What catches your attention?
The business of answering that question attracts hundreds of billions of dollars every year. As long as there have been things to buy, there’s been a market for human attention.
Long ago, capitalizing on human attention consisted of little more than the call of a street vendor over the din of a crowded village market.
Much later, the first one cent copies of The Sun hit the streets of New York, inspired by the realization of its editor that it was much more valuable to sell each reader’s attention to advertisers than to make money off newspaper sales directly.
Today, that concept has been taken to an extreme. Thousands of algorithms on millions of servers auction off your every click and tap, anticipating which emails you’ll open, which search results you’ll read, even how your eye might dart around the page.
Google and Facebook rely almost exclusively on directly reselling human attention. Machines are starting to help optimize email subject lines and article titles based on what might catch your eye. The playbook is simple: attract human attention with cheap or free stuff — cheap newspapers, Google search, interesting reading material — and optionally resell that attention to the highest bidder.
Where are we headed? In the face of this transformation, what can we expect? Answering these questions is hard. To go any further, it’s important to understand how attention works.
Your attention is like a spotlight cast on a stage. You’re the spotlight operator. You can point the spotlight at specific things on stage, but you can’t control what actually appears on the stage.
The stage is your awareness, and it contains the sum total of information accessible to your mind at this moment. That includes the words on your screen, the sensation of pressure from your chair, and background noises in your environment, as well as the never-ending stream of random thoughts that pop up in your head.
As you read this, you are volitionally casting your spotlight on the words you’re reading. You’ll keep this up for a little while, but inevitably, the spotlight will move without your permission, attracted by an unexpected noise behind you, or someone walking into your field of view, or a stray thought about what you want for lunch.
This is the nature of attention. It darts around, scanning continuously for what’s interesting. This was an invaluable benefit in our ancestral environment. It was rare we might need to focus on one thing for more than a few moments at a time, but essential not to miss that snarling predator lurking in the bush.
As a result, if you try really hard to pay attention to only one thing, you’ll quickly find your attention elsewhere. In fact, usually, your brain decides to change the subject of your attention without your conscious input, much less your permission. You might have already drifted off into a different thought a few times as you read this. Your brain expects a little hit of feel-good neurotransmitter every time your attention jumps to something interesting. Novelty feels good.
This is precisely what makes it hard to reliably capture people’s attention. Generally, people themselves don’t understand what catches their attention or why. Most shifts in attention are unconscious, so it’s impossible for people to articulate why their attention does what it does. They only notice what it does after it has happened. Certain colors of call-to-action buttons work better on a landing page than others not due to any conscious decision by anyone, but due to the unconscious preferences of billions of brains.
Certainly, there are some things that work very well on all of us: bright colors, flashing objects, and attractive scantily clad people are all widely used to great effect. For a new parent, there’s nothing better than an iPad to quell a tantrum from a cranky toddler, and that’s because looking at colorful moving images feels good.
But beyond the obvious, the target of your attention is largely determined by neural mechanisms cultivated over decades of interacting with the world and anticipating the reward from different stimuli. Your brain is constantly moving about the spotlight of attention on the lookout for potential sources of pleasure and pain.
The best approach we’ve developed for understanding what captures people’s attention is empirical. We record as much as we can about what’s in their awareness — or what’s on stage. We then try to record where the spotlight is cast — by recording a clicked link or opened email. Then, we look for patterns.
Each of those components is going to evolve dramatically over the next few years. The environments where we spend our time increasingly facilitate data collection. Algorithms for working with language, audio, and video are rapidly becoming more sophisticated. Hardware and cloud service improvements are accelerating research and discovery in artificial intelligence. There are several implications:
Eye-tracking has long been used in psychology, marketing, and consumer research, in both academia and business. It works great for studying cognitive development in infants and can even be used to A/B test their preferences.
Shops already use realtime facial expression APIs to track ad viewers’ age, gender, mood, and interest level. Google’s Project Soli is a miniature solid state radar that can detect the movement of your hand and other objects near your phone. We appear comfortable with inviting Amazon Echo’s Orwellian always-on microphone into our homes.
How long before we see Amazon announce Prime Plus, requesting permission to occasionally activate your front-facing camera, Echo microphone, and motion tracker in exchange for free 30-minute drone delivery?
Attention is zero-sum, because every click your competitor gains, you lose. This accelerates competition. That’s why your email inbox is a battleground of people vying for your attention. So is the results page for every Google search. This will be increasingly true of everywhere you spend your attention.
Screens are everywhere. Not only did our glossy paranormal hand rectangles become globally ubiquitous in just 10 years, they’ve fundamentally transformed how humans interact with the world. While technology often advances unpredictably, screens are probably likely to persist for a while. That’s because out of the five senses you have — the five ways of putting information into awareness — vision has the highest throughput to the brain. We are multiple breakthroughs away from anything faster.
The $100 billion video game industry continues to boom. Games will become dramatically more immersive as virtual and augmented reality go mainstream. People will routinely spend time in deep and engaging virtual environments with limitless content to explore and hundreds of millions of other real and simulated people to interact with. That could transform how we spend our leisure time, how we learn, and how we meet other people.
Think of “content” as all things that attract human attention that can be represented as data. That includes almost anything online that humans make, from blog posts and dance music to short stories, video game livestreams, entertaining social media posts, and more. The more quality content you can produce, the more attention you can scoop up, continuing to sate our limitless thirst for customization and novelty.
Machine vision, automatic speech recognition, and natural language processing have made tremendous advancements in the past five years. Algorithms can already generate extremely convincing content from scratch.
The next generation of photo and video editing tools will make it trivial to rewrite any record of reality, replacing pixels using algorithms that are aware of what they’re looking at.
Adobe claims to be working on a Photoshop for audio, making it easy to generate an audio clip of anybody’s voice saying anything at all.
Today, you can ask a neural network to hallucinate arbitrarily many images of bedrooms or cats or sailboats, most of which look real enough to fool people. Or you could use a neural network to create a language snippet to insert into an email by reading a company’s website.
Eventually, you might ask a machine to produce a fantasy novel. Say you theme it similar to Harry Potter … but with a Game of Thrones flair. And let’s maybe have the bad guy win this time.
This is a very a long way off, past multiple breakthroughs in semantics and discourse, but current techniques can already generalize well enough to spit out a cohesive and useful paragraph of text.
Machines will play a much bigger role in helping us produce the content that captures human attention. We’ll see a proliferation of collaborative agents in products that assist us in our workflows. Machines will suggest assets to include in the content you’re making, or subsets of content to include. Executive control will remain with creators, but the ideation and production process will become increasingly automated. Think Clippy the Microsoft Office Assistant, but with a much bigger brain.
Demonstrating that content was created by a human will become much harder. There’s no way you can imagine this article having been written by a machine, but one day, that won’t seem so ridiculous.
Machines are cheap, so as machines contribute more to creating content, the places where we consume content will be flooded. Early adopters of those techniques will benefits, but the late adopters will find that to stand out, they’ll have to produce content that is demonstrably beyond machines’ capabilities in an effort to keep attracting interest.
Work will become increasingly symbiotic. You’ll spend more of your time deciding among things and less collecting and preparing things. Machines will find relevant documents and emails, do Google searches in the background, and perform other functions that can be defined as a semi-structured set of tasks. As the deluge of content on our screens grows, tools will emerge to stem the flood.
Attention is an essential currency in the global transaction ecosystem. Understanding it is critical for anybody in sales and marketing. Despite the fact that attention is zero-sum in any given transaction, it’s important to remember that the pie is growing dramatically.
Leisure time has grown by seven hours per week since the 1960s, and we will unlock much more free time as we shift toward self-driving vehicles. Economists from the National Bureau of Economic Research published a paper suggesting that high-quality video games are contributing to an increase in unemployment among young men.
