6 Ways to Optimize for Searches Other Than Google

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by Jayson DeMers

When people think about search engine optimization, they usually want to know how to make their site rank higher in Google. Every business has a website and Google is responsible for two-thirds of all searches online… so if you’re going to rank for one search engine, it should be Google.

But Google isn’t the only search engine that people use, and it’s not the only one worth optimizing for — especially if you serve a particular niche or operate within a certain industry that may generate traffic from another angle.

Alternatives for Optimization

Depending on your line of work, you might wish to include these search alternatives in your optimization strategy:

1. Amazon.

As BigCommerce explains, Amazon’s number-one goal is to make buyers happy — which means giving them more of what they want, and a better experience overall. To begin with, how you optimize your product listings plays a huge role in how you’ll turn up in search. Make sure to fill out all categories, tags, titles, and descriptions as fully and accurately as possible, so you’ll be viewed as a relevant entry. From there, your best bet is to garner lots of validations. For example, you’ll want to amass inbound links that point to your product, and you’ll require lots of positive reviews from users to earn higher rankings.

2. eBay.

This site works much the same way Amazon does, so it’s an excellent target for optimization. Your product descriptions and images will play a huge role in your rankings, as well as your seller rating and reputation. Because the listings are more temporary, though, links won’t help you as much here.

3. YouTube.

According to Search Engine Watch, the best YouTube optimization strategies start with keyword research: You’ll create and name your videos according to YouTube’s most popular searches. Make sure all your videos are named concisely and accurately, and pay the same level of attention to your categories, tags, and channel descriptions. The number of likes, comments, and views you attract also plays into your ranking, so encourage your audience to participate in these areas.

4. Etsy.

This is one of the few online marketplaces that goes out of its way to help sellers optimize their listings. Ideal for crafters and artists, Etsy encourages sellers to choose strong keywords, optimize their shop titles and descriptions, and earn plenty of backlinks for their products (not to mention maintaining a good reputation in the community).

5. Bing.

Google still dominates, but Bing is making a respectable effort, and currently gets more than 20 percent of all searches on the web. Bing comes as a default with most Microsoft products (because it is one of them). As a result, it tends to be more popular with older demographics. If you’re targeting older populations, this makes it a key tool for optimization. Bing works in much the same way Google does, but with a few differences: It doesn’t favor backlinks as heavily, it prefers old, established content to fresh material, and it’s a bit more literal when it comes to keywords and titles.

6. DuckDuckGo.

According to Neil Patel, DuckDuckGo’s greatest advantage is the privacy it offers to users. It doesn’t track or keep user search history the way Google does, so if you want to optimize for it, you’ll have to take a different approach. DuckDuckGo users are concerned about their privacy, so if that sounds like your target demographic type, focus on semantic search queries on a national level. DuckDuckGo’s local search isn’t as robust, but it does try to intuit user intention the way Google and Bing do.

How to Decide What’s Worth Optimizing For

If you’ve looked at this list and wondered how you’ll find time to optimize for all of them, relax. Not all businesses will benefit from optimizing for all these channels. You only need to focus on the two or three — or possibly just one — that best suits you and your clientele.

For instance, if you don’t produce a lot of videos on a regular basis, you don’t need to optimize for YouTube. If most of your business comes in via Amazon, you can focus your efforts there instead of eBay.

The good news is, most optimization standards work more or less the same, with an emphasis on quality and relevance for incoming searches. Apply those general principles no matter what kind of content you’re producing, and you’ll get a head start in every optimization application–even the ones you aren’t directly pursuing.

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Digital Attribution’s Ladder of Awesomeness: Nine Critical Steps

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Purple StrokesCulture is a stronger determinant of success with data than anything else. Including data.

[People + Process + Structure] > [Data + Technology]

It seems hard to believe. Yet, it is so fantastically true. At least for now. At least until AGI takes over.

Why is this formula material?

The first part of the equation, for better or for worse, improves in an evolutionary manner. The second part of the equation most frequently improves in a revolutionary manner.

The challenge for Senior Leaders is that revolutions seem a lot more attractive and hence they charge full speed ahead. This results in frustration, derailed careers and a massive amount of money flushed down sad places.

Revolutions in our context, almost always fail. Evolution works. Hence, it is dangerous to overlook the super critical importance of P+P+S.

You want to win big with data, with marketing, with transformative digital yada yada and blah blah, evolve. Do so at the fastest pace you can put in place for transformation of the left-side of the above equation, and use the same pace to evolve the right-side of the above equation.

This will ensure that the people, process and structure will be smart enough to take advantage of the smart and wizbang tech.

Maybe this metaphor will help make this real.

You can't give a toddler a Harley Davidson motor cycle. The moment your start the motorcycle, the toddler is going to start crying. It is not the mistake of the toddler, she is just a toddler after all. It is not the mistake of the Harley, it is a very cool motorcycle. The mistake is yours.

The toddler needs something to steady her, something she can push, something to exercise her legs to make them stronger. At some point, she would love a Harley (as her father that might freak me out, but I digress).

This post is organized into the following structure:

Ladders of Awesomeness #wth
Digital Attribution's Ladder of Awesomeness
Wait, Wait, What the Heck is Attribution?
Digital Attribution's Ladder: Step Details
        Step 1: Optimal Metrics
        Step 2: Macro and Micro-Outcomes
        Step 3: Assisted Conversions
        Step 4: Standard Attribution Models
        Step 5: Custom Attribution Modeling
        Step 6: Data-driven Attribution Modeling
        Step 7: Pan-Existence Modeling
        Step 8: Nonline Controlled Experiments
        Step 9: Advanced Controlled Experiments
Closing Thoughts

I'll say this again at the very end… As a Marketer or an Analyst, there is nothing you'll attempt that will be more complex and challenging than what you are about to read in this post. The spectrum of upgrades you have to make to your tools and data along with your people, process and structure, are likely to be unmatched.

That is why this is so much fun. I have a huge smile on my face as I'm typing this sentence, I get so excited about this stuff. If you follow the advice outlined, the most likely outcome is an increase in the slope of your career's graph as it heads up and to the right! πŸ™‚

Let's go.

Ladders of Awesomeness #wth

When it comes to your Digital Marketing and Digital Analytics practice, I've advocated slow and steady evolution.

The problem is sometimes you might not know what that path looks like, what the steps are. To address that, on this blog I've shared something I call the ladders of awesomeness – my view of what the entire evolutionary path looks like.

As an example, here's the Digital Marketing ladder of awesomeness:

digital marketing ladder of awesomeness

Very cool, right?

It is not easy to linearize it all, the world is rarely that clean. But, you have an overall structure that can guide your strategy.

My recommendation… Partake in honest self-reflection, let that help you identify where on this ladder today, then, rather than shooting for the moon, figure out how to get to the next step. In taking that step, you should not just implement cool technology and do cool marketing, you should also invest in growing the skills, experience of your people and invest in putting scalable structures and processes to take advantage of this next cool thing. Win that, then go to the next step. Win that, then… well, you get it.

Cool technology plus savvy people to take advantage of the new possibilities plus processes to execute at scale set in the best-fit structure equals winning big.

My second ladder of awesomeness was very exciting as well. It lays out an evolutionary path for the key performance indicators you should use to drive digital sophistication inside your company. You'll find it here: Digital Metrics Ladder of Awesomeness .

It tells you not to go after Customer Lifetime Value right away. That is a insufficiently prudent use of Earth's oxygen. The metrics ladder lays out a path that will get you there, step by step while ensure your org is coming along with you.

Digital Attribution's Ladder of Awesomeness.

The other day, I had the amazing privilege of delivering a keynote with my point of view on attribution. The CMO expressed a desire for the audience to learn about advanced attribution strategies.

It is a topic I love and adore, but it is also a topic way more complicated than anyone is willing to admit.

Rather than simply give them all the advanced attribution modeling techniques, I took the opportunity to create a ladder of awesomeness for digital attribution. I did not want them to make the mistake of trying to achieve revolution at the end of the keynote, rather I wanted to give them a path to achieving a global maxima. One step at a time.

Here's the ladder I drew at the end of my keynote summarizing my worldview…

digital attribution ladder of awesomeness

The overall execution I recommended was the same as in the case of my other two ladders of awesomeness :

1. Figure out what step you are at.

2. Check to make sure that your organization (people, process, structure) has maxed out the benefits of that step.

3. When confident that people, process, structures are helping you max out the complete value of that current step, go to the next step. Don't jump two steps! Just one step forward.

