Category SEO

Businesses Are Realizing That Snapchat Isn’t Going to Disappear Anytime Soon

Photo credit: Marco Verch on Flickr.For a while now, marketers have debated about whether or not it is a good idea to use Snapchat to market a brand’s products or services.

However, in recent months, the app that is known for its disappearing content seems to have more vocal fans than detractors.

At the very least, more brands are experimenting with it.

The obvious reason for this is the fact that more and more people have started using the app.

In fact, according to a post on the comScore blog written by Adam Lella, “Snapchat isn’t just for teens and college-age adults anymore. While still wildly popular among these younger demographic segments, the ephemeral photo and video sharing app is also rapidly growing its user base among older Millennials (Age 25-34) and those 35 years-and-older. Three years ago, Snapchat’s app was only being used by 5% of smartphone users age 25-34 and 2% of users age 35+, according to comScore Mobile Metrix. Today its penetration among these two age demos is an impressive 38% and 14%, respectively.”

What is maybe more impressive is the fact that 69% of smartphone users age 18-24 use Snapchat.

“Snapchat’s growth has likely been fueled by the introduction of several popular product features over the past few years, which amplified its already powerful network effects,” the author of the comScore post explains. “Most notable among those new product features was the launch of “Stories”, which allows a user’s “snaps” (i.e. photos or videos) to be viewed in a chronological order by their friends an unlimited number of times in a 24-hour period. The Stories feed also includes coverage of various live events or places, in which some of the best snaps from users engaging with that showcased event are curated into one story available to all users. And more recently, Snapchat began regularly adding innovative ways to express oneself, such as “Lenses,” the camera’s creative filter options which make simple photos and videos more fun and entertaining.”

Knowing this, many marketers have started looking for ways to leverage the new Snapchat features to reach all of the customers and potential customers who use the app.

For businesses that are thinking about using Snapchat, here are a few things to consider.

Snapchat Lenses and Geofilters

As Adam Lella pointed out in the comScore post, the fact that Snapchat gives users the option to make their content more fun by providing lenses and geofilters has helped fuel the growth of the app.

While similar, there is a slight difference between a Snapchat lens and a geofilter.

Lenses give users the ability to add real-time special effects and sounds to the user’s Snaps.

By now, you have probably seen the rainbows coming out of a person’s mouth or a person’s face morphed into a zombie. (President Obama used the zombie Snapchat lens in his 2016 White House correspondent’s dinner video.)

Several large brands have also used sponsored lenses to increase awareness of their products or services.

In fact, earlier this year, Taco Bell launched a sponsored lens to celebrate Cinco de Mayo that resulted in 224 million views in one day. According to Adweek, this “shattered a Snapchat record.”

According to the New York Times, a Snapchat lens like this could cost between $450,000 to $750,000. This puts sponsoring a lens out of reach for many businesses.

However, that doesn’t mean that smaller brands can’t get in on the fun.

Snapchat also has geofilters that businesses can purchase for considerably less.

Geofilters are basically digital graphics that can be put over the user’s Snaps to make the current photos or videos more interesting.

In addition to the free community geofilters and the filters that can add various stats like time, temperature, or the speed that a person is going, Snapchat also offers on-demand geofilters that can be purchased by businesses or even users themselves.

The Personal Geofilter can be used to promote weddings, parties, birthdays, graduations, or just about any other event that is tied to a physical location.

A Business Geofilter can be used to help promote sales or any other event that is taking place at the business.

According to a LA Times article, these geofilters can be purchased for as little as $5 depending on when and how large of an area you want to include.

This inexpensive price makes it possible for local bars and restaurants to experiment a little.

Snapchat Stories

As mentioned in the comScore article, the other feature that has helped fuel Snapchat’s growth is the introduction of Snapchat Stories.

Again, the Snapchat Stories feature lets friends view a user’s Snaps an unlimited number of times within a 24-hour period.

A lot of brands are using Snapchat Stories to give users a behind the scenes look at the business, offer an all-access view of an event, offer surprise coupons and discounts, or create an interesting story that connects with customers.

For example, Red Bull often lets influencers take over their account in order to let users see what it is like to live and compete in some of the extreme sports that fit the brand’s image.

Other brands like Express are using Snapchat to highlight some of the items that they have for sale and then ask for engagement with the brand. They then acknowledging those who do respond, which is a great way to make customers feel valued.

