've become less of an obstinate son of a gun, I'm seeing this bigger picture, and I want to try to share that picture that I'm seeing with you.

The first one is I can't argue that SEO is bigger than the way people define or have defined SEO for the last decade. That's not really true of the 2010 to 2013 period, but it is very true of the decade before that, from the late '90s into the late 2000, the "aughts." What I mean is there are these old-school tactics. "Oh, you're going to do SEO? Well, that means you do links, you make my content relevant, you put the good keywords in there, you do work on your markup, your snippets, and your site architecture, your structure. You are done. You have done SEO. That is SEO. Don't try to tell me that it's more than that."

This becomes very, very challenging when, as an SEO or as a marketer who's trying to achieve good results with SEO, you say, "But wait a minute. This only works when the ranking factors were things like link graph data, keyword data, domain data, and topic analysis." Now, we have a lot more ranking factors, right? Engines are looking at user and usage data. They're definitely looking at brand signals. They're looking at offline data potential. Potentially there are patent applications, thinking about offline data. They're looking at social graph signals.

What's an SEO to do? If I want to influence these, I've got to be able to work on everything that's marketing. That's everything from social media to community building, positioning, branding, emails, CRO, product, the unique value of the content. What am I going to do if I'm tasked with SEO, but I'm only given responsibility over these things? It's just not going to work. In order to influence just the very part of SEO that we touch on, which is moving up rankings in major search engines like Google and Bing, just to do that, we have to be able to control and influence a lot more than we ever had to in the past. It's an untenable kind of situation.

Thus, what we'd really like to do and what we've been working hard at as an industry is to try to change and broaden the definition of SEO. I can tell you one of the things that I feel very passionately about is changing that branding and working really hard to not have the word "SEO" be associated with scumminess and bad companies and irresponsible behavior. But that perception of SEO is so hard to change. It's been established for such a long time now, and the small efforts of quite a few of us in the field to try and change that perception have not been successful, at least not outside of the online marketing world. Inside that world and with a small portion of the developers and designers who get SEO and get marketing, it's true.

I love those of you who are watching Whiteboard Friday and who are in that world, who understand that SEO is this bigger thing. But I know that you've felt the same pain that I'm talking about. People say, "Oh, SEO. So you're a spammer. You manipulate things. You're unethical. You're breaking the search engine's rules. What does Google think of you?"

These are questions we have to answer every single time, and it's pretty clear to me why this happens. I think the reason is actually very obvious. The primary and first association that most people have with SEO is what? It's comment spam on their blogs. It's a spammy, scummy email that's trying to get them to sign up for something. It's someone wanting to trade a PageRank 6 link with them. It's a forum, or a bulletin board, or an online community saying, "Oh, are you wondering why this malware happened? That's the SEOs doing that." That's why all these bad things happen on the Internet. They blame SEOs.

To be fair, early on in the days of SEO, there were plenty of us, myself included, who would do some of these spammy and manipulative things. I'm not innocent, by any means. But that perception, that fight is one that I don't think we're winning. That's another reason why I think it's really hard to do SEO well and just call yourself an SEO. I think when you change the title, you change the perception. You change the frame of reference, and you say, "I do web marketing. I help people grow their companies. I help attract visitors, and that leads to more conversions on their site." They're like, "Oh, okay. I get it. Web marketing. Understood." SEO is one of the channels, one of the main channels, but one of the channels they focus on.

The third one, we are selling ourselves short. When you say, "I'm an SEO," your boss, your client, your management says, "Why are you meddling with our design, UX, social, and ad campaigns? Why are you trying to get into this?" You are supposed to focus on SEO. Yet, the answer is well, we can't do great even at just SEO without influencing all these other fields that we talked about above.

By the way, we're selling ourselves short even more than just this, because when we do work on all these channels, when we improve all of these channels, that obviously helps our search rankings too, we are also driving a lot of traffic from them. Social is sending us good traffic. The blogosphere and PR efforts are sending us good links that are driving visits, good customer service practices, community building practices, culture practices. All of these things that influence SEO that we're trying to move the needle on to get better results, they also drive traffic of their own. That traffic converts, and that traffic is valuable. That traffic is measurable, and we are often the ones who are measuring it and quantifying it and trying to gauge the impact it has on search. Yet, we're not getting rewarded for it or treated as though we were responsible for it. Again, we're selling ourselves short.

