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How to Inspire Your B2B Audience with Killer Content Marketing

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B2B content marketers: It’s time to get over our inferiority complex.

Yes, the B2C folks are over there marketing cool stuff like basketball shoes and energy drinks, while we’re stuck with cloud software solutions and medical imaging machinery.

Yes, we’re marketing to business professionals on a buying committee that has to commit to million-dollar deals. Which would buy a lot of basketball shoes and energy drinks.

But that does not mean B2C has more fun. It doesn’t mean B2B is boring. It doesn’t mean we have to play it safe.

Can B2B content be as compelling, as emotional, as vibrant—let’s face it—as cool as B2C?

As we say in Minnesota, yabetcha.

Not only can our content be all these things, it should be. We’re not marketing to robotic cogs in a corporate machine. We’re trying to have a conversation with actual human beings.

Make sure you’re a worthy conversational partner by following these tips:

#1: Don’t Skimp on Personality

It’s hard to create truly dynamic content when you’re stuck behind a brand façade. Corporations may or may not be people, but content that looks like it was written by committee rarely has that human spark.

Your content should bring out the people behind the brand. Don’t leave authenticity and transparency in your mission statement; show it in what you write. One of my favorite marketers for showing personality is Buffer’s Kevan Lee. Kevan isn’t afraid to show the whole gamut of human emotion on the Buffer blog, from taking pride in accomplishments to acknowledging failure. His post, We’ve Lost Nearly Half Our Social Referral Traffic in the Last 12 Months, is brutally honest but optimistic at the same time. Kevan pulls no punches in describing how Buffer’s traffic has fallen off, admitting he’s not sure why, and offering readers a chance to follow along as he learns.

A post like that not only helps build rapport, it’s valuable to every member of Kevan’s audience that is experiencing a similar dropoff. The result of Kevan’s unfiltered sharing? 3.8 thousand shares and over 418 comments on just that one post. It’s powerful stuff.

#2: Bring Your Data to Life

Most marketers are familiar with Volvo Trucks’ “Split” commercial. It’s the one that features aging action star Jean-Claude Van Damme showing off his superpowers:

What’s often overlooked is that this video is B2B marketing. Volvo Trucks sells big rigs to businesses. That’s what this video is all about. While those not in the target audience see a cool stunt, truck drivers see amazing precision in handling, even while the trucks are in reverse.

Not only that, the commercial is an effective piece of B2B content marketing. After the ad aired, Volvo conducted a survey of 2,200 commercial truck owners. Half of those who saw the video said they were more likely to choose Volvo. A third had already visited the website or even contacted a dealer after watching the video.

B2B marketing relies heavily on data, much moreso than B2C. Tell a story with that data—give it tension and drama—and you’re more likely to persuade your buyer.

#3: Cut the Buzzwords

“Our cloud solutions actualize the potential of enterprise-level businesses to utilize resources and leverage best practices to ladder up their revenue.”

Is it just me, or is the previous sentence like being beaten to death with a damp sponge? What is it about corporate writing that makes people use words they ordinarily wouldn’t go near?

This concept is an extension of the “show your personality” mandate. Unless you go about your daily life talking like an instruction manual crossed with a thesaurus, drop the corporate-speak. And if you do talk like that in your daily life, seek help. Your friends and family will thank you.

On the minus side, if you start talking like people, you won’t sound like every other corporation. On the plus side…you won’t sound like every other corporation.

#4: Consider the Rest of Your Buyer’s Workday

What does your buyer think about when they’re not thinking about you? Most B2B content tends to focus on the narrow intersection between the buyer’s problem and the brand’s solution. That’s great for bottom-of-funnel content. But what are you doing to help your buyer the rest of the workday? How are you equipping them for success?

Some would say anything outside of the problem/solution framework is irrelevant. But it’s all relevant. The person you’re selling to has professional needs that go beyond your solution—help them advance their career and—again I say—yabetcha that will make a difference when the buying committee convenes.

HubSpot is a B2B outfit that has 100% internalized this idea. You will find plenty of marketing advice on their blog, but also posts on leadership techniques, mood improvement, and more.

#5: Take a Stand

So you’re committed to showing personality and talking like a human. The next big step is to bring a point of view to your content. Let your audience know what you stand for and fight against. Take sides. Stir up a little controversy, if it needs to be stirred.

Some brands steer clear of taking any kind of stand because they fear alienating potential buyers. Part of identifying your audience, however, is identifying who is not in your audience. The people who might be turned off by your brand expressing values, sharing a vision, or leading a discussion are people who were never potential buyers in the first place. Get opinionated and you can rally the people who matter to your brand and bottom line.

One of my favorite B2B marketers, Jason Miller, exemplifies this idea. He’s not afraid to counter the conventional marketing wisdom, or call out lack of diversity in the industry. This willingness to take a stand has helped make Jason a thought leader and helped bring readers to the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions brand.

#6: Be a Mirror, Not a TV

Would you rather be a talking head delivering a monologue to your customer? Or would you rather reflect who they are, what they value, and then show how your solution can help? Let’s make the question even easier: Which do you think your customers prefer?

Your audience should be able to see themselves in your content. That means writing with extraordinary empathy. Or, better still, that means showcasing their stories whenever you can. My favorite B2B example of this is HSBC’s “The Elevator.” The bank wanted to show they understood small business owners and were committed to helping them succeed.

So they created a web-based reality show with entrepreneurs from around the UK. HSBC provided business coaching for each contestant and awarded a cash prize to the winner. But the series wasn’t just about creating a compelling drama—every video showcased exactly the kind of customer HSBC was trying to reach. The result was an estimated £9 million in revenue from leads generated by the campaign.

No More B2C Envy

It’s time to step out of the shadow of our B2C colleagues. You have my permission to make your marketing every bit as personal, emotional, unique, and dynamic as the best B2C campaigns. Regardless of your vertical, good marketing is good marketing, and every target audience is made of—gasp—people.

Does marketing person-to-person get better results than marketing business-to-buyer?

Yabetcha.

Need help creating awesome B2B content? Explore our content marketing services.

Social Media Metrics: How to Choose and Track What Matters

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social media how toInterested in building a dashboard to track key social media metrics?

Wondering which data and metrics to include?

With a little strategic planning on the front end, you can select and track meaningful metrics that relate to your business goals.

In this article, you’ll discover which metrics to track and how to organize them into a simple dashboard.

Social Media Metrics: How to Choose and Track What Matters by Eleanor Pierce on Social Media Examiner.

Social Media Metrics: How to Choose and Track What Matters by Eleanor Pierce on Social Media Examiner.

#1: Define Social Media Marketing’s Expected Role in Relation to Your Business Goals

If you manage social media for your business, it’s likely you aren’t the person defining overall business and marketing goals. However, if you run a small business, you may oversee the whole kit-and-caboodle.

In either case, look first at your overall business goals. Tracking those goals is the best way to ensure you’ll have buy-in for your efforts, and stay on track and accountable.

For instance, suppose you’re a B2B and your objective is to introduce a new product line with sales of $500,000 by the end of the year. Knowing this business objective allows you to create measurable goals.

With knowledge of your existing product lines and sales cycle, you perform some calculations. Your new product is priced at $500, so you’ll need to sell 1,000 units ($500,000/$500) to meet your sales goal. Only one lead in five provided to sales closes, so marketing will need to provide 5,000 new leads to the sales department.

Look at your overall marketing goal first and then determine how social media will contribute to that goal.

Look at your overall marketing goal first and then determine how social media will contribute to that goal.

Social media will only be a part of this marketing strategy, but if you know your audience, you can set measurable goals outlining how social media will contribute. For example, given your audience size, budget, and engagement levels, you know social media will be able to contribute, at most, 500 of those 5,000 leads. Now you have your target.

Of course, marketing goals are often a bit murkier than the above example. If there isn’t a tight link between sales and marketing and a way to measure sales or leads, your marketing goals may be something like “raise awareness.” In that case, you’d need to set goals for fan growth and engagement.

#2: Outline the Social Tactics That Will Support Your Marketing Goals

Once you’ve defined your primary social media goals, you can assign tactics that help you deliver on those goals. Continuing with the lead generation example above, look for tactics to drive traffic to the pages that best convert users into leads. This might include a download page for a white paper or ebook, a popular blog post, or a page with a cost calculator and a big Contact Us button.

As you outline the social media tactics you’ll use to drive the right traffic to those pages, start thinking about what you’ll measure.

Move from your business objectives to the tactics you'll use day in and day out on social media.

Move from your business objectives to the tactics you’ll use day in and day out on social media.

Of course, there’s quite a bit to ensuring you’re driving the right traffic to your site. When you put together your plan, include specific social media channels and outline the tactics for each channel.

For instance, your plan may include the following tactics for Facebook:

  • Using data collected via the Facebook pixel on your website, create a Facebook lookalike audience and serve this audience paid ads to drive traffic to high-converting landing page A. Use testing to optimize your call to action.
  • Share content from your blog to the Facebook news feed, boosting posts that include content that links to landing page A.
  • Conduct a social media test and learn to optimize content types for engagement.
One Facebook tactic might be to create a lookalike audience to target with your Facebook ads.

One Facebook tactic might be to create a lookalike audience to target with your Facebook ads.

#3: Measure Metrics That Inform Your Decision-Making

This is an exercise in deciding what really matters. The reality is that you can track endless amounts of data. Figuring out what data to focus on is more important than collecting reams of data. Look at data you can learn from and that tells you a story about how to do better in your future efforts.

In the lead generation example above, the most important metric to track is the number of conversions on the page that come from social. But you’ll need to know more than that.

Focus on the social media metrics that will inform your decision-making going forward.

Focus on the social media metrics that will inform your decision-making going forward.

If you track impressions, clicks, users on the landing page, and conversions, you’ll start to see which parts of the process are working and which aren’t. Here’s what you might do with that information:

  • If your impressions are lower than you expect, think of ways to boost them.
  • If your impressions are good but no one’s clicking, work on optimizing your CTA.
  • If people get to the landing page but don’t convert, focus on optimizing your landing page or work harder to ensure the landing page delivers what’s promised in your social post.
  • If you’re converting from paid search but not paid social, you may be promising the wrong thing in your social ads.

#4: Create a Simple Tracking Dashboard

A “dashboard” is a place where you can see the progress of your marketing activities. It doesn’t have to be a highly complex, overly stylized document to be useful. It can be as simple as an Excel or Google spreadsheet that tracks weekly, monthly, and quarterly metrics. What’s most important is that it will highlight points of interest, and outline insights and recommendations for action.

There are also numerous dashboard tools you can use to make beautiful dashboards with visuals to illustrate your data points. Many social media management tools include built-in social dashboards and reports, but they generally can’t include internal data and website analytics. The more robust tools can also be expensive.

One free tool you may want to try is Google Data Studio. It lets you connect to a number of data sources and create customized dashboards. You can connect directly to Google Analytics, Google Sheets, AdWords, MySQL, Search Console, and more.

Google Data Studio lets you connect to a number of different data sources.

Google Data Studio lets you connect to a number of different data sources.

Although there isn’t yet a direct connection between, say, Facebook analytics and Data Studio, there are workarounds that let you upload social media data, provided you can export it from social networks or a monitoring tool to a CSV file.

Google Data Studio offers several report templates including this Google Analytics template.

Google Data Studio offers several report templates including this Google Analytics template.

