Services Include:

Search Engine Optimization

Local Search Optimization

Paid Search Advertising

Social Media Marketing

Website Analytics

Reduce the Creepy with Remarketing Membership Duration

Google’s Remarketing has been a game changer to paid media since it’s launch in 2010. Features are constantly added every year. It’s because of these new features that customization and best practices are needed to keep from becoming that “creepy” ad that visitors fear.

Setting up a remarketing campaign is heavily dependent on business goals and industry behavior. Targeting is the difference between Remarketing and traditional display, but that targeting it also what concerns consumers. Like many tactics within Google AdWords, it’s all about the tweaking and the execution. One of those key tactics is Remarketing Membership Duration.

The key element to any remarketing campaign is the list, AKA the audience. A remarketing list is a essentially a collection of cookies from previous site visitors. The membership duration is the length of time you want to target this audience.

At the end of the duration period, the cookie is removed from the list. That visitor would no longer see ads that are using that audience list. If the user revisits the site the timing is reset.

Remarketing Membership Duration

Remarketing Membership Duration

The mistake many marketers make is extending the duration to the maximum amount of time. The maximum duration allowed for the Google Display Network is 540 days. That would likely mean that an ad could follow visitors around for a year. There is no value in annoying potential customers.

Determining Membership Duration
Unfortunately, like many things with paid media, there is no easy answer for everyone. Remarketing membership duration can vary by industry. A general rule of thumb is, the higher the purchase value the larger the membership duration.

Days to Transaction
A recommended way to determine membership duration length is knowing the average time it takes a visitor to convert. Google Analytics can help with that. The Days to Transaction and Sessions to Transaction fields in Google Analytics indicates the average number of days and sessions from the first website interaction to purchase. This helps a marketer understand how long it takes someone to convert. The Days to Transaction report can also be segmented. That allows the separation by products, categories, pages, or whatever makes sense per industry.

Google Analytics Days To Transaction

Google Analytics Days To Transaction

The Importance of Negative Keywords

As the foundation to any PPC campaign, keywords are incredibly important in order to get in front of the right customers. If you are diving into a new account, be it taking over from the previous manager or creating one yourself from the ground up, don’t undermine the power of your negative keyword lists.

What benefits do negative keywords provide?

Just as with regular keywords, examine user data, incorporate them into your campaigns, and reap the rewards of reaching your target audience more accurately. By using negative keywords, it will significantly reduce irrelevant ad impressions so that you can improve your quality score and lower your cost per click. In addition, your cost per acquisition and ad spend will decrease while causing your conversion rate to increase. Not to mention, it will enhance user experience with your brand. It’s an all around win.

Where do negative keywords reside within AdWords?

As you are getting started with negative keywords in your AdWords account, you can choose whether you would prefer to add them at the campaign or ad group level. If you are looking to get more granular, adding negative keywords at the ad group level would be more suitable for your campaign needs.

To add negative terms, go to the “Keywords” tab, scroll to the very bottom of the page and click on “Negative Keywords” to the left. Enter one keyword per line and save when you’re ready. As a reminder, be cautious of the match types you use here. If you add terms that tend to be more on the broad side, you may lose out on good qualified traffic and customers. Stick to exact and phrase match for better results.

Methods of research negative keywords:

The most common issue with negative keywords is not regularly considering the addition of new ones. If you are building a new campaign out from scratch, do not proceed to launch it without adding negatives right out the gate.

Make it a habit, that every time that you are spending time researching regular keywords to add to your campaigns, you should be keeping an eye out for potential negative search terms to add as well. Here are some resources that can assist you in building out well-rounded negative keyword lists:

  • Search Query Report – To locate and download this report in AdWords, go to the “Dimensions” tab, click on the “View” drop down, and select “Search terms”. Here, you will find some excellent candidates for your negative keyword lists.

