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Last post: October 29, 2019

2020 Web and Digital Marketing Trends

2020 Web and Digital Marketing Trends

By Ryan on  October 29, 2019

The future of the web—and digital marketing, by default—is constantly changing.  Sure, there may have been a time when you could've dismissed visual search as a fad, or artificial intelligence as a bell and whistle exclusive to large corporations. But, as we move into not just a new year, but also a new decade, we're finding that these behavioral changes and technological advancements are only becoming more in demand and more accessible to businesses large and small.

As you consider your current website and begin to outline your digital marketing strategy for the new year, here are our predictions for where the digital world is heading in 2020.

Design

Asymmetrical Layouts

While many sites follow a strict grid system that organizes design and content into predictable (and sometimes boring) rows and columns, asymmetrical layouts are growing in popularity. These layouts break the traditional grid system and often create more visual interest in a site design.

Asymmetrical layouts

Bold Colors

Whether used as a strong background or in smaller doses to reinforce a brand color palette, bold colors are being used more and more in web design. Big bursts of bold color add interest and personality to pages. They can also be used to draw attention to specific elements or content on a page.

Bold colors

Illustration

Users are becoming bored of seeing the same types of stock imagery on websites. As a result, illustration is making a big comeback in digital form. Brands like Slack, MailChimp, and Dropbox have all developed unique illustrations for their websites as a way of standing out and defining a stronger brand identity.

Illustration

Micro-interactions

Micro-interactions, simply put, are meant to create a tiny moment of delight for the user. While often tied to functional events like clicking a button or tapping an icon, they can improve comprehension, making it easier for users to interact with an interface, and even give useful tips to users. Common places where micro-interactions can be used include:

  • Swipe events
  • Click or tap events
  • Data input
  • Animation
  • Status updates
  • Calls-to-action

Micro-interactions

Shorter Navigation

Websites with too many items in the main navigation make it hard to navigate a website. Instead, more websites today are trending toward a main navigation with just three to five items total. These shorter, more condensed navigation bars focus on the most important elements while reducing the number of decisions the user needs to make.

But what about all those other items that you still need to include on your website? Don't worry, additional navigation items can be nested in drop-down menus, secondary navigation, or even footer elements, they just can't all be in the main navigation.

Shorter navigation

E-Commerce

While e-commerce has been thriving for nearly two decades, traditional manufacturers and organizations selling through distributors are part of a growing trend of companies shifting some or all of their sales operations to an e-commerce model.

Benefits of E-Commerce

E-commerce has some distinct advantages over traditional sales channels:

  • Direct access to customers and data: Having access to customers and customer data allows companies to not only better understand their audience, but also market and sell to them directly.
  • Reach a wider audience and newer markets: While working with distributors and physical stores offers the benefit of a pre-existing audience, it can be limited by geography or each channel’s ability to market/promote your products. Selling online can mean reaching audiences that you may not have been able to reach before.
  • System integration: Most companies that sell or inventory physical products can relate to the challenge of having multiple systems for ERP, CRM, warehouse management, inventory, shipping, etc. When selling online, application program interfaces (APIs) can allow these platforms to integrate with each other and an e-commerce platform, allowing a smooth flow of data from one platform to another.

Trends in E-Commerce

While e-commerce has been around for decades, it continues to evolve and benefit from digital innovation.

  • Shopping in search: Google has quickly evolved to more than just a link-based search engine, as we see products continue to infiltrate the search results.
  • Social commerce: While social media users have seen ads appear in their feed for years, we’re seeing an emergence of shopping ads that can be purchased within social networks without even leaving the platform.
  • Chatbots: Judging from a recent Facebook patent, the ability for brands to sell and transact through a platform like Facebook Messenger using a chatbot (read: no human needed) is becoming a reality.
  • In-app interactions: Many apps give users the ability to chat with a customer service representative to find exactly what they need, replicating the experience of going to a store to speak with an associate, though without ever leaving the couch.

Content Personalization

While you may still be impressed by the ability to merge your audience’s first name into email marketing messages, the bounds of content personalization are being pushed by technology and automation. Gartner predicts that e-commerce businesses that personalize content successfully could see profits rise by 15 percent by 2020.

Some of the key benefits realized through content personalization include:

  • Increase visitor engagement
  • Improved customer experience
  • Increased conversion rates
  • Increase lead generation/customer acquisition
  • Improved brand perception

Some examples of content personalization include:

  • Product recommendations based on browsing or order history
  • Content recommendations based on previous reading history
  • Interactive recommendations or quizzes that serve up customized product or service recommendations
  • Geography-based personalization, such as store locators
  • Personalized homepage content or offers based on content viewed from previous visits

Email Personalization

Once again, email personalization has evolved significantly from the ability to merge some basic fields into an email. The new era of personalization is delivering the right message to the right person at the right time. That means using marketing automation to send tailored content based on a user’s demographics and behavior and sending it to them exactly when they need it or want it.

From a personalization perspective, sending from an actual person can be a small personalization technique that can pay big dividends. Users are more likely to open an email from a human recipient; especially one they know of recognize. Try to match up salespeople, customer service representatives, or frontline company representatives with your email recipients.

Email personalization

Purchase Abandonment

A perfect way to pair e-commerce and personalized email marketing is through purchase abandonment emails. We’ve all had the experience of adding products to a shopping cart and then not going through with the purchase for one reason or another. A friendly reminder from a brand, complemented by an offer or promotion, can significantly increase e-commerce conversion rates.

Segmentation

Remember when we mentioned the right message to the right person at the right time? Segmentation is the key to know the right person. Collecting data to segment your audience by data points like geography, demographics, product/service interest, and more will allow you to send highly targeted emails rather than one-size-fits-all emails.

Segmentation

Digital Advertising

Personalization can happen on your website and in your emails, but you can also leverage personalization on the ads you serve on other websites, search engines, and social networks. Using remarketing, brands can create segments of specific audiences that visited specific pages or sections of their site and deliver specific ad messaging directly to each individual audience.

Continuous Improvement Over Complete Overhaul

We know that the average lifecycle for a website that remains untouched is only a few years. Just like a brand new car, from the moment a new website is launched, it begins to lose value if it’s not properly maintained. Think of all the things that need to be kept up with: technology, content, brand/imagery, SEO, and on and on. That’s why we’re seeing more websites go through continuous and ongoing improvement rather than more frequent and complete overhauls.

Continuous improvement focuses on a more thoughtful approach to keeping a website up-to-date through monitoring, feedback, development, deployment, and testing. It’s the reason we haven’t seen sites like Google and Amazon go through a major redesign during the past couple of years – just thousands of minor improvements over time.

Tools for Continuous Improvement

Trying to predict which site updates and improvements will lead to more leads and sales can be a tireless game. That’s why leveraging tools to better hypothesize and measure opportunities is a good idea.

  • A/B testing: Platforms like Google Optimize allow you to run small experiments with one or more variations to a page or site with the goal of improving a specific goal metric. For example, you can test two variations of website copy for a product page to identify which one leads to a higher “Add to Cart” conversion rate.
  • Heatmaps: Heatmaps allow you to get a better perspective on the viewing, scrolling, and engagement habits of your website visitors. This can help identify areas that need to be emphasized or de-emphasized, pages that are too long or too short, and other opportunities to implement a test to improve site interaction.
  • User tests: There’s nothing like having a real user test a site and attempt to perform a critical function or follow a common user path. Tools like UserTesting allow you to hire a real person and instruct them to perform certain website tasks, all while receiving verbal and written feedback about the process.
  • Analytics: Simply diving into website analytics can provide a treasure trove of information, such as landing pages that result in the most conversions, low-engagement pages that have high bounce rates, and points in your conversion funnel where users get stuck.

A/B Testing

Privacy (GDPR)

In our 2019 trends article, we covered GDPR, and much of that information is still relevant today:

“Under GDPR, people must opt-in, consent and have access to their data and the data must be securely stored. These laws give consumers greater transparency and control over their personal data, and written policies and privacy statements on your site will make it more trustworthy.

If your business operates or collects data in the EU, then you must ensure that your site is GDPR compliant, but regardless, it’s still a good idea to implement similar protections now. While such strict laws have yet to be implemented across the U.S., some states like California and Vermont have already passed data protection laws, with more states sure to follow suit in 2019.”

We were right. Well, almost. On January 1, 2020, California will pass the California Consumer Privacy Act. With many similarities to GDPR, some describing the law as “almost GDPR in the US.”

