You’ve made it through Black Friday, Cyber
Monday, Singles’ Day, (maybe even Boxing Day and New Year’s sales by the time
you’ve read this) and got yourself a whole lot of new customers – wohoo! With
such a huge volume of first-time buyers, it’s no surprise that our customer
success team is being asked how best to implement post-purchase programs, even
in the middle of sales season.
It’s important for any online retailer to
make sure that they’ve got a great program to help keep that buyer’s high and
get customers coming back for more, and this is a great time of year to test
different types of conversation to see what engagers your customers the most.
If you’re feeding in your order data, you can track the success of this in the retail dashboard of your dotdigital account, take note of the percentage of single vs repeat customers, and see the value of this conversion by multiplying your unique customers by your average order value…It’s a big number, right?!
Australia Post’s 2019 report revealed that Consumers buying fashion items are, on average, three times more likely to choose a vendor based on their returns policy, so make sure this is clear on your site for starters.
Costume box sends out this brilliant offer to return any item within 100 days of purchase. This helps to take the pressure off the warehouse processing returns at busy times of year, and also increases the value proposition for us as consumers.
I adore this email from Stuck on you, sent out once you’ve bought your customized Bento box. Not only are they giving you ideas for what to pack inside, they’re also educating consumers on how to snap out the inner lid. This helps reduce customer frustration with the tight-fitting seal, reduces the number of customer service queries on the topic, and makes sure the product is being cleaned properly, helping it last longer.
Costume box helps to educate their audience on how to interact with them on social media. Although it’s old hat to some shoppers, for many of their demographic, it might be their first time tagging a company on Instagram. So, the brand walks you through it, with some gorgeous examples from their recent feed on the upcoming Day of the Dead festival.
Spend-less Shoes knows that a lot of their customers aspire to be social influencers, and so send this out post-purchase to inspire tagging and sharing on Insta, as part of a competition to win a shopping spree. A winning campaign both for Spend-less and for their customers.
New Zealand clothing brand 3 Wise Men’s core offering is “3 for 3 hundy”, so when a customer makes it past checkout with only two items, they make sure to notify the customer, both at checkout and on email, how they can get the third item at the reduced price. This means you never miss out on a good deal!
Remedy Kombucha sends out a review email asking customers to rate their favorite flavor, helping the company develop more flavors and refine existing products. No incentive required, so they can ensure the feedback is authentic and not just a lax attempt to win something. Authentic reviews help to encourage both first-time and repeat purchases. Whilst I’m on the site raving about their passionfruit flavor, I’m pretty likely to be putting another slab in my cart at the same time as I reminisce…
Finally, don’t let shipping variables affect your post-purchase journeys. Shipping in Australia is a challenge for many retailers, and we often hear customers not wanting to send anything until they can guarantee the parcel has arrived. However, Baxter Blue does a fantastic job of addressing this head on. They check in with the customer, letting them know where they can track their parcel, and also offer some above-and-beyond help. They’ve also added some info on the product you’ve bought, to reduce any post-purchase remorse, highlighting the protection of their glasses against screen glare.
Your first-time purchasers are a goldmine for future revenue. Make sure you look after them, and don’t just put them back into the BAU emails without saying thank you. Try one or more of the above conversations to make them sticky and turn them into brand advocates.
Sustain that buyer’s high to encourage repeat purchases. Try something new, and track the success of different conversations, using your retail dashboard and/or segmentation.
Choose the conversations which match your brand voice, and product range, and make sure you’ve given your customers a way to continue their conversation with your brand once their product has arrived.
If you’d like to hear more on the topic, you can check out the webinars I’m doing on post-purchase journeys, one with Trustpilot and another with Magento, coming soon to our resources section!
What excited me the most was not the new beautiful Microsoft Surface Studio, nor the ability to easily live stream your gaming; it was the update to one of its oldest family members: Microsoft Paint. Would you believe over 100 million people still use this wonderful tool every month on their Windows machines? This timeless classic still is the de-facto standard to do the most basic of image functions, like cropping, editing photos and for many it was the start of Microsoft’s computer-aided graphic design journey. This powerful little tool, in the right hands, can even go as far as creating architectural drawings for house extensions (you may say yeah right), but I experienced this recently where my father-in-law used MS Paint to design my recent house extension!
So some may ask why is the new release so exciting? Are you mad? Maybe… but let’s take a look.
For the first time in MS Paint, you’ll be able to create 3D objects and mash together a 2D and 3D world. The launch presentation showed us how you’ll be able to use your smartphone to scan a sand castle in 3D, then manipulate the scan in Paint alongside 2D photos and 3D objects downloaded from the web. You’ll publish your creation directly to Facebook, allowing your friends and family to interact with what you have created in all three dimensions.
Taking it a step further, they even showed how these objects will eventually be able to be embedded into your websites and with Microsoft HoloLens use augmented reality to place these objects into the room with you. They showed a fantastic use case of a furniture supplier’s website and being able to drop the 3D object into the room with you to make sure it fits with your feng shui, before you buy!
Now for the exciting part… what does this mean for marketers, what does that mean for their most trusted of channels: email? Have we seen a glimpse of what has to come? I think we have, yes. Our creative team of innovators at dotmailer are continually pushing the boundaries when it comes to email design and enabling marketers to create fantastic looking emails easily.
Imagine if we could deliver a new type of email, a three-dimensional email that, when delivered, enables you to drop the 3D models of your products directly into your customers’ living rooms for them to preview before they buy! Imagine how much that could save on returns or sending samples and what a great experience for your customers.
