The recurring-revenue business model is certainly not a new one. Newspapers, magazines, country clubs, cable television, and the infamous Columbia House Music Club (12 CDs for the price of 1!) have all used various forms of subscriptions to earn a steady, predictable revenue stream from their customer base. And the allure of this pricing structure is rather obvious. Companies can significantly reduce their total marketing expenditure if they don’t have to acquire, and then re-acquire the same customers to make the same purchase. Customers that are willing to commit to a particular brand or service gain the convenience of not having to repeat the purchase process as well as a perceived discount on their total cost of ownership.
One of the biggest challenges facing marketers of subscription-based businesses comes in valuing new customers. Unlike a retailer that typically measures marketing effectiveness by comparing their advertising or promotional cost to the revenue earned on an individual sale, a subscription business has to compare the customer-acquisition cost to an expected lifetime value of that customer. Will this new customer stay on for 1 month, 3 months, or longer before churning? This valuation becomes even more complicated for freemium sites or any company that uses a “lite” or trial version of their product to acquire new customers. These businesses must first determine what percentage of trialists will upgrade to the paid version, and then project an expected lifetime value of these subscribers.
Despite these challenges, the margins earned on these annuity revenue streams have led to a new boom in subscription businesses, particularly on the internet. According to Brian Lee, founder of ShoeDazzle, recurring-revenue retail businesses work best “when the product is a necessity or when it’s an absolute passion.” Consumers can now sign up to have anything from beauty products to gourmet snacks to curated boxes full of hip items to baby toys to razor blades delivered on a monthly basis.
The Search Agency has extensive experience developing search marketing strategies for a wide range of subscription businesses. With so many retailers, data aggregators, and service providers experimenting with recurring-revenue pricing systems, we recently published a new white paper on search marketing for subscription businesses detailing the various offshoots of this popular business model, the unique challenges marketers face in profitably acquiring new leads and customers, and seven paid search best practices.
Download your free copy and leave a comment with other examples of innovative subscription businesses you’ve come across… or the worst CD you ever received from Columbia House or BMG music club.
Last week I attended iMedia’s Agency Summit, where agency professionals gathered to discuss agency evolution and media progression. With a focus on big data and the balance between strategy and media technology, this year’s summit presentations and panel discussions were grounded in a conversation around the integration (or lack thereof) between creativity and data. Presenters highlighted the thesis that there is still a long way to go before we can call the marriage of data and creative a success, and offered recommendations/predictions of how the two will successfully come together in the future.
All of the panel discussions, master tracks, and spotlight presentations offered valuable information and insight into agency evolution and progression in 2013. Below are my top 5 takeaways from this year’s summit:
With data and creativity serving as the overall theme of iMedia’s Agency Summit, Doug Weaver, CEO of Upstream Media, offered relevant advice for agency professionals: “The two most powerful words we should ask ourselves are ‘So What?’ as it forces us to pursue meaning; from meaning comes point-of-view and from point-of-view comes leadership.” His words provoke agency leaders to continue innovating and pushing our businesses to the next level. Truly inspiring!
Yesterday was Mother’s Day in the US, and that should mean all mothers got to relax and unwind. But if the day involved constantly checking photo streams and status updates online, like most days do for the modern family, then it may not have been the case. Why? Well, a recent survey by TODAY Moms found that Pinterest is making nearly half of mothers stressed.
It seems that endless images of perfect parties, fabulous interiors and healthy meals are causing anxiety as mothers feel they cannot live up to their role in this idealised world. They feel inferior because they aren’t creative enough or crafty enough; they don’t have time to bake the perfect birthday cake or batch of cookies. Mothers are putting undue pressure on themselves to live up to being the perfect woman who makes those wonderful craft projects, wears those amazing outfits, and decorates their children’s bedrooms so fantastically, as presented to us on Pinterest.
The thing is, Pinterest isn’t the only social media network that’s responsible for a mother’s anxiety. The images people share on Facebook and Instagram often present an overly-fabulous view of life that can make all of us feel a little anxious. We are constantly faced with images of families having fun, beautiful birthday parties and fabulous weddings. You question whether you are having that much fun. Are your holidays as glamorous? Are your weekends that active or cultural? Was your wedding that fabulous? What we don’t see is the reality of what was going on at the time, and of course it’s not always as perfect as we imagine. These images are a snapshot in time and often carefully selected as the picture to appear on a social network.
The stress brought on by Pinterest can be seen as part of a larger range of anxieties arising from the use of social media, which may collectively be referred to as Social Media Anxiety Disorder (SMAD). This is not a medically recognised condition yet, although this is surely just a matter of time. There is some discussion around when the term was coined, although many attribute it to Julie Spira, author of ‘The Rules of Netiquette.’
So, how do you know whether you have SMAD? This can manifest itself in a number of ways but can largely be seen as an all-consuming and unhealthy obsession with what’s happening on social media. Have you ever posted something on Facebook only to keep checking back every 10 minutes to see how many likes or comments you have? Have you ever pinned a picture on Pinterest and worried that no-one has repinned it? Have you tweeted from your bed last thing at night before you sleep, or checked emails on your phone from your bed as soon as you wake up? If any of these sound familiar you could be suffering from Social Media Anxiety Disorder.
So what can you do if you think you have Social Media Anxiety Disorder? Here are 5 possible ways to help you switch off:
1. Take some time away from social media each day. Even if it is just for an hour or two, go offline and enjoy some time without tweets, status updates or pins.
2. Get back into the habit of sending post rather than posting online. Make the effort to send actual birthday cards, thank you notes and letters instead of messages via social media.
