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  1. The Half-Year Update: Standout Social Media Changes That Have Impacted The Search Industry So Far In 2014

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    It’s hard to believe but six months of 2014 have already passed. As important as check-ins and analysis are for any program, it’s equally important to take a step back and look at the broad picture of what’s happened in the first six months of 2014. As search and social become more intertwined, it’s key to note where the social media industry currently stands and where it is moving. Here are a few of the social media developments that will likely impact search and other digital initiatives as the year moves forward.

    Pinterest Web Analytics

    Pinterest introduced Pinterest Web Analytics, which allow site owners to see insights about how people are interacting with pins from their website. Users can get information on how many people:

    1. pinned from their website
    2. have seen these pins
    3. visited their site from Pinterest

    The most repinned, most clicked, and most recent pins features give users insights into the most popular pins. This change signifies the upward movement of Pinterest as a key player in the social space. Offering analytics demonstrates the impact social media plays in website traffic.

    Facebook Algorithm Changes

    Facebook rolled out a new algorithm to the News Feed that removes what Facebook considers “spammy” posts. Like-inducing posts, links that lead to a website full of ads, and frequently circulated content have been reduced on Facebook’s News Feed in order to combat spam behavior.

    Facebook is concentrating on making quality posts, such as status updates, legitimate articles, and links appear in the News Feed. Businesses and brands must now focus on generating a quality conversation on posts to improve their appearance in the News Feed. Content that includes comments and conversations will appear on fans’ feeds more frequently.

    With algorithm changes and increased brand competition, there is less space on the News Feed resulting in declined organic reach. As the algorithm moves forward, brands will need to adapt to these changes and consider implementing social media ad budgets to focus on engaging fans and making the most out of social media marketing.

    Twitter Profile Updates

    Not to be outdone by Facebook changes, Twitter introduced a new profile redesign in the first half of 2014. The design features a larger header image and more dynamic features, like pinning tweets to the top and larger tweets for higher engagement. As Twitter’s first major overhaul in years, this change was a big move for the established Twitter.

    Google+ Business Pages

    Google enabled Google+ business pages to connect their page to their local business listing on Google Maps. Business owners will no longer have two independent Google properties to maintain, creating a more streamlined Google experience. This change demonstrates the continued integration of all Google properties and features.

    What changes have you seen make an impact in the first half of 2014?

     

  2. State of Search Marketing Infographic – Budgeting Trends

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    SEMPO is excited to present the State of Search Marketing Infographic on Budgeting Trends. The infographic shows that as search marketing increasingly becomes an integrated discipline, companies will need to be more agile in shifting their budgets to stay ahead of their competition.

    The State of Search Marketing Report showcases changes from 2012 and offers insights into what to expect in 2014. This annual report is a critical touchstone for digital marketers looking to assess where they stand today and where they should be looking for success tomorrow.

    The infographic is a visual representation of the 9th Annual State of Search Marketing Report, which was fielded by the SEMPO Research Committee in conjunction with Econsultancy.

    (Click to Enlarge)

    SOS_Budgeting Trends
     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    SEMPO members can download the State of Search Marketing Report here.

    If you would like to become a SEMPO member, please click here.

    Past State of Search Marketing reports can be viewed here.

     

  3. State of Search Marketing Infographic – Companies vs. Agencies

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    SEMPO is excited to present the State of Search Marketing Infographic comparing the digital marketing approach of companies and agencies.

    The State of Search Marketing Report showcases changes from 2012 and insights into what to expect in 2014. This annual report is a critical touchstone for digital marketers looking to assess where they stand today and where they should be looking for success tomorrow.

    The Companies vs. Agencies Infographic reveals that companies have a more generous perception of their approach to digital marketing than agencies give their clients.

    The infographic is a visual representation of the 9th Annual State of Search Marketing Report, which was fielded by the SEMPO Research Committee in conjunction with Econsultancy.

    (Click to Enlarge)

    Sempo State of Search_Companies Agencies

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    SEMPO members can download the State of Search Marketing Report here.

    If you would like to become a SEMPO member, please click here.

    Past State of Search Marketing reports can be viewed here.

