Category Inbound marketing

Think About What You’re Sharing Online: Is That Statistic Really Accurate?

Fake StatsThere is a lot of information being shared on the Internet.

This is great if it is used to entertain, mobilize people to action, or help people make educated decisions.

The problem is that people often share things online without really thinking about what they’re sharing. This leads to the spread of misinformation, rumors, or even the dreaded fake news.

When evaluating the validity of the information that we share, we need to look at the words that are used and the statistics that are provided as supporting evidence.

This post focuses on the latter—the statistics.

This is a topic that I have written about a few times in the past.

In fact, each of the subheadings listed below is a headline or title of a former blog post.

I feel it’s time to revisit these posts, because the lessons that can be learned are of the utmost importance.

The Importance of Reliable Sources

Maybe the most important thing to do when evaluating the data that you see online is to ask yourself whether or not the source providing the information is credible.

If the source is unknown to you, be skeptical.

If the information is coming from a reliable news outlet, chances are the information was fact-checked.

However, with the increased emphasis to be the first one to report the news, even the experts make mistakes. Typos are inevitable. After all, the writers are human—at least they are most of the time.

Therefore, it is often a good idea to check with the original source before making any major business decisions based on data you find on the Internet.

Mind Your Bases When Analyzing Data

Checking with the original source is also a good idea because percentages can be misleading.

In fact, if we don’t know what population the percentages are based on, then the percentages are virtually useless.

Furthermore, if only part of the data gets shared or data tables get recreated, an incorrect population or subpopulation is often assumed. In this case, the percentages can be extremely misleading.

A similar thing can occur if quotes are taken out of context.

If you have the time, I strongly recommend that you read my original blog post on this topic, as it goes into further detail about the importance of knowing what population or subpopulation percentages are based on.

A Lesson Worth Remembering: Correlation Doesn’t Imply Causation

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but it is also one of the things that we’re all guilty of forgetting from time-to-time.

It is therefore not surprising that many college professors try to drive this lesson into the minds of their students.

The key thing to think about here is that when analyzing data, you can’t always assume that just because there is a positive or negative correlation between two variables, that one is causing the other to occur.

In some cases, it might be a third unknown variable that is influencing the change in one or possibly both of the original variables.

Weight – Are Your Survey Results Biased?

This topic might be getting into the weeds a bit, but I feel it is important enough to bring up.

If the data that is being reported is not based on a complete census of a population, then there is inevitably going to be a disproportionate number of respondents from a demographic group that can lead to biased data.

Weighting is basically a way to be sure that the data that you are using to make population estimates actually reflects the true population distribution.

For example, according to the United States Census Bureau, 50.8 percent of the 2010 Census population were female, while 49.2 percent were male.

Now, assume that we conducted a research project in 2010 where two-thirds of the respondents were female. If female respondents are also more likely to respond one way or the other on a particular question, then the estimate for the overall percentage of United States citizens who feel one way or the other for that topic would be biased.

This is something that I think many people who are conducting survey research today often overlook.

While weighting your data might not seem like a big deal, it can potentially have a huge impact on the overall estimates of the averages, ratios, proportions, or percentages for a given population.

Again, if you want to learn more, check out the original blog post that I wrote in 2011.

Final Thoughts

If you spend any time reading information shared on social media, you know that there are a lot of statistics being cited to support opinions about all sorts of topics.

Sometimes the statistics are coming from a reliable source. On the other hand, sometimes it seems like the numbers were just made up. In other words, they are fake statistics.

As I have pointed out in this post, even if the data is coming from a reliable source, it is often a good idea to check with the original source before making any business decision that will have a big impact on your company.

A lot of things can happen when data is passed on from one person to another online.

As I have said before, it is ultimately the responsibility of the consumer to make sure that the information is factual before making decisions based on what he or she read, hears, or sees on the Internet.

Hopefully, this post will help give people some idea of what to look for when deciding what statistics to believe and what ones to dismiss.

Photo credit: craftivist collective on Flickr. (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license – CC BY 2.0.)

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Fashion Retailers Could Benefit by Providing Basic Fashion Tips Online

Fashion TipsIt has been well documented that consumers often turn to their smartphones while shopping.

In fact, according to a study conducted by Salsify in September of 2016, 77% of all shoppers report using mobile devices while shopping in a brick-and-mortar store. In comparison, only 35% say that they would turn to a salesperson to obtain similar information.

As a Salsify press release published in April of 2017 states, “With so many turning to mobile while shopping in-store as well, the need for strategic and informed product content has never been more essential. In fact, 87 percent of consumers say accurate, rich, and complete product content is very important when deciding what to buy.”

A study conducted by Retail Dive examined how consumers use smartphones while shopping in a brick-and-mortar store. The most common response to the question was to research products and/or look up product information (58%), followed by checking or comparing prices (54%), accessing or downloading digital coupons (40%), accessing a specific retailer’s mobile app (33%), and scanning a QR code (22%).

