15 Things You Need in Place for Creating Your Personal Brand

When you think about it, a personal brand is one of the most useful things you can build.

It’s powerful. It’s valuable. It’s killer.

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But it also takes a considerable amount of work. As I’ve built my personal brand over the past few years, I’ve discovered that one’s personal brand doesn’t merely grow when you achieve some level of business success.

Instead, you have to work hard at it.

Building a personal brand is almost like building a business. You have to identify your target clients, discover the best marketing methods, and relentlessly work to deliver what they want.

But the results? Worth it!

As you build your brand, it becomes much easier to connect with prospective clients, close deals, and grow the opportunities that weren’t possible when you started.

To get to that point, you’ve got to start with the right foundation.

Seventy-seven percent of B2B buyers said they speak with a salesperson only after they’ve performed independent research online.

More than 50% of decision-makers have eliminated a vendor from consideration based on information they found online.

With this many eyes watching, it pays to build your personal brand in the most effective way.

I’ve had success with growing my personal brand because of careful planning. I had things ready to go before I started promoting myself.

Here are the things you’ll need to have in place as you work to develop your personal brand.

1. Head shots

I am immensely thankful that we’ve moved beyond the Glamour Shots era. Still, the people who used those portraits throughout their professional lives had the right idea.

(kind of…)

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When you start to promote your personal brand, you want to be easily recognizable, and you want people to take you seriously. I have a number of professional head shots and photos that I use across my online properties for consistency.

As my appearance changes (and, yes, I do age…or mature), my head shots get updated.

Take pictures that represent the personality you’re trying to portray, and use those images across all your social channels, websites, gravatar accounts, and author bios.

2. Your focus

Entrepreneurs working to build a personal brand typically want to be known as experts in something. When you’re creating your personal brand, you need to identify that one thing that’s your passion and area of expertise.

Understanding your focus and your vision helps lay the groundwork for the rest of the steps you need to take to create and launch your personal brand.

3. Your elevator pitch

Let’s say you and I meet in an elevator. I strike up a conversation that quickly leads to your work. You’ve got about 30 seconds to explain what you do.

Can you condense your job or brand down into a short pitch that’s clear and gets the point across?

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This pitch isn’t just for personal connection opportunities. The same brief statement can be utilized throughout social channels and online bios to help followers and prospects best understand who you are and what you bring to the table.

Write up what you do and what makes you valuable, and don’t be afraid to make it detailed. Once you have the information down, start trimming.

Keep trimming until you get it down to a strong, impacting statement.

4. Know your USP

Your unique selling proposition (USP) goes hand in hand with your elevator pitch. This is what sets you apart from others in your industry or specialization. If there are 2,000 other entrepreneurs offering the same service, why should your prospective customers choose you?

Why should your audience pay attention to you?

What is your unique value they won’t find with anyone else?

Your USP should be a succinct, single-sentence statement of who you are, your greatest strength, and the major benefit your audience will derive from it.

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USPs typically fall into 3 categories:

Quality – It’s about superior materials or ingredients, craftsmanship, or proprietary manufacturing. Think “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.” from Papa Johns.

Price – Price isn’t the best USP, but it can work if you offer the best prices, low rate guarantees, price matching, bulk discounts, or unique special offers.

Service – This can be unquestioned returns, satisfaction guarantees, or extended services to delight customers. Think Tom’s Shoes’s practice of giving shoes to the needy.

This is a critical component for branding. You’ll use this to craft your pitch, and it will be prevalent in virtually all of your marketing messages and outreach.

5. A defined audience

Defining your area of expertise is only part of the journey. You have to know to whom you’re catering. Building a brand is useless unless you’re targeting the right people.

You have to define your audience so that any content you create is relevant, your marketing turns heads, and you can eventually monetize your brand.

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Think of it like a game of darts. You score if you hit the board, but you score higher if you hit dead center. Without a target, you’re just throwing darts blindly.

When you know your audience, you can:

  • create highly valuable content specific to their needs
  • generate offers that will provide solutions to their greatest problems
  • create brand advocates who will embrace your message and help spread it for you
  • identify the best ways to engage your audience
  • identify places to find them

Defining your audience takes time and research, but without a clearly defined audience, you’ll never grow your brand.

6. A student mindset

You have to maintain the mindset of a perpetual learner, no matter how much experience you gain in your field. Change happens fast, so adopt the “I am a student and always need to learn” attitude.

Tune in, listen, and stay up-to-date with industry trends.

If you fail to stay relevant, people will stop paying attention to you.

It never hurts to learn new things, develop new skills, and expand your knowledge. Everything you learn is an opportunity to pass something new to your audience and provide more value.

7. Create a marketing strategy

Before you launch your personal brand, you need a strategy that details how you’ll promote yourself. While it doesn’t need to be as robust as a marketing strategy for a major brand, it’s still a good idea to create a documented marketing plan you can follow.

This should include (but isn’t limited to):

8. A personal brand audit

While you’re in the process of creating your personal brand, you likely already have public information available about you.

Before you push the growth of your brand, take the time to audit your online presence. Do extensive searches for your name and identity online.

This can help you manage anything that doesn’t mesh with your brand image as well as show opportunities for your branding campaign once you get started.

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This isn’t a one-time audit, either. Schedule routine reviews of your personal brand to monitor how you appear on the web.

9. Create a personal website

A website isn’t just a place to toot your own horn.

You certainly want to show off your expertise and the work you’ve done. You also want to make sure you control as much real estate around your brand as possible.

A branded website is another source of content that will show up at the top of the search results when people search for information about you.

Having a website ensures that you stay in control of the top search results rather than allowing third-party sites to shape your online image.

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10. Define your story

The strongest personal brands are carried by a potent narrative. The people most interested in following you or working with you will want to know your story.

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If you specialize in more than one area or have a series of things you’re passionate about, a narrative becomes even more important.

It’s a unified theme that ties everything together.

Think about some of the most well-known personal brands like Mark Cuban, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, or Richard Branson.

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In every case, the stories are well known and the narratives lend tremendous weight to these people’s brands, ultimately defining how we see them.

What’s your story?

11. Build on Feedback

Even when we look into a mirror, it’s not easy to define ourselves and understand who we are. It’s just not that easy to form an objective opinion of ourselves.

Use the feedback from others you know to build the framework for your personal brand. Ask people you trust, e.g., colleagues, friends, family and co-workers, to describe you with just a few adjectives. You can also ask additional questions like:

  • What do you think I’m good at?
  • What do you think my weaknesses are?
  • What are my greatest strengths?

12. Define your goals

Why are you developing this personal brand? Is it to create a solid image to help you land a better position in your career? Do you want to create a more trustworthy and authoritative persona to land clients?

Creating goals can help you shape your personal brand and the direction of your promotion and marketing. Aside from your major goals, you should also define smaller, more readily attainable goals.

Where do you want to be in 6 months? In a year? What are your traffic goals for your brand website?

When you create goals, break them down into smaller milestones, and create a roadmap you can follow from launch to achieve those goals.

13. Create a personal style guide

Brands often use style guides to define the appearance of their logos, fonts, and colors to represent themselves and their products/sevices. This may even include employee dress code.

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Everything you do contributes to your personal brand. Create a personal style guide similar to what the brands use. This way you have a consistent representation of your personal brand.

This should include the way you dress, carry yourself, behave with others, and even write and respond to emails.

14. Create a content strategy

Even though I mentioned creating a marketing strategy already, I feel it’s important to list this on its own. Not everyone will create an overall marketing strategy or social media plan. At the very least, you should create a content marketing strategy.

Much of your branding will revolve around content.

You’ll use content to build authority and show your expertise. You’ll create guest posts to generate referral traffic and links. You might create short videos to share your ideas.

A content strategy can help you maintain a consistent schedule and generate the right topics for your audience as well as give you the greatest chance of growing your personal brand.

Moz has created a terrific content strategy framework you can use to plan your own.

15. Perform a competitive evaluation

Personal brand building isn’t a popularity contest, but it does pay to know where you stand in the crowd.

Occasionally, you can collect some data, e.g., from Google trends, that will display the general query interest around your personal brand.

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You want to know some of the key metrics around your brand so you can pivot and act accordingly.

This data is from Buzzsumo.

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In the early stages of building your personal brand, you may or may not be selling anything. Regardless of your approach to monetization, you have competitors. They’ll fall into two categories:

  • Direct competitors, competing for your audience’s money
  • Indirect competitors, competing for your audience’s attention

Once you’ve identified your audience, you need to take stock of the industry and find out who is turning the heads of your audience and what they’re using to keep them engaged.

You don’t want to mimic your competitors. That’s bad. Remember, you want to be unique.

A competitive evaluation will give you the insight to take whatever your competitors are doing and do it 10 times better so you can capture and hold the attention of your audience.

Conclusion

Your personal brand is how the world will see you. For that reason, you need to polish your brand and give it a strong start, out of the gate. Starting with an unpolished and uninteresting brand is only going to hurt your efforts.

Including these elements in the launch of your brand will connect you with the right people. Those people will begin to identify you with a specific industry or area of expertise. As you share information and build rapport, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a trusted authority in your niche.

It won’t take long before the right opportunities will present themselves, and your branding efforts will begin to pay dividends.

Have you started building and promoting your personal brand? Which elements do you think are most important for making you stand out in your industry?

Do you really understand what your visitors want?


Do you really understand what your visitors want?

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20 Fascinating Topics That Every New Blog Should Tackle

When you know your stuff, writing a blog is easy, right?

Uh. Not necessarily.

I’d say that I’m pretty familiar with digital marketing. But when it comes to blogging, I still face challenges.

The challenge isn’t my lack of knowledge; it’s translating that knowledge into readable content—content helpful to you and other marketers.

Maybe you’ve faced the same challenge.

For some reason, conveying stuff you know inside and out is a lot trickier than it appears. Writing is difficult enough, but continually coming up with topics that would boost your online marketing efforts seems downright impossible.

In the old days, maintaining a business blog was more about appeasing search engine algorithms than appealing to actual humans. Back then, cramming posts full of keywords was the top priority.

Today, for a business blog to produce results, it has to appeal to humans first and search engines second. In fact, SEO and UX are basically one and the same.

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Gone are the days of blathering on ad nauseam about anything your heart desires.

Content marketing via blogging is one of the best ways to increase the online visibility of a brand. These days, though, the posts you create must be engaging, informative, interesting, and generally high in quality to get you anywhere.

Contrary to what you may have heard, quantity does not exceed quality here. Even so, coming up with fascinating topics for a blog is often difficult for business owners. Here are 20 topics and ideas to get you off to a great start.

1. Write a long-form post

In the business world, getting straight to the point is generally the way to go. Quick, snappy blog posts have a time and a place, but your blog will suffer if that’s all you ever do.

Regardless of your niche, there are surely topics you could cover that require more than 400-500 words. Brainstorm topics that demand extensive, in-depth coverage, and then create long-form blog posts about them. The exhaustive nature of such posts will make them fascinating to anyone who is thirsty about the topic.

You may be aware that long-form blog posts—over 2,000-3,000 words—will rank higher, get more shares, and earn more links.

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This is the kind of traction you need to gain with your blog.

2. Be a reporter

Even if journalism was never your forte, pretend otherwise by reporting back to your audience about important events in your industry. Ideally, these should be events you have attended yourself.

There are, of course, differences between journalistic writing and blog writing. However, in today’s content-driven world, there is also a lot of overlap.

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For example, write a blog about your experience at a recent trade show. At the event, take notes about the things you see and the people with whom you interact. Take photos, and include them in your post. Include your own insights to make the piece more personal.

3. Comment about a popular post

Part of maintaining an interesting blog is staying in the loop about happenings in your niche and industry. You should already be keeping up with blogs in that sphere. When a particularly interesting one pops up, write a post about it.

Doing this accomplishes a few things. First, it lets you engage with the community while delivering your take on the original post. Second, it gives you the opportunity to link back to the original post, which might result in a link in return. You’ll gain exposure and, potentially, some backlinks!

4. Share your secrets

No, I’m not telling you to give away all your secrets. Rather, connect more deeply with your audience by giving them information about your business practices and processes “from the horse’s mouth.”

It’s all about transparency and authenticity, and it resonates strongly with readers. People enjoy feeling like they are privy to special knowledge.

I do this as often as possible, e.g., by updating my audience on the $100,000 challenge, showing all the relevant data, metrics, and revenue numbers, and sharing the lessons I’m learning from my experiment.

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Maybe it’s time to pull back the curtain, and share your secrets in a blog post.

5. Round up industry experts

Establish relationships with key players within your industry through persistent social media activity. Once they’ve gotten to know you, invite thought leaders in your niche to share their views regarding a specific topic.

Compile all their contributions—with their permission, of course—and create a roundup blog post with them. Include links to each person’s blog because they might return the favor.

6. Make an infographic

You probably have plenty of facts and statistics about your niche and industry at your disposal. Put relevant ones together, and use them to create an eye-catching infographic to share on your blog.

If necessary, hire someone to create it for you. Include it in a new blog post, and then provide commentary about the facts and statistics within the body of the post. Encourage sharing by providing an easy link for people to use.

7. Look at both sides of an issue

Posts covering the pros and cons of a particular issue, product, or service tend to be received very well, and they are usually a breeze to put together. Brainstorm and write down issues that tend to have significant advantages and disadvantages.

During the course of researching this kind of piece, you will become even more knowledgeable about your niche. In the post itself, speak directly to your audience. Ask them for their take on the issue. Through their contributions, you can develop even more fascinating fodder for your blog.

8. Go behind the scenes

Blog posts about your actual business should be kept to a minimum as they tend to be pretty yawn-worthy. From time to time, though, go ahead and give readers a glimpse of what makes your company tick.

Reserve these posts for behind-the-scenes topics your audience will actually care about. For example, share what your company does to prepare for a big trade show, or introduce a new employee who you suspect will be a real game-changer for the company.

9. Explain how to do something

How-to articles and blogs tend to do well because people overwhelmingly turn to the Internet for advice and instructions on accomplishing various things. If you can incorporate one of your products into a how-to post, all the better.

For example, perhaps there’s a special way to use one of your products few people know about, or maybe there’s a process people should follow to make the most of it.

Be as thorough as possible in your post. Explain it as meticulously as you can. Include videos and photos to drive home your point and to ensure people bookmark and share your article.

10. Interview people

Yep, I’m asking you to be a journalist again. Remember those thought leaders and industry experts from a previous tip? Interview one of them to create a full-fledged blog post about your niche or industry.

Thankfully, you don’t have to be in the same room as your interviewee to talk to them. Come up with a list of questions your audience would be curious about, and email it instead. You could also post the questions via Twitter or another social media channel.

11. Make an FAQ post

Since you’re already actively engaged with your niche and industry on social media—you are, right?—you can easily keep your finger on the pulse of what people are saying. More importantly, you can quickly figure out what they are asking.

Scour social media for questions from everyday people regarding your niche. Compile a frequently asked questions post to address them. You might even include links to questions on sites like Twitter and Facebook to gain a little link juice too.

12. Give readers the hard truth

I don’t care what niche or industry you cover. There are sure to be at least a few elephants in the room or subjects that people are generally afraid to broach. As long as you have something useful to say, go ahead and have at it.

Controversial posts shouldn’t be the bread and butter of your blog, but they can certainly stir up interest under the right circumstances. Tell it like it is in your blog from time to time to really wow your audience.

13. Share a case study

Blogs that explain how everyday people make use of a company’s products or service can be pretty engaging. However, resist the temptation to make something up. Wait until you have something truly special to share, and then share it.

Ideally, you should get permission from the client or customer to feature them, and include their input in the case study too. While the piece will obviously be promotional to some extent, write it in a factual, journalistic way to avoid alienating your audience.

14. Start a series or a regular feature

Some topics are so extensive that they can’t be covered adequately in a single post—not even a long-form one. When you run across one of these, consider breaking it up into a series for your readers. Create cliffhangers at the end of each one to keep them coming back for more.

You could also come up with a weekly or monthly feature for your blog. For example, you could highlight happenings regarding your niche in social media every Monday, or you could feature a new product or service every month.

15. Make a really long listicle

By now, we’re all familiar with the standard listicle, which typically contains 5-10 related points. This has been done so much that people don’t get very excited about it anymore.

Improve on the concept by coming up with a really long listicle that pertains to your niche. But do so only if the topic at hand is deep enough to warrant it, or you will end up with a bunch of similar-sounding points.

16. Stir controversy

Think of some common views or beliefs regarding your niche. You are sure to disagree with at least a few of them, so write posts expressing your viewpoints, challenging the accepted opinions.

Doing this will likely invite controversy, so be sure to write these posts in a tactful way. Don’t attack others. Instead, explain why you think the status quo has it all wrong, and challenge readers to convince you otherwise.

17. Debunk some myths

What are some common misconceptions or myths regarding your industry or niche? Compile a list, and then use it to create a really fascinating post for your audience.

Make sure you back up your claims, though. Otherwise, readers will lose their interest when they realize they’re reading the rants of someone who really doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Approach writing such an article with the intention of providing as much useful and usable information as possible.

18. Share customer success stories

With any luck, satisfied customers will occasionally contact you to express their appreciation. When this happens, ask them if you can feature their comments in a blog post for your business.

In this type of post, begin by describing the problem the customer was facing. Describe the product or service they used, and then explain how they were able to solve their issue by using it. If possible, include additional comments from the actual client to make the post especially engaging.

19. Perform research to delve deeper

At a certain point, you will exhaust the resources regarding facts and statistics concerning your niche. Avoid becoming repetitive, and conduct your own research.

This could mean something as simple as posting an online survey for your existing readers and sharing the results. However, you might even want to hire a market research firm for assistance. If you can present brand-new facts and information to the world, your blog will be better, and you will have a lot more to go on.

In your post, include visual representations of data to help people make sense of it. A simple pie chart or bar graph can make a huge difference.

20. Share a link roundup

As you run across interesting posts, memes, and other content regarding your niche, save them. After accumulating 10 or 20, write a link-roundup post featuring each one.

This is great for a few reasons. First, it forces you to stay up-to-date on your industry news and helps you bring relevant information to your audience. Second, it lets you branch out and opine about all kinds of content. Finally, it may even enhance your link-building strategy, which never hurts.

Conclusion

In a perfect world, none of us would ever have to cope with writer’s block.

The ideas would flow freely and continuously. Since that’s not the case, use this list of topics and ideas to kick-start your new blog.

When readers visit your new blog and are presented with an array of fascinating posts, they’re likelier to engage with it, bookmark it, and keep coming back for more.

And that’s exactly what you want to happen.

Have you already covered one of the ideas listed above? Which new ones are you excited to try?

How a Single Piece of Content Increased Our DA by +7 Points [Case Study]

Posted by sergeystefoglo

Content marketing has been discussed and researched more in the last 5 years than ever before.

Source: Google Trends

There are various kinds of content marketing strategies out there. Blog promotion, infographics, video strategies, and creative content are some. Depending on your goals, some are more effective than others.

At Distilled, we’ve been fortunate enough to work on many creative content pieces with some incredible clients. This article is going to focus on a piece of content that my team and I created for a client. We’ll take a look at both the creation process and the tangible results of the piece we made.

Note: In general, you don’t want to rely on one piece of content for link acquisition. It’s recommended to focus on multiple pieces throughout the year to add link diversity and give your content pieces a good chance to succeed. The following is simply a case study of one piece of content that worked well for my client.


Client backstory: We need links!

Our client is Ginny’s (shoutout to Matt and Cailey). Ginny’s is an ecommerce business based in the beautiful state of Wisconsin.

We knew that regardless of how much optimization was done on the site, their lack of incoming links would be a huge barrier to success. This quickly became a topic of discussion for us.

The general rule of thumb: the more linking root domains (LRDs) your site has, the stronger the domain authority should be. And the stronger the linking root domains are, the better it is for your DA. In other words, it’s better to get 1 strong link (DA 80+) than 10 weak links (DA 20-). Kudos if the links are topically relevant to your website/brand.

So, my team and I sat down and started thinking of different ways we could accomplish the task of increasing LRDs and (hopefully) DA for my client.


The process of creating a link-worthy story

Here are the steps my team and I went through for this particular client.

Note: For an extensive look at creating creative content, please see the following articles:

Ideation

The first step in the creative process is ideation, because without great ideas you can’t a have a great piece of content. It’s important to give yourself enough time for ideation. Don’t rush it, and be sure to include various team members with different backgrounds to get as many ideas as possible. Note: stock up on coffee/Red Bull and snacks for this.

Validation

Typically after an ideation session you’ll have many potential ideas. It’s important to go through and validate them. When I say “validate,” I mean making sure others haven’t already done something similar, or that creating the piece is actually possible (you have access to the right data, etc.)

