Improve PPC Performance with a Customer-Centric Paid Search Strategy

We’ve written a fair number of blog posts about pay-per-click channels in the past, focusing on both tactical tips and strategic recommendations. Both elements are equally important, as the best PPC specialists have an incredibly strong grasp on the mechanics of the channel, but also understand the marketing fundamentals of their product or service. This means they can deliver the right content to the right people at the right time – ensuring that the ad text and landing page copy is not only on-brand but tailored to where the user is in the buying process.

 

This “customer-centric” approach to paid search means providing answers to informational queries for people that are just beginning to do research – for example, promoting a buyer’s guide for the person searching for “best small cars 2015”. Based on this search term, it’s likely that the person knows that they’re interested in buying a compact car, but really don’t know which brands or models they should consider. Knowing this, the advertiser can adjust their ad copy and landing page accordingly; if I am wondering what the best small car on the market is, it would be inappropriate to take me to a page where I can customize my car or schedule a test drive with a dealer. I haven’t even decided what brand I’m looking for! At this point in the buying process, content that is educational, rather than “sales-y” or overly self-promotional, is what users are looking for.

reliant robin rolls over

In hindsight, you probably should’ve purchased something that lets you go around corners.

Consider a different search query – “buy a sweet fake beard online” (don’t judge my search history, please). Based on the wording of this search term, the user is likely ready to make a purchase, so it’s okay for the advertiser to take them to a page that is more overtly promotional than in our SUV example above. It would be a waste to take them to an informational page (say, a video about how to apply a fake beard, or a history of great moustaches in film) – since the user has already done their research and is ready to buy, the ad copy and landing page should reflect user intent.

fake beards

Pretty sure the bottom three product images are just pictures of my dad in college.

Let’s look at a few ways to ensure that your paid search campaigns are built around your customers’ buying process.

  • Campaign Structure. Since keywords, ad copy, and landing pages all have to be tightly controlled in this approach, you may have to dramatically expand the scope of your campaigns. Consider allocating two campaigns for each product or line of service you offer – one “informational” campaign, one “conversion” campaign. Within each one, build out multiple ad groups around similar terms. It’s okay to get pretty granular here – for example, “small car buyers guide” and “small car reviews” can be segmented into two different ad groups, which will let you tweak the ad copy to be as specific as possible.
  • Extending Your Landing Page. Visitors to your site from informational queries may not be ready to buy just yet, but this doesn’t mean they should just consume your content and leave! Extend the impact of your landing page and marketing by providing next steps – for example, a white paper download in exchange for their email address can be an excellent way to begin a drip campaign to guide them down the sales funnel. Similarly, you can reconnect with visitors and encourage further engagement with a remarketing campaign.
  • Tools and organization are your friend. With highly targeted campaigns and ad groups, you may soon become a victim of “PPC sprawl” – a mass of keywords, ad copy, rules, and extensions that can become unwieldy over time. Consider developing a naming convention for your campaigns and ad groups that is easily extended and scaled as you grow. Multiple campaign and account management is also greatly aided by Google’s AdWords Editor; larger advertisers may want to consider a third-party management tool such as Kenshoo or Marin.
  • Are You Testing? You Should be Testing. You really should. Even with a great understanding of your audience and the buying cycle for your product or service, there are always insights to be found by testing out different ad creative, landing page creative, keywords, and more. There are tons of tools available for A/B and multivariate testing (including landing page platforms like Unbounce and Optimizely, which can help you deploy highly specific landing pages quickly and at scale – ideal for bigger campaigns), as well as qualitative research platforms like ForeSee. But remember: test results are only as good as your insights! Make sure that you design tests in a way that makes the results actionable; for example, testing ad copy variations to answer the question, “do users respond better to ‘Free Shipping’ or ‘10% off’?” will provide you with data you can use across other channels, promotions, and media.

 

With the customer-centric approach to paid search, you, as the advertiser, are awarded with much greater flexibility and control. For example, you may want to increase top-of-funnel awareness by focusing on informational queries. Alternately, you can target more educated, ready-to-convert users with ad copy and landing pages that are designed to drive immediate action. Finally, since users are seeing highly specific content that matches their intent, you can expect to see better click-through-rates, Quality Scores, behavioral metrics, and conversion metrics.

