Internet providers are real bastards: they have captive audiences whom they squeeze for every last penny while they fight against regulation like net neutrality and donate immense amounts of money to keep on lawmakers’ good sides. So why not turn the tables? Here are 13 ways to make sure your ISP has a hard time taking advantage of you (and may even put it on the defensive).
Disclosure: Verizon, an internet provider guilty of all these infractions, owns TechCrunch, and I don’t care.
1. Buy a modem and router instead of renting
The practice of renting a device to users rather than selling it or providing it as part of the service is one of the telecommunications industry’s oldest and worst. People pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars over years for equipment worth $ 40 or $ 50. ISPs do this with various items, but the most common item is probably the modem.
This is the gadget that connects to the cable coming out of your wall, and then connects in turn (or may also function as) your wireless and wired router. ISPs often provide this equipment at the time of install, and then charge you $ 5 to $ 10 per month forever. What they don’t tell you is you can probably buy the exact same item for somewhere between $ 30 and $ 100.
The exact model you need will depend on your service, but it will be listed somewhere, and they should tell you what they’d provide if you ask. Look online, buy a new or lightly used one, and it will have paid for itself before the year is out. Not only that, but you can do stuff like upgrade or change the software on it all you want, because it’s yours. Bonus: The ISP is limited in what it can do to the router (like letting other people connect — yes, it’s a thing).
2. Avoid service calls, or if you can’t, insist they’re free
I had an issue with my Comcast internet a while back that took them several visits from a service tech to resolve. It wasn’t an issue on my end, which was why I was surprised to find they’d charged me $ 30 or so every time the person came.
If your ISP wants to send someone out, ask whether it’s free, and if it isn’t, tell them to make it free or ask if you can do it yourself (sometimes it’s for really simple stuff like swapping a cable). If they charge you for a visit, call them and ask them to take it off your bill. Say you weren’t informed and you’ll inform the Better Business Bureau about it, or take your business elsewhere, or something. They’ll fold.
When someone does come…
3. Get deals from the installer
If you do end up having someone come out, talk to them to see whether there are any off the record deals they can offer you. I don’t mean anything shady like splitting cables with the neighbor, just offers they know about that aren’t publicized because they’re too good to advertise.
A lot of these service techs are semi-independent contractors paid by the call, and their pay has nothing to do with which service you have or choose. They have no reason to upsell you and every reason to make you happy and get a good review. Sometimes that means giving you the special desperation rates ISPs withhold until you say you’re going to leave.
And as long as you’re asking…
4. Complain, complain, complain
Usually this means calling up and doing one of several things. You can complain that service has been bad — outages and such — and ask that they compensate you for that. You can say that a competing ISP started offering service at your location and it costs $ 20 less, so can they match that. Or you can say your friend just got a promotional rate and you’d like to take advantage of it… otherwise you’ll leave to that phantom competitor. (After all, we know there’s often little or no real competition.)
What ISPs, and, more importantly, what their customer service representatives care about is keeping you on as a customer. They can always raise rates or upsell you later, but having you as a subscriber is the important thing.
Note that some reps are more game than others. Some will give you the runaround, while others will bend over backwards to help you out. Feel free to call a few times and do a bit of window shopping. (By the way, if you get someone nice, give them a good review if you get the chance, usually right after the call or chat. It helps them out a lot.) Obviously you can’t call every week with new demands, so wait until you think you can actually save some money.
Which reminds me…
5. Choose your service level wisely
ISPs offer a ton of choices, and make it confusing on purpose so you end up picking an expensive one just to be sure you have what you need. The truth is most people can probably do pretty much everything they need on the lowest tier they offer.
A 1080p Netflix stream will work fine on a 25 Mbps connection, which is what I have. I also work entirely online, stream high-def videos at a dozen sites all day, play games, download movies and do lots of other stuff, sometimes all at the same time. I think I pay $ 45 a month. But rates like mine might not be advertised prominently or at all. I only found out when I literally asked what the cheapest possible option was.
That said, if you have three kids who like to watch videos simultaneously, or you have a 4K streaming setup that you use a lot, you’ll want to bump that up a bit. But you’d be surprised how seldom the speed limit actually comes into play.
To be clear, it’s still important that higher tiers are available, and that internet providers upgrade their infrastructure, because competition and reliability need to go up and prices need to come down. The full promise of broadband should be accessible to everyone for a reasonable fee, and that’s still not the case.
6. Stream everything because broadcast TV is a joke
Cord-cutting is fun. Broadcast TV is annoying, and getting around ads and air times using a DVR is very 2005. Most shows are available on streaming services of some kind or another, and while those services are multiplying, you could probably join all of them for well under what you’re paying for the 150 cable channels you never watch.
Unless you really need to watch certain games or news shows as they’re broadcast, you can get by streaming everything. This has the side effect of starving networks of viewers and accelerating the demise of these 20th-century relics. Good ones will survive as producers and distributors of quality programming, and you can support them individually on their own merits. It’s a weird transitional time for TV, but we need to drop-kick them into the future so they’ll stop charging us for a media structure established 50 years ago.
Something isn’t available on a streaming service? 100 percent chance it’s because of some dumb exclusivity deal or licensing SNAFU. Go pirate it for now, then happily pay for it as soon as it’s made available. This method is simple for you and instructive for media companies. (They always see piracy rates drop when they make things easy to find and purchase.)
This also lets you avoid certain fees ISPs love tacking onto your bill. I had a “broadcast TV fee” on my bill despite not having any kind of broadcast service, and I managed to get it taken off and retroactively paid back.
On that note…
7. Watch your bill like a hawk
Telecoms just love putting things on your bill with no warning. It’s amazing how much a bill can swell from the quoted amount once they’ve added all the little fees, taxes and service charges. What are they, anyway? Why not call and ask?
You might find out, as I did, that your ISP had “mistakenly” been charging you for something — like equipment — that you never had nor asked for. Amazing how these lucrative little fees tend to fall through the cracks!
Small charges often increase and new ones get added as well, so download your bill when you get it and keep it somewhere (or just keep the paper copies). These are really handy to have when you’re on the phone with a rep. “Why wasn’t I informed my bill would increase this month by $ 50?” “Why is this fee more now than it was in July?” “Why do I pay a broadcast fee if I don’t pay for TV?” These are the types of questions that get you discounts.
