The Dirty Marketer

So far we’ve talked about the importance of Google Analytics, how landing pages should function, A/B testing and a ton of other “how to” topics. I’ve got to come clean though, so far I haven’t actually been telling you “how to,” I’ve only been telling you “how to tell somebody to.” To truly be the uber-marketer, this is not enough. I spent my day getting dirty with Codeacademy and Squarespace.

Before today I had heard of HTML but had no idea what it looked like. The only code I had seen was some binary code that I remembered from a elementary school video on how computers work. Codeacademy gave me a cool chance to better understand coding and play around with a little bit of coding myself. As somebody who has always been intimidated by the inner-workings of technology, I was surprised to find just how easy it can be. Now, I understand that it’s not a simple skill that can be picked up in a week, but it’s not a maze of ones and zeros either. Codeacademy is very efficient yet gradual in guiding users through the process of basic HTML coding. After the couple hours I spent practicing I can not execute most text functions within HTML.

 Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 3.50.39 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-26 at 5.52.25 PM

Here’s the proof that I did in fact put my two hours into HTML.

This experience has left me believing that basic coding ability can increase the value of any budding digital marketer. A digital marketer may want to make changes to a site daily for the purpose of testing or optimization. These processes are most effective when they take place in real time. Therefor, a digital marketer who can make these changes his or her self is instantly more effective as they eliminate lag in both benefits and analytics. Now, many marketers may not be expected to ever get their hands dirty in HTML or CSS, but simply understanding how these coding processes work will not only help them make decisions, but it will also make them more empathetic coworkers to the coders who build the entire space of digital marketing.

For the marketer who either lacks the ability or resources to change their website through HTML or CSS there is Squarespace. Squarespace allows for the creation of a website utilizing a selection of templates. Not only does Squarespace allow for creation and design, but also provides avenues to manage payments and shipments along with a basic analytics setup.  While Squarespace does provide a quick and simple route to website creation, there are some negatives. As you are forced to choose from a selection of templates, your website will be similar to many other websites around the web. Additionally, Squarespace will be sure to put their logo somewhere on your site. I believe that this indicates that the owner of the site is operating on a small scale.

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 1.15.40 PMHere’s a quick peek at the site I built on Squarespace. After a long weekend of spilling my beer into the various rapids of the Wenatchee River I feel pretty inspired.

I have a confession to make. I have clicked on sponsored search results. While I am ashamed to have allowed a company to buy click, I know I am not alone in this. Hubspot, in an excellent ebook on paid search, reports that 30% of clicks go to these paid links. This is a serious amount of clicks. Three out of ten people don’t care how much time and ingenuity you’ve put into optimizing your organic search ranking, they’re going to click on those links at the very top of the page or on the side of the page with either complete ignorance or ambivalence to the little “Ad” label Google tags onto the link.

The system that runs these sponsored search results is called Google AdWords. Google AdWords can help you get clicks, but it also can do a few other very valuable things for your company. Before we get into that, however, let’s talk about how AdWords generally works. There are 2 determinants for whether or not your ad appears on a page and where it appears on the page. The buyer of a sponsored search result will specify keywords (pending Google’s approval) to by tied to the link. An ad pops up when these keywords appear in a search query. The order in which the adds appear is determined based on a bidding system, with the top bidder receiving the spot at the top of the page. Bidders do not necessarily pay their bid price, rather price is scaled up from the lowest bidder. There will never be a price charged that is greater than the bid. There are also two methods of payment. One is a nominal fee charged per click on the link, which is why these ads are often called “Pay Per Click.” The other payment option is based on how many people view your ad. Unless you are interested in nothing but exposure, pay per click tends to be the more economic pricing choice. In the case that your sponsored search is wildly successful you don’t have to worry about going over budget with AdWords. AdWords allows you to set a maximum budget. If this maximum is reached your ad will be taken down.

As I said earlier, there are uses for paid search other than an increase in click through rate. Jay Taylor explains these very well in an article for Search Engine Watch. I will briefly summarize some of Jay’s ideas along with some from the aforementioned Hubspot ebook.

Guaranteed appearance at the top: Despite your best efforts you may occasionally fall out of the top organic search results. A paid link will always appear and will encourage the clicks that can help move your page back up in the rankings.

Double visibility: Let’s say that you are ruling the organic rankings and making an appearance in the sponsored results, not only does this boost the chances of your link getting clicked on, but it can indicate industry prowess, building the customer’s perception of your brand.