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Single Page Checkout Done Right

Everyone is doing it

Seems like everyone is switching to single page checkouts. They are the new trend for improving ecommerce checkout user experience (UX) and conversion rates. There are several reasons for this trend:

  1. It just sounds simple: one step is always better than three right?
  2. It makes decisions easy: Just put it all on one page.
  3. Increased Conversions: There is some research that suggests that one-page checkouts out-perform multi-step in A/B tests.

It’s not that simple

As simple as it sounds, it really isn’t that simple. Improving your ecommerce website UX and conversion rate take more effort than just dumping your un-optimized checkout form onto one page. In fact, single-page checkout has the potential to make the process seem more complicated and time intensive to users. For example, which form would you rather fill out?

mulit-page checkout

Form A: Optimized Multi-Step Checkout

single page checkout unoptimized

Form B: Un-Optimized Single Page Checkout

I’m guessing most of you choose option A. Why? Because it looks easy and simple, where option B looks long and confusing.

Single page checkout doesn’t have to look (or be) long and confusing. Amazon recently changed to a single page checkout:

single page checkout

 

Doing it right

Why does the Amazon checkout seem so much easier to use than the other single page checkout (Option B)? It follows general usability guidelines that apply to both multi and single page checkouts:

  • Clearly Defined Steps: It’s easy to spot Amazons 3-steps required to checkout.
  • Limited Form Fields: Amazon keeps the form fields presented to a minimum to speed up checkout.
  • Remove Distractions: Amazon’s checkout page has its own clean, distraction free template so users can focus on the task at hand.

In Brief

Changing to a single-page checkout may speed up the checkout process and thus help improve conversion rates, but only if you:

  • Address the pitfalls of single page checkout (e.g. too much on a single page can seem overwhelming to the user)
  • Use general usability guidelines to optimize the checkout process

Need help optimizing your checkout process and improving your conversion rate? We would love to help. Contact us to get expert help with your ecommerce website today.

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5 Keys to Successful Content Distribution

  1. Create engaging and sharable content that distributes itself…

The key to shareable content is to start with key problems your target personas face on a regular basis. The problem stage (also known as the awareness stage) of your audience’s buying cycle is where you can establish yourself as a thought leader in the industry. If you can solve the user’s problem, they are more likely to share that information with their colleagues and other similarly minded friends. You’ll have a limited time to grab each user’s attention, so make sure you also have a title that catches the reader’s eye too. For example: “3 Web Design Hacks To Double Your Conversion Rates”. An educational piece with a catchy title and provides value to your customers can spread like wildfire!

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  1. Spend as much time on distributing your content as you do on creating it…

Did you know that over 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day (Internet.org)? Competing for visual space in social media and other distribution channels has become almost impossible. Creating or sourcing powerful imagery and videos helps to both break up content into digestible blocks and keeps the reader more engaged. Furthermore, utilizing images in distribution helps your posts stand out from others in news feeds.  Also plan to schedule your content to be posted when your target audience is most active. Finally, a simple e-blast to your following is a great way to share new content with an existing customer base and stay in front of them on a regular basis.

  1. Utilize distribution tools to send messages from one central management portal…

Tools like Hootsuite and Post Planner allow you to schedule posts, monitor performance, respond to comments and in some instances even predict the effectiveness of posts before they’re even sent! Furthermore, these tools integrate with a variety of platforms allowing you to send out a single message (or slight variations) from one location instead of having to log in and post new content to each individual social media or other distribution channel.

ContentDistribution3 ContentDistribution2

  1. Consistency and planning…

One of the biggest pitfalls of content distribution is failure to send out new content on a regular basis (daily or weekly). Creating a content calendar is a great starting point for staying ahead of schedule each month. Content calendars typically include a theme for each month along with what content you’re planning to generate. Revisit the content calendar on a monthly basis to add new topics and themes for coming months and experiment with different times of day as well as types of content for each of your channels to see what your followers are looking for.

