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How Not to Visualize Your Data

Posted by Dr. Pete

Lately, I’ve been seeing data visualizations everywhere, including the products in my own kitchen. This week, I had sightings on my tea and my tortilla chips. This is a story about the box my tea came in (for the sake of my marriage, I can’t disassemble the tortilla chip bag until it’s empty), and how sometimes we take marketing too far. Over the weekend, I discovered this “Taste Profile” (the top version is a recreation, since the real graph was only about 1” tall, but all details are accurate to the original):

I’m not attacking the company that made this, and I’m not going to “out” them here – their product is actually pretty great. I just want to use this visualization to illustrate some of the wrong ways to do things, in hopes that we can all raise our game a bit.

But It’s So Pretty!

I admit – the earth tones are nice, and it’s not entirely unappealing. I guess, for a moment, it made me feel better about shelling out $11 for an ounce-and-a-half of leaves. Maybe that’s even good marketing, although I really doubt this 1” tall graphic on the back of the box has ever swayed anyone’s decision. I’m not trying to say that it’s an ugly picture. The problem is that it’s a pleasant distraction disguised as meaningful data.

The job of a data-visualization is to communicate an idea better than the raw data itself could. Of course, that also implies that there’s actual data behind the visualization. So, how do we get it wrong?

(1) Pick the Shiniest Style

We all know that the best chart style can be summed up with two words: “big and shiny!” The radar chart above is pretty shiny – it’s like I’ve discovered some lost continent of tea with my smooth jazz submarine. The problem is that, ultimately, I don’t know what that shape means, and I don’t have anything to compare it to. A radar chart is at its best when comparing two or more profiles. Pick the right tool for the job, not the one that looks the most impressive on your utility belt. Batman is a friend of mine, and you, sir, are no Batman (disclaimer: I don’t know Batman).

(2) Use a Lot of Fancy Words

Umami is the exotic fifth taste (beyond the classic four of sweet, sour, bitter, and salty) – it’s a Japanese word meaning “Haha, I can’t believe I got you to eat sea urchin!” To be fair, at least it has something to do with taste. I honestly have no idea how “Brightness” or “Briskness” apply to tea, and if they do, what the difference is between the two.

I do know that Lipton has spent a lot of money making us think their tea is brisk, which raises another point – why do you want to compare your $110/lb. gourmet tea to Lipton? Even “Aroma” is a bit ambiguous – do I want a lot of aroma? What if it’s the aroma of some bad umami that I forgot to put in the fridge last night?

The goal of a visualization is to simplify information that’s too complex. If you have to make up big words to do that, then you’re missing the point.

(3) More Words? Yes, Please!

What really brings a visualization together is to explain each of your terms with even more words, preferably ones that make even less sense. Now, please understand – I have no issue with the French. I think Paris is lovely, it’s cool that you helped us win the American Revolution, and I’ve never eaten “freedom fries”. This product wasn’t made in France, though, and I didn’t buy it in Quebec. The company is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Translating every label on the graph into French isn’t just meaningless – it’s pretentious. These secondary labels only serve to add visual noise and make it harder to pair the main labels to their data points.

(4) Keep the Mystery Alive

Everyone loves a mystery – you don’t hate Scooby Doo, do you? If you can make your product mysterious enough, everyone will think they need it. Sadly, sometimes smoke and mirrors is all a product has to offer, but in this case the product is really quite good. Adding pseudoscience to the label doesn’t create intrigue – it just makes me wonder if the marketing team is drinking their product or smoking it.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

To be fair, this 1” graph was little more than a decoration on a box, and it does that job perfectly well. Unfortunately, I’ve seen similar graphs (and worse) in blog posts, research papers, and even reputable newspapers.  Every day, it gets easier to make sexy charts, illustrations, and infographics. It’s ok to create something beautiful, but we have to remember that our first job is to communicate. A data visualization should convey useful ideas quickly, because ultimately that’s our job as online marketers. So, think before you open Photoshop.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Posted by Dr. Pete

Lately, I’ve been seeing data visualizations everywhere, including the products in my own kitchen. This week, I had sightings on my tea and my tortilla chips. This is a story about the box my tea came in (for the sake of my marriage, I can’t disassemble the tortilla chip bag until it’s empty), and how sometimes we take marketing too far. Over the weekend, I discovered this “Taste Profile” (the top version is a recreation, since the real graph was only about 1” tall, but all details are accurate to the original):

I’m not attacking the company that made this, and I’m not going to “out” them here – their product is actually pretty great. I just want to use this visualization to illustrate some of the wrong ways to do things, in hopes that we can all raise our game a bit.

But It’s So Pretty!

I admit – the earth tones are nice, and it’s not entirely unappealing. I guess, for a moment, it made me feel better about shelling out $11 for an ounce-and-a-half of leaves. Maybe that’s even good marketing, although I really doubt this 1” tall graphic on the back of the box has ever swayed anyone’s decision. I’m not trying to say that it’s an ugly picture. The problem is that it’s a pleasant distraction disguised as meaningful data.

The job of a data-visualization is to communicate an idea better than the raw data itself could. Of course, that also implies that there’s actual data behind the visualization. So, how do we get it wrong?

(1) Pick the Shiniest Style

We all know that the best chart style can be summed up with two words: “big and shiny!” The radar chart above is pretty shiny – it’s like I’ve discovered some lost continent of tea with my smooth jazz submarine. The problem is that, ultimately, I don’t know what that shape means, and I don’t have anything to compare it to. A radar chart is at its best when comparing two or more profiles. Pick the right tool for the job, not the one that looks the most impressive on your utility belt. Batman is a friend of mine, and you, sir, are no Batman (disclaimer: I don’t know Batman).

(2) Use a Lot of Fancy Words

Umami is the exotic fifth taste (beyond the classic four of sweet, sour, bitter, and salty) – it’s a Japanese word meaning “Haha, I can’t believe I got you to eat sea urchin!” To be fair, at least it has something to do with taste. I honestly have no idea how “Brightness” or “Briskness” apply to tea, and if they do, what the difference is between the two.

I do know that Lipton has spent a lot of money making us think their tea is brisk, which raises another point – why do you want to compare your $110/lb. gourmet tea to Lipton? Even “Aroma” is a bit ambiguous – do I want a lot of aroma? What if it’s the aroma of some bad umami that I forgot to put in the fridge last night?

The goal of a visualization is to simplify information that’s too complex. If you have to make up big words to do that, then you’re missing the point.

(3) More Words? Yes, Please!

What really brings a visualization together is to explain each of your terms with even more words, preferably ones that make even less sense. Now, please understand – I have no issue with the French. I think Paris is lovely, it’s cool that you helped us win the American Revolution, and I’ve never eaten “freedom fries”. This product wasn’t made in France, though, and I didn’t buy it in Quebec. The company is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Translating every label on the graph into French isn’t just meaningless – it’s pretentious. These secondary labels only serve to add visual noise and make it harder to pair the main labels to their data points.

(4) Keep the Mystery Alive

Everyone loves a mystery – you don’t hate Scooby Doo, do you? If you can make your product mysterious enough, everyone will think they need it. Sadly, sometimes smoke and mirrors is all a product has to offer, but in this case the product is really quite good. Adding pseudoscience to the label doesn’t create intrigue – it just makes me wonder if the marketing team is drinking their product or smoking it.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

To be fair, this 1” graph was little more than a decoration on a box, and it does that job perfectly well. Unfortunately, I’ve seen similar graphs (and worse) in blog posts, research papers, and even reputable newspapers.  Every day, it gets easier to make sexy charts, illustrations, and infographics. It’s ok to create something beautiful, but we have to remember that our first job is to communicate. A data visualization should convey useful ideas quickly, because ultimately that’s our job as online marketers. So, think before you open Photoshop.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Read more http://bit.ly/ZXKIfV

20 Data-Backed Ways to Upgrade Your Social Media Marketing [SlideShare]

As a professional social media scientist and part time unicorn hunter, I spend a lot of time chasing down and busting social media unicorns-and-rainbows myths and superstitions — advice that has no basis in facts — with real data and science. I’ve conducted quite a bit of research about social media marketing, and as a result, I’ve gotten quite a lot of insight into the tactics that do and don’t work.

As a professional social media scientist and part time unicorn hunter, I spend a lot of time chasing down and busting social media unicorns-and-rainbows myths and superstitions — advice that has no basis in facts — with real data and science. I’ve conducted quite a bit of research about social media marketing, and as a result, I’ve gotten quite a lot of insight into the tactics that do and don’t work.

Read more http://bit.ly/1310pDe

The Complete Guide to Reconversion

Posted by TomRoberts

This post was originally in YouMoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc.

A great deal of emphasis is placed on inbound marketing and attracting new customers. However, we should be careful not to neglect the existing clients that we may have. These people are just as important as new customers and more often than not can provide you with a great return of investment. We should give our existing clients the marketing focus they deserve.