Uber, Upwork, and Crowdflower support the emergence of a global market for part-time, on-demand work at a variety of price points. Y Combinator and Elon Musk are calling for a universal basic income plan.
To connect these dots, it’s not hard to imagine a future in which wealthy corporations and governments support a basic minimum wage, and in return, people spend their time and attention generating training data and validating models. It would generally be simple tasks, easily performed on a phone, and would involve only skills or data that machines don’t have yet.
Data on human attention exposes the unconscious information locked away in our minds. That information is valuable and important, because in the aggregate, it is an encoding of everything humans want — not just of our buying preferences and creature comforts, but also of our ethics and values as a species. We want machines to understand us, and monitoring human attention may be a good way to collect the necessary data.
With the curtain pulled back on how powerless we are to control our attention and how valuable it is to everyone, perhaps we’ll all find ourselves being a bit more careful with how we spend our attention.
Source: Hub Spot
Social media is one of the best ways to amplify your brand and the great content you’re creating. But it isn’t enough to just post content to social whenever you feel like it. Some times are better than others.
So, which one is best?
Unfortunately, there’s no perfect answer. Different businesses may find different days and times work best for them. In fact, timing often depends on the platform you’re using, how your target audience interacts with that platform, the regions and corresponding time zones you’re targeting, and your goals (e.g., clicks versus shares).
That said, there is ample data out there on the best times to post on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Earlier this year, the great folks at CoSchedule looked at a combination of its own original data and more than a dozen studies on this very topic — from the likes of Buffer and Quintly, just to name a couple — and compiled it into the infographic below.
Bookmark this post as a go-to set of guidelines, and refer to it next time you need to find the optimal posting times for your business.
With many businesses facing a growing global audience, varying time zones have become a growing concern, especially when it comes to the best times to post.
To start, let’s take a look at the U.S. About half of the country’s population is in the Eastern Time Zone, and combined with the Central Time Zone, that accounts for over 75% of the total U.S population.
Given that sizable share, if you’re targeting a U.S. audience, try alternating posting times in Eastern and Central Time Zones — we’ll get into those specific times in a bit.
If you’re targeting users outside of the U.S., conduct some research to find out where they live and which social media channels they’re using. That kind of data is available through studies like Smart Insights’ Global Social Media Research Summary, or We Are Social’s annual Digital Global Overview.
Instagram is meant for use on mobile devices. Half of its U.S. users use the app daily, though it would appear that many engage with content more during off-work hours than during the workday.
People log in to Facebook on both mobile devices and desktop computers, both at work and at home. How it’s used depends heavily on the audience.
Like Facebook, people use Twitter on both mobile devices and desktop computers, both at work and at home. How it’s used also depends heavily on audience — but people often treat it like an RSS feed, and something to read during down times like commutes, breaks, and so on.
Roughly 25% of U.S. adults use LinkedIn, largely for professional purposes, during weekdays and the work hours. It’s used with slighly less frequency than some of the other channels on this list, with more than half of users visiting less than once a week.
Aim to post toward the middle of the week, between Tuesday-Thursday.
When aiming for a high clickthrough rate, post on these days during times that correspond with the morning and evening commute — roughly 7:30-8:30 a.m. and 5-6 p.m. — as well as the lunch hour, around 12 p.m.
Some have also seen a positive performance on Tuesdays, between 10–11 a.m.
Pinterest users skew heavily female, and 25% of users are active on this channel daily.
People love to debate whether or not Google+ is a social media channel worth investing in — though according to my colleague Chris Wilson, some marketers have experienced success with it.
But if you’re going to use it, you might as well do so effectively — which includes posting at the optimal times.
There you have it, folks. Happy posting, tweeting, and pinning.
What days and times have proven to be the most successful for your business? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Source: Hub Spot
Welcome back. If you’re just tuning in, allow me to catch you up: This post is the second in a two-part series on our experiment to move gated offer content onto a site page, and test different conversion methods. If you missed Part I, check it out here.
Back in Part I, we saw significant increases in organic search traffic only on offers that already were performing well for search. Also, our Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) test failed. So in Part II, we turned our focus to running more CRO tests.
In order to avoid putting many more conversions at risk, we decided to test the offers we’d already experimented with to find a conversion method that worked well. We tested two of the three offers we experimented with in Part I, but this time, our approach was a bit different.
Let’s walk through what we did for Part II of our CRO Test, followed by the results of both tests.
In Part I, we hypothesized that by partially gating the content on our newly-created HTML offer pages, we could provide a better user experience and still generate leads from it.
Standing landing page/form
Partially un-gated offer/form
But in reality, page visitors:
So, we took each of these findings and used them build two tests within Part II of the experiment, each with its own sub-hypothesis, but a shared objective: to increase net submission and contact numbers, so that they’ll surpass those of the original landing pages pointing to gated PDFs.
Hypothesis: By hiding all of the written content behind a partial gate template — with the blur effect pictured below — readers arriving at the site through search will be intrigued enough by the topic to convert on the page.
Hypothesis: By setting the expectation of a gated offer early on — by using a form that looks and reads just like our normal landing pages, but opens into an HTML page upon form submission instead of an offer download — more people will fill out the form.
With conversion rates way down on our previous CRO tests, we thought to ourselves, “If we want to get our conversion rates back to their original levels, let’s make the landing page look like it usually does, but with the organic gains of having the offer content on the page itself.”
So, we pitched the idea of a brand new, gated template that looks and reads just like our regular landing pages, with one key difference: When the user clicks the form submission button, the page opens into an HTML page, instead of leading to a thank-you page with a PDF download button.
My colleague, Patrick Wilver, built this template for us. Here’s a GIF of the template in action:
You might be wondering, “But what about SEO? Can Google crawl and index that hidden content?”
The answer is a resounding, “Yes.”
While that HTML content exists behind a CSS layer initially blocked by the template, it turns out that Google is still able to successfully crawl and index it. Our theory was that, because Google has much more high-quality and optimized content to crawl on the landing page, organic traffic will still flow to the page. Plus, if you can increase organic traffic significantly to the landing page, while also retaining the high conversion rates of the original landing page design — jackpot.
The only other difference between this template and our normal landing pages is that this one uses a shorter version of our typical landing page lead generation form, requiring less information and investment from the user.
While the submission rates for this variation were still much lower than those of the original landing page, they were slightly higher than those of our CRO tests from Part I. So when push comes to shove, it seems, the partially-gated template is simply not effective for lead generation.
It was time to move onto Test #2.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner.
Using the new un-gated template, the two offers we tested both achieved significant increases in net organic submissions and contacts, compared with the original landing pages.
In other words: The landing-page-style gated template is an effective one for lead generation.
By lifting conversions to their original rates — or better — while simultaneously getting that boost in organic traffic from the crawlable offer content, both offers achieved significant increases in net organic submissions and contacts.
We know that the offer content lives behind a layer of CSS, which blocks it from being shown to the user, but still makes it crawlable by search engines like Google. That’s clever and all, but as with every decision we make here at HubSpot, we had to ask: “Is this the right thing to do?”
We’ve mulled over this question, and we think the answer is, “Yes — it’s okay.” Here’s why.
There’s a black-hat SEO tactic that comes to mind here called “cloaking” — which refers to methods of manipulating SERP ranking, like hiding content written in white text with a white background, or serving different content to search engines than you do to your users.
But the key difference between cloaking and what we’re doing is that, once users actually open the gate, they seeing the exact same content the search engines see.
When you have a business need, we don’t discourage gating content — but we strongly advise against hiding in the ways we described above. However, content can still be gated in a way that provides a better user experience, which was part of the impetus behind this experiment.
