Friday, July 28, 2017

Homemade Cherry Pie Filling

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5 Tactics to Earn Links Without Having to Directly Ask - Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Typical link outreach is a tired sport, and we've all but alienated most content creators with our constant link requests. In today's Whiteboard Friday, Rand outlines five smart ways to earn links to your site without having to beg.

5 tactics to earn links without having to ask

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, I'm going to help you avoid having to directly ask for links.

Some people in the SEO world, some link builders are extremely effective. If you go to the Russ Jones School of Link Outreach, you need to make a big list of people to contact, get in front of those folks, outreach them, and have these little success rates. But for some of us, myself included, I just absolutely hate begging people for links. So even though I often produce content that I want people to link to, it's the outreach process that stops me from having success. But there are ways around this. There are ways to earn links, even from very specific sources, without needing to directly say, "Hey, will you please link to this?" I'll try and illustrate that.

The problem

So the problem is I think that most of the web at this point is sort of burned out on this conversation of, "Hey, I have this great resource." Or, "Hey, you linked to this thing which is currently broken and so maybe you'd like to," or "Hey, I noticed that you frequently mention or link to blah, blah, blah. Well I have a blah, blah, blah like blah, blah, blah."

Folks I think are just like, "Oh, my God, I hate these SEOs, like I'm so done with this." Most of these folks, the journalists, the bloggers, the content creators of all kinds start to detest the link requests even when they're useful, even when they help your success rates. I mean, great success rates.

The world's best link builders, link outreach specialists, when I talked to agencies, they say, "Our absolute best folks ever hover in the 5% to 10% success range." So that means you're basically like, "No. Nope. Nuh-uh. Uh-uh. No way. Sorry. Uh-uh. Yeah, no. Uh, no." Then, maybe you'll get one, "Okay, fine. I'll actually link to you."

This can be a really demoralizing practice, and it also hurts your brand every time you outreach to someone and have no success. They're basically associating you with . . . and in fact, there are many people in the SEO world who my only association with them is, gosh, they have asked me for a lot of links over the years. It kind of sucks the souls from people who hate doing it. Now granted, there are some people who like doing it, but you have two options.

Number one, you can optimize the outreach to try and get a higher success rate, to do less damage to your brand when you do this, to make this less of a soul-sucking process, and we have some Whiteboard Fridays on exactly that topic and some great blog posts on that too. But there are ways to build links without it, and today I'm going to cover four and a half of them, because the fifth one is barely a tactic.

5 Tactics to earn links

1. The "I made this thing you'll probably use"

The first one is the tactic — I'm going to use very conversational naming conventions for these — the "I made this thing you will probably use." So this is, in effect, saying not, "Hey, I made this thing. Will you link to it?" but rather, "I made this thing and I can have some confidence that you and people like you, others like you, will probably want to link to it because it fulfills a specific need."

So there's some existing content that you find on the web, you locate the author of that content or the publisher of that content, and you form a connection, usually through social, through email, or through a direct comment on that content. You have an additional resource of some kind that is likely to be included, either in that particular element or in a future element.

This works very well with bloggers. It works well with journalists. It works well with folks who cover data and studies. It works well with folks who are including visuals or tools in their content. As a result, it tends to work well if you can optimize for one of those types of things, like data or visuals or ego-bait. Or supporting evidence works really well. If you have someone who's trying to make an argument with their content and you have evidence that can help support that argument, it will very often be the case that even just a comment can get you included into the primary post, because that person wants to show off what you've got.

It tends not to work very well with commercial content. So that is a drawback to the tactic.

2. The "You list things like X, I have or I am an X."

So this is rather than saying, "I would like a link," it's a very indirect or a relatively indirect ploy for the same thing. You find resources that list Xs, and there's usually either an author or some process for submission, but you don't have to beg for links. You can instead just say, "I fit your criteria."

So this could be, "Hey, are there websites in the educational world that are ADA-compliant and accessible for folks?" You might say, "Well, guess what? I'm that. Therefore, all of these places that list resources like that, that are ADA-compliant, will fit in here."

Or for example, we're doing design awards for pure CSS design, and it turns out you have a beautifully-designed site or page that is pure CSS, and so maybe you can fit in to that particular criteria. Or websites that load under a second, even on a super slow connection, and they list those, and you have one of those. So there's a process, and you can get inclusion.

3. The "Let me help you with that."

This can be very broad, but, basically, if you can identify sources and start to follow those sources wherever they publish and however they publish, whether that's social or via content or broadcast or other ways, if you find those publications, those authors expressing a need or an interest or that they are in the process of completing something, by offering to assist you will almost always get a link for your credit. So this is a way where you're simply monitoring these folks that you would like to get links from, waiting for them to express some sort of need, fulfilling that need, and then reaping the benefit through that link.

