Optometrists Are The Original A/B Testers

With the creation of the digital marketplace businesses have been able to refine their presence to the point of near perfection. I say near perfection, because nothing is perfect even the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl (you guys let them score 8 whole points?).

joe-namath-coin-toss-botch-super-bowl

An indicator as to how many interceptions there would be?

Back to the topic at hand- A/B testing. What is it? How is it used? Why should we care about it? The concept of A/B testing is a relatively simple one: Create two versions of a website and see which one gets better results for whatever you are looking for.  For example, say you are the owner of an online retailer, and want to see if having a list of products on the top of the webpage generates more sales than having it on the right hand side of the page. You would create both versions of the webpage, and split your web traffic in half to see which one does better.

When I was reading about this type of testing, the only thing I could thing of was going to an optometrist. When reading my description, that’s what you probably thought of right? Because I have absolutely terrible eye sight (somewhere between 20/200 and 20/100) I have come to become very acquainted with the question “Now  is this lens better or worse?”  Wouldn’t it be better if that could be done in real time, without you even knowing? In my case, no.  I’d probably crash my car, or fall of a cliff. But for most people who can see, I can only imagine that it would be far more efficient for that to be done without them even realizing it.

So, why should we care about it? Well for one, doesn’t it make sense to have your webpage designed so that more people go through with what you want them to do? The answer to that is yes.

So, who has used A/B testing? Probably most of the websites that you have used. But, have you noticed it? Probably not. And that’s one of the beautiful aspects of A/B testing. You can test out two versions of your webpage, and pretty much get real time results as people interact with it. The equivalent of this in the “real” world would be having two versions of the store, where every other person who enters sees a different store layout. Unfortunately, something called “science” doesn’t allow us to do this.

Cant-Handle-The-Science-Reaction-Gif

Any chemistry I know came from Breaking Bad and Bill Nye

Would you like some proof that A/B testing works? I hope that was a “yes” because, that’s what you’re about to get.

One of the best examples that I have found increased lead generation by about 368%. Pretty much, one version of a form worked 4 times better than the alternative. That’s huge.  When you look at what was different between the two versions, it really doesn’t seem like that big of a difference.

On one version, there is more of a description at the beginning, and then a few boxes to fill in (like company name, phone number, email) and then options for different to click on. The other version has the same boxes to fill in, but instead of the options to click on, there are text boxes to fill in. It looks a bit more intimidating to fill out, compared to the first one. It’s pretty incredible that by changing one aspect of the webpage increased the leads by 368%. This goes to show that it is very important to  not” overestimate your user’s tolerance, goodwill, and patience”.

So, changing up how customers fill out forms can make a huge difference. But, what about probably one of the most important parts of your website, the landing page? There have been several tests conducted to see which landing pages receive more interaction.

One of these was done with the Mitt Romney 2012 campaign. On one landing page, viewers saw an image with the a link to enter a contest to go to a conference in Tampa. On the other landing page, the “chance to win” form was right on the front page. Entries were 632% higher on the latter. This goes to show that through A/B testing you can increase your viewership. Even though he didn’t win the presidency, at least he still has some career opportunities…

This can also be seen through another page layout, where the site was able to determine the users location (at least what state they were in) and then post it on the landing page. So, instead of saying “Get the latest news & updates from the campaign”, the landing page said “Florida, get the latest news & updates from the campaign.” Not a very big change, but by including that one extra word, users were 19% more likely to give the campaign team their email address.

Another example of how A/B testing can increase web traffic was through different designs a group tried out for their site. On their website they first compared the original design against a “long form design”. The long form design was pretty much all of the base information that the user would want to know to sign up for updates, but it was a bit more reading, and almost no pictures. However, this increased the sign-up rate by 37.5%.

Then, they decided to try a radically different design. They tried the original site against a site that featured a smiling person in the background, and less information than the original design. Despite the lack of information, the sign up rate was 102.5% higher than the original design. They then added the information to the information from the long form site underneath the picture, assuming that there would be an even higher increase in sign-ups. However, the sign-up rate went down about 23%.

