Content Strategy: A Development Guide

User engagement metrics, which measure what users do on your website and how they do it (such as time on page, session duration, bounce rate, and returning users), have become unofficial ranking signals with Google.

Gone are the days when posting a 400-word article with a 2% keyword density could boost a page’s search rankings. Now, poor quality content has a far more negative impact on a site, causing it to drown in a sea of content that was created just for SEO purposes.

Yes, the way content is interacted with online is definitely on Google’s radar, as shown by Google’s recent patent filing. So, while creating a sound content marketing strategy is necessary to attract and retain users, it also improves a site’s Google search rankings. Therefore, focus on producing quality content, and you will reap a boost in SERP rankings as a secondary benefit.

The key is to always strategize before producing any content. Don’t just simply churn out content for content’s sake. Once you start producing great content and your users engage with it and boost rankings at the same time, you’ll understand why this is the far superior approach.

It isn’t as hard as it sounds, either. The tips in this article will help you. Now, let’s get started on the first step, which is to define your goals.

Define Your Goals

Great content is created for a specific purpose, and this purpose needs to be defined. Ask yourself if you are creating content to boost brand awareness, generate leads, convert users, attract past customers, improve search ranking results, or something else altogether.

Once you have clearly defined your goals, you need to determine if a content strategy is in fact the best way to achieve them. Don’t assume content is the best option in every situation. For instance, content might be of little use in converting users at the bottom of the sales funnel; however, it could be invaluable in boosting brand awareness and lead generation.

Different segments of the sales funnel warrant different types of content. So, you will need to decide what content is most appropriate for a person to receive at a given time. That way, you will have the right conversation with the right person at the right time.

HubSpot provides some useful information on the types of content that are needed in different parts of the sales funnel. The company divides the sales funnel into three key areas, and then lists the appropriate content asset types for each in the graphic below:

content-need-in-sales-funnel

Image Source

Research Your Audience

Your content strategy can be effective when you know who your audience is. Valuable information can be gleaned by checking what types of sites your prospects are already visiting, which content they engage with, and which social media platforms they share content on. This can be done by enabling Google Demographics and Interests for the types of sites prospects engage with and Google Analytics for the content they engage with, and by reviewing which social platforms are more popular for sharing on content pages.

Delve into Google Analytics to determine which content is producing the best results. Click on Behavior>Site Content>Content Drilldown. To find the best results, sort by different factors such as Average Time on Page, Bounce Rate, and Pageviews. With this information, create content that is targeted to the user, rather than content that you want to read. Your goals for creating this content are to increase Average Time on Page, decrease Bounce Rate, and increase Pageviews.

Focus on Your Niche

It’s a sad fact that the Internet is full of content that shouldn’t even exist. This content either already exists elsewhere and is simply reposted or doesn’t provide any real value. Most people don’t see 99% of this useless content because it doesn’t appear anywhere near the top of SERPs.

To avoid having your content lost in that pack, create content that stands out, is unique, has a distinct voice, and, most important, offers genuine value to readers.

The more specific you are and the more you focus on your niche, the greater your chances of establishing yourself as an authority in your field, whether your readers are looking for information or entertainment.

One business that has done this successfully is the rum brand Sailor Jerry (although this example isn’t specifically about content marketing). The company hosted a marketing event in Brooklyn at which they gave away a free shot of Sailor Jerry to every fan who was willing to get inked permanently with a Sailor Jerry tattoo. This created a lot of brand exposure for Sailor Jerry, but the real benefit was creating a stronger link with its loyal fan base.

While most of the fans of your brand probably aren’t about to tattoo your logo on their bodies any time soon, there are nonetheless important lessons to learn here about building a strong connection with a focused and loyal user base, which is usually more effective than having superficial links to a larger base that is more general in nature.

Measure Your Results

Measuring the results of your content marketing efforts is one of the most important aspects of developing an effective content strategy. Churning out content without analyzing your user feedback is akin to having a phone conversation on mute. You need to know what your audience liked as well as what they didn’t like, and why. Here are some of the most important metrics to understand.

Consumption Metrics

This is the first layer of information you can gather when people view your content. As previously mentioned, and as shown in the screenshot below, you get this data from Google Analytics by clicking on Behavior>Site Content>Content Drilldown. You can sort by different factors such as Average Time on Page, Bounce Rate, and Pageviews.

With this data, you can find answers to questions like these: Did you craft a blog post that brought on a huge spike in traffic? Did your users spend more time on a particular piece or genre of content? Did a piece of content garner a large number of comments or shares on social media?

google-analytics-consumption-metrics

Social Sharing Metrics

Sharing on platforms like social media can be a great metric for judging how engaged your audience is. Ask yourself what types of content are being shared, who is sharing, which platforms are being used, and, most important, what content is converting. Below are the steps for how to find what content is converting:

  1. Log into Google Analytics.
  2. Click on Acquisition>Social>Overview.

acquisition-social-overview-google-analytics

Then you will have a report similar to the one below (assuming you have goals set up):

social-value-google-analytics

Here, you have three important metrics:

Conversions: This shows you the total number and amount of conversions. They are from every traffic source, not only social.

Assisted Social Conversions: In order for an assisted social conversion to register, a visitor must have visited the social media site once, though they may have used another traffic source before the last part of the conversion.

Last Interaction Social Conversions: Visitors are attributed to this group if they came from social media and completed the assigned goal in the same session.

Once you have this data, it will yield insights into the style of content that needs to be created in order to get conversions. Also, you will be able to decipher which social media platforms are working best. (Take into account that some niches encourage sharing more than others, so compare your performance with those of competitors with a similar user base.)

Lead Metrics

If your content is part of a sales funnel, ask yourself which part of the sales funnel you are creating the content for. Content needs to be tailored to the specific audience at each segment of a sales funnel.

Your content could be either attracting or leaking leads, so monitor its performance and identify areas that could be improved to stop users from dropping out of the sales funnel and areas that could generate new leads. The quickest and easiest way to track leads is to use goals in Google Analytics.

The easiest type of goal to set up is a URL destination goal. Here are the steps:

  1. Log into Google Analytics.
  2. Click on Conversions>Goals>Goal URLs.
  3. goal-urls-google-analytics

  4. Then click the “Set up goals” button.
  5. set-up-goals-google-analytics

  6. Then click the “+NEW GOAL” button.
  7. new-goal-google-analytics

  8. Then select Template (shown in step 7 below).
  9. Then type in a description for your goal (shown in step 7 below).
  10. Then select Destination, and click the “Continue” button.
  11. goal-destination-google-analytics

  12. In goal details, you need to add the URL of the goal you want to track. The whole URL is not needed, just the final path. For example, to track www.example.com/thankyou.html, input only /thankyou.html.

    Here, you will have two optional details:

    Value: It is possible to assign a value to the goal. For example, if you are selling a product for a specific price, you can add it here.

    Funnel: It is also possible to track a specific part of the sales funnel by adding it to the goal. For example, if you need to know how many people visit www.example.com/pricing.html before completing a goal, then add /pricing.html into the field.

  13. goal-details-google-analytics

  14. Then click save and that’s it.
  15. To view goals once they are set up click Conversions>Goals>Goal URLs

goal-urls-google-analytics

You should see something like this:

goal-completions-google-analytics

Sales Metrics

For most businesses, content generation ultimately should boost revenue. Therefore, if your content strategy is revenue-based, you will need to find ways to measure the amount of revenue your content marketing has generated.

Below are the steps for how to find the amount of revenue your content has generated:

  1. Log into Google Analytics.
  2. Click on Behavior>Site Content>All Pages.

audience-all-pages-google-analytics

You should have something similar to this:

page-value-google-analytics

This will allow you to assign a value to a piece of content. If the content isn’t performing as needed, then check out this great article by Neil Patel on how to increase engagement with content.

Now, here is a picture that visually represents the four content marketing strategy metrics outlined above:

content-marketing-metrics

Listen to Your Customers

While data analysis can be an immensely useful tool, it gives you only black and white figures on a spectrum that encompasses a lot of subtleties. Access the rest of that spectrum by really listening to your customers. Your customers need to know they are being heard on social media, so ask them for feedback and suggestions.

Also speak to other members of your staff to get a better understanding of the needs of your customers. Reaching out to your customers and responding to their feedback enables you to gather valuable data, and it also shows them that their opinion matters.

Virgin.com provided an excellent case study by showing how they utilized big data. They incorporated search terms used on the web, people being followed on social media platforms, and views and interests expressed online.

Using the data below, they dug deep and incorporated it into their communications, successfully giving audiences the right message at the appropriate parts of the customer journey. Find out more here.

Here is a flowchart of the results:

prepurchase-customer-jouney

Amplify Your Content

A sound content strategy and targeted content creation make up only the first part of the equation. The final part is amplification of the content.

To amplify your content, determine the places your audience is frequenting online, and then publish on those channels to reach them. You’ll need to think strategically in order to identify all the resources available to you and then harness the power of employees, customers, and influencers to really amplify your content.

Conclusion

As you can see, creating a great content strategy isn’t rocket science, but it can be quite challenging to implement. Expect to encounter roadblocks and go through lots of trial and error. Once you have a recipe for success, though, all you’ll have to do is rinse and repeat to see the kind of audience growth you’ve always dreamed of.

About the Author: Brie Moreau is a Digital Marketing Analyst for DigitalAdvertisingWorks. DigitalAdvertisingWorks specializes in all areas of search engine optimization, has clients in many industries, and operates worldwide.

Save Time and Double Your ROI: A Guide to Applying the 80/20 Rule to Your Marketing

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Marketing is rarely your only job…

…even if you’re a marketer.

Whether your job title is “marketer” or you own your own business and need to market it, marketing is only a part of your job.

You probably also help out with sales, product development, customer service, and any other tasks that need your attention.

This is why people often say that marketers wear many hats.

Can I tell you something that most people never learn?

It doesn’t have to be like this. The reason why marketers are forced to do so many things is because there’s too much to do.

Let me put it in other terms: most businesses want to do many things that barely help them grow.

They’re wasting time on non-productive work (also called “busy work”).

So, what’s the alternative?

It may or may not be obvious to you. You have to cut out unproductive activities.

And the best way I know how to do that is to use the 80/20 rule.