Imagine your event emails that are no longer flat; emails that, in virtual reality using a Microsoft HoloLens, could be something people truly interact with by picking it up, opening it, looking inside a virtual box, only to find an invitation to the opening of your new store. Albeit not announced, I would love to see Microsoft help pave the way to our most-loved marketing channel and make sure that the email experience has a similar makeover in their new 3D vision. A good one to keep an eye on and I know something our team here will be pushing within the email community.
If you’re unfamiliar with List-Unsubscribe, it’s an optional piece of text that you add to the technical header of your emails The text instructs email clients – such as iOS10, Hotmail and Gmail – to automatically show the unsubscribe button in the header.
One of Apple’s new features in the latest iOS10 update
The List-Unsubscribe feature was something that dotmailer implemented a long time ago (in fact, we were one of the first), and most email service providers that already include the LU header will support this new functionality automatically.
Why has it been added?
The purpose of the button is firstly to make it easier for subscribers to leave the mailing list if they wish to.
Secondly, it encourages people to unsubscribe from the content they don’t want to receive, rather than mark the email as spam/junk. Spam reports can severely damage companies’ and ESPs’ sender reputations or, worse still, lead to blacklisting.
Will users see the unsubscribe button every time?
As far as early tests show, the new unsubscribe button will appear for users initially. Once ignored, it’ll automatically go away based on cached preferences.
Am I going to lose lots of subscribers now?
It depends. The aim of the button is to stop complaints and if you’re getting complaints, you need to ask yourself why: is your content poor and irrelevant, are the broadcasts of your emails badly timed, or are you sending to bad data? When I talk about bad data, I mean either purchased contacts or very old subscribers.
If you answer yes to any of the above then you probably are at risk of losing people, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Understanding why they’re complaining (now unsubscribing in iOS10) is much more important, and this information can be gleaned through the unsubscribe process. You’d rather lose the people who risk ruining your reputation and focus on the ones who want to hear from you.
The moral of the story is if you collect and use good data, and your email content is timely and relevant, then the new iOS10 addition isn’t going to affect you. By making use of tools like dotmailer’s dynamic content module, segmentation, the automation Program Builder and send time optimization, you can send hyper-personalized emails more frequently, resulting in sending more email in aggregate. This can have a really positive impact on the total opens, clicks and ROI.
Should I have an unsubscribe button at the top and the bottom of my emails?
If you’re not getting many complaints, people know that the unsubscribe button is at the bottom of the email. If you’re getting loads of complaints and deliverability issues, then hold your hands up and realize that perhaps your data practices haven’t been the best in the past and it’s time do something about it. In this instance, there’s no harm in putting it at the top for a short period and letting those who genuinely don’t want your emails to unsubscribe, without causing damage.
You can monitor the number of complaints you’re getting and over time you’ll notice the quality of your data improving. Once you see this transition then perhaps it’s time to remove it from being quite so prominent.
After all, there’s no need to try and force someone to stay on your mailing list. If someone wants to unsubscribe then I’m sure there’s little you can do to dissuade them at this point. You’re only adding fuel to the fire by making it difficult to do so.
I first got to know dotmailer when the company was just a bunch of young enthusiastic web developers called Ellipsis Media back in 1999. I was introduced by one of my suppliers and we decided to bring them on board to build a recruitment website for one of our clients. That client was Amnesty International and the job role was Secretary General. Not bad for a Croydon company whose biggest client before that was Scobles the plumber’s merchants. So, I was probably dotmailer’s first ever corporate client! After that, I used dotmailer at each company I worked for and then one day they approached a colleague and me and asked us if we wanted to work for them. That was 2013. We grabbed the opportunity with both hands and haven’t looked back since.
Tell us a bit about your role
I’m the Global Head of Technical Solutions which actually gives me responsibility for 2 teams. First, Custom Technical Solutions (CTS), who build bespoke applications and tools for customers that allow them to integrate more closely with dotmailer and make life easier. Second, Technical Pre-sales, which spans our 3 territories (EMEA, US and APAC) and works with prospective and existing clients to figure out the best solution and fit within dotmailer.
What accomplishments are you most proud of from your dotmailer time so far?
I would say so far it has to be helping to turn the CTS team from just 2 people into a group of 7 highly skilled and dedicated men and women who have become an intrinsic and valued part of the dotmailer organization. Also I really enjoy being part of the Senior Technical Management team. Here we have the ability to influence the direction and structure of the platform on a daily basis.
Meet Darryl Clark – the cheese and peanut butter sandwich lover
Can you speak a bit about your background and that of your team? What experience and expertise is required to join this team?
My background is quite diverse from a stint in the Army, through design college, web development, business analysis to heading up my current teams. I would say the most valuable skill that I have is being highly analytical. I love nothing more than listening to a client’s requirements and digging deep to work out how we can answer these if not exceed them.
As a team, we love nothing more than brainstorming our ideas. Every member has a valid input and we listen. Everyone has the opportunity to influence what we do and our motto is “there is no such thing as a stupid question.”
To work in my teams you have to be analytical but open minded to the fact that other people may have a better answer than you. Embrace other people’s input and use it to give our clients the best possible solution. We are hugely detail conscious, but have to be acutely aware that we need to tailor what we say to our audience so being able to talk to anyone at any level is hugely valuable.
How much of the dotmailer platform is easily customizable and when does it cross over into something that requires your team’s expertise? How much time is spent on these custom solutions one-time or ongoing?
I’ll let you in on a little secret here. We don’t actually do anything that our customers can’t do with dotmailer given the right knowledge and resources. This is because we build all of our solutions using the dotmailer public API. The API has hundreds of methods in both SOAP and REST versions, which allows you to do a huge amount with the dotmailer platform. We do have a vast amount of experience and knowledge in the team so we may well be able to build a solution quicker than our customers. We are more than happy to help them and their development teams build a solution using us on a consultancy basis to lessen the steepness of the learning curve.
