The Power of Automation: How Different SEM Tools Ensure Your Ads Stay Relevant

Ad relevance is a crucial factor in how well your search campaigns perform.  Focusing on ad copy relevance has the potential to lead to:

  • Increased Quality Score
  • Cheaper Clicks
  • More Qualified Leads
  • Higher Conversion Rates

When implemented and executed properly, automation links your ad copy and user intent, leading to an overall boost in search performance. And the good news is there’s no one way to automate ad copy in an SEM account – you can leverage a few different techniques to see a boost in conversion rate and lead generation:

  1. Dynamic Keyword Insertion – A tried and true SEM technique, dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) is a feature that automatically updates your ad copy to match user searches. When deployed, the ad includes the search query directly in the copy. It’s important to note that DKI copy loses its relevancy with long tail keywords, so you want to stick to stringent character limits when using this method.
  1. Ad CustomizersAd customizers work by connecting specific attributes to specific targets. This is done through different features including location, keyword and countdown customizers. Ad customizers adapt your text ads to meet what users are searching for, what device they’re using, where they’re located and more. The customization allows you to tweak your messaging, or include time-sensitive calls-to-action via the countdown feature. This way, you’re ensuring your ads consistently stay relevant.
  1. Scripts – Scripts are a more complicated solution that when yielded correctly, allow for quicker, more scalable ad changes. Scripts support adjustment for specific copy, ad campaigns, time of day and a variety of other parameters. Free Adwords Scripts allows you to play around with different scripts to see how they’ll affect your accounts.

Staying relevant is key for brands to connect with consumers.  Give your ads the TLC they deserve, and increased conversions, inbound qualified leads and a better quality score are within your reach.

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Charles Adler, Co-Founder of Kickstarter, Is Opening a Creative Space in Chicago and This Is What it Looks Like

On Friday I finally got a chance to check out a Creative Mornings event. These things — I think the best term might be happening, actually — are notoriously hard to get tickets to. There are two big reasons for this:

  1. They are free. In fact, they’re better than free. They provide coffee, donuts and water. Do-Rite supplied the coffee and donuts at this one. I didn’t get any coffee (more on that later) but the chocolate donut I had was more than agreeable.
  1. They are cool. Cool people speak at Creative Mornings. Cool people organize them. Cool people go to them. I was actually a little intimidated by the coolness of CM happenings before I went. Luckily, cool doesn’t mean aloof and exclusive anymore like it did back in middle school. Cool means creative and nice. I found that everyone at this CM event was, in fact, very cool.

Charles Adler, co-founder of Kickstarter, was the featured speaker at this CM happening. He hosted it inside a new space for makers that he’s opening soon. It’s called Lost Arts, which is an apt name because it isn’t easy to find.

charles_adler_exterior

I arrived a little after 8:30 in the morning, already sweating through my shirt and very thirsty. The space is an old warehouse (I think), so there was lots of space for seating. All of the seats looked full, but after grabbing a bottle of water and a donut, I found one. I introduced myself to the guy next to me, a software developer and fellow first-timer at a CM event. After a show of hands, it was clear that we were in the minority.

I liked Adler’s talk. He is proud of his roots as a punk rock kid. Punk values — authenticity, self-expression and community — continue to influence his work. And like any true punk, he is skeptical of large institutions and the rules — real or imaginary — that they propagate.

Kickstarter is a prime example of a product that re-wrote the rules. It has allowed anyone with an idea to connect directly with an audience — and translate their enthusiasm into financial backing for the project.

Adler’s own personal website describes one theme of his work as “empowering independent creatives.” It was true of Kickstarter — a virtual space where creators can find support — and it’s also at the heart of Lost Arts, a physical space for creative collaboration.

After his talk, Adler took questions. Most of them had to do with the logistics of Lost Arts. Ironically, there is a clear need for rules. (“What’s the minimum age for membership?” “Can people bring their own equipment?”) Worried that I had completely sweat through my clothes at that point, I got up and sipped water as I stood in the back. After he’d handed off the mic and concluded the talk, Adler stationed himself pretty close to where I was standing. So I chatted with him for a minute before heading out. For a guy who co-founded one of the most disruptive products of the last ten years, he was remarkable humble. It also struck me how genuinely interested he was in pursuing new ideas that would drive incredible experiences for other people. He expressed an urge to collaborate with Pitchfork to host live music at Lost Arts. I have a very good feeling that that will indeed happen.

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A Primer on Predictive Marketing for the Chief Sales Officer

Here’s a marketing prediction I can make with a high level of certainty.

True of false — as a Chief Sales Officer (CSO), do you need more leads and/or better leads?