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  4. How Your PPC Program Can Help You Retain Customers

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    Remarketing campaigns can help you gain an extra edge from your PPC efforts. Don’t overlook customer retention in your overall marketing mix.

    In our post, PPC and the Marketing Lifecycle, we discussed the role paid search plays in each phase of the marketing cycle from the discovery phase through conversion. But once you’ve acquired a customer, is there a role for paid search in customer retention?

    After all, existing customers are extremely valuable. According to a recent study of small businesses by Manta and BIA/Kelsey, a repeat customer spends 67 percent more than a new customer.

    Although retargeting campaigns are commonly used to acquire new customers, remarketing is also an effective way for digital marketers to increase customer retention and engagement. This type of campaign can be used to build awareness, strengthen customer loyalty, and create opportunities for upgrading customers to new products and services. With a bit of creativity, you can use a retargeting campaign to stay in front of customers and keep them coming back to your website.

    Remarketing campaigns are similar to other forms of retention marketing, such as email, in which marketers use information they already know about their customers. This includes who they are, when and what they last purchased, and what the last interaction was, to retarget with relevant content or offers.

    Using this information, you can retarget customers with advertising that promotes your thought-leadership, offers discounts for repeat or new purchases, or keeps your business top of mind during long sales cycles.

    Here are four creative ideas for developing a remarketing campaign to help increase retention rates:

    - The long sales cycle. For large products and services with a long sales cycle, staying top of mind is critical. Your expertise is a valuable asset that can help your clients evaluate problems and identify opportunities. But if they haven’t visited your blog or aren’t on the mailing list for your newsletter, they may not be aware of your recent thought-leadership content additions. By retargeting these customers with advertising that promotes the blog or newsletter, you reinforce your value proposition with ongoing impressions/visibility regardless of whether they click-through to the content itself.

    - Special offers. Customers who haven’t made a purchase in a while can be enticed back to your website with discounts and coupons served exclusively to them via remarketing. For example, footwear retailers can retarget previous buyers by advertising a new line of summer shoes and offering 10% off the next purchase, as a way to thank them for being a customer.

    - Upgrade and cross-sell. Businesses that launch new product or service lines can build awareness among existing customers by retargeting anyone who has visited the website but hasn’t yet seen new pages promoting additional offerings. For example, a heating and plumbing service provider that has added bathroom remodeling services could use a remarketing campaign to promote the new pages/services to existing clients.

    - Loyalty Programs. Reward and VIP programs can turn your customers into sales people. By encouraging customers to purchase more or refer friends for discounts or points, businesses can give customers a reason to be loyal. For example, digital marketers can retarget any customers that have not submitted a referral with an offer to join the loyalty program.

    The key concept here is that existing customers have already raised their hands and indicated an interest in your products and services. Because they already have an affinity for your brand, they’re easier to upsell and cross-sell and they’re more likely to refer a friend or family member, according to the survey by Manta and BIA/Kelsey. A retargeting campaign will ensure you’re top of mind when the time comes to buy or give a reference.

     

     

  5. State of Search Marketing Infographic – Mobile Trends

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    SEMPO is excited to present the State of Search Marketing Infographic on Mobile Trends.

    The State of Search Marketing Report showcases changes from 2012 and insights into what to expect in 2014. This annual report is a critical touchstone for digital marketers looking to assess where they stand today and where they should be looking for success tomorrow.

    The Mobile Trends Infographic reveals mobile is likely to play an increasingly important role in marketing plans, yet marketers have not set aside significant budget dedicated to mobile marketing.

    The infographic is a visual representation of the 9th Annual State of Search Marketing Report that was fielded by the SEMPO Research Committee in conjunction with Econsultancy.

    (Click to Enlarge)

    SEMPO_State of Search_ Mobile Trends

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Share this Image On Your Site

    SEMPO members can download the State of Search Marketing Report here.

    If you would like to become a SEMPO member, please click here.

    Past State of Search Marketing reports can be viewed here.

     

  6. State of Search Infographic – Overview

    Author: | 2 Comments

    SEMPO is excited to present the State of Search Marketing Infographic.

    The State of Search Marketing Report showcases changes from 2012 and what to expect in 2014. The report includes data from both company and agency respondents. This annual report is a critical touchstone for digital marketers looking to assess where they stand today and where they should be looking for success tomorrow.