In this guide, I will look at why remarketing and reconverting your clients can be a valuable tactic for your business, while also providing examples on how we can do just that.

I hope you find this guide to be something a little bit different than what we normally see on Moz and, most of all, I hope you find it useful. I’d love it if you could read through the whole post, but for those revisiting or those strapped for time, here are a few links to jump you to each chapter:



Prelude: What Prompted the Post

I am just a poor boy, though my story’s seldom told. We don’t see an awful lot of in-house SEO perspectives here on SEOmoz and even less so from the financial services sector, of which my current role is in. This does give me the opportunity, however, to provide a real case study of how a company has identified the need to get more value from the client base and how they have done so.

Basically, our company provides a way for people to trade the financial markets, things like equities, currency pairs and so on. We provide this service in a number of countries across Europe, with the UK being our primary market.

The curious thing about this industry, over the last 6-12 months is that, while we as a company have acquired new clients somewhat exponentially, the trading volumes of those clients, effectively the amount that they have been trading, has not seen the same amount of growth. This is something that is reported to be affecting the industry as a whole.

There are likely a number of factors that are contributing to this. Market volatility as a whole is at a record low, while we are also reviewing our marketing channels to see which ones are providing the most worth to us. However, the thing that we felt we had most control over was ensuring that our clients were as happy as they could possibly be with us, which in turn would extend the time period they want to trade with us and would do so with more frequency.

This guide will aim to show what we have done as a company to help ensure our clients are satisfied with us and want to reconvert and how these methods can apply to a wide range of industries.

Chapter 1: I Demand Satisfaction

If you’re trying to get people to come back to your business and reconvert, they better have had a bloomin’ good experience the first time round. It goes without saying that people will need to have a positive experience with your company to even consider returning, regardless of whatever marketing campaign you are using to entice them back.

Therefore, the first part of any reconversion strategy is ensuring that the conversion the first time round is as smooth as possible. If you’re working on an ecommerce site, cart abandonment is always a hot topic and I really like Russ Henneberry’s guide on decreasing abandonment over on CrazyEgg.

The best way to know whether or not you are being well received is to have an open dialogue with your clients. SEOmoz is a great example of this, while at ETX Capital we always display a free contact number on our website, so that people only have to pick up the phone to talk with us. Being readily available on social media, particularly Twitter, is another great way to garner client feedback. Over 30% of top brands have launched a dedicated customer service handle and I’d advise you to check out the Simply Measured case study on brands’ Twitter activity.

You may also want to consider asking your clients to leave you their feedback on external review sites, such as Review Centre. Not only do you often get detailed feedback from people leaving reviews, your ranking here can help you obtain rich snippets in your PPC ads. If you receive over 30 reviews for your business and keep an average rating of 4 or more, you can have fancy, shmancy stars appear next to your ads like these:

Oh my God – it’s full of stars!

Finally, you definitely need to check out Joshua Unseth’s SEOmoz post on using Google Analytics for a QA strategy. Not only is it a brilliant resource, it can also help you discover what people are asking about your brand in Google search. You may find some trends on your service that you can address prior to people converting.

Chapter 2: Don’t Count Out a Discount

Source: NoSweatShakespeare.com

It might seem simple, but it is often effective. Offering discounts to returning customers is a great way to have them return and to build up a bit of brand loyalty. I can remember in November last year that I had a mullet to rival Billy Ray Cyrus and I decided that it was time for a smart cut. I went to Rush salon with no intention of returning for regular cuts, as I thought it was a bit pricey. One loyalty card stamp and two 25% off cuts later and I’m already looking forward to my next princess day!

Repeat customers very often cost less than acquiring new customers, so when you’re working out your margins and what discount you can afford to give, cost is definitely something you will want to consider.

Implementing the discount system is something that should not be underestimated either. For the ecommerce SEOs out there, you can find some very useful extensions for your CMS. OpenCart is arguably one of the best CMS systems out there right now and these three extensions may be of interest for you.

Providing physical discounts is still a very popular method as well. Providing branded cards with a discount code is a popular trick used by Amazon, when sending out its products (I must have had £600 worth of wine vouchers sent to me in three months, what are they trying to say?). I have to say I am a fan of the loyalty stamp card and I’ve often wondered why more businesses do not employ an online solution to this. For all intents and purposes, the Tesco Clubcard is a loyalty card that stores your data online, allowing you to redeem points for discounts – perhaps this could be applicable to your business?

It looks as though that more companies are heading towards loyalty stamp apps, if sites such as Stampfeet and Stampme are anything to go by. This could also be a useful discount solution for you.

Gamification is not something to be underestimated either. We see a lot of gamification in the health industry – I’d love to see a gym take it one step further and have a workout leader board. When you join the gym, you would be given a chip that logs all of your exercise on the machines. The people who run the most miles, burn the most calories, generate the most watts and so on would be given discounted membership for 1/3/6 months. It would offer an incentive for people to exercise harder, which can only be a good thing, while giving the gym some really positive PR.

Chapter 3: The Best Things in Life are Free

The Fandom of the Oprah is plain to see

Everyone loves free stuff, am I right? But how does giving stuff away for free translate into returning customers?

Remember, this is all about building brand loyalty and a satisfied consumer base. If you can achieve that, not only might customers be more inclined to use your services again, but happy customers may refer their friends to your business as well. Repeat customers can be walking billboards for business.

Having said that, it would be wise to plan your giveaway so that you can gain something else as well, in case the reconversions don’t come. Let me use an example of a recent contest we held on our Facebook page.

We recently offered some trading credit to our clients if they could correctly guess the US employment report, also known as the non-farm payrolls, at the start of the month. The ultimate aim was to reignite interest in trading and to see an increase in trading volumes, but we knew that we could also see the following benefits, if planned correctly:

  • An increase in ‘likes’ on our page.
  • An increase in engagement on other posts.
  • An increase in traffic and conversions, assisted or otherwise.

Because of the potential multi-benefits, we were happy to go ahead with the giveaway and I’d recommend that people look for similar multi-level benefits before parting with their product or service for nothing.

After contacting our existing clients by email on the day that the contest went live, as well as previewing the contest earlier in the week via our social media channels, we ended up seeing some great results. The ‘likes’ on our page increased substantially, analytics is reporting an increase in assisted Facebook conversions that week and we’ve also been seeing some increased engagement on our regular market updates, which is great to see. Having this open communication with our clients allows us to keep in touch with their wants and needs.

The icing on the cake is that we have also seen increased trading volumes in the days and weeks since the competition was launched. Without giving away too much sensitive information, I think it would be safe to say our initial outlay in terms of cost has been recuperated and then some.

Chapter 4: The Lost Art of Email Marketing

Source: poofytoo.tumblr.com

According to the DMA 2012 conference, for every $1 spent on email marketing $40.56is returned (The Email Marketing Trend Slideshare from Silverpop is a great read, if you’ve not seen it already). It surprises me that we don’t see it mentioned more often here, as it can be a great way of getting your clients to reconvert.

Many of the previous tips I have mentioned in this post have been used emails in order to generate interest, such as contacting our client base to alert them about the Facebook contest we were running. That’s not really marketing, but it is an indication that email is still one of the best ways to communicate with your customers.

Email marketing is a great way of interacting with your inactive user base and get them reconverting. There is a great CNET case study on Marketing Sherpa that looks at how offering incentives can get people to reconvert. The key takeaways are making sure that you:

  • Accurately segment your lists – ie knowing what group has been inactive for 60-120 days, which clients have been inactive for 120+ and so on.
  • Come up with a number of engagement tactics to test.
  • Identify with your team what constitutes as reactivation or reconversion.

If you’re using a decent CRM system, you will be able to track user activity, or lack thereof, in a lot of detail, such as date of last login, recent transactions etc. Using this data, you can segment your users how you want and can judge for yourself what classifies as an inactive user, for example. We use SalesForce for this purpose, but different size businesses may find better solutions elsewhere, so it is worth researching. PC World has featured five useful CRMs for small businesses in the past.

The above CNET case study makes for a great read and I think an email marketing campaign can be taken one step further by running a Facebook custom audience campaign. There is an excellent SEOmoz blog post on this topic that you should definitely check out, with one of the key highlights of custom audiences being that you can import and target people from your email list only. This obviously relies on a person using the same email for Facebook as they did with your website, but there’s a fairly decent chance that they would have. With this level of targeting, you can serve them relevant ads to supplement your email campaign, without breaking the budget.

If you’re looking to learn more about email marketing, the Aweber and Deliverability blogs are great places to start, while the email marketing whitepaper from MailChimp is a great free resource as well.

Chapter 5: Community is Key

Erm…probably not this Community

Community managers: rejoice! This chapter celebrates you and all the things that you do.

This is arguably the most important section of the guide. Nurturing your community is essential for reconversion, which is something that I have alluded to throughout this guide. The better the experience a customer has with your site, the more likely there are to return, reconvert and refer.

