Bringing It All Together

Bringing It All Together: Content Strategy

I hear from a lot of people I consult with that they have several different types of output or creative production and they don’t know which one to focus on, or the best way to display each type of content. Usually the best answer is very customized to the client, but a few helpful guidelines can help you decide on the best way to distribute or display your content.

First make a list of the types of content that you produce or need to market. These might include actual products you sell, finished portfolio items to market your services, creative outlets or fun ideas that exist for the sake of creativity.

It’s great if some of these creative outlets are less “professional” and more fun or creative. Publishing content for no reason other than that it inspired you humanizes you in the eyes of the people who visit your page, and probably inspires them too. It’s also a fun way to develop  your brand, build your network and engage people who are already in it. A big part of gaining new clients is word of mouth, or them simply remembering your name when they need the kind of services that you can offer. Give them a reason to.

Next make a list of the methods of publication that you have at your disposal. This could include your website, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, SmugMug, Etsy, Google+, print, IRL storefronts, or any other platforms that you use. I typically work with clients who need digital marketing services, so that is what I am most familiar with.

Once you make these two lists, it’s time to make a diagram, or a flow chart. Connect the types of output to the outlet that it would be most appropriate on. This is where you may need to fill in some gaps too. Make a list of the types of audiences you are reaching, and the ones that you would like to reach that may not be on your list yet. Do you need Pinterest or Instagram, for example?

Are there certain things that you aren’t publishing to anyone because you are being too precious with them? If you are being too precious with your content, then nothing will make it out the door. There is no such thing as Perfection.

Also, keep in mind that you can cross-publish through certain services, and connect them as needed. Buffer can push to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. IFTTT can help you automate too. Most of the photo sharing platforms have cross platform integration. Find the system that works for you, and put it in place.

For a few examples, if you’re a professional photographer you may want to maintain your portfolio on your website, a running blog that gives an overview of your latest news or favorite shoots, and an Instagram or Tumblr for random inspirational pics you take during the day on your phone that have no commercial purpose, but are totally awesome in their own way. You can feed all of the updates on these platforms through Facebook, and Twitter, where you already have established audiences. If you’re a fashion designer, you may also have your professional website, feed latest favorite trends through Twitter, have a blog with fashion tips, and use a service like Polyvore to build inspiration boards and engage other designers.

Once all of this is done, at the end of your diagram you should come up with a schedule for publishing and stick to it. Remember that efficiency and budgeting your time are key. How many times a week do you need to post fun content, and how often do you need to update your professional portfolio? Make sure to be honest with yourself here, or else everything will fall by the wayside and you will leave your brand looking like a ghost town. Be consistent.

The last step is to iterate. In a month or so, reassess how your progress has gone in the past few weeks. If you aren’t able to stick to your schedule, or if no one is seeing what you publish, you need to establish new guidelines for content publication and address engagement. If you’re doing great, try to up the ante and add more.

Good luck! Tweet me @CynthiaCoffield to let me know how it’s going #BringingItAllTogether.

Brand Identity & Logo Design

Considering Brand Identity and Logo Design

Branding through identity design and logo redesign is one of my favorite projects to approach. Some brands reassess their branding every year, and even classic brands like Coca Cola have modified their logos over the years – even if it has been done with subtlety. It can be difficult to decide what makes a logo good or bad. The branding around the logo – business cards, letterhead, brochures, etc – don’t make it any easier.

Whenever I’m considering logo design and branding, a few guiding principles can help shape my conclusions:

 

To help inform your idea of the colors and shapes that might be best for your business, make a list of words that you think match the way you want your company to appear to clients and associations. Include emotions, actions, adjectives and whatever other phrases pop into your mind. This list can be a good springboard for design ideas.

What is the purpose behind the use of color in your identity design? Is it merely decorative, or is the color intentionally expressing something about the purpose of the company and communicating something in the context of the right audience. Remember that, like people, colors work together and respond to the ones that are around them. Goethe, Kandinsky and Albers all have more to say about that.

Looking for color inspiration? Go to Pinterest, Kuler or any number of online sites to find the season’s color trends. I like to use the season’s fashion palettes – although they can become dated quickly.

