SEO Tips: Beware of SEO Firm Cold-Calls

Let me set the scene for when you receive pitches for SEO.

It’s late at your office or maybe an early morning quick check of things to do.  You fire up the tableland take a last minute review of email.  An unsolicited note catches your eye, with a message like this:

Hi, my name is Terrance and I am the sales manager at Such-n-such SEO and Extraordinary Marketing services. I was just looking at your site and see that your site has the potential to get even more visitors. I just want to take the time to tell you how.  Now, let me ask you…

Ok, stop.  It is at this point you should put the note aside, and start onto other pressing business.

Because accepting to do business from a SEO firm that starts with one blind suggestion is a waste of time. Here’s why….

Results from one specific SEO suggestion cannot guarantee traffic or a significant improvement in performance.  The most complete SEO involves a combination of steps addressing page text, links, social sharing, and supporting code in a site layout will ultimately attract the right search engine queries  from the right customers.  To make such a combination valuable to the client, a SEO firm needs to review objectives with the website owner.  That means understanding the business as much as understanding the website.

Thus when approached with a cold call about SEO, you may be receiving word on a needed task such as revising metadata or updating links. But most times cold calling SEO firms approach potential customers with an obvious site tasks so that the salesperson can just get a foot in the door.  And many times, that foot is an unwelcomed one, selling unnecessary services or consuming precious time with poor follow up.

Most sites require an update over time. To ensure that the  it’s up to YOU, THE CUSTOMER to determine what and when that update is put into place.

Now, here’s what your business can do to manage cold calls.

  • Investigate the firm online before speaking with anyone. Are there customer reviews from legitimate sources.  Who is affiliated with the firm?  Gaining a sense of what they have done for past firms or customers is a big help, as well as giving your team a feel for how the SEO firm will operate.  A member of your business can then speak with the firm about capabilities, and then decide if doing business makes sense.
  • Speaking of capabilities, having ideas on what to expect from an SEO audit can help frame the questions to be asked. Learn what typically goes into an SEO audit here in this Zimana post.
  • Moreover, maintenance of a SEO strategy needs to be conducted periodically – check out this Zimana post about why SEO maintenance is essential.

Overall, remember that a SEO firm can gain some information from your site code to ask a seemingly relevant question, but don’t work with firms that have not proven their value to other businesses and people.

Digital Signage Augments Branded Search

There’s no doubt that online search remains a popular medium among customers in finding information. But with altered considerations for social media combined with updated online presence options, there can be doubt in how a bank should proceed to strengthen its appearance in a search engine.

One way to build customer recall is to develop a strategy for supporting branded keyword terms. Branded search results in an analytic solution is an expression of your customers’ recollection of your business online. Your bank should consider its brand strength – how can its current notoriety be used effectively.

The newest capabilities in paid search in Google and Microsoft’s Bing have linked ad services to other Bing and Google related platforms. The end result for paid search ads is an expanded relevancy towards intended customer segments and purposes. Google Adword Express, an Adwords extension, links your ads to Google Maps, highlighting its location. This provides a larger display on a computer screen, encouraging your customer to seek a bank branch if it is in a convenient location and increases the likelihood of clicking on an ad.

With regard to branded keyword terms, banks that have a long established relationship with its communities can put together a paid search strategy for extending branded search terms to these newly introduced services. Doing so would catch the segment of customers who are familiar with the bank but may not know what other services are provided. Features such as the aforementioned Adwords Express can be combined for provide further value online.

Branded search can be further augmented is an alternative appearance of services via a dynamic keyword insertion, a feature in which different keyword within an ad group appear in the ad based on the search query. The advantage can be grouping services together for a certain segment of customer, as well as creating a targeted campaign by context. So an ad for a “Bear Bank” offering home mortgage can have alternating text – refinance or first mortgage – in the title. A thought to consider is that words with similar meaning may differ in result appearance across search engines, so using additional tools such as Searchmetrics Suite and Wordstream can provide advanced keyword suggestions beyond the standard Google, Yahoo, and Bing accounts.

Digital signage ices the cake for many branded keyword programs by establishing customer recall of branded terms and intended service keywords in its media. The display’s impact occurs before the customer later decides to research services online. Customers will then recall the bank name and associated wording.

Once an ad campaign has been run, your analyst should confirm the impact from the results in a placement performance report. This report compares results across the campaign networks to identify and exclude poor performing ads based on networks. An online survey can be used at the landing page to assess if visitor did a search and had seen a digital display running. Influence from running a signage campaign can then be assessed, with a choice to pause the display message if the lift in click through rate is not significant.

