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Updated: 13 hours 34 min ago

How to Dominate the Local SERPs for Mobile Search

Mon, 01/26/2015 - 15:06

 

People are searching on mobile more than ever. As Google pushes for a richer and more dynamic mobile search experience, how can local businesses dominate the SERPs for local searches conducted on mobile devices?

 

Spend More to Get More

Mobile is the space to bid aggressively, for a few reasons. First and foremost, customers are becoming significantly more active on mobile each year. In fact, mobile Internet traffic actually exceeded desktop traffic for the first time over this past Thanksgiving weekend, solidifying mobile’s dominance in the search sector. Second, mobile screens are smaller than desktop screens. And while, yes, screen sizes are increasing, ad space is not always getting that increased space. In the end, smaller screens means decreased SERP real estate availability. Third, it is crucial to remember that local campaigns do not exist in a vacuum disparate from the effects of national competition. Just because you are running a local campaign does not mean your competition is limited to other brands’ local businesses. You are also competing against national businesses that invade local markets.

TIP – If you are going to bid and engage people aggressively, position yourself to respond to incoming inquiries aggressively as well. Spend money at the right times by scheduling your call extensions to pop up at the right times. For example, when you bid up for local relevance near brick and mortar locations, make sure you have staff onsite, ready to answer the phones and/or greet people as they walk in the door. Remember though, you can still be active in different ways at times when your call center is not open.

 

Track Call Length

What KPIs should marketers measure to appropriately gauge how their paid and earned local campaigns are faring in the mobile SERPs? The paid ads your brand is running on mobile for local searches should already use mobile-specific calls to action like “Call Now,” and your mobile ads should feature easy-to-use call extensions and location extensions.

TIP – Instead of simply tracking clicks, evaluate metrics that give some insight into the quality of action taken as a result of these ads – metrics like call length. Tracking call length offers valuable insight into A) the quality of calls your messaging is garnering, and B) how well the staff servicing your call center is complimenting your paid ads. The longer your customers are on the phone may indicate the higher the likelihood they’re on track to convert.

 

Defend your Territory

In terms of paid ads, keep bidding on your brand! When you cut out paid brand bidding, you stop defending your territory, effectively inviting competitors to rank for your terms and jeopardizing your brand’s online reputation. Balance your efforts toward garnering both brand and non-brand visibility by, if you are in an ROI model, capitalizing on low-CPA, relevant traffic. For Google, relevance is an important efficiency driver which can drive up your click-thru rate, validate your site, drive up quality score, and provide you relevant traffic with a strong ROI. In effect, this tactic is a cost-effective way to show up when people are looking for you.

TIP – Whether they be ROI or CPA, keeping in mind your key performance indicators, spend as much money for brand as possible, and then budget for non-brand. If you have budget for a non-ROI approach, one tactic might be budgeting toward exploratory traffic and learnings; a great way to find new audiences.

 

Think Physical

Local mobile SERP domination requires a sustainable long-term strategy. While time-on-site and click-through rate are indeed useful metrics that influence your site’s ability to rank organically, focusing solely on these metrics when it comes to your brand’s mobile strategy can distract you from your long-term business objective: conversions.

Figure out what the true mobile-specific conversion is for the mobile interaction you want customers to perform, either in the ad or on your site when served on a mobile device, and use your ads to drive customers toward those actions. Provide the appropriate conversion point for the experience you want. Typically, the primary objective ofads on a mobile SERP is to relay the right kind of information to searchers so that they quickly get offline and into your brand’s physical store or on the phone with a representative.

TIP – Strategize appropriately by tailoring ad copy to encourage consumers along this kind of mobile consumer decision journey toward offline conversion. Serve your most mobile-friendly pages for this journey, and take advantage of ad extensions like sitelinks to portray navigational information, phone numbers, and store hours and support your audience as they move to offline conversions.