They then tried different people in the background, and each had different results, although there was no increase or decrease more than 5%.

The moral of the story: Keep testing your website with different designs. There is always room for improvement.

I Learned How To Code And Lost Some Hair In The Process

Let me start out by saying that coding is a very important. You can create the best content that the world has ever seen, but if it isn’t coded correctly, then it was all for naught. It is the unsung hero of digital marketing. Treat your coders with kindness and respect, because they pretty much control your business. They can completely mess up your website and turn it into an unusable platform. That being said, I am not really the best type of person to do coding.

Oh, I understand it, and can do it rather well (I’m so modest), but I do not have the right personality (?) to work on it. Maybe temperament is the better word. I’m the sort of person that gets frustrated when something is very simple to do, and gets annoyed with small mistakes. In coding, it seems as if most “mistakes” are tiny bits of coding, such as one character being off (maybe a quotation mark was forgotten). So, when I was working on a CodingAcademy lesson, and kept being told that the heading was not the right size, even though it clearly was the right size, my mind descended into a madness that can only be compared to a level just below “Gary Busey”

gary-busy

Pictured: Insanity

Well, it turns out that it was just an issue with the lesson itself. It turns out that pulling on my hair was not necessarily required in that instance. Needless to say, I was a bit frustrated that the lesson was broken, more or less. The main part of these lessons were very informative, and I did enjoy learning about coding, for the most part. The “hands-on” aspect of the lessons was really awesome. It provides a way to practice the coding as you work through the lessons, and shows in real-time what the changes to coding are doing to the website. Part of the lessons even went into creating a website (mine was a site to lure cat-people, and then convert them to dog-people). Actually working on coding gave me some respect for what computer science (CS) people do.

To me, coders are sort of like the unseen-CEO (just watch this explanation unfold it, it’ll be wonderful). By this, I mean that they are pretty much held responsible for anything that goes wrong with the website. They put in a lot of hours, like a lot of good CEOs do, and are paid quite well for their work. If I had the patience, the money, and the desire to, I would probably start over my school career and become a CS major. That’s not what I want to do though. The big takeaway from this post is that the coding of your website is just as important as the content that is on the website. Actually, since the coding contains all of the content, you could make the argument that it is MORE important than the content, but as a marketing major, I would say that they are equal (that definitely isn’t biased).

Now, I will take you on a brief overview of my experience last night as I went through some of the CodingAcademy lessons.

8:06 pm- After I signed up for the website, I took a quick screen shot so that I had a record as to when I began.

Capture

 

8:23 pm- I encounter my first challenging concept in the lessons. I quickly scanned the coding to spot the error, couldn’t find it within 10 seconds, and began to get a little annoyed with myself. After taking another 20 seconds, I spotted the error, fixed it, and continued.

8:55 pm- I get to the “Font-Color” lesson.

9:01 pm- I submit the “Font-Color” lesson, and am told it’s not correct, I proceed to re-do the coding

9:03 pm- Again, it was not correct

9:06 pm- I am in a state of denial, as I see that the coding I have done is, in fact correct, and the “incorrect” message is lying to me

9:10 pm- I realize I’ve been on this lesson for about 20 minutes. Time itself is mocking me. My head hits the desk,

Clock Dancing

 

Stop enjoying yourself with my displeasure, Time.

9:12 pm- I look at the forum for the question, and find that many other people are having the same issue. I follow their advice on my own coding.

9:13 pm- I successfully complete the “Font-Color” lesson

10:00 pm- I get to the CSS training

10:02 pm- I realize that I have no idea how to do the CSS training, but try to complete a few of them, nonetheless

10:05 pm- After getting past 1 CSS lesson, I call it quits.

code academy end 2

 

code academy end

 

10:23 pm- While walking back from the computer lab, I spotted one of the strangest things I’ve seen for quite a while.

 

Overall, I did enjoy myself while learning how to code. It is a really good skill to know, and if you plan on working with any aspect of the digital marketplace, it is probably a good idea to at least have a basic understanding of how it works.  It is a really good skill to have, and I envy any computer science major who gets a really good, high paying job out of college. They’re succeeding at life. Despite the couple faults that I found on CodingAcademy, it is a really good tool to help you learn the basics of different types of coding, different terminology, and how to actually code. I highly recommend it. Even though I had a few rough patches (mostly my own fault) I plan on finishing the CSS training, and the JavaScript training. It can’t hurt to know them!

