I’ll be upfront. My goal here is to persuade you that you should be using Facebook Messenger marketing and chatbots as part of your marketing strategy. This isn’t a sales pitch. This isn’t an infomercial. This is hard-hitting marketing intel. Whether you’re a PPC specialist, an SEO, a CMO, or just a curious bystander, I […]
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As someone who has been fortunate enough to be a part both the Startup and Digital Agency World, it pains me to witness the many recurring mistakes that are happening by bringing these two worlds together. The Agency wants the business and the Startup wants the best and smartest people to “grow their baby”. It all sounds like a “no-brainer’ right? Well, this perfect situation can sometimes be clouded by one of the most bastardized words in the client-agency relationship – Expectations. In this post, I will highlight some of the misconceptions that could, at the very least, help the next Startup as they prepare to show their product/service to the world.
How to Play the Digital Agency Game:
Don’t get me wrong. There are many highly reputable Marketing Agencies in the world that do not fit this description. On the other hand, there are some other Agencies that work on a different playing field that is not financially supportive of Startups. Most agencies take a 15% commission of Ad Spend regardless of performance or the companies financial situation. These agencies often provide a “Production Line” level level of service that question the actual time spend which leads to the overall client performance. Beware of agencies that promise GOLD and deliver pennies.
What Startups really need from an Agency:
- 100% transparency of where and how their money is being spent.
- Daily Direct communication with the Strategist/Marketer.
- Less than 24 hour turn-around times for typical updates.
- Level of ongoing Education on how the digital advertising world works.
Big Agency Regurgitation
I have witnessed many horror stories over the years from prospects/clients from either a performance or client relationship with a previous agency. The one thing that all of them had in common was the lack of achievable expectations. Situations such as poor communication, lackluster performance and just an overall bad experience have not only left a bitter taste in their mouth but also question the entire agency experience. Moreover, this feeling of being “burned” has motivated their thinking to bring the marketing “in-house” as the only alternative to reaching success. This is not a good thing….
As a big fan of conferences, they often open your eyes to a whole new world of innovation, prosperity and vision for business owners and that’s a great thing. However, it can sometimes backfire to the point of confusion and anxiety of what to focus on first. It is very easy for Entrepreneurs to get “over-excited” about the latest bells and whistles in software, automation and analytics. They are told that once they have these tools in their toolbox, they can turn their business into a fortune 100 company instantly.
Unfortunately, a reality check is needed to bring everyone down from this “high” and re-focus on the core issue at hand which is identifying, engaging and converting with their core audiences within a sensible budget. Remember, investing in Shiny Objects make you vulnerable, not successful.
The Misunderstanding of Monetization
In some instances, both advertisers and agencies, often forget to track every interaction point and that little oversight can be an unfortunate mistake. This assumed “low-hanging” fruit for tracking things other than traditional eCommerce/Lead Gen Forms such as (below) can completely skew overall performance and future optimization which could be devastating to startups as they hunger for continual growth.
- Contact Forms
- Email Newsletter Signups
- Live Chats
- Phone Calls
- Pageviews of a particular page can lead to
Mistrust of the Case Study
Case Studies are a great source for understanding the successes of a particular experience that allow the reader to adapt to new ideas and strategies. However, you need to be careful not put to put too much emphasis on the successes of these studies because of the substantiated factors which often lead inaccuracy. Here are some examples:
- Geography (Some of these studies reference a specific GEO area and not the wider population)
- Singular view and opinion. Often, these studies are done by a small group of people which may have biased opinions based on data collected.
- Case Studies are often used as a “Toot your own horn” strategy to generate more business. (Google is pretty good at that)
Don’t Bet the Farm
I can understand the anxieties of Startups where they want to launch their business with a big bang. However, spending too much too fast (especially in the PPC marketing world) can completely ruin their chances for steady sustainable growth. It’s imperative to start testing “right out of the gate” as well as identifying the quick wins and losses. Moreover, you will need to develop strategies to generate relevent traffic and awareness through alternative methods such as Social Media, SEO and quite frankly “word of mouth”. To prove this theory, just a take a look at these screenshots from SpyFu’s Monthly Trend function.