 

Let Google Work for You

Many silly errors can occur whilst stitching together the bidding facilitation of third-party products. Avoid unnecessary errors by letting Google do the work for you. Use all of Google Adwords’ bells and whistles that go with it to consolidate your efforts in one place. Adwords has a lot of great options when it comes to call tracking and SERP domination, easy ways to make your ads stand out and they are always inventing something new that might work really well in different verticals.

 

All in all, local SERP domination on mobile requires that brands develop calculated strategies across both paid and earned SEO, carefully calibrated to address customer pain points at each stage of the conversion funnel to eventually reach that final transfer of funds for goods. By holistically leveraging both advertising arenas, you can better deliver a complete story to your consumers by appearing in multiple areas of the new local-mobile SERP, effectively strengthening trust in your products and services, and boosting loyalty to your brand as a whole.

 

Yahoo + Brightroll = The Future of Online Video Advertising

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 11:52

Back in November, Yahoo! announced that it was acquiring Brightroll, the premiere online video advertising platform, for $640 million in cash. For advertisers, this was huge news that will undoubtedly change how brands are marketed from here on out.

 

What This Means for Yahoo!

The online advertising landscape, particularly its display subset, has changed significantly over recent years as digital video in particular becomes a go-to tool for many advertisers. While Yahoo is still a major purveyor of traditional display banner and native ads, it has lagged significantly in the video realm. Prior to its acquisition of Brightroll, Yahoo only owned about 2.4% of the worldwide digital advertising market. The rise of digital video has tested Yahoo, limiting the search engine from streams and streams (pun intended) of revenue, until now.

Going forward, the company will likely see a surge in its digital advertising revenue as well as market share. With its already formidable presence in traditional forms of display media, Yahoo is poised to become one of the largest digital advertisers in the world.

 

What This Means for Brightroll

Brightroll is not without benefits from the deal. The online video advertising platform now comes under Yahoo’s watchful eye, gaining large amounts of brand stability in the public sector. The platform no longer risks seeing its own brand and/or product compromised by becoming a publically traded entity, an option considered before its acquisition by Yahoo.

 

What This Means for Marketers

Brightroll has made Yahoo an extremely attractive partner for all manners of online advertising, mainly due to new integration possibilities. Now that Yahoo owns one of the largest online video advertisers in existence, marketers can look forward to a more seamless experience when creating campaigns. The possibilities are endless; within this (theoretical) highly integrated Yahoo interface individual IO’s could be created for traditional display advertising, video, and search. If these possibilities come to fruition, Yahoo would provide intense competition for Google’s AdWords platform, which prior to now, was the only ad platform that provided marketers with all of these tools.

 

The Future of Display Advertising

By acquiring Brightroll, Yahoo has made a crucial investment in the future of online marketing, positioning itself as a direct influencer of that future. As most marketers know, online marketing is now so much more than search and banner ads on desktops; the rise of digital video and mobile computing has caused advertising revenue in these mediums to skyrocket. Marketers must fully embrace digital video as an effective and lucrative form of online advertising, and must make sure that the brands they represent understand this reality as well and make room in their overall television brand budgets for digital video. But why?

TV advertising remains one of the most direct ways to reach a target audience, and over time, continues to create a rapport with said audience. It follows logically that a shift from TV to online video advertising should become the norm.  Brands that run TV ads already operate within the framework to successfully move into the digital realm; it’s simply a matter of shifting the message and style of the ads to appeal to an online audience. It’s crucial to note that audience segmentation is far more specific through online advertising compared to TV. By implementing digital video campaigns, marketers can specify who each campaign should target based on tracked user behavior, limiting impressions to include only those likely to engage with the brand in question; a luxury unavailable with traditional TV ads. Going forward, digital video advertising is going to become an even more crucial part of the digital marketing sphere.

While TV will retain much of its inherent value, brands and marketers alike must take note of and utilize the power of the Internet, and thanks to this new Yahoo/Brightroll partnership, how to go about doing so now involves options.

