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melissa

Total posts: 6
Last post: April 24, 2017

2017 Digital Trends: What to Watch in Web Design, Development & Digital Marketing

By melissa on  April 24, 2017

2016, it was nice knowing you, but we are onto better things in 2017 (see: Cleveland Cavs Championship #2). While some of the items in the list below we started to see this year, we believe they will continue to be even more important in 2017. If these ideas are not on your list of digital strategies, you may want to reconsider.

Video: It’s a(live)!

While video has been a necessary asset in every digital marketer’s toolbox for a while, it will only continue to grow in 2017. Cisco predicted that over eighty percent of internet traffic will be video by 2020. Video advertising spend alone is expected to grow thirty-one percent next year (Forbes). Facebook continues to dominate as the leader in online video consumption. However, Twitter has teamed up with Periscope, and Pinterest has launched its own promoted video service this year.

The same content marketing rules apply to creating video content. Make it digestible, entertaining and educational. Also, be sure to tell the story through visual imagery without sound. Nearly eighty-five percent of Facebook’s 30-second video views are without sound. There’s also a methodology behind running video ads on social platforms. Today’s consumers know how to filter out advertising, so the more relevant, the better. Especially as video advertising becomes more saturated, we will see marketers focus on micro-targeting to show only the most appropriate ads to their defined target audience.

Okay Google, what do we do about voice search?

It’s the time of the year when everyone’s newest technology from Christmas day is unboxed, set up and ready to use. You probably know at least one person who was gifted the Amazon Echo, Google Home, or Amazon Dot. Microsoft predicts that fifty percent of all mobile queries will be from VoiceSearch in 2020. This changes the game for SEO strategy. As this Moz blog on SEO trends recommends, marketers will have to pay attention to Google quick answers and ranking #0.

Even more with mobile

Back in 2010, we all started talking about building responsive websites and determining the impact this would make on businesses. What we found is that this has been extremely beneficial to increasing lead generation and online transactions as mobile continues to overtake desktop usage. Then in late 2015, AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) was rolled out and pushed heavily this year by Google. While it may be too early to tell its impact, we know it’s definitely important for driving mobile traffic.

Now with Google announcing mobile-first indexing, they show a continued investment in their mobile experience. Web designers should always be thinking about the experience on mobile (think micro-interactions) as it continues to be paramount and should be continuously A/B tested.

Programmatic or bust

I know there’s quite a few buzzwords in our industry, but programmatic advertising is here to stay. MarketingLand defines programmatic advertising as software that automates the decision-making process of media buying by targeting specific audiences and demographics using artificial intelligence and real-time bidding instead of humans. And the artificial intelligence behind these solutions is only going to get more efficient and achieve better results for those companies already engaged in programmatic. This type of advertising currently accounts for sixty-seven percent of all spending on digital display ads and only will continue to grow (predicted to increase by thirty-one percent in 2017).

Influencer marketing: Twitter’s savior?

Speaking of marketing buzzwords, there’s another one here to stay, at least for 2017: influencer marketing. Twitter’s acquisition has been a topic of discussion in the latter half of this year, and it seems somewhat inevitable as Facebook and Instagram have far surpassed the platform recently in user engagement and advertising dollars. However, Twitter still remains one of the best places for influencer marketing – and it works. Almost half of users rely on product and/or brand recommendations from influencers on Twitter.

However, beware of sketchy influencer marketing practices. Doing it the right is vital in 2017 as the FTC enforces their guidelines. There’s also demand to know the return on investment of this marketing initiative. Those who can figure this out will be ahead of their competitors.

Personalized Digital Experiences (make it about me)

Everyone likes to feel special. Their digital experience should be no different. eMarketer found that seventy percent of people expect a personalized experience. Not only does it tend to get better responses, but now there’s an expectation set by other digital professionals (and the competition) that web experiences should be unique to the individual. The most common example of this is the dynamic content used in marketing automation. It could be as simple as dynamically inputting names or companies within email content, but it could also change the content users see based on other demographic or behavioral data you may have about them. Think Amazon's list of recommendations or Spotify's 'Discover Weekly' playlist. With more and more data at our finger tips and the ability to target based on this data, this should be an immediate add to your marketing strategy.