Bottom line: Being GDPR compliant is simply a good idea, and with legislation coming to the U.S. starting in 2020, it will likely move from being a nice-to-have to being a must-have.

Accessibility

While legislation in the U.S. has made visiting physical locations more accessible for those with disabilities, accessibility for browsing websites has lagged behind. Perhaps until now. The Supreme Court recently made an example of U.S.-based pizza chain Domino’s after a complaint about their website and mobile app became a highly-publicized story – in this scenario, a blind man was unable to order food from a screen reader.

Some examples of web assets that should be accessible (but often are not) include:

  • PDF titles
  • The reading level of a web page or website
  • “Read more” links
  • Color contrast
  • Image alt text

We recommend working toward WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) AA compliance, which requires a website to meet certain requirements. The W3 Web Accessibility Initiative has published a useful Quick Reference guide to understand requirements and success criteria to reach each level of WCAG compliance.

AI and Machine Learning

For a long time, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have graced the content of trend reports, articles, and blog posts. For much of that time, the technology has been expensive and out-of-reach for most businesses. As we approach a new decade, we’re seeing the barriers to entry (cost, expertise, etc.) continue to fall, making AI and machine learning more accessible than ever.

Image Recognition

We used to only be able to search with text. Then, we were able to search with voice. Soon (now), we’ll be able to search with pictures. Projects like Pinterest’s visual search and Google Lens allow users to search for information or similar images using just an image with no words or context.

Visual Search

Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN)

Imagine a computer being able to create nearly any kind of content you need instantly and with just a spoken command. Think: "Alexa, make me a picture of an otter riding a bicycle that looks like it was painted by Van Gogh." With Generative Adversarial Networks, this is on the very near horizon. 

How do they do it? Without getting too technical, they basically make two computers try to outsmart one another until the results are so good, even a human can't tell the artificially generated content isn't "real". Don't believe it? Check out: This person does not exist.

Smarter Digital Advertising

For years, advancements to digital advertising have driven costs lower and opportunities for exposure higher than ever before. Now, we’re seeing advertising networks take advantage of the massive amounts of data they have collected and using that data to help advertisers make better decisions.

For example, Google Ads now uses machine learning with its smart bidding strategies to allow advertisers to focus on a specific outcome (Maximize Conversions, Target CPA, Target ROAS) and let Google optimize bidding for the desired outcome.

Sentiment Analysis

For large brands or brands that garner a lot of social media conversation, monitoring the overall temperature of customer feedback can be challenging. Many social media monitoring platforms, however, have made this easier by using sentiment analysis to help brands understand how many of their mentions are positive, negative, or neutral.

Sentiment analysis

Augmented Reality

Pokemon Go may be the best example of augmented reality going truly mainstream. Fun and games aside, though, we’re seeing plenty of useful examples of augmented reality from a digital perspective. Business and brands are taking advantage of augmented reality in some of the following ways:

  • Product feature training for employees and buyers
  • “Try before you buy” e-commerce (think seeing a sofa in your living room to see if it matches your décor)
  • Facility tours
  • Warehouse logistics (using augmented reality to navigate employees to a specific warehouse location)
  • Field service (employees leveraging augmented reality as a guide to repairing equipment on location)
  • Branded content at events and conferences

Implement These Digital Trends

Whether it's a shift to e-commerce, privacy policy update, or smarter digital advertising, now is the time to start implementing these trends into your website and digital marketing efforts.  Need some help? Aztek is a full-service digital agency that can optimize your efforts in the new year.

Our team of experts are well-versed in the latest industry-leading trends to provide data-backed recommendations and provide digital solutions to grow your business through strategic website design, development, and digital marketing. Let's start a conversation today.

Turn Your Digital Marketing Vanity Metrics into Actionable Metrics

Turn Your Digital Marketing Vanity Metrics into Actionable Metrics

By ryan on  October 11, 2019

When you see that your latest social media post received a few likes (or loves, thumbs up, etc.), you get excited. Seeing this “success” actually triggers a dopamine high that makes you feel rewarded. However, the reality of feeling rewarded for achieving more likes, shares, impressions, and pageviews can be very misleading.

What are Vanity Metrics?

“Vanity” metrics, as they’re commonly called, can be nice to look at and can make you feel good about your marketing efforts. However, they often aren’t the best indicators of ultimate goals your business is trying to achieve, such as lead generation or increased revenue.

Assuming you’re not collecting advertising revenue, how much does your company make when someone likes your social media post? Or when someone views a page on your website? Unfortunately, that answer is zero.

Vanity Metrics vs Actionable Metrics

It’s time to have a real heart-to-heart about how you’re evaluating the success of your website and digital marketing campaigns. If you’re driving relevant traffic, then it might not matter as much if you rank well for a specific keyword. If you’re not generating qualified leads, then having thousands of Facebook followers isn’t necessarily helping you achieve your goals.

Actionable metrics, according to Litmus, “tell the story of what action needs to be taken to meet your goals.” These are the metrics that translate into insights that will help you understand how to continue or improve your strategy moving forward. Think of conversion points like filling out a form, purchasing a product, calling your business, etc.

Here are some examples of how you can turn vanity metrics into actionable metrics.

Social Media Likes

This vanity metric can include likes (Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn), loves or one of the many other reactions (Facebook), and many others on different social networks. They allow people to indicate how they feel about a specific post, image, or piece of content.

What’s Bad?

Likes are an incredibly simple and quick interaction. All it takes is one click, and you can keep scrolling. Likes don’t drive traffic to your website or sell products. They aren’t even a great indicator of interest in your product, service, or brand; they simply show an individual’s interest in one piece of content.

What’s Good?

Likes show engagement. They let you see which content you’re publishing is resonating more with your audience. They may also let you connect and follow-up with individuals to find out why they “liked” something you published. They often expand your audience by posting your content in the user that “liked” your content’s network.

How to Track Better

Go one step further and track things like which social media channels are driving the most traffic to your site. Leverage “likes” to identify top-performing content and focus on those topics and formats. Or even better, track how many visitors from each social network are converting on your site.

Paid Advertising Impressions

If you’re doing any kind of paid digital advertising, you’ll be provided with all kinds of metrics from your digital advertising platform. Impressions are one vanity metric in this space. After all, it’s easy to become mesmerized by high numbers of impressions—“look how many people we reached!” The problem is these people weren’t necessarily “reached.” Your ad may have just appeared in their view while they’re swiftly scrolling through their feed to find the next hilarious cat video.

What’s Bad?

You shouldn’t mistake impressions for how many people actually saw your ad. There’s a very real phenomena called banner blindness, where users become so accustomed to ads that they don’t even see them. Don’t let this discourage you from pursuing paid advertising, but just be cautious about assuming everyone is seeing your ads.

What’s Good?

Impressions generally show you the potential reach of your ad. The better you’ve design your ad, including image, ad copy, and call-to-action, the higher the percentage of those impressions will turn into people clicking on your ad.

How to Track Better

Unless you’re posting online ads for pure branding or awareness purposes, focus on action-oriented metrics like ad clicks, ad conversions, and conversion value. Pursue ads that have higher conversion rates, rather than the most impressions.

Website Pageviews

Pageviews indicate the amount of traffic a page on your website receives. While it’s great to see the number of people visiting your site increase, how is it affecting your business goals? Are people staying on your site, or does the site have a high bounce rate?

What’s Bad?

Pageviews show the total number of pages viewed on your site within a specific time frame. But what if they’re all the wrong pages? We’ve had clients that have huge increases in pageviews month-over-month, but it’s all traffic to blog pages for example – people were just looking for information, not looking to purchase.

What’s Good?

Seeing increases in pageviews can be indicators that your site content is growing in depth, but also that your pages are receiving more traffic. If assessed correctly, pageviews can be an indicator of healthy website growth.

How to Track Better

First, find out what pages are driving growth and if these pages are generating leads or customers. You should find plenty of opportunities to report on a subset of high-value pages (like product or service pages) and how to optimize these pages based on your findings.

Focus on Digital Marketing Metrics That Matter

Every organization will have a different view on which digital marketing metrics matter most to their business, as they should. Here are some best practices to identifying which digital marketing metrics your business should focus on.

Identify business goals

This is where it all starts. What are you trying to do with your website and digital marketing efforts? Identify your goals or key performance indicators (KPI), such as lead generation, e-commerce sales, branding/awareness, etc.

