Want to boost ROI? Test, Test, and more Test

AB-Test

Have you been thinking of ways to boost ROI from your internet presence? Your answer should always be YES. How might you go about that? The answer, A/B testing.  A/B testing can greatly increase the conversion rate on your website. So what is A/B testing you might be wondering? A/B testing is  a term commonly used in web development, online marketing, and other forms of advertising to describe simple randomized experiments with two variants, A and B, which are the control and treatment in the controlled experiment. This can lead to very helpful and lucrative insights. You might realize that your green buy now button, has 20% less conversion than if you used a red buy now button. This is just a generic example, but testing little things throughout your website could give your business a big boost. One thing that I recommend, is suspending your beliefs, let the testing do the talking. Sometimes the answers can be quite surprising.

Digital A/B testing use to be only for giants such as Google and Amazon, but the further technology has come the more accessible it has become for small businesses. Data used to be harder to access in general, but now it is becoming a daily function of a business. We are using this real time information in a more meaningful way. The best part is that we have tools to measure our progress. Beware, that A/B testing can prove more difficult than the concept lets on, some companies can have negative and inconclusive results. A/B testing should be done with thought, and possibly the enlisted help of a professional.

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So let’s talk about some successful examples, what they tested, and how it has affected their business. One company that has seen the benefits of A/B testing is KinderCare. Just by changing and testing on their landing page, they eliminated bounce rate by 65% and increased conversion by 2% which lead to more people seeing their message, which means that they were able to enroll more families into KinderCare.

WePay is another company that is doing this well. WePay held testing as a contest where engineers could set up different parameters, and let the customers who visited the site do the talking on what worked best by the way that they navigated through the site.

I would also like to note, that some of the most successful businesses in A/B testing are the digital marketing firms, helping provide consulting and administering tests for companies that want A/B testing done.

A/B testing is nothing new. This has been done for many years in marketing. What makes digital so interesting is that there are direct metrics to measure progress. There are tools that are accessible to measure how long A/B testing should happen. How to set up multiple tests that may increase or decrease to ROI. One such tool is Visual Website Optimizer. Google has an optimizer as well. If you would like to learn more I recommend checking out Mark Staton’s blog. There are some good links to some informative info on who the players are and how A/B testing is done in further depth.

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Learning code has never been easier

Screenshot 2014-01-29 20.03.13 Lets talk about coding! I spent a few hours the other night earning badges and writing inputs to receive outputs aka coding. In simplest terms, this is kind of what coding is. Not the earning badges part, that is just kind of the golden sticker at the end of your lessons. I am talking about the inserting inputs to receive outputs part.

I started by logging into Codecademy by using my Facebook account. Super easy. Then Codecademy set me up with a brand new profile in which I can edit and make more personal. It is amazing the different languages they have. You can learn the basics of just about any coding language. I chose HTML which stands for HyperText Markup Language because it is the most fundamental to me. HTML is also the most recognizable to Google search bots. Meaning that for the intents and purposes of writing content, it is probably the most beneficial if you are a beginner like myself, and want the best results in SEO. So I started the HTML, which took me through a bunch of broken down tutorials that showed me how to make headers, insert paragraphs,insert  images,add links,etc.. Codecademy basically shows you how to make a bare bones website, which is what I got to do.

Codecademy is designed for you to learn the fundamentals of coding at your pace. I spent a few hours navigating through tutorials and building a novice site. I must say that I learned a lot in the two hours that I spent on Codecademy. I started to see patterns. Coding in the little experience that I have, is somewhat a template that once you have set up, you  can manipulate and put in content you want… which is pretty awesome. So first off you have <> parentheses, and inside those parentheses you have tags. Tags usually come in pairs. The way they are discussed is you have an opening tag as well as a closing tag. if you were to insert a title it would look something like this <title> insert title here… this is what people will see</title> The tags change depending on what you want to execute but the premise is the same. If you want to insert and link photos it gets a little tricky, but still very similar.It shows you a screen of what you are doing and what it actually looks like on a website.

