How can you successfully set up an efficient business blog on a very tight budget?

Setting up online presence for your business can be overwhelming. So much to plan and so much to invest (in terms of both time and money).

How much would it cost to set up and market a business site? This is by far the most frequent question I’ve come across for years.

This quick checklist will answer your questions. Below I am giving yearly minimum expenses, but of course the less money you are prepared to pay, the more of your own time you will need to invest in figuring some of the tasks.

1. Setting up costs

To create a site you basically need to pay for the following things:

  • Your domain name (about $10.69/year for a .com domain)
  • Your site hosting

Some hosting companies will include the domain name for free, but you’ll need to start paying for it after the first year.

If you go with the shared hosting option, you’ll pay as little as $3.5 per month, sometimes even less. Here’s a good selection of shared hosting providers you can trust.

While I am torn over whether you need to invest into a shared hosting, knowing how much of a pain it might be to migrate the site to a dedicated solution in the future, I totally understand why it could be a valid option for someone who is trying to save money at the start.

More setting-up expenses will include a basic layout and a design. I would totally recommend using WordPress as a content management platform, simply because it’s a free, regularly updated (hence up-to-date) and easy to customize solution.

You can totally customize it at home for free and even use the free WordPress theme it comes with. It looks professional and modern enough. I was a total WordPress newbie when I started my own blog and I was able to customize the free theme to make it look unique and catchy on my own. And you can too.

You can also get a logo for cheap by shopping at Fiverr or DesignHill. But be prepared to spend at least $100 here. You may invest more in your design down the road, but you don’t want to have to change your logo in a year or so. A logo is something you’ll integrate into social media channels, video and image watermarks, downloadable assets, etc. It’s better to do it right once.

If you are going to sell from your site, WooCommerce is probably your best bet. It’s free, but you may need some paid plugins. This article explains what you may need and how much it will cost. Here are more WordPress plugins you’ll need – all of them are free.

So, to summarize, setting up budget for the first year:

  • Domain name: ~$10
  • Hosting: ~$40 a year
  • WordPress + WordPress theme + WordPress plugins: Free
  • Brand identity (i.e. a logo): ~$100 (at least)

Mind that I deliberately emphasize on the minimum setting up cost to allow for more marketing budgets. You want to see people coming and converting before you can reinvest into setup and design. Even very minimal website designs convert well!

2. Basic SEO and conversion optimization

If you are going to use WordPress, you won’t need too much SEO done. Installing Yoast SEO (free) would be enough for a start. Do go through its documentation thoroughly to make sure you clearly understand all the settings you are playing with. I’ve seen users unknowingly blocking all their pages with nofollow noindex meta tags when using the plugin settings.

Going through keywords is also highly essential at the start. Look at your competitors and find valuable phrases to optimize your page for. Keyword research is the most essential step when you start planning your SEO strategy. Serpstat seems to be the most affordable solution.

Make sure you have your conversion paths set up right from the very start. Don’t wait until you have traffic coming. Your website should be ready to convert even those first two visitors into your customers, or at least members of your community.

I use Sumo (formerly known as Sumome) for my lead generation and opt-in forms. It’s very easy and mostly free. You won’t need to pay any professionals to get it installed or optimized. Unless you have some solid traffic coming in, there’s no need to even upgrade for A/B testing and additional features. Once you are ready to play and optimize, it’s $29 per month.

Here are more landing page tools you may consider, depending on how much conversion optimization and testing you are planning to do at the start. And for other tools to improve your SEO on a budget, don’t miss our list of 26 expert-recommended free SEO tools.

If you are selling services or a SaaS solution, setting up sales management software is essential at the very start. Good thing, it’s quite affordable too. Pipedrive is a neat customer relationships management platform that will help you make your lead generation and onboarding strategy efficient. Moreover it has recently announced an integration with Ringostat, a solid and affordable solution that offers call tracking and call-back features.

So for SEO and conversion optimization, first year expense would be:

  • Yoast SEO: Free
  • Sumo: Free or ~$340 (If you get enough traffic to play with)
  • Serpstat: Free or $182.40
  • Ringostat + Pipedrive: $600 + $100 (You may want to start with either and then integrate the two when you are ready)

3. Yearly advertising budget

Since you aren’t going to see much organic traffic in the first months after the launch, paying for ads is one of the few ways to see people coming to your new site. If I were on a tight budget, I’d break the advertising budget as follows:

  • Facebook ads: $50 per month
  • Google ads: $100 per month (Depending on your industry, this is the minimum imaginable budget)

Yearly minimum advertising budget thus is about $1,800.

Now, if you are investing in advertising, make sure your landing pages are converting well (see call-tracking, A/B testing, etc. solutions above). Here’s a good post on what to keep in mind when starting an online advertising campaign.

Again, keep in mind this is a minimum budget, which assumes you are on a very tight budget but that isn’t going to prevent you from starting your new venture. If you know how to save, please do comment!

How do the recent updates to Google Data Studio benefit marketers?

In a slew of recent posts on their Analytics blog, Google has announced the removal of the 5 report limit in Data Studio in the US, integration with Search Console, and most recently, enhanced support for AdWords MCC accounts.

So what is Data Studio, why has Google focused so much attention on improving it, and what benefits does it provide for marketers?

Data Studio: A brief recap

Data Studio was launched in beta as part of Google’s Analytics 360 suite in May 2016. The aim of the platform was (and remains) clear: to provide Analytics users with an intuitive, shareable dashboard solution that allows them to make sense of their data.

Its functionality reflects this purpose. Users can drag and drop a range of graphs and charts onto a blank canvas, then populate them using the dimensions, metrics and goals from their GA account. As such, anyone familiar with Google Analytics should be able to create polished, professional dashboards to help inform their business decisions.

