Using Personas can provide you with a significantly better online marketing campaign, because your targeting, messaging, content and user experience will all better match the needs and expectations of your target audience. This provides improved conversion, meaning a better ROI for each and every campaign you run.
Personas are fairly well known in development and usability circles as critical tools without which a project might be far less successful. That’s because Personas, which are fictional representations of typical users, help design teams create easier-to-use, more satisfying user experiences.
In online marketing circles, Personas are not yet commonly used, a trend I fully expect we will see reversed in the next few years. For the moment however, Personas truly are the online marketing secret weapon, because using them puts you at a distinct advantage vs. your competitors, who most likely are not using them.
Personas and Increasing Use of Customer Insight Data
But the Persona secret may be out already. According to a recent eMarketer article regarding a survey of intended use of Customer Data by CMOs, Chief Marketing Officers plan on greatly expanding Customer Analytics and CRM technology in the next 3-5 years. A whopping 81% of surveyed CMOs indicated those were the top technologies they planned on increasing!
By the way, isn’t it interesting that one of the best sources of conversion for online marketing–Email Marketing–came in dead last? Hmmmm! Perhaps there’s another opportunity for a smart online marketer to get ahead of the competition.
Leading Marketing Priorities and Personas
Another interesting data point from the article points to the fact that according to surveyed marketers, the number one marketing priority is “Improving Segmentation and Targeting.” The best way to improve segmentation and targeting is by carefully developing Personas that help marketers better position communications, products and services for targeted audiences.
Direct Marketing Requires Personas:
As Lester Wunderman, considered by many to be the Godfather of direct marketing wrote in his book “Being Direct,” it’s all about knowing who your target audience is, so you can communicate with them better, and thus improve sales:
“One must understand what motivates people to make decisions and what tools can best be used to focus attention and generate reactions. We must know how to create and deliver messages that are relevant, meaningful and stimulating.”
In my opinion, the best way to know what motivates people to make decisions and to create and deliver meaningful messages to them is by using Personas to map your communications to your target audience’s needs. Using Personas to base your communication and interaction decisions ensures you are closely aligning your communications to the needs and expectations your prospects have. Thus the odds are much better that you will be able to reach and interact with meaningful communications that stimulate action with your prospects.
Personas are both behavioral and targeted data
When we think about the data available to us today as marketers, we can generalize the types of customer data into four groups:
1. Generalized Metrics – Generalized metrics include typical online marketing data received from website metrics, email opens, click-throughs and related analytics. This data, although plentiful, is not very targeted and is not behavioral in focus. Yes, you know that 4% of your visitors clicked on a button or link, but you don’t know why, and you don’t know whom they were.
2. Personalized Metrics – As with generalized metrics, personalized metrics are analytics coming from websites, emails, social pages etc. However, in this case there is more information available about the visitor, perhaps due to the visitor being logged in, or because the visitor has been specifically targeted via marketing automation or related personalization tools. The problem with more personalized metrics is although there is unique individual targeting data, the “why” of the visitor’s behavior is still not known.
3. Demographic and Psychographic Metrics – Many marketers cluster their target audiences into segments based on geographic, demographic or psychographic data. This is data that revolves around the “why” of visitor behavior. Information such as location, household income, and prior purchase behavior may be available. However, typically this data is an aggregate view into a large groupings or clusters of visitors, thus is not targeted toward specific needs and activities of individuals.
4. Personas – Because they are fictional representations of visitors who share common critical tasks, Personas provide both the motivational “why” of behavior, along with the targeted analytics of the tasks that individual is trying to accomplish. This gives the best view into behavioral AND targeted data, enabling marketers to make decisions with much greater certainty and efficiency. Because this is actionable data, Personas are an important tool to use when creating and deploying targeted communications.
