Learnings from Bulk Powders: winners of Hitting the Mark 2018 (part 2)

We’ve gone behind the scenes to see how Bulk Powders, winners of this year’s Hitting the Mark, nailed its email marketing and customer experience. Mark Sherwood, Head of Europe at Bulk Powders, kindly agreed to an interview to go through their everyday practices and long-term strategy.

We’ve digested the interview into a two-part blog; the first is focused on the day to day, while the second deep-dives into the brand’s strategy.

The interview: part 2

How important is email in your marketing strategy?

For retention, it’s our number one channel for sure. We’re a pure-play ecommerce company, so in that regard, we’re limited in cost-effective channels. So, email has become and is our most important channel.

Email is very close to my heart, I’m an email marketer. Whilst I’m here, it’ll be an important channel. I feel some people are skeptical about email marketing, saying it’s in decline and there’s a death of email. I can sympathize in some regards – sending the same email day in day out to your entire list is in decline. But, if you can email customers with the relevant and targeted information they want to receive, then for companies like us, it’s the best channel for retaining your customers.

Presumably your martech set-up is pretty integrated. How do you manage all of your relevant data flows?

It’s very simple once you have everything set up. We have tags on the site that monitor consumer behavior; they track users’ product/category views and purchases. This all goes into our CRM platform – i.e. which products they’ve ordered and which discounts they’ve used. Then we have all of their historic purchase rates in once place.

Overlaid onto that, we have category information to see which products fall under which categories. This means we can very quickly create affinities and personas based on the web behavior and purchase activity of users.

It wasn’t the easiest thing to set up in all honesty; it perhaps took us a little longer than expected to be in the position we’re in now. But, on a day-to-day basis, there’s no work for us – it just runs seamlessly.

What would you say is your main marketing challenge?

My main marketing challenge is how to reduce my email volume. We are in a very crowded, very competitive market, and generally the sports nutrition industry is heavily saturated with emails. That’s a problem for the market.

What we’re trying to do is reduce the volume of our daily email sends without jeopardizing our revenue. This is a key goal for us in the next 6 to 12 months, and we’ll achieve it by doing more triggered and targeted emails (like those you highlighted in Hitting the Mark) and taking it to the next level.

There will always be subscribers getting the daily stuff. But more and more people will be taken out of that when they actively participate in the user journey and enter their own unique program. That’s how we’re tackling it. Ultimately, we know consumers get bored of emails if you hit them too hard.

Have you expanded into other channels? If so, do they seamlessly work together across campaigns?

We’ve launched into other channels – email, SMS and social are key from a retention point of view. They all work seamlessly with the same data (CRM). A year ago, we looked at each of those channels in isolation; we sent an email here, an SMS there. And maybe we put an ad on someone’s social timeline. Now it’s all joined up; so, people who open emails less frequently are more likely to receive an SMS than those who open our emails daily. There are points where we want to talk to people on their Facebook timelines, but we might not do that to those who are super-engaged on email. It all depends on what type of message it is. If it’s our replenishment program, we’ll try to hit them on email and their social timeline, as they work well together.

What are your plans for the future?

Good question. We’re a very fast-growing company. We’re a great company to work for, but fast-growing doesn’t come without its challenges. The marketing team needs to grow with the company. The key focus is to incorporate all the strides we made in our CRM into our front end as well. The real issue we have right now is that we have all these personalized, targeted and tailored messages for customers, but then when they land on the site it’s basically a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s about how we can get that level of insight and one-to-one personalization on the front end as well. We’re also on the look our for any other channels out there that can help us with our ambitious growth targets.

What value does Hitting the Mark bring to marketers?

For Bulk Powders, it’s really useful. When you’re ingrained in the business day in day out, it’s hard to take a step back and look at the outside world, to see at what others are doing – how their handling their email, their CRM, their customers. So, to have a report that looks at 100 brands in depth – at what they’re doing really well and what they could improve on – is a great reference for benchmarking. We can get some real tips and ideas and we generally use Hitting the Mark as a knowledge-sharing resource.

For us, it adds a great deal of value. Some of the things we’ve done in the last 12 months or so have come from us looking at the report and thinking ‘oh, well that’s an interesting angle. Perhaps we should try that’. We look forward to it coming out every year.

 

Think you’ve got what it takes to emulate Bulk Powders? Last year the brand came 34th. But after adopting some winning tactics, team Bulk trailblazed up to first place in 2018. Congratulations to them again!

Download the report here for the smartest tactics in email and marketing automation. Benchmark yourself against the competition, adopt better practices, and master customer experience.

The post Learnings from Bulk Powders: winners of Hitting the Mark 2018 (part 2) appeared first on The Marketing Automation Blog.

Reblogged 3 weeks ago from blog.dotmailer.com

Learnings from Bulk Powders: winners of Hitting the Mark 2018 (part 1)

We’ve gone behind the scenes to see how Bulk Powders, winners of Hitting the Mark 2018, nailed its email marketing and customer experience. Mark Sherwood, Head of Europe at Bulk Powders, kindly agreed to an interview to go through their everyday practices and long-term strategy.

