Road Trip Reinvented

Growing up, my mom would always talk about road trips she took with her family full of laughter, fun, fighting sisters, and air-conditioner-free cars.  Needless to say, my recent adventure was quite a bit different.  From frolicking across Jessie Honeyman State Park to eating my way through San Fransisco, this road trip would not have been the same without technology.  I’ve spent my blogging career talking about how businesses can help customers, and recently I found myself on the other end thinking about what worked and what didn’t.  Reflection time!

To start off, I had air-conditioning and no annoying sisters, thank goodness.  Besides the obvious Google Maps, Yelp, and Pandora, technology really enhanced my travel experience.

Long distances on the road called for entertainment and travel required a roof (or tent) over my head.

First off:

NPR Podcasts saved my life.

I get bored easily and need entertainment on a long drive.  I think most people can relate to this and the struggles in the pursuit of entertainment.  I’m a particularly picky individual when looking for entertainment.  The catch?  It has to be free and easy.  I guess that’s the millennial college student in me.  Usually I turn to books on tape or just reading the old fashion way, but this trip I tried something slightly different.  I always thought podcasts were dry and meant for old people.  Maybe I’m just old now, but I’m convinced these would be interesting to most everyone.  Podcasts are great because they are shorter and have a range of topics making it nearly impossible to get bored.  Did I mention yet that they’re free?

Invisibilia PodcastInvisiblia was my favorite find.  Two women, Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel, explore the invisible things that govern who we are and attempt to answer questions by asking more questions.  Above everything else, I loved how much this podcast got me thinking and talking about my experience of the world.  This place we call home is complex and gets messy when we throw emotion into the equation.  Invisibilia, Latin for “all the invisible things”, attempts to delve into the human brain with the goal of asking ourselves “why?”.  Topics are sometimes dark and academic, but the ability these ladies have to tell stories keeps you hooked for 40 minutes.  Podcasts being dry is totally a myth too, the production value was amazing!

Take a few minutes to download the series onto your phone, you won’t regret it!  You can even do so using the cloud so that you can listen to Invisibilia and other podcasts on the go without wasting your data.  Okay, so you might be thinking, “well, I’m not going on a road trip”, which doesn’t matter!  They are also great for spicing up everyday mundane tasks.  Next time you find yourself cleaning or washing dishes, take a listen!

Airbnb was another delight. 

I’ve traveled a few times now using Airbnb and have had great experiences each and every time.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Airbnb, it is a service that allows hosts to rent their space and travelers to find unique places to stay.  As a host, you have the ability to rent out a vacation house or a spare room that was previously unused in order to make a couple bucks on the side.  For travelers, Airbnb provides options for travel accommodations that can be tailored to your wants and needs.  With over one million listings worldwide, you are sure to find the perfect fit.  For example, when I stayed in San Fransisco, I wanted to save money and have a safe place to park; two issues that San Fran is notorious for lacking.  Thankfully I was able to rent a space in the Richmond district with a parking space for less than $100/night (seriously).  Hosts can accommodate users needs and often advertise based on the experience along with amenities.  Half of the fun of staying in an Airbnb is feeling like you are at home when you are traveling; I always look for fun hosts who can give recommendations along with providing a place to crash at the end of the day.

From a business standpoint, Airbnb is really smart.  The problem they were trying to solve was clear: dozens of houses and rooms are empty and travelers are often unsatisfied with accommodations.  Sure, the connection of these ideas had been done before, but not with the the same success.  The first smart move was starting small, and by doing so, Airbnb was able to saturate their beachhead to show the system worked.  When it started in San Fransisco in 2008, the differentiation factor lied in the host and traveler review system.  The ability to have an online community based on showing up and being a good human kept people accountable.  Their motto is #OneLessStranger and they live by it.  Hosts are able to market not only their space, but their personality too!  Going above and beyond allows hosts to set their space apart and charge more.  Really, being awesome = more money!

Airbnb photo

Some of the skeptics might be thinking “how does this work?” and “what about liabilities?”.  No, Airbnb isn’t just for hippie college students, we all know you were thinking that.  The variety in the listings reach past one particular target market or budget range.  Beyond the rating and review accountability you have to submit personal information assuring Airbnb that you aren’t a crazy person.  If you aren’t the making friends with strangers type, the experience doesn’t have to be that.  This disruptive innovation disintegrated barriers to interaction and simplified the entire process when they created a completely digital platform.  As far as liabilities go, that’s something that can be difficult to avoid in any travel situation, and Airbnb takes a proactive stance in responsible hosting.  As far as I’m concerned, Airbnb is superior from a business and consumer standpoint.

As my first self-planned road trip, I went into it with expectations.   Most of which were formed based off of things my mom had told me about her family road trips when she was a girl.  My rough to-do list included:

√ Climb on some awesome sand dunes. Thanks to Jessie Honeyman State Park!

√ Dip my toes in the ocean. The Oregon coast was… cold.

√ See an elk and the Redwoods. Visit Gold Bluffs Beach in California, you won’t regret it.

√ Meet a CEO.  Well, just go to San Fran and throw a rock.

√ Pretend I’m one of the Beats and eat Chinese food.  Both of which can be done in Chinatown!

√ Explore Golden Gate Park.  I highly recommend the California Academy of Sciences, worth the money.

√ Eat delicious food in San Francisco (which is pretty much a given).  Try Burma Superstar and La Mediterranee, my favorites.

When people ask “how was your road trip?”, of course I mention my checklist points, but time and time again I find myself touching on places and weaving my experiences with technology along the way through my “review”.  I guess that’s just my idea of a road trip, just reinvented!

Jessie Honeyman   Image 4-1-15 at 12.53 PM (2)

Image 4-1-15 at 12.53 PM (3)   Image 4-1-15 at 12.53 PM

Image 4-1-15 at 12.53 PM (1)   Image 4-1-15 at 12.53 PM

   Image 4-1-15 at 12.53 PM (3)   Image 4-1-15 at 12.53 PM (2)

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What I can do for you as a digital marketer

Reflection: something nostalgic college seniors and learning enthusiasts do a lot of… and suddenly I find myself on both of these lists.

