Facebook Now Ranks Friends Higher Than Businesses

On June 29, 2016 the USA Today reported “Facebook is tweaking its algorithm to show you more of your friends’ posts rather than posts from publishers.” Link: usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2016/06/29/facebook-limit-posts-pages-news-feed/86512200

First, let’s take a moment to review Facebook’s current algorithm, which looks something like this:

facebook-news-feed-edgerank-algorithm

What this new update suggests is that the “C” part of this equation – the Creator – is now going to receive more positive weight if the Creator is your friend or family member, and more negative weight if the Creator is a business, celebrity, or other non-friend Page.

This has big implications for any business paying to Boost its posts or running a Facebook Ads campaign. The update means a business will have to be more creative, more interesting, more engaging, and participate in more social conversations in order to get noticed. Oh yeah, and it will cost more.

Just how much more is yet to be determined. Facebook Ads have been one of the most affordable and effective options for targeted digital advertising in the last three years. Since we all share so much of our lives with Facebook (age, gender, location, interests, marital status, life events, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg), the ability for a business to laser-focus on a specific audience on Facebook’s platform is truly unique. On a cost-per-click basis, Facebook Ads have been a fraction of the cost of a Google Search ad (we’re talking pennies per click vs. dollars per click).

The choice by Facebook to rank your friends’ posts higher than a publisher’s post in your News Feed is an attempt to keep its 1.65 billion users engaged with the content they prefer and to further leverage its advertising platform by forcing advertisers to be more compelling with their messages and more aggressive with their monthly budgets.

Want to read more about the latest on Facebook for business?

Google Goes from Gold to Green

In September of 2013, Google AdWords made a leap toward transparency by including a yellow “Ad” indicator in the search engine results that were paid ads.

Since that time, we have all grown accustomed to this new look on Google as we scroll down past the ads (most times) in our latest search for schools, stools, and shoes.

In April of 2016, Google began testing a modification to this look by changing the Ad indicator to green instead of gold.

DESKTOP

MOBILE

 

Yesterday, June 15, 2016, it became an official change. Ads are now green, not gold.

As a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land, “We regularly test ways to improve the look and feel of our search results page. We’ve been experimenting with a green search ad label and have decided to roll it out based on positive feedback from users and advertisers. Our goal is to make our results page easy to use, and our labeling clear and prominent.”

WHY DOES THIS MATTER?

Some key words in that quote from Google: test, feedback, easy.

If any business knows how to execute an A/B test, it’s Google. And this is a perfect example of what an A/B test is. Seem trivial? Google doesn’t think so. We’ll never get to see that data, but rest assured Google Ads will get more clicks and advertisers will be getting more results with this enhancement. They vigorously capture and analyze feedback from customers to continue to make their product, Search (which is free), easier to use.

This approach goes in contract to the trend in native advertising, which attempts to conceal an ad by passing it off as written or video content. And it’s even in contrast to Bing and Yahoo! search engine results pages which use gray text to tell the user the results which are ads.

It’s fascinating and inspiring to watch the search engine powerhouse continue to innovate and to defy what all others are doing. They believe in their product and know that customers crave transparency. Case studies on Google will be taught in universities for decades to come.

Side note: Green Bay Packers fans will continue to click at normal click-thru rates after the change from gold to green. It’s all the same to them!

green and gold packers.png

Sources:

Google’s Biggest Update in 2016

Google rolled out a global update today removing the right-side paid search ads for most search queries. The update:

  • Removes ads from the right side of the Search Engine Result Page (SERP)
  • Adds a 4th ad to the top of the SERP for “highly commercial queries.”
  • Effects searches on desktop only. Mobile searches have never had ads on the right side as the screen real estate is much smaller.
  • Allows a maximum of 7 ads on the page.
  • Has one exception, Product Listing Ads (PLAs), which will continue to show at the top-right of the page.

minnetonka body shop

Much speculation is percolating as to why Google made this update, and what the downstream effects will be for advertisers. Some initial thoughts:

  • With less ads on the first page, it’s more important than ever to be at the top of Search Ads. What is your average ad position?
  • Not running a Search Advertising campaign? You should be. With 3-4 ads at the top and 3 Google Maps listings below that, your first chance at showing up organically is in the 7-8th position on Google (way “below the fold” on a mobile device). Positions 7 and 8 are earning 3-5% of clicks from the page. Is that an acceptable market share for your business?
  • Mobile is clearly the future as desktop search pages are now mimicking mobile.

