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Dwell Time: The Most Important Metric You’re Not Measuring

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Dwell time is one of the most important, yet frequently misunderstood, site metrics. Many marketers put too much faith in Time on Page when evaluating traffic, but this metric is unreliable and can be misleading.

In today’s post, we’re going to look at what dwell time is, whether search engines use it as a ranking signal, and examine ways in which you can increase the average dwell time on your site.

What is Dwell Time?

Three years ago, Duane Forrester at Bing wrote a blog post about how to build quality content. It was in this blog post that the concept of dwell time was first introduced.

Simply put, dwell time is the actual length of time that a visitor spends on a page before returning to the SERPs. In theory, the longer the dwell time the better, as this indicates that the visitor has consumed most (if not all) of the content on a page before either returning to the SERPs or performing another action on the site.

Bounce Rate and Actual Bounce Rate

Before we go any further, it’s worth pointing out the differences between bounce rate and actual bounce rate, since dwell time is closely related to bounce rate.

 

Analytics platforms, including Google Analytics, need two clicks to accurately determine Time on Page – and entrance click and an exit click. However, without that all-important second click, even a session in which a visitor arrives at a page, stays for 25 minutes and then leaves will be considered a bounce, even though it clearly isn’t. This is the principle behind bounce rate and actual bounce rate.

Obviously, a visit with a duration of six seconds is an actual bounce. The visitor arrived, decided almost immediately that the page or content wasn’t what they were looking for, and bounced away. However, a visit during which the user arrives and spends almost half an hour reading an engaging piece of long-form content before leaving is not an actual bounce. This is why some pages that rank highly and have excellent content may seem to have high bounce rates. They don’t have high actual bounce rates, but high standard bounce rates.

This is why dwell time is a more reliable indicator of a page’s quality and relevance than bounce rate, which some marketers feel is too simplistic to be trustworthy. But what do the search engines do with dwell time?

Is Dwell Time a Ranking Signal?

The question of whether dwell time is used by the search engines as a ranking signal has been debated at length by SEOs for years. Although Google remains characteristically tight-lipped about any specific metric that features in its algorithms, the introduction (and subsequent removal) of a particular feature in Google suggests that dwell time is a ranking factor. That feature was the option to block all results from specified domains.

The general consensus is that Google determined whether or not to offer the option to block a domain from SERPs based on dwell time. Obviously the precise threshold remains a mystery to this day, but it stands to reason that a shorter dwell time would result in a visitor being presented with the block option, as this resulted in a considerably better user experience – Google’s ultimate goal (besides making boatloads of cash, of course).

Another indication that the bods at Google were paying attention to dwell time as a ranking signal was the “More by” feature in the SERPs.

This function was closely connected to authorship. Verified content creators publishing articles with long dwell times were apparently being rewarded in the SERPs with higher placements and the “More by” links beneath the primary search result. Although authorship remains an important social signal, both “More by” and domain blocking have been retired by Google – a real shame, given how useful these features were.

Regardless, let’s not forget Forrester’s assertions in his post that dwell time can be used to reliably infer the quality and relevance of a page’s content to the user. It’s not often we’re given such a clear indication that a search engine is indeed focusing on a particular metric to tweak its algorithm.

For now, the question of whether dwell time is a definitive ranking signal will remain unanswered – but personally, I suspect that it is.

How to Increase Dwell Time

So, now that we’ve established what dwell time is and why we should probably consider it to be a ranking signal, how do you increase dwell time on your site?

In all honesty, you should be doing at least three of these four things anyway, regardless of whether you’re trying to increase your dwell time or not. There is no magic bullet when it comes to increasing dwell time, but adopting these techniques might help your content become more “sticky.”

Produce Better Content

The first suggestion to help you increase dwell time is to produce better content. After all, nobody’s going to stick around to read your stuff if it’s crap, are they?

Whether you’re producing blog posts, infographics or videos, good content should be:

  • Useful (actionable or educational)
  • Entertaining (funny, unusual/offbeat, surprising)
  • Accessible (skimmable, conversational, well-designed)

We’ve written plenty of great content about, well, content, so if you’re worried that your blog isn’t performing as well as it could be, check out some of our resources on creating killer content. The better your content, the more likely visitors are to stick around, thus increasing your dwell time.

Use Strong, Logical Internal Linking

Since dwell time is measured on the time between arriving at a page and returning to the SERPs, it makes sense to provide users with additional actions to take when they’ve finished reading your content, essentially preempting a possible second query or answering another question. This results in a better user experience for the visitor, which is why internal linking is so important.

Of course, internal linking is essential to maximizing SEO. Without a strong and logical internal linking strategy, your site may suffer in the rankings, as the search engines’ spiders may not be able to thoroughly index the entirety of your site.

Adopt Better Engagement Tactics

Just as internal links to other articles and pages can persuade your visitors to stay on your site for longer, so too can engagement techniques such as content recommendations.

By suggesting relevant articles to your readers, you’re providing them a strong incentive to remain on your site. This tactic can be highly effective when implemented correctly, and the more closely related the recommended articles are to the piece of content the reader is viewing, the more likely they are to remain on your site by clicking through. After all, if a visitor can learn more about another topic of interest to them without returning to the SERPs, why wouldn’t they?

Introduce a ‘Pageless’ Scrolling Design

Another technique you can use to increase dwell time is to introduce a “pageless” or scrolling design for your webpages.

Although infinitely scrolling pages can be great in terms of user experience, they can actually harm SEO if implemented poorly. This is because search engine crawlers are stupid and cannot always replicate user behavior, such as clicking or scrolling. Dumb robots.

Fortunately, there’s a handy solution that doesn’t involve a great deal of work. To help search engine crawlers thoroughly index the content of a scrolling page, the page has to be broken up into paginated sections. Each section has a similar <title> tag, with rel=”next” and rel=”prev” values declared in the <head> tag.

To read more about how to paginate an infinitely scrolling page, check out Google’s official blog post on the topic.

Stick Around, Why Don’t You?

Whether dwell time is a ranking signal or not, increasing the amount of time visitors spend on your site can only be a good thing. By implementing the features listed above, you can make your pages stickier, provide a more engaging experience for your visitors, and potentially increase conversions. Oh, and if Forrester is right, you might just rank more highly as well.

This post originated on the WordStream Blog. WordStream provides keyword tools for pay-per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) aiding in everything from keyword discovery to keyword grouping and organization.

Google Merchant Promotions Guide: Get More Sales with Special Offers

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This post was co-written with Randi Lucius.

Google Shopping Campaigns are a favorite of e-commerce advertisers—they give online retailers the opportunity to present a product image along with relevant purchasing information, like price, directly on the Google results pages. You all know the old saying: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” So it’s no surprise that these ads are highly effective, often outperforming standard text ads and even organic results.

At this point, many advertisers have been jaded by great performance in their shopping campaigns. Most saw huge spikes in sales upon implementing their feeds, but chances are, your results have flat-lined over time. If you’re frustrated with stagnant trends in your account, Google Merchant Promotions might be exactly what you need to turn things around.

What Are Google Merchant Promotions?

Merchant Promotions give online retailers the opportunity to append special offers to their Shopping Ads. These deals help retailers to:

  • Distinguish themselves from other advertisers with similar products
  • Encourage potential clients to visit their sites

As you can see from the example below, Saks Fifth Avenue has beaten their competitors to the punch. Their promotion is eye-catching, and although the free shipping offer is simple (and something many of their competitors likely offer) putting it out there on the SERP gives them a leg up.

google adwords merchant promotions

Chances are, if you’re a retailer you already have deals running on your site, so why not promote them directly from the SERP? The impact of these extensions is astounding (we’ll dive into this more in the next section). Even before clicking on the special offer link, searchers are drawn to these ads because they stand out in comparison to ads missing this line of text. The actual offer can be as simple as free shipping, or can reflect a more complex deal outlined on your site, and the expiration date creates a sense of urgency for the shopper. Did I mention that they are remarkably easy to set up AND there are no extra fees associated with them? Come on guys, this is a total win-win.

Google Merchant Promotions vs. Offer Extensions

Advertisers may be hesitant to implement Merchant Promotions because they are reminiscent of offer extensions, a short-lived search ad extension variation. This feature proved to be unsuccessful and was sunsetted within a year of its launch.

google offer extensions

However, retailers should not be deterred by this. Remember, offer extensions were applied to text ads and were only shown to users who were located within a close proximity to the advertiser’s brick and mortar location. Not surprisingly, searchers weren’t super receptive to these extensions. On the flipside, Merchant Promotions are catered specifically to online shoppers, making them significantly more appealing to searchers.

Here at WordStream, we’re bullish on the potential for Merchant Promotions. Think about it this way—who doesn’t love a bargain? I’m no psychology major, but I’ve read numerous studies suggesting that consumers are more likely to make a purchase when they feel like they are getting a lot of bang for their buck.

In fact, the New York Times published an interesting story last year outlining the remarkable decline that J.C. Penney experienced when their marketing team made the transition from offering coupons and deals to solely touting their great low prices. The negative impact was so severe that the board ousted the chief executive who was responsible for the shift. As soon as they reinstituted coupons and deals, their performance bounced back. Take it from J.C. Penney—people love getting deals, even if it is just an illusion!

Merchant Promotions in Action (Case Study)

Randi LuciusOk, so enough with the psychobabble—let’s see these promotions in action! Our in-house strategists have recently implemented this feature in a number of client accounts and the results have been promising. To demonstrate this, I asked one of our most senior strategists, Randi Lucius, to show us how Merchant Promotions made a profound impact on one of her accounts. Here’s what Randi had to say about her experience:

One of my clients has had an issue selling their products directly rather than selling them through a third-party site. We’ve tried a number of things in the past and have had some pretty great success, but we are always looking for things to make us stand out against the competition. My client has great promotional sales running all the time, but these seem to have minimal impact on overall performance. Updating ads all the time to reflect a sale can be time-consuming and can cause ad Quality Score to drop a bit. So when the promo feeds came out, we obviously jumped at the chance!

The results were amazing. We originally thought this might just help boost performance in the Shopping campaign, but it ended up increasing overall account performance. During the two week test:

  • Conversions increased by 36%
  • CPA dropped 25%
  • Revenue and return on ad spend jumped 16% and 13%, respectively

We did spend a tad more (only 3% compared to the prior weeks), but because people were using the coupons more than in the past, the revenue and ROAS didn’t grow as much as the total conversions. These are most likely sales we wouldn’t have had, so we’ll take it!

merchant promotions results

Getting Whitelisted for Merchant Promotions

If you’ve applied for AdWords betas or limited-entry programs in the past, you may be scarred from frustrating sign-up/approval processes. Don’t let that deter you from signing up for Merchant Promotions. Surprisingly, this process is a cinch. To get started, fill out the Merchant Promotions Interest Form, a seven-question form asking for basic account information. Once submitted, you should hear back from Google within 2 weeks (we actually were granted entry within a week). Do keep in mind that you must be a U.S. based advertiser in order to implement these extensions.

sign up for merchant promotions

Setting Up Your Merchant Promotions

Once you are accepted into the Promotions Feed program, you’ll receive an email with a link to a “Promo Feed Generator.” The generator is an easy tool to create the feed you need to upload in Google Merchant Center.

Step One

Simply click the “Create New Promotions Feed” button to create an individual promotion. Make sure you have your logo on hand (or the URL of the logo), your Merchant Center ID, and the information about the promotion!

new promotions feed

Step Two

Fill out the form with the offer terms, a short & long title, the dates of the promotion, and the coupon code (if applicable).

set up merchant promotions

When working on the titles, make sure you’re specific on the details of the sale. If something is unclear, the feed will be disapproved.

merchant promotion details

Step Three

I recommend doing as all the promos you have scheduled for a few months at once so that there isn’t any delay in them being approved. Once you’re finished with the separate promos, you can select each one and then click “Download Selected Promotions (Into A Single Feed).” This will download a feed of all the promos into a .txt file. Save the file with any name you want and you’re done with the feed creation!

how to use merchant promotions

Step Four

Uploading the feed to Google Merchant Center is even easier than the form creation. Log into GMC and select “Data Feeds”

adwords data feeds

Then simply select “New Data Feed.” Choose “Promotions” as the type of feed and add the data feed filename.

merchant promotions data feed

Step Five

Go back to the “Data Feed” section and next to the “Promotions” listing, you’ll see 2 links – “Create Schedule” and “Manual Upload.” Just select “Manual Upload” and upload the promotions feed .txt file.

manual upload

You’ll see the feed “processing” – you’ll know it’s finished when it says “X of X items inserted” just like a regular product feed.

 

You can then go to the “Promotions” link in GMC and view all of the promotions from your feed. This will give some basic info like long titles, start & end dates, and, most important of all, whether it was accepted by Google.

Google AdWords Merchant Promotions Performance

And that’s it! You have now created a promo feed and will start seeing the “Special Offer” button on your Shopping search results!

Merchant Promotions: Word to the Wise

While overall the promotions feed is simple to get started, there are a couple of things to remember:

  • First off, and most importantly, make sure any coupon code that you give works! If the code is entered incorrectly or for whatever reason your site does not accept the code, your feed will be disapproved and you’ll have to re-upload it.
  • Build the feed as far in advance as you can to minimize downtime. After the first initial promo feed ran out on the account we tested it on, it took 3 days to get it approved and back up and running – and the performance during that time definitely to a hit!

Do you have more questions about getting Google Merchant Promotions up and running? Let us know in the comments!

This post originated on the WordStream Blog. WordStream provides keyword tools for pay-per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) aiding in everything from keyword discovery to keyword grouping and organization.

Will & Larry's Most Excellent, Totally Replicable Keyword Strategy

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Keyword research can be a tedious, thankless task – especially if you aren't using the results for maximum impact. Without keyword intelligence, though, you're flying blind. How can a marketer get the greatest ROI from their time spent toiling over keywords?

More than keyword research tips, smart marketers need a comprehensive keyword strategy to guide successful SEO, PPC, and content marketing efforts. We get it, you don't have time for the same old regurgitated "wisdom" you've been hearing and reading about for years.

Together, Will Critchlow, co-founder/CMO of Distilled, and I have devised an all-inclusive, totally replicable keyword strategy for search engine success – one we'll share in an exclusive webinar next Tuesday, June 17.

keyword research webinar

Not your average keyword tips

Attendees will review case studies showcasing excellent keyword strategy in action, with our expert advice on replicating these successes.

I'll expose keyword strategies that have proven insanely successful – these are the secrets that drive our own SEO, paid search, and content marketing campaigns here at WordStream.

Will is going to guide you through the mass of keyword data available to you, in order to zero in on your greatest opportunities and prioritize your efforts. He'll share shortcuts and tricks for scouring millions of possible keywords to determine the exact words and phrases you need to target to show up no matter what your potential customer searches.

keyword research

You'll discover little known yet highly effective methods for using factors like competition, search volume and searcher intent in ways your competitors wouldn't dream of.

Covering all your keyword bases

No matter what relevant query your audience searches on, your company's listing will appear.

You will find crazy-successful ways of deciphering searcher intent that will help you decide where keywords belong in your arsenal of paid and organic search weapons.

Once you have collected and analyzed keyword data, though, you need a proven strategy for best employing each one in your PPC and SEO campaigns. Will and I are going to share insider tips and tricks on using specific keywords to tap into the different conversion pathways your target market is using – and how to get in front of them again and again.

