Search: Fishing in the Clickstream

VISIBILITY: Part 3 – Search

Ever heard of that old cliché, ‘you’re fishing in a bowl’? Getting that kind of predictable result would be fantastic, wouldn’t it? If I could guarantee that to my client, I would be golden and sitting on a beach somewhere preferably reading some obscure science material. But it is obviously not so easy to gain that kind of predictable traffic for your customer. It takes knowledge of the search criteria, how your audience is looking for that information and even behavior science to really map out a close target. And I mean just a close location where the ‘fish’ really are!

In my last SteamFeed post, I touched the tip of Engagement in visibility [Part 2] which is developing your 5 main channels that connects you with your audience, [5 Touch Points of Engagement: Not in ‘Likeness’ But in Diversity]. In this last step of creating visibility [Part 3], I will just graze the surface of ‘Search’ in all its conducive power but you will be surprised at the final analysis on how truly simple the perspective on search is!

Search – Where the Fish Are:

1. SEO – Search Engine Optimization has been an ongoing chess game since the beginning but much has changed leveling the field by the search engines themselves (Google being the heaviest hitter). Before Penguin (Google’s newest search algorithm) and Panda (Google’s newest content updater) came on the scene there were many more ‘tricks’ not penalized to grab that coveted top ranking spot. Now the tables have turned and even a few big reputable companies got caught in the landslide and had fallen off the rankings and hard! The new algorithms didn’t account for many reputable links and cut everyone down off the ladder. Google quickly released new updates in the wake of the backlash.

But how can you legitimately get the ranking you deserve? It’s all on generating the best, relevant content. I know that seems so simple but it is what Google is striving for. Genuine, quality site content and shareable! The engines like shareable information most but make sure it is in alignment with your content as a whole not just thrown in there for ‘shareablity’. Next is links! No longer will any site profit from link schemes by grabbing low quality links on non-relevant sites. Create links by finding strategic partners that make sense in your info arena. These backlinks can be as a contributing author on their site or by adding a resource link. Just make sure it is relevant to the site and WHERE it is linking to. If you are new to the scene check out your Page Titles and Descriptions. Optimizing them can make a big difference for a newbie on the scene (they should be optimized regardless). If you have local markets then gear your descriptions and content toward that geo-targeted area.

{That’s just a few …}

2. SMO – Social Media Optimization is the sister to SEO. These work in tandem, did you know that? Google wants them to be your team in Search. So you need to consider this as well, since Google still owns almost 70% of the market share (as of 11/30/12). How can you up the ante with your social? First take each profile for each of your social networks and optimize them based on word selection and description but keep the consistency across each network (for brand, message and voice). You can keep them segmented in how you’re engaging but for search purposes remember those consistent key ‘modifiers’ (meaningful and descriptive text in your data) across the board. As always keep them ‘relevant’ … sorry to keep throwing in that word but it is critical in search and has to be adhered to!

Then add proper tags to your blog posts for user ease. Add audio clips, video and PDFs into your posts. The engines love these especially because they are considered such shareable media. Use them where it makes sense don’t just fire out a slew of this media for search results, your audience will possibly find it a turn off. Variety is the spice of life, so without a doubt keep the variety just decide thoughtfully with search in mind. When deciding on modifiers in your posts compete where you can with long tail keywords (Type of keyword phrase that has at least three and some times as many as five words in the phrase. Long tail keywords are used when the website wants to refine search terms to the web page, as well as when the searcher is looking for something rather specific.). Sometimes selecting just a slightly different word that has the same meaning and audience usage can provide you more visibility then being the smallest fish in a very popular search word pool.

3. URLs and Hashtags – Your domain name grabs points in search so while you want it to reflect your brand and company name, you also want it to gain some search weight. So discern during this selection of URL options. The .com’s extension still rank but by adding the .co’s and some other extensions you can amplify your rankings. But again, add them with consideration to your audience in relevancy. These domains need to generate a real page with content/information that supports that URL not end up on some unsupported blind page.