 

Email Strategies That Get People to Respond

Email marketing continues to be one of the most effective marketing channels. Think about it – how many times have you checked your email today? Probably more than once. And between personal emails, work emails, and advertising, you probably get over 100 emails per day. With data aggregation companies, CRM systems, and email marketing service providers galore, getting into someone’s inbox in 2015 is the easy part. How you get them to open and respond to your email… that part needs careful attention to make your message stand out from the clutter.

if you could

Whether you’re in sales and prospect with email, you’re a marketer managing mass email campaigns, a worker in Corporate America sending intra-company emails, a non-profit enthusiast raising funds or awareness for your cause, an expecting parent inquiring with prospective daycare, or a consumer looking to buy something off Craigslist: we all send emails from which we want a response.

In order to get someone to reply to your message, they first have to:

  • Receive your email in the Inbox (not Junk or Spam)
  • See the email (with a clear and poignant subject line)
  • Open the email
  • Read the email
  • AND Decide the contents of the email are interesting, important, or relevant enough to take the time to send a reply.

Each of these stages in the process gives you an opportunity to lose the recipient’s attention. Let’s look at some ways to help get more of your emails received, seen, opened, read, and returned.

SUBJECT LINE

Consider your subject line an advertisement. It’s the elevator pitch of elevator pitches. How can you be enticing enough to earn a few more valuable seconds of your recipient’s time, but not too vague or verbose, while also ensuring deliverability and avoiding spam filters? Follow these guidelines:

  • Less is more. Keep the subject line under seven words or 40 characters. It gets the reader straight to the point and prevents your message from being cut off on preview tools and mobile devices.
  • Avoid overused sales terms like “lowest price,” “free,” and “discount.”
  • Personalize it. Use the recipient’s name or personal identifier.
  • Use minimal punctuation. Any symbols like $, %, !, and set of spam triggers.
  • Evoke emotion with humor, mystery, or scarcity. These can be powerful emotional tools to stand out from email clutter.

Humor

uber

Mystery

open table

Scarcity & Personalization

sport photo

TIMING

This can vary based on the purpose of the email, but in general the best time to send email is mid-week, mid-day. More specifically, Tuesday-Thursday between the hours of 9-11am and 1-3pm. In general, this is when most people are likely to be active on email.

If you’re doing prospecting or running a recurring email campaign, create a Send Schedule and stick to it. Consistency with your send times allows you to be scientific with your email strategy and measure the effectiveness of certain days and times. Consider splitting your audience into two groups and running an A/B test.

CUSTOMIZATION

Most email marketing services like MailChimp and CRM systems like Salesforce.com have easy functionality to send a customized message to a database.

If you don’t have access to an email marketing service or CRM system, you can use mail merges to personalize your message to each individual recipient without the need to manually type each email. Get more information on creating mail merges here.

DON’T “CONSIDER” MOBILE – EMAIL IS MOBILE

Mobile opens now account for over half of all email opens. Depending on the industry mobile opens can account for up to 2/3 of the views of your email. Test all important emails by sending them to yourself and opening them on your mobile device. Text formatting, embedded images or video, and your signature can all render wonky on a smartphone, so this test is critical as more than half of your recipients will view your email on their phone or tablet. Consider shortening your subject line and email body for easier readability on a small device.

Searches For “Businesses Near Me” Are on the Rise

Have you ever used your smartphone…

  • In line while waiting to check out at the grocery store?
  • On the couch while watching TV with a significant other?
  • Under the table at a meeting for a quick glance at a text or an email?

You have. Admit it. These moments, when we turn to our smartphones because we need something now, are called “micro-moments,” and they are a part of the new reality of consumer behavior. Google is studying these micro-moments. Closely.

This article from Google, http://bit.ly/1awkCsD, focuses on the “I-Want-To-Go Moments” we all experience. Have you ever done a search for “restaurants near me” or “closest salon?” These types of local searches are on the rise. Check out some snippets from the study.

  • “Near me” searches have increased 34x since 2011!
  • 80% of “near me” searches come from mobile (Q4 2014)
  • 50% of consumers who conduct a local search on their smartphone visit a store within a day
  • Most of these “near me” searches are generic terms like “hotels near me” rather than “Hiltons near me”

These types of searches aren’t limited to retail, either. It’s a growing trend for people to search for “jobs near me” or “remodelers near me.” These tiny moments are happening right out of consumers’ pockets every day, and some businesses are winning in these moments. Is yours?

