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AdWords introduce new features to make travel & shopping easier [@SmartInsights Alert]

Dave's SmartInsights.com portal - Fri, 07/15/2016 - 17:10
As we head towards some of the busiest months of the year, Google has decided to roll out some new Adwords features.

Value:

Recommended  links: Paid Search Strategy

On Tuesday 12th July 2016, Google posted about a whole host of updates for their shopping ads and their Travel search ads.

Shopping ads

These new additions to Google are across three sectors Product Listing Ads (PLA's), YouTube and International Shopping

Product Listing Ads

In previous instances with broad terms queries such as "women's athletic clothing", Google has shown less defined and sometimes irrelevant items in the PLA's.

An example used in the post was a broad term search for "living room furniture", which may show a teal sofa, and this may not be the most useful experience for the person who isn't sure what they want to buy.

The new feature introduced with the aim to provide more relevant and engaging options is "Showcase Shopping Ads". The purpose of these is to...

"help people further explore and discover what they want to buy and where they want to buy it. For example, if a shopper searches ‘summer dresses,’ ASOS, a global apparel retailer, can now showcase its collection of dresses in a visually rich experience."

 

To begin with, this will be available to all merchants running shopping campaigns in the US, UK and Austraila.

Shopping on YouTube

With review and unboxing videos increasing in popular over the past few years, its obvious to see that people are turning to YouTube during the research phase of making a purchase. In fact it transpires that just under half of the US population (47%), says that YouTube helps them to make a decision about buying something at least once a month.

Last May Google introduced TrueView for Shopping, which you will hopefully all have seen at some point over the past year. If not, it basically makes it easier for viewers to see more information about advertisers products when watching videos.

To help add more leverage to the ever increasing number of advertisers using this feature, Google have introduced the "Companion Banner" and the "Product Picker".

They are described as:

  • Companion banner: We’re adding a new interactive banner appearing next to the video that lets viewers scroll through products while the video is playing next to it. The banner also shows viewers the most up-to-date product information.

  • Product picker: Our new feature lets advertisers easily choose and prioritize which of their products are featured as cards in a TrueView for shopping campaign. This optional feature lets advertisers show specific products for specific campaigns, or they can still let the format dynamically feature products from their Merchant Center.

International Shopping

This is a minor tweak, but it makes a lot of sense. In short it converts the cost of the product you're looking for into the relevent currency. The example Google have used is a person shopping in the UK can see products sold by a US retailer, listed in British pounds.

A simple fix, which should have been implemented years ago in my honest opinion.

Travel Ads

Mobile is a big part of how people search and this is no different for when planning a trip.

Google highlighted this by stating...

"Visits to mobile travel sites made up 40% of total travel web traffic in the first quarter of this year. At the same time, individual travel web sessions are becoming shorter and travel mobile conversion rates have grown 10% as users are increasingly ready to book on mobile."

In time for the peaks of July and the usual January spike in traffic Google are introducing the "Hotel Smart Filter", which will...

"now give people the option to filter Hotel search results based on specific needs. For example, travelers can filter based on rating or price with one tap on their phones. We’ll make it easy to search for exactly what people want, like “Pet-friendly hotels in San Francisco under $200” to find the perfect hotel for them. This feature is available in the US and will roll out globally later this year"

Another additional feature is "Hotel Deals". This acts as a callout to highlight to users flicking through the SERP's that a hotel’s price is lower than usual compared to historical pricing or when there are discounts to the normal rate for those dates. Early tests have indicated an increase of nearly double the amount of bookings, which is certainly promising.

"Hotel Tips" is the next offering. It passes the Ronseal Test and certainly does what it says on the tin. In short, it uses real time data to make suggestions on how to find the best deal and hotel for their needs.

The final feature Google has added to help travellers is "Flight Price Tracking". Much like the previous two features, it is fairly self-explanatory. It makes it easier to track flight prices for particular routes and dates. It'll be nicely integrated with Google Now Cards and Email as it will notify users of any changes.

If you have any queries just drop a message in the comment section.

20 Ecommerce tools compared for performance [Infographic]

Dave's SmartInsights.com portal - Fri, 07/15/2016 - 15:00
A review of page load times and mobile effectiveness for different Ecommerce platforms

More than $12 trillion in B2B transactions are expected for the year 2020. That's up from $5.5 trillion in 2012, according to projections from Frost & Sullivan. B2B online sales are nearly double those of B2C sales. No matter what sphere of digital marketing you work in, it's time to hone in on e-commerce. Clients are hungry for a piece of the ecommerce pie. By staying informed on the existing software solutions, you will have the information you need to lead them towards smart platform choices.

61% of consumers report improved sentiments toward a brand as a result of a positive mobile experience and by 2017, m-commerce is expected to account for 25% of US sales. Mobile shoppers also spend more than users on other devices.Features like mobile-friendly design and quick page loading speed are essential to an e-retailer's success. Slow loading speeds can, as noted in the infographc, cost your client sales and customers.

Selfstartr.com recently studied the top platforms, tested thousands of websites that use them, and put it all together in an infographic to help you see if your client's ecommerce platform offers the features they need. The full article on the Selfstartr website evaluates everything from SEO and marketing features to the number of payment gateways available. The infographic below is taken from the article and ranks the top twenty ecommerce solutions by performance across devices and by page speed.

Single customer view: a change in strategy

Dave's SmartInsights.com portal - Fri, 07/15/2016 - 11:00
The connected customer

On average, the British household owns over 7 internet devices and unsurprisingly, smartphones are the most common followed by laptops and tablets. More than 60% of all email opens are with a smartphone (Communicator Benchmarking Report 2016), with 50% of all mobile searches conducted in the hope of finding local results and 61% of those searches result in a purchase being made according to Search Engine Watch. The customer is more connected than ever and this is changing buyer behaviour.

A change in behaviour means a change in strategy

A change in behaviour means an impact on the customer journey. Journeys are no longer linear –now we must focus on the multiple touch points to create the ultimate customer experience. The change in customer journey has developed a change in consumer behaviour and expectations, meaning brands need to evolve their products to be one step ahead to stay competitive; without evolving, you’ll fail to fit the needs of your customer and you’ll be lost amongst the noise of your competition.

“One hit wonder”

Crocs lacked diversification to suit their customers’ needs and as a result, saw their profits plummet below the success they’d achieved when they first started back in 2002. Crocs have now stepped up their game and have evolved their products to be more relevant to other target audiences, such as children, with flashing shoes and connections to the latest super heroes on our TV screens.

It’s still important to remember that a customer will create their own journey. This is where you need to understand their existing journey and identify where you can add value at the right time to create a seamless experience so that your customers and prospects are ready to make that important decision. So how do you know what content is the right content? This is where a single customer view (SCV) comes into play!

 

Single Customer View

I’ve spoken about this at a number of events and identified it’s long been one of my trend predictions for 2016. Some people ask if achieving a SCV is just a figment of our imaginations and if it’s really possible, but what I’ve seen with Communicator customers is that brands, both big and small, are starting to build a single customer view. This includes The NEC Group.

‘A single customer view provides the ability to track a customer’s entire journey across all channels in one single view.’ 

“Email is our Lifeblood”

Chris Pile, Head of Digital & Creative at The NEC group recently spoke with me at the Figaro Digital Summit on May 5th about the group’s journey to a SCV. With many touchpoints across a lot of different brands covering physical venue and online services, and with 500+ campaigns a year both B2B & B2C, emails drives a significant value of revenue each year for The NEC Group.

With an outdated database and the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) coming in to force in May 2018, now was the right time for the team at NEC to get a better understanding of their customers with email being their lifeblood.

A content strategy was created with the help of Communicator which includes a 5 step automated journey, from a welcome to post-purchase campaign that has resulted in saving time and investment for their email marketing team.

Email Marketing

We now live in the age of the savvy customer and sending impersonalised email marketing messages is now a huge risk for engagement. So how do you overcome this and achieve the ultimate SCV in email marketing? The unique identifier is the customers email address! Your customers will know they’re being tracked and with the additional information they provide you, will expect an enhanced experience in their buyer journey. If you aren’t using the information to tailor the experience, they may begin to question why you’re collecting it and this falls back to the rules and regulations of the GDPR. Starting with your customers email address can create a truly seamless multichannel, personalised and relevant experience from a brand – all driven by data.

What’s next?

Who knows what the future will hold with the customer journey, we could be all sat with virtual reality headsets on watching life go by in a different universe! Set the foundations to build upon your email marketing strategy and let the customer create their own journey to enhance the customers' experience with a single customer view.

Thanks to Jenna Tiffany for sharing their advice and opinions in this post. Jenna’s worked in digital marketing for over seven years and has experience across a number of industries within B2B and B2C, developing and implementing digital strategies through a number of disciplines including email to drive optimum ROI. At Communicator, Jenna helps customers optimise their digital marketing strategies and tactics, working with the likes of The Co-operative Group, Moss Bros & Tata Steel. Jenna serves on the DMA North Council, is a member of the CIM North Board and contributes to the DMA’s Email Marketing Council Hub.

Image source: © Atlantic Productions Alchemy VR to be credited in every use. First Life VR launch at the NHM. 

Fixing an email marketing campaign that has gone spammy

Dave's SmartInsights.com portal - Fri, 07/15/2016 - 09:00
If you're open and click rates are dropping, you'll need to re-think your strategy

You had the best intentions; you worked diligently to get those conversions and build your email marketing list; you vowed to run a quality campaign and build relationships with your prospects, turning them into happy customers. Somehow it all went wrong. Your analytics are telling you that only a small percentage of your emails are opened, that you have been marked as spam by many of those subscribers you worked so hard to get.

Crossing the Line

Somewhere along the way, you crossed the line and became a harassment rather than a value. And you didn’t even recognize that you had done it. Is it fatal? No. But as you recover from this, you will need to understand how it happened so you never make the same mistake again.

How to Recognize You Have Become a Spammer

There are two things that you are doing:

1. Your Content is Not Valuable

The email campaign you have designed is focused only on sales and promotions. Now, this is probably just fine if you have announced to would-be subscribers up front that you would be sending special deal, coupons, and other promotions to them when they subscribed. By subscribing under these circumstances, they are acknowledging that those things are valuable to them.

But, if you are sending these types of emails to customers who made a purchase, let’s say for Christmas, and did not indicate that they wanted to receive further emails from you regarding promotions, etc., then good luck. They will “spam” you. Here’s the thing – these types of customers will probably come back next Christmas, or for someone’s birthday, if they are not harassed. If they feel harassed, you will probably lose them permanently.

