Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mobile-Only Internet Users Surpass Desktop-Only Users For First Time Ever by @mattsouthern

ComScore reports that, for the first time ever, the amount users who use the internet exclusively on mobile devices has exceeded the amount of users who exclusively use desktop devices. However, it’s important to note that this does not mean the the internet is being accessed more frequently on mobile overall. This data only tracks users who exclusively use one type of device. The report indicates that there is quite a bit of crossover from people who use both types of devices. Even with that being the case, this is still a significant milestone and represents how far mobile has […]

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European Union to Carry Out Probe into US Tech Companies, Including Google by @mattsouthern

Always on the offensive against United States tech giants, the European Union (EU) is reportedly set to carry out a wide-ranging probe into these companies — which include Google, Amazon, and others. The EU’s ultimate goal is to establish a universal set of regulations for how companies conduct business in the digital space. A draft plan for these regulations has been submitted to the European Commission, but has yet to be approved. These events are separate from the EU’s antitrust investigation that we reported on earlier this month, but there is some crossover when it comes to internet search. This […]

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A Defense of “Small Content”: 6 Shorter Blog Post Types that Still Work by @tomdemers

Here are some specific examples small content can make more sense than an X,000 word opus.

The post A Defense of “Small Content”: 6 Shorter Blog Post Types that Still Work by @tomdemers appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

3 Ways to Find and Win New #SEO Clients by @dariozadro

There is no single way for most providers to find new SEO clients. But, finding new customers and allowing them to find you does not have to be hard either.

The post 3 Ways to Find and Win New #SEO Clients by @dariozadro appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

How to Use Multi-Channel Marketing For Crowdsourcing [Case Study] by @shortstackjim

If you want to dip on multi-channel marketing but aren’t 100% convinced it’s worth the effort, it’s always good to look at what other businesses are doing.

The post How to Use Multi-Channel Marketing For Crowdsourcing [Case Study] by @shortstackjim appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

How to Create Boring-Industry Content that Gets Shared

Posted by ronell-smith

If you think creating content for boring industries is tough, try creating content for an expensive product that'll be sold in a so-called boring industry. Such was the problem faced by Mike Jackson, head of sales for a large Denver-based company that was debuting a line of new high-end products for the fishing industry in 2009.

After years of pestering the executives of his traditional, non-flashy company to create a line of products that could be sold to anglers looking to buy premium items, he finally had his wish: a product so expensive only a small percentage of anglers could afford them.

dog bored by content

What looked like being boxed into a corner was actually part of the plan.

When asked how he could ever put his neck on the line for a product he'd find tough to sell and even tougher to market, he revealed his brilliant plan.

"I don't need to sell one million of [these products] a year," he said. "All I need to do is sell a few hundred thousand, which won't be hard. And as far as marketing, that's easy: I'm ignoring the folks who'll buy the items. I'm targeting professional anglers, the folks the buyers are influenced by. If the pros, the influencers, talk about and use the products, people will buy them."

Such was my first introduction to how it's often wise to ignore who'll buy the product in favor of marketing to those who'll help you market and sell the product.

These influencers are a sweet spot in product marketing and they are largely ignored by many brands

Looking at content for boring industries all wrong

A few months back, I received a message in Google Plus that really piqued my interest: "What's the best way to create content for my boring business? Just kidding. No one will read it, nor share information from a painter anyway."

I went from being dismayed to disheartened. Dismayed because the business owner hadn't yet found a way to connect with his prospects through meaningful content. Disheartened because he seemed to have given up trying.

You can successfully create content for boring industries. Doing so requires nothing out of the ordinary from what you'd normally do to create content for any industry. That's the good news.

The bad news: Creating successful content for boring industries requires you think beyond content and SEO, focusing heavily on content strategy and outreach.

Successfully creating content for boring industries—or any industry, for that matter—comes down to who'll share it and who'll link to it, not who'll read it, a point nicely summed up in this tweet:

So when businesses struggle with creating content for their respective industries, the culprits are typically easy to find:

  • They lack clarity on who they are creating content for (e.g., content strategy, personas)
  • There are no specific goals (e.g., traffic, links, conversions, etc.) assigned regarding the content, so measuring its effectiveness is impossible
  • They're stuck in neutral thinking viral content is the only option, while ignoring the value of content amplification (e.g., PR/outreach)

Alone, these three elements are bad; taken together, though, they spell doom for your brand.

content does not equal amplification

If you lack clarity on who you're creating content for, the best you can hope for is that sometimes you'll create and share information members of your audience find useful, but you likely won't be able to reach or engage them with the needed frequency to make content marketing successful.

