The Gettier Problem: Justified True Belief and the Digital Marketer

moonIn 1963, Edmund Gettier wrote a 3 page paper on philosophy questioning the concept of “knowledge.” Prior to Gettier, the Platonic definition of knowledge was commonly used — justified true belief. Justified true belief states that if P is true, and S believes that P is true, S is thus justified in believing that P is true. Essentially, S has knowledge of P. Simple example: The moon revolves around the earth. You believe the moon revolves around the earth because you have seen its orbit. You thus have the knowledge, also known as the justified true belief, that the moon revolves around the earth.

But Gettier pointed out a flaw in this argument: you can believe the right thing for the wrong reasons. And that’s a problem we need to struggle with in marketing every day.

theaterThe Gettier Problem: An Approach of Assumption

You see a friend at the movie theater, and thus conclude they were seeing a movie. In fact, that was just someone who looked like your friend. But your friend was also there at the movie; you just did not see them. You thus have the knowledge, which is correct, that they were at the theater — but you believed it for the wrong reasons. Still, your knowledge would have been no different if you had, in fact, viewed your friend instead of the look-a-like stranger.

There are some problems with Gettier’s approach as a philosophical statement. It always requires that at least one step of the process be a clear mistake, and thus incorrect.  When attempts are made to iron that issue out, it treads dangerously on “all life as a simulated lie” territory. But on a more practical level, The Gettier Problem can be rather directly applied to digital marketing.

For instance, what if you had called out to that look-a-like? The illusion would have been destroyed. What if you later ask your friend why they didn’t say “Hello” when they saw you? They would have been absolutely perplexed. Maybe there would even be an argument! The Gettier Problem is really a problem with assumptions.

mouseBelieving the Right Thing for the Wrong Reason

We make “Gettier Problem” assumptions all the time. We are constantly believing the right thing for the wrong reasons. And that seems fine, until you realize that this can adversely affect your performance in the future.

I once had the most charming, frenetic ball of energy as a supervisor. She constantly complained that her wireless mouse would kill batteries while she was at home but not in the office — even though she used the exact same mouse. We tried buying her new mice, it didn’t matter. We tried swapping the mice, it didn’t matter. She used the same computer — an old laptop — with an identical dock both at home and in the office. So we replaced her mouse at home with a wired mouse and we knew that a wireless mouse drained batteries ceaselessly at her home.

That is, until she switched desks at work… and we found that she had the same problem. Slowly we realized the weird, simple truth: the keyboard tray that she had at home, and that she installed in her new desk, was indirectly causing the wireless mouse drain the whole time! The keyboard tray made her more comfortable, so she held on to the mouse and jiggled it, constantly, the entire time she was seated. When she was on the phone. When she was on a teleconference. When she was reviewing materials. When she was in a meeting. The mouse never sat idle! We knew that it was happening, but not the correct reason why.

Well, obviously if we’d had better knowledge, we could have worked that one out much faster.

question-mark-463497_640The Value of the Skeptical Marketer

Marketers are encouraged to outline clear goals and methodology during their A/B testing process for a very simple reason: unless you isolate the actions that you take, it becomes impossible to tell whether the results you received were related to those actions. Unfortunately a digital marketing campaign is rarely a “clean” environment. There are hundreds if not thousands of factors that could be tracked; as hard as we try, some element of guesswork will exist. And that also means that we have to be both intuitive and highly skeptical as marketers.

Let’s say you change your call-to-action and receive a 2.8% increase in conversions. That’s fantastic. It’s very easy to assume that it’s the call-to-action that worked. But if you regularly see a +/- variance of 3% in your conversion rate, it could merely be random. And if you don’t compare it to prior year statistics — or don’t even have prior year statistics — you might not realize that the shift was actually seasonal.

But even more infuriatingly, your call-to-action change could have worked, in itself, but not for the reason you think it did. Say you punched up the copy and made it a lot edgier. The call-to-action worked. But maybe it wasn’t because you made it edgier. maybe it was because it also happened to be shorter, which moved the “call-to-action” button above the fold.

In other words, the change of button location is what increased conversion. If you take the obvious answer, you’ll go around making your call-to-actions edgier and you may not see the same results. Instead, you could be changing your button locations to a greater effect.

A great deal of marketing is about avoiding assumptions. This is what separates the marketers who are attempting by-the-numbers optimizations and marketers who can easily intuit relationships within the field. You can train yourself to be a skeptic simply by always taking the time to ask questions about what you believe to know to be true.

Content Marketing and the CTA: Stop Flirting and Get a Room

barstoolSave the flirting for the barstool. Your marketing content should be as bold as a hooker with a mortgage. Yes, you’re attracted. Yes, you’re ready to hook up. Yes, you have a condom in your shoe.

