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Blog entries related to digital marketing

The Importance of E-mail Marketing: These Are the Reasons It Matters

O8 Email Marketing

By the time the day ends, it is estimated that over 250 billion e-mails will have traveled across the internet. That is no surprise considering estimations that there will be 4 billion e-mail users worldwide by the end of 2019. With numbers like those, your company better take e-mail seriously as a marketing channel.

It is not just about the numbers, though. In digital marketing, success is achieved by leveraging all the different platforms and channels at your disposal, each one with its unique set of advantages. E-mail is no exception.

So, what makes e-mail such a vital piece of any digital marketing strategy?

 

E-mail is meant to inspire action.

If the headline is appealing, you will open the message. If you are interested in what you see, you will hit reply, forward it to someone else, or click on the links provided. E-mail has become such an intrinsic part of our daily lives that we are hardwired to associate it with some form of action. That already puts marketers at an advantage, as they are more likely to get a response from their target audience.

 

Easy to automate and measure.

There are a lot of e-mail platforms and tools available that allow marketers to get hard data about the messages they send, including open and click-through rates, which can immediately be used to optimize the content.

 

It is inexpensive.

Aside from general operational costs, e-mail marketing is not really expensive. Sending out a personalized or informative e-mail will cost you close to nothing. Compared to all the other channels available, e-mail is the most cost-effective as long as you take the time to use it creatively.

 

E-mails can be personalized.

While other marketing channels restrict the size or quality of your message, e-mail grants absolute freedom. There are no limits to how much you want to say or how you want to say it. If you want to, you can turn e-mails into miniature websites, with images and interactive media and a brand-centric design.

Your company can speak directly to your prospects or existing customers, in their own voice, under their own preferred terms.

Personalization opens up to endless possibilities that are limited only by your imagination.

 

E-mail has a high rate of acquisition.

It should come as no surprise that e-mail ranks second only to organic search in terms of acquisition of new clients. After all, e-mail speaks directly to prospects. That personalized touch we mentioned above and that hardwired action response all add up to a significant rate of quality engagement with a decent probability of conversion.

 

Increased rate of interaction thanks to mobile usage.

How often do you check your e-mail? Once per day? Twice? Ten times? Whenever you get a notification for a new message?

Truth is, with the undeniable rise of mobile usage, people are more connected than ever. This means they can check their e-mail with a single touch of their finger as many times as they need. This level of engagement is not enjoyed by any other marketing channel, which provides ample opportunity for companies to remain in constant communication with prospects or clients.

 

Constant communication with clients and prospects.

People are constantly checking e-mail. This makes it the best possible channel to keep an open and constant line of communication with your desired audience.

If you need to alert them of something fast, chances are an e-mail is the first thing most of them will see, long before any social media post.

 

E-mail is a vital component of any communication plans you or your company may have for the future. The numbers do not lie, and this remains an extremely effective and tactical marketing channel.

As long as you take the time to plan things through, e-mail marketing can and will spell all the difference for your business.

(Click the following image for access to a PDF with the kind of infographic that puts e-mail in perspective:)

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The 10 Reasons You Will Need to Outsource Your SEO Work

O8 SEO

So much to do, so little time to get it done.

This is true for any digital marketing effort your business chooses to undertake, regardless of company size or industry.

Busy work

Search engine optimization (SEO) can be particularly complex because of the fierce competition surrounding those top spots on results pages. Juggling expectations about time, money and human resources devoted to this service can be one of the most difficult challenges for anyone trying to break through and excel in a saturated digital landscape, which is why companies often choose to bring in outside help to get things done faster and at lower costs.

There is often some amount of apprehension and worry when it comes to outsourcing any aspect of a business, because it means you will need to deposit your trust on a third party that you might feel does not feel as passionate about your goals as you do. Concern is understandable, but that just means that any company considering this very productive alternative should contemplate only qualified and proven providers.

Because it is worth it. It really is. Outsourcing something as monumental as SEO will have an incredible impact on your business and the levels of productivity for your in-house marketing team.

These are the reasons why any company serious about their digital marketing should consider outsourcing their SEO efforts:

1. It will save your company a lot of time

2. It will save your company a lot of money

3. It will let your business hit the ground running with your optimized content

4. There is little to no learning curve, as you will be working with seasoned experts

5. You will have access to a greater network of marketing professionals through your service provider

6. You will spare your in-house team a large amount of tedious work, which will help prevent burnout

7. It will free your in-house team up so they can focus on other projects

8. You will have people at your disposal who keep up with the trends and changes that often affect SEO performance

9. You will enjoy faster results

10. You will get expert advice from an outside perspective

With all these benefits at hand when outsourcing SEO services from an agency, the pros far outweigh the cons. Let us take the time to explore each of these at length:

A Real Time-Saver

This is the first and most basic benefit of outsourcing your SEO efforts, because optimizing those pages and the content to rank higher on result pages takes time. It takes a lot of time. Especially if those handling it are not that experienced. Having seasoned professionals assume this role for your digital marketing campaigns will save your company some much needed time. And time is money.