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  1. Measure the results…

Always have an end objective in mind and the means to measure your content’s performance. Metrics you should be able to measure include:

  • Engagement Per Channel – How many people liked/tweeted/pinned/favorited, shared or clicked on your content
  • Reach Per Channel – How many people potentially saw your content
  • Macro And Micro Conversions – Includes something as small as signing up for a newsletter or something as large as buying a product/service or completing a contact form.
  • Qualitative Data – Polling users and getting feedback on the effectiveness of your content, what information they would like to see included or other topics that you can discuss in the future.

ContentDistribution6

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5 Marketing Tools You Should Be Utilizing

The right tools can make all the difference for a marketer and their clients. Check out these tools you should be using:

A/B Testing

A/B testing tools are used to run experiments to help companies make informed, data-driven decisions. Track and measure metrics you decide on and get valuable insight to actions customers are taking on your site. For example, test the wording of your call to action. Does one phrase significantly outperform the other and lead to more conversions? Optimizely is a great tool for any and all A/B tests you can think of.

 

abtest

Call Tracking

Call tracking tools, such as DialogTech, give valuable insight into where calls originate from. Track your inbound calls back to the source, whether it be specific ads, keyword searches, social media, or offline campaigns using unique phone numbers. The ability to track and compare multiple channels allows marketers to make informed decisions about where to spend their marketing dollars. With some tools, you can also track leads through the sales cycle by integrating with Salesforce or your CRM tool.

Web Crawler

Web crawlers, used to spider websites links, images, CSS, script and apps from an SEO perspective, give key vision to onsite performance. They can provide key data (url, inlinks, SERP snippet, etc) and report on response codes, redirects, page titles and meta description among other useful information. The SEO Spider tool from Screaming Frog is an excellent tool for analyzing sites, especially large ones, where going through each page is simply too time consuming. Screaming Frog makes it easy to export any data you find useful to work with outside the program.

Social Media

Social media tools, such as Hootsuite and Buffer, which are used to schedule and execute social posts across multiple social sites can be one of the most valuable tools you have. They allow you to manage social outreach and engage with followers from one single dashboard. One of the best things about these tools is the ability to schedule multiple social posts, across all your social accounts, in one sitting. This means I can plan and schedule my social posts for a week or a month and put my mind at ease as the platform will take care of the rest. Some, such as Hootsuite, also provide social analytics and a browser extension which allows you to quickly share content from around the web.

Keyword Tracking

Tracking performance of the keywords you’re targeting is absolutely essential. Moz has a great keyword tool that allows you to track national or local keyword rankings, see keyword difficulty, and view rankings over time. Keyword tools help you save time and choose where to focus SEO efforts.

All seem a bit daunting? Contact our team of specialist and let us help you maximize your marketing efforts.

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Google’s Mobile-Friendly Update

Bigger than panda. Bigger than penguin. The new Google algorithm change will have a greater impact than prior updates.  The April 21st update will reward mobile friendly sites in ranking on mobile search results. The new algorithm will include app indexing and mobile-friendly usability factors. According to Google, “users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.” A few takeaways:

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Mobile Rankings Only

  • To be clear, this update will only affect mobile search results, not desktop. The change will impact mobile search rankings in all languages worldwide, using mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. Think of it as favoring mobile friendly sites versus demoting non-friendly ones. Nonetheless, if your website, landing pages, or blog are not optimized for mobile, this is a great incentive to make the move. Not sure where you fall on the mobile readiness scale? Not to worry because the wonderful folks at Google have you covered. Check out this tool to get a quick assessment of your site and the impact the new algorithm will have on it.

Having a Mobile App

  • Google has also announced that apps that are indexed through App Indexing will begin to rank higher in mobile search. You must be a signed-in user and have the app installed on your mobile device for this to take affect. This app portion of the update has already started and is currently active.

Google’s Goal

  • What it all really comes down to is better user experience on mobile devices. Giving searches exactly what they’re looking for with the least amount of resistance. As the number of mobile searchers increases, it’s important they feel that they’re getting the best results and are not trying to view sites that are not optimized to be seen on a phone.

