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12 Ways to Use Instagram for Small Business

We all know the power of Instagram. Huge companies like Coca Cola, Starbucks and Nike dominate the space. Companies with established followings seems to have no problems getting engagement and results. But how can you use Instagram for small business?

You don’t have to be an enterprise-sized company to get value from Instagram. In fact, the mobile app allows small businesses to compete with the “big guys.” If you’re not using Instagram for small business yet, you’re missing out on a potential gold mine of opportunities.

Why Instagram for Small Businesses Is Great

Out of all of the newer social networks, Instagram does a lot to set itself apart. With over 500 million monthly active users, Instagram is the fourth-most downloaded app in the US.

most downloaded mobile apps

But here’s the problem. Since Instagram marketing is still fairly new, some small businesses struggle to gain traction. You don’t have clickable links in your posts, it’s a mobile-first app, which relies a lot more on visuals than text. As a result, we’re seeing a lot of small businesses sign up, get confused about how to actually use it and then give up.

However, with social media management tools like Sprout that integrate with Instagram, it’s a lot easier to get started, no matter what size your business is.

instagram collaboration

So how do you cross over from being just another company on the app to achieving the level of success companies like Bon Puf, Simple Green Smoothies? Here are 12 strategies and tips on how to get the most out of Instagram for small business and build a loyal following:

1. Get Set Up the Right Way

It’s a good idea to connect your company’s social accounts. This is particularly true if you already have social media profiles with a strong following. You can push your followers on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other sites to your new Instagram account.

Instagram lets you connect your other profiles so that your new posts can get published to those accounts automatically.

instagram linked accounts

Don’t forget to add your website and write a bio for your profile that explains what your company is all about without being boring. Fallen Industry’s profile does a great job of letting users know what they do while making it intriguing at the same time.

fallen industry instagram bio

Another good way to use your bio is to add in additional contact information. By default you can only have one clickable URL in your profile. But what you can do to get around that is include URLs in your bio.

paper and pop profile
  • Pro tip: Shorten any URLs you use in your bio using a service like Bitly. It’ll take up less characters and make it easier to track your traffic from Instagram.

Check out our post on how to write Instagram bios for businesses to learn more about crafting your Instagram bio and putting your best foot forward.

2. Start Using Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories have been a controversial feature to say the least. In case you haven’t heard, Instagram Stories lets you string together multiple pictures and videos into a “story” that disappears after 24 hours, similar to Snapchat stories.

Small businesses have been slow to use Instagram Stories while they try to figure out how to best weave the feature into their own strategies. But there’s a lot of potential you shouldn’t pass up. Like with any big change, the companies that adopt and figure it out first tend to reap the biggest benefits.

Follow in the footsteps of brands like Taco Bell that have gone all-in on Instagram Stories. Start experimenting and get creative to see what you can come up with.

[vimeo 179495903 w=422 h=750]

3. Monitor What’s Working

Are you paying attention to which Instagram posts get the most engagement? Do you know which hashtags perform the best? Using an Instagram analytics tool can help you see all of this information from a single dashboard and track it over time.

instagram analytics

By looking through data, you’ll get an idea of what type of content resonates with your audience the best. Whether it’s a certain style of photo, a particular filter or a popular hashtag. The more info you have about the content your audience resonates with, the more you can improve your future posts.

4. Dive Into Your Comments

Do you publish Instagram posts and never look at them again? You’re not alone. A lot of small businesses spend little to no time monitoring their comments, partially because it’s not the easiest thing to do within the Instagram app. It’s also difficult because most brands look for publishing and not Instagram engagement.

In order to make responding to Instagram comments easier, use Sprout Social to reply to comments across multiple Instagram accounts and all your other social media profiles.

Reply to Instagram Comments in Sprout Social

5. Use Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is one of the best ways to quickly build up your Instagram following, particularly when you’re starting from scratch. Through influencer marketing, you can connect with people with an established following and get exposed to their audience.

In the past (pre-social media) influencer marketing required huge budgets to get athletes and actors to endorse your products. But social media has changed the game. Now non-celebs can be influencers and have hundreds of thousands or even millions of engaged followers. Not only has this made it easier for brands to connect with influencers, but it also made influencer marketing a lot more affordable.

You may not be able to afford to have a Hollywood A-lister post about your products on Instagram. But you can probably link up with a popular Instagram influencer with a nice-sized following.

Calming therapy with @organique_polska 🌴🙌🏼 #aloe #organiquepolska więcej na blogu: JEMERCED.com

A photo posted by Jessica Mercedes Kirschner © (@jemerced) on Nov 27, 2016 at 12:09pm PST

Start by making a list of the top influencers in your industry. Look for them on Instagram to make sure they have an engaged audience. It’s not just about how many followers they have, it’s about how much engagement they get. Check out how many Likes and comments they get on their posts and how often they post.

Then reach out and let them know you’re interested in working together. It’s best to have some ideas for what you’d like to do before approaching them. Two common options are contests and sponsored posts. Also, the influencer might have some ideas on how you can work together as well.

6. Get Familiar With Hashtags

Instagram’s search feature looks for hashtags instead of keywords. On platforms like Twitter or Facebook, you can do a search for “hamburgers” and see all the Tweets and Facebook posts containing that keyword. But with Instagram, you have to search #hamburgers.

If you want your posts to show up in the app’s search, you need to start using hashtags for Instagram. It’s a quick way to increase your visibility and reach people who aren’t already aware of your brand.

The trick is to use the right hashtags. A common mistake some businesses make is using random hashtags they made up. Unfortunately, nobody is searching for those random hashtags so they’re not helping you grow your following.

The real value comes from finding ways to post pictures related to popular or trending hashtags. When you do this, your images have a chance to show up in the Trending Tags section of Instagram.

trending tags

What’s trending at the moment might not always be relevant to your business or the images you post though. In those cases, you can use Websta to see a huge list of popular hashtags that might not be trending, but are still being used heavily. Websta will show you more generic and broad hashtags that are easier to fit into your non-themed Instagram posts.

Something unique to Instagram that you don’t see on many other social networks is using a lot of hashtags can actually get your images more likes. On Twitter, having 10 hashtags in a Tweet would be crazy. But on Instagram it’s pretty much the norm.

In a case study from Max Woolf, over 120,000 Instagram photos were analyzed and he found that photos with the maximum allowable hashtags (30) received three times the amount of likes as photos with just a few hashtags.

instagram hashtag case study

This doesn’t mean every Instagram post needs 30 hashtags. Using hashtags just for the sake of having them isn’t recommended. But the point is photos with hashtags will get a lot more attention than those that don’t.

Once you start using hashtags in your post, you can use Sprout to see which of your hashtags are performing the best through our hashtag performance report.

instagram hashtag reporting

7. Create More Videos

I’m sure we don’t have to tell you about how important video has become for small businesses. Even though photos currently generate more engagement, video is on the rise. Instead of waiting for other brands to dominate while you play catchup, get started right now.

With Instagram Stories and live videos, the app is making a clear push toward video content. The great thing about using Instagram videos is they don’t require a ton of production. All you really need is your phone and some creativity. Plus the videos are served in bite-size pieces with a time limit of one minute.

Follow in the footsteps of small businesses like Wahl, which generated a 4,307% spike in engagement within a year by focusing on more engagement and building a better Instagram strategy.

8. Start Regramming

Sharing other people’s content is one of the best ways to start building connections. When you’re just getting started with using Instagram for small business, building up your initial audience should be your top priority. You need to start getting eyes on your profile to get some initial shares and engagement.

Regramming is a quick and easy way to start getting some momentum. Unlike other networks, Instagram doesn’t have a native way to share other people’s content. You can either Like or comment. But there are third party apps that give you the ability to regram. Check out our guide on how to regram for more info and some different apps you can use.

9. Capitalize on Instagram Ads

One of the biggest obstacles that stops small businesses from trying social media advertising is costs. When you don’t have a big budget, it’s a little more difficult to justify spending money on advertising. But Instagram Ads present a great opportunity for small businesses because it’s extremely affordable.

Getting started is simple, particularly if you already have a Facebook Advertising account because it’s built into the same platform. However, we recommend creating custom image assets specifically for Instagram Ads instead of reusing the same ones you would for Facebook because of how it’s displayed in the feed.

instagram ads example

10. Host An Instagram Contest

There’s no denying the fact that people absolutely love free stuff. Instagram contests give your company an interesting way to engage with current and potential fans.

There are certain elements that you’ll want to include in your contest to maximize your results:

  • Make a theme for your contest instead of the generic “follow us to win a free product” approach.
  • Create a custom hashtag for your contest.
  • Make people tag a friend and comment to enter the contest. This will help your contest spread a lot quicker.
  • Start promoting the contest at least a week before it starts to build anticipation.
  • Consider collaborating with other companies or influencers to get even more reach.

Before you start, read through Instagram’s promotion guidelines to make sure you’re doing everything above board. Since the goal is to get loyal followers, whatever you’re giving away should be somewhat related to your industry. That way you’re not just attracting freebie seekers, but people that are legitimately interested in your brand.

11. Collaborate

One of the quickest ways to get a surge of new followers is to get a shout out or mention from someone that already has a large following. The great thing about Instagram is that a lot of popular accounts aren’t owned by huge corporations. They’re owned by regular people and lifestyle entrepreneurs who have done a lot of the leg work to build their own audience already.

When these people give a brand a shout out, their followers instantly go to check out the account and will more than likely give you a follow. This is one of the techniques Neil Patel used in his infamous $57,000 Instagram case study.

The two most common ways to get mentioned by established accounts are:

  1. Pay for a sponsored post (this can cost you anywhere from $20-$100+ per post)
  2. Establish a relationship or partner up with them

Obviously the second method is ideal, but let’s start out with the first option.

A lot of small businesses aren’t aware that paying for sponsored Instagram posts is even an option, but it’s a very popular way to start get the ball rolling on your account. The male accessory brand Bachelr used sponsored Instagram posts to promote its website when it first launched, and saw great results.

The brand generated over 20,000 new visitors in just two weeks.

bachelr instagram traffic

Bachelr credits a huge chunk of the success to influencer marketing.

One of our most successful posts was a model holding one of our products in a natural setting, no logo anywhere. This got 10k likes and 100+ comments.

Make a list of the top influencers related to your industry on Instagram. Focus on individuals rather than businesses. Most users who accept sponsored posts will have their contact information in their profile so it’s easy to reach them.

When you’re looking for influencers, choose people who are a good match for your brand. Otherwise the new followers you’ll gain won’t be very likely to engage with your content.

The second technique is simply good old fashion networking. Start following companies who are complementary to your brand and engage with their content. Leave comments, like their photos and even reach out to them via email. As these relationships start to grow, look for opportunities to promote each other on Instagram. Maybe you can team up on a joint venture or host an event together. Post photos on your Instagram pages and tag each other in them. There are plenty of possibilities.

One company putting an interesting twist on both of these techniques is Gym Shark. The active wear company caters to athletes, bodybuilders and people who live all-around active lives. One of Gym Shark’s techniques for growing its following is sponsoring influencers in the fitness niche. Its sponsored athletes post pictures on their own Instagram pages wearing Gym Shark’s products, and Gym Shark posts images of them on its page as well.

12. Engage With Your Competitor’s Followers

Two of the most important characteristics of an engaged Instagram follower are:

  1. They’re interested in your niche/industry
  2. They like the content you post

With this strategy, the first part is already taken care of. If a user is following one of your competitors, they’re more than likely already interested in your industry. That makes it easier to win them over and get them to follow you too. From that point, it’s all about keeping them engaged through the content you post.

Make a list of your top competitors who are active on Instagram. You may want to put them all into a spreadsheet to make it easier to track. Start with the first competitor and follow about 50-100 of their followers. This step alone will get you a few new followers. But we’re not just after followers, we want engaged followers who will help spread the word about our brand. In order to attract those users, you’ll need to communicate with them. On Instagram, there are three basic ways to engage with people:

  1. Follow them
  2. Like their photos
  3. Comment on their photos

You’ve already followed them, so now you just have to like some of their photos, comment or both. This will increase the likelihood of people following you back, and also reciprocating your engagement. The more you engage with your audience, the bigger your return will be.

instagram analytics

Are You on Instagram Yet?

Growing a dedicated following on Instagram won’t happen overnight. But the bright side is that Instagram users are very active and love to engage. So once you get the ball rolling, you’ll notice that your brand will start to build organically. Start putting these techniques into action and you’ll see how powerful Instagram can be for your business.

Sign up for a free 30 day trial of Sprout to give our Instagram features a test drive.

This post 12 Ways to Use Instagram for Small Business originally appeared on Sprout Social.

Why I Choose to Focus on One Marketing Channel at a Time

I feel like there’s an overarching maximalist mindset in marketing these days.

And it’s easy to see why.

Brands have never had more strategies to choose from.

There’s content marketing, social media, SEO, email, PPC, and influencer marketing, just to name a few.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and this doesn’t even take into account more traditional offline techniques that many companies still utilize.

In turn, I think many brands are suffering from exhaustion and fatigue.

They’re experiencing marketing overload.

I also think marketers don’t always extract the full potential from their strategies.

Before they can see one channel through to completion, they’ve already started working on three more channels.

If I’ve learned anything during my years as a marketer, it’s that simplicity is usually the key to success.

Because of that, I choose to focus on only one marketing channel at a time.

Here’s why.

I don’t spread myself too thin

You know that old saying that if you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one?

I think this applies to marketing as well.

Jumping in head first and attempting to manage, say, four or five different channels can be overwhelming, and you’re unlikely to kill it at any strategy.

Even if you’re a savvy marketer who knows the ins and outs of the process, you simply can’t devote the necessary time to extract the full potential of any single channel.

Just look at the amount of time most marketers spend each week performing routine tasks:

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But when you concentrate wholeheartedly on one channel, you can give it a 100% effort.

This helps you not only run your marketing campaign at a high level but also achieve the desired results faster.

Working on too many marketing channels at once is kind of like being a jack of all trades and master of none.

Placing your attention on a single channel allows you to master that channel before moving on to the next strategy.

Managing multiple channels can quickly become chaotic and stressful

Did you know that the average B2B content marketer creates 13 types of content?

You heard it right—13!

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That, in and of itself, is a lot of work.

And just imagine combining that with multiple other channels at the same time.

Things would get hectic in a hurry.

Social media can be pretty intense as well. The average B2B content marketer is active on six different networks:

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Even if you’re posting the same content on each network, it’s still going to be time-consuming.

I can almost guarantee you’ll feel burned out and the overall effectiveness of each channel will be marginal.

And this is going to be even worse if you’re new to marketing and/or have a small marketing team.

Or what if you’ve got a mountain of other business-related tasks on your plate?

There are just not enough hours in the day to devote to your marketing to ensure everything is operating at full capacity.

As a result, certain areas of your marketing campaign are bound to suffer.

Focusing on one marketing channel allows me to continually chip away at it and be highly effective.

I’m far less likely to become overwhelmed, and I can ensure that the specific channel I’m working on is reaching my target audience, generating leads, and leading to conversions.

In other words, it allows me to maximize my ROI without losing my mind along the way.

I ensure I get it right

Would you rather be a virtuoso at playing one musical instrument or a sub-par musician playing four or five?

I personally would prefer to be an expert at a single instrument.

I apply the same approach to marketing.

I would much rather devote the majority of my time to a single channel and completely crush it instead of working on a handful of channels and being painfully mediocre.

After all, what’s the point of spending any time whatsoever on a tactic if it’s not giving you any tangible results?

To me, it makes way more sense to give maximum effort to a single channel and make it incredibly successful rather than working on multiple channels half-heartedly.

Multitasking minimizes my impact

Working on multiple marketing channels simultaneously is a lot like multitasking because you’re constantly bouncing from one technique to another.

But numerous studies have found that multitasking isn’t as good as it may seem.

In fact, it can be quite detrimental to your efficiency and overall productivity.

A study from the University of London even “revealed that subjects who multitasked while performing brain-intensive tasks demonstrated IQ drops similar to people who are sleep-deprived or smoked marijuana.”

If you’re looking for a scientific explanation of this phenomenon, neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin offers one.

According to him,

Multitasking has been found to increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol as well as the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline, which can overstimulate your brain and cause mental fog or scrambled thinking.

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The founder and chief technology officer of Wordstream, Larry Kim, even stated in an article for Observer that…

…you’re actually hurting your brain by juggling several undertakings at once.

The bottom line is that trying to focus on too many marketing channels at the same time is usually counterproductive and is only going to reduce the impact of your overall campaign.

But focusing on just one at a time allows you to be as effective and efficient as possible.

It costs less

There’s also the topic of money.

It’s been found that 89% of marketers are maintaining or increasing their inbound budgets.

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Implementing only one marketing channel at a time will cost you considerably less than pursuing a multi-channel approach.

According to an article on LinkedIn,

…it has even been estimated that a single-channel marketing strategy can cost as much as one-third less than multiple-channel strategies.

If you’re dealing with a fairly small budget, utilizing several techniques may simply not be in the cards for you from a financial standpoint.

Things can get especially ugly if more than one of those techniques tank, and it’s obviously going to hurt your ROI.

When I was starting out, the financial resources were often scarce.

Focusing on one marketing channel at a time enabled me to maximize the money I funneled into my campaign.

It allows me to outperform my competitors

When it’s all said and done, the absolute most important part of any marketing campaign is its ability to target the right demographic.

And let’s be honest. Using a smorgasbord of techniques typically means that each individual technique is less likely to hit its target.

When I divvy up my time across multiple channels, I minimize the effectiveness of any single one.

For this reason, it makes it really difficult to truly stand out from the competition and thrive within my industry.

I’m not really doing anything special or excelling at any particular strategy.

But concentrating on only one channel puts me in a position for success.

Because I eat, sleep, and breathe that one channel for a period of time, it’s more likely to flourish and grow.

In some cases, I can even dominate.

That’s because most of the competition has a maximalist mindset, trying to have their hand in everything rather than focusing on—and succeeding—in one area.

A final note

Just to be clear, I’m not saying you should limit yourself to just one marketing channel.

That’s not what I’m saying at all.

In fact, I would never recommend putting all your eggs in one basket.

What I am saying is that you’re likely to reduce your marketing impact if you go overboard and spread yourself too thin—especially during the initial stages of a campaign.

For me, it makes way more sense to focus on a single channel, bring it to full capacity, and maximize its impact.

Once it’s established and stabilized, you can move on to the next channel.

In other words, simplify your efforts by working on one channel, and get it running like a well-oiled machine before moving on.

Over time, this approach should help you develop a strong marketing campaign, with no weak links but with techniques that carry their weight.

Conclusion

I know it may seem tempting to experiment with a plethora of marketing channels.

After all, you’ll want to see what sticks.

But I know this mentality has gotten me into trouble in the past, and I know it can curtail the progress of each individual channel.

For me, a more effective and practical approach is to focus on one marketing channel at a time.

Doing so allows me to:

  • Manage each channel at a high level
  • Minimize my stress
  • Maximize my impact
  • Save money
  • Better reach my core audience
  • Outperform primary competitors

Only once I’ve gotten a channel to where it needs to be, I move on to the next.

That way I know I’m never shortchanging a marketing channel, giving it the best possible chance to prosper.

How many marketing channels are you currently implementing?

Save Time and Effort With Facebook Saved Audiences

Planning campaigns, hunting down creative, editing the creative to fit social media platforms, planning daily budgets, working on audiences, etc., etc.: There are a million things that need to be done with each new campaign, so are shortcuts welcome? I say yes.

One of the ways that I save time and effort is building out Facebook saved audiences. These do take some time to build out initially, but you will be thanking yourself in the future when your client or boss asks you on a Friday afternoon to build out a campaign that needs to be launched by the end of the day.

You may already know what saved audiences are, but for those that haven’t delved into these before, except to create lookalike audiences, they are premade audience targeting that you can simply insert into your ad sets in the future. The only caveat is that you cannot exclude these audiences from your targeting, so think carefully how you want to go about it.