A/B testing:  AdWords allows you to send visitors to different pages from the same paid search result. This is extremely useful in any A/B testing scenario.

Finding new keywords: As discussed in this blog on Monday, keywords are an essential aspect of SEO. Adwords provides a Search Term report. This report will shows basic metrics on the keywords and search queries that lead to an ad.

How To Be More Discoverable With Search Engine Optimization

“Google it.” The phrase that has all but eliminated the home encyclopedia set. We use search engines to find everything in the digital space from a good pizza joint to the capital of Uzbekistan (it’s Tashkent, for those of you who were wondering). Somewhere between searches for pizza and Tashkent is your business. If people can’t discover you digitally they’re going to have an awful hard time becoming conversions. Being discovered includes your home page, landing pages and all of the content you put out into the digital space. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of designing your content and pages to appear as high as possible in search engine results. After reading two fantastic ebooks by MOZ, The Beginner’s Guide to SEO and The Beginner’s Guide to Link Building, I feel confident that I can supply valuable information and insight on the topic of SEO.

Let’s first talk about how search engines work. A quick synopsis of Google’s process is provided in this video. When a search engine is responding to a search query it ranks pages based on their relevance to the terms in the search query and the popularity of a page. Search engines like Google assign value to the popularity of a page as they assume that the more visits a page receives, the more valuable the information on the page must be. While the popularity of your page is something that must be built over time, subtle changes to your pages can immediately help you rank higher in terms of relevance. For this it is important to note that search engines do not look at your page the same way you do. For example, if you’re entire page is built in Flash, a search engine may very well just see a blank page. Search engines also won’t pick up on the content of videos, audio files or infographics. To remedy this solution, you can provide HTML transcripts of each of these forms of media, guaranteeing that they are discoverable by search engines.

Of all the tactics that go into SEO, the king of all tactics is probably Keyword Optimization. Keyword’s are best optimized by researching the efficacy of relative keywords. In the article cited above, MOZ provides a good guide to this research process:

Ask yourself…

Is the keyword relevant to your website’s content? Will searchers find what they are looking for on your site when they search using these keywords? Will they be happy with what they find? Will this traffic result in financial rewards or other organizational goals? If the answer to all of these questions is a clear “Yes!” then proceed …

Search for the term/phrase in the major engines

Understanding which websites already rank for your keyword gives you valuable insight into the competition, and also how hard it will be to rank for the given term. Are there search advertisements running along the top and right-hand side of the organic results? Typically, many search ads means a high-value keyword, and multiple search ads above the organic results often means a highly lucrative and directly conversion-prone keyword.

Buy a sample campaign for the keyword at Google AdWords and/or Bing Adcenter

If your website doesn’t rank for the keyword, you can nonetheless buy test traffic to see how well it converts. InGoogle Adwords, choose “exact match” and point the traffic to the relevant page on your website. Track impressions and conversion rate over the course of at least 200-300 clicks.

Using the data you’ve collected, determine the exact value of each keyword

For example, assume your search ad generated 5,000 impressions in one day, of which 100 visitors have come to your site, and three have converted for a total profit (not revenue!) of $300. In this case, a single visitor for that keyword is worth $3 to your business. Those 5,000 impressions in 24 hours could generate a click-through rate of between 18-36% with a #1 ranking (see the Slingshot SEO study for more on potential click-through rates), which would mean 900-1800 visits per day, at $3 each, or between1 and 2 million dollars per year. No wonder businesses love search marketing!

SEO should be a massive part of your digital marketing plan. Companies such as MOZ can provide expert services though they can be costly. For the smaller company who can’t afford or just doesn’t feel it needs SEO consulting on a professional level, there is a lot you can do to improve your SEO in-house with a bit of elbow grease. Jake Goldblum provides some advice on how to do this in this article.

Social Media Marketing Explained Through Beer And Airplanes

Is social media a form of content marketing or a method of delivering potential leads to your content marketing. According to the folks at Hubspot, it’s a little bit of both.

As you might expect, Hubspot looks at social media from an inbound marketing perspective. They recognize that much of what companies post on social media is of their own creation and undeniably content. However, as there is much more to social media than a simple means of sharing content; it is an omnipresent representation of a company as well as a channel for communication between the company and its clients. This means, for example, that a company should not only be posting original content to its Facebook page, but should also be using its Facebook presence to promote other content such as white papers or ebooks. Social Media needs to be part of any successful inbound marketing strategy.