Speaking of money…

A Real Money-Saver

Money saver

As mentioned, SEO is difficult and complex. If you want it done right and fast, you will need someone with years of experience backing him or her up, or a team of diverse professionals that specialize in specific areas. This means that handling the work in-house will cost a pretty penny. Outsourcing SEO services will provide your company with an entire team of experts for considerably less than it would cost to house them within your own walls.

Agencies can afford to provide clients with lower prices because their work model has them encompassing a large body of clients, which means they can run costs down in order to become the most viable alternative for companies wishing to adopt a more austere financial posture.

Hit the Ground Running

Digital agencies – and, in this case, SEO service providers – have large teams with years of experience to their name. They also have a model of work that allows these experts to quickly absorb the information needed and immediately put their ample skillset to the test.

In other words, by outsourcing SEO you know that the work will begin at once, instead of facing the usual delays that come from pre-planning and planning before execution.

After all, less experienced professionals will still need time to learn and work things out before they even start, whereas proven SEO professionals face…

Little to No Learning Curve

If your company is just starting out with SEO and you can’t afford to hire a seasoned digital marketing veteran, chances are the people who take on the task will spend some time learning the ropes, not only about content optimization but the generation of material in general.

SEO experts are, well, experts. They know their way around SEO and all its common challenges. This means they will not waste time having to learn anything new. They are ready right off the bat.

[Need some help learning the basic components of a digital marketing strategy? Check out our guide on how to craft a profitable plan!]

A Large Digital Marketing Network at Your Disposal

Digital network

SEO is usually part of a larger set of services offered by digital marketing agencies. In most cases, these agencies employ professionals with different areas of specialization who work together. This means when your company outsources SEO services, it gains access to a whole network of digital experts who are helping out with your needs.

Sparing Your In-House Team a Large Amount of Tedious Work

Burnout is a real problem. Overworking people and forcing them to do menial tasks repeatedly can and will have an emotional and psychological impact on their state of mind and productivity.

After a while, SEO work can in fact become monotonous. Keyword research requires long hours combing through pieces of content about the same topic and running through huge lists of phrases, investigating their search volume, and how they perform. Over and over again.

When you have a full team handling the work, you resolve the issue by rotating them every so often. But what happens when the team is small or composed of only a single individual?

Sparing your in-house marketing team from this type of work by outsourcing SEO will make them happier, and it will let you assign them other tasks.

Free Your Team to Work in Other Projects

There are several other areas of digital marketing that also require your team’s attention. By removing the tedious demands of SEO from their table, you can have them focus on those other things, further optimizing the use of your in-house resources.

Keeping Up With Trends and Tools

Marketing trends

Proper SEO requires the use of several different tools and an understanding of shifting trends. For example, Google changes their search algorithm around 500 times per year. In most cases, the changes are minor, but still important.

SEO agencies are always keeping up with changes in the industry or all the new tools available. They have to. This is their bread and butter. By outsourcing, your company gains access to a constantly updated source of information.

You Will Enjoy Faster Results

SEO can take time – research, implementation, and then waiting for the results to actually show will put your patience to the test.

Outsourcing your SEO services will not mean you get instantaneous results, but having a barrage of experts working for you will definitely reduce the time so you get them quicker.

An Objective Perspective and Impartial Eye

It can be easy for people wearing a company shirt to lose themselves in passion for the brand. This is not a bad thing, but it can lead to some problems when evaluating work objectively. When you are too close to something, actually recognizing cracks and flaws becomes more difficult, especially if they relate to your own work.

This is probably one of the most understated benefits of outsourcing your SEO services to an agency: you will have people committed to sincerity. Someone from your in-house team may choose to or be consciously unable to perceive mistakes in his work, because his job depends on it, whereas agencies need to be impartial and get results because it is their reputation at stake.

This means you will be able to get thorough, efficient and detailed assessments of what is going on from objective third parties.

Outsourcing SEO services does not need to be a risky proposition or a wild gamble. It can be a positive turning point for any company, as long as they take the proper time to investigate and evaluate available providers.

Weigh all the options, make an informed decision, and watch your costs lower and your results soar.

Are you worried about outsourcing SEO or any other digital marketing service? We understand. Feel free to get in touch with us with any questions or concerns. We’re here to help!

Categories

How marketing teams can work smarter, reduce burnout, and beat the competition

Marketers - follow your dreams

...all while following their dreams. This post was written and recorded during my recent dream trip to the French Riviera, after many years working with amazing, talented marketing teams who have been pushed to their limits.

As a marketer, chances are you’re constantly under pressure to produce results, whether in the form of web content, better analytics and conversions, emails, conference materials, handling website issues, and the list goes on. How to manage it all without burning out? 


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Here are 4 solid tips:

Tip #1: Work smarter, not harder

The Pareto principle, or "the 80/20 rule", states that roughly 80% of the results come from 20% of the input. This means that just 20% of your day is really what's driving the results your management team truly cares about. The rest of the 80% is fluff. Sometimes necessary fluff, but still fluff.

The very first requirement to working smarter and improving productivity, as Seth Godin points out, is that you have to want and not be afraid to be more productive – take a moment to read his short blog post, if you can, to see if the rest of this article is even right for you.