3. Arrange to meet up with friends for a coffee, or call them if they live far away, rather than tweeting or emailing them.
4. Read a book or a magazine. Take 10 minutes to sit in silence with a drink and read, preferably not on an electronic device!
5. Rather than playing games online with your friends invite them over for the evening and enjoy playing a game around the table with good food and drink.
There are so many ways you can get away from the all-consuming social media networks and the anxiety that can sometimes be associated with them. Keep things in perspective; realise that no-one is living the perfect Pinterest life, even if that’s what they may present online.
Celebrate Mother’s Day with the best gift of all… better SEO! Here are a few SEO treats for mommy bloggers:
1. Say it with flowers
Your mom always told you to “tell it like it is” so this Mother’s Day, give back by engaging with your audience. Say it with blog-like blooms; a post, a tweet, comment, reply or favorite inspiring quote.
The key is not to be the wall flower. Your readers (and wannabe readers) want to hear what you have to say… so don’t disappoint, inspire and connect, and grab that +1 (and perhaps a rosy review) or a job well done!
2. Life is a box of chocolates
No mom refuses a box of delicious Belgium chocs, but as Forrest Gump famously said, “you never know what you’re going to get!”
Use that thought to provide something unique and a nice surprise for your audience. Instead of the story or tip you were going to tell, why not mix it up with a video, slideshow or “breaking news’ special?
Everyone likes a surprise in their chocolates, so give ‘em a taste that will have ‘em craving more!
3. Hand-drawn card
Remember how you felt getting or giving the home-made or school-made card that normally featured a big red heart and enough glitter to put Lady Gaga to shame? That’s because it was crafted by hand, with love, and delivered with a genuine smile. Maybe it wasn’t a Hallmark special, but it gained a special spot on the fridge until at least Halloween! Find a special spot in your reader’s hearts by creating a special piece of content that connects emotionally. Give genuinely and you’ll find you’ll loved just as much as that big red heart!
4. A night off
Every mom deserves a night off, but it’s true you can’t always find a babysitter for a night out or a night in. Your Mother’s Day time off doesn’t need any teen sitter angst or $25 out of pocket, simply use technology to give yourself some time. Grab Hootsuite (free) and schedule a post or two while you soak in the tub, sip your wine, or catch up on that TV series you never have time for!”
Scheduling posts isn’t something that replaces a well-planned editorial calendar, but it does show search engines your blog is still alive and well, allowing you to enjoy the comfy chair and a DVR full of Downton Abbey.
5. Breakfast in bed
It doesn’t matter how messy the kitchen is afterwards, the gratitude in an extra hour in bed far outweighs the burnt toast, spilled OJ, and knife down the garbage disposal.
The perfect gift for the busy mom comes in the form of that same “breakfast in bed” feeling as you extend an invitation to a friend or colleague to guest post. Having a different voice once in a while can provide additional discussion points, inspire interaction and drive additional engagement; all while someone else is doing the work!
Don’t feel guilty as you lay back nibbling the equivalent of blog bacon, you deserve a day off once in a while!
Don’t forget the most special woman in the world this Mother’s Day! The gift of a few SEO tips, is the gift that keeps on giving!!
Google knows what you want. And more importantly it knows what you want NOW! Not soon, or tomorrow, or even next week. No, Google knows what you want now. And if you let it, it will tell you. Of course, what I’m talking about – Google Now, is nothing new. It launched officially over a year ago, but back then only Android users on Jellybean could benefit from being told that their journey to work would be disrupted by delays. Although, if you live in London like I do, you probably don’t need Google to tell you that… Anyway, now the service is available to a number of other devices, including iPhones and iPads, through the Google Search app.
The difference between Google Now and other previous Google launches, is that Google Now actually takes search as step further by predicting what you want, based on its ability to learn about your search behaviour. A few colleagues in the office have been talking about Google Now and how it learns where they live, where they work and other rather worrying/exciting (delete where applicable) aspects of your life.
Of course, at the moment Google Now is in its infancy and so its application might not seem that impressive. I’ve just downloaded the app on my iPhone and all it’s telling me is the weather (21 degrees – which I could probably tell by being outside) and how long it will take me to get to work. Nothing that impressive, or even worrying. It’s also possible that for some, Google Now will actually be terrifying. It could be seen as an invasion of privacy or eerily predictive. And perhaps it could be seen as almost too useful – for those who are always late for meetings, Google Now means they’ll have no excuse for getting stuck in traffic!
Also, as with most recent Google products, it appears as though users will only get the full benefit of Google Now if they are also using other Google products such as Gmail, Google+ etc. Another case of Google nepotism, which I think could, unfortunately, see it struggle to take off in the way you’d hope.
But its potential is fascinating, not just for the general consumer, but also for search marketers. From a marketer’s point of view, Google Now could be perfect as it means Google is providing unparalleled levels of results for users’ search needs, especially in the local field. Thus providing plenty of search result areas, or ‘cards’, that marketers can capitalise on. Though it would beg the question – how does a company ensure their website is suggested by Google if that consumer isn’t actually typing anything into Google? It’s a challenge most search marketers should be salivating over though.
For me, one development which can’t come soon enough, and could really change the landscape, is push notifications. Depending on your OS this might not seem like a big deal, but if Google starts pushing my iPhone to notify about things I need – based on my previous search history – that would be great. For example, if I buy festival tickets this year, Google Now might decide to let me know about the weather forecast at the festival site before I leave through a notification. Then I’ll know whether to pack my wellies or sunglasses or both before I leave.
