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New SEO is Now Online Branding?

As 2014 comes to an end, this is the time when marketers naturally reflect on the past year and look forward to the new one.  Over the past couple months, I’ve written about must have’s for 2015 marketing plans and some dynamic shifts in Internet marketing as we know it.  But I wouldn’t be considered an online marketer if I didn’t touch on one of the most dramatic changes we’ve seen over the last couple of years – the evolution of SEO (search engine optimization).

I recently participated in a webinar with Rand Fishkin from Moz entitled: Cracking the SEO Code for 2015: Tactics to Love vs. Leave and I’ve got to tell you he pointed out some pretty eye opening things.  These are things that many online marketers are doing wrong and things that must change if there’s any hope in your website showing up in Google.  I’m going to break it all down with a few major points from the presentation.

Gone are the Days of Traditional SEO
The good old fashioned tactics of trying to match on-page for exact phrase keywords by using the phrase in the domain, headings, within the content and links are just that – old fashioned.  That’s no longer what SEO is about.  In fact, Rand pulled up several Google search examples showing the first few results not even mentioning the exact keyword phrase at all in the traditional on-page SEO way.

It’s now about understanding user intent and moving away from keyword matching to topic association.  What topics are you the authority on and what type of content naturally revolves around those topics?  Sure, keywords are naturally going to be used, but it’s not necessary to setup a new page for every single keyword – it can all be grouped together into one page with info around a specific topic.

Google Search

Google is Becoming Smarter
Google is functioning more like a person and less like a robot.  It’s getting better at understanding user intent.  It knows what people actually want to read based upon social signals and the searcher’s  behavior.  Results are also becoming more personalized and it’s increasingly difficult to “dominate” a keyword or phrase across the board.  It’s now about what Google is able to associate with your brand vs. what keywords you’re using.

Real Brands are Winning Search
Google is now learning more toward rewarding brands.  Brands are what people know and trust.  Brands are what create quality content that people actually want to read.  The days of being able to setup a website, publish a few articles and expect to instantly begin getting traffic for the keywords your site is targeting are history.

Ranking well in search engines such as Google is now about being in more than one place, developing a reputation and consistently producing different types of useful multimedia content.

Winning at the New SEO is Winning at Online Branding
If you want to be successful in getting your website to rank well in search engines such as Google and get a good deal of organic traffic, it’s imperative that to truly understand your company’s brand.  What are the unique strengths of your company and how can you create a truly unique online experience centered around those strengths?

The best tactic to employ here is what Rand referred to as “modern content investments.”  What type of content marketing plan can you put together to create information that is:

  • One of a kind – it could take weeks or months to develop it, but no one else ever has
  • Relevant – extremely on point with user intent
  • Helpful – solves a problem or multiple problems the user is facing
  • Uniquely valuable – there’s a high level of worth to the info you’re providing
  • Great UX – the content is easy to consume/interact with on all devices
  • Likely to spread – who will share this content and why?

What to Do Next
Take the time to really think about your brand.  Not just the way you see it, but the way your customers do.  What do you want to focus on and what problems are you trying to solve?  Now, every single piece of content you put out should easily be tied back to solving those problems or discussing those topics to create the ultimate brand association in Google’s eyes.

If more brand development needs to be done, that’s OK.  The sooner you can nail this down, the easier it’s going to be to understand how you’re going to be able to win at the new SEO – online business branding.

Need help?  Contact me to talk online branding strategies.

3 Movements Every Digital Marketer Must Watch Now

As always, there are a lot of changes going on in the digital marketing world right now.  From the ever evolving social media networks to new technology to radical shifts in the way traditional services are delivered.

One thing is for sure, 2015 is going to be an exciting year.  A year where I think digital marketers are really going to have to think long and hard about the way they are reaching customers.  As I was thinking today, there are 3 things that come to mind that I will to be paying attention to in the new year.  Things that, while not exactly related, have the potential to represent big changes in the marketing world.