Hashtags add draw in many ways and can increase your friends/followers on social network s. Instagram does a really nice job of this, as well as the originator themselves, Twitter. So take it one step further, promote these hashtags on all your other media (ex: social networks – LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. and on your blogs, websites and print). Again be thoughtful on selecting these hashtags. What would my audience be searching for? What terms would they be using and please use their terms not your own! Not sure how your audience is searching then you need to do a bit of research before just firing one out there.

4. Unstructured Content (images, video and audio) – Here you can use Alt Tags for your unstructured content media. The bots can’t read the content so it queries it differently than the text data. Don’t just put a list of keywords in even though it may seem like relevant words rather define the media with a sentence using very clear descriptive words on what the image, video or audio is about. Keywords will penalize you even though you intended it to be a genuine explanation for your audience. Keep all this material ‘shareable’ by adding plugins and already built-in options to share it on other channels. You can also make sure you ‘watermark’ (mark showing contact info of some sort) your images with your logo mark, Twitter handle, or URL. Keep this contained somewhere in the main section of the material not on the edge where it can easily be cropped out. The more viral share you get on this, the more your searchability stays intact!

5. Search Measurement Analytics – With all this research, thoughtful selection of modifiers, and relevant content work you have supplied would it make sense to not measure your results? And then what? How can you now reapply this found insight into your continued strategy? It is a must and don’t think that this part is easy. It is the hardest part but the most worthwhile. Search is an ongoing process that must constantly be refined. Also, it can become more and more specific based on the criteria you are measuring.

There is the top level view of clickstream analytics in reporting the results of how much traffic is coming in on which pages, how long they stay there and how many pages they have traveled to. Then you can move into specific IP addresses and follow purchase patterns and how the user navigated the site, where they linked to, what they were interested in and for how long. Sessionization will show you when they departed the site and when then returned. You have the ability to mine users for behaviors and social network effectiveness. Create scalable data queries that look into strictly behavior analytics. Customer patterns galore! Google Analytics does a nice job of generating decent reports and it’s free. If you are looking for more in depth analysis with some customized solutions then there are other analytics software out there from which you can choose.

In the end with the introduction of Penguin and Panda we no longer are trying to ‘beat the system’, though in effect I suppose we are always looking to get the best results. What becomes the driver is the relevancy of your content throughout every element you place on your site, your blog posts and your social networks.

Genuine content that makes complete and perfect sense to your audience is where it is at. I would love to fill this whole page up with nifty ‘tricks’ on how to circumvent that but it would help you not. Don’t we all want to provide the information that best educates, enlightens and motivates our readers to actually do something? So stop the keyword embedding you will be penalized. Write short relevant copy that describes concisely and overall use your BEST content and not manipulate the system!
… so now what? You’re ‘good-to-go’ right? Not so fast rabbit.

Continued Online Growth is next because it just “never stops” and neither should YOU!

5 Touch Points of Engagement: Not in ‘Likeness’ But in Diversity

VISIBILITY: Part 2 – Engagement

Audience ‘engagement’ … what is the first image that comes to your mind? Is it communication, a connection, or a conversation? The actual definition is “The act of engaging or the state of being engaged.” where the word ‘engaged’ means, 1. Employed, occupied, or busy.  2. Committed, as to a cause.

Often our actual definition of a word is rather different than our perception of a word. Let’s call this a great likeness but with vast diversity in actual meaning. I find engagement in our marketing spheres very similar. We see that it is more of an interchange either by content, visual or another communication vehicle that not only connects another with the message and story but propels that individual to respond. This is the engagement I am referring to!

In my last SteamFeed post, I presented the first step [Part 1] in visibility which is developing your Web Presence [Web Presence and Visibility:  Duende “Having Soul”]. Step two of building visibility is to consider your engagement within your marketing sphere and how to effectively interact.

photo: <a href="http://engagemarketingdesign.com/">Engage Marketing Design</a>

Engagement – The 5 Touch Points:

1. Website –  Engagement on your site is creating a correspondence with your audience. Create opportunities for them by offering a two-way experience. Perhaps provide a customizing process with a product or service and allow engagement via commenting to posts or by initiating ‘likes’ or ‘dislikes’ to an idea or option. The connection with ‘likeness’ is important but contemplate drawing out the diversity in your audience. We are more unique then we are similar and while your community has similar interests that lead them to this virtual location it is really important to allow some guided self-expression in this space or better yet encourage it!

