How to boost sales by improving your trust signals

download

It’s obvious that the internet has a conversion problem, and many businesses are constantly evolving ways to better convert traffic they get.

In this quest, they consider things like A/B testing, changing button color, having a more persuasive copy, etc. They often ignore what is perhaps the most important factor that drives every transaction: TRUST.

If people do not trust your brand, your conversions will suffer no matter how persuasive your copy is.

Thankfully, it is easy to get people to trust your brand more by working on trust signals. Here are three things research has shown to work really well for building trust.

Using security seals

One of the most effective ways to boost sales and conversions on your website is by using security trust seals.

Just recently, news broke out that some of the biggest social media sites have been hacked – including LinkedIn and Twitter – resulting in hundreds of millions of personal data being exposed.

Naturally, people are more careful – especially when it comes to revealing sensitive information such as their credit card information online. Even if they love your product and are persuaded by your copy, they won’t necessarily buy from you if they can’t be assured that their details are safe.

A great way to break this trust barrier is by using security seals. According to a Econsultancy/Toluna study, the first thing most people look for when deciding on whether to transact with a website is whether it has a trust seal.

According to the study, a whopping 48% of people are wary of transacting on websites that do not have a security trust seal.

In line with the Econsultancy/Toluna study, simply by adding a trust seal to pages of its website, MyEnergySolution was able to increase registrations by 137% and revenue by 75%. That is a lot of gains!

This isn’t an isolated example… Blue Fountain Media was also able to increase sales on its website by 42% simply by adding the Verisign trust seal.

If you don’t have a trust seal on your website, it is most likely costing you sales. Here are some tips to help you get the best from trust seals:

  • Go with a reliable security provider: not all trust seals are equal. According to a study by Baymard Institute, the Norton trust seal is the most recognized, followed by McAfee, TRUSTe and the BBB trust seal. Go with one of these if you can.
  • Make the seals clearly visible on all pages of your site: instead of simply having a seal on your checkout page, you want to consistently reinforce the fact that your prospects can trust their security on your website at all times.
  • Feature the trust seals prominently enough: if people can’t see them, they don’t really matter. You don’t have to hide the trust seals at the bottom of your website as that serves no purpose; instead, feature the seals prominently enough where every potential customer can see them.

Using the SSL security protocol

It’s amazing how many businesses process credit card transactions without encrypting sensitive information through the SSL security protocol.

https padlock

If you require users to register on your website in one way or the other, or to use their credit cards for that matter, the importance of using the SSL protocol cannot be overstated.

Besides the fact that using SSL actually encrypts information submitted through your site and grants your users increased security, users knowing that you use the protocol has been observed to boost sales.

In fact, some sources have claimed that using SSL on a website can improve sales by as much as 30%. In fact, furniture site Dwell.co.uk was able to boost sales by over $35,000 monthly (a 13.8% increase) simply by implementing SSL on its site – this turned out to be a 48,000% ROI for their investment in an SSL certificate.

Involving customers in your brand

A very important trust signal that many businesses ignore, that can boost sales to a significant extent, is involving customers in the brand.

When the famous American showman P.T. Barnum said, “Nothing draws a crowd quite like a crowd” he sure wasn’t joking. Barnum was far ahead of his time, and research backs him up.

Research shows that a massive 90% of consumers read online reviews before calling a contractor, and 63% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a site that has reviews and testimonials.

Various other studies have shown that one of the cues we look for when trying to interact with a brand is its popularity (or social proof). If we see that a lot of people are using, and liking, a particular brand, we are more likely to want to involve ourselves with that brand.

Here are some other ways to involve customers in your brand:

  • Get testimonials from customers who are using your products and feature it prominently.
  • Showcase customer reviews so that other potential customers can see what others think about your products.
  • Invite customers to participate in helping shape your brand and products; do regular surveys, ask for their opinion and even have them contribute to your company blog. This shows a more personal side of your brand, increasing the likelihood of potential customers trusting you.

Ajay Paghdal is the founder of Youth Noise, a digital marketing firm and OutreachMama a productized marketing service, and a contributor to SEW. You can connect with Ajay on Twitter.

Three ways an SEO is like a financial planner and how this affects agency proposals

seo-advice-from-all-over-the-place

I read an interesting statement this week, one that resonated and made sense in all the right ways. “I think of link building the same way I would my retirement account.”

The quote is from Nathan Gotch and it relates to whether or not PBN’s are worth using still.

The central premise is that you cannot build a PBN without there being at least some risk involved, just as you cannot invest in your retirement without there being risk involved. All investments come with associated risks.

This got me thinking about financial planners and the role they play within retirement savings. It occurred to me that in many ways, an SEO should treat their client’s link building efforts in much the same way that a financial planner treats their client’s retirement savings.

This got me searching for more parallels between an SEO and a financial planner; here are just three of them.

1) They have a deep knowledge of a cluttered industry and their clients pay to gain access to this knowledge and direction

Just as there are plenty of ‘uncles’ or friends out there who think they know a thing or two about the stock market and managing an investment portfolio, there are plenty of people out there who are willing to share their 2 cents and advice on SEO.

Whether it be someone in their immediate friend circle that has put on the ‘expert’ hat and decided to guide them, or potentially one of the numerous Facebook ads with consultants outlining their “x step program to 6 figure SEO returns”.

The trust that a client puts into their SEO is about making sure that they are getting professional advice, and finding someone who will stake their own reputation on the advice that they hand out.

This is not always going to be easy, as there are constantly forces within a client’s sphere of influence that are making suggestions. An SEO really needs to cut through all the noise and show why it is that they can be trusted.

2) They are in charge of managing long-term investment of real time assets and cash flow

SEO is the long game, much like your retirement planning. There is no point in a financial planner that makes you millions in a few years, but then runs your retirement savings into the ground by the time you need it.

People do not go to a financial planner wanting to be rich tomorrow, they go because they want to make sure their finances are stable and set for the future. Perhaps a difference here can quite often be that SEO clients do not necessarily see the connection between SEO and their retirement savings.

It is up to both of these professionals to direct existing surpluses of resources towards ensuring a further abundance in the future. The financial planner uses your existing wealth to create additional wealth. The SEO uses your existing money, time and expertise to yield returns on your website’s visibility well into the future.

3) They both outline strategies with a breakdown of investment cost, expected return and any risks involved.

A great deal of the time, people go to one of these professionals because they do not want to invest the time and resources into studying the industry, so they are just looking for someone that they trust to represent their best interests.

In the same way that you would expect your financial planner to give their statement of advice and outline a risk vs reward profile for each decision, an SEO should be engaging in a similar practice.

risk-vs-reward

Wherever you sit on various risky practices within your field, the ethics of the matter only comes down to whether or not your client is fully aware of the risks present in your tactics.

It is an SEO’s job to outline all of the costs versus potential rewards. It is also their responsibility to let their client know if they are using any risky practices or not within the proposal they are bringing forward.

How social proof can boost SEO

social proof - customer reviews

Social proof can be very effective for your marketing strategy, but it may also impact your SEO efforts.