Example: Last Christmas I ordered some University of Texas gear as a Christmas gift. In the checkout process, I was asked if I wanted to establish an account – no, I did not. I checked out as a guest, but of course supplied my email address for confirmation and shipping information. I also un-checked the box for receiving email promotions and sales. It didn’t matter. I began to get emails in January, at least 3 a month. Of course, I marked the sender as “Spam” soon after I had received my order.

Like most people who get these, I do not even bother to unsubscribe – it takes time – just easier to mark spam. It is unlikely that I will do business with this company again, because they did not keep their promise not to send me emails when I un-checked that box.

2. Your Analytics Shows More SPAM Complaints and Unsubscribes than Click-Throughs

This should be an obvious indicator - SPAM complaints should be particularly worrisome because the recipient has taken an extra step to report you. Unsubscribes take an extra step too. A good rule of thumb is this: if you are getting 5-10 complaints for a list of about 1,000 and if 2-3% unsubscribe from a specific email you have sent, chances are you are irritating your subscribers – at least enough of them to make you consider some changes.

The biggest red flag, however, is if you are getting more SPAM complaints and/or more unsubscribes than you are getting click-throughs. You are killing your relationship with your prospects and you need to do some serious soul-searching.

  • Have you broken a promise that you gave when they subscribed?
  • Have you been dishonest?
  • Have you put people on your promotional email list who un-checked that box at checkout? Not a good thing.
Repairing Your Relationship

There are definite steps you can take to “turn over a new leaf” and salvage what is left of your reputation. Here are the actions you should take.

1. Start thinking of Your Email List as a Group of Individuals not as an Impersonal Collective.

These are people who subscribed in order to get value. What you send them is about them not you and what you want them to do. They have different needs and wants and you need to honor that.

  • Take the time and get your current list segmented. And segment every email address you get. If you are a retailer, separate those who have left the box checked to get your promotions and those who have unchecked the box. Then you can make decisions about who will get what. A good rule of thumb is to contact those who un-checked the box only one time, not with a sales promotion but with some cool information and a catchy title. Remember, you are trying to build relationships.
  • Offer more than one option for subscribing. Do subscribers want to receive all of the blog posts that you publish every day, or would they rather receive a list of them at the end of each week, so that they can click-through only to those they find of interest?
  • Be certain to send out a re-engagement email every year or two. Ask subscribers if they want to continue to receive your emails or not. And purge your list of those who do not. Again, you want them to feel good about you. The chances of them coming back are greater if you honor their wishes.
2. Be Honest and Humble

If you have crossed the line with your email campaign, sending an apology and being humble about it is the appropriate thing to do. Say you are sorry, and explain how you will mend your ways. When you admit you mistakes, people feel good about you. Those subscribers who still have you in their regular email will like you even more. In this email, put a survey, asking them what type of content and emails they want to receive in the future. This makes it about them, not you. And they will probably be more eager about opening your next emails.

3. Think Being of Service

How can you be of service to your subscribers? Can you give them your expertise and something unique without ending with some kind of a pitch? If you do this consistently for a while, then when you do add a pitch, they won’t resent it.

And be sparse about those pitches, unless, of course, they are subscribers who actually want your offers and discounts.

4. Consider some Type of Public Apology/Announcement

Those people who have already spammed you, unsubscribed, or filed complaints, you have lost, and you can’t contact them. But you can go public with your new policies about your email campaigns and offer the options, ask what visitors to our site, blog and social media pages want, etc.

As a retailer, you also have a more public option of re-targeting. Some of those unsubscribes can perhaps be contacted indirectly through this route, and there are a number of new and innovative ways to do that now.

5. Promises to New Subscribers

Before you ask for email opt-ins, let your subscribers know what you will be sending, how frequently they will be getting your emails, and provide those options, so that you can segment out. And, when someone makes a purchase and indicates they do not want emails, honor that without exception. If you do send an email to that group, wait a while, and send a relationship-building one that has nothing to do with your product or service.

Making Email Appealing

Email marketing campaigns are still effective if you realize the importance of content as a part of that marketing campaign. You have to get the right content to the right segments of your email list, and you have to ensure that emails are opened and then seen as valuable.

There are many companies that are getting this right. Here are a few examples:

1. Importance of Subject Lines

A subject line with something like “Deal of the Day” is fine, if it is going to subscribers who have signed up for that. For others, however, you have to get a bit more creative.

One of the things that Amazon does very well is ask customers who have purchased something to answer questions another customer as about that item. We all want to be helpful, so when we see that plea in a subject line we tend to open the email. Here is an example of a smaller company doing the same thing:

2 .Take Advantage of the Moment

Whether it’s a special event or a weather condition, using a subject line that points to that is always effective. DSW Shoes took advantage of a snow storm to send out an email with a related subject line:

3. Admit Your Mistake With Humor

When you speak to “crossing the line” and need to apologize, being genuine is important, but using some mild humor can also lighten up the situation. Here is an example of admission of an error in content that incorporated great hilarity:

People appreciate humor and are usually willing to give you a second chance when you use it.

Keep One Concept in Mind – Value and Benefit

You need to segment and personalize based upon your subscribers’ needs and wants. Your emails should provide value to their readers, and that is not always a discount or special offer. People crave information, entertainment, and inspiration, and relationships are built when you give them that. When relationships are solid, emails get opened.

Thanks to Kerry Creaswood for sharing their advice and opinions in this post. Kerry Creaswood is a young and ambitious writer from Savannah, GA. She is interested in self-development, design and marketing. To find more about Kerry – check her Twitter

Does retail banking need to make an Amazonian effort to keep pace with consumer demand?

Dave's SmartInsights.com portal - Thu, 07/14/2016 - 15:00
How financial services firms can harness the digital revolution

Consumer expectations are growing. Recent research suggests that given the chance, over half of financial consumers would opt to bank with Amazon. Why? Because a company famous for delivery innovation, outstanding customer service and indeed thinking outside the box has fundamentally disrupted the service industry, reinventing what it means to provide a best in class customer experience. We believe that in the age of the expectation economy, there is much that retail giant Amazon and disruptors like it, can teach brands about what it means to provide an outstanding experience and stand out from the crowd.

There is no shortage of commentators noting that the retail banking is set for change with a new breed of innovators entering the industry. It’s not only Millennials that are demanding more Amazon-like experiences from every service provider and banks need to catch up quickly. All customers are making these demands. The opportunity is huge.

No-fuss problem-solving, always-on access, out-of-hours or even same-day delivery and new ideas daily are all reasons why Amazon is leading digital.

Banks can of course argue that Amazon is a digitally native company. It was built on a digital-first framework that lets it be completely iterative. It isn’t hamstrung by decades of legacy systems and stringent regulation. But increasingly, neither are banks.

There is so much opportunity for traditional financial services providers to leverage their data and heritage to become fully successful customer-centric organizations.

Emulating three key pillars of Amazon’s underlying strategy is not a bad place to start.

  1. Data today underpins everything. It is the hygiene factor. Retail banking should be working to de-silo data, enrich it and make it work across the omnichannel. But using data intelligently creates an opportunity for intimate, one-to-one connections with customers, and automation efficiencies that it is no exaggeration to say, have the potential to revolutionize retail banking.
  2. Partnering with new, agile service providers whether in enhancing back-end systems through Software as a Service (Saas) or managed services, or in creating front-end solutions for more tech-oriented segments is a strong way to follow Amazon’s service example. Amazon may have huge warehouses but it can’t provide everything. For the things it can’t, it finds the right partners who can.
  3. Trust has been paramount to setting Amazon at the top of the retail tree. Incorporating genuine customer reviews from the start, creating full price transparency (“product is cheaper from these sellers”) and no-quibble customer service brought the customer on-side even in the early days of ecommerce when buyers were wary. Prioritizing building trust is one of today’s ‘must do’s for retail finance.

Getting started building a truly customer-centric, omnichannel organization is daunting, but if you want to thrive and differentiate in a crowded market place, it is key.

So if this has piqued your interest to find out more, the good news is our latest finance report has all of these insights and more to help you deliver a first-class customer experience.

 

Dave has over 20 years’ experience working with some of the leading names in technology. In addition, he has played a pivotal role working for a number of early state innovators in different technology areas. Taking these start-ups from beginnings to greater market potential. He is an expert in customer experience and ensuring that every customer interaction results in the right outcome for both the business and the consumer.
As industry head at Qubit, Dave is responsible for expanding our client base into new areas that includes finance, utilities, eGaming and publishing. Since starting at Qubit it 2013, Dave has helped leading brands such as L&G, Vitality, Dennis, Travelex, RAC, and The Times develop and execute incredible digital customer experiences.

15 Social Media & Search Engine Marketing Trends in 2016

Dave's SmartInsights.com portal - Thu, 07/14/2016 - 11:00
2015 was an exciting year in the world of search engine optimization and social media marketing.

The two fields of social media and search are constantly evolving, with plenty of changes that prompt shifts in consumer and marketer behavior.

In order to succeed, you should adapt to these changes and employ the latest and most effective strategies.

The following are 15 social media and search engine marketing trends in 2016 and what you should do to stay ahead of the curve:

1. Mobile optimization is a must.

Last year, mobile generated more traffic than desktop and laptop search. With virtually everyone using their smartphone or tablet to find information online, it goes without saying that business owners must cater to the needs of their mobile audience to generate leads and increase conversions.

If your website still isn’t optimized for mobile, then you risk losing out to your
competitors. This is reinforced by Google’s Mobilegeddon update, which favors mobile-friendly websites.

Be sure you use responsive web design to provide the best user experience to your visitors regardless of the device they’re using.

2. Voice search introduces huge changes in keyword research.

Digital assistants have become more popular among mobile users over the past couple of years, thanks to their much improved functionality.

Siri, Now and Cortana are making the lives of users so much more convenient. But this presents a new challenge to marketers as they must now optimize for voice search.

People use different search terms when speaking and typing. Voice searches lean toward long-tail keywords, so be sure to include these terms to increase your chances of ranking.

3. Local SEO will be even more important.

With the launch of My Business, Google places even more importance to local
SEO.

There have been significant changes in how Google presents search results for local terms. Different search elements are used to provide immediate information regarding local businesses.

It is imperative to have your business listed on Google to improve search visibility. Google My Business is a great place to get started, allowing you to control multiple accounts from one central location.

4. Social posts get ranked higher.

It’s a good move to try to rank your blog posts and universal assets (videos, images, news, etc) on the results pages, but this year you shouldn’t forget to rank your social posts as well.

Many marketers are already utilizing social media to gain more visibility in search engines. When customers enter your company name, you must make sure that your social media profiles are seen on the first page. This should be further leveraged for your reputation management and monitoring. Various social media sites also now encourage long form content, most notably Facebook with their revamped Notes feature.