You can sign up for CodingAcademy here: http://www.codecademy.com/

Have a great weekend!

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Tired Of Banner Ads? Tom Brady and Oreo’s Are Here To Help

To say we are entering into a new era of media would be a lie.  We are already in this age.

In fact, I would say this started back in 2005, with the launch of YouTube. With the launch of the famous video sharing site, the age of earned and owned media emerged.  One of the “big” questions being asked by companies right now is “Should firms still invest in paid media?”

The short answer:  in the digital marketplace, no.

In reality, the uses of paid media are still relevant. Banners and paid ads are still constantly seen throughout the internet (unless you have AdBlocker). However, the million dollar question is: how effective are these ads?  This blog post from HubSpot highlights a few of the negative aspects of banner ads, such as the fact that “The average clickthrough rate of display ads is 0.1% ” and “you are more likely to survive a plane crash than click on a banner “.

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The characters of Lost probably never clicked on a banner ad

So, there are no reasons to invest in paid media, right? Not necessarily.  Apparently, the incidental exposure rate for digital paid media is much higher than other mediums, and these exposures can have a positive impact on the consumers’ attitudes., even despite the low clickthrough rate.

So, we come back to the original question: Should you invest in paid media? In this day and age, it does not seem as necessary as it once was. In my opinion, it seems as if smaller companies who do not have a larger budget for a variety of media campaigns should focus more on owned/earned media. It is relatively cheaper than paid media, and if done correctly, can drive consumers to your product.  As far as larger companies go, a good mix is probably a good option. While paid media isn’t as relevant as it once was, it is still a good thing to have in your portfolio. In the end, created content is what will win over your consumers. If you create something that your target market wants to see, then it will be much more likely that they give you their business.

So, let’s say you are a larger firm and have decided to invest in some paid media. What are your best options? As I mentioned before, banner ads are a very popular choice, but they are not necessarily effective. And with cookies potentially going on the lam, what are your best options? The two that should be highlighted are: Native Advertising and programmatic ad buying.

Native Advertising is an evolution in paid media.  Essentially, it is when a company creates content for a website (sponsors it) and it is very similar to the content available on the site’s regular content. To me, this seems like a pretty good idea. It might technically be considered “paid media”, but in the end it is a hybrid of earned and paid media.  On one hand, this type of advertising is a really good idea. It is providing the content that users want to see on a medium in which they would normally see it, such as a targeted webiste. On the other hand, however, the advertising can sometimes come off as fairly obvious (especially when you already know that you are looking at an ad). A perfect example that shows off both of these extremes is this video from the website Funny or Die.

Sports!

The first time I watched this, I already knew that it was sponsored by Under Armor, so for me, the advertising was pretty plain to see. It would be interesting to see what somebody who regularly views the website would say. Another good example of native advertising was Oreo’s Daily Twist campaign, where they posted a photo of an Oreo that represented something important that happened on that day.

Oreo_Daily_Twist_Ad_Campaign

If they posted one commemorating the first Oreo, what would it be a picture of?

This is another great example of native advertising. Oreo sponsored this event, and people who saw it genuinely appreciated it. According to this article, the campaign “managed to increase customer engagement 110%, according to the company. Oreo also added nearly 5 million likes during the campaign’s run”. That is a pretty significant increase, as far as posting a picture every day. And the people who wanted to see this were pretty much wanting to look at an advertisement. A very interesting move on part of Oreo.

The last part of this post will be dedicated to programmatic ad buying. My understanding of this is iffy, at best, so bear with me. P.A.B. is when advertisers do a bunch of research and determine what ad to buy, when to buy it, where to put it, and who they want to see it. It operates in a real time bidding way, where at any point in time, an advertiser can buy a spot for an ad, and then place one. It’s a rather complex system. It doesn’t matter when the “ad slot” is cheapest, more on when the optimal audience will see the ad.