Facebook Algorithm Changes

There is a lot of buzz in the social media marketing world right now around upcoming Facebook changes that will begin in the new year.  To sum it up, basically Facebook is going to give even less visibility to “overly promotional” posts.  While most businesses understand that their fans do not want to see “overly promotional” content in the first place, it’s still unclear exactly where the line is going to be drawn.  One thing is for sure, it means even less organic reach for Facebook brand pages.  And if you are a social media marketing manager or just happened to inherit that responsibility at your company – you know organic reach has already dropped significantly.

What does it mean?  Well, it simply means now more than ever if digital marketers really want to reach people on Facebook in a meaningful way, it’s going to require a budget to do so.  Facebook is continuing to adopt a pay to play model and that’s not going to change anytime soon.  This also means that other social networks will quickly follow and begin to move toward this model.

The other thing that this means is that some companies will simply drop their Facebook page all together.  One notable company to already do so is Copyblogger.  A very well known name with over 35,000 likes and they dropped it.  Why?  Because the ROI on the organic side just wasn’t there.  I highly recommend watching this eye opening video (it’s a bit on the long side, but 100% worth it) regarding Facebook advertising.

WATCH: Facebook Fraud

Wearables

Wearables are everywhere right now.  I’m not just talking about smartwatches here, I’m talking about fitness bands like the Jawbone Up 24 and Fitbit Flex.  We are now able to monitor more than ever and get data in real time.  The more connected we become throughout the day, the more avenues digital marketers will have to reach customers in new ways.  While the messages may be the same, the delivery and strategy behind reaching people at the exact moment in time on the exact device that’s right for them will present new marketing challenges. 

I expect all of this to be taken to another level when the Apple Watch is released.  When a player like Apple comes to the market, it has the ability to really change everything.  If Apple gets its watch right on the first try, we will see an accelerated growth and mass adoption come very quickly.

What does it mean?  This means one more place potential customers will be looking at your marketing message.  It means making sure your message reads well on an even smaller screen.  Making sure your website is 100% responsive – even on a watch.  Basically, it means one more thing to add to your overall marketing strategy when you think about your typical customer life cycle.

Apple Watch

Uber-Sumer Movement

By now most of you have probably heard of services such as Uber (rideshare and taxi service company that gets you a driver in minutes via an app) and Airbnb (services that allows you to rent a place to stay from local hosts in 190+countries), but have you heard of Feastly?  Feastly allows “everyday” people to become cooks and essentially turn their house into a scaled-down version of a restaurant. 

This shift powered by the millennials of  everything being right now.  People are becoming used to getting things immediately, the way they want it and how they want it.  Instant gratification is being taken to a whole new level and it’s becoming expected from consumers.

What does it mean?  It means taxi services, hotels and even some restaurants are potentially going to have to reinvent themselves or die.  These concepts could be what services like Netflix were to Blockbuster.  It’s a radical shift, but it’s one that’s very real and cannot be ignored by marketers.

Uber

What Do You Think?

How do you think these changes will impact marketers in 2015 and beyond?  I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts. Contact me.

3 Simple Pieces of Advice to Save Marketers Loads of Time

The holidays are upon us and 2014 is coming to a close.  This time of year tends to bring out the best in marketers…and also the worst.  This is especially true when it comes to retailers.  We all know a lot of money is spent this time of year and for many it will make or break their 2014 success.  While I consider myself a marketing professional, I am also a student of the game. I’m always observing and learning from others to make notes of what I like and don’t like.

This year, as I was reading blogs, emails and social media posts I couldn’t help but think of 3 simple pieces of advice or rules of business that I think a lot of marketers forget.  Those that slip up often end up losing or offending customers while those that stick to these values even when things get chaotic will always come out on top in the long run.  As simple as these pieces of advice may seem, sometimes they make all the difference in the world.  Let me explain…

1. Just be honest (and don’t fake it).
I have to say, I saw a lot of retailers faking “deals” this Black Friday.  I know it’s a huge shopping day, but consider this for a minute.  Nearly everyone will receive dozens of emails with big time deals.  On this day in particular, people are looking to save a lot of money.  Sending out an email about Free Shipping and calling it a Black Friday “deal” just doesn’t cut it and certainly won’t break through the clutter.  Worse, it could offend your customers.