It applies to just about every aspect of life, including marketing. I’m going to show you six different ways you can apply the 80/20 rule to your marketing to not only save time but also get better results from your efforts.

If you haven’t used this rule before, this article could be one of the most important things you ever read.

How the 80/20 rule could change your life

The 80/20 rule came from an observation made by Vilfredo Pareto.

He found that when he plotted the frequency of an activity, 20% of the activities resulted in 80% of the cumulative results.

image07

He saw that this applied to almost every part of life, including business.

The chart above clearly highlights the three biggest problems a company could have.

Wouldn’t it make sense to spend your effort on those three and not worry about the really small problems?

Of course, it would.

The 80/20 rule doesn’t just apply to specific problems; it also applies to effort (activities).

image02

It’s really simple:

20% of your effort produces 80% of the results. This also means that 80% of your effort produces only 20% of your results.

If it’s not 100% clear how it’s going to help you as a marketer right now, don’t worry.

Throughout this post, I’ll go into several specific situations that will make the application of the Pareto principle in your marketing crystal clear.

1. Find the marketing channel that works for you and double-down

There are thousands of marketing channels out there.

Most likely, you focus on 5-10 of them (maybe more if you have a big team).

The truth is that you’re probably using too many marketing channels.

Applying the 80/20 rule to the situation, we can say that about 20% of your marketing channels produce 80% of your marketing results (likely sales).

Identifying your most effective marketing channels: I don’t want you to just take my word for it; I want you to apply the Pareto principle to your marketing yourself.

It’s not difficult, and I’ll walk you through the process.

Start by identifying all the marketing channels you use on a regular basis.

Record them in a spreadsheet in a column.

Next, start by figuring out how much time you’ve spent on each channel. The time period doesn’t matter as long as you know how much you’ve produced during that time.

For example, you could say that you spent 20 hours on producing five blog posts last month. As long as you’re tracking the results from those specific posts, you’ll get an accurate assessment.

Then, assign a value to your time because it sure isn’t free.

Finally, add a column for any additional money you spent on creating or promoting content.

When you’re done, your table should look something like this (a hypothetical example):

image13

Next, add up those costs (your time plus money spent) in a new column.

Then, create a new column beside that one, and record the number of sales you made from each channel in the specific time period you tracked.

Here’s our updated chart:

image04

We’re almost done; there are just two more columns left.

In the next column, we have to account for the fact that we put a different amount of time into each channel.

This column will be for the profit you made for each channel divided by the time spent on it.

For example, the profit from Facebook advertising in the above example is $3,000 – $1,000 = $2,000.

Dividing that by the 5 hours spent yields $500 of profit per hour.

Do that for all your channels. Now that they all use the same unit of measure, we can add them up to get a total (meaningless other than for the final step).

image09

Finally, we need to calculate for how much of that total each marketing channel accounts.

In your final column, divide the “profit per hour” number by the “total sales” number, and multiply it by 100 to get a percentage.

Here’s the full chart.

image06

If you’d like to create a Pareto chart of your own, it’s pretty easy to do.

Copy the channel column along with that final percentage of total column next to each other somewhere else in your sheet.

Then, sort the percentages from high to low.

Finally, add a column for the “cumulative total.” The first value is simply the same as the percentage of total value. From here, just add the previous cumulative total to the “percentage of total” value for the current channel.

Here’s what it looks like:

image05

Do you see that the cumulative total for Facebook Advertising is 43.15 + 27.25?

Finally, let’s plot the channels against the cumulative total. You could make it fancier, but it should look something like this (I added an additional red line at 80%):

image14

The graph makes it really clear that right about 80% of the sales come from the three marketing channels.

You could also see this by simply looking at the numbers beforehand, but if you’re trying to justify some of the things in this article to a boss, a Pareto chart always looks nice.

Three out of eight channels isn’t exactly 20% of your input, but it’s close. You likely won’t hit a perfect 80/20 ratio, but you’ll see that a minority of channels produce most of your results.

It’s important that you understand this process because we’ll be repeating it throughout this post (I won’t go into quite as much detail then).

How to take advantage of the 80/20 rule in this situation: Why did we do all of that?

For fun? Not quite.

Let me ask you a question:

What would happen if you just stopped using those marketing channels that produced less than 20% of your overall results but took up about 80% of your time?

Well, it’d be logical to say that your sales (or whatever metric you’re using) would decline by about 20%.

A serious amount, but not devastating.

But one other thing would happen: you’d free up about 80% of your time!

Do you see where I’m going with this? With all that free time, you can redirect it to the marketing channels that produce the most bang for your buck.

In our hypothetical example, we could spend more time on:

  • affiliates
  • Facebook advertising
  • blogging

A note about scale: You will find that some channels scale better than others.

For example, the time associated with “affiliates” is really spent on just managing them and sending them resources from time to time. You can’t spend more time doing that because the results won’t change.

You could, however, spend more time recruiting affiliates. This may or may not produce a good return, so you’d have to test it.

But some channels scale really well, e.g., advertising channels.

There are very few reasons, besides exhausting your entire target audience, why you couldn’t spend more time creating and running Facebook campaigns. The sales may not scale up perfectly, but you’ll get most of the results.

In my example, there were 151 hours in total.

By cutting those low performing channels, we could free up 112 of your hours (74% of time spent).

If we spent those 112 hours on advertising, even getting 50% of the results, our overall profits would increase from $15,700 to $30,300.

That’s an incredible difference.

Most likely, you’d be able to get more than 50% of the results from your extra advertising because it scales well. You could also spend some of this time trying out some other advertising channels.

Blogging falls in the middle of these two other channels when it comes to scaling. Yes, you can create more posts and get more results, but there’s a limit.

If you’re producing so much content that not even your die-hard fans can keep up with you, you’re not going to see much of a benefit.

With any channel, you want to find out whether spending extra time on it is effective. Invest your newly recovered free time in the channels that produce the most results.

A million user case study: The 80/20 rule isn’t new, and there are many case studies that demonstrate its successful application.

One of my favorite examples is Noah Kagan’s marketing strategy when he headed marketing at Mint.

He had one single focus: get more users.

And when he analyzed his results, he found that email marketing was the best way of getting new users.

So, all of his effort was focused on getting more emails.

He primarily used advertising and guest posting to achieve this because he determined that they were by far the most effective channels for getting subscribers.

How did he do?

Well, after a year, Mint had crushed its initial goal of getting 100,000 users when the company amassed over 1,000,000 users.

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2. Not all customers are equal – find your best ones (and your worst)

I bet you’ve noticed that some of your customers are great and some are terrible.

But you might not know how to utilize this information in a productive way.

That’s where the 80/20 rule comes in.

When it comes to your customers, you can apply the Pareto principle in two ways.

Way #1 – 20% of customers drive 80% of revenue: Assuming you have a developed product line, you’ll find that 20% of your customers are responsible for 80% of your revenue.

These are the customers who buy in bulk, buy tons of your different products, or just buy consistently, time after time.

They are easy to find as well.

You can make another chart, just like we did before.

In this chart, you’ll want to include five parameters (one column for each):

  1. A list of all your customers.
  2. How much revenue they’ve produced.
  3. How long they’ve been a customer (could do months or years).
  4. The revenue divided by that time period so that you can compare it fairly. Add it up to get a total.
  5. The percentage of total revenue (during that time period) that each customer produced (divide their revenue per month by the total, e.g., 100 / 2,790 x 100).

I put together a hypothetical table as an example:

image12

Likely, you’ll have more than 10 customers, which should make your numbers work even better.

In my example case, 30% of the customers produced 75% of the revenue.

What can we do with this information?

This is really where the fun stuff begins, and you have to be prepared to put in a bit of work.

Your job now is to research your customers and find out in what way your top customers differ from your other customers.

What should you look for? Some things to start with might be:

  • reason for purchase (e.g., personal use, family event, business event, etc.)
  • size of business (if B2B sales)
  • demographics (e.g., age, location, income level, gender, etc.)
  • referral source (i.e., how did they first hear about your business?)

You’ll find that your average top customer is very different from your other customers in a few important ways.

For example, you might find that all your top customers are businesses who order on a regular basis in large volumes.

Do you know what you need to do with this information now?

Unlike in previous examples, you don’t need to drop those 80% of low revenue producing customers.

However, you don’t want to waste your time trying to get more of them.

Instead, now that you know the key aspects of your top customers, find more like them.

You need to revamp your marketing and sales strategy so that you’re going after those new customers who will produce big gains for your revenue. It’s as simple as that.

Way #2 – 20% of customers produce 80% of complaints: Complaints are a tricky part of business because they can mean a couple of different things:

  1. The customer isn’t good - some people just love to complain no matter what. They waste your customer service time and resources.
  2. There is an issue - complaints also often give you an opportunity to improve your product and marketing.

What you want to do is get a list of all your customer complaints as well as who made them.

Remove the ones that represent an actual issue with your product that needs to be fixed. You want to hear those complaints.

Then, you’re left with complaints that come from picky customers.

Take a minute to check whether those customers fall into the top 20% that you just identified above. If so, they’re probably worth the hassle, so remove them from this list.

From this remaining list, you should find that around 80% of the complaints come from just 20% of your customers.

If you’re spending serious customer service resources on these low value customers, it’s not worth it.

Not only does it kill your profit margins, but it’s also just a stream of consistent headaches to deal with.

If at all possible, drop these 20% of customers who have nothing better to do than to find issues where they don’t exist.

It sounds harsh, but your work will become much more pleasant and easier because of it.

The money you’ll save from not having to deal with these issues will usually cover the small loss of revenue from these complainers.

You’ll also probably find that the biggest complainers are from the smallest purchasers, which is the case for almost every business.

3. How to cut your content creation time with the 80/20 rule

In the life of a marketer, fewer things take up as much time as content creation does.

If you can outsource it, that will help but cost you a lot.

What most marketers don’t realize is that they’re creating a lot more content than they need to.

We’re going to find out if you’re one of those marketers, using something called the 80/20 rule. Have you heard of it?

Can you guess how it applies to your content production?

Here’s my take:

20% of your posts will produce 80% of your traffic or email subscribers.

The approach we want to take here is exactly the same as the one I just showed you in the previous section.

By studying those top 20% of posts, we can discover what it is about them that produces more traffic than all the others.

