“Popular dishes” have arrived in Google Maps listings



George Nguyen

Google Maps has added a “popular dishes” section to eatery listings, giving prospective diners a faster way to check out a restaurant’s most talked about food and drinks. The popular dishes section is located within a listing’s overview tab and is already available on Google Maps for Android devices. The section will be rolling out to iOS devices over the next few months.

Google_Maps_Popular_Dishes

Recommendations on a silver platter. The popular dishes section is populated by a machine learning algorithm that matches the names of dishes (supplied by users) to corresponding photos and reviews. As seen above, popular dishes are displayed in a carousel and tapping on a dish will display associated reviews and images.

Why we care. Recommendations and reviews are the bread and butter of the food and beverage (F&B) industry and can have a big impact on the bottom line. Restaurant owners now have one more way to optimize their Maps listings by encouraging their patrons to post photos of their meals and/or leave reviews to build out their popular dishes sections.

This can be especially useful for F&B businesses in areas that get a lot of tourism, as Maps can translate reviews and provides a visual accompaniment so customers have an idea of what they’re ordering.

Since May, Google has launched a number of new features with Maps at its core. It redesigned Explore tab to help users find things to do, added planning features to facilitate groups, created an all-in-one Trips interface for travelers and now its enticing customers with popular dishes. All of these offerings centralize a user’s activities around Google’s services, which can ultimately make business more dependent on Google as well.


About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.



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Foursquare buys Placed from Snap to create location-measurement powerhouse



Greg Sterling

Exactly two years ago Snap bought location analytics and attribution company Placed for $125 – $135 million. Placed was an early pioneer of location-based attribution for digital and traditional advertising. Last night, Foursquare announced it had acquired Placed from Snap for an undisclosed sum, but less than $150 million.

Foursquare simultaneously announced a new $150 million investment, its largest to date, led by The Raine Group. Reportedly that $150 million covers the acquisition and provides additional capital for expansion. Placed founder and CEO David Shim joins Foursquare’s executive team.

Foursquare says that the acquisition will help accelerate its product development and mission “to build the world’s most trusted, independent location technology platform.”

Foursquare evolution: check-in app to measurement provider. Foursquare launched at the SXSW conference in 2009 as a social check-in app and later pivoted to become a city guide and Yelp competitor. In 2014, it split into two apps: Foursquare and Swarm, with the latter intended to preserve the social media legacy of the early Foursquare. A couple of years later, Foursquare pivoted yet again into location analytics while still maintaining its consumer apps, which then became sources of first party location data.

Placed and Foursquare were essentially competitors in a crowded location intelligence and location attribution market. The combination will create a more powerful entity with a larger customer base. In the press materials announcing the acquisition, Foursquare cited some data to support its claim to industry leadership:

  • $100MM in location analytics/data revenue the last 12 months; more than 1,000 clients
  • Over $3 billion in media spend attributable to store visits from billions of impressions
  • Over 100MM unique devices in the U.S. (extended Foursquare and Placed networks)
  • Placed and Foursquare’s validated visits number over 13.1 billion to date

Largest in-store attribution provider. While a part of Snap, Placed operated as an independent business unit. This is a better fit, and Foursquare’s analytics platform “Foursquare Attribution” will merge into Placed and be rebranded “Placed powered by Foursquare.” The two companies characterized Placed “as the largest independent advertising to in-store attribution solution in-market.”

Placed uses first and third party in-app data, as well as panel-based measurement for advertising-to-store attribution. It will now have the benefit of a huge trove of first party data from Foursquare. This first-party data access will be significant as regulations, reduced browser cookie tracking and greater consumer awareness of privacy issues puts pressure on the third party data ecosystem. Accordingly, the acquisition may trigger other M&A activity in the segment.

Why we should care. Many trillions of dollars are spent by consumers on offline goods and services each year, dwarfing e-commerce. However, digital media drives a huge number of those purchases (think: search, reviews, map lookups). Location analytics are the key to tracking those online-to-store visits and transactions. Mobile location data can also be used for online retargeting. And location analytics are increasingly used for traditional media measurement: TV, direct mail, in cinema and out-of-home.

Placed has client relationships with scores of major brands, agencies and publishers. Foursquare says those client relationships include, “75 of the 100 most visited chains in the US” and “450+ publishers across digital, video, TV, and OOH.”

This kind of reach shows marketers increasingly recognize the value of location as a tool for audience understanding, targeting, analytics and competitive insights. Brands or agencies that aren’t utilizing location intelligence will soon be at a competitive disadvantage. (See our related story, How to choose a location data provider.)


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.



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Canva urges users to change passwords following data breach affecting up to 139 million users



Taylor Peterson

Graphic design toolset Canva is advising users to change their login credentials after the company’s database was reportedly compromised in a cyber attack Friday.

The attack targeted usernames and email addresses, affecting up to 139 million users globally. Passwords were also obtained, but Canva assured users that passwords have been “salted and hashed with bcrypt,” meaning they remain unreadable by third parties. The platform recommends that users change their passwords as a precaution.

“Our teams have been working around the clock to investigate the attack and communicate with our customers,” Canva said on Monday. “We are continuing to investigate and are being thorough and methodical with our examinations… We have also engaged forensic experts to investigate the incident.”



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What Your Google Tag Manager Container Should Contain – Whiteboard Friday



DiTomaso

Agencies, are you set up for ongoing Google Tag Manager success? GTM isn’t the easiest tool in the world to work with, but if you know how to use it, it can make your life much easier. Make your future self happier and more productive by setting up your GTM containers the right way today. Dana DiTomaso shares more tips and hints in this edition of Whiteboard Friday.


Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hi, Moz fans. My name is Dana DiTomaso. I am President and partner at Kick Point, which is a digital marketing agency based in Edmonton, Alberta. Today I’m going to be talking to you about Google Tag Manager and what your default container in Google Tag Manager should contain. I think if you’re in SEO, there are certainly a lot of things Google Tag Manager can do for you.

But if you’ve kind of said to yourself, “You know, Google Tag Manager is not the easiest thing to work with,” which is fair, it is not, and it used to be a lot worse, but the newer versions are pretty good, then you might have been a little intimidated by going in there and doing stuff. But I really recommend that you include these things by default because later you is going to be really happy that current you put this stuff in. So I’m going to go through what’s in Kick Point’s default Google Tag Manager container, and then hopefully you can take some of this and apply it to your own stuff.

Agencies, if you are watching, you are going to want to create a default container and use it again and again, trust me. 

Tags

So we’re going to start with how this stuff is laid out. So what we have are tags and then triggers. The way that this works is the tag is sort of the thing that’s going to happen when a trigger occurs. 

Conversion linker

So tags that we have in our default container are the conversion linker, which is used to help conversions with Safari.

If you don’t know a lot about this, I recommend looking up some of the restrictions with Safari tracking and ITP. I think they’re at 2.2 at the time I’m recording this. So I recommend checking that out. But this conversion linker will help you get around that. It’s a default tag in Tag Manager, so you just add the conversion linker. There’s a nice article on Google about what it does and how it all works. 

Events

Then we need to track a number of events. You can certainly track these things as custom dimensions or custom metrics if that floats your boat. I mean that’s up to you. If you are familiar with using custom dimensions and custom metrics, then I assume you probably know how to do this. But if you’re just getting started with Tag Manager, just start with events and then you can roll your way up to being an expert after a while. 

External links

So under events, we always track external links, so anything that points out to a domain that isn’t yours.

The way that we track this is we’re looking at every single link that’s clicked and if it does not contain our client’s domain name, then we record it as an external link, and that’s an event that we record. Now remember, and I’ve seen accidents with this where someone doesn’t put in your client’s domain and then it tracks every single click to a different page on your client’s website as an external link. That’s bad.

When you transfer from HTTP to HTTPS, if you don’t update Google Tag Manager, it will start recording links incorrectly. Also bad. But what this is really useful for are things like when you link out to other websites, as you should when you’re writing articles, telling people to find out more information. Or you can track clicks out to your different social properties and see if people are actually clicking on that Facebook icon that you stuck in the header of your website. 

PDF downloads

The next thing to track are PDF downloads.