10 weeks, 12 credits, 3 certifications, 2 jobs and 1 all-nighter later, I am wrapping up my winter quarter and my short stint with DigiMark 3.1. Yes, it is true, this chapter of my college career has come one quarter closer to an end, and so has twice weekly class with our fearless leader Mark Staton.  Although Marketing 476 is over, I can confidently say that this is not the end of my digital marketing career.

For the past 10 weeks I’ve been learning a lot, and somewhere along the way, I found my way.

16,415 words, 16 posts and 724 views later, I am left to contemplate the micro wins and losses I felt whilst writing my digital diary.  Looking back at my first few posts I can’t help but blush at my naïve blogging ways.  At first it felt uncomfortable and forced.  As the passionate person I am, like most things I do, I threw myself into it.  The more I learned about content marketing, inbound and digital, I began to find myself and my voice.  I know it must sound cheesy, but as the weeks progressed and topics got deeper into answering “what is digital marketing?” and “why digital?” I saw myself.  As a millennial, older generations look at us as the major game changers.  We grew up with this stuff, born in ’93, the Internet has been a discourse I didn’t have to think much about.  Looking forward, I see this integration of technology into our daily lives growing exponentially, just like Moore’s Law.  I mean, my five-year-old niece knows the ins-and-outs of an iPad better than most.

Businesses basically have a choice.

Do we join or do we reject?

Personally, excitement for the opportunities businesses have to connect and amplify rushed over me when I first learned about digital marketing.  The one thread through all of my lessons this quarter that really stuck with me was just how much value added digital has.  Content becomes a pleasure, while posts become a conversion; that meant a lot to me.  I know as a customer I have more power in my hands, and to have a business that understands that, and says “hey, I care about you too” rocks the foundation of many, and changes the closely held beliefs people have about businesses.  It’s all about the conversion, and my next step is starting that conversation.

A brief note to future employers: Hire me. Why? One, because I have these fancy skills that look great on paper.  I have three certifications: Google Analytics, Hubspot Inbound Marketing, and Hootsuite.  Sounds swell, doesn’t it?  Secondly, I care a lot about digital and it fuels my passion for marketing.  My skills in content creation and knowledge of the way people interact with businesses online will shape the future of what we call brand engagement.  My analytical abilities will allow me to critically look at the performance of various online platforms such as mobile, web, email and social media integrated with the more traditional outreach to make important and creative decisions.  And finally, my communication skills allow me to look at the world with empathy and optimism.  The world is about to get another bright-eyed and bushy tailed, glass-half-full kind of optimistic gal with a healthy dose of relentlessness and questioning.

Anyways, back to my blog.

The most viewed page on my blog is about content marketing, with 70 views.  This particular post had an entertaining comparison to Elle Woods on her quest for love and content marketing.  One of the surprises I have found with blogging is that the more fun I have with it and the more real and true to myself I am, the more popular the posts are, and the better audience response I get.  (Sounds an awful lot like a lesson many businesses should learn).  Good content = happy readers.  The irony of course is in the fact that I was actually blogging about content in this case.  In addition to the content, I attribute a fair amount of the popularity of the post to a retweet by my professor which likely encouraged my classmates to check it out.  The most exciting for me about this post was the conversation it started with Kane Jamison, a Seattleite and owner of a content marketing agency.

I found it really interesting to see where this traffic was coming from too.  Not by surprise, most of my followers came from the United States with 704 views, Germany came in second place with seven, Spain with five, France three, New Zealand two and Italy, Australia and Japan all with one view.  So it’s pretty much a given that most of my followers would come from the US because I’m American, but the other views actually make some sense too.  I have a very good Spanish friend that I mention in this post, a few German friends I made while abroad, a best friend studying in France, another in Italy and Australia.  Shout out to my friends abroad following along!

Many of you may be wondering if this is the end for me, after all I am a full time student with two jobs.  Who in their right mind would take on blogging on the side?!

Someone absolutely crazy.

Good thing I fit the bill.

I’m not done with this hip bloggin’ thing.  That’s right faithful followers, I am continuing my blog and I urge you to follow along on my digital adventure.  Take my hand and learn about the wonders of the world, my world, and the Internet.

Watch me fearlessly throw myself into the world.

Skydiving in Namibia

So what’s the deal with Google Analytics?

As graduation approaches and the looming fear/nervousness/excitement ensues, I find myself on job listings, often.  Almost everywhere I look, opportunities for marketers require Google Analytics Certification (or at least strongly recommend it), and as a part of Digital Marketing here at WWU, we are becoming certified for its benefits and a grade.  Okay, so going through the lessons is time consuming, learning the platform is hard at first, and maybe a little frustrating, but this stuff is really employable.  Prior to digimark 3.1 I kept asking myself, “so what’s the deal with Google Analytics?”  And after taking the course, I finally get it.

Google is in the business of running the world, and helps businesses part-time.  The fact that “googled” is a verb in the dictionary, further proves my point.  We’ve already talked about how becoming Google friendly can help your organic and paid SEO, but how does Google work for you and your business?

Let’s go over some of the most interesting features I’ve learned about during my Google Analytics education:

Goal Setting

Setting goals image

Before you can even begin thinking about how you want to attract customers and lead them to convert, you need to have some goals in mind.  Setting goals is one of the primary steps in creating a holistic Google Analytics account, and vital to implementation and tracking campaign success.  First, you set up a measurement plan and decide on key performance indicators (KPIs).  This can be a very valuable practice for the business as well as management.  If you’ve never had the discussion of your key ways to track success, you might not know (or agree on) what makes the business tick.  There is also opportunity to hear many perspectives and prove or disprove a KPI that someone suggests.