So, while Google Now might not be quite as ‘Now’ as it claims and it still needs some development to ensure it lives up to its potential, it won’t take long before its recommending hotels to stay at and restaurants to visit after you book your next holiday. What will be interesting to see is how search marketing will have to adapt and strategies will have to be adjusted to ensure a site is top of the list in Google Now’s recommendations.
Whereas “never” is too definitive because the reality is any site has the potential to recover from Penguin, “may” is the optimal word in the title of Ben Pfeiffer’s article, “You May Never Recover From Google’s Penguin”.
Sure, you can rationalize the definitiveness of the “never, ever” scenario, with a nod to Taylor Swift singing “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, but this is SEO, not a pop song about a relationship breakup. SEO is not a “never, ever” type of scenario.
Coming back from a Google penalty may mean making big changes, but I’m optimistic enough to say that a strong focus on user experience and value-add for visitors presents an opportunity to rebound (are you listening Taylor?) and get back in with Google.
It’s true there isn’t much of a leg to stand on in terms of success stories from penalty recovery because there hasn’t been much in the way of recovery noted outside of strong brands. But before you go kicking out one of the three legs of the ole’ SEO stool, consider the challenge every site now faces (post-Penguin): the assessment (and possible removal!) of copious links and the rebuilding process required to replace them organically, over time. This equates to dismantling years of hard link-building work that is going to be costly, time-consuming and feasibly impossible to repeat. It’s likely that the sites which have recovered from Penguin had relatively strong link profiles, brand awareness, and other authority signals to begin with, so they were able to move past the update as compared to their competitors.
Maybe there is a reality check that’s relevant in Ms. Swift’s break-up song after all:
Then you come around again and say,
Baby, I miss you and I swear I’m gonna change
Trust me, remember how that lasted for a day
Metaphorically speaking, many SEO folks were “gaming” the system and Google, much like Swift, had had enough. Penguin was Google’s way of putting a foot down (in the form on an algorithmic kick) to get many back in line. Let’s face it, varying-shades-of-gray-to-black hat SEOs had it coming, right? Even given a rightly deserved swift kick, it moves practitioners toward a longer-term strategy of building a quality website with an understanding that there are no (easy) shortcuts when it comes to playing by Google’s rules.
Wait a second, this really is sounding like a relationship…
You go talk to your friends, talk
And my friends talk to me.
But we are never ever, ever, ever getting back together
The reality for anyone suffering from the Penguin penalty is that webmasters need time to evaluate, revamp, and rebuild. In the end, providing a quality user experience with content that satisfies the searcher intent, establishes topic authority and inspires strong engagement signals (and yes links) is the new roadmap to repairing your, shall we say, rather public breakup with Google. You heartbreaker, you.
The Search Insider Summit (SIS) conference is an opportunity for brands and digital experts to collaborate in a relaxed atmosphere, with informative and entertaining panels, keynotes and product presentations. This year, I attended as a speaker for the panel, “Social Search Engine Optimization and Search 3.0″.
When I attend events, I don’t normally go with the expectation of learning, though I do generally return with a few nuggets of information. SIS was no exception:
1) Brands love Product Listing Ads (PLAs) – Most brands saw dramatic increases in click-throughs and sales, though some saw challenges in bid optimization and understanding of PLA ranking algorithm. Williams Sonoma brought up a specific case where a $4,000 set of pots and pans showed up for a generic search on “all clad cookware”, noting that probably wasn’t a great connection of search intent to product selection intent. Google’s panelist noted that there may be some other criteria at play.
2) Speaking of search engines, a very informative panel of Google, Yahoo & Bing folks led by BIA/Kelsey’s Rick Ducey gave great insight into some of the (current trends and) future of search, with most highlighting mobile devices as key strategies, and all talking of “context” and “intent” as being key drivers of improved relevance of results. Joan Arensman of Google drove most of the discussion, but as a fellow attendee said, based on their market share, they probably should have had 70% of the stage.
Jason Dailey of Bing and I chatted at the round table immediately following the panel presentation, discussing platforms vs. intent and how context relates to both.
3) Privacy was one of the bigger talking points. With logged-in users, hidden (by search engines) data and ongoing legal concerns, search engine representatives agreed that privacy is a short term problem and, in the longer term, no-one will really care. This was based on benefits being greater than any perceived privacy concerns – with the caveat of real, recognized and realistic benefits.
4) Mobile. Mobile. Mobile. It’s the year of mobile…again. At least from an advertiser standpoint. Many panels and speakers talked about how mobile means a better understanding of the immediacy of intent and a better controlled environment, as mobile user experience is often more focused with less buttons and choices. Michelle Evans of Ruby Tuesday restaurant group doesn’t even send mobile users to their primary website anymore because they get much better engagement and results through mobile-only experiences.
5) Big data reared it’s head many time. Leading to one of my tweets that noted:
It really was a polarizing topic with some folks noting it’s over use, others saying it’s a business necessity, and others waxing about the future *mandates* big data management, aggregation and actionable insights
And finally, I can’t succinctly put into words the great folks that attend and the many conversations I have with large consumer brands, data providers, tool platforms and search marketing folks. No matter how good a conference’s agenda may be the attendees are often a great source of industry, marketplace and trend insights. I spoke to Larry Kim of Wordstream – probably the smartest guy there – and Rob Garner, author of “Search and Social”, Derek Tucker – a great marketer – of Corel, folks at Kayak, Home Depot, Havas, Performics, Resolution Media, RKG, Kenshoo and many more. Key was the desire to share knowledge, whether competitor, prospect or client, attendees were there to learn, share & support the success of online marketing. And then the sun came out.