The type of product information that retailers will want to provide will vary from store to store based on the products and services sold, the customers it serves, the time of year, where the store is located, etc.

While some content could be expensive to create, sometimes providing basic information could be enough to help convince the customer to make a purchase.

For fashion retailers it could be as simple as providing basic fashion tips to customers.

Insight From the Sales Floor

Recently, I have spent some time selling men’s clothing at a department store just outside of Saint Paul, Minnesota. In that time, I have witnessed many customers using mobile devices while shopping in-store.

While it appears that many of these customers are taking photos to send to another person to see if they approve of a purchase, I would venture a guess that other times customers are using their smartphones in the ways reported in the studies that I wrote about earlier in this post.

If the questions that customers ask associates is any indication of the information customers are searching for on their smartphones, then providing basic style advice should be something that fashion retailers would want to provide on their mobile websites and apps.

Suit photoIn particular, online fashion tips could be extremely useful to customers who are purchasing clothing that they don’t often purchase (e.g., suits, ties, dress shirts, etc.) This would include explaining the correct fit, as well as letting customers know what articles of clothing compliment each other.

And, if the information provided online is optimized for search, customers might find it while shopping in a competitor’s store. While this might seem like you are helping the competition, just think about where the customer will turn to if your competitor can’t deliver the goods. My guess is that those customers would at least consider shopping at the store that just provided the information that they were looking for.

Providing this type of basic information wouldn’t cost the company that much.

However, a quick search on Google brings up a lot of information from fashion bloggers and websites like Esquire and GQ, but not much from major department stores, fashion retailers, or even the top designer labels.

Either they are not providing this information or they are not doing a good job of optimizing their content for search engines. In their defense, I did find some information from Macy’s and Nordstrom. However, they didn’t show up in all searches that I did. Furthermore, I think that additional information might be useful.

Keep in mind that I only searched for information on men’s suits. It’s possible that they provide more information for other types of clothing. Additional research would be required to get a more accurate picture of what information fashion retailers are providing their customers online.

Final Thoughts

Studies show that finding the right online content is very important to consumers who are looking for product information when they are deciding what to buy.

Because consumers are now searching for that information while shopping in-store, a time when they are actually going to make a purchase decision, providing the right information is now even more important than ever before.

If the questions that customers ask sales associates is any indication of what information customers are looking for, then fashion retailers and department stores should be providing basic style advice and fashion tips to customers. This is particularly useful for products that customers don’t buy often and are being purchased for specific important occasions (e.g., weddings, school dances, graduations, etc.)

Since department stores can’t control how customers search, this information should be available to customers in as many ways as possible. This would include on mobile apps and on the mobile web. Letting customers know that it is available through notifications on in-store signs might also help increase conversions.

Sales associates could also help get the word out that this type of information is available to customers who don’t want to engage in a conversation. This information could also be used as a visual aid when associates are helping customers.

Finally, don’t forget to optimize your content for search. Because if customers can’t find it, then it doesn’t exist.

Photo credit: Angelbattle bros (Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license – CC BY-ND 2.0.) and Banalities on Flickr. (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license – CC BY 2.0.)

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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HubSpot Training Teaches That There’s More to Email Marketing Than Just Clicking Send

Photo credit: Kyle James on Flickr.If you are like me, your email inbox is filled with so many emails that every once in a while you need to set aside some time to the hit the delete button without even bothering to read most of them.

Given all the competition for a person’s attention, it would be easy to think that email marketing is a waste of time.

However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

As I pointed out in a post last October, a study from Econsultancy found that email marketing was rated as providing good or excellent ROI by agency marketers more often than any other channel, and only organic search was rated as providing good or excellent ROI by more client-side marketers.

However, when Econsultancy asked companies to rate the overall performance of their email marketing campaigns, most said they performed good (37%) or average (44%). In fact, only 4% rated the performance of their email marketing campaigns as excellent.

Clearly there is room for improvement.

HubSpot’s Email Marketing Certification

Although I have been involved in email marketing campaigns in the past, email marketing wasn’t really my specialty.

However, given the fact that 2.6 billion consumers worldwide use email, I understand its importance, particularly for those businesses that are trying to reach consumers on their smartphones.

Therefore, when HubSpot created their Email Marketing Certification, I jumped at the chance to take advantage of the free training that they were offering.

And, I am glad that I did.

According to the HubSpot website, “This advanced email marketing training course will teach you how lifecycle marketing, segmentation, email design, deliverability, analytics and optimization come together to create an email marketing strategy that grows your business, and your career.”

Throughout the training, I was constantly reminded of the fact that marketers today have access to a lot of data that can be used to improve the way that they communicate with customers and prospects.

However, data without the training to know what it is telling you is pretty much worthless.

This certification helps you gain valuable insight from the data and provides you with the background to start creating email marketing campaigns that your current and potential customers will actually open.

Final Thoughts

If done correctly, email marketing can be a very valuable way to communicate with consumers.

In fact, many companies report that email marketing is one of the most effective tools that they have.

