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.
Explore what PPC audiences are, as well as what signals may be factored into the Google algorithm that determines who is included in these audiences.
Read more at PPCHero.com
Whether you work in an agency or in-house, SEO success has a lot to do with influencing other functions, for example, web development, site merchandising, content marketing, PR, etc. As SEO professionals, we do have our own secret sauce to cook with: meta tags.
Although meta tags are only used for search engines, they are still an essential part of Google’s core algorithm and must not be ignored. We will go through the most common meta tags and highlight their usefulness so you can easily check if you’re spending enough time where it counts.
Meta tags defined
Meta tags, or HTML elements, are codes of text that help search engines and website visitors better understand the content found on a website page. Meta tags are not the actual content that is featured on the page.
The purpose of meta tags is instead to describe the content. Therefore, these HTML elements are found in the <head> section of the HTML page, not within the <body> section. Since meta tags need to be written in the HTML code, you may or may not be the one implementing the tags, but knowing what’s most essential will set you up for success.
Why is it still important?
We know that SEO is evolving and the importance of keywords has changed, but let’s keep in mind the impact of the actual query that is being searched for. A search query is formulated in words, and search engine users are essentially scanning the SERPs for the words they entered into the search bar.
Search engines understand that their users are expecting to see results containing the exact words they entered. Let’s say I’m thinking of starting a business and run a search for the query “how to come up with a business name.” As I scan through the SERPs, my eye is looking for pages that contain the words “come up with business name.” While search engines may indulge in semantic search and latent semantic indexing, serving up results that contain the exact words of the search query will remain a strong asset.
Must have meta tags
Title tags and meta descriptions are the bread and butter of SEO. These are essential HTML elements that are needed for a page to rank well organically. As a refresher, let’s look more closely at them and why they are on the list of must haves.
A title tag is an HTML element that describes the topic of a page. It is displayed at the top of the browser in the title bar and in the listing titles of a search engine results page. The presence of a search friendly term in the title tag is still a strong relevancy signal for search engines. Also, search engines will bold keywords from the user’s search in the title. This helps attract a higher click-through rate because internet users scan search results looking for their search term. If they don’t see it, then they are less likely to click on the listing, therefore, reducing CTRs.
Title tags must be relevant to the content on the page. The main keyword should be the first word in the page title, and the closer to the start of the title tag a keyword is, the more helpful it will be for ranking purposes.
A meta description is an HTML meta tag that provides a brief description of the page. Although it is not visible to users on the site, search engines often use meta descriptions as the brief snippet of text underneath a title tag in the search engine results. Well-written meta description tags, while not important to search engine rankings, are extremely important in promoting user click-through from search engine result pages.
Meta descriptions should be written using compelling copy. Since the meta description serves as advertising copy in search results, this is your chance to draw searchers in. Describe the page clearly and use a friendly marketing voice to create an appealing description that will attract a higher click-through rate.
Alt text for images
Alt text is an attribute added to an image tag in HTML to help search engines understand what an image is about. Although search engines cannot see the images we post on our websites, they can read what is featured in the alt attribute. While most searches are not image related, there is still a strong opportunity to acquire organic search engine visitors and boost brand recognition through impressions earned for images.
Alt text should be written clearly and contain text that describes the image. If your image is of an object, consider using adjectives like the color or the size of the object to provide more details on what exactly the image is displaying. Moreover, alt text is not for search engines only: they represent a necessary element to meet basic accessibility standards. Alt text provides a clear text alternative of the image for screen reader users.
No follow tags
Google defines “nofollow” as a way for webmasters to tell search engines not to follow links on a specific page. The rel=”nofollow” attribute can be quite beneficial in ensuring that PageRank is not being transferred across links found on your site. Nofollow tags are essential if you are participating in any kind of paid sponsorship with the intent of earning links.
No index tags
The “noindex” tag is used to notify search engine crawlers not to include a particular page in it’s search results. These tags are essential if there is content on your website that you would like to keep out of the search results. Noindex tags can be implemented either as a meta tag or as an HTTP response header.
Nice to have meta tags
In a highly competitive organic search landscape, “nice to have” meta tags, while not as essential as those listed above, should not be overlooked.
