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“We have seen a significant increase in our sales that goes beyond the first click. This is an increase that we can tie back to the search campaigns run by our partners at Nina Hale, Inc.” — John Schroeder, Retail Business Intelligence Manager, Room & Board

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10 Mobile Site Best Practices

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Note: Please use these mobile site best practices if designing a mobile-friendly site/landing page is your only option. I believe that responsive design sites are your best option, but I understand the costs associated with creating a whole new site so if you are unable to create a responsive design site, here are some tips from Google’s GO|MO for creating a mobile-friendly site.

 

1. Keep it quick. Most mobile users are searching on-the-go and don’t have time to wait for your site to load or to read all the content that your well-optimized desktop site contains so create content that can be quickly scanned.

  • Use only the most relevant content on your mobile site.
  • Reduce text blocks by breaking your content down into bullet points.
  • Compress images on your site for faster load times.

 

 

2. Simplify navigation. Mobile users are looking to find what they are looking for fast and don’t want to spend time browsing your site to find it so make navigation easy.

  • Minimize scrolling with vertical navigation.
  • Enable search functionality on large, complex sites.
  • Display clear back and home buttons.
  • Use 7 links or less per page of navigation.

3. Be thumb-friendly. Make buttons friendly for every shape and size thumb.

  • Use large, centered buttons opposed to linked text.
  • Give buttons breathing room to avoid accidental clicks.

4. Design for visibility. Make sure users can see your site without having to strain their eyes or do that little annoying pinch.

  • Create contrast between the background and text.
  • Make sure the content fits on the screen without having to be zoomed or resized.
  • Use lots of white space.
  • Indicate buttons by highlighting them as different colors and sizes.

 

 

5. Make it accessible. The Samsung commercials are true, the iPhone still does not have Flash so neither should you mobile site unless you want to exclude the 250+ million iPhone users and the 100+ million iPad users.

  • Do not use Flash-based sites. HTML5 can pack just as great of a punch.
  • Adapt your site for both horizontal and vertical orientations.

 

 

6. Make it easy to convert. Mobile customers are still customers too. Keep in mind that 4 Ferraris are sold a month on mobile device. If Ferrari can make a sale on mobile, you can too.

  • Focus on information that will aid conversions.
  • Reduce the number of steps to make a transaction.
  • Keep forms as short as possible. Only ask for the necessary information.
  • Use checkboxes, lists and scroll menus to make data entry easier.
  • Enable click-to-call functionality.

7. Make it local. ~50% of mobile search is local in its nature, your mobile site needs to be too.

  • Have your address or store locator on the landing page.
  • Include maps and directs. Use GPS when possible.
  • Allow users to check stock at nearby stores.

 8. Make it seamless. Since users search and shop across many different devices, try to make your mobile site as functional with your desktop as possible.

  • Allow users to save popular search and shopping cart content.
  • Maintain key features of the desktop site on your mobile site.

9. Use mobile site redirects. This code snippet on your site can determine if a visitor is coming from a mobile device and will automatically take them to your mobile site.

  • Give users the option to visit the desktop site with the access to the mobile site again, should they wish to return.
  • Let users choose which version they prefer for later visits.

10. Listen, learn and iterate. Listen to what users have to say about your mobile site and make the necessary improvements. Make testing and optimization an ongoing process.

  • Use Analytics to see how visitors use your site.
  • Collect and implement user feedback.

2012 Popular Halloween Costumes

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Big Bird may be the hotly-discussed meme costume, but you’d be surprised at the breakout breakout here of Korean pop star PSY best known for his 1/2 billion views (and growing) video Gangnam Style (Gangnam is an upscale neighborhood in Seoul)

I’m trying to get my kid to go as PSY, but he’s worried he’d have to explain it to people. maybe it’s a better one for parties – especially dance parties. 

Of course you can’t beat the costumes some of our staff wore to a Halloween party this past Saturday night. I especially like Lizzy’s spreadsheet.

