Ask the #SMXpert: Smart B2B SEM Tactics

If you have a question on A/B split testing or are having challenges with ABM targeting on paid search, read on. Contributor Brad Geddes answers these questions and more in our continuing SMXpert series!

The post Ask the #SMXpert: Smart B2B SEM Tactics appeared first on Marketing Land.

The following is a continuation of the Q&A segment with moderator Brad Geddes from the “B2B SEM: Meeting Specific Challenges With Really Smart Tactics” session held during Search Marketing Expo (SMX) West 2018.

Intro

Challenges facing business to business (B2B) search advertising buyers are unique and include:

  • Finding enough search volume on technical, niche keywords.
  • Keeping clear of high-volume consumer-oriented keywords.
  • Attributing properly despite long sales cycles and conversions that frequently take place offline.

SMXpert Brad Geddes answered questions and shared some of his strategies and tactics for creating profitable B2B ad campaigns.

Question: Given the long sales cycle and not so much search volume, how do you run A/B split testing in B2B SEM?

Brad: There are two parts to ad testing in this scenario. The first is determining what to track (conversions). If the sale doesn’t happen for two years, then you might try looking at qualified leads. If a lead isn’t qualified for 12 months, then you might try leads and so on.

The goal is to get as close to a conversion as possible in a reasonable time frame. Generally, you want the conversion event to happen in seven to 30 days so that the data isn’t so stale that you’re taking action on old data.

Because you have low volume, you want to use multi-ad group testing. With multi-ad group testing, you can aggregate the data from patterns, lines, labels and so on across ad groups so that you have more data upon which to make decisions.

For instance, in B2B pay-per-click (PPC), there are usually a few main considerations for your headline:

  • Best call to action (CTA).
  • Ability to pre-qualify the audience.
  • Primary use benefit.

If you were working on call to action (CTA) testing, you could write two or three different CTAs and use them in all of your ad groups within that test segment.

You could then examine the data by CTA across ad groups to see which one has the best conversion per impression, and that would be your ad winner. Then you could repeat with other tests, lines and so forth.

Question: Let’s talk six-month-plus sales cycles. You don’t want to jam forms down people’s throats from the beginning, but simply spending money on awareness (via ungated content) doesn’t always look good in the eyes of executives. Any thoughts or ideas on this?

Brad: The advantage of ungated content is you push your content to more people and make it easily shareable and discoverable by search engines. The downside is that you collect fewer form fills early in the funnel.

The way we measure this is with attribution management.

For example, we can give away the content and put an email signup form for more info on the page. As people come back and fill out demo request forms or take a free trial or move to the next step of your process where you can count them as a qualified lead, we can use that piece of information as a conversion.

Once we have the qualified leads, then we can examine how well our ungated content is leading to qualified leads at some point in time. We can also do some high-level comparisons of time frames to each other to see if we have more total conversions.

When you use ungated content, your conversion rates might drop, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s that more people are discovering your content; so you might see total visitors increase, conversion rates drop and more total conversions increase.

That’s still an overall business win, even with a drop in conversion rates, as you received more total customers in the end.

Question: Our B2B accounts always have low Quality Scores. Does this matter, or should we just ignore Quality Scores?

Brad: This is a tricky question; we need to break the keywords into three types first:

  1. Brand.
  2. B2B only terms (buyer agent words, B2B intent and so on).
  3. Terms that can be B2B or business to consumer (B2C).

For your brand, you can still get 10s.

For your B2B only terms, you should be able to get a 6 to 10.

The terms that are ambiguous: safety gates, accounting, task management and so on are trickier, as they can be searched for by both consumers or businesses. This means your ad’s job is to pre-qualify users and to weed out B2C wasteful clicks so you are only attracting B2B clicks.

If you don’t pre-qualify your audience you might find you have lower conversion rates at higher quality scores and you are attracting too many B2C clicks:

Think about the Quality Score factors:

  • Expected CTR.
  • Ad relevance.
  • Landing page experience.

You can create a good landing page experience. Depending on the situation, ad relevance can be average or above average, depending on how you are trying to weed out B2C clicks.

However, you should not have an above-average expected click-through rate (CTR), as that means you are attracting B2C clicks. Usually, you’ll see your expected CTR as average or below average; and that’s OK if your goal is to weed out consumers.

Based on the Quality Score math, a 7 might be possible, but a 5 is much more likely.

When you have a 4, that means that you can improve the numbers, as this often indicates that your landing page experience has dropped.

While you shouldn’t make changes based solely upon Quality Score, in B2B, we usually aim for a 5 or 6 for the terms that can be B2B or B2C and start optimizing at a 4 or re-evaluating our metrics at a 7 just to make sure we aren’t getting too many B2C clicks.

Question:  What challenges have you experienced with ABM targeting on paid search?

Brad: When we think about just PPC for account-based marketing (ABM) and we’re ignoring LinkedIn and Facebook data, it’s impossible to only target an employee of a company outside of customer match.

So one of the top goals is to get enough email addresses from the targeted companies to use customer match. You can do that by targeting a very small radius around the company’s campuses, making white papers just for that company and so forth to bolster your customer relationship management (CRM) data.

Then you bring in the LinkedIn and Facebook targeting to help augment the total users, as with those platforms you can often narrow your targeting enough to only target a few companies, or even a single one in some cases.