Applying the 80/20 rule: This is a very easy area to apply the rule to because you likely have all the data prepared for you already in Google Analytics.

Go to “Behavior > Site Content > All Pages” in Google Analytics to see all of your posts along with the number of pageviews they’ve had.

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I’d select a time period of 6-12 months.

Export your data into a spreadsheet, and get a total amount of traffic by adding up all the pageviews.

Finally, create another column where you can calculate the percentage of your total traffic that each page has had.

As expected, a small portion of your pages will produce most of the traffic.

Now it’s time to analyze: Knowing which pages produce the most traffic alone doesn’t help you. You need to analyze it.

To do so, create a column for each of the following characteristics of your content, and fill them out for all of your posts:

  • topic – write down a category that each post falls into
  • length - how long is your content (the word count)? 
  • form of content – is it a blog post, infographic, video, etc.?
  • type of content – is it a tutorial, an opinion piece, a Q&A article, etc.?

Compare all the top articles to the bottom ones to spot trends.

Ideally, you’ll see that certain topics usually produce top articles. Or maybe really long content produces more views, or videos…and so on.

Once you know the reason why certain posts are more likely to perform well, stop employing the tactics that you find in the bottom 80% of your content.

At the same time, shift your content production strategy to produce more of the content you find in the top 20%.

If you’ve really been struggling to produce enough content, consider scaling back on your production. Just by focusing on more effective types of content, you’ll be growing your traffic much faster than before.

4. Content promotion is the 80% when it comes to content

This application of the 80/20 rule is a bit different.

Because you don’t have to do any analysis of your own, I’m just going to tell you the answers.

What you could do is analyze both your content creation time and content promotion time and compare them in terms of your results (traffic, email subscribers, or whatever you measure).

What you would find is that unless you already have a large readership, the promotion work is what produces real results.

The more time is put into promotion, the better your results will be.

In this sense, we’re going to apply the 80/20 rule backwards: Your goal should be to use approximately 80% of your time towards content promotion and 20% towards content creation.

So, if you’re currently spending 5 hours creating a post, spend about 20 promoting it.

If you go all out and create a guide that takes you 20 hours to create, spend about 80 promoting it.

When I tell marketers to do this, most reply with: “How am I supposed to promote something for that long? I’ll run out of stuff to do.”

This may require you to learn new promotional tactics or to dive deeper than you ever have before.

Many marketers find a few hundred email contacts to send their content to. Try finding thousands. It’s not easy at first, but the more you practice, the better you get.

It’s the same when it comes to all promotional tactics: create more ads, post more on forums and groups, and so on.

5. Stop wasting your time on outdated promotional tactics

It’s time to clear something up from the previous section.

Just because you should spend more time on content promotion (even if that means cutting back on content creation) doesn’t mean you should waste that time.

It means that you should spend that time on the promotional tactics that produce the best results for your time.

Applying the 80/20 rule yields something like:

20% of your promotional effort will produce 80% of your results.

In this case, results might be traffic, subscribers, sales, or backlinks.

Time to track and analyze: This process is similar to the other examples we’ve looked at so far, so I won’t go into quite as much detail.

This time, you’ll want the following 5 columns in your table:

  • promotional activity – what you did to promote your content
  • time spent – how many hours you spent doing it
  • traffic as a result – it could be a different metric such as backlinks or subscribers
  • traffic per hour - the traffic in the previous column divided by the time spent; add up the total at the bottom
  • percentage of result – divide the traffic per hour value by the total value for each activity (e.g., 300/1,466 for email outreach).

Here are some completely hypothetical results:

image00

The results are pretty clear.

In terms of productivity (results for the time spent), email outreach and emailing subscribers produce almost all of the results.

They take up 5.5 out of 11.5 total hours, yet produce 88% of the results.

Now what? Let’s take a second to think about your options.

I’d suggest starting by cutting those low performing activities. In this example, you’d save 5.5 out of 11.5 hours and only lose 12% of your traffic.

Like we saw before, when it comes to marketing channels, not all promotional tactics are scalable.

You can’t spend any extra time emailing your subscribers.

But you could spend that extra time trying to get more subscribers.

Or you can spend that time on tactics that do scale.

Email outreach scales incredibly well if you’re willing to dig past the first few pages of Google results and get creative.

Consider our example situation if we invested those 5.5 hours into email outreach. Total traffic would increase by 40% from 2,500 to 3,500.

That’s a big increase when you consider that you’re spending the same amount of time on your promotion as you did before.

On top of that, remember that in the previous section, I recommended that you spend more time on promotion.

It becomes even more important to use effective promotional tactics when you’re spending more time on them.

Making these two key changes (spending more time and focusing on the most effective 20%) will have a huge impact on the results of your content marketing.

6. The Pareto principle applies to individual marketing channels too

Finally, the Pareto principle can be applied to individual channels, particularly SEO.

Go to Google Analytics, navigate to “Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels,” and click on the “organic search” link that comes up.

Finally, click on “landing page” as your primary dimension.

You’ll see a list of your posts, organized by the volume of search traffic they’ve gotten. Change the time period to at least 4-6 months.

Upon analysis, we’ll see that:

80% of your search traffic comes from 20% of your content.

Export those results from Google Analytics into a spreadsheet, and then add columns for percentage and cumulative percentage to it:

image03

To get the percentage value, divide the number of visits to a page by the total number of visits overall.

Then, calculate the cumulative percentage like we did earlier. Make sure the list is sorted by most traffic to least traffic, and then add the percentage to the previous cumulative percentage value (for example: on the chart below – 35.647% = 16.404% + 19.243%).

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These top 20% of posts or so are the ones you need to focus on.

They are the pages that not only have the most search authority but clearly already contain things that people are searching for.

It makes sense then to focus on improving the search authority of these pages.

They likely rank near the top 10 for all sorts of terms. It’s much easier to move those to the top 3 results than to start with content that ranks on page 2+ for most terms.

Next steps: If you want to know which keywords those pages rank well for (but not top 3), you can head to Google Webmasters Tools/Search Console (or GA if you have GWT integrated).

Go to the “Search traffic” option in the left menu and then to the queries sub-option. Finally, click on the “pages” radio button on the screen that comes up:

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Here’s what the pages button looks like:

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Then you can click on each page and see what keywords it ranks for.

Finally, adjust your link building efforts to focus on only these top pages. Just changing your focus will bring substantial gains in your search traffic within a relatively short time.

Conclusion

As a marketer, you’ll always feel like you have more work to do.

Instead of burning yourself out, look for ways to do things more efficiently.

The 80/20 rule is one of those ways. I’ve shown you six different applications of the rule that you can use to improve your marketing and possibly business as a whole.

If you actually apply some of them, you will be able to get the same results in half the time.

And now, you know how to use the extra time to get even better results out of it.

If you have any questions about the 80/20 rule or have any experience applying it in your life or business, leave your thoughts in a comment below—I’d love to hear from you.

How To Increase Perceived Value (and Charge More)

Perception isn’t always the same thing as reality, even when it comes to something as supposedly objective as your product’s value.

In fact, the perceived value of your product is fairly malleable. There are countless studies as well as anecdotes that support the notion that you can tweak small things to increase your product’s value perception.

First, what is perceived value? According to BusinessDictionary.com:

“A customer’s opinion of a product’s value to him or her. It may have little or nothing to do with the product’s market price, and depends on the product’s ability to satisfy his or her needs or requirements.”

Perceived value also has some interesting interactions with perceived risks, price plasticity, long term satisfaction and loyalty, all of which we’ll explore here.

(By the way, much of this is inspired by Rory Sutherland’s Ted Talk. If you haven’t already, watch it.)

Reality vs Perception

According to Rory Sutherland, one of the great mistakes of economics is that it fails to understand that “what something is, whether it’s retirement, unemployment, cost, is a function, not only of its amount, but also its meaning.”

The same product can mean different things to different people, and there is no such thing as objective product value, at least when it comes to actually selling products (there are objective costs associated with making the product, of course).

Therefore, we have this huge opportunity to influence how people feel – how they perceive our product’s value – as well as the opportunity to optimize the customer experience in such a way that the customer is delighted and we maximize our revenue.

One common problem, though, at least in academic research, is the relatively ambiguous terms. What’s the difference between price, quality, and value?

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Let’s say that perceived value is the consumer’s overall assessment of the utility of a product based on what is received and what is given. This embodies more than just quality, which tends to be more product focuses.

Perceived value, at least for the purposes of this article, includes concrete product attributes as well as other high level abstractions like convenience, perceptions of security, service, and more.

The Plasticity of Perception (and Price)

You can increase your product’s perceived value without actually increasing its objective value (costs included in making it). You just have to change people’s perceptions, and as Rory Sutherland says, “our perception is leaky.”

There are many examples of this in the real world. Just to name a few:

  • Research shows that branded painkillers are actually more effective at reducing pain. They’re the same ‘objective quality’ pills, but we perceived one to be better and so it is.
  • People think washing their car makes it drive better.
  • We irrationally value ‘free’ things. Waiting in line for hours for a free donut ($3 value) doesn’t make any rational sense – but people do it.
  • Too many choices can actually reduce sales.

Point is, there are many small tweaks and irrational things that can change our behavior. Not all of it is cost/benefit rational thinking. As Rory Sutherland said in his Ted Talk:

Rory Sutherland:

“We can’t tell the difference between the quality of the food and the environment in which we consume it.

All of you will have seen this phenomenon if you have your car washed or valeted. When you drive away, your car feels as if it drives better.

And the reason for this, unless my car valet mysteriously is changing the oil and performing work which I’m not paying him for and I’m unaware of, is because perception is, in any case, leaky.”

And because value isn’t solely based on unit economics, you’ll want to experiment with value based pricing. According to BusinessDictionary.com, perceived value pricing is:

“The valuation of good or service according to how much consumers are willing to pay for it, rather than upon its production and delivery costs. Using a perceived value pricing technique might be somewhat arbitrary, but it can greatly assist in the effective marketing of a product since it sets product pricing in line with its perceived value by potential buyers.”

Put simply, you’re pricing a product at what your customers will pay for it. It uses perceived value as a proxy for actual cost, which tends to be an efficient way to build a brand because of the elasticity. There are many ways to calculate optimal pricing, and of course A/B testing is one of them.