As web usage has shifted toward mobile, expandable and hidden content has become more acceptable. With more people searching on mobile devices than they do on desktops, Google has had to adjust its algorithm to accommodate the fact that mobile design actually favors hidden content. Better web designers hide content on mobile pages because it makes them look cleaner, and avoids bombarding visitors with masses of text, so that it’s easier for them to find what they’re looking for.
For that reason, if Google were to penalize hidden content, they’d effectively be penalizing mobile. But if, somewhere down the line, Google decides to stop indexing the content on these pages, that would call for a modified template design.
In Part I, we learned — much to our chagrin — that we could increase organic traffic by putting offer content onto an HTML site page only for offers that were already receiving strong search traffic. That reinforces to the idea of historical optimization: If a page already performs well in organic traffic each month, and you increase the depth of that content and optimize it even further for search, then odds are, you’re going to see outside returns.
For that reason, we recommend focusing on transferring only the offers from PDF > HTML that are already generating high organic traffic, and have pre-existing search authority. To begin prioritizing, try pulling a list of your most popular offers, and rank them by organic traffic.
In the meantime, we’ll continue putting our findings into practice, and will keep you posted on anything valuable that we discover along the way.
Have you ever conducted similar tests? Comment below with your best experiment — and hey, we might even feature it on our blog.
Source: Hub Spot
To say marketing automation is a complex subject is putting it mildly. On the surface it seems simple enough, but once you get just a little bit deeper into it, it’s overwhelming. Even if you work with marketing automation on a daily basis, it can be hard to describe.
When used correctly, marketing automation can be useful in helping sales and marketing teams do their jobs more effectively so they can reach their goals. But there are also a lot of misunderstandings about what marketing automation is and isn’t. Let’s try to get a better understanding of what marketing automation is and how it can potentially help a business.
Marketing automation is the use of software to deliver personalized messages to customers and leads. The software allows you to create a dynamic series of messages to send to your contacts. The message a person receives is decided by factors you specify, like what their spending habits are, where they are in the buying process, and past interactions they’ve had with your site.
Delivering content that’s tailored to a person’s needs and interests helps build stronger relationships which, in turn, can help increase conversions and revenue. Marketing automation can help you accomplish all these things while streamlining your operations at the same time.
In the broad scope of things, marketing automation incorporates several different aspects of marketing and business development, including email marketing, content development, conversion rate optimization, and lead generation.
By far, one of the biggest benefits of marketing automation is that it helps sales and marketing teams work more efficiently. People love personalized content; sending out personalized emails generates six times more revenue than sending non-personalized emails. But manually sending out customized messages to contacts simply isn’t practical. Marketing automation platforms handle the mundane and repetitive work that goes into delivering personalized content, giving sales and marketing professionals more time to focus on things that are more interesting and challenging.
Not only does marketing automation make it easier to deliver messages, it makes it easier to figure out where people are in the conversion process. Marketing automation programs typically have a lead scoring feature which helps users quickly identify which leads are the most sales-ready.
One of the most common reasons why businesses consider using marketing automation in the first place is because they want to improve their conversion rates and revenues. Marketing automation is a way to encourage customers to stay engaged longer, making it more likely they’ll stick around long enough to convert. On average, companies that use marketing automation have 53% higher conversion rates and an annual revenue growth rate 3.1% higher compared to companies that don’t.
For products and services with longer conversion cycles, marketing automation can also help speed up the process. In one example cited by VentureHarbour, Thomson Reuters was able to reduce their conversion time by 72% by using marketing automation software.
While marketing automation has several different applications, email messaging and lead generation/nurturing are among the most common.
Yes, email is still relevant as a marketing tool. While it’s easy to say things like “Everybody’s on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram,” it’s simply not true. However, most Internet users do have at least one email address. Email inboxes also tend to move at a slower pace than social media feeds, giving you the best chance at making a direct connection with your contacts. There’s a multitude of ways marketing automation can be used with email:
And that’s just to name a few.
Many companies use marketing automation to solicit feedback from their contacts, regardless if they’ve converted or not. Whether it’s by sending out surveys or asking people to send comments directly to them, the information they garner can be extremely valuable in guiding changes that will help improve their revenues in the long run.
Given that personalized emails generate so much more revenue than non-personalized emails, marketing automation can be an effective way to nurture your leads. According to Marketo, about 50% of leads in any system are not ready to buy and nearly 80% of all new leads will never become sales. With marketing automation, the goal is to give people something of value when they need it most so that they’re more likely to convert. Effective lead nurturing generates 50% more sales-ready leads at a 33% lower cost. Nurtured leads also tend to make larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.
Marketing automation platforms are also often commonly used to manage social media campaigns, create landing pages, and conduct ongoing A/B testing.
Businesses of all sizes can potentially benefit from marketing automation, but whether a business has a B2B or B2C model is going to have an impact on the type of messaging used in their campaigns. While both types of businesses would have the main goals of improving conversions and revenue, there are differences in how they’ll reach that goal.
B2B sales tend to have longer conversion cycles than B2C sales and often involve products or services that require a more long-term commitment. (Of course, there are some exceptions.) Because of this, B2B messaging has a greater emphasis on long-form content like whitepapers, case studies, and e-books. When major purchases are being considered for a business, multiple people are often involved in the decision-making process, so it’s not always a matter of winning over one person like it is with B2C sales. It’s important for the business with something to sell to establish themselves as an authority in their industry — offering in-depth informational content is a great way to do that.
Since B2C sales move at a faster pace, the content used in their messaging is typically much simpler. For example, Sephora customers aren’t going to be interested in long case studies about a product, but they might appreciate a 30-second video demonstrating how to use a product instead. For B2C companies, the focus tends to be more on brand building and giving customers reasons to come back, so their messaging typically includes things like abandoned shopping cart reminders, personalized product recommendations, and offers tailored to specific types of customers.
Although many different aspects of marketing and business development come together in marketing automation, the whole process is ultimately driven by a few core concepts.
A conversion funnel is the process a person takes toward becoming a customer. Now that it’s so easy to find product reviews and shop around, a lot of people don’t just buy things from the first place they see it for sale. Marketing automation is a way to keep people engaged so they’re more likely to convert.
The conversion funnel can be broken down into a few basic stages:
Ideally, after a person converts once, they’ll be so happy with their decision that they become a repeat customer. But as people move through the conversion funnel, whether they do it once or several times, some of them will always drop out at each level. On average, only 1–5 % of people who enter a conversion funnel actually convert. When people drop out, it’s known as churn, and while some churn is inevitable, marketing automation can help reduce it. By understanding the needs and interests of people at each stage of the conversion funnel, you’re better able to keep them engaged by providing them with the type of content they’re most interested in.
For example, let’s say a company installs vinyl windows and they advertise heavily in the local media. At any given time, a large percentage of the thousands of people who see their ads won’t take any action after seeing one because they either don’t need new windows or because they live in a rental property. No amount of additional messaging will win those people over. But since replacing windows can be very expensive, the people who actually do need them typically spend time doing research to make sure they choose the right type of window and get the best price. If this company were to send additional information about vinyl windows to the people who contact them to get an estimate, they may be able to convince more people to convert.
One of the basic laws of physics is that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. A very similar concept also applies in the world of marketing automation, and it’s known as a feedback loop. When you send a message to a person, the recipient will have some kind of reaction to it, even if that reaction is to do nothing at all. That reaction is part of your feedback loop and you’ll need to pay attention to your metrics to get an idea of what those reactions are.
Feedback loops and metrics are a reflection of how effective your marketing automation strategy is. Whether a person converts, clicks through to your site, ignores the message, flags it as spam, or unsubscribes from your list, that tells you something about how the recipient felt about your message.
