Why All Companies Need Paid Social

In the beginning, the coolest thing about social media was the ability to reach thousands of people, maybe even millions, for free with just one click. Fast forward to today, where everyone’s trying to make themselves heard on all platforms, creating so much noise that only about 10 percent of your audience ever sees your posts.

Why pay for something that was once a free and easy way to promote your brand? According to March’s Director of Social Strategy Amanda Fountain, it’s an effective way to cut through the noise on social and can be a cost-effective option if you implement smart strategies. Amanda ran through the basics, including different types of paid posts and the pros and cons of specific social platforms.

Q: What is the difference between organic and paid social media?

Organic posts are everything you publish on social feeds (without money behind it) as part of a regular content strategy. Meanwhile, paid posts are ones that you really want to amplify and have specific targeting and budget behind it, so the platform pushes it out to audiences. An organic post will always show up in your content feed; a paid post may or may not appear in your content feed.

Q: When is it worth putting money behind a post?

When you have a very specific goal attached to a post, putting money behind it is really helpful. You could be trying to get registrations for a webinar or driving people to a landing page for lead generation. Marketing-focused posts like these are looking for a specific action, so they need to work a little bit harder.

From the pure PR side where the goal is brand visibility, it’s harder and harder to combat newsfeed algorithm changes on social platforms. Putting a little spend behind posts counters these algorithms and ensures brand recognition by making sure you’re seen by people who already follow you and expanding reach to audiences that aren’t following you yet.

Q: Obviously social media channels become more and more saturated with time, but why is paid social more important now than it was five years ago?

Across all platforms, there’s just more content than there was five years ago. More people using social, more publishing, and more talking. There are 500 million Tweets posted per day. With that crazy volume, it’s hard for people to see it all. Most people aren’t looking at Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook every second of every day. That means if you post something once, there are thousands of other tweets posted in the same time span.

Q: What is a boosted post?

A boosted post is specific method for amplifying and promoting a post. “Boost” is actually a great name because it’s so descriptive of what happens. When you boost a post you’re just giving it an extra push to make sure it’s visible for anyone who is currently following you. You can add targeting to try to get within specific followers’ networks as well. It’s a great option to ensure your current audience sees your content.

Q: What is a dark post?

Dark posts are used for more specific goals. For example, if you have an event in Tokyo, everyone across the globe doesn’t need to see that event, because it’s not relevant to them. If you attach targeting to a dark post specific to Tokyo, only people in Tokyo will see it. The post doesn’t show up in your regular feed, which is good because it only appeals to one segment of your audience.

Dark posts are powerful for advertising purposes and AB testing, or split testing. Setting up an AB test allows you to work with algorithms to put different messages or images in front of your audience. Using dark posts this way allows you to constantly test content, without inundating the audience with four posts saying the same thing in slightly different ways in the regular content feed. Once you find which types of messages work well, you can more confidently craft organic posts.

Q: Among the top social platforms, is one more helpful than others?

All of the platforms have paid options but knowing which one is best to use depends on who the audience is. For example, with a young audience in the consumer space, Snapchat might actually be the way to go. Similar audiences are also on Instagram, where you can do ads as stories. There’s been an interesting shift lately as more business and tech companies are starting to get on these younger, trendier platforms with paid promotions as well.

What’s most helpful though is knowing where your audience is and meeting them there. Don’t avoid a platform because you think it’s not going to work or might be too expensive. If you know your audience is there, it’s almost always worth the cost to try it out.

Q: What are the top pros and cons of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn?

Facebook ’s targeting options are broad and there are a lot of options. This is good if you have specific demographic information about your audience—household income, age ranges, kids at home, interests, basically a deep-dive on everything about your audience’s entire life. But if you don’t know as much about them, either because it’s a wide variety of people, or what you know doesn’t align with the information Facebook gathers, it’s harder to target. For example, a consumer brand looking to reach moms will typically have an idea of the age range, some interests and household income. A company looking to reach IT managers may not know as much about their personal lives beyond an age bracket.

Twitter can be a wild card. You’re limited to targeting people based on how much information they’ve filled out on their profile and how they interact and engage on the platform. This is challenging because Twitter is a place where people are often loose or funny with descriptions of themselves. They might put “Beantown” as their location rather than Boston. There’s no targeting option for Beantown because that’s not a real location. You can’t get as granular, but it’s great if you’re looking for a broad audience with a broad interest.

LinkedIn is the most specific targeting based on seniority, title and groups, making it a great option for B2B. The flip is that it’s a little harder to target larger consumer groups. It can get expensive very quickly for anyone who is looking reach a broad audience, but it’s worth it to try for more niche and narrowly focused audiences.

Q: How do you measure the results of each campaign?

It’s tough. There’s always the question of “How does my campaign compare to the average?” But comparing to the “average” on each platform doesn’t make sense, because you would be comparing yourself to every company that has ever advertised on the platform. A company making a heart rate sensor wristband is going to have different results than a company who makes smart cars or mobile wallets. They’re not trying to go for the same audience, so trying to compare results can be disappointing. The better approach is to benchmark after your first social campaign and keep improving from there.

For action-oriented campaigns : If your initial campaign cost $100 per click, you need to ask, “Did that click actually convert to a lead worth $100?” If so, great job! You crushed that campaign and can try to do even better next time. But if you know it normally only costs $25 to get a lead, you need to adjust future campaigns.

For brand awareness campaigns : If you know Twitter normally gets 1,000 impressions, and adding spend now gets 4,000 impressions, that’s a great jump. Gaining, retaining and engaging more followers is also a big win.

Q: Do you think a social campaign could be successful without paid posts?

Every good social strategy should have a paid component, but you don’t need to put it behind every post. Save your paid budget for campaigns that need to make a bigger impact. Overall, social has moved to a quality over quantity approach. It’s not about posting everything; it’s about posting the right things for your audience. Adding money to promote makes sure your audience gets to see it in a noisy and crowded space.

Written by Elisabeth O’Donnell for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Tim Bennett

Why Building a Brand Is the Secret to Future-Proofing Your Business

.
. Business2Community

Counselling / Pixabay

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room”

—Jeff Bezos

When people ask us why branding matters, it’s a loaded question. Can you run a business without a brand? Sure. But will you be memorable? Will people feel an affection for you? Above all, will you last? Without a strong brand, the odds aren’t in your favor.

Branding matters not just for vanity or for aesthetic reasons. It matters because the business paradigm has shifted (and continues to shift). Old channels of communication aren’t as effective as they once were, people’s expectations have changed, and as a result the walls between businesses and people are breaking down. Transparency, trust, and connection are the secrets to longevity—and it’s difficult to cultivate those without a brand.

4 Reasons Brand Building Is the Secret to Success

Building a brand takes work, but it has a tremendous payoff, now and later. From being able to charge premium prices to cultivating loyalty, here are the key ways in which having a brand helps your business.

1) Differentiation

It goes without saying that pretty much every market everywhere is full of tough competition. Marketing is tougher than ever, too. With so many channels, it’s harder and harder to be seen and heard. Branding is the secret to cutting through that noise. With a unique identity, reliable content, and a strong presence, it helps you stand out from competitors.

Branding juggernauts like BMW and Coke are brands that have built empires, but branding isn’t exclusively for mega-corporations. Mom-and-pop small businesses can build brands that are sensations, too.

In fact, for many, being the little guy is a huge part of their identity. For example, Sqirl is a small LA-based cafe famous for their signature jams. They’ve built a cult following (and even a jam of the month club) by delivering on their brand promise: fresh jam made from locally sourced ingredients.

2) Relationship Building

In the last decade or so, we’ve seen a huge shift in marketing, from interruption marketing—the one-way conversation of advertising—to engagement marketing, which is all about interaction, connection, and relationship building.

To find and attract the people who will become loyal, lifelong fans, you need a strong, authentic brand identity. The more you show them who you are, the more they will support you, especially when your values align with their own.

According to the 2018 “Global Consumer Pulse Research” report by Accenture:

  • 63% of surveyed global consumers prefer to purchase products and services from companies whose purpose reflects their own values and beliefs.
  • 62% say their purchasing consideration is driven by a company’s ethical values and authenticity.

Branding is the best way to show them who you are and what you care about. The more transparent you are, the stronger your identity, the more people will gravitate to you—and most importantly, trust you. That trust is the key to building a lasting relationship.