Note: For more information on researching and validating your creative ideas, read this post titled “Researching Creative Ideas: 10 Dos and Don’ts.”

Pitching

At this point you’ll have a handful of ideas that are not only on-brand and interesting, but have great potential in being picked up by various sources. Put together a nice deck and pitch your ideas to the client. The goal is to get your client to pick one (or a few, depending on the budget).

Note: Here’s an awesome write-up on a framework for pitching creative ideas to your clients.

Gathering the data

Once your client signs off on a piece, it’s time to dive into the data! Depending on the piece you’re creating, this might look like scraping websites and doing a ton of research to get the right data you need. Take your time on this, as you want to make sure your data is accurate and relevant.

Design

During this part of the process, it’s a great idea to start mocking up some potential designs. If your piece is smaller, this might be a quick and simple task. If you have a data visualization, this will be longer. Typically, it’s a good idea to create 2–3 mockups and give your client some options.

Development

Once your client signs off on a particular design, it’s time to dive into development.

Copy

The actual copy for the piece doesn’t have to happen after the development, but it’s usually a good idea to allow the copywriter to see how much space they have to work with. What you don’t want is for your copywriter to write 500 words when the designer has made space for 100. Communication is key in this process.

Testing

Once the piece is built, it’s important to test it out on various browsers and devices. Ask people to give it a run and try to fix as many errors/bugs as possible.

Promotion

Depending on your timeline, you might want to start promotion sooner than this. The important thing to note is to consider pre-pitching and reaching out to contacts to gauge their interest in the piece as soon as possible. Keep your contacts updated and be sure to give them everything they need for their stories.

Note: For further reference on pitching journalists, please see this post titled, “Beyond the Media List: Pro-Active Prospecting for Pitching Creative Content.”

Launch

It’s time to launch!

Push

On the day the piece launches, be sure that you are reminding journalists, reaching out to contacts, sharing the piece on social media, and making your social campaigns live.

Celebrate

There are a lot of steps to building a creative piece, so don’t underestimate the work that goes into it! After you launch the piece be sure to have a beer, give yourself a pat on the back, or do whatever it is you need to do to celebrate.


Post-ideation: What we came up with

After the process outlined above, our team came up with 50 States of Bacon.

The idea was simple: Everyone likes bacon, but who likes it the most? Ginny’s caters to a lot of people who love deep frying, so this was on-brand. We decided to use Instagram’s (now difficult to access) API to extract 33,742 photos that were tagged with #bacon and located within the USA. To normalize for population distribution and Instagram usage, we also collected 64,640 photos with the tags #food, #breakfast, #lunch, and #dinner.

To make this data more visual, we made it interactive and included some fun facts for each state.


What happened after we launched the piece?

So, what happened after we launched the piece? Let’s dive in.

Here are some of the larger websites 50 States of Bacon got picked up on.

Website

Domain Authority

Other

US News

94

Tweeted from account (115K+)

Mashable

96

Tweeted from account (6.95M+)

AOL Lifestyle

98

Referred 1,200+ visitors

Eater

85

N/A

Daily Dot

85

Tweeted from account (274K+)

Here is what the LRDs and DA looked like before we launched the piece, and then after 4 months of it being live:

Before Launch

4 Months Later

Linking Root Domains

450

600

Domain Authority

29

36

Let’s break this down by metric. Here’s a graph of the LRDs over time (we launched the piece at about the start of the uplift).

The domain authority didn’t budge until about 4 months after we launched the piece. We weren’t actively pursuing any other link-based campaigns during this time, so it’s safe to say the creative piece had a lot to do with this boost in DA.

Note: Since DA is refreshed with new pools of data, this observation wouldn’t have been as valid if the DA only moved one or two positions. But, since it moved 7 positions so close to the launch of this piece, I feel like it’s safe to assume the piece contributed greatly.

Does this mean if you do a similar piece that your DA will also increase? No. Does it give us a good example on what can happen? Absolutely.


A note on LRDs, DA, and setting expectations

Setting expectations with clients is hard. That’s even more true when you both know that links may be even more important than user engagement with your campaign. To make sure expectations are reasonable, you may want to encourage them to see this campaign as one of many over a long period of time. Then there’s less pressure on any individual piece.

So, it’s important to set expectations upfront. I would never tell a client that we can guarantee a certain number of links, or that we guarantee an increase in domain authority.

Instead, we can guarantee a piece of content that is well-built, well-researched, and interesting to their target audience. You can go one step further and guarantee reaching out to X amount of contacts, and you can estimate how many of those contacts will respond with a “yes” or “no.”

In fact, you should set goals. How much traffic would you like the piece to bring? What about social shares? What seems like a reasonable amount of LRD’s you could gain from a piece like this? Benchmark where you currently are, and make some reasonable goals.

The point I’m trying to make is that you shouldn’t promise your client a certain amount of links because, frankly, you’d be lying to them. Be upfront about what this looks like and show examples of work you’ve done before, but make sure to set their expectations correctly up front to avoid any conflicts down the road.


Conclusion

There’s a lot to be learned from the results of creative campaigns. The goal of this article is to share one piece that I’ve worked on with a client while highlighting some things that I learned/observed along the way. If you’d like to see more campaigns we’ve worked on at Distilled, take a look at our creative roundup for last year.

To wrap things up, here are the key takeaways:

  • Creative pieces take a lot of thought, work, and time. Don’t underestimate the task at hand.
  • Don’t frame the project as only focused on gaining links. Instead, aim for creating a compelling piece of content that is on-brand and has the potential to gain traction.
  • Oftentimes it’s best not to put all your eggs in one basket. Plan multiple pieces throughout the year.
  • If your research is right and you pitch the piece to the correct people, this is a strategy that can gain your domain some very strong LRDs. In this particular case, 110 linking root domains (and counting).
  • …But those links won’t come easy. You need to pre-pitch, remind, and re-pitch your contacts. There are many great pieces of content being published daily; you need to be proactive about ensuring your spots online.
  • There are other benefits to doing pieces like this aside from links. Social shares, brand awareness, and referral traffic are some other metrics to look at.
  • It is possible to increase your DA by doing a piece like this, but it takes time. Be patient, and continue doing great work in the meantime.

Other thoughts

  • There are some arguments to be made that a piece of content like this only has spikes and doesn’t do any good for a brand. I don’t believe this to be true. The way I see it, if a piece is too evergreen, it might not gain as many strong links. At the same time, if a piece is completely left-field and doesn’t fit with the brand, the links might not be as impactful. I think there’s a fine line here; it should be up to your best judgment on the pieces you should create.
  • This piece could potentially be updated every year to gain more links or traction (although it would be a lot more difficult with Instagram drastically limiting their API).
  • It’s possible that this piece didn’t have a direct impact on DA, but because there were no other link acquisition strategies during the 4 months, we can safely assume the two are correlated.
  • There’s an argument to be made that jumping from the 20s to the 30s is much easier than from 40s to 50s when you’re speaking of DA. We know that it gets more difficult to increase DA as it gets higher, so do keep that in mind.

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!

3 Surprising Lessons From Building 26,000 Links

Posted by KelseyLibert

The Fractl team has worked on hundreds of content marketing projects. Along the way, we’ve kept track of a lot of data, including everywhere our client campaigns have been featured, what types of links each campaign attracted, and how many times each placement was shared.

While we regularly look back on our data to evaluate performance per campaign and client, until now we’d never analyzed all of these data in aggregate. After combing through 31,000 media mentions and 26,000 links, here’s what we found.

What-Building-26000-Links-Taught-Us-About-Content-Marketing.jpg

Most high-authority links don’t receive a lot of social shares.

Most marketers assume that if they build links on high-authority sites, the shares will come. In a Whiteboard Friday from last year, Rand talks about this trend. BuzzSumo and Moz analyzed 1 million articles and found that over 75 percent received no social shares at all. When they looked at all links – not just articles – this number rose to around 90 percent.

We (wrongfully) assumed this wouldn’t be the case with high-quality links we’ve earned. It turns out, even the majority of our links on sites with a high Domain Authority (DA) didn’t get any social shares:

  • 52 percent of links with a DA over 89 received zero shares.
  • 50 percent of links with a DA over 79 received zero shares.
  • 54 percent of links with a DA over 59 received zero shares.

On average, our campaigns get 110 placements and 11,000 social shares, yet a single link accounts for about 63 percent of total shares. This means that if you exclude the top-performing link from every campaign, our average project would only get 4,100 social shares.

Since most links don’t yield social shares, marketers with goals of both link building and social engagement should consider a strategy for gaining social traction in addition to a strategy for building a diverse link portfolio.

The social strategy can be as simple as targeting a few key websites that routinely yield high social shares. It’s also helpful to look at target sites’ social media accounts. When they post their own articles, what kind of engagement do they get?

Of all the sites that covered our campaigns, the following five sites had the highest average social shares for our content. We know we could depend on these sites in the future for high social engagement.

sites-with-social-shares.jpg

Exceptions to the rule

Some content can definitely accomplish both high engagement and social shares. The BuzzSumo and Moz study found that the best types of content for attracting links and social shares are research-backed content or opinion pieces. Long-form content (more than 1,000 words) also tends to attract more links and shares than shorter content. At Fractl, we’ve found the same factors – an emotional hook, a ranking or comparison, and a pop culture reference – tend to encourage both social sharing and linking.

Few sites will always link to you the same way.

To ensure you’re building a natural link portfolio, it’s important to keep track of how sites link to your content. You’ll learn if you’re earning a mix of dofollow links, nofollow links, cocitation links, and brand mentions for each campaign. We pay close attention to which types of links our campaigns earn. Looking back at these data, we noticed that publishers don’t consistently link the same way.

The chart below shows a sample of how 15 high-authority news sites have linked to our campaigns. As you can see, few sites have given dofollow links 100 percent of the time. Based on this, we can assume that a lot of top sites don’t have a set editorial standard for link types (although plenty of sites will only give nofollow links).

link type.png

While getting a site to cover your content is something to be celebrated, not every placement will result in a dofollow link. And just because you get a dofollow link from a site once doesn’t mean you should always expect that type of link from that publisher.

Creating a lot of visual assets is a waste of time in certain verticals.

There’s an ongoing debate within Fractl’s walls over whether or not creating a lot of visual assets positively impacts a campaign’s reach enough to justify the additional production time. To settle this debate, we looked at our 1,300 top placements to better understand how publishers covered our campaigns’ visual assets (including both static image and video). This sample was limited to articles on websites with a DA of 70 or higher that covered our work at least four times.

We found that publishers in different verticals had divergent tendencies regarding visual asset coverage. The most image-heavy vertical was entertainment, and the least was education.

assets-per-vertical.jpg

Some of the variation in asset counts is based on how many assets were included in the campaign. Although this does skew our data, we do receive useful information from this analysis. The fact that top entertainment publishers used an average of nine assets when they cover our campaigns indicates a high tolerance for visual content from outside sources. Verticals with lower asset averages may be wary of external content or simply prefer to use a few key visuals to flesh out an article.

Keeping these publisher vertical preferences in mind when developing content can help your team better allocate resources. Rather than spending a lot of effort designing a large set of visual assets for a campaign you want to be placed on a finance site, your time may be better spent creating one or two awesome visualizations. Similarly, it’s worthwhile to invest in creating a variety of visual assets if you’re pitching entertainment and health sites.

Analyzing our entire link portfolio taught us a few new things that challenged our previous assumptions:

  • High DA sites don’t necessarily attract a lot of social engagement. Just because a site that linked to you has a huge audience doesn’t mean that audience will share your content.
  • Most sites don’t consistently use the same types of links. Got a dofollow link from a site one time? Don’t expect it to be the norm.
  • Certain publisher verticals are more likely to feature a lot of visual assets. Depending on which verticals you’re targeting, you might be wasting time on designing lots of visuals.

While I hope you’ve learned something from Fractl’s internal study, I want you to see the broader lesson: the value of measuring and analyzing your own content campaign data as a means to improve your process. If you’ve done a similar analysis of links earned from content marketing, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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!

A Process You Can Follow to Become an Influencer in Your Industry

The term influencer is being tossed around a lot these days.

I would even classify it as one of the top 10 buzzwords of 2016.

Influencer marketing is quickly becoming one of the hottest and most effective strategies in existence.

In fact, “59 percent of marketers use influencer engagement campaigns for product launches and content creation.”

This technique gets results because businesses make $6.50 for every dollar invested in influencer marketing, according to a poll of marketing professionals conducted by Tomoson.

But what about when YOU’RE the influencer? You’re the one calling the shots.

Becoming an influencer in your industry can have immense benefits.

You can use your experience and credibility to sway the opinion of others, build trust, develop your brand, and so on.

But how exactly does one become an influencer?

While there’s no magic recipe and a lot of variables involved, I’ve found there is a distinct process you can follow.

It definitely takes time to achieve this status, but following the right steps should eventually elevate you to influencer status.

What is an Influencer?

First things first. What do I mean when I say influencer?

Influencer Analysis is dead on with their definition:

“An influencer is an individual who has above-average impact on a specific niche process. Influencers are normal people, who are often connected to key roles of media outlets, consumers groups, industry associations or community tribes.”

In other words, people recognize that you’re an expert (or at least highly knowledgeable) in your industry and that you’ve got a sizable following.

This might include a loyal legion of blog subscribers, social media followers, etc.

Keep in mind you don’t need to do it on the macro scale to be an influencer. You don’t have to be Taylor Swift or Jay Z.

In fact, there are countless micro-influencers who may not be recognized on the large scale but hold a lot of sway nonetheless.

Some people who come to mind include Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income and Tim Ferriss.

At the core of it all, influencers have authority, and their word is as good as gold.

People recognize the value they bring to the table and are genuinely interested in what they have to say.

I’ve found that the process of becoming an influencer has five key steps.

Step 1 – Focus on a niche

The first and most important step to becoming an influencer is to focus on what you’re passionate about.

You can’t be everything to everyone. To gain traction and be recognized as an authority figure, people need to link your name to a particular niche.

Take Darren Rowse of ProBlogger, for example.

He’s a blogger, podcaster, speaker, and author who specializes in one specific area: blogging.

His name is synonymous with blogging, and his website is one of the top resources for learning about blogging and how to become a better blogger.

Notice that he doesn’t talk about fashion, ice skating, or cooking. His core focus is on blogging. That’s it.

image02

While you don’t have to completely pigeonhole yourself, it’s important that you pick a particular niche and focus wholeheartedly on it.

You need to eat, sleep, and breathe your niche. This allows you to establish authority in a particular area.

Ideally, in time, people will recognize your expertise and take notice.

They’ll want to follow you on whatever outlets you use (e.g., a blog, Twitter, and/or industry publications) and be interested in what you have to say.

Step 2 – Share your knowledge

To make a name for yourself and establish a presence, you need to create plenty of industry-centric content.

This is vital because it’s a surefire way to prove that you know your stuff and demonstrate the value you bring.

Fortunately, this has never been easier to do than today.

With a ton of media outlets available, there’s no shortage of mediums to choose from.

A good old-fashioned blog is one of the best places to get started, and it provides you with a platform to develop your unique voice.

In fact, “86 percent of influencers also operate at least one blog.” And I feel that launching my own personal blog has been a contributing factor to getting to where I’m at today.

You’ll definitely want to be active on social media as well.

Ideally, you’ll create and maintain profiles on at least three different networks because this increases your reach and gives you the opportunity to establish a strong brand identity.

It’s also great because you can connect with other like-minded people in your industry.

Notice that Darren Rowse has a solid presence on multiple social networks:

image06

However, a blog and social media are just the tip of the iceberg.

There are countless other mediums you can use to demonstrate your knowledge and boost your “street cred.”

Some options include:

  • Podcasting
  • Creating webinars
  • Creating videos
  • Slideshows
  • Whitepapers
  • Infographics

I’m also a huge proponent of writing a book.

There’s something about authorship that can really skyrocket your credibility and make people take notice.

An e-book is nice, but a legitimate printed book is even better.

Just think about it.

If someone lands on your website and sees that you’ve published a book, they’ll probably take you a lot more seriously than they would have otherwise.

Your perceived value can quickly go through the roof this way.

image00

Legitness!

Finally, there’s guest-blogging.

While this strategy got some heat for awhile because of its association with potential Google penalties, it’s still incredibly effective, especially for establishing yourself as an influencer.

I attribute a lot of my success to the fact that I made it a point to be featured on publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

Guest-blogging is awesome because it kills two birds with one stone. Or six birds. Or more.

image01

First, you can reach a huge audience basically overnight.

Say the blog or publication you post on has 100,000 readers. You can get your content in front of a large-scale audience and tangibly demonstrate the industry knowledge and expertise you bring to the table.

Second, you can increase your perceived value dramatically. Being associated with other leaders and influencers in your industry elevates your brand equity significantly.

This way, you can piggyback on their success and use it to establish yourself as a viable influencer.

If you’re looking for some guidance on the guest-blogging process, I recommend checking out this post from Kissmetrics. It has some super helpful tips.

The bottom line here is that you’ll need to put forth plenty of effort, creating a lot of quality content and distributing it across a variety of mediums.

This is key for getting your name out there and getting the ball rolling.

Step 3 – Have an opinion

What’s one thing that all influencers have in common?

They have their own take on things. They have a voice. They have an opinion.

This is what makes them distinguishable from the masses and what gives them their swagger.

What they aren’t is vanilla or lukewarm on topics.

With 1,400 blog posts, 2,460,000 pieces of Facebook content, and 277,000 tweets posted each minute, there’s an immense amount of noise on the Internet.

In order to rise above it, you need to be an independent thinker.

Quite frankly, I think it’s better to be occasionally offensive or to go against the grain than to be 100% agreeable all the time.

Not that you should go out of your way to stir the pot, but it’s okay for your thoughts to deviate from the norm.

People are attracted to those who can think for themselves and have their own views on things.

Whatever industry you’re in, hold true to your values, and be sure to have your own opinion.

This is essential for eventually becoming an influencer.

Step 4 – Network, network, network

Once you’ve established yourself to some extent, you need to make an effort to connect with others.

I’ve found that one of the best ways to create leverage is to network with other influencers.

Or as Marketing Land puts it,

“To establish yourself as an influencer, you need to interact with influencers.”

But when you’re an up-and-comer and still working to establish yourself, you’re usually the one who will need to put in the legwork.

Seldom will the heavy hitters reach out to you (at least at first). That’s why you’ll need to be the one to reach out.

There are two main ways to do this.

One is to connect digitally, and the other is to connect in person.

The first option is usually done via interacting with prominent people on social media and commenting on their blog posts and other content they post.

The goal here is to start a conversation and gradually build rapport. This takes time and can’t be done overnight, so you need to be persistent about it.

For example, you might get in the habit of providing insightful comments at the end of an influencer’s blog posts that further the conversation.

After three or four times, it’s likely they’ll take notice of you, and this can open doors for the future.

But how do you know with whom to interact?

If you need some help deciding whom to target, I recommend using Buzzsumo.

The site has a section devoted to tracking down top influencers.

image03

Just click on “Influencers,” and type in the topic you’re interested in.

I’ll use “content marketing” as an example.

After entering this as a search term, I got a list of content that received a ridiculously high number of shares. Also listed are the people who wrote these pieces.

image05

This can be an effective way to find the people you should try to connect with.

The second option is to network in person.

Some ways to do this include:

  • attending industry tradeshows,
  • going to conferences/industry events, and
  • landing public speaking engagements.

Public speaking in particular can be a potent way to make connections because all eyes are on you, and you never know who could be in attendance—it could be a huge influencer who holds a lot of sway.

Step 5 – Engage your audience

Last but not least, you need to keep the conversation going.

Seldom do people want to follow someone who tries to be all high and mighty and acts as if they’re too good to interact with their followers.

They want to follow someone who’s real, accessible, and approachable.

That’s why you need to put in the effort to religiously respond to blog comments, reply to messages on social media, thank people for reading your content, etc.

Here’s an example of me responding to a comment on my blog:

image04

I would also recommend occasionally sharing outstanding content that members of your audience post on social media or commenting on their blogs as well.

That, right there, can be huge for boosting your brand equity and for forming super tight relationships.

The trick is to capitalize on the momentum you generate and to keep the ball rolling.

Conclusion

I’ll be honest. Becoming an influencer isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight.

It takes a lot of hard work, consistent effort, and persistence. Even after you become an influencer, you need to keep your foot on the gas pedal to maintain your status.

Although it’s not easy, it’s definitely worthwhile.

The great thing about it is that building influence has a snowball effect. While you may only have a minimal amount of influence when first starting out, this grows and grows over time.

After awhile, your influence can become immense without you having to put a lot of extra effort into it.

