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Case Study: How a Media Company Grew 400% and Used SEO to Get Acquired

Posted by Gaetano-DiNardi-NYC

Disclaimer: I’m currently the Director of Demand Generation at Nextiva, and writing this case study post-mortem as the former VP of Marketing at Sales Hacker (Jan. 2017 – Sept. 2018).



Every B2B company is investing in content marketing right now. Why? Because they all want the same thing: Search traffic that leads to website conversions, which leads to money.

But here’s the challenge: Companies are struggling to get traction because competition has reached an all-time high. Keyword difficulty (and CPC) has skyrocketed in most verticals. In my current space, Unified Communication as a Service (UCaaS), some of the CPCs have nearly doubled since 2017, with many keywords hovering close to $ 300 per click.

Not to mention, organic CTRs are declining, and zero-click queries are rising.

Bottom line: If you’re not creating 10x quality content based on strategic keyword research that satisfies searcher intent and aligns back to business goals, you’re completely wasting your time.

So, that’s exactly what we did. The outcome? We grew from 19k monthly organic sessions to over 100k monthly organic sessions in approximately 14 months, leading to an acquisition by Outreach.io

We validated our hard work by measuring organic growth (traffic and keywords) against our email list growth and revenue, which correlated positively, as we expected. 

Organic Growth Highlights

January 2017–June 2018

As soon as I was hired at Sales Hacker as Director of Marketing, I began making SEO improvements from day one. While I didn’t waste any time, you’ll also notice that there was no silver bullet.

This was the result of daily blocking and tackling. Pure execution and no growth hacks or gimmicks. However, I firmly believe that the homepage redesign (in July 2017) was a tremendous enabler of growth.

Organic Growth to Present Day

I officially left Sales Hacker in August of 2018, when the company was acquired by Outreach.io. However, I thought it would be interesting to see the lasting impact of my work by sharing a present-day screenshot of the organic traffic trend, via Google Analytics. There appears to be a dip immediately following my departure, however, it looks like my predecessor, Colin Campbell, has picked up the slack and got the train back on the rails. Well done!

Unique considerations — Some context behind Sales Hacker’s growth

Before I dive into our findings, here’s a little context behind Sales Hacker’s growth:

  • Sales Hacker’s blog is 100 percent community-generated — This means we didn’t pay “content marketers” to write for us. Sales Hacker is a publishing hub led by B2B sales, marketing, and customer success contributors. This can be a blessing and a curse at the same time — on one hand, the site gets loads of amazing free content. On the other hand, the posts are not even close to being optimized upon receiving the first draft. That means, the editorial process is intense and laborious.
  • Aggressive publishing cadence (4–5x per week) — Sales Hacker built an incredible reputation in the B2B Sales Tech niche — we became known as the go-to destination for unbiased thought leadership for practitioners in the space (think of Sales Hacker as the sales equivalent to Growth Hackers). Due to high demand and popularity, we had more content available than we could handle. While it’s a good problem to have, we realized we needed to keep shipping content in order to avoid a content pipeline blockage and a backlog of unhappy contributors.
  • We had to “reverse engineer” SEO — In short, we got free community-generated and sponsored content from top sales and marketing leaders at SaaS companies like Intercom, HubSpot, Pipedrive, LinkedIn, Adobe and many others, but none of it was strategically built for SEO out of the box. We also had contributors like John Barrows, Richard Harris, Lauren Bailey, Tito Bohrt, and Trish Bertuzzi giving us a treasure trove of amazing content to work with. However, we had to collaborate with each contributor from beginning to end and guide them through the entire process. Topical ideation (based on what they were qualified to write about), keyword research, content structure, content type, etc. So, the real secret sauce was in our editorial process. Shout out to my teammate Alina Benny for learning and inheriting my SEO process after we hired her to run content marketing. She crushed it for us!
  • Almost all content was evergreen and highly tactical — I made it a rule that we’d never agree to publish fluffy pieces, whether it was sponsored or not. Plain and simple. Because we didn’t allow “content marketers” to publish with us, our content had a positive reputation, since it was coming from highly respected practitioners. We focused on evergreen content strategies in order to fuel our organic growth. Salespeople don’t want fluff. They want actionable and tactical advice they can implement immediately. I firmly believe that achieving audience satisfaction with our content was a major factor in our SEO success.
    • Outranking the “big guys” — If you look at the highest-ranking sales content, it’s the usual suspects. HubSpot, Salesforce, Forbes, Inc, and many other sites that were far more powerful than Sales Hacker. But it didn’t matter as much as traditional SEO wisdom tells us, largely due to the fact that we had authenticity and rawness to our content. We realized most sales practitioners would rather read insights from their peers in their community, above the traditional “Ultimate Guides,” which tended to be a tad dry.
    • We did VERY little manual link building — Our link building was literally an email from me, or our CEO, to a site we had a great relationship with. “Yo, can we get a link?” It was that simple. We never did large-scale outreach to build links. We were a very lean, remote digital marketing team, and therefore lacked the bandwidth to allocate resources to link building. However, we knew that we would acquire links naturally due to the popularity of our brand and the highly tactical nature of our content.
    • Our social media and brand firepower helped us to naturally acquire links — It helps A LOT when you have a popular brand on social media and a well-known CEO who authored an essential book called “Hacking Sales”. Most of Sales Hacker’s articles would get widely circulated by over 50+ SaaS partners which would help drive natural links.
    • Updating stale content was the lowest hanging fruit — The biggest chunk of our new-found organic traffic came from updating / refreshing old posts. We have specific examples of this coming up later in the post.
    • Email list growth was the “north star” metric — Because Sales Hacker is not a SaaS company, and the “product” is the audience, there was no need for aggressive website CTAs like “book a demo.” Instead, we built a very relationship heavy, referral-based sales cadence that was supported by marketing automation, so list growth was the metric to pay attention to. This was also a key component to positioning Sales Hacker for acquisition. Here’s how the email growth progression was trending.