Track KPIs and Action Items

Here’s an example of a simple tracking dashboard that an internal marketing team may use to stay on track.

Compiling these metrics on a weekly and monthly basis shouldn't be too time-consuming.

Compiling these metrics on a weekly and monthly basis shouldn’t be too time-consuming.

If you want to create a simple internal dashboard like this one, start with three sections. In the first section, track where your business is today in terms of domain authority, website sessions, social media followers on different channels, and engagement rates on several platforms.

In the second section, include KPI targets for each metric by month. At the end of each month, use green to denote areas where you’re on track and add red to areas where you’re falling behind. This color-coding lets you see at a glance where your strategy is working and where it needs improvement.

You may need to adjust key performance indicators (KPIs) as you move forward with your campaign.

You may need to adjust key performance indicators (KPIs) as you move forward with your campaign.

Formulate your KPIs based on how you think your business will progress toward your longer-term goals each month. Defining the right KPIs takes some practice. It’s a matter of looking at your long-term goals, understanding what you need to do to get there, and layering in knowledge of your own performance history, industry benchmarks, and your audience, budget, and potential hiccups.

In the third section, use text to call out insights and lay out recommendations and action items.

Keep Your Dashboard Updated

The goal is to create a dashboard that’s useful and not simply a chore. The process that works for you will depend on your staff, what you’re measuring, the length of your campaigns, and more.

One simple management method is to update numbers in your spreadsheet weekly so you can see how you’re progressing against the monthly KPIs. Then “top off” your data on the last day of the month. At that point, highlight your KPIs and make sure anyone on your team with an analytical mind gets a chance to dig into the data for insights.

Use these insights to craft recommendations for forward momentum at least once a month and send those recommendations to the larger team. Check in quarterly to see whether those recommendations were implemented and if so, how they affected the performance of your campaigns.

Conclusion

With a little thought up front, you can create a social media measurement plan that focuses on what matters most to your business. At the beginning of the planning process, carefully consider the variables. Once you’ve done that, it’s easy to create a simple dashboard to track your success. The best part? This process naturally leads to constant improvement of your execution and strategy.

What do you think? How do you define your social media goals and tactics? What metrics do you track? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Social Media Metrics: How to Choose and Track What Matters by Eleanor Pierce on Social Media Examiner.

Social Media Metrics: How to Choose and Track What Matters by Eleanor Pierce on Social Media Examiner.

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CMWorld In-Flight Content Guide: Creating a Memorable Content Experience

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Today’s modern customer is OBSESSED with experience. Everything from the ability to quickly order an Uber through a mobile app to spending hard-earned money on trips and adventures, not your typical investments.

The customer expectations for content marketing experiences are no different. In fact, a recent study by  Kampyle found that 87% of customers think brands need to put more effort into providing a consistent experience.

So now that you’ve prepped for your content marketing journey by diving into our first eBook, In-Flight Content Guide: Prepping for Your Content Marketing Expedition, it’s time to create a great experience.

To help set you down the path to creating a great “in-flight”content  experience for your customers, TopRank Marketing and Content Marketing Institute have partnered to bring you yet another go-to-guide from some of the brilliant minds speaking at Content Marketing World in September.

Feel free to get up and stretch your legs as we expect a smooth flight ahead. Then buckle up and get ready for our second of three eBooks titled: In-flight Content Guide: Creating a Memorable Content Experience where our content crew shares their top tips for creating a great content experience.

Share Insights From Our Content Crew Members

If you’d like to share tips from your favorite crew members, simply click below to tweet!

Slow your publishing process to ensure content is as valuable as it could be. @marketingprofs Click To Tweet A great experience starts with disrupting expectations. @CarlaJohnson Click To Tweet Spend time with people in your target audience to make better content experiences @dougkessler Click To Tweet Uncover audience questions and use them in content to improve site rankings. @wilreynolds Click To Tweet A great content experience starts with a story. @BrennerMichael Click To Tweet Visual communication helps create great content experiences for your audience. @scottberinato Click To Tweet Content can be found anywhere, but good content is read. @JillianHillard Click To Tweet Before you create content, write down the problem you are solving for them (Purpose). @jaybaer Click To Tweet Make the audience the hero of the story you’re telling. @ardath421 Click To Tweet In content creation, when you share ‘what to do’, think also about ‘how to do’. @IanCleary Click To Tweet Create interactive content to get your audience directly engaged. @HeinzMarketing Click To Tweet Ask your audience what type of content is most helpful to create great experiences. @ahaval Click To Tweet

What’s Next?

Keep your eyes peeled for the next eBook in our series, the In-Flight Content Guide: Making the Most of Your Content Journey.  

If you’re not attending Content Marketing World this year, don’t worry! You can still follow along and participate in conversations via Twitter by using the hashtag #CMWorld, by following CMI on Twitter or by subscribing to our blog.

How to Run an Instagram Story Takeover

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social media how toWant to reach more people with your Instagram stories?

Have you considered hosting an Instagram Story takeover to grow a larger following?

Collaborating with highly engaged Instagram users will introduce their followers to your content.

In this article, you’ll discover how to plan and execute an Instagram Story takeover.

How to Run an Instagram Story Takeover by Peg Fitzpatrick on Social Media Examiner.

How to Run an Instagram Story Takeover by Peg Fitzpatrick on Social Media Examiner.

What’s an Instagram Story Takeover?

Instagram takeovers have been around for a few years. In a takeover, you arrange for someone to take over your Instagram account for regular Instagram posts. The takeover might happen for a day or during a special event, and can help grow your Instagram community and build brand awareness.

An Instagram story takeover is a little bit different. Remember that Instagram stories don’t appear in your grid or feed. They appear in the Story bar at the top of the screen, and your followers need to tap your Story bubble to see those posts. Your story is like a second stream of content. And because the content disappears after 24 hours, a story takeover is especially time-sensitive.

Your business might partner with an Instagram influencer to preview a new product to create buzz for the launch, infusing their creativity and style into the posts. Or you might have an expert do a Q&A session that would interest your followers.

In the example below, actress and model Jaime King takes over the Harper’s Bazaar Instagram account to share her day getting ready for and attending the Dior Cruise show.

Harper's Bazaar turned over their Instagram story to Jaime King for the Dior Cruise show.

Harper’s Bazaar turned over their Instagram story to Jaime King for the Dior Cruise show.

#1: Find Someone Whose Stories Align With Your Brand

An Instagram story takeover means partnering with another person or brand. They create the content and post it to your account or share it with you for execution. The type of person you choose will impact the type of content that appears in the story.

For example, an employee is ideal for showing a day in the life at your company. A happy customer can share a story about your product or service. Content creators and artists can tell a unique story that reflects their voice and aesthetic.

Check the Instagram bio and website of the person you’d like to connect with. They may state their preferred method of contact. If they don’t provide contact information, you can contact them via Instagram Direct. You might want to let them know in an Instagram post comment that you sent them a direct message to make sure they see it.

When you contact potential influencers, have a budget in mind for your project. You don’t work for free, and they won’t either. Be respectful of their time when you make a request to connect for an Instagram story takeover.

To contact an Instagram influencer about a story takeover, look for contact information on their Instagram profile.

To contact an Instagram influencer about a story takeover, look for contact information on their Instagram profile.

To find customers and superfans who want to do Instagram story takeovers, inspirational retailer Walk in Love uses an online application that clarifies what they’re looking for and what the applicant will do. This is a great way to build an audience, highlight your products, and appreciate your Instagram fans.

To find customers and superfans to host Instagram story takeovers, Walk in Love has an application on its website.

To find customers and superfans to host Instagram story takeovers, Walk in Love has an application on its website.

#2: Clarify the Parameters for the Takeover

The beauty of an Instagram story takeover is that it brings new voices and style to your Instagram account. Give the person who does the takeover freedom to express themselves. However, if you have any parameters for the story, state your requirements up front. For example, you might ask the influencer to avoid certain language or dress, and state that you reserve the right to make the judgment call for posting.

You’ll want to have an agreement on the quantity of posts. Does the person have free rein to post all day? Five times? Being clear will help your Instagram story takeover run smoothly.

In most cases, you’ll be arranging the takeover of your account. If you arrange a takeover exchange, you could swap accounts so that each of you posts on the other person’s account.

#3: Find a Tool for Planning and Exchanging the Instagram Story Content

After you find a partner and work out the parameters, you need to decide how to execute the Instagram stories. Instagram stories are uploaded to the Instagram app and have to be added within the past 24 hours to your camera roll.

As a safety precaution, I don’t recommend giving out your account password. Instead, share content using a tool like Trello, which allows you to organize content for your story on a board. Or ask your partner to upload files to Dropbox.

With Trello, you can create a board for sharing content with your Instagram story takeover partner.

With Trello, you can create a board for sharing content with your Instagram story takeover partner.

Another option is Instagram management tool Planoly, which has a new Instagram Story Planner feature. It enables you to plan your stories within the 24-hour time frame with tools to help you order and schedule the posts.

Planoly allows you to coordinate posts with team members. You could add your partner to your Planoly account, and they could upload the story content to your Instagram account. This will allow you to plan content for before and after the takeover. For example, you can have a post that announces your guest and one that answers questions afterward.

#4: Develop a Plan for Co-Promotion and Engagement

Chances are you picked a savvy partner who knows how to boost an event, but it’s good to make suggestions and create a plan together so things go off as planned. Drive social traffic to your Instagram story and ask your guest to post on their social media accounts as well. For example, Anna Sachs announced her takeover of the Ward Village Instagram story the day before the event.

Ask your partner to announce an upcoming story takeover to their Instagram followers.

Ask your partner to announce an upcoming story takeover to their Instagram followers.

To point your followers to your story, create an Instagram post that lets people know you have a special guest on your Instagram stories. You can also promote your takeover on your other social media accounts.

On the day of your Instagram story takeover, make sure you’re prepared to respond to messages or have the person completing the takeover respond to messages. Hopefully, your activities will garner great engagement that your responses will enhance.

Story Takeovers on Other Social Media Platforms

The Internet is sprouting influential tastemakers as Millennials and everyone else spend more time looking at their smartphones than television. These stars are popping up on social media channels like Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat.

Visual story takeovers gained traction on Snapchat when brands worked with creative artists like Shaun McBride, better known as Shonduras, who has collaborated with Samsung, Google, Taco Bell, and others.

Here’s an example of a Snapchat takeover that visual artist and storyteller Shaun Ayala did for the L.A. Chargers. He’s super-creative and devised a fun training camp game. Working with a professional helped the Chargers build buzz for their team. Shaun designed an interactive game that encouraged fans to draw selfies and tag with a hashtag. Amazing!

Conclusion

Instagram story takeovers are a winning combination of great content, fun interaction, and a new way to grow your Instagram account. Delight your loyal followers with a surprise guest. You can stay safe by using Dropbox, Trello, or Planoly to exchange files to execute your takeover.

Allow your guest to use their talents and creativity but give parameters that are important to your brand if needed. Be open to creating a new experience for your Instagram fans.

What do you think? Which ideas will help you find a partner for your Instagram stories? What tools might you use to collaborate on an Instagram story takeover? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

How to Run an Instagram Story Takeover by Peg Fitzpatrick on Social Media Examiner.

How to Run an Instagram Story Takeover by Peg Fitzpatrick on Social Media Examiner.

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It’s Here: The Finalized MozCon 2017 Agenda

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That sound you hear is the coming together of MozCon 2017.

[You can hear that, right? It’s not just me.]

