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Full Funnel Testing: SEO & CRO Together – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by willcritchlow

Testing for only SEO or only CRO isn’t always ideal. Some changes result in higher conversions and reduced site traffic, for instance, while others may rank more highly but convert less well. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, we welcome Will Critchlow as he demonstrates a method of testing for both your top-of-funnel SEO changes and your conversion-focused CRO changes at once.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hi, everyone. Welcome to another Whiteboard Friday. My name is Will Critchlow, one of the founders at Distilled. If you’ve been following what I’ve been writing and talking about around the web recently, today’s topic may not surprise you that much. I’m going to be talking about another kind of SEO testing.

Over at Distilled, we’ve been investing pretty heavily in building out our capability to do SEO tests and in particular built our optimization delivery network, which has let us do a new kind of SEO testing that hasn’t been previously available to most of our clients. Recently we’ve been working on a new enhancement to this, which is full funnel testing, and that’s what I want to talk about today.

So funnel testing is testing all the way through the funnel, from acquisition at the SEO end to conversion. So it’s SEO testing plus CRO testing together. I’m going to write a little bit more about some of the motivation for this. But, in a nutshell, it essentially boils down to the fact that it is perfectly possible, in fact we’ve seen in the wild cases of tests that win in SEO terms and lose in CRO terms or vice versa.

In other words, tests that maybe you make a change and it converts better, but you lose organic search traffic. Or the other way around, it ranks better, but it converts less well. If you’re only testing one, which is common — I mean most organizations are only testing the conversion rate side of things — it’s perfectly possible to have a winning test, roll it out, and do worse.

CRO testing

So let’s step back a little bit. A little bit of a primer. Conversion rate optimization testing works in an A/B split kind of way. You can test on a single page, if you want to, or a site section. The way it works is you split your audience. So your audience is split. Some of your audience gets one version of the page, and the rest of the audience gets a different version.

Then you can compare the conversion rate among the group who got the control and the group who got the variant. That’s very straightforward. Like I say, it can happen on a single page or across an entire site. SEO testing, a little bit newer. The way this works is you can’t split the audience, because we care very much about the search engine spiders in this case. For the purposes of this consideration, there’s essentially only one Googlebot. So you couldn’t put Google in Class A or Class B here and expect to get anything meaningful.

SEO testing

So the way that we do an SEO test is we actually split the pages. To do this, you need a substantial site section. So imagine, for example, an e-commerce website with thousands of products. You might have a hypothesis of something that will help those product pages perform better. You take your hypothesis and you only apply it to some of the pages, and you leave some of the pages unchanged as a control.

Then, crucially, search engines and users see the same experience. There’s no cloaking going on. There’s no duplication of content. You simply change some pages and not change others. Then you apply kind of advanced mathematical, statistical analysis trying to figure out do these pages get statistically more organic search traffic than we think they would have done if we hadn’t made this change. So that’s how an SEO test works.

Now, as I said, the problem that we are trying to tackle here is it’s really plausible, despite Google’s best intentions to do what’s right for users, it’s perfectly plausible that you can have a test that ranks better but converts less well or vice versa. We’ve seen this with, for example, removing content from a page. Sometimes having a cleaner, simpler page can convert better. But maybe that was where the keywords were and maybe that was helping the page rank. So we’re trying to avoid those kinds of situations.

Full funnel testing

That’s where full funnel testing comes in. So I want to just run through how you run a full funnel test. What you do is you first of all set it up in the same way as an SEO test, because we’re essentially starting with SEO at the top of the funnel. So it’s set up exactly the same way.

Some pages are unchanged. Some pages get the hypothesis applied to them. As far as Google is concerned, that’s the end of the story, because on any individual request to these pages that’s what we serve back. But the critically important thing here is I’ve got my little character. This is a human browser performs a search, “What do badgers eat?”

This was one of our silly examples that we came up with on one of our demo sites. The user lands on this page here. What we do is we then set a cookie. This is a cookie. This user then, as they navigate around the site, no matter where they go within this site section, they get the same treatment, either the control or the variant. They get the same treatment across the entire site section. This is more like the conversion rate test here.