Personas Not Yet Used in Online Marketing
According to a survey of the attendees of our Personas webinar, most online marketers are not yet using Personas on a regular basis. According to the survey, none of the respondents use Personas often. About 45% of those surveyed said they are familiar with Personas, and use them a little bit. Surveyed respondents who were familiar with Personas, but haven’t used them equaled 17%. But a whopping 38% of respondents were not familiar at all with Personas.
This data clearly demonstrates that there is an opportunity to get ahead of the competition by using Personas to better target prospects.
What is a Persona and how are they created?
In our next part of Personas, the Online Marketing Secret Weapon, we will explore what a Persona is (and isn’t) and how a Persona can be used to improve the effectiveness of any marketing campaign.
If you’re a B2C company, odds are your marketing department’s been preparing for the 2012 holiday season for months already, trying to figure out the best ways to reach potential customers and to increase sales in an economy that’s still stagnant. You’ve figured out your email marketing, direct mail and advertising. The powers that be have determined what items will go on sale when, and declared that doors WILL open at 2 a.m. on Black Friday (or, in some cases, will open at midnight or earlier Thanksgiving day).
With so many advertisements pummeling consumers on a daily basis (I think I’ve received at least ten emails in the past two days already talking about buying for Christmas, and Zales has been doing pre-Black Friday email only sales for the past month or so), how do you stand out and make sure customers are buying YOUR product rather than your competition’s?
Having a robust email list that’s properly segmented is one way to help garner attention and boost sales. A properly segmented list means that the right people are seeing the right message, thus increasing your chances of getting a sale from that particular email. Focusing on the right items and message–beyond segmentation–is also important. Yes, parents want to know that Lalaloopsy dolls will be on sale for ten bucks on Black Friday (actually, if anyone sees that price let me know–we have a niece who wants one for Christmas), but not everyone is in the market to purchase toys. An avid cyclist would love to know that REI will have all cycling clothes half off, but a rock climber wouldn’t necessarily care. Focusing on value, though, is a good tactic in our current economy. And if you have a layaway program, an email campaign would be a great place to mention that. Coupons, exclusive offers and steep email only discounts are all good ways to help drive sales.
If you’re also running a direct mail campaign, there are ways to integrate a print piece into your online marketing. A QR code is a super simple way to do that. Smack one on your well done direct mail piece and have it go to a landing page for a contest to win a free item, such as boots, a $500 gift card, an HDTV, PS3, etc. Not only will you get people to land on your website, but you’ll also get their email addresses as a result, which you can then load into your email database for further promotions and newsletters. Be sure, though, to include the URL to the landing page for those who don’t have a smart phone or a QR code reader–no matter what, you’ll still only give away one prize, but the number of email addresses you collect could go up considerably.
So what if someone clicks through on your email campaign or scans in the QR code but doesn’t buy anything? That’s where a good retargeting campaign can come in handy. Basically, retargeting is a form of paid media where a visitor’s IP address is cookied, and as they surf the web ads for your store or product will appear on the websites they’re surfing. I get retargeted all the time by Zappos and Overstock.com, and have received retargeted emails from Home Depot. I also just started being retargeted by Cabela’s after signing up for their newsletter yesterday. A 2010 study by comScore found that retargeting generated a 1046 percent lift in trademark search behavior, and retailers who retarget site visitors can see an ROI ranging from 2% to 35% (and probably higher). Evidence is showing that while a lot of shoppers window shop online and abandon their shopping carts, retargeting is an effective method of drawing them back to your website and encouraging them to complete the transaction. Other forms of paid media can also be effective, depending on your particular space and the competitiveness of it.
While most retailers focus on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, don’t neglect customers the rest of the time from November 1 to December 25. Anyone who’s ever worked in retail knows that the Saturday before Christmas is actually the busiest day of the holiday shopping season. There are also those customers who shop throughout the year, or who start their shopping before Black Friday. There are those who avoid stores on Black Friday at all costs, and those who wait until 9 p.m. on December 24th to buy gifts for all 23 of their family members. Spraying and praying is not effective, but making sure to address ALL–or at least as many–of your customers as possible will help you to garner the most sales during an incredibly competitive shopping season.
