Bing It: Does Bing Even Matter, Or Is It Just a Waste of Time?

Let’s be honest. When we’re talking about search engine optimization, we’re talking about Google. We can ask ourselves questions like “Who’s Really Winning The Search War?” but they’re hypothetical at best and, yes, even a little patronizing. Google is clearly the girl that we all want to take to the dance. Realistically, anywhere between 80% and 90% of search traffic today comes from Google. So should we even care about Bing?

weight-loss-648689_1280The Internet Is Made for Porn

Every time the question of Bing comes up, someone kind of laughs and says “Well, it’s great for porn.” Then everyone kind of nods their head and chuckles, as though it’s just a joke. But it’s not. For the past few years Bing has actually been a remarkable search engine for pornography. Even when you didn’t want it to be. Even innocent searches would turn into pornographic ones, if you didn’t have your safe settings in place.

This is actually due to Bing/Yahoo’s algorithm, which has not “learned” the way that Google’s has that not all Internet searches can be judged based on popularity… because then the Internet would just be porn. What initially appears to be nothing more than a joke or a curious fluke is actually a very telling revelation of Bing’s major flaw as a search engine. It has no context; it’s not “smart.”

But that also means that it can be taken advantage of. Google has many exceedingly complicated algorithms designed to promote good content and demote spammy content. Bing/Yahoo provides a little of that — just enough that the web isn’t really, really atrocious — but not as much of it. So it’s probably understandable that some low quality sites may still focus on Bing, or that black hat techniques may frequent it.

hands-545394_1280But Some People Do Use Bing

And they’re not all perverts. For instance, this guy switched to Bing literally because he was being paid to do so (through Bing’s rewards). This weirdo thinks Bing is more aesthetically pleasing, because my search queries require a scenic backdrop. Others admit to using it because “it was default on [their] phone.” And it’s dumb, but that could actually be something we need to watch out for in the future — because most people don’t change the default search engines on their mobile devices, or even on their computers. (Who knows, maybe when Project Spartan ships, it’ll create a whole new wave of people who don’t know how to change their browser settings.)

Taking a broader view, it appears that Yahoo/Bing has a more mature age group, with more men than women. And yes, a great deal of mobile searches come from iOS, since Bing is the default search engine for both the browser and Siri queries. One might wonder if this skews the audience, and it most definitely does: as a whole, users on Bing tend to be wealthier. Why? Well, not to make too many assumptions, but it’s probably because they’re old enough that they don’t know how to change their default search engine.

UntitledOK, The Snark Aside… What About Ads?

As we move into more niche markets for our Google advertising, we realize that traffic isn’t necessarily anything. We’re using long-tail keywords and demographics to drill down to specific segments in Google… so why not use Bing? It really doesn’t make any sense to both claim that a smaller audience is better (in Google) and then claim that a wider audience is better (in Bing).

In fact, it appears as though Bing paid advertising could actually be more effective than Google ads. And less expensive. (Of course it’s less expensive; they’re desperate.) And if we’re going for a demographic that’s already within Bing’s small but stubborn realm, all the better. And if we’re paying per click, we can simply extend our advertising campaigns. Very few of us are actually paying for as much traffic as there is on offer.

But, of course, a PPC campaign is a radically different beast from search engine optimization. What about organic search? Are there ways that you can tailor your content to Bing in a way that Bing isn’t utterly irrelevant?

search-engine-optimization-687236_1280Search Engine Optimization  for Bing

Believe it or not — and you’ll probably believe it — there’s not a lot of information out there for SEO and Bing. While Google maintains a significant amount of Webmaster documentation and tools, Bing/Yahoo probably lost their own internal documentation years ago. Tailoring your site for Bing is a lot like tailoring your site for search engines circa 2008: a lot of keywords, above the fold content and fewer backlinks. Perhaps most hilariously, Bing only actually reads the first 100kb of a page. But unlike search engines in the days of yore, Bing pays attention to multimedia documents and social media signals. This probably pushes back to the whole porn angle, somehow.

Okay, so actually — tailoring your content towards Bing can actively harm your Google standing. For instance, Bing likes keyword-laden anchor text; Google hates it. But there are other areas in which the search engines aren’t at odds; Bing uses social media signals and Google simply discards them.

So, is it worth it to work Bing into your digital marketing campaign? It certainly seems as though PPC advertising may be more effective on Bing, or at least compelling enough to be tested. And if you happen to have a lot of resources at hand, it probably won’t hurt.

Bing/Yahoo can represent up to 20% of your market, depending on your industry, and that’s not an entirely insignificant amount. Moreover, Bing can more readily be manipulated and it has rather specific audience demographics — I mean, there’s like a 50% chance that the person finding your website is doing it through Siri.

