Let’s Get Personal for Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day it’s all about drawing from the data available to boost personalization in your marketing. Are you ready?

What does Valentine’s Day have to do with data, analytics, and the drive to personalize marketing? A whole lot these days! The day we express love with flowers, gifts, and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates poses a familiar challenge to marketers: how to woo busy consumers using all the data and technology at our disposal. So, what better holiday to explore brands’ increasing fascination with personalization and 1:1 marketing?

Let’s first define personalization in marketing terms. It is driven by a desire for relevance and results in ongoing, individualized interactions with the consumer. As these interactions grow, so too does our knowledge and ability to tailor a more engaging conversation. It’s really an opportunity for continuous learning to foster long-term relationships. That kind of personalization, of course, requires accurate, granular, and up-to-date profiles about people and their preferences as they engage with brands across the myriad of channels and devices. That’s where the new tools and techniques around data management and analytics come in. They can enable us to better understand where an individual researches for products and services, conducts price comparisons, pours over reviews, and eventually chooses to make their purchase. It is often not love at first sight, but rather a multichannel/multi-device dance.

When it comes to delivering a personalized experience, every touch point is indeed critical in executing on a successful omnichannel marketing strategy. (See the recent ClickZ column “In Pursuit of the Universal Customer Experience: Omnichanel vs. Multichannel Marketing.“) Mobile engagement on tablets and smartphones is no exception. It’s one of the most recent, and also more challenging of channels for marketers. The opportunities for 1:1 marketing in mobile are nearly endless, and marketing for Valentine’s Day gives us a kind of “case study” to explore some of them. How important is mobile? Forrester predicts that by 2018, tablets will make up an extraordinary 42 percent of e-commerce, and smartphones will comprise 11 percent. Marketing today is still heavily PC-centric. But, that’s changing fast before our very eyes.

Mobile Engagement Blooms on Valentine’s Day

Maxymiser conducted a study last year to see how men and women shop online or with mobile devices as Valentine’s Day approached. The findings are worth taking to the bank in 2015 when the National Retail Federation predicts $18.9 billion in spending.

Maxymiser put it succinctly with the study’s title: “Valentine’s Day: Retail’s Love Affair With Digital, as the company looked at how men and women approach online and mobile shopping in advance of the holiday. Here are a few highlights from the study:

  • 32 percent of men and 30 percent of women are more likely to click on targeted offers when buying a Valentine’s Day gift.
  • 78 percent of women and 73 percent of men seek personalization to engage online and via mobile to support their Valentine’s Day gift buying for secondary purchases.
  • Men and women differ among preferences for mobile devices and content, women opting more often for tablets over smartphones and seeking price comparison information to a greater extent than men.
  • More than half of men (52 percent) and 42 percent of women said that they would not wait more than five seconds for pages or images to load. This is not a forgiving environment for brands.

The bottom line is that shoppers are not all created the same. They respond to personalized offers that take into consideration when they are shopping (last-minute or well before a holiday), on what device, and the importance of triggers like free delivery. It’s all grist for the mill. What’s clear is that there is huge opportunity to customize and personalize offers on insights supported by testing (A/B and multivariate) and other analytics applied to data.

A final word on mobile – given first impressions do count! To engage with people on tablets and smartphones, brands use Web-based, Internet-enabled apps optimized for mobile, as well as native mobile apps installed directly on a device. FTD, for example, optimizes for mobile orders of flowers using a Web-based app. In contrast, FTD Mercury Mobile is an example of a native app available both from Apple and Android. It’s important to understand the ways to optimize mobile apps to ensure consumers can engage with your brand successfully and find the mobile experience a satisfying one. (See the recent ClickZ column “The Internet of Things Starts With Agility Everywhere” for more information about mobile app optimization.)

The End Game

Deep insight at the individual level is the essential first step in 1:1 marketing. Consumers expect brands to actually know them and be aware of how they interact across each touch point. One of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of personalization to date has been the lack of a cross-channel, cross-platform integrated view of consumer behavior at a highly granular level. Fortunately, that’s changing with new data management and marketing optimization solutions that collect and analyze multichannel data at the user level data to drive content relevance, timeliness, and targeted offers.

“Remember me and speak to me as the individual that I am.” That’s what any consumer is ultimately asking for when they engage with a brand. And when we do listen and act accordingly, we can get involved in a happy and lasting relationship. Now, that’s indeed a Valentine’s Day wish come true.

 

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Developing Hybrid Marketing Skills

The search marketing environment has evolved and converged to such an extent that in order to survive and succeed, marketers now need adopt a whole new set of working habits.