Various social media sites also now encourage long form content, most notably Facebook with their revamped Notes feature.

5. App store optimization is crucial.

One study shows that in 2015, 52% of time spent online was on mobile apps. This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, as people tend to prefer using apps over surfing mobile websites due to better functionality.

If you have a business app, optimizing for the app store is crucial to enhance visibility. Tons of apps get created every day, making it more difficult than ever to stand out.

It’s vital to use in-app analytics as well to measure conversions, click through rates and app open rates.

6. Learn the new on-page SEO.

When talking about on-page SEO, what immediately comes to mind are content optimization, internal linking and improving site structure.

But now, there are more factors to consider to ensure that your on-page SEO is in check. These include click-through rates, engagement, social signals and relevant content. By measuring these important site metrics, you can see which areas of your site need improvements.

These are also used by search engines when ranking web pages, so look beyond conventional on-page SEO strategies and be sure these factors are included in your next optimization campaign.

7. Sell on social.

Different social media sites have enabled advertisers to sell directly on their
platforms. Facebook and Pinterest, in particular, have introduced “Buy Now” features. This is a fantastic opportunity to reach your target audience and increase conversions. It’s a win-win situation since social media users can now buy products without even leaving the app, allowing for a great user experience. Without question, more social platforms will follow suit this 2016.

This is a fantastic opportunity to reach your target audience and increase conversions. It’s a win-win situation since social media users can now buy products without even leaving the app, allowing for a great user experience. Without question, more social platforms will follow suit this 2016.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise if buy buttons become very prominent in advertising campaigns by this year’s holiday season.

8. Enhancements in in-app functionality.

Mobile apps have come so far. It’s amazing how much you can do without ever leaving the app. Developers continue to make innovations and add new functionalities to their apps.

Facebook, for instance, introduced a lot of new features last year such as Instant Articles and automatic video playing when scrolling. They are now making their own digital assistant. Canvas.Facebook.com is by unique invitations only, but will come onto the market, full-force.

Twitter, Instagram and other platforms refuse to fall behind, promising to have plenty of things in store for their users. By making improvements in in-app functionality, conversion rates skyrocket, so it’s essential to make enhancements in your app to experience a boost in ROI.

9. Take advantage of new publication options.

Facebook created a game-changer when they launched Instant Articles. This is their way of presenting users with content while ensuring that they wouldn’t leave the app. Instant Articles load measurably quicker than regular web links, thus improving user experience.

Major publishers are now using this feature to reach their target audience. Twitter is about to release a similar feature called Project Lightning. Check out these new publication options and see how you can utilize them to generate new leads and improve conversions.

10. Videos will continue to dominate.

YouTube still receives a massive amount of hits per day. Facebook receives 8 billion
video views daily as of November 2015.

These two facts alone prove how much online users love watching videos. Plenty of studies also show that content within videos have higher engagement rates compared to those that only contain plain text.

It’s recommended to find ways to present information to your audience through entertaining videos. Trying to rank these videos on the results pages can also drive a significant amount of traffic to your website.

11. In-the-moment content will surge in popularity.

By nature, social media are “in-the-moment,” with users eager to share what
they’re doing as of the moment. But over the past couple of years, live streaming has become very popular. Periscope, the most popular live streaming online platform, allows users to record a short moment of their lives and share it

Periscope, the most popular live streaming online platform, allows users to record a short moment of their lives and share it with the world. Snapchat and Instagram have already jumped on the bandwagon. This could mean huge changes in how you use social media. Instead of scheduling posts in advance, you might want to consider posting in-the-moment updates and take advantage of the fact that millions of online users love this kind of content.

This could mean huge changes in how you use social media. Instead of scheduling posts in advance, you might want to consider posting in-the-moment updates and take advantage of the fact that millions of online users love this kind of content.

12. Dark traffic gradually becomes clearer.

If you’re using Google Analytics, then you know how frustrating it is to try to decipher dark traffic—the kind of traffic whose source you do not know. Analytics simply includes it under direct traffic. This can affect your marketing campaigns. As a marketer, you want to know as much as possible about your audience.

Thankfully, dark traffic has gradually come to light over the past few months. Digital marketers expect that this year will mark the end of dark traffic, with analytics tools getting more precise information regarding their source.

13. Link building continues to be effective (think SEO).

Many say that link building should be avoided altogether, especially after the Penguin update that demolished millions of websites last year. But links are arguably the most important ranking factor. As long as links are used by search engines for ranking web pages, they will remain effective.

Just keep in mind that when it comes to links, quality trumps quantity. Be sure your links are contextual and relevant.

Also, don’t forget to optimize your anchor text ratio. Avoid using the same keywords as your anchor text to avoid any spam detector.

14. Long form social content will become huge.

Short messages are often published on social media, with brands preferring to post a concise description or summary of their post and then placing a link to the target URL. But social media sites are encouraging users to publish posts directly on their platforms.

LinkedIn has recently ramped up their long form content publishing. Facebook has also revamped Notes, one feature which had not received a lot of love from the social giant for many years.Blogging on social media will become a huge trend in 2016.

Blogging on social media will become a huge trend in 2016. This is a significant change in content marketing which makes it easier for readers to find the information they need.

15. Advertising costs will rise.

It is now more difficult than ever to increase visibility both on search engines and
social media. This is largely due to increased competition. For the same reason, advertising costs are expected to rise this 2016. Social media sites are also throttling organic visibility to make brands purchase ads.

While you can still set up a successful online marketing campaign with a limited budget, it helps to be prepared and allow for some room for extra expenses particularly on the advertising front.

Conclusion:

These trends will permeate the social media and search engine marketing landscape over the course of the year. Some of the biggest names in the industry including Google, Facebook and Twitter are already releasing new feature after new feature, improving the overall experience of their users while simultaneously keeping marketers on their toes as they try to adapt to all the changes.

By preparing for these trends, you can beat your competition and be rewarded with increased visibility and better brand awareness.
Want to learn more?

Thanks to Jon P Rognerud for sharing their advice and opinions in this post. CEO at Chaosmap, Author of a Best-Selling Book with Entrepreneur Press, “The Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Website”. You can follow Jon on twitter or follow his website.

Twitter opens up it’s audience API, giving brands more data [@SmartInsights Alert]

Dave's SmartInsights.com portal - Thu, 07/14/2016 - 09:00
Gnip's API let you see the demographic breakdown and interests of your Twitter community

Importance: (For Any brand using Twitter)

Yesterday Twitter opened up the API of Gnip, a data platform which it owns. Why should you care? Because Gnip handles all of Twitter's audience data, and given that Twitter knows it's users gender, language, city, and favourite shows, products and music, this data is marketing gold dust.

Twitter opened up the API to let brands see demographic information about people that see their Tweets, and then also from people viewing their site when you have Twitter's tailored audience tag set up. Before you start thinking that this is a horrific breach of privacy, don't worry, brands won't be able see demographic details or interests for individual users. Marketers won't be able to see that Jo Bloggs, 22 from Peterborough likes swimming and patterned drapes. What they will get is anonymised demographic data for the whole segment. The segment itself has to include at least 500 people so that there is no way that you could work out who accounts for what trends in the data.

So if Jo Bloggs had been on your site or viewed your tweets, you'd see that a proportion of your audience was female, a proportion liked swimming and proportion liked patterned drapes. But would have no idea who was behind each of the trends.

Twitter's competing for your ad dollars

This is a big move from Twitter, which has been struggling to continue growing users and compete with Facebook as well as newer and rapidly growing platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. The fact is, it's hard for Twitter to compete with Facebook for ad dollars when Facebook puts so much more user data at the advertisers fingertips. This is Twitter's attempt to change this, and while it doesn't beat Facebook's offering, it does help to narrow the gap between the two. This competition to deliver better targeting between the two platforms can only be good news for marketers, who are always hungry for data on their audience to help them refine their messaging and target their ads.

What kind of insights will marketers be able to get from the newly opened up API data?
  • Gender
  • Language
  • TV - Twitter works out who likes what TV shows based on who they follow, who they re-tweet and what they tweet.
  • Location
  • Device - What share use Andriod, iOS,  desktop PC etc.
  • Carrier- Who provides their internet access; AT&T, Verizon etc.

Start having a think about how you could use this data to better understand your audience and better target your ads. Twitter have just given Digital markers a great new string to add to their bow.

 

The value of global digital partnerships [Infographic]

Dave's SmartInsights.com portal - Wed, 07/13/2016 - 15:00
The rise and rise of co-marketing partnerships as the new form of sponsorship 

Last year Nike spent $6.2 billion on sponsorships. That's certainly one way to keep your brand awareness high. But for those of us who don't have a few billion burning a hole in our pockets, co-marketing partnerships can be a great way to open new markets, attract new customers or simply boost sales.

For example, the music streaming service Pandora partnered with Honda, Ford and Subaru to offer free music streaming to drivers. They gained 14 million new listeners and generated over 900 million in advertising revenue. Take a look at the infographic below to learn more about digital partnerships.

Thanks to CIM for publishing this infographic

What are the most in demand marketing skills in 2016?

Dave's SmartInsights.com portal - Wed, 07/13/2016 - 12:00
Which marketing skills are most sought after by CMOs?

This week, we're launching a survey on Digital Marketing Skills - we'd appreciate it if you could take a couple of minutes to give your personal views on digital skills development and you'll receive a free copy of the report.

We've designed the research to be quick to complete, but useful and the survey should take less than 3 minutes.

If you complete the survey you will get a copy of the report recommendations with advice to develop your career in marketing.

Take our skills survey.

Since we're covering demand for skills for digital media and technology, I thought it would be interesting to look at the demand for the broader marketing skills-set. Recruitment specialists Spencer-Stuart have recently published their 2016 CMO Summit Survey Marketing Skills survey which compares the skills that are most important to CMOs for success against how difficult it is to recruit for these skills.

Consistent with our Digital Skills survey, Digital Marketing is the most popular skill and it is also one of the hardest skills to recruit to. Closely related is Data Analytics and Insights, which is even more difficult to recruit to.

These digital skills are followed by more traditional skills in Strategic Thinking, Brand Marketing and Loyalty/CRM and Product marketing. This shows how it's important to create a balanced range of skills when considered training or qualifications. Focusing on developing digital marketing skills may not be sufficient since marketing fundamentals are still at the heart of effective marketing.

 

Using interactive content for digital PR

Dave's SmartInsights.com portal - Wed, 07/13/2016 - 11:00
Learn how to create interactive content and use it to boost your PR efforts

One of the biggest challenges that digital PR practitioners face today is getting their client noticed by customers. In addition, they work very hard at differentiating their clients from their competitors in the market with the help of social media, articles, and blogs.