One of the most common (and effective) ways of increasing perceived value is advertising. That’s largely the point of brand advertising. Similarly, public relations sets to attain some degree of control and influence over the public’s perception of a product/brand.

You can do it online, too. There are some pretty common and established ways of increasing your product’s perceived value (and in term, increase the amount you can charge for it).

The Power of Reframing

In his Ted Talk, Rory Sutherland gave an illuminating (and entertaining) example of reframing:

Rory Sutherland:

“When you go to a drinks party and you stand up and you hold a glass of red wine and you talk endlessly to people, you don’t actually want to spend all the time talking. It’s really, really tiring.

Sometimes you just want to stand there silently, alone with your thoughts. Sometimes you just want to stand in the corner and stare out of the window.

Now the problem is, when you can’t smoke, if you stand and stare out of the window on your own, you’re an antisocial, friendless idiot. If you stand and stare out of the window on your own with a cigarette, you’re a fucking philosopher.

So the power of reframing things cannot be overstated. What we have is exactly the same thing, the same activity, but one of them makes you feel great and the other one, with just a small change of posture, makes you feel terrible.”

Indeed, reframing price is an excellent way to change the perceived value in a product. This has been done effectively in ads before, where the quality perception wasn’t necessarily changed, but reframing the cost attempted to decrease the perceived costs.

Here’s an example of cost reframing:

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Two lattes a day seems doable (if you’ve got a caffeine habit like me). And a more humorous example:

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Large amounts of money are especially conducive to reframing exercises. Copywriting is a great realm to try reframing things:

  • Is it a ‘bargain’ or is it ‘cheap’?
  • Is it ‘exclusive’ or is it ‘expensive’?
  • Is it ‘comfortable’ or is it ‘tacky’?

You’ll have to bring out your inner spin doctor, because there are endless ways to execute the power of reframing.

Why Pricier Wines (Might) Taste Better

People are largely irrational in their judgement of wine.

First, as studies have shown, even experts can’t tell apart cheap and expensive wines in blind taste studies. So there’s that.

Second, and more pertinent to our ‘increased value perception’ question, is that the price actually affects the taste of the wine.

As Freakonomics put it, “When you take a sip of Cabernet, what are you tasting? The grape? The tannins? The oak barrel? Or the price? Believe it or not, the most dominant flavor may be the dollars.”

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Researchers at Stanford GSB and the California Institute of Technology found that if a person is told they are tasting two different wines — one costs $5 and the other $45 (but they’re actually the same wine) — the part of the brain that experiences pleasure will become more active when the drinker thinks they are having the expensive wine.

In addition, they did a study where the participants said they could taste five different wines (when there were only three) and that the wines that were more expensive tasted better (even though they were the same wines).

While they didn’t test this on wine connoisseurs, the researchers expect they’d have similar findings. As they said, “We don’t know, but my speculation is that, yes, they will. I expect that the enophiles will show more of these effects, because they really care about it.”

Why People Love Exclusivity

Again with a wine study – This one had subjects read about a white wine that was described as either scarce or widely available. Subjects were also either informed or were not informed of the wine cost. Then they had subjects evaluate the wine based on expensiveness, desirability, etc.

When the subjects weren’t told how much the wine cost, the researchers found that scarcity enhanced perceptions of expensiveness and the desirability of the wine.

Makes sense. Scarcity is one of the pillars of modern persuasion.

You can base scarcity on quantity or stock, but you can also have a time constraint. Otherwise, why would people like Shamrock Shakes or McRibs so much?

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The strategy of scarcity works even better when coupled with premium pricing, say in the case of luxury goods (or wine, per our study above). As Seth Godin wrote, “social proof among the wealthy is based on beauty plus scarcity plus expense.”

And then there’s the simple case of people wanting something simply because they can’t have it.

This was most famously exemplified by Frederick the Great, when he rebranded potatoes as a royal vegetable. They made it exclusive to the royal family and hired guards to protect the potatoes.

Eventually, people started growing potatoes in secret and they became higher value in people’s minds.

Here lies the Potato King (image source)
Here lies the Potato King (image source)

People want what they can’t have.

Introduce an Element of Altruism

Even though it’s more expensive than Trader Joe’s, I never feel bad about shopping at Whole Foods.

These guys wrote the book on Conscious Capitalism. John Mackey, the CEO, has said that “a certain amount of corporate philanthropy is simply good business.” It works well for them.

In a normal grocery store, there are so many decisions to make regarding quality and value, not to mention feeling good about the source of the food. Whole Foods makes it simple, and there’s value in that (reflected in the price, too).

Another company that does well with this model: Crate and Barrel. They spend some of their advertising budget on gift certificates for its customers to finance projects on DonorsChoose.

The gift certificates of course have a big impact on the charities funded (347,000 students have benefitted from 14,500 funded projects) and on consumers. But people who use gift certificates to fund projects were also found to be more likely to shop at Crate and Barrel for future purchases than a control that didn’t receive certificates (82% versus 76% in a 2006 study).

Altruism is the value proposition for some companies. Take Do Amore for example:

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 3.41.48 PM

They give two people water for life when you buy an engagement ring, so you can feel even more awesome about an already special occasion.

Research largely supports that we appreciate products more with a hint of altruism. A survey found:

  • 94 percent of consumers report that they would switch to a brand that supports a cause.
  • 20 percent would buy a more expensive product if it supported a cause.

Corporate altruism creates a halo effect for the company, increasing the perceived value of its products.

Another study found that participants who were told of a winery’s socially responsible choice rated the wine as better tasting than those who were not. While this effect was “was more pronounced for respondents reporting lower levels of wine expertise,” it can’t be understated.

The researchers also found similar results in hair-loss and teeth-whitening treatments. They wrote that the effect seems to be strongest “in cases where product quality is not readily observable, and/or consumers do not have clearly articulated preferences.”

Reduce Perceived Risk

The other side of the coin here is the perceived sacrifices the customer will have to make, including time, costs, risk, or security.

These embody a concept known as ‘perceived risk,’ or a “consumer’s level of uncertainty regarding the outcome of a purchase decision, especially in case of high priced item such as a car, or a complex item like a computer.”

When there is high perceived risk, consumers will try to reduce their fear by gathering more information and looking for social proof. Anything that quells their doubts reduces their perceived fear. And research suggests that when perceived fear is lower, perceived value is higher

Bolster Up Security and Credibility

There are so many ways to increase credibility (or accidentally kill credibility). Just a few ideas to boost credibility:

Seriously, there are so many ways to bolster credibility and perceived security. Start with this credibility checklist.

Add Proof

If you’ve got proof that people love your product, show it. This could be through customer testimonials, a famous spokesperson or social media feedback. This could also be through product demos, case studies, explainer videos or whitepapers.

Point is, show your product works and that people love it. Our conference has some rave reviews, so we show them (in addition to last year’s video, etc):

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Improve Different Parts of the Customer Experience

Sure, you can reframe your price, make it higher, or make your product more exclusive. But you could also focus on providing delightful experiences surrounding your product.

Yes, you could look at this as improving user experience and usability in the traditional sense (and that’s a huge opportunity in optimization). But I’m speaking more broadly. What can you do to improve packaging, service, design or convenience?

Here’s an example: when shopping for toys, people will choose the one with the larger packaging even if they are the same value. Weird, right?

In addition, free shipping (or fast shipping) is highly effective in increasing conversions (though make no mistake, this is an operations decision that you need to weigh with total effect on profit margins).

Rory Sutherland used the example of a restaurant to convey how other details can matter more than the sole product:

Rory Sutherland:

“Try this quick thought experiment.

Imagine a restaurant that serves Michelin-starred food, but actually where the restaurant smells of sewage and there’s human feces on the floor.

The best thing you can do there to create value is not actually to improve the food still further, it’s to get rid of the smell and clean up the floor. And it’s vital we understand this.”

The Curious Case of Product Bundling

Product bundles are a ‘tried and true’ marketing strategy. You’d think that bundling products together would create the perception of a higher value – after all, you’re objectively increasing the value of your offer simply based on quantity. But it’s not always that simple.

Sure, bundling has a multitude of use cases. HBR gives the example of an expensive hotel room ($750). Even though consumers are forking out a lot of money for the room, they’d still be upset at paying for a $10 bottle of water. That is, unless you just made the room $760. It’s opaque and makes you more money while the consumer stays satisfied.

In that sense, bundling serves the seller. It’s simple (only one product to market), it’s opaque, and the basic users subsidize the long-tail features used by a smaller amount of advanced users (think Microsoft products).

But there is one glaring exclusion to product bundling: when you try to bundle an expensive product with an inexpensive one, it can actually lower the perceived value.

According to a study cited by HBR, people were willing to pay less for the bundle than for the more expensive product alone. They also found that people were more likely to purchase a $2,299 home gym when it was offered alone than when it was combined with a fitness DVD.

Most surprisingly, they found that, while people were willing to pay $225 on one piece of luggage and $54 for another when purchased separately, they’d only pay $165 for the items as a bundle ($60 less than the expensive one alone).

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As HBR wrote, “this suggests that the popular strategy of adding premiums to products can sometimes hurt, rather than increase, sales.”

Product bundling, then, is not a silver bullet. There are ways to do it right, though. Here’s Roger Dooley on how to do bundling correctly:

Roger Dooley:

“If you are thinking about bundling multiple products, do it right:

  • Avoid mixing a cheap item and an expensive item and simply promoting the package.
  • If you are mixing products with different values, establish the value of the individual items first, particularly the most expensive one.
  • Take a lesson from infomercial producers and emphasize the additive nature of bonus items.
  • Focus on non-price attributes of the product (e.g., durability or comfort) – the researchers say this will reduce the devaluation effect from mixed-value items.”

Add a Button That Makes Noise

Neuroscientists did a study and found out that you can increase perceived value without adding anything to the product – except a button that makes noise.

They had participants look at images of food, but before doing so, they asked each person to state how much they’d be willing to pay for general food items. Then they were presented pictures of food, some with a button that, when pressed, made an related noise.

Afterwards, the participants were asked to chose between two food items that they had selected, prior to the study, as equal value. Oddly enough, they chose the item associated with the button and noise 60-65% of the time. When asked, most participants also said they’d pay more for the item, too.

