4 digital marketing challenges faced by franchises (and how to overcome them)

One of the biggest challenges facing a franchisee’s growth is their ability to execute a winning digital marketing strategy that is unfettered by a franchiser.

A struggle often exists between a franchiser’s need to control their brand, and a franchisee’s desire to market their business through their own strategies.

According to Jason Decker of Search Engine Land, franchises are failing at:

  • Managing all the local business listings of franchisees
  • Developing unique content for locations and their location pages
  • Monitoring and engaging with customer reviews

From poorly managed PPC campaigns, to a general lack of digital marketing expertise by franchisees, let’s take a closer look at how you can overcome many of the most common franchise marketing challenges.

1. Fragmented strategies and goals

The largest issue for franchises is a poorly integrated digital marketing strategy. The franchise may have clear goals, but the goals of franchisees may be different. This creates fragmented marketing strategies.

The very nature of franchises is “structured”, however, when it comes to marketing, that structure often lacks. If there is no unified digital marketing strategy with clear guidelines in place, a mixed marketing message and fractured consumer targeting approach will occur.

Is it essential to have clear strategies and goals in place for franchisees?

“Franchising is based on conformity and uniformity, not freedom. As a franchisee, you do not really hold the reins,” Karsten Strauss of Forbes explained. “You may technically be the boss of your shop, but you must follow the orders of the home office.”

This doesn’t mean that a franchise should lay down the law without room for collaboration. Franchise HQ and the many franchisee branches need to work together in order to define branding and unified marketing message.

Providing a core marketing strategy that will serve both the franchise and franchisee will ultimately serve up increased growth and revenue for everyone involved.

Core marketing strategies for franchisees to integrate include:

  • List of brand assets franchisees can employ for all marketing channels, like social media, website, and email direct marketing
  • Monthly marketing calendars highlighting promotional opportunities and consumer events at the global and local level
  • Develop or integrate an in-house platform where franchisees can access all marketing assets

2. Cannibalizing Pay Per Click (PPC) efforts

Franchisees, if not in sync, could end up competing against one another for PPC ads. This PPC cannibalism could result in lost marketing budget and poor ROI. This is not optimal for the competing franchisees or the franchisor.

What can franchises do to eliminate PPC cannibalism between franchisees?

Just as the case of overcoming fragmented marketing strategies due to different goals, a clear plan needs to be in place for PPC. Franchises need to set guidelines across their franchisee network to ensure the same logic and goal is in mind. Increase engagement and profit without competing against one another.

A few PPC campaign tweaks for your franchisees should include:

  • Identifying the keywords each franchisee should bid on, and identifying keywords each franchisee should not bid on
  • An overhaul of each franchisee’s geo-targeting. This should help with the overlap and potential for PPC cannibalism
  • Encourage franchisees that may overlap in territory to work together when it comes to PPC campaign efforts

When two franchisee locations are simply too close to one another, they can consider combining their PPC efforts. However, many franchisees may be outsourcing their PPC to an agency. It is imperative that the marketing agencies of the franchisees in close proximity collaborate to ensure all strategies and bids are aligned.

3. Duplicate content and lack of unique content

When it comes to digital marketing, having unique content that is not duplicated anywhere else online is vital to ranking success and brand visibility. The same practice goes for franchisors and their franchisees.

“Undecided consumers who are researching their options might check out a website and social media presence more than once,” Dan Antonelli explained in Entrepreneur. “When they come back, seeing something new and relevant makes their visit a better experience — and shows that the brand is a professional organization.”

If you are providing one set of content for every franchisee website, or other online marketing, you should start to reconsider your overall marketing efforts. With Google penalties around every online corner, duplicate content or failing to produce unique, fresh content could land your franchisees and franchise in hot water.

How can franchisors ensure unique content for all franchisees?

Franchisors should provide marketing material for all franchisee webpages with guidelines for the types of content that can be created.

This franchisor provided information could then be redeveloped by each franchisee, putting a fresh spin on it to prevent duplicating content across multiple web pages. The content can also be ever changing when franchise level promotions, deals, and new products or services are released.

Content marketing strategies for franchisees include:

  • Develop a master content marketing sheet that is accessible to all franchisees.
  • Let your franchisees hire their own writers or content marketing agencies.
  • Encourage SEO efforts for all content marketing campaigns, whether in-house or via an agency.
  • Have all franchisees create their own unique content relevant to their local area and target audience.

“If each franchise has its own site, more content will need to be produced, but the content strategy behind each piece will likely be more or less the same,” Amanda DiSilvestro writes on Content Marketing Institute.

“You need guest posting, and you need content for the website or websites, and so your franchises need to know your expectations.”

4. Not localizing or segmenting email marketing

Franchisors and franchisees that fail to localize and segment their email marketing efforts will discover poor engagement and decreased revenue. It is imperative for franchisees to target the right customers in their local marketplace, and at the right time.

According to email marketing research by emailmonday, only 22 percent of retail emails are opened. Generic email lists lacking a local email marketing strategy simply will not do. In fact, the broad marketing messages will often repel potential customers, as well as ones who have interacted with your franchise in the past.

One of the factors behind this franchise digital marketing challenge is the lack of a centralized email marketing system. Franchisors can quickly lose control of their core brand messaging if a centralized system is not in place.

How can you ensure your message is not lost during franchisee email marketing campaigns?

The first thing franchisors need to integrate into their email marketing strategy is a centralized system. This could be as simple as centralizing all email lists for different customer requests, comments, and touch points.

Each of these centralized email lists can them be segmented for target audiences based on their specific locations. This lets you deliver geo-targeted and personalized emails marketing messages with a high level of consistency among all your franchisees.

Other email marketing tips for franchisors and franchisees are:

  • Tailor your email messages to your customers in a way they will find them useful.
  • Make email marketing more personal, and follow up if resources are available.
  • Use email subject lines that relate to the local area.
  • Ensure social media is integrated in your email marketing outreach, allowing customers to share your message.
  • Use segmented marketing tactics like language, region, or other consumer demographics.

“Creating or updating your campaign to focus more on local marketing could be the answer you’ve been looking for,” as Amanda DiSilvestro previously wrote on Search Engine Watch. “There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that the future of email marketing is hyperlocal.”

The above digital marketing challenges franchises face can become problems of the past. By integrating a few easy concepts and by employing new marketing tactics, your local customer base will increase, and you will build a successful franchise.

What marketing strategies have worked well for your franchise in the past?

What are sitelinks and how can I get them?

Back in 2015, we published an article entitled ‘How do I get sitelinks to appear in my site’s search results?’ which looked at how to get the hallowed set of additional links which can appear beneath your website’s SERP listing, known as ‘sitelinks’.

At the time of publication, this was all up-to-the-minute, cutting-edge information. However, since then, Google has made a change to the way that Search Console handles sitelinks, making our invaluable words of wisdom sadly outdated.

As a result, we’ve written up this refreshed and revised guide containing everything you need to know about sitelinks and how you can give yourself the best chance of getting them.

What are sitelinks?

As I hinted at in the introduction just now, sitelinks are additional links which appear beneath the main URL for a brand or publisher when you search for it on Google. They deep link to other pages within your site, and are designed by Google to “help users navigate your site”.

N.B.: These are not to be confused with sitelink extensions in Google AdWords, which are very similar but appear in AdWords ads. AdWords users have full control over whether these links appear and what they contain, unlike organic links – as we’ll cover in just a moment.

In some cases, sitelinks will also appear with a handy searchbox which lets the user search within your site directly from the SERP.

Here’s what the sitelinks for Search Engine Watch look like:

Sadly, no searchbox as of yet.

Right away you can see that these are a mixture of category pages, static pages within our site, and the odd article.

A couple of these are links we would choose to feature – the SEO and PPC categories are key sections of our site – but others are decidedly not: Online Marketing Guides, for example, is a static page from nearly two years ago which links to articles on search engines of different kinds.

The reason for this is that Google pulls in sitelinks automatically, rather than letting the publisher choose what they want to feature.

Sitelinks can be a little bit of a double-edged sword in this regard: even if you can get Google to display them, they might not necessarily be the links you would have chosen to display.