    So, now that I’ve set the stage, let’s dive into exactly how I built this SEO strategy.

    Bonus: You can also watch the interview I had with Dan Shure on the Evolving SEO Podcast, where I breakdown this strategy in great detail.

    1) Audience research

    Imagine you are the new head of marketing for a well-known startup brand. You are tasked with tackling growth and need to show fast results — where do you start?

    That’s the exact position I was in. There were a million things I could have done, but I decided to start by surveying and interviewing our audience and customers.

    Because Sales Hacker is a business built on content, I knew this was the right choice.

    I also knew that I would be able to stand out in an unglamorous industry by talking to customers about their content interests.

    Think about it: B2B tech sales is all about numbers and selling stuff. Very few brands are really taking the time to learn about the types of content their audiences would like to consume.

    When I was asking people if I could talk to them about their media and content interests, their response was: “So, wait, you’re actually not trying to sell me something? Sure! Let’s talk!”

    Here’s what I set out to learn:

    • Goal 1 — Find one major brand messaging insight.
    • Goal 2 — Find one major audience development insight.
    • Goal 3 — Find one major content strategy insight.
    • Goal 4 — Find one major UX / website navigation insight.
    • Goal 5 — Find one major email marketing insight.

    In short, I accomplished all of these learning goals and implemented changes based on what the audience told me.

    If you’re curious, you can check out my entire UX research process for yourself, but here are some of the key learnings:

    Based on these outcomes, I was able to determine the following:

    • Topical “buckets” to focus on — Based on the most common daily tasks, the data told us to build content on sales prospecting, building partnerships and referral programs, outbound sales, sales management, sales leadership, sales training, and sales ops.
    • Thought leadership — 62 percent of site visitors said they kept coming back purely due to thought leadership content, so we had to double down on that.
    • Content Types — Step by step guides, checklists, and templates were highly desired. This told me that fluffy BS content had to be ruthlessly eliminated at all costs.
    • Sales Hacker Podcast — 76 percent of respondents said they would listen to the Sales Hacker Podcast (if it existed), so we had to launch it!

    2) SEO site audit — Key findings

    I can’t fully break down how to do an SEO site audit step by step in this post (because it would be way too much information), but I will share the key findings and takeaways from our own Site Audit that led to some major improvements in our website performance.

    Lack of referring domain growth

    Sales Hacker was not able to acquire referring domains at the same rate as competitors. I knew this wasn’t because of a link building acquisition problem, but due to a content quality problem.

    Lack of organic keyword growth

    Sales Hacker had been publishing blog content for years (before I joined) and there wasn’t much to show for it from an organic traffic standpoint. However, I do feel the brand experienced a remarkable social media uplift by building content that was helpful and engaging. 

    Sales Hacker did happen to get lucky and rank for some non-branded keywords by accident, but the amount of content published versus the amount of traffic they were getting wasn’t making sense. 

    To me, this immediately screamed that there was an issue with on-page optimization and keyword targeting. It wasn’t anyone’s fault – this was largely due to a startup founder thinking about building a community first, and then bringing SEO into the picture later. 

    At the end of the day, Sales Hacker was only ranking for 6k keywords at an estimated organic traffic cost of $ 8.9k — which is nothing. By the time Sales Hacker got acquired, the site had an organic traffic cost of $ 122k.

    Non-optimized URLs

    This is common among startups that are just looking to get content out. This is just one example, but truth be told, there was a whole mess of non-descriptive URLs that had to get cleaned up.

    Poor internal linking structure

    The internal linking concentration was poorly distributed. Most of the equity was pointing to some of the lowest value pages on the site.

    Poor taxonomy, site structure, and navigation

    I created a mind-map of how I envisioned the new site structure and internal linking scheme. I wanted all the content pages to be organized into categories and subcategories.

    My goals with the new proposed taxonomy would accomplish the following:

    • Increase engagement from natural site visitor exploration
    • Allow users to navigate to the most important content on the site
    • Improve landing page visibility from an increase in relevant internal links pointing to them.

    Topical directories and category pages eliminated with redirects

    Topical landing pages used to exist on SalesHacker.com, but they were eliminated with 301 redirects and disallowed in robots.txt. I didn’t agree with this configuration. Example: /social-selling/

    Trailing slash vs. non-trailing slash duplicate content with canonical errors

    Multiple pages for the same exact intent. Failing to specify the canonical version.

    Branded search problems — “Sales Hacker Webinar”

    Some of the site’s most important content is not discoverable from search due to technical problems. For example, a search for “Sales Hacker Webinar” returns irrelevant results in Google because there isn’t an optimized indexable hub page for webinar content. It doesn’t get that much search volume (0–10 monthly volume according to Keyword Explorer), but still, that’s 10 potential customers you are pissing off every month by not fixing this.

    3) Homepage — Before and after

    Sooooo, this beauty right here (screenshot below) was the homepage I inherited in early 2017 when I took over the site.