Good luck, many sales, and if you happen to need some elves to help you with your holiday marketing, we’re pretty handy with reindeer and Jack in the Box (es? Jacks in the Boxes? Jacks in the Box? what is the plural of that?).
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.
Anyone who’s remotely plugged into pop culture is aware of the huge popularity growth zombies have experienced over the past couple of years. From zombie movies to a CDC entry on their website on Zombie Apocalypse preparedness, zombies have become pretty darned cool. So cool, in fact, that a hardware chain recently decided to market certain tools as zombie defense tools.
That’s some pretty clever–and timely–marketing if you ask me.
Why is it so clever?
Well, for one, we’re in October and mere weeks away from Halloween. Zombies are already on the brain (um, no pun intended). There’s the whole pop culture phenomenon thing going on, not to mention the fact that fall is typically a time when folks start completing household projects before temperatures drop and the holidays take up every bit of free time they have. The more important part, though: it grabs attention.
Westlake Ace Hardware is a small hardware chain, with stores in only seven states (Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas for anyone who’s curious). They don’t have the size or the recognition that Lowe’s and Home Depot do, and I’m guessing they probably don’t have the marketing budget that Lowe’s and Home Depot have, either. The challenge for most medium-sized businesses is often figuring out how to differentiate themselves from their much bigger competitors on a budget that usually doesn’t come close to the budget enterprise level companies have.
So you advertise a shovel as a zombie defense tool, and a power generator as a way to zombie-proof your home. Gardening gloves are suddenly protective gear and a nail gun isn’t just for sticking boards together. If you’re a zombie, caulk is a great way to put yourself back together and air fresheners are a great way to keep that decaying corpse smell out of your home. Westlake has even created a news page dedicated to the marketing effort, complete with videos and press releases about zombie protests, and their marketing team has put together a couple of infographics.
This is a case of a company doing some really great things in their online marketing efforts. They’ve created a zombie-specific section/landing page, they have infographics, blogs, press releases, videos and are integrating their zombie preparedness center into their social media campaigns. The only thing I can’t seem to find is a paid media campaign. You get results on the SERPs when you search for “zombie preparedness” and “zombie hardware,” but those are mostly to news stories about Westlake’s marketing efforts (granted, SEO love generally takes a while to gain traction, so this makes sense). If they were our client, we would probably suggest a paid media campaign along with having a completely separate email sign up form to better nurture those customers and to allow some pretty good segmentation. Otherwise, though, this looks like a well-run and super creative online marketing campaign.
What do you think about Westlake’s online marketing campaign? Does it amuse you as much as it does me? What are some great examples of creative online marketing campaigns you’ve seen?
Search engine optimization should be integrated with all your online marketing efforts. It starts with having a great offering and communicating. Do people love your business? Is your customer experience awesome? If your business provides an awesome customer experience your business will grow by “Word of Mouth” (or WOM), and SEO will make it easy for more customers to find your business.
If someone posts your link to their Facebook page, it is a form of WOM, and doesn’t require users to search, they just click the link. However, if they want to find the same link two weeks later, they may have difficulty finding that same link in their social media profile, and will quickly turn to their favorite search engine to find the site they were interested in.
This is where SEO is incredibly important, because the user may not remember your brand name if they had only seen the brand once, but they will remember the offering, and will use search terms based on the offering.
The question then becomes “Does your site rank on page 1 for the offering terms?”
If your site doesn’t naturally rank for your business offering terms, you should consider paid search advertising with Google Adwords and Bing Adcenter. This way you can catch those users that are looking for your offering.
Your catch will only be a small percentage of the total impressions from your target search terms, however when you gain natural rankings in addition to having paid search advertising you will have increased your shelf space on the search engine results page (SERP) and gain a higher percentage of clicks from the total number of SERP impressions.
