Behavioral targeting for ecommerce: your step-by-step guide

Behavioral targeting drives offers that resonate with the individual, anticipate their needs, and save them time. And that means more click-throughs, more conversions, and a happy marketing team.

But with all the behavioral data available, how can you tune out the noise and target customers effectively?

We’ve put together this step-by-step guide to get you started.

1. What does behavioral targeting mean to you?

Customers’ actions (and inactions) online can be used to infer their preferences, lifecycle stage, and place in the buying journey. So you can provide the most appropriate type of content and personalization based on the individual’s interests.

How you use this information will depend on your products and customer personas.

You’ll need to think about:

  • what behaviors do you want to target? – Frequent browsing? Carting certain types of products?
  • who are the customers that exhibit this behavior? – What are their passions and motivations? Where are they in the building journey and customer lifecycle?
  • and what content is most valuable to them right now? – A coupon? A reminder? A product recommendation?

2. Work out what data you need

Once you have an idea of the behaviors you want to target, you can start collecting the data you need to make it happen.

This will include some of the following:

  • Pages the customer browsed
  • Products the customer carted
  • Products the customer purchased
  • Categories the customer browsed
  • Content the customer consumed
  • When and how often the customer visits

For these behavioral targeting insights to feed into your marketing efforts, you’ll need a system that collects and coordinates data from as many customer touchpoints as possible – including your ecommerce website, mobile apps, and ESP.

Behavioral targeting

3. Get to know your customers

The next step is to capture the visitor’s email address. This opens up a whole new channel for behavioral targeting communication.

When a new visitor comes to your online store, you can present a data capture in response to their actions. For instance, displaying a registration form only after the visitor has viewed two product pages, and personalizing the offer to match the categories they browsed.

Behavioral targeting

Target customers with the right content

Once you have the right data in place, you can segment customers according to their behavior, interests, and lifecycle stage.

These segments can be used to send targeted bulk emails, refine triggered email programs, personalize web content, and even target customers via social media.

Below are some common ways to use behavioral segmentation. If you’re stretched for time, it’s a good idea to start with basic product-based segmentation and expand from there.

Experiment with product segmentation

Behavioral data can be used to build lists of customers who are interested in certain products, categories, or brands.

For instance, a tool store might have customers who are very loyal to a particular manufacturer. With behavioral segments, the retailer could send brand-specific newsletters and shopping recovery emails – so that customers get recommendations for products that are compatible with their existing gadgets.

Product recommendations

Segment by customer journey

It makes sense to show different types of content depending on customers’ lifecycle stage – whether they’re a new visitor, new customer, regular shopper, frequent visitor, or lapsed shopper.

For instance, you might use a coupon to convert frequent visitors who haven’t yet made a purchase. But this is a less appropriate strategy for frequent purchasers, where discounts could reduce the value of an order that would have taken place anyway.

Segment by engagement

Try varying your emailing cadence to match each shopper’s level of engagement.

Where customers are very engaged but didn’t yet make a purchase, you could send a browse abandonment series combined with more frequent bulk emails.

For occasional visitors, a steady flow of bulk emails might be more fitting.

Refine your real-time marketing

Segmentation can be used to fine-tune your triggered email strategy.

Imagine you’re already sending a browse abandonment program, but want to use a new program for customers looking for Christmas deals. Rules can be set so that regular customers receive the standard browse abandonment email, while customers who browsed lots of holiday deals receive the new festive program.

Behavioral targeting

Combine with personalized content

Segmentation allows you to send the right type of content to different audience groups. Dynamic content is the key to tailor that content to the individual.

For example, marketers can use segmentation to vary the frequency of bulk emails depending on engagement. Then include personalized product recommendations in those emails, based on each shopper’s browsing history.

When you combine segmentation with real-time personalization, content is both relevant and compelling.

Personalized content

Always test and monitor

Behavioral segmentation makes a lot of sense. But avoid making assumptions about your audience. Some shoppers might be receptive to all your marketing, so consider sending the ‘generic’ content to some subscribers to see how it performs.

It’s important to regularly monitor segments to see if they’re performing as you hoped. If a segment isn’t generating as much revenue as expected, it could be time to alter the composition of the group, or change up your marketing tactics for that audience.

5. Choosing the right technoloy

It’s tricky to implement behavioral targeting if your data sits in inaccessible silos.

Luckily, there are straightforward ways to connect up your data pools, even if you aren’t ready for a big data integration project.

Dedicated personalization platforms sit between your ecommerce system, ESP, and CRM to collect behavioral targeting data in real time. This data can be used to automatically segment customers and deliver personalized content across web and email.

If you’d like to find out more, join Gavin Laugenie, Head of Strategy & Insight at dotdigital, and Alistair Milne, Personalization Consultant at Fresh Relevance, as they show you how to take control of your customer data to drive revenue, improve customer experience, and strip it back to basics.

Register for the webinar here.

The post Behavioral targeting for ecommerce: your step-by-step guide appeared first on dotdigital blog.

Reblogged 2 weeks ago from blog.dotdigital.com

Building a Local Marketing Strategy for Franchises [Guide Sneak Peek]

Posted by MiriamEllis

A roller is a good tool for painting a house in big, broad strokes. But creating a masterpiece of art requires finer brushes.

Franchises face a unique challenge here: they know how to market at the national level, but often lack the detailed tools for reaching their local customers at a granular level. Google has stated that localization of search results is the greatest form of personalization they currently engage in. For franchises, where local sensitivity is lacking in the marketing plan, opportunity is being lost.

Don’t settle for this. Know that less-motivated competitors are losing this opportunity, too. This creates a large, blank canvas for a franchise you’re marketing to paint a new picture which takes state, regional and community nuances into account.

One famous example of localized marketing is McDonald’s offering SPAM in Hawaii and green chile cheeseburgers in New Mexico. For your franchise, it could revolve around customizing content for regional language differences (sub sandwich vs. po’ boy), or knowing when to promote seasonal merchandise at which locations (California vs. North Dakota weather).

What you need is marketing plan capable of scaling from national priorities to hyperlocal customers. Want the complete strategy now?

Get The Practical Guide to Franchise Marketing

From paint roller to sumi-e brush: A franchise marketing plan

Today, we’ll explore the basics of getting to know your local customers, so that your national franchise can customize how you serve them. Build a strategy around the following:



Your step-by-step guide to how to create a local marketing strategy

Finding your target audience

First, you need to understand who your customers are. If you have an existing franchise, you can do this fairly easily by simply observing or asking them. You might run an online survey, or you might do some quick spot interviews right in your place of business. What you want to work out is:

  • Demographics: What are the common ages, genders, income levels, and other relevant characteristics of your customers.
  • Psychographics: How do your customers think? What are their attitudes, behaviors and beliefs as they relate to your franchise?
  • Pain points: What problems do your customers have that you could potentially solve? Maybe they want to eat healthy but have no time. Maybe they want a gym that will help them become better athletes.
  • Consumption habits: How do your customers decide where to buy? Are they online? Do they have smartphones? Do they prioritize reviews/recommendations? Do they like video, or podcasts? Which social platforms do they frequent? What events do they attend?

Understanding the customer’s journey

Marketers spend a lot of time thinking about what we call the “customer journey.” This is just another way of saying we want to understand what happens between us and customers before they know our brand exist, after they discover it, up until they buy, and then beyond.

The best way to do this is to divide that experience into steps, understanding that some people will drop out of the process at every stage. Most corporate franchisers will recognize this as the “sales funnel.”

Here’s a simplified version of a sales funnel. Take the time to determine what happens at each stage in your own customers’ experience, and you’ll be a long way toward understanding how you can influence and help customers from one step to the next. 

Mapping a sales funnel


  1. Awareness
    This is where a customer first discovers you exist and starts to form an opinion about you based on what they see. Often, this is managed by the activities being conducted by corporate franchisors (like a national TV ad campaign). But, it can also happen through franchisee-generated references and referrals (like a searcher discovering you via a Google Maps search on their phone).
  2. Discovery
    This is where a customer has already absorbed information about you and your product and begins to actively try to learn more about it. This stage often encompasses online research. It local word-of-mouth queries between potential customers and their friends and family.
  3. Evaluation
    This is where a customer has decided to probably purchase something similar to what you offer, but is trying to decide where to buy. They might stop by your business in this stage, or they may give you a call. They might visit your online website or listings to look at your hours, or menu or price list. This stage is influenced by both franchisor and franchisee activity.
  4. Intent
    Now the customer has decided to buy from you — which means they are your customer to lose. Franchisors can lose them at this stage through misinformation in the brand’s local business listings — like incorrect hours or bad directions that lead customers to the wrong place and cause them to give up. Franchisees could lose the business through poor on-premises experiences — like uncleanliness, long wait times, low inventory, pricing, or poor customer service.
  5. Purchase
    This is where the transaction takes place, and is generally entirely within the control of the franchisee.
  6. Loyalty
    This stage determines whether the customer will return to buy again, and whether or not they will become an advocate for your business, give you good reviews, or rate you poorly. Again, this is typically within the control of the franchisee unless the issue is a decision made at the franchisor level, such as product/menu, pricing or policy.

Sometimes this whole funnel can take place in the time it takes to spot a sign for ice cream and purchase a double scoop sundae. Sometimes it may take weeks, as your customers labor over the right financial advisor to choose.

Understanding how your customer is thinking and what goes into making the decision to use you is important and will guide decision-making and sales activity at both the franchisor and franchisee levels.

Scoping out the competition

Most brands have already worked out their positioning with regard to other national brands, so this one is mainly for franchisees. Take some time to figure out who your direct competitors are in your local market. They might be other big brands, but there will also probably be local SMBs that are not on the corporate franchisor’s radar.

Understand:

  • Where they are stronger or weaker, compared to you
  • Who they attract, compared to you
  • How they are marketing their business

Having this information should help you to position yourself to win a bigger piece of the local pie. Is your competitor a gym that has better weight training and machines than you? Are they marketing mainly to younger men and athletes? Are they advertising on local radio? Perhaps you should double down on your cardio and yoga classes and try to attract more women or older clientele. Maybe adding some nutrition classes will encourage people trying to lose weight. And so on.

Building your authority

Once you’ve figured out who your customers are, how they buy, and how you plan to position your franchise in the local market, it’s time to put that plan into action by creating some content to support it.

For franchisors at corporate this means putting in the time to create an informative, interesting brand website with dynamic, engaging content. Your content should aim to educate, inform and/or entertain, rather than only sell. The more points of engagement your website offers to customers, the more reason they have to read, share, and link to your content, building authority. Your most valuable content will, of course, be the elements or pages that directly convert visitors into customers.

The content you put out over social media should follow this same precept, and lead back to your site as often as possible. Experts suggest that “60% of your posts you create should be engaging, timely content, 30% should be shared content, and only 10% should be promoting your products & services.” (Medium)

Invest some time in link building, in order to show Google’s algorithm how influential your site is and boost your authority and ranking.

Here are a few tips:

    • Use Moz’s “Find Opportunities” feature to locate sites which are linking to your competitors and not you (yet).
    • Look for people who are already referencing your site and ask them to hyperlink to you.
    • Do a little PR or news-making and ask articles to link to your site. (This is something local franchisees can excel at.)
    • Ask for links from local trade organizations, community organizations or commerce groups.
    • Sponsor events and ask for a link.
    • Start a scholarship and post it on local .edu sites.

Find out more about link building and unstructured citation and how to increase them in The Guide to Building Linked Unstructured Citations for Local SEO

Managing channels and budgets efficiently

Armed with good, authoritative content and an effective website, you’ll want to focus on how you manage all the channels available to you. This also includes managing your budget effectively. Most franchisor budgets are focused on the brand, and many franchisees don’t have a lot left over for local marketing, but here are some things to think about.

  • Listings first: Your listings aren’t expensive to manage, but they give your marketing it’s biggest overall value — in some cases literally guiding people to your registers. Make great local business listings your top priority.
  • Claim everything: Franchisors, be sure you are the one in control of your directory listings and social profiles. Complete your Google My Business profile and establish a presence on key social media and review platforms like Facebook and Yelp.
  • Budget wisely: Do the strategy work to understand who your customers are and how best to reach them before you allocate your franchisor or franchisee marketing dollars.


Pointillism for franchises

Adept franchise marketing requires the eye of Seurat: the ability to see life in hundreds of tiny points, making up a masterpiece. For you, franchise pointillism includes:

  • Points representing each customer
  • Points for the customer’s community, as a whole
  • Points representing your locations on the map
  • Points across the web where engagement happens
  • Points offline where engagement happens
  • Points of resource at all levels of the franchise, from franchisor to franchisee

Ready for expert help from Moz in seeing the finer points? Download your copy:

The Practical Guide to Franchise Marketing

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!

