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Tad Chef

April 21st, 2015.

The 50% Success Rate Outreach Process Blueprint

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Yes, I have done outreach occasionally myself as part of larger campaigns for a few years. Now that I specialized on outreach to bloggers, webmasters, influencers etc.

I reached a success rate of 50% recently. Yes, that’s five links/mentions or positive replies per ten messages sent.

How I did I achieve it and how you can replicate that process: a DIY blueprint.

 

Reaching out to strangers

You know what outreach is and how it works by now: approaching people on the Web out of the blue (that is without prior relationship building) to get publicity and links is not the best thing to do. You also know that it’s difficult.

You can expect a lot of people to ignore you, others to want money to write about you while some will not even understand what you want from them. Even those who send a positive reply can’t be relied upon. They often won’t link to you despite liking you and your offer.

Did I mention that it’s already hard to get through to strangers?

Thus I was very fond of myself when I finally reached a success rate of 50% in a recent real life attempt to get the word out about a new calendar site. This was, as it’s often the case with my clients, a small business even though it acted internationally.

The owner had calendar sites in several European countries like France, Spain or Italy and wanted to get links for his latest site that was geared towards the German speaking population (that’s at least three countries: Germany, Austria and Switzerland).

 

Small business outreach tends to be small as well

Not only the budget was small, also the topic didn’t really make sense for relationship building. Why would someone want to befriend a calendar site or become friends with a calender site owner?

Sure, you could create content on each and every holiday and send reminders or such but that would require a lot of effort. Nope, we needed fast action with clear objectives. Reaching out to relevant sites and blogs to announce a new calendar site at the beginning of the year.

In this low budget fast track case I offered my smallest package available.

The “Outreach S plan” is only about researching and contacting ten highly relevant bloggers and website owners. You may assume that such a small number is pointless from the start given the industry average success rates of such campaigns that range below 5%.

Ouch, that’s roughly one in twenty sites reacting positively. Yet, it’s not the case with my outreach attempts. I had often 3 of 10 people write back. Some needing clarifications while others saying “thank you for the heads up” and linking right away.

 

Without a value proposition don’t even start

Only your mother loves you because you are you. To convince other people to support your site you need to add some value to the equation. Here comes the so called value proposition. “Here I come, please link me” is not a value proposition.

A value proposition is something that is helpful, useful, entertaining, lucrative or all of those.

You may argue that your business is

  • helpful
  • useful
  • entertaining
  • lucrative

and thus everybody out there needs to link to you but that’s not true and you are of course biased. You may be offering the same thing as others do, why would someone want to link to you instead of the others?

Try to get into the shoes of the blogger/webmaster. What do they need you can offer them?

Of course money would be the most evident answer but that won’t work for link building outreach. Text links ads aka “paid links” have to use the crippling “nofollow” attribute according to Google so that they don’t work for SEO purposes. Alternatives are:

  • unique insights (studies, surveys, data)
  • high profile content (infographics, videos)
  • expertise (interviews)
  • freebies (tools, resources)

In some cases the site/tool you mention might be enough. This was the case with my client, who offered a free online but also printable calendar and widget. Why did this suffice? It’s because I’ve found bloggers and webmasters who covered exactly such services in the (recent) past and there was timely demand for it.

 

The most important part of outreach is not the message

The most important aspect of outreach starts before the outreach. Ideally you already know the people you want to send a message to. In case you don’t – just like with my “cold outreach” attempt – it’s crucial to address the right people. They have to be active, relevant and responsible for publishing.

  • A blog that has written 5 years ago about your topic but hasn’t published a single post in a year is dead or on hold. They won’t even reply for the same reasons they don’t update their weblog.
  • A blog that has mentioned a calendar in one sentence within an article dealing with something else is not relevant.
  • An occasional writer who has contributed a post a year ago but hasn’t written for the publication ever since is not responsible for publishing most probably. The individual will in most cases not even be able to update the old post.

In case just one of these things is missing you already lost.

 

 

How to find relevant blogs/sites?

I keep it simple. I use Google to find most of the people I write to. What do I search for? Nothing fancy. I start with the obvious search queries to find out how competitive the searches are and whether I can find someone to talk to already here on top of the Google results or a few pages down the line:

[calendar blog]

[calendar 2015 blog]

[calendar inurl:blog]

[calendar 2015 inurl:blog]

I refine the search by limiting the results to more timely ones: I click on search tools “past week”, “past month” and “past year”:

outreach-calendar-year

The top 5 look already pretty relevant as you can see to some extent. Now I only have to look them up and find out whether they really are. Then of course I need to get their contact details.

 

Talk to individuals not companies or teams

As mentioned above you don’t want to write to company or group blogs where the writer isn’t even able to add something to an existing article let alone publish a new one. I had to learn that lesson the hard way.

You want to reach out to individual webmasters or bloggers responsible for their sites or blogs.

In other words you need to contact the person who decides what gets published, creates that content and owns it. Company blogs with info@company.com are the worst. You never get the right person to talk to. Even in case you get to speak to the writer s/he won’t be able to help you.

There are just too many people involved in the decision process. Even worse the internal hierarchy and goals will prevent them from linking out at all. Sadly most business do not help they just sell even in case a helpful gesture would be free like with linking out.

 

Outreach messages that don’t annoy

OK, now that you have 10 blogs/site that have covered exactly what you offer and found out name and mail address of the responsible owner here comes the easy part, the actual message. Keep it extremely short, as relevant as possible and as personalized as possible.

Many lazy SEO and PR practitioners tend to automate that process and they just clumsily enter a scraped name and URL to the message. I can spot such messages right away. Don’t start your message with “Dear Sirs!” or “Hello,”.

Both subject line and name have to be personalized to the site owner.

Let’s assume there is a fictional blog called Happy Blogging! run by Amanda Jones who has written an article called “Happy New Blogging Year with Fresh Online Calendars”. This is the info you need to have for personalized message:

  • Blog name: Happy Blogging!
  • Name: Amanda Jones
  • Mail: amanda@happyblogging.com
  • Headline: Happy New Blogging Year with Fresh Online Calendars
  • URL: http://happyblogging.com/blog/happy-new-blogging-year-with-fresh-online-calendars

Then the message would look as following:

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Subject line: Calendar Post on Happy Blogging!

Message:

Hello Amanda!

While looking for resources on online calendars your article “Happy New Blogging Year with Fresh Online Calendars”:

http://happyblogging.com/blog/happy-new-blogging-year-with-fresh-online-calendars

stood out in a positive manner.

Did you know that there is a new free online calendar out there that is also printable? It’s available at yourcalendar.link

I’d love to see it added to your post. In case you don’t like it, I’d appreciate some feedback so we can improve it.

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Your name, company and signature

As already explained in the “actual message” link above you don’t want to ostracize the blogger by using an obnoxious signature. It might be even problematic to reach out with the wrong name of from the wrong company. I’m not kidding.

For example people in the US might be annoyed when someone with an Indian name is approaching them because there have been many attempts at low level outreach from outsourced companies in India in the past. On the other hand using a fake name like some Indians did and call yourself John Miller might backfire as well.

Personally I have a very weird looking and sounding name for most people around the world including Germany. Yet the name looks real and not made up. This is by now an advantage.

That’s why I use my full name when addressing people out of the blue. In case they don’t like my name for some reason (xenophobia?) they are probably not ready for my message either. I also only use my name “Tadeusz Szewczyk” then. I don’t add the company in my “name” yet.

As long as I have been doing outreach as part of larger projects and campaigns I used the mail address of the client company to send out messages. This time I changed my mind and for efficiency reasons I decided to use my own address (onreact.com) to send out messages.

It’s not only about efficiency though. True, some companies needed weeks to set up a mail account for me and then it still did not work properly so that I had to mail back and forth with the tech support guy.

My website is simple and friendly enough while not being overtly marketing oriented.

In short I don’t scare people by sounding and looking like a marketer or even worse search engine optimizer. I simplified my site copy so that everybody can understand it. I changed my wording so that it does not only cater to potential clients but also to average people who just want to know what I’m about. Now my outreach works better.

I can add a neutral signature to my mails without being afraid that the people will check my site out and leave

based on their prejudice. Remember most people hat marketing. Also the companies I write the outreach messages for are often very commercial. That’s why they need outreach in the first place as they do not use inbound techniques to get a healthy number of supporters.

My actual signature looks like this (with the exception of the mail address I had to change so that spam bots can’t crawl the original one):

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Tadeusz Szewczyk, onreact.com/en
Help with Blogs, Social Media & Search
+49 (0)30 60 98 62 38
example@onreact.com
Heckmannufer 7
10097 Berlin
Germany

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In Germany you have to add a signature when you are sending out business mail. It needs to contain your physical address and phone number. I’d add them even in case your local legislation does not force you to do so. This way you can ensure that people are assuming that you are an actual human being not a bot and work for a real brick and mortar business ideally.

 

* Creative Commons image by Kalyan Chakravarthy

 

 

 

 

fire

Tad Chef

April 8th, 2015.

Google Sabotage: There is No Such Thing as Negative SEO

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Google opened the floodgates of so called “negative SEO” or rather Google sabotage with so called “unnatural linkspenalties and Penguin updates.