Now that you're bought in, and want to do better, let's get an obvious fact out of the way: your emotional and physical health have a direct impact on productivity. Remember to take care of yourself, and practice it as an art and an exercise. If you’re overworking yourself, chances are you won’t enjoy what you’re doing, which in turn will make you unhappy and unhealthy, which in turn will make you less productive and lead to burnout. 

There’s a reason in modern times, the elusive work-life balance (or work-life harmony, as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos prefers) has become the monumental goal to strive for. Self-care in your personal life is beyond the scope of this article, but a simple google search for the term will get you started with several ideas. Self-care in your professional life is not as common knowledge. Here are a few self-care exercises to get you started in your professional life:

SELF-CARE EXERCISES FOR WORKING SMARTER:

  1. Be militant about your time and attention. Shut off your email and other notifications (including your personal devices), as you’re able. Block off time on your calendar for focused, uninterrupted work or special projects. Ask your boss if you can get out of that unnecessary meeting you've been pulled into.

  2. Try to leave work on time the next few days, and see if you can tie your success rate to how you use your time and protect your attention. This will take time, and we’ll go over learnings in the next lesson. Just do your best, and don't even think about beating yourself up if it doesn't work yet – we have much more to cover!

  3. Notice your energy levels at home, and your creativity and focus the next day at work. Rank or score them in a journal if you’d like. If you can't stop thinking about work, download the Headspace app and learn some life-changing meditation and self-awareness skills, including this kind of noticing or “noting." Practice daily — I first started meditating in the shower, however unorthodox, because I felt I didn’t have the time elsewhere.

These three exercises will do wonders for your professional life, and in turn have positive influences on your personal life...which will improve your professional life, and so on. It's a virtuous cycle!

The next few tips will help you multiply the 20% of your day that is most impactful, all while taking off the pressure so you can go home at a reasonable hour, take that vacation you've always been wanting, or spend more time with your family. 

 

Tip #2: Delegate

Try to delegate tasks. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, and you question your ability and budget to do so, but just hear me out –– you might be surprised.

First, stop and think. Where do you add the most value to your company? Is it what you spend most of your day on? Are you handling the support queue and doing quality assurance for the website instead of working on bigger-picture items you or your boss wants to tackle? Are you dealing with analytics and SEO when that's not your strong suit, or is nobody dealing with them at all?

I know you want it done right. Me too. Start small, just as they recommend for diets and exercise programs. Assign tasks you don't need to be doing using a project management tool like Basecamp or Asana, or for more technical teams, TeamWork or Trello. Nobody to assign to? That's the very next tip.

Try to delegate knowledge and brainpower. One person cannot know everything. This is an era when "group think" wins. To do the best digital marketing you can, you need to combine knowledge across a vast technology landscape and multiple disciplines: analytics, data science, storytelling, persuasion, psychology, neuromarketing, CRO, not to mention classics like SEO, UX, design trends, paid advertising, CRM, sales team enablement...the list goes on.

Your goal as a marketer should be to know enough about the aforementioned things, or work with someone who does, to decide how much they matter so you can fill in any gaps where it makes sense. To be most effective, you should fill these gaps wisely so that you're not stuck trying to do everything. Where to source this knowledge? That's the next tip!

 

Tip #3: Source helpful talent

Hire freelancers. It doesn't need to be expensive. There are websites such as Upwork, Freeeup, or Fiverr that can help you find talent to take over menial to complex tasks in your day-to-day, letting you concentrate on priorities and work you actually enjoy. Do note that time zone, education level from the country of origin, language and communication abilities, and your own infrastructure and ability to manage remote workers all play a role in how successful this will be. If you have a bit more budget available, and the desire to get it right the first time, you can consider upper-tier options such as Toptal

Hire companies or agencies. What's the difference between a freelancer and a company? A company doesn't get sick or disappear, is responsible for getting it right the first time, and comes with an infrastructure and a pool of skill sets and best practices to draw from that no one person is going to have. Hiring "a guy" versus a team brings a whole new level of professionalism and results. Even when hiring a company or agency, your mileage may vary drastically. You have to do your research.

Read our take on choosing the best digital agency

Not sure what to do? Crowdsource. You can crowdsource information by using sites such as Quora (free but slow) or Clarity (paid but fast and vetted) to ask experts what to do. At least this way, if you’re running into trouble, you can ask other experts for ways to fix an issue, how or who to hire, or how to smooth out your internal processes.

 

Tip #4: Improve communication with your technical team

Ever heard of the book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus? Developers and marketers could use a similar guide. When highly technical people such as web developers communicate with marketers, sometimes it feels as if they are speaking a totally different language. The same goes for technical people who interpret what marketers say. Here are some tips to improve communication:

Communicate visually. Use wireframes, mockups, screen shares, screen shots, and URLs to examples or the specific page on the website that you're talking about. There's less room for miscommunication when there is a visual, keeping in mind that miscommunication always costs you money, sometimes substantial amounts. Here are some tools that can help you do all of the above:

  • Wireframes: These are the low-fidelity "blueprints" of web design. Balsamiq is great for entry-level to professional folks, or even Google Draw (free) if you just need to do something simple.
  • Screen shares: I love Zoom. You should, too. Otherwise, Skype works fairly well if you want a free solution. For asynchronous communication, for example if you are documenting a task or procedure for a virtual assistant, try a screen recording app like Camtasia.
  • Screen shots: Dropbox will copy the URL of a screen shot to your clipboard automatically, or apps like Awesome Screenshot.

