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Online MarketingSmall businesses are constantly tasked with making the most of the limited resources they have. If you are handling your online marketing within your company, chances are you are putting a significant amount of resources towards your marketing. While marketing obviously costs money, it also costs time and effort from workers and you likely aren’t getting the results you really want from your efforts.

Hiring an outside firm to take the reins on your online marketing may feel like giving away control of a vital part of your business, but it is more like hiring a driver who will take you where you would like to go while you are able to take care of your own business. If you are concerned about the prospect of enlisting an outside agency to handle or assist with your marketing, you might consider all the following ways hired marketing services can help your brand.

1) Save Time for Everyone

No matter the size of your team, allowing an outside party to take over marketing frees up time which can be better devoted to your own service. You will no longer have to invest the hours on writing marketing material, engaging your consumers on social media, or creating and managing all your email lists. With those tasks taken care of, your team can use their skills where they are really needed.

2) Gain an Outside Perspective

It is impossible for a business owner to ever distance themselves far from their business. The love of the industry, hard-earned skills, and personal investment in success all drive successful businesses, but they can also obscure your ability to see what exactly attracts your customers. Your perspective on the parts of your business that are most attractive will automatically be biased, so it can be important to have a set of extra eyes to give a professional and non-biased opinion. Marketing professionals understand consumer behaviors and how to attract and convert interested visitors, and they can use that knowledge to come up with unique angles you may not notice alone.

3) Leverage Built-In Expertise

If you are small enough to not have an actual marketing department, but you are still asking someone in your company to handle the online marketing, chances are they have other responsibilities. It is common for business owners to try to handle the marketing while they balance a million other responsibilities, or to have several team members who also work as customer service reps, salespeople, bookkeepers, or human resources. Hiring a third-party allows these members of your team (or yourself) to put their skills where they are most valuable, and you gain more professional and focused marketing in return.

4) Access to Specialized Technology

Your company likely uses a few platforms and technologies for various functions, including online marketing. But, how many marketing-specific programs do you use? Most likely, the answer is few to none. But, professional marketing services partner you with professionals who are well-versed with the latest technology designed specifically to improve the impact of marketing. Best of all, you won’t have to invest thousands of dollars in analytics and automation programs.

5) Do More With Less

One of the biggest drawbacks of handling your own marketing is a loss of efficiency. In-house marketing usually focuses on a few channels, but it also tends to miss other channels with huge potential for your business. It simply is impossible to handle maintaining a website while managing a PPC campaign, running several social media accounts, and trying to create insightful and useful blog content. You will either end up with low-quality output, an overwhelmed team, or both. Outsourcing the work allows you to cover all your bases and emphasize those with the best results for you, while optimizing those that are struggling. You will receive more back from your investments, with less effort and stress on your team.

For an industry that relies on as much data as the SEO market does, there is never much certainty that the popular optimization tactic being preached at the moment is a legitimate strategy. We rarely have the definitive answers from the source needed to keep all the confusion down, and new myths seem to spring up overnight.

To counter the constant flow of SEO myths, Google’s distinguished engineer Matt Cutts used one of his recent Webmaster Help videos to debunk many of the misconceptions surrounding the world’s most popular search engine.

This isn’t the first time Cutts has used his regular video message to debunk SEO myths, but this time he focuses on a specific type of myth that has become increasingly widespread as Google seems to keep narrowing their guidelines and offering greater space to ads.

Cutts starts by tackling the myth “if you buy ads you’ll rank higher in Google” and the opposing legend that not buying ads is the key to high rankings. In Matt Cutts’ perspective, these fables are tied to the notion that Google makes all of their decisions in an effort to force webmasters to buy more ads.

The problem with that idea is that it doesn’t actually reflect how Google thinks about their operations. The fact is, webmasters are rarely the main priority for the search engine to begin with. Instead, according to Cutts, Google’s rationale behind all changes is simply that they want to return the best search results possible to keep users happy and keep them coming back.

Of course, no one is denying that Google would like users to see ads and generate revenue, but that is never the prime motivation for changes like algorithm updates.