Googlebot = stateless requests

So what I didn’t show in this diagram is if you were running this test across a site section, you would cookie this user and make sure that they always saw the same treatment no matter where they navigated around the site. So because Googlebot is making stateless requests, in other words just independent, one-off requests for each of these of these pages with no cookie set, Google sees the split.

Evaluate SEO test on entrances

Users get whatever their first page impression looks like. They then get that treatment applied across the entire site section. So what we can do then is we can evaluate independently the performance in search, evaluate that on entrances. So do we get significantly more entrances to the variant pages than we would have expected if we hadn’t applied a hypothesis to them?

That tells us the uplift from an SEO perspective. So maybe we say, “Okay, this is plus 11% in organic traffic.” Well, great. So in a vacuum, all else being equal, we’d love to roll out this test.

Evaluate conversion rate on users

But before we do that, what we can do now is we can evaluate the conversion rate, and we do that based on user metrics. So these users are cookied.

We can also set an analytics tag on them and say, “Okay, wherever they navigate around, how many of them end up converting?” Then we can evaluate the conversion rate based on whether they saw treatment A or treatment B. Because we’re looking at conversion rate, the audience size doesn’t exactly have to be the same. So the statistical analysis can take care of that fact, and we can evaluate the conversion rate on a user-centric basis.

So then we maybe see that it’s -5% in conversion rate. We then need to evaluate, “Is this something we should roll out?” So step 1 is: Do we just roll it out? If it’s a win in both, then the answer is yes probably. If they’re in different directions, then there are couple things we can do. Firstly, we can evaluate the relative performance in different directions, taking care that conversion rate applies generally across all channels, and so a relatively small drop in conversion rate can be a really big deal compared to even an uplift in organic traffic, because the conversion rate is applying to all channels, not just your organic traffic channel.

But suppose that it’s a small net positive or a small net negative. What we can then do is we might get to the point that it’s a net positive and roll it out. Either way, we might then say, “What can we take from this? What can we actually learn?” So back to our example of the content. We might say, “You know what? Users like this cleaner version of the page with apparently less content on it.The search engines are clearly relying on that content to understand what this page is about. How do we get the best of both worlds?”

Well, that might be a question of a redesign, moving the layout of the page around a little bit, keeping the content on there, but maybe not putting it front and center to the user as they land right at the beginning. We can test those different things, run sequential tests, try and take the best of the SEO tests and the best of the CRO tests and get it working together and crucially avoid those situations where you think you’ve got a win, because your conversion rate is up, but you actually are about to crater your organic search performance.

We think this is going to just be the more data-driven we get, the more accountable SEO testing makes us, the more important it’s going to be to join these dots and make sure that we’re getting true uplifts on a net basis when we combine them. So I hope that’s been useful to some of you. Thank you for joining me on this week’s Whiteboard Friday. I’m Will Critchlow from Distilled.

Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Moz Acquires STAT Search Analytics: We’re Better Together!

Posted by SarahBird

We couldn’t be more thrilled to announce that Moz has acquired STAT Search Analytics!

It’s not hard to figure out why, right? We both share a vision around creating search solutions that will change the industry. We’re both passionate about investing in our customers’ success. Together we provide a massive breadth of high-quality, actionable data and insights for marketers. Combining Moz’s SEO research tools and local search expertise with STAT’s daily localized rankings and SERP analytics, we have the most robust organic search solution in the industry.

I recently sat down with my friend Rob Bucci, our new VP of Research & Development and most recently the CEO of STAT, to talk about how this came to be and what to expect next. Check it out:

You can also read Rob’s thoughts on everything here over on the STAT blog!

With our powers combined…

Over the past few months, Moz’s data has gotten some serious upgrades. Notably, with the launch of our new link index in April, the data that feeds our tools is now 35x larger and 30x fresher than it was before. In August we doubled our keyword corpus and expanded our data for the UK, Canada, and Australia, positioning us to lead the market in keyword research and link building tools. Throughout 2018, we’ve made significant improvements to Moz Local’s UI with a brand-new dashboard, making sure our business listing accuracy tool is as usable as it is useful. Driving the blood, sweat, and tears behind these upgrades is a simple purpose: to provide our customers with the best SEO tools money can buy.

