Search Engine Marketing: ROI vs. Profits

by Eric Tsai

Search Engine Marketing: ROI vs. Profits
In SEM (Search Engine Marketing) ROI is a safer metric, at the end of the day, than profit.

The pros of going with ROI outweigh profit in the immediacy.

Profit is almost always the primary goal in the long term, but marketers have a lot more control over ROI so programs are designed around this KPI first.

This is a guest post from my good friend David Chung, who used to work with me in Search Marketing and now works for Google in Korea:

Everyone’s getting smarter. Everything’s getting smarter, too.

I recently swapped out my Android mobile device for a traditional flip phone and it took no longer than ten minutes to feel the smart-ness sinking away into a dumb oblivion.

It took ten minutes to feel the urge to enlighten myself with the latest tidbits of wisdom from my social network.

Just ten minutes, and I was already fumbling around with T9 Word trying to reply to a SMS dinner invitation. Instead of “if I’m home by 7” my phone kept trying to write “he im good by p”. So dumb.

Marketers are getting smarter, too. With best practices scratched on every virtual wall, it’s hard to tell which marketing professional has the true edge. I don’t blame you.

We all look and sound the same lately, flaunting tons of white paper lingo like quality score optimization and ROI focus.

Every article, blog, RSS feed, and tweet I’ve read lately talks about making sure your SEM campaigns are maximizing their return on investment.

Here’s my response: Save the white for summer.

Here in Q2, as we start planning our marketing budgets for 2012, we have a responsibility to jump off our “high level” thrones, and start defining viable strategies that will maximize the one thing better than looking good in person—looking good on paper.

Bottom line profits.

But What’s Wrong With Maximizing ROI?

It’s a fair question.

I’ve been asked about this numerous times, and I found the following analogy to help.

Imagine you’re a soda salesperson. Now, you pride yourself on being an amazing salesperson. You can sell ice to an penguin and run of network display media to a direct response marketer.

Your price for a bottle of soda – $1. Now, you can sell that bottle for $100 (because you’re that good), but the problem is, it’s going to take you a long time to move product.

People are getting too smart, and their phones are even smarter. Just one snapshot with Google Goggles, and they’ll know every soda price within a 20 mile radius and the cheapest gas stations to fill up en route to boot.

So, for the sake of example, let’s just say it takes, on average, 3 months of good ol’ fashioned hustling to sell that bottle for $100.

But hey! You just got a ONE HUNDRED to one ROI! Amazing.

In the meantime, your counterpart down the street is selling bottles at $1.25. He isn’t even close to a 2 to 1 ROI. However, it doesn’t take much to move product at this price, and it turns out that your competitor can easily sell 5 bottles a day.

After 90 days of consistent 1.25 to 1 ROI execution, you meet and compare numbers.

The 100 to 1 ROI sounds good, but at the end of the day, the second salesman ends up netting more profits. The first guy made a profit of just $99.

The second guy finishes the same 3 months with more than 10% higher profit—a handsome $112.50.

The moral of this totally, oversimplified story is even simpler.

A campaign’s success is ultimately dressed in black. Black ink bottom line numbers. Profit.

The Difference Between ROI vs. Profits

ROI is a great KPI for monitoring overall campaign health, but it’s just a rate.

So how do we evolve from an ROI-focused approach to one that’s profit-maximizing?

The first step is to understand the relationship between operational profit and your advertising budget.

Your media spend is essentially one of many line items that add up to COGS (Cost of Goods Sold), or the cost of goods sold. Once you’re able to determine average margin of profit on your goods, then factor in ad spend, you can come up with a rough estimate of what your COGS percentage is.

The next step involves some calculation, using the square root rule to predict when you’ll hit diminishing returns on an advertising buy.

Here is an example:

Assume you spent $1,000,000 on marketing last year, generating $3,000,000 sales.

Your profit factor is 35%, yielding profit of $3,000,000 * 0.35 – $1,000,000 = $50,000 .

What would happen if you cut 20% from your marketing budget.

Step 1: Sales = (($800,000 / $1,000,000) ^ 0.5) * $3,000,000 = (0.894 * $3,000,000) = $2,683,282.

The “0.5” number is the square root … you are taking the square root of the ratio in change of marketing spend.

In this case, a 20% reduction in spend yields a 10.5% reduction in sales.

Step 2: Profit = $2,683,282 * 0.35 – $800,000 = $139,149.

In other words, you’d lose a little over $300,000 in sales, but profit would increase by nearly $90,000.

Using the square root rule enables marketers to model hypothetical scenarios, which then enable senior management or your clients to make informed decisions.

Are you losing out on potential profits by depending too heavily on brand keywords, albeit at a 20 to 1 ROI?

Perhaps it’s time to explore non-brand search terms.

Maybe this is an opportunity to expand your program into other channels, such as contextual targeting or a another search engine.

Even if your expansion efforts, on their own, were to yield an ROI of 2 to 1, this still pads your overall profit margin.

Yes, your 20 to 1 ROI will suffer because of the new “inefficient” campaigns entering your mix.

However, at the end of the day, both top line and bottom line revenue increase incrementally.

9 Keys to Increase Website Conversion Rate and Turn Visitors into Customers

by Eric Tsai

9 tips to effectively increase your website conversion rate

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you might remember a post I wrote recently called Why Attention is the New Currency Online. When I wrote it, I had been working to create a process to audit website conversions.

Ultimately it turned into an article about capturing attention online because without attention there would be nobody looking at your links, images, videos and compelling content.

And without people reading your content, you certainly won’t get any clicks. When people read your content online, links and clicks follow.

However; you don’t want just any click, you want qualified prospects clicking on your links, visiting your website and consuming your content.

Let’s be clear, getting attention is only part of the equation to help you increase conversions but it does not automatically equals to conversion.

For those of you who don’t know why qualified traffic is important, let me just say that if you want to increase conversions of your landing page or your ecommerce store, this is crucial.

What is a Conversion?

How does the value of a conversion relate to the return on investment of a marketing campaign?

Basically a conversion is an action a user takes on your site that has value to your business.

Typically it’s a sale but it can also be a newsletter sign-up, a download of a file, viewing of a video, or a request for more information.

If you know what a conversion is worth to you, and the percentage of traffic visiting your conversion page versus the traffic that do convert (the conversion rate), then it is easy to calculate your return on investment (ROI) for just about any marketing campaign.

Conversion Rate and ROI Calculation

From the calculations above, you may think that if you want to increase ROI, you just need to increase CR right?

You’re on the right track but that’s not the entire story here because conversion rates typically depend on two factors:

  1. Qualified traffic – The goal is to capture only traffic that’s more likely to convert. This is where direct marketing is heavily used to grab the attention of the visitors. A valuable piece of content, a paid search ad or recommendations from social media channels are just a few ways you can use to obtain qualified traffic.
  2. Landing page – A landing page is a specific area of your website where traffic is sent (via links from online advertisements, organic search results, social media or email) specifically to prompt a certain action or result.  And since a visitor usually lands on a page after clicking on a link, it’s important that the links you use to send traffic to your website is relevant to what that person is looking for. Once on your landing page, it’s basically a tactic of one-on-one selling so if it’s not what people are looking for, you will likely get a low conversion.

There are tons of strategies to get qualified traffic (paid search, SEO, email, display, affiliate, etc.), but today we’re going to look at things that you can do to your website to help you improve your conversion rate.

These tips are easy to implement and can start improving your results immediately.

9 Keys to Increase Conversion Rate

I’m going to give you my recommendations, I also want to share a few principles that I believe are crucial in building a website that attracts thousands of high quality links.

The following steps can also be used for your landing page audits.

Use a simple scorecard format to quickly determine what you may need to do to increase your conversion rate.

Here is an example of a score card (you can download the landing page audit scorecard here)

landing page scorecard

1. Know Your Audience

The most important thing that you can do to increase your conversion rate is to know who you’re targeting and tailor your content for that person.

When a new visitor lands on your site for the first time and clicks on a link or goes to your product page, and doesn’t buy anything (or fill out a lead form), then you’ve probably lost them for good.