If a marketer wants to drive sales for their product, let’s say a higher end camera, they would find out when their target market would be online, and where they would be on the internet. They would then purchase ad time on the specific websites they wanted, and hopefully increase their sales. P.A.B. is a system in which the dollar spent for online ads is spent a bit more wisely. Now, will this system ever spread to another medium, such as TV? Personally, I don’t think so, at least on a large scale. As it was discussed in this article, the best area for P.A.B. on TV is on local channels. This is because national channels have such a wide variety of audiences, it would be too difficult to have a really specific time to target a specific segment. P.A.B. is a really efficient system, and in the end, I think it will replace media buyers. A programmer can just upload an algorithm to their system that determines what to look for, how much money they want to spend, and then let it loose, so to speak. This “Dummy’s Guide to Programmatic Ad Buying” is a really good starting point if you want to try and learn more about it.

See you next post!

Google Plus: Where Social Media And Searching Come Together

Following the post on social media, it is only right that we dive head first into one of these social media platforms. So, what should it be? The “dying giant” Facebook? Maybe Twitter, who is gaining popularity and it has been showing in their stock prices. Or, even LinkdIn, the social media platform that is more related to business. No, this post will be dedicated to the butt of most jokes about social media platforms: Google Plus.

Oh, Google Plus… You are trying so hard. It is quite a commendable effort, I’ll give you that. But, where did you go wrong? Some would make the argument that you never did anything wrong, per se, and in fact, I would say you did a lot of things right. For one, it is  amazing for businesses. For one, the “like” system (in Google Plus denoted by +1), makes it easier for SEO based on popularity. In fact, it is the best signal in ranking factors, as seen here.  If your company is linked to a Google Plus (or G+ as the kids are calling it nowadays, hooligans) when your company is searched on Google, then the profile is seen on the right hand side of screen, thanks to the newest update that Google has implemented. From there, the customer can then go right to your page and see what you are up to, such as posts you have put up recently and where they can find you, both online (website) and in real life (address of your business).

In regards to an inbound marketing campaign, G+ is a fantastic resource to utilize. One of the best resources available currently is Google Authorship. This allows you to link back to articles that you have written, columns or companies that you are currently writing for, guest blogs you have done in the past, etc… Essentially, links all of the content that you have created back to your G+ profile. And, because G+ is a part of Google (SURPRISE), the content that has been created, and your company who created it are linked together, further increasing your SEO. That’s pretty good, right?!  Also, the complete integration of G+ with your Google profile allows for an easier consolidation of information. Want an example?

Say you are a having an event at your company, like a trivia night. You could go onto your company’s Facebook and create an event page, and have people say they are going to go. Simple, right? Well, with G+ you can do the same thing. Go to your profile, create an event, and have people say they are going to go. Those are pretty much the same, right? G+ takes it a bit further, by integrating that with your Google Calender and you Gmail account. The person who says they are going can easily add the even to their Google Calender, and then they will get reminders about the even as it draws nearer. And with Google  owning Android  developing and maintaining the Android OS for phones, that event will go right into your phone’s calender, so you can get a notification if you aren’t on a computer. It’s all tying together!

I'm Awesome- Shades

 

G+ is like the cool new kid

One more really cool, notable aspect about G+ for your business is the use of the Local Business feature. This is a bit different than Google Places for Business. Google Places for Business is more reliant on how optimized your website is. For example, if you are looking up something, such as a business where you can buy office supplies, the first businesses that come up would probably be Office Max, Office Depot, and Staples. However, Google recently launched their “Local Results Carousel” , which helps smaller businesses get noticed. This works by rotating smaller, local businesses on the front page so that they get more exposure. That is an aspect of Google Places. With Google Plus Local, your G+ account will look like a Google Places for Business, but it will integrate your +1’s, as well as your entire G+ profile (pictures, posts, etc). It’s a pretty cool system, and for more on how the two systems differ, check this article out. 

So, G+ seems to be pretty much the best social media platform around, right? It’s a lot like Facebook, only you can separate who sees what content you put out, the integration with your Google account is pretty awesome, and the SEO aspect alone should be enough to get your business to start using it. But, why aren’t people using it?