With less than two months to go, most of the nuts and bolts of the event have been fastened together to create what looks to be one of the strongest MozCons in history. Yeah, that’s saying a lot, but once you’ve perused the speakers’ lineup, we’re sure you’ll agree.

MozCon has a rich tradition of bringing together the best and brightest minds in digital marketing, creating a place for individuals across the globe to learn from top-notch speakers, network, share ideas, and learn about the tools, services, and tactics they can put to use in their work and their business.

As a bonus, attendees also get to enjoy lots of snacks, coffee and lots and lots of bacon.

Also, this year we’ll offer pre-MozCon SEO workshops on Sunday, July 16. Keep reading for more info.

You will, however, need a ticket to attend the event, so you might want to take care of that sooner rather later, since it always sells out:

Buy my MozCon 2017 ticket!

Now for the meaty details you’ve been waiting for.

The MozCon 2017 Agenda

Monday


08:00–09:00am
Breakfast


Rand Fishkin

09:00–09:20am
Welcome to MozCon 2017

Rand Fishkin, Wizard of Moz
@randfish

Rand Fishkin is the founder and former CEO of Moz, co-author of a pair of books on SEO, and co-founder of Inbound.org. Rand’s an un-save-able addict of all things content, search, and social on the web.


lisa-myers-150x150-33348.jpg09:20–10:05am
How to Get Big Links

Lisa Myers, Verve Search

Everyone wants links and coverage from sites such as New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the BBC, but very few achieve it. This is how we cracked it. Over and over.

Lisa is the founder and CEO of award-winning SEO agency Verve Search and founder of Womeninsearch.net. Feminist, mother of two, and modern-day shield maiden.


oli-gardner-150x150-47067.jpg

10:05–10:35am
Data-Driven Design

Oli Gardner, Unbounce

Data-Driven Design (3D) is an actionable, evidence-based framework for creating websites & landing pages that will increase your leads, sales, and customers. In this session you’ll learn how to use the latest industry conversion data to inform copywriting and design decisions that impact conversions. Additionally, I’ll share a new methodology for prioritizing your marketing optimization that will show you which pages are awesome (leave them alone), which pages aren’t (massive ROI potential here), and help you develop a common language that your teams of marketers, designers, and copywriters can use to work better together to collectively increase your conversion rates.

Oli, founder of Unbounce, is on a mission to rid the world of marketing mediocrity by using data-informed copywriting, design, interaction, and psychology to create a more delightful experience for marketers and customers alike.


10:35–11:05am
AM Break


11:10–11:30am
How to Write Customer-Driven Copy That Converts

Joel Klettke, Business Casual Copywriting & Case Study Buddy

If you want to write copy that converts, you need to get into your customers’ heads. But how do you do that? How do you know which pain points you need to address, features customers care about, or benefits your audience needs to hear? Marketers are sick and tired of hearing “it depends.” I’ll give the audience a practical framework for writing customer-driven copy that any business can apply.

Joel is a freelance conversion copywriter and strategist for Business Casual Copywriting. He also owns and runs Case Study Buddy, a done-for-you case studies service.


11:30–11:50am
What We Learned From Reddit & How It Can Help Your Brand Take Content Marketing to the Next Level

Daniel Russell, Go Fish Digital
@dnlRussell

It almost seems too good to be true — online forums where people automatically segment themselves into different markets and demographics and then vote on what content they like best. These forums, including Reddit, are treasure troves of content ideas. I’ll share actionable insights from three case studies that demonstrate how your marketing can benefit from content on Reddit.

Daniel is a director at Go Fish Digital whose work has hit the front page of Reddit, earned the #1 spot on YouTube, and been featured in Entrepreneur, Inc., The Washington Post, WSJ, and Fast Company.


11:50am–12:10pm
How to Build an SEO-Intent-Based Framework for Any Business

Kathryn Cunningham, Adept Marketing

Everyone knows intent behind the search matters. In e-commerce, intent is somewhat easy to see. B2B, or better yet healthcare, isn’t quite as easy. Matching persona intent to keywords requires a bit more thought. I will cover how to find intent modifiers during keyword research, how to organize those modifiers into the search funnel, and how to quickly find unique universal results at different levels of the search funnel to utilize.

Kathryn is an SEO consultant for Adept Marketing, although to many of her office mates she is known as the Excel nerd.


12:10–01:40pm
Lunch


ian-lurie-150x150-40285.jpg01:45–02:30pm
Size Doesn’t Matter: Great Content by Teams of One

Ian Lurie, Portent, Inc.
@portentint

Feel the energy surge through your veins as you gain content creation powers THE LIKES OF WHICH YOU HAVE NEVER EXPERIENCED… Or, just learn a process for creating great content when it’s just you and your little teeny team. Because size doesn’t matter.

Ian Lurie is founder, CEO, and nerdiest marketing nerd at Portent, a digital marketing agency he started in the Cretaceous era, aka 1995. Ian’s meandering career includes marketing copywriting, expert dungeon master, bike messenger-ing, and office temp worker.


justine-jordan-150x150-39303.jpg

02:30–03:00pm
The Tie That Binds: Why Email is Key to Maximizing Marketing ROI

Justine Jordan, Litmus
@meladorri

If nailing the omnichannel experience (whatever that means!) is key to getting more traffic and converting more leads, what happens if we have our channel priorities out of order? Justine will show you how email — far from being an old-school afterthought — is core to hitting marketing goals, building lifetime value, and making customers happy.

Justine is obsessed with helping marketers create, test, and send better email. Named 2015 Email Marketer Thought Leader of the Year, she is strangely passionate about email marketing, hates being called a spammer, and still gets nervous when pressing send.


03:00–03:30pm
PM Break


tara-nicholle-nelson-150x150-39664.jpg

03:35–04:05pm

How to Be a Happy Marketer: Survive the Content Crisis and Drive Results by Mastering Your Customer’s Transformational Journey

Tara-Nicholle Nelson, Transformational Consumer Insights

Branded content is way up, but customer engagement with that content is plummeting. This whole scene makes it hard to get up in the morning, as a marketer. But there’s a new path beyond the epidemic of disengagement and, at the end of it, your brand and your content become regular stops along your customer’s everyday journey.

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is the CEO of Transformational Consumer Insights, the former VP of Marketing for MyFitnessPal, and author of the Transformational Consumer.


phil-nottingham-150x150-38081.jpg04:05–04:50pm
Thinking Smaller: Optimizing for the New Wave of Social Video Platforms

Phil Nottingham, Wistia
@philnottingham

SnapChat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope… the list goes on. All social networks are now video platforms, but it’s hard to know where to invest. In this session, Phil will be giving you all the tips and tricks for what to make, how to get your content in front of the right audiences, and how get the most value from the investment you’re making in social video.

Phil Nottingham is a strategist who believes in the power of creative video content to improve the way companies speak to their customers, and regularly speaks around the world about video strategy, SEO, and technical marketing.


07:00–10:00pm
Monday Night #MozCrawl

The Monday night pub crawl is back.

For the uninitiated, “pub crawl” is not meant to convey what you do after a night of drinking.

Rather, during the MozCon pub crawl, attendees visit some of the best bars in Seattle.

(Each stop is sponsored by a trusted partner; You’ll need to bring your MozCon badge for free drinks and light appetizers. You’ll also need your US ID or passport.)

More deets to follow.


Tuesday


08:00–09:00am
Breakfast


wil-reynolds-150x150-33027.jpg

09:05–09:50am
I’d Rather Be Thanked Than Ranked

Wil Reynolds, Seer Interactive
@wilreynolds

Ego and assumptions led me to chose the wrong keywords for my own site — yeah, me, Wil Reynolds, Mr. RCS. How did I spend three years optimizing my site and building links to finally crack the top three for six critical keywords, only to find out that I wasted all that time? However, in spite of targeting the wrong words, Seer grew the business. In this presentation, I’ll show you the mistakes I made and share with you to approaches that can help you to build content that gets you thanked.

A former teacher with a knack for advising, he’s been helping Fortune 500 companies develop SEO strategies since 1999. Today, Seer is home to over 100 employees across Philadelphia and San Diego.


dawn-anderson-150x150-8516.jpg09:50–10:35am
Winning Value Propositions for Crawlers and Consumers

Dawn Anderson, Move It Marketing/Manchester Metropolitan University
@dawnieando

In an evolving mobile-first web, we can utilize preempting solutions to create winning value propositions, which are designed to attract and satisfy search engine crawlers and keep consumers happy. I’ll outline a strategy and share tactics that help ensure increased organic reach, in addition to highlighting smart ways to view data, intent, consumer choice theory, and crawl optimization.

Dawn Anderson is an International and Technical SEO Consultant, Director of Move It Marketing, and a lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University.


10:35–11:05am
AM Break


11:10–11:15am
MozCon Ignite Preview


11:15–11:35am
More Than SEO: 3 Ways To Prove UX Matters Too

Matthew Edgar, Elementive
@MatthewEdgarCO

Great SEO is increasingly dependent on having a website with a great user experience. To make your user experience great requires carefully tracking what people do so that you always know where to improve. But what do you track? In this 15-minute talk, I’ll cover three effective and advanced ways to use event tracking in Google Analytics to understand a website’s user

Matthew is a web analytics and technical marketing consultant at Elementive.


11:35–11:55am
A Site Migration: Redirects, Resources, & Reflection

Jayna Grassel, Dick’s Sporting Goods
@jaynagrassel

Site. Migration. No two words elicit more fear, joy, or excitement to a digital marketer. When the idea was shared three years ago, the company was excited. They dreamed of new features and efficiency. But as SEOs, we knew better. We knew there would be midnight strategy sessions with IT. More UAT environments than we could track. Deadlines, requirements, and compromises forged through hallway chats. …The result was a stable transition with minimal dips in traffic. What we didn’t know, however, was the amount of cross-functional coordination that was required to pull it off.

Jayna is the SEO manager at Dick’s Sporting Goods and is the unofficial world’s second-fastest crocheter.


11:55am–12:15pm
The 8 Paid Promotion Tactics That Will Get You To Quit Organic Traffic

Kane Jamison, Content Harmony
@kanejamison

Digital marketers are ignoring huge opportunities to promote their content through paid channels, and I want to give them the tools to get started. How many brands out there are spending $500+ on a blog post, then moving on to the next one before that post has been seen by 500 people, or even 50? For some reason, everyone thinks about Outbrain and native ads when we talk about paid content distribution, but the real opportunity is in highly targeted paid social.

Kane is the founder of Content Harmony, a content marketing agency based here in Seattle. The Content Harmony team specializes in full funnel content marketing and content promotion.


12:15–01:45pm
Lunch


purna-virji-150x150-46694.jpg01:50–02:20pm
Marketing in a Conversational World: How to Get Discovered, Delight Your Customers and Earn the Conversion

Purna Virji, Microsoft
@purnavirji

Capturing and keeping attention is one of the hardest parts of our job today. Fact: It’s just going to get harder with the advent of new technology and conversational interfaces. In the brave new world we’re stepping into, the key questions are: How do we get discovered? How can we delight our audiences? And how can we grow revenue for our clients? Come to this session to learn how to make your marketing and advertising efforts something people are going to want to consume.

