Tangled Web – Website Trends

website trends

In case you’ve been living under a rock, a lot changed this year in website trends. We’ve seen some interesting tactics and tendencies. What’s next? Who knows – but I think everyone should consider catching up with what is. Here are a few of my observations from 2015:

  • Web sites are getting simpler; this one seems obvious to our team, but nearly everyone I share this with seems surprised. Reality is that as mobile traffic increases, sites will need to be simpler to be impactful. Ever tried browsing a complex site on an iPhone 4? Yeah, you get it.
  • WordPress is here to stay; think of WordPress vs. Drupal as VHS versus BetaMax. WordPress won. Even hardcore Drupal developers seem to be making the shift. According to W3Techs, WordPress is used by over 58% of all web sites using a known CMS – or roughly 25% of all web sites. Read the survey highlights here.
  • WordPress is vulnerable; with its rise as a leading CMS, WordPress has attracted the attention of the hacker community. This year we saw our first attacks on two sites. Protect your site – fixing it after you’ve been hacked is a pain. We’re recommending a solution like SiteLock. Easy to deploy and configure, affordable, and seems pretty robust.
  • Analytics matter; although we’ve preached this for years, it’s been surprising to me how few web site owners understand how visitors use sites. But this year I’m starting to see a change; site owners are looking at traffic, learning, and adapting content to reflect what they’ve learned.
  • Responsive got real; you can thank Google on this one. With the announcement that sites that didn’t meet its standards for mobile responsiveness would be downgraded, Google kicked off a firestorm. Every site we’ve build since April 1, 2015 has had full responsiveness as a key performance requirement. If you don’t know where your site stands, Google offers a mobile-friendly test tool that you can use to check your URL.
  • Mobile arrived for real; most of the sites we work with seem to have an inflection point where mobile traffic suddenly goes from being relatively insignificant to playing a key role. We saw one client’s site do a complete flip-flop from predominantly desktop to overwhelmingly smartphones during a fairly brief period. These trends seem to vary by industry, but it’s definitely happening. Ignore mobile visitors at your own peril.
  • Google is a mystery; while the search side of Google has always been a challenge to keep up with, additional elements are coming into play as the algorithm accounts for other factors. Because of acquisitions and changes (for example the Google Places), many of our clients have found themselves with multiple legacy Google identities. Cleaning these up is a complex, and sometimes impossible challenge. The lesson? As you add new services, consolidate as many as possible to a single account. Merging them later is a giant headache.

Beware of the Vultures: Is Your Site Mobile-Friendly?

Being a marketer can sometimes be frustrating. As an example, frustrations increase dramatically with every reported Google algorithm change – Like the change happening April 21. Certainly these algorithm changes can improve search, but they also release the search vultures. Those predators who create a feeding frenzy in an effort to scare businesses into buying their services. We have received a plethora of messages promising that without website improvements, our company will experience the end of the world as we know it.

Google-Vultures-PWB

Before you buy into the hype though, let’s understand a few things. Most websites built within the last few years are mobile friendly. To a certain level. The trouble is, mobile has changed dramatically within the last few years. Responsive design and even how devices are used when searching has changed. So let’s take a step back and look objectively at the coming change.

The Google mobile algorithm change promises this – that mobile-friendly websites will appear in search results.

“Starting April 21, Google will be expanding the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”

What does that mean exactly? It means this, how your website appears on a variety of mobile devices (iPhones, Android devices, tablets, etc.) may affect how your website is found to those searching for your products or services when they use something other than a laptop or desktop computer. That means that those sites that incorporate responsive design are likely to appear higher in mobile search engine results. In other words, this algorithm change might only affect a portion of those searching your website using mobile devices. To get a better idea of how your website will be affected, run a website analytics report; A very small portion of your website traffic may be affected.

Any time these changes are announced though, I get client calls and emails. To say that anyone can make promises though is foolish. One can ever truly know how a website will be affected due to Google algorithms being proprietary. For this next Google Algorithm change though, I suggest clients use the Google tools to run a mobile-friendly test.

If your site is not as mobile-friendly as it should be, then perhaps it is time to consider updates to change that. Web sites once had a shelf life of several years before needing updates, now however the ideal website needs to have constant improvements at some level. If you need help with making your website more mobile-friendly, PWB can help. Please contact us at dialogue@pwb.com or 734-995-5000.

Marketing Failure Should Not be a Dirty Word

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might has well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” ~J. K. Rowling

While watching the Blood Moon eclipse this morning I was reminded about an experience I had this past weekend. Perhaps that was due to the fact that it was dark and peaceful outside, and my mind was allowed to wander. Whatever the reason though, I wondered again, why the word “failure” strikes fear into the hearts many.