Another way to help is to focus not just on a single company, but a company type, such as enterprise companies in the tech sector or medium-size financial companies (You’ll need more parameters than I listed).

Then you can also use similar lists to reach more people who are like-minded.

So with search, ABM = audience + keyword. The keywords you know, so the main focus is building the audience lists.

Have a question Brad didn’t cover?

Complete this form, and we’ll run your question and the SMXpert responses shortly!


Want more info on Paid Search? Check out our comprehensive PPC Guide – 9 chapters covering everything from account setup to automation and bid adjustments!

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SMX Advanced 2018 Session Recap: Storytelling with Social Ads that Sell

Contributor Joe Martinez recaps a session of rock-star paid social media marketers sharing how you can use social media to engage, entertain and motivate readers through the sales funnel.

The post SMX Advanced 2018 Session Recap: Storytelling with Social Ads that Sell appeared first on Marketing Land.

SMX Advanced attendees were treated to a rock-star lineup of paid social media marketers. Our presenters spoke to the crowd about how we should be using social media to engage users, move them down the funnel and give them the message they want to hear to increase brand interest.

Here’s a recap from the three speakers on the Storytelling With Social Ads That Sell session panel.

Jeff Ferguson

Jeff Ferguson was first up.

To set up the presentation, he went over a great analogy of creating cocktails. The difference between a Manhattan cocktail and a martini is one ingredient. The difference between a martini and a Gibson is one ingredient.

The message here is that sometimes all you have to do is change one little thing to get something new and amazing. The same idea can be applied to marketing. Maybe one little difference in your ad copy or one little way we tell a story can make a big impact on your campaigns.

Typically, we write content, and it sits there. Maybe we’ll promote it on social media, but many people don’t see these stories we spend a lot of time on. Let’s take our client’s information and use it appropriately for each stage of the content marketing funnel. Jeff then went on to show examples of how he utilizes this approach.

High funnel. For one client who focuses on meal kits for people with serious health concerns, Jeff and his team asked themselves:

  • What kind of post is a great introduction?
  • What posts can help get users into our funnel?

They found out the meal kit company had a lot of fantastic blog posts which were just sitting on the website with no major traffic. These posts, when finally promoted, led to a lot of user engagement, which was a win. They got the users to notice the brand and introduce them to the funnel.

Mid-funnel. Typically, this is where we see remarketing start to come in. We’re showing ads to users who are already familiar with our brand, even though it may be out of the corner of their eye. Focus the content on:

  • Testimonials.
  • Product comparisons.
  • Demonstrations
  • Before-and-after examples.

Consider using audiences of second touch, proven performers, content downloaders and engaged views from the high-funnel approach to keep moving those users along.

Low funnel. This is where we want to be more aggressive in asking for the sale. By the time users are at the bottom of the funnel, we start to really push the offer-driven message. By this point, they’ve seen your brand message at least two or three times, so it’s OK to start asking for the sale.

Going beyond the conversion. It’s typical in marketing to focus on the same thing, so we lose touch with everything. Not only do we want to get the sale, but we want to get those users to come back. We all should care about customer success. Jeff and his team like to look at the entire customer journey and see where they can come in and help out.

The problem with email after the journey is that email open rates are pretty bad, pretty horrible. We’re talking about a 21.8 percent average open rate. If other marketing channels had that type of success rate, we’d all be fired, right?

Customer match is a better option than email to take the user farther down the road. Take the user story farther down the road to keep feeding those users new stories until we hit your end goal.

Deciding what to communicate. Keeping in mind the same meal kit client mentioned earlier, audience exposure had a much better result over email. Jeff’s team found out that people who picked their own meals stayed on longer with the program. So they took the updated list of those specific users every week and showed new ads to this customer match audience.

Email rate was 56 percent. Audience exposure for search/social campaigns was 80 percent. The efforts increased meal selections by 50 percent and reduced churn by 20 percent.

Remember, none of these changes are big. Storytelling is about helping a prospect through the entire marketing funnel.

Presentation deck: Social Media Storytelling by Jeff Ferguson

Michelle Morgan

Next up was Michelle Morgan from Clix Marketing, who talked about bringing people back into the funnel.

When looking at a basic funnel, we typically see four steps:

As B2B marketers, our goal should be to turn the stereotypical “funnel” into a shape that makes it easier for users to slide down. How do we do this? Michelle breaks it down.

Make users come back happy. One of the worst things we can do to try and move users along the funnel is crappy remarketing.

For example, let’s say you were trying to get users to download a white paper in your initial campaign. What if they don’t convert off the white paper? Don’t remarket to users who didn’t visit the confirmation page for the past 90 days. Break the audiences down into lower cookie durations. Change your CTA as the time decay flows. Have a firm CTA in the initial 30 days, but soften it after 90 days. Test this same strategy with your offers, too. Try different content (e-book vs. white paper) to see if that makes a difference.

Moving down the funnel. If you’re not doing lead scoring, you’re missing out. Michelle had some great examples of creating a point system with a set threshold to move users down your strategy. Come up with a system where the user maintains a certain “worth” during an agreed upon time duration to know which audience the user actually belongs to, and how they should be marketed.

Push users to new content they may not have seen before. Also, move users away from content they have already seen to avoid annoying people with the same message over and over. For users with too low a score, depending on your scoring system, create new lists and re-engage through other marketing channels.