When you look at your metrics, you’ll ideally want to see high open rates, clickthrough rates, and maybe even some forwards, since those are signs your content is engaging, valuable, and not annoying to your contacts. Some unsubscribes and abuse reports are inevitable, especially since a lot of people get confused about the difference between the two. But don’t ignore those metrics just because they’re not what you want to see. An increasing number of either could be a sign your strategy is too aggressive and needs to be reworked.
While conversion funnels refer to the process taken toward converting, user flow refers to the series of pages a person visits before taking an action.
When you have traffic coming to your site from different sources like PPC ads, social media, and email messages, you want to direct users to pages that will make it easy for them to take the action you want them to take, whether it’s buying something, signing up for a free trial, or joining an email list.
You also have to keep in mind that people often have different needs depending on how they arrive at a page, so you’ll want to do your best to make sure people are being taken to a page that would appeal to them. For example, if a person is directly taken to a product page after doing a search for a long-tail keyword, that’s fine since they’re clearly looking for something specific and are more likely to be ready to convert. But someone who clicks on a PPC ad and fills out a form on a landing page is probably going to want more information before they make any decisions, so it’s not time to give them a hard sell.
Workflows are where the automation part of marketing automation comes into play. Your workflow is the series of triggers you create to deliver messages. Creating a workflow involves taking yourself through the entire process and asking yourself, “If this happens, what should happen next?”
Workflows can consist of many different triggers, such as how long it’s been since a person has taken an action, interactions you’ve had with a person, or actions they’ve previously taken on your site. Some types of workflows commonly used by retailers include sending discount codes to customers who haven’t made any purchases in a while, reminding people to review products after they’ve had some time to enjoy their purchase, and sending reminders to people who have recently added items to their cart without actually making a purchase.
This might seem like an obvious point to make, but before you do anything else, you need to decide exactly what you want marketing automation to help you achieve so you can plan your strategy accordingly. Are you trying to generate more leads? Working to build up business from return customers? Trying to boost sales during an off season? Each of those goals is going to require a different strategy, so it’s important to understand exactly what your main objectives are.
Of course it’s important to understand the needs of your customers at all points of the conversion process. But depending on what your main goals are, your time and energy may be best spent focusing on people who are at a specific point of the process. For instance, if you’re not really having a problem with lead generation but you want more people to convert, your time and energy would be better spent focusing on the middle and lower parts of the conversion funnel.
By using marketing automation, you’re trying to get people to take some kind of action. Mapping user flow is a way to visualize the steps people need to go through to be able to take that action.
Depending on the way a person arrives at your site, some people might need more information than others before they’re willing to take that action. You don’t want to make people go through more steps than are necessary to do something, but you don’t want to hit people with a hard sell too soon, either. By using state diagrams to map user flows, as recommended by Peep Laja of ConversionXL, you’ll see exactly how people are arriving at a page and how many steps it takes for them to take the desired action.
It’s important to remember that not all leads are necessarily equal in terms of quality. Your database of contacts is inevitably going to be a mix of people who are on the verge of buying, people who are still researching their options, and people who probably won’t convert, so it’s not possible to create broad messages that will somehow appeal to all of those types of people. Rating your leads helps you figure out exactly who needs further nurturing and who is ready to be handed over to a sales team.
The interactions a person has had with your content and the actions they’ve taken on your site can be a reflection of how ready they are to convert. A person who has viewed a pricing page is most likely going to be closer to buying than someone who has simply read a blog post on a site. A person who has visited a site multiple times over the course of a few weeks is clearly more interested than someone who has only visited once or twice in the past year. Marketing automation software lets you assign values to certain actions and interactions so that it can calculate a score for that lead.
Marketing automation also lets you segment your database of contacts to a very high degree so you can deliver messages to very specific types of people. For example, when working with a B2B business, a marketer might want to target messages to people with certain job titles who work at businesses of a certain size. With B2C sales, a retailer might want to segment their lists to give special offers to people who have spent a certain amount of money with the company or send product recommendations to people who live in certain locations.
There’s no easy way around it: Building a high-quality database of contacts takes time. Marketing automation should come into play once you already have a fairly sizeable database of contacts to work with, but you will need to keep adding new names to that database on a regular basis.
One of the most effective ways to build a database of highly qualified contacts is by creating informative content. Blog content is great for providing high-level information, and it helps businesses build trust and establish themselves as an authority in their field. On the other hand, things like whitepapers and e-books are best for attracting people who want more in-depth information on a subject and are more inclined to be interested in what a business is offering, which is why those types of content are usually gated. With gated content, a person’s contact information is essentially the price of accessing the content.
For businesses that offer a service, free trials are an excellent way to get contact information since the people who sign up for them are obviously interested in what’s being offered.
Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to buy a list of contacts. Purchased lists may give you a quick boost up front, but they’ll work against you in the long run.
First of all, high-quality lists of contacts aren’t for sale. The kinds of lists you can buy or rent are typically full of invalid and abandoned email addresses. Even if a person actually does see your message, they likely either won’t be interested or will be skeptical about doing business with a company they’re not familiar with.
If you were to start sending messages to a list full of contacts of questionable quality, you’ll most likely end up with high bounce rates, lots of unsubscriptions, low open rates, and a whole lot of abuse reports. Email service providers pay attention to those sorts of metrics and if they start seeing them on a regular basis, they’ll view you as a spammer, which will only make it harder for you to get your message to more qualified leads once you have them.
Make your point quickly and make it clear. We all have a limited amount of time each day and one thing people have little patience for is long messages. People just want to know what’s in it for them. How would your product or service solve their problem? What’s unique about what you’re offering?
By implementing marketing automation strategies, you’re trying to keep people engaged. Therefore, your messages should be written in an active tone and encourage recipients to take some kind of action, whether it’s downloading a whitepaper, reading a blog post, watching a video, or making a purchase.
Don’t forget that some types of content will be more appealing than others depending on where a person is in the conversion funnel. People who are just starting to learn more about a company or product are not going to be happy if they get hit with a hard sell, but highly promotional content could potentially be effective on someone further down in the conversion funnel.
When used correctly, marketing automation is not spam — we’ll talk more about why that is in just a little bit. But don’t give your contacts the wrong impression. Certain things will always look spammy, such as typing in all capital letters, overusing the color red, and using too many links in the body of the message. If you’re going to use symbols in your subject lines or messages, don’t use too many of them. Avoid using words known to trigger spam filters.
If you’re unfamiliar with the CAN-SPAM Act, take some time to learn about what it means for your campaign. Subject lines need to be accurate and not misleading. Companies that send marketing messages through email need to provide a physical mailing address. (PO box addresses are allowed.) You also need to provide an unsubscribe option in all messages and make sure all opt-out requests are honored as soon as possible.
Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to contact lists. One of the key goals for marketing automation is to get your message to precisely the right people. Pay close attention to your metrics so you know who your most qualified leads are and get rid of the ones who aren’t responding anymore. You’re better off with a smaller list of highly qualified leads than with a large list of contacts who don’t care. If it’s been months since a person last opened a message from you, just remove them from your list and focus more on the leads who are more interested.
When done correctly, marketing automation can and should feel personal. In all fairness, it’s easy to understand how people get the wrong impression here — after all, the word “automation” is usually associated with things like computerization and robots. But for a marketing automation strategy to be successful, there needs to be a human touch behind it. Marketing automation simply makes it easier for you to get your message out there. It’s up to you to come up with content that will appeal to people and to create the strategy for getting it out there.
We all know how obnoxious spam is — marketers included. Marketers also understand how ineffective it is. While spam is an unsolicited message promoting something irrelevant to the vast majority of its recipients, the goal of marketing automation is to deliver highly relevant messages to users who clearly express an interest in it.
