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5 Management Lessons Learned From Missing A Goal By 5 Days

A quote I really like is ‘Be stubborn about your goals, and flexible about your methods.’

As stubborn as we were, we missed our goal by 5 days. Were we not stubborn enough or did our flexibility let us down? That is for us to decide. But success is a product of failures and our failure to meet a recent internal goal has influenced this post.

The following management lessons can help in managing a project with greater efficiency –

Start With A Vision And Work With A Plan

Before putting pen to paper, begin with a vision. For example, if you are designing a product, envision it in fine details. Imagine its looks, its feel, its use, and even its colors.

Once the project leaders can clearly visualize the end product and agree upon it, a thorough plan should be prepared to break the vision into phases, tasks, and responsibilities.

This will involve separating big rocks from the small rocks and it will help in resource planning and creating milestones.

Decide The Decision-Making Process

I can bet that we are all guilty of having spent our precious time in meetings that we have walked out of without making any real decisions.

How are decisions taken in your group or organization? Is it through a diplomatic process where everyone involved gets to vote and the majority wins? Or does the decision ultimately rest in the hands of a leader or influencer?

It is best that the decision-making process is decided upon by a group before starting discussions on any project.

Repeat After Me: “Actionable And Deliverables”

Speaking of meetings – have you ever felt that they are a waste of time? They sure can be if you don’t walk out of a meeting with actionable and deliverables.

All too often, we get into a meeting room and rant about various topics on the agenda. After the meeting, people walk off with a deeper understanding of issues at hand and possible solutions.

However, if you do not summarize the meeting and break it down into actionable and deliverables, there is a high probability that you will find yourself in the same meeting room again and experience a déjà vu moment.

Share Your Progress Periodically

Project management pro’s ensure that everyone knows what is to be done and who is in charge of what. Everyone takes ownership of their responsibilities and boom, everyone delivers as expected. Right?

Let me remind you – we lost Atlantis (if it ever existed) a long time ago. Reality is, things often fall through the cracks. It is critical that progress reports are discussed periodically to ensure that the planned milestones are being achieved in a timely manner and no stone is left unturned.

Don’t Worry About Getting It Right, Get It Done

Geoffrey Fisher said – ‘When you aim for perfection, you discover it’s a moving target’. In the real world, it is less valuable to get it right than it is to get it done. Silicon Valley is known to prophecies the concept of a ‘minimum viable product’ and it works in many cases.

The viability of that concept can vary from project to project of course. I mean, don’t launch a car knowing that it runs but without being sure that all components are working properly. Otherwise, you’ll just end up having to go through a very expensive product recall like Ford, Honda, Toyota, and GM.

But in many cases, getting it done can be better than getting it right.

CTA Conference 2016 Review – The Best Of The Best In Digital Marketing

Image credit: Georgia Straight

The Unbounce CTA Conference was a 3-day whirlwind and it’s taken a few weeks for us to settle down, get our thoughts together and discuss what our major takeaways were.

First of all—WOW! Talk about the cream of the digital marketing crop all under one roof! This conference was jam-packed with one engaging and informative speaker after another.

There were frequent breaks and great snack offerings—Lara Bars and fruit snacks galore all day (yum), food trucks and to top it off, we walked away with some cool swag as well!

Knowledge Grows from Sharing

Building on the momentum of the conference, we are writing this article in the spirit of ‘marketers share tips and tricks with each other and then use those tips and tricks to beat each other’.

So without further delay, here are 3 things we are dying to share as we reminisce on the 2 days invested in dancing with the celebrities of the marketing industry:

Machine Learning is creating algorithms that are smarter than the collective intelligence of over a thousand marketers.

Machine learning refers to writing software which can learn from past experience.

Marketers currently invest considerable time in creating and optimizing site pages and landing pages, looking at elements such as content quality, design, colours, and user experience.

A/B testing allows marketers to discover best practices for conversion rate optimization. Data scientists are now using the massive amounts of data collected through years of research to create highly sophisticated algorithms which will be capable of analyzing pages and identifying gaps and opportunities to optimize for conversions.

In the age of technology, being human is the secret sauce to the best strategies.

With Machine Learning becoming more developed and widely used, we must remember that machines can’t think on their own and they can’t be creative. So, while we strive to make data driven decisions, it is important to remember who your marketing is directed to.

The real person you are trying to converse with does not like bots or even marketers. He/She prefers having real conversations with real people. So maybe it is time to ditch the email templates and start sending emails like the ones you receive from your mother – plain text.

Perhaps it is also time to go beyond the data and actually meet people who fit the buyer personas you create.

A goal without a plan is just a wish and an opinion unassisted by data is just an opinion.

‘Don’t bring an opinion to a data fight’, exclaimed Andy Crestodina from the stage. Remember this every time you are pitching ideas to your team or your manager or even bickering about any topic with your colleagues.

Data has become fundamental to all decisions – from strategy to design.

Phew, with that now out of my system, let us move on.

Unbounce did a great job in organizing this event. I was impressed by their attention to detail and especially impressed when they said they had an official note taker assigned. This meant that the audience could keep their laptops and notebooks at bay and really pay attention to the speakers.

Digital Marketing Nuggets

However, there are some statements and quotes we felt compelled to write down during the presentations and here they are:

1. ‘What is the best place to hide a dead body? – The second page of Google’ – Andy Crestodina | Applied Analytics: Insights & Actions from 13 Reports | @crestodina

2. ‘Our goal is not to shove content into Inboxes; it is to provide the right content to the right people’ – Anum Hussain | Re-thinking Blog Subscribers: The Playbook Nobody Told You About | @anum | anumhussain.com

3. ‘Don’t spam people and don’t waste their time by sending emails that don’t say anything’ – Susan Su | Open Rate: 100% | @susanfsu

4. ‘If you have a bad product and you invest in marketing, you will just be pissing off more people faster’ – Morgan Brown | Lessons Learned from Building a Fast-Growing Subscription Business | @morganb

5. ‘A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week’ – Morgan Brown | Lessons Learned from Building a Fast-Growing Subscription Business | @morganb

6. ‘2001 Space Odyssey: Nobody knows what the movie is about. It answers a question you never asked with an answer you don’t understand. This is what makes it brilliant and my presentation will be like that.’ – Andre Morys | The Growth Canvas – Stop Searching for Nuggets – Build a Goldmine | @morys | web-arts

There were so many more nuggets flying from the stage, but my hands could not possibly keep up while my brain and ears were engaged in learning. Besides, remember there was an official note-taker (can’t say this enough).

