Posts about search engine optimization

9 Free SXSW 2017 Interactive & Networking Events

2017 is a unique year for South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, TX. Fresh visual technology and virtual reality will play a larger role than ever in the interactive sections of the event, and emerging mobile app capabilities are likely to dominate the floor. The ever-revolving marketing sphere turns on the axis of new technology, so wise marketers are already looking for free events that will upgrade their digital marketing game for the rest of 2017.

Enjoy these free SXSW 2017 Interactive & networking events and share the info with your fellow entrepreneurs, marketers, and friends. These events are accessible at no charge with a free guest pass unless otherwise noted.

Treehouse Old School Happy Hour

DateTimeRSVP
March 86:00 PM – 9:00 PMYes

Treehouse is not only hosting a happy hour with free drinks, food, and music at Old School in Austin, they’re also giving away free one-month memberships to Treehouse for Business. The happy hour will unfold crawl-style, and you’ll get the chance to experience both Austin’s most unforgettable food and drinks as well as some of the most influential speakers of SXSW.

treehouse old school happy hour shot of crowd enjoying drinks

Austin Tech Happy Hour

(Note: This event allows entry by ticket. Free tickets are likely to run out fast, so reserve your tickets right away, or you may have to pay for tickets or cash at the door.)

DateTimeRSVP
March 95:30 PM – 7:30 PMYes

The Austin Tech Happy Hour has been running for ten years, and it’s stronger than ever in 2017. Admission gets you two free drink tickets so you can loosen up with Austin’s tech crowd before the SXSW truly kicks off. The emerging technology community will be there ready to make friends online and offline.

austin tech happy hour logo

SX Create

DateTimeRSVP
March 1011:00 AM – 6:00 PMNo

SX Create dives into the world of emerging technologies and the ways they can be customized and manipulated. Kids and adults alike can take in the wonder of 3D printing, drones, robots, biohacking, and whatever other secret projects with which inquisitive minds have been tinkering.

sx create r2d2 droid

Decoded Fashion: Content Is Still King

DateTimeRSVP
March 123:30 PM – 4:30 PMYes

Decoded Fashion wants to explore new and exciting ways to bring original content to fashion-hungry audiences. Even if you aren’t in the fashion industry, you’ll have the chance to learn a thing or two about PR, influencer marketing, and the very personal journeys that lead customers to relevant content.

decoded fashion house logo

Amazon Web Services ATX Startup Crawl

DateTimeRSVP
March 135:00 PM – ?Yes

Amazon Web Services is pulling together Austin’s hottest startup businesses for a bar crawl that entrepreneurs and job-seekers alike won’t forget. The crawl is offering free drinks and pulled in a whopping 12,000 registrants last year. Guests can enjoy free drinks, check out local office spaces, share résumés, and talk with ambitious startup owners and employees.

atx startup crawl logo

Digital Media Women: Burgers & Bubbles

DateTimeRSVP
March 133:00 PM – 7:00 PMYes

Women are a powerful force in digital media, and the leaders of Digital Media Women want everyone to know about it. This is your chance to talk face-to-face with existing and upcoming digital media leaders as well as find out the secrets of women who are innovating at the forefront of technology. Plus, there’s food and tasty beverages.

digital media women sxsw 2017

Women in Digital Meetup

(Note: This event is already waitlisted, and the event coordinators are attempting to reserve an additional tent for those who want to attend. If you’re interested, register right away.

DateTimeRSVP
March 134:00 PM – 7:00 PMYes

It’s no secret that women are playing incredible roles in digital media and marketing, and this SXSW Meetup is set to celebrate the success of Women in Digital as it exceeds 450 members. This event is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet some of the most astounding minds in digital marketing and media and join a powerful network of hard-working women.

women in digital homepage screen grab

Pet Rescue Lounge

DateTimeRSVP
March 135:00 PM – 1:00 AMYes

Pets are near and dear to the dog and cat lovers of Leverage Marketing, a sentiment shared by nearly all of Austin. Meet like-minded individuals that can’t get away from their preoccupation with pets, and help find homes for deserving dogs and cats while enjoying unique entertainment from famous pets and free pet swag!

pet rescue lounge event logo

Local and Vocal

DateTimeRSVP
March 154:00 PM – 11:00 PMYes

Local and Vocal is an event that focuses on local Austin talent in entertainment. If you’re a marketer, you’ll have a rare opportunity to find talent to which you can offer your unique services. This event includes free drinks for those who are over 21 years old – which, of course, lends itself to some serious networking.

local and vocal sxsw 2017

Even though the events are free, we welcome you to support the event coordinators, participants, and local businesses by enjoying an extra drink or dish. Network, learn about new technology, and hone your marketing skills at these free SXSW 2017 Interactive & networking events coming your way very, very soon.

 

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How to Improve Your Click-Through Rate in 3 Steps

You’ve spent time crafting helpful, easy-to-navigate web pages across your site, and you’re excited to watch your site traffic and conversions soar. Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy – people browsing the internet have a lot of paid and organic links to choose from on search result pages, and convincing web users to click on your link first isn’t an easy task. Increasing your click through rate (CTR) can make an impact in many ways. Not only do users need to click on your pages, but they need to click on them often and stay on your site – search engines tend to reward pages with high CTR with more visibility on search engine result pages. Luckily, there are several simple ways you can improve click-through rates for your links that appear on search results pages.

Write a Page Title that Stands Out

To inspire browsers to choose your page out of all the other options on the search results page, you’re going to have to create a title for your page that captures attention and makes readers want to know more. Simply stating the topic of the page is not going to do much to help improve CTR – you want to give searchers a reason to choose your page first.