Staying on top of these fees also means you’ll be more aware when there are things like mass refunds or class action lawsuits about them. Usually these have to be opted into — your ISP isn’t going to call you, apologize and send a check.
As long as you’re looking closely at your bill…
8. Go to your account and opt out of everything
When you sign up for broadband service, you’re going to get opted into a whole heap of things. They don’t tell you about these, like the ads they can inject, the way they’re selling this or that data or that your router might be used as a public Wi-Fi hotspot.
You’ll only find this out if you go to your account page at your ISP’s website and look at everything. Beyond the usual settings like your address and choice of whether to receive a paper bill, you’ll probably find a few categories like “privacy” and “communications preferences.”
Click through all of these and look for any options to opt out of stuff. You may find that your ISP has reserved the right to let partners email you, use your data in ways you wouldn’t expect and so on. It only takes a few minutes to get out of all this, and it deprives the ISP of a source of income while also providing a data point that subscribers don’t like these practices.
9. Share your passwords
Your friend’s internet provider gets him streaming services A, B and C, while yours gives you X, Y and Z. Again, this is not about creators struggling to get their content online, but rather all about big media and internet corporations striking deals that make them money and harm consumers.
Share your (unique, not reused!) passwords widely and with a clean conscience. No company objects when you invite your friends over to watch “Fleabag” at your house. This just saves everyone a drive!
10. Encrypt everything and block trackers
One of the internet companies’ many dirty little deals is collecting and selling information on their customers’ watching and browsing habits. Encrypting your internet traffic puts the kibosh on this creepy practice — as well as being good security.
This isn’t really something you can do too much to accomplish, since over the last few years encryption has become the rule rather than the exception, even at sites where you don’t log in or buy anything. If you want to be sure, download a browser plug-in like HTTPS everywhere, which opts you into a secure connection anywhere it’s available. You can tell it’s secure because the URL says “https://” instead of “http://” — and most browsers have other indicators or warnings as well.
You should also use an ad blocker, not necessarily to block ads that keep outlets like TechCrunch alive (please), but to block trackers seeded across the web by companies that use sophisticated techniques to record everything you do. ISPs are among these and/or do business with them, so everything you can do to hinder them is a little mud in their eye.
Incidentally there are lots of ways you can protect your privacy from those who would invade it — we’ve got a pretty thorough guide here.
11. Use a different DNS
On a similar note, most ISPs will usually be set up by default with their own “Domain Name Service,” which is the thing that your browser pings to convert a text web URL (like “techcrunch.com”) to its numerical IP address.
There are lots of these to choose from, and they all work, but if you use your ISP’s, it makes it much easier for them to track your internet activity. They also can block certain websites by refusing to provide the IP for content they don’t like.
TechCrunch doesn’t officially endorse one, but lots of companies offer free, fast DNS that’s easy to switch to. Here’s a good list; there are big ones (Google, Cloudflare), “open” ones (OpenDNS, OpenNIC) and others with some niche features. All you need to do is slot those two numbers into your internet configuration, following the instructions they provide. You can change it back at any time.
Setting up a VPN is another option for very privacy-conscious individuals, but it can be complicated. And speaking of complicated…
12. Run a home server
This is a bit advanced, but it’s definitely something ISPs hate. Setting up your home computer or a dedicated device to host a website, script or service seems like a natural use of an always-on internet connection, but just about everyone in the world would rather you sign up for their service, hosted on their hardware and their connection.
Well, you don’t have to! You can do it on your own. Of course, you’ll have to learn how to run and install a probably Unix-based server, handle registry stuff, install various packages and keep up to date so you don’t get owned by some worm or bot… but you’ll have defied the will of the ISP. That’s the important thing.
13. Talk to your local government
ISPs hate all the things above, but what they hate the most by far is regulation. And you, as a valued citizen of your state and municipality, are in a position to demand it. Senators, representatives, governors, mayors, city councils and everyone else actually love to hear from their constituency, not because they desire conversation but because they can use it to justify policy.
During the net neutrality fight, a constant refrain I heard from government officials was how much they’d heard from voters about the issue and how unanimous it was (in support, naturally). A call or email from you won’t sway national politics, but a few thousand calls or emails from people in your city just might sway a local law or election. These things add up, and they do matter. State net neutrality policies are now the subject of national attention, and local privacy laws like those in Illinois are the bane of many a shady company.
Tell your local government about your experience with ISPs — outages, fees, sneaky practices or even good stuff — and they’ll file it away for when that data is needed, such as renegotiating the contracts national companies sign with those governments in order to operate in their territories.
Internet providers only do what they do because they are permitted to, and even then they often step outside the bounds of what’s acceptable — which is why rules like net neutrality are needed. But first people have to speak out.
This is a marketing strategy that may change everything you know about content marketing and SEO.
The customer feedback loop is an effective way to improve your offerings to your customers and modify what they get based on their feedback. It’s a business strategy that has been in existence for quite some time, but here, it’s refined towards content marketing and SEO.
Surely, there are ways you can make use of one of the most effective business and marketing strategy in human existence. And it’ll improve your content marketing and SEO efforts and help grow your brand. I’ll be taking a deeper look into the feedback loop, how it works in marketing and how you can apply this to your content marketing and SEO efforts.
What is a marketing feedback loop?
Firstly, let’s try to understand what marketing feedback loop is and how it works in the traditional marketing world. Done correctly, and with a well documented and measured process, the marketing feedback loop can improve your content marketing and SEO results.
According to HubSpot author, Caroline Forsey,
“A feedback loop is a process in which the outputs of a system are circled back and used as inputs. .. this refers to the process of using customer or employee feedback to create a better product or workplace.”
Marketers will understand that there are gems to be found in the feedback their businesses and products receive online. Both the positive and negative feedback you get, if utilized properly, can significantly transform how customers perceive and interact with your brand.
A marketing feedback loop is created when a business utilizes the responses they attract from a campaign effort or a product on the social web, and this can be later utilized in their marketing efforts. This may also include feedbacks from surveys and research campaigns.
Here, we’ll look at how it can be utilized to improve content marketing and SEO efforts.