Finally, in the interest of all the savvy readers who have made it this far, I am including a table of the conference schedule with links to all the talks. It’s your lucky day, have at it –

MONDAY, June 20, 2016 TUESDAY, June 21, 2016
Oli Gardner – The Conversion Equation

Co-Founder, Unbound

Rand Fishkin – The Measure of a Marketer’s Worth

Wizard of Moz, Moz

Andy Crestodina – Applied Analytics

Co-Founder, Orbit Media

Mackenzie Fogelson – Evolve or Die: How Authenticity Builds Durable Brands

CEO, Genuinely

Anum Hussain – Rethinking Blog Subscribers

Senior Growth Marketer, HubSpot

Brian Davidson – Syncing Facebook Ads with Mobile Landing Page Conversions

Partner, Matchnode

Erin Bury – 7 Key Marketing Lessons I’ve Learned Growing 20+ Brands

Managing Director, 88Creative

Mathew Sweezy – The New Psychology Behind Top Performing Campaigns

Principal of Marketing Insights, Salesforce

Kevan Lee – 10 Lead-Gen Strategies from the World’s Best Social Marketers

Content Crafter, Buffer

Kristen Craft – Video Analytics: What to Know About It

Director of Partnerships, Wistia

Susan Su – Open Rate: 100%

Partner, 500 Startups

Johnathan Dane – The 5 Best-Kept PPC Secrets

Founder, Klientboos

Morgan Brown – Lessons Learned from Building a Fast-Growing Subscription Business

COO, Inman News

Cara Harshman – The Homepage is Dead

Content Marketing Manager, Optimizely

Andre Morys – The Growth Canvas

CEO, Web Arts AG

Aaron Orendorff – 3 Counter-Intuitive Tactics for Successful and Brand-Defining Content

Content Strategist, iconiContent

Annie Cushing – Five Tips To Get Your Google Analytics Account Ready

Founder, Annielytics

Stefanie Grieser – Marketing Tips to Pack the House

International Marketing Manager, Unbounce

Hana Abaza – Myths about High Converting Content

VP Marketing, Uberflip

Amy Harrison – Is Your Copy Selling you Short

Founder, Harrisonamy Copywriting

Michael Aagaard – The Psychology Behind Terrible Conversion Experiences

Senior Conversion Optimizer, Unbounce

Closing Ceremony

With all the videos, slides and notes from the conference made publicly available, it is fair to question the need to pay for the ticket and physically attend a conference such as this.

During the after party (which was at the Telus Science World and reason enough to attend), we met Carl Schmidt, the founder of Unbounce.

When we commended him for organizing official note takers, he shared a gold nugget. He said he never liked making notes of what the speakers were saying or presented on the slides. Instead, he carries his notepad and tries to jot down three actionable ideas that can be implemented at work. These ideas are inspired by the presentations made by speakers.

Presentations are the nucleus of the conference but equally important are the people you meet and the ideas and inspiration that the entire ambiance creates. We highly recommend that you facilitate your marketing team members to attend at least one big conference a year.

What Does Marketing Mean?

what does marketing mean

The American Marketing Association Board of Directors approved the following definition of marketing in July 2013 – Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

Many other definitions of marketing can be found in this article which includes marketing as defined by Philip Kotler and 72 other highly successful marketing professionals.

I think of marketing as an action verb for market. It’s like putting market in motion. This is not how any of my marketing professors or the several dozen books I have read have described it. I think this is a unique description and one that seems to explain so much in such little words. But I am going to continue this sermon.

The Objectives Of Marketing

First and foremost, I am going to begin with exploring different objectives of marketing. These, from my experience, can include:

  1. Brand Awareness
  2. Lead Generation
  3. Sales Facilitation
  4. Customer Satisfaction
  5. Customer Loyalty and Retention

Depending on what the overarching marketing objective is, the marketing strategy planners design a campaign. Now that we know what various marketing campaign objectives could be, let us continue with our primary question of what is marketing.

A business, any business, is an entity that provides a product or a service. The consumers (past, current, potential) of this product/service are what constitute the market. Marketing is what makes this market active. Without marketing, a product would be manufactured but no one will ever know about it and its market will remain dormant.

So is marketing essentially communication?

The answer is no. Communication is an integral part of marketing but marketing is broader in scope. Marketing is actually deeply integrated into business strategy. Neil Borden, the president of the American Marketing Association, coined the term ‘Marketing Mix’ in 1953. This mix continues to be taught as the foundation of any marketing course even in top B-schools around the world.

The 4 P’s Of Marketing

Let’s explore this marketing mix which includes the 4 P’s of Marketing – Product, Price, Place and Promotion:

Product

Marketing is the link between manufacturing and end users. Based on customer feedbacks, marketing is able to guide manufacturing in the development of a better product. In some cases, marketing might determine that consumers do not want a change.

For example, consumers were enraged when Coca Cola altered its formula in the 1985. Based on the feedback from the marketing team, Coke decided to revert to its original formula. Of course, commonly, the feedback is more subtle than nationwide protests.

Price

There can be different approaches to pricing. For example, one could determine the manufacturing cost of a product and add a markup based on industry standards for profit.

Alternatively, one could look at competitive pricing and price the product at par with its competitors. It could price it higher with the promise of higher quality or engage in price cut. Here again, the marketing team can gather and analyze industry data to determine industry standard mark-ups, competitor pricing, price sensitivity of target consumers etc. For example, the tobacco companies had engaged in price-wars which had lowered the value of the entire industry in America in 1993.