There are some easy ways to make titles more click-able and appealing to internet users:

  • Make an emotional appeal. If there’s a way for you to stir the emotions of readers with your content, spin that to your advantage. Instead of offering “The Best Boutiques in Austin,” try eliciting an emotional response with something like “Local Austin Boutiques You’re Missing Out On.”
  • Solve a problem. Chances are, the searcher reading your headline is looking for a solution to some problem. Improve your click-through rate by simply giving them what they’re looking for! An article titled “Romantic Food Trucks in Austin” doesn’t promise to solve my problem quite as well as “Take Your Date to These Austin Food Trucks” does.
  • Create urgency. Is there something on your page that can help your searchers RIGHT NOW? Will they miss out if they scroll past your page? It’s easy to skip out on “Great Places to Eat Cupcakes in Austin,” but “Austin Cupcakes You Should Try Today” helps me picture myself working the trip into today’s plans.

An important factor to remember when crafting a page title to improve CTR is that the title must accurately describe the full content. Misrepresenting your content may increase how many clicks your page gets in the short term, but it won’t bring many valuable leads or search engine ranking boosts over time. To avoid writing a title that is misleading, get into your reader’s head and think about what content on your page that a reader might be seeking when they search on Google or Bing. A great page title will satisfy the reader’s intent by delivering content on the page that lives up to expectations.

Add a Meta Description

Search engines like to give browsers some idea of what to expect once they click on a link – that’s why they include a short snippet of your content below the blue link and URL on the search page.

Did you know that you can control (to some extent) what search engines display in this valuable space? By adding a meta description to your page, you can indicate to search engines what your article is about, and you can improve your click-through rate significantly if you perform this function well. While search engines may not always choose to display your carefully-written meta description for every single search, a relevant meta description can get a lot of visibility on search pages.

Adding meta descriptions to your pages is usually a simple task. Website platforms often include fields into which you can add a meta description without any knowledge of coding, and SEO plugins for common platforms such as WordPress almost always include user-friendly fields for adding your meta description to a page.

When composing your meta descriptions to improve CTR, similar rules apply to the ones for writing a great title – stir emotions, offer solutions, and create urgency. Sprinkling in short calls-to-action to “check this out,” “get this offer,” and “try this hamburger” help persuade readers that there is something they really, really want to experience on the other side of that blue link.

Think in Numbers

Quantify ideas to bring attention to your links and increase your click-through rate. Numbers add structure, organization, and trust to what otherwise may seem like a lot of meaningless words. Ask yourself: how can I summarize the unique selling propositions of my website, brand, product, service, or content in numbers? Is there a way I can use numbers to describe the past or the future?

For example, maybe you’ve served 100,000 scoops of ice cream, offer the only $0.99 hot dog in Austin, or expanded your seating area by 20%. If working numbers into your page title and meta description is relevant and truthful, it’s a great way to grab a reader’s attention and boost CTR on search pages.

Even if numbers don’t make sense for a certain page, think of other ways you can summarize what the user can expect on a page. For example, articles written in list format with titles like “5 Hidden Gem Music Venues in Austin” promise straightforward answers and simplicity.


Ready to improve your click-through rate? The digital marketing experts at Leverage Marketing can help you with that. We’ve got the experience and industry savvy to give your search CTR, traffic, and conversions a boost. Get in touch with us today.

What Google Analytics Doesn’t Tell You

Google Analytics is an undeniably helpful tool for businesses. Having the ability to track the activity and behavior of the users of your website can be a powerful measurement and decision-making tool. However, Google Analytics does have some limitations when it comes to getting the information you need. Here’s a roundup of some basic disadvantages of Google Analytics’ limited information and some suggestions for ways you can compensate.

Why Are We Seeing These Google Analytics Metrics?

One of the obvious disadvantages of Google Analytics is that it doesn’t point to why a trend is occurring. You can stare at your traffic report all day, but you won’t be able to see exactly why organic traffic plummeted last week. You’ll need other tools and skills to figure that out.

Acting on evidence of symptoms without discovering the source is an automatic reflex of many people, especially when conversions are taking a nosedive. Before slashing the budget for any campaigns, dig into what’s going on behind the scenes. Are important landing pages of your site malfunctioning and throwing 404 errors that are driving your bounce rates up? Or is something external driving your traffic down, like the entrance of a new competitor on the search page?

The Fix: Utilize free tools like Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools site to stay on top of technical site issues that you may not notice at first glance. Sidestep some of Google Analytics’ limitations by utilizing the annotation tool on reports. This will allow you to mark important event dates that may affect data, such as the launch of a new marketing campaign or the release of a new homepage design. Keeping track of key activities will add value to your reporting system and help you identify causes of change faster.

Google Analytics session graph

Your new best friend is at the lower right corner.

Who Is Visiting Your Site?

Google Analytics won’t tell you exactly who is using your website. As a user of the internet, you may see that as somewhat of a relief. However, much to the disappointment of many Google Analytics newbies, the platform has limitations when it comes to offering deep user insights such as contact info or names.

The Fix: If you’re looking for a way to get a little more information about who is using your site, you can set up unique IDs for users that will allow you to differentiate individual user patterns. This unique ID will connect a user’s sessions between devices, so you’ll be able to get a more accurate measurement of how many unique users are accessing your site and where they’re accessing it from. Learn more about this capability here.

What Are Site Visitors Looking For?

What do users want?  A disadvantage of Google Analytics is its lack of direct insight into what brought customers to your site and what they’re looking for there. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t find answers by yourself.

The Fix: Gather basic information about user behavior on your site. Find out what pages have high bounce and exit rates, and explore the differences that exist between organic, paid, referral, and direct users. Perhaps your highest bounce rate exists among organic visitors on your About Us page. What is it that organic search customers aren’t finding on this page? Making simple changes in the content, page layout, or call-to-action structure could be all it takes to bring your bounce rates down, or perhaps it will take a more extensive effort. While Google Analytics does have limitations, you can still learn a lot about user behavior simply by connecting the dots.