These are just a few suggestions. There are many different case studies to be found on the Internet.

Also, you need to understand that any brand can create Snapchat Stories, and these shouldn’t be confused with the content provided on Snapchat Discover.

Not Everyone Is a Fan of Snapchat

I started this post off by mentioning that there has been a debate going on about whether or not brands should invest in Snapchat.

And, while a lot of brands have started to at least experiment with Snapchat, others think that it is a waste of time. These people often list measurement issues among their largest concerns.

In a Forbes article, Mark Fidelman explains the concerns that he has with Snapchat.

Many of his complaints are similar to others I’ve heard before.

However, the one point that he makes that really hits home with me is the fact that when a person sees your content on Snapchat, there is no way to send them to your website or blog using a clickable link. This not only makes it difficult to drive sales, it also makes it difficult to attribute a conversion to Snapchat. And, the fact that there aren’t any links from the app means that your efforts won’t help with SEO at all.

Final Thoughts

There are definitely issues that make it difficult for some businesses to justify investing in Snapchat to market their products or services.

However, given the fact that a lot of people have started using the app, it might make sense to invest at least a part of your marketing spend on the app.

If done right, using Snapchat can be a fun way to connect with your current and potential customers.

In my opinion, this is an app that I would keep an eye on and try a few things, but it is not a place that I would invest a lot of time in. At least not now.

That said, I also don’t think that Snapchat is going disappear anytime soon.

It is just somewhat difficult for businesses to use Snapchat to market their products and services. And, it’s even more difficult to measure the results of these efforts.

This, however, might be part of the reason why so many people have started using Snapchat.

Photo credit: Marco Verch 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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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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Is Twitter Destined to Fail or Did It Find a Creneau?

People are always trying to assess the future of various social networking sites.

For businesses, this type of assessment is needed from time to time, because businesses don’t want to invest heavily in a particular social networking site only to see it close its doors.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that HubSpot is holding a debate about the future of Twitter on Friday, June 22, 2012, at 12 P.M. EST.

The debate will feature Kipp Bodnar, Inbound Marketing Manager at HubSpot and co-author of “The B2B Social Media Book” (affiliate link) and Laura Fitton, Inbound Marketing Evangelist at HubSpot and lead author of “Twitter for Dummies.” (affiliate link)

Mr. Bodnar predicts that “Twitter is slowly coming to an end.” On the other hand, Ms. Fitton “couldn’t disagree more.”

Personally, I agree with Ms. Fitton, but it will be interesting to hear what they both have to say during the debate.

Finding a Creneau

I’m currently reading, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” (affiliate link) by Al Ries and Jack Trout.

In the book, the authors point out that the French have a rather useful marketing expression, “Cherchez le creneau.” The English translation: “Look for the hole.”

The authors suggest that it is difficult (if not impossible) for a brand with a small share of the market to take on the established leader by competing head-to-head.

Instead, they suggest, “Cherchez le creneau and then fill it.”

Facebook Vs. Twitter

In the social media world, with over 900 million monthly active users, Facebook is clearly the established leader.

Using the logic put forth by Ries and Trout in their book, it doesn’t make sense for another social network to try to take on Facebook by offering a similar product. However, in my opinion, that is exactly what Google+ is trying to do.

Twitter, on the other hand, with its approximately 100 million users, offers users a social network that is very different from Facebook. Instead of using a complicated formula similar to Facebook’s EdgeRank to determine who sees a post, pages and a timeline that are filled with a lot of other distractions, and a plethora of other features, Twitter focuses on speed, simplicity, and brevity.

In fact, what makes Twitter unique is brevity. That is, given the fact that posts can only be 140 characters long, it forces the person who posts the message to get to the point.

Furthermore, Twitter is great for skimming through a lot of posts quickly to see if there is something that you might want to learn more about by clicking on the link, if there is one. This is not as easy to do with Facebook.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that according to a MarketingVox study, 40% of active Twitter users don’t actually tweet. They are using Twitter as a resource for information.

And, as Tom Webster points out in his blog post, titled “Why Twitter Is Bigger Than You Think,” the way that Twitter is set up makes it easy for traditional media outlets to use the site as a source for their news stories.

Bigger Is Not Always Better

The HubSpot blog post that introduces Friday’s debate points out that while Twitter came out only two years after Facebook, it hasn’t grown as fast.