Data Studio delivers on that promise, but the restrictive 5 dashboard limit and a lack of platform integrations curbed its widespread uptake last year beyond the expensive 360 Suite.

However, these recent announcements go some way to creating a solution with universal appeal.

Data Studio integrations

Following the announcement of Search Console integration and enhanced MCC support, the list of connectors (connections to a specific type or source of data) now looks as follows:

Marketers who have adopted the full suite of Google products will find a wide variety of new opportunities for data analysis and reporting here. The addition of Search Console support brings SEO into the fold too, adding the capability to show keyword-level performance through impression, clicks and CTR data.

Furthermore, the MCC updates provide two new benefits:

  • Users can now select up to 75 sub-accounts to include within their dashboard, rather than having to connect the whole account
  • Currency fields are removed if they differ across sub-accounts, removing some of the difficulties seen when Google aggregates multiple currencies into one report.

The addition of Search Console support to Google Data Studio adds the capability to show keyword-level performance through impression, clicks and CTR data

But what about non-Google products? Do they integrate with Data Studio?

Yes, albeit in a slightly roundabout fashion.

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed Google Sheets among the list of available connectors. So if data from Facebook, for example, is scheduled to export automatically to Sheets, this information will then be included within your Data Studio dashboard quite seamlessly.

Although not as direct an integration as other enterprise-level reporting suites can provide, this is still a hugely beneficial capability. Moreover, the customizable, intuitive nature of Data Studio should make up for this inefficiency among a large user base.

Does this mean the democratization of data analysis?

At a basic level, it might do – and this is a platform designed to engage novices, after all. But if the improvements keep coming at the recent pace, we could be looking at a very powerful contender for more advanced data analysts too.

These highly customizable reports also allow users to circumvent many of the inefficiencies that arise from searching in GA to collect data, synthesize it and then produce compelling visualizations.

This is clearly good news for marketers and business owners alike, removing some of the barriers to entry for useful, everyday data analysis.

What is influencer marketing, and why should it be part of your digital strategy?

If I tell you I have the secret formula for any entrepreneur to succeed, you may not believe me.

You probably have never even heard of me, my company, or have yet to follow me on social media.

But if Neil Patel, New York Times best selling author and a person The Wall Street Journal calls ‘the web’s top influencer’ tells you, “My secret formula is the greatest”, you will probably believe him.

In a nutshell, that is influencer marketing. It takes the “I” out of the equation, letting others tell the story about your products and services. Haven’t you seen George Clooney’s Nespresso commercials?

Now getting Neil Patel or George Clooney to be your influencers is where the challenge lies. Sending either one of them an email may prove difficult, but fortunately there are many social channels and creative ways of identifying and targeting key influencers.

The return on influencer marketing may be worth the trouble too. Trusted influencers can boost your brand awareness and market your products and services in unprecedented ways traditional marketing can’t compete with.

Why you should absolutely use influencer marketing

Why influencer marketing? Well, the answer is quite simple. Influencer marketing can provide you with instant visibility, hordes of potential customers, and a high return on your digital strategy.

A relevant influencer to your industry exposes your brand to the right consumers. These targeted consumers are already interested in your niche, and they will be paying attention with a strong likelihood to purchase.

According to an influencer marketing study by Tomoson, “51% of marketers believe they acquire better customers through influencer marketing.”

This may be why 84 percent of marketers are planning at least one influencer marketing campaign in 2017, according to a survey by Schlesinger Associates.

And it is all about established trust. An influencer’s followers are loyal with rapport built over several years. In fact, 92 percent of people trust recommendations from people over brands, according to research by Nielsen.

Another great reason to add influencer marketing to your digital strategy is that you will get instant results. You can be sure your influencer’s sizable loyal audience will stick around and give your brand instant attention. No need to wait for organic SEO results to kick in after months and months of work.

Find influencers relevant to your brand and industry

The first thing about influencer marketing you want to keep in mind is relevancy. You want to not only look at a potential influencer’s audience numbers, but also how they fit with your brand.

“The best influencers work to integrate their branded campaigns into their unique stories without skipping a beat,” says AJ Agrawal of Forbes. “They know their audiences are fickle and can quickly leave, so they treat each and every post with care.”

Three things absolutely essential to consider when qualifying potential influencers are Context, Reach, and Actionability.

Asking a foodie to promote your new marathon training app will not work. Sure, there is a connection between these niches, but they have completely different Context and audiences.

Reach is a simple one to qualify. You want your influencer to have a healthy sized audience. But qualify this audience since anyone can buy social media followers these days.

And Reach is only as good as the influencer’s Actionability. They have one million followers? Fantastic! However, if that audience isn’t engaged, your influencer marketing efforts are wasted.

You can get very granular when it comes to creating metrics to qualifying your influencers. We look at demographics such as age and gender and calculate a number for potential relevant audience when reviewing what influencers to work with. This, and other metrics can be used to determine an estimated CPM which can help you compare the power and value of your influencers when it comes to potential reach vs ROI.

Influencers are social media moguls and popular bloggers

To get your influencer marketing campaign off to a great start, target social media influencers. Those with the biggest following are certainly on all social media channels.

To begin your research, determine what social media network will maximize results. If your brand is in the fashion realm, Instagram and Pinterest influencers are best.

If you want to raise brand awareness via video engagement, then YouTube influencers may be a better fit. However, don’t rule out the other social media channels, like Facebook, Twitter, and SnapChat. Facebook live has created interesting possibilities for influencer marketing.

The power of hashtags will also assist in your influencer research. If your brand is all about fitness, begin searching hashtags related to fitness.