Remember, searchers are expressing intent with their keyword choices. Also, searchers use terms they know. Part of your online marketing campaign is to help prospects to remember the words they should use to find your business online.
The vocabulary of your marketing communications should reinforce terms that your site naturally ranks for, and that you are bidding on in your paid search advertising. By planting the keyword seeds in the minds of prospects through interruption marketing you prepare them to use the keyword phrases that you dominate in search.
If your branding initiatives are working, you will notice upward trending in brand-related search traffic to your site (assuming you are checking your website’s analytics reports).
SEO complements your push marketing messages by allowing those that develop interest to find your offering online and do their research. Ranking naturally in search is a sign of credibility to people that are researching your offering.
SEO is the golden thread that connects all your online marketing efforts. From public relations, social media, email marketing, display and banner ads, paid search advertising, and your website experience, all should be in concert with the purpose of gaining customers by being easy to find through search. All the marketing communications vocabulary should be customer-focused. Use the language of your customers to make it easy for more of them to find your business.
There are many technical aspects to SEO, such as semantic site code structure, information architecture, crawlability, anchor text of inbound links, unique title tags and meta descriptions; however none of these aspects make up for a poor customer experience. SEO amplifies a great customer experience. If your businesses provides a poor customer experience, SEO becomes difficult because a large part of SEO depends on WOM sharing of your links from your customers and prospects.
Considering all the above, SEO is not a stand alone marketing campaign. It is best used as a thought pattern applied to all of your online marketing activities that should keep your business focused on your customers throughout all your marketing communications.
Working in sales, my job is quite comical from time to time. I work with prospects who come to Apogee for help with a variety of online marketing capacities. Some are looking to drive more traffic through organic (SEO) efforts, some are trying to pay their way to the top (through PPC), and others are simply trying to make more revenue, but don’t know which vehicle will propel them to online success.
We go through a series of questions to identify areas where we could assist prospects with these initiatives, and then go into the final budgeting stage. This is where the comedy comes into play. Some folks will say, “Well, I don’t have a set budget per se. Let me know what you would recommend we spend, and we can go from there.” As the online world continues to gain the lion share of marketing efforts, the list of what I would recommend for a situation may entail more than what the client has in mind.
Here in lies the comedy. They probably do have a budget, but think that if they tell me what the budget is I will then offer services that cost right under that budget. However, if they don’t give me a budget I may offer them services that come in at a cost below their budget and I was never the wiser. What if we have existing clients who typically spend much more than the prospect’s allocated budget? Should we go through the exercises of scoping out their projects just to be told we cost more than they can afford?
Or, another common budget response goes something like this, “We are wanting to dip our toe in the water with a limited budget, see how effective your campaigns become, and then consider spending more on these initiatives.” Wow, this one definitely takes the cake. It is similar to one giving a custom home builder a couple hundred dollars and assessing his or her overall home building skills on a mini mansion for your tea-cup Chihuahua. This “mini mansion” will probably not accommodate your furniture or state-of-the-art entertainment center, and you may start to really question the competence of your home builder.
The buyer/seller dance is made up of art with a sprinkle of science. So, the next time you are wanting to inquire about a service company’s capabilities, consider sharing some of your budget constraints as well as top-level goals to ensure mutual expectations are met.
So often when evaluating the importance of your online marketing campaign (and related spend) very few marketers correlate how excellent or, conversely, lackluster online effort impacts the ROI of other marketing channels and ultimately the bottom line. If you run a diverse marketing portfolio you very likely could be wasting a large portion of your marketing budget and, even worse, funding your competition’s bottom line.
Here’s how: In today’s saturated world of marketing, there is no argument that the era of “own one channel, dominate one channel” engagement models are gone. Prospects–both B2B and B2C–increasingly engage your product or brand through a multi-channel approach. Your prospect may learn about you from a print ad, or through rich media, do research about your company or product online, subscribe to an email, be re-targeted and ultimately purchase through any variety of these, or other, engagement portals. So this is a good thing right? Hold on, not so fast.