Not sure if there’s an application here for SaaS or eCommerce (there are purported use cases for dietitians and those designing vending machines), but let me know if you test it.

Conclusion

So there it is – you can increase the perceived value of your product without increasing your own objective costs. This has the clear benefit of allowing you to make more money, but it’s not all self-serving; customers want to feel good about their purchases, too (and they tend to be more loyal when they perceive the value to be high).

Of course, these aren’t all the ways you could increase product value. That list would be never ending (or at least a book’s length). But the ideas listed above are commonly used and have some empirical support for their effectiveness.

Have you had any experience with the tactics above? Any creative ideas I didn’t list here? Let me know!

The post How To Increase Perceived Value (and Charge More) appeared first on ConversionXL.

How to Sell Products When You Don’t Like Making Content (FS149)

With all the existing platforms out there to sell your product through — Amazon, Etsy, Creative Market, Minted, iTunes, etc — is it really a good idea to spend time making free content?

Angelene is a Fizzler who makes beautifully designed illustrations, cards and photo packages and this question is top of mind for her right now.

Tons of experts advise building up an audience at your own website so you can create an ongoing relationship. But is this too “old school” to work these days?

Subscribe to the show and listen along to hear more about Angelene’s question and our conversation about selling products in the modern internet economy.

Enjoy!

It’s better to listen on the go!    Subscribe on iTunes 

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“Build your audience. Audience, Audience, Audience… shouldn’t I work on products first?”


Angelene’s Question:

After learning that my business falls under the Established Sales Platform, things are starting to make sense… Prior to joining the Fizzle community, my online readings and research on online businesses would mostly say Grow your audience. Build your audience. You need an audience. Audience, Audience, Audience… This didn't quite sit well with me for some reason, in my head "red flags" would raise and I would be thinking shouldn't I work on products first?

With the idea of thinking I needed to grow my audience, I went ahead and created my website late October last year, with an opt-in form, links to my sales platform, but I felt that my page was too static for some reason and felt the need to make it more engaging, so I thought I would commit to start creating design tutorials, and share some tips through posts in the new year as I felt this was going to help get traffic to my site…

Long story short, I'm struggling to keep up with creating engaging content on my site, I feel a bit in regret of mentioning I will be creating tutorials, as I realize how much of a commitment this will be, and I feel as though I'm further away from my initial business which are my existing online shops on creativemarket.com and minted.com.

Part of me wishes I didn't launch my site at the time that I did, cuz now I feel somewhat of a fraud not being able to consistently put material out when I said I would. I feel my energy can really be well spend creating products on my sales platforms… I know I cannot undo what I've done, but I was wondering if you guys had any suggestions or advice on my situation as I want my business to primarily be focused on my products before anything else.


Show Notes

Top 10 Mistakes in Starting an Online Business

Top 10 Mistakes in Starting an Online BusinessIn our work with thousands of entrepreneurs we’ve seen smart people make the same mistakes over and over.

This guide will help you avoid those common pitfalls on the road to building something great.

Get Yours

Angelene's Stores: Minted, Creative Market, Instagram

10 Marketing Channels to Grow Your Small Business (FS107)

9 More Marketing Channels to Grow Your Small Business (108)

Blogging is Dead Again (FS146)

5 Ways to Earn More Revenue from an Existing Product

Saffron Avenue : Saffron Avenue

Friday Q&A: How do you make your content marketing unique? Should you?

Every Friday, we’re answering your questions about business, startups, customer success and more.

Happy Friday!

This week’s question comes from Matthew D., who asks:

There are actually three separate questions here, so I’ll break them down and answer each one separately:

I’m finding it challenging to come up with unique content.

This is a very natural thing to feel when you’re starting out with content marketing, and the best way to overcome it is to change your thinking on what unique means.

Creating content that’s unique doesn’t have to mean solving problems that have never been solved before by anyone.

If you study topics like entrepreneurship, personal finance, cooking, travel, you know that many of the basic problems in these areas are the same as they were 20, 30, 50 and even 100 years ago.

In business, for example, these problems have always existed:

  • “How do I increase revenue?”
  • “How do I increase my margins?”
  • “How do I make my customers happier?”
  • “How do I make my team happier?”

Thousands of books and blogs have been written addressing these problems. The problems still persist, yet many of these new books and blogs are still getting tremendous amounts of traffic and readers.

Just because a topic has been covered before doesn’t mean that you can’t cover it.

But to be unique, cover it in a way that connects with your specific audience better than anything else written on the topic.

That’s where customer development comes in really useful.

Talk to your audience. Find out what their biggest challenges are, and what words they use to describe those challenges.

And then, use those insights to create content that’s unique in that it addresses the problem in a way that’s better than they’ve ever seen before because it speaks so directly to them.

What makes me qualified to speak about a subject?

The fact that you’ve done your research, know your audience well, and are offering them a solution.

Imposter syndrome is a problem that kills many blogs before they ever get a chance to start. We think that just because we don’t have the right experience or official credentials, that nobody will listen to us.

But guess what?

If you follow the steps above and do the hard work of talking to your audience to learn about them, simply the fact that you know them and their problems better than any blogger they’ve encountered before (and that it’s reflected in the language you use and the solutions you offer in your content) – will give you credibility far beyond what any professional certification could.

What are some tools to better organize multiple writers and subjects?

We use Trello for our editorial calendar. Here’s a look at how we manage blog post ideas and upcoming content.

Really, I’ve seen dozens of systems that work. The key is picking one and sticking to it religiously. No system works well if everyone involved isn’t 100% on board.

Trello, Google Calendar, Basecamp… there are a lot of different tools that top content marketers prefer. Give a few a try and see what feels like you’ll use it the most.

Send me weekly updates about Groove’s Friday Q&A

Thank you for subscribing!

Your Turn: Ask Groove Anything

I’d love for this new weekly segment to be successful, and provide a valuable repository of answers from our entire community for entrepreneurs everywhere.

To do that, I need your help.

Here’s what you can do to get involved:

  1. Ask questions. Post them in the comments of this post, or Tweet them to us at @Groove.
  2. Answer questions. Every Friday, we’ll post a new Q&A segment. If you have anything to add or share regarding any of the questions asked, jump in! Many of you are far more qualified than I to speak on some of the topics that people ask me about.

7 PPC Mistakes You’re Probably Making (and How to Fix Them)

In Advanced Google AdWords, Brad Geddes wrote, “Wouldn’t you like your ads to be sought after, not ignored?”

That’s the ultimate goal, right? To craft a PPC ad that’s so compelling people are happy to click it. It doesn’t happen often.

If PPC has been around since 1996, why doesn’t it happen more often? Why haven’t advertisers perfected the process? Because the landscape is constantly changing. What you learned 6 months ago could already be outdated information.

There’s always a new mistake to make.

The Current State of PPC

According to Hanapin Marketing’s 2015/2016 State of Paid Search Report, most people feel pretty good about their PPC campaigns…

Current PPC Market
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Not only 78% of marketers feeling “really good” about their PPC success in 2015, but 60% believe the PPC market has improved over 2014.

However, we’re currently at a turning point in the PPC industry for four distinct reasons: targeting options are improving, CPC (cost per click) is rising, mobile advertising is gaining more attention, and the way we define success is changing.

1. Targeting Options Are Improving

Companies know more about you than ever before. They know who you are, what you like, what you searched for last night, what you’re looking for, how motivated you are to find it, etc. Hell, Facebook knows whether you vote liberal or conservative and whether or not you attend church on Sundays.

As a result, targeting options are becoming more and more advanced. Gone are the days of advertising to everyone in San Francisco, California. Now, you’re running ads to everyone in San Francisco who has visited your site in the last 30 days and recently changed jobs.

While some platforms (ahem, Facebook) already have advanced targeting options, others are focused on quickly catching up. Brad Geddes of AdAlysis explains…

“BradBrad Geddes, AdAlysis:

“It’s going to be the year of Google trying to catch Facebook in allowing advertiser’s to target users by more than just keywords or basic contextual targeting and allow a lot more interesting paramaters to be used.” (via Acquisio)

As targeting improves, the need to understand your audience and the segments that actually convert grows exponentially.

2. CPC Is Rising

When PPC first took off, it was praised as an affordable way for small businesses and scrappy marketers to avoid big advertising budgets via traditional channels. Now, however, CPC is rising, especially for search.

That means PPC is becoming more complicated for two reasons…

  • The small businesses and scrappy marketers are getting pushed out.
  • You have to be more creative with your choice of keywords.

Lisa Raehsler of Big Click Co agrees…

“LisaLisa Raehsler, Big Click Co:

“Keyword search has been a dependable stand-by, but with rising CPCs, small and medium sized business advertisers are finding it’s too difficult to rely solely on the traditional keyword search and compete with the ‘big guys’.” (via Acquisio)

3. Mobile Advertising Is Gaining More Attention

According to BIA/Kelsey, there will be over 110 billion U.S. local search queries in 2016…

Mobile Search Market
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Compared to 85.6 billion desktop search queries…? It’s clear that mobile is gaining popularity. But that shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Yet, many advertisers are continuing to simply push their desktop ads to mobile. Since the intent, motivation level and behavior of mobile users is so vastly different, that makes little to no sense.

Here’s Brad to explain the problem and propose a solution…

“BradBrad Geddes, AdAlysis:

“As mobile searches continue to rise, we’re going to see companies think about mobile touchpoints and their ads differently than their desktop ads and touchpoints. Right now, most companies are just using their desktop ads on mobile devices and call[ing] it good. The best companies are going to start testing mobile ads and pages completely seperately from their desktop ad and page tests.” (via Acquisio)

Earlier this week, I wrote an article on mobile UX optimization. While it’s not specifically written for PPC advertisers, I think you’ll find it helpful in understanding how mobile and desktop traffic behaves differently.

Just as we need to completely rethink sites for mobile users, we must completely rethink ads for mobile users.

4. The Way We Define Success Is Changing

At ConversionXL, we’ve covered cross-device pollution and testing / measurement pretty thoroughly. The same concept applies to PPC, of course. A paid ad could be what triggers a decision, but the actual conversion could take place online, for example.