a.       Add Widgets
b.      Add Functionality for “Real Time” Engagement
c.       Games
d.      Online Product Customization

2. Social Media Networks  –  Social Media is all about engagement but often we pursue the quick fix in our connections rather than working on the long haul in building valued relationships. It is an investment in others and taking time to learn about them in all aspects of their complex lives. It is more exploratory then reactionary and if you are successful in social media you know exactly what I am referring to. The time spent behind the scenes really understanding their target audience is far greater than their time in actual conversation with them. We need to understand more about the targeted individual and the diversities which they are made up of. Focus on the criteria to help you narrow down that audience and relate with more resonance.

a.       Who is Your Audience
b.      Purpose for Engaging
c.       Tone & Perspective
d.      Offering Consistent Valuable Content

3. Mobile –  Connecting with people in ‘real time’ or while on-the-go, where you happen to be at a certain moment, is effective in your engagement marketing. Instagram and other powerful visual apps downloaded to your smartphone can share your particular activity while also adding impressionable visual data for your audience. This builds a sense of personal connection with your relationships. You can include multiple texting solutions by attaching valued quick video clips (use Android’s Movie Studio App to even apply still images with your content stream) or adding a YouTube channel link as possible solutions with your texting options. The engagement is not a list of numbers (how often and how many) but purposeful understanding of building visibility and relationships within your space while consistently and frequently providing a clear branded message surrounded by fresh content.

a.       Location based ‘check-ins’
b.      Image Sharing
c.       Audio and Video Sharing
d.      Social Media and Mobile Apps

4. Email  –  Email allows you to become even more personal in your engagement and the better you are at delivering this personal message the more desirable. Gone are the days of spam and no one ever wanted it to begin with but it was so new it was somewhat tolerated. Nothing with that hint of flavor is tolerated today. Segment your lists wisely and provide valuable and acceptable content to your recipient. Consider what might be a great follow up to a product already purchased and categorize the audience within those segments. Or discover why they have not ordered in a while by giving them an opportunity with simplistic effort to reply. Gather the info and send a follow up offer with a preferred personalized message. We are always allowing for opting in and not force sales. This can also become a great way to introduce your social networks via some very individualized and compelling email campaigns.

a.       Make it personal
b.      Segment Lists to Define Response
c.       Survey & Assess
d.      Socialize Your Email

5. Print  –  Now how did this get in here? No, it belongs here and this is why. Print is a sensory piece and we need to touch things physically to completely connect with it. Virtual is all well and good but you need a bit of the tangible to complete the circle of engagement. So be specific in your selection of print. It could be that VIP card sent after being selected as a customer hero of the month or it can be a tear card with a premium promotional offer that brings that customer into your physical retail establishment. Create stories on your print pieces and add instruction on how to download custom apps that will drive your customers further down this amazing product/service journey. Print being the conduit to their smartphones. You’re only limited by your creativity here. But keep it connected to your audience with use of color, size, shape, style and even the material it is printed on. Each one of those communicates conceptual information to the mind of your audience separately.

a.       Quick Response Codes (QR code)
b.      Invitation to Download Apps
c.       Call-To-Action Incentives (bring to store to redeem)
d.      Keep Very Sensory Oriented (fuzzy, scratch, scented, etc.)

By far this is just the tip of the iceberg in engagement and I could probably just continue to contribute posts just on this subject alone for quite some time before it became exhausted.  In effect it is a very critical one in how we market today and how people have now become accustomed to purchase.

We should be wary of this one tendency to focus on our ‘likeness’ in this engagement and I find that an obstacle in this powerful tool. Since the very nature of us is our diversities and uniqueness that make those engagements so meaningful. I would focus on building your communities with their similarities so that there are unified interests but encouraging that community to express their diversities in their response and reaction since this brings us closer to what we are truly searching for. The answers outside of ourselves, the answer that more often than not someone else can offer!

