A/B Testing – Online Marketing Term of the Week

A-B TestingA/B Testing

  1. Or A/B Testing is a method of comparing the performance of two sponsored listings, landing pages or other promotional content.
  2. A controlled experiment containing 2 variants, A and B, one as a control and one as a test.  The goal is to identify changes that increase or maximize a set outcome: I.e. clicks, conversions, etc.

4 Steps to Understanding if Facebook & Twitter Ads Really Work for You

I just read an article about a Gallup Poll that claimed Facebook and Twitter ads do not influence people to buy.  In the post they stated:

According to the polling firm’s latest “State of the American Consumer” report, released Monday, just 5% of Americans say social media advertising has a great deal of influence on which products they buy. In fact, 62% of the 18,000 people Gallup surveyed said social media advertising has no effect on their purchase decisions at all.

If you go directly to the Gallup Poll you’ll see the numbers

social media gallup poll

 

social media gallup poll

If you look at the stats 35% said they did influence them. The writers of the poll also tried to trivialize the number of millennials that are influenced. Their poll shows 50% said that social media ads do influence them. That doesn’t sound too bad… if you understand marketing at all.

First of all the Gallup Poll is an outdated non-scientific study that was developed before the digital age and is inherently flawed.  If you really want to know if ads work for you, try a more scientific method.

4 Steps You Need to Take to Really Understand if Facebook & Twitter Ads Work for You

  1. Define what a conversion is for you.
  2. Use social media ads to drive to your site.
  3. Create a proper landing page that drives conversions
  4. Use a third party website analytics tool to track visitor engagement and conversions.

Tracking real metrics will give you the proof one way or another. Data about conversions can’t lie. Either you have enough to make it worth it or you don’t.

return on investment roi

Building a Website & Getting it Found Online is Not a “Once & Done” Tactic

I just read a great article about what business leaders must understand about SEO and Online Marketing. Here are a few of the things that the author discussed:

  • Offline and online marketing go hand in hand
  • Small changes to your site can have a big ripple effect.
  • Mobile is more than just making your site look good on mobile devices, it’s also about the user experience

But the quote below really hit home. This is the area where I spend most of my time educating clients and potential clients.

SEO isn’t just a one-time implementation of website changes. It’s a strategic initiative with many moving parts. Fixing things locally isn’t enough. Google looks at things like social signals, authority back links and user trust to rank websites. These can’t be easily manipulated or fixed through shortcuts.

Building a website and getting it found online is not a once and walk away tactic. There are many factors that go into keep your site at the top of search results: Search engines change their algorithms, competitors change their tactics, people change their behavior… Just to name a few. Building a site and letting it sit for several years, even several months can quickly ruin any success that you’ve seen.

seo management

Online Marketing, and in particular SEO, is like any other part of your business. You need to manage it to be successful. After all you wouldn’t let your accounts receivable go for months or years without looking at it would you???

So how do you manage your SEO? Here are few suggestions:

  • Implement a reporting plan. Make sure you are running some sort of website analytics on your site. Run regular reports and then study the data.
  • Monitor the keywords that are important to you and how you rank for them.
  • Carefully plan how to improve your ranking using tactics such as, onsite changes, blogging and content marketing, social media promotion, paid search, etc.

Is your head swimming? Not sure what to do first? Start with a Website Audit!

Read the full article: 7 SEO Truths Every Business Leader Must Understand

How to Follow Through on Your Digital Marketing New Year’s Resolutions

Internet marketing New Years Resolutions post its

2014 is in full swing and we all made our new year’s resolutions, but by now some of the novelty may be wearing off. How do you keep your marketing and sales goals from following the same path as that gym membership you bought? Yep remember, you swore this year you would go every morning before work. You’re still going, right?

Guess what, you’re not alone! Sticking with resolutions is tough.

Let’s take a look at what resolutions marketers have made for this year. In the recent study, 2014 State of Marketing from ExactTarget that polled 2.600 mid- to senior-level marketing managers across all industries. The study found that

  • 98% of marketers plan to increase or maintain the amount they spend in 2014
  • 67% of those surveyed, said their top priority is to increase sales directly tied to digital marketing campaigns
  • 64% are focusing on increasing engagement with emails (clicks and open rates)
  • 61% want to increase their return on investment

Do any of these sound familiar to you?

In general 2014 will be a more data driven year then possibly any before.

The top executives in most companies want to see the data that supports and justifies the money they are spending on digital marketing.

I bet that sounds familiar.

So it comes as no surprise that the area that most participants of the study reported they are planning to increase their spending is Data & Analytics (61%).