Closing the deal. Win back stalled opportunities with specialized messaging. Sometimes people are deep in the funnel but get stuck for some reasons we can’t easily understand. LinkedIn Sponsored InMail is great. Users only see one ad in their InMail once every 45 days, so you don’t have to worry about bugging users.

Using the LinkedIn ad, offer something they can’t get anywhere else.

Act like a sales rep and work within your customer relationship management (CRM) system. Don’t stop at contacts, look at business targeting. People leave companies all the time, so target the business on LinkedIn, which will be far more accurate than any company targeting on Facebook.

The story is for users. Keep the users’ end goal in mind instead of your own. It’s okay to pick an emotion so your ads don’t seem stuffy. Graphics are great for content, while real-world images are better suited for non-content.

Carousel ads let the person pick the story or let your customers tell the actual story with testimonials.

Presentation deck: Back to the Funnel: Winning Back B2B Users in Social

Susan Wenograd

Last but not least was Susan Wenograd.

“The Princess Bride” fans rejoiced when Susan mentioned she was going to show why Inigo Montoya is the perfect storyteller, and how he can help your business. Many brands think all storytelling is going to be great. They assume every story they tell is going to surprise and delight their audience. We see many brands tell stories that only talk about themselves and assume users are going to want to buy just based on a brand story.

Ask the user to find out (without asking). Think about what Inigo would do if you asked him a question, and he’d start rambling on about a bunch of facts just like a feature-based ad. Susan had a client who was running a lot of feature-based ads showcasing what the product does, the technology behind it and so on. Very stat-based, right?

Average click-through rate (CTR) for these ads was 1.2 percent. When looking at the assets the client had, Susan noticed users always seemed to be skeptical initially. Once the users found out about how great the product was, they had no problem admitting they were wrong. Susan asked, “Why weren’t we running this in the ad copy?” She ditched all the benefits-and-features ad copy and used a customer-made video echoing her discoveries.

The story-based ad copy quantifies belonging to a community. CTR doubled and helped inform how to improve more than just ads. The new approach also informed how to improve landing page design.

Use what’s memorable and don’t fight it. Do you remember the name of the six-fingered man in “The Princess Bride?” Of course you don’t, you just remember that he’s the six-fingered man. (His name is Count Rogen, in case you really wanted to know).

Brands feel they know what story to tell, but people will be the ones to dictate what story you should be telling.

Consumers control the story, not the brand. Find out what people are searching for and use that in your marketing. Consider creating new landing pages that actually speak to what your users are calling your products or services. Then use those landing page visits as the proper page to create Facebook audiences and then lookalike audiences for a better higher-funnel strategy.

Sometimes, you just can’t run. In a different strategy, Susan had a client who was the face of a new company, while also being well-known from his previous company. Even though the client wanted to separate himself from the old company, he was the six-fingered man. He was the story. They started making “helpful tip” webisodes featuring Susan’s client to leverage his notoriety. Instead of running video views, they tried post engagements after seeing people were naturally engaging due to the story content.

CPMs went from over $5.00 to under $3.90. They focused on the story versus what the company does and saw results improve.

Our brains are crushed with information daily. Ask Inigo Montoya who he is, and he’ll tell you over and over and over:

Hello. I am Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

It may be repetitive, but fans of the movies know the quote by heart because they’ve heard it so many times. In marketing, it’s okay for storytelling to repeat the same information more than once. Why? Check this out.

We have to repeat the story, and more importantly, repeat it in multiple places. This type of thinking is going to be extremely important when no one is searching for your brand or products. Susan said it best: “The only way to expand search is to expand the people who will search for your brand.” When you tell your brand story long enough, your language will become your customers’.

Presentation deck: The Inigo Montoya Guide to Storytelling in Paid Social

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3 tips for overcoming content production obstacles

The biggest roadblocks in the way of content marketing success are process-related, says contributor Rachel Lindteigen. In this column, she explains how to break through.

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We all know content marketing is important to our businesses. We know we need to blog. We’ve heard video is “the next big thing.” We know we need to be emailing our lists, sharing on social media, commenting and responding on social and nurturing those relationships.

And it all sounds great, but, the reality is that it’s hard to keep up with content production, distribution and everything else on your to-do list.

Most companies decide they want to focus on content marketing because they see the opportunity to grow their SEO footprint, drive more traffic to their websites and eventually generate more business. A solid content marketing program can deliver great rewards

We’re all aware of that. So, why aren’t we doing it? The number one challenge I see most companies face is related to content production.

Why do companies struggle with content production?

Sometimes they start strong but don’t have a long-term plan. Maybe they commit to creating a blog and even partner with an agency or consultant to develop the blog design or set the content strategy.

They launch, and it looks great, but they quickly fall behind. Think of how many blogs you’ve seen with only a handful of blog posts or huge spans between posts.

This is a very common problem, and the cause is often one of a few issues:

They haven’t assigned roles for the blog
When no single person is responsible for the blog and everyone is trying to add the work into their already full schedule, things can quickly go amiss.

This leads to blog content (or social or email or whatever content channel isn’t owned by someone) falling to the bottom of the priority list because it’s not technically someone’s personal responsibility.

Bottlenecks within the content production process
I have seen clients struggle with this over the years, and it’s one of the most challenging issues, because it seems like it should be easy to fix, but it’s not. Bottlenecks can happen at any step in the process.

I’ve had clients who hired us to create their content strategy and give them topic ideas and keywords with the intention of writing the posts themselves to ensure they were in their brand voice.