Customers are bombarded with volumes of information every day through their laptops, smartphones and tablets. In order to grab and hold their attention, PR professionals need to stop selling and start engaging.

Herein lies the importance of interactive content.

The last thing modern customers want to do is sieve through a pile of data for a small piece of pertinent information. It is, therefore, necessary for marketers and PR practitioners to whip up creative ways to not only gain audiences’ attention, but also keep them engaged.

Enter interactive content

Speaking of interactive content, here are a few interesting facts:

  • 90% information transmitted to brain is visual and visuals are processed 60000 X faster in the brain than text.
  • 80% of online visitors watch a video only 20% read the content.
  • 70% of marketers say interactive content is effective at engaging visitors/buyers.
  • 88% marketers say interactive content is effective at differentiating their brand.
  • 93% marketers rate interactive content as effective at educating the buyer.
  • Jeff Bullas reveals that articles with images receive 94% more views.
  • NeoMam Studios reveals that brands that use creative infographic designs grow in traffic an average of 12% more than those that don’t.
  • In 2013, 51% B2B marketers were using infographics as compared to 38% in 2013.
  • Video constitutes 50% of all mobile traffic and 90% of Internet traffic.
  • 86% businesses say that they are looking for ways to re-purpose content within the next 12 months.
What constitutes interactive content?

Interactive content is sometimes also known as interactive media or active content.

Wikipedia defines it as, “a method of communication in which the output from the media comes from the input of the users. Interactive media works with the user's participation. The media still has the same purpose but the user's input adds interaction and brings interesting features to the system for better enjoyment.”

According to Techopedia, “Active content is a type of interactive or dynamic website content that includes programs like Internet polls, JavaScript applications, stock tickers, animated images, ActiveX applications, action items, streaming video and audio, weather maps, embedded objects, and much more. Active content contains programs that trigger automatic actions on a Web page without the user's knowledge or consent.”

With the virtual world being bombarded with content every day, the criticality of interactive content cannot be undermined. This, however, does not imply that your blogging efforts take a back seat. Digital PR recognizes this, which is why it now advocates supplementing text with interactive and interesting content that directly adds value to users and customers.

 

How to Use Interactive Content in Marketing

Wondering how you can use interactive content? Here are a few ways in which it is being used by businesses currently:

Interactive Infographics

One of the most effective ways of providing information to people in a manner that is easily comprehensible is through infographics. For even greater efficiency, you can make them interactive with embedded questions, flip tiles, flexible user paths, and so on.

Interactive infographics enable readers to click, zoom, pan, and more. If you create an infographic replete with useful, valuable information, you can attract potential leads, who can explore it and focus on the information that is most interesting or relevant to them.

Interactive Polling

Another great form of presenting interactive content is by incorporating polling features that allow users to express their opinions. For companies, it's not just about building a website but also incorporating various features in it to study visitors’ response to a certain issue which, in turn, makes the latter feel like their opinion matters.

Not only is it easy to keep visitors involved through this tool, it is also cheap to implement. Several online plugins and add-ons can be used to add this tool to your website for a negligible cost.

Puzzles and Quizzes

Who doesn’t like trying their hand at those interesting brainteasers and quizzes that show up in social media feeds? How about engaging your customers with this tool? All you need to do is formulate an industry-specific quiz and share it on your social media accounts for followers to complete and share it themselves.

Ending the quiz with a call-to-action or a form to sign up for your newsletter can eventually result in several new leads for your company.

Reveal-based Marketing

Reveal-based interactive content involves advertisements or features that activate users’ curiosity and tempt them into taking a particular action in order to see/know more. According to Adweek, a recent Macy’s ‘reveal based’ banner ad saw “the average person spends more than three minutes interacting with the unit, and the interaction rate was 921 percent”.

Examples of reveal-based marketing include:

Games: Customers are offered promotions and discounts that require them to scratch away, spin, or play a flash game, and then reveal a hidden deal.

Problem Solving: Customers are offered promotions and discounts that require them to draw a picture, build a puzzle, or solve a riddle in order to be able to see more.

Motion Interactions: Customers are offered promotions and discounts that require them to move, shake, tilt, blink, or jump to reveal further information.

Galleries and Brackets: As visual marketing continues to gain momentum, businesses are cashing in on this phenomenon and using galleries to stimulate interaction with customers. Apart from using them to display their products, they can showcase their portfolios, ideas, customer examples, event highlights, among other things to promote their brand.

According to SnapApp, “Determined by participant votes, brackets pit a series of competitors head-to-head in a round-by-round voting format, until a winner is reached. Common examples include:

  • "Best Of" and "Worst Of" Brackets
  • "Fan Favorite" Photo/Video Brackets
  • User-Generated Content (UGC) Competitions”

SnapApp also opines that brackets are an effective way of engaging users for long periods of time through blogs and other motionless pieces of content.

Value-Adding Features: These are distinctive forms of interactive content that harmonize with a brand’s central offerings and add value to them. For example, car dealers often combine simple product features that let buyers calculate their monthly installments for the vehicle they’re looking to buy. Doing so adds value to the core product, i.e. the car, by encouraging the buyer to make a purchase.

Putting Interactive Content Marketing to Use

Interactive marketing is great for PR as it focuses more on building a relationship with customers by engaging them in conversation than on making immediate sales. The explosion of social media has given rise to several opportunities for digital PR professionals to make interactive marketing easier than ever.

Let’s take a look at how well-known companies are putting it to use, and how you can too.

Coca Cola

Coca Cola made use of referral and social marketing to boost interaction with customers. The ‘Share a Coke with...’ campaign substituted their iconic logo with people’s names and invited customers to share a Coke with their friends. The ‘#shareacoke’ hashtag generated over 340,000 posts on Instagram and enjoyed a 96% positive (or neutral) customer reception. That was a dream-come-true for Coca Cola!

Takeaway:

What Coca Cola is trying to convey here is that sharing a Coke with someone is about more than just enjoying the drink. It’s about getting together with people, making a memory with them, and capturing a moment in time. A bottle of Coke with a person’s name inscribed on it works as the primary driver of that memory, and brings Coca Cola more customers.

Jack Daniels

Jack Daniels (JD) enables interaction by encouraging their customers to share their bizarre drinking stories. These could be interesting, intriguing or even action-packed; anything that would make a great bar tale. This was done under the campaign named ‘The Few & Far Between’.

While some of the stories involve mentions of brand Jack Daniels, others do not talk about JD at all, but are still funny and share-worthy. Unlike Coca Cola, where the brand name is used explicitly, JD is more subtle. It lingers in the background, yet is noticeable and leaves a mark in customers’ minds.

Takeaway:

With interactive content, brands can encourage customers to share their story from a particular industry, which can help strengthen brand awareness. They can bring together customer stories in the form of snippets of media and images to weave a tale about nearly anything and promote themselves in the process.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

This campaign was created to raise awareness about ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) and, in the process, raise money for it. The campaign involved celebrities pouring a bucket of icy-cold water over themselves and tagging their celeb friends to go next. It went viral in no time and raised over million dollars.

Takeaway:

For many, it was the viral-ity of tagging friends to participate and record their reaction is what made the challenge memorable. Further, the campaign started during the hottest time of year, so participants were happy to cool off and simultaneously support a good cause.

Interactive Content for Startups

Interactive content can turn to be the most powerful tool for startups that usually find it difficult to engage with the audience. Practices like interactive polling and quizzes can help in creating hype about your startup before you even launch it, thus creating a strong audience with minimum efforts. There are several effective ways to implement PR for your startups on similar lines.

Conclusion

The important thing about interactive content is that it focuses on the customer and their response rather than on the brand and its benefits. That’s what good PR is all about. If used effectively, your content can go viral and fetch PR practitioners and their clients the response they’ve always aspired for. Creating such content may be challenging, but with the changing face of digital PR (thanks to interactive content), it surely isn’t impossible.

 

Author bio: Taral Patel is PR Executive at PRmention, a Digital PR Agency.

Thanks to Taral Patel for sharing their advice and opinions in this post. Taral Patel is PR Executive at PRmention, a Digital PR Agency. Being a certified digital marketer, he understands how modern technology shapes the PR industry.

10 tips for improving your branding on Instagram

Dave's SmartInsights.com portal - Tue, 07/12/2016 - 09:00
How to build your brand on Instagram

Great social media strategies need continuous follower growth, engagement, and actions, e.g. clicks. And Instagram just might be your best opportunity for achieving this quickly. SEO should always be an important part of your online marketing strategy. But let's face it, you're unlikely to beat the big brands with enormous budgets for a spot on page one of Google's search results anytime soon.

ArthurStock / Shutterstock.com

This is why social media can be a powerful ally to smaller brands when trying to grow your reach and presence online. You don't need a huge budget to still be effective, using, for instance, Facebook ads. But as powerful and inexpensive as these can be, the sad truth is that organic reach and engagement on Facebook has plateaued in recent years.

Where to Turn? Instagram.

Consider some statistics compiled by selfstartr.com in this great infographic comparing Facebook and Instagram for marketers in recent years.

  • Organic marketing reach on Facebook is down 63% over the last 4 years, while Instagram's organic marketing reach is up 115%.
  • The percentage of Instagram users who regularly engage with brands is more than double that of Facebook.
  • Instagram has 58% more engagement per follower than Facebook.
  • Only 36% of marketers are using Instagram, compared to 93% of marketers who are already on Facebook.
  • Instagram has a higher average order value than Facebook ($65 vs $55)
  • Brands on Facebook reach only 6% of their followers per post, while brands on Instagram reach 100% of their followers.

Less competition, a more engaged audience and an enormous increase in organic reach. The verdict is clear: shifting your marketing efforts to Instagram is a smart move.

So, now you know where to grow your reach effectively and quickly.

But, if you've never included Instagram in your marketing, you may not know how to make it happen. And if you have, maybe a refresh of your Instagram strategy is overdue?

So, whether you're a newcomer or just need ideas, these 10 branding tips will help you to succeed on the platform.

1. It's all about the visuals

Users are more likely to act if they can easily recognize your brand from miles away. To achieve that, you just need to follow these four key rules:

  1. Create visuals that are consistent in style and quality
  2. Choose a color scheme and stick to it whenever possible
  3. If you use filters, make sure to use the same ones
  4. Don't overcrowd your images and captions with text.

If you execute well, then your brand will be recognized immediately, even if a user only glances at an individual image in their stream.

One brand that has mastered this is Nike. The brand features their products in every single post, but always in a visually striking or subtle way.

Image source: Nike Instagram

Our dreams are small. One millisecond, one quarter-inch, one breath. We'll spend a lifetime chasing them. Because these small things, Make all the difference. #justdoit Stay connected with your favorite athletes through the link in our bio.