Here are some tips that I have found to be useful over the years of saved audience building:

First and foremost, know your audiences and document them on an Excel sheet.

This may seem like a “duh” statement, but when you are targeting females age 25 through 45, you want to know what their interests, behaviors, buying habits, etc. are so that you can create a custom audience and feel comfortable that it is different than your females age 45 through 65-plus targeting.

Some of the time, your client will have some ideal audiences and demos that you can use, but if not, I suggest digging into their Google Analytics account to find the demos that are interacting with the business.

Next, you will want to hop into the audiences tab in the ad account you are working in. If you do not have any lookalike audiences, you will want to create some. I suggest referring to this article on what the best ones are to have in your repertoire.

After you have a number of lookalike audiences to choose from, click “saved audience.”

SalzmanGuestPostNovember1

The build-out that pops up should look pretty familiar if you have created ads in the past.

Once you are in here, go ahead and choose one of the audiences in that Excel sheet mentioned earlier and choose a lookalike audience to base these around. I always suggest using a lookalike audience as a base to filter down from because the Facebook algorithm is pretty smart about narrowing that massive U.S.-wide (or whatever country you are in) potential audience down to a couple of hundred thousand.

You now have your lookalike audience in there, so just go through the normal steps of choosing the age and gender, interests, behaviors, purchasing habits, income, etc.–whatever you have in your Excel sheet, really.

After you have filled out the necessary information, click “create audience,” and it will be available for you to use in future ad sets. How do you do this?

It’s simple: You just hop over into Power Editor to the ad set level of a campaign and have an option in the audience section of the build out to choose custom audiences. Click on the option box, choose custom audience and it will be in there.

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With this tactic of building out saved audiences, you will save time and effort in all of your campaigns to come.

Jackson Salzman is a paid social account analyst for digital performance agency Elite SEM.

6 Creative Social Media Tactics to Produce Better Content

Marketers are under a lot of pressure to make sure their campaigns get noticed on social media. With so many businesses active across all social platforms, the content you’re publishing has to be more innovative, creative and engaging than ever.

As a rule of thumb, you should avoid gimmicks and cheesy marketing ploys. And recreating an approach that worked for one brand won’t always pan out for yours. A successful strategy relies on a variety of different elements. Here are six social media tactics you should adopt:

1. Showcase Your Personality With Images, GIFs & Memes

It’s hard to deny the growing power and value of visual content. Just look at some of the success stories on Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. The way people consume content has changed dramatically since Facebook first launched. Social media posts with images see 650% more engagement than text-only posts. That’s a statistic you can’t afford to ignore.

GIFs

It’s not enough to just post static images. Social media is dynamic, and your content strategy has to be as well. Using GIFs can make your content more compelling and help your brand stand out. More than 1 million GIFs were shared on Twitter in 2015, and Tweets with GIFs get 167% more clickthroughs than those without.

The key to finding success with GIFs is finding one that adds value to your objective. GIFs can add humor to a dry subject, help educate viewers and make your content more conversational.

Here are a few examples of brands using GIFs to support their content strategies:

Twitter made GIFs more interactive with the “scrub” effect, which lets the viewer move the mouse back and forth for cool effects.

Memes

If you do stick to static media, sometimes a well-timed meme can help your content resonate with viewers. Not sure what we’re talking about? A meme is an image, video or phrase that sometimes has a hidden meaning about a popular culture reference. Here, Bark Box doesn’t mention its products, but simply the struggle of online dating in one great GIF.

Memes rely heavily on humor, so before you start using them in your content strategy, make sure that humor aligns with your brand’s tone and messaging. Otherwise it can feel out-of-place or come across as trying too hard. Additionally, most memes have short lifespans so move quickly. If you spend too long creating your take on one, the meme could be irrelevant.

2. Build Local Connections With Geotags

Depending on the type of business you have, location plays either a supporting or starring role. For local businesses, location is a huge component of your marketing strategy. If your social posts aren’t reaching the right audience, the time and energy you’re putting into them is going to waste.

The beautiful thing about social media is its vast reach, which can easily be segmented using targeting tools. But even before you begin segmenting your audience, you can use geolocation features available on some social networks to boost awareness for yourself in specific markets. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and even Snapchat offer some form of check-in or location tagging.

Cotton candy sunset in LA (photo: @minkmade) #LifeUnzipped #California #palmtrees

A photo posted by JanSport (@jansport) on Nov 16, 2016 at 4:53pm PST

For example, by tagging images with your location (such as city or neighborhood) on Instagram, you can appeal to followers who work or live nearby and might be more likely to interact or do business with you. Jansport used a hashtag to represent its location, which is great alternative if you don’t want to use Instagram’s built-in location feature. Tourists as well might search a location to learn more about businesses, restaurants and entertainment in the area.

Location tags are also great for universities, conferences, networking events and pop-up stores.

Marketers are also using Snapchat Geofilters to engage customers, launch new products, highlight company culture and support events. Just look at these examples from Disneyland and Taco Bell.

disney-snapchat-filter
taco-bell-geofilter

3. Capitalize on Major Events & Holidays

Coming up with different ideas to fill every spot in your content calendar is challenging. Make things easier on yourself by taking advantage of easy prompts like big events and holidays. There is literally a national day for everything. That said, don’t go overboard with themed days. The novelty could wear off quickly, so use this tactic in moderation.

An easy way to do this is to include seasonal themes in your content strategy, like this recent Tweet from Lowe’s:

When it comes to events and random holidays, choose the best fit for your brand. Look for a relevant connection that’ll make sense to your followers. For example, you wouldn’t think that a home improvement store could relate to an award show like the Oscars. While that’s likely true, the store could provide followers with DIY tips for converting a small living room into an awesome viewing party space.

And sometimes the theme doesn’t have to be so blatant. Here are a couple of examples from brands that subtly connect their messaging with a recent event:

What’s great about this is that you can start planning your content calendar months in advance since you already know what events and holidays are coming up. Just make sure that you stay flexible enough to include more timely updates.

4. Recycle Evergreen Content

Content is the most critical component of your marketing strategy. With that comes a lot of pressure to publish content that will be seen and drive your business objectives. But it doesn’t mean that every piece of content you share has to be unique. Well, it should be unique to your brand, but re-purposing older content isn’t a bad idea.

For example, take one of your evergreen blog posts and pull out a series of Tweets you can schedule from it. Not only will this help drive traffic to your site, but it’ll help you share valuable tidbits of information that can extend your reach on social. Remember, long-form content requires longer attention spans. By pulling out captivating and compelling snippets, you can really improve your status as an industry leader and maintain your position as a fantastic content creator.

If you’re managing several blogs, like at an agency, don’t forget about adding a personal touch. One of the reasons you’re using social media is to humanize your brand, so don’t let automatic updates turn into robotic alerts. Make sure you review everything before it goes live and personalize it a bit.

Sprout Social Scheduled Tweet

You can also do everything from scratch and schedule your updates using a social media management tool like Sprout Social. This is great if you want to be more selective about which snippets are shared, or if you want to customize your message for a particular audience.

Additionally, if you’re publishing blog snippets across platforms, make sure that your posts are optimized for each platform. Try to deliver the same message in different ways so the same sentence isn’t published on five separate sites day in and day out.

5. Participate in or Host a Twitter Chat

Maybe you have a lot to say about a particular subject, or maybe you’re not sure where to start when it comes to engaging an audience. A great way to get your feet wet is by participating in a Twitter chat. They’re a great way to gain exposure while growing and engaging your audience.

As a participant, Twitter chats offer a great opportunity to network and connect with customers or colleagues in your industry. It’s also a great way to establish your brand as an authority on a particular topic or within a specific industry. As you become more recognized in this space, you can start hosting your own chats and build a community that way.

Twitter chats are a great vehicle for getting your employees more involved with outreach. Team members who are active on social media and who you feel are fit to represent your brand should be encouraged to participate in social media chats. Just remember that regardless of who’s participating, this isn’t the time to be overly promotional. Give a short introduction of who you are, but don’t focus on selling.

6. Be Responsive & Conversational

This should really go without saying. Social media is a two-way street. If you ignore incoming messages, you’re counterintuitive with your social media strategy. Being responsive should be a top priority for each and every business. The number of messages needing a response from brands has increased by 18% between Q1 2015 and Q1 2016.

index-q1-2016-05

But let’s say that we’re living in an ideal world where every incoming message that warrants a response actually receives one. How can your brand stand out? Go above and beyond. For instance, one way to add a little extra something to your replies is to address the original poster by their first name. Now this is assuming that their name is accessible on their profile or in their username—we don’t expect you to go digging for this information.

It’s a small gesture, but a respectful one that followers will pick up on. Another way to go above and beyond is to look past customer support issues. This by no means suggests that you ignore them. Rather we encourage you to expand your monitoring and look for opportunities where you can proactively engage. Instead of waiting for someone to come to you with an issue, be the first to reach out. This could be as simple as thanking someone for visiting your store, or responding to a follower’s post about their day.

Always look for opportunities to surprise and delight followers, even if it’s not directly related to your products or services. It not only helps to humanize your brand, but it goes a long way in establishing a connection between you and your followers—which can pay off later in brand loyalty.

And sometimes you can stand out by engaging with other brands. Too often businesses are so focused on pushing their content and responding to customer feedback that they forget to have fun. Take a look at some of these examples from Taco Bell, Old Spice, Xbox and Oreo for inspiration.

Be Patient

If you don’t see success right away, don’t get frustrated. Social media marketing is all about experimentation. You have to find what fits for your audience as well as your brand. Don’t go so far out of your comfort zone that you start publishing content that doesn’t align with your core values. Engagement isn’t worth it if it goes against what your brand represents.

Pay attention to your analytics and closely monitor what followers are engaging with. Trust the social media tactics that deliver results and tweak those that aren’t meeting the goals you’ve set.

This post 6 Creative Social Media Tactics to Produce Better Content originally appeared on Sprout Social.

User-Generated Content: The Secret Weapon for Your Next Email Campaign

Today’s economy is all about social proof.

User-generated content (UGC) is one way to showcase why your brand matters. Moreover, email combined with UGC is a chance for ecommerce businesses to connect with consumers and generate revenue.

Olapic found that “user-generated content in email sees a 43% increase in click-through rates and a 2-3X conversion rate.” Visualization and authenticity accelerates consumers’ desires to purchase.

“UGC creates an opportunity to transition customers into brand advocates and provides customers with instant feedback about the product that doesn’t appear as a list of features,” says Kimberlee Morrison, a SocialTimes columnist.

Let’s explore how to integrate UGC into your next email campaign.

Earn Credibility

Integrity remains a cornerstone in the business sector. If you can’t prove that your company has the trust and respect of your customers, the market will question your influence and services.

That’s why social proof is an effective tool for earning consumer’s confidence. Having others speak on your behalf means people are willing to vouch for your brand’s quality. In essence, it shows potential customers that your business deserves their attention.

“The purpose of user-generated content is to humanize your brand. And with 51% of consumers trusting user-generated content over information on your brand’s website, you can build better relationships with this content stream,” says Alex York, a writer and SEO specialist.

Email is one of the best methods to exhibit your UGC. This communication channel gives your subscribers an intimate perspective on how your company can serve their needs.

In addition, research shows that “77% of consumers prefer email for marketing communications.” Customers can read your messages when and where they prefer, unlike a phone call.

UGC lets your audience see real-life testimonials about your products. Below is an example email from Foot Locker. The footwear retailer displays selfies from customers wearing its sneakers. The brand also encourages others to participate with the opportunity to be featured in the next email campaign.

foot-locker-social-proofImage Source

To earn extra credibility with your consumers, publish the first name of the individual beside the UGC. Or link the person’s social media account to his or her submitted photo. This tactic reassures the email subscriber that you’re highlighting real people in your emails.

Validate your brand’s worth with user-generated content. It’ll uncover more value to your customers.

Create Commerce

At the end of the day, your purpose is to bring sales to your company. And your team’s marketing efforts must possess a connection to revenue. If not, you risk losing sight of business goals.

Salesforce Marketing Cloud reports that “20% of marketers say that their business’ primary revenue source is directly linked to email operations.” Email is more than just informing your subscribers about product releases or sending the occasional thank you note.

“Email is one of the most popular channels retailers use to engage with new and returning shoppers. Triggered emails are especially powerful to re-engage shoppers who have abandoned some type of action on your site,” states Liz Bedor, a senior content marketing manager for Bluecore.

Use email to bridge your UGC to the sales funnel. For instance, consumers in the awareness stage may benefit from content that displays multiple products sold by your brand. This exhibition will show off what you can offer interested buyers.

On the other hand, when consumers are ready to buy, focus on adding a call-to-action to your UGC that leads people directly to your product pages. GlamGlow places UGC alongside the product with a link.

glamglow-user-generated-content

Another approach is to tie your sales to a notable charity. Studies reveal that “at least 70% of millennials have purchased a product that supports a cause.”

ONA, a retailer of fine bags and accessories, teamed up with charity: water to donate a portion of its sales to the nonprofit. Customers were sent an email motivating them to buy a specific product and to show their support with hashtag #GivingTuesday on social media.

ona-giving-tuesday

It’s possible to attach user-generated content to your sales strategy. Experiment with different options to find what works for your business.

Host Contests

Your team recognizes the benefits of UGC combined with email. However, how can you inspire consumers to actually create it?

Hosting contests and giveaways is a simple technique to acquire UGC and spread the word about your brand. People want the chance to really engage with your culture.

Decide what type of campaign you want to run. What will be the theme? How will consumers enter the contest?

Be specific on what is acceptable UGC. Some companies prefer photos featuring their products, while others desire text describing their services. A good tip is to focus on how the customer experiences your brand, rather than emphasizing your products.

Also, think about what prizes will be suitable for your participants. It must be enticing enough to get them involved, but not too extravagant that your business is struggling to make payroll.

“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,” writes Amber Humphrey, a VerticalResponse contributor.

JewelMint promoted its #FestivalFashion giveaway via email. The message persuaded consumers to snap photos of themselves wearing the brand’s products during Coachella. Tagged pictures on Instagram gave the entire community the ability to see the entries. Winners received four pieces from JewelMint’s collection.

jewelmint-social-proof-contest

As always, check with your legal department when initiating contests. You need consumer permission to use content, and it’s vital that you adhere to all your local laws.

Make submitting UGC a fun-filled experience. It’s time to host your very own contest.

Build Community

The power of UGC lies in its capacity to amplify the voices of your consumers.

Just a couple of decades ago, companies controlled how they crafted messaging around their brands. Now, customers can post content, positive or negative, about their experiences.

Your business can help narrate UGC by building a community of advocates. These brand ambassadors are engaged individuals who emulate your company culture and speak highly of your brand amongst their peers.

“By utilizing UGC, brands give real users the opportunity to tell real stories – something that may be inherently missing from brand generated content,” says Brian Peters, social media at Buffer.

With email, you can talk directly with consumers and build camaraderie through customer anecdotes. Your subscribers receive a personal view of how others interact with your brand.

Fashion retailer Revolve sends emails with photos spotlighting its clothing worn by brand advocates. It’s unique and strengthens the company’s credibility in the marketplace.

revolve-clothing-hashtagImage Source

Shape how your brand is presented to the public. Enlist influencers to move UGC in a favorable direction.

Try UGC & Email Together

Leverage user-generated content to build trust with your email subscribers. Demonstrate your brand’s uniqueness and build real consumer connections.

Earn credibility by adding customer testimonials to your emails. Host contests to excite consumers about submitting their content. And link UGC to your sales funnel to add revenue to your bottom line.

UGC is your secret weapon for your next email campaign.

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

How to Grow Fans and Save Your Sanity by Changing the Season

How to Grow Fans and Save Your Sanity by Changing the Season | ProBloggerIn September, I had one of the best conference experiences of my life.The atmosphere was friendly, supportive, motivated. The talks were top quality, innovative, engaging. The delivery was trendy, slick, seamless. The event, of course, was ProBlogger Event.

Now, despite the motivation, the enthusiasm, the drive, I still heard the same thing, over and over again, from attendees.

“I need to do more. More writing, more video, more podcasting. But I just can’t fit it in…”

As that big hairy guy (or was it the one who drew him…?) tends to say: it’s a tale as old as time. And time is the issue, we never seem to have enough of it.

Perhaps that’s why a particular part of my own talk generated such a buzz: it was around an approach to doing more with less.

More content with fewer ideas.

More mediums with less effort.

More visibility in less time.

It’s a subject I talk about in Podcasting all the time, but it works just as well in blogging. It’s Seasons.

We’re Not Talking ‘Winter is Coming…’ Here Are We?

Nope, not the seasons of the earth, but the seasons of your show.

You’ll be familiar with the approach on TV. A season is a collection of ‘episodes’ that tells a story, or follows a theme. Hopefully, it covers a full arc from start to finish, although some shows are frustratingly bad at this (Hello Lost!). It can be any size, from a 10 episode “Game of Thrones” to a 24 episode season of… well, 24 (Jack Bauer is my hero…).

In our own backyard, this generally translates to coverage of a particular topic within your niche, or themeing a set of episodes so that they’re related.

Seasons have long been a part of Podcasting, and the concept of a blog series is not new. However, the vast majority of content creators aren’t using the format. Perhaps it’s because it’s still not familiar. Let’s fix that – what is a season in the world of online content?

What Does a Season of Content Look Like?

Here are some examples from my own content:

  • Mountain Bikes Apart Season 2: Customising Your Bike
  • Podcraft Season 5: How to Monetise Your Show
  • UK Business Startup Season 1: The Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Business

Think of it as a course on one particular subject within your topic.

Often you’ll start with a question, eg. How do I monetise my Podcast? You’ll then break the answer down into component parts:

  1. Sponsorship and Advertising
  2. Selling a Product
  3. Selling a Service
  4. Affiliate Marketing
  5. Etc….

With just a little sketching out, you end up with a season of content, based on just one question.

I’ll bet you already have a dozen commonly asked questions running through your mind right now. Think it through: how would you break down the answer? How would you cover each element, in-depth?

Once you start thinking, you’ll realise that it comes easily because you’re explaining this stuff every day.

How to Grow Fans and Save Your Sanity by Changing the Season

What’s So Good About Seasons?

Ok, here’s where it gets interesting. There are a couple of obvious benefits and a good number of under-the-radar bonuses. Let’s go through them.

1. Squeeze Every Ounce of Juice out of Each Content Idea

Once upon a time, I would have taken the ‘How to Monetise a Podcast’ question and recorded an episode on it. Perhaps I would write a blog post too, or at least some shownotes. And that’s about it. Not much to show for a good content idea.

In our new ‘Seasonal’ world, I think more granular. Much more like a teacher:

  • How does this break down?
  • What are the elements of this answer?
  • What are the (sorry about this…) Learning Outcomes here?

Each ‘episode’ should cover just one ‘thing’, one aspect of the answer. That’s how you teach and that’s how you get people to take action. By giving them ONE thing, in-depth, and asking them to take action on it.

In breaking down your content idea, you get much more juice from that content orange. You can also create much more effective learning for your audience.

2. Take the Planning & Anxiety Out of Your Weekly Grind

This is a pure benefit: seasons make the content planning process a breeze. It saves oodles of time because you plan out your full season in just one session.

Thanks to the ‘breaking down’ process above, the planning session is quick and easy. Take your question, break it down, break it down again and, without much effort, you have perhaps 5, 10 or 15 episodes.

Take another 30 minutes to add some bullet points to each episode. Flesh them out to give them some structure. When you’re in the groove, doing 10 to 20 episodes of planning is a fast and fun task.

The end goal is to arrive on Monday morning, and say, “Right, let’s craft some content.” This replaces the cold-sweat inducing idea creation and planning session. Instead, you simply pick up your notes, glance at the next episode, and start writing/talking/presenting. Your plan is there, you simply have to create.