For one, a lot of people already have social media sites that they maintain, the most prevalent being Facebook and Twitter. G+ was sort of late to the social media game and was left behind, even though they do offer a better service in a variety of different ways. Also, there have been some announcements lately that said any G+ user can email any other G+ user, without their consent. That’s a big deal. Granted, the person who sends the email needs to be a “Follower” of the person they are emailing, but you can start to follow someone without their consent. Well, the users both also need to be users of Gmail, but odds are, they both use it as their primary email service. There is a way to opt-out of receiving these emails, but it’s the notion of it that have people up in arms over it. This new policy can easily lead to some privacy issues.

The Wire Headshake

 

Reference: The Wire

For the other part of this post, I’ll briefly mention a Twitter conversation I was a part of yesterday.  It mainly involved people in the marketing field (B2B focused) and the topic was about gatekeepers.  Pretty much the facilitator would ask a question, then people would reply to them with their answers (the use of the hashtag was also required). Overall, it was a rather interesting experience. Some of the people were giving tips on how to get around these gatekeepers (most ethically, others not). I learned a few new things, but for the most part it was a refresher on the main functions of the gatekeeper and why they are so important (I came in towards the end of the conversation). Overall, I think twitter conversations are a pretty good idea. They allow for the fast transfer of information, and let a wider audience see what you have to say. If I have the opportunity to, I would participate in one again.

How To Utilize Social Media: Don’t Be An Applebee’s

Social media has easily become one of the staples of our culture. I have not met many college age people without some sort of online presence Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, or Google+ (the minority intentionally belonging to this group), nearly everybody interacts with others online in some sort of fashion.  In fact, while writing this post, I’ll keep track of how many times I check the social media platforms that I belong to (predominately Facebook and Twitter) just to prove how often people in my age use social media. I may discover an underlying addiction that I never thought I would have. That being said, why should a company use social media to boost their online presence? Isn’t regular advertising good enough? Sadly, in this current day and age, that couldn’t be further from the truth. If a company strives to succeed in their industry, they need to maintain some sort of connection through social media.

First things first; Why should your company use social media? “Isn’t that just creating a job for someone who might be graduating soon and looking for a job?” Au contraire mon frere. Social media is vital to your company’s very existence. Okay, that might be a bit dramatic, but it is estimated that at least 79% of companies are either currently using social media, or are planning to use it in the near future. 79% is a very significant portion of users, and you can bet that some of your competitors will be included in that group. Even though that is a large percentage of users, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s still a good idea though, right? Wrong. As Moz states in their new Guide to Social Media:

“Because so much of the customer experience now lives on the web, social media enables brands to take part in customer’s online experience outside of the typical channels”

Another great point that Moz makes in their guide, through the use of social media, companies are able to evolve their relationships with their customers from “Like” to “Love” to “Defend”. This means that if you have cultivated your customer relationships well, then the people that give you their business will not only be loyal to buy from you, but also come to your aid and defend you when other consumers attack you. Not to sound like too much of a militia type thing, but you have pretty much created an army to help defend you. That’s nice, right?

Bruce Lee Fight

It’s like having Bruce Lee volunteering to fight for you.

Also, with the use of social media, your company is able to interact with customers in a variety of ways. One way that has become rather popular is content creation. I may have referenced it in a previous post, but My Starbucks Idea is a fantastic example of this. Even though that isn’t based on any “rented” social media platform (meaning something like Facebook), this still proves the power of something such as content creation, on the user’s side. Creating something very similar like that is easy to do on a site like Facebook, and with so many people on that site, it has the ability to reach a large audience.

The time has come. I have finally convinced you to use social media. But, what platforms should you use? Facebook and Twitter are both good starting points. 11% of Earth’s entire population is active on Facebook, and the use of Twitter is expected to continue to grow around 6% per quarter. The current average tweets per day is somewhere around 500 million. That’s a lot of information being transferred. Facebook has so many users on it, that attracting potential customers would not prove to be a challenge at all, and you could use Twitter to answer customer’s questions, as well as retweet praise that they give you. What it comes down to is; Social media allows for a more in depth relationship with your customers, allowing you to communicate with them from anywhere, on any device that can use internet. That’s some pretty powerful stuff.