How can you make sure you follow through on your digital marketing and stay on track?

  1. Make a plan – If you haven’t already, you’re late… Do it right now!
    Do you think Olympic athletes got there because of a New Year’s resolution? No! They had a plan to get to the fitness level where they can compete, and so should when it comes to your online marketing.
    Lay out you plan for 2014, include a schedule for content creation, how you’ll respond to inquiries and questions, who will be involved and the best channels and platforms that work best for your company. Don’t forget mobile!
  2. Focus on your customer and what they really want.
    I know this one sounds too obvious, but so many companies miss this one. The objective is to increase engagement. Whether that’s “likes”, followers, discussions or clicks and open rates, always think from the customers perspective and what they want, not what you want to give them. Think about personalizing
  3. Analyze the data and set periodic goals for throughout the year.
    This doesn’t mean just set up website analytics and look at them every once and awhile to see how many visitors you have. You need to set up measurable goals and periodic milestones for throughout the year. To do this you need to define what a conversion is (a new client, a whitepaper download, a newsletter sign-up, a lead capture submission, etc.),   define what each conversion is worth to you in real money and calculate how many leads or new visitors you need to achieve your goals. This is the only way you can truly understand the ROI of you digital efforts.

The good news is that if you follow these steps you will know exactly where you stand with your digital marketing goals, because you’ll have the incremental data that supports it.

Now, to apply this to my gym membership…

How to Set Up Google Analytics on Your Website

Last time we looked at your Current Online Presence and discussed some basic questions.

  • Do you have a website?
  • Do you or your organization have full control this site?
  • Do you have access or do you have someone that can quickly update your website?
  • Do you currently track what happens on your site? (i.e. Google Analytics, Omniture, etc.)

Now let’s assume that you answered yes to the first three points, but you’re not currently tracking what happens on your site. There are many different website analytics programs out there, but we recommend Google Analytics to most of our clients. It is cost effective (Who doesn’t like free?!?) and very powerful. In this post I’ll walk you through how to set it up on your website.

Let’s get started!

First thing you need to do is head over to the Google Analytics site: http://www.google.com/analytics/

If you already have a Google Account go ahead and sign in, if not, create an account.

google anaylitics homepage

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Once you’ve created an account or clicked sign in, you’ll be greeted with the following screen.

login to GA

Click on the sign up button.

Next you’ll have to choose what you want to track: “Web site” or “App.”  Choose “Web Site” and fill out the form. *Make sure you choose the correct time zone or your timing will be off. This could affect your reporting later.

Since this is also a new account make sure you set up the account name. This can be the name of the web site, the name of your company or anything else you would like to use. Don’t use your name though this might cause confusion, unless of course this is the name of your company too.

Lastly choose your Data Sharing Settings. We recommend keeping these checked. This way you can link/share data with other services from Google such as Adwords as well as receive benchmark data from other websites in your industry.

Then click “Get Tracking ID” and agree to the terms and conditions.

  GA set up form

Next you’ll be put into the “Tracking Info” section of the Admin Panel. This is where you set up what type of website tracking you would like to use.

  • Subdomains
  • Multiple top-level domains
  • Display Advertiser Support
  • Custom campaign tags (we’ll discuss custom campaigns in a later post)

You can see the full descriptions in the image below.  I you are only using one top level domain (i.e blackbirdesolutions.com) you can leave this section the way it is and go on to the next step. If not chose the appropriate options. Our site uses Subdomains so I clicked on the “Subdomains of blackbirdesolutions” toggle and switched it to “On.” As you do this you’ll notice the code changes in the box under your selection. It adds the line of code:  _gaq.push([‘_setDomainName’, ‘blackbirdesolutions.com’]);

GA website tracking setup page

Once you have your code. Copy and paste it into your site. You can do this manually by adding it to the <head> section of every page right before the closing head tag: </head>

Example:

<head>
<meta http-equiv=”Content-Type” content=”text/html; charset=utf-8″ />
<title>Untitled Document</title>
<script type=”text/javascript”>

var _gaq = _gaq || [];
_gaq.push([‘_setAccount’, ‘UA-xxxxxxxx-1’]);
_gaq.push([‘_setDomainName’, ‘blackbirdesolutions.com’]);
_gaq.push([‘_trackPageview’]);

(function() {
var ga = document.createElement(‘script’); ga.type = ‘text/javascript’; ga.async = true;
ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘.google-
analytics.com/ga.js’;
var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
})();

</script>

</head>

In our last post I recommended using a content management system or CMS. Most of them will have a plugin or section in their setup to add Google Analytics code. Our recommendation, WordPress, uses plugins. We use a plugin called Google Analyticator, which allows you to authenticate with your Google login. So there’s no copying and pasting needed.