3. Oh, You Don’t Have to Think of New Ideas Every Week?

Yep, worth highlighting this! When I ask creators what they’re struggling with, one of the top three answers is always: “Coming up with new ideas, week in, week out.”

With a seasons approach, as soon as your fingers hit the keyboard, that plan is there, guiding you through the post.  Furthermore, you need fewer ideas over the course of a year, because you’re breaking them down into so many more. Seasons become an idea generation machine.

4. Automatically Generated (& Massive!) Evergreen Resources

This is a big one.  Every week, you’re building part of a big, new evergreen resource that’s tailored directly toward your audience.

Look back at the subjects I covered above in the example. Since that season completed, I now have a guide for my Mountain Biking audience that takes them through every aspect of customising their bikes. I have a guide for podcasters (amongst many others) that delves deep into monetisation. I also have a guide for aspiring freelancers to start their own business, thanks to that first season of UKBS.

For each of the seasons, I’ve recorded audio and written text. These have now been turned into eBooks, audiobooks, online courses and more. Some are sold on Amazon, some are used as lead magnets and some are given to my audience as simple gifts.

These are all huge assets and authority builders which have been  built up through normal weekly content creation activities. You’ll not achieve this, half so easily, if you’re writing about something new every week.

5. Recurring Content

This is  an obvious one, but it often slips under the radar.

Seasons based content increases engagement, visitors and fan building. A lot.

Think about it. Your content is linked. It’s contiguous. Because of this there’s a solid and compelling reason to come back for the next episode. Every time a reader returns, it builds engagement and trust, taking that reader along the path to becoming a true fan of your work.

6. Better Teaching, Better Learning, More Action, More Fans

There’s another reason that seasons based content tends to create more fans in the long run: it creates more success.

Your aim is to delve into a subject, break it down and guide the reader through it’s individual elements. That activity, step by step, is an extremely effective and logical way to teach.

That is possible in a single blog post, sure, but it’s the regular, habit-building effect of learning each week that really levels up the effect. Your readers can achieve quick wins and make good progress with every post, and this amplifies the audience-building power of seasons.  

7. It Makes Your Life Better

Finally, there are a few great benefits that relate to you directly

First, you can take a break!  Have you ever felt like you’re on a content treadmill, running as fast as you can to keep up, but the damn thing never switches off? With seasons, you have a good reason to take a break. Finish the season, let your audience know what’s going on, and then rest for a week or two.

You’ll come back refreshed, happy, more motivated and dying to dive back in. Happiness and motivation can only lead to better content!

Second, that break can be useful in another way: evolution. Take the opportunity that a natural break gives you to get in touch with your audience. Make an event of your time off, with a season-end audience engagement festival or perhaps a competition. Ask your audience what they liked and what they didn’t like about the last season. Ask them what format suits them, what questions they would like answered and what they want next. Knowing this, design the next season based on the feedback. Imagine the boost in engagement you could see when your audience becomes involved in creating the next season!

Finally, batching. This is a trendy topic, I know, but it’s a good one because batching can save a lot of time. Once you’ve planned out an entire season’s worth of content in advance, there’s no reason you can’t create 4 episodes simultaneously . I do this with Podcraft. I record 4 episodes on the bounce, taking between 1 and 2 hours to complete. Once it’s done, I have a month’s worth of content created. Easy!

Make it Your Own

Seasons can work for anyone. They can improve your content, make it work harder for your audience, and bring a variety  of benefits to you as the creator. Give it a try and start Season 1 today with your next content idea.

Remember, the point of seasons is that you change things up, and do it regularly. If it doesn’t work for you, then season 2 can go back to your old style, and nothing is lost. But, trust me, once you get used to the ease of planning and the results it brings, you’ll never look back. Bring on the season of change!

Colin Gray and his team of media evangelists help Podcasters and Vloggers grow their own legion of fanatical fans over at FanFission.com. FanFission is a community that helps anyone create great audio and video, whether for entertainment, education or profit. You can also find a huge range of free advice about podcasting at ThePodcastHost.com.

The post How to Grow Fans and Save Your Sanity by Changing the Season appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

How to avoid getting fooled by fake news on Facebook


As rumblings of a fake news problem turned into chatter, and then a crescendo, Mark Zuckerberg backed away slowly, insisting the company he founded, Facebook, didn’t have a problem. Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other. He obviously has better, or smarter, friends than I do. As we continue…

This story continues at The Next Web

Snap Inc.’s ‘Spectacles’ have a hidden augmented reality feature


For most of us, we’ll have to stick with the dog ears (and that annoying tongue) for a while longer as we continue the hunt for Snap Inc.’s hard-to-find hardware product, ‘Spectacles.’ If you’re lucky enough to have snagged a pair, you’ve already got access to a hidden filter, as detailed by Twitter user Moshe Isaacian. Found a cool @Spectacles secret! If you point your Snapchat camera at package’s lettering, it gives you a special filter! How it works: pic.twitter.com/wPSVpQjk5T — Moshe Isaacian 💡 (@MosheIsaacian) November 23, 2016 Once you point the Spectacles at the lettering on the protective case,…

This story continues at The Next Web

Featured Snippets: A Dead-Simple Tactic for Making Them Stick

Posted by ronell-smith

Dr. Pete throwing down at MozCon 2015, flexin’ in his retro Flash t-shirt

At MozCon 2015, Dr. Pete delivered a gem that perked up my ears when he discussed Google’s featured snippets during his talk, “Surviving Google: SEO in 2020“:

“Let’s say you’re No. 5 in a competitive query, and you’re trying to get from No. 5 to No.1. That is incredibly difficult; that takes a lot of money, a lot of links, a lot of authority. You might be able to jump past No. 1 to No. 0 with this just by matching the question better. So it may actually be easier to get from No. 5 to No. 0 than it is to get from No. 5 to No. 1 … Be a better match. Be a better answer to the question. It’s good for users.”

Something about those 98 words perked my ears up, especially the last two sentences.

“Be a better answer to the question. It’s good for users.”

Those words rolled around in my head for months, though their impact wouldn’t be felt until even later, when I began to see how prevalent featured snippets had become.

More than a year later, I’m now more convinced than ever that most brands should be making the attainment of featured snippets a priority.

Why?

Try as they might, most sites don’t stand a chance of making it to the No.1 position in the SERPs. And today, with so much priority given to ads at the top of the page, above the organic results — not to mention the fact that most people don’t recognize ads from organic results — even those who do reach the coveted position have to feel as though they’ve secured a pyrrhic victory.

In the year-plus since the presentation, rich answers have grown significantly, as depicted by the graph below from Stone Temple Consulting:

And in the span, a number of teams and individuals have made it their charge to better decipher featured snippets, specifically regarding what seems to influence their presence for certain queries, what types of snippets there are, how to optimize your content to make it more likely that you receive one, and what Google is likely looking for when a snippet is ultimately featured.

(For in-depth background information on featured snippets, see the Related Content section at the bottom of the post.)

But not a whole lot has been written on how to keep featured snippets once your brand has one. This fact hit me like a ton of bricks during MozCon 2016, when I listened to Rob Bucci of GetStat during his presentation Taking the Top Spot: How to Earn More Featured Snippets.

This post, which is a wellspring of some comments Bucci shared near the end of his presentation, will be focused very narrowly on how to keep a Featured Snippet once your brand has been fortunate enough to receive one.

The fast five 5 Ws of featured snippets

Before we dive into that aspect, let’s briefly go over a few specifics, surrounding the nuts and bolts of featured snippets.

  • What are they and where do they come from? A featured snippet is the summation of an answer for a web searcher’s query, typically taken from a website and includes a link to the site, the page title and the URL, according to GetStat.
  • Why should you care? You shouldn’t, unless you care about being the top result on the page (snark for the win). Also, since the result can come from any brand on the first page, you have the potential to occupy two positions on page 1.
  • Who needs them? Any brand that desires organic reach, visibility, traffic and, yeah, uhm, conversions.
  • When do they show up? Any time a query is best answered in list, table, or graph form.

For your brand or any other, however, (a) featured snippets provide you with an easy opportunity to better compete against the competition, (b) can amount to a low-investment/high-reward opportunity, and (c) can give you a leg up on the competition.

Keeping your hard-earned featured snippet

One of the main reasons to attend conferences such as MozCon in person is the potential to hear a nugget of wisdom that would be missed in a recap blog, not properly conveyed in a tweet by an attendee, or glossed over when listening to the video after the event.

For example, Dr. Pete’s quote from MozCon 2015 rang clear as a bell when I heard it while sitting in the audience, but I’m not sure I would have noticed it so readily had I simply watched the videos.

During the Q&A that followed Bucci’s talk, he was asked about the real value of investing in featured snippets, a particular concern given that, in most cases, Google is serving up the content with very little benefit to the brand that houses it. (Unless the user clicks on the URL at the bottom of the content and visits the website.)

Bucci did far more than answer the question before him, however.

“Let’s say I was [trying to teach someone] how to make toast. The snippet is, like, step 1 put the bread in the toaster; step 2, toast the bread; step 3, eat it, right? If I added a fourth or fifth step so that it was truncated in the snippet, i.e., they didn’t get the full steps to make toast, people would be more likely to click on it to get the full results. Think about how you can optimize your snippets by making it so that you don’t give away the entire farm in your snippet. They have to go through your website to get the information.”

This tidbit got my attention for two reasons:

  • One of the biggest concerns brands have with regard to investing resources in trying to get a featured snippet is it does very little for the brand if the web searcher does not click on the URL and visit the site. Otherwise, the only entity that benefits to a significant degree is Google.
  • Churn, whereby brands earn and then lose a snippet, is a very real concern, too. Research by Stone Temple Consulting found that more than 55% of the queries that showed featured snippets in January 2016 “either didn’t show a featured snippet in July 2015, OR shows a different URL for the featured snippet than it did in July 2015.”

Image courtesy of Stone Temple Consulting, Google’s Featured Snippets: Automated Continuous Improvement

How to smartly invest in featured snippets

By applying the logic in Bucci’s quote, your brand can employ what I call next-level thinking.

Instead of simply thinking “How do I get a featured snippet?”, think “How do I keep a featured snippet?” This is especially important since, as has been reported by STC, Bucci, and others, Google is likely using engagement metrics (e.g., clicks on the URL) as a factor in determining churn.

“By crafting your snippet content in a way that encourages people to click through to your site for the full detail, you can raise your CTR on that SERP,” says Bucci. “That’s the key thing.”

As you can see from the result below, this result, drawn from the No.1 result on the page, is unlikely to warrant a click since all the needed information is right there for the taking.

However, in the result below, the web searcher will have to click the URL and visit the owner of the content’s website to see the full list.

The important point to delivering a result that’s churn-resistant, says Bucci, is to think strategically.

“The biggest recommendation I made that I think people are only now starting to pay attention to how to strategically use formatting to A) win snippets and B) create great user experiences on the SERP. People were just focused on getting any old snippet, but my advice was that they should look at the query space and measure the most common snippet formats. From there, they should optimize their snippets to match those formats, because Google is clearly indicating that they want to use those formats within the give.”

Bucci made a great point, highlighting how we should pay attention to the formatting and content types — not simply the queries — that consistently show up as featured snippets. This, he says, amounts to Google telling us what they’re looking to reward.

Don’t overthink it. Dive in.

It’s exciting to see brands jump into the fray, beginning to think seriously about featured snippets and how the organic elements can impact their brands.

Dr. Pete, who has remained a passionate advocate for brands taking a serious look at how to get and keep featured snippets, says it’s essential that brands build their attainment into their overall process, not use it as a one-off tactic.

“I think the first step is to think in terms of questions, and build part of your keyword research around that. In natural language search, questions are increasingly common. Which questions are part of your conversion path? Don’t discount them just because they’re early in the funnel or part of the research phase. Find out if those questions are showing snippets and then think about ways to use those snippets as a teaser to draw people into your content and, hopefully, your funnel. Once you’re ranking on page 1, it’s about shaping your content to better answer the question. I think it helps to take an ‘inverted pyramid’ approach — lead with your most compelling question and a summary of your content, and then dive into the details. This makes for better snippets and grabs short attention spans.”

One of the best ways to get started with featured snippets is by taking a step-by-step approach so that everyone on the team knows what you’re going after, why, and its likely impact to the brand.

The graphic below is as specific and as detailed as you need to be to get started.

Image source: Stone Temple Consulting

Remember, though, like all aspects of online marketing, the endeavor will be iterative. What you gain, you might lose. But the process is invaluable.

You’ve still created something worthwhile

Hopefully, I’ve shared at least one small tidbit of information that has you excited about adding the attainment of featured snippets to your content marketing strategy.

For those of you who might be on the fence, wondering if the potential reward warrants the expense, Dr. Pete’s words should nudge you in the right direction.

“I think content that answers questions is naturally compelling, which is what I like about optimizing for featured snippets … Content that answers questions succinctly provides real value and builds a base of value for your visitors, regardless of where they arrive from. Even if you lose the featured snippet, you’ve built something useful.”

It bears repeating:

“Even if you lose the featured snippet, you’ve built something useful.”

Dr. Pete continued:

“Think of featured snippets as much like organic ranking — they aren’t something Google awards you and then lets you keep until a new winner comes along. Featured snippets are generated by the algorithm in real time, just like organic rankings. You have to keep competing for them.”

Has your brand experimented with featured snippets? If so, what’s been the result?


Remember, Moz Pro will help you find and track featured snippets, as well as identify opportunities for acquiring them!

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!

9 Ways to Generate Sales from Your Last Blog Post (Without Being Salesy)

These days, “sales” is perceived as a negative five-letter word.

Sales has gotten a bad rep. When you hear the word “sales,” you probably think of pushy salespeople or telemarketing calls.

The stigma of sales affects bloggers too. Lots of bloggers are afraid to sell to their readers. They don’t want to lose the audience they worked so hard to build.

Well, I’m here to tell you that you can successfully use your blog posts to sell without being salesy.

And no, I’m not going to recommend ads. (Surprise!)

You might be wondering how blog posts can increase your revenue.

The answer is simple: reciprocity.

Most of you have probably heard about reciprocity from Dr. Robert Cialdini’s renowned book Influence. It talks about psychological triggers that make people respond in certain ways.

Reciprocity happens when you give immense value to your audience. In return, they feel compelled to help you out. In our case, that happens when they buy from you.

It’s a simple formula. If your blog posts are top-notch, your readers will be open to buying from you. But they’re not just “buying.” They’re supporting a resource they love.

And when you pair reciprocity with blogging, the results are powerful. You’ll sell, but your readers will never think you’re selling to them. It’s a friendly offer.

I know, it sounds too good to be true. Let me prove it to you with these 9 ways of using your latest blog post to generate sales.

1. Provide a ton of value

Value should be your number one priority as a blogger. I’ll even go a step further and say that it’s impossible to run a truly great blog without providing a crap ton of real value.

But can you sell based on value alone?

It’s a good question. So let’s look at what happens when you take price out of the equation.

Tom Morkes had a blog that people really liked, but he realized it wasn’t profitable. So he wrote an e-book and released it to a whopping 166 subscribers. Don’t laugh yet—the results will astound you.

Tom chose a pay-what-you-want method so his readers would have a choice. And lots of his readers chose a price of $0.

But Tom’s readers contributed an average of $15 per e-book. And he made an impressive $493.50 in the first month by offering something free.

See the numbers for yourself:

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This is a fantastic case study to show just how well value can sell. If you have immensely valuable content, you can sell like crazy even if you offer it free.

2. Link to a relevant product

Linking to one of your products is a simple but effective strategy for getting eyeballs to your storefront.

But here’s the catch: you have to share a relevant product.

If your blog post is about making the best pumpkin pie and you include a link to your guide to wine tasting, the conversion rate won’t be very high. That’s because your readers are there for the pumpkin pie.

But if you share a link to your guide to pumpkin-pie-making with those same readers, you’ll see much better results.

Here’s Carol Tice from Make A Living Writing using this strategy:

image06

To give you some context, Carol’s post is about a freelancing scam. By sharing this product at the end of the blog post, she’s letting readers in on a surefire method of revenue.

Solve your readers’ problems by sharing relevant products with them, and you’ll make their day.

3. Describe an insanely valuable use of your product

It makes sense why no one would want to buy your product unless they saw its benefits.

So don’t beat around the bush—show off your products’ benefits.

But it’s important that you’re not just praising your product as the best thing since sliced bread. You have to give readers specific, detailed reasons why your product is great.

MailChimp does this excellently. Their post “Why Clients Render Email Differently” mentions their Inbox Preview feature, but it doesn’t read like an advertisement for that feature.

Instead, it talks about the similarities and differences in email clients that readers should be aware of.

image00

This part is crucial: You can get value from this article even if you don’t buy their product.

Your blog post should still be value-packed. You’re simply letting your readers know that your product provides a shortcut to the results they want.

In other words, don’t dangle your product in front of your readers’ faces and say, “You have to buy this to get anything good.” Give them the good stuff in the post itself.

4. Blog about your customers

Sharing your customers’ experiences with your product can work wonders. Your readers get to see how your product is benefiting real people, and they’ll become more interested without feeling pressured.

TOMS does this with its “Locals Who Give Back” blog post series. Each post profiles a TOMS customer who is making a difference in their local community.

image02

Don’t worry—you don’t have to be TOMS to do this effectively.

All you have to do is make heroes out of your customers. Listen to ordinary people’s stories, and broadcast them to your audience. Your readers will instantly connect with these stories, and that means they’ll connect more with your brand.

5. Do affiliate marketing (the right way)

There’s a reason why tried-and-true methods are tried-and-true. Affiliate marketing is no exception.

But you know what I can’t stand? When bloggers try to hide the fact that they’re using affiliate links.

If your readers really love your blog, they’ll be more than happy to help you out by buying something they were already interested in anyway.

Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income has two great rules for affiliate marketing:

image04

Don’t be an intrusive salesperson who hawks products to their readers. Be your readers’ friend, and recommend products that will improve their lives.

6. Fix a problem

People will always have problems, and they will always want to fix those problems. That’s where you come in.

By fixing your readers’ problems with your blog posts, you’re earning their trust. Eventually, they’ll want to check out what you have to offer.

SumoMe does this by regularly posting monster guides that cover a subject exhaustively. And if you look at their articles (like this guide on content upgrades), you’ll see they go over everything. They leave no stone unturned.

But you don’t have to write thousands of words to fix problems—shorter can work too. No matter the approach you choose, make sure you’re thorough when fixing your readers’ problems. Don’t give them a temporary duct tape fix—give them a long-term remedy.

7. Give away a preview

You know what the trouble with a lot of products is? They’re all talk. Any product can sound great with a well-written description.

But if you know you’ve got something good, give your readers a free preview. Let them in on the action so they can see for themselves just how great your product is.

If you have a subscription service, give your readers a free trial. If you have an e-book, give away the first chapter.

Here’s my challenge to you: Give away more than you think you should.

When Seth Godin released his book Permission Marketing, instead of just giving away one chapter, he offered the first four chapters free. (And the offer still stands!) That free preview didn’t stop the book from creating a legacy with marketers all over the world.

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And make sure your free preview is packed with good stuff. Don’t give away a limited free trial or an introduction. Give your readers the good stuff, and when there’s no more free content, they’ll likely pay for more.

8. Hold a contest

No one can resist the offer of something free. You can leverage this by holding a contest on your blog.

You’re probably thinking, “How can I generate sales if I’m giving something free?”

This is how. Contests help you grow your audience and build interest in your brand. After a successful contest, you’ll have a lot more people to share your products with.

To get the best results with your contest, go social. For example, use Rafflecopter to give extra entries to people who perform certain social actions, such as liking and sharing your page:

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(Bonus tip: You can also use contests to get tons of user-generated content.)

9. Give your readers an exclusive deal

Every time your readers make the choice to check out your latest post, they’re investing their time in your work. By giving your audience an exclusive deal, you’re thanking them and giving back.

Don’t make the offer public anywhere else. Make it a readers-only deal, and say so. You want your readers to feel special.