Determine the metrics tied to those goals

If your goal is lead generation, you should be tracking how many visitors fill out contact forms or call your business from the number on your website. If your goal is e-commerce sales, make sure you’re tracking which channels and activities are providing the best return-on-investment.

Complete the picture with other metrics

Is it wrong to include vanity metrics in your reporting? Absolutely not. But just remember that these are often simply leading indicators to success, not direct indicators. If a metric gives your business insight and helps you evaluate your efforts, then certainly include it. But for every metric, you should be able to answer the questions: “What does this metric tell me?” and “What insight do I gain?”

If you’re ready to truly understand how your website and digital marketing efforts (or lack thereof) are affecting your business, don’t hesitate to reach out or learn more about our web assessments.

Categories:
3 Ways to Use Competitive Research for a Digital Marketing Strategy

3 Ways to Use Competitive Research for a Digital Marketing Strategy

By Ryan on  September 23, 2019

Being competitive in the digital space requires a thoughtful strategy, the right unique value proposition, and a continued focus on growth. But as a company, having a solid understanding of your competitors’ efforts online can give you valuable intel to stay one step ahead of the competition. We outlined a few ways you can leverage competitive research within your digital marketing strategy.

1. Competitive SEO Research

It’s rare to come across a business owner or marketer that doesn’t want to crush their competition when it comes to showing up in search engines. The reality is ranking ahead of every competitor for every keyword shouldn’t be the focus. It should be outranking competitors for the right keywords. There are two ways to look at this:

Focus on core keywords

Let’s face it, a small retailer of athletic apparel is never going to outrank Dick’s Sporting Goods for certain keywords. Yes, they’re likely competitors, but the small retailer shouldn’t be trying to compete on broad keywords like “shoes” or “athletic apparel.” Their focus should instead be local and long-tail keywords.

From a local perspective, focusing on keywords like “Cleveland athletic apparel store” will help the retailer get more specific and competitive. Long-tail keywords focus on more specific keywords and phrases. In this case, if this retailer specialized in little league softball equipment, they could tailor their research and SEO efforts toward keywords like “little league softball equipment.”

Focus on intent-based keywords

Almost all websites we come across rank in search engines for a mix of intent-based keywords and research-based keywords. Here’s how we differentiate these:

  • Intent-based keywords show some action behind them, such as a purchase, signing up for a course or event, request a quote or proposal, etc. Think of keywords like “spinning classes near me,” “business consultant in Cleveland,” or “new 2019 Honda Accord.” All of these keywords have action intent behind them.
  • Research-based keywords are much higher in the “funnel” and are focused on information. They often include words like “how,” “when,” what,” etc. These searches are more focused on gaining information. For organizations with a complete digital marketing strategy, they can be important, but for beginners it’s more important to focus on intent when comparing with competitors.

2. Competitive Digital Advertising Research

Knowing how much your competitors are spending, where they’re spending it, and what kind of performance they’re seeing is an important step to understanding your place within your industry or niche online.

Analyzing Competitors’ Digital Advertising Budgets

You may not be able to get a detailed look into your competitors’ annual budgets, but some thorough research or auditing can give you a good sense of how much your competitors are investing into digital advertising. This will give you a sense of where you stand comparatively. If your competitors are spending $5,000 on digital advertising every month while you’re not actively advertising, you’re likely going to suffer a huge deficit in terms of attention, traffic, awareness, and even lead generation and sales.

Evaluating Competitors’ Digital Advertising Channels

With so many digital advertising channels to choose from, picking the right channel(s) requires a deep understanding of your audience and messaging strategy. Oftentimes, simply looking at where your competitors are advertising can point you in the right direction. It can also open up opportunities if you find that most of your competitors are advertising on one channel but not others, as you may be able to take advantage of the gap in the market.

Assessing Competitors’ Digital Advertising Performance

While you won’t be able to access your competitors’ analytics platform of choice and pinpoint their performance, you can get a sense of performance through research or auditing. For example, if you understand where competitors are advertising, the average cost-per-click for their ads, and the volume for the keywords or audience they’re targeting, you can estimate the volume of traffic or activity they may be receiving from a particular digital advertising effort.

3. Competitive Content Research

One of the biggest challenges most organizations have is content. The most common struggles are generating new ideas, finding the time or resources to write and publish content, and identifying ways to maximize content exposure.

Idea Generation through Competitive Research

While there are a slew of tools and strategies that allow organizations to generate ideas for new or recurring content, one of the easiest tactics is to simply identify what your competitors are publishing. Not all competitors will be publishing good content, but you’ll quickly identify the ones that are. There are two specific actions you can take with this research:

Content Planning

Doing some quick competitive research on your competitors’ websites can often yield a year or more of content topics. Think about it this way: If you’re able to identify 25 topics between all of your competitors’ sites, and you publish new content twice a month, you’re set for a whole year!

Skyscraper Content

Let’s be clear: It’s never a good idea to simply copy your competitors’ ideas. On the other hand, you can often find great opportunities where your competitors have identified a great topic, but produced a shallow or poorly-written piece of content. The skyscraper technique for content essentially has two steps: 1) identify a piece of content focused on a relevant, good idea, and 2) make something better.

Most of the time, you can find competitor content that is 500 words or less and does a mediocre job of covering the topic at hand. Taking that topic and going more in-depth, adding visuals or media, and referencing more/better sources can immediately be an improvement upon their approach.

Finding Your Sweet Spot with Content

As mentioned above, many organizations struggle with the resources needed to produce content on a regular basis. By doing some competitive research, you can get a sense of how often and what types of content your competitors are publishing. Your only focus is to do better.

In some cases, this means publishing more quality content than them. If they’re publishing once a month, find a way to publish twice a month. In other cases, this simply means publishing better content than them. If you find that your competitors are publishing once a week, but their content is really shallow, often 500 words or less and doesn’t do a good job of covering the topics about which they’re writing, simply publish better content. Consider publishing once or twice a month, but publish content that is well-researched, includes high-quality images, infographics, or video, and thoroughly answers any user questions about the topic at hand.

Maximize Content Exposure

One final opportunity to compete in the digital marketing space is to identify ways to maximize exposure. From a research standpoint, this often starts with identifying sites that are linking back to your competitors’ websites. These can be good opportunities to try to gain links from those sites as well.

You can also look at your competitors' social media accounts to understand their followers as well as the type and frequency of content they’re publishing. Once again, if you’re able to leverage this research to grow your audience, you can gain a competitive advantage.

Competitor Audits

If you’re ready to understand your place in your competitive online landscape, Aztek offers a Competitor Audit that will uncover all of the items addressed in this post. We can also focus on Search Engine Optimization and Content. Whether you’re just getting started with digital marketing or ready to get a leg up on the competition, understanding your competitors is a key component to a successful digital marketing strategy.

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Should Companies Purchase Email Lists?

Should Companies Purchase Email Lists?

By Ryan on  May 3, 2019

When it comes to generating new business, digital marketing provides almost unlimited opportunities to target and reach new prospects. There are long-term strategies like producing quality content and building a strong social media presence. Then there are digital marketing efforts more focused on short-term results such as digital advertising.

A strong digital marketing strategy ideally includes a good mix of short-term efforts that generate quicker results and long-term efforts focused on building recurring inbound leads and sales. And then there are, of course, the “quick fixes.” Those tempting opportunities that seem almost too good to be true (usually because they are).

One of those opportunities is purchasing emails lists. Let’s explore the pros and cons of this tactic and walk through some better ways to approach email list growth and outreach.

Risks of purchasing email lists

Purchasing Email Lists – The Risks

Maybe you’re just starting out with email marketing. Or perhaps you’re struggling to grow your email list at the pace you’d like. There’s a good chance you’ve been presented the opportunity to purchase a list of email contacts, or even explored the idea yourself. Seems like a great idea, right? You invest a little money and all of a sudden you have a targeted list of emails! Not so fast…

Email Service Provider Compliance

These days, many email service providers (the software or program you use to send your emails) require you to explicitly gain consent, or “opt-in”, permission from all subscribers. Here’s a line directly from MailChimp’s Terms of Use for example:

[By agreeing to these Terms, you promise to follow these rules:]

2. You won’t use purchased, rented, or third-party lists of email addresses.

It’s the reason you see a message asking if the emails you’re uploading have been opted-in. By checking this box when using a purchased list, you’re not complying with your email service provider's (i.e. MailChimp) guidelines, and risk being barred from using the service. This isn’t just a threat, we’ve seen this happen firsthand.