However, many companies also think that there is room for improvement.

This is why I jumped at the chance to complete the email marketing certification training that HubSpot offers via the HubSpot Academy.

Overall, I found the email marketing training to be well worth my time and effort.

I should point out that I wasn’t paid to write this and I am not a HubSpot employee or customer.

However, I am a fan of the company and the free information, advice, and training that they offer.

I also believe that when a company does something good for others, people should be made aware of it.

I also want to point out that this wasn’t the first HubSpot certification that I have earned and it definitely won’t be the last.

For more information about the free marketing and sales training that they provide, visit academy.hubspot.com.

Photo credit: Kyle James on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Why Executives and Thought Leaders Need to Be on LinkedIn

Photo credit: Mambembe Arts & Crafts on Flickr.In June, Microsoft purchased LinkedIn for $26.2 billion.

Experts are saying this is a great move for Microsoft because it gives them additional data to enhance their existing tools. This will help Microsoft compete with Salesforce.com.

“LinkedIn is one of the best new business sales tools in the world of [business-to-business] and in many ways competes head on with Salesforce,” Julie Langley, partner with London-based mergers-and-acquisitions consultancy Results International, is quoted as saying in an Adweek article. “When Microsoft integrates LinkedIn with its [customer relationship management] suite … what you have is a hugely powerful tool that is truly differentiated and one that poses a real threat to Salesforce.”

Hopefully, this will mean that businesspeople around the globe will get even more value from LinkedIn, helping them grow their businesses by leveraging all the tools that are provided by both LinkedIn and Microsoft.

In order to stay competitive, it’s now even more important for businesses to ensure that their executives, thought leaders, and any other employees who play a key role in the business actively use the site to help generate leads and grow their business.

A Place to Promote Your Credentials

Before it was purchased by Microsoft, LinkedIn was already showing healthy growth, increasing from 300 million users in 2014 to roughly 433 million users today. According to its website, LinkedIn is currently acquiring two new users per second.

While some people point out that only 25% percent of its users are active users, just having a robust profile on LinkedIn has value—particularly for B2B businesses.

This is because more buyers are doing some research online before making a purchase decision.

In fact, according to Corporate Executive Board (CEB, Inc.),  77% of B2B buyers don’t talk to a salesperson until they do their own research.

Forrester even estimates that 90% of the sales process might already be completed before a salesperson gets involved.

And, according to Dell, 70% of people who make purchase decisions in B2B businesses use social media to help them decide.

If your B2B business is selling a high-value product or service, you can be sure that at least some of your potential customers are turning to LinkedIn to check the credentials of the executive management team or even the mid-level employees who they will be working with or buying their products or services from.

And, for people who are looking to hire consultants or advisors, knowing the past education and experience of the people who they are taking advice from is extremely important. This is definitely a time when many people will turn to LinkedIn.

Even job applicants turn to LinkedIn to see if they would be a good fit for an organization.

It is therefore important that your executive management team, thought leaders, and other key employees help current and prospective customers (or future coworkers) find the information that they are looking for on LinkedIn when they search for it.

It’s Even Better to Do More Than Just Be on LinkedIn

Knowing that LinkedIn is used by prospective customers, it makes sense to encourage your employees to join LinkedIn.

It is also extremely important that when they create their profiles they include the information that prospective customers would be looking for.

Businesses looking for a starting point might want to check out a post written by Katherine Drotos on the proresource blog that explains some of the key elements needed to create a professional LinkedIn profile.

It is important to know that LinkedIn profiles can show up in search engine results pages (SERPs.) Therefore, as Ms. Drotos points out, “Remember to include those keywords!”

She also suggests growing your network on LinkedIn.

This is particularly important for your sales team, because according to the Sales Benchmark Index, “98 of 100 sales reps who have at least 5,000 LinkedIn contacts reach or surpass their sales quotas.” (This statistic was highlighted in a post on the HubSpot blog.)

It should be noted that connections are important for all employees, as it makes it easier for potential customers to find common connections.

Other experts, including Greg Jarboe, President and Co-Founder of SEO-PR, suggest that in order to have success on LinkedIn, users need to participate in many different ways, including responding to questions in relevant LinkedIn Groups, publishing content on relevant topics, and reaching out to key targets.

In other words, with the proper strategy, you are more likely to have success with LinkedIn the more you actively engage with current and potential customers on site.

Final Thoughts

As experts have suggested, it takes more than creating a profile on LinkedIn if you are really looking to generate a lot of leads using the site.

That said, for B2B companies, encouraging your key employees to create a professional profile on LinkedIn is a must even if you don’t use the site in any other way.

This is because many potential customers will turn to LinkedIn to research the companies that they plan to hire.

Furthermore, because it is now a part of Microsoft, the data from LinkedIn will potentially be integrated into other Microsoft products.

If your employees are not on LinkedIn, there is a chance that users of other Microsoft products will find your competitors first because the information from your company is nowhere to be found.