Join the bots if you want to live (or survive in a world of AI)

While we are not in a Terminator world yet, we are in a world of fast-moving artificial intelligence. Messaging apps are one of the most used apps (in some cases surpassing social media). Brands are looking to improve their user experience by allowing customers to use messaging as tool to communicate with them directly and even make purchases. This conversational commerce allows users to simply ask for what they need, rather than searching themselves. Pete Rojwongsuriya, a UX designer at The Pete Design, gives this great example on Forbes:

“Imagine an internet provider customer service bot that contextually knows all about your router setups, and can troubleshoot your problems promptly at any hours and provide a richer service than the usual customer service. I would kill for this kind of product to exist right about now!”

Who wouldn’t?

The challenge of virtual reality

Virtual reality isn’t some distant idea in the future. It’s here. And it’s going to impact our web experience even more in 2017. Experts, like Paul Miller, CMO at Xero, predict that virtual reality could be used in multiple environments, including retail where users could try out products in certain environments before making purchases. This is a whole new game for web designers, user experience gurus, and marketing professionals. But we guarantee it will be fun to watch brands explore this new universe of virtual reality and how it can change their businesses (for the better).

Digital Asset Management (DAM, it’s a good marketing tech solution)

As savvy marketers invest more into content asset development and start to see a significant return on this investment, the more they need to manage these assets in one solution. DAM software allows you to manage, organize and repurpose your content assets. This is worth investing in as your assets grow and diversify in 2017.

My New Year’s resolution is to get better at web puns. But we hope yours is to monitor, include and improve all of the things listed above. We look forward to revisiting this list at the end of 2017 and seeing what truly stuck in the ever-changing world of digital.

Any 2017 digital trends we missed? Tweet us @aztekweb

How to Write SEO-Friendly Blog Posts

By melissa on  April 24, 2017

You did it. You wrote an insightful and interesting blog post for your company. And honestly, that's the most important, and sometimes most difficult, step. However, many times businesses feel they wasted their efforts writing a great blog post to find hardly anyone read it. Making sure you keep some SEO best practices in mind can help ensure your great content is seen.

Below are eight steps to write an SEO-friendly blog post.

1. Define your target audience.

As simple as it sounds, it's sometimes easily forgotten. We see too often people who write about what they know or about their company news. If they truly knew their target audience, they would know that these topics don't resonate with them. Defining your audience before you start, will keep you focused on the right content. As a starting point, learn how to create personas then make these even more specific to your blog.

2. Brainstorm topic ideas.

I think this step is necessary before starting keyword research. You will feel more comfortable writing about something you are familiar with. Don't try to force a topic just because there's search volume around a keyword phrase. To get started brainstorming, answer these questions about your business:

  • What are some common questions your customers ask?
  • What is the biggest problem that your customers have?
  • What is a key process or solution you explain to customers daily?

Ask your sales or customer support team for their perspective. Then you can have a running list of ideas to pull from throughout your editorial calendar.

3. Find out the actual demand for that topic.

This is where keyword research comes into play. There’s plenty of keyword research tools, but sometimes the best place to start is simply Google. I look for two things: competition (who is ranking for this topic on the first page) and suggested searches (to generated new ideas). I tend to have multiple tabs open when doing keyword research. I will then turn to a tool like Moz’s Keyword Explorer and Google’s Keyword Planner to confirm if people are actually searching for this phrase.

If you are struggling with pretty tough SEO competition (i.e., Forbes or New York Times with high authority), then you may want to research long-tail keyword phrases. A long-tail keyword is usually more than two words and a much more specific phrase. An example of this would be optimizing this post for simply 'SEO.'

This research can be done with any of the tools listed above, but I would also recommend checking out Answer the Public. This tool will give you plenty of ideas on the questions and prepositions commonly searched around your topic. Then you'll want to check search volume and competition to see if it will actually drive traffic and if it's possible for your blog to show up in the SERPs. After all of this research, settle on a few keyword phrases that you would like to focus on for your post. I'd recommend selecting two or three, but remember, it's the topic that matters the most.