Search is no longer the silo that it once was and the modern-day search marketer now has to build a whole new set of hybrid skills sets to keep themselves, and their organizations, ahead of the digital marketing curve.

The convergence of paid, owned, and earned media has meant that the relationship between marketers and consumers has become significantly more complex. For example – according to the Guardian article on Google’s ZMOT, on average a consumer engages with 18.2 pieces of online content before making a final purchase decision.

Organizations, agencies, and consultants, as a result, can struggle to keep their skills, learning, and training up to date and in line with such a rapidly developing and complex digital marketing ecosystem.

Did you know that 40 percent of marketers want to reinvent themselves but only 14 percent know how?

Hybrid Marketers

The answer lies in developing cross-channel marketing experience and building hybrid marketing skills and competencies.

Hybrid marketers are (in essence) converged media marketers who are highly proficient writers, analytical, and tech-savvy and have strong competencies in business, IT, and human behavior.

The Converged Media Mind

Two different sides, or hemispheres, of the brain are responsible for different ways of thinking and as soon as we look into the difference between the left and right brain hemispheres, it clearly becomes apparent why some people are more technically driven than others and why gaps in talent in some organizations widen. It is also the reason why, for example, SEO and content marketers battle for ownership.

Left-brain marketers who tend to be analytical collide with right-brained marketers who think holistically and are more open to conceptual thinking. The converged media mind that hybrid marketer’s possess utilizes both the left and right part of the brain and applies this thinking to the appropriate channel with the appropriate approach and subsequent metric.

From the diagram below you can see that analytical and technical PPC and SEO disciplines utilize left-brain thinking and right-brain thinking can be associated with social and creative content.

hybrid-mind

Hybrid marketers understand and view the role of search, social, content, and digital media, in the above, as integrated holistically but fragmented by skillsets.

People who master hybrid marketing can:

  1. Understand the different marketing channels
  2. Identify a point of overlap/convergence
  3. Manage and matrix manage people and departments who have different skill sets – they bring skills, people, and departments together and foster collaboration

The result is a happy, motivated, and successful set of team members who do not only just understand the multiple components of integrated marketing campaigns – they understand each other.

In my next post I will tall through how best to set up attribution systems for content and hybrid marketers. After all, we should also optimize for people and ensure “organizational attribution” systems are set in place to allow hybrid marketers to measure performance and flourish through an organization.

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Facebook Expands Mobile Geo-Targeting With “Place Tips”

The social media giant’s new feature will deliver location-based content for businesses.

Facebook is testing a new feature called “Place Tips,” where the company will use signals from cellular networks, Wi-Fi, as well as GPS and beacons to deliver location-based recommendations and information to users’ News Feeds. According to many in the industry, the move may enable the platform to compete with other local search and discovery services like Foursquare and Yelp.

Now, when iPhone users tap on “Place Tips” in the top of their News Feed, they can see content from a business’ Facebook page along with what their friends have shared about that place, such as popular menu items and upcoming events. Users have the option to opt out of “Place Tips” by turning off location services on the Facebook app.

In the coming weeks, Facebook will enable “Place Tips” for eight businesses in New York City that have installed beacons, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dominique Ansel Bakery, Strand Book Store, the burger joint at Le Parker Meridien Hotel, Brooklyn Bowl, Pianos, the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, and Veselka.

facebook-placetips

The pilot program also includes the use of other location signals at larger places including Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, and JFK Airport.

“I think it’s a big plus for traditional brick-and-mortar based businesses. [And] it would be something to watch very closely and start testing if a brand is already relying on things like Yelp to drive business,” says Josiah Humphrey, co-chief executive at app developer Appster. “I don’t want to scream ‘Yelp-killer’ but Facebook definitely has the user base to make a play here, maybe even carve out a potentially new revenue stream.”

It’s also interesting to see Facebook delving into beacon marketing, as one of the obstacles to the mass adoption of beacons is that businesses have to develop their own apps to leverage the technology. But now if brands use Facebook’s “Place Tips,” they can avoid this issue.

“Everyone has Facebook and most are using it primarily on mobile devices, making Facebook’s reach via this technology vastly better than most custom app capabilities,” says Derek Browers, vice president of product and client relations at MomentFeed, a location-based marketing platform. “So now Facebook is piloting the ability for brands to leverage their beacons to target consumers in and around [their] locations, making Facebook location pages much more important and more critical than ever before.”

However, Chris Damron, chief innovation officer at BeaconStream, argues that brands may still want to develop their own apps, rather than using the platform’s “Place Tips.”

“Many retailers may not want to give advertising control to a third-party application such as Facebook, which works through its own big advertising channels,” Damron tells ClickZ.

