Internet Marketing Agencyhttp://74.206.112.77/rss.aspxInternet Marketing AgencyMicrostock Photography Might be Bad for Your Brandhttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2009/8/19/microstock-photography-might-be-bad-for-your-brand.aspxSince the advent of royalty-free stock photography, Web sites selling such imagery have mushroomed into a flourish of what are known as microstock photography Web retailers. These Web sites sell royalty free imagery at very low prices, often 10 to 20 cents per photo, which has attracted a slew of small businesses, affiliate marketers and freelance designers. Microstock photo Web sites source their imagery from a wide range of photographers including amateurs and hobbyists, thus the lower prices they are able to offer. While this may seem like a smart alternative to higher-end photography agencies, there is more to the price than you might think.

When you publish an image in relation to your brand, you're contributing to the evolution of your brand-its changing face to consumers. Images should be selected carefully and be integral to the message as well as the tenets of your brand. Just the other day in an Arizona business publication, there were two ads for commercial real estate companies using the same stock photo. What's worse, the ads were displayed on the same page. Where is the differentiation among these competing companies? This coincidence serves as an instant downgrade in what might otherwise have been a great piece of marketing. Going further, the ads might cost both companies dearly, detracting from their brands and losing them money.

There are a few key considerations to keep in mind when choosing stock photography:

  1. How specific is the image to your message? The more generic an image, the more likely it is to be used across your industry or many industries. Choose genre-specific photos that really drive home the message you are trying to send.
  2. Look for quality. Choose honest images with good lighting, color and angling. Look for subtext-how does this tie in with the copy, with the brand?
  3. How do you want your brand perceived? Don't turn generic by overlapping your look with your competitors. Stand out. Be memorable.

The solution isn't just investing in rights managed photography or conducting custom photo shoots for every campaign. Royalty free stock photography does exist that meets all of the criteria above. It just takes planning and strategic thinking to pull it off. Why settle for less when it's your brand that's on the line?

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Wed, 19 Aug 2009 10:52:17 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2009/8/19/microstock-photography-might-be-bad-for-your-brand.aspx
Landing Page, Shmanding Pagehttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2009/9/3/landing-page,-shmanding-page.aspxLanding pages are lazy pages. They're used by people who don't want to take the time to integrate a campaign into their overall marketing efforts. Your home page is your best landing page. It can be versioned for different offers and will convey a much deeper experience of your business, leaving prospects with a balanced understanding of who you are.

There are four main reasons not to use landing pages:

  1. They lack context.
  2. They bounce enough traffic to beat rubber balls.
  3. They turn people off.
  4. Your home page should be your best converting page.


They lack context.

Landing pages (also known as squeeze pages or capture pages) exist to convert.

My argument with that is this: Your home page should serve that purpose. If it doesn't, why have it?

I'll go as far as asserting that landing pages alone simply do not work for considered purchases. If they do perform, it's most likely a business that has billions of dollars of stored brand equity and can be instantly recognized and trusted. It's not going to work for more obscure brands. There are millions of small businesses nobody has heard of. Consumers need the whole story.

Take, for example, Wrike. They sell web-based project management software. They're not Basecamp. They're not Microsoft. Most people don't know what they do when they hear the name or see the logo. So even if they're giving away free trials with a landing page, it's not going to convert as well as if they gave away free trials with their home page. Because their home page provides the necessary context and background to tell prospects the whole story, the right way. Even if you're spending just $10 or downloading a piece of software for free, you still want to know who you're dealing with and that it's a secure and trustworthy company before handing over personal information.


They bounce enough traffic to beat rubber balls.

Don't get me wrong, I speak from experience. I was once a believer in the old LP. I've done the landing page/ squeeze page route and have seen results. It's hard to stop doing something or try it a different way when you continue to see at least some kind of results. Squeeze pages do still convert a certain percentage of the traffic that hits them.  But they also have a crushing bounce rate.  Whether it's the overuse of them by affiliate marketers or their aggressive nature or both, they turn more and more people off. They're meant to be slippery slides that get people down the funnel fast but they end up being turbo charged trampolines instead. The vast majority of the people that land on a landing page jump right back off.

Why? Because there's nowhere for them to go, nothing for them to do except make a purchase or fill in a form or both. Really, because they turn people off.

They turn people off.

Most of the time, those who do make the purchase are people who were already sold on the product or service before they arrived at the landing page. The rest, the majority of your Internet marketing audience, does not like to be siloed. They don't want to be squeezed.

How well have you responded to an aggressive sales person in a store? How much do you trust that person? If you're like me, you're at the very least annoyed and sometimes angered by pushy or buttery or otherwise manipulative sales people.

Control your home page.

If you need to present different content to different audiences, why not do that with different versions of your Web site's home page? Not only can you serve different versions of a home page to different audiences, but you can also optimize each through multivariate testing. If you don't have that kind of control over your home page, why not? This way, prospects get to see your offer in the context of your whole business. This makes the offer more credible.

Why not create multiple versions of a home page with different focuses and calls to action then test different variables on each for creative performance and optimize based on the results? The effect is dramatically increased conversion rates. It's a better, more effective and more sophisticated approach to online lead generation and sales.

If you try this tactic versus landing pages, you'll see a much lower bounce rate, many more page views and often quite a bit more conversions. When the message is in the context of a professional and well organized Web site, there is a wealth of additional information at the user's fingertips should she be interested. She will be more likely to trust the message when she has the option to go into the Web site and learn more. He will feel more confident about giving his personal information through a professional and branded Web site rather than a seedy old squeeze page. Visitors are much more likely to self select into your list than be pushed or coerced into it.

Let me know what you think.

What do you think? Do you think squeeze pages still work and are perhaps a necessary evil of Internet marketing? Do you think they work for small and medium businesses or just big brands? Or, do you believe that audiences are savvier online these days and would much prefer landing on your home page and having the option to dig a little deeper?

I welcome your comments.

Next week, I'll talk about prospect navigation. Let them explore, but walk them down the right trail.

 

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Thu, 03 Sep 2009 17:13:46 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2009/9/3/landing-page,-shmanding-page.aspx
eCommerce Content and Creative Performancehttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2009/8/25/ecommerce-content-and-creative-performance.aspxWeb usability is a vast and formidable topic. One way that we measure usability is through measuring creative performance. One aspect of creative performance is content. How do we know if content is performing? When it's usable. How do we know if it's usable? People use it. Providing good information on your Web site helps prospects make decisions, such as whether to look further and whether to purchase from you. Selling or promoting products online requires supplying information in a way that breeds confidence in the potential buyer. In this way, content becomes sales support.

Your content takes the place of the tangible product to hold. It must answer the questions for the would-be sales person who isn't there. Through extensive research and usability testing, we've identified a set of best practices for writing e-Commerce content:

  1. Show the prices.
    Pricing is usually the first thing prospects want to know. It gives a sense of the value of an item, whether it's within the prospect's budget, and whether they're shopping in the right place.
  2. Accurate product descriptions.
    Rather than marketing hype, which deters most prospects from your Web site, clear and accurate product descriptions with images will build trust in the consumer for your brand. Descriptions should include enough detail to differentiate products and highlight its precise benefits, yet too much detail is overwhelming. Concise writing using everyday terms is the rule.
  3. Photos and illustrations.
    Choose images that show relevant details your prospect cares about. Make it possible for users to enlarge photos for a closer look. Show products from critical vantage points and make zoom-in functionality big enough to show adequate detail but not so big that context is lost.
  4. Layer information in order of importance.

Present key points first and make it easy for shoppers to get more specific information. Layered product pages with links to all related information such as details, photos, reviews, accessories and manufacturer information will put all of the relevant information at the prospect's fingertips without overwhelming.

  1. Display awards and verifications.
    Show any awards, verifications and recognitions for the quality or your Web site or products and services. This will enhance your credibility and build consumer confidence.

The bottom line: Support sales with quality content online. Sales hype and pushy marketing turn Web users away-it's not what they're looking for. Let the content speak for itself. Make copy concise and informative and present it in a style that suits the Web.