On a similar note, Matt uses the second half of the video to discuss the offers he sees for software packages that clam to help users make money and magically fix their SEO – for a small fee, of course.

Just as you can’t buy your way to high rankings with ads the chances of a random purchased software package making you money is almost zero. Matt lays out another scenario: “If someone had a foolproof way to make money online, they would probably use that way to make money rather than packaging it up in an ebook and selling it to people.”

In the end, most of the myths are born out of a misunderstanding of Google’s goals. Too many SEO professionals think of their job strictly in terms of increasing visibility and rankings, or upping their ROI. But the search engines are just looking for the best content possible. You can spend your time trying to game and cheat to get to the top, or you can align yourself with the search engine and try to provide users something of value. According to Cutts, that should be enough to fix many of the problems less honest SEOs tend to run into.

You can watch the full video below:

If you’re a small retailer trying to expand your brand online, social media is an absolutely essential part of the plan. But, there are several different popular social media platforms and most smaller retailers don’t have the resources to invest fully in all of the big platforms. How do you choose which one to favor?

Of course, the best choice for your brand depends on what you are offering to consumers and how you are trying to reach out to them. But, you can also take some notes from what the big retailers are doing with their social media, with the help of social technology company 8th Bridge’s third-annual Social Commerce IQ report.

8th Bridge looks at nearly 900 of the top online retail brands, and evaluates their social adoption and subsequent results.

Their results show two things. Firstly, you should implement social website buttons for at least the three major social media platforms for retailers (Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook). Secondly, and more importantly, Facebook still dominates referral traffic and perceived value. However, the reasons for Facebook’s value to top retailers have changed.

In the past, Facebook has always been favored simply because it was the most popular social media platform by a large margin. However, Facebook has become very competitive, especially for smaller businesses. With so many businesses sharing content on the site, the top retailers have turned to Facebook Exchange to pay for visibility and higher traffic rates.

Facebook is valued by top retailers not because they are the top social platform, but because they have the most viable social advertising platform.

This has the potential for change in the near future however. Facebook has one of the most fully-realized social advertising platforms, and it has been around for significantly longer than the ad options most other platforms offer. For instance, both Pinterest and Instagram are still only in the testing phase for their advertising platforms.

Still, the traffic referral statistics from Twitter may suggest a deeper underlying problem in the social platform’s viability for retailers.

“Traffic from Twitter and Instagram is non-existent for most retailers,” 8th Bridge said in its report. “Only 85 retailers are getting traffic from Twitter and only 55 retailers are getting traffic from Instagram.”

In the end it should come as no surprise that Facebook is still the most reliable social platform for brands of most sizes, but it will only get more competitive. You can still benefit from a non-paid approach to your Facebook presence, but you should expect diminishing returns as time goes on.

You can view the infographic 8th Bridge made from their results below or on their site.

Social Commerce Infographic

Film Camera

Source: Flickr

One of the most hated forms of internet advertising are videos that auto-play when you open a webpage. You might be surfing the internet, listening to some music, and suddenly the voice from an ad starts clashing with the song or blaring in the middle of a library. Yet these ads are all over the internet and Facebook has decide to make them a part of your News Feed. Are you cringing? Well, don’t worry. They made one important tweak which will make the experience much less annoying.

The social media giant announced today that they will begin testing News Feed video ads that auto-play when you scroll over them. The testing is going to be for a limited number of accounts during the test, but the ads will be very similar to the way user videos are shown in the feed. Search Engine Journal notes that Facebook began recrafting their video experience in September, making changes to make the experience more similar to Instagram. All you have to do is scroll past the video and it begins playing without a single click.

So what keeps these videos from being a huge annoyance? The videos don’t have sound unless you click to unmute it or expand the video you want to see. Facebook is keeping this functionality for their ads, so user experience won’t be disrupted by the tidal wave of ads playing over each other as you scroll down your feed. You can also bet advertisers will be crafting their ads around this functionality.

Facebook explained they don’t intend this format to be used for every video ad, and it is entirely different from promoting a post with a video in it. From their announcement:

This premium feature is specifically designed for awareness campaigns that are meant to reach a large number of people to increase interest in a brand, product or content, in a short period of time. Page post video ads can then come into play to sustain the message of this initial campaign over longer time periods, in more targeted ways.