    Fast forward six months later, and this was the new homepage we built after doing audience and customer research…

    New homepage goals

    • Tell people EXACTLY what Sales Hacker is and what we do.
    • Make it stupidly simple to sign up for the email list.
    • Allow visitors to easily and quickly find the content they want.
    • Add social proof.
    • Improve internal linking.

    I’m proud to say, that it all went according to plan. I’m also proud to say that as a result, organic traffic skyrocketed shortly after.

    Special Note: Major shout out to Joshua Giardino, the lead developer who worked with me on the homepage redesign. Josh is one of my closest friends and my marketing mentor. I would not be writing this case study today without him!

    There wasn’t one super measurable thing we isolated in order to prove this. We just knew intuitively that there was a positive correlation with organic traffic growth, and figured it was due to the internal linking improvements and increased average session duration from improving the UX.

    4) Updating and optimizing existing content

    Special note: We enforced “Ditch the Pitch”

    Before I get into the nitty-gritty SEO stuff, I’ll tell you right now that one of the most important things we did was blockade contributors and sponsors from linking to product pages and injecting screenshots of product features into blog articles, webinars, etc.

    Side note: One thing we also had to do was add a nofollow attribute to all outbound links within sponsored content that sent referral traffic back to partner websites (which is no longer applicable due to the acquisition).

    The #1 complaint we discovered in our audience research was that people were getting irritated with content that was “too salesy” or “too pitchy” — and rightfully so, because who wants to get pitched at all day?

    So we made it all about value. Pure education. School of hard knocks style insights. Actionable and tactical. No fluff. No nonsense. To the point.

    And that’s where things really started to take off.

    Before and after: “Best sales books”

    What you are about to see is classic SEO on-page optimization at its finest.

    This is what the post originally looked like (and it didn’t rank well for “best sales books).

    And then after…

    And the result…

    Before and after: “Sales operations”

    What we noticed here was a crappy article attempting to explain the role of sales operations.

    Here are the steps we took to rank #1 for “Sales Operations:”

    • Built a super optimized mega guide on the topic.
    • Since the old crappy article had some decent links, we figured let’s 301 redirect it to the new mega guide.
    • Promote it on social, email and normal channels.

    Here’s what the new guide on Sales Ops looks like…

    And the result…

    5) New content opportunities

    One thing I quickly realized Sales Hacker had to its advantage was topical authority. Exploiting this was going to be our secret weapon, and boy, did we do it well: 

    “Cold calling”

    We knew we could win this SERP by creating content that was super actionable and tactical with examples.

    Most of the competing articles in the SERP were definition style and theory-based, or low-value roundups from domains with high authority.

    In this case, DA doesn’t really matter. The better man wins.

    “Best sales tools”

    Because Sales Hacker is an aggregator website, we had the advantage of easily out-ranking vendor websites for best and top queries.

    Of course, it also helps when you build a super helpful mega list of tools. We included over 150+ options to choose from in the list. Whereas SERP competitors did not even come close.

    “Channel sales”

    Notice how Sales Hacker’s article is from 2017 still beats HubSpot’s 2019 version. Why? Because we probably satisfied user intent better than them.

    For this query, we figured out that users really want to know about Direct Sales vs Channel Sales, and how they intersect.

    HubSpot went for the generic, “factory style” Ultimate Guide tactic.

    Don’t get me wrong, it works very well for them (especially with their 91 DA), but here is another example where nailing the user intent wins.

    “Sales excel templates”

    This was pure lead gen gold for us. Everyone loves templates, especially sales excel templates.

    The SERP was easily winnable because the competition was so BORING in their copy. Not only did we build a better content experience, but we used numbers, lists, and power words that salespeople like to see, such as FAST and Pipeline Growth.

    Special note: We never used long intros

    The one trend you’ll notice is that all of our content gets RIGHT TO THE POINT. This is inherently obvious, but we also uncovered it during audience surveying. Salespeople don’t have time for fluff. They need to cut to the chase ASAP, get what they came for, and get back to selling. It’s really that straightforward.

    When you figure out something THAT important to your audience, (like keeping intros short and sweet), and then you continuously leverage it to your advantage, it’s really powerful.

    6) Featured Snippets

    Featured snippets became a huge part of our quest for SERP dominance. Even for SERPs where organic clicks have reduced, we didn’t mind as much because we knew we were getting the snippet and free brand exposure.

    Here are some of the best-featured snippets we got!

    Featured snippet: “Channel sales”

    Featured snippet: “Sales pipeline management”

    Featured snippet: “BANT”

    Featured snippet: “Customer success manager”

    Featured snippet: “How to manage a sales team”

    Featured snippet: “How to get past the gatekeeper”

    Featured snippet: “Sales forecast modeling”

    Featured snippet: “How to build a sales pipeline”

    7) So, why did Sales Hacker get acquired?

    At first, it seems weird. Why would a SaaS company buy a blog? It really comes down to one thing — community (and the leverage you get with it).

    Two learnings from this acquisition are:

    1. It may be worth acquiring a niche media brand in your space

    2. It may be worth starting your own niche media brand in your space

    I feel like most B2B companies (not all, but most) come across as only trying to sell a product — because most of them are. You don’t see the majority of B2B brands doing a good job on social. They don’t know how to market to emotion. They completely ignore top-funnel in many cases and, as a result, get minimal engagement with their content.

    There’s really so many areas of opportunity to exploit in B2B marketing if you know how to leverage that human emotion — it’s easy to stand out if you have a soul. Sales Hacker became that “soul” for Outreach — that voice and community.