STAT is intimately acquainted with this level of customer obsession. Their team has created the best enterprise-level SERP analysis software on the market. More than just rank tracking, STAT’s data is a treasure trove of consumer research, competitive intel, and the deep search analytics that enable SEOs to level up their game.

Moz + STAT together provide a breadth and depth of data that hasn’t existed before in our industry. Organic search shifts from tactics to strategy when you have this level of insight at your disposal, and we can’t wait to reveal what industry-changing products we’ll build together.

Our shared values and vision

Aside from the technology powerhouse this partnership will build, we also couldn’t have found a better culture fit than STAT. With values like selflessness, ambition, and empathy, STAT embodies TAGFEE. Moz and STAT are elated to be coming together as a single company dedicated to developing the best organic search solutions for our customers while also fostering an awesome culture for our employees.

Innovation awaits!

To Moz and STAT customers: the future is bright. Expect more updates, more innovation, and more high-quality data at your disposal than ever before. As we grow together, you’ll grow with us.

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Writing Headlines that Serve SEO, Social Media, and Website Visitors All Together – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Have your headlines been doing some heavy lifting? If you’ve been using one headline to serve multiple audiences, you’re missing out on some key optimization opportunities. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand gives you a process for writing headlines for SEO, for social media, and for your website visitors — each custom-tailored to its audience and optimized to meet different goals.

Writing headlines that serve SEO, Social Media, and Website Visitors

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about writing headlines. One of the big problems that headlines have is that they need to serve multiple audiences. So it’s not just ranking and search engines. Even if it was, the issue is that we need to do well on social media. We need to serve our website visitors well in order to rank in the search engines. So this gets very challenging.

I’ve tried to illustrate this with a Venn diagram here. So you can see, basically…

SEO

In the SEO world of headline writing, what I’m trying to do is rank well, earn high click-through rate, because I want a lot of those visitors to the search results to choose my result, not somebody else’s. I want low pogo-sticking. I don’t want anyone clicking the back button and choosing someone else’s result because I didn’t fulfill their needs. I need to earn links, and I’ve got to have engagement.

Social media

On the social media side, it’s pretty different actually. I’m trying to earn amplification, which can often mean the headline tells as much of the story as possible. Even if you don’t read the piece, you amplify it, you retweet it, and you re-share it. I’m looking for clicks, and I’m looking for comments and engagement on the post. I’m not necessarily too worried about that back button and the selection of another item. In fact, time on site might not even be a concern at all.

Website visitors

For website visitors, both of these are channels that drive traffic. But for the site itself, I’m trying to drive right visitors, the ones who are going to be loyal, who are going to come back, hopefully who are going to convert. I want to not confuse anyone. I want to deliver on my promise so that I don’t create a bad brand reputation and detract from people wanting to click on me in the future. For those of you have visited a site like Forbes or maybe even a BuzzFeed and you have an association of, “Oh, man, this is going to be that clickbait stuff. I don’t want to click on their stuff. I’m going to choose somebody else in the results instead of this brand that I remember having a bad experience with.”

Notable conflicts

There are some notable direct conflicts in here.

  1. Keywords for SEO can be really boring on social media sites. When you try and keyword stuff especially or be keyword-heavy, your social performance tends to go terribly.
  2. Creating mystery on social, so essentially not saying what the piece is truly about, but just creating an inkling of what it might be about harms the clarity that you need for search in order to rank well and in order to drive those clicks from a search engine. It also hurts your ability generally to do keyword targeting.
  3. The need for engagement and brand reputation that you’ve got for your website visitors is really going to hurt you if you’re trying to develop those clickbait-style pieces that do so well on social.
  4. In search, ranking for low-relevance keywords is going to drive very unhappy visitors, people who don’t care that just because you happen to rank for this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should, because you didn’t serve the visitor intent with the actual content.

Getting to resolution

So how do we resolve this? Well, it’s not actually a terribly hard process. In 2017 and beyond, what’s nice is that search engines and social and visitors all have enough shared stuff that, most of the time, we can get to a good, happy resolution.

Step one: Determine who your primary audience is, your primary goals, and some prioritization of those channels.

You might say, “Hey, this piece is really targeted at search. If it does well on social, that’s fine, but this is going to be our primary traffic driver.” Or you might say, “This is really for internal website visitors who are browsing around our site. If it happens to drive some traffic from search or social, well that’s fine, but that’s not our intent.”