What do the shapes that you are using say about the company? Are they lines, circles, diamonds, triangles, hollow shapes. Shapes carry meaning about your brand. They can also set up design rules that are carried into fonts or lettering. For an example, do you remember the use of shape in this Twitter logo redesign? I like the way subtlety is used in this design. It’s entirely made up of circles, but the overall shape creates a character. Sometimes you don’t have to be so literal about the shape you choose for your branding.

Don’t be afraid to go with something that is incredibly classic. It will actually stay fresh for longer. Trendy brand identity can be fun, but be prepared to constantly iterate or at least revisit in a year. Don’t let it get stale. That’s just sad.

Make 3-5 drafts that are completely different from each other before deciding on one design that you like best.

What other materials do you need your identity design to work with? You definitely need a business card, maybe some vinyl or signage for your office walls, shirts, envelopes, or cd packaging. Maybe a website.

Be creative here. Depending on the business, napkins, menus, hats or even golfballs, coasters, keychains or frosted glasses might be appropriate. Decide on your budget and shop around for different bulk items that would be options for you. Don’t design or order items that will just collect dust. I see a lot of pencils in identity designs. Pencils are great if you are in, oh, maybe the second grade. And even then you probably have a mechanical one. Make a list of things you think your potential clients will actually use regularly – like a sunglasses cleaning keychain.

Business cards are tricky. You really just need your name, title or skills, company name, phone number, email address and website. The purpose of the business card is to tell people how to contact you. If you are extremely active on social media, you could put your twitter handle on there. One time I was given one with a QR code that created an address entry in my phone, which was handy.

Once you’ve decided on a business card design, print it on decent paper. It makes you look more legitimate. This business card is someone’s lasting impression of you. Do it right. If you print on cheap paper or glossy paper, be prepared to have clients who want sub par work at (probably) sub par rates.

 

In closing, your logo design is just an icon. Your identity design is just collateral material. Your branding is the way other people experience your company. Logo and identity design are an essential part of the branding, but the impression that your business leaves on customers is more than just 2 dimensional design.

 

Twitter Engagement

Twitter Strategies for Engagement

Don’t work hard, work smart. I see a lot of small businesses marketing on social media. That’s great!

It’s important to have a presence on as many relevant online channels as you can, because there are many users who primarily consume one channel over others. Increasing activity on any channel gives you the opportunity to put your business or services in front of potential clients that you might not be able to reach any other way.

But the real challenge on social media channels like Twitter is utilizing the platform in a way that really engages potential customers.   A lot of brands can cover the basics – you have an account set up, you’re regularly publishing original content from your blog, you have a couple of hundred people following you. You’ve analyzed your competition. But this is where a lot of brands stop.

Now what?   Engagement!

 

The basics of engagement are:

  • When you are posting content from your site, make sure to write an original lead – don’t just use the title of your post.
  • Comment on other people’s tweets – an interaction is the only way to build a relationship.
  • Twitter is about people. It’s great that you have a branded account for your business – that’s essential. But beyond that, people on Twitter trust other people on Twitter.
  • Identify key members of your staff who can be brand advocates. You will gain more community members and your message will reach more people in aggregate when you have more team members active online.
  • Retweet! (RT) Again, when you retweet a message, add a note that builds a conversation.
  • Not sure what to write? Ask questions – it encourages people to respond to your messages.
  • Use #hashtags – words to describe the topic of the content that you are posting. You can try a number of advanced strategies for your hashtags, like creating branded ones for your company campaigns, tapping into trending topics or engaging highly targeted demographics.

Twitter Engagement

Don’t forget to measure your success with Analytics. There are a number of good analytics tools out there for social media, but this is an area where there is also a lot of market opportunity. I often find that I have to gather information from varied analytics programs in order to get a good picture of how my social media accounts are performing, and often the measurements don’t really mean anything.

Campaign Tracking

How to Implement Campaign Tracking & What to Use it For

Campaign Tracking – it’s so easy once you figure out how to do it. And if you can’t figure it out, don’t worry there are several tools to help do it for you.