One of the things I enjoy doing in my personal life, is to lead future generations through the lessons taught in scouting. I am a scout leader for both of my children – Boy Scouts  as well as Girl Scouts. Lessons in failure, perseverance and overcoming obstacles are commonplace. So too, are those lessons about winning. So when sitting in an adult training session last weekend, we were asked, “What types of things make for a successful outing?” One of my answers was ,”Sometimes I have allowed the kids to fail, and in doing so I may illustrate some of the pillars of scouting.” (Which happen to also be life lessons.)

The room fell silent, and I received many icy stares which caused a cold rush of fear to wash over me. The reactions throughout the room were pretty amazing. The facilitator then icily responded, “We don’t call it failure, we call it learning from mistakes.”

Yes that is true, however there is nothing wrong with using the word failure. Would I use that word with the kids? Probably not, but a failure is still the opportunity to learn and can be a fun challenge to overcome. I realized this morning that the same can be said in business. Failure is not a dirty word in marketing!

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

So many times clients are put off when hearing the word “failure”, when they really shouldn’t. Marketing failure is going to happen. Whether you are creating a new ad strategy, trying something new on social media, running new creative or creating a new brochure, there will be hits and misses.

“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” ~ Bill Gates

Failure only happens when we give up. Failure happens when we don’t learn from our mistakes. Failure in marketing happens only when we walk away without tweaking the creative. Yes one could say simply stating that “learning from our mistakes” should be used, or that we can use the term “challenges”, “obstacles” or otherwise, but the word “failure” should not be considered a dirty word. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it!

Do you think that “failure” should be banished as a word used in business?

“You make mistakes. Mistakes don’t make you.” ~Maxwell Maltz

Content Calendar for Content Marketing

I have been working with one of our clients for a few years on their search and social media campaigns. As we have recently made some significant changes to their website and overall marketing platform, I started to consider some new metrics to include in their monthly analytic dashboard. Metrics for content marketing, are key to understanding campaign performance!

Typically I include data on:

  • Performance of paid marking campaigns – Whether PPC or Facebook Ads
  • General analytic data including time on the site and the number of new visitors
  • Social media metrics that are provided in Facebook Insights including which posts generate a conversation or motivate someone to take an action
  • What keywords are bringing in those searching, which ones generate the greatest traffic and which ones promote conversions

In general, the dashboard includes the whole 9-yards. Whatever the client needs to see to prove ROI, and more often than not, the general trends. With content marketing, I like to be able to see what motivates a action, whether that is an email, phone call or a spike in traffic on the site.

It’s not always easy to measure. In fact I don’t get to see the information on who calls the client, but I do get to see the emails that come in as well as watch the trends.

As we have been creating a new marketing campaign that will include radio ads, billboards, print campaigns as well as their PPC and social platforms, I thought that a content calendar might be helpful. The calendar I created for them shows the days and times content is posted. It’s a simple Excel calendar and the client loves it!

It doesn’t require much of my time to manage yet has left a big impression with my client. They really appreciate at a glance, seeing what is happening for their business. Their content calendar allows them to view the current month, however it could just as easily be used to plan content for the coming months. I created something specific for the client however here is a nice, free content calendar template.

List Management: Tips to Best Manage your Campaigns

Knowing your customer, especially when sending e-blasts is important to keep your customer from simply clicking “delete” when receiving your message or perhaps opting out altogether. Avoid becoming SPAM at all costs. While many companies do offer the Opt In feature for list management, they don’t always allow users to choose their desired path. The best lists will allow clients to choose what they want to see in messaging. I suppose that is why I was both irritated and humored with several e-blasts I received in the last few weeks.

My son has been in Cub Scouts since 2010. He has progressed through the ranks from a Tiger Cub to now being a Webelos II and he’s about to cross over to Boy Scouts. Early last week I received this email prompting me to purchase items -“It’s their First Campout… Get Ready!” it raid. I immediately thought, “Great, let’s see what kind of goodies I can get for my soon-to-be Scout son!” After all, I am already shopping for Christmas.

Unfortunately though, in opening the email I was greeted by a smiling Cub Scout and Cub Scout gear. Yea, that’s not what I was thinking…

Reading the post should have saved me some time as it went on to say things like: “A Cub Scout’s first campout. Make it an experience to remember, one he can boast about and build on from now on.”

I was considering that something must be wrong. That in fact the message was sent in error. Wouldn’t they have KNOWN I signed up in 2010. Didn’t the system track my son’s rank or in the very least, they certainly know what I have been purchasing! Why wouldn’t the list manager know that my son is likely not camping for the first time?