We’ve digested the interview into a two-part blog; the first is focused on the day to day, while the second deep-dives into the brand’s strategy.

The interview: part 1

How do you feel about winning our benchmark report, Hitting the Mark?

It was a surprise to start with, for sure. But we’re really over the moon. There’s a lot of hard work in our small CRM team. In the last 12 to 18 months we’ve put a lot of hard work into evolving from a batch-and-blast email sender to a personalized, triggered, event-based one. Although we do retain the bulk sends as we’re in a very competitive market.

It was a real reward for the team who’s put a lot of hard graft throughout the last 12 months. It’s really pleasing to see the work we’ve put in recognized outside the company. Once you’re ingrained in the company day in day out, you accept it as the norm. So, to have a company such as dotmailer, with its industry-wide reputation, recognize you for being good at what you do is really pleasing.

Moving into personalization happened over the last 18 months. We had a limited ESP, with regards to automation. Slowly over time, we migrated from ‘batch and blast’ to get as much personalization and segmentation in as possible.

How have you embraced personalization in your email campaigns?

Personalization for us is very key. We are a sports nutrition company that has changed a lot over the last few years. At the beginning we were a hardcore bodybuilding company – our demographic was male, 18-25; gym was their life. Our product range has expanded and, while sport nutrition is still at our core, we focus a lot more now on health and wellbeing.

We’ve an array of customer types – they need different messaging, and personalizing is the way forward. Someone who is gym-obsessed requires different communication to someone who comes to us to buy their month’s supply of vitamin tablets. Tailoring emails in this regard is how we do it – it’s all about imagery, messaging and content.

Our emails are fresh with content, recipe ideas, training tactics, nutrition tips and advice. There’s a wealth of information in our blog. We push the right articles to the right people. Simple as that.

What are the ways you use behavioral data to supercharge your sends?

The long-term goal is to have emails that are one-to-one and event-based. Whilst we’re not there yet, we’re moving away from daily emails to more event-triggered ones. We want subscribers to drive the interaction, not us.

There’re all kind of behavioral trigger examples, such as replenishment: because our product is a consumable product, people will buy it and then need to buy some more. We can work out roughly when they’re due to reorder it with an event-based email. These emails perform very well for us.

Then there’s your usual, behavior ones like abandoned cart and browse. We have a tag on our site to monitor web behavior, so we have visibility over which products users are interested in and categories they are looking at. It’s about getting the right content in front of the right person.

Then we can build up a persona based on what people are looking at: i.e. if you’re always looking at vegan products, that’s the content you get, while if you’re looking at weight-loss products, that’s the content you get. That’s the key aim we’re trying to achieve.

We loved your preference center. How important is generating customer insight for your programs?

It’s really important for us. The preference center you’re referring to is the one included in our welcome program. The survey helps us gather more information on new customers coming on board – very integral to the welcome program.

It gives us insight into new customers. While we expand and increase acquisition channels we are increasing customers and different types of customers. But, importantly, we need to make sure we’re acquiring the right customers. That’s where the preference center comes in.

Preference data feeds into an email and CRM database, so we get the content right. But this preference center is just the start of the process – it helps with the initial day-to-day emails but then quickly gets taken over by the consumer’s behavior.

What the consumer tells us and what they go on to do can be very different things. For example, they might tell us that they’re into bulking up and want to put on weight, and then they go and purchase weight loss products. Ultimately what their website behavior is and what they go onto buy gives us a greater indication of what they’re looking for, rather than the information they initially submitted.

So, the preference center helps with the initial outset and our customers’ on-site and purchase behavior gives us a better idea of who they are. Essentially, it’s combining your explicit and implicit data to better understand your customers. You have to start somewhere, and that’s the preference center.

How do you use email to nurture your leads into loyal customers?

For us, it’s all about the welcome program. Having a welcome program that isn’t just email is the way forward. We spent several months testing various different programs – just 3-4 emails, 5-10 emails, ones that last a week, two weeks, a month. Ones that include different channels…and that’s the one that works for us.

When you buy from Bulk Powders and participate in the welcome program, not only do you get an intro email, you’ll also get a welcome message on your social feeds. Our testing shows that when we adopt a multichannel approach, our customers are more likely to engage with us.

It’s all about nurturing rather than a hard sell. Making the customer feel part of ‘team bulk’ – that’s our aim, making them feel part of ‘us’ and being a customer-led brand.

Are there any tactics you use to re-engage lapsed customers?

For us, a lapsed program is slightly different to what you would imagine. This is purely because of the market we’re in – competitive and offer-driven, all of the time. All of the key players in our market constantly send out very aggressive offers.

Sending out another offer – as part of a lapsed program – isn’t going to cut the mustard, because that’s what we’re doing all of the time. It’s more about trying to re-engage with these customers, trying to find out why they stopped buying and if there’s anything we can do to help them.

Generally, our re-engagement approach is soft – we just inquire a little more about them. And perhaps it’s impossible to re-engage that customer because they’ve moved out of the category and they’re no longer interested in sports nutrition. Maybe they’ve moved elsewhere. Even if a customer’s impossible to win back, at least we’ve learned something we can adopt to improve retention in the future.

