Are You Handicapping Your Conversion Rate?

As humans, we tend to believe that if we like something, it must have value—how else do you explain our obsession with celebrities?

I mean, I’ve never met Tom Brady, but he’s one of my favorite athletes…so he must be a good guy, right?

Tom Brady

Unfortunately, this sort of thinking doesn’t end with pro athletes or TV stars. As online marketers, we make a lot of assumptions about how certain website elements affect our conversion rates.

After all, if we like a certain page element or approach to site design, then everyone else must like it too, right?

If only that were true…

The fact of the matter is, you are not your target audience. So, even if you love your sidebar and hate your developer’s favorite widget, you really have no idea how either of those site elements are affecting your conversion rate.

But, the good news is that with a few simple tests, you can easily discover how different elements on your site help or hinder your conversion rate.

Much Ado About Nothing?

Eliminating website elements allows you to get a good feel for how those elements are affecting the performance of your site.

In a lot of ways, it’s like comparing Tom Brady’s performance with deflated balls to his performance without deflated balls.

tom-brady-throwback-thursday

If Tom only wins Superbowls when he plays with deflated balls, that must be a big contributor to his performance. On the other hand, if he still wins without the deflated balls, air pressure probably doesn’t affect his throwing ability much.

The same idea applies to your website.

If you remove an element and your conversion rate goes up, that element was probably hurting your conversion rate. If your conversion rate goes down, that element was probably helping your conversion rate.

Simple enough, right?

It may be a simple idea, but it’s one that can make a big difference to your business.

For example, EA got rid of the promo banner on their SimCity microsite and improved their purchase rate by 43%. Impact deleted their sidebar and their conversion rate went up 71%.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that what we like, everyone likes. But, if you aren’t testing your site elements, you may very well be doggedly hanging on to an element that is ruining your conversion rate.

How to Determine the Value of Your Site Elements

If you really want to know how specific site elements affect your conversion rate, there are two easy places to start: your pages and the elements on those pages.

Which Pages Do You Really Need?

One of the simplest things you can test on your site is how your homepage affects your conversion rate. Is your homepage an important part of your conversion process? Or does it distract and frustrate your site visitors?

To test this, all you have to do is send traffic to another page.

In fact, most companies do this without even realizing it when they send campaign traffic to landing pages…instead of their home page.

Essentially, when you send traffic to a landing page, you’re running an A/B test. The homepage is your control and the landing page is your variant.

In general, a good landing page that matches the messaging of the marketing that brought someone to your page will convert better than your homepage. However, this isn’t always the case.

For some companies, their homepage is actually an important part of their conversion funnel.

For example, we had a client who wanted to send traffic to two landing pages (each one was focused on a different product) to see which one performed the best. Out of curiosity, we also threw in the homepage for comparison’s sake.

To our surprise, the homepage won.

shirley-you-cant-be-serious

As it turned out, this client’s customers were actually interested in both products and a variety of our client’s other products. Since the homepage featured all of those products, potential customers didn’t want a product-specific landing page—they wanted the homepage.

For this client, the homepage was a key part of their conversion process.

Simply adding or eliminating pages from your customer journey can be a great way to determine how different pages are contributing to your conversion rate. It’s simple, easy and it can teach you a lot about your audience.

Which Parts of Your Page/Site Matter?

Once you’ve identified how your pages are affecting your conversion rate, you can start looking at the specific elements on those pages.

For example, for one of our clients, we removed the sliding promotion header from their eCommerce site. As a result, their revenue-per-visitor increased by 25%. Similarly, when we nixed their navigation sidebar, their monthly revenue increased by 19%.

Together, eliminating these pet design elements increased their yearly profits by $2 million!

To set up a test like this, you’ll want to build a second version of your page that is identical to your current page—with one exception. Your new page won’t have the page element you are evaluating.

Typically, this is pretty easy. Just duplicate the page you want to test and then go in and delete the part of the page that you want to test. In some cases, though, this can mess up other parts of the page, so be sure to proofread your new page before you start your test.

As an added bonus, you can use what you learn from eliminating page elements to come up with further testing ideas.

For example, if you know that a page element on one page is hurting your conversion rate, you can try eliminating it from other pages too. Alternatively, you can try tweaking or replacing the element to see if you can get it to perform better.

On the other hand, if a specific part of your page is really boosting your conversion rate, you may want to replicate that element across your site. You can also try to milk even more from high-performing elements by tweaking things like copy, color, size, imagery or location.

Regardless of how you use your findings, eliminating page elements can teach you a lot about what your audience really wants from your site.

Conclusion

No matter how much you might like a particular page or page element, what really matters is how those aspects of your site affect your traffic.

Unfortunately, if you don’t test your specific site elements, you’ll never know whether or not they are helping or hurting your conversion rates.

However, by simply eliminating specific site elements, you can very easily discover what your target market values on your site and what they hate. And, once you know what your audience values, you can make sure your website delivers exactly what your potential customers want.

You’ve heard my two cents, now I want to hear yours.

How do you feel about this approach to website optimization? Are there additional factors that should be considered in this analysis? Is this something you’ve tried or would consider trying?

About the Author: Jacob Baadsgaard is the CEO and fearless leader of Disruptive Advertising, an online marketing agency dedicated to using PPC advertising and website optimization to drive sales. His face is as big as his heart and he loves to help businesses achieve their online potential. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

40 Brilliant-but-Easy Ways to Build Your Email List

Email marketing is a high-impact, low-cost way of delivering your marketing message to current customers and prospects — if, that is, you have a great email list. If you don’t, this article is for you. Read on for the most effective and creative ways to build your email list.

If your email list is short, scant on information, full or errors and redundancies, or just not on-track with your targeting, that poor-quality data can be worse than having no data at all! Without a good email list, all your other digital marketing efforts are little more than wheel spinning.

There’s a lot to be said for the human touch, and these ideas rely on good old-fashioned human interaction to help you build your email list.

Build your email list the right way

1. Put out the sign-up sheet

Whether you’re at a trade show, community event or in your own storefront, collecting email addresses in person can be as easy as putting out a signup sheet and encouraging people to write down their details.

2. Leverage business cards

When you meet people face to face for any reason, ask for their business card. Offer yours. Set a glass bowl on the counter in your store or the reception desk in your office, and ask visitors to drop their cards in it. Offer some incentive to do so — a free product or service, gift card, etc. Use your own business cards to further drum up emails; add an offer on the back of your card that encourages people to sign up to receive your emails.

3. Host an event

Stage an event — lunch gathering, topic talk, book club or whatever works to get people in the door. Drop invitations at nearby businesses, post the notice on your front door, and advertise in local media. Ask people to RSVP with their email addresses.

4. Invite people to ‘join the club’

Offer a birthday or anniversary club that allows people to “enroll” by providing their email address and relevant date. Reward them with a special offer for signing up, and follow up with something else special, such as a discount coupon, on their birthday or anniversary date.

5. Organize a giveaway

Using snail mail and/or your existing email list, send people a postcard asking for email information and offer them a reward for providing it.

6. Drum up emails with direct mail

Sometimes you have a physical address but no email address. Send a direct-mail offer they can only get by going to your website and joining your email list.

7. Try some telemarketing

Throughout the day, you and your employees probably interact with many customers and prospects on the phone. Before you hang up, always ask if they would like to join your email list. Give them a brief statement of the benefits of enrolling — for example, exclusive offers and discounts only available to email subscribers.

8. Optimize your website for opt-ins

If a customer or prospect visits your website, they’re already at least somewhat interested. Don’t miss the opportunity to add them to your email list. Include email registration forms on every main page of your site, as well as on the pages for popular products and services.

9. Build with your blog

Your blog provides a great way to build a personal relationship with customers and prospects — and to gather their email addresses. Consistently end blogs with a call to action that encourages readers to sign up for your email messages. Require blog visitors to provide an email list in order to leave comments, and set it up so that they have to actively opt out if they don’t want their email address included on your mailing list.

10. Engage through social media

Social media participation can allow you to reach new audiences and make new connections. Stay abreast of trending topics that are of interest to your customers and prospects. Use social media to encourage people to visit one of the channels where they can sign up for your email list.

11. Don’t give up on bounce backs

Everyone hates to see the dreaded bounce-back alert in their inbox. If you have snail-mail information to match an email address, send a postcard asking the contact to provide you with an updated email address so you can stay in touch. Consider rewarding them with a discount or freebie for taking the time to respond.

12. Piggyback on a colleague’s efforts

Consider sharing email lists with neighboring businesses. Offer them space in your newsletter in exchange for including a link with your opt-in form in their newsletter.

13. Don’t let website visitors get away

If a visitor gets through your entire website without opting in, grab them one last time before they go. Set a lightbox to appear asking for an email address whenever someone is about to navigate away from your website or blog.

14. Create an online community

Platforms like BuddyPress for WordPress make it easy to set up a community and foster interaction between your brand and your customers. Include a sign-up form for your newsletter on every page of the community.

15. Leverage ‘email only’ specials

Reward your loyal email followers with specials that are only available to subscribers. Encourage them to forward the link to your sign-up page to friends and family.

16. Don’t forget your own email

Be sure every email you send has an opt-in form so that anyone who receives one of your emails via forward from someone else, can sign up directly to be on your list.

17. Use Foursquare

Offer a reward for customers who buy something from you and show that they checked in at your business on Foursquare using their mobile device. When they do this, they’re telling everyone in their network that they’ve done business with you. Each month, reward the person who gave you the greatest exposure by offering a discount, and asking for their email address.

18. Be active on blogs and forums

Frequent the blogs and forums your customers do and offer insightful comments. Include a link to your website where visitors will find your opt-in form.

19. Get employees involved

Reward employees for collecting valid, testable email addresses. Remember to have them obtain the person’s consent before giving you the email address for your list.

20. Encourage customers with a daily deal

Daily deal sites can be useful for retail or local service businesses. Offer your discount (daily deal) through the site for a limited time and ask anyone who wants to grab the deal to provide their email address in exchange.

21. Word of mouth still rocks

Ask current and new customers to refer new subscribers to your list. Sweeten the deal by offering them a discount as a reward for valid, confirmed and consent-backed email addresses.

22. Encourage forwarding

When you send an email, include a forward-to-a-friend link in case recipients want to forward your content to someone they think will find it interesting. Make sure the link directs newcomers to a page with your opt-in form.

23. Serve up a sandwich board

Sandwich boards are nothing new, but what about using one in a new way? Place one on the sidewalk in front of your storefront or office to advertise your newsletter and offer a reward to anyone who signs up. Invite customers into the store to enroll, or give them the web address where they’ll find your opt-in form.

24. Use receipts

Customize your credit card receipt with a field/line where customers can jot down their email address while they’re signing. Or, simply ask them to write their address on the back of the receipt. At the end of the day, enter the addresses into your database and send out a welcoming email.

25. Take it to the street fair

Spring, summer, winter, and fall — your community probably has at least one street fair or similar event throughout the year. Participate in the event and collect email addresses right at the fair. Sweeten the deal by offering new subscribers a discount on their first (or next) purchase in exchange for sharing the email with you.

26. Encourage competition

Sponsor a video contest in which customers create a one-minute video about why they like your business, products or services. Ask them to send the videos to you and post them to your Facebook page. Invite visitors to vote on which video should win a cash or merchandise prize. Include an email opt-in on your Facebook page. Be sure to follow Facebook’s rules regarding contests.

27. Go mobile

When you’re out in the world at a tradeshow, business meeting or other public forum, use your smartphone to collect email addresses. And be sure to include an email opt-in with your business’ mobile app. If you offer the app for free download through your website, “charge” users the “price” of their email address in order to download the app.

28. Inside-the-box ideas

If you ship products, it’s a perfect opportunity to expand your email list at no cost! Include an inbox request on a card inside every package you ship. Be sure to tout your “email only” offers and direct recipients to your website’s opt-in form. After they join, redirect them to a page where they’ll receive their first promotional offer.

29. Make it more than just a bill

When you send out an invoice, include an option to sign up for email communications with you. Again, sweeten the deal by offering an incentive such as a discount or free shipping on the next order as a reward for providing email addresses.

30. Signs of the times

Include a link to your opt-in page in the signature of all your emails, personal and professional.

31. Network for emails

Join your local Chamber of Commerce or another business networking group. Email the member list (if it’s opt-in) about your services and include a link to sign up for your emails and newsletter.

32. Download freebies

That e-book or buying guide you created to establish thought leadership in your industry can also help build your email list. When visitors to your website request a free download, ask them to complete your opt-in form in order to download.

33. Speak up for yourself

Speaking engagements are a great way to establish your company as active in the community, but you can also weave into your talk the idea that more information can be found on your website. Offer free consultations in exchange for signing up for your newsletter and emails.

34. Giving it all away

Every month, offer a giveaway of a valuable or fun item to anyone who signs up for your email list.

35. Subscriber-only access

Everyone likes the feeling of being in on something exclusive. Offer your email subscribers something only they can get. It might be a special discount. It could be access to a video, e-book or another piece of useful content. Promote the availability of this exclusive access in order to encourage more email enrollments.

36. Give them subscription options

People like more choices, so consider creating subscription levels that let people sign up to receive content that’s relevant to them. For example, if you sell widgets and tax advice, provide three options on your opt-in form that allow users to sign up to receive info about widgets, info about tax advice or both. Further customize by allowing them to designate how frequently they’d like to hear from you — weekly, monthly or only when something really special is going on. People may be more likely to sign up for your email list if they have some control over the content they’ll receive.

37. Don’t forget the power of print

Add a QR code (a bar code that people can scan with a smartphone app) to print ads, direct-mail post cards and other printed marketing materials. Use the code to allow people to opt-in to your email list simply by scanning the code.

38. Leverage testimonials

Make your opt-in form extra convincing by including testimonials from current email subscribers touting the quality of your content.

39. Create a teachable moment

Are you an expert in something people want to know about, like weight loss, home improvement, cooking, etc.? Promote an exclusive online email course available only to subscribers.

40. Reel them in with a scroll box

Visitors to your website might overlook the call to sign up that you have at the top of every page, but it’s harder to ignore a lightbox or pop-up. Scroll boxes pop up on visitors’ screens after they’ve scrolled down a certain length of the page. The box encourages them to sign up for your email list. They can be effective for encouraging a user who’s already shown interest in your content (by staying on the page long enough to scroll) to sign up for your email list.

Building an email list takes time and is critical to marketing success in the digital age. What tactics do you use to collect more emails?

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© 2016, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

The post 40 Brilliant-but-Easy Ways to Build Your Email List appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

Europeans Using Solar Power To Transform Urine Into Beer



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For the second year in a row, a team of researchers at Belgium’s Ghent University is collecting urine at one of Europe’s largest festivals, Roskilde. The researchers are hoping that by the time next year’s festival rolls around, one of the country’s breweries should have plenty of recycled urine beer to pour out for adventurous drinkers. The first time around, researchers say the goal was to extract nutrients that could be used as fertilizer. According to an article last summer, more than 25,000 liters of urine were collected and the fertilizer that was produced from it provided nourishment to a barley crop. This year, the researchers were after another critical beer ingredient: water.

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLaEaCN8f70]

Case Study: How We Created Controversial Content That Earned Hundreds of Links

Posted by KelseyLibert

Content marketers, does the following scenario sound familiar?

You’re tasked with creating content that attracts publicity, links, and social shares. You come up with great ideas for content that you’re confident could accomplish these goals. However, any ideas that push the envelope or might offend anyone in the slightest get shot down by your boss or client. Even if a provocative idea gets approved, after feedback from higher-ups and several rounds of editing, you end up with a boring, watered-down version of what you originally envisioned.