Once you’ve copy and pasted or linked your account to your CMS, you’re all set!

You can now track what visitors are doing on your site. Later we’ll help you with reporting and understanding the data in Google Analytics.

google analytics report overview

 

Happy tracking!

Ready, Assess, Fire, Aim – Laying the Groundwork for Online Marketing

This is the second post in our series “Killer Online Marketing for 2013

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Many of you have probably heard the popular mantra, “Ready, Fire, Aim.” This is often adopted to keep people or organizations from getting bogged down in the analysis face of making decisions and to promote action. So it can be interpreted as; Take Action, Learn from these actions and then make corrections.

Great! We all need to take action. However, we have a slightly different mantra when it comes to online marketing campaigns.

Ready, Assess, Fire, Aim

Nobody (especially your client or boss) wants to waste money. So the first part of our series is about seeing if you’re ready, by assessing your current situation and ready, assess, fire, aim laying the groundwork for online success. We see too many people that just start firing away without any idea about where they currently are or a plan for what they want to accomplish. Usually they get frustrated quickly and give up with the complaint, “online marketing just doesn’t work for me.”
We don’t want that to happen to you!

Let’s get started.

Current Online Presence

The center of your online universe is your website. Don’t let anyone convince you that you no longer need a website. Facebook, Google+ or whatever other platform may be hot at the time you read this, is not a replacement for your website. Besides a host of other problems, what’s hot now may not be in the future. Remember that thing called MySpace?

Now, we need to figure out if you have the basics to get started. The following is a checklist to help you judge this:

  • Do you have a website?
  • Do you or your organization have full control this site?
  • Do you have access or do you have someone (this could be you, a team, department, consultant or consulting firm, etc.) that can quickly update your website?
  • Do you currently track what happens on your site? (i.e. Google Analytics, Omniture, etc.)

If you answered yes to all of the above, Awesome! You’re ready for the next step. If not don’t fret. We have some recommendations.

Do you have a website?

There are many ways to tackle this one. Of course it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t tell you we can help you with this. We’d be happy to build a custom site for you. If you would like to find out more info about this, website constructionjump over to our Web Development page.

Don’t have the money yet or you’re a do it yourselfer? There are options for this too.

For do it yourselfers that aren’t so technically minded, we love Squarespace. They offer many templates that you can customize without have to know any kind of coding, although they do also offer packages for developers as well. They’ll even help you register a domain. But I’ll let them tell you more about it. Watch the Squarespace Demo.

For do it yourselfers with more technical ability we recommend WordPress. This is a popular blogging platform that has grown into a full website content management system.  It is open source software that is free to download. You can host it yourself or you can sign up for an account at WordPress.com.  For just a blog using their domain (yourname.wordpress.com) it is free, but for a site and domain etc., there is a fee.

Do you or does your organization have full control of your site?

This eliminates Facebook and similar platforms as an option because they can make drastic changes to your presence without warning. Think back to all the changes Facebook has made in the last couple of years. Do you remember what company pages used to look like with tabs along the top? I can’t stress enough your website is the center of your online universe and you need to be in control of it. Below is an example flowchart for how things should be structured online.

oline marketing flowchart

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Do you have access or do you have someone (this could be you, a team, department, consultant or consulting firm, etc.) that can quickly update your website?

This is also very important. To successfully capture leads and prospect you need to have the ability to create/remove landing pages, lead capture forms as well as other pages. (We’ll talk more about this when we get lead generation.) This also includes some form of blogging.

We hear many complaints from people where they had a developer create a site for them, but then it becomes a huge hassle and is costly to make edits or add and remove pages. The best way to alleviate this is to make sure when you build a new site, or if you already have a site, set it up on a content management system or CMS.

A content management system (CMS) is a computer program that allows publishing, editing and modifying content as well as maintenance from a central interface. Definition from Wikepedia

I already mentioned a couple of options: Squarespace and WordPress. Our first choice for web development is WordPress, but there are a few others that are worth mentioning.

  • Joomla Open source and free to download.
  • Drupal Open source and free to download.
  • Expression Engine Core version is free. There is also a pay version that offers more functionality.

Any one of these would be a good and would give you the ability to add and remove pages as well as blog.

Do you currently track what happens on your site? (i.e. Google Analytics, Omniture, etc.)