This webinar goes far beyond the strategic and delves into the tactical, with expert instruction using SEO and remarketing together to rocket beyond your competition. We'll also dive deep into using broader keywords in paid search using RLSA – and how it can impact your ROI.

This webinar is a must-attend for intermediate to advanced SEOs, paid search marketers and content marketers looking to up their game through smarter, more effective keyword strategy.

Join us Tuesday, June 17 at 11:30 am ET (3:30pm UTC) for our Proven Keyword Strategy Revealed webinar, offered exclusively by WordStream and Distilled. Register now!

This post originated on the WordStream Blog. WordStream provides keyword tools for pay-per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) aiding in everything from keyword discovery to keyword grouping and organization.

64 Epic Marketing Ideas to Boost Your Business

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We’ve all hit it – that wall that seems to sap away all your magical creative marketing juices. Suddenly you feel like Peter Pan without his pixie dust.

awesome marketing ideas

If you’ve never seen Run Fatboy Run, it’s a great movie!

All you need is a bit of help to kick your marketing strategy back on track. And guess what? We’re dishin’ out 64 marketing ideas and inspirational tips to help you bust through that brick wall. Let’s get started with…

Social Media Marketing Ideas

Push your handles– If you’re really looking to bump up those Twitter followers, you can’t be afraid to be a bit shameless. Speaking at a conference? Put your Twitter handle on the slideshow (heck, keep it in the corner the entire presentation). Ordering new business cards? Better include that adorable handle!

twitter marketing

Very cool Twitter-themed business card from Luis Felipe Silva

Join in on weekly hashtag themes like #ThrowbackThursday– If you want to build your social media following, you need to be an active participant in the community. This means posting regularly, and also joining in on fun weekly social media traditions that already have a loyal audience. Show the kids how hip you can be!

Vines– Vines, quick 6-second video clips, are largely under-utilized. With a little work and some fun content, you could become a big fish in a small pond on Vine.

vine marketing

Pin your own images (and others) - Don’t underestimate the value of this image-sharing site. Post your strongest visual assets (templates, infographics, etc) on Pinterest and link them to your webpages for some serious traffic.

Keep social tabs on competitors - Facebook business pages allow you to follow other accounts via the Pages to Watch feature. Follow your competitors and see what they post, and which of their posts get the most shares and likes. See what works and follow their lead.

facebook pages to watch

From Inside Facebook

Urban Marketing Ideas

Living in a concrete jungle allows for some pretty creative concepts.

Step out on the streets– In an online age, there’s something to be said for going au naturel and exercising a little IRL marketing. Go old school with flyers and poster in local cafes, do some sidewalk chalk writing. This strategy is most effective for locally oriented businesses, but it can work for anyone.

street art marketing

Street chalk Twitter handle by Marquette ITS

Commission a mural– Try getting permission to decorate the side of a prominent building with a large mural.

marketing mural

Great Di Bruno Bros mural found on Yelp

Use your surroundings– Get a little imaginative and think about how you can use your urban surroundings for potential marketing magic.

street marketing ideas

Very creative urban marketing efforts by Vijar Barbecues, found on Owni

Unusual sponsorships– Urban living results in some unique marketing opportunities you won’t find elsewhere. They secret is, you need to think creatively to capitalize on these opportunities.

urban marketing ideas

Citi Bank sponsoring Citi Bike (image from Bicycling)

Contest Marketing Ideas

Photo Contests - Photo contests are great for a number for reasons – they’re relatively easy to enter (anyone with Instagram and a few spare seconds can submit), and they also provide sponsors with a great form of user-generated content that can be reused and implemented elsewhere.

Check out Harpoon Brewery– they’ve mastered the art of photo contests.

social media marketing ideas

Video contests - Not as many people will enter video contests, but you’re more likely to get a higher caliber of content since creating a video requires more effort on the user’s part. This kind of content can be extremely valuable for businesses down the line, especially when you have talented filmers creating video content just for you!

Submit your vote contests - Voting contests get a ton of entries because they’re so easy to participate in (just click a button, in most cases). What’s cool about voting contests is that you can use the data obtained from the votes to create a mini data study. Share what you learned in a blog post!

Caption Contests - Post a photo and ask users to submit their best caption - this kind of contest can get some pretty great laughs.

caption contest

Sweepstakes - The most traditional of contests, sweepstakes/giveaways are a tried and true classic. They are quick and simple to enter – plus it’s easy to ask for email subscriptions as part of the submission form.

Marketing Ideas for Contest Promotion

Post to deal sites - People love free stuff, some more than others. The people who really love a good deal tend to frequent deal sites and forums. There’s almost always a sweepstake/contest forum section where you can add your contest into the mix.

I’ve seen contests in which 90% of traffic is driven from these types of sites – alright, they aren’t always the most qualified leads, but if you want quantity over quality, this is a sound strategy. Start of submitting to Slickdeals and go from there.

Hashtag-ify your contest - Adding a relevant (and unique) hashtag to your contest helps you keep track of entries and makes them easy to scan through and organize. Besides, they’re just plain fun.

Make contests super sharable - This means adding “share this contest” buttons if you have an entry form on a website, or simply encouraging social sharing in general. The more people who know about your contest, the merrier (for you anyway)!

contest promotion ideas

Offer bonus points for sharing - If you offer users bonus points for sharing news of your contest via social media, they’ll be much more likely to concede. Tools like Rafflecopter make it easy to offer users extra entries for different actions (e.g. Joining the mailing list = +5 entries. Sharing contest on Twitter = +2 entries).

contest marketing ideas

(image from Website Spot)

Notify email subscribers of contest - Remember, you already know that your email subscribers like you and are interested in what you have to offer. If you’re running a contest for a free year of your software, you know your subscribers are going to want in!

Promote your contest on (all) social media - If you’re running a photo contest via Instagram, make sure you still promote the contest on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. You want all your followers, across all social media networks to know about your great giveaway!

social marketing ideas

Share buttons from Wordpress plug-in

Content Marketing Ideas

Write for your audience– The best pieces of content are the ones directed at your key audiences. Understand your customer: know their pain points, what gets them psyched, and what keeps them up at night. Killer content address your audience’s needs and concerns!

Add a visual element to ALL your content pieces– People get bored with text really fast! To keep visitors reading, it’s essential to have images breaking up your text paragraphs. Don’t overlook the importance of a visual element, even in blog posts that are predominantly text-based. You can see some examples of highly visual business blogs here.

Infographics– We know readers love visual content, and infographics are a prime example of beloved, linkable visual assets.

content marketing ideas

While the idea of creating a top-notch infographic may sound daunting, it doesn’t have to be hard. You don’t need fancy software – in fact, you can make a decent infographic just using Powerpoint. There are plenty of infographic guides templates out there to get you started. Speaking of…

Useful templates - Templates are another powerful form of visual assets that visitors find extremely helpful. Templates serve as a visual framework that can help users create custom piece without completely starting from scratch. Take this landing page template as an example – it explains the basic layout and fundamentals, letting users get a grasp on great landing page essentials before making their own.

marketing ideas for small businesses

Graphs and Charts - The infographic’s less cool cousins, one-piece graphs and charts still have their place as formidable pieces of visual content. They may not be as impressive as infographics, but they require considerably less time and effort to create and are still shareable, so don’t be afraid to use them generously. For visual learners, a graph will be much easier to interpret than a chunk of text and numbers. Make sure you appeal to all kinds of learners!

marketing charts

That’s why you find so many dragons at the animal shelter (image from Reddit)

Videos – Video is incredible when it comes to drawing in and retaining the attention of users – retention rate for visual information can reach 65% vs. 10% for text-based info. Plus, customers who view product videos are much more likely to convert than those that don’t. Video content is a powerful tool, whether you’re trying to demonstrate how your product works IRL or educating visitors.

Statistic lists– Are you hitting a content idea wall? For an easy content marketing fix, collect interesting statistics on a subject matter related to your biz and create a blog post about what you’ve learned. Massive stat lists are easy to make and extremely sharable. Plus, some of the wilder stats may get your gears turning about other content ideas, such as…

Future predictions– Play the soothsayer by predicting future trends in your industry – just make sure you have at least some data to back up your hypothesis.

ControversyControversial content always earns attention, but it’s not for the faint of heart – playing with fire can get you burned! Rather than stirring up controversy yourself, the safer road may be to answer or respond to larger industry controversy with your own interpretation.

controversial marketing ideas

Rumors travel fast

Aggregate awesomeness from other sources - Another easy way to create killer content is to curate quality content from elsewhere. No, it’s not stealing ... at least, not if done properly.

It’s completely kosher to borrow content from other sources if you’re doing something new with it. For example, take our guide to the best SEO Reddit AMAs. The content we quoted from was originally posted on various Reddit forum threads. We took what we deemed the “best” portions of the Q&As from different threads and put it all together to make a super SEO advice guide. This new post is much easier for users interested in SEO to read, rather than scouring through various Reddit threads. NOTE: Play it safe by always giving credit where it’s due.

Ask the experts– Another great content marketing idea is to interview industry thought leaders with set questions and share their responses in a blog post; for example, our interview with industry experts on the future of PageRank. This kind of content tends to do well, and it’s always interesting to see where industry gurus agree and where they don’t. One great thing about sharing expert opinions – chances are, the folks you write about will share your write-up with their own followers! (Pro tip – ask the opinions of groups with large Twitter followers!)

great marketing ideas

A very impressive panel of experts

Top 10s– People go nuts over top 10 lists – top 10 tools, top 10 blogs, you name it.

Lists– Piggy-backing on top 10s are lists in general. Starting your title with a number can make it stand out more in search listings (e.g. 3 Ways to Slice a Pineapple). Why do people love lists? Because they are super scannable and quick to read. This is probably why over a third of Buzzfeed's posts have a number in the title. Great content strategies involve a mix of quick, snackable content pieces and more in-depth, long-form articles. Variety is the spice of life, yo.

Product comparison guide– Decisions, decisions – oh, the pitfalls of capitalism. It’s tough being a consumer with so many products to choose from. Help out users with a marketing comparison guide, especially if you have a series of product offerings for different needs. If you’re comparing your product with competitors, be objective and fair; maybe you’re a better fit for small businesses, while a competitor is better for larger corporations.

good marketing ideas

Alternatively, write up a comparison guide for a product you don’t offer, but which relates to your audience’s business. For example, a video game reseller could write a product comparison guide for different video game controllers. This is helpful content that gets relevant users familiar with your brand.

Content is an open door– Don’t just create awesome content and abandon it – feature your best stuff in other related blog posts as well. You can link to or call out other pieces of content mid-post, or list some related articles at the end of your post. Something along the lines of “Want to learn more about ________? Check out our _________ guide and our __________ infographic.”

advertising ideas

Content, love = apples, oranges. (Image from Disney’s Frozen)

Slideshare– The slideshow is back and better than ever! Repurpose PowerPoint presentations for audience-friendly slideshares. Check out these tips from Jonathan Colman on getting more views on Slideshare.

Webinars – Host your own free webinar or partner with another business for twice the expertise (and twice the promotion power). Webinar are a great source of business leads.

Google related search– Checking out the Google related searches (found at the top and bottom of the SERP when you perform a search) for a keyword query is a great tool for generating content ideas. Just Google a term and see what related searches turn up. You may be surprised!

find marketing ideas

Pop-up opt-in– There’s a lot of debate around newsletter opt-in pop-ups. They’re annoying, they’re intrusive, but quite often, they also work! A/B test one and see how it affects your newsletter subscriptions. If newsletter subscribers have proved to be valuable leads for your business, do what you must to obtain them.

Continue your lucky streak – Not sure what to write about? Go into your analytics account and take a peek at your most popular posts to see what subjects users get excited about, then write a variation or extension of one of your most popular posts.

eBooks – Another great marketing idea is to write a comprehensive ebook on a known pain point or popular industry topic, then create a quality landing page around the offer. Better yet, don’t start from scratch; repurpose past blog posts and articles into a mega e-book collection.

101 guides – There’s always someone just starting out in the biz; beginner's guides and Industry Knowledge 101 content pieces will always get linked to and shared around by newbs.

Even great content needs promotion Don’t just publish your content and expect it to promote itself; share it with your email subscribers and social media followers.

Post about industry hot topics – What’s the buzz in your field? Post about topical news and trending topics related to your industry to get in on the burst of action and show that you’re in the know. 

Guest Posts While the SEO value of guest posts has been called into question, there’s nothing wrong with guest posting if done right. Just focus on the value of getting your brand in front of a new audience, rather than the links.

marketing ideas

(Image from Flickr user matsuyuki)

White papers– Guides, e-ooks, white papers – they’re kind of all the same thing, but labeling your assets differently can help your message resonate with different audiences. Test your labels to see which works best with your prospects.

Quality content– This should go without saying, but only produce quality content that you can be proud of! Google hates thin content, and users don't like it either.

Show some skin– I mean metaphorical skin of course – show that you are not a robot. Don’t be afraid to have some fun and show off your company’s personality. Express yourself; and if that means literally showing some skin, well then, more power to you. You’re human after all.

excellent marketing ideas

Online magazine– Producing your own virtual magazine is another epic form of content marketing. For a great example, check out Dark Rye, a stylish online magazine produced by Whole Foods. For a quick and easy fix, make your own online newspaper with Paper.li.

creative marketing ideas

Podcasts – Podcasts are great because users can download them and then listen on the go! Possible podcast concepts include discussing hot industry news or interviewing experts, in your space.

Cover events– If you attend a conference (or even an online event), consider writing a post about what info you gathered from the event, what you found valuable, etc. Chances are others will find it valuable too! Use the hashtag from the event in your promotional efforts.

Collaboration– Collaboration can extend your reach and build your reputation. Consider all the different partnerships you could build – partner with a charity? A related business? You can co-author a blog post or guide, co-host a webinar, etc.

Memes– Memes are fun and familiar for internet-goers. Get a little cheeky with some fun memes – it’s easy to make your own with sites like meme generator.

super marketing ideas

#SummertimeSadness

Social proof– Sometimes great content marketing ideas also serve as fantastic forms of social proof. Take this inventive content project by a haunted house called Nightmares Fear Factory. They take photos of victims…er, I mean guests, and post them to their Flickr feed. The photos are absolutely hysterical and prove that Nightmares Fear Factory is as scary as they claim to be! (Thanks for the heads up from Shopify).

unusual marketing ideas

Divvy up your content– Don’t go content-overboard or you’ll end up overwhelming users. We live in a competitive attention economy, and if you’re creating new stuff every single day, people may tire of you, even if everything you share is excellent. Them’s the breaks, kid. Figure out what pace works for your audience.

Conduct a content audit– Is your existing content up to snuff? What is driving conversions? What isn’t – and why? Asking these questions might make you sweat, but you’ll be better off knowing the truth. Finding the answers to these questions will ensure that your marketing strategy moves forward in the right direction.

Branded tools – Create awesome, valuable tools that your audience will find useful. You can use parts of the tool to push towards your product offering, but make sure the tool itself is high-caliber – don’t just make it a glorified sales pitch. Providing free tools will make users think fondly of you and extend your brand as more people share your awesome free tool!

Mobile!– With 79% of internet users conducting online shopping via  mobile devices, you should be embarrassed if you're not mobile-friendly. This is not optional, although many still treat it like it is.

Gameification– Gamification is a great marketing idea to get users excited about engaging with you. As on Whose Line is it Anyway, the points are meaningless, but you’d be surprised how much people really enjoy getting points. We all love instant affirmation – it’s like virtual crack!