Photo credit: Mambembe Arts & Crafts on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Local Inventory Ads: A Key Ingredient for Mobile Marketing Success (Case Study)

Photo credit: RubyGoes on Flickr.In the short term, having the ability to confidently tell a customer that you have the exact product in stock at a nearby brick-and-mortar store directly within a mobile ad or even on your website is going to give retailers a huge competitive advantage. However, before you know it, this level of information is going to become table stakes.

While there are a lot of obstacles that retailers need to overcome to provide accurate inventory data for their brick-and-mortar stores, it is important that they start to work through this problem.

As a case study mentioned in an article on the think with Google blog proves, this type of information will help drive traffic into stores.

And, I believe there will be many more case studies like this in the not so distant future.

Local Inventory Ads Drive Shoppers into Stores

The case study mentioned earlier shows that local inventory ads can be very effective.

As the original article on the think with Google blog states, “With over 1,200 physical stores across the country, Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores has embraced Google local inventory ads (LIAs) to bring nearby customers on mobile devices into stores. The results: a 16% higher click-through rate and a 122% higher store visit rate compared with online PLAs.”

The article also points out that Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores local inventory ads yielded return on ad spend (ROAS) higher than other offline marketing.

In fact, in the article David Buckley, CMO of Sears Hometown and Outlets stores, states, “When we compared our most recent performance of local inventory ads with offline media typically used to drive store sales, such as a recent broadcast television campaign, local inventory ads returned in-store sales at more than 5X the rate of TV advertising for each dollar spent.”

Buckley is also quoted as saying, “We’ve been closely monitoring the performance of local inventory ads and our most recent analysis points to more than $8 of in-store sales for each dollar invested.”

Not bad.

Giving Customers the Information They Need

“If people are searching for a product on their phones, there is nothing more targeted than serving that item with a picture, description, and price while letting the customers know exactly how far they are located from the product,” Buckley adds.

In my opinion, I think that he is understating the significance of being able to give customers the knowledge that the product that they are looking for will be found at a specific brick-and-mortar store.

In fact, I think that the knowledge that the item will be in stock could be more important than price in some cases. As the adage goes, “time is money.”

The importance of letting customers know that an item is available at a nearby store is confirmed by a finding in a report, titled “Digital Impact on In-Store Shopping: Research Debunks Common Myths October 2014.”

According to the report, “Search results are a powerful way to drive consumers to stores. Providing local information, such as item availability at a nearby store or local store hours, fills in information gaps that are keeping consumers away from stores.”

In fact, the report goes on to point out that, “1 in 4 consumers who avoid stores do so because of limited awareness of nearby stores or the risk of items not being available.”

While the report is now over a year old, it has a lot of insights that retailers could find useful.

Final Thoughts

The more information that a retailer can give customers before they make the trip to the brick-and-mortar store, the better.

As the case study on the think with Google blog points out, providing item availability information to customers who are near a particular brick-and-mortar store helps increase the effectiveness of a mobile ad.

Keep in mind that it is important to make sure that the information that retailers provide to customers is accurate, because if a customer is told that the item will be available only to find out that it is sold out when they get to the store could potentially damage the credibility and trust that the customer has in the store.

While there are obstacles that retailers need to overcome to be able to provide accurate inventory data to customers online, it is something that they should be working on.

I think that being able to provide this type of information to customers could be more important than even the think with Google article leads the reader to be believe.

And, it is only going to be more important as time goes on.

Photo credit: RubyGoes on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Sometimes It’s What a Brand Doesn’t Do That Loses the Sale

Photo credit: Ron Bennetts on Flickr.In almost every instance where a business is trying to sell a product or service, it takes multiple positive interactions before a prospect becomes a paying customer.

The average number of positive interactions, or touches at various touchpoints, required typically varies by the type of product or service being sold.

Furthermore, while multiple positive interactions with a brand can lead to a sale, the reality is that negative interactions can also prevent a sale from taking place.

Sometimes it is something that the brand has no control over that causes a prospect to choose the competitor’s product or service.

There are some things that can be done to combat this problem. However, it does require some effort.

To illustrate this point, I am once again going to use my recent smartphone purchase as an example.

The Incumbents: Motorola and Verizon Wireless

I have been a loyal Verizon Wireless customer since I moved to Louisiana back in 2006.

When I moved there, I asked some of the local residents what provider they recommended since U.S. Cellular wasn’t an option in the area, at least at that time.

Nearly everyone who I talked to suggested Verizon Wireless, because they felt that Verizon Wireless had done the best job getting service restored after hurricane’s Katrina and Rita.

I took the advice of the residents of Louisiana and 10 years and two states later, I am still a customer.

As for the device, I think that all the cellular phones that I have owned up until this year were Motorola phones. (Some of my earliest cellular phones might have been made by Nokia, but I am not sure.)

Something that I am absolutely sure of is that the phone that I purchased when I move to Louisiana was a Motorola, as were my first two smartphones. And, my satisfaction with the brand was extremely high.