Your influencer marketing campaign should target bloggers too

Interestingly, 86 percent of influencers have a blog. And 88 percent of those say they actually blog themselves. Excellent blogger outreach sources are Inkybee, BlogDash, and GroupHigh.

Get those bloggers to share their Google Analytics traffic. This lets you research blog metrics and get an understanding of an influencer’s true SEO value.

Key influencer metrics to check are . . .

  • Domain Authority
  • SEMrush Organic Keywords
  • SEMrush Organic Traffic
  • Unique Visitors
  • TrustFLow
  • CitationFlow
  • Engagement Per Post
  • Audience Demographics (Age, Location, Gender)

How do you entice influencers?

There are no free lunches, and your influencers will certainly want compensation for access to their loyal audience. How much, or how little is simply a matter of negotiation.

Cold hard cash is one of the most common ways to entice an influencer. But sometimes you can find an influencer or two that truly believes in your brand, and those are simply the best.

These influencers may accept small monetary compensation. Or they may be interested in free products, social media mentions, and cross-promotional content.

Whatever the deal, if you did your research, the return on your investment could be well worth it.

Ready to get your influencer marketing campaign moving?

The following will give you the nuts and bolts of a powerful influencer marketing campaign…

  • Identify and Qualify Relevant Influencers: This means investigating each potential influencer. Study their profiles and read their blogs to ensure they are relevant to your brand.
  • Build Your Influencer Marketing Strategy: This includes defining a budget, identifying possible incentives, creating your campaign’s KPIs, and writing up a campaign brief.
  • Pitch Your List of Influencers: Connect with a pitch letter that is unique, compelling, and concise. You should track pitch dates, replies, and followups to stay organized.
  • Track Campaign Results: Speaking of staying organized, track your influencer marketing campaign results. This includes metrics like impressions, clicks, transactions, emails, and audience growth.

Develop an influencer marketing campaign that maximizes your efforts, builds meaningful relationships, and gets the end result you envisioned. The results just may change the dynamic of your brand forever.

Five most interesting search news stories of the week

A screencap showing the homepage and search bar of the CC search engine.

Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from the world of search marketing and beyond.

This week, we’ve got the latest on a strange glitch appearing in Google’s mobile search, a new beta search engine launched by Creative Commons, and the decline of brand hashtags in Super Bowl ads. Plus, a new report has indicated that consumers don’t find the vast majority of brands meaningful; and Google reveals that custom 404 pages are not beneficial to SEO.

Google’s mobile search glitches, indexes desktop sites

If you’ve been keeping an ear to the ground – or the Twittersphere – in the world of Google SEO, you might have heard that strange things have been happening with Google’s mobile index over the past few days.

Last week and early this week, some astute observers noticed that Google’s mobile search was indexing desktop websites where it would normally be indexing the mobile version of that site.

The suddenness of the switch, coming on the heels of Google’s newly-implemented penalty for intrusive mobile interstitials and ahead of its planned rollout of a mobile-first search index, had Twitter abuzz with speculation as to what could be going on.

Noticing separate mobile sites dropping out of Google Mobile in favour of desktop versions across several major sites… #seo #mobile pic.twitter.com/LYoEVNUgOn

— Glynn Davies (@glynndaviesesq) February 6, 2017

@VishMarathe411 Happy to look at examples. My guess is the sites might not be set up correctly.

— John ☆.o(≧▽≦)o.☆ (@JohnMu) February 3, 2017

In a post for Search Engine Watch yesterday, I broke down the events of the last few days, with the help of some data from Pi Datametrics, to try and work out what happened to the affected sites – and whether it could be a sign of an impending mobile-first index launch.

Creative Commons has launched a new free-to-use photo search engine

If you’ve ever worked in online publishing, chances are you know the unique frustration of searching for a free-to-use image to break up your blog post, or serve as the perfect feature image. Luckily, that just got a lot easier with the launch of a new search engine from Creative Commons, CC Search.

It has always been possible to search for Creative Commons-licensed images using a search filter on Google or Flickr, and the Creative Commons website has its own search portal – although it has always been careful to emphasise that this is not a search engine, “but rather offers convenient access to search services provided by other independent organizations, meaning that CC is not responsible for the results returned.

Now, however, it seems that Creative Commons is ready to go full search engine. In a blog post announcing the beta release of CC Search, Creative Commons CEO Ryan Merkley wrote that,

There is no “front door” to the commons, and the tools people need to curate, share, and remix works aren’t yet available. We want to make the commons more usable, and this is our next step in that direction.

Bad news, brands: Consumers could probably live without you

While some of the largest brands in the world spent upwards of $5 million on Super Bowl ads last weekend, a report by Havas Group has delivered some sobering news for brands: consumers wouldn’t care if 74% of them disappeared off the face of the earth.

The report, entitled ‘Meaningful Brands’, has been billed as “the largest global analysis of its kind”. It polled more than 300,000 people in 33 countries about 1,500 global brands in 15 industry sectors in order to draw conclusions about the way that people interact with and form connections with brands.

Unsurprisingly, the brands which made the “meaningful” list were also some of the biggest names, including Google, Microsoft, PayPal, Kellogg’s, Disney and Nike. Which begs the question: what is a “meaningful” brand? Is it just a brand that you’ve heard of, or is there more to it than that? And do these findings mean that smaller brands should give up trying to make an impact?

Hashtags were down and URLs up in this year’s Super Bowl

In more brand news, references to hashtags only appeared in 30% of Super Bowl advertisements this year, down from 45% a year ago.