How to create opportunities marketing feedback loop
Identifying opportunities for marketing feedback loop is just as important as how to make it work for you. Customers will take to social media to raise concerns or praises about your products and services where potential customers are actively participating in discussions that will determine whether or not to choose you over the competition.
Naturally, you’ll incorporate praises about your services into your testimonial campaigns to promote your business. These content are easily seen. Negative feedback, on the other hand, is where the treasure lies. And you will almost always miss them.
Below, let’s take a look at ways to identify marketing feedback loop and ultimately how you use it to improve your content marketing and SEO efforts.
- Necessary tools: The first step to identifying opportunities for feedback loop is to actively monitor mentions about your brand on the web. This includes social media, blogs, and forums. In this case, the right tools, and people are what you need. Some tools to employ may include Mention, Radian6 and setting up Google Alerts for known names/keywords (or phrases) your brand is associated with.
- Surveys: What’s better than the opportunity to secure valuable feedback? One that is solicited. Implementing surveys can help you to elicit feedback from your users right before they share it themselves. This will give room for you to identify potential issues and address them before they become problems.
- The right person/team: Is someone on your team who determines how customers’ feedback should be responded to and what department gets to see and utilize it. This individual is responsible for its proper documentation as well. Naturally, they should be working very closely with the marketing department.
- Interpreting constructive and negative customer feedback: Most times, when emotions run high with customers, constructive criticisms may come off as negative feedback. This may be perceived as an attack on your brand if care is not taken to analyze the issue — leaving you with a missed opportunity to improve on both SEO and content efforts. Instead of making a blanket judgment on the surface and writing of the complainant as a troll, look closely to identify what others may agree within their feedback. There, you’ll find your next content fodder and SEO hack.
How significant are feedback loops to content marketing and SEO?
Customers’ feedback can be looped into the whole brand experience output, which includes user experience(UX), answering the right questions on your website (enabling for richer content experience and broadens keyword opportunities).
Getting content marketing and SEO benefits from implementing feedback loop in your marketing would be a successful effort if done the right way. The following procedures will not only ensure you’re creating a better experience for your users but also gaining SEO advantage in the process.
Using a feedback loop to improve SEO – UX improvements
The most significant drawback to most businesses’ web presence is the user experience, and Google — growing ever-smarter with its constant algorithmic updates — is now effective at scoring a website’s rankings based on overall UX score. The best way for businesses to know how their UX measures up is through direct feedback from those using it. Here, customer feedback can be looped to the design team who can improve upon the website feel and accessibility. The result is a website with better UX and improved search rankings.
A feedback loop can prevent worthless content efforts
Say your content marketing team have been working tirelessly, analyzing trends and interviewing industry experts just to improve visibility and rankings. But the result is slow or abysmal. Here, the marketing team should be tasked to score through the complaints that have been left by your customers and come up with problem-solving content to line up your content calendar. This will not only directly address your users concerns but will help you see improved content marketing efforts.
Where have feedback loops improved SEO efforts?
In 2018, I and my partner at Effective Inbound Marketing, Ayodeji Onibalusi conducted a survey asking people to go visit our website and give feedback about what should be improved on. Majority of the responders wanted us to improve navigation and some others wanted us to produce more marketing content on the blog.
We incorporated the feedback loop by upgrading our content output and introduced breadcrumbs that’ll show the users how they navigated our website. These improvements saw our Alexa ranking move from 850,000 in December of 2018 to 272,000 as of today (August 2019) and our navigation improvement saw our users spend more time on site, dropping bounce rate by 50% and also increasing the number of pages visited per user. This has trickled down to our rankings, with terms like “Amazon” and “Russian Marketing” now driving users to our website.
Three takeaways from this
- The smallest feedback loop implemented can have a significant impact on SEO
- When implementing feedback loops, consider users satisfaction first
- A feedback loop can be equally effective if solicited from users
The right way to use a marketing feedback loop to improve SEO
Getting marketing feedback loop right shouldn’t be tricky if you follow best practices. The core purpose of a marketing feedback loop is to use constructive complaints from your customers to improve your content marketing and SEO efforts. This can be accomplished by identifying their pain-points and incorporating this into your content and SEO campaigns.
Successful marketing feedback loop must follow these rules to positively have an impact on content marketing and SEO.
Customers feedback should be looped to the right department as quickly as possible. Ideally, the customer should already get a response within the first hour, on the same channel. If it’s worth incorporating into a content, your content marketing team should already have a well-thought-out long-form content that addresses critical factors and answers questions such as:
– Was the complaint legitimate?
– Would other customers face this same issue?
– Was there a solution in place before?
– How did the company help the customer resolve the complaint?
– What did the company do prevent future customers from experiencing the same?
The medium of feedback should remain the same
Marketers should not make the mistake of addressing issues on different channels from where feedback originated from. Instead of providing a solution to a problem, this may escalate situations as the customer may assume you’re being defensive and trying to manipulate the situation.
If complaints are generated on social media, the complaints should be acknowledged on the same medium. Then support can take it up from there either through DMs or tickets. After which marketing feedback loop should be implemented once there is satisfaction, and then a campaign can be created out of it.
Must address concerns generated through implemented changes
For example, if users complain about the inability to access your products due to lack of breadcrumbs and poor navigation features — like the absence of a search tool, a short term solution may be to point them to categories or help them identify tags. But going further to introduce the features that’ll create a better experience would serve a longer-term purpose.
Changes implemented may be the focus of marketing feedback loop campaign
If the above approach is implemented, then a content marketing campaign around the customer’s feedback and the success achieved would be a welcome step. This would not only help attract more users through content marketing but would also show your brand as a listening one.
Getting content marketing and SEO right is critical to the success of your business if you’re competing online. Then the goal is to discover strategies that’ll keep your efforts successful and help you serve your users better. Marketing feedback loop helps you get this done.
Have you tried using a marketing feedback loop to optimize your SEO efforts? What results did you get?
Femi Haastrup is Founder and CEO of Femtrup LLC. He can be found on Twitter @Femihaastrup.
The post Four ways to use marketing feedback loop to optimize SEO efforts appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
There’s always more content to write.
Sometimes that can be encouraging, even exhilarating. You’ve got plenty of space for all your ideas, and countless opportunities to engage with potential customers and to build a stronger relationship with existing ones.
