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Content Marketing & SEM: Stats Any B2B CMO Should See

5 May

Why Content Marketing Should Be Part of Your Digital Strategy

SEO and Content

Content marketing. Heard of it? If not, you probably haven’t been reading much Navigate-the-Channel. We’ve spoken a lot about how content is an incredibly effective B2B strategy to provide more information to customers at the early stages of their buyer’s journey, establish companies’ trust and expertise, and ultimately, drive more sales.

That’s all well and good, but there are other issues that B2B companies need to consider when it comes to their content strategies. Issues like Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, in which major search algorithm updates will affect the way search engines deliver the highest-quality results to their users. If your website can’t offer relevant content to those users, you can bet that your website will literally be bumped down the page, hidden under a pile of search results from companies that were just a little smarter than you about integrating content marketing into their strategies.

A recent article from Search Engine Land drew my attention because of its insights regarding content marketing and SEM. Here are a few standout facts that B2B companies should read before planning their content strategy:

  • More than 60-70% of content goes unused, meaning companies need to work to better understand who they’re writing for and why by conducting an audit of buyer personas and journeys.
  • B2B companies should prioritize utilizing a Content Management System (CMS) that integrates authors, topics, and keywords. For Adobe, switching to an SEO-friendly CMS resulted in a 307% increase in organic traffic within a year and a 287% increase in rankings on Page 1.
  • Don’t forget design—content needs to capture attention to be effective. Images, video, website design, and aesthetics are important contributing factors when it comes to “moving the needle” and shouldn’t be underestimated.

As Google continues to demand more and more from websites, it will become critically important that B2B companies fill their sites with the high-quality, relevant content users are searching for. You need to make sure that you’ve not only done the research to find out what your audience is looking for online, but that your content is written and created to deliver to those needs. SEO, therefore, is a critical component of your content marketing strategy.

Or it’s not. But if it’s not, you better enjoy Page 2.

 

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Lead Attribution & the Customer Journey (Part 1)

2 May

Use the Data Available to You to See the Whole Picture

Lead Generation

CoreyMorrisGuest Contributor:
Corey Morris, Digital Marketing Director

Lead attribution and the customer journey. Yes, these are two of the most commonly used buzzwords in digital marketing right now. This is not a lazy blog post to latch onto what others are saying and to give you a fluffy, rosy version of how you should be considering both the customer journey and lead attribution to make your digital marketing drive results 10x over what you got last year. This blog is to make sure we’re all on the same page and using the data available to us to help make these topics attainable and realistic before we get too “pie in the sky” with our conceptual thinking.

But first, we must answer this question: what is lead attribution? Lead attribution is the practice of giving credit to the source who provided the lead. For example, if you are running a PPC campaign in Google AdWords and that person comes to a landing page on our site and completes the form, then they are a conversion—consequently, that lead gets attributed to PPC via AdWords.

This example sounds like typical and solid tracking; however, it could also be short-sighted when we’re talking about “last-click attribution.” By counting this lead as a lead specifically for AdWords PPC, we’re potentially not considering the other potential ways the user might have found us—and the other ways they interacted with our content before coming back. In this case, PPC is getting the credit.

The customer journey can be defined as the process a user takes to go from their initial step in researching, all the way to the point of conversion. If we’re using the Google AdWords PPC landing page form completion example noted above, then we’re also talking about how that same individual (yes, they’re a person, despite all of our “persona talk” about site visitors and users) ultimately decides to fill out a form, which is recorded as a conversion.

The challenge in all of this is that we don’t often work to connect the dots to attribute a lead to all the channels that had a role in the conversion— not just the one that received the last click. It can be tricky as it often isn’t linear or very trackable; however, that doesn’t let us off the hook. We have some data at our fingertips that helps us start the process of working toward building a system. If you have Google Analytics, then you have a tool that has two reports you should start looking at as your first step.

The first report in Google Analytics to get familiar with is the Multi-Channel Funnels Overview under the Conversions section. If you have conversion goals set up in your account, then you’ll have data in this report by default.

You can use the checkboxes to update the Venn diagram to mix and match, so you can understand how the different channels were involved in user journeys that ultimately led to a conversion. You can also see how many total assisted conversions there were.

The second report to take a look at is the Assisted Conversions report (also under the Conversions section in Google Analytics).

There’s a lot more you can do in this report. At a basic level, it shows a breakdown of assisted conversions, which are channels that were part of a user journey but didn’t get the last click or direct conversion at the end of the journey. If you have values set for your conversion goals or have eCommerce tracking on in Google Analytics then you also can see dollar values for each channel, which can be incredibly helpful in measuring the cost of your efforts against revenue generated. You can customize the data in this report by changing the number of days in the window prior to conversion as well as look at the value of first interaction versus last click.