I also mentioned that Hubspot emphasizes Social Media as a means of communication with customers and potential leads. Customers may communicate complaints or praise to you through Social Media via a comment, Tweet or private message. This provides you with an opportunity but you must be careful with how you approach it.

Let’s say a customer posts a complaint about a service you provided in the comment section of a video you have just released. This is not a problem, it is an opportunity. If you reply to this customer with an explanation and solution it not only satisfies a current customers but provides a real life example of your excellent customer care. However, if this comment goes ignored or if you challenge it, the comment remains a problem with your service for  all to see. Remember, Social Media interactions are extremely public displays and have the chance to be seen by millions.

Social Media is becoming a broader term every day as more networks and platforms open their digital doors. A question for your company should be which platforms to use, and how to use them. Each platform exists because it is different from all others in some way that users view as important. Thus, you need to utilize each platform differently. What makes a good Facebook post can make a very bad Tweet. A good guide to these various platforms exists in Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to Social Media. This is a poorly named bit of content as it provides such a vast and complete explanation of how businesses should engage in social media that it is worth a read for all marketers, not just those who are Social Media “beginners.”

On a general level, I would like to break down how companies utilize Social Media into B2B companies, and B2C companies. I’ll start with a great example of a B2C focused business with a great Social Media presence, Great Divide Brewing Co. Not only does Great Divide brew my favorite beer in the world in my favorite city but they run pretty kick-ass Facebook and Twitter accounts. On their Facebook page Great Divide posts about their products and events but also shares content they believe that the beer drinkers who follow them will appreciate from beer enthusiast sites or even competing breweries. They may Tweet about many of the same things they post on their Facebook but it is always worded and presented entirely differently in order to best fit Twitter. They are also very prompt and friendly in responding to any Tweets sent their way. My favorite thing about the way they use both of these platforms is in the way they share customer experiences. It is a normality for them to ReTweet or repost photos and stories customers have tagged them and their beer in. The greatest advantage that can be gained from Social Media marketing is evangelism. Simply explained, this is when customers develop loyalty to your brand and voice it through social media either by sharing what you have posted or mentioning you in your own post. Social Media can allow your customers to market for you. It’s word of mouth times 10 to the X. By sharing customer experiences and regularly engaging with customers, Great Divide invites their followers to evangelize their brand.

Great Divide’s #YETIMAFIA references their superb Yeti Imperial Stout and is a name applied to fans of the brewery

My far less delicious but equally cool B2B example is Zodiac Aerospace. Where Zodiac truly cleans up is their LinkedIn page. This page has over 27,000 followers and brilliantly follows Hubspot’s 80/20 rule mentioned in my previous post. The real difference between Great Divide’s Facebook and Zodiac’s LinkedIn lies in the content selected for publishing. Zodiac publishes very research driven and serious content while Great Divide publishes short, fun and pleasant content. This is because they each have what Hubspot calls their “Buyer Personas” in mind while running their Social Media. This means that Zodiac posts content with awareness of what a buyer of a new airplane seat wants to see and Great Divide posts with beer drinkers in mind. A person looking for beer and a person looking for airplane seat designs are looking for content that is as different as these two products and thus use different platforms to find their content. Also, it’s worth noting that both companies have their company website on their Social Media platforms, inviting customers to move closer to those valuable conversion pages.

Social Media is just as dynamic as it is omnipresent. It requires regular attention and deliberate action and when done right can pay huge dividends to a business.

This Blog Sucks (or it would if I was selling something)

I have spent some time this week diving into the world if content marketing, the essential ingredient in the inbound marketing recipe. Content marketing is the creation and publication of videos, white papers, technical reports, articles, studies, tweets, infographics and yes, even blogs. In a post published earlier this year by the Content Marketing Intstitute they break down their 5 Pillars of Content Marketing:

1. Understand your audience

-This pillar explains something that should be intuitive but is often overlooked: before content is created, consider who it is being created for.

2. Map the content to sales cycle

-The content to sales cycle is the process a viewer of your content will ideally go through. It includes The Awareness Stage, The Consideration Stage, and The Decision Stage. With this process in mind, develop a plan to deliver viewers of your content from their first interaction to a sale.