We Need to Talk About alt Tags

Mon, 12/22/2014 - 09:55

It’s no surprise that web professionals are always looking forward – technology is a one-way street, with opportunities and rewards for those who get to the great ideas first. Lately there’s been a lot of excitement about visual search. Imagine donning your Google Glasses, heading to the park, and having your trusty specs reveal the species of bird you’re looking at. Is it a goose? A duck? Just a plastic bag really far away?

As cool as that is, we can’t neglect the basic architecture that underlies the web. As we move towards a more visual internet, one of the fundamental pieces that will become even more relevant is the image <alt> tag.

For the uninitiated, it’s important to include descriptive text in the image <alt> tag so search engines and screen readers can understand the content of the picture. The first case helps search crawlers get a better grasp of your site. The latter enables programs to read text aloud to the visually impaired.

“I know all about image <alt> tags,” you may say. Most of us do. Which is why it’s so surprising that many prominent sites are still neglecting them. Without outing anyone, here are several common mistakes you still see on the web.

 

Worst Case Scenario: alt=””

Leaving an image <alt> tag blank is a missed opportunity. It’s letting the low-hanging fruit dangle right within reach. Does it hurt the ranking of your site? That depends on how you look at it. You probably won’t get docked for blank <alt> tags. But a competitor who’s taken the time to include them has a better chance of being seen as a more comprehensive source. It’s also a great opportunity to get another keyword on the page, and opens the door to being found in Google or Bing image searches.

That last bit is particularly important for ecommerce sites. If you have a bedazzled purse for sale, and I want a bedazzled purse, it’s much harder for us to meet if you’ve described the bag as alt=””. But your competitor is in image search, having clearly marked alt=”bedazzled purse”. This simple action has given them an advantage — the chance to meet the customer searching for bedazzled purses before you do.

Here’s another compelling reason to put something in the tag: if you’re using an image as a link, the <alt> tag copy is viewed by search engines as the anchor text. Leaving it blank dilutes the signal that could be sent to your landing page. Why would you do that? Fill in the <alt> tag and get the credit you deserve.

 

The Perils of TMI

When it comes to writing your image <alt> tag, you should keep it simple. Oftentimes a scene can be described in a few words. For example, alt=”pink bedazzled purse” is sufficient, whereas alt=”omg look at this pink bedazzled purse with a gold clasp, sequined strap and velour-lined interior” can confuse a search engine and prove very annoying to a visually impaired visitor.

The worst offenders that I’ve come across use an article headline as the image <alt> text. My guess is that this is the default in their content management systems, but it doesn’t make much sense if you want to get traffic through image searches. For example, applying the headline “Changes Ahead for National Parks” to a picture of a bear doesn’t serve the intended purpose of the <alt> tag. Duplicative copy is never good. It may not lead to severe consequences, but represents yet another missed opportunity to clearly denote your page’s purpose for the search engine spiders and, ultimately, the viewer.

The ability to easily edit <alt> tags is a must-have when choosing a CMS. Many offer a field for entering information alongside an image. A CMS that doesn’t allow this is likely deficient in other aspects, as well. The easier the tag interface, the more likely editors are to utilize them.

 

A Rose by Any Other Name

When it comes to images on ecommerce sites, you want your <alt> tags to reflect people’s queries. It may be fine to say a dress comes in an “emerald forest” color on the tag, but customers aren’t likely to search for that term online. Instead, you should use either “green” or “emerald green” in the <alt> tag. You can determine the best wording by doing some good old-fashioned keyword research.

Remember, this is a tag that will remain hidden to most users. It’s only there to explain the image to search engines or screen readers. Branding concerns can be safely set aside. Optimize to the image, not the sales team.

 

A Note for the Haters

I have no doubt that right after some people read this, they’ll start looking at <alt> tags on their favorite sites and in Google Image Search. And they’ll find examples of images that perform just fine in search, but break the rules above.

In many cases, that’s because the sites have a lot of authority working in their favor. Google, Bing or Yahoo will always give an official site like cia.gov the benefit of the doubt, as there is much less chance of that site selling links or engaging in spammy behavior. Most of us haven’t earned that inherent trust, and therefore have to work harder to rank.