It’s important to keep in mind the process of goal setting looks different at every business.  For e-commerce businesses, goals are all about making a sale, but at businesses whose website is aimed at creating leads, their macro conversion is receiving a new email.

These goals can be based on destinations, events, or engagement.  For e-commerce, destination goals should quantify how many sales they’ve made.  In this example, the destination would be the purchase confirmation page.  Event goals are better suited for micro conversions in e-commerce, and could be anything from the user watching an informational product review video to downloading a PDF.  Additionally, engagement, such as page duration and pages per visit can be measured as a goal.  For informational sites, long duration could mean your information is too hard to find, but for a product blog, long duration could mean the visitor read the entire post- context is everything!

E-commerce Tracking

Ecommerce tracking image

Have you ever wondered where your best online business is coming from? Or asked yourself how you can find more of these customers? Although you may have a hunch, hunches generally don’t sell data drive executives, they need facts.  With Google Analytics you have the ability to see not only where these visitors came from, but also how and what caused them to convert.  The beauty of e-commerce tracking is the capability it has to go above and beyond goal tracking.  A goal conversion can only be counted once during a visit, but an e-commerce transaction can be counted multiple times during a visit.  This means that you can see the exact steps you lead took before they became your customer.  By knowing exactly what content converted, you are able to make more of that great content.  And once more, you know where that visitor came from so you can launch mini campaigns in different online communities based on what exactly leads these individuals to your desired outcome.  The cherry on top?  It’s all based on real data, so you will surely make those data driven executives smitten.

Google’s Network

Google AdWords and Analytics network Image

Of course, the geniuses at Google have come up with a way to encourage businesses to use not just Analytics, but several of their other products such as Google AdWords, Google AdSense or Google Webmaster.  Have you ever wondered how your Google AdWords tags are translating to actual sales?  With AdWords you can see things like click-through rates, but what is the behavior of the user like when they’ve reached your landing page? This marriage tells businesses things like how your AdWords campaign driving sales with exact measurements like return on investment, already integrated into your Analytics account for reporting.  You have the ability to see which Google AdWords tags led to conversions and tailor your next campaigns, right now.  The data becomes richer, while your business becomes richer.  An opportunity for re-marketing also awaits.  Have you ever been browsing Facebook when suddenly those adorable booties that made you swoon suddenly show up on the sidebar?  It’s oh so tempting (and a little creepy), but you know what?  It works.  And it’s called re-marketing.

But folks, don’t take it from me.  Check out these countless success stories from Google Analytics users.  Sound like Google is making big changes for businesses of every size.  So I guess, that’s the deal with Google Analytics.

Google Image

Side Note: I’m taking the Google Analytics IQ Exam on Tuesday, wish me luck!

Make Mobile Matter

Aaron Sharpiro, CEO of Huge, a digital marketing agency based in Brooklyn says, “there is no such thing as an offline business”, and he is entirely right.  The world is becoming digital and even businesses without e-commerce are incorporating digital into their marketing strategy.  From social media campaigns to data driven SEO, there is one thing we can all agree on: every effort must work together.  Recently there have been some major shifts in the digital marketer’s world, namely mobile marketing.

When you are walking down the street, sitting on a bus or at a local cafe, you often see most everyone on their phone.  Hype surrounding the idea of the mobile craze has been both good and bad.

In 2013 alone, the number of US smartphone users grew 24% from 2012.  In just one year, that’s nuts!  Another trend we are seeing is a shift to multi-platform usage.  Users now read blog posts on their tablet over breakfast, browse social media on their smartphone during the commute, and shop online on a desktop after work.  In addition to this, individuals are using multiple devices at the same time.  Social engagement is one way this can be employed.  For example, during a big game, fans, team members, and owners will often engage in twitter conversations about their thoughts on the action.  This is called meshing.  Conversely, there is stacking, where individuals simultaneously use multiple screens for unrelated content.  Over 2/3 of Americans engage in stacking, which means the competition for their attention is fierce.  However, there is something marketers can take from this: most of the time spent stacking, individuals are focused on whatever they have in their hands.  It’s closer to them, physically and emotionally.  Some businesses like Starbucks have managed to create such a strong connection to their mobile presence that now 16% of transactions are mobile.

From a marketing standpoint mobile has its strengths and weaknesses.  First, the space to work with; there isn’t much of it! This is a challenge for marketers because the content that appears above the fold decreases by a significant amount.  If you thought that space was a constraint before, consider it now.  The message that does make it to this coveted position must draw the user in, be easy to navigate, and get straight to the point.  Another issue is caused by the use of multiple digital platforms.  In the past businesses had it easy and were able to create one beautiful message.  Now with desktops, tablets, and mobile devices, marketers are forced to be a little more creative.

There are a few routes that a business can take to appear seamless on all platforms.  Businesses could choose to develop a website using tools that already incorporate responsive layouts.  Last summer when I was developing a website for Garys’ Mens and Women’s Wear, this was a main factor in our decision making process.  We developed off of a WordPress theme, and in the mockup stage of the process we made sure that each theme we submitted for selection was responsive.  Responsive basically means that the website is developed on a grid that automatically recognizes the change in screen size and acts in response, get it? Using predefined and well established tools like WordPress are really smart for small businesses, who may not have huge budgets, but don’t want to sacrifice their digital footprint.  Unfortunately, some aspects of the site will not translate quite as well on the mobile device, but smart content can make this gap look smaller.

garys desktop image Garys mobile image

Another option, which I think best suits medium to large businesses, is the creation of an entirely separate mobile site.  This way, certain items can be forgone that you want to include on your website for desktops, but might not necessarily translate well to mobile.  Take videos and large images for example; they work well for desktops and even tablets, but could bog down a smartphone with a slower loading time.  This seems like a lot, which is partially why I recommend it for slightly larger businesses, but there is a fair amount of borrowing that goes on.  Many of the images, content, and sentiment is the same throughout each platform.  The Sephora mobile and desktop sites are different, but they work seamlessly together and communicate the same message.  Take a look:

Sephora desktop imageSephora mobile image

The final option is to create an application in addition to the regular website. This works well for a large corporation who have the resources, customer base, and budget to put the effort, time, and money into development.  The benefit of having an application is that 84% of time on mobile is spent on apps.  Another implication is that apps tend to make customers feel more secure.  This feeling could be attributed to the fact that you aren’t on a browser or because you can log-in.  I know personally I prefer to make transactions through an application if I am doing so on my smartphone.  Applications present an opportunity to hone in the benefit of having a slightly different approach and message.  While your desktop website could be focused mainly on creating macro conversions, your application could be aimed at gaining brand loyalty and awareness through a game-like interface… that sounds fun!  Look below at Nordstrom Rack’s desktop and mobile application.