Goals, or lack thereof, are the real bugaboo of content creation. The problem is even worse for boring industries, where the pressure is on to deliver a content vehicle that meets the threshold of interest to simply gain attention, much less, earn engagement.

For all the hype about viral content, it's dismaying that so few marketers aren't being honest on the topic: it's typically hard to create, impossible to predict and typically has very, very little connection to conversions for most businesses.

What I've found is that businesses, regardless of category, struggle to create worthwhile content, leading me to believe there is no boring industry content, only content that's boring.

"Whenever we label content as 'boring,' we're really admitting we have no idea how to approach marketing something," says Builtvisible's Richard Baxter.

Now that we know what the impediments are to producing content for any industry, including boring industries, it's time to tackle the solution.

Develop a link earning mindset

There are lots of article on the web regarding how to create content for boring industries, some of which have appeared on this very blog.

But, to my mind, the one issue they all suffer from is they all focus on what content should be created, not (a) what content is worthy of promotion, (b) how to identify those who could help with promotion, and (c) how to earn links from boring industry content. (Remember, much of the content that's read is never shared; much of what's shared is never read in its entirety; and some of the most linked-to content is neither heavily shared nor heavily read.)

This is why content creators in boring industries should scrap their notions of having the most-read and most-shared content, shifting their focus to creating content that can earn links in addition to generating traffic and social signals to the site.

After all, links and conversions are the main priorities for most businesses sharing content online, including so-called local businesses.

ranking factors survey results

(Image courtesy of the 2014 Moz Local Search Ranking Factors Survey)

If you're ready to create link-earning, traffic-generating content for your boring-industry business follow the tips from the fictitious example of RZ's Auto Repair, a Dallas, Texas, automobile shop.

With the Dallas-Forth Worth market being large and competitive, RZ's has narrowed their speciality to storm repair, mainly hail damage, which is huge in the area. Even with the narrowed focus, however, they still have stiff competition from the major players in the vertical, including MAACO.

What the brand does have in its favor, however, is a solid website and a strong freelance copywriter to help produce content.

Remember, those three problems we mentioned above—lack of goals, lack of clarity and lack of focus on amplification—we'll now put them to good use to drive our main objectives of traffic, links and conversions.

Setting the right goals

For RZ, this is easy: He needs sales, business (e.g., qualified leads and conversions), but he knows he must be patient since using paid media is not in the cards.

Therefore, he sits down with his partner, and they come up with what seems like the top five workable, important goals:

  1. Increased traffic on the website - He's noticed that when traffic increases, so does his business.
  2. More phone calls - If they get a customer on the phone, the chances of closing the sale are around 75%.
  3. One blog per week on the site - The more often he blogs, the more web traffic, visits and phone calls increase.
  4. Links from some of the businesses in the area - He's no dummy. He knows the importance of links, which are that much better when they come from a large company that could send him business.
  5. Develop relationships with small and midsize non-competing businesses in the area for cross promotions, events and the like.

Know the audience

marketing group discussing personas

(image source)

Too many businesses create cute blogs that might generate traffic but do nothing for sales. RZ isn't falling for this trap. He's all about identifying the audience who's likely to do business with him.

Luckily, his secretary is a meticulous record keeper, allowing him to build a reasonable profile of his target persona based on past clients.

  • 21-35 years old
  • Drives a truck that's less than fours years old
  • Has an income of $45,000-$59,000
  • Employed by a corporation with greater than 500 employees
  • Active on social media, especially Facebook and Twitter
  • Consumes most of their information online
  • Typically referred by a friend or a co-worker

This information will prove invaluable as he goes about creating content. Most important, these nuggets create a clearer picture of how he should go about looking for people and/or businesses to amplify his content.

PR and outreach: Your amplification engines

Armed with his goals and the knowledge of his audience, RZ can now focus on outreach for amplification, thinking along the lines of...

  • Who/what influences his core audience?
  • What could he offer them by way of content to earn their help?
  • What content would they find valuable enough to share and link to?
  • What challenges do they face that he could help them with?
  • How could his brand set itself apart from any other business looking for help from these potential outreach partners?

Putting it all together

Being the savvy businessperson he is, RZ pulls his small staff together and they put their thinking caps on.