  • Competitive research – Conduct a search for your keywords in Google and Bing as sometimes they may vary. When reviewing the results, if any terms appear that are irrelevant to your primary keywords, be sure to add them to your negative keyword list.
  • Google AdWords Keyword Planner – Within your account, you can use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner to build out new or expand existing keywords lists and campaigns. This gem of a tool can help you search for not only keyword ideas, but it will also suggest ad group ideas, provide you with historical statistics, predictions on how keyword lists may perform, and insight on choosing competitive bids.
  • A thesaurus – Sure, the physical book is great to have on hand, however, an online version may be much quicker to reference. The online advertising space is competitive and missing a variation of a negative search term may cost you impressions, clicks, and budget. Don’t leave any behind that may deter you from optimal success.

Do negative keywords matter when using Dynamic Search Ads?

While on the topic of negative keywords and their importance, Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) come to mind. Unlike many other search ads who use keywords, DSA’s do not. If you are looking to gain additional traffic with a lesser amount of campaign maintenance, these are fantastic, however, keeping an eye on them is a must because your budget can evaporate rapidly if you don’t add to your negative keyword list.

If you are able to, it is good practice to pick one day each week and comb through keywords in your campaigns, especially those that are DSA’s. Search for the week prior, or since the last time you checked and go through the search term list to make sure you aren’t wasting impressions and clicks on irrelevant keywords that may be consuming part of your budget and providing no return. For example, if you are selling shoes online and clicks on light bulb related search terms come up; you will want to add those as negative exact match keywords at the DSA campaign level.

The bottoms line is, bad matching will cost you money. Make it a habit to continually review your search query report, do some competitive research, and add negatives to your keyword lists. Doing so will continue saving you money, your conversion rates will improve, and irrelevant clicks will be far and few in between.

How Digital Impacts In-Store Shopping

Mall Shopping Scene-Mobile Changes Retail ShoppingConsumers are doing online research to make online purchases, not in brick-and-mortar stores. People use smartphones while in stores to find better deals. Brick-and-mortar stores are an endangered species because of e-commerce. But is all that common wisdom really true?

Google with Ipsos MediaCT and Sterling Brands ran a research study to find out the truth about these assumptions and more. You may be surprised at the results.

Today’s consumers arrive at a store better educated about products and services than before and use their smartphones as personal assistants instead of relying on store employees. However, many of them are still buying in-store, not online. They want an experience, not merely a transaction.

Myth #1: Search results only send customers to e-commerce sites.

Reality: Search results can drive customers to stores. Three in four people who find helpful local information online make in-store purchases.

3 in 4 people

Shoppers are more likely to visit if they can find local information such as in-store availability, prices and store location and hours. Absent that information, one in four shoppers (25%) will shop where they know product availability. Therefore, stores need to find ways to make as much local information available as possible. I purchased a laptop in-store based on availability information found online.

What local information do shoppers find very/extremely important?

Important Local Store Information for Shoppers

So what does this mean for local stores? Digital is a powerful way to reach customers. Inventory ads are one way to do that. If a customer sees that an item is in stock, she is more likely to purchase.

Myth #2: Once an in-store customer starts looking at her smartphone, the store has lost her attention to a competitor.

Reality: Retailers can gain customers’ attention through search results and store apps. This study reveals that 42% of in-store shoppers search for online information while in-store. Of those, 64% use search engines, 46% view the store’s site or app, and 30% visit a competitor’s site.

Where are those 42% of shoppers searching while in-store?

In-store Research by Shoppers

To keep people’s attention, Walmart recently updated its app to practically act as a personal assistant when it added the Search My Store feature. You can see if an item is at a particular location, the price, and its aisle location. No more wandering around lost to find an item that is not in stock. The company feels this feature “…puts Walmart light-years ahead of other brick & mortar retailer apps.” The company also said that “…within the first few weeks of launching on Android, more than 99 percent of Walmart stores had been search by Search My Store.” This app may be the future for physical stores, especially big box ones.

Walmart Mobile App-Search My Store feature screen shot

I used my smartphone to research a wireless router last summer while in-store. The brand I wanted was not in stock. No employees came to assist me so I sat on the floor looking up different router reviews online and on the office supply store’s website.

Myth #3: Online research has turned in-store experiences into just transactions.

Reality: Consumers go to stores for more than a purchase. They want a complete, customized experience.

