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Jason bourne

Jason bourne

In this post, I’ll look at how brands are making the most of data visualization and data-informed product design to bring out data’s creative side.Prompted by the agenda of a conference I recently attended, I asked myself a random question: is big data actually still a thing?

My conclusion was that it is, and is likely to remain so in the near future, though in a slightly different way. My view is that we will be seeing a lot more of data’s creative side.

So what it is data’s creative side?

The developed area in this regard is probably data-informed user experience (UX) design. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.There are (at least) two further areas of data-centric creativity that are growing rapidly and worth a closer look.

1. Data visualization – the communication of data in an easy to digest way

All the data in the world doesn’t mean anything if it cannot be understood clearly. For it to be understood, it should be communicated in an easy to digest manner. And that’s where data visualization comes in.

The visualization of data is often overlooked, especially here in Asia. If you’re guilty of doing so, here are two consumer-facing campaign examples that should put the presentation of data back on your radar.

Netflix: #Cokenomics

In order to promote the TV show Narcos, which tells the story of Pablo Escobar, Netflix created infographics that brought the economy of the Columbian cocaine trade to life in a socially engaging way.

Netflix built a whole campaign around the Columbian cartel’s cocaine data under the hashtag #Cokenomics.

pablo

The Twitter account @NarcosNetflix has almost 67,000 followers and posts regular tweets such as this one:

Here’s an example of content for Instagram:

Data Visualization_Netflix_Cokenomics_Mistress campaign_Instagram_600

The agency behind the campaign – Mistress – says its initial campaign drove more than 100,000 engagements.

Spotify: Found Them First

Spotify’s Found Them First gave music fans a way to prove that they were really into certain bands and singers before they actually became famous, for the bragging rights.Users’ listening data was used to show users all the artists they had discovered ahead of other Spotify listeners.

Within weeks of the launch in October 2014, the campaign had received more than a million visits and 100 million social media impressions, all without any media spend.

Data Visualization_Spotify_Found them first_600

Data tools

Data doesn’t actually need to be communicated to customers directly in most cases, but it’s important to get this across to internal stakeholders.

For such circumstances, there are several tools that can help you avoid the all-too-common walls of text with stock charts presentations, and substitute them with something a little more engaging and inspiring.

For example, if you are looking to beautify your charts, graphs, maps and timelines, check out the likes of RAW, Datawrapper, and Timeline JS.Should you have a little more time on your hands, and you also know how to code, have a look at D3.js, which comes highly recommended by my own team’s creative technologist.

If you really want to up your data visualization game, you can take some inspiration from Hans Rosling, known for his unconventional ways of bringing subjects such as population growth and income equalities to life in a more tangible way.

2. Data-informed product design

Another space to watch is data-informed product design. Now I’m not talking here about your typical research-initiated product innovation cycle. I’m talking about an evolution of data visualization that quite literally and directly translates data into an actual product.

Here are three of my favorite projects within this space. I can’t wait to see more like this.

Flowing Data: Multivariate Beer

Nathan Yau from Flowingdata took U.S. demographics to brew four different types of beer.

For example, he mapped population density to the total amount of hops, and ethnicity to the type of hops used.

See Flowingdata’s website for a more detailed description of the process and other ways it transforms data.

Data Visualization_Flowingdata_05-Bottles_600

Tempescope

This was invented by Japanese software engineer Ken Kawamoto. It’s a device which displays either current weather conditions or forecasts them physically.

Meshu

This is a concept which takes important life locations such as cities or even specific street addresses, maps the paths between them, and finally transforms them into a piece of jewelry.

Data Visualization_meshu_600

The examples above demonstrate that there are no boundaries to data’s creativity, though a lot of it is still driven by artists, entrepreneurs and scientists. I hope that, in future, the marketing and advertising industry will recognise more strongly the beauty that lies within data and the compelling stories it can tell.

Storytelling is after all, a major part of our jobs.

source:  https://searchenginewatch.com/2016/06/17/how-brands-are-using-data-visualisation-in-social-campaigns/

Do you ever find your eyes glazing over when putting together and presenting your regular local search reports? Columnist Lydia Jorden explains how to develop a revenue-based report that will be sure to impress both your client and your boss.

Local SEO is a critical part of an overall digital marketing strategy, but relaying its importance through weekly, monthly or bi-annual reports to your boss or clients is a challenge. People’s eyes tend to glaze over, especially if they’re looking at the same metrics every month.

It’s easy to succumb to “Broken Record Syndrome” when local search reports cover the same territory month after month, and it can be difficult to find and integrate something new and valuable.

But these reports are critical for justifying the budget to continue and strengthen local search campaigns. Optimizing local listings, updating photos, building links and employing other tactics to strengthen a brand’s position in the local landscape take time — and time takes money.

Avoiding “Broken Record Syndrome”

Instead of being a broken record and discussing local keyword position performance and reviewing fluctuations, find new metrics to track over time that support funding your local search campaigns. I’ll provide some examples below. Or, on the flip side, you may determine that local search isn’t generating as much revenue as you had once predicted. If that’s the case, you can put that budget toward developing a new local search strategy or reallocate your local search campaign efforts toward something more profitable.

Examining new metrics can spice up your reports and breathe life into what was otherwise a tedious report with similar findings month to month, requiring little analysis.

Furthermore, finding local strategies that have successfully generated revenue can allow for an increase in budget allocated to local search implementation. Measuring local search efforts in financial terms is a surefire way to impress your boss, as well as strengthen rapport with clients and justify funding for local search campaigns.

A few metrics to consider and how to implement them

1. How local search performance affected sales

For local businesses, the financial bottom line is the most important metric, so it is critical that you find a way to connect your local search campaign efforts to sales.

To pinpoint ROI, you need to determine the revenue generated from the effort, as well as the cost put into managing and optimizing a local search campaign.Although it can be difficult to tie online spend to offline revenue, establishing and following key metrics that contribute to those in-store purchases are very important.

For example, determine the number of people who clicked on your local listing for driving directions. You can do this by going into your Google My Business account and clicking on the green insights tab.

Google My Business Insights Icon

Then, scroll down to find how many people clicked for driving directions:

Google My Business Driving Directions Example

Of those people who clicked, what percentage of them came into your store? This is a number that you will have to research, discuss with your team and likely get the CMO’s approval to use, as this percentage will have a significant impact on your ROI calculations. This number will vary between industries and buyer behavior patterns.