Our aim when building a solution for a customer is that it runs silently in the background and does what it should without any fuss.
What are your plans for the Custom Tech Solutions team going forward?
The great thing about Custom Technical Solutions is you never know what is around the corner as our customers have very diverse needs. What we are concentrating on at the moment is refining our processes to ensure that they are as streamlined as possible and allow us to give as much information to the customer as we can. We are also always looking at the technology and coding approaches that we use to make sure that we build the most innovative and robust solutions.
We are also looking at our external marketing and sharing our knowledge through blogs so keep an eye on the website for our insights.
What are the most common questions that you get when speaking to a prospective customer?
Most questions seem to revolve around reassurance such as “Have you done this before?”, “How safe is my data?”, “What about security?”, “Can you talk to my developers?”, “Do I need to do anything?”. In most instances, we are the ones asking the questions as we need to find out information as soon as possible so that we can analyse it to ensure that we have the right detail to provide the right solution.
Can you tell us about the dotmailer differentiators you highlight when speaking to prospective customers that seem to really resonate?
We talk a lot about working with best of breed so for example a customer can use our Channel Extensions in automation programs to fire out an SMS to a contact using their existing provider. We don’t force customers down one route, we like to let them decide for themselves.
Also, I really like to emphasize the fact that there is always more than one way to do something within the dotmailer platform. This means we can usually find a way to do something that works for a client within the platform. If not, then we call in CTS to work out if there is a way that we can build something that will — whether this is automating uploads for a small client or mass sending from thousands of child accounts for an enterprise level one.
What do you see as the future of marketing automation technology? Will one size ever fit all? Or more customization going forward?
The 64 million dollar question. One size will never fit all. Companies and their systems are too organic for that. There isn’t one car that suits every driver or one racquet that suits every sport. Working with a top drawer partner network and building our system to be as open as possible from an integration perspective means that our customers can make dotmailer mold to their business and not the other way round…and adding to that the fact that we are building lots of features in the platform that will blow your socks off.
Tell us a bit about yourself – favorite sports team, favorite food, guilty pleasure, favorite band, favorite vacation spot?
I’m a dyed in the wool Gooner (aka Arsenal Football Club fan) thanks to my Grandfather leading me down the right path as a child. If you are still reading this after that bombshell, then food-wise I pretty much like everything apart from coriander which as far as I’m concerned is the Devils own spawn. I don’t really have a favorite band, but am partial to a bit of Level 42 and Kings of Leon and you will also find me listening to 90s drum and bass and proper old school hip hop. My favorite holiday destination is any decent villa that I can relax in and spend time with my family and I went to Paris recently and loved that. Guilty pleasure – well that probably has to be confessing to liking Coldplay or the fact that my favorite sandwich is peanut butter, cheese and salad cream. Go on try it, you’ll love it.
The top three reasons were People, Product and Opportunity. I met the people who make up our business and heard their stories from the past 18 years, learned about the platform and market leading status they had built in the UK, and saw that I could add value with my U.S. high growth business experience. I’ve been working with marketers, entrepreneurs and business owners for years across a series of different roles, and saw that I could apply what I’d learned from that and the start-up space to dotmailer’s U.S. operation. dotmailer has had clients in the U.S. for 12 years and we’re positioned to grow the user base of our powerful and easy-to-use platform significantly. I knew I could make a difference here, and what closed the deal for me was the people. Every single person I’ve met is deeply committed to the business, to the success of our customers and to making our solution simple and efficient. We’re a great group of passionate people and I’m proud to have joined the dotfamily.
Dan Morris, dotmailer’s EVP for North America in the new NYC office
Tell us a bit about your new role
dotmailer has been in business and in this space for more than 18 years. We were a web agency, then a Systems Integrator, and we got into the email business that way, ultimately building the dotmailer platform thousands of people use daily. This means we know this space better than anyone and we have the perfect solutions to align closely with our customers and the solutions flexible enough to grow with them. My role is to take all that experience and the platform and grow our U.S. presence. My early focus has been on identifying the right team to execute our growth plans. We want to be the market leader in the U.S. in the next three years – just like we’ve done in the UK – so getting the right people in the right spots was critical. We quickly assessed the skills of the U.S. team and made changes that were necessary in order to provide the right focus on customer success. Next, we set out to completely rebuild dotmailer’s commercial approach in the U.S. We simplified our offers to three bundles, so that pricing and what’s included in those bundles is transparent to our customers. We’ve heard great things about this already from clients and partners. We’re also increasing our resources on customer success and support. We’re intensely focused on ease of on-boarding, ease of use and speed of use. We consistently hear how easy and smooth a process it is to use dotmailer’s tools. That’s key for us – when you buy a dotmailer solution, we want to onboard you quickly and make sure you have all of your questions answered right away so that you can move right into using it. Customers are raving about this, so we know it’s working well.
What early accomplishments are you most proud of from your dotmailer time so far?
I’ve been at dotmailer for eight months now and I’m really proud of all we’ve accomplished together. We spent a lot of time assessing where we needed to restructure and where we needed to invest. We made the changes we needed, invested in our partner program, localized tech support, customer on-boarding and added customer success team members. We have the right people in the right roles and it’s making a difference. We have a commercial approach that is clear with the complete transparency that we wanted to provide our customers. We’ve got a more customer-focused approach and we’re on-boarding customers quickly so they’re up and running faster. We have happier customers than ever before and that’s the key to everything we do.