In the countless meetings and calls I’ve had with CSOs, I’ve never met a CSO who was perfectly happy with the leads they were getting:

  • At Walker Sands, we get meetings with companies that need help, so my data is slightly biased but there is almost always intense dissatisfaction with Marketing.
  • One CSO said to me recently “I’m not sure the people in Marketing really get that they exist to generate Sales. There’s a lot of activity, but I don’t see a lot of results in terms of us getting good leads.”

This likely isn’t news to you. More often than not, Marketing annoys Sales, and Sales annoys Marketing.

But here’s one way to fix things. Read the rest of this blog post and then email your colleague who runs Marketing, and say “I’d like to meet with you to talk about predictive marketing. I think it’s something your team will love working on and it can really help the company to ramp up our sales at-bats and drive revenues up.”

Predictive Marketing 101

I always start explaining predictive marketing by talking about what a “tell” is in poker. I play Bridge, not poker, so I’m a little bit out of my depth on this, but the basic idea is that you notice something about the person on the other side of the table that lets you accurately predict the future.

For example, every single time they have a good hand, you might notice that their eyebrows raise up and they look at everyone around the poker table. Knowing this information, you can then watch for this signal and play accordingly. No eyebrow raise? Assume they are bluffing on the hand and bid the pot up.

So how do you apply this to Marketing?

Here’s a predictive marketing example I recently experienced.

A month ago, we listed our suburban home for sale.

In the United States, when you do this through a real estate agent, that event is captured in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) that all agents use, and the data is then syndicated to various web sites.

Smart marketers use this data to predict that I will soon be shopping for certain services.

Within just two days of listing the property, I received mail from real estate attorneys who offered to represent me in my upcoming sale. I also received mail from moving companies offering to help me with my upcoming move.

This is a simple form of predictive marketing. The selling company uses available data to predict that a buyer will need their services and they then proactively contact prospects to offer a solution to an emerging need.

There are countless other examples.

A criminal defense attorney might mine public records to determine that a defendant charged with a crime has posted a bail bond, which means they probably need a lawyer. Using this data, the attorney systematically reaches out to all such people and grows his practice, leaving competitors in the dust (until they figure it out and replicate the strategy — always a challenge for predictive marketers!).

Personally, I have used simple predictive marketing to grow Walker Sands by systematically reaching out to companies that have just raised funding. They’ve just landed venture money and more often than not one use of proceeds is to invest in better marketing, so they are often glad to hear from me.

I have a few other similar tactics that have worked well for me and one good one that I am dying to build but haven’t had time to get to — it’s generally the case that the really good predictive marketing ideas are difficult to create, which brings me to the topic of advanced predictive marketing techniques.

Predictive Marketing 201: Not Your Father’s Predictive Marketing

So far, I’ve explained what basic predictive marketing is, and you may be yawning and thinking “Ken, I knew this already. Have you got something new and interesting for me?”

Hang on. I’m getting there.

OK, if you’ve been heads down in Sales for a while, you may not have been reading about all the advanced work that is using Big Data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, custom algorithms and smart analytics software to take predictive marketing to the next level.

The general field is called predictive analytics, and the best visualization of it that I’ve seen is that now-famous IBM commercial (check it out below) where the policeman stops a crime before it happens because somehow, someway he is using data to predict what the criminal is going to do.

When predictive analytics is applied to marketing, you process loads of data and your analysis determines that somebody needs what you sell. You contact them and say “I’ve got a feeling you need this,” and, lo and behold, they are receptive to your call.

Or you say “I think you are going to need to work with me in three months and I just wanted to introduce myself to you.” They may not even know that they are going to need the thing you are offering in three months, but your predictive marketing engine knows they will and you’re the first in the door to discuss the topic.

Believe me, that first-mover advantage is what separates the sales and marketing elite from the going-through-the-motions folks.

It sounds easy but it’s actually very difficult. A truly special proprietary predictive marketing algorithm is very tough to code and perfect.

On the “if only it were that easy” front, I am starting to see tech startups packaging up off-the-shelf predictive marketing products that anybody can buy. For example, there are new products out there that allow you to feed in your current customer data and get out a list of likely future customers who you should talk to.

This is called lookalike prospecting, and it’s most relevant for companies that have a lot of customers and need a lot of customers; companies like Walker Sands who are very selective about who we work with can’t derive much benefit from lookalike prospecting predictive models.

But for those companies that can benefit from it, an off-the-shelf lookalike prospecting analytics model identifies new customer targets by mining your data to correlate attributes of existing customers and come up with what is essentially a formula for finding your perfect new customer.