Conclusion

Selling doesn’t have to leave you feeling slimy.

When you do it right, selling equals helping your readers. Only promote products you know will improve your readers’ lives.

After you’ve been blogging and interacting with readers for a while, you’ll realize it’s a small community. These people aren’t facts and figures. They’re humans with problems that need to be solved, and you can help.

It’s all about helping. If you’re focused on providing value, the selling part becomes a lot easier.

Your readers want to support you. All you have to do is ask.

How do you use your blog to generate sales?

7 Laws of Sales Funnel Physics Every SaaS Business Needs to Know

seven-laws-of-sales-physics-cover-image

Back in college, I visited to this run-down pizzeria shop called Sammi’s.

Their logo had a picture of a pyramid on it. No one understood what that had to do with pizza.

I pitched Sammi repeatedly on my startup’s text message coupon product at the time. He never bought.

But I’ll never forget the time I saw him hand a $200 check to some kid selling an ad from a local magazine like it was nothing.

Two-hundred bucks looks like a lot of money when you’re a nineteen-year-old college kid. And especially when all your customers are on a free trial.

What caused Sammi to buy a print ad but not what I was offering?

The education you need to become an effective marketer is just a lot of little experiences like that.

Those experiences are like “flicks” to your forehead.

They are the market saying, “Pay attention!” as it tries to teach you something.

In the years since that time at Sammi’s, I’ve started and launched a SaaS business. Today I run a growing subscription-based service business. So far, my team and I have created hundreds of sales funnels for startups and small businesses. I also had the opportunity to lead a Mastermind group for entrepreneurs starting SaaS companies.

From this wide mix of experiences, I’ve been able to observe several success patterns. These success patterns are relevant to every business marketing itself online—but especially SaaS companies.

I’m telling you this, because what I’m about to share with you is not just theory.

This is about people. It’s about the people who are stuck in your sales funnel. It’s about the people who haven’t heard about your product yet. And it’s about the people who are your competitors.

While people may not always behave in a predictable manner, they are influenced by the Laws of Sales Funnel Physics.

Let’s jump in.

Note: At 6,300 words, I don’t expect you will read this all in one sitting. So I created a free PDF of this resource that you can refer to again and again when it’s time to redesign your site.

  1. Law of Visibility
  2. Law of Big Changes
  3. Law of Repetition
  4. Law of Clarity
  5. Law of Proof
  6. Law of Friction
  7. Law of Alignment

First Law of Sales Funnel Physics: Law of Visibility

What is it?

Imagine two different scenarios.

Scenario A—Relaxing on the beach on a hot summer day with no sunscreen.

Scenario B—Relaxing on the beach on a hot summer day when your doctor shows up to tell you you’re at risk of getting skin cancer.

In scenario B, you’re going to react right away. You’re on the beach without sunscreen, and the doctor has given you urgent information on why you should wear sunblock.

If putting on sunscreen became your “conversion goal” after the need was recognized, B outperforms A, because the offer is right in your face.

That’s why the first law of Funnel Physics is the Law of Visibility. In other words, people will convert on offers that are highly visible and noticeable to them.

If they don’t see it, they won’t convert.

So it all comes down to something being seen.

Now, how can we apply this to your marketing funnel?

Example:

call-to-action-mixergy

Andrew Warner and his team at Mixergy rolled out a new site design a little while ago.

One thing that stood out to me was the prominent call-to-action button in the top right corner.

It’s visible on every page of the website.

This is an excellent example of the Law of Visibility in action. By featuring a highly visible call to action (CTA) for your core offer across your website, conversions are almost guaranteed to increase.

In fact, we did the same thing on our website:

sign-up-now-cta-on-website

We wanted more people across our website to see and learn about our productized service. You can see below how this change had a sustained impact on how many people viewed our homepage.

sharp-increase-in-google-analytics-graph

But this is just one example.

How to Apply it to Your Marketing Funnel

Let’s brainstorm for a second.

Where can you put in place a simple change like this on your website to cause more traffic to flow deeper into your funnel?

Think in terms of “global” or structural changes that will be seen across many pages on your website.

Here a few ideas off-hand:

  • Navigational changes like the example above
  • Redesign or add a CTA to your footer
  • Install an exit pop-up
  • Promote a lead magnet in the sidebar of your blog, as well as at the end of every blog post
  • Run a new campaign using Kissmetrics Engage that targets only visitors with a specific offer

Those would be the top ones to implement, especially if your SaaS business is trying to grow via content marketing.

The Bottom Line

Offers—free or paid—that aren’t seen, don’t convert. So shine some light on them!

Second Law of Sales Funnel Physics: Law of Big Changes

What is it?

Imagine you’re an engineer building a cross-country railroad.

But there’s a problem: a stretch of mountains lies in-between the train’s start and end points.

You have two options: you can lay the track so it snakes around the mountainside, or you can use explosives and heavy drills to create a tunnel that goes straight through.

Which do you choose?

Consider that the universe is (mostly) rational. By this, I mean there is cause and effect.

Nothing happens unless something causes it.

If you want to cause growth in how your sales funnel converts, you have to make a significant change to your sales funnel—the copy, the structure, the design.

Whatever big result you are looking to produce, be prepared for the change to be significant from the customer’s standpoint.

That last part is important, because you are trying to influence your target customer, and changes that seem significant to you may not be that different from their point of view.

Sometimes the difference is hard to understand.

In the mountain scenario, the decision becomes easier if we view it as a customer optimization problem.

We could ask – what does a passenger on the train line want?

  • Do they care about seeing the beautiful snow-capped mountain scenery while on their cross-country journey?
  • Do they care more about getting to their destination faster?

There is a big difference between drilling a tunnel and snaking around the mountain. But if you know your customers value a shorter trip, the tunnel would be the better choice.

If they care more about speed, then the answer to the problem is to drill a tunnel through the mountain.

Lucky for you, you’re laying down code on your website, not train tracks.

Example:

Demo Consultation vs. Instant Video Demo

This is a good one, especially if closing the sale means getting on a phone call.

The example below is from a case study where a consulting company A/B tested a “Free 5-Min Demo Video” offer in place of an offer to schedule a demo consultation.

increase-your-fleets-roi

fleet-roi-demo

The results were powerful.

By changing the offer to a demo video instead of a scheduled demo, the conversion rate went from 1.7% to 15.3%—a 9X increase. The offer of the free demo won in a landslide.

Although nothing on the page changed except the text describing the offer, this mattered a lot from the customer’s perspective.

Why? Most people aren’t enthusiastic about scheduling a demo or a consultation because it requires them to (1) wait, (2) coordinate their schedule, and (3) commit a fixed amount of time.

The “free 5 min demo” offer converts much better, because customers can watch it right away without a phone call.

Side note: We recently tested this same idea of a free demo offer on our pricing page vs. scheduling a consultation. The data is still coming in, but lead conversions are up significantly.

This example illustrates that structural changes are most important when you are thinking about “big changes.” Structural changes include a difference in the number of steps or the offer itself.

This is different from merely changing design or copy, because it represents a more significant change to the customer’s experience in your funnel.

As a result, the change is more drastic and so are the results.

Freemium vs. Free Trial

When I started my first SaaS business, we offered a free trial.

Later, we removed it and went from generating weekly sign-ups to zero (bad move, duh).

A better example here is MailChimp. After building a profitable business with 100,000 users, they went freemium in 2009 offering free email marketing accounts to 500 subscribers.

One year later, they reported a revenue increase of over 150%.

How to Apply it to Your Marketing Funnel

If you’re not converting or you see a big bottleneck in your online sales funnel, start with a BIG change.

Go big or go home! If you’re only seeing a “trickle” of people moving from one step to the next, the issue is probably bigger than simply, “Oh, let’s test a different headline,” or “Oh, let’s change the button color to yellow.”

The Bottom Line

The results may be positive or negative. The important thing here is that you won’t really know which version is more effective unless the spread is statistically significant.

When creating an A/B test or a sequence test to improve your conversion rate, go for big changes. Little changes (usually, but not always) yield a proportionally smaller result.

So blow a hole in the mountain.

Challenge your assumptions.

And take a walk in your customer’s shoes.

Big changes mean big growth for your bottom line.

Third Law of Sales Funnel Physics: Law of Repetition

What is it?</h3
You’ve probably heard some guru say that people don’t remember a brand name until the 7th time they’ve heard it.

This is not that.

The Law of Repetition says that following up multiple times (via email automations, retargeting ads, or call-to-action buttons on your website) will cause more conversions within your funnel.

Yes, you could say that this law is saying, “beat your prospect over the head with your offer enough times, and you’ll get more sales.”

That’s true, and it’s why spammers use this technique.

But I am not advocating for that. Rather, I am giving you this universal pattern with the hope that you will use it responsibly.

Let’s look at a few examples.

Examples:

The Law of Repetition is about repeated messaging and consistent follow-up.

This happens when you are presented with multiple lead magnets asking for your email address.

For instance, Clay Collins and co. over at Leadpages have repeatedly pointed out that each of their blog pages have multiple offers and CTAs. This, in turn, has helped them quickly build an email list of 200,000+ email subscribers.

leadpages-cta-on-blog

I applied and refined this technique on my company’s website in 2014 and later wrote about the results in a guest post on Leadpages. I gave the method a name—“The Every Page Rule.”

The Law is always in effect when you implement email follow-up sequences or retargeting ads.

In 2013, I tried my hand at launching an info product. The email sequence I wrote was “OK” so I rewrote it and kept iterating.

The final sequence was aggressive with the follow-up, but the truth is that it worked. People bought the course at a very consistent rate.

Noah Kagan later reminded me of this principle when he published some research from people using his SumoMe tool to help people build their email lists faster.

The research showed that people were more likely to opt-in if they were repeatedly shown the pop-up on a website until they signed up.

Again, not saying that’s the best way to do it. In fact, I would say being too aggressive makes you look not cool.

Want another example? Look at the Kissmetrics funnel. If you sign-up for a free trial or opt-in to one of their lead magnets and request a demo, you are instantly entered into a follow-up sequence where an Account Manager will contact you to schedule a demo.

And here’s one more from a little-known multi-billion dollar company called Amazon.

Ever heard of Prime?

Prime is a premium subscription that gives Amazon customers perks like free 2-day shipping and access to streaming movies.

The Amazon website is covered with call-to-action buttons for Prime, and 54 million customers have opted into this service as a result.

amazon-prime-buttons

How to Apply it to Your Marketing Funnel

If you’re a SaaS business, you can apply the Law of Repetition in a variety of ways to your own sales funnel.

Here are the best ideas, in order of priority:

  1. On-site CTAs that are clear and relevant to the stage of the funnel the prospect is in.
  2. Follow up with potential customers using email automation to get them on the phone, get their feedback, or nudge them toward signing up.
  3. Show an ad or link in your blog’s sidebar or navigation, along with an exit pop-up, to promote your lead magnet and grow your email list.
  4. Get more return traffic with retargeting ads. Make sure to segment visitors based on where they are in your funnel. For instance, you may want to treat people who reached your checkout page differently from those who signed up for your free 5-day e-course.
  5. Finally, you can get more advanced using a combination of tactics (Think: Amazon + Smart Funnels). For instance, after a customer checks out, you can upsell him/her on the benefits of the next-level pricing package. Similarly, when he/she comes back to the website later on, he/she will see CTAs on the blog nudging him/her and offering benefits for upgrading. This can also be done over a course of weeks or months via automated email follow-up to anyone who has purchased.

The Bottom Line

Repetition yields higher conversion rates and can also increase the value of an average customer to your business.

Don’t let leads forget about you and your services—constantly remind them of what you offer and how it can benefit them.

Just be sure not to overdo it, or you risk hurting your brand.

Fourth Law of Sales Funnel Physics: Law of Clarity

What is it?

“Better to be clear than clever.”

When I was a little kid, I’d go to the doctor at least once a year for my checkup.

I remember the waiting rooms were always gray and super boring.

So I’d pick up one of the outdated magazines they had laying around and flip through it.

I found most of the ads weird and frustrating, because I couldn’t tell what they were trying to sell.

Did they want to make money, or just confuse people? It was unclear to me.

Turns out, I was on to something.

Fast forward years later to the first time I heard the expression, “Better to be clear than clever” from Dane Maxwell, a serial entrepreneur, while he was being interviewed by Andrew Warner from Mixergy.com.

This expression highlights the biggest reason why most sites don’t convert well in the first place: people don’t buy what they don’t understand.

Many people make the mistake of focusing on creating a catchy headline, instead of focusing first on customers’ understanding by creating effective copy for their sales funnel.

Consider a few examples.

Examples:

The following case study documented on Visual Website Optimizer’s blog illustrates how clear copy converts.

Movexa is a supplement product with a direct response website funnel. In other words, they are looking to make sales directly to people visiting their site.

In an A/B test where they clarified what the product was by adding the word “supplement” in the headline, sales increased by nearly 90%!

supplement-word-ab-test

Here’s another example from a company selling personal training subscriptions.

As cited by Unbounce, the company A/B tested a clearer “boring” and uncreative headline against the original.

The result? 38.46% more training memberships were sold.

clear-creative-headline-test

Michael Aagaard, the author of the case study reflected after the fact:

“I have yet to see a creative headline beat a clear headline in an A/B test.”

Clarity over cleverness, indeed.

Further, research has consistently confirmed that website users prefer copy that is “simple and direct.” Here are a few key nuggets from the research conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group:

  • “Users often leave web pages in 10–20 seconds, but pages with a clear value proposition can hold people’s attention for much longer.”
  • Users will often have multiple windows or tabs open and leave and come back to your site within a single session. When this happens, having clear straightforward copy helps the reader to re-establish context.
  • Of the first three items a user focused on, almost 80% was on text, not graphics.
  • Reduce use of wording that could be seen as marketese (i.e. clever copy or slogans) in order to build trust.

How to Apply it to Your Marketing Funnel

Of course, you could jump right into A/B testing.

But this wouldn’t be much better than taking a wild guess.

You’ll be more likely to see growth if the changes you make are inspired by feedback from prospective customers. You want to hear from users currently “stuck” in your funnel who are actively considering your product.

You want to hear the questions they have, ask them open-ended questions, and hear how they react to your website’s current copy.

Here are the two best ways to do that:

  1. User feedback survey tools can be set to automatically ask visitors leaving the site a question. Survicate is a free tool that works well for this purpose. HotJar is also a very solid option with lots of additional features, which now has a free plan for basic use as well.
  2. Order a user test where complete strangers will test your website. It’s ideal if you have people in your target market test the site, but when it comes to knowing if your website communicates clearly, feedback from strangers can provide a just as actionable insight. I recommend browsing Fivver for user testing services or check out UserInput.io (this one gives you more options for targeting).

After you have some actionable feedback (make sure you get enough so you notice patterns), it’s time to test.

If you have less than 10,000 visits per month, it could take a while to reach a high level of statistical significance for your A/B test. It might not even be worth a/b testing.

In that case, you might just want to do a sequence test (“before and after”). With this test, you can see an impact on your bottom line in as little as a month with a reasonable degree of certainty. Just make sure you are accurately tracking results before and after, while also tracking conversions that matter, like leads and sales.

For example, at Petovera we saw 25% MRR growth from June to July after we re-launched our new homepage, pricing page, and free email course.

mrr-growth-chart

The sales results from this test were so significant compared to other months. When considered with the fact that no other major component changed on the site, the only conclusion we can draw is that the changes caused this growth.

Note: This example highlights both the application of the Law of Clarity (we did research on our target audience’s needs and questions before rewriting the copy for greater clarity), as well as the Law of Big Changes covered above (copy completely revamped along with the design).

The Bottom Line

The words you use to communicate about your product matter more than design.

Site visitors need to trust you; providing them with a clear understanding of the product’s value and how it works is a critical lever for growth in your sales funnel.

Fifth Law of Sales Funnel Physics: Law of Proof

What is it?

People buy what other people buy. That’s because we seek to minimize the risk of potential loss by relying on what other people are saying.

We are programmed to be loss-averse creatures.

Don’t believe me?

Watch yourself the next time you are picking out a movie on Netflix or browsing for a new book on Amazon.

Personally, I won’t buy a new book without at least 250 reviews and an average rating of 4 stars or higher. Even 4 stars are “iffy.”

I use the same risk minimization when it’s time to kick back and enjoy a new movie on the weekends. Less than 4.5 stars? That’s a no-go.

Your habit for loss aversion might be slightly different. Maybe you read individual reviews.

The point is, your customers operate the same exact way when they enter your sales funnel and become interested in your product.

The Law of Proof says that people are more likely to invest time and money in that which they see as low risk and likely to give them the result they desire.

Proof (or “social proof”) can come in a wide variety of forms:

  • Testimonials
  • Reviews
  • Case studies
  • Examples of past work (e.g. from a designer’s portfolio)
  • Vanity stats (e.g. “over 10,000 happy customers serviced since 2010”)
  • Customer logos
  • Press logos
  • Networking groups
  • Third party accreditations (e.g. certified Google AdWords Partner)

Other than making your business look legit, social proof elements will increase conversions in your funnel.

Example:

WikiJob, a website with over 500,000 monthly visitors ran an A/B test on their homepage.

The one thing they changed? A simple testimonials section was added. Here’s what it looked like.

testimonials-wikijob-ab-test

The result?

Here’s the response from the company owner:

[Adding the] testimonials increased sales by 34%. The testimonials we used are very ‘sober’ (compared with the overly enthusiastic ones you so often see in marketing literature). The test results were surprising. Although such increases of sales can be quite normal in split testing, I did not think that testimonials would make such a difference (and indeed put off testing them, thinking they were irrelevant). The increase in revenue was very substantial.

Social proof can make a huge impact because it influences how trustworthy people perceive your brand to be. It lowers perceived risk.

Research from Nielsen showed that 70% of people trust recommendations from people they don’t even know. That’s compared to 90% of people trusting recommendations from people they do know.

How to Apply it to Your Marketing Funnel

Test adding social proof on key landing pages.

Generally, it’s a pretty safe bet ASSUMING you have taken into account the context and the user’s intentions for that POINT in your funnel.

Here’s what I mean:

Derek Halpern documented a case where adding social proof did not grow conversions. See graphic below where the middle version won.

newsletter-signup-ab-test

However, this is actually an example of the Law of Friction (discussed below) vs. The Law of Proof and NOT an argument against the effectiveness of social proof in general.

The middle example simply requires less “mental load” to understand. It could be as simple as the fact that the number “14,752” is difficult to read and the middle variation is visually more attractive because it is simpler.

Similarly, last year we A/B tested a lead box for our newsletter in the sidebar of our blog.

leadbox-instant-access-ab-test

leadbox-help-me-grow-ab-test

Here are the results:

ab-test-results

The one without the social proof won by a large margin.

Here’s one more case study to drive home the importance of understanding context and user expectations when considering where to integrate it in your funnel.

security-seals-ab-test

Security seals—also a common example of social proof—build trust, right?

Well, it didn’t work as one might have expected when tested on this lead generation form.

Version B increased conversions by 12.6%. In this case it didn’t work out, because security seals are associated with online checkout. As a result, users were confused or put-off by it.

The Bottom Line

Social proof is a key point of leverage when optimizing your sales funnel.

However, you’ll need to A/B test to know for sure. If your traffic is too low for A/B testing to be a realistic option, do a sequence test after taking into account user context and intentions.

Sixth Law of Sales Funnel Physics: Law of Friction

What is it?

Since I began my career as a web-based entrepreneur at 19, I’ve done many A/B tests and been part of many research-based website design projects.

I’ve spoken with hundreds of business owners about their conversion issues since that time.

I’m always learning, but I can say from experience that this issue is one of empathizing with the end user who is on your website.

That’s what it comes down to because people on your website have goals.

Often the business owner doesn’t know the potential customer’s goals or how their website is “blocking” these customers from buying.

This is what is meant by friction. When friction is minimized—and a user’s goals are made easier to accomplish—conversions go up.