That was, until Motorola and its parent company, Lenovo, announced that they plan to phase out Motorola and only offer the Moto phones.

The Choice: Motorola Droid Turbo 2 or Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

I was now faced with the option of getting one last Motorola phone or make the inevitable switch to Samsung.

During my initial visit to the Verizon Wireless store, the salespeople who I talked to spoke highly of both phones, but seemed to slightly favor the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.

Needless to say, I left the store that day still undecided.

So, I did what many people do and asked for advice on Twitter.

As you can see, the only response that I received was from the Sprint Forward Twitter account.

They recommended the Samsung Galaxy S7.

I then got a promoted tweet from Verizon Wireless offering a free Samsung Gear VR headset with a purchase of a Samsung Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge. (At the time, Best Buy was offering a similar promotion.) (Note: I think that this was the promoted tweet from Verizon Wireless. If it wasn’t, it was very similar.)

That was it, I was almost certain that I would make the switch to Samsung.

I only needed to check out some product reviews from CNET and a few other sources. All of which confirmed that Samsung was the best option available at the time.

The Choice: Sprint or Verizon Wireless

Given my past experience with Verizon Wireless, it was going to take more than a contact on Twitter to get me to switch to Sprint.

That said, if my past experiences with Verizon Wireless hadn’t been so positive, I might have switched to Sprint or even went to Best Buy to purchase the smartphone.

And, Sprint definitely has my attention if for some reason I need to change wireless carriers in the future.

But, Verizon Wireless did offer a good data plan, had a great offer, and has provided excellent customer service—so I remained a customer.

Final Thoughts

Had Motorola reached out on Twitter or if someone would have recommended it, I might have purchased the Motorola Droid Turbo 2, if for no other reason than to get one last Motorola phone. But, nobody did.

And, Motorola already made the decision to phase out the brand that I was loyal to, so it made my decision to switch that much easier.

In this case, the brand lost a loyal customer because of what they did (plan to phase out Motorola phones), what they didn’t do (reach out on social media or anywhere else at right time), and what other people did (recommend the competition.)

In contrast, while Verizon Wireless didn’t reach out this time, they at least did use a promoted tweet to get my attention on Twitter and create awareness of a great offer. And, to their credit, they did reach out to me a few years ago when I wrote a post about how access to high speed wireless data can have an effect on a brand’s mobile marketing campaigns.

But, in reality, it was the fact that they have always provided great customer service in the past that kept me a customer. That, and the fact that their data plans are competitive with the other carriers.

What this example shows is that in the same transaction, one brand kept a loyal customer by providing competitive pricing combined with great customer service, while another lost my business because of what they did, what they didn’t do, and what other people did.

As pointed out, sometimes it is something that the brand has no control over that can have a negative effect on a sale.

With a little foresight, there are things that brands can do to combat this problem and bring in new customers and retain existing ones.

However, it does require some effort.

Photo credit: Ron Bennetts on Flickr.

 

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Content Marketing Basics: It Doesn’t Pay to Plagiarize

Photo credit: David Goehring on Flickr.Many experts agree that having a well-written blog that delivers value to customers is a great way to generate leads and increase traffic to your website, particularly if you work in the B2B world.

In fact, as a HubSpot blog post points out, “B2B marketers that use blogs receive 67% more leads than those that do not.”

The HubSpot post also mentions that blogging helps increase the number of inbound links to your website.

Furthermore, according to the HubSpot post, “Blogs have been rated as the 5th most trusted source for accurate online information.”

With this in mind, it is not surprising that many marketing experts suggests that businesses at least consider adding blogging to their content marketing efforts.

What the problem is is that the person who is most qualified to write about the core business might not be trained in some of the basics of business writing, including how and when to correctly cite a source of information.

Plagiarism Can Destroy Your Reputation

In the world of journalism, plagiarism can destroy a career.

In his latest book, titled “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,” Jon Ronson describes how Jonah Lehrer was publicly scrutinized for self-plagiarism and, similarly, for including made-up Bob Dylan quotes in one of his books.

Ronson details the agony that Lehrer went through as people gleefully lambasted him for his misdeeds.

Although Lehrer has already started to recover from these incidents, many people will always question the integrity of his future work. Therefore, Lehrer will need to work harder in the future to regain the public’s trust.

While business bloggers might not be scrutinized to the same level as journalists, if the work published on a business blog is found to be someone else’s work and proper attribution is not given, the reputation of the writer and the business can be questioned.

It is therefore important to make sure that business bloggers properly cite the work of others when writing a blog post.

As Emilia Sukhova points out in a post on the Convince and Convert blog, “Regardless of expertise, if someone is worth quoting, then they are worth citing.”

What Exactly Is Plagiarism?

If you do a Google search, you will find several definitions of plagiarism.

According to Merriam-Webster, the word “plagiarize” means: “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own: use (another’s production) without crediting the source” and “to commit literary theft: present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.”