Remember, your community is most likely an open forum and not just the people who have used, worked with or are associated with your online business. This means that you need to create a positive community for people pre-conversion as much as you need to create a positive one for post-conversion folks.

Having high quality engagements with your community is one of the most direct ways of catering to their needs. Social media is an obvious outlet for this, but sometimes it can be hard to work out which social media channel would be best, both for levels of engagement and also for usability reasons. We have already talked about how customer service handles on Twitter can offer a direct response channel, but LinkedIn is often overlooked.

Linkedin discussion groups can be a great place to engage with your community, whether it’s in your own group or joining in the discussion elsewhere. More often than not, when you’re providing and contributing to useful discussions on LinkedIn, you are not just helping your community, but also your unaided brand awareness. One of the most famous examples of a big brand using LinkedIn is Hewlett Packard.

That is a summary of the HP case study provided by LinkedIn, which you can read in full here: http://marketing.linkedin.com/sites/default/files/pdfs/LinkedIn_HPUKCaseStudy2011.pdf. HP identified that their community and the demographic that they wanted to target were present on LinkedIn and so created a non-branded, general small business discussion group that allowed users to help one another out. Despite it being non-promotional, HP saw great results as a result of unaided brand awareness and the work that they had put into the community.

Hosting discussions such as these on LinkedIn brings with it an element of trust, as it is being hosted on a website people can trust and they would probably be more inclined to engage on than perhaps your own hosted forum. Furthermore, the benefit of being able to connect with users very quickly is a very valuable one, particularly when you bear in mind that HubSpot has reported that LinkedIn is up to 277% more effective at lead generation than other social networks.

It is worth noting that setting up a LinkedIn discussion group will be a time-consuming task. Moderation and encouraging engagement can take its time, so be sure that you can commit the human resource to the project in order to help it be as good as you want it to be. There’s a great resource on social media examiner on how to build a thriving LinkedIn group, while HubSpot also provides some useful tips on how to manage groups.

Alternatively, Google+ is well on its way to matching and possibly succeeding LinkedIn as the discussion group king. Google+ communities work very much in the same manner as LinkedIn discussion groups, with the added benefit that they are arguably more visible to people surfing the net. For some industries, there is already a thriving presence on the network, with SEO being chief among them. The Google Authorship community is probably the stand out example (and you should definitely check it out if you have not done so already). It would be tough work to host discussion groups on both networks with limited resources, so it is worthwhile dipping your feet in some already existing groups in your industry to see whether or not there is an appetite for what you want to discuss.

It is a good idea to find communities in your industry that are not based on one of the big social media websites. There is a forum called Trade2Win that is extremely targeted to our audience and it serves as a great resource to them. We try to engage with our audience there as well, in order to let them know about any of our new developments and for them to also offer feedback and ask questions about our service. It can be a very open and frank discussion at times, but you have to respect with communities like these that you, as a brand rather than a consumer, are on ‘their turf’ as it were, and so you should treat it with the utmost respect. The one thing about engaging on a forum that you do not control of is that you are potentially open to attack, with no way of removing slander unless the forum master deems to do so. With that in mind, it is important that you establish a clear social media policy within your organisation before you engage, with clear rules of engagement for how to handle certain kinds of negative engagement.

Of course, nurturing your community is not exclusively an online pursuit.

There are many great things that a business can do to connect with their community offline. In London, where I am based, there is a relatively new artisan bakery called Gail’s. Their mission statement is to not only provide the best quality bakery products out there, but to also become integrated within their local communities. They do this by customising what products they stock in each store, for example in the region of Hampstead, where there is a large Jewish community; the store stocks more rye bread goods, among others.

Gail’s goes one step further than this and also holds community events in each store. Some events include book-reading clubs for their store based adjacent to a primary school, so that families can come after school and enjoy themselves. The Hampstead store also organises a garden party each year, where they invite businesses that offer local produce to set up market stalls across the high street and invite people to come and sample some tasty food. Both of these events are not designed to generate profit, but to increase the brand awareness of Gail’s and to also give back to the community that they are integrated in.

Incidentally, I don’t have much need for Gail’s anymore, as I’ve taken to making my own bread!

Note: Pacman Onesie not obligatory

There’s method in my madness: can you imagine if Gail’s asked people to post pictures of their loaves and funny bakes on their Facebook page, with the entrants getting discounts or even free items? That would be a prime example of a company engaging with its community online and to help them reconvert.

If you’re looking for more community ideas, you should look no further than the folks here at SEOmoz. They do a great job at engaging with their community. Just this week I was sent this swag from the team:

The slap-wrist has brought me much joy and my office much annoyance.

Conclusion: Let’s Get Out There

I hope this guide has inspired you to look at fun and engaging ways to spark reconversion. Let your customers know you love them and they’ll surely love you back!

I’d love to get some feedback from you in the comments below, as well as some cool stories about how you have worked on reconversions and building up your lovely communities.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Posted by TomRoberts

This post was originally in YouMoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc.

A great deal of emphasis is placed on inbound marketing and attracting new customers. However, we should be careful not to neglect the existing clients that we may have. These people are just as important as new customers and more often than not can provide you with a great return of investment. We should give our existing clients the marketing focus they deserve.

In this guide, I will look at why remarketing and reconverting your clients can be a valuable tactic for your business, while also providing examples on how we can do just that.

I hope you find this guide to be something a little bit different than what we normally see on Moz and, most of all, I hope you find it useful. I’d love it if you could read through the whole post, but for those revisiting or those strapped for time, here are a few links to jump you to each chapter:



Prelude: What Prompted the Post

I am just a poor boy, though my story’s seldom told. We don’t see an awful lot of in-house SEO perspectives here on SEOmoz and even less so from the financial services sector, of which my current role is in. This does give me the opportunity, however, to provide a real case study of how a company has identified the need to get more value from the client base and how they have done so.

Basically, our company provides a way for people to trade the financial markets, things like equities, currency pairs and so on. We provide this service in a number of countries across Europe, with the UK being our primary market.

The curious thing about this industry, over the last 6-12 months is that, while we as a company have acquired new clients somewhat exponentially, the trading volumes of those clients, effectively the amount that they have been trading, has not seen the same amount of growth. This is something that is reported to be affecting the industry as a whole.

There are likely a number of factors that are contributing to this. Market volatility as a whole is at a record low, while we are also reviewing our marketing channels to see which ones are providing the most worth to us. However, the thing that we felt we had most control over was ensuring that our clients were as happy as they could possibly be with us, which in turn would extend the time period they want to trade with us and would do so with more frequency.

This guide will aim to show what we have done as a company to help ensure our clients are satisfied with us and want to reconvert and how these methods can apply to a wide range of industries.

Chapter 1: I Demand Satisfaction

If you’re trying to get people to come back to your business and reconvert, they better have had a bloomin’ good experience the first time round. It goes without saying that people will need to have a positive experience with your company to even consider returning, regardless of whatever marketing campaign you are using to entice them back.

Therefore, the first part of any reconversion strategy is ensuring that the conversion the first time round is as smooth as possible. If you’re working on an ecommerce site, cart abandonment is always a hot topic and I really like Russ Henneberry’s guide on decreasing abandonment over on CrazyEgg.

The best way to know whether or not you are being well received is to have an open dialogue with your clients. SEOmoz is a great example of this, while at ETX Capital we always display a free contact number on our website, so that people only have to pick up the phone to talk with us. Being readily available on social media, particularly Twitter, is another great way to garner client feedback. Over 30% of top brands have launched a dedicated customer service handle and I’d advise you to check out the Simply Measured case study on brands’ Twitter activity.

You may also want to consider asking your clients to leave you their feedback on external review sites, such as Review Centre. Not only do you often get detailed feedback from people leaving reviews, your ranking here can help you obtain rich snippets in your PPC ads. If you receive over 30 reviews for your business and keep an average rating of 4 or more, you can have fancy, shmancy stars appear next to your ads like these:

Oh my God – it’s full of stars!

Finally, you definitely need to check out Joshua Unseth’s SEOmoz post on using Google Analytics for a QA strategy. Not only is it a brilliant resource, it can also help you discover what people are asking about your brand in Google search. You may find some trends on your service that you can address prior to people converting.

Chapter 2: Don’t Count Out a Discount

Source: NoSweatShakespeare.com

It might seem simple, but it is often effective. Offering discounts to returning customers is a great way to have them return and to build up a bit of brand loyalty. I can remember in November last year that I had a mullet to rival Billy Ray Cyrus and I decided that it was time for a smart cut. I went to Rush salon with no intention of returning for regular cuts, as I thought it was a bit pricey. One loyalty card stamp and two 25% off cuts later and I’m already looking forward to my next princess day!

Repeat customers very often cost less than acquiring new customers, so when you’re working out your margins and what discount you can afford to give, cost is definitely something you will want to consider.