    The infographic is a visual representation of the 9th Annual State of Search Marketing Report that was fielded by the SEMPO Research Committee in conjunction with Econsultancy.

    (Click to Enlarge)

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Share this Image On Your Site

    SEMPO members can download the State of Search Marketing Report

    Click on the link if you would if you would like more information on SEMPO membership and benefits.

    Click on the link to view past State of Search Marketing Reports.

  7. PPC and the Marketing Lifecycle

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    Paid Search is often used to bring awareness to your product or service, but don’t overlook its value during each phase of the marketing lifecycle.

    Most marketers are familiar with the acronym AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action), which describes the timeline from which a consumer engages with a brand. This tried and true model can be applied to your paid search strategy, but as Avinash Kaushik, Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google, told SEMPO Director Mike Grehan, a better approach can be stated using three simple terms. See. Think. Do.

    See. Think. Do. is a simple framework of which the goal is to reach a qualified, addressable audience with the proper message at any time in the decision-making process. Since the time to shift from “see” to “think” to “do” varies for every consumer, it is necessary to have three distinct yet simultaneous PPC programs to reach the broadest possible audience.

    Using Kaushik’s example, digital marketers must think from a consumer’s perspective. During the “see” stage, PPC campaigns should try to reach everyone who is in the discovery consideration stage. This is anyone qualified to be a customer. In general, your keyword strategy should be broad and general in nature but still limited to those who are likely to be interested in your service. Your ad copy and landing page calls to action must align with the consumer’s intent. Calls to action such as “Learn More” or “Contact Us” will help drive consumers from the “see” stage to the “think” stage.

    As you build your PPC campaign for those in the “see” stage, the goal is not yet a conversion, so key performance indicators should be based on your goals of driving awareness. Share of impressions and percent of new visits are a few of the KPIs that are relevant to determine if your campaigns are effective.

    In the “think” stage, your keywords will become narrower, while your targeting becomes more specific. Instead of driving consumers to a home page or a contact form, you should think about which “micro-conversions” will help drive the consumer to the next phase. These micro-conversions may be driving the consumer to a category page or a video download. During the “think” stage, your goal is to prove to the consumer that your product or service is THE solution to their problem. Your goal as a marketer is to determine your prospect’s intent – based on their measurable action – to move toward the “do” stage. It is during this stage that you’ll begin to focus more on your overall click-through rates, page depth, and percent of assisted conversions. It is also important to measure conversions to your micro-conversions. Those in the “think” stage are closer to making a purchase decision but are still likely not to convert in the traditional sense.

    As the consumer moves further down the funnel into the “do” stage, your metric for success can finally be conversion rate. It is at this stage that consumers should be ready to buy. From a PPC perspective, your keywords, ad copy, and most importantly, your landing page must be aligned and optimized for conversion. Your keywords should be very focused and specific toward buying, ad copy should include direct links to shopping cart pages, and landing pages should have clear and definitive calls-to-action. You should, however, look beyond conversion rate. Other metrics to review in the “do” stage are return visitor rate, checkout abandonment rate, and profit. This chart succinctly describes See. Think. Do.

    See. Think. Do. should be applied not only to your PPC campaigns but to all your campaigns. It is a simple, yet effective way to measure not only direct response but all your marketing actions.

  8. How to Optimize for Local Search

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    Most experts agree that local search should continue to be an area of focus for search marketing professionals in 2014. Google continues to pay attention to improving local search results, and expanded use of the Local Carousel is just one example of Google’s recent enhancements. How should your business — assuming it has a physical location and regardless of size — optimize for local?

    Here are some tips:

    Claim Your Google Places Listing: Google Places are business listings that allow your business to be found on Google Search, Maps, Google+, and mobile devices. By claiming your Google Places listing, you’ll be able to ensure your address, telephone number, hours of operation, and contact information are correct, and you’ll be able to connect with customers by sharing photos, updates, news, and special offers. In addition, claiming your business allows you to respond to reviews that are placed within the site. Visit Google Places for Business to claim your listing.

    - Build a Dedicated Local Page: When building a page for local, remember that people searching locally are likely to have a more immediate need for your services. Thus, it’s important to add elements that will easily enable visitors to find your physical location. Store locators, mapping technology, telephone numbers, and product/service reviews are essential to your dedicated local page.