(By the way, a good test for these programs is to feed in only half of your customers and see whether the predictive program could have determined that the other half of your customers would likely need what you offer. If the model does that, then you’re onto something!)

But no commercial software package can give you long-lasting competitive advantage because your competitor can by the same software, can’t they?

To do predictive marketing right, you’ll need some data scientists with some mad skills. It won’t be cheap but it will be worth it. I can provide intros if you need them.

So About That Meeting with the CMO…

Now, I hope you have a better understanding of what predictive marketing is.

I guarantee you that your C-suite counterpart in Marketing will be eager to talk to you about this. It’s one of those “bright shiny objects” in Marketing that everyone is excited about these days.

The nice thing about having a productive Sales and Marketing combo conversation about predictive marketing is that it’s likely much better than your current state: you’re trash talking them behind their backs and vice versa.

Instead, predictive marketing rallies the troops around a common goal of taking Marketing to new heights in order to take Sales to new heights.

As a final word of advice, predicting who you can easily sell to is only the first step in this journey. The real challenge is having a smart integrated marketing program that gets them into your funnel.

For that, you need content marketing, PR, SEO, PPC, Social, and more — brilliant campaigns that engage your prospects, nurture relationships, accelerate sales cycles and give you the at-bats your team needs to close.

Nobody does that better than Walker Sands, and, when the time is right (my predictive marketing model says we should speak ten business days from now), we’d love to talk with both you and your CMO about how we can help.

A call to (312) 235-6171 gets that ball rolling. If you’ve got questions or comments about this article, you can also simply post them below. Hope this was helpful!

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Salvaging Content from an Old Blog

This is an article about what to do with that old, cobweb-filled corporate blog of yours.

You know what I’m talking about — those archaic and now mostly useless posts dating back to 2011 (or even earlier) that are still live on your company website.

Yes, ironically, I’m writing this on our blog (very astute of you to notice so quickly), so, believe me, I’m not one of those folks who is jumping up and down on the “Blogging Is Dead” bandwagon and saying you should never blog.

But, you have to admit, you don’t hear too many people talking about blogging these days.

It’s nothing like it used to be, say, three or four years ago.

The Rise and Fall of Blogging

Back then, we’d get a lot of folks asking us to build out blogging platforms for them as part of their corporate website redesign projects.

It made some sense at the time for a few reasons:

  • Blogs were an opportunity to create content with a slightly different voice than the corporate site;
  • You could get lots of employees to write blog posts, which was great for companies that were struggling to create content for their website — important because strong content published in quantity is good for SEO, lead gen, conversions, etc.;
  • You never had to worry about asking IT to upload your content to the website when you were blogging, a problem that many companies struggle with; and
  • It was the in-vogue thing to do.

Fast forward to today and many corporate blogs have been abandoned:

  • Ironically, one of the most popular platforms for building websites is now WordPress, which originated as a blogging platform, but very few people add a proper blog to websites built with WordPress.
  • Many blog posts on many sites were written by employees who are no longer with the company, which is a separate problem unto itself.
  • Blogging is the opposite of being in vogue. It’s not at all cool anymore.

What To Do With An Abandoned Blog

You really can’t win with a blog on your website.

If you keep it up to date, it looks like you are not aware that blogging is no longer cool. On the flip side, if you only post once every four months or don’t post at all, you give the impression that the company (and the company’s marketers) are not all that competent.

So, here’s how to fix your blog problem. You need to convert all the date-posted blog content into a Resources section on the website, using the following steps:

  1. Crawl your website using a product like Screaming Frog and export all your blog page links into a spreadsheet.
  2. Go through every blog post you have in the spreadsheet and classify it as “Keep As Is,” “Keep But Rewrite/Refresh” or “Toss. For example, an October 2011 post about how exciting it is that Apple is launching its Apple 4s phone should get tossed. But a post on the “5 Mistakes Buyers Make…” when buying your offering should probably be kept and converted into a Resources section article. If things have changed considerably since the blog post was written, you should probably rewrite or refresh it. You may also need to do this if the original blogger’s voice is totally different from your corporate voice.
  3. Set up a staging server. None of these steps should be done on a production web server.
  4. The next step is to build out your Resources section and convert all of the “Keep” blog posts into articles. The new pages should no longer have the date stamps that are typical of the blog format. Nobody needs to know when you wrote the article, especially if it was six years ago. You’ll probably also want to get rid of the author’s name but that can be argued both ways.
  5. As you port blog posts over to the Resources section, you’ll want to make sure that you do good SEO housekeeping on the new pages. That might mean that a URL like www.mydomain.com/blog/2010/06/03/Friday-musings-on-how-to-get-started-with-widgets becomes www.domain.com/resources/widget-procurement-best-practices.
  6. Map all the old blog links to a new link using 301 redirects (Google it). Whether the blog post stays or goes, it still needs to be redirected to a current page on the refreshed site.
  7. As one of the final steps in this exercise, you’ll want to get rid of the word “blog” from your entire site. If you were smart enough to call your blog “Insights” or “Perspective,” you can skip this step.
  8. Once you’ve got all the keeper blog posts migrated over to be articles in the Resources section of the site and once you’ve put the 301 redirects in place, you can delete the original blog pages and run through a smart testing plan.
  9. After your QA is finished and all open issues are closed out, cut the staging server to production. Congratulations, you’ve put your old blog to sleep and your blog content salvaging task is done. Hooray!

