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LinkedIn: An Overlooked B2B Marketing Opportunity?

Young woman selecting blue virtual friends isolated on white backgroundBy now, many companies have advanced their attitude toward social media from an “it might be another branding outlet,” to “it is an essential component of marketing,” and rightfully so. While you’re gauging your progress in “likes” and “retweets,” have you forgotten about the platform that was originally incepted for the B2B marketplace, LinkedIn? Sure, on first glance, it is certainly not as trendy or flashy as the others, but as a company, particularly those that compete in the B2B market, you’ll want to take a second look at the features you are likely not fully utilizing.

Company Page Design

This is a great branding opportunity to show this sector of the market just who you think you are. There are areas to highlight services or products and this can provide the visual elevator speech you need to attract the interests of your target audience.

Targeted Posts & Engagement

When your company has news, launches a promotion, or advances in some way, make sure this update is well-circulated among the pool. Have a new product that may benefit certain industries? Published a report that c-level execs will find interesting? Post it and target it to the right demographic.

Statistics

You can access statistics for any LinkedIn group, even those of which you are not participating. In marketing, data is king and you can cull priceless information about the businesses you want to reach. Use this information for further marketing, networking, or rebranding. Having a finger on the pulse of your target is the key to successful marketing.

And here is a useful statistic: LinkedIn generated the highest visitor to lead conversion rate at 2.74% which is approximately 3 times higher than Twitter and Facebook.

The moral of the story is this: If you’re in the B2B realm, don’t dismiss LinkedIn as the less attractive stepchild of social media. Stand out as the trailblazer among the companies who use this platform and get the targeted marketing and profitable results you want.

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Metrics: What’s Important and What’s a Waste of Time?

Close-up Of Business GraphMetrics are the framework around which your marketing campaign is built. Whether you’re pursuing email marketing, SEO, PPC, or direct response, metrics give insight into what works, what doesn’t, and whether or not you can continue to justify the effort and cost that goes into the campaign itself. When looking at metrics, there are countless ways one can measure success. In fact, so many exist that it’s overwhelming. Not to worry. We’re here to make it simple. Connected Culture has our recommendations for core metrics to show success, as well as the ones that you can over look for the time being. Remember – every site and campaign is different and has different goals. These recommendations are ideal for most sites, so take that into account when you’re reading through the liss and assessing whether or not they’re right for you.

Conversions: Never a Waste of Time

If there is one metric you can take back to your  CEO and effectively show what kind of success your campaign is having, its conversions. This really is the overall goal, so it needs to be effectively tracked and measured. A person is buying a product from your store, visiting a specific page, or signing up for an email list are all just a few examples of conversion. The first step to measuring conversion is to first figure out what actions you want users to take and then, put tools (e.g. Google Analytics) in place that can measure this accurately. From there, do your research to figure out industry standards and trends relating to conversion. Some actions and some industries will have variable conversion rates depending on action. Get a feel for what’s average, and then, start measuring and evaluating.

Tip: Keep in mind that an analytics program doesn’t always play nice with certain carts or features that can hinder revenue attribution. Work with your developer team on confirming correct installation of tracking codes and data reporting.

The Bounce Rate Matters More than You Think

Bounce rate, like conversion rate, is variable from industry to industry and page to page, but it’s still a valuable metric for measuring the effectiveness of your UX, copywriting, or other site features, not to mention, a measurement of relevancy for certain types of traffic. If a page’s content or design isn’t engaging to a reader or potential customer, you need to know that. Bounce rate can give insight into problem pages and from there, you can do deeper analysis and A/B testing to try to correct any issues. The key is to look at where the traffic is coming from on that particular page in order to provide context. You may discover new audience segments that are driving unexpected visits and conversions, or you may find that people are bouncing because you’re ranking well for an irrelevant keywords.

Tip: Testing a new marketing tactic? Put annotations in Google Analytics to indicate when certain actions were taken so you can compare results with previous time periods to measure effectiveness. Also, utilize tagging options  in your URLs to provide further insight.