Nordstrom desktop image

Key milestones can be taken away from the transformative shift in platform usage.  Marketers have the ability to take this change as an opportunity.  I will leave you with this note from a marketing and strategy director from Huge:

“To take advantage of all that digital lets us do today, we must work a little harder. Yes, we still need a clear focal point — a single big idea, if you will. But we must respect the roles and potential of the individual mediums available to us. We should consider not just what a brand must say and do, but what it must enable as well. Creating utility, service, entertainment and even products that not only engage but that drive participation in new and different ways.” -Johnathan Lee

Connecting Your Strategy: Programmatic & Native Advertising

Traditional advertising is quickly becoming less relevant; people hate interruptions, look for more information, and have more power than they have ever had before.  I know I must sound like a broken record by now, but I cannot express enough how important it is to stay current. The sure way to become a market leader (and a marketing leader) is not just simply waiting to see what everybody else does.  Yes, that means that you have to step away from your Mad Men ways.

Men Men thinking

Let me give you two things to sit and think about: programmatic ad buying and native advertising.  First, let me mention they could not be more different, however, you will notice they have some similarities.  Both are somewhat controversial and most people are on the fence about both techniques.  Let’s talk a little bit about both.

Programmatic ad

Programmatic ad buying involves automated, auction based buying of ads online.  Ad Week calls it “advertising’s newer, better mousetrap” because it allows you to get at specific audiences based on data.  Basically, programmatic ad buying takes data, makes a selection of what screen it should be placed on, allows you to decide the best strategy and other non-manual choices.  The reason why people are loving programmatic ad buying is the capability of the platform to optimize and automate.  Its cross-device focus is arguably its most sought after quality.  As a marketer in the twenty-first century, we know how important it is to use digital to reach audiences, and as a millennial, I know that most of these audiences are using multiple devices.  The key takeaway here is while individuals are using multiple devices, their interaction with each device varies greatly.  Cookies (not the chocolate chip kind, the computer kind) allow for data to be received and analyzed on the multi-device landscape.  Like I said, this knowledge about interaction is huge, but the strength of programmatic is also it’s greatest weakness.  Consumers are becoming increasingly skeptical about privacy levels on the web.

Which leads me into a different approach…

native advertising

Native advertising is the combination of reporting and advertising techniques to create an editorial-style promotion.  Ads in their traditional form tend to rattle off their value proposition and hope the bate hooks.  Instead of this, native advertising approaches advertising as an opportunity to do a little story telling.  When people don’t buy into the cheesy overdone ads and want to hear more from real people, editorial is great for this, but lack of trust is a weakness.  You’ve probably come across native advertising, you just didn’t know it, and that creeps people out.  Another weakness among skeptics is the viability.  In opposition to the data heavy programmatic, it is hard to get any telling metrics on native advertising.  Usually targeted at a niche market, native tends to lack analytics based on audience targeting and success.  At this point it’s kind of like throwing a line out there and without any knowledge for the chance of a bite.  This is a data focused marketer’s worst nightmare; without a steady measure of ROI, native has hype and controversy.

One thing that both programmatic and native advertising can relate to is the power of buzz.

buzz media

Not only do people love throwing around those terms to sound in-the-know, but both have captured attention of media.  Native advertising seems to be a blurred line for many, and recently Alex Blumberg’s Startup faced some bad PR… and some good PR.  Native ads are easily seen as manipulative or conversely as providing a more honest candid look at a business.  An obvious transparency issue is ahead with native.  The editorial style ads have the opportunity for deception and it becomes increasingly important for businesses to operate with humility.  Never underestimate your capacity for self-deception people. The buzz behind programmatic ad buying focuses on transparency in a different way.  Information protection is an online security concern for many and without this individual data, it is nearly impossible to get your ad in a relevant, quality spot.  Big players like Facebook and Google inherently know these things about individuals, but what if you aren’t Google or Facebook?  ComScore aims to alleviate this transparency problem by providing insights into the quality of space businesses are buying.

So what does this all mean?  Now that we have these two new innovative strategies for advertising, how do we implement them? Transparency is one of the most important aspects of both native and programmatic advertising.  The adoption curve of both methods has not been smooth; there has been some trouble crossing the chasm and gaining the loyalty of the skeptics in the marketing sphere.  Older more traditional marketers hate the idea of automation with programmatic, and creatives are afraid of losing their job to a bunch of number obsessed people.  These individuals should be less worried about losing their job, and more worried about how they can employ these techniques in addition to their current efforts.

Okay, I know your clients are on tight promotional budgets and your desk is slammed with copy and projects in progress.  I’ll let you in on a little secret: you might already be making great native and programmatic material, you just call it something else.  For example, Facebook and Google AdWord promotions translate nicely to programmatic, and blog content is a great start to native advertising.  Creativity and people still fit into the equation, I promise.  You will have a broader more encompassing strategy with native and programmatic, all you need is a smart (and creative) marketer to fuel the fire.  Don’t let fear of new things leave you in the dust- you wouldn’t want to spend your career on the coattails of someone else, so be a part of the change!