In my own testing I’ve found that addressing your message to a specific demographic can give you a nice life in conversions.

In fact, when I tried to cover as much features and benefits as possible (thinking that’s just adding value), I tend to get less clicks and low conversions.

2. Focus on Positive User Experience

A landing page is tailored to fit the specific call?to?action (that you designated) and is often the first page a visitor sees when clicking on a link. The challenge is to ensure that you are optimizing an exceptional online experience for visitors and also producing high ROI.

So what is considered an exceptional online experience?

It’s basically providing visitors with accurate, relevant and useful information to meet their needs. But do it in an entertaining and engaging way to differentiate yourself.

None of the bait-and-switch tactics or hype that’s overpromised and under-delivered.

positive user experience ads

A positive user experience usually focuses on a single message with a strong call-to-action that are written in plain language with no more than 7-12 words.

Don’t make the mistake of trying to combine all the features and benefits of your offer, instead focus on the highest value outcome.

Once you have a clean and precise message, you can make it credible with branding elements such as logos and security icons (third-party verifications) or use stories and testimonials. This will give confidence to the visitor which can have a positive impact on conversion as well.

Perfecting, or at the very least improving, customer experience has replaced customer loyalty as the ultimate corporate PR and brand reputation.

Put yourself in your visitor’s shoes and ask: would I scroll down and read this?

Would I fill out this form and give my personal information?

Why would I click here?

3. Develop Your Value Proposition

A value proposition is basically your offer. What are the main selling points? Why should the visitor buy right there and then? It may sound obvious to you but a clear value proposition is the foundation to your conversions.

Your landing page should address the top questions and concerns prospects have about your offer. And it usually goes back to the four Ps of marketing: product, price, place and promotion.

Too often, marketers focus too much on “promotion” instead of combining the other three Ps.

You may find after studying the competition that increasing or decreasing your price is likely to result in better conversions, for example. Perhaps there is a distribution channel, such as the social networks or email marketing; you haven’t fully integrated into your marketing mix.

And with products, developing a new product or re-package an existing product may provide a lift to your overall conversion as well.

You are likely to increase the chance of conversion if you have a clear value proposition that pushes the visitor to take action with your offer.

Ask yourself whether your landing page is helping people to make their decision.

If it’s not, then why should people do what you ask of them? (Purchase a product, sign up for newsletter or request a demo…etc.)

Don’t forget to research your competition so you know how your value proposition stacks up.

The new consumer-led digital revolution is all about exceeding customers’ expectations via influence.

Simply put, influence is conversion rate.

4. Cater to Online Reading Habits

What doesn’t get read doesn’t get clicked on. This is a simple logic that many marketers failed to recognize that there is a fundamental difference between people reading online and offline.

Accordingly to Dr. Jakob Nielsen’s eye tracking studies, “People rarely read Web pages word by word; instead, they scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences.”

Unlike traditional media or what he calls “linear media” such as print and TV, people expect you to construct their experience for them. Basically readers are willing to follow the author’s lead.

However websites are considered “non-linear media“, where the rules reverse. Users want to construct their own experience by piecing together content from multiple sources, emphasizing their desires in the current moment.

In fact, Dr.Jakob conducted an eye-tracking study and found that people are read in F-shaped patterns when reading web content.

F-shape reading pattern

This is why you should use attention call-outs such as headers, subheads, paragraphs, and bullet points with words that users will notice when scanning down the left side of your content in the final stem of their F-behavior.

The idea here is to layout your content so the readers will WANT to read but keep in mind that the F-pattern should be considered descriptive, not prescriptive.

It’s all about giving you the highest chance of grabbing attention.

5. Create Compelling Copy with Clear Headlines

The first things a visitor reads after landing on your page is your headline. This is when you need to pass the smell test.

If your headline is anything less than clear, informative and compelling, you  will bore or confuse your visitors into leaving.

On the other hand, a well-written headline can drive your visitors to take a closer look even if it’s just text.

Have you noticed how some landing pages are super long?

These landing pages are called “long-form” sales letter that typically consists of a title, subtitle, bunch of paragraphs, images, testimonials and a few buy buttons on a plain-looking page that you have to scroll on and on.

Think about it, if it doesn’t convert well why would there be so many long-form landing pages online?

The truth is people only read what they’re interested in even if it appears to be too long!

The key is to do so in an engaging way that will connect with your audience, it can even be fun and entertaining.

One of my ways to start creating engaging copy is to use the five W’s and one H technique. Here is an example of this:

  • Tell them why they’re about to read the page
  • Tell them who’s it for
  • Tell them what’s in it for them
  • Tell them where they’re at or where they can get it
  • Tell them when they can get it (i.e. limited time offer)
  • Tell them how it works or how it relates to them

The goal is to focus on everything you think will push them one step closer to taking your converting and nothing more.
Make sure you get to the point with actionable content (tell them what to do next) that focuses more on the outcome rather than the feature.

You may want to check out the following articles to help you create compelling content:

How to Create Magnetic Copy to Maximize Your Content Appeal.

7 Ways To Elevate The Perceived Value Of Your Content.

If you know your customer well enough, you should know what they want.

Focus on wants at the beginning not needs.

6. Leverage Image or Rich Media to Direct Attention

Images, videos or testimonials can motivate visitors and trigger emotions. This can have a positive impact on viewers to want to read more about your product and explore the site longer.

Studies have showed that people perceived websites as more “professional” or “trustworthy” when they had images of people on the site.
However; you don’t want to just take any stock photos that relates to your message and load it up on your site.

Instead images can be used to effectively change visitor behavior substantially.

According to a study by Bunnyfoot, subtle changes such as using the right images can direct and guide the visitor’s eyes where you want them to go.

Visual Eye Tracking Study

I thought this was an interesting study and one that you should consider when adding images to your landing page.

When using images and videos, ask yourself whether that piece of content is drawing attention away from your persuasive message or adding to it.

7. Create Content with SEO in Mind – SEO Copywriting

A great tactic that you should put in practice is to integrate your copywriting with SEO (search engine optimization).

SEO copywriting is a technique that tries to optimize your site around a keyphrase that can send you organic search traffic. Done right you can even turn research-intent traffic into converting traffic.

The goal is to get search engine rankings for a relevant phrase around what you’re trying to rank for that can bring you “qualified” traffic.

For example, if someone is looking for “men’s running shoes review” and your online store happens to have a blog with articles comparing all the latest running shoes on the market, the visitor may read the article and decide to bookmark and come back later. Or better yet, the visitor reads the article ended up buying a pair of shoes from your online store.

Obviously you need to know the keywords that your audience uses in order to rank for those keywords.

You can get an idea on the competitiveness of your keywords by using Google’s Keyword Tool to see what phrases are popular and the volume of searches on them globally and locally.

Once you have those keywords, simply remember to use it in your content in addition to HTML areas such as the title tag, meta tags, anchor text in links, and permalinks.

Here is an example of my SERP result, notice the bolded words that highlights the keywords that’s in my title and descreption.

SEO copywriting title descreption

If you use a platform like WordPress (what I use), then all you have to do is install one of those All-in-One-SEO plugins and you’re set.

8. Test, Adjust and Repeat

The golden rule of any direct response marketing is to ensure you evoke a measurable, tractable response.

This means constant testing of your landing page using methods such as a/b split testing or multivariate testing.

The concept is simple.

You want to have variations of the page to be tested on an ongoing basis so you can improve conversion rate.

  • What is an A/B split test? A classic direct marketing tactic, A/B testing is a method of marketing testing by which a baseline control sample is compared to a variety of single-variable test samples in order to improve response rates It’s typically performed to determine the better of two content variations
  • What is a multivariate test?
    A slightly more complex test, multivariate test is a process by which more than one component of a website may be tested in a live environment. It can be thought of in simple terms as numerous A/B tests performed on one page at the same time.

By conducting tests on your landing page, you will be able to determine which headline is more effective or what layout works better.

Here is an example case of an A/B split test that I did on my email marketing.

The objective was to determine if removing the sidebar would result in a better overall performance. I also tested two different email subject line to see which one opens better.

split test email

The obvious winner here is the control version. The result indicated that the new version (without sidebar) has a higher open rate compare to the control version (email with sidebar), but the conversion rate was substantially lower.