Named by PPC Hero as the #1 most influential PPC expert in the world, Purna specializes in SEM, SEO, and future search trends. She is a popular global keynote speaker and columnist, an avid traveler, aspiring top chef, and amateur knitter.


matthew-barby-150x150-37740.jpg

02:20–02:50pm
Up and to the Right: Growing Traffic, Conversions, & Revenue

Matthew Barby, HubSpot
@matthewbarby

So many of the case studies that document how a company has grown from 0 to X forget to mention that solutions that they found are applicable to their specific scenario and won’t work for everyone. This falls into the dangerous category of bad advice for generic problems. Instead of building up a list of other companies’ tactics, marketers need to understand how to diagnose and solve problems across their entire funnel. Illustrated with real-world examples, I’ll be talking you through the process that I take to come up with ideas that none of my competitors are thinking of.

Matt, who heads up user acquisition at HubSpot, is an award-winning blogger, startup advisor, and a lecturer.


joanna-lord-150x150-66788.jpg

02:50–03:20pm
How to Operationalize Growth for Maximum Revenue

Joanna Lord, ClassPass
@JoannaLord

Joanna will walk through tactical ways to organize your team, build system foundations, and create processes that fuel growth across the company. You’ll hear how to coordinate with product, engineering, CX, and sales to ensure you’re maximizing your opportunity to acquire, retain, and monetize your customers.

Joanna is the CMO of ClassPass, the world’s leading fitness membership. Prior to that she was VP of Marketing at Porch and CMO of BigDoor. She is a global keynote and digital evangelist. Joanna is a recognized thought leader in digital marketing and a startup mentor.


03:20–03:50pm
PM Break


03:55–04:25pm
Analytics to Drive Optimization & Personalization

Krista Seiden, Google

Getting the most out of your optimization efforts means understanding the data you’re collecting, from analytics implementation, to report setup, to analysis techniques. In this session, Krista walks you through several tips for using analytics data to empower your optimization efforts, and then takes it further to show you how to up-level your efforts to take advantage of personalization from mass scale all the way down to individual user actions.

Krista Seiden is the Analytics Advocate for Google, advocating for all things data, web, mobile, optimization, and more. Keynote speaker, practitioner, writer on Analytics and Optimization, and passionate supporter of #WomenInAnalytics.


dr-pete-meyers-150x150-40534.jpg

04:25–05:10pm
Facing the Future: 5 Simple Tactics for 5 Scary Changes

Dr. Pete Meyers, Moz
@dr_pete

We’ve seen big changes to SEO recently, from an explosion in SERP features to RankBrain to voice search. These fundamental changes to organic search marketing can be daunting, and it’s hard to know where to get started. Dr. Pete will walk you through five big changes and five tactics for coping with those changes today.

Dr. Peter J. Meyers (aka “Dr. Pete”) is Marketing Scientist for Seattle-based Moz, where he works with the marketing and data science teams on product research and data-driven content.


07:00–10:00pm
MozCon Ignite

Join us for an evening of networking and passion-talks. Laugh, cheer, and be inspired as your peers share their 5-minute talks about their hobbies, passion projects, and life lessons.

Be sure to bring your MozCon badge.


Wednesday


09:00–10:00am
Breakfast


cindy-krum-150x150-58917.jpg10:05–10:50am
The Truth About Mobile-First Indexing

Cindy Krum, MobileMoxie, LLC
@suzzicks

Mobile-first design has been a best practice for a while, and Google is finally about to support it with mobile-first indexing. But mobile-first design and mobile-first indexing are not the same thing. Mobile-first indexing is about cross-device accessibility of information, to help integrate digital assistants and web-enabled devices that don’t even have browsers to achieve Google’s larger goals. Learn how mobile-first indexing will give digital marketers their first real swing at influencing Google’s new AI (Artificial Intelligence) landscape. Marketers who embrace an accurate understanding of mobile-first indexing could see a huge first-mover advantage, similar to the early days of the web, and we all need to be prepared.

Cindy, the CEO and Founder of MobileMoxie, LLC, is the author of Mobile Marketing: Finding Your Customers No Matter Where They Are. She brings fresh and creative ideas to her clients, and regularly speaks at US and international digital marketing events.


tara-reed-150x150-45070.jpg

10:50–11:20am
Powerful Brands Have Communities

Tara Reed, Apps Without Code

You are laser-focused on user growth. Meanwhile, you’re neglecting a gold mine of existing customers who desperately want to be part of your brand’s community. Tara Reed shares how to use communities, gamification, and membership content to grow your revenue.

Tara Reed is a tech entrepreneur & marketer. After running marketing initiatives at Google, Foursquare, & Microsoft, Tara branched out to launch her own apps & startups. Today, Tara helps people implement cutting-edge marketing into their businesses.


11:20–11:50am
AM Break


11:55–12:25am

From Anchor to Asset: How Agencies Can Wisely Create Data-Driven Content

Heather Physioc, VML
@HeatherPhysioc

Creative agencies are complicated and messy, often embracing chaos instead of process, and focusing exclusively on one-time campaign creative instead of continuous web content creation. Campaign creative can be costly, and not sustainable for most large brands. How can creative shops produce data-driven streams of high-quality content for the web that stays true to its creative roots — but faster, cheaper, and continuously? I’ll show you how.

Heather is director of Organic Search at global digital ad agency VML, which performs search engine optimization services for multinational brands like Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Electrolux/Frigidaire, Bridgestone, EXPRESS, and Wendy’s.


britney-muller-150x150-45570.jpg12:25–12:55pm
5 Secrets: How to Execute Lean SEO to Increase Qualified Leads

Britney Muller, Moz

I invite you to steal some of the ideas I’ve gleaned from managing SEO for the behemoth bad-ass Moz.com. Learn what it takes to move the needle on qualified leads, execute quick wins, and keep your head above water. I’ll go over my biggest Moz.com successes, failures, tests, and lessons.

Britney is a Minnesota native who moved to Colorado to fulfill a dream of being a snowboard bum! After 50+ days on the mountain her first season, she got stir-crazy and taught herself how to program, then found her way into SEO while writing for a local realtor.


12:55–02:25pm
Lunch


stephanie-chang-150x150-5456.jpg02:30–03:15pm
SEO Experimentation for Big-Time Results

Stephanie Chang, Etsy

One of the biggest business hurdles any brand faces is how to prioritize and validate SEO recommendations. This presentation describes an SEO experimentation framework you can use to effectively test how changes made to your pages affect SEO performance.

Stephanie currently leads the Global Acquisition & Retention Marketing teams at Etsy. Previously, she was a Senior Consultant at Distilled.


rob-bucci-150x150-39132.jpg

03:15–03:45pm
Reverse-Engineer Google’s Research to Serve Up the Best, Most Relevant Content for Your Audience

Rob Bucci, STAT Search Analytics

The SERP is the front-end to Google’s multi-billion dollar consumer research machine. They know what searchers want. In this data-heavy talk, Rob will teach you how to uncover what Google already knows about what web searchers are looking for. Using this knowledge, you can deliver the right content to the right searchers at the right time, every time.

Rob loves the challenge of staying ahead of the changes Google makes to their SERPs. When not working, you can usually find him hiking up a mountain, falling down a ski slope, or splashing around in the ocean.


03:45–04:15pm
PM Break


04:20–05:05pm
rand-fishkin-150x150-32915.jpgInside the Googling Mind: An SEO’s Guide to Winning Clicks, Hearts, & Rankings in the Years Ahead

Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz, doer of SEO, feminist

Searcher behavior, intent, and satisfaction are on the verge of overtaking classic SEO inputs (keywords, links, on-page, etc). In this presentation, Rand will examine the shift that behavioral signals have caused, and list the step-by-step process to build a strategy that can thrive long-term in Google’s new reality.

Rand Fishkin is the founder and former CEO of Moz, co-author of a pair of books on SEO, and co-founder of Inbound.org. Rand’s an un-save-able addict of all things content, search, and social on the web.


07:00–11:30pm
MozCon Bash

Join us at Garage Billiards for an evening of networking, billiards, bowling, and karaoke with MozCon friends new and old. Don’t forget to bring your MozCon badge and US ID or passport.


Additional Pre-MozCon Sunday Workshops


12:30pm–5:05pm
SEO Intensive

Offered as 75-minute sessions, the five workshops will be taught by Mozzers Rand Fishkin, Britney Muller, Brian Childs, Russ Jones, and Dr. Pete. Topics include The 10 Jobs of SEO-focused Content, Keyword Targeting for RankBrain and Beyond, and Risk-Averse Link Building at Scale, among others.

These workshops are separate from MozCon; you’ll need a ticket to attend them.


Amped up for a talk or ten? Curious about new methods? Excited to learn? Get your ticket before they sell out:

Snag my ticket to MozCon 2017!

Tackling Tag Sprawl: Crawl Budget, Duplicate Content, and User-Generated Content

0
This post was originally published on this site

Alright, so here’s the situation. You have a million-product website. Your competitors have a lot of the same products. You need unique content. What do you do? The same thing everyone does — you turn to user-generated content. Problem solved, right?

User-generated content (UGC) can be an incredibly valuable source of content and organization, helping you build natural language descriptions and human-driven organization of site content. One common feature used by sites to take advantage of user-created content are tags, found everywhere from e-commerce sites to blogs. Webmasters can leverage tags to power site search, create taxonomies and categories of products for browsing, and to provide rich descriptions of site content.

This is a logical and practical approach, but can cause intractable SEO problems if left unchecked. For mega-sites, manually moderating millions of user-submitted tags can be cumbersome (if not wholly impossible). Leaving tags unchecked, though, can create massive problems with thin content, duplicate content, and general content sprawl. In our case study below, three technical SEOs from different companies joined forces to solve a massive tag sprawl problem. The project was led by Jacob Bohall, VP of Marketing at Hive Digital, while computational statistics services were provided by J.R. Oakes of Adapt Partners and Russ Jones of Moz. Let’s dive in.

What is tag sprawl?

We define tag sprawl as the unchecked growth of unique, user-contributed tags resulting in a large amount of near-duplicate pages and unnecessary crawl space. Tag sprawl generates URLs likely to be classified as doorway pages, pages appearing to exist only for the purpose of building an index across an exhaustive array of keywords. You’ve probably seen this in its most basic form in the tagging of posts across blogs, which is why most SEOs recommend a blanket “noindex, follow” across tag pages in WordPress sites. This simple approach can be an effective solution for small blog sites, but is not often the solution for major e-commerce sites that rely more heavily on tags for categorizing products.

The three following tag clouds represent a list of user-generated terms associated with different stock photos. Note: User behavior is generally to place as many tags as possible in an attempt to ensure maximum exposure for their products.

  1. USS Yorktown, Yorktown, cv, cvs-10, bonhomme richard, revolutionary war-ships, war-ships, naval ship, military ship, attack carriers, patriots point, landmarks, historic boats, essex class aircraft carrier, water, ocean
  2. ship, ships, Yorktown, war boats, Patriot pointe, old war ship, historic landmarks, aircraft carrier, war ship, naval ship, navy ship, see, ocean
  3. Yorktown ship, Warships and aircraft carriers, historic military vessels, the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier

As you can see, each user has generated valuable information for the photos, which we would want to use as a basis for creating indexable taxonomies for related stock images. However, at any type of scale, we have immediate threats of:

  • Thin content: Only a handful of products share the user-generated tag when a user creates a more specific/defining tag, e.g. “cvs-10”
  • Duplicate and similar content: Many of these tags will overlap, e.g. “USS Yorktown” vs. “Yorktown,” “ship” vs. “ships,” “cv” vs. “cvs-10,” etc.
  • Bad content: Created by improper formatting, misspellings, verbose tags, hyphenation, and similar mistakes made by users.