Were there any longer-term programs that our pseudonym, Harry Thomas, wasn’t enrolled onto?

The short answer is lots. Each of our programs has lots of different paths to go down, so you would have just experienced one journey depending on the actions you took (i.e. whether you opened and clicked). So, even if you were part of the welcome program, the route you took was unique.

If you unsubscribed after 6 months you probably wouldn’t have received our lapsed program, which aims to win back our ‘at risk’ customers – those who we think are at risk of permanently becoming lapsed. We have a further lapsed program for customers whose lapsing is almost certain.

You probably would have missed our replenishment program, too. This would’ve been based on what you purchased. Depending on your date of birth you might have missed out on our birthday program, too.

It would have been possible for you to do down any journey route. Some of our programs include SMS – and this multichannel approach to the journey depends on your very behavior. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach.

Keep your eyes pealed for part 2 of the interview!

Think you’ve got what it takes to emulate Bulk Powders? Last year the brand came 34th. But after adopting some winning tactics, team Bulk trailblazed up to 1st place in 2018. Congratulations to them again!

Download the report here for the smartest tactics in email and marketing automation. Benchmark yourself against the competition, adopt better practices and you’ll truly master customer experience.

The post Learnings from Bulk Powders: winners of Hitting the Mark 2018 (part 1) appeared first on The Marketing Automation Blog.

Reblogged 3 weeks ago from blog.dotmailer.com

Inspiring the serious marketer in you: Hitting the Mark email benchmark report 2018 is here

We’ve expanded our remit. Our sample now includes a mix of big and small companies, across three continents with the inclusion of Asia-Pacific (APAC), as well as incorporating brands from the B2B sector.  It’s our biggest, beefiest benchmark report – and now it’s truly relevant on a global scale.

Even more insights to dive into

Some of our findings echo last year’s report. There are still several brands out there failing to adopt simple automation programs, most notably a welcome program. Similarly, 56 of the 100 brands still aren’t utilizing cart recovery emails – crazy when you think about the massive opportunity for ROI presented by triggered campaigns. These are quick and easy wins that many companies continue to miss.

However, our wider scope offers marketers some new insights too. We’ve found that B2C businesses are outperforming B2B thanks to their wider adoption of basic automation, and they offer a better post-purchase experience. In the APAC region, brands aren’t making the most of data-driven tactics causing them to lag behind their US and UK rivals when it comes to personalizing content and making it relevant to their customers.

In our 2018 benchmark report, we’ll show you how and why some retailers are winning big and reveal the faux pas that can make a massive difference to your profits.

Real results for winning practices

The overall winner, hitting the mark across all our criteria, was a young, UK brand that’s rapidly expanding across Europe. This is in no small part thanks to its hyper-targeted email marketing strategy which proved the perfect technique to win, serve and retain its customers.

This brand never missed an opportunity to send abandoned cart prompts, personalized subject lines and tailored content based on past activity and preferences. The company has made significant and commendable improvements for 2018; especially as it scored 0 for abandoned cart emails and segmentation in last year’s report, ranking in the mid-30s overall. What an achievement! Customers were made to feel valued and given a reason to keep coming back and remain loyal to the brand.

The brand has clearly implemented the winning practices outlined in Hitting the Mark 2017, allowing it to forge a powerful and compelling email marketing strategy. We’ve taken an in-depth look at the tactics that have inspired this epic turnaround, so you can get there too.

What do you need to do to top next year’s Hitting the Mark?

Read Hitting the Mark in full today to get the low-down on all our dos and don’ts that make up a fantastic email marketing campaign.

If you’re a dotmailer client, don’t forget to talk to your account manager for advice and tips on how to put these into action. Interested in how dotmailer can help your business hit the mark? Take a free tour of our platform at a time that suits you.

The post Inspiring the serious marketer in you: Hitting the Mark email benchmark report 2018 is here appeared first on The Marketing Automation Blog.

Reblogged 4 months ago from blog.dotmailer.com

“Missing the Mark” – 10 ‘exemplary’ SPAM emails

When people talk about email, and instantly think of “spam”, it really bugs me. Email marketing is not spam; email marketing is an art form. It needs to be perfected. We want a Picasso or Rembrandt landing in the inbox, not the scribbles of an amateur.

However, there are some instances of email marketing malpractice that can all too easily result in brand messages being treated like spam content. Missing the mark with your subject lines, email creative and copy can see your reputation damaged and your deliverability rates plummet.

346.04 billion spam emails every day.

Consider the history of spam, and the impact it has on the email marketing industry; ReturnPath defines spam as unsolicited bulk email (UBE) or messages sent to many recipients without permission. They also state that “spam is in the eye of the beholder” and I wholeheartedly concur. How an email is defined really depends upon both the interpretation of the recipient and the intention of the sender. If your brand sends out mass batch-and-blast messages that contain little of value or relevance to a particular customer, then you could quickly be considered a ‘spammy’ sender.

There are so many things we – as email marketers – need to think about when sending out an email campaign. If you want to find out more about best practice tips to avoid the spam folder, check out our infographic.

