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5 Brands That Used Influencer Marketing to Raise Their Profile

Influencer marketing is more than just a marketing buzzword these days. More companies are utilizing this marketing method to boost sales and grow their brands.

For those still confused about what influencer marketing is, it’s simply the act of promoting or selling products or services via influencers, or people who have the ability to affect a brand. Where the main influencers before were celebrities and industry leaders, today’s influencers are more varied. Nowadays, top brands are seeking out bloggers, food critics, makeup mavens and celebrities who rose to fame on platforms like YouTube and Instagram.

Brands that Benefited from Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing provides a lot of benefits. Brands can reach the relevant demographic and enjoy high levels of engagement. It’s also affordable and can help retain a brand’s authenticity. Numerous companies have already successfully leveraged these people to give their brand a boost.

Clinique for Men

Clinique is renowned for its hypoallergenic skincare for women. When the iconic cosmetic company launched a men’s line, they raised product awareness by partnering with a disparate group of male influencers from various professions. These influencers consisted of filmmakers, outdoorsmen, stylists, and lifestyle bloggers, each representing a group of men who would be interested in using Clinique for Men. Every post used in the campaign was unique and defined the influencer. For instance, surfer Mikey de Temple posted a photo of himself wearing his surf gear, with his surfboard in the background, along with a Clinique product.

Clinique’s campaign was golden for several reasons. One, the company’s choice of influencers were so diverse that it expanded the product’s reach. Also, the posts integrated the product smoothly into a setting that was so natural to the influencer. This helped create a more organic interest in Clinique’s men’s line.

Fashion Nova

One brand that has truly embraced influencer marketing is Fashion Nova. According to the company’s founder and CEO, Richard Saghian, Fashion Nova is a viral store that works with 3,000 to 5,000 influencers. Its aggressive marketing efforts rely on lots of model and celebrity influencers, like Kylie Jenner and beauty vlogger Blissful Brii. The former has 93.8 million followers on Instagram while the latter has 93 thousand subscribers on YouTube. These two influencers alone have garnered millions of engagements, likes, and comments for the company.

While other brands go for low-key but very relatable influencers, Fashion Nova went for the celebrities. While this will obviously net a company high-levels of engagement, it can also be costly. But as Fashion Nova has proven, it’s a worthwhile investment.

Lagavulin’s Whiskey Yule Log

This is a magnificent example of how an influencer marketing campaign made a product culturally relevant to a generation. Young people might not have a taste for single malt whiskey, but Lagavulin’s 2016 campaign featuring Nick Offerman changed that. Offerman’s iconic Parks and Rec character, Ron Swanson, is known for his love of whisky. Lagavulin’s 45-minute video took inspiration from YouTube’s yule log videos and simply showed Offerman quietly sipping and enjoying his whiskey next to a fireplace.

The campaign was a success because Lagavulin found the perfect influencer for its brand. Offerman’s character proved to be a critical match for the target audience. As a matter of fact, the campaign was so good that it won an award for Best Influencer & Celebrity Campaign.

Zafferano

Zafferano does not have the same name recall as Nobu or other famous restaurants. But this Singapore-based establishment is a prime example of how social media can be used to boost audience engagement. The company tapped 11 Instagram influencers who are popular in the lifestyle and food category. They invited them to the restaurant for a special meal and in turn, they shared photos of the dishes on Instagram. The influencers also described the dishes and their dining experience. Details like price and availability were also included.

Zafferano’s campaign is notable because of the experience it created for the influencers. This, in turn, helped them come up with authentic and sincere reviews. Since the campaign had such a genuine feel, it encouraged followers to interact and engage with the posts.

Zara

Clothing powerhouse Zara was one of the most profitable companies in 2015, and that’s partly because of its successful influencer marketing campaign. The company’s social media marketing campaign got some help from several top fashion-forward Instagrammers. The Instagram posts shared by these popular influencers showcased Zara’s clothing lines and their followers used these photos to get ideas on what’s currently trending as well as tips on how to work a particular style.

Related image

Zara’s campaign was a success because the company handed the control over to the fashion influencers, the people that customers looked to for fashion advice. The content that was used in the campaign was subtle and useful, which made it even more valuable to the influencers’ thousands of followers.

[Featured image via YouTube]

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3 Quick Tips to Help You Get the Most Out of the Remainder of your Holiday Marketing Efforts

Since there are only 24 shopping days left this gift-giving season, we thought we’d share some quick tips you can apply to your last-minute holiday marketing efforts.
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Email Marketing Trends to Watch Out for in 2018

The number of email users have grown exponentially over the years, and there’s no sign that it will be stopping in 2018. Studies have shown that almost 90% of American consumers use email, and 65% or more have bought something online due to promotional emails.

This means the future of marketing relies on data-boosted content marketing. If you want to keep up with your competitors, you should watch out for these email marketing trends that are expected to dominate next year.

Increased Interactivity Inside EmailsImage result for email countdown timer

Marketers forecast that emails will show increased interactivity in 2018, with the goal of making them fun to read so engagement rates are increased and bounce rates reduced.

One of the best ways to do this is to enhance emails by including image galleries, quizzes, GIFs, countdown timers, and add-to-cart capabilities. Quizzes and GIFS will lead to increased customer footprints while countdown timers create a feeling of urgency that will push recipients to take action within a stipulated time-frame. Meanwhile, including an add-to-cart function will shorten shopping time and enhance brand experience.

Email Marketing Programs Backed by Artificial Intelligence

It’s a given that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology will be a big part of the future. As a matter of fact, numerous tech companies have already invested heavily in developing AI technology that will make lives easier. Email marketing is one area that will reportedly benefit from machine learning.

It’s expected that machine learning programs can assist companies and email marketers by suggesting ways on how to better segment email lists, incorporate product recommendations and design more personalized emails that target specific customers.

Rise of More Plain-Text Emails

The trend of using HTML-powered email templates with images is over. Instead, 2018 will see the rise of plain-text emails. Researchers have found that this style of email is more effective than the HTML ones. Marketing campaigns using plain text emails have been found to have higher delivery and open rates, as well as better engagement numbers.