There are numerous ways by now that allow the competition to hurt your site in the results of the market-dominating search engine.

It’s really pitiful but I have to tell the world about it, especially as the search giant uses this situation to discredit the whole discipline of SEO as “negative”.

 

What is SEO? No idea? You’re not alone!

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Studies from the US show that more than two thirds of average citizens do not even know what the acronym SEO means. Some even considered HTML to be a sexually transmitted disease.

“77% of respondents could not identify what SEO means.”

For those who know that it’s about Search Engine Optimization the majority rather assumes that it’s about SPAM or at least “manipulating” of search engines. It comes as no surprise to these people that SEO is actually negative. It has never had a positive connotation to the majority in the first place.

 

SEO experts calling SEO negative

Then there are the experts who read this blog and not only know what SEO is, but also practice it themselves without resorting to black magic. Even these specialists tend to repeat hearsay from others who tell them that links are unnatural or that SEO is negative.

Yes, most SEO practitioners even spread the word about how negative SEO is and try to prove that you can harm other websites in search results not only by links but also by other means. People oblivious to the topic who only scan such articles will only know one thing after consuming them: SEO is potentially dangerous.

Of course the skilled professionals refer to Google sabotage, formerly known mostly as Google bowling by old school SEO practitioners.

There is no such thing as negative SEO like there is no hot ice or dry water. True, you can sabotage competing sites in Google in manifold ways but false, you can’t negatively optimize for search engines.

Either you optimize and improve or you don’t. You can’t improve negatively. So why are SEO experts using such a paradox (in linguistics it’s called an oxymoron)? Well, most of us also say “unnatural links” as if natural links would grow on trees organically.

 

“Negative SEO” had its 15 minutes of fame in 2007

True, the term “negative SEO” seems to exist at least since 2007 when Forbes wrote about it in an article called – understandably – The Saboteurs of Search. So unlike the other paradox term that is used to demean SEO and is commonly used by Google – “unnatural links” – this term seems to be an invention of some self-proclaimed SEOs.

I have never heard of them despite a decade of reading about SEO other than in that article. Remember that our industry has no rules on using the term. Everybody can say s/he’s an SEO and nobody can prevent them from doing so.

Barry Schwartz confirmed the existence of the term a day later on Search Engine Land. He was still using quotation marks to distance himself from the term “negative SEO” though.

You won’t believe what happened next! Well, what happened? Almost nothing. Most people forgot about it. Google bowling has been mentioned ever since here and there but nobody really cared. Why? It was marginal at best. Also it was much easier to truly optimize sites and build links instead of trying to hurt your competition on Google.

 

So how can you sabotage your competition?

I won’t explain in detail (for obvious reasons) how you can harm competing websites on Google but even the article from 2007 on Forbes already lists 7 of them. I didn’t even know some of the terms they used but I know, and can imagine even more tactics to hurt your competitors.

Google bowling or pointing SPAM links at your competition’s website is the most known and obvious one. It boomed ever since Google sends out warnings of “manual action” because of unnatural or artificial links by way of Google Webmaster Tools.

You don’t need a PhD to engage in such practices. Just reply to one of those numerous spam mails trying to sell you dozens, hundreds or thousands of links for a measly sum of a few dollars. It’s certainly cheaper than optimizing your site the legit way.

 

Outing – Forbes introduces a widely used negative SEO techniques as tattling but by now it’s commonly referred to as outing. You have simply to catch your competition in the act of breaching the Google Webmaster Guidelines and report them in one way or the other.

You can snitch right away at Google or you simply tell the press so that they can raise enough hell so that Google has to act.

It works well, even in case of larger brands sometimes. Simply reporting paid links that lead to your competition might take a while or amount to nothing though. Of course you can combine buying links for Google Bowling and outing the competition then.

 

Google insulation – I’m not even sure that term has caught on but it’s about search result saturation. For example back in the days when I ranked #1 for the German phrase for search engine optimizer the largest economic weekly in Google.de other SEO practitioners got pissed off and started saturating the results with blog posts aiming to outrank me.

As it was just a niche and not that competitive before it worked after a while, especially as the huge number of leads from that magazine largely prevented me from optimizing my site further. I also used this technique for a good cause once, to outrank spammers collectively with other bloggers.

This is not even clearly sabotage, it depends on the context and intent.

In essence you just optimize third party sites to outrank your competition, which is legitimate. This technique is often used in online reputation management campaigns aimed at subduing bad press about a brand or person.

 

Copyright Takedown Notices – You can make whole sites disappear wielding the Copyright axe. Major sites like WordPress.com, Tumblr or Blogger (owned by Google) won’t ask many questions but instead simply delete your whole blog because of one or two copyrighted images.

You can even buy rights for an image afterwards and claim it’s yours.

Even in case the site comes back up later, a few days being offline are enough to hit you severely in Google and make you seem unreliable for the foreseeable future which results in downranking a few spots. This might be enough for your competition to outrank you then.

 

Copied content – Website scraping and republishing or manually creating duplicates by copying content can lead to so called duplicate content issues on Google. The search engine still struggles to credit the original publisher of content as the source in many cases.

Sometimes sites copying your content outrank you in Google as if they were the original and you are the copy.

Google doesn’t like to see the same content more than once in its search results so that copied content may quickly damage your site’s rankings. Even the BBC got a page specific penalty because of content scraped from their site by third parties.

 

Denial of Service – A so-called DoS (Denial of Service) or DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack on your site, that is someone bombarding a site with requests from numerous computers may results in slowing down your site, temporarily or permanently blocking access to your site.

The longer your site loads slowly or is down for good the more risky and unreliable you look to Google. By now Google can react quickly and show alternative sites even based on temporary high loading times. After all Google does not want make people to wait.

 

Hacking – Website hacking – in the sense of wrecking your site with malicious intent – as in infecting sites with malware may lead to getting blocked by Google. Sometimes Google will downright warn users from entering your site saying “this site may be hacked” right in the search results. When you’re site is down or infected for a longer time it might disappear from the radar altogether. Just like DoS attacks the hacking effectively damages your algorithmic reputation.

 

Spamming – Google does not value sites that seem to be abandoned because they have a lot of SPAM comments or forum entries for example. So you can harm a site by literally spamming them using comment spam bots.

You can simply invite SPAM comment by solely covering a topic that is often associated with SPAM. So in case you mention gambling, generic pharmaceuticals or NSFW topics you can bet that spammers will find you automatically and insert their comments.

 

The Fire this Time

That’s it for now. There are more techniques to sabotage sites in Google. I won’t mention all of them. I already feel bad about telling you so many. Most of them have been in the original Forbes article from 2007 so I didn’t start the fire.

There needs to be a public awareness of the current state of affairs on Google.

It’s not fun and Google can fix it with ease. Instead of labelling SEO as negative you rather need to call out Google for it. Why do they penalize websites for third party actions those sites have often no control of? Why penalize the victim for sabotage?

 

* Creative Commons image by Les Chatfield

riot-police-have-secret-weapon

Pete Campbell

March 16th, 2015.

Your Secret Weapon for Powerful Content Outreach: Native Advertising

The whole internet may have gone completely content crazy, but developing something great to share with your target market isn’t even half the battle when you’re serious about generating great engagement, squeaky clean links and enviable organic coverage with content marketing.

With the web swamped with headlines and ads all fighting to win a click, it’s not easy to put your content in a place where the right people are going to see it. If you’re struggling to achieve ROI in your content marketing strategy, it’s time to explore new techniques that will get your lovingly crafted content right under the cursors of carefully targeted readers.

Your new weapon of choice? Native advertising.

Native advertising in a nutshell

If you haven’t come across native advertising before, here’s how it works. A huge range of publishers from the Daily Mail and Twitter, to Spotify and Skype now give advertisers the opportunity to buy advertising space in clever locations on their site. Whether it’s a sponsored tweet or a prime position in the “MORE LIKE THIS” section under a relevant article, these sponsored spots are perfect for placing your content directly in front of a relevant and already engaged audience.

With a vast and diverse menu of platforms to advertise on, it’s possible to target extremely niche audiences, ensuring that your ad spend is going on the right people. This excellent infographic from triplelift will introduce you to the key opportunities that are out there.

image

Via Triplelift

Each one of these options has specific rules, prices, systems, analytics, audiences – you name it. Which is why it’s so helpful to have a good understanding of the native advertising landscape – and how it relates to your clients, their budgets and their target markets.

But, with a little experience, a small dose of trial and error and a soupcon of insight, native advertising can be a powerful, cost-effective way to win fantastic organic coverage and the sort of links that Google loves: free, no-follow, organic and from genuinely interested sources. With an average cost per click of £0.06p, this technique is a low-cost way to offer genuine value to your target audience, using a non-aggressive advertising format. In the right hands it’s a win-win-win.

Native is growing…

That’s why native advertising is growing – and growing fast. According to data from eMarketer:

• Back in 2012, the US was spending $1.4bn on native ads.
• In 2013 that rose to $2.4bn…
• …reaching $3.1bn in 2014.
• In 2015 native ad spending is predicted to rise a further 19.4% to $3.7bn.