4. Buy new technology, if needed, invest in implementing it and using it, start to focus on getting your people, process, structure to evolve to take max advantage of this next step.

It is a mistake to believe that each step is the same "size" / requires the same effort or skills.

To illustrate this, in the space I had available on the slide I was projecting, I shared some sense of effort/skills/time that might be required to take one step up…

digital attribution ladder of awesomeness reality version

You can see that the initial elements are pretty small, then things get complicated, but it is not an even distribution. If you do Step 4, Step 5 might actually take less time. It is also clear that things get insanely hard as you get towards the end. Insanely hard is putting it mildly.

I am sure you are very curious, what each of these elements entail!

It is very hard to capture an entire keynote, and a life-time of bruises that the wisdom above reflects, in a simple blog post. The keynote contained solutions for each step, it would take too long. Let me give you a brief sense for each element, that should give you enough to explore in a much more focused manner.

But, before that…

Wait, Wait, What the Heck is Attribution?

: )

I'm sure it is clear to most of you, but for some of our new peers let me quickly explain, and then we'll explore all the elements in the digital attribution ladder of awesomeness.

Here's the simplest way to think about it. Most of us make decisions about the effectiveness of our digital marketing initiatives, owned, earned or paid, as if the real world looks like this…

conversions path google analytics

Irritatingly we believe this because Google Analytics, Adobe, IBM and all other digital analytics tools tell us to believe that. They base all computations in their standard reports on an awfully silly thing called last-click.

Why do I say irritating?

Because the above picture actually looks like this…

actual conversions path google analytics

Suddenly most of your standard Adobe and Analytics reports are more than lying to you about the effectiveness of your marketing investments.

The art and science of allocating optimal amounts of credit to each marketing channel, based on the activity it created, is called attribution analysis. The end goal is to recommend an optimal mix for your marketing budget.

Take a look at the first row above. Attribution analysis will help you understand how to value Social Network AND the Direct channel AND Organic Search.

Smarter attribution of the outcome, smarter marketing decisions.

Digital Attribution's Ladder: Step Details.

Getting back to our story.

My core recommendation is that rather than jumping directly to attribution modeling or media mix modeling, that you build a strong, step-by-step, foundation of people, process structure along with data/tools sophistication. Let's look at each step in the evolutionary journey.

Step 1: Optimal Metrics.

If your company's dashboard is full of Visits, Time on Site, Impressions, % Exits, basic activity metrics then your company is not ready for attribution anything. You would think if you throw in Conversion Rate in there and you are ready. Nyet.

The most primitive thing you can do to have a very strong people, process, structure foundation is to pick great metrics to measure. Tough metrics. Smart metrics. Metrics that actually tell you if the business is doing well.

There are many ways to pick really good metrics. For example, checkout my list here: Best Web Metrics / KPIs for a Small, Medium or Large Sized Business.

Or, if you have a savvy digital strategy powered by my ultra-awesome See-Think-Do-Care business framework, you can use my recommendations in the framework to judge how optimal your current metrics strategy is…

best web metrics see think do care

Using these metrics, vs. the basic activity metrics like Visits and Time, is hard, taking advantage of them requires smarter people. Additinoally, actioning the powerful insights you get from the above list requires smart processes and smart structure.

See what I mean when I say optimal metrics create the cultural and thinking sophistication required to do harder things? If you don't have this. Don't move forward.

Step 2: Macro and Micro-Outcomes.

A typical macro-outcome is an ecommerce order, a lead submitted for a B2B company, a new profile opened by a visitor to a content site, a donation on a non-profit website. So on, and so forth.

Most of you already measure the heck out of this. (If you don't, go back one step.)

Only a handful of you measure micro-outcomes.

Micro-outcomes for an ecommerce website would include store lookups, coupon downloads, new accounts, reports their users can download, email signups, reviews submitted, product amplification, videos watched, charitable efforts, blog subscribers, community celebrations, etc. etc. And, all of these are for just one brand's website. They make a few things like tooth-paste which are sold online, but the primary channel of distribution is offline stores. It is impressive to think that that aforementioned list are all the things they do online! We bring immensely smart nonline decision making for this client by optimizing for their macro-outcome (orders) and all these micro-outcomes.

Can you see how savvy the company's people, process and structure would have to become to allow optimization of a portfolio of outcomes, rather than just one (conversion rate)?

It is hard to do this. It is hard to compute the economic value of all these outcomes. It is hard to optimize for the entire portfolio.

That is how you get ready to do sophisticated things like attribution modeling.

Step 3: Assisted Conversions.

Can you smell attribution? Close, but one more step before we get to it. First, let's get your org ready to use the metric that truly is the precursor for sophisticated attribution modeling.

In Google Analytics go to Conversions tab, then Multi-Channel Funnels and finally click on Assisted Conversions.

I love this report.

It is your org's introduction to moving beyond the awful last-click conversion obsession. In this report you'll see a more complete view of your marketing performance…

assisted conversions report

You are going to have a lot of arguments about which department (and people!) should get more credit, how to value the budget now that you have these Assisted Conversion numbers, why did Display go from $121 to $6 (!), so on and so forth.

As you resolve these issues, and start to take action by changing how much budget you spend on the channels above, you are collecting the elements required to be successful with online and offline attribution modeling.

You jump directly to attribution anything, a cold, hard wall is waiting for you to run into it.

Step 4: Standard Attribution Models.

Congratulations, it took you 18 months, :), but you are ready to do attribution modeling.

It is very easy to start. In Google Analytics, including the free version, go to Conversions, then Attribution, and then Model Comparison Tool.

You'll see Last-Interaction listed already. Next to it you'll see vs. select model. Click.

You'll see seven default models listed. Most of these models are for esoteric needs, or are flat out wrong. Take the First-Interaction model as an example. Choosing this model is like you giving all the credit to your first girl-friend for you marrying your wife. The definition of insanity.

There is just one model that passes all the smell tests, Time Decay. It provides reduced credit to marketing touch-points that are future back in the customer journey. Simple.

Use Time Decay for your first step into attribution modeling.

time decay attribution modeling

The red and green arrows to your right are helping guide your decisions related to the shifts in budget that you should consider in order to optimize your marketing and advertising to get the best possible results from your budget.

At this point, you'll be delighted that you listened to me and did Step 3 resulting in increased savvy in your people, process and structure. If you'd skipped that, at this stage all you would have is a clever report that has zero impact on your company!

Even if you did this as Step 4, you'll still require incremental investment in getting your org to understand the data above, you'll have to invent a new cultural norm of taking the red and green arrows above and creating tests from the recommendations, putting the tests into market and create a feedback loop of lessons that your org structure can learn from and improve future strategy.

It is a lot of work. Totally worth it because of the impact on cost-savings and increased profit.

Step 5: Custom Attribution Modeling.

Having completed all that hard work, and now that the org is making incrementally smarter decisions, you are ready to take advantage of your unique knowledge you have about your business, your customer behavior, and your strategy.

Custom attribution models allow you to take a base layer of smarts from Google Analytics, and add in yours.

For a client I've spent a lot of time with, here's the custom attribution model…

avinash custom attribution model

The reason for the choices above is business knowledge, customer behavior and business strategy. As you make the seven choices required above, you'll lean on those three elements – and lots of conversations with key business leaders.

The actionable steps you'll take from application of your model will be similar to the ones outlined in the step above.

Customer attribution modeling is incrementally better than standard attribution modeling. In doing this step successfully, you are strengthening leadership connections, and more buy-in from multiple departments (finance, sales, support etc.). It is not hard to imagine how critical that is to achieving success with data.

Step 6: Data-driven Attribution Modeling.

One of the painful things you'll run into while creating your custom attribution model is that persistent pain in the rear-end… Opinions.

Person x will say no, Avinash is wrong, we should not favor Clicks, my ads have no clicks, they only have impressions, change Avinash's model to over value Interaction Type Impressions . This person is wrong, and I am right. πŸ™‚ But, sadly you can't pull me out of your pocket so that I can tell them how wrong they are!

I kid only slightly. You are going to run into a lot of this. And, for some of these opinions you'll never have definitive data to prove the opinion right or wrong.