Keep in mind that with testing you want to make sure you gather enough data (sample size) to ensure that your tests are statistically relevant.

Sounds complicated?

Well, thanks to Google, you can use their Google Analytics Content Experiments to conduct both of these tests for free!

Or for more advanced folks, you can try Visual Website Optimizer, UnbounceMonetate, or Sitespect.

When it comes to testing, here are some ideas you can use:

  • Test different headlines, sub headlines and ad copy
  • Test different version of the same logo, icons, layout of testimonials and even colors
  • Test different call-to-actions and buttons (i.e. try this vs. buy now)
  • Test different images or videos (swap image for video and vice versa)
  • Test different forms (embed in different areas of the site, reduce required fields)
  • Test different offers (use incentives to see how discounts or coupons work differently)
  • Test long versus short sales page
Checkout WhichMVT for a full list of reviews and comparisons on testing tools.
And for case studies and test ideas, visit WhichTestWon.

9. Track and Analyze Your Landing Pages

One thing that you can do to benchmark your landing page is to install Google Analytics. If you are using Google Analytics you will know that it’s an invaluable tool that’s again – totally free!

By using Google Analytics you will know the sources that deliver traffic to your landing pages from pay-per-click (PPC), email marketing, social media, organic searches or even offline advertising channels.

Knowing the source of your most profitable traffic is the key to increase ROI.

The more detail you get with where traffic comes and goes the more clear you will see how visitors reacts to your offer.

There are many ways to aggregate your website data from Google Analytics but if you want to focus on conversion rate, start by looking at the following areas (just to name a few):

  • Traffic source – where are people coming from? This is your channel acquisition strategy.
  • Visitor loyalty – How long do people stay? How many pages do they visit and how many times do they visit between two or more times.
  • Bounce rate – How relevant is your landing page? Bounce rate measures the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from where they landed on. The more relevant your landing pages, the more visitors will stay on your site and convert
  • Keywords – This shows you what queries (keywords) are mapped to your landing pages that sends you traffic. This is a good indicator of what keywords your website is ranked for and how search engines interpret your content.

There are so many important variables to consider when tracking your pages, you can also track clicks or heatmap on your layout and navigations via Google Analytics (In-Page Analytics section) or something like Crazy Egg, Click Density, Click Tale or Attention Wizard.

heatmap analytics

Last but not least, listen and learn from your customers to make sure what you’re tracking matches to the story your data is telling you.

It’s as easy as picking up the phone and call the customers yourself!

If you aren’t able to do that, try conducting regular online surveys or implement some type of post-sale customer feedback system.

The Take Away

In the era of engagement, consumers no longer separate marketing between in-store or online experience—it is the experience.

Whether you’re making a sale in person or receiving a conversion online, conversion rate is the vote of confident that creates personal relationships.

It is trust, likability, authority and ultimately, influence.

Nothing prevents you from trying to increase your conversion rate. If you do nothing, your conversion rate will normalize over time (stays the same).

However; while conversion is an important factor to the profitability of your marketing, you shouldn’t lose sight on the big picture – that’s building your brand equity.

When you have brand equity, you have top-of-mind recalls.

This means you command attention and your message will have a higher chance of cutting through the noise of the increasing irrelevant landscape of “push” advertising.

Conversion rate will eventually reaches the point of diminishing returns – when your investment yields progressively smaller profits.

That’s when you need to take your budget and put it into a higher ROI marketing vehicle.

Until then, keep testing.

 

Integrated Marketing Strategy – How to Integrate Search, Social for eCommerce

by Eric Tsai

Beyond Search: Social Customer, Social Commerce, Social Media

It seems as if all the talk in web marketing these days center on algorithm updates, social signals, mobile and display opportunities. Marketers and brands are eager to make adjustments trying new strategies to drive sales and increase profits.

I think it’s important to know the difference between a sales channel and how sales are made.
Search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO) and social media are all channels to engage and carry out your message with prospects and customers.

Simply put, the medium is not the message. It’s a venue for you to generate demand and drive qualified visitors to your conversion funnel.

And we all know what conversion funnel is all about – getting those sale!

This is why it’s important to figure out how these channels work together (and independently) to help drive qualified traffic to your web properties.

Not only will this increase the chance of converting that traffic into sales (higher conversion rate), it will also bring clarity to your marketing investments.

The key is to realize that social media is turning customers social as a result transitioning eCommerce to social commerce.

The Social Customer: More Research, Less Impulsive

Today, if you want to find a restaurant or buy a product you can start by getting opinions from your social circle on Facebook and Twitter or read reviews on public venues such as Yelp and Amazon. In addition, you get to compare prices across multiple deal aggregators and coupon sites.

It’s indicative that consumers are no longer buying based on impulse but cold hard facts.

According to a recent survey conducted by Yahoo! and Universal McCann to help marketers understand the new dynamics in the path to purchase, “The abundance of online tools has evolved shopping, empowered consumers and ultimately renewed passion and excitement within the path to purchase…Consumers have learned what information sources to filter and what sources they can rely on. And when it comes to media, Internet comes out on top as 2 in 3 people stated they trust the Internet for researching their purchases.”

How consumer uses internet for shopping

I particularly like the recommendations under “Implications for Marketers”:

  • Marketers should contribute to the social ecosystem by becoming part of the conversation. Leverage your brand as a contributing member of 3rd party communities (e.g., fan page, micro-site, etc.) to create a more personal and authentic relationship with your customers.
  • Create reward systems that deliver the “consumer win” by making the consumer feel special — such as tailoring deals to their expressed interests and encouraging viral sharing.
  • Marketers don’t necessarily need to be considered a consumer’s “friend,” but should leverage the right media to aid consumers — like expert reviews. Trusted sites perform better.
  • Online sources influence purchases just as much as, if not more than, offline sources so it’s important to make sure your brand is integrated in the online experience.
  • As shoppers use digital tools to gather info and narrow down options, your presence doesn’t need to be purely rational. It can and should delight emotionally.

If we can identify the potential “decision path” and buying landscape of our prospects then we can build better campaigns to truly engage in a relationship that brings value to both sides.

Social Commerce: Why Consumers Connect with Brands

Whether it’s through social media, organic search or paid search, it helps to understand why certain types of consumers elect to go down a specific path that ultimately led to a purchase.

Once you figured out the complex scenarios of a purchase funnel, then it’s time to craft a campaign that can effective in gaining your prospect’s attention.

Why attention?

Because more attention means higher chance of clicking, and more clicks brings in more traffic. You may want to read the post on Why Attention is the New Currency Online.

The important thing about traffic is that we want convertible traffic not media with strenuous acquisition costs.

Social media is a complicated media where customers are willing to interact with brands but it’s difficult to track and measure.

According to a joint research project by Shop.org, comScore and Social Shopping Labs, “42% of online consumers have “followed” a retailer proactively through Facebook, Twitter or a retailer’s blog, and the average person follows about 6 retailers.

Here are the top reasons shoppers follow a retailer:

Shop Social Media 2011 - How Shoppers Interact w/ Retailers

As you can see from the data above, most people connect with brands with some level of transactional intent in nature.

The key is to realize that this type of digital relationship is built on mutual benefits.

For brands, this means being creative with incentivized-advertising that leads to trial, trial to purchase, and purchase to become a regular customer.

And it’s very likely that some if not the entire process take place online.
Each contact point may be discoverable by search forming a contributing factor to influence the purchase experience.

This is a high level way of viewing social commerce. And it requires careful planning beyond marketing.

This is why for example, customer service, sales and marketing needs to stay connected. It’s about linking different part of your business to help optimize the social commerce experience.

And to do making each department social is a great place to start.

Social Media: Turning Search Social

In order to combat Facebook, Google decided to counter with Google +, a social network that mimics many social features of Facebook. (I’ve just started using this and will keep an eye on it as it grows.)

The value of SEO and the success of Google is undeniable but the fact is Facebook has become the central hub of the increasingly social web.