Implementing the discount system is something that should not be underestimated either. For the ecommerce SEOs out there, you can find some very useful extensions for your CMS. OpenCart is arguably one of the best CMS systems out there right now and these three extensions may be of interest for you.

Providing physical discounts is still a very popular method as well. Providing branded cards with a discount code is a popular trick used by Amazon, when sending out its products (I must have had £600 worth of wine vouchers sent to me in three months, what are they trying to say?). I have to say I am a fan of the loyalty stamp card and I’ve often wondered why more businesses do not employ an online solution to this. For all intents and purposes, the Tesco Clubcard is a loyalty card that stores your data online, allowing you to redeem points for discounts – perhaps this could be applicable to your business?

It looks as though that more companies are heading towards loyalty stamp apps, if sites such as Stampfeet and Stampme are anything to go by. This could also be a useful discount solution for you.

Gamification is not something to be underestimated either. We see a lot of gamification in the health industry – I’d love to see a gym take it one step further and have a workout leader board. When you join the gym, you would be given a chip that logs all of your exercise on the machines. The people who run the most miles, burn the most calories, generate the most watts and so on would be given discounted membership for 1/3/6 months. It would offer an incentive for people to exercise harder, which can only be a good thing, while giving the gym some really positive PR.

Chapter 3: The Best Things in Life are Free

The Fandom of the Oprah is plain to see

Everyone loves free stuff, am I right? But how does giving stuff away for free translate into returning customers?

Remember, this is all about building brand loyalty and a satisfied consumer base. If you can achieve that, not only might customers be more inclined to use your services again, but happy customers may refer their friends to your business as well. Repeat customers can be walking billboards for business.

Having said that, it would be wise to plan your giveaway so that you can gain something else as well, in case the reconversions don’t come. Let me use an example of a recent contest we held on our Facebook page.

We recently offered some trading credit to our clients if they could correctly guess the US employment report, also known as the non-farm payrolls, at the start of the month. The ultimate aim was to reignite interest in trading and to see an increase in trading volumes, but we knew that we could also see the following benefits, if planned correctly:

  • An increase in ‘likes’ on our page.
  • An increase in engagement on other posts.
  • An increase in traffic and conversions, assisted or otherwise.

Because of the potential multi-benefits, we were happy to go ahead with the giveaway and I’d recommend that people look for similar multi-level benefits before parting with their product or service for nothing.

After contacting our existing clients by email on the day that the contest went live, as well as previewing the contest earlier in the week via our social media channels, we ended up seeing some great results. The ‘likes’ on our page increased substantially, analytics is reporting an increase in assisted Facebook conversions that week and we’ve also been seeing some increased engagement on our regular market updates, which is great to see. Having this open communication with our clients allows us to keep in touch with their wants and needs.

The icing on the cake is that we have also seen increased trading volumes in the days and weeks since the competition was launched. Without giving away too much sensitive information, I think it would be safe to say our initial outlay in terms of cost has been recuperated and then some.

Chapter 4: The Lost Art of Email Marketing

Source: poofytoo.tumblr.com

According to the DMA 2012 conference, for every $1 spent on email marketing $40.56is returned (The Email Marketing Trend Slideshare from Silverpop is a great read, if you’ve not seen it already). It surprises me that we don’t see it mentioned more often here, as it can be a great way of getting your clients to reconvert.

Many of the previous tips I have mentioned in this post have been used emails in order to generate interest, such as contacting our client base to alert them about the Facebook contest we were running. That’s not really marketing, but it is an indication that email is still one of the best ways to communicate with your customers.

Email marketing is a great way of interacting with your inactive user base and get them reconverting. There is a great CNET case study on Marketing Sherpa that looks at how offering incentives can get people to reconvert. The key takeaways are making sure that you:

  • Accurately segment your lists – ie knowing what group has been inactive for 60-120 days, which clients have been inactive for 120+ and so on.
  • Come up with a number of engagement tactics to test.
  • Identify with your team what constitutes as reactivation or reconversion.

If you’re using a decent CRM system, you will be able to track user activity, or lack thereof, in a lot of detail, such as date of last login, recent transactions etc. Using this data, you can segment your users how you want and can judge for yourself what classifies as an inactive user, for example. We use SalesForce for this purpose, but different size businesses may find better solutions elsewhere, so it is worth researching. PC World has featured five useful CRMs for small businesses in the past.

The above CNET case study makes for a great read and I think an email marketing campaign can be taken one step further by running a Facebook custom audience campaign. There is an excellent SEOmoz blog post on this topic that you should definitely check out, with one of the key highlights of custom audiences being that you can import and target people from your email list only. This obviously relies on a person using the same email for Facebook as they did with your website, but there’s a fairly decent chance that they would have. With this level of targeting, you can serve them relevant ads to supplement your email campaign, without breaking the budget.

If you’re looking to learn more about email marketing, the Aweber and Deliverability blogs are great places to start, while the email marketing whitepaper from MailChimp is a great free resource as well.

Chapter 5: Community is Key

Erm…probably not this Community

Community managers: rejoice! This chapter celebrates you and all the things that you do.

This is arguably the most important section of the guide. Nurturing your community is essential for reconversion, which is something that I have alluded to throughout this guide. The better the experience a customer has with your site, the more likely there are to return, reconvert and refer.

Remember, your community is most likely an open forum and not just the people who have used, worked with or are associated with your online business. This means that you need to create a positive community for people pre-conversion as much as you need to create a positive one for post-conversion folks.

Having high quality engagements with your community is one of the most direct ways of catering to their needs. Social media is an obvious outlet for this, but sometimes it can be hard to work out which social media channel would be best, both for levels of engagement and also for usability reasons. We have already talked about how customer service handles on Twitter can offer a direct response channel, but LinkedIn is often overlooked.

Linkedin discussion groups can be a great place to engage with your community, whether it’s in your own group or joining in the discussion elsewhere. More often than not, when you’re providing and contributing to useful discussions on LinkedIn, you are not just helping your community, but also your unaided brand awareness. One of the most famous examples of a big brand using LinkedIn is Hewlett Packard.

That is a summary of the HP case study provided by LinkedIn, which you can read in full here: http://marketing.linkedin.com/sites/default/files/pdfs/LinkedIn_HPUKCaseStudy2011.pdf. HP identified that their community and the demographic that they wanted to target were present on LinkedIn and so created a non-branded, general small business discussion group that allowed users to help one another out. Despite it being non-promotional, HP saw great results as a result of unaided brand awareness and the work that they had put into the community.

Hosting discussions such as these on LinkedIn brings with it an element of trust, as it is being hosted on a website people can trust and they would probably be more inclined to engage on than perhaps your own hosted forum. Furthermore, the benefit of being able to connect with users very quickly is a very valuable one, particularly when you bear in mind that HubSpot has reported that LinkedIn is up to 277% more effective at lead generation than other social networks.

It is worth noting that setting up a LinkedIn discussion group will be a time-consuming task. Moderation and encouraging engagement can take its time, so be sure that you can commit the human resource to the project in order to help it be as good as you want it to be. There’s a great resource on social media examiner on how to build a thriving LinkedIn group, while HubSpot also provides some useful tips on how to manage groups.

Alternatively, Google+ is well on its way to matching and possibly succeeding LinkedIn as the discussion group king. Google+ communities work very much in the same manner as LinkedIn discussion groups, with the added benefit that they are arguably more visible to people surfing the net. For some industries, there is already a thriving presence on the network, with SEO being chief among them. The Google Authorship community is probably the stand out example (and you should definitely check it out if you have not done so already). It would be tough work to host discussion groups on both networks with limited resources, so it is worthwhile dipping your feet in some already existing groups in your industry to see whether or not there is an appetite for what you want to discuss.

It is a good idea to find communities in your industry that are not based on one of the big social media websites. There is a forum called Trade2Win that is extremely targeted to our audience and it serves as a great resource to them. We try to engage with our audience there as well, in order to let them know about any of our new developments and for them to also offer feedback and ask questions about our service. It can be a very open and frank discussion at times, but you have to respect with communities like these that you, as a brand rather than a consumer, are on ‘their turf’ as it were, and so you should treat it with the utmost respect. The one thing about engaging on a forum that you do not control of is that you are potentially open to attack, with no way of removing slander unless the forum master deems to do so. With that in mind, it is important that you establish a clear social media policy within your organisation before you engage, with clear rules of engagement for how to handle certain kinds of negative engagement.

Of course, nurturing your community is not exclusively an online pursuit.

There are many great things that a business can do to connect with their community offline. In London, where I am based, there is a relatively new artisan bakery called Gail’s. Their mission statement is to not only provide the best quality bakery products out there, but to also become integrated within their local communities. They do this by customising what products they stock in each store, for example in the region of Hampstead, where there is a large Jewish community; the store stocks more rye bread goods, among others.