But producing a constant stream of content can be exhausting.
You’ll find yourself running out of ideas and running out of steam. And at that point, it can be really difficult to keep creating high-quality content on a regular basis.
Even if you’re in a position to hire someone to help, you’ll still need to have a fair amount of involvement in content production – supplying ideas and outlines, at the very least.
So how can you keep up with all the content you need to produce? Before we dig into some specific tips, let’s take a look at how much you actually need to create.
How frequently should you post on your blog and your social media accounts?
There are no rules here different blogs do different things, often within the same industry. In the content marketing world, for instance:
- Smart Blogger posts (very in-depth) pieces once a week
- Copyblogger publishes three or four posts a week
- Content Marketing Institute posts one piece each weekday
As a rough guideline, you’ll probably want to aim for at least one weekly post, one daily Facebook and/or Instagram post, and three or more posts a day on fast-moving networks like Twitter. (According to Louise Myers, the “general consensus” is that anything from three to 30 Tweets per day is fine.
So how do you keep up with this level of content, week after week?
How to create great content without burning out
Here are nine ways to keep up your content production without getting to the point of feeling so burned out that you simply give up.
You can use these as a step by step process, or you can pick and choose ideas that’ll make your existing process go more smoothly.
1. Decide how often you’ll post content
While there’s no “right” answer to how often to post content, there’s definitely a “wrong” one. Posting content whenever you feel like it, at wildly varying frequencies.
It’s best – for you and for your audience – to have a consistent posting schedule, both on your blog and on social networks. That might mean, for instance, two blog posts each week, one Facebook post each day (more may be counter-productive), and five Twitter posts each day.
While you might vary your schedule a little, having a clear idea of what to aim for makes it much more likely that you’ll write and publish regular posts.
2. Come up with a suitable pattern for your content
With social media, in particular, it’s helpful to “pattern” your content. This is also a useful practice for blog posts, especially if you post twice a week or more on your blog.
Rather than starting with a blank page when it comes to generating ideas, you can have a pre-set “pattern” for the content you’re going to create.
For instance, if you’re writing five Twitter posts each day, you might decide to have:
- Two posts linking to other people’s great content
- One post linking to your most recent piece of content
- One post linking to a piece of content from your archive
- One post that asks a question or prompts a discussion
3. Brainstorm lots of ideas
Simply coming up with ideas for content can take a lot of time. Instead of sitting down and staring at a blank page, try “batching” the idea generation process: set aside time once every week or two to come up with a whole list of ideas.
Some great ways to find content ideas include:
- Common search terms within your industry: this is part of keyword research and as well as being a useful SEO tool, it’s great for idea-generation.
- Questions that you frequently get asked by potential customers.
- Problems that you faced when you were starting out in your industry.
- Other people’s content – could you create something that tackles a topic in more depth, or from a different angle?
- Your own content: can you go back to an old blog post and update it, or take some social media posts and weave them into a piece for your blog?
- Asking influencers for their contributions – this might be in the form of a quote or two from one person, or a “round-up” post with quotes from lots of different experts.
4. Outline longer pieces of content
With short posts on Twitter and Facebook, you probably don’t need an outline – just a clear idea of what you’re trying to accomplish.
For blog posts, though, you’ll find it’s much faster to write when you’ve got a solid outline in place, especially if you’re producing long-form content. Again, it’s often a good idea to “batch produce” your outlines, by picking four or so ideas and outlining all those posts at once.
That way, when it’s time to write those posts, a lot of the hard work is already done. Plus, if you outline several posts in a single session, you’ll find it much easier to create links between them.
5. Write several short pieces of content at once
Instead of opening up HootSuite (or your favorite social media management tool or app) every single time you want to send a tweet or create a post, write lots of posts ahead of time.
You might want to queue up a week’s worth of posts all at once. Buffer is a great tool for this, allowing you to schedule posts to go out at any time you want – making it easier to reach potential clients in other timezones or those on unusual schedules.
6. Set aside focused time for longer pieces
Creating content requires a lot of focus – it’s not something you can easily do while you’re fielding phone calls or responding to emails every few minutes.
Block out periods of time (ideally two hours long) in advance, where you can shut your office door, ignore your email, and let calls go to voicemail.
6. Set aside focused time for longer pieces
While you may have no choice but to self-edit your content, if it’s possible, get an editor involved. This might be someone already on your team, or a freelancer external to your company.
A good editor will go far beyond correcting spelling mistakes and grammatical slips. They’ll help to ensure your content is well structured, that it flows smoothly, and that it’s as engaging as possible.
8. Have an assistant format and upload your content
If you’re uploading all your own posts on your blog and social media, you’ll be spending time finding images, selecting categories, adding hashtags, including links, and so on.
While these tasks are an important part of the content creation process, they don’t need to be done by you. Delegate as much of the repetitive work as possible to an assistant so that you can free up more time to write or design the content itself.
9. Get ahead and take time off
If content creation is starting to feel like a treadmill that you can’t get off, then you’re probably heading for burnout. Plan your schedule so you can get ahead, perhaps by creating an extra piece or two of content each week.
That way, you can take a week off from content creation occasionally (plus, you’ll also be covered for any unexpected events, like a particularly busy period, or illness).
10. Repurpose your existing content
There may well be excellent blog posts in your archive that rarely get read, and your social media posts will almost certainly only gather fleeting attention.
Instead of always coming up with fresh ideas and creating new pieces from scratch, how about reusing some of your existing content? That might be as simple as writing an updated version of a blog post, and republishing it – or it could involve something more involved like turning a series of tweets into a blog post, or turning a post into an infographic.
Valuable, high-quality content is great for your business, your potential and existing customers, and your SEO. By trying some or all of the tips above, you can keep up the flow of content, without burning out.
If you have a tip for creating lots of great content, consistently, feel free to share it with us in the comments below.
Joe Williams is the founder of Tribe SEO. He can be found on Twitter at @joetheseo.
The post Ten ways to pump out a stream of great content without burning out appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
When consumers need to find the right product, service or storefront for their needs, they grab their phone, jump on their laptop, or just say, Hey Siri, Hey Alexa, and Hey Cortana. Search results immediately populate their screen and they skim, select, learn, and go.