Apple, on the other hand, charges a premium for its products with the promise of a higher quality. My first employer had used the analogy of the automobile industry to explain how he approaches pricing. He said you must determine where you wish to position your product and base pricing accordingly – do you wish to be a Rolls Royce Phantom, Porsche Cayenne, a Toyota Camry or a Chevrolet Spark?

Place

This is a decision that relates to determining the market for your product. Here, the marketing team helps establish which particular countries, cities, and neighbourhoods one should target. The surest way to failure is in trying to be everything to everyone. The better a business can determine what the niche is; the more effective it will be is creating demand. For example, if you are a service provider serving only the Vancouver metropolitan region, the marketing team can delve deeper into what neighborhoods are more likely to be interested in your product.

If you provide a service like interior designing for affluent houses, you will not want to waste your resources advertising your service in neighbourhoods populated by low-income housing communities. An example of this is Amazon choosing the e-commerce model while Walmart chose the more traditional retail model. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Promotion

This involves deciding the mix of tools to be used to promote your product or service. These days the choice includes two broad segments of traditional and digital media. Traditional media includes print advertisements in newspapers, magazines, billboards etc. Digital media includes television, radio and more recently the elaborate world of the internet which everyone is on. These sub-segments can be further broken into more sub-segments and the marketing team must decide the appropriate media mix based on your product and brand guidelines. E.g. Nike uses the whole gamut of media from T.V. ads to Billboards to actively leveraging social media.

On the other hand, Apple advertises on TV, magazines, and events but chooses not to have any presence on social media. This was explained well in an article by Kissmetrics – ‘Why Apple Doesn’t Tweet’.

The Role Of Communication In Marketing

Now that we have touched upon the broader scope of marketing and briefly elaborated on the marketing mix, let’s explore the role of communication in marketing.

In doing so, let me highlight the classic marketing funnel and the distinct role that communication plays at each stage –

Awareness

This is when you make potential buyers aware of your product/service. Your communication is designed to highlight that you are a player in a particular industry. For example, people interested in buying a car are aware of the popular brands in the market. But in this competitive market, Kia wants to make people aware of its all-new 2016 Sorento. It does so with a commercial focusing on key features such as space, utility, and toughness. Watch the ad here

Consideration

Here, the focus is on conveying more specific advantages of your product. This focus can range from features to visual appeal to price. Using the same example of Kia Sorento, the company has a detailed page published on its website with a complete overview of features, price, reviews, unique selling propositions etc.

Intent

By now, you have moved interested people further down your marketing funnel and now you want to move them closer to making the purchase decision. In the automobile industry, this popularly done with a common call-to-action of a test drive. You want your leads to touch and feel your product. One way of booking a test drive of any Kia model is by filling in a form on their website where you can select the model, your preferred dealer, a suitable date and time etc.

Purchase

You have already created the willingness to buy and now the intent of the communication is to guide the consumer in the buying process making it as easy and seamless as possible. Kia allows you to book your car online with their Build & Price tool on their website.

Loyalty

This is about continuing to build a relationship even after the sale. You want to create loyalty to encourage repeat purchases to increase the customer lifetime value. This can be done by following up to get post-purchase feedback or smart communication relaying information that can add further value to the user – e.g. Kia can look at complementary products like windshield cleaners or even gasoline and give its customers a loyalty discount at select retailers.

Advocacy

Once you win customer loyalty, you should aim to make your loyal customers your brand ambassadors. You can encourage them to refer you to their friends by providing financial or psychological incentives. With social media, encouraging users to share your brand messages has become more integral to marketing communication than ever before. For example, Kia can offer discounts on vehicle servicing for customers who share their post on social media or complementary servicing for customers who refer other buyers.

In the pre-internet age, marketing communication was usually one sided and easier to control until you confronted the sales personnel. In the internet age, it has become more complex because customers have greater control on media and information that they consume and media sources are much more spread out than before.

This has sparked interesting discussions in the marketing teams of various companies like Google, Intuit, SAP, Sephora, Twitter, and VISA. An article published on the Howard Business Review website makes for an interesting read – Marketing can no longer rely on the funnel.

Marketing In The 21st Century

So, now we have visited the Marketing Mix and the classic Marketing Funnel. Let me finally list out three key ingredients of marketing in the 21st century:

Data

having entered the information age, it is not the lack of but the access of data that is a challenge for most companies. But data can be the most useful tool for your business if one knows how to collect, gather and analyze data to draw quality insights.

Data can be used to get a better understanding of your buyers, the buyer’s behavior, the target market segments, the competition, the industry, and all sorts of other variables that influence your business and marketing strategy.

Data projects an unbiased opinion on market realities and can be used for descriptive and predictive analysis. An amazing example of predictive analysis is the accuracy with which Microsoft, Apple and Google predicted the results of each game of the FIFA 15 Men’s World Cup with astounding accuracy. Microsoft Bing’s prediction technology was perfect in the knockout stage scoring 15 out of 15 correct results.

However, one must exercise a high level of caution in using data to guide decision making. Any bugs in the entire process from collection to analysis can alter the end results. Also, data normally needs context to make it relevant.

Authenticity

A dozen years ago, my father use to say that a good salesperson can sell ice to an Eskimo. I differ in my opinion, especially in this day and age. With easy access to abundance of information, consumers are now much smarter than before. Before making a buying decision, they are now likely to research your product a lot more thoroughly.

While before they may have been convinced by the advertising copy and might have consulted their friends and family; today, the advertising copy might be compelling but they will want to check your website, read your blogs, browse your social media feed, look for reviews and may even post a message on their social media page to source an opinion from a much larger pool of family and friends. If they don’t think you are being authentic in your value proposition, not only will they choose not to purchase your product but they might even discredit your brand publicly on the internet.

This has made authenticity extremely important in all of your communication and marketing campaigns. A great example of authenticity is the way Taylor Swift promotes her brand. She actively engages with her fans on social media and her posts and comments are genuine – not tailored by a PR agency. She is excellent in understanding her fans and often goes above and beyond to delight them. No wonder that there was an article published on July 16, 2015 that Hillary Clinton is borrowing marketing tactics from Taylor Swift (and its working).