Gail’s goes one step further than this and also holds community events in each store. Some events include book-reading clubs for their store based adjacent to a primary school, so that families can come after school and enjoy themselves. The Hampstead store also organises a garden party each year, where they invite businesses that offer local produce to set up market stalls across the high street and invite people to come and sample some tasty food. Both of these events are not designed to generate profit, but to increase the brand awareness of Gail’s and to also give back to the community that they are integrated in.

Incidentally, I don’t have much need for Gail’s anymore, as I’ve taken to making my own bread!

Note: Pacman Onesie not obligatory

There’s method in my madness: can you imagine if Gail’s asked people to post pictures of their loaves and funny bakes on their Facebook page, with the entrants getting discounts or even free items? That would be a prime example of a company engaging with its community online and to help them reconvert.

If you’re looking for more community ideas, you should look no further than the folks here at SEOmoz. They do a great job at engaging with their community. Just this week I was sent this swag from the team:

The slap-wrist has brought me much joy and my office much annoyance.

Conclusion: Let’s Get Out There

I hope this guide has inspired you to look at fun and engaging ways to spark reconversion. Let your customers know you love them and they’ll surely love you back!

I’d love to get some feedback from you in the comments below, as well as some cool stories about how you have worked on reconversions and building up your lovely communities.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Read more http://bit.ly/ZzFO96

How a Simple Email Can Give You Critical Insight Into Your Recipients’ Behavior

As inbound marketersespecially us email marketers — we all but obsess over our clickthrough rates. If people are clicking through in our emails, it means we’ve provided content that’s interesting and relevant enough to make them want to learn more.

As inbound marketersespecially us email marketers — we all but obsess over our clickthrough rates. If people are clicking through in our emails, it means we’ve provided content that’s interesting and relevant enough to make them want to learn more.

Read more http://bit.ly/10WpxxR

Why SEO Is Like An RTS Game (and why you should care)

Posted by Jayson DeMers

This post was originally in YouMoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc.

As a fan of video games, I often compare real-life scenarios to similar elements in games. These elements offer a parallel way to approach many of the same types of challenges that we face in everyday life in a fun, unique way. After all, real life challenges shouldn’t necessarily be unpleasant; if they can be stimulating and entertaining, productivity will improve, and improved productivity usually translates to higher revenue.

Growing up, the first genre of video games I fell in love with was the RTS (real-time strategy). While RTS games usually pit warring factions against each other with an assortment of units involving infantry, armored vehicles, and air and sea-borne vessels, to me, SEO is actually a lot like an RTS; it even has its own versions of those classes of units. Let’s take a deeper look at why SEO is like an RTS game and how you can leverage this idea to benefit your SEO initiatives.

The battlefield

A basic element of any RTS game is the top-down view of the battlefield. From here, commanders have complete control over their campaign. They can devise a strategy, build a base, get real-time information and updates, upgrade technology, and take tactical control over their units to lead them into battle.

An Excel or Google Doc spreadsheet may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about a battlefield, but in essence, isn’t that what your SEO dashboard (or collection thereof) is? Many SEO professionals use dashboards to manage the various components of their SEO campaign(s), including:

  • Blog content calendar
  • Ranking and traffic monitoring
  • Competitor intelligence and monitoring
  • Guest post content calendar
  • Backlink profile monitoring
  • Brand mention and social media monitoring
  • Onsite optimization monitoring

Years ago, one of the revelations I had that led to vastly improved success as an RTS gamer was simple; increase my screen resolution so I can see more of the battlefield at a time. This change increased information flow to me, allowing me to react quicker and smarter to enemy threats, more effectively monitor my enemies, and control my units for offensive purposes more efficiently.

I had the same revelation one day when I was working in one my SEO dashboard spreadsheets. I had accidentally decreased the font and cell size of the spreadsheet, bringing more information into view at a time. I immediately started drawing new correlations that I hadn’t previously seen; that’s why this page isn’t ranking well. That’s what my competitor did that caused that page to have so much success in the rankings.

This idea extends beyond simply increasing the viewable area of your dashboards, though. Adding a second and third monitor on which you can constantly access dashboards containing information about the state of an SEO campaign, as well as those of your competitors, can allow you quickly detect opportunities for offensive strategies, weaknesses in competitors’ strategies, and tactical advancements being made by competitors.

It all comes down to this: information is intelligence, and what isn’t measured isn’t managed. Here are some of my preferred tools for measuring and monitoring my SEO campaigns:

The offensive weaponry

In RTS games, success is usually achieved by destroying your enemies completely, and battles are fought with land, air, and naval units. Things aren’t usually so brutal in the world of SEO, but offensive tactics can and do result in harm to your competitors.

For instance, moving ahead of a key competitor in the search engine rankings for a highly-trafficked search term will not only increase traffic to your website, but also decrease traffic to that competitor’s website. Repeating this across many keywords will result in significantly decreased traffic for your competitors, as you effectively consume more of the fixed “traffic pie” that exists for your niche or industry.

Similarly, while SEO battles aren’t fought with military units, they are fought with different classes of weaponry that can be compared to air, land, and sea: onsite content, inbound links, and social media signals.

Onsite content represents the foundation of any SEO initiative’s arsenal; it provides numerous benefits that strongly impact overall search visibility while supporting each of the other types of weaponry (by helping to acquire inbound links and providing discussion content for social media feeds). Onsite content is like the assortment of land units in an RTS game, and consists of text-based blog posts, press releases, infographics, video, images, responsive design, proper optimization of internal pages, and much more.

Inbound links are like the air force of an SEO campaign. They provide unparalleled power, and whomever wields the most and best of them generally has superiority on the battlefield (i.e. the best rankings and website traffic). However, getting good inbound links is time-consuming and can be expensive.

Social media signals are like the naval force of an SEO campaign; depending on the battlefield, they may not be needed or useful. However, in the right scenario they can be the force that wins the battle. Social signals currently play a significant role in search engine ranking algorithms, though I believe it’s less than that of onsite content or inbound links. Nonetheless, I expect the importance of social media signals to continue to rise, eventually overtaking or matching inbound links in terms of importance in the ranking algorithm.

Developing an SEO strategy in which you think about each of these three pillars of SEO as your offensive weaponry is key to a winning battle plan (and a successful SEO initiative). Each facet should be analyzed, actionable conclusions should be drawn, and tactical plans with clear milestones should be developed.

Just like a good battle plan, your SEO campaign needs careful and strategic thought and execution. Necessary resources should be calculated and acquired, and the campaign should be monitored and managed by a commander with an expert knowledge of the tools and weapons available (ie, an SEO professional), with a mind for strategy and an aptitude for swift tactical execution.

Follow these seven steps to ensure victory:

1. Start with keyword research

Performing good, informed keyword research is like building your base. In an RTS game, without a strong foundation from which to launch your attacks, you won’t win the battle. In the game of SEO, without proper keyword research, all your future efforts could be wasted.

2. SEO-optimize your onsite content

Optimizing your onsite content is like building your base defenses. In an RTS, your defenses are what will allow you to withstand enemy attacks. In the game of SEO, optimizing your content from an SEO-perspective will patch up any weaknesses in your strategy, making you more resilient to holding your rankings as your competitors engage in their campaigns.

3. Set up Google Authorship

Setting up Google Authorship is like enhancing the attack power of your offensive units. When Authorship is set up, your content will show up with visual representation in Google’s search results. Here’s an example:

Aside from the ego-boosting appeal of getting your lovable face on Google’s search results page, this has strategic, ROI-generating impact. Since these search results include images, they stand out from normal ones, drawing the searcher’s eye and resulting in more click-throughs. Every time you get a click, that means someone else didn’t. So, as your SEO campaign benefits, your competitors suffer.

Furthermore, Google Authorship imbues your name with the ability to accrue Author Rank, which is a growing factor in the ranking algorithm. The better your Author Rank, the better your content (that you authored) will rank.

4. Create amazing content for your blog

Creating content for your blog is like building your offensive army. Every great piece of content you create is like dropping another raffle ticket into Google’s hat. The more pages of content you have, the more chances you have to show up in Google’s search results. Furthermore, more content means more linkable assets on your website, and inbound links are the strongest single factor in the ranking algorithm.

Without great content (both on and off your website), your SEO campaign won’t be able to get off the ground. But with plenty of great content, you’ll have the ammunition you need to accrue inbound links, climb the rankings, and steal market share from your competitors.

5. Get your content in front of people who will enjoy it using social media marketing

Social media marketing is a way to augment and support your “army” of content. Content that receives lots of social mentions and shares will perform much better in search results, garner more inbound links, and generate more referral traffic, brand awareness, and website traffic.

6. Start your guest blogging campaign

Your guest blogging campaign is like your special weapon or attack unit. In RTS games, each faction has its own special weapon that the enemy fears. A little later in this article, I’ll discuss one such unit, the Krogoth, from one of my personal favorite RTS games: Total Annihilation (and how that relates to SEO).