Late spring through early fall is prime hail storm season in Dallas. The season accounts for 80 percent of his yearly business. (The other 20% is fender benders.) Also, they realize, many of the storms happen in the late afternoon/early evening, when people are on their way home from work and are stuck in traffic, or when they duck into the grocery store or hit the gym after work.

What's more, says one of the staffers, often a huge group of clients will come at once, owing to having been parked in the same lot when a storm hits.

Eureka!

lightbulb

(image source)

That's when RZ bolts out of his chair with the idea that could put his business on the map: Let's create content for businesses getting a high volume of after-work traffic—sit-down restaurants, gyms, grocery stores, etc.

The businesses would be offering something of value to their customers, who'll learn about precautions to take in the event of a hail storm, and RZ would have willing amplifiers for his content.

Content is only as boring as your outlook

First—and this is a fatal mistake too many content creators make—RZ visits the handful of local businesses he'd like to partner with. The key here, however, is he smartly makes them aware that he's done his homework and is eager to help their patrons while making them aware of his service.

This is an integral part of outreach: there must be a clear benefit to the would-be benefactor.

After RZ learns that several of the businesses are amenable to sharing his business's helpful information, he takes the next step and asks what form the content should take. For now, all he can get them to promote is a glossy one-sheeter, "How To Protect Your Vehicle Against Extensive Hail Damage," that the biggest gym in the area will promote via a small display at the check-in in return for a 10% coupon for customers.

Three of the five others he talked to also agreed to promote the one-sheeter, though each said they'd be willing to promote other content investments provided they added value for their customers.

The untold truth about creating content for boring industries

When business owners reach out to me about putting together a content strategy for their boring brand, I make two things clear from the start:

  1. There are no boring brands. Those two words are a cop out. No matter what industry you serve, there are hoards of people who use the products or services who are quite smitten.
  2. What they see as boring, I see as an opportunity.

In almost every case, they want to discuss some of another big content piece that's sure to draw eyes, engagement, and that maybe even leads to a few links. Sure, I say, if you have tons of money to spend.

big content example

(Amazing piece of interactive content created by BuiltVisible)

Assuming you don't have money to burn, and you want a plan you can replicate easily over time, try what I call the 1-2-1 approach for monthly blog content:

1: A strong piece of local content (goal: organic reach, topical relevance, local SEO)
2: Two pieces of evergreen content (goal: traffic)
1: A link-worthy asset (goal: links)

This plan is not very hard at all to pull off, provided you have your ear to the street in the local market; have done your keyword research, identifying several long-tail keywords you have the ability to rank for; and you're willing to continue with outreach.

What it does is allow the brand to create content with enough frequency to attain significance with the search engines, while also developing the habit of sharing, promoting and amplifying content as well. For example, all of the posts would be shared on Twitter, Google Plus, and Facebook. (Don't sleep on paid promotion via Facebook.)

Also, for the link-worthy asset, there would be outreach in advance of its creation, then amplification, and continued promotion from the company and those who've agreed to support the content.

Create a winning trifecta: Outreach, promotion and amplification

To RZ's credit, he didn't dawdle, getting right to work creating worthwhile content via the 1-2-1 method:

1: "The Worst Places in Dallas to be When a Hail Storm Hits"
2: "Can Hail Damage Cause Structural Damage to Your Car?" and "Should You Buy a Car Damaged by Hail?"
1: "Big as Hail!" contest

This contest idea came from the owner of a large local gym. RZ's will give $500 to the local homeowner who sends in the largest piece of hail, as judged by Facebook fans, during the season. In return, the gym will promote the contest at its multiple locations, link to the content promotion page on RZ's website, and share images of its fans holding large pieces of hail via social media.

What does the gym get in return: A catchy slogan (e.g., it's similar to "big as hell," popular gym parlance) to market around during the hail season.

It's a win-win for everyone involved, especially RZ.

He gets a link, but most important he realizes how to create content to nail each one of his goals. You can do the same. All it takes is a change in mindset. Away from content creation. Toward outreach, promote and amplify.

Summary

While the story of RZ's entirely fictional, it is based on techniques I've used with other small and midsize businesses. The keys, I've found, are to get away from thinking about your industry/brand as being boring, even if it is, and marshal the resources to find the audience who'll benefit from from your content and, most important, identify the influencers who'll promote and amplify it.

What are your thoughts?