Marketing specialists have theorized that plain text emails look the same across various gadgets and look more personal. Recipients don’t have to open a browser to read a plain-text email. They’re also easier to format for mobile devices.

Mobile Becomes a Priority

More than half of emails are opened on a mobile device, and 2018 is expected to be the year when emails will be designed with mobile formatting as a priority.

Image result for how many people open emails on mobile device

Graphic via superoffice.com

Pretty soon, companies will be obligated to have a responsive design when it comes emails. This trend won’t be limited to emails though. Subscription forms will also become more mobile friendly while articles will start wrapping up their content with an email signup form to boost conversions.

Increased Significance of Gmail and its Subscriber-Level Filtering

Gmail is becoming the primary inbox provider for a lot of companies. Therefore, most customers on subscriber lists have a Gmail address. But due to Gmail’s system of filtering email, it becomes imperative for businesses to think about how it will be placed in the inbox.

In order for marketers to optimize clicks, opens, and conversions, they have to pay more attention to who they are emailing and how they’re sending their email.Questions like whether the subscriber is actively receiving and interacting with the email and whether they have economic value should be answered. Likewise, the frequency of emails sent, the order, and even the time that they’re sent becomes more significant.

However, the upcoming year will see more companies using more robust analytics to optimize results and foregoing conventional rules like not sending mail to those who haven’t clicked or opened an email in the past three months.

The year 2018 will see more emails that are deeply personalized and utilizing advanced automation technologies. The integration of AI and machine learning will also help marketers to harness the power of email marketing and use it to further their business.

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How to Write Marketing Case Studies That Convert

Posted by kerryjones

In my last post, I discussed why your top funnel content shouldn’t be all about your brand. Today I’m making a 180-degree turn and covering the value of content at the opposite end of the spectrum: content that’s directly about your business and offers proof of your effectiveness.

Specifically, I’m talking about case studies.

I’m a big believer in investing in case studies because I’ve seen firsthand what happened once we started doing so at Fractl. Case studies were a huge game changer for our B2B marketing efforts. For one, our case studies portfolio page brings in a lot of traffic – it’s the second most-visited page on our site, aside from our home page. It also brings in a significant volume of organic traffic, being our fourth most-visited page from organic searches. Most importantly, our case studies are highly effective at converting visitors to leads – about half of our leads view at least one of our case studies before contacting us.

Assuming anyone who reads the Moz Blog is performing some type of marketing function, I’m zeroing in on how to write a compelling marketing case study that differentiates your service offering and pulls prospects down the sales funnel. However, what I’m sharing can be used as a framework for creating case studies in any industry.

Get your client on board with a case study

Marketers shy away from creating case studies for a few reasons:

  1. They’re too busy “in the weeds” with deliverables.
  2. They don’t think their results are impressive enough.
  3. They don’t have clients’ permission to create case studies.

While I can’t help you with #1 and #2 (it’s up to you to make the time and to get the results deserving of a case study!), I do have some advice on #3.

In a perfect world, clients would encourage you to share every little detail of your time working together. In reality, most clients expect you to remain tight-lipped about the work you’ve done for them.

cobert-gif.gif

Understandably, this might discourage you from creating any case studies. But it shouldn’t.

With some compromising, chances are your client will be game for a case study. We’ve noticed the following two objections are common regarding case studies.

Client objection 1: “We don’t want to share specific numbers.”

At first it you may think, “Why bother?” if a client tells you this, but don’t let it hold you back. (Truth is, the majority of your clients will probably feel this way).

In this instance, you’ll want your case study to focus on highlighting the strategy and describing projects, while steering away from showing specific numbers regarding short and long-term results. Believe it or not, the solution part of the case study can be just as, or more, compelling than the results. (I’ll get to that shortly.)

And don’t worry, you don’t have to completely leave out the results. One way to get around not sharing actual numbers but still showing results is to use growth percentages.

Specific numbers: “Grew organic traffic from 5,000 to 7,500 visitors per month”

Growth percentage: “Increased organic traffic by 150%”

We do this for most of our case studies at Fractl, and our clients are totally fine with it.

Client objection 2: “We don’t want to reveal our marketing strategy to competitors.”

A fear of giving away too much intel to competitors is especially common in highly competitive niches.

So how do you get around this?

Keep it anonymous. Don’t reveal who the client is and keep it vague about what niche they’re in. This can be as ambiguous as referring to the client as “Client A” or slightly more specific (“our client in the auto industry”). Instead, the case study will focus on the process and results – this is what your prospects care about, anyway.

Gather different perspectives

Unless you were directly working with the client who you are writing the case study about, you will need to conduct a few interviews to get a full picture of the who, what, how, and why of the engagement. At Fractl, our marketing team puts together case studies based on interviews with clients and the internal team who worked on the client’s account.

The client

Arrange an interview with the client, either on a call or via email. If you have multiple contacts within the client’s team, interview the main point of contact who has been the most involved in the engagement.

What to ask:

  • What challenge were you facing that you hired us to help with?
  • Had you previously tried to solve this challenge (working with another vendor, using internal resources, etc.)?
  • What were your goals for the engagement?
  • How did you benefit from the engagement (short-term and long-term results, unexpected wins, etc.)?

You’ll also want to run the case study draft by the client before publishing it, which offers another chance for their feedback.

The project team

Who was responsible for this client’s account? Speak with the team behind the strategy and execution.

What to ask:

  • How was the strategy formed? Were strategic decisions made based on your experience and expertise, competitive research, etc.?
  • What project(s) were launched as part of the strategy? What was the most successful project?
  • Were there any unexpected issues that you overcame?
  • Did you refine the strategy to improve results?
  • How did you and the client work together? Was there a lot of collaboration or was the client more hands-off? (Many prospective clients are curious about what their level of involvement in your process would look like.)
  • What did you learn during the engagement? Any takeaways?

Include the three crucial elements of a case study

There’s more than one way to package case studies, but the most convincing ones all have something in common: great storytelling. To ensure you’re telling a proper narrative, your case study should include the conflict, the resolution, and the happy ending (but not necessarily in this order).

We find a case study is most compelling when you get straight to the point, rather than making someone read the entire case study before seeing the results. To grab readers’ attention, we begin with a quick overview of conflict-resolution-happy ending right in the introduction.