    Identify Local Search Terms: Your market is generally coming from a geographic area that can be as narrow as a few-block radius or as wide as several counties. The geographic qualifiers depend on the size of your  community and the competition for your service. Think about how far your geographic reach is and add those search phrases to your dedicated local page. For example, people likely travel a short distance for a grocery store but may travel a significantly larger distance for fine arts and  accessories. Then, infuse the page with geographically relevant search terms including surrounding towns that searchers may include in their search to learn more about your business.

    - Get Listed in Local Directories: Once you have a dedicated local page, getting listed in many relevant local directories is an important local search factor. It is vital to make sure your citation information (name, address, phone number, description) matches the information in your Google Places listing. Google will discredit your business if there are inconsistencies between the Google Places listing and those listed in other directories such as Yelp, Foursquare, YP, and Patch.

    You can quickly and easily manage your online business listings with a single click at Moz Local. Moz Local pushes your listings to all of the major local data aggregators, where search engines can access your information, ensuring it is correct, consistent, and visible across the web.

    Be careful when using paid submission services. Some services will remove your listing(s) once you stop paying for the service. It’s worth noting that another advantage to manually submitting your business listing is that you’ll maintain control over your listing’s passwords.

    - Optimize Your Website for Mobile: With mobile penetration expected to reach upwards of 75% this year, more consumers are likely to be searching for your business from their mobile device. “If you want to stay relevant and attractive to your visitors, you need to provide them with easier access through their mobile devices,” says Ben Oren, Director of SEO at WhiteWeb Technologies.

    Businesses should consider site design from a mobile-first perspective. Content, navigation, and interactions must be carefully developed for mobile. For example, content order is important because of its tendency to restack on smaller screens, and logical navigation is important because people are tapping buttons or links with their thumbs.

    One option for mobile that many businesses are considering is responsive website design. With responsive design, your site adapts to the screen size of the device on which it’s displayed, which means that you won’t need a separate mobile version for your website. According to Google, responsive website design is considered an industry best practice and is their recommended configuration.

    From an SEO perspective, site owners can develop a mobile SEO strategy that includes location-based terms more likely to be used from a mobile device. Likewise, you won’t have to duplicate your link building, site authority, and social share efforts, as you’ll be able to dedicate your efforts to linking to a single site.

    - Engage With Your Customers: Google Places, Google+, Yelp,  Foursquare, and others are relevant because of the independent review provided by consumers. Engage your customers via social media or other methods, and encourage them to leave reviews on local directory sites. Positive reviews add credibility to your brand, increase your domain  authority, and provide Google with clues that your business should appear high on search results.

    Optimizing for local search is no longer an optional activity. It’s an essential part of your overall optimization strategy and should not be overlooked.

     

  9. Retainer vs. Hourly Billing: How Do You Devise a Pricing Model That Works for Both Agency and Client?

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    Part 2 of a series
    This is part two of a two-part series about pricing models. Part one discussed how to determine consulting rates.

    There was a time when most search marketing agencies used the traditional advertising agency model and charged a percentage of their client’s advertising spend. Over time, many realized this form of payment actually dissuades your client from administering their budget effectively or efficiently and incentivizes quantity rather than quality of work or results.

    Today, the prevailing pricing methods for search agencies are monthly retainers or hourly bills. Which one is right for your agency? How do you determine the best pricing model for both your agency and your client?

    To answer this, ask yourself some questions about your client and the work you’ll perform on their behalf. Does your client have a set budget for your work? If so, they’ll insist on staying within that budget and will also likely want to spread that cost over months. If so, a retainer will work best.

    Retainers, when staffed correctly, allow agencies to commit resources to the client, enabling them to work on client projects and tasks at any moment in time. They enable brand managers to have a focused, knowledgeable team that in essence becomes an extension of themselves. Retainers, thus, permit energy and focus to be on critical thinking, rather than on hours billed or time and resource constraints.

    The retainer price will be based on several factors, including services performed, anticipated number of dedicated hours per resource, and overall budget. It’s essential that the agency price the retainer effectively. Thorough and transparent collaboration between the agency and brand will result in a properly staffed, timed, and billed retainer agreement that will benefit both agency and client.