Step two: For non-conflict elements, optimize for the most demanding channel.

For those non-conflicting elements, so this could be the page title that you use for SEO, it doesn’t always have to perfectly match the headline. If it’s a not-even-close match, that’s a real problem, but an imperfect match can still be okay.

So what’s nice in social is you have things like Twitter cards and the Facebook markup, graph markup. That Open Graph markup means that you can have slightly different content there than what you might be using for your snippet, your meta description in search engines. So you can separate those out or choose to keep those distinct, and that can help you as well.

Step three: Author the straightforward headline first.

I’m going to ask you author the most straightforward version of the headline first.

Step four: Now write the social-friendly/click-likely version without other considerations.

Is to write the opposite of that, the most social-friendly or click-likely/click-worthy version. It doesn’t necessarily have to worry about keywords. It doesn’t have to worry about accuracy or telling the whole story without any of these other considerations.

Step five: Merge 3 & 4, and add in critical keywords.

We’re going to take three and four and just merge them into something that will work for both, that compromises in the right way, compromises based on your primary audience, your primary goals, and then add in the critical keywords that you’re going to need.

Examples:

I’ve tried to illustrate this a bit with an example. Nest, which Google bought them years ago and then they became part of the Alphabet Corporation that Google evolved into. So Nest is separately owned by Alphabet, Google’s parent company. Nest came out with this new alarm system. In fact, the day we’re filming this Whiteboard Friday, they came out with a new alarm system. So they’re no longer just a provider of thermostats inside of houses. They now have something else.

Step one: So if I’m a tech news site and I’m writing about this, I know that I’m trying to target gadget and news readers. My primary channel is going to be social first, but secondarily search engines. The goal that I’m trying to reach, that’s engagement followed by visits and then hopefully some newsletter sign-ups to my tech site.

Step two: My title and headline in this case probably need to match very closely. So the social callouts, the social cards and the Open Graph, that can be unique from the meta description if need be or from the search snippet if need be.

Step three: I’m going to do step three, author the straightforward headline. That for me is going to be “Nest Has a New Alarm System, Video Doorbell, and Outdoor Camera.” A little boring, probably not going to tremendously well on social, but it probably would do decently well in search.

Step four: My social click-likely version is going to be something more like “Nest is No Longer Just a Thermostat. Their New Security System Will Blow You Away.” That’s not the best headline in the universe, but I’m not a great headline writer. However, you get the idea. This is the click-likely social version, the one that you see the headline and you go, “Ooh, they have a new security system. I wonder what’s involved in that.” You create some mystery. You don’t know that it includes a video doorbell, an outdoor camera, and an alarm. You just hear, “They’ve got a new security system. Well, I better look at it.”

Step five: Then I can try and compromise and say, “Hey, I know that I need to have video doorbell, camera, alarm, and Nest.” Those are my keywords. Those are the important ones. That’s what people are going to be searching for around this announcement, so I’ve got to have them in there. I want to have them close to the front. So “Nest’s New Alarm, Video Doorbell and Camera Are About to Be on Every Home’s Must-Have List.” All right, resolved in there.

So this process of writing headlines to serve these multiple different, sometimes competing priorities is totally possible with nearly everything you’re going to do in SEO and social and for your website visitors. This resolution process is something hopefully you can leverage to get better results.

All right, everyone, we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Guns N’ Roses Original Band Line Up To Come Together for Coachella 2016

After almost two decades of waiting, fans will surely be delighted to hear that their beloved rock band Guns N’ Roses will be reuniting for Coachella in April 2016.

It seems Axl Rose and Slash are ready to set aside any ill feelings they have for each other and move forward with the rest of the Guns N’ Roses gang in a get-together concert next year. The two have had a rocky relationship that prompted Rose to not show up during their band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

However, it looks like all is well now as rumors of the band coming together have been circulating around the web. According to various sources, the original band line up – Rose, Slash, and Duff McKagan – are reuniting to headline Coachella 2016. Initial reports claimed Rose and Slash will team up for their first gig together after more than 20 years, but other sources also stated that bassist McKagan will be joining the reunion.

The founding members will be performing on April 15-17 and April 22-24, claimed multiple sources.