For example, in our Fanatics case study, we summarized the most pertinent details in the first three paragraphs. The rest of the case study focused on the resolution and examples of specific projects.

fanatics-case-study.png

Let’s take a look at what the conflict, resolution, and happy ending of your case study should include.

The Conflict: What goal did the client want to accomplish?

Typically serving as the introduction of the case study, “the conflict” should briefly describe the client’s business, the problem they hired you to work on, and what was keeping them from fixing this problem (ex. lack of internal resources or internal expertise). This helps readers identify with the problem the client faced and empathize with them – which can help them envision coming to you for help with this problem, too.

Here are a few examples of “conflicts” from our case studies:

  • “Movoto engaged Fractl to showcase its authority on local markets by increasing brand recognition, driving traffic to its website, and earning links back to on-site content.”
  • “Alexa came to us looking to increase awareness – not just around the Alexa name but also its resources. Many people had known Alexa as the site-ranking destination; however, Alexa also provides SEO tools that are invaluable to marketers.”
  • “While they already had strong brand recognition within the link building and SEO communities, Buzzstream came to Fractl for help with launching large-scale campaigns that would position them as thought leaders and provide long-term value for their brand.”

The Resolution: How did you solve the conflict?

Case studies are obviously great for showing proof of results you’ve achieved for clients. But perhaps more importantly, case studies give prospective clients a glimpse into your processes and how you approach problems. A great case study paints a picture of what it’s like to work with you.

For this reason, the bulk of your case study should detail the resolution, sharing as much specific information as you and your client are comfortable with; the more you’re able to share, the more you can highlight your strategic thinking and problem solving abilities.

The following snippets from our case studies are examples of details you may want to include as part of your solution section:

What our strategy encompassed:

“Mixing evergreen content and timely content helped usher new and existing audience members to the We Are Fanatics blog in record numbers. We focused on presenting interesting data through evergreen content that appealed to a variety of sports fans as well as content that capitalized on current interest around major sporting events.” – from Fanatics case study

How strategy was decided:

“We began by forming our ideation process around Movoto’s key real estate themes. Buying, selling, or renting a home is an inherently emotional experience, so we turned to our research on viral emotions to figure out how to identify with and engage the audience and Movoto’s prospective clients. Based on this, we decided to build on the high-arousal feelings of curiosity, interest, and trust that would be part of the experience of moving.

We tapped into familiar cultural references and topics that would pique interest in the regions consumers were considering. Comic book characters served us well in this regard, as did combining publicly available data (such as high school graduation rates or IQ averages) with our own original research.” – from Movoto case study

Why strategy was changed based on initial results:

“After analyzing the initial campaigns, we determined the most effective strategy included a combination of the following content types designed to achieve different goals [case study then lists the three types of content and goals]…

This strategy yielded even better results, with some campaigns achieving up to 4 times the amount of featured stories and social engagement that we achieved in earlier campaigns.” – from BuzzStream case study

How our approach was tailored to the client’s niche:

“In general, when our promotions team starts its outreach, they’ll email writers and editors who they think would be a good fit for the content. If the writer or editor responds, they often ask for more information or say they’re going to do a write-up that incorporates our project. From there, the story is up to publishers – they pick and choose which visual assets they want to incorporate in their post, and they shape the narrative.

What we discovered was that, in the marketing niche, publishers preferred to feature other experts’ opinions in the form of guest posts rather than using our assets in a piece they were already working on. We had suspected this (as our Fractl marketing team often contributes guest columns to marketing publications), but we confirmed that guest posts were going to make up the majority of our outreach efforts after performing outreach for Alexa’s campaigns.” – from Alexa case study

Who worked on the project:

Since the interviews you conduct with your internal team will inform the solution section of the case study, you may want to give individuals credit via quotes or anecdotes as a means to humanize the people behind the work. In the example below, one of our case studies featured a Q&A section with one of the project leads.

The Happy Ending: What did your resolution achieve?

Obviously, this is the part where you share your results. As I mentioned previously, we like to feature the results at the beginning of the case study, rather than buried at the end.

In our Superdrug Online Doctor case study, we summarized the overall results our campaigns achieved over 16 months:

But the happy ending isn’t finished here.

A lot of case studies fail to answer an important question: What impact did the results have on the client’s business? Be sure to tie in how the results you achieved had a bottom-line impact.

In the case of Superdrug Online Doctor, the results from our campaigns lead to a 238% increase in organic traffic. This type of outcome has tangible value for the client.

You can also share secondary benefits in addition to the primary goals the client hired you for.

In the case of our client Busbud, who hired us for SEO-oriented goals, we included examples of secondary results.

Busbud saw positive impacts beyond SEO, though, including the following:

  • Increased blog traffic
  • New partnerships as a result of more brands reaching out to work with the site
  • Brand recognition at large industry events
  • An uptick in hiring
  • Featured as a “best practice” case study at an SEO conference

Similarly, in our Fractl brand marketing case study, which focused on lead generation, we listed all of the additional benefits resulting from our strategy.

How to get the most out of your case studies

You’ve published your case study, now what should you do with it?

Build a case study page on your site

Once you’ve created several case studies, I recommend housing them all on the same page. This makes it easy to show off your results in a single snapshot and saves visitors from searching through your blog or clicking on a category tag to find all of your case studies in one place. Make this page easy to find through your site navigation and internal links.

While it probably goes without saying, make sure to optimize this page for search. When we initially created our case study portfolio page, we underestimated its potential to bring in search traffic and assumed it would mostly be accessed from our site navigation. Because of this, we were previously using a generic URL to house our case study portfolio. Since updating the URL from “frac.tl/our-work” to “frac.tl/content-marketing-case-studies,” we’ve jumped from page 2 to the top #1–3 positions for a specific phrase we wanted to rank for (“content marketing case studies”), which attracts highly relevant search traffic.

Use case studies as concrete proof in blog posts and off-site content

Case studies can serve as tangible examples that back up your claims. Did you state that creating original content for six months can double your organic traffic? On its own, this assertion may not be believable to some, but a case study showing these results will make your claim credible.