Accordingly to ComScore, time spent on Facebook nearly doubled compare to Google even though Google continues to attract the greatest number of unique visitors in general.

average minutes spent per visitor on google and facebook, june 2011

What this tells me is that there is a fundamental shift in how we fit the Internet into our lives.

This also means that search is evolving from a utility-focused function (of finding information) towards a more connected engagement environment.

The initiate discovery builds meaningful relationship that’s based on the human network.
This is the reason why all social networks are gaining traction, not just Facebook.

For example Twitter is also becoming a force to be reckoned with according to Compete:

  • Twitter is the preferred platform for learning about new product updates. While those who follow a brand on Twitter and “Like” a brand on Facebook do so to learn about discounts and available “free stuff” to a similar degree, the Twitter followers are much more likely to use the platform for “updates on future products” (84% to 60%). Clearly Twitter is viewed as a medium in which consumers can directly communicate with the stewards of the brands they are most interested in. See chart below for details on why consumers choose to follow or Like a brand.

reasons for follow-like a brand

And the next interesting insight was shows that Twitter has the potential to drive sales.

  • Twitter is more effective at driving purchase activity than Facebook. 56% of those who follow a brand on Twitter indicated they are “more likely” to make a purchase of that brand’s products compared to a 47% lift for those who “Like” a brand on Facebook. This is further evidence that marketers can drive ROI with Twitter by engaging followers through compelling content. See the chart below for more details on usage outcomes across Twitter and Facebook.

social media usage outcomes

Of course, not all engagements are created equal and this is where online marketing is changing.

Consumers will decide which channel to use for their own benefits so as marketers, you need a approach these venues with meaningful engagement in mind aggregating valuable conversations over time.

It only make sense to start your engagement strategy by understand today’s consumers. Once you gain an understanding of the larger trend, then it all comes down to narrowing your target audience and tailor your message to fit the medium.

The Take Away

You can now purchase or bid on highly targeted media to carry out your ads that gets distributed instantly.

The result can be tracked and analyze through various attribution models.

Although there are still limitation to data transparency across all channels, one thing is clear, modern marketers now must try to understand all the touch points prior to conversion (making the sale) to get an idea of the impact of these channels.

It’s time we realize that social media provides significant influence across the social web.

It’s not just about page rank with SEO or ad rank with PPC; you now must consider measuring the depth of engagement as a competitive advantage within your marketing toolbox

What are you doing beyond search?

A Holistic Approach to Marketing: Integrating Social, Search and People

by Eric Tsai


As the dust begins to settle on the endless possibilities of social media, marketers are gearing up for the next wave of digital growth.

From Google’s report on mobile is finally making an impact on search to how social media is used by 25% of the companies worldwide, I’ve always focused on opportunities that align with business objectives. Especially if there is a win win situation for both consumers and brands.

As the demand for businesses to be more transparent and social media becomes mainstream so has the technology that supports it. This is happening both in B2C (business to consumers) and B2B (business to business) verticals creating a massive disruption to challenge traditional business models.

It’s also the reason why the future of marketing will require media channels to integrate into a dynamic attribution model that supports business intelligence.

Information influence learning and learning = behavior change

Today, consumers demand quality services, accountabilities and value for money.

Whether you’re an agency, a consultant or a business owner (trying to do your own marketing), marketing now demands you to back up your assumptions about your customers with data and actionable insights.

Effective marketers are already using direct response tactics to abstract data  for re-targeting and segmentation.

As the adoption curve is changing how consumers engage brands online, the value proposition is changing.

And if the value proposition is changing, can you sell in the same way?

Your marketing strategy should emphasize on getting more insights on your target market to help you improve your value proposition. (what does your customer want today vs 3 years ago?)

Besides the ROBO (research online, buy offline) and TOBO (try offline, buy online), you now have social influence, digital word-of-mouth and public reputation records.

This is why I’m a big believer in a balance portfolio of media acquisition from search, social to SEO.

Paid search: Google, Bing and Facebook

If you want to get immediate, relevant traffic, I invite you to check out paid search such as Google Adwords, Microsoft AdCenter (Bing) and Facebook Ads.

If you don’t have any affiliates or email lists but you want rapid result, there is nothing better than putting some money to work for you in terms of testing your hypothesis on where to get your traffic.

Especially with Google and Bing, you will be able to target those that are either doing research or those that are ready-to-buy but just fishing for the best deal. People submit a search query and you display your direct response ad copy to see if they click on your link.

So why would Facebook ad qualified as paid search?

Well it’s because Facebook is the latest hybrid of search and social.

Although Facebook users are passive, it offers mass reach with hyper-targeting opportunities based on a user’s profile, “likes,” and interests.

You see if you’re logged in to your Gmail while searching on Google, your search results are ‘personalized’ for you. On the other hand you friends’ recommendations show up in real time when you’re logged in Facebook while searching on Bing.

The search engine is becoming more tailored towards user interests and the influence of their social networks for even better direct response and behavioral targeting.

Although Google is still the dominant force in search engine marketing, I must say that Facebook is facilitating a new kind of marketing online leveraging social interactions.

An easy way to look at it is to understand that in Google you’re targeting people that are further down the sales funnel while Facebook targets the entire conversion funnel that includes demand harvesting demand generation.

I see the viral potential via the social factor in Facebook as a good enough reason for brands to start building a fan base while the cost is still low.

Like Adwords, the cost of Facebook ad will only going up as it’s already been reported by Efficient Frontier that the CPC (Cost per click) has gone up 40% from last year’s Q1 to this year’s Q1 as competition heats up.

I will go into more detail on Facebook marketing in upcoming post.

Content marketing: Social media and SEO

Content marketing has long been about creating quality content as leverage for SEO to build and raise an online profile. This is why content distribution and syndication tactics were widely used in the past few years to create inbound links that build authority in the eyes of the engines.

Although seemingly low cost compare to paid search, SEO isn’t just about links or quality web content because you pay on the backend in the form of time and up keeping of your links.

Think of it as getting a really good deal on an expensive car, there is still the cost and risk of ownership and maintenance.

In fact, generally SEO is a far more profitable strategy for long term lead generation especially if you can corner a niche with little competition for certain keywords, you will be able to show up on the first page of Google with little effort.

And now, the search engines are adding social signals to the mix as an additional measure of quality and relevance.  Social content such as images, articles, video, tweets and even comments directly correlates to search queries are now inbound link in organic search results.

Let’s look at an area that I think are widely overlooked by marketers.

For example, explore local searches via social profiling (name, address, phone, site, social links, etc.) to boost the visibility of your local site on the web.

Start with Google Places Listing if you want to be listed locally then go through other categories on the side bar of Google searches.

From my observations in Adwords and SEO, geo-local keywords aren’t yet as saturated compare to general keywords which presents a lower barrier to entry if you combine it with your “brand” keywords.

Identify the keywords you want to rank for in top search engine results page (SERP) and often you’ll find low-hanging fruits in longtail keywords that aren’t as competitive especially in niche markets.

And finally, search Google with keywords that your customers would use in another state to see if you can tie localized keyword in there. You’d be surprise on how different the search results may be.

Don’t forget the social factor in SEO. The fact that Google and Bing organic links can display peer recommendations is another attribution to conversion.

The take away: Advertising online is easy, you place an ad on Google or send out a tweet on Twitter or even leaving a comment on a blog can bring you traffic.

Acquiring quality traffic that will help you achieve your goal whether it’s to build your email list, sell your products or call you for a consultation, it simply has to be relevant. Combine search, social and SEO is the optimal way to get the most out of your Internet marketing efforts.

For short-term validations, pay per click (PPC) in any form is one of the most cost effective online advertising methods to test out your hypothesis.

For short-term campaigns, add social media to your targeting strategy will help you abstract more data about your target audience.

For long-term sustainable ROI, I recommend incorporating SEO strategy to help you reduce affiliate leverage and take control of your overall marketing costs (think diversification).

It’s indicative that marketers should incorporate a holistic approach to gain full visibility of the marketing funnel.

This meaning to attribute the proper “assists” across all the touch points from social to search.

At the end, it’s all about having the right data that tells you what people actually do so you can make better business decisions to optimize and engage.