Considering strategies to enhance paid search has a pay off. Recent white papers and studies are suggesting campaign sophistication in deploying paid search such as Google’s announced study back in 2012 that a combined paid and organic search usage can lead to a higher CTR. Enhancing branded search traffic with digital signage is one way in which a paid search campaign can lead to further payoff.

How To Plan Google Analytics Alerts To Improve Your Site or App Traffic

Analysis can be fun, discovering new marketing ideas from the data collected, but in many instances it is counterproductive to check metric changes daily. While advertising campaigns need it to make sure budgets are not exceeded, daily checks can lead to overlooking trends that develop over a long arch. Trends are the main indicators of behavior behind the data, and they can be best viewed through periodic checks and smart comparisons.

The key to making smart comparisons and avoid wasting time on analytics is to examine when certain trend changes occur. Measuring metric lifts or declines is the best way to decide when analytic reports need reviews. With so much data entering a site or app today, it’s better to let analytic alert you when something unusual happens rather than spend time trying to find potential differences.

Alerts are sent as email notifications. Google Analytics calls these alerts intelligence events. In Google Analytics you can set alerts via the admin panel, click on the custom alerts, and then set the dimensions, metric, and segment categories that will trigger the alert.

Three choices for metrics can be used for an alert:

  • changes in volume (increase by 10, decrease by 15 visits)
  • a threshold percentage (%)
  • a threshold amount (less than or more than).

So, once at the alert panel, what settings are worth your attention? Well, here are a few basic settings ideas that you can plan from the start.

Traffic spikes

Google Analytics Alert

This falls under the “duh” category, but basic traffic spikes are what we want to see. The issue is how much of a lift should be monitored. The best starting point is to set a 10% increase as an arbitrary starting point.

Now, low volume (about 600 sessions or below) will probably trigger notices every other day for small spikes. That has happened for Zimana at the beginning. But using a 10% setting will trigger less often as for a site that is developing traffic over time. Consider revising as the overall volume grows to a steady amount per month.

Let your knowledge of the X visitors per day decide if a larger percentage is more reasonable. But before you set a number, just ask about the value expected when a number doubles or even triple.

Traffic drop

When something goes up, something can come down. Every decline may not be worthwhile, but consider a percentage decline the same way you would for the traffic spikes. Again adjust as volume increases. A significant drop will reflect a coding issue with the analytics, site, or app.

Changes within known traffic segments

Google Analytics Alert Sources

Alerts can also work for specific traffic segments. Examples include traffic associated with an AdWords campaign or a custom segment set in Google Analytics. Segmentation by traffic source, media, and referral path are other ways to highlight a given set of traffic.

Spike in goal completions

The idea behind this is similar to the traffic spike, replaced with a focus on goals completed by site visitors or app users during a session. Create an alert for raw number of completions, but also set alerts for intended demographics, such as users that arrive from a specific city, region, or with language. Goals should be triggered but mainly for granularity that would be of interest in a business operation, like the percentage that resulted in a conversions or the number of people who started conversion activity but didn’t complete it.

Drop in goal completions

Just as a goal spike is analogous to a traffic spike, a traffic drop is analogous to goal drops.

But goal alerts do not just have to be for web site or app metrics. There are other metrics available in an analytic solutions that can be monitored. E-commerce is exactly that “other” that typically comes to mind to most analysts.

Ecommerce Trends

Using E-commerce alerts can help your team understand what products are being viewed frequently, leading to what might be selling quickly online.

For an e-commerce site you can set alerts for a number of financial metrics related to a purchase – unique purchases, product, revenue, shipping charges, and tax charges. Monitoring these can help understand how a site or app contribute to cost. These can also lead to understanding how frequently these costs are occurring.

Alerts in AdWords and Bing Ad campaigns

There are also AdWords Alerts in the AdWords Manager as well, but these alerts are meant more for campaign changes rather than website related behavior.

Alerts can be helpful in deterring upswings in digital ad performance, from increase clicks to increase conversion. Campaign managers such as those for Bing and Adwords do have stop campaign alerts, to let users know when a campaign has been suspended because a preset limit has occurred.

Using alerts can make monitoring your data less time consuming and allows you to focus on other aspects of your marketing or within your business.

When to engage mobile customers: The Basics On Dayparting Ads

Time seems to be scarce with each day of a marketing campaign. But the answer in gaining some time back lies in targeting an effort at the right time. Dayparting is one nuanced way to connect to customers in the right time. Moreover, it can aid planning with digital signage by determining when messages can be most helpful to retail customers.

But first, let’s review a definition for dayparting.

Dayparting is the segmentation of marketing campaign responses by time period. The goal of dayparting is to match marketing efforts to time periods that are a best fit for potential response to a campaign message.

