Throughout my career in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), it has come to my attention that many believe SEO success begins and ends with “good SEO.” Although vague, this may have been the case in the early days of SEO. But due to Google’s algorithm evolving and advancing so quickly over past years, a successful SEO campaign not only requires white hat SEO techniques, but is also dependent upon the engagement of many other marketing teams and experts, such as the following:
Let’s take a closer look at the roles that each of these individuals play in the execution of a successful SEO campaign, as well as the responsibilities of an SEO Expert. (more…)
We hope everyone had an excellent Thanksgiving, ate lots of turkey, watched some great football (well, if you root for certain teams or like football) and found some excellent Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.
The holiday treats don’t stop there, though–as our thanks to you, we’re giving you our white paper on personas. For free. Okay, so all of our white papers are free, but free is always the best price, right?
At any rate, we hope you enjoy our latest white paper Personas: The Online Marketing Secret Weapon.
White paper description: Personas are fictional representations of typical users, well known in the development community but not as well known in online marketing circles. That’s a mistake, because Personas can be your secret weapon in optimizing your online marketing campaigns and improving your ROI. This white paper will provide you with the details you need to implement Personas in your marketing campaigns. You will learn what a Persona is (and isn’t), how to create a Persona, and how to implement that Persona in optimization of landing pages and websites. Armed with this information, you will be able to use Personas to optimize your online marketing efforts, increase conversions and improve your ROI.
Download the white paper now, and feel free to leave comments regarding your experience with personas. Do you know what they are? Do you use them at all? Do you need help figuring out who your target personas are and how to effectively implement them? Leave your comments below!
If you missed our webinar on Wednesday, you missed a great one. “Persona Non Grata: The Online Marketing Secret Weapon” was chock full of need to know info regarding personas, including a statement that should be obvious to most marketers, but that I think all of us forgot from time to time: “More effective communications leads to increased sales.”
“What does communicating effectively have to do with personas?” you ask. It has EVERYTHING to do with personas.
See, personas allow us to better understand our target audience, the tasks they are trying to complete, their pain points, and how they interact with our company’s website and content. Knowing those things allows us to better design our site, create better content that’s much more direct in its purpose, and to essentially create an emotional connection between ourselves and the person on our website. And as all marketers know, creating that emotional connection is super important to getting that person to pick up the phone or fill out a contact form, thus getting them into our sales funnel.
Craig went over a lot more in the webinar, too, and I highly suggest you view it when you get a chance. And as always, feel free to leave your thoughts/questions regarding personas, or contact us if your company needs help developing their personas.
Personas are a critical, but often overlooked part of an online marketing methodology. Here’s an overview of 7 steps you can use to include Persona development and deployment as part of your online marketing campaigns.
Personas in Online Marketing, the critical (but often overlooked) element:
Personas (also referred to as Personae) may not necessarily be the first thing you think about when developing an online marketing campaign. You might be more worried about the message, or the conversion method, or even details like tracking and attribution. But the reality is, without properly creating and utilizing Personas prior to developing your campaign, you are in fact guessing as to whether your campaign will have the desired impact on your target audience. A better way to improve your online marketing results is to use Personas.
What’s a Persona?
According to Wikipedia, a Persona is defined as follows:
“Personas are fictional characters created to represent the different user types within a targeted demographic, attitude and/or behavior set that might use a site, brand or product in a similar way.”
Here at Apogee Results, we like to define Personas as follows:
“A Persona is a fictional representation of a common group of users who all share the same critical tasks.”
Much like the base of the pyramid, a Persona is the foundation of a good online marketing campaign. Personas have been used for many years by application development teams and usability practitioners, who use the Persona to define critical tasks the user must complete to be successful. However, Personas are still somewhat of a new practice for most online marketing teams.
Personas are Not Target Audiences:
Many marketers do know who their target audience is, but a target audience is not the same thing as a Persona. Typically with a target audience certain geographic, demographic and related marketing data is used to cluster groups of prospects. Data like age, gender, zip-code, household income and even prior purchase history are most often used to create clusters of target audiences.
But notice in the above list what’s missing. What about behavior? Why are prospects looking for information about your products or services? What problems are they trying to solve? How familiar are they with your products, your terminology, the concept of how you can help them solve their needs?