Now there’s a limitation to this, of course, in that if people google something and your PDF comes out and then they click on it directly from Google, of course that’s not going to show up in your Analytics. That can show up in Search Console, but you’re not going to get it in Analytics. So just keep that in mind. This is if someone clicks to your PDF from a specific page on your website. Again, you’re decorating the link to say if this link contains a PDF, then I want to have this.

Scroll tracking

Then we also track scroll tracking. Now scroll tracking is when people scroll down the site, you can track and fire an event at say 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% of the way down the page. Now the thing is with this is that your mileage is going to vary. You will probably pick different percentages. By default, in all of our containers we put 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100%. Based on the client, we might change this.

An advanced, sort of level up tactic would be to pick specific elements and then when they enter the viewport, then you can fire an event. So let’s say, for example, you have a really important call to action and because different devices are different sizes, it’s going to be a different percentage of the way down the page when it shows up, but you want to see if people got to that main CTA. Then you would want to add an event that would show whether or not that CTA was shown in the viewport.

If you google Google Tag Manager and tracking things in the viewport, there are some great articles out there on how to do it. It’s not that difficult to set up. 

Form submits

Then also form submits. Of course, you’re going to want to customize this. But by default put form submits in your container, because I guarantee that when someone is making your container let’s say for a brand-new website, they will forget about tracking form submits unless you put it in your default container and they look at it and say, “Oh, right, I have to edit that.” So always put form submits in there. 

Tel: & mailto: links

Of course you want to track telephone links and mailto: links. Telephone links should always, always be tappable, and that’s something that I see a lot of mistakes. Particularly in local SEO, when we’re dealing with really small business websites, they don’t make the telephone links tappable. It’s probably because people don’t know how. In case you don’t know how, you just telephone and then a colon and then the telephone number.

<a href="tel:+5555555555">(555) 555-5555</a>

That’s it. That’s all you need to do. Just like a link, except rather than going out to an HTTPS://, you’re going out to a telephone number. That is going to make your visitors’ lives so much easier, particularly on mobile devices. You always want to have those be tappable. So then you can track the number of people who tap on telephone links and people who tap on mailto: links exactly the same way. Now something that I do have to say, though, is that if you are using a call tracking provider, like CallRail for example, which is one that we use, then you’re going to want to shut this off, because then you could end up in double counting.

Particularly if you’re tracking every call made out from your website, then CallRail would have an Analytics integration, and then you would be tracking taps and you might also be tracking telephone clicks. So you can track it if you want to see how many people tap versus picking up the phone and calling the old-fashioned way with landlines. You can also do that, but that’s entirely up to you. But just keep that in mind if you are going to track telephone links.

All pages tracking

Then, of course, all pages tracking. Make sure you’re tracking all of the pages on your website through Google Analytics. So those are the tags. 

Triggers

Next up are the triggers. So I have a tag of external links. Then I need a trigger for external links. The trigger says when somebody clicks an external link, then I want this event to happen.

Clicks

So the event is where you structure the category and then the action and the label. 

External links

The way that we would structure external links, for example, we would say that the category for it is an external link, the action is click, and then the label is the actual link that was clicked for example. You can see you can go through each of these and see where this is happening.

Form submits

Then on things like form submit, for example, our label could be the specific form. 

Tel: & mailto:

On telephone and mailto:, we might track the phone number. 

PDFs

On other things, like PDFs, we might track like the page that this happened on. 

Page scroll

For scroll tracking, for example, we would want to track the page that someone scrolled down on. What I recommend when you’re setting up the event tracking for page scroll, the category should be page scroll, the action should be the percentage of which people scroll down, and then the label should be the URL.

Really think of it in terms of events, where you’ve got the category, which is what happened, the action, which is what did the person do, and the label is telling me more information about this. So actions are typically things like scroll, click, and tap if you’re going to be fancy and track mobile versus desktop. It could be things like form submit, for example, or just submit. Just really basic stuff. So really the two things that are going to tell you the difference are things like categories and labels, and the action is just the action that happened.

I’m really pedantic when it comes to setting up events, but I think in the long term, again, future you is going to thank you if you set this stuff up properly from the beginning. So you can really see that the tag goes to this trigger. Tag to trigger, tag to trigger, etc. So really think about making sure that every one of your tags has a corresponding trigger if it makes sense. So now we’re going to leave you with some tips on how to set up your Tag Manager account.

Tips

1. Use a Google Analytics ID variable

So the first tip is use a Google Analytics ID variable. It’s one of the built-in variables. When you go into Tag Manager and you click on Variables, it’s one of the built-in variables in there. I really recommend using that, because if you hardcode in the GA ID and something happens and you have to change it in the future or you copy that for someone else or whatever it might be, you’re going to forget.

I guarantee you you will forget. So you’re going to want to put that variable in there so you change it once and it’s everywhere. You’re saving yourself so much time and suffering. Just use a Google Analytics ID variable. If you have a really old container, maybe the variable wasn’t a thing when you first set it up. So one of the things I would recommend is go check and make sure you’re using a variable. If you’re not, then make a to-do for yourself to rip out all the hardcoded instances of your GA ID and instead replace it with a variable.

It will save you so much headaches. 

2. Create a default container to import

So the next thing — agencies, this is for you — create a default container to import. Obviously, if you’re working in-house, you’re probably not making Google Tag Manager containers all that often, unless you work at say a homebuilder and you’re making microsites for every new home development. Then you might want to create a default container for yourself. But agency side for sure, you want have a default container that you make so every cool idea that you think of, you think, oh, we need to track this, just put it all in your default container, and then when you’re grabbing it to make one for a client, you can decide, oh, we don’t need this, or yes, we need this.

It’s going to save you a ton of time when you’re setting up containers, because I find that that’s the most labor-intensive part of working with a new Tag Manager container is thinking about, “What is all the stuff I want to include?” So you want to make sure that your default container has all your little tips and tricks that you’ve accumulated over the years in there and documented of course, and then decide on a client-by-client basis what you’re going to leave and what you’re going to keep.

3. Use a naming scheme and folders

Also use a naming scheme and folders, again because you may not be working there forever, and somebody in the future is going to want to look at this and think, “Why did they set it up like this? What does this word mean? Why is this variable called foo?” You know, things that have annoyed me about developers for years and years and years, developers I love you, but please stop naming things foo. It makes no sense to anyone other than you. So our naming scheme, and you can totally steal this if you want, is we go product, result, and then what.

So, for example, we would have our tag for Google Analytics page download. So it would say Google Analytics. This is the product that the thing is going to go to. Event is what is the result of this thing existing. Then what is the PDF download. Then it’s really clear, okay, I need to fix this thing with PDF download. Something is wrong.

It’s kind of weird. Now I know exactly where to go. Again, with folders as well, so let’s say you’ve implemented something such as content consumption, which is a Google Tag Manager recipe that you can grab on our website at Kickpoint.ca, and I’ll make sure to link to it in the transcript. Let’s say you grab that. Then you’re going to want to take all the different tags and triggers that come along with content consumption and toss that into its own folder and then separate it out from all of your basic stuff.

Even if you have everything to start in a folder called Basics or Events or Analytics versus Call Tracking versus any of the other billion different tracking pixels that you have on your website, it’s a good idea to just keep it all organized. I know it’s two minutes now. It is saving you a lifetime of suffering in the future, and the future you, whether it’s you working there or somebody who ends up taking your job five years from now, just make it easier on them.

Especially too, when you think back to say Google Analytics has been around for a long time now. When I go back and look at some of my very, very first analytics that I set up, I might look at it and think, “Why was I doing that?” But if you have documentation, at least you’re going to know why you did that really weird thing back in 2008. Or when you’re looking at this in 2029 and you’re thinking, “Why did I do this thing in 2019?” you’re going to have documentation for it. So just really keep that in mind. 

4. Audit regularly!

Then the last thing is auditing regularly, and that means once every 3, 6, or 12 months. Pick a time period that makes sense for how often you’re going into the container. You go in and you take a look at every single tag, every single trigger, and every single variable. Simo Ahava has a really nice Google Tag Manager sort of auditing tool.

I’ll make sure to link to that in the transcript as well. You can use that to just go through your container and see what’s up. Let’s say you tested out some sort of screen recording, like you installed Hotjar six months ago and you ended up deciding on say another product instead, like FullStory, so then you want to make sure you remove the Hotjar. How many times have you found that you look at a new website and you’re like, “Why is this on here?”