To Blog, or Not to Blog?

Just for a second, forget everything you know about the word “blog.” Seriously, wipe your mind clean and pretend that until this very moment, the word “blog” is foreign to you and, for all you know, could be defined as “a weapon used by extra-terrestrials to conquer planet Earth.” (Don’t worry, blogs aren’t that scary.)

Blogs have changed a lot since the first major blogging tool, Blogger, was launched back in 1999 (purchased by Google in 2003). Blogs used to be a place for writers to share opinions and experiences with their audience, plain and simple. While the core of this concept hasn’t changed, the advent of Twitter, WordPress, and countless other platforms have morphed what the blogosphere’s purpose is and how it impacts readers and businesses. I just came across an interesting article about where the world of blogging is today in The Atlantic, http://theatln.tc/1DHZ7Nc, and it’s a long, interesting read if you’re a technology geek like yours truly.

If, however, you aren’t a techno-nerd and you want to cut to the chase to know exactly if and how your company can benefit from running a blog, then this article is a must-read: http://selnd.com/1B5Bu2N. Whether your business currently has a blog being managed internally, has a blog being managed by a third party, or sees no benefit whatsoever from having a blog, this article is concisely written with concrete advice and examples of how to make a blog generate real traffic for a local business. I’ve copied the article below my signature and highlighted the important parts in yellow.

Kevin’s Key Insights:

  1. As Google’s algorithm stands today, your website’s content is the most important factor in gaining visibility online.
  2. Content planning is the key to not letting this project slip through the cracks. Taking a little time now to make next month’s content plan makes it far easier to keep up consistent posting.
  3. Your blog is not just a marketing channel for you to advertise your company; use it to be useful and interesting to your local audience and watch the traffic roll in!

Here is the article.

Make Your Blog A Local Destination & Win At Local Search

Wondering what to do on your blog to help your Local SEO efforts? Columnist Greg Gifford lays out a game plan for local blogging success.

Greg Gifford on March 2, 2015 at 9:28 am

Now that 2015 is in full swing, many business owners are trying to dive into the trenches and do whatever they can to boost their local visibility. So far, the leading question of the year has centered on site content.

Since the Pigeon Update‘s shift toward more “traditional web ranking factors” in determining local search rankings, website content has become more important than ever for local businesses trying to gain visibility in search. In fact, according to Moz’s 2014 Local Search Ranking Factors, it’s currently the most important piece of the Local SEO puzzle.

Business owners know that content is important, but they keep asking for specifics. So, I figured this month would be a perfect opportunity to share the same strategy we share with our own clients.

You Can’t Just Post For Posting’s Sake

You’ve got a blog, you know you need to post content, you know you need to be unique, and you know you have to be relevant in your local area. That seems to be about as far as most business owners get. Blogging seems to be some insurmountable, time-sucking colossal task — so business owners often shy away.

Blogging isn’t hard! Does it take some time? Yes. But you don’t have to be an expert writer to have an awesome blog. Blogs lend themselves to conversational writing, anyway.

You’ve got to put a plan in place and stick to it. If you’re just randomly posting because you know you need content, you’re doing it wrong. Even if you’re posting several times a week, if you’re only doing it because you know you need content, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re writing a generic post and just shoving your city name in there a few times, you’re doing it wrong.

If you take the time to make a plan, your posts will make sense and have a purpose. Your potential customers and local users will start reading your content because it’s actually useful content. Your traffic will increase, and you’ll get more leads.

Before we talk about post ideas, here’s the blogging plan we share with our clients:

  1. Define Your Audience.It’s important to remember that your audience doesn’t have to be in-market buyers. For auto dealers, the sales cycle is very long, since people typically only buy a car every 4 or 5 years. You have to tailor your posts to your audience if you want to get traction. Think about potential customers, previous customers, local residents, out-of-town visitors – then break up your potential audience into personas that you can target with different posts.
  2. Decide Who’s Writing.Sometimes it’s the business owners, sometimes it’s a manager, and sometimes its employees. Figure out what works with your company’s staff structure, then choose your writers. If you pick specific people, you can hold them accountable, which helps you stick to your schedule. You’re the expert, and you know your company’s voice – so whenever possible, you should write your own posts. In some cases, time constraints might make that impossible (if you’re a one-person show, for example). If you have to outsource your blog posts, make sure you’re using a reputable copywriting company that’s providing original, well-written content.
  3. Decide What You’re Going To Share.Remember that “content” doesn’t have to be text. Now that you know who your audience is and who’ll be creating the content, decide what types of content you want to share. Besides standard written posts, you can share photos, videos, infographics, slide presentations, or surveys. Play to your strengths and the interests of your audience.
  4. Set A Calendar & Stick To It.This is the step that most people stumble on. You’ve got to post on a regular basis if you want to be successful. You don’t have to know exact subjects to plan your posting calendar out far in advance – as long as you know a post is due on a certain date, it helps keep everyone accountable and on schedule. At a minimum, you should plan your posts a month ahead of time, but going 6 months or even a year ahead will make your life easier and increase your chances of success.