In other words, the first stages are the most difficult and time-consuming.

But after you establish yourself, you simply need to maintain your status, and the world becomes your proverbial oyster.

What specific things do you hope to achieve by becoming an influencer in your industry?

5 Chrome Apps I Can’t Live Without

photo-1461773518188-b3e86f98242fAs a blogger and social media strategist, there are a few things I absolutely would not be caught dead without.

I have to keep on top of a ton of tasks in all my roles, and the faster and more efficiently I can get these done, the better! Having important tools only a click away makes all the difference in the world – hence why I love keeping my Chrome toolbar stocked with things I need every day.

The current state of my toolbar:

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-10-11-38-am

Ok so there’s more than five, but some tools I can live without!

5 Chrome Apps I Can’t Live Without

1. Buzzsumo

Ever since Twitter icons the world over stopped showing the tweet count of every post, it’s been harder to see who has tweeted your content, and when. This isn’t what you want when you’re in charge of social media strategy and having to compile reports (or even if you just want to keep track, thank the tweeters, etc)!

Fortunately the Buzzsumo Chrome extension is a handy tool to see exactly what you want – It still shows tweet counts, and who were the sharers. It also gives you a great social media overview without having to open and log into the Buzzsumo site.

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-10-59-54-am

Buzzsumo is a godsend for analysis on what content performs best and where.

One of the things I’ve noticed though, is that she share count isn’t totally accurate if you’ve recently removed the dates from your URLs. This can be super useful for SEO purposes, but it does then skew your Buzzsumo data as it only counts the shares of your new URL, not the old.

As you can see, one of my most popular posts on Veggie Mama looks like hardly anyone cared at all!

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-11-07-29-am

 

Whereas the share reality is far different:

 

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-11-07-52-am

However, it is a great tool for quickly checking the success of yours and others’ posts – particularly if you curate content for social media channels (or roundups posts, like I do here).

And, of course, you can still manually search for shares (although it’s obviously a bit more involved).

2. CoSchedule

I use CoSchedule multiple times a day, so I’m usually always logged in and the site open in a tab.

However, if I’m casually reading on a weekend or haven’t got it open for some reason, I can quickly share or schedule an interesting post for my audience, right from that post with the CoSchedule app on the Chrome toolbar.

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-11-06-35-am

You simply click on the icon and this page will pop up, allowing you to personalise your message and set a time for it to go live.

3. RSS Feed Reader

Part of my duties both at ProBlogger, as a blogger, and managing the social media for other small businesses is curating content to go out on social media. It’s also imperative that I keep up-to-date with current news and trends in the online world to help keep up my skills and knowledge in my industry.

Enter the old-school RSS feed reader, totally available from my toolbar!

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-11-09-47-am

I have mine set to feed me the most popular and shared content across three platforms (I will be expanding this): Tech, vegetarian news, and blogging, according to share counts from Buzzsumo.

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-11-09-59-am

At the click of a button I can see what is the most popular content across all three niches, ready for me to share with our audience, or to help me stay abreast of current online affairs.

4. Ahalogy (or other Pinterest scheduler)

I love the easily-pinned images found on blogs and websites the world over, but I don’t always want to pin that content right away.

If I’m hoping to schedule something to pin later (particularly if I’ve gone on a bit of a Pinning spree), I use my current Pinterest scheduler, which is Ahalogy. I have also used Tailwind and found that toolbar app useful also.

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-11-22-21-am

I love using a scheduling app that puts your pin in your current queue, or allows you to manually set a scheduled time.

5. The Great Suspender

As I’m sure you can imagine, I have many tabs open and on the go at any one time – keeping track of everything all the time is a massive job that can easily suck your data and your battery dry.

Enter The Great Suspender, available from the Chrome Web Store!

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-11-23-27-am

After a certain amount of time, your computer will suspend any tabs that haven’t been used, but will unsuspend immediately you reload the page. You can also whitelist your favourite pages so they will always stay open.

It can often shut off when you might not want it to – for example, if you’re downloading something or listening to music or the radio on a webplayer, so be warned!

Also, you will be prompted to save your work or stay on a page if the suspender attempts to suspend a tab before you’ve saved what you were working on. Yay!

Special Mentions

I do use these apps often, and find them invaluable, but would still survive if they weren’t on my daily toolbar!

Clip to Evernote

Having said all that, I’ve used the article clipper on Evernote a whole bunch this last week – it helps me keep my posts-to-read-for-later in their appropriate folders, and also makes it easier for me to send information to shared folders for my clients (or my podcast co-host) to read.

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-11-29-00-am

You can clip any part of the article or send the entire thing to your Evernote. I’ve found it particularly useful when the post I’m reading doesn’t have an email option and I can’t email it to my relevant folder.

It’s saved me a lot of time and effort!

Simple Pomodoro

Simple Pomodoro is also a great app to have when you struggle to stay focused or find it hard to get through your to-do list without being distracted.

The app is based on the Pomodoro technique, which advises you to work for 20 minutes, then take a break, to help keep you on task.

The 5 Chrome Apps I Can't Live Without - as a blogger and social media strategies, these tools make my life so much easier | ProBlogger.net

You can set yourself a timer very quickly, and personalise the timeframe – I always do the 20 minute pomodoro, but you can also choose 5, 10, 15 or multiple minutes.

So these are the tools I have on hand to be the best blogger and social media manager I can be! I hope they’re helpful to you too – do you have favourite toolbar apps you just can’t live without? I’d love to hear in the comments!

The post 5 Chrome Apps I Can’t Live Without appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

How to Appear in Google’s Answer Boxes – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Featured snippets are the name of the rankings game. Often eclipsing organic results at the top of the SERPs, “ranking zero” or capturing an answer box in Google can mean increased clicks and traffic to your site. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains the three types of featured snippets and how you can best position yourself to grab those coveted spots in the SERPs.

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 answer boxes, those featured snippets that Google puts in ranking position zero, oftentimes above the rest of the organic results, usually below some of the top ads, and sometimes they can draw a ton of the clicks away from the rest of the 10 results that would normally appear in Google’s organic ranking.

Now, thanks to our friends up at STAT in Vancouver — Rob Bucci specifically, who did a great presentation at MozCon, he delivered some really interesting research — and so we know a little bit more about the world of featured snippets. Specifically, that there are three kinds of featured snippets or answer boxes, if you prefer, that appear in Google’s results on both mobile and desktop. Now, Rob used desktop-based, but in my research I checked through all the examples that I could find, and the same featured snippets that we saw in desktop were replicated on mobile. So I think this is a pretty one-to-one ratio that’s going on here.

The three were paragraphs, lists, and tables. I’ll show you examples of all of those. But globally, we’re talking about 15% of all queries in STAT’s database that came up with one of these answer boxes.

Paragraphs

So I did a search here for “Istanbul history.” You can see that Wikipedia is not just ranking number one, they’re also ranking number zero. So they have this nice featured snippet. It’s got a photo or an image that’ll appear on the right-hand side on desktop or on top of the text in mobile, and then the snippet, which essentially tries to give you a brief answer, a quick answer to the question. Now, of course, this query is pretty broad, I probably want to know a lot more about Istanbul’s history than the fact that it was a human settlement for 3,000 years. But if you want just that quick answer, you can get those.

There are paragraph answers for all sorts of things. These are about 63% of all the answer boxes are in paragraph format.

Lists

Lists look like this. So I search for “strengthen lower back,” I get, again, that image and then I get — this is from wikiHow, so quality, questionable — but back strengthening exercises. They say, number one, do pelvic tilting. Number two, do hip bridges. Number three, do floor swimming. Number four, do the bird dog exercise. That sounds exciting and painful. This is from an article called “How to Strengthen Lower Back,” and it’s on wikiHow’s URL there. These lists, that are usually in numeric or they can be in bullet point format, so either one can appear, they’re about 19% of answers.

Tables

And then finally, we have ones like this. I searched for “WordPress hosting comparison.” These tables show up in a lot of places where you see a comparison or a chart-type of view. In this case, there actually was a visual of an actual graph, and then performance of the best WordPress hosting companies, the name, the account type, the cost per month. This is from wpsitecare.com. Again, this was ranking, I believe, number two or number three and also ranking number zero. So this is sort of great. I can’t remember who was ranking number one, but they’re ranking ahead of the number one spot, as well, by being in this position zero.

Via WPSiteCare in Google’s results

These are about 16% of answers, so really close on tables and lists. This is via STAT’s featured snippet research, which I will link to. It’s a great PDF document that you can check out from Rob that I’ll point to in the Whiteboard Friday. Also worth checking out is Bill Slawski’s post on how Google pulls structured data from websites’ tables.

In addition to knowing this about featured snippets, that, hey, it’s a fairly substantive quantity of things, it can also jump you above the rest of the results, and there are these three different formats, we had a bunch of questions and we keep getting them on, “How do I get in there?” I actually have some great answers for you. So not only has Rob and his team been doing some research, but we’ve done some research and some testing work here at Moz, and Dr. Pete has done a bunch. So I do have some suggestions, some recommendations for you if you’re going to try and get into these featured snippets.

Best practices to appear in the answer box/featured snippet

1. Identify queries in KW research that, implicitly or explicitly, ask a question.

You actually need to do your keyword research and identify those queries that implicitly or explicitly are asking a question. The question needs to be slightly broader than what Google can deliver directly out of Knowledge Graph.

So for example, if you were to ask, “How old is Istanbul,” they might say “3,000 years old.” They might not even give any citation at all to Wikipedia or any other website. If I were to ask, “How old is Rand Fishkin,” they might put in 37, and they might give absolutely no citation, no link at all, no credit to any page of mine on the web. Again, very frustrating.

So these are essentially queries that we’re looking for in our keyword research that are slightly broader than a single line or single piece of knowledge, but they do demand a question that it’s being answered. You can find those in your keyword research pretty easily. If you go into Keyword Explorer, for example, and you use the suggestions filter for our questions, virtually all of those are. But many things, like Istanbul history, it’s an implicit question, not an explicit one. So you can get featured snippets for those as well.

2. Seek out queries that already use the answer box. If the competition’s doing a poor job, these are often easy to grab.

You want to seek out queries that already use the answer box. So again, if you’re using a tool like Keyword Explorer or something — I believe STAT does this as well — where they will identify the types of results that are in the query. You’re looking for these answer box- or featured snippets-types of results. If they are in there and someone else already owns it, that means you can usually leapfrog them by providing a better-formatted, more accurate, more complete, or higher-ranking answer.

So if you’re ranking number three or number four and the number two or number one result is producing that answer box and you reformat your content (and I’ll talk about how we can do that in a sec), you reformat your content to meet one of these items, the correct one, whichever one is being triggered, you can leapfrog them. You can take that position zero away from your competition and earn it for yourself. It’s especially easy when they’re doing a poor job. If they’ve got a weak result in there, and there are a lot of these that are very weak today, you can often take them away.

3. Ranking #1 can help, but isn’t required! Google will pull from any first page result.

Ranking number one is helpful, but it is not required. Google will pull from any first-page result. In fact, you can test this for yourself. Very frequently, if you do a query that pulls up an answer box and then you take the query string and you add “&num=100”, or you change your settings in Google Search such that Google shows 50 or 100 results, they are often going to pull from a lower-down result, sometimes in the bottom 30 or 40 results rather than the top 10. So Google is essentially triggering this answer result from anything that appears on page one of the query, which is awesome for all of us because it means that we could be ranking number 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and still get the answer box if we do other things correctly, like…

4. Format and language are essential! Match the paragraph, or table, and use the logical answer to the query terms in your title/caption/label/section header.

Format and language. These are essential. The language means the language used. We need to use the terms and phrases a little more literally than we would with a lot of other types of keyword targeting, because Google really, really seems to like, if I search for “strengthen lower back,” they are showing me an article called “strengthen lower back,” not “back strengthening for newbies” or that kind of thing. They are much more literal in most of these than we’ve seen them be, thanks to technologies like RankBrain and Hummingbird, with other kinds of queries.

We also need to make sure that we’re matching the paragraph, the list, or the table format and that we’re using a logical answer to those query terms. That answer can be in the title of your web page, but it can also be in the caption of an image, the label of a section, or a section header. In this case, for example, part three of this article was back strengthening exercises. That’s where they’re pulling from. In this case, they have “City of Istanbul” and then they have history and that’s the section. In this case, it’s the performance chart that’s shown right at the top of the web page. But they will pull from inside a document. So as long as you’re structured in one section or in the document as a whole correctly, you can get in there.

5. Be accurate. Google tend to favor stronger, more correct responses.

You want to be accurate. Google actually does tend to favor more accurate results.I know you might say, “How do I know I’m being accurate? Some of this information is very subjective.” It is true. Google tends to look at sources that they trust to look for words and phrases and structured information that matches up many, many times over across many trusted sites, and then they will show results that match what are in those trusted sites more often.
So for example, many folks point out, “What about in political spheres where there might be arguments about which one is correct?” Google will tend to prefer the more accurate one from a scientific consensus-type of basis or from trusted resources, like an NPR or a Wikipedia or a census.gov or those kinds of things. Not necessarily from those domains, but information that matches what is on those domains. If your census numbers don’t match what’s on the actual census.gov, Google might start to trust you a little less.

6. Entice the clicks by using Google’s maximum snippet length to your advantage.

This is less about how to rank there, but more about how to earn traffic from it. If you’re ranking in position zero, you might be frustrated that Google is going to take those clicks away from you because the searcher is going to get the answer before they ever need to click on your site, thus you don’t earn the traffic.

We’ve seen this a little bit, but, in fact, most of the time when we rank number zero, we see that we get more traffic than just ranking number one by itself. You’re essentially getting two, because you rank number zero plus whatever normal or organic position you’re in. You can entice the click by using Google’s maximum snippet length to your advantage. Meaning, they are not going to put all the different numbered answers in the lists here from wikiHow, they’re only going to put the first four or five. Therefore, if you have a list that is six or seven or eight items long, someone has to click to see them all. Same thing with the paragraph. They’re only going to use a certain number of characters, and so if you have a paragraph that leads into the next paragraph or that goes long with the character count or the word count, you can again draw that click rather than having Google take that traffic away.

With this information at your disposal, you should be armed and ready to take over some of those result number zeros, get some answer boxes, some featured snippets on your side. I look forward to hearing your questions. I would love to hear if you’ve got some examples of featured snippets, where you’re ranking, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Using Google Analytics with Leadfeeder for B2B Lead Generation

Google Analytics is an important tool for marketers. It’s used to understand how people come to your website, how different content performs and how to get more conversions. All this is essential for knowing how to drive more high-quality traffic to your website.

For most B2B firms, the main purpose of their website is to generate sales leads by getting visitors to fill in some kind of contact form. But many see that just a fraction of visitors leave their contact information, and as a result, salespeople don’t get enough good quality leads from their website. So what can be done to improve this situation?

This guide will show you the 3 best ways to generate leads with Google Analytics:

1. Using Google Analytics Network report
2. Using a custom Google Analytics report template tool
3. Using Google Analytics with Leadfeeder for lead generation

One way to gain more leads from your website is identifying companies that visit, based on their IP address. With this data, you can have some information about the 98% of visitors that don’t explicitly contact you. When people visit a website using their office network, marketers can identify that someone from a certain company has visited and pinpoint what they have done there. For B2B outbound sales teams, this information can be very valuable.

If you see a company visiting your website, there’s a high probability that they’re in need of- and evaluating your product, which is the perfect time to get in touch with them.

Based on the IP address alone, it’s impossible to know exactly the name of the visitor, but in many cases this information is not needed. For example, if you sell email marketing tools and a company comes to your website and browses product pages, it’s a strong signal they are looking for a new email marketing tool. When you contact them, you want to contact the person who’s responsible for digital marketing, regardless of who visited your website.

For effective lead generation purposes, you should be able to identify real companies that have visited your website and see how they have behaved, to evaluate if they are a good lead.

1. Using Google Analytics Network Report

Using the Network report is the most common way to see which companies have been visiting your website. There have been many blog posts about this topic, for example this LunaMetrics post by Dan Wilkerson from 2012, this how-to article from Anna Lewis and a post by Traian Neacsu on uncovering hidden leads.

But these posts are all now a couple of years old and the Google Analytics interface has changed quite a lot since then. These days (2016) you can find the Network report in Google Analytics under Audience > Technology > Network.

Network report in Google Analytics

In the Network report (seen above) you will see a list of “Service Providers”. What Google Analytics means by “Service Provider” is the network where the visitor has been when they visited your website. Networks are always owned and registered by someone; typically a company, Internet Service Provider or some other organization.

One challenge in using the Network report is that many times the IP is registered by an Internet Service Provider (ISP) or some other non-interesting organization. In order to see the real companies, you should filter out ISPs from the list. The easiest way of doing this is to use the advanced search button and select to exclude Service Providers that match the following RegExp (just copy/paste this to the filter):

(not set|customer|internet|broadband|isp|cable com|network|tele|dsl|subscriber|pool|telecom|cable|addresses|telefonica|routed|leased line|communication|comcast|verizon|road runner|service provider|unknown|provider|t-mobile|wifi|telkom|sprint|at-t|residential|province|vodafone|clients|china|dial-up|netblock|wimax|wireless|elisa|sonera|dna oy|at&t|assigned|sl-cgn|block|consumers|kpn|telia|bredband|google|hosting|zscaler|city of|tdc|hubspot) 

Now the list of visiting companies should look a lot cleaner. If you wish to filter the results even further, e.g. only companies from a specific country, you should create a segment out of visitors from that country and look at the report again.

By default for each company in the list you can see how many sessions they have had during the selected time interval, how many pages they have visited and other metrics. When you click on one company, you can get to a more detailed report, like this one below.

In this view, select “Page Title” or “Page” as secondary dimension to know which pages the company has visited. This way you know what they have done on your website and what they were interested in. If they were visiting relevant product pages or they spent a lot to time on your site but didn’t contact you, maybe it’s a good lead for your outbound sales team to contact.

Using Network report to see what company did on the website

If you would really like to know what each company and their employees have done on your website, you can go to the brand new User Explorer report under the Audience section in Google Analytics. This report was introduced in Google Analytics in April 2016 and in the report you can dive into individual visitors and their behavior.

To know what a company did on your website, just create a segment where the Service Provider matches the company you are interested in (see below).

Using User Explorer to see visitors from one company

By doing this Google Analytics shows you Client IDs (anonymous and unique IDs of each visitor) from that company and by clicking one client ID (one user) you can see all the behavior of that user on your website. This way you can have a good understanding about what any given person from one specific company did on your website. Pretty powerful stuff, as you can see below.

Using User Explorer to see visits of one user

2. Using a custom Google Analytics report template tool

At Leadfeeder we created a ready-to-use Google Analytics custom report that anyone can take into use for free. Just click the link below and attach it as a custom report to the Google Analytics View you typically use: 

https://analytics.google.com/analytics/web/template?uid=zAQeJwWfT0yxlk8wfPWaGA 

When you click this link, you will be directed to Google Analytics and asked which view you want to attach it to. Remember that by default this custom report will be visible only for you. If other users want to use this report, they should also click the Add to Dashboard link above.

B2B Lead generation report by Leadfeeder

Our custom tool by default shows the most interested companies that have visited your website. To be more precise, this is a list of companies after ISP filtering (using the filter pasted above) sorted by pages / session, with the most interesting visits on top.

Typically companies that have spent a lot of time and loaded many pages are more interested than companies with many short visits. Once you click an interesting company, you can see a list of days on which they have visited. When you click even further into a specific date, you can see a breakdown of all the pages they visited. If page titles are not descriptive enough or not set, you can use “Page” as a secondary dimension to see page URLs (as shows below).

Using B2B Lead generation report by Leadfeeder

In the tool you can see several tabs that you can use (see above). The most interested companies tab is selected by default, but you can also select the second tab – companies with most visitors – that shows companies that have most visits on your website. Many times here you can find ISPs that were not filtered out along with other non-interesting companies. If you like, you can drill into details in the same way as in the first tab.

The 3rd and 4th tabs in the report are selectors that you can use to filter data. For example, if you are only interested in German companies, go to “Selector: Visitor location” tab and select Germany. After that click to the first tab to see the most interested companies from Germany. If you have a sales representative located in Germany searching for German leads, you can automatically have Google Analytics send this lead list by daily or weekly email.

Automating notifications from B2B Lead generation tool by Leadfeeder

Similarly, if your sales team’s responsibilities are divided by product, then sales reps might only be interested in leads that have visited certain product pages. Go to “Selector: Visited page” tab and select the product page each sales rep is interested in. Again, after making the selection, go to the first tab to see the list of the most interested companies visiting that product page and automate lead reports to your sales rep’s mailbox. You can also combine these selectors to create a list of companies from a specific country that have visited a specific product page.