Reblogged 3 weeks ago from tracking.feedpress.it

The beginner’s guide to email marketing automation

At dotdigital, we talk a lot about our platform Engagement Cloud, and all the amazing features, like automation, that can add value to your marketing. But what if you don’t quite know where to start with all this functionality? With all the buzzwords – omnichannel campaigns, segmentation, product recommendations, SMS, push to mobile, and social retargeting – channel marketing can be intimidating for some online retailers.

There’s a
perception that setting up automated customer journeys is a complex activity
that requires substantial investment in precious time and resources, and this
perception is often the biggest blocker to getting started.

In this
article I’ll show how you can see massive ROI with minimal effort through
Engagement Cloud automations. 

My advice is
to start simple:

  1. Decide which contacts you want to target and make sure
    you have a way to segment them
  2. Set up basic customer journeys for each segment

Program Builder, the automation tool in Engagement Cloud, makes step two easy, with pre-built templates you can choose from to get started. We’ve already done the hard work for you, all you need to do is add your campaign content!

I’ve included some recommended customer journeys below.

Give your new subscribers a great introduction to your brand with a basic welcome automation

Segment: Brand new
subscribers

A welcome journey is an automation triggered when a subscriber signs up to your newsletters. The content of your welcome communications introduces your brand and sets your contacts’ expectations for the types of communications they will receive from you.

The below example from Nude by Nature outlines the brand’s purpose: a commitment to natural, cruelty-free products. Plus, the message also incentivizes subscribers to make their first purchase by offering a discount coupon. The “Shop Now” button makes it easy to return to the website and start browsing.

Nurture your customers and inspire loyalty with a helpful post-purchase automation

Segment: New
customers

A ‘post-purchase’
journey is an automation triggered when a customer makes their first order from
your store.

Note that a post-purchase journey is separate to transactional emails, which contain order updates such as delivery status and postage information.   

This example from Baxter Blue is sent to customers after their expected delivery date to check in and make sure they’ve received their product. As well as reiterating the benefits of their glasses, customers are also given advice on what to do if they have still not received their delivery.

email automation

Help tentative shoppers make quicker decisions with abandoned cart or checkout reminders

Segment: Undecided
online visitors

Abandoned cart or abandoned checkout journeys and campaigns can be triggered via your store’s Engagement Cloud integration, as a reminder to customers who have left an item behind. A discount or an offer of free shipping might help entice them to follow through with the purchase, or you can take the opportunity to educate the recipient about your brand. 

This cheeky example from Remedy Drinks exemplifies the brand’s laid-back tone of voice, and the link to the product makes it easy for customers to click through and complete their purchase.

Entice lapsed subscribers back to your brand with re-engagement journey

Segment: Unengaged
subscribers

A re-engagement journey aims to reactivate subscribers or customers who are no longer engaging with your emails. This is a good opportunity to start experimenting with adding your contacts to social audiences to engage with them via another channel. You can use our Facebook retargeting automation template (below) or set up your own journey – it’s as simple as adding a node to your automation.

automation

Takeaways

Marketing automation isn’t supposed to be difficult. You don’t have to do everything all at once; prioritize and focus on the basics. Choose key segments you want to engage with and build simple customer journeys to capture their attention. You can grow your omnichannel strategy (and brand) from there. If you’re not a dotdigital customer, you can watch a quick demo of Engagement Cloud here.

And if you fancy your hand at more triggered programs, grab a copy of our free automation planning worksheet.

The post The beginner’s guide to email marketing automation appeared first on dotdigital blog.

Reblogged 1 month ago from blog.dotdigital.com

I Want To Rank Beyond My Location: A Guide to How This Works

Posted by MiriamEllis

Staff at your agency get asked this question just about every day, and it’s a local SEO forum FAQ, too:

“I’m located in ‘x’, but how do I rank beyond that?”

In fact, this query is so popular, it deserves a good and thorough answer. I’ve written this article in the simplest terms possible so that you can instantly share it with even your least-technical clients.

We’ll break rankings down into five easy-to-grasp groups, and make sense out of how Google appears to bucket rankings for different types of users and queries. Your clients will come away with an understanding of what’s appropriate, what’s possible, and what’s typically impossible. It’s my hope that shooting this link over to all relevant clients will save your team a ton of time, and ensure that the brands you’re serving are standing on steady ground with some good education.

There’s nothing quite like education as a sturdy baseline for creating achievable goals, is there?

One hypothetical client’s story

We’ll illustrate our story by focusing in on a single fictitious business. La Tortilleria is a tortilla bakery located at 197 Fifth Avenue in San Rafael, Marin County, California, USA. San Rafael is a small city with a population of about 60,000. La Tortilleria vends directly to B2C customers, as well as distributing their handmade tortillas to a variety of B2B clients, like restaurants and grocery stores throughout Marin County.

La Tortilleria’s organic white corn tortillas are so delicious, the bakery recently got featured on a Food Network TV show. Then, they started getting calls from San Francisco, Sacramento, and even Los Angeles asking about their product. This business, which started out as a mom-and-pop shop, is now hoping to expand distribution beyond county borders.

When it comes to Google visibility, what is La Tortilleria eligible for, and is there some strategy they can employ to show up in many places for many kinds of searches? Let’s begin:

Group I: Hyperlocal rankings

Scenario

Your supreme chance of ranking in Google’s local pack results is typically in the neighborhood surrounding your business. For example, with the right strategy, La Tortilleria could expect to rank very well in the above downtown area of San Rafael surrounding their bakery. When searchers are physically located in this area or using search language like “tortilleria near me,” Google can hyper-localize the radius of the search to just a few city blocks when there are enough nearby options to make up a local pack.

Ask the client to consider:

  • What is my locale like? Am I in a big city, a small town, a rural area?
  • What is the competitive level of my market? Am I one of many businesses offering the same goods/services in my neighborhood, or am I one of the only businesses in my industry here?

Google’s local pack radius will vary greatly based on the answers to those two questions. For example, if there are 100 tortilla bakeries in San Rafael, Google doesn’t have to go very far to make up a local pack for a searcher standing on Fifth Avenue with their mobile phone. But, if La Tortilleria is one of only three such businesses in town, Google will have to reach further across the map to make up the pack. Meanwhile, in a truly rural area with few such businesses, Google’s smallest radius could span several towns, or if there simply aren’t enough options, not show a local pack in the results at all.

Strategy

To do well in the hyperlocal packs, tell your client their business should:

  • Create and claim a Google My Business listing, filling out as many fields as possible. Earn some reviews and respond to them
  • Build out local business listings on top local business information platforms, either manually or via a service like Moz Local.
  • Mention neighborhood names or other hyperlocal terms on the company website, including on whichever page of the site the Google listing points to.
  • If competition is strong in the neighborhood, invest in more advanced tactics like earning local linktations, developing more targeted hyperlocal content, using Google Posts to highlight neighborhood-oriented content, and managing Google Q&A to outdistance more sluggish competitors.

*Note that if you are marketing a multi-location enterprise, you’ll need to undertake this work for each location to get it ranking well at a hyperlocal level.

Group II: Local rankings

Scenario

These rankings are quite similar to the above but encompass an entire city. In fact, when we talk about local rankings, we are most often thinking about how a business ranks within its city of location. For example, how does La Tortilleria rank for searches like “tortilleria,” “tortilla shop,” or “tortillas san rafael” when a searcher is anywhere in that city, or traveling to that city from another locale?

If Google believes the intent of such searches is local (meaning that the searcher wants to find some tortillas to buy near them rather than just seeking general information about baked goods), they will make up a local pack of results. As we’ve covered, Google will customize these packs based on the searcher’s physical location in many instances, but a business that becomes authoritative enough can often rank across an entire city for multiple search phrases and searcher locales.

For instance, La Tortilleria might always rank #1 for “tortilla shop” when searchers on Fifth Avenue perform that search, but they could also rank #1 for “organic tortillas San Rafael” when locals in any part of that city or even out-of-towners do this lookup, if the business has built up enough authority surrounding this topic.

With the right strategy, every business has a very good chance of ranking locally in its city of physical location for some portion of its most desired search phrases.

Ask the client to consider:

  • Does my location + Google’s results behavior create small or large hurdles in my quest for city-wide rankings? When I look at the local packs I want to rank for, does Google appear to be clustering them too tightly in some part of the city to include my location in a different part of town? If so, can I overcome this?
  • What can I specialize in to set me apart? Is there some product, service, or desirable attribute my business can become particularly known for in my city over all other competitors? If I can’t compete for the biggest terms I’d like to rank for, are there smaller terms I could become dominant for city-wide?
  • How can I build my authority surrounding this special offering? What will be the most effective methodologies for becoming a household name in my community when people need the services I offer?

Your agency will face challenges surrounding this area of work. I was recently speaking with a business owner in Los Angeles who was disappointed that he wasn’t appearing for the large, lucrative search term “car service to LAX.” When we looked at the results together from various locations, we saw that Google’s radius for that term was tightly clustered around the airport. This company’s location was in a different neighborhood many miles away. In fact, it was only when we zoomed out on Google Maps to enlarge the search radius, or zoomed in on this company’s neighborhood, that we were able to see their listing appear in the local results.

This was a classic example of a big city with tons of brands offering nearly-identical services — it results in very stiff competition and tight local pack radius.

My advice in a tough scenario like this would revolve around one of these three things:

  • Becoming such a famous brand that the business could overcome Google’s famous bias
  • Specializing in some attribute that would enable them to seek rankings for less competitive keywords
  • Moving to an office near that “centroid” of business instead of in a distant neighborhood of the large city.

Your specific scenario may be easier, equal to, or even harder than this. Needless to say, a tortilla shop in a modestly-sized town does not face the same challenges as a car service in a metropolis. Your strategy will be based on your study of your market.

Strategy

Depending on the level of competition in the client’s market, tell them they will need to invest in some or all of the following:

  • Identify the keyword phrases you’re hoping to rank for using tools like Moz Keyword Explorer, Answer the Public, and Google Trends combined with organized collection and analysis of the real-world FAQs customers ask your staff.
  • Observe Google’s local pack behavior surrounding these phrases to discover how they are clustering results. Perform searches from devices in your own neighborhood and from other places around your city, as described in my recent post How to Find Your True Local Competitors. You can also experiment with tools like BrightLocal’s Local Search Results Checker.
  • Identify the top competitors in your city for your targeted phrases and then do a competitive audit of them.
  • Stack these discovered competitors up side-by-side with your business to see how their local search ranking factors may be stronger than yours. Improve your metrics so that they surpass those of the competitors, whether this surrounds Google My Business signals, Domain Authority, reputation, citation factors, website quality, or other elements.
  • If Google’s radius is tight for the most lucrative terms and your efforts to build authority so far aren’t enabling you to overcome it due to your location falling outside their reach, consider specialization in other smaller, but still valuable, search phrases. For instance, La Tortilleria could be the only bakery in San Rafael offering organic tortillas. A local business might significantly narrow the competition by being pet-friendly, open later, cheaper, faster, more staffed, women-led, serving specific dietary restrictions or other special needs, selling rarities, or bundling goods with expert advice. There are many ways to set yourself apart.
  • Finally, publicize your unique selling proposition. Highlight it on your website with great content. If it’s a big deal, make connections with local journalists and bloggers to try to make news. Use Google My Business attributes to feature it on your listing. Cross-sell with related local businesses and promote one another online. Talk it up on social media. Structure review requests to nudge customers towards mentioning your special offering in their reviews. Do everything you can to help your community and Google associate your brand name with your specialty.

Group III: Regional rankings

Scenario

This is where we typically hit our first really big hurdle, and where the real questions begin. La Tortilleria is located in San Rafael and has very good chances of ranking in relation to that city. But what if they want to expand to selling their product throughout Marin County, or even throughout several surrounding counties? Unless competition is very low, they are unlikely to rank in the local packs for searchers in neighboring cities like Novato, Mill Valley, or Corte Madera. What paths are open to them to increase their visibility beyond their city of location?

It’s at this juncture that agencies start hearing clients ask, “What can I do if I want to rank outside my city?” And it’s here that it’s most appropriate to respond with some questions clients need to be asking themselves.

Ask the client to consider:

  • Does my business model legitimately lend itself to transactions in multiple cities or counties? For example, am I just hoping that if my business in City A could rank in City B, people from that second location would travel to me? For instance, the fact that a dentist has some patients who come to their practice from other towns isn’t really something to build a strategy on. Consumers and Google won’t be excited by this. So, ask yourself: “Do I genuinely have a model that delivers goods/services to City B or has some other strong relationship to neighbors in those locales?”
  • Is there something I can do to build a physical footprint in cities where I lack a physical location? Short of opening additional branches, is there anything my business can do to build relationships with neighboring communities?