Given the above, you’re not surprised when you achieve lackluster results. Repeat this cycle enough times, and it may lead to the false assumption that content marketing doesn’t work for the brand.

In this post, I’ll answer two questions:

  1. How can I get my boss or clients to sign off on envelope-pushing content that will attract the attention needed to achieve great results?
  2. How can we minimize the risk of backlash?

Why controversy is so powerful for content marketing

To get big results, content needs to get people talking. Often times, the best way to do this is by creating an emotional reaction in the audience. Content that deals with a controversial or polarizing topic can be a surefire way to accomplish this.

On the other hand, when you play it too safe with your content, it becomes extremely difficult to ignite the emotional response needed to drive social sharing. Ultimately, you don’t attract the attention needed to earn high-quality links.

Below is a peek at the promotions report from a recent controversial campaign that resulted in a lot of high-quality links, among other benefits.

abodo-promotions-report.png

Overcoming a client’s aversion to controversy

We understand and respect a client’s fierce dedication to protecting their brand. The thought of attaching their company to anything controversial can set off worst-case-scenario visions of an angry Internet mob and bad press (which isn’t always a terrible thing).

One such example of balancing a sensitive topic while minimizing the potential risk is a recent campaign we created for apartment listing site Abodo. Our idea was to use Twitter data to pinpoint which states and cities had the highest concentration of prejudiced and tolerant tweets. Bigotry in America is an extremely sensitive topic, yet our client was open to the idea.

Want to get a contentious idea approved by your boss or client? Here’s how we did it.

1. Your idea needs to be relevant to the brand, either directly or tangentially.

Controversy for the sake of controversy is not going to provide value to the brand or the target audience.

I asked Michael Taus, VP of Growth and Business Development at Abodo, why our campaign idea got the green light. He said Abodo’s mission is to help people find a home, not to influence political discourse. But they also believe that when you’re moving to a new community, there’s more to the decision than what your house or apartment looks like, including understanding the social and cultural tone of the location.

So while the campaign dealt with a hot topic, ultimately this information would be valuable to Abodo’s users.

2. Prove that playing it safe isn’t working.

If your “safe” content is struggling to get attention, make the case for taking a risk. Previous campaign topics for our client had been too conservative. We knew by creating something worth talking about, we’d see greater results.

3. Put safeguards in place for minimizing risk to the brand.

While we couldn’t guarantee there wouldn’t be a negative response once the campaign launched, we could guarantee that we’d do everything in our power to minimize any potential backlash. We were confident in our ability to protect our client because we’d done it so many times with other campaigns. I’ll walk you through how to do this throughout the rest of the post.

On the client’s end, they can get approval from other internal departments; for example, having the legal and PR teams review and give final approval can help mitigate the uncertainty around running a controversial campaign.

Did taking a risk pay off?

The campaign was a big success, with results including:

  • More than 620 placements (240 dofollow links and 280 co-citation links)
  • Features on high-authority sites including CNET, Slate, Business Insider, AOL, Yahoo, Mic, The Daily Beast, and Adweek
  • More than 67,000 social shares
  • A whole lot of discussion

cnet-coverage.png

Beyond these metrics, Abodo has seen additional benefits such as partnership opportunities. Since this campaign launched, they were approached by a nonprofit organization to collaborate on a similar type of piece. They hope to repeat their success by leveraging the nonprofit’s substantial audience and PR capabilities.

Essential tips for minimizing risk around contentious content

We find that good journalism practices can greatly reduce the risk of a negative response. Keep the following five things in mind when creating attention-grabbing content.

1. Presenting data vs. taking a stance: Let the data speak

Rather than presenting an opinion, just present the facts. Our clients are usually fine with controversial topics as long as we don’t take a stance on them and instead allow the data we’ve collected to tell the story for us. Facts are facts, and that’s all your content needs to offer.

If publishers want to put their own spin on the facts you present or audiences see the story the data are telling and want to respond, the conversation can be opened up and generate a lot of engagement.

For the Abodo campaign, the data we presented weren’t a direct reflection of our client but rather came from an outside source (Twitter). We packaged the campaign on a landing page on the client’s site, which includes the design assets and an objective summary of the data.

abodo-landing-page.png

The publishers then chose how to cover the data we provided, and the discussion took off from there. For example, Slate called out Louisiana’s unfortunate achievement of having the most derogatory tweets.

slate-coverage.png

2. Present more than one side of the story

How do you feel when you watch a news report or documentary that only shares one side of the story? It takes away credibility from the reporting, doesn’t it?

To keep the campaign topic from being too negative and one-sided, we looked at the most prejudiced and least prejudiced tweets. Including states and cities with the least derogatory tweets added a positive angle to the story. This made the data more objective, which improved the campaign’s credibility.

least-derogatory.png

Regional publishers showed off that their state had the nicest tweets.

idaho-article.png

And residents of these places were proud to share the news.

If your campaign topic is negative, try to show the positive side of it too. This keeps the content from being a total downer, which is important for social sharing since people usually want to pass along content that will make others feel good. Our recent study on the emotions behind viral content found that even when viral content evokes negative emotions, it’s usually not purely negative; the content also makes the audience feel a positive emotion or surprise.

Aside from objective reporting, a huge benefit to telling more than one side of the story is that you’re able to pitch the story for multiple angles, thus maximizing your potential coverage. Because of this, we ended up creating 18 visual assets for this campaign, which is far more than we typically do.

3. Don’t go in with an agenda

Be careful of twisting the data to fit your agenda. It’s okay to have a thesis when you start, but if your aim is to tell a certain story you’re apt to stick with that storyline regardless of what the data show. If your information is clearly slanted to show the story you want to tell, the audience will catch on, and you’ll get called out.

Instead of gathering research with an intent of “I’m setting out to prove XYZ,” adopt a mindset of “I wonder what the reality is.”

4. Be transparent about your methodology

You don’t want the validity of your data to become a point of contention among publishers and readers. This goes for any data-heavy campaign but especially for controversial data.

To combat any doubts around where the information came from or how the data were collected and analyzed, we publish a detailed methodology alongside all of our campaigns. For the Abodo campaign, we created a PDF document of the research methodology which we could easily share with publishers.

methodology-example.pngInclude the following in your campaign’s methodology:

  • Where and when you received your data.
  • What kind and how much data you collected. (Our methodology went on to list exactly which terms we searched for on Twitter.)
  • Any exceptions within your collection and analysis, such as omitted information.
  • A list of additional sources. (We only use reputable, new sources ideally published within the last year.)

sources-example.png

For even more transparency, make your raw data available. This gives publishers a chance to comb through the data to find additional story angles.

5. Don’t feed the trolls

This is true for any content campaign, but it’s especially important to have an error-free campaign when dealing with a sensitive topic since it may be under more scrutiny. Don’t let mistakes in the content become the real controversy.

Build multiple phases of editing into your production process to ensure you’re not releasing inaccurate or low-quality content. Keep these processes consistent by creating a set of editorial guidelines that everyone involved can follow.

We put our campaigns through fact checking and several rounds of quality assurance.

Fact checking should play a complementary role to research and involves verifying accuracy by making sure all data and assertions are true. Every point in the content should have a source that can be verified. Writers should be familiar with best practices for making their work easy to fact-check; this fact-checking guide from Poynter is a good resource.

Quality assurance looks at both the textual and design elements of a campaign to ensure a good user experience. Our QA team reviews things like grammar, clarity (Is this text clearly making a point? Is a design element confusing or hard to read?), and layout/organization.

Include other share-worthy elements

Although the controversial subject matter helped this campaign gain attention, we also incorporated other proven elements of highly shareable content:

  • Geographic angle. People wanted to see how their state or city ranked. Many took to social media to express their disappointment or pride in the results.
  • Timeliness. Bigotry is a hot-button issue in the U.S. right now amidst racial tension and a heated political situation.
  • Comparison. Rankings and comparisons stimulate discussion, especially when people have strong opinions about the rankings.
  • Surprising. The results were somewhat shocking since some cities and states which ranked “most PC” or “most prejudiced” were unexpected.

The more share-worthy elements you can tack onto your content, the greater your chances for success.

Have you seen success with controversial or polarizing content? Did you overcome a client’s objection to controversy? Be sure to share your experience in the comments.

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Customer Data: The Solution to Lead Generation

More leads, please.

In most companies, it’s an ongoing process to generate interested buyers to your product and services.

We want qualified leads that move effortlessly throughout the sales cycle.

But the problem lies in our preparation. Some of us just don’t have enough information about our prospects.

The CSO Insight study reported that “42 percent of sales reps feel that they don’t have the right information before making a call.”

Use accurate customer data to prepare your team. Knowing key insights can make or break the deal.

Power up your data profile. Leverage it to produce more qualified leads.

Gathering Reliable Data

Based on an Ascend2 study, “35 percent of those surveyed said the biggest barrier to lead generation success is the lack of quality data.” Your data should tell a vivid story of your customer.

To gather reliable data, track anonymous users who visit your website. Watch leads interact with your content via session replays.

Ask for feedback from current customers. Monitor the trends of loyal consumers.

B2B marketers must also “embrace more third party and real-time data sets to really understand buyer’s across the entire customer journey.” For example, that may include using social logins to access a prospect’s profile information.

Data is widely available. Your team must decide which acquisition channels work for your company.

What’s the best way to collect email addresses? Or how can you quickly accumulate customer preferences?

customer-demographics-chart

“Understanding who your customers are and, in turn, what they like, will undoubtedly enable you to increase conversions and sales. Make it easy for your customers to share their data with you, and use that data to keep them engaged with your business,” says Josh George, a senior applications engineer at Lyons Consulting Group.

Know who you’re serving. Collect valid data for better results.

Enhancing Buyer Personas

Get inside your prospects’ minds. Map out your ideal customer to understand their reasons for buying.

But, what’s the point?

Buyer personas are roadmaps to navigating through your prospects’ interests, dislikes, and habits. If you’re aware of their behaviors, your team can create targeted solutions.

“By developing research-based buyer personas, you can create effective, highly targeted marketing campaigns. Each piece of communication ties back to your buyer personas so that every message addresses relevant pain points and positions your software as a viable solution,” states Brie Rangel, Account Strategist at IMPACT.

Knowing the basic demographics of your buyer is a given. Your team’s goal is to dive deeper. Learn your customers’ goals, challenges, and personal story.

Below is an example of a buyer persona for a specific startup founder. The story section offers a complete picture of the prospect, everything from the stage of his product to what he does for fun.

buyer-persona-startup-founder

The role of customer data is to provide accurate information for your buyer personas. You don’t want to waste time selling enterprise-level B2B SaaS software to a B2C startup.

Moreover, inaccurate buyer preferences and habits will leave both the prospect and sales rep frustrated. So, double-check your personas.
Because in the end, your mission is to match your product with a qualified lead. That’s how you bring in sales.

“Use personas to spend more time with qualified leads, because they’re the ones who are most likely to turn into those long-term customers you’re looking for,” says Nicole Dieker, freelance writer and copywriter.

Enhance your buyer personas. Use data to add a face to the customer.

Segmenting Your Audience

After learning your customers distinct behaviors, it’s time to serve those individual needs.
It makes no sense to group everyone together.

If Sally specifically likes apples, why send her emails about oranges and grapefruits? Instead, educate her about the difference between gala apples and pink lady apples.

That’s a mental hurdle for most SaaS teams. We assume if our customers like X; they will definitely love Y. It isn’t always that simple.

Segmentation comes in many shapes and sizes. From geographical to behavioral differences, your customers vary. And it’s up to your team to discover how to connect with them.

market-segmentation-approaches

You might consider a city in a particular state or the buyer’s readiness to purchase. Work with your team to develop a goal.

Define your reason for segmentation. Experienced marketing and product leader Doug Goldstein offers the following common segmentation objectives:

  • Create segmented ads & marketing communications
  • Develop differentiated customer servicing & retention strategies
  • Target prospects with the greatest profit potential
  • Optimize your sales-channel mix

Segmentation is impossible without customer data. Add insights derived from analytics to guide how you group prospects.

And don’t be afraid to experiment. Testing is how you’ll discover the right messaging for your sales reps. Plus, it can help you market product information on your site.

“When practicing website optimization, leveraging customer segmentation provides a framework for running intentional, well-hypothesized experiments on your website that drive value,” writes Junan Pang, a solutions architect at Optimizely.

Segment your audience to deliver more personalized and timely experiences. With a segmented list, you’ll be able to target the right services to interested buyers.

Building The Relationship

You can collect the data, create the buyer personas, and segment your audience. But all that data can’t substitute customer relationships.

And that’s where most businesses miss their opportunity.

“[C]ompanies often manage relationships haphazardly and unprofitably, committing blunders that undermine their connections with customers,” states Jill Avery, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School.

Customer data is intended to facilitate the relationship between the sales rep and the buyer. However, research shows that companies without sophisticated data management tools “derive erroneous results that annoy customers, resulting in a 25 percent reduction in potential revenue gains.”

bad-impressions

Don’t attempt to foster a customer relationship with poor-quality data. If you do, prospects will seek out your competitors.

TechTarget executive editor Lauren Horwitz and SearchCRM site editor Tim Ehrens agree:

“Customer data management often falls to the bottom of the priority list. Organizations get bogged down with more pressing issues, such as cutting costs or keeping daily operations running. But relying on poor-quality customer data almost always frustrates customers — and many of them take their business elsewhere.”

Relationships are built on human-to-human contact. That means being genuinely interested in your buyer’s concerns.

How can you make their lives better? Where can you offer convenience?

And sometimes your product won’t be the solution. Yes, your SaaS service may not be the best option for that particular person.

Sales teams must recognize that it’s okay to remove unqualified prospects from the pipeline. This action should be commended, not frowned upon.

Use customer data as a tool to score leads. Then, gain insight on how to target prospects that matter to your company.

Data shouldn’t supplant the customer relationship. Make the human connection.

Go for the Data

Your team needs qualified leads. Focus on customer data as a solution.

Gather data from reliable sources. Use buyer personas to target your audience. Segment their behavior to create a personalized approach. And focus on building relationships throughout the sales cycle.

Want more leads? Go for the data.

About the Author: Shayla Price lives at the intersection of digital marketing, technology and social responsibility. Connect with her on Twitter @shaylaprice.

Facebook’s Birthday Gift to Users: 45-Second Videos

Facebook plans to begin sending its users birthday wishes in the form of 45-second videos featuring recaps of their friends’ birthday greeting posts.

The social network has begun rolling out the feature, and users should start seeing it “in the coming days.”

The birthday videos function like the Friends Day videos Facebook introduced in February in celebration of its own birthday (No. 12): Users will see a prompt atop their News Feeds on their birthdays, after which they can preview the videos before they go live and add or remove specific posts.

Readers: What do you think of Facebook’s new birthday videos?

78 Marketing Tasks You Should Outsource Immediately

outsourced

If you’re like me, you stay busy.

Running a business is a tall order in and of itself. When you throw marketing into the mix, things can quickly become overwhelming.

If you haven’t felt this way yet, you’re going to feel it soon: There just aren’t enough hours in the day!

Here is one thing I learned early on in my business: outsourcing will save your life.

I speak from personal experience. There’s no way I could have done what I’ve done without strategically and carefully outsourcing a lot of the day-to-day marketing tasks that took up my time and kept me from focusing on other goals. 

Why I’m a fan of outsourcing

Outsourcing has tons of benefits.

image00

Most businesses rely on outsourcing because they want to “focus on the core.” That’s another way of saying “we want to do what we do best.”