A video posted by nike (@nike) on Mar 27, 2016 at 2:32pm PDT


Nike builds their online (and offline presence) with motivational images with athletes and customers. Their iconic slogan "Just Do It" is at the heart of their branding strategy, and it's visible on every social media network they are present on. When you see their posts, you know it's Nike. No brand name or logo required.

So, be creative. Don't just snap a picture of a product and slap a filter on it. The solution to create something different and unique could be simpler than you think.

Calling all creators - we want you! Join our talented team and check out our new job listings now live on the website | link in bio.

A photo posted by WeWork (@wework) on Nov 24, 2015 at 7:37am PST


If your resources are limited, you could create images with quotes or client testimonials, and even snap product previews with your phone. Just remember to always keep quality and the right color scheme in mind.

2. Hire a professional

If you're not the creative type or your images aren't capturing enough attention, don't fret - there is a bit of an art to it.

Consider employing a social media manager with experience in design or photography. Turning your followers into customers will take much more than a dozen pretty images on Instagram, so it's best to invest early.

If you already have a marketing professional who is doing a great job, consider outsourcing visual assets. Photographers can do a series of photoshoots and supply you with images for use on your website, blog and of course, social media. If you are B2B or sell SaaS software, consider hiring a designer instead to help you illustrate your products and services.

Take a look online to see if there are any talented photographers or designers in your area. Odds are there will be at least a few who would be willing to partner with you.

We have a thing for taking notes.

The Economics of Customer Acquisition

Dave's SmartInsights.com portal - Mon, 07/11/2016 - 15:00
Acquisition cost, lead gen, cost per lead, customer life-time value, ROI... Making sense of customer acquisition metrics

We live in a world of supply and demand, this applies to customer acquisition. Gaining a customer isn’t free, nor is it cheap. It’s a necessary expense when running a business, but it is possible to overspend. It’s important to find a good balance when it comes to customer acquisition, but that’s no easy feat.

It’s difficult to keep costs down because of the competition that’s inherent in any industry. Marketing costs are necessary to beat out the competitors. With so many more demands for customer attention circulating in the modern world, your draw needs to stand out in order to succeed.

Looking at the overall economics of the situation can help with this.

Supply and Demand

The idea of customer acquisition isn’t much different from the way the stock market runs. It’s driven by supply and demand. Timothy Sykes, investment guru, gives an excellent description of supply and demand in the stock market: “When there are more buyers than sellers, the stock prices rise to attract more sellers. When there are more sellers than buyers, stock prices fall to attract more buyers. Price is always changing based on supply and demand.”

The same goes for customer acquisition, and it’s an important component in calculating the actual cost of a customer. Obviously, the more customers you have, the more profits you’re making. The fewer customers, the fewer profits. Therefore, if trying to get customers on board has cost implications related to services available versus services desired, you're functioning within these basic market forces.

Customer Acquisition Costs

The first step in truly understanding the economics of acquisition is calculating the lifetime value of the average customer. Tallying up the cash flows you’ll receive on average and putting this in a dollar amount will show you the value, which will act as your baseline as you begin to evaluate several other aspects of acquisition, including:

  • Annual Spending: Define the difference between your one-time customers and loyal customers by looking at what they spend. In general, the loyal customer will spend more rapidly, particularly as you present more offers. From there, you can determine if you should be spending more to acquire new customers, or if you should hold back because you’re putting too much of a dent in your profit margins.
  • Retention Rate: You can discover likely retention patterns simply by evaluating the longevity of your biggest spenders. Based on their interactions and the costs you’ve presented to win their loyalty, you can gauge the cost of retention.
  • Price Point: Your one-time and infrequent customers will snap up any deal and discount they can get while your loyal customers are less likely to quibble over price. Compare the margins of what you make from your loyal customers with the margins you make from your less-loyal crew.
  • Word of Mouth: Sometimes the cost of acquisition is measured less in dollars and more by the actions of your customers. If they’re spreading the word about your business and products, that reduces your costs and ups your profits. This is an important metric to measure, since 84 percent of customers say they trust recommendations from family, colleagues, and friends.

Every one of these metrics can have a profound impact on customer acquisition. Looking at the numbers developed through these calculations can lead you to discover where you’re overspending and where you should spend more.

Customer Value

Obviously, your loyal customers will be worth more to you than your non-valued customers, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring more customers to your company.

You must look at consumers like they have the potential to stay with your company for years to come. If you knew every first-time customer would make at least one purchase per month for the rest of their lives, you would do whatever it took to get those customers on board.

This is one of the reasons that startups tend to struggle more than established companies: startups are living with an out of balance business model in which the cost to acquire a customer – which includes all the costs such as marketing, salaries, and other company expenses – is far greater than the current lifetime value of that customer.

In order for startups to turn a profit, they need to rapidly reverse this equation, a challenge when you’re still dealing with all the overhead costs involved in opening a business. Another problem is that companies often don’t see the precise cost of conversions. Instead, they focus on lead generation. Leads are important – they’re where conversions start – but if your conversion rate is too low, you’ll quickly find your marketing campaigns too expensive.

As you can see in the following example, in order to understand the real cost of customer acquisition, you need to take an accounting of each step in the supply chain. First, understand the steps – you need to go from visitor, to lead, to acquisition, and at each step you’ll see a drop off in the number of customers and an increase in the cost of your marketing.

In this model, we’ll take a basic pay-per-click scheme as the customer acquisition method with a budget of $1000. The goal here is to demonstrate the problem of imbalance as well as our often inadequate calculations at the start of a campaign.

Step 1:
  • Starting budget: $1000
  • Clicks: 500
  • Cost per click: $2

Two dollars for a click may not be great, but 500 clicks for a site that’s new or had low traffic before might be a great improvement. If the calculations stopped here and clicks equaled customers, this would be a great value on the lifetime monetization scale. Unfortunately, this is just the start.

Step 2:
  • Cost per click: $2
    Conversion to leads: 5%
  • Cost per lead: $40

Things start to get pricey here. Forty dollars is an rather lot for a lead (depending on the industry)– especially when we remember that a lead hasn’t bought anything yet. We haven’t converted these individuals. We have to take the lead one step further.

Step 3:
  • Cost per lead: $40
  • Acquisition rate: 10%
  • Cost per customer: $400

Here’s where we see the real problem at hand – your campaign cost you $400 a customer, an amount that’s untenable for the vast majority of companies. Although one look at the most expensive keywords will show they're are some industries happy to pay it.

Sure, on a high enough profit margin over 20 or 40 years, this could ultimately reverse the balance between acquisitions and lifetime value, but it’s hard to get out of that initial slump unless you have a lot of startup money to burn.

What’s more, recognize that not all customers will jump on your bandwagon. Even those that you convert through this first thread will not all become lifetime customers. Your real calculation will require you to figure out the ratio of those long-lasting customers to one-time purchasers and determine what you can afford to spend to bring in new customers vs. how much you make.

You’ll also have to consider how long it will take to begin to see profits turn around and rebalance your business model. Lifetime value is about repeating these exchanges or other quality transactions. If you can’t stay afloat long enough to make lifetime value calculations work, then you’re already in the wrong business.

Boost Your Customer Acquisition

Ultimately, the best way to ensure positive customer acquisition is to boost your customer numbers, thereby dropping the acquisition cost per customer. To do that, there may be some aspects of acquisition you should work on developing.

  • Use Videos: Right now, online video consumption is taking over the internet, particularly for those aged 18-35. According to a Nielson survey, video traffic will make up 80 percent of online internet traffic in 2019. It’s currently one of the best ways to reach the younger generation and increase your customer reach.
  • Make Interactions More Personal: Marketing tools have evolved significantly in just five years, making it possible to tailor your marketing towards a targeted audience. Using personalization to your advantage can be a great way to see your acquisition rates jump. For example, personalized emails receive six times the transaction and revenue rates of traditional emails. 
  • Engage Around the Clock: The internet doesn’t sleep, and if you want to make your customers feel truly valued, you can’t either. Well, your online engagement can’t. As unrealistic as it sounds, consumers expect 24/7 engagement with brands. That’s where freelancers and customer service companies come in handy. They can help you tend to your customers at all times. Even if they respond at 2 o’clock in the morning to say they’ll have a better answer at 8 a.m., it’s still better than no response at all.

Consumers are demanding more and more from their retailers, and only those who keep up with such demands survive. Putting forth the extra cash to develop a strong customer acquisition strategy is essential to developing a wide customer base, and those who wisely strike a balance between money spent and money earned have the best chance of succeeding.

Thanks to Larry Alton for sharing his advice and opinions in this post. Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Image credits:  Gabriel S. Delgado C.

Smartphone tipping point about to be reached in Eastern Europe [#ChartoftheDay]

Dave's SmartInsights.com portal - Mon, 07/11/2016 - 12:00
Mobile revolution spreads eastward in 2016

From only a very slight penetration at the start of the decade, by 2019 over half of people will be using Smartphones in Poland, Russia, Turkey and the Czech Republic. These countries will be important for marketers in the coming few years, as a slowdown in China means greater focus on the 'near-East' rather than the 'far-East'.

In these areas where smartphone use currently lags behind the western world, there is still room for double-digit annual growth in penetration. This rapid growth in-turn leaves gaps open in the market just waiting to be filled by people who have developed compelling mobile responsive sites. Marketers should thus pay attention to these often overlooked markets. eCommerce folk that already have great customer journeys for those on mobiles should look at increasing language options to include these countries.

6 reasons why you need a social media strategy

Dave's SmartInsights.com portal - Mon, 07/11/2016 - 11:00
Social media strategy and planning essentials

First let’s answer the question, “What is a social media strategy?

A social media strategy defines how your organisation will use social media to achieve its communications aims and the supporting platform and tools it will use to achieve this. At a basic level it’s a simple statement of intent, outlining the goals and measurable objectives for using social media, and the target outcomes you want to achieve. It does this in the context of the overall business and comms plan, so that social media isn’t in a silo but working in parallel with other channels. It isn’t a detailed plan of action – you’ll also need a plan but without a clear strategy, how do you prioritise the activities for a plan? Think strategy first, plan second.

Even if you’re not actively involved in social media, other businesses are, including your competitors and most likely a significant proportion of your customers. Failing to understand that this is where many people hold conversations means you’re not part of the discussion, and you can’t influence what happens.

If you don’t know what’s being said, how can you effectively manage your brand reputation online? And how can you ensure that your key messages are being heard by the people you most want to talk to?

Here are six key reasons why your organisation needs a coherent social media strategy and plan.