Coding: Not Your Achilles Heel

When I think about coding, I generally picture my computer engineer father writing complex code that helps women find breast cancer.  In the past I’ve completely written off the idea of self identifying as a “coder” because it frankly felt like something so far from my realm of interest and ability.  If you would’ve asked me two years ago if I would be coding, I would probably tell you that my abilities diminished after a short-lived jaunt with myspace page customization.  Fast forward to spring 2014, and I am taking computer science classes, go figure. Myspace and HTML memories came rushing in as I delved into basic coding of HTML, HTML5, and JavaScript.  Pursuing computer science for me, was less about understanding the complexity that goes into many webpages, and more about understanding what the heck tech people are talking about.  One of the most important characteristics of a leader is the ability to think and communicate across functional areas.  I mean, code is the basis for most of our marketing today.  Without a basic understanding, it is impossible to talk to an IT guy or gal without them quickly writing you off.  And once more, can you imagine not even having to ask the IT person in the first place?  You would become the most valuable full stack marketer.  Arguably the most important aspect of knowing and understanding code on a basic level is the autonomy it gives you.  No longer are the nuts and bolts of your online presence things that have you shaking in your boots.  Your newly developed knowledge of code allows you to (in a practical way) fix campaign bugs yourself.  Marketing nirvana.  Ultimately not having these skills could set you back.  Don’t let coding become your Achilles heel. Digital Marketing graphic Okay, so you might have totally bought into the idea of marketing yourself with coding skills, but you may be asking, “what’s next?” or, “how can I actually do this stuff?”.  If you are one of many, and if you don’t know how to make that leap between clueless coder to competent, have no fear!  There are many resources you can use to become self taught, all you need to do is take a leap of faith (and put forth a little effort too).  According to a Moz blogger, being a self learner is often more important than experience itself.  So by the simple fact that you are self taught and took initiative, those traits can be a resume booster.  Bonus– you might actually learn something too! For starters, direct your efforts to Codecademy.  Its simple interface and step-by-step instruction makes it the perfect tool for beginners.  The game-like quality of each instruction makes it a low stress, high fun factor.  Codecademy is a completely approachable way to dive into your self-taught skills.  Recently, I spent two hours on Codecademy, just to test out the ease of use and effectiveness of teaching basic coding skills.

I started at zero:

Codecademy before

And made it 55% through basic HTML and CSS

Codecademy After … in just two short hours!  That’s one episode of The Bachelor or two episodes of Game of Thrones or approximately how long it takes to bake cookies or whatever it is you fancy.  Did I mention it’s free? Seriously, no excuses. Once you are confidently coding and want to try some things out on your own, experiment, or you just forgot how to do a certain thing, I suggest using w3schools. Digital Marketing CodingCodecademy is great as an introduction, but w3schools is better for detail oriented trouble shooting.  As you delve deeper, you may want to have a platform to do some developing of your own.  A popular platform is Dreamweaver (which is not free, bummer).  Dreamweaver is great because it does a lot of the work for you and has a great interface that allows you to see the effects of your coding, while you are doing it.  Another, more well-known option is Notepad++ which works best for PCs.  Most marketers are Apple fans and therefore have a bit of trouble finding a text editor that is Mac friendly.  My favorite text editor is TextWrangler, which allows you to code seamlessly and find errors easily with color-coded elements.  Okay, so now things are getting pretty serious and you are speaking HTML and CSS so easily that you move to JavaScript.  If you are looking for a great resource to trouble shoot and get applications, for free, look at Stack Overflow.  By now you will be less intimidated by the tech lingo, and you can communicate your needs or ask the right questions more easily.  Stack Overflow is open source which means it works like a community of coders and programmers of all levels.   Users volunteer their time to help others and ask questions to solve problems of their own.  If this sounds at all interesting to you, I encourage you to check those resources out!

All of these websites are opportunities for personal growth along side the growth of technology and the web.  Technology grows at an exponential rate and things that take us minutes took hours, days, months or even years 100 years ago.  Even computers today are thinking, behaving, and solving problems on a level most would be afraid of 25 years ago, but today we embrace it into our everyday lives.

Let’s get nerdy.

Moore’s Law states that after two years, the number of transistors that can be placed onto a semiconductor chip doubles.  The application behind all of the technical and physics terminology is of course that after two years, technology doubles and the latter developments become irrelevant.  By far the prevailing computing has been done through electrical because it is the fastest, most predictable computing power we know.  But who is to say that in 10, 20, 30 years from now, it will be relevant?  It may not be, and this brings me to two potential candidates: chemical and wetware computing. chemical computing

Chemical computing is an unconventional method based on chemical reactions.  Semi-solid chemicals are used as data determined by differing chemical makeups.  The advantage of chemical computing is that these reactions occur naturally and therefore require very little power requirements.  For this reason, chemical computing could be very useful in resource scarce third world countries where energy is not consistent or reliable.  The down side to this of course is it that time is limited because chemical computation takes longer than electrical.

Wetware computation on the other hand, is made of an organic computer that is made of leech neurons.  This type of computer has the ability to do simple arithmetic computations, but tends to be unpredictable which is a major problem, unless it can be turned into an asset.  For example one possibility is encryption.  A more practical application could be the potential for authentication through handwriting recognition.

Both wetware and chemical computation have potentials and weaknesses.  The brain makes  chemical computations and wetware is basically a brain, so you can imagine the potential there, but as you may know, scientists know almost nothing about the brain.  Kind of a catch-22.  Seems as though there is great opportunity, but more progress must be made.  Every great endeavor begins with a little turmoil, failure and a healthy dose of trial and error.  Keep that in mind when you are tackling those programming languages too!

Search Engine Marketing: Part of Your Strategy

Compliment your marketing efforts with search engine marketing, not because you can, but because you should.

On Tuesday I talked a bit about search engine optimization, and its clear impact on getting found.  But like any great marketing strategy, it shouldn’t stop there.  One thing I am very interested in is integration.  I find myself reaching for ways that I can help businesses optimize their entire marketing strategy, across all platforms.  It’s not just about SEO and it’s not just about content.  I cannot stress enough how important it is for each business to do what’s right for them.  Thankfully, finding your perfect mix of marketing efforts is made just a little bit easier with search engine marketing.