In the interest of  exploring what not to do when trying to appeal to customers in the inbox (and for a little light-hearted entertainment), I’ve collected some prime examples of spam from my inbox –  which are, by definition, awful examples of email marketing. I’ve titled them with the email subject line:

  1. Tired of cleaning up cat pee?

This is my favourite. Am I tired of cleaning up cat pee? No. Do I even have a cat? No. This is a classic spam email; there is no template, the message is not relevant, I have not given consent to receive the email.

  1. Compression Panties Shape & Hide Excess Fat?

Huh?

  1. Home based woodworking business

Apparently, I can make 90,000 USD per annum by buying Jim’s “Wood Profit” guide. Only 8 slots left for that free bonus so I better click right away! Quintessentially spam. It’s also not great if there are on-going spelling errors in the content, such as in this email.

  1. Why eye surgery is unnecessary for eye floaters

I mean, why would I listen to a qualified professional such as my doctor? Of course I’m going to take the advice of an erroneous and unsolicited message that reminds me of conspiracy nutters on social media.

  1. No Guns, No Knives. What do you carry?

Apparently, a lot of people carry pepper spray to defend themselves (do they?). This email invites me to check out the “Stinger Tactical Pen” – supposedly I risk everything by not carrying it. Hmmm. Delete. Delete. Delete.

  1. How to get the blood flowing to your boner

According to a verified source (I’m undoubtedly convinced of its authenticity), a controversial pill saved this poor man’s marriage. His wife noticed he was “longer and thicker immediately” – excellent! The husband – evidently elated and overjoyed – carried on for hours that night. The next morning, he was “ready, willing and able” to go for round two and three. That’s super impressive I’d say – sign me up! Not.

  1. The closest thing to flying a REAL plane!

If you have ever dreamed of being a pilot, VirtualPilot3D will fulfil that dream. I actually have a fear of flying and have an irrational dislike for virtual games. I predict that 99.9% of recipients would rather be travelling somewhere exotic in first class than receiving this email they didn’t ask for.

  1. The definitive guide to removing nail fungus

Pass.

  1. Download 518 boat plans inside

I’m a twenty-something millennial living and working in London. Funnily enough, access to over 518 step-by-step boat plans videos and boat building guides, does not interest me. I can barely put IKEA furniture together.

  1. Mediate Like A Zen Monk…In Just 7 Minutes

I’ve done Yoga a couple of times and I absolutely love it. It’s a great way to unwind from the hectic bustle that is working life. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but attempting to meditate [like a monk?] in 7 minutes not only sounds hypocritical, but stressful. I also highly doubt it will defeat any life problems I – or anyone else – may be facing. [Uproar amongst all the legitimate yoga teachers and/or monks].

I hope you’ve all laughed as much reading this blog as I have writing it. If you want to avoid the mistakes of these spammers and achieve 10/10 for your creative, content and data use, check out our 2017 Hitting the Mark benchmark report. 100 brands, +100 emails, and more insight than you can shake a stick at.

 

 

The post “Missing the Mark” – 10 ‘exemplary’ SPAM emails appeared first on The Email Marketing Blog.

Reblogged 1 year ago from blog.dotmailer.com

An interview with the author of Hitting the Mark 2017

Hitting the Mark 2017, our biggest and best email marketing benchmark report to date, is hot off the press! An in-depth analysis of 100 retail brands’ email practice, this report is the go-to for marketers looking to inform and inspire their strategy.

Now that the author, our Content Manager and wordsmith wizard, Ross Barnard, is back from some much-needed Hitting the Mark R&R, I asked him what it was like to construct a report so meaty it has its own serving suggestions.

Ross, we’ve heard a rumor that HTM100 totted up over 70,000 words – that’s a lot of copy! Why do you think there’s appetite for an email marketing benchmarking report of this size and stature?

Yes, it really is a beast of a document. I’m surprised I have enough words left in me to do this interview!

This was the eighth Hitting the Mark that dotmailer has published – and it’s certainly the biggest. In 2017, we wanted to introduce a bigger sample of brands to give marketers a broader view of the email marketing tactics being used by retailers. I think it’s important to not only present the common trends and observations from the research, but also to provide deep-dives into each brand; this is the best way to enable companies to learn from the best (and the worst!)

There’s some huge household names quite far down the scoreboard in HTM100. Were you surprised at the failures made by some of the bigger brands? Why do you think that was? (Sorry, that’s two questions in one!)

I was surprised to see some well-known brands coming in the bottom 50 for sure. There must be a good reason for this – i.e. they generate enough revenue from other avenues, meaning email is not a priority. However, I believe email has a place in every organization and this was certainly demonstrated by the top 10 brands. I think some of the digital content providers (e.g. those selling music, films, books etc.) can definitely learn something from the likes of Netflix; email automation and personalization lends itself perfectly to these types of companies that have access to a wealth of rich customer data.

This year’s report goes beyond the email to evaluate aspects of brands’ ecommerce experience. Why?