But having sitelinks appear under your search result is still a positive thing overall. Here’s why:

They give your brand more SERP real estate

You can get up to six sitelinks for your SERP listing, plus a searchbox if you can wrangle one. On desktop, this means that four or five times as much SERP space is given over to your listing, while on mobile, a sitelinked listing can take up the entire screen.

This has the benefit of further pushing down any irrelevant or unwanted results, news articles or social mentions for your site – as well as any competitor results that might appear – and makes users more likely to click on your website rather than another result about you.

Based on the statistic that the first three results in search account for nearly 55% of all clicks, Blogging Wizard calculated that having sitelinks could boost click-through rate for the top result by around 20%.

They give the user more options for navigating your site

Users searching for your site on Google might not necessarily want to land on your homepage. Sitelinks on the SERP provide them with a direct link to other parts of your site which might be more relevant to them, or encourage them to explore sections that they might not have known about.

If your SERP result has a quick search bar, they can use it to navigate directly to the page they’re looking for, saving them a step in the user journey.

They direct traffic to other (possibly under-served) areas of your site

Hopefully your website is laid out in a way that allows users to easily find the content or pages that you want to promote. But even then, they are unlikely to be as visible or straightforward to click through to as a link on the SERP.

Sitelinks have the benefit of distributing organic search traffic that would normally be concentrated on your homepage across other areas of your site. However, one side effect of this that is that these pages will effectively become landing pages for your site, and so you should bear in mind that a lot of people might be forming their first impression of your site from these pages.

True, anyone can click a link to a part of your site other than the homepage and land on your site that way, but these links are present on Google, and you can guarantee that a certain percentage of users are clicking them to get to your site. So make sure they look their best!

What Google changed about sitelinks

Up until October 2016, Google had one feature which allowed site owners a small modicum of control over which pages could be displayed as sitelinks for their website.

Google Search Console previously had an option to ‘demote’ sitelinks, in which site owners could specify any URL they particularly didn’t want to appear as a sitelink. Google said that while it couldn’t guarantee the page would never appear, it would “get the hint”.

But late last year, Google Webmasters made the announcement that, “after some discussion & analysis”, they would be removing the Demote Sitelinks setting in Search Console. They elaborated,

“Over the years, our algorithms have gotten much better at finding, creating, and showing relevant sitelinks, and so we feel it’s time to simplify things.”

In other words – we believe we have the ability to display the most relevant sitelinks for the user, without your input!

Google did also offer some insight into how site owners can influence the sitelinks that appear for their website, saying:

“We only show sitelinks for results when we think they’ll be useful to the user. If the structure of your site doesn’t allow our algorithms to find good sitelinks, or we don’t think that the sitelinks for your site are relevant for the user’s query, we won’t show them. […] Sitelinks have evolved into being based on traditional web ranking, so the way to influence them is the same as other web pages.”

They followed this up with a few best practice tips to help improve the quality of sitelinks for your website.

So, I know you’re dying for me to get to the good bit already: What can you do to make sitelinks, and more importantly the right sitelinks, appear for your website?

How can I get sitelinks for my website?

Overall, the best practice advice for how to get sitelinks to appear for your website boils down to having a high-quality site which Google can crawl easily. Google itself mentions in the excerpt above that the “structure of your site” needs to allow its algorithms to find good sitelinks, or it won’t display them.

Luckily, the steps you can take to improve your chances of getting sitelinks are all things that will improve your overall SEO, and make your website easier to navigate for visitors. You may find that you’re already doing several of them.

Rank #1 for your brand name in search results

This one might seem like a no-brainer to some, but the most basic prerequisite for getting sitelinks is that you be the top ranked search result when someone searches for your brand or website name. Google doesn’t award sitelinks to the second, third, fourth or other lower-down SERP rankings.

For example, if I search for Wired magazine from the UK, the UK publication – wired.co.uk – is the one that ranks top for its brand name and gets sitelinks, while its US site, wired.com, ranks lower down.

If you’re struggling to rank #1 for your brand name among other websites with a similar or the same name, a rebrand to a more unique name or URL might give you a better chance of getting to the top.

Build and submit an XML sitemap

A sitemap is a lot like what it sounds like: a ‘map’ of your website which lists every page on the site, which can be designed for users or for search engines, in both cases to help them navigate the site.

In this case, we’re talking about a file hosted on your website’s server which tells search engines about the organization of your site’s content, and allow search spiders to more intelligently crawl your site.

Google Search Console Help Center has a set of instructions that you can follow on how to build and submit a sitemap. If you have a WordPress site, though, you can sit back and relax as a sitemap is already automatically generated and submitted to search engines for you.

Other steps that you can take that will allow search engines to crawl your site more quickly and accurately:

  • Make sure that your site’s structure and hierarchy are as clear and logical as possible, with your homepage as the “root” page (the starting point). For example, if you’re an online retailer selling clothing, the navigation for your site might be formatted like this:

Home > Clothing > Women’s Clothing > Accessories > Handbags

If you have any legacy structures within your site that make navigation obscure or overly complicated, now might be the time to overhaul them.

  • Use internal links with clear and informative anchor text.
  • Make sure that the pages on your site are well-linked to each other, particularly the ones you want to appear as sitelinks – Google takes the number of internal/external links into account when judging the importance of pages for sitelinks.
  • Use Fetch as Google to test whether Google can crawl and index important pages within your site.
  • Make sure that your website’s main menu only features the most important categories.
  • Use relevant and accurate meta descriptions, title tags and alt text throughout your site.
  • Avoid thin, insubstantial content, duplicate content and of course spammy-looking keyword stuffing techniques.
  • Try to improve your site speed and page load times, and make sure that your site is mobile-optimized to maximize your chances of getting sitelinks on mobile.

Whew! That was a lot of points, but as I say, the steps you can take to have the best chance of getting sitelinks are mostly just good overall SEO practices, and you should be doing most of them anyway.

Bear in mind that there’s no still guarantee sitelinks will appear after you do this, but you’ll be in a much better position to get them.

How can I get a searchbox to appear with my sitelinks?

All of this advice so far has dealt purely with how to get sitelinks to appear for your website, but as I’ve mentioned, some lucky websites are also awarded with a handy searchbox which allows users to search your site directly from the SERP.

Is there anything you can do to influence whether or not this searchbox appears for your site? To an extent, yes.

While whether or not you get a sitebox at all is still at the mercy of Google, once you have one, it’s possible to configure it to use your site’s internal search engine to search your site (instead of Google, which is the default). Google Developers has a Sitelinks Searchbox page which details how you can use structured data markup to implement a searchbox that uses your website’s own search engine.

The jury’s out on whether implementing this will increase your likelihood of getting a searchbox to begin with (if you’ve got any data on this either way, it’d be interesting to know!).

But if for some reason you want to make sure that your brand’s search result doesn’t come with a searchbox attached, there’s a way to prevent that. Simply add the following meta tag to your site’s homepage:

So there you have it: everything you need to know about how to maximize your chances of getting sitelinks. In short, have a quality website, follow SEO best practices, and lay out the welcome mat for search spiders.

6 innovative new search engines to keep an eye on

Plain and simple, Google isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of search engines, but it’s often easy to feel like it, perhaps even more so within the search industry itself.

And when you think of other search engines besides Google, how many can you name? Bing? Yahoo? Maybe DuckDuckGo, if you’re privacy-conscious (or a bit of a tech hipster)?

Believe it or not, there are a number of other search engines out there, still crawling the web and making their mark. Since Google has so completely dominated the “all-purpose” search engine space, many of them have moved to occupy more niche areas, like academia, or sought to distinguish themselves in other ways.

As technology continues to have a hand in most everything that we do, it’s important to be aware of the other contenders in the industry. While they aren’t likely to revolutionize SEO overnight, they’re indicative of the trends and technology currently making their way through search, which could show up on a much larger scale later on.

If you’re feeling fed up with more “mainstream” search engines, you might even want to give some of them a go yourself.