If you didn’t make it to SIS this year, check out this video of the Social Search Engine Optimization panel. I hope to see you there next year!
To be blunt, no. Well what I mean is, I don’t think Google Glass, the search giant’s new ‘smart glasses’ device, will take the world by storm. Yet.
Don’t get me wrong, having techy tendencies means I do get excited by new gadgetry and Google Glass is no different. I think the ability to take photos and videos handsfree, directly from your viewpoint, is amazing and other features such as directions will be really useful. I am really excited about what it could be, but could is the operative word here.
Recently, the first reviews of the device came in after the ‘Explorers’ were sent the product to test, and some of them confirmed my suspicions – the device is intriguing, but has a number of drawbacks at this early stage.
Without even getting into bugs and minor tweaks, there are a few functionalities that aren’t there that perhaps could be. Full augmented reality – where the device would actually respond to its surroundings and place interactive objects in your vision – does not appear to be an actual reality with Google Glass. Instead it provides information in cards at the top-right of your vision, powered by apps, that you control with voice commands. According to Robert Scoble and Thomas Somers in their SoundClound review, having full integrated augmentation that would react to your surroundings and situation is something that could really push the device to the next level – although they also argue that perhaps too much interruption would turn some users off. Anyway, the device is quite different from how it was first promoted a year ago in the ‘One day…’ video where it was supposed to notify you of things like public transport updates when it recognised you were near a station. But that was more of an ‘idea’ video than anything.
It also has no internet connectivity of its own – it has to be paired to a mobile device via Bluetooth before you can use any of the connectivity applications. So in actual fact, it’s simply a fancy Bluetooth headpiece. I think it would be more exciting if the device had Wi-Fi and/or 4G built-in.
And then we have the apps. At the moment, the only (non-Google) app you can download is the New York Times app. In time, more will come, and I’m sure developers will jump at the chance to create applications for a whole new device. But apparently developers won’t actually be able to charge for Glass apps or be allowed to have advertising within their apps, so at this stage it’s difficult to see why developers would want to move into the Glass market if there’s no verifiable way of making money from it. Especially seeing as there are only a handful of users at the moment anyway.
Maybe all of this functionality is yet to come, though, and I should probably give Google some credit as the device is only really in ‘beta’ mode at this stage.
However, what does this first taste of Glass mean for SEO and paid search? The voice-controlled search function at the moment only shows you a one-result ‘card’, similar to the Knowledge Graph, as far as I can tell. If there are no plans to offer a scrollable page of search results, then surely this will make SEO an impossible task? If there is only one spot to fight for, it’s hard to see hundreds and thousands of companies striving to get there by traditional SEO methods. And how will paid search ads work? With a dramatically smaller space to work with, it would appear the Google Glass SERP could throw search engine marketing into disarray.
But this is a problem we’d have to deal with only once Glass, or other wearable technology like it, becomes widely adopted. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s a while off yet. In terms of what’s holding Glass back, I haven’t even touched on the issues of privacy, the ‘invasion’ of technology and just how weird you’d look wearing a pair as you go about your day…
Google Glass – it’s exciting, it’s the future (maybe), but just not for a while yet.
David Waterman recently hosted a webinar with the DMA to decipher and delve into the online marketing industry’s favorite buzzword: Content Marketing. Over the course of his presentation, David discussed what content marketing means, how to create an optimal content marketing strategy and what to avoid. Here are his answers to some of the most insightful questions posed by his audience:
Q: How much is too much content? When is it considered over-optimized on a given topic?
A: It generally comes down to what the news is within your industry. If there has been the exact same information in terms of flow and there is not a lot of news in terms of industry technology or processes, there may not be a lot of content to create. However, if your company is coming up with new processes or has a lot of data that you can communicate with new content, you may have something to talk about. It is about finding a balance and determining the worthiness of creating certain content. Ask yourself “what is the value that this content serves to the user?” and “Is this content that is beneficial to the industry as a whole?” or “Is this content important because big changes have occurred and we need to have a point of view?”
For example, when Enhanced Campaigns were first announced, just about every search marketing company out there had a point of view about it because it is something that they needed to address, in terms of the groundbreaking news that will change how the industry as a whole will function. Naturally, people are going to be curious about your company’s point of view. Don’t be afraid to create a point of view. Unfortunately that doesn’t equate to a certain number of pieces of content so you just have to feel it out.
Q: Do you have examples of good or bad content marketing?
A: I don’t have any specific examples. But in terms of what I would consider “bad content marketing” , I think of a company that says “we need to create 50 pieces of content this month. Go figure out what those topics are.” It should be the other way around. Really when it comes down to it, content marketing should be done on a daily basis. It comes down to the events that are happening within your industry and within your company. That should dictate your content marketing efforts.
Q: What would be covered in a content strategy plan? What would it look like?
A: Use an old school editorial calendar to break the year by month and determine if there are any company events that you know will occur over the year that might be of interest to your current customer base or might be leveraged to expand your company’s reach to a new audience. From there, lay out the industry events that you know are going to occur at specific times of the year. For example, as I mentioned before, the announcement of Enhanced Campaigns from Google: Before the July migration date, you are going to want to make sure that you have a lot of content about that topic, including subjects like “How to Prepare” or “10 Things You Need to Do Preserve Your Campaigns.” Make sure you include your industry perspective. And lastly, incorporate holidays into your content plan. For instance, it is tax season and you can ask yourself “what does my company have to do with tax season?” If there isn’t a direct correlation, think about an interesting angle you can take to discuss the event. There is always an interesting angle that you can take to tie your brand into holidays.