When you have a specific goal in mind for those reading your marketing content, don’t play coy. Spell it out by adding a call-to-action.

  • Start Your Free Trial Today.
  • Experience Our 90-Page E-book.
  • Never Miss Another Post.

Make it clear that your address on the Internet is a consensual space – both parties should benefit from the give and take.

podcastAsk for What You Want

Maybe you want to encourage visitors to your blog to subscribe to your podcasts? Maybe you wish more readers would share your witty offerings to Tumblr and Twitter? And wouldn’t it be great if visitors left their email addresses behind so you could launch a more effective and far-reaching marketing campaign?

Indeed it would.

But you might never know if you don’t ask.

Make it as easy as possible for visitors to your site to do exactly what you desire by taking them boldly by the hand, leading them to the bed, and satisfying them with the stamina of your awesome marketing prowess.

Creating quality content never felt so good.

This is what’s referred to in the business as adding a call-to-action, and it serves a single purpose:  To encourage a conversion.

cementAdd Content Links to Cement the Deal

Once you’ve caught your reader’s interest, finalize the transaction by hyperlinking the text to your CTAs. According to the Content Marketing Institute, a simple path to conversion is best. Making readers click through multiple links to get where they want to go is a no-no. Every frustrated reader is a lost conversion, and that’s the one debacle you want most to avoid.

But just linking to your call-to-action isn’t enough. Where you place it on the page is important too. Your most important CTA – the BIG one – goes in the upper right corner in what newspaper editors used to call “the space above the fold.” This is the corner where the most action occurs – the Bourbon Street of web addresses – if you will. Whatever content you place here will experience the wonders of Mardi Gras all day long.

fatstacksZoom In for the Money Shot

Once you’ve attracted your reader, impressed him with your content marketing skills, and guided him to click-through conversion, it’s time to sit back and reap the rewards. Maybe you’ve successfully subscribed him to your blog. Maybe you’ve just sold him your e-book. Maybe you’ve convinced him to sign up for your next paid webinar.

Maybe you only inspired him to leave a comment.

But he did exactly what you wanted him to do, and that’s good, effective marketing.

And it happened because of your calls-to-action.

Now get busy making it all worth his while.

 

 

8 Landing Page Mistakes We’re Still Seeing in 2015

A landing page can easily become the most important page on a website. Whether it’s promoting conversions from a PPC advertising campaign, email marketing campaign or even a physical mailer, the landing page serves as a central nexus for your conversions. But as simple as a landing page may appear, there are still many mistakes that a marketer can make when trying to improve and optimize their messaging.

commitment1. Not Committing to Your Call-to-Action

Consumers are often easily distracted. If you give them too much on one page, they may just leave or get confused. It can be tempting to offer the consumer multiple paths to ensure that they convert to something, but this is usually harmful. The reader needs to have a single clear path of action. Decide on a single call-to-action early on and base all of your conversion efforts on this one action.

And it isn’t just that the reader can get confused — the content can become confused, too. Think of your landing page like a magazine advertisement. Every piece of content has to be geared towards a single ultimate conclusion. When you have multiple paths towards conversion, your content will be unclear and unfocused.

wordy2. Being Too Wordy

More isn’t always better. A landing page has to be direct. In fact, many of the most successful landing pages have almost no copy at all; just images, a simple tagline and perhaps a paragraph of text. This is an area in which infinite scrolling designs can really shine, because it allows the user to reveal more information when they desire it, but it hides the information until they do so.

Of course, you will also need to keep a conversion prompt on the page at all times, regardless of the scroll. Some achieve this by periodically prompting for conversion between paragraphs; others approach this through a floating conversion.

followup3. Forgetting the Follow-Up

Once a reader has successfully converted, the follow-up thank you page can serve as a secondary landing page and prime the user for further conversion. If you struggled when setting a single call-to-action, here is where you can expand your options. A “request a quote” form could segue into downloadable content, or a mailing list signup could lead to a social media sharing page.

Not only is a user more likely to continue engaging once they have already engaged, but they have already shown that they are interested in the product, service or content that you can provide. So on a certain level, you’re merely giving the consumer more of what they want.

speed4. Not Paying Attention to Speed

The proliferation of easy-to-use content management systems and layout systems, such as WordPress and Bootstrap, have made it easier than ever for designers and developers to ignore the more technical side of things — such as loading time. But loading time and compatibility issues, while easier to manage, are by no means a problem of the past, especially for mobile devices.

Most landing pages have a lot of visual content on them, from videos to images, which need to be properly compressed and optimized without losing quality. Content delivery networks and caches can be used to further boost speed and reduce tech-related bounce rates.

gold5. Failing to be Specific About Your Value

“Join our mailing list for updates!” may seem specific enough, but it’s actually still pretty vague. “Get a 10% discount on your future purchases by joining our mailing list!” is better (though still a bit wordy). When prompting readers to convert, you need to anchor the value within the consumer’s mind as early as possible. And the best way to do that is to describe your value in a way that they can easily understand it.