4. The "I'd be happy to provide an endorsement."

This is sort of a modified version of "I made this thing you'll probably like." But instead of saying, "Here's the thing that you will probably like and maybe include," you're saying, "I noticed that you have a product, a piece of content, a tool, a new piece of hardware, some physical product, whatever it is, and I like it and I use it and I happen to fit into the correct demographic that you are trying to reach. Therefore, I am happy to contribute an endorsement or a testimonial." Oftentimes, almost always, whenever there's a testimonial, you will get a link back to your source, because they'll want to say, "Well, Rand Fishkin from Moz says X and Y and Z," and there's the link to either my page or to Moz's page.

5. The "Guest contribution."

The one you're probably most familiar with, and it was probably the first one that came to mind when you thought about the "How do I get links without asking for them?" and that is through guest contributions, so guest blogging and guest editorials and authorship of all kinds. There are a few Whiteboard Fridays on that, so I won't dive deep in here.

But I hope you can leverage some or all of these tactics, because if you hate link building the outreach way, these all have more work that goes into them, but far, far better results than this 5% to 10% as the top. Five to ten percent is probably the bottom range for each of these, and you can get 50%, 75% on some of these tactics. Get a lot of great links from great sources. It just requires some elbow grease.

All right, everyone. Thanks for watching. We'll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Staying Hydrated with Gululu

{EntryTitle} was first posted on My Baking Addiction

The Lazy Writer’s Guide to 30-Minute Keyword Research

Posted by BritneyMuller

You, a content marketing ninja, are able to wield immense SEO reach with your content in ways most SEOs (*cough* like myself) can only dream of.

BUT, you’re not leveraging keyword research to your advantage!

The fact that you can discover how many people per month are searching for something, what words they're using, and what questions they're asking still blows my mind!

Keyword research doesn’t have to be a marathon bender. A brisk 30-minute walk can provide incredible insights — insights that connect you with a wider audience on a deeper level.


Why keyword research is essential [Case Study]

My previous company, Pryde Marketing, was not founded on out-of-this-world high-quality content. It was founded on leveraging online data strategically for private medical practices.

When we were hired to do keyword research for an MRI company, we discovered that hundreds of people a month were searching “open vs closed mri” but no one was providing any good answers, content, or photos for these searchers.

We decided to create an "Open Vs. Closed MRI" page for our client that, to our surprise, continues to see over double the traffic of the homepage. Plus, it's brought in over 50k+ unique visitors.

We were not successful because we thought of this content idea.

We were successful because we listened to the keyword data.


5 keyword research hacks in under 30 minutes

Example client: Hunter & Company (Wedding & Event Planning)

Objective: Write better content for their website and assist with digital marketing efforts.

#1: Blog category keyword research

Having five to ten data-driven blog categories can help you rank for popular topics, allow readers to find more relevant content, and help to organize your blog.

Evaluate top industry websites (10 mins)

Identify the most common navigation items and blog categories on leading industry sites.

Top Wedding Site Eval.png

Advanced search operators (3 mins)

While exploring top websites, you can use advanced Google operators to dig deeper.

Example: Bride.com has topic pages like /topic/wedding-beauty. To view all of Bride.com’s topics search this: site:brides.com/topic

Wedding advanced search operator.png

Google Suggest (10 mins)

Google "wedding" and don’t hit enter!

Instead, make note of the drop-down search suggestions. You can also search "wedding a" [don’t hit enter], "wedding b" [don’t hit enter], all the way through to z to get the most popular and/or trending wedding-related searches.

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 11.20.18 AM.png

Now that we have aggregated keywords from the above tactics, we have a solid list:

wedding venues, wedding photographers, wedding dj, wedding beauty, wedding videographers, wedding bands, wedding budget, wedding invitations, wedding registry, wedding colors, wedding decorations, wedding party, wedding ideas, wedding cakes, wedding centerpieces, wedding hairstyles, wedding bouquets, engagement rings, wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses, mother of the bride dresses, wedding rings, flower girl dresses, wedding accessories, wedding jewelry, wedding tuxedos, wedding registry, wedding ceremony, wedding reception, wedding cake, wedding food, wedding favors, wedding flowers

Keep up the pace — we can’t stop here!

Next, let’s determine which categories are most popular by average monthly Google searches.

There are two primary tools to view average monthly search volume (AKA to know how many times a query like “wedding flowers” are searched per month): Google Keyword Planner and Moz Keyword Explorer. (Check out GKP vs. MKE to learn more.)

Google Keyword Planner (5 mins)

Step 1: Paste your saved keyword list into the box under “Enter one or more of the following” and click “Get Ideas”:

Step 2: Evaluate and save search volume data while being mindful of the large search data ranges and limited data:Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 10.09.51 AM.png

Note: Google will occasionally change your keywords to something different; “wedding videographers” was changed to “wedding videos” in this case. It’s important to be mindful of this as you’re deciding on the exact category names.

You should also explore the keywords below your immediate keyword search section. Sort by average monthly searches (highest to lowest) to make sure you aren’t missing any other big category items.

Moz Keyword Explorer (5 mins)

Step 1: Create a new list.

Step 2: Paste your keyword list into the “Enter Keywords” box:

Step 3: Take a quick water break, because KWE will take a minute to gather data. Once the data is in view, sort by and evaluate average monthly search volume:

Woohoo! We reached the finish line with two minutes to spare.