So start applying those <alt> tags. Be conservative but descriptive, and you’ll have one of the fundamental best practices of SEO checked off the list.

News and Media Sites Slow to Deliver the News in The Search Agency’s New Mobile Experience Scorecard Report

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 10:39

This week, The Search Agency published its most recent edition of the Mobile Experience Scorecard report, focusing this time on the print news and media industry. Thanks to The New York Times Innovation Report release earlier this year, we were clued into this industry’s effort to not only digitize, but also mobilize their content. Using a list of top visited print news and media sites from Experian Marketing Services, we scored these news outlet websites on both user experience and SEO factors, measuring their successes and failures accordingly. Here are a few key findings:

  • Page Speed Matters: None of the most visited print news and media sites scored were able to pass Google’s recommended 5 second load time threshold, though 30% served Google-encouraged responsive web design (RWD) serving sites. This indicates that while many brands are attempting to answer Google’s call for RWD, those that are reformatting still struggle with proper implementation – resulting in long page load times and, therefore, a poor mobile experience.
  • Social is a Struggle: The shareability factor is key for print news and media sites to best serve both user experience and PR needs of news and media today. While 100% of the websites we reviewed exhibited some level of social markup, only 56% provided social media functions directly from on their homepages.
  • Meta Data Matters: Of the 45 sites the spider was able to crawl, 89% were missing meta descriptions.While the absence of a meta description will not necessarily directly affect where on the SERP a site ranks, it absolutely undermines user experience and click-through rate, which in turn impacts rankings.
  •  Large Page Size Handicap: Of the 45 sites the spider was able to crawl, 51% showed large page size warnings, indicating that over half of these crawlable sites exhibited pages with source code larger than 250k. These page size issues most likely contribute to why our page speed test proved so difficult for websites in this vertical to pass. Content of this nature takes longer to load, consequently increasing the overall load time of your website and potentially increasing user bounce rate.

For more on these insights, plus other key findings, download your free copy of our full report here.

If It’s Too Late to Optimize, Retarget & Capture Conversions with Display Ads

Wed, 11/26/2014 - 09:33

The week before Thanksgiving, there are about as many articles on retail optimization tips as there are early Black Friday sales. Realistically though, brands should have been preparing for Black Friday, retail’s kick-off into its biggest earnings season of the year, since before this past summer. Budgets are set, campaigns in place, so with these limitations in mind what can you do to continue optimizing your marketing tactics during this busy season? Use display retargeting!

‘Tis the season to comparison shop, and repetition breeds familiarity

With all the audience targeting available to marketers, display ads can be used to introduce your products to researching shoppers with (ideally) captivating images and relevant copy. With retargeting, advertisers can keep their shoppers engaged with the brand, harnessing the powers of repetition. Increasing your brand visibility online increases the likelihood of your products making shoppers’ top picks lists, and ultimately pushes you closer to those holiday season conversions. So how can you implement this tactic on a tight timeline? That depends on whether or not you are already running display retargeting.

Is your Brand already Running Display Retargeting Campaigns?

You are already ahead of the game. Here are a few ways you can improve the ads you are already running to make sure you capture that Black Friday traffic.

  1. Stay Relevant: During Black Friday time, people are looking for Black Friday deals. In preparation, swap out any generic ad copy or creative you may already be running for super-specific Black Friday deals jargon, using the timeline of when consumers are shopping to dictate when these Black Friday-specific ads will appear. Throw in reminders like “incredible deal coming up next week!” into the mix, specifically telling customers where and when to return to your site for that amazing deal they just can’t refuse.
  2. Communicate Clearly: Right now, shoppers are hunting. Use your ad copy to be as clear and concise as you can to communicate the deals your brand is offering and where they can get them fast. Offer digestible and useful messaging to effectively help consumers track their holiday grabs.
  3. Use Retargeting More than Just Direct Site Conversions: Do you have deals only available in-store? Use retargeting to point your audience to where they need to be to get those deals whether that location is online or in-store. Maybe you’re running a sweepstakes on Facebook? Why not tell your potential shoppers about how they can sign up through paid social ads? Maybe they will even spread the word about it to their friends. Remember that Display Retargeting can live outside the 300×250 box.