3. Create the content

– The simple creation of content is often not enough. It must be the right content presented in the right way. While it has been found that many consumers prefer short, interesting bits of content, most B2B buyers prefer longer more technical content. In general, for B2B markets, the more words published in an article of content, the more it will be shared. This is important as sharing exponentially increases the number of people who view your content.

4. Promote content

– You can’t just close your eyes, cross your fingers and chuck your content out into the world and hope for sales. You must promote your content through channels such as Google Adwords campaigns, Email campaigns and SEO to ensure that your published content is being viewed by the right people.

5. Measure and analyze

– Just like all other things marketing, you must keep an eye on meaningful metrics to determine the efficacy of you content and use these metrics to develop plans to continually improve your content marketing strategy.

Now to explain the title of this post: I reviewed Hubspot’s The Fundamentals of Blogging, a lesson in their Inbound Certification Academy, that revealed to me that this blog does not do at all what a blog should be doing for a business. I had a brief personal crisis then bounced back when I realized that I am not a business and do not have the same objectives in blogging as a business. I’m not saying by blog is great, but it doesn’t suck. Now that we’ve resolved my personal issues let’s dive into what makes a good blog according to Hubspot.

Much of what the Content Marketing Institute provided in their five pillars is true across all forms of content but Hubspot provided a few additional insights unique to blogs:

Blog consistently and frequently, ensuring that you remain a consistent and present force for your customers. Also, the more you put out there, the more likely you are to be found.

Promote your blog across all of your media channels. Your blog should be discoverable through your website, social media feeds, email campaigns and whatever other communication you keep with potential leads. Additionally, all of these channels should be discoverable through your blog, creating a web of content to pull customers in.

I also looked into the Inbound Certification Academy’s Creating Content Lesson. The big take away from this lesson is Hubspot’s “Golden Rule” of content creation, also called the 80/20 rule. The idea here is that 80% of the content you publish should be focused towards providing awareness and education to potential customers while the remaining 20% is sales content focused on you and your product. The concept behind this rule is that while in the initial stages of interacting with content, people aren’t interested in your company or product, so don’t tell them about that. Publish content that targets their pain points and allow them to determine whether or not they need your product. It is also vital that all of your content publishing is part of a plan and in no way random.

A good example of a successful blog is Southwest Airline’s blog, Nuts About Southwest (for those of you who haven’t flown Southwest, there is a bag of peanuts served to every customer on their flight). This blog delivers very little promotional data about Southwest but focuses on interesting travel stories or fun industry related topics such as the story behind various airport codes. Southwest publishes new content on their blog nearly every day and the blog features ample not-interruptive opportunities to purchase a ticket.

It seems fitting to end with a review of Kane Jamison’s 2015 Content Marketing Trends. This blog post explains what Kane expects to see preform well in content marketing and what he expects to see decline in performance. The big take away I found is that published content has to be more thoughtfully generated and connect on a more personal level.

Digital Marketing Optimization: Deciding to Decide

The concept of testing marketing content before committing it to a campaign is nothing new; marketers have been running focus groups and surveys for years to determine the content that has the most potential. While these tests can be effective in gaining qualitative insight on the strengths and pitfalls of various content, optimization 2.0 (the digital platform) can do far more! Optimization through A/B testing provides marketers with quantitative data comparing two versions of content. A/B testing is the process of creating a different version of content and releasing it randomly to half of visitors and gathering data on which version produces a better result. For example, let’s say a company released two versions of their landing page, one that featured a video and one that was a simple navigation window. If the objective of the landing page is to function as a tool to deliver visitors to the rest of the sight, the company would select the version of the landing page that had the lower bounce rate. A/B testing can also be used to test far more minute differences like the color of a font on the checkout page. This gives digital A/B testing an advantage as an optimization technique over a traditional technique such as focus groups as A/B testing provides quantitative data and can test finer differences in real time. Adobe’s 2014 Digital Marketing Optimization Survey shows that companies that use testing to optimize their content and in their decision making process are far more successful, with companies that have a culture of optimization demonstrating a 100% higher conversion rate.