Bonus: If you want to take another step and get into more advanced territory, take a look at the Attribution Model Comparison report in Google Analytics. There are some fun ways to compare models and see how the data and your perspective on conversions might change. We’ll get into this and go deeper with the next post in this series.

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SMX West Recap

22 Mar

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 8.33.19 AM

Lessons Learned from One of the Best SEM Conferences in the Industry

CoreyMorris3Guest Contributor:
Corey Morris, Digital Marketing Director

SMX West (Search Marketing Expo) is one of the premier events in the search marketing industry and is hosted yearly in a significant location for the search community—in the heart of Silicon Valley. I’ve been involved with SMX for many years. Last year, I had the opportunity to speak on technical SEO at this event. This year, I was able to catch up with colleagues, absorb as much new information as possible, and even make my first visit to Google HQ in Mountain View.

Coming into the event I anticipated several things, such as:

  • The reintroduction of the Google Dance (more on this below)
  • Industry reaction to the removal of right rail ads on Google
  • Insights and outlook on Google local search (since SMX West focused last year on details regarding the major shake-ups in the local search landscape, with local becoming much more like traditional organic search)
  • Specific details on how to harness added features and functionality in AdWords, including remarketing, customer audiences, and more
  • Seeing how the industry has grown and changed in the past year, as my focus has shifted to an integrated digital marketing model

SMX Google

Starting with the opening evening networking reception hosted by Bruce Clay, Inc., I realized that the buzz was definitely there. I’ve been to many shows in the industry (including West) several times, but this one had a different buzz about it. It seemed bigger and everyone seemed more engaged. Networking was at a different level this year, and while maybe it was just a perception due to the opportunity I had to meet a lot of great new people, I’d like to think that the industry has become more open and focused than ever before.

Key Insights from SMX West 2016

In terms of specific takeaways, I have more insights and perspectives in my notes than I can likely share, but here are some highlights:

  • Consider use of customer match remarketing in AdWords. This was rolled out last year, but most of us took a wait and see approach with this (as we do with many new Google features). Two specific case studies showed an average of 50% conversion rate with this tactic. It has been on my “To Test” list for a while, but has since moved up to a tactic to absolutely work into the remarketing mix and lead nurturing process for my clients. In basic terms, it allows you to upload your email list into AdWords and remarket to users that Google can match to their email address or Google account address.
  • A conversation that I had over a meal (that I can share) included a strong reminder to never forget that while search marketing is more widely accepted than ever before, that there are still skeptics out there (in US, Canada, and Australia…we have similar stories) based on the actions of a small minority and/or those that used shady tactics years ago. Search marketing isn’t in the silo that it used to be. Three of the six of us in our group did not come from search marketing backgrounds and are either new to the space or are working in companies providing the service as a value-add or new component (ex: printing company, PR agency)
  • Another takeaway is a great reminder to not lose sight of the basics in account structure and hierarchy in PPC. Advanced tactics and strategies are great, but you need to cut wasted spend and poor performers before scaling out into other areas.
  • The best slide that I saw in a presentation served as a simple, yet great reminder for PPC accounts:

ad-group-defnition

  • We received several very interesting insights from Google engineer, Paul Haahr, on the final day. I have a new vocab word in “shards.” The best insight from that session is that it’s rare to look at Google search results and not see an experiment. The oft-quoted stat that Google changes their algorithm over 500 times a year and the fun name associated with the Google Dance are strong reminders that nothing is done in a vacuum. We’re way beyond the days where results were somewhat static and we could see absolute ranking positions. Always be mindful that Google is changing—just like our competition is changing—and we’re (hopefully) also changing as we optimize our sites.

Google Dance

Google Dance

You may have started your reading here by scrolling down to see images of what a Google Dance looks like. Let me start with the
history lesson and detail that hopefully wasn’t missed by those that attended who are under 30. The Google Dance was agoogle-dance historical reference to the early days when Google would roll out updates to the algorithm at off-peak hours that would impact rankings and would often roll back the update (or continue a cycle of pushing out and pulling back updates). This garnered the nickname of the Google Dance from the SEO community.

Fast forward—Google started to hold an event for the SEO community (that Google refers to only as “Webmasters”) at the Googleplex in Mountain View. It was a great outreach event and stopped happening before 2010.