 

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.

What Is “Edgy” Marketing, Anyway, And Why Does It Disgust Us?

Companies have been trying and failing at “edgy marketing” since before 2009, and the concept itself peaked in popularity somewhere around 2013. If you run a search query on the very concept of edgy marketing, you’re returned twice as many failures as you are successes. So why is it that “edginess” still intrudes upon our marketing content? It would seem as though while creating edgy content died out, creating “content with edge” did not.

But it should. It really, really should.

dictionary-698538_1280A Matter of Definition: Let’s Define “Edgy”

What is edgy, anyway? Today, it’s considered some sort of “secret sauce” that you just layer onto something to make it punchier, brighter and more exciting. “Edgy” can mean almost anything to a client. Shorter. Bolder. Livelier. Funnier. Angrier.

Basically, just better. In fact, when most clients say they want their copy to be edgier, what they’re really saying is that it’s boring right now. And that could be for any number of things that have nothing to do with its Edge Factor.

But let’s define what edge really means to a marketer. Edge is a combination of things: silly, irreverent, blunt and direct. An edgy campaign doesn’t necessarily have to be an offensive campaign, but many are “mainstream” offensive: being a little rude to the customer, being blunt about profit goals or being overly obvious about a product’s marketing. Most of the problems with edgy marketing occur when the marketers cross too firmly over to “offensive.”

bubble-19329_1280Edgy is Easy — Facts are Hard

Edgy marketing is appealing because it’s usually easy. It appeals to our baser needs. Instead of creating a 6,000 word white paper about olfactory instincts and hormones, you can just create a splash page that says “You Smell! Buy Our Soap!”

But to backtrack on that, creating just any edgy marketing campaign is easy — creating a good one is very hard. And that’s why it fell out of favor almost as quickly as it came into it.

A trend with a rise and fall similar to clickbait, edgy marketing really only worked when it was unique and new. Once the market became absolutely inundated with edgy, bizarre and offensive ads, the consumer started turning away. The whole appeal of edgy advertising was that advertisers were saying things that advertisers weren’t supposed to say. Once everyone was doing it, what was the point?

It was no longer a small marketing rebellion; it was the status quo.

human-733478_1280A Generation That’s Out-of-Touch With Itself

You always run into problems when marketers try to appeal to a demographic that they can’t possibly relate to or understand. But what if they can’t understand their own demographic? Not much can really be said about “millennials” as a whole — this generation is a diverse group that’s mostly typified by its sheer terror of taking out loans and credit.

And for some reason when you’re wearing the marketing hat, everything just goes haywire. You can excuse it when it’s large advertising agencies; it’s people who are ten, twenty or thirty years older than the focus group. But when people are trying to advertise to their peers and wildly hitting off mark — what’s going on?

Well, that’s a case of client blindness: when you focus so much on what the client is thinking and feeling that you forget that the client may be very much like yourself. You’re thinking too much about “Well, these guys will find it funny,” and not asking yourself “Wait — do I find this funny?”

And that’s a real problem. The best content creators are often the ones who are able to really connect in an honest and open way to their clients. Not the ones who are just looking for a cheap emotional appeal.

accidental-slip-542551_1280But Let’s Get Back to the Epic Fails

You can and should cringe a little. In fact, you can also cringe at the word cringe, or worst yet, cringeworthy. We’ve explained why edgy marketing is still popular and why it fails, but not why it’s so absolutely disgusting when it does. In fact, it’s almost a little embarrassing.

You feel a little embarrassed for them.

An edgy campaign that fails has misunderstood the product’s role in your life so significantly that it’s just sad. They think that their service is so special that you would allow them to abuse you (“you’re dumb if you don’t drink this!”), or that you’re so stupid that you’ll buy into an obvious ploy (“drink this, it doesn’t totally suck”). They’ve completely misinterpreted you. 

And that’s like, the one job they had.

And sometimes it’s a little too spot on. Edgy advertising targets the immature. And we were all immature once. So, for those who have matured, it only reminds us of a time when we might have bought into that lazy advertising and been proud to do it. The last thing you want to do, as a marketer, is to trigger memories of awkward high school years. Unless you’re selling something to awkward high school people.

Most companies today don’t set out with the goal of creating an “edgy” campaign, they simply keep trying to add “edge” to their content to create something more compelling. But really, all that does is dumb the content down: it elevates base, emotional appeals, while reducing actual value. If balance is lost, the content loses its integrity.

Consider all of the companies that have tried and failed at “edgy marketing” a cautionary tale; trying to toe the line between memorable and offensive usually isn’t worth the trouble. That doesn’t mean that your content shouldn’t have personality, but that personality doesn’t have to come at the cost of respect for your audience.