You’ve moved the U.S. team to a new office. Can you tell us why and a bit about the new space?
I thought it was very important to create a NY office space that was tied to branding and other offices around the world, and also had its own NY energy and culture for our team here – to foster collaboration and to have some fun. It was also important for us that we had a flexible space where we could welcome customers, partners and resellers, and also hold classes and dotUniversity training sessions. I’m really grateful to the team who worked on the space because it really reflects our team and what we care about. At any given time, you’ll see a training session happening, the team collaborating, a customer dropping in to ask a few questions or a partner dropping in to work from here. We love our new, NYC space.
Guests and the team at dotmailer’s new NYC office warming party
What did you learn from your days in the start-up space that you’re applying at dotmailer?
The start-up space is a great place to learn. You have to know where every dollar is going and coming from, so every choice you make needs to be backed up with a business case for that investment. You try lots of different things to see if they’ll work and you’re ready to turn those tactics up or down quickly based on an assessment of the results. You also learn things don’t have to stay the way they are, and can change if you make them change. You always listen and learn – to customers, partners, industry veterans, advisors, etc. to better understand what’s working and not working. dotmailer has been in business for 18 years now, and so there are so many great contributors across the business who know how things have worked and yet are always keen to keep improving. I am constantly in listening and learning mode so that I can understand all of the unique perspectives our team brings and what we need to act on.
What are your plans for the U.S. and the sales function there?
On our path to being the market leader in the U.S., I’m focused on three things going forward: 1 – I want our customers to be truly happy. It’s already a big focus in the dotmailer organization – and we’re working hard to understand their challenges and goals so we can take product and service to the next level. 2 – Creating an even more robust program around partners, resellers and further building out our channel partners to continuously improve sales and customer service programs. We recently launched a certification program to ensure partners have all the training and resources they need to support our mutual customers. 3 – We have an aggressive growth plan for the U.S. and I’m very focused on making sure our team is well trained, and that we remain thoughtful and measured as we take the steps to grow. We want to always keep an eye on what we’re known for – tools that are powerful and simple to use – and make sure everything else we offer remains accessible and valuable as we execute our growth plans.
What are the most common questions that you get when speaking to a prospective customer?
The questions we usually get are around price, service level and flexibility. How much does dotmailer cost? How well are you going to look after my business? How will you integrate into my existing stack and then my plans for future growth? We now have three transparent bundle options with specifics around what’s included published right on our website. We have introduced a customer success team that’s focused only on taking great care of our customers and we’re hearing stories every day that tells me this is working. And we have all of the tools to support our customers as they grow and to also integrate into their existing stacks – often integrating so well that you can use dotmailer from within Magento, Salesforce or Dynamics, for example.
Can you tell us about the dotmailer differentiators you highlight when speaking to prospective customers that seem to really resonate?
In addition to the ones above – ease of use, speed of use and the ability to scale with you. With dotmailer’s tiered program, you can start with a lighter level of functionality and grow into more advanced functionality as you need it. The platform itself is so easy to use that most marketers are able to build campaigns in minutes that would have taken hours on other platforms. Our customer success team is also with you all the way if ever you want or need help. We’ve built a very powerful platform and we have a fantastic team to help you with personalized service as an extended part of your team and we’re ready to grow with you.
How much time is your team on the road vs. in the office? Any road warrior tips to share?
I’ve spent a lot of time on the road, one year I attended 22 tradeshows! Top tip when flying is to be willing to give up your seat for families or groups once you’re at the airport gate, as you’ll often be rewarded with a better seat for helping the airline make the family or group happy. Win win! Since joining dotmailer, I’m focused on being in office and present for the team and customers as much as possible. I can usually be found in our new, NYC office where I spend a lot of time with our team, in customer meetings, in trainings and other hosted events, sales conversations or marketing meetings. I’m here to help the team, clients and partners to succeed, and will always do my best to say yes! Once our prospective customers see how quickly and efficiently they can execute tasks with dotmailer solutions vs. their existing solutions, it’s a no-brainer for them. I love seeing and hearing their reactions.
Tell us a bit about yourself – favorite sports team, favorite food, guilty pleasure, favorite band, favorite vacation spot?
I’m originally from Yorkshire in England, and grew up just outside York. I moved to the U.S. about seven years ago to join a very fast growing startup, we took it from 5 to well over 300 people which was a fantastic experience. I moved to NYC almost two years ago, and I love exploring this great city. There’s so much to see and do. Outside of dotmailer, my passion is cars, and I also enjoy skeet shooting, almost all types of music, and I love to travel – my goal is to get to India, Thailand, Australia and Japan in the near future.
Without a site that’s precision engineered for a good user experience and high conversion rates, all of your email marketing efforts could be going to waste.
Of course, you do want to market your business and email campaigns are statistically proven to be one of the most successful avenues to do so – according to McKinsey, email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter. VentureBeat also released this year that according to their research, email is generating better return on investment than any other channel. So how do you make sure your site is secure and effective enough to keep customers there once your campaign has enticed them this far?
For the majority of visitors, your homepage will be the first impression you get to make. A great homepage factors in a number of different ingredients to create the biggest positive impact on the user. Chief of which are…
A great homepage is above all engaging, instantly connecting a potential customer with the brand. Engagement comes from a website having personality and a clear message, a customer should feel comfortable with the design and want to interact with it. Take the example below – Mardon, an international seafood import and export company. The large cinematic image captures attention, while the well positioned brand and informative footer let the user know who they’re interacting with. The elements on the page come together to create a beautiful and simple looking design with the feel of a company you can trust and, as a result, want to engage with.
mardon.com designed and built by Nublue.co.uk
The human element
In most cases (and where relevant), adding a human element to your homepage will encourage a positive reaction from users. Having a real life human being can enable customers to relate to your business and products more effectively. We believe in this philosophy so much that our own staff feature heavily throughout our site. Using actual staff members allows you to showcase your people, your greatest asset.