But they quickly fall behind because it takes longer to write copy than to generate ideas and do keyword research. We’d deliver 10 topics each month and, because they didn’t have someone assigned to write the copy on their end, they’d maybe get one or two posts back from the team as a whole.

I had another client who struggled with the approval process. We did all the content strategy, writing and optimization for them. Their team needed to approve all blog posts before they were pushed live, but they had multiple rounds of internal review, and that held them up.

They had internal reviews from marketing, brand and legal, and by the time a post got through all three rounds of review and was approved, it was easily months after it had originally been written.

The challenge was that the review was extra work for someone at each step. We batched content to help the process run more smoothly, but in the end, it always came to a standstill during review. At one point, the client was over a year behind on content approval and publication.

How do you avoid these and other common content production-related issues?

1. Be very strategic about your content production process

If you want to avoid the common challenges outlined above or if you’re dealing with something similar, the best solution I’ve found is to assign tasks and create a timeline so everyone on the team knows what to expect, when to expect it, and most importantly, who’s responsible for each step.

I realize it sounds really easy but this step is missed in many organizations. Because content marketing is a relatively new addition to most marketing teams, the tasks associated with content production are often shared among multiple team members. And it’s those without much experience often dramatically underestimate the amount of time and effort these tasks will require.

List all of the elements you’ll need
Make sure you’ve thought about all of the pieces of content you’re creating. If you’re following a hub and spoke model where your blog is your content hub and you’re sharing or supplementing content on other channels like YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Medium or email, be sure to account for every piece of content you need.

Create a master list of what you need for each blog post and walk through that list as you create your process. Meet with people from each team to ensure every element is represented on the master project timeline.

Document your process and get buy-in
As a team, identify your content production process from beginning to end. Assign a time estimate to each task. Assign a responsible party for each step. Identify contingencies for each step of the process. Most importantly, make sure everyone on the team is in agreement about the steps, assignments, time estimates and contingencies. Without agreement and buy-in, you’ll continue to struggle.

Choose a single way to track your program. Agree to use either a project management program or something as simple as a Google spreadsheet that’s shared amongst the team members. Make sure the team is trained on whatever format you choose and establish rules for version control.

If your company requires legal review before publication, be sure you meet with the legal team to have a reviewer identified and a timeline established and agreed upon. If you’re partnering with an agency or consultant for any step of the process, make sure they’re in agreement with your timeline. Everyone has to agree about the process and timeline for this to work smoothly.

2. Batch your content

As a team, determine how many pieces of content can be researched, written, optimized, reviewed, implemented and shared at a time. I recommend batching at least one month’s worth of posts at a time.

If your team can work farther ahead than that, great. But a month at a time is a good cadence for most teams. If your strategist comes up with 50 great ideas and you only need 10, don’t throw away those 40 — use them for future batches.

I currently have enough blog topic ideas on a spreadsheet to get me through 2018 and into 2019. I may not use them all, but they’re there and ready for content development when it’s time for the next batch.

If you’re sharing on social, creating videos for YouTube, adding to Pinterest, scheduling Facebook Lives or sending an email, you need to include all of the related content in your batching process. This includes text and graphics for the email, video scripts, social media posts and every other element you’ll require.

Create everything you need for the batch, and have it ready ahead of time.

3. Create both content production and content publication calendars for the team

Keep your production schedule separate from your publication schedule. If you’ve completed step 1 above, then you already have the production schedule. All you need to do is create the monthly content distribution calendar using the information from step 1. Make sure every content distribution channel is on the calendar.

By identifying everything you need to produce, determining who’s responsible for each step of the process and planning ahead, you can batch your content and free up a lot of time for other projects.

With these systems in place, you can avoid the dreaded “what should I write about this week?” or “hey sorry, I haven’t been able to get to that blog post yet, too swamped” situations.

It’s easier to stay on top of content production when you batch content. It saves time and builds efficiencies. Having someone assigned to the task and an agreed upon time frame for completion helps keep people on track and deadlines met.

I’ve been doing this for many years now and have encountered lots of delays, bottlenecks and production challenges.

These are the top three things I’ve found that help clients big and small solve their content production challenges. Give them a try if you’re facing one of these common issues, and let me know if it helps your team, too.

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How to use domain names for marketing

Although many small businesses do just fine with using one domain name, companies of all sizes can certainly benefit from registering multiple domain names as part of their domain name strategy. Having multiple domain names can provide sound marketing opportunities to engage your customers and to help grow your business. Best of all, a domain […]

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Although many small businesses do just fine with using one domain name, companies of all sizes can certainly benefit from registering multiple domain names as part of their domain name strategy. Having multiple domain names can provide sound marketing opportunities to engage your customers and to help grow your business.

Best of all, a domain name is versatile. Depending on the type of marketing campaign you’re running, you have the flexibility to tailor your approach. For example, you can utilize a domain name for something that requires very little investment of your time or money by simply pointing a specific domain name back to your existing website, or redirecting it to your business’s social media page. But if you have more time and/or a larger budget, you can create a campaign-specific landing page or even develop an entirely new website.

Let’s consider some of the following more specific strategies on how to leverage a domain name in your marketing:

Highly targeted campaigns

If you’re thinking of launching a one-off marketing campaign that targets a very specific or distinct audience from your company’s core audience, consider using a different domain name that points to a new landing page. A giveaway, special event, loyalty program, trade show or even a commercial are good examples of when you might want to use a unique domain name and landing page that is separate from your main website.