Let’s use your print media campaign as a test case and let’s say, for example, your company invests multiple thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) in a brilliant series of print ads proclaiming the virtues, benefits and competitive advantages of your product or service as well as (of course) your brand. And, let’s say the online marketing efforts to date have done a poor job ranking online for your product, service description key terms or search practical (highest search volume, highest relevance and most easily won) terms. Most consumers and business people increasingly engage via product, not brand terms so, extrapolating, most engagement memory is around your product NOT your brand.
Let’s harken back to our conversation; you’ve done a brilliant job with your print media (both brand and product), however, your prospect is most likely going to remember your product, not your brand. Enter the multichannel engagement factor and voila, your prospect begins their research phase based on your product , NOT your brand. IF your online marketing effort is weak and does not rank well for the product/service search, guess who’s does? You are so correct–your competitor–AND they have greater perceived relevance and presence that warrants your prospect to at least take a look, which could be the ultimate kiss of death. In the end you may not lose the sale or the client, but why open yourself up to that risk?
Okay, so the first installment of Link Love Monday was actually born to two proud parents on a Monday. The next installment hit on a Tuesday. Therefore, it’s only fitting that Link Love “Someday” occur on a Friday eventually. Things have been quite hectic around here to say the least, but due diligence will be paid to ensure a specific day of the week (most likely Friday) is linked with love. On to the links! Link: Tracking Transactions Back to the Initial Referrer with Google Analytics
Love tracking your websites progress at an even more granular level than Google Analytics normally allows. Let’s say you’re running a PPC campaign and the user clicks on your ad, heads to the page, but does not initially fill out a form or make a purchase. He or she needs time to mull. Some of us are mullers. We need time. The next day the user heads to Google, types in the name of your company, lands on your website and then fills out a form or makes the purchase. By default, this transaction would be credited to organic search even though the user initially found you through your PPC campaign. The transaction can be tracked the other way as well, where the user initially finds you vianatural search, but returns via paid search and makes the purchase then. Either way, this will allow you to get a better idea of how well your well ranked website and paid search campaigns work in tandem.
“Google Analytics, by default, will attribute transactions to the last referrer. While this is all fine and good, there are some situations where you would really like to be able to track these transactions back to the initial referrer rather than the last referrer.”
Love optimizing your website after the organic or paid search click. Many potential clients come to us looking only for search engine optimization and/or paid search campaign management — and that’s perfectly okay. However, many people do not think about optimizing the site itself. Does the navigation bar remain in place as the user navigates through your site? Is there a visible call-to-action in the same spot across the entirety of the site? How complicated is the checkout process? All of these issues can cause users to leave your site due to confusion or frustration if they cannot find what they’re looking for in a timely manner. From my personal experience, if a website requires me to register to participate or make a purchase, the minute I see this requirement is the same minute I hit the back button (unless I cannot live without the product or participation). Check out these 12 tips that can make your checkout process that much more efficient for your users — you’ll likely improve your conversion rate.
“8. Keep the checkout interface simple - The checkout process is different to the rest of the browsing experience on your site. During this process your customers aren’t shopping — they’re making the purchase. This means all the browsing controls are redundant here and would only distract your customers from the task at hand. Eliminate these unnecessary elements — e.g. product category links, top products, latest offers, and so on — to keep the interface simple.”
Love the recurring theme of tracking your work. If you work with an agency that a) does not track your websites progress through various metrics or b) tracks the websites progress in the form of handing you charts filled with numbers and without explaining what they mean…well…then perhaps it’s time to do some shopping for yourself. Measuring your websites progress through a combination of metrics, across multiple channels, and uncovering what these numbers mean is incredibly powerful. If there is one area where you can get a muscular leg up on your competition, it would be through early adoption of data-driven marketing and advertising initiatives.