Report bugs and feature requests with visuals. You may know what "that thingy on the product specifications page" is, but it takes your developer time, mind power, and frustration to figure out what you're talking about. It's easy enough to copy-paste the URL of the page you're talking about, and provide that to the developer. Use the tools visual communication tools above when helpful.

Pick up the phone. Developers and other techies tend to prefer email, even when it's to everyone's advantage to use verbal and visual communication. Push them to pick up the phone, schedule a video conference / screen share with them, or simply use Slack or Skype and their built-in calling and screen sharing capabilities -- it's often too much of a pain to schedule a meeting, so chat + video is often ideal for getting a quick answer or discussion to happen. This creates visual communication opportunities, but also helps synchronous communication to happen that can be more productive and higher-quality than toneless, asynchronous email.

Get an interpreter. When things get technical, your tech team may ask you questions that either you don't understand or that take you a significant amount of time to parse and understand. Often the most efficient use of your time is to have a technical project manager sitting between you and the developer, ready to translate. They can work at your company, or an agency that you hire. For example, a developer might say, "We could implement your website search using Apache Solr, which would give you the faceted search and taxonomy sorting you desire, or the cheaper way would be to use a Google Custom Search." You say: "Cheaper!" The developer does what you say. The end user can't find what they need on your website as easily, and it ends up looking like a cheap search solution (and website) to your end users. You lose money in the long run, because you didn't understand the business implications of a technical decision, because you didn't have an interpreter.

Set extremely clear business goals and KPIs. You may ask your tech team for a certain feature, set of features, or even an entire website, but it may not end up doing what you want. Define what you want, clearly. It's ok to share them with your tech team. I.e. "we want conversions to increase sitewide by 20% in 3 months" – even if they're not used to hearing result-driven marketing language like that, they should be quick to learn what it means.
 

EXERCISES:

  1. Try changing how you communicate with your tech team.
  2. Notice the results. It may take a while for you to notice.
  3. Write notes or post-its to yourself in a visible place to help you learn to practice better communication habits in the long-term.

 

Conclusion

We’ve established that marketers are often under a lot of pressure to constantly outperform, stay ahead of the competition, provide endless results in terms of KPIs, and always back up their trials and errors with hard data. This can create a very stressful environment, which affects productivity. It’s up to you to find ways to ensure it doesn’t.

Remember that the best ideas flow when you’re content, or at least comfortable, physically and mentally.

In order to properly increase productivity you need to take a step back and consider what you need in your life to feel at ease. Be your own advocate within the company, and work to create a harmonious relationship between life and work.

Don’t fall victim to burnout. It’s a very real condition, a very real threat to productivity, but also an easily avoidable or curable one.

As long as you follow the tips outlined here, you’ll be well on your way to boosting your productive output… and enjoy the journey every step of the way.


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How To Choose The Right Digital Agency

How To Choose The Right Digital Agency

The Gist Of It

For best results, bring in the agency as part of your team, whenever possible and however appropriate, so that they can act as good stewards of your business, with similar context and information that you hold and often take for granted. An agency who wants to know, who strives to know, who wants to be the equal partner and elated, motivated steward of your business – that's when you know.

How To Choose

Agencies – love them, hate them, can't do without them, want to do without them?

Many marketers have been burned by agencies before. When it comes to web design and development, we've seen so many "beautiful disasters" –- brochureware that looks gorgeous but is either technically unmaintainable, unreliable in terms of meeting business KPIs and desired results, or both. When it comes to digital marketing, we've seen luscious email campaigns and landing pages that just don't convert, and fabulous websites that bring in minimal traffic.

As a marketer, you may love gorgeous things (we do, too!) but at the end of the day your management team cares, or should care, about results, data, KPIs, ROI, long-term cost of investment....hard numbers. Is it possible to find an agency that can handle the creative and beautiful along with the data and KPIs your boss cares about? Yes, albeit difficult.

The question is: what role can and should you play in the project to ensure its success? With an agency, you're not usually managing the team -- the team is managed by the agency. So, who is accountable, who is driving and measuring results? If you leave it up to the agency, you need to be sure they know what they're doing -- that they're data-driven, strategic, and actively aware of and considering your management team's business goals and KPIs.

Your managers are always so busy...until something goes wrong, or a project fails. If you can get them to take a bit more initiative ahead of time, to help communicate and convey the desired project outcomes, as it aligns with the company's future plans, that is ideal. If you can get your managers to express the importance of data, analytics, hard numbers, measurement, and communicate that with the agency and allow them to take an active role in executing your management team's vision, that's even more ideal.

This rarely happens, unfortunately, because the website or whatever it is you hire an agency for is the marketing team's baby, and your management team delegates that to you, but you have the advantage of being under more frequent communication, context, and ultimately supervision that the agency just does not have.