I know it can be tempting for retailers and many feel obligated to offer a Black Friday deal, but if you don’t have one, you don’t have one.  If you aren’t able to offer a competitive discount on that particular day because it doesn’t make sense for your business, why not send out an email the following week with a message that’s honestly the best deal you can offer and not disguised as something else.  I promise your customers will appreciate it more.

2. Tell a great story.
At Focal Point, we are all about storytelling.  This could be through video, social media or email.  A great story is what engages people with your brand.  And once they’re engaged the selling comes naturally.  This time of year, I can’t help but think of this John Lewis TV advertisement because it’s all about the story and people love it.  Give it a watch below!

3. Connect with PEOPLE.
One of the best ways to connect with people is to have other people tell your story for you.  This is why customer testimonials are so powerful for every business.  As the holidays approach, a lot of packages are going to be shipped and I can’t help but think of this FedEx #ShippingSpree video where FedEx enabled customers to tell their story by connecting with people through real life examples of things they would ship to that special someone.  In video below, Mike talks about his sister who is a cancer survivor and describes each item he’s shipping as he puts in the box.  Check it out here…

Great Marketers Don’t Take Shortcuts
I guess what I am trying to say here is that there are no shortcuts to great marketing campaigns.  All too often I see people asking questions such like: How do I get to the first page in Google?  How do I make my video go viral?  How do I get 50,000 Facebook likes?

The best place to start?  Follow the 3 pieces of advice above.  The results will come.

Need help telling your story?  Contact me now so I can help.

Educating Your Prospects for FREE Makes Them Better PAYING Customers

Everybody wants somethings for free, but businesses need to make money to, well, stay in business.  So what if I told you that giving away free information to your prospects actually results in better paying customers?  Would you believe it?  In fact, as a business, giving away free information might be one of your best content marketing strategies.  Let me explain…

Your Customers Want To Feel Empowered.

They’re reading online reviews, watching how-to videos and listening to podcasts.  And they’re spending more time doing these things prior to purchase than ever before.  A large part of your marketing strategy when it comes to content development should be putting a plan in place to educate your customers by providing them with free information.  The reason why is simple – if your prospects/customers don’t find you when doing this type of research, they’re going to find “someone else.”  That “someone else” is going to be your competition.  Let’s jump right into a couple of case studies to show you what I mean.

Case Study: Lowe’s Fix In Six

One of my favorite examples of a business that does a great job of educating its prospects and turning them into customers is Lowe’s.  Just take a look at this Vine video…

Pretty cool, huh?  Who knew that real mayo could help remove wood stains?  Side note – I haven’t actually tested this yet, but I am taking Lowe’s word for it.  Now that’s some pretty useful information.  Information that doesn’t really directly make Lowe’s any money (last time I checked they didn’t sell mayo at Lowe’s), but indirectly goes a long way at establishing them as the authority in home improvement projects.  While it’s just 6 secs in length, I am willing to bet a few hours (if not more) went into planning and shooting just this one video.  This type of video marketing is clever and resonates well with customers.  It’s no secret that people don’t like being sold to.  But what they do like are helpful solutions like an easy way to remove water stains from wood and they’ll remember the company that published this info.  Not only will they remember it, but they will share it with others.  Furthermore, the types of people searching for and watching videos like this one are….BINGO….you guessed it….people who like to do home improvement projects AKA Lowe’s target market!

Case Study: Pampers

Let’s completely shift gears from home improvement to baby care.  Pampers has a content marketing strategy that includes producing videos which showcase quick and easy baby tips.  These short videos cover basic topics that new parents are sure to be searching for such as tips for traveling with a baby or how to get your baby into a sleep routine.  While Pampers products are shown during the videos, there is not a hard sell. Again, it’s about being the brand that puts the information out there that your customers want and need – especially during a time when they might be establishing brand loyalty for a necessary item like diapers.  Take a look…

Develop A Content Marketing Plan To Put This Into Action

Now, it’s time to put these tips into action and develop a content marketing strategy that will help move your business forward.  Here’s how to get started…

  1. Log into Google Analytics or whatever analytics platform you use.
  2. Drill down to the report showing the keywords driving organic traffic (in Google Analytics it’s under Acquisition->Keywords->Organic).
  3. Use the search feature within that report to find keyword phrases using words such as “how,” “what,” “why,” etc.
  4. Write down the top 5 keyword phrases within each of these searches.