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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Google Now for Android Gets 70 New App Integrations, More Predictive Search Functions by @mattsouthern

Google is striving to surface even more useful content for Android users, as today the company announced new Google Now cards from 70 additional app partners. Google Now is a predictive search tool integrated into the Android operating system that tracks important information about its users, and surfaces it when they need it most. For example — getting a flight booking confirmation in Gmail will trigger Google Now to remember when your upcoming flight is, and alert you beforehand whether it’s delayed, canceled, or on time. Now that same kind of functionality is going to work with even more apps […]

The post Google Now for Android Gets 70 New App Integrations, More Predictive Search Functions by @mattsouthern appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

How to Set Up Call-Only Campaigns for Local Businesses by @Rocco_Zebra_Adv

Call Only Campaigns are quick to set up and can boost conversions. This is a tutorial with screenshots on how to get started with call only campaigns.

The post How to Set Up Call-Only Campaigns for Local Businesses by @Rocco_Zebra_Adv appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

How Event Marketing Should Fit Into Your Online Marketing Strategy by @alexanderkesler

Learn hot to maximize your company's event marketing efforts with effective online marketing techniques and tools - before, during and after the event.

The post How Event Marketing Should Fit Into Your Online Marketing Strategy by @alexanderkesler appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

3 Ways to Erase Private Information from the Internet by @jeanmariedion

There's no reason to leave personal, identifying information online. It can't really add to business success, after all, and there are very few instances in which someone might desperately need this information in order to get in touch with you. (Can't they just reach out on a social channel?) Thankfully, there are all sorts of ways to remove that data from aggregate sites. Here are three approaches.

The post 3 Ways to Erase Private Information from the Internet by @jeanmariedion appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

An Introduction to Schema.org Markup for Emails

Posted by kristihines

If you are a Gmail user, you have likely received some emails that stand out from the rest with a call to action button within the subject line.

If you've booked a flight recently, your airline may have sent you an email that includes an interactive way to view your travel plans.

Similarly, Google Inbox app users might have seen emails that look like this.


These calls to action are courtesy of Schema.org markup for email. Just like Schema.org markup for web pages helps web pages stand out in search results, Schema.org markup for emails helps certain emails stand out from the rest in your inbox.

The goal of email markup is to allow people to take action on emails as quickly and simply as possible. For marketers, there are both pros and cons of this feature. In this post, we're going to look at the email markup options currently available, who can use it, and if it's worth it.

Should you use email markup?

Email markup is currently available for Gmail email recipients only. The number of Gmail users was over 350 million in 2012. To determine whether you should use it, you shouldn't go off a three-year-old statistic, but rather a survey of your own email list or customer database.

Most email service providers (like GetResponse, shown in the example below) allow you to search your subscriber list for specific criteria. Search yours for emails containing Gmail to determine the number of Gmail addresses your emails reach.

Of course, this isn't the whole picture. There are likely more people that use Gmail for business with their own domains. So although their emails do not say Gmail, they open their emails in the Gmail web browser or app.

Another consideration for using email markup is tracking. If you rely heavily on the ability to track email opens and clicks to trigger autoresponders and other marketing automation actions, you may not want to give your subscribers the option to bypass opening your email and clicking on your link.

Once you've determined the approximate number of Gmail users you reach and whether you need the ability to track email actions, your next job is to see if you qualify to use email markup.

Register for email markup with Google

Before you can use email markup, you must register with Google. Google will check to make sure you meet email sender quality guidelines, bulk sender guidelines, and action / schema quality guidelines.

Here are some of the key guidelines you need to know. Emails must be authenticated via DKIM or SPF. The domain of your from email must match the signed-by or mailed-by header.

You must send a minimum of a hundred emails per day to Gmail users for a few weeks before applying. Google will want to see that you have a very, very low rate of spam complaints from Gmail recipients.

Bulk email guidelines include using the same IP address to send bulk mail, using the same from email address, only adding subscribers to your list that have opted in (preferably with a double opt-in or confirmation), and allowing list members to unsubscribe easily. These guidelines will not only help you get approved for use of email markup, but will also help your emails get delivered to more Gmail users without being marked as spam.

Action / schema guidelines boil down to making sure you use the appropriate action markup when possible. When an action markup is not available, or the process is more complex than can be handled inside Gmail, a go-to action should be used. Go-to actions should link directly to a page where the email recipient can complete the action as labeled on the call to action button.