Maile OhyeThis was the first year that it was brought back for a VIP audience of 500 attendees at West. The whole experience felt special—food, drinks, trivia, a DJ, and even a cupcake bar. But the highlight for many was the brief return of Matt Cutts. Since he stepped away from the role of being the face of Google to many in the SEO community, it is now considered a treat when he makes an appearance. The night at Google rounded out with a great conversation that I had with Maile Ohye, a lead engineer at Google and a popular speaker at industry events—be sure to attend one of her sessions if you can, as they are very insightful.

Many items on my industry bucket list were checked off at SMX 2016 and I can’t emphasize enough the high quality of people I engaged with and both the validation of my strategies and supplement of new tactics that this event offered.

 

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ADA Website Compliance: Get Ahead Before You’re Behind

26 Feb

design

New ADA Regulations Could Affect Your Website Design Practices

Corey1Guest Contributor:
Corey Morris, Digital Marketing Director

For a long time, the only constant related to the web and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been confusion. Recent news and information floating around has caused many companies and web development firms to consider changes to website design and development practices to ensure compliance. Are we finally about to get clarity on the topic?

This topic has been discussed for years with many predictions of future actions with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and proposed amendments to ADA guidelines. For years, government organizations, some publicly traded organizations, educational institutions, and other entities have been concerned with ensuring their websites are ADA compliant. The bulk of other industries and focuses have worried only about certain usability aspects. Now, industry professionals are predicting that everyone will soon be required to comply with the ADA or face the penalties associated with breaking the law.

At this point I feel compelled to include a disclaimer that I’m not a lawyer and nothing in this post or on this site constitutes legal advice. I’m in the same boat as everyone else when it comes to rethinking how we build websites to ensure that all businesses, regardless of industry or sector are ADA compliant to the right standard.

Until now, many of us have followed the lead of Google in pushing for all image and video content to be labeled or marked up in a way that is friendly for the visually impaired by utilizing screen reading software. We have also emphasized rendering content in a user-friendly way for all sizes of screens and types of devices. And these have been great improvements—but we’re finding that they aren’t enough to meet the potential new standard.

While there has been a lot of talk and speculation about what the new standard will be and when it will be officially adopted, the consensus that I (and colleagues I’ve spoken with) have found is on WCAG 2.0 Level AA. That is a specific standard and level defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that works to define standards for the web. This level of ADA compliance would require a decent amount of work for a lot of existing websites. But when integrated into design and development processes for new websites, it won’t add too much extra effort in the long-run.

The two biggest challenges that I see for digital marketers are:

  1. Finding a way to get our sites ready for the potential April DOJ mandate
  2. Finding the budget to invest to update existing sites in a cost-effective way.

The more you read, the more uncertainty you’ll find regarding predictions for what is going to happen. Interestingly, the DOJ has chosen not to amend ADA guidelines in the past, but has taken enforcement action. Regardless of all of the speculation and confusion out there, the time is now to start considering where your web properties stand regarding ADA compliance and start determining how your organization will prepare for these new standards, whether they are officially adopted or left to be just guidelines.

References and Further Reading:

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Not Ready to Speak? Try Listening.

25 Aug

With Building Products Social Media Marketing, Start by Listening

Stock Photo for Blog 8:24

I hear constantly from building product marketers that social media doesn’t apply to their business—that it’s “a B2C thing” or that it’s “for Millennials” and has no use when it comes to generating marketing qualified leads and closing sales. But when someone says this, what they’re really telling me is they’re not ready to use social as a platform to talk. My suggestion is this: if you’re hesitant about incorporating social media into your marketing plan, start instead with listening.

Quick story. I was at a trade show two years ago when a UPS delivery truck left behind a package containing my client’s pop-up booth. While an account coordinator at my agency tried frantically to get through to someone to talk to on the phone, I tweeted at UPS for help.

In the time the UPS social team responded to me, contacted the nearest store manager, and had the truck re-route to come and pick up the package, the account coordinator still hadn’t even reached an actual person on the phone.

These are the kinds of opportunities companies miss when they don’t at least listen to what’s happening in the social space. But there are many more benefits to social listening beyond just customer service. A recent article I read outlined a few that GE Lifesciences experienced when they began using social listening tools to monitor their industry:

  • Understanding language and terminology prospects were using
  • Learning the topics their audience was most interested in and creating content based on this information
  • Creating keyword search repositories for SEO and website taxonomy

Not every building products company is ready for a full social media marketing plan. I get it. 68% of CMOs openly admit their companies aren’t ready to fully incorporate social media into their strategies. But just because you’re not ready to use social as a platform to market your products doesn’t give you a free pass when it comes to listening to what your audience is saying.

At its heart, the building products industry is still about people. And as generational dynamics shift (hint: they’re already shifting), you can bet that those people are going to be on social media. One day social media won’t be optional—start listening now so that when that day comes, your company is prepared to speak.

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