This option has many benefits. It allows you to:

1. Tailor content specific to your targeted audience.
2. Try creative ideas.
3. Test messaging that’s different from your main “corporate” tone and feel.
4. Easily track your campaign’s results.

Specific products and services

Sometimes it makes sense to “brand” a specific product or service with its own domain name and website. Just look at Coca-Cola, where many of their popular products have their own dedicated websites, such as dietcoke.com, dasani.com and minutemaid.com.

For example, let’s say you’re a realtor and want to showcase a high-end premium property. You could register the actual address (e.g., 123nameofthestreet.com) as a domain name and direct potential buyers back to a targeted landing page that provides property details, photos and/or videos.

Or perhaps you’re an established commercial architectural firm and want to expand into the residential arena. Register a new domain name with that specific market in mind, and leverage it with a new website, social media channels and branded company email. It merits consideration because it may help with any confusion that may arise between your commercial and residential clients.

Getting creative

Marketing can be tough in a heavily saturated market, but here’s the great news…you have many options when it comes to creating a domain name to help boost your efforts, especially in terms of user memorability and search. Consider using a:

1. Particular day — www.blackfridaycardeals.com
2. Season or holiday — www.snowydestinations.com
3. Location — www.bestbakeryinlondon.com
4. Campaign slogan — www.keepdreamingup.net

Need inspiration? Try a domain name suggestion service like NameStudio™. Quick and easy to use, NameStudio helps you brainstorm with ease, providing unique and relevant suggestions that help you stand out from the crowd and resonate with your target audience.

You can try NameStudio here.

Just to recap…

You don’t have to register thousands of domain names to succeed in today’s competitive marketplace. But with a good domain name strategy in place, you can use a few additional domain names to enhance your marketing efforts, which could help create more opportunities to grow your business and keep your existing customers and clients highly engaged.

Any company, product and service names and logos referenced herein are the property of their respective owners and are for identification purposes only. Use of these names and logos does not imply endorsement.

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Attention + intensity: Tips for navigating the new age of media strategy

Contributor Mark Williams says marketers must evolve the metrics they monitor to keep up with the changing media-consumption environment.

The post Attention + intensity: Tips for navigating the new age of media strategy appeared first on Marketing Land.

As marketers and brands have seen, the prevalence of digital video has transformed how consumers access media and content.

Essentially, video is not the future, it’s the “now”.

According to Cisco, global IP video traffic will represent 82 percent of all consumer internet traffic by 2021, up from 73 percent in 2016. Consumers no longer want to read about a brand  — they want to visualize it.

In 2018 and beyond, we’ll see a big shift from before, when advertisers were looking to buy reach and frequency with traditional media, to now, where advertisers will want to capitalize on intensity through the maximum amount of reach and frequency. In a post-pivot-to-video world, it’s time to change your video and media strategy, especially how you measure it.

To tackle all of the changes and innovations in media and digital marketing within the past few years, and especially to gear you up for the further integration of video, here are three tips for navigating the new age of media strategy.

1. Measure your audience with intensity

Rethink your approach to measurement. It’s not just about clicks and views. Viewability and reach are no longer the main indicators of success because they don’t measure how an audience is connecting with the content.

Instead, track deeper actions. Update your key performance indicators (KPIs) with different engagement metrics, such as watch time, engagements, earned metrics and follower acquisition, to track whether or not your intended audience actually viewed your message and reacted to it.

Watch time is one of the most valuable metrics to track in order to gauge whether or not audiences are actually watching your content. It’s also the most important factor for platform algorithms. If you track minutes watched, retention rate and the average percentage of those who watched through, you’ll have a better idea of how you are captivating the audience’s attention, and at what level of intensity.

Tracking engagements (e.g., likes, shares and comments) is also a key indicator of your strategy’s performance. Engagements and engagement rates indicate that fans are making a decision beyond simply watching your content. If they’re sharing, starting up a conversation, or compelled by a call to action from the content, you can measure the intensity with which your audience is consuming the material.

Also, be sure to watch your follower/subscriber acquisition. Growing a fan base is essential to the marketing efforts of advertisers, and it is important to identify what content brings in new followers so that you can focus your content strategy to consider these insights.

2. Rethink content strategy: Transform ads + make content relevant

Given the prevalence of ad blockers, it’s clear that interruptive advertising doesn’t work anymore. Instead, we’re seeing high performance through integrated brand messages. To do this, make your content relevant to your consumer.

Embed your campaign initiatives into publisher sites through partnerships to make for a smoother and natural integration of your advertising.

Consider integrating with influencers. Research conducted by Fullscreen (my employer) and MediaScience found that the percentage of viewers who would recommend a brand after watching a branded video from an influencer was 13 percent higher than the percentage for a TV ad.

Test different content strategies to see what resonates best with your audience, and for a more specific segmented analysis, A/B test different interest sets and demographics to inform your marketing plan.

3. Tailor by platform

To keep your marketing strategy specific and efficient, optimize content and advertising to reflect the platform. Utilize metadata by making campaigns that align with proper titling and tagging across all of your platforms. Keep your branding design consistent to ensure that your content is distinguishable. Ensure that your creative is designed for the specific tech specs of the platform where it will live.

Gone are the days of the one-size-fits-all approach. Facebook creative must be treated differently from Snapchat and so on. Perhaps most importantly, the creative must feel endemic to the platform — which explains why repurposed television commercials have some of the lowest engagement metrics.