No one at the client can tell you. They’re like, “I don’t know where that code came from.” So this is where auditing can be really handy, because remember, over time, each one of those funny little pixels that you tested out some product and then you ended up not going with it is weighing down your page and maybe it’s just a couple of microseconds, but that stuff adds up. So you really do want to go in and audit regularly and remove anything you’re not using anymore. Keep your Google Tag Manager container clean.

A lot of this is focused on obviously making future you very happy. Auditing will also make future you very happy. So hopefully, out of this, you can create a Google Tag Manager default container that’s going to work for you. I’m going to make sure as well, when the transcript is out for this, that I’m going to include some of the links that I talked about as well as a link to some more tips on how to add in things like conversion linker and make sure I’m updating it for when this video is published.

Thanks so much.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com



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The 3 Ps to growing your agency – position, price and pitch



Digital Marketing Depot

Want to grow your agency profitably? Setting your agency apart from the competition is all about knowing exactly what your client is looking for and being able to frame your pitch around those specific needs. Marketing automation can help you meet those needs. And adding marketing automation to your agency’s services can help you add new clients and drive revenue from existing ones.

Renowned agency consultant and coach Karl Sakas discusses how to package marketing automation services within a proven framework. He explains how you can:

  • Segment your agency services into 3 easy tiers.
  • Price and bundle services within each tier.
  • Get more revenue per client by switching up your approach.

Visit Digital Marketing Depot to download “Position, Price & Pitch: The 3 Ps to Growing Your Agency.”

About The Author

Digital Marketing Depot is a resource center for digital marketing strategies and tactics. We feature hosted white papers and E-Books, original research, and webcasts on digital marketing topics — from advertising to analytics, SEO and PPC campaign management tools to social media management software, e-commerce to e-mail marketing, and much more about internet marketing. Digital Marketing Depot is a division of Third Door Media, publisher of Search Engine Land and Marketing Land, and producer of the conference series Search Marketing Expo and MarTech. Visit us at http://digitalmarketingdepot.com.



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21 Ways to Triple Your B2B E‑Commerce Conversions



OliviaRoss

It takes thoughtful work to scale an e-commerce store. I’m sure you’ve had a few growing pains of your own getting to the point where you are today. However, you’re reading this because you may not be content with where your conversions are at this precise moment. You may not even know if your conversion rate is good or not!

Today, I will give you 21 tips (yes 21!) on how to double (even triple) your current conversion rates.

But first, let’s determine what counts as a conversion.

These are the usual suspects for e-commerce conversion goals:

  1. An online sale
  2. A user adding a product to their cart
  3. A user adding an item to their wishlist
  4. Email signups
  5. Social media shares
  6. Any KPI your company finds valuable

So, what’s a good e-commerce conversion rate?

The Monetate Ecommerce Quarterly is a great source for regularly updated benchmarks on conversion for large e-commerce brands.

From this data, we know that the average e-commerce conversion rate is between 2 percent and 4 percent; but we don’t want to be average, do we? 

Let’s break down some suggestions you can use to improve your site faster.

1. Fix your analytics

Analytics that are in tune to the needs of your business will give you real insight into how people are using your site, and show you obvious improvements that need to be made in your CRO strategy.

With most analytics, there’s usually something that isn’t tracking properly to give you full clarity into what your customers are doing. You need to properly track your goals to give you that insight and help you find out what your site visitors are doing. For instance, are you looking at what people who search your site are doing, or people who enter your site through specific categories, product pages, or information pages?

To find out which events are leading to a purchase, tweak your analytics by segmenting traffic that tracks repeat purchasers.

2. Use Hotjar or other qualitative data tools

You can make wild guesses based off of “best practices” all day, but you won’t know what your customers are doing unless you see it. By using qualitative data tools such as Hotjar or CrazyEgg, you’ll have real insight into what your customers are looking for.

You can achieve this by creating heat maps, session recordings, conversion funnels, and user polls.

Heatmaps will show you an average of where all visitors are clicking and scrolling in a static image. Session recordings will record the screens of visitors on your site so you can view the video and see exactly what the customer is looking at and what they are clicking on.

By creating a conversion funnel, you will be able to see where people are dropping off. For example, if you create a funnel from the homepage to the shopping cart, to the confirmation page, you may be able to see that about 75 percent of users are dropping off in the cart process.

Then, you can view session recordings of that step in the funnel and see where people are getting confused or frustrated with your shopping cart process. Pretty cool, right?

Lastly, you can leverage polls on Hotjar — they’re effective because they give your customers a chance to voice what they think of your site. Try asking questions like “What is keeping you from getting your [insert product name or offer] today?”

Often times, people respond with answers like “I need more information,” “I don’t need this right now,” “Too expensive,” or “I don’t know if I’ll like this brand.” If the majority of people are saying it’s too expensive, you may want to either reconsider who you are targeting or reevaluate your pricing.

3. Display your phone number prominently

    Customer service is essential in online commerce. You want customers to feel that you are readily available for any questions or problems they may run into. Ensure your phone number is clearly visible in the header, footers, and the checkout process of your site at all times.

    If nothing else, at least make sure you have a Contact Us page with all methods of contact options listed.

    See the phone number in the top right on Selini NY’s website?

    4. Clearly state unique selling propositions (UVP)

    I preach this in basically all of my blog pieces. It’s essential to think in the mind of the customer: Why would I buy from you over anyone else? Are you cheaper, faster, do you get better results? Why are you so special?

    I suggest placing your UVPs in your headlines as often as possible since that’s going to be the first bit of information a person will read on each of your product pages.

    5. Grab visitors’ attention quickly

      In reality, you have about three seconds to capture your prospective customer’s attention. This goes back to the UVP as you want to make sure your copy is captivating, but you also want to use quality images, GIFs, and videos to back up your claims.

      For example, if you sell software, it could be valuable to show a quick and straightforward video of the software in action. Why? This way, people can get a realistic view of what your software does without having to leave your site or contact someone.

      6. Optimize for mobile

        First, let’s explain with some statistics from OuterBox on why it’s imperative to optimize your mobile site:

        • 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone.
        • Over 230 million U.S. consumers own smartphones.
        • Around 100 million U.S. consumers own tablets.
        • 79 percent of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile device in the last 6 months.
        • Almost 40 percent of all e-commerce purchases during the 2018 holiday season were made on a smartphone.
        • E-commerce dollars now comprise 10 percent of ALL retail revenue.
        • 80 percent of shoppers used a mobile phone inside of a physical store to either look up product reviews, compare prices or find alternative store locations.
        • An estimated 10 billion mobile connected devices are currently in use.

        Keep in mind, these are just U.S. statistics! With the world turning away from desktops and utilizing their phones more than ever, your B2B e-commerce business must keep up with the times. Optimize your mobile site by writing concise titles and copy focused on the benefits that solve your customers’ pain points.

        Make sure your site’s load time is acceptable by plugging your URL into Google’s PageSpeed Insights. Google will give you a score and recommendations on what you need to fix.

        See below:

        7. Give detailed product descriptions

          Good news: You’ve captured your audience’s attention! Now, it’s time to keep them engaged.

          When in doubt, air on the side of too much information. Too often do people bounce from pages because they weren’t able to get their questions answered.

          Avoid unnecessary bounce by providing as much information about your product as possible. This includes all benefits, how it works, the features, what it can and cannot do, and anything else that is critical for a customer to know.

          For example, look below at how descriptive Salesforce is about its B2B e-commerce solution. I’ve included a snippet here of a very long web page covering nearly 20 different benefits of using Salesforce for your online marketplace.

          8. Add a product video or demonstration

          Adding a product video or demo goes hand-in-hand with your product description. Your website isn’t a brick and mortar store where people can walk in, talk to you, pick the product up in their hands and ask all of their questions about the item.

          So, ideally, you want to get as close as possible to the real experience digitally. Provide a clear walkthrough or demonstration on how to set up and use your product. Customers may be wary of buying if they don’t know how easy or difficult it is to use.

          Make it as plain as day and make it so they can’t say no!

          9. Build a structure to easily find products

            To better assist your customers in finding the exact product or service that fits their needs, add filters to your category pages. For example, how many products do you have? If it’s more than a handful, can you filter them by size, price, color, style?