That big buzzword that’s been loitering around for the last couple of years: customer experience. We recognize that today, brands are having to mold themselves around the consumer; there’s a growing number of channels and touch-points to keep up with, and it’s interesting to measure how retailers are performing in this area. Needless to say, I was not surprised that UK department store John Lewis led the way.

Can you sum up this year’s HTM100 in 3 words?

  • Hefty (you could probably knock someone out with it)
  • Comprehensive
  • Unmissable (if you’re an ecommerce email marketer)

The physical copy of the report has a whole host of alternative uses. So far in the office we’ve heard: pillow, deadlift weight and tent peg mallet. What’s your favorite alternative use for HTM100?

I think it makes for a great height-raising laptop stand (especially if you’re a marketer, because you’ll want to keep it close by).

Want to find out where brands like Asos, John Lewis, and Google Play came in our email marketing benchmark report? Download Hitting the Mark 2017.

Just had lunch but still have room for a bite-size snack? Download our infographic version.

The post An interview with the author of Hitting the Mark 2017 appeared first on The Email Marketing Blog.

Reblogged 1 year ago from blog.dotmailer.com

Becoming Better SEO Scientists – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by MarkTraphagen

Editor’s note: Today we’re featuring back-to-back episodes of Whiteboard Friday from our friends at Stone Temple Consulting. Make sure to also check out the second episode, “UX, Content Quality, and SEO” from Eric Enge.

Like many other areas of marketing, SEO incorporates elements of science. It becomes problematic for everyone, though, when theories that haven’t been the subject of real scientific rigor are passed off as proven facts. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Stone Temple Consulting’s Mark Traphagen is here to teach us a thing or two about the scientific method and how it can be applied to our day-to-day work.

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard.
Click on it to open a high resolution image in a new tab!

Video transcription

Howdy, Mozzers. Mark Traphagen from Stone Temple Consulting here today to share with you how to become a better SEO scientist. We know that SEO is a science in a lot of ways, and everything I’m going to say today applies not only to SEO, but testing things like your AdWords, how does that work, quality scores. There’s a lot of different applications you can make in marketing, but we’ll focus on the SEO world because that’s where we do a lot of testing. What I want to talk to you about today is how that really is a science and how we need to bring better science in it to get better results.

The reason is in astrophysics, things like that we know there’s something that they’re talking about these days called dark matter, and dark matter is something that we know it’s there. It’s pretty much accepted that it’s there. We can’t see it. We can’t measure it directly. We don’t even know what it is. We can’t even imagine what it is yet, and yet we know it’s there because we see its effect on things like gravity and mass. Its effects are everywhere. And that’s a lot like search engines, isn’t it? It’s like Google or Bing. We see the effects, but we don’t see inside the machine. We don’t know exactly what’s happening in there.

An artist’s depiction of how search engines work.

So what do we do? We do experiments. We do tests to try to figure that out, to see the effects, and from the effects outside we can make better guesses about what’s going on inside and do a better job of giving those search engines what they need to connect us with our customers and prospects. That’s the goal in the end.

Now, the problem is there’s a lot of testing going on out there, a lot of experiments that maybe aren’t being run very well. They’re not being run according to scientific principles that have been proven over centuries to get the best possible results.

Basic data science in 10 steps

So today I want to give you just very quickly 10 basic things that a real scientist goes through on their way to trying to give you better data. Let’s see what we can do with those in our SEO testing in the future.

So let’s start with number one. You’ve got to start with a hypothesis. Your hypothesis is the question that you want to solve. You always start with that, a good question in mind, and it’s got to be relatively narrow. You’ve got to narrow it down to something very specific. Something like how does time on page effect rankings, that’s pretty narrow. That’s very specific. That’s a good question. Might be able to test that. But something like how do social signals effect rankings, that’s too broad. You’ve got to narrow it down. Get it down to one simple question.

Then you choose a variable that you’re going to test. Out of all the things that you could do, that you could play with or you could tweak, you should choose one thing or at least a very few things that you’re going to tweak and say, “When we tweak this, when we change this, when we do this one thing, what happens? Does it change anything out there in the world that we are looking at?” That’s the variable.

The next step is to set a sample group. Where are you going to gather the data from? Where is it going to come from? That’s the world that you’re working in here. Out of all the possible data that’s out there, where are you going to gather your data and how much? That’s the small circle within the big circle. Now even though it’s smaller, you’re probably not going to get all the data in the world. You’re not going to scrape every search ranking that’s possible or visit every URL.

You’ve got to ask yourself, “Is it large enough that we’re at least going to get some validity?” If I wanted to find out what is the typical person in Seattle and I might walk through just one part of the Moz offices here, I’d get some kind of view. But is that a typical, average person from Seattle? I’ve been around here at Moz. Probably not. But this was large enough.

Also, it should be randomized as much as possible. Again, going back to that example, if I just stayed here within the walls of Moz and do research about Mozzers, I’d learn a lot about what Mozzers do, what Mozzers think, how they behave. But that may or may not be applicable to the larger world outside, so you randomized.

We want to control. So we’ve got our sample group. If possible, it’s always good to have another sample group that you don’t do anything to. You do not manipulate the variable in that group. Now, why do you have that? You have that so that you can say, to some extent, if we saw a change when we manipulated our variable and we did not see it in the control group, the same thing didn’t happen, more likely it’s not just part of the natural things that happen in the world or in the search engine.