Spring Cleaning for the Digital Marketer

As we enter into May, it becomes time to dust off our shelves and take stock — both in our home lives and our digital lives. Everything can benefit from a little spring cleaning, even our digital marketing strategies. An springtime analysis can be the perfect way to refocus and refresh.

gardenBegin Your Gardening Early

Though they may seem like instantaneous magic to outsiders, digital marketing campaigns take some time to grow. By most accounts, it takes at least six months to reasonably develop a campaign and to start seeing results from changes in campaign strategies. Start seeding your future projects now, so that they’ll be ready when you need them. As with a garden, if you let the seeding window go by, you may not be able to catch up in time for the harvest. (Of course, you also need a very clear plan and schedule, or your garden most definitely won’t flourish.)

clutterClear Out the Clutter

Sometimes a little focus is necessary to really drive home your success. If something isn’t essential to your process, now might be a good time to streamline it. Consider ways that you could make your own life easier from an outside perspective. Is your laptop no longer holding a charge as well as it should? Is your Internet connection iffy at best? Are you transferring documents from one program to another, when you could really just be using a single solution? We can become numb and complacent to daily inconveniences, all of which cost us our valuable time.

trashTake Out the Trash

Don’t be afraid to give your projects time to grow — but if they fail to perform consistently, it’s probably already time to drop them and start over. Most digital marketers have their under-performing side projects, and every individual marketing campaign has tactics that are just not quite clicking. Your time is your money. Consider culling your worst performing projects and strategies on a regular basis to make room for new ideas. Don’t consider it a failure, just consider it a learning process. The worst thing you can do is succumb to the sunk cost fallacy.

decorBreak Out the New Decor

Everyone recognizes the bright spring palette: yellows, blues, pinks and all manner of pastels. As the seasons shift, it becomes necessary to shift your content strategy. Remember: vague, generic evergreen content is fading out of vogue. Today’s content needs to be specific, informative and, above all, timely. Comb the news for events and developments or simply dive into industry-related media; you’re certain to find something that you haven’t heard about or thought about yet.

recycleRepurpose or Upcycle Old Items

Just because a project failed doesn’t mean everything involved in that project is worthless. Go over your old content and digital media to find things that can be repurposed or “upcycled.” Are there infographics that you could be using in a current campaign? Do you have prior domains that you now have a better fit for? Or could you use some of your old websites to boost new content or could you take old content in an entirely new direction? That old industry blog that went nowhere could become free downloadable content for a new campaign. Everything has some value, it’s just waiting for an new opportunity.

organizeLabel and Organize Everything

There’s a saying: an successful marketer is a marketer who understands their own goals and metrics. Hey, so it isn’t a catchy saying. Or, even, really a saying at all. It’s still true. While we may all understand goals and metrics in relation to our campaigns, too often we forget to organize our own work and our own lives. Have we finished all our client billing? Are we still billing each client the appropriate hourly amount? Have we been connecting with our leads? Have we pinged any of our prior clients lately? Take some time for yourself to get your finances and client relationships in order.

Remember all of those optimistic New Years resolutions you made just four months ago? You were going to get motivated, stay focused and remain organized? Well, for most of us, May is when all of that has started crashing down. That also makes it a great time to revisit your plans and make sure that you’re still on target. You can get practically anywhere you want both in life and in business, you just need a detailed map in front of you.

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.

DON’T Automate Everything

Do not automate

We’ve all heard the mantra: automate everything! And, automation is awesome. Marketing automation allows you to send informative email drip campaigns to prospects with little extra effort. It makes it easy to keep up with client anniversaries, birthdays, and even things like local weather in your client’s part of the world.

But, there’s a lot that still requires a human touch. A few places automated tools are almost guaranteed to steer you wrong:

ticked-checkbox-1280927-mSpelling and Grammar Checks

Automated tools can do some interesting things. They can, of course, identify most misspellings. Many can help you spot passive text or other issues. But, they are no replacement for manual proofreading. They won’t catch homonyms. They’ll give false positives for grammar issues or miss them altogether. And, if you are writing in a niche that’s heavy in technical jargon, a lot of the words you use won’t be in most spell check dictionaries at all.

twitterDMsNew Follower Greetings

How many automated DMs do you get from people you follow on Twitter? How many do you open? And, even if you do open them, how many times do you take the sender up on the inevitable invitation to visit their Facebook or LinkedIn? I mean, you just started following them on Twitter. What makes anyone think that you automatically want to traipse all across the web listening to everything they have to say? Or, even worse, immediately go to trying to sell them a service?

Instead, how about a simple, personal hello? Take a look at a new follower’s profile and find something specific to note in your response.