But I want to end on a positive note. This stuff is okay. It is okay. This is something that we are used to. We are used to change. If there's anything that SEOs can be assured of, it's that things will change tomorrow, that things will change next week. No one is better prepared to handle change than we are. This kind of change is actually positive. Every field matures. My checkmark practices don't mature. I'm clearly getting worse at them. But every field matures. You can see the early seeds of programming, of video, of accounting, any type of field, right? Journalism, for sure. Any time there's massive shift or a new industry, we have these years of immaturity, and then we get to a better stage.

I think the stage for us is deciding:  Do we want to keep committing to a brand that frankly has been put through the wringer? One that I still use and will always use. As long as I am doing SEO work, I will use that brand. But do we want to also take hold of and recognize that, as marketers, we want to do good branding and good marketing? That means potentially calling ourselves something different, taking on these other titles, expressing ourselves in other ways in order to get more influence, and by the way, bigger paychecks too.

An SEO consultant, there are people who charge between $ 50 and a few hundred dollars an hour. Then you look at business strategy consultants from Accenture, or something like that, and you're talking about a thousand plus dollars an hour. The more influence you have, the greater your billing is and, by the way, the more you can effect change and have a positive influence.

I hope this Whiteboard Friday is valuable to you. I'm sure there will be good comments and good discussion about this naming convention. I look forward to reading them and participating too. Take care, everyone. We'll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday."

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10 Tempting Email Promos Your Prospects Can’t Resist

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It’s not that your email marketing content isn’t spectacular. But your subscribers may be wondering, “Hey, am I ever going to get the hook up? The insider deal? That little bit of extra-special love reserved just for me?”

The answer is yes … well, if you can think of a cool deal to send them. I mean, the straight up X% OFF and BOGO deals feel a little stale after a while, don’t they?

If they feel stale to you, chances are your subscribers aren’t drooling over them, either. And if you’re unsure, just take a look at your click-through rates; if they’re stagnating or taking a nose dive, it’s time to get creative with the deals you’re sending to drive clicks and revenue. And as it turns out, social shares and forwards, too — research shows that emails with a promotion or discount receive the most shares (34.7%) as compared with other types of email content. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me.

So what kinds of promotions can you send? We dug deep into the recesses of our brains (and our inboxes) to come up with a list of creative deals you can use in upcoming email campaigns that will perk your subscribers right up. Take a gander.

10 Creative Deals to Send in Your Email Marketing Campaigns

1) Limited Supply

A successful promotion — especially an email promotion that relies on getting someone to whip out a credit card when they’re trolling through an overloaded inbox — needs to instill a sense of urgency. What better way to create that sense of urgency than a dwindling supply? You can make that sense of scarcity even more pronounced using visual cues, like an inventory ticker or counter, to indicate how much of your supply is left and really light a fire under their tuckus. For a promotion of this nature, try targeting first time buyers or those who make infrequent purchases to get them more engaged with your brand; you’ve already established your value with return shoppers.

2) “Use-It-or-Lose-It” Credit

TechCrunch recently published the results of a Harvard research study on teaching incentives in which they found performance improved not when incentives were given after performance metrics were achieved, but when incentives were given up-front and could be taken away if performance metrics weren’t achieved. This is the principle of “loss aversion” in which people, once they have something, don’t want to give it up. Experiment with this concept in your email marketing deals, too.

For example, you might offer a “Use-It-or-Lose-It” credit that gets shoppers to, well, shop. There are two approaches you could take with this: you could either give a credit that’s less than the cost of your products or services, ensuring you still generate some revenue; or you could trust that a one-time purchaser will return and make more purchases in the future, offering a credit that wouldn’t require a recipient to dole out any of their own cash.

3) Give Away Your Expertise

Sometimes a valuable action isn’t a transaction — it’s an activity that leads to a transaction. These are the types of deals that matter for businesses with longer sales cycles and/or higher ticket items. Instead of focusing on price, you need an opportunity to build value, and you can do that by giving away your expertise as opposed to percentages off. Offer free consultations, free assessments, free diagnostics, free tutorials, free whatever to get high-quality leads to the point where they’re ready to make a purchase with you.