Not Running Display Retargeting Already? Not to Worry!

It’s never the wrong time to start a display retargeting campaign. This holiday season is the perfect time for your brand to start observing its site traffic, shopper behavior, and building up its audience lists for 2015 retargeting campaigns. Set up both general and page specific remarketing lists, segmented by the various navigation or conversion paths that are available to the shoppers. With tracking in place, you’ll start collecting data about your segmented audience lists to use during communication with 2015 retargeting campaigns. You can also:

  • Note the upstream and downstream websites visited by your customer prior to landing on your brand website.
  • Figure out which other types of content customers engage with the most or least.
  • Run reports on your growing audience lists to see what 3rd party behavior segments they fall into (i.e. Custom Audience Models)

Why wait though? Why not just set up the pixels and retarget now?

While it is possible to quickly get tracking in place, design relevant creative, and launch a retargeting campaign for this upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you may not experience the same impact as the advertisers that have already been collecting and optimizing their audience lists.  Feel free to launch away, but manage expectation accordingly. You can use this week as a way to learn for future promotional campaigns. After all there are still December and January sales to look forward to!

Note: Choose a platform that can give you the ability to make the adjustments in real time, in bidding, budgeting, and targeting. These features give marketers the most control over their campaigns at any given time.

All in all, everyone is making their list and checking it twice. Make sure your products are visible on that list by taking advantage of display advertising in real time. There’s never been a better time to retarget prospective customers for conversions this shopping season and into 2015.

The Search Agency CEO David Hughes Named a 2014 ‘Southern California’s Ones to Watch’ by socalTECH

Fri, 11/07/2014 - 14:31

Today, socalTECH named our CEO, David Hughes, one of its 2014 socalTECH 50, also known as Southern California’s Ones to Watch. According to socalTECH, this list encompasses “the top 50 people in the technology industry, who are most likely to create the next big thing, produce the next big exit or to influence the industry in a significant way.” If that doesn’t describe David, then we don’t know what does! In celebration of this honor, we sat down with David to gather a few insights into The Search Agency’s beginnings and how the company plans to significantly influence the online marketing industry in the near future.

What makes The Search Agency’s approach to online marketing unique?

The Search Agency, founded in 2002, was one of the earliest online marketing companies who adopted the use of data – way before big data was a buzzword – to drive decision making in a better and smarter way. The outcome of this strategy more than a decade later is that we’re now the largest independent agency in organic and paid search in the US.

Speaking of buzzwords, local search is another key phrase floating around the online marketing world. How has The Search Agency contributed to the small and local business online marketing strategy? 

We’ve been building cutting edge technologies over the last decade. Most notably, we’ve built AdMax Local, the most automated SEM platform for small and local businesses for the desktop and the mobile world. It is the best “do-it-for-you” platform for the local business market today. A local business using this platform can have a website and be marketing online through Paid Search in minutes with absolutely no knowledge or expertise in online marketing. 

The Search Agency recently acquired a few new properties. How does the agency plan to leverage these acquisitions for future growth?

We have made two acquisitions over the past two and a half years, and we are seeking more acquisition opportunities to continue expanding our business worldwide. Recent acquisitions include the purchase of The Acquisition Agency, a Toronto-based digital marketing firm, strengthening the company’s reach into the Canadian market, and in July of this year, MoFuse, the leader in mobile web solutions for small and local businesses. The MoFuse platform, integrated with our AdMax Local technology, now enables businesses to build and drive traffic to high quality mobile sites.

How else has The Search Agency been investing in its future?

We are also making significant investments in our data warehouse and attribution efforts as we launch our version 2.0 of our data analytics suite. This allows us to provide more insight and strategic direction to our partners and is keeping us at the forefront as the digital market continues to evolve.