A fair warning however: there can be a poor uses of social media. A perfect example of this is Applebee’s. In early 2013, a server at an Applebee’s restaurant received a note that said “I give God 10%, why do you get 18”. Personal feelings towards this message aside, a few things started to happen that caused a cavalcade of criticism (bonus points for alliteration?) towards the restaurant. First, they posted a statement on their Facebook page pretty much summing up why the server was fired, and issued a general apology stating that disciplinary action was taken. After the picture of the receipt was shared a few times, and 17,000 comments on the original Applebee’s status update later, at 2 am the restaurant decided to go on the offensive (or maybe it was the defensive?) and comment on their thread.

It was around this time that things started to get, as I would call it, Bananas. A few comments later (about 8,000) Applebee’s started to argue with people in the comments section, and in some cases delete comments or even ban users. They then posted another status , which also received a lot of flak from customers (at that point some would call them former customers). Eventually, Applebee’s deleted their status updates, along with all of the comments. This was, to put it mildly, an absolute disaster.

Oven Baked Salmon Infomercial

A visual representation of the Applebee’s status updates

So, what did Applebee’s do wrong? So so sooooo much. For one, it isn’t necessarily the best idea to start defending yourself at 2 am. That’s just a weird time to start. Also, picking fights with your customers is a pretty terrible idea. And those are just the “common sense” things. There was clearly no protocol in place for a PR nightmare such as this, and their Facebook engagement just made things worse. Banning users and deleting comments is also a pretty bad idea, since people are kinda smart and realize that they can post things not just on a company’s Facebook page. In fact, besides not having a protocol, Applebee’s was just not prepared for any negative feedback on Facebook in general.

For one, they probably should have been a bit more clear about how to handle a situation like this. They also should have had a clear plan in place for what to do during a negative press situation such as this. The biggest thing they could have done however was act human. Showing empathy can go a long way, and even though it would not have necessarily made everything “fine and dandy”, it definitely would have been able to contain the amount of bad press they received.

If only Moz had written their book a bit sooner

For the full story of Applebees’ disaster, check out this play-by-play: http://rlstollar.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/applebees-overnight-social-media-meltdown-a-photo-essay/

And thanks to Moz for their awesome Guide to Social Media! Check it out here: http://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-social-media

Results:

Twitter checks: 10

Facebook checks: 7

Content Marketing: If You Make It, They Will Come

If digital marketing is where the industry is headed, content marketing will be it’s bread and butter, so to speak. With the use of a creative campaign, any small company can make a name for itself, and any large company can solidify it’s place in the market.

Content marketing ties together several different aspects of inbound marketing, and is one of the biggest parts of an inbound marketing campaign. Creating a promotional piece that is entirely unique to a company is one of the hallmark traits of content marketing. “But how would that be different from a regular ad campaign?” you may be thinking. Just hold on sir and/or madame. Allow me to explain.

In the past when a company created a new product (let’s go with gloves for a cat), they would put the product in stores, slap a few ads on TV where they thought people who would buy their product would see it, and call things good.

Kitten Mittons

Boom, instant money.

This isn’t necessarily how things work nowadays. Now, if a company has a new product or idea, they can go online and create something that separates themselves from the competition entirely.

For example, Conflict Kitchen is a restaurant that changes their menu based on who the United States is in a conflict with currently. This small restaurant in Pittsburgh has made a name for itself by creating wrappers that go on their food that give information about the featured country. Currently, they are focusing on North Korea, and their wrappers are based on interviews conducted with North Korean defectors. You should go check them out.

“But that’s not even an online company. How is that related to digital marketing?” you may be thinking in an accusatory tone. Get ready to have your mind explode.

Digital marketing can interact with the real world.

the-matrix-whoa

Well said Keann, well said.