3) Pricing

Why are you willing to shell out more for Nike shoes or Apple products? It’s not just because they’re cool. It’s because they’ve created a premium brand experience, from their advertising to their packaging.

Try on a pair of Nike sneakers and you feel like an athlete. Pick up an Apple tablet and you feel like an artist. These brands have created a brand experience so strong it has become part of their DNA. The result? People perceive them to be the gold standard in their industries, and their pricing reflects that.

People know what to expect with a well-branded product or service. If you deliver on your brand promise at every touchpoint, people will be willing to pay more.

Note: One common trend we see is brands focusing on growth hacking over brand building. This strategy is enticing, but it sacrifices long-term gains for short-term growth.

4) Recruiting

Trying to connect with the people who will eventually use or buy your product or service is a crucial part of any healthy business, but there’s something else that greatly influences your success: the people who work for you. A brand doesn’t exist alone. It’s a living, breathing entity formed by the people who work for it.

Right now, is your team happy and satisfied? Do they know why your company exists and how they contribute to it? Do they feel fulfilled when they come to the office? A strong brand unites their people through a shared vision.

If your culture is toxic or your workplace unsafe, your brand won’t last. Why?

  • First, because authenticity and transparency are vital to any community you build. (According to the Accenture report, 65% of people are drawn to brands that treat their employees well.) If you’re not practicing your beliefs, your brand will get dragged painfully and publicly.
  • Second, because you will fail to attract and maintain talent, which will hurt you in the long run.

Note: Culture marketing is a great way to tell your brand story and attract potential talent. If you haven’t experimented with it before, here are a few tips to turn your culture into engaging content.

How to Build Your Brand

Building a brand doesn’t happen overnight; it’s an ever-evolving process. But there are steps you can take to get yourself on the right track and make sure your priorities are correct.

  • Start with your brand strategy. You need a strong foundation to build upon, and a brand strategy gives you just that by helping you identify your values, goals, and more.
  • (Re)align your content strategy. Your content strategy is technically part of your brand strategy, but in many organizations content strategy is misaligned. Every piece of content you create is an opportunity to share your brand story and support your goals, so make sure everything you do directly ties to your larger brand strategy.
  • Create a visual identity that reflects your brand. A visual identity is another tool to communicate, so make sure yours includes everything you need.
  • Refine your brand messaging. You need cohesive messaging to tell a powerful brand strategy.
  • Tell stories that matter. Customers are people with their own thoughts, interests, desires, fears, and feelings. Focus on creating a brand experience that taps into those feelings, whether you’re helping them solve a problem or enhance their life.

That said, we know it can be tough to build a brand from scratch, especially if you don’t have much bandwidth or resources. If you need to bring in an agency for reinforcements, here’s how to find one.

Written by Katy French for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Business2Community

The Importance of Email Marketing and Digital Marketing Strategy for Your Brand

Have you ever opened a marketing email and not immediately recognised what company it’s from or the purpose of the email? It has no sales pitch or story or maybe it doesn’t even match their website? Sometimes it’s not their fault, they test their emails on desktops but don’t realise their emails don’t render correctly on mobile, the device that the majority of people now open emails on. Believe it or not, some companies don’t even use email marketing and have no idea of the opportunity they are missing out on.

Fundamentals of Email Marketing and Digital Marketing Strategy include an optimised website and great emails, even mobile-friendly ones. Said to have the biggest ROI and be the most cost-effective form of digital marketing, email offers a direct form of communication allowing you to keep a constant touchpoint on all customers. 94% of us use email. Convenient, personal and instant, it’s no wonder it is the preferred form of communication, allowing a wider reach of customers, a high level of personalisation and the ability to track performance.

Brand strategy: Awareness, communication, conversion

Increasing awareness should be a top brand marketing goal. Email frequency, delivery and content all influence the customers perception of a brand and can greatly enhance their awareness. Getting your story, mission and brand goals across to your grown and trusted audience at the right time with email enables customers to appreciate your brand, boosting loyalty and keeping customers engaged.

“Email is still the most widely used method of business communication”, according to Email on Acid. Building a relationship with customers is next on your priority list. Welcome emails, content personalisation, re-engagement emails and storytelling are the way to go here. You want to make your customers feel exclusive, included and with you along the journey, not just marketed to. Customers like to be engaged with and feel affinity with a brand.

With a recognised brand, an aware, informed and receptive audience, your emails CTA’s are sure to lead to the ultimate goal. Conversions.

What kind of emails should you be sending?

It’s important that your emails represent your brand’s personality. Finding the correct balance of types of email marketing for your company is imperative so as to not harm your brand. According to a 2016 Hubspot survey, 78% of people unsubscribe from promotional emails because a brand was sending “too many emails”. It is important to listen and know what your existing customers want and potential customers are looking for from your emails. Email marketing is not “sell sell sell”, it is much more. Your email marketing strategy should consist of a balance mix of promotional, informative, triggered and transactional emails.

Email on Acid believe in a ’70/20/10’ rule for brand emails. This means 70% of emails should be educational demos, tips, storytelling or advisory information. 20% should “centre on content from thought leaders, creating a feeling across your list that your brand is giving them exclusive access to content” and the remaining 10% should be product-focused. This rule is said to establish valuable relationships with your customers making them feel important, which they are!

Cadbury Roses and Heroes brand manager Aislinn Campbell states “What used to be really new and different can become wallpaper quite easily now. It takes a lot more to cut through and to catch people’s attention. The value of a campaign and a brand connection is so important”. Campbell explains “we are pushing something out that’s a bit more entertaining rather than a pure advertising message because engagement has never been as important as it is now”.

What content to include?

With 68% of people reading about brands that interest them and 80% of people enjoying learning about a company through custom content, meaningful email content is crucial. You need relevant and personalised content that engages the customer. Whether it be a sales pitch, the latest news or the story behind your latest product development, as long as your content holds value, your email is on the right track. Content can be in the form of text, images, GIFs and so on. Different displays of your content should be chosen based on your audience, whether they need to see a product or just hear about it briefly, or in depth etc. You could ramble on about the specific red of a lipstick, or you could just show it and use the text to explain the texture.

For example, Uber’s ‘simple’ emails have brief but valuable text, their logo, a clear CTA and nothing else. No distractions, no ‘waffle’ and most importantly, they are consistent.

In another example, Space NK give their product images centre stage, accompanied with short and to-the-point text to provide readers with easily digestable information.
(Who does Space NK’s great email marketing I hear you ask, we do of course!)

.
. Business2Community

Brand consistency

Consistency across all platforms is key to brand strategy. A customers transition across email campaigns, social media and website should be seamless and with all aesthetic style and branding being the same across the board. With content, images and email design matching, this enlists a psychological connection with customers and helps them recognise and trust your brand on any online or offline platform. When email is used as a tool of trust between customer and company, communication, engagement and e-commerce are improved – as is the longevity of the relationship.

From frequency, delivery, formatting and aesthetics, a consistent email enhances a special brand experience and therefore brand loyalty.

Your audience

The beauty of email marketing for your brand is your audience is already engaged as they have signed up to receive your emails so marketing via email is a mainstay in strengthening your brand’s relationship. Unlike the consumers that see a sponsored ad for your brand on social media or paid ads, email marketing is specifically requested, making it the most successful marketing channel.

Successful email marketing

A great example of the Virgin Holidays brand successfully using email marketing was to increase sales across many touchpoints across a customer journey whether it be pre or post-booking and post-holiday. Their successful campaign involved working with AI for better subject lines and relevant content unique to each customer. According to Marketing Week, results included a 31% increase in site traffic, 37% increase in CRM communications and a 65% increase in brand awareness.

My final tip

Email marketing is at the forefront of your brand on the internet. It is imperative to be transparent to customers that receive your company’s emails. This means a clear and easy accessible unsubscribe link, no hidden links or signing in to a website to be removed from your list.

So there you have it. Done well, email marketing helps to both establish your online presence as a brand and help continuously improve it. Brand awareness, reputation, loyalty and overall sales are all affected by your digital marketing strategy and easily enhanced by using this time-honoured channel.