While Google Analytics can’t get into the minds of your users, you can. Finding out what your users need from your site can feel like guesswork sometimes – but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re stumped, hiring a digital marketing team can help. An external team of digital marketers is a powerful way to get a comprehensive picture of the success of existing digital efforts and to identify what can be improved. At Leverage Marketing, we’re experts at digging out the Why, Who, and What that Google Analytics doesn’t tell you. Get in touch with us today, and we’ll help see through the limitations of Google Analytics’ reporting interface and help you make real decisions that grow traffic.

Technology Trends Driving Digital Marketing in 2017

Introduction

It’s only the beginning of 2017, but it’s clear that digital marketing technology trends will change the way we do business. With a rapidly advancing tech sector, marketing and technology work hand in hand to create new methods for companies to target consumers and change the digital marketing landscape. With 2016 over, there are emerging digital marketing technology trends we can identify that will drive the market in 2017 and beyond.

While it’s impossible to know for sure which technologies will have the biggest impact, we think these are the ones you should invest your marketing efforts in and look for when planning how to use digital technology in marketing in 2017:

Livestreaming

As a technology, livestreaming has been around for more than a decade. But in 2017, we’ve finally reached the point in marketing and technology where it’s easy to implement due to faster Internet on smartphones and advanced marketing techniques. With companies like Facebook, Periscope, and YouTube enabling companies to stream their videos easily—it’s up to your marketing departments to decide how best to do it.

Using livestreaming successfully is difficult, as your audience will often dictate how conversations move and what kind of content they want to see. So, make sure your marketing and technology are adaptable to customer needs. Whether you’re holding Q&As about your brand, livestreaming special announcements or product introductions, or hosting a panel, make sure your client is your first concern. Livestreaming won’t be perfect, but you want to interact with your customers through the platforms that matter to them (whether that’s Facebook, Periscope, YouTube, or even Spotify).

Drones

Drones are one the most exciting products of the last several years. Companies and consumers are interested in them for many purposes: war, commercial, or personal. Simply put, drones are everywhere. With models that can capture high-quality 4K video and high-resolution photos, they’re perfect for marketers. Whether used for livestreaming or just taking photos, drones are a brand-new medium that mixes digital marketing and technology.

With their ability to fly high in the air, drones are ideal for taking gorgeous shots of real estate and architecture for those firms. They’re also an innovative new way to capture a wedding or other special event from a new angle. With the ability to explore new viewpoints and vistas, drones can take pictures and video for travel and tourism companies.

Drones are a new frontier for marketing companies—they can traverse new areas and shoot photos at angles humans just can’t. Incorporating drones into your marketing campaign is necessary to stay ahead in the game—just make sure you’re following FAA and local ordinances.

Amazon Alexa and Google Home

With the advent of voice recognition that finally works—digital technology and marketing are changing to meet the demands and new challenges of integrating with systems like Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Both of these virtual assistant programs can coordinate with your app ecosystems, including Spotify, Nest, IFTTT services, Uber, Google Calendar, and hundreds of services. They can control aspects of your life with an ease that was heretofore unimaginable. But what does that mean for marketers? When you can order the latest gadget from Amazon with your voice, how do you market to consumers?

Without needing to search on a smartphone or computer, keywords become less useful. I’m not saying keywords or SEO are going the way of the dodo, but marketers must search for new ways to reach out to customers ordering from smart assistants. Marketing and technology meet in targeting the individual through the smart voice-controlled gadget ecosystem—learning about them and figuring out new ways to market to them. Marketers must understand how to use the technology in the right means to reach their consumers.

Wearables

When you hear wearable, what do you think? Perhaps an Apple Watch comes to mind, or Google’s failed Glass experiment—but wearables encompass a broad class of connected devices that are quickly becoming a digital marketing technology trend. Wearables can, of course, be smartwatches, but they can be technology embedded into clothing, fitness trackers, virtual reality devices, and much more.

With focus turning to wearable devices as a new way to consume media and grab consumers’ attention, content marketing needs to shift to meet those needs. It’s difficult to read a lengthy online article on a small wearable screen—some wearables don’t even have screens. Content marketing may need to shift its focus to audio, which wearables will have connectivity for, in the form of Bluetooth headphones.

There will also be new forms of interactivity marketers can work with to engage their consumers. With virtual reality devices like the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive, and Google DayDream, VR is coming into the mainstream. Alternate reality and virtual reality will be new lands for consumers to explore—and places to create content to peruse. There are opportunities for location-based content, weather-based content—countless opportunities we couldn’t imagine ten years ago.

Conclusion

With the new year, it’s clear that new digital marketing technology trends will drive the industry in exciting directions. Whether it’s coming up with new ways to reach consumers with social media and livestreaming, taking advantage of the unique capabilities of drones, or utilizing the extensive connectivity of Amazon Alexa and Google Home, marketers have their work cut out for them this year. Wearables and Virtual Reality headsets represent the new frontier in technology, as content marketing must adapt to the new ways the public consumes content. The possibilities with these technologies are almost endless. Technology and marketing must continuously evolve together as marketing professionals determine how best to utilize digital technology in their marketing arsenal.


Make sure you’re on top of the latest digital marketing technology trends by talking to the marketing masters at Leverage Marketing. Read our Guide to Planning Your Digital Marketing Budget eBook to figure out where to spend your budget to get the best return. We’ll help you understand the sophisticated new marketing technologies and how to take advantage of them.