Yes, digital marketing campaigns can interact with the real world. While blogs are a common form of content marketing, there are others that give power to the consumer. My Starbucks Idea is a website that was set up by Starbucks that allows customers to submit ideas for new drinks and foodstuffs to perhaps be made at the Starbucks nearest you (or one of the 5-6 Starbucks nearest you, depending where you live).  This might seem like a PR stunt, where products are thought of by users, but none of them ever available to buy.

Quite the contrary.

Over it’s five year life, 277 ideas have come from the site, and available to buy. My Starbucks Idea is one of the best examples of a content marketing campaign. It created a customer-centered platform where Starbucks enthusiasts could get together and come up with new ideas for their favorite purveyor of caffeinated beverages. The community can then vote on the ideas, and decide if it’s “good” or not, and then the people in charge of creating Starbucks’ menu decides if it is a good idea, and if so, if it can even be made. This is an extremely effective tool. It shows that Starbucks does indeed listen to it’s customers, it lets them create product ideas for them, and then they buy the product. How that even be considered bad for a company?

Another fantastic piece of content marketing comes from Charmin. Yes… that Charmin. Toilet paper can be cool too. Their app, dubbed “Sit or Squat” uses the GPS capabilities of your phone to find nearby public restrooms. It then displays all of the nearby ones. But, what if you were to go to one of these bathrooms, and it was absolutely disgusting?

In that case, you must have been using a knock-off app, because Sit or Squat has a an integrated 5-star rating system, the ability to update “features” in the bathroom, such as changing stations, and even write a review of the bathroom if you are so inclined. Some of the features, such as writing a review does require a membership, but signing up is free. When the app was initially released, it received generally positive reviews.

In preparation for this blog post, I went on to the site and tried to gain access. However, you need to link it with your Facebook account, something that seems a bit strange to me, and I’d rather not do. However, I imagine that in the two years since it’s release, there have been a ton of updates to the site, as well as the app. Yes, there is an app that tells you where the nearest clean public bathroom is. Yet another thing we can add to the list that Seinfeld predicted.

Costanza winking

A true visionary

One of the most recent, successful campaigns is McDonald’s Canada’s “Our Food, Your Questions” program. the gist of this program is McDonald’s Canada will answer any question that is related to it’s food. If a question about another subject is asked, the person who asked it will be redirected to the appropriate section of the McDonald’s website. Why is this such a success? Well, for one, out of the 16,000 questions already asked, McDonald’s has answered about 10,000 of them. That’s pretty good for a huge corporation like McDonald’s.

More importantly however, this campaign shows how McDonald’s Canada is trying to be more transparent. There is an option to “follow” a question, and be notified when it is answered. It is a program that educates the public on their products, and allows for any question to be asked, and it will probably be answered. You can read about this campaign some more in this case study.

So, is content marketing a good idea?

The short answer is, YESYESYESYESYES.

Of course, it has to be done correctly to be successful. If the creator of the content is seen as an “authority”, then the public will see whatever it is that was made as relevant. This will then gain traction (probably with integrated social media use), and then become, for lack of a better word, viral.

Starbucks is an authority on coffee drinks, if a user comes up with the idea of a new drink, and Starbucks starts to sell it, that drink must be good. McDonald’s is an authority on their products. Anybody could have made an app that let’s people vote on if a public bathroom is clean or not, and then created a map that pinpoints where the “good” bathrooms are (Well, not anybody, but you get the point).

Now that you are seen as an authority, you need to have what is called a Minimum Viable Audience (MVA). The three hallmarks of an MVA are:

1) Taking in comments and evolving your content to make it better for the audience

2) Your audience is rapidly growing (organically, not by hiring people) thanks to social media, and

3) You are gaining information about either what the audience wants to know, or wants to have.

Now, how do you find this MVA? That is a subject for an entirely different blog.

Content Marketing: Creating a campaign that people WANT to see, rather than having thrust in their face

Barrats and Berreta Man v Toddler

Have a good weekend!!