“…Still, getting advertising agency employees to rely on data is difficult, agencies say. And as people trained on Wall Street migrate to Madison Avenue, executives anticipate battles between creative types and wonks. Traditional ad agencies still don’t have budgets that allow for a lot of digital experimentation, Mr. Herman says. He notes that most traditional agencies “make the bulk of their money in print, radio and television.” So even as this area becomes increasingly technology-driven, old ways of doing business and clients reluctant to embrace radically new approaches mean that the advertising culture won’t change overnight.”
Love your blog. Please. Don’t let it sit and waste away. Certainly participate in the latestsocial media platform if it fits within the scope of your overall online marketing strategy, but do NOT leave your blog heaving for breath on the roadside — especially if you “don’t have anything” to write about. Not only is figuring out what to write about as simple as taking these 10 tips and running with them, but your blog can serve as the hub of all of your social media efforts — direct users back to your blog and then track where they go from there. Talk to them. You can be even more authentic with 250 words as opposed to 140 characters.
“1. Grab your local newspaper – pick one column (it could be a news item or op-ed piece) and blog your own perspective on it.”
PS – that’s what we’re looking for, your perspective — subjectivity. “There are no facts, only interpretation.” Even if you don’t believe that, keep it in mind and it will help you write stirring blog posts. Link: The Local Business Center Dashboard Opens Its Doors
Love more data on your Google Local Business listing! I know, you just can’t get enough data (alright, so maybe there is such thing as data-overload). Additional data includes:
Impressions: The number of times the business listing appeared as a result on a Google.com search or Google Maps search in a given period.
Actions: The number of times people interacted with the listing; for example, the number of times they clicked through to the business’ website or requested driving directions to the business.
Top search queries: Which queries led customers to the business listing; for example, are they finding the listing for a cafe by searching for “tea” or “coffee”?
Zip codes where driving directions originate: Which zip codes customers are coming from when they request directions to your location.
Love competition. Microsoft recently rolled out it’s new search engine, Bing, to the masses. It’s still too early to know whether or not people will change their search patterns and turn to Bing instead of Google (I doubt this will happen anytime soon, personally), but competition is good. Take a look at this article over at Search Engine Land to see how the search engines differ for a number of search terms. Side note: they’re certainly going after the David Letterman watching demographic. It seemed Bing made an appearance at each commercial break last night.
It’s late Tuesday which means it’s time for Link Love Monday. Hopefully you had a solid, and if you were lucky, relaxing weekend. For the rest of us who entertained guests over the Memorial Day holiday, here’s to drinking lots of water and going to bed at 7:30 tonight! Today’s set of links lean toward the local side of search, but the general principles involved in optimizing for local can certainly be transfered to natural search. Let the link love flow:
Love: An aggregator that helps simplify the process of optimzing your local search presence. Last month Google kept it weird and got a lot more local by providing the sexy local 10-pack for a broader range of non-geo targeted keywords ([austin tacos] versus simply [tacos], for example). If you’re a small business, it’s even more important for you to claim your listings in Google, Yahoo! and MSN, as well as optimize your site for maximal local search exposure. GetListed.org, which has been around for awhile now, provides a hub for you to start this process. Simply enter the name of your business, enter the zip code and you’ll be provided with an overview of your local presence — have you claimed your listing? Do you have reviews, citations, pictures or videos in your local listing?
Aside: speaking of reviews, looking for content ideas for your website? Check out your reviews on sites like Yelp.com. Users might tell you exactly the type of information you need to add to your site.
Love: Tracking your presence — it’s vital. Okay, so you’ve hopped into GetListed.org,claimed your listings, updated your website accordingly, notice you’ve improved your lot in the local 10-pack and…now what? How do you know how well your listing in the local 10-pack is working? How much traffic is it driving to your site? You can’t manage what you don’t measure (as Bill Leake, our fearless leader here at Apogee, would say). Check out this excellent post on how to track both local traffic from the 10-pack found in the SERPs as well as traffic originating specifically from http://maps.google.com.