1. The social web still is growing fast

The latest research on social media usage shows that there are two key factors driving the social web according to a Global Web Index study:

  • 1. Mobile – people accessing the internet via mobile increased by 60.3% to 818.4m between 2012 and 2014
  • 2. Older user adoption – on Twitter the 55-64 year age bracket is the fastest growing demographic with 79% growth rate since 2012; the fastest growing demographic on Facebook and Google+ is the 45-54 year age bracket.

Improved mobile connectivity globally has increased ‘on the go’ social activity, from catching up on friends’ updates to sharing content and watching video. Social media usage research in the US from Ruder Finn measures the reasons why people go online and socialising is one of the key drivers:

As people spend more time on social media, consuming more content than ever before, you might think that the space is saturated so getting involved isn’t justifiable.

Wrong!

Creating a targeted social media strategy will help you focus on using relevant platforms to connect with existing and new customers and avoid simply adding to the noise.

2. Purchasing decisions are influenced by social media

If the first era of social was audience building and engagement, the current era is focused on commerce and personalisation. All major platforms have heavily invested in their advertising solutions to lure marketers with the promise of improved APIs and smart targeting, including the ability to upload email lists to run personalised remarketing campaigns.

For example, through the Facebook API marketers can:

  • Manage audience data for custom audience targeting
  • Create campaigns and ads
  • Build custom dashboards and run analytics
  • Manage campaign assets: pages, accounts etc.
  • Research from Crowdtap revealed that 64% of 3,000 people surveyed use social to find inspiration for shopping (up 51% vs. prior year). This is driven by retailers targeting consumers with personalised offers and deals on social networks.

Nearly half (46%) of social media users are already using social platforms while thinking about making a purchase. 40% of users are actively deciding what to buy based on what they have seen on social media platforms, including reviews and recommendations, and this is only set to grow.

Peer recommendation has the most influence on holiday gift purchases, more than blogger or celebrity endorsement. Given the importance of peak trading to the overall sales target, you need to plan how to encourage people to share and talk about your products.

There are subtle differences between the role each social network plays in the purchase cycle. For example, Pinterest is a great place for people to find inspiration and works well as a visual product storyboard. Facebook is well suited to people looking to share content and find promotions.

Without a clear strategy, how do you know what role these networks can and should play in your customers’ buying cycles? How do you know you’re not losing out on potential sales, or trying to sell to people who aren’t looking to be sold to?

3. Lack of strategy hands the advantage to competitors

It’s uncommon to find an organisation without a social presence and increasingly companies are developing clear social strategies aligned with business goals.

A marketer with a strategy has a framework through which to plan, prioritise, execute, measure and optimise. This typically will lead to better results because the activity has direction, even if the direction needs to evolve and change as the marketer learns from real data.

If you invest in a social presence without a clear strategy, you won’t know whether or not your campaigns are successful. For example, if you simply post content to appear active, how do you know that content is contributing to the business positively? What if it’s actually putting people off your brand?

I once sat in a meeting where a marketing exec reported on social performance and was delighted that a tweet got more than 100 RTs over the weekend. The team decided this was success. However, on closer inspection, the tweet included a poorly chosen hashtag and the hashtag’s and this generated the RT activity. Unfortunately, the core hashtag users weren’t relevant and certainly not a target audience.

Why did this happen?

There was no plan or guidelines in place for the marketing team to know what to post, when, how, to whom and why. For example, no research done on hashtags to define which conversations the company should and could be a meaningful part of.

With no structured approach to communication and measurement, you risk wasting resource on undirected activity. Meanwhile savvier competitors will be working smarter at engaging customers based around clear goals, objectives and targets so performance is being measured, rather than results reported.

4. Your customers are active on social media

Mobile, social and the underlying technology have combined to provide an environment in which people can access, use and share information on their terms. Friends of mine rarely read blogs or emails; they use Facebook as their content stream. The disintermediation of content means that you have to understand the role social plays in customer communication.

Even though it’s only a subset of your total audience, it’s likely that some of your customers will want to get information from you via social network. A good example is the rise of Twitter for customer service, with brands like BT embracing it as an effective customer enquiry and problem resolution channel. That doesn’t mean ignore traditional forms of customer service, it means updating your customer service framework to factor in social interactions.

This is why you need a strategy. Deciding how to connect with customer is not a tactical decision, it requires strategic thinking. Social needs to align with the other communication channels so its role is defined and understood, and there are processes and tools in place to cope with demand. If you let a social marketing team simply get on with it, without the strategic vision above it, you risk inefficiency and inaccuracy. That said, Jay Baer does advise to not 'bite off more you can chew' in your social strategy - he says keep the scope narrow in this article on social media strategy in 7 Steps.

5. There are key influencers in every social network

Don’t underestimate the power of peer and/or influencer recommendation.

For years retailers have known that customer ratings and reviews can increase conversion rates through the power of peer influence; feedback from another customer is typically seen as trustworthy. Expert endorsement also increases brand credibility. For example, in highly specialised tech markets like audio visual, the experts’ opinions are highly sought after and can make or break products.

Social media channels have influencers, from the obvious celebrities to self-made social stars like video bloggers. High street retailers often employ trending influencers to amplify their marketing messages. For example, Topshop worked with five rising Instagram stars to help shoot its London Fashion Week show.

If you’re not part of their world, you’re not relevant. You risk losing mindshare to more socially aware competitors who are willing to be bold and innovative in their marketing campaigns. And if none of the key social influencers for your target audience are interested in your company and its products, it’s much harder to get your message across to the end customer.

6. Reputations can be enhanced or destroyed on social networks

There are good things that we can attribute to social media, primarily in terms of providing a voice to people and groups who previously struggled to be heard and of making information transparent and portable. However, it also amplifies the voice of discontent and vitriol is not uncommon. Jumping on angry bandwagons is also something that social seems to fuel periodically.

The example below is from a genuine marketing campaign that the Aldi social team launched but it attracted a lot of negative tweets and trolling.

What will you do if the world decides you’re enemy #1 and attacks you on Twitter?

How will you respond to an avalanche of negative tweets?

There are high profile examples of companies facing a social media backlash and struggling to respond effectively. Even those with a social media strategy that includes crisis response find it hard. So how much damage could be done to your organisation if you don’t even have a strategy? It’s a risk you shouldn’t take.

Your thoughts, comments and personal experience

This is step 1 in the Smart Insights 12 step series on social media strategy and planning. It’s by no means an exhaustive list of reasons why you should have a social media strategy; it’s more a steer in the right direction and food for thought.

Please join in the discussion with comments and your own experience. Keep an eye out for next month’s article, “How do we create a social media strategy and plan?”.

Thanks
James

Thanks to James Gurd for sharing their advice and opinions in this post. James Gurd is an experienced ecommerce and digital marketing consultant with more than 14 years’ B2C and B2B digital strategy experience. He is the Owner and lead consultant at Digital Juggler. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

5 top tips for web performance optimisation

Dave's SmartInsights.com portal - Mon, 07/11/2016 - 09:00
How to increase loading times and keep web visitors happy

Loading Times: Are They THAT big of a deal?

Web performance optimisation, or WPO, is a term that relates to the various techniques IT specialists use in order to increase the speed in which websites are downloaded and displayed on a user’s web browser.

You may be thinking, “what a waste of time – most pages load quickly enough, and what difference is a few seconds going to make?” Well, honestly, you’d be surprised. And, more often than not, we’re talking milliseconds rather than seconds.

In fact, according to this compendium of web performance stats by Radware, there are 55 reasons why you need to optimise your website’s performance and page loading times:

  • 44 percent of online shoppers claim that a slow transaction increases their anxiety about that purchase.
  • Online shoppers remember load times as being 35 percent longer than they actually were.
  • 51 percent of shoppers claim that a slow load time is the top reason they abandon a purchase.
  • A two second delay in load time transaction results in an abandonment rate of up to 87 percent – 17 percent above the average abandonment rate of 70 percent!
  • 46 percent of online shoppers cite checkout speed as the number one factor that determines whether they’ll return to a site or not.
  • 64 percent of smartphone users expect pages to load in four seconds or less.
  • The point at which your website’s load time ceases to matter (because you will already have experienced all of the possible negative effects) is a mere 8 seconds.
Busy Lives Equals Little Time

Looking at the statistics, then, it’s only too clear that website optimisation is big business. And, if you’re honest with yourself, I bet you can remember the last time you got angry because a page took a second longer than you expected to load…or even half-a-second!

The truth is that we all lead extremely busy lives, and that even a second’s hindrance can wreak havoc on our immediate plans. Actually, perhaps the truth is that, thanks to the immediacy we’ve come to expect from our online interactions, our attention span is far shorter, and our patience more strained.

This point of view is perhaps best captured by the adequately succinct internet acronym “tl;dw” (or, in plain English, “too long; didn’t watch”).

Indeed, many videos which get to the juicy part in 10 or 15 seconds receive plenty of tl;dw comments, testament to the fact that, nowadays, digital consumers just don’t have time for unnecessary holdups and hiccups.

And this is a global phenomenon. In fact, worldwide, Internet speeds are increasing (according to Venture Beat) by 10 percent year over year. This means that more and more people have come to expect their online content to be served up quick! And this is compounded by the fact that, globally, mobile browsing has skyrocketed, and those using mobile devices to access the Internet expect lightning-fast loading times.

However, many companies may feel like they lack the time, technical expertise, and finances to improve their loading times. But, in truth, there are lots of things companies can easily do to improve their website’s loading time – and they don’t have to cost the world. The benefits are longer dwell-time, a better user experience, and no loss of potential sales before a visitor’s even looked at your website.

5 Tips For Shortening Loading Times
  1. Content Delivery Network – A content delivery network improves website delivery time by caching content through a globally distributed network of servers. A good content delivery service will save bandwidth, boost performance, and reduce hosting costs. A CDN is a service which saves website elements like media, design elements, stylesheets and scripts across its global network. Since users’ web browser retrieve the cached data from a server nearest their physical location, the latency is reduced and pages load faster. Modern CDNs, like Incapsula, also leverage the platform to provide additional security and high availability services, important to e-commerce websites and other online businesses. 
  1. Web Hosting – With so many websites now live (nearly a billion), it’s imperative that you choose a good web hosting service. Many providers are willing to compromise on quality and offer a low cost service, because of the stiff competition. Even so, key to maintaining a high-performance website is opting for a reputable provider, such as DreamHost and HostGator.
  1. Image Compression – Image compression is a simple yet effective way to speed up your site and save bandwidth. Images make up a big part of web traffic, so you need to find a balance between good size and adequate quality without compromising loading times. Image compression makes this easier, and can be done online for free (this article lists some of the best tools).
  2. Browser Caching – Transferring web elements over a network takes time and costs money in the form of bandwidth consumption. Caching basically stores certain pieces of data on your visitor’s computer so that, they won’t have to download content in subsequent visits. The key here is in finding a good cache expiry value, to ensure a good balance between freshness of the content and loading speed. Varnish is a high-profile tool that helps websites optimize caching to improve loading speed.
  1. Plugin Management – Plugins are additional pieces of code that you can add to your website to allow, well, almost any functionality you can think of. The problem is that installing a plug-in on your site will inevitably have an impact on loading time, especially if it involves additional processing in the back-end. But using tools such as Plugin Organizer (which is available for WordPress), you can specify the order plug-ins load, and you can also select which plugins are active for each specific page or post. This means that plugins will only be loaded when necessary, improving loading speeds in the process.