Apps like Belly and Foursquare combine gamification with customer loyalty programs. Starbucks also has its own tame version of gamified loyalty programs in which you earn stars for Starbucks purchases. Consider if gamification could work for your biz.

loyalty programs

Get by with some content help from your friends – There are a ton of great tools out there to help you find quality content (Storify& Buffer to name a few). Remember, you don’t want to just share your own content – sharing great pieces by others in your industry shows that you’re a team player and valuable source of unbiased knowledge.

Comics While newspaper funnies are a dying breed, online comics are alive and thriving! Consider making your own internet comics that relate to the absurd and surreal aspects of your industry. Try free tools like Pixton or Strip Generator to get started.

unique marketing ideas

Copy the masters– Watch to see who is creating great content, and follow their lead. Take a close look at sites like Upworthy and Buzzfeed that get a ton of shares; while their audience and content subjects will be different from yours, they serve as an excellent study in how to improve your marketing strategy. What are they doing right? Can you implement something similar?

Take your time with titles– While we’re on the subject, Upworthy is famous for their killer, clickable headlines. Even a superb blog post won’t get the attention it deserves without a good title. Should it be clever? Eye-catching? SEO-friendly? Think about what will appeal to your audience. It’s recommended you write as many as 5-10 titles for every article, then choose the best!

4-1-1– The 4-1-1 concept comes from Andrew Davis, author of Brandscaping. Davis’ social media sharing strategy dictates that for every six pieces of content shared on social media:

  • 4 should be content from other industry influencers that is relevant to your audience
  • 1 should be your own original, educational content
  • 1 should have a sales aspect (coupon, product news, press release), aka, a piece of content most people will simply ignore.

The philosophy behind the 4-1-1 concept is that when you share industry thought leadership, you’re building relationships within the industry and demonstrating a certain level of selflessness which earns serious reputation points that come in handy in the long haul.

This concludes our ultimate marketing ideas guide. What are your best marketing ideas?

This post originated on the WordStream Blog. WordStream provides keyword tools for pay-per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) aiding in everything from keyword discovery to keyword grouping and organization.

Google My Business: The New Integrated Local/Social Dashboard for Businesses

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Google this week announced the launch of Google My Business, a new program aimed at getting more business owners under the Google umbrella with a one-stop shop for managing their business listings in search, using Google+ and more. Google My Business is an offering for businesses just getting started on the web, but will also become the default dashboard for current users of Places for Business and the Google+ social network.

In fact, as of today, if you navigate to Google Places for Business from the US or Canada, you'll be redirected to Google My Business:

google my business guide

This is a little unusual, as Google tends to release new products in the United States first, rolling out changes over a period of weeks or months. The incorporation of Google+ and Places for Business into Google My Business happened as the announcement was made.

If you're a business owner with a Google+ Page, a Places for Business account or just getting started, here are some tips to help you navigate the new platform.

What is Google My Business?

Google My Business is a free dashboard business owners and marketers can use to manage their Google-related online presence in one place. This includes:

  • Managing business listing info for search, maps and Google+.
  • Uploading photos and/or a virtual tour of your business.
  • Sharing content and interacting with followers on Google+.
  • Seeing reviews from across the web and responding to Google+ reviews.
  • Integrating with AdWords Express to create and track campaigns.
  • Accessing Insights reports, the new social analytics tool for Google+.
  • Seeing information about your integrated YouTube and Analytics accounts.

Users can access Google My Business on the web or via the Android or iOS app from a mobile device (available on Google Play).

If you have more than 10 business locations and used Google Places Bulk Upload to manage listings information in the past, you'll notice on your next login that this has been “automatically upgraded” as well.

google places

It's now called Google My Business Locations and here, Google promises more updates in the works, including faster update speeds, social features and visibility of live data.

How to Get Started with Google My Business

If you were using Google+ or Places for Business, you will be directed to the new Google My Business on your next login.

Those just getting started can head to the Google My Business website to get signed up.

There, you'll see a blue button, front and center, urging you to “Get on Google.” This takes you to a world map where you can search for your local business.

Note: If you're not a local business, click that option in the upper-right corner to be directed to My Business, where you can choose to start a Storefront, Service Area or Brand Page on Google+.

If you can't find your business (and you probably won't, if you're just getting started), click “None of these match” to add your business.

google my business help

Add your physical address and the type of business, as directed.

how to use google my business

Google will then search for similar businesses to see if you might already have a listing. If none of their suggestions match, choose “Keep my information” to move on.

You will then be asked to confirm that you are authorized to manage the business and agree to the terms of service.

With that, Google creates your Google+ Page and business account. You will need to verify your association with the business. Google offers to send the verification code to the mailing address for the business now, or you can choose to come back and do the verification later. Without verification, you won't be able to make any edits to your listing, so it's best to get it done as soon as you can.

Users are then sent to their new Page at Google+, where you can either jump right in, or take a tour.

google my business welcome

Google is making it as simple as possible for people who haven't used Google+ before to optimize the page for their business. A progress bar shows the completeness of the profile as you add hours and other store information, add a profile photo and follow the prompts to input information.

google my business apps

Remember, these edits won't take effect until you verify your business. Reviews and Insights also stay “locked” until your business is verified.

Managing Your Google My Business Account

You're all set up and verified, it's time to sit back and let the customers roll in, right?

Not quite. Google My Business isn't a set-it-and-forget-it deal.

using google my business

If you want to use Google+ to connect with existing and potential customers, you're going to need a social content strategy. Try to aim for a mix of your own original content and curated content – this will offer your followers variety and ease the content creation burden on your business. Get more social media marketing strategy tips here and learn about content promotion here.

google business reviews

Use the Reviews tool to monitor your business reviews and track your ratings over time. This is also where you can respond to reviews as the owner of the business.

google business insights

Monitor your Insights and use this intelligence to improve your visibility and engagement. Insights help you understand how people find your business and interact with your content by showing data on different types of views (search, photos, profile, etc.) and clicks including driving direction requests and website visits.

google business hangouts

Get creative with the tools and features Google My Business has to offer. From this dashboard, you can do some pretty cool things, like host Hangouts to chat live with your customers, or create photo albums around your products, services, customers and employees.

Whether you're just getting started or were an existing user of G+ or Places for Business, it's worth stopping by Google My Business to see what's new. Take this opportunity to verify that your map info, store hours, phone number and other information are correct and that your profile offers all of the information a consumer on the go needs to find you.

Let us know what you think about Google's latest move to bring small and local business marketing all under one roof!

This post originated on the WordStream Blog. WordStream provides keyword tools for pay-per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) aiding in everything from keyword discovery to keyword grouping and organization.

Best of the Inbound.org AMAs: SEO Edition

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In this latest in our series of the best tips from the Inbound.org AMAs (Ask Me Anythings), we have a collection of awesome insights from top marketers in SEO.

Annie Cushing, Ian Lurie, Rand Fishkin, Mike King and many others have participated in the popular Q&A-style threads on Inbound, where you're encouraged to ask them just about anything within their particular areas of expertise.

Here, you'll find the top SEO tips from Inbound’s AMAs, organized into business tips, tools and tactics, and industry buzz. Also check out:

The Business of SEO

On where to invest $200 in SEO if it just fell out of the sky

I probably wouldn't use it at all. For the first 5 years of SEOmoz's marketing efforts, I doubt I spent that much on anything – just blogged, participated in communities, produced some interesting one-off content (like the beginner's guide, the ranking factors, etc.). Maybe I'd buy a decent camera to do some video :-)

- Rand Fishkin, founder of SEOMoz

SEO budget

Via David Dellinger

On hiring & getting hired as an SEO

There's more to internet marketing than SEO. If you want me to take you seriously as an internet marketer, I need to see technical knowledge of 2 of the following:

1. Server infrastructure. What IS a log file, exactly? What can slow down/speed up a server?

2. Microsoft Excel. Excel-fu is a valuable martial art.

3. Basic HTML. You can't work on the web if you don't even know what an H1 tag is.

4. How search engines work. You don't need to know the PageRank formula, but it helps to understand what a crawler is, and how an index works.

5. Why the basic idea of citation matters on the web. Beyond rankings. What happens when lots of people refer to something you said or wrote? How can that impact your brand in social media? And yes, how might it impact search rankings?

6. How the different channels impact each other: PPC, SEO, social. They all interact one way or another. High-level understanding of this makes you a great strategist.

7. How to do basic audience research using keyword tools, things like Google Suggest, and demographics tools like the Facebook ads toolset.

8. How to do a presentation that doesn't make me weep with despair. This isn't really technical. But it will get you +100000 points in my book.

- Ian Lurie, founder/CEO of Portent

On getting started in SEO

If you're just getting started in the industry, make sure that you learn everything you can about, well, everything. Understand why SEO is important: I'd recommend reading the Moz Beginner's Guide to SEO, reading Paddy Moogan's Link Building Book, and enrolling in DistilledU. Then read everything you can about social and content and email marketing and PR and....you get the point. I'd also recommend reading Marty Weintraub's book. The thing is that you've got to be really well-rounded to work at the top of this industry, so think about what you can do to help businesses make a difference and then investigate the tools you may be able to use to get them there.

- Mackenzie Fogelson, founder/CEO of Mack Web Solutions

On getting different disciplines and agencies to work together

I always start by giving both PR and SEO teams an intro training session in the other field. That way when you get them all together, they understand the terminology each team uses and what the constraints are with their jobs. I am always amazed at how effective this is!

- Lexi Mills, head of digital at Dynamo Pro

On getting clients onboard and sharing info with your agency

Compete transparency (after signing non-disclosure agreements) is pretty much a prerequisite for us to work with anyone. The more the client shares, the more helpful we can be. We have a detailed (40 question) questionnaire that we use as a starting point for a recorded kick-off discussion with them. It covers the history of the business, their economics and business model, competitors, marketing, website and technology, as well as any political dimensions inside of the company.

- Tim Ash, SiteTuners

On the first steps to take in a new SEO job

Get to grips with the client’s business model – what are their USPs? What assets do they have? Who works there? What makes them good? What does success look like to them?

- Phil Nottingham, Distilled

SEO Tools & Tactics

inbound seo

Via Patrick jc via Compfight

On link building post-Penguin

I use the same strategies I used before Penguin, finding ways to build natural links, not natural-looking but truly natural links. I also make sure that I get my content to a full tier of media and bloggers. Having specific media material for each group is important, media will want more photographs and interviews whereas bloggers want something unique. Having a tool kit to help a variety of people cover your story/content is key to getting a good diverse link portfolio. When I am working on a client who is recovering from being hit by an update, you first need to clean up the link portfolio and then be VERY careful about every link you build afterwards.

- Lexi Mills, head of digital at Dynamo Pro

On link building vs. content marketing

While they work separately, we see tremendous increases in response rates when people use traditional link building techniques (broken link building, guest blogs, etc) in conjunction with traditional content marketing (ultimate guides, infographics, research and thought leadership, etc), along with superior content marketing ROI when people spend some time promoting content and thinking about how to get search and social visibility from it.

- Matt Gratt, Buzzstream

On quantifying the value of a link

I think Ross Hudgens and Adria Saracino have the best posts about link valuation:

http://www.rosshudgens.com/link-valuation/

http://moz.com/blog/definitive-guide-to-qualifying-a-link-prospect-video

One thing I'd add to these posts...as Google is getting better and better about site and link valuations, the use of metrics as the sole method for valuing a site is becoming less and less useful. If you look at both Ross' and Adria's processes, they're both looking at each site to see if it passes the eyeball test. In my opinion, this is going to become more and more important as Google gets smarter. 

- Paul May, Founder of Buzzstream

On favorite SEO tools

I love the data I get from SEMRush and Searchmetrics. Both show you your visibility in the search engines by showing you the keywords your site is ranking on the first two pages of Google for. You can even see the landing pages for each keyword. They both tend to show more short-tail keywords, so you're not going to see as much of your long-tail keyword visibility. But still great data to analyze, especially when combined with data you get from GWT's Search Queries and Top Pages reports. I also really like GTMetrix for site speed issues. If you haven't seen it, I have a huge list of tools for marketers.

- Annie Cushing, AKA Annielytics

On tools for SEO link analysis

For link analysis: I tend to favor Majestic SEO's citation and trust flow, as well as SEOmoz's Domain Authority.

- Ian Lurie, founder/CEO of Portent

On influencer outreach

The key is to start producing content that is useful and interesting to your target audience.  You have to give them a reason to come to your website.  Without that, outreach to influencers isn't going to be effective. In terms of finding influencers, you can use a tool like SEOmoz's FollowerWonk – or even Twitter search.

- Dharmesh Shah, Inbound.org & HubSpot

On SEO tools we could use

I'd say at the very least more tools need to be built with headless crawlers so they can traverse the DOM on fully executed JS. I'd say that we need to incorporate more semantic analysis into our tools so we can better understand the value of a link. Now we need to collect data on authors to understand content in context of them. I think that there needs to be more stuff like http://www.ntopic.org built into tools so can better optimize our own content. I think more toolbars and crawlers like SF need to be thinking about schema.org and social metadata. I'd love to see all the Link Indices have a visualization similar to what Cognitive SEO has.

- Mike King, Digital Marketer

On SEO reporting

Because I don't just report on SEO performance but more demonstrate how it fits in a client's overall marketing ecosystem, I tend to create reporting dashboards that include things like top mediums (both month-over-month and year-over-year) and historical organic and overall (with a scrolling chart to keep it from swallowing up the dashboard). But it's important to me that I find out what KPIs keep my clients up at night and report on those. And they're going to change pretty dramatically from client to client.

- Annie Cushing, AKA Annielytics

The most valuable skill in SEO?

Imagination. The only thing that can't be taught.

- Mike King, Digital Marketer

SEO Under the Hood

SEO AMAs

Via Ben Seidelman

On crawl frequency

Try tweeting or sharing the content on Google+. I think crawl frequency is proportional to the authority of the domain.

- Larry Kim, WordStream Founder

On what off-page SEO factors are important

Biggest one I see still moving the needle is lots of editorial links from trustworthy unique root domains. Anchor text still helps, too.

- Rand Fishkin, founder of SEOMoz

On semantic search

Semantic is already here. Google uses entity extraction and topic modeling and semantic connectivity (read Bill Slawski's SEO by the Sea for more) today. Social graph is used a little, but it can do much, much more. I think we've seen that with Google+ and a little w/ Facebook graph search (too early to really say there). The social proof element of social graph + search is the most powerful, IMO. I don't totally subscribe to the idea that people only want to see what their friends recommend when they do websearch, but I do believe they may be swayed by knowing that their friends liked/shared something that showed up in the SERPs.

- Rand Fishkin, founder of SEOMoz

Are redirects on domain levels best managed via a 301?

I'm a fan of Permanent redirects. I believe search engines love them too.

- Avinash Kaushik, Co-Founder of Market Motive

On the importance (or not) of PageRank

I don't really pay attention to PageRank anymore. Not that it's not important, rather because there is so little I can win by solving just for that. There are so many other SEO wins I can keep track of. The other factor is personalized search. No matter what search engine you use there is so much other context - from location to history to language to recent clicks to freshness to... so many things - that they are using to ensure that you and I could sit right next to each other and type the same query and get different results. Hence my personal strategy to solve for other things, the Page Rank thing can take care of itself.

- Avinash Kaushik, Co-Founder of Market Motive

On the potential devaluation of links

I like links as a signal in one form or another for the next 3-5 years. God knows what the web will look like past that point. I do think they will be augmented by all kinds of other data (authorship, social, usage etc).