If possible, even better you want to make that what scientists call double blind, which means that even you the experimenter don’t know who that control group is out of all the SERPs that you’re looking at or whatever it is. As careful as you might be and honest as you might be, you can end up manipulating the results if you know who is who within the test group? It’s not going to apply to every test that we do in SEO, but a good thing to have in mind as you work on that.

Next, very quickly, duration. How long does it have to be? Is there sufficient time? If you’re just testing like if I share a URL to Google +, how quickly does it get indexed in the SERPs, you might only need a day on that because typically it takes less than a day in that case. But if you’re looking at seasonality effects, you might need to go over several years to get a good test on that.

Let’s move to the second group here. The sixth thing keep a clean lab. Now what that means is try as much as possible to keep anything that might be dirtying your results, any kind of variables creeping in that you didn’t want to have in the test. Hard to do, especially in what we’re testing, but do the best you can to keep out the dirt.

Manipulate only one variable. Out of all the things that you could tweak or change choose one thing or a very small set of things. That will give more accuracy to your test. The more variables that you change, the more other effects and inner effects that are going to happen that you may not be accounting for and are going to muddy your results.

Make sure you have statistical validity when you go to analyze those results. Now that’s beyond the scope of this little talk, but you can read up on that. Or even better, if you are able to, hire somebody or work with somebody who is a trained data scientist or has training in statistics so they can look at your evaluation and say the correlations or whatever you’re seeing, “Does it have a statistical significance?” Very important.

Transparency. As much as possible, share with the world your data set, your full results, your methodology. What did you do? How did you set up the study? That’s going to be important to our last step here, which is replication and falsification, one of the most important parts of any scientific process.

So what you want to invite is, hey we did this study. We did this test. Here’s what we found. Here’s how we did it. Here’s the data. If other people ask the same question again and run the same kind of test, do they get the same results? Somebody runs it again, do they get the same results? Even better, if you have some people out there who say, “I don’t think you’re right about that because I think you missed this, and I’m going to throw this in and see what happens,” aha they falsify. That might make you feel like you failed, but it’s success because in the end what are we after? We’re after the truth about what really works.

Think about your next test, your next experiment that you do. How can you apply these 10 principles to do better testing, get better results, and have better marketing? Thanks.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Reblogged 3 years ago from tracking.feedpress.it

UX, Content Quality, and SEO – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by EricEnge

Editor’s note: Today we’re featuring back-to-back episodes of Whiteboard Friday from our friends at Stone Temple Consulting. Make sure to also check out the first episode, “Becoming Better SEO Scientists” from Mark Traphagen.

User experience and the quality of your content have an incredibly broad impact on your SEO efforts. In this episode of Whiteboard Friday, Stone Temple’s Eric Enge shows you how paying attention to your users can benefit your position in the SERPs.

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard.
Click on it to open a high resolution image in a new tab!

Video transcription

Hi, Mozzers. I’m Eric Enge, CEO of Stone Temple Consulting. Today I want to talk to you about one of the most underappreciated aspects of SEO, and that is the interaction between user experience, content quality, and your SEO rankings and traffic.

I’m going to take you through a little history first. You know, we all know about the Panda algorithm update that came out in February 23, 2011, and of course more recently we have the search quality update that came out in May 19, 2015. Our Panda friend had 27 different updates that we know of along the way. So a lot of stuff has gone on, but we need to realize that that is not where it all started.

The link algorithm from the very beginning was about search quality. Links allowed Google to have an algorithm that gave better results than the other search engines of their day, which were dependent on keywords. These things however, that I’ve just talked about, are still just the tip of the iceberg. Google goes a lot deeper than that, and I want to walk you through the different things that it does.

So consider for a moment, you have someone search on the phrase “men’s shoes” and they come to your website.

What is that they want when they come to your website? Do they want sneakers, sandals, dress shoes? Well, those are sort of the obvious things that they might want. But you need to think a little bit more about what the user really wants to be able to know before they buy from you.

First of all, there has to be a way to buy. By the way, affiliate sites don’t have ways to buy. So the line of thinking I’m talking about might not work out so well for affiliate sites and works better for people who can actually sell the product directly. But in addition to a way to buy, they might want a privacy policy. They might want to see an About Us page. They might want to be able to see your phone number. These are all different kinds of things that users look for when they arrive on the pages of your site.

So as we think about this, what is it that we can do to do a better job with our websites? Well, first of all, lose the focus on keywords. Don’t get me wrong, keywords haven’t gone entirely away. But the pages where we overemphasize one particular keyword over another or related phrases are long gone, and you need to have a broader focus on how you approach things.

User experience is now a big deal. You really need to think about how users are interacting with your page and how that shows your overall page quality. Think about the percent satisfaction. If I send a hundred users to your page from my search engine, how many of those users are going to be happy with the content or the products or everything that they see with your page? You need to think through the big picture. So at the end of the day, this impacts the content on your page to be sure, but a lot more than that it impacts the design, related items that you have on the page.