    But one final reason why a SaaS company would buy a media brand is to get the edge over a rival competitor. Especially in a niche where two giants are battling over the top spot.

    In this case, it’s Outreach’s good old arch-nemesis, Salesloft. You see, both Outreach and Salesloft are fighting tooth and nail to win a new category called “Sales Engagement”.

    As part of the acquisition process, I prepared a deck that highlighted how beneficial it would be for Outreach to acquire Sales Hacker, purely based on the traffic advantage it would give them over Salesloft.

    Sales Hacker vs. Salesloft vs Outreach — Total organic keywords

    This chart from 2018 (data exported via SEMrush), displays that Sales Hacker is ranking for more total organic keywords than Salesloft and Outreach combined.

    Sales Hacker vs. Salesloft vs Outreach — Estimated traffic cost

    This chart from 2018 (data exported via SEMrush), displays the cost of the organic traffic compared by domain. Sales Hacker ranks for more commercial terms due to having the highest traffic cost.

    Sales Hacker vs. Salesloft vs Outreach — Rank zone distributions

    This chart from 2018 (data exported via SEMrush), displays the rank zone distribution by domain. Sales Hacker ranked for more organic keywords across all search positions.

    Sales Hacker vs. Salesloft vs Outreach — Support vs. demand keywords

    This chart from 2018 (data exported via SEMrush), displays support vs demand keywords by domain. Because Sales Hacker did not have a support portal, all its keywords were inherently demand focused.

    Meanwhile, Outreach was mostly ranking for support keywords at the time. Compared to Salesloft, they were at a massive disadvantage.

    Conclusion

    I wouldn’t be writing this right now without the help, support, and trust that I got from so many people along the way.

    • Joshua Giardino — Lead developer at Sales Hacker, my marketing mentor and older brother I never had. Couldn’t have done this without you!
    • Max Altschuler — Founder of Sales Hacker, and the man who gave me a shot at the big leagues. You built an incredible platform and I am eternally grateful to have been a part of it.
    • Scott Barker — Head of Partnerships at Sales Hacker. Thanks for being in the trenches with me! It’s a pleasure to look back on this wild ride, and wonder how we pulled this off.
    • Alina Benny — My marketing protege. Super proud of your growth! You came into Sales Hacker with no fear and seized the opportunity.
    • Mike King — Founder of iPullRank, and the man who gave me my very first shot in SEO. Thanks for taking a chance on an unproven kid from the Bronx who was always late to work.
    • Yaniv Masjedi — Our phenomenal CMO at Nextiva. Thank you for always believing in me and encouraging me to flex my thought leadership muscle. Your support has enabled me to truly become a high-impact growth marketer.

    Thanks for reading — tell me what you think below in the comments!

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    Google shortnames and the case of the disappearing reviews

    SEOs complained that adding shortnames to GMB profiles causes reviews to disappear or listings to be suspended. Google says it’s working on it.



    Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


    Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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    March 1st Google Update: The Mysterious Case of the 19-Result SERPs

    Posted by Dr-Pete

    Late last week (Feb 28 – Mar 1), we saw a sizable two-day spike in Google rankings flux, as measured by MozCast. Temperatures on Friday reached 108°F. The original temperature on Thursday was 105°F, but that was corrected down to 99°F (more on that later).

    Digging in on Friday (March 1st), we saw a number of metrics shift, but most notably was a spike in page-one Google SERPs with more than 10 organic results. Across the 10,000 keywords in MozCast, here’s what we observed at the high end:

    Counting “organic” results in 2019 is challenging — some elements, like expanded site-links (in the #1 position), Top Stories, and image results can occupy an organic position. In-depth Articles are particularly challenging (more on that in a moment), and the resulting math usually leaves us with page-one SERPs with counts from 4 to 12. Friday’s numbers were completely beyond anything we’ve seen historically, though, with organic counts up to 19 results.

    Dissecting the 19-result SERP

    Across 10K keywords, we saw 9 SERPs with 19 results. Below is one of the most straightforward (in terms of counting). There was a Featured Snippet in the #0 position, followed by 19 results that appear organic. This is a direct screenshot from a result for “pumpkin pie recipe” on Google.com/US:

    Pardon the long scroll, but I wanted you to get the full effect. There’s no clear marker here to suggest that part of this SERP is a non-organic feature or in some way different. You’ll notice, though, that we transition from more traditional recipe results (with thumbnails) to what appear to be a mix of magazine and newspaper articles. We’ve seen something like this before …

    Diving into the depths of in-depth

    You may not think much about In-depth Articles these days. That’s in large part because they’re almost completely hidden within regular, organic results. We know they still exist, though, because of deep source-code markers and a mismatch in page-one counts. Here, for example, are the last 6 results from today (March 4th) on a search for “sneakers”:

    Nestled in the more traditional, e-commerce results at the end of page one (like Macy’s), you can see articles from FiveThirtyEight, Wired, and The Verge. It’s hard to tell from the layout, but this is a 3-pack of In-depth Articles, which takes the place of a single organic position. So, this SERP appears to have 12 page-one results. Digging into the results on March 1st, we saw a similar pattern, but those 3-packs had expanded to as many as 10 articles.

    We retooled the parser to more flexibly detect In-depth Articles (allowing for packs with more than 3 results), and here’s what we saw for prevalence of In-depth Articles over the past two weeks:

    Just under 23% of MozCast SERPs on the morning of March 1st had something similar to In-depth Articles, an almost 4X increase from the day before. This number returned to normal (even slightly lower) the next day. It’s possible that our new definition is too broad, and these aren’t really traditional “In-depth” packs, but then we would expect the number to stay elevated. We also saw a large spike in SERP “real-estate” shares for major publications, like the New York Times, which typically dominate In-depth Articles. Something definitely happened around March 1st.