CTR: How to Use it and why it’s Great

Click-through rate is valuable for all types of online marketing. According to Google, this number represents the amount of people that click on your ad or website in a search result, divided by the amount of times it has been shown. It’s a simple equation with powerful data behind it. CTR can give you indications on whether or not your ad copy is working, whether or not your site is being perceived as relevant when it appears in the SERPs, or whether or not your call to action is strong enough, among other things.

Tip: There are some metrics which are hard to quantify, things like engagement on social media or customer feedback on a particular page or site feature. Be sure to track these things as well as they can provide further insight into what’s working, but make sure that your stakeholders understand that these metrics are not quantifiable but still provide information of value. This is the biggest challenge for an online marketer, but it can be done.

Don’t Stress Over PageRank

This is one search engine marketing tool that isn’t as valuable as one might think.  This SEO-focused tool is often one of the most stressed when learning the basics of search engine marketing, however, it isn’t as useful as people make it out to be. This tool shows how trustworthy your website appears to Google, but it’s updated infrequently and often doesn’t register correctly with the true nature and context of a site. For example, a brand new site with a large and active community may have a page rank of 0 because it’s just new. It doesn’t necessarily mean the site has anything wrong with it – the tool just hasn’t been updated. The PageRank tool is important to some extent, but definitely not as accurate as some of the real-time metrics you can gauge success on. This is the risk with any proprietary metric – it may not always be 100% accurate – so take it with a grain of salt.

So What Really Does Matter?

A successful search engine marketing campaign needs results to be justified. However, bear in mind that every site is different and establishing a normal can take some time. Instead of looking at only day over day performance, try to look at longer spans of time to assess patterns and build models of user behavior, sales cycle, or other frameworks that can provide guidance and context. While analytics tools offer a multitude of measurements, start off with the core ones listed above and then begin to drill down to analyze. The key is to look at metrics that affect your bottom line most and then, start segmenting and going deeper into the data that’s collected to answer the biggest questions in any marketer’s mind: who, what, when, where, why, and how?

 Questions

What metrics do you use to show the success of your online marketing strategy? What did you find effective in proving that the campaign had results?

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Pinterest for Small Business: The Basics

Development of new businessConsidering Pinterest as a worthy spend for your valuable marketing time takes a bit of a leap of faith and a fresh perspective on what this social platform was and what it now is. It is commonly held that Pinterest is a haven for DIY scrapbookers, crafty moms, and young women. This is no longer the case. There are a significant number of businesses making the case that a few minutes a day marketing to a visual audience via Pinterest is a worthy time-spend. Here’s what you can do and the logic behind it:

Add the Pin-It Button to Your Site: First, this encourages interaction with people who are already “pinners,” and thus greater exposure. On a more psychological note, just like adding a like button for Facebook, you’re showing that you are part of all the cool groups, regardless of how that actually looks in reality.

Create a Business Pinterest Account: Organize the items you promote or sell by the way your customers view them. For instance, a masonry company can make a board with patio designs, then a board for fireplaces, and so on. Those that are idea-gathering on Pinterest will have an actual visual on what you do, whether they’ve specially chosen to check out your page or happened upon it by accident.

Add a Logo to Pins: Tread carefully on this one. There is no need (or want) to watermark every image, but adding a small corner logo to your pinned images can go a long way in your branding efforts.

Engage: Pin other images, particularly inspirational quotes or related, but not competing, products. For instance if you’re promoting your fireplace masonry work, add a few pins for mantle decorating or quotes about home and hearth. Again, this will help with branding as well as show that you are an actual person that prospective customers can relate with.

Have you ever heard that a picture is worth a thousand words? This is the concept you should espouse when embarking on Pinterest to market your business. You can add words and link to the site, but let the focus be on the imagery and helping customers visualize having what you are offering.

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Analytics Tools You Should Be Using

Big data concept in word cloudEvery company, regardless of size, can benefit from having a better understanding of the performance of its website as well as competitor insight. Analytics tools are needed to understand all of these things, and there are many different tools available to help you gather this information.