- Will Critchlow, co-founder of Distilled

On the never-ending “SEO is Dead” chatter

If they mean "no one is searching anymore and it's no longer valuable to get traffic from search engines," then it's just complete bunk. However, if they mean "SEO as a singular practice that includes only the classic elements of SEO is giving way to a broader kind of marketing practice that includes technical SEO, content, creativity, social media, email, branding, PR, etc" then I fully agree. The SEO I knew and loved 8 years ago still works sometimes, but increasingly, you'll get beat by those who may do less hardcore SEO and more on the content/branding/social elements.

- Rand Fishkin, founder of SEOMoz

On where SEO is going

If you haven't read up on Hummingbird yet, start there. That is the start of where it's going. We've been preaching for 8 years to write for people first, while artfully spoon feeding the Google algorithm as needed. Now, the algorithm is better than ever with natural language and synonyms, and will keep getting better. So if you understand the language of your audience (think search query research instead of just "keyword" research) the "art" of SEO copywriting simply becomes the art of serving your intended audience.

- Brian Clark, CEO of Copyblogger

This post originated on the WordStream Blog. WordStream provides keyword tools for pay-per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) aiding in everything from keyword discovery to keyword grouping and organization.

In-Market Audiences: Target Searchers Who Are Ready to Buy

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At the core of every online advertiser’s mission is delivering a perfectly tailored message to a searcher at the moment the searcher is ready to take action. With in-market audiences, released in beta last November, Google claims it can get advertisers closer than ever to this goal.

In-market audiences allow advertisers to set up their Display campaigns to reach searchers who are further down the funnel and ready to make a purchase. How? By connecting ads to consumers who are actively researching or comparing products and services across the Google Display Network.

in-market audiences

In-market segments allow you to reach customers when they’re ready to buy

How In-Market Audiences Work

So what distinguishes in-market audiences from other interest categories? Google says that they can distinguish interest from purchaser’s intent by using real-time data to categorize a searcher with intent to buy. Google will factor in metrics like:

  • the content of sites browsed
  • the proximity and frequency of visits
  • account clicks on related ads and
  • subsequent conversions

to determine a purchaser’s intent. In this manner, Google is able to classify users, targeting those most interested in an advertiser’s offering.

Here’s an example: say you’re a car dealership looking to target searchers who are ready to buy a car. Google will look to find searchers who are clicking on ads related to cars, exploring relevant searches, looking at consumer reviews, car reviews, car comparison sites, etc. and predict whether these searchers are ready to buy. Advertisers can then tailor the messaging of their ads to make them highly relevant to this subset of purchase-ready searchers.

in-market segments

Make it easy for the consumer; deliver the right message at the right moment!

So what does Google say you’ll get by using in-market segments? For starters, advertisers will be able to expand reach in new ways to specifically include searchers engaged in comparison shopping and actively researching with intent to buy. Instead of reaching only the “hand raisers” (searchers who have expressed interest in certain categories), advertisers will be reaching “signalers” (searchers who are giving off signals that they are truly ready to buy). In addition, reaching consumers further along down the conversion funnel should intuitively mean more conversions and better ROI.

Do In-Market Audiences Really Work?

How has this panned out in practice for advertisers? Well, for our some of our clients at WordStream, it seems to be a mixed bag. General trends across accounts point to increased traffic to site but inconclusive changes to the volume of conversions.

I know what you’re thinking—all traffic, no conversions? I thought this was all designed to be a direct response effort! Well, if you factor in the impact that in-market segments have on remarketing campaigns, you may see a different picture. Google suggests that the real impact on conversions comes when using in-market segments in conjunction with remarketing. Advertisers can layer the in-market on top of their remarketing lists to increase reach while maintaining relevancy. The hope is that this effort will then bolster the volume of conversions coming in through remarketing.

In-Market Audiences: Setup & Best Practices

If you’re sold and ready to give these in-market audiences a try, you can find and set them up in your Display targeting under “Interests”:

google adwords in market audiences

Once you’ve added the appropriate categories, you can try implementing some of Google’s preliminary best practices:

  • Google recommends that advertisers avoid using other targeting methods with in-market audiences in the same ad group/campaign.
  • Google also recommends that advertisers focused on direct response use CPA bidding to monitor and control ROI effectively.
  • Advertisers may also use CPC bidding but Google strongly discourages the use of CPM bidding with in-market audiences.

Currently in-market audiences are only available in English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Japanese. What do you all think? Have any of you seen success with in-market audiences?

This post originated on the WordStream Blog. WordStream provides keyword tools for pay-per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) aiding in everything from keyword discovery to keyword grouping and organization.

4 Things You Need to Know About Google's New AdWords Policies

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Google is launching a “new and improved” AdWords Policy Center aimed at making policies more user-friendly and accessible to advertisers, according to an announcement buried in their AdWords Policy Help resources.

The current AdWords policies will remain in effect until “around September,” when the new center will launch.

So what's new? Google has released a preview of the new center alongside their announcement. Here's what you need to know about the changes.

new adwords policy

1. If you're in compliance now, you won't be a rule-breaker come September… well, most of you, anyway.

In their announcement, Google noted, "Almost all advertisers who comply with our current policies will also comply with the new policies."

Yes, there will be fundamental policy changes that will affect some advertisers more than others. There will be new restrictions on weapons, tobacco and fireworks advertising as per their Dangerous Products & Services Policy, as Google mentioned in their announcement.

There's more, though. For example, the policy on ads promoting Alcoholic Beverages changes from:

"Google restricts the promotion and sale of alcoholic beverages including beer, wine, and spirits."

To:

"Google restricts the promotion of alcoholic beverages and drinks that resemble alcoholic beverages." (Emphasis mine.)

Interestingly, the list of prohibited actions in regards to the advertising of alcohol has been reduced from seven rules to six. Google removed this from the list:

"Do not depict violent or degrading behavior."

Clearly, each advertiser needs to go over the new policies with a fine tooth comb to see if any changes will affect your AdWords ads.

2. Seven broad policy areas are being reduced to four.

Google is promising to make their AdWords policies fewer in number, but also easier to understand. To that end, the amount of broad policy categories is being reduced.

google adwords policy

Will become:

adwords policy

What does this mean for advertisers? Simply, you should spend some time in the new Policy Center preview to get to know your way around.

3. Google AdWords is cracking down on content quality.

With this policy update, Google is cracking down on content quality on the paid side in the way their organic search team did with Panda.

In the existing Policy Center, nefarious activities like cloaking/gaming and phishing were housed within a policy category called “User Deception” under the Safety & Security banner.

Now, the policies surrounding these black-hat techniques are part of a Policy Center section called “Abuse of the Ad Network,” under Prohibited Practices.

The new Abuse of the Ad Network policy prohibits:

  • malicious ads, sites, or apps
  • ads promoting sites that offer little unique value to users and are focused primarily on traffic generation
  • businesses that attempt to gain an unfair advantage in the ad auction
  • businesses that attempt to bypass our review processes

In examples of content they don't allow, Google AdWords now points out “Low Quality Content,” which they define as:

  • Content that is designed for the primary purpose of showing ads, i.e. Driving traffic (whether through "arbitrage" or otherwise) to destinations with more ads than original content, little or no original content, or excessive advertising.
  • Content that is replicated from another source without adding value in the form of original content or additional functionality, i.e. mirroring, framing or scraping.
  • Landing pages that are solely designed to send users elsewhere, i.e. doorway pages, gateways.

Consider this one of the more potentially impactful policy updates.

4. Ad Format policies now live in Editorial & Technical Requirements.

If you're using call or sitelink extensions, TrueView video ads, AdMob ads or other types of ad units, you should review the new policies for each of your ad units.

These technical requirements used to live in the User Experience section of the policy center, but are moving to the Technical Requirements section of the new center.

Some, like the Sitelinks Extension and AdMob Ads policies, remain the same. The sections Character Limit, Editorial Standards and Mobile/Tablet Ads have been removed and either scrapped or integrated into other relevant policies.

Basically, you're going to want to go over the technical requirement policies for the types of ads you use, even if only as a refresher to ensure you stay compliant.

This post originated on the WordStream Blog. WordStream provides keyword tools for pay-per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) aiding in everything from keyword discovery to keyword grouping and organization.

Do Paid Search Ads Drive Brand Awareness?

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What if search advertising were able to impact not just clicks and conversions, but top-of-mind brand awareness?

brand awareness

This was the question Google set out to answer in a just-released study with Ipsos MediaCT. In it, they found that search ads have a positive impact on top-of-mind awareness, but also on unaided brand awareness – even when the searcher doesn't click the ad. Search ads may be known as a direct response tool, but Google's research points to real value for branding, as well.

The study, which consisted of 61 simulated search experiments involving 800 U.S. consumers, identified an 80% lift in top-of-mind brand awareness.

In each of the studies, consumers were asked to perform searches for category-specific searches spanning 12 verticals. They then saw either a control page or a simulated SERP with the test brand featured in the top search ad position.

adwords brand awareness

When asked to name which brand came to mind first for a keyword in a specific category, 8.2% of the control group named the test brand, compared to 14.8% of the test group. That 6.6 percentage point difference translates to an 80% lift in brand awareness.

Some verticals saw even more lift; in auto and B2B, the difference was 9 percentage points. CPG and retail were close behind with 8 and 6 percentage points in brand recall lift when they'd seen a search ad.

brand awareness lift

While this study confirms what a lot of us have been saying all along, it flies in the face of eBay's recent study, in which they claimed that search advertising has "no measurable benefit." Ironically, eBay has billions of ad impressions in the Google SERPs over the last decade or so to thank, in part, for the recognizable brand they are today.

In explaining their findings, Google points out that search ads reach people who are already in a receptive state of mind. They're actively searching for products and services. If your brand is the one they see when they search – because let's be real, they're going to see someone's brand and it might as well be yours – they're more likely to remember you.

Smart marketers know that paid search is an excellent method of getting in front of people who know they want something, but haven't yet decided exactly where to get it, or from which company they'll purchase.

When they make that decision, do you want to be there…or not?

This post originated on the WordStream Blog. WordStream provides keyword tools for pay-per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) aiding in everything from keyword discovery to keyword grouping and organization.

Social Sharing Secrets: 15 Ways to Get More Shares ASAP!

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Social media sharing is a big aim for many businesses looking to build their brand, extend their reach, and generally make the most of their online marketing efforts. So how do you rack in the likes, tweets, pins, and +1s? Here are 15 super social sharing secrets to keep you basking in the lime light of adoring online fans.

social sharing

Image courtesy of kanate of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1. Ask people to share your content.

The first step is admitting you need help. It sounds like such an obvious no-brainer, but it really does make a difference. Make a point of asking for social shares, and you’ll be more likely to get them.

For example, some sites use a pop-up that says "If you liked this post, share it on Facebook!" It's a gentle reminder to (social) share the love.

2. Make great content people want to share.

OK, this may be a cop-out tip but again, it needs to be said. People share content that they like — content that teaches them something new, shows them something amazing, or gives them goosebumps. Great content gets shared. Bad content does not. So put in the effort.

3. Write a super-shareable headline.

Your content will capture more attention and drive more social shares with an enticing and carefully crafted headline. Most popular headlines today involve lists/numbers, cliffhangers, or a kind of twist.

Upworthy and Buzzfeed are known for their crazy shareable headlines that snag readers hook, line, and sinker. Here are a few examples to  give you an idea:

  • Being Poor Has Never Been A Crime In Our Country. Until Now.

  • If I'd Learned One Thing In College, I Wish It Had Been This

  • 1/3 Of The Fish We Buy And Eat Is Not What It Says It Is

  • The Top 33 Bars To Watch The World Cup In New York City

  • 12 Incredibly Honest Confessions From Waiters

  • 33 Jokes Only “Game Of Thrones” Fans Will Understand

  • 17 Bookstores That Will Literally Change Your Life

These are real headlines taken from Upworthy and Buzzfeed. Each of them has one (or more) of these elements:

  • Insider attraction, appealing to a specific audience

  • Mystery

  • Relates to current events

One article from Fast Company notes that Upworthy headlines are particularly successful (although not very original) because they manipulate our natural curiosity in what psychologist George Loewenstein calls the information gap theory — basically a metaphysical fill-in-the-blank that appeals to our curiosity, so we just have to click.

To show how formulaic these headlines tend to be, Mike Lacher created the Upworthy Generator, and admittedly, it’s hard to tell the difference between artificial, randomly generated articles and the real things.

upworthy generator

Alright, so Upworthy headlines can be a little uninspired, even slightly pathetic ... but results are results, baby! Mimic successful headlines and see how they affect your social share counts.

social media sharing sites

4. Install social sharing buttons.

The goal is to make social sharing as easy as possible for your visitors; they're more likely to share your content if it only takes one click. Bright, colorful social sharing buttons are more likely to be clicked, just as certain download buttons are more likely to be clicked on landing pages. (Size, placement, the wording of the call to action, and contrast can all make a big difference.) When it comes to social buttons, you’ll find them in every size, shape, and style.

social sharing buttons

So many choices!

Sites like AddThis and ShareThis make it easy to add slick social share buttons to your website, no matter what your web platform is. For Wordpress users, there are a ton of great social share Wordpress plug-ins to choose from. A few of my favorites include:

  • Simple Share Buttons Adder: Slick, easy to use, and just enough customization to feel in control.

  • Floating Social Media Icon: The emphasis here is on the ability to float your social media icons so that they stay visually present even when users scroll.

  • WP Socializer: This Wordpress button plug-in can be quite confusing at first, but once you adapt you’ll be impressed by the amount of detailed customization available.

5. Make your social sharing buttons prominent.

It’s not just about the style and look of your buttons. It’s also important to consider where you place them on the page. While having social sharing buttons at the top of your article can work as a form of social proof (visitors may be more likely to read on if they see high share numbers), the natural reader flow calls for buttons at the bottom of the page, so visitors can share the post once they’ve finished reading. And then there’s always the floating buttons option, which allows your social buttons to always be present, but which some visitors may find annoying or distracting. How do you know which buttons to use for your biz? Test, test, test!

6. Have an irresistible offer.

Find the right offer that really makes your visitors happy is even more important than testing button placement. When you’re giving away cool stuff for free, people get excited. Awesome offers (e.g., templates, ebooks, tools) get a ton of shares. This is why it is so (so) important to have social share buttons on offer pages AND offer thank you pages.

7. Make people wet their pants.

Giving people a good chuckle increases your chances of social sharing. Just think of all those emails older relatives send you, a scrolling image collection of dogs dressed up in costumes and kids urinating in potted plants (not cute BTW) with cute captions (boys will be boys). The email forward is the equivalent of a modern day social share (give them a break, they probably still use Netscape). Why did they share it with you? Because it made them laugh. How sweet. :)

social sharing examples

As if you’re not going to share this?

8. Interview a panel of experts.

In a recent post about content marketing ideas, I mentioned the technique of interviewing industry thought leaders. This is a great content idea, and it also drives a lot of social media sharing since the individuals being interviewed in the article will most likely be sharing the post with their own followers. Instead of toiling to obtain better reach, you get a huge audience right off the bat via your interview subjects.

how to get social shares

Don’t you ever question the experts, ever! (by Mia Mala McDonald)

9. Drop names.

Say something nice about someone and they’ll probably share your word of approval. It only takes a few seconds to tag or @ other users, and the social sharing payoff can be big. Try writing about a big brand that has a huge following.