Sender Reputation

The simple fact is that when you purchase an email list, you’re emailing a group of recipients that likely have never interacted with you or your brand before. This has the following effects on your email performance:

  • Increases opt-out rates
  • Increases likelihood of SPAM complaints
  • Decreases engagement metrics like open rate and clickthrough rate

Not only do all these metrics look bad on paper, but they also increase the likelihood of even riskier outcomes:

  • Your email service provider may freeze your account until you’re able to clean up your list
  • Your domain may make it onto some very undesirable email blacklists by internet service providers, inbox protection services and firewalls

To reiterate, poor performance isn’t just an issue of short-term lack of engagement, it speaks to a much larger and longer-term issue of sender reputation. This is essentially a score than an Internet Service Provider (ISP) gives a domain or organization that sends email. The higher the score, the better the chance you’ll hit more inboxes. The factors that go into sender reputation include:

  • How many SPAM complaints an email sender receives
  • How often emails go into ISP’s spam traps
  • The domain’s inclusion in email blacklists
  • Recipient engagement (how many recipients are opening, clicking and generally engaging with the sender’s emails)
  • How many recipients are unsubscribing from the sender’s emails

As you can see, when you’re using purchased lists, you’re naturally increasing your organization and domain’s chances of tarnishing your sender reputation. Want to check your sender reputation? Here are some options:

Legal Issues

As if the above issues weren’t enough, emailing recipients who haven’t opted in can actually violate several laws, the newest of which is GDPR.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a European data protection law that went into effect in May of 2018, says that your email recipients must have opted in to receive email marketing from you. Simply put, if you’re emailing any recipients in the European Union, you need to comply with GDPR. And spoiler alert, this type of compliance regulation may be coming to other parts of the world, including the United States.

There’s also the CAN-SPAM Act, which has been around for a significantly longer period of time. While this law is a bit less stringent than GDPR, it does clearly state several rules to be followed:

  • Senders cannot use false or misleading sender information
  • Senders cannot use deceptive subject lines
  • Senders must identify the message as an ad (if it is such)
  • Senders must identify their location
  • Senders must explicitly give recipients the option to opt-out of future communications

While each of these has some level of interpretation, we highly recommend email marketers review CAN-SPAM guidelines before sending, especially if sending to recipients that have not opted-in or given consent.

Then there’s the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation, which, according to Constant Contact, “requires you to obtain and document consent before sending commercial emails to Canadian consumers.”

Poor Performance

As if all the above concerns weren’t enough, let’s not forget the performance of purchased lists. To put it bluntly, how do you feel when you receive a promotional email or email solicitation from a company you don’t know, or haven’t given permission to email you? It’s a rhetorical question, we all know the answer…

According to MailChimp, the average open rate for all industries is 20.81%. That’s naturally going to fluctuate by industry, but that’s the benchmark. But according to Opt-In Monster, “If you purchased an email list, you can expect open rates well below the industry average.”

Also consider this: if you purchased this list, others likely did too. That means that not only are those recipients receiving unwanted emails from you, they’re also likely receiving unwanted emails from dozens (if not more) of other senders too.

Alternatives to Purchasing Lists

Ok, you get it. Purchasing email lists isn’t ideal. If you feel like we’re your mother telling you not to do something, we’ve done our job. But if purchasing lists isn’t an option, their must be alternatives, right? Right!

Organic email growth

Growing email lists organically

This is the equivalent of your mother telling you to eat your vegetables. You might not want to hear it, but it’s good advice. Grow your email list organically by producing such high-quality content and value that people want to receive it!

Will this take more time? Yes. But there is a pretty simple process to growing a list the right way:

  1. Identify your audience. Whether you use personas, jobs to be done, or some other framework, you need to have a solid understanding of your target audience (i.e. who you want to populate your email list). Key in on the following:
    1. What industry topics are they most interested in?
    2. What are the challenges they have in their role?
    3. What publications/resources do they read currently?
  2. Develop high-quality content. And to clarify, content that your audience finds valuable, not what you think they need to see. It’s all about your audience. Consider the following:
    1. Topics – Just like putting together a content strategy, you need to understand the trends and topics that your audience is most interested in.
    2. Format – Does your audience like short snippets of content or longform reads? Are they more visual (infographics, video) or driven by research and data?
  3. Consider cadence. How often does your audience want/need to receive email? If you’re publishing pressing industry news and trends, maybe it’s more frequent. If you’re publishing longer-form editorial that may take awhile to digest, consider a less frequent send rate.
  4. Promote. Once you have a valuable email program in place, ensure that you’re promoting it in all the right places:
    1. Website. Pro tip: don’t add a form on your site that says “Subscribe:” with a box and a button. What am I subscribing to? Recipes? Celebrity news? Funny animal pictures? (go ahead and click, we’ll wait) You’re better than that. Put your copywriter hat on and follow this formula: “Subscribe to our newsletter to receive [your valuable content] just for [your audience] every [frequency].”
    2. Blog. Your blog is a slightly different animal than the rest of your website. Typically, the rest of your website is focused on your company, its products and services. But your blog is focused on content. Visitors that land on these pages are interested in content, and as a result are likely to be more interested in receiving continued content from you.
    3. Social Media. Your social media channels are already a place where your followers and fans have “opted-in” to receive updates from you on a regular basis. Occasionally, give them the opportunity to subscribe to email from you as well. Don’t forget to include a link in your social profiles as well.
    4. Offline. Do you engage in a lot of tradeshows and/or community events? Give people the opportunity to sign up for email subscriptions, either digitally through an iPad or laptop at the event, or by simply sharing their business card. Just make sure you make them aware (verbal or written) what they’re opting into. Constant Contact actually has a paper opt-in sheet that you can use to start.

Paid Email Growth

Using Paid Spend to Grow Email Subscriber Lists

You were thinking about paying for that email list anyway, so why not take that budget and put it toward some digital advertising to promote your incredibly valuable email subscription? Using digital advertising, you can get in front of a really targeted audience and encourage them to subscribe.

Facebook Ads are probably the best platform for growing email subscribers through paid advertising. Beneficial because of their cost-effectiveness, you can use the targeted audience you’ve already identified, leverage this audience in Facebook, and leverage a “Lead Ad” to encourage users to subscribe directly from Facebook without ever leaving the platform. Remember, write compelling copy about the immense value your email(s) provide, and set expectations about frequency right away.

Using Offers and Giveaways to Grow Email Subscriber Lists

Whether you’re using organic or paid methods to grow your email subscriber list, you need to have a compelling call-to-action (CTA). Starting with a clear value proposition about what the recipient will receive is critical. Beyond that, think about what you can communicate or offer to spur more subscriptions.

  • Coupons/Offers. Especially valuable for B2C and e-commerce companies, offering a coupon for signing up and/or ongoing offers as an “insider” provides additional value for subscribers.
  • Exclusive Content. Do you have an in-depth guide or research that can’t be found elsewhere? Offer this premium content to new subscribers.
  • VIP perks. Brand loyalists love to feel like a VIP. Whether than means sharing new products or deals before they go public, or publishing content that’s only accessible via email subscription, creating exclusivity can generate more email subscriptions.
  • Useful Tools. If you have the ability to develop valuable tools, subscriptions or applications for your audience, you can provide these for free (in exchange for an email address to sign up, of course). A perfect example is Hubspot’s Marketing Grader, which is perfectly targeted to their audience, and thousands of users are willing to exchange email to use this tool.

Growing Email Lists the Right Way

Even though it seems as if every year a new blog or publication proclaims, “email is dead,” it still remains one of the more effective digital marketing tactics when done right. Let’s summarize how to do it right:

  1. Don’t purchase lists. It’s really tempting, we know. But it’s a shortcut, and a dangerous one at that. When you purchase a list, you’re risking legal ramifications, damaging your sender reputation, and causing serious harm to your long-term email marketing success.
  2. Grow email lists organically. Develop a strategy, identify your audience, and produce truly valuable content that your subscribers can’t live without.
  3. Accelerate email list growth. Take advantage of cost-effective paid digital advertising like Facebook, integrating opt-in opportunities into your website, and leveraging high-value offers like coupons and premium content.