3 Bad SEO Practices to Resolve in 2017

Everyone loves getting a fresh start in the new year. While you’re making plans for a better you in 2017, you should also make resolutions to improve your website. While you may achieve your personal goals with new running shoes, your website may need some search engine-friendly content or a break from bad SEO practices to reach its potential.

Luckily, it’s not too difficult to give your website a little TLC this year. Start off your January by tossing out bad SEO tactics and bringing in healthy new practices that will help your website attract more visitors and deliver more conversions. Here are three common but bad SEO techniques that you should say goodbye to in 2017.

#1. Keyword Stuffing

keyword stuffing concept

You may know a little about keywords and SEO. Keywords are the words and phrases that connect your site with the things for which people are searching. For example, if you sell reusable water bottles, a couple of keywords you may use could be “plastic sport water bottle” or “best reusable water bottle.”

However, one common SEO mistake lies in the assumption that all Google and Bing are looking for is keywords, so the more keywords you stuff into your content, the better you’ll rank. This belief results in content with phrases like “best reusable water bottle” stuffed awkwardly into every sentence on the page. Not only can the search engines detect that you are trying to manipulate them, but users reading your content will find your information difficult to digest and spammy in nature.

Quality and user experience beat pure quantity. Today’s search engines are looking for user-friendly, informative content. Keywords are still important to integrate into your content, but the search engines can tell if you’re trying to trick them into giving your page a higher ranking. Prioritize readability and incorporate key phrases in places where they naturally belong to make pages that both search engines and readers love.

#2. Duplicate Content

Remember in school when your teachers and professors lectured on about the dangers of plagiarism? Guess what? That wisdom applies to SEO, too. Copying content from other places on the web or even replicating original content on several pages of your own site is always an SEO mistake. Google and Bing don’t see duplicate content as worth indexing if they’ve already found it somewhere else, and your web pages will be in danger of getting buried.

It may seem easier to just copy and paste relevant info on different pages of your site, and you may not see the harm if it is, in fact, original content that you wrote. However, in the end, the search engines will still see it as duplicate. It’s a bad SEO technique that can only hurt you.

Take the time to give each page unique, original content. If you have many pages that reuse the same material, ask yourself why your current site is structured in this way, and consider using this SEO mistake as an opportunity to tighten the structure of your site for a better user experience.

#3. Buying Links

buying links concept

You may have heard about the power of links for building your search engine credibility. It’s not all bunk– relevant links to your site do help search engines recognize your site as legitimate and helpful for users. However, not every link leading to your site is going to help your search rankings. In fact, bad SEO practices in this area are becoming increasingly risky for websites. If your site has a large number of links that seem suspect to the search engines, it could receive a penalty and never see the light of a good ranking again.

If you’re investing funds in a service that is purchasing links leading to your site, stop immediately. Even if you have used purchased links as a successful strategy in the past, keep in mind that Google, Bing, and the other major algorithms are constantly on the prowl for suspect link-building schemes, and these search engines are only getting better and better and detecting human misconduct. In short, this is not a scenario in which you should attempt to outsmart the machine – it will ultimately be devastating to your site rankings when things go south.

If you’ve pursued some potentially-unhealthy link-building activities in the recent or distant past or suspect that similar bad SEO tactics have occurred in the past, it may be time to reach out to the professionals to clean up your link portfolio.

Keeping your new year’s resolutions can be hard, but SEO doesn’t have to be. Bring in our seasoned team of SEO experts to help your site recover from the bad SEO practices in its past. We’ll help you get back on track.

SEO Trends and Predictions for 2017

The beginning of 2017 may be a fresh start for you, but for Google, progress in the sphere of optimizing Internet search won’t slow for a second. The preference for mobile Internet consumption, the desire for quicker and denser content, mounting pressure to increase ad revenue, and the unstoppable development of digital assistants and voice search point to a new golden rule for search engine optimization (SEO) trends:

Make it for mobile.

Mobile-First Is Undeniable

chart of hours spent daily on mobile devicesSEO experts have been predicting the latest SEO trends as part of their jobs for years, and there’s one that keeps making an appearance in the latter 2010s: mobile is the future of Internet and search. Major search engines are putting mobile at the forefront as trends in SEO continually point toward the indomitable strength and convenience of mobile consumption.

More Americans are spending more of their free time watching the screens on their smartphones and tablets, according to comScore. If the amount of activity on social networks is any indication, it’s likely that most of those hours are spent scouring Facebook and Twitter feeds for images and videos. Social apps and mobile search are in line to become some of marketing’s biggest targets for paid advertisements and organic efforts. Changes in the way that search will respond to mobile users as well as desktop users point to an almost certain future of mobile takeover.

Mobile-First Indexing

In the latter half of 2016, at the beginning of October, the first iterations of mobile-first indexing became a reality. Mobile-first indexing resets the priority of Google’s indexing bot to read through a site’s mobile version when determining how a site should be indexed. That means Googlebot looks at the relevance, speed, and technical organization of mobile sites over desktop sites when it decides where your page goes on the search engine results page (SERP).

Desktop SERPs Match Mobile

December also saw a UI update for desktop search engine results pages that helped them match the appearance and function of mobile SERPs. Specifically, desktop users see more specialized cards such as featured snippets and maps when they perform searches that trigger those cards. Of course, in such early stages, the desktop experience isn’t quite optimized for desktop searchers:

how long does google take to index serp with mistake

As of 2016, producing cards for desktop searches runs into trouble when wording is ambiguous. In our example, it seems that Google understands our query to be something closer to “How long does it take, Google, to [get to] Index, [WA]?”