I chatted with my boss after receiving the message. List integration is a big deal. Know your customer and certainly know something about who you are marketing to. List management is nothing new though, we talk about it with clients often enough. It seems to be something of a challenge though, so I offer instead a few basic best practices for list management:

1) Subscribers should always Opt In to receive your email messages. This gives you permission to send them messages. If possible offer a Double Opt In. This would be when subscribers sign up then confirm their requested subscription.

2) Instead of one long list of email subscribers, consider creating groups. Host an event, create a group email for that. In the case of the BSA, they very easily could have grouped email addresses by month/year. If that had been done, it would have been easy to notice subscribes since 9/2010 are not likely first time Cub Scout campers!

3) Make sure to remove unsubscribed email addresses, you might even consider this another list to manage. Also be mindful of bounced messages. Many email services will track unsubscribes, bounced messages and SPAM reports but it is a good idea to track these actions too.

4) Finally it is important to analyze the results of your email campaigns. Since relevancy is the key online, how did your clients respond? Did they call more? Did the e-blast motivate more sales? Which links within your email messages motivated click-throughs? Whatever your measurement, be sure to measure it! It will be difficult to know what works, if results are not analyzed.

This week I received several other messages from the Boy Scouts, one titled “Shop Inspired Attire for Cub Scouts!” and another “Now We’re Campin’ Cub Scout-style!” honestly messages like that may cause me to unsubscribe.

I did notice an option to “Manage my Subscription,”  which would be my final tip for marketers. List management tools that allow subscribers to choose which messages to see, likely result in having the best distribution lists. So BSA if you are reading this, perhaps you should offer options for Cub Scouts and another for Boy Scouts. I don’t need more Cub Scout gear and I won’t be camping with my Webelos scout much longer!

 

Don’t “Blow” It – Plan Ahead on Your Marketing Campaign

Last month my shoes finally decided they were not providing enough stability. My knees were returning to having nightly pain. So I grabbed a pair of tennis shoes that I had purchased on clearance. They were a reputable brand but just didn’t seem to be cutting the mustard and I began to feel like the little pig who build his house of straw – Everything was being blown down. I’m wogging (Yes wogging – That is jog/walking) the Detroit Half Marathon at the end of next month though and I really need to make sure my feet and legs are prepared.

That is why I decided to hop over to Running Fit today at lunch. My knees had clearly reminded me what five months of physical therapy last fall taught me – Get good shoes! So jiggidy-jig-jig off I went to get a new pair of stability running shoes.

While I was checking out, I noticed this marketing campaign flier:

Being into social media, I thought it was an interesting idea. So I grabbed a copy to take back to the office.

The Shop Arbor Hills marketing campaign helped me ask lots of questions. Ultimately though I wondered, was this a well thought out campaign or simply a solution in search of a problem? Did their marketing team sit down with complete shopper demographic information, market research and a goal, or did they simply say, “Selfies are hot right now. This would be a great way to get some increased website traffic, improved awareness for the mall AND free publicity.”

When I got back to the office I did some research. I wanted to know – How old are most individuals that take selfies. I know I abhor them. As coincidence would have it, I found some information. According to a small study done by Selfie City, selfies remain largely the domain of young people. Statistically speaking, the median age of a selfie taker is 23.7.

Finding that information though prompted more questions. Was that information considered when starting the campaign? Does that demographic fit with those who shop in the mall? Did their marketing team figure out the percentage of people ages 25-34 or 35-44 that take selfies? Did that matter to them?

I checked out the Shop Arbor Hills Facebook page and also their Twitter feed. Since the start of the campaign I did not find any selfies. Nor did I find mention of their chosen hashtag on Twitter. It is still a very young marketing campaign though, so perhaps it’s not been seen by many. I will be interesting to see how it plays out in the market and who will participate. I’d sure like to know if it will give them their desired results.

This experience though reminded me of an old nursery tale, the Three Little Pigs. The last of the three little pigs knew best; Carefully choose the best materials for the strongest house, since anything less can be blown away quickly and easily by the big bad wolf! It is the same with any new marketing endeavor. For the best results, do your research, gather your information and prepare the foundation for your marketing campaign. Doing so will net you the strongest campaign with the best results.

Catch on Command: Demand Generation

A few years back I was fly fishing on Michigan’s Pere Marquette River. After a little while a couple hiking up the path stopped and the gentleman said to me, “Catch a fish now…”. I remarked that I wished it were that simple (well, in reality, I don’t – the chase is a big part of the fun).

At the end of your marketing campaign, did you hook more fish than the last time?

Recently I was reflecting that interaction was a little like the demands that are placed on demand generation programs today. Often management and sales folks without a marketing background forget that marketing is an inherently longer-term activity. It’s all about the science of getting into your prospect’s head and helping them make the decision-making journey toward your product. Just like that day on the river.