Customers are visiting stores throughout the decision-making process. This survey found 32% of shoppers visit stores when they are first thinking of making a purchase, and 33% of them actively research in store to find out more about a product. Sixty-nine percent of shoppers gathered information while actually at the store, but two-thirds of them left without all the needed information. Thus, retailers have multiple touch points to connect with shoppers by providing information, expert recommendations and customized deals.

People do not want to feel like a transaction themselves. They want retailers to treat them as people and valued customers. Being available to to provide information and expertise is one way. Another way is customization through special deals and promotions for related products and services. My grocery store sends me coupons based on my purchases, which encourages me to return. Apparently, 85% of shoppers are more likely to shop at stores that offer customized deals and exclusive in-store promotions.

What kinds of customization do shoppers want?

Customized Shopper Experience Preferences

Digital has changed the shopper journey to a more mobile one, but that is not bad. Instead of fearing it, retailers, like yourself, should embrace it. Provide customers local information via search and online to increase your customer reach and engagement. Reach out with customized offers and recommendations to distinguish you from your competitors. Online retail is great, but it cannot replace the personal touch brick-and-mortar retailers can provide.

Using Hashtags in Your Social Media Strategy

Hashtag symbolHashtags are seen everywhere these days – online, television and print. I bet you use them in your personal social media, but are you taking advantage of them in your business?

Hashtags are used within a message and consist of the # sign plus a word or words. They were originally designed to index information and facilitate topic searches on social media. I love that the first tweeted hashtag involved one of my favorite unconferences, BarCamp. Now, they are used randomly and to express emotions or ideas that would probably best be done directly.

Why are you using hashtags?

Before you start using hashtags, you need to determine your objective. Is it to make your brand more searchable? Is it to monitor chatter about your brand? Is it to launch a new product or service? Is it to promote an event? Is it to promote conversation?

Knowing what you want to achieve will determine how you use hashtags, create brand consistency and provide a clear message to your target audience. Using hashtags haphazardly will waste your resources and may hurt your brand.

Types of hashtags

Brand hashtag

Brand hashtags are hashtags for the company name or tagline. If your company name is common or long, create a unique one. This hashtag is your go-to one because it defines your brand. Use it consistently across platforms, and get people to use it. If short enough, you can combine it with a campaign, event or other hashtags. For example, Verizon is #VZW, but it adds to it (e.g. #VZWBuzz, which is a weekly Twitter chat).

Campaign hashtag

Campaign hashtags are used to promote your latest marketing campaign. Make sure they clearly identify your promotion or contest. Promote this hashtag throughout the duration of your campaign to ensure people know about it and get them to use it.

Trending hashtag

Trending hashtags come and go very quickly so you have to be monitoring social media carefully to capture them. Done well you can take advantage of an event or other subject’s momentum to further your brand. Done wrong you can easily damage your campaign. Generally, only jump on trending hashtags that relate to your company’s products and services in some way. You can also use trending hashtags to show your brand’s personality. Spamming trending hashtags can get your accounts suspended so don’t use #MileyCyrus if she’s not related to the post.

Oreo is famous for its real-time social media. It got a big boost with its Super Bowl tweet “Power out? No problem.” accompanied by an image with the comment “You can still dunk in the dark.” Few companies can replicate Oreo’s success with real-time marketing.

Content hashtag

Many hashtags refer to the content of the message rather than the company itself. Therefore, they tend to be more generic.

  • Product / service hashtag
  • Lifestyle / hobbby hashtag
  • Event hashtag
  • Location hashtag
  • Industry hashtag

Content hashtags help people find information on specific subjects. Do not use too general of a hashtag, like #Facebook, or your message will get lost. Instead, you might use #FacebookTips. Event hashtags are great if you are participating in or hosting an event. Local businesses will want to consider location hashtags.

How to choose hashtags

Remember when I wrote about not using haphazardly? Well, now let’s talk about how to choose hashtags that will be the most effective. The short answer is research. Successful hashtags are unique, relevant, short and easy to remember.