Where humans fail you, let Machine Learning come to the rescue.

Google Analytics looks at all of *your* data, all of the click-paths of your actual visitors, how each marketing channel delivers value to you (based on a success criteria *you* define) and helps create an attribution model that reflects your reality. This attribution model is called a data-driven attribution model. Opinions can now go live in a very dark place, while Machine Learning illuminates the world.

You click on the Model Explorer in the Attribution folder to see your data-drive model…

data driven attribution model google analyitcs

As an Analyst, I have to admit I get a special sense of pride when I see the shades of blue above. There is no way that a human can get to this level of insight, at this scale, or so frequently (your model is refreshed all the time with new data/behavior). I should probably be scared that these machines are making me redundant. For now, I am simply amazed.

You can see why Google wants you to pay for this feature (among many other great things in GA 360). It is smart, it is computationally intensive, and a competitive advantage for you.

Your data-driven model eliminates opinions/feelings/politics from the process of getting to the best model for you, and it is exquisitely yours.

Actions you'll take, changes you'll drive to your marketing budgets, will follow the patterns set in Stage 4 and 5 (which is why it is still important to go through the pain and build the right foundational P-P-S upgrades).

Bonus : If you want to learn a lot more about each attribution model in Analytics, pros-cons, how to use them efficiently, this post has a deep dive you'll love: Multi-Channel Attribution Modeling: The Good, Bad and Ugly Models.

The next three steps in the ladder of awesomeness are complex and advanced. They apply to perhaps only the largest companies on the planet. Let me cover them here briefly, just so that you'll have a sense for them if you are in a large company or on your way to becoming one!

Step 7: Pan-Existence Modeling.

Unless you do something extraordinarily unique in your analytics execution, almost everything you do above won't be tied to a single person's behavior. It will be tied to cookies, it might be fractured by devices, browsers, and other things that make tracking a single individual difficult. It goes without saying that some of this might also be due to compliance to local laws (which I deeply stress you should read up and be familiar with for your local legal entity).

It is absolutely imperative to stress that even with all the limitations I've just mentioned, you are still better off taking the journey outlined in the above six steps when compared to being stuck in the awfulness that is last-click reporting.

Understanding how an individual human behaves does take you to a whole new level. Imagine data-driven attribution modeling that understands one individual's behavior across mobile and desktop! Now throw in the ability to tie that behavior to their activity inside your store or call-center (sales or support). #mindblowing

Imagine this stitched together view, across devices…

user explorer report google analytics detail

[More on the above report here: Develop a Smarter Understanding of Your Audiences]

What do you need to get to pan-existence attribution modeling?

Some way of identifying, incentivizing and tracking a person. The technology to do it exists. In the Google Analytics world, implement the Universal Analytics User-ID Override feature.

You can extend this to also tie to a CRM record you have for the person off a loyalty card or whatever global identifier your company has developed to identify its customers uniquely.

Everything in your analytics tool of choice becomes more powerful instantly, including attribution modeling.

This is hard to do, ask for help, there are tons of authorized consultants who can speed up your time to market/victory.

Step 8: Nonline Controlled Experiments.

I'm sure the above step planted in your head the thought of how you can attribute the online campaigns the impact that happens offline (remember 80%+ commerce in the US continues to be offline, even with Amazon becoming amazonish!).

There are two strategies to keep in mind.

First. You can attribute credit more directly (without Step 7) by leveraging the power of controlled experiments.

Here's a simple example. You already know that that non-brand PPC campaigns drive a ton of last-click and assisted conversion. But, you also know that online campaigns drive offline impact. But, how can you prove it?

Run a controlled experiment.

In this example we ran a four week test across a total of 11 test markets (covering 128 stores) and 39 control markets (covering 621 stores). A little picture for you to show distribution and the design for experiments savvy that you'll bring…

nonline controlled experiment

At the end of the test we proved that every $1 spent on non-brand paid search marketing drove $15 in store sales.

If you do this well, you can be even smarter. In this case we were able to identify that the $15 in sales was at a 22% contribution margin (an unheard of accomplishment in retail). Oh, and we were not done. We could also identify that the sales lift for product category X was 3.5% and for product category Y it was 2.31%.

Impressed?

Think of how incredibly powerful this can be if it is a part of your standard operating procedure on the web. Attribution of the effectiveness of your online advertising to drive multichannel results.

You can leverage the smarts of controlled experiments without any of the seven steps above, but it is easy to see how much measurement, analysis, marketing, people, process and structure savvy you need to pull this off, hence it is Step 8.

If you actually complete Step 7 successfully, you can take your controlled experiments up several notches, including tying online behavior to longer-term outcomes tied to a single human. Then, you can go back and customize your overall marketing portfolio to micro-segments of individuals with shared attributes. This is very much in the holy grail region.

Step 9: Advanced Controlled Experiments.

We eschewed attribution modeling above. We go back to modeling, but of a different type.

The most common implementation in Step 9 is media-mix modeling (or as some like saying, marketing mix modeling). Boiled down to its most essential it is the creation of a multivariate equation that when solved through the application of some delicious statistical regression, helps identify the optimal mix of your marketing portfolio.

Almost always, media-mix models include all your marketing – TV, radio, digital, etc. This allows them to be the go to source for CMOs choosing to drive unified strategic conversations.

There is plenty of art involved in creating media-mix models, and in the hands of an organization, or Agency, without the optimal people, process and structure, the results are no less garbagy then other opinion based strategies.

I believe that the best way to eliminate biases (or more usually opinions), I recommend a heavy use of complex controlled experiments, varying multiple elements (unlike just one above), as the optimal source of inputs required by the multivariate equation.

My biggest complaint about media-mix models, even the most sophisticated ones, is that, if you are executing See-Think-Care intent strategies, the thing digital is really, really, really good at (and traditional media mostly completely incapable of), media-mix models have a very hard time identifying value from those super valuable activities. They are biased towards short-term commercial results. Basically Do intent strategies.

Hence, a biblical belief that media-mix models are the word of God when it comes to optimal marketing investment is incredibly flawed. You will undervalue See-Think-Care business strategies, which in turn will mean you will not use digital to do what it is exquisitely qualified to do (ex: with See and Care help you build owned audiences!).

And, all because some Agencies and Companies believe in judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree . CMOs and Analysts at these Agencies are actively plotting against allowing the company's marketing to evolve to where the present is, and where the future will be.

With that little concern expressed, hopefully squarely lodged into your mind, I still recommend media-mix modeling powered by inputs from controlled experiments. The reason is simple. We all have to make money for our companies. And, media-mix modeling is an incredibly valuable tool in that quest. Just remember, it simply solves for the now and not the next or the long.

Bonus: If you would like a more complex view into the three strategic ways to frame the attribution opportunity, check out this post: Multi-Channel Attribution: Definitions, Models and a Reality Check .

Closing Thoughts.

That's your evolutionary ladder when it comes to solving one of the most complicated challenge you are likely to face as a Marketer or an Analyst. The spectrum of upgrades you have to make to your tools and data along with your people, process and structure, are likely to be unmatched by any other challenge in front of you.

That is what makes this so much fun, so satisfying as a career choice and so rewarding from a compensation perspective. There is literally no harder thing you can do. I hope that, when offered, you'll choose to accept the ring. πŸ™‚

Good luck!

As always, it is your turn now.

Does your company/agency's macro approach to achieving the optimal marketing portfolio reflect a revolution or an evolution? If you've completed all the steps, which step was the hardest? What is the most difficult facet of attribution modeling to explain to your senior executives? Does your company prioritize evolution of people, process, structure as it drives new contracts and expenditure on tools/data? If you had to give our readers one advice from your attribution journey, what would you say?

Please share your feedback, critique, praise, wisdom and best practices via comments.

Thank you.

Digital Attribution's Ladder of Awesomeness: Nine Critical Steps is a post from: Occam's Razor by Avinash Kaushik

October 24th 2016 Search Engine Marketing

Digital Attribution’s Ladder of Awesomeness: Nine Critical Steps

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Purple StrokesCulture is a stronger determinant of success with data than anything else. Including data.

[People + Process + Structure] > [Data + Technology]

It seems hard to believe. Yet, it is so fantastically true. At least for now. At least until AGI takes over.