2012 MIMA Summit

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

The 2012 MIMA Summit is sold out! It’s no surprise with all the great breakout sessions and two excellent keynote speakers; Jane McGonigal and Guy Kawasaki. Nina Hale, Lee Ann and myself will be attending. We’re implementing a divide and conquer strategy to soak up as much information as possible for our clients. Here are some of the sessions I’m planning on going to! View the entire schedule here.

Not Going to MIMA Summit 2012 today? Watch the live stream.

Keynote Speaker: Jane McGonigal

Jane McGonigal comes from a game design background.  McGonigal believes that the engagement success from game designers, or, “Happiness Designers,”  should be implemented into the field of interactive marketing.

Breaking Boundaries: John Hadl and Steven Rosenblatt

Steven Rosenblatt the CRO at Foursquare and John Hadl Venture Capitalist are speaking on how Foursquare and related companies are changing the SoLoMo world.

Case Study: Jon Schepke

Jon Schepke presents a case study regarding SoLoMo and how most businesses aren’t effectively utilizing these emerging digital strategies in their marketing mix.

Keynote: Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki is a remarkable speaker and has lots of expertise he could touch on. Author of 9 books and involved in many exciting projects including previously playing a role as the Apple Chief Evangelist.

Case Study: Micheal Polz

Micheal Polz will be presenting how to execute successful social media in highly regulated environments. Polz will looking into the common challenges and how they can be overcome.

Emerging Trends: Nicole Newville

Nicole Newville will be speaking about how digital media is taking over the real world. Newville will teach us how to dream big in digital media, explain that dream to key people with business smarts, and then how to implement in just one hour.

Learn more about the speakers and watch the the live stream!

Have a question about one of the above presentations? Leave a comment below and I’ll share my thoughts!

SMX East Day III: “Advanced” Link Building, Maximizing SEM & Future of PPC

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Today’s sessions where filled with less tactical/strategic sessions and more big picture, theory-based sessions. There were some very interesting, thought-driving conversations at these sessions but the takeaways were limited. Without any further ado, my final SMX summary:

 

Conversation: Is There Really “Advanced” Link Building?

 

One panelist answered the session title question by asking if there is advanced common sense. Many of the panel members agreed saying that even though good link building can be hard, if you adhere to Google’s policies and build links that will withstand time, you will have a well-linked site.

 

The most interesting topic that spun off this conversation was how to use your followers, fans and other social media audiences as a medium for linking. One tip from Wil Reynolds of SEER Interactive was to use FollowerWonk.com to find people who are interested in what you do. Then download a report of these people and filter their bios to find people who are editors, journalists, bloggers, etc. and connect with them to help you distribute your content and essentially links.

 

Some other tools that panel members shared for finding sources to help you promote your content were:

  • Screaming Frog
  • Muck Rat
  • Top Seat
  • Journalism Tweets

This session definitely got me thinking of new ways that we, at Nina Hale, could distribute our clients’ content.

Maximizing Enterprise SEM

I was interested in attending this session to get an idea of the client’s perspective of SEM. Much of the presentations during this session when centered on how to choose between outsourcing your SEM or if you should take it in-house. Anthony Piwarun, from the agency Zeon Solutions, provided an agency perspective on how communication between the silos of digital marketing is crucial to a successful strategy.

When speaking of whether or not SEM should be taken in-house or outsourced, the panel agreed that this was not a cost-based decision for most companies. Craig Macdonald, Sr. Director at Microsoft Advertising, shared interesting numbers that the costs between hiring an agency or taking your SEM in-house did not vary extremely. He made the argument that the reason for choosing an agency is because they hold the expertise on SEM and are able to better recruit the search professionals required to run your accounts.

Another thought on the panel, from David Roth at Realtor.com, was that you should outsource what you can and keep in-house what you have to. He also said that the same was true for SEM tools – buy what you can and build what you can’t. He said that the three ingredients for a good SEM agency were: (1) decent technology, (2) smart people and (3) hard working people. He stressed the importance of communication between agencies and clients and said that reporting on the KPIs of programs should occur every week.

Conversation: Where’s Paid Search Going in 2013?