In SEO, guest blogging is a difficult, time-consuming, endeavor that requires a ton of patience, expertise, and professionalism. The barrier to entry is high, but if you can pull it off, your competitors will fear you; especially if they aren’t doing it themselves.

Guest blogging is my favorite way to build brand awareness, authority, and credibility. Best of all, it’s a great way for me to share and add value about the things I know about (like SEO, social media, and entrepreneurship). Knowing that I’m adding value to the community makes me look forward to getting out of bed and writing every morning. The referral traffic is great, too!

7. Build your personal brand

Your personal brand is what defines who you are as an individual, and this is important because people like people; not companies. If a personal brand were to be compared to an RTS game, I suppose it could be compared to your playing style. Do you like to rush your opponent quickly before they’ve had time to build their base, or do you prefer to play a long, strategic game?

Your personal brand defines how you interact and connect with not only your community, but also your competitors. Earn the respect of your competitors and you’ll surely earn the respect of your target market. This will result in traffic, leads, and sales.

Time and effort creates value

In most RTS games, the more expensive the unit, the more effective it is in battle. I fondly remember one unit called the Krogoth (from Total Annihilation, my favorite RTS game), which was a massive and devastating offensive unit that required a huge amount of resources and time to build. However, the Krogoth could take down entire armies of enemy units. Just a few of them could march into an enemy base and wreak havoc, severely damaging the enemy if not causing their complete destruction.

In the game of SEO, extremely valuable (often expensive and/or time-consuming) content is like the Krogoth. It can attract lots of high-quality inbound links, referral traffic, and social media buzz. Neil Patel of Quicksprout has mastered this concept and represents a perfect example for how to do it correctly.

Neil invests a great deal of time and money to create and publish extremely valuable eBooks, videos, infographics, and blog posts which have helped establish him as a well-known and successful entrepreneur. Not only has Neil’s personal brand benefited from this distinction, but so have his businesses.

Similarly, SEOmoz specializes in publishing top-notch quality content. They have built their business around the success of this content, using it to build brand awareness, trust, and loyalty, which has helped grow and establish the world’s largest community of SEO professionals, to which they sell their SEO software toolset.

Just like it’s more worthwhile to build a Krogoth than an entire army of smaller units, one extremely awesome and highly-valuable piece of content is better than many low-value ones.

Conclusion

While SEO and RTS gaming may seem totally unrelated at first glance, learning to think like a battlefield commander can mean the difference between a good SEO professional and a masterful one (or a moderately successful SEO campaign vs. a wildly successful one).

I hope this unique look into the similarities of SEO and RTS games gives SEO professionals a new perspective with which to view our young industry; one that will breathe some life into the daily grind while yielding more successful SEO campaigns. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Posted by Jayson DeMers

This post was originally in YouMoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc.

As a fan of video games, I often compare real-life scenarios to similar elements in games. These elements offer a parallel way to approach many of the same types of challenges that we face in everyday life in a fun, unique way. After all, real life challenges shouldn’t necessarily be unpleasant; if they can be stimulating and entertaining, productivity will improve, and improved productivity usually translates to higher revenue.

Growing up, the first genre of video games I fell in love with was the RTS (real-time strategy). While RTS games usually pit warring factions against each other with an assortment of units involving infantry, armored vehicles, and air and sea-borne vessels, to me, SEO is actually a lot like an RTS; it even has its own versions of those classes of units. Let’s take a deeper look at why SEO is like an RTS game and how you can leverage this idea to benefit your SEO initiatives.

The battlefield

A basic element of any RTS game is the top-down view of the battlefield. From here, commanders have complete control over their campaign. They can devise a strategy, build a base, get real-time information and updates, upgrade technology, and take tactical control over their units to lead them into battle.

An Excel or Google Doc spreadsheet may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about a battlefield, but in essence, isn’t that what your SEO dashboard (or collection thereof) is? Many SEO professionals use dashboards to manage the various components of their SEO campaign(s), including:

  • Blog content calendar
  • Ranking and traffic monitoring
  • Competitor intelligence and monitoring
  • Guest post content calendar
  • Backlink profile monitoring
  • Brand mention and social media monitoring
  • Onsite optimization monitoring

Years ago, one of the revelations I had that led to vastly improved success as an RTS gamer was simple; increase my screen resolution so I can see more of the battlefield at a time. This change increased information flow to me, allowing me to react quicker and smarter to enemy threats, more effectively monitor my enemies, and control my units for offensive purposes more efficiently.

I had the same revelation one day when I was working in one my SEO dashboard spreadsheets. I had accidentally decreased the font and cell size of the spreadsheet, bringing more information into view at a time. I immediately started drawing new correlations that I hadn’t previously seen; that’s why this page isn’t ranking well. That’s what my competitor did that caused that page to have so much success in the rankings.

This idea extends beyond simply increasing the viewable area of your dashboards, though. Adding a second and third monitor on which you can constantly access dashboards containing information about the state of an SEO campaign, as well as those of your competitors, can allow you quickly detect opportunities for offensive strategies, weaknesses in competitors’ strategies, and tactical advancements being made by competitors.

It all comes down to this: information is intelligence, and what isn’t measured isn’t managed. Here are some of my preferred tools for measuring and monitoring my SEO campaigns:

The offensive weaponry

In RTS games, success is usually achieved by destroying your enemies completely, and battles are fought with land, air, and naval units. Things aren’t usually so brutal in the world of SEO, but offensive tactics can and do result in harm to your competitors.

For instance, moving ahead of a key competitor in the search engine rankings for a highly-trafficked search term will not only increase traffic to your website, but also decrease traffic to that competitor’s website. Repeating this across many keywords will result in significantly decreased traffic for your competitors, as you effectively consume more of the fixed “traffic pie” that exists for your niche or industry.

Similarly, while SEO battles aren’t fought with military units, they are fought with different classes of weaponry that can be compared to air, land, and sea: onsite content, inbound links, and social media signals.

Onsite content represents the foundation of any SEO initiative’s arsenal; it provides numerous benefits that strongly impact overall search visibility while supporting each of the other types of weaponry (by helping to acquire inbound links and providing discussion content for social media feeds). Onsite content is like the assortment of land units in an RTS game, and consists of text-based blog posts, press releases, infographics, video, images, responsive design, proper optimization of internal pages, and much more.

Inbound links are like the air force of an SEO campaign. They provide unparalleled power, and whomever wields the most and best of them generally has superiority on the battlefield (i.e. the best rankings and website traffic). However, getting good inbound links is time-consuming and can be expensive.

Social media signals are like the naval force of an SEO campaign; depending on the battlefield, they may not be needed or useful. However, in the right scenario they can be the force that wins the battle. Social signals currently play a significant role in search engine ranking algorithms, though I believe it’s less than that of onsite content or inbound links. Nonetheless, I expect the importance of social media signals to continue to rise, eventually overtaking or matching inbound links in terms of importance in the ranking algorithm.

Developing an SEO strategy in which you think about each of these three pillars of SEO as your offensive weaponry is key to a winning battle plan (and a successful SEO initiative). Each facet should be analyzed, actionable conclusions should be drawn, and tactical plans with clear milestones should be developed.

Just like a good battle plan, your SEO campaign needs careful and strategic thought and execution. Necessary resources should be calculated and acquired, and the campaign should be monitored and managed by a commander with an expert knowledge of the tools and weapons available (ie, an SEO professional), with a mind for strategy and an aptitude for swift tactical execution.

Follow these seven steps to ensure victory:

1. Start with keyword research

Performing good, informed keyword research is like building your base. In an RTS game, without a strong foundation from which to launch your attacks, you won’t win the battle. In the game of SEO, without proper keyword research, all your future efforts could be wasted.

2. SEO-optimize your onsite content

Optimizing your onsite content is like building your base defenses. In an RTS, your defenses are what will allow you to withstand enemy attacks. In the game of SEO, optimizing your content from an SEO-perspective will patch up any weaknesses in your strategy, making you more resilient to holding your rankings as your competitors engage in their campaigns.

3. Set up Google Authorship

Setting up Google Authorship is like enhancing the attack power of your offensive units. When Authorship is set up, your content will show up with visual representation in Google’s search results. Here’s an example:

Aside from the ego-boosting appeal of getting your lovable face on Google’s search results page, this has strategic, ROI-generating impact. Since these search results include images, they stand out from normal ones, drawing the searcher’s eye and resulting in more click-throughs. Every time you get a click, that means someone else didn’t. So, as your SEO campaign benefits, your competitors suffer.

Furthermore, Google Authorship imbues your name with the ability to accrue Author Rank, which is a growing factor in the ranking algorithm. The better your Author Rank, the better your content (that you authored) will rank.

4. Create amazing content for your blog

Creating content for your blog is like building your offensive army. Every great piece of content you create is like dropping another raffle ticket into Google’s hat. The more pages of content you have, the more chances you have to show up in Google’s search results. Furthermore, more content means more linkable assets on your website, and inbound links are the strongest single factor in the ranking algorithm.