Let’s look at a few examples that support this principle.

Examples:

An online retailer was able to increase annual revenues by $300 million by changing a button.

In a now-famous case study, Expedia was able to increase profit (not sales) by $12 million by removing a single text field from their checkout form.

And Barack Obama’s re-election campaign was successful in part because of rigorous A/B testing that minimized friction and in turn grew donations by 49% and sign-ups by more than 161%.

Let’s walk through each case briefly.

Kyle Rush was on the optimization team for President Obama’s re-election campaign.

They conducted numerous tests, and in his own words, Kyle explained how much he was able to learn due to the high traffic the site received.

This made A/B testing different designs and copy ideas easier, because they only had to wait days or even hours for results.

Here’s the law of friction at work in one of their tests.

obama-ab-test

In the variation they tested on the right, the idea was, “maybe we can convert more people to make a donation if we make the donation process appear easier by breaking it into steps.”

The result was a net increase of 5% in donations. It might not sound like a lot, but over the course of a campaign and raising many millions of dollars, it is.

Jared Pool observed the Law of Friction at work for a major online retailer. He saw that 160,000 people per day were requesting a password reset on their account prior to checkout, and 75% of these people ended up not completing their purchase.

The issue was people would go to check out and be confronted with a simple but supremely annoying form that asked them to register in order to check out.

As one user who tested the site for Jared said:

“I’m not here to enter into a relationship. I just want to buy something.”

The solution? They replaced the Register button with a Continue button and added a note:

“You do not need to create an account to make purchases on our site. Simply click Continue to proceed to checkout. To make your future purchases even faster, you can create an account during checkout.”

The result? $15 million in new sales in the first month and +$300 million in additional sales for the first year.

Finally, the case of Expedia:

expedia

Simply by removing the “Company name” field, profit (not sales) grew by $12 million per year.

Of course the question is, why?

Well, the field simply confused users and set the wrong expectation. For instance, some thought that company name meant the name of their bank, which would cause them to put in the wrong billing address and then the payment would fail. This, in turn, killed sales.

The user interface was causing friction in this case.

Or, as Jon Correll from Conversion VooDoo put it,

“Conversion rate optimization gains are often just a function of getting your broken UI the $!@$!@ out of the way of your end user.”

How to Apply it to Your Marketing Funnel

Start by understanding where the bottlenecks are in your sales funnel.

Where are people dropping off? Look for outlier numbers.

For instance, a couple of months ago I saw that 60% of people clicked through from our homepage to our pricing page, but then only 7% made it to the checkout or consultation pages.

Numbers like this serve as a compass because they point you toward what should be worked on.

Next, as I discussed in Law of Clarity above, you want to gather lots of feedback from users.

You can have strangers test it, or you can talk directly to existing users of your site.

Both have worked in my experience. However, getting at least 10–15 people from your list of existing users will yield more accurate results.

If you’re doing it over the phone, establish rapport first, then ask open-ended questions and listen.

Maintain detailed notes as you go through this process. Look for patterns, but NEVER guide or do anything to influence the answers.

Again, you are gathering this feedback, because without this data, you will not gain a clear understanding of what is blocking sales on your site.

Once you have identified a pattern—perhaps a recurring type of complaint directly related to the bottleneck in your funnel—then you can start testing possible solutions.

Don’t expect an immediate $300 million change in your business overnight, like in the example above.

But also don’t underestimate the impact you can have with small, deliberate changes that work to address the source of friction in your funnel.

The Bottom Line

Friction is caused by design or copy that is not fully optimized to help people entering your funnel accomplish their goal. This matters whether their goal is buying from you or efficiently learning what you have to offer.

Seventh Law of Sales Funnel Physics: Law of Alignment

What is it?

Johnny rides a red bike.

He arrives at your imaginary bike store.

You try to sell Johnny a new set of tires, but he declines.

Why did Johnny not buy? Because the offer wasn’t aligned with his needs.

The difference between alignment and friction is that friction comes after alignment in the buying process.

Alignment deals with helping customers to identify the need your product can address.

Friction deals with the interactive experience of buying and how easy or difficult it is.

Alignment deals with the customer’s intentions, questions, or context (like what previous website or page the customer came from).

Get it? Got it. Good!

Examples:

Here’s an intriguing case study to demonstrate the Law of Alignment in action.

An SEO link-building company called The HOTH originally relied on a fairly straightforward homepage to generate leads for its service.

hoth-ab-test-original

Leads were converting on the page at 1.39%.

Ok, not terrible.

So they tested the page against a minimalistic design.

hoth-ab-test-variation

The results? 13.13% or almost a 10X increase in the number of people converted to leads by creating an account.

The case study’s author explained the reason this worked:

[The] majority of visitors coming on The HOTH website were from the direct and referral category. Hence, they had some background knowledge of the company already. This was also true for the social traffic. A very large portion of their search traffic also came from branded keywords…

In other words, the context of the people arriving on the page meant that they didn’t need a lot of information about the service in order to convert. They were already aware of the company’s service, and many already had some trust built with the brand.

The simplicity of the form aligned best with what they already knew or felt about the company’s offer. They didn’t need a long landing page in order to convert.

Important note: The HOTH’s website today looks a little different, with a video at the top above the form. This pushes the form and call-to-action button further down, below the page.

I would speculate that this introduces some friction on purpose.

Why?

I would guess—from direct experience doing lead generation for similar businesses—that the friction is good, because the leads are more educated and higher quality.

After all, you have to assume that a significant percentage of the traffic that does come to that homepage isn’t 100% familiar or clear on what the company has to offer.

Here’s one more example to prove the pattern of the Law of Alignment.

A personal organization service drove search traffic to a landing page via pay-per-click ads.

Which version do you think won?

organization-service-ab-test

Version B would seem to have a clearer, more benefit-oriented headline and sub-headline.

But actually version A was the winner, increasing leads by 115%.

The reason is version A’s copy was written to align with the PPC ad copy that the user clicked on before arriving to the page.

The ad created an expectation of ideas in the mind of the user. So arriving on the page where the copy complemented and reflected those same ideas made them more likely to convert.

How to Apply it to Your Marketing Funnel

Traffic arrives on your website from five basic sources:

  • Direct (people typing in your website or clicking a link in your email)
  • Search
  • Social Media
  • Referral
  • Paid ads

The source heavily defines the context for people on your site.

One key to using the Law of Alignment in your funnel means tailoring the page that people enter into your website to the context of the traffic source.

Of course, you can take this to an extreme (i.e. if your traffic comes primarily from Google, that doesn’t mean you should redesign your site to have a similar UI and layout to Google with the hope of increasing conversions).

A more practical approach is to ask yourself:

  • How can we make that “on-ramp” into our funnel more inviting and anticipatory of the visitors’ needs?
  • What answers do visitors expect to find on each page based on what they searched for prior to arriving there?
  • What reassurances, if any, do they need once they are in the funnel, browsing our site, and evaluating our product?

As covered above in the Law of Clarity and Law of Friction, you have to do your research and listen with empathy to gain the biggest insights that will lead you to alignment.

The Bottom Line

The context from which a visitor comes to your site needs to be addressed; as does how you will deliver the information they need prior to making a buying decision.

Conclusion

I titled this article as “Sales Funnel Physics” because as in physics, these laws identify the universal principles behind why people do or don’t buy online, assuming there is a market need for the product.

I have not been able to find any case studies or A/B tests that do not fall under one or more of these principles:

  • The Law of Visibility says that offers must be seen in order for sales and conversions to occur. Sounds obvious, but it’s too often forgotten.
  • The Law of Big Changes says that as a general rule, testing more significant structural-, copy-, or design changes to your funnel is a best practice. This is because big changes will cause proportionally more varied results than small changes. It doesn’t have to “look” like a lot of work, as long as it is significantly different from your customer’s perspective.
  • The Law of Repetition is different from the Law of Visibility, because it says that the frequency of exposure to your offer has a direct impact on conversion rates. More exposure to the offer causes more conversion, though ROI diminishes after a point because people get annoyed.
  • The Law of Clarity says that before people become interested and decide to buy your product, they must first understand what it is.
  • The Law of Proof says that people care a lot about whether or not your product actually does what it claims. People are risk-averse, so they desire proof in order to minimize perceived risk before buying—in the form of testimonials, case studies, etc.
  • The Law of Friction says that the easier you can make the experience for an interested buyer, the more likely he/she will buy!
  • Finally, the Law of Alignment says that people will convert more often on offers and landing pages that better align with their context, like from which site they just came.

Have you noticed similar patterns when designing your sales funnel?

How will you apply the Laws of Sales Funnel Physics to grow your business?

Tell me about them in the comments and I’ll respond 🙂

About the Author: Matt Ackerson is the Founder of Petovera, a company that specializes in growing email lists faster with a pop-up optimization service. Business owners never have to lift a finger and you can see the results each month. Kissmetrics readers can grab an exclusive copy of the Law of Funnel Physics summary today, along with our free 5-day email course: How to Double Your Leads in 30 Days.

7 Tips to Optimize Your Social Media Conversions

We know how powerful social media can be for branding. It’s one of the most effective ways to reach the masses and build awareness for your company. But there’s another side of social media that’s equally important–converting social media followers into leads or customers.

Social media conversions are the ultimate sign of success for marketers. Building an audience of hundreds of thousands of followers is nice, but does your brand have the ability to get them to take action? This is one of the biggest challenges companies face on social media, particularly for marketers tasked with proving the ROI of a social media campaign.

If you’re struggling to turn your Twitter, Facebook and Instagram followers into leads, here are seven quick tips to optimize your social media conversions:

1. Make Your Landing Pages Mobile First

In a recent study from comScore, 80% of time spent on social media is through a mobile device.

mobile social media use

That means a majority of people you’re directing from social media to your landing page view it from a phone or tablet. The problem is a lot of landing pages are still made from the perspective of desktop viewers. Since the landing pages are responsive, the mobile view ends up being an afterthought.

When you’re making landing pages to drive social media conversions, you need to think from a mobile-first perspective. That means keeping it more lightweight, sizing your images correctly and streamlining. It doesn’t need to be completely stripped down, but you need to prioritize the most important elements.

2. Keep it Brief

Remember, people on social media aren’t necessarily in “buying mode.” They’re on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to be entertained, catch up on what’s going on around the world and to pass time. If you direct them to a 1,500 word sales page or a 20 minute video, they’re likely to click away.

Instead, make your landing pages brief. Also, think in terms of leads rather than sales. Social media users are at the top of your funnel, so the likelihood of converting them into a sale is much lower than getting their email address or having them sign up for a free trial. The less information you gather, the better your social media conversions will be.

The perfect example of this is Snapchat. It’s a mobile-only app, and its website reflects that. When you visit the site on your phone, you’ll see a very minimalistic landing page that has the sole purpose of getting you to download the app. Tapping on the ghost directs you to the app store to download the app.

snapchat landing page

3. Split Test Social Media Posts

Before worrying about getting people to convert on your landing page, you need to actually get them to the page. That means optimizing your social media posts. Whether it’s your Tweets, Instagram pictures or Facebook posts, you need to make sure they’re compelling people to click through.

One of the best ways to do this is through split testing. Create variations of the same Tweets or try Instagram posts with different captions or images. That’ll help you determine what works best for your audience. The last thing you want is to give up on a campaign too early because you think it doesn’t work, but the issue is just the text in your Tweet.

You can use Sprout Social to quickly schedule multiple versions of your social media posts and compare each version against each other.

schedule social media posts

Along with testing your social media content, also test different days and times. There are so many factors that play a role in how well a social media post will convert that it’s worth testing as much as possible.

4. Create Network Specific Landing Pages

Have you ever heard of account-based marketing? It’s basically a fancier way of saying personalization. According to Insightera, account-based marketing can result in four times more traffic. The challenge is figuring out a way to provide a personalized experience for people visiting your landing page from social media.

We’re not at the point quite yet where you can pull in a person’s name or username from Twitter and Facebook into your landing page. But a simple tactic you can use is to make your landing pages specific to the social network your traffic is coming from.

For instance, if you’re directing people to your landing page from Twitter, you could personalize it by using a light color scheme similar to Twitter’s or creatively integrate Tweets. Making the transition from the social network to your landing page as smooth as possible will improve your chances of converting users.

5. Ask for Engagement

Getting more eyes on your social media posts, and subsequently your landing page, will give your more chances to convert. If you’re not using promoted Tweets or Facebook Ads, it can be difficult to get the organic reach you need to drive social media traffic to your landing page. But you can easily amplify your reach by asking people to share your post or landing page with their followers.

It’s as simple as adding “tag a friend” to the end of your Tweets or putting social sharing buttons on your landing page.

As more people start to share your posts, it’ll create a snowball effect. Other people will share it and add more traffic. Start including a call to action to encourage people to share your social media posts.

6. Use Better Images

Images are a huge piece of social media marketing. In fact, Facebook posts with images get 2.3X more engagement than those without them. That’s likely why 71% of digital marketers use visuals in their social media marketing.

facebook engagement with images

Remember, your copy is only part of the equation when it comes to getting people to click your Tweets or Facebook posts. Without an attention grabbing image, there’s a chance people are scrolling right pass your social media content. Thousands of Tweets are sent every second, and over 95 million Instagram posts are uploaded every day. Your content is competing with all of that content for the attention of social media users. Your images can help you stand out.

So what type of images can you use to capture your audience’s eye? Here are some best practices for using images to boost your social media conversion rate:

  • Use faces for Instagram: According to a study conducted by Georgia Institute of Technology, Instagram posts with faces get 38% more Likes than those without them.
  • Use large summary cards for Twitter: BuzzSumo found that Tweets with large summary Twitter cards receive 3 times more interactions. Here’s an example of what the large summary Twitter cards look like.
  • Create network-specific images: You can consider creating images specifically for driving social media conversions, rather than just using the image Twitter or Facebook pulls from your website. This is a good idea for companies that tend to use stock images as their featured images. Creating custom graphics with vibrant colors or even a call to action can be much more engaging.
  • Don’t use too much text: Your visuals shouldn’t be overrun with text. That’s part of the reason Facebook implemented it’s 20% text rule for ads. Save the text for your headlines or Instagram captions.

7. Use Social Proof

Of these two Tweets, which are you most likely to click?

Probably the one with all the shares and Likes, right? As humans, we’re conditioned to make decisions based on what other people think. That’s why we look at reviews before making purchases and ask for opinions before making decisions. We care what other people think.

Social proof is when people make decisions based on how popular something is on social media. For instance, an article with thousands of social media shares is seen as more credible and trustworthy since so many people have shared it. After seeing all those shares, you might be tempted to follow suite and share it too.

Try to get as many shares on your social media content as possible. Then you can pin it to the top of your feed, or even put paid promotion toward it once it builds up a good amount of social shares. The extra shares will add more credibility to it and make it look even more popular.

How to Measure Your Social Media Conversion Rate

We’ve given you a lot of tips and tactics to improve your social media conversions, but if you’re not actually tracking your conversion rate you won’t know what’s working.

There are two things you should be tracking:

  • Click conversions: The percentage of people clicking through from you social media post to your landing page.
  • Landing page conversions: The percentage of people that land on your page and convert.

To measure your click conversions, you can use Sprout’s Sent Messages report. For instance, if we wanted to see how many people clicked a link in a particular Tweet, we could check Sprout to see the clicks and impressions:

calculate social media conversions

Then you’d just divide your clicks by the number of impressions to calculate your conversion rate.

For landing page conversions, you’ll need to have tracking built-in through Google Analytics, Sales Force or another tool. You’d have to divide your number of conversions by the number of unique page views. What counts as a conversion will differ depending on your goals. It could be an email sign up, free trial or however else you define it. It just needs to be something definitive that can be tracked.

There’s Always Room for Improvement

Whether you have a high social media conversion rate or struggle just to get one person to click through to your landing page, there’s always room for improvement. Give the tips above a try and see how high you can that conversion rate up. What tips and tricks have you tried to boost your social media conversions?

This post 7 Tips to Optimize Your Social Media Conversions originally appeared on Sprout Social.

How to Increase Conversion Rates with Better Product Content

If you’ve been reading our blog for awhile, you likely already know that a good product description can help sell a customer on your product or service. But too often, we put too much emphasis on the description itself while blissfully ignoring the other aspects of a product’s presentation.

According to a recent study from SurveyMonkey available through Salsify, fully 94% of customers will abandon a site if they can’t find the information they need to make an informed purchase. And 88% of shoppers said that product content plays an extremely or very important role in their purchase.

So what kind of content makes the biggest difference in sales? You may be surprised.

Price Isn’t Everything When it Comes to Motivating the Customer to Buy

price-mattersImage Source

Price is understandably a big factor in making shopping decisions. But it is not the biggest or most pivotal reason in the customer’s mind. Customers who were surveyed for the study indicated that product features – particularly bullets, images, videos and reviews were much more likely to convince them than price alone.

When asked about the underlying reasoning behind their decision, the customers explained that these points were the only way they could know exactly what they were getting. The closer the item comes to fulfilling their needs, the better their overall experience.

Oftentimes, e-commerce sites have so many products or so many variations that they simply put up whatever the manufacturer has written about the item and hope that it’s enough to seal the deal. But manufacturers aren’t in the business of selling to end users, therefore their product details are usually bland, boring and highly technical.

If this is the case for items in your e-commerce catalog, it’s worth doing a content audit to determine which of the most in-demand items aren’t getting the conversions you’d hoped for, and then taking a closer look at what’s actually being presented to the customer.

Customers Want to See Things in “3’s”

3sImage Sources (Top & Bottom)

According to the study, the vast majority of customers wanted to see at last three images of the item, and read at least three reviews about it. What may surprise you here, however, is that around 75% of them said that they would rather see the image itself against a plain background or being used, rather than photos from users that bought the item.

What’s wrong with user-submitted photos? While “user generated content” is often promoted as another branch to your existing content marketing efforts, in this case it can backfire. Oftentimes they may include accessories or add-ons that don’t come with the original standalone item, or they may already have used the item, so it’s not an accurate representation of what’s in the box.

Here, it’s the responsibility of the brand to make sure the images they submit of the product are crisp, clear and show precisely what the customer is getting.

Even after you have crisp, clear images of the product, solid reviews and a competitive price, there’s still the question of catering to mobile shoppers. Do mobile shoppers carry the same priorities in mind as their more traditional desktop-shopping counterparts?

Mobile Shopping Still Has Some Growing Up to Do

Consumers shopping on mobile devices have their own issues to contend with, and scant product descriptions don’t help here either. Oftentimes, in a rush to make sure they can attract mobile-browsing consumers, companies make the mobile version as bare bones as possible. But, as you might imagine, there’s a major trade-off between fast-loading sites on a phone or tablet, and getting all of the information you need.

Here were some of the complaints, according to the study:

mobile-issuesImage Source

And if you thought not having enough images, a lack of reviews, or boring technical data about a product were conversion rate crushers, just look at what mobile users have to contend with! Things like not being able to read the fine print (what are they hiding in there, anyway?), buggy websites, and even product fulfillment issues all considerably dampen the customer experience.

Fortunately, these are all things that can be remedied with a more thorough look inside the mobile shopping process. Don’t look at your mobile e-commerce as a branch off from your desktop-friendly version, but rather treat them as one and the same. Is it just as easy for a mobile user to find information on a product as it is browsing from a tablet or laptop?

If not, take steps to remedy that, as Google and other search engines are a prime spot for mobile users to begin their research – and the better prepared you are to accommodate mobile users, the more you could earn in revenues.

Targeting Moms or Millennials? Then Pay Close Attention…

As we gear up for the holiday shopping season, there’s no better time to carefully analyze your product descriptions. But there are two groups in particular that advertisers are keenly looking to attract: moms and millennials. Although product content is just as important to these two groups as all of the other demographics, there are specific approaches that need to be kept in mind if you’re targeting them.