Unlike spam, marketing automation also frequently involves non-promotional content. Marketing automation messages absolutely can be promotional in nature, but ultimately, the goal is to foster positive relationships by offering something of value — and that doesn’t always involve a hard sell.
This is another case where the word “automation” can give the wrong impression. When you think of something being automated, it’s easy to think you can just set it up, sit back, and let it run on its own. In reality, marketing automation is anything but a hands-off process. Marketing automation needs constant attention and refinement to make sure it’s as successful as possible. Many people use the A/B testing functionality of marketing automation software to run ongoing tests to see which sorts of content, subject lines, design variations, and CTAs people best respond to.
Email is a significant part of marketing automation, but marketing automation isn’t just a new name for email marketing.
First of all, the types of messages involved in basic email marketing and marketing automation are distinctly different. When most people think of email marketing, they’re thinking of broad email blasts that go out to an entire list of contacts, but that’s just what you’re trying to avoid doing with marketing automation. Marketing automation messages are much more fine-tuned to a user’s interests and needs. Although basic email marketing programs do allow for some list segmentation, marketing automation programs allow you to get much more hyper-segmented.
Basic email marketing and marketing automation programs also offer different functionality and insights. While regular email marketing platforms give some basic information about how people interact with your message, marketing automation programs offer more measurable, in-depth insights.
While marketing automation offers a lot of benefits, it’s not going to be an ideal solution for all businesses. For some types of businesses, basic email marketing is all they really need. Studies have shown that marketers often feel like marketing automation software isn’t worth the investment, but many marketers also fail to use it to its full potential or businesses try using it before they have a large enough database of contacts to truly make it worthwhile. Before using marketing automation, the key things to consider are whether or not you have the time and resources to dedicate to training on the software so they can use it to its full potential.
Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!
Source: Moz Blog
Whenever a new app or technology is released, marketers are among the first to experiment with it — and to start creating new content with it.
That’s because marketers are constantly competing for their audience’s attention — and often by the most innovating and engaging means possible.
And right now, that means creating video content.
There’s no getting around it — marketers must create video content if they want to broaden their reach and connect with audiences across platforms — such as on blogs, YouTube, social media, and search engines.
Video content isn’t up-and-coming anymore. Audiences want to see more video content, and other marketers and publishers are creating more videos in response. In our 2017 State of Inbound report, nearly half of marketers reported they’d be investing in creating YouTube and Facebook videos in the coming year. And according to Cisco, video content will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic by the end of this year.
Are you ready to start creating video content as part of your marketing strategy? We’ll give you some ideas for videos you can film and offer up some tips for integrating them into your marketing.
Many marketers know that they need to start using video, but when it comes time to sit down and create one, they’re lost for what to do. Here are a few ideas for both pre-recorded and live videos that your business could actually use.
So, now that you have the topics and the inspiration to create video content, you might be wondering where to use the videos. In some cases, the platform is self-evident — Facebook Live videos have to be shared on Facebook. But you can invite people to tune in on Facebook Live broadcasts in advance — and you can embed the recordings outside of the platform, too.
Here are a few ideas for where to use video content up and down the funnel:
Marketers are great storytellers, but customers can sometimes be more effective. By showcasing how products can be used, user-generated content (UGC) can be more convincing — and powerful — than traditional marketing videos. Encourage customers and fans to create user-generated content by asking for it — by hosting contests, giveaways, or otherwise incentivizing participation.
In the case of GoPro, its evangelists used the product to capture the content to tell a tear-inducing story of a kitten rescue, but just because your brand doesn’t sell cameras doesn’t mean you can’t use UGC as well. Ask fans to take photos, videos, or share content on social media about how they use your products and why they love your brand — it’s more convincing than traditional advertising anyway. This content can be shared on social media platforms, on landing pages, and in marketing emails.
Happy customers are your best advocates, and we use customer success stories to inspire video content here at HubSpot. Our audience learns about similar success they can achieve with our products, and we can share the content with prospects and leads in marketing emails and on our website to let our advocates speak for us.
Try as we might, marketers simply can’t invite our entire audience to join us for a live, in-person event. And when that happens, live broadcasting options on YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram are great opportunities to invite a broader audience to participate in an event — virtually. Live streaming content and then reposting it on different channels is a way to make your audience happy — and to repurpose content, too. For example, The INBOUND Studio repurposed this Facebook Live interview with actor Jeffrey Tambor on Instagram and YouTube.
Going behind-the-scenes is a neat way to give loyal fans and audience members a unique perspective on your brand personality or product. You can do this live or with ephemeral messaging on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat, or you can create a pre-produced video like the one below that zeroes in on something audience members might not know much about. This content can make for great social media fodder, or you can use it to build rapport with leads and customers trying to learn more about your brand during the conversion and closing process.
They say a picture says a thousand words, and sometimes, video is the best platform to explain a concept or define a term for your audience and users. Videos like these are helpful, easy to digest, and go a long way towards helping people succeed using your product or service. Videos like Asana’s below can be used on YouTube to capture search traffic there, or can live within blog posts or your company’s knowledge base to help out customers.
Saying “thank you” can go a long way, and it can even make for compelling video content. In the short and simple video below, Warby Parker provides a personalized customer service experience that makes the customer feel special, acknowledges feedback, and serves as a mini-advertisement — since the employee is talking about making a customer happy. If you’re just getting started, filming short thank you videos can foster customer loyalty and build brand awareness on YouTube.
What marketing videos are you going to start making this year? Share with us in the comments below.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
Source: Hub Spot
As a B2B texting software, one of our main goals at Text Request is maximizing value, both for ourselves and our users. That’s what led us to focusing on organic traffic.
Billions of people are looking for answers or solutions to their questions or problems, and we’re trying to add value. So we saw organic search as a symbiotic relationship we could tap into.
As the guy responsible for our content and SEO, I’ve only found one “secret” to growing organic traffic. I’ll share this secret in a bit, but first I’ll walk you through the steps we took to grow our organic traffic 120% in 5 months, and what we learned through it all.
We started making changes at the end of December 2016, and the first step was making technical updates to our website.
Image Credit: Think With Google
Then we adopted a new content strategy from Rand Fishkin (founder of Moz). The strategy is: find the best piece of content on your target keywords or topics, and create something 10X better.
So that’s what we did!
Starting in 2017, we looked at what content was available on our target search terms, and then created content we thought was 10X better. It worked! But the question we had to answer first was: What does 10X content look like for our market?
The most powerful pieces of content bring in traffic, leads, and backlinks. They’re normally what add the most value to everyone, and that became the essence of our content — add value to everyone.
We said, “Okay, everything needs to be 10X content, and that means it has to be valuable for three audiences.”
If this doesn’t add value to me, how can I expect it to add value to anyone else? It became important to make sure we could do two things with all new content:
To bring in our targets, we had to provide something valuable, something that answered their questions and provided solutions to their problems.
An important piece in this: we had to know our targets’ wants and needs. Thankfully, our team has spent countless hours talking with and learning about our customers. Otherwise, this would have been much more difficult!
Brands are always looking for information that validates and promotes their position. We thought if we created this content, our competitors would use it, and come to see us as leaders in the space.
This was a bit of a long shot, but it’s working! Nearly all of our competitors, and brands in similar niches, link to our content, which strengthens it and helps more of our targets find us.
If it sounds like this content takes a lot of time to create, it does. That’s why we only publish every other Tuesday. But we do publish high-quality content regularly, and it’s paying off!
Even following these criteria, it’s been difficult to know exactly what will resonate with our audience before we publish it.