Below is a break-down of six search engines you should be keeping your eye on and why:

Oscobo

Oscobo is a privacy-focused search engine that made its debut in late 2015. You will see in the screenshot below that its landing page is almost identical to Google, showing results similar to what you would see on Google, but there is one major difference: it’s anonymous.

The other difference is that this particular engine targets those in the UK. Regardless, the engine is open to everyone and licenses its search index from Bing/Yahoo so you’re getting the same great results without the snooping online.

It doesn’t log your IP address or drop any cookies, and generates revenue solely from PPC advertising, where the advertiser is paying for the intent behind someone typing a keyword.

Good Gopher

Good Gopher is a search engine for independent media and academia, created in 2015. This search engine boasts being “the world’s first privacy-protecting search engine that bans corporate propaganda and government disinformation.”

It has been dubbed “the Internet for human knowledge”, supposedly allowing more independent and honest sites to rise to the top of search results – though as the screenshot above will demonstrate, many of these are still highly politically partisan. However, its roster also includes independent activists, journalists, scientists, bloggers, media websites, nonprofits for human interests, and more.

Users can “like” certain sites they enjoy to help them move up in the SERPs, flag any sites that may have slipped through, and the engine will not track your searches or search behavior (a trend seems to be brewing here…).

Semantic Scholar

Semantic Scholar is an academic research search engine, launched in November 2015. Adam Stetzer previously wrote about Semantic Scholar for Search Engine Watch, noting its use of artificial intelligence, data mining and natural language processing.

This engine has been designed to be a search service for journal articles, using a combination of machine learning and semantic analysis to offer relevant results. In this way, the engine is called a “smart” engine. It will highlight which papers are most important using data mining (hence the AI and machine learning aspect of the engine) as well as make connections for you about other related papers (hence the “semantic” portion of the engine).

While this is currently used primarily for those in the field of scientific research, the implications of how this engine, or type of engine, could grow are huge.

Yippy

There’s only one word to describe this search engine: obscure. If you’re looking for hard-to-find websites, use Yippy. Essentially, Yippy searches other search engines for you. It does the hard digging so you don’t have to.

If you’re looking for very explicit hobby sites, government information, or specific research for an academic paper, you’ll find it on Yippy. Once you’ve done your search, you’re given the option to “preview” the website before you go directly there. It’s a helpful feature for browsing.

One of the coolest things about this search site is the ability to even further refine your searches. For example, I searched “search engine watch.” When I performed my search, I was given the option to choose exactly what I was looking for. I even got sidetracked looking at all the other things related to that search query (shown on the left-hand side).

You’d be surprised all that you’d find with this engine. Below shows a screenshot of the engine in use:

Once again, notice that along the left side of the page you’re given recommendations for how to enhance your search! With this specificity, you can really dig deep and find exactly what you’re looking for – literally, exactly.

Omnity

Omnity is a research and semantic mapping search engine, launched circa 2016. The search engine aims to help you find related documents and therefore discover how different pieces are interconnected, specifically in the fields of science, medicine, engineering, law, and finance.

Although this search engine would be a dream for researchers, it can also help marketers who may have a client in one of these fields and are looking to create unique content. Note that in order to use the engine, you need to sign up to use the site on either the free or the paid enterprise plan.

Webopedia

Not sure what a specific technical term means? You could check out Google’s results, or you could go to Webopedia. If you’re not already familiar with technical terms, then you’ll want to use this search engine. Webopedia is set up exactly how you’d expect—in encyclopedia format.

For example, I searched the word “software.” Here’s what showed up in the results:

Unlike other sources, Webopedia breaks a term down so it makes sense to the average person who may not be technically literate.

The takeaway

In a world run by Google, we often forget there are other search engine options available. When you’re searching the vast black hole that is the Internet, you want accurate results, uncluttered data, and ways to reduce your search for specificity.

While Google is king of search and universally used, there is still plenty of room to grow and become more specialized and more efficient with our searching.

How to amplify your content marketing with influencer-driven writing contests

Influencer driven content

The purpose of a content marketing campaign is almost never a boost in sales: People who want to consume and share information rarely intend to buy. Content marketing is mostly about influencing the influencer, i.e. those people who can impact your customers’ buying decisions.

Hence the most effective content marketing strategy is the one that involves influencers, especially influencer-driven content.

According to the ANA survey from Linqia, 57 per cent of marketers report that influencer-driven content outperforms brand-created content:

  • Influencers are people who have already earned your consumers’ trust, hence influencer-created content is more trustable than brand-created content
  • Naturally, people prefer to engage with people rather than brands, hence influencer-created content triggers more audience engagement than brand-created content
  • With the above in mind, it’s obvious that influencer-driven content results in higher ROI – and also thanks to the fact that it spreads easier using the power of participating influencers.

But how to engage influencers into creating content for your company blog? One of the most effective ways is to set up a writing contest: Have them contribute content to your blog for a chance to win a prize or a set of prizes.

Benefits of holding a content marketing contest

There so many marketing opportunities behind this idea that it will make your head spin:

  • Free editorial content from notable names in your niche published on your blog will attract more clicks, grow your email list and diversify your rankings
  • Social media shares that content will bring will build your brand awareness
  • Partnering with other businesses in your industry for them to provide prizes for your winners will build important connections
  • Involving niche influencers and popular media outlets to judge and announce your winners will bring more connections and exposure.

Furthermore, think about the customers you will be able to engage when announcing the contest in your newsletter and on your social media channels.

There are so many reasons to try this tactic that you may be wondering why you haven’t done it before. Well, it’s tough and time-consuming, but the steps below, together with some handy tools, will make it possible.

1. Brainstorm and research topic areas

Obviously, hosting a content marketing contest starts with what any content marketing tactic should start: Brainstorming and keyword research. There are mainly two approaches you can take here:

  • Focus all entries around your brand: Invite your current customers to submit content that talks about your product. How are they using it? Which problem did it solve? This way you’ll enrich your blog with a variety of user-generated content that will bring many more users who will be encouraged to give it a try too. Of course, that will engage your userbase but it will limit your contest entries to your current customers.
  • Focus all entries around your general niche. This can be timed out to upcoming holidays (e.g. “Submit your Christmas recipes”, etc.) In order to keep the topics relevant to what your product does, you may want to come with a set list of topics which is where keyword research comes into play.

When I plan any content marketing campaign, I always start with keyword clustering, which is something I’ve explained how to do in a previous article for SEW. Playing with keyword groups always gives me a nice perspective and helps me brainstorm.

Here’s an example from Serpstat breaking down a very cluttered topic into nice categories to pick one to go with:

Serpstat clustering

on how keyword clustering works on Serpstat and how to group your keyword lists.

2. Reach out to participants

Now that you know the topics you want to focus your content marketing contest around, it’s time that you reach out to prominent writers and bloggers in your industry who you think will want to participate.

If you are focusing on your product-related content, it’s as simple as reaching out to your customers. For general how-to content contest, you’ll need to create a list of influencers who:

  • Will want to participate
  • Are probably to busy to participate, but will agree to help you spread the word and collect more entries.
  • I use Buzzsumo to find active content writers in my niche. They have handy filters that allow me to find bloggers who have hosted or participated in similar ventures, or don’t mind contributing to others.

    Buzzsumo filters

    3. Get organized!

    You’ll be dealing with lots of new contacts: hopefully influencers participating and coming on board to spread the word, press contacts, media partners, sponsors, etc. Unless you get organized, you’ll be lost and miss a lot of opportunities.

    You can use your current customer management platform to organize all the new contacts and leads you’ll be building throughout the contest. Otherwise, give Hubspot’s CRM a try: it’s free, and it will give you all the required features to record, organize and follow up with all the new contacts you’ll be building along the way.

    Hubspot CRM

    I also use Cyfe to keep everything relating to a current campaign I am running within one dashboard. You can use the dashboard to keep an eye on brand mentions, create quick links to other tools you should be keeping an eye on a daily basis, import your Gmail messages, and so much more.