Then attribute an average receipt value of an in-store “purchase” based on the parameters set. So, let’s say that 10 percent of people who request driving directions from local search make a purchase. (10 percent of 514 is 51.4, or 51 people). Each person’s average receipt is $100. All the assets that went into optimizing for local search cost $5,000.

Looking solely at direct costs and requests for driving directions on Google, we can then report that ROI on the local campaign, conservatively, is a gain of $100 in revenue, or two percent ROI for a brick-and-mortar store.

2. Using Google Analytics e-commerce tracking to provide value for local search reporting

If you have online as well as offline conversions, Google Analytics’ e-commerce tracking can help you tie specific online traffic sources to eventual revenue.Within Google Analytics, you will want to filter transactions by local region to get a rough idea of whether a push in local listings in a specific location had an effect on transactions.

You can do this by clicking on Audience, then Geo, then Location in Google Analytics, and creating a custom segment.

Path to Find Locations In Google Analytics

 Click to create a custom segment once you arrive at the Locations screen.

Custom Segment Creation in Google Analytics

You will create two custom segments — the first for someone who purchased an item organically, and the second for someone who purchased an item as a referral. Then there are two parts within each segment to update.

a. Segment for those who purchased an item on the site:

This tab should look something like the screen shot below, depending on the parameters you’re requiring for your data:

Custom Segment in Google Analytics - Item Purchased

If you’re doing a push for a specific item that you have been optimizing for within local search, you can also enter that information to further segment into how successfully a product-specific local search optimization campaign performed.

b. Segment for sources so we make sure to only capture organic and referral traffic:

Since we’re most interested in local search purchases (in an effort to be able to attribute revenue to local search SEO), we need to filter the sessions by organic and referral traffic, as these types of traffic are the main results of local search campaigns. Below is the screen shot for completing the first segment:

Custom Segment in Google Analytics - Traffic Source

Then you’ll want to create a second custom segment and repeat the e-commerce steps, along with the traffic source step. However, the second time you complete the traffic sources step, you’ll want to use “referral” rather than “organic.”

Once you create these segments, you can then filter through traffic by location and further dig into where organic and referral traffic came from. You’ll be able to get a rough idea of how local search traffic affected sales by determining if a push for local optimization in specific areas impacted traffic from that location to the site, and even further break it down by revenue generated by locations.

Additionally, by creating UTM codes and using them in your links from all local listing sites, you can get a direct representation of the traffic and revenue generated from those sources.

Spice up those local search reports

Now go impress your boss and clients with new metrics. Give them something new to look at — to keep their attention and also defend your case as a local search engine optimizer to invest more in local search.

But don’t abandon the tried-and-true metrics. Continue to use geotargeted keyword position tracking, local review tracking and other indicators of local search campaign success within your reports. You do not want to throw out the old metrics entirely, but adding something new that connects local search performance to sales may give you a few more insights that you had not anticipated.

Source:  http://searchengineland.com/boss-actually-wants-local-search-reports-251815

With its colossal acquisition of LinkedIn this morning, Microsoft gets an immediate, powerful asset for its software sales pitch: A social dataset of 400 million-plus users.

That should fray nerves at Google, and raise pressure on it to respond with an acquisition of its own, one aimed at expanding its reach with business customers. It had already informally sounded out some mid-market business-focused cloud apps for acquisition earlier this year.

Over the past year, the search giant has directed considerable attention and resources to building out a sizable enterprise operation, an attempt to diversify its business (an ads one). One of the two pillars of the operation, apps for businesses, competes head-on with Microsoft.

And now Microsoft has a pool of valuable data — based on personal and professional information — that Google, despite its expensive past efforts, does not.

Google will have to answer — particularly since one product Microsoft said LinkedIn will assist with is Cortana, its artificial intelligence-powered personal assistant. AI is a linchpin feature that Google is using with its enterprise software sales pitch. Google's AI is widely considered best in the industry; but with LinkedIn's data, Microsoft could have a critical edge in its offering that trumps Google.

With its colossal acquisition of LinkedIn this morning, Microsoft gets an immediate, powerful asset for its software sales pitch: A social dataset of 400 million-plus users.

That should fray nerves at Google, and raise pressure on it to respond with an acquisition of its own, one aimed at expanding its reach with business customers. It had already informally sounded out some mid-market business-focused cloud apps for acquisition earlier this year.

Over the past year, the search giant has directed considerable attention and resources to building out a sizable enterprise operation, an attempt to diversify its business (an ads one). One of the two pillars of the operation, apps for businesses, competes head-on with Microsoft.

And now Microsoft has a pool of valuable data — based on personal and professional information — that Google, despite its expensive past efforts, does not.

Google will have to answer — particularly since one product Microsoft said LinkedIn will assist with is Cortana, its artificial intelligence-powered personal assistant. AI is a linchpin feature that Google is using with its enterprise software sales pitch. Google's AI is widely considered best in the industry; but with LinkedIn's data, Microsoft could have a critical edge in its offering that trumps Google.

If it wants to catch up, Google's not short on the cash. Nor is it short on will. Diane Greene, its enterprise SVP, who wields considerable power in the company, has an edict to grow her unit, even through acquisition, as Recode reported earlier.

Should Greene and Google go on a spree, here are some potential big targets:

Slack: The fast-growing workplace messaging app boasts three million users every day, and about a third of them use it from accounts paid for by their employers. While generally known as a popular tool at young tech and media companies, it's on track to launch an enterprise version that delivers the scale necessary for use in larger companies sometime this year. It's also working on enhancing the service with AI features that would give the Slack application the brains to anticipate a user's day-to-day business needs, boosting its appeal in an area Google already considers a priority.

And valued at less than $4 billion as of its most recent funding round, Slack is affordable. One important complication: Slack runs entirely on Amazon Web Services. Migrating it to Google's cloud service would be a big job.

Box: The cloud storage, sharing and collaboration platform was the darling of Silicon Valley ahead of its IPO last year. It's a different company today, with a fully imagined long-term strategy to help specific industries build custom applications and to act as the central cog connecting numerous existing business apps including Microsoft's Office, Salesforce.com, and, by the way, Google Apps. Its customers include household names like the Campbell Soup company, industrial giant GE and The Gap, and 10,000-seat deals with large customers are not uncommon.