Fortunately, development of semantic search promises to inch ever closer to matching the meaning and understanding the context of searches and the searcher’s intent. Consistent improvements in machine learning allow more of your searches in 2017 to reflect the intent of your search rather than the face value of the words you have typed into the engine. While returning relevant search results has long been a goal of Google search, the rise of digital assistants and voice search has lit a new fire in the quest to teach machines to parse language in the same way as humans.

Progressive Web Apps

Google has created a streamlined way for business owners to build progressive web apps, mobile applications that integrate the in-app experience with web capabilities. In many ways, they are web pages that look and act like apps. The intent of progressive web apps is to keep users engaged with apps by:

  • Provided online and offline service
  • Drastically decreasing loading times
  • Eliminating the need for purchase and installation
  • Offering an app experience without the maintenance of an app

Progressive web apps are perhaps the first step toward creating seamless product and service shopping experiences without the need to download apps. Users can keep progressive web apps on the home screens of their mobile devices and load them instantly.

The goal is customer retention. According to Smashing Magazine, users are three times more likely to reopen a mobile application than a website, especially after receiving push notifications. If integrating the app experience with the web experience can make purchasing easier for users, SEO experts will need to focus efforts on driving more customers to those progressive web apps organically.

Video and Images Are Next

The Content Is King mantra is steadfast, but SEOs need to consider more than ever that content has a greater reach than text articles. Major search engines, too, are looking for ways to read and organize all types of content. The term content includes video, animations, and images as well as text. Quality videos and images are proven ways to increase customer engagement and retention, and SEO experts will need to find ways to optimize videos for search in 2017.

Multimedia works in all parts of the marketing funnel and matches the goals of SEO:

  • The intent to purchase of users who enjoy video ads increases by 97%
  • One-third of all online activity is encompassed by watching video
  • 87% of marketers are using video content

These incredible facts from HubSpot make the user preference for video and image content clear. Check out some of the ways marketers are using video content in 2016:

Branded Video Content on Social Networks

titanfall advertisement with video on facebook

Autoplay pushes social videos straight to the brain. When advertisements combine exciting content with beautiful presentation, customers watch – and buy.

Live Streaming

new york times live stream video facebook

Anyone can instantly live stream a video on lots of social networks. Companies can get on-the-spot engagement by sharing stories, information, or just entertaining audiences.

Background Video on Home Pages and Sales Pages

life of pi home page background video

Companies can capture attention instantly with moving backgrounds, then entice users to stay with text overlays or an in-video call to action.

GIFs everywhere

giphy home page with trending gifs

GIFs resonate with young audiences, and marketers are learning how to pull on their heartstrings with simple animations that celebrate their favorite people, movies, shows, and music.

Closer Ties for SEO and PPC

Ad-heavy search results mean that competition for top rankings in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising will likely push advertisers to improve the quality of their paid content. SEO experts must be ready to focus on improving quality scores for ads in 2017 as Google search moves toward a role as a PPC giant as well as an organic search engine giant.

Voice Search and Digital Assistants

The artificial intelligence that governs the functions of voice search and digital assistants is the focus of research for many of the companies developing such technologies, including Google. Digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant use artificial intelligence to attempt to understand natural language and harness that knowledge to produce useful information and resources for live people.

If they weren’t already, SEOs should look to improve relevance, usability, and permanence of content so that digital assistants and voice searchers can utilize the real language contained within the content to find the highest quality information.

What Should We Focus on in 2017?

In anticipation of an even more quickly changing search landscape, SEOs should focus on:

  • Crafting all SEO strategies and making design decisions based on mobile use
  • Building a video strategy that integrates with other marketing solutions
  • Sharpening PPC and paid search knowledge to keep customer rankings high in the paid sphere
  • Optimizing organic content to be found by digital assistants that understand real language

Don’t be afraid of change, be ahead of it, and remember: Make it for mobile.

Leverage Marketing can take you every step of the way through the SEO process – but we also do so much more. If you’re thinking about changing the way you market your business, let us guide you through it. Start by getting your hands on our 2017 Digital Marketing Budget Guide and find out what it will take to pull your marketing into 2017.

Tips for Planning Your Digital Marketing Budget [INFOGRAPHIC]

You know that if you want your business to grow, you need to dedicate a budget to marketing. Otherwise you could have an awesome product or service but no way to tell consumers about it. But how do you determine the amount of money you should be allocating to your marketing budget? And how do you decide on the size of your digital marketing budget compared to your offline marketing budget?

There’s no easy answer to the question, “What should my digital marketing budget be?” However, this infographic and blog post can help you choose a strategy to plan a marketing budget for your business.

Digital Marketing Budget Tips Infographic

Using a Tactic-Based Approach

One way to map out your digital marketing budget is to break down the costs of individual tactics, line by line, and add them up to get your total cost per month and per year. This approach can be good if your business is new and you don’t have a lot of historical data to work with.

It’s straightforward to calculate your internet marketing budget if you outsource your efforts to freelancers or a marketing agency on a per-project basis. However, it gets a little more complicated when you need to calculate the cost of marketing efforts that you keep in-house. You’ll need to start by estimating the number of man-hours for each project and the cost-per-hour for each employee assigned to the project. When calculating cost-per-hour, you’ll need to account for the cost of benefits, training, and vacation days.

Once you’ve determined the cost-per-hour for an employee, multiply that by the number of hours you expect them to work on the project. Repeat that for all employees who will work on the project to get the total cost of labor. In addition to labor costs, you’ll also need to factor in other resources (such as subscription-based software) to get your total cost for a tactic or marketing campaign.

Determining your Budget as a Percentage of Revenue

Most businesses determine their annual marketing budget allocation as a percentage of their revenue. Different sources will give you different estimates for what percentage of your gross annual revenue you should dedicate to marketing, but as a rule of thumb, businesses that are less than five years old should spend about 12-20% and businesses that are more than five years old should spend about 6-12%.