I’d argue that this might not be a bad thing.

Often when a site gets so big that everyone is using it, it loses its appeal to a certain subset of the population. Twitter offers people an alternative to Facebook.

Furthermore, while users might use Facebook to connect with certain people, they might choose to also use Twitter to connect with a different subset of their network. This allows them to post things without sharing everything with everyone in their network. (I know that you can accomplish this by changing the post settings in Facebook, but sometimes it’s just easier to post to another network and not have to worry about it.)

Twitter for Business

Twitter is not going to be useful for every business.

As with all social networking sites, Twitter is going to be the most beneficial to your business if your customers and prospects are using it. Therefore, the future of Twitter might not matter to you if your customers and prospects don’t use the site.

Keep in mind, however, what you tweet does have a chance of showing up when your customers and prospects do a search on Google or any other search engine. This is just something to think about.

Final Thoughts

It is important for businesses that use social media for marketing purposes to keep up with trends and assess the health of each social networking site that they use to connect with customers and prospects.

Therefore, it might helpful to watch the debate that is being held by HubSpot on Friday.

Going into the debate, my feeling is that Twitter will be around for a long time, even if it only serves a small subset of the population.

Social networking sites can’t be everything to everyone.

As I pointed out in this post, I think that the fact that not everyone is using Twitter can actually work to its advantage.

In other words, I definitely think that Twitter has found a creneau and filled it.

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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Are You Ready for Some Football? (The Second Screen Edition)

Historically, the Super Bowl has been one of the most viewed telecasts of the year.

According to The Nielsen Company, five of the six most watched prime-time telecasts of all time in the U.S. were Super Bowls.

In fact, the last four Super Bowls played (2008 to 2011) are on this list. And, there is no reason to believe that this year will be any different.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that advertisers are willing to spend huge amounts of money to air their 30-second spots during the game. (According to CNNMoney, the average cost to air a 30-second spot during this year’s Super Bowl is whopping $3.5 million a pop.)

Extending the Story Online

As I mentioned in a blog post in October of last year, brands need to understand the importance of utilizing the tools that are available to consumers on their smartphones, tablet computers and laptops to extend the story online and keep the conversation and connection going, long after the television commercial is over. (Gary Vaynerchuk likens this to the game of Ping-Pong.)

This year, it looks like many brands are going to take advantage of this opportunity during the Super Bowl.

For some brands, this could be as simple as requesting that viewers visit their website, Facebook page or their page on any other social networking site out there.

Other brands have taken it one step further by partnering with companies that own certain smartphone apps to help facilitate the interaction.

Hopefully, this will enhance the experience that viewers have during the Super Bowl.

Required Game Day Gear

In order to participate in the experience that the advertisers intend to provide, viewers are going to have to be aware of what they need to do and have the right tools at their fingertips.

For brands that ask viewers to visit their website, Facebook page or their page on any other social networking site out there, a laptop or desktop computer is the only thing that will be required. In fact, a pencil and a piece of paper or a strong memory could suffice if viewers want to wait until after the game is over to go online. (Here is where SEO and paid search could play a big role in helping the brand continue the conversation online.)

However, several brands will be taking advantage of the fact that many people will have access to a smartphone or tablet computer during the game and have partnered with companies that own certain apps to help drive viewers directly to a specific landing page or possibly provide them with an in-app experience.

Shazam and IntoNow are two of the apps that viewers might want to download to their smartphones or tablet computers before the Super Bowl begins. Other apps that could possibly come in handy during the Super Bowl include Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and GetGlue.

There are also apps available that will allow people to watch the game on their smartphone and others that are dedicated to letting people watch and rate the commercials before, during and after the game.

Final Thoughts

The Super Bowl is one of the most watched telecasts in the U.S. each year.

For many people, especially those who are fans of teams that aren’t participating in the game, the commercials might be more important than the game itself.

This year, several brands will take advantage of the fact that many people will have their smartphone, tablet computer or laptop in front of them during the game. These brands will be asking viewers to continue the conversation online or within smartphone or tablet computer apps.

In this post, I’ve linked to a few articles and blog posts that provide people with additional information that might be helpful to them before, during and after the game.

I also plan to tweet links to some additional articles and blog posts this weekend. Please feel free to follow me on Twitter at: @sunbeltbadger.