He continues that as Facebook rolls out “Place Tips,” advertisers will now have to take proximity into consideration.

“The value proposition behind beacons is to deliver relevant content at the most crucial moment. Businesses will have to design their ads to lure in a consumer that could be within walking distance into their establishment, meaning ads must be designed within the context of a new mindset,” he explains. “If consumers are in a mall or shopping district, they are already primed to make a purchase. What offer or piece of information will trigger them to take action now?”

Currently “Place Tips” is free for businesses; Facebook has not disclosed if it will monetize the service in the future.

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Dos and Don’ts of Becoming a Successful Data-Driven Marketer

Industry experts weigh in on what you should and shouldn’t do to succeed in the data-driven marketing world.

As day three of our data-driven marketing content takeover almost draws to a close, we asked several industry leaders to share their biggest dos and don’ts with you, our readers. Take a look at their advice below.

fisher-andyAndy Fisher, Chief Analytics Officer, Merkle

DON’T let fear or uncertainty stop you from starting today.

It’s really easy to look at the massive constellation of vendors, the alphabet soup of acronyms, and the constantly changing jargon and be utterly baffled. Well, here’s some news – there is nobody on this planet that understands it all. I’ve been in the data-driven marketing space for nearly 20 years, and I learn something new every day. Things are getting more complex. The number of companies and platforms is utterly exploding – especially in the programmatic, mobile, and CRM spaces. Sure it’s confusing. Sure it’s scary. Just know that everyone is trying to keep up. Take a deep breath and plunge right in.

DO learn the languages of analytics.

While it may not be necessary for you to become a developer (or even program frequently), it is very useful to know the languages and tools that analysts leverage every day. At a minimum, it is useful to understand how all of these tools are used. Although there are many languages and tools out there, there are several essential tools that all analysts should know. Think of them as the Swiss Army knife of analytics. They are SQL (data manipulation); R and SAS (data analysis); Tableau and other data visualization tools; Hadoop (a low cost way to scale things); and Python (the glue that holds it together). Fortunately there are many resources out there that can help you learn more about these tools; two good options are Code Academy and Coursera.

todd-thiessen-razorfishTodd Thiessen, Senior Vice President, Strategy, Razorfish

DO combine your data with other data sets. DON’T think you can do it alone.

Just testing and accounting for all the variables you control is difficult enough. But the real insights are likely to come from the combination of different data sets. Internally look to other divisions and geographies for marketing or process insights. We have helped create B2B programs developed from insights sourced from their related B2C product groups and research.

Externally, look for partnerships and alliances that might have complementary data. Previously, these opportunities may have been too daunting due to the size or complexity of combining data sets, but technology and specialized vendors can simplify the initial exploration and even help operationalize the business long term with services around processing and privacy protection. Your social media partners will work with you to explore hypotheses around social behaviors that could only be dreamed of 10 years ago.

maria-depanfilisMaria DePanfilis, Partner, Analytics & Optimization, Rosetta

DON’T expect the data to tell you everything you need to know about your customers. DO augment your data-driven insights via other types of intelligence such as qualitative and/or contextual research.

Data is just that – data. Without artful and purposeful interpretation of what it means to you, your business and your customers, in and of itself data has minimal utility. The real “juiciness” in the data comes from developing a contextual understanding of what it is really telling you about your customers and how to apply this insight into tangible elements of your strategy that will drive impact. Even though obtaining behavioral data is relatively instant these days, developing a real understanding over what it means takes time. Context cannot be shortcut-ed. But it’s well worth the effort to obtain it because once you have it, it then becomes very easy to parse out which pieces of data are important and which are not.

azher-ddbchicagoAzher Ahmed, Senior Vice President/Director of Digital Operations, DDB Chicago

DO tear down the walls to collaborate.

Data can very easily be misinterpreted or manipulated to tell vastly different stories. Make sure that everyone is pointed in the right direction by collaborating with analysts at the onset. Map out how your data can and should relate to business objectives. Define clear and quantifiable metrics of success. Finally, marry this up with the longer-term vision to ensure your desired outcomes are clear and any incremental performance goals are defined.

DON’T forget it’s a work in progress.

The world is constantly changing and so your data analysis and insights need to adapt. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a “set it and forget it” approach to data-driven marketing, so adapt your processes to include regular check-ins and re-evaluations that you’re headed in the right direction. Critically evaluate your data and make sure to include new platforms and data points as they become available. Finally, make sure your talent is trained and constantly learning how to best leverage this new and evolving data as technology moves rapidly ahead.

bob-rupczynski-kraftBob Rupczynski, Vice President of Media and Consumer Engagement, Kraft

DO be flexible.