Here are a few compelling facts and stats which go some way towards explaining native advertising’s meteoric rise:

• 32% of native ad viewers claimed they’d share sponsored content with a friend or family member. When asked about banner advertising shareability, just 19% would be willing to share.
• This company achieved an astonishing 8% CTR (Click Through Rate) and won 416,000 click throughs using native advertising
• In contrast, the average CTR for traditional display ads has steadily plummeted from 9% in 2000 to a mere 0.2% in 2012
• Browsers are 53% more likely to click on a native ad compared to a banner ad
• 81% of US marketers are actively seeking to increase brand visibility and engagement by harnessing native advertising

How to “go native”

If you’re considering incorporating native advertising into your SEO or content marketing campaign, this blog will give you a head start.

Over the past year I have run a number of native advertising experiments, identifying best practice and working to discover if there can be a positive correlation between native ads and quality shares and links. I’d like to take you though 4 campaigns I ran for 5 SMEs using 4 different networks – and share the valuable lessons I learned along the way…

 Experiment #1
Outbrain & The Lazy Hostess

babe scott
With a minimum spend of just £6.00 and the opportunity to entirely self-manage campaigns, Outbrain felt like a natural place to start the experiment. From The Guardian to CNN Travel, the platform offers plenty of outlets and tonnes of tools for honing and targeting your campaign.

This campaign was developed to promote a free resource of 15 recipes from The Lazy Hostess, with the goal of winning big links and lots of shares. The result? Failure.

With an average cost per share of £5.80 and just one no-follow domain link achieved, this native advertising campaign simply flopped. But why would a great, free resource from an influential author not attract shares and links? The answer lies on the original landing page. Heavily promotional and clumsily designed, the destination which link-clickers found themselves on did not look or feel like the helpful, free resource they’d been promised.

 Experiment #2
Taboola & Two Little Fleas

fleas
Taboola is the go-to network for anyone attempting to reach a UK tabloid audience. With a fun video list of 20 crazy marriage proposals created to promote an online bingo, this platform was the ideal outlet for my next naive trial.

Learning from the hard lesson of The Lazy Hostess, I invested time in creating a non-promotional, non-branded landing page which served up exactly the content described and did not overtly advertise the brand until the bottom of the content. Throughout the page, the opportunity to like and share the content was immediately accessible and an option to embed the resource was offered underneath.

The results were great. 504 social shares at a cost per share of just £0.14p, juicy links at a cost per link of £5.00 and high quality exposure from The Huffington Post who published the content themselves.

• Experiment #3
Facebook & Two Little Fleas
Armed with a video list of ridiculous talk show topics (including “My fear of mustard and pickles is ruining my life”) I decided to try to leverage Facebook’s native advertising opportunities to gain exposure, shares and links for an online bingo portal.

Outreach was modest, but effective, achieving 96 shares and 4 links. However, the cost per share and cost per link were prohibitive at a not-so-peachy £70.00 per link. The lesson here? For small businesses with limited budgets, Facebook is not a great option.

• Experiment #4
Twitter & Entrepreneurial Client
Twitter, meanwhile, is a far more scalable, cost-effective option if you want to use a social media giant for native advertising. It’s run on a cost-per-engagement basis, which means that you’ll pay per click and per share. Twitter’s advertising options were recently only available to bigger brands, now the doors are open and it’s well worth exploring the opportunities the platform offers for highly targeted advertising via keywords or the people users follow.

Personally, I’d recommend the latter option, which is how I gained 17 links (£5.88 cost per link) and 204 shares (£0.08p cost per share) for a listicle of the 10 Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read. By targeting the followers of the authors featured on the list, this piece of content enjoyed lots of great, organic coverage and shares, spreading the cost of direct, original RTs (21 at £4.76) to a whole other level.

Using Twitter for native advertising

On the back of the success of my Twitter campaign, I’d like to share a little bit of best practice to get you started on the platform…

• Target based on who users follow
You have two options for targeting here. Targeting by keyword and targeting by who users follow. Although SEO professionals are pretty much hard-wired to choose keyword-based options, the ‘following’ option seems to yield far more accurate results. The correct keywords can be tough to identify and can be used in all sorts of unrelated contexts. Looking at who follows who will give you a far clearer picture of your targeted audience, their likes, dislikes and preferences.

• Avoid @ & #
It’s natural to try to make your Tweets as interactive as possible, however, when you’re paying a cost per engagement, the only thing you want users to click on is the link to your content, otherwise you’re just throwing your spend away!

• Embrace Twitter cards
If you’re not making full use of Twitter cards, you should be. These recent developments allow you to include lots of lovely rich media which ensures you take up a healthy slice of Twitter feeds, capturing your audience’s full attention. They’re pretty similar to open graph tags, but you’ll need to get Twitter approval before you use them. Well worth the effort, though.

Looking the part

If there’s one thing you need to know about native advertising, it’s that your content doesn’t need to be mind-blowing. Instead, it needs to be packaged correctly. Amazing content which looks heavily promotional and feels unintuitive to explore will not give you the exposure you need. Instead, focus on decent content which looks interesting and doesn’t send visitors running for the hills with aggressive promotions.

In best practice terms this boils down to:

• Creating a bold, visually interesting microsite for your content
• Avoiding heavy branding (no big logos, no telephone numbers at the top, etc.)
• Making content as readable as possible with plenty of multimedia, short paragraphs and eye-catching sub-headings
• Including lots of opportunities for sharing
• Providing options to tweet images and quotes
– Image plugin
– Quote plugin
• Including embed codes at the bottom

“How One Phenomenal Headline Grabbed Everyone’s Attention”

But before your audience reach your perfectly presented content, you need to grab their attention. That’s where your headline comes in. It’s impossible to underestimate the importance of a great headline. A good one could help your content go viral, a bad one will leave your content languishing in obscurity.

Look to websites like BuzzFeed and Upworthy for inspiration. Upworthy believe headlines are so important that they regularly A/B test 25 variations before choosing the ultimate version to run with. Here’s what Upworthy have to say on the matter: “You can have the best piece of content and make the best point ever. But if no one looks at it, the article is a waste. A good headline can be the difference between 1,000 people and 1,000,000 people reading something.”

So how can you craft headlines that make a difference to your native advertising campaign?
• Pose a question
How? Why? What? Where? Questions pique curiosity and offer something readers really want: answers.
 Use a number
Studies regularly demonstrate that headlines which include numbers rack up more clicks
• It’s all about “You”
Make it personal, grab attention and start a relationship with the reader by involving them in your headline. e.g. 17 Techniques Which Will Turn You Into a Native Advertising God
• Test, test, test!
Most importantly, use data to discover which headlines work, and which don’t. A/B testing is a crucial part of this – and it doesn’t need to be complicated. For $99, the AppSumo plugin will give you the power to easily test multiple headlines.

The take home

And that’s a wrap. I hope you’ve picked up some useful pointers from my successes and learned some helpful lessons from my less fruitful forays into native advertising.

Done well, native advertising is a powerful, cost-effective way to generate good organic exposure for your content. It’s scalable and therefore ideal for smaller businesses, and it can give a low-cost boost to your original SEO and content marketing strategies. If you are going to give this technique a go, here are my parting words of wisdom:

• Know your publishers
Take time to get to grips with a range of platforms which publish advertising on a broad range of websites. The better you understand the audiences they can reach, and the tools available, the more effective your native advertising will be.

• Be scientific about headlines
This is the first glimpse readers will have of your content. Your headline will either inspire a click or get overlooked. That’s why it’s essential to craft the most clickable possible headline. Use the headline writing best practice outlined above and make sure you A/B test as rigorously as you can to give your campaign the best chance of web domination.

• Look the part
Your content doesn’t need to be Nobel prize-winning, but it does need to serve up what your original ad offered, make visitors feel comfortable and grab their attention all at once. If you can tick all these boxes you’ll see much more value from your native advertising campaign.

• Encourage sharing
From using Open Graph formats to including embed codes beneath your content; give visitors absolutely every opportunity to share your content, without bombarding them. It’s a fine line, but keep your buttons available yet unintrusive and you’ll enjoy better exposure.

• Measure your success
How do you know how far you’ve come if you have no idea where you’ve started? It’s really important to measure your campaign to analyse the performance of your native advertising. Make sure you look at factors like bounce rate, time on page and goals.

Above all, set yourself clear click per link (CPL) and click per share (CPS) targets and look closely at your results. This data provides valuable insight into what you’re doing right and, more importantly, where you’re going wrong.

 

Pete Campbell is Director of Kaizen SEO.

You can also hassle him on Twitter @PeteCampbell

emailmarketing

Matt

December 22nd, 2014.

10 Email Marketing Fails That You Should Avoid

Email marketing is still incredibly important for businesses. According to statistics, 95% of online consumers have an email address. This means that email marketing can be a cheap and effective effective method for reaching a large percentage of our consumers. It’s not just the wide reach of email marketing that makes it a worthwhile marketing method, but it’s also the potential return that it offers.