Why is this formula material?

The first part of the equation, for better or for worse, improves in an evolutionary manner. The second part of the equation most frequently improves in a revolutionary manner.

The challenge for Senior Leaders is that revolutions seem a lot more attractive and hence they charge full speed ahead. This results in frustration, derailed careers and a massive amount of money flushed down sad places.

Revolutions in our context, almost always fail. Evolution works. Hence, it is dangerous to overlook the super critical importance of P+P+S.

You want to win big with data, with marketing, with transformative digital yada yada and blah blah, evolve. Do so at the fastest pace you can put in place for transformation of the left-side of the above equation, and use the same pace to evolve the right-side of the above equation.

This will ensure that the people, process and structure will be smart enough to take advantage of the smart and wizbang tech.

Maybe this metaphor will help make this real.

You can't give a toddler a Harley Davidson motor cycle. The moment your start the motorcycle, the toddler is going to start crying. It is not the mistake of the toddler, she is just a toddler after all. It is not the mistake of the Harley, it is a very cool motorcycle. The mistake is yours.

The toddler needs something to steady her, something she can push, something to exercise her legs to make them stronger. At some point, she would love a Harley (as her father that might freak me out, but I digress).

This post is organized into the following structure:

Ladders of Awesomeness #wth
Digital Attribution's Ladder of Awesomeness
Wait, Wait, What the Heck is Attribution?
Digital Attribution's Ladder: Step Details
        Step 1: Optimal Metrics
        Step 2: Macro and Micro-Outcomes
        Step 3: Assisted Conversions
        Step 4: Standard Attribution Models
        Step 5: Custom Attribution Modeling
        Step 6: Data-driven Attribution Modeling
        Step 7: Pan-Existence Modeling
        Step 8: Nonline Controlled Experiments
        Step 9: Advanced Controlled Experiments
Closing Thoughts

I'll say this again at the very end… As a Marketer or an Analyst, there is nothing you'll attempt that will be more complex and challenging than what you are about to read in this post. The spectrum of upgrades you have to make to your tools and data along with your people, process and structure, are likely to be unmatched.

That is why this is so much fun. I have a huge smile on my face as I'm typing this sentence, I get so excited about this stuff. If you follow the advice outlined, the most likely outcome is an increase in the slope of your career's graph as it heads up and to the right! πŸ™‚

Let's go.

Ladders of Awesomeness #wth

When it comes to your Digital Marketing and Digital Analytics practice, I've advocated slow and steady evolution.

The problem is sometimes you might not know what that path looks like, what the steps are. To address that, on this blog I've shared something I call the ladders of awesomeness – my view of what the entire evolutionary path looks like.

As an example, here's the Digital Marketing ladder of awesomeness:

digital marketing ladder of awesomeness

Very cool, right?

It is not easy to linearize it all, the world is rarely that clean. But, you have an overall structure that can guide your strategy.

My recommendation… Partake in honest self-reflection, let that help you identify where on this ladder today, then, rather than shooting for the moon, figure out how to get to the next step. In taking that step, you should not just implement cool technology and do cool marketing, you should also invest in growing the skills, experience of your people and invest in putting scalable structures and processes to take advantage of this next cool thing. Win that, then go to the next step. Win that, then… well, you get it.

Cool technology plus savvy people to take advantage of the new possibilities plus processes to execute at scale set in the best-fit structure equals winning big.

My second ladder of awesomeness was very exciting as well. It lays out an evolutionary path for the key performance indicators you should use to drive digital sophistication inside your company. You'll find it here: Digital Metrics Ladder of Awesomeness .

It tells you not to go after Customer Lifetime Value right away. That is a insufficiently prudent use of Earth's oxygen. The metrics ladder lays out a path that will get you there, step by step while ensure your org is coming along with you.

Digital Attribution's Ladder of Awesomeness.

The other day, I had the amazing privilege of delivering a keynote with my point of view on attribution. The CMO expressed a desire for the audience to learn about advanced attribution strategies.

It is a topic I love and adore, but it is also a topic way more complicated than anyone is willing to admit.

Rather than simply give them all the advanced attribution modeling techniques, I took the opportunity to create a ladder of awesomeness for digital attribution. I did not want them to make the mistake of trying to achieve revolution at the end of the keynote, rather I wanted to give them a path to achieving a global maxima. One step at a time.

Here's the ladder I drew at the end of my keynote summarizing my worldview…

digital attribution ladder of awesomeness

The overall execution I recommended was the same as in the case of my other two ladders of awesomeness :

1. Figure out what step you are at.

2. Check to make sure that your organization (people, process, structure) has maxed out the benefits of that step.

3. When confident that people, process, structures are helping you max out the complete value of that current step, go to the next step. Don't jump two steps! Just one step forward.

4. Buy new technology, if needed, invest in implementing it and using it, start to focus on getting your people, process, structure to evolve to take max advantage of this next step.

It is a mistake to believe that each step is the same "size" / requires the same effort or skills.

To illustrate this, in the space I had available on the slide I was projecting, I shared some sense of effort/skills/time that might be required to take one step up…

digital attribution ladder of awesomeness reality version

You can see that the initial elements are pretty small, then things get complicated, but it is not an even distribution. If you do Step 4, Step 5 might actually take less time. It is also clear that things get insanely hard as you get towards the end. Insanely hard is putting it mildly.

I am sure you are very curious, what each of these elements entail!

It is very hard to capture an entire keynote, and a life-time of bruises that the wisdom above reflects, in a simple blog post. The keynote contained solutions for each step, it would take too long. Let me give you a brief sense for each element, that should give you enough to explore in a much more focused manner.

But, before that…

Wait, Wait, What the Heck is Attribution?

: )

I'm sure it is clear to most of you, but for some of our new peers let me quickly explain, and then we'll explore all the elements in the digital attribution ladder of awesomeness.

Here's the simplest way to think about it. Most of us make decisions about the effectiveness of our digital marketing initiatives, owned, earned or paid, as if the real world looks like this…

conversions path google analytics

Irritatingly we believe this because Google Analytics, Adobe, IBM and all other digital analytics tools tell us to believe that. They base all computations in their standard reports on an awfully silly thing called last-click.

Why do I say irritating?

Because the above picture actually looks like this…

actual conversions path google analytics

Suddenly most of your standard Adobe and Analytics reports are more than lying to you about the effectiveness of your marketing investments.

The art and science of allocating optimal amounts of credit to each marketing channel, based on the activity it created, is called attribution analysis. The end goal is to recommend an optimal mix for your marketing budget.

Take a look at the first row above. Attribution analysis will help you understand how to value Social Network AND the Direct channel AND Organic Search.

Smarter attribution of the outcome, smarter marketing decisions.

Digital Attribution's Ladder: Step Details.

Getting back to our story.

My core recommendation is that rather than jumping directly to attribution modeling or media mix modeling, that you build a strong, step-by-step, foundation of people, process structure along with data/tools sophistication. Let's look at each step in the evolutionary journey.

Step 1: Optimal Metrics.

If your company's dashboard is full of Visits, Time on Site, Impressions, % Exits, basic activity metrics then your company is not ready for attribution anything. You would think if you throw in Conversion Rate in there and you are ready. Nyet.

The most primitive thing you can do to have a very strong people, process, structure foundation is to pick great metrics to measure. Tough metrics. Smart metrics. Metrics that actually tell you if the business is doing well.

There are many ways to pick really good metrics. For example, checkout my list here: Best Web Metrics / KPIs for a Small, Medium or Large Sized Business.

Or, if you have a savvy digital strategy powered by my ultra-awesome See-Think-Do-Care business framework, you can use my recommendations in the framework to judge how optimal your current metrics strategy is…

best web metrics see think do care

Using these metrics, vs. the basic activity metrics like Visits and Time, is hard, taking advantage of them requires smarter people. Additionally, actioning the powerful insights you get from the above list requires smart processes and smart structure.

See what I mean when I say optimal metrics create the cultural and thinking sophistication required to do harder things? If you don't have this. Don't move forward.

Step 2: Macro and Micro-Outcomes.

A typical macro-outcome is an ecommerce order, a lead submitted for a B2B company, a new profile opened by a visitor to a content site, a donation on a non-profit website. So on, and so forth.

Most of you already measure the heck out of this. (If you don't, go back one step.)