To win at the game of search, your small or medium-sized business needs to be present online, discoverable and well-matched to the specific needs of consumers. Easier said than done, right?
If you want to quickly reach a targeted audience, drive the right kind of traffic towards your website, and develop a marketing strategy that works alongside your SEO efforts, pay per click (PPC) advertising is a great option. When consumers perform high commercial intent searches, meaning they’re online with the intent to buy a specific product, paid ads get 65% of all clicks. It’s a very effective way to get your products front and center on the search page. Both Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads) and Google Ads offer pretty intuitive platforms when it comes to the account set-up and refinement, but if you’re not a marketing expert (and even if you are) you’re going to need a little help sometimes.
As a small business, you may not have time to really dig into PPC advertising, but you still care about building a campaign that works for you and for your potential customers. Or, maybe you have a strong handle on PPC, but you’re wondering what you could be doing better. Both these scenarios, and many more, could be helped by reaching out to your Microsoft Advertising or Google Ads customer support center or setting up an appointment with a PPC coach.
A coach? Yes, a coach. Really, try it. Working with PPC customer support at Microsoft Advertising, for example, can help your business get the right advice, employ the right tactics, and simply streamline the process, so you aren’t emerging from a PPC rabbit hole feeling frustrated and upset. That’s no fun and can be easily remedied. Here are five common concerns and how customer support can help small businesses like yours with their PPC campaigns.
“I have no idea how to get started.”
Sometimes when people jump into the world of PPC advertising, the process begins easily enough, but issues tend to pop up. Maybe you aren’t sure about how to establish a budget or conduct important keyword research. That’s ok, nobody expects you to be an expert right out of the gate.
Onboarding specialists are part of customer support and work with small businesses to set up your PPC ad account from scratch, create your first set of ads, research keywords, set a budget, and assist you with competitive bids. They view the entire process as a team effort and are genuinely interested in understanding your business goals and objectives. Then they help you design a PPC campaign to meet them.
“I can’t figure out why my campaigns aren’t performing.”
Coaches and customer support specialists can provide visibility on what is and isn’t working by showing businesses how to generate and understand a variety of performance reports. With over 30 different types of reports available, selecting and analyzing them on your own can be a little overwhelming at first, simply due to the sheer volume of data at our fingertips. Working with a coach can help provide clarity, and together you can identify relevant strategies and innovations that have a positive impact on your campaigns. In other words, they can help you figure out what all the data means and how to use it to your advantage.
If you’ve been using PPC advertising for quite a while, coaches can support your campaign by introducing you to the latest features and tools you may not know about. Sometimes we get into a routine and performance plateaus but talking to an expert for 15 minutes can totally refresh your PPC perspective and provide you with valuable insight and ideas.
“I’m afraid I’ll look like an idiot if I can’t figure this out on my own.”
Managing PPC campaigns is a learned skill, but it might not be something that comes naturally to you. A coach’s job isn’t to do everything for you, but to educate you on how to improve campaign performances on your own. Customer support can help business owners get familiar with PPC tools, processes and resources that help you successfully manage your ads without external support. The goal is to empower businesses with the know-how, competence, and confidence to handle their campaigns like a pro and troubleshoot any issues that come up. Learning, in and of itself, represents a measurement of success and makes the next PPC campaign easier to set up, more profitable, and effective.
“I don’t think customer support will understand anything about my business and it’s too much of a hassle. I just have to figure this out on my own.”
The whole point of customer support is to take the time to understand your industry and your business goals, that’s the only way to provide meaningful and targeted guidance. Coaches treat you like a partner and pro-actively offer strategic direction and the right tools to increase your PPC efficiency. They meet you at your level of expertise and build up from there, no matter your budget or your business. You need to be willing to share your story and reflectively consider what you want to get out of your various campaigns, but rest assured, if you’re willing to put in the time, it will most definitely not be wasted.
“I’m not sure I’m managing my campaign correctly and spend too much time worrying about it.”
This is a big one, especially for businesses that aren’t familiar with paid search. Your time is spent worrying that you’re doing it wrong instead of learning how to do it right. This is where working with a coach can really help because they provide you with peace of mind. Peace of mind in the information you’re using, your level of comfort and familiarity with the platform, and the belief that you are fully capable of making changes that improve your business’s visibility and lead conversions.
Few technologies promise to have an impact on the marketplace as tremendous as the blockchain technology. Though many professionals in the search marketing industry are still entirely unfamiliar with it. Blockchain’s disruptive nature is changing the nature of digital advertising regardless of whether some professionals hear about it or not, however, meaning it’s imperative to catch up on how this technology is changing the industry if you want to remain competitive.
Here are five of the major ways that blockchain will impact search marketing, and how advertising professionals are already beginning to master this interesting technology as it takes over.
1. Blockchain will make ads trustworthy
Consumers hate advertisements for a number of reasons, but by and large the most common is that they simply think advertising technology is untrustworthy. Nobody likes feeling as if they are being surveilled 24/7, and few people trust digital advertisements that appear on their screen enough to click on them, even if its contents are interesting. Blockchain technology promises to help this problem by securing the ad supply chain and making the marketing process more trustworthy to consumers everywhere.
Soon, thanks to blockchain services, ad tech vendors, buyers, and publishers will be more connected than ever before. Transparency, that is sorely needed in the ad supply chain can be brought about by the application of blockchain services, which thanks to their nature as ledgers are accessible to every party involved in a financial transaction. Website owners and ad vendors of the future will thus be able to operate with one another much more securely when making marketing arrangements.
2. Blockchain is delivering ad transparency
Elsewhere, blockchain services will be applied to make ads more transparent in an effort to win over the trust of skeptical consumers. Companies like Unilever are now teaming up with the likes of IBM on blockchain projects that they hope will disclose information about their business footprint and the way they collect and utilize information on customers. As these endeavors become more successful, others will be convinced to enlist the help of blockchain technology when it comes to ensuring a transparent advertising industry.
3. Blockchain is changing ad payments
Blockchain technology will also impact search marketing by disrupting the way that advertisement payments are facilitated. Companies like Amino Payments will soon be springing up left and right as the market for blockchain services grows larger and larger. These businesses will help mainstream blockchain-powered ad buys that make use of interesting smart contracts. While smart contracts are only just beginning to become an accepted part of the business world, they’ll be a mainstream facet of doing business sooner than we think, all thanks to the wonderful power of blockchain.