You need to give special consideration to brand and campaign ones. You do not want them to be misinterpreted or hijacked by the public. For example, McDonald’s used #MeetTheFarmers to talk about the corporation’s guarantee of fresh produce and focus on wholesome stories about farmers, but then it used the related secondary hashtag #McDstories. The second hashtag was used by people to discuss fast food horror stories. #Fail.

Research will also help prevent errors such as Entenmann’s #notguilty tweet. Entenmann tweeted “Who’s #notguilty about eating all the tasty treats they want?!” Unfortunately, #notguilty was trending about the controversial not guilty Casey Anthony verdict. Oops! Apology to follow.

So how do you research and create a hashtag list?

Many tools and methods exist to research keywords to use for hashtags and existing hashtag usage. I’ll go over a few here to get you started.Many of the tools focus on Twitter, which dominates hashtag usage, but more companies are adding other social media networks.

If your company is new to social media, you probably do not know which hashtags are popular, but you probably know the influencers in your field. You can use Twitonomy to find out the hashtags used by influencers on Twitter. Remember that just because a hashtag is used by someone does not mean many people search for it. Sign in and enter the person’s Twitter handle to get a list of hashtags. Information is also provided on people they retweet and interact with most often for additional names to research. You can also search by hashtag. After doing this a few times with different accounts, you will have a basic hashtag list. I did one for Gini Dietrich.

Gini Dietrich-Twitonomy hashtags

Because I follow Gini, I know what many of these hashtags mean. But what if you don’t? You can click on the result to see how it is being used and get an idea of its meaning. Also, you can use Hashtag Dictionary and TagDef to find out more. People from around the world add definitions and descriptions for hashtags.

Next, Hashtagify.me will provide other trending hashtags related to your specific one. Enter the hashtag minus the # sign. You will get a graphic result that reminds me of Google+ Ripples. If you hover over one of the circles, more detailed information appears. The larger the circle size, the more popular the hashtag, and the closer it is to your hashtag, the greater the correlation. You can add the related hashtags to your list. Speaking of Google+, as you type your post, Google+ will create related hashtags, and as you type a hashtag, it will auto suggest others.

Here is the result for #contentmarketing:

hashtagifyme-contentmarketing hashtag result

But how popular is that hashtag? With Rite Tag, you can enter the hashtags you’ve collected and find out. Rite Tag uses a color code system. Gray is unused. Pink is overused. Blue is good. Green is great. You can even install a Chrome extension that will provide feedback as you type a tweet. I typed in #contentmarketing, and the result was green. However, #contentmarketingtips was gray. Therefore, I would use #contentmarketing as a content hashtag.

By this time, you may be wondering how to create a unique hashtag for your brand or campaign when so many hashtags have already been created. You don’t have to be completely unique, though that would be ideal. For example, BarCamp Nashville uses #BCN[2-digit year]. This year it was #BCN14. However, the same hashtag configuration is used by an event in Spain. As the events are local and in different languages, they continue to use the same hashtag. You would not want to use a hashtag that is also being used by a competitor or someone who could harm your brand.

Now that you’ve used these tools, you should have a good list of hashtagsto use for content you want to share, a brand hashtag and possible campaign hashtags.

How to use hashtags

Now that you have the why and the what, you need to add the how. One of the frequent questions I get is how many hashtags to use in a post or tweet. Research has found that the fewer the better. Too many hashtags create a spammy feeling. Generally, I advise one or two hashtags with a maximum of three. Although you can go up to 30 on Instagram, more is not necessarily better so please don’t go crazy. On Facebook, I recommend you test whether to use hashtags at all since it hasn’t really taken off there, except with the integration of Instagram.

Where should you place the hashtags? They can be placed in the message itself or at the end. Whichever method you choose, keep readability in mind. For that reason, I capitalize the words in a multiword hashtag.

Using the brand and campaign hashtags across multiple channels, including offline, will create consistency and integrate your messaging. Also, more people will see the hashtag, and seeing it in multiple places will help them remember it.

Remember effectively using hashtags as part of your social media strategy requires that you start with a strategy.Then, you build upon that foundation with a solid list of hashtags that are unique, short and easy to remember and use them properly. The result will be extended audience reach and increased engagement.

