Google AdWords: the dos and don’ts of callout extensions

acme example

Callout extensions are a really important component of Google AdWords, and they can be incredibly useful in describing what your business has to offer that may not be clear by your links and description alone.

Take the example below from Google:

“Acme Electronics” uses AdWords and is able to list their website in the first line, general business description in the second line, and then the third line offers three “call-out” phrases where they can let users know about special services they offer which set them apart from the competition.

It is a non-clickable addition to your listing, similar to rich snippets. In this case they have chosen three callout extensions:

  • Free Shipping
  • 24-7 Customer Service
  • Price Matching

It is clear that in order for callout extensions to be useful, you want to pick things that are not only relevant to what your company offers, but also things that are going to stand out and set your company apart from the rest.

So what are the best practices? How can you take this opportunity and make it work for your business? Read below to get a feel for how to be most successful:

Getting started with callout extensions

Not only are callout extensions included in your AdWords advertisement options, but if you aren’t using them, you are still paying for this space that just simply isn’t being used.

To get started you will want to sign in and open your AdWords account. Look at your campaigns tab and then click on “Ad Extensions” to the campaign where you want to make this addition.

Then you will want to view your “callout extensions” from the dropdown menu. Callout Extensions can be implemented at account, campaign, or ad group level. See the screenshot below as an example:

callout extensions

Once you have filled out 2+ callout extensions (although 3-4 is recommended), the page will look something like this:

number of callout extensions

As you can see in this example above, four different callouts are being used by the AdWords account above:

  • Customized quotes
  • Nationally recognized
  • Unsurpassed quality
  • Creative edge

Anywhere from two to four of these four callout extensions will appear at the bottom of the ad, just like the Acme example above.

Remember that callout extensions may not always show on your ads either – AdWords use several factors to determine how many callouts will actually show at any given time (if any at all).

Unfortunately these factors are unknown, but that being said, the basics are easy with callout extensions and it takes practically no time to get them set up.

The hard part is getting creative and figuring out exactly what it is that you need to do to develop the correct callout extensions for your business specifically. Keep in mind that callout extensions are nothing new, but some of the dos and don’ts have changed, so learn the latest best practices below.

Do: highlight services you offer

Do you offer free shipping? 24/7 customer service? Price matching? These kinds of services that are exactly what you want to highlight in callout extensions.

People love to know that when they choose a business, they are going to be getting some benefit with you that they won’t get from someone else. When it is right in the ad itself, people are more likely to click and move forward with your company.

Do: create multiple callout extensions

One thing that really helps for optimizing callout extensions is to create four or more extensions for each campaign. The more that AdWords has to work with, the more optimized your ads are going to be. You shouldn’t have less than 4 callout extensions on any campaign, and the more the better!

Do: be unique and creative

Originality and uniqueness are the basics for developing callout extensions because they are going to draw attention that other companies in your industry do not have on their campaigns.

One of the most challenging parts is actually thinking of two-word phrases that will capture attention. There are a ton of callout extension “lists” online that can help to get you started, but you really want to choose something that is original and eye-grabbing.

In the AdWords account above for an advertisement photographer, the phrase “nationally recognized” is effective because it sets their studio apart from other photographers with credibility. Try to think of things that other businesses may not necessarily have when stacked up against you.

You can also implement custom callout extension scheduling so you can have certain extensions only run in the morning, during holidays, or whatever is going to optimize your specific campaigns.

Don’t: go overboard on characters

The limit for characters on callout extensions is 25, but I would recommend only using 12-15 characters for each callout extension that you add. You want them to be readable and really eye-catching. When you go overboard on this you limit the chances that 3 extensions are actually going to fit nicely side by side.

Don’t: use title casing

Title casing means that you capitalize: All of The Letters in the Sentence or Phrase. While this might be tempting to do, studies have shown that it is actually more effective to only capitalize the first word of the phrase in Google AdWords callout extensions.

This is because it is easier for people to read three side-by-side, and it puts more emphasis on each individual phrase. Although this might feel a little awkward, it is definitely best practice in this case.

Some examples!

Below are a list of callout extensions that could be useful. Keep in mind that you must offer these services and have them be relevant to your industry in order to actually use them as callout extensions:

  • History of results
  • 40yrs combined experience
  • No service fees
  • Money back guarantee
  • Free Cancellation
  • 24/7 customer service
  • Best price guarantee
  • Peace of mind guarantee
  • Best rate guarantee
  • Top customer service reps
  • Expert friendly service
  • Guaranteed satisfaction
  • 10% Off clearance items
  • Customization leader
  • Free shipping
  • Satisfaction guaranteed
  • Shop best sellers
  • Top designer collections
  • Price matching
  • Upfront pricing
  • Trusted for 50 years
  • Fast response
  • Affordable pricing

The takeaway

Callout extensions are a great opportunity to add more to your existing ad. In fact, you can even hack the system and use them as an additional line on your ad if you want to.

The important thing is to make sure that you are using callouts to the fullest and taking every opportunity you can to make them unique, useful, and stand-out compared to other competitors in your industry.

Make sure that you highlight the services you offer that make choosing your company the best deal. Most importantly, make sure that you implement multiple callout extensions (more than 4), so that AdWords can optimize your ads in the most useful ways.

And lastly, keep the character limit low and don’t use title case. Hopefully these dos and don’ts will get you on track and help your callout extensions to be more optimized than they are currently!

Do you have any other thoughts on callout extension advice? Let us know in the comments section below! We would love to hear from you.

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for HigherVisibility, a full service SEO agency, and a contributor to SEW. You can connect with Amanda on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Why do big US companies take mobile less seriously than Chinese companies?

ali baba quarterly figures

If you want to know how seriously any public company takes mobile, then take a look at the annual/quarterly reports.

While top Chinese retailers, banks and internet companies are keen to share their mobile success with their investors, their US equivalents are often shy to reveal their numbers… especially the biggest US retailers.

While researching a series of in-depth m-commerce reports for ClickZ Intelligence, I needed to establish which of the world’s biggest countries are really making headway with mobile. The results are worth sharing.

The methodology was simple

1) Use Forbes’ Global 2000 as a guide.

2) Stick to US and Chinese companies (as they dominate the Forbes list).

3) Concentrate on consumer facing businesses where mobile isn’t the core business, but should be a very significant sales channel, so retailers, restaurant chains, banks and internet companies are in; but mobile companies and oil companies and manufacturers are out.

4) Then check the latest annual (2015) and quarterly statements (Q1 and Q2 2016) to see which detailed mobile performance – only hard numbers; PR fluff was ignored.

The results were striking:

  • The top Chinese banks, retailers and internet companies all (of those considered) detail mobile performance, often in considerable depth.
  • Three out of four top US banks declare mobile numbers. But not in as much detail as the top four Chinese banks.
  • Of the two US internet giants, only one details mobile performance: Facebook. Alphabet (Google), surprisingly, doesn’t.
  • Not one of the Top 10 US retailers from Wal-Mart to Amazon.com, shared mobile stats in their recent annual or quarterly report.

The US retailers were a big shock – especially Amazon. In 2016, you have to ask: why we couldn’t find any indication of mobile performance in financial reports of the US top retailers?

And, more importantly, you have to ask: why aren’t investors and analysts asking the same thing?

The more financial reports you look at the more you come to the conclusion: Chinese companies – and their investors – take mobile more seriously.

They saw the mobile opportunity earlier; they made it a priority to re-engineer their companies to take full advantage; and now they want investors to benchmark them on their impressive mobile performance.

Alibaba: the benchmark in mobile performance and reporting

This month the Chinese ecommerce retail market place Alibaba redefined what it means to be “mobile first” announcing that it has 427 million mobile monthly active users (MAU) – out of a total of Alibaba’s 434 million total users.

In the latest quarter (Q2, 2016), mobile accounted for a stunning 75% of value of all goods bought and sold on the platform and 75% of its revenues.

Just to put Alibaba’s 427 million mobile users into perspective:

  • The entire population of the US is 324 million.
  • Walmart’s global customer base 260 million (Note: Walmart measures weekly shoppers; Alibaba’s are monthly).

The wake-up call for all companies is twofold

  • A mobile-first strategy delivers tangible rewards.
  • How well the markets received the news…
  • Financial investors and analysts loved Alibaba’s results. On announcement of the Q2 results, the stock leaped to its highest level for 18 months.

    This is the carrot: impressive mobile performance is increasingly a factor (one of several) that encourages investors to purchase stock.

    The question is: when will US investors / analyst start to use the stick to punish (US) companies that keep their mobile numbers a secret?