For best results, bring in the agency as part of your team, whenever possible and however appropriate, so that they can act as good stewards of your business, with similar context and information that you hold and often take for granted. An agency who wants to know, who strives to know, who wants to be the equal partner and elated, motivated steward of your business – that's when you know.

Optimizing search for an increasingly voice-driven world

Microphone

It's 2004, and Facebook has launched. More than likely, Facebook was not on your radar as a growth tool for your business. Knowing Facebook's success over time, I bet you wish it was. Today, it's hard to cultivate a following on social media without spending a ton of money. I can't take you back in time, but I know of another way that you can grow your business following. The method I’m referring to is optimizing your content for voice search. According to Google, 20% of all mobile search queries are voice search, and Forrester states that 66.3% of households will have smart speakers by 2022. ComScore states that approximately half of smartphone users use voice technology. They also claim that a third of those users use voice technology on a daily basis. Hence, it's time to start optimizing your content for voice search. However, optimizing for voice requires a different approach than traditional search engine optimization.

The first thing to remember is that voice search queries are longer than text search queries. For example, text searches are usually 1-3 words while voice searches are about 3-5 words long. Hence, when doing keyword research, you need to think about lengthier long-tail keywords. Additionally, voice searches are more conversational. They contain trigger words like how, what, when, who, where, best, or why. For example, when people conduct a voice search, their query is in the form of a question. They may ask something like, "Alexa, where is Origin Eight located?"

You may have noticed featured snippets when searching for something on google. A featured snippet is a concise answer to your question. It contains a summarized answer from the site and a link to the page containing the answer. Also, the featured snippet has a greater chance of appearing in voice search. Hence, appearing in a featured snippet spot can be invaluable to your SEO efforts.

There are several things you can do to increase your chances of becoming a featured snippet. Make sure to write your content in conversational language and use trigger words. Also, write posts that answer a specific question and use headings (H1, H2, H3). Furthermore, use unique title and description tags on each page. Finally, you should include keywords at the beginning of your posts and within the page’s URL. There are a few SEO tools that can help you optimize your pages for showing up in featured snippets. SEMrush and Moz Pro allow you to search competitors for featured snippets. Finally, you should add schema markup to your site. At a basic level, schema tells search engines what your pages are about. Google makes that information searchable by voice assistants. Thus, schema can increase the chances of your content showing up in voice searches.

The time is now to start optimizing for voice search. You can gain a competitive edge by optimizing for voice, but that advantage will not last forever. If you do not have time to optimize for voice yourself, or could use someone to bounce ideas off of, send us a note. We are happy to help.

Twin Cities Drupal Camp talk: "Change your customer's behavior with a brain-based, data-driven approach"

Change your customer's behavior

This talk was presented by our CEO, Seth Viebrock, at the 2018 Twin Cities Drupal Camp. The title of the presentation has been changed.

When we say we “optimize conversions” it doesn’t really get at the heart of what we’re doing – we’re changing customer behavior. We’re also learning about deep, emotional values that our customers possess. While there are many qualitative means to this end, there’s a ton of data that’s quicker to obtain and more readily available when we just don’t have the time, budget, or precision to delve into qualitative studies.

Whether you’re doing an evolutionary or revolutionary website redesign, or optimizing your ad traffic and SERPs, data is crucial. If it’s there, why not look at it?

Just like stereotypes can misrepresent reality, best practices can misrepresent what actually works for your particular site redesign. Be an advocate for archetypes (data-backed) over stereotypes (your own opinion). Whenever possible, favor data-informed decision making over “best practices”, egos, and the latest idea your boss dreamed up. Of course data is only as useful as the insights you draw from it, but why not look at it rather than ignore it, before spending your client’s dollars and putting your relationship with them on the line. Perfection does not exist in web design, but practicing data analysis can sure make things better.

Although this presentation is technology-agnostic, Drupal is a highly customizable, data-friendly platform, so let’s take a look at how we can use data for a better redesign, a better experience, and better KPIs and end results!

Here are some data concepts and sources we will cover, which can inform a successful redesign:

__Data-driven personas__ 

* What’s the difference between a stereotype (an inference based on personal experience) and an archetype (based on individual data points from a given demographic)? 

* What kind of data sources are available to support and build these personas? 

__Persuasive data__ 

* Your new redesign touts that this business/organization/institution can deliver a product or a set of promises…but what supporting data do you have to “prove” this to the end-users, and what does this mean when planning your data structures / content types? 

* How do you leverage and position testimonials, data-driven badges, and other “social proof”, as well as data from authority, liking, and scarcity (there are only X seats left to see this presentation!).

__User-centric, data-driven UX/Usability__ 

* The main goal of usability from your client’s perspective is more profit (or a similar KPI). How does something as simple as the prioritization of content on a page equate to profit? 

* What data exists right now that you can look at and use, without heading into a usability lab? 

* How does this data solve for the “ego problem” of web design? 

* Some of this data only takes a few minutes of your time – learn a few tips and tricks, too.