Identify and maintain a consistent publishing schedule that is tailored to times when platforms reach the highest number of eyes, not only to maximize viewership and engagement but also to help consumers know when to expect your content.

Further, aim to promote circular traffic: Utilize the platforms through their available interactive elements so that you can cross-promote across all channels.

When tailoring your content for specific platforms, you also want to pay attention to how the platform is accessed.

Take a look at the platform functions, according to recent data from each platform and Statista, YouTube is accessed 50 percent of the time on mobile, whereas Facebook is at 95.1 percent and Instagram is at 100 percent.

This means that when creating content for YouTube, you should pay equal attention to mobile and desktop access, whereas Facebook and Instagram should lean more heavily toward mobile usage.

In closing

You’ll want to keep these three tips at the forefront of your digital marketing and content strategy so that you quickly adapt your brand to the changing video and media environments of today.

Remember, the overarching difference in paid media targeting online versus traditional targeting is the more refined, specific targeting of individuals, which ultimately leads to higher attention and intensity, as well as greater returns.

With all of these advancements, online media has many new metrics which you absolutely must utilize to expand your reach and retention far beyond that of traditional paid media.

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Beyond keywords: What really matters in SEO content

Going beyond keywords to write high-quality content that attracts new customers and is SEO-friendly is the way to go, says contributor Jessica Foster. Here she shares eight ways to create content that satisfies people and engines.

The post Beyond keywords: What really matters in SEO content appeared first on Marketing Land.

Just when we thought the saying “Content is king” was gone for good, there it goes showing its sneaky little face again in the search engine optimization (SEO) world.

Bearing in mind also that “Content is queen,” it appears that content is, in fact, pretty danged important — so important that a new sub-industry has squeezed its way into the search engine world: SEO content writing.

Otherwise referred to as “SEO copywriting,” SEO content writing has a bad reputation for being chock-full of keywords and little else. Though this may be more of a stereotype than reality, there is something to be said for going beyond keywords to write high-quality content that attracts new customers AND is SEO-friendly.

What’s the deal with ‘high-quality’ content?

The focus is typically on “high-quality” content — a term that becomes more subjective by the minute. It leads to questions like

  • What really makes SEO content “high-quality?”
  • Is it measurable?
  • More importantly, can it be recreated again and again?

The standard formula of:

 

 

 

[Read the full article on Search Engine Land.]

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7 ways protections for online content are being eroded

Recent changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act raise questions about how safe from liability publishers will continue to be for user-generated or third-party content. Contributor Wesley Young discusses threats on the horizon to those protections.

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Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) is critical to the foundation of online commerce as it’s exercised today. That’s why the recent debate about tweaking it to tackle online sex trafficking pitted some of the biggest online players against the interests of some of the most vulnerable victims in our society.

In the end, the law in question (the Fighting Online Sex Trafficking Act, or FOSTA) was defined narrowly enough to fix the targeted problem, created by Backpage.com, and the large publishers backed off.

But many are still concerned about the impact the change will have on the internet. Additionally, more direct threats have been ongoing for some time, mostly on the state and local level, which have the potential to significantly disrupt all kinds of online content including local advertising. Then there was Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress, during which he seemed to acknowledge that the social network can and should take responsibility for the content published on it by others.

Below I take a look at the concerns surrounding publisher immunity and how they can affect the local search industry and more.

The issue

One fundamental principle that has shaped how the marketing industry has evolved, including local search content and advertising, is the protection for publishers against liability for third-party content.

“Publishers” is a broad term in this context that includes everyone who controls, hosts, operates or manages online content that includes the ability to moderate user-generated content.

It’s a critical protection since so much content is created by third parties but hosted by publishers, including social networks, search engines, review sites and more. Search results serve up third-party website content; reviews capture user-generated recommendations and critiques; and both print and digital media display advertisements created, and sometimes even served, by third parties.

Even operators of personal websites or owners of social media pages that exercise control over content might be considered publishers when they host ads or solicit engagement with their content. Thus, “publishers” is a broad term in this context that includes everyone who controls, hosts, operates or manages online content that includes the ability to moderate user-generated content.

Without immunity for third-party content, a publisher might be held liable for misleading advertising, false reviews or slanderous comments. For example, if I clicked on a sponsored post that guaranteed a “double your money in one week investment opportunity,” I might sue the website owner when I lose all my money for “promoting” the scam. Publisher immunity laws mean the originator of the content is responsible for its own speech and publishers don’t have to screen every user-generated statement for veracity.

The protections for online publishers come from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 which states: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

Many states have their own protections for publishers via exemptions from consumer protection laws for advertisements that violate those laws as long as the publisher didn’t know the ad was deceptive. For example, California provides this exemption for publishers in its prohibitions of false advertising:

This article does not apply to any visual or sound radio broadcasting station, to any internet service provider or commercial online service, or to any publisher of a newspaper, magazine, or other publication, who broadcasts or publishes, including over the Internet, an advertisement in good faith, without knowledge of its false, deceptive, or misleading character.

These protections have been used for a lot of good, but unfortunately, some bad, too, as detailed by the decade-long battle courts have had with Backpage.com, a classified ads site whose adult section was used widely by perpetrators of online sex trafficking. (That section was shut down in 2017, and the site was seized by The US Department of Justice earlier this month.)