Responsiveness

One of the differences between your previous smartphone and your new smartphone is that your new smartphone is able to open applications one-tenth of a second faster that your previous phone. As small as this may be, engineers have worked really hard to ensure faster processing speeds and it matters to you. The same way, we have become expectant of faster communication.

A long time ago, postal careers were used to deliver messages. Now we use emails and instant messengers for instant communication. With this breakthrough in the time taken to deliver and receive messages, your consumers have become expectant of almost real time responses to their queries.

Hence, you must have a robust process in place to attend to consumer queries almost immediately when they submit a query form on your website or ask you a question on your social media page. Here is an article that highlights 10 companies that take this very seriously and totally rock customer service on social media.

There are many other factors that play a crucial role in marketing in the 21st century, but off the top of my head I covered three that I feel are very important. One thing to remember is that a sale is a function of marketing – marketing is a much bigger strategy that might have sales as a primary goal but extends much beyond a financial transaction.

Lastly…

I am Vikram Shivahare – a student, thinker and practitioner of Marketing for more than 10 years. I started writing this article with the intent to answer a fundamental question – What is marketing? There is a fine line between passion and obsession and I believe that by continuing to rant on this subject, I might cross that line. Hence I am going to stop here. But I sincerely hope that this article raises the level of understanding of marketing amongst those who are curious. I also hope that for the more experienced professionals in the field – they are able to revisit some of the fundamentals and it sparks more enriching discussions on this subject.

Any feedback and comments are encouraged and will be deeply appreciated.

ElementIQ Unveils New Name, Logo And Brand

EIQ-darkgreybg

ElementIQ is a new digital marketing agency with an approach that is more specific and less vague, more accountable and results driven.

The Origins Of ElementIQ

The ElementIQ name stems from Search Engine Land’s Periodic Table of SEO. It comes from the realization that there are numerous channels (and sub-channels) under the digital marketing umbrella that a business can invest in and grow from. Within each channel (and sub-channels) are singular elements of digital marketing, which together comprise an entire channel.

For example, in the digital marketing channel of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), there are two notable sub-channels, onsite and offsite optimization. Within those channels are literally hundreds of elements that are important.

It’s important to know that, depending on your business industry, target market, geographic reach, and other factors that not every channel may work.

That’s where the IQ or intelligence of our team comes in. We’re experts, we know what will and may not be right for you. Consider us a member of your team. We’re as motivated as you are to grow your business.

A New Agency, A New Refined Outlook

Our past has taught us, and our future will define us. Since the beginning in July 2010 as ‘LocalTrifecta’. We have more seasoned professionals with a plethora of knowledge and experience in the digital marketing industry. We have more certifications and success stories.

Rather than focusing on the ‘trifecta’ of Search Engine Optimization, Paid Search Advertising and Local Search Marketing, we’ve expanded to include Content Marketing, Social Media, Analytics, Marketing Automation and Conversion Rate Optimization.

Best of all, we have more delighted clients who have seen their businesses grow significantly with us as their digital marketing team.

A Changing Industry

The ways in which consumers search and consume have also changed. This is reflected in search engines. So naturally, Google and its 200+ search ranking factors drive what we do and how we look at the world of search. We’re on top of algorithm updates as Google spits them out. It’s a function of any good agency.

That means some of the ways we Attract, Convert, Close and Delight have also changed.

With this new outlook for our new agency, we know that there is at least one notable constant: Our commitment to doing the best possible work for our clients and being the best in the industry.

We have always committed ourselves to being thought leaders in the digital marketing space in Metro Vancouver and the direction of ElementIQ reflects that.

Today Is Google Mobile Friendly Day #April21 #Mobilegeddon

Is Your Website Mobile Friendly? If Not, Your Rankings Will Probably Suffer

Even for those in the digital marketing industry, it’s not easy to keep up with Google’s frequent algorithm updates.

As an agency, we’re constantly asked: why so many updates? What do these updates mean? Will these updates affect me?

As of April 21, 2015 (today), the Google Mobile-Friendly update is upon us. This will affect you, and affect your competitors.

In a constant push towards better user experience, Google has been placing importance on factors that help searchers better find what they’re looking for. It’s about creating a better User Experience.

What Is This Update?

An increasing number of traffic comes from mobile devices. Google will rank search results conducted by mobile devices (smartphones) based on the mobile-friendliness of a website. This update does not affect search results conducted in desktop or tablet environments.

How Does This Update Affect You?

If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, there is a high probability that your rankings will suffer on mobile device searches. To see if your website is indexed by Google as mobile friendly, it’ll be denoted in search results.

google-mobile-update

What Do You NEED to Know?

I’ve shared the simple facts of what you need to know, but if you’d like to read up more on it, check out Barry Schwartz’s summary on Search Engine Land.

What Can You Do TODAY?

1) Know WHAT your mobile traffic is.

2) TEST to see if pages on your website are mobile friendly. You can use the Google Mobile Friendly tool for this.

3) We Can Help! We can provide further insight into how your website is seen in Google’s eyes. We’ll look at the usability and mobile friendliness of it, and provide insight in doing so.

Your website is a vital marketing and sales tool for your business. Request a FREE Inbound Marketing Assessment below!

Is ‘SEO’ Changing? Yes, Business Owners Take Notice

One of the great things about the digital marketing industry is that it’s always changing. Flat out – it’s always changing. Google changes its algorithm. Social networks rise and fall. Search behaviour changes. Buying behaviour changes. All this change makes things enjoyable though. How we do things as an agency now is, in some ways, different from how we did things a year ago or two years ago.

One of those Inbound marketing channels, ‘Search Engine Optimization’ (SEO), is a perfect example. It’s the perfect example of an Inbound channel that has been bastardized over the last 5 years — mostly by black hat ‘marketers’. I say ‘Search Engine Optimization’ because that term has eroded a little bit and I’ll explain why in this blog post. In my view, the term ‘SEO’ (the term, not the concept) is rapidly changing.