To finalize our blog categories, we need to ask ourselves two things: Which topics are the most popular and the most relevant to a wedding planner site?

With that in mind, you’ve chosen six of the most popular wedding topics and have nested several sub-categories within “Wedding Decorations” — brilliant!

  • Wedding Dresses
  • Wedding Invitations
  • Wedding Photography
  • Wedding Cakes
  • Wedding Venues
  • Wedding Decorations
    • Wedding Flowers
    • Wedding Colors
    • Wedding Centerpieces
    • Wedding Venues

#2: FAQ keyword research

Answering the most commonly searched-for questions about your product/service will provide value to your readers and solidify you as an industry expert.

Here’s how to gather the most commonly asked questions on a topic:

AnswerThePublic.com (10 mins)

Search for your product/service.

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 10.40.06 AM.png

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 10.40.20 AM.png

How cool is this snazzy question wheel?! While the visuals are fun, it’s easier to gather the questions by clicking the top-right yellow “export to csv” button and deleting non-relevant questions in a .csv or Google Sheet.

Moz Keyword Explorer (10 mins)

Step 1: Search and filter “display keyword suggestions” by “are questions”:

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.09.02 AM.png

Step 2: Add relevant questions to a new keyword list:

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.12.32 AM.png

Step 3: Add relevant AnswerThePublic questions to list:

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.06.30 AM.png

Research done!

I wouldn’t worry about evaluating search volume too closely for FAQs because questions are typically more long-tail (meaning they have lower search volume and are usually easier to rank for). In multitudes, these can be very valuable to your site.

Now you can start adding your newly discovered FAQs to an FAQ page (while trying to avoid duplicate types of questions):

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.19.47 AM.png

#3: Competitive content research

Evaluate your competitor’s 10 most popular pages on SimilarWeb (5 mins)

This uncovers the specific type of content your audience is interested in. Here are the 10 most popular pages for One Fine Day Events:

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 9.14.50 PM.png

Evaluate each of the top pages & gather 3 key takeaways (20 mins)

  1. The most popular “Gallery” page confirms that images are extremely popular in the wedding and event space. Maintaining an optimized gallery and incorporating more images into on-page content should be a top digital marketing priority.
  2. Interestingly, the “Preferred Vendors” page is a Category page! It's something we should consider implementing on Hunter & Co. It would also be a great link building opportunity (to get vendors to link back to Hunter & Co)... but I digress.
  3. Testimonials are also be a top priority and live off the primary navigation.

Pro tip: Use Google Trends to evaluate seasonal searches and prepare competitive content months before it spikes:

#4: Expand your keyword reach

Expanding your page’s topical content will expand your digital SEO reach. This is why you’ll see definitive guides like Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO ranking so well, and for such a wide range of keywords (~1,665!).

Download MozBar (Chrome add-on) (1 minute)

Step 1: Activate MozBar. Enter in your primary keyword and click “optimize.”

Step 2: Click “On-Page Content Suggestions”:

Step 3: View the 23+ content integration ideas for your webpage:

Decide which topics you want to integrate (5 mins)

You never want to force non-relevant content onto a page for SEO reasons. Instead, look through the topics and think about which would provide value to your readers.

Then, devise a plan to naturally integrate those topics into the page’s content.

Topic integrations for the Hunter & Co. homepage:

  • Wedding Planning Checklist (create a checklist page that’s linked to from homepage)
  • Wedding Vendors (confirms our popular page strategy! Add a page link from the homepage)
  • Wedding Venues
  • Couples

#5: Keep up with Google

We are seeing a big rise in "no-click" Google searches.

No-click searches occur when individuals search for something and find their answer, without ever having to click on a search result.

Example: If you search “Denver weather,” Google will show you an 8-day weather forecast for Denver. Most searchers are satisfied with that and leave, resulting in a no-click Google search.

Image from State of Searcher Behavior Revealed

No-click searches are rising because Google continues to provide searchers answers within search features such as featured snippets (answer boxes), People Also Ask boxes, knowledge graphs, weather forecasts, etc.

Know which search features show up most often for your keywords (5 mins)

Knowing which search features occur most frequently for your product/service-related searches can help you to steal search features by optimizing for them. Keep in mind that if you're ranking on page one or two of a desired featured snippet search, you're better positioned to steal that featured snippet than if you were on page 3+.

Remember our FAQs about “wedding planning” above? Twenty-four of 28 questions found in Moz Keyword Explorer have featured snippets (answer boxes) in their search results:

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.04.04 AM.png

RealSimple currently has a large featured snippet for “wedding checklist”:

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.28.18 AM.png

Looking more closely into that page, you’ll notice RealSimple’s <html> check-box markup and definitive style content.

Brainstorm a better (and more useful) wedding checklist (10 mins)

  • Hire a freelance developer to create a beautiful, printable wedding checklist calendar that, once a reader enters their wedding date, populates with scheduled to-dos.
  • Create an IFTTT (If This Then That) recipe to schedule Google Calendar To-Do Reminders based on the user’s wedding date.
  • Provide a more detailed and more beautiful wedding checklist.