The biggest “do” is the ability to be flexible but to also drive an actionable insight out of that flexibility, meaning there are a tremendous amount of data sources. We can get an incredible depth of information, but if you can’t action it and it doesn’t make a difference or doesn’t add value to a consumer’s life, then it’s not worth the time. That’s the biggest thing – the understanding of data, flexibility to move between data sources, but the ability then to action that into something that’s going to make a difference in the relationship.

DON’T use the past to hold back future decisions.

I can’t tell you how many times in this industry I see people make decisions because of what we’ve always done or how things have always been done, or those types of perspectives. The future is new – we are writing it as we go. And it’s going to be a continual journey in that not everything’s going to work out perfectly every single time, but you shouldn’t let the past hold you back on what your future decision is going to be.

And finally, our last contributor is so excited about the world of data-driven marketing that he could only look on the bright side and give us a do…

panayiotou-drewDrew Panayiotou, Chief Executive Officer, BBDO Atlanta

DO make data your friend not your enemy.

Today, the power of data is often focused on the presumed holy grail of effectiveness: return on investment. For decades, marketers have been trying to justify marketing spending, and the increasing mountains of data are primarily used for chasing the attribution of sales. However, many measurement systems are fragmented and ignore the fact that ads interact with each other. One noted CFO recently stated, “If I add up all the sales being attributed to different media channels, our company should be double in size.”

Marketers would gain more credibility measuring “Return on Marketing Objective” rather than “Return on Investment.” Measuring nothing at all is better than measuring the wrong thing. The right measures make data your friend and earn you credibility.

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Google CEO Predicts the Internet Will “Disappear”

Google chief executive (CEO) Eric Schmidt has predicted that the Internet as we know it today will disappear in the future.

Schmidt said at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the Internet could become a thing of the past as online connections become ever smarter and personalized thanks to the growth of the Internet of Things.

When quizzed as to his views on the future of the Web, Schmidt said, “I will answer very simply that the Internet will disappear.”

“There will be so many IP addresses, so many devices, sensors, things that you are wearing, things that you are interacting with, that you won’t even sense it,” Schmidt said, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

“It will be part of your presence all the time. Imagine you walk into a room, and the room is dynamic. And with your permission, and all of that, you are interacting with the things going on in the room.”

Schmidt concluded, “A highly personalized, highly interactive and very, very interesting world emerges.”

The Google executive went on to talk about the problem of Google’s market dominance, which has led to legal battles such as the antitrust case related to the mobile search market.

“You now see so many strong tech platforms coming, and you are seeing a reordering and a future reordering of dominance or leaders because of the rise of apps on the smartphone,” he said.

“All bets are off at this point as to what the smartphone app infrastructure is going to look like as a whole new set of players emerges to power smartphones, which are nothing but supercomputers.

“I view that as a completely open market at this point.”

This article was originally published on the Inquirer.

Twitter’s Foray Into Video and the Visual Web

As Twitter moves into video, following Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, here is what it means for marketers.

Twitter has announced it is getting into video. Since August it was rumored that Twitter had been actively working on building up its built-in video system, which it plans to release in the coming weeks.

This feature will allow users to shoot, edit, and post video they take directly through their Twitter app. For brands, here’s how the video product will work:

  • Advertisers can create a six-second video preview that will be served as the autoplay feature
  • Brands can take the best six seconds of their video. It does not have to be only the first six seconds
  • Twitter’s autoplay feature will not be audio-enabled. A user has to first click the promoted tweet to start
  • Advertisers will have up to 10 minutes of video time to show and promote their content

Prior to this news, the only video play Twitter had was through its 2012 acquisition of Vine, the short-form video sharing service. Vine has been an absolute smash hit for Twitter. It was crowned the fastest-growing app of 2013 at around 403 percent, according to a study by Global Web Index, and has been the preferred video platform particularly among younger audiences.

Vine’s user base is hovering around 40 million, with more than 100 million watching Vine videos monthly. With Twitter’s foray into video, it’s clear that it is trying to capture the ever-growing online video market, which has been one of the major breakout areas of the past year.

According to eMarketer, the U.S. audience for digital video will surpass 200 million in 2015, more than half the entire population. Of this audience, they will spend 15.9 percent of each day’s media time viewing digital video across smartphones, tablets, and desktop.

In Asia, this figure is even greater, with China alone tracking around 34 percent of daily time in online video.

Clearly Twitter is taking clues from Facebook, which has been super successful in video, stating that users within its network are watching more than 1 billion video clips daily. And according to a new post, Facebook states that in just one year, the number of video posts per person has increased a whopping 75 percent globally and 94 percent in the U.S.