4. New advertising ecosystems are springing up
Some of the ways that blockchain is impacting search marketing are truly monumental. Blockchain technology is helping new advertising ecosystems get on their feet, for instance, with nascent companies like Adshares that are working hard to create a blockchain-based advertising ecosystem. As cryptocurrencies and other blockchain-powered technologies become more mainstream, we’ll see an increased need for blockchain-friendly payment systems.
Search marketing professionals in the future may have to rely on specialized expertise when navigating these new blockchain-powered advertising ecosystems that use a standard bitcoin wallet, which will become dominated by the IT-savvy. Programmatic advertising has already been upended time and again in recent years as the digital revolution brought about better computers, and the rise of blockchain could very well be the next stage in that cycle of disruption.
5. New blockchain browsers will reshape user experiences
Finally, the digital experience of the average consumer will be fundamentally changed by the introduction of blockchain browsers. Browser options like Brave are becoming more popular and grabbing headlines as they promise a privacy-respecting internet experience that features more honest and safer ad tech. Our current understandings of the marketing world may be entirely useless a few years from now when blockchain powered browsers off secure, personalized search options to users who are sick and tired of modern advertising gurus.
Search marketing is in for more than its fair share of disruptive changes in the forthcoming years, largely because of the advent of blockchain technology. Like any other technological innovation, blockchain will take time and investment to grow into its full potential, but it’s already quite clear that its development is jarring advertising professionals.
Bounce rate is the percentage of site visitors that land on your website and leave before viewing a second page. You can easily determine your website’s bounce rate by setting up Google Analytics.
Now, if you’re thinking this isn’t such a big deal and that as long as they visit your website, irrespective of how long they spend on it or how many pages they view, they at least know your business exists, that’s not good enough. The longer visitors stay on your site, the more time you have to turn them into subscribers and customers. But how can you convince users to stick around longer and visit more pages?
Luckily, there are a number of easy and free ways to improve your website’s bounce rate and grow your business.
Here are five ways to improve your website’s bounce rate
1. Create content consistently
Creating content consistently is one of the best ways to keep users around longer and get them to view multiple pages. Useful, engaging content will drive traffic to your website. Once that traffic is there, they’ll stick around, keep reading, and eventually become a subscriber or customer if you have a wide array of informative blog posts for them to read. In fact, according to HubSpot, companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got about 4.5 times more leads than companies that published zero to four monthly posts.
So, create a content plan that’s consistent and offers something for everyone. Not everyone prefers written content, so include a mixture of formats such as written, video, infographics, audio recordings, and more.
Another important tip for your content: Practice effective internal linking. Relevant and useful internal links sprinkled throughout your content can guide users to more of your awesome content and keep them reading.
2. Add images and videos
Speaking of a mixture of formats, to improve your website’s bounce rate, be sure you add eye-catching images and videos to your website. Many users won’t spend a lot of time reading your website content, so you need to grab their attention with images and videos.
Add a large high-quality image or video to your homepage to grab the attention of viewers as soon as they see your site. Most websites do this while keeping everything else on the page simple, like the Panera website for example.
If you don’t have the means to hire a photographer, you can find a ton of stunning, free stock images on a site like Unsplash.
3. Speed up your site
You may not have realized it before but your website speed is important for improving your website’s bounce rate. In fact, according to Google, 53 percent of mobile site visitors leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load. And for every extra second that your page takes to load, the probability of users bouncing dramatically increases. So, don’t make your website visitors wait.
You can use a site like GTmetrix to test the speed of your site. Not only will it tell you what your site speed is, but it’ll also give you advice for improving it. If you’re running your website on WordPress, it would also be wise to download and install some free plugins like WP Smush and W3 Total Cache to help boost the speediness of your site.
4. A/B test
As you’re attempting to improve your website’s bounce rate, don’t leave it up to chance. You should be A/B testing everything in order to determine what’s working and what’s not. You might be surprised by the small things that can cause users to abandon your website. It might even be something as simple as the color of your call-to-action button.
So, perform A/B tests, or split tests, of every aspect of your website. Does your bounce rate improve with a popup on your homepage or does it get a bigger boost on another page? Does one font convert more visitors over another? Does showing or hiding a progress bar help or hurt your bounce rate? When we say A/B test everything, we mean everything.
5. Target abandoning visitors
Did you know that over 70% of people who leave your website will never return? If you don’t start to improve your bounce rate now, that’s a lot of potential leads and customers your business is missing out on. One effective way to stop those users in their tracks and get them to stay on your website longer, and eventually convert them into subscribers or customers is by utilizing exit-intent popups.
Exit-intent popups are able to track when a user is about to leave your website and send them a targeted message at exactly the right time. Your popup can encourage website visitors to subscribe to your email list, download your lead magnet, or even offer a discount if they purchase. So, not only can exit-intent popups improve your bounce rate, but they can also boost your sales in an instant.
Got more points to share on improving bounce rates? Share them in the comments.
Syed Balkhi is an entrepreneur, marketer, and CEO of Awesome Motive. He’s also the founder of WPBeginner, OptinMonster, WPForms, and MonsterInsights. Syed can be found on Twitter @syedbalkhi.
The post Five ways to improve your website’s bounce rate (and why you should) appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
Constantly evolving search results driven by Google’s increasing implementation of AI are challenging SEOs to keep pace. Search is more dynamic, competitive, and faster than ever before.
Where SEOs used to focus almost exclusively on what Google and other search engines were looking for in their site structure, links, and content, digital marketing now revolves solidly around the needs and intent of consumers.
This past year was perhaps the most transformative in SEO, an industry expected to top $ 80 billion in spending by 2020. AI is creating entirely new engagement possibilities across multiple channels and devices. Consumers are choosing to find and interact with information by voice search, or even on connected IoT appliances, and other devices. Brands are being challenged to reimagine the entire customer journey and how they optimize content for search, as a result.
How do you even begin to prioritize when your to-do list and the data available to you are growing at such a rapid pace? The points shared below intend to help you with that.