A post on the Grammerly blog warns writers to avoid plagiarism in several forms, including direct plagiarism, self-plagiarism, mosaic plagiarism, and accidental plagiarism.

All forms of plagiarism can hurt a brand’s image and break the trust that consumers have in the brand.

For example, a post on the Spin Sucks blog pointed out that the UPS Store was accused of plagiarism in the past. This sends a bad message to potential customers.

The Houston Press also wrote a rant about a real estate broker in Houston, Texas, whom they accused of plagiarizing their content and the content of other online sources. If a potential buyer found this while doing a Google search, do you think they would trust him to help them buy or sell a home?

It’s Been Done Before

In a 2014 blog post, Seth Godin pointed out that no matter what you do, it has most likely been done before.

“Originality is local,” writes Godin. “The internet destroys, at some level, the idea of local, so sure, if we look hard enough we’ll find that turn of a phrase or that unique concept or that app, somewhere else.”

While he was talking about business, in general, the point that he makes can be applied here, as well.

That point being is that we shouldn’t stop blogging because of the fear of being called a plagiarist. If you write something, chances are that someone else has written something similar before.

This happened to Yvette Pistorio in 2013.

In a post on the Spin Sucks blog she states, “In my case, I wasn’t careful. I was in a rush to turn in my next post on time, and I didn’t credit the article I drew my original inspiration from. Although, ironically, it still wasn’t the post that was cited as the plagiarized work. In fact, it was from a huge publication, and most likely would never have been noticed – but still – this is a HUGE no-no. I know that.”

So although she should have cited her source of inspiration, it was someone else who accused her of plagiarizing.

If what she says is true, it illustrates the point that with all the information out there, your work might somehow look like the work of others even if you aren’t guilty of plagiarism.

This issue exists. There is no way around it.

This shouldn’t stop you from blogging.

Common Knowledge

According to the “Harvard Guide to Using Sources,” there is an exception to the rule that you need to cite a source of information.

Photo credit: Christian Schnettelker on Flickr.“The only source material that you can use in an essay without attribution is material that is considered common knowledge and is therefore not attributable to one source,” the author of the publication writes. “Common knowledge is information generally known to an educated reader, such as widely known facts and dates, and, more rarely, ideas or language. Facts, ideas, and language that are distinct and unique products of a particular individual’s work do not count as common knowledge and must always be cited. Figuring out whether something is common knowledge can be tricky, and it’s always better to cite a source if you’re not sure whether the information or idea is common knowledge. If you err on the side of caution, the worst outcome would be that an instructor would tell you that you didn’t need to cite; if you don’t cite, you could end up with a larger problem.”

According to the author of the publication, “If you have encountered the information in multiple sources but still think you should cite it, cite the source you used that you think is most reliable, or the one that has shaped your thinking the most.”

This advice is not only applicable to academic writing, but it would also apply to business blogging, as well.

Final Thoughts

Blogging is a great way to generate leads by showing that your business is a trusted source for information.

In fact, according to HubSpot, blogs are among the most trusted sources for online information.

However, if your business is knowingly posting content from another source without proper attribution, it can break the trust that customers have in your brand, and ultimately damage your brand’s overall reputation.

That said, the fear of plagiarizing content should not deter you from using a blog as part of your content marketing efforts.

The best advice that anyone can give is to make sure that you properly cite your sources of information whenever possible.

As Seth Godin said, “We’re asking you to be generous and brave and to matter. We’re asking you to step up and take responsibility for the work you do, and to add more value than a mere cut and paste.”

Photo credits: David Goehring and Christian Schnettelkeron Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Machine Learning and the Future of SEO

Photo credit: Sam Greenhalgh on Flickr.Many of your current and future customers have found or will find your business by doing a search on Google or some other search engine. This is true whether you work for a Fortune 500 company or the mom-and-pop store down the street.

While many factors influence whether or not a searcher clicks on your website when it is listed on a search engine results page (SERP), studies have found that the higher the website ranks on a SERP, the more likely it is that a searcher will click.

It is for this reason that many companies, both large and small, are investing in search engine optimization (SEO).

The different factors that influence your ranking on a SERP are always changing. In fact, if the recent announcement from Google is an indication of the future, the way businesses optimize their websites for search may soon be completely different than it is today.

Hummingbird: Google’s Search Algorithm

According to a recent post on Search Engine Land, there are many factors or “signals” that determine where a webpage ranks on a Google SERP. The article on Search Engine Land was written as a follow-up to an article on Bloomberg.com that discusses a new signal Google is using in its search algorithm.

“Signals are things Google uses to help determine how to rank Web pages,” writes Danny Sullivan, Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. “For example, it will read the words on a Web page, so words are a signal. If some words are in bold, that might be another signal noted. The calculations used as part of PageRank give a page a PageRank score that’s used as a signal. If a page is noted as being mobile-friendly, that’s another signal that’s registered.”