4) Send This Deal to a Friend in Need

Leverage your network’s network (and by extension, expand yours) by incentivizing forwards and shares of your deals. This is particularly effective for segments of your database that are engaged with your emails — they’ll have high open rates and often, high click-through rates — but aren’t actually transacting with your business. In other words, they like you, but they’re not ready to settle down in a house in the suburbs with you. But they’d totally set you up with their friend!

You can do this with any deal, but let’s use the last promo idea to demonstrate the principle. Let’s say you’re offering a free consultation to optimize someone’s blog, and this certain segment of your email list just isn’t biting despite all the regular indications that they’re qualified for this conversion event. Send them an email that asks them whether they know any friends who need a little help with their blog. Hey, if they do, they can be the hero that sends them access to a free consultation with an expert that can help them! And there’s something in it for them, too — if their friend books the consultation, they’ll get a $ 50 credit to a blog-writing service to help keep their content machine chugging.

You get a new lead, your recipient gets to be a hero and some free blog content, and their friend gets help with their blog. That’s a win-win-win right there.

5) Give Away Something Really, Really Valuable …

… that doesn’t cost a lot to you. Many businesses have access to these things, but they overlook them because, well, it’s just no biggie to you. For example, a colleague of ours used to own a website that sold cigars, and he had access to some pretty fancy-pants lighters. His leads and customers loved them, so he sent an email to those people cutting them a deal — buy a certain amount of cigars, and you can have one of the lighters for free. Kind of like a reward for being a great customer! Sometimes people just need that extra cherry on top to incite them to action.

6) Thanks for Sharing!

Referral bonuses are a fantastic incentive for current customers to share their love for your brand with their network. Thank those who share your email content by giving them a discount on their next purchase, or a credit for your site. You can even reward both the referrer and the person he or she referred by offering them both the discount or credit. This helps keep everyone engaged with your company and coming back for more and more purchases — oh, and more referrals, too. If you’re looking for examples of this type of deal, two companies who do this really well are Jetsetter and ModCloth; check them out!

7) Instant (or Eventual) Rebate

Offer an instant rebate (or depending on how long it takes, an eventual rebate) to incentivize recipients to complete a desired action. For example, you might offer cash back or a credit on an order when someone forwards that order confirmation email to a friend to show off their latest purchase. This incentivizes good behavior, and if you’re offering a credit for that behavior, it encourages the recipient to visit your site again and get shopping!

8) Price Change Notification

For this promotion, you’re at the mercy of your operations and finance department — but if you don’t leverage it when you have the opportunity, you and your leads are missing out! If something you’re selling is going to increase in price, let your leads know now. If someone’s considering purchasing your products or services (especially if a product is favorited or in their cart), an email alert that the price will increase but you’ll be able to get them in at the lower rate will create a serious sense of urgency. Plus, it will separate those who are serious about making a purchase with you, and those who are just window shopping right now. Be sure to include the date at which the price increase will take effect so the proper expectations are set, and you have that extra little bit of urgency to help motivate a purchase.

9) Leverage Themes and Timeliness

Another way to use newsjacking principles to craft a creative promotion is by leveraging events or popular news items to get people’s attention. This is how you can take flat, stale deals like 50% OFF or BOGO and actually get people’s attention with them. For example, you’ve all heard of Fifty Shades of Grey, right? You may have even read it … though may not admit it ;-) Many hotels are finding ways to tie it into their industry, offering romantic packages where couples can, ahem, live out their fantasies. You don’t even have to go this far, though; you could simply send a “punny” discount, like a 50% OFF Shades of Grey promo, or a Two-for-One Valentine’s Day discount.

10) Partner Hookup

Finally, don’t forget to leverage your partner network for email promotions. Ask them if they’re willing to send out your email promotions on your behalf, getting you access to an entirely new list, as well as giving you some credibility by receiving promotion from someone other than yourself. You could even work out a deal with partners in which your services are discounted exclusively for their audience — just be sure that value is clearly communicated in the email — to give their list a sense of VIP status. Making people feel like they’re getting the insider deal in this way is another fantastic way to not only generate new leads and revenue, but also make your partner look great as a provider of these types of VIP hookups.