5 Common Mobile App Marketing Mistakes

The Apple slogan “There’s an app for that” has become a part of everyday speech and is true for so very much. Every company appears to have a mobile app or is at least seriously thinking about building one. However, many companies are making very basic mobile app marketing mistakes. Avoid these five common errors for successful mobile app marketing.

Building a Mobile App Without a Reason

Just because so many other companies have mobile apps does not mean your company should. Take time to think it through. A mobile app deserves the same strategic consideration as any other aspect of your marketing. Make sure it complements your digital and physical brand experience. Most importantly, a mobile app needs to provide value to the users.

No Mobile Marketing Plan

You cannot rely on the Field of Dreams method of marketing. People will not instinctively know you have a mobile app. Multiple methods are available to market your app. For example, you can leverage your digital presence with website links, social media mentions, email lists and pop-up notifications on your mobile site. I found out about a department store’s app from a simple door sign. App stores are also common marketing outlets, but you need to optimize the app’s title, keywords and description.

Walgreens prominently places its mobile app notice in its left hand navigation:

Walgreens Mobile App Website Notice

Mistaking a Mobile Site for a Mobile App

A mobile website and a mobile app are two different digital assets. Unfortunately, so many mobile experiences are smaller versions of the desktop experience. The smaller screen requires you to focus on what is essential, the core tasks. Unlike mobile sites, mobile apps can also provide unique features like directions from a user’s current location.

The current NewsChannel5 Nashville app is an example of what not to do. As you can see, you are directed to the website when you open the app. I have since switched to using their primary local competitor’s app:

NewsChannlel5 Nashville mobile app pic

User Retention

How many mobile apps have you downloaded and only used a few times? A large number of downloads means zilch if very few people are using it. If you understand what people want from your app, you can keep users. I use GasBuddy to find the best gasoline prices near me, especially when traveling. Further, create reasons for users to engage with exclusive content, benefits and special features. I kept my Macy’s app longer than expected because I could use it for price checking sale items that often get mixed in with other items. App updates also remind people about your mobile app.

Two-way Communication

Most user feedback is presently done via ratings and reviews at app stores. That does not allow for issues or questions to be directly addressed. In today’s hyper-connected world, people expect to be able to directly communicate with brands. Add a way for people to provide in-app reviews or feedback. This way you can handle problems and questions before a user gets so frustrated that he or she leave a review or rating at an app store that you cannot address. You also gain insights into how people are using your mobile app and how to improve it.

Avoid these five common mistakes when creating your mobile app marketing campaign if you want to be successful mobile app marketing. Instead, carefully plan your campaign, include user-friendly features, allow user interaction and foster app retention. Happy mobile app marketing!

Three Simple Tactics to Improve Your Online Marketing Efforts

Search engine marketing can at times feel overwhelming. There’s the link building and the advertising and the analytics and … so much more.

Improve your SEOYes, there are a lot of moving pieces – and the fine team at Crescent Interactive is ready to help you with all of them.

But if you’re looking for something simple that can make an immediate impact, might we suggest one of the three tactics below. These suggestions are the results of recently published research or survey findings and can make a significant difference in your online marketing efforts.

1. Try call tracking with AdWords

If you’ve ever wondered which ads or marketing campaigns resulted in the most phone calls to your business, this is a great tactic to try.

MarketingProfs does a much better job of breaking down the step-by-step details, but the gist of it is this – create a custom call tracking number for your actual phone number and configure AdWords to trace it.

This call tracking number can be specific to each ad and, with some proper configuration on your landing pages, can “follow your user” throughout the process. If you create a different call tracking number for each ad you place, you’ll know exactly which ad each caller clicked on to get the information.

2. Pair Your Search Marketing with a Social Campaign

If you’re looking to make the biggest impact you can with a search campaign, be sure to pair it with a simultaneous social campaign. According to research by Marin Software, companies that spent money on search campaigns gained an average of 68 percent higher revenue per conversion when combined with a social campaign.

That’s nothing to scoff at.

Users that clicked on both the social and the search ads had a higher conversion rate as well.

3. Create Quality Content

This one should be a no-brainer by now, but this time, there is survey data to corroborate.