Now, my content marketing ninjas, go forth and tap gloves with a wider audience! Your content deserves it!


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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Beginner’s Guide to Marketing Automation

Posted by Angela_Petteys

To say marketing automation is a complex subject is putting it mildly. On the surface it seems simple enough, but once you get just a little bit deeper into it, it’s overwhelming. Even if you work with marketing automation on a daily basis, it can be hard to describe.

When used correctly, marketing automation can be useful in helping sales and marketing teams do their jobs more effectively so they can reach their goals. But there are also a lot of misunderstandings about what marketing automation is and isn’t. Let’s try to get a better understanding of what marketing automation is and how it can potentially help a business.

What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation is the use of software to deliver personalized messages to customers and leads. The software allows you to create a dynamic series of messages to send to your contacts. The message a person receives is decided by factors you specify, like what their spending habits are, where they are in the buying process, and past interactions they’ve had with your site.

Delivering content that’s tailored to a person’s needs and interests helps build stronger relationships which, in turn, can help increase conversions and revenue. Marketing automation can help you accomplish all these things while streamlining your operations at the same time.

In the broad scope of things, marketing automation incorporates several different aspects of marketing and business development, including email marketing, content development, conversion rate optimization, and lead generation.

The benefits of using marketing automation

By far, one of the biggest benefits of marketing automation is that it helps sales and marketing teams work more efficiently. People love personalized content; sending out personalized emails generates six times more revenue than sending non-personalized emails. But manually sending out customized messages to contacts simply isn’t practical. Marketing automation platforms handle the mundane and repetitive work that goes into delivering personalized content, giving sales and marketing professionals more time to focus on things that are more interesting and challenging.

Not only does marketing automation make it easier to deliver messages, it makes it easier to figure out where people are in the conversion process. Marketing automation programs typically have a lead scoring feature which helps users quickly identify which leads are the most sales-ready.

One of the most common reasons why businesses consider using marketing automation in the first place is because they want to improve their conversion rates and revenues. Marketing automation is a way to encourage customers to stay engaged longer, making it more likely they’ll stick around long enough to convert. On average, companies that use marketing automation have 53% higher conversion rates and an annual revenue growth rate 3.1% higher compared to companies that don’t.

For products and services with longer conversion cycles, marketing automation can also help speed up the process. In one example cited by VentureHarbour, Thomson Reuters was able to reduce their conversion time by 72% by using marketing automation software.

What applications are there for marketing automation?

While marketing automation has several different applications, email messaging and lead generation/nurturing are among the most common.

Yes, email is still relevant as a marketing tool. While it’s easy to say things like “Everybody’s on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram,” it’s simply not true. However, most Internet users do have at least one email address. Email inboxes also tend to move at a slower pace than social media feeds, giving you the best chance at making a direct connection with your contacts. There's a multitude of ways marketing automation can be used with email:

  • Welcome messages
  • Product retargeting
  • Abandoned cart reminders
  • Personalized product recommendations

And that's just to name a few.

Many companies use marketing automation to solicit feedback from their contacts, regardless if they’ve converted or not. Whether it’s by sending out surveys or asking people to send comments directly to them, the information they garner can be extremely valuable in guiding changes that will help improve their revenues in the long run.

Given that personalized emails generate so much more revenue than non-personalized emails, marketing automation can be an effective way to nurture your leads. According to Marketo, about 50% of leads in any system are not ready to buy and nearly 80% of all new leads will never become sales. With marketing automation, the goal is to give people something of value when they need it most so that they’re more likely to convert. Effective lead nurturing generates 50% more sales-ready leads at a 33% lower cost. Nurtured leads also tend to make larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.

Marketing automation platforms are also often commonly used to manage social media campaigns, create landing pages, and conduct ongoing A/B testing.

B2B vs. B2C marketing automation

Businesses of all sizes can potentially benefit from marketing automation, but whether a business has a B2B or B2C model is going to have an impact on the type of messaging used in their campaigns. While both types of businesses would have the main goals of improving conversions and revenue, there are differences in how they’ll reach that goal.

B2B sales

B2B sales tend to have longer conversion cycles than B2C sales and often involve products or services that require a more long-term commitment. (Of course, there are some exceptions.) Because of this, B2B messaging has a greater emphasis on long-form content like whitepapers, case studies, and e-books. When major purchases are being considered for a business, multiple people are often involved in the decision-making process, so it’s not always a matter of winning over one person like it is with B2C sales. It’s important for the business with something to sell to establish themselves as an authority in their industry — offering in-depth informational content is a great way to do that.

B2C sales

Since B2C sales move at a faster pace, the content used in their messaging is typically much simpler. For example, Sephora customers aren’t going to be interested in long case studies about a product, but they might appreciate a 30-second video demonstrating how to use a product instead. For B2C companies, the focus tends to be more on brand building and giving customers reasons to come back, so their messaging typically includes things like abandoned shopping cart reminders, personalized product recommendations, and offers tailored to specific types of customers.