    The hourly rate pricing model has certain advantages as well. It’s simple to calculate and understand and provides both agency and client an opportunity to test each other out. Neither side may be willing to commit to a long-term relationship without first knowing that their work styles are compatible.

    The hourly rate pricing model works best when clients require semi-regular task-oriented work. It’s not optimal for clients who require full-time agency support. Likewise, if the client doesn’t have the wherewithal to support working with the agency on a full-time basis, which requires a significant time commitment, both parties will be served best by an hourly rate price model.

    If clients choose an hourly rate price model, they need to understand upfront that the agency will not allocate resources to projects until an agreement is in place. This agreement should come with an understanding as to when the work will be performed and when it will be completed. Agencies are not expected to “drop everything” as they typically would with larger retainer clients.

    Another consideration is that agency hourly rates tend to be priced higher for short-term projects. Retainers give agencies more flexibility to offer blended or reduced hourly rates in return for the longer term commitment.

    Most typically, a combination of retainer and hourly rate will meet the needs of clients and agencies. Any work deemed above and beyond the retainer agreement will be billed hourly. Dedicated resources still will be allocated, but those resources will bill any hours above the agreed-upon retainer allocation at an hourly rate.

    Which model do you prefer? Share your experiences in the comments below.

  10. Determining Pricing: How Much Are Your Consulting Services Worth in the Open Market?

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    Part 1 of a series

    Are you diving into the world of consulting? Determining your hourly rate is tricky, especially for those new to the world of consulting.

    Here is a list of questions to help you begin to establish a rate that meets your financial objectives while keeping your client’s budget in mind.

    What is your specialization, and how rare is your skill set?
    Two very important factors that influence how much you can charge for your services are your specialization and the scarcity of the services you provide. If you are one of a select few who have your skill set (and you can prove it via customer testimonials, certifications, and specialized training), you can charge more for your services.  Keep this in mind as you develop your practice. Generalists are a dime a dozen. If you want to maximize your income potential, specialize in one area of digital marketing services, and do it better than anyone else.

    What is the average hourly rate for your services in your local geographic area?
    Base your rate on what your local market will bear. Don’t overprice or underprice the market, unless you have a very specific specialization or you are just starting your business and have a need to prove yourself to prospective clients.

    What is the age of your business?
    As stated earlier, young businesses might want to set their prices at the lower range of the local market. Older businesses, with testimonials from well-known brands, might consider charging above the mid-range of the local market.

    What are your financial objectives?
    If you’ve determined your annual financial objectives, you can do some simple math to determine your hourly rate. If your objective is to earn $100,000 per year and you plan on taking two weeks off for vacation, you can start by equating an hourly rate as:

    $100,000 / 50 weeks per year = $2,000 per week

    Assuming you work 40 hours per week, your hourly rate is $50 per hour.

    Keep in mind some of the factors above to determine if this figure should be adjusted upward or downward. Remember to consider and account for billable hours per week – not all 40 will be billable, or you may need to work additional hours to manage administrative and business issues to achieve 40 billable hours in a week. Also, factor in your expenses. Many consultants, regardless of industry, double or even triple the base hourly rate to get a net figure to charge customers. If this rate does not equate with what the local market will bear, or with your experience level and your level of specialization, you may need to adjust accordingly.

    As you determine your rate, it is important to remember not to devalue your business or yourself. Be prepared to justify your rate. Ways to justify include providing references, white papers, and examples of your success stories. Your clients should be your biggest advocates. Don’t be afraid to ask them for references when you are trying to acquire new business.

    The only time you should consider reducing your rate is if you believe the prospective client is trying you out before committing to a much larger budget and will provide you with a steady income in the future. If clients push back with regard to your rates, offer them additional services at the same rate, rather than devaluing your service. Another option would be to offer a reduced rate only if the balance of the bill is paid in advance. Be flexible, yet steadfast.

    Pricing is a lot like marketing itself. The best results usually come from a deep understanding of your market and testing different things in order to come up with the perfect mix. Good luck, and enjoy the ride.

     

    How did you determine the rate for your consulting services? Share your experiences in the comments below.