    Cyfe

    4. Keep your content quality standards high

    • You want your participants to disclaim any relationship or bias when they mention other sites
    • You want your participants to stay away from mentioning your direct competitors
    • You want your participants to only provide exclusive content and never publish it anywhere else
    • You want your participants to adhere to particular quality guidelines (a certain length, format, using images, etc.)
    • You want your participants to clearly understand the judging process (I recommend against using easy-to-game metrics like “The most shared article wins”. It’s much better to come up with something more complicated, for example, winners will be determined by a panel of unbiased judges based on certain criteria. However keep the process very transparent: Those judges should be publicly listed and their voting should be publicized too)
    • You may want your participants to support a certain payment method (in case you offer a cash prize)

    All of that should be listed in a formal agreement all the participants should review and sign to avoid any misunderstandings later. Try using KeepSolid Sign app which is currently free to make sure every participant is well-informed.

    KeepSolid Sign

    5. Collect in and present your entries

    There are plenty of ways to easily collect entries for your contest. You can use Google Forms or set up advanced Contact Us Forms that will force entries to comply with your guidelines (e.g. set the required minimum word count, include extra mandatory fields like links to the author’s social media profiles and previous articles). Here are great WordPress plugins for that.

    There’s also a tool that is specifically designed to collect entries for content marketing contests, called Easy Promos. They have additional features that may make your job easier like integrated voting features, photo and video uploads, etc.

    With the platform, you can pick a winner via public voting, a jury or by random choice with certificate of validity.

    easypromosapp

    When it comes to collecting and displaying entries and participants, you can go as creative as your imagination takes you. For example, Gleam allows you to create and embed blog widgets with the contest leaderboard (which naturally attracts more entries).

    You can also collect your contest entries and turn them into a beautiful Slideshow using Haikudeck and/or a nice flipbook using Flipsnack. You can embed both to your blog when announcing winners.

    Flipbook

    6. Scale up your content promotion

    Obviously, you want that content from your contestants to do well on social media because it’s your site that will generate additional traffic and exposure from those shares. I use Drumup for all my social media campaigns, because it makes it so easy to organize content that needs promotion.

    Use Drumup Content Library feature to keep all the entries in one category to easily go back and see all of them. Furthermore, set up each article to go live throughout your social media channels several times in the future to reach more of your followers:

    Drumup

    You also want that content to spread beyond your immediate social media circles! To achieve this, you can submit every entry to a tool called ViralContentBee [Disclaimer: This is a project I co-founded].

    ViralContentBee allows you to tag each contributor in the “RT” field to encourage your participants to engage with every tweet:

    Viral Content Bee RT

    I hope these tools will encourage you to give hosting an influencer-driven writing contest a try. Good luck!

    How to hire the right SEO agency

    SEO Agency Research

    Organic search accounts for 51% of the traffic brands receive on average, and investment in SEO services is projected to rise to $79 billion annually by 2020. To capitalize on so much opportunity, brands often partner with an SEO agency to add firepower to their existing marketing efforts.

    However, with so many agencies all promising so much, how can brands ensure they select the right SEO company?

    A significant number of brands choose to outsource elements of their SEO program to an agency partner. This can provide access to valuable skills and insights that the company does not possess internally, so it can prove to be a very sound long-term investment.

    However, it can also be difficult to get a clear view on which agencies can deliver on the brand’s business objectives through organic search.

    SEO is open to a certain amount of interpretation; Google is infamously opaque when it comes to the inner workings of its algorithms, so we often rely on correlative studies to draw our conclusions about what works and what doesn’t.

    That room for interpretation can be exploited, making it hard to distinguish between sophisticated SEOs and false prophets.

    In a rare and newsworthy move earlier this year, Google acknowledged this challenge and tried to address it in the video below.

    The video, from Google’s Webmaster team, provides practical advice to distinguish between what they call “good SEOs and bad SEOs”.

    Google suggests giving an SEO expert at least four months to make an impact, so it’s worth making sure you feel confident in your choice.

    The tips below, drawn from experience working at agencies and helping brands to find the right agency partner, will help companies to arrive at an informed decision.

    It is important to strike the right balance here; an effective client-agency partnership requires input from both sides. Before setting out a formal pitch process, it is important to establish what these requirements will be and that your company is in a position to meet them.

    Research

    It can be quite daunting to set out on the search for a new SEO company. Often, a company hires an agency to avail of advanced SEO knowledge – exactly the quantity that would help with the agency search.

    Brands are often faced with a choice of a lot of very similar-looking agencies, all promising that they have “reinvented” the agency model or that they have the “only approach that works”.

    It is an unfortunate reality that some agencies talk a good game without being able to back it up. Hiring the wrong SEO agency can be very costly and it takes time to recognize the shortcomings in their strategies, so it’s worth putting the work in up front to define and assess the candidates.

    Before you start looking for an agency, decide on what exactly it is that your company wants to achieve through SEO. This will help you draw up an initial list of companies (many are specialists in just a few fields), and it will also be beneficial when you communicate with the agency teams.

    SEO could help you increase brand awareness, improve customer retention, or simply drive more revenue. Defining what these goals are will help you and the prospective partner agencies to work on the right strategy.

    Once you have this clear in your mind, the search should begin.

    Image via Pixabay

    Ironically, perhaps the worst way you can start is by searching [seo agency] on Google.

    The agencies that show up in top positions may well be demonstrating their ability to rank for an important keyword, but many of the best agencies apply these efforts to help their clients rank rather than their own business.

    As such, anything you find from this search will be inconclusive. The same goes for the paid search results for [seo agency]; ranking via PPC shows that they can use AdWords, but it doesn’t demonstrate anything other than their desire to sell SEO services to you.

    We want an opinion we can trust, which can be hard when it seems like everyone has a vested interest in selling something.

    You should assess which kind of agency you want to work with based on factors including:

    • Your budget: Agencies can charge from hundreds of dollars a month up to six-figure monthly retainers for complex, international engagements.
    • The services you require: This will typically include technical SEO, SEO strategy, content production, link building, and many other services for larger brands.
    • Agency culture: Does their culture align with your brand’s values?
    • Expertise: This applies both to SEO as a discipline and to your specific business vertical.
    • Agency size: Some brands prefer a smaller agency, while others want to work with large agency brands. Both come with their own lists of pros and cons.
    • Reputation: Ask colleagues and any SEO industry contacts to recommend agencies based on the requirements you have selected above.

    In essence, if you can cut through all the self-promotional noise and get an opinion from an industry insider that you respect, that can be a great way to start drawing up your list of agencies to contact.

    Having a very targeted view of your SEO goals and an idea of the kind of agency you want to work with will help refine and expedite this process significantly.

    The pitch process

    It is normally helpful to have a discovery call with each agency on your initial list to learn a bit more about their company and culture. From here, you can decide which companies you would like to invite to pitch for your business.

    Take all of your decision criteria and create a scoring sheet that each stakeholder at the business can fill in. This helps to remove some of the biases that cloud judgement and establishes a level playing field. Running a pitch process can feel like herding cats at times, so you should ensure there are concrete reference points and milestones along the way to keep all parties organized.

    Pitch

    Image via Pixabay

    That applies internally and externally; everyone at your business should be aware of the expectations from the process, but the agency should also know how long the entire process will last and what will be needed from them.

    Pitching for new business requires a lot of input from an agency team, so it is best to be transparent about things so they can plan accordingly. This can apply to letting them know how many other agencies are in the running, providing detail on what is required at each stage of the pitch, and the dates on which you will announce your decision.

    There are a few important points to keep in mind throughout the pitch as you try and decide which agency would make the best business partner.

    Questions to ask:

    • Can you talk me through the first 10 days of a typical engagement with a new client?
    • How would you define a ‘good’ backlink for our business?
    • Do you think Google’s ranking algorithms weight factors differently depending on the nature of the query?
    • How do you ensure that your technical recommendations are implemented, and how do you measure their impact?
    • Can we meet our account team?
    • Do you outsource any of your client work to freelancers?
    • How much time will be spent on the account each month?
    • Have you ever had to push back on a client? How did you go about doing this?
    • What role do you think SEO plays in wider business strategy?
    • If we sign up with you, how long will it be until we see results?
    • What if things don’t work out between our companies? How would you approach that situation?
    • How much resource will be required from our side to make this partnership a success?