Social proof is the attempt to build credibility and trust towards your business by showcasing what others think of it. Instead of promoting your business on your own, you are doing it through others, whether they are experts, celebrities, or simply your customers, helping a new audience discover your product.

It relies on psychology and how people enjoy being part of a social group of like-minded people, which eventually may affect their purchasing decisions and their online behaviour.

According to a research by Nielsen, 92% of people trust recommendations from a peer, while even 70% of them trust a consumer’s opinion that was posted online, without even knowing that person.

Social proof may be used in many different ways, depending on the industry, the audience, the goals, or the expectations of it:

Types of social proof

Customer reviews

Many customers consult online reviews before a purchasing decision, in order to assess a product. Whether it’s Amazon, Yelp, or Booking, all popular online services offer customer reviews, in order to help users decide on their own.

Even negative reviews, when there is a balance with the positive ones, may be useful, as they offer an honest presentation of the product and how other people found it.

Many sites showcase the positive reviews as an approval of their product, which usually forms one of them most important cases of social proof.

Booking not only features its customers’ reviews about the hotels, but also about its services, building trust with its prospect customers, as it convinces them on the effectiveness of its services.

Expert opinion

It’s a common tactic to feature a review by an expert in your product’s field to prove your worth and CoSchedule has decided to showcase the opinion of Jay Baer, in order to promote its platform in the best possible way.

This helps potential customers feel reassured that an expert approves of the product, which probably means that they’ll (have to) like it, too.

social proof - expert opinion

Audiense showcases reviews by professionals using its services, in order to promote its product in the most relevant way.

The use of the number of 10,000 brands and agencies along with the actual reviews by the considered experts in the industry make a strong case of social validation for the product, encouraging more companies to try it out.

social proof - experts

Influencer endorsements

Influencer marketing has been very popular lately and as social stars increase, so does their effect on product endorsement. Whether it’s a paid collaboration or simply a review, influencers have the power to affect a purchasing decision, that’s why they tend to get featured in more and more pages.

Pets make great influencers counts thousands of followers and BarkBox decided to feature two reviews from dog celebrities who tried out its products.

social proof - influencer endorsement

ASOS heavily relies on influencer marketing to promote its products, which led to a whole team of ASOS insiders who promote its products on their Instagram accounts, serving as the best ambassadors for the site.

What’s more, they are also featured in a special page, presenting them and proving that it’s not just the brand that promotes the products, but actual real people who use their social influence in the best possible way.social proof - influencer endorsement asos

Logos

social proof - badgesLogos provide a visual appeal, especially when they are widely recognised, as they manage to increase the credibility in just a few seconds.

Whether they are logos of clients, featured apps, a badge of a popular collaboration, or a reward, they manage to use social proof in the right way for every type of site.

social proof - logos

Subscriber counts

Our own sister site ClickZ encourages readers to sign up to its newsletter, by also mentioning the fact that more than 200k digital marketers receive it in their mailbox.

The use of the number of subscribers helps the audience understand the size of the professionals interested in the particular newsletter, which creates again a sense of belonging, making the subscription more relevant and meaningful.

social proof - subscriber counts - clickz

Showcasing clients

social proof - clients

Another great way to apply the tactic of social proof to a site is to showcase in a prominent place the clients your company is working with.

If it involves popular clients, that can be recognised through their logos, this increases the chances that visitors will trust the company on their own. There is the feeling of familiarity and connection that is created, which makes it easier to build a relationship with prospective clients.

social proof - clients

Media mentions

As with clients, media mentions help a site build its credibility through a series of respectable sources. The more popular the publisher, the bigger the chances to increase the trust among the client and the company.

Thus, many sites feature the sources that are mentioned, especially if they are well known enough to be recognised by their logo, in order to prove that they have already earned high quality links.

social proof - media mentions

Blending social proof with SEO

Social proof not only helps with a company’s marketing efforts, but it may also affect its SEO.

Fresh content

As with any other type of content, reviews and testimonials are always welcome for a company, as they still count as fresh content and search engines will appreciate them even more if they are coming at a frequent rate.

Moreover, social proof and fresh content may take place in other sites, where the new links can still indicate the relevance of the original place.

Thus, a company may encourage reviews and comments coming directly from users and experts, as this is another great way to help its SEO efforts.

Authority

Social proof may affect a site’s authority, whether it’s about reviews or social mentions. In fact, social media may boost your authority more than you can imagine. There may be a long discussion on whether social signals have a direct link with SEO and when it comes to authority, you cannot ignore them.

Let’s say that a software company releases a new product. You are featuring the reviews on your page and users are excited about it. Except for the sales and the reviews, people are excited enough to spread a word about it on social media.

This leads to numerous mentions, an extended reach and several links coming back to your site.

If influencers and media refer to your product in their social accounts, then you are also building trust and credibility, which means that social signals are contributing to an increased authority in your field, with search engines noticing the growing popularity of it.

Improving rankings

As fresh content and authority increase, so do the chances of boosting your position in SERPs. Relevance, freshness, and links are appreciated by search engines, which makes it challenging for companies to use social proof on their own benefit, turning a review into an opportunity for improved SEO.

Social proof may become even more important when you consider that the content is coming directly from users, which means that it’s offering a better overview of a page, also boosting the chances of increased sales.

As more users review a product, the search of [product + review] becomes more popular and this is helping more consumers discover it.

What’s more, user reviews may also help with long tail searches, as the language is similar to the type people may be using when searching for a product, which increases the chances of targeting the right audience.

Takeaway

There are many ways to embrace social proof in your site and your online presence and what’s important to remember is:

  • New content is always welcome
  • Users talking about your product can affect sales more than any other promotional effort
  • Link building, even if it comes through social media, is always welcome
  • Search engines value authority and social signals cannot be ignored
  • There’s always a new way to build trust and credibility
  • Don’t forget to experiment with new ideas of highlighting your social proof

Four pillars of SEO management: optimizing content for success

content optimisation framework

According to research conducted by my company, BrightEdge, an estimated 51% of the traffic arriving on your website today originates from organic search.

This means that your position on the SERP has more impact on your site traffic than paid search, email, social media, and direct visitors combined. Gaining this attention is critical, but it is also quickly becoming more challenging.

An estimated 88% of B2B companies and 77% of B2C companies say that they use content marketing.

In both groups, about half say that they will be increasing their budgets in the coming year. The increased budget will lead to more content, and the digital ecosystem is about to become even more saturated.

Brands need to find ways to stand out despite this massive amount of content, and SEO is an important part of that equation.

SEO, however, presents problems for many markets and their departments. To begin, convincing those who are not involved with SEO – especially those in the c-suite – of the value of these digital efforts to gain the budget needed, can be a challenge.

The industry itself is also continually changing as the algorithm and customer expectations evolve.

Understanding the four pillars of SEO management however, will empower to you to appropriately target your audience, see success, and grow your organization.

Here is what all marketers should know…

Image Source – Andy Betts, Adobe Summit EMEA, Optimizing Content for The Customer Journey

Identify your demand

The first step to creating a SEO management plan is to identify your demand. This means knowing what topics interest your audience so that you can better entice them to follow your brand and make their way slowly down the funnel to conversion.