Let me introduce you, and hopefully teach you a few ways that search engine marketing, namely Google AdWords, can be integrated into your strategy.  There are a few things that are really helpful to keep in mind while discovering your position in this process.

First, how the heck does Google AdWords work?  Google AdWord Paid vs Organic searchJust like organic searches, it all starts with a user typing something into a search box.  There are a few differences between organic searches and paid, the first being the placement.  Paid search appears at the top and right hand sides of your search results.  The ranking system is a bit different too.  Three main metrics are used to rank Google AdWords and they include expected click through rates, landing page experience, ad relevance, and ad formats.  While they aren’t exactly the same, they can help each other and work together (this is where the integration comes in).  Let’s take click through rates and landing page experience for example.  If you have compelling content and an effective call to action, users will be more likely to click.  But wait… shouldn’t we have great content and a call to action already? Right, we’ve talked a lot about creating those things for your buyer personas with their spot in the process in mind.  These things are just amplified though search engine marketing! Google sees that appreciation though the number of clicks and these clicks lead to actual action for your business.  Every conversion, micro or macro, begins with a click.

How can we leverage these amenities?

The best part of search engine optimization and search engine marketing is the power it gives marketers as a tool for success; no longer do we have to guess and check.  With digital marketing, every conversion is trackable and actionable.  For example, paid search can be used for landing page testing.  Are you finding that currently not many web browsers are clicking on your link?  A potential opportunity is right in front of you!  It is possible that your call to action (CTA) isn’t attention grabbing enough or doesn’t resonate with the potential lead.  Perhaps you are wise enough to do a little A/B testing to see what type of CTAs work well for you *hint hint*.  Is it your value proposition or price that motivates the individual to click? All questions the marketer has the power to answer.  Another problem could be lack of relevancy, and there is probably a need for reengineering your keyword selection.  With AdWords, you are able to see keywords that have been typed into a query that have led Google users to your ad.  Put simply, you can see exactly which words are leading potential customers to you, and furthermore, which keywords you might not have known about.  This equals increased conversion people!  Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.

Finally, the last important way that Google AdWords can be integrated into your strategy is based on your strategy itself.  So I’m sure by now, the big question on your mind is cost.  More and more these days, marketers are on a budget and need to be able to qualify and quantify the cost of operation.  Thankfully, quantifying the cost of Good AdWords is built right into the system with the ability to qualify from there.  There are three cost structures of AdWords that can be used based on which strategy you identify for your business.

First, ask your self, “what are we trying to get out of this campaign?”  If your purpose is to increase brand awareness, focus on impressions.  You can actually pay via cost-per-impression.  Another way to employ AdWords in a strategy friendly way is to use their cost-per-click cost structure.  This is probably the most common choice, because in most instances, we want to display our business at the top of a Google search because we want to see a conversion.  To take this one step further, you would select cost-per-acquisition, which allow you to bid for your position on the search result page.  Elevate optimization by bidding on your position relative to others.  Generally the rule-of-thumb is that higher is better.  However, heed this with caution.  A higher position is only better when it is relevant for you.  Having a high position is only effective if it makes sense that the user would use or need your product or service.

If you are interested in getting into the nitty gritty of AdWords, Google has a free certification that will ensure you know the ins-and-outs before the end.

So I know all of you (more or less) have been faithfully following my blog, and if you have, you are probably beginning to see a theme.  I cannot stress enough the importance of knowing your buyer persona, their position in the buyer’s journey and leveraging that information with inbound marketing efforts in the digital sphere.  Yes, this week I focused on search engine marketing, but you’ve also hopefully noticed the other marketing efforts I’ve discussed in weeks past seeding throughout.  These strategies do not stand alone.  The true power comes when you integrate.  That way, not just your search or webpage is optimized, but your entire marketing is optimized.

Becoming Friends with Mr. Google: SEO & Link Building

Whenever we need a question answered, purchase something online or go to a specific page, what do we do first?  Sometimes you know the URL off the top of your head, but honestly, most of the time you ask Google (or Mr. Google according to my friend Mariona).  The Internet and search engines as a whole are one of the most effective ways for markers to reach their audience.  With increased knowledge and buying power, consumers these days are becoming smarter, but also lazier.  We rely on Google for information and it has become increasingly important for businesses to show up as a high search result in order to validate their position and authority.

But how do we become friends with Mr. Google in the first place?

Make up of SE by MozLet’s talk a little bit about how search engine optimization, or SEO works.  It all begins with words typed into a search box according to Moz, SEO experts.  Search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo use techniques and algorithms to search and categorize websites.  The two main things these engines look for is relevancy and popularity, and from there, they rank or index for every organic search.  For simplicity purposes, I will mostly be talking about Google. Why?

1. Because Google is the most popular search engine, making up about 80% of the “search pie” (thanks Moz).

2. Most other search engines employ very similar techniques for indexing.

3. Google is the most popular kid on the playground, if they are behind you, others will follow suit.

Okay so you’re on board, but if you want to be on Google’s side, you need their friendship and they know it. If you cross them by buying links or employ any of the other black hat techniques for optimization, be ready to face the wrath of Google.

Just like a mean girl at school, Google has the power to bring you down.  But instead of playground cred, you could be sabotaging your businesses credibility and ability to rank well, which, as we’ve discussed can have a major negative impact on your business. Just take J.C. Penny for example.  In 2011, in attempt to bump up their search results, they employed “link schemes” that connected J.C. Penny to bogus and unrelated websites.  In doing so, Penny’s basically undermined themselves, almost completely cutting one of their sources of revenue: online sales.  Cue “oh shit” moment for J.C. Penny marketing.  The draw to these techniques is that they’re really easy, you “cloak” or hide a few keywords into your html text, and suddenly your rank goes up… or at least until Google catches on.  Just like starting a rumor, it’s not nice, and totally not worth it in the end because Google is made up of some really smart people.  If you’re curious what exactly is considered a Google SEO “no no”, check out their webmaster tools.