    US investors are becoming well acquainted with, and increasingly attracted to the Chinese retail and internet companies such as Alibaba, JD.com, Baidu and Tencent (all of which detail impressive mobile performance in their financial reports; all of which saw their share price improve on the latest results.

    Three out of four are quoted on US markets: Alibaba is listed on the NYSE; JD.com and Baidu on Nasdaq (Tencent is listed on HKSE), which means they’ll remain front of mind.

    For share price performance, see: BABA; JD; BIDU; and 0700.HK (Tencent).

    Stick and carrot – Facebook’s mobile story

    Any US company that doesn’t believe how seriously US investors take mobile needs to look at Facebook’s recent financial history.

    One of the main reasons Facebook’s share price went into freefall post its 2012 IPO was that investors were very unimpressed with its mobile story. One of the main reasons they love it now is because they are impressed with its mobile numbers.

    As recounted by Fortune in 2015:

    Facebook used its weakness on mobile as a motivator. When the company went public it had no meaningful revenue from mobile. Within 18 months, Facebook delivered a magnificent about-face on mobile, quieting the haters in the process. By the end of 2013, more than half of Facebook’s revenue came from mobile ads. “You want mobile revenue? We’ll show you mobile revenue!” the company seemed to say. Wall Street rewarded the company by trading up its stock.

    Today Facebook wants to be measured on its mobile record. In its Q2 2016 results statement it couldn’t shout louder about its mobile success:

    Second Quarter 2016 Operational Highlights

    • Daily active users (DAUs) – DAUs were 1.13 billion on average for June 2016, an increase of 17% year-over-year.
    • Mobile DAUs – Mobile DAUs were 1.03 billion on average for June 2016, an increase of 22% year-over-year.

    Second Quarter 2016 Other Financial Highlights

    • Mobile advertising revenue – Mobile advertising revenue represented approximately 84% of advertising revenue for the second quarter of 2016, up from approximately 76% of advertising revenue in the second quarter of 2015.

    The phenomenal rise of Facebook’s stock price, see FB, from mid-2013 tells you everything you need to know about investor attitude to mobile.

    How the largest companies rack up on mobile transparency

    By way of research we looked at the recent annual and/or quarterly reports and earning statements of relevant companies from the world’s biggest public companies according to Forbes, which is dominated by Chinese and US companies, to see to what extent (if at all) mobile performance is displayed.

    The Forbes rankings are based on a mix of revenue, profits, assets and market value.

    Chinese banks:

    Three Chinese banks occupy the top three Forbes rankings, with a fourth in sixth ranking. All four appear to have made mobile banking a priority over recent years and the numbers are staggering. At the end of 2015, they have 590 million mobile banking customers between them. That’s 1.8 times larger than the population of the United States.

    • Industrial & Commercial Bank of China has 190 million mobile customers, with annual transaction volume of over RMB800 billion (US$121 billion), which is approximately 38% of its customer base. (Source 2015 Annual Report)
    • China Construction Bank has 182.84 million (up by 25% year on year) mobile banking users, with a transaction volume was RMB15.4 trillion (US$2.3 trillion), which is approximately 54% of its customer base. (Source 2015 Annual Report)
    • Agricultural Bank of China has 140 million mobile customers, with annual transaction volume of over RMB9.6 trillion (US$1.5 trillion), this is approximately 29.5% of customer base. (Source 2015 Annual Report)
    • Bank of China has 79 million mobile customers, with annual transaction volume of over RMB5.2 billion (US$0.7 billion), the proportion of the customer base that is mobile is unclear. (Source 2015 Annual Report)

    US banks:

    Three of the top four US banks share mobile banking numbers. Although mobile customers are dwarfed by the vast numbers of their Chinese counterparts are a significant proportion of their total user base.

    • JP Morgan Chase (Global Rank 5) has 24.8 million active mobile customers. As JPMC only counts its customer base by households (59.2 million), rather than individuals, it is unclear what proportion of customer are mobile. Mobile transaction value is unavailable. (Source Q2 2016 results).
    • Wells Fargo (Global Rank 7) has 18 million mobile active users. This is approximately 25.7% of customer base. Mobile transaction value is unavailable. (Source Q2 2016 results)
    • Bank of America (Global Rank 11) has 20.2 million active mobile banking customers in Q2 2016. It is unclear what proportion this is of the total customer base. But it does reveal in its investor presentation that mobile equates to 17% of total deposit, and on a weekly basis it is the most active channel. See charts below. (Source Q2 2016 results)
    • Citigroup (Global Rank 13). We were unable to find mobile numbers for Citigroup, but the company did state in its 2015 Annual Report that it is implementing a “mobile first” approach via a newly established Citi FinTech unit.

    Brian Moynihan Chairman and CEO, Bank of America explains to shareholders why mobile banking is so important:

    Why are we tripling our investment in 2016? It is simply because this is how customers want to do business with us. Our customers deposit 250,000 checks a day through their mobile devices, reflecting 15 percent of consumer deposit transactions. We would need an additional 650 financial centers to handle the deposit activity that is currently being done on those mobile devices.

    Chinese retailers:

    China’s highest ranking retailers on Forbes list are Alibaba (rank 174) and JD.com (rank 800). Despite their lowly ranks, compare to US companies such as Walmart (rank 15), these are no small fry.

    • Alibaba is an internet marketplace where third-party retailers sold RMB 837 billion (US$ 126 billion) of goods in Q2, 2016. (That’s six times the value of goods sold on eBay in the same quarter). As noted above, 75% of this GMV and 75% of the revenue it makes from these sales. Total revenue is RMB 32.2 billion (US$ 4.8 billion), which means Alibaba’s revenue from mobile is

    Most interesting is the news that Alibaba now makes more money from each of its 427 million mobile user than from non-mobile customers. (Source Q2, 2016 results)

    • JD.com is a direct ecommerce retailer and internet marketplace, it makes more in revenue than Alibaba, at RMB 65.2 billion (US$9.8 billion), in Q2, 2016, hence its claim to be “China’s largest ecommerce site by revenue”. But GMV (value of total goods sold) is lower than Alibaba at RMB160.4 billion (US$ 24.1 billion), though still slightly above eBay.

    Unlike its rival, JD does not reveal what proportion of revenue or GMV is mobile or the number of mobile users. But it does declare that an impressive 79% of its orders placed on mobile. (Source: Q2, 2016 results)

    Like its rival Alibaba, JD’s earnings were well received by investors.

    dna28_jd.com_mobile_share

    US retailers:

    Compared with the mobile details (and outstanding mobile performance) shared by the Chinese retailers, the details shared by US retailers is disappointing.

    Searching through the 2015 annual report and quarterly earnings statements (up to August 18 2016), we were unable to find mobile performance numbers of any descriptions for the following US retailers and restaurants.

    • Wal-Mart Stores (Forbes rank 15)
    • CVS Health (rank 62) – no mobile numbers apparent in 2015 annual report, Q1 or Q2 2016 reports.
    • Walgreens Boots Alliance (rank 107)
    • Home Depot (rank 112)
    • Target (rank 164)
    • McDonald’s (rank 189)
    • Costco Wholesale (rank 192)
    • Lowe’s (rank 205)
    • Kroger (rank 223)
    • com (rank 237)
    • The Priceline Group (rank 445)
    • Macy’s (rank 515)

    There were two US retailers/restaurants sitting outside the top 10 that revealed some details of mobile performance:

    • Starbucks (Forbes rank 389) reveals the adoption of mobile ordering and payment by customers. In Q3 2016 Mobile Order and Pay usage reached 5% of the coffee chain’s U.S. transactions, up from 4% in Q2 FY16. (Source Q3, 2016 results)
    • eBay (rank 466) does not include details of mobile performance in its actual earnings releases, but in an accompanying “Fast facts” document it declares that $9.5 billion of sales on the auction site were completed on mobile devices in Q2 2016. This means mobile sales volume is now 45.5% of the GMV for the quarter ($20.9 billion). eBay also states that 57% of sales are touched by mobile at some point. (Source eBay Fast Facts – PDF).