Businesses that are less than a year old and haven’t established their annual revenue can still use the Percentage of Revenue method, but they’ll need to use their projected revenue when crunching the numbers.

One thing to keep in mind with the Percentage of Revenue method is that it can help you determine your overall offline and online marketing budget, but it won’t help you determine how much you should spend on different strategies. You may find it helpful to research how much other comparable businesses in your industry are spending on different strategies (such as SEO and email).

Basing your Marketing Budget on ROI

If you’ve already established an annual marketing budget but are looking for a way to maximize it, consider adjusting the budget throughout the year based on your return on investment (ROI) for different tactics. For example, if you exceed your ROI goals for a paid search campaign one month, you could increase your ad spend the next month. This budgeting method will allow you to grow your revenue quickly and adjust your web marketing budget accordingly, rather than waiting until the next quarter or year to make changes.

The Tied to ROI budgeting method works best with direct-response strategies, such as pay-per-click (PPC) ads and social media ads. This method is more challenging to use with branding strategies, which may be more difficult to measure.


Looking for more advice on planning your online marketing budget? Download our 2017 Guide to Planning Your Digital Marketing Budget to learn how to audit your marketing efforts and determine costs for different internet marketing strategies.

The Best and Worst of Call to Action Marketing

Writing call to action phrases for your website can be a tricky task. It seems like it should be simple to throw together a few quick words for a call to action to engage customers on your site, but call to action marketing is more of a science than most people think.

If you’re not sure what an example of a call to action (otherwise known as a CTA) would be, chances are you’ve clicked on one at some point before. A call to action phrase is a lure that turns site visitors into leads that your company may eventually nurture into customers. Whether it’s the button asking a reader to commit to that newsletter signup or the red letters asking an online shopper to act now for the lowest price, the best call to action will invite a lot of value with only a few words.

On the other hand, a bad CTA can act as a barrier in front of your leads. Having poorly written or badly designed CTAs hanging out on your site is sometimes the only thing preventing success, and you may not even know it.

We’ve put together a list of a few great and terrible CTAs that are sprinkled across the internet. Beware – this may convince you to step up your website’s game. Read on!

Worst: “Submit”

Submit Button Call to Action

Using almost any call to action phrase is better than using this word. Short of including no CTA at all, using the word “Submit” is the lowest you can go. No one gets particularly excited about submitting something – it makes most of us think about paying bills or filling out long forms, and no one wants to do that more than they absolutely must. There are better ways to compel a customer to follow through. Essentially, you need to come up with a better way to say “Please hit this button.” Such as…

Best: “Sign Up Now” or “Get Your Free Estimate”

Get your free analysis call to action

Instead of using formal, tedious language that simply states what the button is for, use purposeful language. Good call to action phrases tend to accomplish at least one of these goals:

  1. Tell the customer exactly what to do.
  2. Tell the customer what they’ll be getting when they commit.

A command such as “Sign Up Now,” “Take a Virtual Tour,” or “View Our Top Models” explicitly tells the customer to take action. And “Get Your Free Estimate,” “View Our Free Whitepaper,” and “Claim Your Tickets Today” are CTAs that offer both a command and a promise of value to the clicker.

Worst: “Buy Now” or “Join Now”

Buy now call to action

This command is not ALWAYS a CTA no-no. If placed strategically on your site, a “Buy Now” as a call to action phrase can be surprisingly powerful. However, placement is everything. You can’t ask too much of your customers too soon. You should consider the buyer’s journey as they browse your site or look through the search results. Commanding users to “Buy Now” on your homepage or a search engine result page can sometimes be overkill, as customers may not be ready to make a commitment at an early stage of product or service exploration. This is especially true if what you are offering is expensive or if the purchase commitment is otherwise high. In other words, if you sell $0.99 kazoos, asking them to “Buy Now” is asking a lot less of the customer – and is likely to be slightly more effective– than asking someone to buy your $60K car immediately.

The type of customer that usually comes to your site is also a factor to consider before adding the words “Buy Now” as your call to action. Do your shoppers tend to browse a lot, do a lot of research, or consume large amounts of information before converting? Or do they tend to navigate straight to what they need and buy it right then? Check Google Analytics to get a better idea about what customers do and search for on your site.

Best: “Get Started” or “Learn More”

Learn more call to action

If your customer requires a little more convincing than a colorful button, there are still lots of good ways to incorporate call to action marketing that is more appropriate to their stage of the shopping process. Use informational commands, such as “Learn More,” to draw your customer further into your site without implying any serious commitment. If you offer a free service or benefit, such as a rewards program or consultation, draw customers towards a profitable conversion with call to action phrases such as “Get Started,” and follow up with a simple option such as a free sign-up. You’ll still be able to glean some vital customer information without asking for as much of a commitment from the shopper.

Worst: Mobile Unfriendliness

What’s worse than trying to do something quickly on your mobile device, only to find that the web page to which you’ve navigated requires messy zooming? Or that the site has confusing navigation options that are difficult to click on a touchscreen? It’s annoying, it’s a hassle, and research shows that mobile unfriendliness will cause around 60% of browsers to bounce off your site. These kinds of statistics have been out for a while, and if you’re familiar with Google’s search algorithm, you’ll know that sites that haven’t been optimized to fit mobile devices have seen heavy organic search ranking penalties as well as high mobile bounces.

As far as call to action marketing goes, it doesn’t matter if you have the best call to action on earth is if your site isn’t responsive – the game is over before the user even sees the CTA. Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Google has a handy mobile friendliness tool that you can use to check and see if your site is good to go. Even if your site is mobile friendly, it is all too easy to stuff your CTAs in sidebars, headers, and footers, which users may not always be able to see or access on mobile devices.