Look at the existing content on your website, to begin. You want to see which types of content and which topics are driving the most success. See what pieces correlate best with traffic, conversions, and revenue.

Look at the links between your pieces and see if your material is able to efficiently move people from one stage of the buyer’s journey to the next.

The better you understand the current performance of your content, the easier it will be to identify your strengths and weaknesses. You will also be able to clearly see what content your audience appreciates the most, and thus build on this information going forward.

You also want to take a good look at your target buyer personas and their buyer’s journey.

Make sure you have a strong idea of the market you are targeting, including their budget, pain points, and motivations.

As you are able to understand what your prospective customers want to see at each stage of the buyer’s journey, you will be able to start creating the content that fills these needs. You can then entice your customers further through the buyer’s journey.

Once you have your buyers targeted and you know what they want to see, use keyword research to find topics that generate interest within your industry.

High search rates can help you uncover topics that people want to read about. Examine the keywords and look at the existing highest ranked sites for that topic. Then select keywords that you will be able to fully develop and earn a position for on the SERP.

Benchmark the competition

It is important to remember that in SEO, not only are you trying to get your own content to rank, but to succeed, you must also outrank the competition.

For this reason, it is important to know what the other brands are doing, where they are succeeding, and where they are falling short.

leather womens shoes ppc

When you uncover methods that are working for others, such as topics, social strategies, and types of content, you can look to incorporate some of these ideas into your own digital strategy.

Competitor sites can help you uncover new keywords that are important to customers, for example. You can also use areas where they are falling short to your advantage.

For example, if they are lacking content for a particular buyer persona, you can optimize this content on your own site to draw in a greater percentage of the customers that fit these criteria.

It can also be helpful to look at the highest ranking sites for your big keywords. Look at the type of content that ranks well and how that content has been optimized. Use this to ensure your material is fully prepared to compete in the search engines.

Create and optimize your content

Once you have gathered your information through keyword research, the buyer’s journey for your main personas, and your competitors, you now need to create the high-end material that your customers expect to see from you.

It is important to provide material that shows depth, not thin content that is produced just to check off a keyword list.

Offer something meaningful that will entice people to share it and come back to your page in the future. Remember that you want your brand to be viewed as a leader, so do not be a follower and just repost what everyone else has said.

Find ideas to explore and add your own unique insights as an industry professional.

Once the content has been created, you then need to optimize it. This includes:

  • Using your keywords naturally throughout the piece
  • Using your keywords in areas such as the title tag, headings, URL, and alt tags
  • Linking your page to the rest of your site through inbound and outbound internal links
  • Including the page in your site map
  • Enhance your site speed
  • Include local keywords when possible
  • Make sure your site is ready for mobile, and consider configuring the page for AMP if appropriate.

You also want to work on creating an effective distribution system based upon your target audience and where you think they would be. This includes your social media pages and your email lists.

Finally, do not forget to seek backlinks whenever possible. If someone mentions your research, for example, but does not cite you, consider reaching out and asking for a backlink.

Measure your results

As you work with this SEO management system, it is critical that you do not neglect the final step: measuring your results.

The analytics you use will impact your entire SEO program. It will inform your future campaigns of the most effective methods. It will also directly influence how well your pitches and reports are received by your organization’s leaders, and thus your budget and resources.

You want to monitor each step of your campaign. Be able to tell your senior management what happened, why, and how SEO directly influenced positive outcomes.

You want to be able to show how you will be adjusting your strategies moving forward and how the investment in SEO will benefit the company. Brand leaders like to be able to see concrete numbers, especially reflecting ROI – they do not want to hear about opinions or hunches.

social analytics

SEO presents a unique challenge because it requires waiting and there are few immediate results. Create a story that shows your quantifiable progress over time and what you can expect to see moving forward.

For your own insight, you want to make sure you can clearly see how your campaign has influenced your brand’s goals, such as awareness, conversions, and revenue.

Look at how well you are able to coax people through their buyer’s journey, your bounce rates, and your revenue. Poor performance in these areas might indicate a problem in your management plan, such as poorly designed buyer personas or low-quality content. Use these metrics to decide the best courses of action moving forward.

SEO management continues to be a challenge for marketers as the technology and expectations perpetually change. By implementing a firm strategy, however, brands can effectively reach their target audiences, engage them, and drive business results forward.

Digital Democracy: how well does Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto bring social media and socialism together?

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 10.55.01

This week, Jeremy Corbyn took to Facebook Live to announce the launch of The Digital Democracy Manifesto – a key policy announcement in his bid to be re-elected leader of the Labour Party, and part of his 10 pledge plan ‘to rebuild and transform Britain’ should he become Prime Minister.

As someone who has over the past decade written about social media, worked with online learning providers and co-founded a (soon-to-be-relaunched) community-led wiki/social enterprise, I’ve long been fascinated by how digital technology can influence socio-political change in the real world.

So naturally I’m enthused that a high profile politician is making a big deal about the potential digital tools have to make the UK a fairer place. Much has been written about the Digital Bill of Rights and Digital Citizen Passport aspects of the manifesto elsewhere, so I thought I’d use this post to analyse the social media orientated parts of the document…

So is Corbyn’s manifesto quality content or just digital noise?

Programming for everyone

This is the section that seemed the most eye-catching and bold. The intention is to use publicly funded Open Source technology and a National Education Service to get more children and adults into programming, coding and development.

The manifesto states that:

“The National Education Service will enthuse both children and adults to learn how to write software and to build hardware. Public bodies will financially reward staff technicians who significantly contribute to Open Source projects. We will host official events which celebrate the achievements of both the professional and hobbyist designers of the networked future.”

This will be of interest to many in the digital sector, especially in light of the Conservative government’s latest acknowledgement of the current digital skills gap in the UK.

A recent report by the Science and Technology Committee highlights that 90% of jobs in the country today require digital skills to some extent and suggests that we need 745,000 workers with these skills to fulfil industry demand by 2017.

So how we think about plugging that skills gap is undoubtedly a massive question. A nationalised educational push to get more people into programming could well be a part of the answer.

Social media education for everyone?

The ‘Community Media Freedom’ part of the manifesto looks at access to media and how people are equipped to use emerging tools to best present themselves and their ideas.

While the document doesn’t explicitly refer to social media, it does promise the following:

“We will ensure that British citizens are able both to express their own views and to receive the widest possible diversity of opinions over high speed digital networks. The National Education Service will provide learning resources for students of all ages to acquire the theoretical insights and practical skills for analysing and making media.”

This is an exciting idea for those who think more should be done to educate the public of the best way social tools – including big name services like Facebook and Twitter, as well as blogs, vlogs, wikis and forums – can be harnessed for more than just communicating with friends and accessing entertainment.

Again, the nationalised education scheme looks like the key provider of this information. This is alongside a push to “reform the laws on intellectual property so that both producers and consumers benefit.” This will surely be of interest to social content platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.