The best search engine optimization tactic is to simply create quality content that people want to read.

According to a survey conducted by Ascend2 in April, quality content was by far and away the No. 1 answer from the 442 marketing and sales professionals who participated. A distant second was keyword research and management, while frequent website updating was third.

Interestingly enough, creating quality content was also identified as being the most difficult tactic to execute, even more so than link building, which was No. 2.

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So, have you tried any of these tactics? Have they worked for you? What kind of results have you seen? Leave a comment below to tell your story.

Facebook Enhances Video Metrics

Where did people stop watching the video? How long did they watch the video? How many unique video views did it get? Did they re-watch the section? Answers to these questions and others will soon be available to Page owners as part of Facebook’s new video metrics in the updated Page Insights and Ads Reporting.

Presently, Facebook only shows you how many people have started viewing a video – not very useful. According to Facebook, you will soon receive data on video views, unique views, audience retention and the average duration of the video view. The new metrics will provide much more detailed information for both organic and paid videos uploaded directly to pages. The one exception is the click-to-play metric that will show clicks for third-party videos, like YouTube, that play in-line on Facebook. This move requires Page owners to do more of their video work directly on the Facebook platform.

As part of the update, Facebook made two term changes. A “video view” is now a view of three seconds or more, including auto-play videos as users scroll through their News Feeds. The “video plays” metric has been renamed “clicks to play video.”

Here is a preview of what the video metrics will look like:

Facebook Video Metrics-Video Post Details

Although video metrics will be available for both organic and paid video posts, Ads Reporting will provide a more detailed breakdown and demographics:

Facebook Video Metrics-Ads Reporting Details

For complete views, Facebook will make “Video Views to 95%” as the default setting as many videos have blank screen endings. However, you can view 25%, 50%, 75%, 95% and 100% in Ads Reporting. If you are interested in targeting a particular demographic, Ads Reporting will show you how many of those people you reached so you can see if your campaign resonated with the right group.

One of the most interesting metrics is Audience Retention. Dips could show where people lost interest or were turned off by something and stopped watching. Spikes at specific points could indicate where people are re-watching a section either because they like the section or the content may need clarification. With this data, you can make changes to your videos to enhance viewing.

Facebook Video Metrics-Audience Retention

With the increasing demand for video content, these metrics will help you better understand what content resonates with your targeted audience and let you know what you need to improve. No more wondering if you are wasting time and money. For more details and best practices, Facebook created a pdf overview of the new video metrics. You may wish to print it out for quick reference as you explore these new video metrics.

Landing Pages: A Marketing Must Have

Landing Pages-parachutist

photo credit: pmarkham via photopin cc

You spend tremendous amounts of time, money and effort getting prospective customers to your website but then nothing. Crickets. What’s the missing piece here in your online marketing efforts? Landing pages!

What is a Landing Page?

A landing page is a singly highly focused website page that an advertisement or other hyperlink direct people to “land” on to take a specific action. Some potential actions include downloading a white paper, completing a demonstration request or signing up for a newsletter.

Some Reasons to Use Landing Pages

  1. Lead Capture – So many campaigns simply send people to the home page. Instead, send them to a page that details the benefits of taking a specific action and include a lead capture. These leads can then be segmented, nurtured or distributed to the sales team.
  2. Advertising Conversion Effectiveness – All advertising is more effective if it sends prospects to a targeted page that does nothing but support your advertising message.
  3. Promote Multiple Products – Instead of having a general product or service page, create pages that are focused on individual products or services and are tailored to specific audiences.
  4. Keep Visitors Focused – The typical home page allow visitors’ attention to wander. Properly executed landing pages help focus them more effectively on your offer and nothing else.
  5. Increase Conversion Rates – Because you are giving visitors exactly what they want, your conversion rates increase.
  6. Better Qualified Leads – Unlike general visitors to your website, people who arrive on a landing page do so because they clicked on a specific ad or link. They are already interested in what is being offered. With the landing page, you can provide more information on the benefits of taking a specific action.
  7. Better Metrics – Each time a prospect completes a lead capture form or takes other specific actions, you can collect more demographics about them and understand which ones are more engaged. You also gain better insight into your marketing efforts, such as how well your offers compare and how prospects are converting on your landing pages.
  8. Increase Appearance in Search Results – By having multiple focused pages, your website has a better chance of showing up in search results.