In a post on the Curata blog, my colleague Andrea Lehr used our BuzzStream case study to back up her assertion that in order to attract links, social shares, and traffic, your off-site content should appeal to an audience beyond your target customer. Showing the results this strategy earned for a client gives a lot more weight to her advice.

On the same note, case studies have high linking potential. Not only do they make a credible citation for your own off-site content, they can also be cited by others writing about your service/product vertical. Making industry publishers aware that you publish case studies by reaching out when you’ve released a new case study can lead to links down the road.

Repurpose your case studies into multiple content formats

Creating a case study takes a lot of time, but fortunately it can be reused again and again in various applications.

Long-form case studies

While a case study featured on your site may only be a few hundred words, creating a more in-depth version is a chance to reveal more details. If you want to get your case study featured on other sites, consider writing a long-form version as a guest post.

Most of the case studies you’ll find on the Moz Blog are extremely detailed:

Video

HubSpot has hundreds of case studieson its site, dozens of which also feature supplemental video case studies, such as the one below for Eyeota.

Don’t feel like you have to create flashy videos with impressive production value, even no-frills videos can work. Within its short case study summaries, PR That Converts embeds videos of clients talking about its service. These videos are simple and short, featuring the client speaking to their webcam for a few minutes.

Speaking engagements

Marketing conferences love case studies. Look on any conference agenda, and you’re sure to notice at least a handful of speaker presentations focused on case studies. If you’re looking to secure more speaking gigs, including case studies in your speaking pitch can give you a leg up over other submissions – after all, your case studies are original data no one else can offer.

My colleague Kelsey Libert centered her MozCon presentation a few years ago around some of our viral campaign case studies.

Sales collateral

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, many of our leads view the case studies on our site right before contacting us about working together. Once that initial contact is made, we don’t stop showing off our case studies.

We keep a running “best of” list of stats from our case studies, which allows us to quickly pull compelling stats to share in written and verbal conversations. Our pitch and proposal decks feature bite-sized versions of our case studies.

Consider how you can incorporate case studies into various touch points throughout your sales process and make sure the case studies you share align with the industry and goals of whoever you’re speaking with.

I’ve shared a few of my favorite ways to repurpose case studies here but there are at least a dozen other applications, from email marketing to webinars to gated content to printed marketing materials. I even link to our case studies page in my email signature.

case study email.png

My last bit of advice: Don’t expect immediate results. Case studies typically pay off over time. The good news is it’s worth the wait, because case studies retain their value – we’re still seeing leads come in and getting links to case studies we created three or more years ago. By extending their lifespan through repurposing, the case studies you create today can remain an essential part of your marketing strategy for years to come.

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Everything is Marketing: Why all CEOs should have marketing backgrounds

A CEO with a background in creating a value proposition for customers — and delivering on it with everything the company does — could be the key many companies need to maximize shareholder value. Here’s why …
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AMP-lify Your Digital Marketing in 2018

Posted by EricEnge

Should you AMP-lify your site in 2018?

This is a question on the mind of many publishers. To help answer it, this post is going to dive into case studies and examples showing results different companies had with AMP.

If you’re not familiar with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), it’s an open-source project aimed at allowing mobile website content to render nearly instantly. This initiative that has Google as a sponsor, but it is not a program owned by Google, and it’s also supported by Bing, Baidu, Twitter, Pinterest, and many other parties.


Some initial background

Since its inception in 2015, AMP has come a long way. When it first hit the scene, AMP was laser-focused on media sites. The reason those types of publishers wanted to participate in AMP was clear: It would make their mobile sites much faster, AND Google was offering a great deal of incremental exposure in Google Search through the “Top Stories news carousel.”

Basically, you can only get in the Top Stories carousel on a mobile device if your page is implemented in AMP, and that made AMP a big deal for news sites. But if you’re not a news site, what’s in it for you? Simple: providing a better user experience online can lead to more positive website metrics and revenue.

We know that fast-loading websites are better for the user. But what you may not be aware of is how speed can impact the bottom line. Google-sponsored research shows that AMP leads to an average of a 2X increase in time spent on page (details can be seen here). The data also shows e-commerce sites experience an average 20 percent increase in sales conversions compared to non-AMP web pages.

Stepping outside the world of AMP for a moment, data from Amazon, Walmart, and Yahoo show a compelling impact of page load time on metrics like traffic, conversion and sales:

You can see that for Amazon, a mere one-tenth of a second increase in page load time (so one-tenth of a second slower) would drive a $ 1.3 billion drop in sales. So, page speed can have a direct impact on revenue. That should count for something.

What do users say about AMP? 9to5Google.com recently conducted a poll where they asked users: “Are you more inclined to click on an AMP link than a regular one?” The majority of people (51.14 percent) said yes to that question. Here are the detailed results:

This poll suggests that even for non-news sites, there is a very compelling reason to do AMP for SEO. Not because it increases your rankings, per se, but because you may get more click-throughs (more traffic) from the organic search results. Getting more traffic from organic search, after all, is the goal of SEO. In addition, you’re likely to get more time on site and more conversions.


How the actual implementation of AMP impacts your results

Before adopting any new technology, you need understand what you’re getting into.

At Stone Temple Consulting, we performed a research study that included 10 different types of websites that adopted AMP to see what results they had and what challenges they ran into. (Go here to see more details from the study.)

Let’s get right to the results. One site, Thrillist, converted 90 percent of their web pages over a four-week period of time. They saw a 70 percent lift in organic search traffic to their site — 50 percent of that growth came from AMP.

One anonymous participant in the study, another large media publisher, converted 95 percent of their web pages to AMP, and once again the development effort as approximately four weeks long. They saw a 67 percent lift in organic search traffic on one of their sites, and a 30% lift on another site.

So, media sites do well, but we knew that would be the case. What about e-commerce sites? Consider the case of Myntra, a company that is the largest fashion retailer in India. Their implementation took about 11 days of effort.

This implementation covered all of their main landing pages from Google, covering between 85% and 90% of their organic search traffic. For their remaining pages (such as the individual product pages) they implemented a Progressive Web App, which helps those pages perform better as well. They saw a 40% reduction in bounce rate on their pages, as well as a lift in their overall e-commerce results. You can see detailed results here.