… Which then directs us to VISIBILITY: Part 3 – Search

Web Presence and Visibility: Duende “Having Soul”

VISIBILITY: Part 1 – Web Presence

“What is a website?” We can all agree that very few people are running around asking this today? It has become an essential component to our business plan but not so far back there were discussions as to what the World Wide Web was and if it was even possible to use it as an effective tool for our marketing (sound familiar?). Things seem to need to be validated through time and a process to become mainstream but some know right from the onset that certain medias are powerful and they have that insight into directing a successful strategy. Web presence is critical in your strategy but what that presence should reflect is often a mystery.

In prior SteamFeed posts I have discussed the overall different facets that comprise your marketing strategy [Shaping Your Branded Sphere], and solutions on building it out from the branding foundation, [Brand Strategy and Development: Yes You Have Homework!]. The next step is to consider your visibility within your marketing sphere and how that brand should translate effectively in that environment.

Three main aspects of this visibility encompass: Web Presence (part 1), Engagement (part 2) and Search (part 3). Let’s focus first on Web Presence, since this is really the first step that should be undertaken after you mastered your brand development and strategy.

The Web Presence Helix – 5 Effective Elements:

1. Brand Positioning on Your Site – Implementing a strong branded image, message and storyline to your website is singularly the most key part of the process you should consider. This includes placement, location and consistency of the brand within the site. Plus how all the other images, content and functionality support this development and strategy. How your audience connects and the experience they have when they interact on the site. It needs to promote your target audience’s attitude or influence with the brand. They need to become connected with the story the brand is sharing on the site. The preferred word here is ‘sharing’. If you are creating the site to push it out to your audience you can basically guarantee the same response back. Remember the old story of the battle between the sun and the wind and the man with the overcoat. The wind boasted it could get the man to remove his jacket by force and challenged the sun. The man only closed his jacket tighter with every forceful gust from the wind while the sun emitted its rays to allow the man to remove his jacket on his own. Just remember to apply this same methodology of audience partnership with your brand on your site. After all it is the customer’s experience, not yours.

2. Intuitive Over Design – I know many fantastic designers who in their effort to create phenomenal design work just completely lost the audience. Very often fantastic design choices have to be overruled because the audience would not be able to follow. You want them to follow and better yet to lead. Create the navigation the way they would intuitively use it. Don’t make your audience have to think. Don’t decide to trail blaze by being cleaver here, either. Be cleaver where it counts. Be cleaver in how you deliver the solutions to your audience’s pain by bringing awareness to product(s) or service(s). Structure should be simple and a site needs to reflect simplicity as well. Your audience whether they are saying it out loud or not wants ‘what they want, where they want it’. Please stop trying to make them jump over hurdles to get it. If they expect a tire swing don’t pretend that consistently offering them a tree house makes it better. Give them what they want in simple means. Color supports the brand development and strategy not the other way around. Images support the customer’s needs not the company’s needs. The key element in this category is “direct me” (the customer) simply where I need to go (your call-to-action) and remove the hurdles. I rather see a very simple site than one all dressed up with bells and whistles that just flat out frustrates the customer.

3. Content Where Your Audience Wants It – People don’t read! Yes I said it and I mean it. Oh sure we all say we read but what we really mean is we only read what we are interested in and at the exact moment we have the attention to read it. Keeping that in mind don’t write something ad nauseam and expect your audience has the staying power to get through it. They have to have the time, interest and focus to get through it so make it digestible. Dice it up in mini content pieces based on your target audience’s tolerances. This holds true for all industries, for example, if you are creating a site for NASA astronauts perhaps a more in-depth content scope is called for but even then be considerate of your reader. If they are researching the outer limits of a new galaxy don’t have them read the doctorial input from some other category that has little relevancy to the information they are after. You may offer parallel material as it becomes relevant but offer it as a side navigation or brief call-to-action link without impeding their journey to the material they are after.