Outside Opinion Overload
Yes, it’s important to get as much feedback as possible when launching a new company. However, getting advice from people who think they know certain aspects of online marketing because they read an article or attended a conference, can be a slippery slope. Taking advice and/or criticism from someone “on the outside” that completely contradicts the vision of both your business partners and hired experts can be harmful to the business. This 3rd party opinion is often made without any understanding of what it takes to implement as well as its expected outcome. Whether it’s strategies about Landing Pages, Brand vs. Non-Brand, or even simple things such as Promotions and Offers can have a negative effect on revenue if not discussed by everyone on the team.
Solution: Soak up all of the feedback you can get, discuss with your team and agree to label these new ideas as “TEST” Campaigns and analyze the heck out of them.
Forecast Projection Failures
How many times have you seen someone simply create excel formulas which magically forecast the future of online marketing revenue based on a single monetary amount. (For example, if we increase our budget from $ 10,000 to $ 100,000 we will generate an additional $ 1 million dollars.) Yeah, I wish that were all true. However, that is not the case. The math may sound great to a Venture Capitalist/Investor, but it’s just not realistic.
- Take in account the following scenarios:
- Market Saturation Levels
- Seasonality Highs/Lows
- Potential Technical issues
- Search Engine Algorithm changes
- Increased Competitor landscape
“Off the Mark” Target Audiences
Hate to say this, but I have witnessed startup companies that thought they new their audiences and it wasn’t until they over-spent their PPC dollars and countless Landing Page A/B test to come to that realization. Selling a product or service requires more than just a few hours of typical market research. When it comes to online marketing, either hire a PPC Consultant or purchase PPC Competitive Research Software such as SpyFu.com to see some of these invaluable competitor information:
- Monthly Budget Trends
- PPC and SEO Keywords
- Top Text Ads
- Their own PPC and SEO Competitors
- Review monthly and seasonality trends
- Compare up to (3) three competitors and see which terms they are all bidding on.
Here’s an example:
Whether you are building a Startup company or growing an existing one, the agency experience should be a positive one. However, dealing with the “dog eat dog” agency world when it comes to trust, expectations and continual growth is unfortunate and should never happen. I hope this blog post, at the very least, has provided some insight into preventing these situations as well as learning from them. Finding the right agency partner is just as important as finding the right target audience.
Americans looking to reduce their reliance on products from tech’s most alarmingly megalithic companies might be surprised to learn just how far their reach extends.
Privacy-minded browser company DuckDuckGo conducted a small study to look into that phenomenon and the results were pretty striking.
“… As Facebook usage wanes, messaging apps like WhatsApp are growing in popularity as a ‘more private (and less confrontational) space to communicate,’” DuckDuckGo wrote in the post. “That shift didn’t make much sense to us because both services are owned by the same company, so we tried to find an explanation.”
DuckDuckGo gathered a random sample of 1,297 adult Americans who are “collectively demographically similar to the general population of U.S. adults” (i.e. not just DuckDuckGo diehards) using SurveyMonkey’s audience tools. The survey found that 50.4 percent of those surveyed who had used WhatsApp in the prior six months (247 participants) did not know the company is owned by Facebook.
Similarly, DuckDuckGo found that 56.4 percent of those surveyed who had used Waze in the past six months (291 participants) had no idea that the navigation app is owned by Google. A similar study conducted back in April found the same phenomenon when it came to Facebook/Instagram and Google/YouTube, though for Instagram the effect was even stronger (wow).
If you’re reading TechCrunch it’s probably almost impossible to imagine that average people aren’t tracing the lines between tech’s biggest companies and the products scooped up or built under their wings. And yet, it is so.
Even as companies like Google and Facebook suffer blowback from privacy crises, it’s clear that they can lean on the products they’ve picked up along the way to chart a path forward. If this survey is any indication, half of U.S. consumers will have no idea that they’ve jumped ship from a big tech product into a lifeboat captained by the very same company they sought to escape.
And for the biggest tech companies, it’s at least one reason that keeping satellite products at arm’s length from their respective motherships is advantageous for maintaining trust — especially while aggressive data sharing happens behind the scenes.
Google has added greater ability to see who is searching for your products. Learn about some of the benefits of adding these new lists.