    By the new method (removing these results from organic consideration), the temperature for 2/28 dropped from 105°F to 99°F, as some of the unusual results were treated as In-depth Articles and removed from the weather report.

    Note that the MozCast temperatures are back-dated, since they represent the change over a 24-hour period. So, the prevalence of In-depth articles on the morning of March 1st is called “3/1″ in the graph, but the day-over-day temperature recorded that morning is labeled “2/28″ in the graph at the beginning of this post.

    Sorting out where to go from here

    Is this a sign of things to come? It’s really tough to say. On March 1st, I reached out to Twitter to see if people could replicate the 19-result SERPs and many people were able to, both on desktop and mobile:

    This did not appear to be a normal test (which we see roll out to something like 1% or less of searchers, typically). It’s possible this was a glitch on Google’s end, but Google doesn’t typically publicize temporary glitches, so it’s hard to tell.

    It appears that the 108°F was, in part, a reversal of these strange results. On the other hand, it’s odd that the reversal was larger than the original rankings flux. At the same time, we saw some other signals in play, such as a drop in image results on page one (about 10.5% day-over-day, which did not recover the next day). It’s possible that an algorithm update rolled out, but there was a glitch in that update.

    If you’re a traditional publisher or someone who generally benefits from In-depth Articles, I’d recommend keeping your eyes open. This could be a sign of future intent by Google, or it could simply be a mistake. For the rest of us, we’ll have to wait and see. Fortunately, these results appeared mostly at the end of page one, so top rankings were less impacted, but a 19-result page one would certainly shake-up our assumptions about organic positioning and CTR.

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    Steve Case: Facebook Needs to Pivot and Recognize They’re Not in the Garage Anymore

    AOL co-founder Steve Case says that Facebook needs to pivot and recognize that they are not in the garage anymore. Case sees some of this as a backlash against big tech, which he predicted a few years ago in his book The Third Wave. As companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon become more important it is critical for them to engage more at the policy level.

    Steve Case, CEO of Revolution and AOL co-founder, talked about Facebook’s response to the explosive New York Times article on CNBC:

    People Are Looking for the Actions to Follow the Intent

    The New York Times report was obviously very troubling. It’s a great company and I know Mark and Sheryl have done a fabulous job of building not only one of the most valuable companies in the world but also one of the most impactful companies the world. It has had a significant impact not just on business but on society, even in terms of politics. They have to understand that they do shoulder a great responsibility and hopefully they will make the moves necessary. They have the right intent, they’ve been clear about the intent. I think a lot of people are looking for the actions now to follow the intent and hopefully, in the coming weeks and months, we’ll see more of that.

    Expected This Backlash Against Big Tech

    Some of this backlash against big tech, backlash against Silicon Valley, I frankly expected that for several years. I wrote a book a couple years ago that’s called The Third Wave and talked about it. As these companies become more and more important and have more and more impact, engaging more on the policy level is going to be critical.

    In the next wave of innovation, the policy issues, the regulatory issues, whether it be on the platform side of the internet or in healthcare or other other sectors of our economy, the entrepreneurs, the innovators need to engage with the policy makers and the regulators. Entrepreneurs don’t like to do that because they just like to have the freedom of action to move quickly, and that’s understandable. But the nature of the kind of issues we’re now dealing with, the opportunities we’re trying to deal with does require more of that engagement. Facebook is seeing that and Google’s seeing that and other companies will see that as well.

    That’s going to do really define the winners in this next 10 or 20 years, the ones that are innovating and moving quickly but doing it in a way that is understanding they’re living in a broader context and are more respectful of the role of policy.

    Facebook Needs to Pivot and Recognize They’re Not in the Garage Anymore

    Facebook’s a great company, Google is a great company, Amazon’s a great company, they’re a lot of great companies out there. They’re going to still be a magnet for talent but it does become more difficult as you get larger. It does become more difficult when your company is attacked.

    A few years ago everybody felt proud to be associated with Facebook and now some at the company, so the reports suggest, are a little more anxious. We’ve seen that in other large companies as well. Some of that this comes with the scale of going from a startup to a speed up to one of the most important companies in the world.

    This is one of the reasons, but not the only reason, that they need to pivot and recognize they’re not in the garage anymore, it’s not a startup anymore. They have significant civic responsibilities and if they implement those appropriately they’ll be able to attract and keep people and attract and keep customers and that’s a key part of what they need to focus on.

    The post Steve Case: Facebook Needs to Pivot and Recognize They’re Not in the Garage Anymore appeared first on WebProNews.

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    How We More than Doubled Conversions & Leads for a New ICO [Case Study]

    Posted by jkuria

    Summary

    We helped Repux generate 253% more leads, nearly 100% more token sales and millions of dollars in incremental revenue during their initial coin offering (ICO) by using our CRO expertise.

    The optimized site also helped them get meetings with some of the biggest names in the venture capital community — a big feat for a Poland-based team without the pedigree typically required (no MIT, Stanford, Ivy League, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft background).

    The details:

    Repux is a marketplace that lets small and medium businesses sell anonymized data to developers. The developers use the data to build “artificially intelligent” apps, which they then sell back to businesses. Business owners and managers use the apps to make better business decisions.