Now that we know what NOT to do.  How do we become the good guys and become best friends with Google?

Link building is one of the hardest, but most rewarding parts of SEO.  Simply put, if a well known and ranked webpage links to you, the better your rank.  There are a few approaches to building links, some are easy and others are harder.  We’ve gone over the black hat kind that should be avoided already, so let’s start with a few simple ways of link building, but first:

“All link building campaigns must start with something worth linking to” -Moz

Follow your buyer personas and content guidelines to create something that excited influencers and creates natural editorial links.  Maybe you didn’t directly ask for the ping back, but you created some awesome content with your influencers in mind hoping they’d see it, love it, and link to it.  This is a really genuine way to gain brand preference and leverage your evangelists in regards to search engine optimization.  If you are just starting out and don’t have the screaming fans that repost everything you say just yet, consider manually doing some outreach and asking others to share what you have to offer.  Remember, only do this when it’s relevant and avoid a “I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine”  Moz warns.  There are better ways to entice ping backs, like by providing other incentives.  I see this done on social media all of the time.  Some business will launch contests where individuals tag the businesses page and in return, have a shot at winning free product.  When starting a link building campaign, it might be helpful to follow these steps provided by Moz:

Link Building Campaign Process

But Hannah, why is link building so great?  Essentially, by creating your awesome content and connecting with others you are simultaneously building relationships.  One of the key goals of marketing is building relationships so SEO is your problem marketers.  No longer can markers ignore the power of search and pass responsibility to IT.  When SEO begins to create a referral system (which it does), we want our marketers talking too.  Those among you who are dreading learning the ins-and-outs, have no fear.  Consult the Beginner’s guide to SEO written by Moz, in simple easy to digest pieces that can even be employed by the least tech savvy among us.

Another important and straightforward way to increase your rank on search is to utilize keywords.  No, I do not mean blasting your content with the same phrase over and over to ensure you show up in organic searches.  I’m talking about using words that you know your buyer personas use to get the right visitors to your page.  Be specific, but not too specific.  If you’re selling laptops, you probably shouldn’t title your posts “handheld abacus central processing unit thinking machine”. Because no one, not even my computer engineer dad, calls a laptop anything other than a laptop.  Okay so my point is exaggerated, but you should get it- speak the language!  I mentioned before the search engines rank based on two things: relevancy and popularity.  By understanding the customer and adding the right kind of keywords, you increase your relevancy.

Here’s my idea, if businesses should employ third party search engine optimization, what is being done about on-page search optimization?  Think of the power you could gain from collecting the search data on your website and leveraging it to your advantage.  If you know most of your users are searching on your page for black booties or a particular recipe, why not use that to create more relevant content?  You already know that individual is on your page and interested, why not give them what you know what they want, right away.  On page optimization would likely help SEO, too.  As a cuisine lover and food blog frequenter, I would love it if they would take into account the commonly searched keywords in the same way they heed commonly asked questions.  Just my two cents.

Hey Moz, what do you think?

Why Inbound Sales is Worth Celebrating

If traditional outbound marketing is the interruption to your day, then traditional sales are the people knocking on your door, asking you to buy.  This hustling type of sales is one that aims at closing the deal by any means possible, and could not be any more interruptive than outbound marketing all together.  In a recent post I discussed some of the alternatives to traditional outbound, namely, inbound marketing.  Blogging, landing pages, social selling, content offers, and search engine optimization are among some of the most effective techniques out there, but how can they be used to actually sell the product?  That’s where inbound sales come in.  If you are tired of relentless sales people, elevator pitches and cold calls, raise your standards and your cup, because inbound sales is here.

Okay, okay, so maybe fireworks aren’t actually going off, but implementing inbound sales into your business model could create huge gains- certainly some worth celebrating.

So what are inbound sales anyway? 

Math majors: Inbound Sales = Marketing + Sales.

For the rest of us: Inbound sales is the combination of marketing and sales teams in order to be the consultant for the customer at every point of the buyers journey.

Traditionally, these two functional areas work independently, leaving leads and the businesses dissatisfied because something goes terribly wrong during the process of nurturing those leads into customers.  Sales people blame the marketing team for providing them with weak leads and marketing people blame the sales team for failing to follow up.  In this case not only do we have dissatisfied customers, but also a hostile work environment where it feels like nobody can win… yikes!  To combat this, inbound sales integrates both teams into one.  Armed with the knowledge of both sales and marketing, businesses are able to better understand the context of their key buyers, such as their pain points, interests, solutions, and added value.  This allows them to further tailor sales and marketing efforts to best suit their customers.  The next step is to build a team that cares, is articulate, educated about the product, and motivated.

This newly renovated team will work best if processes are put into place.  New Breed suggests getting sales and marketing teams together to create a service-level agreement (SLA).  With some simple calculations of number of leads needed and guidelines for how each lead will be quantified and served, inbound sales becomes measurable. Done.  Great, well then why are we still seeing low returns?  Every thing should be working now that we’ve got our rockin’ team together and they are setting goals, right?  Not quite.  There are still some innate vulnerabilities that cannot be overlooked.

The number one weakness of inbound marketing is the “invisible sale” or lack of ability to be successful if you are selling to people who simply are not looking.  Imagine if a traditional sales rep was pitching to an empty room and expecting return, or from an inbound standpoint, you sent hundreds of emails to an account that doesn’t exist.  In both of these cases not only would your business look funny, but these efforts would be totally ineffective and worse, wasting resources.  If the weaknesses of inbound sales are based in the inability to see prospects and inefficient resource allocation, then Socedo has a whole product solution.