    In the answers to these questions, it is important that the agency is honest – even if that means telling you something you perhaps didn’t want to hear. Client-agency relationships can involve constructive disagreements at times, which is fine if the agency is acting in your best interests.

    Every agency will have had difficult conversations with clients; the good ones will have come out of these with their reputations enhanced in the long term. Bad agencies end things on less than civil terms and blame the client for any failures.

    You should also note their ability to think on their feet and approach challenges with an open mind.

    Potential red flags:

    • Promises of dramatic short-term results. There are ‘quick wins‘ in SEO, but progress for competitive industries takes time. Take it from Google: a good SEO needs at least 4 months of activity to deliver a sustainable impact.
    • Watch out for agencies that plan to outsource a lot of work to transient freelance networks. If they do plan to do this, be sure to get full transparency on who will be handling your company’s sensitive data.
    • An inflexible approach to disagreements, either in your discussion or in anecdotes from past client engagements.
    • References to ‘buying backlinks’ or any euphemistic representation thereof should be automatic grounds for disqualification.
    • Agencies that claim they can start right away. If you are asking for a lot of services, an agency can only start immediately if they are really struggling for business or if they are planning to under-deliver. It will typically take a few weeks, at least, to get an agency team in place for a medium- or large-scale project.

    Agency selection

    By the end of a rigorous pitch process, there will hopefully be a unanimous decision on the right agency. There are quite a lot of good SEO agencies out there, which is why it is so essential to begin with a clear idea of what you are looking for. Combined with a standardized approach to agency evaluation, this will create a clear framework for the ultimate selection.

    When certain agencies have been ruled out, let them know as soon as you can. Most agencies put a lot of time and effort into their proposals and the wait for feedback can be excruciating. Even if it’s bad news, they’d rather know than wait around longer for an answer.

    As for the winning agency, set up an initial kick-off meeting with them to introduce all the key individuals who will make the project a success!

    How to align your content strategy with your sales funnel

    Nine times out of ten, a person will journey down a sales funnel prior to becoming a customer.

    Whereas in the past you could count on single touchpoint, bottom of the funnel marketing strategies, it’s now increasingly necessary to push consumers down the buying funnel by creating omni-channel strategies.

    Mapping content to buying stages can help you maximize the benefit of your omni-channel strategies.

    From awareness of your brand or business via social media, to influencer recommendations, all customers generally need incentives to purchase. This makes aligning your content strategy with your sales funnel essential.

    The anatomy of a sales funnel

    To really hone your content strategy, you first need to know the stages your customers will journey through prior to purchase. This is the first step into mapping your sales funnel to your upcoming marketing campaign.

    The most simplistic sales funnel has three very important stages:

    Awareness stage

    This is the top of your funnel. The awareness stage is the point at which your target audience is looking for answers to questions, doing general research, and searching out opinions or insightful wisdom.

    Consideration stage

    The evaluation stage is the middle of your sales funnel. This often involves your audience doing very focused research on your products or services, as well as how they measure up with your competitors.

    Purchase stage

    This is the bottom of your sales funnel, where you convert potential customers into buyers. This often is when you give a little nudge by stating your position of authority in the industry. Discount codes and promotions also do wonders at this stage as well.

    Each stage of your sales funnel is important. It is also very valuable to remember that not all your potential customers will enter at the top of your funnel. You will need to understand where they are in their buying decision, and what content is needed to take them to purchase.

    Aligning your content strategy with your sales funnel

    Having a plan in place when mapping out your sales funnel will significantly cut down on time and effort down the road. One of the biggest benefits of building a sales-minded content marketing strategy is that you can practically fill up your monthly calendar in a few sessions.

    Defining your content needs for your sales funnel, developing foundational content, creating an editorial calendar, and repurposing are the four main staples. It all starts with partnering content with each stage of your funnel.

    Step 1: Define content needs for each stage

    Ideation is quite possibly one of the most important aspects of any content strategy. Having ideation neatly in place will ensure the content you are pairing with your sales funnel stages are impactful.

    How do you do this? Well, first, begin mapping out your unique buyer personas. This data includes, audience interests, demographics (age, sex, location, etc.), and pain points.

    This first step of mapping is vital, because by defining your buyer personas, you can personalize content for each buyer persona as they journey down the different stages of your sales funnel.

    Top of sales funnel content strategy: Awareness

    The awareness stage is just as the name implies. You are building awareness of your brand, business, products, or services through attention-getting content. This is when you begin building relationships.

    Social media and blogs are excellent assets for building awareness. Posting awareness-geared content on your social media channels can get your buyer personas to like your post, page, comment and share your content with their friends and followers. They’re getting to know your brand, products or services so that, when they need what you have to offer, you’ll be top of mind.

    Middle of sales funnel content strategy: Consideration

    Now that you have permission, you can communicate with your target audience in a more meaningful way. With the buyer personas in mind, begin feeding your audience tailored blog content via emails, newsletters, and on social media.

    This is a little more sales intensive. You will want your evaluation stage content strategy to highlight the benefits of your products or services to your audience. This is your value proposition.

    You can even begin addressing a few pain points associated with your buyer personas to begin moving them down your sales funnel even faster. You want them to evaluate your products or services, and feel that they truly do need them.

    Influencer marketing can be very helpful when it comes to the evaluation stage. Influencers have a very loyal following of pre-qualified buyers waiting for recommendations. Delivering your product review from an influencer can build instant confidence to buy.

    Bottom of sales funnel content strategy: Purchase

    Your purchase stage is the end of the sales funnel. This crucial step is all about conversions. To give your target audience a little extra push toward checkout, feed them content that showcases your authority in the industry.

    Developing white papers, ebooks, case studies, and powerful testimonials are perfect content assets for leading your audience to buy. The goal is to educate them, give them valuable insight, which in turn will make you a thought leader.

    Discounts and special offers are also a powerful way to get them to add to cart or to complete the checkout. Combine a discount with a limited time offer to put the principle of scarcity to work, and watch your conversion ratio increase!

    Step 2: Create your foundational content

    Foundational content will be at the core of your content strategy. This content is lengthy, in-depth, and if done right, can make aligning it to your sales funnel simple later on.

    This in-depth core content can be drawn upon to develop future infographics, blogs, Facebook and YouTube videos, social media posts, email marketing campaigns, and much more.

    However, how do you know where to begin? How do you create this for your content strategy? Well, with your sales funnel buyer personas in hand, you can begin piecing together keyword buckets for each unique buyer persona and sales funnel stage pairing.

    Keyword research

    There are a number of keyword research platforms online to help move you along. However, Google Keyword Planner is a very good tool to start with. Using their Ad Groups you can get made to order content themes for each buyer persona.

    Competitor keyword search

    You can also develop robust keyword buckets by doing a competitor keyword search. Ahrefs is a good competitor analysis tool for this. You can also turn to Google Search to find keywords your competitors are ranking for as well.

    Next, combine your Google Keyword Planner keywords with those you identified via Ahrefs (or your preferred analysis tool) and you will have plenty of themes and subthemes waiting for content to be developed around.

    With your healthy lists of keywords, mind map them into themes and subthemes. This will give you the foundational content pieces you need to move your content strategy forward in a very concise way.

    Decide on content types

    Knowing what type of content to create can be a challenging one. For example, how will you package and present your content to each of your buyer personas, and at different sales funnel stages too?

    Consider the following to keep your sales funnel content strategy impactful:

    • First off, is the content a blog, social post, infographic, video, etc.? This is pretty self-explanatory, but important. You want to maximize your foundational content by having a clear picture of how best to use it.
    • How can you package and present your content as unique? Thought leaders and industry experts are good for this. You can share fresh data, detailed how-tos, and best practices with your audience.
    • What upcoming product releases or new service launches are in the future? This type of content is perfect for highlighting your innovation, and how that innovation solves a problem your target audience needs fixed.
    • Do you have any upcoming events? This type of content could showcase your upcoming presentation at an industry conference, or even highlight your company’s philanthropy at the local level.

    Establishing an in-depth content strategy that compliments your sales funnel is imperative. Deciding what types of content to create may seem trivial, however, it could prove beneficial when it comes time to start typing.