Also, if you hear of something that is worth mentioning, please send me a tweet or let me know in the comments section below.

Photo credit: rmlack22 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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Is Your Business Ready for Some Football?

The NFL playoffs are in full swing.

That means that the Super Bowl is only a few weeks away.

Is your business ready?

If your business hasn’t developed a strategy to help it get found when your potential customers use Google or any of the other search engines, then your business might not be as ready as you think.

Sage Advice From a Former Google Employee

Major brands pay millions of dollars to air commercials during the Super Bowl. However, if they forget that those commercials can cause people to search online for additional information about their products, services, brand or even their advertising campaign, then they are missing out on a huge opportunity to extend their message and further engage with their potential customers.

For the past few years, Vanessa Fox, former Google employee and founder of Nine by Blue, has analyzed how well brands integrate their television commercials with organic search (i.e., she takes note of which Super Bowl commercials cause search spikes and then examines what brands show up in the organic search results.)

Last year, brands did very well. In fact, according to a blog post that she wrote in February of 2011, with the exception of movies, 100% of brands had at least some search visibility. Furthermore, when URLs were included in the commercial, they were almost always visible in the search results.

However, this wasn’t always the case in the past.

In fact, in her book, “Marketing in the Age of Google,” (affiliate link) she points out that during the 2009 Super Bowl, Hyundai spent approximately $13.5 million to sponsor the pregame show and run ads throughout the game, only to drop the ball when it came to integrating organic search into their advertising campaign.

For additional information about this topic, you might want to check out a guest blog post that I wrote for the strategyessentials.com blog a few months ago. In it, I summarized that particular section of Fox’s book.

The Super Bowl, SEO and Small Business

It’s true that most local businesses don’t have the marketing budgets to run a commercial during the Super Bowl.

However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t benefit from the search traffic that the Super Bowl generates.

First of all, while your business might not be airing a commercial during the Super Bowl, it might be selling some of the products that are being advertised.

For example, if auto manufacturers run Super Bowl ads, it will be beneficial for local dealerships to be included on the first page of search results.

Likewise, local grocery stores might want to optimize their sites so that they are visible when consumers search for the consumer packaged goods that they see advertised (e.g., Doritos, Budweiser, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Snickers, etc.)

Furthermore, local businesses can benefit from the search traffic on the days leading up to the Super Bowl.

When people search for supplies for a Super Bowl party online, the businesses that appear in the search results will have a better chance of making the sale.

Also, if people are looking for a place to watch the game, there is a chance that they will search the web for ideas. That’s why bars and restaurants that are looking to get people to watch the Super Bowl at their establishments should also optimize their websites.

Note: Keep in mind that optimizing your site for highly competitive keyword phrases might not always be achievable. Therefore, it might be a better idea to optimize your site for less competitive long-tail phrases that are still searched for by your potential customers.

Paid Search Marketing

Also, don’t forget about running a paid search campaign to help get additional clicks.

Paid search campaigns will get you quickly listed on search engine results pages for keyword phrases that you don’t rank for organically. This can potentially be a way to drive more people to your website in the days leading up to the Super Bowl.

It is also noteworthy that according to a Google study, sites that appear in both the organic and paid search results have a higher number of site visitors than they normally would achieve from their organic listings alone.

Final Thoughts

Search engine optimization should be a part of your marketing strategy all year long.

However, if your business sells the products or services that will be advertised during one of the most watched sporting events of the year, then it only makes sense to optimize your website so that your business will be found when your potential customers search online.

The same holds true for businesses that sell the products or services that consumers will be looking for in the days leading up to the game.

Therefore, with less than a month to go before the Super Bowl is played in Indianapolis, I again ask you the question: Is your business ready for some football?

Photo credit: Eric Kilby 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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Market Research Is Marketing

Market research is marketing.

This statement might sound completely ludicrous to some people. To them, market research is all about collecting information about their customers, the products that they are selling, the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns, economic conditions or anything else that can influence their bottom line. It’s a huge part of developing their marketing strategy. But, it isn’t marketing.

If you are one of those people, you either haven’t embraced inbound marketing as a viable way of generating leads and increasing sales or you don’t understand what market researchers do.

Inbound Marketing

If you look up inbound marketing in Wikipedia, it lists two definitions.

The old definition of inbound marketing is market research.

