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Recap: KC Search Marketing Conference

8 Nov

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Guest Contributor,
Corey Morris, Director of Digital Marketing

I was recently part of the second annual Kansas City Search Marketing Conference at the Sprint Accelerator. The event was presented by the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization (SEMPO) Cities program and Bing.

The conference theme was “Better.” There were 12 speakers from across the region, and four sessions that all tied to the theme of doing search marketing better. I was on the organizing committee — after leading last year’s event — and moderated the first session, “Better Ideas, Better Strategies.”

The session was a reminder that it’s no longer possible to do search marketing in a silo. We must have content for organic and paid search. It’s also critical to stay on top of Google’s changes, especially with the staggering number of shifts the company made in 2016.

Matt Lacuesta was part of the panel I moderated, and something he said struck me: “PR people are the OG of link builders.” He shared how all content contributes to SEO, and that it’s important to understand and harness it. Some content examples Matt shared:

  • Collateral and messaging that resonates with prospects
  • A list of common sales objections
  • Customer service pain points
  • Events, sponsorships and community involvement
  • Industry relationships

Craig Paddock is a regular speaker at national search conferences. His presentation was full of insights on understanding performance data and using it to make decisions.

One stat he shared caught my attention: Wordstream is seeing an unbelievable 50 percent click-through rate on the AdWords “click to message” extension, which will soon roll out.

A compelling aspect of his presentation was how data sample sizes factor into decision making. Craig showed data from coin tosses. When comparing the frequency of heads in 20 coin flips, there was a decent range of results. But when expanded to 400 coin flips, the numbers normalized and the data was much more consistent. The example was a strong reminder to ensure we’re not making decisions on too few impressions, clicks and conversions in AdWords. This is especially true when comparing one ad group to another.

Tylor Hermanson presented keyword research for SEO targeting. He believes the Moz Opportunity Score is important because it goes beyond the keyword and monthly search volume. The Moz score considers the opportunity you have to get traffic based on the layout of the search results for that term.

It’s common to do keyword research in a vacuum and not consider the perceived intent of the search engine or the results page beyond the 10 blue organic links.

Including maps, answer boxes, shopping ads, news articles and other content can push down organic listings and hinder opportunities to spark traffic. Users may not see the link, even if it ranks well, if it’s pushed down the page.

In the week leading up to the conference, there were several big updates from Google and Bing. These were good reminders that the pace of search marketing isn’t going to slow any time soon, and the industry as a whole — despite breaking out of silos — isn’t going away.

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The Cults of Personalities

1 Nov

Three Takeaways from the 2016 Elections

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Guest contributor:
Matt Hillman, Creative Director

This blog was written in the final weeks leading up the 2016 presidential election, and regardless of where you stand in the political spectrum or what the results might have been, we can all agree: this was a rough one.

Sure, the issues are important and the stakes are high, but this race was particularly intense because the finalists in the election race were not just people—they were brands.

Brands aren’t reserved for names or logos; brands are what we feel in our gut when we are regularly exposed to a company, product, service or even people. And the people in this election were definitely larger than life.

With so much riding on their shoulders, the candidates came to represent more than just their platforms—people across the country associated the candidates with ways of life, with values, and in some cases the candidates became lightning rods for everything controversial.

So what can we learn from the campaign from a brand perspective?

  1. Brands Are About Belonging

As stated in a PBS Frontline episode, “people join and stay with cults for the exact same reasons as people join and stay with brands…the desire to belong to something.” Well beyond political platforms or ideologies, each candidate’s supporters projected what they wanted each candidate to represent onto them, viewing the candidate as the key to gaining what they desired most. We see this in brands all the time, with beverages suggesting they deliver a way of life or level of happiness that other drinks cannot.

  1. Brands Are Divisive

To those who align themselves with a brand, that brand is a symbol of something (or many things) the person values, respects, and supports. But conversely, that same brand can come to represent the opposite to others who don’t support it—something insolent, subversive, and even dangerous. While many enjoy Starbucks and feel good about the company’s policies, others see it as a money-hungry organization that dupes customers. Similarly, we saw this often with some fans not simply supporting their candidate, but growing to hate the opposing nominee—and the people associated with them.

  1. Brands Confound Logic

If someone is, say, a fan of Ford trucks, it makes absolutely no difference what the data says about power, capacity, style, etc. If this person is “a Ford guy,” none of that matters. Reason and logic take a backseat to association and alignment; in fact, if you push the issue too far, they become irritated and irrational. In other words, brand is all about emotion. Again, we saw this repeatedly in this election, with normally stable, rational people screaming and chanting, refusing to engage in civil discourse, or unwilling to entertain an opposing view.