 

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Tue, 25 Aug 2009 15:11:59 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2009/8/25/ecommerce-content-and-creative-performance.aspx
Bloghttp://74.206.112.77/blog.aspxSun, 01 Feb 2009 17:05:55 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog.aspxThe Trail to Conversion – Prospect Navigationhttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2009/10/14/the-trail-to-conversion-–-prospect-navigation.aspxPeople use Web sites, not the other way around. We all have the goal of conversion, whether it's a sale or a lead. But most business owners tend to forget that the best chance they have to accomplish this lies in getting out of the way.

A well-structured navigation system goes unnoticed by users. It allows people to find information effortlessly. The labeling, layout and relationships among content is intuitive, anticipating what users want and allowing them to find it quickly. The goal is to get out of the users way and allow for comfortable and confident exploration.

Natural Progression
Remember that you're designing navigation for your prospects and customers, not for yourself. What makes perfect sense to you might be unfamiliar to your end-users. The best way to know what your audience expects is to get their input.  Then, organize your Web site content in a natural progression toward conversion by reflecting the thinking and needs of your customer base.

For example, your main navigation might serve to answer a progressive series of the most pertinent questions your prospect will have, ending in a call to action, such as "get started."

Resist Cuteness
Efficiency does not mix with loading, rotating animated navigation. Don't make your users wait for main topics of interest to appear. Don't make them hunt for it. The place to flare creatively is in areas of your Web site that users actually care about. Navigation is a means to an end. Main topics should be static and consistent. They should allow people to skim through choices and find what they're looking for quickly. Even the slightest movement can make this process cumbersome. It's best to clearly feature main topics and organize sub-topics intuitively by logic and use.

Label for Clarity and Specificity
What determines where users are led and how they interact with your Web site is navigational labels. They should be easy to understand and specific. Meaningless words get skipped over in favor of informative and distinct terms.  Vague words like discover, learn and the overused, abused click here, announce unpredictable information and create confusion. Specific and explicit category labels, such as articles, advice and tools help eliminate confusion and get users to what they're looking for quickly.

Control Your Lists
Vertical dropdown menus and multi-level menus are widely accepted and understood. However, keep in mind that less is more. Too many nested levels in a menu make it difficult to operate. If you have more than two levels to display, it's better to add further sub-navigation in a side menu on the category page in basic hyperlink format. This will allow more room for descriptions, allowing users to differentiate between choices.

Funnel to Conversion
Reserve the links on your home page for the highest priority operations of your Web site. Avoid using long lists and multiple levels in the home page navigation. Know your audience, plan out the tasks that are most important to them, and present direct links to these areas of your Web site from your home page. Keep it uncluttered and restricted to no more than three to five links on any individual area of your home page. And make these links progressively address the top questions your prospects will have, ending in a call to action, essentially creating a funnel to conversion.

Overall, your navigation system should be designed for your prospect with the goal of staying out of their way and serving them precisely what they need. The best navigation systems are simply not noticed by users because they function well rather than call attention to themselves. Enhancing the user experience and engaging prospects in topics that interest them will lead them quickly down a path toward conversion.

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Wed, 14 Oct 2009 13:51:08 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2009/10/14/the-trail-to-conversion-–-prospect-navigation.aspx
Keep the Bling Offlinehttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2009/10/22/keep-the-bling-offline.aspxYour Web site is not a video game. And even if it were, balancing technology with user needs would still be necessary. Most Web users are familiar with multimedia environments. Most people, whether they're technical or not, understand how to click on an image to enlarge it or use player controls to watch a video online. The use of multimedia on your Web site should serve a purpose-it should not only engage and immerse your audience, but make your content more accessible to them as well.

A Blessing or a Curse?

Strategically integrated motion and sound can and does assist usability. Content can be interacted with and therefore produce a more personal and customized experience. The key word is strategically. Indiscriminate use of multimedia creates a sensory overload, disrupts interaction, overwhelms and confuses users. While multimedia definitely has its place on the Web, interactive animation technology can very easily degrade the user experience rather than enhance it.  This usually happens in one of the following three scenarios:

  1. Gratuitous animation
    When a Web designer adds personal multimedia flare for the sake of expression, the interface design becomes cumbersome and less user friendly.
  2. Unconventional interactivity
    There are essential best practices for interactivity, such as the standards established by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), that should be followed for optimal user experience.
  3. Resource intensive
    This doesn't just mean bandwidth and CPU, but also time, thought and effort that would be best spent enhancing usability and quality of content.

The Time and Place

There is a time and a place for the appropriate use of rich media. Music sites should play music, movie and entertainment sites are great when they have sample clips and video libraries, automotive Web sites need to have configurators, and vacation destination sites are enhanced when they have virtual tours available. In all of these and similar cases, multimedia is used to complement the content rather than the primary mode of delivering the content.

Even when used appropriately, the system limitations of users should always be accounted for when designing Web sites with multimedia elements. Don't force users to download plug-ins or third party applications in order to use your Web site. If you feature audio or video elements, include text versions as well. Accessibility will ensure that your Web site reaches the widest audience possible.

A Word About Autoplay

Don't do it. The majority of visitors to your Web site want to decide for themselves what content they want and when. Immediately playing sound or video is forceful and intrusive, especially for users who land on your Web site from a quiet environment like his or her office. Additionally, tests have shown that autoplay versus click-to-play video drives down conversions.

Keep it Simple

Simple and graceful design with restraint and subtlety is not easy to do. It requires knowing your audience and their goals, having a solid strategy for how to help them achieve those goals, and executing that strategy effectively. Designing for elegance and functionality takes planning and forethought. With any design decision you make along the way, the question you should be asking yourself is: does this add value to the user? If the answer is no, simply don't do it. Eliminate clutter, simplify interactions, and make sure every element on every page has a purpose.

Sophisticated, user friendly Web sites are well planned, organized and functional. The essential rule for optimizing the user experience is function before beauty. Primarily, know your user. Strategizing and designing your Web site with your users in mind will always lead you in the right direction.

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Thu, 22 Oct 2009 17:54:03 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2009/10/22/keep-the-bling-offline.aspx
How To Win Friends - Part 1http://74.206.112.77/blog/2009/11/30/how-to-win-friends---part-1.aspxThere's Only One Question That Matters

Brand building is a customer loyalty labor of love. People will talk about your products and services. They'll talk about your brand. Satisfied customers are free marketing and PR for your brand. They're repeat purchasers as well as referrers. There are also unsatisfied customers who contribute negative word-of-mouth advertising, destroying your brand. Then there are the in-between-customers who are satisfied but passive. They're not talking about you and they're happy to go to a competitor if there is a better deal. Fred Reichheld, author of The Ultimate Question, classed these groups of customers into three distinct groups and named them Promoters, Passives, and Detractors. In this book, the ultimate question posed to customers is: How likely is it that you would recommend Company X to a friend or colleague?" Answers are given as a number on a scale from one to ten.

  • Promoters:
    Customers who talk positively about your brand, products, or services to their friends and family. These customers are those who assert that they would be extremely likely to recommend your company to a friend or colleague, answering with a nine or a ten.
  • Passives:
    Customers who have nothing bad to say about your company, but aren't as likely to recommend it to others. These customers answer with a seven or eight.
  • Detractors:
    Customers who are more likely to have negative things to say about your company. These customers' answers range from zero to six.

 

Start a Conversation

Opening a dialogue with your customers, making it easy and keeping it flowing is essential to building your brand and your promoters. One classic and very successful example is eBay's feedback and customer review capabilities. Not only are customers interacting with the brand, but with each other, and eBay stays out of their way while enhancing the user experience and gaining important information.

So how do you improve your score? That's part 2…

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Mon, 30 Nov 2009 17:35:09 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2009/11/30/how-to-win-friends---part-1.aspx
How to Win Friends - Part 2http://74.206.112.77/blog/2009/12/9/how-to-win-friends---part-2.aspxYour Survey Results Don't Matter

As we said in part one, there's only one question that matters. It's the opinion of your customer about your business that matters. People don't respond well to surveys and they're typically asking the wrong questions anyway.

According to a Forrester's survey, consumers trust the opinions of friends about products or services more than any other source, including published reviews, television commercials, or reviews from people they have never met. But a survey seems hardly necessary. All you have to do is ask yourself: How much do you trust the opinions of your friends and family? How do those opinions affect your purchase decisions?