What other creative deals can you think of to send in your email marketing campaigns?

Image credit: Lomo-Cam




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Ha! Bullets Can’t Hurt ME

Negative SEO vs Sabotage

Just about any independent SEO worth their weight who publishes a number of websites has at least once hit a snag & been filtered or penalized. A person can say “not me” but how do they operate optimally in both the short term and long term if they never operate near limits or thresholds? But now that Google has begun actively penalizing sites for unnatural link profiles & tightening these thresholds, competitors have been giving one another shoves. Some of the most widely highlighted examples of crappy SEO were not attempts at SEO, but intentional competitive sabotage.

Why Many SEO Thought Leaders Remain Ignorant About SEO

Recently there have been numerous claims that negative SEO doesn’t work made by people who should know better.

Many of them don’t know any better though, due to a combination of being naive, trusting public relations messaging as being the truth, and a general lack of recent experience on smaller sites.

If someone only…

  • does consulting for large corporate clients
  • works in house at a big company
  • publishes a site about SEO and doesn’t build & market sites in competitive areas

… it is easy to bleat on about how negative SEO isn’t generally possible except for weak sites. Sites that (allegedly) deserve to be hit & must (obviously) lack quality to be so weak.

The Risk of Labeling “Spam”

As highlighted above, some of the most frequently & widely cited spam examples were not examples of spam, but examples of competitive sabotage. Thus anyone who recommends highlighting “spam” can potentially hose businesses that did nothing wrong.

Why Many SEO Consultants Pretend Success & Cheer Brand

Most sites focused on search typically write a syndication of Google fluff public relations and/or are doing cloaked sales pieces claiming that the death of spammers is great because they and their clients keep becoming more successful. Its all fake it until you make it / fake it until you too are driven out of the ecosystem & pretend things are always getting better even when signs point the other direction. This is done for a variety of reasons:

  • not wanting to lose access to Google
  • signaling you have experience working with big brands
  • wanting to signal that you are a safe play in the marketplace

Nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM.

Marketers Sell Whatever Google Promotes

It is far easier to get paid to do nothing than it is to get paid to fight against the waves of the ocean.

So long as Google keeps feeding macro-parasites trying to kill off smaller & independent players you can expect a lot of consultants to push themselves as being a good fit for the big brands that Google is explicitly designing their algorithms around promoting. However this trend won’t last forever. Many of those bigger sites are becoming ad networks & at some point Google will see that competitive threat for what it is. They will then decide “the user” would like a bit more diversity in the results & to see more smaller sites rank.

Most Businesses Must be Small

Much like wealth, business distributions follow power laws & most businesses are small in scale. Sure “build brand” is a nice cure all, but building a strong brand requires scale. Not all businesses have the margins required to build brands. And businesses take time to grow.

Quality vs Scale

Scale & quality are not the same thing. Some businesses are intentionally kept small because their owners feel scale requires compromising on quality. Remember the Olive Garden review that went viral, or what the biggest banks did to the global economy a few years ago?

Most Big Companies Start Off Small

Since going public in 1987, Fastenal has been the fastest growing public company. The company was started by a guy who was sorting bolts and nuts in his basement. Now that they are worth $ 13 billion they are virtually untouchable, but if 30 years ago online was a big sales channel & someone negative SEOed him his business could have been toast.

Big businesses come from small businesses, as does most innovation. However, if the underlying market is absurdly unstable that retards investment in growth and innovation in companies like Fastenal:

The Fastenal story began in November 1967 when company founder Bob Kierlin opened the very first Fastenal store in his hometown of Winona, MN. The front counter was a salvaged door, about a dozen people attended the “grand opening” weekend, and the first month’s sales totaled $ 157.

One of the biggest failures of modern societies is the self-serving myth of too big to fail.

If SEOs believe that size of a business is the primary legitimate proxy for quality, they should either hire thousands of employees or go get a job at Wal-Mart.

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Online Marketing – Peter Griffin & Aidan O’Curry speaking at 15 Hatfields, London in May 2009
Video Rating: 4 / 5

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