Currently, the video ad units will only be shown from a limited number of individuals and pages, such as sports organizations or entertainers. Facebook also heavily stressed that the ads are currently only a test and the brand will make long term decisions based on what is learned from the test.

OldSpice BabyEvery brand wants their commercials to go viral, but how do you connect with viewers on the internet? It might seem like common knowledge, but the best way to get users searching for your commercial is comedy. At least, according to Bing Ads’ list of most searched for ad campaigns it is.

Just as with their recent list of 2013 search trends, Bing Ads has put together the most searched for ad campaigns of the last year, as well as the most popular brand searches on Bing in 2013. Perhaps unsurprisingly Old Spice took top billing with its “Baby” as starring Terry Crews, as well as their more surreal “Watermelon” ad, viewable below.

http://youtu.be/hfiiWGWhB9g

Despite mostly dominating the top 10, humor wasn’t the only thing internet viewers looked for in commercials. The third most popular commercial was from Skype’s “Stay Together” campaign, and GoPro’s “Fireman Saves Kitten” also closed out the list. Notably, two of the ads – Chrysler Ram Truck’s ad and GoDaddy’s “The Kiss” – originally appeared during this year’s Super Bowl.

Bing Ad’s Most Searched Advertising Campaigns of 2013

  1. ‘Baby’ and ‘Watermelon’ – OldSpice
  2. Baby & Me – Evian
  3. Stay Together – Skype
  4. Show Your Joe – Kmart
  5. Hump Day – Geico
  6. The Kiss: Bar Rafaeli’s Perfect Match! – GoDaddy
  7. ‘Grandma’ and ‘Werewolf’ – AT&T
  8. Test Drive – Pepsi MAX
  9. The Year of the Farmer – Chrysler Ram Truck
  10. Fireman Saves Kitten – GoPro

Bing didn’t stop with just the most popular ad campaigns though. They also collected the most searched for brands of the year, organized by their market. Ebay was the most popular shopping network, followed by Amazon, while Ford came out the winner for automobiles. You can see the rest below:

Most Searched For Brands 2013

Paid ads on social media are becoming more and more prevalent, to the extent that Facebook finally admitted recently that businesses will be practically forced to pay for brand outreach on their platform. Which makes it so surprising that Google+ had, until recently, strayed away from paid advertising. But, the search engine giant may have had an ace up their sleeve this entire time as they have recently unveiled their form of promoted posts, called “+Post” and it is a doozy.

Most aspects of +Post are extactly what you have come to expect from paid advertising on social networks. A brand pays for priumium placement of a post, and more users are shown the ad. It is a simple model which has worked for numerous other social media platforms. What makes +Post different is where the ads will be shown.

The majority of social media networks are only able to show promoted posts on their social media platform. Facebook promoted posts show up in your Newsfeed, “Promoted Pins” will be appearing on Pinterest soon, and Instagram is rolling out their own curated form of promoted posting to ensure ads fit their market and the style of Instagram. But, Google+ is connected to something much larger: all of Google’s network and products. So, +Post will have a massively larger reach than other social networks’ forms of paid advertising.

As Google explains:

+Post ads amplify your brand’s content by easily turning Google+ posts into display ads that run across the web. The live, social ad format allows you to go beyond clicks to live conversations with your audience. People can join a Hangout On Air, add a comment, follow your brand or give a +1, right from an ad.

+Post Screenshot

This is an incredibly smart move for the search engine, as Google+ is still struggling to find a larger active user base, and the advertising model may drive more users to their social platform. The +Post ads act like regular posts in Google+ no matter where they are displayed, which effectively bleeds Google+ into all other aspects of Google (more so than before).

In Google’s own words:

Ads become more relevant with social context. Comments, +1s, and shares from friends can move people to engage with your ad. Social actions on ads and Google+ add up together, showing the full picture of engagement with your content. +Post ads expand in a lightbox to bring full screen social creatives across the web.

