Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Every Content Marketer Should End their Year with This


There’s no better time than the end of the year to take a good look at your brand’s performance. In fact, that’s where year-end reviews come from. But rather than just focus on the performance and efficiency of your employees and operations, content marketers should also be extending their evaluations to the strategies and blogs they use.

If you’re like me, the bulk of your day-to-day tasks are likely centered around the content you produce. Whatever processes you have for researching, brain storming, and ultimately drafting for your content marketing strategy, they all will likely benefit from some review. It’s typical for those day-to-day tasks to suffer as the year progresses, and taking the time to go over how you do what you do and how effective it really is can set you up for greater success in 2017. Here’s how content marketers can do a year-end review for their content marketing strategy.

  1. Start with an audit.

The best way to start your content marketing review is to gather all your content so you can take a good look at it. I keep track of my published articles in a spreadsheet as well as my Google analytics account. By rounding up all of the blogs, guest posts, social media campaigns, and other noteworthy content production efforts you made in 2016, you can see a complete picture of what your strategy looked like.

  1. Look at the numbers.

One of the most important things you can do not just yearly but on a regular basis is see what the numbers have to say. If you’re a blogger, taking a good look at how each different pieces of content perform is a crucial part of understanding how you’re most effective. What does Google analytics show you about the content you produce? Which pieces got the most traffic, and why? Your main objective should be to judge content performance by the data, and use what you learn to strategize more effectively in 2017.

  1. Determine what does and does not work.

Sometimes you get comfortable doing the same kind of content over and over and fail to realize that it’s not resonating with your audience. In reviewing your content marketing strategy, be mindful of what simply doesn’t work. Are your listicles falling flat? Are certain topics getting more traffic than others? Try and identify common themes in your most successful and most unsuccessful content, and use what’s working to plan future pieces.

  1. Make a plan for 2017.

There’s no point in doing a review of your content marketing strategy if you aren’t going to use the insights you’ve gained to plan for a better year. Looking at your content marketing strategy with a critical eye will show you exactly what you need to focus on in 2017. Even consulting a similar content marketer or someone you work with can help you find the most impactful ways to reach people, and you can tailor your new year of content to better reach your audience.

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Thursday, 22 December 2016

Top 2 Reasons Shoppers Abandon Their Carts


I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an online retailer’s worst nightmare. On more occasions than I care to count, I’ve found myself browsing through page after page of online stores, adding items to my cart, and then abandoning it altogether come checkout time. While it isn’t always to the fault of the retailer, the problem of abandoned shopping carts is widely shared across e-commerce sites.

Sometimes it’s just the nature of the buyer, but in many cases, there’s a part of the user experience that deters them from completing the checkout process. The months between September and February are some of the most shopping-heavy points of the year, which means we’re currently knee deep in e-commerce season. If you’ve been noticing spikes in shopping cart abandonment, it may be one of these common issues.

  1. Complicated check-out process.

Obviously, a complicated check-out process that requires users to jump through a bunch of hoops to make a purchase will result in shopping cart abandonment. But what many people don’t realize is that even the slightest deviation from simplicity can turn a customer off from fulfilling their purchase. Here’s an example of how this happens with me:

Me: Fills cart with items, clicks check out, begins filling in information fields (Name, address, etc.). Sees “Company Name” field. Immediately closes out of browser.

Don’t ask me why, but even the tiniest request for unnecessary information, specifically the “Company Name” field, makes me not want to put my personal information in. It sounds crazy, but studies have actually shown that the less information you require users to enter, the higher percentages of conversions you’ll see.

How to fix it: To ensure that you have a clean, simplified check-out process, start by making sure it’s broken up into bite sized chunks. Common steps include a section for entering information personal info (name, email address), a section for entering shipping information, and a section for payment-three simplified steps. In each section, make sure there aren’t any excess fields for users to fill in. Try and get them from purchasing to the confirmation page in as few clicks as possible.

  1. Lack of incentive.

If you’re really trying to push users over the shopping cart abandonment hump, a little incentive goes a long way. Believe it or not, many customers actually factor incentivized deals into their decision making process when finalizing their purchase.

More and more, consumers have started looking at shipping costs as an additional tax. That’s why membership programs like Amazon Prime and Zappos Premium are so successful-because they eliminate several steps from the online buying process and often include shipping for free.