According to Reichheld, a company's net promoter score (NPS) is the percentage of promoters minus the percentage of detractors.  It's an important number for any business, if not the only number that really matters. The average company in the United States has an NPS of less than 10%. This is dismal news. Or it's good news, depending on perception, because the potential to raise your NPS and be performing far above the average is high. So how do companies achieve this?

Your customers will be prepared to recommend your business when they feel good about doing business with you. To achieve this level of satisfaction for your customers, you must reach them on two levels:

  • Logically: Your customers know they're getting a great value. Whether the value is the price, features, quality and ease of use, or a combination, the value is obvious .
  • Emotionally: Your customers are loyal to you. They feel that your brand understands them, values them, listens to them and acts accordingly.

When both the head and the heart are invested, your customers will enthusiastically recommend your company to friends and colleagues. Your NPS score will soar and growth will follow.

What do you do with your detractors? That's part 3…

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Wed, 09 Dec 2009 17:12:31 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2009/12/9/how-to-win-friends---part-2.aspx
How to Win Friends - Part 3http://74.206.112.77/blog/2009/12/28/how-to-win-friends---part-3.aspxDon't Waste Your Time

Maximizing your promoters is a matter of designing your customer's whole experience with your brand, from social to search to your actual Web site, around shaping their positive opinions. Don't waste time focusing on just one aspect of your Web site to boost conversion or by focusing on just paid search to boost clicks. Spend your energy, time and money optimizing the whole experience for an integrated, cohesive brand story that will engage and charm your customers, winning them as promoters.

The Simple Formula

  1. Determine your company's NPS by surveying your customer base with two questions: the ultimate question noted above and the primary reason for the rating.
  2. Determine the results and address the top priorities of detractors.
  3. Address the priorities of Passives and Promoters and develop strategies to energize Passives into Promoters.
  4. After addressing these customer priorities and executing strategies, wait six months to one year and survey again.

Converting detractors into passives and passives into promoters will increase your score significantly. In order to achieve this, it's usually necessary to have a culture change within your business, making it customer-centric and incorporating superior customer service into your brand identity. It's very important to develop a strategy for handling complaints. This will require a customer feedback tool that's easy to use and unbiased, and a plan for addressing each complaint.

The formula is simple, but not easy. However, the concept is easy: The fundamental action required is to do right by your customers. Realigning your goals to meet your customers' priorities may not be an overnight process, but the rewards will inevitably be greater than the costs.

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Mon, 28 Dec 2009 16:45:41 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2009/12/28/how-to-win-friends---part-3.aspx
Effective Return on Investment Part 1http://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/1/19/effective-return-on-investment-part-1.aspxWhere's EROI?

What caused you to hold the beliefs that you have right now? Did you snap to instantly at the glance of an image or the affect of a few words? Not likely. You had a range of experiences over time that culminated into what you now believe. Getting here has been a process-a shaping and forming. This is the fundamental error with the idea of last click measurements in gauging Internet marketing campaign success. It's not the last ad before the sale that should get all the credit.

The ability to precisely track and report the performance of advertising campaigns online is unprecedented. It has's given marketers access to granular data that offline, traditional advertising campaigns had no way of measuring. However, even Internet marketing campaigns are multi-faceted and complex, --perhaps especially -because publishing content on the Web is so easy and instantaneous that it's often more widespread than offline campaigns. Presently, tThe reporting tools for measuring Internet marketing campaign success presently have no way of capturing this complexity. Instead, the standard model gives complete credit for conversion over  to the last ad clicked before transaction.

In this three3-part blog series, we'll discuss how the effective return on investment (EeROI) is measured across the funnel and how to track results effectively.

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Tue, 19 Jan 2010 17:17:26 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/1/19/effective-return-on-investment-part-1.aspx
Effective Return on Investment Part 2http://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/1/22/effective-return-on-investment-part-2.aspxIt's the Same Funnel, Online and Off

There is such a thing as an online sales funnel. Advertising networks and portals, as well as rich and social media platforms, have a wide reach that builds brand awareness. While search marketing tends to be the deal-closing step in the sales funnel, it's still just one step. There is no accounting for the interest and awareness building accomplished by the rest of the assets in the Internet marketing campaign.

Advanced Attribution - Spread The Love

Let's not forget that people usually conduct multiple searches and make many clicks to an e-commerce Web site before actually transacting a purchase. We all know the last click is not the whole picture. If it were, we'd all just bid on our branded key phrases and go home.

The Microsoft Atlas Institute developed Engagement Mapping technology, a model that evaluates the effectiveness of every touch point in the Internet marketing campaign, not just the last. What Engagement Mapping studies has revealed is that clicks don't trump views. A large portion of sponsored search ad clickers have seen a display ad before they clicked.

In part three3 of this series, we'll look at the whole picture and how best to analyze it when tracking results.

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Fri, 22 Jan 2010 19:35:27 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/1/22/effective-return-on-investment-part-2.aspx
Effective Return on Investment Part 3http://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/1/30/effective-return-on-investment-part-3.aspxSo What is tThe Whole Picture?

Every conversion has a story-, a history. When you capture data from the whole conversion history, you can optimize more effectively. The effective return on investment (EROI)EROI is a measurement of the performance of many different ads across a campaign, often from various publishers, that are reaching prospects before they convert into customers.

Different publishers serve different parts of the funnel.  Most publishers serve the upper and middle parts of the funnel, such as video and entertainment Web sites, news and lLifestyle Web sites and ad networks. With the Engagement Mapping model, weight is given to clicks, click orderr, and impressions.

Get a Dashboard

Consolidate tracking and reporting into one central dashboard. This will deliver the most accurate cross-channel campaign performance throughout the sales funnel. Impressions, as well as clicks, should be factored into conversion reporting. EROI is different based on campaign goals and the Engagement Mapping model accounts for these differences.

Overall, employing the Engagement Mapping model to determine the EROI for each asset in an Internet Marketing campaign will yield detailed and useful information with which to optimize every piece of a campaign, resulting in better performance.

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Sat, 30 Jan 2010 02:15:02 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/1/30/effective-return-on-investment-part-3.aspx
Synergistic Search Part 1http://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/2/10/synergistic-search-part-1.aspxThere's paid search and organic search. Too many companies see these as separate animals. But really, search is search. They work together or they don't work. When a new Web site launches, the organic rankings won't be instantly strong. It takes time to grow in popularity-meaning it will be a while before other, more reputable sites will link themselves to you in a process called back linking. Even if you come out of the gate with highly optimized content and sound architecture, which are pillars of success with organic search, patience will be required to see results. It can take months to rise through the competition, longer if you're competing in a popular industry. This is where paid search can fill in. While waiting for the return on your organic search investment, paid search ads can be up quickly and get immediate results. The formula for success in search is:

  • Content + Popularity + Money

The High School Analogy

Gaining success in search is like gaining popularity in high school. When you're the new kid, you're unknown and on the outside of all the cliques and lowest on the social hierarchy. There are a couple of ways that you can gain popularity. One quick way is with money- buy everybody lunch every day for a week. You'll have a host of instant friends. It may not last long, but the results will be immediate. Then there is the good old fashion way of making friends one by one. Prove you're a good and interesting person and eventually one of the more popular kids will take notice and bring you into the popular crowd. This takes time, but is lasting and cumulative.

In this five-part blog series, we'll discuss this formula at length, beginning with the importance of research in building your search strategy.

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Wed, 10 Feb 2010 18:48:12 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/2/10/synergistic-search-part-1.aspx
Synergistic Search Part 2http://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/2/19/synergistic-search-part-2.aspxThe Rewards of Research

The first step in any search campaign is research. Build lists of keywords and phrases to target, bucket them into groups such as audience segments and employ a tool to accurately forecast your results based on budget. Paid search campaigns can be built and launched from this data alone. Once the data is aggregated, content can be analyzed for targeted key phrases. Is your content optimized to capture that traffic? Are there gaps to be filled? Evaluate each page for which bucket it should target and optimize its tags and content accordingly.

It's also important to align your research to your specific business goals. How much of your desired result is new client acquisition and how much is retention? Create buckets and build content pages around these goals as well.

After research, the strategy begins with information architecture optimization. We'll take a look at that in part three.