Q: Should content be created and geared toward individuals who might not be familiar with the marketing industry? Should content be dumbed-down?
A: In some cases, it may have to be dumbed down. And that is especially the case when you use content to try to maintain current customers or upsell them. But for those people who are new, you might need to dumb down some of the topics that you discuss, especially for your evergreen content. If you are in search marketing, you should provide your new customers with basic content that breaks it down from a fundamental perspective so that it is more digestible for those people who are not familiar with your topics.
Q: Who in an organization do you typically work with to develop content? Marketing, production, web team?
A: The funny thing is that nowadays there is a lot of overlap. Nearly every department deals with SEO and the same goes for content marketing–there are going to people from many departments in your organization that will help out along the way. But the marketing and web team need to work closely together—marketing can come up with a great content plan but if the web team isn’t aware of the strategy, they will not be able to provide the technical support needed or integrate the content into the website. On the product side, it is important to include product employees’ industry expertise—they are the people you want to go to. The main team to rely on will likely be marketing, but there will need to be representatives from the web and product teams as well.
We recently published our State of Paid Search report for Q1 2013—a 50 page report with over 80 graphs detailing the current state of paid search advertising. Our comprehensive report summarizes paid search marketing trends across search engines, devices, and six industries including: Business to Business, Consumer Services, Media and Entertainment, Real Estate and Construction, Retail and eCommerce, and Travel and Leisure. Our sample included advertisers who had fifteen consecutive months of data with The Search Agency and an established and stable business model from Q1 2012 to Q1 2013.
Overall, we found that paid search advertising is continuing to experience healthy growth—overall impressions increased 4%, click-through rate increased 15%, and clicks increased 11.7%. These positive KPIs are coupled with an 8.8% increase in CPC and a 21.6% increase in spend, YoY.
Across search engines, Bing saw growth in its share of total impressions and clicks from smartphones and tablet devices, although their performance is still much lower than Google’s. Google continues to see a much higher portion of its clicks and impressions coming from smartphones and tablets, as both search engines have seen steady growth from tablet and smartphone devices over the last five quarters.
Across devices, our analysis demonstrates that overall click growth is being driven by smartphones and tablets. For the past five quarters, smartphones and tablets have not only seen a steady increase in clicks, but also in impressions and spend share. Now, tablets and smartphones make up 24.7% of total click traffic, 20.1% of spend, and 21.6% of impressions. And as we predicted in our last quarterly report, smartphone clicks and impressions increased dramatically. Smartphone impressions increased 96% YoY, and clicks increased 86%, while desktop clicks and impressions declined 14% during the same period.
For more ultra-geeky data and analysis about paid search advertising, check out our complete report! (P.S. you can also access the graphs that highlight the most significant trends from the report on SlideShare)
“Content Marketing”…have you mentioned this word in a Marketing meeting or at least heard it mentioned? The answer is probably “Yes!” Content Marketing is the latest craze in the world of online marketing. It’s being touted as the new approach to SEO and closely integrated with Social Media Marketing. But do you really know what it means to market content? If someone came up to you and told you to leverage Content Marketing in your overall marketing strategy, would you know what to do?
Some may have an idea, others may not.
As a service to the larger online marketing community, I’m going to explain what Content Marketing means, how to create an optimal Content Marketing strategy and what NOT to do in Content Marketing.
Join me on April 18th 2013 at 11am PST as I explain the ins and outs of Content Marketing.
To sign up for this amazing webinar, go to http://thedma.org/webinars/3313/ and register. It’s FREE!!!!
The Super Bowl, WrestleMania and last November’s US Presidential Election. What is the connection between these three major occasions, besides sweaty men rutting for victory?
Each event used the Hootsuite Command Center, an online social media measurement instrument that enables users to monitor social mentions from one large data-crunching central hub. If this inspires visions of Ed Harris looking pleased with himself in his black beret in The Truman Show, mastering a multi-screen behemoth of digital technology, then… we share identical visualizations.
Hootsuite’s launch (at the tail end of 2012) aims to propel new sources of income and drive visibility for clients. The Command Center enables users to extract the best value from their range of social media campaigns. The inevitable increase in transparency of agency work on a client’s social media platforms enforces a streamlined management of social strategy and activity. Essentially, the Command Center facilitates social media teams to control and react to all relevant online activity in real time.
Hootsuite responded to a growing trend of companies developing their own, in-house, ‘command centres’. So why is Hootsuite’s effort any better than the rest? The answer is two-fold. First, Hootsuite is the father of social media management dashboards and second, and more importantly, the new centre supports an all-inclusive approach to social media in tune with latest holistic advances to online marketing.
Business customers can access the Hootsuite Command Center as an add-on with the Hootsuite Enterprise package. Realistically, the scale of this social media dashboard will – for now – only be useful for ‘larger’ clients. The Command Center presents large scale organisations with real-time response, which is vital in order to stay ahead of the pack. The Command Center could become a focal point of communication and information sharing across different teams in the same organization; teams will be able to execute campaigns across the same social media dashboard. The convenience of the Command Center integrates market research, disaster management, and trending topics into one visually appealing panel. So will this Command Center remain exclusively practical to larger companies and agencies?