Then there is the case of Event Tickets Center. They implemented 99.9% of their pages in AMP, and opted to create an AMP-immersive experience. Page load times on their site dropped from five to six seconds to one second.

They saw improvements in user engagement metrics, with a drop in bounce rate of 10%, an increase in pages per session of 6%, and session duration of 13%. But, the stunning stat is that they report a whopping 100% increase in e-commerce conversions. You can see the full case study here.

But it’s not always the case that AMP adopters will see a huge lift in results. When that’s not the case, there’s likely one culprit: not taking the time to implement AMP thoroughly. A big key to AMP is not to simply use a plugin, set it, and forget it.

To get good results, you’ll need to invest the time to make the AMP version of your pages substantially similar (if not identical) to your normal responsive mobile pages, and with today’s AMP, for the majority of publishers, that is absolutely possible to do. In addition to this being critical to the performance of AMP pages, on November 16, 2017, Google announced that they will exclude pages from the AMP carousel if the content on your AMP page is not substantially similar to that of your mobile responsive page.

This typically means creating brand-new templates for the major landing pages of your site, or if you are using a plugin, using their custom styling options (most of them allow this). If you’re going to take on AMP, it’s imperative that you take the time to get this right.

From our research, you can see in the slide below the results from the 10 sites that adopted AMP. Eight of those sites are colored in green, and those are the sites that saw strong results from their AMP implementation.

Then there are two listed in yellow. Those are the sites that have not yet seen good results. In both of those cases, there were implementation problems. One of the sites (the Lead Gen site above) launched pages with a broken hamburger menu, and a UI that was not up to par with the responsive mobile pages, and their metrics are weak.

We’ve been working with them to fix that and their metrics are steadily improving. The first round of fixes brought the user engagement metrics much closer to that of the mobile responsive pages, but there is still more work to do.

The other site (the retail site in yellow above) launched AMP pages without their normal faceted navigation, and also without a main menu, saw really bad results, and pulled it back down. They’re working on a better AMP implementation now, and hope to relaunch soon.

So, when you think about implementing AMP, you have to go all the way with it and invest the time to do a complete job. That will make it harder, for sure, but that’s OK — you’ll be far better off in the end.


How we did it at Stone Temple (and what we found)

Here at Stone Temple Consulting, we experimented with AMP ourselves, using an AMP plugin versus a hand-coded AMP web page. I’ll share the results of that next.

Experiment No. 1: WordPress AMP plugin

Our site is on WordPress, and there are plugins that make the task of doing AMP easier if you have a WordPress site — however, that doesn’t mean install the plugin, turn it on, and you’re done.

Below you can see a comparison of the standard StoneTemple.com mobile page on the left contrasted with the default StoneTemple.com page that comes out of the AMP plugin that we used on the site called AMP by Automatic.

You’ll see that the look and feel is dramatically different between the two, but to be fair to the plugin, we did what I just said you shouldn’t do. We turned it on, did no customization, and thought we were done.

As a result, there’s no hamburger menu. The logo is gone. It turns out that by default, the link at the top (“Stone Temple”) goes to StoneTemple.com/amp, but there’s no page for that, so it returns a 404 error, and the list of problems goes on. As noted, we had not used the customization options available in the plugin, which can be used to rectify most (if not all) of these problems, and the pages can be customized to look a lot better. As part of an ongoing project, we’re working on that.

It’s a lot faster, yes… but is it a better user experience? Looking at the data, we can see the impact of this broken implementation of AMP. The metrics are not good.

Looking at the middle line highlighted in orange, you’ll see the standard mobile page metrics. On the top line, you’ll see the AMP page metrics — and they’re all worse: higher bounce rate, fewer pages per session, and lower average session time.

Looking back to the image of the two web pages, you can see why. We were offering an inferior user interface because we weren’t giving the user any opportunities to interact. Therefore, we got predictable results.

Experiment No. 2: Hand-coded AMP web page

One of the common myths about AMP is that an AMP page needs to be a stripped-down version of your site to succeed. To explore whether or not that was true, we took the time at Stone Temple Consulting to hand-code a version of one of our article pages for AMP. Here is a look at how that came out:

As you can see from the screenshots above, we created a version of the page that looked nearly identical to the original. We also added a bit of extra functionality with a toggle sidebar feature. With that, we felt we made something that had even better usability than the original page.

The result of these changes? The engagement metrics for the AMP pages on StoneTemple.com went up dramatically. For the record, here are our metrics including the handcrafted AMP pages:

As you can see, the metrics have improved dramatically. We still have more that we can do with the handcrafted page as well, and we believe we can get these metrics to be better than that of the standard mobile responsive page. At this point in time, total effort on the handcrafted page template was about 40 hours.

Note: We do believe that we can get engagement on the AMP by Automatic plugin version to go way up, too. One of the reasons we did the hand-coded version was to get hands-on experience with AMP coding. We’re working on a better custom implementation of the AMP by Automatic pages in parallel.


Bonus challenge: AMP analytics

Aside from the actual implementation of AMP, there is a second major issue to be concerned about if you want to be successful: the tracking. The default tracking in Google Analytics for AMP pages is broken, and you’ll need to patch it.

Just to explain what the issue is, let’s look at the following illustration:

The way AMP works (and one of the things that helps with speeding up your web pages) is that your content is served out of a cache on Google. When a user clicks on the AMP link in the search results, that page lives in Google’s cache (on Google.com). That’s the web page that gets sent to the user.

The problem occurs when a user is viewing your web page on Google’s cache, and then clicks on a link within that page (say, to the home page of your site). This action means they leave the Google.com page and get the next page delivered from your server (in the example above, I’m using the StoneTemple.com server.)

From a web analytics point of view, those are two different websites. The analytics for StoneTemple.com is going to view that person who clicked on the AMP page in the Google cache as a visitor from a third-party website, and not a visitor from search. In other words, the analytics for StoneTemple.com won’t record it as a continuation of the same session; it’ll be tracked as a new session.