What Is SEO?

Let’s start off by defining what the heck SEO is from words of the grand wizard of SEO himself, Mr. Rand Fishkin of Moz. Fishkin or for those of you on a first name basis with him, Rand, says that SEO is “the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of the traffic that you earn through the organic results in search engines”.

SearchEngineLand says basically the same — that it’s the process of getting traffic from the “free”, “organic” and “natural” results in search engines.

You type something into Google and you’re served a bunch of results that are determined to be the best and most suitable — in Google’s eyes. Google has a long list of factors that determine how suitable or relevant a search result is. So the optimization part of the term Search Engine Optimization involves optimizing for these various factors.

How SEO Was Done

Terms like cloaking and keyword density were immensely important back in the day. Google’s eventual algorithm changes cracked down on these old spammy tactics.

Here’s a list of things that were done (and that you shouldn’t do anymore):

If you hear any of this from those responsible for your web presence, get out while you still can, business owners.

But let’s think about this all for a second. SEO’s were to optimize a web presence unnaturally for specific keywords that were deemed profitable to a business. It’s kind of like jimmying a padlock or trying to break into your locked car after you left your keys inside. It’s not the right way to go but it’s a way to go.

SEO Today

Now that has changed a little bit. Given all that has happened and transpired in the past, all of the aforementioned heavyweights in the industry have gone in a different direction. And this isn’t bad. They’re responding to Google’s algorithm changes and to search behaviour.

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The results? The emphasis today is on determining user intent, enhancing user experience and satisfying that intent seamless, creating highly valuable pages in the process. This involves creating incredible content that people will naturally link to. You write a blog post that’s so good that people link to it in their own blog posts and share it via social networks. This creates natural backlinks. Plus, the importance of social signals cannot be ignored.

It also involves making sure all pages of your site serve a purpose and that these pages provide users with relevant information. The more valuable information, the better the site is in Google’s eyes. In fact, they cracked down on sites with too little information with the Google Panda penalty.

Of course, all of the on-site SEO items still matter and play a big role — HTML factors, site architecture factors and so on. Take a look at the Periodic Table of SEO for a nice visual representation of that.

Do We Still Call It “SEO”?

If you looked at that Periodic Table for just a second, what was the longest column? Content. So the creation of good, quality content that informs and educates searchers is critical to organic success. There’s already a term for creating content that educates, informs and eventually, brings in business. It’s called content marketing.

Links is the 4th column and there’s plenty of grey area as to what is good in Google’s eyes in terms of building links and what is not. Hence, why all the heavyweights advocate creating content that builds links naturally. I outlined what you shouldn’t do earlier. So if link building has come down to creating content that builds links naturally, then isn’t link building simply about content? So modern link building is just content marketing.

The second-to-last column is “social”. It just means that the more you share and the greater your following is, the better the reach for whatever you are sharing. Now, what do we call the stuff you share over social networks? Content! Social media is almost wholeheartedly content-based and the connection to organic search is that studies have shown that there is a correlation between tweeting or sharing a link and how quickly a post gets indexed in search results. But again, for any of this to transpire, content must be created.

So What Am I Saying Here?

Well, I definitely won’t say that “SEO is dead” as so many out there have. I just argue that much of it is encompassed by other Inbound marketing channels like Content Marketing and Social Media.

And in my breakdown of the Periodic Table, there were still 4 columns remaining and #2 and #3, HTML and Architecture, respectively, are extremely important to the health and viability of any business’ web presence.

So SEO is not dead, but changing and slimming down. What business owners need to understand is that SEO is just one Inbound marketing channel. It requires other channels, like Content Marketing, Social Media, Email Marketing and Paid Search for it to work harmoniously in success. You can’t have amazing content but a poorly structured site with a bunch of broken pages and oversized images. You can’t be running Google AdWords ads and pointing them to a bad landing page or an awful site altogether. All Inbound channels have a place and ought to hold their respective hands together for businesses to reap the benefits.

Main Takeaways

Let me give you some things to take away from this post:

  • Always be publishing great content
  • Always approach your site from a user’s perspective
  • Always have SMART goals
  • Always have a strategy in place to achieve those goals
  • Never look for just an “SEO company”
  • Consider every Inbound marketing channel

BONUS: Here’s a terrific post on the Top 10 SEO Myths by Cyrus Shepard. Please give that a read as well!

I’d love to hear from you on everything you’ve read above! Leave your comments and questions below and I’ll respond!

Building Local Citations: The Beginners Manual

 

So let’s point out the obvious, building citations is not the most fun thing in the world. On the other hand, local citations are one of the most important things for a business to master. What is the point in having a local business that can’t be found? Or can’t be seen on a map? Or worst of all, that can not be seen on Google? So in this post, I want to lay out the do’s and the do not’s of building local citations; as well as, how to build citations.

Start With The Most Important – Google.

Your Google+/Google My Business page is the most important citation of all. This information has to be 100% correct on Google to lay the base for every other citation you make. How Google wants to have your address set up is like this:

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As an example, you have your main address 12322 122st

Then you have your unit number on the end, so: 12322 122St #111, Richmond, VA, USA, 55466

Use that formatting for ALL citations. The key is quality, not quantity. You must always be consistent.

To continue…. You have to know the following: What category is your business in, and where should they be listed?

There Are 5 Basic Types Of Sites You’ll Want To Get Listed On:

-Data-aggregators (e.g. LocalEze)

-Horizontal directories (e.g. Yelp)

-Industry-specific directories (e.g. Avvo)

-Region-specific sites (e.g. Denver.com/places)

-Sites where you can get an “unstructured” citation, like a mention in a newspaper or by a “local” blogger.”

Narrowing down your specifics to which sites suit the business’ needs makes citation building a lot easier.