Open knowledge library

After just a quick perusal of the manifesto it soon becomes clear that much of Corbyn’s ideas for the UK’s future are centred on how education is key to a future digital democracy – whether in learning to use emerging media to better express ourselves and our ideas, or in actually developing the new medias of the future.

The proposed National Education Service is essential to this, and it is tipped to be a radically democratised online tool itself:

“We will create a free-to-use on-line hub of learning resources for the National Education Service. The Open Knowledge Library will be the digital repository of lessons, lectures, curricula and student work from Britain’s nurseries, schools, colleges and universities.“

Of course, such tools aren’t new. Services such as edX offer free online courses from mostly US-centric universities. But a UK government funded place to pool learning material available to all ages and across new media is a pretty striking idea.

Help for digital social enterprises?

At first I thought the ‘Platform Cooperatives’ section was signalling the allocation of government funds to help stimulate upcoming digital entrepreneurs to focus their talents on projects of social benefit. It states:

“We will foster the cooperative ownership of digital platforms for distributing labour and selling services. The National Investment Bank and regional banks will finance social enterprises whose websites and apps are designed to minimise the costs of connecting producers with consumers in the transport, accommodation, cultural, catering and other important sectors of the British economy.”

After reading it a few times, I’m accepting the idea might not be as far-reaching as I thought and I’m not entirely sure I understand the form such govt./bank funded sharing economy platforms will take. I think some of the confusion comes from the notion of ‘producers’ in relation to transport. (Is that private train companies or simply people who drive cars?)

That said, I see how a Corbyn government would want Britain to lead the ongoing development of sharing economy services – to make the logistics of modern life more cost-efficient and to further boost the social mobility of UK citizens. It’s surely a sector of tomorrow’s digital landscape that has massive potential.

‘Networked democracy’

The manifesto also looks at using digital tools to better enable members of the public to get involved in politics.

This is under a section headed ‘Massive Multi-Person On-line Deliberation,’ to paraphrase:

“We will utilise information technologies to make popular participation in the democratic process easy and inclusive. The holders of a Digital Citizen Passport will be automatically placed on the electoral register of their new constituency as soon as they change their home address…We will create a 21st century networked democracy where everybody can be a political decision-maker.”

There is something quite piecemeal about the way people connect with government through digital channels currently. Petitions gives individuals the quick digital means to gather signatures to get topics debated in parliament, while tools like Government Gateway are quite siloed and look like a relic from a time well before Facebook.

With that in mind, it does seem logical to have digital tools play a more unified cross-channel role in political activities, not least to get the public more engaged in a democracy where they can have more say.

Other points

What I’ve mentioned so far are the parts of The Digital Democracy Manifesto I felt most relevant to those with an interest in social media in the UK, and how social tools can play a bigger part in politics and projects to help social causes in real life.

The manifesto also includes the proposal for a Digital Bill of Rights and an opt-in Digital Citizen Passport which are both quite integral to the broader move to get more people online, and the logistics of having greater numbers of people using more digital tools. It’s worth heading over to the manifesto itself to read what they’re all about.

Criticisms

One key thing that struck me when going through the manifesto was how seemingly unsuitable for social media the onsite content was.

The Facebook Live launch was great, and the points within the document were quite individually tweetable, but I was surprised to see that the accompanying blog post was dry, image-less and failed to link out to examples and further information in an effort to be part of the conversation.

On top of that, much of the language (‘Massive Multi-Person On-line Deliberation‘?!) within the blog and PDF was less than accessible and left me – someone who has worked in digital for nearly ten years – being confused about certain pledges.

Frankly, I wonder how much the manifesto would connect with those who aren’t yet so digitally inclined.

On a content note, I was surprised to see the PDF – i.e. the actual manifesto rather than the supporting blog post – having scant more information than the post. This would have been a good place to spin out some of the more complicated ideas and to give information about plans for where funding would come from (beyond citing the National Investment Bank).

Content-wise, it was also interesting to read a political document on digital culture and to not come across references to the more obvious themes of modern digital life – such as harassment, bullying and notions of security. I wonder if leaving these out was an oversight, or a deliberate way to not overshadow the more positive elements of digital tools and online interactions.

Takeaways – quality content or just noise?

This really depends on who is reading The Digital Democracy Manifesto.

Those with an interest in social media, digital tools and progressive politics will no doubt be enthused by the policy idea. It is refreshing for any politician to be optimistic about the value of digital for real world change – particularly in terms of education and empowering the electorate.

This manifesto certainly goes a step further than embracing Facebook and Twitter as a way for MPs to connect with citizens.

On the flipside, will the manifesto connect with those it really needs to?

The content is great, but perhaps engagement with the manifesto was a bit forgotten after the initial Facebook and Twitter broadcast. I’m unsure that it’s as shareable as it could be and that someone who has just a passing interest in digital and social tools will connect with the jargon.

That, I think, is a shame – because it is those people who I think the manifesto is really aimed at. And it is those who could most benefit from a progressive government with positive ideas for the socio-political power of emerging social technology.

Seven simple rules for effective email communication and outreach

Featured email template

Communication is key to success in life. No matter your industry, field, career, day-to-day responsibilities, or duties, communication is integral to your success.

This is particularly true in SEO and link building, where communication is vital to educating clients, gaining buy-in, executing campaigns, securing links, and presenting results.

Email is the primary mode of communication in today’s digital world. If you can’t communicate well through email, you’ll struggle.

Benefits of effective communication

  • Establishes trust, sets project scope, and defines expectations.
  • Conveys and emphasizes the correct information.
  • Enables both parties to be understood.
  • Identifies team obstacles and facilitates problem solving.
  • Ensures client, team, and personal satisfaction.
  • Your ability to present yourself well, communicate ideas, and pitch is fundamental to success.

    Let me be clear:

    Knowledge, skill, and integrity are vital to any business. But being able to communicate well is crucial in all aspects of work.

    Good communication increases value, instills trust, builds confidence, resolves issues, reveals obstacles, and facilitates virtually every piece of an SEO campaign and relationship with clients, supervisors, and team members.

    Communication is doubly valuable in link building, which requires one-to-one communication with other site owners in order to secure links. You need to effectively communicate WHY it’s in their (or their audiences’) best interest to link.

    Here are my rules for effective email communication (and outreach):

  • Use templates for format.
  • Know your audience.
  • Lead with value.
  • Be clear and concise.
  • Active language wins.
  • Send complete emails.
  • Follow up.
  • What is the goal of your email? Every single element of your email (subject line, structure, word choice) should support that.

    1) Templates: how to format emails

    Everyone has received terrible mass-produced emails with a template containing zero customization.

    If I receive one more “Dear Webmaster” email…

    Despite this, I fervently believe in the value of templates. Templates lead to systems and processes, which lead to well-formatted emails that are easy to read and understand (not to mention produce).

    My rule of thumb for whether or not I use a template is:

  • Am I sending multiple emails to a similar audience?
  • Will I send a similar email in the future?
  • Is there an optimal way to structure the information to convey my message?
  • The secret to a good template is list segmentation. Your template should be customized to your audience, leaving enough room for variance as needed.