Only a handful of you measure micro-outcomes.

Micro-outcomes for an ecommerce website would include store lookups, coupon downloads, new accounts, reports their users can download, email signups, reviews submitted, product amplification, videos watched, charitable efforts, blog subscribers, community celebrations, etc. etc. And, all of these are for just one brand's website. They make a few things like tooth-paste which are sold online, but the primary channel of distribution is offline stores. It is impressive to think that that aforementioned list are all the things they do online! We bring immensely smart nonline decision making for this client by optimizing for their macro-outcome (orders) and all these micro-outcomes.

Can you see how savvy the company's people, process and structure would have to become to allow optimization of a portfolio of outcomes, rather than just one (conversion rate)?

It is hard to do this. It is hard to compute the economic value of all these outcomes. It is hard to optimize for the entire portfolio.

That is how you get ready to do sophisticated things like attribution modeling.

Step 3: Assisted Conversions.

Can you smell attribution? Close, but one more step before we get to it. First, let's get your org ready to use the metric that truly is the precursor for sophisticated attribution modeling.

In Google Analytics go to Conversions tab, then Multi-Channel Funnels and finally click on Assisted Conversions.

I love this report.

It is your org's introduction to moving beyond the awful last-click conversion obsession. In this report you'll see a more complete view of your marketing performance…

assisted conversions report

You are going to have a lot of arguments about which department (and people!) should get more credit, how to value the budget now that you have these Assisted Conversion numbers, why did Display go from $121 to $6 (!), so on and so forth.

As you resolve these issues, and start to take action by changing how much budget you spend on the channels above, you are collecting the elements required to be successful with online and offline attribution modeling.

You jump directly to attribution anything, a cold, hard wall is waiting for you to run into it.

Step 4: Standard Attribution Models.

Congratulations, it took you 18 months, :), but you are ready to do attribution modeling.

It is very easy to start. In Google Analytics, including the free version, go to Conversions, then Attribution, and then Model Comparison Tool.

You'll see Last-Interaction listed already. Next to it you'll see vs. select model. Click.

You'll see seven default models listed. Most of these models are for esoteric needs, or are flat out wrong. Take the First-Interaction model as an example. Choosing this model is like you giving all the credit to your first girl-friend for you marrying your wife. The definition of insanity.

There is just one model that passes all the smell tests, Time Decay. It provides reduced credit to marketing touch-points that are future back in the customer journey. Simple.

Use Time Decay for your first step into attribution modeling.

time decay attribution modeling

The red and green arrows to your right are helping guide your decisions related to the shifts in budget that you should consider in order to optimize your marketing and advertising to get the best possible results from your budget.

At this point, you'll be delighted that you listened to me and did Step 3 resulting in increased savvy in your people, process and structure. If you'd skipped that, at this stage all you would have is a clever report that has zero impact on your company!

Even if you did this as Step 4, you'll still require incremental investment in getting your org to understand the data above, you'll have to invent a new cultural norm of taking the red and green arrows above and creating tests from the recommendations, putting the tests into market and create a feedback loop of lessons that your org structure can learn from and improve future strategy.

It is a lot of work. Totally worth it because of the impact on cost-savings and increased profit.

Step 5: Custom Attribution Modeling.

Having completed all that hard work, and now that the org is making incrementally smarter decisions, you are ready to take advantage of your unique knowledge you have about your business, your customer behavior, and your strategy.

Custom attribution models allow you to take a base layer of smarts from Google Analytics, and add in yours.

For a client I've spent a lot of time with, here's the custom attribution model…

avinash custom attribution model

The reason for the choices above is business knowledge, customer behavior and business strategy. As you make the seven choices required above, you'll lean on those three elements – and lots of conversations with key business leaders.

The actionable steps you'll take from application of your model will be similar to the ones outlined in the step above.

Customer attribution modeling is incrementally better than standard attribution modeling. In doing this step successfully, you are strengthening leadership connections, and more buy-in from multiple departments (finance, sales, support etc.). It is not hard to imagine how critical that is to achieving success with data.

Step 6: Data-driven Attribution Modeling.

One of the painful things you'll run into while creating your custom attribution model is that persistent pain in the rear-end… Opinions.

Person x will say no, Avinash is wrong, we should not favor Clicks, my ads have no clicks, they only have impressions, change Avinash's model to over value Interaction Type Impressions . This person is wrong, and I am right. πŸ™‚ But, sadly you can't pull me out of your pocket so that I can tell them how wrong they are!

I kid only slightly. You are going to run into a lot of this. And, for some of these opinions you'll never have definitive data to prove the opinion right or wrong.

Where humans fail you, let Machine Learning come to the rescue.

Google Analytics looks at all of *your* data, all of the click-paths of your actual visitors, how each marketing channel delivers value to you (based on a success criteria *you* define) and helps create an attribution model that reflects your reality. This attribution model is called a data-driven attribution model. Opinions can now go live in a very dark place, while Machine Learning illuminates the world.

You click on the Model Explorer in the Attribution folder to see your data-drive model…

data driven attribution model google analyitcs

As an Analyst, I have to admit I get a special sense of pride when I see the shades of blue above. There is no way that a human can get to this level of insight, at this scale, or so frequently (your model is refreshed all the time with new data/behavior). I should probably be scared that these machines are making me redundant. For now, I am simply amazed.

You can see why Google wants you to pay for this feature (among many other great things in GA 360). It is smart, it is computationally intensive, and a competitive advantage for you.

Your data-driven model eliminates opinions/feelings/politics from the process of getting to the best model for you, and it is exquisitely yours.

Actions you'll take, changes you'll drive to your marketing budgets, will follow the patterns set in Stage 4 and 5 (which is why it is still important to go through the pain and build the right foundational P-P-S upgrades).

Bonus : If you want to learn a lot more about each attribution model in Analytics, pros-cons, how to use them efficiently, this post has a deep dive you'll love: Multi-Channel Attribution Modeling: The Good, Bad and Ugly Models.

The next three steps in the ladder of awesomeness are complex and advanced. They apply to perhaps only the largest companies on the planet. Let me cover them here briefly, just so that you'll have a sense for them if you are in a large company or on your way to becoming one!

Step 7: Pan-Existence Modeling.

Unless you do something extraordinarily unique in your analytics execution, almost everything you do above won't be tied to a single person's behavior. It will be tied to cookies, it might be fractured by devices, browsers, and other things that make tracking a single individual difficult. It goes without saying that some of this might also be due to compliance to local laws (which I deeply stress you should read up and be familiar with for your local legal entity).

It is absolutely imperative to stress that even with all the limitations I've just mentioned, you are still better off taking the journey outlined in the above six steps when compared to being stuck in the awfulness that is last-click reporting.

Understanding how an individual human behaves does take you to a whole new level. Imagine data-driven attribution modeling that understands one individual's behavior across mobile and desktop! Now throw in the ability to tie that behavior to their activity inside your store or call-center (sales or support). #mindblowing

Imagine this stitched together view, across devices…

user explorer report google analytics detail

[More on the above report here: Develop a Smarter Understanding of Your Audiences]

What do you need to get to pan-existence attribution modeling?

Some way of identifying, incentivizing and tracking a person. The technology to do it exists. In the Google Analytics world, implement the Universal Analytics User-ID Override feature.

You can extend this to also tie to a CRM record you have for the person off a loyalty card or whatever global identifier your company has developed to identify its customers uniquely.

Everything in your analytics tool of choice becomes more powerful instantly, including attribution modeling.

This is hard to do, ask for help, there are tons of authorized consultants who can speed up your time to market/victory.

Step 8: Nonline Controlled Experiments.

I'm sure the above step planted in your head the thought of how you can attribute the online campaigns the impact that happens offline (remember 80%+ commerce in the US continues to be offline, even with Amazon becoming amazonish!).

There are two strategies to keep in mind.

First. You can attribute credit more directly (without Step 7) by leveraging the power of controlled experiments.

Here's a simple example. You already know that that non-brand PPC campaigns drive a ton of last-click and assisted conversion. But, you also know that online campaigns drive offline impact. But, how can you prove it?

Run a controlled experiment.

In this example we ran a four week test across a total of 11 test markets (covering 128 stores) and 39 control markets (covering 621 stores). A little picture for you to show distribution and the design for experiments savvy that you'll bring…

nonline controlled experiment

At the end of the test we proved that every $1 spent on non-brand paid search marketing drove $15 in store sales.