Video has become an increasingly important part of social media and social sharing. Instagram got into video back in 2012, as did Snapchat and Pinterest during the same year. I think this is in some part a reaction to this movement of the “visual Web.” Platforms like Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram, and others have all fueled the visual Web, which could be in part a response to how users behave and react to the influx of content being added, uploaded and shared on the Web.

A great example of this is the site One Second on the Internet, which visualizes all the content being put online every second.

One could argue that the future of communication lies in visuals. It represents a break from text-heavy online experiences to ones that now focus on visuals as the core anchor or central theme of the website.

In large part, smartphones and tablets have trained us to be more visual learners as these devices simply force us to have better and more usable experiences with this type of content, rather than squinting at tiny lines of text. And because of this change in viewing behavior, companies like Twitter are adapting their business models and evolving their platforms to simply become more visual, digestible, and dynamic.

Humans process images 60,000 times faster than text. So go figure, these platforms are evolving more into video-based networks. Only time will tell which ones win. What we do know is that all these platforms are massively challenging YouTube, who has always been the king of video. But this king might soon be dethroned.

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5 SEO Myths to Forget in 2015

5 Myths of SEO That Keep Going and Going

1. SEO Is Voodoo or Bovine Feces

Now for those of us who understand SEO, we know this is not true. We can do the same thing over and over again, albeit customized for client needs and get the results we expect. This is because search is based on an algorithm. Algorithms are math. Math means you can test against it and see what works and what doesn’t. If SEO were Voodoo or Bovine Feces this would not be possible as all we would be doing is guessing and we could never replicate our results. However, we do. We do it for clients every day.

But my site did not perform when I hired an SEO, why? While I cannot speak to your personal experience, it is likely to fall under the category of someone scammed you and you didn’t know how to suss out your practitioner or you did not do your due diligence. So just a few notes on how to do this. While not perfect check points, these can help.

First, those scammers usually swim alone. They won’t know many other SEOs of reputation on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. They are not sought out to speak or write. You will not see them interacting with other SEOs in the public space. The SEO community is very small. It is largely self-regulating and bad ones are not given access to a lot of private information or networks. Take your time, do your due diligence, check their recommendations on LinkedIn, Google to see if they speak or write, find out if other SEOS have recommended them – it is not surefire, but it is helpful. Of course some of this is harder with newer SEOs, but still they should be part of the community. We lean on each other quite frequently, as no one can know everything. Even if they are legitimate, if they are not connected to other SEOs, chances are they cannot provide you a best service – there is just too much to know as a lone wolf.

2. SEO Is Cheap

The only reason someone like Mark E Wright of the U.K. Apprentice was able to convince an investor such as Lord Sugar (the U.K.’s Donald Trump) that a £400-a-month service would be a money maker and just needed a personal touch is because the perception of what SEO services are and what they mean.

When you hire an SEO, you are not just hiring someone who is going to change a few titles tags, throw up some links, and tweet a bit. Maybe three or four years ago you could get away with that strategy, but today it is the short road to sadness and tears and an empty bank account.

You CANNOT buy good services cheap. Why? Because this is an ever-changing industry that requires its practitioners to keep up on a daily (DAILY, no exaggeration) basis on all the changes to algorithms and tools and just what is the next thing in website visibility. This means we are constantly reading, testing, asking, and working. We don’t complain; we love what we do. Most of us enjoy the puzzle and the pace. However, this means you are hiring a knowledge base NOT just a service. There is no one that does this work for cheap that is giving you the service you need. Now, it might be affordable. They might be able to work with your budget, but if someone is offering you a few hundred dollar a month plan – run! I don’t care if they did win the U.K. Apprentice.

3. Audits Are Cheap

Part of the controversy of a Moz White Board Friday was played out on Sugar Rae’s blog when the author not only called everyone who was doing what Google suggested to do “Snake Oil Salesmen,” but also claimed to do 300 audits a year.

Well, it is possible if all you did was run a few tools and wrote a few paragraphs around those results that you could give it to a client and say you did an audit. But from this auditor’s perspective, you didn’t. Tools are often wrong. There is always something you find in eyes on audits that was not apparent to the tools run. Not to mention just the analysis plus write-up on even a small site can take a day or more to put together. No one is doing good work for little money or in a day or even two and if you do a full link crawl, you won’t even get started on the write-up for days or maybe weeks depending on how many they have acquired.