The conversion rates for email marketing are three times higher than they are for social media marketing. Statistics also show that for every $1 that a business spends on an email campaign, they get an average return of $44.25. In order to nurture leads, build your brand and increase your conversion rates, you need to be implementing an email marketing campaign. To make your email marketing campaign successful, avoid these ten email marketing fails.

Avoiding Responsiveness Optimisation

With emails being viewed from multiple devices, responsiveness optimisation is essential. Statistics show that 48% of emails are opened on a mobile device. If your consumers view an email from your company on their smartphone, and they have to scroll across the page, or scale the page to be able to read it, they are likely to just skip over it. The example below shows a lack of responsiveness optimisation by the sender.

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The Email Address makes your Emails Look Like Spam

If your email address looks unprofessional, then your emails will probably be marked as spam. If you take your business seriously, get a professional sounding email address and ensure that the recipients stand the best chance of recognising your brand.

There’s No Clear Call to Action

Your emails talk about your products or services and maybe all of the generous promotional offers your site is offering. What’s missing is a clear call to action. A CTA is important. It tells your reader what you want them to do. Without it you will get minimal return on your investment, and you definitely won’t increase your conversion rate.

 

This email from The Whisky Exchange looks highly professional, but it includes no call to action. If there’s no call to action, the company’s customers won’t know what action to take next, and their email was essentially a waste of time.

 

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Too Many CTAs

 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, many emails use too many CTAs. Putting a “shop now” link several times throughout your email is a bad idea. You don’t want your emails to be too cluttered or too unfocused. Emails containing dozens of CTAs end up looking like junk mail too. If the reader is presented with too many links, they will likely skip over the email. For example, this Macy’s email, which advertises the store’s Super Saturday promotion, contains far too many links. There’s the $10 off deal the 20% of deal and literally a dozen links to the store’s products. This simply leaves the reader confused and wondering where to click.

 

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Too Many Graphics

A busy looking email that’s full of images, banners and flashing graphics is very distracting. These graphics will take away from the copy and the call to action, and you won’t get your customers to take the action you desire. Don’t use too many images, and make sure the ones that you do use don’t take away from what your email is trying to achieve.

No Valuable Content

If you keep sending out emails that simply promote your products, services or offers and deals that your site is currently running, then people will simply stop reading your emails, or they will unsubscribe. Your emails need to offer value to customers. So if you sell fitness supplements for example, don’t just promote your products. Instead, send out how-to fitness emails. Creating email content that is valuable, informative, and solves an issue or meets a need for your customers is essential. Good content also give you more opportunity to use a clickbait subject line.

Ineffective Copy

Good copy engages and connects with your customers on a personal level. It looks professional and it’s written in a way that prompts the customers to take action. There are 247 billion emails sent per day, much of which is spam. If you want your customers to take your emails seriously, then you need to take the time to make your copy effective. Copy that’s poorly written or littered with spelling errors looks highly unprofessional, and simply screams spam.

This copy from Facebook is ineffective for a number of reasons. It’s not compelling, engaging or particularly interesting either. Also, the first line is missing a question mark.

facebookNo Personalisation

 

The biggest email marketing fail is not personalising your emails. Starting your email with “Hi”, “Dear Subscriber”, or the dreaded “Dear Sir/Madam” is sure fire way to get your emails marked as junk. Your copy must use the terms “you”, “me” and “us” when addressing the customer too.  This email from Polldaddy is a personalisation fail. It doesn’t even use the usual “Dear Sir/Madam”. Instead it begins with “Hi Unknown”. When the reader sees that, they will immediately cross of the email, and mark future correspondence as spam.

polldaddyPoor Subject Line

Email marketing campaigns often use truly abysmal subject lines. 69% of people report an email as spam as a result of the subject line. Subject lines that are overly sales-orientated or impersonal are usually marked as spam. Dull subject lines that don’t entice the customer or even intrigue the customer will also cause your emails to be ignored.

This email boasts the subject line “Marketing List”, which is a truly a marketing fail.

 

 

marketinglistPoor Layout

Misaligned text and poorly placed graphics can make a well-written email look very unprofessional. An email with a poor layout will reflect badly on your business. If your call to action gets lost between poorly aligned text and images, your emails definitely won’t increase your conversion rates.

Overall, email marketing can be a highly profitable marketing method. In fact, statistics show that customers who receive marketing offers via email spend 138% more than consumers who don’t. They are also the most effective way to increase repeat purchases and to develop brand loyalty. So when you create your email marketing campaign, make sure you avoid these marketing fails.

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Matt

December 19th, 2014.

Trends That Will Dominate eCommerce in 2015

Due to the increased use of technology, particularly mobile devices, such as smartphones, eCommerce is expanding and evolving at an exponential rate. eCommerce sites are having to adapt and evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of technology. From the emergence of responsiveness optimised web design to the increased use of video content, eCommerce has changed a great deal in the past decade. These changes are set to continue in 2015. Next, year here’s what trends we expect to dominate eCommerce in the coming year.

Mobile Payments will be in Demand

People are using their phones for everything from sending text messages, to making purchases online, and often, they don’t want to use a card, because they worry about security, and because it’s inconvenient to enter card details. Mobile payment systems make paying from your phone a simple process, and no card details are necessary.

13618923175698510597464_9bcd47278a_bPayments made using mobile phone payment systems are increasing. By 2017, it is predicated that mobile payments will account for 3% of the international eCommerce market. This means that websites that allow consumers to pay using a mobile payment system, like Zong, will have an edge over their competition. In 2015, mobile payment systems will likely become much more prevalent among eCommerce websites. Mobile payments systems will likely become more refined and easier to use in the coming year too.

Quality Content will be even more Important

According to statistics, content marketing methods are 62% less expensive than traditional marketing methods are. While content marketing is much less expensive, in gets three times as many leads as traditional marketing does. In 2015, creating high quality content will be even more important for eCommerce websites. Nowadays, consumers are exposed to more advertising than ever. From television adverts to pay per click adverts on Google, consumers see advertising everywhere. This means that consumers tend to tune out advertisements and other things that they don’t perceive to be useful, valuable or relevant to them. This is why content marketing is one of the most effective methods for engaging customers, establishing trust and building a loyal brand following.

Content marketing methods, like social media, articles, blog posts, newsletters, and videos are more effective than television advertisements, and other traditional marketing methods, according to marketing trends. In 2015, if eCommerce websites want to compete in the market, they need to produce valuable, relevant, and informative content that customers will find useful.

Mobile Optimisation will be Essential

According to statistics, 15% of physical goods purchases were made from a mobile device and 32% of all online purchases are made from a mobile device. Optimizing your website, advertisements, and emails for mobile devices will become even more important by 2015. Next year, eCommerce sites will need to make their stores mobile responsive. Stores need to be convenient and accessible for mobile users. If an eCommerce store isn’t mobile responsive, it will lose out on a large percent of the market, and it will struggle to compete with competitors.

Social Media Marketing will become more Diverse

Social Media Marketing will become even more important in 2015. As mentioned earlier, outbound marketing methods, like television adverts, are losing their effectiveness, whereas content marketing is maintaining its effectiveness. Social media is an important part of the content marketing process. Next year, however, it won’t just be Facebook or Twitter that the eCommerce sites will be utilizing. More well-rounded social media platforms, and image-based sites, like Pinterest, will also be utilised more predominantly. Ultimately, in 2015, eCommerce sites will have to diversify their social media marketing efforts to suit their audiences.

Flat-Design will Dominate

Flat-design for websites will dominate in 2015. It’s already becoming increasingly prevalent, with large corporations like Google and Microsoft implementing it. A flat web design is clean, features neat lines and crisp edges, and utilizes flat, two dimensional graphics. Unlike other web design trends, which feature, shadows, gradients, garish graphics and other bold design elements, flat-design is minimalist, and uses a less is more approach. A famous example of a flat design user interface is the Microsoft Windows 8 interface.  Flat-design is becoming popular because it looks clean and neat to the user, it’s easy to read and navigate and this type of design is easy to make responsive.

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Retargeting Ads will become more Prevalent

Retargeting ads are incredibly effective, and will likely become more prevalent in 2015. According to statistics, retargeting can increase your ad response by up to 400% and three out of five consumers say that they notice adverts for products they have already viewed. Using browser cookies, an eCommerce site can track the sites, products and pages that their customers visit. After these customers have left the site, and are viewing other websites, the items they viewed will be advertised.

Fashion retailer New Look is a prime example of a large company that utilises retargeting ads. For example, if you view a pair of shoes on New Look, when you leave the site to look at a news website, for example, you will see adverts for the shoes and anything else you may have viewed the New Look site. Statistics have shown that just 2% of first visits to a site result in a sale. Ad retargeting can significantly increase your conversion rate.

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Matt

December 7th, 2014.

How Not To be ‘That’ Annoying Company On Social Media

Social media is a truly unique platform for businesses. With social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, you are able to form much stronger relationships with your customers and potential customers. You are able to interact and engage with them, in a way that simply wasn’t possible before. According to statistics, 74% of consumers say that social media influences their purchasing decisions, making sites like Facebook an invaluable tool for businesses.