So, only one question remains, are you mobile friendly? If not, check out our responsive design services and contact us today.

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5 Email Marketing Tactics You Need To Start Using Today

Email marketing is a valuable tool in any marketer’s belt, but are you using it effectively? Take a look at these 5 useful tactics to get the most out of your email marketing:

download1.  Format for Mobile

53% of all email opens now occur on mobile devices, according to statistics from email marketing firm Litmus. That number has drastically risen over the past several years and shows no signs of slowing down. Can you afford for over 50% of your subscribers to trash an email because it looks funky on their phone? Odds are, you’d prefer this wasn’t the case, so make sure your emails are formatted to look great no matter what device they’re viewed on. Enlarge fonts, have a prominent, ‘tappable’ call to action, and cut to the chase. In other words, make it easy for those on your email list to read and navigate your emails.

2.  Automation

Email automation is an amazing thing. Automatically send emails to the right people, at the right time, with content unique to their interests. How about an email with a special offer on a subscriber’s birthday? What about a renewal reminder when a contract or subscription is coming to an end? Automating the process means you have time focus on other parts of your business. The opportunities are endless and the benefits significant when it comes to email automation.

3.  Growth During Purchase

Growing your email list is a continuous task, but it doesn’t have to be a burden. One of the most effective tactics (for ecommerce sites) for growing your list is targeting customers making purchases. You’re most likely already getting an email address during the checkout process, so you’re not asking customers to do anything extra to sign up. A simple check box to sign up for a newsletter or receive promotions is all you need. Easy and effective. You should, however, be mindful of the customer experience. The last thing you want is a frustrated customer who can’t proceed through checkout because they haven’t subscribed.

4.  Test, Test, Test

As is the norm for most things, different strategies tend to work for different companies. Test what works best for you and your customers. How long (or short) is the most effective subject line for your subscribers? What’s the ideal send time to garner the most opens? The best day? Pit two strategies against each other and let the numbers do the talking. Experimentation can lead to amazing discoveries and help you maximize the potential of your campaigns.

5.  Re-Engage

Conduct a re-engagement campaign to trigger subscribers who have been inactive for some time. You may have a massive email list but how many of those people are active and devoted? Over time, interest tends to wane. Not to worry, because you can re-ignite that initial signup spark. Remind subscribers why they were initially attracted to your organization and re-acquaint them with your brand.

Have a go with these email marketing tips or contact our team of email experts to get started on the path to email greatness today.

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Setting D.U.M.B. Goals In 2015

Have you been setting S.M.A.R.T. objectives for your business for the last 10 years and feel that you’re not getting the explosive growth you were planning on? Maybe your company has seen steady growth and profits, but you still feel you’re missing that special edge that sets you completely apart from your competition. Perhaps you have an edge, but your brand has stagnated and your team is less motivated? Setting specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound goals allows you to achieve milestones and complete tasks that you already know can be accomplished. What about the goals you don’t think you can accomplish? Goals like 500% growth year over year or applying your current business model to a totally different market?

Don’t think it is possible? What about putting a man on the moon? Sailing across an entire ocean with nothing but a handful of wind-propelled boats? We’re not just talking about getting our keywords to the number one position in Google folks. We’re talking about big dreams, ambitious stretch goals that rally your customers and your employees to your cause. Watch the video below that explains what D.U.M.B. goals are and some ways in which you can use them to take your business (or life) to an incredible new level.

Now that you’ve watched the video, here is our interpretation of DUMB goals and some ways in which you can apply them to your business.

D. Dream-driven (destiny-driven):

  • Think of a goal that is way outside the box. Totally unexpected and far from what those around you are doing.
  • What is your business dream? What is your personal ambition?
  • Think of something amazing you can create.
  • Example: Bill and Melinda Gates’ goal is to eradicate malaria worldwide.

U. Uplifting:

  • Make your goal attractive, important, and compelling.
  • Phrase your goal in such a way that you are fired up and excited to achieve it.
  • Focus on the positives rather than the negatives.
  • Example: Instead of phrasing your goal as “We are going to improve customer retention by 50% this year.” Phrase it as “Our awesome account and customer service reps are going to provide such an amazing experience to each individual client that not only will retention improve 50% this year, but we’ll grow our business an additional 50% via word of mouth referrals from existing clients.”