Why does this matter? It matters because a bad audit can hurt your site more than doing nothing at all. It can actually cause you issues you did not have before or if not properly analyzed give you bad data that you then act on. Audits need to be done by someone who understands the many points on the algorithms as well as someone who knows the ins and outs of penalty signatures and penalty recovery. NO ONE who knows these things gives this information away for free or cheap and not in a day. Again, can it be done affordably? Sure, but not cheap and never free, unless included with additional services.

So make sure you DO NOT cheap on your audit. This is a sure pathway for more tears and potentially a penalty. You are again paying for a knowledge base. In fact, a more specialized knowledge base than your regular SEO service provider. Make sure you invest in it properly and then make sure you do one a year at least, so you know if you have a potential issue. Sadness is not doing an audit and finding out via a Google algorithm or penalty.

4. Build It and They Will Come

If you are launching a new site or have one that has been sitting there just generating content with no link plan, stop now. A site still needs links to compete. This means you need links to your content. You need that vote that shows people like you and care about your site. Google still counts this rather highly. Unfortunately, there is this myth today that all link-building is bad – it isn’t. Link buying is bad, unless you are aware of the potential to burn your site and want to take that risk. However, link-building, which means proper link acquisition, is vital to a well-positioned and highly trafficked site.

But isn’t content king? All the content in the world will not get you the visits and positioning a well-placed set of links will get you. Now, this does not mean you should not concentrate on your content marketing – by no means should you stop generating great content. However, if you think you can just build it and they will come, you will be sadly disappointed and unless you have very deep coffers you will run out of money waiting.

Of course there is an exception to every rule, such as big brands, but as it generally goes, you must build proper links to your site. Of course, as the other myths go, this is not cheap. If it is cheap – run! Good link acquisition costs money. It can take hours to find and promote a good link to your site. Just one. Imagine a full link-building plan? When it comes to link-building, cheap links will be bought links and getting that past Google these days takes great expertise, so in actuality properly bought links are not much cheaper than acquired ones. They are just used for different reasons.

5. Position Does Not Matter

Note I say position, because with personalization and geolocation, there is no true rank, but that does not mean it is not important. If you are hand-checking the main traffic terms for a site and see that it is on page two, how much traffic do you think it will bring? While if in #11 or #12 more than #9 or #10, but once you get to #13 you are going to fall off the graph. So while you cannot be sure that for every person your site is going to show in number three, you can be relatively sure that it will be near that position. However, if you are not trying to garner top position it won’t be there. You should know what your site is positioning at for at least your top 10 traffic generators, so you know if a slip occurs and how that slip is affecting your traffic. You will never know exactly where it is for every visitor, but you will know if your traffic slip is due to a site position loss.

 

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Make the Most of Your Company Blog

How effective is a company blog as part of a corporate marketing strategy? Columnist Christian Arno gives his tips.

When it first emerged blogging was primarily a means of personal expression. A blog, or Web-log, was essentially an online journal or log that allowed Internet users to share their experiences or opinions on a wide variety of subjects.

These days blogging still provides a means of expression for many individuals, but it’s also an increasingly important way for businesses to enhance their online presence, to strengthen relationships with existing customers, and to reach out to new ones.

As well as allowing you to communicate with your target audience and build your reputation as an expert in your own field, blogging can also boost your SEO by providing the sort of fresh, keyword-rich content that search engines love.

According to Hubspot, small businesses that blog receive 55 percent more visitors to their main website, 102 percent more Twitter followers, and 126 percent higher lead growth than those that don’t.

With 42 percent of Internet users living in Asia, blogging can be particularly useful for businesses from or operating within that region.

Not all company blogs are as effective or successful as they could be however.

Impenetrable Walls of Text

Our attention spans are seemingly on the decline and bounce rates for blog posts are very high. According to this Slate article with the help of a data scientist from traffic analysis firm Chartbeat, up to 10 percent of people who open an article never scroll down, while 50 percent to 60 percent of visitors stop reading halfway.

Hey, are you still with us?!

It helps of course if you present engaging content that is relevant to your target audience, so a scattergun approach covering everything under the sun is unlikely to be successful. Stay focused and avoid unbroken walls of text that can be very off-putting. Break your blog into easily digestible paragraphs and use subheadings, bullets and lists where appropriate.

Readers tend to scan far more online so even if they don’t read every word of your blog they might still be drawn to certain parts.

Visual Content

The same research for Slate showed that the majority of visitors saw all video and photo content, even if they didn’t read all of the accompanying text. Articles containing relevant images received almost twice as many views as those with no images at all.

According to data from Skyword, some areas benefit more than others from the inclusion of visual content, with the performance of news, political, and sports content being particularly boosted.