4. Optimize your blog post.

On-page optimization isn't dead. But don't overdo it. Content (and context) is still king. There are best practices that can help you out when trying to drive organic traffic. Try to include keyword mentions or variations of your topic keyword throughout the post and avoid keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing is the overuse of a keyword phrase where it would seem awkward to the readers. Google and your readers will definitely take notice.

As for keyword optimization, the most important areas include your title tag, meta description, URL, and header tags. Your URL should be the shortened version; try to keep it simple. Header tags (i.e., H1, H2, H3) help with readability and breaking up content as well as a good place for keyword mentions if it makes sense. As a reference, Moz has a list of on-page SEO factors that you can check before you make your blog live.

Pro tip: Your blog should include or have its own XML sitemap. Make sure it's dynamically created and submitted to Google. If you don't have the tools to do this, then create one and submit it through Search Console yourself.

5. Add relevant internal and external links.

Don't just link to yourself. Remember the goal is to be helpful and interesting to your defined target audience. If it's relevant, link to your other blog posts or internal pages, to encourage readers to learn more. Also, if you think another website or article could help your readers – link to it! Mentioning these other companies doesn't deter your readers away from you. It validates that you are trustworthy. You can also use these mentions to help support your case and promote your blog (which we will talk about in the last step).

6. Enhance your content with visuals.

Videos, images, and infographics all support your initiative for your blog to resonate with your audience and show up in the SERPs. Images are great for sharing on social and explaining your writing. Just don't forget an alt tag – these are somewhat outdated when it comes to SEO, but still explains to Google what the image is.

Since skimming often happens, images, infographics, and videos offer an easier way for readers to digest your post. It's also another place for you to capture traffic. Think Google Image or Video search rankings.

7. Review content for web readability.

Research has shown that site engagement impacts SEO. Your blog post should be easy to read with shorter paragraphs, simpler sentences and shareable pieces. The previous step to include images and videos should help with this as well. Breaking paragraphs down with steps or header tags can also help. Follow up by measuring visitor engagement in Google Analytics. Look at metrics like time on page and bounce rate. If you notice an extremely high bounce rate, you may want to consider revising your content to match visitors’ intent.

8. Share and promote your content.

Don't forget to promote yourself and encourage others in your company to share your content. Change your copy per social channel and don't be afraid to share it more than once. People tend to check their social media feeds at different times. You can also mention others you included in your article so they can read, share and comment.

I hope these steps help you get your blog content seen by your audience. Are there any steps we missed? Tweet us and let us know @aztekweb.

Chat Tool Tips: How to Get Started With Live Chat

By melissa on  April 24, 2017

You may have seen or considered using a chat tool to help visitors turn into potential customers. And there's data to show how chat tools can help. According to VentureBeat, over 45 percent of consumers say they would rather contact a business through messaging than email. Nearly half (49.4 percent) would rather contact a business through messaging than the phone. Messaging continues to grow and be an expected form of communication for many customers.

Why should you invest in a chat tool?

Live chat might not be for everyone. Consider the entire investment before you get started. This includes the implementation cost, monthly recurring fees, and hours spent for people to respond.

However, there are many benefits to using live chat or a chatbot on your website:

  • Create a personal connection with customers. Allow potential customers to communicate with your business directly. This builds a relationship that keeps them coming back.
  • Gain more customer insight and valuable data. You get great data on pain points or user friction to improve usability on your site or your product. It's a way to gather qualitative data from the source.
  • Increase lead generation and sales. Give visitors the opportunity to get questions answered quickly. Remove any hesitations they have about contacting you for a quote or making a purchase.
  • Improve sales/customer support team efficiency. You can address upset customers before the situation escalates in a more public area (reviews, social media, etc.) And handle multiple customers quickly, rather than hiring more support or sales team members to handle emails and phone calls that can be more time-consuming.
  • Differentiate your business from your competitors. Check out your competition, you could be one of the first in your space to adopt a chat tool. Not only the adoption, but you have the opportunity to implement it better and create an even more personalized experience for your visitors.