    Below is the original page, which linked to a dense whitepaper. We don’t know who decided that an ICO requires a long, dry whitepaper, but this seems to be the norm!

    A screenshot of a cell phone</p>
<p>Description generated with very high confidence

    This page above suffers from several issues:

    • The headline is pretty meaningless (“Decentralized Data & Applications Protocol for SMEs). Remember, as David Ogilvy noted, 90% of the success of an ad (in our case, a landing page) is determined by the headline. Visitors quickly scan the headline and if it doesn’t hold their interest, bounce immediately. With so much content on the web, attention is scarce — the average time spent on a page is a few seconds and the average bounce rate is about 85%.
    • The call to action is “Get Whitelisted,” which is also meaningless. What’s in it for me? Why should I want to “Get Whitelisted”?
    • A lack of urgency to act. There is a compelling reason to do so, but it was not being clearly articulated (“Get 50% OFF on the tokens if you buy before a certain date.”)
    • Lack of “evidentials”: Evidentials are elements that lend credibility or reduce anxiety and include things like mentions in trusted publications, well-known investors or advisors, industry seals, association affiliations, specific numbers (e.g. 99% Net Promoter Score), and so on.
    • Too much jargon and arcane technical language: Our research using Mouseflow’s on-page feedback feature showed that the non-accredited-investor ICO audience isn’t sophisticated. They typically reside outside of the US and have a limited command of English. Most are younger men (18–35) who made money from speculative activities on the Internet (affiliate marketing, Adsense arbitrage, and of course other crypto-currencies). When we surveyed them, many did not initially understand the concept. In our winning page (below), we dumbed down things a lot!

    Below is the new page that produced a 253% gain in leads (email opt-ins). Coupled with the email follow-up sequence shown below, it produced a nearly 100% gain in token sales.

    Winning page (above the fold):

    Here are few of the elements that we believe made a difference:

    • Much clearer headline (which we improved upon further in a subsequent treatment).
    • Simple explanation of what the company is doing
    • Urgency to buy now — get 50% off on tokens if you buy before the countdown timer expires
    • Solicited and used press mentions
    • Social proof from the Economist; tapping a meme can be powerful as it’s always easier to swim downstream than upstream. “Data is the new oil” is a current meme.

    More persuasive elements (below the fold):

    In the second span (the next screenful below the fold) we added a few more persuasive elements.

    For one, we highlighted key Repux accomplishments and included bios of two advisors who are well known in the crypto-community.

    Having a working platform was an important differentiator because only one in 10 ICOs had a working product. Most launched with just a whitepaper!

    A survey of the token buyers showed that mentioning well-known advisors worked — several respondents said it was the decisive factor in persuading them to buy. Before, the advisors were buried in a little-visited page. We featured them more prominently.

    Interestingly, this seemed to cut both ways. One of the non-contributors said he was initially interested because of a certain advisor’s involvement. He later chose not to contribute because he felt this advisor’s other flagship project had been mismanaged!

    We also used 3 concrete examples to show how the marketplace functions and how the tokens would be used:

    When your product is highly abstract and technical, using concrete examples aids understanding. We also found this to be true when pitching to professional investors. They often asked, “Can you give me an example of how this would work in the real world?”

    We like long-form pages because unlike a live selling situation, there’s no opportunity for a back-and-forth conversation. The page must therefore overcorrect and address every objection a web visitor might have.

    Lastly, we explained why Repux is likely to succeed. We quoted Victor Hugo for good measure, to create an air of inevitability:

    How much impact did Victor Hugo have? I don’t know, but the page did much better overall. Our experience shows that radical redesigns (that change many page elements at the same time) produce higher conversion lifts.

    Once you attain a large lift, if you like, you can then do isolation testing of specific variables to determine how much each change contributed.

    13% lift: Simplified alternate page

    The page below led to a further 13% lift.

    The key elements we changed were:

    • Simplified the headline even further: “Repux Monetizes Data from Millions of Small Enterprises.” What was previously the headline is now stated in the bullet points.
    • Added a “5 Reasons Why Repux is Likely to Succeed” section: When you number things, visitors are more likely to engage with the content. They may not read all the text but will at least skim over the numbered sub-headlines to learn what all the points are — just like power abhors a vacuum, the mind can’t seem to stand incompleteness!

    We’ve seen this in Mouseflow heatmaps. You can do this test yourself: List a bunch of bullet points versus a numbered list and with a compelling headline: The 7 Reasons Why 20,0000 Doctors Recommend Product X or The 3 Key Things You Need to Know to Make an Informed Decision.

    C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML26c90c7c.PNG

    Follow-up email sequence

    We also created a follow-up email sequence for Repux that led to more token sales.

    C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML4824f99e.PNG

    As you can see, the average open rate is north of 40%, and the goal attained (token sales) is above 8%. According to Mailchimp, the average email marketing campaign open rate is about 20%, while the average CTR is about 3%.

    We got more sales than most people get clicks. Here’s a link to three sample emails we sent.

    Our emails are effective because:

    • They’re educational (versus pure sales pitch). This is also important to avoid “burning out” your list. If all you do is send pitch after pitch, soon you’ll be lucky to get a 1.3% open rate!
    • They employ storytelling. We use a technique known as the “Soap Opera Sequence.” Each email creates anticipation for the next one and also refers to some interesting fact in previous ones. If a person would only have opened one email, they are now likely to want to open future ones as well as look up older ones to “solve the puzzle.” This leads to higher open rates for the entire sequence, and more sales.
    • The calls to action are closer to the bottom, having first built up some value. Counterintuitively, this works better, but you should always test radically different approaches.