    Chinese internet companies

    There are two prominent internet companies in China, Tencent Holdings (Forbes rank 201) and the Baidu (rank 349):

    • Tencent businesses include the QQ web/mobile portal, instant messaging and gaming platform, the Qzone social media site and the Weixin/WeChat social/chat smartphone application. As of June 2016, Mobile QQ has 667 million monthly active users (MAU) users, Qzone has 596 million MAU and Weixin/WeChat has 806 million MAU. Mobile’s contribution to revenue is not available, except reporting that smartphone games delivered RMB 9.6 billion (US$ 1.4 billion) in revenue (Source Q2, 2016 results)
    • Baidu is a mobile/web search engine, with portfolio of associated products. In its Q2 2016 results it reported it had 667 million mobile search MAU and 343 million mobile maps MAU. Total or online MAUs were not reported. Mobile revenue represented 62% of total revenues for the second quarter of 2016, compared to 50% for the corresponding period in 2015. This works out at RMB 11.3 billion (US$ 1.7 billion). (Source Q2, 2016 results)

    US internet companies

    The two prominent Internet companies in USA are Alphabet, the company formally known as Google, (rank 27) and Facebook (rank 188). The contrast is remarkable.

    • Facebook now has over 1 billion (1.03 billion) mobile daily users (DAU), which is 91% of total DAU. Mobile advertising revenue accounts for 84% of total ad revenue (US$ 24 billion) which means Facebook earns US$ 5.24 billion in mobile ad revenues.
    • Alphabet does not report mobile numbers in its 2015 annual report or 1Q or 2Q 2016 reports. It appears from the investor earnings calls that mobile is very important to Google, which makes it inexplicable that the company does keep investors informed of mobile performance. (Source Q2, 2016 results and earnings call)

    Sundar Pichai, CEO Google, investor briefing Q2 2016:

    “Q2 2016 earnings call: Our investment in mobile now underlines everything that we do today from search and YouTube to Android and advertising. Mobile is the engine that drives our present.”

    Room for improvement

    We look forward to the time when US companies feel confident enough about their mobile numbers to share them in their financial reports; or the time when investors start to insist on it.

    N.B. This study was not an in-depth research project, it was based on observations from the companies’ financial reports. If any of these retailers share numbers elsewhere / or would like to share their mobile numbers, please contact the author Andy Favell who will be very happy to update the ClickZ readers.

    Read the reports:

    • DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 1: Planning
    • DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 2: The 12 Pillars of Mobile Design

    This is Part 28 of the ClickZ ‘DNA of mobile-friendly web’ series. Here are the most recent chapters:

    • Mobile menu UI: bold buttons and intuitive types of navigation
    • Should the hamburger icon be on your mobile menu?
    • M-commerce: has the mobile web finally won?

    Andy Favell is ClickZ columnist on mobile. He is a London-based freelance mobile/digital consultant, journalist and web editor. Contact him via LinkedIn or Twitter at Andy_Favell.

    40 free digital marketing tools to help grow your business

    If you’re just starting out with a business, or looking for tools to help you grow, there is a huge array of digital marketing tools, platforms and services available online.

    But if you have a small budget to work with or you aren’t sure which are the right tools for you to be investing your money into – or maybe you just want to bolster your digital marketing without spending too much – then how can you narrow your options down?

    To help out, we’ve put together a hefty list of 40 free digital marketing tools that can help you grow your business, in every area of marketing: from email to events, content to social media.

    This is partly a refreshed and updated version of the excellent list of 50 digital marketing tools to grow your start-up put together by Bryan Eisenberg last year, and incorporates many of his picks as well as suggestions from the comments section. If you know any great free tools that have been helpful in your own digital marketing efforts, please suggest them in the comments!

    General sales & marketing

    Hubspot

    Hubspot is an inbound marketing software platform, much of which is free to use. Its free sales software allows you to build email templates, a shared library of sales content and documents, integrate with Gmail and Outlook, schedule emails and more.

    Hubspot also offers a free Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software which integrates with it. If you’re minded to upgrade, the Pro version starts at $50 per person per month. (Suggested by Luke Hamon)

    Sniply

    Sniply is a very interesting tool which lets you build custom calls to action (CTAs) and add them to content that you share. As long as the page you’re sharing supports iframes, you can create your custom CTA button and message and add it in over the page, which only the people who access your link will be able to see.

    SumoMe

    SumoMe boasts a powerful suite of marketing tools, including content analytics, an email scroll box, contact form, image sharer and more. The free version gives access to all of SumoMe’s apps, plus more features like A/B testing are available to Pro subscribers, starting at $20 a month.

    Ampervize

    If you aren’t sure where to start with digital marketing tools, a free report from Ampervize could give you a springboard. Based on your responses to a couple of simple questions about your business, it will produce a tailored report recommending marketing providers and the areas of marketing which are most likely to deliver results.

    Cyfe

    Cyfe is an all-in-one dashboard for managing your business tools online. Add widgets for everything from advertising tools to blog platforms, email tools, SEO and social media to manage them all in one place. The free version supports up to 5 widgets, or you can upgrade to premium for $19/month.

    Email marketing

    Boomerang

    Boomerang is a free app for Gmail, Outlook and Android with a range of email management tools. It integrates easily with your inbox interface to add features like email scheduling, snoozing, read receipts and follow-up reminders.

    I use this all the time simply for email scheduling and read receipts, and Boomerang has developed some more advanced features aimed at businesses, including – most recently – an AI assistant which helps you to craft the perfect email, launched just this week.

    Boomerang respondable

    MailChimp

    You’ve probably come across MailChimp in your travels (especially if you’ve ever listened to the podcast Serial), and there’s a good reason why it’s so popular.

    Completely free for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month, it’s an easy option for small businesses and groups to get to grips with newsletters, with built-in signup forms, templates and free data insights to track how your email marketing stacks up against your industry.

    Klaviyo

    Klaviyo is an email marketing software which helps you send out personalised and targeted emails, and is free to use for up to 250 contacts and 500 email sends. The free accounts also include A/B testing tools, integrations, segmentation and a drag-and-drop responsive email creator.

    Structured Data Markup Helper

    Schema.org is a type of structured data markup that you can add to emails in Gmail to enable some great interactive marketing features, like auto-adding to Google Calendar, one-click reviews and RSVPs and integration with search.

    Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper does all the hard work of coding for you, and all you have to do is highlight the relevant part of an email and select from the drop-down menu to mark it up. For more information on Schema.org for emails and getting started, check out how to add Schema.org markup to your email marketing.

    A screenshot showing the Google Structured Data Markup Helper for emails.

    Hiver

    Hiver is an email collaboration tool designed to help you work more efficiently using shared accounts. Track tasks, access shared mailboxes, write notes, assign emails to team members and mark them completed when done. The free version supports up to 3 users, or you can upgrade from $6/month to work with larger teams.

    Content creation & curation

    Apester

    Apester is a handy free tool for creating interactive content like quizzes, which can liven up your content marketing with some fun and engaging pieces. We’ve been using it here at ClickZ and Search Engine Watch to power challenges such as ‘How well do you know these 25 SEO abbreviations?‘ and ‘Can you decipher these marketing and business buzzwords?‘

    Piktochart

    Piktochart is a popular and easy-to-use tool for creating infographics, along with other types of visual content like presentations and posters. Its drag-and-drop interface is really simple and the results look slick and professional.

    Canva

    Canva is another versatile, free visual content creation tool – and in the age of the visual web, you might as well have all the tools you can at your disposal! Canva helps you create attractive visuals for everything from social media graphics to presentations, banners, blog graphics and business cards.

    canva

    Listly

    Listly is a fun and free platform for curating and sharing all sorts of lists, on any topic from film to technology, education to marketing. Other users can follow your lists and upvote their favourite items to make them rank higher. I’ve curated the tools in this article into their own Listly, so feel free to comment and upvote your favourites!

    Triberr

    Triberr is one part content sharing platform, one part influencer marketing platform. If you’re a blogger or content creator, you can use it as a platform to share content with a network of fellow content creators, and join groups for specific interests and topic areas – think of it like LinkedIn groups.

    If you’re an agency, however, you can also use Triberr to conduct influencer marketing campaigns. You can prepare a campaign for influencers to apply to, set a budget, digital assets, goals and more. While you do have to pay the influencer(s), everything else is free to use with no other fees.

    Social media

    Socioboard

    Socioboard is a social media management platform for businesses and brands, aimed at helping them with lead generation, customer support, marketing and engagement. You can connect up a range of accounts including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn to manage them from a central dashboard. The free version offers scheduling features, CRM and reporting tools for up to 5 profiles. (Suggested by Rupak Som)

    Socioboard

    Hootsuite

    Hootsuite is a widely-used social media management tool which allows you to manage and co-ordinate multiple social networks, schedule posts, track analytics and keep tabs on certain keywords and hashtags via its ‘streams’ feature.

    The free version allows you to connect up to three accounts, or you can upgrade to one of its paid accounts for more features.

    TweetReach

    TweetReach is a great tool for analysing the reach of any username, hashtag or keyword, estimating how many impressions it has made and how many individual accounts have been reached.