 That’s it, it is really easy to get started. I would highly recommend this site, if you have a desire to work in the tech field or any job for that matter. More and more jobs, whether tech or not are using the sophistication of computers in everyday business, which means that employers are looking for more people who are proficient at operating them. Codecademy lets you learn at your own pace. There aren’t any fees, and more importantly it is fun. It is really cool to see how websites are built. Most of us spend quite a bit of time on sites and now you will have a good idea of the processes used. So in summary, login, check it out, and teach yourself a valuable skill that you will only stand to benefit from. Check it out here at Codecademy.

Media and Content Intergration

This week’s blog covers a bunch of material that I will try to keep concise and informative. I will break it down into three categories. How we think of media, native marketing, and programmatic ad buying.

contentmarketing-advertisingHow we think of media is evolving. What we used to think of as paid, earned, and owned media is changing. We are now seeing the collapse of earned and owned into a single category. There are a few factors on this continuing evolution. Most of it has to do with customers and how we as marketers interact with these customers. More and more customers seek engagement, and companies that are successful at this are seeing higher ROI’s with higher customer satisfaction.

First question, in a “viral/earned” media world, should firms still invest in paid media? The answer is yes. I think the real questions are, How much paid media? How does it collaborates with earned media? How do we infuse without ad feeling like paid media? People today are empowered and they are really starting to frown upon being pitched to. The goal is to make things engaging. Content is the medium that is providing useful information that people value. Companies that are doing this well, are ending up with more viral content and earned recognition. So how do we combine content and paid media? Hopefully you are thinking “seamless”. This is the nature of native marketing.

nativeadvertising-01Native marketing in a nutshell is sponsored content. Native marketing weaves your ad into the content in which you are interacting. This is apart of the media evolution. The flashing neon banner ad is not the route many are going for today. What once worked, simply doesn’t today. Now we want media to integrate in with other content that you value in hopes that it will have an effect on how you perceive the ad or company sponsoring the content. Here are some companies who are doing it well. I would also like to note that the real companies who are doing it well are those who are helping companies with their native marketing. Those companies include Sharethrough, Nativo, Polar, Onespot, Livefyre, and Outbrain. Here is an additional article that names others in the industry that are helping shape native marketing.

programmaticProgrammatic buying and what it means if you buy media. Programmatic buying is buying media through digital exchanges, which means automation. This whitepaper proved to be very useful and recommend it as a read. The learning curve in the world of digital is becoming steeper and media buyers should try to stay up on things such as programmatic ad buying to ensure job security in the future. Are media buyers going to lose jobs? Programmatic buying will inevitably lead to a downsize in media buying as we know it today. This video puts some imagery to programmatic buying.  Will it come to broadcast television? Yes, it is already here and shows signs of growth in the future.

The future of digital marketing is an ever-changing field that proves to be fascinating and challenging. The best way to ensure that you will have a job, or keep a job in the future is to continually educate yourself. I hope this proved to be informative and helpful. If you have anything to contribute, please leave feedback. I would love to hear further insights.

Google + Google = Marketing Success

GpIf you have found yourself asking why Google+ ? 1. The answer is because Google has a strangle hold on the web. 2. Google+ has taken the things from other social media websites ahmmm facebook and added some cool points of differentiation. 3. Because even if you don’t understand it, you can use it as a secondary to Skype. I am sure there are a few more, but for the sake of this blog and my wandering attention span I will leave it to these three.

1. Google dominance. If you are concerned with SEO marketing, or marketing at all for that matter, then Google+ should be on your radar. Here is why. With Google+ being linked to everything Google, it only helps enrich the content that you have on the web. Google +1 is equivalent to a like on facebook, it also ranks your content relevance. Note there are many factors that go into content relevance and this is yet another. Point being that your social media spreads farther on Google+ in relation to content. I am not saying forsake your other social media platforms. I am just saying work this one into your mix.