My favorite use of campaign tracking is to attribute inbound traffic from email sources – which would otherwise show up as undefined or a bunch of random referrals from email clients. I like to split up my emails according to type – Member, Trial Member, NonMember – with separate campaigns for our different email marketing campaigns: newsletters, events, promotions, direct sales contact points.

Google Analytics Campaign TrackingYou can also use campaign tracking with vanity urls on your direct marketing mail, to help measure the success rate. For example, an event invite could contain the unique url: yourwebsite.com/register with a 301 redirect to a url with the campaign tracking. There will still be some anomalies with this method, but it does help with some attribution from direct mail efforts.

Campaign Tracking is also a great way to register Bing ppc traffic and properly attribute social traffic from your social media campaigns.

A few points of warning:

Don’t forget that the destination url must have Google Analytics installed on it in order to capture the visit from the campaign tracking. This means that you can’t use Campaign Tracking on links that go to a pdf on your website. Well, you can, but the visit will not be recorded. In order to record these visits, set up a 301 redirect that brings the visitor to a webpage before loading the pdf.

Also, don’t bother adding campaign tracking to links that go to a third party website. If your Google Analytics code isn’t on the third party site (why would it be), you won’t be able to track those link clicks.

Don’t confuse Campaign Tracking with Event Tracking. Campaign Tracking uses url parameters to register arrivals to a page, while Event Tracking uses javascript to record an event that happens on a page like a button click or a download.

Given the previous explanations and warnings, these are the parameters for campaign tracking:

Here is an example tagged URL (split across several lines):

http://www.domain.com/landing_page.htm?utm_campaign=EnewsNov

&utm_medium=email
&utm_source=HouseList
&utm_term=editorial-link
&utm_content=header
For Email marketing the parameters recommended are:

* utm_medium – medium used for marketing, i.e. email
* utm_campaign – campaign name, e.g. EnewsNovember
* utm_source – This is usually the media owner, but for email marketing can be used to specify the source of email list, e.g. HouseList or the name of external list providers/Newsletter ads
* * utm_term – In AdWords used to identify the keyword used to trigger the ad, can be used in email marketing to identify individual links (optional), e.g. Offer1, can be based on click text summary
* * utm_content – Used to track an individual or segments response (optional), this could be based on any field in database, e.g. user-id, user email, etc.

If you’re having trouble, check this tool out:
Google Analytics URL Builder:
http://gaconfig.com/google-analytics-url-builder/

SEO Best Practices

SEO Best Practices

At the core, on page SEO best practices haven’t changed very much even though the Google search algorithm has had such a major overhaul over the past few years.

Here are a few things you should make sure you are doing right:

1. Title Tag – the title tag is a very important on page ranking factor. The title should be 70 characters or less, and keyword rich. Include your brand name in the title tag if you need to – you do want your website to rank for your brand. The title tag should also be readable. This is the title that is displayed along with your url in the search results. Sometimes Google will make up it’s own title, scraped from the page content based on the user’s keyword search. Don’t be surprised if you see this – there’s probably nothing wrong with your code (although you should check it anyway).

*Should you use piping or dashes to separate your keywords? In the past, most people used piping. Now dashes are more popular. In reality, it doesn’t affect your ranking to use one or the other. Dashes are slightly more readable. In coding the pipes are used to indicate that one phrase has the same meaning as the other, so technically speaking the pipes make more sense.

2. Meta Description – this isn’t a ranking factor, but it is important to improving your click through rate (CTR). The meta description should be 150-160 characters, and keyword rich. This is the description that shows up along with your website in the search results. It’s your call to action to get people to click on your link, so make it a good one. It should reflect the content of the pages that follow it. Sometimes the search engines will create a unique meta description for the web page, especially if you haven’t designated a meta description. This can be good, so use this tactic when it is relevant.

3. Keyword Tag – the keyword tag is actually deprecated. There’s no reason to use it. Please stop. Bing might use it as a ranking signal, but Google definitely doesn’t. It can even be a spam signal to Google if you’re not using it properly. So, if you must use it stick to 1 or 2 keywords. The meta description is the sentence that shows up to describe your url in the search results.