Why Attention is the New Currency Online

by Eric Tsai

Like many digital marketers, I consume and create large amount of content daily. Whether it’s doing research or analyzing data, I’ve come to realize the economic value of attention.

It’s relatively easy to create and publish content nowadays because technology has made it cost-effective and efficient.

This isn’t the case when it comes to consuming content because our attention simply doesn’t scale. Just like our personal values have to be sorted and ranked in order for us to make wise and consistent decisions, so do our values for consuming information.

As more and more businesses and individuals continue to produce digital content, one trend is starting to emerge as the explosion of content proliferates – the role of curators.

Moving forward, it’s important to look beyond the value that content creates but also how it gets consumed.

The gatekeepers to quality: Content curators

Unlike traditional media authorities such as The New York Times or Wall Street Journal, new media curators are the barometers of quality content that help harness our inherent need to consume personalized information.

Think of it as a filter for personalized content from trusted sources.

This is different than competing for page ranks in search engines or displaying authority in social media.

This is about access to audience and the ability to be heard.

Content curators rank and decide which information offers the most value and enriches you in the process of indulging your curiosity.

And the idea of curation isn’t focused on individual pieces
of content, but the ability to piece together cohesive patterns that contribute to a larger trend.

The challenge is not just in grabbing attention but also maintaining it until the content consumption process reaches its peak value.

This is why popular blogs continues to be popular because of original content curation that follows a narrative.

You need to deliver high value content regularly instead of just sharing the same content as someone else.

So how do you differentiate yourself in a space full of re-hashed content?

First you need to understand and optimize your content for online browsing and reading.

People read more online than print

People only want to spend time online with content they find valuable but if they don’t read it, how would they know if it’s valuable?

Let’s look at an eyetracking study by The Poytner Institute (excellent study) to see just how different we read newspaper content online vs. in print.

  • Online readers read an average of 77% of story text they chose to read
  • Broadsheet readers read an average of 62% of stories they selected
  • Tabloid readers read an average of 57% only.

When measured whether a story was read from start to finish:

  • Online readers read 63% of stories from start to finish
  • Broadsheet readers finished 40% of stories
  • Tabloid readers, 36%

Here is an interesting data from the perspective of people that read online: When looking at story lengths, online readers still read more text regardless of the length.

These findings shows that people have different habits when reading online and it could be because websites are viewed as real-time with up-to-the-minute content.

Another key to point out is that in print, headlines and photos were the first visual stop while website navigation was the first stop for online readers.

Web layout and design plays and important role in how your content gets viewed.

Web browsing habits matter

Web browsing habits affects how users absorb and internalize online content, especially when your declining digital attention span is sliced between multiple browser tabs.

Parallel browsing is like multitasking splitting your concentration in different browser tabs.

Microsoft research Ryen White and Information scientist Jeff Huang recently studied the behavior of 50 millions web surfers and habits regarding tabbed browsing on 60 billion pages.

They found that instead of users viewing more pages with tabs, it simply leads to multitasking cutting user’s online attention span!

  • Parallel browsing with different tabs occurs 85% of the time
  • Viewers often view 5-10 page per tab
  • 57.4% of the browsing time are used for parallel browsing with tabs
  • Most web surfers do not create tabs (branch out) from search engine result pages, but more from non-navigational queries
  • Users open new windows and tabs because they’re waiting for a page to load

Now ask yourself these questions.

How are tabs being used by your customers?

How does this affect the time spent per page on your site?

How attention span affects content decay

So how do you overcome the challenge of maximizing the value of great content?

You need to first understand what Steve Rubel calls Attentionomics (of social media platforms) – the fact that content is infinite, but your attention is finite.

Let’s look at some examples on how attention spans works in social media.

First up: Twitter.

According to a research by Sysomos:

  • 92.4% of all retweets happen within the first hour of the original tweet being published
  • 1.63% of retweets happen in the second hour
  • 0.94% take place in the third hour

So much for the longtail in attention even with 110 million tweets per day!

Next we’ll look at how video content gets consumed on YouTube.

According to research by TubeMogul:

  • A video on YouTube gets 50% of its views in the first 6 days it is on the site
  • After 20 days, a YouTube video has had 75% of its total view
  • In 2008, it took 14 days for a video to get 50% of its views and 44 days to get 75% of its views.

The proliferation of video content is setting new standards in both reach and speed. However; at the same time most online video viewers watch mere seconds, rather than minutes, of a video.

According to another study by TubeMogul, “most videos steadily lose viewers once ‘play’ is clicked, with an average 10.39% of viewers clicking away after ten seconds and 53.56% leaving after one minute.”

And finally let’s check out Facebook.

The thing to keep in mind is that Facebook has their EdgeRank algorithm which determines what content users will see from the pages they “like.”

Basically it’s like the organic links in Google. If you want to grab attention you need to first format your content so it’s Facebook-friendly and then send it out at the right time.

For the optimize time to market on Facebook, I’ll turn to Dan Zarrella’s infographic on the “5 Questions and Answers about Facebook Marketing.”

I’ve seen studies that put the percentage of posts that make it through to users’ news feeds at less than 5% while post feedback ranges from 0.01% to 1.5%.

The bottom line is that Facebook is more relationship-focused than push-focused so it’ll take time for marketers to come up with a standardized metrics that measures something meaningful.

The other interesting development is Facebook’s own CPC network (like AdWords) called Facebook ads that has the ability to deliver quality traffic on a comparable volume scale.

The difference is that Facebook ads tries to look less like an ad and more like an editorial that’s of interest to the user. (I’ll be going over this soon)

The value of social

For now I don’t have the answer to the intrinsic value of social media, but I do know that it’s not just about increase advertising impressions or click through rates.

Still, as Facebook continues to roll out new products and revise its algorithm, it’s best to monitor and allocate small amount of time and resources to do your own testing.

And finally, keep in mind that the content decay data provided above are on logged-in users “actively” engaging each social media platform.

What does this mean?

Social media is just one channel and a user may engage in multiple channels (email, search, offline ads) and within each channel he/she may have different accounts for different purposes so treat each platform autonomously.

For example:

  • A per who uses email may have two email – one for personal, the other one for work. Personal email usually don’t get checked as often so time-sensitive content needs a clear segmentation and different engagement tactics. Or a use may only check personal email on their mobile device so optimizing for mobile experience would be a priority.
  • A user may have multiple social network accounts but choose to engage each at different time for different purposes. This requires tailored content for for each social network in order to deliver the optimal experience. You may use similar content from a content strategy perspective, but the ad copy or marketing message must fit the context within the social network.

Here is an overview of how often people use social media from a combination of comScore reports and research by Wedbush Securities.

Clearly Facebook is the dominating platform with a huge distance between itself and the rest of the social networks in terms of unique visitors.

In fact, Hitwise has been reporting for months now that Facebook had passed Google in terms of time spent online!

There is also further data to show that people are using Facebook more frequently than did on a daily and weekly basis compare to sites like Twitter and Linkedin.

When it comes to social media marketing, keep in mind that each social network has their own unique user experience and habits thus size may not always be the most important factor.

There is no one-size fits all strategy.

The take away: As the “gold rush” to producing content continues, the need for curators will increase disproportionately to the number. The value of content on social media will continue to evolve bringing new challenges for your content to stand out in the digital realm.

Simply put, if content is currency, then attention creates leverage by serving up the right content at the right time.

Do not shortcut your best ideas for easier consumption, instead, focus on your desire outcome with measurable ROI.

As Seth Godin has said, “We don’t have an information shortage, we have an attention shortage.”

Here are some of my recommendations:

  • Tailor your content for each social media platform in relevancy. (short-form goes to Twitter, medium-form goes to Facebook, long-form goes to blog etc.)
  • Reiterate content for behavior change with an emphasis on quality not quantity. (repeat is ok but there is a fine line between consistency and spam)
  • Focus on optimizing your content so users can consume them in the least amount of time.
  • Make it simple but not simpler and as straight forward as possible.
  • Run experience test to see how your content performs  at different time frames, 10 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds…etc.
  • Use your Google analytics to help you identify what visitors are doing once landed on your site. (How long do they stay, how many pages do they read, when do they return again…etc)
  • Use engaging call-to-action without been pushy or salesy.
  • Conduct an usability audit on your website user interface. (what got clicked, where do people go, bounce rates…etc…use In-Page Analytics from Google Analytics)
  • Balance your design with function that support each page’s objective.
  • Run simple A/B split testing, multi-variant testing and user experience testing. (mix and match images, graphics, headlines, copies and layout)

If you made it this far, why not let me know what you think?