Take a look at the recent deployments of the Command Center during the Super Bowl XLVII, the US Election or the recent wrestling extravaganza, WrestleMania. They impressively compare social media presence of the contending teams, opposing candidates and competing grapplers. A casual browse of the page gives an indication of popularity (Facebook likes), relevancy (social media mentions – ‘talking about this’) and displays the appropriate organisation’s latest Tweets. Another feature exhibits current sentiment towards rival participants. It is interesting to observe that the predominant emotions of Twitter users directed to Barack Obama are (at the time of writing) ‘sadness/grief’ and ‘anger and loathing’. Perhaps the impact of fiscal profligacy and debt has started to take hold of Twitter users?
The Super Bowl and US Presidential Election campaigns have proven that Hootsuite is playing with the big boys. A dashboard that focuses on analytics which measure the impact of social media on politics and sport is the latest step in social media management. As Ben Watson, VP of Marketing at Hootsuite, remarks: ‘It is the digital equivalent of a cheering crowd leading up to the big event. If we can keep an aggregate view of how people are talking about the Super Bowl, the committee can react better to trends’. It represents an opportunity for businesses to comprehensively measure their social ROI and provides an immediately accessible gauge for KPIs. It is likely this multi-platform Command Center will expand to monitor crises, analyse market trends (see 2012 Holiday Tracker) and cover other social events, all with the purpose of amplifying the benefits of social engagement.
After a lot of Enhanced Campaigns fuss circulating throughout the online marketing industry, it seems that Google might be giving advertisers a (small) break. At least for now.
Google recently announced that ad-group-level mobile bid adjustments will be available for Enhanced Campaigns starting in mid-May, giving advertisers more control and precision over their AdWords campaigns. However, Google’s original Enhanced Campaigns announcement (February 2013) did not allow advertisers this degree of control over their campaigns—instead, advertisers were forced to compile their campaigns into one account that would reach users across all devices. It seems that the search giant may have started listening to advertiser complaints asking for more control over mobile campaigns. In their recent announcement, Google stated the change will “be useful if you’ve been operating large scale campaigns and found that your optimal bids for some keywords would require significantly different mobile bid adjustments within an enhanced campaign.” Their announcement also announced that the automatic migration date to Enhanced Campaigns has been pushed back to July 22.
Senior Manager of SEM, Matt Grebow says: “Underpinning the shift to Enhanced Campaigns is Google’s rationale that there must be a simpler way to segment ads by device and other behavioral dimensions. However, limiting bid adjustments to the campaign level would have forced many advertisers to segregate important keywords, which could have bloated search accounts and added and made managing budgets more complex. In effect, just the opposite of Google’s stated goal. And although many advertisers would probably love to continue setting device bids, by keyword, allowing ad-group adjustments is a welcome compromise.”
After news spread about the death of Margaret Thatcher, the first female British prime minister, so did news about Cher. Odd? Yes. Why? Frenzy broke out on twitter after an anti-Thatcher group created the hashtag “nowthatchersdead.” Confusion was created by the misleading nature of words being strung together without capitalization or any consideration of how the hashtag would be naturally read. People misread #nowthatchersdead as “Now That Chers Dead,” creating unfathomable heartbreak among faithful Cher followers.
This miscommunication demonstrates the required strategy and care needed when creating social media marketing initiatives. Being mindful of simple elements, such as capitalizations, can be the breaking point of whether or not the twitter world thinks Cher is dead, or Margaret Thatcher. But on a larger scale, advertisers should consider how their social media marketing initiatives will be interpreted by their target audiences and attempt to foresee possible miscommunications.
Another example of social media marketing gone rogue occurred with McDonalds in January 2012. The fast food chain created the hashtag, “McDStories” to let consumers share their memories and experiences with McDonalds. Instead, negative tweets surfaced and the hashtag took a complete 180-degree turn from what McDonalds intended. Tweets such as, “I used to like McDonalds. I stopped eating McDonalds years ago because every time I ate it I felt like I was dying inside. #McDStories.” Or, “One time I walked into McDonalds and I could smell Type 2 diabetes floating in the air and I threw up #McDStories,” were flooding twitter.
The dynamic nature of social media marketing presents challenges to advertisers because, unlike other channels, the consumer can directly respond with either positive or negative feedback—an element that brands can not always influence or control. While hashtags are an effective tool for businesses to promote conversations and create buzz about their brand, it can prove easy to lose control of the intended message. Advertisers should consider how their topic might produce undesirable tweets about lunch or who died.
The takeaway: Be aware, consider multiple contexts, and use capitalization when necessary!
Have you implemented Responsive Web Design (RWD) for your website? As consumers become increasingly mobile and switch back and forth between devices throughout the day, RWD is one of the most important factors that influence user experience. Google considers RWD an “industry best practice” for developing mobile sites in the modern, device-driven web market. All marketing professionals should understand it and, if possible, implement it on their sites. In addition to providing an engaging user-experience across several devices and displays, RWD provides several SEO benefits and consolidates the effort of developers. The following is a list of need-to-know information pertaining to how responsive design influences search marketing:
What is Responsive Web Design?
RWD is a form of web architecture that delivers a customized user experience across an array of devices. The key to this methodology is a flexible layout with elements that adapt to the size and features of different screens, devices and browsers.
Why Implement Responsive Web Design?
Providing accessibility and a high-quality user experience to a growing market of mobile users is critically important. In 2012, Google published a study about smartphone users. The results demonstrated:
These results demonstrate the necessity of providing users with a high-quality user experience across mobile devices and justify the implementation of RWD.
SEO Benefits of Responsive Web Design
Google recommends RWD over dedicated, mobile sites because RWD “preserves a canonical URL, avoiding any complicated redirects, and simplifies the sharing of web address. “
For more information about how RWD benefits SEO initiatives and efforts, check out our white paper. It contains more information about RWD and provides the fundamentals that can get you started on your RWD layout today!