The www.nublue.co.uk homepage
Excellent user experience
Once you’ve made an excellent first impression, you’ll need a functional and user-friendly website that ensures customers aren’t left frustrated by complex navigation or slow load times. Simple, intuitive menus and navigation alongside a website that’s fast enough to keep your users from having to wait.
Load speed is critical. According to surveys done by Gomez.com, 79% of online shoppers who have trouble with web site performance say they won’t return to the site to buy again. There are also statistics that suggest consumers will abandon a site that isn’t loaded within three seconds. High performance hosting is vital to addressing this issue and your site could benefit from the use of a CDN. CDN (Content Delivery Networks) improve speed by offloading your site’s static content – such as images and CSS. This frees up your hosting package to serve only the dynamic parts of your site. The result is a faster, smoother running site, regardless of the user’s location.
Better conversion processes
Trying to get people to make a purchase from an email isn’t easy and the fewer potential stumbling blocks you put in a customer’s way the better.
For ecommerce sites, an optimised checkout with guest login will produce a much smoother, simpler and more effective conversion process. Offering guest login at checkout gives the user an option of either signing up for an account or checking out without doing so, and prevents losing any sales at the last moment.
Another best practice is to introduce ‘trust signals’ so that customers feel confidence in buying from your site. Trust signals range from having visible reviews and testimonials onsite, to things like SSL certificates – which are visible in the url bar and prevent third parties seeing or accessing a customer’s personal details between their browser and your server, through encryption.
An expert design and development team will together implement the best features and functionality using a user-centric approach to ‘reverse-engineer’ your site. Effectively creating the best and simplest customer journey, improving both customer experience and conversion levels, whilst making it as quick and easy as possible for customers to buy from you.
When sending an email campaign, it’s vital that your website is not the weak link in the marketing chain and that leads are clicking through to a secure and effective page. At the heart of an effective website is a full understanding of your audience and the expertise to clearly guide them through the actions you want them to take. This is ultimately accomplished through user friendly navigation and beautiful and engaging design.
The site’s features and functionality need to be thought about and in order to get a website that’s fast enough, you’ll need a tailored, high performance hosting solution – such as CDN.
This post was created by Nublue, a web hosting and Magento ecommerce agency and partner of dotmailer.
What does this year have in store for local search engine optimization professionals? Columnist Myles Anderson shares results from BrightLocal’s Local SEO Industry Survey, which may provide some insights.
The post 78% Of SEOs Believe That 2016 Is Going To Be A “Great” Year For Business…
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
Every two years, Moz surveys the brightest minds in SEO and search marketing with a comprehensive set of questions meant to gauge the current workings of Google’s search algorithm. This year’s panel of experts possesses a truly unique set of knowledge and perspectives. We’re thankful on behalf of the entire community for their contribution.
In addition to asking the participants about what does and doesn’t work in Google’s ranking algorithm today, one of the most illuminating group of questions asks the panel to predict the future of search – how the features of Google’s algorithm are expected to change over the next 12 months.
Amazingly, almost all of the factors that are expected to increase in influence revolved around user experience, including:
The experts predicted that more traditional ranking signals, such as those around links and URL structures, would largely remain the same, while the more manipulative aspects of SEO, like paid links and anchor text (which is subject to manipulation), would largely decrease in influence.
The survey also asks respondents to weight the importance of various factors within Google’s current ranking algorithm (on a scale of 1-10). Understanding these areas of importance helps to inform webmasters and marketers where to invest time and energy in working to improve the search presence of their websites.
On-page keyword features
These features describe use of the keyword term/phrase in particular parts of the HTML code on the page (title element, H1s, alt attributes, etc).
Highest influence: Keyword present in title element, 8.34 Lowest influence: Keyword present in specific HTML elements (bold/italic/li/a/etc), 4.16
Titles are still very powerful. Overall, it’s about focus and matching query syntax. If your post is about airplane propellers but you go on a three paragraph rant about gorillas, you’re going to have a problem ranking for airplane propellers.
Keyword usage is vital to making the cut, but we don’t always see it correlate with ranking, because we’re only looking at what already made the cut. The page has to be relevant to appear for a query, IMO, but when it comes to how high the page ranks once it’s relevant, I think keywords have less impact than they once did. So, it’s a necessary but not sufficient condition to ranking.
In my experience, most of problems with organic visibility are related to on-page factors. When I look for an opportunity, I try to check for 2 strong things: presence of keyword in the title and in the main content. Having both can speed up your visibility, especially on long-tail queries.
It’s very easy to link keyword-rich domains with their success in Google’s results for the given keyword. I’m always mindful about other signals that align with domain name which may have contributed to its success. These includes inbound links, mentions, and local citations.
These features describe link metrics for the individual ranking page (such as number of links, PageRank, etc).
Highest influence: Raw quantity of links from high-authority sites, 7.78 Lowest influence: Sentiment of the external links pointing to the page, 3.85
High-quality links still rule rankings. The way a brand can earn links has become more important over the years, whereas link schemes can hurt a site more than ever before. There is a lot of FUD slinging in this respect!
Similar to my thoughts on content, I suspect link-based metrics are going to be used increasingly with a focus on verisimilitude (whether content is actually true or not) and relationships between nodes in Knowledge Graph. Google’s recent issues with things, such as the snippet results for “evolution,” highlight the importance of them only pulling things that are factually correct for featured parts of a SERP. Thus, just counting traditional link metrics won’t cut it anymore.