Claiming Businesses:

When you are creating citations from scratch, this will be a lot easier.  But you want to claim all the listings you can. You will need to create login information and sometimes they will need telephone verification like Yelp and Sales Spider

If you are trying to claim a business that has already been claimed by another person, retain the login info or if you can’t, contact the listing provider directly.

The whole point of claiming listings is to make sure nobody else will mess with it or change the information on you. The littlest mistake on a local citation can throw Google for a loop. As well, it just gets sloppy.

Citation Audits:

When doing an audit for a client you need to search their business by address, name, and phone number. Then redo it in an incognito browser to make sure you found every bit of information related to them.

You should have two different documents for every client you do citations for:

1) The Audit (Source, URL, Notes, Errors)

2) The Corrections and New Citations

 **If it is a new business obviously you will only have one document for citations since they will not have any old citations to audit.**

Citation Audits are important to see what citations businesses have and what more you can give them.

Local Citation Helpers:

Whitespark: Whitespark is a citation finder that analyzes your business category, location, and targets. It is a very useful tool if you need a jumpstart, or need to find more citations for a client. It is also relatively inexpensive too.

PlacesScout: This is a neat site where it analyzes your client citations as well as the competitors. This too is a bit more analytical and they specifically focus on sites that you can leave a review on.

GeoRanker: Like the others above, it’s a powerful local seo tool. That allows you to find viable citations. It is also well known for the ability to track your local seo presence.

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Documentation:

Documentation is very important when it comes to citations.

You need to be able to keep track of what ones you created, claimed, or have had found. It is also necessary to be able to log all the login information to the sites that you have created listings for.

Notes are also important here. Keeping some sort of a paper trail for the listings is recommended because if you needed to change an address, phone number or anything you can refer back to the notes to see if it has been done or not. Because trust me if you don’t write it down you will forget.

Lastly, always have the listings dated by creation, if they have been claimed or not, and “edited by: ”. This is just so you know who to track down for it. It makes things a lot easier than playing the guessing game.

**Making note of all the changes another document source (ex. client center) is a good idea too because you can automatically notify whoever you want, that you have made changes to the document.

Local citations, when done properly, will help a business out a lot with their online presence and their all over SEO. It is amazing what a difference it can make, and that is why it is very important to be consistent. If you follow these guidelines and use some of the tools mentioned above, you are on your way to being a citation pro.

Why Businesses In Vancouver Need HubSpot

If you’re the owner of a company operating in or around Vancouver, you’ll know how much of a struggle it can be to attract the right customers to your business, especially with so much competition in every sector. The British Columbia economy is still on fairly fragile ground and Vancouver business owners know this all too well. In order to be found by prospective buyers looking for a business just like yours, you need a sales and marketing plan that is appropriate for the digital age, and you need the right tools to help your business grow. This is where HubSpot comes in.

HubSpot vancouver businesses logo

Wouldn’t it be so much easier if you didn’t have to chase as many prospects? Instead, imagine that more of your potential customers actually found you, took themselves through your sales process, and then contacted you when they were ready to make a purchase. HubSpot can help you keep track of all your inbound marketing activities like SEO, blogging, social media marketing, and email marketing, ensuring you capture quality leads at the right time and place.

The Benefits Of Inbound Marketing

First, it’s important to understand what makes Inbound marketing more effective than traditional marketing methods.

It’s less expensive. Buying ad space online and offline is expensive. By using various online channels including websites and social media, businesses can publish their own optimized content, usually at no cost.

It’s more credible. Consumers are more savvy than ever before. They know when they’re being sold to; they can smell a sales pitch from a mile away. Ads and sales messages don’t have the power that they once did. By using content marketing and other inbound marketing techniques, businesses can educate consumers before they are ready to buy, giving their brand more credibility from the outset.

It’s less intrusive. Consumers have more power than ever before to control their social and digital environments. They fast-forward through TV commercials, block incoming phone calls, trash emails, and ignore pop-up ads. Inbound marketing promotes your brand without the “hard sell”.

It reduces the need to cold call. By using the right Inbound marketing strategies, businesses will find that customers come to them when they are ready to make a buying decision.

A Smarter Digital Marketing Solution

Many businesses in Vancouver still rely on a number of tools to help them with digital marketing. They use analytics tools to monitor their website and social media activity, another tool to analyze their email marketing, a design tool for creating landing pages, and publishing tools for blogging and managing their content marketing. It’s becoming way too complicated, and yet these businesses are so busy juggling all these activities with the day-to-day operations of their business, they lose sight of what they are actually trying to achieve. HubSpot simplifies the whole marketing process.

An Overview Of HubSpot

The great thing about HubSpot is that it helps you streamline the entire marketing process, from creating content and attracting customers, to capturing leads and closing a sale. It can help you with SEO, email, social media, blogging, analytics, and more. Ultimately, it will help you attract more people to your website at a lower cost per lead. As a result of the Inbound marketing techniques, the leads are interested in your products or services and are more likely to buy.

HubSpot has been helping businesses since 2006, and because of the continued growth of inbound marketing and the rise of social media and mobile technology, the popularity of the marketing tool is growing faster than ever before. If you are operating a business in and around Vancouver, make sure you don’t lose out to other businesses in the area who are already using HubSpot’s powerful marketing features. The benefits are clear:

  • It gives businesses a greater return on their marketing investment
  • It simplifies the whole marketing process
  • Your target market can find you more easily
  • Prospects are already more qualified and more likely to buy

The core marketing tasks covered by HubSpot can all be managed from one central hub, so you and your team can manage every aspect of your sales and marketing. These include:

  • Email marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Blogging
  • SEO
  • Optimizing landing pages
  • Creating effective calls-to action
  • Analytics and reporting

How HubSpot Can Help Your Business

There are many marketing tools included in the HubSpot package. Here are just some of the main features you can use to boost your marketing power:

Prospect Tracking

Most website visitors end up leaving a site without converting into a lead. HubSpot allows you to track these visitors so you can see which companies are visiting your website, how each visitor found your site, and which pages they viewed. If they performed a search, you can also discover what they were searching for. You can then export these results to other team members.