    Unless I’m replying to a thread or sending a unique email, it’s highly likely I’m using some form of template.

    Even hand written emails follow a general format (AKA template). Think about the various emails you have to send every day. I bet there are a handful of general templates you follow, even if you’re composing each email individually.

    Here’s an example of a template I use often:

    This is what I use when I include a positive mention of someone or their company in a post. This helps me build a connection, alerts them to the fact they’ve been mentioned and why, and maybe even nets me a couple social shares.

    Creating processes is key to effectiveness. This idea of optimizing shouldn’t be new to the SEO crowd

    2) Know your audience

    The most important rule of communication is to base the entire conversation around your audience.

    Think about it:

    How do you converse with a colleague? A supervisor? A client? A good friend? Your parent?

    Style, tone, word choice, and mode of communication varies with each audience. It’s communication 101 – you need to structure the conversation that makes sense and is effective for that audience.

    Here’s what you should know about your contact before drafting an email:

  • Name
  • Title/position
  • Personality
  • Authority/influence
  • Their communication style
  • How often they’re pitched
  • Your professional relationship.
  • If you send similar emails, regardless of audience, you’re communicating ineffectively.

    3) Value-first Communication

    There’s always a reason WHY you’re sending an email.

    To communicate effectively, it should be clear why you’ve sent an email, and why it matters to the person you’re emailing.

    It’s the last bit – why your email matters to your contact – that’s most important. Leading with this is how you establish value, and gain consideration.

    You don’t need to write a long introduction about who you are, or why what you’re doing matters to the world. Lead with the value to your audience.

    Why should they care?

    The earlier you can answer this question in an email, the better.

    When editing a template, my first step is always to move the “why this matters to you” statement to the top (or as near the top as possible).

    Here’s an email pitch I receive often:

    Email pitch example

    Here’s how I would make this email value-first.

    Hello Cory,

    Are you working to improve your sales and marketing bandwidth?

    (custom line that speaks directly to the person’s position or the company).

    At [redacted] we provide you with a bespoke B2B list for your prospective accounts, lead generation, and data management services, so you own the client while we do all the research.

    We specialize in:

    • White Paper lead generation.
    • CRM Data Maintenance and accuracy.
    • Market intelligence research.
    • Market mapping and market assessment.

    Let’s discuss how [redacted] can help you meet your goals.

    Is it perfect? No – this isn’t my business so I can’t rework the message or positioning. Also, I’m not looking to purchase or outsource list building, so I’m the wrong audience.

    However, this reformatted version leads with value. It doesn’t waste any time. If it’s not the right fit, they can move on right away. If it is, they’re more likely to actually read it and reply.

    There should always be a reason WHY you’re sending the email.

    Don’t bury your lede.

    4) Clear and concise

    The secret to good writing is liberal editing.

    Write your email, then cut as much of it as you can. Then cut a little bit more.

    I love to cut:

    • Junk words: that, lot, thing, like, feels,
    • Euphemisms: get the sense, to hear, to help, taking the time, let me know, look forward, the likes of, staying the course, etc.
    • Adverbs: totally, specifically, fully, especially, etc.
    • Improper pronouns: any unnecessary switching. Keep it first person as much as possible.
    • Everything: if I can cut it, I will.

    Don’t obsessively reread emails before you send them. Instead, cut everything until you KNOW there’s no junk left. Everyone will be happier for it.

    5) Active voice is for humans

    Active voice communicates the correct perspective and chain of events in email.

    Email reports are especially reliant on active voice, as passive voice might misrepresent the work.

    Passive language robs communication of cause and effect, making it unclear which action led to which result, and deemphasizes value in your email communication.

    If you struggle with active versus passive voice, look for awkward phrasing and think about who did what. Make sure you’re not obfuscating the information, for any reason.

    A few examples of passive versus active:

    “The page was optimized by the SEO.” vs “The SEO optimized the page.”

    “Eight links were built by the team across the month.” vs “The team built eight links this month.”

    “Rankings have improved and search traffic has been increased by our combined SEO efforts.” vs “Our SEO efforts improved rankings and increased search traffic.”

    Passive voice will undermine your tone, confuse your meaning, and weaken your position.

    6) Include your pitch

    Don’t pitch a request to pitch. Don’t do it.

    It happens often:

    pitch to pitch

    The best case scenario is a “yes, send along a pitch.” That same response might have been your ACTUAL goal – a link, a publication, coverage, meeting, etc.

    Don’t make life more difficult than it needs to be. Everyone is busy and everyone receives too many emails. Pseudo politeness isn’t going to increase the odds your pitch will be successful, especially if you follow rule #2 and only send emails when you have value to add.

    The best emails answer any question in the initial email. Consider your audience and make sure you cover everything within reason.

    7) Follow up – It’s polite

    If you’re building links or sending promotional emails, you’re not doing your job if you don’t follow up.

    It’s not rude to send follow up emails – it’s polite.

    The follow up email is a good litmus test for the value of your email.

    If you believe you have something of value to offer, then you shouldn’t be shy to send a reminder to ensure the person had a chance to review your email.

    You’re actually doing them a favor by making sure they didn’t miss a reasonable opportunity. If you don’t feel this way, you haven’t refined your approach enough. You need to believe in the value of your message, the brevity of the outreach, the goals of your contact.

    The upper limit I’ll send is four. The original, with three threaded messages.

    This isn’t for contacts I have a clearly defined relationship with – only when I think someone truly is missing my emails and I have a valuable reason to be contacting them.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had my third (or even fourth) email get a positive response. People are BUSY.

    If you’re not following up with your initial email at all, you’re missing huge opportunity.

    Google Maps update decides which areas are ”of interest” for users

    google maps stats

    If we didn’t have Google Maps, we’d either never leave our homes for fear of getting lost or we’d have to find our physical maps again – neither of which, clearly, are options, so we have to make do with what we have.

    Roughly 41% of internet users use Google Maps to get directions, check out traffic patterns, and, more realistically, find out how long it takes to walk to the nearest Starbucks.

    And thanks to Google’s new update, its algorithm can now tell its users where to spend their money.

    According to Google’s blog, the company released a statement covering the new Google Map’s features affecting desktop, Android and iOS. The update changed some of the app’s visual elements, getting rid of road outlines, improving typography, and improving its aesthetics.

    It now has a more subtle and balanced color scheme to help differentiate between various structures. Water is blue, vegetation is green and school, naturally, is a gloomy shade of gray.

    One new addition to the platform, though, is particularly interesting, and could have a serious impact on small businesses…

    Areas of interest

    Google now highlights “areas of interest” in an orangesicle-like color on the map. All you have to do to access “areas of interest” is to open Google Maps and look around. When you find an “area of interest,” simply zoom in to learn more about the area and tap one to find specific information.

    area of interest google maps

    “Whether you’re looking for a hotel in a hot spot or just trying to determine which way to go after exiting the subway in a new place, ‘areas of interest’ will help you find what you’re looking for with just a couple swipes and a zoom,” reads Google’s Maps blog post.