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Fri, 19 Feb 2010 12:23:28 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/2/19/synergistic-search-part-2.aspx
Synergistic Search Part 3http://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/2/26/synergistic-search-part-3.aspxStrategic Versatility

The beauty of Internet marketing is that you can adjust strategy based on performance. If you're attracting a good amount of traffic for certain phrases, you can easily look at how that traffic is behaving and adjust your strategy accordingly. The number of page views and conversion rates are key points to watch. If paid search converts higher and organic yields more page views, you may want to create magnet pages to optimize these results.

The pillars of successful search performance to optimize based on performance are:

  • Information Architecture optimization
    • Content optimization
    • Popularity optimization
    • Paid search and display advertising budgets

Information Architecture Optimization

The way your Web site gets indexed by the search engine spiders can be guided by your linking and navigational structure. Keeping navigational information as plain text is key, as search engines don't index images of words. There needs to be a clean path from your home page to any page you want indexed by the search engines. Using bread crumb trails as secondary navigation is a good idea because page names are used as anchor text and they always lead back to the main page.

Information architecture informs content strategy, which relates directly to popularity. Remember the high school analogy? How interesting and cool you are is what makes you popular over time. We'll discuss content and popularity in part four of this blog series.

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Fri, 26 Feb 2010 13:07:33 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/2/26/synergistic-search-part-3.aspx
Synergistic Search Part 4http://74.206.112.77/internet-marketing-for/2010/3/8/synergistic-search-part-4.aspxContent Optimization

Knowing how to optimize your content means knowing your audience. What key phrases do they type in when looking for your products or services? What language do they use? Your audience conduct queries using their own vocabulary, so plain spoken content rich with these specific phrases is always the way to go. Avoid using industry jargon or clever turns of phrase. Headlines are the most important pieces of content on the page to optimize linguistically. First, because search engines give more weight to headlines when indexing your pages and second because your visitors often don't read beyond headlines when scanning your content. They're more likely to read on if the words they typed in the search field appear in your headline. One strategy to use when optimizing your content initially is to think about what your customers' problems are. It's tempting to focus on the features and benefits of your solution, yet your customers are more likely searching for the solution by describing their problem.

Popularity Optimization

Attracting links to your Web site is essential in building your reputation. A simple way to achieve this initially is to include links in your press releases, which will cause sites that report on news to link to your site. You can also submit your Web site to online directories, some of which charge for links. But the most important factor in attracting links from reputable sources is to have good content. If you have a high-quality product or service, people will talk about it and link to your Web site. If you have interesting content and helpful tools, other Web sites will link to you.

Back to the high school analogy once again-even if you're the most interesting and coolest kid around, the other kids aren't going to know that right away. So we'll talk about the part of the formula that gets instant popularity points even before anyone knows who you are-money.

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Mon, 08 Mar 2010 10:05:47 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/internet-marketing-for/2010/3/8/synergistic-search-part-4.aspx
Synergistic Search Part 4http://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/3/8/synergistic-search-part-4.aspxContent Optimization

Knowing how to optimize your content means knowing your audience. What key phrases do they type in when looking for your products or services? What language do they use? Your audience conduct queries using their own vocabulary, so plain spoken content rich with these specific phrases is always the way to go. Avoid using industry jargon or clever turns of phrase. Headlines are the most important pieces of content on the page to optimize linguistically. First, because search engines give more weight to headlines when indexing your pages and second because your visitors often don't read beyond headlines when scanning your content. They're more likely to read on if the words they typed in the search field appear in your headline. One strategy to use when optimizing your content initially is to think about what your customers' problems are. It's tempting to focus on the features and benefits of your solution, yet your customers are more likely searching for the solution by describing their problem.

Popularity Optimization

Attracting links to your Web site is essential in building your reputation. A simple way to achieve this initially is to include links in your press releases, which will cause sites that report on news to link to your site. You can also submit your Web site to online directories, some of which charge for links. But the most important factor in attracting links from reputable sources is to have good content. If you have a high-quality product or service, people will talk about it and link to your Web site. If you have interesting content and helpful tools, other Web sites will link to you.

Back to the high school analogy once again-even if you're the most interesting and coolest kid around, the other kids aren't going to know that right away. So we'll talk about the part of the formula that gets instant popularity points even before anyone knows who you are-money.

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Mon, 08 Mar 2010 10:09:03 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/3/8/synergistic-search-part-4.aspx
Eight Best Practices for Retail Franchise Web Siteshttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/4/6/eight-best-practices-for-retail-franchise-web-sites.aspxEight Best Practices for Retail Franchise Web Sites

We here so much about conversion rates for Internet Marketing campaigns, yet not all Web Sites are selling products or services online. Or, if they do, they do so as a secondary revenue stream while the primary purpose for the Web site is to get people in the door of one of their multiple retail store locations. These multi-location retailers have goals for their Web sites that are distinct from other types of retailers.

Foot Traffic, not Cyber Traffic

The conversion that multi-location retailers are looking for is turning cyber traffic into foot traffic. Once in the store, the POS marketing efforts can take over. For these retailers, the two main goals of a Web site are to help customers find their nearest store and navigate to it as well as to allow customers to research products before they purchase. Consistency of branding, messaging and domain names on Web sites are important, even in the context of paid search advertisements, to affirm credibility and bran safety, creating trust in the consumer's mind that right from the source is the best, most relevant information.

The following are eight best practices for multi-location retailer Web sites:

  1. Maintain only one Web site for consumers.
    Multiple Web sites for one corporation can be confusing for consumers because they don't know where to go or who to trust online.  One corporate Web site with a "store finder" utility is best for a retail franchise.
  2. Use only one domain name.
    Both search engines and consumers can get confused and disoriented when your information is scattered among multiple domains. You don't have multiple logos or multiple names for your company, so why have multiple domains?
  3. Build regional and location-specific microsites that are flexible and updated often.
    Microsites are smaller sites within your corporate Web site that can be tailored for each brand or location. Keep them fresh with new and frequently updated content.
  4. Use Geo-IP technology to automatically list the closest locations on the home page.
    One of the main things customers want to know when visiting your Web site is where to find one of your locations. Make this as easy as possible with Geo-IP targeting.
  5. Make location search prominent and easy to identify in navigation.
    Always feature the "Find a Store" link prominently in your main navigation.
  6. Use the domain as the display URL in all paid search campaigns.
    Vanity URLs or other domains can be misleading and disorienting to customers.
  7. Employ a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy that works.
    Make sure that the people who are looking for you can find you quickly and easily. Target both nationally, for generic terms, and locally, for location searches.
  8. Use Web forwarding services.
    If you use separate domains for tracking purposes, use the forwarding services provided by domain registrars to direct them directly to regional or location-specific pages within the main Web site.

Employ these eight best practices and watch the foot traffic through your retail location doors increase, sometime dramatically.

This is the first blog post in a four-part series about multi-location retailers and their Internet best practices. Next time, we'll address the three main reasons why it's important for these retailers to have only one domain Web site.

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Tue, 06 Apr 2010 02:35:56 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/4/6/eight-best-practices-for-retail-franchise-web-sites.aspx
The Three Main Benefits of Having One Web Sitehttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/4/23/the-three-main-benefits-of-having-one-web-site.aspxThe mantra, "united we stand, divided we fall," is applicable to multi-location retailers working to secure a position of dominance in search results. Search engine experts recommend a sub-folder structure, which means having location and regional microsites within the same top-level domain. SEOmoz, a leading SEO source, discusses the pitfalls of multiple domains in the following article excerpt:

"When to use an entirely new domain? When you don't want it to rank at the search engines. Seriously, though, a new domain, even for many of the world's largest brands, is not a particularly good idea. It's practical for entirely new campaigns, like a new movie (though if I were Warner Brothers or MGM, I'd opt for warnerbrothers.com/newmovie) or a new brand, and it's obviously necessary when building a new company. Other than these limited uses, however, multiple domains hosting content that could fit on an existing domain is brand dilution. I'd liken it to retail stores only taking American Express Gold cards and rejecting AmEx Corporate or AmEx Blue - overly segmented and dangerous for the consumer mindset (particularly consumers named Google, Yahoo! or MSN)."  - SEOmoz

Why Keep a Single Web Site?