However, the other definition is more in line with what people often refer to when they currently mention inbound marketing. This definition states that inbound marketing is a marketing strategy that focuses on getting found by customers.

HubSpot, a leader in inbound marketing, teaches that in addition to getting found (i.e., creating, optimizing and promoting your content), you also need to find ways to maximize conversions and analyze the results of your efforts in order to be a successful inbound marketer.

In a blog post, titled “Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing,” Brian Halligan, CEO and Founder of HubSpot, writes, “Rather than doing outbound marketing to the masses of people who are trying to block you out, I advocate doing “inbound marketing” where you help yourself “get found” by people already learning about and shopping in your industry.  In order to do this, you need to set your website up like a “hub” for your industry that attracts visitors naturally through search engines, the blogosphere, and social media.  I believe most marketers today spend 90% of their efforts on outbound marketing and 10% on inbound marketing, and I advocate that those ratios flip.”

Market Research

Now that we have a basic understanding about what inbound marketing is, let’s now look at what many market researchers do.

Part of the purpose of doing market research is to uncover information that will help identify what your potential customers need, how your products or services are fulfilling their needs, what your competitors are doing to fulfill their needs and what environmental factors will have an impact on what your potential customers will need in the future.

After collecting the information either through primary research (e.g., surveys, focus groups, observational studies, experiments, etc.) or secondary research, it is usually the job of those in market research to organize the data in an accurate and easily understandable format that can be delivered to the client. The data is often presented in written form (e.g., reports, white papers, blog posts, etc.) However, it could just as easily be delivered in person or via podcasts, webinars, online videos or any other way that people can communicate with each other.

Furthermore, after doing research on specific topics, the market researchers who conduct the research often gain so much knowledge about the topics that they are researching that they become thought leaders or subject matter experts in that particular area of business. This will often give them access to even more people who they can collaborate with.

In other words, market researchers are huge content creators.

In fact, I would argue that most of the content that your potential customers find valuable has some information that was influenced by market research in one form or another. (Note: I am focusing on information that was created to educate consumers about a product, service or industry, not content that was created for entertainment purposes.)

Inbound Marketing and Market Research

We have already established that market researchers are by definition content creators.

But, I would argue that the other areas of inbound marketing also involve a form of market research.

Market research adds value to the content and valuable content helps generate links to your website or blog. Therefore, market research helps with search engine optimization. (It also doesn’t hurt to conduct market research to find out what your potential customers find valuable in the first place.)

I’d even argue that search engine optimization, itself, is a form of market research. It definitely requires many of the same skill sets.

And, when promoting your content, it is always suggested that you measure and test the effectiveness of your efforts. Testing and measuring the effectiveness of your content promotion efforts are forms of market research.

Measuring and testing also play a part in maximizing the conversion process.

And, analyzing the final results of your inbound marketing efforts… yep, that’s market research.

From Market Researcher to Marketer

If you asked me 10 years ago what I did for a living, I would have told you that I was a market researcher.

At that time, even I didn’t really think of myself as a marketer even though I was involved in the marketing of the research products and services that I helped create. (Note: CUNA Research was using inbound marketing techniques to market their products and services before the term was even coined. Need proof? The Research Review articles that are listed in my publication list could very well be described as blog posts. Blog posts, that in my opinion, delivered value to the reader.)

It wasn’t until I started learning about inbound marketing and content marketing that I started to see myself as a marketer, rather than a market researcher.

Final Thoughts

As more marketing campaigns move online, businesses will gain additional access to analytics that will help them better understand the needs of their customers.

Furthermore, with the increased use of smartphones, savvy businesses will make it extremely easy for consumers to find them no matter where they look. Providing relevant and useful information to consumers when they search for their products, services or industry will give these businesses an edge over their competition.

This makes it even more important for businesses to have people on staff who have the knowledge and training to accurately interpret data and present it in a clear and concise way so that it can be effectively communicated to their potential customers.

With that said, the line between marketer and market researcher is being blurred, so much so that they are often one and the same.

Therefore, the next time you are looking to fill a marketing position, don’t overlook job applicants who have a background in market research. Their skill sets may be more valuable than you think.

Photo credit: jeckman 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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An Excellent Resource for Internet Marketing Advice – HubSpot

HubSpot Inbound Marketing UniversityIf you are looking to leverage the power of the Internet to help grow your business, one of the first places I’d suggest that you look is HubSpot.