    Step 3: Make an editorial calendar

    All the tedious buyer persona analysis and keyword research will all begin to look like a clear content strategy as you begin to make your editorial calendar. Like the stages in a sales funnel, you don’t want to skip this one.

    Having a detailed editorial calendar in place allows you to stay organized, stay focused, and create content with the most bang for the buck. One essential element to a successful editorial calendar is the ability to track all the moving parts.

    Keep it flexible and accessible

    Content type, themes, writer due dates, image development, and payments are all components of a working editorial calendar. It needs to be easy to manage and navigate.

    Where do you start creating your editorial calendar? Well, Google Sheets is a seamless online tool to develop your editorial calendar, share it, and access it when you are on the go. If you need a little more flexibility and a few more features to work with than a spreadsheet can offer, a collaboration tool like Trello can also be adapted into a calendar with relative ease.

    Fill in your schedule

    This may seem like a huge task, but begin your editorial calendar by planning the whole year. Each month will have a different theme, which you already have developed from your foundational content research.

    Each month’s theme can contain a number of subthemes as well. The key is to be as specific as possible. One way to really make the most of your editorial calendar is to have a foundational piece of content for each month.

    With this in place, your buyer personas will have plenty of content for each stage of your sales funnel month after month. You can even use Google Calendar to bring it over the top.

    Step 4: Repurpose that foundational content

    Repurposing your foundational content will help stretch out each piece of content to support a variety of initiatives. The themes and subthemes you pull from your foundational content should provoke a lot of compelling sales funnel assets.

    Let’s say you want to develop an ebook. Each theme you have identified can be a specific chapter of your ebook. Each chapter can be a monthly theme, while your ebook sub themes can be used for weekly blogs.

    The data you use for each sub theme can also be placed in an eye-catching infographic. Infographics are great assets for any content strategy. You can repurpose that data for blogs, email marketing campaigns, blogger outreach, social posts, webinars and videos.

    Breaking repurposing down

    If one of your foundational pieces is an ebook, there are at least 30 assets within that core content you can repurpose. Then from each of those 30 assets, you can develop 10 social media posts. That will give you 300 social media posts for your sales funnel for just one month.

    Those 30 assets from your ebook can also be whipped up into 30 blogs. That is a blog per day for that one theme. Within those blogs you are sure to have a few data sets. You can then turn that data into infographics, and so on.

    The main aim when repurposing content is to develop as many assets, themes, and subthemes from one piece of foundation content as possible. This will give you the variety needed to connect with each buyer persona at different stages in your sales funnel.

    In closing

    For the biggest impact on your bottom line, it is essential to map your sales funnel to your content strategy. Knowing the stages of your sales funnel and identifying buyer personas is a valuable first step that you simply can’t afford to skip.

    Your content strategy also needs to revolve around those foundational pieces as well, ensuring you get the most from each asset. And packaging it all in a clear and concise editorial calendar will keep your marketing efforts focused on reach and conversions, rather than daily content ideation.

    How to optimize your videos for YouTube: Best-practice tips

    So you’ve decided to add YouTube videos to your content repertoire. Great, why not?

    Online users love videos. In fact, 4x as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it. What’s more, YouTube is the king of video with more than one billion users. That means a lot of eyeballs.

    Except, there’s a problem. Making videos is one thing, and getting people to find and watch them is another thing. If you’ve tried your hand at YouTube marketing, you’d quickly realize that it’s not that simple.

    Like any other type of content, YouTube videos need to be optimized so that users can find them through search and within YouTube itself.

    So how do you go about it?

    First, understand that you can’t optimize a bad video

    Even if people do watch, they would stop watching as soon as they started. And this will affect the overall performance of your channel in the long run. So before we dive into how to make your videos get found, let’s just take a moment to cover ground on what a great YouTube video looks like.

    What makes a good video?

    Great sound

    Perhaps you’ve heard this before, but it still holds true. The sound of your video matters more than the video itself. Users can forgive a not-so-great picture quality, but they have little patience for poor sound.

    In doubt?

    Head over to YouTube now and peek at the comments. Although professional YouTubers make great videos, many of the videos uploaded to YouTube are crappy, and viewers vent their dissatisfaction via comments.

    Keep in mind that these are users who have the time to spare comments. Most would simply click the back button and pick another video.

    Great message/theme

    Have a clear, helpful message. Video is still content and you’re producing it for a target audience.

    Your message should resonate with that audience. Aim to hook your viewers within the first 15 seconds. Link-building expert Brian Dean recommends using the PPP method: Preview, Proof, Preview.

    Preview: First, give the viewer a hint of what the video is all about as soon as the video starts.

    Proof: Then, establish proof that you know what you’re talking about and can deliver on the topic.

    Preview: Finally, reiterate what the video is about, this time adding a specific detail that the viewer will learn.

    Clearly, this means that you have to plan your videos ahead of time and script what you want to say. Without a plan, you’ll not only waste time repeating shots, you may also come across as not being confident.

    Outstanding visuals

    In the end, visual quality matters. In addition to editing your video for background noise and other distortions, you should add great graphics too. These help to add variety between frames and make for more engagement.

    Elements to optimize

    YouTube search is a straightforward video search engine that mirrors that of Google. When optimizing YouTube videos, you’ll need to pay attention to these three important elements:

    Identify your keyword

    You probably already know that keywords are crucial to online visual content getting found, but the truth is, 9 out of 10 searchers make use of search engines when looking for something online, while the latter uses an algorithm that relies heavily on keywords.

    Make sure your target keyword appears in the title to increase visibility. Also, sprinkle your keywords sparingly in both your meta and tags. This is your focus keyword or phrase. It is what the entire piece will be centered around.

    Title

    Experts advise that you spend as much time you spend creating the video on devising your headline. It is safe to say it is the most important piece of information in your entire content.

    An average video with an eye-popping headline will lure huge amount of viewers, while the best content with a dull headline would struggle to get a few clicks. Simply put, your headline should be short (not more than 66 characters so that Google will display it easily), intriguing and compelling.

    Meta

    A full description is necessary to help viewers understand what the video is about. Just keep in mind that most people don’t read the descriptions; they are more interested in the video. Keep the descriptions short and succinct.

    Tags

    Although tags are not compulsory, they help YouTube associate your video with text. The tip here is to keep tags to a minimum and avoid irrelevant tags.

    A short description and tags on a YouTube video

    Other elements to look out for

    Video thumbnail

    Custom thumbnails that are consistent with your videos will help you create a memorable brand that your target audience can easily identify. To get custom thumbnails for your videos, your account needs to be verified.

    Subtitles and Closed Captions (CC)

    It has been suggested that closed captions can boost YouTube SEO. Discovery Digital Networks found an overall increase of 7.32% in views for captioned videos. Subtitles and closed captions also allow viewers to watch the video in various places such as a noisy or quiet environment.

    Encourage user engagement and feedback

    User interaction with videos is an important metric by which YouTube judges and ranks videos according to relevance and quality.

    One metric is watch time, which YouTube defines as “the amount of time that a viewer has watched a video. This gives you a sense of what content viewers actually watch (as opposed to videos that they click on and then abandon).”

    We have already mentioned engaging the viewer within the first 15 seconds, and keeping up the engagement throughout the duration of the video. Here are some other ways you can encourage user engagement with your video:

    Add a Call to Action

    Use a Call to Action (CTA) to encourage users to like, subscribe or comment on your videos.

    Make use of YouTube cards

    YouTube cards come in handy here. You can use channel cards to encourage your users to subscribe to your channel or like your video. Link cards can be used to send users to your website or other pages.

    Add an end screen

    Like cards, end screens can also be used to drive engagement with your channel. According to YouTube, “end screens are a part of the video that shows during the last 5-20 seconds of a video.

    You can add up to four elements to promote your content, channel, and websites. Elements can expand to show more information on hover on desktop and on tap on mobile devices.”

    Conclusion

    YouTube is a great content channel. To make the most of it, videos should be optimized not only for search but also for users. And there are several elements to look out for when optimizing videos.