If you do this well, you can be even smarter. In this case we were able to identify that the $15 in sales was at a 22% contribution margin (an unheard of accomplishment in retail). Oh, and we were not done. We could also identify that the sales lift for product category X was 3.5% and for product category Y it was 2.31%.

Impressed?

Think of how incredibly powerful this can be if it is a part of your standard operating procedure on the web. Attribution of the effectiveness of your online advertising to drive multichannel results.

You can leverage the smarts of controlled experiments without any of the seven steps above, but it is easy to see how much measurement, analysis, marketing, people, process and structure savvy you need to pull this off, hence it is Step 8.

If you actually complete Step 7 successfully, you can take your controlled experiments up several notches, including tying online behavior to longer-term outcomes tied to a single human. Then, you can go back and customize your overall marketing portfolio to micro-segments of individuals with shared attributes. This is very much in the holy grail region.

Step 9: Advanced Controlled Experiments.

We eschewed attribution modeling above. We go back to modeling, but of a different type.

The most common implementation in Step 9 is media-mix modeling (or as some like saying, marketing mix modeling). Boiled down to its most essential it is the creation of a multivariate equation that when solved through the application of some delicious statistical regression, helps identify the optimal mix of your marketing portfolio.

Almost always, media-mix models include all your marketing – TV, radio, digital, etc. This allows them to be the go to source for CMOs choosing to drive unified strategic conversations.

There is plenty of art involved in creating media-mix models, and in the hands of an organization, or Agency, without the optimal people, process and structure, the results are no less garbagy then other opinion based strategies.

I believe that the best way to eliminate biases (or more usually opinions), I recommend a heavy use of complex controlled experiments, varying multiple elements (unlike just one above), as the optimal source of inputs required by the multivariate equation.

My biggest complaint about media-mix models, even the most sophisticated ones, is that, if you are executing See-Think-Care intent strategies, the thing digital is really, really, really good at (and traditional media mostly completely incapable of), media-mix models have a very hard time identifying value from those super valuable activities. They are biased towards short-term commercial results. Basically Do intent strategies.

Hence, a biblical belief that media-mix models are the word of God when it comes to optimal marketing investment is incredibly flawed. You will undervalue See-Think-Care business strategies, which in turn will mean you will not use digital to do what it is exquisitely qualified to do (ex: with See and Care help you build owned audiences!).

And, all because some Agencies and Companies believe in judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree . CMOs and Analysts at these Agencies are actively plotting against allowing the company's marketing to evolve to where the present is, and where the future will be.

With that little concern expressed, hopefully squarely lodged into your mind, I still recommend media-mix modeling powered by inputs from controlled experiments. The reason is simple. We all have to make money for our companies. And, media-mix modeling is an incredibly valuable tool in that quest. Just remember, it simply solves for the now and not the next or the long.

Bonus: If you would like a more complex view into the three strategic ways to frame the attribution opportunity, check out this post: Multi-Channel Attribution: Definitions, Models and a Reality Check .

Closing Thoughts.

That's your evolutionary ladder when it comes to solving one of the most complicated challenge you are likely to face as a Marketer or an Analyst. The spectrum of upgrades you have to make to your tools and data along with your people, process and structure, are likely to be unmatched by any other challenge in front of you.

That is what makes this so much fun, so satisfying as a career choice and so rewarding from a compensation perspective. There is literally no harder thing you can do. I hope that, when offered, you'll choose to accept the ring. πŸ™‚

Good luck!

As always, it is your turn now.

Does your company/agency's macro approach to achieving the optimal marketing portfolio reflect a revolution or an evolution? If you've completed all the steps, which step was the hardest? What is the most difficult facet of attribution modeling to explain to your senior executives? Does your company prioritize evolution of people, process, structure as it drives new contracts and expenditure on tools/data? If you had to give our readers one advice from your attribution journey, what would you say?

Please share your feedback, critique, praise, wisdom and best practices via comments.

Thank you.

Digital Attribution's Ladder of Awesomeness: Nine Critical Steps is a post from: Occam's Razor by Avinash Kaushik

October 24th 2016 Search Engine Marketing

Google Penguin 4.0

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Google Penguin 4.0

Google Penguin 4.0 was released on September 23rd, 2016.

Originally released in 2014, Penguin is one of the algorithms that determine where your blog will appear within Google’s search results.

More specifically, what Google looks at is the recency (freshness) of your content, PageRank, region and the words on your site.

Here, according to the official announcement on the Google Webmaster blog, are the key changes made to Penguin in this roll-out:

  • Penguin is now real-time. Historically, the list of sites affected by Penguin was periodically refreshed at the same time. Once a webmaster considerably improved their site and its presence on the internet, many of Google’s algorithms would take that into consideration very fast, but others, like Penguin, needed to be refreshed. With this change, Penguin’s data is refreshed in real time, so changes will be visible much faster, typically taking effect shortly after we recrawl and reindex a page. It also means we’re not going to comment on future refreshes.
  • Penguin is now more granular. Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.

Both of these changes are very good news for webmasters that produce regular, compelling content. I especially appreciate the ‘granular’ aspect of the change – which should make higher rankings for smaller sites easier to accomplish.

Did you find this post about Google Penguin 4.0 informative and useful? If so, please share it with others! If you have a comment, question or suggestion, please leave a comment below!

Cheers,
sig-ros

The post Google Penguin 4.0 appeared first on RosalindGardner.com.

September 29th 2016 Search Engine Marketing

Do you have enough pages in the search index?

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by Mike Moran

More pages in the search index means more chances to be found. So maybe you never really have enough pages–since every extra page is a lottery ticket in the search sweepstakes. You’ve gotta be in it to win it. But this does not really offer us any answers. There are obviously some amount of pages that seem OK and other amounts that are probably Bad, like, zero would be bad. How do you determine how many pages you have in the search index, and if your number is enough?

First off, you need to understand that there is no single search index-each search engine has its own search index. Google has its own, Bing has its own, and so do many other search engines. So, you need to know which search engines are worth worrying about-in the U.S., it’s Google and Bing.

So how do you find out how many pages are in Google’s index and how many are in Bing’s?

Both Google and Bing have a tool called the “site:” command. You can just enter into each one the word “site:” along with your domain name (Such as “site:biznology.com”).  For some sites, this handy command works just fine and you can see how many pages are stored in each index. If your results look right, great. But sometimes the results just look nuts. For example, “site:ibm.com” yields 2.8 million pages on Bing but a crazy 12.2 million pages on Google.

To avoid such inaccuracies, use each search engine’s Webmaster Tools sites. Both Google and Bing will tell your Webmaster exactly how many pages are in the index and will even let you know which pages they are having trouble grabbing. It’s possible that the IBM Webmaster is aware that there actually is a big discrepancy between Google and Bing, which might be just fine or might be something they are working on.

I’ve spoken to a few experts and they have varying theories. One told me that Bing stops crawling when more than 1% of the pages get errors-the Bing Webmaster site will clue you in on this. Another speculated that Bing is only returning counts of pages that get search visits, not every page in their index. No one I spoke with knew for sure why this is happening, but it shows you the importance of checking your numbers.

Likewise, big swings in indexed pages (1,000 pages indexed in Google today vs. 5,000 yesterday) mean that you should look into it. And, in general, an inclusion ratio (pages indexed divided by actual pages) below 70% is something that should give you pause, although with these Bing errors who knows what a good inclusion ration is for Bing right now.

Regardless. knowing how many pages are indexed is the first step to seeing if you have a problem.

Originally posted on Biznology

Be sure and visit our small business news site.

Enterprise marketers must tightly choose the focus of their website

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by Mike Moran

Are you responsible for a big company’s digital marketing? You might not be the CMO, however, so that whole website isn’t your problem. You are only responsible for a small piece — maybe one product line. Or a single country. Or maybe a product line within a single country. Maybe your responsibility is even narrower than that. But do you actually know which pages on the website are your problem? Often I find people aren’t exactly sure. 

So, why do you need to figure this out anyway? If you are the product manager for US sales of product X, isn’t that good enough? I mean, you know where the home page is of your website. If you haven’t spent the time to identify every blessed page that pertains to your country and your product, what’s the harm? After all, you’re busy with a lot of other things. 