For you, the reasons may be different. You might have 29 things you have to do for a client, but you only have time to do 18 of them. You can outsource the rest.

I’m a major proponent of outsourcing a lot of the day-to-day tasks that are laborious and only hold me back from focusing on more pressing matters.

I’m probably different from other business owners, though. While some people have a top-down or hands-off approach to running their companies, I prefer to be in the thick of it.

You’ll see me personally interacting on Facebook, jumping into blog comments, and working on blog articles.

I like to be involved in these aspects of my business because I feel like they are one of my important business tasks—connecting with and learning from other marketers.

That’s one of the great things about outsourcing. You can be as involved as you want or as hands-off as you want. It’s up to you.

A lot of people I talk with are concerned about the cost of outsourcing. “But doesn’t it cost a lot to outsource these tasks?” they ask.

The answer is yes and no.

Yes, you have to pay for quality work.

But no, it doesn’t cost a lot because of the time you’re saving. If your time is worth, say, $50/hr, doesn’t it make sense to pay someone $35/hr to post to Facebook, create a video, proofread an article, or respond to blog comments?

If you can be doing your $50/hr work while your outsourcer is doing their $35/hr work, it’s a win-win-win. You win. They win. Your client wins.

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And it’s not just time you’re saving. You’re also creating efficiency and increasing your quality. So maybe it’s a win-win-win-win-win.

Are there risks to outsourcing?

Sure, there are risks to anything.

I’ll admit that outsourcing has its fair share of risks. You can risk hiring the wrong person. You risk an outsourcer going AWOL. You run the risk of poor work standards. You even risk your brand being tarnished when an outsourced worker gets shoddy with their work.

There’s a flip side to this.

Most entrepreneurs and marketers are concerned they’ll get low quality work if they outsource.

What I’ve discovered is that you can actually improve the quality of work if you outsource.

Let’s say you need to create an explainer video for a new product. You can do it yourself with your iPhone and feeble editing skills.

Or you can outsource it to an explainer video professional.

If you outsource it, the quality will be a million times better than the quality you’d get if you’d tried to do it yourself.

See what I mean?

Besides, you don’t always need perfection when it comes to marketing. Although I tend to be a perfectionist, I’ve realized that done is better than perfect.

But I believe the rewards are greater than the risks. Besides, part of being a good marketer is being a good manager to other marketers.

The great thing is that there is a wide array of virtual assistants and marketing professionals available who will ensure that your campaign runs like a well-oiled machine without you having to hold their hand every step of the way.

Here are some specific tasks you should outsource right away.

Blogging

I always strive to maintain high quality standards on both NeilPatel.com and Quick Sprout. I’ve found I’m consistently able to do so without it devouring my time by outsourcing.

And I’m not alone. In fact, 64% of B2B marketers outsource their writing in some capacity.

Here are some of the ways you can improve your blog quality through outsourcing:

  1. Moderating blog comments and filtering spam
  2. Responding to the comments your readers leave
  3. Performing research for upcoming blog posts
  4. Generating new ideas and pitches for blog posts
  5. Scheduling blog posts
  6. Finding images and videos for blog posts
  7. Adding meta descriptions, tags, and images to blog posts
  8. Finding statistics to incorporate into posts
  9. Proofreading for spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and awkward phrasing
  10. Making adjustments to older blog posts as new data is unveiled
  11. Creating internal links to existing posts
  12. Keeping an inventory of posts and the keywords used
  13. Corresponding with your team of freelance writers
  14. Hunting down guest blog opportunities
  15. Coming up with pitches for guest posts
  16. Reaching out to influencers in your industry

Social Media

In my opinion, social media may be pound-for-pound the easiest area of marketing to outsource.

One of the biggest challenges of social media is curating the content you plan to share. It can take an enormous amount of time simply to find good, relevant articles that your audience will benefit from. Outsourcing this task is an instant way to free up several hours a week!

Think about the importance of visuals in your social media content too. Adding images to individual posts is a massive time drain…unless you outsource it!

A lot of tasks don’t require an immense amount of experience. Most virtual assistants are fully capable of handling them with minimal supervision:

  1. Managing and approving friend or follow requests
  2. Inviting followers to attend events
  3. Sending out personalized birthday greetings to key contacts
  4. Sharing your blog content across social networks
  5. Finding and editing images to use in posts
  6. Curating quality content from relevant sources
  7. Scheduling posts across all social platforms
  8. Keeping track of brand mentions
  9. Uploading new videos to YouTube
  10. Creating questionnaires and surveys
  11. Engaging with friends and followers
  12. Ensuring all profiles are updated on a consistent basis
  13. Sending out thank-yous to new followers
  14. Commenting, retweeting, and interacting with interesting content
  15. Designing and occasionally redesigning profiles

SEO

While you don’t want just anyone handling the more complex aspects of SEO, there are several elements of SEO that virtual assistants are fully capable of looking after. Many freelancers have the skill to perform keyword research, create a 301 map, or generate a thorough sitemap.

If you’re looking for someone to deal with the nuts and bolts of SEO, you’ll want to go with a highly qualified SEO firm who has a track record of success.

This post from Kissmetrics discusses what to look for in an SEO firm and how to tell if they’re helping or hurting you.

These are some of the SEO tasks that can be outsourced:

  1. Performing keyword research
  2. Creating catchy headlines
  3. Setting up a sitemap
  4. Building and editing landing pages
  5. Performing off-site optimization such as commenting on other blogs
  6. Analyzing the SEO campaigns of competitors
  7. Tracking the position of your content in search engines
  8. Researching cutting edge SEO trends
  9. Submitting content to directories
  10. Handling social bookmarking
  11. Monitoring site speed
  12. Performing an occasional SEO audit
  13. Keeping up with Google algorithm updates

Content marketing

Did you know that 72% of large organizations and 33% of small companies outsource their content creation?

Content marketing is my jam. I love it. I do it. And I’ve experienced incredible success with it.

As experienced as I am, I feel completely comfortable outsourcing numerous aspects of content marketing.

Let’s face it: content marketing takes serious time. As content marketing grows, you’ll discover there are more and more tasks you need to—but don’t have time to—do.

You’re left with a single choice: outsource or drown.

Here is what you can outsource:

  1. Creating offsite content that links back to your website and blog
  2. Interviewing sources
  3. Finding statistics to add
  4. Repurposing content, using a variety of mediums such as infographics, videos, slideshows and webinars
  5. Creating and managing your editorial calendar
  6. Establishing deadlines for content
  7. Building spreadsheets for your editorial calendar
  8. Backing up content in the Cloud
  9. Finding and editing photos
  10. Converting files
  11. Working on increasing post engagement
  12. Keeping track of your content marketing budget
  13. Ensuring all content is mobile-friendly

You can learn more about the process of outsourcing content marketing on one of my previous posts. In it, I discuss some important questions to ask to ensure you get the most bang for your buck.

Analytics

Every good marketer makes decisions based on analytics.

But analytics can be tricky. You have to set up your analytics, configure the analytics, generate reports from your analytics, monitor these analytics, analyze the analytics, determine takeaways from the analytics, and then make strategic marketing decisions in light of these analytics.

Thankfully, there are parts of the analytics maze you can outsource:

  1. Monitoring trends with traffic, acquisition, conversions, etc.
  2. Spotting long-term patterns
  3. Generating daily, weekly, and monthly reports
  4. Analyzing engagement
  5. Determining how cost-effective your marketing techniques are

Reputation Management

Knowing what the public perception of your business is at all times has never been more important than it is today. In fact, 97% of consumers say they read reviews about local businesses.

Due to the fact that reputation management can be inherently time-consuming, I’ve found outsourcing it to be a smart move:

  1. Handling social listening across the web
  2. Monitoring reviews on sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List
  3. Getting consumer feedback
  4. Paying attention to negative press
  5. Responding to negative comments
  6. Managing trolls

Email marketing

Email marketing matters more today than ever before.

As old-school as it sounds, email marketing is one of the best methods of attracting and retaining high-value leads for your B2B or B2C.

But, as with any area of marketing, things can get tricky here too. Why? Because it takes a lot of time to set up email, integrate it, create updates, format newsletters, and take care of the nitty-gritty of mailing lists and scheduling.

It’s one of the first things you should consider outsourcing:

  1. Creating newsletters
  2. Proofreading and editing emails
  3. Sending out bulk emails
  4. Responding to questions

WordPress

WordPress could be considered the universal blogging and publishing platform.

In fact, 26% of all websites on the planet use WordPress. If you run your site on it, you can make your life a lot simpler by outsourcing a few key tasks:

  1. Monitoring and managing plugins
  2. Installing new plugins
  3. Providing WP support
  4. Tweaking templates
  5. Handling coding

Conclusion

We’re living in a globalized, digitized world with a surplus of professionals who can handle nearly every aspect of your marketing campaigns.

As a result, outsourcing many marketing tasks makes complete sense and has never been easier to do.

I’ve had a lot of success with outsourcing, and I know I’m not alone. Many of my industry colleagues and clients have told me the same thing. If it weren’t for outsourcing, they wouldn’t be in business!

Once you start outsourcing, amazing things will happen to your business.

You suddenly find yourself with more time to focus on high-level strategy. Instantly, you encounter new opportunities for growth and expansion. Your vision becomes clearer. You open up new channels of engagement. Things simply improve.

Outsourcing is a small move that starts the cascade of great benefits.

If you haven’t been taking advantage of outsourcing, I would recommend first identifying which tasks are hurting your efficiency and then hiring others to handle them.

Here’s my challenge: This week, outsource just one marketing task. That’s it!

Use Fiverr, Upwork, or Craigslist. Find someone who’s skilled. Give them a task. See what happens.

Have you outsourced any other areas of your marketing efforts that I didn’t cover?

3 Tips to Improve Marketing Accountability

Marketing accountability can be a challenging endeavor – and conquest—for organizations. While it can be incredibly exciting for an organization to make the decision to introduce technology platforms to assist in the improvement of marketing accountability, it’s critical to understand the management and measurement implications that will support success. 

Even when an organization has processes in place to leverage technologies, refinement and optimization strategies must continually evolve in tandem with marketing goals. 

Whether you’re a marketing leader or a boots-on-the-ground pro managing marketing technology daily, here are some key considerations to enhance your marketing accountability:

1. Position your marketing for programmatic success. To employ a necessary cliché, it has to be said that programmatic marketing and advertising is the wave of the future. According to eMarketer, programmatic digital display ad spending is projected to reach $26.78 billion by 2017. That’s up from only $10.32 billion in 2014. This means that marketing professionals and hiring managers should consider programmatic knowledge a core skillset. That requires an organizational commitment to the development of programmatic thought leadership and marketing application.  

You don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to monetize core inventory. The entire programmatic category is seeing increased spending across the board due to its predictive yield and ROI for marketers and publishers alike, not to mention easy insertion processes and lower barriers to entry for most advertisers. 

2. Develop data “Dos” and “Don’ts” that support meaningful marketing. You need to encourage your customers and the modern marketing community to “Think beyond the transaction.” In other words, consider the treasure trove of data available to you that can be leveraged to create rich, meaningful buyer profiles that help you better target, as well as understand the attributes of your ideal customer. Invest your time and team resources into a strategic blueprint of data “Dos” and “Don’t’s” relevant to your business goals, and consider the benefits of implementing a data management platform (DMP) to support your strategic goals.

Organizations previously focused on their known marketing channels—for example email data stored in a familiar place: CRM systems. But now the focus has shifted to anonymous channels. Offline and online data—or known and unknown—is important. 

Presenting valuable and compelling offers hinges on the ability to develop creative and content that aligns with audience browsing habits and patterns. All of this insight needs to be matched with channel insight to ensure relevance and maximize the interaction, and the DMP helps marketers achieve that. 

3. Test your tech stack accordingly. To ensure that you’re maximizing your budgets and resources from an investment perspective, consider which tools will help you achieve your goals and position your measurement strategy for success, as well as the technologies that will support your existing technology infrastructure. The DMP can collect rich behavior data and attributes such as website actions, product engagements, or demographic information. From there, it can pass that data into a cross-channel marketing solution to build a more comprehensive, actionable customer profile to inform that holy-grail customer experience previously discussed.

Ready to seize the opportunity to reinvent your marketing function as a core part of your company’s revenue engine? For more insights on how to maximize your data and accountability strategies, Download The Guide to Advertising Accountability.

Should SEOs and Marketers Continue to Track and Report on Keyword Rankings? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Is the practice of tracking keywords truly dying? There’s been a great deal of industry discussion around the topic of late, and some key points have been made. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand speaks to the biggest challenges keyword rank tracking faces today and how to solve for them.

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 keyword ranking reports. There have been a few articles that have come out recently on a number of big industry sites around whether SEOs should still be tracking their keyword rankings.

I want to be clear: Moz has a little bit of a vested interest here. And so the question is: Can you actually trust me, who obviously I’m a big shareholder in Moz and I’m the founder, and so I care a lot about how Moz does as a software business. We help people track rankings. Does that mean I’m biased? I’m going to do my best not to be. So rather than saying you absolutely should track rankings, I’m instead going to address what most of these articles have brought up as the problems of rank tracking and then talk about some solutions by which you can do this.

My suspicion is you should probably be rank tracking. I think that if you turn it off and you don’t do it, it’s very hard to get a lot of the value that we need as SEOs, a lot of the intelligence. It’s true there are challenges with keyword ranking reports, but not true enough to avoid doing it entirely. We still get too much value from them.

The case against — and solutions for — keyword ranking data

A. People, places, and things

So let’s start with the case against keyword ranking data. First off, “keyword ranking reports are inaccurate.” There’s personalization, localization, and device type, and that biases and has removed what is the “one true ranking.” We’ve done a bunch of analyses of these, and this is absolutely the case.

Personalization, turns out, doesn’t change ranking that much on average. For an individual it can change rankings dramatically. If they visited your website before, they could be historically biased to you. Or if they visited your competitor’s, they could be biased. Their previous search history might have biased them in a single session, those kinds of things. But with the removal of Google+ from search results, personalization is actually not as dramatically changing as it used to be. Localization, though, still huge, absolutely, and device differences, still huge.

Solution

But we can address this, and the way to do that is by tracking these things separately. So here you can see I’ve got a ranking report that shows me my mobile rankings versus my desktop rankings. I think this is absolutely essential. Especially if you’re getting a lot of traffic from both mobile and desktop search, you need to be tracking those separately. Super smart. Of course we should do that.

We can do the same thing on the local side as well. So I can say, “Here, look. This is how I rank in Seattle. Here’s how I rank in Minneapolis. Here’s how I rank in the U.S. with no geographic personalization,” if Google were to do that. Those types of rankings can also be pretty good.

It is true that local ranked tracking has gotten a little more challenging, but we’ve seen that folks like, well Moz itself, but folks like STAT (GetStat), SERPs.com, Search Metrics, they have all adjusted their rank tracking methodologies in order to have accurate local rank tracking. It’s pretty good. Same with device type, pretty darn good.

B. Keyword value estimation

Another big problem that is expressed by a number of folks here is we no longer know how much traffic an individual keyword sends. Because we don’t know how much an individual keyword sends, we can’t really say, “What’s the value of ranking for that keyword?” Therefore, why bother to even track keyword rankings?

I think this is a little bit of spurious logic. The leap there doesn’t quite make sense to me. But I will say this. If you don’t know which keywords are sending you traffic specifically, you still know which pages are receiving search traffic. That is reported. You can get it in your Google Analytics, your Omniture report, whatever you’re using, and then you can tie that back to keyword ranking reports showing which pages are receiving traffic from which keywords.