Another frequently seen problem is the “coupon code” field some check-out processes display. If the user doesn’t have a promo or coupon code, there’s a good chance they’ll start scanning the internet to find one, or abandon their shopping cart because they feel like they’re over paying.

How to fix it: Incentivize purchases however you can. You might even consider factoring shipping into the cost of the items you sell online, because people will see “free shipping” and conclude that it’s a more cost-effective purchase. Another possibility is to offer rewards or added incentives with every purchase. For example, if you do have the promo/coupon code field, but the user doesn’t have a coupon, maybe include a note underneath that says “10% off your next purchase if you order now” or “refer a friend to get $10 off this purchase.” The tiniest nudge can be all users need to get through that check out process.

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Wednesday, 21 December 2016

What Not to Waste Your Time On in 2017


The end of the year is closing in, which means you’ll be seeing dozens of articles similarly titled to this one. Some will even take the bold stance, luring in readers with catchy headlines like, “CONTENT MARKETING IS DEAD” or “SOCIAL MEDIA IS A WASTE OF YOUR TIME.” But contrary to what these articles would have you believe, few marketing strategies really ever die out completely. Rather, they simply become a less efficient use of your time.

Of course, there are exceptions (cough, Vine, cough), but for the most part, no one can tell you what’s going to be “out” in 2017. Different online platforms and the marketing strategies that fuel them are constantly evolving, just like the preferences and behavior patterns of users collectively. There’s no telling which marketing tactics will make a comeback. There are, however, some not-so-surprising things you can probably go ahead and strike off your to-do list in 2017.

  1. Working for clicks over conversions.

This should be obvious, because clicks are nice, but conversions are better. This is especially important for those investing in any kind of paid search optimization/campaigning, because money is at stake. Above all else, your priority should be to get users to take a certain action (making a purchase, entering contact information, whatever).

Instead of optimizing with the goal of enticing clicks, try and think more holistically about an approach that will have an end result of conversions. Start by addressing common things that hold back conversions, like web design or a poor landing page. Then see that your conversion strategy aligns with your target audience. Whatever you do, don’t waste your time thinking mere clicks are the key to success.

  1. Emphasizing quantity or quality.

Just. Don’t. Do it. Yes, having tons of content can make it seem like you have a surplus of resources on your website, but if they’re all low quality, you’re wasting your time. Having hundreds of pages of thin content will not only not help you get the kind of user engagement you need, but it’s also punishable. Plus, why would you even want to seem spammy?

Your focus should be on quality, original content that contributes to a positive user experience. Google does everything with user experience in mind, and so should you, because that’s the kind of thing that gets rewarded on search engines. In 2017, make quality the focus of your content marketing strategy. Go back and look at where you may have dropped the ball on quality in 2016, and strategize ways to do better going forward.

  1. Avoiding mobile-first/mobile-ready optimization and design.

At this point, if you’re still avoiding mobile optimization, you’re just willfully choosing to set yourself back. Mobile optimization is an undeniable component of browsing behavior, and your participation is required if you want to remain competitive. The good news is that the shift to mobile is so significant that Google has made it pretty easy to switch over to a mobile-first design.

PPC, Google’s expanded text ads that rolled out in August took care of mobile-preferred ads, so now one ad format adjusts across all devices. To thrive through 2017, all you really need to do is make your website mobile-friendly and ensure that it’s locally optimized.

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Friday, 16 December 2016

4 Things That Could Be Holding Back Conversions


There isn’t any one single hack that will boost your conversions and fix problems like abandoned shopping carts. That’s because the things that drive conversions are unique to every website and every product. When conversions are down, many marketers turn to solutions that promise high conversion rates and guarantee a certain outcome. But the issue of conversions is not so simple that it can be turned into a streamlined, one-move-fixes-all type of situation. However, there are certain things you can do to create a page/website that is hospitable to high conversion rates.

These general issues are things that tend to hold back conversions on any website. While correcting them may not be the one stop cure for suffering conversion rates, it can put you on a step in the right direction.

  1. Poor web design.

A weak web design can and will negatively affect your conversion rate, because it directly impacts the way users interact with your site. Poor web design can be attributed to a lack of aesthetics in color and style, outdated organization or look, over-complicated display features, and any other combination of first-impression factors.