Written by Mike Parry for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Webaroo

How to Make Sure Your Branded Content is Actually On Brand

At a time when engagement marketing has quickly overtaken interruption marketing, branded content is one of the most effective tools for marketers to connect and engage with people. But just because your brand creates content doesn’t mean it’s properly branded. We’ve seen marketers across the board miss the mark in all sorts of ways, which is why we’re here to help you do it the right way. Here, we’ll cover why branded content matters, along with the simple steps you can take to make sure your branded content hits the mark.

Why Does Branded Content Matter?

Your brand identity is communicated through every touchpoint, from your product design, to your sales material, to your homepage. That’s why it’s important to present a cohesive, unified identity through all content, whether you’re creating an annual report, infographic, or video. Branded content isn’t about slapping your logo on something; it’s about creating a brand experience that reflects who you are and what you do.

Luckily, in a crowded space where you have to fight for attention, branded content gives you a leg up in many ways.

1) Appeal

Well-designed content intrigues people and entices them to interact with your content. This helps you grab their attention before your competitors do.

2) Communication

Branded visual content is easier to synthesize than plain old text, simply because our brains process visual information faster. The more effectively you apply your visual identity, the easier it is for people to consume, comprehend, and recall your content.

3) Consistency

The more consistent you are, the more people see you as a credible, reliable source for content. This is the key to building trust and, as a result, a long-term relationship with the right people. If the content you create is segmented, siloed, or scattershot, with no thought to design or presentation, it’s much harder to nurture that relationship.

4) Connection

Branded content elicits stronger emotions than a traditional 30-second advertising spot, according to the 2018 study The Emotional Impact of Branded Storytelling by Realeyes/Turner Ignite.

When compared to traditional advertising, the study found that branded content made viewers:

  • 62% more likely to have a positive reaction
  • 31% more emotionally engaged
  • 17% more likely to buy

If you’re looking to make meaningful connections with the people who need your product or service, branded content is the way to go.

How to Ensure Your Branded Content Reflects Your Brand Identity

Good branded content serves both your viewer and your brand, but doing it well requires some balance. Unfortunately, much of the branded content we see falls into one of the following categories:

  1. Overbranded (branding overload)
  2. Underbranded (little or no branding visible)
  3. Misbranded (inconsistent branding)

To make sure your branded content works the way it should, follow these 5 steps.

Note: If you have multiple content creators, this can serve as a helpful checklist to ensure your team always creates cohesive, consistent content.

1) Choose the Right Subjects

No matter what your brand does, the type of content you create should always be relevant to your brand. (Translation: It should relate to your field or area of expertise.) Identify topics that you can speak authoritatively about, then focus on how you can provide value through content.

2) Use Your Voice, Tone, and Personality

The way you speak, write, joke, etc. are all unique to your brand. Whether it’s an e-book or a tweet, inject your brand personality into every piece of content. This helps you humanize your brand, and become an accessible resource.

3) Clarify Your Messaging

Beyond your voice (the way you say things), you need to make sure that what you’re saying is aligned to your brand goals. Everything from your value prop to your CTAs should tell the right story.

4) Design According to Your Visual Identity

From your products to your website, the way your brand “looks” tells its own story. (Good design isn’t just a differentiator; it’s what people expect these days.) Make sure you have a comprehensive, cohesive visual identity that includes all of the elements designers need to create branded content, including:

  • Logo
  • Color
  • Typography
  • Data visualization
  • Photography
  • Illustration
  • Iconography

5) Create a Style Guide

The easiest way to ensure your branded content accurately reflects who you are is with a brand style that includes examples, tips, and guidelines for applying your brand identity. This type of resource provides a guide for all designers and content creators working with your brand, empowering everyone in your company to produce more effective content.

Written by Katy French for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Oliver Buchmann

What Is User Generated Content And How It Is Relevant?

With 50% of consumers saying that seeing user-generated content would increase their chances of buying products, it’s no surprise so many companies are getting into it.

What is user generated content?

User Generated Content (UGC) or as some call it User Created Content (UCC), refers to any type of content information created by users. This can be in the form of videos, digital photos and other types of media belonging to an online platform which is made available to other end users.

Examples of campaigns that worked

A good example of one such campaign was done by the Coca Cola company. The famous brand introduced personalized Coca Cola bottles that had names of consumers. This was received better than expected as the whole world took part in the campaign.

Coca Cola customers from all over the world were requested (and did so willingly without being asked) to share their pictures while carrying the personalized bottles on common social media platforms. This resulted in customers taking up the advertising of the company.

This user-generated campaign made millions for the company only showing just how powerful such campaigns could be.

Burberry’s trench coat campaign

facebook burberry user generated campaign example
. Business2Community

In the year 2009, brands began taking up the idea of customers promoting their brands and businesses. This is because marketing experts believe that word of mouth is still considered as one of the best marketing strategies for businesses. During this year, Burberry decided to do something new. The brand requested some of their loyal customers and fanatics to post photographs of themselves and their friends and relatives wearing their famous trench coats.

All that was left to do by Burberry was to choose the best pictures and upload them to their website and Facebook page. This campaign was well received by their fans who are mostly fashion lovers. They raked in millions of shillings from increased sales as a result of this marketing strategy.

How does UGC help your brand? Why is it effective?

User-generated content campaigns produce satisfactory results making them a key player in the marketing of products and services. Established and well-known brands continue to consider this type of marketing strategy as it has proven to be effective in achieving targeted goals. However, studies showed only 16% of brands have a system in place to launch and manage UGC.

UGC is customer based

Businesses that consider customer input is becoming a popular practice nowadays. Digital marketing has become very competitive and businesses are continuously coming up with ways that will put their business ahead.

Customers who receive a positive experience for your organization will be the source for getting more customers. Treat your clients poorly and they will go elsewhere like to your competition.

UGC is an effective strategy because potential clients get an opportunity to know the business through already existing customers.

Marketers are no longer trusted

Traditional methods of using marketers to bring in more customers are behind us. Marketers are perceived to be untrustworthy as their only goal is seen as wanting to make sales and bring in leads. Business owners want their products to be viewed as the best in the industry. And unfortunately, marketers usually try to avoid revealing details of the products that might have negative results to the end user.

A survey conducted by Brightlocal in 2013 shows that about 73% of consumers perceive ads to be highly exaggerated to convince the buyer to choose a particular product or service. Meaning consumers are becoming reluctant when making a purchase decision based on the ads.

On the flip side, UGC posts that are shared to social channels see a 28% higher engagement rate than standard brand posts. With ad blockers on the rise, marketers are turning towards organic search (SEO), social media, content, user-generated content, and referral programs as their methods to gain more customers.

ad blocking on the rise, a demand for user generated content
. Business2Community

UGC takes into account product authenticity

As we have mentioned, the marketing industry is changing. A potential client would rather trust a low-quality YouTube video of a referral, rather than a multi-million-dollar advertisement. This is because authenticity is much more valuable as consumers want to hear from people who have already tested and used the product or service rather than the people trying to sell it.

User-Generated Content offers proof

UGC is effective in marketing as it provides proof of the quality of products and services for customers. When you see content from a real consumer, then there is increased credibility that clearly shows the company’s promises in action. Providing evidence that the product actually serves its purpose makes potential consumers more interested in your product.

For example, the Ovolo Hotel located in Sydney had renovations made to increase its customer base. The hotel gave invites to several members of the public to visit the hotel and take pictures that will be uploaded and shared online.

Ovolo Woolloomooloo Boutique Luxury Design Hotel in Sydney using user generated content
. Business2Community

The hotel improved their designs and décor to make it the most preferred place for taking snapshots suitable for social media uploads. The user-generated campaign involved inviting guests to the venue and allowing them to take quality photos from different parts of the ovolo hotel. The social evidence showed that they would follow up on their promises.

In this case, using UGC as their marketing tool shows that they are open to talking with their customers and understanding their wants.

Businesses that use UGC from their customers usually cultivate a healthy relationship that is deep and authentic. Customers will only agree to take part in the process if they feel like they are appreciated by being involved in the marketing campaign.

Recent statistics from a study conducted by a bazaarvoice indicate that about 64 percent of consumers (millennials), wanted more platforms that will provide them an opportunity to share their views about the brands they used.

Benefits of User Generated Content

What are some of the benefits of using user-generated content?

UGC is less expensive

Marketing strategists believe that it is cost-effective to make several types of user-generated content than to create just one advert in house. This form of marketing allows the consumers of your products to create assets for you as they bring to the table their own audiences from the social platforms.