    Popular areas (or at least those deemed popular by Google) are shaded orange to differentiate between the lame, whitish-gray buildings. Google determines these “areas of interest” with “an algorithmic process that allows us to highlight the areas with the highest concentration of restaurants, bars and shops.”

    For instance, New York City looks like a giant cantaloupe of condensed popularity, while the intersection of Canam Highway and Dillon Road in Northeast South Dakota is pretty lacking.

    The “areas of interest” feature, which can’t be turned off, doesn’t seem too objective when it comes to selecting some of these popular areas. According to City Lab, socioeconomic factors could be influencing Google’s decision over which areas are “of interest.”

    By taking a look at a select few cities around the US, a few problems with the update become evident.

    Westlake, California

    Located right in the center of Los Angeles, this dense, low-income and predominantly Latino area has restaurants, bars, schools and businesses covering the streets of LA. Yet it’s nearly colorless. There are only a few shaded “areas of interest.”

    Head over to the west side of LA, to the wealthier and white neighborhood of Sawtelle, and you’ll find much more orange. Although the famed Santa Monica Boulevard cuts through Sawtelle, the rest of the area is all residential homes, yet the entire area is shaded orange.

    “Starburst” Intersection, Washington, D.C.

    In Northeast D.C., where H Street, Benning Road and Maryland Avenue makeup one of the most successful commercial areas the District has seen in the last 10 years, the “of interest” perimeter is completely one-sided.

    The left side of the intersection has a long strip of orange and then abruptly ends when it reaches the lower-income, predominantly black area of Benning Road. Although there are plenty of dining areas and businesses along the strip, Benning Road is not “of interest” on Google Maps.

    Dorchester, Massachusetts

    Dorchester Avenue, a commercial strip lined with businesses, shops and other services, is virtually blank, aside from a small orange lego every few blocks. Immigrant families from Vietnam and the Caribbean own the majority of these colorless businesses.

    All three “non-interest” areas are much poorer than cities that surround them. In Westlake, which is heavily Spanish-Speaking, and Dorchester, which has a lot of Vietnamese, Jamaican and Haitian creoles, English isn’t the most spoken language.

    “‘Areas of interest’ appear in a variety of different neighborhoods throughout the world, regardless of socioeconomic factors or local language preferences,” said Elizabeth Davidoff, Google Maps spokesperson.

    There are plenty of examples of lower-income and non-English-speaking areas of the US that are shaded with orange and, as Davidoff adds, a key metric for selecting “areas of interest” is the density of commercial activity. Even if a street is full of successful businesses, if they aren’t as condensed, they won’t be labeled as “of interest.”

    What does this mean for small businesses that aren’t located in the highlighted areas?

    As is the case with many Google updates, only time will tell. But with more than 1 billion monthly users, Google has the ability to shape the “interests” of all of its users.

    If you get off the bus in Northeast D.C. for the first time and you’re craving a pizza, you can either go left toward H Street or take a right on Benning Road. If you open your Google Maps app, though, that decision has basically been made for you.

    Google is still fine-tuning the “areas of interest” algorithm, but if they leave off certain areas for too long, it could result in some serious issues.

    Surely some low-income areas can have lower economic activity, so it might be expected that there aren’t too many “of interest” locations.

    However, that doesn’t mean the opposite can’t be true.

    Westlake is a perfect example of being a poorer area with plenty of economic activity. But if people believe Westlake, or any other financially struggling community, is not “of interest,” there’s a chance they could stop spending money at these businesses. Consequently the economic divide could grow even further.

    Three technologies you absolutely must have for better SEO

    hipmunk mobile friendly test

    Your website has to stay on trend to survive.

    Fast page loads. User-friendliness. Instant access to favorite news sources and blogs. Security… These are the needs of the internet browsing population.

    It happens every day. You’re walking the dog and reading the news on your phone at the same time or scrolling Facebook in the grocery checkout line or simply checking out some nerd blogs while the kids play at the park, and there it is – a slow, clunky website.

    What do you do? You utter a few adjectives and move on to a website that isn’t afflicted with the same ailments. It might be less informative or entertaining, but hey, you can actually view it.

    This should never happen to your website. Ever.

    Search engine optimization is an ever-changing, fluid landscape. In the old days, there were only desktops, and everything was geared to suit them.

    Then mobile phones came along. There was sharing via email and instant messaging. Then social media happened. There was an emphasis on link quantity (i.e. the more links you had pointing to your website, the better your ranking).

    Then, spammers took advantage of it and link quality became more important. There were 10-pack business listings. Then, they dropped to 7-packs and ultimately to 3-packs.

    Competition for internet real estate has gotten stiffer and the hoops a bit higher. Google, the leader in search engines, keeps improving their search technology and rolling out algorithm (formula applied to search results) changes.

    For website owners, it’s imperative to stay on top of Google’s algorithm changes. Right now, there are three main website technologies that you absolutely must have.

    Mobile-responsiveness

    Let’s start with cell phones and other mobile devices. In 2014, mobile users performed more internet searches than desktop users. Google knew it had to do something. Enter Mobilegeddon, the algorithm change that Google rolled out on April 22, 2015. It was considered the apocalypse of the internet.

    Mobilegeddon promoted listings of mobile-friendly websites in the search results. Non-mobile-friendly sites were left out in the cold, which meant their rankings dropped.

    So what does it mean to be friendly on mobile?

    Google defines it this way. A website is mobile-friendly if:

    • It avoids Flash software and similar types of software that don’t play well with mobile devices.
    • It sizes the screen to fit the device (and nixes horizontal scrolling).
    • It has readable text that doesn’t need to be zoomed.
    • It’s thumb-friendly (i.e. links, buttons, and fill-in fields are easily clickable with thumbs and fingers).

    Google applies these criteria to individual pages vs. websites, which is a benefit since optimized pages from your site can still rank even if the rest of your site doesn’t.

    Being mobile-friendly is a minimum requirement and Google has a tool to determine if your website meets the requirements.

    However, if you really want to make your website attractive to visitors, you should go a step further and make your site mobile-responsive.

    Mobile-friendliness means that a site may have been designed for the desktop, but has been optimized to work on mobile devices. Mobile-responsiveness means that a site automatically responds to the device.

    For example: a mobile-friendly site would show a desktop site on a smaller scale while a mobile-responsive site would show it in a different format, often in one column. A mobile-friendly site may not be mobile-responsive, but a mobile-responsive site will definitely be mobile-friendly.

    HTTPS

    Imagine a world where hackers could never hack your website. That world might be possible now with HTTPS, a security protocol that used to be used mainly for financial sites, payment portals, email, and sensitive transactions.

    https padlock

    But the rest of the cyber world looked on and wanted secure encryption too. This is where regular sites began to adopt HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure). The secure sockets layer (SSL) encrypts data on its way into your site and on its way out. Data is sent to and from a secure web server.

    This protocol protects site visitors and owners from online eavesdropping, which is how hackers get credit card numbers and other sensitive information, or forging, which is what hackers do with the data they get.