Or if you’re just scanning, I hope you go back and re-read this post again!

How to Get the Best ROI Out of Your Marketing

by Eric Tsai

How to Get the Best ROI Out of Your Marketing

The recent update to Google’s content farm algorithm had SEOs and webmasters scrambling to figure out what’s going on as it affects 12% of the search results in the US.

Even if you’re not a hardcore SEO ninja you should know that Google works hard to purify its search data regularly. After all we’re creating as much information in two days now as we did from the dawn of man through 2003.

In addition, with the announcement of adding social context into the search mix, Google just introduced a whole new set of algorithm in an attempt to make search more social.

If you’re a business, you have to overcome disruptive technologies in order to cope with the rapidly evolving landscape of social media and consumer behaviors.

That makes it even more challenging for modern marketers to get a true ROI (return on investment) out of every marketing dollar.

This is why it’s important than ever to have the right approach to creating your marketing strategy.

If you’re going to invest in online marketing you need to focus on the value of what you’re doing. So here then are some marketing ROI advices that I’ve picked up over the years and feel are most relevant today.

Have short-term goals with a long-term outcome in mind

Would you like to get a ton of traffic?

How about more subscribers? Or perhaps you could use a higher conversion rate?

The problem with those questions is that they’re simply too broad and abstract. When setting your goals for social media, SEO or even content marketing you need to know why you’re doing it and what the “specific” expected outcome would be in a given time frame.

And what does getting that outcome mean for your business?

How does that impact the bottom line?

No, I don’t mean in the number of retweets or Facebook likes, but in dollar figures.

In how long and at what cost?

If you’ve decided to invest in a 12-month campaign, you need to first identify incremental goals that you set out to achieve rather than just eyeing the end result.

Looking at your weekly traffic in a given month won’t tell you much, but give it enough time, you’ll be able to connect the dots between cause and effect, that’s when the story emerges.

Too many businesses abandon what might have been a successful strategy had they stick with the original plan. The trick is to focus on getting that first small success to build momentum and confidence.

Marketing Return on Investment

What are the short-term goals? What are the long-term benefits?

Having a short-term goal allows you to stay on track so you can make adjustments alone the way to get to the final outcome you had in mind.

Think like an analyst, act like a startup

We want to know more about our target customer. We want to know when, where, how and why they clicked on our links.

Historically, customer data is what enable companies to increase the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns. But at what cost?

Information has never been so widely available than it is today. The access to data is virtually free but what’s not free is how you translate data into useful insights.

These insights give us actionable steps to take and put behaviors in buckets.

The thing to remember is that all information and data are lagging indicators. They’re good references to help you develop your strategy but ultimately you’re using rational logic on irrational subject matter – human emotions.

It helps to analyze data but Internet marketing strategy requires adaptability.

This means listening to the market then translate the demands of the business environment into an action plan.

Develop your marketing strategy should be like a startup figuring out how to make money or survive until the next round of funding.

Not only do startups have to be nimble, they have to think creatively without just throwing money at their problems.

Social media is the perfect example. Not every brand is ready to let go of their reputation but the choice no longer belongs to the brand. It’s now in the hands of the customer.

This shift in power changes the relationship between business and its customers.

If you can’t change the customer, you have to change your business. Why not make updates to customer service procedures and distribute responsibility across multiple resources?

Change is hard but no business can stay at the top without staying with the rate of change.

Identify potential risks and rewards

Facebook recently rolled out all new Fan Page designs and now may even be phasing out the Share button entirely so how are you ever going to get your return on investment out of something that’s always changing?

This is where you need to make your planning and risk analysis commensurate with the size of your marketing strategy.

For large scale campaigns, contingency plans are critical. Again it comes down to asking the right questions.

If we put our money in A, what’s going to happen to B? If A works, how will we deal with C?

Pay attention to the risk vs reward metrics and know when to cut your losses if a campaign isn’t delivering the result you want. Don’t let your desire to succeed be the enemy of good judgment.

A good place to start is to have a clear justification on the next step with your team’s support or have outside opinions to help bring clarity to your process. Then establish a measurement framework that can be used to determine the value of your activities.

Needless to say, every marketing strategy has its own risks and rewards.

Ask yourself what’s the best scenario? What’s the worse that can happen?

Remember, most successful marketing strategies only works for a short period of time based on things that don’t account for the constantly evolving nature of the market.

When the next Facebook or Groupon shows up, it’s back to the drawing board developing, testing and executing new strategies.

Although all companies face different degrees of these hurdles, knowing how your customer’s behavior is the key to attenuating organizational risk.

Even CMOs worldwide have a dramatic difference in measuring social media ROI. According the eMarketer. “Asked about social media activities with the highest ROI based on older metrics with less of a focus on the bottom line, CMOs were most likely to say they did not know the return from any channel other than their company’s online community. Even Facebook and ratings and reviews, the two top venues with “significant ROI,” failed to win over more than about 15% of respondents..”

Dramatic Difference in Approach to Social Media Metrics
As you can see, marketers are trying to justify the value of site traffic, pages views, positive buzz, fans and followers on the impact of conversions.

There is definitely a shift in the way marketers measure social media ROI because in marketing, EVERYTHING is a test.

Know the weaknesses in your strategy

While there are a ton of free valuable content and strategy out there, that to doesn’t’ mean they’ll fit your needs. This is why some marketing strategies fail because of false assumptions based on irrelevant data.

Businesses usually implement Internet marketing strategies and would ask for help for the one of the following three reasons:

  1. A company tried something, got good results and would like to replicate the result continuously but lacks resources.
  2. The company is stuck and needs help to make their strategy more profitable and/or want some advice on how to do it (i.e. usually this happens if the strategy is no longer working as well as it has in the past or just can’t keep up with all the changes) and
  3. Something happened recently and has hurt the strategy’s performance and the company is desperately seeking answers to understand why everything went wrong (i.e. What? Google changed algorithm again and all our SEO disappeared, please help!)

Which brings up an important point – if you don’t know the weak points in your strategy (and execution), it isn’t because they don’t exist but rather you haven’t discovered them yet!

In my experience, no strategy out there doesn’t have some sort of soft spot (or many) whether it’s because it doesn’t work in some niche markets or the audience just isn’t ready for that concept.

For example, according to a recent USA Today/Gallup poll shows that both Google and Facebook attract young, affluent, and educated Americans in large numbers. More than half of those are under the age of 50 with a college degrees and making more than $90,000 a year.

gallup social network demographic

It may sound like a good idea to go after audience in those channels but looking into further details you’ll find that the report went on to say that the data does not include “how many times a week they visit the sites or how much time they spend on the sites, meaning this analysis gauges raw audience reach rather than engagement.”

This means that the report is only a high-level overview of the types of users that are in those channels. Not a good indicator.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket when making assumptions.

When necessary purchase useful data will save you time and money if you know how to use data to your advantage.

The take away: When looking at your marketing strategy, identify short-term goals that fits into the long-term ROI is where you’ll find value that matches your bottom line.

Many marketing activities are part of an overall strategy that won’t have immediate or direct impact on sales simply because they’re cumulative activities.

Positive marketing ROI are the results of incremental investment in time, money and resources. Just because some activities aren’t part of an ROI calculation, it doesn’t mean their costs shouldn’t be justified.

At the end, it all comes down to this: Business is about continuous profits (doing meaningful transactions) while marketing is about increase profits over time.

And strategy is a process to implement those profit generating activities for the business to measure the effectiveness of its marketing.

So, next time you’re working on a marketing strategy, take the time to ask yourself this simple question – What’s your long-term desire outcome?