Strategy

  • First, know that it’s sometimes possible for a business in a less-competitive market to rank in nearby neighboring cities. If La Tortilleria is one of just 10 such businesses in Marin County, Google may well surface them in a local pack or the expanded local finder view for searchers in multiple neighboring towns because there is a paucity of options. However, as competition becomes denser, purely local rankings beyond city borders become increasingly rare. Google does not need to go outside of the city of San Francisco, for example, to make up complete local results sets for pizza, clothing, automotive services, attorneys, banks, dentists, etc. Assess the density of competition in your desired regional market.
  • If you determine that your business is something of a rarity in your county or similar geographical region, follow the strategy described above in the “Local Rankings” section and give it everything you’ve got so that you can become a dominant result in packs across nearby multiple cities. If competition is too high for this, keep reading.
  • If you determine that what you offer isn’t rare in your region, local pack rankings beyond your city borders may not be feasible. In this case, don’t waste money or time on unachievable goals. Rather, move the goalposts so that your marketing efforts outside of your city are targeting organic, social, paid, and offline visibility.
  • Determine whether your brand lends itself to growing face-to-face relationships with neighboring cities. La Tortilleria can send delivery persons to restaurants and grocery stores throughout its county. They can send their bakers to workshops, culinary schools, public schools, food festivals, expos, fairs, farmers markets, and a variety of events in multiple cities throughout their targeted region. They can sponsor regional events, teams, and organizations. They can cross-sell with a local salsa company, a chocolatier, a caterer. Determine what your brand’s resources are for expanding a real-world footprint within a specific region.
  • Once you’ve begun investing in building this footprint, publicize it. Write content, guest blog, make the news, share socially, advertise online, advertise in local print, radio, and TV media. Earn links, citations and social mentions online for what you are doing offline and grow your regional authority in Google’s eyes while you’re doing it.
  • If your brand is a traditional service area business, like a residential painting company with a single location that serves multiple cities, develops a website landing page for each city you serve. Make each page a showcase of your work in that city, with project features, customer reviews, localized tips, staff interviews, videos, photos, FAQs and more. As with brick-and-mortar models, your level of rarity will determine whether your single physical office can show up in the local packs for more than one city. If your geo-market is densely competitive, the main goal of your service city landing pages will be organic rankings, not local ones.

Group IV: State-wide rankings

Scenario

This is where our desired consumer base can no longer be considered truly local, though local packs may still occasionally come into play. In our continuing story, revenue significantly increased after La Tortilleria appeared on a popular TV show. Now they’ve scaled up their small kitchen to industrial strength in hopes of increasing trade across the state of California. Other examples might be an architectural firm that sends staff state-wide to design buildings or a photographer who accepts event engagements across the state.

What we’re not talking about here is a multi-location business. Any time you have a physical location, you can simply refer back to Groups I–III for strategy because you are truly in the local running any place you have a branch. But for the single location client with a state-wide offering, the quest for broad visibility begs some questions.

Ask the client to consider:

  • Are state-wide local pack results at all in evidence for my query or is this not the reality at all for my industry? For example, when I do a non-modified search just for “sports arena” in California, it’s interesting to see that Google is willing to make up a local pack of three famous venues spanning Sonora to San Diego (about 500 miles apart). Does Google return state-wide packs for my search terms, and is what I offer so rare that I might be included in them?
  • Does my business model genuinely lend itself to non-local queries and clients willing to travel far to transact with me or hire me from anywhere in the state? For example, it would be a matter of pure vanity for me to want my vacuum cleaner repair shop to rank state-wide, as people can easily access services like mine in their own towns. But, what if I’m marketing a true rara avis, like a famous performing arts company, a landmark museum, a world-class interior design consultancy, or a vintage electronics restoration business?
  • Whether Google returns state-wide local packs or only organic results for my targeted search terms, what can I do to be visible? What are my resources for setting myself apart?

Strategy

  • First, let’s take it for granted that you’ve got your basic local search strategy in place. You’re already doing everything we’ve covered above to build a strong hyperlocal, local, and regional digital and offline footprint.
  • If Google does return state-wide local packs for your search phrases, simply continue to amp up the known local pack signals we’ve already discussed, in hopes of becoming authoritative enough to be included.
  • If your phrases don’t return state-wide local packs, you will be competing against a big field for organic results visibility. In this case, you are likely to be best served by three things. Firstly, take publication on your website seriously. The more you can write about your offerings, the more of an authoritative resource you will become. Delve deeply into your company’s internal talent for developing magazine-quality content and bring in outside experts where necessary. Secondly, invest in link research tools like Moz Link Explorer to analyze which links are helping competitors to rank highly in the organic results for your desired terms and to discover where you need to get links to grow your visibility. Thirdly, seek out your state’s most trusted media sources and create a strategy for seeking publicity from them. Whether this comes down to radio, newspapers, TV shows, blogs, social platforms, or organizational publications, build your state-wide fame via inclusion.
  • If all else fails and you need to increase multi-regional visibility throughout your state, you will need to consider your resources for opening additional staffed offices in new locales.

Group V: National rankings & beyond

Scenario

Here, we encounter two common themes, neither of which fall within our concept of local search.

In the first instance, La Tortilleria is ready to go multi-state or nation-wide with its product, distributing goods outside of California as a national brand. The second is the commonly-encountered digital brand that is vending to a multi-state or national audience and is often frustrated by the fact that they are being outranked both in the local and organic results by physical, local companies in a variety of locations. In either case, the goals of both models can sometimes extend beyond country borders when businesses go multinational.

Ask the client to consider:

  • What is my business model? Am I selling B2B, B2C, or both?
  • Which marketing strategies will generate the brand recognition I need? Is my most critical asset my brand’s website, or other forms of off-and-online advertising? Am I like Wayfair, where my e-commerce sales are almost everything, bolstered by TV advertising? Or, am I like Pace Foods with a website offering little more than branding because distribution to other businesses is where my consumers find me?
  • Does my offering need to be regionalized to succeed? Perhaps La Tortilleria will need to start producing super-sized white flour tortillas to become a hit in Texas. McDonald’s offers SPAM in Hawaii and green chile cheeseburgers in New Mexico. Regional language variants, seasonality, and customs may require fine-tuning of campaigns.

Strategy

  • If your national brand hinges on B2C online sales, let me put the e-commerce SEO column of the Moz blog at your fingertips. Also highly recommended, E-commerce SEO: The Definitive Guide.
  • If your national brand revolves around getting your product on shelves, delve into Neilsen’s manufacturer/distributor resources and I’ve also found some good reading at MrCheckout.
  • If you are expanding beyond your country, read Moz’s basic definition of International SEO, then move on to An In-Depth Look at International SEO and The Ultimate Guide to International SEO.
  • This article can’t begin to cover all of the steps involved in growing a brand from local to an international scale, but in all scenarios, a unifying question will revolve around how to cope with the reality that Google will frequently rank local brands above or alongside your business for queries that matter to you. If your business has a single physical headquarters, then content, links, social, and paid advertising will be the tools at your disposal to compete as best you can. Rarity may be your greatest strength, as seen in the case of America’s sole organic tulip bulb grower, or authority, as in the case of this men’s grooming site ranking for all kinds of queries related to beards.
  • You’ll be wanting to rank for every user nationwide, but you’ll also need to be aware of who your competitors are at a local and regional level. This is why even national/international brands need some awareness of how local search works so that they can identify and audit strong local brands in target markets in order to compete with them in the organic SERPs, sometimes fine-tuning their offerings to appeal to regional needs and customs.
  • I often hear from digital-only brands that want to rank in every city in the nation for a virtual service. While this may be possible for a business with overwhelming authority and brand recognition (think Amazon), a company just starting out can set a more reasonable goal of analyzing a handful of major cities instead of thousands of them to see what it would take to get in the running with entrenched local and digital brands.
  • Finally, I want to mention one interesting and common national business model with its own challenges. In this category are tutoring businesses, nanny services, dog walking services, and other brands that have a national headquarters but whose employees or contractors are the ones providing face-to-face services. Owners ask if it’s possible to create multiple Google listings based on the home addresses of their workers so that they can achieve local pack rankings for what is, in fact, a locally-rendered service. The answer is that Google doesn’t approve of this tactic. So, where a local pack presence is essential, the brand must find a way to staff an office in each target region. Avoid virtual offices, which are explicitly forbidden, but there could be some leeway in exploring inexpensive co-working spaces staffed during stated business hours and where no other business in the same Google category is operating. A business that determines this model could work for them can then pop back up to Groups I-IV to see how far local search can take them.

Summing up

There may be no more important task in client-onboarding than setting correct expectations. Basing a strategy on what’s possible for each client’s business model will be the best guardian of your time and your client’s budget. To recap:

  1. Identify the client’s model.
  2. Investigate Google’s search behavior for the client’s important search phrases.
  3. Gauge the density of competition/rarity of the client’s offerings in the targeted area.
  4. Audit competitors to discover their strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Create a strategy for local, organic, social, paid, and offline marketing based on the above four factors.

For each client who asks you how to rank beyond their physical location, there will be a unique answer. The work your agency puts into finding that answer will make you an expert in their markets and a powerful ally in achieving their achievable goals.

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Reblogged 7 months ago from tracking.feedpress.it

Your 3-Step Guide to Creating a Successful Review Acquisition Strategy

Posted by McDermott

Wouldn’t it be nice if you had an easy way to learn about your competitor’s deepest and darkest secrets? An ethical way to peer inside their business — anytime you wanted?

Your competitor’s review portfolio provides you with just that. And conducting an audit of their portfolio will give you precious, must-have data that competitors are simply unwilling to share. It’s a treasure trove of secrets, pointing to your competitor’s strengths, weaknesses, goals, and objectives.

But how do you audit your competitor’s review portfolio? More importantly, how do you use this data to inform your review acquisition and marketing strategy?

I’ll show you how in three easy steps. Feel free to download this spreadsheet if you’d like to add data as we go along.

Why competitor review audits are essential

But first: What’s so special about the review audit anyway? At first glance, it might seem like more work than it’s worth. Your competitors have more (or less) reviews than you do, which means you’ll work harder — and if they add more reviews, you’ll have to put in more work to earn more reviews.  

Seems like the usual marketing arms race, right? Where you and your competitors are jockeying for first place.

Sophisticated agencies will know better. They see the competitor review audit for what it is: A chance to gain leverage, clarity, and intelligence from their most unwilling competitors. Because a competitor audit shows you:

  1. What competitor’s customers are unhappy about
  2. Your competitor’s desires, goals, fears and frustrations
  3. The core issues and challenges costing your competitors leads, sales and revenue
  4. The objections and risks that keep their prospects from buying
  5. Customer perception in the marketplace
  6. Why customers choose to work with your competitors specifically
  7. What customers want (but aren’t getting) from your competitors
  8. What needs to be done to grow your business exponentially
  9. Their customer’s knowledge/level of sophistication
  10. Changes in your competitor’s business (past, present, and future)

These details are are an exceptional opportunity in the right hands —it’s an indispensable assessment tool for local search agencies and their clients. Not to mention it’s a straightforward way to learn about your competitor’s deepest and darkest secrets: you have literal competitive intel from their customer’s perspective. 

Before you begin your audit…

You’ll want to take stock of the top three competitors in your local market. There are two ways to approach this. If you’re part of a smaller local market or you already have a list of competitors, start there. What if you’re a new business and you’re not fully established in your local market yet? Which competitors should you audit?

The businesses that are consistently listed in the local three pack or page one of the Google Maps search results, when you click ‘More Places’ on the local pack or the search results (page one) for your queries!

All set with your list of competitors? You’re ready to begin your audit!

Step #1: Assess their review profiles

You’ll want to take an inventory of your competitor’s review profiles. You’re looking for three types of review profiles:

  1. Mainstream reviews via large providers like Google, Facebook, and Yelp
  2. Industry-specific reviews via specialty sites like TripAdvisor for hotels, Avvo for attorneys or Healthgrades for doctors
  3. ‘Niche’ platforms like the BBB, Angie’s list, or Clutch.co

You also want to take note of a few cursory details.

  • Have competitors claimed each/all of their profiles?
  • How many reviews do they have?
  • Are the aggregate reviews on each platform – positive, neutral or negative?
  • What’s the overall sentiment for each profile – positive, neutral or negative?
  • How recent are their reviews?
  • How many of their reviews were received over the past one to three months?
  • Is their NAP data consistent across each of their profiles? Consistent across multiple locations?
  • Do their profile links lead to active and relevant pages? Any broken links?

You’re looking for inconsistencies. Outdated data, inaccurate details, 404 errors, etc.

Step #2: Search for their business + reviews

Let’s say you’re working with a client in the personal injury space. You’re analyzing the three competitors we mentioned earlier.

Where should you start?

First, you’ll want to gather a list of branded and unbranded keywords. You can use Moz’s Keyword Explorer or your keyword tool of choice to quickly suss out the organic keywords your competitors are using.

explorer personal injury

You can use a tool like the Permutator to rapidly expand your list of keywords. You can use this tool to identify missed opportunities or further refine the keywords in your list.

personal injury permutations

Head over to Google and run a search of the unbranded keywords in your list.