Key concepts

Although many different aspects of marketing and business development come together in marketing automation, the whole process is ultimately driven by a few core concepts.

Conversion funnels

A conversion funnel is the process a person takes toward becoming a customer. Now that it’s so easy to find product reviews and shop around, a lot of people don’t just buy things from the first place they see it for sale. Marketing automation is a way to keep people engaged so they’re more likely to convert.

The conversion funnel can be broken down into a few basic stages:

  • Awareness: The customer initially becomes aware of a company, product, or service. It’s too soon for a person to want to make any decisions, but a business has made its way onto their radar.
  • Interest: Not everyone who is aware of a business/product/service is going to have a need for it. At this point, those who are interested will start becoming more engaged by doing things like requesting a quote, signing up for a free trial, following a business on social media, looking for reviews, or reading blog posts and other content on a company’s site.
  • Consideration: By now, a person is familiar enough with a business to know they like what’s being offered. They’re not quite ready to make a decision, but a business is in the running.
  • Action: This is the point where a person decides to convert. You’ve won them over and they’re ready to do business with you.

Ideally, after a person converts once, they’ll be so happy with their decision that they become a repeat customer. But as people move through the conversion funnel, whether they do it once or several times, some of them will always drop out at each level. On average, only 1–5 % of people who enter a conversion funnel actually convert. When people drop out, it’s known as churn, and while some churn is inevitable, marketing automation can help reduce it. By understanding the needs and interests of people at each stage of the conversion funnel, you’re better able to keep them engaged by providing them with the type of content they’re most interested in.

For example, let’s say a company installs vinyl windows and they advertise heavily in the local media. At any given time, a large percentage of the thousands of people who see their ads won’t take any action after seeing one because they either don’t need new windows or because they live in a rental property. No amount of additional messaging will win those people over. But since replacing windows can be very expensive, the people who actually do need them typically spend time doing research to make sure they choose the right type of window and get the best price. If this company were to send additional information about vinyl windows to the people who contact them to get an estimate, they may be able to convince more people to convert.

Feedback loops and metrics

One of the basic laws of physics is that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. A very similar concept also applies in the world of marketing automation, and it’s known as a feedback loop. When you send a message to a person, the recipient will have some kind of reaction to it, even if that reaction is to do nothing at all. That reaction is part of your feedback loop and you’ll need to pay attention to your metrics to get an idea of what those reactions are.

Feedback loops and metrics are a reflection of how effective your marketing automation strategy is. Whether a person converts, clicks through to your site, ignores the message, flags it as spam, or unsubscribes from your list, that tells you something about how the recipient felt about your message.

When you look at your metrics, you’ll ideally want to see high open rates, clickthrough rates, and maybe even some forwards, since those are signs your content is engaging, valuable, and not annoying to your contacts. Some unsubscribes and abuse reports are inevitable, especially since a lot of people get confused about the difference between the two. But don’t ignore those metrics just because they’re not what you want to see. An increasing number of either could be a sign your strategy is too aggressive and needs to be reworked.

User flow

While conversion funnels refer to the process taken toward converting, user flow refers to the series of pages a person visits before taking an action.

When you have traffic coming to your site from different sources like PPC ads, social media, and email messages, you want to direct users to pages that will make it easy for them to take the action you want them to take, whether it’s buying something, signing up for a free trial, or joining an email list.

You also have to keep in mind that people often have different needs depending on how they arrive at a page, so you’ll want to do your best to make sure people are being taken to a page that would appeal to them. For example, if a person is directly taken to a product page after doing a search for a long-tail keyword, that’s fine since they’re clearly looking for something specific and are more likely to be ready to convert. But someone who clicks on a PPC ad and fills out a form on a landing page is probably going to want more information before they make any decisions, so it’s not time to give them a hard sell.

Workflows

Workflows are where the automation part of marketing automation comes into play. Your workflow is the series of triggers you create to deliver messages. Creating a workflow involves taking yourself through the entire process and asking yourself, “If this happens, what should happen next?”

Workflows can consist of many different triggers, such as how long it’s been since a person has taken an action, interactions you’ve had with a person, or actions they’ve previously taken on your site. Some types of workflows commonly used by retailers include sending discount codes to customers who haven’t made any purchases in a while, reminding people to review products after they’ve had some time to enjoy their purchase, and sending reminders to people who have recently added items to their cart without actually making a purchase.

Important steps in creating a marketing automation strategy

1. Define your goals

This might seem like an obvious point to make, but before you do anything else, you need to decide exactly what you want marketing automation to help you achieve so you can plan your strategy accordingly. Are you trying to generate more leads? Working to build up business from return customers? Trying to boost sales during an off season? Each of those goals is going to require a different strategy, so it’s important to understand exactly what your main objectives are.

2. Identify who to target

Of course it’s important to understand the needs of your customers at all points of the conversion process. But depending on what your main goals are, your time and energy may be best spent focusing on people who are at a specific point of the process. For instance, if you’re not really having a problem with lead generation but you want more people to convert, your time and energy would be better spent focusing on the middle and lower parts of the conversion funnel.