10. Post when your audience is most active.

Think carefully about when you post your content for optimal social sharing. Traditionally it’s been said that the best time to post content is mid-morning and mid-afternoon on weekdays, but ultimately it depends on your audience. For example, if your key market is stay-at-home moms, you’d probably want to release content when the mommies are home web-surfing while the kids are at school. If you’re in the sleep aid industry, you might want to post late at night during peak insomnia hours.

social media shares

Photo by Flickr user jdbaskin

The best time to post can also vary based on the social network. LinkedIn peaks in the early morning.

11. Make social sharing super-easy with embeddable tweet quotes.

The best way to get more social media shares is to make sharing your content as easy as possible. One way to do this is with tweetable text. This way you’re doing most of the work for the visitor. You’re handpicking tweetable quotes so that all the user has to do is click! Click to Tweet makes this process too easy to pass up.

Ex. Tip #32 to increase social media sharing: Add a click to tweet button! - Click to Tweet!

12. Share posts from others.

A little quid-pro-quo goes a long way. If you share content posted by other folks, they’ll be more likely to share your content in return.

increase social media sharing

NBC’s Hannibal is the best thing ever

13. Make your content visually delicious.

Add images, infographics, or quote-image overlays that are highly pinnable and fun to share. Blogs that include a nice image are waaaaay more likely to be shared on Facebook. You can now include images in tweets, too!

14. Format your content to be scannable.

Many of these tips for increasing social media sharing also work as general web copywriting best practices. Users are as flighty and finicky as ever, and most won’t even finish reading an article before sharing it. This is why it’s essential to break up paragraphs, use subheadings, add bullet points, use bold text, and implement images for an easier, faster, more skimmable read.

15. Don’t be a gloomy gus.

According to a Mashable study, people are more likely to share posts with a positive sentiment (happy rainbows and puppies) than those with overly negative sentiment (I hate the world and the world hates me, play me a song on your tiny violin).

boost social shares

Damn Charlie Brown, you depressing :(

Do you have any social sharing tips you want to pass on? Let us know!

This post originated on the WordStream Blog. WordStream provides keyword tools for pay-per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) aiding in everything from keyword discovery to keyword grouping and organization.

Has Google Gone Too Far? Parental Status Demographic Added to AdWords

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If you’ve ever read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”, you probably didn’t notice a chapter about Google tracking your parental status in AdWords. Well, this is exactly what Google is doing, as Parental Status is now a demographic subset that advertisers can explicitly target.

This feature went live within the past 12 hours or so, and Google has yet to make an official announcement. However, we’ve already seen it in action, as you can see in the following figure:

Our resident data scientist Mark Irvine was the first of us at WordStream to notice the new feature. At this point, parental status targeting hasn’t been rolled out across all advertiser accounts – in fact, even some of our largest Managed Services accounts don’t have access to this functionality yet, suggesting that we’re still in the very early stages of the feature’s rollout.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this demographic subset has three settings – “Parent”, “Not a parent” and “Unknown”, as you can see below. This allows advertisers to either exclude or adjust bids for these demographics, just as you would for the Age and Gender demographics. For specialty businesses (say, baby clothing retailers and children’s toy manufacturers), this could be incredibly valuable.

Obviously, the targeting potential of this feature is enormous. Imagine being able to capture new leads and conversions for visitors who just brought Junior back from the hospital! Of course, this means that I’ll almost certainly start seeing targeted ads, since my wife and I just welcomed Jules into the world

This isn’t just a great way for advertisers to reach increasingly granular audiences with their advertisements, it’s also a glimpse into the possibilities of what Google could offer advertisers in the future. They've already supported targeting by Age, Gender, Interests, and now Parental Status. Could we eventually see demographic subsets based on race? Sexual orientation? The more data advertisers have the better (for them), but is Google going too far? I’m sure many of us remember the brouhaha Target found itself in when it started marketing coupons and other promotional offers to expectant teen mothers.

Whether Google will face a backlash over this new feature remains to be seen. For the time being, though, I’ve no doubt that many advertisers will be clamoring to get their hands on this new display targeting parameter!

This post originated on the WordStream Blog. WordStream provides keyword tools for pay-per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) aiding in everything from keyword discovery to keyword grouping and organization.

How Google Hummingbird Changed the Future of Search

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In September of last year, when Google Hummingbird was officially announced, Matt Cutts said that it would affect 90% of all searches, albeit in a subtle way. Considering that Google handles more than 3.5 billion searches every day, this means Google Hummingbird affects more than 3.15 billion of them.

Not exactly an inconsequential update.

Google Hummingbird Fact Diagram

This image has nothing to do with Google Hummingbird. Still, hummingbirds are pretty cool.

The Hummingbird update was the most ambitious adjustment of Google’s search algorithm since 2001. In today’s post, we’re going to look at what Google Hummingbird is, what it means for SEO, and what the future of Google’s quest to become the “Star Trek” computer could hold.

What is Google Hummingbird?

Although it’s technically accurate to call Google Hummingbird an algorithm update, this is kind of a misnomer. This is because Hummingbird was essentially an entirely revamped version of Google’s search algorithm, not just a patch or minor update.

Google Hummingbird and Semantic Search

At the heart of the Hummingbird lies the all-important concept of semantics, or meaning. Even the fanciest computers are still pretty stupid. This is because although it’s easy for humans to distinguish between two different yet similar concepts (by virtue of context), computers can’t do this unless they’re explicitly told. Stupid computers.

Semantic search is the concept of improving search results by focusing on user intent and how the subject of a search relates to other information in a wider sense, or its contextual relevance. Essentially, semantic search focuses on determining what a user really means, rather than a string of keywords, and then serving relevant results.

For example, if a user performs a search for the term “weather”, it’s much more likely that they are looking for a forecast for their area, not an explanation of the science or history of meteorology.

So, in this example:

  • “Weather” is the subject of the search
  • The desire for a local forecast is the user’s intent
  • The difference between a weather forecast and an explanation of meteorological concepts is the context

Google Hummingbird Weather Search Engine Results Page

Of course, Google’s algorithm cannot be absolutely sure of what I want, so just to be safe, it provides me with a range of results. Google serves up a local forecast (even though this search was performed in an Incognito window, it still tracks my location), a link to the Weather Channel, a Wikipedia page for the term “weather” and some other information. Still, the prominence of the local forecast data in the Knowledge Graph speaks volumes about Google’s confidence in its results.

The Semantic Web

So, if semantic search is the quest to provide relevant results based on user intent and context, then the semantic web must be all sites doing something like this, right? Wrong. Although similar in name, semantic search and the semantic web are vastly different.

The semantic web is a largely unrealized vision of an internet based on common standards. Imagine if every website featured structured data such as schema, and that new technologies were developed to read, retrieve and publish data based on common data models. The result, a semantic web, would be an internet in which machines could perform much of the heavy lifting associated with search by truly understanding and responding to user queries, rather than the comparatively fractured web we have right now.

Although the scope of the semantic web is way beyond the scope of this post, Sir Tim-Berners Lee’s article in Scientific American is a fascinating read if you’re interested.

Google Hummingbird and the Knowledge Graph

When researching this post, I wanted to know how many Google searches are performed every day. Prior to the rollout of Google Hummingbird, I would have been presented with a SERP containing links to numerous pages, through which I could have probably learned the answer.

Google realized that this was a slow and often irritating process, even for users who were presented with relevant results. Google Hummingbird makes search quicker, easier and more intuitive.

Google Hummingbird Search Results Example

See how the answer to my question is bolded, rather than the “keywords” in my query? That’s because Hummingbird assumes (correctly) that all I want is an answer, pure and simple. I don’t need a link to a blog with the top 1,000 Google facts nobody knows, or even an official Google page boasting about its daily search volume – I just want the answer.

The same principle applies when I want to know exactly what 90% of 3.5 billion is. I don’t want to be taken to a calculator website or app. I just want the answer right now, damn it.

Google Hummingbird math calculation

This is what makes the Knowledge Graph so powerful. It’s also what pissed so many webmasters off when the Knowledge Graph was first introduced, since it meant that users no longer had to click through to even a top-ranked site, as Google “helpfully” provided the answer to the user without forcing them to leave the SERP.

Google Hummingbird and SEO

Optimizing pages and sites for Google Hummingbird is really simple. Like, so simple that even a stupid computer could do it. Okay, maybe not that simple, but it really is pretty straightforward. All you have to do is create great content that your audience wants and finds useful, and enriches their overall experience. Easy, right?

You should probably be doing most of the following anyway, but if you’re not, now’s an excellent time to get started and it’ll make your site Hummingbird-friendly. Just like hanging a feeder full of sugar water out on your back porch. See what I did there?

Anyway, let’s look at some best practices for Hummingbird SEO.

Diversify the Length of Your Content

We know that long-form content can work exceptionally well as part of a wider content strategy, but if every single post you publish is a 3,000-word monster, you may not be meeting all of your readers’ needs. For this reason (and to get something done other than write mammoth blog posts), mix up the length of your content. Intersperse shorter articles among longer ones, and don’t be too pedantic when it comes to word count – remember, there’s no “perfect” post length, only the length an article needs to be.

Produce Visual Content

In-depth long-form articles are an excellent way to explore complex topics and a range of ideas in a single post, but sometimes, people don’t want to read the marketing equivalent of Ulysses. In fact, sometimes they don’t want to read an article, of any length, at all. This is when visual content shines.

Infographics, videos and even simple visual elements such as charts and graphs can add some much-needed spice to your content. In addition, they’re often easily skimmable, can illustrate highly complex ideas effectively and bring some color to your site.

Use Topic-Appropriate Language

Something that some sites fail to take advantage of is using industry-appropriate language in their content. This is sometimes done out of a fear of alienating potential readers who may not be familiar with a certain topic or area. However, writing content that includes appropriate terminology can demonstrate to Google that your site is authoritative and valuable.

Google Hummingbird Doctor Who poster

Implement schema microdata

Remember when Google said that schema isn’t a ranking signal? Well, although this still appears to be the party line, implementing schema markup or another microdata format can only be a good thing, especially with Google Hummingbird’s heightened focus on semantics.

As we discussed in a previous post about schema markup, implementing it can be kind of a pain, but it could be worthwhile in the long run. In addition to making your site friendlier to the search engines’ crawlers, it could also help you secure better rich snippets in the SERPs.

The Future of Google Hummingbird

So, what does the future hold for Google Hummingbird and semantic search? Yes, this is where we peer into the murky waters of The Future™ and make some bold predictions that we can refer back to in a year or two and say, “See? We told you so.”

Google Hummingbird fortune teller sign

Natural Language Processing and Artificial Intelligence

Many experts speculate that developments in the field of natural language processing – the process by which machines can effectively parse and interpret human speech – will become a driving force in the advancement of semantic search. You only have to look at how accurate Google Now has become since its introduction to see that natural language processing is going to remain a major part of Google’s plans for search.

All signs point to not only further R&D in natural language processing, but to pairing this technology with increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence systems. This was evidenced recently by Nokia’s acquisition of Desti and Medio Systems. Desti, a technology that combines natural language processing and artificial intelligence, was developed by SRI International, the company behind Apple’s Siri and Nuance, one of the world’s leading voice recognition systems. Medio Systems is a predictive analytics company that specializes in processing data to effectively anticipate what information people will want to provide increasingly timely data.

Google isn’t wasting any time, either. The company’s acquisition of navigational software product Waze for $1.1 billion, and its subsequent integration into Google Now reveal that real-time, location-based search results are a high priority for Google. The hiring of renowned futurist and technologist Ray Kurzweil in 2012 was also a strong indication of Google’s plans for the future of its engineering efforts.

Simply put, if Google and other semantic search engines are going to serve our needs, they need to understand what we’re saying, the context in which we want our information, and where/when we want it.

Consumer Adoption of Voice Recognition Technology

Google made an ambitious (and some would say risky) bet with its Glass wearable computing product. A favored argument of Google Glass detractors is that people don’t want to walk around talking to their eyewear for fear of looking stupid. While this may be true for the time being, remember how people were reluctant to speak on their cell phones in public not so long ago? That didn’t last, and neither will the apprehension about wearable tech.

Google Hummingbird Homer Simpson wearing Google Glass

As the price point of wearable technology falls, adoption will rise. This, in turn, will further drive the development of technologies that combine voice recognition with minimally intrusive devices that enrich the world around us and make our lives easier. I predict that within the next five years, wearable technology and semantic search will become increasingly commonplace, with consumer adoption (and eventually, demand) leading the way.

Going Beyond Semantic Search with the ‘Internet of Things’

So, if semantic search can help us find exactly what we need with minimal effort, what’s the next logical step? For the world around us to respond intuitively to our needs, of course. This is what the so-called “internet of things” is all about.

Let’s say you want to schedule a trip to Amsterdam. Using voice commands, you instruct your virtual assistant – say, Google Now – to make the arrangements while you go about your day. Google’s AI performs millions of computations to calculate the best fare, suitable dates based on your (cloud-based) calendar, pays for your flight and hotel bookings automatically, and sends you a notification that everything has been taken care of – but it doesn’t stop there. Google’s virtual assistant then communicates with the technology in your home to ensure that their thermostat in your house is set correctly for a period of prolonged absence, as well as your fridge to temporarily pause automated alerts notifying you that food is about to spoil and inform you of which items should be disposed of before you leave. The system also regulates when lights are switched on to maintain the illusion that you’re home, when it fact you’re enjoying a leisurely gondola ride down the Prinsengracht canal.

Welcome to the future.

Google Humminbird Internet of Things diagram

People search to find information. The next frontier in search, quite simply, is to empower people to act upon this information in a seamless way, wherever and whenever they are.

Know What I Mean?

Most internet users have become thoroughly used to the new and improved search made possible by Google Hummingbird. As impressive as the applications of semantic search and voice recognition technology are, most people won’t even notice developments in these fields – they’ll simply expect Google to keep improving and making their lives easier. If Google’s track record is any indication, this is exactly what we can expect.

This post originated on the WordStream Blog. WordStream provides keyword tools for pay-per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) aiding in everything from keyword discovery to keyword grouping and organization.

Track Calls Back to the Keyword: Try WordStream's New Call Tracking Software

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WordStream exists for one reason: to help small businesses squeeze as much value out of their paid search campaigns as humanly possible. But so often when we talk about value to our customers, we have conversations about clicks or impressions, when our customers really only care about the end result – leads.

That’s why I’m thrilled to announce the release of WordStream’s new call tracking software offering. With this new tool inside WordStream’s PPC Advisor platform, we’re enabling customers to better track and measure the value of the phone calls they receive from paid search. Further, they will be able to tie those calls back to the campaign, ad group, match type, and keyword, so they know what’s driving call traffic and what isn’t. Clients can even listen to a recording of the call if they wish.

We’re confident that this new call tracking tool will give our customers deeper insight into their account performance and deliver the information necessary to achieve better results than ever before. Why talk about the cost per click of a given keyword if you can talk about its cost per lead?

In this post, I’ll explain why your business needs this feature, how WordStream Call Tracking works, and how you can take WordStream's Call Tracking software for a spin.

Why Advertisers Need Call Tracking Software

These are some sobering stats:

  • 43% of all search-related conversions happen over the phone
  • 65% of businesses consider phone calls their most valuable, highest quality source of leads

Since two out of three businesses value phone calls above all other lead types, it’s obviously really crucial that you know:

  • Where those calls are coming from
  • How changes to your PPC campaigns affect call volume and quality

When you know where your calls are coming from, you can make smart decisions about your advertising budget and your sales strategy. That’s where call tracking software comes in.