            If you offer a service instead of a product, do you have separate services with different functions that fall under that parent service? You can see how Flexfire LED guides you to the right product with their structured product menu. Could you imagine if this was just one long list of all products with no categories? It would be chaotic.

            10. Set up rotating banners of top products

              Offer your champion products up front when new and returning visitors land on your homepage. This helps guide customers to a decision sooner instead of letting them figure out which product may work for them on their own.

              Restaurantware.com has several rotating banners showing the top and latest products they have to offer, keeping their customers constantly in the know and wanting to learn more.

              11. Obtain customer emails

              Try to access targeted emails through a pop-up, or offer a coupon code where you continuously market to customers in the decision phase.

              Zappo’s rewards program does a great job of getting people to sign up for free shipping and returns and exclusive access to 24/7 customer service.

              Email marketing is a practice every B2B e-commerce company needs because business executives are constantly checking their email. In fact, those who use email marketing see an average of 40x more ROI from this practice as opposed to any other marketing tactic.

              When writing email campaigns, focus on educating and informing your customers, which frames your company in a way that offers solutions to their problems. Let them know what your services are, why they work, and how your brand solves problems.

              12. Allow customers to review products

              Reviews are a critical part of determining a purchase. Why? The same reason so many people buy from Amazon — we want to know, from real people, if these products are legit. The social proof of reviews creates trust and helps people move forward confidently as they purchase items. It can be extremely beneficial to include top reviews on your product pages to ease your visitors’ minds into choosing you.

              Additionally, you want the review to explain how your team works and what makes your brand different from competitors. So, ask previous clients, how did your brand make a positive impact on their business?

              13. Provide product testimonials

                Along with review star ratings, try to have written or recorded (video) testimonials spread throughout your product pages, landing pages, and homepage. Again, your prospects want to know what others are saying about your services/products, so show them!

                Notice how each testimonial explains exactly how B-school helped them succeed. Sarah’s testimonial is especially notable because she has some solid numbers in her quote: $50,000 in one week is a great result and could prompt new customers to work with B-School as well!

                14. Provide free shipping

                  Customers would rather pay $10 more to get free shipping than pay a $4.99 shipping charge. I’m guilty of this myself. But why is this?

                  Anna Kegler from RJMetrics explains it well:

                  “Most shoppers are still more accustomed to the offline store than the online environment. Because of this, we lack the context for understanding how shipping costs factor into online shopping.”

                  As a customer, if I’m shopping online for the sake of convenience, but then see “convenience” is going to cost me $10 or $20, you better believe I’m going to start crunching numbers in my head about how that money factors into the time it would have taken to go to the store.

                  Guess what happens if the math doesn’t add up? Carts get abandoned as “Unexpected costs” and it’s the number one reason shopping carts are abandoned.

                  15. Offer coupons

                    Coupons can be beneficial to gain interest and encourage people to try your product or service out. However, it’s essential to use coupons sparingly, as always being the lowest price point could end up hurting your business.

                    For example, if you’re offering 50 percent off on too many different services/products, you are cutting your revenue in half. Although you may get some more new customers this way, you won’t have enough money to sustain your business. Plus, a coupon does not guarantee repeat business. How many times have you bought something just once because it was free or discounted?

                    Instead, focus on providing outstanding service and overall unique brand experience. Here are some appropriate ways to use coupons:

                    Sell “stale” inventory

                    You can’t make money if you can’t sell your inventory, so this is the best time to start utilizing coupons. Either give a percentage discount on individual items, a BOGO type of offer or offer a free item once a certain spending threshold has been hit.

                    For example: “All orders over $250 get a free wireless phone charger. Use coupon code: CHARGE250”

                    Show appreciation for customers

                    According to Business.com.: “Acquiring new customers costs 5 to 10 times more than selling to a current customer — and current customers spend 67 percent more on average than those who are new to your business.”

                    All the more reason to show your current customers some love! Email coupon codes to loyal customers to show thanks for their continued support.

                    Reward new customers with automatic discounts

                    For new customers, automatically apply discounts towards their first purchase with your business, but don’t try to sell this upfront. Surprise is a great tactic to make lifetime customers.

                    As you can see above, new customers at Check Depot get a discount off their entire first order. Little bonuses like that don’t hurt to try!

                    16. User personalization

                      Smart Insights reveals that one type of personalization (“visitors who viewed this also viewed”) can generate 68 percent of e-commerce revenue.

                      You can see how everything is broken by recommendation type and how each one increased revenue. Try these out on your own site to see where you get the most traction. Just remember, according to Shopify, good e-commerce personalization should:

                      • Meet users’ needs
                      • Avoid turning visitors off with poor recommendations
                      • Be used only where the potential return justifies your investment

                      Amazon.com is a shining example of all of this.

                      Nearly every element on the Amazon page is personalized in some way, including the personal “Olivia’s Amazon.com” link, the personal hello, the link to my account, and my “Wish List”. All suggested items are based on my past searches so nothing is recommended to me outside my realm of interests.

                      Strive to be on this level for your own customers and you’ll start seeing your profits increase.

                      17. Competitive Pricing

                        If you have seven competitors, and they all offer their product between $200–$400, but yours is $1200, you may run into some friction from prospects who are shopping around. If you’re going to have a high price point, you must justify it.

                        The amount a customer is willing to pay boils down to their perception of your brand, and this ties back into your UVP. Let’s say you want a customer to pay three times as much for your product over your competitors. Think to yourself, what makes you three times better than competitors 1 through 7? Is your product of the highest quality?

                        A smart way to determine what pricing will be acceptable to your buyers is by keeping your buyer personas up to date.

                        Sellbrite provides a good example of this:

                        “Create profiles for your customer types that identify their buying concerns, what motivates them to buy your product, their income, and other insights that will help you understand their willingness to pay. With this knowledge, you’ll feel secure in what you are charging for your product and more confident that you will make sales.“

                        18. Make your “Add to Cart” and “Checkout” buttons prevalent

                          How can a customer buy from you if your button to purchase isn’t accessible? It doesn’t have to be rocket science!

                          Keep in mind, in western countries, we read left to right, so you’ll notice in the image above that the add to cart button is in the bottom right corner after most of the important information has already been reviewed. This is a wise spot for these Cart and Checkout buttons since most people on Amazon are reading through product and shipping details before adding to the cart.

                          19. Use live chat or chatbots

                            What works better? Utilizing chatbots will help to avoid the overhead of staffing for a live chat. However, you will probably get a better response from customers through using live chat.

                            Why? Buyers want a personalized customer experience that fits their needs, just as if they walked into a brick and mortar store.

                            Today, we’re using all of these digital tools to find out why people are bouncing — Hotjar, Qualaroo, Rejoiner — but what if we just let visitors tell us right away what they need from us as businesses? Think of all the friction that has been removed just by having a quick conversation with your customers as they entered the site.

                            Look at how SiteGround proves you are talking to a real expert that can help you based on an actual photo, name, ratings and how many customers have been served. On another note, who is that lady on the right? I’m pretty sure her name isn’t Diego like it shows. When using live chat, make it clear to your visitors that they are actually talking to a live person.

                            If you choose to take the chatbot route, be upfront with customers and don’t try to trick them into thinking that a bot is a real person. See how the Facebook Chatbot Bitcoin Buddy deals with its limitations below:

                            20. Show that your site is secure

                            Cybersecurity is one of the most critical aspects of e-commerce. Without proper protocols in place, online sellers put themselves and their customers at risk for payment fraud. Yikes.

                            Trust badges, trust seals, logos of your payment providers, the little secure “lock” icon on the browser, and more add that needed security to get your customers to buy. Most importantly, you must set up your store with an SSL certificate (https:// pages). Lastly, require the CVV for debit and credit cards for added security.

                            21. Referral marketing tactics

                              81 percent of consumers say that a recommendation from a friend or family member heavily influences their buying decisions. Anyone can get reviews from consumers, but it takes skill to acquire a review from a satisfied business executive. To validate your company, use your networking skills on LinkedIn or Google to encourage previous clients to write positive reviews about your business. It doesn’t hurt to try, just make sure to keep it professional.

                              Regularly engage with your contented customers through an advocate marketing program. This will nurture your relationship and reward them for supporting your brand. Once your advocates feel connected to and valued by your company, they’ll be ready to submit high-quality referrals.