    The free version only gives a snapshot of the past 100 tweets, so to get a more detailed analysis, you would need to upgrade to one of the paid options – or you can take multiple snapshots to build up a picture over time.

    socialmention

    socialmention allows you to search for any word, phrase or hashtag to see where people are using it across the internet. It’s useful for keeping tabs on a hashtag campaign or brand name beyond social media, as it also covers blogs, bookmarks, images and videos. You can also see whether people are using your term in a positive or negative context, its level of reach, and whether users are mentioning it repeatedly.

    socialmention

    Simply Measured

    Simply Measured provides a selection of free reports you can use to analyse various social media accounts, including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Even more in-depth is its Social Traffic Analysis, which works in conjunction with Google Analytics to give an overview of your site’s social traffic, presenting it in a visual and easy-to-read format.

    If you want to go further with social media tracking and analytics, don’t miss our list of nine free tools for measuring social ROI!

    Video

    Instagram Video

    Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter all have their video offerings, but Instagram is still, as Christopher Ratcliff wrote in his piece on the best branded Instagram videos of 2016, “one of the best places for brands to experiment with short form video”.

    Instagram video has all the filters you’ll be familiar with from uploading photographs, plus a choice of ratio and now a full 60 seconds to play with. You can shoot directly within the app or upload and trim an existing video.

    Wistia

    Wistia is a video hosting service for businesses, which came highly recommended by local SEO expert Greg Gifford in his Brighton SEO presentation on going beyond local SEO. It provides detailed analytics, engagement graphs and heat maps to show exactly how users have interacted with a video. The free option only supports three videos, but you can upgrade from $10/month to one of its paid options.

    Powtoon

    Powtoon is a free tool for creating animated marketing videos, explainers, animated infographics, or even videos and presentations that you can share internally within your business. The free account allows for videos of up to five minutes, with a watermark and outro. (Recommended by Deepak Gawas)

    powtoon

    WeVideo

    WeVideo is an online video editing and collaboration tool, with cloud storage, a music library and editing on-the-go with a mobile app. The free version allows for five minutes of video publishing in 720p, with watermark.

    Events

    Eventbrite

    Eventbrite is a widely-used and effective event hosting platform which allows you to create an event, invite attendees, manage tickets and registrations and promote your event to a wider audience. While it’s only free if your event is free to attend, there are fairly low fees for paid tickets, which you can often pass on to buyers as part of the event registration.

    Lanyrd

    An extensive social discovery platform for professional events, Lanyrd is great both for publicising your own event and finding other events at which to network, learn and make contacts. It allows attendees to share videos, slides and podcasts after the event, with remote tracking features so that anyone who couldn’t make it can follow along remotely.

    lanyrd

    Slideshare

    Slideshare is an important complement to any event – the most convenient way to share and save presentation slides after an event has taken place, and a great platform for reaching a business audience.

    AppsGeyser

    AppsGeyser is a free tool designed to let you easily create an Android app. You can use it for any purpose, but it would be particularly useful for an event where you’d like to create a one-use app that will keep attendees connected and up to date, without a lot of expenditure.

    HelloSign

    HelloSign is a tool for helping you to get event contracts (and other types of contract) signed by requesting electronic signatures from up to 20 different people. It uses SSL encryption to keep documents safe, and will send out an email copy to everyone who signed a document, for their records. The free version is limited to 3 documents per month from a single sender; paid versions start from $13/month and have a 30-day free trial.

    Analytics

    Google Analytics

    Google Analytics is a must-have for any suite of analytics tools, and the best part is that it’s completely free. Google’s all-in-one analytics dashboard gives insights into different traffic sources, pageviews, demographics, SEO, social media and a wealth of other information.

    To find out how to set up Google Analytics for your website for the first time, check out YuYu Chen’s comprehensive beginner’s guide. Our guide to confusing terms is also on hand to help you decipher the lingo!

    Buzzsumo

    Buzzsumo is a content analysis tool which gives you a breakdown of the social shares for content published to any domain, allowing you to discover the most popular and shareable content for your own website – or a competitor’s – and find out which networks your content resonates with. Upgrading to a Pro account also gives you insight into backlinks and influencers, allowing you to see exactly who is sharing your content.

    Bitly

    Bitly is a free link shortening and tracking tool, which monitors traffic and referrals via custom links and displays detailed analytics about clicks, location, referring websites, activity over time and more. It’s widely used by publishers and businesses alike, and has a handy tagging system you can use to keep track of links from different marketing campaigns or portals.

    bitly graphs

    Quill Engage

    Quill Engage provides reports which explain your Google Analytics data in plain English. So if you’re feeling baffled by all of the numbers and technical terms, give a free report a go – the free version offers reports for one Google Analytics account, which you can have delivered weekly and monthly.

    SimilarWeb & GetHoneybadger

    SimilarWeb is a useful tool for keeping tabs on your competitors. Using its free search tool, you can dig up stats on any website, including its rank globally, within its leading country, and within its respective category; traffic by country and sources; search and referral traffic; and more.

    You can also audit yourself for some insightful stats, and put your performance side-by-side with competitors to see how you can compare.

    For an even more seamless process, you can also use the Chrome extension Gethoneybadger to dig up stats about any website with one click. Gethoneybadger uses SimilarWeb to pull in analytics about that specific website, displaying them in a little window in the corner of your screen.

    SEO

    Google Search Console

    Much like Google Analytics, Google Search Console is a must-have resource for webmasters, and is free to set up for your website. With it, you can monitor your site’s performance, identify any issues, submit content to be crawled, check on your mobile friendliness, view the searches that brought users to your site, and much more besides.

    Christopher Ratcliff has written a complete overview of Google Search Console over at Search Engine Watch which breaks down each individual area and how to use it.

    SEO SiteCheckup

    SEO SiteCheckup will give you a quick and detailed health check of your website’s SEO for free, with an overall SEO score out of 100, along with a downloadable PDF report and information on keyword usage, images, backlink authority and other handy insights.

    seo site checkup

    Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress

    Yoast is a free plugin for WordPress to help you easily manage SEO and optimise your webpages. You can use it to set templates for, and optimise, titles and meta descriptions, enter focus keywords, and fine-tune just about everything you could want about your Google listing.

    Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool

    The Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool is a desktop app that you can install on PC, Mac or Linux, which will crawl websites and analyse them for common SEO issues, such as broken links, duplicate content and response time. The free version works for up to 500 URLs, or you can buy an annual license for £99/year, which will also unlock a set of advanced configuration options.

    Google’s Mobile Friendly and Speed Test Tool

    For your business to be able to compete online, it’s become imperative to have a properly-optimised mobile site. Mobile traffic has surpassed desktop web traffic for the first time in 2016, and Google’s various ‘mobilegeddon‘ algorithm updates have increasingly penalised sites that aren’t optimised for mobile. So to give your site the best chance in search, it pays to track down and fix up those issues that keep it from working well on mobile.

    Luckily, Google has made this free and quick to do with its Mobile Friendly and Speed Test Tool, which will analyse and test your site for mobile functionality and also speed issues, and advise you on how to fix them. Of course, you can always beat Google to the punch with our mobile-friendliness checklist.

    mobile friendly

    If you want to dive into free search optimisation tools in more depth, including site health checkers, sitemap generators, keyword research tools and more, don’t miss our roundup of 26 expert-recommended free SEO tools.

    This article was previously published on our sister website ClickZ.

    Five most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

    Examples of mobile interstitials that Google considers to be annoying, including an example of an intrusive popup and two examples of intrusive standalone interstitials.

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

    In this week’s round-up, we have two big changes for mobile on Google, plus some more insight into a change that Google made to its AdSense policy recently.

    And if you’ve ever thought about switching off from technology altogether, it turns out you’re not alone: more than 30% of internet users have taken a ‘digital detox’ in the past year.

    Google to penalize annoying mobile interstitials

    Al Roberts reported for Search Engine Watch this week on how Google is taking aim at sites with annoying mobile interstitials (an item which displays before or after the expected content, like a pop-up ad) by penalising them with lower rankings.

    Starting on 10th January 2017, Google will adjust its algorithm so that sites “where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.”

    A post on the Google Webmaster Central blog provided some examples of techniques that Google thinks are harmful to the user experience on mobile:

    • Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
    • Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
    • Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.

    Say goodbye to the ‘Mobile-Friendly’ label in Google Search

    In the same blog post in which Google laid out its plans to penalise unfriendly interstitials, Google announced that it would be getting rid of the ‘mobile-friendly’ label which has been a mainstay of the mobile search page for the past two years.