Visual content is more likely to be shared on social media and infographics can be a great and engaging way to present relevant information.

Lots of Short Posts or Less Frequent Longer Posts?

Given the issues with decreasing attention spans and article scanning it might seem safe to assume that frequent short blogs and posts are the way to go.

For power bloggers – a term that originated in Korea to refer to influential bloggers who attract hundreds of thousands of visitors – three to five posts a day works well, but this isn’t always the case for corporate blogs.

Research from Data Lab found that the optimal post took seven minutes to read. This equates to around 1,600 words, although the piece warns that we shouldn’t force content to fit a perception of an ideal length and that “bad posts certainly don’t get better when you stretch them out.”

Longer posts also provide you with the opportunity to use a wider variety of keywords and to unlock the benefits of semantic search – showing up in search results that look for a similar meaning rather than an exact match of keywords. There’s evidence that longer posts tend to perform better in searches and are also shared more, but don’t get too hung up on word counts.

It’s more important to be engaging, to keep your posts relevant, and provide references or evidence for the statements you make.

 

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Local and Mobile Converge in 2015

Forrester recently conducted a study that discusses how companies with multiple locations are applying local search to build their brands. As I read the many findings and recommendations I was struck by one inescapable conclusion: succeeding with local search means succeeding with mobile marketing…mobile success is synonymous with local.

According to the study, “Uncovering the Benefits of Local Search,” marketers from national brands are experiencing benefits such as brand awareness and better-quality leads by implementing comprehensive local marketing strategies. Brands have an opportunity to use local to embrace contextual marketing more effectively, but most won’t maximize this opportunity until they realize the interconnected relationship between local and mobile.

Why? Because your customers are already integrating local and mobile. The mobile savviness of your customers is one of two key factors to weigh when prioritizing the urgency of local marketing. According to the Forrester Local Opportunity Matrix, “If your firm has a large local footprint and an aggressively mobile audience, you are a firm they label as a ‘Mobile Local.’ Local is critical to your effort, and you should make local search a budget priority.”

As Forrester vice president and principal analyst Shar VanBoskirk said recently, “We find that the more mobile a customer is, the more demanding she is for customized, context-specific, location-specific marketing experiences.”

In fact, I would argue that audiences are becoming so aggressively mobile that the question is not if your audience is aggressively mobile but how aggressively mobile your audience is. Consider that three out of five consumers use a mobile phone to search for local businesses, and by 2016, mobile will overtake desktop for local searches. Need more convincing? Then understand that:

Moreover, activity from industry bellwethers points to an increasingly strong convergence of local and mobile. Google has collaborated with Uber to integrate Google Maps into the popular personal transportation service. Now, users of iOS or Android can order an Uber ride when they view walking directions in Google Maps because of a link placed in Google Maps. And Facebook launched App Links, which makes it possible for app developers to link to other apps (instead of linking content from mobile Web browsers to apps). The Facebook development makes it that much easier for providers of app content to link to mobile searches done on apps.

Then there’s the Ace Hardware brand, which has already been using location-based technology to drive mobile user traffic to more than 4,700 stores. The leaders don’t need to be sold on the synergies between mobile and local – they have moved from analysis to action.

To jumpstart local/mobile marketing efforts, brands should optimize location-specific content for desktop and mobile devices. But succeeding with local and mobile is not about creating random pop-up ads. Mobile/local success means being present where your customers are when they use mobile devices to search. Mobile/local means creating an optimized experience on a smartphone’s Google Maps app — or making sure that your Yelp listing is accurate when a customer uses a Yelp app to do some research on the fly. Don’t push. Pull.

To ensure that you capitalize on the synergies of mobile and local, make sure that your local strategy includes mobile and vice versa. Tie your integrated strategy to your customer acquisition and retention approach. The primary benefit of this strategy is acquiring and keeping your increasingly mobile-savvy customers. The brands that are closest to their customers will ultimately win, and local is a great way to create closer connections across search, social, and mobile.

Content Source: Local and Mobile Converge in 2015

Why Mobile Web Still Matters in 2015

Internet giants like Amazon and The New York Times are attempting to push their users directly to apps; others are focusing on offering a better mobile Web experience. What’s the right approach? In a world of mobile devices and apps, will websites fade away?

To answer this question, we analyzed SimilarWeb data from June through November of 2014 to determine how significant mobile websites will be in 2015. The results show that mobile websites remain important – and that the release of apps may cannibalize that traffic, for better or worse. Our research also turned up important differences in user engagement between websites accessed via mobile and desktop.