“Google has fairly consistently spoken of having more than 200 major ranking signals that are evaluated that, in turn, might have up to 10,000 variations or sub-signals,” Sullivan continues. “It typically just says “hundreds” of factors, as it did in yesterday’s Bloomberg article.”

SEO experts use these known signals as a guide to tweak websites so that they are Google friendly and hopefully rank higher on a Google SERP.

Introducing RankBrain

Google recently announced that they have added a machine-learning artificial intelligence system into the mix to help assist in determining where a site displays on a Google SERP. Google is calling this new machine-learning artificial intelligence system “RankBrain.”

“The problem is that Google processes three billion searches per day,” writes Sullivan. “In 2007, Google said that 20 percent to 25 percent of those queries had never been seen before. In 2013, it brought that number down to 15 percent, which was used again in yesterday’s Bloomberg article and which Google reconfirmed to us. But 15 percent of three billion is still a huge number of queries never entered by any human searcher – 450 million per day.”

“Among those can be complex, multi-word queries, also call “long-tail” queries,” Sullivan writes. “RankBrain is designed to help better interpret those queries and effectively translate them, behind the scenes in a way, to find the best pages for the searcher.”

With RankBrain, Google is using the information and knowledge gained from some past searches to better understand future complex searches. In other words, Google’s algorithm is learning from past searches and using that knowledge to help rank pages to deliver results that it feels searchers are actually looking for.

RankBrain Is a Very Important Signal

As the article on Search Engine Land points out, RankBrain is not replacing the Google algorithm. Currently, RankBrain is only one of the many signals Google uses to determine where a website shows up on a Google SERP.

That said, it has been less than a year since it was first used and RankBrain has already become the third-most important signal in the Google Hummingbird algorithm.

It is unclear exactly how many search results are impacted. However, what we do know is that “a very large fraction” of the search queries on Google are being processed by RankBrain.

And, while I haven’t heard Google confirm this, it is entirely possible that RankBrain could play a larger role in the future.

What Does This Mean for Business?

While Bloomberg did break the story of RankBrain in the media, SEO experts were already aware that something strange was happening with SEO that they were having difficulty explaining.

In fact, Market Motive had a webinar a couple of weeks earlier, titled “SEO Webinar: Rise Of The Machines: What Artificial Intelligence Could Mean For SEO.”

In the webinar, Danny Dover explained how Artificial Intelligence is being used to help determine where pages rank on Google SERPs. However, I don’t think he mentioned RankBrain by name.

After the webinar, I sent a tweet asking Mr. Dover if he thought there would be a day when SEO would not be possible because of AI and personalized results.

“Interesting question. I think SEO as we know it today will disappear rapidly but SEO as in marketing online content will stay,” Mr. Dover responded.

He then clarified by tweeting, “Rapidly might not be the best word, perhaps disappear (but with no specified timeframe.)”

After Bloomberg broke the story in the mainstream media, Tim Wang asked Mr. Dover whether it would affect link building strategies and/or content creation. Mr. Dover responded by tweeting, “Yup. Machine Learning (one technique used in AI research) relies on training data not factors (a small but important diff)”.

If Mr. Dover is correct, in the future businesses will need to adapt and develop new ways of making sure that their website is found when a user does a search on Google or any of the other search engines. (As the Search Engine Land article points out, Bing has been incorporating its own machine-learning system into its algorithm it uses to rank pages since 2005.)

Final Thoughts

The goal of most search engines is to provide the most useful results for searchers. In an effort to accomplish this goal, the search engines are constantly updating their algorithms that determine where a website shows up on a SERP.

What this means for business is that whoever is in charge of making sure that the business’s website is optimized for search, whether it be a person on staff or an agency that specializes in SEO, needs to stay current on the best practices and trends in SEO.

While machine-learning is currently only a part of Google’s algorithm it uses to determine where a website appears on a SERP, it is already the third most important signal. And, it is entirely possible that it could play a larger role in the future.

This means that, in the future, businesses might need to use different tactics to optimize the business’s websites for search.

 

Note: While I have completed Market Motive’s SEO Foundations training as part of the Digital Marketing Foundations Practitioner Certification, I am not an SEO expert. I wrote this post to help make business leaders aware of some of the changes that could have an effect on their SEO efforts. I am relying on information from trusted experts. As just mentioned, it is important that the person who is leading the business’s SEO efforts be trained in the most current SEO strategies and best practices for optimizing a website for search.

These are the series of tweets that I cited in the post:

Photo credit: Sam Greenhalgh on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Online Video Marketing – Just What the Doctor Ordered

If your business isn’t utilizing online video to market your products or services, you are probably missing out on a great opportunity to connect with your customers and potential customers.

A research report that was published last year by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project points out that the percent of online adults who watch or download videos has grown in recent years, increasing from 69% of adult internet users in 2009 to 78% in 2013. This number is even more important given the fact that the number of adults who use the Internet is also growing.

According to the report, the increase in online adults who post, watch and download videos is being driven by mobile phones and video-sharing sites like YouTube.