Recently, we measured the engagement from popular celebrities and developed a rank factor that our analysts calculated based on: number of twitter followers, number of Youtube video views, number of Facebook fans, and a factor we call Holistic Average Interaction Response that measures the velocity of mentions/retweets, content media and follicular growth.
We monitored over 100 celebrities from Oprah to Vanessa Hudgens and were able to accurately predict the virility of their posts, tweet and blogs. This will be of considerable use to SEOs seeking better distribution of their content, backed by known personalities and their networks.
With the recent Google updates and adoption of Authorship to help define authority of authors and site owners, The Search Agency sees CoolRank as being a major factor in influencing conversations.
Matt Cutts, Google head of webspam would not answer our emails, but his associate noted, “CoolRank is a serious effort to quantify both the reach and influence of celebrities. It can scale logarithmically to reflect a sphere of influence, visibility and spreadability of celebrity content. Google cannot comment on future projects, but we find this type of difficult-to-game factor of interest.”
The Search Agency blind-tested 3 types of media across 100 celebrities and found a +- 92% correlation with an inversely proportional factoring to CoolRank. Although not definitive, nor tested on laboratory animals, we feel this correlation to underscore the value and usage of CoolRank as a potential content/influence ranking factor in Social (Facebook Graph Search), Twitter trends, Google SERP and Bing’s melange of search & social results.
Starting today, The Search Agency will be scaling the test to include over 4113 samples of content from close to 300 celebrities. We anticipate the research to be complete in Q3 2013, with the findings offering significant insights into celebrity influence, value, coiffure and reach.
By now, nearly everyone has heard about Google’s impending migration to Enhanced Campaigns. And in a lot of ways, Enhanced Campaigns has become synonymous with words like “dreadful”, “frightening” and “icantdothisonmyown” (sure, the last word is not real, but it is definitely a real emotion).
In all seriousness, Enhanced Campaigns present a considerable challenge for marketing professionals of all sizes. After the June 2013 deadline, Enhanced Campaigns will consolidate all device targeting and geographic targeting under one campaign; and advertisers will only be able to target two device groups: smartphones and tablets/desktops. These changes to campaign structure, device targeting and geo-location targeting will require marketing professionals to take methodical action to ensure that campaign performance is not lost nor harmed during the transition.
With such vast changes to Google’s AdWords platform, marketing professionals will have to restructure or recreate their marketing strategies…and quickly! We’ve outlined the specific strategies that will be affected by Enhanced Campaigns below:
Although the transition will help simplify advertising initiatives across channels and devices in the long run, Enhanced Campaigns pose a significant threat to search marketing campaign performance. However, the appropriate resources and team can eliminate most, if not all, harm and negative impact. For actionable steps to migrate your campaign(s) seamlessly, check out our whitepaper: Google’s Enhanced Campaigns: How to Minimize Negative Impact and Execute a Successful Migration.
BIA/Kelsey is alive and well.
Their most recent conference, Leading in Local, was held in Boston last week at the Westin Copley Place and focused on the National/Locals. These are enterprise companies with hundreds or thousands of individual locations. The smartest of these companies have learned to advertise locally. Kelsey reports they spent $42B in local media advertising in 2012 and this will grow to $51B in 2017. This presents big opportunities for those companies that can help the National/Locals spend that money wisely.
Several subjects were explored, or as Mike Boland of BIA/Kelsey likes to say, unpacked. (Incidentally, Mike if you’re reading this, Google’s voice to text properly recognizes your name and spells it correctly- you’ve arrived). There were panels on mobile, cross channel, local strategies and automation, among others. Tuesday afternoon I was fortunate enough to participate on a panel led by Andrew Shotland on the state of search and where it is headed.
Given that we’d officially launched AdMax Local, our new SaaS platform earlier in the week it was perfect timing. I had the opportunity to explain to the audience of iYPs, CMRs, franchisors and marketing services companies that they could in fact profitably sell and deliver paid search to SMB’s- and that the local paid search marketplace is perfectly suited to automation. And not the automation that provides tools to allow humans to do work, but true automation where the technology does the work instead of humans. We released a white paper on the subject last week as well.
The way we see it, there are two main reasons why an automated model for SEM, such as AdMax Local, will more effectively benefit the media reseller’s bottom line: automation and a reduced cost of ownership.
We use the term “agency model” to represent the technology-enabling-humans solution that is common today. Humans using platforms for account creation and management of SEM programs. The ability to profitably manage the volume of advertisers necessary to build a sustainable SMB SEM business continues to challenge emerging channels today. However, several factors unique to SEM in local markets have made automation for SMB accounts feasible. Just a few of these factors include:
These are just a few factors that make it possible to replace labor-intensive steps with automation to create, deploy, and manage SEM accounts for SMBs.
The second reason for implementing an automated model for SEM lies in the reduced cost of ownership. In comparison to agency platform-driven SEM solutions for SMBs, an automated solution has a far lower cost of ownership, including setup costs, management costs and headcount costs.
So there it is. Automated solutions satisfy the requirements of the local marketplace and reduce long-term operation costs as much as 90%. It’s win-win.
The Leading in Local conference was a roaring success, with brilliant presentations about how to improve local businesses. In particular, I was intrigued by the preponderance of marketing services companies that have popped up to assist SMB aggregators of all sorts in helping SMBs market themselves online. I’d venture Google’s current view of the AdWords ecosystem fails to account for these companies and undervalues this important sector of opportunity.