3. Using Google Analytics with Leadfeeder for lead generation

Using the Google Analytics user interface for lead generation is possible as you can see, but not very salesperson-friendly.

 In order to better generate leads from your website for your sales department and do much much more, we created an online tool called Leadfeeder. Since Google Analytics is already collecting all the data about your website visitors, Leadfeeder fetches this data from Google Analytics API and does all the data crunching for you.

Leadfeeder lead generation main report

Once you sign up to Leadfeeder, it fetches all visitor data from your Google Analytics for the past 30 days. You don’t need to install any codes or script on your website; all you need to do is permit Leadfeeder to access your Google Analytics.

The web app filters out ISPs (a lot more than the Google Analytics filters shown in this post) handing you a clean list of companies. Once you see an interesting company and click on it, you see visit-by-visit, page-by-page what they have done on your website (as shown below). Leads are also enriched with additional company information such as company branch and size. With all this information it’s easier to determine whether the lead is interesting and whether they should be contacted.

Leadfeeder showing which pages a company has visited

Not all website visitors are interesting, so you can use custom feeds to filter out bounces and view only companies that have behaved in a way you find interesting. For example, you can define a custom feed rule to only show companies from a certain country, from a specific industry, companies that have visited a set number of pages and have visited a specific page but haven’t contacted you.

Using this kind of custom feed you can get a much more relevant list of leads for your sales team. In many companies sales responsibilities are divided by region or product so it’s good practice to make custom feeds for individual sales reps for only their areas of responsibility. Salespeople can subscribe to their personal custom feed to get daily or weekly email notifications about new companies that visit their website and match the set criteria. Understanding the online behaviour of your website visitors combined with knowing the location of the company visit gives sales reps powerful weapons for successful follow-up.

Using custom feeds in Leadfeeder to filter lead list

Seeing a qualified list of interested companies is already powerful, but this sales intelligence should fit within your existing sales process to be really useful. We know it’s the dream of many sales reps to have good leads magically appear in their CRM without the need to do anything, so that’s why at Leadfeeder we have built integrations to sync visitor data with your CRM.

The integration to Pipedrive and WebCRM are made two-way, which means that in Leadfeeder you can see CRM data for the visiting company, while in your CRM you can see all the website visits the company has made, once it’s been connected.

This makes it easier for sales reps to distinguish between new and old clients in Leadfeeder, create accounts and opportunities in their CRM with one click from Leadfeeder, and see in their CRM how prospects are interacting with their website.

Using CRM integration to sending leads from Leadfeeder to CRM

If you are not using a CRM at all, leads can also be sent to sales reps by email or you can assign leads for them to see inside Leadfeeder. It’s good practice to invite the whole sales team to use Leadfeeder with their own user profiles and it’s free to add users.

In addition, if you are using Mailchimp for email marketing, you can connect it to Leadfeeder to see in Leadfeeder what individuals do on your website when they click through from one of your MailChimp campaigns. This is possible because Mailchimp tags links uniquely for all recipients and Leadfeeder can transform these unique links into email addresses. This way you can know exactly who the visitor was on your website.

Leadfeeder offers a free 30-day trial with no credit card required, so if you are in B2B business and would like to get more sales leads, go and sign up at www.leadfeeder.com.

Conclusions

Web analytics has made marketing a lot more intelligent during the last 10 years, but similar development hasn’t transferred to sales.

Web analytics has enabled email tools to evolve into marketing automation by tracking what email clickers do on your website and triggering follow-up emails. Display marketing, similarly, has evolved into very efficient remarketing, where ads are shown to those who have completed action on your website.

In short, there are a lot of digital signals potential customers are giving all the time, but those haven’t been utilized well in sales so far. Many sales reps come to work, open their CRM and start calling through a lead list someone has given them. Meanwhile there are lots of potential customers browsing their website but sales reps aren’t aware of who they are. Our aim at Leadfeeder is to make sales more intelligent by providing salespeople actionable web analytics intelligence about potential customers, thereby making sales more effective.

Posted by Pekka Koskinen, Google Analytics Certified Partner

Penguin 4.0: Was It Worth the Wait?

Posted by Dr-Pete

For almost two years (707 days, to be precise), one question has dominated the SEO conversation: “When will Google update Penguin?” Today, we finally have the answer. Google announced that a Penguin update is rolling out and that Penguin is now operating in real-time.

September has been a very volatile month for the SERPs (more on that later in the post), but here’s what we’re seeing in MozCast for the past two weeks, including last night:

In a normal month, a temperature of 82°F would be slightly interesting, but it’s hardly what many people were expecting, and September 2016 has been anything but a normal month. It takes time to refresh the entire index, though, so it’s likely Penguin volatility will continue for a few days. I’ll update this graph over the next few days if anything more interesting happens.

What happened in September?

September has been the most volatile month for SERPs since I started tracking temperatures in April of 2012 (just a couple of weeks before Penguin 1.0). To the best of my knowledge at this time, the volatility during the rest of September was not due to the Penguin 4.0 roll-out.

There are no official statements (currently) about other updates, but we’re aware of two things. First, many local SEOs saw major shifts around September 1st, when MozCast tracked a high of 108°F. This has been dubbed the Possum Update, and reports are that local pack URLs also moved substantially (MozCast does not track this data). We did see an overall drop in local pack presence in our data set on that day (about 7.3% day-over-day).

Second, between September 13th and 14th there was a massive drop in SERPs with image (vertical) results on page 1 in our data set. This caused substantial volatility, as image results occupy an organic position and so those SERPs got an extra organic result on page 1. The temperature that day was 111°F. Here’s the two-week graph of SERPs with image results on page 1:

SERPs with images in our data set dropped 49% overnight and have not recovered. I’ve hand-checked dozens of these results and have verified the drop. In some cases, images moved to deeper pages. It’s unclear if other vertical/universal results were affected.

Were you affected by Penguin 4.0?

I’ve often said that measuring algorithm flux is like tracking the unemployment rate. It’s interesting to the economy at large if the rate is 5% or 6%, but ultimately you either have a job or you don’t. If you were hit by an algorithm update, it’s little comfort that the MozCast temperature was low on that day.

Hopefully, if you were impacted by Penguin in the past and have made changes, those changes have been rewarded (or soon will be). The good news is that, now that Penguin is real-time, we shouldn’t have to wait another two years for a major refresh.

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!

Snapchat reveals its $130 Spectacles and rebrands as Snap Inc.


Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel has finally taken the wraps off the company’s long-rumored glasses project, Spectacles. Corroborating everything we’ve previously heard, Spiegel revealed that Spectacles are a set of $130 sunglasses that sport an integrated video camera with a 115-degree lens. Content recorded using the glasses is automatically pushed to the Memories section of the Snapchat application in a new circular video format — which can be played full screen in any orientation — via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Snapchat just solved the portrait vs landscape video argument forever pic.twitter.com/iOsKeaeXkb — Owen Williams⚡️ (@ow) September 24, 2016 To coincide with the release of its second product,…

This story continues at The Next Web

PB153: How I Diversified My Blogging Income and Became a Full Time Blogger

My Blogging Income Streams

Today, I’m going to talk about my income streams. In episode 150 I talked about how I make money blogging and broke it down by percentages.

Today I want to follow that episode up with the context. People may think that my report seems big and unattainable. People also have a tendency to compare themselves which isn’t a fair comparison because it is just a snapshot at the end of a journey.

problogger_153

In today’s episode, I am going to walk you through the last 13 years of my life, and through the timeline of how I have added income streams over that time.

image01

In Today’s Episode How I Diversified My Blogging Income and Became a Full Time Blogger

Note: you can listen to this episode here on iTunes (look for episode PB153).

  • November 2002 – I get an email from a friend that says, check out this blog. I liked what I saw, and I began blogging. I had no idea that you could make money from blogging. I just did it because I enjoyed it.
    • I spent a whole year learning about blogging.
    • I wrote a lot of content and got better as a writer.
    • I built traffic to my site.
    • I built engagement with my readership.
  • Years 2 and 3 – I started experimenting with monetizing. I built a second blog where I reviewed digital cameras. The reason I began experimenting with monetizing was that my blogs were costing me money and taking up a lot of time.
    • Google AdSense – Text based ads that I started putting on my blog. I was earning a few cents a day.
    • Amazon Associates Program – Link to products on Amazon and I earned a few cents a week. I was mostly linking to books.
    • I learned that if I was going to make more than a few cents a day, I needed to grow my traffic.
    • Optimizing income streams. Optimized AdSense – more ads, change size, change position and colors. Better placements and calls to action with Amazon affiliate ads.
    • With those 2 income streams, my income became close to full time. Now, I’m going to talk about ProBlogger and Digital Photography School
  • Years 4 and 5 – I added a few more income streams.
    • Direct ad sales – Advertisers were targeted my site. I knew Google took a cut, so I reached out directly to advertisers. $20 a month on first one.
    • Other affiliate programs
    • Promoted eBooks and products for other blogs
    • Added other advertising networks. Yahoo and Chitika At first, I thought it would decease my AdSense, but it held study.
    • Light bulb moment – my income will increase with adding income streams
    • ProBlogger Book Published by Wiley
    • ProBlogger – 6 Figure Blogging Course
  • Years 6 and 7 – I added 3 more income streams
    • Paid speaking
    • Experiment with some consulting – Blog Coaching – didn’t really suit my personality
    • Adding in the ProBlogger Job Board – small income at first, it has grown over the years and it gets 4 – 7 new jobs a day
  • Years 7 through 11 – I really focused on building products.
    • First one was an eBook – For Digital Photography School – It took me 4 months and I had to learn about shopping carts and everything else involved. It sold $70,000 in the first 11 days. This was a culmination of years of building engagement and putting it all together.
    • Launched an eBook on ProBlogger
    • A brand new income stream in a few months. Having my own products opened my eyes to a whole new world. We have since launched 35 eBooks.
    • A membership site on ProBlogger – a closed community with webinars etc. Not a lot of engagement, and I didn’t feel like I was contributing a lot of value. May tweak this idea in the future.
    • 2007 – First ProBlogger Event – These have a lot of expenses, but they are an income streams.
    • Printables on Digital Photography School
  • Years 12 and 13 – The last two years.
    • Extending the idea of eBooks and creating products
    • Courses on photography
    • Lightroom Presets

image00-1

Most of these income streams started out as little experiments. Some of them have taken off and grown and others have not. I hope this has been helpful for you and gives you some ideas for your monetization strategy.

Further Resources on How I Diversified My Blogging Income and Became a Full Time Blogger



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Hey there, it’s Darren from ProBlogger and welcome to Episode 153 of the ProBlogger Podcast where today I want to talk a little bit more about my income streams. Back in Episode 150, I outlined in some kind of an income report how I make my money blogging. I talked about the first half of 2016 and where the income came from. I broke it down not in terms of total numbers of how much money I earned but in terms of percentages.

I talked about how 46% of my income or my profit from that particular time came from affiliate commissions, 31% came from product sales, ebooks, presents, and those types of things. 8% came from AdSense, 6% from sponsorship, 5% from a job board, and 3% from our event, and then another 1% from other miscellaneous things. You can listen in a lot more detail to that income report.

I want to follow that particular episode up because one of the things that I’m really aware of as you get that snapshot of my income streams today. One of the things you don’t get when you get that snapshot is the context for it and how it came to be. I think that’s personally more useful to hear about. Hopefully, it will help those of you who feel a bit overwhelmed by that. Every time I do get that graph out and that chart out that I shared back in Episode 150 in the show notes there, I do get people going whoa, that just seems so big, so unattainable. How could I ever possibly get to that point where I’ve got all those different income streams?

The other thing that I do notice when I share this type of report and when I see other bloggers talking about their figures is that sometimes people feel like they just are comparing themselves. It’s very easy to do. I know I do it when I see other people income reports. It’s not really fair to compare yourself to other people because what you’re comparing yourself to is just a snapshot at the end of their journey or along their journey. I think it’s more useful to hear about how things came to be.

In today’s episode, what I want to do is just talk you through the last 13 years of my life which might sound like it’s going to be a long episode, it won’t. I just want to walk you through the timeline of how I added income streams in over that time. I’ve done this a few times in talks, this is what people actually find more helpful than just hearing the snapshot. I hope that those of you who are interested in how to get that point of a full time income from your blogs might find it useful to hear about the journey.

Let’s walk back in time to 2002. It’s 2002, November, I’m sitting at a desk of one of the part time jobs that I had. I was also doing some study on the side. I get an email from a friend saying check out this blog. Many of you heard the extended version of this story, I’m not going to go through it completely but I ended up on this blog and see something there that I want to do. I decided that day I was going to start a blog. For the next year, I blogged on that blog. I began to experiment with a few other little blogs on the side but for the first year of my blogging I had no idea you could make money blogging and I had no idea that’s what I would end up doing. I just blogged because I enjoyed blogging.

I’m doing a bit of an income timeline here and so it could be very easy to skip over this first year but I actually think it was really important, it was an important year for me. It was a foundational year. The income that followed, some of it came because I spent a whole year not making money from my blogs and focusing upon other things.

Firstly, I learned a lot in this year. I spent a year learning about blogging, learning about the tools, culture, how to communicate, learning was one of the big things that I invested a lot of time into there without even really thinking about it, it just happened. Secondly, I wrote a lot of content in that time. I got hopefully a bit better as a writer but I also built up an archive of content which began to get indexed in Google and that drove some traffic. That’s the other thing I worked on for that year, I worked on building the traffic to my site. Lastly, I worked on building engagement with my community and with my readership.

None of these things I really was that intentional about. I didn’t say I need to learn about blogging or I need to drive traffic and instinctively happened. For that first year, I think I built some really great foundations to then monetize my blogs. I shared this because I think bloggers starting today should be investing significant amounts of time into those activities as well. Learning about blogging, understanding how to use the tools, understanding how to use your voice, those types of things. Building up an archives of content, driving traffic to your blog, beginning to grow your readership, and deepening the engagement that you have with your readers.

It’s not to say that you can’t monetize from day one, you can. I actually think it’s probably good for you to put a little bit of time into monetizing early but I think it’s much better for you to spend the bulk of your time really investing into those four areas; learning, content, traffic, and community. That was year one, no income. I didn’t even know you could.

It was in years two and three where I began to experiment with making a little bit of money on my blogs. It was around this time that I started a second blog, it was a blog where I reviewed digital cameras. It no longer exists today because I or someone else let the domain slip. It was something I’d been transitioning away anyway by the time that domain disappeared.

Years two and three, I began to experiment with monetizing my blogs. The reason I started to monetize was that my blogs were starting to cost me money. I had service, domains, that were taking up a lot of time, taking me away from the other work that I was doing. I began to look around to see was there a way I could cover my costs in blogging.

I discovered this advertising network that existed called AdSense. AdSense is Google’s ad network. You would’ve seen their ads almost everyday of your life over the last few years because they are everywhere, all over the internet. Many times, you don’t actually know who’s serving the ads but you’ve seen the ads. They started out back in 2002, a lot of them were text based ads. They were pretty ugly, you could change the colors of them but that’s about all. You could have different sizes. I started to put these ads on my blog. From day one, they started to earn me a little bit of income. By little, I mean a few cents a day. That wasn’t enough to buy coffee but it did drive a little bit of income into my blog.

It was around the same time I started to experiment with Amazon’s Affiliate Program or the Amazon Associates Program as it’s known. This is where you link to a product on Amazon with a special link and you earn a commission if someone buys that product based upon your link. Again, the income in the early days from Amazon was literally a few cents every week. It wasn’t even everyday. I was linking particularly to books which was what Amazon was all about back then, still is largely but they’ve got so many more products today. I was earning 4% or 5% commissions on these $10 books. You can say it wasn’t much but it was the start. I learned so much by experimenting with these two income streams.

I also learned that if I was going to ever make more than a few cents a day, I needed to do a few things. Firstly, I needed to get more traffic to my site. Both of these income streams and all the others I’m going to mention will go up if you grow your traffic to your site. This is something I did years two and three. I really worked hard on growing my traffic. I now had a bit more incentive to do that. It didn’t just make me feel good to know that people were viewing my site, I could see it was directly impacting how much money I was able to make. That helped me to grow towards a part time income.

The other thing I worked really hard on on those two years was optimizing how I was using these income streams. AdSense was something that I gradually over time learned. You could do things to impact how much you earned. You could, one, put more ads on your site. I think you can have three on each page. You could change the size of the ads, there were new ad unit sizes coming in. You could change the position of the ads, you could put them high up on the page, you can put them underneath your blog post, there were different positions and they each would help you to earn different amounts. You could back then particularly change the design of your ads as well, change the colors of the text ads that appeared. You can’t do that so much anymore but there are plenty ways that you can optimize that income stream.

Same with Amazon Affiliate Links, I learned how to call people to buy those products better, experiment with different places on my site to promote the products as well. Years two and three were a big learning time for me as well, I still can really put a lot of effort into creating lots of content, driving traffic, building community, but I also increasingly put a little bit more of my time into working with these different income streams.

That was the beginning for me. With those two income streams, I got close to getting to a full time level. It was around that time that I started ProBlogger. From now on, I’m now just going to start talking about income streams that were both on my photography blog but also ProBlogger.

Year four and five, this is where I began to build on AdSense and Amazon by adding a few more income streams. There was actually five in these two years.

The first one was direct ad sales. I realized that advertisers were now beginning to target my site. I could see the same advertisers appearing on my site all the time. I knew that Google AdSense was taking a cut of all those ad revenues. I began to reach out directly to some advertisers to see whether they wanted just to work with me directly on my site. We’re not talking big bucks here, don’t think I was earning tens of thousands of dollars from these sponsorships that I was selling on my site.

The first one, I earned $20 a month. That was a camera store here in Australia that decided to advertise on my site. It was small amounts and I sold the advertising on a monthly basis. You would buy a certain type of ad in a certain position on my site for a monthly fee. I would charge more for a banner ad in a prime position and I would charge less for a sidebar ad in a less seen position. It started small as did all of these income streams but it gradually grew as my traffic grew and as I was able to send more people to these advertisers.

I also began to experiment with some other affiliate programs around this time. I began to see other blogs creating ebooks of their own and so I joined some of their affiliate programs and began to promote their ebooks and their products. That did okay for me in the early days, I learned a lot by doing it. I also added in other advertising networks, it was around this time Yahoo! had a publishing network, an ad network, and another one that I came across called Chitika. They’re still around today, they’ve changed quite a bit since the early days. I added Chitika ads onto my site alongside my AdSense ads.

At first, I thought it would decrease my AdSense ads. Turns out, it didn’t. My AdSense stayed steady but I added this whole new income stream. Really, that was a lightbulb moment for me as I realized that one of the fastest ways that I could increase my overall income was to just add a second income stream alongside my previous ones. It didn’t quite double my income overnight but it came close to doing it. That was a really exciting day. It was as I said a lightbulb moment and I began to think really strongly about how can I add some new income streams as well.

It was around that time I got approached by Wiley, the publisher in the US, to write the ProBlogger book. That was another small income stream that was added there. That only really came about because I’ve been blogging on ProBlogger for a couple of years and I’ve grown a profile on that particular topic of blogging. That approach came out of the blue.

Also for a little while there on ProBlogger there, we had a course which I ran with another blogger called Andy Wibbels. We ran a course, I think it was called Six Figure Blogging back in the day. It’s no longer in existence but that was my first experiment of having my own product. It’s something that I am really glad I did but I felt a bit out of my debt within those early days as well. There was certainly no software around to help you run courses like there are today. It was a big commitment to get that up and running at that time.

In years six and seven, I added three more income streams on top of some of the ones that I already mentioned. Firstly, I started to do some speaking and get paid for it. This is another one of those ones that came to me, I remember the first time being asked to speak at a conference. I was about to say yeah sure when the person said what’s your fee? I was like oh, you’re going to pay me to speak at a conference? Suddenly again, another income stream opened up. It’s something I haven’t done a lot of. I get asked a lot but being here in Melbourne, Australia, it’s hard to travel around the world to speak at these conferences. I say no more often than not but it’s something I really do enjoy.

Alongside that, I also began to experiment with some consulting, particularly off the back of ProBlogger. This is where I would do blog coaching. It was a service that I started back then. I didn’t do a lot of it, I very quickly discovered it wasn’t really for me, it wasn’t something I felt like I could add a lot of value to. I knew a lot about blogging but I didn’t feel that it really suited my style, my personality, and I realized I could probably have a bigger impact by creating lots of content for lots of people. That’s what I’ve done by later on creating some of the products I’ve created.