Most all of the ranked tracking platforms, Moz included, has a report that shows you something like this. It says, “Here are the keywords that we believe are likely to have sent these percentages of traffic to this page based on the keywords that you’re tracking, based on the pages that are ranking for them, and how much search traffic those pages receive.”

Solution

So let’s track that. We can look at pages receiving visits from search, and we can look at which keywords they rank for. Then we can tie those together, which gives us the ability to then make not only a report like this, but a report that estimates the value contributed by content and by pages rather than by individual keywords.

In a lot of ways, this is almost superior to our previous methodology of tracking by keyword. Keyword can still be estimated through AdWords, through paid search, but this can be estimated on a content basis, which means you get credit for how much value the page has created, based on all the search traffic that’s flowed to it, and where that’s at in your attribution lifecycle of people visiting those pages.

C. Tracking rankings and keyword relevancy

Pages often rank for keywords that they aren’t specifically targeting, because Google has gotten way better with user intent. So it can be hard or even impossible to track those rankings, because we don’t know what to look for.

Well, okay, I hear you. That is a challenge. This means basically what we have to do is broaden the set of keywords that we look at and deal with the fact that we’re going to have to do sampling. We can’t track every possible keyword, unless you have a crazy budget, in which case go talk to Rob Bucci up at STAT, and he will set you up with a huge campaign to track all your millions of keywords.

Solution

If you have a smaller budget, what you have to do is sample, and you sample by sets of keywords. Like these are my high conversion keywords — I’m going to assume I have a flower delivery business — so flower delivery and floral gifts and flower arrangements for offices. My long tail keywords, like artisan rose varieties and floral alternatives for special occasions, and my branded keywords, like Rand’s Flowers or Flowers by Rand.

I can create a bunch of different buckets like this, sample the keywords that are in them, and then I can track each of these separately. Now I can see, ah, these are sets of keywords where I’ve generally been moving up and receiving more traffic. These are sets of keywords where I’ve generally been moving down. These are sets of keywords that perform better or worse on mobile or desktop, or better or worse in these geographic areas. Right now I can really start to get true intelligence from there.

Don’t let your keyword targeting — your keyword targeting meaning what keywords you’re targeting on which pages — determine what you rank track. Don’t let it do that exclusively. Sure, go ahead and take that list and put that in there, but then also do some more expansive keyword research to find those broad sets of search terms and phrases that you should be monitoring. Now we can really solve this issue.

D. Keyword rank tracking with a purpose

This one I think is a pretty insidious problem. But for many organizations ranking reports are more of a historical artifact. We’re not tracking them for a particular reason. We’re tracking them because that’s what we’ve always tracked and/or because we think we’re supposed to track them. Those are terrible reasons to track things. You should be looking for reasons of real value and actionability. Let’s give some examples here.

Solution

What I want you to do is identify the goals of rank tracking first, like: What do I want to solve? What would I do differently based on whether this data came back to me in one way or another?

If you don’t have a great answer to that question, definitely don’t bother tracking that thing. That should be the rule of all analytics.

So if your goal is to say, “Hey, I want to be able to attribute a search traffic gain or a search traffic loss to what I’ve done on my site or what Google has changed out there,” that is crucially important. I think that’s core to SEO. If you don’t have that, I’m not sure how we can possibly do our jobs.

We attribute search traffic gains and losses by tracking broadly, a broad enough set of keywords, hopefully in enough buckets, to be able to get a good sample set; by tracking the pages that receive that traffic so we can see if a page goes way down in its search visits. We can look at, “Oh, what was that page ranking for? Oh, it was ranking for these keywords. Oh, they dropped.” Or, “No, they didn’t drop. But you know what? We looked in Google Trends, and the traffic demand for those keywords dropped,” and so we know that this is a seasonality thing, or a fluctuation in demand, or those types of things.

And we can track by geography and device, so that we can say, “Hey, we lost a bunch of traffic. Oh, we’re no longer mobile-friendly.” That is a problem. Or, “Hey, we’re tracking and, hey, we’re no longer ranking in this geography. Oh, that’s because these two competitors came in and they took over that market from us.”

We could look at would be something like identify pages that are in need of work, but they only require a small amount of work to have a big change in traffic. So we could do things like track pages that rank on page two for given keywords. If we have a bunch of those, we can say, “Hey, maybe just a few on-page tweaks, a few links to these pages, and we could move up substantially.” We had a Whiteboard Friday where we talked about how you could do that with internal linking previously and have seen some remarkable results there.

We can track keywords that rank in position four to seven on average. Those are your big wins, because if you can move up from position four, five, six, seven to one, two, three, you can double or triple your search traffic that you’re receiving from keywords like that.

You should also track long tail, untargeted keywords. If you’ve got a long tail bucket, like we’ve got up here, I can then say, “Aha, I don’t have a page that’s even targeting any of these keywords. I should make one. I could probably rank very easily because I have an authoritative website and some good content,” and that’s really all you might need.

We might look at some up-and-coming competitors. I want to track who’s in my space, who might be creeping up there. So I should track the most common domains that rank on page one or two across my keyword sets.

I can track specific competitors. I might say, “Hey, Joel’s Flower Delivery Service looks like it’s doing really well. I’m going to set them up as a competitor, and I’m going to track their rankings specifically, or I’m going to see…” You could use something like SEMrush and see specifically: What are all the keywords they rank for that you don’t rank for?

This type of data, in my view, is still tremendously important to SEO, no matter what platform you’re using. But if you’re having these problems or if these problems are being expressed to you, now you have some solutions.

I look forward to your comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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9 Ways For Marketers To Do Amazing Technical Things Without Knowing Code

As a marketer, you are always looking to do more with less. You may get the sense that technology can help you do better and you’re right. Follow along as I explain exactly how you can harness this force without writing a single line of code.

1. Do A/B Split Tests and Personalization</h2
You’ve probably heard of all the merits of A/B split testing and of being data-driven, but how can you implement these different tests on each of your pages without consulting the tech team?

It’s easy enough with solutions like Visual Website Optimizer and Optimizely that allow you to drag and drop your changes across the website by simply copy and pasting a snippet of code across your website (or getting somebody technical to help you do that). Both tools allow you to customize your website for different types of visitors, and they’ll allow you to run controlled experiments to see which variations of your web pages perform best.

optimizely-set-up-experimentOptimizely allows you to drag and drop different variations of your web page without any code.

2. Build Landing Pages

Maybe you don’t want to optimize your website – you want to build some new pages. Maybe it’s a new campaign announcing a new product launch, or maybe you’re running an event you want to collect an email waiting list for. Whatever it is, you’ll need a web page that describes what you’re doing, a landing page. Thankfully, you don’t have to build anything in HTML or CSS. You can use drag and drop editors in Unbounce or, if you’re really looking to maximize conversion, marketing-based solutions like Leadpages.

3. Build Entire Websites

Don’t want to stop at just building a web page? Maybe you want to look to build an entire website for a new product. Thankfully, you don’t have to call a web agency to do everything for you at a high price! You can use solutions like Squarespace or Wix to build everything in your website without a line of code. And if you want to get even more customized, grab a theme from Themeforest and learn the basics of WordPress! You’ll soon be building beautiful websites with layers of personalized complexity–without a line of code.

4. Scrape Links, Content and More with Python (but use with caution!)

By downloading Anaconda and using the iPython Notebook contained within, you can use Python scripts and copy + paste the outputs.

The easiest and most powerful use of this is to take links and data from other websites. Be careful though, a lot of websites will have terms of use that prohibit the use of their content. Nevertheless, it might be a good tool to use to get raw data, or to get useful links that point to certain resources. You might, for example, want to get all of the links of your competitors profiled in a certain blog post, or you might want to get all of the links of different services in a directory.

anaconda-python-code

This script above will take all the links from a sample page (in this case the Wikipedia page for the Python language)

Here’s the raw script you can copy + paste in Python 3.5 mode:

from bs4 import BeautifulSoup
import requests
r = requests.get(“https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Python_(programming_language)”)
soup = BeautifulSoup(r.text,”lxml”)
for link in soup.find_all(‘a’):
print(link.get(‘href’))

5. Send Newsletters and Automate Emails

Email is one of the most effective marketing channels out there, and the best for return on investment. If you can get people coming back by filling their inbox with valuable information, you’ve reached marketing nirvana.

mailchimp-sell-more-stuff

Instead of doing all the messy work coding up HTML-rich emails, you can use the drag & drop and email list capabilities of MailChimp. If you want to automate emails a layer beyond, and take people through an in-depth series of automated emails, you could use a solution like Drip.

6. Get Data

Ever needed to take a quick look at certain data, like the demographic traits of a certain country? Need to source the latest financial data? Look no further than Quandl. You’ll be able to find all sorts of data, from the average age of first marriage for women to life expectancy at birth. Best of all, you can export that data directly in Excel, stepping away from all of the code if you needed.

7. Filter Through Data

Most people think of Google Apps as a great way to collaborate with others, but they don’t know about the full power of this suite of tools. Google built a way for you to add layers of functionality on top of their powerful software, allowing you to do so much more with different types of data. Best of all, you can copy + paste pre-made scripts and benefit from the effects without being technical!

Check to see if your website is online or save all tweets that match a certain hashtag to a spreadsheet. You can do that or a variety of other tasks through scripts that will save you time and money.

most-popular-useful-scripts

Use these scripts for good, not evil.

8. Building Popups and Other Interactive Elements on a Website

Sometimes, you want to add an additional layer of interactivity to a website, whether it’s a popup to highlight a brand new feature, or a walkthrough that will help guide users. Thankfully, with tools like Engage and HelloBar you can add different modals or elements to your website that can help you collect emails, direct traffic elsewhere, or dictate what users should look at in a web page.

kissmetrics-engage-lightbox-on-kissmetrics-blog

9. Dig Deeper into Websites, and See How Your Website Looks in mobile

Most people don’t know about the handy Google Chrome Inspector or its equivalent Firebug on Firefox. While most of the time it is used by developers to spot errors or mock up certain changes in the code, you can use the Inspector to check into the exact URLs of images, and how your website displays on different screen sizes, from iPhones to tablets.

responsive-design-chrome-inspector

The responsive design tool in these inspector tools will allow you to simulate what your website looks like from device-to-device, a crucial need to see if your website is mobile-friendly. This is a factor that’s critically important for websites with mobile traffic, and one that Google uses to rank webpages.

Conclusion

By harnessing technology, you’ll be at the cutting-edge of digital marketing. You won’t even need to learn how to code to get an awesome array of new powers. Save yourself time and money, and make sure you use your new capabilities for good!

About the Author: Roger is a digital marketer who self-taught himself to code but recognizes when code is useful and when it isn’t. He manages Growth for edtech company Springboard, and will often write about new technologies at his own personal blog code(love). You can find him on Twitter.

The Twitter Best Practices Handbook

With a limitation of 140 characters, Twitter instills users to be creative and succinct with social media. Not only that, but with more than 310 million active users, it’s tough to know how to stand out and be heard.

Following the most essential Twitter best practices can make you more visible to your customers. But much like your product launch or social media marketing strategy, you have to know where to start before you can see any success.

Going into Twitter blindly as a marketer can lead to time-wasting efforts that don’t bring real results like traffic and faster customer support. While these are only a few things that Twitter can do for your business, you’ll want to learn how to successfully market your account.

Use the buttons below to jump to each Twitter best practice:

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Or jump to the Twitter best practices infographic.

Most people trying to build a significant Twitter audience from scratch want it to be quick and easy. Sadly this can lead to the dangerous pitfall of buying followers, which is never a good thing. Authentic, truly-engaged followers are what can make your Twitter account shine.

It’s tempting to want to take the dark path of purchasing followers. This is especially true because according to Simply Measured, 58% of the top brands on Twitter have more than 100,000 followers. However, the difference between 100,000 and 10,000 active users engaging with your handle can make all the difference.

Add All the Leaders in Your Industry

twitter best practices search

If you’re like most businesses, you’ve created a Twitter account and followed a few friends and companies, but don’t know what to do next. The first thing you should do is increase your audience by following all of your industry leaders on Twitter.

Don’t hesitate or be partial to who you add. Follow every industry leader now.

digital marketing influencers

Use tools like BuzzSumo to find even more industry leaders. Buzzsumo lets you find the highest-shared articles in your industry and see who wrote them. Be detailed and comprehensive with searching who’s talking about your industry and what companies are generating buzz. Then follow them on Twitter.

You can even use tools like Sprout Social to do advanced searches to find Twitter users through:

  • Hashtags
  • Links in bios
  • Keywords in Tweets
  • Geolocations
  • Users mentioning brand names (without tagging)
add keyword feature on sprout social

This will easily bring all the outside conversations right in front of your eyes. Now you can see potential customers actively talking about your industry. Follow them so you have the chance for a followback.

If you follow these steps, eventually your audience will be full of thought leaders, companies in your space and Twitter users who are actively discussing your industry.

2. Optimize Your Twitter

Building a robust Twitter audience doesn’t have to be a huge burden. It’s all about knowing where to look and how to be found. Some of the most essential Twitter best practices are all about visibility.

Be Visible

This is why optimizing your Twitter is so important. The better you set yourself up to be easily searchable and found, the more people will actually see you.

moz optimized twitter example

In fact a survey from Twitter, The Advertising Research Foundation and FOX discovered 54% of Twitter users took action after seeing brand mentions in Tweets. These five mentions included things like Retweeting the original Tweets, visiting a website or making a purchasing decision.

Simply put, visibility has a tremendous payoff and you can increase your Twitter presence by:
twitter best practices optimize

  • Have a Simple Handle: There’s nothing worse than an overly complicated Twitter handle. Instead make sure your handle is short, true to your brand and understandable. Don’t add special characters or numbers to make your account unique. Try to simplify and only add additional letters if you need to define your location, a parent company or how you differentiate from other similar names.
twitter search example
  • Optimize Your Twitter Bio: It’s absolutely essential to optimize your entire bio and Twitter account. Make sure you include industry-related hashtags, a link or another handle where users can find you. For example, you can include a Twitter support handle.
  • Know Which Hashtags to Use: By now, everyone knows that you can reach more people with hashtags. But are you using the correct keywords? Use hashtag analytics to know what’s trending or related to your industry. This will help you make more informed decisions on your hashtags.
twitter best practices optimize pt. 2
  • Use Twitter Search Operators: With the help of Advanced Twitter Search, you can use Twitter search operators to find specific mentions that could be relative to your product, location or your company name. Searching keywords and phrases relative to your business can help you join conversations you didn’t know were happening.
  • Use Pinned Tweets: Ensure your feed has a pinned Tweet to showcase one of your more engaging posts. This is also a good feature to highlight recurring questions or news about product or service updates.
  • Promote Your Twitter Across Networks: Whether it’s your website, a newsletter, paid advertising or other social networks, promote your Twitter across them all. Cross-platform promotion is a great way to get your handle out there. Your handle should be as important as your website or phone number.

3. Always Be Ready to Engage

Twitter was built with the idea of micro-conversations in mind. For brands on Twitter, this has become the go-to network to reach out to customers, answer questions and give feedback. According to the Sprout Social 2016 Q2 Index, roughly 36% of users choose to reach out to brands on social media over sources like 1-800 numbers and support websites.

Customers crave engagement so there has to be a balance of promotional and conversational posts on Twitter. Passion Digital recommends brands to post 20% promotional and 80% conversational.