It doesn’t seem to matter how much keyword research and competitive mapping we do. The 80/20 rule still applies. If you’re not familiar, this means about 80% of our traffic comes from about 20% of our content.
I don’t think this means we should change our strategy, but that we have to keep producing to find what’s most helpful.
We’d made some technical updates to our site and started publishing 10X content, but we still had a bunch of older blog posts that needed help.
They weren’t 10X content, and my understanding of SEO had evolved a lot in the time since we started posting. So we saw revamping existing content as an important part of our SEO strategy.
I started asking myself questions as I reviewed each post, like:
Responding to questions like these kept me from just spot editing, and made sure each piece began adding real value to everyone.
Over the five month period, I was able to revamp 55-60 of our posts, and I’m confident that made a huge impact on our organic search traffic.
Backlinks are one of the biggest ranking factors for organic traffic, so they had to be part of our plan. From December to May, we grew our total number of backlinks by about 60%, which, in addition to driving referral traffic, boosted our standing with search engines.
Our backlinks mostly came from 3 places:
In December 2016, we had a total of 10,663 organic sessions. In May 2017, we had 23,483 organic sessions, meaning that our simple four-point strategy more than doubled our traffic in only 5 months!
I think it’s important to note, too, that our bounce rate and time-on-page both improved during this process. Clearly, if you create 10X content, everyone wins.
In poor practice, we didn’t set any goals or milestones before implementing our strategy. That’s something we could have done better. Although, we really didn’t know what would be realistic.
It’s safe to say, though, that these results exceeded my expectations, and I’ll be thrilled to keep them up moving forward!
Anyone in SEO will tell you results take time. As an agency friend of mine said, “The results of SEO work done today might not become apparent, and might not be discovered by search engines, for weeks or even months.”
I have to agree. In Search Console, I’ll regularly see where we finally “got credit” for a backlink months after it was published. I believe our record is a press release that took two years, four months to register.
It’s possible — even likely — that a significant portion of our results came from things we did well before this case study. During the case study, our results still came in stages.
January’s organic traffic was 45% higher than December’s, but February had flat growth. March was up again, April was flat, and in May we peaked at 120.2% growth.
Then there were publishing cycles to deal with. Ours is three weeks, but guest posts could take anywhere from five days to two months! I felt like I was always waiting for something.
Sometimes you have to keep your head down and stick to your plan, even if you aren’t seeing immediate progress. It can take a lot of patience to grow organic traffic, but that patience pays off!
People, myself included, often get too caught up in the minutia of SEO to see the bigger picture.
SEO is commonly thought of as a set of technical laws. When you follow them, Google rewards you. When you disobey, you will be punished.
But every algorithm update focuses on one key concept: adding value to Google’s users.
Search engines care most about the people using their site to search. So when you add value to their users, you’re rewarded with traffic.
The thing is, value comes in many forms. Website speed adds value, especially since 40% of viewers leave a site if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds.
Page engagement adds value, particularly since most viewers spend less than 15 seconds viewing a webpage. If you give people a reason to stick around for longer, to keep scrolling, and to click through, Google will send more people your way.
When done right, 10X content is powered by this “secret.” If things are fast, engaging, helpful, and enjoyable, everyone wins. This is how we were able to quickly grow our organic traffic, and it’s how you’ll be able to grow yours, too!
Source: Hub Spot
Ranking near the top of the SERPs for short-tail keywords in competitive business verticals can be extremely difficult. Wikipedia, Dictionary.com, and similar sites have the market cornered on ranking at the top of search results. Even if you manage to rank in the first position, there are featured snippets, ads, map packs, and other SERP layouts that are dominating the space as well.
Because short-tail keywords have such broad search intents, it’s in the search engine’s best interest to try and answer questions directly in SERPs. That is the intent of featured snippets. If a search engine is able to answer a user’s query without them leaving the results page, they believe that delivers the best result. And the proliferation of featured snippets is only beginning. According to Search Engine Land, 19.45% of queries will display rich answers (a form of featured snippets) in Google.
A search for “what is orthodontics” in an incognito Google Chrome window displayed the following featured snippet:
This search result satisfies at least one large search intent: “What is orthodontics?” I use this as an example because my agency and I had been trying to get a client to rank for this keyword for some time. They were a dental practice with locations across the US that offered both orthodontic and general dental procedures. We had optimized their locations for their orthodontic procedures, but we wanted to get their non-localized service pages to rank as well in order to draw new patients that may be in the beginning stages of looking for a new orthodontist. But without a local qualifier, it was difficult to get the pages to rank for the short-tail searches.
After a year and change of writing, optimizing, re-writing, and re-optimizing the content — all while building links — we weren’t getting any movement with our organic rankings. It seemed that business websites were not meant to rank for these short-tail keywords. Content creators have long lamented that featured snippets don’t attribute where the content in the SERP comes from, thus leaching traffic away from the site.
We believed that rich snippets in SERPs would become more prominent — especially with mobile and voice search on the rise — and that, even without proper attribution, it would benefit our client to appear in these types of search results, especially if we were able to rank in long-tail, question-oriented searches. If we could rank in a featured snippet, where a potential consumer was asking a question about a service that we provide, it would benefit us to answer that question for them. Not only would we achieve the coveted “zero position,” we would position our client as authorities in their vertical, potentially increasing conversions.
With this in mind, we began developing the strategy that would ultimately lead us to ranking in featured snippet searches.
Question and answer content on websites is fairly standard. Many companies will place Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) content on their sites to help users with any questions they may have instead of answering them directly. Noting the prevalence of featured snippets in SERPs, we used the Q&A format to create new content to find out: a) could we rank for these queries? and b) would it benefit our client to rank in these queries?
Using SEMRush, we conducted keyword research to find long-tail keywords with high monthly search volumes. Some of the phrases we decided to create the content around were “how long does it take to put on braces,” “how much does Invisalign cost without insurance,” and other similar queries. We also asked our client’s call team and Livechat correspondents to send us the most-asked questions they receive about orthodontics. The questions that the internal teams provided were primarily about pricing and insurance. This information was vital for our new Q&A content, as it allowed us to create answers we knew our users were looking for.
While researching current featured snippets, we gleaned that the content must emphasize the answer, not the answerer. Meaning, the content needed to be straightforward and answer the query without any marketing fluff. We ensured that our headers included the targeted keyword, along with the title tags. Once the content was created, we placed each question in the main navigation bar on the site, with each one leading to a separate landing page.
As most SEOs will tell you, backlinks are still a very important ranking factor. It was our belief that building links to our new Q&A content would be essential in ensuring that it ranked well. We built links exclusively via sites like Quora and Reddit, the idea being that these are places where people are already asking questions that we can answer as experts, while linking back to our site. In order to avoid spamming, we limited the number of links that we built per month.
After a year of collecting data, we can confidently say that not only were we successful in getting the site to rank for a featured snippet, but traffic to the orthodontics content increased by 46.10%, conversions from the content increased by 235%, and the conversion rate increased by 129.30%.
The results were even more striking on mobile, where traffic increased by 91.46%, conversions increased by 322.22%, and conversion rate increased by 120.53%.
For this study we only looked at organic and mobile organic traffic. We also only looked at traffic that landed on our site via the orthodontics content (meaning we only measured users that entered the site via one of the orthodontics pages from an organic source).
It should be noted that this implementation was not successful in every facet. One of the most important goals for new content is making sure that users engage with it. And at Rebuild Group, we normally measure content engagement through attention metrics: pages/session, average time on site, bounce rate, etc.
Upon collecting the data, we noticed that all attention metrics decreased year over year. Our hypothesis is that because the content is both meant to answer a question and is easily digestible, users were more likely to leave the site after their question was answered. It explains why traffic, conversions, and conversion rate increased so much year over year and attention metrics decreased.