The last one in years six and seven was adding in a job board. If you haven’t seen it already, it’s at jobs.problogger.net. This is where people looking to hire bloggers pay $50 to get their ad in front of bloggers for 30 days. At first, that was a very small income stream, it was maybe two or three jobs per week on the job board, a few of my friends I used to give freebies to just to get a few more jobs on there. Gradually, over the years, it’s grown quite a bit. Now, it’s two or three jobs a day. Some days, four or five, or six or seven jobs. That’s a fairly passive income stream, it’s probably the most passive income stream that I have.

Years seven through to ten was a time where I really focused a lot of attention on building products and different types of products. The first one was an ebook and it was by this stage I started Digital Photography School which was kind of an evolution of my first photography blog and it was more of a how to take photos type blog. I put off doing an ebook on there even though I knew I probably should do one, I put it off for a couple of years by this point and eventually decided I’ve got to get my act into gear and I started to put aside 15, 20 minutes per day to create my first ebook.

I was a busy person so I basically got up early every morning and took a lot of the content that was already on the site, a lot of the posts that I’ve written personally about the topic of portraiture, how to take good photos of people which I knew was a popular topic in our audience. I compiled those together, I got them edited, I found a designer who would design the book for me. I learned about shopping carts and how to get a sales page up and all these things that I felt like I was completely out of my depth with and I launched this ebook. It took me about four months to get it together.

I was worried that no one was going to buy it because a lot of the content was already on the site and I was really upfront with my readers about it. I probably undersold it, I kind of said you may or you may not want it, I didn’t really sell it very well but it sold a ridiculous amount of copies. We sold $70,000 worth of copies in the first 11 days. That sounds like a lot of income overnight and it was. A lot of that came in literally in the first 24 hours, it was a wild 24 hours let me tell you.

As I reflected on it, it really came about because I’ve invested all these years of building my audience, we had fairly significant traffic by this point. I built engagement with that audience, they trusted us, they liked what we’re doing. It was the perfect time to launch this product. Then, launched a product and ebook over on ProBlogger, very similar story, repurposed content, 31 Days To Build A Better Blog. It was a series of blog posts that I’ve written, launched it again and it outsold even the first one.

Suddenly, literally within a few months, I had this brand new income stream. It was another of those moments where the income pretty much doubled within a few months because up until that point, I’ve been relying so much upon advertising and affiliate marketing. Suddenly, to have my own products opened my eyes to this whole new world. That’s what I then spent quite a few of the next few years working on, really those first two ebooks worked so well that I was like let’s do more ebooks. We’ve since that time launched I think 35 other things on a broad range of topics on both ProBlogger and Digital Photography School. Ebooks became a very big focus for me, almost too big a focus. It closed me off a little bit to some of the other products that we’ve since launched. It became a bit of an obsession to be launching four or five ebooks every year.

Another income stream that I had going for a little while in this period was also a membership site over on ProBlogger. This is where people were paying a monthly fee to get access to some premium content in the form of webinars, closed private communities, plugins that we developed as well. That membership site was quite profitable but it wasn’t the most satisfying site for me to run because I didn’t see a lot of engagement there. We had a lot of people sign up and I didn’t quite know why they signed up to be honest.

Like I said, it was profitable, we’re making good money, but I didn’t feel like I was really contributing a lot of value. I decided to close that down and to rethink that model. Out of that came this podcast which doesn’t make a lot of money but on the flip side it feels like it’s having more of an impact upon people. For me, it’s not just about the money, it’s actually about what impact do you have. We may revisit the membership idea and tweak that in the future but for now that’s an income stream that didn’t work out for us.

It was also in these years, I think it was 2007, I ran the first ProBlogger event. The first three, four years of that event it didn’t make any profit. I didn’t really try to, it was something that was more of a labor of love. Unfortunately, running events that have 400 or 500 come to them get quite expensive so it got a bit risky to run it so I started to build some income streams around that as well now. It’s not a big income earner or profit earner because there’s a lot of expenses but it’s certainly a new income stream that I developed in that time as well.

Then, there were printables. Printables really could be anything really but they’re things that you sell for your readers to print. I guess in some ways, they’re like an ebook but for us on Digital Photography School they’re some our posing guides where we got someone to do some hand drawings of different poses for taking portraits of people so you could print them out and take them on location with you and show your subjects, “Hey, pose like this.” They did quite well for us as well.

The last two years, years 12 and 13, have been extending the idea of the ebooks and creating some more products of our own. These were courses, I’ve done three courses now on different aspects of photography particularly and Adobe Lightroom presets, little plugins that you can put into that software to help process images in a click.

There are the different income streams, most of which I mentioned in Episode 150 but I hope it is a little bit useful for you to hear them presented more as a timeline rather than a snapshot. Most of these income streams actually started out as little experiments as little hunchers, little let’s see what happens if I add this, let’s see what happens if I invest a bit of time to create that. Some of them worked really well, some of them have not worked at all. Some of them have been slow burners like the job board, even AdSense, just a few cents a day, gradually grew 10% this month, 10% that month, and gradually added up over time.

I hope it’s been helpful for you to hear that story presented in that way. Hopefully, it gives you some ideas of some of the income streams that maybe you can be adding into your own blog as well. As I’ve said previously, there are plenty of other different types of income streams that you can add to your blog as well. I would love to hear your own timeline, and you could just do it in a simple bullet list, year, what income stream you added, I would love to see that because I think I’ll find it fascinating to see how bloggers grow their income streams as well. If you like to do that, I’d love to see it.

You may just get an email from me because I’d love to do some more podcasts interviewing people to hear about these stories as well. If there’s some interesting responses there, maybe you can become a guest on the ProBlogger podcast.

The next thing I’ll say is that I’m going to do a follow up to this episode in the next episode, Episode 154. Those of you who are listening to this just the day it goes live, you’ve only got a couple of days to wait. Those of you listening to it a week or so later, it’s probably live so you can go and listen to that straight away.

In the next episode, I really want to give you a few observations of things that I’ve learned about adding income streams particularly. I want to suggest three ways to grow your income, I want to talk about some of the foundations that you should build before you grow income, I want to talk about the idea of experimenting with income streams and I’ll also give you some hints as to how to work out which income streams to try first. If that sounds interesting, subscribe to this podcast over in iTunes. While you’re there, leave us a review, I’d love to hear what you think. Or, subscribe to the ProBlogger Plus newsletter which will be linked to in today’s show notes as well.

Thanks for listening today and I’ll chat with you in a few days with some more on this topic of adding income streams to your blog.

How did you go with today’s episode?

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The post PB153: How I Diversified My Blogging Income and Became a Full Time Blogger appeared first on ProBlogger Podcast.

Email Design: Let’s Get Typographical

When it comes to design, font may be something you don’t really notice unless it’s glaringly bizarre or just very hard to read.

However, font (the word for the combination of a given typeface, style, and size) is a surprisingly big deal to many people. A broad range of enthusiasts (font geeks?) can tell you the names, virtues, histories, and sometimes the designers of various kinds, though more than a thousand styles have been designed through the years. And while many styles might appear similar to the uninitiated, they’ve come to have common connotations. For example, Comic Sans is often used to denote humor or playfulness, while Times New Roman is frequently the preferred font for writing about serious matters.

As a result, when it comes to planning your email campaign you may want to give font choice as much consideration as you give layout, color, sizing, and other design elements. Below are seven elements to think about when choosing a font:

Varieties per email

In general, designers recommend using only one or two fonts per email message. More than that may confuse the eye and make your copy less appealing to read.

Accessibility

These days it’s crucial to choose a style that’s easy to read on mobile devices. Because some computer systems don’t recognize unusual fonts, you can increase efficiency by narrowing your choices to those recognizable via both Apple and Windows, and viewable by most email service providers. Email vendors allowing broad compatibility include iOS Mail; Apple Mail; Android (its default mail client, not the Gmail app); Outlook 2000; Outlook.com app, and Thunderbird. Here are some brief descriptions of highly accessible fonts commonly used in email campaigns:

  • Open Sans: This very legible font has a friendly but neutral appearance and is optimized for print, web, and mobile interfaces.
  • Helvetica: One of the most popular typefaces in the world, this easy-to-read style works harmoniously with a number of other design elements.
  • Comic Sans: This casual, non-connecting script inspired by comic book lettering is common in informal documents and children’s materials.
  • Courier: This style resembles the numbers typed via typewriter and works well in columns. It’s said to denote dignity, prestige, and stability.
  • Raleway: This minimalist font is considered modern, yet elegant.
  • Droid Serif: This contemporary font is slightly condensed to maximize comfortable reading on small screens.
  • Crimson Text: This straightforward Roman-style design is meant to look somewhat old fashioned.

Readability

The last thing you want in an email campaign is your recipients automatically bypassing your message because it’s painfully small to read — or alternatively, so big it requires continual scrolling. In general, sans-serif fonts appear more clearly than serif fonts on pixel-based screens, and the standard size is about 22 – 24 pt. for header text and 14 – 16 pt. for body copy.

Alignment with your brand

Choosing a font has been compared to choosing an outfit that reflects your personality and makes a good first impression, all while remaining appropriate for the occasion. You can probably reduce your brand to three key adjectives, so pick a font design likely to connote those qualities. A font that clashes with your company persona might inadvertently confuse customers and distract from your message itself. For continuity’s sake, you may also wish to match your email font with the lettering in your company logo.

Alignment with your message

Even if you’ve chosen a regular, permanent font that represents your brand as a whole, you can still deviate at times to give impact to messages. For example, a more traditional brand may wish to convey a lighthearted message, in which case a secondary font choice can come into play. Different fonts can also be used for different types of content. As an example, you may choose to use one font for your information-themed newsletters, and another font for fun sales or special offers.

Color

It’s best to incorporate only one or two colors into your email font in the interest of crisp, clean design that doesn’t overwhelm the viewer. In many cases, the readability of basic black text will prevail over creativity. However, if you’re considering incorporating other colors, consider their influence on how we think and feel. Some common color connotations include:

  • Red: Associated with the intensity of blood and fire, as in the Red Bull and YouTube logos. Think active, emotional, passionate, love, intensity, and aggressiveness.
  • Blue: Associated with depth and stability, as with the Samsung and Ford logos. Earth and sky, comfort, faith, conservative, understanding, clarity, confidence, calm, and trust.
  • Yellow: Associated with energy, joy and sunshine, as with the McDonald’s campaign. Alive, energetic, fresh.
  • Green: Associated with the harmony of nature, as with the Starbucks logo. Relaxed, trust-worthy, peaceful, hopeful.
  • Purple: Associated with luxury and royalty, as with Yahoo! or FedEx. Glamour, power, nostalgia, romantic, introspective. 
  • Orange: Associated with happiness, sunshine, tropics, as with the Fanta or Nickelodeon logos. Enthusiastic, creative, determined, stimulation of mental activity.
  • Black: Associated with mystery or formality, as with the Blackberry or Tiffany & Co. logos. Bold, serious, luxurious.
  • Pink: Associated with feminine traits, as with the Barbie brand. Love, sweet, warmth, nurturing.
  • Brown: Associated with nurturing and Mother Earth, as with UPS or M&Ms. Reliability, support, dependability.

Cost

Many computer systems come with their own library of fonts that can be used for free; if you go that route, be sure to check that your choice renders well across multiple browsers. Other companies opt to buy unusual fonts from designers to set their brands apart from the competition. Note that licensing is needed to use certain web-specific fonts in any kind of online marketing.

One word of caution: When browsing fonts, it can be easy to get caught up in all the fun and interesting choices and choose a style that’s so unusual it hugely distracts from your messaging. Some creativity is fine if your company or brand is all about creativity, but in other cases goofy choices will keep your brand from being taken seriously. When in doubt, choose the more conservative option.

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© 2016, Tori Tsu. All rights reserved.

The post Email Design: Let’s Get Typographical appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

How Any Small Business Can Compete with the Big Boys Using SEO and Social Media

big small

I get it.

I understand how brutal it can be—trying to market your small business in a world of billion-dollar businesses and multi-million dollar marketing budgets.

You have a limited budget, limited time, limited knowledge, and a limited arsenal of tactics that you can afford to implement.

But the big brands? They can do anything they want, hire as many people as they want, and unleash any tactic they want.

Today’s small businesses are forced to compete in an increasingly saturated marketplace.

The competition is fierce, and it has become incredibly difficult to rise above the noise.

Combine this with the massive disparity between a small business’s marketing budget and a much larger enterprise’s seemingly infinite resources, and it’s obvious that the cards are stacked against small businesses.

In fact, finding new customers is one of the top concerns of small business owners, and 66% claim this is the biggest issue they face.

How can small businesses tip the scales in their favor and go head to head with mega juggernauts?

It all boils down to two specific marketing strategies: SEO and social media.

When done correctly, these strategies can help any small business compete with the big boys.

I’ve been able to help small businesses do exactly that—upset the sumo-wrestler-size businesses in their niche.

It’s part of the glory of digital marketing. Anyone can compete. Anyone can succeed.

Even the little guy.

You just have to know how.

Leveling the playing field

The beautiful thing about these two mediums—SEO and social media—is that they are impartial. They show no favoritism.

Google doesn’t care what business is offering which product. It’s just looking to provide users with the best and most relevant results.

The same goes for social media.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a brand new startup bootstrapping its marketing or a well established company that’s been around for years.

You can still achieve significant exposure as long as you understand the process and how to reach your demographic effectively.

While it is true that there will be inherent difficulty outranking a behemoth like Amazon or Walmart on search engines and you’re unlikely to gain the same size of a social media following as a corporate titan, the right know-how definitely makes it possible for small businesses to gain traction.

It’s a matter of implementing the right techniques and having an understanding of the processes that are working at the moment.

Small businesses benefit the most from social media

A 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report came up with some interesting findings in terms of who benefited the most from social media.

According to their findings, 90% of respondents agreed social media was important to their businesses.

The interesting thing is that 67% of self-employed individuals and 66% of small business owners were more likely to strongly agree with this statement.

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In terms of the specific advantages, 88% of respondents said the top benefit was increased exposure for their businesses.

Second, at 72%, was increased traffic/subscribers.

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With roughly two-thirds of all small business owners claiming social media was important to their businesses, it’s clear that a well run campaign can have a significant impact.

You also have to take into account the possibility for going viral and seeing massive growth in an extremely short period of time.

If you really understand your audience and know how to connect with them on social media, you can not only gain exposure but also earn your audience’s loyalty and bring repeat business.

So in theory, a no-name startup can experience wide scale exposure overnight and get a flood of traffic along with off the chart sales.

Killing it at SEO

There’s no denying that search engines have forever changed the way we find information and the way businesses approach marketing.

To put some perspective on things, “Google processes over 40,000 search queries every second on average, which translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide.”

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Wow! That’s a lot.

But let’s be honest. Small businesses stand little to no chance of outranking colossal companies for broad search terms.

But when small businesses use smart tactics like long-tail keyword phrases, they have a realistic chance to outrank the big boys.

Here’s a very simple example.

I entered the keywords “razor blade” on Google—a very broad search term.

As you might expect, the top results were dominated by Amazon:

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Then I entered a more specific and much narrower search term, “best double edged razor blades.”

Here are the results:

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As you can see, much smaller companies are getting the top results, and Amazon is the very last entry on the first page.

Of course, the more specific, long-tail, keywords won’t get as many searches as the broad ones. But they can still generate a lot of quality organic traffic.

This allows small SEO-savvy businesses to consistently bring in a stream of leads that are ready to buy.

My hyper-simplistic example by no means demonstrates the full potential of SEO for small businesses. It simply proves that small businesses can in fact compete with their much larger counterparts.

Ideal for small marketing budgets

What’s the primary advantage large companies have over small ones? Money.

Of course, they have a plethora of other advantages like more brand equity, a formal marketing department, an HR department, etc.

But when you break it all down, big businesses can easily have hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars to funnel into their marketing campaigns each year.

On the other hand, small startups may be on a shoestring budget, and $50,000 annually may seem like a lot.

Fortunately, legitimate SEO and social media campaigns can be run without a lot of financial backing.

This is especially true when you do everything in-house.

Rather than hiring a high priced marketing agency, small businesses can cut back on their costs significantly by having staff members run their campaigns.

Instead of a financial investment, a time investment can bring about legitimate results.

The point I’m trying to make here is that SEO and social media are both cost-effective marketing channels and can be very affordable if you’re willing to put in the time.

In fact, “those who spend at least six hours per week are almost twice as likely to see leads generated as those who spend five or fewer hours.”

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While small companies probably won’t have the budget for expensive mediums like TV commercials or paying big-named influencers like Taylor Swift to promote their products, they can almost always afford SEO and social media.

And when they really know what they’re doing and stay up-to-date on cutting-edge techniques, there’s absolutely no reason why they can’t compete with the big boys.

How can I thrive on SEO and social media?

I’ll be totally upfront with you.

Seldom can you just launch an SEO or social media campaign and get instant results.

And quite frankly, it’s not as easy as it looks.

On paper, it might seem like you simply perform some rudimentary keyword research or post a cool article on your Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Then presto, an influx of traffic floods your site, and your product flies off the shelf.

But that’s just not how it works.

To truly reap the benefits of these marketing strategies, you need to develop an in-depth understanding of the process, go through trial and error, and have plenty of patience.

You also need to stay in the know of what’s going on and continually make adjustments as new trends unfold.

But nonetheless, you definitely can thrive as long as you “get it” and persevere.

The good thing is, there is an abundance of free resources online that will teach you everything you need to know.

Sites like Moz, HubSpot, Quick Sprout, Social Media Examiner, and Search Engine Journal are just a few that can guide your efforts.

So, let’s briefly examine some specific ways you can position your small business to compete with large competitors.

Effective SEO strategies

For starters, it pays to be niche-centric with your approach.

Ideally, your business will cater to a fairly narrow target audience.

Rather than trying to be everything to everyone, you’re usually better off focusing on a smaller demographic and being the company that’s best capable of meeting their unique needs.

This mainly revolves around using long-tail keywords rather than trying to rank for broad terms.

Let’s go back to my example about “razor blades” and “best double edged razor blades.”

While the former keyword phrase would be extremely difficult to rank for, the latter is a realistic possibility.

In fact, small businesses were able to rank for it and bring in a reasonable amount of traffic and leads.

It’s also important that you pursue link-building opportunities.

According to Moz, domain-level link features, such as quality of links, trust, domain-level PageRank, etc., were the number one influencing factor on Google algorithm in 2015.

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You can accelerate your SEO campaign exponentially by reaching out to and building relationships with influencers and top publications. If you’re able to get links from reputable sites, this can be the catalyst for a spike in your search rankings.

Some other strategies include:

  • Creating valuable content that’s based around user intent (e.g., answering common questions and addressing customer pain points)
  • Performing on-site optimization (e.g., incorporating keywords into your URL, headers, meta description, etc.)
  • Optimizing your site for mobile

Potent social media strategies

I love social media because it gives small businesses the opportunity to convey their identities and build highly personalized relationships with their audiences.

You can showcase your swagger and let consumers know why your company is worth doing business with.

It may sound a little cheesy, but I think the most important part of finding success on social media is to be yourself.

I, for example, am building my strategy with the specific goal of reaching MY customers and not worrying about the masses.

This coincides with Seth Godin’s concept of building a tribe (a community) around your brand.

Like the old saying goes, “Try to please everyone, and you’ll end up pleasing no one.”

Dollar Shave Club is a great example of a brand that embraces being itself.

Their off-kilter, slightly smart-ass marketing messages are unforgettable and definitely appeal to a certain segment of the population.

Saying things like, “Our blades are f**king great” is ballsy. But it’s hard to deny that this attitude has been a key contributor to their success.

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Another integral element of a well run social media campaign is to be constantly engaging your audience.

Whether it’s retweeting epic content relevant to your niche, responding to comments on your Facebook page, inviting others to connect on LinkedIn, or asking questions to ignite digital discussions, it’s important that you’re interacting.

In other words, be on the offense.

The great thing about social is that it can actually be used as an outlet for handling certain aspects of customer service.

People love giving their feedback via social channels, which gives you an opportunity to strengthen relationships and quickly fix escalating situations when the feedback happens to be negative.

It’s also essential that you’re using the right networks.

Each social network has its own demographic and appeals to a different segment of the population. You want to make sure you’re spending your time on the networks your core audience is using.

For example, if your target audience is primarily female, Pinterest would be one of your best bets because 81% of Pinterest users are female.

Some other strategies include the following:

  • Use a consistent tone and style to strengthen your brand identity
  • Be authentic
  • Provide genuinely useful and valuable content
  • Use plenty of images (people respond favorably to visuals)
  • Maintain a consistent presence (e.g., don’t go MIA for months on end)
  • Curate content as well as create your own
  • Use analytics to measure your results and make the necessary adjustments
  • Consider using tools like HootSuite and Buffer to automate some aspects of your marketing (e.g., scheduling posts ahead of time)

Conclusion

In my opinion, the current day and age is the most exciting ever for small business owners.