If you do need to automate, at least offer something instead of asking something from this person who has already been kind enough to increase your number of Twitter followers by one. Offer a four or five word bio, then ask them something about themselves. This way, you’re starting a conversation instead of turning them off.

Ad Bids

There are plenty of tools to automate your PPC bids. But, left unchecked, you can find that campaigns either get little reach or take a hefty chunk out of your advertising budget. There are a ton of analytic tools available. Use them to test ads and tweak your parameters based on performance. Over time, you’ll find that you are getting much better qualified clicks and making your budget go much farther.

Ad Targeting

Many marketers consider it a slam dunk: the prospect posts about a kayak trip and all of the ads he sees are suddenly about outdoor water sports. But, a recent study suggests that, rather than finding this serendipitous, modern surfers merely find it creepy. And, some targeting is incredibly tone deaf. I’ve seen Facebook friends who’ve complained of ads for counseling after confiding in a friend about depression, or weight loss ads after they’ve made a joke about eating the whole pie after dinner. Not cool, marketers.

Automation’s awesome. But, it’s not everything. Good thing, too, since a totally automated internet would put people like us out of a job. So, while we’re still a viable part of the online economy, take some time to do more by hand and get selective with what you automate.

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.

4 Actionable Mobile-Ready, Mobile-Friendly Website Tools and Tests

Is your website truly mobile-ready? Though responsive design is undoubtedly a big deal, there is no one aspect of a website that will make it entirely “mobile-friendly.” The modern website needs to be well-optimized, fast, user-friendly and technologically consistent if it is to both achieve search engine relevance and provide the best user experience.

fetchasgoogle1. Use Fetch as Google to Identify Any Access Problems

Tool: Fetch as Google

Google doesn’t necessarily see your website the same way that a visitor does. Google reviews your website with the “Googlebot,” also known as a web crawler. Occasionally, Google might be blocked from accessing certain parts of your site, usually through your robots.txt file. Fetch as Google will show you what your website actually looks like to the search engine.

Commonly, images, JavaScript, CSS or other formatting files might be blocked to the Googlebot. Some webmasters do this intentionally to reduce bandwidth and file transfers — though it’s really a legacy technique that is no longer necessary for most site environments.

Troubleshooting Fetch as Google

googlemobilefriendly2. Conduct a Mobile-Friendly Test

Tool: Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test

There’s no need to panic about mobile-friendly support; it’s actually very easy to determine whether your site is seen as mobile-friendly by Google. You just have to run their test, which is accessible both to the public and as a part of Google’s webmaster toolkit. Remember, though, that this just indicates that Google sees your website as mobile-friendly. It says nothing about how user-friendly your website actually is; for that, you need to conduct further cross-platform tests.

A mobile-friendly test is also critical for those who want to ensure that their search engine rankings are not hampered on mobile devices by Google’s new mobile-friendly measures. When Google says that they are promoting mobile-friendly links on their mobile search engine results page, this is the criteria that they are using.

Troubleshooting the Mobile-Friendly Test

renderblocking3. Run a Page Speed Test

Tool: Google’s Page Speed Insights | ySlow

Mobile users are generally more patient than desktop users, often waiting between 6 to 10 seconds for a mobile page to load. This can lead one to presume that page speed isn’t as important for mobile users. But mobile users are more patient because mobile connections are usually slower. If your website loads in two to three seconds on a desktop device, it will likely load much longer on some cellular data connections. In the best case scenario — a high speed Internet connection at home — you should try your best to ensure that your page is loaded in two seconds or less.

Troubleshooting Your Page Speed Test

mobiready4. Compare Your Site Cross-Platform

Tool: mobiReady | MobileTest.me

As mentioned, a website can be marked as mobile-friendly in Google but still not present as a standardized or easy to navigate web experience. Users today may be using any one of literally hundreds of platform combinations. Tablets, smartphones, iOS, Android — your user’s browsing environment could cause your site to break. The easiest way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to conduct a cross-platform test, which will emulate how your website looks on different devices, browsers and operating systems.

Troubleshooting Your Cross-Platform Test

The modern emphasis on mobile-friendly site design is an opportunity for any conscientious digital marketer and web developer. Mobile-friendly design may seem intimidating at first, but it’s actually fairly easy to achieve with the right tools, such as the above. Creating a truly mobile-ready website is just another way that a designer or marketer can differentiate their web property from the competition.

You may have noticed that many of these tools are provided through Google’s own webmaster tools. If you aren’t already doing so, paying attention to your Google Webmaster center is one of the best things you can do to ensure the overall quality of your site — not just its mobile optimization. For as much guesswork as we perform every day as designers and developers, Google actually presents quite a bit of information to us directly.

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.