Personas are the tool you can use to answer those behavioral based questions. Coupled with related information from your target audience, you will now have a much clearer picture of whom you are targeting, what issues or needs they have, how your product and service can solve that need, and how to more effectively communicate that with your Personas.
Thus, Personas are the missing behavioral element that enables smart online marketers to be far more effective and efficient at finding, communicating with and selling concepts to their prospects. And that means improvements in conversion, and ultimately your ROI.
Applied to online marketing, Personas can help:
Shape messaging – By defining who you are trying to reach, what their key needs or problems are, and how your product or service can help them to solve their needs. This information gives you the outline for how to formulate your marketing messaging.
Define content – Understanding your Persona and what their critical tasks are makes your job of developing content easier. That’s because you have a clear idea of the Persona’s pain-points, and thus can shape your content to help them understand how your solution meets their needs.
Optimize a buy or order-flow – Knowing your Personas and their critical tasks, and understanding their expectations for how they expect to interact with you, gives you very helpful information for testing and optimizing your buy-flows or order-flows. You will have a much better sense of what the Persona is expecting, and thus can tweak your funnels to test based on behavior and knowledge, instead of guessing what elements should be tested.
7 Steps to Using Personas in Online Marketing:
Developing a Persona or Personas and using them in your online marketing campaigns can be broken down into 7 broad steps. Here’s how to incorporate Personas in your campaign development methodology:
1. Conduct Persona Research – With usability practitioners, typically this research is conducted through contextual observation and research, meaning going out to where typical customers or prospects are and observing them using applications or websites. In online marketing, this can be done, but is expensive and very time consuming. A better way is to carefully interview your top sales team members and key stakeholders, learning from them what the typical issues or concerns are. Ask the top sales reps what terminology prospects typically use. Are there any patterns in common needs shared by prospects that are communicated with the sales team? How does the sales team address those issues, and communicate how the product or service solves the prospects issues?
2. Conduct Competitive Persona Audits – Another way to gain an understanding of Personas is to audit your competitor websites and online marketing campaigns. How are your competitors communicating with their prospects? What terms do they use? How are they defining the needs, and how their products and services solve those needs? What order are these communications in? This information can be very useful for helping you to better define your Personas. But do be cautious! Your competitors may not be communicating effectively or correctly with their prospects, be a good judge and use the data that seems most appropriate and relevant.
3. Analyze Website & Product Data – Examine your website and product sales conversion data carefully. What content seems to resonate best with your prospects? Where are you achieving your best conversion, and where are you not having good conversion? What content are your prospects avoiding or not interacting with? How long are your website visitors spending on key product or information pages? If you are capturing form data, which forms have the highest percentage of starts, abandonments, completions and errors? This data is helpful background data that will provide patterns you can use to better understand your prospect’s behavior.
4. Conduct Prospect Research – A great way to better understand your prospects’ critical needs is to ask them. If you have phone logs, plug in to hear the conversations your prospects are having with your sales teams. Likewise, going out and interviewing your prospects directly is an amazingly powerful way to capture information about what needs they have, how they picture a product or service helping them, and the terminology they use to define what they are looking for.
5. Define Your Persona – With this research, you can now start to build your Persona or Personas. Your Persona should be a fictional representation of a set of typical prospects based on what critical tasks they share in common. The Persona description should include a story with enough information to define who they are, what problem they have, and what they are looking for to help them. You should also include additional detail, like their domain expertise (how familiar they are with your industry, products, terminology, etc.) and if applicable their channels of interaction (PC? Mobile? Phone? Email? etc.). Based on your research you should aim for several Personas. Just one or two might be enough, but if you find yourself with 7, 8 or more you are most likely being too specific with your tasks. It is very hard to make design decisions when trying to optimize for a set of 7 or 8 unique groups, instead, concentrate on just the top 3 or so.