Instead of losing prospects, capture them by using landing pages and convert them to sales. Numerous resources exist to help you create and test landing pages. Take advantage of them. Your bottom line will thank you.

5 Lessons Crutches Can Teach Online Marketers

crutches-lessons for online marketersIf you have ever used crutches for a while, you know it isn’t easy. Neither is online marketing. While recently forced to use crutches, I realize that several lessons I learned were applicable to online marketing.

First Lesson: Patience

Learning to use crutches took me a couple days. I had to learn the basic movements, how to transition from different floor surfaces and how to keep bobbles from turning into falls.

In a world where we expect immediate results, we need to understand that quality online marketing results do not happen overnight. Sure you could buy an email list or Twitter followers, but that won’t benefit you in the long run. Some results come faster than others, but with strategy development , buyer persona creation, A/B testing and other activities, most results take some time. For many of my clients, I advise them to give strategies enough time to work. Of course, there are always exceptions and some tweaks as the business environment changes.

Second Lesson: Persistence

Some of my crutch use efforts were not immediately successful. I knew I was close. For example, getting up from a low couch was especially difficult. I had to determine the right timing and the correct sequence of muscles that needed to activate to get up.

With online marketing, we may have everything lined up, but our activities are not providing the expected results. What’s going wrong? Keep trying. Keep testing your assumptions and tracking your metrics. You’ll likely find the the right combination of elements that will get you the results you need.

Third Lesson: Balance

Obviously, having good balance is vital to using crutches. I credit my Iyengar yoga training for keeping me upright through proper alignment and proprioception along with a few new tricks of my own.

Sometimes if you have expertise or success in one area of online marketing, you tend to focus all of your efforts on one tactic or strategy instead of creating a balanced plan. However, not every customer or situation calls for the same type of PPC ad, social media message, blog post or other communication. Or maybe you want to try something new, like several clients of mine who simply want to jump headlong into social media at the expense of everything else. Like me, you have to adapt what you know and add other tactics or strategies. Spread out your efforts an appropriate amount like a tripod, not a stilt or an octopus.

Fourth Lesson: A Strong Core

Using crutches uses a lot of upper body strength but also a lot of core strength. Your core is vital to your overall balance. Now, a human’s core is made of different tissues and bones working together.

Your marketing campaign also needs a strong core with all the elements necessary to implement your plan, and these elements must be integrated. If a part is missing or not properly integrated, the core strength of your online marketing plan is compromised. You have enough working against you for your customers’ attention; don’t sabotage your own efforts.

Fifth Lesson: Know When to Change

After eight days of crutches, I was too worn out to safely use them. Therefore, I made the decision to rent a knee walker, which is more stable, and supplement with crutches.

Sometimes no matter how solid your plan, testing and all might be you have to scratch most, if not all, of your online marketing plans and start over. Thoroughly evaluate what went wrong, get some advice and start over. If you learn from your efforts and don’t give up, then you haven’t failed; you’re just one step closer to success.

Take a moment to learn, discover and explore lessons that can be found in everyday experiences and applied to online marketing. Yeah, stop right now and think of one or two. The experience of using crutches is only one possible source. You might be surprised at what’s out there.

The 1st (and Most Overlooked) Step in Marketing Your Website

I do Conversion Rate Optimization, which means people are constantly asking me about the tools I use. Sure, I have a lot of conversion tools in my arsenal, and I depend on them to gather user feedback and run A/B and multivariate tests, but that’s not actually where the magic happens. The mechanics of implementing a survey on your site, collecting heatmaps of mouse clicks, or running tests are meaningless if you skipped the most critical step: understanding your site’s visitors.

Because it’s not about what YOU want people to do on your site; it’s about knowing what THEY want/need, and showing how you can uniquely help them. But you can’t be everything to everyone, so you have to figure out who your audience is. Ideally, you should do this research before building your website so you can build your site with your customer in mind. However, if it’s too late for that, this work will help you improve your marketing messages. Better late than never!