  • Best personal injury lawyer
  • Best personal injury lawyers near me
  • Best personal injury lawyers in Chicago
  • Best personal injury lawyers Chicago Loop
  • Chicagoland personal injury firm
  • Chicagoland personal injury firm in Chicago
  • Chicagoland personal injury firm near me
  • Chicagoland personal injury firms
  • Personal injury firm
  • Personal injury firm in Chicago
  • Personal injury firm near me
  • Personal injury firms

Next, run a search of the branded queries in your list

  • Staver Accident Injury Lawyers
  • Staver Accident Injury Lawyers reviews
  • Staver Accident Injury Lawyers testimonials
  • Staver Accident Injury Lawyers in Chicago
  • Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard
  • Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard reviews
  • Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard testimonials
  • Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard in Chicago

Take screenshots of the local three pack when it appears, whether it includes the competitors in your list or not.

salvi 3 pack

You also want to take screenshots of the knowledge panel and search results. There are all kinds of juicy data we can work with here! Use a descriptive file name so it’s easy to remember key details later.

rosenfeld knowledge panel + serps

Here’s a short list of the details you’re looking for:

  • Are aggregate reviews listed in the search results? Are these reviews positive, neutral or negative?
  • Are keywords used on review profiles, media (via images, videos or slides) and landing pages?
  • Citations/NAP data, is it consistent/inconsistent?
  • What types of content channels are used (e.g. keyword rich video testimonials via YouTube, on-site reviews, Facebook recommendations, etc.)?

Next, you’ll want to read through your competitor’s reviews. At this point, you’re looking to collect data. You’ll want:

  • Positive, neutral and negative reviews
  • Featured, highlighted or recommended reviews
  • To assess the general tone and quality of the reviews listed in each profile (are reviews shallow, detailed or comprehensive e.g. reviews with text, images and/or video?)
  • To gauge the ratio of positive-to-negative and neutral-to-negative reviews
  • To identify profiles that are potential outliers (e.g. unclaimed review profiles with no/poor reviews)

You’re looking for positive reviews…

rosenfeld reviews

…as well as neutral and negative reviews.

rosenfeld negative

The balanced, comprehensive inventory of each review profile gives us more data to work with later on.

You’ll want to run these audits at regular intervals. If you’re serving clients in a highly competitive market like insurance, real estate mortgage banking, you’ll want to run these audits more often.

Why is this important?

You already know the answer! You and your clients are playing a competitive game of moves and countermoves. If they’re smart, your competitors will eventually take note of the aggressive changes you’re making. They’ll quickly adapt, working to circumvent any advantage you’ve gained. If you’re using a review management tool, these details are simple to automate and easy to track on a recurring basis.

It’s not rocket science, but it does take work. Now we’ve arrived at the best part of our analysis.

Step #3: Using your audit to inform your review acquisition strategy

You’ve uncovered a significant amount of data in your competitor audit. How do we go about putting this valuable data to good use?

We ask questions!

Asking questions gives us a chance to dive deep into the data, uncovering insights that are actionable and useful. Here’s a list of sample questions you should be able to extract from your audit. Here’s what you’ll want to know.

Which competitor has:

  • The most reviews, per platform? The most reviews overall?
  • The largest amount of high-quality reviews (e.g. detailed four and five-star reviews)?
  • The largest amount of low-quality reviews (e.g. four and five-star reviews with little to no text)?
  • The largest amount of aggregate reviews listed in the search results?

These questions enable you to identify the review sites where your competitors are strongest/weakest. This is important because it helps you identify opportunities for quick wins and big gains.

Next, you’ll want to assess trends in your competitor’s reviews:

  • What motivates reviewers to share (e.g. satisfactory outcome, altruism, displeasure, etc.)?
  • Which customer objections appear repeatedly?
  • Do competitors respond to customer reviews? Do they respond more to positive, neutral, negative or all reviews?
  • How long does it take them to respond to a review?
  • How do competitors respond to negative reviews?
  • Do customers feel the business’ performance has improved or declined overall?
  • What desires, goals, fears, frustrations, and problems did customers bring into the relationship?
  • How did competitors handle these issues?
  • What risks did reviewers face in the relationship?
  • How sophisticated are their reviewers (e.g. educated and discerning buyer, experienced and unsure, clear and confident, etc.)
  • Which themes appear consistently in reviewer responses? (E.g. poor communication, open and transparent, patient and knowledgeable, etc.)

So, here’s the million-dollar question. How do you use these details to inform your review acquisition strategy? Imagine that we come across 25 to 35 reviews like these in our audit of a single competitor. Customers are consistently complaining about poor communication and poor follow-through in their reviews.

negative review personal injury

How can you help your clients capitalize on this problem? You…

  1. Brainstorm: You work with your law firm client to come up with a client “Bill of Rights.” They commit to daily and weekly communication with their clients or they take 25 percent off next month’s invoice. You interview, survey and conversion data to test the effectiveness of this risk reversal.
  2. Advertise: Your client uses their client “Bill of Rights” and their promise to communicate daily and weekly in your PPC and display campaigns. Click through rates begin to climb as the message begins to resonate with clients in the Chicagoland area.
  3. Re-target: Prospects who visit the website are added to a retargeting campaign. This campaign consists of four distinct ingredients (1.) A strong value proposition (2.) An irresistible offer (3.) Strong reviews showing your client communicates daily and weekly as promised (4.) Your clients produce extraordinary results for their clients. Using your client’s retargeting campaign, you drive prospects to relevant landing pages and review profiles.
  4. Convert: Your marketing strategy is effective. You’re able to convert a significant amount of prospects on your client’s behalf. You ensure that your client under promises and over delivers, producing extraordinary results and wowing their clients.
  5. Request: You set up a review funnel for your client. Their customers are invited to write a review via SMS and email autoresponder campaigns. Their clients are sent to a review landing page, where they’re directed to the appropriate review profile (e.g. Google My Business, Facebook recommendations, or Yelp reviews). Their clients are encouraged to share openly and honestly.
  6. Respond: You work with your client to respond to positive and negative reviews on their behalf. You work with your clients to maintain a 5:1 ratio. Five positive reviews for every negative review. You use review response protocols to provide reviewers with an appropriate, customized and empathetic response. Traffic and conversion rates skyrocket.

Can you see what’s happening? You’re using your competitor’s strategy to inform your own. Your clients continue to win whether their competitors win or lose. Here’s the significant part about competitor review audit. The possibilities are there. You can use their competitor’s success or failure to boost their marketing results. You can use this strategy with webinars, guest posts advertising, partnerships, workshops, and even events.

A chance to gain leverage, clarity, and insight

Don’t underestimate the power of conducting competitor review audits. It’s a powerful strategy, especially when combined with Review management tools as well as display and PPC intelligence tools like Moat, WordStream, and SpyFu. 

If you’re a boutique Local Search, SEO, or Marketing agency working with a variety of local clients, providing review management guidance can be an incredibly valuable supplemental service. In fact, according to Moz’s 2019 The State of Local SEO Industry Report, 91 percent of marketers believe that aspects of reviews, including ratings, quality, positive/negative sentiment, presence of keywords, and/or recency can impact local pack rankings. So if you’re providing local digital services and not touching on reviews, you’re probably doing your clients a disservice. 

Wrapping up

A competitor review audit gives you actionable data on your competitor’s strengths, weaknesses, goals, and objectives. With the right approach and consistent effort, your competitors will supply you with everything you need to inform and improve your client’s review acquisition strategy.

What other tips or tricks do you use to inform your review acquisition strategy?

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!

Reblogged 7 months ago from tracking.feedpress.it

The One-Hour Guide to SEO, Part 2: Keyword Research – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Before doing any SEO work, it’s important to get a handle on your keyword research. Aside from helping to inform your strategy and structure your content, you’ll get to know the needs of your searchers, the search demand landscape of the SERPs, and what kind of competition you’re up against.

In the second part of the One-Hour Guide to SEO, the inimitable Rand Fishkin covers what you need to know about the keyword research process, from understanding its goals to building your own keyword universe map. Enjoy!

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another portion of our special edition of Whiteboard Friday, the One-Hour Guide to SEO. This is Part II – Keyword Research. Hopefully you’ve already seen our SEO strategy session from last week. What we want to do in keyword research is talk about why keyword research is required. Why do I have to do this task prior to doing any SEO work?

The answer is fairly simple. If you don’t know which words and phrases people type into Google or YouTube or Amazon or Bing, whatever search engine you’re optimizing for, you’re not going to be able to know how to structure your content. You won’t be able to get into the searcher’s brain, into their head to imagine and empathize with them what they actually want from your content. You probably won’t do correct targeting, which will mean your competitors, who are doing keyword research, are choosing wise search phrases, wise words and terms and phrases that searchers are actually looking for, and you might be unfortunately optimizing for words and phrases that no one is actually looking for or not as many people are looking for or that are much more difficult than what you can actually rank for.

The goals of keyword research

So let’s talk about some of the big-picture goals of keyword research. 

Understand the search demand landscape so you can craft more optimal SEO strategies

First off, we are trying to understand the search demand landscape so we can craft better SEO strategies. Let me just paint a picture for you.

I was helping a startup here in Seattle, Washington, a number of years ago — this was probably a couple of years ago — called Crowd Cow. Crowd Cow is an awesome company. They basically will deliver beef from small ranchers and small farms straight to your doorstep. I personally am a big fan of steak, and I don’t really love the quality of the stuff that I can get from the store. I don’t love the mass-produced sort of industry around beef. I think there are a lot of Americans who feel that way. So working with small ranchers directly, where they’re sending it straight from their farms, is kind of an awesome thing.

But when we looked at the SEO picture for Crowd Cow, for this company, what we saw was that there was more search demand for competitors of theirs, people like Omaha Steaks, which you might have heard of. There was more search demand for them than there was for “buy steak online,” “buy beef online,” and “buy rib eye online.” Even things like just “shop for steak” or “steak online,” these broad keyword phrases, the branded terms of their competition had more search demand than all of the specific keywords, the unbranded generic keywords put together.

That is a very different picture from a world like “soccer jerseys,” where I spent a little bit of keyword research time today looking, and basically the brand names in that field do not have nearly as much search volume as the generic terms for soccer jerseys and custom soccer jerseys and football clubs’ particular jerseys. Those generic terms have much more volume, which is a totally different kind of SEO that you’re doing. One is very, “Oh, we need to build our brand. We need to go out into this marketplace and create demand.” The other one is, “Hey, we need to serve existing demand already.”

So you’ve got to understand your search demand landscape so that you can present to your executive team and your marketing team or your client or whoever it is, hey, this is what the search demand landscape looks like, and here’s what we can actually do for you. Here’s how much demand there is. Here’s what we can serve today versus we need to grow our brand.

Create a list of terms and phrases that match your marketing goals and are achievable in rankings

The next goal of keyword research, we want to create a list of terms and phrases that we can then use to match our marketing goals and achieve rankings. We want to make sure that the rankings that we promise, the keywords that we say we’re going to try and rank for actually have real demand and we can actually optimize for them and potentially rank for them. Or in the case where that’s not true, they’re too difficult or they’re too hard to rank for. Or organic results don’t really show up in those types of searches, and we should go after paid or maps or images or videos or some other type of search result.

Prioritize keyword investments so you do the most important, high-ROI work first

We also want to prioritize those keyword investments so we’re doing the most important work, the highest ROI work in our SEO universe first. There’s no point spending hours and months going after a bunch of keywords that if we had just chosen these other ones, we could have achieved much better results in a shorter period of time.

Match keywords to pages on your site to find the gaps

Finally, we want to take all the keywords that matter to us and match them to the pages on our site. If we don’t have matches, we need to create that content. If we do have matches but they are suboptimal, not doing a great job of answering that searcher’s query, well, we need to do that work as well. If we have a page that matches but we haven’t done our keyword optimization, which we’ll talk a little bit more about in a future video, we’ve got to do that too.

Understand the different varieties of search results

So an important part of understanding how search engines work — we’re going to start down here and then we’ll come back up — is to have this understanding that when you perform a query on a mobile device or a desktop device, Google shows you a vast variety of results. Ten or fifteen years ago this was not the case. We searched 15 years ago for “soccer jerseys,” what did we get? Ten blue links. I think, unfortunately, in the minds of many search marketers and many people who are unfamiliar with SEO, they still think of it that way. How do I rank number one? The answer is, well, there are a lot of things “number one” can mean today, and we need to be careful about what we’re optimizing for.

So if I search for “soccer jersey,” I get these shopping results from Macy’s and soccer.com and all these other places. Google sort has this sliding box of sponsored shopping results. Then they’ve got advertisements below that, notated with this tiny green ad box. Then below that, there are couple of organic results, what we would call classic SEO, 10 blue links-style organic results. There are two of those. Then there’s a box of maps results that show me local soccer stores in my region, which is a totally different kind of optimization, local SEO. So you need to make sure that you understand and that you can convey that understanding to everyone on your team that these different kinds of results mean different types of SEO.

Now I’ve done some work recently over the last few years with a company called Jumpshot. They collect clickstream data from millions of browsers around the world and millions of browsers here in the United States. So they are able to provide some broad overview numbers collectively across the billions of searches that are performed on Google every day in the United States.