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Get the latest on two important tracking updates happening in Bing Ads!
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Page speed has been a ranking factor for desktop searches since April 2010, but it was never officially a ranking factor for mobile searches (despite what we’ve all suspected for a long time). Not until July 2018, that is, when Google rolled out the Speed Update.
Google’s pushing for a faster mobile experience
The Speed Update is the latest in a long list of speed-related updates, tools, and technologies that Google has developed over the last decade – many of which specifically target the mobile experience.
For example, PageSpeed tools, such as the modules for servers like Apache and Nginx, PageSpeed reports in Google Search Console and Google Analytics, and plugins like the PageSpeed Chrome Developer Tools extension have become par for course since their introduction back in 2010.
Since then, Google has introduced tools such as the Mobile-Friendly Test to help websites gauge their responsiveness.
They’ve also launched Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which allows content creators to make lightweight and lightning-fast versions of pages for their mobile audiences, and Progressive Web Apps (PWA), which load content instantly regardless of a user’s network state.
And, in the past 6 months alone, Google has further introduced an onslaught of new speed-related tools, including:
- Lighthouse – helps users automatically audit and optimize web pages
- Impact Calculator and Mobile Speed Scorecard – grades your mobile site’s speed and calculates what impact your site speed is having on your conversion rates and revenue
- Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX) – a database of real user experience metrics from Chrome users.
Google also transitioned to ‘mobile-first’ indexing in February 2018, which means it now prioritizes the mobile versions of websites over desktop versions when it comes to ranking and indexing.
And last but not least, the Speed Update has ushered in page speed as a ranking factor for mobile websites.
Recent changes to how Google measures page speed
Another recent change you may have noticed is that PageSpeed Insights looks a little different these days. Entering a URL a few months ago would return a report that looked something like this:
As you can see, your site receives one rating and it’s evaluated based on a set of clear technical criteria: redirects, compression, minification, etc. Optimizing, while not always easy per se, was straightforward.
But if you plug in your URL today, you’ll see a screen that looks more like this:
Now you’re scored according to two different categories: speed and optimization.
Optimization is the new name given to the technical checklist you were already familiar with. Anyone who’s used the PageSpeed Insights in the past should instantly recognize these recommendations.
Speed, however, is something new. It’s scored based on two new metrics: First Contentful Paint (FCP), which measures how long it takes a user to see the first visual response from a page, and DOM Content Loaded (DCL), which measures the time it takes an HTML document to be loaded and parsed.
These two new metrics are the game-changers because even if you were measuring them before the update (most SEOs I know weren’t), there’s a high chance that Google’s numbers don’t match yours.
So why the disconnect? Well, while you’re measuring DCL based on your website’s optimal performance, Google is pulling its results from its CrUX database. In other words, these metrics are based on real user measurements.
That means that even if everything looks perfectly optimized on your end, Google may consider your website to be ‘slow’ if most of your users have poor connection speeds or outdated mobile devices.
In other words, Google’s switched from measuring ‘lab’ data to ‘field’ data. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to improve field data except for optimizing your website to make it even faster.
Our experiment measuring the impact of the Speed Update
My team recently conducted a series of experiments to determine what impact, if any, the Speed Update has had on mobile rankings.
First, we analyzed one million pages in mobile search results to understand the relationship between page speed and mobile SERPs before the update. Our research revealed that a page’s Page Speed Optimization Score had a high correlation (0.97) to its position in SERPs. FCP and DCL, however, had almost no bearing on a page’s rank.
Three months later, after Google’s Speed Update went live, we ran the same experiment. Again, we analyzed one million different pages and we collected Optimization Scores, median FCPs, and median DCLs for each unique URL.
What we discovered is that the correlation between a page’s average speed Optimization Score and its position in SERPs remains static: 0.97.
We also discovered that there is still no significant correlation between a page’s position in mobile SERPs and the median FCP/DCL metrics.
The only change we did notice was an industry-wide increase in the performance of mobile pages: the ranking on the first 30 positions in mobile search improved by 0.83 Optimization Score points between our first and our second experiments.
So, what’s the takeaway? At this point in time, it’s very important to continue improving your Optimization Score. FCP and DCL metrics seem to play a minor role where search results are concerned, but the standards for the top positions in SERPs keep increasing.