This will help you build real customer relationships. You don’t want the only conversation between you and your customers to be “buy our product.” Instead try to engage with followers to get them interested in your brand.

How to Engage on Twitter

Your Twitter engagement efforts have a major opportunity to pay off. However, you have to take a balanced approach to engaging with Twitter followers.

Here are a few quick tips to increase your Twitter engagement:
twitter best practices engage

  • Introduce New Followers: When a new batch of followers come in, tag them and give a shout out for the follow. This is a great early audience-building tip that doesn’t take much time.
  • Ask Important Questions: You’ll see this tip a lot, but don’t just ask boring questions. Instead try to ask about what followers want from your product or what’s not working. You’ll not only gain helpful insights, but spark plenty of conversations.
  • Tweet About Industry Events: You can’t make every industry event, but you can ask for insights from followers who attended. Ask for details about conventions or talks you can’t attend. This helps you gain knowledge of what went on and makes your followers feel good about reporting back to you. Also, you can meet brand advocates and industry leaders through these conversations.
  • Jump on Trending Events: This tactic is often called “trendjacking,” which means to hop on a popular trend and use it for your branding purposes. Don’t just hashtag #PokemonGo without remorse. Better yet, try to find an organic way for your company to be involved with a trend. Remember, it doesn’t have to be promotional.
  • Tweet Multiple People a Day: Jeff Bullas recommends you put a little effort into your conversations and try to Tweet three people a day. By building small conversations each day, you increase your reach. If you do this just for three months, you’re talking about 270 conversations in that time period. Now that’s some engagement.
  • Don’t Bore Your Followers: With so many Tweets publishing each second, you can’t afford to be boring. Entice readers and be actionable with your words. Use the 140-character limit to your advantage for efficient calls-to-action.

4. Know Your Twitter Goals

Every social media marketer should have a set of goals for each social network. To see actionable results, make sure you tie your business objectives to your social media goals. With your brand’s Twitter, you want to have specific set goals to make sure you know exactly what efforts are paying off and what could be wasting your time.

Every business will have different goals, but it’s helpful to see some examples. You don’t have to start with high impact goals if you’re just beginning. Instead try to focus on achievable goals that can be measured. Here are a few common Twitter goals businesses try to achieve:
twitter best practices goals

  1. Get 10 High-Value Followers: Setting a goal of 10,000 followers is a poor metric to follow. Instead, try to get 100 followers who are active and have a voice in your industry. Start out with something small and build your way up.
  2. Post 3-5 Times a Day for a Month: It’s not about how many times you can Tweet, but how effective you are at keeping the conversation going. Don’t let your Twitter feed become stale. Stay active with a Tweet-per-day goal.
  3. Increase Audience Engagement: Again, engagement is key on Twitter. Try to boost the number of replies, Retweets and Likes with your account. You should set more specific goals depending on your follower count.
  4. Increase Follower Percentage Over Six Months: Within Sprout Social, our Twitter analytics give you the ability to see follower percentages. Track your percentages each month and try to see positive growth month-over-month for a six month period.
  5. Join three Twitter Chats in 30 Days: Twitter chats occur all the time. Businesses and industry leaders host these events to get the conversation going with like-minded people. Try to enter a few in a month’s time to see your network grow.

Measure Your Efforts

Measuring your Twitter effectiveness is essential to knowing what’s working. As more businesses move to Twitter, the importance grows greater on having detailed Twitter reporting to measure social media efforts.

Whether it’s impressions, link clicks or mentions, you want to track and measure all of your Twitter data. These analytics can provide in-depth analysis into how well you’re managing and operating your Twitter account.

Don’t be left in the dark with your efforts. Use a social media analytics tool like Sprout Social to get detailed insights today.

5. Maintain a Schedule & Checklist

The easiest way to keep your engagement level high is to maintain a schedule. Plan out your Tweets on a social media calendar so you know what messages are going out each day.

For example, if you take Bullas’s tip to Tweet three people a day, you could schedule each Tweet during your slow periods to effectively engage with users. If you try to have three conversations at the same time, it could get messy.

Calendar With Compose Window

With Sprout Social’s social media calendar and scheduling tools, you can maintain a healthy ratio of Tweets per day without having to constantly go back to the native platform.

Create a To-Do List

If you’ve made it this far, you might be wondering how you’re going to do all of this. First off, start a checklist of everything you want to do with your Twitter account. If you already have thousands of followers, maybe you simply need to optimize and engage more. However, you could need to start from the beginning.

To-do lists are a great way to make sure you stick to your goals on social. It’s not easy to implement every tip, but if you’re at least somewhat aware of them all, you have a better chance to succeed.

To make life easier, we’ve created a Twitter best practices checklist. You don’t have to follow everything here, but seeing all of the examples could be beneficial.
twitter best practices checklist

Keep on Learning

Learning new Twitter best practices should never stop. The industry is constantly evolving and it takes time and dedication to see positive results. While you need to put in a bit of elbow grease toward your Twitter marketing, following these tips can help you plan, schedule and measure your efforts.


twitter best practices infographic

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This post The Twitter Best Practices Handbook originally appeared on Sprout Social.

Ranking #0: SEO for Answers

Posted by Dr-Pete

It’s been over two years since Google launched Featured Snippets, and yet many search marketers still see them as little more than a novelty. If you’re not convinced by now that Featured Snippets offer a significant organic opportunity, then today is my attempt to change your mind.

If you somehow haven’t encountered a Featured Snippet searching Google over the past two years, here’s an example (from a search for “ssl”):

This is a promoted organic result, appearing above the traditional #1 ranking position. At minimum, Featured Snippets contain an extracted answer (more on that later), a display title, and a URL. They may also have an image, bulleted lists, and simple tables.

Why should you care?

We’re all busy, and Google has made so many changes in the past couple of years that it can be hard to sort out what’s really important to your customer or employer. I get it, and I’m not judging you. So, let’s get the hard question out of the way: Why are Featured Snippets important?

(1) They occupy the “#0” position

Here’s the top portion of a SERP for “hdmi cable,” a commercial query:

There are a couple of interesting things going on here. First, Featured Snippets always (for now) come before traditional organic results. This is why I have taken to calling them the “#0” ranking position. What beats #1? You can see where I’m going with this… #0. In this case, the first organic is pushed down even more, below a set of Related Questions (the “People also ask” box). So, the “#1” organic position is really third in this example.

In addition, notice that the “#0” (that’s the last time I’ll put it in quotes) position is the same URL as the #1 organic position. So, Amazon is getting two listings on this result for a single page. The Featured Snippet doesn’t always come from the #1 organic result (we’ll get to that in a minute), but if you score #0, you are always listed twice on page one of results.

(2) They’re surprisingly prevalent

In our 10,000-keyword tracking data set, Featured Snippets rolled out at approximately 2% of the queries we track. As of mid-July, they appear on roughly 11% of the keywords we monitor. We don’t have good historical data from the first few months after roll-out, but here’s a 12-month graph (July 2015 – July 2016):

Featured Snippets have more than doubled in prevalence in the past year, and they’ve increased by a factor of roughly 5X since launch. After two years, it’s clear that this is no longer a short-term or small-scale test. Google considers this experiment to be a success.

(3) They often boost CTR

When Featured Snippets launched, SEOs were naturally concerned that, by extracting and displaying answers, click-through rates to the source site would suffer. While extracting answers from sites was certainly uncharted territory for Google, and we can debate their use of our content in this form, there’s a growing body of evidence to suggest that Featured Snippets not only haven’t harmed CTR, but they actually boost it in some cases.

In August of 2015, Search Engine Land published a case study by Glenn Gabe that tracked the loss of a Featured Snippet for a client on a competitive keyword. In the two-week period following the loss, that client lost over 39K clicks. In February of 2016, HubSpot did a larger study of high-volume keywords showing that ranking #0 produced a 114% CTR boost, even when they already held the #1 organic position. While these results are anecdotal and may not apply to everyone, evidence continues to suggest that Featured Snippets can boost organic search traffic in many cases.

Where do they come from?

Featured Snippets were born out of a problem that dates back to the early days of search. Pre-Google, many search players, including Yahoo, were human-curated directories first. As content creation exploded, humans could no longer keep up, especially in anything close to real-time, and search engines turned to algorithmic approaches and machine curation.

When Google launched the Knowledge Graph, it was based entirely on human-curated data, such as Freebase and Wikidata. You can see this data in traditional “Knowledge Cards,” sometimes generically called “answer boxes.” For example, this card appears on a search for “Who is the CEO of Tesla?”:

The answer is short and factual, and there is no corresponding source link for it. This comes directly from the curated Knowledge Graph. If you run a search for “Tesla,” you can see this more easily in the Knowledge Panel on that page:

In the middle, you can see an entry for “CEO: Elon Musk.” This isn’t just a block of display text — each of these line items are factoids that exist individually as structured data in the Knowledge Graph. You can test this by running searches against other factoids, like “When was Tesla founded?”

While Google does a decent job of matching many forms of a question to answers in the Knowledge Graph, they can’t escape the limits of human curation. There are also questions that don’t easily fit the “factoid” model. For example, if you search “What is ludicrous mode Tesla?” (pardon the weird syntax), you get this Featured Snippet:

Google’s solution was obvious, if incredibly difficult — take the trillions of pages in their index and use them to generate answers in real-time. So, that’s exactly what they did. If you go to the source page on Engadget, the text in the Featured Snippet is taken directly from on-page copy (I’ve added the green highlighting):

It’s not as simple as just scraping off the first paragraph with a spatula and flipping it onto the SERP, though. Google does seem to be parsing content fairly deeply for relevance, and they’ve been improving their capabilities constantly since the launch of Featured Snippets. Consider a couple of other examples with slightly different formats. Here’s a Featured Snippet for “How much is a Tesla?”:

Note the tabular data. This data is being extracted and reformatted from a table on the target page. This isn’t structured data — it’s plain-old HTML. Google has not only parsed the table but determined that tabular data is a sensible format in response to the question. Here’s the original table:

Here’s one of my favorite examples, from a search for “how to cook bacon.” For any aspiring bacon wizards, please pay careful attention to step #4:

Note the bulleted (ordered) list. As with the table, not only has Google determined that a list is a relevant format for the answer, but they’ve created this list. Now look at the target page:

There’s no HTML ordered list (<ol></ol>) on this page. Google is taking a list-like paragraph style and converting it into a simpler list. This content is also fairly deep into a long page of text. Again, there is no structured data in play. Google is using any and all content available in the quest for answers.

How do you get one?

So, let’s get to the tactical question — how can you score a Featured Snippet? You need to know two things. First, you have to rank organically on the first page of results. Every Featured Snippet we’ve tracked also ranks on page one. Second, you need to have content that effectively targets the question.

Do you have to rank #1 to get the #0 position? No. Ranking #1 certainly doesn’t hurt, but we’ve found examples of Featured Snippet URLs from across all of page one. As of June, the graph below represents the distribution of organic rankings for all of the Featured Snippets in our tracking data set:

Just about 1/3 of Featured Snippets are pulled from the #1 position, with the bulk of the remaining coming from positions #2–#5. There are opportunties across all of page one, in theory, but searches where you rank in the top five are going to be your best targets. The team at STAT produced an in-depth white paper on Featured Snippets across a very large data set that showed a similar pattern, with about 30% of Featured Snippet URLs ranking in the #1 organic position.

If you’re not convinced yet, here’s another argument for the “Why should you care?” column. Once you’re ranking on page one, our data suggests that getting the Featured Snippet is more about relevance than ranking/authority. If you’re ranking #2–#5 it may be easier to compete for position #0 than it is for position #1. Featured Snippets are the closest thing to an SEO shortcut you’re likely to get in 2016.

The double-edged sword of Featured Snippets (for Google) is that, since the content comes from our websites, we ultimately control it. I showed in a previous post how we fixed a Featured Snippet with updated data, but let’s get to what you really want to hear — can we take a Featured Snippet from a competitor?

A while back, I did a search for “What is Page Authority?” Page Authority is a metric created by us here at Moz, and so naturally we have a vested interest in who’s ranking for that term. I came across the following Featured Snippet.

At the time, DrumbeatMarketing.net was ranking #2 and Moz was ranking #1, so we knew we had an opportunity. They were clearly doing something right, and we tried to learn from it. Their page title addressed the question directly. They jumped quickly to a concise answer, whereas we rambled a little bit. So, we rewrote the page, starting with a clear definition and question-targeted header:

This wasn’t the only change, but I think it’s important to structure your answers for brevity, or at least summarize them somewhere on the page. A general format of a quick summary at the top, followed by a deeper dive seems to be effective. Journalists sometimes call this an “inverted pyramid” structure, and it’s useful for readers as well, especially Internet readers who tend to skim articles.

In very short order, our changes had the desired impact, and we took the #0 position:

This didn’t take more authority, deep structural changes, or a long-term social media campaign. We simply wrote a better answer. I believe we also did a service to search users. This is a better page for people in a hurry and leads to a better search snippet than before. Don’t think of this as optimizing for Featured Snippets, or you’re going to over-optimize and be haunted by the Ghost of SEO Past. Think of it as being a better answer.

What should you target?

Featured Snippets can require a slightly different and broader approach to keyword research, especially since many of us don’t routinely track questions. So, what kind of questions tend to trigger Featured Snippets? It’s helpful to keep in mind the 5 Ws (Who, What, When, Where, Why) + How, but many of these questions will generate answers from the Knowledge Graph directly.

To keep things simple, ask yourself this: is the answer a matter of simple fact (or a “factoid”)? For example, a question like “How old is Beyoncé?” or “When is Labor Day?” is going to be pulled from the Knowledge Graph. While human curation can’t keep up with the pace of the web, WikiData and other sources are still impressive and cover a massive amount of territory. Typically, these questions won’t produce Featured Snippets.

What and implied-what questions

A good starting point is “What…?” questions, such as our “What is Page Authority?” experiment. This is especially effective for industry terms and other specialized knowledge that can’t be easily reduced to a dictionary definition.

Keep in mind that many Featured Snippets appear on implied “What…” questions. In other words, “What” never appears in the query. For example, here’s a Featured Snippet for “PPC”:

Google has essentially decided that this fairly ambiguous query deserves an answer to “What is PPC?” In other words, they’ve implied the “What.” This is fairly common now for industry terms and phrases that might be unfamiliar to the average searcher, and is a good starting point for your keyword research.

Keep in mind that common words will produce a dictionary entry. For example, here’s a Knowledge Card for “What is search?”:

These dictionary cards are driven by human-curated data sources and are not organic, in the typical sense of the word. Google has expanded dictionary results in the past year, so you’ll need to focus on less common terms and phrases.

Why and how questions

“Why… ?” questions are good fodder for Featured Snippets because they can’t easily be answered with factoids. They often require some explanation, such as this snippet for “Why is the sky blue?”:

Likewise, “How…?” questions often require more in-depth answers. An especially good target for Featured Snippets is “How to… ?” questions, which tend to have practical answers that can be summarized. Here’s one for “How to make tacos”:

One benefit of “Why,” “How,” and “How to” questions is that the Featured Snippet summary often just serves as a teaser to a longer answer. The summary can add credibility to your listing while still attracting clicks to in-depth content. “How… ?” may also be implied in some cases. For example, a search for “convert PDF to Word” brings up a Featured Snippet for a “How to…” page.

What content is eligible?