Pix2. Points of differentiation. So at face value, it looks more like Googlebook. That being said here are some interesting facts. Google is #2 in social media and gaining market share. Now that it is becoming a mandatory platform to help bolster search engine rankings, it continues to grow. So what else does it do? For starters you can edit photos, you can create circles and depending on how you use G+ you can have more privacy and reach. Hangouts is pretty cool video feature. It was my go to while I was in Iceland. You can also use as texting back up. Fact is, Google is growing and big players in the business world are users.  I would venture to say that this platform has the most options available under the hood. So what are you waiting for. Sign up and give it a spin. Oh yeah did I mention it links all your Google accounts? Pretty awesome, interactive, and pretty user friendly.

3. Video chat with up to ten people. Hangouts is video chat that is integrated into G+. As I mentioned, this was my go to for international travel. Hangouts works great in professional settings, we use it in my Digital marketing class weekly. It is pretty damn easy to use as well. However even if you have no aspirations of being a marketing guru this is cool piece of kit. I used it the whole summer without knowing all the added benefits of using it in a professional sense and it saved my international traveling butt.

I by no means am a guru. I would love to open it up for discussion. Please share how you use Google+  and what you +1 about it and what you don’t like about it.

Social Media: Gamification of Marketing

*Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems. Gamification is applied to improve user engagement, return on investment, data quality, timeliness, and learning.

Does this ring a bell? I am not talking about gamification in the way it might pertain to a game such as farmville on facebook. I mean the game we play as marketers on having presence in social media. The more I learn about digital marketing and social media, the more it becomes clear that it is set up in a way to be a game for adults and businesses a like. This is really fascinating, that not only is this form of marketing efficient, but that the whole premise is that of a game. In a sense I suppose it always has been a game. We as marketers have always wanted to generate awareness and convert target markets to customers, but the landscape in how we convey are messages is continually changing. One big factor now, is the growing access to internet via smartphones. The internet has leveled the playing field with consumers and businesses. Consumers are more informed and have many options to choose from. We as marketers needed a way to evolve with the changing times, that evolution has largely come from engaging people through social media. It is almost impossible to run a business today without an internet presence of some degree. Here is an example of what a new company might want to do to be relevant in today’s paradigm.

Let’s say brand “X” is a new company, or maybe just new to having an online presence. How might social media work for business “X” ? First you and your marketing guru might want to get together and see what your target market does while they are on the internet. More specifically what kinds of social media do they use and the frequency of use. Once we know that, we have an idea of how we can engage. Brand “X” will then set up profiles and start publishing content, linking, liking, executing best SEO practices which will be heavily reliant on the Google updates, responding to comments, building relationships with potential customers in the hopes that not only will they “like” us, one day we will convert them to purchasers. If we are really lucky they will become advocates and spread positive WOM. Sounds almost too good to be true. Here are some things that brand “X” needs to be aware of:

Social Media and these relationships take a lot of cultivating. Cultivation takes time. We engage, we post helpful content, we post things of interest, we show the human side of business, we blog, we link, we write everything in HTML, we use words closely related in content to drive search results, we measure. This is the game, not only do we do all the things listed above, we must do them in a meaningful way that engages our audience. Let’s not forget the  fierce competition or the parameters set by search engines such as Google. There are a lot of moving parts and rules to using social media within context. To give you an idea of how important social media can be, one start-up that our class recently talked to generated majority of revenue from twitter and facebook alone! If you are a business that is on a budget, looking to maximize everything then social media is a game you want to be proficient at. It is demanding and ever changing, but if you put in the work, odds are that you are going to see an increase to your ROI.

So how do we measure? Social media wouldn’t be much of a game if there wasn’t a way to measure our actions. We have metrics for just about everything these days, from Analytics to Klout. We can measure the traffic to our sites, our social media pages, our blogs. Klout measures your social media influence. It is a rating system from 1-100.The general rule is the higher your Klout the higher your marketability. Meaning you have a larger audience to speak to. Interesting funfact, Justin Bieber and Barrack Obama have two of the highest Klout scores. Klout is an ongoing measurement. If you go on vacation and stop tweeting, or posting on various social media sites, chances are your Klout score will drop substantially.