According to the “Company Fact Sheet” on hubspot.com, “HubSpot is an Internet marketing startup whose software helps businesses get found online, generate more inbound leads and convert a higher percentage of those leads into paying customers. HubSpot’s software platform includes tools that allow professional marketers and small business owners to manage search engine optimization, blogging and social media, as well as landing pages, lead intelligence and marketing analytics.”

However, you don’t need to be a paying customer to benefit from HubSpot’s expertise.

HubSpot provides many free resources that your business can use to keep up with the latest inbound marketing trends and best practices.

I have been a fan of HubSpot ever since I first tuned in to the Marketing Update (formerly HubSpot TV) back in the summer of 2009. This is a great resource if you want keep up with the latest inbound marketing news. (You can watch HubSpot’s Marketing Update live at 4 p.m. EST every Friday.)

Since then, I have learned a lot from HubSpot’s many white papers, webinars and blog posts.

HubSpot also speaks at, sponsors and participates in various industry conferences and events, including OMMA Global, PubCon, Business of Software, Online Market World, Search Engine Strategies, SMX, Venture Summit, Inbound Marketing Summit,  etc.

In fact, earlier this year I attended an AMA Tampa Bay event that featured HubSpot’s Ellie Mirman. As you would expect, it was a very informative event.

Inbound Marketing University

Recently, I earned my Inbound Marketing Certification from the Inbound Marketing University after completing its comprehensive Internet marketing training program.

The training program currently includes 18 in-depth classes covering each facet of inbound marketing.

The courses are taught by some of the most respected names in Internet marketing today, including New York Times’ best-selling author Chris Brogan, Google Analytics Evangelist Avinash Kaushik, best-selling author and international speaker David Meerman Scott, best-selling author and co-founder of Alltop.com Guy Kawasaki, and more.

Inbound Marketing Certification from HubSpot's Inbound Marketing UniversityTo earn the Inbound Marketing Certification, students must pass the comprehensive certification exam that includes 50 multiple choice and true & false questions.

As stated on the site, “The Inbound Marketing Certification acknowledges the recipient’s proficiency in Inbound Marketing principles and best practices. These principles include: blogging, social media, lead conversion, lead nurturing, and closed-loop analysis.”

In order to earn the Inbound Marketing Certification, the student must receive a score of 75% or higher on the comprehensive certification exam.

The Honors Distinction is awarded to the top 15% of exam takers. To receive this honor, test takers must earn a score of 90% or higher.

The Inbound Marketing University training program is administered by HubSpot.

And, the best part… both the training and certification are completely free.

For more information, visit inboundmarketing.com.

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned earlier, I have been a fan of HubSpot since the summer of 2009.

They are a very respected company that definitely delivers value to their customers.

According to co-founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah, “The average HubSpot customer grows their lead generation by 32% monthly, and over 80% of customers report increased web traffic and lead generation when using HubSpot software. 85% of HubSpot customers recommend the software to their friends.”

However, as I mentioned before, you don’t need to be a paying customer to gain from HubSpot’s expertise.

Chances are that your business could benefit from the wide range of free resources that are available from HubSpot, including their many webinars, white papers, and blog posts.

Futhermore, even if you don’t take the certification exam, HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing University is definitely worth the time and effort. And, it’s free.

So what are you waiting for? Head over to hubspot.com to find out more information.

Photo credit: jameskm03 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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1911 Main Street’s Top 10 Social Networking Sites for Business 2011

Photo credit: Montage Communications on Flickr.This is the time of the year for holiday parties, college football bowl games, Santa Claus, and looking back at the year that was.

It is also the time of year for “best of” lists… and lots of them.

So, in keeping with the tradition, I submit to you my list of the top 10 social networking sites for business 2011.

Note: There are many smartphone apps that could be considered social networking sites that I haven’t included on this list. I plan to write a post in the near future dedicated to smartphone apps, so if some of your favorite apps didn’t make this list, check back in the next few weeks.

The Top 10 List

1. Facebook

A “best of” social networking site list would not be credible if it didn’t start off with Facebook. The site was launched in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg with the help of some of his roommates and fellow students, including Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. Facebook was initially limited to Harvard students. However, it eventually opened up to the general public and now boasts more than 800 million active users worldwide. With numbers like that, it isn’t hard to see why this site is number one on my “best of” social networking site list.