Here are some of the must-use tools that can provide analytics data on your user behavior, traffic sources, and more:

  •  Need to get started? Google Analytics is available free of cost and gives you in depth surveying on what’s happening with your site. Surprisingly enough, many business owners do not use Google Analytics – and this is a huge mistake. GA is an industry standard tool that can communicate invaluable feedback regarding your website and it’s FREE. Installation can vary in difficulty, depending on the type of site, but you can work with your developers to ensure proper installation and tracking. From there, utilize its features, including social and real time reporting, segmentation filters, goals, funnels, and annotations, to put data behind your marketing strategy.
  •  Need an easier way to present your analytic data to stakeholders or the CEO at your next meeting? Infogram offers a variety of infographic templates that data can easily be entered in to create charts and graphs. This can be a unique way to demonstrate success while also engaging your presentation audience on a visual level.
  •  Want to know more about your customers and their changing behaviors? Need insight into what they really think about your website? KISSMetrics tracks website page views and analyzes the individual visitors and compares them before and after they become a customer. Another, tool from KISSMetrics, KISSInsights, provides an easy, customized feedback form for your visitors that you can manage through a single dashboard.
  •  Want to supplement Google Analytics? ClickTale tracks every single action your website visitor takes starting the second they enter your site, then creates maps and reports based on the data. Like GA, this is another valuable analytics tool that can show paths to purchase and can provide insight into your overall UX.

These are just a sampling of basic analytics tools for tracking site and user behavior. There are also many tools for measuring customer sentiment, social media visibility, and other key metrics. But, these tools listed above should provide you with a good starting point and frame of reference.

Running an organization website that is not properly optimized, for SEO, conversions, or otherwise, is of no use to any business. Exploring the variety of web analytics tools to get the most use out of your site and improve the online experience for your customers and site visitors is essential.

 

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Understanding the Importance of Link Building: A Must for Marketing Managers!

drawing social network structureWhen it comes to links, it’s best to think of them as almost a form of online currency that have the power to network between interconnecting sites. Much like currency, the more links you have, the better position you’ll find yourself in. Quality links have the ability to boost your search engine rankings, allowing your site to reach a wider audience.  Link building is extremely important to SEO, and an effective way of driving targeted traffic from sources other than search engines.

Links are one of the most important signals a search engine uses when ordering search results. Search engines look at links between pages to get a sense of which pages are most likely to be relevant to users. It’s a good way to think of links as votes for your website to be ranked higher. The more quality links or “votes” you have, the more likely you’re site will be ranked highly. However, not all links can benefit your site’s ranking.

Not All Links Are Created Equal

Essentially, every link that a site manages to gain can help strengthen the core strength of your site. However, it’s best to try and obtain links that are of a higher quality. In the early days of SEO, it was quite simple to achieve higher search rankings with low quality links. Today, Google actively searches for low quality links and content and may actually penalize the sites it finds. Google often reads low quality links as “unnatural links” and suggests you take action to remove these links from the web. Low quality links can often be seen as spam and will affect your search engine success.

Sites that are linking to you help provide context about your own site and help indicate quality and popularity. However, any links that are intended to manipulate search results are frowned upon. It’s best to stay away from link schemes that will hurt your site’s reputation more than actually help it. Excessive link exchanging, linking to spammers or unrelated sites, building partner pages for cross-linking, and using automated programs may seem like great ways to get more links, but doing so can actually hurt your sites page rank and reputation.

If you believe your site’s reputation and ranking are being harmed by low quality links that you have no control over, you can simply ask Google to not consider them when assessing your site using Google’s Disavow tool. When implementing a link building strategy, its best to concentrate on a higher quality link.

How Do I Get High Quality Links?

There are many ways to get high quality links that can raise your site’s search ranking. The best way to get these high quality and relevant links to your site is to create unique and relevant content. The more quality and relevant content you have, the greater the chances of someone finding your content valuable enough to link for their own readers. In SEO, content is king in every aspect of gaining SERP success.

It takes a good amount of time to build a solid link building infrastructure, but don’t let this deter you. Concentrate on quality original content that has potential to attract website owners and users to provide a link. This natural way of link building can be extremely beneficial, but like most SEO, it isn’t guaranteed.

When trying to obtain links it’s best to try and get links from sites that are relevant, authoritative, and are trusted.  The more links a site has, the higher its perceived authority it is. Obtaining links from authoritative sites can be quite tiresome and often fruitless, but it’s still very possible and worth the effort.