The Super Bowl is a huge brand extravaganza, and as such, can provide a useful insight into trends around brand advertising, what works and what doesn’t. According to an analysis conducted by Marketing Land, the drop in hashtag usage this year is the continuation of a general decline that has been taking place since 2014, when hashtag usage peaked at 57%.

Meanwhile, URLs are on the rise, and have overtaken hashtags for the first time with a presence in 39% of ads. While this might seem like a return to the past, it also makes sense for advertisers to direct users to websites they own, as opposed to social media services that they don’t.

Custom 404 pages have no SEO benefit – but quality is still important

The SEM Post reported this week on an interesting revelation from Google’s Webmaster Central Office Hours hangout: Google does not crawl the content of custom 404 pages on sites. John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, said that:

“So if we see a 404, then we see a 404 and don’t look at the content. We don’t look to see what is visible on your 404 pages, on your server error pages, we essentially assume that something that the user can look at and kind of deal with, we don’t follow the content on pages that return any of these error response codes.”

This might come as a blow to some web developers who use a custom 404 page for SEO purposes, but custom 404 pages are still helpful from a user perspective, as they can help reorient lost users to the right part of the site. The Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines recommend giving well-thought-out 404 pages the highest quality rating; they just don’t contribute directly to SEO.

Tumblr’s tongue-in-cheek 404 error page

What’s been going on with Google’s mobile indexing?

Back in October, Google announced the impending rollout of a mobile-first search index, a sure to be massive overhaul of the way Google indexes its search results which has had SEOs scrambling to prepare their businesses.

In fairly typical Google fashion, a few months on from the announcement, we’re still no closer to a definitive date on when the change will take place. But some strange behaviour in mobile search results, combined with turbulent search ‘weather’ over the past few days, indicates that we could be approaching a launch.

What happened?

The first sign that something a little strange was happening came on Monday 6th February, when Glynn Davies, Head of Search Strategy at Pi Datametrics, noticed separate mobile sites dropping out of mobile search on Google, to be replaced with their desktop versions.

Noticing separate mobile sites dropping out of Google Mobile in favour of desktop versions across several major sites… #seo #mobile pic.twitter.com/LYoEVNUgOn

— Glynn Davies (@glynndaviesesq) February 6, 2017

As alarming as it might seem, this situation isn’t without precedent on Google. Google confirmed back in 2015 that it uses the desktop version of a site for ranking on mobile, while still comparing the two to check for any major discrepancies (such as users creating a spammy desktop website purely for the purposes of ranking high).

And last November it was revealed that desktop pages might be ranked over AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) in certain circumstances in the upcoming mobile-first index.

Still, this sudden switch seemed unprecedented, and Mozcast’s weather report – which reflects the current turbulence of Google’s algorithms by how hot and stormy the weather is – was showing some distinctly tempestuous weather on Sunday 5th and Monday 6th November.

Image: Mozcast

There was some speculation on Twitter as to whether this could be due to Google’s recently-implemented penalty against intrusive mobile interstitials, but there appeared to be no link between the presence of interstitials and the sites which were being affected.

@glynndaviesesq Think it’s because of interstitials?

— Britney Muller (@BritneyMuller) February 6, 2017

Of course, in these situations one of the best ways to gain clarity is to ping Google on Twitter. As it happened, Twitter user Vishal Marathe had already contacted John Mueller, Google’s webmaster trends analyst, a few days earlier about the same issue. Mueller’s theory was that the swap in rankings might be due to a problem in the way the sites themselves were set up.

@VishMarathe411 Happy to look at examples. My guess is the sites might not be set up correctly.

— John ☆.o(≧▽≦)o.☆ (@JohnMu) February 3, 2017

Glitchy Google

Pi Datametrics tracked the ranking of the affected sites on both mobile and desktop with its data-driven SEO platform, in order to try and determine what might be causing the change. Glynn Davies explained Pi’s thinking in trying to determine the cause:

“Our first suspicion on noticing this was an error in configuration that was being “punished” by Google’s switch to mobile-first indexing. Google recommend a bi-directional rel=“canonical”/rel=“alternate”, which identifies the relationship between equivalent but separate mobile and desktop pages.

However, that doesn’t appear to be the cause. Some affected sites are correctly configured, others appear not to be. Plus, all examples we’ve seen conditionally redirect, i.e. clicking the desktop site result on a mobile device will pass the user back to the mobile site.”

An image from Pi Datametrics’ platform highlighting the sites that were affected by the mysterious change – and those which weren’t. | Image: Pi Datametrics

Fashion retailer ASOS is one of the brands whose sites were affected by the switch in rankings. Image: Pi Datametrics

Major fashion retailer ASOS was one of those affected, and its mobile and desktop sites exhibited some particularly strange behaviour with regard to US and UK search. Davies explained:

“One of the examples, a large fashion retailer (ASOS), is further complicated by the fact that the US mobile page ranking 1st in UK mobile search has been replaced by the UK desktop equivalent (which now still redirects to the US version when accessed through SERPs).

In short, there doesn’t appear to be either a clear cause or a reason why some are affected while others aren’t.”

Things became significantly clearer when, on Wednesday 8th February, John Mueller tweeted to confirm that this was in fact a glitch (or “quirk”) on Google’s end, rather than intentional behaviour, and that Google was actively looking into the issue.

@razbithume yeah, looks weird :). We noticed too and are looking into it on our side. Seems like a quirk on our side.

— John ☆.o(≧▽≦)o.☆ (@JohnMu) February 8, 2017

As of right now, the glitch seems to still be ongoing while Google looks into things. There is a chance that the issue could be unrelated to mobile-first indexing – after all, Google has any number of algorithm updates, both big and small, in the pipeline for throughout the year – most of which we won’t even know about until they’re on top of us. Mobile-first indexing just happens to be a major one that we know is coming.