On its site, Facebook has several resources to help businesses connect with current and potential customers.

2. Twitter

Founded in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Evan Williams and Biz Stone, Twitter enables users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, also known as “tweets”, in real-time. Twitter’s “About” page mentions that, “Businesses use Twitter to quickly share information with people interested in their products and services, gather real-time market intelligence and feedback, and build relationships with customers, partners and influential people. From brand lift, to CRM, to direct sales, Twitter offers businesses a chance to reach an engaged audience.”

For more information about using Twitter for business, check out the “Twitter for Business” page.

3. LinkedIn

LinkedIn was founded in 2002 and launched the following year. It is one of the premier social networking sites for business professionals. According to its website, as of November of 2011, LinkedIn had more than 135 million members in over 200 countries. LinkedIn mentions that all of the 2011 Fortune 500 companies have executives who are members of LinkedIn. Futhermore, LinkedIn’s hiring solutions are used by 75 of the Fortune 100 companies.

Check out the LinkedIn “About Us” page for additional information.

4. Google+

Launched in June of this year, Google+ has grown rather quickly. (A recent Mashable article stated that it has an estimated 40 million users.) With the recent launch of Google+ Brand pages, Google+ should definitely be on your radar.

For more information about Pages for Google+, visit the Google.com website.

5. Myspace

Launched in 2003, this once dominant social networking site has experienced a massive exodus in recent years. However, according to comScore, Myspace still had over 28.4 million unique visitors in October of 2011. This is a sizable number. Furthermore, Myspace was recently purchased by Specific Media and Justin Timberlake. They plan to relaunch the site in 2012. Will this be enough to revive Myspace? I don’t know. However, it might be a good place to buy ads in the short-term, as people will most likely revisit the site to see what changes are made.

6. Tumblr

As I mentioned in a recent blog post, businesses, particularly those that are targeting consumers age 18 to 34, should keep an eye on Tumblr. According to a recent Nielsen study, titled “State of the Media: The Social Media Report Q3 2011,” Tumblr nearly tripled its audience in the last year. In fact, it has become the 8th largest site in the U.S. Social Networks and Blogs category.

For more information, check out my blog post about Tumblr.

7. Foursquare

Around 15 million people worldwide are using Foursquare. Therefore, it’s not surprising that over 500,000 businesses are using the Merchant Platform. While other sites have tried to compete, Foursquare is currently the most successful location-based social networking site. Will it ever gain widespread acceptance? Probably not. However, there are a lot of cool things that can be done with location-based social networking sites. Furthermore, as a recent Adweek article points out, the early adopters of location-based social networking sites tend to be influential and young. The article also mentions that these early adopters are more likely to share product information, promotional coupons or discount codes than average online U.S. adults. This is definitely something that businesses should think about.

8. YouTube

The YouTube website states that more than 3 billion videos are viewed per day on the site. It also states that 98 of AdAge’s Top 100 advertisers have run campaigns on YouTube and the Google Display Network. Furthermore, the number of advertisers using display ads on YouTube increased 10 fold in the last year. If your business is already creating engaging video content, you might want to consider sharing it on YouTube. You might also want to consider video podcasting as a way to get the word out about your business. But remember, don’t just talk about your business. Instead, focus on a topic that is related to your business and deliver content that your customers and potential customers will be interested in.

9. Yelp

According comScore, Yelp had 31.3 million unique visitors in October of 2011. This alone should give businesses a reason to make sure that they have a presence on the site. Good reviews will help drive Yelp users to your business. And, keep in mind, Yelp reviews can also show up in Google Search Engine Results Pages. Therefore, it pays to monitor what people are saying about your business on Yelp and other user-generated review sites and respond to your customers concerns.

This summer, I wrote a blog post about how user-generated online reviews can influence sales. You might want to check it out.

10. Flickr

According to Wikipedia, Flickr was created by Ludicorp in 2004 and acquired by Yahoo! in 2005. Flickr is a site that allows users to post photos and videos. The Yahoo! website states that Flickr has 20 million unique U.S. visitors (nearly 80 million worldwide) that spend an average of 2.7 minutes per visit on the site. Therefore, it might be a good idea for your business to upload visually appealing photographs and videos that highlight its products and services. As an added bonus, many people use Flickr to find great content to share on other social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Flickr is also a great source to find photos for blog posts.