From analysis to activation, data is key
SEO is becoming less a matter of simply optimizing for search. Today, SEO success hinges on our ability to seize every opportunity. Research from my company’s Future of Marketing and AI Study highlights current opportunities in five important areas.
1. Data cleanliness and structure
As the volume of data consumers are producing in their searches and interactions increases, it’s critically important that SEOs properly tag and structure the information we want search engines to match to those queries. Google offers rich snippets and cards that enable you to expand and enhance your search results, making them more visually appealing but also adding functionality and opportunities to engage.
Google has experimented with a wide variety of rich results, and you can expect them to continue evolving. Therefore, it’s best practice to properly mark up all content so that when a rich search feature becomes available, your content is in place to capitalize on the opportunity.
2. Increasingly automated actionable insights
While Google is using AI to interpret queries and understand results, marketers are deploying AI to analyze data, recognize patterns and deliver insights as output at rates humans simply cannot achieve. AI is helping SEOs in interpreting market trends, analyzing site performance, gathering and understanding competitor performance, and more.
It’s not just that we’re able to get insights faster, though. The insights available to us now may have gone unnoticed, if not for the in-depth analysis we can accomplish with AI.
Machines are helping us analyze different types of media to understand the content and context of millions of images at a time and it goes beyond images and video. With Google Lens, for example, augmented reality will be used to glean query intent from objects rather than expressed words.
Opportunities for SEOs include:
- Greater ability to define opportunity space more precisely in a competitive context. Understand underlying need in a customer journey
- Deploying longer-tail content informed by advanced search insights
- Better content mapping to specific expressions of consumer intent across the buying journey
3. Real-time response and interactions
In a recent “State of Chatbots” report, researchers asked consumers to identify problems with traditional online experiences by posing the question, “What frustrations have you experienced in the past month?”
As you can see, at least seven of the top consumer frustrations listed above can be solved with properly programmed chatbots. It’s no wonder that they also found that 69% of consumers prefer chatbots for quick communication with brands.
Search query and online behavior data can make smart bots so compelling and efficient in delivering on consumer needs that in some cases, the visitor may not even realize it’s an automated tool they’re dealing with. It’s a win for the consumer, who probably isn’t there for a social visit anyway as well as for the brand that seeks to deliver an exceptional experience even while improving operational efficiency.
SEOs have an opportunity to:
- Facilitate more productive online store consumer experiences with smart chatbots.
- Redesign websites to support visual and voice search.
- Deploy deep learning, where possible, to empower machines to make decisions, and respond in real-time.
4. Smart automation
SEOs have been pretty ingenious at automating repetitive, time-consuming tasks such as pulling rankings reports, backlink monitoring, and keyword research. In fact, a lot of quality digital marketing software was born out of SEOs automating their own client work.
Now, AI is enabling us to make automation smarter by moving beyond simple task completion to prioritization, decision-making, and executing new tasks based on those data-backed decisions.
Content marketing is one area where AI can have a massive impact, and marketers are on board. We found that just four percent of respondents felt they were unlikely to use AI/deep learning in their content strategy in 2018, and over 42% had already implemented it.
In content marketing, AI can help us quickly analyze consumer behavior and data, in order to:
- Identify content opportunities
- Build optimized content
- Promote the right content to the most motivated audience segments and individuals
5. Personalizations that drive business results
Personalization was identified as the top trend in marketing at the time of our survey, followed closely by AI (which certainly drives more accurate personalizations). In fact, you could argue that the top four trends namely, personalization, AI, voice search, and mobile optimization are closely connected if not overlapping in places.
Across emails, landing pages, paid advertising campaigns, and more, search insights are being injected into and utilized across multiple channels. These intend to help us better connect content to consumer needs.
Each piece of content produced must be purposeful. It needs to be optimized for discovery, a process that begins in content planning as you identify where consumers are going to find and engage with each piece. Smart content is personalized in such a way that it meets a specific consumer’s need, but it must deliver on the monetary needs of the business, as well.
Check out these 5 steps for making your content smarter from a previous column for more.
How SEOs are uniquely positioned to drive smarter digital marketing forward
As the marketing professionals have one foot in analysis and the other solidly planted in creative, SEOs have a unique opportunity to lead smart utilization and activation of all manners of consumer data.
You understand the critical importance of clean data input (or intelligent systems that can clean and make sense of unstructured data) and differentiating between first and third-party data. You understand economies of scale in SEO and the value in building that scalability into systems from the ground up.
SEOs have long nurtured a deep understanding of how people search for and discover information, and how technology delivers. Make the most of your current opportunities by picking your low-hanging fruit opportunities for quick wins. Focus your efforts on putting the scalable, smart systems in place that will allow you to anticipate consumer needs, react quickly, report SEO appropriately, and convey business results to the stakeholders who will determine budgets in future.
You might like to read these next:
- AI and machine learning: What you do and don’t need to know for SEO
- Using Python to recover SEO site traffic (Part one)
- TechSEO Boost: Machine Learning for SEOs
- Artificial intelligence for marketers
The post Five ways SEOs can utilize data with insights, automation, and personalization appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
Mobile search drives billions of calls to business each year, and calls convert at a higher rate than digital leads. When properly optimized, calls can have a transformational impact on your bottom line. Join this webinar to learn tactical tips and smart strategies to boost your PPC results with call analytics.
Read more at PPCHero.com
The era of graphs and spreadsheets as a way of thinking about analytics is beginning to approach its end. Predictive analytics, along with associated artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies, are changing the way in which we deal with data. These tools are becoming more accessible, and ‘big data’ thinking is no longer limited to firms with billion dollar budgets.
Predictive analytics provides a glimpse into the future, as well as access to strategic insights that can open up new opportunities. Here are five ways you can put predictive analytics to use, and how you can change the way you think about data.
According to Forrester research, predictive analytics has found three main use cases for dealing with leads. Specifically:
- Predictive scoring: This method analyzes how leads are responding to your marketing attempts and how likely they are to take action based on that information. In this way, you can more quickly identify which leads to focus more resources on and which to divert resources from.
- Identification models: This use case is an approach that focuses on comparing leads to customers who have taken actions in the past. In doing so, you can divert resources to those leads who are most promising based on previous actions they have taken, as well as identify new markets that you weren’t previously aware of.