The first step in trying to obtain quality links is to produce great content that people will want to actually link to. Many companies contract this work out to professional writers. If you opt to write your own content it’s important to write content that offers expert advice, opinions and has tone that ultimately demonstrates your authority. If you find any of your content relating to another site, get in touch with them and direct them to your article in hopes of them linking to it. This is a great technique that will also build a relationship with other relevant sites.

There is no simple way of getting quality links, but it’s best to try ethical options instead of risking your site’s reputation with link schemes.

Does It All Really Matter?

Link building is extremely important for your sites reputation.  Gaining quality links boost your search engine rankings, bring visitors to your site, attract more quality links, and ultimately connect you with people. It’s important to remember that when you receive a link from another person, you’re opening up a new relationship that increases your chance of success. Strengthening your personal network through link building is an excellent way to help your site or business prosper and grow. Link building helps connect us with others to create a mutually beneficial relationship.

Free eBook on Today’s Link Building

“Why Aren’t We on Page 1 of Google?” is a must read for marketing directors, content managers, and anyone who wants to increase traffic to their website. With the most up-to-minute information about Google updates like Panda and Penguin and the low-down on what the future really holds for SEO, I highly encourage you to download my ebook here.

Question

What type of link building have you done? Did you find it to be beneficial to your site’s success?

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Getting More Out of Your Facebook Business Page Analytics

5 - Getting More Out of Your FacebookWhen it comes to tracking ROI from Facebook pages, we’ve got to say – things have gotten better in recent months. When Facebook started become a viable marketing channel for businesses, it was a challenge to get concrete feedback on what was working, what wasn’t, and how success could be calculated. Fan count and referral traffic were two early stats that allowed for businesses to start measuring performance, and thankfully, those early stats have since evolved into a full-on suite of metrics thanks to Facebook Insights.

The built-in analytics for Facebook Business Pages, Facebook Insights offers additional insight and context into how a business page is being used, where its traffic and engagement is coming from, and which types of posts are working best. Recently, its internal features were updated and the results are a game-changer for marketers. Goodbye vague KPIs. Hello actionable data.

Here’s an overview of the key updates to Facebook Insights and how you can get the most out of the changes:

1.)    The “People Talking About Us” metric was segmented in a more logical way, giving marketers additional perspective on the success of their pages. Instead of lumping together all of the data on interaction, it has now broken it out into Page Likes, People Engaged (the number of unique people who have Liked, commented on, shared, or clicked on your posts), Page Tags and Mentions, Page Checkins, and other interactions on a Page. With this data, your actual engagement levels become even more clear and it becomes easier to tie your Facebook to your bottom line – although, calculating ROI for social media in general is a topic for another post J (Tip: use this data to gain insight into what your actual engagement rate is and how that correlates to your other marketing efforts)

2.)    Post-specific stats are also now available, giving additional insight into what’s hot and what’s not within pages. This feature shows negative feedback, reach, and engagement at the individual post level. This kind of feedback can help you tailor your Facebook strategy and get the data you need to take action so that you get the best return – as well as the most positive sentiment. (Tip: really pay attention to types of media, length, and content used in the posts to gain the best perspective)

3.)    Facebook has also launched “People Engaged” analytics, which is a new tab within Page Inisghts that shows the demographic breakdown (age, city, gender, language, etc.) of the people you’ve reached, as well as the people you’ve engaged. This makes it easier for marketers to identify which audiences respond to different types of messaging – a huge benefit for your overall content strategy.  (Tip: try to create audience profiles or buckets to identify key trends or areas of communication while also getting to know your demographics).

What Facebook Insights data do you find most valuable from the updates? Which stats are most important to your overall Facebook strategy today? We’d love to get your perspective on KPIs and what’s working and what’s not for your bottom line.

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A Quick Google Analytics Hack: Using In-Page Analytics for Better Calls to Action

Java PrintingConversion optimization is an ongoing effort for any marketer, and one element that everyone plays with is the call to action (CTA). CTAs are critical to conversions, as they tell people what you want them to do next – and persuade them to do so. Most people tend to use A/B testing for this variable in conversion optimization, where you serve up two versions of the same page to see which one works better, but there is a way for you to shortcut A/B testing in some cases while still getting actionable data.