Keyword Research

Use HubSpot to host your blog and get live help as you create each blog post. HubSpot helps you optimize your content with the most effective keywords by analyzing different keyword phrases for their competitiveness, meaning you focus on the right keywords before you publish.

Email Marketing

As with any marketing automation tool, you can send targeted email messages based on the interests of your prospects and their position in the sales cycle. For example, you can set up an email to be sent when a website visitor performs a certain task. Because HubSpot’s email platform is connected directly to its contact database, you can personalize each email to help increase open and click rates.

Lead Nurturing

Set up workflows so you can nurture leads through the sales funnel. You can send automated emails at specific times to each lead, monitor the results and then pass on this data to the sales team.

Lead Management

HubSpot’s lead management tool shows you how prospects interacted with your website. It uses lead scoring technology to identify the most qualified leads, and can even show you a timeline of every interaction between a contact and your company.

Business Blogging

HubSpot’s blogging software helps you create posts that are optimized for search engines and readers, so your content is more likely to rank higher for certain keywords and get more shares. Its blog analytics tool helps you see which posts are most effective so you can optimize future content. Social inbox. Monitor your brand’s online presence from one central location. See all the information about your keywords, customers, leads, interactions, and content across all your social networks.

Landing Page Creation

Creating landing pages that are optimized for conversions is a key part of an effective marketing strategy. HubSpot makes it easy to build powerful landing pages that convert more customers.

Smart Calls-To-Action

With HubSpot, you can segment leads based on specific criteria and display different offers on your website based on the individual visitor.

The Bottom Line – Growing Your Business In Vancouver (With HubSpot)

hubspot for vancouver businesses

Many businesses in Vancouver and the surrounding areas either don’t use HubSpot or don’t use it to its full potential. This is a great opportunity for you take advantage of one of the most powerful marketing platforms around and stay one step ahead of the competition. If you’re finding it difficult to attract customers, capture quality leads, and close a sale, HubSpot could be just what you’ve been waiting for. Why not make it easier for your target customers to find you, and take your online marketing to the next level?

Next up: I’ll detail the latest and greatest with HubSpot’s brand new CRM! Stay tuned!

How The Removal Of Google Authorship Images Will Affect Businesses

google analytics update

Newsflash: Google is changing things once again. In an unexpected twist last week, Google’s John Mueller announced that Google will no longer show author profile images and Google+ circle numbers in desktop and mobile search results, shocking marketers everywhere.

It’s also bad news for marketers and business owners. Let me tell you why.

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A Quick Google Authorship 101

First of, just for those who might not know what Google Authorship or Author Rank are, let me give you a quick primer on it.

Google started Author Rank in 2011 which gave authors an opportunity to connect their Google+ profiles with what they publish. The end result is that author photos would show in  search engine results pages (SERP)  along with a link to the author’s Google+ profile and the number of circles the author is in.

It usually took a couple posts for Google Authorship to start showing in SERPs but once you got blogging consistently, it showed. Your author photo had to be a clear portrait of the author. If the author photo was poor quality or had multiple people in it, it was very likely that Google Authorship would not work.

Nevertheless, Google Authorship was good for marketers and businesses and the announcement of this news is unfortunate.

The Evolution Of The Searcher?

Back in 2012, Google published a paper that concluded that social annotations in search (like images) didn’t have much of an effect on searchers. The study said that they were “useless” to searchers. But what’s interesting about that study was that it also said that searchers notice social annotations.

So you’d think this would lead to the eventual demise of social annotations and related markup appearing in search results, right? WRONG!

The behavioural patterns of searchers were changing, said Google in a 2013 paper they published. They said that there was a 60% chance that a searcher would fixate on an annotation if placed at the top of a snippet block.

So we can deduce that the results would be pretty favorable to businesses – and they were. Studies have shown that the click behaviour of searchers in SERPs generally gravitates toward results with visuals – including videos and images. We can see this in heat map results with actual evidence of this.

Moreover, some studies have indicated that rich snippets as a whole (not limited to Google Authorship) can improve click-through rates by up to 150%. Cyrus Shepard from Moz even concluded that the presence of having Google Authorship connected and working led to an increase of 35% in traffic.

How Will This Impact Marketers And Business Owners?

So how exactly might the loss of Google Authorship impact businesses? Authors who are credible and publish a lot will not get the preferential treatment of having their photo shown in SERPs.

Important note: This isn’t too big of a loss as most business owners are too busy to even think about what Google Authorship is and what it can do. Most in-house marketers are in the same boat, managing multiple channels everyday. In fact, a lot businesses aren’t publishing when they should be – and it should amount to some sort of prominence in a digital marketing plan. Again, it comes down to education and simply knowing that content marketing is important. Of course, all of our clients got Google Authorship set up (and benefitted greatly from it)!

Furthermore, there’s that opportunity lost. The opportunity lost in not having Google Authorship set up and its benefits. That is, the benefit of not being clicked on more in search results. That’s quality traffic gone straight to the toilet.

Is The Removal Of Google Authorship That Big Of A Surprise?

How much of this is actually a surprise? Remember that in January, Google actually cut

authorship in search results by 20-40%. However, the rationale for this was to put a larger emphasis on higher quality content. Moreover, back then, the algorithm that was rolled out was designed to show author photos of those with content most relevant to the query and interesting. Beats me how they figure out the latter!

How Businesses Can Move Forward With Their Content Marketing

I’ve got some easy tips – and believe me, they’re easy – for success in business blogging and content marketing.

  • Keep publishing.
  • Keep educating your readers.
  • Keep optimizing your content for user/reader experience.
  • Keep optimizing your content for search engines.
  • Keep to your content strategy

Lastly…

The real loss attributed to the removal of Google Authorship images from search results is all in the loss of opportunity – what you could’ve had. And maybe it’s what you’ve always been getting. But remember that anything you publish will be lumped in with all other results. It’ll look like any other search result on the page.