Click-through rates differ between mobile and desktop

The click-through rates look something like this. For mobile devices, on average, paid results get 8.7% of all clicks, organic results get about 40%, a little under 40% of all clicks, and zero-click searches, where a searcher performs a query but doesn’t click anything, Google essentially either answers the results in there or the searcher is so unhappy with the potential results that they don’t bother taking anything, that is 62%. So the vast majority of searches on mobile are no-click searches.

On desktop, it’s a very different story. It’s sort of inverted. So paid is 5.6%. I think people are a little savvier about which result they should be clicking on desktop. Organic is 65%, so much, much higher than mobile. Zero-click searches is 34%, so considerably lower.

There are a lot more clicks happening on a desktop device. That being said, right now we think it’s around 60–40, meaning 60% of queries on Google, at least, happen on mobile and 40% happen on desktop, somewhere in those ranges. It might be a little higher or a little lower.

The search demand curve

Another important and critical thing to understand about the keyword research universe and how we do keyword research is that there’s a sort of search demand curve. So for any given universe of keywords, there is essentially a small number, maybe a few to a few dozen keywords that have millions or hundreds of thousands of searches every month. Something like “soccer” or “Seattle Sounders,” those have tens or hundreds of thousands, even millions of searches every month in the United States.

But people searching for “Sounders FC away jersey customizable,” there are very, very few searches per month, but there are millions, even billions of keywords like this. 

The long-tail: millions of keyword terms and phrases, low number of monthly searches

When Sundar Pichai, Google’s current CEO, was testifying before Congress just a few months ago, he told Congress that around 20% of all searches that Google receives each day they have never seen before. No one has ever performed them in the history of the search engines. I think maybe that number is closer to 18%. But that is just a remarkable sum, and it tells you about what we call the long tail of search demand, essentially tons and tons of keywords, millions or billions of keywords that are only searched for 1 time per month, 5 times per month, 10 times per month.

The chunky middle: thousands or tens of thousands of keywords with ~50–100 searches per month

If you want to get into this next layer, what we call the chunky middle in the SEO world, this is where there are thousands or tens of thousands of keywords potentially in your universe, but they only have between say 50 and a few hundred searches per month.

The fat head: a very few keywords with hundreds of thousands or millions of searches

Then this fat head has only a few keywords. There’s only one keyword like “soccer” or “soccer jersey,” which is actually probably more like the chunky middle, but it has hundreds of thousands or millions of searches. The fat head is higher competition and broader intent.

Searcher intent and keyword competition

What do I mean by broader intent? That means when someone performs a search for “soccer,” you don’t know what they’re looking for. The likelihood that they want a customizable soccer jersey right that moment is very, very small. They’re probably looking for something much broader, and it’s hard to know exactly their intent.

However, as you drift down into the chunky middle and into the long tail, where there are more keywords but fewer searches for each keyword, your competition gets much lower. There are fewer people trying to compete and rank for those, because they don’t know to optimize for them, and there’s more specific intent. “Customizable Sounders FC away jersey” is very clear. I know exactly what I want. I want to order a customizable jersey from the Seattle Sounders away, the particular colors that the away jersey has, and I want to be able to put my logo on there or my name on the back of it, what have you. So super specific intent.

Build a map of your own keyword universe

As a result, you need to figure out what the map of your universe looks like so that you can present that, and you need to be able to build a list that looks something like this. You should at the end of the keyword research process — we featured a screenshot from Moz’s Keyword Explorer, which is a tool that I really like to use and I find super helpful whenever I’m helping companies, even now that I have left Moz and been gone for a year, I still sort of use Keyword Explorer because the volume data is so good and it puts all the stuff together. However, there are two or three other tools that a lot of people like, one from Ahrefs, which I think also has the name Keyword Explorer, and one from SEMrush, which I like although some of the volume numbers, at least in the United States, are not as good as what I might hope for. There are a number of other tools that you could check out as well. A lot of people like Google Trends, which is totally free and interesting for some of that broad volume data.



So I might have terms like “soccer jersey,” “Sounders FC jersey”, and “custom soccer jersey Seattle Sounders.” Then I’ll have these columns: 

  • Volume, because I want to know how many people search for it; 
  • Difficulty, how hard will it be to rank. If it’s super difficult to rank and I have a brand-new website and I don’t have a lot of authority, well, maybe I should target some of these other ones first that are lower difficulty. 
  • Organic Click-through Rate, just like we talked about back here, there are different levels of click-through rate, and the tools, at least Moz’s Keyword Explorer tool uses Jumpshot data on a per keyword basis to estimate what percent of people are going to click the organic results. Should you optimize for it? Well, if the click-through rate is only 60%, pretend that instead of 100 searches, this only has 60 or 60 available searches for your organic clicks. Ninety-five percent, though, great, awesome. All four of those monthly searches are available to you.
  • Business Value, how useful is this to your business? 
  • Then set some type of priority to determine. So I might look at this list and say, “Hey, for my new soccer jersey website, this is the most important keyword. I want to go after “custom soccer jersey” for each team in the U.S., and then I’ll go after team jersey, and then I’ll go after “customizable away jerseys.” Then maybe I’ll go after “soccer jerseys,” because it’s just so competitive and so difficult to rank for. There’s a lot of volume, but the search intent is not as great. The business value to me is not as good, all those kinds of things.
  • Last, but not least, I want to know the types of searches that appear — organic, paid. Do images show up? Does shopping show up? Does video show up? Do maps results show up? If those other types of search results, like we talked about here, show up in there, I can do SEO to appear in those places too. That could yield, in certain keyword universes, a strategy that is very image centric or very video centric, which means I’ve got to do a lot of work on YouTube, or very map centric, which means I’ve got to do a lot of local SEO, or other kinds like this.

Once you build a keyword research list like this, you can begin the prioritization process and the true work of creating pages, mapping the pages you already have to the keywords that you’ve got, and optimizing in order to rank. We’ll talk about that in Part III next week. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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!

Reblogged 8 months ago from tracking.feedpress.it

B2B Local Search Marketing: A Guide to Hidden Opportunity

Posted by MiriamEllis

Is a local business you’re marketing missing out on a host of B2B opportunities? Do B2B brands even qualify for local SEO?

If I say “B2B” and you think “tech,” then you’re having the same problem I was finding reliable information about local search marketing for business-to-business models. While it’s true that SaaS companies like Moz, MailChimp, and Hootsuite are businesses which vend to other businesses, their transactions are primarily digital. These may be the types of companies that make best-of B2B lists, but today let’s explore another realm in which a physical business you promote is eligible to be marketed both locally and as a B2B.

Let’s determine your eligibility, find your B2B opportunities, identify tips specific to your business model, analyze an outreach email, explore your content with a checklist, and find an advantage for you in today’s article.

Seeing how Google sees you

First to determine whether Google would view your brand as a local business, answer these two questions:

  1. Does the business I’m marketing have a physical location that’s accessible to the public? This can’t be a PO Box or virtual office. It must be a real-world address.
  2. Does the business I’m marketing interact face-to-face with its customers?

If you answered “yes” to both questions, continue, because you’ve just met Google’s local business guidelines.

Seeing your B2B opportunity

Next, determine if there’s a component of your business that already serves or could be created to serve other businesses.

Not totally sure? Let’s look at Google’s categories.

Out of the 2,395 Google My Business Categories listed here, there are at least 1,270 categories applicable to B2B companies. These include companies that are by nature B2B (wholesalers, suppliers) and companies that are B2C but could have a B2B offering (restaurants, event sites). In other words, more than half of Google’s categories signal to B2B-friendly companies that local marketing is an opportunity.

Let’s look at some major groups of categories and see how they could be fine-tuned to serve executive needs instead of only consumer needs:

Food establishments (restaurants, cafes, food trucks, caterers, etc.) can create relationships with nearby employers by offering business lunch specials, delivery, corporate catering, banquet rooms, and related B2B services. This can work especially well for restaurants located in large business districts, but almost any food-related business could create a corporate offering that incentivizes loyalty.

Major attractions (museums, amusements, cultural centers, sports centers, etc.) can create corporate packages for local employers seeking fun group activities. Brands looking to reduce implicit bias may be especially interested in interacting with cultural groups and events.

Professional services (realty, financial, printing, consulting, tech, etc.) can be geared towards corporate needs as well as individuals. A realtor can sell commercial properties. A printer can create business signage. A computer repair shop can service offices.

Personal services (counseling, wellness, fitness, skill training, etc.) can become corporate services when employers bring in outside experts to improve company morale, education, or well-being.

Home services (carpet cleaning, landscaping, plumbing, contracting, security, etc.) can become commercial services when offered to other businesses. Office buildings need design, remodeling, and construction and many have lounges, kitchens, restrooms, and grounds that need janitorial and upkeep services. Many retailers need these services, too.

Entertainers (comedians, musicians, DJs, performance troupes, etc.) can move beyond private events to corporate ones with special package offerings. Many brands have days where children, family members, and even pets are welcomed to the workplace, and special activities are planned.

Retailers (clothing, gifts, equipment, furniture, etc.) can find numerous ways to supply businesses with gear, swag, electronics, furnishings, gift baskets, uniforms, and other necessities. For example, a kitchen store could vend breakfast china to a B&B, or an electronics store could offer special pricing for a purchase of new computers for an office.

Transportation and travel services (auto sales and maintenance, auto rentals, travel agencies, tour guides, charging stations, etc.) can create special packages for businesses. A car dealer could sell a fleet of vehicles to a food delivery service, or a garage could offer special pricing for maintaining food trucks. A travel agency could manage business trips.

As you can see, the possibilities are substantial, and this is all apart from businesses that are classic B2B models, like manufacturers, suppliers, and wholesalers who also have physical premises and meet face-to-face with their clients. See if you’ve been missing out on a lucrative opportunity by examining the following spreadsheet of every Google My Business Category I could find that is either straight-up B2B or could create a B2B offering:

See local B2B categories

The business I’m marketing qualifies. What’s next?

See which of these two groups you belong to: either a B2B company that hasn’t been doing local SEO, or a local business that hasn’t created a B2B offering yet. Then follow the set of foundational tips specific to your scenario.

If you’re marketing a B2B company that hasn’t been doing local SEO:

  1. Know that the goal of local SEO is to make you as visible as possible online to any neighbor searching for what you offer so that you can win as many transactions as possible.
  2. Read the Guidelines for Representing your business on Google to be 100% sure your business qualifies and to familiarize yourself with Google’s rules. Google is the dominant player in local search.
  3. Make sure your complete, accurate name, address, and phone number is included in the footer of your website and on the Contact Us page. If you have multiple locations, create a unique page on your website for each location, complete with its full contact information and useful text for website visitors. Make each of these pages as unique and persuasive as possible.
  4. Be sure the content on your website thoroughly describes your goods and services, and makes compelling offers about the value of choosing you.
  5. Make sure your website is friendly to mobile users. If you’re not sure, test it using Google’s free mobile-friendly test.
  6. Create a Google My Business profile for your business if you don’t already have one so that you can work towards ranking well in Google’s local results. If you do have a profile, be sure it is claimed, accurate, guideline-compliant and fully filled out. This cheat sheet guide explains all of the common components that can show up in your Google Business Profile when people search for your company by name.
  7. Do a free check of the health of your other major local business listings on Moz Check Listing. Correct errors and duplicate listings manually, or to save time and enable ongoing monitoring, purchase Moz Local so that it can do the work for you. Accurate local business listings support good local rankings and prevent customers from being misdirected and inconvenience.
  8. Ask for, monitor, and respond to all of your Google reviews to improve customer satisfaction and build a strong, lucrative reputation. Read the guidelines of any other platform (like Yelp or TripAdvisor) to know what is allowed in terms of review management.
  9. Build real-world relationships within the community you serve and explore them for opportunities to earn relevant links to your website. Strong, sensible links can help you increase both your organic and local search engine rankings. Join local business organizations and become a community advocate.
  10. Be as accessible as possible via social media, sharing with your community online in the places they typically socialize. Emphasize communication rather than selling in this environment.