If you need help putting together an email marketing or marketing automation strategy set up for long-term success, let us know! Aztek has multiple email marketing partnerships and certified experts in-house with years of proven success.

Spring Cleaning for Digital Marketers (Marie Kondo Edition)

Spring Cleaning for Digital Marketers (Marie Kondo Edition)

By Ryan on  April 1, 2019

Whether it’s the fact that at the time of writing it’s the first day of spring, or the fact that the Tidying Up with Marie Kondo craze is sweeping the nation, getting organized is top of mind. Just as a house collects clutter over time, most organizations collect digital clutter as well. For business owners and digital marketers alike, there are plenty of opportunities to de-clutter and organize to make for a much more efficient year ahead.

Website

In an ideal world, your website is constantly being updated as your organization, products and/or services change. Unfortunately, it’s more common that a site lags behind or is haphazardly updated. Here are a few tips to stay up-to-date:

  • Review all major product and service pages to ensure the content accurately reflects the product or service offering. Look for opportunities to add new case studies, testimonials, and value propositions.
  • Review main imagery to ensure it’s up-to-date. Lose any stock imagery that looks like stock imagery. Be sure to identify any outdated photography that may contain employees that are no longer with the organization, products that have changed, or branding that has since been updated.
  • Check for speed. Speed is more important than ever, and the more you add to your site, the slower it’s likely to go. Give your site a quick check using Google PageSpeed Insights to see where you’re at, and do your best to address large issues.

Blog

It’s been a long-running misconception that adding more and more content to a blog can only lead to more and more traffic. There’s in fact more research lately that indicates paring down the content on your blog can actually increase traffic in the long run. Consider using the following rules:

  • Keep – Keep evergreen content and content that is still accurate and relevant.
  • Update – Update content that still relates to your business but may have outdated facts or figures. Updating with new information can have powerful results for search engine optimization.
  • Combine – If you have two very similar pieces of content that are competing for keywords and search attention, it may be a good idea to combine both posts for a more focused approach. (Don’t forget to implement the correct 301 redirects!)
  • Delete – Delete content that is no longer relevant to your business. Some easy examples include new employee announcements for employees that are no longer with the organization and announcements of products or services that are no longer being offered.

Analytics

Whether you have a robust tracking strategy in place or you’re just getting started, there are almost always a few cleanup and organization opportunities to work through.

  • Goals/Conversions – Are your goals or conversion points still accurate? Are they still tracking correctly? If you’ve added new conversion points to your site, make sure they’re being tracked.
  • Filters – Over time, any site can start to collect clutter in the form of SPAM or bot traffic. It’s good to take a look at where your traffic is coming from to ensure it’s all valid.
  • Channel Groupings – As the landscape of traffic driven to your site changes, you should ensure your Channel Groupings are up-to-date. Some common things to look at are to make sure social traffic is being divided into paid vs. organic social, make sure all newer search engines (like DuckDuckGo) are being classified as Organic, and ensuring you’re not having any issues with cross-domain tracking.

No analytics, reporting or tracking strategy in place? Let us know, it’s one of our specialties.

CRM

Ideally, all of your customer data is stored somewhere. Whether that’s in a series of folders with spreadsheets (if so, contact us, we need to have a heart-to-heart), or it’s a well-structured Contact Management System (CMS/CRM), this is one of the places that collects the most clutter.

Keeping customer data accurate and up-to-date is a challenging task but can also be one of the most important. Whether your customer-facing employees reach out to verify contact information or use a third-party data source to verify existing customer data, staying on top of this on a regular basis is much easier than dealing with a messy database every couple of years.

Email Marketing

This one pairs well with your CRM data. The better your customer data is, the higher your deliverability and engagement rates will be. The reality is every list goes through a natural “list churn.” Employees leave companies, people unsubscribe, domain names change; for all of these reasons and more, the average email list can churn by as much as half each year. Here are some things you can do:

  • Send re-engagement campaigns – Identify your subscribers that haven’t engaged (opened or clicked) in your email recently (anywhere from 3-12 months), and send them an email inviting them to opt back in. Share the value of your email(s) or provide them with a valuable offer. For those that don’t opt back in, unsubscribe them. You’ll lose a number of subscribers, but the reality is they were already ‘lost’.
  • Test different cadences – Maybe the frequency at which you’re sending emails is too much for some subscribers. Or conversely, maybe you’re not sending frequently enough to keep them engaged. Testing different sending frequencies can help you retain more subscribers over time.

Whoa - too deep on email marketing? No problem, get in touch with our email marketing experts to guide you in the right direction.

Paid Digital Advertising

If you’re running ongoing digital advertising campaigns, it’s important to ensure that they’re being monitored and managed on an ongoing basis. The less attention they receive, the more likely they’re getting stale and underperforming. Here are some things to review:

  • Ad Copy/Creative – Review all of your ad copy and creative to identify your top performers. Drop your low performers and build new ads based on your findings.
  • Negative Keywords – If you’re running search ads, make sure you’re continuously adding negative keywords to guard against keywords or phrases that aren’t driving the right traffic.
  • Bid Adjustments – In each platform, you should have an idea of whether your PPC bids are working effectively or not. If you’re able to bid slightly lower and still drive quality traffic, you might get more bang for your buck. If there are certain audiences, devices, time zones, etc. that are performing better in search, you can add bid adjustments to favor those higher performing segments.

Social Media

Social media may be the platform that gets the most ongoing attention, assuming you’re posting on a regular basis. In addition to reviewing your goals for each channel, there’s some additional fine-tuning you can do to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward.

  • Review branding – Each network will have several branding opportunities, including banner/header graphics, avatars, and room for a description and links. Make sure these are up-to-date and compelling.
  • Take advantage of unique features – Depending on the network, there may be new or unique features that you can take advantage of. For example, LinkedIn allows you to add a Careers page and Showcase Pages. Facebook allows you to add and integrate a number of pages and apps – everything from information to contests.

“Tidying orders and relaxes the mind”

Said best by Marie Kondo herself, the act of tidying and organizing your organization’s digital assets at least once a year can create incredible operational efficiencies. Wait too long and you’ll be faced with a pile of digital clutter that is too mountainous to overcome.

And don’t forget, if you’re overwhelmed with where to start and ready to transform your digital marketing efforts, let us know!

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How to Integrate Act-On Software and Microsoft Dynamics CRM

How to Integrate Act-On Software and Microsoft Dynamics CRM

By Ryan on  March 11, 2019

Not every CRM integrates with every marketing automation platform. Luckily for users of either Act-On Software or Microsoft Dynamics CRM (or both), there is a native integration between the two platforms. This makes it easy to develop a closed-loop system for lead generation, contact management, and marketing and sales integration.

The Benefits of Integrating Act-On Software and Microsoft Dynamics CRM

When using multiple platforms for marketing automation and contact management, it’s ideal for the two systems to be able to “talk” to each other. Not only does it eliminate a significant amount of manual work passing data between the two systems, but it also enables the following:

Marketing/Sales Integration

Typically, your marketing department will spend more time in the marketing automation platform, and your sales team will spend more time in your CRM. When the two are integrated, your sales team can see valuable information about how your marketing efforts are impacting prospects, and your marketing team can see valuable information about the status of leads, prospects and customers.

Seamless Lead Generation

If leads are being generated by a marketing automation platform like Act-On software, but never making it to the sales team, it’s wasted marketing effort. Integrating platforms allows an organization to pass these leads to sales automatically and with all of the essential data your sales team needs.

Lead Scoring

Leverage the ability to take valuable user behavior (like visiting high-value pages on your website or opening important emails) and assign scores to leads based on their activity. Pass that lead score into CRM to empower your sales team to be able to prioritize leads as they come in.

Native Integration

With Act-On Software, connecting to a Microsoft Dynamics CRM instance is easy through what is called a “native integration.” This means that the “bridge” (or API) between these two systems is already built and doesn’t require any additional third-party platforms or development resources.

Act-On Bi-Directional Sync

Bi-Directional Sync

Passing data from one system to another is valuable, but if only one “person” is talking, it’s not much of a conversation. That’s why Act-On Software allows bi-directional sync, which means data can both pass from Act-On Software to Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and vice versa. This means both systems will have the most up-to-date data, and it also gives you the option to choose exactly which data is passing back-and-forth down to a field level.

You’ll also be able to set a synchronization schedule, meaning you can choose how often the two platforms sync data so you have complete control.