Once a user is on your website, an impression is made within a matter of milliseconds. The aesthetics, as well as the user-friendliness of the page, needs to be on point and consistent. Do your users naturally know how to interact with your site pages? Is there a certain spot their eyes gravitate to? Are you using compelling call to action buttons?

  1. Under-developed product/service.

Sometimes when conversion rates suffer, the issue is really within the product or service you’re trying to push. If all the other factors that weigh into the conversion rate of your unique website seem to be fully optimized and the best they can be, it’s probably time to take a closer look at how the product is doing.

An under-developed product or lack of understanding regarding the audience of that product can hamper high conversion rates. To correct this issue, you have to reassess the foundational questions of: Who is the audience I’m trying to market to? Is my product/service a clear and easily communicated fit for that audience? What piece of the product is a deterrent for consumers?

  1. Lack of security/consumer trust.

Consumer trust is one of the single most important elements factored into high conversion rates. In order for a user to be willing to submit the personal information necessary for conversions, they have to be able to recognize your website as being secure. The slightest sign of fraudulence or error, whether it’s sloppy content or a glitch in the checkout process, can make users doubt your legitimacy.

Fortunately, bolstering consumer trust is a fairly uncomplicated thing to do. First and foremost, make your landing pages, check out processes, and website overall as error-free and polished as possible. Then, to counteract consumer fear of scams and theft, add security /business seals. This will show that your site is verified.

  1. Complicated check-out process.

Having friction in your check out process is a good way to end up with abandoned shopping carts and failed conversions. The end goal should be to have a seamless checkout process that involves as minimal information as possible in as timely a manner as possible.

Slow load time during check out, required fields for unnecessary information (ex: “Company Name”), absent or unclear display of shipping or pricing information, and glitchy form submit buttons can dramatically impact conversions. Go through your check out process the way a user would and test how performance against these conversion deterrents.


It’s important to remember that correcting these issues, while helpful, may not completely fix whatever conversion issues you’re having. Your web strategy and approach to conversions should be comprehensive and facilitate the uniqueness of both your brand and audience.

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Monday, 12 December 2016

DIY PPC: Don’t Overlook This Detail


Rather than hiring an agency, many people choose to DIY their PPC and keep it in-house, which is great. But an issue our PPC specialists see with many such businesses is a tendency to neglect the use of ad extensions that can garner the most bang for your buck in a good paid search campaign.

What are Ad Extensions?

Ad extensions are a way to format your ads so they show extra information about your business. In short, it’s basically a way to get the most information into your small piece of digital real estate in which your ads exist. The use of ad extensions improves visibility and value for paid ads by improving CTR and conveying more information across a small space.

The use of ad extensions has proved to be an important part of mobile optimization, because users are often looking for specific bits of information in response to their search queries. For example, a location extension will help someone looking for a product or service nearby find your business or call right from the ad. A review extension might be the determining factor that makes someone click your business over another listing in the search results.

It’s also worth noting that ad extensions tend to positively impact your AdWords quality score. The addition of more information about your business/product/service/promotion/etc. for the user improves the quality of the ad, which thereby improves the quality score. This is why ad extensions are one of the many factors that are weighed in the calculation of the quality score.

Types of Ad Extensions

There are two different types of ad extensions: manual and automated. Manual extensions are obviously those you do yourself, and automated extensions are those that AdWords creates and displays when it predicts that they’ll improve your ad’s performance.

Manual extensions include Apps, Calls, Locations, Reviews, Sitelinks, and Callouts.

Manual1 DIY PPC: Don't Overlook This Detail

Automated extensions include Consumer Ratings, Previous Visits, Seller Ratings, Dynamic Sitelink Extensions, and Dynamic Structure Snippets.

automated1 DIY PPC: Don't Overlook This Detail

Does it cost extra?

Not really, because you still pay based on keywords. So, you’ll get charged as usual for clicks on the ad as well as for certain interactions that extensions provide. As is true with headline clicks, the most you pay is the minimum amount required to keep your extensions and ad position.

Why is this important?

While the inclusion of ad extensions may seem like an obvious thing, many people running their own search campaigns tend to overlook it.