    One thing to always remember is that to find the most effective method, you need to regularly A/B test to determine what works best for you.

    How to get started with Twitter advertising

    Twitter can be an effective platform to advertise your business. Here’s how to create the perfect ad for your campaign objectives.

    Twitter counts a total number of 328 million monthly active users, with more than 500 million tweets sent each day. This brings out a great opportunity for brands to take advantage of the platform to promote their presence.

    Twitter may not be the first option for many brands when setting up a paid social strategy, but it can still be a highly effective addition.

    Over the past few years, Twitter has expanded its promotion types in order to encourage more brands to promote their business through its platform. The different promotion types and varying campaign objectives have engendered an increased interest in Twitter ads.

    According to eMarketer, 41% of people on Twitter purchased products following exposure to an ad in the preceding 30 days.

    This brings out a great opportunity for brands to explore the best ways to test Twitter advertising. The first step is to understand the different types of promotion, the campaign objectives, but also the target audience.

    Deciding on the type of promotion

    Twitter offers three different types of promotion:

    Promoted tweets

    Promoted tweets look like ordinary tweets, appearing directly in users’ feeds, with the difference being that they are labelled as “Promoted” and don’t need to come from an account that the user follows. They are displayed to the most relevant audience, and Twitter uses various signals to decide the relevance of each promoted tweet.

    This allows brands to reach the best audience, while users are still exposed to tweets they might find interesting. As with regular tweets, they can be liked, retweeted and replied to.

    They can be used to:

    • increase awareness of a product or an event
    • build engagement for a campaign
    • drive traffic to a brand’s site
    • promote sales and giveaways

    Promoted accounts

    Promoted accounts can help a brand boost its number of followers, reaching a new audience that can be interested in its content.

    According to a study from 2016, 85% of people find promoted accounts useful in helping them discover new businesses on Twitter.

    This type of promotion allows brands to show up in non-followers’ feed, which brings a great opportunity for increased awareness and new leads. A growing number of Twitter followers can create an engaged community, making it easier to promote a campaign.

    The difference between promoted accounts and promoted tweets is that the first one focuses on the brand’s profile rather than its content. This means that it’s useful for targeting an audience that is either familiar with, or is interested in exploring, your particular profile.

    Promoted accounts can be used to:

    • increase brand awareness
    • build follower count
    • drive leads
    • build paid traffic after users follow a brand

    Promoted accounts show up in user’s feed in the suggestions of who to follow, but also in the search results.

    Promoted trends

    Promoted trends show up at the top of “Trending Topics”, and can be used by brands that want to promote a particular hashtag. They also show up in users’ feeds and once clicked, they lead to a combination of promoted tweets and organic results.

    They are currently unavailable for self-serve advertisers and the cost is significantly higher, but they can also lead to great results in terms of improved awareness and engagement, especially for big brands trying to maximize their potential audience.

    Deciding on a campaign objective

    Twitter Ads are organised depending on the campaign objective that each brand sets. This way it’s easier to focus on specific results that are based on the KPIs that should be reached.

    Twitter’s available campaign objectives focus on:

    Awareness

    An awareness campaign helps your message reach as many people as possible. The cost is based on the number of impressions your tweets collect, but it can also lead to increased likes, retweets and mentions. This type of campaign is useful when launching a new product, when promoting a sale, or even when trying to establish a new social presence.

    Followers

    If your brand is still new to Twitter, then a campaign to gain followers may be the first step to build the right audience. It focuses on the number of new followers a profile gains, helping a brand accelerate its growth. It’s usually wise to provide people with a good reason to follow your profile, whether it’s a special offer or a discount.

    Promoted video views

    Video content tends to be more engaging across social media, but a boost can still be useful. Twitter allows you to enhance the reach of your GIFs, Vines, or videos, charging by the number of final views. This way videos reach a more targeted audience, increasing the chances of engagement. As with all video ads, it’s important to create appealing content that grabs the audience’s attention to keep on watching.

    Website clicks or conversions

    Achieving conversions via social media is a universal challenge. A Twitter ad campaign that focuses on website clicks or conversions is useful in the promotion of a guide, a special offer, or product purchase. The cost depends on the number of clicks, while a conversion campaign can provide an overview of the actual conversions, rather than simply the number of clicks.

    It is also possible to include a website card with this type of campaign, displaying a preview of your site along with the tweet to make the call-to-action clearer.

    Tweet engagements

    A tweet engagements campaign aims to promote your tweets to a relevant audience. The goal is to start a conversation by placing the best content in front of your target audience. As Twitter points out, increased engagement brings more chances of brand lift and offline sales.

    App installs or re-engagements

    App install campaigns aim to help your brand promote a new application. The focus is on mobile users and the charge considers the number of app clicks or installs. This type of campaign targets the audience that is more likely to install or engage with your app, and maximizes the chances of driving traffic and interest to the application.

    Twitter’s various targeting capabilities make campaigns more efficient, while the measurement involves conversion reporting to analyse the impact of the campaign towards conversion.

    Deciding on the most relevant targeting

    One of the most interesting features in Twitter Ads is the targeting options they offer. Twitter Ads become more effective by reaching the most relevant audience for each occasion.

    Twitter’s targeting capabilities include:

    • Language: Narrow down the audience to a particular language
    • Gender: Target a specific genre
    • Interest: Find the perfect audience through the interests that match your brand’s products
    • Follower: Target the followers of relevant accounts to increase the chances of finding an engaged audience
    • Device: Focus on particular devices to increase the chances of an effective campaign
    • Behavior: Reach the audience that matches your brand’s expectations regarding their shopping and spending habits
    • Tailored Audiences: Upload your CRM lists and find specific people on Twitter
    • Keyword: Target people who used a particular keyword in their recent tweets

    • Geography: Focus on specific geographic areas depending on the needs of each campaign
    • TV: As Twitter improves its relationship with TV networks, this targeting allows brand to engage with TV fans around specific shows, spanning from the network to the genre of the show
    • Event: A campaign can revolve around a specific event and thus, the promotion is aiming at a specific audience. The relevance is high, which may require a larger budget to beat the competition, while also increasing the chances of finding the perfect audience

    What we can learn from the various targeting options is that every campaign has different goals and thus, a different audience. It’s useful to experiment with all the targeting suggestions as much as possible to understand how each option can help your brand’s plans.

    Setting a budget

    Setting a budget for your campaign can depend on what your goals are. In general, the budget and the bidding options are adjusted through each individual campaign.

    Twitter allows you to set a daily budget, along with a total budget for the campaign as a whole, to make sure that you don’t go over-budget by accident.

    Bidding can be automatic, or it can include a maximum bid. This may reflect each company’s budget, but also the competition on each campaign and the targeted audience. Thus, the budget may be different from one campaign to another, especially when reaching a new audience.

    Overview

    Twitter is powerful in starting a conversation, influencing people over purchasing decisions, or simply setting up new trending topics. All of these can be valuable for brands trying to increase their reach, engage with their followers, drive traffic to their site, or promote a new offer.

    Twitter ads are highly useful provided that they are used to target the most relevant audience in a way that they will genuinely connect with.

    As with organic social media, different types of content can be more successful, with creative and authentic messaging giving you the best chance of success.

    The various different targeting option can help brands to custom-build the perfect audience for each campaign. It may take some time to know how each type of targeting can help your campaign, but the testing with a smaller budget at first can ensure a message is sent to the most relevant audience.

    Not every campaign will necessarily be successful at first, but Twitter’s focus on offering best practice tips and new advertising features will ensure that your effort and patience pays off.

    How to get the best visibility for your PPC ads in the run-up to Black Friday

    In the run-up to Black Friday and the holiday shopping season, retailers are competing like crazy to attract the eyeballs of as many paying consumers as possible through paid search advertising.

    But how well is it paying off? To find out, search intelligence platform Adthena has analyzed the paid search landscape in the run-up to Black Friday 2017, indexing more than 15,000 ads and 214 million impressions across 161 sellers of consumer electronics.