These features describe elements that indicate qualities of branding and brand metrics.
Highest influence: Search volume for the brand/domain, 6.54 Lowest influence: Popularity of business’s official social media profiles, 3.99
This is clearly on deck to change very soon with the reintegration of Twitter into Google’s Real-Time Results. It will be interesting to see how this affects the “Breaking News” box and trending topics. Social influencers, quality and quantity of followers, RTs, and favorites will all be a factor. And what’s this?! Hashtags will be important again?! Have mercy!
It’s already noticeable; brands are more prominently displayed in search results for both informational and commercial queries. I’m expecting Google will be paying more attention to brand-related metrics from now on (and certainly more initiatives to encourage site owners to optimize for better entity detection).
These features relate to third-party metrics from social media sources (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc) for the ranking page.
Highest influence: Engagement with content/URL on social networks, 3.87 Lowest influence: Upvotes for the page on social sites, 2.7
Social ranking factors are important in a revamped Query Deserves Freshness algorithm. Essentially, if your content gets a lot of natural tweets, shares, and likes, it will rank prominently for a short period of time, until larger and more authoritative sites catch up.
Social popularity has several factors to consider: (1) Years ago, Google and Bing said they take into account the authority of a social profile sharing a link and the popularity of the link being shared (retweets/reshares), and there was more complexity to social signals that was never revealed even back then. (2) My experience has been that social links and shares have more power for newsy/fresh-type content. For example, a lot of social shares for a dentist’s office website wouldn’t be nearly as powerful (or relevant to consider) as a lot of social shares for an article on a site with a constant flow of fresh content.
Honestly, I do not think that the so-called “social signals” have any direct influence on the Google Algorithm (that does not mean that a correlation doesn’t exist, though). My only doubt is related to Twitter, because of the renewed contract between Google and Twitter itself. That said, as of now I do not consider Twitter to offer any ranking signals, except for very specific niches related to news and “news-able” content, where QDF plays a fundamental role.
These elements describe non-keyword-usage, non-link-metrics features of individual pages (such as length of the page, load speed, etc).
Highest influence: Uniqueness of the content on the page, 7.85 Lowest influence: Page contains Open Graph data and/or Twitter cards, 3.64
By branching mobile search off of Google’s core ranking algorithm, having a “mobile-friendly” website is probably now less important for desktop search rankings. Our clients are seeing an ever-increasing percentage of organic search traffic coming from mobile devices, though (particularly in retail), so this is certainly not an excuse to ignore responsive design – the opposite, in fact. Click-through rate from the SERPs has been an important ranking signal for a long time and continues to be, flagging irrelevant or poor-quality search listings.
I believe many of these will be measured within the ecosystem, rather than absolutely. For example, the effect of bounce rate (or rather, bounce speed) on a site will be relative to the bounce speeds on other pages in similar positions for similar terms.
I want to answer these a certain way because, while I have been told by Google what matters to them, what I see in the SERPs does not back up what Google claims they want. There are a lot of sites out there with horrible UX that rank in the top three. While I believe it’s really important for conversion and to bring customers back, I don’t feel as though Google is all that concerned, based on the sites that rank highly. Additionally, Google practically screams “unique content,” yet sites that more or less steal and republish content from other sites are still ranking highly. What I think should matter to Google doesn’t seem to matter to them, based on the results they give me.
These features describe link metrics about the domain hosting the page.
Highest influence: Quantity of unique linking domains to the domain, 7.45 Lowest influence: Sentiment of the external links pointing to the site, 3.91
Quantity and quality of unique linking domains at the domain level is still among the most significant factors in determining how a domain will perform as a whole in the organic search results, and is among the best SEO “spot checks” for determining if a site will be successful relative to other competitor sites with similar content and selling points.
Throughout this survey, when I say “no direct influence,” this is interchangeable with “no direct positive influence.” For example, I’ve marked exact match domain as low numbers, while their actual influence may be higher – though negatively.
Topical relevancy has, in my opinion, gained much ground as a relevant ranking factor. Although I find it most at play when at page level, I am seeing significant shifts at overall domain relevancy, by long-tail growth or by topically-relevant domains linking to sites. One way I judge such movements is the growth of the long-tail relevant to the subject or ranking, when neither anchor text (exact match or synonyms) nor exact phrase is used in a site’s content, yet it still ranks very highly for long-tail and mid-tail synonyms.
These features relate to the entire root domain, but don’t directly describe link- or keyword-based elements. Instead, they relate to things like the length of the domain name in characters.
Highest influence: Uniqueness of content across the whole site, 7.52 Lowest influence: Length of time until domain name expires, 2.45
Character length of domain name is another correlative yet not causative factor, in my opinion. They don’t need to rule these out – it just so happens that longer domain names get clicked on, so they get ruled out quickly.
A few points: Google’s document inception date patents describe how Google might handle freshness and maturity of content for a query. The “trust signal” pages sound like a site quality metric that Google might use to score a page on the basis of site quality. Some white papers from Microsoft on web spam signals identified multiple hyphens in subdomains as evidence of web spam. The length of time until the domain expires was cited as a potential signal in Google’s patent on information retrieval through historic data, and was refuted by Matt Cutts after domain sellers started trying to use that information to sell domain extensions to “help the SEO” of a site.
I think that page speed only becomes a factor when it is significantly slow. I think that having error pages on the site doesn’t matter, unless there are so many that it greatly impacts Google’s ability to crawl.
Mobile will continue to increase, with directly-related factors increasing as well. Structured data will increase, along with more data partners and user segmentation/personalization of SERPs to match query intent, localization, and device-specific need states.