Advanced checklist for optimizing page speed
Optimizing mobile page speed requires you to test your page speed first. Before you begin making any improvements, plug your URLs into PageSpeed Insights. Or, if you find the thought of checking every page one-by-one exhausting, use a tool that can monitor all of your pages at once.
My team uses the tool we developed, WebSite Auditor. It’s integrated with PageSpeed Insights, which makes it easy to test, analyze, and optimize each page’s performance. GTMetrix and Pingdom are two other great tools for testing and optimizing page speed.
Once you’ve tested your mobile site speed and identified areas of improvement, it’s time to get to work:
- Ensure each page has no more than one redirect
– If you need to use a redirect: use 301 for permanent redirects (e.g. deleted content) and 302 for temporary redirects (e.g. limited-time promotions)
- Enable compression to reduce file size
– Gzip all compressible content or use a Gzip alternative (e.g. Brotli)
– Remove unnecessary data whenever possible
– Use different compression techniques for HTML codes & digital assets
- Aim for a server response time of <200ms
– Use HTTP/2 for a performance boost
– Enable OCSP stapling
– Support both IPv6 and IPv4
– Add resource hints like dns-lookup, preconnect, prefetch, and preload.
- Implement a caching policy
– Use cache-control to automatically control how and how long browsers cache responses
– Use Etags to enable efficient revalidation
– Double check Google’s caching checklist to determine optimal caching policy
- Minify resources
– Minify images, videos, and other content if they’re slowing down your page speed
– Automate minification using third-party tools
- Optimize images
– Eliminate unnecessary resources
– Replace images with CSS3 where possible
– Don’t encode text in images; use web fonts instead
– Minify and compress SVG assets
– Remove metadata if it’s not needed
– Select smaller raster formats if they don’t interfere with quality
– Resize and scale images to fit display size
– Choose the image quality settings that best fit your site needs.
- Optimize CSS delivery
– Inline small CSS files directly into the HTML to remove small external resources.
- Keep above-the-fold content under 148kB (compressed)
– Reduce the size of data required to render above-the-fold content
– Organize HTML markup to quickly render above-the-fold content.
– Inline critical scripts
Needless to say, there are a lot of technical SEO tips and tricks you can do to continue tweaking and refining your mobile page speed. If you need more information on how, exactly, to perform any of the above actions, visit Google’s PageSpeed Insight Rules for more detail.
Conclusion: why you need to be optimizing mobile page speed
Year-after-year search engines continue to push the importance of mobile optimization. And it’s no secret why: recent studies suggest that 53% of all mobile visits are abandoned when a page takes longer than 3 seconds to load, and you lose 10% of your users with every additional second.
Page speed has always mattered, but providing people with a fast mobile experience is now more important than ever before. This is especially true when you consider mobile-first indexing and the news that the average Optimization Scores of top ranking pages continue to rise.
Facebook wants you to share a bit more about yourself on your profile, so today it’s launching a new feature to web and mobile users called “Did You Know,” where you can answer questions about yourself to clue friends into your secrets, dreams, goals and feelings. Read More
Social – TechCrunch
Google has released a new, feed-based mobile homepage in the US, with an international launch due in the next two weeks.
This is perhaps the most drastic and significant update of the Google.com homepage (the most visited URL globally) since Google’s launch in 1996.
The upgraded, dynamic entry point to the world’s biggest search engine will be available initially on mobile devices via both the Google website and its mobile apps, but will also be rolled out to desktop.
Let’s take a look at what’s changing and how, as well as what it might mean for marketers.
What’s different about the new homepage?
Google’s new homepage allows users to customize a news feed that updates based on their interests, location, and past search behaviors.
On the Google.com website (via a mobile device), there are now four icon-based options: Weather, Sports, Entertainment, and Food & Drink.
The ‘Weather’ and ‘Food & Drink’ options can be used straight away, as they take the user’s location data to provide targeted results. The ‘Sports’ and ‘Entertainment’ options require a little more customization before users can benefit from them fully. Without this, Google will just serve up popular and trending stories within each category.