    Designed to help users find content “where the text and content was readable without zooming and the tap targets were appropriately spaced”, Google has decided that the ‘mobile-friendly’ label has outlived its purpose now that 85% of pages in the mobile search results now meet this criteria.

    Score one for the mobile web!

    Google removes its AdSense ad limit policy

    Google was recently spotted changing its ad placement policies for AdSense to remove the ‘ad limit per page’ section. Search Engine Journal reported on the change this week, and contacted Google to confirm that it had indeed removed the limit on advertising.

    From Search Engine Journal:

    Using the WayBack Machine, you can see that the policy once read as follows:

    “Currently, on each page AdSense publishers may place:
    – Up to three AdSense for content units
    – Up to three link units
    – Up to two search boxes

    Publishers may not place more than one “large” ad unit per page. We define a “large” ad unit as any unit similar in size to our 300×600 format. For example, this would include our 300×1050 and 970×250 formats, our 750×200 and 580×400 regional formats, and any other custom sized ad with comparable dimensions.”

    Now, you can see in Google’s current ad placement policies that the ‘ad limit per page’ section has been removed. It has been replaced with a section titled ‘valuable inventory’, which cautions site owners not to let the amount of ads on a page exceed the amount of actual content. Doing so may result in Google limiting or disabling ads served on the page until appropriate changes are made.

    Search Engine Journal’s article delves into Google’s reasons for the change, which includes reducing the amount of slideshow-based content designed to get around the ad limit, and encouraging advertisers to use new mobile-friendly ad units.

    SEJ writer Matt Southern considers whether publishers might begin to abuse their advertising privileges now that the limit has been lifted. But I can’t help noticing that the new guidelines also make the terms under which Google can penalise content a lot more subjective.

    Will this cause problems for publishers when they run afoul of rules they didn’t even realise have changed?

    AMP now supports A/B testing

    Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) initiative continues to evolve. At the beginning of this month, Google announced that AMP support is being rolled out across the entire organic search results page on mobile. Kenny Chung has taken a detailed look at who benefits from implementing AMP in the wake of the update.

    Now, The SEM Post’s Jennifer Slegg has reported on a change that might make implementing AMP more appealing to businesses and marketers: AMP now supports A/B testing.

    “If you have been wanting to do some A/B testing on your AMPlified page performances, AMP is now supporting a new which gives publishers flexibility to test variations of pages. This is especially good news for those publishers wanting to monetize better as well as for advertisers that are currently testing out using AMP for landing pages.”

    You can read the full announcement on AMP’s blog here.

    AMP results featured in organic mobile search

    One third of UK internet users have taken a ‘digital detox’

    Finally, we have some interesting revelations from Ofcom’s 2016 Communications Market Report about the popularity of ‘digital detoxing’ in the UK. According to the report, 15 million UK internet users, or 34%, have spent a period of time offline in order to strike a healthier balance between technology and offline life.

    The report also found that digital detoxes were most popular with the most wired-in age group: 16-24-year olds, 52% of whom have taken a digital detox in the past year. On the flip side, 34% of internet users say they “would definitely not like to do a digital detox”.

    Luke Richards gives more details about the report’s findings on digital detoxing and what they mean in his article for Search Engine Watch.

    What is corporate storytelling and why is it important?

    Woman writing in notepad at wooden table

    Persistence is the quality that often gets attributed to any type of success in marketing and sales. Most professionals will tell you that you have to repeat the same message over and over again until you get satisfactory results.

    But is this really true? What if your message is wrong?

    This is where corporate storytelling comes into play.

    Stories have existed since the dawn of time and were used to entertain and educate. They are one of the strongest driving forces in the universe being able to start revolutions, unite people and bring joy. Good stories persist throughout the ages.

    When it comes to corporate storytelling, the principles are the same as with traditional stories. The main difference is that you are using them to promote a product or a service or to position a brand.

    Stories usually come in a form of text. However, it is also possible to tell a good story about your company through a video. In fact, as videos become more and more important in terms of SEO, corporations slowly turn to this type of promotion.

    Here are some of the main elements of a good corporative story and reasons why we introduce them.

    Good corporate storytelling should include:

    1) A hero

    Similarly to classic fairy tales, every story requires a main protagonist. They will overcome all the obstacles. At the same time, this person has to be relatable. In the end, if we are unable to connect to them, we will soon lose interest.

    Some companies use subtle messages indicating that the main protagonist is in fact the consumer. You are the one that needs to overcome obstacles by using a certain product or service.

    2) A main plot

    One of the biggest challenges of modern marketing comes in a form of short attention spans. Given that we are living in a world littered with advertisement where everything is easily attainable, there are only a handful of things that can truly shock us or attract our attention.

    That being said, good plot is the necessity which will leave a reader (or a viewer) intrigued waiting to see what will happen at the end.

    3) Drama and obstacles to overcome

    Dynamic storytelling is imposed by the modern society. In order to intrigue the reader, there has to be some kind of a twist. Drama is necessary as a method that will involve reader emotionally attaching him to a product.

    4) A trustworthy message that’s simple and consistent

    If you are promising more than you can deliver, consumers will see your story as a ploy and will not get hooked. The message has to be believable.

    Besides that, it also has to be simple. Otherwise, the consumer might not understand the meaning behind it. Lastly, it has to be consistent. This is not as important for an individual message; however, it is crucial if you wish to build a brand.

    As you can see, the elements of a corporate story coincide with those of a classic one. However, the reason for its existence is completely different and one may even call it selfish. Nevertheless, you cannot deny its power.

    Creating a sense of achievement

    Each time there is a new and revolutionary product being launched, a mass of people will gather in front of the stores. All of this is a result of good storytelling.

    People are not that attracted to the product itself. Instead, they are intrigued by all its benefits. In a sense, by purchasing said item, they will have a sense of achievement.

    As we previously mentioned, they will be emotionally engaged in a story that the company presents. They will feel as the main protagonist managing to overcome all the obstacles and finish their quest.

    However, do not think that consumers are foolish or gullible. They will only acquire a product or a service that will help them improve their life.

    Regardless of a story, you have to have a “hook” that will persuade them why something that are you are offering will have such an incredible impact on their lives. Like with all marketing campaigns, the consumer is at the forefront.

    Storytelling in the internet era

    Creating a great video or article is only the beginning. Your product represents the basis upon which the story is being told. But, if there is nobody to receive the message, all your efforts will be in vain.

    Always remember that corporate storytelling is directed towards revenues. That being said, the more people read your story, the higher the chances to make additional profit.

    When creating content, you have to consider SEO. With that in mind, your content has to look impressive, to be well written, to consist relevant information and most importantly, to be sharable. To sum it up, it has to be link-worthy.

    Your story has to inspire people. You have to create an impression that by sharing your content, individual is able to help others. This is crucial because everybody wants to feel like a hero. And with your story, they are able to be just that.

    Liking and sharing needs to be a part of a story. Furthermore, you have to find a way to reward the reader for passing on the message. That way, you are providing all the experience which the real story provides: creation of a hero, plot twist, anticipation and reward for protagonist’s sacrifices.

    If you wish to create a brand consciousness, you have to create a story that can continue on. It can come in several parts or it can be created in a way so that a viewer anticipates additional messages.

    This way, you are able to keep individual engaged for a longer time and instead of connecting to a particular product, he will become emotionally attached to a brand.

    Keep in mind that promotion of a brand requires some additional considerations. If one of your stories is bad or if it doesn’t provide the necessary stimuli to a reader, the entire campaign may flop.

    Similarly, the message needs to be clear and consistent so that the person can connect the dots between the individual stories. Risks are much higher but so are the rewards.

    Conclusion

    Storytelling is and will remain one of most impactful ways of promoting your content. All of us are emotional beings and we like to let our imagination run free. Stories are an amazing catalyst that ignites that passion and imagination letting us visits those magnificent worlds.

    By exploiting those emotions, you are able to position your product in their minds creating an emotional need for your product which is usually much stronger than the rational one.

    Nikolay Stoyanov is one of Bulgaria’s top SEO experts with more than eight years of practicing SEO and a contributor to ClickZ.

    This article was previously published on our sister website ClickZ.

    Seven innovative social media marketing tools you should be using

    Yotpo Instagram Curation

    Is your social media marketing campaign a little lackluster? Are you getting results, but not nearly to the scale you would prefer?

    Many marketers face this problem, especially given the constantly evolving nature of social media.

    What makes social platforms so unique is that they are impacted almost entirely not by the features they provide, but how people use them.

    Twitter was developed to be a micro blogging platform, but users constantly find ways around the character restriction.