Many congratulations to David! This recognition is well deserved, and not in the least bit surprising. You can find the complete list of this year’s socalTECH 50 here.

 

State of Paid Search Q3 2014

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 09:24

Last week, we released our quarterly State of Paid Search report for Q3 2014. After analyzing our data, we found that overall, clicks, spend, and CTR each experienced year-over-year (YoY) growth. Clicks increased 12.6% YoY, spend saw a 6.8% lift YoY, and CTR jumped 41.3% YoY. We saw an overall decline in impressions (20.3%) and CPCs (5.1%) YoY.

Increased advertiser focus on mobile devices drove much of the growth documented this quarter, for both tablets and smartphones. Spend on mobile devices continues to climb year over year, with overall mobile spend increasing 27% this quarter.

Overall impressions are on the decline due to a combination of causes. More people are searching on mobile, so spend has naturally followed towards this favored device. However, as increased spend pours into mobile channels, decreased ad real estate on mobile SERPs amplifies bidding competition. Brands must retool their bidding strategies and tailor ad copy specifically for the mobile experience if they want to boost overall impressions in this increasingly mobile-dominant paid search landscape. Knowledge graphs are taking up more room on desktops. We’ve also seen a higher percent of PLA impressions on mobile, which take up valuable screen space.

Secondly, brands are transitioning away from broad match and toward exact match strategies, due in large part to a YoY 24% CPC increase for broad match. Retooling strategies this way, brands accumulate fewer, more targeted impressions. This shift reinforces that brands should not base their whole strategy on impressions fluctuation, as impressions are not necessarily the most important metric.

Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs) impressions doubled YoY in the third quarter, with half of PLA click share coming from mobile devices. Constant connectivity, by which consumers can comparison shop online while in store, is making PLA investments on mobile devices more important than ever, especially as the holiday season rapidly approaches.

In the coming months, we expect to see more growth for mobile devices as their increasing prominence in the marketplace continues to reshape the foundations of consumer search behavior.

Check out our full State of Paid Search Report for Q3 of 2014 for more graphs and insights tracking the latest industry trends.

Conference Insights and Big Ideas from the Internet Marketing Association

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 16:29

In September, I had the unique pleasure of attending the annual IMPACT14 conference hosted by the Internet Marketing Association. This conference is their premier leadership event, focused on sharing issues, insights and improvements regarding how marketers can better approach internet marketing.  The IMA was established 15 years ago due to a lack of preexisting groups in the digital marketing space. Membership is free and the group now boasts 1,000,000+ members worldwide (myself included) representing 111 countries—their website is translated into 5 different languages!

Nearly 1,000 attendees descended upon two ballrooms within the Aria Convention Center in Las Vegas—where else would you host the biggest conference of the year?

Pour yourself another hearty cup of joe because this year’s presenters tapped into the top trends shaping the way Marketers work today:

 

We’re in the Era of Engagement…and the Action’s happening on Mobile

As new technologies and advertising platforms emerge in the marketplace, there’s always a tipping point at which old strategy begs for a facelift. Presently, Joe DeMike, Principle Marketing Consultant, Advertising & Commerce, Google Global Business explained we’re approaching that “inversion point”, which will be the point at which your brand’s mobile traffic will exceed its desktop traffic. DeMike remarked on how Google witnessed this trend begin to develop nearly two years ago with its Google maps component. The lesson?  Marketers and companies alike need to be ready with a mobile strategy.

But how should marketers approach mobile strategy creation?

Consumers increasingly rely on the mobile web for research and discovery.  Responding to this growing trend, DeMike provided a thorough list of optimizations and principles for mobile site design, useful in delighting users and driving conversions. Consider that consumers will give your brand even less time on a mobile device than they will if they were using a desktop.  DeMike advised marketers to let visitors explore their brand and offer content before asking users for something, be it for information, a conversion, or so on; the same goes for allowing customers to make a purchase as a guest. His best tip was in relation to cross platform conversions, whereby marketers should offer their customers a way to resume their journeys if they, for example, happen to be interrupted on a mobile device but wish to continue their searches later on a different device. Emailing the consumer a link to bring them back to the same place or a save-to-cart functionality is ideal. Bonus points for also acquiring the customer’s email!