3 Steps to Getting More Traffic and Higher Conversions

by Eric Tsai

3 Steps to Getting More Traffic and Higher Conversions

If you had to pick between getting tons of traffic or having a high conversion rate, which one would you pick?

Most marketers churn out content for SEO rankings, build backlinks for offsite optimization and may even invest in PPC at some point.

Whether your objective is to get people to buy, opt in to your list or download your content, you need to understand the significance of both.

All traffics are not created equal

It’s surprising to me when I hear business owners and bloggers ask the question, “how do I get more traffic?”

Sure, traffic is important and with lots of traffic you won’t need a high conversion rate. It becomes a numbers game.

On the other hand high conversion says you’re selling to the right people at the right time at the right place. It’s how well you’re able to connect with your customer.

So why can’t you do both?

That’s precisely what successful businesses do when it comes to Internet marketing. They drive highly targeted traffic to relevant content that leads to rapid conversions.

So how do you go about getting quality traffic? Simple, here is a three step process to get you started.

1. Start with the right expectations

The art of getting traffic goes back to the roots of direct response marketing.

Specially the why, who, what where and how of your target. It’s often referred to as the Five W’s and one H. You can see an example of this concept in the post Social Media Science: The Five W’s of Twitter Marketing.

In the case of traffic you need to start by asking the right question that solves the right problem.

It’s like going to the doctor’s office when you’re sick and you expect the doctor to ask you how you feel not what your favorite TV show is.

Pinpoint the right problem is how you can make meaningful assumptions to achieve your desire outcome. This calls for a bit of critical thinking.

Getting on the first page of Google won’t mean much if you don’t get any clicks. After all there are a bunch of ads all around it fighting for attention and clicks.

Here are some questions you need to consider to get started:

  • Why would someone click on it? (you’re not the only one with relevant title)
  • Who should click on it? (are you talking to the right prospects?)
  • What would clicking on your link do for them? (what do they really want?)
  • Where does the link take them? (what click path are they on? What are the options?)
  • How would you maintain a visitor’s interest? (how do you stay relevant?)

These questions serve as the foundation to help you identify your main objective of getting traffic: What’s the desire outcome?

Think holistically. Then think specifically.

What is the end goal that you have in mind? In other words, you need to have a real, tangible result in mind.

You want sales? Great, how much sales? From where? When?

How would those statistics stack up again what’s going on now?

By setting the proper expectations you get altitude on what matters in your pursuit to traffic. It brings clarity to how your traffic generation tactics fit into the overall strategy.

Then it all comes down to executing and measuring the effectiveness of each tactic you employ.

2. Convince people with compelling content

Measuring results is hard to do and often the results will manifest themselves into insights other than the website. This is why you need to realize that traffics are actually people.

And people want to be treated like a human being regardless of what campaign you run. At some point you will need to use a combination of words and images to grab attention and understand the psychology of your customers.

People often think they know what they need, but they don’t take action to fulfill those needs because they simply can’t justify the benefits of buying.

Why buy this now? Why should I buy it from you?

Aim for emotions that matters to people. People are more likely to buy from those they trust and like so show them who you are.

What are your values? Bring some social proof and authority but also show your personality. Be human.

Once you establish some level of rapport, you need to make sure that they “get” the immediate impact that you can make going forward.

You can do that by showing them why they need what you have right now using effective content and marketing strategies.

3. Measuring performance and results

It you sell stuff online it’s relatively easy to assess whether things are working or not. You can get to the bottom line with total sales, orders and customers or you can use metrics like the conversion rate to give you a sense of how effective the site is in turning visitors to customers.

That’s measuring results.

But if you run non-transactional websites, you need to have a different perspective to measure your return on investment. Specifically you will need to look at the activities that happen on the site.

This is measuring performance.

These are probably the best way to gauge your conversion rate which requires a level of scientific assumptions.

  • Does the number of visits have an impact on the awareness of the campaign?
  • How does pages views relate to the amount of information being consumed?
  • How many people took the action that you’ve put in place? Such as download a PDF content or request for moreinformation via a contact form.
  • Where are people “going” on your site? You can craete a visual of your visitor’s click path by using Google Analytics content Drilldown and In-Page analytics

Basically you can make some pretty reasonable assumptions using web analytics system, but it simply can’t tell you exactly what the visitors ended up doing at the end.

This is why it’s important to measure results not just performance. Results bring you insights that will tell you more about your target audience than your website.

It therefore requires a lot of thinking and coming up with the right hypothesis for testing.

Free vs paid tactics

Most of us don’t know what we don’t know that’s how we end up wasting hours on tactics that will never work.

This is especially true when it comes to implementing your traffic generation strategies.

Here are some “free” tactics to get traffic:

  • Submit your site to search engines, content directories, news sites, social bookmarking sites, RSS aggregators and share them on social networks
  • Publish quality content (articles, videos, podcasts, infographics) that embeds the keywords you want to rank in mind
  • Guest post on blogs in your niche area that ranks high, you can start with Google contextual search
  • Comment on other people’s blog by elevating the conversation not spamming with your links
  • Start conversations in social media and make sure you include links to your website on your profile page. You can start by answering questions on Linked or respond on Twitter
  • Build an email list if you don’t already have one and direct them to your web properties
  • Sign up for HARO and participate
  • Submit content to free press release websites, check out this list of paid and free ones
  • Include links in your outbound documents to clients such as invoices, postcards, RFPs, reports, make it fun and interesting (has to be done tastefully)

Although those are considered free tactics, they may not be free if you don’t get the results you want. And don’t forget your time isn’t free!

Now here are the no so free tactics:

  • Advertise on websites where your target audience visits the most (e-publications, web portals, forums or blogs), this can be in the form of banners, sponsored content, endorsed links or joint venture promotions
  • Contribute (recycle) content to partners, affiliates and complimentary products (make sure you arm them with tools to market your name)
  • Sponsor events or better yet start one, even a Twitter chat is a start
  • The good’o pay-per-click on Google still works but also checkout Bing and Facebook, both have less competition and spam
  • Hire writers and bloggers to help you create content using services such as Junta42 or use the Problogger job board
  • Join a paid networking group both online or offline, you can find some via Ning or Meetup
  • Submit content to paid press release website, check out this list of paid and free ones
  • Publish an eBook, write a report (whitepaper) or webinar
  • Start a giveaway

The take away: As I write this I know there are new ways to get traffic such as hiring people on Fiverr to fabricate you arbitrary social proof.

Just remember that black hat tricks such as the ones BMW and JC Penney did will ultimately hurt you in the long run.

So be honest with what’s working and what isn’t, what was smoking mirror and what wasn’t. Keep doing what’s working and stop doing what’s not. Done right, getting traffic is a lot like selling water in the desert.

Remember, the quality of your traffic has a direct impact in the rate of your conversion.

Not only will you need to understand why they’re here, you need to be able to convince them to take the action you want them to take.

So stop focusing on obtaining large amount of unqualified traffic.

Instead focus on collecting and profiling your prospects and customers. There is no excuse now with all the advance tools you can profile just about anyone using a combination of social CRM and behavior targeting techniques.

7 Ways To Elevate The Perceived Value Of Your Content

by Eric Tsai

measuring value

Understand how people learn, think and communicate is the key to create effective marketing. In fact, communication is the core of your marketing and if you know how to leverage it, you will be able to elevate the perceived value of your products and services so people are willing to pay higher price for as soon as they see it.

However; it’s often much more counter intuitive than you think. It all comes down to what you say and then how you say it via your communication.

So what is communication?

According to Wikipedia, “…Communication requires that all parties have an area of communicative commonality. There are auditory means, such as speech, song, and tone of voice, and there are nonverbal means, such as body language, sign language, paralanguage, touch, eye contact, through media, i.e., pictures, graphics and sound, and writing.”

In other words the only way to open up the communication channel is by having a common medium, a means to understand and relate the information that’s being communicated.

The problem is everyone has a different style of communicating and learning thus the goal of marketing communication is to eliminate misunderstanding.

For example, when I say the word “car” what kind of car are you picturing in your head? A big SUV or a small sedan? A red sports coupe or a family minivan? Is it a Cadillac or a Lexus?