ALS ice bucket challenge example of user generated content
. Business2Community

An example is what the ALS Association did back in 2014. They conducted one of the largest not to mention successful UGC campaign. It was called the Ice Bucket Challenge campaign that allowed many people across the globe to participate in.

The challenge required individuals to upload videos online of someone pouring ice cold water on you with a bucket. One would then challenge his/her friends to repeat the same thing or offer a donation to the association.

The challenge (easy enough) quickly picked up and became viral, raising awareness for the charity and introducing almost 3 million donors. It helped that the challenge begun with pro athletes.

Expanding social media reach

UGC and social media go hand in hand. The strengths of each concept create a powerful social media reach and create amazing brand awareness. Some of the strategies you can use in encouraging UGC on social media include:

  • Creating a hashtag or a simple picture contest on a platform like Instagram.
  • Creating a new challenge on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Launching a video request.

Examples of campaigns that took this strategy are #RedCupArt by Starbucks

redcupart hashtag on Instagram Photos and Videos
. Business2Community

and #AerieReal campaign that was famous on Instagram.

Female power body Positivity Unreturned AerieREAL Aerie by American Eagle
. Business2Community

It is important to react to user content. You will have to acknowledge the customer’s efforts after requesting their input. Such types of interactions mutually benefit both brands and consumers. It helps social media to drive word of mouth marketing, building your brand reputation, and integrating referral marketing to your UGC campaigns. A survey by Sprout Social showed that almost 75 percent of people will most likely share a pleasant experience on their social platform!

Social media inspired UGC campaign leads to an increase in social traffic which in turn results in:

  • Increased following base
  • Extended social reach
  • An increase in brand awareness
  • Increase in social metrics like retweets, shares on Facebook, comments on Instagram and likes on most of them.

Building Search Engine Optimization value

There are various ways in which UGC helps in boosting SEO efforts. If your customers are posting content on their different blogs, then backlinks to the company’s website are able to improve their SEO ranking. When you analyze the most used words and terms that are used by your target audience then you will be able to develop your research on word optimization.

Gain audience information

UGC can be a well of information. This benefit is often unnoticed but can play a key role in boosting your business. Through analysis of content shared by your customers, you as a business owner can gather key information. You will be able to understand your audience by discovering what different things they find engaging. This comes in handy when you apply the marketing strategy to produce leads and increased sales. Probably the most important part is learning how to build relationship marketing.

You can observe the content being shared by your customers and noting down if they take part in review writing, complaints of past experiences as you come up with ways of improving. Watch out for photos being uploaded on twitter and try to see how your business is perceived.

Consider unique content

Your customers will be able to provide you with a new kind of content that is different from your organization’s marketing team. This means that you will have a fresher approach toward trying to identify a new point of view. This allows new customers to join a group of loyal customers.

Increased personalization

This is yet another benefit of UGC. The Marketing Insider Group states that when it comes to knowing what your target audience is interested in, then the only way to go about it is through UGC. Try and understand your audience. Find out what excites them. This will help improve SEO and increase your efforts in lead generation.

Challenges faced when creating UGC

Dealing with user-generated content comes with some challenges, here’s a few of them:

Moderation of content

This is known to be one of the most leading challenges faced when using UGC online. Organizations that seek to promote their products and services give their customers permission to upload content on the company’s website. The posted content might not be screened and this can lead to uploads that might tarnish the brand.

Websites receive offensive and inappropriate content that is damaging to the brand. Customers have the freedom to express their personal opinion and upload the contents of their choice. Online discussions sometimes turn ugly.

Legal matters

User-generated content is mostly owned by the individual who uploads it online. It is therefore essential that one understands the legal aspect associated with UGC. As a brand, you will need the permission of the user if you want to post their content on the company’s website and social media platforms. As a business, you are required to make available direct acknowledgment clearly indicating the original owner of the content. Many businesses will use a platform to find content creators beforehand to work out the ground rules and expectations in such cases.

Fake users

UGC campaigns provide a certain level of control to customers. Unfortunately, fake user accounts usually find a way of sneaking through online platforms. This, in turn, creates a great risk of receiving false information from untrustworthy sources. This lowers the authenticity of your products as other customers doubt the validity of those uploading content.

A great way to handle this is by sending invites only to those who are found in the company’s database and email list. You can also provide badges to the users so that you can differentiate the real users from the fake ones. Popular websites have adopted this mode of verification by approving badges.

Needs marketing support

Business owners need to understand that in order for them to receive high-quality ads that are authentic, they may receive a large amount of content of poor quality. Marketers, however, hope that users will be able to upload content that is original and very useful to the company. This means that you have to review all the submissions made to the website. Marketing support is also required to boost the campaign through advertising and creating exciting tasks for users.

Ethical issues

Ethics is another key issue to consider when discussing the challenges of UGC. Unethical behavior can be a huge blow to a brand and might lead to loss of customers. Internet-related issues can be as a result of privacy issues. Other ethical challenges include: unreported endorsements where a given organization endorses a customer to give information about the brand without disclosing the information to relevant people is unethical.

In conclusion

UGC has come a long way in content marketing. It has been used continually by well-established brands to promote goods and services. The challenges faced by UGC campaigns can be fixed using appropriate methodologies. The benefits of using this campaign strategy far outweigh the number of challenges faced. Marketers continue to come up with ways of making UGC work best for different organization types for the benefit of both the user and brand.

Written by Jay Kang for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Business2Community

How Often Should You Update Your Website?

Your business’s new website has been up and running a few months, and you’ve started noticing that certain descriptions are no longer accurate. But you just did a website redesign—do you really need to update your website already?

The most simple answer to the question of how often you should update your website is: as often as it needs updating. Minor website updates might be made every day, whereas a full website revamp might come every two to three years. As long as your answer to this question isn’t “never,” you’re off to a great start.

Website updates come in all shapes and sizes. Depending on your goals or priorities, updating your website might be as simple as optimizing some of your historic blog posts for featured snippets or listicles—or it could be as comprehensive as a complete rebrand.

No matter the scope, each update you make to your website should be an improvement and work toward the goal of bettering the user experience.

How Do I Know if My Website Needs to Be Updated?

Technology moves fast.

Google is constantly changing and updating the way its algorithm works to improve search results. What was considered a modern and cutting-edge look and feel for a website two years ago is completely different today.

Information changes, employees change, business goals may change, design trends change, everything changes.

If you’re not sure whether your website needs an update (whether that means a minor tweak or a complete revamp), here are a couple of key indications that you could benefit from updating your website.

5 Signs That It’s Time to Update Your Website:

1. Your Website Is Missing Information

When visitors come to your website, they should be able to find all of the information they are looking for and then some. If your current website is missing the mark in this area, it may have a negative impact on your business.

Your website should be an accurate reflection of your business and serve as a resource for users at all stages of the Buyer’s Journey. You want to make sure every user that comes to your site has a great experience and walks away (or clicks away) with all of the information about your company that they need.

2. Your Brand Has Evolved

Whether you’ve recently gone through a company rebrand and want to show off that amazing new logo, or you’ve expanded your services and product offerings over time, your website needs to reflect that.

Your website is similar to your personal style. Over time, it evolves, and you figure out what trends suit you best, what works for you, and what doesn’t work.

3. You Aren’t Excited to Show Off Your Website

You should be proud of your website! A website is just as much a form of self-expression (or brand expression) as any of your other marketing collateral. In fact, it could be argued that it is the most important way to showcase who you are.

If you’re not proud and excited to show your website off to others, you might want to consider updating it. Create a website that you’re proud of, one that helps you work toward your business goals. And remember, it doesn’t hurt to surprise and delight people along the way.

4. Your Website Isn’t Optimized for Mobile or Tablets

This is crucial. In 2018, 52.2 percent of all website traffic worldwide was generated through mobile phones, up from 50.3 percent in the previous year. If your website isn’t responsive and optimized for all devices in 2019, this is a major red flag and a clear indication that it is time to update your website.

5. You’re Not Getting as Much Website Traffic as You’d Like

If your current website is lacking SEO value)—or if it’s been a while since you paid any attention to your target keywords and whether or not they’re currently aligned with your brand—it’s time to update your website.

Similar to a website, SEO isn’t something you do once and never think about again. Search engine optimization takes time and requires constant attention to the changing algorithms and ways that search engines define what makes content useful and valuable. Identifying and capitalizing on SEO opportunities requires constant tweaking and adjusting.