__What data do you have on the end-user?__ 

* Are there valuable opportunities for personalization of website content, even if it’s just the weather, referrer, or country of origin? Why would that matter?

__ Data-driven copywriting__

* So your client wants a website, but all websites need copy. Learn about what kind of data can inform copy-first design, even if it’s not always realistic, and at least think about what kind of data you or the client can collect to inform the usage of space on the page. 

__Analytics__ 

* Simple tricks for evaluating website performance in analytics (i.e. detecting a bug in Chrome without ever looking at the page, based on user completion of page goals), how to set your website and client up for success, and how to continuously improve.  

About the author: Seth Viebrock is Founder and CEO of Origin Eight, a Drupal and WordPress web design and digital marketing optimization agency based in Minneapolis.

An Optimizer's Guide to Life: A Mindset that Transcends Digital Marketing

Mindset

We all have those days. You wake up, go through your morning ritual, go to work, and do the typical tasks of the day. It’s almost the same thing you did yesterday, and you have a constant feeling of déjà vu. It feels like you’re going through the day on autopilot, and the monotony is killing you. You may feel like making some big changes in your life, but you also might have been burned by taking risks in the past. Because change is scary, you keep going through the motions even though things are just alright the way they are, but not really great. However, you don’t have to live your life that way. By continuously making small changes in your daily habits, you can slowly attain the lifestyle you have always wanted without taking huge risks. We follow the same approach with our clients, but this is a mindset that transcends digital marketing.

Let’s flashback to when you were first figuring out your career path. When you were in college or even high school, people would ask you what you wanted to do when you graduated. More than likely, you had an answer because it was expected that you have a plan for what you wanted to do with your life. However, once you had an internship or started studying what you envisioned doing, you might have changed your mind. It was not enough to visualize yourself in a certain job or listen to what people told you about a career choice. You had to try it out for yourself in order to see if it was a good fit for you. Maybe it was exactly what you thought, or it might have been completely different than your expectations. Nonetheless, you had to test out different jobs until you found the right one. 

Think about the last time you decided to eat healthier. Rather than making small changes to your regular eating habits, like slowly cutting out a few unhealthy items here and there, you may have been sold on the latest and greatest life-changing diet. You probably dreaded the days leading up to the time when you started it, and while you were eating "healthy," you probably hated your life and counted the days until you were finished. That is, if you even had the dedication to see it through the end. When you completed your diet, you probably thought you deserved a special treat and slipped into your old habits again. Drastic changes sound great in theory, and it’s one of the reasons quick weight loss plans and self-proclaimed miracle drinks sound so appealing. However, a much more feasible and effective process for reaching healthy eating habits is to introduce small changes over time. 

We can apply the same logic to exercising. If you never worked out and decided to run a marathon tomorrow, the results would not be pleasant. The odds of you completing the race would be slim, and even worse, it would discourage you from wanting to work out in the future. Conversely, if you set a goal to run for a few minutes this week and a few minutes longer next week, or even tested different exercises to see what you enjoyed doing, you would slowly make gains and get into better shape.

The optimizer mindset can be applied to finding and getting good at a new hobby as well. In order to find the activities you love doing, you have to try lots of different things. Some people are musically talented, other people are gifted athletes, and some people are both. If the only hobby you ever tried was playing the guitar, your true passion could be playing baseball, but you would never know that if you only took guitar lessons. The fact of the matter is that you don’t know what you enjoy until you test it. Then, once you do find the hobbies you enjoy, you might want to get better at them. You’ll do that by testing small changes to your technique and see what helps you improve.  Everyone is unique, so you have to constantly test your approach in order to keep your craft in top shape. 

There’s a good chance that you already apply this mindset when managing people at work, but you may not think of it in the same way. If you are a good manager, then you are constantly looking for ways to maximize the performance and efficiency of your employees. When someone new starts, you might test different techniques for managing that person because no two employees are the same. You will test different management strategies and give them different projects to find what they’re good at. Once you establish a standard management style and deliverables, employees will have expectations for the job. If you drastically changed expectations overnight without giving your employees time to adjust, they would not be very happy. You would be disappointed with their performance and may have to fire some of them. Even worse, if the change was too disruptive, you may have to rebuild the entire department.

There are countless ways that you can apply the optimizer mindset to your daily life. The primary thing to remember is that you can reduce the risk associated with lifestyle changes when you introduce change in small increments. Quick, drastic changes are idealistic, but they are very risky. Big changes are possible, but they take time.  

As you may know, the digital marketing landscape has changed. We have numerous tools that enable us to apply an agile approach to digital marketing. With today’s technology, we can test small changes and measure small improvements to our websites and marketing campaigns. We no longer have to undergo complete redesigns of our websites to increase conversions and risk being burned by a drastic, expensive process. If this is all unfamiliar to you and seems a bit overwhelming, that’s ok. We can help make incremental improvements at your organization. Simply fill out our contact form, and we can help bring your organization into the future.

Content Overload: It's necessary to articulate value quickly and efficiently

Content is everywhere!