There is a lot of overlap in the world of digital marketing. The main goal for a business in social media is to create an audience that it can engage with, in hopes of the audience developing a preference for their brand and ultimately becoming users. There are many guidelines out there. Companies dedicated to solely providing tools and consulting to help you reach your online goals. We as marketers want to have the most followers on twitter, the most pins on pinterest, the most likes on facebook, the biggest circles on google+, the most comments on blog posts, great website rankings, and  we want it all to work with one another in telling the story of our brand. This is the game that we as marketers need to familiarize ourselves with because it is a part of most business strategies that isn’t going away anytime soon.

Here is an infographic that I found interesting as well about people in the industry and their feelings on SEO.

The Content Ascent (beginner)

Content title pic

What is content and how does is apply? Content in the manner in which I am speaking is the sharing of media and publishing content, this could be blogs, videos, infographics, white papers, ebooks, photos, how-to guides and anything else that you contribute to add value to your web site or brand. (*that is crawler friendly… i.e. HTML) The few ways I want to discuss are blogs and infographics. I am relatively new to content marketing and I feel these are good places to get started. There are many ways to branch out from here.

*Crawlers are bots that comb through your content to see how much relevance your content has and these crawlers or sometimes referred to as spiders play a key role in how searchable you are on the internet.

Blogs can be about anything, the important thing about a blog is that you want to help solve others problems and or provide helpful insights that your audience is seeking. Infographics is somewhat in the name, it is a graphic that is meant to be informative. Usually a combination of graphics and text. Once again be mindful that you use a crawler friendly format when adding such content. From my understanding the primary today that is being used is HTML. Content when used appropriately is supposed to attract your audience to you. Rather than you making pitches and trying to sell at someone. If you are a business or just looking to be an authority on a subject, content is a good place to start exploring. I talked a little but about infographics above and here is an example of one that I thought might be useful and topic related. http://blog.attachmedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Content-Marketing-final-en2.jpg

So how does someone become an authority? Research! Lots and lots of research. There is a good example in article by Brian Clark that shows an interesting comparison. The point Brian makes is you don’t have to be stacked in credentials to speak about something, you just need to be able to talk about it intelligently. When writing it is a good idea to portray empathy and being mindful of what readers are looking for or want solved. Link to what others have already shared that could be useful to your audience. It only strengthens your stance by offering up other great things people are doing. This helps give you relevance and makes you that much more valid and searchable in the long run. When possible, tell a story. Readers want to learn, but they also want the subject matter to be entertaining. Tenacity… always look for new things within the field that you are writing about or offer up new insights to things that already exists. Give your readers something they look forward to reading. Share via social media, publish and spread the word. People need to know that you exists in order to connect. Last but not least, measure the results. WordPress is a place where you can start a blog for free that has metrics you can use. This is a good starting point for an aspiring blogger.  See what is working, see what doesn’t and go from there. I think that if you are mindful of some of these key elements you will watch your readership grow and people will start looking to you when they have a question. One last thing, although I am sure there is much that could be added, Comments, comments are an asset. Whether good or bad, this is another way of comparing results and getting first hand critiques from your readers. LISTEN, odds are whether you agree or not, there are some take a ways that you can benefit from. Stay open minded, and stay at it.  Here is link in reference to Brian Clark http://markstaton.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/a-content-marketing-strategy-that-works.pdf

content marketing hug

How to position your content to be meaningful and lucrative? Keep in mind that you are trying to add value in other people’s lives and help them make decisions and or solve problems. Whatever those problems are, engage. You have proven that you know a lot about the subject matter through action and not self-proclaimed expertise, now offer that service or consulting. Don’t be pushy, simply make it available and make sure that your readership knows it is available. Also take advantage of email lists. Another great asset that can save you time and money is having access to your audience via email. Sometimes just to say hey I am now offering “X” and just wanted to make you aware.  Content marketing contributes to the overall“*inbound marketing” which can be very impactful. You don’t have to worry about talking to people who have zero interest in what you have to say or provide. This is the essence of useful content, being able to have a rifle approach to customer satisfaction.

*Inbound marketing is advertising a company through blogs, podcasts, video, eBooks, enewsletters, whitepapers, SEO, social media marketing, and other forms of content marketing which serve to bring customers in closer to the brand.