However, as David Meerman Scott points out in his book, titled “The New Rules of Marketing & PR,” increased access to high speed Internet connections and technology that make it easy for anyone to create and upload video content also had something to do with the growth in online video usage.

Special Effects Not Required

If you check out what the big brands like Coca-Cola, Red Bull, or Old Spice are doing with online videos, you might get the impression that a huge budget is required for success.

However, that’s just not true. In fact, brands can be successful without all the Hollywood-style special effects, just ask Blendtec. (They were able to create viral videos with little more than a man in lab coat and a blender.)

The Hidden ROI of Online Videos

As is the case with all online content, online videos can have a positive effect on the business’s bottom line in other ways, as well, including decreasing operating expenses. This can be achieved by creating educational videos that help customers use the business’s product.

For example, take a look at what the Rug Doctor is doing with its YouTube channel. Even though the product is relatively simple to use, in my opinion, the directions that they include when you rent a Rug Doctor do not offer enough explanation on how to use their product effectively. While they fail in creating easy-to-use written instructions, they do an excellent job with their YouTube channel. The videos don’t look like they cost the company very much to make, but as the number of views testify, they have success demonstrating how the product is used.

As of today, one the basic educational videos that explains how to use a Rug Doctor has been viewed by over 435,000 people on YouTube. Just think about how much staff time it could have potentially saved the company if even half of those people didn’t have to call to ask questions. Not only that, think of all time they may have saved those same customers. That’s just good business.

The fact that this many people viewed the Rug Doctor’s videos does not come as a surprise when you look at online video trends.

According to the Pew Research study that I previously mentioned, educational videos are among some of the most widely viewed online video genres.

Final Thoughts 

Many experts recommend that businesses of all sizes use online videos in their marketing efforts for a wide range of reasons.

The Pew Research study reinforces the fact that consumers are already watching video online. This is not going to change any time soon. In fact, as the Internet gets faster and more options are available to reach your customers and potential customers, it will become not only a recommended tool in your marketing toolbox, it might become the key to success.

Photo credit: jm3 on Flickr on Flickr.

Video credit: Pew Research Center

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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The Geography of Marketing: The Podcast Edition

In the past few posts, I’ve placed a lot of emphasis on how geography influences what people buy, how they shop and how they consume content.

Given the fact that consumers act differently based on where they live, it makes sense that marketers have learned to adapt their marketing techniques to meet the needs of the businesses in the geographical regions where they are currently working in.

In addition to the differences in consumer behavior, the industries that marketers work in may be influencing the types of marketing campaigns that are currently being used. In other words, it may be the case that each marketing community adapts its marketing techniques to meet the needs of the primary industries in that region.

However, it may also be the case that marketers in each community are sharing ideas with each other in that region and thus, the same ideas are being spread over and over again.

In order to break this cycle, marketers need to get ideas from others outside of their “bubbles” that they currently live in.

The obvious solution is to attend national or regional events in other parts of the country in order to network and share ideas with marketers who might have different points of view. However, many marketers don’t have the budget for this type of networking.

Another solution is to read books and blog posts from marketers in other areas of the country. This is something that I highly recommend. However, sometimes time is an issue.

That is exactly why I love podcasts.

Podcasts often are a free way to gain valuable insights from marketers around the country or the world, for that matter, in a way that allows you to do something else at the same time, like drive or clean the house.

Podcasts That I’d Recommend

Last year, I wrote a blog post that highlights some really great marketing and technology podcasts, including the BeanCast, ADVERVE, and Marketing Over Coffee. I still listen to many of the podcasts on that list on a regular basis.

However, I’ve added a few others to my rotation. These include:

AMA’s MarketingPower Podcast – In this podcast, marketing thought leaders provide insights about the challenges that face businesses today.

Six Pixels of Separation – Hosted by Mitch Joel, this podcast often features some of the biggest names in the marketing and PR world. This podcast should definitely be on your list.

The Digital Dive Podcast – Based out of Atlanta, this bi-weekly podcast is hosted by Emily Binder and Melanie Touchstone. In each episode, the hosts discuss the current events that are shaping the digital landscape.

There are also a few podcasts that I plan to listen to in the near future, including Chris Brogan’s “The Human Business Way” and Marcus Sheridan’s “Mad Marketing Podcast.”

Finally, my list wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention HubSpot’s Marketing Update. The show is filled with useful information that businesses of all sizes can benefit from. In episode #229, Mike Volpe mentioned that the show will soon be available in an audio version. When that happens, it will be a lot easier for people to listen to the show on a more regular basis.

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned last year, podcasts are a great source of information.

They give people the ability to increase their knowledge while doing other tasks that need to be done in their day-to-day lives.

Moreover, I feel that podcasts are an important way for marketers to keep up with news and information and get suggestions from other business leaders outside their “bubbles” that they currently live in.

By listening to podcasts, marketers might learn something that could help their businesses gain the edge they need to outsell their competitors. At the very least, they might be entertained for an hour or two.

Photo credit: Compudemano on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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