How A Spider Finds You The Perfect Glass Of Milk: A Brief Overview Of Search Engines And SEO

*Disclaimer- I promise there will not be any pictures of spiders in this post*

If a company’s name can become a commonly used verb, I would say that they have “made it”. Google (and it’s subsidiary sites) is easily one of the most used websites. However, when it crashed for a few minutes this past August, only a few users were effected. Oh wait, about 40% of the internet crashed with it. http://tinyurl.com/lbrobmk.

We users of the internet have put a lot of faith in Google to bring us a superior experience, both in helping us find exactly what we are looking for, and making sure all of our questions can be answered.

Google Search Pic

And I mean ALL questions

However, most people do not quite understand how Google works. Until yesterday, I didn’t have that good of an idea. However, I have a bit more of an understanding. Essentially, it all comes down to spiders. Lots and lots of spiders. Essentially, search engines have programs called “spiders” that crawl webpages, following links to find new pages, and so on. As you can imagine this is an exponential process, where the program can find hundreds of webpages based off of one original site. Why is the program called a spider, you may ask. This is because the links that the program follows links around the web. The evolution of the web crawler (spider) is the result of many different companies that have gradually come up with new innovations for the programs and companies. http://tinyurl.com/btn5r9j

After the websites are crawled on (?) the search engine then has to index all of the sites that it has visited. The engine has to determine what keywords are related to the site, what type of use that keyword has on the site (just a one time use of a certain keyword, or if the page is actually about that subject), and a more metaphorical analysis (such as if a poem is about a boat, but the word “boat” is never actually used in that poem). Luckily, a search engine’s programs can index all of this information on it’s own.

If people had to do this manually, unemployment probably wouldn’t be that big of an issue.

The final stage of the process comes when a search as actually conducted. This is where the spiders help you find you your milk. Say you are thirsty one afternoon and think to yourself “Man, I sure am thirsty, but I’m stuck at my computer. I guess I’ll just look at pictures of my favorite beverage” and proceed to search for “Glass of Milk” in a Google Image search. How does Google know to put this image

Milk_glass

before this?

Milk Spilling

So close, and yet so far

Essentially, the search engine is able to look at the keywords that are associated with it’s index of sites that it’s crawler collected, and then able to rank how similar they are to the query in the search bar. The webpage will then be ranked and scored, based on other signals given off on the webpage, and then shown to the user, listing the images with the highest score first. This will ensure that the image closest to what the user wanted is very near the top of the search results, as opposed to something on the tenth page.

Thanks spiders!

That is a very, very, very simplified explanation as to how search engines work. You may be thinking to yourself “But Stephen, how does this relate to marketing?”

Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing (SEO/SEM) are two of the best tools a company can utilize for it’s online presence. Let’s say you own a small company and want to be seen online. You may be creating content that your customers want to see/read/interact with online, but how do you know if they are reaching it? One of the biggest things you can do is to optimize your content for mobile devices. With a larger portion of searches being done from something besides a computer or laptop, being “mobile friendly” is one of the most important aspects. http://tinyurl.com/k6zkc7h

As our search engines evolve, they are gradually becoming more aware of “intent”. That is what we mean to search, as opposed to what we actually search. Answering questions within your blog will definitely help users find your content much more easily. Another important thing you can do is to connect your content with social media. Nielsen reported in a study that about 90% of users searching for something online will trust a family member or friend. http://tinyurl.com/na49dkh

Through the use of SEO, a company with small roots and a smaller client base can rise through the ranks of the web. If they are able to create their content so that they are able to answer questions in a smart way, and ALSO be mobile friendly, that’s pretty much a grand slam. As search engine grow smarter, they are able to interpret what we mean to look for, so the search results returned to us are more of what we are actually looking for, as opposed to things that only have words from the query within them.Terminator Arnonld

Eventually Arnold will do all of our searching for us

In short; If you want to utilize SEO/SEM with your inbound marketing campaign, keep creating good content, use keywords that are relevant, answer questions, utilize social media input, and make your site mobile friendly. The success will follow.

For further reading, in this blog post by Rand Fishkin (Founder of Moz) the differences of inbound marketing and SEO are discussed, and he talks about how the two are practically joined at the hip, where one feeds off of the other. http://moz.com/blog/the-brand-of-seo-and-the-trend-of-inbound-marketing