According to the panelists at this session, there has been a 15-20% growth in paid search spend year-over-year. In previous years where spend has grown, higher CPCs has been a contributing factor. This year is different. With the growth of paid mobile search advertising in 2012, not only are spend and clicks going up, but CPCs are going down. This leads the panel to believe that more paid mobile search is in our future.

One prediction for mobile search from Siddharth Shah at Adobe is that 20% of PPC clicks will be from mobile devices in the year 2013. This is not to say that mobile will be taking searches from desktop. Mobile searches will be complementary to desktop searches.

One drawback of mobile is that because over 50% of the searches are localized, many users who click on your paid ad will not convert directly on their device. Instead, they will most likely convert in store. One interesting statistic shared was that 70% of people searching on mobile devices are ready to make a purchase in the next hour whereas 70% of people searching on desktops are planning to make a purchase in the next month.

Another issue with mobile tracking is that 90% of users use multiple screens before completing an action. This makes attribution across devices more difficult. One idea to combat this was a browser cookie. Google might already have a leg up on this since when you are signed on Chrome through your different devices, they are able to display your browsing history to you across platforms.

The other big prediction for 2013 was more demographic targeting. Craig Macdonald from Microsoft Advertising shared that both Google and Bing are developing better targeting options using demographics, social information and previous search history. This will allow you to create profiles of what your target customer looks like and will hopefully allow for real time bidding based on audiences in the future.

Also, Google and Bing should both be working on making their geo-targeting better in 2013. Just sayin’.

And that’s it! Thanks to all the wonderful speakers at SMX. You all gave inspiring presentations and tips that I will certainly be using in my near future. See you soon Minneapolis! 

SMX East Day II: Schema, Mobile Landing Pages & Facebook

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Another exciting day here at the Javits Center! Today I visited the sessions on Schema 101, smartphone and tablet conversions and Facebook sharing. So let’s dive in:

Schema 101: Why The New Meta Data Matters

This session certainly served as an introduction course to schema and while there weren’t many tactical tips and strategy ideas to take away from this session, it was fascinating to hear people, like the highly intelligent Barbra Starr, speak.

Barbra Starr comes from an artificial intelligence background, which has included work on projects like Watson and Siri. In her presentation, she gives us a history of what has occurred in the last five years with vocabulary usage and syntax in code that has made a resource like schema.org necessary for the search engines to create in order to better crawl sites.

Some of the other speakers shared a few more takeaway items. For example, Matt Brown shared the five simple steps of becoming more familiar with Schema:

1. Look at the Webmaster Tools page on schema.org. This page is always changing.

2. Check your vertical for what markup types are generating rich snippets.

3. Set success metrics for current traffic and CTR. If you see improvement, you can relate it to the rich snippets.

4. Be patient. Snippets can take sometimes 30 days or more.

5. Learn more about the Knowledge Graph (a plug for his later presentation).

Matt’s most important takeaway from this session was to visit http://www.w3.org/wiki/WebSchemas/SchemaDotOrgProposals to see what new Schemas are being proposed and to implement the ones that fit your site and vertical even if these schemas aren’t live yet. You’ll want to do this because if/when they do go live, you don’t want your competition having the leg up on you in the SERPs by having these rich snippets displayed.

iConvert: Landing Pages & Conversion In A Smartphone & Tablet World

It’s only the middle of day two here at SMX East but I believe this session had to have been the best session here. This session could warrant a series of blog posts but since I am giving you a daily summary of the day’s events, I will summarize Chris Goward’s presentation as it well a great intro to this session.

Chris said that when marketers think of mobile pages, they think of designing a version for mobile and maybe designing version for tablets. This is wrong. The reality is that there is a multi-screen environment. There is no standard size for a screen size. We are evolving into a screen size continuum, where there are many different screen sizes. Because of this, he says we have to stop thinking of mobile pages vs. desktop pages and start designing sites to work across platforms/devices (Scott Brinkler later offers a counter argument).

He then presents us four options of accommodating mobile search:

Option 1: Don’t customize for mobile search. Some people might argue that is the percent of your traffic from mobile is too low (say 7%) to warrant creating a mobile site. While that might be true for your business now, that won’t be the case for long. The growth in mobile search is not slowing down. You must plan for mobile site. If not, 61% of visitors who visit your desktop site on their mobile device will bounce off and convert on your competitor’s mobile site instead.