    Google AMP & Facebook Instant Articles

    And now, imagine a world where web pages loaded instantly. Google and a bunch of other technology companies and publishers imagined it. They put their heads together and created the AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) project, which is an open-source HTML project dedicated to fast and furious page loads.

    amp pages

    What does this mean for you?

    It means that you can put AMP code on your web page or post and deliver instant page results. So when your site visitor is at the grocery store and they’re trying to look at your blog about the clean 15, it won’t take five minutes for your site to load. That list of chemical-free fruits and vegetables will be at the user’s fingertips, instantly. You’ve just made a happy customer.

    Facebook has its own version of fast content delivery, called Instant Articles. When content is uploaded to this Facebook publishing tool, the content is housed on Facebook and loaded instantly for viewers. Like Google’s AMP technology, Facebook Instant Articles are geared to mobile users.

    To reach the goal of speedy page loads, AMP provides a plethora of web tools that create a common ground between websites that use it.

    The AMP project leaders chose to make the software open-source so all platforms, developers, and publishers could collaborate to make the mobile web a faster and more pleasant experience.

    AMP code works with photos, videos, and GIFs, in addition to written content. And AMP-optimized web articles will soon begin to appear throughout the organic mobile SERPs.

    AMP technology also offers the option of caching. Third party platforms can access AMP content and cache it for their users. Google even provides its own Google AMP Cache, a free collection of AMP content that’s been published to the web.

    WordPress developers already produced a WordPress AMP plugin. And many of the most prominent publishers and platforms, such as The New York Times, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Mashable, are participating.

    Of course, all of these features translate to faster page loads and longer engagement

    Mobile web technology is the technology of the future. It’s imperative that website owners implement tools that are capable of delivering the kind of service that mobile users are looking for—fast, secure, and easy to navigate.

    As Richard Gingras of Google states about the AMP project, “We wanna make the web great again.”

    Five very quick tips to building a loyal ecommerce customer base

    lookalike audiences on facebook

    A few weeks ago, we discussed how ecommerce and retail companies can best acquire new customers via Facebook Lookalike targeting. So now that you’re building your customer base, let’s study how best to keep that very valuable base engaged.

    Remember, your existing customers are a constant stream of revenue. We know they already like your products; now we want to make sure we continue to showcase new products and sales and in general stay top of mind with them.

    This creates loyal customers and tons of repeat revenue – without that first layer of acquisition costs.

    The balance can be tricky, though; how do you re-engage your customers without bombarding them with the same ads and messaging? How do you give them space but also encourage them to return to your site?

    There are a few main things to keep in mind when setting up your re-engagement efforts:

    Choose your platforms

    Given we know who our customers are, I recommend using Facebook custom audiences (on both Facebook and Instagram) and Google’s customer match targeting options (Gmail Sponsored Promotions and RLSA are those I would most highly recommend).

    Use data to determine your re-engagement intervals

    To calculate how often you should show your ads to customers, determine when they tend to come back to your site after purchasing. Do you typically see purchases made 15 days after the first purchase? 30 days later? Longer? This is when you should begin re-engaging with your customers.

    Focus on creative

    We want to make sure we are providing the user with a good reason to come back to our site. You’ll want to showcase your products and ensure you are not showing the same ad over and over again. Refresh creative consistently to show new product as well as top sellers.

    Use sales and promotions

    Always hit your customers when you have a sale going on. This is typically the most successful of re-engagement efforts. Loyalty rewards programs are great for this, too; since you’re not spending to acquire these customers, you should have a bit of margin to play with for loyalty-based discounts and incentives.

    Get smart with your first-party data

    This part is important: we don’t want to just hit our entire customer base and treat them as equal. We need to segment our customer list by identifiable characteristics.

    For example – AOVs (do they purchase more expensive products or cheaper products?), Gender, Product categories or type, etc. By segmenting out our audience type, we can better tailor our creative and the product we show to our customers to better suit their needs/interest.

    Smart segmentation allows us to truly speak to our customers with relevant and tailored messaging, products, and overall user experience, which helps with both CTRs and CVRs.

    For example, let’s say you are an ecommerce shop with a variety of different products – from expensive handbags to shoes to clothing. By segmenting out users who purchase expensive handbags, you can then re-engage them with creative around ‘the newest/trendiest’ handbag – or your annual handbag sale.

    There are other benefits associated with your customer base, of course – notably mining characteristics of that base to create lookalike targeting in the pursuit of new customers. But I’ve seen all too many brands pay too little attention to the five steps outlined above.

    Don’t leave all that juicy revenue out there; get smart about re-engaging and watch your numbers climb.

    Why understanding frequency is key to success with Facebook advertising

    facebook frequency

    How do you ensure that your Facebook ad campaign is working as hard as it possibly can?

    For Facebook advertisers, it can be easy to get stuck into the multitude of statistics and metrics that your campaigns generate.

    For those that are analytically minded, Facebook marketing can feel like being a kid in a candy shop, but can be equally daunting to the uninitiated.

    Reach, the number of unique individuals have seen your post, gives you an indication of just how far your ad has been seen, but it doesn’t really give you much of an indication of how effective it is.

    It’s a similar story for impressions, which tells you how many times your ad has been served. The key metric is the latter divided by the former – frequency.

    Frequency is a measure of how many times a user has been exposed to your post, and acts as an indication of how effective your targeting is. If your frequency is low, you are arguably targeting too wide an audience, investing too little to reach your target audience, or a combination of the two.

    There are different ways of viewing frequency, and Facebook divides your campaigns into three levels; you can view the frequency for each ad, each group of ads (an ad-set) or each campaign (a collection of ad-sets).

    Ad level frequency

    Ad level frequency is the simplest level of frequency analysis. In the example below, each dot refers to a unique user, with the encompassing circle representing one ad.

    As users who have already seen the ad are served it again, the impressions increase. However, because the number of users hasn’t increased, so does the frequency (because a greater number of impressions are served to a static number of users).

    In this example, we have 19 unique users (represented as individual dots), with an ad that has been served a total of 27 times (once to 13 people, twice to four people and three times to two users). This generates a frequency of 1.42.

    Ad-set level frequency

    Ad-sets are designed to group ads together, making it easier for advertisers to organise and manage multiple campaigns, and manage their collective spend and targeting. This allows the targeting for many ads to be changed quickly and efficiently.

    That might be great for campaign management, but it’s not so brilliant for frequency management. Ad-sets track all of the users who have visited all ads and if an individual is served several ads from an ad-set, that will still only count as one unique user.

    One user that sees five ads would be considered as “one unit” of reach, five units of impressions and so that individual’s frequency would be classed as ‘five’.

    facebook ad set frequency

    In this instance everything within the larger oval is the ad-set.

    • The green Ad still retains its 19 unique visitors, 27 impressions, and Frequency of 42
    • The red Ad has 20 unique visitors, 22 impressions (as 2 individuals see the ad twice), giving a Frequency of 1
    • 12 of the users however, have seen both Ads, with 1 user seeing both Ads twice
      • The total unique users is 27 (not 39, which would be a combination of both ads)
      • The total ad-set impressions is 49 (which is the combination of both ads)
      • This pushes the frequency of the ad set up to 81, despite the green ad having a frequency of 1.42, and the red ad having a frequency of 1.1.