Well, think about a few points:

  • Your budget probably pays for these pages. Most companies use chargeback systems where your IT team, copywriters and other shared resources are paid by the page. Or you have a dedicated team spending time on these pages-some that you might not even know about. Is this where you want your money going?
  • You want to know the traffic to these pages. Do you regularly check how many visitors come to these pages? And from what other sites? Can you tie back your traffic to your inbound marketing campaigns? If you can’t identify all the pages that are yours, then you can’t do any of this, either-and you won’t know which marketing efforts are working and which aren’t.
  • You want to know the conversions from these pages. You also want to measure (and improve) the conversions from these pages. Every page needs to be doing some work to move visitors closer to a sale. Most of us don’t have e-commerce sites, but we all have something we want our web visitors to do to gain an offline sale. We need to be sure that every page has a job to do (even if it is just to get a click to another page) and that we measure how well it is doing it.

It might be easy to identify your site, even when you work in a big company. If you are the worldwide product manager for Crest toothpaste, you site is crest.com, even though you work in the bowels of the behemoth Procter & Gamble. But usually big company sites are a bit harder to pin down for you. I remember when I worked for IBM, it was common for me to be speaking with someone whose responsibility was software in Germany, whose site was all of the pages underneath www.ibm.com/de/software-and many had even smaller responsibilities with even more arcane URLs that defined their scope. Whatever yours is, you need to treat every page within it as yours, which starts by identifying what your site is. What exactly are you responsible for?

If this sounds a bit persnickety, ask yourself this: Do you have any trouble identifying which ad campaigns are yours? Which brochures? Which commercials? Which coupons? I thought so.

Don’t be sloppy about your digital marketing. It’s easy to be vague about your website scope in a big company. Focus your sights on your sites-just like small companies do-so that you have the focus that drives improved results.

Originally posted on Biznology

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Why enterprise digital marketing can’t be completely in house

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by Mike Moran

Seems like a generalization right? Let me explain. I’ve worked with quite a few large companies over the years, and my experience is that those companies can’t ever bring their digital marketing  completely in house.  I know that my opinion might be suspicious, because I am a senior strategist at Converseon, a digital agency, so you might expect that I have every motivation to advise you to work with consultants. But I actually learned this lesson when running parts of IBM’s digital marketing in house. I found that it wasn’t possible for me to bring everything in house.

Now, that might surprise you, because after all, it’s IBM for Pete’s sake. Can’t IBM do anything? No, even IBM couldn’t do everything. Not because IBM isn’t capable, but for more practical reasons that permeate every kind of digital marketing.

You see, what happens when any particular part of digital marketing takes off is that it goes through a few stages:

  1. Infancy. At this stage there are a few dreamers who just know that it will be big. I was one of those dreamers at IBM back in 1999 about search marketing. Every company has someone who realizes that the next big thing is here, but the average marketer doesn’t care-yet. At this stage, there are few projects to do because no one is convinced. Worse, the dreamers don’t have the knowledge to even successfully pilot something, so they need an agency to help them get a couple of projects done to prove value.
  2.  Adolescence. This is the most dangerous stage-the stage where people are most likely to believe they can do everything in house. At this point, they have some successes under their belts and they know what to do. But the problem is that they can’t handle the ups and downs. They can’t staff their team with enough experts to handle the projects coming in. Some months they are swamped and don’t have enough people. Other months, budgets get cut across the company and projects are canceled and your team has too many people. Big companies can’t easily expand and contract resources with fluctuating volume.
  3. Maturity. Now it seems as though finally everything can be brought in house. The volume is relatively stable and so are the skills. But there’s another problem. Every time you get someone up to speed, they get a better offer from an agency. There’s no career path inside the organization for such specialists.

Am I painting too bleak a picture? Yes. But hey, this is a blog post and I need to get your attention. I found at IBM that you can bring a great deal in house and it saves a lot of money. But I did learn that you can’t bring everything in house. It always helps to have an agency partner that can handle spokes in demand. And having an expert agency that is always keeping up with changes and learning from other clients can be very helpful to the in-house marketer.

So what is an in-house marketer to do? Choose your agency carefully. Don’t look for people who want to be your experts. Look for people who want to make you the experts. It’s the attitude that makes the difference. With an agency like that, you’ll be able to bring as much in-house as possible and you’ll have an agency partner that can handle what you should leave outside your walls.

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6 Search Marketing Buzzwords You’ll Become Familiar With in 2016

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by Jayson DeMers

Like them or not, buzzwords have their place in every industry. In 2016, search marketers will need to know a handful of buzzwords in order to remain relevant. Some of them you may already know, while others will be completely brand new. Time to start studying!
The Value of Buzzwords
There’s debate in the business community regarding the usefulness and value of buzzwords. Do they make you look stuffy and clichΓ©? Or do they allow you to connect with people on an even playing field?
According to marketer Lindsey Davis, the following statement is an example of bad buzzword usage: “To show our client that we are thought leaders, let’s think out of the box and bring some gamifacation into the mix by creating an immersive and edgy experience for our consumer.”
What does this statement actually say? It’s merely a conglomeration of buzzwords that provides little utility to a conversation. “Conversation is meant to be a collaborative process,” Davis reminds readers. “When it is ambiguous, it fails.”
But Davis also admits buzzwords can be used effectively in certain situations. She provides an example of good buzzword usage through the following statement: “Our client has expressed interest in ROI measurement. Here is an example of how I envision this coming to life and providing value to our client.”
“Good buzzword use occurs when affording ground for action,” she writes. In other words, if you can use a buzzword in a way that contributes to the conversation and allows you to eliminate superfluous words, then your decision to use the buzzword is sound. 
Another business expert, Steele Champion, calls buzzwords “conformity at its finest.” He claims that buzzwords are used to silently tell people you understand them. It’s like being part of an inside joke. You want others to know that you know, and you feel a connection to those who understand you (and vice versa). 
6 Search Marketing Buzzwords
It’s important to understand the utility of buzzwords as a whole before delving into specific terms that are popular in today’s business environment. As you can see, there are times when buzzwords are effective, as well as times when they aren’t. It’s worthwhile to learn how to use buzzwords effectively in order to put yourself in the right position. 
In the world of search marketing, buzzwords are popular. The troubling issue is that many are meaningless, while some have real value. The key is to determine which fall into the former category and which are found in the latter. With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the search marketing buzzwords you need to be familiar with in 2016. 
1. Actionable Analytics
This year, look for “actionable analytics” to be one of the common tech buzzwords. It will rise to prominence as a result of the increased importance of business analytics and big data in both small and large businesses. You’ll begin to see more software and tools developed with the sole purpose of offering actionable analytics, which crunch and correlate all types of structured and unstructured data in order to make real time action and response feasible. 
According to this blog post from datapine, a leader in business intelligence software, 2016 will be the year that business intelligence software finally becomes intuitive and, well, intelligent.  “As opposed to older systems that primarily aggregated and computed structured data, actionable analytics tools will be able to reason, learn and deliver prescriptive advice,” the post reads.
2. Social reach
While the buzzword has been around for a while, the term “social reach” is finally gaining some steam in the search marketing world. Social reach simply refers to the number of times social media content has been viewed by a unique person. 
3. Device Mesh
Internet of Things was a buzzword of the past that’s now considered common language. Could the new buzzword “device mesh” experience a similar path? Device mesh refers to the connective tissue between different devices – including mobile, home, wearable, and auto devices. Device mesh is what’s expected to propel the Internet of Things forward.
4. Influencer Marketing
Another popular buzzword that’s been around for a while but will increase in popularity this calendar year is “influencer marketing.” This buzzword refers to influential people who support and vouch for your brand. Big brands such as Coca-Cola and Under Armor have been doing this for years, but look for smaller brands to jump on the trend in 2016. 
The goal of influencer marketing is to focus the advertisements and marketing messages on the influencer, as opposed to the product or brand. The hope is that, by leveraging the influencer’s power, viewers will automatically associate the individual with the brand. 
5. Authenticity
As you know, there’s a big difference between authentic marketing messages and obviously-endorsed marketing messages. Authenticity is the buzzword that refers to the former. In other words, it’s how you appear to your audience. While authenticity is a big deal in social media marketing, look for brands to begin focusing on authenticity in search marketing in 2016 as they look for higher returns.  
6. Biased Algorithms
Are algorithms actually computer-based, or do humans insert their own biases into these complicated equations? For example, why does Google show more ads for top-earning jobs to men than to women? (This is something Carnegie Mellon University researchers actually discovered). 
While Google and other search engines would probably tell you there are no biases in their algorithms, the data would tell a different story. Look for biased algorithms to get more discussed in 2016 as binary code becomes more politicized. 
Use Buzzwords Sparingly
If you were to boil down the advice regarding proper usage of buzzwords in today’s business environment, it would come down to three words: Use them sparingly. There are certainly times when buzzwords are inappropriate and eye-roll inducing, but there are also a number of situations where buzzwords can be used to clarify meaning and convey actionable advice. 
As you consider the use of buzzwords in 2016 and how they fit into your vocabulary, keep the aforementioned buzzwords in mind and do your best to use them in appropriate situations, while avoiding overusing them in the wrong ones. Your ability to do so won’t be lost on your peers. 