Website analytics are a key component of any campaign. Without some sort of measurement you have no idea if your campaigns are successful. Plus, how can you improve if you don’t know how you’re doing?

With website analytics you can track simple metrics such as; Visitors, Bounce Rate, Referring Sites, etc. Where it really gets exciting though is when you start looking at more complex reports like Page Efficiency Analysis, Visitor Acquisition Efficiency and Conversion Rates vs. Medium. (We’ll help you create reports like this in the “AIM” portion of our series)

Here are two of the leading website analytics tools that we recommend:

Adobe’s Omniture

This is a pay tool that is very powerful and used by many large well known organizations. It is a very complex tool that can track just about anything you want. The downside is, it can be pricey for many smaller organizations and the complexity can be a bit overwhelming.

Google Analytics

Google offers a free version as well as a pay version. The pay version, like Omniture, is costly and mainly for large organizations. However, the free version is a great tool. This is what we use for our site, and what we recommend to most of our clients. It is very intuitive and easy to configure, as well as very powerful.

Google analytics example

With this simple list you can make sure your foundation is ready.  If you didn’t answer yes to all the questions, then the next step in your action plan is to make sure you turn your “noes” into “yeses.”

Have questions or comments? Let us know in the comments.

In our next posts we’ll talk about how to put some of these tools to work as well as onsite SEO.

5 Changes to Google Analytics You Need to Know Now

I’m typically not a big fan of infographics, but thought this one was quite good. Brian Clifton Author of Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics shared this over the weekend. There are several changes coming to Google Analytics that are going to be pretty important. You’ll find 5 of them below.

 

What's coming next for Google Analytics

Google Webmaster Tools Adds Search Query Alerts

If you already use Google Webmaster Tools (If not, you should be!), then you’ve probably seen the Search Queries Feature, but Google has now added alerts for Search Queries data. So now you can be notified when something changes with the search queries where your site is showing.

The Search Queries feature gives insight into how your site is performing. It shows things such as impressions, average position and clicks to your top pages. Usually these metric follow a pattern. With the new service you can be notified when something out of the ordinary happens, such as a spike or a drop.

Here’s an example alert:

This way you’ll be on top of things if there is a technical problem with your site or to better understand if there is a send change in the trends in the demand for your content. Sometimes these changes can be a result of a database failure that causes errors in some of your content, or a mention of your site on a social network, blog or another site. All of these scenarios would warrant a closer look.

Also, don’t forget to turn on your email notifications:

google webmaster email notifications

Read the announcement over the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog

Is Google Walling Out the Rest of the Internet to Make Their Search Better?

In the last few months we’ve seen a number of changes released by the search powerhouse Google. The updates are coming at a fast and furious pace. Today’s addition as well as one of their previous changes have been doing more than raise a few eyebrows. There is sure to be more talk about anti-trust issue.

Let’s start with the older change that took place in October of 2011. Without much fanfare Google started withholding keyword data for organic search. The way that they are doing it is if a searcher is logged into their Google account and performs a search on Google.com, this data (i.e keywords) is now not passed through so that site owners can see what that visitor search for before landing on their site. It now simply says [not set]. There has been much speculation if this was just a money making move to promote their premium analytics platform. But guess what there was another surprise for us today and this is what I believe the real reason they are withholding data: Enter “Search Plus.”

Search plus is an update to how Google’s search engine works, making it more social. Here are the basics.

  1. Personal Results, which enable you to find information just for you, such as Google+ photos and posts—both your own and those shared specifically with you, that only you will be able to see on your results page; 
  2. Profiles in Search, both in autocomplete and results, which enable you to immediately find people you’re close to or might be interested in following; and, 
  3. People and Pages, which help you find people profiles and Google+ pages related to a specific topic or area of interest, and enable you to follow them with just a few clicks. Because behind most every query is a community.

At first glance this may sound great, I can use Google to find all the info I want to find from the people I care about. It’s also obviously a shot at Facebook and Twitter. But, if you read into it a bit more, it may seem kind of scary and this is where the anti-trust suits will really focus.

Of course the social aspects are going to come from Google’s own Google+: Not Facebook, not Twitter. (Just as a disclaimer Google has tried for years to get access to Facebook and actually collaborated with Twitter, but Facebook wouldn’t allow it and Twitter didn’t renew their deal.) Does this give preferential treatment to Google products and sites? That seems pretty obvious.

To do this Google needed to created a way to secure search data so that people’s private data isn’t out there in the public.