If you use social media sites the right way, you will increase your company’s visibility, further increase brand awareness, and even increase your conversion rates. When social media is done wrong, however, it can have a negative impact on your business. Through mediocre posts, ill-timed tweets and poor social media management, companies can end up ruining their reputation. There are certain things that you simply don’t do on social media sites, if you don’t want to be known as “that annoying company”.

Mix Personal and Professional Accounts

Putting photos of you and your family on holiday next to photos of your products looks very unprofessional. Posting what you ate for lunch or your weekend plans is also unprofessional. Those types of postings are fine for your personal social media profiles, but not for your business. Keep your personal and your professional social media profiles separate, and you’ll increase your company’s credibility.

Overshare

Having an opinion on a matter is fine, but sharing that opinion on social media often isn’t. Always be careful when it comes to your opinion. Oversharing can have a very negative impact on your business and it can ruin its reputation. So next time you are writing a post, ask yourself whether this post is relevant or useful to your readers or whether you are just using social media as a platform for your opinions. If it’s the latter, don’t post it.

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Get into Arguments

People have always complained, even before the Internet. However, the Internet is making it easier than ever for people to express their views and opinions on everything, from TV shows to services. On your social media profiles, you will find negative comments. If you want to maintain your reputation, and build a strong brand, you need to deal with these comments in the right way.

If someone has a legitimate complaint about your company, do not ignore it and definitely don’t delete it. Instead, reply to their post over social media, so that everyone else can see that you deal with customer issues professionally and efficiently. In your response, tell the customer that you would be happy to discuss the issue and that you will send them an email address or a phone number in a private message, where they can contact you about their issue.

Sometimes, people online, often known as trolls, will simply leave negative remarks that may have nothing to do with your business, just for the sake of it. In this situation, simply ignore it. Never get into an argument with someone over social media, as it looks unprofessional, and it certainly won’t create a good image of your brand. The last thing you want your customers to see when they first visit your company’s Facebook page is an argument between you and a customer.

Ignore or Capitalise on Current Events

Keeping up to date with current events is important. You could accidently post something offensive, without realizing it and your business appear extremely tactless. Also, do not try to capitalise on current events. For example, during the Arab Spring uprising, Kenneth Cole, a designer, used the hashtag circulating for the incident, which was #Cairo in a tweet to advertise his spring collection. The tweet, which said, “millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is available online”, was incredibly tactless and disrespectful. The tweet damaged his reputation.

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Be Inconsistent

Posting sporadically on your social media profiles is a guaranteed way to turn off consumers. If a person visits your Facebook page, for example, and sees that you haven’t posted anything for a month, they will start to wonder if your business is legitimate. They will wonder whether your company is still active too. If you want your business to be an authority it its field and increase its visibility, then you must be posting at least three times per week on your social media profiles.

Consistency isn’t just important for the frequency of your posts, but also for the personality and the voice that you use in your posts. Your company should have its own voice and personality. If your company is laid back and casual, then your tweets and Facebook posts should reflect this. Make sure that all of your profiles, posts and tweets have the same personality, tone and voice. Don’t post a formal tweet followed by a casual one, or you’ll simply confuse your customers. Your social media profiles should provide your customers with a strong sense of your brand’s personality and values.

Post too Much

Filling up someone’s Twitter feed with inane tweets will only annoy your potential customers. People don’t need updates on Facebook or Twitter every ten minutes. Posting too much is a mistake that companies often make. They feel that in order to target potential customers and increase their visibility, they must always be posting. Ultimately, customers don’t want, or need, constant updates on your company.

Use your Profiles just to Advertise

It’s true that social media profiles are an effective tool for businesses. They can improve customer relations, make your company seem more credible and help you to attract and retain more customers. However, if you want your social media profiles to achieve the results you want, you must avoid over-advertising. Using your Facebook, Twitter or other social media profiles just to advertise your products or services is a bad idea. Instead, your social media posts should be useful, valuable and relevant to your potential customers. Use your profile to link to your company’s blog post, to share tips and to share links to content that your potential customers may find useful.

72% of people who use the internet are active on social media sites, making social media a highly effective platform for businesses. If you want to utilise social media to boost conversion rate, and improve customer relations, then don’t be that annoying company on Facebook or Twitter. Make sure that you avoid doing things that will simply annoy your customers. Instead, use social media to engage with your customers. If you do social media right, you’ll build much stronger relationships with your customers.

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Matt

November 30th, 2014.

How the Reddit Algorithm Works

Reddit is a social networking platform and news website. On Reddit, users of the site can share links to content online, and also post their own unique content directly to the site. Other users can then up-vote or down-vote this content and leave comments. While Reddit is primarily a social platform, it can be a valuable asset for online businesses. Ecommerce sites can use Reddit to promote their content, and increase the visibility of their products or services. With 114.5 million unique visits each month, Reddit is a platform that can vastly increase your businesses’ visibility.

Using Reddit

When you visit Reddit, you’ll see a front page that lists links posted by other users. The website also contains subreddits, which further categorise content into areas of interest, such as fashion or fitness. Each subreddit has its own front page too. Having your link feature on the front page of Reddit provides you with maximum visibility. Many Reddit users aim to get their link posted on the front page. To find out how Reddit ranks its content, you need to understand how the Reddit algorithm works.

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The benefit of having your content featured on Reddit is , outside of the huge traffic that it brings, it gives your content exposure to influencers. Bloggers and journalists often use Reddit for story ideas, so getting visibility on the platform often translates into exposure on other prominent sites a few days later.

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How the Reddit Submission Algorithm Works

As Reddit is an open source website, its code is freely available. The site’s algorithms are written in Python and the sorting algorithms are executed in Pyrex. Reddit has a story algorithm that it always uses, which is called the Reddit hot ranking. With the Reddit story algorithm, the number of votes and the submission time of a link have the largest effect on where a story will rank.

This is because Reddit implements a logarithm function in its algorithm. With this type of algorithm, the first votes on a link are more valuable than later votes on a link. For example, the first 10 up-votes will have the same value as the next 100 and so on. This means that as a link gets older, its ranking will slowly degrade, as the impact of the up-votes it gets becomes less significant. Conversely, it is also important to get some initial traction on a submission in order to give it early visibility.

Reddit ranks an item by calculating the number of votes a link has and then subtracting points based on how old that link is. This means that newer links generally rank higher than older links. This keeps the front page fresh, and ensures that links with thousands of up-votes aren’t stuck on the front page for weeks or months at a time. Stories that get a more equal range of up-votes and down-votes will generally be ranked lower than stories that have a larger percentage of up-votes.

How the Reddit Comment Algorithm Works

For comments, Reddit uses a different algorithm, as using the hot ranking algorithm wouldn’t be practical. For comments, it is most logical to list the best rated comments prominently, rather than giving precedence to the older comments. Instead of using the hot ranking algorithm, Reddit uses a confidence sort algorithm based on the Wilson score interval for its comments.

With a confidence sort algorithm, the best rated comments that the system has the most data for will be ranked the highest. For example, a comment with ten up-votes and 1 down vote will rank higher than a comment with only 1 up-vote and no down-votes, even though the latter comment has a 100% up-vote rate. The comments are ranked by data sampling and the date the comments are submitted isn’t an active factor.

Understanding the basics of the Reddit algorithm can help you to better understand the way that the platform works, and be able to use it more effectively.

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Matt

November 14th, 2014.

10 Great Social Media Tools For Marketing Managers You Should Know About

As more and more companies become aware of the importance of social media and the impact a well-run social media marketing campaign can have on their business, the need for clear, effective and efficient analysis of performance, reach, and the wealth of data available is ever greater.

Social media allows businesses to interact with their customers and create interest and excitement around their products and services, build their brand and ultimately generate revenue.

Knowing your audience, understanding how they behave and finding out what works and what doesn’t is key to helping develop a successful social media marketing strategy.

Below are 10 great social media tools for marketing managers to help you gain greater insights into your audience and manage your social media campaigns more effectively.

1. Google Analytics

GAProbably the most well-known analytical tool, Google Analytics has a whole host of features including social reporting which allows you to measure how visitors use your site, where they came from and how you can keep them coming back.  Social reports help you measure the impact social media has on your business goals and conversions showing you conversion rates and the monetary value of those conversions that occurred due to referrals from each social network.

The Social Plug-in report shows which articles on your site are shared and through which social media channels (Facebook like, Twitter Tweet, etc.) while tools such as Multi-Channel Funnels and Attribution show how all your campaign elements work together so you can concentrate on those that work best .

While there is a free plan, the Premium service is designed for larger organisations and the more detailed insights they require.

 

2. Hootsuite

HootsuiteHootsuite is a Social Media Management Tool which allows you to manage multiple social streams like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and many more in one place.  It enables you to monitor and track what is being said about your brand or product and help you to respond instantly.

This is a useful tool if you have a team rather than one person managing social media as it allows you to delegate responses to different team members ensuring that no fans or followers are overlooked.

Although there is a free plan for personal use, the Pro versions costs £9.99 per month for up to 9 team members, 100 social profiles and unlimited RSS while there is also an Enterprise package for larger corporations (demo available).

 

3. Socialbakers Analytics Pro

Socialbakers Analytics Pro allows you to analyse the performance of your competitors on social media in order to gain a better understanding of their social business strategy across media such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, etc..