I really think that over the next 12-18 months we are going to see a larger impact of structured data in the SERPs. In fact, we are already seeing this. Google has teams that focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning. They are studying “relationships of interest” and, at the heart of what they are doing, are still looking to provide the most relevant result in the quickest fashion. Things like schema that help “educate” the search engines as to a given topic or entity are only going to become more important as a result.
Finally, we leave you with this infographic created by Kevin Engle which shows the relative weighting of broad areas of Google’s algorithm, according to the experts.
What’s your opinion on the future of search and SEO? Let us know in the comments below.
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Ever mass-deleted a bunch of impersonal emails from your inbox? Brand fatigue is a real threat to your marketing strategy. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand discusses why brands become “background noise” and how you can avoid it.
For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard. Click on it to open a high resolution image in a new tab!
Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat a little bit about why no one is paying attention to your brand, to your marketing. It’s the perilous pitfall of brand fatigue.
Brand fatigue sucks
So you have all had this happen to you. I promise you have. It’s happened in your email. It’s happened in your social streams. It’s happened through advertising in the real world, online and offline.
I’ll give you an illustration. So I sign up for this newsletter. I decide, “Hey, I want to get some houseplants. My house has no greenery in it.” So I sign up for Green Dude Houseplants’ newsletter. What do I get? Well, I get a, “Welcome to Our Newsletter.” Oh, okay.
And then maybe the next day I get, “Meet Our New Hires.” Meet our new hires? I’m sure that your new hires are very important to you and your team, but I just got introduced to your brand. I’m not sure I care that much. To me, you’re all new hires. You might as well be, right? I don’t know you or the team yet.
“Best Summer Ever Event,” okay, maybe, maybe an event. “Edible Backyard Gardens, you know, I don’t have a backyard. I was signing up for a houseplant newsletter because it was in my house. “See Us at the Garden Show,” I don’t want to go to the garden show. I was going to buy from you. That’s why I’m online.
How to cause brand fatigue
It’s not just the value of the messaging. It’s the frequency that it happens at. You’ve seen this. I’m on an email list that I signed up for, I think it’s called FounderDating. It’s here in Seattle. I think it’s in San Francisco. I thought it was a really cool idea when I signed up for it. Then I have just been inundated with messages from them. I think some of them are actually worthy of my participation, like I should have gone to the forum. I should have replied. I should have checked out what this particular person wanted. But I get so much email from them that I’ve just begun to hit Delete as soon as I get it.
We’ve actually had this problem at Moz too. If you’re a Moz subscriber, you probably get a new email every time a new crawl is completed, and a campaign is set up, and you have new rankings data. Some of that’s really important, right? Like if you’re paying attention to this particular site’s rankings and you want to see every time you get an update, well yeah, you need that email. But it’s actually kind of tough to opt in to which ones you want and with what frequency and control it all from one place.
We have found that our email open rates, engagement rates have actually drifted way, way down over time because, probably, we’ve inundated you with so much email. This is a big mistake that Moz has made in our email marketing, but a lot of brands make it in tons of places. So I want to help you avoid that.
1) Too many messages on a medium
Brand fatigue happens when there are too many messages, just too many raw messages on a medium. You start to see the same brand, the same name, the same person again and again. Their logo, their colors, the association you have, it just becomes background noise. Your brain goes into this mode where it just filters it out because it can’t handle the volume of stuff that’s coming through. It needs a filtration mechanism. So it starts to identify and associate your brand or your logo or your name or a person’s name with “filter.” Filter that out. That goes in the background.
2) Value provided is too low or infrequent to deserve attention
It also happens when the value provided is too low or too infrequent to deserve attention. So this might be what I’m talking about with FounderDating. One out of every maybe five or six messages, I’m like, “Oh yeah, that was interesting. I should pay attention to that.” But when it becomes too infrequent, that same filtration happens.
Too few of the high value messages means you’re not going to pay attention, you’re not going to engage with that brand, with that company anymore. All of us marketers will see that in the engagement rates. No matter the medium, we can look at our numbers and see that those are going down on a percentile basis, and that gets really frustrating.
3) The messaging can’t be effectively tuned or controlled by the user
So this is the problem that Moz is having where we don’t have that one email control center where you say how often you want exactly which messages updating you of which notifications about which campaigns, and newsletter and da, da, da. So your message frequency is either all the time high or very high and so you’re, “I don’t like any of those options.”
How NOT to cause brand fatigue
Now, I do have some solutions and suggestions. But it’s platform by platform.
Start very conservative with your email marketing and highly personal. In fact, I would actually recommend personally sending all the messages out to your first few hundred users if you possibly can, because you will get a great rapport that you develop individually with person by person. That will give you a sense for what your audiences like and what kind of messaging they prefer, and they’ll know they can reply directly to you.
You’ll create that highly-engaged experience through email that will mean that, as you scale, you have the experience from the past to tell you how often you can and can’t email people, what they care about and don’t, what they filter and don’t, what they’re looking for from you, etc. You can then watch your open, unsubscribe and engagement rates through your email program. No matter what program you might be using, you can almost always see these.
Then you can watch for, “Oh, we had a spike.” That spike is a good thing. That means that people were highly engaged on this email. Let’s figure out what resonated there. Let’s go talk to folks. Let’s reach out to the people who engaged with it and just say, “Hey, why did you love this? What did you love about it? What can we do to give you more value like this?”