    Facebook was meant for only communicating with people the user knows in real life, but the average user now has dozens of people they have never met on their feed.

    Since social media is ultimately defined by how it is used at any given moment, it can be hard to customize a marketing campaign to properly meet its complexities. But that doesn’t mean it is impossible; with the right tools, it become infinitely easier to achieve.

    Here are seven innovative social media marketing tools that you have to check out.

    1. Yotpo Instagram Curation

    Yotpo has just launched a cool Instagram tool to play with. I don’t really think there’s an alternative. The tool lets you search Instagram using as many search terms as you want within one search results page.

    You can interact with search results in two ways:

    • You can public any content to your pages (thus curating Instagram content into your brand and product reviews)
    • You can ask for permission to re-publish any Instagram update (Thus engaging with your (future) customers and niche influencers on Instagram)

    Finally, you can display curated Instagram photos on your product pages using Yotpo widget that helps you convert more visitors into customers and building loyalty.

    2. UpContent

    UpContent

    Content curation is a pretty steady part of social engagement at this point. But it is also one of the more time consuming, and that means your ability to take part in it, while still focusing on proper branding, is a little bit limited.

    I like UpContent because it makes the process a million times easier and faster. They have some really great filters that customize your searches beyond the usual ‘most related’ and ‘most recently uploaded’. Plus it integrates with both Hootsuite and Buffer, both tools most of us have at this point.

    3. Introduce

    Introduce

    When are you most active on Twitter? What have your favorite influencers been up to? What are the stats of the competition on the social network? Introduce answers all of that and more, with nothing but a Twitter handle and approximately ten seconds of analysis time.

    Find out anything you need to know about someone’s Twitter habits, including your own. It makes customizing your strategy much easier, if you know what others are doing. This tool will make relationship building and lead generation on Twitter much easier!

    4. Wiserbots

    Wiserbots

    Facebook has been opening their chatbot service up to brands on a mass scale, and a lot of people are taking advantage of it. Unfortunately, making automated chatbots can be a difficult process. We are talking about artificial intelligence, after all. If you don’t have the expertise to make an AI, or the money to hire someone to do it for you, what you need is a tool that makes it easier.

    Wiserbots is that tool. It guides you through the process, automates much of it, and lets you make a smarter bot to boot.

    5. Linkedin career app

    Linkedin career app

    There are actually several LinkedIn apps that you can choose from, and any one of them might be useful to you. But my personal favorite is LinkedIn Job Search.

    Did you know that almost two-thirds of Fortune 500 CEOs prefer LinkedIn as their choice social network. This makes Linkedin a goldmine for finding a dream job in an interesting startup!

    You can search out jobs in your professional network, get notified of new career opportunities and use your existing connections to be approved. If you want to find a better way to network on a B2B level, this is definitely how to do it.

    You will get access to various tricks on how to improve your employability by completing your profile, adding achievements and requesting recommendations. Writing a solid Linkedin resume is actually huge. I’ve always envied people who can describe their career path with lots inspiration and creativity. I am not like this. I hate talking about myself.

    Here are some tips on improving your Linkedin profile if you are on a job hunt and planning to use the app.

    6. BundlePost

    BundlePost

    What if you could create tailor made posts, properly researched and hashtagged, for 3 – 5 days ahead of schedule, and do it all in 20 minutes max? Well, you would probably lose your mind, because scheduling posts is one of the most annoying and time consuming parts of social media marketing, right?

    BundlePost allows you to do this, automating much of the process so you can do more, in less time, with better results. Leaving your time open to engaging in a meaningful way with your audience.

    7. PhotoSync

    PhotoSync

    It may sound kind of funny, but out of everything that drives me crazy about social media marketing, it is moving images and videos from one place to another. Because Instagram only works on mobile, it throws off my entire process. I hate using the Hootsuite mobile app, which is how I was doing things before.

    Now I just sync up all of my media through all of my accounts and devices using PhotoSync. It has made my days much less frustrating.

    Do you have an innovative social media marketing tool you think belongs on this list? Have you used one of the tools above? Let us know in the comments.

    Why mobile commerce sites should be designed for context

    An image of a stick person holding a mobile phone with the words "I want to..." underneath. To the right is a list of 16 options for things the mobile user might do, such as "Send a text message", "Watch a video", "Check the weather", "Call Mom" and "Listen to a song." At the bottom is a credit to Google Search Quality Guidelines.

    If you want your m-commerce project to deliver the results you’re expecting, context should be front and centre of your design.

    Across all industries, mobile traffic is eating into PC web traffic in a big way, even in economies which have a large installed base of consumer PCs.

    But ecommerce sites aren’t seeing mobile web visitors, particularly those who use smartphones, converting to mobile shoppers with the same success as PC shoppers.

    As Andy Favell writes in ClickZ Intelligence’s new report, ‘The DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 2: The 12 Pillars of Mobile Design’:

    “It is fair to conclude that conversions would be higher if the m-commerce experience on the web was better designed with smartphone users in mind. M-commerce sites that crack this will sell more.”

    One of the most consistent mistakes made with mobile site design is a failure to take into account the differing circumstances, needs and intentions of smartphone users; in other words, their unique context.

    The difference between smartphone and PC users isn’t just a smaller screen size – it’s a whole new set of variables.

    Google’s guidelines for its search quality evaluators emphasise the importance of taking context into account for mobile users.

    So how does context impact the way you cater for m-commerce customers, and what can you do to tailor your design to their needs?

    Why design for context?

    A customer using a PC to access your website is likely to be doing so in a limited number of settings. Most often they’ll be at home or at work, possibly in an internet café, or using a laptop somewhere like an airport or coffee shop.

    Even if you imagine that they might be out and about, there are still relatively few plausible scenarios in which they could be logging in, and they don’t differ from one another that wildly.

    But with mobile, and particularly smartphones, the number of possible scenarios suddenly increases exponentially. Your customer could be travelling, working, moving around the house and multi-tasking, walking to your location, walking to a rival‘s location…

    In each case, the context drastically alters the way in which this customer might be approaching and interacting with your site.

    Andy Favell explained in a recent article for ClickZ, ‘When will responsive websites respond to user context?’ why cross-platform homogeneity – taking the same approach to design across differing platforms – doesn’t make sense.

    “Cross platform homogeneity forgets two massive things:

    • The requirements of the desktop and mobile user are often different
    • The requirements of the same mobile user (more importantly) vary depending on whether they are at home, at work, commuting, on route to the location, on site, in a rival’s location and so on.

    And that’s just the start of it. Now consider:

    • How context varies by time of day, day of week, time of year.
    • What about the trigger that causes the visit to the site e.g. something on TV, snapping QR code in a print ad, tapping through from an email, social media etc.?”

    Taking a user’s context into account is considered to be a no-brainer for targeted advertising, and the conversions it delivers prove that targeting works.

    Facebook has achieved great success from advertising thanks to its ability to fine-tune its adverts according to who a user is and what they might be doing.

    Image by Bablu bit, available via CC BY-SA 4.0

    Google is increasingly using the data it collects on users and their search histories to contextualise the results it provides them and make them more relevant. And programmatic advertising is currently making waves with the promise of being able to determine at high speed who to target based on digital cues received about the user.

    The online world is increasingly trending towards high levels of personalisation as our ability to gather and interpret data about users improves. And for m-commerce, this also seems like the logical next step.

    As Favell writes in ‘The DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 2′:

    “If adtech has the ability to target ads on mobile websites at visitors, surely m-commerce sites should use the same types of technology and listen to the same digital signals in order to prioritise the most appropriate content, offers and services, and make the user journey as easy and frictionless as possible?”

    How to design for context in m-commerce

    In part two of the ‘DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site’ report, Andy Favell gives a series of tips on how to personalise your mobile offering to users whilst not over-targeting to the point that users find it irritating. He advises:

    • Prioritising content, rather than selecting which content to show to the exclusion of others
    • Suggesting entries in search or form fields, such as postcode or ZIP code in a search box
    • If your website defaults to departments based on previous behaviour – for example, ASOS will open the men’s or women’s store homepage based on what the user has browsed previously – make sure it is clear how to return to the general homepage
    • Facilitating the buying process with options to save for later, save a favourite address, save a favourite meal
    • Encouraging a trust relationship by explaining how personalisation works and how it benefits the user
    • Making it easy to opt in or out of personalisation

    The epitome of a personalised m-commerce experience is a site that adapts fully to user context, based on signals such as who a person is, where they are, what device they are using, what they like and what they are doing.

    While there are very few examples of websites who are doing this well at the moment, the concept isn’t too far-fetched.