Box's low share price, down 52 percent since its debut on the New York Stock Exchange, also creates an opportunity.

Dropbox: What Dropbox lacks in a fully articulated vision for doing business with large companies, it makes up for with the scale of its numbers: More than half a billion people use Dropbox, plus 150,000 businesses. Its bread-and-butter business is file storage, sharing and syncing across multiple devices. And it works.

It recently moved its data off of Amazon's cloud and onto one of its own making. Privately held, its mutual fund investors have in recent months written down the value of their shares, suggesting it's worth about $10 billion. That may make it too big a bite even for Google, though parent company Alphabet has just over $75 billion in combined cash on hand.

Source:  http://www.cnbc.com/2016/06/14/microsofts-big-linkedin-purchase-puts-the-pressure-on-google-to-respond.html

Getting customers, clients and employees to trust you can be complicated, but it is imperative for success -- perhaps more important than sales. If you get others to trust you, it's easier to grow and nurture your business and give everyone excellent service. But trust is fragile. If you lose it, it's very difficult -- if not impossible -- to restore it.

So, where do you start with this trust thing?

Trust is mysterious and often elusive. No one can tell you exactly where it originates or how it develops. The trust process is incomprehensible. You can't fake it. You can't go through the motions or pay it lip service.

I know firsthand how puzzling trust is. As soon as I think I've wrapped my head around trust, the inexplicable, elusive belief floats away. Quite frankly, I've found that it's often easier to mistrust than trust. That makes me angry since that's like being guilty until proven innocent -- the opposite of our legal system.

Along the way, however, I've found seven concrete actions that build trust in a business environment. These actions build trust through communication, commitment and competence.

1. Demonstrate that you trust others.

One way to do this is to be generous and forgiving when someone else makes a mistake or disappoints you in some way. People who always jump to the worst conclusion about a person’s competence or motivation inspire wariness, not trust.

Most people don’t set out to be mean or stupid, so give them the benefit of the doubt until you have contrary information that proves you wrong. You'll feel better about them, and they'll trust you for your generosity.

2. Create relationships that are mutually beneficial.

Customers, coworkers and employees all want to believe that they are making the right decision to work with you. This takes a lot more than clichés and platitudes. Customers should clearly understand the value of your products and services to them. Likewise, employees should feel good about taking ownership, which introduces an added measure of accountability and demonstrates the level of trust you have in them.

In other words, trust is about showing people that you care about them. In turn, they will care about and trust you.

3. Directly address issues.

Ruffled feathers are inevitable in any relationship. How you deal with concerns and problems is what instills trust and loyalty. In the course of a busy business day, it's easy to get distracted and become disconnected with what's happening on the front lines.

Customer trust develops from the first contact and extends through service delivery, implementation, care and support. At each step, you can either damage or enhance this experience for your customers. That's why it's so important to deliver on promises if you want to be trusted.

If you want people to trust you, you have to care. Address complaints fast. Share information. Gain their confidence. Exude pride and passion about your business. Resolve conflicts quickly. These actions separate you from the pack, while also building and maintaining trust. 

4. Tell the truth.

Let's say that one more time for good measure -- tell the truth.

Never assume that certain people can’t handle the truth. Be as honest with your employees and customers as you expect them to be with you. If you get caught in a lie, no one will trust you. You don't often get a second chance to make a first impression, so don't count on it.

Keeping your promises is also a part of telling the truth. Don’t commit to a promise you can’t deliver. Think about what’s realistic, and do your best to live up to your word.

5. Be flexible and patient.

Be tolerant of mistakes, and don’t be an inflexible judge. Meet the other person in the middle. Be considerate of events and negative experiences that may have affected one’s ability to trust. Make exceptions to the rules when common sense dictates. Consider unusual alternatives for problems that can’t be resolved by typical methods.

Remember, trust is built over time, especially when you deal with someone who isn't fortunate enough to have experienced trust in his or her own life.

6. Respect their time.

I believe that people in our society are losing their sense of civility, courtesy and respect. To get people to trust you, you will be well-served to raise your awareness of other people’s time, personal schedule and needs. This means you should:

Promptly return phone calls

Promptly reply to emails and thoroughly address all points raised
Be on time for meetings, and log on to a scheduled call two minutes in advance of start time
Hold fast to estimated call end times, and inquire if attendees are free to keep going

7. Deliver the unexpected

The best way to deliver trust is to surprise and delight clients and customers. Give them what they asked for, but on top of that, deliver more -- more service, more time, more convenience and more sensitivity. Delivering more than they expect goes a long way and adds real value and trust. As a bonus, customers will tell others about how you delivered more. This should net you more business.

I wholeheartedly agree with George MacDonald, the nineteenth century Scottish author and poet, who said "To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved." In business, that's the kind of compliment you can take to the bank. 

Source:   https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/276046

Tuesday, 14 June 2016 02:03

Content Marketing Goals You Should Have

Success with content marketing goes well beyond research, writing, and publishing. Measuring the impact of your content marketing is the only way to know that what you’re doing is working.

A content strategy with clearly-defined goals is a must. Without well-defined goals, the content you’re producing is little more than noise – and it’s not going to satisfy the needs of your customers.

 While content goals are highly individualized, there are five goals that every content marketer should keep in mind when creating and publishing content.

1. Developing Brand Awareness

Brand awareness is one of the most common goals for content marketing – businesses want their audience to see the valuable content and follow it back to them.

And it plays a major role in building revenue: a report from Oracle and Aberdeen Group showed that 74% of CMOs list increasing brand awareness as a top priority.

That’s because quality, authoritative content showcases the expertise of your company, and leaves the audience asking, “Who made this?”

Content and KPIs for Brand Awareness
Examples of relevant content for this goal include:

Funny, entertaining, or engaging videos

Ebooks and webinars

Infographics

Data sheets and SlideShare decks about popular industry topics

Common KPIs for branding campaigns often target the views and social shares tied to content, as well as those that might come from partnership audiences.

Measuring Performance for Branding Goals

Brand awareness is one of the hardest goals to measure. There are a few ways you can begin pulling the data together to show campaign performance and (hopefully) growth.