First, millennials were 40% more likely to report that product content influenced their decisions to buy. They were also 50% more likely to rank ratings and reviews as having the biggest impact on deciding which site to buy from. Social and user-generated content are important to them as well, and unlike most shoppers, they are 72% more likely to buy an item based on photos from other users.

Moms, on the other hand (to the surprise of absolutely no one) don’t have a lot of time. They were nearly a third more likely to shop on their phones than others, and tend to only visit one or two sites before making a decision. That’s why it pays to invest in making sure your site’s mobile shopping experience is just as easy and thorough as regular desktop-based online shopping.

Making Your Product Content Shine

So what insights can you take away from these findings? First, if you’re focusing too much on your product description to the exclusion of everything else (reviews, images and even social content), you’re doing a major disservice to your users. Every aspect of your product detail page should be looked at – from bullet points to image selection to even unboxing videos and so forth.

Look for ways to integrate social and user content in ways that lend to – but not overshadow – brand-powered content. And above all, take the time to ensure that mobile shoppers can access the same kinds of details, swatches, photos and other information as regular online shoppers. Too often we pour our attention into making a site’s product and checkout flow as seamless as possible – leaving mobile as more of an afterthought hastily tacked on to the process than the integral part it should be.

What are your thoughts on getting the most out of product descriptions? Have you ever read a product detail page so irresistible you couldn’t help but buy? For many of us, the description is the make or break point of a conversion – so take the time to make sure yours is the best it can be, starting right now.

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!

5 Psychological Tips for Selling on Facebook

We as consumers like to think that we’re above marketing tricks. We’re savvier than when we were shopping 10 years ago. We use tools like price-comparison apps and budget-prompted push notifications to help us shop better.

Use consumer psychology to your business’ advantage. This doesn’t mean you use evil tactics to deceive your customers. Consumer psychology is all about knowing your customer’s buying habits. It’s useful for automatic processes (e.g. sending an automated email to a potential customer if they left a shopping cart without purchasing) or even for knowing where to place your call-to-action buttons on your website.

Set up Your Facebook Page for Success

Before we even get started on psychology, make sure your Facebook Business Page has been set up with all the necessary basics.

Here are a few key items you should check on:

  • Are your products or services easily purchasable on your Facebook Page?
  • Are your virtual stores linked? For example, if you use Shopify for your website ecommerce solution, is it synced with your Facebook Store?
  • Do you have a customer service plan in place?
  • Is it easy to contact you as a customer?

But that’s just the start of it. Here we’ll go a bit deeper by identifying five cognitive biases and ways you can use them for selling on Facebook:

1. Anchoring Bias: Set a High Price Point

Amazon offers a variety of Kindle models. At first glance, you see four models on their Kindle E-reader page ranging from $79.99–$289.99. If the lowest-priced Kindle was presented by itself, you would think that $79.99 is a high price for an e-reader. But since the high-priced Kindle Oasis is present, all the other options seem like a bargain.

kindle-comparison

The anchoring bias shows up most often on a pricing page. When presented with a pricing table, you lock onto the first price you see. This is often the most expensive option. With the pricing options presented next to each other, you begin to comparison shop.

How to Execute

If you offer a service, identify your best selling service. Next to the bestselling service’s price point, place one service that is below the price point and another that is above the price point.

An example of this in use in a pricing page is QuickBooks’ pricing page for one of their products. Note how the pricing table centers their best-selling service and even highlights it for you. Your attention is naturally drawn to the middle of the page, which also happens to be the mid-priced option.

quickbooks-comparison

To have a similar pricing model for your Facebook Page, make sure your Page Category is correct. If you offer a service, the Services tab will be available to you.

There you have the ability to set up the Services tab just like you would for your pricing page. Simply add photos or set different levels (e.g. Gold, Silver and Bronze) to help the customer pick out your recommended service.

services-facebook

In essence, the customer is like Goldilocks: your best-selling service shouldn’t be too expensive and not too cheap.

If you have a product-centric company, such as Everpurse’s selection of various purses, arrange products so the highest price is either first or paired with the most attractive photo. You want to have that product be the first a customer sees when they look at your Page.

everpurse-product
  • Remember: Use anchoring bias to your advantage by placing comparable items around the one you really want to sell.

2. Hyperbolic Discounting (Fear of Missing Out)

We have seen the advertisements: “One-day flash sale! All items are 50% off!” Despite not needing the product, you lock onto the idea that you’re getting a great deal so you must have it now. This is irresistible.

Hyperbolic discounting makes you want items now instead of later. Even if it is cheaper to wait. Using this bias for selling on Facebook is easy if your company does not run frequent sales.

How to Execute

When you’ve built up enough of a fan base on Facebook with a high engagement rate, you can create flash deals.

Try to use flash deals in a variety of ways:

  • Offer a coupon code that only works for a limited amount of time
  • Set up a limited-edition product
  • Offer a bundled deal that you will never offer again

Takeaway: Grab the customer’s attention by discounting at an unexpected time.

3. Emotional Connections Drive Facebook Shares

The science behind a viral post rests on your knee-jerk emotional reaction to it. The more extreme your emotional reaction is to your post, the more likely you’ll share it. And the more often you share posts to the right audience, the more likely you’ll see that translate into sales.

robert-plutchik-wheel-of-emotion

In psychologist Robert Plutchik’s wheel of emotions concept, he identified the emotions that drive our sharing behavior. The inner circle denotes the eight emotions to think about when creating content.

How to Execute

For link-based content, appeal to the emotional side of your audience by changing up the headlines. Even if your blog post has one headline, it’s still possible to post the link multiple times with various headline tweaks.

Old: Local Woman Saves Her Cat

New: 70-Year-Old Woman Climbs Tree During Harsh Storm, Rescues Cat

Why this works: In providing more detail from the article, you become amazed at how remarkable this feat of strength and dedication to this woman’s pet.

Link-based content should also have attractive photos in place. Sometimes, the photos are all you need to prompt a share.

Takeaway: Aim to create an emotional connection with your audience through your Facebook posts. Instead of using marketing terms that sell to the customer, talk with the customer.

4. Stories Sell: Creating a Great Story

Storytelling might be the newest marketing buzzword, but having a compelling story behind your company will help you sell your products.

To understand how to use storytelling effectively, you must know the key components of a great story:

  • Protagonist: This is the hero
  • Antagonist: These are the roadblocks, often found while building a company
  • Conflict: There is an argument or issue between the protagonist and the antagonist
  • Resolution: The hero has overcome their battles and is now successful

How does this come into play for your company? First, you need to identify your own company’s story.

The entrepreneurial story of how ClassPass’s founder came about is a compelling one. She was mugged while waiting for a meeting and realized she wasn’t able to defend herself.

The incident kicked off her desire to learn defense skills, but building the company wasn’t without its own blockers. She failed twice before landing on a successful pricing model.

How to Execute

On Facebook, use videos and photos to share stories about your products or services.

One of the best companies for brand storytelling is Nike. Without having blatant product placement in their videos, they share the strength of athletes and the obstacles they have to battle to reach their goals.

Conclusion: Tell a great story with an emotional connection to the reader.

5. Value Time Over Money

In a research study conducted by Cassie Mogilner and Jennifer Aaker at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business about time versus money, they concluded that “If you can dial up one’s thinking about time spent experiencing the product relative to thinking about the money spent to own the product, then you tend to get … beneficial effects.”

With the exception of luxury goods companies, use this to your advantage by showcasing the time or experience the customer will have with your product.

A classic example of this in action is Miller’s slogan, “It’s Miller Time.” Instead of reminding customers that they’ll be paying for their drink, the company reframes their product as an experience.

miller-time

How to Execute

When you’re posting about your products on Facebook, try and avoid mentions of prices. Instead, use storytelling tactics to show how the customer is buying into an entire experience.

Patagonia sells clothing but they also sell an experience. Their Facebook Page is filled with stories of great adventures, illustrated by videos and photos.

Takeaway: Reframe your products to showcase how they would be used. Would you rather see a photo of a product or a photo of it being used?

Getting Started With Selling on Facebook

Selling on Facebook takes time and effort by your marketing and social media team. To track your marketing campaigns on Facebook, use Sprout Social’s Facebook management tools to simplify your social inbox with message tagging capabilities.

facebook integrations collaborate manage

Additionally, Sprout allows you measure and gauge your Facebook engagement data to know what selling techniques work best with your brand.

Marketers shouldn’t be afraid to tackle selling on Facebook. And with the right mindset and plan of action with your customers, you can use the platform to increase sales.

This post 5 Psychological Tips for Selling on Facebook originally appeared on Sprout Social.

A Complete Calendar of Hashtag Holidays for 2017

From Puppy Day to Awkward Moments Day, there’s an occasion for just about anything. Ignored by traditional calendars these hashtag holidays are celebrated ad nauseum on social media. Some are meant to generate awareness and promote a cause while others focus their attention on the cute, quirky and nonsensical.

When positioned properly these occasions can be a great opportunity for your brand to reach a new audience. To help your team plan its 2017 social content strategy, We’ve cherry-picked a combination of generally celebrated, industry-specific and lesser known hashtag holidays and compiled them into a downloadable calendar below:

Download

Not sure which hashtag holiday makes sense for your brand? We’ve outlined a simple process that will help you prioritize and strategize your approach to getting involved in holiday conversations.

3 Questions Your Brand Needs to Answer Before Participating

Did you know that National Doughnut Day was first celebrated in 1938? Hashtag holidays have been celebrated for decades but they’ve only gained traction on social media within the past few years.

Before your brand participates in any of the hashtag holidays we’ve highlighted, answer these three questions:

1. Is This Hashtag Holiday Brand Relevant?

Our customer survey found that sharing irrelevant information prompts 41% of people to unfollow a brand on social. This insight is important to any organization’s bottom line, especially since 57% of consumers are more likely to purchase something from a brand they follow and 75% have made a purchased because of social.

Don’t be a brand that hijacks a hashtag holiday and promotes content that has nothing to do with your brand or product. The hashtag holiday you’re celebrating should speak to your audience, not annoy them.

2. Is the Correct Hashtag Being Used?

Consistency can distinguish your brand apart from its competitors. Hashtags holidays are still a relatively new marketing concept. With new dates and duplicative holidays created on a daily basis, it’s easy for hashtags to go through alterations. Make sure that the correct hashtag is being used for each of the holidays your brand is looking to participate in.

Think National Best Friends Day could be a creative fit for your brand? Two hashtags you might run into are #NationalBestFriendsDay and #BestFriendsDay. But which is the right one to use? One way to combat confusion is by deep diving into the message volume and sharing data between the two.

Using Sprout’s Twitter Listening Report, we were able to take our compiled list of holidays and identify which occasions were the most popular by social shares and volume. In addition to uncovering holiday share of voice, the report allowed us to determine which hashtag iteration was most commonly used for each holiday.

Sprout Social's Twitter Listening Report

With this report, we were able to make the distinction that #NationalBestFriendsDay was the clear winner over #BestFriendsDay. This type of consistency and clarity will help increase your content’s odds of increased virality and engagement.

3. Does This Day Overlap With Any Major Holidays or Events?

Due to the sheer number of holidays (traditional and non-traditional), there’s bound to be some overlap between hashtag holidays, federal holidays and global events. Make sure that you’re always being cognizant of traditional holidays and events happening around the world.

Tweeting about #PockyDay while ignoring Veterans Day on the same date, might not be the best idea for an American brand so it’s important to always be mindful of these circumstances before posting on social. Check our hashtag holiday list to make sure you’re on top of your national day game:

Download

Go Celebrate

What are some of your favorite hashtag holidays? Are there any new days that we should consider for 2018? Tweet us at @SproutSocial or share your thoughts in the comments below!

This post A Complete Calendar of Hashtag Holidays for 2017 originally appeared on Sprout Social.

Holiday Marketing Without the Heavy Markup: 11 tips for seasonal marketing on a budget

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Hopefully! The National Retail Federation anticipates a 3.6 percent increase in holiday sales this year, but even the most successful small business owners can be anxious about how year-end receipts will shake out.

If you’re one of those nervous business owners, the idea of holiday marketing may seem like so much added pressure. But breathe a sigh of relief; holiday marketing doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor. 

In honor of the seven days of Kwanzaa, the eight days of Hanukkah, and the 12 days of Christmas, we proudly present our 11 tips for holiday marketing on a budget. (We picked 11 so no holidays feel slighted and to still give you as many tips as possible.)

1. Send emails!

Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective marketing tools there is, bringing in an average of $44 for every $1 spent. Sending holiday-themed emails to your lists, then, is a no-brainer. Here are some types of messages you may want to send during the holidays:

  • Sale or promotion advertisements
  • Event invitations
  • Seasonal newsletters
  • Holiday greetings or New Year wishes
  • Thank you messages

Not sure how to get started with regular email marketing? We can help.

2. Use social media.

You already have social media pages, right? (If not, it’s time to start.) It doesn’t cost your business much besides a small time investment to keep them active and updated. Use them to advertise all the deals, promotions, or events happening at your business this holiday season. Or run a countdown to a special event, using Facebook and Twitter to steadily beat the drum and whip up online excitement.

3. Make a video.

The benefits of video marketing are immense: a 76 percent return on investment, increased search engine visibility, and elevated customer trust, just to name a few. If you have the time and a mobile phone, there’s no reason not to start making videos right away. Shoot a short video or series of videos highlighting your products, services, or knowledgeable staff. Then upload to YouTube and/or Vimeo (or your own website, if it has the capability), and promote the videos on social media and in your emails. Don’t worry if your camera skills aren’t worthy of a Madison Avenue ad agency — it’s all about getting into the holiday spirit, having fun, and showcasing that small business touch that your customers love.

4. Host an open house.

If you have a restaurant or retail store, use email and social media to invite customers to an open house at your business. Serve light refreshments and showcase your holiday gift ideas or seasonal menus. Open houses are small-scale holiday parties that will put your customers and their friends in the seasonal mood and remind them that you stand ready to serve.

5. Offer a unique experience or gift.

Give away a small gift, only available from your business, to every customer who spends over a certain amount. Or raffle off an experience that customers can’t find elsewhere — a special spa treatment, a romantic dinner for two, or another treat that customers wouldn’t normally buy for themselves.

6. Offer free gift-wrapping services.

Gift-wrapping services can be a lifesaver for harried customers. Generate goodwill and foot traffic with this time- and sanity-saving extra.

7. Promote gift cards and gift certificates.

Not only are gift cards and gift certificates cash up front for your business, but when the recipients return to use them, they will most likely spend more than the amount they were gifted. In other words, it’s a win-win situation for your business.

8. Partner with other businesses.

It often pays to partner with another local business and cross-promote each other’s goods and services. For instance, if you run a catering business, and you have a good relationship with a local cleaning business, you can advertise that both businesses stand ready to serve before and after your customers’ holiday parties. Make the most of this tactic by using each business’s email and social media to cross-promote the other.

9. Reward loyal customers.

If it seems like nearly every business has a loyalty program these days, that’s because they do. Offering an incentive to repeat customers is a tried and true method of enticing return visits. If you don’t have a rewards program already, now may be the time to launch one. The Small Business Association has some tips to get you started.

10. Write a blog.

The blog on your business’s website is your place to write about anything and everything that might be of use to your customers. But it’s good for your business too: It gives you authority in your industry, it helps your business show up in more search results, and it increases leads, to name only a few benefits. During the holidays, use your blog to feature hot products, seasonal services, time-saving tips for your customers, and more. Then promote these posts on social media and in your newsletters.  

11. Visit Everything Holiday.

Everything Holiday, our one-stop holiday resource center has dozens of tips, tools, guides, how-to’s, and festive giveaways to ignite your holiday marketing while staying on budget. Need to decorate your social media pages with holiday graphics? Check. Need to plan out your email campaigns? Check. Need holiday calendars? Check. Start seasonalizing your marketing today.

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© 2016, John Habib. All rights reserved.

The post Holiday Marketing Without the Heavy Markup: 11 tips for seasonal marketing on a budget appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

The SEO Myth of Going Viral

Posted by TomasVaitulevicius

If you’ve been to any SEO conferences over the past few years, you’ve likely heard something along the lines of this:

“Links are still really important for organic search rankings. But the way we go about getting those links has changed… it’s now all about content marketing.”

The general premise is that great, “rank-worthy” content gets links, which in turn builds up your site’s authority, which subsequently gives a boost to the search rankings of both that specific content piece and the domain as a whole. And following the same logic, content that does spectacularly well in earning links ought to have spectacular and lasting SEO results.

Sounds great on paper, and it even makes sense when you think about it logically. You build better content that readers enjoy, so the quality of your site goes up, and Google rewards your ever-improving site with better rankings.

Except that’s not what I’m seeing. Not by a long way.

Today I’m going to put across the hypothesis that viral content, at least in certain scenarios, has little to no benefit for domain-wide search engine rankings. Specifically, we’ll be taking a look at some websites that have absolutely smashed it with viral content, including:

  • Amplifon
  • Simply Business
  • Concert Hotels
  • JustPark

Amplifon: What do links from 222 websites do for SEO?

Our first case study is from a hearing aid manufacturer called Amplifon. Back in August 2014, working with the renowned digital marketing agency Epiphany, they created an interactive piece called Sounds of Streetview. Originally hosted on the amplifon.co.uk domain (which has since been redirected over to amplifon.com), this rather nifty piece of content marketing was meant to bring an explorative 3D sound experience to Google Streetview — and the Internet loved it.

According to Majestic, this piece secured 685 backlinks from 222 referring domains. And the results for their organic search rankings? Let’s take a look…

At first glance, there does indeed seem to be a sharp jump in Amplifon’s overall search visibility after the release of the “Sounds of Streetview” on both SearchMetrics and SEMRush. However, upon deeper inspection of SearchMetrics’ keyword-level data (available here), we can see that almost all of this jump has come from new keywords directly related to the “Sounds of Streetview” content piece. Ranking increases and extra traffic from keywords like “street view” and “make your own google” are hardly the kinds of outcomes that businesses yearn for when signing off on large content marketing projects.

Looking at “Money Making” keywords alone, we only see around a 10% jump in SearchMetrics’ Traffic Index for Amplifon SERPs. Moreover, all of that jump comes from a single, very popular keyword (“hearing aids”) which moved up by one position. The Traffic Index for all of Amplifon’s other “Money Making” keywords has actually gone down by -76 between July 31 2014 and August 28 2014.

SearchMetrics Organic Visibility Graph for Amplifon.co.uk

SearchMetrics Traffic Index by keyword type for Amplifon.co.uk

SEMRush Organic Traffic Graph for Amplifon.co.uk

SEMRush Number of Ranking Keywords Graph for Amplifon.co.uk. *SEMRush expanded their tracked keyword set for UK in February 2016, but this jump in keywords does not relate to improved real-life traffic for the website.

Simply Business: The perennial content marketing case study

Let’s take a look at the second case study examining Simply Business, a large business insurance broker here in the UK. They’ve been included in almost every conference speech and blog post covering content marketing in the last year. So much so, in fact, that a search on Google for “Simply Business” + “link building” returns 168,000 results.

Released in February 2014, their viral content success came in the shape of Hungry Tech Giants, an interactive guide on how the “big five” tech giants have acquired smaller companies over the past 15 years. According to Majestic, this piece obtained 588 links from 167 linking root domains.

Simply Business has also produced a very successful (in link acquisition terms) suite of business tech guides. Out of a grand total of 20 guides, the two stand-out performers were Wordpress for Small Businesses — released in August 2012, which attracted 1,897 links from 169 linking root domains — and The Small Business Guide to Google Analytics, published in January 2013 and which garnered 3,463 links from 243 sites.

That’s a lot of links!

SearchMetrics Organic Visibility Graph for SimplyBusiness.co.uk

SearchMetrics hasn’t picked up any spikes in Simply Business’ visibility within a reasonable timeframe after the launch of these three pieces.