When this happens, the PPC campaign doesn’t get the credit because there’s simply no way to track it.

It’s a universally understood flaw and there are indications that ad platforms are working on a fix. As a result, the way we think about PPC success will likely shift in the near future. Instead of focusing exclusively on click-based results, we’ll have more comprehensive data, which will allow us to create more engaging ads.

Aaron Levy, Manager Of Client Strategy at EliteSEM, concludes…

“AaronAaron Levy, EliteSEM:

“On the tracking front, we PPC-er’s have long been conditioned to click-based action tracking. Users click on our lovely ads, go to our elegant landing page, fill out the form or run through checkout and we win!

The problem (which advertisers and engines alike recognize), is this method greatly undervalues the offline influence some of these search ads can have.

Making a purchase decision online and heading into store, (reverse showrooming if you will), calling a company direct or going through alternate channels tends to lead to a dramatically leaking bucket. Even existing tools like YouTube and Display (where clicks are notoriously difficult to come by) are undervalued because we’re tied to a click-based action. Instead, I predict 2016 will be the year of alterna-metrics.” (via Acquisio)

Despite the rapidly changing landscape, PPC advertisers are confident and plan to increase their annual spend in 2016. In fact, 43% plan to spend over 2.5 million…

Annual PPC Spend
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Rising PPC budgets seems to be somewhat of a trend. In 2015, Over 70% of respondents reported increasing their budgets. Where will that increased spend go? Mobile, AdWords and Facebook are among the most popular choices…

Budget by Aspect of Marketing
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When asked about the most important PPC channels, respondents proved that text ads, remarketing ads and mobile ads still reign supreme…

Top PPC Ad Types
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But the number of PPC channels available is growing quickly and others are beginning to gain ground. Display ads and shopping ads are not too far behind mobile ads…

New PPC Ad Types
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When asked about the most important aspect of digital marketing in 2016, respondents were fairly evenly split between conversion rate optimization and social advertising…

Important Aspects of Marketing
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That’s not surprising given the depth of targeting social advertising allows and the role CRO plays in PPC. Without optimization, advertisers might as well be sending their ad traffic to a blank page.

Though the Hanapin Marketing report found that PPC advertisers are confident in their abilities, it’s clear that we still have a long way to go. For example, here’s what came up when I searched for “toronto car insurance”…

Bad PPC Ad

I’ll be sure to call Insurance Hotline the next time I’m in Calgary. (Note: They actually do have a Toronto service offering, upon further research.)

7 Common (and Costly) PPC Mistakes

PPC can be quite complex, so the mistakes people make are endless. However, there are some PPC mistakes that advertisers make more often than others. And there are PPC mistakes that cost advertisers more money than others.

Here are a few of them (and how you can avoid making them yourself).

1. Not Understanding the Difference Between Search, Display and Social

Here’s what Ally Sabrowsky of Hanapin Marketing, which is the agency behind PPC Hero, has to say about the most common (and costly) PPC mistake…

“AllyAlly Sabrowsky, Hanapin Marketing:

“Not understanding the difference between search and display and social, for example, could turn into a costly PPC mistake.

Search has intent behind the action so searchers might be familiar with the brand but are looking to find out more or convert.

Display is a completely different audience as they might not have any recognition of the brand or even be actively looking for your product or service.

Social could be both of the above but could appeal to an audience that has loyalty to your brand so presenting them with a unique experience is important to capture what they’re looking for.

To correct this type of mistake, treat your audiences as different buckets and provide them with a more specialized experience depending on their interest or intent. Whether it be through language in the ads themselves or a specialized landing page experience, make sure you tailor to your audience types.”

Ally is essentially reminding everyone of the importance of segmentation. Just as mobile traffic and desktop traffic behave differently, the different types of PPC traffic behave differently as well.

Common characteristics of search traffic…

  • High intent and level of motivation.
  • They’re actively looking for a solution.
  • More likely to respond to a hard sell.
  • Will likely need only the essential product / service information.
  • Needs a frictionless experience.

Common characteristics of display traffic…

  • Low intent and level of motivation.
  • They may not even be aware of the pain point your product / service addresses.
  • More likely to respond to a soft sell.
  • Will likely need comprehensive product / service information.
  • Needs to be persuaded.

Common characteristics of social traffic…

  • Could be high or low intent / level of motivation, but likely leaning towards low.
  • They may not even be aware of the pain point your product / service addresses, but you can be fairly certain they have it based on advanced targeting options.
  • More likely to respond to a low-effort sell (e.g. submit an email).
  • Will likely only need comprehensive product / service information if the sell is high-effort or high-priced.
  • Needs a consistent experience (copy and design) from social to the landing page.

Of course, segmentation doesn’t end here, but it’s a good starting point. Be aware of how traffic behave differently. Don’t try to serve everyone the same ad / experience.

2. Marching Forward Without a Strategy

Jen Salamandick of Kick Point Inc. builds on Ally’s segmentation argument…

“JenJen Salamandick, Kick Point Inc.:

“Jumping into PPC without a clear understanding of goals, and a strategy to make those goals a reality is a costly mistake that we see clients trying to bounce back from quite often. An important part of a PPC strategy is defining your audience.

If you haven’t taken the time to determine who your ads are for, then how will you know how to write them? How will you build landing pages to encourage your target market to do whatever it is that you want them to do?

Personas get a bad rep from people who haven’t taken the time to use them properly, but if you employ them to segment your campaigns and ad groups by audience and intent they can be very powerful.”

Before you can write ads and create conversion funnels that work, you need to step back and look at the bigger picture. It all starts with goals and a strategy. A key part of the strategy being defining (and understanding) your audience.

Personas is one way to do it. But a persona is not…

Clark Andrews
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A persona is created using qualitative and quantitative research, not using Myers-Briggs.

Jen Havice of Make Mention Media wrote an incredible article for ConversionXL on creating data-driven personas, How To Create Customer Personas With Actual, Real Life Data. It’s worth the 8-10 minute read if you’re interested in understanding the people viewing your PPC ads (and you should be).

Start with the qualitative research and then fill in the blanks with quantitative research.

3. Focusing on the Wrong Metrics

When asked what he thought the biggest (and most costly) PPC mistake is, Johnathan Dane of KlientBoost focused on metrics…

“JonathanJohnathan Dane, KlientBoost:

“Not optimizing off of sales and tracking back to what keywords and placements are actually making you money. Too many people focus blindly on optimizing off of conversions, but not all conversions are equal.

Using your CRM (if you’re generating leads or a SaaS business), you can use something called Google ValueTrack parameters that can give you all the insight you need to know.”

Measuring results as close to the money as possible is key. Your focus should be on identifying the types of people who make you money, understanding their motivations and behavior, and optimizing to reach more of them.

Using Google ValueTrack parameters, you can uncover data and make smarter optimization choices.

When you add Google ValueTrack parameters to your landing page URLs, they collect information about the source of your ad clicks.

For example, you might add {matchtype} as a ValueTrack parameter. When the ad is clicked, Google will record the ad’s match type as either b (broad match), p (phrase match) or e (exact match).

You can also use IF functions. For example, let’s say you want to know whether or not someone arrived on your landing page from the Search Network, add {ifsearch:} as a ValueTrack parameter. In Google Analytics, you’ll see “search” if someone clicks on your add from the Search Network.

For more ways to use Value Track parameters, click here.

Be sure you have your analytics set to record the most useful data possible. You don’t want to optimize for CTR or conversion rate. You want to optimize for more money in the bank.

4. Using “Bid Only” in Remarketing Display Campaigns

Ryan Moothart of Portent gets a bit more tactical…

“RyanRyan Moothart, Portent:

“Using ‘bid only’ targeting settings in a remarketing display campaign. The goal of a good remarketing campaign on the display network is to target ads to users who’ve been to your site before. To do this, you create an audience of users and target it in AdWords. However, if you forget to set the targeting setting to “target and bid” instead of “bid only”, you’re essentially telling Google to target the users in your audience along with anyone else Google feels like targeting.

If you set your budget very high to ensure you maximize your impression share of these users, and then accidentally use the “bid only” targeting setting on your remarketing audience, you could easily waste a ton of money showing ads to users you never meant to target in the first place. The solution is to ensure any remarketing audience in a display campaign is set to “target and bid”, which limits Google to showing ads only to users in your audience.”

This one is pretty straightforward. It’s a lesson in paying attention, understanding key PPC terms and triple checking your campaigns before pushing them live.

It seems like common sense, but the mistake is costing inexperienced marketers big time.

5. Using “Broad Match” on Short-Tail Head Terms

Ryan adds that the match type you select can have a big impact on your results and the amount you have to spend to achieve those results…

“RyanRyan Moothart, Portent:

“Using broad match on short-tail head terms. If you want to show ads for a high volume, high competition keyword, you want to avoid broad match unless you have an absurdly high budget. Example: if you sell shoes, you may want to avoid bidding on the keyword shoes in broad match; you’d end up spending a metric crap ton of money in a very short amount of time without many conversions to show for it.

If you want to have coverage for these types of terms, stick with exact match and utilize all available bid modifiers (mobile, geographic, ad schedule, etc.) to help ensure any ads you show for these keywords are going to be as effective as possible.”

Now, there are three different match types for search:

  1. Exact Match: The exact term or very close. With exact match, you’ll end up with long keyword lists.
  2. Broad Match: Your ads may show on searches that include misspellings, synonyms and other related searches. You’re essentially giving AdWords the benefit of the doubt.
  3. Phrase Match: The phrase or a close variation of the phrase. This has been more or less replaced by Broad Match Modified, which means our ads will show on searches that contain the modified term (or close variations, but not synonyms) in any order.

It’s naive to choose just one. You should use multiple match types, depending on your intent.

Recently, PPC Hero analyzed October 1, 2014-September 30, 2015 AdWords data from Hanapin Marketing’s clients. They were hoping to explain how match type impacts performance.

Only non-branded keywords with one or more clicks are included in the data.

When looking at how much was being spent on each type, they found that broad is heavily favored…

Spend by Match Type
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Phrase trails behind. Again, likely because it’s essentially been replaced by Broad Modified Match.

When they looked at CTR, exact led the pack… by a lot (5.53% vs. 2.73%) . That shouldn’t be too surprising given exact means more relevancy, higher bids and, generally, higher rankings.