Each of these five tips alone can make your website load faster. Combined, they can drastically speed up your site’s loading time. In a world when visitors can be put off (or worse, angered) by a wait of a mere second, it’s important that businesses do everything they can to keep their sites fast and efficient.

Are you worried about your website’s loading time? Have you done anything to speed it up? If so, what have you found that works? Let me know with a comment!

 

Thanks to Lilach Bullock for sharing their advice and opinions in this post. Lilach is Co-Founder of  Comms Axis, a digital marketing and content agency.Highly regarded on the world speaker circuit, Lilach Bullock has graced Forbes and Number 10 Downing Street with her presence! In a nutshell, she’s a hugely connected and highly influential serial entrepreneur.Lilach is consulted by journalists and regularly quoted in newspapers, business publications and marketing magazines (including Forbes, The Telegraph, Wired, Prima Magazine, The Sunday Times, Social Media Today and BBC Radio 5 Live). You can follow her on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

Why page load times are critical for SEO success [Infographic]

Dave's SmartInsights.com portal - Fri, 07/08/2016 - 11:00
How to Increase Your Website’s Speed And Ultimately Your Conversions

The time that it takes your website to load is one of the most important factors your online business will face. Literally every second counts as even the smallest of delays can cause customers to go somewhere else.

Today we’ll look at just how much your site’s speed affects your bottom line and how you can lower loading times with quick and easy fixes.

Logic may dictate that another second of loading time is worth it for a great web design, users today are more interested in how fast your website loads. A slow website will kill your conversions faster than anything else. Not even an amazing digital marketing strategy can save a slow website.

You may know how to create a blog, but if you want it to be successful, it has to be fast. Consider these compelling reasons why you should be focusing on making your website as fast as it can possibly be:

  • Page speed is a ranking factor in Google’s eyes
  • 47% of web users expect a site to load in two seconds or less
  • 40% of people will leave a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load
  • A 1 second delay in loading results in an average drop of 7% in conversions.

It’s scary to think about how quickly a site can lose sales over something as simple as speed. Check out the infographic below from OnBlastBlog to learn how you can improve your loading times today and let us know how it helps you in the comments!

Google Posts is an intriguing new content feature

Dave's SmartInsights.com portal - Fri, 07/08/2016 - 08:22
This experimental new 'Podium' feature from Google hints at plans for slightly more social SERPs

Google Posts wasn't so much launched by Google, as it was quietly rolled out with little to no fan-fare. Months have passed since the feature first went live for a select few people, but still most digital marketers haven't heard of them. So what exactly are Google posts?

Google Posts are short snippets of text, rather like Tweets or Facebook status updates, uploaded directly to Google rather than social networks. At the moment they are only available for US Presidential candidates, but their landing page suggests that Google aims to open them up to "verified people and organisations". You can see an example of a Google Post below for a 'brand search' on Hillary Clinton where it forms part of the Knowledge Graph on the right.

Publishing directly on Google

According to Google these posts will show up on certain SERPs which relate to the publisher. At the moment they only appear in the top carousel when you search US Presidential candidates, as Google has decided to test the feature by opening it up only to Presidential candidates. At the moment they seem to be using it almost like a short 'wiki' hosted by Google on the SERP page itself, and there is one for each presidential candidate.

What about for everyone else?

When announcing Google posts, Google said:

"Now we're experimenting with a new way for users to hear directly from select entities they're searching for on Google."

Whilst for now it's just US presidential candidates(!) hopefully it'll be opened up to more people and brands soon. Google lets you sign up for waiting list to get the feature in future if you're a public figure of organisation, so there is reason to hope brand will be able to start using soon enough. The question is what will it be for?

It isn't clear how Google envisage it working, will they be for real-time updates, like Twitter updates, or will they be for little in-SERP wikis? - like they're doing now with presidential candidates.

What is clear, is that, once rolled out to brands, Google Posts will appear at the top of certain SERPs relating to your organisation (or your name if you're a public figure), and thus represent a massive opportunity for brands. It's also something SEOs should keep an eye on.

The fact that they are invite-only and you have to join a waiting list suggests Google will be manually verifying users, and the little blue tick on their photo which you see on current Google Posts shows users that they are getting the information straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. Hopefully, brands will thus be able to use Google posts in future to dominate their brand name SERPs and communicate with customers. All we can do now is wait and see what Google do with them, but make sure to keep an eye out, because Google Posts hold a lot of promise.

There is no mention or relation to Google+, showing again, that Google no longer has focus on this, but is open to experimenting with new ways to share real-time, content to share within the SERPs, in this case related to the Knowledge Graph.

Anchor content is the key to getting your content machine to deliver results

Dave's SmartInsights.com portal - Fri, 07/08/2016 - 08:15
Tie your audience down with Anchor content

As the Smart Insights - HubSpot Content Marketing 2016 research shows, content now forms an essential element of nearly everything we do as marketers. Planning, creating and distributing great quality content is not just the domain of content marketers; it covers email, advertising, CRM and just about anything else we’re involved in. Content excellence is now so crucial to how we communicate and gain traction with consumers that it’s become an important priority for many marketers in 2016 and beyond.

Yet, despite its importance, gaining consumers' attention is becoming more and more difficult. In an attention economy, that’s become increasingly competitive, ‘content shock’ the incessant deluge of mediocre content that is blinding audiences to brands’ content efforts - means that content has to have genuine quality and relevance to achieve cut-through.

The rise of ad blocking software, the decrease in organic reach on social platforms such as Facebook and declining referral traffic for many brands are all signs that the bar for quality content has been raised. And this impression is backed up by data from Chartbeat and Buzzsumo that indicates that much of the content being produced is not being read, shared or linked to:

Source: Chartbeat, 2016

The chart above indicates that there is no relationship between how much a piece of content is shared and the amount of attention an average reader will give that content.

Source: Buzzsumo, 2016

The chart above shows that the vast majority of posts receive very few shares or links, two metrics that indicate proactive engagement.

Build your content plan around an anchor

Let's consider a publication such as Wired. What is it about the content that Wired produces that keeps people reading and subscribing? Although Wired offers many different articles every month, there are often one or two stand-out features, as well as regular features, that grab people's attention and keep them engaged.

This is also true for services like Netflix. Whilst there are hundreds, even thousands of different series and movies to choose from, it’s the flagship shows such as ‘House of Cards’, ‘Making a Murderer’ and ‘Orange is the New Black’ that gets people hooked and encourages them to keep on watching and, more importantly, subscribing every month.

These features are authoritative, data-driven and remarkable. They’re different from everything else and can be described as anchor content. Like a real anchor, this content has weight, substance and connects everything together.

The concept of anchor content was first explored by Eric Enge in his excellent post for Marketing Land in March. The methodology that works so well for Wired and Netflix can be applied by marketers and provides a useful framework for anyone involved in content planning across different channels.
The figures below illustrate the positive impact of anchor content on a regular email programme:

The graph above shows the decrease in engagement over time once the initial buzz and interest of the campaign dies away. The content being produced (the green circles) is useful, relevant and seasonal, but without anything remarkable to spark interest the brand is left with dwindling engagement levels.

The second graph, however, shows how the inclusion of anchor content (the orange circles), including key features and high-quality evergreen content, can boost engagement over time and keep the audience motivated to keep clicking through and reading. The brand has identified what resonates with the audience and has planned in advance where to include anchor content to maintain interest.

Three key principles of anchor content

The principles of anchor content are not new but they are useful for reminding ourselves and clients of what makes an effective content campaign. Three principles that stand out for me include:

1. Start with a weighty anchor

A piece of solid, authoritative anchor content can form the centre point of a campaign, from which less detailed, more supplemental content can be added.

In the email campaign example above, the spikes in engagement were the result of strong anchor content that introduced a theme for the quarter. In the following weeks and months, other pieces of supplemental content ‘riffed’ on the main theme, building on the interest the initial piece generated until the next quarter.

2. Quality beats quantity

An endless stream of ‘OK’ content is unlikely to have a positive impact. The days when large quantities of content could achieve results, particularly in search, have long gone as a result of advancements such as Google’s Panda algorithm update. Audiences are busy, distracted and have more choice than ever before so they expect better.

However, it’s impossible for everything to be ‘hero’ content, there just isn’t the time, resource or audience appetite. But that’s not the point of the anchor content approach. Instead, content planners should consider how different campaigns or programmes can be structured in a way that uses key features at certain points in time to anchor interest and generate buzz.

Some of this type of content was explored in our post on ‘10x content’.

3. Focus on what your audience finds fascinating

Data is you friend! With so many analytics tools and resources available, there’s really no excuse for not measuring activity to identify what is resonating with your audience.

Look at the trends and patterns between the different pieces of content that generate high and low levels of engagement. What is it about each that works well/ not so well? What can you take from the data and apply to your next piece of anchor content? This insight will help you to narrow down the content themes, formats and distribution channels that work.

Summary

The sheer deluge of content consumers receive today means that brands and marketers must work increasingly harder to achieve cut-through and generate engagement. The anchor content approach is based on the concept that specific pieces of high quality, authoritative content can be used as part of a new or existing campaign to spark interest and keep audiences engaged.

Anchor content is about producing content that stands out from the crowd to help you establish yourself in an increasingly noisy mediascape. The goal should not be about producing large quantities of content but creating content that is remarkable, adds value to those that are listening (i.e. not always the mass market) and is data-driven.

On Page SEO Factors [#ChartoftheDay]

Dave's SmartInsights.com portal - Thu, 07/07/2016 - 17:00
With Google's algorithms are changing all the time. What works and what doesn't?

Tim Soulo wrote a rather controversial article two weeks ago, the backlash of which has seen Ahrefs remove all the 'controversial' content. However, this shouldn't detract from the data they extrapolated from the study.

The study was conducted to identify the correlations of different on-page SEO factors, with Google rankings across 2 Million random keyword searches. They were very keen to point out that although correlation doesn't necessarily mean causation, the results are certainly interesting.