                              Take a look at the Google Apps Referral Program. Google gives money rewards for every user who signs up through the advocate’s link.

                              In conclusion

                              There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to optimizing your online commerce. B2B marketing is a different animal than B2C so there are various considerations that must be taken into account when targeted to your desired audience.

                              Business executives are much more discerning than consumers, so networking with these individuals and gaining their trust is imperative to increase your profit. Focus on your unique value propositions, and provide different offerings for new and repeat customers.

                              If you’re able to get happy customers signing up for your referral program and leaving positive reviews, you will be amazed at the impact that it will have on your ROI.

                              Did you find any of the tips helpful? What tactics do you use to help increase your B2B e-commerce conversions?



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Rural Local SEO: A Marketing Package Strong on Education



MiriamEllis

Can your marketing agency make a profit working with low-budget clients in rural areas?

Could you be overlooking a source of referrals, publicity, and professional satisfaction if you’re mainly focused on landing larger clients in urban locales? Clients in least-populated areas need to capture every customer they can get to be viable, including locals, new neighbors, and passers-through. Basic Local SEO can go a long way toward helping with this, and even if package offerings aren’t your agency’s typical approach, a simple product that emphasizes education could be exactly what’s called for.

Today, I’d like to help you explore your opportunities of serving rural and very small town clients. I’ve pulled together a sample spreadsheet and a ton of other resources that I hope will empower you to develop a bare-bones but high-quality local search marketing package that will work for most and could significantly benefit your agency in some remarkable ways.

Everything in moderation

The linchpin fundamental to the rural client/agency relationship is that the needs of these businesses are so exceedingly moderate. The competitive bar is set so low in a small-town-and-country setting, that, with few exceptions, clients can make a strong local showing with a pared-down marketing plan.

Let’s be honest — many businesses in this scenario can squeak by on a website design package from some giant web hosting agency. A few minutes spent with Google’s non-urban local packs attest to this. But I’m personally dissatisfied by independent businesses ending up being treated like numbers because it’s so antithetical to the way they operate. The local hardware store doesn’t put you on hold for 45 minutes to answer a question. The local farm stand doesn’t route you overseas to buy heirloom tomatoes. Few small town institutions stay in business for 150 years by overpromising and under-delivering.

Let’s assume that many rural clients will have some kind of website. If they don’t, you can recommend some sort of freebie or cheapie solution. It will be enough to get them placed somewhere in Google’s results, but if they never move beyond this, the maximum conversions they need to stay in business could be missed.

I’ve come to believe that the small-to-medium local marketing agency is the best fit for the small-to-medium rural brand because of shared work ethics and a similar way of doing business. But both entities need to survive monetarily and that means playing a very smart game with a budget on both sides.

It’s a question of organizing an agency offering that delivers maximum value with a modest investment of your time and the client’s money.

Constructing a square deal

When you take on a substantial client in a large town or city, you pull out all the stops. You dive deeply into auditing the business, its market, its assets. You look at everything from technical errors to creative strengths before beginning to build a strategy or implement campaigns, and there may be many months or years of work ahead for you with these clients. This is all entirely appropriate for big, lucrative contracts.

For your rural roster, prepare to scale way back. Here is your working plan:

1. Schedule your first 15-minute phone call with the client

Avoid the whole issue of having to lollygag around waiting for a busy small business owner to fill out a form. Schedule an appointment and have the client be at their place of business in front of a computer at the time of the call. Confirm the following, ultra-basic data about the client.

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone
  • URL
  • Business model (single location brick-and-mortar, SAB, etc.)
  • Category
  • Are there any other businesses at this address?
  • Main products/services offered
  • If SAB, list of cities served
  • Most obvious search phrase they want to rank for
  • Year established and year they first took the business online
  • Have they ever been aware of a penalty on their website or had Google tell them they were removing a listing?
  • Finally, have the client (who is in front of their computer at their place of business) search for the search term that’s the most obviously important and read off to you the names and URLs of the businesses ranking in the local pack and on the first page of the organic results.

And that’s it. If you pay yourself $100/hr, this quick session yields a charge of $25.

2. Make a one-time investment in writing a bare-bones guide to Local SEO

Spend less than one working day putting together a .pdf file or Google doc written in the least-technical language containing the following:

  • Your briefest, clearest definition of what local SEO is and how it brings customers to local businesses. Inspiration here.
  • An overview of 3 key business models: brick & mortar, SAB, and home-based so the client can easily identify which of these models is theirs.
  • A complete copy of the Guidelines for representing your business on Google with a link in it to the live guidelines.
  • Foolproof instructions for creating a Google account and creating and claiming a GMB listing. Show the process step-by-step so that anyone can understand it. Inspiration here.
  • A list of top general industry citation platforms with links to the forms for getting listed on them. Inspiration here and if the client can hit at least a few of these, they will be off to a good start.
  • An overview of the role of review acquisition and response, with a few simple tips for earning reviews and a list of the top general industry review platforms. Inspiration here and here.
  • An overview of the role of building offline relationships to earn a few online linktations. Inspiration here.
  • Links to the Google My Business forum and the main Google support platforms including their phone number (844.491.9665), Facebook, Twitter, and online chat. Tell the client this is where to go if they encounter a problem with their Google listing in the future.
  • Links to major independent business associations as a support vehicle for small and rural businesses like AMIBA, ILSR, and Small Business Saturday. Inspiration here.
  • Your agency’s complete contact information so that the business can remember who you are and engage you for further consulting down the road, if ever necessary.

If you pay yourself $100 an hour, investing in creating this guide will cost you less than $1000.00. That’s a modest amount that you can quickly earn back from clients. Hopefully, the inspirational links I’ve included will give you a big head start. Avoid covering anything trendy (like some brand new Google feature) so that the only time you should have to update the guide in the near future will be if Google makes some major changes to their guidelines or dashboard.

Deliver this asset to every rural client as their basic training in the bare essentials of local marketing.

3. Create a competitive audit spreadsheet once and fill it out ad infinitum

What you want here is something that lets you swiftly fill in the blanks.

For the competitive audit, you’ll be stacking up your client’s metrics against the metrics of the business they told you was ranking at the top of the local pack when they searched from their location. You can come up with your own metrics, or you can make a copy of this template I’ve created for you and add to it/subtract from it as you like.

Make a copy of the ultra-basic competitive local audit template — you can do so right here.

You’ll notice that my sample sheet does not delve deeply into some of the more technical or creative areas you might explore for clients in tougher markets. With few exceptions, rural clients just don’t need that level of insight to compete.

Give yourself 45 focused minutes filling in the data in the spreadsheet. You’ve now invested 1 hour of time with the client. So let’s give that a value of $100.

4. Transfer the findings of your audit into a custom report

Here’s another one-time investment. Spend no more than one workday creating a .pdf or Google Docs template that takes the fields of your audit and presents them in a readable format for the client. I’m going to leave exact formatting up to you, but here are the sections I would recommend structuring the report around:

  • A side-by-side comparison of the client vs. competitor metrics, bucketed by topic (Website, GMB, Reputation, Links, Citations, etc)
  • A very basic explanation of what those metrics mean
  • A clear recommendation of what the client should do to improve their metrics

For example, your section on reputation might look like this:

The beauty of this is that, once you have the template, all you have to do is fill it out and then spend an hour making intelligent observations based on your findings.

Constructing the template should take you less than one workday; so, a one-time investment of less than $1,000 if you are paying yourself $100/hr.

Transferring the findings of your audit from the spreadsheet to the report for each client should take about 1 hour. So, we’re now up to two total hours of effort for a unique client.

5. Excelling at value

So, you’ve now had a 15-minute conversation with a client, given them an introductory guide to the basics of local search marketing, and delivered a customized report filled with your observations and their to-dos. Many agencies might call it a day and leave the client to interpret the report on their own.

But you won’t do that, because you don’t want to waste an incredible opportunity to build a firm relationship with a business. Instead, spend one more hour on the phone with the owner, going over the report with them page by page and allowing a few minutes for any of their questions. This is where you have the chance to deliver exceptional value to the client, telling them exactly what you think will be most helpful for them to know in a true teaching moment.

At the end of this, you will have become a memorable ally, someone they trust, and someone to whom they will have confidence in referring their colleagues, family members, and neighbors.

You’ve made an overall investment of less than $2,000 to create your rural/small town marketing program.