And additionally, “Join our mailing list for updates!” is also bad not just because it doesn’t provide specific value, but also because it’s a cliche. Users are prompted with the exact same prompt multiple times a day. As with all advertising, you want to be both clear and unique with your value proposition.

wrong6. Placing the Conversion in the Wrong Place

It’s a silly mistake, but luckily it’s one that is easily fixed. Conversion prompts should always be visible on the page and should be at the bottom of the content rather than the top, so that the user is prompted to convert when they have already experienced the landing page and its messaging.

For an additional boost to conversions, consider placing two conversion prompts; one at the top right and one at the bottom of the messaging content. But the conversion prompts should look similar enough that they can easily be visually understood as a single path that the consumer can take.

form7. Using Overly Complicated Forms

Most people are not going to sit down and fill out an overly complicated form, especially if there are multiple input boxes that are “required.” Either collect less information or break the process into multiple steps. If you absolutely need to collect more information from the prospect, you can create a two-page form that has only the most basic information at the very start: name and email. Even if leads fail to finish the form on the second page, you can then prompt them to finish through their email address, hopefully recapturing them.

And if you absolutely need to create a single form on a single page, for whatever reason, strongly consider making the majority of the input fields not required for submission. As long as you’re at least getting a name and email address, you’re still winning!

generic8. Generic, Unmodified Content and Titles

Your landing page should be integrated with and customized by the messaging that has led to the landing page. Email links or PPC advertising should seamlessly lead to the content. If your PPC advertising campaign raises a question, the content has to provide the answer. If your email link is promoting a specific product, that product has to be the first thing the user sees when they click through. Otherwise there will be a moment of dissonance that the user may not recover from.

Remember: test everything. Landing pages are the best example of the value of standard a/b split testing. Something as simple as changing the color of your conversion prompt from blue to green (or from green to blue) could potentially produce increased conversions. When you’re dealing with a high volume of traffic, just a few percentile points could make a tremendous impact in revenue.

The Slow Death of Guest Blogging: the Good, the Bad and the Future

When Matt Cutts initially warned webmasters against guest blogging, way back in 2012, most just flat out ignored him. Many believed that their guest posting strategies were inherently superior to other, spammier strategies. Some even saw the negative influence of guest posts as an opportunity. Popular bloggers would do “blog tours” to promote new content and less scrupulous marketers constantly swapped low-effort posts in an effort to expand their audiences. So Matt Cutts warned us again. And and again… and again. It seems as though no one really got the hint until Google began actively taking action against guest blog networks.

train stationWhy Are We So Stubborn When It Comes to Guest Blogging?

It used to work. But it used to work in the same way that Stephen King sending in a short story to Playboy worked and a teenager handing out CD mix tapes at a train station does not. It was all about the quality of the work and the context. Guest blogging started as a way for already popular bloggers to engage with each other and share their thoughts. When guest blogging became a method of developing search engine rankings first — and a method of connecting with an audience second — it became a flawed strategy.

Google has told us time and time again that all that really matters is the reader and providing the reader what they want. Everything else is just smoke, lights and magic. And there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, either: if someone approaches you with a guest blog, it’s probably not going to be the best content they are capable of producing. It may not even be unique. It may not even be theirs.

But in spite of all this, we’ve still stuck with guest blogs. Even if we don’t use it as an SEO strategy, we often use it as a strategy to sell product or build branding. Many guest bloggers are selling something specific — such as a new book. And the problem here is that any website accepting this type of content quite quickly becomes inundated with exactly that type of advertising. If every single piece of content on a site is trying to sell you something (and different things, at that!), you’re going to rapidly become disenchanted. You may even stop visiting the site entirely. And once that site’s authority plummets, it’s all over.

damage2But I Wanna Anyway: Limiting the Damage

It’s difficult to say that any strategy is bad. Strategies that are bad for 95% of the marketers may still be leveraged appropriately by that last 5%. Some marketers may find that guest blogs are still useful to them and their unique campaign. And when that happens, it becomes an issue of reducing harm.

The great news is that it’s not difficult: nofollow, nofollow, nofollow. Pretty much the only way to ensure that your PageRank isn’t adversely impacted by guest blog spots — and to make sure that your own site isn’t targeted by spam — is to only use nofollow links, which indicates to the search engine that the link should be effectively ignored.

Using a nofollow link still means that the audience can follow your links; so it’s still a good solution for audience building and general networking. It just means that guest blogging, contrary to what many have said for years now, isn’t really a good search engine optimization strategy.