Within Google Aanlytics, there’s a feature called In-Page Analytics that lets you see the percentage of clicks for each link a landing page – i.e. you see where you’re clicks are going and to what degree an element on the page is dominating.  You can set up goals for specific performance within this feature as well as look at the data in a more visual format (it overlays data on your site’s design). Plus, if you’ve ever wanted to test the concept of above or below the fold, you can check that out by selecting “Browser Size” within that report.

If you’ve asked questions like:

  • Is my site’s design working to help me achieve my business goals?
  • Is the call to action actually motivating visitors?
  • Is there something on the site – like comments or feeds – that are distracting away from the call to action?
  • Are users missing the call to action and are trying to navigate on the menu bars instead?

Then In-Page Analytics is a great way for you to get more data so you can start maximizing your conversions through design, copy, and otherwise.

Do you use In-Page Analytics within GA to assist with conversion optimization? How so? What questions do you have about the feature?

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How To Calculate Blogging ROI

blogging-roi

Is Blogging Essential in 2014?

One of the top questions marketing agencies are asked these days is whether or not having a blog is essential. While business blogs were still just entering into the commonplace arsenal of marketing tools five years ago, more than 35 percent of Fortune 500 companies are now blogging. This is up from 23 percent in 2010. These percentages are considered to be even higher for smaller-sized companies.

Still, many businesses are reluctant to launch into creating a blog strategy and committing to posting content on a regular basis. In most of these cases, leadership is still not convinced that there is a calculable ROI for blogging.

This year, the upward trend in blogging certainly will continue. This is because more and more businesses are seeing calculable benefits to it. Still not sure if it’s right for your business? Here are some of the valuable reasons why you may want to jump on board the blogging bandwagon in 2014.

More Customers

According to a study from HubSpot entitled “The 2012 State of Inbound Marketing,” 56 percent of businesses that blogged at least once a month acquired customers through their blogs. Those that ramped up their efforts to three times a week saw this percentage jump to 70 percent. Daily blogging produced new customers for 78 percent of businesses.

More Credibility

Obviously the more valuable content you publish on your business blog, the more credibility you gain with customers and prospects. By positioning yourself as a thought leader, you’ll gain valuable trust that helps to build a brand and generate referrals.

More Traffic

Search engines reward websites that add fresh content. And, this is exactly what a blog enables you to do. By regularly blogging, you’re giving search engines what it is specifically looking for to enable you to rank higher in results. Higher rankings directly translate into more website traffic which ultimately means more sales.

Search engines crawl and index sites with regularly published content far more often than those that are stagnant. By peppering content with relevant keywords and linking between your blog and your website pages, you can improve your rankings even more. Get others to repost your content, and you’ll see an even bigger boost.

How to Calculate Your Return on Investment

While there are some marketing experts that claim that every business should be blogging because it’s free, this is utterly inaccurate. There is a definite cost to blogging. It requires a substantial amount of labor to be successful. While it can be costly, it can deliver a big opportunity. Thus, it’s important to calculate how blogging will affect your bottom line. Here’s how you can do this:

The Investment
  1. Determine how many hours will it take to write, edit, track, and manage the blog.
  2. Calculate the cost to your company in salary or contractor time for these hours.
  3. Add the cost for the design and technology fees for the blog (divide by 12 if this is an annual amount).
  4. Add the cost in hosting, maintenance, and additional app fees (divide by 12 if this is an annual amount).
  5. This total amount is what your blog costs per month.

The Revenue
  1. Evaluate how many revenue-oriented actions are created per month. This should include calls, clicks on your subscription sign up button, or who contacted you through your “contact us” page. For calls, you will need to verbally inquire about the blog’s role unless you utilize a special tracking phone number for the purpose of tracking customers from the blog.
  2. Determine a value for each revenue-oriented action.
  3. Multiply the number of each action by its associated value to calculate the revenue created from the blog.


Your return on investment is your revenue divided by the investment. This will give you a monthly ROI for your blogging efforts.