4. H1 tag – this is the “title” of your page that the visitors see. This should also be keyword rich. I’ve read conflicting reports that it may or may not affect the on page SEO results, but in my experience it is a ranking factor. It should be no more than 70 characters as well.

5. Keyword rich content – this is the most important part (and the hardest to make sound natural)! The content should be at least 400-600 words, and for every 100 words you can have about 2 keyword links. Each link should go to a different page on your website. Bold or underlined phrases are also good ranking signals for search engines.

6. Alt Tags on Images – make sure to put alt tags on your images! These should also be keyword rich. While this is a weaker ranking signal, it can help bring in traffic from Google Image Search – which has different ranking criteria than the regular Google search traffic. In my experience it has been really easy to get images to rank.

7. URL String – it’s really important to have keyword rich url strings. You can separate the words with dashes. If you have to redo the urls on your website, make sure to set up 301 permanent redirects for the old urls in the .htaccess file (this is really easy). If your site is in dynamic code, make sure to fix the permalinks if you can. A lot of CMS out there like WordPress are great at offering options to fix the permalinks, but beware of funky plugins that break your links (My site is a great example of this). Right now Google search places more emphasis on exact match keyword url rather than broad, but in the past it was a different story.

SEO Best Practices

 

How do you find the right keywords for your website? That’s another post.

 

Additional Resources:
Visual Guide to On Page Optimization
Google Friendly Sites
Visual Guide to On Page Optimization

Dark Social Campaign Tracking

Dark Social & Campaign Tracking

Dark Social – the name always reminds me of the Dark Crystal.

Dark SocialIf you’re not as familiar with the term as you are with the movie, “Dark Social” is important because it is probably throwing off your idea of your brand strength metric.

In most analytics tracking tools, like Google Analytics, “Direct” visitors are also grouped together with “undefined” visitors. “Direct” visitors actually type your url into their web browser; “Undefined”/none visitors are the ones that come to your site from some other source that the analytics program can’t identify.

There are many reasons for “Undefined” – these links could be shared in emails, through chat windows, through social media messages etc. This basically includes all inbound traffic that didn’t come from public referring websites or public social media posts. This traffic is also referred to in internet marketing as “Dark Social”.

To find the dark social in Google Analytics, navigate to “Acquisition” > “All Traffic”. Click on “Direct/(none)” and select Secondary Dimension: Landing Page from the dropdown. Now for some “Advanced” tab search magic – exclude Landing Page Containing Regex for the main pages on your site. Basically, the main pages would refer to any urls people would type into the browser. If you don’t know regex, that’s another post. But here is a link to a really great regex generator tool tool – the “Regexinator” – from Lunametrics that can help you now.

The landing page links that should be left after the filter should probably be really long. This is the mystical dark social.

Where did these people come from? Who are they? What do they want (to buy) from you? There’s no real way to know – you can only guess.

To minimize the dark traffic in the future, improve or check the Campaign Tracking on your email links, or add tracking to links that are posted on private sites and social accounts. If you work at a business with multiple customer contact points, make sure to talk to the sales guys about campaign tracking and train them on it. It’s important to be able to properly attribute any online transactions to the channel they came from – you can even track down to the exact email that was sent.

If you go back in to Google Analytics and reverse the filter, you should be looking at your actual Direct traffic – this is a closer representation of your brand strength. The percentage of your traffic that should be coming from Direct, Search, Email, Referral or Social varies greatly by industry. For oil and gas, it should be about 30% for Direct.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, try this implementation for Dark Social by Lunametrics.

For more info about Dark Social, check out this link on Dark Social: We Have the Whole History of the Web Wrong.

 

Email Marketing Campaign Tips

Email Marketing Campaign Tips

Email Marketing is easy once you get the hang of it. But first, you have to get the basics right. These are the top email marketing tips that you have to tend to:

1. Engaging Subject Line – This is what makes people click. If your subject line isn’t compelling enough, they won’t even make it to the content.

2. Personalization - One of the main reasons people don’t respond to an email is because it isn’t personal enough. If possible, make sure that you include some kind of dynamic content to pique their interest – even if it’s just their name in the content or greeting.