SEMRush Organic Traffic Graph for SimplyBusiness.co.uk

SEMRush Number of Ranking Keywords Graph for SimplyBusiness.co.uk. *SEMRush expanded their tracked keyword set for UK in February 2016, but this jump in keywords does not relate to improved real-life traffic for the website.

SEMRush has observed a rankings increase of 10% to 15% around January 2013, but no associated change to the organic traffic. Other than that, no clear signs of growth are coming from the content marketing successes.

There haven’t been any new guides added to Simply Business’ guides section since August 2015.

Concert Hotels: But what if you “make it” really big, thrice?

Our final case study is Concert Hotels, a hotel booking website. Back in November 2013 they released the first of their mega-successful content pieces: 100 Years of Rock. This piece brought in a hugely impressive 8,358 links from 521 linking root domains (Majestic).

In May 2014 they released the second big hitter: Vocal Ranges of the World’s Greatest Singers. According to Majestic, this piece managed to procure 2,839 backlinks from a whopping 590 linking root domains. Not bad going!

The company followed this up with a piece called Got Rhythm in June 2015. Although not as successful as its predecessors, it still managed to accumulate 899 backlinks from 236 linking root domains (source: Majestic). Still not half bad.

So in total that’s over 12,096 backlinks from over 1,347 linking root domains. And the impact on organic search traffic?

Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

SearchMetrics Organic Visibility Graph for ConcertHotels.com

SEMRush Organic Traffic Graph for ConcertHotels.com

SEMRush Number of Ranking Keywords Graph for ConcertHotels.com. *SEMRush expanded their tracked keyword set for US in October 2015, but this jump in keywords does not relate to improved real-life traffic for the website.

JustPark: 5 million visits aren’t all they’re cracked up to be

Disclaimer: I was in charge of JustPark’s digital marketing when we kicked off our content marketing effects, and hopefully I can give you some insider insight on what we saw (or, more accurately, didn’t see) on the back of our activities.

Back in spring 2015 we identified domain authority as a clear SEO priority for JustPark, the UK’s largest parking marketplace. Domain-level linking root domains of the top competitors were 3 to 6 times higher than ours and correlated very well with their organic visibility.

Seeing the big authority building challenge ahead of us and knowing that we don’t want to engage in any risky, shady activities, we decided to invest in content marketing-led link building. Deep inside we all harbored the hope of striking content marketing gold and having one of our pieces going viral.

We selected Distilled as our partner for producing 5 “big content” pieces, and alongside this we also planned out multiple smaller interactive projects to be developed in-house.

After releasing 5 content marketing projects with average success over September and October, we kicked off on the piece that was going beat all of our expectations: Emergency Stop Game.

Rollout

After a quiet launch and a few small spikes of traffic, we decided to seed the content on Reddit in early November. All of a sudden its popularity started snowballing, with traffic (and referrals!) going up by the hour. Coverage started coming in from top-tier news publications around the world, and when the piece appeared on IFLScience (and took our servers down) we knew we were on to a big one.

By the time all of this madness had died down, the piece had accumulated 400k+ Facebook shares and 5 million+ visits. But what was all that worth?

SEO impact

As domain authority was our overall goal, we watched the build-up of linking root domains — many of them of very high quality — with great excitement. In total, Emergency Stop Game attracted links from more than 600 sites (by now 1,141 links from 389 linking root domains are left in Majestic’s fresh index), which doubled the total link profile of the whole JustPark website. Suffice to say, we expected to see a big change in our SEO performance.

The big surprise came when, week after week, we were looking at the SEO traffic to the core product side of the website (excluding the viral piece itself) and there was no boost to be seen.

SearchMetrics Organic Visibility Graph for JustPark.com

SEMRush Organic Traffic Graph for JustPark.com

SEMRush Number of Ranking Keywords Graph for JustPark.com. *SEMRush expanded their tracked keyword set for UK in February 2016, but this jump in keywords does not relate to improved real-life traffic for the website.

Here are the graphs from SEMRush and SearchMetrics. They do report improvements in Traffic and Visibility that dissipate over time, but the improvements that they’ve picked up likely have more to do with the gained visibility in (surprisingly popular) “reaction time testing” searches, rather than money-making keywords that drive traffic to the core website.

Conclusion

It’s easy to see how an underwhelming boost to the SEO bottom line by otherwise successful marketing projects might be kept under wraps. Nobody wants to be the one to rain on the parade, especially when those projects have earned visibility and kudos from the community at large. I invite anyone with contradicting (or reaffirming) case studies to openly share their learnings and help inform our industry.

In the meantime, I will take the liberty of making some generalizations as to what these case studies might imply.

Large amounts of links to a single page (with the possible exclusion of the homepage) might not pass that much SEO value to the rest of the website, especially if:

  • …the single page is not particularly on-topic
  • …many of the links have appeared within a short period of time
  • …most of the links are from news websites, as opposed to sites focused on your product / service / industry
  • …many links are from international sources whilst the website is nationally focused
  • …the single page uses different page structure (headers, footer, menus, etc.) from the rest of the site
  • …the single page is not well-interlinked with the rest of the site

My main aim in writing this article was to spark a conversation and critical evaluation of the current industry-wide assumptions on content marketing. If you agree with the above, great. If you disagree — even better! Come forth with your observations and let’s see what learnings we can extract from them.

A special thanks to Ben Johnson — a previous colleague and now a freelance SEO and PPC consultant — for his help with this article.

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!

Are you losing customers because of your website?


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Create beautiful landing pages to drive customers to your webinar, product or to capture their information

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You can also create Facebook tabs in a few simple steps. (Integrate, publish, and collect opt-ins!)

They’ll even host the pages for you! (WP integration coming soon!)

Lander’s normal price for their Basic plan is $192 a year.

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More Ways to Grow Your Blog’s Traffic Without Google Search

More Ways to Grow Your Blog's Traffic Without Google Search | ProBlogger.netBy ProBlogger Expert Jerry Low.

Google traffic is lucrative – there’s no doubt about that. Often, the most effective way to attract targeted traffic is to make sure your site is optimized for Google searches. As you may have already learned, winning that targeted traffic is one of the top strategies for making money on the web.

However (and this is a big however), depending solely on Google organic search is not a good business model. Google frequently issues algorithm updates. This can lead to webmasters/bloggers losing all their traffic overnight. You need to diversify the ways that you draw online users to your site. Sure, Google search is a big part of that process – but it isn’t the only way to do it. You can still rely on organic search, but don’t make yourself vulnerable to another algorithm update before you have time to optimize for it.

In fact, Google just released another Penguin update on September 23rd. Penguin 4.0 is supposed to be the final update of its kind. That’s because the algorithm will now run in real time, which means it will actually be updating on a continuous basis. How this may affect websites across the board remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: Business owners need to grow without being entirely reliant on the traffic from Google search.

This is the perfect time to revisit my previous post and explore more ways to grow without Google traffic.

What Happened to Me in 2012 Penguin Updates

I know firsthand how a business can be affected by an update to the Google algorithm complex.

My site, WebHostingSecretRevealed.com, was hit badly during the Google Penguin update in 2012. This forced me to rework everything from scratch again on a new domain: WebHostingSecretRevealed.net. Since then, I have been experimenting with different ways to pull in targeted traffic outside organic search.

You can read how Darren lost 80% of his traffic overnight and what he did about it here.

In previous posts, I have talked about some of the tactics I’ve learned and used to build a Google-less approach to attracting blog traffic.

In this post, we are going to dig wider and deeper for more Google-less traffic strategies.

Tactic #1: Content Swap

Previously, I’ve discussed how guest posting is the best way to build sustainable web traffic. This concept is still valid two years after I first talked about it.

Here’s an example:

I published a guest post on Blogging Wizard in April two years ago. The post somehow gained popularity, and Mari Smith tweeted about the post. This led to some new traffic and Twitter followers for me – not to mention building my authority in the niche.

More Ways to Grow Your Blog Traffics Without Google Search | ProBlogger.net

The trick, again, is to guest post at the right place – Google PageRank or Domain Authority is never my main concern. What we want is influential blogs with real readers who will read and engage with your content. Guest post to build web traffic and your personal brand – not for Google PageRank.

Never underestimate how effective it is to reach out to peers and influencers. Getting the word out about your own blog is much easier to do when you can collaborate with other bloggers.

At this point, you might be thinking “But wait – researching for the right blog and reaching out to the right bloggers for guest posting opportunities requires lots of work!”

Well, what if we can speed up that process and write more (and eliminate a lot of that work)?

This is when Content Swap becomes the best tactic to use – the one that will help you to get the most from your efforts.

So, What Is Content Swap?

The idea of Content Swap came from Ken Lyons of Measured SEM.

While Ken was suggesting swapping guest posts to build links, it may also work as a great way to bring more traffic to your blog. Without Content Swap, you must reach out to each blog and ask for a guest posting opportunity. This can be a tedious and time-consuming task.

When you employ Content Swap as a tactic, you are in the driver’s seat.

Guest posting opportunities will come to you instead of you being forced to seek them out endlessly. All you need to do is select the sites that meet your specific quality thresholds: You determine such details as the amount of traffic that meets your needs, how many social media followers the site should have, and other relevant factors. Then, choose those blog sites that fit your criteria.

Steps to take for getting started with Content Swap:

Set up a proper “write for us” page on your blog.

Explain clearly what types of guest bloggers you’re looking for (and make it clear that you want to swap content with them).

Share the page on your social media pages and forum signatures to increase the chances of being seen. You can also promote the page on Facebook to a specific audience (namely, those who own blogs).

Sit back and wait for guest posting requests.

(Self-plug #1: If setting up a “Write for Us” page is too much for you, you can swap content with us at WHSR.)

Tactic #2: Influencers Marketing

Now that you know about the importance of exchanging content – and how much easier it is to do this by using the Content Swap method – you’ll still need to do some footwork while you wait for guest bloggers to respond to your “write for us” page. The kind of blogger outreach I’m talking about now involves targeting influencers. Doing this is a bit more time-intensive than placing a call-out to other bloggers on your own website. The time you invest in this strategy can yield repeated returns for you, however. It’s also a way to identify which bloggers might be the best to swap content with once those offers start coming to you.

Start by identifying the influencers who are blogging about topics that are relevant to you. You can build a spreadsheet to keep track of them all. You’ll find a wealth of blogs on every imaginable topic at a site like Alltop, for one. Just enter a keyword in the search box on the Alltop home page. That should produce a page with several blogs and subtopics that you can browse. Once you find bloggers who seem like suitable choices as influencers, use an analytics tool to find out how much influence they have on social media. One analytics site I’ve had success with is Klout.

What can you do once you find the influencers you want to contact? Invite them to be interviewed by you on your blog. Ask them to collaborate on blog posts. Suggest swapping blog posts with them – as well as swapping links to your respective sites.

Real life examples –

More Ways to Grow Your Blog Traffics Without Google Search | ProBlogger.net

“Making friends” is often under-rated in blogging world. Michael Pozdnev reached out to 63 industry leaders and wrote this incredibly long post. It was the fourth post he published on his blog IWannaBeABlogger.com and the post has obtained more than 2,000 social media shares and comments to date.

All of these actions will help build traffic to your site, and you won’t need to worry about where you rank on results pages.

Tactic #3: Pour Oil on the Fire

You can look closely to your existing traffic for more ideas on how to grow it.

Previously, I covered five different tactics: 1) Blog commenting 2) Freebies marketing 3) Crowd sourcing post 4) Creative social media marketing and 5) Leveraging Q&A platforms.

Are you using any of these strategies? Did any of these work particularly well for your blog? Look into your Google Analytics and find out how these tactics have helped your blog to grow in the past. Figure what is serving you well, and double up your efforts on the tactics that work.

A Real-Life Example – Pinterest

In the first half of 2015, we noticed that posts focusing on mom bloggers were drawing a lot of Pinterest traffic. Thus, we built more topics for this demographic; we then hired a part-time Pinterest marketer to help us promote our posts on Pinterest. The results were a 160% increase in Pinterest referrals and 40% percent more newsletter signups from this traffic source.

Growing your traffic without Google | ProBlogger.net

How do you like 160% more Pinterest traffic and 40% better signup rate?

What you can do:

Look into your Google Analytics, and examine your top 50 traffic sources (follow this search path): Dashboard > Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium > Show rows: 50 – Can you see a particular type of traffic source that is working exceptionally well? Do you know why it works so well? Can you invest more money, time, or manpower in that source to make it better?

Tactic #4: Building an Email List

Darren recently talked about the importance of building an email list:

“Turn a visit into a regular weekly reader and you are effectively getting 52 readers a year.”

Darren started out with only 17 subscribers (four of those were his family members and himself). Today, he manages a list of 700,000 subscribers. Imagine the amount of traffic you could get from a list that size!

Like Darren, you can build a list of loyal subscribers by converting one-time or occasional visitors into weekly followers. Here are a few tips:

Make visitors want more

Publish compelling content, so people who just happen upon your site will want to stay connected to it. Provide users with valuable information that they will want to access on an ongoing basis.

Media rich content

Back up that text with audio (such as podcasts) and visuals (such as colorful infographics and videos) to keep your visitors interested.

Place an opt-in form in plain sight

Make sure that your visitors see your opt-in form on every page of your website. They may not always want to sign up for your list on the first page they land on, but they might want to do it after browsing for a while. Don’t let them miss out on that opportunity – make it available in the sidebar of most of your pages (if not all of them).

Give them an offer they can’t refuse

If you want people to subscribe to your email list, offer them something in return (like an eBook when they register).

Don’t stop at the initial registration offer

Once you start building your list, keep the momentum going by offering your subscribers more content they can use. Send enticing content in your newsletters, such as monthly webinars or discounts on products.

Tactic #5: Leveraging Facebook

I don’t think you need me to tell you that it’s extremely naïve to ignore Facebook.

(Fun fact: At last check, Darren posts 3 – 5 posts per day on Facebook.)

Facebook and the Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are the most popular social networks worldwide. Facebook could actually send more traffic to your blog than Google. At least, that’s what’s happening with Parse.ly’s network of 400 digital publishers.

Here are two very effective Facebook advertising tactics you can try:

1. Revive Old Post Carousel Ads

Below is a carousel ad I did recently to promote my evergreen blogging tips.

Grow your traffic without Google | ProBlogger.net

The ads cost less than 50 cents per click, and I am drawing hundreds of visits per week to my blog. When you are targeting the right audience, the advertising cost on Facebook is relatively cheap. When you consider how huge the impact can be, you almost can’t afford not to advertise this way.

(Self-plug #2 – By the way I compile our best blogging tips in this page).

You may also use carousel ads on Instagram, which Facebook bought a few years ago. By telling a story in this type of ad, you can compel viewers to learn more about your business. They may then click on the link that leads to your website. Now, you have just attracted traffic without depending on the Google organic search function to do it.

Here’s another reason to create this type of ad to market your business: According to Digiday, carousel ads get 10 times the clicks of ordinary Facebook ads – and they drive 10 times the amount of traffic to the websites of their advertisers. That means that the ads are helping you to work smart instead of work hard, and they’re saving you some serious advertising dollars.

2. Influence the influencers: Ads targeting Facebook Page admin

Do you have some handy tips or experiences to share with Facebook page administrators?

Can you create some to target this group of people?

The idea here is to influence the influencers.

If you market something effectively to Facebook page admins – be it a post or a product – you can get far more traction from your campaign than if you were to just target ordinary users.

Why is this? Because a Facebook page admin has the “power of publisher”. Page admins usually have a group of followers themselves. If you manage to win them over, they could help you to amplify your message. Do you see how much more efficient this is as a marketing technique than conventional methods that have been used by everyone?

Growing your traffic without Google | ProBlogger.net

Here’s how you can target Facebook page admins (follow this search path): Facebook Ad Manager > Power Editor > Create Saved Audience > Detailed Targeting > Digital Activities > Facebook Page Admins

This is just the beginning…

As mentioned in my previous article, appealing to web traffic is only part of the game.

You Will Also Need to Focus On…

Conversion

Once you get people to your website, you’ll then need to turn those visits into conversions.

You must optimize your landing pages to turn site visits into leads and leads into sales. Make the pages easy to navigate, so visitors can quickly move on from them when they want to explore your website. Run A/B testing and analytics so that you can improve the aspects of your landing pages that are not keeping people on your site.

Creating opportunities to remarket

By collecting emails via your opt-in forms, you can reach out to the site visitors that you didn’t convert the first time. Remarketing also enables you to maintain long-term customer relationships; you can make repeated sales to those customers; and ultimately, that is one of the best ways to keep growing your brand.

As a blogger, you need to optimize your content in order to get targeted traffic.

This absolutely includes optimization for Google search results. However, building an audience involves a lot more than getting traffic from organic search. Don’t leave your blog vulnerable the way that mine was a few years ago. SEO is only one strategy among several that can help you achieve your blogging goals. By swapping content, reaching out to influencers, developing an email list, and taking advantage of the tools on Facebook, you can draw targeted traffic and grow your blog.

Jerry Low is the founder of WebHostingSecretRevealed.net (WHSR). A geek dad. SEO data junkie. Web marketer. Investor. He has been building web assets and making money online since 2004. Follow Jerry on Twitter.

 

The post More Ways to Grow Your Blog’s Traffic Without Google Search appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

The Anatomy of Virality: How to Engineer the Perfect Viral Blog Article

You hear the term viral all the time.

I’m regularly reading Internet content that has “gone viral” or watching the latest viral video post. I research virality, and I read articles about content virality.

Virality is a big deal. If you think about it, viral content is what shapes our culture.

The idea of viral content has become rooted in Internet culture. It’s obviously something that most bloggers and marketers strive to achieve with their content.

Viral content can come in many forms and mean different things to different people.

For example, by some standards, I’ve written several “viral” articles—articles that were viewed by millions and shared by thousands. But when I compare my little blog article to other viral pieces of content, I see that its reach is tiny.

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The underlying quality of a viral piece of content is that it circulates rapidly across the Internet and reaches a widespread audience in a short period of time.

It can go from obscurity to mass exposure overnight.

Whether it’s a meme, video, blog post, or commercial, viral content has a way of capturing the attention of people from all walks of life.

There’s something exceptional about it even if you can’t necessarily put your finger on it.

Although there’s no magical recipe that instantly makes a blog article epic and uber-sharable, there is certainly a formula you can follow to achieve virality. After all, virality is a scientific phenomenon, even if achieving insane levels, like 2.5 billion views, isn’t predictable.

You can engineer virality to a certain degree. You start by understanding a few factors and elements that unite viral content.

Here’s a sequence you can follow to engineer the perfect viral blog article.

Content type

First things first. Which types of content receive the most shares?

I think you’ll agree that it’s easier to watch a four-minute music video, for example, than to read a 2,000-word article.

I’m interested in written content for the purposes of our discussion, so I’ll stick to long-form articles.

OkDork and Buzzsumo analyzed over 100 million articles to uncover underlying patterns that contribute to virality.

Here’s what they found in terms of what content was shared the most:

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When it comes to blog content, you’ll notice that list articles performed the best overall by a fairly large margin.

This is followed by “why posts,” “what posts,” and “how-to articles.”

So, in theory, you’d have the best odds of your article going viral if you created a list—more specifically, a 10-item list because it increases your odds even more.

According to OkDork, “10 item lists on average received the most social shares—on average 10,621 social shares. In fact, they had four times as many social shares on average than the 2nd most popular list number: 23.” The next best performing articles were lists of 16 and 24 items.

Download this checklist of 8 formulas to engineer a perfect viral blog article.

The exact number isn’t as important as the fact that it’s a list. BuzzFeed, the king of listicles, regularly produces viral listicles. When I checked on Buzzsumo the most popular articles in the past year, two of the top five were listicles.

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The number seems a bit arbitrary. But the fact that it’s a list? That’s the appeal.

Keep this in mind when deciding on the number of items to include on a list.

Content length

The word count of an article is another huge factor in determining the potential for virality.

There’s a common misconception about long content.

It goes like this:

  • If the content is long…
  • …then nobody will read it.