A little history on dayparting: first kind of contextual marketing, dayparting is a byproduct of radio and television programming. Programs included commercials tailored to the audience – If you recall seeing a Tide commercial during daytime soap operas, even their name stemming from Proctor and Gamble sponsorship in the 1950s, then you get the idea of dayparting pretty easily.

But the internet developed with a widely held belief that online advertising equated to advertising all time – if you have a website, people will “see” your business all the time. With smartphones becoming more and more shopping devices and tablets used alongside the TV viewing, the idea of selling around the clock online is morphing into discreet periods. Dayparting advertising has transferred from old media to the internet due to new features in less expensive advertising channels like paid search. Moreover, analytics solutions have begun to incorporate dayparting measurement capability.

What created this trend? In a word, mobile. The increasing acclimation of consumers to smartphones, netbooks, and tablets, combined with more public internet accessibility in places once considered offline, has shifted the way in which people arrive to a website. They engage, and the access is technically available around the clock, but genuine mobile connections are being made at hours different than behind a laptop. While much of the initial data is shopper-oriented, the retail behavior will surely filter into other tasks, such as account transactions and viewing sites through mobile devices.

Digital signage can easily use dayparting methodology for events such as announcing an upcoming bank branch seminar or cross-advertising events at various retail locations. To time announcements of events, dayparting display messages can be coordinated with mobile ads and SMS that lead to mobile sites.

Beyond reducing the amount of printing and shipping static materials to announce new events and limited-time offerings, dayparting on digital signage can provide the right message announcing event times and locations, services that customers can access on their mobile phones, or increase visibility of reminders. The end result is an increased likelihood of a customers using a retailer’s services that very day. Google in its 2011 study The Mobile Movement noted that 88% of respondents take action within hours to within the day of receiving local information in a smartphone. Dayparting signage marketing messages to drive customers to nearby branches can lead to increases transactions.

When I wrote this post originally for Digital Draw, I noted a comment from one of my colleagues, Daniel Berthiaume, that marketing managers “put a little extra into an analytical system to determine how often to refresh the content”. Combining digital signage with dayparted ads can provide solid means for that little extra by using mobile ads and sites.

For additional perspective, check out this Zimana post on dayparting.

IoT Primer: Beacon Basics For Retail Analytics

Maybe the joyous reaction of marketers to beacons, low-cost sensors that can communicate with tablets and smartphones, comes from the fact that the word’s spelling is close to bacon – seems to be a lot of memes suggesting that bacon is a favorite food.  But let’s stick to a more straightforward reason:  Marketers are as excited about beacons as a child is excited about Christmas day.

So what is the beacon excitement about? Here’s the run down:

  • The idea of using sensors in commerce started with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. These tags were used in retail and operations mainly for inventory management and shipping identification.
  • Beacons represent the next “evolution” of sensor usage because they can communicate with apps on smart devices.  The apps are activated by shoppers, allowing the device to be picked up by the proximity beacon.  This establishes proximity broadcasting, which means objects can continuously “communicate” information. The devices and sensors communicate in a data broadcasting environment that pairs mobile devices with beacon sensors on a physical item – a display, a store shelf, or in a store location.
  • A network of beacons are popular because mobile-savvy customers have opted-in through using an app provided by a retailer which has beacons placed in a retail space. Smartphones, tablets and laptops already use Bluetooth, so there is a natural usage already primed for beacons acceptance.
  • The latest generation of Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) 4.0, expands the breadth of beacon sensor capability. It includes metadata association to the objects, allowing objects to essentially broadcast their identity, location, and additional information.  The data shared in this environment gives users valuable information, from on-the-spot announcement of a sales offer to simple assistance in finding the right product selection.
  • All of this plays into the Internet of Things (IoT) environment, in which machines are now communicating signals to each other in a coordinated effort.

Where are beacons being used in retail?

Luxury brands are becoming the first movers in experimenting with beacons as part of an augmented reality strategy. Sephora, a make up provider, announced beta testing beacons in its San Francisco store.  And Burberry uses augmented reality technology in its flagship store in the UK.

So what does beacons mean for analytics?

Beacon-generated data can then be pulled up into a corporate cloud application for tracking and analysis, influencing the business intelligence and the analytics associated with it. Real time analytics that include beacon-sourced referral traffic must consider digital activity over time.  Additional analytic tools highlighting foot traffic patterns can aid where message are being triggered, and facilitate inventory planning.   Integrating the associated metrics mean increased tagging complexity, so marketers must consider what capabilities lie within their tools.

Adoption is still early – eMarketer reports that 29% of retailers have incorporated beacons into their stores.

But as the IoT environment emerges from the budding stages, retailers will learn how to use beacons to determine how well their business model aligns with the customer experience needs.  Customers are demanding sophisticated experiences. Beacons provide the the building block for understanding those experiences.