Integrating Act-On Software and Microsoft Dynamics CRM

As of early 2019, Act-On Software supports the following versions of Microsoft Dynamics CRM:

  • Cloud versions CRM 2011 with update rollup 12, 2013, 2015 including Office 365, 2016
  • On-premise versions CRM 2011 with update rollup 12, 2013, 2015, 2016, and CRM 4, using ADFS (Active Directory Federation Services) with IFD enabled

Before you begin, you’ll want to make sure you have the following Microsoft Dynamics CRM information:

  • A Supported Version of MS Dynamics
  • MS Dynamics Login
  • MS Dynamics Password
  • MS Dynamics URL
  • MS Dynamics Version

When integrating the two platforms, here are some of the things you’ll want to consider:

  • Fields/Field Names – Document which fields you’re going to want to import and use in Act-On Software. It’s better to not import all fields right away, because it will make managing field data quite cumbersome in Act-On.
  • Behavior Score (Lead Score) – If you’re planning on leveraging lead scoring, you’ll first want to identify a lead scoring system. Think about your digital touchpoints and consider how valuable they are. As an agency, we often run a Lead Scoring workshop to develop a Robust lead scoring system before entering scores into Act-On.
  • Import – Will you be importing leads and contacts? What about opportunities? Are you importing all, or just segments? Do you have Marketing Lists that you’d like to import? Make sure you document this before integrating.
  • Push/Pull Data – You’ll also want to identify what data you want to push and pull from both systems. It’s ideal to have one source of record, usually the CRM, meaning this is the authoritative location for a specific set of data or all of the data.
  • Users – Who from your organization will need access to Act-On Software? There are typically two kinds of users: marketing and sales. Marketing users will be leveraging more of Act-On’s marketing features, as they name suggests, whereas sales users may just need access to specific features or data.

Working with an Act-On Software Partner

While the process of integrating Act-On Software with Microsoft Dynamics can be done without assistance, it can be helpful and beneficial to work with a certified Act-On Software partner. Here are some of the benefits:

  • Experience/Expertise – Let’s face it, the first time you do something new it’s always a bit foreign. An Act-On partner will have integration experience to make the integration quicker and smoother.
  • Digital Marketing Experience – If you’re working with the right partner, they’ll also have experience necessary to provide additional assistance with Act-On, including building landing pages, email templates, a lead scoring system and more.
  • Strategy – We’ve seen too many organizations invest in a marketing automation platform without first having a well thought out marketing automation strategy. A digital marketing partner can help your organization craft a strategy catered to engaging contacts, driving lead generation and sales, and successfully integrating software platforms and sales and marketing.

Whether you’re already using Act-On Software and/or Microsoft Dynamics CRM, or you’re simply evaluating the platforms, Aztek has extensive expertise with both platforms. As an agency, we’re also able to provide a complete digital marketing strategy to go along with these platforms, including paid advertising and content marketing to drive traffic, email marketing to engage and nurture leads, and analytics to ensure that your investment and efforts are paying off.

Categories:
How Do You Measure Digital Marketing ROI?

How Do You Measure Digital Marketing ROI?

By Ryan on  February 14, 2019

Whether your organization is just getting started with digital marketing or has been running digital marketing campaigns for years, one of the biggest challenges is calculating your return on investment. Not only do organizations need to clearly define how they'll measure their rate of return, they also need to understand the process of stringing data together to follow the path of the lead or sale.

The challenges of tracking digital marketing ROI

  • Attribution. It's important to know which marketing tactics, digital marketing or other, to which you’ll attribute lead generation, revenue, or conversions.
  • The Costs. Theoretically, paying $500 for Facebook ads is much more expensive than posting “free” content throughout the month on your timeline. You’ll need to decide, however, if you’re weighing the cost of time and resources in your ROI equation.
  • Closed Loop Reporting. If you’re like most organizations, you don’t have one platform that does your advertising, analytics, reporting, and also houses your CRM. This means that you need some way for the data to pass from one system to another to follow the path of the lead.

Some useful digital marketing ROI metrics

True ROI

Probably the holy grail of tracking digital marketing ROI, this formula at a high-level is actually about as simple as it gets:

(Revenue from Digital Marketing - Expense of Digital Marketing) / Expenses of Digital Marketing

The equation above will give you an ROI percentage. If it’s positive, then your digital marketing is generating a positive return on investment (ROI).

Cost per lead

If lead generation is important to your business, which is more common for B2B businesses, then cost per lead can be a good leading indicator of success. This metric is another simple calculation:

Expense of Digital Marketing / Total Number of Leads

This calculation can be done on a more frequent basis, such as monthly, and can also be done over longer periods of time, like a year. Tracking month-to-month and year-to-year can give your organization a good sense of whether your digital marketing efforts and marketing investment is getting more or less efficient and effective.

However, it’s also common for B2B organizations to have a hard time connecting a digital marketing source to lead generation to eventual sales, whether due to disconnected technology platforms or lack of internal tracking processes. Fortunately, I'll address some tracking issues later on in this article.

Lead Close Rate

While not necessarily a direct indicator of digital marketing ROI, lead close rate (also known as lead conversion rate) is more an indicator of lead quality. If your digital marketing efforts are generating an increasing number of leads, but your sales team is having a hard time closing them, your digital marketing strategy may simply miss the mark. Lead close rate can be calculated with a simple formula:

Leads Closed / Leads Generated

Depending on your organization’s sales cycle, it may make sense to measure this on a month-to-month basis (very short sales cycles) or possibly over longer periods of time (longer sales cycles).

Digital Marketing Expenses

What are considered digital marketing “expenses” and “revenue?"

In a general sense, you likely understand expenses and revenue if you’ve taken an intro to accounting course or even casually looked at your bank statement. Where it gets more complex is how you define “revenue” and “costs” related to digital marketing.

Digital Marketing Expenses

When building your organization’s ROI formula, you can decide how in-depth and far-reaching you want to be when including expenses in the equation. Here are some things to consider:

  • Ad Spend. This is going to be the most common expense. Ad spend includes the costs of advertising on Google Ads, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or any other ad or social media platform.
  • Technology Costs. Are you using any technology toward digital marketing efforts? Think platforms like SEO or PPC software, design software to build digital ads, email marketing platforms, etc.
  • People Costs. Do you want to include the cost of the actual people needed to develop your marketing plan and administer your online marketing strategies? If so, make sure to add in the costs associated with their time.
  • Third-Party Costs. Are you using any agency to assist you with your digital marketing efforts? Do you use independent contractors for content writing or designing?

Digital Marketing Revenue

For most organizations, tracking revenue begins and ends when the revenue is actually realized, or at least when there is some guarantee that revenue will result from a sale, contract, or agreement. Let’s look at a few other angles:

One-Time Sale vs. Lifetime Value

In most cases, organizations will track the revenue from a sale individually at one point in time. However, consider the long-term value of that customer. Let’s say that customer comes back and makes 10 more purchases, or even becomes one of your largest clients. The customer’s lifetime value is much higher than just that initial transaction. Using a lifetime value model, you would attribute all of that customer’s future revenue to digital marketing (and possibly to a more specific digital marketing source like Facebook advertising).

Attribution

Here’s that word again. How do you know that certain revenue can be entirely attributed to a digital marketing activity, or digital marketing in general? Consider a customer who saw a digital ad, went into a store, talked to a representative, and decided to purchase. Should the representative get some credit for that sale?

As an organization, you need to decide if 100 percent of the revenue from a sale or agreement should be attributed to digital marketing, regardless of any other touch points that influenced it along the way.

How to track digital marketing ROI

Okay, so now you have a sense of which formulas you might want to use to calculate ROI. You also have an idea of which marketing costs and resources will be considered expenses and how you’ll characterize sales generated as revenue (one-time vs. lifetime). It’s time to make sure you have the technology and processes in place to begin tracking.

Start with the Source

All your digital marketing efforts start with a source. Whether it’s a blog post, an email, or a digital ad, this source lives somewhere on the web. One of the most critical parts of tracking digital marketing ROI is being able to identify the source. You do this through tagging all your links within email, blogs, ads, etc. with UTM parameters, which are tags you add to a URL that sends valuable information to a tracking platform.

Pro Tip: Use Google’s URL builder so you don’t have to worry about making any mistakes when adding UTM parameters.