Option 2: Build a mobile app. This is not a solution for search marketing. This is for an already developed mobile strategy.

Option 3: Build mobile landing page. This is a better option but often times separate mobile sites can create new problems including:

  • Confusing listings in SERPS. You might be searching on a desktop and be served a link to the mobile site. This does not provide an optimal experience for the user.
  • Higher maintenance costs with mobile sites.
  • Inconsistent user experiences. Users can and will convert on mobile sites if you allow them to. Use call-to-actions on your mobile sites.
  • Mobile sites are not future proof. The future will hold even more screen sizes that you will have to adjust your mobile site for. iPhone 5 anyone?

Option 4: Use responsive landing page designs. Not only does Google recommend using responsive web design, but it can save you time from having to create many different sites for different screen sizes as it adjusts the page for you.

The other key point Chris covers is on the LIFT Model . This model gets you thinking of how you can design your landing page around how visitors view it. For more information on the LIFT Model click here.

And as with all things search, digital and marketing related, you must test. Test your sites to make sure they are displayed properly on all devices and test different mobile layouts and strategies. And when testing, test something valuable. As Carlos del Rio said, ”Testing button color is the stupidest test you can do – it won’t make you a million dollars.”

Getting Liked & Shared On Facebook

This session provide great takeaway tips and success stories. Here are five of my favorite tips from the speakers:

1. Post simple, short and concise updates. A line and a half (or 80 characters) is ideal. Posts this length over the posts of three or more lines increased engagement by 20%.
2. Keep the headline titles to links, photos and videos interesting. You are writing these to be engaging, not for SEO. Don’t give all the information right away.
3. It’s okay to use call to actions like click, like, comment and share.
4. People are looking for your Facebook page to deliver something of value to them. Try Facebook offers or contests exclusive to Facebook fans.
5. Tag popular pages in your posts when it’s relevant. That way your content will appear in their tagged posts to their fans.

Remember, social media is not a popularity contest. It is about engagement, not reach.

10 Landing Page Testing Concepts

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Landing page testing is (and should be) a widely used optimization technique for all forms of media. There are many best practices used across a number of business organizations, some that are specific to certain verticals and others that are applicable to only a few clients. In our experience, the tips below can be applied across all clients and built into your testing process (if they don’t already exist).

1 Failure is an option

This must be a backbone of any form of testing, simply because you don’t know what will work best. This is why you are testing. Not every element you test will work, and some that work on one channel won’t work on another. Your clients (internal or external) need to understand that some experiences won’t always work. Just make sure you can take something from a losing creative. Determining losers quickly doesn’t hurt either.

2 Sequential Testing

We are referring here to tests where one version is given a certain amount of time to run and then another version goes live (version A for week one, version B for week two). Occasionally this method cannot be avoided, but when you can – avoid it. By using this method, you introduce too many potential complications into what is impacting your creative; like seasonality, PR, viral traffic, etc. Instead use a tool that can split traffic to the desired creative versions. This will limit complications and provide clearer results.

3 Big vs. Little (A/B vs. MVT)

You want to test so many things on your landing pages. We do too. That said, A/B/n testing is best used on large-scale changes to a page. If you introduce all the elements you want, you have too many versions to test and most likely not enough traffic to go around (at least in a reasonable amount of time). Multivariate (MVT) is great for then refining the winner(s) from your A/B test by finding the most favorable elements within that winner.

4 Simple

What do you want your visitor to accomplish? Have a clear call to action telling them what you want, then limit the steps to get to that point. Everything important should be above the fold. Keep unnecessary elements to a minimum. Limiting distractions can go a long way to increasing your conversion rate.

5 Messaging

You are already testing messaging in your emails and ad copy. Does it match what a visitor then sees on the landing page? They don’t need to be exactly the same, but your visitor shouldn’t be seeing a completely different message and call to action. They came to your site based on one message; supporting it can help improve your conversion rate.