Moreover, the band is reportedly planning to do as many as 25 North American stadium tours in the summer of 2016. The lineup is also set to perform at the new Las Vegas Arena, which is scheduled to open on April 6.

Guns N’ Roses founding members last performed together in July 1993 at River Plate Stadium in Buenos Aires. Rose is the only original member who remains in the group up to this day. The band’s most recent tour took place mostly in South America and The Joint in Las Vegas, which reportedly earned $ 15.2 million.

Reports allege that the rock band is being paid between $ 3 and $ 8 million dollars per show with ticket prices ranging from $ 250-$ 275.

Guns N’ Roses was formed in 1985 with original members Axl Rose on vocals, Slash on lead guitars, McKagan on bass, Izzy Stradlin on rhythm guitars, and Steven Adler on drums. They debuted in 1987 with Appetite for Destruction album, which carried their famous single “Sweet Child o’ Mine.” G N’ R Lies, and Use Your Illusion I and II are considered two of the most successful albums the group released in their entire career.

Guns N’ Roses Received a Platinum Honor for this 1987 Song

Appetite for Destruction was hailed as the biggest-selling debut with 18 million in U.S. sales. It remained at the top spot on the Billboard 200 chart for five weeks, according to Billboard. The rock band sold 44.5 million albums in the U.S. alone, declared the Recording Industry Association of America.

The Internet has been abuzz with reports of their forthcoming reunion after the band updated their official website recently. Their original logo was also featured on their website, which further ignited the get-together concert rumor.

Besides Guns N’ Roses, LCD Soundsystem will come together for Coachella 2016. Coachella has become a venue for reunions and band revivals in recent years. In 2007, it was able to get the Rage Against the Machine to reunite and perform together. Fans were also able to witness My Bloody Valentine to perform in 2009 and Outkast in 2014. Last year’s event attracted 198,000 people with a total revenue of $ 84.2 million, according to Boxscore.

Meanwhile, representatives for Guns N’ Roses have yet to comment on the reports. Coachella producer, Paul Tollet, as well as agent Ken Fermaglich at United talent Agency have not released any official announcement with regard to the 2016 event. AEG Executives, which will be responsible for the operation of the new Las Vegas Arena, also has not aired their side yet.


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Emily Blunt Can’t Relate To People Who “Don’t Have Their S**t Together In Their 30s”

Emily Blunt is not usually one to hold back when she has an opinion on something.

Emily Blunt was ready to share her disdain for the fact that women were recently denied entrance into a premiere because they weren’t wearing heels.

In fact, Emily Blunt is dissatisfied with the way women are treated in Hollywood in general.

Yes, there is the occasional women in Hollywood appreciation event, but Emily Blunt says that’s not enough.

She said, “We need to take more action and talk less about it.”

She added, “I sometimes feel you can exacerbate a problem by talking about it until you’re blue in the face and putting further and further stamps on the divide. Instead of having nights that celebrate women in Hollywood, we should organize programs where you pay for female writers to develop their skills.”

Emily Blunt doesn’t seem to need any help, herself. She has made quite the name for herself with her stellar acting, singing, and even action skills.

Perhaps that’s why Emily Blunt can’t relate to a large section of the public that isn’t having such an easy time at life. She won’t even attempt to portray them onscreen.

She said, “I don’t ever relate to characters that don’t have their s— together in their 30s. I’ve been offered a couple parts like that and I just say, ‘I don’t relate to it. I don’t understand it.’ I don’t have an interest in playing those kinds of parts. As I get older, I just love seeing people that don’t have their head in their hands. I like seeing people who cope.”

Emily Blunt, living up to her name.

What do you think about Emily Blunt’s statements?


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SPONSOR MESSAGE: Content Marketing & Link Building Together

Join us Tuesday, August 5th at 1:00 EDT (10:00 PDT) to hear Jon Ball, Page One Power’s co-founder and CEO, discuss content marketing and its impact on link building. Attendees will learn why links are still relevant and how link building and content marketing work together. You’ll also learn…



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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Paul Walker Tragedy Brought Everyone Together For Film

Paul Walker’s tragic death in a car crash last Thanksgiving left millions of fans in mourning, but the loss of one of the stars of Fast And Furious 7 also left producers floundering for ways to complete the movie in a way that both made sense and was respectful to the character. Vin Diesel, who starred with Walker in several of the films in the series, says that while he and his co-stars were devastated by Walker’s death, the accident also brought them all together.