I’ll speak more to this in my next post. But until then, check out our new white paper for more information about an automated solution for SMB resellers.
Last week’s news story about the British Conservative Party politician Gavin Barwell getting ‘kicked in the behind’ by remarketing is not only a funny example of why you should think twice before you tweet, it also provided for an enlightening discussion with friends around remarketing. I am a big believer in the power of remarketing from an advertiser’s point of view, but until now hadn’t given the idea that consumers actually use remarketing for their own benefits much thought. Despite not knowing how it works or what it’s called, remarketing has proven to be a great source of discounts for the keen online shoppers within my circle of friends.
What is remarketing?
In email and online marketing, remarketing refers to the strategy whereby you use advertisements across display networks to follow up with your website visitors who did not make a desired action, i.e. users who left your website without converting. The ads can be customized based on certain pages that the users have visited, and for larger e-commerce sites they can be even be customized to display certain products that were viewed. So even if they don’t convert on their first visit, users will constantly see your branding as they browse the web, reminding them of your company when they are ready to make a purchase, or encouraging them to further research your products.
Remarketing, whether via the Google Display Network, Criteo or any other network, is all about putting yourself in your visitors’ shoes and thinking about ways to entice them back to your site with different ad copy or special offers. Half of people who are retargeted return soon after and many convert because they have already demonstrated high intent.
Why you should use remarketing
It may take several engagements between a website visitor and a brand before any purchase is made. According to a research study by ValueClick, merchants are losing potential sales in the thousands every month, as 98% of first-time visitors to a site do not make any purchase. Therefore, as Ryan Wilson mentions in his article after quoting this statistic, if you are simply marketing your business using PPC ads and not making an effort to follow up on the visitors that leave your site without converting, you are leaving a gaping hole in your marketing strategy. To reduce the number of potential lost sales you should retarget your ads to the 98% of visitors who do not take action at your site during their visit.
Retargeting can result in a high conversion rate when you target defined visitors and tailor your ads based on the (personal) information you have about them. You can target visitors who looked at a particular product or service by reminding them of the specific product they looked at. Or you can target visitors who have abandoned their shopping carts by offering them a special discount when they come back to purchase the product(s). Retargeting ads are proven to perform best when they are promoting a relevant offer and have a clear-call-to-action.
As Tony Zito said in his article on Marketing Land: “By delivering dynamic ads with interactive and personalized content to site abandoners, shoppers are incentivised to return to a website site and an individualized shopping experience is created that leads to brand loyalty.”
Remarketing as used by savvy shoppers
So brands can remarket their ads to users who visit their website, offering relevant discounts or deals based on the actions of the users. But as I found out the other day, some of the more savvy online shoppers out there actually actively search for online retailers who use remarketing in an effort to get the products they want at a discount.
When they want to buy a product or service, they visit a number of websites and once they’ve found the right products, they add them to the shopping baskets of these websites. The shopping baskets are then abandoned and the shopper sits back to wait for remarketing ads to start following them around the internet. Whatever brand offers them the best deal in their banner ads will eventually ‘win’ their purchase.
Things such as free gifts, free shipping, or buy-one-get-one-free deals work when it comes to persuading consumers to return to your website, so be creative and generous with your offers (within the constraints of your business model) to make sure you win the remarketing race.
So what happens when none of the websites the shoppers visited during their exercise uses remarketing? Undoubtedly, slightly disappointed in the lack of effort of the brands concerned, the shoppers will have no choice but to buy the products at full price somewhere. This ‘somewhere’ may be your website, but it may well be your competitor’s… are you happy to risk losing the sale to someone else? Remarketing really can be fruitful if you use it correctly. Just make sure you understand how it works and avoid Gavin Barwell’s mistakes!
With March Madness officially underway, competition is heating up on the court – and on the Internet! Google, not one to miss a beat, is unsurprisingly prepared for the anticipated flood of NCAA search queries. As sports bloggers and webmasters scrambled to optimize their websites for the fast-approaching annual sporting event, Google quietly awaited the launch of the Madness to unleash a new resource for avid sports fans. For, unbeknownst to these webmasters, Google brought a gun to the knife fight.
In Google’s most recent attempt to elevate user experience, a huge NCAA March Madness bracket now trumps all related search results, providing sports fans with a one-stop-shop to tend to their bracket game. While this new interface may offer instant gratification to searchers, it does so at the expense of hard-earned positions for organic listings, pushing them way down, or even – gasp! – off the page entirely. And unfortunately for these sites (but fortunately for searchers), Google isn’t pumping the brakes anytime soon.
Rather, the unveiling of this built-in bracket seems to be just the start for the Internet giant, essentially rolling out the red carpet for the restructuring of all sports results pages.
Google recently announced a massive update to their sports results that promises to heavily enrich user experience for the average sports fan. Sports-related search queries are now met with an interactive answer card built directly into the results page, with details ranging from game schedules and scores, to league standings and player stats. Go ahead, see for yourself – search for your favorite sports team in Google, and check out the plethora of information that comes up. Impressed? Good. You should be. After all, this is all part of a larger movement to highlight the importance of user experience – through the penalization of websites that fail to offer engaging content and a vibrant personality, in addition to the standard information expected of them. So what does this mean for the average sports website that only offers game scores? Well, as they say, another one bites the dust.
In this ever-evolving world of online marketing and search engine optimization, agencies and webmasters alike, need to prepare for new elements within the SERP and adopt new strategies to embrace change. Permanence is one privilege that is not afforded in this industry, but hey, that’s what makes it fun, right? We’re up for the challenge!