This is one of the biggest content marketing challenges in today’s attention fighting world especially with barriers such as information overload and attention deficit resulting in loss of concentration and focus on an ongoing basis.

There is a high chance that you’re losing your audience as you speak because everything is moving so fast and people can’t help but want instant information gratification.

As it turns out, in marketing you need to create crystal clear communications that are as specific, tangible, measurable and external as possible.

That’s exactly what great copywriters do, they write compelling stories that builds trust and use words that describe real world situations, things you can see, feel, touch and experience.

And since most purchase decisions are made by the emotional part of our brain, ineffective communication will never result in a sale so it is up to you to position the purchase in his minds.

Here are seven ways to help you build influence by mastering the basics of high perceived value communication:

1. Communicate Like How You Would Speak

If you want people to like and trust you, start by communicating like a normal person in a one on one plain English.

The key is to make your communication frictionless and easy to understand since everyone is not your customer so speak to people about what they want to talk about, in the way that they want to talk about it.

It’s not about being perfect but being authentic and on target to appeal to one market at a time.

2. Create Self-Contained Concept of Your Content

By making your content self-contained, you can reduce complexity while maximizing understandability especially when introducing a new product or a new idea.

This type of content should be modularized, to the point and does not take a lot of time to consume.

First introduce it by bringing the concept to the table then explain it in a practical way that conveys the outcome that your prospect want and finally connect the dots for them and wrap it up.

3. Look For Pain And Urgency

When people have unmet needs they become more idealistic about their situation.

Not only will they believe that they know what they need to solve the problem but will start to think in simple terms to get to their solution.

Focus on delivering simple action steps that would provide the result they want predictably and consistently with as little risk and hassle as possible.

Do you know what thoughts, emotions or pictures pop up in their head when they encounter that exact pain or problem?

Connect on high pain and urgency values will instantly grab their attention.

4. Translate What You Do With What They Value

Realize what motivates your customers is one of the most effective way to get them to take actions. You must be able to communicate the value of what they want and realize the meaning of their desire outcome and its direct impact to their lives.

Translate it in all 3 currencies they want: monetary value, time investment value and labor/workload value.

5. Use Powerful Reframes To Increase Understandability

Leverage psychologies, histories, insights and stories to frame your content into high perceived value formats. Involve their situation in multiple perspectives will dramatically increase the specificity of your communication.

It will also likely increase the memorability and appeal of your products by structuring and organizing them into alternative frameworks that eliminates misunderstanding. It’s saying the same thing in many different ways.

6. Provide The Why, What and How To’s

In order to do that you must be on top of your customer’s emotional drivers knowing what benefits they’re looking for and what value meanings to them.

Incorporate the why, the what and how into your stories.

Explain to your customer why they should pay attention to you right now then introduce what it is, the actual product or services they’re going to get, and finally how to get the result they want with what they get, the step by step recipe.

7 Minimize Risk Maximize confidence

Getting customers to take the action to buy is about making everything “believable.” It is not simply about taking all the risk out but just enough that it doesn’t seem too good to be true.

It’s leading with the giving hand, earning trust over time and building reputation slowly via social proof.

Allowing your prospects to come to their own conclusion that leads to their own decision is a very powerful confident booster.

It’s both emotional and psychological commitment.

The take away: People want stories, techniques and someone that “gets them.” High perceived-value communication should include all those ideas. Then you roll them up in an easy to digest package full of incentives with the promise of great value.

Give your market what they want and you will be rewards with brand loyalty and market share.

At the end of the day it’s ok that you don’t speak to everyone, you only need to resonate with those that get you that you get them.

Effective marketing is not about manipulation, it’s about being human, it will multiply your sales.

What Is Adding Value And How It Applies To Social Networking

by Eric Tsai

As a social media advocate I often discuss adding value to the conversations, to the communities or to the relationships. I guess I assumed everyone already knew what the term means and how it applies to them until I started to get questions from people.

So what exactly is adding value and how? Is it just an over-used marketing jargon? An illusion of a feel-good emotion? The more I use the term “value” the more I feel like it’s loosing its soul (I’m guilty as charge at times).

One of my favorite artists, the awesome Hugh MacLeod had a great piece about Adding Value with the quote, “The aim of “adding value” is a hard one to argue with… who doesn’t want to add value to their current enterprise? But it’s also utterly meaningless…”

Well, obviously there are many ways to look at it but here is how I perceive the meaning of adding value.

Let’s face it, most businesses wants to add value to the bottom line which means making sales and growing profits.

In sales, adding value used to mean networking in the best interest of your company or your career which is to sell, sell, sell!

Today it means helping people to make informed decisions, finding out their needs first and showing an interest to solve their problems not yours. The one way sales pitch broadcasting simply becomes part of the meaningless noise in a sea of noises.

The Meaning of Knowledge

In sales, either the product sells itself (more of an affirmation and emotional validation) or it’s selling via education (information and data).

A Porsche salesman don’t sell the 911 Turbo, they sell the experience of buying a Porsche (great products drives emotions). On the other hand, a Honda salesman sells the features and benefits against competitors like Toyota and Nissan (value proposition, more needs than wants).

In both scenarios, the goal is to ensure that the person feels good about the decisions that they’ve made (or going to make) on the purchase which leads to trust building. And trust is built on relationships from knowledge and actions.

The more knowledge you have, the less fear you have, the less stress you feel and the better you feel about your decision making process.

You could think of having knowledge as freedom from limitations and having information is empowerment. The ability to make your own decision is valuable because who wants to be pressured into buying?

Emotion Trumps Logic

Now you know the importance of adding value through knowledge transfer, you then need to know how to take actions with your knowledge.

Besides physically helping someone, the action part comes down to communication. And because emotions are the essence of the communication, marketers need to focus on the emotional needs of the customers at the time when feelings are vivid. This mean to empathize with your customers and truly focus on how to make their lives better.

You can not make people’s lives better if you don’t understand their lives.

When you solve someone’s problem, they’ll usually remember it not because of the facts but because of how they felt when it was happening. Simply put, memory is tied to emotions and emotions are more real than thoughts.

Now apply that to marketing and you’ll realize that providing useful and meaningful information does exactly that – it makes people remember you if you satisfy their needs by providing value!

This is why the increasingly Social Web is a great place to find those that are in need of knowledge (also why information product sells). When you need an answer, you want it now, you Google it (you can Yahoo or Bing it too of course).

The online conversation across all social networks are as authentic as it gets, besides the offline in-person engagements, because it’s taking place when people are still feeling the emotions dealing with their problems – what is, how-to, why is, who can…you get the point.

The rest of it is about the context of adding value, at the right place at the right time.

The optimal time to email your subscribers, the suitable LinkedIn group to contribute knowledge or the people you engage on Twitter – they’re all channels to add your value to the conversation within the communities to forge solid relationships.

Motives and Actions

The last point in adding value is the motives behind such actions. Why are you doing this? Why are businesses embracing the freemium model?

Most of the time the objective is to create brand awareness, build credibility and what I keep pounding the table on: to create social proof around the topics of health, wealth and relationships.

However; there is always a trade-off, you get free Gmail with all the awesome features of other Google Apps because Google advertises around your inbox.The same applies to most of the social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. You’re exchanging personal information to use their products.

My take is that if you’re honest about your intentions and focus on serving only those that matters to your business, you will attract the customers you want.

Like what Seth Godin wrote in his book Purple Cow, “the key to failure is trying to please everyone.” Well, he’s right, everyone is NOT your customers.

And the science behind motivation isn’t as clear cut as features and benefits or even monetary rewards. Checkout this video by RSA animation adapted from Dan Pink’s talk at the RSA on “The surprising truth about what motivates us.”

The take away: Identify your customer’s problem is where adding value starts. And listening when they talk is your opportunity to fill the value gaps.

Think of it as facilitating the process of buying on their terms not yours. You have to create the right environment that entices people, and if you do it well, then they will show up and join the party.

It is only by adding value you will be remembered, reciprocated and passed on (via word-of-mouth).

There are simply too much information and too little time. Marketing messages are everywhere and people have developed ad blindness, seeing doesn’t mean retaining.

Are you adding value?