3. Map user flows

By using marketing automation, you’re trying to get people to take some kind of action. Mapping user flow is a way to visualize the steps people need to go through to be able to take that action.

Depending on the way a person arrives at your site, some people might need more information than others before they’re willing to take that action. You don’t want to make people go through more steps than are necessary to do something, but you don’t want to hit people with a hard sell too soon, either. By using state diagrams to map user flows, as recommended by Peep Laja of ConversionXL, you’ll see exactly how people are arriving at a page and how many steps it takes for them to take the desired action.

4. Segment and rate your leads

It’s important to remember that not all leads are necessarily equal in terms of quality. Your database of contacts is inevitably going to be a mix of people who are on the verge of buying, people who are still researching their options, and people who probably won’t convert, so it’s not possible to create broad messages that will somehow appeal to all of those types of people. Rating your leads helps you figure out exactly who needs further nurturing and who is ready to be handed over to a sales team.

The interactions a person has had with your content and the actions they’ve taken on your site can be a reflection of how ready they are to convert. A person who has viewed a pricing page is most likely going to be closer to buying than someone who has simply read a blog post on a site. A person who has visited a site multiple times over the course of a few weeks is clearly more interested than someone who has only visited once or twice in the past year. Marketing automation software lets you assign values to certain actions and interactions so that it can calculate a score for that lead.

Marketing automation also lets you segment your database of contacts to a very high degree so you can deliver messages to very specific types of people. For example, when working with a B2B business, a marketer might want to target messages to people with certain job titles who work at businesses of a certain size. With B2C sales, a retailer might want to segment their lists to give special offers to people who have spent a certain amount of money with the company or send product recommendations to people who live in certain locations.

Building and maintaining a contact database

There’s no easy way around it: Building a high-quality database of contacts takes time. Marketing automation should come into play once you already have a fairly sizeable database of contacts to work with, but you will need to keep adding new names to that database on a regular basis.

One of the most effective ways to build a database of highly qualified contacts is by creating informative content. Blog content is great for providing high-level information, and it helps businesses build trust and establish themselves as an authority in their field. On the other hand, things like whitepapers and e-books are best for attracting people who want more in-depth information on a subject and are more inclined to be interested in what a business is offering, which is why those types of content are usually gated. With gated content, a person’s contact information is essentially the price of accessing the content.

For businesses that offer a service, free trials are an excellent way to get contact information since the people who sign up for them are obviously interested in what’s being offered.

Just say "no" to purchased lists

Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to buy a list of contacts. Purchased lists may give you a quick boost up front, but they’ll work against you in the long run.

First of all, high-quality lists of contacts aren’t for sale. The kinds of lists you can buy or rent are typically full of invalid and abandoned email addresses. Even if a person actually does see your message, they likely either won’t be interested or will be skeptical about doing business with a company they’re not familiar with.

If you were to start sending messages to a list full of contacts of questionable quality, you’ll most likely end up with high bounce rates, lots of unsubscriptions, low open rates, and a whole lot of abuse reports. Email service providers pay attention to those sorts of metrics and if they start seeing them on a regular basis, they’ll view you as a spammer, which will only make it harder for you to get your message to more qualified leads once you have them.

Best practices for marketing automation messaging

Get to the point

Make your point quickly and make it clear. We all have a limited amount of time each day and one thing people have little patience for is long messages. People just want to know what’s in it for them. How would your product or service solve their problem? What’s unique about what you’re offering?

Keep it active

By implementing marketing automation strategies, you’re trying to keep people engaged. Therefore, your messages should be written in an active tone and encourage recipients to take some kind of action, whether it’s downloading a whitepaper, reading a blog post, watching a video, or making a purchase.

Remember where people are in the process

Don’t forget that some types of content will be more appealing than others depending on where a person is in the conversion funnel. People who are just starting to learn more about a company or product are not going to be happy if they get hit with a hard sell, but highly promotional content could potentially be effective on someone further down in the conversion funnel.

Avoid looking spammy

When used correctly, marketing automation is not spam — we’ll talk more about why that is in just a little bit. But don’t give your contacts the wrong impression. Certain things will always look spammy, such as typing in all capital letters, overusing the color red, and using too many links in the body of the message. If you’re going to use symbols in your subject lines or messages, don’t use too many of them. Avoid using words known to trigger spam filters.

If you’re unfamiliar with the CAN-SPAM Act, take some time to learn about what it means for your campaign. Subject lines need to be accurate and not misleading. Companies that send marketing messages through email need to provide a physical mailing address. (PO box addresses are allowed.) You also need to provide an unsubscribe option in all messages and make sure all opt-out requests are honored as soon as possible.

Hone your list

Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to contact lists. One of the key goals for marketing automation is to get your message to precisely the right people. Pay close attention to your metrics so you know who your most qualified leads are and get rid of the ones who aren’t responding anymore. You’re better off with a smaller list of highly qualified leads than with a large list of contacts who don’t care. If it’s been months since a person last opened a message from you, just remove them from your list and focus more on the leads who are more interested.