Packaging up the guide, the report and the 1:1 phone consulting, you have a base price of $300 for the product if you pay yourself $100/hour.

However, I’m going to suggest that, based on the level of local SEO expertise you bring to the scenario, you create a price point somewhere between $300–$500 for the package. If you are still relatively green at local SEO, $300 could be a fair price for three hours of consulting. If you’re an industry adept, scale it up a bit because, because you bring a rare level of insight to every client interaction, even if you’re sticking to the absolute basics. Begin selling several of these packages in a week, and it will start totaling up to a good monthly revenue stream.

As a marketer, I’ve generally shied away from packages because whenever you dig deeply into a client’s scenario, nuances end up requiring so much custom research and communication. But, for the very smallest clients in this least competitive markets, packages can hit the spot.

Considerable benefits for your agency

The client is going to walk away from the relationship with a good deal … and likely a lot to do. If they follow your recommendations, it will typically be just what they needed to establish themselves on the web to the extent that neighbors and travelers can easily find them and choose them for transactions. Good job!

But you’re going to walk away with some amazing benefits, too, some of which you might not have considered before. To wit:

1. Relationships and the ripple effect

A client you’ve treated very well on the phone is a client who is likely to remember you for future needs and recommend you. I’ve had businesses send me lovely gifts on top of my consulting fee because I’ve taken the time to really listen and answer questions. SEO agencies are always looking for ways to build authentic relationships. Don’t overlook the small client as a centroid of referrals throughout a tight-knit community and beyond it to their urban colleagues, friends, and family.

2. Big data for insights and bragging rights

If your package becomes popular, a ton of data is going to start passing through your hands. The more of these audits you do, the more time you’re spending actively observing Google’s handling of the localized SERPs. Imagine the blog posts your agency can begin publishing by anonymizing and aggregating this data, pulling insights of value to our industry. There is no end to the potential for you to grow your knowledge.

Apart from case studies, think of the way this package can both build up your proud client roster and serve as a source of client reviews. The friendly relationship you’ve built with that 1:1 time can now become a font of very positive portfolio content and testimonials for you to publish on your website.

3. Agency pride from helping rebuild rural America

Have you noticed the recent spate of hit TV shows that hinge on rebuilding dilapidated American towns? Industry consolidation is most often cited as the root of rural collapse, with small farmers and independent businesses no longer able to create a tax base to support basic community needs like hospitals, fire departments, and schools. Few of us rejoice at the idea of Main Streets — long-cherished hallmarks not just of Americana but of shared American identity — becoming ghost towns.

But if you look for it, you can see signs of brilliant small entrepreneurs uniting to buck this trend. Check out initiatives like Locavesting and Localstake. There’s a reason to hope in small farming co-ops, the Main Street movement, and individuals like these who can re-envision a crumbling building as an independent country store, a B&B, or a job training center with Internet access.

It can be a source of professional satisfaction for your marketing agency if you offer these brave and hard-working business owners a good deal and the necessary education they need to present themselves sufficiently on the web. I live in a rural area, and I know just how much a little, solid advice can help. I feel extra good if I know I’m contributing to America’s rural comeback story.

Promoting your rural local SEO package

Once you’ve got your guide and templates created, what next? Here are some simple tips:

  • Create a terrific landing page on your website specifically for this package and call it out on your homepage as well. Wherever appropriate, build internal links to it.
  • Promote on social media.
  • Blog about why you’ve created the package, aligning your agency as an ally to the rebuilding of rural communities.
  • If, like me, you live in a rural area, consider presenting at local community events that will put you in front of small business owners.
  • Don’t overlook old school media like community message boards at the local post office, or even fliers tacked to electric poles.
  • If you’re a city slicker, consider how far you’d have to travel to get to the nearest rural community to participate in events.
  • Advertising both off and online in rural papers can be quite economical. There is also a place of worship print bulletins, local school papers, and other publications that welcome sponsors. Give it a try.
  • And, of course, ask happy clients to refer you, telling them what it means to your business. You might even develop a referral program.

The truth is that your agency may not be able to live by rural clients, alone. You may still be targeting the bulk of your campaigns towards urban enterprises because just a few highly competitive clients can bring welcome security to your bank account.

But maybe this is a good day to start looking beyond the fast food franchise, the NY attorney and the LA dermatology group. The more one reads about rural entrepreneurs, the more one tends to empathize with them, and empathy is the best foundation I know of for building rewarding business relationships.





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4 Key Lessons Content Marketers Can Take From Data Journalists



matt_gillespie

There’s an oft-cited statistic in the world of technology professionals, from marketers to startup founders to data scientists: 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years.

This instantly-Tweetable snippet was referenced in Forbes in 2018, mentioned by MediaPost in 2016, and covered on Science Daily in 2013. A casual observer could be forgiven for asking: How could that be true in three different years?

At Fractl, the data makes perfect sense to us: The global amount of digital information is growing exponentially over time.

From Seagate

This means that the “90 percent of all data…” statistic was true in 2013, 2016, and 2018, and it will continue to be true for the foreseeable future. As our culture continues to become more internet-integrated and mobile, we continue to produce massive amounts of data year over year while also becoming more comfortable with understanding large quantities of information.

This is hugely important to anyone who creates content on the web: Stats about how much data we create are great, but the stories buried in that data are what really matter. In the opening manifesto for FiveThirtyEight, one of the first sites on the web specifically devoted to data journalism, Editor-in-Chief Nate Silver wrote:

“Almost everything from our sporting events to our love lives now leaves behind a data trail.” 

This type of data has always been of interest to marketers doing consumer research, but the rise of data journalism shows us that there is both consumer demand and almost infinite potential for great storytelling rooted in numbers.

In this post, I’ll highlight four key insights from data science and journalism and how content marketers can leverage them to create truly newsworthy content that stands out from the pack:

  • The numbers drive the narrative
  • Plotted points are more trustworthy than written words (especially by brands!)
  • Great data content is both beautiful and easy-to-interpret
  • Every company has a (data) story to tell

 By the time you’re done, you’ll have gleaned a better understanding of how data visualization, from simple charts to complex interactive graphics, can help them tell a story and achieve wide visibility for their clients.

The numbers drive the narrative

Try Googling “infographics are dead,” and your top hit will be a 2015 think piece asserting that the medium has been dead for years, followed by many responses that the medium isn’t anywhere close to “dead.” These more optimistic articles tend to focus on the key aspects of infographics that have transformed since their popularity initially grew:

  • Data visualization (and the public’s appetite for it) is evolving, and
  • A bad data viz in an oversaturated market won’t cut it with overloaded consumers.

For content marketers, the advent of infographics was a dream come true: Anyone with even basic skills in Excel and a good graphic designer could whip up some charts, beautify them, and use them to share stories. But Infographics 1.0 quickly fizzled because they failed to deliver anything interesting — they were just a different way to share the same boring stories.

Data journalists do something very different. Take the groundbreaking work from Reuters on the Rohingya Muslim refugee camps in southern Bangladesh, which was awarded the Global Editors Network Award for Best Data Visualization in 2018. This piece starts with a story—an enormous refugee crisis taking place far away from the West—and uses interactive maps, stacked bar charts, and simple statistics visualizations to contextualize and amplify a heartbreaking narrative.

The Reuters piece isn’t only effective because of its innovative data viz techniques; rather, the piece begins with an extremely newsworthy human story and uses numbers to make sure it’s told in the most emotionally resonant way possible. Content marketers, who are absolutely inundated with advice on how storytelling is essential to their work, need to see data journalism as a way to drive their narratives forward, rather than thinking of data visualization simply as a way to pique interest or enhance credibility.

Plotted points are more trustworthy than written words

This is especially true when it comes to brands.

In the era of #FakeNews, content marketers are struggling more than ever to make sure their content is seen as precise, newsworthy, and trustworthy. The job of a content marketer is to produce work for a brand that can go out and reasonably compete for visibility against nonprofits, think tanks, universities, and mainstream media outlets simultaneously. While some brands are quite trusted by Americans, content marketers may find themselves working with lesser-known clients seeking to build up both awareness and trust through great content.

One of the best ways to do both is to follow the lead of data journalists by letting visual data content convey your story for you.