You can (and should) set up analytics for your AMP pages (the ones running on Google.com), but those are normally going to run as a separate set of analytics. Nearly every action on your pages in the Google cache will result in the user leaving the Google cache, and that will be seen as leaving the site that the AMP analytics is tracking. The result is that in the analytics for your AMP pages running on Google.com:

  • Your pages per session will be about one
  • Bounce rate will be very high (greater than 90 percent)
  • Session times will be very short

Then, for the AMP analytics on your domain, your number of visitors will not reflect any of the people who arrive on an AMP page first, and will only include those who view a second page on the site (on your main domain). If you try fixing this by adding your AMP analytics visit count to your main site analytics count, you’ll be double counting people that click through from one to the other.

There is a fix for this, and it’s referred to as “session stitching.” This is a really important fix to implement, and Google has provided it by creating an API that allows you to share the client ID information from AMP analytics with your regular website analytics. As a result, the analytics can piece together that it’s a continuation of the same session.

For more, you can see how to implement the fix to remedy both basic and advanced metrics tracking in my article on session stitching here.


Wrapping up

AMP can offer some really powerful benefits — improved site speed, better user experience and more revenue — but only for those publishers that take the time to implement the AMP version of their AMP site thoroughly, and also address the tracking issue in analytics so they can see the true results.

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Google’s new #SmallThanks Hub automatically creates digital & printed marketing assets for SMBs

Using content pulled from Google reviews, businesses with verified Google listings can create posters, social media posts, window clings, stickers and more.

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Blockchain: How Will it Impact Digital Marketing?

The marketing industry generates billions of dollars every year. After all, every company needs ads and various marketing strategies in order to reach their target consumers.

Forrester, a leading market research company, even said that by 2021, digital marketing costs will reach $ 120 billion. Unfortunately, about half of ad traffic is created by bots. It’s a decidedly dishonest practice, especially when you consider how much money companies put out just to reach prospective clients. But this practice might soon come to an end once businesses have a greater capacity to focus on specific customers.

Related image

Graphic via Techspot.com

It’s a good thing then that digital marketing is very dynamic and open to change. It easily adapts to new technology and the shifting perceptions of customers. At the moment, there’s one tech advancement that has the potential to change digital marketing (and the world) like never before – the blockchain.

What is Blockchain?

Blockchain might seem too technical for most people to fully grasp, but it’s a fairly simple concept. The technology is essentially a public ledger that stores and distributes data. More importantly, everyone that uses blockchain can see and share all its data and by doing so, each user plays a role in keeping it updated and transparent.

The system works by keeping data stored in a chain-like pattern and the transaction history is stored in “blocks.” Information stored in a blockchain can only be added to. It can’t be changed or copied. If someone were to attempt to change the history or hack the system, the ledger would have to be updated on all the users’ computers. Considering the number of users in a blockchain, this would be almost impossible to do, making the service very secure.

How Will it Impact Digital Marketing?

Blockchain is often linked to cryptocurrency. It’s decentralized nature, the freedom it offers, and heightened cybersecurity features makes it perfect storage for virtual money. However, blockchain also has a major impact on digital marketing.

It Will Take Out the Middleman

There’s always a middleman in digital marketing which means businesses only get half the value of what they have paid. Blockchain can do away with these intermediaries and help create better value for marketing campaigns.

Related image            Related image

Graphic via Linkedin.com

With a blockchain, companies can forego the ad buy process and just target their prospective customers directly by paying them to view the ads. Businesses can use “microcurrencies” that customers can avail of once they’ve proven that they have watched the ad. The Brave browser has already started this, using their Basic Attention Token (BAT) to ensure that companies only pay for the ads that have been viewed by a real person.

Trust is Built With Transparency

One concern that companies have with online advertising is that it’s virtually impossible to know if the stats provided are accurate. There’s no way to check if the counted site clicks or followers are real customers, or even real people, for that matter. After all, ad companies can hire “clickers” or use bots to boost ad stats so distributors can charge higher fees.

Blockchain will definitely have a significant impact here. Since the system is encrypted and transparent, companies can easily check if those viewing their ads are part of their target audience or not.

Improves Accountability

There’s nothing more disheartening than spending your hard earned cash on a counterfeit product. Blockchain can lessen the odds of this happening by improving merchants’ accountability in every step of the supply chain.

Blockchain’s vaunted digital ledger system enables transparency that cannot be tampered with. Customers can check details like where the product came from, if it’s legit or fake, whether it’s bought from a physical store or an online action. Simply put, blockchain empowers the customer and improves their buying experience.

There’s no question that the idea behind blockchain is a powerful one. The technology has the potential to impact cryptocurrency, digital marketing, and customer experience. The system is still in its infancy but is expected to see significant growth in the coming year.  

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How to Build the Right Content Marketing Strategy for SEO Growth

Posted by AlliBerry3

Delivering content that best serves the needs of users is certainly top-of-mind for many SEOs since the Hummingbird algorithm update and subsequent buzz around RankBrain. It sounds easy enough in theory, but what does that actually mean in practice? Many SEOs believe that they’re already doing this by driving their content strategy by virtue of keyword research alone.

The problem with solely using keywords to drive your content strategy is that not all of your audience’s content needs are captured in search. Ask your nearest customer service representative what questions they answer every day; I can guarantee that you won’t find all of those questions with search volume in a keyword research tool.

Keyword research can also tempt you to develop content that your brand really shouldn’t be creating because you don’t have anything unique to say about it. Sure, you could end up increasing organic traffic, but are those going to be converting customers?

Moving away from a keyword-first-driven content strategy and into an audience-centric one will put you in a better place for creating SEO content that converts. Don’t get me wrong — there’s still an important place for keyword research. But it belongs later in the process, after you’ve performed a deep dive into your audience and your own brand expertise.

This is an approach that the best content marketers excel at. And it’s something that SEOs can utilize, too, as they strive to provide more relevant and higher-quality content for your target audiences.


How is an audience-focused content strategy different from a keyword-focused content strategy?

A content marketing strategy starts with the target audience and dives deeper into understanding your brand’s expertise and unique value proposition. Keyword research is great at uncovering how people talk about topics relevant to your brand, but it is limiting when it comes to audience understanding.

Think about one of your prospective customer’s journey to conversion. Is search the only channel they utilize to get information? If you are collecting lead information or serving up remarketing ads, hopefully not. So, why should your audience understanding be limited to keyword research?