Without great content (both on and off your website), your SEO campaign won’t be able to get off the ground. But with plenty of great content, you’ll have the ammunition you need to accrue inbound links, climb the rankings, and steal market share from your competitors.

5. Get your content in front of people who will enjoy it using social media marketing

Social media marketing is a way to augment and support your “army” of content. Content that receives lots of social mentions and shares will perform much better in search results, garner more inbound links, and generate more referral traffic, brand awareness, and website traffic.

6. Start your guest blogging campaign

Your guest blogging campaign is like your special weapon or attack unit. In RTS games, each faction has its own special weapon that the enemy fears. A little later in this article, I’ll discuss one such unit, the Krogoth, from one of my personal favorite RTS games: Total Annihilation (and how that relates to SEO).

In SEO, guest blogging is a difficult, time-consuming, endeavor that requires a ton of patience, expertise, and professionalism. The barrier to entry is high, but if you can pull it off, your competitors will fear you; especially if they aren’t doing it themselves.

Guest blogging is my favorite way to build brand awareness, authority, and credibility. Best of all, it’s a great way for me to share and add value about the things I know about (like SEO, social media, and entrepreneurship). Knowing that I’m adding value to the community makes me look forward to getting out of bed and writing every morning. The referral traffic is great, too!

7. Build your personal brand

Your personal brand is what defines who you are as an individual, and this is important because people like people; not companies. If a personal brand were to be compared to an RTS game, I suppose it could be compared to your playing style. Do you like to rush your opponent quickly before they’ve had time to build their base, or do you prefer to play a long, strategic game?

Your personal brand defines how you interact and connect with not only your community, but also your competitors. Earn the respect of your competitors and you’ll surely earn the respect of your target market. This will result in traffic, leads, and sales.

Time and effort creates value

In most RTS games, the more expensive the unit, the more effective it is in battle. I fondly remember one unit called the Krogoth (from Total Annihilation, my favorite RTS game), which was a massive and devastating offensive unit that required a huge amount of resources and time to build. However, the Krogoth could take down entire armies of enemy units. Just a few of them could march into an enemy base and wreak havoc, severely damaging the enemy if not causing their complete destruction.

In the game of SEO, extremely valuable (often expensive and/or time-consuming) content is like the Krogoth. It can attract lots of high-quality inbound links, referral traffic, and social media buzz. Neil Patel of Quicksprout has mastered this concept and represents a perfect example for how to do it correctly.

Neil invests a great deal of time and money to create and publish extremely valuable eBooks, videos, infographics, and blog posts which have helped establish him as a well-known and successful entrepreneur. Not only has Neil’s personal brand benefited from this distinction, but so have his businesses.

Similarly, SEOmoz specializes in publishing top-notch quality content. They have built their business around the success of this content, using it to build brand awareness, trust, and loyalty, which has helped grow and establish the world’s largest community of SEO professionals, to which they sell their SEO software toolset.

Just like it’s more worthwhile to build a Krogoth than an entire army of smaller units, one extremely awesome and highly-valuable piece of content is better than many low-value ones.

Conclusion

While SEO and RTS gaming may seem totally unrelated at first glance, learning to think like a battlefield commander can mean the difference between a good SEO professional and a masterful one (or a moderately successful SEO campaign vs. a wildly successful one).

I hope this unique look into the similarities of SEO and RTS games gives SEO professionals a new perspective with which to view our young industry; one that will breathe some life into the daily grind while yielding more successful SEO campaigns. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Read more http://bit.ly/ZRSqcL

Two Personas Every Marketer Should Care About, Even if They Never Buy

At HubSpot we talk about personas a lot. That’s because inbound marketing is really about creating persona-driven marketing that helps you engage with your dream customers in the channels they are most comfortable in. When discussing personas, we usually talk about buyer personas and how identifying them can help you create marketing people really love.

At HubSpot we talk about personas a lot. That’s because inbound marketing is really about creating persona-driven marketing that helps you engage with your dream customers in the channels they are most comfortable in. When discussing personas, we usually talk about buyer personas and how identifying them can help you create marketing people really love.

Read more RATE_LIMIT_EXCEEDED

Competitor Research In An Inbound Marketing World

Posted by dohertyjf

We all know that online marketing is changing. When I started in online marketing a few years ago, all the talk was still about links and directories and ways to get more exact match anchor text. Some SEOs were doing some pretty nefarious things and profiting from it, but most of that came crashing down starting in February 2011 (with the first Panda algorithm) and then over the past couple of years with Panda, Penguin, and the EMD update all rolling out and affecting websites the world over.

Rand talked last week about the changing SEO metrics, and today I want to talk about the changing landscape of competitor analysis as more and more people make the shift from just SEO to inbound marketing. Since inbound marketing includes a lot more than SEO, if we want to be effective inbound/online marketing consultants, we need to not only have proficiency or knowledge of the different roles of an inbound marketer, but when we get into actionable recommendations for our clients or our company we need to know how to analyze what our competitors are doing across the whole marketing space, both to identify deficiencies in their strategy that you can exploit as well as to see what they are doing that you should also adopt for your company.

So today I am going to talk about a few of the key areas of inbound marketing where you should investigate because they are likely to bring the largest returns (I’m talking about the Pareto Principle, which I was reintroduced to by Dan Shure in this post on his site about applying it to SEO).

By the way, if you’re interested in more on this topic, I’m going to focus on it pretty heavily in my upcoming Searchlove presentation in Boston. I’d love to see you there! Ok, let’s dive in.

Email marketing

If you’ve been in marketing for a while, you should know that email can have an incredible return on investment for the small amount of setup that it takes. In fact it’s the 2nd best ROI for many businesses, according to eConsultancy:

What if I told you that 39.16% of our conversions on the Distilled website (micro and macro conversions, including DistilledU, conferences, and lead gen forms) were touched by an email during the conversion process? What if I told you that this is more than either organic or social? Here’s the proof:

If you’re not doing email marketing, you probably should be. But what works best in your industry? Often we’re paralyzed by the multiplicity of options presented to us by any choice, and research has recently shown that limiting the number of choices can lead to better and less risky decisions than when we’re faced with a seemingly infinite number. By being smart about our analysis, we can reduce the number of choices that we have to make around email, like:

  • What time do I send my emails?
  • How often should I send them?
  • Should I invest in good design?
  • What kind of call to action should I include to start with?

Stalk your competitor’s emails

If you’re interested in investing in email marketing, I’d first suggest that you subscribe to your competitors’ email lists so that you receive emails whenever they send them to their entire list. You won’t be able to learn how they’re segmenting their lists, but you’ll find their frequency, their subject lines that get you to click, and how they are calling you to action. Stephen Pavlovich talked about this at Searchlove New York in 2011, where he suggested that you save your competitor’s emails to your Evernote, with a specific tag, so that you can go back and get ideas for your own emails. While this is an amazing tip that we should all do, it’s step 1 and we should all go further. I like to take the emails sent by my competitors and analyze them in an Excel spreadsheet, taking into account:

  • Name
  • Email date
  • Time arrived
  • Custom design?
  • Call to action
  • Subject line
  • Did I click?
  • Was the email triggered (i.e. was it influenced by something I did recently on their site)?

My analysis looks like this. Feel free to use something similar:

I recently found a chart on MarketingCharts.com (one of my favorite sites) that talked about fallacies surrounding email marketing according to Experian. Their way of setting up their analysis may help you as well:

Throw Into Wordle

Now we need to find what common themes our competitors are using when they send out their emails. The best way to visualize this (I’m a visual person) is by using one of my favorite tools, Wordle. When I put in the words that my competitors have been using for their subject lines, I get this:

Protip 1: To get the best results, use the biggest dataset you can find.

Protip 2: Use this knowledge to inform the content you should be doing outside of blogging :-)

Content production

Content is a huge part of inbound marketing. You know this, I know this, everyone who reads Moz knows this. So why do I say it? Because once you go beyond “content is king” knowledge, you can actually take this belief that use it to create content that your readers want. When it comes to competitor analysis, you can either choose to do this manually or in a more automated (but possibly less accurate) fashion.

Manually

Using the information gleaned from the Wordle above, I can then go run advanced queries in Google to find how much my competitors are talking about the different content types listed. For example, if I run a [site:seogadget.com "webinar"] search, I get 14 results:

That’s not very many (and no, I’m not calling out SEOgadget here. They do absolutely phenomenal work!), so if I’m starting a marketing agency, or have one that I want to build, this may be an area that I should investigate. At Distilled we run conferences because a) we had someone internally that wanted to do them, b) we thought we could run a darn good conference, and c) because we saw a need for the type of conference we could put on.