If you’re marketing a local business that hasn’t created a B2B offering yet:

  1. Research your neighborhood and your community to determine what kinds of businesses are present around you. If you’re not sure, reach out to your local Chamber of Commerce or a local business association like AMIBA to see if they have data they can share with you. Doing searches like “Human Resources Event Seattle” or “People Ops Event Seattle” can bring up results like this one naming some key companies and staffers.
  2. Document your research. Create a spreadsheet with a column for why you feel a specific business might be a good fit for your service, and another column for their contact information.See if you can turn up direct contact info for the HR or People Ops team. Phone the business, if necessary, to acquire this information.
  3. Now, based on what you’ve learned, brainstorm an offering that might be appealing to this audience. Remember, you’re trying to entice other business owners and their staff with something that’s special for them and meets their needs..
  4. Next, write out your offering in as few words at possible, including all salient points (who you are, what you offer, why it solves a problem the business is likely to have, available proof of problem-solving, price range, a nice request to discuss further, and your complete contact info). Keep it short to respect how busy recipients are.
  5. Depending on your resources, plan outreach in manageable batches and keep track of outcomes.
  6. Be sure all of your online local SEO is representing you well, with the understanding that anyone seriously considering your offer is likely to check you out on the web. Be sure you’ve created a page on the site for your B2B offer. Be sure your website is navigable, optimized and persuasive, with clear contact information, and that your local business listings are accurate and thorough — hopefully with an abundance of good reviews to which you’ve gratefully responded.
  7. Now, begin outreach. In many cases this will be via email, using the text you’ve created, but if you’ve determined that an in-person visit is a better approach, invest a little in having your offer printed nicely so that you can give it to the staff at the place of business. Make the best impression you possibly can as a salesperson for your product.
  8. Give a reasonable amount of time for the business to review and decide on your offer. If you don’t hear back, follow up once. Ideally, you’re hoping for a reply with a request for more info. If you hear nothing in response to your follow-up, move on, as silence from the business is a signal of disinterest. Make note of the dates you outreached and try again after some time goes by, as things may have changed at the business by then. Do, however, avoid aggressive outreach as your business will appear to be spamming potential clients instead of helping them.

As indicated, these are foundational steps for both groups — the beginnings of your strategy rather than the ultimate lengths you may need to go to for your efforts to fully pay off. The amount of work you need to do depends largely on the level of your local competition.

B2B tips from Moz’s own Team Happy

Moz’s People Ops team is called Team Happy, and these wonderful folks handle everything from event and travel planning, to gift giving, to making sure people’s parking needs are met. Team Happy is responsible for creating an exceptional, fun, generous environment that functions smoothly for all Mozzers and visitors.

I asked Team Happy Manager of Operations, Ashlie Daulton, to share some tips for crafting successful B2B outreach when approaching a business like Moz. Ashlie explains:

  • We get lots of inquiry emails. Do some research into our company, help us see what we can benefit from, and how we can fit it in. We don’t accept every offer, but we try to stay open to exploring whether it’s a good fit for the office.
  • The more information we can get up front, the better! We are super busy in our day-to-day and we can get a lot of spam sometimes, so it can be hard to take vague email outreach seriously and not chalk it up to more spam. Be real, be direct in your outreach. Keeping it more person-to-person and less “sales pitchy” is usually key.
  • If we can get most of the information we need first, research the website/offers, and communicate our questions through emails until we feel a call is a good next step, that usually makes a good impression.

Finally, Ashlie let me know that her team comes to decisions thoughtfully, as will the People Ops folks at any reputable company. If your B2B outreach doesn’t meet with acceptance from a particular company, it would be a waste of your time and theirs to keep contacting them.

However, as mentioned above, a refusal one year doesn’t mean there couldn’t be opportunity at a later date if the company’s needs or your offer change to be a better fit. You may need to go through some refinements over the years, based on the feedback you receive and analyze, until you’ve got an offer that’s truly irresistible.

A sample B2B outreach email

La práctica hace al maestro.”
– Proverb

Practice makes perfect. Let’s do an exercise together in which we imagine ourselves running an awesome Oaxacan restaurant in Seattle that wants to grow the B2B side of our business. Let’s hypothesize that we’ve decided Moz would be a perfect client, and we’ve spent some time on the web learning about them. We’ve looked at their website, their blog, and have read some third-party news about the company.

We found an email address for Team Happy and we’ve crafted our outreach email. What follows is that email + Ashlie’s honest, summarized feedback to me (detailed below) about how our fictitious outreach would strike her team:

Good morning, Team Happy!

When was the last time Moz’s hardworking staff was treated to tacos made from grandmother’s own authentic recipe? I’m your neighbor Jose Morales, co-owner with my abuela of Tacos Morales, just down the street from you. Our Oaxacan-style Mexican food is:

– Locally sourced and prepared with love in our zero-waste kitchen
– 100% organic (better for Mozzers’ brains and happiness!) with traditional, vegan, and gluten-free options
– $6–$9 per plate

We know you have to feed tons of techies sometimes, and we can effortlessly cater meals of up to 500 Mozzers. The folks at another neighboring company, Zillow, say this about our beautiful food:

“The best handmade tortillas we’ve ever had. Just the right portions to feel full, but not bogged down for the afternoon’s workload. Perfect for corporate lunches and magically scrumptious!”

May I bring over a complimentary taco basket for a few of your teammates to try? Check out our menu here and please let me know if there would be a good day for you to sample the very best of Taco Morales. Thank you for your kind consideration and I hope I get the chance to personally make Team Happy even happier!

Your neighbors,
Jose y Lupita Morales
Tacos Morales
www.tacosmorales.com
222 2nd Street, Seattle – (206) 111-1111

Why this email works:

  • We’re an inclusive office, so the various dietary options catch our eye. Knowing price helps us decide if it’s a good fit for our budget.
  • The reference to tech feels personalized — they know our team and who we work with.
  • It’s great to know they can handle some larger events!
  • It instills trust to see a quote from a nearby, familiar company.
  • Samples are a nice way to get to know the product/service and how it feels to work with the B2B company.
  • The menu link, website link, and contact info ensure that we can do our own exploring to help us make a decision.

As the above outreach illustrates, Team Happy was most impressed by the elements of our sample email that provided key information about variety, price and capacity, useful links and contact data, trust signals in the form of a review from a well-known client, and a one-on-one personalized message.

Your business is unique, and the precise tone of your email will match both your company culture and the sensibilities of your potential clients. Regardless of industry, studying the above communication will give you some cues for creating your own from the viewpoint of speaking personally to another business with their needs in mind. Why not practice writing an email of your own today, then run it past an unbiased acquaintance to ask if it would persuade them to reply?

A checklist to guide your website content

Your site content speaks for you when a potential client wants to research you further before communicating one-on-one. Why invest both budget and heart in what you publish? Because 94% of B2B buyers reportedly conduct online investigation before purchasing a business solution. Unfortunately, the same study indicates that only 37% of these buyers are satisfied with the level of information provided by suppliers’ websites. Do you see a disconnect here?

Let’s look at the key landing pages of your website today and see how many of these boxes you can check off:

My content tells potential clients…

☑ What my business name, addresses, phone numbers, fax number, email addresses, driving directions, mapped locations, social and review profiles are

☑ What my products and services are and why they meet clients’ needs

☑ The complete details of my special offers for B2B clients, including my capacity for fulfillment

☑ What my pricing is like, so that I’m getting leads from qualified clients without wasting anyone’s time

☑ What my USP is — what makes my selling proposition unique and a better choice than my local competitors

☑ What my role is as a beneficial member of the local business community and the human community, including my professional relationships, philanthropy, sustainable practices, accreditations, awards, and other points of pride

☑ What others say about my company, including reviews and testimonials

☑ What my clients’ rights and guarantees are

☑ What value I place on my clients, via the quality, usefulness, and usability of my website and its content

If you found your content lacking any of these checklist elements, budget to build them. If writing is not your strong suit and your company isn’t large enough to have an in-house content team, hire help. A really good copywriter will partner up to tell the story of your business while also accurately portraying its unique voice. Expect to be deeply interviewed so that a rich narrative can emerge.

In sum, you want your website to be doing the talking for you 24 hours a day so that every question a potential B2B client has can be confidently answered, prompting the next step of personal outreach.

How to find your B2B advantage

Earlier, we spoke of the research you’ll do to analyze the business community you could be serving with your B2B offerings, and we covered how to be sure you’ve got the local digital marketing basics in place to showcase what you do on the web. Depending on your market, you could find that investment in either direction could represent an opportunity many of your competitors have overlooked.

For an even greater advantage, though, let’s look directly at your competitors. You can research them by:

  1. Visiting their websites to understand their services, products, pricing, hours, capacity, USP, etc.
  2. Visiting their physical premises, making inquiries by phone, or (if possible) making a purchase of their products/services to see how you like them and if there’s anything that could be done better
  3. Reading their negative reviews to see what their customers complain about
  4. Looking them up on social media, again to see what customers say and how the brand handles complaints
  5. Reading both positive and negative media coverage of the brand

Do you see any gaps? If you can dare to be different and fill them, you will have identified an important advantage. Perhaps you’ll be the only:

  • Commercial cleaning company in town that specializes in servicing the pet-friendly hospitality market
  • Restaurant offering a particular type of cuisine at scale
  • Major attraction with appealing discounts for large groups
  • Commercial printer open late at night for rush jobs
  • Yoga instructor specializing in reducing work-related stress/injuries

And if your city is large and highly competitive and there aren’t glaring gaps in available services, try to find a gap in service quality. Maybe there are several computer repair shops, but yours is the only one that works weekends. Maybe there are a multitude of travel agents, but your eco-tourism packages for corporations have won major awards. Maybe yours is just one of 400+ Chinese restaurants in San Francisco, but the only one to throw in a free bag of MeeMee’s sesame and almond cookies (a fortune cookie differentiator!) with every office delivery, giving a little uplift to hardworking staff.

Find your differentiator, put it in writing, put it to the fore of your sales process. And engineer it into consumer-centric language, so that hard candy buttons with chocolate inside them become the USP that “melts in your mouth, not in your hands,” solving a discovered pain point or need.

B2B marketing boils down to service

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”

– Charles Dickens

We’re all in business to serve. We’re all helpers. At Moz, we make SEO easier for digital and local companies. At your brand, _________?

However you fill in that blank, you’re in the business of service. Whether you’re marketing a B2B that’s awakening to the need to invest in local SEO or a B2C on the verge of debuting your new business-to-business offering, your project boils down to the simple question,

“How can I help?”

Looking thoughtfully into your brand’s untapped capacities to serve your community, coupled with an authentic desire to help, is the best groundwork you can lay at the starting point for satisfaction at the finish line.

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!

Reblogged 10 months ago from tracking.feedpress.it

The Guide to Building Linked Unstructured Citations for Local SEO

Posted by MiriamEllis

This article was written jointly in partnership with Kameron Jenkins. You can enjoy her previous articles here.


When you’ve accomplished step one in your local search marketing, how do you take step two?

You already know that any local business you market has to have the table stakes of accurate structured citations on major platforms like Facebook, Yelp, Infogroup, Acxiom, and YP.

But what can local SEO practitioners do once they’ve got these formal listings created and a system in place for managing them? Our customers often come to us once they’ve gotten well underway with Moz Local and ask, “What’s next? What can I do to move the needle?” This blog post will give you the actionable strategy and a complete step-by-step tutorial to answer this important question.

A quick refresher on citations

Listings on formal directories are called “structured citations.” When other types of platforms (like online news, blogs, best-of lists, etc.) reference a local business’ complete or partial contact information, that’s called an “unstructured citation.” And the best unstructured citations of all include links, of course!

For example, the San Francisco branch of a natural foods grocery store gets a linked unstructured citation from a major medical center in their city via a blog post about stocking a pantry with the right ingredients for healthier eating. Google and consumers encounter this reference and understand that trust and authority are being conveyed and earned.

The more often websites that are relevant to your location or industry link to you within their own content, the better your chances of ranking well in Google’s organic and local search engine results.

Why linked unstructured citations are growing in importance right now

Link building is as old as organic SEO. Structured citation building is as old as local SEO. Both practices have long sought to influence Google rankings. But a close read of the local search marketing community these days points up an increasing emphasis on the value of unstructured citations. In fact, local links were one of the top three takeaways from the 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors survey. Why is this?

  1. Google has become the dominant force in local consumer experiences, keeping as many actions as possible within their own interface instead of sending searchers to company websites. Because links influence rank within that interface, most local businesses enterprises will need to move beyond traditional structured citations to impress Google with mentions on a diverse variety of relevant websites. While structured citations are rightly referred to as “table stakes” for all local businesses, it’s the unstructured ones that can be competitive difference-makers in tough markets.
  2. Meanwhile, Google is increasingly monetizing local search results. A prime example of this is their Local Service Ads (LSA) program which acts as lead gen between Google and service area businesses like plumbing and housekeeping companies. Savvy local brands (including brick-and-mortar models) will see the way the wind is blowing with this and work to form non-Google-dependent sources of traffic and lead generation. A good linked unstructured citation on a highly relevant publication can drive business without having to pay Google a dime.

Your goal with linked unstructured citations is to build your community footprint and your authority simultaneously. All you need is the right tools for the research phase!

Fishing for opportunities with Link Intersect

For the sake of this tutorial, let’s choose at random a small B&B in Albuquerque — Bottger.com — as our hypothetical client. Let’s say that the innkeeper wants to know how the big Tribal resort casinos are earning publicity and links, in the hopes of finding opportunities for a smaller hospitality business, too. *Note that these aren’t absolutely direct competitors, but they share a city and an overall industry.