Measure Growth Through Surveys

Surveys can be conducted in a number of ways: ask customers how they heard about you, or select a group of people familiar with your brand and ask a similar question. You can also select a random group and ask if they’re familiar with your brand.

Use Website Traffic

Analytics can provide insight into brand awareness, alongside specific content campaigns you’re running.

The “Direct” channel in Google Analytics will show you the number of people who arrived at your site by entering your URL directly into the address bar, used a bookmark, or used an email link that wasn’t tracked. 

The 5 Goals Every Content Marketer Needs to Have to Drive Massive ROI 

Search Volume Data

Reviewing the volume of branded searches for your company name using a tool like the Adwords Keyword Planner or running Google Trends against your name can help you see if search volume is increasing over time.

Be mindful that if you have a generic brand name, the data is going to be fairly skewed with irrelevant searches.

Set Up Listening Posts

Look into brand mentions across social channels, especially where you target the promotion of your content. It’s an opportunity to listen to unsolicited opinions, as opposed to dealing with response bias that can occur with surveys.

2. Driving Traffic to a Website

While brand awareness is a broader goal of content marketing, driving traffic is a goal centered on pushing traffic into the top-level cycle of your sales funnel.

You’re creating content with the intent to drive people to your site, nurture the relationship with valuable content, and warm the lead towards the end of the sales funnel.

Content and KPIs for Generating Traffic
Examples of relevant content for this goal include:

Social media content that links back to your website

Videos that push traffic to a relevant landing page

Blogs and articles with a call to action that moves readers to an opt-in or landing page

KPIs for this type of campaign are often based on the number of visits the content receives, the number of visits to the website or target page per month, time on site, and the conversion rates of the content.

Measuring Traffic Generation in Content Marketing

How you measure the traffic generated by your content marketing will vary a bit depending on where you place your content.

Off-site Articles and Blogs

For off-site content, it’s easiest to track referral traffic using the “Referrals” data provided in Google Analytics. Under “All Referrals,” you’ll be able to see the amount of traffic generated by specific pieces of content, as well as the landing pages where referral traffic is funneling in.

search engine journal 2

 This is a great way to see which topics and types of content generate more traffic so you can revise your strategy and trim out what’s not working.

 

Inbound Content Campaigns

Referrals from sources like email or webinars can be difficult to track – it’s what’s called “dark traffic.”

Here, you can utilize Google UTM parameters, which allow you to append any URL with data, including source, medium, content type, and the name of a campaign. That data is then fed into your analytics so the source can be easily identified.

 

3. Generating Sales Leads

A primary goal for most businesses is to have qualified leads come in as a result of content marketing. You want to convert that blog and website traffic into leads that you then begin to nurture as part of your sales cycle.

This is the stage in which potential leads fill out some kind of form to gain access to your content.

Content and KPIs for Generating Sales Leads
Examples of relevant content for this goal include:

Ebooks, case studies, and white papers

Solution demos

Tools and resources such as checklists, worksheets, or courses

The two KPIs that marketers focus on are the number of leads generated from individual pieces of content, and the conversion rates of landing pages.

Measuring Lead Generation in Content Marketing

Measuring the number of leads is as simple as counting the leads you acquire in your CRM or email platform and comparing it to your benchmark.

For the conversion rates, turn to your analytics. In Google Analytics, simply define the conversion goal:

Go to your Google Analytics standard reports
Click on the “Admin” button
Click on “Goals”
From one of the “Goal” sets, click “+Goal”
The focus here is the “Event” goal. Event tracking is a powerful way to identify specific actions on your site, particularly for conversions around downloads, video views, or buttons for opt-ins. Analytics allows you to use these events as conversion goals. 

 

 

Events are a little more complex to set up because you have to identify the specific event you want to track – that requires a little bit of JavaScript within the element you’re tracking.

Google provides a complete walk-through on setting up Event Goals.

By tracking your conversion rate by goals, along with the number of actual leads acquired, you can tweak different aspects of your content so that you’re losing less traffic and improving that conversion rate over the life of your campaign.

4. Converting Leads into Customers

This is a goal that relies heavily on the quality of your content marketing. The content you create has brought the lead in, and now your continued efforts turn toward generating revenue from the lead in your database.

You’re nurturing that lead in hopes of closing the deal and making a sale.

Content and KPIs for Lead Conversion
Examples of relevant content for this goal include:

Case studies

Trials and demonstration videos

Eye-catching ads as part of retargeting campaigns

Infographics

Value-driven content that positions solutions to match the issues of the lead

Typical KPIs at this stage are the lead-to-conversion rate for each specific content campaign or piece of content being delivered, along with the average time to close new customers.

Measuring Lead Conversion in Content Marketing

With a content-focused sales funnel, track conversions in the same manner as the lead generation step above. Content should pull the lead to highly-targeted landing pages or encourage a phone call to sign up with a unique number that can be tracked.

Using the same “Event” goal tracking above – in comparison to when a lead enters that final conversion stage – you’ll know the percentage of converting leads.

When tied into a CRM for lead and customer management, you’ll be able to accurately track the amount of time it takes to make the lead-to-customer conversion.

5. Improving Retention and Driving Upsells

Once the customer is yours, the content marketing shouldn’t end. This is the stage where you’re creating custom content specific to your existing customers in order to reduce churn, nurture relationships and keep them coming back for more.

Content and KPIs for Customer Retention

Examples of relevant content for this goal include:

Blog posts on industry trends

Exclusive offers and deals sent via email list segments

Free, exclusive content for customers

Video tutorials for new product launches

KPIs can vary at this stage, depending on the content, customer retention rates, revenue growth from upsells, and percentage of repeat customers.

Measuring Retention and Upsells in Content Marketing

With retention, the measurement of the goal will vary based on the offers and type of content you put out.

For example:

Use UTM parameters and unique tracking URLs for email offers and retargeting ads
Create unique coupon codes for exclusive offers that go out in specific pieces of content
Create unique event goals for products and promotions targeting existing customers to track conversions
Review traffic data and social shares for video and blog content in relation to conversion rates of targeted landing pages 

search engine journal 4

 Putting the idea of metrics aside for a moment, the ultimate goal of your content marketing strategy should be to delight your customers.