“In many ways, the paid areas of SERPs are even more competitive than the organic results, so advertisers should make use of all the tools at their disposal to give themselves an edge over the competition,” Tim Miller, HigherVisibility’s resident Paid Search Specialist says. “Ensuring you have thoughtful ad extensions in place can make a difference in 1, getting your ads in front of more searchers and 2, resonating with those users to click on your ad instead of another.”

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Friday, 9 December 2016

Is content curation right for you?


Over the past couple of years, blogs have taken off as the most popular and successful way to translate information to users. Aspiring fashion entrepreneur? Start a blog. Business in need of conversions? Start a blog. Everyone feels like they’re dropping the ball or missing out on some huge opportunity by not having a blog.

While I agree that some content marketing strategy is almost always necessary for any brand or business, I don’t think writing a blog is the best move for everyone. In writing your own blog, you commit to producing unique and quality content on a consistent basis-a task that some business and website owners simply don’t have time to do or a budget to hire someone to do it. If that sounds like you, but you also don’t want to miss out on the benefits of having a blog, there is another option.

In lieu of writing your own blog, a better option might be content curation. The difference is that instead of (or in addition to) writing your own blog content, you source information from other places and funnel it through a carefully curated section on your website.

How It Works

Content curation is really not that complicated to practice, which is part of why it’s such an appealing alternative to writing your own blog without content curation. As a starting point, take a good look at your website, services, and products, and try and pull out a common theme. What industry do you fall into? What’s the basis of your marketability? What would clients most benefit from seeing on your website? You’re curating with your audience in mind, so understanding who that audience is and what they need should always be a top priority.

Once you pull out a common theme, whittle it down to the most specific topic relevant to your business or purpose (this will help users find what they’re looking for, too). When you know the exact theme and topic(s) you want to cover, you can start searching for content to support it.

In researching for content to support your theme, keep the following in mind:

  • Quality is an important component of effective content curation
  • “Fluff” content has no benefit to you or your users
  • Only relevant and knowledgeable information should be allowed in your content curation

Research for content curation will involve looking at industry influencers, investigating what keywords users search for, looking at the content of competitors, and digging deep for the best material.

After compiling the best content, you can decide how you want to present it to your users. Content curation can mean different things for different users, so decide early on in this process if content curation will be the bulk of your posting or if you’ll use the practice to supplement your own content.

Regardless of how you choose to present your curated content (reposting, copy and pasting snippets into other content, using different media, etc.), make sure to always appropriately cite the source from which you’re pulling.

So, who should practice content curation?

Anyone, really, but especially those who don’t necessarily have the means to produce their own content regularly. Furthermore, people who are new to blogging and are seeking to make connections with other producers of content might also benefit from content curation. The authority of sharing reputable and quality content can help you establish the credibility you need to later move into your writing your own blog.

If this sounds like a potentially successful content marketing strategy for you, try working it in to your 2017 plans.

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Wednesday, 7 December 2016

News Update: Is Google factoring AMP pages into SERP?


As every digital marketing source has been telling you, user behavior has become increasingly mobile-oriented. The necessity of mobile optimization is now less of a good idea than it is a total necessity for online success-a statement supported by research of user behavior. All of that information is critical, but there’s now an even more important reason to get with the mobile optimization program.

Within the next few months, Google will be creating a separate mobile, “primary” index the search engine uses. At present, there is only one search index of documents. This index will only be used for mobile searches, not desktop searches (though how that’s going to work remains unclear).

What this means is that websites not optimized for mobile will likely suffer from the ranking algorithm, as the documents Google fetches in response to queries will only come from the new, primary mobile index. So, if there was ever a time to make sure your website is mobile-ready, now is it.

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Monday, 5 December 2016

3 Steps to Get Your Blog Writing Back on Track


Every so often, I like to explore different writing exercises and strategies that mix up the content creation process. Online topic saturation can make knowing what to say on your own blog challenging, especially when your competitors are trying to do the same thing.

Something I’ve found really helpful is dedicating one day out of every month to explore new blogs and assess my own, because it refreshes my perspective and re-engages me with the topics I write about. Here’s the three step process I use to do it.

  1. Find 10 new blogs relevant to your industry.

A little exploration goes a long way when it comes to content. By only focusing at your blog and/or the same rotation of news sources, you could be missing out on inspiration, ideas, and most importantly: guest posting opportunities.