Conclusion. Content marketing can be very rewarding and impactful on what you hope to achieve. This can be anything from running a more successful business, to just wanting to be a go to in a particular industry. If this is something you have thought about doing, my advice is to do. We get better through trial and error. Be open, and most importantly do. I hope that there is something here that resonated with you or that will be useful in your upcoming endeavors. Feel free to leave feedback. I am always looking for new insights. (I am just a babyblogger, and your words help add to the process) Also if there is any question that you may have, please feel free to send it my way. I would be happy to try to answer.

SEO: Basics for Beginners

SEO 2

SEO (Search engine optimization) is a very exciting field that is being explored by bright individuals. I am a beginner at best when blogging and discussing SEO. Please bear with me. So what are some of the fascinating benefits of SEO? This relatively new method affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s “natural” or un-paid “organic” search results.

Being a marketing student can sometimes feel frustrating, having to decipher which skills will best be served in the job market today. Even just within the parameters of SEO, there is so much for one to know and how it all fits together. One thing about the confusion is that there are gaps in the industry today.  Those gaps are in the skills that college grads have to offer and the skills that employers seek.. Good news is that with these gaps, there are many positions that need to be filled by talent. Talent that has appropriate skill sets to provide results for employer’s. Out of the articles I read, Will Critchlow’s “How To Learn SEO” ( http://moz.com/blog/how-to-learn-seo) resonated with me the most. It is a practical approach to getting started in the SEO field. I too am a believer that sometimes the best way to learn is to do. Taking a hands-on approach towards SEO provides a deeper understanding of the subject. Will emphasizes being willing to fail and if you lead, being willing to fail in front of others. Wow! That is pretty counterintuitive to how many of us look at the business arena because it is so competitive. What I think he means by this is being humble enough to be a human and admit that we have limitations. We would never succeed if we never failed at things. Checking our egos at the door allows us to learn new creative ways to do business. I think this is especially important to keep in mind in the ever changing world of SEO marketing (because there is so much to learn). Another helpful piece of advice is to avoiding being the smartest guy in the room… surround yourself with smart people and you will benefit from insights and creativity. I felt these insights from Will where very applicable the new frontier of marketing and professional life in general. There is no realistic way to know everything in the SEO world. Search engines are becoming more and more sophisticated. Luckily there is a community of people dedicated to sharing knowledge through content and as a result it is giving us the ability to be more proficient SEOs.

SEO@@

Distilled U and other must reads that are attached to  http://www.koozai.com/blog/search-marketing/how-to-learn-seo/ were very helpful in gaining insight. Moz is also another great resource that produces very good content. “The Beginners Guide to SEO” was very informative article. I am blown away and feel very fortunate that a lot of this work is happening down in Seattle, making answers that much more accessible. There is a lot to learn along the way. For instance I don’t have any experience at the moment working with HTML, but there are resources such as Treehouse and Codecademy that work well with one another and help teach you how to use HTML. This is AWESOME! I have such mixed emotions at the moment. I am so glad that I am finally getting exposed to material that is applicable to the real world and happens to be fascinating. On the other hand I find it somewhat sad that we spend so much on our educations today, financially and otherwise, only to come out with limited exposure entering the job market. The gaps discussed earlier aren’t an accident.  I can sympathize that things move relatively quickly and that it is hard to design a curricula for universities that will remain relevant. It would be nice to spend more time on SEO and research. We would be better prepared and there wouldn’t be this frustration about salary entitlement, because entry level grads would be more prepared to prove themselves. Employers would be happy because they would be able to measure desired results from there new hires, and/or experience less training time bringing new hires up to speed. Also this is an infographic that I thought broke down SEO in a understandable way.

http://cdn.business2community.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/the-ingredients-to-tasty-seo-infographic-1.jpg

I do feel that over time, we as marketers will solve some of the problems that we face within the marketing community. SEO companies such as Distilled and Moz are already producing material that is making the subject more understandable and giving people a baseline. Also imparting I would like to mention that I love all the links within posts that opens to more great content within both of these companies’ sites. Kudos to Distilled for putting together modules for learning SEO. I hope with this network of resources that we can conquer the gap of SEO and bring marketing into a new era.