So how do you get inside their head?

Gather Data from Different Sources

You already have plenty of information on what makes your target market tick; you just need to dig it up and organize it. Your primary goal is to get a solid understanding of their attitude, goals, and values. Their demographic information is secondary. You don’t need to break the bank hiring a market research firm. And your goal isn’t to be 100% accurate; in this case, speed of implementation trumps precision.

So here are some fast, easy, and affordable ways to get to know your target market.

Learn how they think:

  • Interview your “typical” customer, not just your favorites (obvious, I know, but this list wouldn’t be complete without recommending you actually talk to your target market)
  • Interview salespeople and customer service reps. You’ll gain a wealth of information from the people working on the front line every day.
  • Look at your site’s analytics for keywords on customer intent
  • Ask Your Target Market their thoughts on AYTM.com. This is a useful survey tool that lets you pick the types of respondents you need, such as Audi owners with teenagers who spend 13 – 24 nights in a hotel on vacation a year. Pretty specific! They have over 2000 lifestyle tags like that to choose from, plus the usual demographic information. You pick your target market, create your survey and wait for their panel of respondents who fit your requirements to take your survey. You can get good insight into your target market for about $200.
  • Use social media to see your customers’ own words. Look at your competitors’ social media properties as well as your own. Create a tag cloud using a tool like tagxedo.com or wordle.net to give you a nice visual of your target market’s language
Tagxedo

Tagxedo

Understand their lifestyle:
Nielsen is best known for its TV ratings. But did you know about their zip code look up? They’ve segmented U.S. households into distinct types based on likes, dislikes, lifestyle, and consumer behavior. So if you know the zip codes of your best customers, use Nielsen’s zip code look up to get a sense of their personality and lifestyle.

This snapshot is free but you have to pay for more details.

Nielsen's lifestyle segmentation

Nielsen’s lifestyle segmentation

This paints a pretty clear picture of your audience, doesn’t it?

Know their demographics:

  • Look at Facebook insights to see the age, gender and geographic location of your audience
  • Sign up for a free account at Quantcast.com to see demographic information and related websites your audience visits
  • Look in analytics for the geographic location of your site’s visitors

Now that you’ve gathered a heap of information from a variety of sources, it’s time to create your personas. Look for differences in goals, values, and attitude toward your product or service. As you do this, you’ll see why demographic information is secondary. You could find that people of all different ethnicities are trying to solve a similar problem for a similar reason — and that’s what you need to address in your marketing messages. After all, it’s much more powerful to speak to a person’s needs than his skin color. Even if a product or service lends itself to a specific age group or gender, people still buy because of a need or a want. For example, although lipstick is made for women, we really buy it because we want to look good, not merely because we’re female.

Once you’ve found 3 – 5 distinct segments of your audience based on goals, values and attitude, find a picture that represents each segment. An actual photograph of a random person is better than a cartoon or a sketch because it makes the person seem more real. Name your personas and write a brief profile about them. Here’s a good sample profile.

Run these personas by your sales and customer service people. You’ll know you got them right when they say something like, “yep, that sounds just like someone I talked to this morning”.

Now share these persona profiles with everyone involved in marketing your website: designers, developers, copywriters, and people doing PPC, SEO, Social Media and Conversion Rate Optimization. The goal is to get everyone making decisions based on what the personas want, not what your CEO wants. If you successfully integrate personas into your marketing efforts, you should hear your team saying certain content needs to be created because persona, Jane, will be looking for it.

Understanding your audience is critical to delivering the right marketing messages to the right people. But for some reason, most companies skip this step and just dive into building a website and driving traffic to it. Most likely this is because they’re intimidated by the process and think they’ll have to invest substantial time and/or money with a fancy market research firm. But really knowing your site’s visitors is the foundation for having a website that converts in the double digits, as opposed to the industry average of around 2%.

So if you simply spend an afternoon going through the process I outlined above, you’ll be one giant step ahead of your competitors.

For further reading on a step-by-step process of creating personas, I recommend The User is Always Right by Steve Mulder.