Note: You might want to give the content that you post on Flickr a Creative Commons license to encourage sharing.

Final Thoughts

This is my list of the Top 10 social networking sites for 2011.

Are there any social networking sites that I should have included? And, if so, what sites would you take off the list?

Photo credit: Montage Communications 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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Social Media and Television Part Two: A Game of Ping-Pong

Photo credit: xploitme on Flickr.Lately, there has been an increased focus on social media marketing as social networking sites, blogs, podcasts, virtual gaming worlds, etc., have become more popular with consumers.

However, traditional media (e.g., television, print, radio, etc.) is not going away any time soon.

As I mentioned in a post, titled “Social Media and Television: A Symbiotic Relationship,” the rise of social media is not necessarily hurting television ratings.

In fact, when combined, social media can actually make the audience’s television viewing experience more enjoyable and social.

This is something that many brands and their advertising agencies have taken note of.

The ones that haven’t should seriously consider integrating social media into their traditional advertising campaigns.

The Thank You Economy

In his book, “The Thank You Economy,” (affiliate link) Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of VaynerMedia and a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author, gives several very interesting and useful case studies that showcase some successful and not-so-successful social media marketing campaigns.

He points out that when brands run television ads, they should use social media to keep the conversation and connection going.

Vaynerchuk uses Reebok as an example of a brand that successfully executed this strategy when he talks about its marketing campaign for Speedwick training T-shirts.

Reebok started by running a television ad that featured Sidney Crosby and Maxime Talbot from the 2009 Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The ad features Crosby and Talbot paying a visit to Crosby’s childhood home in Nova Scotia.

During the commercial, they head down to the basement and admire a dent-riddled clothes dryer that caught every puck that Crosby didn’t get into his practice net when he was growing up.

The commercial continues with the two shooting pucks into the clothes dryer—the first to get nine pucks in the clothes dryer wins.

Tablot was leading 3-1 when Reebok abruptly flashed the words, “See who wins at facebook.com/reebokhockey” on the television screen. (Click here to watch the commercial on YouTube.)

In order to see who won, viewers had to become a fan of Reebok on Facebook.

And, that is exactly what many viewers did.

According to Vaynerchuk, in a short amount of time, Reebok saw the number of fans of their Facebook page (or the number of people who like the page, as it is now called) increase by the tens of thousands.

In addition to all of the free word-of-mouth advertising that the campaign generated, it also gave Reebok the ability and permission to remarket to these people in the future.

That’s pretty cool.

Ping-Pong

Vaynerchuk explains how brands should combine social media and traditional advertising by having his readers think about the game of Ping-Pong.

“When traditional and social media work well together, as they did for Reebok, it’s like a friendly Ping-Pong match,” writes Vaynerchuk. “Instead of spiking their traditional media and ending the match, Reebok hit the ball back over to social media. Ping. Then they gave social media a chance to return the shot. Pong. Anyone can do it. Develop creative work that allows the platforms to rally, to work together to extend your story, continue the conversation, and connect with your audience.”

In March of 2011, fastcompany.com published an excerpt of Vaynerchuk’s book in a blog post, titled “Old Spice Man Marketing, Redux: What Went Right–and What Did Not.”

You might want to read it, as it has some very interesting insights.

Don’t Forget About SEO

If your business does decide to integrate social media into its traditional marketing campaigns (or even if it decides not to), don’t forget about SEO.

For an explanation about why SEO is so important to the success of your marketing campaigns, check out a recent guest post that I wrote for the strategyessentials.com blog, titled “When Developing Your Next Marketing Campaign, Don’t Forget About SEO.”

The post has some very interesting insights from Vanessa Fox, former Google employee and founder of Nine By Blue, including an example of a brand that understood the importance of taking the story that it started during a Super Bowl advertisement and extending it online.

However, the brand dropped the ball because it forgot about SEO.

Conclusion

When combined, social media can help make the audience’s television viewing experience more enjoyable and social.

Brands that take advantage of the opportunity to extend their story online can definitely benefit from their efforts.

Not only will it help fuel online conversations about the brand, but when properly executed, it can give the brand the ability to remarket to its target audience with very little effort.

And, if the brand makes sure that consumers benefit from future interactions in some way, the ROI of its marketing efforts might be immeasurable.

Photo credit: xploitme 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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