What should you consider before implementation?

Before you implement a chat tool, you should be able to answer the following questions:

Staffing

  • Do you have the resources (people) to staff chat during normal business hours?
  • How much traffic do you receive; how many people will you need to be responsible for responding to chat during the day?
  • Will your customers expect chat to be available during "off hours", such as after 5 pm? (example: e-commerce)
  • Do you have experts that will be able to answer a wide variety of complex questions? If not, do you have a knowledge base for staff to access information? If questions cannot be answered on the spot, what is the process for following up?

Website Integration

  • Where on your website will you integrate the chat?
  • How will it integrate with the site design? You'll want to make sure you’re adhering to Google's best practices so you don't get hit with Google's latest mobile interstitials penalty.
  • How many pages will feature chat?
  • Will it need to integrate with other tools you're using (CRM, marketing automation, etc.)?
  • How will the chat function while offline? (contact form?)
  • How will you track the performance of your live chat or chat bot?
  • What metrics will you measure to improve performance?
  • How will you document and review questions for business/marketing improvements?

What chat tool should I select?

Know the difference between live chat and those with artificial intelligence. This is important because they require different time and money investments.You can choose one that's run by your customer support/sales team (live chat), or a chat bot that uses natural language processing and artificial intelligence to answer questions, or maybe a combination of both.

You may want to start by scheduling some demos with companies like:

Examples of Websites Using Live Chat

Mavenlink

Moz

PeopleHR

Warby Parker

I hope this gets you started with using chat tools on your website. Any good examples we missed? Tweet us @aztekweb.

Categories: Digital Marketing

Setting the Right SEO Performance Metrics

By melissa on  April 24, 2017

Google mentioned recently in this video that it can take anywhere from 4 months to a year to see SEO results. This is because there are 200 factors (and counting) that have been identified (see: Backlinko's Complete List of Ranking Factors). These factors come into play and are accounted for daily, for you and your competitors, making it difficult to nail down exactly why things happen in SEO.

The first step is setting reasonable KPIs to determine your success. Focusing on the right metrics and using keyword rankings as additional insight, can help you narrow down and understand what's really working for your SEO strategy.

Why am I not ranking for ____?

Sometimes, while doing random one-off searches, you will wonder why your website moved from ranking #1 to #2 in a day. Try not to stress! Rankings fluctuate because of... well, the 200+ ranking factors and Google is constantly crawling your site, competitors' sites, and measuring how users interact with the SERPs (search engine result pages).

For example, your competitor could do something (outside of your control) that spawns more engagement on their site. This could be a billboard ad on a contest they are running to win floor seats at a basketball game. People then search, click on those results more often, spend longer on the site, and the website gets a link from a local news site. And bam...somehow you move down a position. And honestly, this movement could be for a day, week, or even an hour.

Keyword rankings are meant to be looked at over time.

Waiting is hard. But you will have more well-rounded insight on your SEO performance if you look at aggregate ranking data over a period of time (i.e., three months, six months, etc.) And don't focus on too specific of keywords.

I believe keyword rank tracking sites (while still valuable) don't give you the full picture. It's all about input - what you want or think you should track. But the name of the SEO game now is that your single blog could rank for a general theme, which in turn then ranks for 50 keyword variations of that theme. Think short and long-tail keywords, differently worded phrases, or synonyms.

As an example of this, check out our blog on creating a branded YouTube channel. We focused our theme on 'YouTube channel for business.' If I searched that term now, we would land somewhere on the second page. I would think we failed from an SEO lens. This would be entirely inaccurate because I was only focused on one keyword phrase. This blog is one of our most visited pages and ranks for 76 YouTube for business-related keyword phrases.

More searches, more (tracking) problems

Google is getting better and better at semantic search after its introduction of Hummingbird in 2013. And now with machine learning and voice search on the rise, it will only improve.