The canonical link element is used when a page’s content is available through multiple URLs, creating duplicate URLs. In order to consolidate the duplicate entries and help the search engine select the best URL, we recommend using a canonical link to indicate which the indexable URL should be.
Simply identify a single preferred URL (generally the simplest one), and add the rel=”canonical” link element, using that preferred URL, to every variant of the page. When Google crawls the site, it will consolidate duplicates within it’s index to the preferred URL.
HTML heading tags (H1-H6)
HTML heading tags are a key component of semantic search, as they provide key contextual clues to the search engines and help them better understand both a page’s content and its overall structure. Search engine bots use the order of heading tags (<h1>, <h2>, etc.) to better understand the structure and relevance of a page’s content. Therefore, HTML heading tags should be ordered on the page by their importance (h1 is considered the highest, h6 is the lowest). In the absence of sectioning content tags, the presence of a heading tag will still be interpreted as the beginning of a new content section.
Meta robots attribute
The meta robots attribute is a piece of code used to instruct search engines on how to interact with a web page. Similar to a robots.txt file that informs search engines on how to crawl a web page, the meta robots attribute provides parameters to search engines on whether they should crawl or index a page’s content.
The “only if” meta tags
Only necessary if you want to provide your competitors with a list of the keywords you are targeting. In the earlier days of SEO, the meta keyword tag was an element used to describe the keywords that the web page was focused on. Until 2002, the meta keywords tag was used by some search engines in calculating keyword relevance. It was abandoned because it was too difficult for many website owners to identify appropriate keywords to describe their content, and because unscrupulous marketers stuffed the tag with unrelated keywords in an attempt to attract more organic search traffic. All modern search engines ignore the meta keywords tag.
Social meta tags (open graph and Twitter cards)
Social meta tags are used when you want to control how the content of a page shows up when it is shared on social media sites. Open graph tags are a set of meta tags that can be added to any page of a website, and help define the content of the page, such as the title, description and image via social media.
Such information is expressed via two protocols: Open Graph (for Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest) and Twitter Cards (for…you can easily guess), and is used by the respective social media to present the snippet of the pages that users share. Through Social Meta Tags you can for instance make use of a title, description or image specifically targeted for social media audiences, in order to boost CTR from this channel.
Hreflang attribute (commonly referred to as Hreflang tag)
Only if…you have a global website with multiple countries and languages being featured. Google recommends using hreflang tags to specify language and regional variations of your pages (regardless of where they are hosted: subfolders, subdomains or separate domains).
The objective of having Hreflang tags on your site is to provide Google with the most accurate information on localized pages, so that the search engine can serve the relevant language version in search results. There are two ways you can implement the Hreflang tags: directly in the HTML document or in your sitemap.
As you’ll see, meta tags come in many forms and some are more critical than others. But they truly are easy wins that provide great ROI, simply as they require a low amount of resources and still have a high impact. We hope you’ll use this ultimate guide to meta tags as the foundation of your SEO strategy for continued success.
Johann Godey is SEO director at Vistaprint.
As a society, we have been conditioned with the age-old saying “Build it and they shall come”.
However, does this hold true for the digital world and your website? And more specifically, what about Google?
In most organizations, organic search optimization becomes a layer that is applied after the fact. After the brand teams, product owners and tech teams have decided what a website’s architecture should be.
However, what if I were to tell you that if search were a primary driver in your site’s architecture you could see a 200%+ performance gain out of your organic channel (and paid quality scores if you drive paid to organic pages), along with meeting brand guidelines and tech requirements?
The top 5 benefits of architecture driven by organic search
- Match Google relevancy signals with audience segmentation and user demand
- Categorization of topical & thematic content silos
- A defined taxonomy and targeted URL naming schemes
- Ability to scale content as you move up funnel
- A logical user experience that both your audience and Google can understand
When search strategy is aligned with your architecture you gain important relevancy signals that Google needs to understand your website.
You position yourself to acquire volume and market share that you would otherwise lose out on. In addition, you will be poised for organic site links within Google, answer box results and local map pack acquisition.