How WordStream’s Call Tracking Software Works

What is Call Tracking?

WordStream’s Call Tracking software uses unique phone numbers to track calls from customers who find your business through PPC. This provides deep insight into exactly which keywords and text ads are resulting in phone calls to your business.

how call tracking software works

Tracking calls involves a few steps. We use a destination URL parameter to track visitors to your website that came from your PPC campaigns, and a rotating pool of unique phone numbers to track callers that saw your website and called your business. We use a simple piece of javascript on your website to make this all happen.

How to set up Call Tracking

You’ll need to do three things:

1. Provide us with your business phone number.

At this time, we can only direct calls to a single phone number. Pick the number that you want to use to collect leads or sales. If you already have a phone number prominently displayed on your website or landing pages, pick that one.

2. Add the javascript to your website.

You can place the code on just one or on multiple pages of your website. If placing on one page, be sure to put the code inside the body tags. If you use an “include file” to include other javascript on multiple pages, you can place our code at the end of your other code in the “include file.”

WordStream’s Call Tracking software will only work if your phone number appears on your website in some sort of text format. If your phone number is an image, javascript will not be able to find it.

3. Add the tracking parameter to your destination URLs.

Our tracking parameter can be placed on any destination URLs in AdWords or Bing. We recommend that you add the parameter to all destination URLs throughout your account. But if you choose to only track one ad group or one campaign, you only need to make the changes in those places. If you use keyword-level destination URLs, don’t forget to change those, too.

Call Tracking Whispers

WordStream’s Call Tracking software includes a “whisper” feature that makes it easier to identify phone calls driven by PPC. Use this feature if you wish to be notified when you’re receiving a phone call that’s being tracked by WordStream; you’ll hear the word “WordStream” before the call begins. You can turn this feature off in the Call Tracking Settings.

wordstream call tracking software

For more details on implementing the tracking parameters, who is eligible to use the new call tracking software and more, see our Call Tracking FAQ.

Try WordStream’s Call Tracking Software Free

Our existing clients are really excited about the new call tracking features. Danny Rios, owner of AmeraguardSA, said:

"I found that WordStream’s PPC Advisor solution helped my business increase our lead flow while saving me time and trouble with paid search. It’s an all-in-one AdWords solution, and I no longer need a 3rd party for call tracking and landing pages. Just the cost savings on the third party solutions alone offset the cost of the entire [WordStream] software!”

I’m really excited about some of the future functionality we already have queued up that leverages this new call tracking software, and I’m confident the tool will allow our users to gain deeper insight into their paid search performance.

So if you’re a small business spending money on AdWords and you want to better measure and optimize the return you get on that investment, we here at WordStream can help. I want to personally invite you to get a demo of the new call tracking tool and provide feedback on what you love and what still needs work. Sign up for your free demo here!

Call Tracking Software Demo

This post originated on the WordStream Blog. WordStream provides keyword tools for pay-per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) aiding in everything from keyword discovery to keyword grouping and organization.

So You Want a Job in Paid Search? How to Break into PPC

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As summer begins, the market is flooded with hordes of recent college graduates eager to join the workforce. Searching for a new job in an increasingly competitive market can be a daunting task, especially for those with limited work experience. I remember back when I was first applying to jobs, this felt like an infuriating Catch 22—how was I supposed to gain experience if no one would give me an opportunity?

Welp, the good news for aspiring PPC marketers is, you don’t necessarily need to have a lengthy CV to make an impression on hiring managers. If you play your cards right, you can get your foot through the door with little to no professional experience.

ppc jobs

If you’re looking to get your first big break in the PPC industry, here are a few tips:

Apply for the right position.

Be realistic and seek out entry-level positions. Not only are you more likely to be a competitive candidate for these, starting from the bottom will allow you to hone your marketing skills and learn from more senior PPCers. If you only shoot for more intermediate positions, you’ll face fierce competition and your chance of getting hired will be slim to none.

Prepare your defense ahead of time.

Your interviewer is going to address the fact that you lack experience, so you need to go into the conversation with a game plan. Take the time to thoroughly review the job description and qualifications beforehand. Most companies provide a pretty clear outline of the tasks you will be responsible for, which you can use as a roadmap to prep for the interview.

If you don’t have direct experience with some of the tasks, don’t skirt around these in the interview. Instead, link these back to hard skills that you DO have. This demonstrates that you have done your research and have truly considered whether you can fulfill the position.

You also may find that you can change your interviewer’s perspective on your weaknesses. For example, when I applied to WordStream, I had no PPC expertise whatsoever. I reframed this as a positive thing—since I recognized how daunting paid search was to someone who was new to it, I could better empathize with how clients were feeling and break difficult marketing concepts into layman’s terms. Worked like a charm!

Don’t tell me you’re interested in the industry, SHOW me.

By far, my biggest pet peeve is when candidates swear up and down that they’re excited to work in paid search and then, as the interview goes on, it’s apparent that they don’t know anything about it. Look, I understand that you’re enjoying your post-college freedom, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a break from your pool-side tanning and Netflix bingeing schedule to study up on PPC. Employ these tactics to get some quick PPC chops ahead of time:

Master the basics.

If you’re genuinely interested in the industry, you should be able to talk the talk, even if you’re still a little shaky when you try to walk the walk. When I interview candidates with no solid PPC experience, I like to ask them to explain paid search to me as though I was a fourth grader. My goal here is to determine whether they understand the overarching concepts. If they can’t, it totally discredits their claim that they LOVE PPC.

Another word to the wise—don’t confuse SEO and PPC. Although they both fall under the SEM umbrella, they are not the same thing. If you use them interchangeably, you can kiss your paid search career goodbye.

Mingle with the experts.

There is no shortage of PPC content online, so take some time to geek-out with SEM blogs, webinars and live chats. When I first got involved in paid search, I put together a feedly account to help me stay on top of industry news. Even though 90% of it went over my head, I was introduced to all sorts of new strategies and vocabulary that enhanced my overall understanding of the field. A few of my favorites are Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land, PPC Hero and of course WordStream!

get a job in PPC

I also highly recommend following the #ppcchat conversation on Twitter, where the best and brightest of the industry discuss new trends and techniques. You can read the streamcap at any time, but if you want to participate, you’ll need to show up on Tuesdays at 12PM EST.

Go the extra mile and get certified.

Any reputable PPC agency requires its strategists to get certified in AdWords and Bing Ads, so why not get a head start on the process? Lucky for you, both sets of exams and their study material are available online for free. If you need some pointers, check out my coworker Billy McCaffrey’s keys to certification success. Taking the initiative to get certified (or at least pass the fundamentals test) demonstrates your dedication to paid search. Think about it this way, everyone says that they are committed and hard-working during interviews—having those certifications gives you solid proof. Remember, actions speak louder than words, kiddos.

Nailing the PPC Job Interview

Aside from prepping your PPC pitch, there are a few interview etiquette items to be mindful of as you embark on your job search. While many of these seem like no-brainers, you would be shocked by how many candidates neglect to follow through with them!

PPC Jobs Interview Tips

Mind your manners (via Karen)

Knock your interview out of the park by applying these simple practices:

Cater your cover letter to the role that you are applying for.

When I think back to when I was looking for my first real job, I made the colossal mistake of using the exact same resume and cover letter for every role that I applied for. Sure, my resume was perfectly crafted and my cover letter struck just the right balance of confident but not braggy but *newsflash* it didn’t matter! The crux of the issue is this—my resume wasn’t strong enough to stand alone. I lacked experience and didn’t have a strong professional background. That said, I needed to use the cover letter to make a case for myself and prove that indeed I was the ideal candidate for that specific role, despite my lackluster resume.

Nowadays, I look at about 20-30 applications a week. I automatically toss out anyone who doesn’t have direct experience in the field unless they include a bang-up cover letter proving that they are indeed a good fit for the role. I know it can be time consuming to write a cover letter for every job that you apply for but, learn from my mistake, it will be well worth your time!

When you come in for your interview, give me your undivided attention.

This should go without saying, but you’d be amazed by how many people struggle to stay engaged during interviews. Many candidates fail to make eye contact during interviews, click their pens or doodle on their paperwork. I kid you not, we even had one candidate leave the interview halfway through to feed the meter and make a pit stop at Starbucks! Guys, I know interviews can be nerve-wracking, but try your best to quell your nervous habits during interviews. The more cognizant you are of them, the better you can combat them.

Come prepared to ask questions.

When an interviewer gives you the opportunity to ask questions, they are essentially handing over the reins and giving you control of the conversation. Use this to your advantage! Not only is this your opportunity to learn more about the role/company and determine whether it is a good fit for you, it is also an opportunity to show the interviewer that you’ve done your research and have prepared for the conversation. Never, under any circumstances, say that you don’t have any questions. This is a HUGE red flag for employers. We want to see that you are engaged, committed to learning more about the position and did your prep work ahead of time.

Give quality references.

If you’ve gotten to the point where a potential employer is doing a reference check, things are looking pretty good. Remember, these people are representing you, so pick them wisely. Select someone who has a professional demeanor and knows your work ethic. Take the time to meet with them ahead of time to ensure they are comfortable serving as a reference for you. This gives them the option to bow out if they are too busy, their company does not allow them to provide references for current/former employees or if they don’t have positive things to say about you. It’s much better to catch this up front, than to provide your potential employer with a bad reference. Also, be sure to meet with your reference ahead of time to give them some background on the job that you’ve applied for. The extra prep will pay off in the long run.

Lastly, take the time to write a follow-up email.

I can’t tell you how much it warms my heart to receive an email from a candidate post-interview. A quick thank you note is nice, but I’ll totally give you bonus points if you personalize it and refer back to something we chatted about during the interview.

Alright rookies, now that I’ve divulged all of my secrets on how to nail the application process, I’ll share a lead with you—WordStream! Here at WordStream HQ, we are always looking for passionate PPC marketers to join the team. If you’re interested in working for a world-class start-up in downtown Boston, we may be just the place for you. Check our job listings page to see what roles you might be interested in. Happy hunting!

Erin Sagin is a Customer Success Manager at WordStream. In addition to conducting software training and consulting calls for clients, she also helps to maintain our usability testing program. Originally from Western Maryland, Erin majored in International Studies with a concentration in Latin America at Kenyon College. When she’s able to take a break from PPC, you’ll find her practicing her hula-hooping skills or planning her next trip to the Caribbean. You can follow Erin on Twitter and Google+.

This post originated on the WordStream Blog. WordStream provides keyword tools for pay-per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) aiding in everything from keyword discovery to keyword grouping and organization.

The Greatest & Most Complete Intro to Mobile PPC EVER

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Get this: since last year, mobile paid search advertising has increased by 55%. Even crazier: Mobile PPC now accounts for one-fifth of total advertising spend.

We keep hearing that advertisers aren't seeing great ROI from their mobile ad campaigns, though. Even if you’re making the investment, you don't feel like you’re getting your money's worth.

As mobile PPC continues to increase in value and surpasses desktop PPC…how can you tap into the massive opportunity of connecting with highly motivated, on-the-go consumers?

Don't keep plugging away, following the old best practices – we've discovered that the conventional wisdom for desktop PPC is dead wrong when it comes to mobile. If you're doing what you've always done, you're sabotaging your own mobile campaigns.

That sucks, right?

So here's what we're going to do to turn this around!

greatest mobile ppc webinar

This Thursday, I'm hosting a free, live webinar for marketers who are ready to get serious about their mobile PPC strategy: The Greatest & Most Complete Intro to Mobile PPC EVER. You're going to learn everything you need to know about how the search market has evolved, why your old tactics just aren't working anymore, and what you can do right now to change your fate.

Participants in this exclusive mobile PPC training session are going to take a 40-minute deep dive into the new rules of mobile PPC, backed by solid data on what the people you want to reach are doing right now.

You're going to walk away with the secret strategies and tools you need to build great mobile ads, measure what actually matters, target like a boss and drive greater ROI.

Your customers and prospects have embraced mobile technology. It's time you did, too.

Join us TOMORROW, Thursday, June 26 at 2:00 pm Eastern (6:00 pm GMT) for The Greatest & Most Complete Intro to Mobile PPC EVER. Get registered today to save your spot – this is one training session you can't afford to miss. See you there!

This post originated on the WordStream Blog. WordStream provides keyword tools for pay-per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) aiding in everything from keyword discovery to keyword grouping and organization.

5 Ways to Wield More Word of Mouth Marketing Power

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Word of mouth marketing (lovingly nicknamed WOMM) can make or break your biz. It can build you up and tear you down faster than an OC socialite. Do word of mouth marketing right and you’ll have (almost) no need of an ad budget; customers will share stories of your sublime service at dinner parties across the country, and that’s better than any billboard.

The popularity of sites like Yelp and Angie’s List, and even Health Grades for the medical industry, show how important the old Word o’ Mouth is. While anonymous online word of mouth is plentiful, savvy users are aware of how reviews can be manipulated and faked, which is why person to person WOM is still the most powerful form.

word of mouth marketing

The WOMM wombat shares it’s opinions with friends

Word of mouth marketing is, at its heart, using happy customers to promote your business. The aim in word of mouth marketing is to provide customers with such an unbelievably amazing, life-affirming product or service that they can’t help but share their experience with friends, family, co-workers, and the random dude who sits at the bus stop every day with his exotic parrot.

Imagine it: customers doing your marketing work for you! Well, they’ll need a bit of help, especially in the online era when word of mouth marketing has evolved quite a bit. Traditionally, word of mouth marketing refers to verbal endorsements: good word of your business, exchanged vocally via your pie hole. Today however, word of mouth marketing can be found in:

Word of Mouth Marketing Statistics

I don’t think we really need to explain why word of mouth marketing rocks — it’s kind of a cornerstone of marketing. But in case you need to convince coworkers and friends, here are some word of mouth marketing stats taken from a study done by Lithium.

WOMM

  • 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family more than any other form of advertising. [Lithium]
  • 20% to 50% of purchases are the result of a word-of-mouth recommendation [AdAge]

  • Only 10% of consumers trust brands. [Lithium]

  • 70% of consumers read online customer reviews when considering a brand. [Lithium]

  • 81% of consumers are influenced by their friends’ social media posts. [Lithium]

These numbers make a pretty solid case for word of mouth marketing. So how can you take a bite out of the prize? Let’s take a look.

5 Steps for Improving Your Word of Mouth Marketing

Word of mouth marketing isn’t a magic philosopher's stone to quick-fix your problems; it’s a long journey with a big payoff, assuming you can make the trek. Begin your incredible journey with these five steps. After that, just keep walking!

Step 1. Amazing Service, Amazing Staff: Give People a Reason to Rave

Word of mouth marketing is most successful with brands that are working really hard to do right by their customers. This means a great offering partnered with exceptional customer service. Obviously your product needs to be strong, but it’s just as important that the staff interacting with customers and clients is top-notch.

spread word of mouth

That is one happy staff [Image via reedigitalphotos.net]

Honestly, it’s the positive human interactions most people get excited about; consumers often encounter so much lousy customer service that in contrast, great service is a minor miracle for most.

Step 2. Be Unique: Let Your Freak Flag Fly High!