6 Math

Make sure your results are statistically significant. Without this, you’re still making an educated guess at best. We like to give a little time even after our results have reached statistical significance, just to make sure.

7 Focus on one conversion

One main conversion should be the focus of your landing page. Adding multiple conversion points can potentially decrease conversion rate. If multiple conversions are important, consider multi-step processes after the main conversion is reached.

8 Dedicated Designers/Developers

Great designers and developers can make your testing process much more efficient. Not to mention look more professional and have fewer performance issues. When they are dedicated to your testing initiatives, it becomes easier to share ideas, bring ideas to life faster and get better feedback on testing plans.

9 Audience

How are visitors viewing your landing page? If they use a mobile device, you should consider a distinct version that is customized to that experience. Same goes for Apple and PC. Depending on the functionality of your page, you may also want to customize for browsers.

10 Leave it live

Once a winning landing page is determined, the other versions are often all turned off. Instead, if you have a new winner, consider keeping your old winner active, just limit the traffic to a smaller portion of the total traffic. This helps in two areas. The first is it keeps any legacy links alive; if a landing page is live for a few years, many sites may link to it. Taking down the page could create broken links and limit the number of conversion your site captures. The second area is showing you visibility over time into performance. Do metrics of your new winner remain consistently higher every month/season/holiday, etc?

 

There are a ton of other ideas and best practices. What are your favorites?

Google Analytics Presentation on Social and Mobile at MIMA

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

This Morning MIMA (Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association) hosted Adam Singer from Google Analytics where he talked about social and mobile measurement. These can be two of the more challenging sources of data for marketers, so not surprisingly, the event was sold out.

Adam started his presentation discussing some of the challenges facing mobile analytics and how some of the newer social reports in Google Analytics can help marketers. I’m going to focus my recap on this portion of the talk and save the Google Analytics for Mobile apps for another day.

He presented data from Google’s own research and commissioned studies that are worth repeating:

  1. Google has found that on average there are 4.3 interactions between a site and a customer over two days prior to a conversion.
  2. 57% of people talk more online than they do in real life
  3. 1 in 4 search results are for user generated content.

Adam then moved into a review of the new social media reports that have been added to Google Analytics. These standard reports can now be found under Traffic Sources. While they are not perfect, they can help you understand the importance and value of these channels. If you have not utilized these reports yet, definitely do so.

Of these reports I have found the Overview and Social Visitor Flow to be the most useful, and they both work together to show how visitors move from a social network to a site conversion. I’ll leave you with one quote for Adam that all performance marketers should keep in mind when analyzing this data: “It is not the number of fans or followers, but what you do with them.”

 

 

 

 

Search Friendly App For the 2012 Minnesota State Fair

Friday, August 24th, 2012

The great Minnesota get together is now under way. For those of you connected to your smart phone 24/7, you no longer have to pry yourself away to look at a map or find your favorite fair food. The 2012 app provides all the state fair information you could need at the palm of your hand, best part…it’s free!

To download the MN State Fair app simply visit your Android Market or iPhone App Store, and search “Minnesota State Fair”.  Check out mnstatefair.org for more information.

Here is a quick overview of this year’s sparkly new app:

Home page with a bottom navigation bar that has icons to direct you to different search functions. 

Food Finder allows you to search for your favorite foods, preview the vendor offerings and location information. Search results can conveniently be divided into categories and even bookmarked for reference later. 

  

The Merch Search and Fun Finder functions work in a similar way, providing users with location information, schedules and the handy bookmark function. 

 

The compass icon provides a map for the user. Although the map is not interactive, it is still helpful. 

 

 

 

Happy Minnesota State Fair! 

 

*Image Source: 2012 Minnesota State Fair 

Google’s Flu Tracker

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Here in Minnesota, the official end of summer is considered by many to be the State Fair. This year the “Great Minnesota Get Together” kicks off this Thursday and runs through Labor Day. As has become tradition, the Nina Hale Team is preparing for our annual team outing to the fair. We will probably ride some rides, look at some fish in the DNR’s concrete pond, and hopefully see some llamas.