Imagine opening a 1,000-page hardcover book and looking for the table of contents, only to find it is either missing completely or reads with zero logic. As a user, how would you feel? Would you know what the chapters are about? Get a sense of what the book is about?
If you want Google to understand what your website is about and how it is put together, then make sure and communicate it properly – which is the first step for proper site architecture.
Let us pick on a few common, simplistic examples:
/about-us (About who?)
/contact-us (Contact who?)
/products/ (What kind of products?)
/articles (Articles about what?)
/categories (Category about what?)
And my very favorite…
/blog (Blog? What is that about? Could be anything in the world)
These sub-directories within the infrastructure of your website are key components – they are the “chapter names” in your book. Naming something “articles” lacks the relevancy and key signals to describe what your chapter is about.
The upper level sub-directories are known as parent level pages, which means any pages underneath them are child level pages. As you build and scale child level pages, it should be categorized under the proper parent level page. This allows all of the related content of the children pages to “roll up” and become relevant for the parent level page.
Google thrives on this sort of organization, as it provides a good user experience for their users, as well as communicating systematically what the pages are supposed to be about and how they are related to each other.
Example of a proper architecture
As you can see from this example, the relevancy of the two category levels (business plan template & how to write a business plan) all have relevancy that rolls up to the term business plans.
Then as you drill down one level deeper, you can see that you would isolate and build pages that are for business plan outline and business plan samples. These both roll up to the business plan template category.
Through proper keyword targeting and research you would locate the primary keyword driver that matches the page intent and high volume for the URL naming conventions. This communicates to Google what the page will be about as well as matching high customer demand from a search perspective.
Most brand or product teams create and name a structure based on internal reasons, or no particular reason at all. So rather than applying search filters after the fact and trying to retrofit, do the research and understand the volume drivers – then apply them to the architectural plan. You will have significant gains in your rankings and share of voice.
With a structure like this, every page has a home and a purpose. This architecture not only is designed for “current state” but also will scale easily for “future state”. It becomes very easy to add child categories under the primary silo category thus allowing you to scale easily and move up funnel to capture new market share and volume.
How does user experience (UX) play a role in architecture?
A common crossroads we encounter is the UX as it relates to search, content marketing and architecture. UX typically wants minimal content, limited navigational options and a controlled user journey.
However, keep in mind that a UX journey is considered from one point of entry (typically the home page), while search if done properly – every page becomes a point of entry. So we need to solve for both.
The good news is that pure architecture structure and URL naming schemes is and can be completely different than the UX. Build the architecture the proper way and you can still apply any UX as an overlay.
Where the primary differences come in is between UX and navigation. Here again, UX typically wants to limit the choices and control the journey, which means that the navigation is reduced and not all architectural levels are available and visible.
The challenge here is that you want Google to rank you number one in the world for all of these pages; however, you are also telling Google they are not important enough to you to even be in your navigation.
A rule of thumb I learned almost 20 years ago is to make sure every page can stand on its own. A user should never have to go “back” in order to go forward. So make sure your navigation and categorical pages are available from every page, especially knowing for organic search, a user will enter your site and the journey at every level.
Now does this mean abandoning UX? No. You can still control the journey through your primary CTAs and imagery, without sacrificing navigation or architecture.
Facebook has announced that news sites which rely on paid subscriptions, limiting readers to a certain number of articles per week, will now be able to do so through Instant Articles. The company has spent the last two years promoting these Facebook-hosted versions of articles, which unfortunately lacked this rather critical ability. Google’s AMP and Apple News have supported it for a while. Read More
Social – TechCrunch
An unfairly maligned Best Picture winner, an unlikely sequel, more than one career-maker, and one of the best ’80s action films ever. The post Watch These 8 Movies Before They Leave Netflix in December appeared first on WIRED.
Small business owners, I have a question for you. How are you doing on Facebook? Okay? Not so great? Could be better? You’re not alone, but you’re probably wrong.
That’s what it says in a new survey from Constant Contact UK. It’s their contention that small business marketers have set the bar too high for themselves and so they’re not happy with the outcome. But the truth of the matter, is that many small businesses are doing a very good job of marketing through social media.