What am I referring to when I say On-Page SEO Factors?

Typically when discussing SEO ranking factors, you have three main areas.

  • Off-the-page: Which are referring to factors publishers can't themselves impact.
  • Violations: Typically underhand tactics, that search engines frown upon e.g. spammy link building
  • On-the-page: These refer to the factors publish can actually control e.g. HTML, sitemaps, page speed. It these, that the chart is discussing today.
Use of exact match keyword

Typically when people who are new to SEO, stumble across advice, it indicates that cramming your keyword in your Title, meta's and HTML will warrant a top place on the SERPs.

Although this used to be the case, in a post hummingbird world Google is advanced enough to understand the synonyms, context and the relevance of your content.

The research did find some interesting data though. It transpires having the keyword you're looking to rank for, in your domain can help boost your rankings. Typically it was found this was because these were often brand names, so this may not actually have the impact we initially thought it did. But it's worth bearing in mind.

When trying to rank for keywords, it was shown that almost 75% of pages that rank on the first SERPs page, didn't actually contain an exact match. Once again, highlighting Google's ability to understand synonyms, context and relevance.

Interestingly, out of all of the keyword-related on page SEO factors, there was only one which had a negative effect; the inclusion of the keyword in URL. This corresponds with a recent statement by John Mueller who stated...

I believe that is a very small ranking factor. So it is not something I’d really try to force. And it is not something I’d say it is even worth your effort to restructure your site just so you can get keywords in your URL.

General on-page ranking factors

Addressing some of the more general on-page SEO factors, it's clear to see that there was an obvious correlation between the age of a page and a higher ranking. So perhaps if you're looking to rank quicker, using older pages or updating content is more beneficial than churning out tonnes of fresh content.

Once again, the only negative effect refers to the URL. This time it refers to the length of it, or more pertinently,  the amount of folders it is attached to.

Why this is, I'm not too sure. My best guess is to encourage a better UX, as they won't need to dig so deep on the site to find the content.

  • Source: Ahrefs
  • Data Set: 2 Million random keyword searches

 

Behavioural economics and digital marketing

Dave's SmartInsights.com portal - Thu, 07/07/2016 - 15:00
5 powerful nudges that influence human behaviour

Consider the following puzzle:

A bat and ball cost £1.10.
The bat costs one pound more than the ball.
How much does the ball cost?

The number that many people arrive at is 10p, dividing up £1.10 neatly into £1 and 10 pence. However, the correct answer is 5p (if the ball costs 10p then the total cost will be £1.20 - 10p for the ball and £1.10 for the bat).

Now consider another question:

How many animals of each kind did Moses take into the ark?

This question is commonly referred to as the ‘Moses Illusion’. Moses took no animals into the ark; Noah did.

The incorrect answers many people give to these questions offers just a glimpse into the overwhelming evidence that indicates that one of the underlying assumptions of social science, that humans are generally rational and their thinking normally sound, is flawed.

Many of us believe that we know how our mind works, which often consists of one conscious thought leading in an orderly way to another. However, according to the social psychologist Daniel Kahneman, most impressions and thoughts arise in our conscious experience without knowing how they got there. Therefore, the mental processes that produces impressions, intuitions and many decisions goes on in silence in our minds.

The judgements, choices and decisions we make are therefore not always in our complete control. Sometimes we make decisions in the blink of an eye, whilst on other occasions we follow the crowd or co-operate rather than compete. Recent studies have suggested that over 90% of our decision-making takes place in the subconscious mind.

The mental shortcuts people use to form judgments and make decisions are called heuristics and whilst they work under most circumstances, they can lead to systematic errors known as cognitive biases. The theories of heuristics and biases have been used widely and productively in many fields, including government policy, legal judgement, medical diagnosis and finance. However, for a number of years marketers have been experimenting with behavioural science and economics to better understand and change consumer behaviour.

Introducing behavioural economics

The concept of behavioural economics has grown in popularity and prominence over the last decade. Books including Daniel Kahneman’s ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ and Richard Thaler and Cass Senstein’s ‘Nudge’ have captured the public’s imagination.

Many of the theories of behavioural economics can be applied to marketing in a different ways and is something Smart Insights have covered before. Ogilvy have even established a specialist behavioural economics practice called Ogilvy Change which employs ‘Choice Architects’ “to investigate and apply principles from cognitive psychology, social psychology and behavioural science to create measurable behaviour change in the real world”.

5 top nudges

Choice architecture is the practice of designing different ways in which choices can be presented to consumers to ‘nudge’ or steer them towards better decision-making. As mentioned above, many of principles choice architects apply have worked in other fields so we thought we’d pick out five nudges, along with examples, that can be applied within a digital marketing context:

Scarcity

What is it?

This is based on the theory that people tend to value things more highly when they believe they are scarce.

Following the lead of many luxury good marketers, Apple, creates the illusion of scarcity to build up the hype of many of its products to fuel desirability and demand. The stories of limited supplies of iPhones and people queuing for days to get their hands on the latest model live long in the memory.

How is this applied in digital marketing?

Scarcity and urgency is a tactic that’s commonly used within eCommerce, using messages such as ‘limited availability’ or ‘only X left in stock’:

Source

Using the fear of scarcity to drive demand and sales can be considered to be an unethical and manipulative tactic when used irresponsibly. Scarcity should therefore only ever be used in a transparent and positive way, for example by being honest about what stock is left and whether any more is likely to be made available.

The anchoring effect

What is it?

The value of something is often set by anchors or imprints in our minds, which we use as mental reference points that influence our decision-making. The anchors can be completely arbitrary and still have an impact.

Anchoring is particularly common in situations that involve negotiation. For example, when valuing a house, experiments have shown that the listing price, regardless of the ‘real’ value, can have a powerful effect on someone’s own perception of the value.

Example:

How is this applied in digital marketing?

In a digital marketing context, anchoring can be seen in the use of subscription plans:

In this example, we can see the different subscription options for Crazy Egg’s heatmap tracking software. There are two factors at play here:

 

1. The ‘Pro’ plan is listed on the left where visitors are likely to see this first
2. The ‘Pro’ plan is priced at $99, setting the anchor against which the value of all the other plans (including ‘Plus’, the ‘most popular’ plan) is compared.

Loss aversion

What is it?

We will often go to greater lengths to avoid the loss of something we already have rather than to gain something new. People can find it twice as painful to lose something they own in comparison to how enjoyable it was to acquire it in the first place.

How is this applied in digital marketing?

It’s no surprise that many companies, such as Netflix, Moz and Dropbox, offer free trials in order to leverage loss aversion.

By giving prospective customers the opportunity to use a product or service for free for a decent period of time, they begin to feel a sense of ownership. Once the trial period has expired, the thought of losing the product, plus the minimal effort it often takes to sign up and pay, means that many people are convinced to commit to a purchase.

Authority

What is it?

Years of societal convention have led us to place an often irrational trust in the judgment of experts, even if their judgements are not always correct or moral. A famous example of the obedience of authority is the Milgram Experiment, where 65% of people were prepared to administer a 450-volt electric shock to another person hidden from them just because a doctor told them it was OK.

How is this applied in digital marketing?

The practice of brand endorsement by well-known figures such as sports stars, musicians and other celebrities is a perfect example of how authority can be used to influence customers’ decision-making. Much of Nike’s success within the golfing arena is credited with their decision to associate themselves with Tiger Woods, who at the time was the best golfer in the world.

Digital marketers can use authority through the use of thought-leadership, content collaboration and expert analysis to build credibility. As a digital marketing thought leader, Click-Through Marketing utilise Dave Chaffey’s authority on a range of topics.

The paradox of choice

What is it?

Offering customers more choice is not always the best course of action. When we’re paralysed by too many options, the likelihood that we pick the ‘most suitable’ choice is reduced and we procrastinate for fear of making a bad decision. Therefore, when fewer options are presented, there is less chance of making a mistake and decisions are speeded up.

How is this applied in digital marketing?

The paradox of choice is something Smart Insights has covered previously. From an eCommerce perspective, companies like Amazon, Etsy and House of Fraser implement effective filtering techniques to provide the most suitable choices to customers.

A good use of filtering to optimise relevant results can also be seen in this example from Lloyds:

The bank offers nine different credit cards although a consumer arriving at the site might be a little overwhelmed as to which to choose from. Filtering by the cards by different needs states, in this case Balance Transfer, Large Purchase, Everyday spending and Rewards helps to simplify the number of options and help the consumer choose the right option.

Social proofing/ herding

What is it?

The concept of ‘social proof’ was made famous 30 years ago by psychologist Robert Cialdini’s in his book Influence. Social proof describes our tendency to run with the herd and make decisions based on what those around us are doing. We often validate our choices on whether others were following a similar course of action, which is why books are marketed as ‘bestsellers’.

How is this applied in digital marketing?

There are many different ways to leverage social proof online and data from Smart Insights from 2014 indicates that there is a purchase uplift from tactics such as social sharing and reviews.

Ratings and reviews are an excellent way to aggregate sentiment from past purchasers and give prospective customers confidence in the products they’re browsing online. They’re particularly effective when sourced from a large population and managed by a third-party, such as this example from travel site On The Beach, which uses reviews from Trip Advisor:

Another popular social proof tactic uses numbers to convince people that a product or service is popular. Moz makes it very clear that their software is used by tens of thousands of companies:

And this popularity is backed up by massive following some of their guides are receiving which supports the authority they have built up in their field of expertise:

Closing thoughts

Many of the principles of behavioural economics can have a powerful and profound impact on consumer decision-making so it’s therefore essential that the nudges highlighted in this post, and the many others that haven’t been covered, are used ethically. There are examples of websites that use manipulative UX practices that exploit consumers’ cognitive biases and this will only ever erode the relationship between the consumer and the brand in the long run. When Richard Thaler signs copies of ‘Nudge’, he always writes “Nudge for good” next to his name and explains that nudging is like giving people GPS: “I get to put into the GPS where I want to go, but I don’t have to follow her instructions”.

Nevertheless, behavioural insights should be considered by digital marketers when crafting strategy as the practices we’ve covered illustrate how marketers can improve the content and overall user experience to improve consumer decision-making and provide better digital experiences.
Marketers can take inspiration from the public sector in how to nudge for good. The government utilised status quo bias, the theory that people prefer to carry on behaving as they have always done, for the UK workplace pensions scheme. Nest automatically enrols employees in a workplace pension yet gives them the opportunity to opt out, resulting in a greater take-up than if employees were required to opt in, which takes more time and effort. Through a subtle change in how the choice is presented, the output results in a win-win for everyone concerned.

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