Most important to this experiment, we were able to have our site rank in the first position — or zero position — in search results for the query “how long do you wear invisalign a day,” while also ranking on the first page (though not the first position) for other Q&A orthodontic terms.
We started ranking in the first position for this term in mid-January, though we lost the ranking shortly thereafter. We began to consistently rank in the first position in March and are still ranked there as of this writing.
Our belief is that by simply answering the question and including the keyword in crawlable parts of the content, we were able to rank in the first position for one of our targeted Q&A phrases, resulting in a featured snippet.
Conversions were measured as the number of contact form submissions sent during sessions where a user entered the site via the orthodontic content. As mentioned above, conversions and conversion rates for all organic and mobile organic traffic increased greatly year over year. However, the effects were not seen until 9 months into the experiment.
When the traffic was measured at 90 and 180 days, organic traffic to the new content was steadily increasing overall and via mobile devices, but conversions and conversion rate had not gone up compared to the previous year. It wasn’t until 270 days in, when we first ranked in the featured snippet SERP, that conversions began to increase.
Once we were consistently ranking in the first position for a featured snippet SERP, while also ranking on the first page of SERPs for other queries, our conversions and conversion rates began to greatly increase.
As stated earlier, voice search is on the rise. Once we were able to rank as a featured snippet in a targeted SERP, we wanted to see if that featured snippet would affect how Google Home provided an answer to the targeted query:
As you can see, Google Home clearly attributes the answer to our client, answers the question, and then sends the user to the Home App, where the answer is again shown:
From there they can click through to the site on their mobile device:
In the end we drew a strong correlation between the implementation of the Q&A orthodontics content, ranking highly in rich snippet SERPs, and increased conversions and conversion rates. But like all things SEO, there are no definites when implementing this kind of strategy. We implemented content that drove users to a site that offered services they were looking for. Someone searching “how to boil water” is not likely looking to buy new pots and pans. Ultimately, it’s important to know what your users are looking for and cater to their searches. Once you’re able to answer their questions with simple, to-the-point content, the rest is easy.
Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!
Source: Moz Blog
Whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, chances are, you have an opinion about forms.
Trust us — they’re not evil. We still use them, and still believe that many marketers should continue to do so, too. But truth be told, the “Should we gate our content?” question has been flying around HubSpot for a few years now. We’ve looked at the topic through various lenses, from SEO, to lead generation, to channel-specific implications.
After all, gated offers tend to provide fairly consistent lead volume and lead-to-customer conversion rates.
But at the same time, it turned out that we had a lot of landing pages for our offers — the gates, if you will, that weren’t getting much organic search traffic. We might have been optimizing the landing pages for search, but we weren’t doing the same for the juicy, valuable, in-depth content inside the offer itself.
We had a lot of questions. Among them:
Then, we thought, maybe we could find a best-of-both-worlds scenario. Maybe, if we took an SEO-heavy approach to un-gating our content, we would find ourselves with more keyword-optimized indexed pages that could appear in search engine results pages. The idea: a partially un-gated version of the page, where users could scroll to a certain point, and have to fill out a form to “unlock” the rest of the content. That would mean phasing out PDFs, and replacing them with new HTML site pages with offer content optimized for both search and conversions.
And so, we designed an experiment to answer the question: Will the combination of more organic traffic + smarter conversion assets on HTML pages lead to net better organic conversions?
We split this experiment into two parts. Below is an overview of Part I — stay tuned for Part II.
We hypothesized that, with these variations, Google would have enough content to crawl on these new HTML pages to give it a significant SEO boost — but that by partially gating the content, we could still generate leads from it.
We were interested to see how the lead volume would change here, which was easy to measure, but we also wanted to know would affect user experience — which was a little tougher to measure.
So, we had two pillars to the experiment, each with its own sub-hypothesis.
Hypothesis: We have a lot of offer landing pages that aren’t getting much organic search traffic. By un-gating these offers, we’ll be able to increase organic search traffic.
Objective: Increase organic search traffic and Google search engine results page (SERP) ranking of offer content.
Hypothesis: If we un-gate offer pages and then gate the content with a on-page form that triggers on scroll, the net conversions will exceed the PDF versions of the pages.
Objective: Increase organic traffic and conversion rate on new site pages to meet or surpass net conversions of original landing pages.
To start, we organized all of HubSpot’s current offers into broader topic categories. Then, we looked at data from each offer to see how much of the following it was generating:
That helped us determine which of the offers (and overarching topics) had the greatest impact on revenue. From there, we were able to identify a list of between 20-30 offers that had the highest potential for adaptation from PDF to site pages, and prioritized them based according to SEO performance, SEO potential, and lead-to-customer ratios.
Based on the findings below, we determined that we’d start with the following four topics: blogging, buyer persona, case studies, and lead generation.
|First Conversion Topic Cluser||Organic Traffic||Lead to Opp rate|
We started with four offers:
This may seem like too small of a sample for us to truly understand whether retiring PDFs works. That’s why we framed Part I as a “test to refine the test” — a test that would help us iron out the kinks in our logic before we scaled it.
For each one of these offers, we ran an A/B test.
After we chose the list of offers to test, we moved the content of each of one from PDF to HTML. The steps we took were as follows:
In the end, we were only able to increase organic search traffic and Google SERP ranking to the pages that were already performing well for organic search — and, therefore, had pre-existing search authority.
Unfortunately, our fourth offer was redirected without our knowledge, so we weren’t able to collect results during the same time period. When we returned to the Lead Generation Process page results later, we found no positive impact on organic search traffic that we could attribute to un-gating the content.
Truth time: We failed to optimize these pages for conversion to the point where they even came close to matching — much less surpassing — the net conversions of the original landing pages.
When it came to the SEO side of our experiment, it was surprising to us that we were only able to see organic traffic increases from offers that were already doing well in search. From an organic standpoint, then, one might conclude that we should focus on un-gating only the offers that are already generating significant organic traffic, and have pre-existing search authority.
As for the CRO site, clearly, the partial gating template didn’t work for conversions. We decided to apply a fun hashtag to the outcome — #FailFast — and conclude that it was time to experiment with other forms of gating and CRO.
Next steps? In order to avoid putting a lot of conversions at risk, the results indicated that we had to conduct our CRO tests on the offer landing pages that we already experimented with — until we found a conversion method that works well. Once that happened, we could replicate it on other, high-organic-traffic landing pages.
We also saw that, in order to warrant un-gating more pages, we’d have to run a series of CRO tests with the goal of increasing organic conversion rates significantly enough.
These are just some of the things that you can look forward to reading about in Part II — stay tuned.
Source: Hub Spot
Move over, links, content, and RankBrain — there’s a new ranking factor in town, and it’s a doozy. All kidding aside, the idea of searcher task accomplishment is a compelling argument for how we should be optimizing our sites. Are they actually solving the problems searchers seek answers for? In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains how searcher task accomplishment is what Google ultimately looks for, and how you can keep up.
Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we’re chatting about a new Google ranking factor.
Now, I want to be clear. This is not something that’s directly in Google’s algorithm for sure. It’s just that they’re measuring a lot of things that lead us to this conclusion. This is essentially what Google is optimizing toward with all of their ranking signals, and therefore it’s what SEOs nowadays have to think about optimizing for with our content. And that is searcher task accomplishment.
So what do I mean by this? Well, look, when someone does a search like “disinfect a cut,” they’re trying to actually accomplish something. In fact, no matter what someone is searching for, it’s not just that they want a set of results. They’re actually trying to solve a problem. For Google, the results that solve that problem fastest and best and with the most quality are the ones that they want to rank.