So make your content great and optimize! Optimize your title tags and meta descriptions so that they’re inviting for searchers! Educate them and they’ll come back. That’s what you want, right? It’s what we strive for with content marketing for all of our clients. We know content drives sales and we employ strategies that produce those positive results.

Guide To Creating Landing Pages That Convert – Part 1

I would compare creating great landing pages to fishing. While there are no exact formulas to making the perfect landing page or catching fish, if you can fish in the right lake with the right hook and methods – you’ll catch a lot of fish.  The same goes for creating landing pages that convert. With the proper awareness of your target audience and the use of the right tools and tactics, your landing page can increase conversions and sales.

I will be breaking up this guide into 6 blog posts, with each post containing 2 steps.

The steps are:

  1. Identify Your Target Market/Audience Like Your Life Depended On It
  2. State Your Goals
  3. Build Your Landing Page
  4. Maintain Scent
  5. Establish Trust
  6. Write Compelling & Persuasive Copy
  7. Write Your Actionable CTA
  8. Make capturing customer data simple (Form Optimization)
  9. Carefully Pick Your Images/Videos
  10. Create a Sense of Urgency
  11. Build Your Post Conversion Page
  12. Start Testing

Why You Should Create & Use Landing Pages

Your answer should always be: increase your conversion rates, capture targeted leads while increasing sales.

Landing pages are targeted towards one single objective and are intended to complement the purpose of the advertisement your visitors clicked to reach your page.

Sending Traffic To Your Landing Page Vs. Homepage

Take into consideration what occurs if you happen to send traffic to your homepage.

The majority of homepages are created with a common objective in mind – to display your overall brand and convey your company values.

Because homepages have navigation and are almost always full of links they tend to lead visitors to other areas of your website.

Every distraction you create for your users reduces your overall conversion rate.

If you want to improve your conversion rate, make sure that your customers have only one thing to complete.

Step 2 – Identify Your Target Market/Audience Like Your Life Depended On It

buyer-persona

If you intend to maximize conversion rates, it’s important to determine who exactly your prospective buyers are, what they desire, what is important to them and also what the pain points are that cause resistance for them when it comes to purchasing the product.

Why Recognizing Your Target Audience Plays a Huge Role In Your Business

Creating buyer personas is a critical task for  your business and marketing department. Without buyer personas, you might as well be saying “everyone & everybody” is in my target audience. – You’ll be wasting and losing money in no time.

Questions You’ll Need to Ask When You’re Developing Your Personas

  1. Basic demographic information.
  2. What is their job and level of seniority?
  3. What are their pain points?
  4. What do they value most?
  5. What are their goals?
  6. Where do they get their information?
  7. What experiences are they looking for when they are shopping for your products and services?
  8. What are their main concerns and causes of resistance?

Once you develop an in-depth buyer persona you’ll be able to get more information like:

Who the buyer is  – where they get their information, how old they are, what they do for work, which sites they visit, what magazines or blogs they read, and so on.

What they don’t care about – you can remove these distractions from your landing page to further improve your conversion rates.

How your product or services can impact your buyers’ lives and make it better – do you fulfill the buyer’s expectations, do you satisfy their wants etc.

You might have a hard time when you sit to create these buyer personas, but once you get rolling, you’ll stumble upon even more questions that effectively develop the understanding of your target market.

Caution! Do not make up these answers… it takes time, effort and solid research.

A Few Tips For Your Survey

Talk To Your Customers – To find out what people really think, just ask them.

Conduct Surveys – The best thing you can do is to learn how and why your customers buy. You really want to get in the head of your buyers with the survey questions you come up with.

conduct-surveys

The more questions you have, the fewer responders you’ll get.

Your number one concern here needs to be brevity, or in finding the best approach to ask a question without lessening its intent.

Ask Questions That Tie In With Your End Goal

Each and every question that you choose to ask must give a clear strong purpose as to why it was included. It’s imperative to ask smart, open-ended questions.

Open-ended questions gather unique opinions. They generally begin with how, why, or “What do you feel about …” They require more time to tackle when compared with closed questions.

Avoid Multiple Choice Questions

You want to allow the buyers to have the ability to express themselves without restrictions. Make it easy for prospective customers to write down their genuine suggestions on the survey.

Recommended Readings:

Guaranteed Success: How to Find Your Target Market So Content Sticks

Step 2 – State Your Goals

First and foremost you must define your business objective(s). Goals determine where you intend to go and tell you when you get there. They help increase your overall efficiency as a company.

state-your-business-objective

Second, state your landing page goal. Are you trying to gather leads, sell a product or ask people to download an EBook?

These different goals all require unique content. For instance, if you’re to sell a product, it would be ideal to add a video of the product or high quality images that illustrate the use of the product.

Other goals can be:

  • Increase click-through rates
  • Convert a marketing lead into a qualified sale
  • Improve sales copy
  • Add better product images
  • Improve value-proposition and so on…

There are two different types of landing pages that you can choose from when you have defined your landing page goals; Lead-Gen, and Click-through landing page.

Lead generation landing pages are used so that we can capture data (email addresses, phone numbers, etc.). These typically offer an incentive in exchange for visitor information. The primary purpose of lead gen landing pages is to use the information provided by the visitor to market to at a later date.

Some uses for a lead generating page are:

  • EBooks
  • Webinar registration
  • Software free trial
  • Event registration
  • Contest registration

Click-through landing pages have the objective/goal of warming up a user before they click through to another page (typically an e-commerce funnel). They define a product in detail in order to prepare a visitor that is close to making a purchasing decision.

Far too often, customers are taken directly to a catalogue page or checkout page from an ad, which have been known to produce low conversion rates. The use of a click-through page will allow the scent trail to carry on from the ad that brought the customer onto your page.

Recommended Readings:

Give Your Advertising ROI a Serious Boost by Maintaining Scent

To help you construct your click-through landing page here is an example:

click-through-landing-page-example

*source Unbounce.com

Conclusion

Making the effort to develop buyer personas, and understanding your target audience is extremely valuable to growing your business. In the end, it’s about learning and making it your goal to know your business inside & out.