Now that you understand what tag sprawl is and how it negatively effects your site, how can we address this issue at scale?

The proposed solution

In correcting tag sprawl, we have some basic (at the surface) problems to solve. We need to effectively review each tag in our database and place them in groups so further action can be taken. First, we determine the quality of a tag (how likely is someone to search for this tag, is it spelled correctly, is it commercial, is it used for many products) and second, we determine if there is another tag very similar to it that has a higher quality.

  1. Identify good tags: We defined a good tag as term capable of contributing meaning, and easily justifiable as an indexed page in search results. This also entailed identifying a “master” tag to represent groups of similar terms.
  2. Identify bad tags: We wanted to isolate tags that should not appear in our database due to misspellings, duplicates, poor format, high ambiguity, or likely to cause a low-quality page.
  3. Relate bad tags to good tags: We assumed many of our initial “bad tags” could be a range of duplicates, i.e. plural/singular, technical/slang, hyphenated/non-hyphenated, conjugations, and other stems. There could also be two phrases which refer to the same thing, like “Yorktown ship” vs. “USS Yorktown.” We need to identify these relationships for every “bad” tag.

For the project inspiring this post, our sample tag database comprised over 2,000,000 “unique” tags, making this a nearly impossible feat to accomplish manually. While theoretically we could have leveraged Mechanical Turk or similar platform to get “manual” review, early tests of this method proved to be unsuccessful. We would need a programmatic method (several methods, in fact) that we could later reproduce when adding new tags.

The methods

Keeping the goal in mind of identifying good tags, labeling bad tags, and relating bad tags to good tags, we employed more than a dozen methods, including: spell correction, bid value, tag search volume, unique visitors, tag count, Porter stemming, lemmatization, Jaccard index, Jaro-Winkler distance, Keyword Planner grouping, Wikipedia disambiguation, and K-Means clustering with word vectors. Each method either helped us determine whether the tag was valuable and, if not, helped us identify an alternate tag that was valuable.

Spell correction

  • Method: One of the obvious issues with user-generated content is the occurrence of misspellings. We would regularly find misspellings where semicolons are transposed for the letter “L” or words have unintended characters at the beginning or end. Luckily, Linux has an excellent built-in spell checker called Aspell which we were able to use to fix a large volume of issues.
  • Benefits: This offered a quick, early win in that it was fairly easy to identify bad tags when they were composed of words that weren’t included in the dictionary or included characters that were simply inexplicable (like a semicolon in the middle of a word). Moreover, if the corrected word or phrase occurred in the tag list, we could trust the corrected phrase as a potentially good tag, and relate the misspelled term to the good tag. Thus, this method help us both filter bad tags (misspelled terms) and find good tags (the spell-corrected term)
  • Limitations: The biggest limitation with this methodology was that combinations of correctly spelled words or phrases aren’t necessarily useful for users or the search engine. For example, many of the tags in the database were concatenations of multiple tags where the user space-delimited rather than comma-delimited their submitted tags. Thus, a tag might consist of correctly spelled terms but still be useless in terms of search value. Moreover, there were substantial dictionary limitations, especially with domain names, brand names, and Internet slang. In order to accommodate this, we added a personal dictionary that included a list of the top 10,000 domains according to Quantcast, several thousand brands, and a slang dictionary. While this was helpful, there were still several false recommendations that needed to be handled. For example, we saw “purfect” correct to “perfect,” despite being a pop-culture reference for cat images. We also noticed some users reference this saying as “purrfect,” “purrrfect,” “purrrrfect,” “purrfeck,” etc. Ultimately, we had to rely on other metrics to determine whether we trusted the misspelling recommendations.

Bid value

  • Method: While a tag might be good in the sense that it is descriptive, we wanted tags that were commercially relevant. Using the estimated cost-per-click of the tag or tag phrase proved useful in making sure that the term could attract buyers, not just visitors.
  • Benefits: One of the great features of this methodology is that it tends to have a high signal-to-noise ratio. Most tags that have high CPCs tend to be commercially relevant and searched frequently enough to warrant inclusion as “good tags.” In many cases we could feel confident that a tag was good just on this metric alone.
  • Limitations: However, the bid value metric comes with some pretty big limitations, too. For starters, Google Keyword Planner’s disambiguation problem is readily apparent. Google combines related keywords together when reporting search volume and CPC data, which means a tag like “facbook” would return the same data as “facebook.” Obviously, we would prefer to map “facbook” to “facebook” rather than keep both tags, so in some cases the CPC metric wasn’t sufficient to identify good tags. A further limitation of the bid value was the difficulty of acquiring CPC data. Google now requires running active Adwords campaigns to get access to CPC value. It is no simple feat to look up 5,000,000 keywords in Google Keyword Planner, even if you have a sufficient account. Luckily, we felt comfortable that historical data would be trustworthy enough, so we didn’t need to acquire fresh data.

Tag search volume

  • Method: Similar to CPC, we could use search volume to determine the potential value of a tag. We had to be careful not to rely on the tag itself, though, since the tag could be so generic that it earns traffic unrelated to the product itself. For example, the tag “USS Yorktown” might get a few hundred searches a month, but “USS Yorktown T-shirt” gets 0. For all of the tags in our index, we tracked down the search volume for the tag plus the product name, in order to make sure we had good estimates of potential product traffic.
  • Benefits: Like CPC, this metric did a very good job of consolidating our tag data set to just keywords that were likely to deliver traffic. In the vast majority of cases, if “tag + product” had search volume, we could feel confident that it is a good term.
  • Limitations: Unfortunately, this method fell victim to the same disambiguation problem that CPC presents. Because Google groups terms together, it is possible that on some occasions two tags will be given the same metrics. For example: “pontoons boat,” “pontoonboat,” “pontoon boats,” “pontoon boat,” “pontoon boating,” and “pontoons boats” were in the same traffic volume group which also included tags like “yacht” and “yachts.” Moreover, there is no accounting for keyword difficulty in this metric. Some tags, when combined with product types, produce keywords that receive substantial traffic but will always be out of reach for a templated tag page.

Unique visitors

  • Method: This method was a no-brainer: protect the tags that already receive traffic from Google. We exported all of the tags from Google Analytics that had received search traffic from Google in the last 12 months. Generally speaking, this should be a fairly safe list of terms.
  • Benefits: When doing experimental work with a client, it is always nice to be able to give them a scenario that almost guarantees improvement. Because we were able to protect tags that already receive traffic by labeling them as good (in the vast majority of cases), we could ensure that the client had a high probability of profiting from the changes we made and minimal risk of any traffic loss.
  • Limitations: Unfortunately, even this method wasn’t perfect. If a product (or set of products) with high enough authority included a poor variation of a tag, then the bad variant would rank and receive traffic. We had to use other strategies to verify our selections from this method and devise a method to encourage a tag swap in the index for the correct version of a term.

Tag count

  • Description: The frequency with which a tag was used on the site was often a strong signal that we could trust the tag, especially when compared with other similar tags. By counting the number of times each tag was used on the site, we could bias our final set of trusted tags in favor of these more popular terms.
  • Benefits: This was a great tie-breaker metric when we had two tags that were very similar but needed to choose just one. For example, sometimes two variants of a phrase were completely acceptable (such as a version with and without a hyphen). We could simply defer to the one with a higher tag count.
  • Limitations: The clear limitation of tag frequency is that many of the most frequent tags were too generic to be useful. The tag “blue” isn’t particularly useful when it just helps people find “blue t-shirts.” The term is too generic and too competitive to warrant inclusion. Additionally, the inclusion of too broad of a tag would simply create a very large crawl vs. traffic-potential ratio. A common tag will have hundreds if not thousands of matching products, creating many pages of products for the single tag. If a tag produces 50 paginated product listings, but only has the potential to drive 10 visitors a year, it might not be worth it.

Porter stemming

  • Method: Stemming is a method used to identify the root word from a tag by scanning the word right to left and using various pattern matching rules to remove characters (suffixes) until you arrive at the word’s stem. There are a couple of popular stemmers available, but we found Porter stemming to be more accurate as a tool for seeing alternative word forms. You can geek out by looking at the Porter stemming algorithm in Snowball here, or you can play with a JS version here.
  • Benefits: Plural and possessive terms can be grouped by their stem for further analysis. Running Porter stemming on the terms “pony” and “ponies” will return “poni” as the stem, which can then be used to group terms for further analysis. You can also run Porter stemming on phrases. For example, “boating accident,” “boat accidents,” “boating accidents,” etc. share the stem “boat accid.” This can be a crude and quick method for grouping variations. Porter stemming also is able to clean text more kindly, where others stemmers can be too aggressive for our efforts; e.g., Lancaster stemmer reduces “woman” to “wom,” while Porter stemmer leaves it as “woman.”
  • Limitations: Stemming is intended for finding a common root for terms and phrases, and does not create any type of indication as to the proper form of a term. The Porter stemming method applies a fixed set of rules to the English language by blanket removing trailing “s,” “e,” “ance,” “ing,” and similar word endings to try and find the stem. For this to work well, you have to have all of the correct rules (and exceptions) in place to get the correct stems in all cases. This can be particularly problematic with words that end in S but are not plural, like “billiards” or “Brussels.” Additionally, this method does not help with mapping related terms such as “boat crash,” “crashed boat,” “boat accident,” etc. which would stem to “boat crash,” “crash boat,” and “boat acci.”

Lemmatization

  • Method: Lemmatization works similarly to stemming. However, instead of using a rule set for editing words by removing letters to arrive at a stem, lemmatization attempts to map the term to its most simple dictionary form, such as WordNet, and return a canonical “lemma” of the word. A crude way to think about lemmatization is just simplifying a word. Here’s an API to check out.
  • Benefits: This method often works better than stemming. Terms like “ship,” “shipped,” and “ships” are all mapped to “ship” by this method, while “shipping” or “shipper,” which are terms that have distinct meaning despite the same stem, are retained. You can create an array of “lemma” from phrases which can be compared to other phrases resolving word order issues. This proved to be a more reliable method for grouping variations than stemming.
  • Limitations: As with many of the methods, context for mapping related terms can be difficult. Lemmatization can provide better filters for context, but to do so generally relies on identifying the word form (noun, adjective, etc) to appropriately map to a root term. Given the inconsistency of the user-generated content, it is inaccurate to assume all words are in adjective form (describing a product), or noun form (the product itself). This inconsistency can present wild results. For example, “strip socks” could be intended as as a tag for socks with a strip of color on them, such as as “striped socks,” or it could be “stripper socks” or some other leggings that would be a match only found if there other products and tags to compare for context. Additionally, it doesn’t create associations between all related words, just textual derivatives, so you are still seeking out a canonical between mailman, courier, shipper, etc.

Jaccard index

  • Method: The Jaccard index is a similarity coefficient measured by Intersection over Union. Now, don’t run off just yet, it is actually quite straightforward.