CTR by Match Type
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Here’s where it gets interesting: conversion rate and IUC (impressions until conversion)…

Conversion Rate by Match Type
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The conversion rate difference is negligible. While IUC is dramatic, it’s mostly due to exact’s high CTR. Exact has the advantage of specificity, which allows you to target people at later stages of the conversion funnel.

Note that this is the intersection of PPC and CRO. Conversion rate is essentially the same across all three types. Optimization could make all the difference here.

Back to what Ryan was saying. Using broad match on short-tail head terms will get expensive fast. Stick with exact match and take advantage of bid modifiers instead.

Always be aware of your options and choose strategically.

6. Not Testing Your Conversion Funnel Beforehand

Ryan also suggests paying closer attention during the quality assurance phase…

“RyanRyan Moothart, Portent:

“Forgetting to test your site’s conversion funnel prior to starting a campaign. If you don’t process a test conversion and check your analytics prior to running a PPC campaign, you have no idea if it’s working correctly or not. For example, you could start a campaign and waste thousands of dollars before realizing the users you sent to your site couldn’t buy anything from you in the first place because something was broken in your checkout process.

Always test conversions and analytics prior to launching any PPC campaign and confirm everything works properly.”

Quality assurance is a basic principle, but it often gets ignored for the sake of speed. Most advertisers run through the site’s conversion funnel once and declare it “ready to go”. Instead, they have to slow down and make sure everything is really working the way it should be.

Why run paid traffic to a site with a broken or confusing funnel? Why run paid traffic to a site that doesn’t work properly in IE? Why run paid traffic to a site with a broken analytics setup?

Here’s what you should do before running your campaign…

  • Conduct a heuristic site analysis. Is there distraction? Do you have clarity issues?
  • Conduct user testing. Commission a few user testing videos and watch as real people perform tasks on your site. It’s an easy way to spot friction and improve your funnel.
  • Conduct cross-device and cross-browser testing. Use Google Analytics to analyze your traffic by device and browser type to see where you should begin. With Google Chrome, you can use Inspect Element to see how the site looks on different devices.
  • Conduct a Google Analytics health check to ensure your analytics are tracking and reporting correctly.

7. Writing Emotionless Ads

Larry Kim of WordStream explains why one of the biggest mistakes is still simply writing emotionless ads that bring down your quality score…

“LarryLarry Kim, WordStream:

“The most costly PPC mistake is running junk ads on terrible keywords. By writing better ads, you can dramatically reduce the cost per click and increase your impression share.

So on average, having more interesting (higher CTR) ads will reduce cost per conversion and increase number of conversions.

Quality Score Explained

Quality Score Impression Share

The best way to increase click through rates is to leverage emotional triggers in ads. It’s the same thing that blog headline writers do to get people to click on their tweets and blog posts.”

It’s a simple concept: The higher your CTR, the less you pay and the more your ad is shown. If you have a quality score of 10, you’re paying only 50% of the usual CPC.

Why? Because Google values quality. They don’t want to annoy their visitors with irrelevant, spammy ads. They want to deliver helpful search results and helpful ads.

According to Larry, the best way to increase your CTR (i.e. write better ads) is to insert some emotion into your copy.

Helen Edwards, who also works at WordStream, explains her step-by-step process for writing emotional ads…

“HelenHelen Edwards, WordStream:

“Here are the steps I follow to write high-performing emotional ads for my clients:

Step 1 – Who is your customer? Is she a working mother? A hippie yoga kale eater? A high society trust fund baby?

Step 2 – What persona do you want to take on in relation to your target market? Bearer of bad news? Hero/Villain dynamic? The comedian? The feel good friend?

Step 3 – Write emotionally charged ads from the standpoint of the chosen persona.” (via WordStream)

The four appeals she focuses on are: anger, disgust, affirmation, and fear.

Of course, those aren’t the only emotional appeals you can use. In The Advanced Guide to Emotional Persuasion, you’ll also learn how to use sadness, anxiety and awe to persuade.

What matters is that you evoke emotion. You stand out from the other search results, from the noise of Facebook, from the content of a site, etc.

Conclusion

PPC is a simple game that gets more complicated the more you play, just like Blackjack. [Tweet It!] If you bet on the wrong ad or lose focus of the bigger picture, you could lose serious cash.

If you want to craft PPC ads that are sought after, make sure…

  1. You account for the differences between search, display and social traffic.
  2. You create data-driven personas and tailor your ads for your specific audience.
  3. You’re optimizing for more cash in the bank, not a higher CTR.
  4. You’re using “Target and Bid” for remarketing display ads.
  5. You’re using “exact match” and bid modifiers for short-tail head terms (vs. “broad match”).
  6. You conduct quality assurance on your conversion funnel, site and analytics.
  7. You write ads that evoke emotion to improve your quality score and bring down your CPC.

The post 7 PPC Mistakes You’re Probably Making (and How to Fix Them) appeared first on ConversionXL.

How to Take Full Advantage of Facebook’s Custom Conversions

As you all [hopefully] know, the conversion pixel is completely being replaced by the Facebook pixel in the first half of 2016.

The Facebook pixel holds the power of the conversion pixel and the custom audience pixel in one holy grail. It’s basically a more effective and efficient way for marketers and advertisers to track, optimize, and remarket.

If you haven’t joined the bandwagon, now is the time to make the necessary switch for a peaceful mind. An added feature of the Facebook pixel is that we can now create custom conversions, whereas we were unable to do that with the conversions pixel, nor the custom audience pixel.

What Are Custom Conversions?

Custom conversions allow us to track and optimize actions on specific web pages, while bypassing the additional step of adding anything to the Facebook pixel code. Rather than adding a unique pixel for every page, with the new Facebook pixel it’s only required to add the single Facebook pixel once, to every converting page of your site.

Custom conversions are perfect for when you’re running a campaign with a website conversions objective, as it allows you to track specific users as they convert on a given web page. This way, you can chose to optimize for conversions, and Facebook will serve your ad to people who are most likely to complete the preferred action on your website. With implementing custom conversions, Facebook has a better ability to determine whether a user who visited your website ended up converting.

facebook-custom-conversion-setup

This shows amount of conversion traffic that resulted from a custom conversion on the “Purchase” page of a website. The fifth column displays the conversion traffic, which is the number of people who have converted.

How To Create Custom Conversions

The first and foremost step of creating a custom conversion is installing the Facebook pixel on your website. Once that’s complete, sign into Facebook ads manager and click on “Tools”. Select “Custom Conversions” from the drop down and click the “Create Custom Conversions”.

facebook-tools-custom-conversions

create-custom-conversions-facebook

You’ll have the option to “include traffic that meets the following”:

  • URL Contains
  • URL Equals

url-contains-facebook

Select the most suitable option. For example, you can select a URL that equals www.celinemirzaian.com/facebook-advertising-news-subscription-thank-you/. Or you can use a URL that contains “/facebook-advertising-news-subscription-thank-you”.

Basically, any web page that contains the Facebook pixel, so any web page that signifies a conversion. In this case, I would be tracking subscribers to my newsletter. If they hit my “thank you” page, they count as a subscriber, and therefore a conversion.

I would recommend using “URL Contains” in the case where your “thank you” page or “order confirmed” page has a dynamically generated URL. Some ecommerce websites will append a customer ID to the URL on their checkout and order confirmed pages, i.e., celinemirzaianclothing.com/order-confirmed?id=04548567438. In this case, you will want to select “URL contains” “/order-confirmed” because each different customer will have a difference exact URL.

create-a-custom-conversion

conversion-category

In the example I gave, my URL leads to a “thank you” page, so I would chose the “Complete Registration” category.

After you’re done selecting a Rule and a Category, click “Next” and type in a name for your Custom Conversion. If applicable, you can set a conversion value. Click “Create” and voila! You can continue the same process and create a separate Custom Conversion for every lead magnet on your site.

custom-conversion-facebook-advertising

How To Track Custom Conversions

In order to track Custom Conversions, again we would click the “Tools” drop down and select “Pixels” rather than “Custom Conversions”. After that, click “Create Conversion”, and you’ll be advised to choose a tracking method. You’ll want to “Track Custom Conversions”.

facebook-tools-pixels

tools-facebook-pixel

facebook-set-up-conversion-tracking

Instead of selecting a conversion to track, Facebook automatically tracks and reports the conversions that result from your ad given that you’ve selected the Facebook pixel for optimization.

How To Optimize Custom Conversions

At the ad set level of your website conversions campaign, select “choose a conversion event” and select any of the custom conversions you created. This automatically tells Facebook that you want to optimize for that specific action.

Branding a business online versus driving traffic and increasing conversions on your website are two separate objectives. Thankfully, Facebook’s ad manager allows us to build campaigns based on specific objectives. If you’re focused on building an online brand, you can choose the “Promote your Page” campaign objective. For the sake of this blog, since we’re focused on the topic of custom conversions, you need to rely on the “Increase conversions on your website” objective. Whether you’re an E-Commerce or a Non-profit organization, this method is helpful in driving traffic to your website.

facebook-choose-campaign-objective

Let’s say you’re an online clothing store, and you want to effectively promote your new spring collection. In order to raise brand awareness while at the same time driving conversions, you can create a carousel ad with images of three items of clothing, each linking to the appropriate pages on your website. You’ll want to add a call to action in order to encourage people to “buy now” or “shop now”. This is where the Facebook pixel and custom conversions come in handy. Install the Facebook pixel on each converting page of your website so that you can measure how many people clicked through from the carousel ad on Facebook and purchased your product.

Make sure custom conversions are set up so that Facebook can “optimize for conversions”, and serve your ad to the people who are most likely to convert.

facebook-carousel-ad

The combination of multiple pixels into one is ultimately going to lead marketers to utilize their time effectively and efficiently. We no longer have to add a unique conversion pixel on each individual success page of a website. Instead, we can add a single Facebook pixel to each individual page. With custom conversions, marketers can track and optimize for website conversions without going through the time consuming process of adding anything to the Facebook pixel code. What’s the added benefit? Facebook automatically tracks and optimizes custom conversions. If you’re running multiple website conversion campaigns, now is the time to implement custom conversions.