Need evidence that this approach works? Check out the results below, from my own company’s blog.

I put my money where my mouth is back in 2011 and committed to posting at least one blog post a week about automotive digital marketing.

Within a year, traffic to our blog doubled — and today, we’re consistently in the 7,000 to 8,000 visitor range. That’s more than ten times our original traffic!

Okay, So What The Heck Do We Actually Post?

Here’s where most business owners get hung up. They know they need to plan, and they know they need to post regularly, but they struggle with ideas for potential posts. The “my business is boring” excuse usually comes into play at this point.

Luckily, we’re blogging to build local relevance, so that means there are tons of options for post ideas regardless of business vertical. At the recent LocalUp conference in Seattle, Mike Ramsey said it best: “Local content is not about being unique, it’s about being local and useful.”

You don’t have to fill your blog with unique posts about plumbing… or being a locksmith… or handling bankruptcy cases. If your blog is all about yourself, it’s boring, and you’ll run out of things to say. Make your blog a local destination, and you’ll have an endless supply of content ideas that also help build local relevancy.

Instead of thinking of your blog as another marketing channel that needs to be all about your business, try to create a really awesome locally-oriented blog that people in your area will keep reading because it’s useful and truly interesting.

Here’s the list of 10 local blog post ideas we share with our clients:

  1. Community News/Local News. Every city has news. Share the news, or share your opinions on local news. Did your high school put in a $60 million football stadium? Write about it — I promise people will read….
  2. Local Events.Every city has events. Whether it’s a local parade, or a celebration downtown, or a concert at the city park, there’s an endless supply of local events you can write about.
  3. Sponsorships Or Charities.Most businesses sponsor events (would golf tournaments exist otherwise?). Share information about the events you’re sponsoring. If you support a charity, especially a local one, let your readers know about it.
  4. Event Guides.Share useful information about big local events. For example, is there a 5k race, or even a yearly marathon? Put together a list of restaurants to head to after the race, places to stand on the race route, hotels to stay in over the weekend and so on. Create a PDF and share it.
  5. Local Resource Directory. Supporting local businesses is a huge movement, and you can gain a lot of traction by sharing your own list of locally owned businesses that you support. You’re not creating a link exchange, you’re simply sharing a list of the other businesses that you recommend to local residents.
  6. Review Local Businesses.Along those same lines, write up reviews about the local businesses you support, or even the ones you frequent. Local residents will appreciate your insights, and as a bonus, it’s likely that the business will return the favor and write a review about your business.
  7. Interview Local Figures.Do you know the mayor? Someone on city council? The high school football coach? Take advantage of your friendships and professional connections and interview figures of local interest. Not only is it useful, interesting local content, it’s “ego bait” – the person you interview will very likely share your post with all of your connections, helping to broaden your reach.
  8. Top 5 Lists.Talk about your favorite burger joints, your favorite steak restaurants, your favorite stores. People love to read top 5 and top 10 lists, and you can use any of the above suggestions to help come up with ideas for your lists. They’re incredibly easy to write and the built-in popularity of list posts helps broaden your reach.
  9. If local customers are asking questions, you have a built in guide for local blog content. If it’s a lengthy answer, you can turn it into an entire post. If you have multiple locations or serve multiple areas, you can even compare questions from different locations. If you’re writing about what your customers are asking about, you already know it’s something they’ll want to read.
  10. Aggregated Content.Many times, aggregating and sharing local content can be incredibly successful. Share the content that local news sites or other businesses are creating, and you’ll be sharing information that your users will find useful too.

Piggyback off of this list and come up with your own ideas that work for your audience. Follow a set plan and share useful local content on a regular basis, and you’ll build your site’s local relevancy and boost your site’s visibility.