    A handful of retailers in the US have already invested in developing native apps which deliver a different experience to the user when they are away from a store versus when they are in-store.

    The most innovative of these will switch to “Store mode” as the shopper enters a store location, activated by geotechnologies like bluetooth beacons.

    A person uses their smartphone to scan a number of barcodes on the side of a green file folder.

    A number of US retailers have personalised their m-commerce offerings with a dedicated “store mode”, which includes features such as scanning products to check pricing and availability | Image by Intel Free Press, available via CC BY-SA 2.0

    DMI’s 2015 ‘In-store Mobile Experiences’ report sets out why a properly personalised in-store mobile experience can be so beneficial to retailers.

    According to the report, 82% of high-income shoppers said that an improved mobile in-store experience would make the shopping experience better. And 74% of young people aged 18-35 said that they would spend more money at a store that provided an improved in-store mobile experience.

    Standout performers in the US – which included Walgreens, Home Depot, Nordstrom, Walmart, Target and American Eagle among other brands – offered in-store features such as scanning products to unlock information on pricing and product availability; integrating loyalty programs into the in-store experience; in-store mapping; product recommendations; and reserving a dressing room.

    These are all location-dependent personalisation features, but there are other mobile signals you can use to divine information about your user’s context and tailor your m-commerce site to them in subtle ways.

    In ‘The DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 2′, Ronan Cremin, CTO of DeviceAtlas, writes:

    “Apart from the really obvious one (location) there are other possibilities like detecting if a user is literally on the move or not (accelerometer), is the battery low etc. etc.

    One important point about all of these contextual cues is to use them as hints rather than hard deciding factors because the cost of getting things wrong based on an incorrect assumption is high.

    It’s really dangerous to make assumptions about what a user wants, so I think that the best thing to do is make prioritization decisions over ordering of features rather than adding/removing features entirely.”

    A picture of a smartphone tucked into someone's jeans pocket with its screen showing a low battery symbol.Subtle cues about a user’s state like battery level can be used to personalise your m-commerce site | Image by Martin Abegglen, available via CC BY-SA 2.0

    As both Favell and Cremin point out, it’s important not to go overboard with personalisation, as too much can risk alienating the user, especially if wrong assumptions are made.

    But don’t let this put you off trying altogether. Context is everything in mobile design, and even small adjustments can go a long way towards creating a frictionless user experience and improving your m-commerce sales and conversions.

    You can read the full ClickZ Intelligence reports here:

    • DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 1: Planning
    • DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 2: The 12 Pillars of Mobile Design

    This article has been adapted from a post originally published on our sister website ClickZ: Why context is king in m-commerce.

    Five common keyword research mistakes you need to avoid

    keyword research

    Before you dive into keyword research for your site, you should know about these common mistakes that many businesses and SEO firms make.

    Avoiding these mistakes can save you time, help you re-think your marketing strategy, and drive the right customers to your site.

    1) Picking keywords that are irrelevant to your customers

    People often pick keywords with high search volumes in their field, but don’t pay enough attention to the relevancy of these keywords to their target customers. You need to choose keywords that match your customer’s concerns.

    For example, if you’re targeting affluent families who are searching for good schools for their kids, you shouldn’t pick keywords like “low cost public schools ny” or “affordable schools ny”. These families aren’t searching for those keywords. Instead, you should optimize for keywords such as “best schools ny” and “elite boarding schools ny”

    Each of your target customers have different needs and concerns, and they use different words when they search. You need to understand your customers and the language they use. Remember, each searcher has an intent, and is looking for something. Your page needs to provide the answer.

    2) Focusing on too specific keywords

    If you have a large site with lots of possible keywords combinations, you might be tempted to optimize for every little combination you can, in an attempt to cover them all. For example: type, color, price, size, etc. Do the math. This can lead to an unlimited amount of possible keywords.

    Many of these lengthy combinations have low search volumes, with no one even searching for them. Also, targeting too many keywords can distract you from most important keywords.

    Focus on the keywords that have good search volumes and the potential to drive business. Keyword quality is more important than keyword quantity.

    Don’t aim at generic keywords, or too specific keywords. It’s best to start with niche keywords that people use to search and buy your products/services.

    These are the “low-hanging fruit” keywords that lead to customers who are easiest to close first. What are the highly specific long-tail keywords that pertain to your industry? Google calls this the “I want to buy” moment.

    Once you have your best keyword groups, you can always expand them to target broader groups with various search intents.

    art class search page

    Example of a niche keyword: “art class for kids”

    3) Selecting only a few big keywords

    Another mistake that large websites often make is focusing on only a few top keywords. You only see this kind of approach in black-hat SEO claims, like “get top rankings for 30 big keywords” because black hat tactics (such as link networks) are often used to push rankings for a single keyword at a time.

    leather womens shoes ppc

    Trying to compete for “leather womens shoes” would be a waste of time for many businesses

    An online marketplace with over 100,000 pages of content once asked us to do SEO for their list of 30 keywords. This SEO strategy just doesn’t make sense. 100,000 pages should be optimized for 300,000 – 500,000 keywords, in order to drive a big amount of traffic and grow the business.

    We often follow a simple rule of thumb: each page should be optimized for 3-5 keywords, so the number of keywords is roughly planned by the amount of content.

    4) Finding keywords based on existing site structure

    When beginning keyword research, most people look at the main pages and major sections of their website, and then start to look for keywords for those pages.

    They then optimize those same pages for the keywords they found. The problem is that you can miss out on a lot of great keywords that the current site structure and site content hasn’t covered.

    The purpose of good keyword research is to find all possible keywords that your prospective customers are using to find you, and that has nothing to do with your site structure.

    Your customers might be looking for very relevant content to your business, that’s not on your website at all! When doing good SEO, you should actually have to modify your site structure, and create entirely new sections and pages that are better optimized for the right keyword groups.

    For a school consulting website, we found many strong keywords for a specific audience, like “boarding school for boys” and “boarding school for girls” which were not on the site at all.

    We created new sections and pages for these important keywords. Had we relied on the existing site structure, we’d miss out on many of these valuable keywords.

    keyword allocation part one

    keyword allocation

    5) Putting the wrong keywords on the wrong pages

    Once you’ve grouped your keywords, you need to figure out where to place them on your website. This process is called keyword allocation, and it’s a critical step in the keyword research process.

    A common mistake is adding irrelevant keywords to pages whose content doesn’t match the keywords, or pages that don’t match the search intent.

    For example, users who search for “boarding schools in usa” are usually from overseas. Therefore, the page optimized for that keyword should indicate the value for international families who want to send their kids to US schools.

    On the flip side, users who search for “top private schools in upper east side nyc” are usually people who understand the neighborhood, so the page content should adhere to their different needs. The keyword “boarding schools for girls” should be allocated to a page that concerns school girls.

    It’s not simply about putting keywords on a page, it’s about matching each keyword with search intent and web page copy.

    Mike Le is the Co-Founder and COO of CB/I Digital, a digital agency in New York that offers digital marketing and digital product services for clients. You can connect with Mike on LinkedIn and Twitter.

    How to make speed a core part of your traffic and conversion strategy

    site speed images

    Speed can make more of a difference to the success of your online business than anything else, yet very few people talk about it.

    If you can increase the speed of your site, traffic can increase and conversion can double.

    Here I won’t just be talking about your website speed, but the overall “speed experience” of your online business.

    A 2015 Microsoft study that surveyed 2,000 people and monitored brain activity of 112 additional people with EEGs, revealed that the average human attention span has reduced to eight seconds, from 12 seconds in the year 2000.

    Interestingly, declining attention spans is affecting online transactions as well. Here are some interesting statistics on what happens when you delay people’s access to your website:

    • A one second delay in page load time will result in a 7% loss in conversion.
    • 40% of people will abandon your website if it takes longer than three seconds to load.
    • A study that monitored real time data from 33 major retailers found that improving a site’s load time from eight seconds to two seconds boosted conversion rates by 74%.
    • Slow loading sites cost the U.S. economy over $500 billion every year.

    The above statistics point clearly to the impact site speed has on conversion and traffic, but it doesn’t end there. It isn’t a secret that Google now uses site speed as one of its ranking factors.

    If you run an online business, making speed a priority can single-handedly double your traffic and conversions. Here are some tips for you:

    1) Optimize your site load time

    The very first step towards ensuring a faster experience with people who interact with your brand online involves optimizing your site load time.

    As established by some of the stats listed above, website speed plays a core role in whether people stay on your website or buy from you.