A website is never truly done. Your website should constantly evolve and grow as a reflection of you and your brand, and that means you need to keep it up to date.

Written by Kelly Jean Forrest for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Igor Miske

8 Content Marketing Trends That Will Fire Up Your Strategy

Has your content marketing strategy been on the decline, figuratively dwindling to embers? If so, we can help. We’ve collected content marketing trends designed to blow new life into your strategy and rekindle it into the roaring blaze it once was.

We’ve gathered these trends from across the industry. We’ve scoured studies from such brands as Content Marketing Institute, Hubspot, and Salesforce — all leaders in content marketing trends — with the goal of showing you the very best advice to boost your strategy.

Let’s dive into these must-know B2B PR and content marketing trends 2019 to see how you can fuel your marketing strategy for the coming year.

8 Powerful Content Marketing Trends That Will Impact Your 2019 Strategy

1. Email Effectively Nurtures Audiences

When asked In a recent Content Marketing Institute survey about the top ways to nurture audiences, 87% chose emails and email campaigns, trailed closely by educational content with 77%.

B2B Content Marketing 2019
. Business2Community

Just how important is email in reaching and nurturing your audience? A study from Hubspot reveals that 86% of professionals prefer to use email when communicating for business purposes. But does not mean that you should email simply for email’s sake? No. Consider 78% who unsubscribed from an email list complained about receiving too many emails.

When done right, email marketing campaigns can feed and nurture interest in your brand. Such tactics as email automation, personalization, segmentation, and designing for mobile are all part of an effective email marketing strategy.

Bottom Line for 2019: If you don’t already have one, it’s important to develop a strong email strategy that nurtures your audience.

2. Personalization is Key

Generalizations are, well…boring. Your audience is made up of many different individuals who don’t want to be just another potential buyer. They want to be seen individually, especially by the brands in which they plan to invest.

With the creation of personalization technology, we as businesses have no excuse not to personalize each person’s experience. This technology allows us to refer to each person by name and to provide content that is tailored to their interests.

In one study from Salesforce, 57% said that they would be willing to give their personal information in exchanged for personalized offers and discounts. In the same study, 53% said that they would be willing to part with personal data for a more personalized shopping experience.

Bottom Line for 2019: Ditch generalities and tailor your strategy to give a more personal experience to your audience.

3. Conversational Search Takes Over

With virtual assistants like Okay Google, Siri, and even Hey Alexa, the way we search for things has changed. No longer are audiences typing out their search queries. Now, most people speak into their devices and search engines, which has led many to ditch individual search terms in favor of full sentences and questions.

One study shows that this trend is especially popular in younger generations — with 71% of those between the ages of 18 and 28 using voice-activated devices. This number drops considerably to 39% when we shift to audiences between the ages of 44 and 53. As years go by, however, this trend will expand and impact a broader age range.

Bottom Line for 2019: Within your SEO strategy, focus on search queries that mimic natural language and syntax.

4. Live Video Becomes a Priority

Content Marketing Institute B2B Content Marketing 2019_ Benchmarks, Budges, and Trends
. Business2Community

It’s no surprise that video marketing is a top priority for content marketers in 2019 — with 63% having increased their use of video. But this past year, we’ve witnessed this trend moving away from traditional, scripted video, and racing toward more relaxed, natural live streaming videos.

Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram have all witnessed an increase in their live streaming services this past year. In fact, another study from the Interactive Advertising Bureau showed that 47% of live video audiences watched more video this past year than previously.

Bottom Line for 2019: Prioritize live streaming video as part of your strategy and make it unscripted and natural.

5. B2B PR Belongs in Your Strategy

A growing strategy for improving content marketing is through B2B PR. While PR and content marketing have long been viewed as completely separate entities, professionals from both sides have realized that they often battle many of the same enemies. These enemies include the challenges of proving ROI, link building for SEO, and amplifying content.

When you realize the similarities that exist between PR and content marketing — PR does, after all, create a lot of content for brands — it becomes self evident that these strategies are intertwined. Whether you tap into PR strategies to build more links back to your brand or to promote your brand’s content, there are many ways that public relations can boost the power of your brand’s strategy.

Bottom Line for 2019: Incorporate PR tactics into your strategy to make it more powerful.

6. Longer Content Takes a Back Seat

Research a few years ago showed that long-form content (blog posts over 1600 words) ranked higher in search engines than shorter content. Since then, we’ve seen a humungous jump in long form content over the past few years. Has this skyrocketed strategies? Not really.

63 (1)-1
. Business2Community

Now we’re faced with a dilemma. As content marketers, we need to temper our approach and create a balance of content — both short and long form. Why is this important? Audiences need content of all sorts.

Long-form content still has its place — it is a great way to establish thought leadership and provide deeper information to hungry audiences. But what about audiences on the go or who are just looking for simple answers? You need to give them snackable content that won’t overwhelm them.

Bottom Line for 2019: You need to balance your strategy with enough long and short content for every stage of the buyer’s journey.

7. Content Creation Increases Budget

When asked where they expect to increase spending over the next 12 months, 56% of respondents in the CMI study pointed to content creation.

Even if content creation is not part of your 2019 plan, this trend shows that it might be the plan for many of your competitors. Whether it’s the creation of an ebook, video, or webinar, content is a building block of success for your brand. To get the most out of it, though, be prepared to invest time and money into creating the most attractive content for your audience.

However, better content creation doesn’t have to break the bank. There are many free and affordable content creation tools that will help you to create better content. The trick, however, is to invest in across-the-board better content creation for your brand.

Bottom Line for 2019: Look into ways to expand your content creation to keep up with at minimum and aim to surpass competitors.

8. Customer Conversations Need to Happen

One study performed by Content Marketing Institute revealed that when it came to customer research, less than half (42%) actually had conversations with their customers.

63 (2)
. Business2Community

This is especially surprising when you consider that 73% of content marketers plan to create buyer personas as part of their strategy. The fact is that strategies like web analytics, social listening, and keyword research can take you only so far. If you wish to bridge the gap and really get to know your audience, then you need to have real conversations with them.

The fact of the matter is that your customers and prospects hold the ultimate key to your understanding their behavior.

Bottom Line for 2019: When doing audience research, go straight to the source and talk to your customers, whether one-on-one or through a panel.

_ In review… _

8 Content Marketing Trends That Will Fire Up Your Strategy
. Business2Community

These content marketing trends are taken from the most recent studies and the input from today’s most successful B2B content marketers. More importantly, implementing these trends will take your content marketing from a dwindling flame to a roaring fire of a strategy.

Written by Wendy Marx for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Simon Harmer

How to Talk to Your Customers about the Coronavirus and Build Brand Trust

Coronavirus: An opportunity to build customer trust, not to push sales.

With COVID-19’s rapid spread, the bull market constantly bucking up and down, and the recent declaration of national emergency from the President, consumers are becoming increasingly anxious about the reality that is about to face them. Panic buying is rampant, schools and universities are closing, and offices are asking workers to work from home.

Certainly both online and offline businesses are feeling anxious as well. For some businesses, sales may be surging because of supply hoarding, until the bull-whip effect sets in and no supply remains on the shelves. For other businesses, sales have dipped significantly as consumers guard their wallets and spend on essentials first, as they nervously watch the unpredictable market rise and fall.

So: what’s a brand to do?

Over the next few weeks, things will more likely than not continue to get worse before they get better. While sales may be down for your business, there is still a huge opportunity to win with your customers by building their trust in your brand, especially if you are an online retailer with an email list or any business with an engaged online community.

7 Ways to Build Customer Trust During the Coronavirus Outbreak

visuals-qMrdgxnTfx4
visuals

1. Send an email to your list or a post to your online community with a statement on your business’s approach to coronavirus.

Sending a thoughtful email to your list outlining what your brand is doing in the wake of the coronavirus is a great way to build trust with your customers. You should avoid being promotional in this email. Its purpose should instead be to establish expectations for your base for any orders placed in the coming weeks and to quell any anxieties your customers may have about deliveries, supply chain, or your production process. Another best practice is to address your customer by name directly or to address your brand’s community as if in a formal letter and to end your message with a warm sign off from a member of your team. We love the email sent by DTC brand GEM below.