Guess what? That’s totally false.

Obviously read is a slippery term, so I won’t get into the mechanics of what reading means to people.

Here’s what I do know: longer content gets more shares, backlinks, views, and all the good things that great content deserves.

Here’s what the study mentioned above revealed:

image04

By analyzing this graph, it’s clear that the higher the word count, the better the likelihood of a blog article going viral: 3,000-10,000 words generated the highest overall number of shares.

And this totally makes sense if you think about it.

I’ve definitely noticed a pattern where long, well-researched, in-depth content kills it, while your average, run-of-the-mill 500-word articles achieve only marginal results.

Although people may not read a long article in its entirety, they’re still likely to scan it. To me, that’s important. I try to create articles so people can get value from them even if they don’t read every word.

Aiming for at least 2,000 words per post is ideal if you want your content to get shared across a wide audience.

Evoking the right emotions

Next, there’s the issue of getting readers to feel certain emotions.

The same study from OkDork and Buzzsumo revealed which content received the most number of shares based on the emotions it evoked:

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According to these findings, the top four emotions to target are:

  1. Awe
  2. Laughter
  3. Amusement
  4. Joy

What’s the underlying pattern of these emotions?

They’re primarily positive emotions.

Although awe could be positive or negative, laughter, amusement, and joy are all emotions that make people smile and bring about good feelings.

You’ll also notice that negative emotions, like anger and sadness, don’t perform as well. What’s the takeaway? Positive content has a far better chance of going viral than negative content.

Capitalizing on trends

Striking while the iron is hot is also important.

If you can create blog content based on something that’s wildly popular at the moment, the potential for virality increases exponentially.

Although this approach is likely to have a fairly short shelf life and probably won’t be evergreen, you can still generate some massive exposure for a little while.

And if your content is epic, there’s a good chance that many readers will return to your site to see what else you’ve been up to.

Buzzsumo offers a great example.

They mention an article on Fox News Travel from 2015 that talks about a zombie-themed “Walking Dead” cruise.

image00

This article managed to generate a whopping 1.5 million shares and over 400,000 comments. Not bad for a piece about undead brain eaters.

The lesson here is that writing content based on current trends can definitely work in your favor.

Visuals

People love visuals. They make even the most mundane content come to life and bring the points of a blog article into a cohesive whole.

So as you might imagine, images play a considerable role in virality.

To put it simply, including images in your content increases your odds of getting shares.

Skipping images reduces those odds.

Here’s a graph that shows the impact images can have:

image02

As you can see, articles with at least one image greatly outperform articles without any images.

In fact, having just one image will theoretically double your number of shares.

However, I wouldn’t stop at just one. The more visual appeal, the better.

That’s why I always make sure I include at least a handful of images in every blog article I write.

Author byline

There’s also the issue of a byline, which briefly tells the reader who the author of an article is.

In this case, that’s you.

OkDork and Buzzsumo found that this is also a factor in virality:

image06

Overall, content with a byline/bio receives more shares than content without one.

While there’s virtually no difference in terms of shares on Facebook, it definitely makes a difference on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

But why?

It’s simple. Having a byline lets readers know who the author is, which adds to the article’s credibility.

More trustworthiness = more shares.

Do yourself a favor and make sure to include your byline with each article, ideally with a professional-looking headshot.

Posting at the right time

One factor that’s commonly overlooked is the day of the week a blog article is posted.

Research has found that the odds of content going viral are increased considerably when the article is posted during the weekdays. More specifically, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays are your best bets.

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There’s a very clear drop off on the weekends, which makes sense, considering many people are out and about and less likely to be glued to the Internet.

For the best possible chances of your article going viral, it would be smart to post on a Tuesday.

The power of influencers

One last thing. If you can get influencers to share your content with their audiences, the potential for virality goes through the roof.

Here’s what I mean:

image01

Even if you can get just one influencer to share your content, the results can be significant.

But if you can somehow get five influencers to do this, it can have a monumental, earth-shattering impact.

Of course, this is easier said than done.

But one strategy for getting an influencer on board is to first see which types of content they’ve shared in the past.

You can then base your article around a similar topic and reach out to the influencer once it’s completed.

Putting it all together

Here’s the deal.

You can never tell for sure whether or not any given piece of content will go viral.

There is a nearly infinite number of factors involved, and you can never fully predict how people will react.

However, you can follow a formula to give yourself the best possible chance.

Let’s recap.

  • Create a “list article,” ideally with 10 items. Otherwise, lists with 23, 16, and 24 items work best.
  • Make sure it’s a fairly long article with at least 2,000 words. However, the more words, the better. Pieces with 3,000-10,000 words receive the most shares on average.
  • Try to stick with positive themes that evoke awe, laughter, amusement, and joy. Don’t kill the vibe of your audience with overly negative themes.
  • Base your article around a popular trend that’s sweeping the world at the moment.
  • Include visuals. One image is a must, but don’t be afraid to go a little crazy with your images. Your audience should respond favorably.
  • Insert your byline/bio at the end of the article to boost your credibility.
  • Post during the weekdays. Tuesday is ideal.
  • Reach out to relevant influencers, and try to get them to share your article with their followers. If you can manage to get five influencers to share, your exposure will quadruple.

Conclusion

Just think of all the benefits a viral blog article can have.

You can create instant exposure for your brand, grow your social media following, generate a massive volume of leads, and increase your brand equity.

Along with this, it’s reasonable to expect that your sales numbers will increase significantly as well.

By understanding the key elements contributing to content going viral, you can devise a more effective strategy.

And once you “crack the virality code,” you can simply rinse and repeat.

What do you think the most important element of a blog article is in order for it to go viral?

The Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Scannable Content

books

Rarely do people read content from beginning to end.

Maybe it’s because of our “microwave,” instant gratification culture. Maybe it’s because millions of other articles are vying for people’s attention.

Or maybe it’s because reading from screens takes about 25% longer than reading from paper. Research has even indicated that readers experience an unpleasant feeling when reading online text.

Whatever the case may be, it’s crucial to take the right approach when writing for online readers—a new approach.

There’s a certain art to digital writing that differs significantly from writing traditional paper text.

If you expect to convert more of your audience into actual customers, you need to crack the code.

You need to switch up your game plan.

In my early days of writing, I didn’t realize this. I had an eye for visual appeal, but I was unsure of how this applied to blogging. There I was, blogging away every day without realizing how people were viewing my articles.

Now, I have a better idea of how people interact with written content online.

What you’re viewing right now is a result of my research and testing.

It’s about scannable content.

What you’re up against

First, let me set the stage for the idea of scannable content.

Did you know that 55% of people spend fewer than 15 seconds actively on a page?

That’s not ideal when your goal is to keep visitors exploring and to get them interested in your product/service/brand.

You’ve got only a small window to grab their attention and motivate them to read your content. And it’s not realistic to expect visitors to read it in its entirety. Hardly anyone does that anymore.

In fact, research on the way people read websites found that only 16% of their subjects read a webpage word by word. Most participants—79% of the test subjectsscanned new pages they came across.

The takeaway is that less than two out of 10 people will actually read an entire blog post. The vast majority will be highly selective about what they read and will merely scan through it.

Another interesting thing is that just because content gets shared doesn’t mean reading engagement increases.

Chartbeat analyzed 10,000 articles shared on social media and found “that there was no relationship whatsoever between the amount a piece of content is shared and the amount of attention an average reader will give that content.”

This graph illustrates this phenomenon:

image01

What’s the solution?

It’s simple. You need to become adept at writing scannable content. This is what the modern digital reader is looking for (whether they consciously know it or not).

What exactly is scannable content?

According to Forbes,

“scannable content is short, sweet and to the point. Sentences and paragraphs are brief. Bold text and bullet points highlight key points. Links to other content are used to provide your readers with supplemental information.”

This writing format is geared toward 21st century readers, who primarily read content on a screen as opposed to a book or any other print publication.

It’s specifically tailored to streamline the way readers absorb information to keep them interested.

And it works.

Dr. Jakob Nielsen even found that scannable online content boosted readability by 57%. If you’re used to conventional writing (e.g., large blocks of text), you need to throw that approach out the window.

You need to embrace scannability. Fortunately, there’s a step-by-step process you can follow.

Follow these 8 action steps to create a scannable content.

1. Write short paragraphs

You might have noticed that I prefer to use short paragraphs in my content.

Really short. In fact, a lot of my paragraphs are only a single sentence in length.

That’s not by accident.

I would say that this technique is perhaps the most important when it comes to creating scannable content.

Allow me to provide you with an example. Here’s a large, ugly block of text:

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You probably find yourself straining your eyes to read through it.

And here’s some text broken down into much smaller, more digestible chunks:

image05

Which do you find more aesthetically pleasing and easier to read?

I would bet you’d say the second one.

It’s broken up in a way that allows you to move seamlessly from one point to the next without it taxing your brain in the process.

The key is to include only one idea per paragraph and make it a maximum of four sentences. However, I try to stick with just one to three.

Remember that white space is your friend, so use plenty of it to break up text into smaller chunks.

2. Keep your sentences short

There’s no reason to drag your content out by writing long-winded sentences and using PhD-level vocabulary words that only the academic elite will understand.

You need to remember that your audience will consist of a lot of different readers with varying levels of education (and vocabulary).

If readers have to continually check the dictionary just to understand what you’re trying to say, it defeats the whole purpose.

That’s why you’re better off keeping your sentences fairly brief and not getting overly wordy just for the sake of sounding smart.

As a rule of thumb, any more than 16 words per sentence is too long.

Be practical, and try to simplify complex information as much as possible so that everyone can understand it. “Dumb it down” if you have to, but keep the value high.

3. Follow the four-syllable rule

A simple strategy to ensure your writing isn’t wordy is to avoid using any words with more than four syllables.

For instance, you would want to stay away from:

  • Unintelligibly
  • Appropriation
  • Lackadaisical

You get the idea.

Your readers should be able to maneuver their way through your content without becoming exhausted during the process.

4. Use subheaders

Most readers won’t be interested in every single point of your article.

Instead, most readers would prefer to bounce around to seek out the few pieces of key information that interest them the most.

You can accommodate this desire by including several subheaders throughout the body of your content.

This breaks it down in a logical way that makes your content “flow.”

If you read posts from any of my blogs including Quick Sprout, Crazy Egg, and Neil Patel, you’ll notice that I take full advantage of subheaders.

They serve as a quick and easy way to locate main points and accelerate the scanning process. Just make sure that each subheader encapsulates what the following paragraphs cover.

Also, try not to get too clever or cute about it. Instead, keep your subheadings simple and practical.

5. Use bullet points

Who doesn’t love bullet points? I know I do.

They seamlessly break down information so readers can extract key data without having to think too much about it.

Here’s a good example of bullet points used to perfection:

image02

Rather than writing out your list in a sentence, separating your points by commas, create a bullet list, and your readers will love you for it.

6. Sprinkle in images

Images serve two distinct purposes.

First, they serve as an eye candy and fulfill your reader’s subconscious desire for visual stimuli.

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Second, they provide periodic breaks between blocks of text.

Both help keep readers on your site for longer and encourage them to engage with your content.

I try to throw in an image at least every few paragraphs or so because I know the images I use enrich my content with information and add validity to my points.

I recommend using data-driven pictures (like graphs) or images to serve as examples, rather than merely using “placeholders,” because these will really add to the overall depth of your content.

7. Add links to external sources

To add authority and credibility to your writing, it’s a good idea to include quotes, data points, graphs, etc. from reliable sources.

I do this with pretty much every piece of content I write. It backs up my argument and proves that I’m not just pulling statistics out of thin air.

But since it’s not practical to include every gory detail, you’ll want to simply include a key sentence or two and insert a link to the original source.

If your readers wish to learn more about a certain topic you cover, they can simply visit the link. As a result, this won’t bog down your content with extraneous information.

8. Create lists

I love lists.

There’s something about breaking down content in a logical, sequential order I find satisfying. It keeps things neat and tidy.

Apparently, I’m not alone.

A study performed by Buzzsumo and Okdork analyzed over 100 million articles to determine which received the most shares. According to their findings, lists were the second most shareable format (only infographics were shared more).

image03

If you really want to maximize the scannability of your content, use plenty of lists.

I’m not saying do this for every single piece of content you create because it will become redundant, but 50% or so should be a good number to shoot for.

Lists are a great weapon to have in your arsenal because they lend themselves to being scanned naturally.

Conclusion

Creating scannable content has arguably never been more important than it is today.

By accommodating the modern online reader and presenting information in a streamlined, visually appealing way, you can improve the reader’s experience.

This technique is also effective for preventing “cognitive overload,” which can drain a reader’s mental energy.

The end result is happier readers who spend more time on your site and who are more likely to convert.

Can you think of any additional techniques for making content more scannable?

How to Create Amazing Content Even If You Feel Like an Industry Imposter

Imposter syndrome: “A collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.”

Have you ever felt like you’re living a lie?

Like you’re trying to cover up the fact that you don’t really know what you’re talking about?

That you’ll eventually be “found out?”

image01

Maybe you’re actually quite knowledgeable and have significant industry experience, but you just can’t seem to shake off the pervasive feeling that you’re a fraud.

If this sounds like you, you’re likely suffering from an acute case of imposter syndrome.

But don’t worry. You’re not alone.

I’ve experienced it myself. A lot.

It’s a fairly common phenomenon that affects some of the best and brightest minds on the planet.

Some famous people who have struggled with these feelings include Tina Fey, Seth Godin, Kate Winslett, Maya Angelou, and Michelle Pfeifer to name a few.

The imposter syndrome makes us feel like we’re cheating. This feeling can, in turn, cause us to reduce the quality of our work even if we’re not consciously aware of it. I’ve seen the imposter syndrome turn would-be marketing rockstars into timid underachievers.

That’s where the imposter syndrome often hits the hardest. It keeps content marketers, specifically, from producing top-tier content.

How do you create amazing content even if you feel like an industry imposter?

Here are some tips.

Change your mindset

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I think neurosurgeon and author Henry Marsh nailed it in his description of imposter syndrome:

Part of you knows you’re not as good as you’re pretending to be, but you have to come across as being relatively competent and confident.

Deep down, many people are just balls of insecurities. One day our confidence is on, and the next day it’s off.

Some of us have a tendency to judge ourselves a bit too harshly. We may feel unfit at times and struggle with feelings of inadequacy.

But the truth is that everyone is winging it to some degree.

Everyone experiences self-doubt at some point. It’s a normal part of life.

And if you really think about it, feeling like an imposter at times isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

That’s because people who never experience self-doubt may feel overly competent to the point that they’re unable to realize how incompetent they really are.

There has even been extensive scientific research that proves that “incompetent people think they’re much better than they actually are.”

Download this cheat sheet to know how to create amazing content even If you feel like an industry imposter.

It’s called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Here’s a graph that illustrates this phenomenon:

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Feeling like an imposter can actually provide you with the fuel to keep improving and stay on top of your game.

The key is to not allow imposter feelings to rule your life.

Eliminating them entirely probably isn’t realistic, but you should definitely try to minimize them and ensure they don’t get out of control.

I like this quote from Valerie Young, author of the book Imposter Syndrome:

You don’t need to try to eradicate the impostor feelings – but you also don’t need to obey them, either. It’s a matter of ‘changing your thoughts, slowly over time’, and taking risks in spite of the inner voice telling you you’ll fail.

Call yourself out when these feelings emerge

Self-awareness is a critical first step to changing this type of thought pattern.

You need to catch yourself when these feelings emerge and become aware of them.

I recommend doing a little self-reflection from time to time so that you’ll know just how pervasive your imposter feelings really are.

Once you get in the habit of calling yourself out, you’ll be in a better position to slash through those ugly feelings and move forward.

Recognize you’re not the only one who feels this way

It comforts me to know I’m not the only one facing something or dealing with a particular challenge.

Just knowing there are other people in the same boat offers a certain sense of relief.

As I mentioned earlier, there are plenty of people who feel like imposters.

In fact, there’s a laundry list of incredibly smart and talented people who’ve felt unworthy.

Many people—artists, musicians, authors, and even business tycoons—have dealt with this. And even at the height of their success, many continue to struggle.

The bottom line is you’re by no means the only person who has felt like an imposter.

Try not to stress out too much if you feel like an imposter.

Acknowledge your role in your success

Have you experienced some degree of success in your business, marketing campaign, content writing, etc.?

Well, guess what? You obviously had some role in that success.

Maybe you’re not where you’d like to be or still have a lot to learn about your industry before you could be considered an expert.

But regardless, you are, to at least some extent, directly responsible for your success.

Acknowledging this fact is very empowering and can help you get over self-doubt.

This doesn’t mean you should be arrogant about your success, but you should definitely give yourself a pat on the back every once in awhile.

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Stop with the comparisons

It seems we’re living under one big microscope these days.

With social media, personal branding, and digital portfolios, everyone’s affairs are seemingly out in the open for everyone else to see.

Constantly comparing yourself to others is a surefire way to become discouraged and generate feelings of being an imposter.image02

It can be disillusioning when a primary industry competitor seemingly has it together and is completely killing it without a flaw.

But this is often an illusion.

We naturally put our best face forward in the world, and what you see on a social media profile or website doesn’t necessarily align with reality. Everyone struggles in their own unique way.

For all you know, a competitor may be a complete charlatan, and their experience doesn’t hold a candle to yours.

Although a little comparison can be healthy from a self-motivation standpoint, too much of it can kill your confidence and is futile.

That’s why you should remember that you’re completely unique and have something of your own to bring to the table.

Think of yourself as a work in progress

It’s impossible to know everything.

Those who think they are total experts are often the most delusional and provide very little value.

I’ve found I can increase my confidence and feel a lot better about myself when I simply acknowledge that I’m a work in progress.

I’m going to make mistakes, and that’s okay. Rather than beating myself up about them and holding myself to unrealistic standards, I prefer to have an attitude of embracing mistakes and learning from them. That allows me to avoid being crippled by the fear of making them.

After all, everyone is learning on the fly to some extent and making it up as they go along.

You don’t have to know every single detail about your industry in order to provide great content.

Remember: the more you write about it, the more you’ll learn, and the bigger of an authority you’ll eventually become.

As time goes on, you’ll inevitably make more and more progress.

Make it about the content, not you

I think the easiest way to get over imposter syndrome is to place your focus on providing value to your audience and not make it about you.

Trying to position yourself as an authority or expert will put additional pressure on you.

It’s like you’re trying to prove to yourself that you actually know what you’re talking about.

A better approach is to just work on creating real value.

Having the mentality of legitimately trying to help someone shifts the focus from you to your content.

As a result, you’re able to churn out amazing content without placing unnecessary stress on yourself.

Concentrate on originality

Every single person has their own unique ideas, insights, and take on things.

If you really want to get over your imposter feelings, be hyper-diligent about being 100% original with your content.

Doing this accomplishes two very important things.

First, it ensures that you maintain a high quality level.

When you consistently take an original approach and create content like no one else, it’s almost guaranteed to translate into quality.

In turn, it’s likely to receive plenty of shares, and you’re going to be rewarded by Google with better rankings.

To prove it, here’s a breakdown of the top ranking factors of 2016.

As you can see, original content takes up a large slice of the pie chart:

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Second, originality is the ticket to eventually gaining the respect and admiration of your audience and peers.

When you’re less concerned with “being found out” and more concerned with creating high-quality, original content, you’ll increase your odds of getting positive results.

This can create a positive cycle of increased confidence, which leads to better content, which leads to even more confidence, and so on.

Conclusion

If you feel like an industry imposter, don’t sweat it. It’s an issue that countless people have dealt with and will continue to deal with.

The important thing is that you catch yourself in the act and change your mentality to effectively combat the issue.

By developing a healthy mindset and focusing your efforts on your content, you should be able to weaken any imposter feelings and move past them.

At the same time, you can use it for fuel to maximize the quality of your content.

If you’ve ever experienced imposter syndrome, how did you deal with it?