While in the past, smaller enterprises almost always had to play second fiddle to huge companies and “pick up the marketing scraps,” these days, it’s totally possible for them to compete and even thrive.

Even if you just recently launched a startup and have to watch every penny, you can still get ahead and create massive exposure for your brand.

By getting on board with SEO and social media and understanding the nuts and bolts of these mediums, you can gain traction in your industry and drive quality leads to your site.

Can you think of any other marketing strategies that level the playing field between small and large businesses?

How to Analyze Twitter Data

With a 140-character limit, it’s easy to think of Twitter as a basic platform. But the fact of the matter is numerous marketers see success in their social media marketing strategies by paying closer attention to Twitter data.

Whether it’s Tweets, impressions, engagements or clicks, there are several metrics that give you additional insights into how well you’re resonating with your audience. A common problem for companies is they don’t know the best route to take when analyzing Twitter data. This means brands have no idea why a piece of content did extremely well or fell flat.

Looking into the data not only shows you what was working, but it gives you more insights to be successful on your next campaign. For example, in 2013 DiGiorno Pizza live-Tweeted a highly-anticipated Sound of Music live television event with odd and somewhat-related Tweets. The company generated more than 44 million Twitter impressions and 4,000 new followers in the week of the event.

Understanding how to analyze Twitter data thoroughly helps keep your brand out of the dark. Collecting data allows you to see how a campaign performed and the trends to follow in the future.

What Is Twitter Data?

Twitter data is the information collected by either the user, the access point, what’s in the post and how users view or use your post. While this might sound somewhat vague, it’s largely due to the massive amount of data that can be collected from a single Tweet.

With this information, you can know demographics, total clicks on your profile or how many people saw your Tweet. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but understanding the data allows you to know how it’s used and the patterns of your content.

How to Measure Twitter Data

Measuring your Twitter data can be done through different avenues. Depending how robust you want your analytics, there are diverse options to give you oversight or in-depth analysis. In this article, we’ll talk about the two ways we recommend pulling and measuring your Twitter data:

Using Twitter Analytics

Twitter’s built-in analytics tool gives you access to additional data beyond shares, likes and Retweets. Over the past few years, Twitter continues to improve its analytic features for advertisers, marketers and the general public.

twitter analytics content overview

This makes it easier for businesses working on a tight social media budget, but need the data for upcoming campaigns. According to eMarketer, roughly 66% of businesses use Twitter for marketing efforts. The agency shows this number is only expected to grow over the next few years, which means Twitter will continue to put emphasis on analytics.

As of now, Twitter breaks up your analytics into five main sections:

1. Account Home

twitter account home example

Twitter provides a robust monthly review for users to see the performance of their content. Some of the data you can see from the home section includes:

  • Tweets: Total number of Tweets you sent.
  • Tweet impressions: Total number of times a user was served your Tweet in their timeline or search results (including whether it was seen or not).
  • Profile visits: Total number of times your profile was clicked on from your Tweets or through search.
  • Mentions: Total number of times your Twitter handle has been used in other users’ Tweets.
  • Followers: Total number of followers, plus how many new followers you’ve gained since the previous period.

These metrics do a great job at showing traffic, views and trends. Straight from your Twitter Analytics dashboard, you can see month-to-month trends with the collected Twitter data.

2. Tweet Activity

tweet activity overview

Tweet activity gives you a broad view of the number of Tweets and organic impressions (not including promoted impressions) for a specific day or time period. Through the Tweets section, you can also export the data from your Twitter profile to a CSV file and choose your specific timeframe.

tweet activity export example

Make sure you always track and monitor this information in some sort of spreadsheet to better see trends and significant changes. Additionally, you can view your top, promoted, replied or all Tweets from your profile. Once you select a view, you see the specific Twitter data associated with each Tweet. These metrics include:

  • Impressions
  • Engagements
  • Engagement rate (total engagements divided by impressions)
Top Tweets Metrics

Clicking on “View Tweet Activity” on an individual Tweet you can get more details on the types of engagement you received. You’ll see metrics such as replies, Retweets, profile clicks and others depending on the type of content you’re sharing:

Individual Tweet Activity Stats

3. Audience Insights

twitter audience data example

Your Twitter data changes depending on your audience type. Twitter Analytics allows you to view audience insights for all Twitter users, your followers and your organic audience. Additionally, you can add a comparison audience for competitor analysis.

After you’ve selected your audience, you can see things like:

  • Top Interest: The subject most likely to be in common with your audience.
  • Top Language: The top language among your audience.
  • Top Interest Type: The most common lifestyle category for your audience.
  • Mobile Footprint: The top used wireless carrier for your audience.
twitter interests example

The audience insights section also details the gender of your Twitter followers and the percentage of your audience to each interest. This percentage gives you a much more in-depth look at what interests your audience might have on Twitter. Use this information to your advantage and know what type of content resonates the best with your audience.

4. Browse Events on Twitter

twitter events example

Being relevant in your industry shows your audience you’re one step ahead of the crowd. This means you should know when important industry-related events are happening. On the events section, you can see an overview of the biggest events trending on Twitter. You can go further by viewing events in:

  • Sports
  • Movies
  • Recurring Trends

Remember to take caution when you Tweet about industry-events unrelated to your audience or brand. While DiGiorno Tweets randomly and sees payoffs, your brand might not have the same success.

Use the information here to get a better idea of what’s happening in the world of Twitter and easily create campaigns around specific events.

5. More

Like we mentioned above, Twitter is constantly trying to improve its data collection tools. In the More section, you have access to information on:

  • Twitter Cards: This section allows you to see URL clicks, install attempts and Retweets from your Twitter Cards. You can also select specific date ranges to see changes over time, card types, links, influencers, Tweets and sources revolving around your Twitter Cards.
  • Videos (beta): Whether it’s promoted or standard video, you can see views, completion rates, total minutes viewed and retention percentages for your videos. This is absolutely critical to measuring your social media video process.
  • App manager: Twitter allows you to add different apps to the platform to help you get more targeted users and to optimize content.
  • Conversion tracking: Here you can connect your website tag to Twitter to track audiences based on website behavior. Additionally, you can use this section to measure relevant and important events on your site so you know how your campaigns, updates or site changes affect Twitter traffic.

Using Sprout Social’s Twitter Analytics Tools

Even though Twitter stepped up its analytics game, Sprout Social lets marketers go above and beyond. Through our powerful Twitter analytics tools, social businesses gain deep insights into keyword, demographic and hashtags analytics.

One of our most robust tools included in our suite is the Twitter Profiles Report. This presentation-ready Twitter report goes the extra mile with tackling Twitter data from one or multiple profiles.

Twitter Activity Overview

twitter profile report

Sprout Social’s Twitter Activity Overview summarizes key statistics in your selected report time frame. Here you can view:

  • Organic Impressions
  • Engagements
  • Clicks

Audience Growth

sprout social audience growth example

This section breaks down your follower growth through a selected time frame. Measuring your audience can help you plan new content strategies to reach out to more people. Look for similarities in content published and audience peaks this report to better plan your posts.

Here you can detail important Twitter metrics such as:

  • Total Followers: Total amount of Twitter followers on the last day of your report period.
  • New Follower Alerts: Gross total number of new Twitter followers within your report period. This is based on new follower alerts received, but doesn’t subtract the amount of users who unfollowed you.
  • Actual Followers Gained: Net number of Twitter followers gained within your report period.
  • People that You Followed: Number of Twitter accounts you followed within the report period.
  • Follower insight: Percentage increase or decrease of your total number of followers since the end of the previous date range.

Posts & Conversations

Posts & Conversations example

Do you know how well your content is performing? Are users engaging with your Tweets? Have new users responded to your content? These are all important questions you should ask yourself about your Twitter data.

In the Posts and Conversations section, you see your sent and received metrics for Tweets and direct messages. There you track metrics such as how many Tweets you sent within a certain period or how many DMs were sent to you as well. For businesses with massive engagement opportunities, these core metrics show you how well your engagement and posting efforts are doing.

Your Content & Engagement Habits

content and engagement habits

Approximately every second, 6,000 Tweets are sent out on Twitter. This equals roughly 500 million Tweets per day. The Content and Engagement Habits breaks out the recipients of your Tweets and their content into categories.

Here you gain better insights into what types of content you’re publishing along with your Tweeting behavior. You get detailed metrics such as:

  • Sent Message Content: Total amount of Tweets that contain photos, external bit.ly links or neither (plain text). This is taken out of your total number of Tweets sent.
  • Conversation vs. Updates: Total amount of Tweets sent as @replies to Twitter users within a conversation and the outbound Tweets sent to your entire audience.
  • New Contacts vs. Existing: Total amount of @replies sent to Twitter users that you have not previously contacted (these constitute as new contacts) and @replies sent to Twitter users you have previously engaged with (existing).

Audience Engagement

twitter audience engagement report

Sprout helps you visualize Twitter trends with unique audience engagement metrics. This allows users to actually see how their content performs on Twitter. Unlike Twitter’s audience reporting, Sprout allows you to dig deeper with custom reporting on things like:

  • Replies
  • Retweets
  • Likes
  • Impressions per follower
  • Engagements per follower
  • Engagements per Tweet
  • Impressions per Tweet
  • Engagements per impression

With custom date ranges, you can get more information on your audience engagement Twitter data. This will help your brand know what specific time periods drove the most engagement and reach with your audience.

Audience Demographics

twitter demographics

Instead of switching between different Twitter profiles and analytics tabs, Sprout provides your audience demographics all within the same report. Make sure you know what audience you’re effectively reaching to better promote and market your content.

Twitter Stats by Profile

Analyze Multiple Twitter Handles with the New Twitter Report by Sprout Social

If you have multiple Twitter accounts for your brand, it’s nice to see how each profile stacks up against one another with basic Twitter metrics. With Sprout’s Twitter Stats by Profile, you get a simplistic top-level view of your Twitter data per profile such as: total followers, follower increase percentage, Tweets sent and total impressions.

What Twitter Data Teaches Your Business

Now that you have a better idea of the type of Twitter data you can pull from the native platform and through third-party tools like Sprout Social, it’s time to put the numbers to use. With Sprout Social, these statistics are just the beginning of Twitter data you can pull for your profile. Other reports such as Twitter Listening, Twitter Comparison and the Trends Report all detail your Twitter efforts even further.

twitter analytics trends example

Social media data can showcase several things for your business. Whether you want to see what content performs best or who your core buyers are, data can decipher your overall Twitter production. Marketing executives don’t want to waste money on something that is hard to prove profitable.

Collecting, measuring and analyzing the right Twitter data can back up your social media marketing efforts with in-depth analytics. Sprout Social provides presentation-ready reports at your fingertips to show your team or higher-ups just how well your Twitter marketing is paying off.

Want to see what Sprout Social can do for your business on Twitter? Try our powerful Twitter analytics tools for free with a 30-day trial!

This post How to Analyze Twitter Data originally appeared on Sprout Social.

The Only Checklist You Need for Launching Your Startup’s Website

checklist

Ah, website launches.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they are something every business needs to do.

I’ve been through a ton of website launches, so it’s kind of a ho-hum process now.

But even if I go into a website launch with a nonchalant attitude, something usually happens—something unexpected.

  • In one website launch, the webmaster forgot to turn off the disallow on the robots.txt
  • In another website redesign, the developers forgot to add the subdomain to 200k pages.
  • In another website redesign, the developers accidentally used the wrong footer for all 1.1m pages.

I could go on and on.

Here’s the thing—website launches are important. And more often than not, there’s something wonky that happens. These wonky surprises can destroy your SEO and cause your entire website to flounder from the start.

Even if you’re fairly experienced with the process and have built multiple sites, launching a new website can still be overwhelming and stressful.

There are a lot of components involved in a website launch, and there’s a lot of potential for hiccups along the way.

Overlooking even a few subtle elements can have disastrous consequences.

What if there are blatant typos? Or what if your visitors get the dreaded “page not found” error?

It’s going to be a poor reflection on your company and could send would-be customers running.

The bottom line is that no one is perfect, and even the top professionals can overlook a few details.

What I’ve learned from launching multiple sites is that it’s crucial to follow a formula that forces me to leave no stone unturned. This way I can cover myself and ensure that the entire process goes off without a hitch.

The best way to accomplish this is to follow a checklist and work your way through it step by step.

Here is the only checklist you need for launching your startup’s website.

Layout

First things first. You’ll want to cover the basics in terms of web design to ensure your site looks great and is easily navigable.

Visitors should have a seamless experience without needing to think too much about how to get where they need to go.

Here are things to attend to at this stage:

  • Your homepage includes your business’s logo.
  • The logo is appealing and professional.
  • Visitors should be aware of the product or service you’re selling upon landing on your site.
  • Images are optimally positioned.
  • Images can be viewed on mobile devices.

Compatibility

Today’s Internet users access websites from a variety of devices and browsers.

In particular, the use of mobile devices has become increasingly common: 80% of people are using smartphones, and 47% are using tablets.

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That’s why it’s crucial to avoid fundamental glitches that can create compatibility issues.

Make sure that:

  • your site is compatible with all major browsers, including Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, etc.
  • your site is fully optimized for mobile users. There are multiple ways to create a mobile-friendly site, but responsive web design (RWD) is regarded as one of the most effective techniques.
  • you’ve optimized cascading style sheets (CSS) across your site.
  • all coding has been done correctly, and there are no glitches that can ruin the user experience.

Functionality

It should go without saying, but users expect a fluid experience.

Any glitches or malfunctions can increase your bounce rate, and it’ll be much more difficult to nurture leads.

With 55% of visitors spending fewer than 15 seconds on a website, you need to cover all the bases and optimize your site’s functionality to keep your visitors browsing and minimize your bounce rate.

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Make sure that:

  • You’ve corrected any issues that could potentially slow down your site’s load time.
  • There are no broken links.
  • There are no 404 redirects.
  • All internal links point to the intended page.
  • All external links are working correctly and point to authoritative, relevant sites.
  • You’re not linking to resources that offer no value.
  • Links open in a new tab. (It can be annoying for users when they lose their place because a separate tab isn’t opened after they click on a link).
  • You’ve set up a favicon icon so that users can easily identify your site when they bookmark it. (This is crucial for proper branding).
  • You’ve optimized navigation by adding pages either to the top or to the sidebar so that users can quickly find what they’re looking for.
  • You’ve added a search bar to expedite the search.
  • Your site isn’t clogged with annoying ads or popups.
  • Popups can be closed with ease.

Site speed

Time is of the essence when your website is loading.

The longer it takes your site to load, the higher your abandonment rate will be. If it takes longer than three seconds to load, you’ve already lost 40% of your visitors.

That’s no good.

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Here are just a few other eye-opening stats. A one-second delay in page load time yields:

  • 11% fewer page views
  • A 16% decrease in customer satisfaction
  • A 7% loss in conversions

That’s why I can’t stress enough just how crucial it is to check the speed of your site and do whatever it takes to optimize it. Ideally, you’ll be able to get your loading time under three seconds.

Here are some specific things to look into:

  • You’ve checked the speed of your website using the Pingdom Website Speed Test. This will let you know the precise speed and provide you with some performance insights to indicate problem areas.
  • You’re using high-quality servers capable of keeping up with heavy website traffic at times.
  • You’ve enabled browser caching.
  • You’re not using an excessive number of images, videos, or other media that could potentially slow down your site.
  • You’re not going overboard on plugins. (These can make your site sluggish).
  • You’ve ensured that above-the-fold content loads quickly. (This should be a priority over below-the-fold because it doesn’t matter all that much if below-the-fold content takes a few seconds longer).

This should cover the basics, but you can get a lot more ideas about speeding up your website by checking out this resource.

Content

It’s been said time and time again—content is king.

Content is arguably the lifeblood of your website. Any lack of professionalism or mediocre quality will hurt you in the long run.

Providing A+ content is important not only for maximizing average session duration but also for your overall conversion rate.

That’s why you need to be borderline obsessive about dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s in this department.

Make sure that:

  • You’ve used a light background with dark fonts to make text easily readable.
  • You’ve thoroughly proofread every landing page, blog post, etc.
  • You’ve corrected every single spelling and grammatical error.
  • You’ve created engaging and captivating titles.
  • You’ve broken up content into digestible chunks by incorporating H1s, H2s, H3s, and bullet points.
  • You haven’t used massive blocks of text that are ugly and difficult to read.
  • You’ve given proper attribution to external sources you’ve cited.
  • You have plenty of visuals to make your content appealing to the eye. (46% of marketers say photography is critical to their current marketing and storytelling strategies).

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  • Images are high-definition and professional in appearance.
  • You’re not infringing upon any copyrights with your images.
  • Images are correctly formatted and can be viewed on any device.
  • You’ve added videos where appropriate.
  • Videos are correctly formatted and viewable on any device.
  • Downloadable content, such as whitepapers, e-books and slideshows, are working properly.
  • You’ve added your business’s contact information in a visible area.
  • Visitors can find answers to FAQs.
  • Pricing information can be easily found.
  • There are calls to action in relevant locations.
  • You’ve added social share buttons.
  • You’ve implemented SEO

Understanding and implementing the fundamentals of on-site SEO is incredibly important.

This is your ticket to getting found in search engines and driving a consistent stream of organic traffic to your site.

When it comes to SEO, a lot of elements need to be covered.

  • You’ve created an XML sitemap.
  • You’ve performed keyword research to identify which keyword phrases to target in your content.
  • You have chosen longtail keywords so that you have a legitimate chance of outranking the competition.

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  • You’ve peppered those keywords throughout your content but without keyword stuffing.
  • You’ve incorporated targeted keywords into your URL.
  • You’ve included targeted keywords in your meta description, titles, and headers.
  • You’ve added relevant tags to your content.
  • Alt tags have been added to images.
  • Tags have been added to videos.
  • URLs are brief and user-friendly. (They’re not long and ugly.)
  • Meta descriptions are a maximum of 160 characters. This ensures they’re not truncated in search results.
  • Meta descriptions are engaging and summarize what your content is all about.
  • You’ve set up internal and external links.
  • You’ve practiced hyperlink optimization where links don’t contain your targeted keywords. (Targeted keywords in hyperlinks can result in penalties from Google).

Analytics

Right from the get-go, you need to be diligent about keeping tabs on your traffic.

You want to be able to analyze visitor behavior, ways you are acquiring your traffic, length of time visitors are staying on your site, your bounce rate, and so on.

Doing so is essential for spotting patterns and trends and ultimately making key adjustments to optimize conversions.

That’s why I recommend setting up some type of analytics platform when launching your startup’s website.

I think that Google Analytics is sufficient for generating the basic data needed for most startups, especially during the initial stages.

However, you may also want to utilize a more comprehensive platform such as Crazy Egg so that you can visually see where your visitors are clicking. One of my companies, Kissmetrics, is another helpful tool for better interpreting your data.

Here are some essential analytics-related steps to cover:

  • You’ve properly inserted your analytics code into your website.
  • You’ve checked to make sure that it’s set up correctly with no formatting/coding issues.
  • You’ve set up conversion goals.
  • You’ve set up e-commerce tracking.
  • You’ve set up event tracking.
  • You’ve linked Google Analytics and AdWords if applicable.

Security

Did you know that “the number of U.S. data breaches tracked in 2015 totaled 781?”

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, “this represents the second highest year on record since the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) began tracking breaches in 2005.”

Website security is no joke, especially for companies in the business sector, health/medical industry, and banking/financial/credit sector because these industries have reported the highest number of data breaches on average.

According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, the catalyst for the majority of cyber attacks was hacking.

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It’s important to remember that no one is completely exempt from an attack. If it can happen to big name companies like Sony and Target, it can definitely happen to a small startup.

I’m not trying to freak you out, but website security has never been more essential than today.

If your data is ever compromised, it can quickly open a can of worms. It can tarnish your reputation, lead to costly downtime, and even result in costly penalties from the government.

Some specific points you’ll want to check off include the following:

  • You’re running your site on a secure host.
  • You have a business continuity plan in the event of system downtime.
  • You’ve made sure that your website is properly backed up in case of data loss.
  • Your site utilizes a secure login system.
  • All passwords are stored in a secure location.
  • You’ve made it so that users are denied entry after a certain number of login attempts. You can use a WordPress plugin like Login LockDown for this.
  • You haven’t shared login information with unwanted third parties.
  • You’ve instructed team members to not share sensitive information through unprotected channels such as unencrypted email.
  • Login pages are fully encrypted.
  • You’ve protected your site against Denial of Service (DoS) attacks. This is a common type of attack that hackers use. Although it’s nearly impossible to prevent these types of attacks altogether, utilizing a Cloud mitigation provider can help dramatically.
  • You’ve implemented a secure payment processing system that will protect financial information of your customers.
  • You’ve created a plan to continually test your website security.