I want you to take a second to imagine how much content you see in a day. From your mobile phone, to your laptop, to the TV at your favorite coffee shop, information is everywhere. The sheer amount of content that is available to us is overwhelming, and we do our best to ignore most of it. Occasionally something does catch your eye, but even then, it’s rare for you to read or watch it in its entirety. Think about it, even when you see a post in your news feed, you may like it or share it without reading it all the way through. Thus, when it comes to your website and ad campaigns, it’s more critical than ever to convey value quickly and efficiently. Fortunately, there are a few things that you can start thinking about today to earn and keep the attention of those who express interest in your business.

First, make sure your website looks professional. This one goes without saying, but it’s important that you don’t lose credibility right off the bat. According to a study conducted by Gitte Lindgaard of Carleton University in Ottawa, websites make an impression on users within the first 50 milliseconds of viewing. Thus, on any page that traffic is directed to, users’ first impression of your website, you need to make sure it looks great. You do not need to try and win any visual design awards, but people will not want to buy from you if your site does not look professional.

[For more information on how to create a functional and efficient website, please visit our Basics of Web Design guide.]

Furthermore, you need to make sure your messaging is clear and concise. People have plenty of options, so they are not going to take too much time to figure out what you’re offering them. Your value proposition needs to be displayed front and center on your landing page and it needs to explain what your business can do for them, why they should care, and why you’re better than your competitors. If you don’t answer those three key questions, they may leave your site and purchase from a competitor. If you are unsure if your message is clear enough, you can try the "5 second test." Show a stranger your landing page for 5 seconds, then close the window. Immediately after that, ask them what kind of value they think your business provides. If they can’t articulate what you do, then your value proposition, or the way it is displayed on your landing page, needs some work. It’s also important to be as specific as possible. If your landing page content is highly specific, it will be easier to create highly targeted advertisements.

When it comes to advertising, you need to make sure you create and maintain "scent" in your campaigns. This means that you have to ensure your pre-click advertising and post-click messaging have a similar appearance and feel. You can maintain strong "ad scent" by following a few key rules. First, you should confirm that the landing page is relevant to the ad they clicked on by matching your ad copy to your landing page copy. For example, if you are promoting new features from your latest product update, make sure those features are displayed on the landing page they are directed to. The last thing you want to do is send them to a page that is unrelated to the thing that first caught their eye. This doesn’t mean that you have to create an additional landing page for each ad. You can use dynamic copy instead. Second, the design of the ad in your advertisement should match the design of your landing page, and it’s even more powerful if you can use the same images from the ad on your landing page. Finally, the ad message should be the centerpiece of the landing page content because you want to give visitors confirmation that they’re in the right place.

If you need help cultivating your value proposition, don’t have the time to maintain consistency in your campaigns, or have any questions whatsoever on your digital marketing, feel free to contact us. We’re here to help!

Using Data Analytics to Plug the Leaks in Your Conversion Funnel

data analytics

Guest Post by Andrew McLoughlin for Colibri Digital Marketing

 

Despite the benefits, many sites and businesses are still not using any sort of data analytics systems to explore user behavior in their site traffic. Effectively flying blind, those sites cheat themselves of potential conversions, fail to improve user experience, and sacrifice their bottom line. But data analytics tools are low-cost, high-return systems that provide a huge wealth of information. Our digital marketing agency uses them every day for our clients, and it’s shocking that they aren’t in more common use. With just a little time and patience, your business can use data analytics to tighten your conversion funnels and improve user experience. We’re here to show you how.

 

Data Analytics

 

If you’re not familiar with the term, “data analytics” refers to the process by which information is collected and interpreted. For our purposes, that data might include things like how many visitors a webpage got, at what times of day, from which sort of device, and so on. By comparing two sets of data, patterns can be charted and leveraged.

 

For instance, a site tends to get most of its traffic on Fridays and Saturdays. It blogs weekly, publishing Friday mornings. There’s a good chance that the increase in traffic results from visitors coming back to read the new blog content. In another example, a site which typically gets hundreds or thousands of visitors per month suddenly drops to single-digits. That would indicate a serious problem, maybe with the site’s rankings or with some kind of server-side error.

 

By exploring trends and correlations, useful insights can be gleaned about the site’s operations, and improvements can be made.

 

Data generally falls into one of three categories: acquisition, audience, and behavior.

 

Acquisition

 

There are a number of different paths by which your site might be found and visited. Broadly, these paths divide into:

 

Direct

Direct traffic refers to those users who either type your URL outright, or find it in their history or bookmarks. They visited your site deliberately, and weren’t link to it from some other place.

 

Organic

Organic traffic found your site through a general search query. They searched a keyword or phrase, and your site was provided among the search results.

 

Social

Social traffic came to your site from a social media platform. It’s technically just a subset of your “referral” traffic, but with social media’s influence becoming more pervasive, it’s useful to keep it distinct from other referrals. If you include a link to your content in a Facebook post, for example, then users who follow that link will get grouped here.

 

Referral

Referral traffic, like social, describes users who followed a link on another site, and found themselves on your own page. If a user was somewhere else, first, then it’s considered a referral. This also contains the subcategory of email traffic, which isn’t quite a referral (since you emailed them the link) but is useful for tracking the efficacy of remarketing campaigns or newsletters and the like.