When it comes to security and privacy, we set a high bar for Search plus Your World. Since some of the information you’ll now find in search results, including Google+ posts and private photos, is already secured by SSL encryption on Google+, we have decided that the results page should also have the same level of security and privacy protection.

If we put the two changes together: Google withholding data from marketers and site owners and the new “Search Plus” it might sound pretty scary to Google’s competition, but unfortunately the encryption and the preferential treatment is something they have to do if they want to compete in the social arena.  What I don’t get though is with all the programming wizardry they have, why can’t they figure out how to pass the keyword data to website owners when someone clicks on a link even on an encrypted results page? Either way this creates walls between Google’s platform and the rest of the internet.

What do you think?

Social Media ROI – What’s Your Plan?

Whenever I’m pitching new business, one of the first questions or concerns I hear is, “What’s the ROI for Social Media?” Of course businesses want to know what they will get for their investment in this new medium. Fair enough.

After reading a post this morning by Brian Solis: Social Media ROI: ROI Doesn’t Stand for Return on Ignorance. I decided to delve into the subject myself.

Like me you’ve probably heard the arguments that social media ROI is based on a “soft ROI”. Or, maybe you’ve heard the new acronyms: ROE (Return On Engagement) or ROP (Return On Participation). Yes, there is some merit in ROE or ROP, but these metrics don’t show the full picture. Furthermore, because many of the tools used for management of the social media platforms, as well as the platforms themselves are free, people are tricked into thinking that there is no cost. That’s just not the case. The expression “time is money” comes to mind. Social media management takes time. So, either companies need to allocate their employees to take the time for management, or they need to hire an outside company to put the time in for them.

What does all of this mean? Well, the biggest thing that you need to consider is, what is your plan? As the old saying goes: Failing to plan is planning to fail. Below are the steps we use when planning a social media campaign for clients.

  1. Define your goals and objectives. This is by far the most important single piece of the plan. If you don’t know your objectives or if they aren’t realistic, you’ve failed before you started.

    Let’s face it we are not all Charlie Sheen and more than likely won’t reach 1 million followers in a little over a day. Besides we’re looking for quality here not quantity. So, what’s a better goal for us lesser folk?

    Let’s take a look at an example. I do work with a number of staffing companies. With one of them their objective is to get more qualified candidates in the door. They know that statistically if they get 10 candidates 4 of them are qualified and they can place them. Goal: Get more candidates in the door and get more placements, or get more qualified candidates in the door so they can place 5 out of 10 or 6 out of 10.

    Most importantly define a measurable goal.

  2. Find out where your target market hangs out? This is critical because not every platform is good for every objective.

    Looking at the staffing company again, think about where people looking for jobs or people who are unemployed hangout? LinkedIn, Facebook, maybe somewhere else? Figuring this out will save you wasted time and resources trying to get traction somewhere where your target just isn’t active.

  3. What’s your investment? Remember, time is money and social media management takes time.This is where most companies lose site.

    At this point you really need to take a hard look at your resources. Does your organization have the staff to effectively manage your efforts? Can they really spend the time on social media, or are they already overloaded with other duties. Also, do they have the knowledge? You need to be honest here.

    Something I’ve seen often are companies that think they can do it internally, but months later they realize they don’t really have the resources and their campaign needs a shot in the arm. Worse yet, is when they give up, decide there is not value in social media and the whole thing falls on the floor.

    Either way you need to allocate time internally or with outside help. I recommend at least an hour a day for a healthy campaign, but definitely more in the beginning. But also keep in mind this is not a quick fix that you can invest time for a month and suddenly you’re on top the social media world. Remember, Rome wasn’t build in a day.

    Here’s a link that will help you judge how much to budget for your campaign: How much do you need to budget for Social Media in 2011?

  4. Monitor, tag, track and analyze. This is how you know if you are meeting your goals and objective.

    There are a number of free and fee based monitoring tools out there for social media. Here are just a couple: SocialMention.com, Radian6. With these tools you can track where and when people are talking about your product, brand or company. Also, be sure to tag your links for the various platforms. You can use bit.ly to shorten the links and Google’s link builder to tag them. This tells you where people come from when they visit your site. Then combine all this with good old website analytics and offline metrics.

    In the case of the staffing company, we track the number of applications filled out, how many people viewed the job postings, where they came from when the filled out the application, etc.

  5. Calculate Return On Investment. Now that you know your objective, target market location, investment and results, you can calculate the return.

    With your well defined goals, your knowledge of your target audience, and the analysis of your traffic and interactions, you can follow the path from initial action, all the way through to conversion.