Learning from their successes and failures helps you to create more effective social media campaigns for your brand.  Features include competitive analysis, visual reporting and Fan and Follower Insights as well as Mobile App Support.

There are various pricing plans starting from $120 per month.

 

4. Crowdbooster

crowdboosterCrowdbooster is a tool which helps you achieve an effective presence on Twitter and Facebook.

With Crowdbooster you can track the growth of your audience, know who your most interactive and enthusiastic fans are, and schedule posts for both Twitter and Facebook.  Crowdbooster also highlights the key information you should pay attention to, such as new and influential followers, so that you can engage with them.   You can also manage multiple accounts and share access with colleagues and clients.

There are a variety of pricing plans starting from $9 a month with a free 30-day trial.

 

5. Postling

postlingPosting describes itself as “your all-in-one inbox for all social activity about your business”.    From one social inbox, you can monitor what’s being said about your business on the web and respond to messages from your blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.  You can also be alerted whenever a word or phrase you are tracking is published on Twitter, Facebook, Google News and WordPress.

Another feature is that using Postling you can publish to a variety of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Facebook Photos, and YouTube.

Pricing starts at $1 for the first 30 days and $10 a month thereafter.

 

6.  SocialBro

socialbroSocialBro is a tool specific to Twitter which helps you better target and engage with your audience while also providing analytical insights.  It informs you when’s best to tweet, how to indentify your influencers and discover new users, and analyse your Twitter competitors.  SocialBro works alongside Twitter scheduling tools such as Hootsuite and has a complete suite of tools designed to meet the needs of all types of user from individuals and small businesses to large enterprises.  Pricing plans range from free to paid to tailored.

 

7. ArgyleSocial

argyleArgyle Social is a B2B Social Marketing platform which ensures your efforts add value to your marketing through monitoring prospects, aiding engagement and tracking conversions.  Segmented campaigns, multi-network reporting and integration with sales platforms such as Marketo and SalesForce help prove the true value of social interactions.

Argyle Social helps you to qualify and quantify better leads, and build and maintain stronger relationships with your audience.

There are three monthly pricing plans with different features ranging from $200 for small marketing organisations to $600 for professional marketers to $1100 for large marketing teams.

 

8. Spredfast

spreadfastSpredfast is an enterprise social media management system that allows an organization to manage, monitor, and measure its performance across multiple social media channels.

It enables companies to , increase audience engagement through integrated campaigns and discover relevant topics from the moment they start to trend facilitating the creation of inspiring authentic content.

Spredfast’s listening and analytics solutions provide end-to-end visibility into the social data that helps companies understand their audience and make better business decisions.  It can be Integrated with your existing digital analytics applications like Omniture, Google Analytics, Brandwatch, Crimson Hexagon, and more.

Request a demo to see what it can do for your business.

 

9. Shoutlet

shoutletShoutlet is an Enterprise Social Relationship Platform which enables companies to understand their market, reach and engage target customers, grow their social database and plan and execute social content.  The ability to link different platforms together means site management efficiency and enables companies to see what products are popular with their customers.

It’s designed for social media marketing professionals who need a streamlined solution to creating social media content and managing interactions.  A demo can be requested.

 

10. Wildfire

wildfireFor enterprises and agencies, the Wildfire Social Marketing Suite enables you to turn separate social media tactics into effective strategic campaigns.  Features include Social ads which helps you reach the right audience across a variety of networks, the creation of interactive landing pages and promotions using pre-built templates or your own custom design and the management of conversations with your audience across social networks from a single dashboard.  Integrations between Wildfire, Google Analytics, and Google Tag Manager provide the insights to measure social ROI.

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Matt

November 7th, 2014.

40 Ways to Increase Your e-Commerce Conversion Rates

You have built a website and sell product from it. You have entered the wonderful world of e-commerce. The question is, how well is your site performing? How are your e-commerce conversion rates?

There are a number of relatively straightforward ways to improve the conversion rates of your e-Commerce site. Here are forty ideas that you can use to ensure that potential customers find visiting your site a pleasant experience; a place where they find it worth their while spending their hard-earned money.

1.      Define your engagement strategy

It is vitally important that you determine exactly how you intend to engage with your potential customers. You want to ensure that these customers perceive that you are giving them value

2.      Use social media as a sales channel

There is a considerable amount of marketing done using social media – Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest etc. Firms use these channels because they work

3.      Have a clear, navigable product page

Make it as easy as possible for people to find their way around your site and make a purchase. People are not going to be bothered if it is hard to work their way around your site

4.      Make product features prominent

Customers really want to know about your product. Therefore product features should have the highest prominence on your page.

5.      Don’t forget about mobile

In mid-2014 mobile internet usage exceeded computer internet usage. It is absolutely vital that your web presence is usable by people on mobile sites. It is a very good idea that your site is fully responsive, and (unless you have a separate mobile-specific site) your site scales down appropriately for mobile usage

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6.      Think carefully about your online copy – use key words and SEO

Always write with SEO (search engine optimisation) in mind, to ensure that the potential customers have a good chance of finding you in a Google or Bing search.

7.      Make certain that your content is original

Your products may be the same as those on many other websites, but you need to ensure that your product descriptions are not a direct copy of those elsewhere. You need to reword each description to ensure that it is different to your competitors’ descriptions. The search engines look for, and penalise duplicate content.

8.      Use photos

The internet is a visual medium. Web surfers spend much of their time looking at pictures and graphics. Potential customers want to know what a product looks like, showing the product in use if relevant.

9.      Use lots of variety in your product photos

As customers cannot physically feel your product, they expect to be able to have a good view of it. This depends to some extent on your product, but in many cases potential clients are far more likely to buy your product if there are photos of it from different angles, giving an all-round view. A number of the better sites even have 360 degree viewers.

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10. Provide tools to zoom in on your product photos

Another way to utilise photos of your products is to give potential customers the ability to zoom in and look at the fine details of your product.

11. Use videos if relevant

Many people browsing your site will be converted when they see a video of your product in action, particularly if it makes it clear that your product is useful and easy to operate.

12. Use a well-designed drop-down menu

If you have well-designed drop-down menus as navigation on your site it makes it easy for potential customers to find their way around your site. Avoid having these menus go more than 2 levels, though, because it can get confusing after that, and you lose the responsiveness for mobile browsers

13. Have a good site search function on your website

Site search makes it easier for customers to find what they want. Surveys show that up to 30% of people visiting a site use the site search function.

14. Offer complementary products on your product pages

Customers thinking of buying a particular product may choose to buy these complementary products, e.g. batteries beside electrical products, or on book sites show other books written by a particular author.

15. Make certain that you appear trustworthy.

There are too many fly-by-night firms on the internet. Customers want some evidence why they should trust you. Include a genuine telephone number. Include genuine reviews. Offer guarantees. If you use a certification brand, like McAfee Secured, make sure their logo is displayed in a prominent position.

16. Display a free phone number

Customers expect to be able to talk to you. Reputable firms use free phone numbers, so it is essential to your firm’s reputation that you do too.

17. Make chat available as a means of communication

It is all very well to offer a Freephone number and a Help or FAQ section on your site, but the easiest way to get interaction with a potential customer (well a reasonably computer-literate one at least), is to have a chat facility. It’s as close as you can get to there being a salesman in person to answer the customer’s questions

18. Consider offering video-chat on your site

This is even better than normal chat – your customer can see and interact with a real person, who could even demonstrate some features of the product

19. Make certain that your prices are clear and obvious

You don’t want disgruntled customers leaving, either because they can’t find the prices amongst all the guff on your page, or because they get to check-out only to find hidden costs added on. Prices need to be totally clear to your customers at a glance

20. Price competitively to your opposition

On-line customers have far more ability to do price comparison than brick and mortar customers. They can, and will, do price comparisons. You do need to be price competitive.

21. Look at offering Price Match

Being prepared to match your competitors’ prices will build up trust in you by potential customers. You may not earn as much from a particular sale, but hopefully you will make up for it with future sales. This is probably one to test over a period of time, because it will not be suitable for everyone.

22. Give limited time discounts

A classic marketing trick. Make your customers think they have to rush their decision and make a choice now, before they lose a discount.

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23. Make payment easy for customers

The more payment options you have available the more potential customers will shop at your site.

24. Make a point out of offering free shipping

This is, of course, only viable if your margins can cover the free shipping. If so, then it will often be the deciding factor when a potential customer is trying to decide between you and a competitor –albeit the customer is still paying in a more indirect way

25. Offer quick delivery times

Customers like speedy delivery of products ASAP, and will often be willing to pay a premium for urgent delivery.

26. Show your daily cut-off delivery time on your site

Indeed it is very useful if you show a timer, indicating how long your customers have left to be able to get goods dispatched for delivery today. This probably depends on where you sell stock to – if most of your sales are overseas, it probably makes little difference whether the stock is dispatched today or tomorrow

27. Show your returns policy

It removes potential customers’ doubts if they can clearly see the ease with which they can return goods. If you offer Free Exchange, or a Money Back Guarantee, display it prominently.