First, traffic to the two major U.S. search engines shows that a substantial proportion of their traffic comes from mobile devices. For Google, mobile comprised almost half of all traffic from June to November, with 52 percent coming from desktops and 48 percent from mobile. However, in November, mobile traffic surpassed the quantity of visits from desktop, marking the turning point on the way to mobile dominance for Google.

Fig. 1. Google Traffic Sources by Device Type

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For Bing, the portion of mobile Web visits is smaller, accounting for roughly 33 percent of visits against 67 percent from desktop. In addition, while Google’s share of mobile access has remained steady and recently began to climb, mobile traffic to Bing is not stable, but rather fluctuates month to month.

Fig. 2. Bing Mobile

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Fig. 3 Bing Traffic Sources by Device Type

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Engagement

However, engagement metrics for Google reveal noticeable difference in user behavior patterns for these two visitor types. Visits from desktop lasted more than three times longer, with more than three times more pages viewed and two times lower bounce rate.

Fig. 4 Google Visitor Engagement

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In the same timeframe, the engagement figures for Bing were much closer for desktop and mobile. The average visit duration for visits from desktops was only 20 percent longer, while visitors from mobile devices actually viewed more pages on their phones than those sitting in front of the computer screens. The bounce rate was also lower in the mobile visits.

Fig. 5. Bing Visitor Engagement

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Unlike Google, Bing’s mobile visitors are actually more engaged than those using desktops. This could be due to more mobile-friendly results in SERPs. Despite this, Bing’s mobile traffic is not growing as fast as Google’s.

Shopping

Online shopping in general is a good indicator of the trend of traffic shifting to mobile, with Amazon.com a case in point. Amazon’s shares of visits from mobile and desktop are almost equal, with desktop responsible for 51 percent of all visits. September even saw more visits from mobile devices, with mobile traffic increasing by 8 percent, surpassing desktop traffic by 6 percent. Mobile traffic then dipped in October. This could be related to back-to-school shopping.

Fig 6. Amazon Shopping Traffic

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Fig. 7. Amazon Visits by Device Type

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The ratio of time spent during desktop visits to Amazon was almost twice that of mobile visits. The number of pages per visit was almost the same on desktop and mobile, while the bounce rate on mobile of 38.44 percent was only 5 percent higher than that for desktop visitors.

Fig. 8. Amazon Visitor Engagement

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It’s noteworthy that before the end of July 2014, the traffic from both sources was even closer. In late July, visit duration for mobile devices experienced a substantial drop and an increase in the bounce rate. This happened around the time that Amazon started to push its mobile app. Our hypothesis is that, as people visited the site from mobile devices, they were encouraged to install the app. This campaign consequently led to an increase in app installs and correspondent decrease of engagement of visits from mobile.

Fig. 9. Amazon App Installs

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News and Media

News publishers are shifting to the mobile world at a bit slower pace than the shopping industry, although they are gradually increasing their share of mobile visits. News sites currently receive, on average, 35 to 40 percent of their traffic from mobile devices. The New York Times website is a good example of this.

Fig. 10. NYTimes.com Traffic

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Over the last six months, 38 percent of traffic to NYTimes.com came from mobile devices. While page views per visit and bounce rates were fairly close; but a big difference in average session time shows us how users behave when they visit the site from mobile devices. Mobile users spent on average only one minute and 43 seconds on the site, compared to more than 17 minutes when visiting via desktop. This is evidence that most likely mobile users are only scanning headlines, as opposed to consuming content.

Fig. 11. NYTimes.com Engagement

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The New York Times‘ launch of a mobile application had the same effect on mobile web engagement as Amazon’s did.

Fig. 12. NYTimes App Installs

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Arts and Entertainment

Entertainment website IFC.com is a great example of responsive Web design, a method of creating Web pages that automatically adjust to fit the screen it’s being viewed on. The site is also well organized and content-rich. Because of these factors, IFC.com is one of the rare occasions where the engagement of mobile visitors is even greater than of those that came from desktops.

Fig. 13. IFC.com Traffic

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Mobile already accounts for 37 percent of total traffic, and the share of mobile visits is constantly growing. But most unexpectedly, mobile visitors are showing surprisingly high engagement. Longer visits, more page views, and slightly higher bounce rate add up to an amazing result and one of the best adaptations to the mobile world.

Fig. 14. IFC.com Engagement

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Food & Drink

Another website that knows how to deliver in mobile is Chilis.com. The site for the casual-dining chain focuses on online ordering of food for delivery or pickup at a restaurant. As you can see on the graph below, mobile traffic is steadily pushing desktop out, demonstrating the same or even higher level of user engagement.

Fig. 15. Chilis.com Traffic

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Fig. 16. Chilis.com Engagement

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