Mobile devices have given rise to the “second screen” phenomenon, where consumers are multitasking by using any variety of devices at home and/or on the go.  Sanay Dholakia, CMO, Marketo highlighted these “new rules” of marketing as the following:

  • Rule #0 (because it’s sexier to have only 5 goals) Be found. Create content that’s informative and useful.
  • Rule #1: Think Behavioral. Shift from demographic to behavioral communication, where “what I do is more important than what I am.”
  • Rule #2: Communicate 1:1. Shift from mass advertising to 1:1 communication based on knowledge of user preferences.
  • Rule #3: Listen first. Then talk. Shift from “point in time email blasts” to continuous relationships.
  • Rule #4: Integrate your brand channels. Once there were few channels. Now, there are integrated channels. Use them.
  • Rule #5: Automate. Switch from intuitive decision making to data-driven automation.

In this era of engagement marketing, marketer’s are essentially taking intangible data points about customers, piecing together pictures of individualized persons, and fostering real-time, personalized relationships.  However, always remember that humans know best how to connect with other humans.  While the data we acquire will show how consumers act online and their tendencies over time, marketers still have to apply that human element on top of this information by developing strategies for how best to reach their customers at each Consumer Decision Journey touch point as well as how best to move with consumers quickly across various channels.

Another key element of the mobile discussion was apps.  Brent Hieggelke, CMO, UrbanAirship theorized about apps, saying they’re now the epicenter of brand strategy. Everything is pointing to the app–even social.  He used his own brand as an example, citing that UrbanAirship drives push notifications on mobile towards apps as,  “apps can eliminate fragmentation”.  Furthermore, mobile’s domination comes at a time when we’re on the verge of having smart watches enter the marketplace.  If people check their mobile phones roughly 200 times a day, imagine how that number will increase by way of having your phone as a watch on your wrist. As marketers, we need to switch our mindset into ownership of this important channel. Apps are definitely an avenue worth exploring and if done right, the consumer will keep your app on their phone and you’ll be able to tap into data that will allow you to customize like never before.

For a taste of what the future holds, Kreg Peeler, CEO of SpinGo referenced a clip from “Minority Report” (2002) noting that the challenge to marketers will be in finding ways to make future devices contextually aware and precise enough in order to supply the best user experience possible.

 

Authentic Storytelling Will Give Rise to Meaningful Sharing

Stories have the power to influence opinions and sway decisions.  As Val-Pierre Genton, VP & GM, Audience Business, BrightTALK advised, the trick is with incorporating storytelling authentically into your marketing strategy is to non-evasively insert your brand,  into those high value story opportunities. Consumers want brands to help them continue their self-education and self-guided development.  Satiate these desires by offering easily accessible regularly developed thought leadership material without pushing for the sale.

Keith Laska, CEO at EUXmedia, echoed this challenge as it relates to viral videos. The reality is there’s no real planning when it comes to viral videos, they just happen. However, he did point out that “by steadily pushing your brand story across all media and channels,” marketers have a better shot at amplifying the message of their videos and reaching those viral heights.

At the intersection of the physical and digital words lives the experiential space. To this point, Alex Sapiz, Head of Sales and Partner Engagements and Recognition at Cisco Systems talked about the challenge of bringing together nearly 20,000 employees for Cisco’s annual sales and employee training. In addition to offsetting connectedness within the Cisco family, the physical training sessions enabled attendees to actually touch and feel the equipment. Alongside Cisco in this endeavor was long-time experiential event partner Tim Dempsey, VP, Strategy + Planning for George P. Johnson Experience Marketing, who synchronized app and WiFi technology to see where people were on a consistent basis throughout the conference. Using this information, the event team facilitated certain sessions when they were full and activated repeat sessions as needed.  This technology also aided in the flow of logistically moving a large number of people through the event area and training sessions. Overall, Cisco found a lot of value in physically bringing their employees together, rather than simply hosting online sessions. Sapiz remarked by combining digital and in-person training, the conference elicited a higher confidence for selling as well as connectedness within the entire Cisco community.