Google confirmed to Search Engine Land that it handles “trillions” of searches per year worldwide. Trillions. Back in 2012, they just surpassed one trillion.

And us searchers, we are getting used to how Google operates now. We know that Google gets us. We can be vague or even very specific in our search term and trust that Google can usually read our minds. So constantly checking or tracking the same 10-20 keywords isn't going to give you an accurate picture of what's happening since there are so many variations of these terms that exist.

While Google's ability to understand us is great for users and marketers, it does make it difficult for us to track our SEO efforts. Too many keywords, and too little time and resources to track them all down.

Pro tip: don't search without using truly private-browsing to check keyword rankings, or else you will get other factors coming into play like your location and search history. Here's more advice on how to get un-personalized results.

Focus on the right metrics

When reviewing SEO performance, look at other metrics to give you a more accurate picture. These metrics could include:

  • Website sessions from organic
  • Specific page or groups of pages organic sessions (ones you've been focused on)
  • New visitors vs returning from organic
  • Engagement metrics: bounce rate, time
  • Micro (newsletter, video views, downloads) & macro (contact us, request a demo, purchase) conversions from organic

As you're looking at these, continue to make time comparisons (year over year and month over month) to find true insights. Only then when you find trends here, you should look at your keyword rankings to find the connection.

When you track keywords, create sets or groups

Rand Fishkin, from Moz, has great advice on how to track keyword rankings in the world of Google understanding user intent. Organize your keyword list into groups like branded, long-tail, and high-converters. Then you will measure trends among these 'sets' or 'groups.' And as Rand states, you can ask yourself, is this group of keywords moving up or down as a whole? Is it performing better or worse in certain geographic locations? Or on certain devices?

Spending time building organic results is an undertaking, but it can be the most valuable marketing channel to drive business. And when you're investing resources, you want to make sure it's working. I hope these ideas get you set on the right path to measuring your SEO success. Any SEO performance metrics I missed? Let me know on Twitter @aztekweb.

Categories: Digital Marketing

5 Advantages of Digital Marketing For Business Owners

By melissa on  April 24, 2017

2017 is the year that digital marketing spend will surpass TV advertising spend. In fact, based on an eMarketer study, digital represents 36.8% of US total media ad spend last year.

Because of this, you've already started some investment in digital. You have a website, maybe even a blog that you post on every few months, you've set up some social media accounts, you've dabbled in paid search and search engine optimization, but weren't sure how to quantify results. You know you're only scratching the surface. You want to answer these questions with confidence before you invest:

  • How much business is coming from your website?
  • How much potential business could you capture from your website?

Fortunately, that data is available through digital. Unfortunately, you might not have been set up to get this data. While return on investment is the most important reason to put your money in any marketing channel, remember this: do you know the tangible return of a print ad, radio commercial, etc.? That's because there are other advantages of those mediums.

Here are 5 advantages of digital marketing, including capturing ROI, so you can fully understand the investment.

1. Reach Your Target Audience Directly

There are few mediums that you can get as targeted as you can with digital marketing. For example, with Facebook advertising, you can target people who have just bought a house and show ads for your furniture company. You can target specific job titles, demographics, searches through multiple platforms. Your audience can find you right when they need you.

2. Stay Ahead of Your Competition (Even Ones With Big Budgets)

What's great about digital marketing is that it isn't all about spend. Sure, if you are strategic AND spend more (in display, pay per click, social media), you may get more leads and revenue from your efforts. But the key word here is 'strategic.' Digital marketing allows you to get more results, without spending more, as long as you understand your data and how to react to it. And unlike other mediums, there are many ways to build 'organic' reach and results. This is through search engine optimization, social media marketing, content development, usability, and great design.

3. Improve Sales Team Efficiency

Using targeted paid advertising, progressive profiling, lead scoring, and other digital marketing methods, you can qualify the value of a lead before you hand it off to sales. Your sales team then knows more about this lead than they would simply cold calling or emailing them. The sales team spends less time making lists, cold calling, prospecting, and qualifying. Your digital marketing handles that.