6. Vet Your Personas – This step is often missed, but is very important. Be sure to confirm with your sales team and key stakeholders whether they believe you have correctly identified your Personas. Don’t assume that your first pass of Personas is correct. Ask your top sales team members to review the Personas with you. Have you correctly identified the critical tasks? Are your Personas truly representative of that group of prospects based on the needs, domain expertise and related details? Once your top sales team and other key stakeholders have given you approvals, you are ready to deploy your Personas in your online marketing campaign
7. Use Your Personas – Your Personas can be used to help optimize your online marketing campaigns. Create messaging and creative that directly reaches your Personas, by addressing their needs, concerns and how your product and service can solve their needs. Use the terminology your Personas are comfortable with throughout your campaign. Optimize your buy-flows or order-flows based on their expectations for the interaction. Test variations based on whether the Personas’ tasks are helped, and define your success via conversion data. Refine your Personas based on this data, and continue to optimize and test.
Conclusion, Personas in Online Marketing:
Utilizing Personas as part of your online marketing campaign does take some effort, as you’ve no doubt noticed! But the results of using Personas to make better informed decisions will be demonstrated in your increased conversions and lower cost per lead and cost per sales metrics. Incorporating Personas and using data to continually test and optimize based on solving your prospects needs is one of the fastest ways to improve your conversion. We’ve seen this time and time again here at Apogee Results, which is why we start all of our engagements with Persona research and development.
In the highly competitive nature of today’s internet landscape, it is essential for your company or business to have a high performing website. It is more important than ever to have a marketing plan that will not only draw in visitors but convert them to customers. Is your site not generating enough leads? Are you experiencing a high bounce rate on your landing pages? If so, you may be in need of some good ol’ fashioned Conversion Rate Optimization (aka CRO). CRO focuses on persuading your site visitors to sign up for newsletters, make purchases, or take actions that allow engagement with your site. CRO involves several different techniques to optimize your conversion rates, but the main idea behind this marketing strategy is to improve your website so that it persuades your visitors to act. Steps taken to optimize pages include:
1. Usability testing and user experience reviews
2. Landing page design and testing
3. Persona development
4. Website satisfaction survey intercepts and analysis
These are just some of the steps taken during CRO, however, every site will have specific needs. In order to address them, proper testing and analysis must be completed before proceeding with your CRO efforts. The benefits of doing so are substantial.
How will CRO help you?
Why should companies invest in CRO as opposed to paid advertising or PPC? Simply put, CRO is an investment for the future. Good optimizers will continuously optimize their sites and utilize CRO as a way to ensure conversions over time. If done properly, CRO can help you:
• Generate more leads
• Increase customer retention
• Create more page views
• Increase profit-per-visitor
• Increase number of email list sign ups
• Enhance website credibility (increasing chances of someone linking to it)
With the overall benefits of CRO, your business will become more competitive and experience an increase in profits. Sounds great, right? Why doesn’t everybody do it? Surprisingly, most companies use CRO as a last resort when they should be considering it as a first step. Many companies don’t know that if properly utilized, CRO will expand your business and open up opportunities for advertising and other marketing efforts.
All the talk about the Apogee offices this week regarding QR codes has made me really start thinking about just HOW QR codes are used. Honestly, the first time I saw a QR code, I never would have made the leap from a square barcode in a magazine ad to a living headstone. That, I would say, is a pretty darned creative use of QR codes.
Beyond the question of whether they’re here to stay or just the latest fad, though, is the fact that for the here and now they are being used. Obviously, they’re being used in a myriad of ways if Brionne’s blog post on Tuesday is any indication. As cool as a living headstone or a QR code tattoo might be, there are more “everyday” uses for those 200 x 200 pixel barcodes that seem to be popping up everywhere.
The question is, though, how are they being used in practical, day-t0-day marketing applications?
I know they’re something that’s been picked up and discussed heavily among real estate professionals, as they seem to be the perfect balance between print and interactive. While more and more buyers (and sellers, and renters) are using the internet first and foremost for real estate research, there is the fact that a decent chunk of real estate referrals come from flyers and yard signs. Some Realtors view QR codes as the perfect way to convert a lead–while someone who picks up a flyer may never call or email, if they scan in the QR code and load the Realtor’s website, there’s a higher chance they’ll fill out a contact form, or shoot out an email, or even give the Realtor a call.
2. Scavenger hunts. I have to admit, I’d never thought of this. But it sounds like it could be fun if executed properly.
3. Labeling. Great idea, IMHO, for anyone who sells a physical product. Give someone a way to connect directly with your company and product, and potentially create a sales opportunity.