More automated

If you want to automate this a bit, you can at least find the number of times that a competitor has mentioned the type of content on their site in the URL. I chose to use the URL instead of just on the site because people will usually put the important words in the URL. We’re not looking for all mentions of a content type like “webinar” – instead we want webinars that only they have put on and published on their site.

So what I have done is built out a spreadsheet for you, a rough tool, using IMPORTXML to scrape the number of results that a site has for the content type. If you’re at all good with scraping in Gdocs, you can make this sheet customized to fit your needs and content types I’m sure!

Go here to open and make a copy of the spreadsheet.

Social amplification

You do follow your competitors on Twitter, or at least have them in a list, right? Oh you don’t. Go do that. I’ll wait.

*Whistles tune*

Following your competitors on social media will allow you to see their strategies for social promotion (if any). While this is nothing groundbreaking, it’s also not something that many people are doing already. You can see how often they are tweeting their own content, if they are tweeting the content of others, and it can also inform you about the kind of content that they are creating.

Since you now know what kind of content they are creating, you can figure out their social promotion strategy outside of their own accounts. Who are their tweeterati (aka, who shares their posts)? Better than that, who are the influential people that share their content? Once you find this, you can then decide whether you will be able to get those same people to promote your content, and how to do that, or if you need to find new people to connect with solely (using a tool like FollowerWonk).

Lucky for you, Topsy allows you to find who the influential people are that share a specific URL. After you enter a URL with “Tweets” selected on Topsy, you can then select “Show Influential Only”, like below:

This is all well and good, but want to do it faster? I built a spreadsheet for you where you can take a URL and it builds the Topsy URL for you, then scrapes the Influential people. Once again, throw this into a Wordle (or Tagxedo, which is more stable) and see who the influencers are!

Go here to make a copy of the spreadsheet.


I hope this post gives you ideas for what is possible for the new competitor analysis within inbound marketing. I’d love to hear in the comments what other ways you are using to do competitor analysis these days.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Posted by dohertyjf

We all know that online marketing is changing. When I started in online marketing a few years ago, all the talk was still about links and directories and ways to get more exact match anchor text. Some SEOs were doing some pretty nefarious things and profiting from it, but most of that came crashing down starting in February 2011 (with the first Panda algorithm) and then over the past couple of years with Panda, Penguin, and the EMD update all rolling out and affecting websites the world over.

Rand talked last week about the changing SEO metrics, and today I want to talk about the changing landscape of competitor analysis as more and more people make the shift from just SEO to inbound marketing. Since inbound marketing includes a lot more than SEO, if we want to be effective inbound/online marketing consultants, we need to not only have proficiency or knowledge of the different roles of an inbound marketer, but when we get into actionable recommendations for our clients or our company we need to know how to analyze what our competitors are doing across the whole marketing space, both to identify deficiencies in their strategy that you can exploit as well as to see what they are doing that you should also adopt for your company.

So today I am going to talk about a few of the key areas of inbound marketing where you should investigate because they are likely to bring the largest returns (I’m talking about the Pareto Principle, which I was reintroduced to by Dan Shure in this post on his site about applying it to SEO).

By the way, if you’re interested in more on this topic, I’m going to focus on it pretty heavily in my upcoming Searchlove presentation in Boston. I’d love to see you there! Ok, let’s dive in.

Email marketing

If you’ve been in marketing for a while, you should know that email can have an incredible return on investment for the small amount of setup that it takes. In fact it’s the 2nd best ROI for many businesses, according to eConsultancy:

What if I told you that 39.16% of our conversions on the Distilled website (micro and macro conversions, including DistilledU, conferences, and lead gen forms) were touched by an email during the conversion process? What if I told you that this is more than either organic or social? Here’s the proof:

If you’re not doing email marketing, you probably should be. But what works best in your industry? Often we’re paralyzed by the multiplicity of options presented to us by any choice, and research has recently shown that limiting the number of choices can lead to better and less risky decisions than when we’re faced with a seemingly infinite number. By being smart about our analysis, we can reduce the number of choices that we have to make around email, like:

  • What time do I send my emails?
  • How often should I send them?
  • Should I invest in good design?
  • What kind of call to action should I include to start with?

Stalk your competitor’s emails

If you’re interested in investing in email marketing, I’d first suggest that you subscribe to your competitors’ email lists so that you receive emails whenever they send them to their entire list. You won’t be able to learn how they’re segmenting their lists, but you’ll find their frequency, their subject lines that get you to click, and how they are calling you to action. Stephen Pavlovich talked about this at Searchlove New York in 2011, where he suggested that you save your competitor’s emails to your Evernote, with a specific tag, so that you can go back and get ideas for your own emails. While this is an amazing tip that we should all do, it’s step 1 and we should all go further. I like to take the emails sent by my competitors and analyze them in an Excel spreadsheet, taking into account:

  • Name
  • Email date
  • Time arrived
  • Custom design?
  • Call to action
  • Subject line
  • Did I click?
  • Was the email triggered (i.e. was it influenced by something I did recently on their site)?

My analysis looks like this. Feel free to use something similar:

I recently found a chart on MarketingCharts.com (one of my favorite sites) that talked about fallacies surrounding email marketing according to Experian. Their way of setting up their analysis may help you as well:

Throw Into Wordle

Now we need to find what common themes our competitors are using when they send out their emails. The best way to visualize this (I’m a visual person) is by using one of my favorite tools, Wordle. When I put in the words that my competitors have been using for their subject lines, I get this:

Protip 1: To get the best results, use the biggest dataset you can find.

Protip 2: Use this knowledge to inform the content you should be doing outside of blogging :-)

Content production

Content is a huge part of inbound marketing. You know this, I know this, everyone who reads Moz knows this. So why do I say it? Because once you go beyond “content is king” knowledge, you can actually take this belief that use it to create content that your readers want. When it comes to competitor analysis, you can either choose to do this manually or in a more automated (but possibly less accurate) fashion.

Manually

Using the information gleaned from the Wordle above, I can then go run advanced queries in Google to find how much my competitors are talking about the different content types listed. For example, if I run a [site:seogadget.com "webinar"] search, I get 14 results:

That’s not very many (and no, I’m not calling out SEOgadget here. They do absolutely phenomenal work!), so if I’m starting a marketing agency, or have one that I want to build, this may be an area that I should investigate. At Distilled we run conferences because a) we had someone internally that wanted to do them, b) we thought we could run a darn good conference, and c) because we saw a need for the type of conference we could put on.

More automated

If you want to automate this a bit, you can at least find the number of times that a competitor has mentioned the type of content on their site in the URL. I chose to use the URL instead of just on the site because people will usually put the important words in the URL. We’re not looking for all mentions of a content type like “webinar” – instead we want webinars that only they have put on and published on their site.

So what I have done is built out a spreadsheet for you, a rough tool, using IMPORTXML to scrape the number of results that a site has for the content type. If you’re at all good with scraping in Gdocs, you can make this sheet customized to fit your needs and content types I’m sure!

Go here to open and make a copy of the spreadsheet.

Social amplification

You do follow your competitors on Twitter, or at least have them in a list, right? Oh you don’t. Go do that. I’ll wait.

*Whistles tune*

Following your competitors on social media will allow you to see their strategies for social promotion (if any). While this is nothing groundbreaking, it’s also not something that many people are doing already. You can see how often they are tweeting their own content, if they are tweeting the content of others, and it can also inform you about the kind of content that they are creating.

Since you now know what kind of content they are creating, you can figure out their social promotion strategy outside of their own accounts. Who are their tweeterati (aka, who shares their posts)? Better than that, who are the influential people that share their content? Once you find this, you can then decide whether you will be able to get those same people to promote your content, and how to do that, or if you need to find new people to connect with solely (using a tool like FollowerWonk).

Lucky for you, Topsy allows you to find who the influential people are that share a specific URL. After you enter a URL with “Tweets” selected on Topsy, you can then select “Show Influential Only”, like below:

This is all well and good, but want to do it faster? I built a spreadsheet for you where you can take a URL and it builds the Topsy URL for you, then scrapes the Influential people. Once again, throw this into a Wordle (or Tagxedo, which is more stable) and see who the influencers are!

Go here to make a copy of the spreadsheet.


I hope this post gives you ideas for what is possible for the new competitor analysis within inbound marketing. I’d love to hear in the comments what other ways you are using to do competitor analysis these days.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Read more http://bit.ly/11RJSA0

10 Horrifying Stats About Display Advertising

We are biased inbound marketers at HubSpot, and normally I ignore many of the stats I see about display ads because I know their engagement rate is incredibly low: The average banner ad has a 0.1% clickthrough rate (CTR), and the standard 468×60 banner has a 0.04% CTR.

We are biased inbound marketers at HubSpot, and normally I ignore many of the stats I see about display ads because I know their engagement rate is incredibly low: The average banner ad has a 0.1% clickthrough rate (CTR), and the standard 468×60 banner has a 0.04% CTR.

Read more RATE_LIMIT_EXCEEDED