    Confused yet?

    As both ads in this ad-set are served with the same targeting, they’re just as likely to be served either ad. Adding new ads within ad-sets would only compound the problem, so you should look at limiting ad volume within ad sets wherever feasible.

    Campaign level frequency

    A cursory look at the next level of frequency reporting potentially complicates matters further. In campaign level frequency analysis, we have a situation where a campaign may include several ad-sets, each with their own targeting.

    That’s not really an issue when each ad-set includes mutually exclusive targeting, typically when negation is applied, but as we can see from the example below, many targeting approaches will overlap. After all, your audiences may have many interests.

    A user may be a fan of a specific confectionary brand page already, or they may not – they can’t be both. However, complications arise when the targeting may seem mutually exclusive at first glance, but in actuality it isn’t. A fan of chocolate may also be a fan of candy, which means that they are likely to see ads from both ad sets.

    campaign level frequency

    In the above example, ad-set one (to the left) has two ads, as does ad-set two (to the right). Ads one and two, in ad-set one, have 31 unique users between them. As some individuals have seen each ad several times, their impressions is at 71, giving that ad-set a frequency of 2.09.

    Ad-set two (to the right) has 35 unique users, and 82 total impressions, giving that ad-set a frequency of 2.34.

    However, some of those users will feature in both ad sets, so the campaign as a whole has 54 unique users, and 153 impressions. That’s a frequency of 2.8, which is a step up from both ad-sets.

    So how does this work in practice?

    Let’s take an example of the sweet company wanting to promote their latest line of confectionary products.

    Of the two products that they want to promote, one includes gelatine based products, and the other contains chocolate products, the brand therefore creates a campaign with two distinct ad-sets: one aimed at gelatine lovers, and one at chocolate lovers.

    One of our target audiences, Tom loves gelatine, whilst another member of audience, Dick, loves chocolate. However, poor Harry loves Turkish Delight. Unlike Tom and Dick, he gets targeted by both the gelatine product ads and the chocolate product ads. While Harry is technically well served by the targeting, he gets an ad about milk chocolate, then an ad about jelly beans, rather than just one type of confection.

    That may not sound like a huge problem, but it doesn’t give you a true indication of your Facebook ad strategy.

    So what level should you listen to?

    Campaign level frequency will provide you with the truest picture, but that alone won’t tell you the full story behind your campaigns.

    campaign frequency on facebook

    Check your campaign. If it’s got a low frequency, then no problem. If it’s starting to creep up, then look at the ad-set level. If the ad-set levels are fine, then the first thing to look at would be to see if and where your targeting is duplicated.

    If one or more of your ad-sets are high in frequency, then look at your ads. See if you have too many, turn them off, review how broad or narrow your targeting is, and look to either expand, or turn the ad-set off completely.

    Why is high frequency an issue?

    With the average internet user exposed to 1,707 banners each month (Comscore), campaigns can be serving your ads to people who just aren’t paying attention to them. They come up in their feeds, but they don’t get seen or actioned upon, leading to what is sometimes known as “banner blindness”.

    Banner blindness (individuals learning to sub-consciously recognise, and then ignore your Ads), and campaign fatigue (signs of the campaign being less effective as time goes on) can be disastrous for your ads campaigns. It leads to soaring costs and diminished returns, but this isn’t the worst case scenario for a campaign.

    If users receive several iterations of an ad over and over again it can start to feel like spam, and breeds negative sentiment towards the brand. Even worse, given that the ads are being displayed on a social platform, it’s easier for users to vent their frustrations as comments that remain visible to all future audiences.

    So just what should your frequency be?

    There’s a fine line, and much debate, on whether or not individuals will get annoyed, or whether they’ll see an ad enough times to be finally convinced to click.

    The size and type of targeting that you’re doing will ultimately determine what the optimum frequency should be.

    Smaller campaigns, focusing on a smaller number of individuals, will naturally reach a higher frequency, but if the ads are more accurately targeted, a higher frequency might be less of an issue.

    If you focus on an audience that loves bear shaped gelatine products in London only, but the ads are tailored to the London Gelatine Bear Emporium just around the corner from where the audience lived, they may take more kindly to seeing the ads more often.

    While it’s less likely to reach a higher frequency as quickly, broader targeting may start to annoy users who see the ads multiple times.

    Users may become much more sensitive to how often they’re seeing the ads, given the drop in relevance with the targeting. Non-specific ad copy is for anyone, and being told about sweets 11 or 12 times when you’ve seen the message, taken it on board, and decided to do something about it (even if that decision is to ignore it) the message serves only to frustrate an audience.

    As a rule of thumb, a frequency between five and ten for an entire campaign is still acceptable, but you have to review this at a campaign level to ensure it encompasses every individual that sees every ad, and not just focussing on either ad set one, or ad set two.

    Splitting the report up will count a unique user every time they’re served an ad, giving false duplicates. Only viewing at campaign level with no other splits (demographic/day by day/device etc.) will show the true story.

    So how do you avoid ad frequency mayhem?

    Having established that there is no defined “right or wrong” answer to the frequency conundrum, how do we go about ensuring that we can at least control our ad campaigns? There are some key stages to go through:

    Do your targeting homework

    Understand your audience and use some of the extensive tools that are available to you in order to find them. The more you know about your audience, the better your targeting can be.

    Plan your targeting coexistence

    Could there be any cross-over between your ad-sets? If so, try to separate one group from the other to minimise the risk of duplication.

    Choose your budget wisely

    If an audience is particularly niche, track the reach, and campaign duration. If you plan to reach 100 people a day, are expecting £1 cost-per-click and the campaign lasts seven days, then £700 for the campaign will need every single user to click on the ad (or for some users to double click). Calculate your possible CTR and if it’s unrealistic, plan ahead by reducing spend or widening your targeting pool.

    Manage campaigns, ad sets, and ads properly

    Don’t setup several campaigns to target specific groups of people that will likely contain similar users. For example a group that likes chocolate, and a group that likes Mars Bars – one of these groups will largely encompass the other. Frequency won’t show up at an ad-set level report as Facebook will tally each individually, and your folly will only appear under the campaign level reporting.

    Know how to report on frequency

    Look at the big picture. Don’t review frequency on a day by day basis, ad by ad, or even ad-set by ad-set (each splits up your unique users). Look at the whole campaign.

    Limit ad volume

    A large volume of ads pushes Facebook to serve as many of them as possible to the same audience, increasing the likelihood of frequency jumping high.

    While you may be tempted to include many ads to A/B test your creatives, don’t do this to an excessive level. A couple of ads per ad-set should be your limit. Trust your creative!

    Review your ad relevance score

    If some of your ads have a low score, it’s likely not resonating with the audience, so remove it. This removes the ad from collecting additional reach.

    Will Conboy is head of marketing communications at Stickyeyes and a contributor to SEW. This article was co-written with Jonathan Hemingway.