Dear GEM Family
GEM

2. Keep customers updated on how you are handling any potentially unstable supply chains.

After your initial email to your base with your plan for handling supply and demand, keep your list updated if anything changes in your supply chain. If stock on a popular product runs out, try and give a reasonable estimate of when it will be available next. If you don’t know, be honest about that too, and recommend any alternative in-stock products to your customers. Put honesty and transparency above all else, and the consumer will trust that you are doing everything you can to resolve their issues. When you are honest and transparent, they will also understand when certain things are out of your control.

3. Give them your brand’s promise, whatever it may be.

If you refuse to price gouge even when demand is high in the market (see: toilet paper, hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes), let your customers know. If you foresee any issues with delivery, assure your customers that they will be fully refunded if the product does not arrive to them within a certain time window in the event of supply or delivery issues caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Finally, remind customers of any existing promises your brand has made in the past that you plan to stick to, like abiding by certain regulations, practicing a sustainable supply chain, giving back X% of proceeds to your chosen charity, etc. Just make sure the promise you make is a promise you can 100% keep.

4. Share with them what your business is doing to combat coronavirus.

If you feel comfortable doing so, share with your customers the practices and precautions your own brand is taking in order to care for your employees and their loved ones. It is an excellent “we’re all in this together” approach. If you have introduced a new work-from-home policy or guaranteed sick leave for employees, share with your customers that your brand is doing its part in containing the virus as well.

5. Assure them that they will be taken care of.

Customers want to know that they can rely on your brand. Remind them that they remain a top priority, and that your brand will do everything they can to make sure orders are met. If supply or delivery circumstances change, have a plan to address customers that may not receive their order when expected, including refunding an order or providing store credit for future purchases.

6. Offer an outlet to voice any concerns they may have.

Along those lines, inform customers about how they can best reach a member of your team to voice any concerns or ask any questions. If you have multiple channels of outreach (phone, social media, email, etc.), let them know which channels will get their questions answered the fastest. Additionally, give them realistic expectations of wait time given the changing circumstances, as well as a promise that your team will get back to them as soon as they can.

7. Provide educational content to help them in this time.

Thanks to the coronavirus, the lives of many Americans will be changing drastically over the next few weeks to next few months. No matter what business you are in, there are a number of ways you can address the coronavirus in a way that provides extra value to your audience and puts them more at ease.

Blog content is a powerful tool because it can be flexibly used both to nurture your existing audience and to draw a new audience to your brand. At a time when most consumers are not buying as much, you can focus on filling the top of your funnel with new email leads for your list by promoting gated content.

Need ideas for content, or content itself? We’ve got you covered.

Because the coronavirus on everyone’s minds today, it’s a topic that any industry or brand can find a way to relate to. However, coming up with content ideas may be difficult. That’s why we’ve broken down some content ideas for you below!

We’ve listed a few examples below, but you can find a comprehensive list of 30+ content ideas for coronavirus communications here.

  • Content on reducing stress and mental health best practices
  • Ideas for staying connected even when practicing social distancing
  • At-home workout routines or tips for working at home
  • Positive round-ups of some more uplifting stories from the past week
  • Tips on keeping healthy & hydrated to ward off illness
  • Discover even more great ideas here.

Written by Celia Quillian for Matcha and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Annie Spratt

7 Reasons to Hire an Ecommerce Marketing Agency

If you own or manage an ecommerce company, you’re probably aware that the competition is pretty fierce, which is why strategic and aggressive marketing is crucial to stay afloat. Unfortunately, most of the basic ecommerce marketing tactics take a lot of time to learn and perfect. And when you have other essential duties to manage, dedicating the right amount of effort to your ecommerce marketing may not be possible.

But don’t bury your head in the sand just yet. There is a way to kick your marketing into high gear without you having to drain all your own time: hire an ecommerce marketing agency.

Now, you might be thinking, “Hiring an agency is too expensive.” But that’s just not true. Any ecommerce marketing agency worth its salt will be able to pay for itself and then some by reaping untapped revenue from PPC campaigns, SEO, email marketing campaigns, and more.

In this post, we’ll outline some of the best reasons to partner with an ecommerce marketing agency, including making more money than you spend.

Top 7 Reasons to Hire an Ecommerce Marketing Agency

1. PPC Management Experience

Without prior experience, the mere idea of setting up and managing paid campaigns can be a scary notion. After all, it’s more than just writing some copy and handing your credit card over to Google. In reality, a successful PPC campaign requires lots of thought and scrutiny—even after the ads are set up.

Hiring an ecommerce marketing agency to handle your PPC campaigns will save you a lot of time and agony (not to mention money). This is because they have already managed thousands of campaigns just like yours, and they know how to set up, adjust, and budget your ads so that they bring in the most bang for your buck.

However, it’s important to note the distinction between an ecommerce marketing agency and just any old marketing agency. If the agency you’re interested in has no prior experience working with ecommerce companies, it may be a red flag. Even if they’ve helped dozens of tech companies achieve their goals, that’s a whole different beast. For example, an agency without ecommerce experience might know how to setup and manage Google Shopping campaigns correctly.

You need an agency that has already worked with other ecommerce clients so that you don’t have to be the guinea pig. In addition to the ability to write compelling copy that entices users to click on your ad when they see it in search results, the agency should also be able to create a high-quality landing page that matches your ad. Be sure to ask for testimonials or case studies from their other ecommerce company success stories.

2. An Understanding of Creative Design

Another perk of hiring an ecommerce marketing agency is that they often have a team of designers that can work with you to create custom creatives that match your brand theme and standards. High-quality design is the key to making your company stand out and look good to consumers—especially if they’ve never heard of your brand before. Plus, an experienced designer will know which types of creatives work and don’t work, saving you from cumbersome redesigns.

For example, if you were running an ad on Facebook, you’d want to use bright colors that attract people’s attention. While a simple, black and white ad may look sophisticated, people will most likely scroll right by it without even realizing it’s there. A good ecommerce marketing agency will be able to showcase your products in a well-designed, alluring creative that attracts new business and brand followers.

An ecommerce marketing agency will also be familiar with a variety of design types and formats. For example:

Retargeting Ads: These types of ads can be used on various ad platforms. They are displayed to consumers who have already shown an interest in your product, which should be reflected in the copy and design. Retargeting ads should introduce a sense of urgency and convince people to follow through with their purchases before they miss out.

Display Ads: Display ads are banner ads that are shown on the display network of the advertising platform you use. For example, the Google Display Network. Because consumers often ignore these types of ads, it’s important that they use click-worthy images and copy to attract attention.

Facebook Ads:

  • Carousel: Similar to a gallery, these ads are made up of up to 10 slides with separate copy and images or video. These types of ads are ideal for showcasing multiple products or different versions of the same product.
  • Single Image: These 1200×628 pixel ads are the probably the ones with which you’re most familiar. They use just one image, which should be both click-worthy and capture the essence of your offer.
  • Video: Video ads are known for their ability to drive engagement. Videos can be up to 120 minutes—though videos under one minute perform best.
  • Slideshow: Unlike carousel ads where users click through the images on their own, slideshow ads play more like video.
  • Canvas: Canvas ads are immersive video or image ads that display in full-screen. These ads are only for mobile devices.
b3iyLeQxL63F85q4PPC85
. Business2Community

Aside from the visual aspect of your creatives, it’s also important to have well-written copy. While the image is what gets people to stop and take notice, the copy is what convinces them to click through to your website and make a purchase. Be sure to hire an agency with a content team that writes concise, engaging copy that also clearly defines the product you’re selling.

3. Facebook Marketing Knowledge

There are a variety of perks to advertising with Facebook, particularly since an ecommerce company. For starters, billions of active consumers can be targeted by anything from their age to what kind of car they own. In fact, the targeting features in Facebook are so accurate that it’s a bit mind-blowing once you really start to comb through them. But while Facebook can be an incredibly lucrative marketing tool, you may not see much benefit from it without the help of an expert.

With so many active users on Facebook, it can be difficult to narrow down your audience to only those who will be most interested in your product. An ecommerce marketing agency will be able to use your sales data to determine common demographics, interests, and behaviors that they can use to target new consumers. They’ll also be able to set up a Pixel on your site so that you can run retargeting campaigns. Retargeting campaigns display ads to consumers who have already visited your site and shown an interest in your products. This is a highly beneficial tactic since it helps you close sales that you may have otherwise missed.