A content strategy is a holistic plan that tackles questions like:

  • Who is my audience?
  • What are their pain points and needs?
  • What types of content do these people want to consume?
  • Where are they currently having conversations (online or offline)
  • What unique expertise does our brand offer?
  • How can we match our expertise to our audience’s needs?

Finding your unique content angle

The key to connecting with your audience is to develop your unique content angle that finds intersections between what your brand’s expertise is in and your audience’s pain points. The Content Marketing Institute refers to this as a “content tilt” because it involves taking a larger topic and tilting it in your own way. Defining your brand’s expertise can be more difficult than it appears on the surface.

It isn’t uncommon for brands to say their product is what makes them unique, but if there is a competitor out there with the same general product, it’s not unique. What makes your organization different from competitors?

Here’s an example

When I worked for Kaplan Financial Education, a professional licensing and exam prep provider brand under Kaplan Professional, finding our tilt was a real challenge. Kaplan Financial Education has a lot of product lines all within financial services, but the audience for each is different. We needed a tilt that worked for the entire Career Corner content hub we were creating. What we realized is that our core audience all has a big pain point in common: entering the financial services industry either through insurance or securities (selling stocks and bonds) has low barriers to entry and high turnover. Everyone entering that job market needs to know how to not only pass their licensing exam(s), but also be successful as professionals too, both in the early years and also in the years to come.

Kaplan Financial Education’s biggest content competitors create very factual content — they’re websites like Investopedia, Wikipedia, and governing bodies like FINRA and state government departments. But Kaplan Financial Education has something going for it that its competitors do not: a huge network of students. There are other licensing exam prep providers that compete with Kaplan Financial Education, but none that cover the same breadth of exams and continuing education. It’s the only brand in that industry that provides licensing education as individuals progress through their financial careers. “From hire to retire,” as the marketers say.

We made our content tone more conversational and solicited input from our huge student and instructor network to help new professionals be more successful. We also used their quotes and insights to drive content creation and make it more relatable and personalized. All of our content tied back to helping financial professionals be successful — either as they’re getting licensed or beyond — and rather than simply telling people what to do, we leveraged content to allow our current students and instructors to teach our prospective students.

You may be thinking… so I can only write content that fits in this tilt? Isn’t that limiting?

As SEOs, it can be really hard to let go of some keyword opportunities that exist if they don’t fit the content strategy. And it’s true that there are probably some keywords out there you could create content for and increase your organic traffic. But if they don’t fit with your target audience’s needs and your brand’s expertise, will it be the kind of traffic that’s going to convert? Likely not. Certainly not enough to spend resources on content creation and to distract yourself from your larger strategy objective.


How to build your content strategy

1. Set your goals.

Start at the end. What is you are ultimately trying to accomplish? Do you want to increase leads by a certain percentage? Do you want to drive a certain number increase in sales? Are you trying to drive subscribers to a newsletter? Document these goals first. This will help you figure out what type of content you want to create and what the calls-to-action should be.

If you’re a business like Kaplan and leads are your ultimate goal, a proven strategy is to create ungated content that provides good insights, but leaves room for a deeper dive. Have your calls-to-action point to a gated piece of content requiring some form of contact information that goes into more depth.

A business like a car dealership is going to have a primary goal of getting people into their dealership to buy a car. Their content doesn’t necessarily need to be gated, but it should have a local spin and speak to common questions people have about the car buying process, as well as show the human elements that make the dealership unique to establish trust and show how customers will be treated. Trust is especially important in that industry because they have to combat the used car salesman stereotype.

2. Identify your primary audience and their pain points.

The next step is to identify who you’re targeting with your content. There are a lot of people at your disposal to help you with this part of the process. Within your organization, consider talking to these teams:

  • Customer Service
  • Sales
  • Technical Support
  • Product Management
  • Product Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing

These are often the people who interact the most with customers. Find out what your audience is struggling with and what content could be created to help answer their questions. You can also do some of this research on your own by searching forums and social media. Subreddits within Reddit related to your topic can be a goldmine. Other times there are active, related groups on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook. If you’ve ever been to the MozCon Facebook group, you know how much content could be created answering common questions people have related to SEO.

3. Determine your brand’s unique expertise.

Again, dig deeper and figure out what makes your brand truly unique. It likely isn’t the product itself. Think about who your subject matter experts are and how they contribute to the organization. Think about how your products are developed.

Even expertise that may seem boring on the surface can be extremely valuable. I’ve seen Marcus Sheridan speak a couple of times and he has one of the most compelling success stories I’ve ever heard about not being afraid to get too niche with expertise. He had a struggling swimming pool installation business until he started blogging. He knew his expertise was in pools — buying fiberglass pools, specifically. He answered every question he could think of related to that buying process and became the world thought leader on fiberglass pools. Is it a glamorous topic? No. But, it’s helpful to the exact audience he wanted to reach. There aren’t hundreds of thousands of people searching for fiberglass pool information online, but the ones that are searching are the ones he wanted to capture. And he did.

4. Figure out your content tilt.

Now put your answers for #2 and #3 together and figure out what your unique content angle will look like.

5. Develop a list of potential content topics based on your content tilt.

It’s time to brainstorm topics. Now that you know your content tilt, it’s a lot easier to come up with topics your brand should be creating content about. Plus, they’re topics you know your audience cares about! This is a good step to get other people involved from around your organization, from departments like sales, product management, and customer service. Just make sure your content tilt is clear to them prior to the brainstorm to ensure you don’t get off-course.

6. Conduct keyword research.

Now that you’ve got a list of good content topics, it’s time to really dive into long-tail keyword research and figure out the best keyword targets around the topics.

There are plenty of good tools out there to help you with this. Here are a few of my go-tos:

  • Moz Keyword Explorer (freemium): If you have it, it’s a great tool for uncovering keywords as questions, looking at the keyword competitive landscape, and finding other related keywords to your topic.
  • Keywordtool.io (free): One of the only keyword discovery tools out there that will give you keyword research by search engine. If you are looking for YouTube or App Store keywords, for instance, this is a great idea generation tool.
  • Ubersuggest.io (free): Type in one keyword and Ubersuggest will give you a plethora of other ideas organized in a list alphabetically or in a word cloud.