About the Author: Celine Mirzaian is a paid social advertiser at Catalyst. Her keen interest in social media advertising combined with her passion for writing motivates her to seek what’s up and coming in the paid social scene, and translate it into words to share with the rest of her fellow marketers. Check out her LinkedIn for more about Celine.

3 Reasons why I am returning to Business of Software Conference in 2016 | Guest Blog Post

This is a guest blog post from Mark Stephens, the original posting of which can be found here. Mark is a previous BoS Lightning Talk speaker and Systems Architect/Lead Developer at IDR Solutions and took a few moments to note why he will be coming back to BoS in 2016. 

Software conferences consume lots of time, money and emotional energy. So you need a good reason to include one in your agenda. I tend to limit mine to really important sales events (JavaOne), things I believe passionately in and want to support (NetBeans days) or the chance to go somewhere amazing and be part of an awesome event (DevFest Istanbul).

In the past, I have also been to Business of Software. I first attended in 2008 (which was a real eyeopener for me on how to run a business. In 2009, I did the Lightning talks (still the most scary event in my life) and in 2010 I was lucky enough to go back as a speaker. Since then the date has clashed with JavaOne and I have got out of the habit of attending.

This year I have decided that it is time to return. There are of reasons to go (we have several clients in Boston, I love the city, etc) but my 3 main reasons are:

1. Mix with my peers.

The reason I first choose to attend was that I wanted a chance to mix with others trying to create and build software companies. I wanted the chance to compare their experiences to mine (sometimes you just need to know that this is something all people find hard or know how they handled it) and get the benefit of their advice and experience. We also got several of our key customers and suppliers from contacts made at the conference.

2. Workout my roadmap.

IDRsolutions is now 17 years old and successful but no longer really a startup. It is time for me to figure out and many of the talks/people at Business of Software are focused on this topic. I have noticed the theme of the conference has very much changed to how you move to the next level and this is what I need to focus on as the CEO.

3. Renew some old friendships.

I have met lots of really amazing people at the previous conferences and many of them are still attending. A catch-up over some beers in long overdue.

So if you are going in 2016, I really look forward to seeing you there. What makes you attend?

 

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The post 3 Reasons why I am returning to Business of Software Conference in 2016 | Guest Blog Post appeared first on Business of Software USA.

[100] Updates: Repeatable Marketing Ideas, Outsourcing Sales, & “Secret” SaaS Tiers


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Welcome to episode 100! Today we’re going to give an update on where we are in our businesses. Brian is still in Colorado and enjoying some family time, while Jordan is focusing on Carthook and its growth potential. Here is a summary of our updates with a few high points.

Brian’s Update:

Brian is in between his involvement with Big Snow Tiny Confs. He has attended the main one out in Vermont and has another one coming up at Beaver Creek, CO soon. Productize is also weighing heavy on his mind, since he is experiencing a slowdown in productivity. Here are some of the topics we discussed:

  • Improving Productize for customers and potential customers
  • Introducing a referral feature to AudienceOps
  • The decision to promote from within for a sales person
  • The need for writers and streamlining that process
  • A new app called Recruiterbox and the great customer service

Jordan’s Update:

Jordan is trying to find ways to keep Carthook in the forefront of people’s minds. He and  his team have reexamined their marketing strategies and are launching a new marketing page. They took inspiration from sites like LeadPages, Convert Kit, Drip, and The Clone Factory. The new site is based on the idea of “show don’t tell.” Some of the other topics we discussed are:

  • Carthook is now a customer of AudienceOps
  • Carthook’s new prices and the issues that can cause
  • A possible webinar in the future
  • Ways to keep new leads coming into Carthook
  • Improving Carthook’s optimization

So the boil down of today’s episode is we are both trying to make our businesses as optimal as possible. Whether that means hiring some new talent, or launching some new campaign.

Mentioned in this podcast:

Streak

Outbound

Lemonstand

Facebook

Adwords

Carthook

Productize Podcast

Audience Ops

Recruiterbox

Appointlet

As always, thanks for tuning in. Head here to leave a  review in iTunes.

The post [100] Updates: Repeatable Marketing Ideas, Outsourcing Sales, & “Secret” SaaS Tiers appeared first on Bootstrapped Web.

The Most Common (Bad) Arguments Against Remote Work

Distributed teams are getting more and more common, but too many businesses still cling to outdated assumptions.

For the last few years, our team has been living and breathing remote work.

I’ve written about it time and time again, from the pros and cons, to the tools we use, to the all-in commitment required to really make it work.

It works well for us, and for hundreds of other businesses. It can work well for a lot more.

Still, I see comments and emails like this pretty often:

Remote isn’t for everyone. There are companies that struggle with it, and not all employees work best in a distributed culture.

And if a business thoughtfully considers their team and situation and decides that remote isn’t for them, that’s great; they should absolutely stick with that decision.

But I see some knee-jerk arguments against remote work popping up time and time again that simply aren’t true.

These objections are almost always built on false assumptions or refusal to see alternative approaches to achieving a goal… a “we do things this way because that’s how they’ve always been done” mindset that keeps many of us from making progress.

Below are the most common anti-remote arguments I hear, and what I usually say to people when I hear them.

1) A “Water Cooler” Is Critical for Culture

“Your culture improves when people can congregate in the office and chat about non-work things.”

This argument isn’t entirely without merit. It’s true that having relationships with your co-workers that aren’t based 100% around work is tremendously valuable for your team’s culture.

But it’s also not something that you can’t reproduce in a remote environment.

For us, that water cooler is Slack.

Rather than discouraging non-Groove discussion, we embrace it as a huge part of letting our team members show off their “real” selves, and of getting to know one another as more than just “our [developer/designer/marketer/CEO/support agent/etc…].”

The water cooler isn’t what’s important here; it’s just a symbol for a place where your team shoots the breeze. And that can happen anywhere.

2) People Are More Productive in an Office

“Offices are built for work! That’s where people get the most work done.”

This is one of the arguments that I find most condescending and disrespectful to workers everywhere.

“People” aren’t anything, and any statement about where people are most productive will only apply to some people.

Everyone has their own work style, their own preferences, and their own “optimal” conditions.

Remote work actually recognizes and embraces that.

If you’re most productive in an office, you can work in an office. That’s what co-working spaces or Regus rentals are for.

But if you’re most productive from your home, or a coffee shop, or the library, then remote work gives you the freedom to do that, too.

3) You Need an Office for Work/Life Separation

“People are happier when they can get into and snap out of work mode, and coming to and leaving a physical office helps them do that.”

Again, I’ve found that the concept behind this argument is true. Carrying your work with you in your head 24/7 is not a healthy or particularly pleasant way to live.

But that separation can be achieved outside of the office, too.

Some people on our team do that by working off-site. Others do it by dedicated a separate room in their home as an office. And some even simply have a dedicated desk in the corner of a room that’s only used for work, creating a separation in their mindset when they’re sitting there versus when they’re not.

There are also ways to digitally accomplish this as well: turning off email notifications on my phone at the end of the day works wonders for me.

4) It Adds to Your Valuation

“Startups with the entire team in a single office get better valuations than remote teams.”

My thoughts on taking loads of VC money and trying to build a unicorn are well documented.

It’s not for us.

But even if it was, this is an argument that, if I hadn’t actually heard it from two separate investors looking to buy a stake in Groove, I wouldn’t believe to even exist.

The fact is, maybe some companies looking to make an acquisition would prefer to acquire a co-located team.

But you know what drives up your valuation far, far more?

Revenue. Customers. Growth.

These are metrics that, if focused on, will bring you huge gains in the value of your business.

The potential gain from having a co-located team, in comparison, is marginal.

Having a team in an office is an easy thing to accomplish—much easier than actually growing your business—so I can see why it would be a tempting choice for an entrepreneur looking to maximize their return.

But it’s short-term, small-picture thinking.

Focus on making your business as successful as you possibly can. Figure out whether you can accomplish that better with a remote team or a co-located team, and decide based on that.

If you want to cash out, that’s what will help you create an attractive target for acquirers. If you execute well, you’ll have more offers than you know what to do with.

5) It Makes Meetings Easier

“Having everyone in the same room makes meetings more efficient and effective.”

While many startups rail against them, I’m not opposed to meetings. I think that sometimes, they can get things done faster.

But I also think that meetings are far too often leaned on by people who don’t want to make a difficult decision and would rather punt it to a group.

And often, these decisions aren’t even that consequential. The color of your CTA buttons shouldn’t require a meeting.

Jason Fried puts the true cost of meetings into perspective brilliantly in his TEDx talk, where he points out that a one-hour meeting with eight people isn’t really a one-hour meeting at all; it’s a meeting that just consumed eight hours of productive time from your team.

So, to respond to this objection, my first challenge would be that perhaps meetings shouldn’t be easy.

If there were more barriers to meetings, we’d have fewer of them, and waste less time.

But for when meetings are necessary, the tools exist to make them happen. I have successful meetings every day using Google Hangouts, which has only gotten better and better in the last couple of years.

And there are dozens of tools like it now, depending on your needs. Whether you need to share screens, loop in people on phones, work together on documents or just about any other collaborative process you can think of, it can be done with tools that are now available and affordable.

6) There Are Too Many Distractions at Home

“If I can’t see what my team is doing, then how do I know they’re not sitting on Twitter all day?”

Twitter exists everywhere, whether you’re at home or at the office.

And if you have so little trust in your employees that you’re blocking Twitter on your office firewall, then you have issues far bigger than social media distractions.

The reality that I’ve found to be true is that if you measure people by the work they get done, rather than by the hours they spend on it, your team will accomplish more, not less.

They’ll still take time for Twitter and Facebook and all of the distractions that exist everywhere; but their work time will be more engaged since they know their performance is being measured on output and the quality of that output, rather than simply by the time they’re spending in their chair.

Hiring the right people—the ones who are accountable for their work—is important here, but it’s important in a traditional office too. However, in a traditional office, it’s a lot easier to make the mistake of assuming that an employee who’s present is an employee who’s producing.

How to Apply This to Your Business

Remote work isn’t for everyone.

But if you’re going to think about it, then it’s important to give it a fair and thoughtful consideration rather than a knee-jerk dismissal.

I hope that this post helps to clear up a few misconceptions and get a few more businesses open to trying the system that’s worked so well for us.