“Numbers don’t lie” vs. brand trustworthiness

In the buildup to the 2012 election, Nate Silver’s previous iteration of FiveThirtyEight drew both massive traffic to the New York Times and criticism from traditional political pundits, who argued that no “computer” could possibly predict election outcomes better than traditional journalists who had worked in politics for decades (an argument fairly similar to the one faced by the protagonists in Moneyball). In the end, Silver’s “computer” (actually a sophisticated model that FiveThirtyEight explains in great depth and open-sources) predicted every state correctly in 2012.

Silver and his team made the model broadly accessible to show off just how non-partisan it really was. It ingested a huge amount of historical election data, used probabilities and weights to figure out which knowledge was most important, and spit out a prediction as to what the most likely outcomes were. By showing how it all worked, Silver and FiveThirtyEight went a long way toward improving the public confidence in data—and, by extension, data journalism.

But the use of data to increase trustworthiness is nothing new. A less cynical take is simply that people are more likely to believe and endorse things when they’re spelled out visually. We know, famously, that users only read about 20-28 percent of the content on the page, and it’s also known that including images vastly increases likes and retweets on Twitter.

So, in the era of endless hot takes and the “everyone’s-a-journalist-now” mentality, content marketers looking to establish brand authority, credibility, and trust can learn an enormous amount from the proven success of data journalists — just stick to the numbers.

Find the nexus of simple and beautiful

Our team at Fractl has a tricky task on our hands: We root our content in data journalism with the ultimate goal of creating great stories that achieve wide visibility. But different stakeholders on our team (not to mention our clients) often want to achieve those ends by slightly different means.

Our creatives—the ones working with data—may want to build something enormously complex that crams as much data as possible into the smallest space they can. Our media relations team—experts in knowing the nuances of the press and what will or won’t appeal to journalists—may want something that communicates data simply and beautifully and can be summed up in one or two sentences, like the transcendent work of Mona Chalabi for the Guardian. A client, too, will often have specific expectations for how a piece should look and what should be included, and these factors need to be considered as well.

Striking the balance

With so many ways to present any given set of numbers, we at Fractl have found success by making data visualizations as complex as they need to be while always aiming for the nexus of simple and beautiful. In other words: Take raw numbers that will be interesting to people, think of a focused way to clearly visualize them, and then create designs that fit the overall sentiment of the piece.

On a campaign for Porch.com, we asked 1,000 Americans several questions about food, focusing on things that were light and humorous conversation starters. For example, “Is a hot dog a sandwich?” and “What do you put on a hot dog?” As a native Chicagoan who believes there is only one way to make a hot dog, this is exactly the type of debate that would make me take notice and share the content with friends on social media.

In response to those two questions, we got numbers that looked like this:

Using Tableau Public, an open-source data reporting solution that is one of the go-to tools for rapid building at Fractl, the tables above were transformed into rough cuts of a final visualization:

With the building blocks in place, we then gave extensive notes to our design team on how to make something that’s just as simple but much, much more attractive. Given the fun nature of this campaign, a more lighthearted design made sense, and our graphics team delivered. The entire campaign is worth checking out for the project manager’s innovative and expert ability to use simple numbers in a way that is beautiful, easy-to-approach, and instantly compelling.

All three of the visualizations above are reporting the exact same data, but only one of them is instantly shareable and keeps a narrative in mind: by creatively showing the food items themselves, our team turned the simple table of percentages in the first figure into a visualization that could be shared on social media or used by a journalist covering the story.

In other cases, such as if the topic is more serious, simple visualizations can be used to devastating effect. In work for a brand in the addiction and recovery space, we did an extensive analysis of open data hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The dramatic increase in drug overdose deaths in the United States is an emotional story fraught with powerful statistics. In creating a piece on the rise in mortality rate, we wanted to make sure we preserved the gravity of the topic and allowed the numbers to speak for themselves:

A key part of this visualization was adding one additional layer of complexity—age brackets—to tell a more contextualized and human story. Rather than simply presenting a single statistic, our team chose to highlight the fact that the increase in overdose deaths is something affecting Americans across the entire lifespan, and the effect of plotting six different lines on a single chart makes the visual point that addiction is getting worse for all Americans.

Every brand’s data has a story to tell

Spotify has more than 200 million global users, nearly half of whom pay a monthly fee to use the service (the other half generate revenue by listening to intermittent ads). As an organization, Spotify has data on how a sizeable portion of the world listens to its music and the actual characteristics of that music.

Data like this is what makes Spotify such a valuable brand from a dollars and cents standpoint, but a team of data journalists at The New York Times also saw an incredible story about how American music taste has changed in the last 30 years buried in Spotify’s data. The resulting piece, Why Songs of Summer Sound the Same, is a landmark work of data-driven, interactive journalism, and one that should set a content marketer’s head spinning with ideas.

Of course, firms will always be protective of their data, whether it’s Netflix famously not releasing its ratings, Apple deciding to stop its reporting of unit sales, or Stanford University halting its reporting of admissions data. Add to the equation a public that is increasingly wary of data privacy and susceptibility to major data breaches, and clients are often justifiably nervous to share data for the purpose of content production.

Deciding when to share

That said, a firm’s data often is central to its story, and when properly anonymized and cleared of personal identifying information, or PII, the newsworthiness of a brand reporting insights from its own internal numbers can be massive. 

For example, GoodRx, a platform that reports pricing data from more than 70,000 U.S. pharmacies, released a white paper and blog post that compared its internal data on prescription fills with US Census data on income and poverty. While census data is free, only GoodRx had the particular dataset on pharmacy fills—it’s their own proprietary data set. Data like this is obviously key to their overall valuation, but the way in which it was reported here told a deeply interesting story about income and access to medication without giving away anything that could potentially cost the firm. The report was picked up by the New York Times, undoubtedly boosting GoodRx’s ratings for organic search.

The Times’ pieces on Spotify and GoodRx both highlight the fourth key insight on the effective use of data as content marketers: Every brand’s data has a story to tell. These pieces could only have come from their exact sources because only they had access to the data, making the particular findings singular and unique to that specific brand and presenting a key competitive advantage in the content landscape. While working with internal data comes with its own potential pitfalls and challenges, seeking to collaborate with a client to select meaningful internal data and directing its subsequent use for content and narrative should be at the forefront of a content marketer’s mind.

Blurring lines and breaking boundaries

A fascinating piece recently on Recode sought to slightly reframe the high-publicity challenges facing journalists, stating:

“The plight of journalists might not be that bad if you’re willing to consider a broader view of ‘journalism.’” 

The piece detailed that while job postings for journalists are off more than 10 percent since 2004, jobs broadly related to “content” have nearly quadrupled over the same time period. Creatives will always flock to the options that allow them to make what they love, and with organic search largely viewed as a meritocracy of content, the opportunities for brands and content marketers to utilize the data journalism toolkit have never been greater.

What’s more, much of the best data journalism out there typically only uses a handful of visualizations to get its point across. It was also reported recently that the median amount of data sources for pieces created by the New York Times and The Washington Post was two. It too is worth noting that more than 60 percent of data journalism stories in both the Times and Post during a recent time period (January-June, 2017) relied only on government data.

Ultimately, the ease of running large surveys via a platform like Prolific Research, Qualtrics, or Amazon Mechanical Turk, coupled with the ever-increasing number of free and open data sets provided by both the US Government or sites like Kaggle or data.world means that there is no shortage of numbers out there for content marketers to dig into and use to drive storytelling. The trick is in using the right blend of hard data and more ethereal emotional appeal to create a narrative that is truly compelling.

Wrapping up

As brands increasingly invest in content as a means to propel organic search and educate the public, content marketers should seriously consider putting these key elements of data journalism into practice. In a world of endless spin and the increasing importance of showing your work, it’s best to remember the famous quote written by longtime Guardian editor C.P. Scott in 1921: “Comment is free, but facts are sacred.”

What do you think? How do you and your team leverage data journalism in your content marketing efforts?



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Location intelligence companies react to new Android privacy controls



Greg Sterling

Privacy is the new black. At F8, Google I/O and, this week, Google Marketing Live, privacy has been front and center, with Facebook and Google going to great lengths to discuss how they’re beefing up data transparency and privacy controls for users. In addition, this week Facebook announced a “Clear History” tool, which will impact data available to marketers.