One way to generate word of mouth is by making your business truly note-worthy. You can do this a number of ways, such as with:

Take Old Spice as an example. They generated a ton of word of mouth marketing with their “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” marketing strategy, which we’ve talked about before in regards to successful YouTube advertising. Sometimes it works to be a little weird.

marketing womm

Whether you’re a freak or a geek, it pays to be different. Well, not so much in high school…

While it’s cheap to be strange just for strategy’s sake, if your business has a unique company culture or bizarre brand identity, be loud and proud about it! People appreciate what’s out of the ordinary, and you’ll gain fans and word of mouth attention simply for walking to the beat of your own drummer.

Step 3. Become an Industry Thought Leader

Want to get people talking about you? Establish yourself as an industry thought leader! This requires considerable effort on your part — you’ll need you to engage in dialogue with existing industry leaders and power players while staying up to date on the latest industry news. Once you really know your stuff and feel confident, make your own predictions and inferences based on industry trends. Just make sure you can back up your theories with hard evidence!  

It’s not the easiest route to take, but the long-term benefits of becoming an industry leader are worth your sweat and toil. When people start looking to your brand as a thought leader in your field, you’ll soon end up with more word of mouth marketing than you know what to do with.

Step 4. Create a Good Name for Yourself

People appreciate businesses that are honest and fair. No slimy tactics here. Grow your reputation by being respectful of your customers and treating them right. Don’t try to fleece your customers, and they’ll thank ya kindly for it.

womm marketing

Don’t try to trick your customers

Step 5. Active, Engaged Social Community

You can also foster word of mouth marketing through a tight-knit social community. Community can be developed by:

  • encouraging dialogue

  • hosting contests

  • organizing events (online and offline)

  • loyalty programs

The best word of mouth marketing power brands convince consumers that by buying their product, they’re making a personal statement and joining special ranks. Die-hard devotees may even refer to favorite brands as “family” as certain products or services become part of a customer’s identity.

Great communities help users identify themselves. It’s why fans of TV shows love giving themselves nicknames (e.g. Bronies, Fannibals, Trekkies). It’s why you can’t enter a Starbucks without seeing a swarm of white Apple logos and why Soylent drinkers think they are the superior humans.

word of mouth

Original Comic Con photo by Scott Sebring

This kind of devotion isn’t easy to come by, but achieving such loyalty is the ultimate marketing hole-in-one. So how do you get there? Well, in order to develop an intimate community there needs to be some sort of exclusivity. A community is formed not just by who is in the group, but also who isn’t. This doesn’t mean you should immediately bar the door; there’s a balance to consider. You want to be welcoming towards all, but embrace only the few. Your community probably shouldn’t appeal to everyone, it should cater to a niche group.

Some brands have done an incredible job capitalizing on the ‘community’ aspect of their product. Let’s examine a few top-notch word of mouth marketing examples from brands hitting it out of the park.

Word of Mouth Marketing Examples

Some brands manage to develop a near cult-like following. Why do folks love them? How do they do it? Let’s take a look.

Jeep

Jeep has made themselves into THE car for adventure lovers; the car for those who would rather not worry about something as small and inconsequential as “roads.”

word of mouth marketing companies

Even more remarkably, Jeep has managed to market themselves as the brand for true Americans. As Globe and Mail (ironically, a Canadian news site) notes:

Jeep is appealing to the deepest, most powerful drivers of the American psyche. Americans like to believe they possess qualities that set them apart – that they are rugged, and tough, and individualistic, and resourceful, capable, straightforward and indomitable. It [Jeep] speaks directly to what Americans most like and admire about themselves, believe to be true about themselves…Jeep is just so American.

brand word of mouth

Spotted on the street while writing this post. Note the American flag. Case in point.

Most people who drive Jeeps truly identify with this subculture of carpe diem tough guys and will unabashedly explain why Jeep trumps all.

Zappos

Zappos is another company with an extremely devoted following. If you ask Zappos superfans why they love the brand, they’ll probably say something about Zappos’ exceptional customers service.

word of mouth marketing ideas

Zappos trains their call center workers to be responsive, helpful, and noticeably human. They pride themselves on providing free 24/7 customer service via American call centers. It may not sound revolutionary, but this kind of service is hard to come by. Just think about the last time you had to call Comcast (I know, I know, it’s OK, sorry for bringing back those memories. Take a deep breath and throw back that Xanax).

There are incredible stories about Zappos workers going above and beyond for customers. One story tells how one worker, after discovering that a return shipment of shoes was delayed because the customer’s mother had passed away, sent flowers to the home in lieu of an invoice. It’s this kind of demonstrative concern for customers that has made Zappos the brand it is today.

Zappos also knows that happy workers breed happy customers, which is why even low wage call center employees are treated to company perks. We could all learn a few things about how Zappos incentivizes workers and tries to make the office a 2nd home for employees. Zappos demonstrates how good company culture naturally breeds word of mouth marketing.  

Craigslist

Craigslist is probably the most incredible word of mouth marketing example. For one, the website is as barebones as it gets, with a startling lack of bells and/or whistles. Craigslist doesn’t even have a logo. Oh, and the advertising budget? $0. Zero dollars. It’s so basic, so primitive, that the design alone leads the apprehensive to mistrust it, wary of its resemblance to scammy old Angelfire-style sites from the internet’s primordial ooze.

womm examples

Instead of focusing on revenue and ROI, Craigslist has everything focused on the customer. As CEO Jim Buckmaster notes, "All we do is try to respond to what users are asking for. That's how we set our priorities. Users aren't asking us to run ads, so it doesn't come onto our radar." From a business perspective, this is bordering blasphemy, but it earns Craigslist great admiration as it stays true to its mission statement to “connect the world for the common good.”

As a result of keeping it old school, Craigslist has managed to make themselves a household name, racking up over 50 billion page views per month while relying on word of mouth as its sole source of marketing. While Craigslist is an exceptional success story, it’s true that redirecting energy and resources towards building up word of mouth marketing (as opposed to regular advertising) can benefit any brand. Businesses that develop strong word of mouth marketing often don’t have to spend as much money on advertising. They’ve built themselves a self-sustaining perpetual marketing machine.

word of mouth marketing strategy

Etsy

Etsy has powerful appeal as an alternative to the mass market consumerism that plagues most of our purchasing prerogatives.

word of mouth marketing examples

Just one of the adorable things you can buy on Etsy

They market themselves as a shopping alternative for folks who are looking for one-of-a-kind items that reflect their own uniqueness. This strategy thrives off a growing trend in which individuals are looking to distance themselves from the collective kitsch. Like Craigslist, Etsy prefers to rely on WOMM rather than ads. CEO Rob Kalin notes:

"When you have a service that people feel enthusiastic about, they spread the word and pass it on. If we were to take out big glossy ads in magazines or do television commercials, then that changes how people perceive what your company is."

This isn’t to say you should immediately go dump your advertising budget in the river, but it does remind us that a certain balance is vital. Your business will go much farther devoting attention to customer experience and building community than it would were you to simply plaster ads all across the web.

JetBlue

Folks rave about JetBlue because of the way they treat their flyers. While other airlines penny-and-dime passengers for in-flight entertainment, refreshments, and food, JetBlue offers the same amenities gratis, all while maintaining an upbeat attitude and solid customer service.

best word of mouth markeing

Sometimes it’s the little things that count, and JetBlue has gained a ton of word of mouth marketing traction by providing small acts of kindness towards their passengers.

Word of Mouth Marketing: The Power is Yours!

Word of mouth marketing is a powerful tool, but for some businesses, it can be tough to wield. Getting customers enthusiastic about your brand requires stellar service, a unique identity, solid reputation, and a thriving community. Above all, put your customers first and deliver above and beyond what you promise. Surprising clients with your awesomeness will ensure they spread word of your biz all across the land.

This post originated on the WordStream Blog. WordStream provides keyword tools for pay-per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) aiding in everything from keyword discovery to keyword grouping and organization.

Google Releases New Quality Score Info: What's Really New Here?

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Google this week has published a new white paper on Quality Score and finally updated their 5-year-old video on how Quality Score works. 

I asked them “why now” and they said that it’s just time to redo the old stuff, but part of me thinks that they’re trying to quell a Quality Score rebellion that myself and others (including Frederick Vallaeys, etc.) may have inadvertently started – the wording of some points in the new materials seem to directly reflect points that I’ve articulated in articles I’ve published in the last year.

quality score

Image via Kirk Williams - @ppckirk

As usual, Google trotted out the same old “happy users,” “happy advertisers” and “happy Google” platitudes. It’s mostly a rehash of the same old Google fairy dust about Quality Score, but there are a few interesting nuggets in there worth responding to (and debunking).

Downplaying the Significance of Quality Score

Google says:

Quality Score Is a Helpful Diagnostic Tool, Not a Key Performance Indicator

Why: Your Quality Score is like a warning light in a car’s engine that shows how healthy your ads and keywords are. It’s not meant to be a detailed metric that should be the focus of account management.

I’ve often argued that Quality Score (or, essentially, Click Through Rate) is *the* most important key performance indicator to track in PPC, since it plays a huge role in AdRank which in turn directly impacts CPC, Ad Position, and Impression Share, and thus directly impacts number of conversions and cost per conversion. Across the many accounts we manage here at WordStream, the ones with higher Quality Scores are almost always better off than those with lower average Quality Scores. So why the heck are they downplaying the significance of the metric?

I think it’s because by definition, half of us have low Quality Score accounts (they grade on a curve – we can’t all beat the average expected CTR– by definition, half of us will be “below average”). By my estimation, 66% of Google revenues come from below average Quality Score keywords (due to the CPC penalties for low QS keywords and CPC discounts on high QS keywords). So I think it’s smart and understandable for Google to downplay the significance of QS – but you, as an individual advertiser, should know better.

check quality score

Furthermore, if the check engine light in your dashboard is flashing, it means your car could break down soon and you are endangering the lives of yourself and your passengers. Strongly disagree with Google on this one and if your “check Quality Score” light is on, I think you should definitely focus on fixing it.

Google Finally Admits Performance of Related Keywords Matters

This was pretty big – the new Google white paper says:

“For Newly-Launched Keywords, Performance on Related Keywords: Does Matter”

Note that Google has never explicitly stated this before. Now on this one, I’m pretty sure I’m the reason why they changed their stance. I recently pointed out that all accounts have keywords with no clicks and no impression data that still have Quality Scores, and that the “default Quality Scores” were always high for great accounts, and always low for terrible accounts. So clearly related keywords can affect the Quality Score of other keywords in your account.

The corollary of this is that it confirms another theory of mine – having keywords with higher average CTR/Quality Score has a beneficial impact on other keywords in your account, which is why I always run a branded keyword campaign. (Branded keywords get super-high CTR’s and thus can float your whole account higher. In other words, if you’re starting off with a high QS account, your new keywords will always have a higher Quality Score out of the gate.)

Alternatively, it also means you should delete the terrible low QS/CTR keywords that are killing your account so that the rest of the account can breathe.

Google Reveals the Weighting Factor of Ad Format Impact on Ad Rank (and is Likely an Error)

A few months ago Google announced that the use of Ad Extensions would impact AdRank but didn’t provide much detail into the precise weighting of the new “Ad Format Impact” factor.

In the new video, Hal Varian gives us 7 clear equations to work with, and using a little algebra you can reverse engineer the weighting of Ad Format Impact on Ad Rank in relation to other factors (Bid and Quality Score).

Four equations come from a calculation of ad rank @ 4:55 in the video:

quality score videos

And three more equations come later when he calculates their appropriate actual CPC based on the 2nd price of the auction at 6:15. (So the actual CPC would be the required bid to have an ad rank of the advertiser immediately below them – the first advertiser would need a bid of $1.73 to have an ad rank of 15).

quality score info

He doesn’t give us exact numbers to work with for Quality and Format impacts, so I’ll use discrete variables to represent the impacts of “High”, “Medium”, “Low”, and “No” rated influences of Quality (Q) and format (F).

Expressed as formulas, these 7 equations look like this, with ad rank on the right of the equation:

Let’s normalize all bids to $1 and directly compare ad rank across identical bids:

google quality score equation

What does this show us? Well, these numbers imply that the MAJORITY of ad rank is influenced by the impact of ad formats. For instance, take these 2 equations:

calculate quality score

Same quality impact, but the difference from moving from a “high” impact of ad formats from “low” doubles the ad rank. Some manipulation brings us to:

adwords qs equations

Implying that the impact of ad formats on ad rank is greater than the impact from Quality Score, which seems a bit over-stated in my opinion.

We suspect that Varian’s script wasn’t checked by his engineers as we see discrepancies in the numbers between minutes 5 and 6 once we normalize them for their bids.

For instance, consider the advertiser with $2 bids. His ad ranks don’t balance when you normalize:

google quality score white paper

The advertiser with $3 bids:

quality score hal varian

And the one with $1 bids:

quality score equations

It’s odd that he gives very specific numbers for bids that don’t translate correctly to ad rank, but it’s probably more a marketing video than anything else. Google gets lucky with how few people actually sniff these numbers for accuracy.

quality score video

Another reason I’m skeptical of Google’s example is that it doesn’t match up with our own customer data – for example you can look in your own AdWords accounts and see how CTR varies for ads with and without extensions – we did that a while ago and noticed that the use of ad extensions does indeed raise Click-Through Rates, as shown here:

ctr by ad position

And those ads with extensions raise Quality Scores too, as shown here:

quality score with sitelinks

In both cases you can see that there is indeed some uplift, but that it is modest and nowhere near as massive as the Hal Varian examples would have you believe.

For now, I suspect there’s a bug in the example and I’d hope that Google would correct it. (Thanks to Mark Irvine, our resident data scientist, for help with the equations here.)

User Device is Taken Into Consideration when Computing Quality Score

This is 100% true and validates our own internal findings.

new quality score

When looking at our customer accounts, we found that the average Quality Scores were similar regardless of the mobile share of account clicks, even though we noticed the expected CTR for mobile was very different from expected CTR for desktop. So the key takeaway is that Google uses lower expected CTR numbers when calculating QS from mobile.

They’re Still Pretty Vague on How Quality Score is Calculated

Google says:

Pay Attention to the “Big Three” Component Parts of Ads Quality: ad relevance, expected CTR and landing page experience.

This is true but they’re listing them out in a table as though they’re all equally weighted factors. Just beating expected CTR trumps all other factors by far. They should make this more clear. The old QS video had a pie chart showing the components of quality score where 2/3ds of the algo was based on CTR – I thought that was a better way to explain it.

Summary

They’re not wrong, but they aren’t telling you the whole story either for obvious reasons. The level of detail in the new white paper is higher than previously, which indicates that they were leaving out key information. I can only assume that the new video and white paper also omit key details. So when it comes to Quality Score (still the most important metric in your account), I think you’d be better off doing your own homework, as I have done, than taking the Google advice verbatim.

This post originated on the WordStream Blog. WordStream provides keyword tools for pay-per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) aiding in everything from keyword discovery to keyword grouping and organization.

Commercial Intent: How to Find Your Most Valuable Keywords

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High commercial intent keywords are like invitations from prospective customers. They beg you to tempt them with your wares. They tell you, loud and clear, that they have money in their hands (or burning holes in their pockets), and they want what you’re selling right now.

The intent of the keyword should affect how you target it. For example, if someone is clearly in the “early research” phase of shopping, the keywords they use will have less intent – maybe something like “do I need a lawyer?” You can target that keyword with a content piece like a checklist. Content marketing is all about getting in front of the customer early and making a good impression. Maybe later on, he’ll come back when he needs you.