It’s nice to track everything by the numbers, but believe it or not, the metrics will follow if you focus on the customer.

When customers are happy with what you provide, especially your communication efforts via content, it becomes much easier to drive loyalty and improve your revenue. 

Source:  https://www.searchenginejournal.com/the-5-goals-every-content-marketer-needs-to-have-to-drive-massive-roi/164607/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Different retailers have different priorities when it comes to their marketing budgets, but the most valuable brands – Amazon and Apple – are banking on search.

We all know Amazon is the undisputed king of ecommerce. From November 2014 to November 2015, the company raked in more than $71 billion in online sales, which is more than Walmart, Apple, Macy’s, The Home Depot, Best Buy, Costco, Target, Gap Inc., Williams-Sonoma, Sears and Kohl’s sold. Combined.

What is Amazon doing that the others aren’t?

According to Fractl, a Florida-based content marketing agency which analyzed the marketing spend of these massive retailers, search gets the lion’s share of Amazon’s budget. During that year period, the ecommerce giant spent $8 million on TV and radio, a number that sounds very high in isolation. However, Amazon spent $54 million on print and $1.35 billion on search.

 

Among the other retailers, only Apple – called the most valuable brand in the world last year – and Etsy prioritize search to such a degree. Apple spent far more on TV and outdoor advertising than Amazon, though search still made up 86 percent of its spend. Search was an even higher percentage for Etsy: 91 percent, with 1.39 million going to search and $90,000 to other digital channels.

The Etsy finding was the most interesting to Lillian Podlog, project manager at Fractl, who noted that Etsy doesn’t have the same juggernaut status as Apple and Amazon.

“With Amazon and Apple, you can ask what came first, their success or where they put their marketing dollars. Maybe at this point, they can do anything, but Etsy has the same tactic and if you look at organic search rankings, it’s doing really well,” she says.

Etsy saw among the highest ROI in the study. For every $1 spent on marketing, the online marketplace saw $1,600 in sales. Additionally, Etsy, along with Apple and Amazon, had a disproportionately high SEMrush rankings compared with the others, which means they saw higher organic traffic.

That’s a common correlation among the brands analyzed by Fractl. Most of those with larger search spends have higher SEMrush rankings.

“So many people use ad blockers, so many people have blindness to display ads. Investing in search, whether its paid or building your SEO, requires you to really think about what kind of content you’re putting on the Internet that would appeal to users and boost your SEO,” says Podlog. “It requires you to be more thoughtful and considerate about what the customer really wants.”

Among the only exceptions to that rule are Williams-Sonoma and The Home Depot. Digital makes up 51 percent of sales – and 57 percent of the marketing budget – for the former. Nearly a quarter of that budget goes to search, but Williams-Sonoma still doesn’t rank particularly high. On the other hand, The Home Depot does, despite only spending 11 percent on search, instead prioritizing TV and radio. 

homedepot-spend

Where do some of the other major players put their money?

Best Buy puts the majority of its dollars in TV and digital, favoring network channels and display advertising over cable and search.

Costco, on the other hand, largely eschews TV. Instead, the warehouse retailer allocates 57 percent of its marketing dollars to display and nearly all the rest to magazines and newspapers.
Macy’s is another one with a heavy print focus. The brand spends $16 million on display and $32 million on search, which sounds like a lot of money, but is just a drop in the bucket by comparison. Macy’s spends 5.5 times as much on TV and more than 8 times as much on print. 

macys-spend“Macy’s is one of those companies that has an established name and an established consumer base, but if it wants to take some of Amazon’s chunk of online retail, it has to invest more in those other channels,” says Podlog. “Macy’s has been around for so long, but I personally think that unless it changes the shape of its spending, it’s going to suffer.”

Nordstrom’s priority is similarly on print – $27 million on magazines, compared with $6 million on search, $4 million on display, $5 million on TV and $2 million on outdoor – but the strategy is a bit different from that of Macy’s. While Macy’s spends most of its money on newspapers, Nordstrom goes for magazines, a medium that meshes better with the brand’s luxury focus.

Netflix, despite being heralded as one of the premier digital disruptors, doesn’t spend nearly as much money on digital advertising as one would assume. The streaming giant spends $1 million each on display and online video, and $17 million on TV with a particularly heavy focus on network. It makes to sense to Podlog, who points out that “people are watching TV, they’re not on Netflix.”

Target’s marketing budget is probably the most balanced. The retailer spends 46 on TV, 22 on print and 28 percent on digital. The majority of that digital spend is allocated to search, but $23 million is still set aside for online video. 

Source:  https://searchenginewatch.com/2016/06/06/where-do-the-biggest-brands-spend-their-marketing-dollars/ 

Google’s I/O developer conference brought several huge announcements about Google’s future direction and projects, including two new technologies which demonstrate just how important voice search and natural language processing are to the company’s future development.

The first, Google Assistant, is a voice-activated digital assistant which builds on “all [Google’s] years of investment in deeply understanding users’ questions”, as Google’s blog declared. It takes Google’s voice search and natural language capabilities to the next level, while also allowing users to carry out everyday tasks like booking cinema tickets or restaurant reservations.

The second is Google Home, Google’s long-awaited smart home hub to rival the Amazon Echo, which comes with Assistant built in. Google Home – which will be “unmatched in far-field voice recognition”, according to VP of Product Management Mario Quieroz – will give users access to Google’s powerful search capabilities in answering their questions as well as linking together smart devices all over their home.

google assistant

It’s no surprise that Google is focusing heavily on voice search and natural language going forward when you consider that in 2015 alone, voice search rose from “statistical zero” to make up 10% of all searches globally, according to Timothy Tuttle of the voice interface specialist MindMeld. That’s an estimated 50 billion searches per month.

Indeed, Google CEO Sundar Pichai revealed in his keynote speech at I/O that 1 in every 5 searches made with the Google Android app in the US is a voice query. Bing produced a similar statistic earlier this month when it announced that a quarter of all searches on the Windows 10 taskbar using Bing are voice searches. And statistics like these are only like to increase further as search engines, apps and developers respond to this trend.