Conclusion

This checklist should serve as a way to foolproof the process of launching your startup’s website. By having a systematized sequence of steps to follow, you’ll know for sure you’re not missing any important details.

Once it’s actually time to launch, you can rest easy, knowing your visitors will have the best experience possible.

Your site will load quickly and have plenty of aesthetic appeal; visitors will be able to navigate your site with ease; and security won’t be an issue.

When it’s all said and done, you can keep visitors on your site longer, efficiently move them through the sales funnel, and, most importantly, maximize your conversion rate.

Which elements do you think are the most important to address when launching a new website?

3 Ways Wahl Professional Grew Its Instagram Community by 56%

Instagram is one of the most effective platforms a business can use to target its consumers. But in order to be successful building a strong community is essential. A dedication to social media engagement, integrating existing communities and using analytics tools are three ways that brands can ensure their Instagram presence remains robust.

Leading manufacturer of grooming products, Wahl Professional, applied these strategic tactics to grow its Instagram community by 56% and, in the process, averaged 847 interactions per post.

Read on to see how Wahl grew its followers by 84,788 and learn how you can apply the same strategies to expand your own Instagram community.

Leverage User-Generated Content

User-generated content on Instagram is significant for any brand’s social strategy because it’s authentic. A Bazaarvoice study on UGC and millennials found that 84% of the demographic are at least somewhat influenced by this type of content when making a purchasing decision.

Wahl’s engagement efforts appeal to an community of barbers and stylists, many of whom often trade grooming tips. Fans regularly share their own content using #Wahl and #WahlPro.

“We’re a manufacturing company; technically, we build tools,” Marketing Associate Aaron Flick said. “On Instagram, we wanted to visually showcase what these tools can do and, more importantly, how they’re used by our customers.”

Using Sprout’s Brand Keywords, Aaron monitored hashtags to track down UGC that meets brand style guidelines and resonates with the industry as a whole. To date, @wahlpro’s three top-performing posts consist of curated UGC.

Develop a Continual Dialogue

Instagram has the highest engagement rates between customers and brands among all major social media platforms, according to data from Forrester. Businesses should capitalize on this potential; for this reason, Instagram engagement is a must.

Instagram isn’t just a platform for companies to market themselves—brands have to rely on audience participation and interaction in order to strengthen their relationship with their customers. Don’t just monitor the conversation, develop a continual and multidimensional dialogue.

Across all of Wahl’s Instagram profiles, the brand maintains an open line of communication with its followers. When it comes to Instagram strategy, UCG drives Wahl’s brand awareness, and responding to comments serves to humanize the brand and keep a tight community of loyalists.

wahl-case-study-image-02-no-bg-image-1

This success can be attributed to Sprout’s Smart Inbox, team collaboration tools and user settings, according to Global Vice President of Professional Products Lance Wahl.

Since implementing Sprout, @wahlpro has increased its monthly average of sent messages by more than 50%.

Benchmark Success

Analytics are key to showing what is working well and what needs improvement in your brand’s social media strategy. Sprout’s Instagram analytics tools allow businesses to track post performance, monitor Instagram trends, measure audience engagement, monitor comments and hashtag use, identify influencers and report across multiple profiles.

Wahl’s marketing team uses Sprout analytics tools such as the Instagram Profiles and Sent Messages Report to gauge its success and remain agile. The Instagram Profiles show the brand how well it is engaging with customers, as well as what it can to to enhance the overall customer experience.

Within 10 months, @wahlpro saw a 56% increase in followers, surpassing its average yearly audience growth by 74%. The hashtag #wahl was used 465 times and gained a net engagement rate of 243,177.

The Smart Inbox, which can reply to Instagram comments directly from the Sprout platform, allowed @wahlpro to increase engagement by 4,307 percent and average 847 interactions per post.

Maintaining a strong Instagram community means integrating user-generated content, engaging in a two-way conversation with customers and making good use of available analytics tools. If Wahl’s success is any indication, brands that apply these strategies are more likely to see success.

This post 3 Ways Wahl Professional Grew Its Instagram Community by 56% originally appeared on Sprout Social.

Activate Your Fanbase With User-Generated Content

In the digital era, everyone is a content creator, and that’s great news for marketers. Brands are boosting awareness by encouraging the public to share their customer experiences on platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Just to name a few notable examples, Coca Cola’s “Share a Coke” hashtag marketing campaign asked fans to snap Coke-themed photos of themselves, and Charmin solicits toilet humor from its Twitter followers. But this kind of user-generated content (“UGC”) isn’t limited to social media interactions between a brand its customers. Savvy marketers are starting to mix UGC into their email marketing campaigns — and it’s working. Recent studies have shown that UGC delivers a 73 percent increase in email click-through rates.

UGC is simply content about your brand that is created by your business’s customers or fans, whether that content is photos, videos, product reviews, or testimonials. One obvious benefit of incorporating consumer content into your email marketing is that it saves you time. Instead of having to constantly come up with new content ideas on your own, your customers are the driving creative force.

But the real key to the power and popularity of UGC is that it humanizes your sales pitch. You aren’t the one telling your subscribers how wonderful your products or services are; real customers do it for you. UGC is authentic, and when used as a part of an email marketing campaign, it builds trust in your brand.

One of the best forms of advertisement is a satisfied customer. As amazing as your email content-crafting skills may be, consumers are more interested in what their peers say about your business. In fact, 70 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations and reviews over professionally written content. Zulily takes advantage of this statistic with a “Customer Picks” emails that feature some of their best-selling products, along with a few brief but enthusiastic customer endorsements:

So how can you start integrating UGC into your email marketing? You can put out a call in your newsletter for subscribers to email photos or stories of their experiences with your products or services. Or you can come up with a brand-specific hashtag, ask customers to submit to you via social media, and feature your favorite responses in your next email. You might consider a theme for the submissions that is tied to an upcoming promotion or event.

To celebrate Star Wars Day and promote a Star Wars merchandise sale, Hot Topic asked its customers to submit photos of themselves in Star Wars gear. The best submissions were included in an email photo collage:

Of course a theme isn’t necessary. TeeFury’s emails showcase photos of happy customers wearing the company’s apparel:

To give your subscribers an extra push to submit, you can hold a contest, with a gift certificate or other prize going to the most creative submission. However you go about incorporating customer content into your emails, make sure that you’ve obtained permission from the original creator to use their content and that you’ve articulated exactly how that content will be used.

Once you get the go-ahead, don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of UGC. Photos might work well for one brand, while testimonials work better for another. But if content development is one of your email marketing pain points, then UGC could be the solution.

Read more about email content development here

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© 2016, Amber Humphrey. All rights reserved.

The post Activate Your Fanbase With User-Generated Content appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

How To Monetize Your Blog By Repurposing Content

 How To Monetize Your Blog By Repurposing Content

This is a guest contribution from Natalie Sisson of Suitcase Entrepreneur.

Sometimes creating valuable content week after week feels a bit like you’re running on a hamster wheel, doesn’t it?

It doesn’t even matter how much you like writing blog posts and replying to readers’ comments. If your blog doesn’t start to make money, you will start resenting all the work you put into it, and the days of loving your blog will be short lived.

So let me tell you a little secret.

Your blog will stop feeling like a chore and start feeling like an investment if you can find the key that links your content directly to the money you make.

The great news is you can start monetizing your blog straight away by simply using the content you’ve already written on your blog and repurposing it.

Let me show you how.

Back in 2008, I had just quit my corporate job and co-founded a startup to build a fundraising app for Facebook. Being a startup was a crazy rollercoaster ride and I really enjoyed building something from the ground up.

In the middle of all this, I started my first blog, WomanzWorld, to share my experiences on starting a business, and to interview successful female entrepreneurs about their experiences in building their companies.

I hustled like crazy to build a community and following, and slowly began to attract an audience of people who found my writing to be inspiring. I began to enjoy blogging and interacting with my readers in the comments.

So much so that in 2010, I decided to leave the startup and focus on growing my blog and business — which was, at that stage, just my blog.

However, almost immediately after I left I realized there was a big problem — I had no way to monetize the blog (read: no way to turn my hobby into an income).

For the next 6 months, I kept writing blog post after blog post, but I couldn’t figure out how to make money in a way that was aligned with my values.

I loved creating content and sharing my experience, but I was getting anxious about not having an income. I was down to the last $17 in my bank account when I was finally able to turn it around.

Since then I have used the same strategy to create multiple streams of income directly from my blog, and turn it into a multiple six-figure business that allows me to travel the world while helping impact people’s lives.

Today, I want to share with you what I did, and how you can do the same.

How to monetize your blog by repurposing content

If you have been producing content for any amount of time, on your blog or other people’s sites, it’s likely you are sitting on a wealth of information that could be useful to a lot of people.

All you have to do is repurpose and package that information into formats that people will find really helpful and are willing to pay for. You can start by looking at which topics and posts have been receiving the most traffic, likes, shares or comments and start with that.

Let me break down the content repurposing process I went through when I monetized my blog:

Step 1 – Find out what content your audience is engaging with

When I started my blog, Facebook (and social media in general) was still in the early stage. Working in a startup, building a fundraising app for Facebook gave me a unique insight into the world of social media, and I started sharing this knowledge with my readers.

I found that the posts about social media strategies were getting a lot of comments, more than the posts on any other topic. I realized that people were interested in social media strategies to help build their business and credibility, so I took it to the next step.

Step 2 – Validate your content idea

Just because people liked a couple of blog posts didn’t mean that the topic would continue to hold their attention. I needed to validate the idea that people were genuinely interested in the topic and would continue engaging with it.

So, I wrote a series of 12 blog posts on the topic and published regularly over the space of a month. My readers loved the information as most people were still relatively new to using social media for business purposes. The content series was a huge success.

I saw a sharp rise in the traffic to my blog and saw that the visitors were engaging with the content. Now, I knew for sure that people were interested in reading more about social media strategy.

Step 3 – Validate the idea with a minimal transaction

I knew my readers were actively engaging with the content, but I needed to find out if they were ready to take the next step by becoming a subscriber. So, I created a lead magnet in the form of an ebook that outlined social media strategies for small businesses.

Can you guess how I did that?

Yep, that’s right. I combined the 12 blog posts into an ebook called, The Social Media Workout for Entrepreneurs. I added a bit more depth in some posts and packaged it all up into a well designed and value packed PDF.

As soon as I made the lead magnet available for download on my blog, I saw a sharp growth in the number of subscribers and my email list kept growing after that. In fact, it was so popular that it continued to serve for over 5 years (with regular updates of course) as the only lead magnet on my blog.

Step 4 – Ask your subscribers to buy

Nothing validates an idea like people actually paying money for what you offer. I knew some of the readers had been with me through the entire journey and now I could email them directly and ask them to buy.

So, that’s what I did. I sent out an email to my subscribers, asking them if they would be interested in a two-day, in-person workshop on social media strategy, where they could get personal feedback from me on their unique problems. More importantly, I asked if they would be willing to pay to attend this workshop.

It was a gut wrenching moment for me, asking for people to pay me. It was the real test of whether I could monetize my blog.

Before I knew it I had 3 sold-out workshops with 30 people attending in total and $15,000 in the bank (that previously had just $17 in it). It was the first time since I started growing my audience that I had been able to directly monetize my blog and my knowledge.

I knew I could continue to offer similar workshops and make money, but I had something else on my mind. Namely, travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina and to scale my workshops to reach a larger audience, such that they didn’t have to be there in person to learn.

Step 5 – Create a residual revenue stream

I wanted to see if people would be interested in buying an online training program on social media strategy. I could take all the content that I had created, the workshop I had conducted, and package it up in a way that people could buy and access online. I could price it much lower than an in-person workshop, it would be just as valuable, and people could learn at their own pace from anywhere in the world.

So, a couple of months after the workshop, I released and shared this online training program with my audience, and few of them bought it. I didn’t make a lot of money initially, but sales for my Social Media Bootcamp (online training program) kept growing as I got better at marketing it and more people started referring it to others.

I was excited that I had something I could sell online, without having to create any new content, and that people were readily paying for. I finally had a residual income stream that would continue bringing in money while I was traveling the world.

Many people may call this passive income, but I beg to differ. You have to select the right content, package it up, set up payment and support systems, and market it to your audience. As you can see, it still is a lot of work.

You just do all the work up front and continue to get paid for it. And even then, you have to keep updating the product, and do relaunches to keep the momentum going.

But this first stream of residual income was just the start. Since then, I have grown my blog and audience into a successful business that makes multiple six figures by creating multiple streams of active and residual income by providing solutions to the specific problems and challenges my community have; while traveling to 69 countries.

Trust me when I tell you that content repurposing really works. Even counting all the other amazing monetization strategies, I have a feeling that as a blogger this one will resonate with you the most.

Figuring out your own content repurposing strategy

Monetizing your blog has never been easier because now content doesn’t just mean blog posts. Ebooks, infographics, podcasts, videos, and everything in between is a form of content.

This is good news because your readers may not want to pay for reading blog posts, but they are willing to pay for content in other formats like:

  • Books
  • Audiobooks
  • Online Courses
  • Membership sites
  • Even newsletters

It may still be the same content at the heart of all of it, but everyone loves the convenience learning and digesting the information in one format or in one place. That is why they will willingly pay for it.

This presents a tremendous opportunity to repurpose the content you’ve already created and package it up in ways that people are ready to buy.

Let’s say you have a blog post that has done well. After you have validated that this is a topic people are interested in, you can grow your audience with the same content in a new format by:

  • Recording yourself reading the blog post and turning it into a podcast episode
  • Recording a video of yourself reading the blog post and publishing it on Youtube. If you don’t want to be on camera, you can create a simple slide deck summarizing the blog post, and record a voice-over-slides style of video.

As you continue to grow your audience, you will find they have specific needs and will even ask you for solutions. You can create products to fulfill those needs and sell them directly on your blog, knowing that they will pay for it.

For example, to create an online course, you can split up the validated topic into a series of blog posts, turn them all into videos, and package it up so that it delivers a specific outcome to your readers.

You can also expand on the series of blog posts, create an ebook on the topic, and package it up with the course as a higher value offering. Just like Jeff Goins talks about in this Problogger post on six-figure product launch strategy.

You can start repurposing content today with a simple content audit — use Google Analytics to look at the most popular content on your site and best-performing articles, or use social sharing statistics and comments. Then, all you have to do is follow the 5 step content repurposing strategy I outlined above, and soon you will start making money from your blog.

If you enjoy creating content and want to keep doing it, you owe it to yourself to monetize your blog and free yourself from the hamster wheel of content creation.

Repurposing content can become your ticket to freedom.

 

Natalie Sisson is an Amazon No #1 bestselling author of the Suitcase Entrepreneur, podcaster, speaker and adventurer who believes everybody has the right to choose freedom in business and adventure in life. She’s on a mission to ensure 1,000,000+ entrepreneurs do just that by 2020 over at the SuitcaseEntrepreneur.com

The post How To Monetize Your Blog By Repurposing Content appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

Finally a Virtual Assistant that won't call out sick


Finally a Virtual Assistant that won't call out sick

Freelancers, you need to see this

What experienced freelance consultants know is that doing the actual client work is easy – that’s the fun part.

Where most freelancers get bogged down, is the tedious paperwork – invoicing, chasing payments, expense tracking, sorting tax deductions, etc. (Ain’t nobody got time for that!)

So we decided to get you something that will save you time and money and let you concentrate and what you do best.

AND CO is a smart app that creates invoices, files expenses, tracks time, and manages projects right from your phone or desktop.

Get lifetime access to AND CO!

Get lifetime access to AND CO!

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Just snap a pic of your receipt and let AND CO handle the rest

That’s not all, though.

AND CO makes sure all of your back-end stuff gets accomplished by giving you a Chief Operator.

A chief operator in this economy?

That’s what makes AND CO so special – and they give it to you for a good price.

Normally, that good price is $348/year. (Good luck getting anyone to do chief operator work for less than $1/day.)

But, today? Today, we have a special deal for you.

Today, you can get lifetime access to AND CO’s Gold membership for only $49!

Click here to get lifetime access to AND CO for only $49!

Tracking expenses is time consuming. If AND CO helps you get even one tax deduction it’s paid for itself!

Get lifetime access to AND CO!

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The beauty of AND CO is there is no learning curve.

Everything is simplified.

Do you know how to text someone?

Because if you do, you can let AND CO handle those pesky tasks for you!

Get lifetime access to AND CO!

“What about tracking time?”

All you have to do is use AND CO’s built-in timer and then add it to your time-sheet. That’s it!

(Your Chief Operator comes in clutch with reminders!)

Get lifetime access to AND CO!

AND CO was designed with the freelancer who hates doing admin work in mind.

You can ensure your invoices will be sent, time tracked, and your projects managed forever for only $49.

You have enough on your plate with clients’ needs.

Help yourself be successful by eliminating tedious tasks.

Get lifetime access to AND CO now!

FAQ:

What exactly does a CO do? The Chief Operator is your day-to-day consultant to your freelance business who has access to specialists like CPA’s. They can consult you on all aspects of your freelance business, especially anything admin work related. For US based customers, this can mean questions like LLC or S-Corp, knowing about what expenses are tax deductible, etc.

I’m an international freelancer, does AND CO work for me? You can use most of the features in most parts of the world. You can select your numbers format and tax rate to be applied to your invoices. You won’t be able to connect your bank account and use the tax related features – like getting tax deduction questions answered. Specific countries are not supported by Stripe yet, but in that case you can use PayPal.

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Kickstart Your Personalization Program With This 4-Step Guide

Today’s leading online enterprises know the key to cracking higher conversions—providing relevant experiences to users through personalization. There is a large amount of data across the Internet that reinforces the power of personalization. CMO by Adobe, for example, compiles interesting data about personalization from different sources to present a complete picture on personalization:

  • The in-house marketers who are personalizing their web experiences see, on average, a 19 percent uplift in sales.
  • About 94 percent of customer insights and marketing professionals across multiple industries suggest personalization is “important,” “very important,” or “extremely important” for meeting their current marketing objectives.

While enterprises understand how important it is to craft relevant content and experiences for users, how do they go about doing it? For those who want to start a personalization program, this blog post chalks out a 4-step approach for implementing web personalization:

  • Identify segments to target.
  • Plan the personalization campaign.
  • Implement the campaign.
  • Measure success from personalization efforts.

Identify the Segments You Want to Target

Segmentation begins with knowing who your visitors are and segregating them into different segments based on certain traits or characteristics. Google Analytics, for example, is a great tool to help you do that. You can slice and dice your visitors’ data, based on various attributes to identify segments that drive significant traffic to your website. Further, Google Analytics can give you a lot more than just traffic numbers. If you have “revenue tracking” in place, you can identify specific segments that bring you the highest conversion rate as well as absolute sales figures. These are the segments you should be targeting.

If you have a CRO program in place, you can also look at past A/B test results to identify segments that you might want to target. Run post-test segmentation and drill into the results to look at individual segments that won higher conversions, or find hidden winners. For example, you could run post-test segmentation and find out whether social traffic got you more conversions compared to direct traffic.

Creating thorough customer profiles is a traditional method of segmenting visitors. A customer profile could be based on the following:

  • Demographic information: Age, gender, location, ethnicity, and marital status
  • Psychographic information: Interests, values, hobbies, and likes/dislikes
  • Firmographic information: Company name(s), size, industry, revenue, and roles

While demographic and psychographic information is important for consumer marketers, firmographics are used by B2B marketers. You can extract psychographic information using website cookies. On the other hand, you can ask users directly for firmographic and demographic information.

For instance, the following image shows an ideal customer profile for an automobile website. It lists important information which is required for creating profiles of target customers—demographic information of the users, the type of engagement shown on the website, and the type of products they intend to buy or already own.

ideal customer profile for personalization
Source

Enterprises also need to understand why it is important to target a certain segment. Is it that the segment that they want to target drives the major share of revenue for your website? Target your most valuable visitors to achieve your personalization goals.

  • If an eCommerce enterprise observes that people in their mid 20s account for 70 percent sales of their sports equipment, it could run a campaign for that segment showing a separate section devoted only to sports goods on the home page.
  • B2B marketers can target segments per industries such as healthcare, BFSI, or government. These segments can be targeted by either offering a product with personalized messaging or offering different products to different segments.