Implement a Tracking Platform

Speaking of tracking platforms, you need one. Undoubtedly, the industry standard is Google Analytics. If you don’t have an analytics tracking platform on your site right now, do it. Run. If you aren’t sure how to do it, call your friendly developer. Tell him it’s an emergency.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is not only going to allow you to see a wealth of valuable information about where your website traffic is coming from, it'll also give you insight on how users are behaving on your site and, most importantly, if they’re converting. Oh yeah, and it can read those handy UTM parameters we mentioned above.

Identify and Set Up Conversion Points

With regards to tracking return on investment, there are two definitive conversion points you’ll want to identify and track on your site:

  • Lead Generation. This is any place on your site where you receive a lead. The most common points are contact forms, gated content forms, etc.
  • Purchase Points. If you have an e-commerce website that allows purchases to be made within the site itself, you’ll be able to track that directly. In fact, get into Google’s enhanced e-commerce tracking and you’ll have access to a wealth of purchase information.

At this point, you should be able to calculate things like cost-per-lead and even total ROI if you have an e-commerce site.

Closed-Loop Reporting

When you want to track ROI, but the transactions or revenue aren’t being collected on your website, you’ll need an extra step. Once a lead is generated, it's sent somewhere, such as:

  • A CRM (customer relationship management system)
  • A CMS (content management system)
  • An email alert to a specific individual or group
  • A spreadsheet

This is most commonly where the data chain breaks. It’s extra work, and quite possibly extra development (through an API or third-party software) to connect a website or an analytics platform to the final landing spot for leads. Because of that, it typically doesn’t happen.

If your organization deals with high-value, infrequent sales resulting in revenue, you may be able to simply refer to an earlier source of data to attribute that sale to a specific marketing effort or channel. The challenge is, this data is often anonymous (including Google Analytics), so connecting a name, email address or company to any kind of data can be a challenge.

Diving Deeper with Digital Marketing Return on Investment

By now, you’re a pro's pro – or at least you know the process of setting the stage to track your digital marketing ROI. But you shouldn’t settle there. Knowing your overall ROI for your digital marketing efforts is great, but it won’t necessarily help you steer your digital marketing strategy for the future.

Digital Marketing ROI by Channel

Digital Marketing Channels

The digital marketing budget - whether shoestring or huge, many business owners and marketing leaders spend hours, days, or weeks trying to identify where to allocate their funds toward digital marketing. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to make those decisions based on recent, accurate, historical data tied to real revenue? We sure think so.

That’s why you should be breaking down your digital marketing ROI by channel to identify the most cost-effective channels for your business. Some simple suggested breakouts include:

  • Digital Advertising. It probably makes good sense to break this down further at least by network (Google, Facebook, etc.). You can also break this out by display ads, search ads, remarketing ads, etc.
  • Organic Search. How much of your revenue can you attribute to customers finding your site, products, or services from a search engine and converting?
  • Social Media. We would recommend separating organic social media (not paid) out from your paid social media efforts. Once again, we’d recommend breaking this out by channel as well (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, etc.)
  • Referral Traffic. This is traffic that’s coming from other sites. Do you have a partner that links to your site that is driving new business your way? Or are your guest blogging efforts paying off? Find out.
  • Email. Are the email marketing tactics you’re using generating revenue? Go as far as tagging your email by type (newsletter, promotion, etc.) to dive nice and deep.

Missing on this list is “direct” traffic, which would typically indicate a user coming directly to your site by typing in your URL, visiting from a bookmark etc. Lately, measuring “direct” has gotten trickier, because it could include some wildcards like traffic from a mobile phone where someone is visiting a browser from another app they had open. In general, this channel is hard to attribute directly to digital marketing activities.

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At this point, we should have covered the rationale for tracking digital marketing ROI, the process for getting started, and the steps to integrate tracking. If your organization is in need of assistance with Analytics, Reporting, or ROI, or simply needs a better partner to maximize your digital marketing investment, get in touch with us!

Categories:

Why Is Marketing Automation Important? 97% of Visitors Don't Convert.

By ryan on  April 24, 2017

On average, 97% of website visitors won't ever identify themselves. They won't fill out a contact form, call you, or give you any form of information.

Let's think about that in perspective. If you're a small business with a limited web presence (let's say you have 1,000 visitors to your website each month), you're missing out on 970 opportunities to engage with prospects. Even scarier, if you're a larger business with a steady flow of visitors, you could be missing out on tens- or hundreds of thousands of opportunities each month. Yikes.

So how do you take advantage of these missed opportunities? Using marketing automation, you can leverage the power of lead nurturing and website prospecting to convert more of these anonymous visitors into actual leads or customers.

What kind of numbers are we talking?

Let's just assume that right now you're converting 3% of your website visitors, either through contact forms, inquiries, calls, or any other methods.

  • Even with a limited web presence (1,000 monthly visitors), improving your lead generation efforts by just 1% yields 10 new leads each month. Not bad.
  • For companies with a more established web presence (10,000 monthly visitors), a 1% increase leads 100 new leads each month.

Why do people come to my website and leave?

Think about some of the more recent purchases that you've made (either at work or at home). If you're like most people today, your "shopping" experience likely included some of the following steps:

  1. Realization of a problem or opportunity ("My water heater broke.")
  2. Research of possible solutions ("Can I get it fixed? Do I need a new one?")
  3. Research of possible solution providers ("Who sells and installs water heaters?")
  4. Decision ("ABC Plumbing Co. seems like a great company. I'll call them.")

Like it or not, in the example above, the Plumbing Company may not be involved or aware until the final decision step. That's because more people are conducting the research in steps 1-3 before they contact a sales person or company. This research is happening on search engines, social media, online forums, reviews websites, etc.

Many of the 97% of visitors that you never hear from are performing their research on your site, then choosing another option for one reason or another.

Lead Nurturing: Moving visitors from "researchers" to leads

What we do know: Visitors are coming to your website looking for information and leaving without connecting with you. Lead nurturing lets you not only capture leads that are ready to buy but also leads that are still in the research stages. Let's look at an example:

Example: ABC Plumbing Co.

ABC Plumbing Co. sells and installs water heaters. Visitors are coming to their website to learn about their pricing, the types of water heaters that they offer, and what locations they service. Once they have that information, they leave and do the same research on ABC's competitors' sites, and also read reviews on Angie's List. ABC Plumbing has no way to capture these visitors unless they explicitly call for more information.

With Marketing Automation:

ABC Plumbing Co. develops a useful guide called "How to Choose a New Water Heater", and provides it for free to visitors to their site that fill out a simple form. Then the magic happens:

  • An automated workflow automatically sends that visitor the useful guide, directly to their email, immediately after they submit the form
  • Based on the visitor's activity on the website, they are assigned a lead score that helps sales people gauge the quality of the lead
  • A salesperson is notified that a new lead has submitted the form, and can look at their profile (location, product needs, pages visited, etc.) to evaluate whether they should be contacted
  • If the visitor isn't a good lead right now (maybe they're planning a remodel in 9 months), they can be added to another automated program that sends them additional content or new product announcements over the next couple of months

By setting up a simple marketing automation program, ABC Plumbing Co. can achieve the following:

  1. Convert more visitors into leads through content
  2. Prioritize leads and deliver them to relevant sales resources
  3. Nurture leads that aren't quite ready to purchase

Website Prospecting: Adding context to “anonymous” visitors

The above marketing automation strategy can considerably increase your ability to identify anonymous leads, but let's face it, not everyone is going to call, email, or even fill out a form. Many visitors will simply be browsing. So we need a strategy to provide some context for these "anonymous" visitors.

Enter "website prospecting." This tool (available through Aztek's marketing automation platform Act-On Software, *wink wink*), uses a fancy process called "Reverse IP Lookup" to attempt to identify the company or organization from which a visitor is coming.

If you've used an analytics platform (such as Google Analytics), you know how frustrating it can be looking at thousands of visitors and not knowing who they are. Being able to identify the company or organization for a large percentage of your anonymous visitors can be incredibly valuable for your sales team, who can leverage this information in prospecting and outbound sales efforts.

Better yet, within a marketing automation platform, when an anonymous visitor does "convert" (fill out a form, subscribe to email, open an email, etc.), all of their history is tied to their contact information, even if it has occurred in the past.

Conclusion: Taking advantage of the 97%

If you've already invested in digital marketing to drive traffic to your site and show up in search engines, the next step is to make sure you're capturing those visitors on your site. Leveraging marketing automation, you can start to focus on turning the 97% of visitors that you never hear from into engaged leads.