So, what happens next?  First you must realize that in just those few minutes you have uncovered the golden nuggets of your business. These are the questions or problems that people finding your site are trying to answer/solve.  If you can help prospects easily find the answers and possibly even expand upon each one with other variations then you are establishing trust.  And once you’ve earned their trust, it’s far easier to earn their business.

How do you go about answering these questions?  Contact us and we will help you develop a content marketing strategy to do just that!

3 Simple, But Overlooked Ingredients for Marketing Campaign Success

Marketing-IngredientsThere’s less than 2 months left in the year and all of us want to close out 2014 strong.  It’s times like these when marketers and business owners tend to just go, go, go.   But, when it comes to marketing strategies these busy times can cause us to lose focus and over complicate things as a result.  With so many websites, so many ways to communicate, and so many things you want to do, now is the time to think about how to simplify your marketing success.  Let me tell you how.

I believe all successful marketing campaigns have 3 simple ingredients.  While these ingredients are very simple, they are often overlooked.  I see it happen time and time again.  Missing one of these ingredients is like trying to make a loaf of bread without flour.  It just doesn’t turn out well.

Let’s think about it for a minute – every time a customer or prospect takes the action you want it’s because 3 things happened.  3 very simple ingredients came together just right.

Ingredient #1 – Right Message.  You sent your customer or prospect exactly the right message to capture their attention.

Ingredient #2 – Right Time.  They received your message at the perfect time.

Ingredient #3 – Right Device/Medium.  You reached them using the right method of communication.

Take a look at this short video to see these 3 ingredients come together perfectly…

Example #1: Meat Pack Shoe Store – Hijack

Watch this video from the Meat Pack shoe store in Guatemala to see these 3 things come together perfectly…

Think about this video for just a minute.  Why was this “Hijack” campaign effective?  The answer is easy.  The potential customer was offered a significant discount (right message) while they were in a competitor’s store, likely close to a purchase decision (right time) on their smartphone (right device).  At that point, converting on this campaign for anyone who was targeted was super easy (and even fun) to do.

Example #2: WestJet – Christmas Miracle

Another example of an incredible marketing campaign coming together is shown in this WestJet Christmas Miracle video, take a look…

Sure, this WestJet example involved plenty of planning, but when you think about it the concept was simple.  We’re going to give awesome personalized gifts/go above and beyond (right message) while people are traveling for the holidays (right time) and do so in person (right device).

What Do These 2 Examples Have In Common?

Not only do Meat Pack and WestJet nail all of the 3 must-have marketing ingredients, but they create a truly unforgettable customer experience.  The type of experience that captures attention and the type of experience that customers WILL tell others about.

So, now it’s your turn…

Before you move on with any type of strategic planning on your next online marketing campaign, be sure you’ve got the 3 must-have ingredients right.

1. Right Message – What is the message you want to send to your customers or potential customers?  Maybe it’s an educational message to help them better understand how a product or service works.  Maybe it’s a special discount on Black Friday to help drive some immediate sales.  Whatever your message ends up being, make sure it’s incredibly clear.  Too often we get caught up in all of the other things that come along with an online marketing campaign and lose sight of what our actual message should be.  Don’t be the person sitting there asking yourself again, “what was it we actually wanted our visitors to do?”

2. Right Time – Timing is everything when it comes to planning an effective marketing strategy  Does it make sense to send your message immediately before or after some type of business transaction?  After that, how long is too long?  Getting your timing right can be the difference between a 5% response rate and a 15% response rate.  Look at data, ask your audience ahead of time and test it until you get it right.