And that also means that the content is, once more, at the forefront of the campaign. If the content isn’t good — and the site isn’t well-trafficked — it’s not likely to produce any significant results.

typingThe Peripheral Effect of Guest Blogging on Highly Trafficked Sites

There is, sort of, in a sense, a kind of roundabout way in which guest blogging can affect your traffic through a search engine — though, frankly, it’s a bit circuitous. Say you write a rather astonishing guest post on a blog with very high authority. Your guest post itself is going to have a high search engine ranking. And if that guest blog post happens to have a nofollow link to your own site, you may still see an influx of traffic indirectly through search engine results, because people are finding that guest blog through search engines and then clicking through.

The only reason we care about search engine rankings is because it makes it easier for people to find our content. So, technically, a guest post is still valuable in that sense. If you place a guest post on a site that already has good authority, you can easily drive traffic to your site through a search engine even if you are not actively increasing your own search engine relevancy. And, as a website owner, you can certainly build authority through quality content produced by guest bloggers, provided that this content does not serve as link spam.

But all of this already presupposes a high quality of both guest post and website, which again sends us back to the mix tape at the train station scenario.

audienceAudience Retention and the Guest Blogger

If guest blogging isn’t being used primarily to drive organic search traffic, then it’s being used mostly to bring over an audience. But the question is whether this audience is really retained. There are a few major goals that a guest blogger might have:

  • Building a brand through repeated exposure with a wider audience.
  • Creating awareness of a product or service that is either being launched or improved.
  • Driving social media engagement and bringing in new followers.
  • Improving website traffic (and hopefully conversions).

All of these goals are worthy ones, but they also need to function as part of a larger, concerted effort. Brand building and product awareness aren’t likely to be achieved without tremendous volumes of content. Social media engagement requires a dedicated social media strategy — as does capturing an audience once they have clicked through. For most, the traffic boost that they experience after a guest blog post will quickly wane.

businessinsiderGuest Blogging 2.0: What Will We Kill Next?

You know who doesn’t use nofollow links? The Huffington Post. And Forbes. And Business Insider. And…

Guest contributing has become the new guest blogging. And while Forbes and Business Insider may curate their links to ensure that the links themselves are already high authority, not all sites do. There are many entertainment, health, travel and hobby magazines today that run on guest contributions. And what is the difference between a guest blog and a guest contribution…?

Well, nothing really, except insofar that the websites are of a larger scale and they usually have a dedicated group of at least a few staff contributors. In reality, the only difference between guest contributions and guest blogs is — and this makes absolute sense — the quality and goal of the submissions.

But that doesn’t mean some people aren’t being sneaky about it. Many writers today are being paid by marketers to get information into HuffPo, Forbes and other similar publications. The press release junket used to be used for this purpose, until it was effectively tanked by Google for, of course, issues of quality, intent and user value.

So what’s the wrap? Guest blogging is a technique that has limited if any usefulness as a search engine optimization strategy, though it can be useful for brand awareness and audience building. Over the past couple of years, it has been slowly replaced as a strategy by guest contributions, which require a higher level of content standards but provide a better payoff with fewer limiting factors. But guest contributions, too, may eventually find themselves on the wrong end of Google’s sharp stick — it all depends on how they are used and to what end.

Why “Growth Hacking” Techniques Could Kill Your Small Business

What is ‘growth hacking’ and what do you need to know about it? One growth hacker defines the specialization as “one whose passion and focus is pushing a metric through use of a testable and scalable methodology.”

It’s OK, you can be confused. That means nothing. Growth hacking is not mysterious. It’s merely a marketing tactic that puts raw growth at the forefront of a marketing campaign rather than more conventional metrics such as revenue.

Many of the most famous growth hacking campaigns – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram – provided free services, so it only makes sense that they used growth as their primary metric.  They could hardly use revenue when they had not yet established a clear revenue stream.

And growth hacking is nothing new. In fact, on some level, any competent campaign can be called a growth hacking campaign if it simply achieves growth really, really fast. That’s because any competent campaign uses testable and scalable methodology and any competent campaign involves passion and focus.

And who doesn’t want to grow fast?

Well, a lot of people. The #1 cause of startup death is premature scaling. Growing is not necessarily hard. Growing with stability is. Slow, organic growth is usually preferable to a huge boom. Even established corporations can make the mistake of scaling upwards too quickly and then faltering under the weight of their new overhead.

Huge growth appears appealing to investors but it carries with it some big problems:

  1. A lack of physical or virtual infrastructure to support huge growth.
  2. A lack of clear monetization and revenue streams for digital startups.
  3. A lack of customer feedback and user experience optimization.
  4. A lack of sustainable growth which the company can rely upon in the future.

In short, the question is: are you really ready for growth?