    Imagine you had two piles of with 3 marbles in each: Red, Green, and Blue in the first, Red, Green and Yellow in the second. The “Intersection” of these two piles would be Red and Green, since both piles have those two colors. The “Union” would be Red, Green, Blue and Yellow, since that is the complete list of all the colors. The Jaccard index would be 2 (Red and Green) divided by 4 (Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow). Thus, the Jaccard index of these two piles would be .5. The higher the Jaccard index, the more similar the two sets.
    So what does this have to do with tags? Well, imagine we have two tags: “ocean” and “sea.” We can get a list of all of the products that have the tag “ocean” and “sea.” Finally, we get the Jaccard index of those two sets. The higher the score, the more related they are. Perhaps we find that 70% of the products with the tag “ocean” also have the tag “sea”; we now know that the two are fairly well-related. However, when we run the same measurement to compare “basement” or “casement,” we find that they only have a Jaccard index of .02. Even though they are very similar in terms of characters, they mean quite different things. We can rule out mapping the two terms together.

  • Benefits: The greatest benefit of using the Jaccard index is that it allows us to find highly related tags which may have absolutely no textual characteristics in common, and are more likely to have an overly similar or duplicate results set. While most of the the metrics we have considered so far help us find “good” or “bad” tags, the Jaccard index helps us find “related” tags without having to do any complex machine learning.
  • Limitations: While certainly useful, the Jaccard index methodology has its own problems. The biggest issue we ran into had to do with tags that were used together nearly all the time but weren’t substitutes of one another. For example, consider the tags “babe ruth” and his nickname, “sultan of swat.” The latter tag only occurred on products which also had the “babe ruth” tag (since this was one of his nicknames), so they had quite a high Jaccard index. However, Google doesn’t map these two terms together in search, so we would prefer to keep the nickname and not simply redirect it to “babe ruth.” We needed to dig deeper if we were to determine when we should keep both tags or when we should redirect one to another. As a standalone, this method also was not sufficient at identifying cases where a user consistently misspelled tags or used incorrect syntax, as their products would essentially be orphans without “union.”

Jaro-Winkler distance

  • Method: There are several edit distance and string similarity metrics that we used throughout this process. Edit Distance is simply some measurement of how difficult it is to change one word to another. For example, the most basic edit distance metric, Levenshtein distance, between “Russ Jones” and “Russell Jones” is 3 (you have to add “E”,”L”, and “L” to transform Russ to Russell). This can be used to help us find similar words and phrases. In our case, we used a particular edit distance measure called “Jaro-Winkler distance” which gives higher precedence to words and phrases that are similar at the beginning. For example, “Baseball” would be closer to “Baseballer” than to “Basketball” because the differences are at the very end of the term.
  • Benefits: Edit distance metrics helped us find many very similar variants of tags, especially when the variants were not necessarily misspellings. This was particularly valuable when used in conjunction with the Jaccard index metrics, because we could apply a character-level metric on top of a character-agnostic metric (i.e. one that cares about the letters in the tag and one that doesn’t).
  • Limitations: Edit distance metrics can be kind of stupid. According to Jaro-Winkler distance, “Baseball” and “Basketball” are far more related to one another than “Baseball” and “Pitcher” or “Catcher.” “Round” and “Circle” have a horrible edit distance metric, while “Round” and “Pound” look very similar. Edit distance simply cannot be used in isolation to find similar tags.

Keyword Planner grouping

  • Method: While Google’s choice to combine similar keywords in Keyword Planner has been problematic for predicting traffic, it has actually offered us a new method to identify highly related terms. Whenever two tags share identical metrics from Google Keyword Planner (average monthly traffic, historical traffic, CPC, and competition), we can conclude that there is an increased chance the two are related to one another.
  • Benefits: This method is extremely useful for acronyms (which are particularly difficult to detect). While Google groups together COO and Chief Operating Officer, you can imagine that standard methods like those outlined above might have problems detecting the relationship.
  • Limitations: The greatest drawback for this methodology was that it created numerous false positives among less popular terms. There are just too many keywords which have an annual search volume average of 10, are searched 10 times monthly, and have a CPC and competition of 0. Thus, we had to limit the use of this methodology to more popular terms where there were only a handful of matches.

Wikipedia disambiguation

  • Method: Many of the methods above are great for grouping similar/related terms, but do not provide a high-confidence method for determining the “master” term or phrase to represent a grouping of related/duplicate terms. While considerations can be made for testing all tags against an English language model, the lack of pop culture references and phrases makes it unreliable. To do this effectively, we found Wikipedia to be a trusted source for identifying the proper spelling, tense, formatting, and word order for any given tag. For example, if users tagged a product as “Lord of the Rings,” “LOTR,” and “The Lord of the Rings,” it can be difficult to determine which tag should be preferred (certainly we don’t need all 3). If you search Wikipedia for these terms, you will see that they redirect you to the page titled “The Lord of the Rings.” In many cases, we can trust their canonical variant as the “good tag.” Please note that we don’t encourage scraping any website or violating their terms of use. Wikipedia does offer an export of their entire database that can be used for research purposes.
  • Benefits: When a tag could be mapped to a Wikipedia entry, this method proved to be a highly effective at providing validation that a tag had potential value, or creating a point of reference for related tags. If the Wikipedia community felt a tag or tag phrase was important enough to have an article dedicated to it, then the tag was more likely to be a valuable term vs. random entry or keyword stuffing by the user. Further, the methodology allows for grouping related terms without any bias on word order. Doing a search on Wikipedia creates a search results page (“pontoon boats”), or redirects you to a correction of the article (“disneyworld” becomes “Walt Disney World”). Wikipedia also tends to have entries for some pop culture references, so things that would get flagged as a misspelling, such as “lolcats,” can be vindicated by the existence of a matching Wikipedia article.
  • Limitations: While Wikipedia is effective at delivering a consistent formal tag for disambiguation, it can at times be more sterile than user-friendly. This can run counter to other signals such as CPC or traffic volume methods. For example, “pontoon boats” becomes “Pontoon (Boat)”, or “Lily” becomes “lilium.” All signals indicate the former case as the most popular, but Wikipedia disambiguation suggests the latter to be the correct usage. Wikipedia also contains entries for very broad terms, like each number, year, letter, etc. so simply applying a rule that any Wikipedia article is an allowed tag would continue to contribute to tag sprawl problems.

K-means clustering with word vectors

  • Method: Finally, we attempted to transform the tags into a subset of more meaningful tags using word embeddings and k-means clustering. Generally, the process involved transforming the tags into tokens (individual words), then refining by part-of-speech (noun, verb, adjective), and finally lemmatizing the tokens (“blue shirts” becomes “blue shirt”). From there, we transformed all the tokens into a custom Word2Vec embedding model based on adding the vectors of each resulting token array. We created a label array and a vector array of each tag in the dataset, then ran k-means with 10 percent of the total count of the tags as the value for number of centroids. At first we tested on 30,000 tags and obtained reasonable results.
    Once k-means had completed, we pulled all of the centroids and obtained their nearest relative from the custom Word2Vec model, then we assigned the tags to their centroid category in the main dataset.
    Tag Tokens Tag Pos Tag Lemm. Categorization
    [‘beach’, ‘photographs’] [(‘beach’, ‘NN’), (‘photographs’, ‘NN’)] [‘beach’, ‘photograph’] beach photo
    [‘seaside’, ‘photographs’] [(‘seaside’, ‘NN’), (‘photographs’, ‘NN’)] [‘seaside’, ‘photograph’] beach photo
    [‘coastal’, ‘photographs’] [(‘coastal’, ‘JJ’), (‘photographs’, ‘NN’)] [‘coastal’, ‘photograph’] beach photo
    [‘seaside’, ‘photographs’] [(‘seaside’, ‘NN’), (‘photographs’, ‘NN’)] [‘seaside’, ‘photograph’] beach photo
    [‘seaside’, ‘posters’] [(‘seaside’, ‘NN’), (‘posters’, ‘NNS’)] [‘seaside’, ‘poster’] beach photo
    [‘coast’, ‘photographs’] [(‘coast’, ‘NN’), (‘photographs’, ‘NN’)] [‘coast’, ‘photograph’] beach photo
    [‘beach’, ‘photos’] [(‘beach’, ‘NN’), (‘photos’, ‘NNS’)] [‘beach’, ‘photo’] beach photo

    The Categorization column above was the centroid selected by Kmeans. Notice how it handled the matching of “seaside” to “beach” and “coastal” to “beach.”

  • Benefits: This method seemed to do a good job of finding associations between the tags and their categories that were more semantic than character-driven. “Blue shirt” might be matched to “clothing.” This was obviously not possible without the semantic relationships found within the vector space.
  • Limitations: Ultimately, the chief limitation that we encountered was trying to run k-means on the full two million tags while ending up with 200,000 categories (centroids). Sklearn for Python allows for multiple concurrent jobs, but only across the initialization of the centroids, which in this case was 11 — meaning that even if you ran on a 60-core processor, the number of concurrent jobs was limited by the number of initialization, which in this case, was again 11. We tried PCA (principal component analysis) to reduce the vector sizes (300 to 10) but the results were overall poor. Finally, because embeddings are generally built based on probabilistic closeness of terms in the corpus on which they were trained, there were matches that you could understand why they matched, but would obviously not have been the correct category (eg “19th century art” was picked as a category for “18th century art”). Finally, context matters and the word embeddings obviously suffer from understanding the difference between “duck” (the animal) and “duck” (the action).

Bringing it all together

Using a combination of the methods above, we were able to develop a series of methodology confidence scores that could be applied to any tag in our dataset, generating a heuristic for how to consider each tag going forward. These were case-level strategies to determine the appropriate methodology. We denoted these as follows:

  • Good Tags: This mostly started as our “do not touch” list of terms which already received traffic from Google. After some confirmation exercises, the list was expanded to include unique terms with rankings potential, commercial appeal, and unique product sets to deliver to customers. For example, a heuristic for this category might look like this:

    1. If tag is identical to Wikipedia entry and
    2. Tag + product has estimated search traffic and
    3. Tag has CPC value then
    4. Mark as “Good Tag”
  • Okay Tags: This represents terms that we would like to retain associated with products and their descriptions, as they could be used within the site to add context to a page, but do not warrant their own indexable space. These tags were mapped to be redirected or canonicaled to a “master,” but still included on a page for topical relevancy, natural language queries, long-tail searches, etc. For example, a heuristic for this category might look like this:
    1. If tag is identical to Wikipedia entry but
    2. Tag + product has no search volume
    3. Vector tag matches a “Good Tag”
    4. Mark as “Okay Tag” and redirect to “Good Tag”
  • Bad Tags to Remap: This grouping represents bad tags that were mapped to a replacement. These tags would literally be deleted and replaced with a corrected version. These were most often misspellings or terms discovered through stemming/lemmatization/etc. where a dominant replacement was identified. For example, a heuristic for this category might look like this:
    1. If tag is not identical to either Wikipedia or vector space and
    2. Tag + product has no search volume
    3. Tag has no volume
    4. Tag Wikipedia entry matches a “Good Tag”
    5. Mark as “Bad Tag to Remap”
  • Bad Tags to Remove: These are tags that were flagged as bad tags that could not be related to a good tag. Essentially, these needed to be removed from our database completely. This final group represented the worst of the worst in the sense that the existence of the tag would likely be considered a negative indicator of site quality. Considerations were made for character length of tags, lack of Wikipedia entries, inability to map to word vectors, no previous traffic, no predicted traffic or CPC value, etc. In many cases, these were nonsense phrases.

All together, we were able to reduce the number of tags by 87.5%, consolidating the site down to a reasonable, targeted, and useful set of tags which properly organized the corpus without wasting either crawl budget or limiting user engagement.