Once you have a question in mind, and that question/query is eligible for Featured Snippets, there’s another piece of the targeting problem: which page on your site is best equipped to answer that question? Let’s take, for example, the search “What is SEO?”. It has the following Featured Snippet from Wikipedia:

Moz ranks on page one for that search, but it still begs two questions: (1) is the ranking page the best answer to the question (in Google’s eyes), and (2) what content on the page do they see as best matching the question. Fortunately, you can use the “site:” operator along with your search term to help answer both questions. Here’s a Featured Snippet for [site:moz.com “what is seo”]:

Now, we know that, within just our own site, Google is seeing The Beginner’s Guide as the best match to the question, and we have an idea of how they’re parsing that page for an answer. If we were willing to rewrite the page just to answer this question (and that certainly involves trade-offs), we’d have a much better sense of where to start.

What about Related Questions?

Featured Snippets have a close cousin that launched more recently, known to Google as Related Questions and sometimes called the “People Also Ask” box. If I run a search for “page authority,” it returns the following set of Related Questions (nestled into the organic results):

Although Related Questions have a less dominant position in search results than Featured Snippets (they’re not generally at the top), they’re more prevalent, occurring on almost 17% of the searches in our tracking data set. These boxes can contain up to four related questions (currently), and each question expands to look something like this:

At this point, that expanded content should look familiar — it’s being generated from the index, has an organic link, and looks almost exactly like a Featured Snippet. It also has a link to a Google search for the related question. Clicking on that search brings up the following Featured Snippet:

Interestingly, and somewhat confusingly, that Featured Snippet doesn’t exactly match the snippet in the Related Questions box, even though they’re answering the same question from the same page. We’re not completely sure how Featured Snippets and Related Questions are connected, but they share a common philosophy and very likely a lot of common code. Being a better answer will help you rank for both.

What’s the long game?

If you want to know where all of this is headed in the future, you have to ask a simple question: what’s in it for Google? It’s easy to jump to conspiracy theories when Google takes our content to provide direct answers, but what do they gain? They haven’t monetized this box, and a strong, third-party answer draws attention and could detract from ad clicks. They’re keeping you on their page for another few seconds, but that’s little more than a vanity metric.

I think the answer is that this is part of a long shift toward mobile and alternative display formats. Look at the first page of a search for “what is page authority” on an Android device:

Here, the Featured Snippet dominates the page — there’s just not room for much more on a mobile screen. As technology diversifies into watches and other wearables, this problem will expand. There’s an even more difficult problem than screen space, though, and that’s when you have no screen at all.

If you do a voice search on Android for “what is page authority,” Google will read back to you the following answer:

“According to Moz, Page Authority is a score developed by Moz that predicts how well a specific page will rank on search engines.”

This is an even more truncated answer, and voice search appends the attribution (“According to Moz…”). You can still look at your phone screen, of course, but imagine if you had asked the question in your car or on Google’s new search appliance (their competitor to Amazon’s Echo). In those cases, the Featured Snippet wouldn’t just be the most prominent answer — it would be the only answer.

Google has to adapt to our changing world of devices, and often those devices requires succinct answers and aren’t well-suited to a traditional SERP. This may not be so much about profiting from direct answers for Google as it is about survival. New devices will demands new formats.

How do you track all of this?

After years of tracking rich SERP features, watching the world of organic search evolve, and preaching that evolution to our customers and industry, I’m happy to say that our Product Team has been hard at work for months building the infrastructure and UI necessary to manage the rich and complicated world of SERP features, including Featured Snippets. Spoiler alert: expect an announcement from us very soon.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Solar Impulse completes historic round-the-world trip



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A solar powered plane has landed in Abu Dhabi, completing a historic round-the-world trip with stops in India, Asia, Europe and North America.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment for 15 years,” said Solar Impulse chairman and pilot, Bertrand Piccard, in an impromptu speech on the tarmac shortly after landing.

“We should never accept the world to be polluted only because people are scared to think another way,” Piccard said.

The pre-dawn landing Tuesday by pilot Bertrand Piccard marks the end of an epic 25,000-mile (40,000-kilometer) journey. The plane made 16 stops, including in India, China, the U.S., Italy, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates — where it first took off.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7jnzzx5y1c]

The king of redemption


The king of redemption

James went from millionaire to broke to millionaire again. Might be wise to learn from him:

When you first hear James’ story, it sounds like fiction.

James went from having $15 million in the bank to living on his parent’s couch and begging them for money (and then made his millions back again).

Until you read his writing:

Get the James Altucher Bundle for only $20

James Altucher is hedge fund manager, entrepreneur, bestselling author, and podcaster. He has founded over 20 different companies (17 of which failed), written 11 different books, and is now running an 8 figure media company.

Not bad for someone that used to live on his parent’s couch.

James Altucher Bundle

(And with hair like that, you know he is onto something.)

Today we’re bringing you his best work.

We start with his two best books: Choose Yourself! and The Choose Yourself Guide To Wealth. (collectively 1,800+ reviews and 4.5 stars on Amazon).

The premise is that nobody is coming to hire you, invest in your company, or buy your idea. In today’s economy, you have to manufacture your own success, and the only way to do that is to “Choose Yourself.”

In these books, James teaches you:

  • How he would personally start his business today
  • Why To-Do lists don’t work
  • How to avoid the same financial mistakes he made
  • James’ personal money strategy and roadmap

and a ton of more actionable insights including real case studies.

James Altucher Bundle

And because James loves you Sumo-lings, he agreed to give us:

  • Choose Yourself Guide To Wealth Hardcover (First 1,000 customers only)
  • Ebook of Choose Yourself Guide To Wealth
  • Ebook of Choose Yourself

If you were to purchase the Choose Yourself Guide To Wealth hardcover, and the Choose Yourself Guide To Wealth and Choose Yourself Ebooks, you’d be paying well over $30. (In fact, that’s exactly how much I paid for my copy).

But today we’re also throwing in 1 Year access To The Altucher Report (reg $79/year).

Get the James Altucher Bundle for only $20

This is a monthly newsletter where James saves his best writing.

And, because we have convinced him Sumo-lings are the best customers on the planet, he has agreed to give you everything above for only $20! (With free domestic shipping and only $15 extra for international orders!)

In addition to the bundle, he has also agreed to throw in one month of the James Altucher Premium membership for free! This includes A key to his “virtual mentors”– He will highlight successful mentors that you can learn from by recommending books and other materials.

This premium membership also includes The “Altucher Uncensored”– Each month, James posts series of videos (about 20 minutes in length) where he answers questions about money, money ideas, money opportunities, money strategies and more.

(Most people pay $20/month alone just for that!)

So for only $20 dollars, you are getting two books, a one year subscription of the Altucher Report, AND one month of the James Altucher Premium membership!

Click here to get the James Altucher bundle now!

And if that wasn’t enough, there are more bonuses!

Extra bonuses:

Earn $2k In A Weekend– This is great for the Sumo-ling hustler that has side-gigs.

Ultimate Guide To Self Publishing A Bestseller– Writer or not, this will teach you how to write successfully and make money.

The Uber Equation– Learn how to catch the next big trend like virtual reality, artificial Intelligence, 3-D printing etc..

All for only 20 bucks!

Get this deal here!

P.S. You can’t get this offer ANYWHERE else. Seriously, this is the best deal James has put out yet, and he saved it for you, our beloved Sumo-lings. Hope you enjoy 🙂

James Altucher Bundle

  • "Choose Yourself" eBook and "Choose Yourself Guide To Wealth" Hardcover (first 1,000 customers only) and eBook!
  • 1 Year Subscription To The Altucher Report (reg $79/year) and one free month of Altucher Premium!
  • Special Report: Ultimate Guide To Self Publishing A Bestseller
  • Special Report: The Uber Equation
  • Special Report: How to Make $2,000 In a Weekend
  • Free domestic shipping. International shipping $15 extra
  • 60-day money back guarantee. No matter the reason.

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Spice Up Your Emails With Animated GIFs

Are you bored with your email marketing? Does it lack pizazz? Draw inspiration from social media, and spice up your emails with animated GIFs! GIFs can be used for a variety of situations such as promotions and tutorials. Within an email, it can be an effective way to add animation to entice individuals to engage with and arrive on your landing page.

But what is a GIF?

GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format. This file format supports both animated and static images. GIFs can loop endlessly or only display a few sequences of the animation.

How to Create GIFS

There are multiple online resources where you can import your pictures and create a GIF perfect for your email or website. Some of these resources include Imgflip, Make a Gif, and GIPHY. These websites simplify the process by creating the GIF for you. All you need are the images or a video file. GIFs can also be produced in Photoshop. With these tools, you can create GIFs as simple as an image that changes color to as complex as a short tutorial.

Reasons to add GIFS

1. GIFs can quickly direct your attention to a call-to-action

Individuals are more likely to watch a GIF all the way through instead of scrolling past an image. If your call-to-action is prominent within the GIF, there’s a greater chance of someone noticing it and clicking through the email. 

LOFT often utilizes GIFs in their emails including in the example below. They draw attention to the promo CTA with the rotating dessert GIF.

2. They can further illustrate product details

Are you trying to display how a product works? GIFs have the ability to show product potential or they can offer a quick tutorial.

Sprout Social easily explained how their new app works through the use of a GIF.

3. GIFs allow showing more products without overwhelming the viewer

It can sometimes be difficult to showcase all of the product options without creating a busy image. The goal is not to overwhelm the viewer, so a GIF allows multiple products to be shown through a quick animation.

For example, Kate Spade used a GIF to display the same handbag in different colors options.

4. They can support a promotion by adding a sense of urgency

If you’re implementing a promotion with a short timeline, it’s necessary to create a sense of urgency in order for your promotion to be successful. An animation can assist with creating this sense of urgency by including a count down or timeline.

Kohls used a ticking clock during one of their promotions to illustrate the short period of the promotion.

5. They can help you stand out from your competitors

A little creativity and animation is sometimes all you need to be noticeable in the competitive business environment. Bed Bath and Beyond showed the space saving benefits of Space Bags with a simple animation.

6. Finally, they add an element of fun

And who doesn’t enjoy a little fun?

Things to Consider

Be aware that not all email clients support the animation. Instead, they will show only the first image within the GIF. Windows Phone 7 and Outlook 2007, 2010, and 2013 don’t support the animation.

Many times, this issue can be solved by ensuring that the first image of your GIF includes the necessary information that you want the viewer to see such as the call-to-action, offer, or main image. 

Also, be careful not to use GIFs too frequently. GIFs can be a pleasant surprise for the viewer or tiresome if they’ve grown accustomed to seeing them. When used sparingly, animated GIFs can add a new, welcoming element to your email and hopefully, invite people to engage with your content.

Get Our Newsletter

For more marketing tips, guides, and inspiration, sign up for the VerticalResponse bi-weekly newsletter.

Sign Up

© 2016, Jade Ptacek. All rights reserved.

The post Spice Up Your Emails With Animated GIFs appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

Do you really need photoshop?


Do you really need photoshop?

This browser based tool should be able to handle 90% of your graphic design needs

Except for the most intricate tasks, do you still really need Photoshop?

Last week we brought you Stencil, a lightweight graphic design tool that helps you create:

  • Instagram Images
  • Facebook Ads
  • YouTube Thumbnails
  • Blog Header Images
  • Transparent background images

And TONS more!

And because it’s so easy to use, y’all have been churning out more beautiful designs than ever before:

Get lifetime access to Stencil for $49

Get lifetime access to Stencil for $49

And for the next 24 hours you can snag LIFETIME access for only $49! (reg $216/year)

Want it? Click here to get lifetime access to Stencil Unlimited now!

Not convinced yet?

Here’s what you get in today’s deal:

  • Access to Stencil Unlimited to create as many images as you want.
  • 690,000+ royalty free background images to choose from
  • 200,000+ royalty free icons from Noun Project
  • Logo and Watermarks to keep consistent styling
  • Store and edit unlimited favorites

Normally, Stencil charges $216/year for their Unlimited Plan (a fraction of what you’d pay for boxed software).

But today? For the next 24 hours only?

How does LIFETIME access to Stencil Unlimited for only $49 sound?

That’s right, one payment and you’ll never whip out your credit card again.

Click here to get lifetime access to Stencil Unlimited now!

On the fence? As always, you have a 60 day no questions asked refund policy.

If you don’t love it after 60ish days, shoot me a personal email and I’ll get you your refund ASAP.

So what are you waiting for? You have nothing to lose and only beautiful graphics to gain!

This deal ends Tuesday at 10pm CST. Get it now before it’s gone!

Lifetime Access to Stencil Unlimited Plan

  • Access to more than 680,000 background photos and more than 200,000 icons!
  • Thousands of new background photos being added every month!
  • Lifetime Subscription to Stencil Unlimited!
  • 60-day money back guarantee. No matter the reason.

Expires Tue Jul 26 2016 10 p.m. CDT

AppSumo Price: $49
Original Price: $500

Buy Now

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Why You Should Leverage Co-Marketing to Grow Your Brand

Marketers fight an on-going battle to get products and services in front of target customers and prospective clients. Unfortunately, some of us are in incredibly competitive industries. We battle each day for things like impressions, shares and clicks.

If we want to succeed in reaching our audiences, we must explore new channels. One amazing way is to create strategic marketing alliances with other companies to help elevate your content and increase the reach of your campaigns. It’s an idea known as co-marketing.

What Exactly Is Co-Marketing?

Co-marketing is the process of building strategic relationships with other entities, typically separate companies or organizations relevant to your own. This marketing strategy is used to help you increase your brand’s overall reach. It’s the idea of calling in reinforcements and working together to help expose both brands to new audiences in order to drive additional product awareness, leads and revenue.

While co-marketing isn’t a new idea, it has grown in popularity in the online marketing world. So if you plan to implement your own program, keep reading this guide to make sure you know everything that goes into it.

Why Do Brands Leverage Co-Marketing?

The reasoning behind co-marketing is fairly straight-forward: there are organizations out there adjacent to yours. This means these businesses have similar customers without having a competitive offering. You can work with them to create a marketing campaign that will be promoted to both audiences. In this sense, you’re exposing both brands to audiences with proven purchase intent and a need for each product.

For example, we know that Sprout Social is a social media management platform for businesses. We also know that marketers who use a social media management solution may also leverage a search engine optimization solution. So it stands to reason that we may have a similar audience to a company that offers one, a company like Moz.

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 4.43.48 PM

By creating a webinar with our good friends at Moz and promoting it to both audiences, we’re generating leads for both companies that our marketing and sales departments can go on to nurture. This boosts the webinars reach beyond what we could have done by ourselves.

Big Brand Co-Marketing Examples

The rest of this article really addresses how companies can leverage co-marketing in the online space with things like eBooks and webinars. But here are a few additional examples that show how big brands have leveraged their peer organizations in the past:

PepsiCo & Bungie

Since March of 2007, Pepsi Cola Inc. leveraged their new Mountain Dew flavor Game Fuel to help co-promote the release of new video games. This is a very clear brand tie-in, as Mountain Dew is fairly synonymous with video game playing. Here’s a look at their first run with Bungie’s Halo 3.

halo and pepsi co-marketing example

Game Fuel scaled this strategy by reaching out to other gaming companies to help promote new releases. They even created a second flavor for their 2009 run with the popular online game World of Warcraft.

6a00d834519bc269e201156f3caca9970b-300wi

Taco Bell & Fritos

A more recent example you may be familiar with comes from Taco Bell and Frito Lay. The companies teamed up to create new Taco Bell menu items like a burrito with Frito chips inside or a taco with a Dorito shell.

beefy crunch

These companies both went on to co-promote the new items with commercials, articles and social media content. This ultimately drove new business for both brands.

taco bell co-marketing

Examples of Online Co-Marketing Campaign

While these campaigns have all been well thought-out and successful, they’re not what you’ll typically see when online marketers reference co-marketing (at least not with the companies we’ve worked with). While dealing with co-marketing in the tech space, you’re much more likely to see companies come together to work on pieces of content.