Counterarguments to the Above Plan for Salvaging a Blog

There are some who think what I’m advocating is not the right approach. Many people, particularly those of us in the SEO community, hate to kill a web page. I’m of that opinion, myself, more often than not. That’s because a site with more pages tends to get more SEO traffic than a similar site with fewer pages, everything else being equal.

But at a certain point, you have to move beyond SEO thinking and think about the impression those old pages make on somebody who is considering doing business with you. It’s like walking into a hoarder’s house. Do you end up with a good impression of that person?

And then there are some who don’t want to remove anything because doing so messes with a historical record that should be sacrosanct, as in “That was what we thought back in October 2011 about the iPhone 4S launch and we need to preserve that thinking for posterity.”

Over at Mashable, they’ve done just that: blog post from October 11 on iPhone launch.

But it’s different for a media publication. They can put adds on those old pages, and the expectation is that their archives will be available.

But this is not the case for our clients, and it’s probably not the case for you either.

Go Forth and Salvage

The bottomline?

It’s more than OK to take those old blog posts down — indeed, it’s the right thing to do for your business.

So, there you have it. Go forth and salvage.

If you need help on the effort, please get in touch with Walker Sands.

We are building some amazing websites for clients these day, and yours is getting pretty old, isn’t it?

It’s time for a refresh: improve the site’s alignment with your new business objectives and new messaging; increase your conversion rates; and, for the love of god, get rid of those old blog posts!

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SEO Tips for CEOs and Marketers: Improve Your Digital Marketing Strategy by Changing How You Measure Conversions Pt. 2

Last time, we discussed how to think about measuring conversions and the ins and outs of Google Analytics’ various attribution models. Today, I would like to continue that discussion by describing how we at Walker Sands decided to approach conversion attribution modeling for our clients.

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SEO Tips for CEOs and Marketers: Improve Your Digital Marketing Strategy by Changing How You Measure Conversions Pt. 1

Is your SEO team giving you the data you need to improve your company’s digital marketing strategy? Most SEO reports cover information on general traffic trends and conversion stats, often breaking them down by medium (i.e. visitors from organic search, referral sources, paid advertisements etc.) and providing some additional information on popular pages and top conversion sources. But those top conversion sources do not tell you the full story about how people find your website and turn into leads.

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Control Group Problems for Online Conversion A/B and Bayesian Testing

Control groups are tricky.

And, in related news, new research from Orbitz shows that telepathy is not an effective marketing tool.

As a digital marketing firm, we are often tasked with improving clients’ online conversion rates — getting more leads, adding more subscribers to the company newsletter, increasing views of lead-generation content marketing assets, etc.

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Enterprise Solution for Employees Sharing Content on Social Media

Looking for good enterprise tools for sharing social content?

Many organizations would love it if they could better mobilize their employees to promote company content marketing assets, blog posts, PR placements, job postings and other items on social media.

Here’s how we do it at Walker Sands. We use an awesome enterprise social sharing product called VoiceStorm from Dynamic Signal.

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How to Think About SEO and Content Marketing ROI

At a recent SEO conference I attended, a marketer started his presentation by confessing that his firm had published over 1,600 articles in six years as part of an SEO program but that more than half of that published content had averaged less than 500 page views per article.

He was very disappointed in these results.

But, to my way of thinking, many people might be very happy with these results. 

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SEO Tips: Mining Competitive Pages for Keyword Insights

I’ve personally been going to Pubcon and other SEO conferences for years, and as a leading Chicago SEO agency, we send our SEO consultants to these shows on a regularly basis.

Recently, we’ve sent five agency team members to Pubcon, three to MozCon and six to Content Marketing World. We do this because we need to be smarter than other marketing, PR and SEO agencies and we need to stay on top of the latest SEO trends, tools and techniques.

At every SEO conference, we get a few practical tips that improve our capabilities in solving our clients’ problems — including getting them more leads, more visibility or whatever the task at hand is.

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