  1. Popularity: The key to search engine ranking is popularity. Leveraging the almost one million visits per month to the main franchise domain makes each local microsite even more popular.
  2. Ranking: If each location has a Web site, this creates unnecessary competition for the same search engine ranking. By contrast, pages on an authoritative Web site will always outrank a new domain or landing page. The authoritative ranking in the #1 or #2 spot for the keyword "massage" with over 700,000 searches per month would be significantly jeopardized with multiple top-level domains.
  3. Branding: Both consumers and search engines don't have to figure out which is the official Web site. It's always having one Web site that limits brand dilution.

In part three of this series, we'll address five common pitfalls that can easily be avoided by having and maintaining a single Web site.

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Fri, 23 Apr 2010 09:41:44 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/4/23/the-three-main-benefits-of-having-one-web-site.aspx
Mobile Site Tipshttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/4/26/mobile-site-tips.aspxRemember when mobile phones were just for talking? Then came texting, which reinvigorated American shorthand and made live conversations practically obsolete. Now, most people with mobile phones also surf the Internet with them, use them for maps and directions and even shoot photos and videos with them. With the world literally at their fingertips, mobile phone users, or smartphone users, count on mobile Web sites that are quick to load and easy to use in the small interface.

With over 32.2 million smartphone units sold in 2008*, there's no question that the demand for mobile Web sites is growing. Here are some tips on how you can make an efficient mobile Web site that will give your users the interaction they're expecting.

Mobile Detection
Your Web site needs to detect when a user is on a mobile phone and automatically redirect to the mobile Web site. Adding a "mobile site" link to your regular Web site defeats the purpose, as mobile users then have to wait for the entire site to load then go looking for the link.

It's also important to have a "full site" link on your Mobile Web site. Mobile Web sites often don't have all the content the full site provides. Avoid putting your users in a position where they can't find what they need.

Who said bigger is better?
There's nothing more tedious and frustrating than waiting for a Web site to load on your mobile phone when you only need a small piece of information, but that doesn't mean you should throw aesthetics out the window. Be smart about your mobile Web site design and graphics:

  • Use html/css techniques when possible instead of graphics. Take advantage of borders, background color, and ascii symbols.
  • If you are using graphics:
    • Be smart about file formats. Make sure you choose the file format that provides you with the best image quality and smallest file size.
    • Repeat what you have. Duplicate image use where possible.
    • Size Down. The average width of some of the most popular smartphones is 320px. There's no need to have graphics wider than 320px on your mobile Web site.

Simplicity is Key
Give your users what they want.  Analyze what your Web site offers and use that information to determine what resources your visitors want most, especially when they're on a smartphone. They're typically looking for locations, hours, contact information, prices, etc. Put only the most important resources on the mobile Web site. Users can find additional information by clicking on the "full site" link, if needed.

Resources
* http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=688116

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Mon, 26 Apr 2010 11:37:49 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/4/26/mobile-site-tips.aspx
Five Pitfalls to Avoid by Having a Single Web Sitehttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/5/4/five-pitfalls-to-avoid-by-having-a-single-web-site.aspxThere are a few clear benefits to multi-location retailers for keeping a single Web site rather than maintaining multiple and separate sites per location or category, which we discussed in part three of this series. There are also some clear pitfalls that can easily be avoided, such as the following top five:

  1. Avoid duplicate content.
    Duplicate content, specifically as it results from affiliate marketers or multi-location retailers that use the same set of templates placed on different Web sites, damages link popularity and brand integrity. The affect on ranking is measured by many links to one URL, not many links to many URLs. Google now singles out these duplicate content Web sites for blacklisting.
  2. Avoid competition for rankings.
    Multiple Web sites create confusion not just for the consumer but also for search engines. By having them, search engines must work to determine which of the hundreds of Web sites is more relevant.
  3. Avoid link farms, Web rings and site networks.
    Links to and from many related Web sites that are not under one domain could appear to the search engines as link farms or site networks, which are blacklisted.
  4. Avoid quality issues.
    The quality of the site counts. Quality is not just visual appeal, but technical foundation, proper code and accurate content.
  5. Avoid looking like a phishing scam.
    Anyone can purchase a domain name and create a site that includes the brand name. Phishing scams often use these tactics to collect personal information from consumers. Maintaining one Web site prevents consumers and even today's Web browsers from incorrectly identifying the site as a phishing site.

In the final part of this series, we'll address the increasingly challenging world of e-mail marketing, offer four best practices for list management and look at what some other top retailers are doing.

 

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Tue, 04 May 2010 14:49:45 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/5/4/five-pitfalls-to-avoid-by-having-a-single-web-site.aspx
The Four Best Practices for E-mail List Managementhttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/5/19/the-four-best-practices-for-e-mail-list-management.aspxGiven the ever-declining response rates from e-mail marketing initiatives, e-mail list management is a top priority for retailers. Consumers who opt-in to receive e-mail from a retailer will hold that brand personally responsible for how it uses e-mail. When they unsubscribe, they expect to do it once. Having a central system for list management simplifies the process, ensuring unsubscribe requests take effect system-wide. Further, a centralized list management system can help ensure compliance with CAN-SPAM and reduce SPAM scores by improving the quality of the messages.

Something Smells Phishy
Many brands struggle with avoiding phishing scams, which are fake e-mails that appear to be sent from a trusted company, yet they're scammers sending customers to a spoof Web site to steal their personal information. Most companies educate their customers on how to spot and report these spoof e-mails and Web sites. If your company has multiple legitimate Web sites, how will your customers distinguish between official sites and phishing scams?

Here are four actions you can take to improve your e-mail marketing:

  1. Centralize the management of e-mail lists and create a global unsubscribe.
  2. Always link to one main, official Web site to avoid looking like a phishing scam.
  3. Maintain and enforce a corporate privacy policy.
  4. Localize the e-mails and include announcements on local events and promotions.

 

What are other retailers doing?
Let's leave off with some retailers who exemplify these principles in action. While some retailers struggle with legacy technology that impedes the ability to aggregate local and regional microsites, the following SEO-friendly retail franchises maintain a single top-level domain structure for their Web sites:

  • Red Door Spas uses one top-level domain with SEO friendly location microsites: http://www.reddoorspas.com/RedDoorLocations/newyorkcityspa.aspx
  • The Little Gym uses one top-level domain. All location-specific top-level domains 301 redirect to the location microsites within the site. http://www.thelittlegym.com/ashevillenc/pages/default.aspx
  • The UPS Store uses one top-level domain with location microsites:  http://www.theupsstorelocal.com/2020/
  • Life Time Fitness uses one top-level domain with a sub-domain for location microsites: http://clubs.lifetimefitness.com/page/Allen-McKinney/11274/
  • LA Fitness also uses one top-level domain with location microsites, but could benefit from search friendly URLs: http://www.lafitness.com/Pages/clubhome.aspx?clubid=458&clubStatusID=1
  • SuperCuts is also similar to LA Fitness:
  • http://www.supercuts.com/salondetail/default.asp?salonid=9676&searchAddr=85282
  • Tony & Guy has a good URL structure, uses Geo-IP on the search page but could benefit from moving the Geo-IP list to the home page:
  • http://toniguy.com/salon/chandler_fashion_center/default.aspx
  • Brite Smile has microsites with an SEO friendly URL structure:
  • http://www.britesmile.com/teeth-whitening-med-spa-beverly-hills.html
  • State Farm Insurance also requires that even agent domains like www.SharonLayman.com redirect via Web forwarding to their microsites on the State Farm domain. http://online2.statefarm.com/b2c/sf/agent/03/1237

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Wed, 19 May 2010 16:35:20 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/5/19/the-four-best-practices-for-e-mail-list-management.aspx
The Fourth Digital Advertising Campaign Type http://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/6/28/the-fourth-digital-advertising-campaign-type-.aspxEveryone's intimately familiar with the standard available pricing models for online advertising campaigns: cost per action (CPA), cost per click (CPC), and cost per thousand impressions (CPM). What's emerged in the industry along side RTB exchange technology is something called dynamic cost per thousand impressions, or dCPM.

For those yet unfamiliar, RTB stands for real time bid. The technology infrastructure allows demand side platforms or DSPs to participate in real time auctions for remnant inventory. When an ad call hits the auction from a publisher, the DSPs seated there analyze thousands of data points and decide in a millisecond whether to bid on the impression and at what cost.