28. Have low stock indicators on your site

It helps your customers if they know whether you have a particular stock item on hand (and if you don’t, how long will it take you to get replacement stock?

29. Use product reviews by customers

Customers like to see how others have found using the products they are considering buying. Include product reviews to assist potential buyers.

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30. Show your seller ratings if you are operating in a community marketplace

If you are just one seller amongst many, for example a store in the Amazon Marketplace, displaying your seller rating (and other information about yourself) will build up trust.

31. Have clear Call to Action buttons

Make certain your call to action buttons are clear and obvious. Make certain that you test these out before they go live.

32. Use coloured buttons to direct customers through your check-out process

If you want to direct potential customers to take a certain path, highlight the button you want them to push a clear and obvious colour.  Conversely, make any buttons that reverse you back through the check-out process, grey.

33. Make certain there are no programming errors visible to your customers

Nothing looks more amateurish to website browsers that when an error message comes up when they try and order from your site. Only the most determined will continue forwards – anyone else will leave your site almost instantly.

34. Use test shoppers before your shop goes live.

You do not want real customers to find flaws in your system. It is far better if you hire a few people to act as test shoppers first, and take good notice of any flaws they find navigating and using your website.

35. Use relevant tools to optimise your site

There are some tools specifically aimed at optimizing your conversions, e.g. Optimizely, Visual Website Optimizer, Qualaroo, The Cart Closer etc. Try them out and keep using the ones that suit you best

36. Ensure your check-out fits on a single page

Multi-page check-outs send potential customers away, and a number pull out of the transaction part-way through the process. Make certain that the plugin or whatever checkout method you are using enables the check-out process to occur on a single page

UniqloSinglePageCheckoutScreenShot

37. Avoid compulsory registration at the checkout

Customers are often turned away because of the rigmarole of going through a compulsory registration process. It is far better to have an optional registration process once the order is processed

38. Only ask for essential information from customers

Potential customers get put off by having to fill in too much information. The simple rule is that if an item of information is not absolutely necessary, do not ask for it. Have a clean, stream-lined check-out page

39. Use automatic address recognition at your check-out

There are various apps / plug-ins that simplify the process for a customer entering their address. A customer is more likely to go through the purchase process if they do not have to make too much effort to get through the check-out

40. Use one-click process to speed up the check-out

Add an Amazon or PayPal button to your checkout to speed up processing of orders for your customers.

I suggest that you take a close look at your website and see how it rates in relation to these guidelines. If need be, make some changes. They will almost certainly be worth your while and the outcome should be increased sales.

link-bait

Matt

November 5th, 2014.

Great Examples of Linkbait used on eCommerce Sites

Content is an important part of any eCommerce site’s marketing strategy. Driving traffic to your website, generating links, increasing your websites search engine rankings and branding and PR are important factors for eCommerce sites. Linkbait is a very useful method for influencing all of these factors. Whether it’s a quirky video or a humorous infographic, linkbait can be very useful.

What is Linkbait?

link_baitingLinkbait refers to content, like a blog post or a video, which is designed to get people to link to (or share) that content. Search engines, like Google and Bing, take into account incoming links, and the quality of those links, when ranking a website. Organic, unpaid, won on merit links to a website are highly valued, so using linkbait is a very effective way for a site to increase its search engine rankings.

There are many different types of linkbait, but the most popular, and arguably most effective are:

  • Humour: Humour-based linkbait is very effective. People like things that make them smile or laugh, so funny content, whether it’s a video or a fake product page for an outrageous product will likely be shared with others.
  • News: If you provide updates on breaking news, or offer a news feed, or the latest news on one industry, this is called news linkbait. Using news stories is an effective method for getting more traffic, and repeat visits to your site.
  • Contrary: Content that is controversial or offers a viewpoint on a subject that is contrary to popular opinion is an effective type of linkbait. While a little risker, controversial content can draw in high numbers of traffic and it can generate a buzz about your website.
  • Resource: A long article, blog post, guide or eBook can act as an informational resource for visitors. Resource linkbait is one of the most successful forms of linkbait, because visitors are very likely to share it with others, and return to the resource themselves frequently. For example, a blog selling bridal veils may offer a guide to choosing a wedding venue.

How can eCommerce Sites Implement a Linkbait Campaign?

 Free Guides

Posting an extensive guide, walkthrough, or how-to, on your site is a fantastic way to drive traffic to your website. A perfect example of using a free guide as linkbait is, Moz.com. Moz.com offers a “Beginners Guide to SEO”, which has proven incredibly popular. People have shared this guide with others, and have revisited it many times themselves too. It’s a good example of resource link bait. Think about what information would be truly useful, relevant and valuable to your customers. For example, if you sell supplements, fitness and nutrition based guides would be ideal. Don’t be scared of giving away too much here. The better and more extensive your resource, then the more successful it will be. Branding yourself as an expert or authority on a topic will pay dividends in the long-run.

Use a Constant Promotional Page

Create a page that has a static URL, and keyword optimise it. Then, place your offers and deals on that page. This is your incentive linkbait page. On this page, also highlight give-aways or contests. Keep this page for each and every deal, giveaway or promotion that your site hosts. Eventually, with each deal, you will get more and more links to that page, and therefore increase your website’s rankings.

Video content

Video content is a highly effective form of linkbait. Statistics show that after watching a video, website visitors are 64% more likely to make a purchase, and that if a webpage includes a video, it is fifty times more likely to rank in the first page of the search engine results. Video links can also generate a great deal of traffic on social media sites.

Infographics

As infographics combine images and information, they are becoming an increasingly popular form of content for websites. Infographics are very diverse in that while they deliver statistics, facts and information, they are also aesthetically pleasing, making them ideal for sharing on image based sites like Pinterest and also being referenced and republished in blog posts.

Blog Posts

From controversial opinion based posts to top ten style posts, done well blog posts are a very effective form of linkbait. When creating blog posts, think about what your target audience wants. What content would they find useful, and interesting enough to share? If you sell hiking equipment, you could write a post on the top ten hiking spots in the UK. Make it extensive, make it evergreen, focus again on being a resource, keep it updated and it will attract links over time.

Examples of Effective Linkbait Strategies

13 Essential Tools for Surviving a Zombie Outbreak

REI sells hiking and camping equipment. Its 13 Essential Tools for Surviving a Zombie Outbreak infographic, is the perfect example of linkbait. Combining the elements of humour and resource linkbait, this guide garnered REI a great deal of attention. It also leverages the popularity of zombie shows and movies, like the Waking Dead, to create a piece of content that is truly share-worthy.

ZombiePan

Tactical Duty Kilt from 5.11

5.11 Tactical is an eCommerce store that sells a wide range of clothing items, accessories and equipment for law enforcement, tactical operators, first responders and recreational enthusiasts. As an April Fool’s joke, the company announced its “Tactical Duty Kilt”. This joke product garnered the company a great deal of attention, so much so that 5.11 Tactical actually decided to really make the Tactical Duty Kilt. It’s the perfect example of how humorous linkbait, and fake product pages can really help an eCommerce website.

Blendtec Will It Blend? – iPad Video

Blendtec is a company that sells blenders. It has managed to not only increase traffic to its site through linkbait, but also differentiate itself from other similar companies on the Internet. The company has done this through its Will it Blend video campaign.

These videos show the founder of the company, Tom Dickson, blending odd items, from credit cards to mobile phones, in order to demonstrate how powerful the company’s blenders are. These videos have proved incredibly popular, but the Blentec Will it Blend iPad video is one of the most viewed.

Volkswagon Fast Lane – The Slide Video

Volkswagon had the ingenious idea to put a slide on the stairs of the Alexanderplatz subway station in Berlin. The company named the slide the Fast Lane. The subsequent video showing the slide in use asks the question, “Are you Ready for the Fast Lane?” Fun and thought-provoking, this video is the perfect example of how, when done well, video content can be an ideal form of linkbait.

 

Google-Panda-and-Penguin-Updates-and-What-Works-Best-Now

Matt

October 31st, 2014.

Google, Penguins, and Unintended Consequences

Changes to the status quo will often have unexpected and far-reaching results; so said Robert K Merton in his Law of Unintended Consequences back in 1936.2_142

Changes that are made by governing bodies and organisers to complex structures are almost unavoidably likely to have an impact on uninvolved bystanders; such is the nature of any system.

Modern economists make frequent use of the law to explain how decisions at a governmental level have significant unintended consequences further down the food chain.

Examples of the law in practice include wind farms that actually harm the environment by killing birds. Laws used to promote green vehicles which with the help of an enterprising salesman resulted in free golf carts for businessmen, and the Australian law making cycle helmets mandatory that actually resulted in an increase in the risk of death and serious injury to cyclists.

So what does all of this have to do with Google?

In the search engine world, there’s little doubt about who makes the rules; and with its recent Penguin update, Google has left some innocent websites suffering in its campaign for good SEO practices.

Some Early Examples

Now of course there is some history here. There are many early examples of unintended consequences that have arisen from decisions and courses of action that Google have taken,

  • Using Pagerank to dictate that links had value resulted in the link economy, blog networks, comment and forum spam and a proliferation of low quality web directorie
  • Google AdSense for publishers led to an explosion in content scraping, copyright theft and MFA (Made For Adsense) sites.
  • The introduction of rel=nofollow led to Pagerank sculpting and siloing.