Similarly, empowering your community is a great approach to telling stories that resonate. David May, Director of Web and Interactive Marketing at Chapman University is doing just that with an ‘audience generated’ approach to the university content.  David remarked how Chapman has developed their own algorithm based on a three-tiered system, whereby the university encourages their existing user base of faculty and alumni to contribute content for the university blog. The algorithm acts as a weighting system percolating the most engaging content (ie. shares and page views) up to the next level. This system enables the team to identify the stories that are most relevant to their community, and ultimately better curate the featured content on their .edu home page. Interestingly enough, the team has seen faculty members use the platform the most for sharing research and publishing insights.

Finally, Christoph Trappe, Chief Storyteller, The Authentic Storytelling Project invited us to re-imagine marketing with the task of telling authentic stories. Trappe remarked, “search algorithms change but valuable content continues to be valuable. Consumers will always need compelling and informational content” the likes of which solve their problems and answer their questions.

 

What Can Marketers Do To Prepare for 2015?

It’s actually fairly simple: get focused on creating the best user experience across multiple devices. Start by making sure the hub of your brand’s informational sourcing is designed responsively and serving up appropriate content based on the device in use. Keeping up with your consumers in a digital, real-time world means acknowledging that consumers are deciding when they want to talk with marketers and on what device. As  Kevin Akeroyd, General Manager and SVP at Oracle Marketing Cloud said, “consumers are now the ones driving the conversation.”  The real key is going to be engaging with consumers in a dialogue across all devices and channels such as paid, earned and owned. Marketers have the unique ability to facilitate this dialogue as they are the conduit between aligning the consumer’s own journey with the business goals of the internal organization. Accordingly, Frank Holland, CVP of Advertising & Online at Microsoft  gave all marketers at the IMA conference a new title; “Chief Make It Awesome Officer.” Marketers now have unprecedented tools to know what’s relevant to our  consumers based on device and preference. But let’s be invitational! Let’s engage in an aggregate way and ask customers to be part of the journey (as they move with our brand across multiple screens) and not just a stopping point along the way.

There are obstacles internally, it’s true. Lisa Arthur, CMO at Teradata echoed this sentiment when she said marketers need to dig in and “untangle the data hairball.” Data needs to deliver marketing relevancy and optimization insights to the customer experience. Arthur poignantly stated, “our consumers are not going to accept that we [marketers] won’t get out of our own way to give them the best experience. Marketers need to be the ones tearing down the silos because it can’t be done alone. We need to be the ones to foster better collaboration with sales, IT, and the C suite.”

The task of taking on the brand vision and aligning it with the Consumer Decision Journey is going to force us to ask questions like “do we have the data necessary to do our jobs?” As marketers, we can start small by making metrics our mantra, advised Arthur. Marketers should champion the cultural shift inside their organizations because ultimately, “process is the new black,” meaning marketers need to automate whatever can be automated in order to gain nimbleness.

In closing, the rules of marketing have changed, yet again. We’re in an era of engagement which demands that we develop frictionless marketing strategies that coordinate across different devices and channels, in order to better track consumers and their journeys of discovery and interaction with our brand. Responsive Web Design is highly encouraged, so that any site can appropriately serve up device-specific content accordingly (insider tip: Google is pushing on the telecom providers to provide faster speeds so brands that implement RWD can actually deliver the best experience). In the wake of all these technological advancements and data abundance, remember to establish moments where the physical and digital worlds meet in the experiential arena. On the whole, marketers should tap into authentic storytelling from within their organization to create content that results in meaningful sharing.

The official IMPACT14 gallery of images can be viewed and enjoyed here.

For more information – including videos of presentations and the like – on the conference, please visit: www.imanetwork.org