A New Level of Performance
Selecting a pricing type and setting a bid on a campaign is what determines delivery and performance for that campaign. The most common pricing model has historically been CPM (cost per thousand impressions). A CPC (cost per click) pricing model is usually used for targeted campaigns where the goal is to drive traffic to a specific landing page. CPA (cost per action) pricing models are where an advertiser pays only for approved actions as defined in a contract with the publisher. These types are rare and typically only available to big brand advertisers with a proven track record of performance.

The Birth of the Performance Goal
When you run a CPM campaign, you can either set a bid for a straight CPM, purchasing a set number of impressions at a set price, or you can set a performance goal that the ad server will optimize toward, depending on the ad server and your service contract. The performance goal can be either a CPC goal (cost per click) or a CPA goal (cost per action).

In the second part of this blog series, we'll take a look at how and why dynamic CPM (dCPM) is a game changer in the performance goal playing field.

 

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Mon, 28 Jun 2010 14:38:31 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/6/28/the-fourth-digital-advertising-campaign-type-.aspx
Why dCPM is Best for ROIhttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/7/9/why-dcpm-is-best-for-roi.aspxThe Fourth Digital Advertising Campaign Type - PART 2

A dynamic CPM or dCPM campaign works the same as a CPM campaign in that you set a bid that is a flat price for one thousand impressions and add a CPC or CPA goal to optimize toward. The important difference is that with CPM, the ad server can only pay the exact bid amount for each impression, regardless of the goal. With dCPM and with the advent of RTB exchanges, each ad call can be evaluated in real time to determine what the impression is worth and the DSP can bid that price. In the end, it will average out to the set bid price or just under.

For example, if you have a dCPM bid of $2.00, your DSP might bid 50 cents for one impression and $3.50 for another, depending on its value. The dCPM model is ideal for RTB exchanges because, depending on the DSP's technology infrastructure, it can potentially maximize performance by having the flexibility to "hand pick" each impression and pay exactly what it's worth. With a flat CPM model, you would never have access to those more valuable impressions, which are the more likely to convert. Likewise, you may overpay for many impressions that are worth far less than the CPM bid amount.

Every advertiser is after the same goal: To maximize their ROI. The power of dCPM combined with RTB exchanges creates a whole new level of competition and performance potential that has been and will continue to generate significantly higher ROIs for advertiser's who have access to the technology and infrastructure.

 

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Fri, 09 Jul 2010 12:59:56 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/7/9/why-dcpm-is-best-for-roi.aspx
The Top Three Targeting Methods for Internet Marketinghttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/7/16/the-top-three-targeting-methods-for-internet-marketing.aspxYou know who your best audience is. You've done the market research and compiled mass amounts of analytics on past campaigns telling you exactly what segments of the consumer population are most likely to become your customers. Now, how do you reach them?

There are a number of popular audience targeting methods used for Internet marketing campaigns. Many advertisers are confused as to which ones to leverage and at what cost? For SEM or paid search, the targeting has historically been keyword and inventory based, perhaps with a frosting of geo-targeting on top. But what about display? Is the targeting being left in the hands of the Ad servers or exchange networks?

The Digital Advertising Big Picture
Digital advertising has been on the rise. It's not stopping, either. In the US, Forrester predicts that display advertising will grow from $8.4 billion at year-end to $17 billion in 2014. Online display advertising is growing and changing so quickly, audience targeting is more complex than ever. There are also more Internet users than ever, so how do you talk to the right ones at the right time and most importantly, the right price? Let's look at the top three categories of targeting being used today and the success rates of each.

  1. Standard Targeting - This category is for the highest level and most simplistic targeting methods that are almost always used in any Internet marketing campaign. These include location (geographic, time of day, languages), demographic (gender, age, economic spectrum, household income), technographic (browsers, operating systems, connection speeds, and screen resolutions), and inventory (Web sites, publishers, categories, and channels).
  2. Behavioral Targeting - The level of complexity here can be infinite. Advertisers can build custom behavioral targeting segments with multiple data points to configure an accurate behavioral profile. Behavioral targeting can yield high conversion rates when used properly. The important fact to consider is the more complex your BT segments, the less inventory available. As you limit your target audience, you also limit the range of inventory available for those select users.
  3. Retargeting - Retargeting (also called remarketing) involves placing a Beacon on a page to collect data on site visitors, tracking their behavior (such as uncompleted purchases), then serving ads to those visitors related to the same product or service. The conversion rate is often highest on retargeting tactics over any other targeting tactic because the audience has already demonstrated a certain level of interest by visiting the site.

All About the User Experience
In addition to boosting performance, a primary reason to execute a well-planned targeting strategy on your Internet Marketing campaigns is to deliver a better user experience for your prospects and customers. When you target specific audiences you can create relevant messages specifically for them. The more relevant your message, the more useful it is for the consumer. The ability to deliver relevant messages to different types of consumers is arguably the most important function of targeting.

But what about the bottom line? Of course, performance is also paramount.  In part two of this blog series, we'll discuss how to enhance targeting and boost performance.

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Fri, 16 Jul 2010 12:54:37 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/7/16/the-top-three-targeting-methods-for-internet-marketing.aspx
How to Enhance Targeting and Boost Performancehttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/8/3/how-to-enhance-targeting-and-boost-performance.aspxThe simple answer is one word: Relevance. In fact, the only reason to even bother enhancing and fine-tuning your targeting strategy is to be able to speak to a specific audience with a relevant message of interest to them.

Without relevance, performance will suffer. Showing a generic advertisement to a specific group of male car enthusiasts in the Midwest, between the ages of 18 and 25, who have demonstrated behavior of being in the market for your product seems like a waste of an opportunity. Why target so specifically unless you're going to customize an offer for them that is relevant to their location, age, gender, and interests?

Best Practices for Top Targeting Methods

The general rule is: The more targeted the audience, the more relevant and specific the message. Here's some good ideas or best practices for targeting at different levels.

  • Standard Targeting - If it's high level and loose, keep the message more generic and add dynamic fields for varying information. With targeting by gender only, for example, you might separate the messages and/ or offers by gender. For gender, inventory, and geo targeting, you can create dynamic fields for place and keyword and/ or interest by site. In general, standard targeting should always be used and some variation in the messaging for relevance should as well.
  • Behavioral Targeting - Configure offers relevant to the specific user behaviors you are targeting. For example, if you are advertising to home improvers who have looked at three or more resources for roofing materials in the past 30 days, you can offer them a sale on ladders or nails, or materials, or a how-to guide, or whatever relevant product or service you have to sell. Address the user specifically with a relevant headline such as, "Looking to improve your roof?"
  • Retargeting - In retargeting messages, be sure to address the consumer's future intention, motivation and action. And plan out at which levels of engagement you want to address them. Is it enough that a user just visited a page? Does there need to be some level of interaction as well? Retargeting works best when consumers are still in the consideration phase for a purchase, so recency is an important consideration. Customize the message for retargeted users, perhaps using a new or better offer to motivate them to return and convert.

Depending on your delivery goals and the sample size, you can also layer on additional standard targeting criteria when it's relevant on top of BT and Retargeting. For example, you can send one message to men in a retargeting group and another to women in the same group.

What's The Point?

The point is, relevance is the sole purpose of targeting and it will be what drives performance. Be strategic about your creative and your messaging at every contact point through the funnel. Take advantage of the new technologies available that make targeting so robust and accessible by using it properly with relevance.

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Tue, 03 Aug 2010 09:33:07 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/8/3/how-to-enhance-targeting-and-boost-performance.aspx
Top Three Ways to Prepare for the Search Engine Futurehttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/8/25/top-three-ways-to-prepare-for-the-search-engine-future.aspxSearch engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) has been on the top of advertisers' priority lists for a while now. These have historically been the primary and least expensive ways to drive traffic to a Web site. But what if you're among the top search results and the traffic doesn't come? Microsoft's new Bing "Decision Engine" is starting to change the landscape for search engines. It's goal is to push relevant, quality content directly through to the user, keeping traffic from clicking off.

So what can you do? With search engines shifting from delivering relevant topic-related results to delivering actual content, it's something to think about. We have a few suggestions. Here are the top three ways to prepare for this paradigm shift in the role of search engines.