Digital assistants: The agents of voice search

Siri. Cortana. Google Now. Alexa. Google Assistant. These are only the names of the most well-known digital assistants from the major technology companies; a search for “digital assistant” on the iOS or Android app store shows just how many different varieties of these voice-controlled AIs there are.

Digital assistants are overwhelmingly the medium through which we interact with voice search and carry out natural language queries, so it makes sense that they, too, are on the rise as companies compete for the biggest share of this rapidly expanding market.

The figures show just how recent much of this uptake of voice search is. Late last year, MindMeld published a study of smartphone users in the U.S. and their use of voice search and voice commands. It found that 60% of smartphone users who used voice search had begun using it within the past year, with 41% of survey respondents having only begun to use voice search in the past 6 months.

mindmeld

With that said, digital assistants are not just confined to smartphones any more, increasingly integrated into devices like smart home hubs and game consoles. And the more that we speak to and interact with assistants, pushing the limits of what they’re capable of, the more sophisticated they become.

The newest generation of digital assistants, including Google Assistant and Viv, a new AI from the creators of Siri, are capable of interpreting and responding to long, multi-part and highly specific queries. For example, during a public demonstration in New York, Viv showed off its ability to accurately respond to queries like, “Was it raining in Seattle three Thursdays ago?” and “Will it be warmer than 70 degrees near the Golden Gate Bridge after 5PM the day after tomorrow?”

At the demonstration of Google Assistant at Google’s I/O conference, Sundar Pichai made much of the fact that you can pose follow-up queries to Assistant without needing to restate context. That is, you can ask a question like, “Who directed the Revenant?” and then follow up by saying, “Show me his awards,” and Assistant will know that you are still referring to director Alejandro Iñárritu in the second query. (It’s worth noting, though, that Bing’s web search has been able to do this for a while).

follow-up

 

How voice queries are changing search

So how is this upswing in voice queries and technology’s increasing ability to respond to them changing the way that users search?

We don’t search with voice the same way that we search with a keyboard. Computer users have evolved a specific set of habits and expectations for web search based on its limitations and capabilities. So we would start off by typing a quite generalised, keyword-based search query like “SEO tips”, see what comes back, and progressively narrow down through trial and error with longer search terms like “SEO tips for m-commerce” or “SEO tips for beginners”.

Or if we were looking to buy a pair of red shoes, we might search for “red shoes” and then navigate to a specific website, browse through their shoes and use the site interface to narrow down by style, size and designer.

Whereas now, with the advanced capabilities of search engines to understand longer, more specialised searches and the advent of voice search making natural language queries more common, we might start off by searching, “Quick SEO tips for complete beginners”, or, “Show me wide-fit ladies’ red shoes for under £50.” 

voice vs keyword search

The increasing rise of voice search brings with it a wealth of new data on user intent, habits and preferences. From the first query about SEO, a site owner can see that the searcher is not just a novice but a complete novice, and is not looking to spend a lot of time researching in-depth SEO guides; they want a list that’s easy to digest and quick to implement.

From the second query, a shop owner can tell exactly what type of shoes the consumer is looking for, down to the fit and colour. The price range indicates a budget and an intent to buy.

When mobile users are conducting voice search with location enabled, site owners and business owners can also gain valuable location data. Often, the voice query will contain the important phrase “near me”, which shows that the searcher is looking for local businesses. Mobile voice searches are three times more likely to be local than text, so optimising for local search and mobile will also help you to rank for many voice searches.

A mobile screenshot of a Google search for "Marks and Spencer near me", showing the three-pack of local results below a small map of the area.With the growth of voice search, we can expect to see more and more long-tail search keywords and natural language queries, which give increasing amounts of contextual information and useful data about searcher intent. The addition of voice assistants to smart home hubs like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home (Apple is also reported to be developing its own smart hub with Siri built in) will also give the companies behind them access to untold amounts of data on users’ daily life and habits, purchases, interests and more, opening up new avenues for marketing.

How can you capitalise on voice search?

With all of that in mind, what practical things can website owners do to take advantage of this new search frontier?

Look out for natural language queries in your site analytics

At the moment, there’s no way to tell outright which users are reaching your site through voice search, though Google is rumoured to be developing this feature for Google Analytics. But by looking out for natural language queries in your search traffic reports, you can start to get a feel for what users might be asking to find your site, learn from it and use it to inform your SEO strategy.

Think about how people are likely to phrase queries aloud

We need to start moving our approach from thinking of endless variations on different keywords to thinking about different types of questions and phrases that users might search. Ask yourself which questions might bring a user to your site, and how they will speak them aloud. What are the extra words, the ones that wouldn’t appear in a regular keyword search, and what information do they give you about the user’s intent on your site?

Make sure your site is set up to answer searchers’ questions

Once you’ve considered the types of questions a user might be asking, consider whether your site will satisfy those queries. Rob Kerry, in a presentation on the future of search at Ayima Insights, advised website owners to start integrating Q&A-style content into their sites in order to rank better for natural language searches and better satisfy the needs of users who are asking those questions.

Q&A-style content can also be excellent material for featured snippets, which is another great way to gain visibility on the search results page.

Develop content with a conversational tone

Because natural language queries reflect the way that people speak, they aren’t just longer but more colloquial. So consider if there are ways that you can create and incorporate content with a more conversational tone, to match this.

Use voice search!

One of the best ways to understand voice search, how it works and what kind of results it returns is to use it yourself. Search the questions you think might bring people to your site and see what currently ranks top, to get a sense of what works for others. Are there questions that aren’t being addressed, or answered very well? You can take this into account when creating content that is geared towards voice search.

 

Source:  https://searchenginewatch.com/2016/05/31/the-continuing-rise-of-voice-search-and-how-you-can-adapt-to-it/ 

Allo seems like a really amazing app, except that it is exactly what we’re building at StrollUp. At first, it felt really good and provided great validation. When Google wants to make what you are doing, you must be doing something right! It gives a good answer to all those who didn’t believe in this product. But then you realise the bigger challenge: how the hell are you going to compete with Google?

Let me tell you our story first. We started StrollUp about 2.5 years ago and have been proudly bootstrapping it ever since. Yes – not all IIT alumni startups raise funding! We were building an itinerary planner for intra-city outings. We were too attached to the product to see that not a lot of people needed these types of itineraries. And so it failed. Then we analysed how people really go out.