4. Location, Location, Location – True in real estate and even the high premium real estate (layout) on your site. Where does the brand logo go? Where should I place the opt-in field (newsletter/email sign-up) and where do those social media network links belong? These all have designated areas and real estate being what it is should feature each one contained within “hotspots” on your site. Can you deviate? Sure you can but why are you? Are you affording your audience a better option based on a marketing strategy? Or do you just want a more pleasing design layout. Location trumps all aspects of the other elements listed above, believe it or not and many studies have been done to prove this. Just by reviewing search engine optimization statistics you can see how much location really does matter. So here are the big ones to consider:

    a. Brand mark in the top header portion of the site preferably but not exclusively to the left-hand side.
    b. Opt-in field preferably positioned in the top right-hand side of the site. It can also be added just above the header for differentiation.
    c. Social media network links close to and if possible under the opt-in field. This would be within the top right-hand side of the site as well.
    d. Engagement content (tagline, messaging and transition slides or static support images) below brand mark and reading from left to right. It is not effective forcing the opposite direction (right to left) just to say you made an impact. Giving a negative impact is not supportive impact.

5. Adding “Duende”- This is the part that most sites leave out. They have the technical end structured well and the simplicity of the site with carefully thought out content but they forget the “duende”! What is “duende”? Just as it was mentioned in the title, it is in essence ‘having soul’, a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity. It is that element that grabs you and yet you really can’t put your finger on it but you know you just experienced something special. This is the creative piece, the one that needs to start on the landing page and be consistently threaded throughout the site. It does not need to hit you over the head. It needs to be somewhat subtle but strongly presented. It can be represented as imagery, messaging or a tagline. It usually stems from your brand strategy and development, so look to that first. This is where those design types can get crazy with their creative on the site. What is the audience looking to emotionally connect with? How do they feel when they experience it? How do they believe it values them? The bigger brands get it when executing in their other marketing channels but not always on their site. They are so focused on functionality they miss adding in that “duende” experience. Functionality is important, simplicity is effective but having soul brings it to a whole other level.

Web Presence is by far the one task item you must have on your list of marketing objectives. Let’s direct our intentions to reflect that human component and keep it part of the equation, our website DNA so to speak. Build upon each element to create a fruitful web presence that builds visibility for your brand. While remembering that soul always captures engagement and with that admission, “duende” soul connects us to each other!

… Which leads us to VISIBILITY: Part 2 – Engagement

Marketing Humility: What is Needed, Not What YOU Want

Well, this is not the post I was planning on in my editorial calendar. And yes I like to have a thematic calendar of posts I am planning ahead of time. It can be very beneficial in strategically tying into other efforts to help make all marketing streams generate the most impact and the right outcome.

The post I had on my calendar was going to follow the theme of my initial Steamfeed post [Shaping Your Branded Sphere]. The second post was featuring information on branding the foundation to your marketing facets with a little caveat of homework, [Brand Strategy and Development: Yes You Have Homework!]. Did you do your homework by the way? ;-)

In any regards this post seems to be more in the forefront of what I am currently working with and felt it could be helpful to some of you in your own efforts in pulling together marketing strategies for your clients.

Now to suggest that marketing has any humility would most likely be inaccurate, but truthfully, when crafted correctly, the best strategy is laid down with complete humility.  The humility is selecting the best channels for your client that gets them the results they need to move forward. Let’s review humility for a moment so that we really have it well defined in our minds.

[Humility (adjectival formhumble) is the quality of being modest and respectful. Humility, in various interpretations, is widely seen as a virtue in many religious and philosophical traditions, being connected with notions of egolessness.*]

When a client asks us to create a creative strategy for their product or service how do we start to formulate this plan?  Do we pick our old standbys, our tried and true methods we have used countless times because we know how they operate, function and their predicted outcome?  Or do we decide on the buzz-worthy, trendy new channels to grab that ‘wow’ factor and be able to include that into our repertoire for our other clients?  Here are three steps to keep your marketing strategy humble:

3 Steps [down] to Keep Your Strategy Humble:

  1. The best choice is the one that works – Where is your audience most likely to gain visibility or traction from the positioning of your messaging? How is the message delivered in that environment and directing that audience to what they need or want? Don’t go for the ‘big bang’ theory just because the entire entourage is on that path. Make it make sense and IT will!
  2. Bigger is not Better – So you have a new pony and it is doing some tricks! Those tricks are not necessarily giving your client what they need …. Sales!  More income and larger reach. Your client may just need a great ‘cardboard box’ … give it to them!
  3. It was never about YOU – Think and rethink what kind of strategic program you have put together for your client. Their customers’ needs and dynamic have to be considered here too.  It was never about how you felt or your grandiose scheme of being a big cheese on the block. Cut back that ego and see where you can perform better for your client in a much less pricey vehicle. Go for the low hanging fruit first!