We’re going to use Moz’s Link Intersect tool to do this research for Bottger Mansion. This tool could help Bottger uncover all kinds of links and unstructured linked citation opportunities, depending on how it’s used. For example, the tool could surface:

  • Links that direct or near-direct competitors have, but that Bottger doesn’t
  • Locally relevant links from domains/pages about Bottger’s locale
  • Industry-relevant links from domains/pages about the hospitality industry

Step 1: Find the “big fish”

A client may already know who the “big fish” in their community are, or you can cast a net by identifying popular local events and seeing which businesses sponsor them. Sponsorships can be pricey, depending on the event, so if a local company sponsors a big event, it’s an indication that they’re a larger enterprise with the budget to pursue a wide array of creative PR ideas. Larger enterprises can serve as models for small business emulation, at scale.

In our case study, we know that Bottger is located in Albuquerque, so we decided to locate sponsors of the famous Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Right away, we spotted two lavish Albuquerque resort-casinos — Isleta and Sandia. These are the “big fish” we want our smaller client to look to for inspiration.

Step 2: Input domains in Link Intersect

We’re going to compare Bottger’s domain to Isleta and Sandia’s domains. In Moz Pro, navigate to “Link Explorer” and then select “Link Intersect” from the left navigation. Input your domain in the top and the domains you want to mine link ideas from in the fields beneath, as depicted below.

Open Link Explorer in a new tab

Next to Bottger’s domain, we’ve selected “root domain” as that will show us all competitor links who haven’t linked to us at all. We’re also going to select “root domain” on the resort domains, so we can see all of their backlinks, rather than just links to particular pages on their sites.

Moz’s Link Intersect tool will let you compare your site with up to 5 competitors. It’s totally up to you how many sites you want to evaluate at once. If you’re just getting started with link building, you may want to start with just one domain, as this should yield plenty of link opportunities to start with. If you’ve already been doing some link building, you have more time to dedicate to link building, or you’d just generally rather have more options to work with, go ahead and put in multiple domains to compare.

Step 3: Find link opportunities

Once you’ve input your domain and your competitor(s) domains, click “Find Opportunities.” That will yield a list of sites that link to your competitors, but do not link to you.

In this example, we’re comparing our client’s domain against two other domains: A (Isleta) and B (Sandia). In the “Sites that intersect” column, you will see whether Site A has the link, Site B has it, or if they both have it.

Step 4: The link selection process

Now that we have a list of link ideas from Isleta and Sandia’s backlink profiles, it’s time to decide which ones might yield good opportunities for our B&B. That’s right — just because something is in a competitor’s link profile doesn’t necessarily mean you want it!

View the referring pages

The first step is to drill down and get more detail about links the big resorts have. Select the arrow to expand this section and view the exact page the link is coming from.

In this example, both Sandia and Isleta have links from the root domain marriott.com. By using the “expand” feature, we can see the exact pages those links are located on.

Identify follow or no-follow

You can use the MozBar Chrome plugin to view whether your competitor’s link is no-followed or followed. Since only followed links pass authority, you may want to prioritize those, but no-followed links can also have value in the form of generating traffic to your site and could get picked up by others who do eventually link to your site with a follow link.

Select the MozBar icon from your browser and click the pencil icon. If you want to see Followed links, select “Followed” and the MozBar will highlight these links on the page in green. To find No-Followed links, click “No-Followed” and MozBar will highlight these links on the page in pink.

Common types of links you’ll see in the profiles of local business websites

If this is your first foray into link building for local businesses, you may be unfamiliar with the types of sites you’ll see in Link Intersect. While no two link profiles are exactly the same, many local businesses use similar methods for building links, so there are some common categories to be aware of. Knowing these will help you decipher the results Link Intersect will show you.

Types of links and what you can do with them:

Press releases

Press release sites like PRweb.com and PRnewsire.com are fairly common among local businesses that want to spread the word about their initiatives. Whether someone at the business won an award or they started a new community outreach program, local businesses often pay companies like PRweb.com to distribute this news on their platform and to their partners. These are no-followed links (don’t pass link authority aka “SEO value”) but they can offer valuable traffic and could even get picked up by sites that do link with a follow link.

If your competitor is utilizing press releases, you may want to consider distributing your newsworthy information this way!

Structured citations / directories

One of the primary types of domains you’ll see in a local business’ backlink profile is directories — structured citation websites like yellowpages.com that list a business’ name, address, and phone number (NAP) with a link back to the business’ website. Because they’re self-created and not editorially given, like Press Releases, they are often no-followed. However, having consistent and accurate citations across major directory websites is a key foundational step in local search performance.

If you see these types of sites in Link Intersect, it may indicate your need for a listings management solution like Moz Local that can ensure your NAP is accurate and available across major directories. Typically, you’ll want to have these table stakes before focusing on unstructured linked citations.

News coverage

Another favorite among local businesses is local media coverage (or just media coverage in general — it’s not always local). HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is a popular service for connecting journalists to subject matter experts who may be valuable sources for their articles. The journalists will typically link your quote back to your website. Aside from services like HARO, local businesses would do well to make media contacts, such as forming relationships with local news correspondents. As news surfaces, they’ll start reaching out to you for comment!

If you see news coverage in your competitor’s backlink profile, you can get ideas of what types of publications want content and information that you can provide.

Local / industry coverage

Blogs, hobby sites, DIY sites, and other platforms can feature content that depicts city life or interest in a topic. For example, a chef might author a popular blog covering their dining experiences in San Francisco. For a local restaurant, being cited by this publication could be valuable.

If you see popular local or industry sites in your competitor’s backlink profile, it’s a good signal of opportunity for your business to build a relationship with the authors in hopes of gaining links.

Trade organizations

Most local businesses are affiliated with some type of governing/regulating body, trade organization, award organization, etc. Many of these organizations have websites themselves, and they often list the businesses they’re affiliated with.

If your competitor is involved with an organization, that means your business is likely suited to be involved as well! Use these links to get ideas of which organizations to join.

Community organizations

Community organizations are a great local validator for search engines, and many local businesses have taken notice. You’ll likely find these types of organizations’ websites in your competitor’s backlink profile, such as Chamber of Commerce websites or the local YMCA.

As a local business, your competitors are in the same locale as you, so take note of these community organizations and consider joining them. You’ll not only get the benefit of better community involvement, but you can get a link out of it too!

Sponsorships / event participation

Local businesses can sponsor, donate to, host or participate in community events, teams, and other cherished local resources, which can lead to both online and offline publicity.

Local businesses can earn great links from online press surrounding these groups and happening. If an event/team page highlights you, but doesn’t actually link to benefactors/participants, don’t be shy about politely requesting a link.

Scholarships / .edu sites

A popular strategy used by many local businesses and non-local businesses alike is scholarship link building. Businesses figured out that if they offered a scholarship, they could get a link back to their site on education websites, such as .edu domains. Everyone seemed to catch on — so much so that many schools stopped featuring these scholarships on their site. It’s also important to note that .edu domains don’t inherently have more value than domains on any other TLD.

If your business wants to offer a scholarship, that is a great thing! We encourage you to pursue this for the benefit it could offer students, rather than primarily for the purpose of gaining links. Scholarship link building has become very saturated, and could be a strategy with diminishing returns, so don’t put all your eggs in this basket, and do it first and foremost for students instead of links.

Other businesses

Businesses may sometimes partner with each other for mutually beneficial link opportunities. Co-marketing opportunities that are a byproduct of genuine relationships can present valuable link opportunities, but link exchanges are against Google’s quality guidelines.

Stay away from “you link to me, I’ll link to you” opportunities as Google can see it as an attempt to manipulate your site’s ranking in search, but don’t be afraid to pursue genuine connections with other businesses that can turn into linking opportunities.

Spam

Just because your competitor has that link doesn’t mean you want it too! In Link Intersect, pay attention to the domain’s Spam Score and DA. A high spam score and/or low DA can indicate that the link wouldn’t be valuable for your site, and may even harm it.

Also watch out for links generated from comments. If your competitor has links in their backlink profile coming from comments, you can safely ignore these as they do not present real opportunities for earning links that will move the needle in the right direction.

Now that you’re familiar with popular types of local backlinks and what you can do with them, let’s actually dig into Isleta and Sandia’s backlinks to see which might be good prospects for us.

Step 5: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

Both the Albuquerque Marriott and Hilton Garden Inn link to Isleta and Sandia on their “Local Things to Do” pages. This could be a great prospect for Bottger! In many cases, “things to do” pages will include lists of local restaurants, historic sites, attractions, shops, and more. Note how their addresses are included on the following pages, making them powerful linked unstructured citations. Bottger hosts fancy tea parties in a lovely setting, which could be a fun thing for tourists to do.

Isleta and Sandia also have links from a wedding website. If Bottger uses their property as a wedding venue, offers special wedding or engagement packages, or something similar, this could be a great prospect as well.

Link Intersect also yielded links to various travel guide websites. There are plenty of links on websites like these to local attractions. In the following example, you can see an Albuquerque travel guide that’s broken up by category, “hotels” being one of them:

Isleta and Sandia also have been featured in the Albuquerque Journal. In this example, a local reporter covered news that Isleta was opening expanded bingo and poker rooms. This seems to be a journalist who covers local businesses, so she could be a great connection to make!

Many other links in Isleta and Sandia’s backlink profiles came from sources like events websites, since these resorts are large enough to serve as the venue for major events like concerts and MMA matches. Although Bottger isn’t large enough to host an event of that magnitude, it could spark good ideas for link building opportunities in the future. Maybe Bottger could host a small community tea tasting event featuring locally sourced herbal teas and get in touch with a local reporter to promote it. Even competitor links that you can’t directly pursue can spark your creativity for related link building opportunities.

And let’s not forget how we found out about Isleta and Sandia in the first place: the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta! Event sponsors are featured on an “official sponsors” page with links to their websites. This is a classic, locally relevant opportunity for any Albuquerque business.

Step 6: Compile your link prospects in Link Tracking Lists

If you’re thinking, “This sounds great, but it also sounds like a lot of work. How am I ever going to keep track of all this?” — we’ve got you covered!

Moz Pro’s “Link Tracking Lists” was built for just this purpose.

In Link Intersect, you’ll see little check boxes next to all your competitors’ links. When you find one you want to target, check the box. When you’re done going through all the links and have checked the boxes next to the domains you want to pursue, click “Add to Link Tracking List” at the top right.

Since we’ve never done link building for Bottger before, we’re going to select “Create New List” from the dropdown, and label it something descriptive.

Make sure to put your client’s domain in the “target URL” field. For Step 3, since we’ve just selected the links we want to track from Link Intersect, those will already be populated in this field, so no further action is needed other than to click “Save.”

We’ll come back to Link Tracking Lists when we talk about outreach, but for now, all you need to know is that you can add the desirable competitor links (in our case, links from Isleta and Sandia) to Link Tracking lists straight from Link Intersect, making it easy to manage your data.

Step 7: Find out how to connect with your link prospects

Now it’s time to connect the dots: how do you go from knowing about your competitor’s links to getting those types of links for yourself?

There are three main ways you can get unstructured linked citations to your local business’ website, and those categories are what’s going to dictate the strategy you need to take to secure that opportunity for yourself.

  1. Self-created: Self-created links are like voting for yourself, so sites that accept these types of submissions, like Yelp.com, will NoFollow the link to your business’ website. Visitors are still referred to your website through that link, but the link doesn’t pass authority from Yelp.com to your domain. You should only get authority from a website if they link to you on their own (what Google calls “editorially placed” links). Neither NoFollow nor Follow links are inherently good or bad on their own. They are just intended for different purposes, and it’s the misuse of followed links that can get you in trouble with Google. We’ll talk more about that in a later section titled “Avoiding the bad fish: Risks of ignoring Google’s link scheme guidelines”
  2. Prompted by outreach: In many cases, people won’t know about your content until you tell them. These links are editorially placed by the site owner (not self-created), but the site owner was only made aware of your content because you reached out to them.
  3. Organically earned: Sometimes, you get links even without asking for them. If you have a popular piece of content on your site that receives lots of traffic, for example, people may link to that on their own because they find it valuable.

Since this tutorial is about proactively pursuing link opportunities, we’re going to focus on unstructured linked citations types one and two.

Articles

If your competitor has been featured in an article from say a local journalist or blogger, then your outreach will be focused on making a connection with that writer or publication for future link opportunities, rather than getting the exact link your competitor has. That’s because the article has already been written, so it’s unlikely that the writer will go back and edit their story just to add your link.

The one exception to this rule would be if the article links to your competitor, but your competitor’s link is now broken. In this scenario, you could reach out to the writer and say something like, “Hey! I notice in your article [article title] you link to [competitor’s link], but that link doesn’t seem to be working. I have similar content on my website [your URL]. If you find it valuable, please feel free to use it as a replacement for that broken link!”

Sometimes the contact information of the writer will be right next to the article, itself. For example:

If there’s no email address or contact form in the writer’s bio, you can usually find a link to one of their social media accounts, like Twitter, and you can connect with them there via a public or direct message. If you live in a small, tight-knit community, you may even be able to meet with the author in person.