Spend some time trying to find new blogs and connections within your industry. Do some searching on reddit, see what sites your competitors are linking to, and browse from link to link freely. In doing so, you’ll find new resources to consider when working on your own blog.

  1. Compile a list of 20 different articles/blog posts that were done well or taught you something new.

Once you find your new resources, read through their blog posts and articles to see what they’ve covered. What kind of titles stuck out to you the most? What’s their writing style? Which articles did you gain the most from and why?

By assembling a list of the articles that stuck out to you the most from an assortment of sources, you can see what you’re drawn to the most as a user. Then, you can use that insight to craft appealing content for your users.

  1. Do a blog audit.

By looking at your blog with a critical eye, you can find and eventually strengthen the weak spots in your content strategy. Start by doing a topical assessment of the subjects you write about, and figure out what you haven’t been covering. Is it the latest industry news? Maybe you’re falling short on providing utility-driven content to users?

Then, take a look at the analytics behind your existing content to determine what your users are responding to. Identify which articles are getting the most traffic, and try and draw out a common theme.

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Friday, 2 December 2016

Is Google+ irrelevant?


In many ways, Google+ is the social platform that never was. Multiple redesigns and the general preference for Facebook, Twitter, and other social apps have rendered Google+ a network of grey area. If you think about it, you never really hear about a video going viral on Google+, or any challenges/trends flooding the platform. But does that mean it lacks all utility?

If you look at the numbers, Google+ still appears to have a decent amount of activity. Data has shown that somewhere around 2.2 billion users are actively posting content on the platform (though other studies claim only 22 million of that figure can be considered truly active users). Despite the ambiguity surrounding the exact number of active users still on the platform, have a few million users does seem to indicate at least some relevance. The question is, relevance for what purpose?

Let’s be upfront about something, Google+ doesn’t have a seat at the social network table. It lacks the feed full of buzz topics element and popular issues that Facebook and Twitter have The top social networks, despite having received their fair share of criticism, are popular as ever.

That being said, the recent-ish relaunch of Google+ seemed to shape up the network significantly. Google+ Communities have served as a great way for businesses to engage with their audience and build interest.

Another feature that was part of the relaunch is Google+ Collections, allows for curation of specific topics and interests. Users can pick and choose the type of content they want to see from different brands and businesses.

The features of the “new” Google+ don’t necessarily have the highly clickable/shareable nature that other networks do. Rather, its purpose seems to exist within the context of businesses interacting with other businesses, and a specific audience of professionals and deliberate users. So, though not entirely irrelevant and even though it’s probably not going anywhere (since it’s already survived 5 years), Google+ may not be a platform where you see huge results from your digital marketing efforts.

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Thursday, 1 December 2016

What You Absolutely Must Do Before Optimizing Anything


As a digital marketing firm and SEO service provider, a mistake we see made all too often by brands is failing to identify the audience they’re targeting. It may sound like a step significantly less important than others throughout the optimization process, but spending time getting to know and understanding your audience is one of the most important things to do.

The key to not just good, but successful and effective digital marketing is knowing who you’re directing your efforts at, how they will respond to those efforts, and so on. But not exploring your audience impacts user experience, and a negative user experience impacts conversions, and fewer conversions directly translates to less profit and reach. See the problem?

Don’t make the mistake of skipping this important optimization step, and if you already have, go back and get to know your users. Here are some starting points.

This is a pretty obvious step, but in a world where most interactions are digitally stream lined, it’s become easy to forget. Conducting research to find out who your audience is should be a top priority, and it can be done in a number of ways. You can study the audience of your competitors and do some digging on social media platforms, get out in the field-wherever that field may be-and dispense surveys, and/or conduct interviews. All of these are great starting points to identifying your target audience.

  1. Break the audience into groups.

You might have one big audience, but more often than not you have multiple groups within your audience at large. A perfect example is Target. Target has something for everyone, and there are multiple audience groups within their audience as a whole. After conducting your research, take a closer look at the types of people you’re targeting. Then, build your advertising and optimization efforts around them.

  1. Find out who’s who.

Yes, I’m talking about the influential leaders that exist within your audience. For example, if your business is in the cosmetic industry, find a make-up tutorial guru who has thousands of followers on Youtube and start a partnership with him or her. There are respected authorities within every industry, and finding a way to reach their audience your audience too.

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