So in general sometimes the strategy you think you are going to deliver is not actually the strategy that is needed. Clean off the fluff and trendy flashy methods that get a lot of hoo-ha-ha but hardly any real results (revenue).  In the end it is the trail of dollars that your clients find drifting into their bank accounts that puts the smile on their faces and not how razzle-dazzle YOU can be!

[Oh, so what was my original post? Web Presence and Visibility - Duende, check back here the beginning of November for that post and as always I appreciate you!]

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humility

 

Shaping Your Branded Sphere

5 Facets in Your Marketing

We all see in our own lives a sphere of influence that we have in our small interpersonal relationships. Is this not the case for our brands within our marketplace sphere? The connection between different channels of communication, visual data/input and tone/messaging creates a unique shape of who we are. This differentiated shape becomes that understandable piece to those around us. Who, what and how we are. If you look at science and mathematics you will see that shapes, whether tangible or intangible, scatter that landscape. They depict outcomes, journeys and predictions. Looking at a branded company as a similar entity we can see that there are parallel patterns. The shapes have facets that require each plane to support its adjacent plane in order to exist in the space cohesively, balanced and effective. What are these facets?

Branded Sphere

Photo: Engage

5 Facets of Your Company Brand:

                        1. Branding
                        2. Web Presence
                        3. Engagement
                        4. Search
                        5. Online Marketing

Each one of these facets must be developed with equal focus and consideration within the marketplace sphere in order to maintain an order and balance. One outstepping the other will cause the outcome to falter, creating imbalance and expended energy putting out fires along that path. We don’t always see this as we start to execute within a specific media. We become stuck sometimes within one arena we are more comfortable in or would prefer to spend our time in and perhaps disregard the other facets as less important or procrastinate in attending to them. In this circumstance the shape of your marketing objective becomes off balance and off the mark. The marketing sphere (your audience) will still digest the message and the content but the result will be less than effective with marginal results.

How can we keep the shape of our marketing efforts balanced?

  1. Start with a strong brand foundation – Align your Messaging with your audience’s needs and expectations. The visuals providing that emotional connection that delivers a clear message and the cultural or lifestyle perception of the brand to be consistent with what the audience believes the product/service will offer.
  2.  Build it into your web presence – Your brand now has a voice and can tell a more detailed story of what the customer/client is going to receive with as much valuable content that is necessary without (and this is important) overwhelming them.
  3.  Engagement needs to be a two way street – Dialogue needs to happen and don’t expect to blurt your material all over your customer/client. Allow them to be first engaged in the subject (paint them ‘their’ picture) and be able to add in their own content where admissible while keeping from adding any of YOUR ‘seagulls’ into their picture. Giving your audience some say in your brand within guided parameters gives them power (and you growth)!
  4. Search and be found – If your customer/client is looking for ‘stoves’ please don’t try to sell them ‘range tops’. Not everyone understands your underground jargon or will adopt it so please be thoughtful to your audience in providing the right search criteria that suits them rather than your internal ‘tech’ department manuscript.
  5. Online never stops – So you have each facet working, now keep the plates spinning. It might be a push on your brand plate or a tap on your engagement but each facet has to maintain in continuous motion and harmony. Take that step back to review each one in unison in its entire form. The branded shape needs to allow for ongoing input to keep it fresh and have a measurement for it. Guessing is just that … guessing.

So how is your shape faring? Is your polygon (polyhedron) wobbling at the moment? Check and see which facet you are not attending to or perhaps lacking completely. Then make adjustments to keep the shape of the company brand expanding and sustainable. The best part of evaluating your brand is that you can always re-hone your branded presence to get the perfect balance for success!