    Email is a massively underutilized medium. Most businesses are sitting on goldmines (their email list) without realizing it! You can — and should — make at least 2x to 3x as many sales from your email list as you do from direct website sales.

    It takes a lot of work to write an effective sequence, but once you do you can run it on autopilot for years, making money hand over fist. As customer acquisition gets ever more competitive and expensive, how well you monetize your list can make the difference between success and failure.

    Conclusion

    To increase the conversion rate on your website and get more sales, leads, or app downloads, follow these simple steps:

    • Put in the work to understand why the non-converting visitors are leaving and then systematically address their specific objections. This is what “research-driven” optimization means, as opposed to redesign based purely aesthetic appeal or “best practices.”
    • Find out why the converting visitors took the desired action — and then accentuate these things.
    • Capture emails and use a follow-up sequence to educate and tell stories to those who were not convinced by the website. Done correctly, this can produce 2x to 3x as many sales as the website.

    Simple, but not easy. It takes diligence and discipline to do these things well. But if you do, you will be richly rewarded!

    And if you’d like to learn more about conversion rate optimization or review additional case studies, we encourage you to take our free course.

    Thanks to Jon Powell, Hayk Saakian, Vlad Mkrtumyan, and Nick Jordan for reading drafts of this post.

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    How We Got a 32% Organic Traffic Boost from 4 On-Page SEO Changes [Case Study]

    Posted by WallStreetOasis.com

    My name is Patrick Curtis, and I’m the founder and CEO of Wall Street Oasis, an online community focused on careers in finance founded in 2006 with over 2 million visits per month.

    User-generated content and long-tail organic traffic is what has built our business and community over the last 12+ years. But what happens if you wake up one day and realize that your growth has suddenly stopped? This is what happened to us back in November 2012.

    In this case study, I’ll highlight two of our main SEO problems as a large forum with over 200,000 URLs, then describe two solutions that finally helped us regain our growth trajectory — almost five years later.

    Two main problems

    1. Algorithm change impacts

    Ever since November 2012, Google’s algo changes have seemed to hurt many online forums like ours. Even though our traffic didn’t decline, our growth dropped to the single-digit percentages. No matter what we tried, we couldn’t break through our “plateau of pain” (I call it that because it was a painful ~5 years trying).

    Plateau of pain: no double-digit growth from late 2012 onward

    2. Quality of user-generated content

    Related to the first problem, 99% of our content is user-generated (UGC) which means the quality is mixed (to put it kindly). Like most forum-based sites, some of our members create incredible pieces of content, but a meaningful percentage of our content is also admittedly thin and/or low-quality.

    How could we deal with over 200,000 pieces of content efficiently and try to optimize them without going bankrupt? How could we “clean the cruft” when there was just so much of it?

    Fighting back: Two solutions (and one statistical analysis to show how it worked)

    1. “Merge and Purge” project

    Our goal was to consolidate weaker “children” URLs into stronger “master” URLs to utilize some of the valuable content Google was ignoring and to make the user experience better.

    For example, instead of having ~20 discussions on a specific topic (each with an average of around two to three comments) across twelve years, we would consolidate many of those discussions into the strongest two or three URLs (each with around 20–30 comments), leading to a much better user experience with less need to search and jump around the site.

    Changes included taking the original post and comments from a “child” URL and merging them into the “master” URL, unpublishing the child URL, removing the child from sitemap, and adding a 301 redirect to the master.

    Below is an example of how it looked when we merged a child into our popular Why Investment Banking discussion. We highlighted the original child post as a Related Topic with a blue border and included the original post date to help avoid confusion:

    Highlighting a related topic child post

    This was a massive project that involved some complex Excel sorting, but after 18 months and about $ 50,000 invested (27,418 children merged into 8,515 masters to date), the user experience, site architecture, and organization is much better.

    Initial analysis suggests that the percentage gain from merging weak children URLs into stronger masters has given us a boost of ~10–15% in organic search traffic.

    2. The Content Optimization Team

    The goal of this initiative was to take the top landing pages that already existed on Wall Street Oasis and make sure that they were both higher quality and optimized for SEO. What does that mean, exactly, and how did we execute it?

    We needed a dedicated team that had some baseline industry knowledge. To that end, we formed a team of five interns from the community, due to the fact that they were familiar with the common topics.

    We looked at the top ~200 URLs over the previous 90 days (by organic landing page traffic) and listed them out in a spreadsheet:

    Spreadsheet of organic traffic to URLs

    We held five main hypotheses of what we believed would boost organic traffic before we started this project:

    1. Longer content with subtitles: Increasing the length of the content and adding relevant H2 and H3 subtitles to give the reader more detailed and useful information in an organized fashion.
    2. Changing the H1 so that it matched more high-volume keywords using Moz’s Keyword Explorer.
    3. Changing the URL so that it also was a better match to high-volume and relevant keywords.
    4. Adding a relevant image or graphic to help break up large “walls of text” and enrich the content.
    5. Adding a relevant video similar to the graphic, but also to help increase time on page and enrich the content around the topic.

    We tracked all five of these changes across all 200 URLs (see image above). After a statistical analysis, we learned that four of them helped our organic search traffic and one actually hurt.