Love: How local search might work, so that you can turn your inquisitive how’s into actionable how-to’s. This post covers an important part of local search, and search in general — intention. What does a searcher actually mean when he or she types in a keyword and how might you go about calculating meaning/intention. The post uses an article by an University of Massachussetts research and two articles from Yahoo! Labs as the basis for the discusion.
“If you have a web site that offers goods or services or information tied to a particular location, the processes described in this paper are some that may help searchers stand a better chance of finding your site online the next time that they search for ‘attorney’s office,’ or ‘camping near shenandoah park,’ or ‘Macy’s Parade Hotel,’or use some other query that may involve a geographical intent without including an actual location.”
Love: Customizing Google Analytics, tracking your presence (again) and mega-posts, of course. A great post covering 23 ways you can customize Google Analytics in order to tease out more of the information you need to create a full tapestry of your online presence. Track: full referring URLs, Universal Search traffic, downloads (PDFs, WMV, etc.) and more.
Love: A search friendly CMS. Seriously. It will save you heartache, pain, sleepless nights and money on Pepto Bismol. This is a question that’s asked fairly often by clients, particularly when they’re thinking about or are in the process of changing their CMS. It’s okay to be a control freak when it comes to your CMS — just control it.
“Why do I need to pay for clicks on my brand name?”
Does this question sound familiar? The reasoning for asking this question usually follows shortly after and sounds something like, “If they’re already searching for me, won’t they just click my natural search listing?” Clients ask this question far too often, and as tough economic times continue, I’m sure it will be asked with more and more frequency.
This week at SMX West, my typical response to this question was further vindicated by aSearch and Branding panel of industry experts. I heard a lot of interesting viewpoints, some familiar to me and others new.
On the familiar side, Michael Kahn kicked off the panel by stating that not purchasing branded paid search keywords increases the likeliness that your competitors will profit from your name. This is not a new concept. In 2006 Hitwise released a study announcing that 85% of branded searches land on your site while 15% of that traffic goes to your competitors. Without even reading that particular study, I am able to confirm that statement based solely on the fact that some of my clients’ best performing keywords are their competitors’ names.
Michael and Scott Edwards made the other obvious but still very important point that if you fail to capture traffic from searches on your branded terms, you’re losing money on all your other marketing efforts. This boggles my mind when clients don’t get it — you’ve spent thousands (maybe tens of thousands or even millions) of dollars on print ads, TV commercials, attending trade shows all year, etc., but you’re not willing to spend a few dollars on a click to convert the interest you generated into a potential sale? Pepsi apparently missed out when they spent oodles promoting their Super Bowl ad on YouTube, but didn’t purchase any paid search ads.
Other notable points mentioned on this panel include:
Receive a better return on non-branded terms when you have paid and natural search visibility on branded terms.
One panelist stated that 39% of searchers rely on Google results to identify the industry leaders. Subsequently, it makes sense that if someone sees your company name appear more than once on Google, then that reinforces the user’s impression that you have a brand that can be trusted.
Reinforcement of using branded search terms as a barometer for marketing efforts across platforms. The number of branded search clicks you receive can give you insight into the evolution of your brand and market share.
MTV uses search query research to determine how their brand is evolving. By the nature of their product, MTV has learned the other important thing I tell my clients: the best keywords don’t project your marketing message, but rather reflect what the user calls your product. Where better to get that information than from search queries?
The most interesting part of the panel for me was hearing Stuart Meyler talk about increasing brand messaging awareness in traditional brand metrics by using paid and natural search. General Electric has partnered with Google on a soon-to-be-released case study revealing that top PPC and SEO positions increased the brand recognition of GE’s ties to renewable energy by 70%. Meyler’s hypothesis on the reason for the growth was that paid and natural search increases the frequency of exposure to a concept, and consequently have a direct impact on awareness.
Overall, the panelists gave insightful presentations. Thanks to SMX West and the Search and Branding panelists for providing significant material to help win the ongoing “why do I have to pay for my own name” battle with clients.