In the past, they’ve had to do all sorts of algorithms to try and get at this from obtuse angles. But now, with a lot of the work that they’re doing around measuring engagement and with all of the data that’s coming to them through Chrome and through Android, they’re able to get much, much closer to what is truly accomplishing the searcher’s task. That’s because they really want results that satisfy the query and fulfill the searcher’s task.
So pretty much every — I’m excluding navigational searches — but every informational and transactional type of search — I mean, navigational, they just want to go to that website — but informational and transactional search query is basically this. It’s I have an expression of need. That’s what I’m telling Google. But behind that, there’s a bunch of underlying goals, things that I want to do. I want to know information. I want to accomplish something. I want to complete an activity.
When I do that, when I perform my search, I have this sort of evaluation of results. Is this going to help me do what I want? Then I choose one, and then I figure out whether that result actually helps me complete my task. If it does, I might have discovery of additional needs around that, like once you’ve answered my disinfect a cut, now it’s, okay, now I kind of want to know how to prevent an infection, because you described using disinfectant and then you said infections are real scary. So let me go look up how do I prevent that from happening. So there’s that discovery of additional needs. Or you decide, hey, this did not help me complete my task. I’m going to go back to evaluation of results, or I’m going to go back to my expression of need in the form of a different search query.
That’s what gives Google the information to say, “Yes, this result helped the searcher accomplish their task,” or, “No, this result did not help them do it.”
This is true for a bunch of things. I’ll walk you through some examples.
If I search for how to get a book published, that’s an expression of need. But underlying that is a bunch of different goals like, well, you’re going to be asking about like traditional versus self-publishing, and then you’re going to want to know about agents and publishers and the publishing process and the pitch process, which is very involved. Then you’re going to get into things like covers and book marketing and tracking sales and all this different stuff, because once you reach your evaluation down here and you get into discovery of additional needs, you find all these other things that you need to know.
If I search for “invest in Ethereum,” well maybe I know enough to start investing right away, but probably, especially recently because there’s been a ton of search activity around it, I probably need to understand: What the heck is the blockchain and what is cryptocurrency, this blockchain-powered currency system, and what’s the market for that like, and what has it been doing lately, and what’s my purchase process, and where can I actually go to buy it, and what do I have to do to complete that transaction?
If I search for something like “FHA loans,” well that might mean I’m in the mindset of thinking about real estate. I’m buying usually my first house for an FHA loan, and that means that I need to know things about conditions by region and the application process and what are the providers in my area and how can I go apply, all of these different things.
If I do a search for “Seattle event venues,” well that means I’m probably looking for a list of multiple event venues, and then I need to narrow down my selection by the criteria I care about, like region, capacity, the price, the amenities. Then once I have all that, I need contact information so that I can go to them.
In all of these scenarios, Google is going to reward the results that help me accomplish the task, discover the additional needs, and solve those additional needs as well, rather than the ones that maybe provide a slice of what I need and then make me go back to the search results and choose something else or change my query to figure out more.
Google is also going to reward, and you can see this in all these results, they’re going to reward ones that give me all the information I need, that help me accomplish my task before they ask for something in return. The ones that are basically just a landing page that say, “Oh yeah, Seattle event venues, enter your email address and all this other information, and we’ll be in touch with a list of venues that are right for you.” Yeah, guess what? It doesn’t matter how many links you have, you are not ranking, my friends.
That is so different from how it used to be. It used to be that you could have that contact form. You could have that on there. You could not solve the searcher’s query. You could basically be very conversion rate-focused on your page, and so long as you could get the right links and the right anchor text and use the right keywords on the page, guess what? You could rank. Those days are ending. I’m not going to say they’re gone, but they are ending, and this new era of searcher task accomplishment is here.
There’s a challenge. I want to be totally up front that there is a real challenge and a problem between this world of optimizing for searcher task accomplishment and the classic world of we want our conversions. So the CRO in your organization, which might be your director of marketing or it might be your CEO, or maybe if your team is big enough, you might have a CRO specialist, conversation rate optimization specialist, on hand. They’re thinking, “Hey, I need the highest percent of form completions possible.”
So when someone lands on this page, I’m trying to get from two percent to four percent. How do we get four percent of people visiting this page to complete the form? That means removing distractions. That means not providing information up front. That means having a great teaser that says like, “Hey, we can give this to you, and here are testimonials that say we can provide this information. But let’s not give it right up front. Don’t give away the golden goose, my friend. We want these conversions. We need to get our qualified leads into the funnel,” versus the SEO, who today has to think about, “How do I get searchers to accomplish their task without friction?” This lead capture form, that’s friction.
So every organization, I think, needs to decide which way they’re going to go. Are they going to go for basically long-term SEO, which is I’m going to solve the searcher’s task, and then I’m going to figure out ways later to monetize and to capture value? Or am I going to basically lose out in the search results to people who are willing to do this and go this route instead and drive traffic from other sources? Maybe I’ll rank with different pages and I’ll send some people here, or maybe I will pay for my traffic, or I’ll try and do some barnacle SEO and get links from people who do rank up top there, but I won’t do it directly myself. This is a choice we all have.
All right. So how do you do this? Let’s say you’ve gone the SEO path. You’ve decided, “Yes, Rand, I’m in. I want to help the searcher accomplish their task. I recognize that I’m going to have to be willing to sacrifice some conversion rate optimization.” Well, there are two things here.
1. Gain a deep understanding of what drives searchers to search.
2. What makes some searchers come away unsatisfied.
Once they’ve performed this query, why do they click the back button? Why do they choose a different result? Why do they change their query to something else? There are ways we can figure out both of these.
To help with number 1 try:
Some of the best things that you can do are talk to people who actually have those problems and who are actually performing those searches or have performed them through…
I will provide you with a link to a document that I did around specifically how to get a book published. I did a survey that I ran that looked at searcher task accomplishment and what people hoped that content would have for them, and you can see the results are quite remarkable. I’ll actually embed my presentation on searcher task accomplishment in this Whiteboard Friday and make sure to link to that as well.
What if I searched for disinfect a cut? What would I want to know? What if I searched for FHA loans? I’m buying a house for the first time, what am I thinking about? Well, I’m thinking about a bunch of things. I’m thinking about price and neighborhood and all this. Okay, how do I accomplish all that in my content, or at least how do I provide navigation so that people can accomplish all that without having to go back to the search results?
To help with number 2 try:
Understanding what makes those searchers come away unsatisfied.
So over time, if you watch those in your spaces and do some rank tracking competitively, you can see what types of content is helping people accomplish those tasks and what Google is rewarding.
That said, I look forward to your comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.
Why We Can’t Do SEO WIthout CRO from Rand Fishkin
Video transcription by Speechpad.com
Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!
Source: Moz Blog
May’s talk on #modernwaystogrowanagency came from Dave Parkinson – a 26 year veteran of Nissan and digital – from IT Manager to EMEA Head of Digital. From managing a digital transformation to initiating the social media plan (and launching the Qashqai on the way) Dave knows the brand person’s world. So what are they really thinking at pitch time?
Since the word ‘digital’ crept into marketers vocabulary the gap between doing a digital project and actually becoming a digital business started to form, and brands and agencies have debated how business strategy can and should link to digital plans. From inside and outside a brand it can be difficult to understand what the appetite and indeed capacity to be a fast paced digital business is. Ask yourself this, if your favourite retailer is so fast moving and digitally nimble – why don’t they have contactless payment in their shops yet?
Here are Dave’s key insights into how a brand person judges your pitch:
So Dave, we’ve considered all that – what are your top tips for falling at the final hurdle, or getting this project over the line:
Understand and remove the barriers to buying and your brand person will buy.
Source: Hub Spot