1. Quality Over Relevance
For a long time, Advertisers have optimized the content on their Web sites to match keywords and phrases that audiences were typing into search engines. The name of the game was relevance, and it was achieved by planting the keywords and phrases strategically within page titles, navigation, H1 tags, etc.

Reduce Bounce
But was the content matching what audiences were really looking for? Finding your Web site from a keyword search is only the first step. Whether a user stays around for longer than a few seconds after that is what matters. Knowing your audience and delivering content that's likely to engage them is the important second step, but now it's part of the first as well.

Be Better Than The Next Guy
Search engines are going to be feeding the actual content from your Web site to the user, alongside similar content from competitor Web sites. You have one chance to attract a user's attention, engage her in your message, and make her want to see more. The content pushed through on the search engine has to be succinct but hard hitting. Be aware of what your competition is up to and make an effort to one up them.

In part two of this three-part blog series, we'll discuss the second top way to prepare for the search engine paradigm shift: Keep Content Fresh.

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Wed, 25 Aug 2010 10:27:47 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/8/25/top-three-ways-to-prepare-for-the-search-engine-future.aspx
Four Internet Marketing Campaign Scenarioshttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/10/24/four-internet-marketing-campaign-scenarios.aspxGetting the performance and delivery results that you need from display advertising campaigns can be difficult. It's often a complex puzzle to solve with myriad variables affecting the outcome - an adjustment to frequency can set off a dip in performance, for example, yet adjusting it the other way would impact delivery. This blog series will discuss the four Internet marketing campaign scenarios that call for optimization of performance, delivery, or both:

  1. Performing and delivering
  2. Performing and not delivering
  3. Delivering and not performing
  4. Not performing and not delivering

Any changes made to a campaigns setting can affect either or both performance and delivery. These are the four scenarios that could possible result from a change to settings. It's disheartening to see a necessary change to the budget, for example, result in lower performance. However, there are several tactics that can be applied manually that will assist in keeping performance and delivery optimal throughout all scenarios. Below are various scenarios that you might encounter with any campaign along with a list of tactics you can employ to optimize performance and/ or delivery with each.

 Performing and Delivering

This is the best case scenario. When a campaign is meeting or exceeding both performance and delivery goals, you may want to leave it alone and simply monitor it for any changes. You may also be able to generate even better performance from it, however you should be conservative with tactics toward this objective so as not to detract from delivery. Some ideas for how to safely maximize performance without detracting from the status quo are:

  1. Run a site performance report and add more Inventory to what's working best. If your ads are running on the ComScore top 100 Web sites, for example, you might determine which of these is registering the most clicks or the highest CTR and determine whether you can purchase more of that inventory.
  2. Pause any inventory that is not performing well. Similarly, if there are Web sites that your Ads are consistently not performing well on, you can simply pause the use of that Inventory and allocate that budget to better performing inventory.
  3. Extend your target audience to include additional, similar consumer groups. There are several third party data and analytics tools that will generate an extended audience based on what types of consumers are converting most often for your campaigns. Use one of these tools to extend your audience to include all potential converters.

In part two of this three part blog series, we'll look at the second scenario and how to optimize it: performing and not delivering.

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Sun, 24 Oct 2010 19:34:49 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/10/24/four-internet-marketing-campaign-scenarios.aspx
The Second Internet Marketing Campaign Scenariohttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/11/16/the-second-internet-marketing-campaign-scenario.aspxPerforming and Not Delivering
Delivery is a tricky problem. If you have a very specialized audience such as a remarketing group, it's most likely a small audience. In these cases, it's often a high performing campaign while it struggles to meet delivery goals. If a campaign is meeting or exceeding the performance goal but not meeting delivery, there are several approaches to take that will accelerate spend while minimizing the risk to performance.

Troubleshooting Checklist for Under-Delivering Campaigns:

  • Are all Ad variations active?  Has an Internet crawler paused any?  Or are the tags corrupted? - Check to make sure the Ads are actively running and being properly tracked in all Networks.
  • What is the frequency setting?  Can it be loosened? - If possible, increase the frequency setting to up to five impressions per user per day. Often times, an Internet user will miss the first two or three impressions anyway, so delivering five to each user each day increases the chance that the Ads will be noticed.
  • What is the performance goal? Is it too tight? - Often, a machine-learning technology in the DSP will keep delivery low to increase the performance factor when a performance goal is set very tight. Adjust the performance goal by about 10% to 20% per day until you notice an increase in delivery.
  • Is the targeting too restrictive? - Validate that the right audience is being reached by running performance reports by user profile or behavioral profile. Find more inventory for that audience once validated.
  • Are all possible inventory sources being utilized? - Check to see if there are additional inventory sources available to you that you have not used for your campaign.

Delivery Boosting Tactics Checklist

  1. Add more inventory sources similar to well performing inventory - if delivery improves but performance suffers, roll back or pause the additional inventory
  2. Adjust the frequency to somewhere between two and five impressions per user per day to find out where the balance is between optimal performance and delivery.
  3. Relax the targeting constraints or expand the audience to similar behavioral categories if the target audience is too small.
  4. Increase the bid amount if possible to allow your Ads to play in a higher tier of inventory
  5. Reset performance goals to match market averages. Do your research and make expectations align with the current market.
  6. Increase inventory that is performing well, if possible. Often, it's not possible to get more of a good thing, but sometimes it is.
  7. Adjust the timing, if possible. If the flight dates are flexible with the Advertiser, extend the duration of the campaign.

In the final installment of this three part blog series, we'll look at the last two scenarios and how to optimize for them: delivering and not performing; not performing and not delivering.

 

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Tue, 16 Nov 2010 23:43:12 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2010/11/16/the-second-internet-marketing-campaign-scenario.aspx
The Final Two Internet Marketing Campaign Scenarioshttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2011/1/7/the-final-two-internet-marketing-campaign-scenarios.aspxDelivering and Not Performing
This is a scary scenario because you're having no trouble spending money, yet you're not seeing any return on your investment. When a campaign is meeting delivery goals and falling short of performance goals, the first step is to troubleshoot what is causing the problem. Run site performance reports to find non-performing inventory. Run analytics reports to filter Ads and offers that aren't working as well. Below is a troubleshooting checklist for under-performing campaigns.

Troubleshooting Checklist for Under-Performing Campaigns

  • Are the beacons working?  Conversion and remarketing? - If you are using tracking beacons to register data for conversions, test to make sure they are working properly. Validate the beacons for both conversions and remarketing.
  • What is the frequency setting?  Can it be tightened? - Make sure the same users aren't seeing the same impression too many times. More than seven impressions per user per day is usually wasteful.
  • What is the true performance Goal?  How are the other networks doing? Conduct market research and determine what the average CPA is for this type of product or service. Make sure the performance goal is competitive yet realistic.
  • Which inventory sources are working?  Which are not performing? - Pause or slow the pacing of Ad delivery for non-performing inventory.

Listed below are a number of tactics you can try to boost performance while keeping up with delivery. It's generally a best practice to try only one tactic at a time and allow a day or two for each change to have its effect before trying the next tactic.

Performance Boosting Tactics Checklist

  1. Adjust frequency setting to find the best balance between delivery and performance - typically, between two and five per day is recommended.
  2. What is the performance goal? Is it too high? -Adjust the performance goal down by about 10% to 20% per day until you notice an increase in performance.
  3. Lower bids, which will cause the DSP to be more selective for Ad serving decisions.
  4. Create additional campaigns for more targeted inventory buys with increased bids. Spend the money on top Web properties with known reputations for high conversion, such as Yahoo.
  5. Optimize the creative, messaging, and offers in your Ads and make sure its relevant to your target audience. Try multivariate testing to further refine each creative element.
  6. Pause or discontinue Ads or inventory sources that are not performing

 

Not Performing and Not Delivering

If your campaign is meeting neither performance nor delivery, address the performance first with the tactics listed above. Once performance improves, address delivery also with above tactics, doing each at a time as conservatively as possible so as not to upset performance.

Optimizing Internet marketing campaigns is a delicate art. There are many levers and knobs where the slightest adjustment in either direction can throw off the balance between these two opposing goal types: performance and delivery. Try out some of these tactics in your next Internet marketing campaign and let us know how they work by posting a comment to this blog.