“The good thing is, because we took all the time, the movie is a true testament to everyone coming together and wanting to honor both the saga and our brother, and there’s something very beautiful about that,” he said.

Ultimately, producers decided to put stand-ins in place of Walker’s character for the unfinished scenes, which made it difficult for some of the actors. Knowing his friend was supposed to be beside him and turning to find someone else in his place was jarring, Vin Diesel said.

“It was, needless to say, the hardest movie I’ve ever done. I remember when the tragedy happened, my mother said to me, ‘It’s not fair that you have to mourn in front of the world.’ What’s even harder is to mourn and simultaneously that the person is next to you, so every time you turn to whoever’s sitting in that chair you see not Paul,” he said.

The actors who stood in for Walker were actually his brothers, Cody and Caleb, who celebrated with Tyrese Gibson recently when the film wrapped.

“Emotional and bittersweet….. In the end you always got #Family,” Tyrese wrote in an Instagram caption.

Fast And Furious 7 will be released on April 3, 2015.

Image via Wikimedia Commons


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Bring Your Paid, Owned, Earned Media Together at SES Chicago 2013

SES Chicago 2013 is just a week away. Get a sneak preview of the content, exclusive networking events, insightful keynotes, must-attend conference sessions and more as you prepare yourself for an info and action-packed time at SES Chicago.
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Piecing Together Your Online Marketing Puzzle

image of puzzle pieces on board

My grandma, Nana, loved putting together puzzles. I remember visiting her on the weekends and spending hours putting together 500- and 1000-piece puzzles.

During this time, my grandma would share bits of wisdom. She would encourage me to “stick with it” when I became frustrated. She celebrated every victory no matter how small. I still remember our banter back and forth as we competed to find a hidden piece.

Thirty years later, Nana’s lessons still guide me.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that our puzzle adventures actually offer an incredibly precise blueprint for marketing your business online.

So grab a puzzle and your marketing plan, and let’s see what grandma would say.

Start with the corners

What are the fundamental principles underpinning any marketing? (Online or otherwise …)

We can pinpoint four:

  • Unique Value Proposition (What’s different about you?)
  • Existing Customers (Who do you serve today?)
  • Company Resources (What assets do you have?)
  • Acquiring Customers (How will you bring new customers in?)

We’ll review each to understand how they anchor the frame of your marketing plan.

Corner one: Your unique value proposition

The first corner, your unique value proposition, defines what makes your product/service different.

It’s the spark of innovation, common sense, or beauty that makes your competitors say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

It’s what you do that no one else can.

You won’t have a successful business until you have a good answer to the question, “Why should I do business with you instead of choosing one of the alternatives?”

In online marketing, your Unique Value Proposition is woven into compelling benefits-focused copy. Excellent content, social media updates, video, and landing pages all work together to turn your Unique Value Proposition into experiences that occupy a position in your customer’s mind.

For example, Toyota’s marketing establishes and reinforces its death grip on the word quality. Others have tried to topple Toyota; none has succeeded.

Corner two: Your existing customers

In-depth and continuous customer research is the hallmark of successful online marketing.

Successful business owners love their customers and rarely miss an opportunity to learn more about them. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s gregarious CEO, often brings an empty chair into important in-house meetings. The empty chair represents the customer, and everyone works to serve the person sitting in that chair.

Tell me, when was the last time you asked your existing customers why they care about you and what you offer? What you learn could be the key to the success of your business.

Corner three: Your company’s resources

Here, you take stock of your people, your processes, and your company’s personality. (You need to think about this even if your business is a one-person show right now.)

You work hard to create a culture of excellence and accountability. You clarify goals and incentivize people to give their best. Most of all, you create the nimble, open-minded culture required to deploy and leverage every marketing opportunity.

Many companies, including its competitors, respect Apple’s business acumen. None can replicate its creative culture and mandate to change the world. Apple has aligned its personality with its marketing, making it virtually unstoppable.

You have the same opportunity.

Corner four: Acquiring new customers

It’s simple. Without a steady supply of customers, you don’t have a business.