Press releases

If you notice your competitors are issuing a lot of press releases and you want to try that out for yourself, you’ll likely need to sign up for an account, as these are a primarily self-serve platform. Most quality press release sites charge per release, and the price can differ depending on length.

Citations / directories

You’ll either want to sign up for a citation service like Moz Local that distributes your data to these types of listings programmatically, or if you do it manually, you’ll want to find the link to create your listings. Please note that your business may already be on the directory even if you haven’t set up a profile. Before creating a new listing, search for your business name and its variants, your phone number, and current and former addresses to see if there are existing listings you can claim and update.

Business websites

Most businesses will make it easy to contact them. If you’re trying to contact another business for the purpose of proposing teaming up for a co-marketing opportunity, look in their footer (the very bottom of the website). If there’s no contact information there, search for a “Contact Us” or “About” page. You may not find an email address, but you may be able to find a contact form or phone number. Below is an example from Albuquerque Little Theater, where they have contact information on the right and advertising information in the top navigation for businesses that are interested in taking out ads in their printed show programs. Not an unstructured linked citation, but a great way to get your business known to the community!

Organizations

Most organizations will make it easy for those who want to join, unless they are more exclusive or invitation-only. In the event that you do wish to get involved in an invitation-only organization that has no public-facing contact information, try viewing a member list and seeing if there’s anyone you know. Or maybe you know someone who can introduce you to one of the members. Genuine connections are key for this type of organization.

Step 8: Writing a good outreach email (for unstructured linked citations requiring outreach)

Outreach emails are necessary when the link opportunity you’re pursuing isn’t a link you could create yourself, or if the link source is one where you can’t make face-to-face contact with decision-makers. One of the most important questions you should be asking yourself for these opportunities is, “Why would this website link to me?”

Here’s how Bottger might go about sending an outreach email:

Greeting that matches the nature of the outreach target

“Hey Jill!” might be fine when outreaching to the author of a blog, while “Hello Ms. Smith” might be better for more professional outreach.

Introduction

Give a brief summary of who you are, what you do, and your interest in contacting them. For example: “I work with Bottger Mansion, a historic Bed & Breakfast in Old Town Albuquerque. I found your page about Albuquerque activities — you’ve really captured a lot of what Albuquerque has to offer!”

The ask, and the value add

This is where you’ll actually ask for the link. It’s a good idea here to add value. Don’t just ask for something; offer to give something back!

To continue the same example: “As long-time residents of Old Town, we’d love to provide you with a comprehensive list of activities in the city’s historic district! We feel an Old Town Activities list would be a great addition to your page. Bottger Mansion regularly hosts high tea, for example, which we’d love to let more people know about with a spot on your list!”

Close

Wish them well, thank them for their time, and sign off. Make sure that it’s easy for them to find information about you by including your full name, title, organization, and website/social links in your email signature.

Don’t be afraid to get on the phone, either! Hearing your voice can add a human element to the outreach attempt and offer a better conversion rate than a more impersonal email (we all get so many of those a day that ones from people we don’t know are easy to ignore).

And remember that local businesses have a particular advantage in accruing unstructured linked citations. Lively participation in the life of your community can continuously introduce you to decision-makers at popular local publications, paving the way towards neighborly outreach on your part. Learn to see the opportunities and think of ways your business can add value to the content that is being written about your town or city.

Step 9: Tracking your wins

Next-to-last, we’re going to jump back to Link Tracking Lists for a second, because that’s going to come in extremely handy here. Remember when we created the list with Sandia and Isleta’s links that we were interested in pursuing? Those will now show up when we go to Moz Pro > Link Explorer > Link Tracking Lists.

Every time Bottger successfully secures a link that they’ve added to their Link Tracking List, the red X in “Links to target URL?” column will turn blue, indicating that the site links to Bottger’s root domain. If we were pursuing links to individual pages, and a link prospect linked to our target page, the red X would turn green.

Another handy feature is the “Notes” dropdown. This allows you to keep track of your outreach attempts, which can be one of the trickiest parts about link building!

Avoiding the bad fish: Some words of caution before you get started

Before starting this process for yourself, familiarize yourself with these four risks so that your fishing trip doesn’t result in a basket of bad catches that could waste your resources or get your website penalized.

1. Risks of a “copy only” strategy

Link Intersect can be amazingly helpful for discovering new, relevant link opportunities for your local business, but link builders beware. If all you ever do is copy your competitors, the most you’ll ever achieve is becoming the second-best version of them. Use this method to keep tabs on strategies your competition is using, and even use it to spark your own creativity, but avoid copying everything your competitors do, and nothing else. Why be the second-best version of your competition when you can be the best version of yourself?

2. Risks of a “blindly follow” strategy

Comparing your site’s backlink profile with your direct competitors’ backlink profiles will return a list of links that they have and you don’t, but don’t use Link Intersect results as an exact checklist of links to pursue. Your competitors might have bad backlinks in their profile. For example, avoid pursuing opportunities from domains with a high Spam Score or low Domain or Page Authority (DA/PA). Learn more about how to evaluate sites by their Spam Score or DA/PA.

They might also have great backlinks that aren’t the right opportunity for your business, and those should be avoided too! Do you remember Isleta and Sandia’s links for events like MMA matches? If Bottger were to blindly take those resorts’ link profiles as directives, they might think they have to host a fight at their B&B, too!

Take what you find with a grain of salt. Evaluate every link opportunity on its own merit, rather than deeming it a good opportunity simply because your competitor has it.

3. Risks of an “apples to oranges” strategy

Choose the domains and pages you want to compare yourself against wisely. As a small local B&B, Bottger wouldn’t want to compare their backlink profile to that of Wikipedia or The New York Times, for example. Those sites are popular, but not relevant in any way to the types of unstructured linked citations Bottger would want to pursue, such as links that are locally relevant or industry-relevant.

In other words, just because a site is popular doesn’t mean it will yield relevant unstructured linked citation opportunities for you. Here in this tutorial, we’ve outlined one potential use-case for Link Intersect: finding unstructured linked citations your local business competitors have. However, this is not the only use for Link Intersect. Instead of comparing your site against competitors or near-competitors, you could compare it against:

If you know what types of links you’re trying to find, choosing sites to evaluate against your own should be a lot easier, and yield more relevant opportunities.

4. Risks of ignoring Google’s “link schemes” guidelines

If you’ve never embarked on link building before, we encourage you to read through Google’s quality guidelines for webmasters, specifically its section on “Link schemes.” If you were to distill those link guidelines down into a single principle, it would be: don’t create links for the purpose of manipulating your site’s ranking in Google search. That’s right. Google doesn’t want anyone embarking on any marketing initiatives solely for the purpose of improving their ranking. Google wants links to be the natural byproduct of the quality work you’re doing for your audience. Google can penalize sites that participate in activities such as:

  • Buying links that pass PageRank (“followed” links)
  • Excessive “you link to me and I’ll link to you” exchanges
  • Self-created followed links that weren’t editorially placed by the site owner

This underscores that the activities that are just good business, like being involved in the local community, are also the ones that can produce the links that Google likes. Sites owners might need a little nudge, which is why we’ve included a section on outreach, but that doesn’t mean the links are unnatural. Unstructured linked citations should be a byproduct of the good work local businesses are doing in their communities.

In conclusion

At Moz, we’re strong believers in authenticity, and there is no better pond for building meaningful marketing relationships than the local one. Focusing on unstructured linked citations can be viewed as a prompt to grow your community relationships — with journalists, bloggers, event hosts, business associations, and customers. It’s a chance for a real-world fishing trip that can reel in a basket of publicity for your local brand beyond what money can buy. Your genuine desire to serve and build community will stand you in good stead for the long haul.

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!

Reblogged 1 year ago from tracking.feedpress.it

What’s an API? The marketer’s definitive guide is here!

I have a problem. At weddings, parties, or family gatherings, someone will generally ask what I do. “I’m a technical writer”, I reply. They look confused and then ask what that means. I find myself saying something about ‘documenting APIs’, at which point any audience I may have gathered has sidled away, keenly looking for their next canape.

 

Why is that? It’s probably because most people – certainly people who don’t work in any kind of IT-based business – don’t know what an API is. Moreover, most people don’t know what ‘API’ stands for.

API is an acronym and it stands for ‘application programming interface’. Explaining that doesn’t really help matters though! Let’s try with a very simple definition: an API is a set of functions and procedures that allow different computer systems to communicate with each other. That’s a bit better, but it still doesn’t really help visualize how one works. In which case, let’s go back to that canape – because the idea of food and restaurants serves well as an analogy for an API.

The API – an analogy

It’s best to think of an API as a menu that you’re given in a restaurant. A menu lists all the dishes and drinks on offer, and you request something off it if you want it returned to you from the kitchen or bar. If you order something that’s not on the menu, then the kitchen won’t be able to make it and can’t return it.

Now, think of two separate computer systems. How is data exchanged between them?

Answer: via an API. An API lists operations that can be used by one system to request data from the other system’s database. As with the menu though, if you request something that the API doesn’t list then the other system won’t be able to respond with it.

However, unlike a restaurant menu, you can do more with APIs than just ‘return ordered food’ (data) from ‘the kitchen’ (the other system’s database). An API can also let you send the other system new data, update existing data, and delete data (with a restaurant menu, you’ll be extremely hard-pressed to send any food that you’ve brought along yourself into the kitchen, or to force them to throw their food away!)

Chefs discussing menu on clipboard in commercial kitchen

 

So, there you have it. APIs work on a request/response cycle and they’re essentially the engine running under the internet’s hood, galvanizing all the online data connectivity that we’re constantly making use of.

For instance, APIs have enabled you to do all sorts of things, from ordering a pizza from your mobile phone using a food delivery app, to checking for the insurance deals on a price comparison site, to receiving a calendar notification that you’re due to check-in for a flight. Two or more systems are making this possible through the exchange of data via APIs.

The difference between private and open APIs

APIs can be used in different ways to facilitate different things. Some APIs are private ones, used solely within a company by that company’s software engineers to communicate between many different services and systems that make up the company’s overall infrastructure.

An open API (often referred to as a public API) is one that has been made available by a company for external users to consume. A company with a public API will have purposely designed their API to expose only a certain amount of services that their product offers (and not all, otherwise this would prove detrimental and a security risk), which will be documented online for software developers to make use of.

The better an API is designed and documented, the quicker a visiting developer can get up and running and start communicating with another system to build effective integrations.

APIs expand businesses

Public APIs are mutually beneficial. External developers get to extend their system or product by consuming the services of another company’s API, whilst the company offering the API benefit from lots of developers writing code and integrations that can be made public, shared – and in turn expands their product and business.

Shot of a man working in an office

 

Businesses are fast harnessing the money-making potential of APIs to expose those services and make data available to external audiences. This enables integration and creation of new revenue streams. For some companies, the API is the product, such as omnichannel communications platform service Comapi (a dotdigital company).

Why the dotmailer API benefits you – the marketer

dotmailer offers a powerful, flexible open API. As such, internal and external users consume our API for various reasons. It powers the premium eCommerce and CRM integrations that we offer, like Magento, MS Dynamics and Shopify Plus. It also allows partners and customers to develop and build their own custom integrations and technical solutions for the platform.

How does this benefit you? It means you can point your developers to our API documentation so they can start making some of your keenest marketing automation wishes come true! It enables them to quickly get to grips with our API and create code that not only gets data out of dotmailer, but gets your data in too – as well as automate various actions crucial to smarter marketing.

You’re no longer bound by the user interface of the app itself.

Find out more about how to use the dotmailer API by visiting our dedicated API support page.

Social media and global network concept.

What can I do to benefit from the API?

Let me provide you with a few common scenarios in which the API helps with custom marketing automation:

  • Import new signups to your site in real time: our API has several calls which means new signups are not only added to your CRM, they’re also added to dotmailer as contacts, so they can then be sent an automated welcome.
  • Import order data from your store so it can be used to send better targeted and personalized content: our API has a number of transactional data calls that enables you to not only import historical order data but to also schedule keeping this data up to date, as new purchases are made, and orders updated. Once this data is in, you can go on to create contact segments and, if you have it enabled on your account, use advanced personalization in content.
  • Export contacts’ email engagement data: our API features numerous calls that can export contacts’ key engagement data with your campaigns into your CRM, allowing you to create marketing lists and other actions to improve relevant targeting.

Get more automation tips and tricks from our free resources.

 

Hopefully the concept of an API is a lot clearer now, and you understand the benefits. In which case, back to that analogy before I leave you…

Feeling hungry for integration? Take a seat at the restaurant, bring along your developers, hand them that menu and put in your request.

In the meantime, I’ll wish you all ‘Bon API!’

See the dotmailer API in action: watch a super-quick demo.

The post What’s an API? The marketer’s definitive guide is here! appeared first on The Marketing Automation Blog.

Reblogged 1 year ago from blog.dotmailer.com