What we will not be doing, if the Safety Committee has anything to say about it, is visiting the Swine Barn. Again this year, the midwest has seen a few cases of swine flu transferred from pigs to humans occurring at State Fairs in neighboring states, Wisconsin being the most recent example. Today the Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed the first human case in the state.

As head of the Nina Hale Safety Committee, I strive to stay on top of all potential threats including outbreaks such as swine flu.  One of my favorite tools to monitor flu outbreaks throughout the year is Google Flu Trends. This tool has been available for a number of years, but continues to be of interest to me.

 

The basic concept is that Google aggregates flu-related search queries and uses the location and quantity of searches to model actual flu cases. Given the volume of searches that are made on Google and the amount of historical information available, this prediction can be quite accurate.

While Google Flu Trends does not seem to be registering any impact of the current Swine Flu update in the upper-Midwest, it remains an interesting tool.

With Google’s vast historical information and a high number of searches taking place every day, one wonders what other activities could Google be predicting and how could those predictions be monetized for the company?

Website Testing and Its Impact on Search Results

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Yesterday, Google Webmaster Central provided some helpful guidelines around website testing and how to minimize the possible impact of A/B or multivariate website testing on a site’s performance in search results.

Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, Susan Moskwa, offered a “primer” on the different types of website testing and specified Google’s “guidelines for running an effective test with minimal impact on your site’s search performance.”   

Here are Moskwa’s recommendations, taken directly from her post:

No cloakingCloaking is an unnecessary and unlawful practice in Google's eyes.
Cloaking, showing one set of content to humans, and a different set to Googlebot is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, whether you’re running a test or not. Make sure that you’re not deciding whether to serve the test, or which content variant to serve, based on user-agent. An example of this would be always serving the original content when you see the user-agent “Googlebot.” Remember that infringing our Guidelines can get your site demoted or removed from Google search results—probably not the desired outcome of your test.

Use rel=canonical during website testing to tell guidance which is your original content.Use rel=“canonical”
If you’re running an A/B test with multiple URLs, you can use the rel=“canonical” link attribute on all of your alternate URLs to indicate that the original URL is the preferred version. We recommend using rel=“canonical” rather than a noindex meta tag because it more closely matches your intent in this situation. Let’s say you were testing variations of your homepage; you don’t want search engines to not index your homepage, you just want them to understand that all the test URLs are close duplicates or variations on the original URL and should be grouped as such, with the original URL as the canonical. Using noindex rather than rel=“canonical” in such a situation can sometimes have unexpected effects (e.g., if for some reason we choose one of the variant URLs as the canonical, the “original” URL might also get dropped from the index since it would get treated as a duplicate).

Use 302s rather than 301s for website testingUse 302s, not 301s   If you’re running an A/B test that redirects users from the original URL to a variation URL, use a 302 (temporary) redirect, not a 301 (permanent) redirect. This tells search engines that this redirect is temporary—it will only be in place as long as you’re running the experiment—and that they should keep the original URL in their index rather than replacing it with the target of the redirect (the test page). JavaScript-based redirects are also fine.

Only run the experiment as long as necessary
The amount of time required for a reliable test will vary depending on factors like your conversion rates, and how much traffic your website gets; a good testing tool should tell you when you have gathered enough data to draw a reliable conclusion. Once you’ve concluded the test, you should update your site with the desired content variation(s) and remove all elements of the test as soon as possible, such as alternate URLs or testing scripts and markup. If we discover a site running an experiment for an unnecessarily long time, we may interpret this as an attempt to deceive search engines and take action accordingly. This is especially true if you’re serving one content variant to a large percentage of your users.

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Moskwa indicates that if you follow the guidelines and recommendations, your tests should have “little or no impact on your site in search results.” She also stated that if Google” crawl(s) your site often enough to detect and index your experiment, we’ll probably index the eventual updates you make to your site fairly quickly after you’ve concluded the experiment.”

The Webmaster Central Blog is a great way to stay on top of Google’s most recent changes and guidance. You can read Moskwa’s entire post and sign up to receive email notifications of new posts here.