Start by attracting new faces with relevant, compelling content.

Then use smart copywriting, well-crafted landing pages, clear calls to action, and irresistible offers to translate that attention into what every business needs — satisfied paying customers.

The techniques and tools you get from Copyblogger will help you understand and implement a plan for attracting prospects and converting them to customers.

Building the frame of your online marketing plan

Other than placing that last piece, building the frame of the puzzle is one of the most satisfying moments.

Online marketers build the “frame” of their marketing puzzle by connecting the dots between the four corners: the unique value proposition, existing customers, company assets, and new customer acquisition.

Business frame-building comes down to asking and answering important questions. These questions outline your vision, principles, and strategy.

These questions include:

  1. What is troubling my customers, and how can we offer the best solution?
  2. What do we believe in?
  3. What will we NOT do? Or better, when will we say No?
  4. What are our core marketing strategies?
  5. How does our day-to-day marketing reinforce and enhance our value proposition?

Beware.

The answers to these questions require leadership, vision … and mischief. It’s easy to pretend to be a market leader, but customers will always sniff out impostors.

“Find the colors, grandson”

Whenever I was stuck on a puzzle, grandma would pick up the box, point at a purple flower, a yellow shutter, or other distinctive feature, and say, “Find the colors, Grandson.”

The same applies to your online marketing.

Sometimes we get so close to our businesses that we miss the little things that make our customers and us special. Your colors start with your value proposition, but they also include case studies and testimonials.

Your colors can be the care your builders take in leaving a work site cleaner than when they arrived. Your colors could be stocking Sippy cups for restaurant patrons that have children. Your colors can just be the respectful, thoughtful way you treat people.

These colors are hidden by broad terms like customer service. Unearth them, collect them, and add them to the overall marketing of your business.

Try something until it fits

Have you ever tried to force fit a puzzle piece?

Many times, I would jam a piece into place and move on, mightily trying to ignore the ill-fitting piece. My grandma would see the piece instantly, quietly remove it, and lightly scold, “Try something until it fits.”

She would then methodically try piece after piece until one settled into the spot with a satisfying click against the tabletop.

Testing and optimization is how you and I “try something until it fits.” Using smart tools like Premise to split-test your landing pages, setting up AdWords A/B tests, even tweaking headlines creates “luck” and success.

Unfortunately, most online marketers dismiss testing or list it on a forgotten to-do list. This is a mistake.

“Always Be Testing” is the war cry of serious marketers who quickly grow their audiences, customer base, and reputation with spectacular marketing. They know that if you are not testing, you’re guessing — and guessing is a costly and stupid way to run a business.

Finishing the puzzle

Online marketing can seem confusing.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by complexity — just like when you dump out the pieces of your first 1,000-piece puzzle.

Relax. Start with the corners and follow the process. It works. And if you’re smart about it, it can work a lot faster.

I have the finished puzzles to prove it.

About the Author: Stan Smith is Founder of Pushing Social, where he’s obsessed with teaching businesses how to beat the competition and boost profits with breakthrough blogging. You can jumpstart your blog with his free 7 Minute Blog Strategy Guide and get a few bonus goodies too!

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The Great Battle of Skyrim: When Video Games, Mods And YouTube Come Together

There’s no denying the absolute runaway popularity of Bethesda’s Skyrim. A quick Google search of “Game of the Year, 2011” reveals as much, but make no mistake, the popularity of the game is well-earned.

What makes a great thing even better, however, is when fans offer their take on an already-great intellectual property, much like YouTube user Tyrannicon has provided us. Uploaded on February 7th, the video has already amassed over 700,000 views, thanks in large part to its promotion on sites like Joystiq and to a lesser extent, Reddit.

As you can see, the video absolutely takes an awesome thing and adds just a touch more “awesome” to it:

According to the video’s description , the video was made with the following characters:

Epic machinima battle of 500 Draugr, 200 skeletons, 500 Dwarven Warriors and a dragon using mods and console commands.

And for all you SOPA/ACTA watchers out there, Tyrannicon even added something of a copyright disclaimer, one that extols the virtues of fair use:

Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

Would that be enough, under a SOPA-controlled Internet, to satiate the copyright enforcers?


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