But given the fact that this glitch affects mobile sites specifically, and the timing of it, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to conclude that it could be the result of tests that Google is carrying out ahead of a full implementation of the new index.

What were Google’s biggest search algorithm updates of 2016?

Google

Yes, we’re well into 2017 now and Google has already rolled out a significant algorithm update this year. But of course every SEO worth her salt knows that last year’s algo updates are significant indicators of the changes to come – search engines are known for making slow and incremental adjustments to their filters.

So while we’re still piecing together lessons from wins and losses in organic search last year, here’s a visual and entertaining summary of Google’s moves in 2016 that might well help us in predicting where SEO will take us in 2017.

Google’s Biggest Search Algorithm Updates Of 2016 – a visual representation by E2M

Seven tools to help you run multichannel digital marketing campaigns

With exponential changes in the marketing landscape over the last decade, Marshall McLuhan’s proclamation “The medium is the message” has gained new meaning.

Faced with a constant deluge of information and brand messaging, it has become a necessity for companies to be in front of customers’ eyes more than ever before, thanks to perpetual connectivity.

A strong multichannel marketing campaign uses a combination of direct and indirect means of communication to reach a broad target audience. In turn, customers are encouraged to take action through the channel of their choice. At the end of the day, multichannel marketing is all about options.

There’s no denying that customers these days have a lot of control over the buying process and consumption of information. They determine both the “how” and the “when” of the cycle leading to a conversion.

Today, there are a myriad of ways to reach consumers. As the number of applicable platforms rises, multichannel digital marketing will be more than just advantageous – it will be vital to a brand’s success.

Here are seven tools to consider when putting your strategy together.

1. ClearVoice for content marketing

Content marketing is an entity that needs to be on every brand’s radar. It is arguably THE MOST crucial element to any digital marketing campaign. According to a Curata report, 75% of marketers are still increasing their investment in content. Producing high-value material addressing issues or concerns within the industry is perhaps the best way to engage and grow a target audience.

A strong reliable content strategy needs an efficient way to facilitate and streamline discovery, development, and distribution. Enter ClearVoice. This multi-faceted tool gives the user all necessary functionality to manage content through the entire marketing process from A to Z.

This interface allows you to create content on your own or outsource to freelancers if needed. It is also linked to WordPress as well as a number of other content management systems to ensure that publication and distribution are integrated and simple to execute. Some key features include:

  • Audience targeting
  • Content categorization
  • Publication scheduling
  • Collaboration with content creators
  • Subscription to publisher/author database
  • Campaign management
  • Progress tracking

Through the content measurement function, you will gain in-depth insights on what or who performs the best, and what can be improved upon in the future.

Content marketing is one of the most effective ways to create a lasting relationship between brands and consumers. If your company is planning to automate your content process from planning to distribution, consider ClearVoice as a customizable resource to build a powerful strategy.

2. Mention for social media

The best social media campaigns do not start with postings right off the bat. They start with critical observation. They key to establishing a strong social media presence is putting yourself in the shoes of the ideal customer. Although a post may seem valuable in your eyes, the masses have a completely different perspective of your industry and what excites you might be totally irrelevant to them.

Mention is a user-friendly tool that monitors all the major social media channels on the web to keep you up-to-date and informed every time someone mentions you, you brand, competitors, or targeted keywords.

Some of the premier features enable you to:

  • Track mentions across an array of online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.
  • Create alerts to notify you of any mentions of your business name, competitors, or other keywords
  • Filter and prioritize alerts
  • Assign tasks across a team
  • Track and analyze data to determine the top sources of mentions

Mention is also available on mobile so you can keep up on activity while you’re on the go and act quickly when needed.

Monitoring your brand/industry is a must. An essential part of creating a social media campaign is learning what your audience wants to hear and when they want to hear it. Without these crucial insights, your messages can easily fall victim to getting lost in the never-ending stream of updates and new content. Mention is a very affordable path to get the inside scoop on your audience’s voice.

3. MailChimp for email marketing

Email will always be one of the most important tools in the realm of digital marketing. In fact, 89% of marketers swear by email’s effectiveness as the primary channel for lead generation. This is one of the best forms of direct marketing as it seamlessly bypasses all the hustle and bustle of the internet while guiding viewers down the sales funnel.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of email marketing is that the people you are contacting have already shown interest in your brand. They have signed up to receive messages from you and are ready to hear more. Emailing each of your potential customers one-by-one is virtually impossible. One of the most popular tools companies are using to make the process more efficient is MailChimp.

The simply-designed dashboard gives you everything you need to:

  • Set up campaigns
  • Create segmented lists
  • Build forms to increase engagement
  • Invite colleagues to work on campaigns

What I absolutely love about MailChimp is how it makes it dead simple to track the success rates of each email blast:

This platform is great for businesses of all sizes, especially if you are just starting out. A few of the additional benefits of the service are:

  • FREE for up to 2000 subscribers and 12,000 monthly emails
  • Works great with WordPress
  • User-friendly HTML template creation (no coding experience needed)

Regardless of what stage your business is in, MailChimp offers an affordable solution to keep in touch with your leads and previous customers. Optimizing your mass emailing system is a great way to ensure nothing slips through the cracks when reaching out to customers.

4. Marketo for marketing automation

Marketing automation is what even enterprise businesses dreamt of only a few decades ago. It is utopian technology that enables brands to streamline marketing tasks and workflows in a manner that boosts efficiency (and revenue) across the board.