7. Create an editorial calendar.

Based on your keyword research findings, develop an editorial calendar for your content. Make sure to include what your keyword target(s) are so if you have someone else developing the content, they know what is important to include in it.

Here are a couple resources to check out for getting started:

8. Determine how to measure success.

Once you know what content you’re going to create, you’ll need to figure out how you’ll measure success. Continuing on with the Kaplan example, lead generation was our focus. So, we focused our efforts on measuring leads to our gated content and conversions of those leads to sales over a certain time period. We also measured organic entrances to our ungated content. If our organic entrances were growing (or not growing) disproportionate to our leads, then we’d take deeper dives into what individual pieces of content were converting well and what pieces were not, then make tweaks accordingly.

9. Create content!

Now that all the pieces are there, it’s time to do the creation work. This is the fun part! With your content tilt in mind and your keyword research completed, gather the information or research you need and outline what you want the content to look like.

Take this straightforward article called How to Get Your Series 7 License as an example. To become a registered representative (stockbroker), you have to pass this exam. The primary keyword target here is: Series 7 license. It’s an incredibly competitive keyword with between 2.9K–4.3K monthly searches, according to the Keyword Explorer tool. Other important semantically related keywords include: how to get the Series 7 license, Series 7 license requirements, Series 7 Exam, General Securities Registered Representative license, and Series 7 license pass rate.

Based on our content tilt and competitive landscape for the primary keyword, it made the most sense to make this into a how-to article explaining the process in non-jargon terms to someone just starting in the industry. We perfectly exact-match each keyword target, but the topics are covered well enough for us to rank on the front page for all but one of them. Plus, we won the Google Answer Box for “how to get your Series 7 license.” We also positioned ourselves well for anticipated future searches around a new licensing component called the SIE exam and how it’ll change the licensing process.


Once you’ve created your content and launched it, like with any SEO work, you will have a lag before you see any results. Be sure to build a report or dashboard based on your content goals so you can keep track of the performance of your content on a regular basis. If you find that the growth isn’t there after several months, it is a good idea to go back through the content strategy and assess whether you’ve got your tilt right. Borrowing from Joe Pulizzi, ask yourself: “What if our content disappeared? Would it leave a gap in the marketplace?” If the answer is no, then it’s definitely time to revisit your tilt. It’s the toughest piece to get right, but once you do, the results will follow.

If you’re interested in more discussion on content marketing and SEO, check out the newest MozPod podcast. Episode 8, SEO & Content Strategy:

Listen to the podcast

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Should You Outsource Digital Marketing for Your Business?

For most companies, digital marketing is essential to growing and retaining their customer base. Unfortunately, a lot of businesses are in the dark when it comes to implementing and managing this type of marketing strategy. As a matter of fact, an informal poll conducted by Smart Insights revealed that half of the businesses that use digital marketing don’t have a working marketing plan to go on.

But before you hash out the details on when and where to launch your digital campaigns, you’ll first need to figure out who will get the job done for you. There are two approaches to tackling this problem: go in-house or outsource.

The Case for In-House Digital Marketing

A lot of companies take advantage of the abundant resources, current online technology and available information on strategies and techniques to manage an in-house digital marketing group. After all, there are several advantages to going this route, most important of which is saving money. Hiring a third-party marketing agency can be relatively expensive considering you’ll need to cover their costs as well as their “markups”. Another advantage would be having a dedicated team who knows the company’s specific goals and are working on a documented digital marketing plan. 

However, one major problem that an in-house team often encounters is the steep learning curve employees without the relevant skill set face. More often than not, this would cause a slower ramp-up time for marketing campaigns. It’s also a sad fact that more than half of in-house digital marketers are ineffective because they learned about the system on-the-job, and did not undergo any official training.

Choosing to Outsource Digital Marketing

Outsourcing your digital marketing needs can be very beneficial, particularly if this task is not your forte. Tapping the services of a digital marketing group can give you several advantages, like having a team of experts readily available. This means that you won’t have to worry about a marketer going on a vacation or taking a sick leave. Your marketing needs will always come first, regardless of whether there’s a holiday or not.

One big advantage of using a digital marketing agency is the insight it can give your business. Employers are often so consumed by the day-to-day running of the company that they don’t have time to understand the business more deeply, like studying what brings prospective clients to the site or how to optimize the company’s online presence. An unbiased set of eyes will give you a new outlook on how to handle your marketing needs. These marketing experts are also likely to be more up-to-date on the latest techniques and strategies being utilized in digital marketing circles.

Perhaps the most important benefit outsourcing your digital needs give is that you get to focus on what’s crucial to your company. Businesses who opt to outsource do so in order to keep the marketing process separate from the company’s core operations. By being distinct, the marketers have more freedom to develop and execute winning marketing strategies and keep up with changing business needs.

Graphic via Quartsoft.com

Should You Outsource Your Digital Marketing Needs?

Before you make a decision on whether to outsource your digital marketing needs, take the time to determine what you really need in terms of marketing. You should also consider the following when you begin your search for an outside marketing agency:

  • Your Company’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Knowing what your KPIs are will help narrow down what you need help with and what the marketing agency can do for you. KPIs will influence the strategy the agency will suggest, as conversions, traffic, cost and revenue per lead are key KPIs for businesses. Which means this is the first question any reputable digital marketing company would ask. Consider it a red flag if the agency doesn’t inquire about it. Conversely, you should also ask digital marketing specialists what they think about your KPIs and how to optimize it. A good company would help you pinpoint weaknesses in your current marketing strategy and introduce new ideas and strategies to help you get the best results for your business.
  • The Digital Agency’s Track Record: Don’t take recommendations at face value. Do your due diligence and check the marketing company’s track record. Ask what types of clients they have handled before and their success record. Most agencies would have case studies and a portfolio on hand. But bear in mind that some clients do ask for non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). However, agencies that can’t provide a single client to show or refer should not be taken seriously.

While there are other factors to consider, the bottom line is that outsourcing your digital marketing needs would depend on what you actually need. If you want to hit targets consistently and predictably then maybe an in-house team is the way to go. But if you want to focus all your energy on the core aspects of your business, then a digital marketing agency can save you time and offer more flexiblity.

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