Hopefully, this has provided you with both some concrete proof that blogging works and how to determine what you can gain from adding it to your existing marketing mix.

Question:

What have you learned after calculating your blogging ROI?

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Google Rolls Out Hummingbird: A Smarter Algorithm for Smarter Marketers

Concept databaseIf the response to Penguin and Panda updates in the past are any indicator, it is likely that many businesses and SEO marketers are crying out in despair over the latest Hummingbird Google update, launched on their 15th birthday. We can almost hear them: “Is SEO dead?” “Have my efforts over the last several years been for naught?”

Why the Change?

Essentially, more people are using mobile voice searches to find the information they need or using direct questions and long tail keywords in order to get more precise and appropriate results. Google simply wants to give the people what they want.

The Good News and Bad News

These changes, designed to enhance the user experience—which is nearly everyone—will make the search engine more intuitive and thus, provide more accurate results. For instance, a user that wants to know how to build a birdhouse and asks as such will ideally prompt results that may include how-to videos, informative articles, and resourceful websites. They would, again ideally, not get stores that sell birdhouses or other types of related sites that may or may not fit the question as it was asked. End result? More satisfied searchers and a Google win.

What’s the bad news, then? Well, it’s essentially only bad news for those that have, at best, not properly created unique and appropriate content on their site and others who have not (yet) launched into creating videos, engaging in social media, or marketing to mobile users.  At worst, any site using any tactics hinting at black hat will not see the advancements they have come to expect.

What Are the Next Steps?

SEO marketers and businesses can meet this change head-on by becoming an expert in what they do. Likely, hopefully, you already are and all you’ll need to do is make sure your website and other online marketing efforts and relationships reflect as such. Now is the time to take advantage of mobile marketing, add a blog, engage on Facebook, or enhance your content—whatever it takes to show your expertise and help the online realm view you as the expert you are. Answer the questions your customers are asking!

Google has indicated that this change will make for smarter results that give the user what they want. What do you have to offer and what is your target audience looking for? Answer that question correctly and the  Hummingbird update may be the best thing that has happened to your online marketing campaign thus far. SEO is not dead, but it just got smarter.

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3 More Things To Use Your Blog For Besides Blogging

BloggingIn our last post, we talked about other ways to use your blog for your marketing besides just blogging. In this post, we’ll take things a step further and go over additional roles your blog can play that can contribute to the overall success of your marketing.

A Testing Laboratory

Be careful not to bombard your blog subscribers (and readers) with too many posts that are too varied. Throwing tons of content at your audience to see what sticks isn’t the best option, however, you can use your blog to selectively test messaging and gain valuable data. Using analytics (and engagement), you can start to measure what topics your audience is most passionate about or interested in and use that information to craft smarter campaigns. You can even try A/B testing with certain types of content to serve up the same information in the same form while seeing which format works better. Test offers now and then (selectively, of course) to gauge how that offer might perform when promoted through multiple channels.

A Networking Powerhouse

Believe it or not, your blog is an extension of your overall networking ability. Use your blog to attract reputable people in the field and encourage them to contribute by writing guest posts or doing collaborative projects. Make a strong impression by offering content that has value and encourage discussion to up your engagement levels. The goal is to attract and to build a solid relationship, so try to connect with potential experts in your industry if you can to add to your blog’s overall credibility. Having a professional write on your blog can help add authority to it, plus it may also translate in more page views in the future.

Speaking of networking, your blog can also be a hub for you to connect your social media channels so that content can be cross promoted and traffic can be driven to those areas for additional engagement. Don’t be afraid to play with embeddable posts, social proof, and other tactics that harness the power of social media in the framework of your blog.

A Customer Service Channel

Create content that shows customers or clients how to use your product or service and you may be helping out your customer service teams. How-tos, demonstrations, reviews, and other important information about what you do and what you offer can mean reduced customer complaints (e.g. “I can’t figure out how to use this!” or “Why doesn’t this ever work?”)  or questions, plus, it gives you a chance to showcase your expertise and add value to your overall brand. You’re showing you care by showing your cards. Be open, be responsive, and create content that helps answer your customer’s needs and questions.

Question: Can you think of other roles your blog can play?

 

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