Conclusions: Advanced white hat SEO

It was nearly nine years ago that a well-known black hat SEO called out white hat SEO as being simple, stale, and bereft of innovation. He claimed that “advanced white hat SEO” was an oxymoron — it simply did not exist. I was proud at the time to respond to his claims with a technique Hive Digital was using which I called “Second Page Poaching.” It was a great technique, but it paled in comparison to the sophistication of methods we now see today. I never envisioned either the depth or breadth of technical proficiency which would develop within the white hat SEO community for dealing with unique but persistent problems facing webmasters.

I sincerely doubt most of the readers here will have the specific tag sprawl problem described above. I’d be lucky if even a few of you have run into it. What I hope is that this post might disabuse us of any caricatures of white hat SEO as facile or stagnant and inspire those in our space to their best work.

8 Fundamental Elements of a Successful Social Media Marketing Strategy

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Social media is a staple marketing tactic for nearly every business, helping brands build awareness, share and interact with customers and prospects, and create important touch points in the changing customer journey.

However, both green and seasoned marketers are still trying to nail down what a successful social media marketing strategy looks like. According to Social Media Examiner’s 2016 industry report, 90% of marketers say social media is important to their business. However, just 41% say they’re able to measure the ROI of their social activities.

As any successful marketer will tell you, the road to success begins by physically documenting your strategy. As for what needs to be included, below you’ll find some essential elements to consider.

#1 – Your brand’s value proposition.

The first step in building a successful social media marketing strategy is defining the value your brand brings to your social media audiences. Why? Because if you can’t define the value, you certainly won’t be able to show any value.

Ask yourself: Why would someone follow or engage with me on social? What do I want my followers to know about my brand? What value can I bring to my audience through content and engagement on social? Then craft a simple mission statement of sorts, and use that to help guide the rest of your strategy development.

If you can’t define the value, you certainly won’t be able to show any value. #socialmediamarketing Click To Tweet

#2 – Your objectives.

Simply put, there can be no strategy if there’s no end goal. Your objectives are the foundation of your strategy, guiding every decision and tactic that comes next.

Use the goals outlined in your overall digital marketing strategy as a starting point. This will allow you create social-specific goals that help contribute to the larger marketing mission. Whether you want to increase your number of followers, boost referral traffic to your website, foster engagement or drive more conversions, set goals that can be measured. In addition, consider setting benchmark goals so you can gauge the success of your efforts as you go and make improvements as needed.

#3 – Your defined audience.

The success of your social media marketing efforts hinges on your ability to empathize and connect with your target audience. As a result, you need to understand their motivations, pain points, and content interests and needs.

Dig into website and social platform analytics, and talk with your sales team to uncover key customer insights and characteristics. Then use what you find to develop a customer persona—which is a general representation of who your target customer/follower is.

Your success hinges on your ability to empathize & connect w/ your audience. #socialmedia Click To Tweet

#4 – Your channel mix.

Each social media platform offers a little something unique. As a result, many marketers may be tempted to design strategy that includes a presence on every platform. But—as with most things in the digital marketing world—quality over quantity is definitely a good rule of thumb.

While you’re compiling audience research to create your personas, find out what channels are driving the most website traffic and on-page engagement (i.e. time on page or pages per visit), and inciting the most engagement on the platform itself (i.e. comments, likes and shares). In addition, do some competitive research to learn where your fiercest competitors are spending their time on social media and the type of engagement they’re getting. This research will allow you get a look at your internal and competitive landscape, and help you prioritize and triage your efforts.

Finally, look back at the objectives you outlined to determine which platforms are best suited for helping you reach those goals. For example, if one of your social media marketing goals is to attract or recruit new talent, a visual platform like Instagram is the perfect place to show off your company’s amazing workplace culture. On the other hand, if your goal is fostering engagement through discussion, Facebook may be a must-have platform within your mix.

#5 – Your content mix.

In today’s social media landscape, simply sharing links to your company website or blog with a bit of text will not drive your objectives. Your followers want and expect more from you.

Use all the aforementioned elements to guide the creation of a content plan that includes the appropriate mix of images, videos, links and discussion starters tailored to each platform.

#6 – Your posting and engagement schedule.

Maintaining a consistent presence on your social channels is vital to the success of your marketing efforts. If you disappear for long periods of time, it’s easy for your audience to forget about you—and can prove more difficult to build engagement back up. Similarly, over-posting can be an annoyance, and cause your audience to turn away. So, your ultimate goal is to be a regular fixture in news feeds, but not overwhelm your audience.

Develop a daily, weekly or monthly plan or schedule that details:

  • Who is responsible for posting or monitoring your social media feeds
  • When the content is being shared (i.e. dates and times)
  • Where the content is being shared (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • What content is being shared (i.e. website link, curated content, image, video, etc.)
  • How you’ll be sharing content (i.e. live tweeting at an event; native vs. using a social media management tool to schedule in advance)

Maintaining a consistent presence on your channels is vital to success. #socialmediamarketing Click To Tweet

#7 – Your method of measurement and data analysis.

Measurement and data analysis are vital to any strategic initiative, providing you with the insights you need to continually refine your approach and ultimately prove ROI.

Outline the specific analytics tools and metrics you’ll use to gauge success—both on (native engagement) and off (your website) social platforms. For example, if one of your goals is to drive more website traffic through social channels, Google Analytics or your preferred analytics platform will be a critical tool to include. As for measurement, some of the metrics you’ll want to look at include time on page, number of pages per visit and assisted conversions.

#8 – Authenticity.

If you want to achieve social media success, the importance of authenticity cannot be overstated. The beauty of social media is that you have the opportunity to show your audience who you are, not just what you sell.

Develop a brand voice that brings a human element and some personality to your social media pages. Lose the jargon or sales pitch, and talk to people on their level.

The importance of authenticity cannot be overstated. #socialmediamarketing Click To Tweet

Resources to Jumpstart Your Social Media Marketing Success

If you’re looking for a few more resources to get your social media marketing strategy on-track, take a gander at some of these other helpful posts:

What is your biggest social media challenge? Tell us in the comments section below.

2017 Social Media Marketing Industry Report

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social media researchDo you wonder how your peers are using social media?

Wondering if you should focus more on visuals or live video?

In our ninth-annual social media study, more than 5,700 marketers reveal where they’ll focus their social media efforts.

This industry report also shows you which social tactics are most effective and how content plays a role in social media marketing.

2017 Social Media Marketing Industry Report by Mike Stelzner on Social Media Examiner.

2017 Social Media Marketing Industry Report by Mike Stelzner on Social Media Examiner.

How are marketers using social media?

To understand how marketers are using social media, Social Media Examiner commissioned its 2017 Social Media Marketing Industry Report.

Watch this video overview:

.

We set out to uncover the “who, what, where, when, and why” of social media marketing with this report.

A significant 5,700+ marketers provided valuable insight you won’t find elsewhere.

In this free report, you’ll discover:

  • What social platforms marketers will focus on in the future.
  • Whether Facebook is still working for marketers.
  • How often marketers are posting to major social platforms.
  • The top benefits of social media marketing and how time invested affects results.
  • The most common forms of content for social media marketing.
  • And much more!

We examine how B2B social media marketing differs from B2C businesses and much more.

If you’re responsible for marketing your business, you’ll want to closely analyze all of the information in this free 49-page report and use it to persuade others.

Get Immediate Download Until May 30

> Download the report here by right-clicking (control-clicking on Mac). Alternatively, read the report online below…

NOTE: Having trouble downloading? The file is large and may not display properly in some browsers. Try right-clicking (or control-clicking on Mac) to save it to your hard drive. Alternately, view it in Scribd.

What do you think about the findings in the Social Media Marketing Industry Report? Please share your comments in the box below.

2017 Social Media Marketing Industry Report by Mike Stelzner on Social Media Examiner.

2017 Social Media Marketing Industry Report by Mike Stelzner on Social Media Examiner.

Related Posts

Lessons from 1,000 Voice Searches (on Google Home)

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It’s hardly surprising that Google Home is an extension of Google’s search ecosystem. Home is attempting to answer more and more questions, drawing those answers from search results. There’s an increasingly clear connection between Featured Snippets in search and voice answers.

For example, let’s say a hedgehog wanders into your house and you naturally find yourself wondering what you should feed it. You might search for “What do hedgehogs eat?” On desktop, you’d see a Featured Snippet like the following:

Given that you’re trying to wrangle a strange hedgehog, searching on your desktop may not be practical, so you ask Google Home: “Ok, Google — What do hedgehogs eat?” and hear the following:

Google Home leads with the attribution to Ark Wildlife (since a voice answer has no direct link), and then repeats a short version of the desktop snippet. The connection between the two answers is, I hope, obvious.

Anecdotally, this is a pattern we see often on Google Home, but how consistent is it? How does Google handle Featured Snippets in other formats (including lists and tables)? Are some questions answered wildly differently by Google Home compared to desktop search?

Methodology (10K –> 1K)

To find out the answer to these questions, I needed to start with a fairly large set of searches that were likely to generate answers in the form of Featured Snippets. My colleague Russ Jones pulled a set of roughly 10,000 popular searches beginning with question words (Who, What, Where, Why, When, How) from a third-party “clickstream” source (actual web activity from a very large set of users).

I ran those searches on desktop (automagically, of course) and found that just over half (53%) had Featured Snippets. As we’ve seen in other data sets, Google is clearly getting serious about direct answers.

The overall set of popular questions was dominated by “What?” and “How?” phrases:

Given the prevalence of “How to?” questions, I’ve broken them out in this chart. The purple bars show how many of these searches generated Featured Snippets. “How to?” questions were very likely to display a Featured Snippet, with other types of questions displaying them less than half of the time.

Of the roughly 5,300 searches in the full data set that had Featured Snippets, those snippets broke down into four types, as follows:

Text snippets — paragraph-based answers like the one at the top of this post — accounted for roughly two-thirds of all of the Featured Snippets in our original data set. List snippets accounted for just under one-third — these are bullet lists, like this one for “How to draw a dinosaur?”:

Step 1 – Draw a small oval. Step 5 – Dinosaur! It’s as simple as that.

Table snippets made up less than 2% of the Featured Snippets in our starting data set. These snippets contain a small amount of tabular data, like this search for “What generation am I?”:

If you throw your money recklessly at your avocado toast habit instead of buying a house, you’re probably a millennial (sorry, content marketing joke).

Finally, video snippets are a special class of Featured Snippet with a large video thumbnail and direct link (dominated by YouTube). Here’s one for “Who is the spiciest memelord?”:

I’m honestly not sure what commentary I can add to that result. Since there’s currently no way for a video to appear on Google Home, we excluded video snippets from the rest of the study.

Google has also been testing some hybrid Featured Snippets. In some cases, for example, they attempt to extract a specific answer from the text, such as this answer for “When was 1984 written?” (Hint: the answer is not 1984):

For the purposes of this study, we treated these hybrids as text snippets. Given the concise answer at the top, these hybrids are well-suited to voice results.

From the 5.3K questions with snippets, I selected 1,000, excluding video but purposely including a disproportionate number of list and table types (to better see if and how those translated into voice).

Why only 1,000? Because, unlike desktop searches, there’s no easy way to do this. Over the course of a couple of days, I had to run all of these voice searches manually on Google Home. It’s possible that I went temporarily insane. At one point, I saw a spider on my Google Home staring back at me. Fearing that I was hallucinating, I took a picture and posted it on Twitter:

I was assured that the spider was, in point of fact, not a figment of my imagination. I’m still not sure about the half-hour when the spider sang me selections from the Hamilton soundtrack.