Best: Responsive Formatting

In an age in which Google incorporates your site’s mobile friendliness into search rankings and users refuse to browse on mobile unfriendly sites, it is truly imperative that you convert to a responsive format. This may require you to switch to a new theme, template, content management system, or ecommerce platform, but the time and investment will pay off in better organic rankings and conversions.

Confident that your mobile-friendly site has no problems? Don’t get too passive– your site may be mobile-friendly, but it is still critical to make your call to action marketing efforts work for mobile formats. Make your CTA large, central, and colorful enough for every shopper to see. Try incorporating them strategically at the ends of content blocks to provide users with a seamless transition from information to conversion.


Have more questions about how to incorporate call to action marketing into your digital marketing strategy? Stressed about implementing a user-friendly site design? The Leverage team is here to help. Sign up for our newsletter or contact us directly, and we’ll be in touch with the latest and greatest for your site.

 

Why Google Analytics is Not Tracking Correctly: Your Troubleshooting Guide

Google Analytics’ tracking capabilities make it a great asset for any website to have. However, when Google Analytics is not tracking correctly, or its data is inaccurate, the usefulness of the tool essentially disappears. Anyone who has ever used Google Analytics can tell you that there are a lot of intricacies involved that may not seem all that important until you’re sorting through a lot of useless reports, thinking, “How exactly did I get here?”

Luckily, when Google Analytics is not tracking or is having other issues, it usually isn’t a death sentence. Many fixes are even straightforward enough to tackle in a DIY fashion. If your Google Analytics data is not showing up or you’re just struggling to get things off the ground, this list is a good way to uncover any problems. If you haven’t set up Google Analytics on your site yet, even better – read through and save yourself the extra work later.

Ok, so you carefully followed all the instructions for adding and publishing the tracking code on your site, and you’ve been waiting for data to start pouring in, but Google Analytics apparently isn’t tracking. Or maybe your site had been tracking perfectly, but now something has changed, and you’re not sure why. What’s going on?

Before you panic:

  • Test it out by checking your Real-Time stats. Hop over to the Reports section in the property of concern and select Real-Time. If Google Analytics is tracking correctly, the Overview tab should give you an idea of how many people are on your site at that very moment. Test it out yourself – open your site in another tab, then refresh the Overview If your Google Analytics code is working, you should be able to see data on this page. You should be able to see your page view sitting on your site in the Real-Time report, and you should even be able to discern that it’s you by the location of the dot on the map.
Google Analytics live tracking

“Hey, that’s me on the Real-Time report!”

You can also visit the Tracking Info section under your property name in the Admin section of Google Analytics, and click Tracking Code to verify if Google Analytics recognizes that your property has been recording traffic.

Google Analytics tracking codeGoogle Analytics tracking status

  • Verify that you’re tracking the correct property and view. If you’ve been using Google Analytics to track multiple websites or have already set up several views on this property, you might be using the snippet from another location. Sure, this may sound obvious to you – but why frantically disassemble the device before checking to see if you plugged it in?
  • Check out your filters. If you’ve been tracking your site for a while and have added some filters in this view, you should re-visit what filters you have set and if they could be unintentionally cutting off tracking. One important detail to note is that the order in which you apply filters in Google Analytics matters, and it can be easy to accidentally block your tracking by adding filters in the wrong order. For example, if you decide you only want to track traffic from Arkansas but you’ve already set the view to only track Alabama visitors, setting an Arkansas-only filter now won’t do you much good, because you already left all the Arkansas visitors out with the Alabama filter. This kind of mistake will quickly bring your traffic down to zero.

Unfortunately, if you’ve set some filters that seem to be excluding traffic you want to be recording, you can’t take filters back on that particular view. That’s why it is critical to always preserve an unfiltered view, such as the default view All Web Site Data. If you suspect you’ve overdone it with filters, you can try reordering the filters for better results or start over with a new unfiltered view.

If you’ve confirmed that your Google Analytics code is not working for a view that it should be tracking, it’s time to dig deeper. Answer these questions to get a better idea of what could be going wrong.

Have you reviewed your Google Analytics tracking code?

If you have recently set up your tracking code but Google Analytics is not tracking your traffic, this is an important step to take. When adding the snippet into a plugin or the tracking code onto the pages of the site, it is imperative that you copy and paste directly from your Google Analytics property settings to your site code. If you copy over to a word processor or similar program on your computer before putting it on your site, extra white spaces or small changes in punctuation may occur and can make or break your tracking. The tracking code is also case sensitive, so don’t neglect capitalization.

Have you added the tracking code to every page of your site?

Just adding the code to the homepage of your site won’t do – Google Analytics will not be tracking all pages of your site if you don’t add the code to each page. This includes subdomains and those less-than-obvious landing pages hiding on your site. If you’re the one installing the code onto your site and adding it to every single page sounds exhausting, you can browse the wide assortment of plugin options available on many of the more common content management systems (such as WordPress or Magento). These plugins will make adding code to every page of the site into a much simpler process. You can also enlist help from a web development specialist if the process is too daunting to take on yourself.

Google Analytics tracking

“Hey look, we’ve got traffic after all!”

Do you have duplicate tracking codes running on your site?

If you’re unwittingly recording Google Analytics data twice, you may notice that you’re having the opposite problem – your visits, page views, and bounce rates seem far too good to be true! However, having multiple tracking codes on your site is a bad practice and will cause your Google Analytics data to be seriously inaccurate, as well as vulnerable to malfunctions in multiple areas of data collection.

