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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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I Want B2B Marketers to Talk Dirty

13 Aug

Why Now Is the Time for B2B E-Commerce

notebook with shopping items on online shopping concept

There’s a dirty word in the world of B2B marketing. A word that strikes fear in the hearts of B2B marketers and sales people everywhere. It’s a word many are afraid to say, but not me.

I’m talking about e-commerce. (See? Told you—not afraid.)

Many B2B companies—and marketers, for that matter—are hesitant about e-commerce. How will it impact my business? How do I implement it? Whose feathers will I ruffle in the process? What will be the repercussions if I spend money on an expensive system and it fails?

These are important questions, and yes, there are a lot of those complications to consider. But this article makes a compelling case for B2B e-commerce by talking about how a luxury sunglass maker deployed an e-commerce portal for their 2,000+ wholesale clients and saw sales increase by 35%.

And guess what? It’s not just sunglasses; it’s building products, too. I can go to BuildDirect.com and order a pallet of vinyl siding right now. On the industrial side, Grainger is closing in on about 40% online sales—and with Grainger, we’re talking billions of dollars. Whatever your industry, you can no longer say e-commerce has nothing to do with you.

As more and more Millennials move into B2B buyer roles in the next 5 years or so (and yes, there are many who already are in buyer roles—my business partner Renae wrote about that here) it will be important for B2B companies to have some sort of e-commerce system in place. The companies above are proof that there is not only customer demand for these systems, but lucrative and untapped sales opportunities to be had by adopting them.

And for B2B companies hesitant and worried about the complications surrounding a B2B e-commerce portal, perhaps now is the time to work out those kinks. Because this issue is not going away, and I predict it will very quickly change from “something to do tomorrow” to “something that should have been done yesterday.”

Granted, I’m not a fortune teller. I don’t read palms, tea leaves, or crystal balls. But this is less an act of looking through the fog to predict a far-away future than it is looking both ways before you cross the street—it’s not down the line; it’s right in front of us.

So say that “dirty word” and say it often. I promise no one will tell your mom.

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Content Your Audience Wants But Isn’t Getting

23 Jul

Is Your Content Passive or Interactive?

myf021 (hi res)

It’s no longer enough for content to be good. (Heck, maybe it never was.) It’s not even enough for content to be timely, personalized, well-distributed, or repurposed. What’s also important is that your content is interactive—or at least, some of your content is interactive. In fact, a Customer Think article argues that the #1 type of content that is most impactful to today’s buyers is also the same type of content that they get the least of: interactive content.

While whitepapers, webinars, and case studies are still widely consumed in the B2B space, there is plenty of room for new and innovative content. B2B marketers shouldn’t feel constrained by these more traditional types of content, described in the article as “passive.” Interactive content such as interactive presentations, ROI calculators, and assessment tools is highly valued by B2B buyers. Not only will it break through some of the clutter by simply breaking through established norms, but according to the survey, it also outperforms passive content in:

  • Producing prospect conversions
  • Educating the buyer
  • Creating differentiation from competitors

Most importantly, this is the type of content B2B buyers want. And the proof is in the numbers:

  • 45% of respondents rated the value of interactive presentations as a 4/5 or 5/5, but only 31% of them had been able to access any in the past year
  • 23% of respondents rated the value of ROI calculators as a 4/5 or 5/5, but only 31% of them had been able to access any in the past year

One of our clients features a piece of interactive content on the homepage of their site, which allows their prospects to calculate estimated savings based on the typical ROI from utilizing their services. This is a prime example of simple, interactive content that educates and produces more conversions because it offers a simple number that a B2B buyer can walk away with and have some idea of what the services can do for them.

Interactive content is the content your audience wants but isn’t getting, so take advantage of this opportunity to set your content apart. For more interactive content marketing revelations from the survey, click here to read the full article.

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