However, if someone definitely does need a lawyer, they might use a high commercial intent keyword like “workers compensation lawyer san diego.” That guy is more likely to be a hot lead, and this is a perfect use case for PPC, because you can be sure your targeted ad is right at the top of the search results, and you’re willing to pay to make sure you get the lead.

Commercial intent keywords Futurama meme

In today’s post, we’re going to look at what high commercial intent keywords are, why they’re so important, and how you can identify them for your individual business.

What Are Commercial Intent Keywords?

There are three basic types of search query:

  • Informational – searches performed to answer questions or learn something
  • Navigational – searches performed to locate a specific website
  • Transactional – searches performed to buy something

Obviously, commercial intent keywords are only relevant to transactional searches. If you think of keywords as signals from prospective customers, keywords with commercial intent are the most promising. Just like Fry above, prospects searching using commercial intent keywords are just waiting for you to shut up and take their money. But what kinds of keywords can be considered to have high commercial intent?

Examples of Commercial Intent Keywords

Although there are many commercial intent keywords, some are “stronger” than others.

Firstly, there are two main categories of keywords with high commercial intent: “buy now” keywords and “product” keywords. Let’s take a look at what this means and how they differ.

‘Buy Now’ Commercial Intent Keywords

This category of keywords signals that the prospect, as the name implies, is ready to buy something right now. They’ve made up their mind to buy, and they’re looking for an attractive offer that meets their expectations.

Commercial intent keywords Buy Now button on keyboard

“Buy now” keywords include terms like:

  • Buy
  • Discount(s)
  • Deal(s)
  • Coupon(s)
  • Free shipping

Each of these keywords signifies that the prospect has already made their decision to purchase, and is just looking for offers to sweeten the deal.

The first keyword, “buy”, is the strongest, as this is a prospect’s pure declaration of intent to part ways with their cash in exchange for whatever you’re selling. The others are also strong buying signals, but also indicate that the prospect wants or expects you to differentiate yourself from your competition in the form of incentives.

‘Product’ Commercial Intent Keywords

The next most valuable commercial intent keywords are “product” keywords. Although these keywords typically convert highly, prospects may be more hesitant to purchase immediately than those using “buy now” keywords.

Commercial intent keywords product barcode

“Product” keywords include:

  • Branded searches (brand-name goods)
  • Specific products (“iPhone 5c” etc.)
  • Product categories (“summer dresses”, “insect repellant”, “beach accessories” etc.)
  • Affordable
  • Best
  • Cheapest
  • Comparison
  • Review
  • Top

Some of these keywords will be more valuable than others, depending on the nature of your business. For example, branded and product-specific keywords are savagely competitive, but convert very well. Although “comparison” and “review” keywords may not seem as strong as some of the others, these keywords can still convert highly as the intent to purchase is still there – the prospect might just make you work harder for the conversion.

When creating a list of product keywords, it’s important to note the distinction between lead and product searches. For example, in the lawyer example above, the prospect isn’t looking to “buy” a lawyer, but hire one. This means that although the prospect is considered a hot lead, the potential customer probably still needs to call the business to discuss their situation further. For these reasons, “best” might be considered the strongest product keyword for a service-based businesses like a workman’s comp attorney (as well as “free consultation”). Product searches, on the other hand, can be completed entirely online and focus solely on a specific product, so product keywords such as “affordable” and “cheapest” are likely to be the most effective (and highly competitive).

Why Are Commercial Intent Keywords More Valuable Than High Search Volume Keywords?

Some businesses spend thousands of dollars to maximize their visibility. This is all well and good, and high traffic is always a good thing, but if the vast majority of your visitors aren’t buying what you’re selling, it might be time to reconsider your approach.

Commercial intent keywords Los Angeles freeway gridlock

Unless you’re one of those ad-supported click-hole sites like BuzzFeed, high traffic keywords aren't worth much unless they’re driving conversions. This isn't to say you shouldn't go after big keywords with less commercial intent, but it makes more sense to target these keywords with organic content that is higher up in the purchasing funnel.

On the other hand, high commercial intent keywords are best suited to paid search campaigns, for a few reasons:

  • Paid search ads get you placement at the very top of the page
  • You can make tweaks and adjustments to optimize for cost per click, cost per lead, cost per conversion and other metrics
  • Ad types like Shopping Ads are highly attractive to searchers with commercial intent, and and tend to get the clicks from people who are ready to buy

One Size Does Not Fit All

Now, you might have looked at the list of “typical” high commercial intent keywords above and thought, “None of those apply to my business.” If this is the case, it’s time to sit down and think about your business and your desired conversion outcomes.

If you operate a service-based business, “rent” or “hourly rate” might be among your highest commercial intent keywords. In addition, it’s worth considering what action you want your ideal customer to perform after clicking on your ads. Are you running campaigns primarily for the purpose of lead generation? If so, “free trial” might be a high commercial intent keyword for your business.

When it comes to keywords with strong commercial intent, one size definitely doesn’t fit all, but how do you go about identifying these keywords in the first place?

How Do I Identify High Commercial Intent Keywords For My Business?

There are several ways you can begin to identify high commercial intent keywords, regardless of what kind of business you run or your desired conversion outcomes. Let’s take a look at a couple of them.

AdWords Keyword Planner

Unsurprisingly, the AdWords Keyword Planner is one of the best ways to identify commercial intent keywords.

First, log into your AdWords account and access the Keyword Planner from the “Tools” tab. Then, select “Search for new keyword and ad group ideas” from the list.

Commercial intent keywords AdWords keyword planner tool

Now, enter your product or service in the search field. For this example, I used “iPhone”, a fiercely competitive product-specific keyword. After a moment, you’ll be presented with a graph of search volume trends (notice the spike in September last year when the iPhone 5c and 5s were announced), but you’re looking for the “Keyword ideas” tab.

Commercial intent keywords iPhone keyword suggestions

This is where you’ll be presented with a list of suggested keywords – and where you can identify the high commercial intent keywords you’re interested in.

In the following figure, notice how “buy iphone” has by far the highest suggested bid? This is because it’s a very high commercial intent keyword, and competition for it is intense.

Commercial intent keywords AdWords iphone keyword recommendations

The other highlighted suggestions are all high commercial intent keywords. The keyword “cheap iphone” has almost twice the average monthly search volume of “buy iphone”, yet the suggested bid is significantly lower. (Though someone using this keyword has intent to buy, the click is going to be worth less since they're looking for a bargain.) Also notice the ratio of average monthly searches to suggested bid of other high commercial intent keywords such as “iphone for sale” and “cheap iphone 4”.

Google Analytics

Another way you can determine which keywords are driving conversions is by using Google Analytics.

First, access Google Analytics and open the “AdWords Keywords” report from within the “Acquisition” section (Acquisition > AdWords > AdWords Keywords).

The resulting table will show you your top-performing keywords, and how they relate to your conversion goals. Let’s take a look.

Commercial intent keywords Google Analytics report

  • Your top 10 (by default) keywords are displayed in the far-left column
  • The goal you wish to measure against can be changed via the drop-down menu circled in the figure above
  • The three columns beneath the goal you’re currently viewing correspond to the percentage of visits that converted (column one), the total number of conversions (column two) and the monetary value of those conversions (column three)

Note that if you do not have monetary values assigned to your goals, all values in column three will be zero.

Commercial intent keywords Jackie Chan confused

So, what does all this mean? Well, first of all, your top-performing keyword might not necessarily be the one that resulted in the most conversions. In the figure above, the first keyword in the list drove the most traffic (by a considerable margin), but the third keyword actually had the highest percentage of sessions that resulted in a conversion.

Now that you’ve figured out how your keywords impact actual conversions, ask yourself – how many high commercial intent keywords are in your top 10? If you don’t see any, it might be time to start adding some of these keywords in your AdWords account. Even if your top-performers are doing well, how much better could your conversion rate be if you targeted high commercial intent keywords as well? Of course, this will likely have an impact on your budget – as we saw in the “iphone” example above, high commercial intent keywords often have a significantly higher suggested bid and CPC, so be sure to bear this in mind if you choose to throw your hat in the ring.

Show Me The Money

Commercial intent keywords Tom Cruise Jerry Maguire

Targeting high commercial intent keywords can result in dramatic improvements to your click-through rates and offer you an excellent opportunity to focus on what really matters – conversions. Add some high commercial intent keywords to your AdWords account and get ready to shut up and take their money.

This post originated on the WordStream Blog. WordStream provides keyword tools for pay-per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) aiding in everything from keyword discovery to keyword grouping and organization.

Call Tracking Metrics: The Top 5 Metrics for Inbound Calls

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You may have heard the big news that WordStream has added call tracking software to its arsenal of PPC tools. This means you can now track the campaigns, keywords, match types, ads, and landing pages that drive inbound calls to your business. Not only that, each call gets recorded, so you can refer back to it for marketing and training purposes.

It’s a pretty freaking sweet feature, and, if you use it, it may change your business.

Let’s assume you already know it’s freaking sweet, you know that inbound calls are worth 5 to 10 times the value of form fill leads, and you’ve got call tracking set up. Now what?

Now you start tracking performance so you know what’s working and what’s not.

You already know the traditional AdWords metrics, including which campaigns, keywords, ads, and landing pages trigger conversions on your site. But when it comes to prospects who pick up the phone and call, the ability to track conversions diminishes quickly unless you use call tracking.

The image below shows a snapshot of the types of data call tracking captures. With this in mind, let’s take a look at five of the most important metrics to monitor with call tracking.

call tracking metrics

5 Essential Metrics To Use In Call Tracking

Number of calls

Yes, this is pretty obvious: If your business relies on calls, you’re going to monitor this regularly. The great thing about PPC call tracking is that it records the call quantity on a regular basis so you don’t have to manually track inbound calls. You’ll have a deep view of call patterns by the hour, day, week, month, and year.

With PPC call tracking you’ll also have your PPC calls segmented from all other call types. That means you’ll know definitively if a call came from PPC without having to ask the caller (good luck with that), and the data won’t be intertwined with calls from organic or social media calls.

The point is that you can now tie PPC calls to your PPC costs. If phone calls are the lifeblood of your business, you now have a clear view of the true ROI of your campaigns.

Call length

Not all inbound calls are equal. The generally accepted view with call tracking is that long calls are better leads. The thinking goes that a prospect who spends a lot of time talking with a company representative is probably a hot lead – they wouldn’t keep talking if they weren’t still interested.

To help filter which calls are higher-quality leads, call tracking data reports the call length for each call. Call-length data tells you which campaigns, keywords, ads, and landing pages lead to the longest (and likely best) phone calls.

Key point with call length: Establish a minimum call-length threshold that qualifies a call as a lead. Not every single call is a legitimate lead because of the spam-call factor: those annoying auto-generated calls from a robot. In addition, some calls are from actual people but they turn out to be telemarketers who found you by conducting a search, just like anyone else did, and they’re not really leads.

To filter out the illegitimate calls, set a minimum call length as the threshold a call must reach before it’s considered a lead. This could be as short as 30 seconds and as long as a minute, but it really depends on your business’s sales process.

Time of day and location

AdWords Enhanced Campaigns give advertisers the ability to change bids by location, time, and device. Call tracking data gives advertisers another reason to take advantage of this AdWords feature.

Now that you know which calls are converting, you can adjust bids based on the types and quality of calls received from different locations, days, and times.

For example, if the calls you receive on Friday afternoons tend to be non-converters, you could bid down during that time period. Further, you can apply the same logic to the locations where your ads are showing: If you know a particular metro area produces great phone leads, you can increase your bids for that area.

Landing page performance

Most landing pages give visitors two options: a form fill and a phone number. Without call tracking, most PPC advertisers can only gauge landing page success by form fills, which could lead you to believe your conversion rate is (a lot) lower than it is. Now, however, you can tie in phone calls to get a better grasp of landing page performance.

For example, it would be easy to deduce that a landing page with no form fills is a failure, but this is where call tracking comes into play. Call tracking data may reveal that that landing page delivers a high number of quality leads and conversions from phone calls.

Landing page analysis should be approached from different angles. Ask multiple questions about your pages’ performance. For example, ask which landing pages:

  • Deliver the most calls
  • Produce the best calls, i.e., calls with qualified leads
  • Generate the most customers
  • Yield the best call conversion rate (just like click conversion rate, except you replace clicks with calls: conversions/calls = call conversion rate.)

Conversions

Conversions are easily the most important metric of all. Take a top-down view of your campaigns and the calls created by each campaign. This includes the keywords, ads, match types, and landing pages.

An inbound call may take as little as a few minutes or as long as a few months to become a customer. Capture that first interaction that PPC produced so when the prospect becomes a customer—in a few minutes or months—you can track it back to that first click and know your return on PPC investment. You’ll also have a better understanding of your sales cycle—the amount of time it takes from initial contact to sealing a deal.

Another comparison to make is phone leads and their conversions versus web leadsand their conversions. Track both types of leads to the very end of the sales funnel and learn which type of lead—phone or web—produces the most profitable type of customer. Knowing this will help you make adjustments to both phone and web strategies.

adwords call tracking metrics

You’ve now got a good idea of what metrics to track with call tracking. For sure there are more complex and advanced metrics to pull in, especially when you throw Universal Analytics into the mix, but these five call tracking metrics are a great place to get started.

This post originated on the WordStream Blog. WordStream provides keyword tools for pay-per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) aiding in everything from keyword discovery to keyword grouping and organization.

Get Happy with WordStream’s Best of the Month

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A lot of our most popular posts in June had to do with changes in AdWords – new features, new policies, new dashboards, new data. As always, we did the hard work and analysis for you, so instead of trying to parse the AdWords-ese, get the key takeaways from us right here.

best of june

We also shared a bunch of great tips for creating marketing that resonates and makes your audience do the happy dance. If you missed our “Happy Juice” webinar, be sure to check out #6 below!

  1. Has Google Gone Too Far? Parental Status Demographic Added to AdWords– We noticed a new demographic feature in AdWords – you can now target users based on their parental status.
  2. 4 Things You Need to Know About Google's New AdWords Policies– The AdWords Policy Center has been revamped. Here’s the TL;DR for advertisers.
  3. No SEO, No Paid Search – So What the Heck IS eBay’s Search Strategy? – eBay can’t seem to get their story straight. Larry walks through why they’re falling down in both organic and paid search.
  4. Case Study: Does Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) Really Work?– Paid search strategist Luke MacClean had a client who wasn’t completely sold on dynamic keyword insertion. He proves that it works in this case study.
  5. Google My Business: The New Integrated Local/Social Dashboard for Businesses– So long, Google Places. Get familiar with Google’s new platform for local businesses.
  6. The Happy Juice Principle: How to Create Marketing That Captures & Converts– Are your clients drinking happy juice? They should be! Our awesome director of marketing Amber Stevens explains the Happy Juice Principle and how it works.
  7. How Google Hummingbird Changed the Future of Search– Learn all about this Google algorithm update that affects 90% of searches.
  8. Google Releases New Quality Score Info: What's Really New Here?– Last week Google released a new Quality Score white paper and video. Is anything fundamentally different? Here’s what you need to know.
  9. Think You Can Throw Up Any Old Thank You Page? Think Again.– Your job’s not over once your visitor has made a purchase. Delight your customers and keep them coming back with stellar thank-you pages.
  10. 64 Epic Marketing Ideas to Boost Your Business– Not feeling so super-creative lately? No worries – this epic list of marketing ideas should provide the much-need inspiration.

Happy July!

This post originated on the WordStream Blog. WordStream provides keyword tools for pay-per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) aiding in everything from keyword discovery to keyword grouping and organization.