If your site has been around for a while and has had a few different developers, consultants, and managers working on it, it’s possible that things have gotten lost in the shuffle. If your Google Analytics code is not working correctly, rifle through your source code for signs of old Google Analytics tracking code. You may be surprised what you can find and purge from your pages. With the wide availability of Google Analytics-compatible features and add-ons available on WordPress and other popular platforms, it is easy to overlook a lurking plugin or buried code.

Has your site been penalized by Google?

Google continuously rolls out updates to its search ranking algorithm that help make the search experience richer, more accurate, and less dangerous for searchers. With every big change in the algorithm comes a new group of websites that see huge changes in their traffic due to big rankings promotions or demotions. In other words, a ranking penalty (or demotion) could bury your site on the 100th page of Google without you noticing much other than a huge drop in site traffic in Google Analytics.

Why might you have received a penalty? It’s hard to say. Each algorithm change is different and may declare that a certain aspect of your site is positive or negative. By doing this, Google weeds out spam and punishes websites for using less-than-ideal methods to sit higher in search results. In short, you may think that Google Analytics is not tracking your traffic, but maybe people just aren’t finding your site due to a penalty or two.

If you’ve finished this list and suspect you have received a penalty or still think that Google Analytics is not working correctly, it might be a good time to look into hiring SEO specialists like the ones at Leverage Marketing to review your site. Our experienced Google Analytics experts can get your tracking moving, help you recover from penalties, and help bring your site to a place in the organic search rankings where users will be able to find you.

How to Create a Valuable Holiday Gift Guide

 

Why Create a Holiday Gift Guide?

It’s hard to believe, but the holidays are almost upon us. We’re around the corner from Thanksgiving, and the winter holidays are just a stone’s throw away in marketing time. What can you do to get your customers ready for the season? How can you make them aware of what products you or your partners have available for purchase?

With average spending reaching over $800 per consumer this holiday season, digital marketplaces are excellent places for consumers to buy gifts for everyone on their list without driving to multiple stores. 44% of US holiday shoppers bought gifts online in 2014, and for 2016, online sales are forecast to be as much as $117 billion. Making a holiday gift guide can help your company grab a chunk of this revenue.

With holiday shopping now starting as early as the day after Halloween, making a holiday gift guide early can be a great way to highlight best-selling and popular products. By creating a visual representation of your product selection, you can facilitate the holiday shopping processing and make buying easier for your customers.

Holiday gift guides are a way to take marketing and make it creative. Instead of just a boring sales email, you get to take the products you want to sell and present them in a visually enticing format that transports the reader where you want them to go.

Here are a few methods to make holiday gift guides that grab your customers’ attention:

Use a Data-Driven Approach

graph-holiday-gift-guide

Don’t just choose your favorite products to include in your holiday gift guide, use targeted products that are either currently popular or were popular last holiday season. Generate reports on the top sellers in various categories and try to find items that would make good presents. Furthermore, it’s important to get a good mix of products in your gift guide to appeal to a broad range of consumers. You probably don’t have only one type of customer, and your holiday gift guide should reflect that. Look back to your buyer personas and make sure your gift guide reflects the variety inherent in them.

It’s important to get the raw data to find what people are purchasing–use tools like Google Analytics and Hubspot. Track what people are purchasing and what their purchase path is. Use social media and online polls to ask your customers what items they’d like to see. All this data will help you create an approach to your guide that targets a wide swath of customers and reflects the diversity of your business.

Create an Immersive Experience

When creating your holiday gift guide, it is best to curate an experience that submerges the reader in your content. Try segmenting your gift guide into different gift collections by age or gender (if applicable), or by price point. The consumer is then drawn into a selection of items targeted exactly for the people on their gift list. By creating a seamless experience with colorful, high-resolution images of your products, readers are more likely to buy.

Use Pinterest and Other Social Media to Create Holiday Gift Boards

As much as you may segment your holiday gift guide, there is no way to account for every different group and taste. Creating a variety of simple holiday gift boards on Pinterest to augment your existing gift guide is a simple way to help your customers. You can create a specific board for the customer (or buyer persona) you’re trying to target, such as “dog lover” or “stay at home mom.” This strategy works better for some B2C businesses with audiences and demographics more likely to use Pinterest. Tailor your approach to your customers and you’ll have more success. Find out what platforms they use through Google Analytics and online polls and promote through those.

Marketing using Pinterest and other social media sites is incredibly useful in today’s digital age. You can target users who wouldn’t otherwise interact with your content and start new conversations about your products. Remember to continually engage the users from social media and offer them exciting special offers to pique their interest.

pinterest holiday gift guide

Continue Writing About and Promoting Your Holiday Gift Guide

Once your holiday gift guide is out there, don’t just leave it sitting in cyberspace. Write about it using blog posts to provide additional context to the products you’re recommending to your customers. Tell your customers why they should buy this particular item. Explain why your product will make the perfect gift for their friend or family member. Producing blog posts about the products in your gift guide creates additional engagement around your products and adds a framework for your buyers. Do keyword research so that you can incorporate phrases for a higher organic ranking.

Promote the gift guide and your blogs on social media. Don’t let them stagnate on your website waiting for organic hits. Include links in emails, launch a paid campaign, and perhaps even look for promotional opportunities with other blogs or websites in your industry for link sharing. These methods can further enhance the reach of your guide to additional customers.

Your holiday gift guide can be your customers’ entry point into your product offerings. Make sure it is inviting, accessible, immersive, and understandable. If you use these tips to create your gift guide, you’re more likely to succeed this holiday season.

The team at Leverage Marketing has been through many holiday seasons and knows holiday gift guides inside and out. If you have questions about marketing for the holiday season, we are here to help. We are experts in helping our clients meet their needs all year-round. Sign up for our newsletter today to get tips about SEO, social media, marketing, and lots more.

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