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Fri, 07 Jan 2011 15:26:06 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2011/1/7/the-final-two-internet-marketing-campaign-scenarios.aspx
How to Plan a Successful Contesthttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2011/2/15/how-to-plan-a-successful-contest.aspx"50% of online users like to enter a contest or sweepstakes at least once a month. Businesses that offer contests have twice as many social network followers."
- Forrester Research

Before you jump on the contest bandwagon and whip your marketing/PR/interactive team into a frenzy, take note: contests are a lot of work. There are seemingly a million details to iron out, contingencies to plan for, people to manage, sponsors to coordinate, partnerships to form - and that's just the tip of the iceberg. But don't let that detract you. Contests can be worth every penny of your carefully allocated marketing budget. The results can provide your company with great exposure, new customers and loyal fans. That is, if you start out right.

Think twice. Launch once.

By developing a strong strategy first, you can be sure that your contest will be a win/win for all involved. Here are seven objectives that should be part of your contest strategy.

1. Define Your Goals. 

If you're a new company, perhaps you need more exposure. If your sales have hit a plateau, perhaps you need to re-engage your customers or gain new ones. Maybe you need to increase your database by 25%. Be specific, but realistic.

2. Target Your Audience.

Are the customers you have now the customers you want tomorrow? By clearly defining and prioritizing your audience, you will be able to create a contest that will appeal to their interests. 

3. Channels of Engagement.

Is your audience technologically savvy or do they prefer email or snail mail? Once you know how they prefer to communicate, you'll know how to reach them. 

4. Find Partners: Sponsors/Charities.

Is there another company or charity that shares your vision? Would they be good fit? If it makes sense, consider approaching them and pitching your idea. There is strength in numbers.

5. Define The Prize. 

Make sure the prize you choose is valuable enough to get people excited. The bigger the prize, the bigger the buzz.

6. Plan Your Timeline.

Figure out when and how long your contest will take place. Will it fall on a holiday? Or end on a weekday? Can you afford a four-week media buy for your four-week contest? Will a one-week contest build enough momentum?

By carefully considering these details, you can move to the next step - coming up with a contest and implementing it. 

This is the second installment in a month-long series about Contest Marketing.

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Tue, 15 Feb 2011 18:29:54 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2011/2/15/how-to-plan-a-successful-contest.aspx
Three Reasons Why Contest Marketing Builds More Than Buzzhttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2011/2/6/three-reasons-why-contest-marketing-builds-more-than-buzz.aspxWith both Mercedes-Benz and Audi both running high-profile social networking contests integrated with their Super Bowl marketing efforts, it's clear that contest marketing has evolved to a whole new level. Forrester Research notes that "50% of online users like to enter a contest or sweepstakes at least once a month and businesses that offer contests have twice as many social network followers." We predict this trend to continue and see 2011 as "the year of the contest" as it becomes the central tactic for social media engagement. How long will the trend last? When will contests go the way of "quizzes" on Facebook? This will depend on how committed marketers are to the new engagement marketing paradigm and the depth of their overall social strategy. Will this tactic help your business or organization to achieve its marketing goals?

One obvious outcome is to build buzz. And there's no question about it - a successful contest can quickly generate a lot of exposure by capturing attention and gaining connections through link building.

The problem with buzz.

It's the bee and the flower syndrome - buzz is fleeting. As quickly as it comes, it goes. For a bee, the flower is the prize. But once the bee has had its fill, it's off to the next flower, or in this case, once your contest is over, your newly minted "fan" moves on to the next hot topic of the day. The reality is that just because you've gained a "link" doesn't mean that you've won a "fan". Building buzz, therefore, is just one out of many outcomes gained from contests.

Contest Marketing can help you achieve these goals as well:

  1. Build Your Brand. Increase Awareness.  Many of your new "contestant" connections on your social media platforms may not know your brand. This is a great opportunity to share who and what your company is all about. Keep the conversation online casual. Remember this is not a sales pitch or one-sided conversation. It's important to ask questions too.  
  2. Build Feedback. Gain Insights. Think of your newly increased database as more than a list of emails with inboxes just waiting for your next swanky e-blast campaign. It's so much more than that. Your database is a potential think tank. Instead of highly paid consultants or experts, you have access to a constant stream of thoughts, opinions and ideas from those who know or care about your company. Hey, if it works for Starbucks, imagine what it can do for you.
  3. Build Loyalty. Achieve Lasting Success. Humphrey Bogart said to Louie at the end of Casablanca, "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship," - the same sentiment should hold true for you. The end of your contest marks the beginning of an opportunity to create true fans. You've created a connection, and now it's up to you to turn it into a relationship. You have the platforms in place; use them by engaging with your base on every level. From providing quick updates to asking questions and even doing more contests - you will turn buzz into a constant hum of activity.

Remember, creating buzz is a short-term goal of Contest Marketing. Gaining a loyal following is what you really should be striving for if you want long-term success. Don't be a one-hit wonder. 

Next week we'll talk about what you need to do to implement a successful contest.

This is the first installment in a month-long series about Contest Marketing.

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Sun, 06 Feb 2011 19:01:36 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2011/2/6/three-reasons-why-contest-marketing-builds-more-than-buzz.aspx
20 Contest Ideas To Jumpstart Your Internet Marketing Effortshttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2011/2/22/20-contest-ideas-to-jumpstart-your-internet-marketing-efforts.aspxSales are so-so. Conversions have plateaued. Leads are lackluster. Your company needs to quickly kick things into gear. Which is why you've decided that now is the perfect time for a contest promotion. After defining key goals and objectives, researching target audiences, forming partnerships and developing guidelines, the only thing that remains is coming up with a contest idea. Which isn't always as easy as it seems. Fortunately, we've helped many businesses develop and implement contests online and off.

Here is a list of our favorite concept directions for contests to help you generate your own.

  • Come See Us. These promotions encourage users to show up at a location at a specific time to receive an offer or enhanced experience.
  • Daily Deal. Create a daily deal contest with limited, extreme offers to keep your audience interacting on a daily basis. It could be something as simple as: "The first 10 people who "retweet" or "like" this post will receive 30% off…"
  • Daily Drawings. Today's new fans can be automatically entered to win a prize package.
  • Essay. Essay contests can be used to have users share stories or nominate people for a specific honor or prize.
  • Fan Challenges. Challenges create competition among followers from two social graphs and are normally used to drive "likes" or other forms of participation to a third party.
  • Friend-get-friend. These promotions typically include a giveaway to followers who get a set number of their social network to like or follow the promoter.
  • Group Deals. Group promotions are normally tied to an increased number of fans, a specific number of posts, or other activity that would trigger the deal.
  • Guessing. Answers that are closest to the actual number or score qualify for entry into a drawing.
  • Icon Updates. Provide users with an icon or profile picture they can use to promote their association.
  • Idea Generation. Users can be a great source of ideas for everything from product names to ways to improve.
  • Mobile Check-ins. Deals can be made available to users who check in at a location and share their whereabouts with their friends.
  • Photo Caption. Asking users to participate by creating captions for photos is an easy way to increase participation.
  • Photo. User-generated photo submission contest are not as demanding as video contests.
  • Puzzler. Users who figure out the answer to a puzzle or riddle qualify for entry into a drawing and automatically get a smaller prize for the correct answer.
  • Secret Word. A form of special offer that requires users to say the word in order to use the offer at a local retailer.
  • Show Ups or Tweet Ups. These promotions provide users with an offer available at a specific time and place only good for fans and followers.
  • Special Offers. Offers are a key part of the Social Web experience and can be structured to require users to become followers.
  • Treasure Hunts. Treasure hunts are great for generating foot traffic and connecting the Social Web with the real world.
  • Trivia. Trivia contests can be designed for sponsors, charities and ticket giveaways.
  • Video. User-generated video contests require a higher-level of participation but can be effective at generating viral views.

Have another idea for a contest that you'd like to share? Or see one that you'd like help implementing? Share them below or give us a call. In fact, if you're one of the first three callers, you'll win a free… See? We got your attention. Proof that Contest Marketing does work.

This is the third installment in a month-long series about Contest Marketing.

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Tue, 22 Feb 2011 18:50:14 GMThttp://74.206.112.77/blog/2011/2/22/20-contest-ideas-to-jumpstart-your-internet-marketing-efforts.aspx