So regardless of your vote, it’s important to remember that behind the people, parties, and platforms lurked brands—and a valuable reminder that just like Ford vs. Chevy, Coke vs. Pepsi, or Apple vs. Samsung, election brands can be an ugly affair.

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Demand Generation Tips for 2017

27 Oct

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Most of our clients are in the midst or near completion of their 2017 marketing planning. An important element we’re discussing with them is their demand generation strategy.

Demand generation is a catch-all term that refers to the marketing elements your business employs to boost audience awareness and interest in what you offer.

As you consider your company’s demand generation toolbox, keep these online elements and tips in mind.

1. User-generated content

Most people spend at least a few minutes a day on social media. Facebook is the largest social platform with an average of 1.13 billion active users in June 2016.

Remember, when users share their experience with your company or how your product provided a viable solution to a sticky problem, their social media connections – as well as others who can see their content – are paying attention.

2. Audience engagement tools

Today’s customers don’t want to stand idly by while being lectured about the merits of your products and services. They want to engage and be part of the action.

Draw your customers in and keep them coming back with interactive content. Try infographics, quizzes, polls, videos, calculators and more.

3. Easy reading

Break content into bite-size chunks that can be easily read – and shared – in a short time. Use a story-telling narrative, as well as bullets and sub-heads, so info is skim-able, and web- and mobile-friendly.

4. Maximize budget

According to Hubspot, budgets for content marketing will continue to increase in 2017. Knowing how to effectively use resources is key to boosting demand and elevating your business.

Take the guesswork out of demand generation. Let’s talk about how we can work together to develop the tools your business needs to lead and achieve your marketing goals.

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Trade shows: What’s the real ROI?

20 Oct

People at an Exhibition

On the way home from the Remodeling Show and Deck Expo earlier this month, I found myself wondering if trade shows still matter. Let’s face it: Trade shows are expensive.

  • You build booths
  • Create collateral
  • Give away tchotchkes
  • Travel
  • Entertain clients

But the trade show budget spreadsheet doesn’t tell the whole story.

Trade shows are a rare opportunity for marketers to talk first-hand with customers – those actually using your product or service. It’s also a chance to meet in-person with your sales team and talk face-to-face about their stumbling blocks and opportunities:

  • What keeps your clients up at night?
  • Does your three-step installation process matter to clients?
  • Does the sales team really need new collateral?
  • What messages resonate with prospects?

Sometimes these responses are hard to hear. But they’re often the reality check we need to show where we should really spend our 40+ hours each week.

ERM clients attend trade shows worldwide. And most would likely put their trade show ROI on the high side.

Why?

They understand the value of candid customer feedback, seeing the sales process up close and learning about new products.

The real trade show ROI is the stuff that never makes it on the budget spreadsheet. It’s intangible and hard to assign a number.

It’s the knowledge you gain, the people you meet and the qualitative learnings that shape how your business moves forward.

For trade show tips and tricks, check out this ERM whitepaper.

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Do Keywords Still Matter?

28 Sep

Make sure your SEO Practices are Current

Corey1Guest Contributor:
Corey Morris, Director of Digital Marketing

I’m always surprised to hear some consultants still advise clients to focus on up to 10 keywords as the foundation of their SEO campaigns.

It’s not my nature to react to the latest rumor or ranking signal in Google’s algorithm until it’s validated. But, it was clear to me when I entered the SEO industry a decade ago, that content was – and still is – the most important factor for SEO success, not keywords.

Content builds context and fosters engagement through inbound links, social media and web mentions. Without solid content, we’re forced to employ “old” SEO methods that work to varying degrees, such as creating single pages for every single keyword we want to rank.

Google continues to better understand context and meaning, and not rely solely on frequency and density of specific terms in page copy. Context of the website, the section and the page are all more important than a specific keyword.

To say Google’s algorithm has grown in recent years is an understatement. In fact, I heard Google Engineer, Paul Haahr, speak at SMX West and he shared that not a single person at Google knows the company’s full algorithm. This is important because it shows the company has enabled the algorithm to learn context on its own and get smarter in real-time.

The days of targeting a single term to a single page are in the past. That said, we can’t exactly ignore keywords in analytics. Keywords remain important progress indicators, and ways to ensure we understand and attract target audiences.

Clients and prospects are often taken by surprise when I say they can target as many keywords as they want. It’s fun educating them on the shift to content and context, and to see the sense of relief on their copywriter’s face!

Gone are the days of focusing on just 10 links, tracking their rankings and ultimately judging an SEO campaign’s impact based on their performance. What matters for SEO success is the development of relevant content that builds context and fosters ongoing audience engagement.

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