One fatal mistake that many newbie Facebook marketers make is setting up their ads and then just letting it roll for a couple of weeks before checking in. An experienced ecommerce marketing agency will never leave your campaigns unattended. Instead, they will monitor them on a daily basis, adjusting your ads and budget when needed. Plus, they’ll run A/B tests with Facebook’s many different ad formats to see which types of ads get the most conversions for your business.

4. SEO Expertise

In order to improve the authority of your site and increase your ranking in search results, you need to have a solid SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategy in place. The higher you rank in search results, the more organic traffic you’ll receive. A quality ecommerce marketing agency will be able to improve your on-page and off-page SEO through extensive keyword research, backlinking, site structure, and more.

Some standard SEO elements and tactics:

  • Keyword Research: The keywords you choose to target should be longtail keywords (three or more words) that are relevant to your content. You should also aim for keywords with a decent monthly search volume and low to medium competition. In general, it’s much harder to rank for keywords with high competition.
  • Keyword Optimization: Keywords are just for sprinkling into blog posts. You should include keywords in alt tags, meta descriptions, page titles, headers and subheadings, site copy, product descriptions and names, image names, and URLs.
  • Site Speed: Site speed also has an effect on SEO. This is because if your site is too slow to load (more than three seconds), visitors will quickly bounce off your page and click on a different search result. You can improve site speed by switching to a different, more powerful CMS (HubSpot, for example), or by reducing the images and files on your site.
  • Site Errors: Check for broken links, duplicate content, and 404 error pages since these can negatively affect your site’s SEO value as well.
  • Site Structure: Because of the many products, ecommerce sites are known for being a little unwieldy. However, a poorly structured site that’s hard to navigate both for visitors and search engines can negatively impact your SEO.
  • Link Building: Building external links back to your site can help boost your search value—but only when done correctly. Blackhat practices, such as spam comments, will do the exact opposite. If you do choose to post on another blog or forum, you should focus on contributing something of value to the conversation. Don’t just paste your link and click post. In fact, most sites ask for your web address in your user profile, so you don’t even have to include a link at all. You can also build links by contributing content on other sites (so long as it includes a link from your site).

If you decide to hire an ecommerce marketing agency, they will take the majority of these responsibilities off your plate. Plus, you won’t have to worry about improper execution (which could potentially harm your SEO value). Choose an agency that has prior experience with SEO for ecommerce and be sure to ask them to provide specific examples of how they were able to achieve prolonged improvements.

5. Professional-Level Content Marketing

Content is one of the most crucial elements of an ecommerce marketing plan, and yet many companies don’t put half the effort into it that they should—especially since it can be difficult to keep up with new posts and video that appeal to your target market. This is where an ecommerce marketing agency with a talented content marketing team really comes in handy.

Typically, your content marketing strategy should include blog content, videos, premium content (like informational ebooks and buyer guides) and a distribution and promotion strategy. Ask you agency to provide you with a monthly content calendar that outlines when content drafts will be delivered, when final drafts will be published, and which platforms they’ll use to promote them.

Before you begin creating content either on your own or with an agency, it’s important to determine a few things first:

  • What are my goals? The content you produce should have a specific, predetermined purpose. For example, you could produce content to build brand awareness, to increase conversions, to get new subscribers etc.
  • Who are my customers? Create a buyer persona to help you get a better understanding of the demographics, interests, and behaviors of your target audience. This will help you to create content that they will enjoy.
  • What does my average customer’s buyer journey look like? Most buyer’s journeys have three stages: problem, need, and want. In order to nurture leads through your funnel and get them to make a purchase, you need to have content that appeals to them at every stage of their journey.
  • How often will we be publishing new content? Determine your goals for how much new content you’d like to produce each month. For example, you could start with two long-form blog posts and one piece of premium content. Monitor performance and adjust your strategy. Your content calendar will help you stay on top of your monthly goals.
  • Where will we promote this content? Promotion is key. Without it, your content won’t get the traffic it needs in order to be effective. Decide where you want to promote your content, whether that be organic social media, paid advertising, a combination of the two, etc.

6. Email Marketing Expertise

While email has been around since the dark ages of the internet, it’s actually still a very useful marketing tool. In fact, consumers prefer to receive emails from companies over any other form of communication. Plus, while email marketing costs hardly anything (aside from skilled copywriters and email automation platforms) it produces a significant ROI—about $38 for every dollar you invest.

Consumers check their email regularly for personal use and work, and mobile phones allow you to reach them at any time and place. But, because they receive so many emails per day, you need an email marketing team that knows how to craft emails that capture attention. Some important elements of email marketing include:

  • A captivating subject line. The subject line is the pickup line of your email. You don’t want to lead off with something lame like “November Newsletter.” Write something that will compel the viewer to click open and see what you have to say. One good way to do this is to create a sense of urgency that makes the consumer feel like they might miss out on something great if they don’t have a look. For example, “Hurry!” “Last Chance,” and “Today Only!”
  • Engaging body content. Once you’ve got the consumer inside the email, your goal is to keep them there long enough to discover your offer and click through to your website. Be sure that the content is entertaining while still being relevant to your target audience. For example, puns might work well for a toy company, but a law firm may want to use a more authoritative tone.
  • An attractive design. If your email design looks boring or unprofessional, you may cause a lot of people to ignore your offer or even unsubscribe from future communication. Create a template that is attractive and reflects your brand. Just be careful not to get too fancy with it—certain servers may block emails with large image files or videos.
  • Segmented contacts. While it may be easier to create one mass email and just hit send, it’s not the best method for email marketing. Instead, you should have segmented contacts lists for different emails. This way, you can ensure that your subscribers only receive emails that they’ll find most relevant and enticing.
  • Personalized and automated emails. You can easily personalize your emails by adding a contact’s first name to the subject line or body content. Something as simple as this can actually help increase open rates. Additionally, sending automated emails can help you maintain regular communication. For example, you could set up an automated thank you email for people who make a purchase. You could also send out abandoned cart reminders when a consumer has left an item in their cart for a few days.
  • A clear CTA. It’s important that the email recipient is never left wondering what action they’re supposed to take after reading your email. In addition to clearly stating your call-to-action in the body content, you should also have a CTA button. Hyperlinking your header is also a useful practice.
  • Non-promotional emails. Not every email you send needs to be a purely promotional message. For example, you could offer your subscribers free content, such as buyer guides or ebooks. While this type of content doesn’t explicitly advertise your products, it does help the consumer see you as an industry expert.

An ecommerce agency will be able to help you make the most out of email marketing by creating compelling marketing emails that engage your subscribers and lead them toward conversion. They’ll also be able to setup automated workflows that send specific behavior-triggered emails at different buyer stages.

7. It Can Actually Save You Money

Because an ecommerce marketing agency has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the areas outlined in this post, there is less room for error and wasted ad spend—whereas handling marketing responsibilities on your own requires a steep learning curve that can eat up your budget. In fact, the purpose of hiring an agency is that their efforts will pay for the investment.

Final Takeaways…

Trying to take on the many marketing responsibilities for your ecommerce company in addition to your other business-crucial duties can result in watered-down efforts with little to no benefit. By hiring an ecommerce marketing agency, you can be sure that all the items outlined in this post are competently managed.

This article originally appeared in Seven Atoms.

Written by Andy Beohar for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Business2Community

Blog SEO: Easy Ways to Optimize Your Content for Google Search

When it comes to getting your brand and content in front of the right people, you’ve got a bunch of different options. You can pay to promote it via digital ads. You can share it on social media. You can build an email list and send regular newsletters.

And you should be doing all of the above!

But as you build your list and promote your posts, don’t neglect one of the most powerful discovery tools in existence: Google.

SEO is 100% free, and you don’t need an owned audience to do it. By focusing on SEO, or search engine optimization, you’ll boost your rankings for important search terms and help consumers find your website.

And if you can score that elusive top-ranking spot on a Google search results page, you’re beyond golden. The average clickthrough rate is a mindblowing 30% for the top-ranked page in a typical search on desktop, while the 10th-ranked term averages a still-impressive 5% CTR.

In today’s lesson, we’ll cover SEO best practices are proven to help growing brands improve SEO and get in front of the right people.

The secret to SEO is there is no secret

If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find thousands of articles boasting SEO hacks.