Email Marketing Campaign Tips3. Strong Call to Action – If you want people to respond to your email, make it very clear what you want them to do. This could be anything from downloading an e-book, subscribing online, calling, etc. The biggest mistake I see here is giving people too many options to choose from (or links to click on that don’t lead to sales). Or – even worse – telling them you know there are a lot of other great products on the market and that you will follow up with them “later.” Lol.

4. Don’t include too many links or images in the email – this can lead servers to identify you as spam.

5. Pay attention to email open rates and optimize your campaigns to lead to more clicks.

6. Segment your email lists as much as possible to make sure clients or potential clients are getting the emails they would be interested in reading.

7. Design for mobile – Many people open their emails on mobile devices these days.

8. Include Social Share links in your emails – this is the easiest click that you are missing out on.

I hope this list helps you out. If you have any questions or need help with your email marketing, please contact me through my contact page.

Search Operators to Expand Your Search

How To Use Search Operators to Expand Your Search

Search OperatorsKnowing Search Operator terms can be invaluable for digging into big data to find what you need. You can use these search terms to analyze a site – client or competitor – in search engines. Simply type them into Google or Bing.

Search fields in many other applications also comply with these operator terms, so don’t be afraid to try them out on websites other than the mega big search engines. I use them all the time!

Operator:
Matches phrase exactly: ” ”
Includes all: (space),AND
Includes any: OR
Excludes: –
Links to page: url:
Links to subdomain: sd:
Links to a root domain: rd:
Results from a site: site:
Exclude results from a site: -site:

Optimize Shopping Cart

How to Optimize Your Shopping Cart

Optimizing your shopping cart is one of the most important things you can do to increase sales on your ecommerce site and bring up your conversion rate.

Here’s a website that I see pretty often, that has been doing shopping cart optimization well for a long time: Forever21

Let’s break this down first, and at the bottom of the post is the full website screenshot.

 

1. Breadcrumb Trail - A breadcrumb trail increases buyer confidence and helps ease their anxiety about the checkout process by managing their expectations of what the next step is. There are steps built in for final review, too.

 

forever-21-breadcrumb-trail

2. Easy to Edit Items in Cart -

forever-21-item-in-cart

3. Customer Support Line Clearly Indicated and 4. Clear Return Policy - One of the keys to a successful shopping cart is eliminating as much of the online shopper’s anxiety as possible, and answering all of their questions. It’s essential to have a customer support line available to help answer questions and solve problems completing the transaction. Most of the time people won’t even use this function – but it makes them feel more at ease to have it there.

forever-21-easy-returns-contact

5. Promo Code & Discounts Prominently Displayed - Make it really obvious early on where your customers need to enter in discount codes, and market the promos on the checkout page. If the customer is this far along in the marketing funnel, they’ve already done their research and they know what discount codes they want to apply. Make sure they don’t have to hunt for the promo code box, or – even worse – leave the cart to find the promo code elsewhere on the site. Keep moving them along to process the payment!

forever-21-promo-code

6. Shows Credit Card Payment Options - Let the customer know as soon as possible what payment options you accept.

forever-21-credit-cards

7. Security Certificates Placed by Credit Card Options - Increase buyer confidence in your website’s security by displaying the security certificates right next to payment information – especially where they are going to enter in the credit card information. Online shoppers don’t want to dish out their credit card info to just anyone! Make it clear they will avoid identity theft on your website.

forever-21-confidence

8. Sign In or Don’t -Make the sign in process as painless as possible, but also offer guest checkout to expedite the process. Don’t require a customer password in order to process a payment – you’re just creating extra steps that can ward off ready buyers.

Here’s the final shopping cart result – very clean and easy to read. The only thing I would change is to take off the menu bar at the shopping cart. At this part in the shopping funnel a marketer wants to remove as much information as possible that can divert the buyer from completing the process.

Forever 21 used to do this – maybe they A/B tested their way out of the practice. I remember thinking it was annoying in the past, and navigating back to the main site anyway. But, it’s still a best practice.

forever-21-checkout-basket