That’s not to say that growth hacking can’t be a good technique; it’s just a very specialized strategy. Growth hacking is, at its heart, a microcosm of the dotcom boom. It can only be used by companies that can absolutely scale up quickly and that already have a stable infrastructure and viable revenue stream in place. Basically: the lean internet startup. For businesses that have more tangible costs, it’s ironically unlikely to produce reliable, sustainable growth.

Resources

  1. http://www.aginnt.com/growth-hacker#.VTUTkfnF-So
  2. http://www.quicksprout.com/the-definitive-guide-to-growth-hacking/
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Growth_hacking#Methods
  4. http://www.forbes.com/sites/nathanfurr/2011/09/02/1-cause-of-startup-death-premature-scaling/
  5. http://www.inc.com/karl-and-bill/build-your-business-one-customer-at-a-time.html
  6. http://www.geekwire.com/2011/number-reason-startups-fail-premature-scaling/
  7. http://readwrite.com/2012/12/31/10-real-world-things-to-consider-before-scaling-your-startup

Building a Pink Fairy: The “Double Tap” Theory of Customer Relationships

By Cliff [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Cliff [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsLet’s say that this morning you first discovered the existence of the pink fairy armadillo. And that’s fantastic, because everyone should know about the pink fairy armadillo. But now you have a problem — now you’re seeing the pink fairy armadillo everywhere. Science news sites, entertainment magazines, articles about digital marketing; the pink armadillo has, somehow, become universally ubiquitous within your media sphere.

You aren’t losing your mind, nor has the digital zeitgeist suddenly become enamored with pink armadillos — this is known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenonOnce you’ve just learned about something, you become predisposed towards noticing it again.

You might have very well heard about the majesty of chlamyphorus truncatus (also known as the pichiciego) many times before, but because it didn’t sink in at that point, you just don’t remember it. Now that it’s at the surface of your mind, some part of you is actively scanning for it. And every time you notice it subsequently, it will become even more firmly rooted in your mind.

flowers-599344_640Building Your Own Pink Fairies

The first interaction that a customer has with your brand is important. But it may not be as important as the second interaction they have with your brand. The dirty secret of conversion rates is that they are, with very few exceptions, incredibly low. The standard e-commerce conversion rate ranges between 1% and 3%, with most falling in the middle. So for every fifty people who have an experience with your brand — whatever that experience might be — only a single person will convert.

Brand building seeks to create customer relationships and customer associations that will last long-term, transcending each single interaction that the customer has with the business. It isn’t the first interaction — or even the second or third — that is going to stick into the customer’s mind, it’s the recognition the customer feels after being repeatedly exposed to your brand. That feeling of familiarity and recognition is what builds trust in a brand and what ultimately leads to better customer retention and higher customer lifetime values.

handshake-440959_640Customer Recognition Through The “Double Tap” Theory

Content marketing is essentially built on the importance of recognition: through repeated exposure with a brand, a customer will be more likely to engage with and convert to the product or service. Through content marketing, the emphasis of marketing becomes less on converting that initial customer interaction but rather on creating a memorable initial customer interaction. The goal is to give the customer something specific to remember about your brand, whether it is creating insightful, unique commentary or rambling about particularly small, colorful armadillos for the space of an entire article.

Once you have seeded the customer with your personal pink fairy, you can then initiate the double tap. When the customer next experiences your brand, they will feel that flare of recognition and familiarity and, more importantly, they will begin to trust you. Consistently high-quality content is critical to this strategy because you can’t control when and where the customer will experience their double tap. Brands must invest in creating a “voice” for their product that transcends marketing platform if they are to develop this form of trust.

bacteria-67659_640Epidemiology and the Brand Advocate

When pink fairies are seeded and the “double tap” theory has been successfully implemented, something remarkable can happen — you can create brand advocates. Brand advocates aren’t always customers. Some of them may never actually make a purchase from you. But through their trust and familiarity with your brand, they will begin marketing for you through word-of-mouth advertising. Word-of-mouth advertising is arguably the most powerful form of marketing and definitely the most cost-effective.

By reaching out to existing and potential brand advocates through social media campaigns, you can control the epidemiology and spread of your brand growth. You can increase the Baader-Meinhof quotient of your brand, by ensuring that you have a high saturation among certain circles. Every mention of your brand through any form of media is another chance at triggering that sense of familiarity and loyalty — which you will, by then, have rooted into your very own pink fairy.

Creating a lasting relationship with a customer is what content marketing is all about. But there is such an incredible volume of content that you need to be able to differentiate yourself in a unique and memorable way if you are to build customer trust and loyalty. Once you’ve created the appropriate branding, you can potentially capture customers through any of your future interactions.