Misconceptions about marketing automation

It’s impersonal

When done correctly, marketing automation can and should feel personal. In all fairness, it’s easy to understand how people get the wrong impression here — after all, the word “automation” is usually associated with things like computerization and robots. But for a marketing automation strategy to be successful, there needs to be a human touch behind it. Marketing automation simply makes it easier for you to get your message out there. It’s up to you to come up with content that will appeal to people and to create the strategy for getting it out there.

It’s spam

We all know how obnoxious spam is — marketers included. Marketers also understand how ineffective it is. While spam is an unsolicited message promoting something irrelevant to the vast majority of its recipients, the goal of marketing automation is to deliver highly relevant messages to users who clearly express an interest in it.

Unlike spam, marketing automation also frequently involves non-promotional content. Marketing automation messages absolutely can be promotional in nature, but ultimately, the goal is to foster positive relationships by offering something of value — and that doesn’t always involve a hard sell.

You can set it and forget it

This is another case where the word “automation” can give the wrong impression. When you think of something being automated, it’s easy to think you can just set it up, sit back, and let it run on its own. In reality, marketing automation is anything but a hands-off process. Marketing automation needs constant attention and refinement to make sure it’s as successful as possible. Many people use the A/B testing functionality of marketing automation software to run ongoing tests to see which sorts of content, subject lines, design variations, and CTAs people best respond to.

It’s just email marketing

Email is a significant part of marketing automation, but marketing automation isn’t just a new name for email marketing.

First of all, the types of messages involved in basic email marketing and marketing automation are distinctly different. When most people think of email marketing, they’re thinking of broad email blasts that go out to an entire list of contacts, but that’s just what you’re trying to avoid doing with marketing automation. Marketing automation messages are much more fine-tuned to a user’s interests and needs. Although basic email marketing programs do allow for some list segmentation, marketing automation programs allow you to get much more hyper-segmented.

Basic email marketing and marketing automation programs also offer different functionality and insights. While regular email marketing platforms give some basic information about how people interact with your message, marketing automation programs offer more measurable, in-depth insights.

While marketing automation offers a lot of benefits, it’s not going to be an ideal solution for all businesses. For some types of businesses, basic email marketing is all they really need. Studies have shown that marketers often feel like marketing automation software isn’t worth the investment, but many marketers also fail to use it to its full potential or businesses try using it before they have a large enough database of contacts to truly make it worthwhile. Before using marketing automation, the key things to consider are whether or not you have the time and resources to dedicate to training on the software so they can use it to its full potential.


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Monday, July 24, 2017

Optimizing Sites for Featured Snippets with Q&A Content [Case Study]

Posted by NickRebuildGroup

Ranking near the top of the SERPs for short-tail keywords in competitive business verticals can be extremely difficult. Wikipedia, Dictionary.com, and similar sites have the market cornered on ranking at the top of search results. Even if you manage to rank in the first position, there are featured snippets, ads, map packs, and other SERP layouts that are dominating the space as well.

Because short-tail keywords have such broad search intents, it's in the search engine’s best interest to try and answer questions directly in SERPs. That is the intent of featured snippets. If a search engine is able to answer a user’s query without them leaving the results page, they believe that delivers the best result. And the proliferation of featured snippets is only beginning. According to Search Engine Land, 19.45% of queries will display rich answers (a form of featured snippets) in Google.

A search for “what is orthodontics” in an incognito Google Chrome window displayed the following featured snippet:

orthodontics Google Search.png

This search result satisfies at least one large search intent: “What is orthodontics?” I use this as an example because my agency and I had been trying to get a client to rank for this keyword for some time. They were a dental practice with locations across the US that offered both orthodontic and general dental procedures. We had optimized their locations for their orthodontic procedures, but we wanted to get their non-localized service pages to rank as well in order to draw new patients that may be in the beginning stages of looking for a new orthodontist. But without a local qualifier, it was difficult to get the pages to rank for the short-tail searches.

After a year and change of writing, optimizing, re-writing, and re-optimizing the content — all while building links — we weren't getting any movement with our organic rankings. It seemed that business websites were not meant to rank for these short-tail keywords. Content creators have long lamented that featured snippets don’t attribute where the content in the SERP comes from, thus leaching traffic away from the site.

We believed that rich snippets in SERPs would become more prominent — especially with mobile and voice search on the rise — and that, even without proper attribution, it would benefit our client to appear in these types of search results, especially if we were able to rank in long-tail, question-oriented searches. If we could rank in a featured snippet, where a potential consumer was asking a question about a service that we provide, it would benefit us to answer that question for them. Not only would we achieve the coveted “zero position,” we would position our client as authorities in their vertical, potentially increasing conversions.

With this in mind, we began developing the strategy that would ultimately lead us to ranking in featured snippet searches.

Q&A content

Question and answer content on websites is fairly standard. Many companies will place Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) content on their sites to help users with any questions they may have instead of answering them directly. Noting the prevalence of featured snippets in SERPs, we used the Q&A format to create new content to find out: a) could we rank for these queries? and b) would it benefit our client to rank in these queries?