One of the biggest advantages of marketing automation is that it levels the playing field for the smaller companies, enabling them to take on entrenched behemoths by optimizing elements like:

  • Lead nurturing
  • Audience segmentation
  • Customer lifecycle marketing
  • Cross-selling
  • Upselling
  • Tracking tangible and intangible metrics

With automated marketing, you can engineer your website and customer interaction points to provide a more personal, customized user experience. It enables you to answer two crucial questions:

  • What can I do to give my buyers more of what they want?
  • What can I do to help improve my customer’s buying experience?

Marketo is a versatile tool that provides companies of all sizes with the necessary resources and information to navigate the waters of automated marketing and do all of the above.

Integrated with SaaS providers via its Launchpoint ecosystem, this platform gives marketers in practically every industry the upper hand over their competitors. Some of the primary features this tool encompasses are:

  • Robust mobile tools
  • Email A/B testing
  • Micro targeting
  • Smart lists
  • Engagement programs

From optimizing your staff’s time to pinpointing the most promising leads for your sales team, automated marketing with Marketo can be a game-changer in boosting your revenue and growing your brand. Check out their pricing options to find what would best suit your business.

5. WordStream for search advertising

PPC with search and social media marketing is a quick route to take when you’re looking to generate traffic to your website or capitalize on a trending event or occasion. However, if you decide to include PPC into your multichannel digital marketing strategy, you will need a firm understanding of the workings of digital ad platforms, networks, exchanges, SaaS products and services, as well as publishers.

WordStream is a top-notch tool that will not only set you up and provide proper data on your Google AdWords and social media PPC campaigns, but also will alert you with insights on how to adjust your approach to save money and see better results.

Additionally, the WordStream Advisor includes a number of useful features such as:

  • Identification of KPIs
  • Landing page optimization
  • Call tracking
  • Grading of existing campaigns
  • Account management services
  • Cross platform integration
  • Facebook advertising

Research indicates that search ads are clicked on more often than any other form of digital marketing. PPC is a non-disruptive advertising option that can do wonders to drive traffic to your website. Perhaps the most unique element of PPC is that Google doesn’t just reward the brands with the deepest pockets, they reward quality (referring to user preference).

Basically, the more popular and relevant your ads are, the higher rankings you will receive, driving traffic to your website at a lower cost. WordStream has generous pricing options so you can determine if guided PPC is working for your business.

6. Yotpo for online reviews

There are all kinds of business benefits to online customer reviews. For starters, 90% of buying decisions are influenced by them (as BrightLocal found). There’s no denying that today’s consumers are growing increasingly immune to and skeptical of brand messaging and sales tactics. Online reviews provide third-party validation and social proof that play a significant role in boosting conversion rates.

Online reviews and testimonials are all over the internet. You will find them on:

  • Regional business directories
  • Niche listing sites
  • Product review sites
  • Social media
  • Blog posts
  • Company websites

Going out of your way to gather online reviews needs to be a priority, especially from a local SEO perspective. You are losing out on a lot of potential business otherwise. Perhaps the biggest benefit is in the form of trust that reviews build between brands and consumers.

If you are just starting out and your product isn’t exactly selling like hot cakes yet, turning to Yotpo is a great way to consistently generate authentic content from your customers and boost exposure.

Through its automated system, Yotpo uses functions such as Mail After Purchase to send review requests to customers at the most opportune time following a purchase. After a review is created, you will be able to keep the conversation going by thanking them, offering suggestions, or resolving any grievances. Additionally, each Yotpo email is designed to upsell your products with an algorithm that wisely chooses products based on the customer’s previous activity. You can go a step further and also use Yotpo Ads to by turning your reviews into promoted stories on Facebook. That way, you can let your customers do the talking for you.

Yotpo’s review system can lead to a positive ripple effect for your online presence by improving:

  • Web traffic
  • Search engine rankings
  • Customer engagement
  • Brand trust
  • Depth and breadth of content

Online reviews serve as great indicators as to how your business is fairing in the public eye. The challenge is getting happy customers, brand loyalists and advocates, and industry influencers to do them. Based on your needs, take a step back and examine which plan would work best to help generate the most valuable feedback for your business.

7. WorkZone for campaign management

Putting a multichannel digital marketing strategy in motion is one thing, managing every aspect of integrated campaigns is a whole different ballgame. Without the proper resources and organization to execute your strategies, it is inevitable that some parts will fall through the cracks and results won’t match up to expectations.

Understanding the ins and outs of effective communication, collaboration, and task scheduling is essential in carrying out tasks for businesses of all sizes. It is a concept that seems relatively simple until you get into the finer details.

Luckily, there are a number of helpful tools to make program management simple. WorkZone is an easy-to-grasp platform that will make sure you have all your bases covered – it beautifully toes the line between simplistic, drag-and-drop tools and complex, multi-user software.

Through its simplified dashboard, you will be able to:

  • Efficiently assign and implement all tasks
  • Manage risk factors
  • Oversee quality
  • Identify issues and roadblocks
  • Set individual calendars

WorkZone lets you use group calendars to schedule team tasks, workload reports to see who has bandwidth for the next project, threaded timelines to identify dependencies, and develop campaign assets real-time document sharing, image markup, file versioning and approval workflows.

With 15 years of real world brand usage, WorkZone has task execution down to a science. If used properly, this tool will be your strongest ally in making sure each facet of your multichannel marketing campaign is carried out efficiently. Look into their demos to find which plan suits your needs.

Parting thoughts

Customer experience is one of the most prominent competitive differentiators among brands. With more touchpoints of communication coming up as shopping behavior evolves, creating a strong multichannel digital marketing campaign is the best way to get your message out there in the hope of attracting eyes and ears. This means catering to the masses and their preference of media consumption. While each channel is unique in its own way, the most important thing you can do is remain consistent with your approach across your entire campaign.