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January 19th 2016 Search Engine Marketing, SEO

5 Ways SEO Can Save Small Businesses (and How to Get Started)

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by Jayson DeMers

It’s no secret that small businesses are volatile. Though the belief that “90 percent of businesses fail in the first two years” is a bit of an exaggeration, it’s grounded in reality. More than half of small businesses end up failing after only a few years. As if the general trend weren’t stressful enough for small business owners, the economy is on a gradual decline, startup funding is pooling toward only the most promising ideas, and the median number of days it takes to sell a business is also declining–it’s a hard time to be a business owner. 
Why Small Businesses Fail
Most small businesses fail for several common reasons: a lack of experience, a lack of customer interest, excessive competition, poor financial planning, or an unproductive or nonexistent marketing strategy. There’s no surefire way to tackle all these potential disruptors at once, but there is a strategy capable of helping small businesses survive those all-too-important first few years–SEO. 
Search engine optimization (SEO) can remedy some of the most common problems affecting small businesses with the following advantages: 
1. Site traffic. The most obvious benefit is direct site traffic. Ranking higher means more people will visit your site, which means more brand exposure, and more opportunities for conversions. Eventually, that translates to higher revenue and more customer support, reducing your financial volatility. 
2. Foot traffic. Search engines aren’t just a source for web traffic now that users can search on the go with mobile devices. An estimated 86 percent of all local searches are now online, giving users insight into nearby businesses. Local business results also come with “Phone” and “Directions” buttons, giving users the immediate tools they need to get in touch with you or visit you in person. Local SEO uses a separate algorithm from national search results, but the basic strategies are similar. 
3. Brand recognition. Acquiring links on outside sources and building a social media following increases brand recognition across the board. This leads to more traffic and more trusting, loyal customers. 
4. Marketing enhancement. SEO can serve as a complementary strategy for almost any other marketing effort. Content marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, and online advertising can all feed into and/or gain from your SEO strategy, making the sum of your marketing efforts more valuable overall. 

5. Budget reduction. SEO is a highly affordable strategy for small businesses, especially those who operate in a tightly focused niche. It requires no initial injection of capital, and doesn’t have any ongoing costs other than the man-hours you put into it. If you invest properly, SEO can yield a higher return on investment (ROI) than almost any other marketing strategy–meaning you’ll save money and increase exposure simultaneously. 
How to Get Started
Interested in getting started? Here are some of the most important fundamentals: 

1. Clean up your on-site SEO. Everything starts with your website. Make sure your site functions on all devices and browsers (especially mobile devices), check URLs, make sure your navigation is clear, intelligible, and intuitive, include descriptive meta titles and descriptions, and beef up all your standard pages with descriptive, concise content. These tips only scratch the surface of onsite SEO, but they should point you in the right direction. 
2. Blog regularly. In today’s world, SEO and content marketing are almost synonymous. You can’t have an SEO strategy without ongoing content, and if you have a content marketing strategy, you’ll gain SEO benefits, whether you intended to or not. Content gives you more real estate on the web (meaning more indexed pages), more contextually relevant content for Google to crawl, and a bigger audience to grow your online empire. 
3. Post content with inbound links on external sources. Inbound links pass “authority” to your site, and are necessary if you want to rank. There are a few ways to do this, but the most effective (and least risky) is to post them using guest posts and relevant content on external blogs–the more authoritative they are, the better. The bottom line here is to make sure your links are relevant and valuable to a target audience. 
4. Engage in social media marketing. Social media doesn’t affect your rankings directly, but it can indirectly influence your authority. Social media leads to more shares, more links, and more visibility for your brand, all of which can support your content and rankings. 
5. Restore and maintain your local citations. The more places your business is listed online, the better–but make sure the information is accurate everywhere. 
6. Cultivate positive reviews. Check out your local reviews. Try to make up for the negative ones, and thank positive reviewers for their time. Encourage more reviews; the more positive reviews you have, the higher you’ll rank in local searches. 
The downside to SEO is the amount of time it takes to lead a viable strategy. It’s almost impossible for an amateur to learn everything there is to know about SEO in the span of a few weeks, and even a seasoned SEO pro would have trouble trying to do everything by him/herself. While SEO is an almost universally cost-efficient and valuable strategy, it does take significant time and effort. Dedicate that effort, and you’ll have a near-perfect asset to fight back against the threat of business closure. 

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Should PPC and SEO campaigns have different landing pages?

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by Mike Moran

Perhaps this is never a question you considered, especially if you work in a small company. You probably don’t have much of a budget. Why not use the same landing page for the same keyword in both organic and paid search? It’s the same exact keyword, after all. There’s no need to pay for two different pages about the same thing. 

But if you work for a large company, you might be familiar with this question already. It is very common for the teams that run SEO and PPC to be completely separate. And when your teams are completely separate, they tend to do things separately, because coordination costs time. So, it is in fact quite normal for large search campaigns to use different landing pages for paid and organic. The question is whether it is a good idea. How would it affect your numbers if your paid and organic landing pages were the same?


The only way to find out is to try. But before you try, you might want to consider a few things:

  • You are doubling your content costs. Every time the right content for that keyword changes, you have to change it in two places. That’s an expense that might not be paying off. Combining the landing pages makes it more likely that you’ll have the correct information on that single page and even though coordination costs money, it probably costs less than doing everything twice.
  • Organic search needs conversions, too. Sometimes, we focus all the conversion attention on paid landing pages, because we are so mindful that we are paying for each click. We reason, “Unless I convert enough to pay for the clicks, I am losing money.” But we forget that organic search landing pages that don’t convert are losing money, too. Combining the landing pages means that everything you do to increase conversions will help with both kinds of searches.
  • Paid search needs relevance. As paid search engines spend more and more time examining the quality of landing pages as part of their PPC ranking algorithm, SEO techniques are becoming more important for paid search. Using the right words on the page is starting to become just as important to PPC as it always has been for SEO, so combining the landing pages gives you a higher quality page in PPC with no extra work, because you already did more than was required for the SEO landing page.

There is no free lunch, however. As tempting as it is to combine the landing pages, it does require more work to coordinate the teams. It also requires compromise-with both teams sharing a page, each must consider the effects on the other before making a change.

Sometimes your situation is even worse-your organic and paid searches go to landing pages on completely different sites, with paid campaigns going to microsites. It’s easier, because the agency running the campaign can just build up a new site, but Nick Stamoulis explains how microsites can make hurt your organic search results.

Put the landing pages together and your organic pages convert better and your paid search pages have a higher quality score. I know it is harder, but will you shy away from hard work when it gets results?

Don’t take my word for it. Take a look at your campaigns. Check out a few pages where the landing pages are different and a few where they are combined and see the difference.

If you have no combined pages, then combine some and see what happens. Take a few of the most important pages and try to put together combined landing pages. It’s best to start with the SEO landing page as the base, because it is very easy (and risk-free) to change the URL of a PPC landing page in your ad, while getting the search engines used to a new SEO landing page can be fraught with short-term problems.

See if you can make some changes to the page to incorporate some of the nice conversion rate optimization you have done for PPC. Then check the results. See if you are converting higher for SEO. See of your quality score is improving for PPC. Then decide if it is worth the extra coordination and compromise to do this for more pages. You might be glad that you did.

Originally posted on Biznology

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