Research & content creation

Using SEMRush, we conducted keyword research to find long-tail keywords with high monthly search volumes. Some of the phrases we decided to create the content around were “how long does it take to put on braces,” “how much does Invisalign cost without insurance,” and other similar queries. We also asked our client’s call team and Livechat correspondents to send us the most-asked questions they receive about orthodontics. The questions that the internal teams provided were primarily about pricing and insurance. This information was vital for our new Q&A content, as it allowed us to create answers we knew our users were looking for.

While researching current featured snippets, we gleaned that the content must emphasize the answer, not the answerer. Meaning, the content needed to be straightforward and answer the query without any marketing fluff. We ensured that our headers included the targeted keyword, along with the title tags. Once the content was created, we placed each question in the main navigation bar on the site, with each one leading to a separate landing page.

Link building

As most SEOs will tell you, backlinks are still a very important ranking factor. It was our belief that building links to our new Q&A content would be essential in ensuring that it ranked well. We built links exclusively via sites like Quora and Reddit, the idea being that these are places where people are already asking questions that we can answer as experts, while linking back to our site. In order to avoid spamming, we limited the number of links that we built per month.

Results

After a year of collecting data, we can confidently say that not only were we successful in getting the site to rank for a featured snippet, but traffic to the orthodontics content increased by 46.10%, conversions from the content increased by 235%, and the conversion rate increased by 129.30%.

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs.jpg

Organic sessions to the orthodontic Q&A content

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Organic conversions from orthodontic Q&A content

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs3.jpg

Organic conversion rate from orthodontic Q&A content

The results were even more striking on mobile, where traffic increased by 91.46%, conversions increased by 322.22%, and conversion rate increased by 120.53%.

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs4.jpg

Mobile organic sessions to the orthodontic Q&A content

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs5.jpg

Mobile organic conversions from orthodontic Q&A content

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs6.jpg

Mobile organic conversion rate from orthodontic Q&A content

Measurement method

For this study we only looked at organic and mobile organic traffic. We also only looked at traffic that landed on our site via the orthodontics content (meaning we only measured users that entered the site via one of the orthodontics pages from an organic source).

Attention metrics

It should be noted that this implementation was not successful in every facet. One of the most important goals for new content is making sure that users engage with it. And at Rebuild Group, we normally measure content engagement through attention metrics: pages/session, average time on site, bounce rate, etc.

Upon collecting the data, we noticed that all attention metrics decreased year over year. Our hypothesis is that because the content is both meant to answer a question and is easily digestible, users were more likely to leave the site after their question was answered. It explains why traffic, conversions, and conversion rate increased so much year over year and attention metrics decreased.

Rankings

Most important to this experiment, we were able to have our site rank in the first position — or zero position — in search results for the query “how long do you wear invisalign a day,” while also ranking on the first page (though not the first position) for other Q&A orthodontic terms.

how long do you wear invisalign a day 3:14:17.png

We started ranking in the first position for this term in mid-January, though we lost the ranking shortly thereafter. We began to consistently rank in the first position in March and are still ranked there as of this writing.

Our belief is that by simply answering the question and including the keyword in crawlable parts of the content, we were able to rank in the first position for one of our targeted Q&A phrases, resulting in a featured snippet.

Conversions

Conversions were measured as the number of contact form submissions sent during sessions where a user entered the site via the orthodontic content. As mentioned above, conversions and conversion rates for all organic and mobile organic traffic increased greatly year over year. However, the effects were not seen until 9 months into the experiment.

When the traffic was measured at 90 and 180 days, organic traffic to the new content was steadily increasing overall and via mobile devices, but conversions and conversion rate had not gone up compared to the previous year. It wasn’t until 270 days in, when we first ranked in the featured snippet SERP, that conversions began to increase.

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs7.jpg

Organic traffic to the orthodontic Q&A content

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs8.jpg

Organic conversions from orthodontic Q&A content

Once we were consistently ranking in the first position for a featured snippet SERP, while also ranking on the first page of SERPs for other queries, our conversions and conversion rates began to greatly increase.

Google Home

As stated earlier, voice search is on the rise. Once we were able to rank as a featured snippet in a targeted SERP, we wanted to see if that featured snippet would affect how Google Home provided an answer to the targeted query:

*Note: This video was recorded on my phone, so the quality is not the best. You may need to turn up your volume to hear the question and answer.

As you can see, Google Home clearly attributes the answer to our client, answers the question, and then sends the user to the Home App, where the answer is again shown:

IMG_1667.PNG

From there they can click through to the site on their mobile device:

IMG_1668.PNG

In the end we drew a strong correlation between the implementation of the Q&A orthodontics content, ranking highly in rich snippet SERPs, and increased conversions and conversion rates. But like all things SEO, there are no definites when implementing this kind of strategy. We implemented content that drove users to a site that offered services they were looking for. Someone searching “how to boil water” is not likely looking to buy new pots and pans. Ultimately, it's important to know what your users are looking for and cater to their searches. Once you're able to answer their questions with simple, to-the-point content, the rest is easy.


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