Hopefully these tools will put you on the right track to succeed and grow your business!

Six steps to a stronger online brand

Hooks

When it comes to maintaining a brand, any good marketer will tell you that reputation management is key.

But it’s not just about monitoring what others say about your business; it’s also making sure you know how to prevent reputation crisis by building a stronger brand.

For better or worst, opinions about your brand are out there. Not only the positive ones that show you what you are doing right, but the negative ones that both give you an opportunity to improve, and to contact the unsatisfied customer and make things right. That builds brand loyalty, showing your potential customers that you are the brand they can trust.

1. Set up brand monitoring

One of the easiest tools for this task is Google Alerts. Setting it up is easy and free, and the tool sends you the alerts the moment they come up on the search engine, allowing you to quickly handle any problems that might have happened.

Here is how to set it up:

  • Sign into your Google account and go to the Google Alerts page.
  • Enter your search query, which is the keyword you wish to be monitored. Keep in mind that you can create several of these alerts for different keywords. You can also use advanced and boolean operators to include several queries into one alert.
  • State what kind of results you want, like blogs, news, discussions, etc. Or you can monitor everything, getting all results with your keywords.
  • Select how often you want to get alerts, which can be once a week, once a day or as-it-happens.
  • Obviously, there are numerous uses for this tool including the ability to monitor the competition, industry news or updates relevant to your brand.

    Here are some specific search queries you can try using:

    • [My Name] – to track the mentions of your name.
    • [My Company Name] – to monitor the company name mentions (reviews, forum posts, etc)
    • [mycompanyname.com] – to monitor the domain name mentions; some of the backlinks can also be discovered that way…

    Google Alerts is just one (admittedly best-known) tool to monitor your brand online. There are more, better tools:

    • Brand Mentions is a newer tool sending you daily email digests with your brand mentions
    • Buzzsumo is a great tool allowing you to set up multiple alerts to monitor your online mentions
    • Hooks is a mobile app allowing you to set up alerts to monitor your brand mentions on the go. BestAndroidApps offers a good tutorial on how to set up mobile alerts using the app.

    2. Research your brand-sensitive keywords

    Knowing what your past or future customers are typing in Google when trying to research your brand or find answers to their questions is the best way to understand what your users are struggling with and how to help them.

    Brand sensitive keywords

    I have already written a detailed guide on how to research brand-related keywords here. In short, using Serpstat find all the different keyword variations containing your brand name and then monitor the rankings.

    Serpstat

    It’s a good idea to play with those keywords a bit to:

    • Sort them into tabs (by action to take, for example, “Build a new page” or “Include this section in the FAQ section” are two possible actions to take),
    • Color code (by sentiment: You want to rank #1 for both positive and negative phrases)
    • Tag (by the team to assign to handle each of them, for example, assign some phrases to your usability or reputation management teams to handle).

    3. Monitor your competitors

    Keeping an eye on your competitors is the best way to avoid their mistakes and thus keep your brand image safe. I use two simple tools to monitor competitors:

    SEranking offers great competitor monitoring and reporting tools that I think are the easiest on the market. See how your competitors are doing at a glance and notice any important trends, i.e. sudden drop in rankings or quick increase in PPC budget. Make sure to dog deeper once you notice some unusual movement

    SEranking

    Twitter sentiment search: Using Tweetdeck (or Hootsuite) I always keep an eye on [my-competitor :(] results: Make sure there’s a space before 🙁

    This search will bring up all your competitors’ unhappy customers giving you a good insight into what not to do to irritate your audience:

    4. Handle negative mentions with grace

    The worst thing you can do is to register a new account at a forum and try to pretend you are the happy user of your service… That’s too obvious!

    Instead, try not to lose your face and represent yourself: The owner of the company. Be helpful, authentic and respectful. You can’t please everyone but you can surely help them solve their problems.

    Don’t try to get rid of negative sentiment by blocking unhappy customers or deleting their comments. This will backfire!

    A good way to handle negativity is healthy humor, if you know you have a good sense of one:

    Reply to a negative comment

    5. Make sure your visual brand is consistent

    Having a recognizable visual identity is the most effective way to build a stronger brand. People remember your site, logo and message if they keep seeing consistent visual elements over and over again, across different parts of the website, social media channels, email messages, even on other sites (via your advertising creatives).

    Whether you are planning a Facebook ad campaign or a regular email blast, keep an eye on how well your brand visual elements are kept across your assets.

    Here are a few free branding mockups for to use or at least get inspired:

    • Free corporate branding PSD template
    • Branding stationery mockup
    • Branding identity template

    Mockups

    Smartketer claims that display advertising is the best way to establish brand identity and there are some recent examples that confirm the point. So if you have some problems with your online reputation, a smart display advertising campaign may be in order.

    6. Make sure your website is secure

    One of the most frustrating and irritating reasons for a reputation management crisis is a constantly broken website. And it happens more often than you may think! Make sure that your site is fast, secure and reliably hosted to avoid all kinds of reputation management crises we witness again and again.

    Iflexion is a great example handling the website security seriously. Take a look at their security and IP protection page to get inspired. It details all the best practices they are executing to keep their customers safe. If you haven’t yet, it may be a good time to create a similar page to ensure your customers you are exercising due diligence in preventing online attacks and your products or services can be trusted.

    iflexion

    Have I missed anything? Share your own tips to building a stronger, more powerful brand.

    How digital marketers can take advantage of Valentine’s Day

    Valentine’s Day is the first big campaign of the year for brands. How can digital marketers take advantage of it and reach their target audience?