In the example below, I tapped on the ‘Sports’ icon, then selected to follow a baseball team, the Boston Red Sox. Based on this preference, Google then knows to show me updates on this team on my homepage. The results varied in their media format, with everything from Tweets to GIFs and videos shown in my feed.
This means that rather than encountering the iconic search bar, Google logo, and the unadorned white interface we have all become accustomed to, each user’s feed will be unique. As I start to layer on more of the topics I am interested in, Google gains more information with which to tailor my feed.
On the Google mobile app, based on my selection above, my homepage looks as follows:
This is quite a big departure and is an experience we should expect the Google.com website to mirror soon. For now, the latter retains enough of the old aesthetic to be recognizable, but the app-based version is more overt in its positioning of suggested content.
The trusty search bar is still there, but users are encouraged to interact with their interests too. The interface is designed for tapping as well as typing.
Sashi Thakur, a Google engineer, has said of the launch,
“We want people to understand they’re consuming information from Google. It will just be without a query.”
It is essentially an extension of the functionality that has been available in Google’s Android app since December. Google will also continue to use push notifications to send updates on traffic, weather, and sports, based on the user’s set preferences.
Why is Google launching this product now?
Google has struggled to find a significant commercial hit to rival its hugely lucrative search advertising business. That business relies on search queries and user data, so anything that leads users to spend more time on Google will be of significant value.
The same motive has led to the increased presence of Google reservations, which now allow users to make appointments for a range of services from the search results page.
As Google stated in their official announcement, “The more you use Google, the better your feed will be.”
Users type a query when they have an idea of what they want to find; Google is pre-empting this by serving us content before we are even aware of what exactly we would like to know. By offering a service that will increase in accuracy in line with increased usage, Google hopes users will get hooked on a new mode of discovering information.
You’d be forgiven for wondering whether Google is trying to find its way into social media again. After the demise of the short-lived Google+ platform, Google has seen Facebook grow as a credible threat in the battle for digital advertising dollars.
Facebook’s algorithmic news feed has been a significant factor in its rise in popularity, and with Google Posts incorporated into this news feed, there are certainly elements reminiscent of a certain social network in Google’s new homepage initiative. Readers may also recall the launch of iGoogle in 2005, a similar attempt to add some personalization to the homepage.
That said, it seems more likely that these changes have been rolled out in response to recent launches from Amazon than as a direct challenge to Facebook.
Amazon has made an almost dizzying amount of product announcements and acquisitions of late. As a pure-play ecommerce company, their rapid growth will have been cause for consternation at Google and there is a need to respond.
Of particular interest in relation to the new Google feed is the very recent launch of Amazon Spark, a shoppable feed of curated content for Amazon Prime members. It is only available via the iOS app for now, but it will be launched on Android soon too.
Spark is a rival to Instagram in some ways, with its very visual feed and some early partnerships with social media influencers. It is also similar to Pinterest, as it encourages users to save their favorite images for later and clearly tries to tap into the ‘Discovery’ phase that Pinterest has made a play for recently.
Amazon has also launched its ‘Interesting Finds’ stream, which works in a noticeably Pinterest-esque fashion:
In Google’s announcement of the new homepage, they make use of the verbs “discover” and “explore”. Both Amazon and Pinterest have tried to shape and monetize these phases of the search-based purchase journey; Google evidently thinks its homepage needs to take on a new life if it is to compete.
Will it open new opportunities for marketers?
Almost certainly. We should view this as a welcome addition to the elements of current search strategies, with a host of new opportunities to get in front of target audiences.
Google is not launching this product because of any existential threat to its core search product, which still dominates Western markets:
The update should encourage a shift in user behavior. As people get used to the new experience, they will interact with Google in new ways and marketers need to be prepared for this.
From a paid perspective, we can expect to see new options open to advertisers, but not in the immediate future.
Amazon has two innate monetization mechanisms within Spark: users have to sign up to Prime (for an annual fee) to get access and, when they do, they are served a shoppable list of results. It comes as no surprise when we are on Amazon that we will be asked if we want to buy products.
That is not always the case on Google, where the initial purpose of the news feed is to gain traction with users and encourage them to spend more time within the site.
Options for sponsored content and (almost inevitably) paid ecommerce ads will come later, once a large and engaged user base has been established.
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