So let me just give you an example of that. I looked at one page recently that was for a flower site. It was a page about annuals on that site, and that page had no link to their perennials page. Well, okay, a fairly good percentage of people who arrive on a page about annuals are also going to want to have perennials as something they might consider buying. So that page was probably coming across as a poor user experience. So these related items concepts are incredibly important.

Then the links to your page is actually a way to get to some of those related items, and so those are really important as well. What are the related products that you link to?

Finally, really it impacts everything you do with your page design. You need to move past the old-fashioned way of thinking about SEO and into the era of: How am I doing with satisfying all the people who come to the pages of your site?

Thank you, Mozzers. Have a great day.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Reblogged 3 years ago from tracking.feedpress.it

The Importance of Being Different: Creating a Competitive Advantage With Your USP

Posted by TrentonGreener

“The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. Those who walk alone are likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before.”

While this quote has been credited to everyone from Francis Phillip Wernig, under the pseudonym Alan Ashley-Pitt, to Einstein himself, the powerful message does not lose its substance no matter whom you choose to credit. There is a very important yet often overlooked effect of not heeding this warning. One which can be applied to all aspects of life. From love and happiness, to business and marketing, copying what your competitors are doing and failing to forge your own path can be a detrimental mistake.

While as marketers we are all acutely aware of the importance of differentiation, we’ve been trained for the majority of our lives to seek out the norm.

We spend the majority of our adolescent lives trying desperately not to be different. No one has ever been picked on for being too normal or not being different enough. We would beg our parents to buy us the same clothes little Jimmy or little Jamie wore. We’d want the same backpack and the same bike everyone else had. With the rise of the cell phone and later the smartphone, on hands and knees, we begged and pleaded for our parents to buy us the Razr, the StarTAC (bonus points if you didn’t have to Google that one), and later the iPhone. Did we truly want these things? Yes, but not just because they were cutting edge and nifty. We desired them because the people around us had them. We didn’t want to be the last to get these devices. We didn’t want to be different.

Thankfully, as we mature we begin to realize the fallacy that is trying to be normal. We start to become individuals and learn to appreciate that being different is often seen as beautiful. However, while we begin to celebrate being different on a personal level, it does not always translate into our business or professional lives.

We unconsciously and naturally seek out the normal, and if we want to be different—truly different in a way that creates an advantage—we have to work for it.

The truth of the matter is, anyone can be different. In fact, we all are very different. Even identical twins with the same DNA will often have starkly different personalities. As a business, the real challenge lies in being different in a way that is relevant, valuable to your audience, and creates an advantage.

“Strong products and services are highly differentiated from all other products and services. It’s that simple. It’s that difficult.” – Austin McGhie, Brand Is a Four Letter Word

Let’s explore the example of Revel Hotel & Casino. Revel is a 70-story luxury casino in Atlantic City that was built in 2012. There is simply not another casino of the same class in Atlantic City, but there might be a reason for this. Even if you’re not familiar with the city, a quick jump onto Atlantic City’s tourism website reveals that of the five hero banners that rotate, not one specifically mentions gambling, but three reference the boardwalk. This is further illustrated when exploring their internal linking structure. The beaches, boardwalk, and shopping all appear before a single mention of casinos. There simply isn’t as much of a market for high-end gamblers in the Atlantic City area; in the states Las Vegas serves that role. So while Revel has a unique advantage, their ability to attract customers to their resort has not resulted in profitable earnings reports. In Q2 2012, Revel had a gross operating loss of $35.177M, and in Q3 2012 that increased to $36.838M.

So you need to create a unique selling proposition (also known as unique selling point and commonly referred to as a USP), and your USP needs to be valuable to your audience and create a competitive advantage. Sounds easy enough, right? Now for the kicker. That advantage needs to be as sustainable as physically possible over the long term.

“How long will it take our competitors to duplicate our advantage?”

You really need to explore this question and the possible solutions your competitors could utilize to play catch-up or duplicate what you’ve done. Look no further than Google vs Bing to see this in action. No company out there is going to just give up because your USP is so much better; most will pivot or adapt in some way.

Let’s look at a Seattle-area coffee company of which you may or may not be familiar. Starbucks has tried quite a few times over the years to level-up their tea game with limited success, but the markets that Starbucks has really struggled to break into are the pastry, breads, dessert, and food markets.

Other stores had more success in these markets, and they thought that high-quality teas and bakery items were the USPs that differentiated them from the Big Bad Wolf that is Starbucks. And while they were right to think that their brick house would save them from the Big Bad Wolf for some time, this fable doesn’t end with the Big Bad Wolf in a boiling pot.

Never underestimate your competitor’s ability to be agile, specifically when overcoming a competitive disadvantage.

If your competitor can’t beat you by making a better product or service internally, they can always choose to buy someone who can.

After months of courting, on June 4th, 2012 Starbucks announced that they had come to an agreement to purchase La Boulange in order to “elevate core food offerings and build a premium, artisanal bakery brand.” If you’re a small-to-medium sized coffee shop and/or bakery that even indirectly competed with Starbucks, a new challenger approaches. And while those tea shops momentarily felt safe within the brick walls that guarded their USP, on the final day of that same year, the Big Bad Wolf huffed and puffed and blew a stack of cash all over Teavana. Making Teavana a wholly-owned subsidiary of Starbucks for the low, low price of $620M.