- Personalization: In concert with predicting which leads are most likely to take which actions, the same data can be used to determine which leads respond best to which types of messaging. This advanced form of segmentation can take things deeper than simply splitting leads into groups – instead sending them much more personalized messages.
One prominent example of this was covered in the Harvard Business Review, detailing how a Harley Davidson dealership increased sales leads by 2930% using an AI named Albert.
The AI crunched CRM data to identify characteristics and behaviors of previous buyers. It then split them into micro-segments based on those characteristics. For each segment, it tested different combinations of headlines, visuals, and other elements to determine which worked best for each segment.
The value of your lead qualification is highly dependent on the value and quantity of your data. No matter how good your statistical models are, their abilities are still very limited without access to the information that they need to learn about your customers.
In the digital space – particularly if you are not using a CRM – the best place to start with predictive analytics will almost certainly be an integration of Google Analytics and Google BigQuery.
Modeling customer behavior
While lead qualification and conversion is the most obvious use-case for predictive analytics, and likely the one worth looking into first, it’s far from the only marketing application of this emerging technology. But virtually any use is going to have customer modeling at its core.
You can divide customer modeling into three basic types: cluster models, propensity models, and collaborative filtering.
Clustering is a way of segmenting customers into groups based on many variables. A cluster model looks for correlations between various attributes and identifies a number of equilibria in which certain types of attributes tend to accumulate. What makes clustering special, compared with traditional segmentation, is the sheer number of variables involved. Clusters often use 30 variables or more, far more than would be possible if you were manually segmenting customers, or even if they were manually segmenting themselves.
Clusters come in three forms:
- Product clusters: These are clusters of customers who tend to only buy specific types of products, ignoring other things in your catalog
- Brand clusters: These customers tend to buy from a specific collection of brands
- Behavioral clusters: These are segments of customers with a specific collection of behaviors, such as frequent buyers who place small orders, or customers who prefer the call center over the checkout cart.
What’s important to recognize about these clusters is that they enable predictions about which clusters people belong to – even with limited information. If they buy one product with a specific brand, your brand cluster can predict what other brands they may be interested in, rather than just the more obvious recommendation of simply offering everything else by the same brand.
A propensity model is one that makes future predictions about customer behavior based on correlations with other behaviors and attributes. This may be accomplished using regression analysis or machine learning. A good propensity model controls for as many variables as possible so that correlations aren’t confused for causes.
Here are a few examples of propensity models:
- Propensity to unsubscribe: A model like this allows you to determine the appropriate email frequency, weighing the possibility that a recipient will unsubscribe against any possible positive outcome
- Propensity to churn: These are customers who are likely to move on if you don’t take action, but who may be high value otherwise
- Lifetime value: Modeling the lifetime value of a customer can help you make strategic marketing decisions if it leads you to customers with more lifetime value, or leads to behaviors that extend lifetime value.
Other propensity models include predicting how far through somebody’s lifetime value you are, and how likely they are to convert or buy.
If you’ve seen Amazon’s “customers who liked this product, also liked…” recommendations, you know what type of model this is. At first glance collaborative filtering might sound similar to product-based cluster models, but collaborative filtering is a bit different. Rather than grouping customers by the types of products they are likely to buy, collaborative filters make recommendations based on aggregate behavior.
In other words, this is less about the user’s product preferences and more about the behaviors that products tend to cause for users.
There are three types of collaborative filters:
- Up-sell recommendations. These are recommendations for a higher tier version of a product before the sale is made
- Cross-sell recommendations. Also offered before the sale is made, this is a recommendation for a product that is often bought at the same time as the initial one
- Follow-up recommendations. These are recommendations for products that people tend to buy a certain time period after buying a prior product, such as replacing a product that runs out, or buying dishes after buying a table.
Connecting the right product to the right market
Working backwards from customer modeling, it’s possible to identify markets for your products that you may not have been aware of. Here are just a few examples of how this use case can play out:
- Incorporate referral sources into your cluster models. This will allow you to identify which traffic sources correlate with which types of products, brands, or behaviors. From this, you can immediately identify a new market for these products or brands
- Incorporate referral sources into your lifetime value propensity models. This will allow you to determine which locations to invest more of your marketing resources into, since you roughly know what the ROI will be
- Look for correlations between traffic sources and success with up-sells, cross-sells, and follow-up recommendations
- Look for correlations between keywords and your customer models
- Analyze the attributes that are strong predictors of buying specific types of products and brainstorm other markets that might share those attributes that you have not yet targeted
- Investigate high performing outliers where limited data is available and investigate whether expanding in those markets is a good option.
Connecting the right users to the right content
There are a number of ways that you can leverage your customer models to connect prospects with content in ways that move you toward your goals, some of them more obvious than others. Here are a few examples:
- Matching content related to products or brands based on the appropriate clusters
- Matching users to conversion copy when propensity models predict they are most likely to buy
- Recommending content to users that improves their propensity scores
- Recommending content to users that enhances their likelihood of responding well to an up-sell or cross-sell
- Matching traffic sources to the content that tends to produce high propensity scores for each particular traffic source.
As you can see, the number of approaches you can take here grows pretty quickly. Think strategically about how best to put your models to use and make the most of your models.
Discovering strategic marketing insights
While some predictive analytics tools can automatically streamline your marketing process and generate results (like Albert did for Harley Davidson), it’s important to remember that human decisions still play a very important part in the process.
Where predictive analytics and related AI tools often fail is in a propensity to ‘over-fit’ the data. They can get stuck at local maximums and minimums, incapable of making the leap to new terrain.
Escaping from traps like these, and making the most of these tools in general, requires you to find strategic insights from within your predictive analytics models.
For example, suppose you discover that a specific piece of content has a tendency to raise your prospects’ propensity scores; any automation you have in place can be applied to customize how your users are marketed to, and push them toward that piece of content. But what predictive analytics can’t tell you is whether there might be other traffic sources you haven’t tried yet that would be a good fit for that content. Using your experience and brainstorming capabilities, you can identify other potential markets for that content, feed them into your model, and see how the exposure changes things.
Your goal in working with these kinds of models must always be to find insights like these and test them to see if the results are as expected. If your model runs on autopilot it will not discover any new opportunities alone.