Webinars

Joint webinars are one of the easiest ways to scale your partner marketing efforts if you have someone on the team great at creating and delivering presentations.

Rectangle.001

Here’s an article Sprout Social wrote on how to create an amazing webinar, but there are some additional things to know when building out your webinar infrastructure for scale. For example, you need:

  1. A solid company outreach strategy to find great companies to work with.
  2. A way to update landing page logos and copy quickly. Try a tool like Unbounce.
  3. The ability to create promotional assets, like the social media image you see above or an email template.

eBooks

eBooks are great at driving qualified leads, as those downloading your asset are committed to spending a good deal of effort learning what you have to teach them.

bitly-ebook-880x440

However, creating the robust copy you need for an eBook and getting it designed nicely takes a lot of effort. Make sure you test eBooks and see if they drive qualified leads at scale for your company before you commit to making several.

Video Series

If you have the resources to create a video series, it’s an amazing way to produce content with another company. Videos continue to increase in social media popularity, and with the joint power of two companies sharing, you’re bound to build a good amount of brand awareness.

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 10.08.39 AM

Conferences

Conferences are a great way for several companies to band together for a single campaign all at once. Most large conferences facilitate sponsorships from multiple companies. This creates a mini-ecosystem of companies that benefit from working together.

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 10.12.18 AM

Joint-Research

Data reports like the Sprout Social Index are an incredibly powerful type of content to share. Research-driven content gains social shares, backlinks and high-praise. If you can figure out a way to combine the data you have with data from a partner, it can tell a more compelling story.

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 10.09.22 AM

Sprout Social’s Co-Marketing Results

Since taking a dive into co-marketing, Sprout Social has seen fantastic results by driving new leads, product trials, demos, subscribers and overall revenue. Not only that, but we’ve had the opportunity to work with amazing companies that are now more aware of our product offering.

New Leads

This is one of the key metrics for our program. Over the course of the program, we’ve driven around 25,000 new leads through co-marketing efforts. And this number continues to scale as we fine-tune our processes. For the most part, these leads come to us without having to spend any money on promotion.

New Leads from Co-Marketing

Revenue

Not only is co-marketing good for driving new leads, it’s great for educating customers on the value of our product. That’s why we find leads from these efforts convert at a much higher rate. In fact, these leads end up spending more money than leads from any other channel.

Blah

Partnerships

Throughout the course of our co-marketing efforts, we’ve had the opportunity to work with more than 40 new companies. These are 40 large, relevant companies that are now much more aware of what we do at Sprout Social. So whether these businesses chat with one of their own clients who might need more information on a social media management tool, or they themselves are in the market, we have a new arsenal of brand advocates.

kapost and sprout social

How to Start Your Own Co-Marketing Program

Each company’s co-marketing program and execution differs. The strategy that works for us may not completely work for you. While this isn’t an extensive guide to launching your own program, it should start you off in the right direction.

  1. Set an Objective: Similar to any other marketing campaign the first thing you need to do is set an objective. Are you looking to educate your own customers, build your brand awareness or generate leads? This knowledge will help inform what types of companies you work with and what types of content you create.
  2. Reach out to Companies: Find some companies you believe have similar audiences and objectives to your own. Send them an email proposing why you think you’d be a good fit for co-marketing. Also be sure to include the value they would gain and ask to set some time aside to chat for more details.
  3. The Initial Call: When you have your first call, it’s important to figure out if you’re attempting to reach the same audience. You don’t want to spend a ton of time and effort on a campaign that doesn’t reach your target. Once you’ve established an audience fit, think through the topics both companies can speak to that resonate with that audience. Then you can choose a type of content to create like an eBook, webinar or video series. Create hard deadlines for each side so you’re effectively keeping up with the campaign across organizations.

Moving Forward

The initial call should set the stage for the rest of the campaign. Make sure that you’re hitting all of the deadlines and producing truly amazing content that your joint audience will love and your results should speak for themselves.

analytics report example

If you’re planning a co-marketing social media strategy, make sure you have the right social media analytics tools to track, monitor and measure your own efforts. Having statistical data and presentation-ready reports can help push your co-marketing efforts to the next level.

It’s a big marketing world out there and it never hurts to have some helpful allies.

This post Why You Should Leverage Co-Marketing to Grow Your Brand originally appeared on Sprout Social.

How to Grow Your Blogs Traffic and Income by Setting Goals

Setting Goals to Grow Your Traffic and Income

Today’s podcast is about setting goals to grow your traffic and income.

ProBlogger_135

Pamela, one of our readers asked this question:

Darren I’ve been blogging now for 12 months and I’ve seen some growth in my traffic and more recently income – but I’m finding it hard to know whether I’m going well or not because I don’t know where a 12 month old blog should be at?

Maybe it’s too hard to give a number but do you have any advice on what kind of goals I should be setting myself for my blogging when it comes to traffic or income?”

This is a great question that ProBlogger readers often ask. It may be a bit hard to answer when it comes to specific numbers because no two blogs are alike. There are many factors that go into blogging.

I do think it is useful to have goals. Today I’m going to make some suggestions on how to set those goals based on how I did it back in 2004 when I began to monetize my blog.

In Today’s Episode Setting Goals to Grow Your Traffic and Income

Listen to this episode in the player above or here on iTunes.

  • In 2004, I started to experiment with AdSense ads and Amazon’s Affiliate program
  • I noticed my traffic was growing, but I wondered how much traffic I actually needed
  • This is before Google Analytics – most blog stats were freely viewable through Site Meter
  • I knew I needed to do something different and stop comparing my blog to other blogs
  • I decided to compare my monthly traffic to the traffic of my blog from the previous month
  • My initial goal was any uptrend – I was happy with this for the first few months
  • I realized my blog was growing about 5% every month – gently trending up over time
  • I decided to set goals that were a bit more aggressive
  • My first goal was to double my traffic percentage or to go up 10% instead of 5%
  • There were times when 10% growth was easy, there were also other months where it seemed possible, but by having that goal, I could see if I was on track and it helped me grow my blog faster
  • I did the same thing with my AdSense income – I knew AdSense income would increase with traffic increases, so I made my income goal more aggressive – if my traffic goal was 10%, I would make my income goal 15%
  • I did this because I knew there were a number of ways to increase AdSense by using it better – changing placement, size, color, optimizing ads
  • I also started selling ads directly through advertisers and using other networks like Chitika
  • I found that by running other networks and optimizing AdSense sometime I increased my income by 50 or 100 percent
  • Compare monthly stats from month to month or each month from year to year
  • See how you are trending, then set goals that are slightly more aggressive
  • Percentages will vary, at some stages growth is easier
  • You can apply these techniques to many different stats – social media, subscribers, bounce rates, the goal is to be better each month
  • Setting goals is fantastic – being aggressive and having something to aim for can stretch you
  • Think about the strategies to get to those goals – not just the end result – where will the traffic increase come from? What blogs, content, posting frequency, etc.

Further Resources on Setting Goals to Grow Your Traffic and Income



Full Transcript
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Hey there and welcome to Episode 135 of the ProBlogger Podcast. My name is Darren Rowse. Today, I want to talk about setting goals as a way to grow your traffic and income.

The idea for today’s podcast was stimulated by Pamela, one of our wonderful readers, who wrote to me this question. “Darren, I’ve been blogging now for twelve months and I’ve seen some growth with traffic and more recently income on my blog. I’m finding it hard to know whether I’m going well or not because I don’t know where twelve months of blogging should be at. Maybe it’s too hard to give a number, but do you have any advice on what types of goals I should be setting myself when it comes to traffic or income?”

This is a great question, thanks Pamela for asking it. You can ask your questions over on today’s show notes at problogger.com/podcast/135 where I do have some suggested reading and further listening on this particular topic.

This is a really great question, thanks so much for asking, Pamela. It’s one that I know ProBlogger readers do ask, at least quite a few of them do ask me when I meet them face to face. I remember asking myself this very question. As I think Pamela gets to in her question, it is a bit of a tricky one to answer when it comes to specific numbers. I can’t tell you how much traffic a twelve month old blog should have or how much money it should be making because no two blogs are alike and no two businesses are the same. There are many factors that you would have to weigh up to give a specific answer like that.

As I think I’ve shared before, I know bloggers who make a full time living from their blogs who got to that level with hundreds of daily readers and then others who were not full time until they had tens of thousands of daily readers. There can be that much variation in how much traffic you need to make a full time income. It depends a lot on the model that you have, the income streams that you use, the readers that you have, how engaged they are, how much work you put into your blog, there’s so many factors.

I do think it’s useful to have goals. I want to make some suggestions today on how to set those goals for you by telling you how I did it back in 2004 when I started to monetize my blogs. It was 2004 for me, I’ve been blogging for about eighteen or so months when I started to experiment with putting some AdSense ads in my blog and started to experiment with Amazon’s Affiliate program. I remember at that very time asking exactly the same question, how much traffic do I need to get to a full time living for this? That became my goal. After a few months, I could see there was some potential there, my income was growing, my traffic was growing but how much traffic was I going to need?

I remember hitting search engines to try and find the answer. I remember asking a number of website owners that I knew were monetizing their websites, how much traffic they had. I remember getting really frustrated because not too many people were willing to talk about that. The answers I was getting were very varied. It was really frustrating.

The other factor was that as I looked around at other blogs—not too many blogs were monetizing back then—but I wasn’t able to see how much traffic they had because this was before Google Analytics. A lot of bloggers were using a tool called Site Meter back then to measure traffic. Interestingly, those stats were pretty much public in most cases. You had to upgrade and pay Site Meter to hide your stats. Most blog stats were freely viewable.

It was really interesting, you could go to almost any blog and click the little side meter link and see how much traffic they had. This was interesting but it was also a bit of a problem that many bloggers fell into at that time because we spent a lot of time comparing our traffic with other people’s. This either left me feeling really depressed because my traffic was so small in comparison to these other massive blogs or it left me frustrated because I had similar amounts of traffic to these other blogs, yet they seem to be making a whole heap more, opportunities were landing in their laps even though we were similar sized blogs.

I kind of fell into this comparison making game. It was a bit of a trap. One day, I realized that comparing my traffic or income to somebody else really wasn’t that helpful. I guess I knew it all along but I had this realization one day that I needed to stop doing that and start focusing on what I was building and start comparing myself to where I’d already been. I’d been distracting myself by clicking on those Site Meter links and comparing all the time. I decided to do something different.

I decided that at the end of every month, I was going to compare the traffic that I had on my blog in that month that had just gone by to the traffic that I had on the previous month. At the end of April, I would compare my traffic for April to March, to the very month before, to see how that compared rather than comparing my traffic to another blog. When you compare yourself to another blog, you don’t really know the full story of what’s going on on that blog, you don’t know why they had that traffic, you don’t know how that traffic is converting in terms of income. When you compare to yourself, you’ve got something that you do know the full story on.

I realized that if I set myself the goal of always increasing my traffic from month to month to always have my record month of traffic. That type of comparison was much more helpful and it would motivate me to work harder each month to build my blog.

My initial goal was any trending up. So far, I beat last month’s traffic by one this month, then I was satisfied with that. That was for the first few months. Whether it was one extra reader or a hundred or a thousand, I was happy. But interestingly as I did this little exercise at the end of every month, comparing this month’s traffic to last month, I realized that my blog was naturally growing by about 5% every month. It was trending up. It was kind of towards the beginning of my blogs and I guess because I was adding more content everyday and I was getting a few new subscribers every day, it was just gently trending up over time.

This happens for a lot of new blogs. That first month or the second month, most blogs do increase in size, it’s just natural. You have more content, you have a few more subscribers, things gently trend up.

Once I realized that that was the normal level for my blog to trend up, I decided to start setting myself goals to get a little bit more aggressive than that. The first goal I set myself to increase my traffic was instead of 5%, I wanted to hit 10%. I wanted to double the rate of growth of my blog. That became my ultimate goal. If my blog had 3,000 visitors a month, I was aiming for 3,300 the next month. If I hit that 3,300 the next month, then the following month I wanted to hit 3,630, and the next month I wanted to hit 3,993, and so forth. I wanted to increase things by at least 10% every month because I knew if I could increase the rate of growth of my blog, I was going to get closer to becoming a full time blogger faster.

There were periods where 10% increases were easy. There were times where I hit 30% from month to month growth. All it takes sometimes is for another big blog to link to you or for Google to change their algorithm or for you to write a post that gets shared around a whole heap. There were other months where 10% seemed like it was impossible, that was really hard. What I found is that by having that 10% figure in my mind, I could see every day whether I was on track to do that. By having that slightly more aggressive goal, it really did help me to grow my blog faster.

That’s what I was doing with my traffic, I came up with this figure. Over time, the number did changes. 10% became 20% after a while and then it actually came back down to 10% for a while too. You’ll find the different stages in the life cycle of your blog, it is easy to grow.

The other thing I did was the same type of thing with my income. Back then, it was largely AdSense. AdSense made up 95% of my income. I realized that if I could increase my traffic by 10% every month, then my AdSense generally went up by 10% too. I decided to set that goal at 15%, I wanted to get even more aggressive there. I realized that I could increase my AdSense earnings in a number of ways, one of which was to increase the traffic to my site. That was kind of underhand with increasing by 10% every month of traffic but I could also increase it even further by getting better at using AdSense, by positioning the ads better, by having ads in different sized ads, by changing the design of the ads. Back then, you could change the colors of them and that type of things as well.

There were a number of things I could do to increase the effectiveness of those ads but I also learned that I could add other income streams. I began to focus more on using Amazon’s Affiliate program, I started to experiment with other advertising networks. One in particular back then was Chitika. I started selling ads directly to advertisers as well. I decided that through all of this, I should at least be able to get to 15% increase from month to month. It was more aggressive than my traffic growth but the traffic growth actually made it easier. If I could hit 10% traffic growth and increase 5% with tweaks of how I was monetizing the blog, then I should be able to get 15%.

What I found again was that 15% was achievable at that time for me. Again, there are some months where I hit 30%, there were some months where it went up by 50%. I remember one month it went up by 100% because I found this whole other ad network, Chitika, and I had that running along side my AdSense ads. I was able to increase my income quite significantly that month.

That’s kind of the advice that I would give you, Pamela. When it comes to traffic, when it comes to income, compare this month’s stats to last month’s. Similarly if you’ve been going for a while, you could be comparing April this year to April last year. In some ways, that’s a fairer comparison because April always has the same amount of days, February is the only one that doesn’t. Comparing April to June or July, there might be 30 days in one month and 31 in the next. Comparing twelve months ago, you’ll need to change the percentages as well. Hopefully in a year, you’ve grown by more than 10%.

Compare this month to last month, aim for an increase. Once you see how you’re trending what is normal growth for you, you can then set some goals that are slightly more aggressive than what you are normally achieving in terms of growth. The percentage numbers will vary. As I’ve already said, at some stages in the life cycle of your blog, growth is easier than others. 10%, 15% might be way under what you could be achieving naturally. You might be wanting to set 20%, 30%, 40%.

There are other times in the cycle of your blog where things haven’t been going as well or maybe is a seasonal time. Over the summer, some blogs do find that they drop off in traffic. Maybe you want to adjust that to take into consideration some of those types of things.