This shutdown of the website, along with Congress’s amendment to Section 230, has brought the debate about eroding publisher protections to the forefront.

FOSTA

FOSTA (The Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) was signed into law by the President last week. (SESTA was the Senate version before some changes were adopted into FOSTA.) It amends some criminal laws targeting those who commit trafficking crimes.

With regard to the Section 230 protections for publishers, FOSTA creates a narrow exception to the immunity granted. Publishers are not protected if their site is managed or operated “with the intent to promote or facilitate the prostitution of another person . . . .” Thus, the exception only affects those who operate with criminal intent, a standard that shouldn’t cause much concern in the internet industry.

A change in FOSTA to US Code Section 1591 also adds language specifying it is a crime to facilitate sex trafficking when you know the victim is forced into it or that he or she is a minor. While a “knowing” standard is also a high standard, there is enough uncertainty to cause online personal classifieds sites, many of which are well-known for illegal postings, to shut those forums down.

Much of the media coverage on FOSTA criticizes it for weakening publisher immunity. But even to the extent these changes weaken publisher immunity, the changes were necessary to address severe and heartbreaking crimes against child victims.

Between 2010 and 2015, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security found an 846 percent increase in reports of suspected child sex trafficking, directly correlated to the increased use of the internet to sell children for sex. Backpage successfully wielded Section 230 for the better part of a decade to avoid prosecution or liability before being shut down just this month. As a result, Congress passed the bill in as close to a unanimous vote as we’ve seen in this contentious political environment.

The bigger threats to publisher immunity

The real concern regarding FOSTA for publishers is the precedent it sets. There have been numerous attempts to make publishers more responsible for content in the past, and the fear is that FOSTA may be used to justify a broader erosion of protections, which would have a much more direct impact on local search and other online businesses.

If publishers are made responsible for third-party content, a variety of online marketing products and services, including local search, will become much more expensive. Uncertainty regarding enforcement, both from regulators and private action, means higher risk for liability. With higher risk come higher prices to cover insurance or pay damages in a civil suit. Or, in the worst-case scenario, publishers will stop hosting third-party content in those areas where there is exposure.

Below are some examples of some bigger threats to publisher immunity, including examples of legislation that has been pushed, and a look at the ways online businesses in general, and local search in particular, will be affected if those proposals or ideas move forward:

1. Public concessions in response to PR crises
There is a growing perception, among lawmakers and others, that publishers ought to have some responsibility for the content on their sites or platforms, contrary to the Section 230 protections. That mindset is being fed by some very public statements by some of the largest publishers in response to PR crises.

It’s understandable and a common PR strategy to apologize and accept responsibility as a way to move the discussion forward from the bad act and on to next positive steps. However, that becomes problematic when the statements are so broad as to nearly invite additional regulation.

The most recent example of this is from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg during testimony at Congressional hearings involving Cambridge Analytica. He made statements that the company is “responsible for the content on its platform” and that Facebook needs to take a “broader view” of its responsibility in the world.

While the hearings were ostensibly primarily about data security and privacy, Zuckerberg’s own words indicate he was not necessarily limiting them to the privacy issue, and lawmakers’ questions covered everything from content censorship to Facebook’s responsibility for illegal pharmaceutical ads. Statements like Zuckerberg’s will likely be cited in arguments for expanding publisher liability.

2. Local businesses are asked to screen ads they host
These questions about ads have also been addressed in a number of state bills that aimed to impose requirements on website operators or administrators to screen ads prior to allowing them to display on their sites.

For example, some call for the websites to identify the products or services being advertised and include mandatory disclosures for certain business categories. Other bills have mandated that website owners check that the advertiser has required permits or licenses before allowing their ad to run. A bill formerly introduced in California contained the following language addressed to the entertainment industry:

The operator of an Internet Web site that posts casting advertisements shall not post the advertisement of a person subject to paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) unless the person has provided information to the operator to establish that the person is the recipient of a valid Child Performer Services Permit, including a permit number and a form of identification to verify that the person is the recipient.

Most ads aren’t even placed in a manner that would allow them to be individually reviewed and are instead populated automatically via programmatic advertising (more below). Even if an individual ad was sold, such a manual screening process is not only prohibitively inefficient but burdens small businesses with legal risks of knowledge and compliance outside of their expertise.

For small business owners, requirements like these would make the risk far outweigh the benefit of hosting ads on their sites.

3. Publishers are asked to verify the veracity of directory listings
Similarly, state bills have imposed requirements on traditional local search publishers of search results or directory listings. These bills often involve business categories that have plagued regulators seeking to catch or shut down abusive operators, such as locksmiths and adoption agencies.

Legislative bills have sought to make publishers verify advertisers’ compliance with professional regulations before listings or ads can be displayed. For example, some bills have asked publishers to verify physical addresses or check license numbers against state agency records. Others, like one introduced in Maine, would have made publishers determine compliance with the proposed regulation as a whole, reading:

“Publication prohibited. A person may not publish by means of a public medium an advertisement that violates this section.”

Making publishers ad hoc regulators is not only ineffective, but a responsibility misplaced. It would also place a significant restraint on the development of local search products and services, as publishers would be unwilling to bear legal risk in areas where these laws existed.

4. Programmatic advertising is threatened
Many of the attempts described above arise out of a lack of understanding about the way today’s online system works. We saw clear evidence of that shallow knowledge most recently in Congress’s questioning of Zuckerberg. One questioner asked how Facebook could offer the platform for free. Zuckerberg couldn’t suppress a smile after he answered, “Senator, we run ads.”