From snippets to voice answers

So, how many of the 1,000 searches yielded voice answers? The short answer is: 71%. Diving deeper, it turns out that this percentage is strongly dependent on the type of snippet:

Text snippets in our 1K data set yielded voice answers 87% of the time. List snippets dropped to just under half, and table snippets only generated voice answers one-third of the time. This makes sense — long lists and most tables are simply harder to translate into voice.

In the case of tables, some of these results were from different sites or in a different format. In other words, the search generated a Featured Snippet and a voice answer, but the voice answer was of a different type (text, for example) and attributed to a different source. Only 20% of Featured Snippets in table format generated voice answers that came from the same source.

From a search marketing standpoint, text snippets are going to generate a voice answer almost 9 out of 10 times. Optimizing for text/paragraph snippets is a good starting point for ranking on voice search and should generally be a win-win across devices.

Special: Knowledge Graph

What about the Featured Snippets that didn’t generate voice answers? It turns out there was quite a variety of exceptions in play. One exception was answers that came directly from the Knowledge Graph on Google Home, without any attribution. For example, the question “What is the nuclear option?” produces this Featured Snippet (for me, at least) on desktop:

On Google Home, though, I get an unattributed answer that seems to come from the Knowledge Graph:

It’s unclear why Google has chosen one over the other for voice in this particular case. Across the 1,000 keyword set, there were about 30 keywords where something similar happened.

Special: Device help

Google Home seems to translate some searches as device-specific help. For example, “How to change your name?” returns desktop results about legally changing your name as an individual. On Google Home, I get the following:

Other searches from our list that triggered device help include:

  • How to contact Google?
  • How to send a fax online?
  • What are you up to?

Special: Easter eggs

Google Home has some Easter eggs that seem unique to voice search. One of my personal favorites — the question “What is best in life?” — generates the following:

Here’s a list of the other Easter eggs in our 1,000 phrase data set:

  • How many letters are in the alphabet?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What came first, the chicken or the egg?
  • What generation am I?
  • What is the meaning of life?
  • What would you do for a Klondike bar?
  • Where do babies come from?
  • Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?
  • Where is my iPhone?
  • Where is Waldo?
  • Who is your daddy?

Easter eggs are a bit less predictable than device help. Generally speaking, though, both are rare and shouldn’t dissuade you from trying to rank for Featured Snippets and voice answers.

Special: General confusion

In a handful of cases, Google simply didn’t understand the question or couldn’t answer the exact question. For example, I could not get Google to understand the question “What does MAGA mean?” The answer I got back (maybe it’s my Midwestern accent?) was:

On second thought, maybe that’s not entirely inaccurate.

One interesting case is when Google decides to answer a slightly different question. On desktop, if you search for “How to become a vampire?”, you might see the following Featured Snippet:

On Google Home, I’m asked to clarify my intent:

I suspect both of these cases will improve over time, as voice recognition continues to advance and Google becomes better at surfacing answers.

Special: Recipe results

Back in April, Google launched a new set of recipe functions across search and Google Home. Many “How to?” questions related to cooking now generate something like this (the question I asked was “How to bake chicken breast?”):

You can opt to find a recipe on Google search and send it to your Google Home, or Google can simply pick a recipe for you. Either way, it will guide you through step-by-step instructions.

Special: Health conditions

A half-dozen or so health questions, from general questions to diseases, generated results like the following. This one is for the question “Why do we sneeze?”:

This has no clear connection to desktop search results, and I’m not clear if it’s a signal for future, expanded functionality. It seems to be of limited use right now.

Special: WikiHow

A handful of “How to?” questions triggered an unusual response. For example, if I ask Google Home “How to write a press release?” I get back:

If I say “yes,” I’m taken directly to a wikiHow assistant that uses a different voice. The wikiHow answers are much longer than text-based Featured Snippets.

How should we adapt?

Voice search and voice appliances (including Google Assistant and Google Home) are evolving quickly right now, and it’s hard to know where any of this will be in the next couple of years. From a search marketing standpoint, I don’t think it makes sense to drop everything to invest in voice, but I do think we’ve reached a point where some forward momentum is prudent.

First, I highly recommend simply being aware of how your industry and your major keywords/questions “appear” on Google Home (or Google Assistant on your mobile device). Look at the recipe situation above — for 99%+ of the people reading this article, that’s a novelty. If you’re in the recipe space, though, it’s game-changing, and it’s likely a sign of more to come.

Second, I feel strongly that Featured Snippets are a win-win right now. Almost 90% of the text-only Featured Snippets we tracked yielded a voice answer. These snippets are also prominent on desktop and mobile searches. Featured Snippets are a great starting point for understanding the voice ecosystem and establishing your foothold.

The Secret to Creating Scalable, Quality Content and Better CX – Infographic

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Content Experience Influence

A woman walks into a retail store and looks around, not finding what she’s there for. She approaches a sales associate and asks, “Excuse me, can you show me where the top of the funnel is? I need to be confronted by every touchpoint of your predetermined sales process before I can purchase something”.

Not one of your customers is doing this.

So why do brands continue to drive content marketing programs based on a linear, sequential buying journey? With so many consumers numb to brand messaging and increasingly blocking advertising, how can marketers do a better job of connecting with and engaging customers with content?

One of the first admissions recovering funnel marketers need to make is that the funnel is dead. The customer buying experience is more like a tangled mix of omnidirectional customer journeys driven by myriad factors, many of which brands no longer have control over. Considering all of those possible influences can be overwhelming, especially when expectations of content performance are higher than ever.

The good news is that content marketers can achieve quality content at scale while creating much better experiences for customers with that content by making influencer collaboration part of the strategy.

Content drives all aspects of the customer journey from discovering content to education and inspiration to taking action. There are many influences when it comes to customers and content including other people who are influential.

In fact, there are some very important trends happening in the influencer marketing world that were surfaced in our research with influencer relationship platform, Traackr. What is working, what is not? What are the differences between B2B and B2C? How are companies budgeting and what are the best practices and case studies to learn from?

For a preview of these top Influencer Marketing trends and more, be sure to see this excellent interactive infographic created by our friends at the interactive content marketing platform Ceros of the Influence 2.0 Report by Brian Solis (in partnership with Traackr and my agency, TopRank Marketing).

Lucky 13 considerations for an integrated approach to influencer generated content:

1. Thinking about customer insight as it relates to information discovery, consumption and acton through the lens of influence opens up some very interesting doors of opportunity. In fact, when marketers integrate influencer marketing at the content marketing strategy level, it becomes a compelling and long term opportunity that most overlook.

2. For example, consider content discovery: A study by Augure reports that 93% of marketers implementing influencer marketing say it is effective to build brand awareness. And Burst Media reports that marketers are getting nearly a 10 to 1 return on earned media value from working with influencers on content.

3. Why hire a PR firm for media relations when you could work with influencers to create editorial placements that get ten times the reach?  Actually, I think “working with PR” should be an “also” not an “instead of”. Media Relations and advertising investments with influencer content is a winning combination, not an either/or.

4. Content is King and customers are everything else. When it comes to content engagement, you have to decide what kind of content your customers prefer with considerations for topics, format, length, media type and even what devices they use.

5. Influencers lead and buyers follow. In his research, Dr. Jonah Berger of the Wharton School, reports that 82% of consumers follow expert recommendations. Twitter reports that 49% of consumers rely on influencers for product suggestions. Those are compelling stats relevant to how brands can work with influencers that can guide the kind of content to engage your customers in more effective ways.

6. Build it and they will come doesn’t work and neither does build and promoted the heck out of it and they will buy. It might, but there are no guarantees. According to research by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, marketers are not overwhelmingly confident about the effectiveness of their content.

7. Content effectiveness goes up with influencer collaboration. Content Marketing Institute has reported a 10X boost in conversion rates when influencers are involved. Even more compelling is that influencer marketing was found to have 11X better annual ROI over traditional marketing, according to a study by Tapinfluence, White Wave and Nielsen.

8. What good is acquiring customers if they don’t stay customers? A study from McKinsey reports a 37% higher retention rate with customers acquired through influencer content.

9. The solution to better content discovery, engagement and action is the integration of content and working with influencers. The study that we partnered with Traackr and Brian Solis of Altimeter on agrees: 80% of marketers surveyed reported the area of business most impacted by working with influencers was content marketing.

10. This is why my definition of influencer marketing is focused on content:

“Influencer Marketing develops relationships with internal and industry experts with active networks to co-create content that helps drive measurable business goals.“

11. Funnel myth and the influencer warm up. With a relationship and content-focused approach to influencer marketing, customers aren’t looking for a mythical funnel as they visit their favorite online or neighborhood store. Instead, the business warms the buying journey with product recommendations from people that buyers already trust to make recommendations.

12. Pick and choose your influencers wisely. For some customers that might be a famous actor, athlete or champion of business. For other customers it might be a famous or niche social influencer. Discounting either famous or micro-influencers is to discount sources your customers actually trust.

13. It pays to dig in to better understand customers in terms of their content preferences including who influences them and about what, relative to your brand’s products and services. Instead of speculating about topics, keywords and stories, why not actually talk to your customers and find out: What triggers them to look for solutions? What is their pain? What questions do they have that your brand and influencer content can answer? Creating utility for buyers through brand and influencer generated content can be instrumental for creating more findable and meaningful content experiences.

How to jumpstart an influencer generated content program:

1 – Get expert help. Do you know who the top influencers are for your customers relevant to your industry? Do you already have relationships with those influencers? Does your competition?

Research the market, find out who your customers influencers are, big and small. Then make a plan that identifies how collaborating with those influencers on content can be tied to business goals..

2 – Invest in technology. Sure, you could use Twitter search or Followerwonk and a spreadsheet to create a list of influencers, but you could also bring a spatula to a gun fight – if you get what I mean.

Influencer marketing technology will help you intelligently identify, qualify, and engage with influencers as well as to manage communications and measure performance of your work together. There are highly useful, fundamental tools like BuzzSumo or specialty platforms like GroupHigh or Upfluence for bloggers, LittleBird for Twitter or more enterprise focused solutions like Traackr and Onalytica. There are also marketplaces like TapInfluence, Collective Bias or Linqia where you can “shop” for influencers to engage like advertising.

3 – Activate customers. Advocacy is powerful so you should start by activating those who are already expressing positive sentiment towards your brand and the things your brand and customers care about.

Benchmark the metrics you plan on affecting with influencer collaboration and start with those who are already advocate. That might mean people who follow your brand on social networks, employees and especially current customers. Invite advocate customers with reach, relevance and resonance amongst their communities to collaborate on content. Build out the processes that will make your content marketing more successful when you collaborate with trusted experts and people who have earned the trust of your potential customers.

If you would like to learn more about influencer generated content, best practices and how it can be integrated with your marketing strategy, be sure to check out our agency site, TopRank Marketing.

I’m also going to be speaking on content and influencer marketing topics at several upcoming conferences:

May 16, New York: ContentSEO
Content Marketing (R)evolution

June 2, Chicago: 2017 Masters of B2B Marketing
Influencer Marketing: Hype or Hope for B2B

June 19 London: Digital Marketing World Forum
Influence + Content = Digital Marketing Success in 2017

June 22 London: B2B Ignite
Influence: Mighty Hype or Great Hope for B2B

I hope to see you there!