An introduction to email markup actions

Actions created by email markup allow email recipients to interact with your business, product, or service within Gmail. There are currently four types of actions to choose from using email markup.

One-click actions

One-click actions are those where a task can be completed with one click within Gmail or Inbox. For example, when someone signs up for an email list, they need to confirm their subscription.

One-click actions are broken into two categories: confirm actions and save actions. The above example is a confirm action. Save actions can include adding an item to a queue or saving a coupon. Both confirm and save actions can only be interacted with once.

RSVP actions

RSVP actions allow email recipients to confirm whether they will attend an event using an invite from Google Calendar. Your email will include the event card you usually see in emails from meeting invites.

Having people confirm their attendance to your event will help ensure that they don't forget by getting it on their calendar.

Review actions

Review actions allow email recipients to add a star and comment review for your business, products, and services right from the subject line of their email in Gmail.

You can see an end-to-end example of the scripting necessary to create a review action for a restaurant to get reviews from a Gmail user's inbox to the Datastore using Python.

Go-to actions

Actions that do not fall under the above types are considered go-to actions. These are used when you need to take an email recipient to your website to complete an action that is too complex to be handled within the recipient's Gmail or Inbox app.

All of the following are examples of go-to actions that take email recipients to do things on another website.

The call to action on these can be customized, so you are not limited to just viewing orders, tracking packages, and opening discussions. You can tailor them for specific uses, such as resetting a password, reviewing questionable transactions on your credit cards, and updating payment information.

An introduction to email markup Highlights

Another use for email markup is Highlights. Highlights summarize key information from specific types of email for users of the Inbox app. For example, Highlights are used for these order confirmations to show the products ordered.

Another example is this flight reservation using Highlights to show the round-trip flights purchased.

Specifically, there are six Highlights that businesses can use. They are as follows:

  • Flight reservations - Includes options for displaying basic flight confirmation information, boarding pass, check-in, update a flight, cancel a flight, and additional options. This Highlight is also supported in Google Now.
  • Orders - Includes options for displaying basic order information, view order action, and order with billing details.
  • Parcel deliveries - Includes options for displaying basic parcel delivery information and detailed shipping information.
  • Hotel reservations - Includes options for displaying basic hotel reservation information, updating a reservation, and canceling a reservation. This Highlight is also supported in Google Now.
  • Restaurant reservations - Includes options for displaying basic restaurant reservation information, updating a reservation, and canceling a reservation. This Highlight is also supported in Google Now.
  • Event reservation - Includes options for basic event reminders without a ticket, event with ticket & no reserved seating, sports or music event with ticket, event with ticket & reserved seating, multiple tickets, updating an event, and canceling an event. This Highlight is also supported in Google Now.

Note that while Highlights are a great feature, they only work for Gmail Inbox users. If Google continues to push Gmail users to using Inbox, this user base will grow exponentially.

Test email markup before sending

While you are waiting to be registered with Google, or prior to sending out emails with Schema.org markup, you should run some initial tests to ensure that your markup is correct. You can start by copying and pasting your code into the Email Markup Tester to check for basic errors.

You can also add email markup to emails you send from and to yourself on Gmail. It's important to test as one of the action / schema guidelines is a low failure rate and fast response for action handling. You can learn how to send test emails to yourself in this tutorial using script.google.com.

The tutorial gives you some simple code you can copy and paste as directed.

When you save and run the project as directed, you will immediately get the following result:

You can then begin to experiment with the code for the email markup you want to use.

Run your script again and again to produce new emails.

Any approved business can use the go-to actions to link the subject line of their email to any portion of their website. As you continue to experiment, think of new ways to engage your audience with email markup.

Final questions to answer

Here are some final questions you need to answer before you invest in email markup are the following.

  1. Will you get more of your desired results by adding Schema.org actions to your emails? For example, if you use the review action, will you actually get more reviews for your business?
  2. How much time will it take to revise your emails if / when Google standardizes email markup with Schema.org? It might pay to wait until email markup has been standardized and make the time and coding investment all at once.
  3. Will email actions be supported by other email platforms in the future? Schema.org is a collaboration between Google, Bing, Microsoft, Yandex, and Yahoo. So while not guaranteed, it can be assumed that all of the major email platforms on the web could embrace email markup in the future.

If, after answering these questions, you can see a real need for email markup, then find out if you meet the guidelines set by Google to use it and register.

If your business uses email markup, be sure to share your experiences and results in the comments!


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