4. Get Valuable Insight into Your Business

My favorite advantage of digital marketing is the data. There's tons of it (sometimes too much). Being smart about your data, how you read it, and what you capture can provide you not only valuable insight into your marketing strategy, but also your business and your audience. Google Analytics can show you what pages your audience visits most frequently, what content they care about most, what content they care about least. Social media can help you understand the sentiment about your brand or frustrations about product features. As a business owner or CEO, this insight can shape what you do in other areas like product development and customer service.

5. Know Your ROI (And What Channels are Working)

I know it's important, so back to return on investment. And like mentioned earlier, it's actually something achievable and quantifiable with digital marketing compared to other marketing channels. You must have the right tools in place to track it. For e-commerce, it's fairly easy as Google Analytics has its own e-commerce tracking. Using this, you can know what sources (Google AdWords, Facebook, Organic Search) are providing the best results. For lead generation sites, it can get a little tricky. You need your Google Analytics to track goals properly, AdWords to track conversions, and a connection to tie this to closed business (usually a combination of a CRM and marketing automation).

I hope this give you some things to consider about your current digital marketing investment. Are there areas you could improve upon? Are there any advantages I didn't include? Let me know on Twitter @aztekweb.

Categories: Digital Marketing

SEO vs. PPC: What Should You Invest In? (3 Rounds)

By melissa on  April 24, 2017

Should you put your time and money in pay-per-click (PPC) or search engine optimization (SEO)? Which one is better for your business? It's an ongoing dilemma for business owners invested in digital marketing. In this battle of search, I'll uncover which channel is truly the best to invest in.

Round 1: PPC, The Easy to Control

What is great about PPC is the amount of customer data you have at your fingertips. You can nail down the exact search phrase, time, page, lead information and, most importantly, if this lead became a new customer. You can get a definite idea of your return on ad spend (ROAS).

In fact, tracking isn't the only thing in your control. You control specific placements, budgets, time of day, specific ads and pages. And unlike SEO, it's possible to see results quickly. Within a week or two (depending on the industry and other factors), you can start to leads from paid search.

Not convinced on pay per click? Maybe these stats will help:

  • Business make on average $3 in revenue for every $1.60 they spend on AdWords (Source)
  • The first ad position has a click through rate of almost 8% (Source)
  • You can increase your brand awareness by 80% with a PPC ad (Source)

Round 2: SEO, The Compounding Investment

SEO is a longer investment, but what's great is that it's a compounding investment (see MarketingProfs article on this). It's what we call the "SEO snowball effect." Here's Timothy Carter's example that explains it in a simple way:

"When you create a blog post, you instantly gain some new search engine real estate and some inbound link potential. You may get a few hundred visitors in the first week—but that article never goes away. It will keep attracting links, keep earning new visitors, and continue earning your company more visibility and more revenue (especially with a strong call-to-action). As you add more related blog posts, you'll encounter the same pattern of growth."

Although SEO requires continual effort, it's not based on spend. It's based on effort and execution over time. While you can optimize pay per click campaigns and find room for improvement, it at some point, falls back on spend (which will only continue to go up).

Since I gave some PPC stats, here are some on SEO:

  • 70% of the links search users click on are organic (Source)
  • 57% of B2B marketers stated that SEO generates more leads than any other marketing initiative (Source)
  • 72% of online marketers describe content creation as their most effective SEO tactic (Source)

Round 3: The Tie Breaker

OK, so this started as a trick question. This round will end in a tie. I know, it's a little anticlimactic. But the answer is: You should invest in both. Both matter. And both help the other perform better.

Let me explain how they can complement one another. Doing both gives you double the data and insight on your audience. For example, you can see what keywords drive the most conversions from your paid efforts and put some focus on these phrases in your SEO strategy. If you have a content piece that's ranking well and gets substantial organic traffic, you could gate this content and offer it in your PPC ads.

Remember, your audience still has the same questions and the same needs/wants, whether they come from paid or organic search results. The more you know about your audience, the better you can reach them in either search channel.

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