Well, we’ll let you in on a little secret: There’s no such thing as an SEO hack. These so-called hacks are fine advice at best and sketchy “black hat” SEO techniques at worst. As much as we’d like to be able to wave a magic wand and get on page one of Google, that’s just not possible.

Fifteen years ago, things were different. It was pretty easy to game the system—and competition was far less fierce.

But Google has come a long way since then. Now it’s all about creating good, keyword-rich content that your audience wants to read. And that’s a good thing for businesses and consumers alike.

In this article, we’ll look at some SEO best practices you should follow if you want to help more of the right people find your content on Google.

Of course, there are professionals whose entire careers are dedicated to search engine optimization. Since you’re not one of them, let’s stick to the basics. Today, we’ll cover three important SEO topics.c

  • Getting started with SEO: What should you do if you’ve never even thought about SEO before today? Where does a brand new small business begin?
  • Optimizing your content for search: How do you optimize each and every original article you publish to improve your rankings on Google?
  • How licensed content impacts SEO: What role does licensed content play in an SEO strategy?

Important note: This article is focused on SEO for your blog content rather than your online store. If you’re looking for ways to optimize your e-commerce store for search, we recommend Shopify’s guide to e-commerce SEO.

Free SEO tools

Let’s say you’re setting up a brand new website. What kind of infrastructure do you need to make sure it’s optimized for search? We recommend setting up Google’s suite of free online marketing tools, as well as an SEO plugin for your blog.

Blog SEO Plugin
An SEO plugin will help you optimize each piece of content for search. If your blog is hosted on WordPress, you can’t do better than the Yoast SEO plugin. If you use another platform to host your blog, ask them what they recommend for onsite search engine optimization.

Google Search Console
Search Console has a million and one powerful features, but don’t get too bogged down in it as a beginner. Start simple by using it to submit your sitemap to Google and identify any errors on your website that might prevent search engines from indexing your pages (i.e., making them searchable).

Google Analytics
With Google Analytics, you can see how people are finding and engaging with your website in incredible detail. This is another tool that offers a ton of functionality, but it’s surprisingly easy to use for SEO research. To get started, check out this straightforward guide to Google Analytics for SEO, written by the always-brilliant Neil Patel.

Google Keyword Planner
Google Keyword Planner was built for paid search engine marketing, but it’s an amazing tool for SEO and content planning because it can help you identify the keywords that your target audience is searching for. Then, you can use these keywords to inform your content strategy and make sure you’re publishing stories that people want to read.

Keyword planning

Once you’re all technologied up, you have everything you need to build your first keyword list.

As you might guess, keywords are words or phrases that people search for online. They can range from shorttail keywords (e.g., surfing) to longtail keywords (e.g., best surf spots in Southern California). These are the words you’ll be optimizing your posts for.

A few tips for smart keyword research:

  • Identify a variety of relevant keywords. Your keyword list should be made up of a healthy mix of branded keywords (like your company and product names), product keywords (like ‘best surfboard for beginners’ and ‘wetsuit cleaner’), and broader audience-focused keywords. Most likely, the majority of your content will be mapped to audience-focused keywords. That’s because your content should be more about your audience than your brand or products.
  • Find your sweet spot. Make sure you look at each keyword’s search volume (how many times it’s Googled per month) and competitiveness (how hard it is to rank for). Words with high volume and low competitiveness are your sweet spot for organic search. But that doesn’t mean you should give up on more competitive keywords, nor should you ignore niche search terms if they’re relevant to your audience. It’s all about balance.
  • Look at keywords your competitors rank for. Most paid SEO tools will show you your competitors’ search rankings—and therefore, give you the chance to swoop in and steal their keywords out from under them. (And if you don’t have room in your budget for a premium SEO tool, you can always sign up for a free trial and cram all your research into the trial period. Whatever works!)

Here’s an example of some basic keyword planning in action. Let’s say you have an online store selling surf gear, and you’re launching new products geared toward beginners. What are they searching for online, and how can you use those keywords in your content to attract them to your website?

When you type the term ‘surfing for beginners’ into Google Keyword Planner, here’s what you’ll find.

Google Keyword Planner
. Business2Community

As you can see, ‘surfing for beginners’ surfaces similar terms that are searched more frequently, like ‘surf school’ and ‘how to surf.’ So, hypothetical surf shop owner, you now know that these are keywords you may want to focus on.

SEO experts like Rand Fishkin of Moz recommend taking Google’s search volume estimates with a grain of salt—but even still, Keyword Planner is a great starting point as you plan your content and keywords strategies.

When you have your SEO toolkit and your list of target keywords complete, you can start creating and optimizing your content. We already covered what it takes to build a content marketing strategy and publish great content in Lessons #1 and #2, so let’s dive right into onsite optimization.

Checklist: Optimize your content for search

For the most part, every original article you publish should be optimized for terms on your keyword list.

If you’re writing an article and you can’t map it to a keyword, ask yourself why you’re writing it. If your answer is that it’s a relevant topic that your audience cares about—that’s great! Validate your assumption with keyword research, and then add the topic to your content strategy. But if you’re struggling to explain how the topic maps to your strategy at all, then it’s probably time to go back to the drawing board.

Once you’ve decided what keywords you’re optimizing for, make sure you follow these SEO best practices for each original article.

Content

  • Post should be at least 600 words long
  • Include keywords in title (H1)
  • Include keywords in headings (H2)
  • Include keywords in first and last paragraphs

Note: You should also use your keywords throughout the post, but never in a spammy way. Your content should always be written for the humans who read it, not the bots that crawl it.

Meta description

  • Page title should be under 60 characters
  • Meta description should be under 160 characters
  • Include keywords in meta description

Note: Meta descriptions are the snippets of text that appear on the Google search engine results page. For more information, read this article from Moz.

Image optimization

  • Image titles are descriptive
  • Alt tags are descriptive and include keywords if relevant
  • Images have relevant captions

Linking strategy

  • Add limited internal links to other pages on your website (3-5 max)
  • Add external links to other relevant websites

Following these best practices is the minimum for ranking well on Google. Just because you check all these boxes doesn’t necessarily mean your webpage will shoot to the #1 spot overnight. SEO, much like content as a whole, is about the long game. Your ranking depends on a lot of different factors, including how established your website is. More on this next.

Finally, let’s bust the myth that licensed content hurts SEO—it doesn’t!

Quick refresher on terminology: Licensed content is content created by a trusted, professional publisher that’s available for you to use on your own blog or website.

Licensed content is a great way to fill out your content calendar and bring the right people to your website by telling stories people care about. And the best part? You don’t have to write any of it yourself.

Unfortunately, there’s a prevailing myth that licensed content hurts SEO. Not so!

This concern comes from an old practice in the early days of Google, when some unscrupulous webmasters would “scrape” content (i.e., plagiarize articles) from other sites without approval and place it on their own site to climb in the search rankings. Of course, Google caught on, and they’ve since changed their algorithm to penalize this behavior and ensure the original publisher receives all the article’s “SEO juice” (gross term, we know, but that’s actually what it’s called).

When you legally license an article, as you can do in the Matcha content marketplace, the content includes canonical tags.

Canonical tags are bits of code that tell search engines two things:

  1. Who the original publisher of the content is
  2. That you’re not trying to claim this content as your own to gain an advantage in search rankings

It’s these canonical tags that keep search engines from penalizing you for using content that may have been previously published elsewhere. So, no—licensed content won’t hurt your SEO. In fact, it can even help.

The blog post itself won’t rank in search, so you’ll need to distribute it via other channels. (Good thing you’re already a Facebook and email expert!) That being said, licensed content will help your SEO in other ways.

  • Site traffic: Increased website traffic improves SEO. By using ads, social media, and emails to drive traffic, Google will reward your domain with better rankings.
  • Publication frequency: Regularly publishing content is one of the most powerful actions you can take to influence SEO. A week or month’s worth of licensed content can be published in a few minutes, making it possible for even one-person marketing teams to publish consistently.
  • Social sharing: People share great stories, and Google rewards your site when people share your content. The more shares and backlinks you have to your website, the higher you’ll rank.

And really, that’s what it all boils down to. Get to know your audience. Tell great stories. And promote them strategically.

That’s how you build your brand, grow your community, and set the stage for growth.

Written by Shauna Ward for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Business2Community