While I can’t catch fish on command, I can do a lot of things to increase my likelihood of catching one. Spend more time on the water. Test new techniques. Tie different flies. Learn from what worked in the past. And experiment with new things that you think will work, based on what you’ve seen before.

Demand generation has many parallels. If you test, refine, measure, learn, observe, listen, and occasionally take a bold-ass risk your odds go up considerably. While you can’t generate qualified inquiries on command, you can do a lot to improve your inquiry and conversion goals.

As marketers, it’s incumbent on us to help the leadership and sales teams we serve understand this holistic, long-term perspective. I can do a great deal to entice an inquiry. I can even target getting inquiries from the right prospects. But what we can’t do is make the exact fish you want bite precisely when you want it.

I look at my fishing season a lot like I approach a campaign. At the end of the campaign, did I hook more fish than the last time? And if so, did I land more? Those are the true metrics for success.

-Sean-

Marketing: How Do You Sell?

I have a funny skill to come up with Yogi Berra-esque quotes that are off-the-cuff at the time, but then prove to be even more accurate than I realized initially.

Last night, at a local workshop for entrepreneurs, I did it again. I was talking with a peer after the event and I said,

“Channel trumps promotion…”

In this case, I was referring to a local start-up who is doing all the new cool edgy marketing tactics, but wasn’t really putting much value in how their product would get sold. They have a solid distribution partner who’s getting them into key retail outlets, but that’s not energizing the brand in their minds. As I thought about it more afterward, I find that this is an all-too-common problem in demand generation and marketing.

Case in point – a couple of years back I was talking to a technology company who’d basically been built on defense and government contracts. They wanted to start to sell into more consumer markets (a familiar theme) and they had identified 2-3 possibilities. What they were looking for from me was a marketing plan to penetrate one of these markets.

As it often is, one of my early questions was, “How will you go to market?” The answer was both revealing and frustrating. Turns out they had a potential deal with a humungous OEM who basically owned that segment. We’re talking a “these guys would buy 100% of what we could possibly manufacture” type deal. Yet they wanted me to build them a plan to reach end users. Ummmm, how about if we chase that OEM thing down first, guys?

If you’re in Marketing and you’ve never “carried a bag” (i.e. been in field sales), it’s easy to dismiss the importance of a connected, effective sales channel. Want to sell high-pressure filters for use in refineries? If you don’t have either a direct team or a group of reps who know the industry and have access to key contacts, it’ll never fly, Orville.

I’ve said this before and I’ll repeat it – sales and marketing are interrelated, interdependent disciplines. HOW you go to market is tremendously important to WHAT marketing strategies you will employ. If you haven’t figured out the former, the latter will nearly always fail.

Easily over half the entrepreneurs (who, BTW, had some pretty cool products and ideas) at last night’s event hadn’t really figured that out yet.

Marketing can be an answer. But first you have to figure out what the questions are.

-Sean-

Channel Your Marketing Efforts

Over the years, PWB has worked with a lot of clients with independent sales channels. Whether Value Added Resellers (VARs) in software, manufacturer’s representatives in manufacturing, or independent agents representing insurance companies, independent channel situations present unique challenges.

Earlier this year, I presented a marketing workshop for independent resellers of one of our clients. The content development process was both fun, and enlightening.One of the most striking reminders was a simple one:

They all sell the same stuff.

At the end of the day, unless you have a direct sales channel, your sales outlets all have the same product offerings. Most corporate marketers want to push the superiority of their offering, without considering the marketing challenge facing their channel. Again, they all sell the same stuff.

For me, the implications for the channel are clear – differentiation is a must. If I can buy the new SuperWidget 3.0 from Dealer A, Dealer B, or Dealer C, how will I choose? Clearly the simple answer is their brand. Every independent sales channel outlet is unique – they have different strengths, histories, and weaknesses. And their brand should embrace these differences and accentuate them. If they’re better at SuperWidget 3.0 for left-handed people – say it!

As you consider how to make your channel successful, don’t just think about your goals for them. Instead, consider how helping them to stand on their own with a powerful brand will enable them and fuel sales of YOUR product or service!

-Sean-

PWB Helps Kasperek Optical Create a Whole New Space

Company Branding

Today’s independent optical retailers face incredible competitive pressure from big chains, forcing many to be less profitable and give up market share. Industry leader Kasperek Optical saw a better way. They turned to PWB to help bring new branding to life and develop tools to help both retailers and consumers understand the program and its benefits. The new brand marketing program centers on a simple premise — one low price for both a standard glasses frame and a sunglass frame. Good for the retailer. Good for the consumer. PWB started with a simple, thought-provoking name. Then we developed key messaging and high-impact logo. We’ve also developed sales literature for both retailers and consumers.