 

4 Tips for Creating Highly Specific Content

Content marketing has come a long way in the past few years. The best way to ensure that your content is neither irrelevant or ignored is to make it as highly specific and detailed as possible — but that isn’t always an easy task, especially in the wake of the sheer volumes of content that is often produced. “Unique” has become a fairly meaningless word; thrown around and rarely contemplated. But it’s still an extremely important word; content that isn’t unique is likely to be ignored.

men-311308_640Tip #1: Always Write to a Specific Audience Demographic

Marketing is always most effective when it is targeted and personal. Try to imagine the person that you’re talking to — and speak directly to them. Think of a specific person. Name them. Ask yourself what Roberta would want to know about your product or what questions Mike would ask about your service. The more personal you get, the better.

It can be easy to assume that casting a wider net will make your marketing more successful. You want to market to 10,000,000 people, not 10,000 — right? Well, that might be true, but you don’t need to market to them all at once. Most companies will achieve greater penetration by separating their audience into smaller demographics and tailoring their content to those demographics, rather than trying to address their entire audience as some form of amorphous whole.

mapsTip #2: Use Location and Context as Anchors

City, season, neighborhood, events — all of these can be used as anchors for highly specific and detailed content. It’s not enough to simply mention a geographical location in passing context; you need to insert details about that context to create a picture in your reader’s mind.

Think of a book. A book always has a setting and it’s this setting that usually draws the reader in. Without a firm setting, the reader is adrift; even if the characters are compelling, they just can’t relate. When you’re creating the story of your product, service or company, you want the reader to associate and engage. This can only be done if the reader is first grounded.

And there’s a more technical reason behind this, too — geo-targeted content performs much better in search engine rankings. The more specific you get, the better.

newspaper-159877_640Tip #3: Don’t Be Afraid to Get Current

Some marketers shy away from current events because they know that this content is naturally on a time limit. But that shouldn’t dissuade you from delving into news and current events for specific, industry-related and consumer-related information. It isn’t always about building up a lasting content catalog; it’s also about user interaction. The more often a user interacts with and experiences your brand, the more likely they are to trust, engage and convert.

A user seeing a contemporary news article today may not necessarily purchase a product from you today — but they may when they see your name again six months down the road. Every single user interaction is an investment in the future, regardless of conversion. Getting current is an opportunity to seed your chances for future conversion. All content, on some level, is temporary — and this should not be feared.

question-622164_640Tip #4: Try to Solve a Problem

Don’t create aimless content just for the sake of speaking about a particular topic. Your content should try to solve a specific problem — even if that “problem” may just be natural curiosity. Your content should always have a goal of its own, that goes beyond conversion. Remember: your audience usually isn’t specifically looking to buy something. You need to know what they are looking for.

Too often, marketers begin with conversion as their end goal and create their content solely with the idea of conversion in mind. This creates content that is generic and inauthentic; readers will rebel against overly-aggressive messaging. But if you try to solve a problem that your highly specific audience has, you’ll create content that they will be looking for.

It isn’t always possible to be more specific — at least, not without churning out something awkward. When you can’t be unique, just be great. The most famous of our inventors and innovators were not those who thought of an idea first, but rather those who implemented the idea best. If you absolutely have to cover ground that has already been covered, cover it well. A little polish and thoughtfulness will go a long way.

Common A/B Split Testing Mistakes in Digital Marketing

Split testing is one of the most powerful tools in a digital marketer’s kit. With so many competing strategies available, it’s almost impossible to predict what will work on any reliable basis. Through split testing, a digital marketer is able to quickly compare different strategies and isolate the most favorable ones. Unfortunately, the data from a split testing campaign can also be misused and misrepresented. When the process of testing is rushed or flawed, it can produce results that are actively detrimental.

testTesting Without a Stated Purpose

The purpose of split testing is to test out a specific strategy. A single specific strategy. It’s not enough to say “We like this landing page design and this landing page design; Let’s see which one works.” A/B testing should be as focused as possible or you won’t understand why the data you receive paints the picture that it does. Moreover, you’ll waste your own time.

Careful consideration should always go into any A/B test you run. The test itself should be mostly about developing your strategies and finding the best way to test which one works best. Otherwise you’ll find yourself running tests that are either poorly thought out or entirely unnecessary.

In the above example, rather than testing two landing page designs as a whole, you should be testing specific aspects of design:

  • The position, shape and appearance of conversion prompts.
  • The call-to-action and ad copy positioning and verbiage.
  • The visual media surrounding the call-to-action and prompt.

swatchRunning Too Short of a Test

It can be tempting to call a test over once the expected results have been achieved. It’s a bad idea. A test should be done for a minimum of a full week and should only be called following the collection of a solid sample size. A test should never be done for a matter of hours or for a single day unless the test is specifically designed to test something time-sensitive. As an example, you might be testing late night conversions, or specifically trying to test a Saturday sale.