3. Right Device – In the marketing industry, especially in today’s world we say “device,” but really it’s any method of communication.  In one instance, sending a text to someone’s smartphone immediately after a purchase offering $10 off the next purchase in exchange for feedback about their experience might be just the right device.  In another instance, sending a hand written follow-up note at the end of the year to your customer along with some holiday goodies might be exactly the right “device.”  I guess what I am saying is that just because we have all of these technological advances and new “devices’ available, doesn’t mean we should lose sight of some of the “old school” ways to communicate.  A hand written note or even a face-to-face transaction can be just the right “device.”

Need Help?

At Focal Point, we make sure our customers get the 3 ingredients to marketing success right, every time.  If you’d like some help with your next online marketing campaign or need some assistance when it comes to strategic planning, please get in touch with us today.  We can help you create that customer experience you’ve been wanting to deliver.

2 Key Things Starbucks Absolutely Nails In This Video Marketing Campaign

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy analyzing what the big brands are doing when it comes to marketing campaigns.  A recent online video marketing campaign that caught my attention for the Starbucks global branding campaign – Meet Me At Starbucks.  This is essentially a high quality, HD video production that was shot in 28 countries in a single day.  While it’s one continuous video that’s about 6 minutes in length, it’s broken down into several mini vignettes each telling it’s own story.  There are 2 important reminders in this video  First, take a look at this 1 min video recap (you can watch the full video here) before I share my thoughts…

1. It’s not about you, it’s about your customers.

“It’s never been just about the coffee.” This line really encapsulates the entire Meet Me At Starbucks online marketing strategy of putting the customer first.  One thing you will notice when watching the video is that while most of the scenes take place at a Starbucks, the product placement of Starbucks’ drinks is actually very subtle.  And while it’s very subtle at the same time it’s incredibly effective.

You see, this online video marketing campaign demonstrates to me that Starbucks “gets it.”  Sure, the coffee is good, but even more important is the customer experience.  For the most part, people don’t meet people at Starbucks to drink coffee.  People meet people at Starbucks to do business, share stories, and build relationships.  Drinking Starbucks coffee is just something that happens as a part of that experience, but it’s never been just about that.

By creating an extraordinary customer experience, Starbucks has been able to position itself in a way to where they don’t always have to “sell” their coffee.  The customers and their experiences have become a big part of the Starbucks brand.  So much so that this entire campaign focuses primarily on the customers, yet will likely still help them sell more coffee than if it were the other way around (focusing on the coffee).

2. No technology can ever replace face to face communication.

“Good things happen when we get together.”  This line really hits the nail on the head if you ask me.   I have been a marketer for a long time.  I have seen a lot of changes in technology over the years.  These changes include things that have made what I do easier and things that have, quite frankly, made things more difficult.  I must say, I couldn’t agree more with this particular statement used in the Starbucks video marketing campaign.

The reason why I love this particular point is that I think as a society we hide behind technology too much.  It’s easier to send a text than to call.  It’s far easier to just FaceTime or Skype instead of driving or flying to meet in person.  Or at least we perceive it that way.  The list goes on and on.  Yet with all of the great advances in technology, most will admit there’s still something about meeting face to face that adds to the whole BLT factor (believability, likeability, trust).  Think about it…no matter how comfortable you become with technology, there are probably still a few things that you’d much rather do in person.  That’s because there’s just something about getting together that no technology can replace.

As good as Starbucks is with their online marketing strategy and social media marketing campaigns, they still understand that at the end of the day it’s about people coming together.  This is what made their business grow into what it is today and what will ultimately continue to drive their sales.  No technology will ever be able to change that.

 How Can You Apply This to Your Business?

Think about the customer experience you have created with your business/brand. It might have been awhile since you’ve taken the time to do something like this, but I assure you it will pay off.  Consider the whole process of doing business with your company/working with you.  Is it a smooth, enjoyable experience?  Is it something people are likely to tell others about?  If it isn’t, why not?

Going off the second point, I would just urge you to take the time to see your customers in person whenever possible.  I take great pride in the friendships and partnerships I’ve built over the years through networking.  I love meeting with my clients face-to-face and feel that’s truly when we do our best work.  As Starbucks reminds us, “great things happen when we get together.”

So, now I guess there’s only 1 thing left to do:  Let’s get together at Starbucks some time soon.