    The study, shared exclusively with Search Engine Watch, was conducted between November 1st and 13th 2017, and sheds some light on the kinds of PPC ad subjects and messaging that are getting the best response from consumers ahead of the holidays.

    iPhone dominates mobile… on mobile

    In a not-so-surprising discovery, product ads containing the term “iPhone” out-performed other types of consumer goods – particularly on mobile. Paid search ads with “iPhone” pulled in 8.88% of all impressions on desktop, and gained a hefty 14.89% of all impressions on mobile.

    “Phone” was the second-best-performing product ad keyword, with 4.61% of impressions on desktop and 11.55% on mobile, followed by “TV”, which pulled in 3.54% of desktop impressions and 4.22% of mobile impressions.

    When it came to the messaging that performed best in Black Friday PPC ads, deal-related ad copy featuring the word “save” was the clear winner, driving close to a fifth (18.79%) of impressions on desktop, and more than a quarter (27.47%) on mobile.

    “% off” was the next-best-performing deal messaging on desktop, with 10.03% of impressions, while on mobile, “discount” came in second place at 9.03%. “Sale” took 5.6% of impressions on desktop, while “% off” won third place on mobile with 3.91%.

    Ashley Fletcher, Director of Product Marketing at Adthena, says that these differences in the data prove just how vital the language used in ad copy is to the overall success of a paid search ad.

    “We can see in the analyzed data that phrase ‘Save’ delivered huge impression share on both desktop and mobile, in comparison to ‘Discount’ or ‘% off’,” he said. “Making this single change in an advertiser’s ad text copy can make all the difference in having a winning search strategy for this fiercely competitive time of year.

    “The devil is in the detail, and marginal gains mean success.”

    If you’re wondering what kind of discount is the most effective at attracting consumer attention, well, surprise surprise, it’s a big one. Offers for “70% off” gathered the most impressions PPC ad on both desktop (6.89%) and mobile (1.31%).

    “30% off” was the next-most-popular discount, though it attracted less than 1% of overall impressions on both desktop (0.84%) and mobile (0.35%). In third place was “40% off”, with 0.58% of impressions on desktop, and 0.23% on mobile.

    Black Friday outpaces Cyber Monday, Amazon pushes Amazon

    In spite of the juggernaut rise of online shopping, Black Friday still carries more weight than its newer, online-focused sibling, Cyber Monday – even in the electronics industry. According to the data from Adthena, “Black Friday” pulled in 2.99% of all PPC ad impressions on desktop (with 2.41% on mobile), while “Cyber Monday” managed only a paltry 0.12% of all impressions on desktop (0.09% on mobile).

    Meanwhile, Amazon is taking advantage of one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year to push its Prime memberships. Across 71,414 Amazon ads with a total of 78,097,823 impressions, the top two-performing phrases by an overwhelming margin were “Amazon”, which took 98.32% of impressions on desktop and 99.79% on mobile, and “Prime”, which attracted 84.71% of impressions on desktop and 97.64% on mobile.

    This was bad news for ads with more generic terms like “Shop” or “Low prices”, which attracted just 10.27% of impressions on desktop and 1.79% on mobile (“Shop”) and 8.37% of impressions on desktop and 0.44% on mobile (“Low prices”), respectively.

    What do the figures from the study tell us about the types of product searches and purchases that people are carrying out on desktop versus on mobile?

    Although there is some variation in the messaging that seems to resonate with users on desktop compared to mobile – mobile users are keen to “Save” but evidently don’t want to “Shop” for “Low prices” – the same leaders tend to emerge across devices, which Fletcher believes demonstrates that shopper behavior is generally device-agnostic, with consumers carrying out their product searches across multiple channels.

    “In many instances, mobile is driving higher impression share than desktop, such as with the top performing product ads,” he says. “This tells us that many shoppers are doing their gift browsing on mobile, but desktop still perhaps remains a key part of the path to conversion.”

    What can marketers take away from these findings that will help them get the best possible visibility for their PPC ads in the run-up to Black Friday? Fletcher says that actionable insights from data are the key to success in a rapidly shifting landscape.

    “Marketers must understand how campaigns are performing and adjust accordingly as quickly as possible,” he says. “Being able to monitor what their competition is doing and changing on a daily basis will have a great impact on their PPC campaigns.

    “Today’s marketer wants daily insights into an auction that’s changing rapidly. If a marketer sees that a competitor is pushing 70% discounts and garnering a majority of market share, they can quickly adjust their own strategy in order to continue to remain competitive and capture the audience.”

    How a Customer Data Platform can improve AdWords performance

    According to Hochman Consultants (2017), the average cost of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is increasing – with the average cost-per-click in 2016 being nearly double that of 2013.

    When you consider the fact that Google processes over 2.3 million searches per minute (Business Insider, 2016), this is hardly surprising.

    But what can marketers do to ensure that they can attract customers on this increasingly competitive channel, while avoiding these burgeoning costs?

    In my previous two articles, I looked at how to stop Google AdWords campaigns from failing by using a Customer Data Platform (CDP) to gain a holistic overview of customer behavior, and how data-driven attribution with a CDP can supercharge your paid search.

    In this article, I’ll outline five ways that a Customer Data Platform can improve your AdWords performance and ROI by keeping costs down and attracting new business.

    Content produced in partnership with Fospha.

    1. Data accuracy

    Many businesses continue to struggle with optimizing their keyword bids. The simple reason for this is the fact that, regardless of how modern and advanced your bid management platform is, inputting inaccurate data can hinder success – and be costly to your business.

    A Customer Data Platform gathers, integrates and centralizes customer data from various sources to give marketers more control of, and visibility over, their data. This data-driven approach stitches together the customer journey, and uses attribution to accurately assign credit to various marketing channels based on their importance in the path to conversion.

    Without this true view of their data, businesses are missing the accurate value of their different channels. They also risk making poor decisions about which marketing channels are beneficial, and which are not, which might result in budget being taken away from a channel which has a huge role in the path to conversion.

    With more accurate data, Customer Data Platforms are able to highlight the true value of keywords – allowing your business to pinpoint high and low performing keywords and campaigns, and optimize their spend on paid search.

    For instance, with a more accurate data source, Fospha were able to help a client identify that 50% of their keywords weren’t contributing to any conversions. Check out the full case study here.

    2. Optimize

    Manual bid management can be a laborious task, but with the help of a bid management platform to automate the process, this becomes a quick, effortless and efficient process. The next step lies in super-charging the capabilities of this platform. And the answer lies in an accurate data source.

    Combining the power of the Customer Data Platform to discover high and low performing keywords across all channels through this data, with the automation of a bid management platform, enables spend on poorly performing keywords to be quickly reallocated – resulting in an improvement in ROI.

    3. Real-time access

    Unlike most other Customer Data Platforms, Fospha facilitates real-time interactions for bidding, helping reduce and eliminate the amount of wasted clicks on incorrect audiences. A Customer Data Platform integrates seamlessly with bid management platforms like Kenshoo and Marin to support these real-time interactions, such as bidding on ad clicks.

    Real-time access through a Customer Data Platform also enables marketers to automate their bid management through advanced machine learning.

    4. Personalization

    Marketers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of moving away from keyword-based marketing, and towards audience-based marketing. However, they can go one step further – making a move towards people-based marketing.

    This is no less of a necessity with your bidding strategies. Understanding your audience is crucial, and by utilizing a data-driven attribution model, a Customer Data Platform provides you with a granular understanding of a single customer. From here, you are able to use your data to optimize your targeting and increase conversions by offering more relevant content to your customers.

    In addition to this, keyword performance is largely dependent on types of devices used. It is important to boost keywords that do better on mobile and to suppress those that do not. Marin found that by adjusting bids for mobile, their clients enjoyed 10% higher CTR and 2.5% lower CPC than those that failed to do so.

    A Customer Data Platform is able to detect these optimized conditions and adjust your bid management strategy accordingly.

    5. Bidding strategies

    Defining your bidding strategy can drastically improve the performance of your paid search campaigns. However, in order to reach a truly optimized level, different keywords, audiences and goals will require different bidding strategies.

    A Customer Data Platform gives you a granular view of all your marketing channels to ensure the strategy deployed is custom to each specific need.

    Content produced in partnership with Fospha. Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Search Engine Watch.