The primary idea

Each outing starts with a discussion amongst people who are going out together, usually on some WhatsApp group. They discuss what to do (movie/drinks/bowling etc) and where to go out (best place for the query). Then after a lot of discussion/suggestions, people finalise a place. Now imagine, what if there was a bot in your group and it was the super cool outing going bot, who knows about all great parties and best places in your city? When you mention DJ parties, it would give you the best three on the group itself. You ask for directions, it would give you map. You ask it for booking, it would make a reservation on your behalf. Excited? We are just getting started. 

google_compitator

 Now let’s make our bot (wait! let’s call her “Anusha”) even more powerful. Anusha knows all about you, just like your friends. She would suggest places and activities based on your interest, age, and the people you are going out with. Moreover, she would also consider the weather. If it were a sunny day, she would suggest a place for a chilled beer. If it were cloudy, she would suggest you some scenic rooftop places. But she is still learning, so please be patient with her. Do you know how many creeps ask her out daily?

Even Google can fail

If you want to laugh, you can. I would have done the same. How can someone think that Google can fail? There are 1.2 billion monthly unique Google searchers, who do 2.3 million searches every second. It can advertise any of their products on their homepage. So how can Google fail?

But the truth is they do. Google has launched 180+ unique products/services and a lot of them have failed. Two years after launching Google Video, it acquired YouTube and shutdown Google Video after another 10 months. Google Buzz was a Twitter clone that died within two years of launch. Google Answers was like paid version of Quora – you pay the person who answers your question and Google takes commission. It also died in under five years. I won’t go into details of which products failed and why, but the image below depicts some of the Google products that failed. Most of the ideas weren’t bad, but there are alternatives to all of them. 

google_compitator

 When you have a market cap of $500 billion, you have the luxury to build and throw products in the market. After Google Talk, Google has been trying so hard to get messaging right with these five different apps: Allo, Duo, Spaces, Messenger, Hangout.

Why Allo might not be that great

Have you heard of Google Places (rebranded as “Google My Business” since 2014)? You probably have even used it without realising. It generates the results when you search about any place or business on Search, Google Maps, or Google+ (see screen shot below). The results typically show basic data such as address, images, hours of operation, and some reviews. 

google_compitator

Allo would use these data and answer queries using Google Knowledge Graph, which is a system that understands facts about people, places, and things, and how these three entities are connected. Google said that it would help you do everything without leaving chat. But they don’t do everything. So for making a reservation or buying movie tickets for you, it would rely on the Google Assistant ecosystem, i.e. third-party apps that complete the experience such as Open Table.

So basically, Allo is a Google search function inside a chatting app. It won’t be able to give you answers that Google Search also cannot, such as where to take your girlfriend or where the best parties are tonight. Allo might answer questions that have objective answers, such as “places to eat near me”, but chat works when people want answers for very subjective queries like “what should I do this Saturday?” or “where should I go in Gurgaon?” or “does this place serve good chicken?” Now what’s the use of a chatbot that can’t chat or give the answers that you need? Without good data, Allo is just another bot that might come up with funny responses just like Siri and people might use it once in a while for its coolness. But nobody would come back on the bot to actually ask where should they go out.

In conclusion, I would say: never fear competition. Focus only on your customers and build a great product. If industry is attractive to be in, you will have competition eventually. 

Source:  http://yourstory.com/2016/06/google-allo-competition/ 

Technology has become so deeply rooted in business, non-IT managers can't afford not to learn about IT basics. These 10 fundamental IT topics and practices need to be on every business manager's list for developing their tech skills and knowledge.

1: How to define a business case for a new applicatio

Especially in big data and analytics projects, IT is often left on its own to try to make the analytics work—without the benefit of strong business cases that can return immediate value to the organization. This is where end business managers should be stepping in to define the ways new technology can best help.

They can do this is by describing specific business problems they want to solve with the help of technology. For instance, the goal might be to cut down on machine failure and maintenance by developing analytics that can monitor machines and detect those likely to fail, so a maintenance crew can be dispatched before any failure can occur—thus saving the company downtime and money. Business managers should be defining these business cases so IT can focus on developing the technology to solve the problem.

2: How to work with an IT vendor

Almost every business unit today works at some point with vendors offering technology. However, before business managers sign on with vendors, they should fully understand their own (and the vendor's) technical and legal liabilities under the contract, what the vendor's service levels are, how the vendor guarantees uptime, and how the vendor secures and keeps data and applications safe. IT typically vets these areas and should ideally be called into the process to make sure everything is in order. However, business managers should also have a working knowledge of these issues so they can participate in discussions.

3: What IT contributes to the Organization

IT is often perceived as a "roadblock" department by business managers when they want to get something done. But a more cooperative relationship can be forged with IT if those managers understand IT's responsibilities to the organization.

These responsibilities include keeping systems and networks up; ensuring security and privacy for intellectual property, mission-critical applications, and sensitive data; protecting the company from security breaches, malicious viruses, and malware; ensuring that employees are using systems properly; tracking and monitoring system assets; developing and maintaining applications; and managing relations with technology vendors. Each area involves many essential steps—and they take time. Once managers understand this, they're in a better position to evaluate whether IT is truly slow and unresponsive or whether there are simply many steps IT must take through a given process.

4: How to address security matters

Employees visiting unsafe websites on company time and passing dangerous viruses and malware into the network—or sharing user IDs and passwords with co-workers—are major risk areas that business managers can do something about. They can educate staff on the importance of avoiding unauthorized websites, opening strange emails, and casually giving out user IDs and passwords.

5: How to effectively use mobile and desktop/laptop devices

The days of administrative assistance for every manager are long over. Business managers today should be fluent with mobile, laptop, and desktop devices.

6: How to conserve energy and protect equipment

Computers continue to be left on in work areas after employees leave for the day—and in some cases, like in a factory or a warehouse, computers and even local servers can be left to operate in dusty conditions with temperatures that are either too hot or too cold. All these conditions contribute to excess energy consumption and to premature failures of equipment. Business managers can help this situation if they educate staff on the proper care of computerized gear.

7: How to develop basic reports

Whether it is an Excel report, an end-user reporting tool, or a way to customize a dashboard or an online display, business managers need basic skills to develop their own reports. Of course, there are some highly complex reports that IT must still develop. But most companies have end-user reporting tools that non-IT users can use to create their own reports without having to call IT.