12. Build your email subscriber list. Here, I think, is where the power of QR codes truly lies–in conversion. As marketers, we’re always looking for ways to engage our audience, and to bridge the gap between print and online, to turn that flyer pick up or post card left at Starbucks into a contact, from a contact to a lead, and from a lead to a client/purchaser.
If all you’re using a QR code for is to take someone to something they could have found on their own anyway, and without giving them a clear call to action, all you’re really doing is wasting their time and your time. And we all know time is money.
So how are you using QR codes? For the usual–postcards, flyers, business cards? Have you seen any creative examples of QR code usage? Bad examples? Feel free to share in the comments or on our Facebook page!
About the author: Aubrey Curry is the Marketing Manager for Apogee Results, and loves all things marketing and cycling related.
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Alissa Ruehl, Manager of Website Effectiveness Consulting at Apogee Search, to discuss the best strategies for increasing conversion rates.
SEO and PPC efforts can drive qualified traffic to your website, but in order to justify the time, effort, and expense, the site must be able to convert that traffic into either a lead or a sale. Alissa explains that different websites experience different obstacles, such as building trust, brand recognition, or simply experiencing high abandonment rates, and therefore require different solutions for improving conversion rates.
The best place to start analyzing your conversion rate is to look at entry pages with the highest traffic, such as home pages or high ranking landing pages. Alissa believes that these pages are extremely important in forming the right first impression with any visitor or potential customer to your site. If visitors are only spending a brief amount of time on these pages and you are experiencing a high bounce rate, consider using bullet points, bolded text, and more compelling headlines that grab every visitors’ attention and gets your message across in a clear and concise manner. If an individual is spending a great deal of time on your website then leaves without completing any sort of action, consider adding more calls to action to guide them into the conversion process.
Alissa states that lead form optimization is also an effective way to increase conversion rates on your website. In order to increase the amount of lead forms that are submitted with complete and accurate information and avoid abandonment, it is important to ensure that your forms are simple to complete, establish more trust with individuals, and only ask for information that is necessary and beneficial in obtaining a lead. Improving the conversion rate for eCommerce lead forms is slightly more involved. The amount of steps required in an eCommerce website can make conversion optimization seem daunting. Alissa separates problems with eCommerce purchases into three buckets:
Customer’s ability to find the product they want
Process of adding products to the cart
Process of purchasing the product once in the cart
Web analytics data can help you identify which of these steps is causing problems. These common problems can be resolved by working the individual into a pipeline, increasing the persuasion on the pages, inserting more calls to action, and discarding unnecessary requests for information that may deter an individual from completing the process.
In general, analytics tools like Google Analytics can help you pinpoint problems, while usability analyses, best practices lists, and case studies can help you identify possible solutions. However, replicating a method that may have worked for someone else is not guaranteed to work for you. Testing different solution ideas is crucial for ensuring an improvement in conversion rates.
“This prestigious certification from Google Website Optimizer reflects our willingness to invest our time and resources ahead of the curve to ensure our clients become better consumers of Google offerings. We’re honored to have acquired significant expertise and knowledge with Google Website Optimizer, and we expect that this new practice will be a very popular service offering in 2009, as it can dramatically improve the ROI of online marketing campaigns across the board,” said Apogee Search CEO Bill Leake.
Google Website Optimizer (GWO) is a testing tool that performs A/B and Multivariate testing on websites, landing pages and other web properties to help online advertisers increase their conversion rates. The results from these tests can determine the most effective combination of content and landing page design.
To be considered for this accreditation, WOAC applicants must have a verifiable track record of success using Google Website Optimizer, be a recognized industry participant inonline marketing services, and be committed to improving online marketing techniques.
“We have already had proven client results using Google’s optimization technology, and this deeper collaboration with Google demonstrates our commitment not only to provide results, but also to generate empirical data for our clients on what is working for them and what is not, to ensure long term success,” said Alissa Ruehl, Manager of Website Effectiveness Consulting.
Jason Kapler, Marketing Programs Manager at Asure Software said, “Apogee Search was a tremendous partner in helping us implement Google Website Optimizer. They educated us on the value of the tool and then helped us implement a program that improved our conversion rates by 216%! Needless to say, now all of our campaigns use GWO when applicable.”