    More than 50% of adults celebrate Valentine’s Day, which means that this is a great opportunity for marketers to promote their products in the most appealing way.

    Bing has released a guide to Valentine’s Day for digital marketers to help advertisers get a better understanding of the occasion, and take advantage of the fact that there was an estimated spending of $19.7 billion last year for the day.

    Given that there was a 4% increase in consumer spending from 2015 to 2016, Valentine’s Day 2017 could be even bigger. So here are the tips that marketers need to know:

    Think of a wider audience

    Planning for an effective campaign should start with an analysis of the target audience. It has been observed that the recipients of a Valentine’s Day gift go beyond romantic partners, with more than half of adult Americans identifying themselves as single. This does not stop them from celebrating the occasion with family, friends, co-workers, or pets.

    This means that marketers can beat their competitors by targeting a wider audience, trying to include all the different types of gifts someone may be searching for for Valentine’s Day.

    Pick the right keywords

    The right use of keywords depends on a proper understanding of your target users. As we’ve seen, gifts go beyond husbands and wives, with friends coming second in the searches for Valentine’s Day on Bing.

    Pick the right timing

    Valentine’s Day is an occasion of short planning and quick turnaround, with 46% of searches and shopping taking place in early February. Only 23% of shopping occurs in January, while 10% takes place on the day before the occasion.

    This brings out a great opportunity for marketers who are present at the right time, just when the searches and clicks increase.

    It’s important for marketers to ensure that their budget will last until the final day of the campaign. Budgeting carefully for the week preceding the 14th is especially crucial, as this is the period that clicks peak.

    How to optimise search for Valentine’s Day

    It has been observed that the use of desktop and mobile devices is almost equal in Valentine’s Day searches, which means that mobile optimisation is crucial.

    48% of all Bing searches for Valentine’s Day in 2016 were performed on a mobile device, up 8 percentage points from 2015.

    Moreover, 30.5% use mobile to research products or compare prices.

    The power of mobile

    As mobile search keeps increasing, marketers need to improve their mobile ads to ensure that they drive the desired engagement.

    Multiple extensions tend to be more effective, with site link extensions, location extensions, and call extensions leading to higher click-through rates.

    This is an interesting reflection of what makes a successful mobile ad, as it helps marketers understand what the audience expects from a targeted mobile ad.

    Overview

    Valentine’s Day cannot be ignored by marketers, and despite the inevitably short lifespan of Valentine’s campaigns, they can still be converted into increased sales and new customers.

    To sum up, these are Bing’s suggestions on how to create a successful campaign for Valentine’s Day:

    • Prioritize high-value audiences
    • Focus on last-minute timing
    • Prioritize mobile search
    • Create campaigns around trending Valentine’s Day gifts.

    Four most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

    Two side-by-side screenshots showing the new, more visual, Snapchat Discover, with large picture thumbnails of Discover stories overlaid with text.

    Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from the world of search marketing and beyond.

    This week, Instagram Stories is draining the life from the very Snapchat feature that inspired it; publishers are losing patience with walled gardens; and paid ads may soon be coming to voice search – what does this mean for the user experience?

    Ads are now a billion-dollar business for Amazon

    Yesterday, Amazon released its fourth-quarter earnings report for 2016, disappointing members of Wall Street with revenue that was lower than some had estimated.

    But buried within the report was data which suggested that Amazon’s efforts to become a larger player in the digital advertising world are gaining steam. Al Roberts reported on the news for ClickZ this week, and considered how much further Amazon’s ad business might be able to go.

    Instagram Stories might be killing Snapchat Stories

    In a painfully ironic turn of events, the much-derided Instagram knock-off of Snapchat Stories might actually be killing the original. Al Roberts reported for ClickZ on how the usage of Snapchat Stories has declined significantly since Instagram launched its own version of the feature.

    Instagram trying to be like Snapchat #instagramstories pic.twitter.com/KbyGCtYqRr

    — Jace Lacob (@televisionary) August 2, 2016

    According to Nick Cicero, who runs creative studio and social analytics platform Delmondo, “from August to November 2016, the average unique viewers per Snapchat Story has decreased about 40%.”

    Just this week, Snapchat’s parent company Snap Inc. filed for an Initial Public Offering of $3 billion, setting in motion what could be the biggest tech flotation in years, and revealing surging sales as well as some significant losses. If this trend of declining interest in Snapchat’s features continues, the latter may win out over the former. But if Snap’s moves to evolve its business beyond the Snapchat app are successful, the company will soon have bigger fish to fry.

    Is Facebook Instant Articles a flop for publishers?

    In May 2015, Facebook launched Instant Articles, a way for publishers to create “fast, interactive articles on Facebook” – as long as they are published within Facebook’s walled garden.

    Less than two years on, publishers are waking up to the fact that Instant Articles may not necessarily be the best deal for them. According to a report published by Digital Content Next, some publishers are starting to scale back their use of Instant Articles, citing restrictions on the number and kinds of ads they can incorporate into their content. This in turn is making it harder for them to drive revenue, especially in comparison to their own websites.

    The report also indicates that content publishers may be losing patience with walled gardens of every kind, as Snapchat’s Discover is seen as holding “little to no short-term financial interest” to publishers.

    The future of voice search, and monetising the map

    Voice search is one of the biggest and potentially most revolutionary trends currently dominating the search industry, and was a major focus of Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report for 2016. This is particularly true for local search, as voice searches are frequently “near me” queries carried out on a mobile device when users are out and about.

    Until now, voice search has remained un-monetised; but that could all be about to change. Columnist Brian Smith took a look at how this might come about, as well as the potential pitfalls of paid voice search, over on Search Engine Land.