M. Method-friendly (map):

  • What set of practices can you create around a goal that will make it easier to achieve?
  • Break it down to monthly, weekly or daily objectives that you repeat over and over again.
  • Create a roadmap that turns a seemingly impossible goal into something attainable.
  • Examples:
    • Twice a month you will meet with a business coach or mentor to discuss your D.U.M.B. goal.
    • 4 hours a week you allow employees to set aside whatever else they are working on to allocate time to the D.U.M.B. goal.
    • 30 minutes every week day you work on your goal.

B. Behavior-driven:

  • Triggers set up around your behaviors to help you achieve your goals.
  • Example: Every morning when you get into the office, have each employee (yourself included) allocate 30 minutes toward your big goal. This could be as little as 5 minutes or as much as several hours, but repetition of your set of practices is crucial in achieving your dream.

Not sure where to start with your D.U.M.B. goal? Contact our team of marketing specialists to help jump-start the process. Keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with setting specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound goals! S.M.A.R.T. objectives are excellent tools for keeping your day to day processes, operations and objectives on task. Whether you are looking to redefine your dreams or need help working on the day to day projects, our team is ready and willing to help with a variety of your business and marketing needs. Contact us today!

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Coming January 2015: Less Organic Reach for Promotional Posts via Facebook

Facebook recently announced that starting in January 2015, Facebook pages promotional posts will have a harder time making an appearance on newsfeeds organically. Facebook surveyed hundreds of thousands of people and found that users wanted to see more relevant content and less promotional content from brands. In this blog post, we will go into more detail about what Facebook’s announcement said, how it will affect you and what our recommendations are for 2015.

What Facebook Said:

Here is what users DO NOT want to see posted by brands on their newsfeeds:

1.)  Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app

2.)  Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context

3.)  Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads

Examples provided by Facebook are as follows:

facebook spammy posts

Businesses will no longer be allowed to create promotional posts such as examples provided in the picture.

In the release, Facebook states that pages who “post promotional creative should expect to their organic distribution to fall significantly over time.”

How Updates Will Effect Businesses & Next Steps:

This means that it is not recommended to push products, services, apps or contests within your brand page posts. If you would like to promote products, services or a contest, similar to a newspaper or magazine, it would be best to “buy your space,” meaning purchase an ad.

Pages still matter as they are an extension of your brand identity and you should continue to utilize your brand page to stay in front of your audience. This will change content strategies for some businesses, however, we currently do not recommend pushing promotional content in social posts. This further proves the need for high-quality content that is relevant to what your customers are looking for. This content should provide value.

As mentioned in a post via Marketing Land, “The News Feed is more a discussion among friends and your challenge as a brand is to get people to talk about your brand for you. Use your page as a testing ground to see what gets people going and do more (or a better job) of that thing.”

To maintain relevancy naturally on Facebook we recommend the following:

  • Create visual content such as photos, videos & infographics. 40% of people will respond better to visual information than plain text. This content is easy to digest and easy to share for your users.
  • Create content that helps solve a problem, dive into an issue, explain a process, etc.
    • These can be in the form of a white paper, blog posts, brochures, e-books, webinars, case studies, pod casts, etc.

If you would like to promote your business on Facebook we recommend testing the following strategies:

 

retargeting on facebook

Retargeting is a highly recommended option for businesses.

  •  Retargeting using AdRoll
  • In-depth targeting by utilizing the data collected on your users. You can create ads by:
  • Using demographic data to hone audiences
  • Segmenting interests to lower ad costs
  • Incorporating behavior for high conversions

This announcement hasn’t changed the game tremendously, but businesses need to be much more strategic and have time to devote in creating these types of high quality pieces of content. In addition, there will more than likely be a surge in Facebook advertising, which also means businesses need to have a strategic plan in place to reach their customers while balancing a positive ROI.

Comment below if you have any questions or contact a social media marketing specialist today.

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