Socedo’s basic product enables businesses to take the guess work and stress out of sales and marketing.  After diving into social media and finding prospects that match your identified criteria, businesses are able to further qualify the lead’s potential based on what you want.  Pretty awesome, huh?  So basically your business can find exactly who and how these individuals are interested in listening or getting more information.  But it does not stop there.  Socedo actually has an automated system that allows you to engage with these leads with little effort on your end.  No longer do you need to sift through hundreds of leads and respond person-by-person.  Socedo actually allows for you to maintain a one-to-one relationship via automation.  Connect with them without spending all of your valuable time answering simple questions; allow the automation to take over (with your guidelines of course), and watch the self-identified leads pour in.  Because all of this process is automated it lends itself to optimization and data driven decisions, which we know can save real time and money for the business.  Now it’s time to celebrate!

Success is not about finding the most people, it’s about finding the right people and treating them well.

Dating for Dummies Part II (And Email Marketing Too)

After reading my last post, you’ve probably been waiting anxiously to see how you can improve your dating life, and maybe you’re interested in digital marketing too.  Assuming you have done so, you should know all about what it takes to create your very own landing page, and you are equipped with the knowledge that has effectively turned visitors into valuable leads.  At this point you are probably wondering what should be done with these leads and how you can advance your personal and business relationships to the next level.

Let’s talk a little bit about texting.  Why you may ask? Well texting in a personal relationship and email marketing in a professional one actually have more in common than you might think.  Some say “email marketing is dead!” or others point out “I hate getting spammed by those awful emails, so why would anyone else want that?” These are classic mistakes or excuses marketers use to avoid developing strong email marketing as an asset to their business.  First off, email marketing is very alive and according to Luis Trevino, for every dollar invested in email, businesses on average see a $44.25 return.  Okay I know there is still a skeptic among you who may claim that other online platforms are better, but Hubspot argues that 95% of online consumers use email and of those 91% check their email every day.  Yes, you heard me right, every single day.  Let’s go over some basic rules about email marketing and how to text the boy you like and after I’ll tell you a secret about why it works, deal?

Ask.

No one likes to receive emails from a stranger and no one likes to receive texts from a mysterious number.  After you have asked for the information of your visitor on the landing page is it clear to them that they have given you their information?  It better be, because if not you could turn a potentially delighted lead annoyed, real quick.  If you have both made it quite clear that this is a mutually benefited question, be sure to make it just that.  This is yet another opportunity to provide more pointed content to your leads that could help them to move along the buyers journey.  You can actually ask them what types of content they would like to see, if you want to be super fancy and modern.  Additionally, it’s nice to ask if they would like to hear from you less frequently because we all know what it feels like to have that friend who texts just a little too often.

The power of opt out vs opt in is huge.  Have you ever heard the phrase “it’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission?”  Well, disregard that because it’s complete crap.  If leads are having to unsubscribe to you and they are asking themselves “how did I get on this list anyways?” that is no good.  With that being said, always provide an option for leads to unsubscribe, this helps to weed out the people that do not care anyways.  I recently unsubscribed from Hubspot’s email list and they linked it to this delightful video (which ironically felt a lot like a break up).  The beauty of opt-in from a business standpoint is that the customer is actually asking for this content.  We’ve talked quite a bit about abrasive and interruptive marketing and when a visitor says yes to hearing more from you by opting in, that’s a good thing.  You can then be confident that they actually care and want to hear from you.  The guy actually gave you her number and said “text me sometime” omg, what’s next?!

Show them your stuff. 

Your content stuff… not your other stuff.  By sending your leads relevant content that delights and adds value to their day, you are probably making them really happy, or at least subconsciously doing so.  Mix it up depending on where your customer is in the buyers journey so that they see your email as a positive influence, not just another thing to drop into the dreaded spam list.  It is important to note that you do, in fact, have the correct buyer persona and that is probably the first step in creating effective emails.  In previous posts we have outline the importance of these personas and how it can really drive home emails is completely dependent on creating relevant information for them.  If you act as a consultant, and tailor the content, you are increasing the likelihood of active engagement.  For example, offer tips to update a product you know they love to show your worth as an ongoing investment.

People are inherently social, yet they need a little extra nudge to do so.  Emailing them awesome stuff that could not only help them, but applies to their friends (they may or may not be on your email list) helps gain social proof.  Before the times of Facebook, way back in lands long, long ago, people would forward emails instead of clicking share!  Actually, that still happens, and I get a healthy dose of cat videos from my boyfriend’s mom.  Imagine, your content is so good you have the ability to earn the trust of your current leads and turn them into brand evangelists that help you nurture more leads.  Woah, this is getting overwhelming.. what do I do with all of these leads to make them feel like they aren’t just one of many?

Make them feel special.

Approach email marketing the same way you would approach texting your crush.  If you use personal pronouns like you and your, they won’t feel like you have said this a million times to a lot of people.  One of the worst feelings in your dating life is when you get the vibe that you are being fed a line.  The feeling is similar when you get an email titled “valued customer” or something generic.  One of the thing I love most about Amazon is their recommendation feature.  Email marketing can work in a similar way because the data is available to know, based on past interactions and experience what the individual may want next.

This customized content doesn’t need to stop at including their name.  The benefit to additional customization and optimization is evident in the amount of click-throughs and bounces.  When a customer sees a generic email, they are more likely to avoid it because they have no affective commitment to you.  On the contrary, when an email seems genuine and from a person, not just a business, there is a sense of ownership.  One easy way to make your customers feel special could be to pay close attention to the things that they are going through.  For example, holidays and birthdays.  The local business I work for (Garys’ Mens and Women’s Wear), actually sends out Birthday gift certificates to their patrons to make them feel special.  This simple technique gets people in the door and feeling like Gary’s cares about them.  Just like sending your crush a Happy Birthday note to show you care.

By asking your leads not assuming, showing them you care, and making them feel special; the business is able to inch one step closer to conversion.  In the same sense, texting and email create a nurturing atmosphere of mutual benefit that can outlive any “like” or add on Facebook.