8: How to take advantages of IT services

Many IT departments are shifting to a self-service philosophy. They are doing this by making portals into private clouds or intranets that end users can access to use or request IT services. Business managers should know what is available on these self-service platforms so they can take advantage of all the resources.

9: What tech lingo actually means

IT is packed full of acronyms and technical jargon that can intimidate end business users. By visiting an IT website, picking up a technology journal for a few minutes each week, and attending an occasional IT seminar, non-tech managers can master some of the specialized terminology they need to communicate effectively with vendors and IT.

10: Where technology fits in with business plans

Almost everyone sees technology as a driving force when they work on their three- and five-year strategic plans. This is also a good time to find out what's in the IT plan. The exercise builds technology partnerships and helps prevent double investments in the same technologies.

Source:  http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/10-things/10-it-basics-that-business-managers-need-to-know/

If you have heard the term ‘RankBrain’ before, you will know that it is ‘the third most important ranking signal for Google’, as this tends to be the most commonly cited fact based on what we know (the facts as opposed to the opinion) about this Google update. You may also know there is some debate, but many experts believe RankBrain is likely to increase in influence over the months to come.

This post explores how to optimize your content for RankBrain and helps you to make the most out of this exciting search and business opportunity.

What Do You Need to Know About RankBrain?

In October 2015 Forbes and Bloomberg were among the first sites to announce that machines were “taking over” at Google. As you might expect, the title, while factually correct, led speculation into the realm of ‘robots taking over’ rather than the real opportunity, which is; ‘How does RankBrain impact my business?‘ and more importantly ‘How can I update my content for RankBrain?‘

If you are keen to explore machine learning, the debate of ‘robots taking over’ and associated topics like Artificial Intelligence (AI), the below are some reads that you may find useful:

Detailed machine learning insight direct from Google – Machine intelligence resource

Robots taking over insight from a post I wrote soon after RankBrain was first released – Good news, machines have taken over at Google
Adding to the Artificial Intelligence (AI) debate and search – How AI is transforming Google

What is RankBrain?

Optimizing Your Content for RankBrain

RankBrain is a form of Artificial Intelligence used by Google to help filter and process a large portion of search queries, so the results displayed are relevant to, and reflective of, the search intent. RankBrain uses machine learning and AI, with the ability to predict meaning, and therefore relevancy, to display the best matching results, even for previously unknown, and new search requests.

RankBrain has a core function of effectively answering new search queries and understanding what results should appear for topics with limited, if any, historical data to base relevancy and therefore ranking on.

The remainder of this post practically explores how to make the most of RankBrain and provides actions you can take to optimize your content for search gains.

Understanding Content

RankBrain looks at new and relatively unknown content topics with a goal of understanding them more effectively so it can display the best results. The more your content supports this understanding, the better. Tactics to deploy will depend on several factors. However, typical SEO actions to encourage content understanding include the following:

Clear purpose: Make it easy for search engines and users to identify why the content was created
Depth of information: Cover the topic in full and providing access to external supporting information
Topic focus: Move away from very refined sets of specific keywords (keyword focus), and cover the variations and natural language used to convey the content meaning spanning target audiences
Term frequency–inverse document frequency (TF-IDF): How frequently you use terms within the content and the perceived importance of those terms to that content – this is not keyword stuffing!

Embracing Machine Learning

Content marketers and search engine optimization experts need to start to see robots/machines as a colleague rather than the competition. Data should be the fuel behind the content you create and reflect your audience wants and needs, as well as the data opportunity that exists. RankBrain learns (remember the AI aspect of this topic) through data (machine learning) and the more your content creation approach is driven by a combination of data and expert insight, the easier it will become to align content output with RankBrain outcomes.

Do not write for RankBrain!

Effectively using data for content insights and ensuring content is easy to understand are core steps in optimizing for RankBrain. Do not start viewing RankBrain as a persona to target. Instead, by taking the right approach you will naturally fulfill the needs of RankBrain.

Refining Your Existing Content

Content should never have just a single chance of succeeding online. When you add content to your website, that is the first step in the process. This enables you to gather new data relating to how that content performed, how people engaged with it, what the content displayed for, whether the content was successful, and associated #WhatDidTheContentDo type questions.

When you take the next steps to analyze the data, refine the content and continue this process of content improvement, you are applying an element of human/data collaboration into content creation that will help maximize any RankBrain interaction with your website.

The Value of Voice Search

Optimizing Your Content for RankBrain

When you create content for your website consider how people will naturally speak about the content – more specifically, how they would search for it using voice commands. RankBrain is in place to help display the best results for search behavior that has limited current data to base decisions on, and vague (less interpretable) user requests—this is where voice search comes in!

People have had less training when it comes to using voice search, which leads to more complex and varied interpretive requirements for search engines. By reflecting more on the audience your content is created for, you can build user targeting and voice query matching into your content

Don’t Forget About Links

Every aspect of content relevancy, trust, authority and value must be considered for creating any competitive advantage from Google RankBrain. With hundreds of Google ranking factors, many tied directly to content, the application of the tried and tested content optimization tactics are a necessity. When you consider the importance of search ranking factors, please do not overlook links.

Links will help provide external relevancy and third-party trust to your content, and provide independent complementary signals for RankBrain to include as part of the broader approach to displaying your content effectively.

Keep the following in mind the following when pointing links to your content:

Domain Authority matters
Quality takes precedent over quantity in the long-term
Relevance to the topic is paramount
Think about the audience before the desired link outcome
Final Thoughts on Content for RankBrain
RankBrain gives content writers and marketers an added incentive to get to know their target audience, refine the content being created, and ensure that content has depth of value and a defined purpose for being produced in the first place.

When you consider how to optimize for RankBrain a good place to start is ‘who the content is for‘ and ‘why it matters‘. There are lots of tactics to use to support RankBrain known and believed information triggers, however, this should be seen as a secondary activity to the contents actual purpose.

I love to hear your thoughts and feedback, so please share them with me and tell me what you think about RankBrain and the tactics you have used that have delivered results.

Source:  https://www.searchenginejournal.com/optimize-content-google-rankbrain/163401/

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