Enterprises can also run personalization when they have a segment-specific business goal in mind. For example, if the objective is to increase hiring from a specific region, visitors from that region should be targeted with a personalized message or content on the website. Here’s a case study on how geo-targeting helped VWO increase CTR to its careers page by 149 percent. Similarly, if an eCommerce enterprise that caters to global markets wants to introduce a new product for a specific region, it can run personalization on its website for visitors from that part of the world.

Planning a Personalization Campaign

Enterprises planning for personalization need to consider its “how” and “where”:

How Should They Target the Segment

One message does not fit all. For instance, an eCommerce enterprise can target two different subsegments from a certain main segment, that is, women aged between 20-30. The first sub-segment can be of “fashion-conscious and impulse” buyers. The other segment can be of those women who make only carefully thought out, high-end luxury purchases. Both the subsegments drive a large percentage of sales to the accessories section of your website.

User behavior information such as “number of sessions to transaction” using cookies can help classify users into these segments. An impulse buyer would complete a purchase within a single session, while a carefully thought-out purchase might take multiple session before a visitor converts.

For the first segment, you can run personalized cross-sell campaigns on products for which they show the intent to purchase. For the second segment, consider targeting a lookbook that shows how your high-end products such as platinum/diamond jewelry can seamlessly blend with their outfit and add a charm to the wearer’s personality.

Here is another example. A B2B software company first might want to show a basic product video to a first-time visitor on the website. Later, the company might target a one-to-one live product demo offer to someone who has visited the site multiple times and looks highly engaged.

A Hubspot post which lists 3 examples of personalization, talks about how Lynton personalizes its home page for new and repeat visitors. The CTA on the home page shown to first-time visitors says “Learn About Inbound,” while the CTA for repeat visitors reads “Start Your Project Today.” Hubspot’s hypothesis behind running this personalization campaign could be that while new visitors might be interested in knowing more about inbound, the repeat visitors might already have explored enough on inbound and now need to start their learning. With the goal of increasing clicks from both new and repeat visitors, they showed personalized CTAs to both segments.

Personalizing CTA for new visitors
CTA on Lynton Homepage for New Visitors

 

Personalizing CTA for repeat visitors
CTA on Lynton Homepage for Repeat Visitors

 

Another widely used method is geo-targeting visitors from different countries, using their native language. A post on QuickSprout talks about how Neil Patel increased search traffic by 47 percent by translating his blog in 82 languages

Where on the Website Should the Personalization be Implemented

After identifying the segment, you should target and craft a messaging strategy for them. The next thing that enterprises need to find out is where to place personalized content on their websites.

Identify the pages that you should be running your personalization campaign on. Should it be the product page that has a large amount of traffic? Probably yes. Should it be the checkout page for eCommerce? Probably not. Look at your website analytics data (in Google Analytics, for example) to identify pages that drive high traffic. You could also look at specific pages where the segments are browsing/arriving mostly.

The next step is to identify areas on your webpages that fetch maximum attention or engagement. Scrollmaps and Heatmaps, for example, will show the scroll depth of your page or help identify the sections of the webpage that are highly attention grabbing. These tools help you understand:

  • On your B2B website, whether the eBook you have targeted to get more sign-ups from your eCommerce clients should be placed in the middle of the website scroll or pushed to the top.
  • On your eCommerce website, whether you should place the lookbook for your fashion-oriented segment of women on the top of the page or on the left.

Running a Personalization Campaign

To run a personalized campaign, using a prefered tool, enterprises can design and modify different variations of their website for varied segments they want to target. For example, one of the personalized variations of your website could be targeted at mobile traffic. This variation can be a modification that displays less content compared to the content that the desktop version displays. (The hypothesis is that “mobile users want to go through minimal content.”)

The first step is to set up target segments within your personalization tool. In VWO, for instance, you can either choose a predefined segment or define a custom visitor segment for different variations. Next,  set up a conversion goal that you want to track on running the personalization campaign. Tracking CTA clicks on a variation that has been personalized or tracking revenue from the personalized home page variation created for business-class travelers—the goal should be exactly what you want to achieve with your personalization efforts.

creating personalization goal

When the segmentation is applied to the created or modified variations, you are ready to run your personalization test campaign.

Measuring the Impact of Personalization

A/B testing is one approach to measure the success of your personalization campaigns. You can run your personalization campaign as an A/B test. If your campaign delivers a win, you should replicate its success by planning and running more campaigns on similar hypotheses. If it fails to achieve the goal, identify and record the reasons for what went wrong. Maintaining a repository of learning is essential to refrain from committing the mistakes of past A/B tests and running smarter campaigns in the future.

Google Analytics conversion funnels also can help measure the impact of personalization. To see how successful you have been in your personalization efforts, compare your target metrics for the period before you implemented personalization with that of the period after it. Gauge the same conversion funnel for the same amount of time, and see the difference in results if any.

Conclusion

Running personalization requires enterprises to answer a number of questions regarding for whom and why the personalization campaign being run for, how and where on the website will the campaign be run, and what results will the personalization efforts reap. With our 4-step approach to personalization, you can effectively implement your campaign.

How are you implementing personalization? Have more suggestions or feedback? Drop in a comment.

A/B test your personalization program

The post Kickstart Your Personalization Program With This 4-Step Guide appeared first on VWO Blog.

ABC News to Fire Up Facebook Live for Debate Coverage

ABC News is teaming up with Facebook for its coverage of the upcoming presidential debates.

The collaboration between ABC News and Facebook during the 2016 Republican National Convention and Democratic National Convention resulted in more than 28 million video views across ABC News’ Facebook pages.

ABC News said in an email to SocialTimes that its curated Facebook feed will feature Facebook Live streams from debate host cities, inside spin rooms and watch parties across the U.S., as well as commentary from anchors and correspondents at the network’s New York headquarters, adding that Facebook users’ comments, questions and conversations will be incorporated into its live coverage on the social network.

Coverage of each debate will begin on Facebook Live at 7 p.m. ET with original series Strait Talk, featuring ABC News contributors Matthew Dowd and LZ Granderson. Strait Talk will be followed by coverage featuring Nightline co-anchor Dan Harris, digital host Amna Nawaz and Granderson.

Facebook director of news and global media partnerships Andy Mitchell said in an emailed statement:

We’re excited that ABC News will continue to bring people on Facebook the full breadth of what is happening in real-time on the ground during these important moments in the election cycle. With its robust Facebook Live coverage plans and deep bench of political journalists, ABC News will help facilitate an open dialogue among voters and create an engaging and immersive experience from each debate.

ABC News vice president of digital Colby Smith added:

Given the tremendous viewership we saw across the ABC News Facebook pages throughout the conventions, we’re thrilled to continue the partnership and bring ABC News’ wide-ranging live coverage direct to users’ News Feeds for the debates. As we move further into the election cycle, there continues to be a voracious appetite for live content, and we know many users turn to Facebook to engage and participate in the conversation.

Readers: Will Facebook be a part of your plans to follow the debates?

Brooke B. Sellas From B-Squared Media on Starting a Social Media Agency

Brooke B. Sellas is the founder of @HelloBSquared, which specializes in “done-for-you” social media management. Brooke is a marketing and social media consultant, and an adjunct for consumer behavior at CUNY.

Brooke recently spoke with Sprout about what it takes to start your own social media agency, the done-for-you social approach, and the importance of scaling when launching a business.

How did you first get interested in social media?

I went back to school, and to graduate with honors from Penn State, you have to do an undergraduate thesis. So, I decided to do my undergraduate thesis on social media and the Social Penetration Theory. Back in the sixties, there were two social psychologists, Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor, and they said that we form relationships through disclosure. Meaning, if I like you and I disclose information to you, and you accept that information and you disclose information to me, it would keep prompting deeper and deeper disclosures until we build trust in a relationship.

My study looked at Facebook and three brands and how and if they were using disclosure to talk to their audiences. Essentially what I found was that the companies that got deep with that disclosure—with opinions and feelings—had the biggest audiences, the most engagement and the most return.

What is your marketing strategy? Why did you decide to focus on “done-for-you” social?

We started with “done-for-you” social because I knew, from my previous marketing experience, that clients often said things like, “I don’t want to learn how to manage social. I don’t have time for that—I just want to hand it off to someone and have them do it.” So I knew that this was a pain point.

How do you get people interested in your agency?

It really comes down to networking. The majority of our clients have all come from word of mouth. I started to meet people who owned marketing agencies—a lot of times these marketers are experts in their own way but they get requests to do “done-for-you” work that they don’t specialize in. So they often turn around and pass this work over to us.

So it’s word of mouth but from highly recognizable, sought after people. Lately the big boom for us has been partnering with a lot of marketing agencies who offer agency work but not social agency work.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned?

Nobody explains to you what it’s like to scale a business. Everybody tells you, “Oh, business is hard, it’s so hard,” but my advice that I would give as far as scaling goes is document everything. Figure out how you can then take those documents and turn them into processes and workflows, and turn them into client education, and then maybe blog posts.

Everything you write down can turn into some sort of content for yourself. Because I think, with scaling, the first thing you can scale is the process or the workflow. As soon as I know I have a repeatable process that works for done-for-you social or for advertising or for content, or whatever it is, then I can scale. Once you scale so many of those processes, then you add the people in.

Speaking of scaling, how did you scale your efforts?

Scaling the agency is an ongoing conversation. I think there is no one answer. There’s no “scale in a box.” You have to pair up with a financial advisor. I think that’s one of the first things you should invest in, when you can.

Luckily my husband is a financial advisor. We talk about scaling every day—how to scale, how to make things fit—because, again, we prefer not to make any sort of investment or borrow any money, so we only do it when we have the cash. Which makes it hard but it’s also smart.

I like to think and set goals in five-year increments. I have revenue goals that I set; for the first five years, which we’re in now.

When you have big clients like we have, it’s wonderful, but when you lose a billion-dollar client, it really hurts the bottom line. So you have to be able to bob and weave and keep scaling.

How did you know when it was time to hire additional people?

I work seven days a week, 365 days a year. I was working holidays, I was working weekends and I think when I finally got, like, a tick, my husband—or then-boyfriend at the time— said, “You know, you’re making enough now that you can hire someone part-time.” He helped me crunch the numbers.

Who are some of your clients?

We help everyone from startups to billion-dollar brands. The mix of our clients is everything from fashion to retail to pharma to tech to staffing—there’s no one industry. I would say the majority of our clients now are middle-market to large-size companies or brands.

Have you set goals for numbers of clients?

Last year and this year we scaled up very quickly. We went from two people to four people and that was partly because we grew so much and so we had the income to support that growth. But part of what we’ve done in these two years, too, is to work on what everyone’s threshold is.

So we set up a threshold for accounts—and by social channels or accounts, not clients, because some clients just have Facebook, but some clients have Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram—so we set a threshold on what we call properties, or channels. We said, “You’re responsible in this role for handling up to 30 properties.” We’re almost at that 30-property threshold with two of our girls and they haven’t quit on me. We know if we close a large client, we know we have to hire someone. If we close a medium client, we probably have to hire someone. If we close two small clients, it’s time to hire someone.

Your blog is a large part of your brand and agency. How did you develop your blog’s tone of voice?

I’ve always written the blog. I do have guest bloggers come on every now and again but I’ve always written the blog. So when I decided to get serious about blogging, which was several years ago now, I said, “I’m going to publish weekly.” And I’ve published weekly—I’ve never broken that because it’s so important.

Consistency is important, even if only three people are reading your blog. I feel like it was easy to keep voice and tone consistent on the blog because I’m the one who writes most of the posts. As far as the copy on our site and all of our client collateral and even proposals, I have a very casual, fun, bubbly way of speaking to people. I can be serious when needed, but I just feel like “serious” and “social media” don’t really go together.

Have you seen an uptick in business in terms of blogging? Have you set any goals related to blogging?

My blog audience is really made up of other social media experts. So I don’t really sell anything to that group.

What are some tools that you’ve relied on for documenting those processes besides Sprout?

Excel, Basecamp for project management, which has been huge. These tools really come and go, but we’ve stuck with Sprout Social. We use Toggl—that’s big for scaling because Toggl allows you to log in and out based on projects.

And so what our social media and advertising strategist and I do is we go through every so often and we look at where the most time is being spent. That helps us understand that threshold of what people can handle, what paths are taking longer than we anticipated and that 30-property threshold.

This post Brooke B. Sellas From B-Squared Media on Starting a Social Media Agency originally appeared on Sprout Social.

6 Facebook Advertising A/B Tests You Can Run Right Now

A/B testing is done through having a control (previous creative that has done well) and a test (new ways of changing the ad itself or optimizing it on the back end).

So why A/B test on Facebook ads? Because it is a great way to find out what is resonating with your target audience. If you have just one image with one ad copy, you are putting all of your eggs in one basket, and I think we all know how that works out in the end.

A/B testing can be as simple as changing the image by using the same copy or vice versa or as complicated as testing manual versus automatic bidding.

I am going to give you six A/B tests you can run on Facebook right now.

One-day conversion vs. seven-day conversion

This is fairly new to Facebook and worth testing. You will find this option in the ad set level optimizing for conversions like so:

SalzmanGuestPostConversions

After some preliminary testing with a few clients, at Elite SEM, we have found that ROAS (return on ad spend) with a seven-day conversion window has been the better performing one so far, but it is definitely worth testing out.

Calls to action

Calls to action can be placed in the copy of your ad or chosen as a button that goes on the bottom-right corner of an ad. Some of these options are “shop now,” “learn more,” “sign up” and “donate now.”

Some audiences respond to being told what to do, like “shop now”, while others prefer to be coaxed into shopping with a “learn more.” While all of these tests are quick and easy to perform, this one might be the easiest.

Image flip

This is one that I have been trying to test more with after reading a bit more into the psychology of internet marketing and how people’s eyes move around webpages.

For example, when a person in an ad looks somewhere, your eyes naturally shift toward that spot. Test it for yourself in the real world. Go to a heavy walking traffic area of town with a friend. Look up at something with a curious eye and have your friend count the people that do the same. I guarantee that nearly everyone that sees you will look where you are looking.

Try this with ads. Here is what I am talking about with image flipping:

SalzmanGuestPostImageFlip

Use the left one as a control and the right one as a test. The eyes facing a call-to-action button may guide the consumer’s eyes there and prompt them to click.

Promo code vs. no promo code

This one is pretty self-explanatory. You want to have a control ad with no promo in the copy or image versus a test with a promo in the copy. The outcome of this test will give you an idea of how your audience interacts with your ads. Are they clicking through because of the pretty picture, or are they actually reading the copy and then going to your website and using the promo code?

Text overlay in image

This one goes along with No. 4. The text overlay can be as simple as your brand’s logo or as advanced as a nice promo code with a percent-off promotion. If you really want to get granular with it, try placing the overlay in different spots on the image (bottom right, bottom left, middle, etc.).

Manual vs. automatic bidding

This one will probably give you the most bang for your buck of any of these tests. In the ad set level, you will find this in the bid amount option, which is the same spot you found No. 1 (see first image).

Facebook says that it is best to go with automatic bidding because the algorithm is smarter than you are, which I tend to agree with. But what if you have a cost per lead/purchase goal and you really want to hit that? Then I suggest testing automatic versus manual bidding to see which one performs more to your liking.

At Elite SEM, we test this more than anything else, since the results can have a huge impact on key performance indicators. One added incentive to this is that with automatic bidding, you can gauge what others are bidding in your industry.

With these six simple Facebook A/B tests, you will not only find out what your audience wants in terms of creative, but also gain an understanding of what type of bidding works in order to save your company time and effort.

Jackson Salzman is a paid social account analyst for digital performance agency Elite SEM.

A/B testing image courtesy of Shutterstock.

It always feels like somebody's watching me…


It always feels like somebody's watching me...

A VPN is the easiest way to get a fast, private, and secure internet connection. Get your Jason Bourne on with one of the best VPNs on the market.

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What Top Companies Know About Analytics (That You Don’t)

Having the right kind of insights available at the right time is crucial in today’s business. But some brands are taking analytics a step further by not only relying on it to make sound decisions when opportunities present themselves, but making it the absolute core of every impactful business decision.

And their analysis isn’t limited to one type of data. Rather, a study by Salesforce determined that top performers who made analytics their main focus looked at an average of 17 different kinds of data.

So what other things separate the top brands from under-achievers, and how can you make sure your own company is leveraging every possible facet of analytics to the fullest? Read on for all the details.

Analytics is Not a Magic Pill

First off, simply taking steps to understand your analytics and making solid decisions based on them is not going to instantly catapult you to the top of your industry. There are still many, many pain points strongly felt by executive decision-makers. There’s simply too much data coming in too fast, among other things:

analytics-pain-pointsThe Salesforce report details common issues with data and analytics

Fortunately, businesses on the cutting edge understand that having the right tools and technology to analyze the data they’re given is a smart strategy, which is why top performers have indicated increasing their analytics-related marketing spend by 50% over the next two years. It’s worth noting that they are over six times more likely to invest heavily in analytics tools, training and people than their more lackluster performing counterparts.

Analytics is the Fuel that Drives Exponential Growth

And what’s more, analytics is quickly becoming the de-facto driver behind a wide range of business decisions – well beyond the website:

analytics-effectAnalytics can be used well beyond improving a website

When analytics is used to improve procedures and processes across the board – from collaboration to developing new products and enhancing current ones, there’s virtually no limit to the company’s growth.

In addition, top performers are more likely to react in a timely manner based on the insights they receive from their analytics. They follow a predictable pattern of drawing details from all types of data, including (but not limited to):

  • Emails
  • Transactional information
  • Log files
  • Social media
  • Partner data
  • And much more

And many of these high-performing teams aren’t leaving mobile analytics out in the cold either. Although still in its infancy compared to broader analytical applications, mobile analytics adoption is growing just as quickly as mobile adoption itself, and companies who know how to put this data to work are out-maneuvering the competition. Top performing companies are 3.5x more likely to put this information to good use.

Creating an Analytics-Based Company Culture

Perhaps the biggest and most telling difference between top performing companies and their lagging counterparts isn’t just in how many different ways they use analytical data, or what data sources they pull from, but their entire approach to the concept of analytics as a whole.

The best performing teams have their entire executive team embracing the use of analytics as part of the company culture and not just a one-off thing managed by a handful of “marketing people”.

executive-buyinTop-level executives understand the need for analytics for everyone — not just a select few

But it’s no longer enough to have the support of the C-suite to make analytics work for the entire company. Because of their technical nature, analyzing the data can seem overwhelming and at times unpredictable. But by putting reliable information in the hands of every employee, even more insights, ideas and strategies can be discovered and implemented.

Democratizing the whole analytics process paves the way forward for a truly data-driven company. And as noted in the study, top performers are fifteen, yes, fifteen times more likely to collaborate with other members and roles within their organization to help better organize and glean important actionable strategies and concepts.

That one difference in itself is enough to separate the truly data-driven from those that are struggling to wrap their heads around this whole “analytics thing.”

Embracing New Technology (Even if It’s Still Not Proven)

Companies who stand to gain the most from analytics are also not averse to trying out new analytics tools. Both predictive (what will the user do based on their past behavior?) and prescriptive (what actions should we take based on the information we’ve gathered?) tools are included in the survey:

predictive-prescriptive

And of course, there are a lot of tools and technologies out there, including some that are just starting to tap into the potential of unstructured data – which is information that can’t be organized or neatly fit into the company’s pre-arranged data sets. This is where forward-thinking companies believe their customer behavior gold nuggets are to be found – which is why they’re not shy about testing the waters with emergent technologies.

They’ll either prove themselves in time, or they won’t – but how can you know if you don’t test?

So what really seals the deal for these companies when it comes to adopting new analytics technologies or solutions? How do they determine which choices are worth investigating and which might not be the best fit? As it turns out, their priority system looks like this:

analytics-toolsA list of the must-have features top companies consider when evaluating analytics tools and technologies

Circling back around to the main points that differentiate them, top companies understandably want something that makes itself useful right from the start; something that employees and the more technologically-inclined can hit the ground running with. Something that lets them plunge right in and start making sense of the data they’re collecting. Bonus points if it’s mobile or cloud-based.

The Bottom Line in Becoming a Smarter Data-Driven Company

As you can see, it’s not just a matter of being able to “read the numbers” that drives top performing companies. It’s a full-on embrace and integration of everything analytics offers – from customer preferences to making processes and procedures more efficient. Analytics used in this way tends to have a ripple effect on companies – rather than being some kind of novelty that’s stacked away in a silo, it’s growing into its own as a formidable growth and revenue driver.

Not only that, but when done right, analytics drives the kind of collaboration that gets people thinking about continuous and measurable improvement. And all of these traits are what makes an industry top performer.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel like you have an analytics-centered culture at your company? Do you embrace new analytics technology or have a more cautious approach? Tell us your experience in the comments below!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today!