Or you watch for dips. Then you can say, “Oh man, the last three email newsletters that we’ve sent out, we’ve seen successive declines in engagement and open rates, and we’ve seen a rise in unsubscribe rates. We’re doing something wrong. What’s going on? What’s the root cause? Is it who we’re acquiring? Is it new people that signed up, or is it old-timers who are getting frustrated with the new stuff we’re sending out? Does this fit with our strategy? What can we fix?”
Be careful. The thing that sucks about brand fatigue is a lot of platforms, email included, have systems, algorithmic systems set up to penalize you for this. With email, if you get high unsubscribes and low engagement, that will actually kill your long-term chances for email marketing success, because Gmail and Yahoo Mail and Microsoft’s various mail programs and whatever installed mail your targets might have, whatever they’re using, you will no longer be able to break through those email filters.
The email filter that Gmail has says, “Hey, a lot of people click Unsubscribe and Report Spam. Let’s put this in the Promotions tab.” Or, “Hey, a lot of people are clicking Report Spam. You know what? Let’s just block this sender entirely.” Or, “Gosh, this person has in the past not engaged very much with these messages. We’re going to not make them high priority anymore.” Gmail has that automatic high priority system. So you’re getting algorithmically turned into noise even if you might have had something that your customers really cared about.
Blog or other content platform
This is a really interesting one. I would strongly urge you to read Trevor Klein from Moz’s blog post about the experiment that we and HubSpot did around how much content to produce and whether lowering content or increasing content had positive effects. There are some fascinating results from that study.
But the valuable thing to me in that is if you don’t test, you’ll never know. You’ll never know the limits of what your audience wants, what will frustrate them, what will delight them. I recommend you don’t create content unless you can have a great answer for the question, “Who will help amplify this and why?” I don’t mean, like, “Oh, well I think people who really like houseplants will help amplify this.” That’s not a great answer.
A great answer is, “Oh, you know, I know this guy named Jerry. Jerry runs a Twitter account that’s all about gardening. Jerry loves our houseplants. He’s a big fan of this. He’s particularly interested in flowering cacti. I know if we publish this post, Jerry will help amplify it.” That’s a great answer. You have 10 Jerrys, great. Hit Publish. Go for it. You don’t? Why are you making it?
Watch your browse rate, your conversion rate, and conversion rate…. I don’t mean necessarily all the way to whatever you’re selling, your ecommerce store products or your subscription or whatever that is. Conversion rate could be conversion rate to an email newsletter or to following you on a social platform or whatever.
You can watch time on site and amplification per post to essentially get a sense for like, “Hey, as we’re producing content, are we seeing the metrics that would indicate that our content marketing is being successful?” If the answer to that is no, well we need to retool it. It turns out there’s actually no prize for hitting Publish.
You might think that your job as a content producer or a content marketer is to make content every day or content every week. That’s not your job. Your job is to have success with the metrics that are going to predict and correlate to the strategies you need as a business to acquire customers, to grow your marketing channels, to grow your brand’s impact, to help people, whatever it is that your mission is.
I highly recommend finding your audiences’ sweet spot for both focus and frequency. If you do those things, you’re going to do a great job with avoiding brand fatigue around your content.
Twitter, Facebook, and other social media
Last one is social. I’ll talk specifically about Twitter and Facebook, because most things can be classified in there, even things like Instagram and LinkedIn and the fading, sadly, Google+ and those sorts of things.
Twitter, generally speaking, more forgiving as a platform. Facebook has more of those algorithmic elements to punish you for low engagement.
So, for example, I’ve had this happen on my personal Facebook page where I’ve published a few things that people just didn’t really find interesting. This is on my Rand Fishkin Facebook page, different from the Moz one. It turns out that that meant that it was much harder for me next time, even with content that people were very engaged around, to reach them.
Facebook essentially had pushed in. They were like, “You know what? That’s three or four posts in a row from Rand Fishkin that people did not like, didn’t engage with. The next one we’re going to set the bar much higher for him to have to climb back up before we decide, ‘Hey, we’ll show that to more and more people.'”
Lately I’ve been having more success getting a higher percentage of my audience into the impression count of people who are actually seeing my posts on Facebook by getting better engagement there. But that’s a very challenging platform.
Users of both, however, are pretty sensitive, nearly equally sensitive. It’s not like Facebook users are more sensitive. It’s just that Facebook’s platform is more sensitive because Facebook doesn’t show you all the content you could possibly see.
Twitter is just a super simplistic newsfeed algorithm. It’s just, who posted last. So Twitter has that real time kind of thing. So I would still say for both of these, aim to only share stuff that gets high engagement, especially as your brand.
Personal account, do whatever you want, test whatever you want. But as your brand’s account, you want that high engagement over and over again because that will predict more people paying attention to you when you do post, going back and looking through your old social posts, subscribing to you, following you, all that sort of thing, considering you a leader.
You can watch both Twitter Analytics and your Facebook page’s stats to see if you’re having a dip or a spike, where you’re having success, where you’re not.
I actually love using Twitter and a little bit LinkedIn or Google+ to see what gets very high engagement and then I know, “Okay, I should re-share that on Twitter because my audience on Twitter is very temporal.” Two hours from now it’s going to be less than 1% overlap between who sees a Twitter post now and who sees a Twitter post 2 hours from now, and that’s a great test bed for Facebook as well.
So if I see something doing extremely well on Twitter or on Google+ or on LinkedIn, I go, “Aha, that’s the kind of thing I should post on Facebook. That will increase my engagement there. Now I can go post and get more engagement next time and build up my authority in Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm.
So with all of this stuff, hopefully, as you’re producing content, sharing content, building an email subscription, building a blog platform, you’re going to have a little less brand fatigue and a little more engagement from your users.
I look forward to chatting with you all in the comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.
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