So Where Does The Penguin Update Fit In?

The Google Penguin update was introduced in April 2012 as a means of identifying and demoting websites that had previously benefitted from aggressive SEO techniques.

According to Matt Cutts (Head of Google’s WebSpam team), the update targeted ‘all those people who have sort of been doing, for lack of a better word, “over optimization” or “overly” doing their SEO, compared to the people who are just making great content and trying to make a fantastic site.’

To put it bluntly, it was designed to demote websites that appeared to be benefitting from undeserved backlinks.

The principles behind Penguin meant that it was welcomed by most web users. It would ensure that websites that engaged in link-spamming and other underhanded black-hat techniques would drop down the rankings. Google speculated that the first update would only have an impact on 3.1% of English search queries and 3% on searches made in the German, Chinese, and Arabic languages.

The Reality?

The Penguin Update was largely successful, resulting in the demotion of a hundreds of thousands of websites that had been ranking unfairly. Unfortunately it also affected some sites that hadn’t knowingly engaged in shady link-building practices.

For example, the specialist WordPress site WPMU.org was crushed by the update, dropping from 8,580 daily visits to a paltry 1,527 after it was introduced.

Despite the site’s owner, John Farmer claiming that there had been no keyword stuffing, link schemes or had any problems regarding quality. Matt Cutts came forward with the claim that the site had been penalised due to a few bad links pointing to it.

Largely it was felt that due to the nature of the site (a WordPress resource); there were bound to be links to the site indicating authorship and design of blogs often of a lower quality – links that were keyword heavy and in footers, blogrolls and often sitewide.

Even so, the damage had been done and it was left for WPMU to rebuild their rankings.

One major unintended consequence of the Google Panda Update was the ‘bad-by-association’ approach to some sites. If one site was penalised, sites associated with that site were shown to be affected negatively. In an online discussion Michael Martinez of SEO Theory said, ‘what they are seeing is a Cascade Effect where the websites that link to them suddenly lose value. So the real problem lies 1 or 2 tiers back. These are not false positives, although they are collateral damage.’ However we define this problem, it is clear that some websites have experienced a drop in traffic and money-earning potential through no fault of their own.

The Target Changes…

Some leading SEO experts have revealed that some more aggressive (and less-ethical) SEOs have posed as their rivals and petitioned sites with fake requests for the removal of perfectly good links. Such tactics have been adopted as a means of reducing competitor’s website rankings. Thankfully as yet this problem doesn’t seem to be widespread.

When fake emails aren’t enough, there have also been some reports of unscrupulous webmasters building spammy links to rival websites hoping to see them penalised as a result.

Even examples of blackmail threats made to websites with the threat of black-hat SEO and possible penalties.

Members of the specialist SEO Forum Traffic Planet revealed how devastating this tactic could be by test-targeting two websites with ScrapeBox blasts. This involved the creation of thousands of anchor-text based backlinks and resulted in a substantial ranking drop for the sites targeted.

The Traffic Planet case study was just one way of outlining the effects of a wide reaching problem. Danny Sullivan, the Editor in Chief of Search Engine Land pointed out that, ‘As for not accepting there’s no negative SEO, I’ve repeatedly said that it is possible … perhaps it [is] more viable now because it’s cheaper now. That’s exactly the opposite or refusing to accept that links could be cheaply and trivially pointed at any site. What remains unclear is how serious a threat it is to the vast majority of sites out there.’

The cautionary message here appears to be: as much as Google’s addressing of black-hat SEO may make for a quality content-driven user-experience, it’s by no means flawless. When in doubt, leave it out and play it safe.

dominos-pizza-sitelinks-1

Matt

October 24th, 2014.

All You Need to Know About Google Sitelinks and Mini Sitelinks

For some time Google has shown a number of sitelinks under some of its search results. In 2009 they expanded on this system and introduced mini sitelinks, also known as one line sitelinks.

So what are sitelinks? And what is the difference between normal sitelinks and mini sitelinks?

Sitelinks

The older form of sitelink appears to be relatively rare nowadays – they have tended to be superseded by their little brother. The traditional sitelinks appear under a few search terms, mainly well-known brands, and they show additional links within that particular domain. They will only appear on the top ranking result in a search, will show up to eight specific links on a site, and will appear in two columns (and therefore up to four rows).

sitelinksAn example of a traditional sitelink occurs if you search for “BP” in Google.com. The top ranking result for that search is, not surprisingly, BP Global, at www.bp.com . At the bottom of this search result are four sitelinks (they are in the two-column style, so are clearly traditional sitelinks, not mini sitelinks) which are Careers / BP United Kingdom / BP Australia / BP America. These are clearly delineated sections of the BP website, and different people are likely to want to go to the different links.

Another example of a search term with traditional sitelinks is “BBC”.  The first result belongs to the homepage of the BBC itself – www.bbc.co.uk. At the bottom of this result there are six sitelinks: BBC News / BBC iPlayer / Sport / Football / Weather / Radio. These, presumably, are six of the most frequently visited sections of the BBC site, and it is probable that people visiting the site only choose the one area that they are really looking for.

As can be seen from the examples I have chosen these traditional sitelinks generally only appear to show when you search for particular brands. Sitelinks only tend to be triggered when there is one specific authorititive site that is relevant for a query – in the vast majority of cases this is a brand result for a brand query. A search for “BP Oil” does not bring up traditional sitelinks, nor does “BBC Television”. Indeed a search for some very well-known brands does not bring up a result with traditional sitelinks at all.

Although Google has kept its criteria for deciding on when to display sitelinks secret, it appears that it will only show traditional sitelinks when there is a clear and obvious first result in a search, and where there are sufficient different sections of a site that people would want to see, that match what people are likely to be searching for.

Mini Sitelinks

Mini sitelinks have now become much more common than the traditional variety. As their alternative name (one-line sitelinks) suggests these are all displayed on one line, and there are usually four of them. There can even be more than one set of them for a particular search term. Quite a number of search results that do not make it to number one in the search list still qualify to have a row of mini sitelinks placed on them.

The key differences between the two types of sitelinks are:

  • Sitelinks seem to be (generally) limited to branded searches, although the mini sitelinks are not
  • Sitelinks only appear beside the number one result in a search, but mini sitelinks can appear beside lower ranked results
  • Mini sitelinks can appear beside multiple search results for a term
  • It is even possible for a particular domain to appear more than once in a search of a specified term, and there can actually be different mini sitelinks on the different appearances of that site in the results. A particular domain can even show with traditional sitelinks at the top of a search, but with mini sitelinks further down the results.

The specific search term used is very important. A particular domain may appear in the results with traditional sitelinks, mini sitelinks or no sitelinks depending on what search term has been used. In particular there will be no sitelinks when rarely used search terms are used. If you search for “Starbucks” you will receive results with the Starbucks website in the number one position, showing traditional sitelinks. A search for “Starbucks brewed coffee” will still bring up the Starbucks website as the number one result, but is will show mini sitelinks. A search for “brewed coffee” will bring up the Starbucks site as the number two result, but neither it, nor any of the sites listed, have any sitelinks.

Google keeps its sitelinks’ algorithm very much under wraps. However, there do seem to be a few common features of sites that have triggered mini sitelinks. If you aim to get these links on your own site, you might want to consider the following:

  • Is your actual site content relevant to your overall site theme? Google rewards consistency and clarity
  • Does your site have credible content that is clearly unique? Google loves quality content on a site.
  • Can Google clearly understand your site’s structure? Again, the clearer it is, the better it is for Google
  • If you did have sitelinks, is it likely that your users would click on the links?
  • Do inner/hub/category pages on your site attract links?

Of course, much of this is basic SEO. So clearly a site needs more than just good SEO. It needs to also have good traffic, and that traffic needs to be going to clearly delineated sections of your site. There may well be an unidentified threshold traffic figure that Google uses in their decision making.

cocacolaApart from ensuring that you are big enough to attract a high front page ranking for well-targeted high-traffic keywords, there are a few other techniques which appear to help sites attract Google’s attention for their mini sitelinks. You need to have a very clear navigational path through your site. This needs to tie in with a simple site structure that matches clear HTML and XML sitemaps.

Some sites, however, attract sitelinks when they do not want them. Even some of the big sites have somewhat bizarre sitelinks attached to them. If you search for Coca Cola, the first thing you notice is that despite being a big brand there are no traditional sitelinks. The mini sitelinks that appear beneath the first result (for www.coca-cola.com) are Coca-Cola / Nigeria / Angola / Djibouti … a somewhat odd choice unless you were living in Africa.

This instance supports the view that navigation is an important factor in triggering sitelinks and which sitelinks are chosen.

If you feel your sitelinks are inappropriate, or would prefer not to have them at all, you can block them using your Google Webmaster Tools. There is a chance that, assuming you already meet the criteria to have sitelinks, you might be able to suggest to Google more appropriate links (again in your Google Webmaster Tools). However, ultimately it is up to Google to decide who will receive the links and what these will be.

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