One of the great stories of success through A/B testing is  the Obama 2012 campaign. Anybody who gave the campaign their email address received (and may still be receiving) countless emails. These emails were tested on the basis of subject line, donation requested, general formatting and many others. An example of what a subject line test might have looked like (provided by Businessweek) is posted below:

The campaign was based upon continual analysis of data like this that fueled continual change. Regardless of whether or not it made sense, if something produced results in the testing phase it would be put into practice until it was no longer the top performer in testing. An example of this was a trend that the marketing team noticed of uglier email formats, such as obnoxiously highlighting important text, was producing greater results. As soon as this trend had run its course it was abandoned without hesitation. While this blind faith in data worked for the Obama 2012 campaign, that does not make it right for every company. A paper written by Microsoft on web experimentation warns against many of the tactics employed by the Obama 2012 campaign such as following trends that they did not fully understand and making decisions based on short-term impact. The Obama 2012 campaign was able to get away with this because they are not a business with long term objectives but an organization with one very short term objective. While marketers can learn much in terms of how to prioritize data in decision making and the extent to which testing can be done, they must remain cognizant of the differences between a business and a political campaign.

Another example of A/B testing success, provided by Hubspot, is that of Upworthy, a site designed to provide and encourage the sharing of videos. Upworthy observed the that sites with recommended content had higher rates of visitor engagement. While Upworthy was seeking a way to better provide content to their users, there was a concern that a recommended content feature would counter the objective of social sharing. The easy answer was to test a version with the recommendation feature against the current version. Upworthy found that the recommendation increased social sharing by 28%, making the choice obvious.

This afternoon I will get the privilege of chatting with Amelia Showalter, the mind behind the Obama 2012 campaign’s digital analytics, via Google Hangouts. I will update this blog with any noteworthy info I gain from the conversation.

Trapped in Some Kind of Marketing Inception

To better acquaint myself with the concept of inbound marketing this week I read a white paper published by Marketo, a firm that designs digital marketing software, and a Harvard Business Review case study on Hubspot, the marketing firm that coined the term Inbound Marketing. Generally, both sources define inbound marketing as the creation of interesting, engaging content that leads potential customers to contact a business. Hubspot contrasts this content generation to traditional outbound marketing channels such as advertisements or direct mail by referring to such marketing methods as interruptive marketing. Inbound marketing can include the creation of videos, social media interactions, writing blogs, publishing white papers or participating in case studies. Do these last two inbound marketing tactics sound familiar? The sources I was engaging with to learn about inbound marketing were forms of inbound marketing themselves, inbound marketing within inbound marketing… Marketing Inception!

Unlike the typically eery nature of Inception that just might have one questioning his own existence and the validity of the reality he functions in, the presence of this marketing inception is actually quite comforting; a large part of Hubspot’s success story is their ability to build their business through inbound marketing. Hubspot attracted customers through a website filled with white papers, weekly podcasts and entertaining videos like Dude, Cold Calling Is For Losers, which has over 80,000 views.

As phrasing such as interruptive marketing and the content of the cold calling video suggest, Hubspot takes an anti outbound marketing stance. This is where Marketo differs. In Marketo’s white paper they address the importance of inbound marketing mixing with outbound marketing. Marketo explains the concept of the inbound marketing multiplier, their idea that inbound marketing serves to enhance, or multiply, the benefits of a traditional marketing campaign. Marketo explains that the typical benefits of outbound marketing, such as the ability to control the language used to describe your brand that comes with advertising, are still present if not as profound and that inbound marketing provides channels for the customers reached through outbound marketing to identify themselves a leads. This difference in approach makes sense as Hubspot incorporates no outbound marketing management in their software offering while Marketo does.

The two firms are similar though in their description of the necessity of lead qualification. Not everybody who downloads a white paper is a potential lead. For example, a couple months back I downloaded a white paper from OpenTempo, a healthcare scheduling software. I downloaded this paper as research I was doing for a competitor, I have no interest in engaging them as a customer. To download this paper I had to provide certain information about myself and later received an email contact from OpenTempo. Within this email I had the option to further engage, bringing myself into the more narrow area of their funnel. As I did not engage, I have been filtered out and am no longer a potential lead for them. Hubspot employed a very similar tactic in growing their business, analyzing which leads would be most likely to develop into profitable customers and weeding out all who did not match this profile. At one point, Hubspot was weeding out roughly 50% of leads.

To close post out, I’ll provide a fun example of inbound marketing I found in a Kuno Creative Blog. A small beef jerky company was able to sell far beyond their daily averages simply by engaging potential customers on reddit. This company, Bridgford, entered what Marketo describes as a virtuous cycle, they not only gained sales through this interaction, but received additional publicity through people sharing this interaction and blogging about it. All of this increases their likelihood of being found by customers who have never come in contact with any paid media.