Sarcasm aside, this does a great job of illustrating the ability of companies—especially those with deep pockets—to be agile, and demonstrates that they often have an uncanny ability to overcome your company’s competitive advantage. In seven months, Starbucks went from a minor player in these markets to having all the tools they need to dominate tea and pastries. Have you tried their raspberry pound cake? It’s phenomenal.

Why does this matter to me?

Ok, we get it. We need to be different, and in a way that is relevant, valuable, defensible, and sustainable. But I’m not the CEO, or even the CMO. I cannot effect change on a company level; why does this matter to me?

I’m a firm believer that you effect change no matter what the name plate on your desk may say. Sure, you may not be able to call an all-staff meeting today and completely change the direction of your company tomorrow, but you can effect change on the parts of the business you do touch. No matter your title or area of responsibility, you need to know your company’s, client’s, or even a specific piece of content’s USP, and you need to ensure it is applied liberally to all areas of your work.

Look at this example SERP for “Mechanics”:

While yes, this search is very likely to be local-sensitive, that doesn’t mean you can’t stand out. Every single AdWords result, save one, has only the word “Mechanics” in the headline. (While the top of page ad is pulling description line 1 into the heading, the actual headline is still only “Mechanic.”) But even the one headline that is different doesn’t do a great job of illustrating the company’s USP. Mechanics at home? Whose home? Mine or theirs? I’m a huge fan of Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think,” and in this scenario there are too many questions I need answered before I’m willing to click through. “Mechanics; We Come To You” or even “Traveling Mechanics” illustrates this point much more clearly, and still fits within the 25-character limit for the headline.

If you’re an AdWords user, no matter how big or small your monthly spend may be, take a look at your top 10-15 keywords by volume and evaluate how well you’re differentiating yourself from the other brands in your industry. Test ad copy that draws attention to your USP and reap the rewards.

Now while this is simply an AdWords text ad example, the same concept can be applied universally across all of marketing.

Title tags & meta descriptions

As we alluded to above, not only do companies have USPs, but individual pieces of content can, and should, have their own USP. Use your title tag and meta description to illustrate what differentiates your piece of content from the competition and do so in a way that attracts the searcher’s click. Use your USP to your advantage. If you have already established a strong brand within a specific niche, great! Now use it to your advantage. Though it’s much more likely that you are competing against a strong brand, and in these scenarios ask yourself, “What makes our content different from theirs?” The answer you come up with is your content’s USP. Call attention to that in your title tag and meta description, and watch the CTR climb.

I encourage you to hop into your own site’s analytics and look at your top 10-15 organic landing pages and see how well you differentiate yourself. Even if you’re hesitant to negatively affect your inbound gold mines by changing the title tags, run a test and change up your meta description to draw attention to your USP. In an hour’s work, you just may make the change that pushes you a little further up those SERPs.

Branding

Let’s break outside the world of digital marketing and look at the world of branding. Tom’s Shoes competes against some heavy hitters in Nike, Adidas, Reebok, and Puma just to name a few. While Tom’s can’t hope to compete against the marketing budgets of these companies in a fair fight, they instead chose to take what makes them different, their USP, and disseminate it every chance they get. They have labeled themselves “The One for One” company. It’s in their homepage’s title tag, in every piece of marketing they put out, and it smacks you in the face when you land on their site. They even use the call-to-action “Get Good Karma” throughout their site.

Now as many of us may know, partially because of the scandal it created in late 2013, Tom’s is not actually a non-profit organization. No matter how you feel about the matter, this marketing strategy has created a positive effect on their bottom line. Fast Company conservatively estimated their revenues in 2013 at $250M, with many estimates being closer to the $300M mark. Not too bad of a slice of the pie when competing against the powerhouses Tom’s does.

Wherever you stand on this issue, Tom’s Shoes has done a phenomenal job of differentiating their brand from the big hitters in their industry.

Know your USP and disseminate it every chance you get.

This is worth repeating. Know your USP and disseminate it every chance you get, whether that be in title tags, ad copy, on-page copy, branding, or any other segment of your marketing campaigns. Online or offline, be different. And remember the quote that we started with, “The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. Those who walk alone are likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before.”

The amount of marketing knowledge that can be taken from this one simple statement is astounding. Heed the words, stand out from the crowd, and you will have success.

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Reblogged 3 years ago from tracking.feedpress.it

Now we have over 3 Trillion URLS!

We have just launched a new Historic Index and broken the 3 Trillion mark! Unique URLs crawled: 800,654,991,863 Unique URLs found: 3,088,860,810,721 Date range: 01 Oct 2009 to 04 May 2015 Last updated: 15 Jun 2015 This means we have crossed a milestone of 3 Trillion URLs found.  

The post Now we have over 3 Trillion URLS! appeared first on Majestic Blog.

Reblogged 3 years ago from blog.majestic.com