    In fact, an Akamai study found that 47% of people expect a web page to load within two seconds. Here are some ideas to make your site load faster:

    • Get a better host: Really, the foundation of your website is important; if you’re on a poor host, everything else I suggest here is useless. First ensure you’re on a good host. I created this comparison page to make it easy to compare web hosts based on speed.
    • Use a CDN: One of the core benefits of the internet is that it is universal. Someone from the most remote village in Bulgaria can access content from India as soon as it is created. Due to the distance and some other factors, this advantage can also be a disadvantage. Your site won’t load the same for everybody: Your website that is hosted in the US will be faster for people trying to access it in the US, but it will be slower for people trying to access it in China. Speed will vary based on the location of your users. Thanks to CDNs, however, your website can be distributed to servers in different parts of the world. This lets you serve the fastest version of your website to visitors depending on where they are trying to gain access from. This in turn results in a much faster website. CloudFlare and MaxCDN are great CDN options.
    • Disable unnecessary add-ons and plugins: Usability trumps being fancy any day. If you want a faster website, you should be ready to remove anything that is unnecessary; this includes plugins and add-ons that do not serve a purpose. If your website will work fine without a particular plugin or add-on, you don’t need it.
    • Compress images: When you take a picture, or download an image online, it is usually very large. This is especially true if it is a high resolution image. The issue is that the size of images displayed on your website adds to your site’s overall loading speed. A 2.4MB image could easily be compressed to 100KB, resulting in a significant reduction in page load time.
    • Use caching: Anytime someone visits your website, their browser has to download files from your server before serving them your site. If this is done every time, not only will your site take a bit longer to load for users but it can result in a slower website if a lot of people try to access your website at once. With caching, however, the files is downloaded and saved by their browser during their first visit. Instead of requesting a new file from your server each time, unless you update your website, their browser will serve the version downloaded earlier. This makes your site faster for both old and new visitors.

    2) Create a mobile (or responsive) version of your site

    Many website owners focus only on desktop visitors and ignore mobile visitors. The interesting fact, however, is that there are more mobile internet users today than desktop internet users. This is why it is very important for you to create a mobile version of your website.

    mobile friendly

    Mobile devices do not have the same capacity as desktop computers, so websites – in the original form they are designed for desktop visitors – will take much longer to load on a mobile phone than on a desktop computer even with the same internet speed.

    By creating a much smaller mobile site, or by optimizing your site to be responsive for all devices, you can deliver a much faster website to mobile users.

    3) Use a completeness meter on your website

    Research shows that 75% of people would love to have a progress bar, or some sort of indication of their level of progress, when using a website.

    Even when you’ve done your best, you can’t control everything – issues happen when it comes to technology. Sometimes there will be a delay from your payment processor, or your website might just be unusually slow.

    Regardless, people are more likely to leave your website – if it is slow – when they are uncertain of how long it will take for their issue to be resolved. The solution to this is to use a “completeness meter.”

    A completeness meter, such as a progress bar, will let users know how much longer they have to wait before their issue is resolved; due to the fact that they are now certain about how long they have to wait, they feel a lot less impatient and are likely to continue with their transaction on your site.

    4) Reduce your signup forms and pages

    Most people think about site load time as the only factor to consider when optimizing a website for speed, but that’s far from it. Even your sign up forms and checkout pages matter.

    If you want people to respond more to your offer, reduce the number of hoops they have to jump through; this mean you should reduce the number of form fields users have to fill, the number of questions you ask users, and the number of pages they have to go through. This will result in a much faster experience for your users, and less is more in this case.

    5) Optimize your customer support response time

    Most importantly, you should optimize your customer support response time.

    Research shows that 53% of people expect brands to respond within an hour of reaching out to them on Twitter. Research also shows that people expect you to respond to their emails within 24 hours.

    Usually, customers can still request a refund if they are not satisfied. Most importantly, disgruntled customers can do a lot of damage to your brand by spreading the word about their bad experience to others.

    Speed optimization doesn’t just end with your website; it is important to maintain a quality attitude to speed even after people become customers.

    John Stevens is the CEO of Hosting Facts. He’s a regular contributor to Entrepreneur, Adweek, Internet Retailer and SEW.

    How to use Facebook Ads to find and recruit new employees

    facebook-recruiting-thatd-be-great

    How are you recruiting new employees?

    Are you using job recruiters? If so, you know their finder fees are ridiculously high. Typically it will cost you 20% of your new employee’s first year salary.

    Isn’t there a cheaper route? Why can’t we just find employees through social media?

    When you think recruiting and social media, most people think of LinkedIn. Many companies believe this myth that you have to do all your recruiting on LinkedIn.

    Honestly, LinkedIn is a site most people use only when they’re out of work and searching for a new job. So your search for employees on LinkedIn will actually end up excluding people who aren’t actively job-hunting.

    Often the best employees already have jobs. Some of the greatest employees we’ve hired actually weren’t even looking to change jobs!

    Can you recruit employees on Facebook?

    Facebook is the platform where everyone spends the most time. More than a billion people log into Facebook every day.

    You can encourage your employees to share job openings on their Facebook page. But this won’t accomplish much. Your organic reach on Facebook is limited to friends of your employees.

    You need people who live near your office. You need people with certain skills.

    The number of people who are actually qualified for any open job is low. It’s highly unlikely that your current employees will be connected with someone who is absolutely perfect for the job – and even if they are, that person could easily miss it in their news feed.

    If you’re serious about adding top talent to your team (fast), you need to reach a bigger audience on Facebook. You need to use Facebook Ads.

    Creating Your Facebook Recruiting Ad

    Any great Facebook Ad needs great visuals. So my biggest goal was to make WordStream look cool to future employees.

    I took some photos during a company party to help highlight our culture and show off a few of our people. In the ad copy, I said that WordStream was hiring for all departments, listed a few of our amazing perks, told people to message me if they were interested, and linked to our job page.

    And then I posted it to my wall and boosted it with Facebook Ads:

    larry-kim-wordstream-recruiting-facebook-ad

    This is where the ad targeting comes in. People who have heard of you may not realize they’re in your key demographic and that you’re hiring.

    Targeting Your Facebook Recruiting Ad

    Facebook’s ad targeting is mind-blowing. You just have to know exactly who you’re looking for when you’re recruiting for new team members.

    For most companies, location is critical. So you can do geographic targeting within a few miles of your office:

    facebook-recruiting-location

    Demographics are another critical element of Facebook ad targeting.

    What age group are you targeting? If you want someone who is entry-level, you’ll want to target a younger crowd (early to mid-20s).

    In addition, you can target your ads so they show based on a Facebook user’s employer, job title, industry, and office type:

    facebook-recruiting-work-targeting

    Want someone with a certain educational background? You can add education-level targeting.

    Interests are another important aspect of Facebook ad targeting. You can target your recruitment ad to people who have certain interests.

    For example, I targeted my ads to people who were interested in stuff like C++ programming, inbound marketing, and PPC, because people who are interested in these things would also be interested in finding and applying for a great new job that aligns with their passions.

    facebook-recruiting-behavior-interests-targeting

    You can even use remarketing to reach people who have visited your site before and are already familiar with your brand.

    After all the targeting options for the ad I created, I narrowed down my market, and it was actually quite large (almost 40,000 people reached) plus super relevant.

    My Facebook recruiting experiment: the results

    First off, check out the relevance score on this ad: a 7 out of 10.

    facebook-recruiting-relevance-score

    The relevance score shows you how well your audience responds to your ad.

    Engagement on this ad was awesome:

    • 83 likes
    • 14 comments
    • 15 shares
    • 773 clicks on the link to our jobs page
    • 15 new likes for my Facebook page

    This is pretty incredible engagement for a recruitment ad!

    On Facebook, engagement is the key. The higher your engagement, the higher your rewards from Facebook.

    This is why you need to know exactly who you want to hire. Targeting your audience based on the demographics, interests, and behaviors that fit your open position will result in more relevant ads and higher engagement.

    Had I simply targeted this same post to anyone with a Facebook account, the results would have been far less impressive. The engagement rate would be lower and the costs would be higher.

    That’s because the higher your relevancy score, the lower your cost per engagement will be.

    In addition to winning big with our new hire, Justin, the same Facebook ad attracted interest (and about 20 resumes) from several other good applicants.

    Ultimately it was actually much cheaper in our case to have found our talented hire through Facebook rather than using a recruiter or LinkedIn ads. So next time you’re looking to fill a role in your company, give Facebook Ads a try.

    Facebook ads + $200 and great targeting = awesome hires!

    This article was originally published on the WordStream blog, it’s reprinted with permission: How to use Facebook Ads to recruit top talent.