The demographic and activity breakdown of a website’s traffic vastly changes depending time of day and day of week. There’s no way to achieve a decent analysis if you don’t have a sample size that transcends the standard seven day week. And, in fact, in many cases a full month can be preferable. For e-commerce sites in particular, paydays can vastly affect revenue streams and traffic.

fruitsNot Collecting Easily Compared Results

A/B split testing requires that the tests be run with as identical an audience as possible. Apart from the strategies being tested, everything else in the tests should be the same. You can’t run an A/B test one after the other nor can you run them at different times of day; the results you get will be both unpredictable and inconclusive.

Marketers who don’t have the technology or resources to run “proper” split testing may try to skirt around this by simply making the required modifications to their site, recording the results and then comparing them with prior results over the same period of time. While this is still technically a split test, it isn’t an accurate form of testing — for one, it makes it very difficult to account for the site’s growth.

customersTesting With Too Few Customers

Split testing is designed to show differences in large volumes of traffic. A large sample size is required to draw any results. Sites that don’t have a significant amount of traffic and conversion to begin with won’t usually benefit from split testing; the margin for error is simply too wide. If your site only achieves five conversions a week, a single additional conversion will seem statistically significant — when, in reality, it could just be a fluke of timing. If your site achieves fifty conversions a week and you see ten additional conversions, on the other hand, that may be more significant.

Following our article on statistical inaccuracy, it seems important to point out why we, as digital marketers, often have such an inconsistent relationship with data. Simply put, data scientists require many years of experience and education to learn how to interpret data consistently and without bias. It seems almost naive to expect that we could obtain an immediate expertise in an area that requires such discipline. While data doesn’t lie, it is also extremely open to interpretation — and that’s why we need to be very cautious about the conclusions that we draw.

Split testing is not a tool for building conversion, it’s a tool for optimizing conversion — there’s a difference. Split testing works best when a site is already successful and is attempting to improve upon that success. And when used properly, split testing can be an incredibly powerful tool.

Why Clickbait and Content Marketing Don’t Get Along

Clickbait drives traffic. It may not be fair, but it’s undeniably true; 2014 may as well have been The Year of Clickbait as far as the digital world as a whole was considered. An incredible number of news and entertainment venues were successfully launched last year based on just this type of traffic. But while clickbait tactics may work for some digital marketing campaigns, they usually don’t work for most content marketing campaigns. The goals of most content marketing campaigns and clickbait usually diametrically opposed.

contractTrust Violation: Breaking the Contract Between Reader and Writer

Users have spoken: they hate clickbait. They may keep clicking on it, but that doesn’t mean they like clicking on it. For advertisers who simply want to build traffic, that’s fine; for companies looking to build a brand, it’s not. Contrary to what some believe, not all press is good press — and not all traffic is good traffic.

The core problem with clickbait is that it breaks the implied trust between the reader and the writer. The writer has promised one thing and then performed a bait-and-switch, leaving the user with content that they aren’t interested in. For companies seeking to build a reputation, that’s the exact opposite of the desired intention. A successful content marketing campaign should eventually lead to a trustworthy brand identity.

clickingExpired Content: When the Clicking Stops

Every type of content has a different life expectancy. Clickbait is generally not aimed at longevity; the entire goal of clickbait is to just get someone, anyone, to click on it when they see it. While social sharing can extend the lifetime of clickbait content, social sharing doesn’t have a lengthy engagement either. Most clickbait sites support their traffic with a constant influx of new content.

When was the last time you clicked on a clickbait headline that showed up in your search engine results page? Most people don’t. In fact, most people don’t even find clickbait titles in their search engine results — it’s not as though they are carefully keyword optimized. They almost can’t be; keyword optimization would go against the basic principles of the clickbait title.

Content marketing campaigns are aimed at long-lasting content; content that will drive traffic for a long time to come. On some level, content marketing doesn’t need to be clickbait — it will eventually gain the traffic that it deserves through its value. A major appeal to content marketing is that the traffic ultimately becomes sustaining with a minimal amount of upkeep.

trafficMeaningless Traffic: A Lack of Conversion

Clickbait’s major goal is traffic. But traffic isn’t particularly important to a content marketing campaign — engagement is. Clickbait isn’t geared towards engagement. In fact, a significant portion of readers likely bounce right off of a clickbait page once they realize that it isn’t going to be delivering on its title.

Raw traffic doesn’t mean much to a content marketing campaign. It doesn’t build a brand and it doesn’t drive conversions. If anything, it can throw off a marketer’s metrics by reducing the percentage of conversions and making the campaign look less successful than it actually is. It’s unlikely that users will convert to anything when they have arrived at a page through misinformation. Content marketing produces conversions by providing the customer with exactly what they need.

idenittyIdentity Crisis: When Clickbait Isn’t Clickbait

Clickbait is generally used to describe content that is inherently bait-and-switch: a compelling title that either exaggerates the article’s premise or outright lies about it. But clickbait titles can theoretically be true — it’s just so difficult to achieve that most people don’t bother. For example,  “What This Russian Doctor is Planning to Do With This Man’s Head Will Shock You!” is both clickbait and, at the same time, probably pretty true.