 

Audience

 

This section collects data about the people who are actually visiting your site. One user isn’t interchangeable with another. Different demographics, or users with different intentions, may have very different experiences on the same site. This section keeps track of whether a user has been there before (“new” vs. “returning” users), what device and software they were using, their location, other sites they frequent, personal data (if available) and so on. These are the sorts of insights that will let you target a specific landing page, call to action, or piece of content to a specific type of potential customer. By doing so, you’ll increase engagement, and help those customers advance through your conversion process more efficiently.

 

Behavior

 

Behavior data examines the type and sequence of interactions a user has with your site. Metrics include which pages got the most traffic, time spent on a page, how many pages a user visited in a single session and their order, whether a user completed a goal (like signing up for a newsletter or making a purchase) and so on. This data is most useful for diagnosing problems.

 

Imagine that one of your pages has an especially high bounce rate (instances of users visiting the page, but leaving your site immediately, without exploring further.) As an outlier, it would be clear that something about that page makes visitors disinclined to continue on your site. Maybe the content is unengaging, the interface confusing, or the site menu obscured. For whatever reason, if users are unwilling or unable to further explore your site, the page with the high bounce rate need will troubleshooting.

 

The behavior charts can also be used to spot pain points in your conversion funnel. You might see users filling a shopping cart, but abandoning the process when it comes to entering their shipping information. Maybe the layout is unintuitive, or incompatible with autofill software, or perhaps users are irritated at being asked for the same information twice (first for their billing address, then again for their shipping.) This sort of problem is relatively common in ecommerce, and more than once it’s been solved with a simple “use same address as billing” toggle.

 

How Do I Put All This to Use?

 

Step one: start collecting data. There are a number of tools out there to get you started, but Google Analytics is probably the simplest. In just a few minutes, you can add a small bit of script to each of your pages, and start collecting data. The sooner you start, the better. You’ll need at least a few weeks of data before you can start making useful inferences. The bigger your sample size, the more representative it’s likely to be.

 

Once you’ve got a sufficient pool of data (the exact sample size will depend on the scope and scale of your particular site) you can start exploring it for trends.

 

If you aren’t sure where to start, just pull up visual representations of your data and look for the outliers. If you’ve got a stable line, with a huge spike, look for changes in other sections that correlate with it. If you’ve got a spike in traffic for a certain day, look at the previous week and see if there’s a corresponding spike, for instance. Compare your CTR (click through rate) against the relative percentages of new and returning users, to see if there’s a pattern. If returning users tend to explore more deeply, double down on your remarketing initiatives (like email, social media, and newsletters).

 

Basically, it all comes down to this. Data analytics tools give you a record of how your site is being used. If you see something that’s going well, reinvest in it. If you see something going wrong, take steps to correct it. Observing the way your users interact with your site will alert you to pain points, and holes in your conversion funnel. By restructuring your site’s content to plug those holes, you can better keep your users engaged, delivering a better experience, and driving more conversions. The sooner you start, the sooner you can start improving your site!

 

 

Guest

Lean Thinking Applied to Digital Marketing Agencies: Article #2

Lean Thinking

This is a continuation from a previous article

The principle of flow indicates eliminating specialized departments and batches of work done therein. In the context of a digital agency, that might be SEO, SEM, CRO, design, and UX teams who don't work together as a unified "department" or team. Creating SEO-friendly designs is definitely an important concept. Creating PPC SEM campaigns that convert (CRO) is important as well. So, any silos of specialization can actually impede flow and thus attainment of lean operations at a digital agency.

Another flow concept is ignoring the boundaries between companies, departments, and individual roles in order to remove all impediments to the continuous flow of the specific product or service. In the digital agency context, this can equate with putting a client's copywriting team into your project management portal, Slack channel, and other team-integrating tools so that you can do your conversion rate optimization (CRO) work without going through another party to get access to them and Get Work Done. 

Pull is a principle that surrounding the delivery of what the customer wants, when they want it. This translates into right-sizing our tools and processes so we don't need to produce massive websites, overly-complex solutions, or bloated CRO work for those who do not need it at this time. Of course, as a client grows, we want to grow with them. But, we want to respect the journey and be able to deliver right-sized solutions along the way, from the very inception of the relationship.

Lastly, we have perfection as perhaps the ultimate principle. It is akin to the concept of "optimization", which we value highly at Origin Eight. In lean thinking, the improvement process never ends – you must always strive to offer a better product through continuous incremental improvement or "kaizen", while at the same time reducing waste. In order to maximize efficacy of kaizen, we must have transparency across the entire value stream (from the client to an agency's internal team) to discover opportunities for improvement. In a sense, "transparency" equates to "data", which we require for any type of CRO or optimization work we do – "best practices" and "big ideas" are not enough in an ecosystem with readily-available data and analytics.

As a data-driven agency doing optimization work, we aim to practice what we preach, as it will only make us better. The last concept from perfection is that settling for merely being better than one's current competition will not suffice in the long-run – eventually someone will come along and beat us. Perfection may not exist, but optimization is the closest we can get, and we believe it's what's going to continue driving us for years to come.