Not sure how to get started with marketing automation? Contact us below to talk to us or read more about our website assessment to get started.

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4 Ways to Keep Your Email Marketing List Squeaky Clean

By ryan on  April 24, 2017

Email marketing can be one of the most effective (and cost-effective) digital marketing activities. But like anything else, email marketing requires constant maintenance. On average, 25-30% of your email list will "churn" every year. Churn means subscribers that have disengaged, left their company, changed their email address, and unsubscribed.

The scarier part? If it appears that you're sending to too many invalid or disengaged email addresses, you risk harming your sending reputation. Or even worse, you're labeled as a SPAM mailer by many email clients and email firewalls. And that means your emails never reach the inbox.

Here are some tips to ensure that your email marketing practices and lists remain in tip-top shape:

1. Control list churn

List churn can occur for many reasons mentioned above. Take these actions to combat list churn:

  • Focus on opt-in lists. When your lists are subscribers that have opted in to receive your email communications, your subscribers are naturally more engaged and less likely to become disengaged or unsubscribe.
  • Verify email addresses. If your email marketing program allows you to see the subscribers that have bounced back, take that list and reach out to those subscribers to ensure that you have the correct email address.
  • Re-engagement campaigns. Sometimes you have email subscribers that stay subscribed but never open or read anything. Create a segment of these subscribers and craft a re-engagement email asking them if they'd like to continue to receive emails from you. You may lose a bulk of these subscribers, but look at it this way – they weren’t engaging with your email in the first place, and now your list is cleaner.

2. Consolidate and connect multiple sources of email data

One of the biggest challenges organizations face is having many different systems that store data: CRM, ERP, Email Marketing, Rolodex, Outlook contacts, spreadsheets, etc. An important goal for organizations should be to ensure that there are only as many systems as necessary. And that these systems connect and pass data to each other if possible.

Here are some ideas to move toward a more finely-tuned data ecosystem:

  • Choose one system "of record." If you’re storing customer data (including email addresses) in many places, choose one place that will be the main source of data that is always the most up-to-date and accurate. (For email, this will ideally be an email marketing platform or a CRM).
  • Connect systems. You want to avoid having to add customer data to many systems, especially manually. Leveraging a marketing automation platform that can integrate with many popular CRMs allows you to automatically pass contact data back-and-forth.

3. Segment and send only what subscribers want

The best way to encourage subscribers to leave your list is to send them content that they're not interested in. Simply put, if you're sending everything to every single person on your email list, you're doing it wrong.

Here's a better approach:

  • Build segments based on interests. If you have multiple product lines, for example, offer subscribers the opportunity to select the product lines from which they wish to receive updates. Another option is to segment by content type, for example, newsletter, coupons/discounts, new products, etc.
  • Segment based on demographics. If you've done a good job at building email profiles for your subscribers, you likely have information like job title, location, and company size. So if you're promoting an executive event, make sure you're only sending to executive-level titles. Conversely, if you're promoting an offer that's only available in a certain geographic area, leverage the location information you have.

4. Purchases lists with caution

In email marketing, it is ideal to organically build a quality email list through opt-ins only. We recognize, though, that sometimes this isn't the reality. You'll find hundreds of thought leaders debate the pros and cons of purchased lists for email marketing. But for the sake of this article, we'll examine how to ensure your purchased list is as "squeaky clean" as possible.

  • Focus on credibility. Ask the list broker or provider about the source of the emails, the last time they were verified/validated, and even ask them for references. Get specific. Purchasing a list of 100,000 contacts that isn't segmented or specific will likely result in a high percentage of contacts that have zero interest in your product or service offering. Focus on specific industries, job titles, locations, and company sizes that fit with your audience.
  • Get clean. Even if the list provider has told you the list has been "cleaned" we would recommend doing your own independent email list validation (a service that Aztek offers to all email marketing clients).
  • Focus on the invite. Just because you now have a contact's email address, that doesn't mean you should assume they're "part of your list". Send them an initial invitation introducing yourself or your organization, offering your unique value proposition, and encourage them to opt-in to future emails.

Maintaining good email marketing practices and cleaning your email list, will help ensure that your emails are being delivered and opened by an engaged group of subscribers. In the grand scheme of things, you’d much rather have a list of 5,000 engaged contacts than 10,000 disengaged contacts.

Not sure how clean your email list is or need some help whipping your email marketing efforts into shape? Give us a call and we can chat about our full suite of email marketing and marketing automation services!

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Google Rankings Explained: Why Are My Rankings Going Up and Down?

By ryan on  April 24, 2017

We consistently receive one excellent question from almost every one of our clients: "Why are my Google rankings going up and down?" There are many forces at play here, but let's take a deeper look to explain Google rankings (and how to influence it).

Out of Your Control: Google Algorithm Changes

Ah yes, the "algorithm." According to trusted sources (thanks Moz), it can change between 500-600 times each year. That means about twice a day, the way Google ranks and displays search engine results changes. Sometimes in very minor ways, sometimes in very major ways.

As companies and as marketers, we have no control over these algorithm updates. They are meant to give searchers the best possible results, and therefore, Google does not publish the secret sauce for how to rank #1.

Here are just a few of the changes we've seen recently:

All of these constant changes affect how your organization's keywords are ranking.

In Your Control (Mostly): How Does Google Decide to Rank You?

Google's Ranking Factors

The next mysterious part of the puzzle: how does Google determine where you stand in search results? The answer is what we call ranking factors. These are the parts that make up the sum of the "algorithm." There are plenty of great resources that have steadfastly attempted to track these factors, including Moz, SearchEngineLand, and SearchEngineJournal. Here are the most important ones:

  • Content - quality, depth, length, uniqueness
  • Links - quality incoming links from trusted sources (you can influence this through proper link building campaigns)
  • Page Quality - things like load speed, page security (HTTPS), structured data, etc.

There are certainly more factors, but these are generally accepted as the most critical ones. But let's not also forget, a high-ranking website starts with a good design and properly set up structure (sitemaps, meta tags, open graph data, oh my!)

Avoiding Google Penalties

There are many things that you can do to positively influence your search engine rankings, but there also factors that can harm your position.

  • Bad/harmful/toxic links – Guilty by association. It's like hanging around with the "bad kids" in high school. Google can penalize sites that have too many inbound links from low-quality/"spammy" sites. It's a good practice to evaluate inbound links to your site and limit the number of low-quality links coming in. Not all lower-quality links are bad, however. If they are relevant to your industry and provide context around the link then it's still a valuable link to have.
  • Bad content - There's a term in the search world called "pogo sticking." Like the image in your head, it's when a searcher clicks a link, views the page, realizes the content isn't what they were looking for, and "pogo" right back to the search results. Simple solution: make sure you have high-quality content that is useful to the searcher and matches your page title and page description.
  • Bad usability - One of the more recent offenders is the interstitial (also known as the big popup that appears in the middle of the screen when the page loads). Things like this, slow page load time, legibility issues, or poor design can harm your place in the rankings world as well.

Understanding natural "rankings" movement

Due to all of the factors above, you can now understand that it's not uncommon for search results to shuffle around even on a daily basis. Sometimes these shifts are minor (like moving a spot up or down), and sometimes they’re major (like moving up or down several pages in the rankings).

Here are some recommendations to help cope with the ever-changing rankings landscape:

  1. Be Patient - We recently wrote an article about how long it takes to rank, and the general consensus is between a few months to a year or more, especially for brand new content. As the article recommends, looking for positive momentum over time and focusing on deeper metrics is a better approach.
  2. Be Consistent - Focusing on a specific set of keywords or pages for a period of time and then hoping they retain their prime position in search results can be risky business. Maintaining strong rankings requires consistent content production, link building, and search engine optimization.
  3. Stay Current - Because of the massive rate of change in how Google ranks, it’s important to stay up to date with ranking factors, or work with an excellent partner who can do this for you. SEO isn’t a 3-month project. It’s constant, and as such requires constant attention.

It's also important to remember that Google truly tries to personalize results. This means your previous search history and current location among other factors come into play as well, which means you and your coworker can search the same phrase with different results. If you want to see truly unbiased search results, open up an Incognito window in Google Chrome.

If you’re ready to better understand where your website is ranking, how you stack up against your competitors, and how to uncover opportunities to drive more leads through search, we’d love to show you with our web assessment!