The other thing I’d say about this type of approach is that you can apply it to many different stats that you have. As you look in your Google Analytics, you can be comparing this month’s bounce rate to last month. Have you improved your bounce rate? You could be comparing this month to last month in terms of how many pages each visitor viewed. Did they go up or did it go down? You could do the same thing with your social media stats. Was the number of new Facebook followers that you had this month higher than the number that you got last month? Was the rate at which people subscribed to your newsletter better this month than last?

I guess ultimately, what we’re trying to do is each month be better than last month to hit our record for the stat that we’re looking at.

The last thing I’ll say in terms of goal setting is that setting goals like this is fantastic, I’m a big believer in having something to aim for. It’s really good to get aggressive with that goal. Your goals need to be realistic which is why I suggest looking at what’s naturally possible, what you’re currently doing. They should also stretch you, so get a little bit aggressive with it. It doesn’t really matter if you don’t quite meet them, sometimes by just having that stretch goal it would take you a lot further.

It’s also important when you’re thinking about goals not just to think about the end result but to think about the strategies that are going to help you to reach those goals. You might say I want 10% more traffic each month. Where’s that traffic going to come from? It’s probably more important for you to then ask yourself the secondary question, where is the increase going to come from? It’s not going to just happen because you have the goal, so what other blogs are you going to offer that you’re going to guest post on or what forums are you going to start to interact with, what influencers are you going to reach out to, what people are you going to send links to the things that you’ve been writing, what shareable content are you going to create?

Just the frequency of your posting needs to change. There’s a whole heap of factors there that can increase the traffic numbers that you get. So yes, have the goal, have the number in mind that you’re after, that 10%, 15% increase. But more importantly than that, every month, sit down and come up with a little list of three or four things that you’re going to do over the next month to take you closer to that goal.

If traffic’s the thing that you need to work on, I really want to recommend that you go back and listen to Episodes 33 through to 37 of the ProBlogger podcast. You can find them all in iTunes, just look for PB33, that’s the start of a little series that I did on finding readers for your blog. I highly recommend that you go back and listen to those four or five podcasts. You’ll see that they each take a different focus on building readers to your blog.

If it’s increasing income to your blog, I really recommend that you go back and listen to Episode 48 because in that one, I talk about how to make a full time income from blogging by breaking down that goal that you have and by diversifying your income streams. I mentioned before that I have one month where my income went up by 100% from one month to the next and that was because I diversified my income for that month. Episode 48 is the one to listen to for that. Episodes 33 through to 37 are ideal if you want to increase the traffic to your blog.

Pamela, thanks so much for your question, I really appreciate you asking that. As I said before, any questions that you have that you want me to tackle in a future podcast or in a future blog post, please ask them in the comments on today’s show notes at problogger.com/podcast/135. I’ll also link to some further reading and those podcasts that I just mentioned that would be great for you to listen to next.

Thanks for listening today and I’ll chat with you in the next couple of days in Episode 136.

Tweet us @ProBlogger. Find us at facebook.com/problogger or search ProBlogger on iTunes.

Before I go, I want to give a big shout out and say thank you to Craig Hewitt and the team at Podcast Motor who’ve been editing all of our podcasts for some time now. Podcast Motor have a great range of services for podcasters at all levels. They can help you to set up your podcast, but also offer a couple of excellent services to help you to edit your shows and get them up with great show notes. Check them out at podcastmotor.com.

If you have a moment, I’d love it if you’d go over to iTunes or your podcasting network of choice and leave us a rating and a review. It does help us to learn what you like about our podcast and to improve it for the future but also helps us to spread the word a little bit further and to rank a little higher in iTunes as well. If you haven’t subscribed on iTunes, please do. It’s the best way to get notified of all our new episodes.

How did you go with today’s episode?

If you have any questions that you would like me to tackle please ask them in the comments below? Also, let me know how you set blogging goals to increase income?

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The post PB135: How to Grow Your Blogs Traffic and Income by Setting Goals appeared first on ProBlogger Podcast.

Why My Blog Motto is “Done and Not Perfect”

LisaCorduffInTheKitchen_LR-104

By Lisa Corduff.

I remember the deadlines at work. Meticulously making sure what I passed to my boss was of the highest quality. I remember expecting so much from myself and my output because there was judgement coming. A “good job” or “fix this up” or “rewrite please”.

Working to KPI’s and other people’s expectations means you are always striving to over-deliver. For a pay-rise, a promotion, a great project.

You know the drill.

When I entered the world of blogging it all felt so random. Some might say ‘freeing’ but I missed the glance over my work from someone who knew more than me.

This actually slowed me right down. I never thought anything was good enough. So I rarely posted. I was so inexperienced and would have loved the ‘all clear’ from a boss.

I looked around at the stunning blogs I admired and felt paralysed. Even although I knew I wanted to share my story and recipes via a blog, it felt like those people knew more, took better photos, had a bigger audience, wrote beautifully. The old ‘comparisonitis’ crept in big time. (Heard of it? It’s the disease of comparing yourself to others incessantly #madeupword.)

Of course my husband would edit things and tell me it was great. But what if people laughed at me? What if the recipe didn’t work in other people’s homes? What if I was just plain bad at this?

There’s no boss in blogging land.

Not only this – I started my blog with a two-year-old and six-month-old in tow. So the moments I had to write were while they were sleeping. This meant the end of the day (so tired!) or during nap time. How is one meant to create a work of blogging art under those circumstances?!

But then something changed. I realised NOTHING was getting done. And it never would.

My new boss was me – I had the power to set the tone of expectation for my blog. My new KPI’s were writing things that interested people. And the only way to find out was to actually damn POST!

So I did. I got consistent. I also had another baby. Things were pretty manic in my personal life so I did what I could on the blog and on FB and pressed ‘publish’ or ‘post’ or ‘record’ at every opportunity. No time for perfection!

The momentum built. It was addictive. I let go of the old expectations of perfection so that I could just keep going.

Maybe it helps to have very little time. With three kids four and under I launched a free challenge to my community. It was 21 days long with a daily video and email and a few guest interviews.

It came about sharing a glass of wine with a web designer friend discussing the fact I was going to have to find a real job if I didn’t make something of this blog over the next year (read: create income). So she pushed me off the edge of the cliff and taught me what a ‘signup form’ was in Mailchimp.

LisaCorduffInTheKitchen_LR-150

I announced the 21 Day Wholefoods Challenge to my FB community that night with a start date.

To say I went in green – without knowing much – is an understatement.

What the hell was I thinking!? My perfectionist streak came right back to haunt me and I almost burnt out completely over-delivering on a free challenge.

While I over-delivered, it was completely imperfect. Some days I was hiding in my kid’s bedroom recording videos for the next day while they were in the loungeroom causing chaos. Some days the challenge email didn’t go out by its usual 6am. No doubt there were spelling mistakes galore (can’t bring myself to look back on it!). The imperfections went on.

I ended up with conjunctivitis and my adrenals had had a massive workout! But I’d successfully delivered (for free) what would become my signature program – Small Steps to Wholefoods. And in the process proved to myself I had something unique to teach which resonated with amazing women it was a privilege to serve.

Without taking huge imperfect action, I never would have started a business from my blog. I would never have realised the little burning dream inside me. I would never have positively impacted those 550 people in the free challenge. I was hooked.

It’s why ‘done and not perfect’ is my business motto. It’s allowed me the freedom to lose the expectation of perfection and move ahead anyway.

Right now I’m doing lots of Facebook LIVE. What an amazing tool for business owners and bloggers. It takes imperfection to a whole new level. No going back! Creating raw, honest and engaging content to build trust with your audience, showing your imperfect side is a brilliant marketing tool.

And it’s just a heck of a lot of fun. When I’m coaching clients who are looking to grow their business, the first thing I say is ‘take action’. Stop thinking about what you’re going to do. Stop looking around at the work of others and focus on what you want to do and how your work can help others.

Take a risk. Allow yourself to suck in the beginning and go for it. We all started somewhere.

Lisa Corduff is a wholefoods blogger with multiple online program cutting through the BS and helping real people eat more real food – in the real world! With a background in TV and Video Production she has been at the forefront of social media video marketing.

The post Why My Blog Motto is “Done and Not Perfect” appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

A Holistic Customer Retention Plan for eCommerce

While eCommerce enterprises realize the impact of customer retention on revenue, there are a number of key challenges that keep them from holistically implementing customer retention strategies.

One such challenge is the data complexity involved with calculating certain key metrics such as retention rate. As a result, businesses are making decisions per the metrics that might not be critical to long-term success. 2016 Retention Marketing report provides statistical evidence to why eCommerce organizations need clarity in their retention rate metrics.

Declining customer loyalty is affecting customer retention in a big way too. A (2015) research conducted by Accenture reports, “Just over one-quarter of U.S. consumers (28 percent) feel very loyal toward their providers and only about one in three (31 percent) are willing to recommend them to others.”

Competition demands eCommerce establishments to outgrow mediocrity and scale from average to elite. In this blog post, we highlight how optimizing their customer retention strategy (infused with actionable tips) can help eCommerce enterprises do exactly that!

Focus On Your High-Value Customers

To allocate marketing budget sensibly, eCommerce establishments need to understand where and what they are putting money and efforts into. Even before investing in a customer retention strategy, enterprises must focus on identifying their high-value customers. Centering retention efforts around high-value customers, as opposed to average customers, can yield considerably higher value in terms of RoI.

Digging into metrics such as customer lifetime value, average order value, purchase frequency, price sensitivity, and so on helps identify high-value customers. This post by eConsultancy talks about how you can do that.

Tracking and analyzing on-site behavior of high-value customers is also critical to optimizing the customer retention process. Tools like heatmap and visitor recordings can help understand collective and individual on-site user behavior respectively.

It is also important to understand the implication and usage of ‘churn rate’ correctly for your high-value customers. Instead of viewing it as a transactional metric, eCommerce enterprises should consider it to be a behavioral indicator. Harvard Business Review points out talks that enterprises are fixated with churn as a number instead of looking at it as a measure for improvement. The article also details on other mistakes that businesses make in using churn rate.

Actionable Tip: Use Net Promoter Score surveys to find out who your promoters, passives, and detractors are. Think of promoters as people who can drive more conversion and positive influence for your business. In this way, they are your high-value customers. Focusing efforts around retaining them is likely to lift your business value.

Net Promoter Score

Solicit Feedback And Act On It

Feedback helps fill the gap between what businesses offer and what their users actually want, in terms of products, services, and/or experiences. MarketingSherpa Ecommerce Benchmark Study 2014 establishes that companies who make changes to their website per customer feedback had a success score of almost 8/10.

Displaying encouraging reviews on the website, for example, can help eCommerce establishments increase not just conversions but also credibility—something that is extremely important for retaining customers long term. The Deloitte Consumer Review Consumer Review Report 2014 provides some interesting statistics in a graph that we have borrowed for the purpose of this post.

Deloitte Consumer Review Report

Testimonials and surveys are the two other indispensable feedback mechanisms. Surveying your repeat visitors on their satisfaction with your product/services, suggestions for improving service quality, and so on can help you identify areas of improvement for your business.

On the other hand, on-page surveys (OPS)/voice-of-customer surveys trigger questions real-time and typically aim at addressing pain points on websites. Nevertheless, choosing the right trigger for your OPS is critical to soliciting feedback. Some common examples of OPS triggers are listed below:

  1. Time spent on a page
  2. Number of pages browsed
  3. Exit intent on “adding items to cart”

Qualitative feedback obtained by OPS can also be of great value for optimizing purchase experiences, which can eventually increase retention. Here’s a VWO post – 10 tips on optimizing website surveys for soliciting better response.  

Actionable Tip: Negative reviews don’t hit a business as hard as not responding to them can. Moreover, customers value businesses that are quick in accepting and amending their mistakes. While not all negative feedback is authentic, genuine resentments provide valuable insights into the business or product aspects lacking in your business. Check out this article  for a complete approach on tackling negative reviews/feedback—right from digging into the problem to solving the problem to requesting customers for updating their review.

Continuously Scale Up On User Experience

Data about user behavior/activity as well as feedback lays the foundation for businesses to continuously improve user experience. However, it’s easier said than done. eCommerce enterprises not only need to continuously upgrade their technology, but also must provide consistent experiences to users across devices.

According to Mckinsey customer-experience survey 2014, “measuring satisfaction on customer journeys is 30 percent more predictive of overall customer satisfaction than measuring happiness for each individual interaction, establishing that consistency on the most common customer journeys is an important predictor of overall customer experience and loyalty.”

A customer journey can be considered as the sum of all experiences that customers go through while interacting with a website. It is an aggregate measure – good and bad – across different touchpoints.

That said, customer ‘satisfaction’ is not enough. Enterprises, in a digital world that is rapidly transforming, need to focus on customer delight and this requires them to be not just customer-centric but customer-obsessed. The Warehouse does this exceptionally well. By focusing on what really works for their customers, it has been able to increase their online sales from $18.8 million in 2011 to $149.2 million in 2015.

Most importantly, creating an exceptional user experience cannot be possible without personalization. eCommerce enterprises who want to move from being average to elite should focus on providing personalized services across human and digital touch points. The power of personalization can also be harnessed to form an emotional connect with customers, ultimately driving retention and long-term customer relationships.This would require identifying emotional motivators that customers associate with and then crafting personalized messages around those motivators.

Consider ‘convenience’ to be an emotional motivator. eCommerce enterprises can use personalized messages on their website focused around this emotion that propels people to buy. Warby Parker does exactly this by offering it’s customers a chance to try what they like before they buy.

Warby Parker

 

Actionable Tip: eCommerce establishments must focus on the 3 Es of experience – ease, efficiency, and emotion, as identified by Forrester Research. Storytelling is an effective tactic that can be used for establishing emotional connect with customers. Consider Everlane. The brand takes the story telling approach to communicate who and what they are, and what they do. They are able to establish trust and transparency – two values with which they establish an emotional connect with their customers.

Everlane

Foster Relevance In Post-Sale Messages

Creating relevant post-sale messaging requires eCommerce enterprises to understand customer purchase history and behavior. It would be too soon to send out ‘We miss you here at…’ to someone who made his/her last purchase from you only a week back. What would be relevant instead is a cross-sell.

Here’s an example: A customer bought a boho necklace from your website. Now within a week of purchase, you could send an email to her/him, advertising the earrings available on your website that she could easily and perfectly pair with the necklace.

Moreover, not everyone who revisits or re-engages with your eCommerce website would have an intent to make a new purchase. You can give those sales emails a break. Let the goal be engagement.

This eMail from Boden is an excellent example on how to keep customers engaged even after a purchase.

boden thank you email

Your post-sale messaging strategy can include sending out newsletters, articles, and product usage tips.

Sold a peppy scarf recently? Your THANK YOU email can contain a video on 20 trendy ways to wrap a scarf in less than 5 minutes.

Actionable Tip: Another way of retaining your customers through post-sale messages is to keep sending them replenishment reminders (in case your store sells replenishable items). This would require you to keep track of the standard purchase cycle for the product and the customer’s average frequency of the product or order. Read some interesting examples of replenishment emails on this article on Ometria.

To Conclude

eCommerce enterprises must steer their efforts towards retaining those customers who can create more value for the business. An effective and optimized customer retention strategy that comprises understanding and analyzing user behavior, soliciting feedback, improving customer experience, and crafting relevant messaging, can help businesses retain such customers.

What are you doing to retain your valuable customers? Drop us your suggestions or tips in the comments section below.

VWO Cart Abandonment Report 2016

The post A Holistic Customer Retention Plan for eCommerce appeared first on VWO Blog.