Many publisher liability bills are written assuming individual pieces of content, such as ads, cross the publisher’s “desk” on their way to going online. Obviously, programmatic advertising does not work that way. But when laws are passed that are incompatible with an existing platform, that could bring significant components of the system to a screeching halt.

There are also those that understand just enough to be dangerous. Bills have been introduced to regulate the “advertising network” of programmatic advertising, but they include definitions that would rope in ad agencies, software companies and platform developers, as well as publishers and website managers. Disruption to the programmatic ecosystem posed by bills like these has the potential to be costly.

5. Publishers are exposed to low legal standards for enforcement
Perhaps in an attempt to goad publishers into action, many bills that impose publisher liability are drafted with the same penalty on both the advertiser and the publisher for illegal content. Thus, even though the advertiser makes the misleading statement or fails to get licensed, the publisher is held to be just as guilty for allowing the content to be displayed.

This low bar exposes the publisher not just to enforcement by state agencies, but also to private causes of action. For example, a competitor could sue for lost profits because the publisher allowed the unlicensed professional to steal away business.

Publishers are likely to be easier to find and have deeper pockets than the scammer or careless advertiser who placed the ad and would be much easier targets in an enforcement or damages claim.

6. Penalties for violations are unreasonable
If publishers are held to the same liability as advertisers, they would also be subject to the same consumer protection remedies. Consumer protection laws often allow treble damages and attorneys’ fees. Civil fines often have minimum damage limits. But most serious is when violations also include criminal penalties.

The worst example I’ve seen was legislation that imposed strict liability on publishers — that means any violation, regardless of fault or care taken, is subject to penalties. And all violations of this proposed legislation were deemed to be punishable as a felony crime.

7. Large publishers used as the standard for reasonable care
One question that I’ve faced in legislative committee hearings on publisher liability bills is “why can’t they make an algorithm for that?” The perception is that large technology platforms like Google are so highly proficient in programming that they should be able to write code that will implement the legal standards being sought.

First, if software could analyze a factual scenario and exercise legal judgment to determine the appropriate applicability and compliance, then there would be no need for lawyers. Second, legislators often fail to see the forest of other businesses behind the huge Google and Facebook trees. Yet legislation being debated always affects a much broader set of publishers.

As discussed above, “publishers” frequently references a broad group including local business websites, media and news sites, online directories, search engines, map platforms, blogs, retail websites, e-commerce sites, apps, video sites and social media pages. If large technology companies with huge financial and human resources determine the standard of reasonable care that all of those publishers must adhere to, that will place undue expectations on smaller publishers.

Closing thoughts

The amendments to Section 230 of the CDA won’t affect the vast majority of us and are important in the fight to protect the most vulnerable victims of our society. Yet the threat to protections for online advertising and content is real — it’s coming from the strong undercurrent and changing perception regarding the responsibility we have in hosting user-generated or third-party content.

All of the above examples of bill language were dropped or amended before being enacted. But they are indicative of what could be if we’re not careful. We take these protections for granted, but it’s important to be aware of the potential impact laws like these might have on our ability to do business and speak up in support of the protections that keep our online presence open and free.

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Content nurturing for ABM: Moving from theory to practice

It’s easy to talk about using content to move prospects through the purchase funnel. Contributor Sonjoy Ganguly explains how to turn talk into action.

The post Content nurturing for ABM: Moving from theory to practice appeared first on Marketing Land.

Here is a scene that’s all too familiar: Your Sales and Marketing organization has bought into an  Account-Based Marketing (ABM) approach — adopted the mindset, organized, suited up on the tools set. You’ve embraced the principles of content nurturing in order to attract, engage and convert the decision-makers inside your key accounts. But you are asking yourself, “What does that really look like tactically?”

I get it.

Moving from theory to practice and actually developing and deploying your arsenal can be a heady, if not daunting, proposition. Here is some basic guidance on how to put one of the best moves of your marketing career into full gear.

The decision, mindset and suiting up was the first part of the move, of course. What comes next is learning how to consult the data analytics to determine the exact right types and composition of content assets, stage by stage, based on the target deciders in your buying groups.

Let’s take a look at the practical phases of a true nurturing plan.

[Read the full article on MarTech Today.]

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Best practices for optimizing media rich web page speed

Consumer media consumption is rapidly shifting from text to visual images. Website content that includes compelling images averages nearly twice as many views as text, and four times as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it. There has been explosive growth in the adoption of visual media to […]

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Consumer media consumption is rapidly shifting from text to visual images. Website content that includes compelling images averages nearly twice as many views as text, and four times as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it.

There has been explosive growth in the adoption of visual media to dramatically improve online user experience, resulting in higher engagement and conversions. However, visual media can also weigh down your webpages, increase page load times, deflate your search rankings and turn visitors away.

Particularly, as Google is placing more emphasis on page load speed – particularly for mobile users – as a search ranking factor.

This whitepaper examines the importance of visual media to your online publishing and marketing efforts, and how you can reconcile the ‘need for speed’ with the need to provide an engaging site experience to your visitors and potential customers.

Visit Digital Marketing Depot to download “Media Rich and Fast: Best Practices for Optimizing Web Page Speed” and learn how to provide both a fast and engaging online experience to your target audiences.

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