Jessica Lee from Search Engine Watch reports a few brands have gotten to try out +Post before the announcement, specifically Toyota who was used for Google’s promo video:

http://youtu.be/4yCUgx7H2zo

Maybe Google really is listening. At long last, they have finally added one of the most requested features for AdWords by implementing the simple “Undo” function. It is exactly what it sounds like, basically backing up settings for all aspects of your account and keeping track of the changes you made. If you click the button, your campaign will return to the state it was at the specified time.

The most obvious benefit of the new feature is that it will make testing in your campaigns easier. If your newest test results in a lower click through rate (CTR) or cost per action (CPA), all you have to do is undo the changes with a single click.

“The ability to undo changes in AdWords will be a valuable feature to advertisers,” Lisa Raehsler of Big Click Co. told Search Engine Watch. “Sometimes changes will have a different impact on an account than what was intended. Simply using ‘undo’ will save time and ultimately money.

“But remember that account edits influence one another,” Raehsler said. “Some optimization edits are interdependent, so a change on Monday may have forced another change on Thursday. Now the ‘undo’ button is something to consider as a change in and of itself.”

There are still some kinks to be worked out, as it currently doesn’t appear that all changes are being documented, and it is unclear whether multiple changes are being grouped into a single undo.

For business owners this means you can more easily control and target your advertising campaigns. You don’t have to undo your changes by hand any longer, which saves you time to invest in other more important tasks.

The “Undo” feature isn’t live for everyone yet, so it may just be an experiment Google is running. But, hopefully they decide to work out the bugs and make it a universal feature. We have certainly been asking for it long enough.

googleadwordsYou may have noticed earlier this month that the AdWords Bid Simulator tool has a new feature which offers estimates for conversions in addition to impressions and clicks to show how bid changes may affect conversion volume and values.

For each bid option that appears in the tool, the bid simulator gives the number of conversions and conversion values if assigned or set. As Ginny Marvin explains, conversion estimates display how many clicks you would likely result in a conversion in one day, based on a “recent 7 day period.” Notably, Google does not say their estimates will be based on the most recent 7 days.

Google says the estimates will be more accurate if you have more conversion history and conversion volume in your account, so you will want to have conversion tracking set up and stable for a couple weeks before you start trying to use the bid simulator conversion estimates.

Stacks of MoneySocial media has become a part of our lives whether we like it or not, and don’t expect that to change in the next year. In fact, if marketing trends are to be believed, 2014 could be the biggest year yet for social media marketing. Erik Sass reports a new study found that seven out of ten marketers expect to increase their spending on social media in the next year. The survey of 328 marketing professionals was conducted by Decipher on behalf of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association and the American Marketing Association.

While 70 percent said they plan to increase their spending on social media marketing, only 53 percent expect to do the same for their email marketing, and print, product sampling, and TV advertising were all in much worse shape with less than 20 percent planning to increase their ad spending for each category.

But, just because social media marketing is growing doesn’t mean all is well. The same survey found that 79 percent of marketing professionals struggled with measuring online social media and demonstrating return on investment. It seems that we know social media is an important part for establishing your brand online, but many are still having trouble actually measuring how effective it is.

Click-to-Call Ads

Source: Search Engine Watch

Google announced advertisers will find that phone calls from mobile click-to-call ads are now listed in the regular Conversion columns of AdWords, as of Tuesday. This is one of the first steps since Google made their October 1st statement that they would make it easier for advertisers to optimize their bidding strategy for click to call. They are working to make phone calls an important conversion type within AdWords.

With the new update calls made by customers from an AdWords ad, for both mobile and desktop searchers, will be reported in a new column within Estimated Total Conversions.

Before now, click-to-call ads were found under a “Phone Call Conversions” column, but now advertisers will be able to integrate many free automated bidding tools from AdWords to optimize their bidding campaigns and improve performance.

This is a great move for advertisers as 70 percent of mobile searchers call businesses directly from the search results. Google estimates over 40 million phone calls are made every month from Google search ads to advertisers.

At the moment, the new click-to-call conversions are available in countries where Google has forwarding numbers available. This includes the U.S., UK, Germany, and France.