There’s a lot to unpack in all these changes, coming amid growing regulatory scrutiny and consumer discontent. Specifically, on the question of location and privacy, Google previously announced a number of changes in data collection and management:

  • Google will enable users to delete location activity data directly in Google Maps
  • There will also be an auto-delete capability for location history (after 3 or 18 months)
  • Maps will also operate in Incognito Mode and not capture user location history

Beyond this, Google’s new Android Q matches Apple’s location privacy controls and provides a new option to share location with developers “while the app is in use.” Previously there was a binary choice: deny or always. The OS will also remind users that location is running in the background if “always allow” was the user’s initial location-settings choice.

How will these changes in Android location data permissions (and collection) impact companies and marketers who provide or rely upon location data — increasingly an alternative to cookies — for targeting and attribution? I asked Placed, PlaceIQ, NinthDecimal and Factual for reactions. They all saw Google’s move as positive for the industry, with one big caveat.

Brian Czarny, CMO, Factual

“Google’s move to increase transparency is a good thing, for consumers and for the location data ecosystem. Consumers should be empowered to understand and control when and how their data is used, which will ultimately lead to improved online experiences and trust in platforms and providers. We applaud Google’s efforts to bring more transparency and consumer control to users of Android Q.”

Duncan McCall, CEO, PlaceIQ

“We are encouraged by Google’s move to align location permissions to the same format as Apple, as Google’s ‘all or nothing’ permission, we believe is a little dated and doesn’t reflect the current day widespread use and applications of location data by mobile applications.

We believe this will lead to more choices for consumers when it comes to sharing location, but also importantly more context and explanation behind those choices – and we expect to see the same result as we saw when Apple implemented this change, which is an increase in the number of devices sharing location data, with a very slight decrease in the percentage of users sharing background (always) data. On the whole overall, the volume of location data increased.

Why, you might ask, do we expect this to be the case? Take the case of how this played out already under the Apple ecosystem. Before Apple mandated location-using applications offer all three options, developers were forced to choose between two questions to present to the user:

  • Do you want to share your location all the time or not?
  • Do you want to share your location while using the app or not?

This led many apps to only present users with the ‘while using’ option, for fear that more consumers would say ‘no’ when presented with the ‘all the time’ option. When Apple changed this system, however, applications were not hamstrung in this way and began to ask for background location when they hadn’t previously (Uber was one big example).

Hence, this resulted in an increase in the number of users sharing location data and a slight decrease in the percentage of location-sharing users sharing background data. On the whole, the volume of location data increased following the change.

We expect similar changes in the Android ecosystem:

  • More apps will ask for location and background location now that it’s not a yes/no conditional.
  • More users will agree to share location than before.
  • Most users will consent to ‘while using’ permission for most apps.

All of this comes with a massive asterisk though. We expect this change to take years to come into effect due to Google’s challenge with the fragmented Android install base to drive adoption of new Android versions for existing devices. The only reliable upgrade path for the Android install base is new device acquisition, something that is occurring less and less regularly these days.

At IO, Google shared that their most recent public OS version only had 10% penetration. Compare this to the more than 80% of Apple devices using iOS 12.”

David Shim, CEO, Placed (owned by Snap)

“Google’s privacy changes benefit consumers and companies that believe location data is only valuable when measured with consumer consent, transparency, and control. These features from Google and Apple will weed out those bad actors in the location space, which ultimately benefits the entire ecosystem.”

David Staas, President, NinthDecimal

“Overall, giving consumers more control over how and when they chose to share data is good for the industry. The changes proposed for Android Q are essentially creating a common user standard across both primary operating systems (Android and iOS). Consumers can apply the same choices of Never, Only While Using, and Always on a per-app basis for sharing location data. We don’t expect this will result in a significant change to the industry. Consumers have had those same options for a few years on iOS, and that has not resulted in a meaningful reduction of location data from iOS devices.”

The Takeaway: Consumer Control Provides Confidence

There are a lot of people, including Google, saying that giving consumers greater control over data collection is a good thing for the industry because it promotes trust. These location data company executives agree. But are these just PR soundbites? The evidence suggests “no,” and seems to back them up.

As Duncan McCall mentioned, when Apple offered more consumer control over location sharing with apps, it reduced the number of those “always” sharing location, but increased location-data sharing overall. That’s because consumers had greater control and more confidence, accordingly.

The Teemo example in France is also instructive. “We see opt-in rates that can go as high as 80% when we’re transparent about [location] data sharing with third parties,” said CEO Benoit Grouchko. “We were positively surprised by the numbers.”


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.



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Here’s why truth in brand storytelling matters



Rachel Benner and Hannah Post

As urban millennials and self-proclaimed nature geeks, we look for brands that reflect who we are. Where we’ve been. What we care about.

Brands are catching on — particularly when it comes to environmental responsibility. From Nature Valley granola bars to Seventh Generation cleaning products, corporations are leaning into our generation’s collective call for corporate sustainability.

But as scholars and critics have noted, there’s more to being a sustainable brand than adding a recycling symbol to your packaging. We’ve noticed two brands that go beyond greenwashing — with very different approaches.

In April 2019, Everlane, a clothing brand known for its approach of “radical transparency,” teamed up with The New York Times to launch a microsite about fact-based climate reporting. The site offers a series of simple climate talking points linked to the New York Times reporting. Then, it asks the reader to purchase a New York Times-branded Everlane sweatshirt. Proceeds from the clothes support New York Times subscriptions for public schools.

With this activation, The New York Times and Everlane got some big things right. But they also missed the mark in a few key ways.

Throughout the site, the two brands balance their respective voices, seamlessly linking The New York Times’ iconic “Truth” campaign to frank, assertive language from Everlane. The microsite tells a story: table stakes for good brand activism. It’s an unexpected collaboration, but one that makes sense for both brands: one long-committed to fact-based reporting, and the other focused on sustainable, ethical production.

The microsite feels right for its customers. The messages arm Everlane’s educated, urban shoppers with talking points for coffee dates and Thanksgiving dinners. The sweatshirts are a uniform for sustainability virtue-signaling. And all of that’s important — because without a compelling reason for a consumer to engage, an activation can’t make an impact.

But there’s a disconnect. At the very top of the page, a rotating tagline for The New York Times asserts: “Truth. It affects us all. How we waste. What we buy.” Then, at the bottom, you face a link to buy a $50 sweatshirt.

Suddenly, the message feels hollow. After all, isn’t needless consumption part of the problem?

If “truth inspires action,” as the site reminds us, how does the action Everlane and The New York Times want their readers to take further the cause they’re highlighting? The short answer: it doesn’t.

In comparison, consider Patagonia: a poster child for authentic environmental stewardship. Sustainability is core to their purpose, their promise and their product. Their purpose statement, “We’re in business to save our home planet,” summarizes their commitment to sustainability and good business.

Their marketing promises authenticity by giving people new ways to connect with the brand while tangibly delivering on its mission. Notably, Patagonia does not want you to buy excess product – they’d rather customers reuse, resell and share. By accepting trade-in “Worn Wear,” repairing used products in their stores and ultimately extending the life of the products they sell, they send a powerful message about their commitment to sustainability. The classic “Don’t Buy This Jacket” campaign articulated this message succinctly.

And while the gear they do sell is sustainable (read: recycled, durable and efficiently produced), their product is bigger than trendy puffers and corporate vests. By offering its customers tangible ways to connect with real causes through its Patagonia Action Works platform, the company creates an opportunity to be part of a lifestyle and community committed to preserving the outdoors, no matter where the consumer actually lives. Calls-to-action across the experience emphasizes pledge-signing, event-going and petition-signing, not just buying.

Tying language to action allows Patagonia to truly own their position as an advocate for our planet. Whether you’re an adventurer or not, the approach resonates – because it’s real.

Brands win customer loyalty when messaging and experience work together seamlessly. One without the other is either an empty promise, or a missed opportunity. Everlane and The New York Times remind us that it’s not enough to have a call-to-action. That action has to deliver on the story you’re sharing.

With a two-pronged approach, Patagonia both talks the talk and walks the walk. We applaud them for their sustained commitment to sustainability that resonates with their customers.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Rachel Benner is a brand strategist based in New York City.
Hannah Post helps brands discover and tell their stories in a more authentic and relevant way. Drawing from experience in marketing, Hannah brings storytelling to life across a constantly shifting competitive, cultural and technological landscape.



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