As an authorized consultant, Apogee Search offers highly skilled Google Website Optimizer set-up, support, training, and consultation services.
‘Tis the season for shopping, right? Well, on this lazy weekend, I was hoping to go to one of those cute little holiday bazaars with local and handmade treasures. I actually went to one last year and wanted to check the hours and entrance fee. So, like the good little search marketer that I am, I started by opening up my laptop to find the information I needed.
The bazaar I’ve been to before has been advertised around town a bit – something like Keep Austin Bazaar (if you aren’t familiar with Austin, you may not be aware of the play on the local phrase Keep Austin Weird). I took a stab at the name and came up empty handed – the first results page included a musical instruments retailer and a Paid Search ad from Amazon. So, dead end.
Next try – sometimes I try to throw in the year of an event, figuring that it might be called the 2008 Austin Bazaar or even the 2008 Austin Holiday Bazaar. No luck. I remember that the spelling might be the other version of the word, so I try again:
After clicking on the first result, I realize I’m not at the actual event’s website, I’m at a listing for the event on the Austin section of When.com. I finally locate the link to the official website for the event — BAM! It all becomes clear…
A site almost entirely coded in Flash. Am I surprised? Not really. I mean, it’s a cute site. The various event attractions are skating across the sky (“jewelry,” and “art,” etc.) and there are snowflakes (a rarity in Austin) sprinkling down the screen. The navigation string of holiday ornaments is pretty easy for site visitors to understand. Note: If I had searched simply “Austin Bizarre” I would have found the site immediately – however, I’m assuming the event organizers would like to rank for as many related terms as possible.
The search engines have a limited chance of actually serving this Flash site up for searchers, even searchers like me who know exactly what they’re looking for and (at least somewhat) how to perform a search.
And now for my good deed during this holiday season…
Earlier this year, Google made major improvements in Flash indexing on websites; however, this is still not an optimal coding language for search engines to index. In particular, links and content should not be coded in Flash. For images or widgets, Flash works very well though.
With the current Flash coding, there is no way the list of musicians and craftsmen could be returned for a search.
Solution: Don’t put the navigation bar in Flash, or provide an additional navigation bar (coded in HTML, which is search friendly) in the footer of each page.
2. Write a descriptive title tag
Currently, the title tag reads: “KeepAustinBizarre.” The title tag is a lightning rod for the search engines – what better way to determine what a site is about than the title of the first page? Including descriptive text here will go a long way in your search engine optimization efforts.
include the date of the event
include the address, and other important information
limit the title tag to 60 characters, including spaces
Alissa began by explaining that Google Website Optimizer is a free tool that website owners can use to determine the most effective combination of content on their site through a variety of tests. The results from these tests can then be used to maximize conversion rates among existing traffic to your site.
GWO can conduct both A/B testing and multivariate testing. A/B testing will test two different pages against one another, and multivariate testing will test the various elements on the page to determine the best combination.
Alissa then offered a few strategies to keep in mind when using Google Website Optimizer:
Ask big questions. You will only receive answers for the things that you actively test. You should test drastic changes rather than slight changes to obtain statistically significant data.
Spend time developing well-written copy to test.
Wait for significant data. GWO will indicate when a sample is large enough to be useful.
Alissa pointed out that there are different situations in which one would want to use A/B testing versus multivariate testing:
Multivariate tests compare different elements of a page. Google uses a full factorial test so it is very easy to generate a large number of combinations even when testing just a few elements. These tests require a high amount of traffic to achieve statistical significance.
A/B testing is suited for sites with less traffic because it requires a much smaller sample size to achieve statistical significance. This is the best option for testing a complete site redesign.
Finally, Alissa offered a few rules to follow when using Google Website Optimizer:
Wait for statistically significant data. As discussed earlier, initial results might reflect random chance, so wait until you have had enough traffic for the information to be significant.
Limit the elements being tested. If you create too many different combinations, it will take a great deal of time for GWO to produce meaningful results from your test.
Spend as much time developing content for a test as you would for a website. Even though this is a test, you are testing potential real options for your site. Do not get sloppy with the content just because it is a test.