There’s nothing that says that marketers can’t leverage the principles behind clickbait to make their titles more compelling. Clickbait takes advantage of something called the “curiosity gap,” which is the natural human inclination to learn more when a question has already been raised. There are ways to take advantage of this curiosity gap without outright misleading your readers.

Standard clickbait tactics are simply incompatible with the majority of content marketing strategies — though there are always exceptions. Clickbait does not produce content that will build the brand’s reputation or that will remain relevant for a long period of time. For the purposes of content marketing, it’s usually best to be as straightforward as possible.

While clickbait may still be a popular trend as of 2015, its days may well be numbered. Readers have become savvy to the tactic and are starting to aggressively resist it. There will come a time when readers will be so over-exposed to clickbait that it will become meaningless to them, and therefore ineffective.

Four Ways Digital Marketers Are Distracting From Their Own Content

Your content is important, but you palso have a lot of other things going on. Marketing goals, affiliate advertising, content promotions — all of these things may be competing separately for your user’s attention. And when too much is going on at once, the actual goal of your site and your content could get lost in the shuffle. Some of the strategies web marketers are using today to grab their user’s attention may actually be actively working against them.

pollMid-Content Prompts

Have you ever been asked to fill out a poll to reveal a website’s content? Even worse, to reveal the latter half of an article that you were already reading? More to the point: Did you even answer the question honestly? Not only is this method of data collection aggravating, it’s also worse than useless. Most people will just mindlessly click buttons in an effort to get the poll off their screen. Some will undoubtedly just back out of the page entirely out of irritation. Any monetization provided by this method is probably negligible when taking the hit to user engagement into account.

You might also wonder how this is useful at all — after all, it’s not like the website has any of your demographic information. Well, that’s where a more unsavory element comes in. The vast majority of these polls are conducted as part of a monetization scheme from Google Consumer Reports. In other words, they don’t need demographic data because they already have it — through Google. And Google likely doesn’t care that their data is fuzzed because they probably take into account extreme margins for error. Which they can do, because of their extraordinarily large reach and sample size.

hrefExtraneous Links

In the early days of search engine optimization, outbound links were discouraged entirely. Anything that led a visitor out of your site was discouraged, except for ads. Many webmasters opened necessary outbound links in new windows — weirdly, HubSpot was still suggesting this method in 2012 even though users absolutely abhor it. Regardless, that’s all changed. Today, marketers focus on links with high authority, hoping that sending users to high authority websites will increase their own reputation and will provide a better experience for the user. But extraneous and excessive links can still hurt, if only by sending the user somewhere else entirely when they’re still in the middle of consuming your content.

Some marketers attempt to avoid this issue by adding sources at the bottom of their page rather than linking them naturally within the text. But this method can backfire, too. A curious reader won’t continue reading the article; they will instead scroll down and click on the source link. Having done this, they may or may not resume reading from where they were. They may not even be able to find where they left off. Either way, it’s usually best to limit links to one or two per two hundred words.

playvideoAutomatically Playing Videos

Videos are great. Video advertising is great. But video advertising can be harmful if it’s not expected. And it can be even worse if it’s unwanted. The theory behind starting a video automatically is that it grabs the user’s attention, but it is far more likely that it will lead them to closing the window and looking for a less obtrusive link. This is especially true if the video that automatically plays has nothing to do with the content that they’re looking for, or if the video plays too loud.

Some demographics do respond well to an automatically playing video, even if it is a fairly narrow spectrum. But even so, you should at very least make it easy for a user to shut it off. Otherwise they might try, fail and leave. Triggering the video through some action, such as by scrolling down, can also reduce the “irritation” effect of an automatically playing video; at that point, the user is at least certain to be focusing on the content.

wordsworstConfusing UI Elements

Advertisers love packing things into small spaces. After all, you only have a certain amount of time to capture the interest of the user. So why not just throw everything at the screen and see what sticks? But white space is extremely important. A cluttered design with too much going on at once will almost always distract the reader. It may even lead to them failing to convert or being unable to find essential elements such as social sharing buttons. An extremely difficult to navigate user interface could even lead a reader to abandoning the site entirely.

It can be tempting to get clever with website design in order to attract attention. And it does work, to some extent — though there are some trends that need to go. But your content always needs to come first.

There’s really just one golden rule: let the reader read. If the user can’t find the information they want, they’re going to get frustrated and leave. You should always avoid tactics that are going to get in the way of content consumption. A poll is fine — at the end of an article. A video is fine — if the user has the option to play it on their own. Links are great if they don’t get overwhelming and UI elements should always support rather than obfuscate content.