    Summary of results from our statistical analysis

    • Increasing the length of the articles and adding relevant subtitles (H2s, H3s, and H4s) to help organize the content gives an average boost to organic traffic of 14%
    • Improving the title or H1 of the URLs yields a 9% increase on average
    • Changing the URL decreased traffic on average by 38% (this was a smaller sample size — we stopped doing this early on for obvious reasons)
    • Including a relevant video increases the organic traffic by 4% on average, while putting an image up increases it by 5% on average.

    Overall, the boost to organic traffic — should we continue to make these four changes (and avoid changing the URL) — is 32% on average.

    Key takeaway:

    Over half of that gain (~18%) comes from changes that require a minimal investment of time. For teams trying to optimize on-page SEO across a large number of pages, we recommend focusing on the top landing pages first and easy wins before deciding if further investment is warranted.

    We hope this case study of our on-page SEO efforts was interesting, and I’m happy to answer any questions you have in the comments!

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    Google loses ‘right to be forgotten’ case in UK High Court

    Decision likely to spark other appeals to courts by those denied de-listing.

    The post Google loses ‘right to be forgotten’ case in UK High Court appeared first on Search Engine Land.



    Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


    Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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    SearchCap: Google loses RTBF case, local pack report & schema SEO

    Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

    The post SearchCap: Google loses RTBF case, local pack report & schema SEO appeared first on Search Engine Land.



    Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


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    Referral Marketing: 4 case studies

    If you’re also looking for ideas and tactics to launch or optimize your own referral programs, here are 4 interesting case studies
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    MozCon 2018: Making the Case for the Conference (& All the Snacks!)

    Posted by Danielle_Launders

    You’ve got that conference looming on the horizon. You want to go — you’ve spent the past few years desperately following hashtags on Twitter, memorizing catchy quotes, zooming in on grainy snapshots of a deck, and furiously downloading anything and everything you can scour from Slideshare.

    But there’s a problem: conferences cost money, and your boss won’t even approve a Keurig in the communal kitchen, much less a ticket to a three-day-long learning sesh complete with its own travel and lodging expenses.

    What’s an education-hungry digital marketer to do?

    How do you convince your boss to send you to the conference of your dreams?

    First of all, you gather evidence to make your case.

    There are a plethora of excellent reasons why attending conferences is good for your career (and your bottom line). In digital marketing, we exist in the ever-changing tech space, hurtling toward the future at breakneck speed and often missing the details of the scenery along the way.

    A good SEO conference will keep you both on the edge of your seat and on the cutting-edge of what’s new and noteworthy in our industry, highlighting some of the most important and impactful things your work depends on.

    A good SEO conference will flip a switch for you, will trigger that lightbulb moment that empowers you and levels you up as both a marketer and a critical thinker.

    If that doesn’t paint a beautiful enough picture to convince the folks that hold the credit card, though, there are also some great statistics and resources available:

    Specifically, we’re talking about MozCon

    Yes, that MozCon!

    Let’s just take a moment to address the elephant in the room here: you all know why we wrote this post. We want to see your smiling face in the audience at MozCon this July (the 9th–11th, if you were wondering). There are a few specific benefits worth mentioning:

    • Speakers and content: Our speakers bring their A-game each year. We work with them to bring the best content and latest trends to the stage to help set you up for a year of success.
    • Videos to share with your team: About a month or so after the conference, we’ll send you a link to professionally edited videos of every presentation at the conference. Your colleagues won’t get to partake in the morning Top Pot doughnuts or Starbucks coffee, but they will get a chance to learn everything you did, for free.
    • Great food onsite: We understand that conference food isn’t typically worth mentioning, but at MozCon you can expect snacks from local Seattle vendors – in the past this includes Trophy cupcakes, KuKuRuZa popcorn, Starbucks’ Seattle Reserve cold brew, and did we mention bacon at breakfast? Let’s not forget the bacon.
    • Swag: Expect to go home with a one-of-a-kind Roger Mozbot, a super-soft t-shirt from American Apparel, and swag worth keeping. We’ve given away Roger Legos, Moleskine notebooks, phone chargers, and have even had vending machines with additional swag in case you didn’t get enough.
    • Networking: You work hard taking notes, learning new insights, and digesting all of that knowledge — that’s why we think you deserve a little fun in the evenings to chat with fellow attendees. Each night after the conference, we’ll offer a different networking event that adds to the value you’ll get from your day of education.
    • A supportive network after the fact: Our MozCon Facebook group is incredibly active, and it’s grown to have a life of its own — marketers ask one another SEO questions, post jobs, look for and offer advice and empathy, and more. It’s a great place to find TAGFEE support and camaraderie long after the conference itself has ended.
    • Discounts for subscribers and groups: Moz Pro subscribers get a whopping $ 500 off their ticket cost (even if you’re on a free 30-day trial!) and there are discounts for groups as well, so make sure to take advantage of savings where you can!
    • Ticket cost: At MozCon our goal is to break even, which means we invest all of your ticket price back into you. Check out the full breakdown below:

    Can you tell we’re serious about the snacks?

    You can check out videos from years past to get a taste for the caliber of our speakers. We’ll also be putting out a call for community speaker pitches in April, so if you’ve been thinking about breaking into the speaking circuit, it could be an amazing opportunity — keep an eye on the blog for your chance to submit a pitch.

    If you’ve ever seriously considered attending an SEO conference like MozCon, now’s the time to do it. You’ll save actual hundreds of dollars by grabbing subscriber or group pricing while you can (think of all the Keurigs you could get for that communal kitchen!), and you’ll be bound for an unforgettable experience that lives and grows with you beyond just the three days you spend in Seattle.

    Grab your ticket to MozCon!

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