Tag Archives: Useful Marketing

Gatorade’s Example: Can a Company Be Health-Conscious and Sales-Focused at the Same Time?

Health-Conscious and Sales-FocusedMarketing is a tricky game: Businesses must convince consumers to buy their product, even when both the consumer and the business are aware of certain product drawbacks. No product can be everything to all people, though.

For instance, proper running shoes won’t look like Converse Chuck Taylors. What makes running shoes fly off the shelf isn’t their style, but their function. The reverse is also true: Converse can’t market their sneakers like they would athletic shoes. In this case, it’s about style over performance.

The Marketing Dilemma: Handling a Product’s Weakness

Companies in the food industry have a similar dilemma. In today’s health-conscious society, consumers are paying attention to labels. Dramatically high numbers of fat and sugar will turn off many customers.

If a business isn’t selling a health food, marketing can be tough. Most companies generally avoid pointing out unhealthy ingredients in their products and focus more on the items’ positive aspects, never addressing issues that might be considered a drawback.

Ad campaigns and marketing for these products tend to focus on taste and satisfaction. They even appeal to the bandwagon nature of people: “This celebrity likes it, so should you!” While this makes sense, acknowledging the perceived weakness of a product may be a boon to a marketing campaign.

Leverage Weakness for Better Marketing

One company is changing the game. Gatorade, the well-known sports energy drink, has a new video campaign that explicitly addresses the amount of sugar the drink contains. One 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade contains roughly 34 grams of sugar, although the specific amount can slightly vary, depending on the flavor. Sugar is often considered one of the worst ingredients in today’s diet, and people have a tendency to consume far too much.

Since the American Heart Association recommends that men cap their daily sugar consumption at 37.5 grams and women at just 25 grams, Gatorade’s high sugar content could be seen as a sales liability. Gatorade’s new campaign, however, turns this weakness into opportunity.

Gatorade’s Bold Marketing Strategy

Gatorade is addressing concerns about the amount of sugar in its product with a new video series featuring professional athletes. In the videos, professional athletes such as J.J. Watt and Karl-Anthony Towns confront ordinary people drinking Gatorade outside the context of sports or exercise.

The athletes challenge these individuals to “earn the sugar” by getting active and working up a sweat. For example, in one video Watt has one woman push a blocking sled in order to burn enough calories to “earn” a Gatorade. In another, Towns challenges a man walking calmly down the street with a Gatorade to try to dribble a basketball around the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year.

Gatorade’s head of consumer management, Kenny Mitchell, said the “Burn It to Earn It” marketing campaign was born out of a desire to address the amount of sugar in Gatorade – a key component of the product – without hurting sales. Essentially, the company wanted to make it clear their drink is intended for use by athletes who need to replace the sugar they sweat out during exercise.

An Uncommon Approach May Be Successful

The Gatorade campaign is a risky venture, but it looks like a surprisingly successful one. In addition to being used as a sports drink, Gatorade has gained popularity as a folk remedy for hangovers, as well as being popular with consumers who simply like it for the taste. The new marketing campaign, which makes it clear that Gatorade is intended for athletes, risks alienating these other consumer bases.

In contrast to the new ads from Gatorade, companies such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo (the latter happens to own and distribute Gatorade) have been in the news for trying to protect their market share by lobbying against health bills meant to combat obesity by reducing soda consumption.

It’s a much more common strategy than Gatorade’s approach, similar to tactics big tobacco and alcohol distributors have used in years past. This approach also comes with some risks: No one wants to support a company that sacrifices their consumer’s health for profit. Gatorade’s campaign is different by showing that a company can send out positive, helpful messages to the public that address a product’s drawbacks but still encourage purchases.

Has the Health-Conscious and Sales-Focused Strategy Paid Off?

Recent sales data shows that quarterly and annual sales of Gatorade appear to be doing well. Data from the market research agency IRI shows Gatorade’s various brands of sports drinks (led by Gatorade Perform) dominated the field of sports drinks in 2015, with the overall market share rising 10 percent that year.

It’s too early to tell if Gatorade’s new campaign will result in increased revenue. However, the health-conscious campaign comes off as a legitimate branding strategy, rather than a gimmick to drum up sales.

It’s interesting to note that while Gatorade’s new approach seems to be helping its brand and sales, public consumption of sugared sodas and carbonated beverages is dropping off, in spite of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo’s lobbying efforts to protect consumers’ access to soda.

Although carbonated soft drinks still led in overall sales among convenience stores in 2015, sports drinks such as Gatorade were a much closer second than they’ve been in the past, and the product shows much greater overall growth.

Consider Other Health-Conscious Approaches

Gatorade’s new campaign makes for an interesting comparison to other efforts by brands traditionally viewed as unhealthy, which are trying to keep their sales stable in an increasingly health-conscious market. Take McDonald’s, for example. Particularly after the release of the documentary “Super Size Me” in 2004, the company has worked relentlessly to convince consumers its food isn’t all that bad for you.

McDonald’s recent “Always Working” campaign in the U.K. aimed to convince parents that they’ve made Happy Meals healthier over the last 10 years, and that parents shouldn’t feel guilty about offering them to their children.

Changing the Product vs. Changing Your Campaign

A big difference between McDonald’s and Gatorade, however, is that Gatorade hasn’t changed the product, just the marketing. McDonald’s campaign is trying to show that it is listening to its consumers and thus changing the product to make it healthier. Gatorade, on the other hand, doesn’t claim to have made any changes to the amount of sugar in their traditional drinks.

However, it’s worth noting that Gatorade recently launched a G Organic lineup of drinks. While these new products still contain a high amount of sugar, they are made with only seven ingredients, including organic cane sugar.

Gatorade’s new ads clarify that the product is meant for athletic competition and that when it’s consumed alongside exercise and sports activity, the amount of sugar isn’t overwhelming for your body. Mitchell actually states that Gatorade is proud of the sugar in their drinks and has no plans to change its formula.

Turn Weakness into Opportunity

Marketing is about explaining to your base why they want or need your product. If your product has a downside, there may be a way to leverage that perceived weakness into a strength, much like Gatorade has done.

The “Burn It to Earn It” marketing campaign shows that it’s possible for a company to stay true to itself while also responding to public health concerns, all without hurting the bottom line.

At Eminent SEO, we can evaluate your company’s brand messaging and marketing strategy for areas of weakness and potential opportunities. Give us a try! Call 800.871.4130 today.

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Fundamentals of Logo Design: 6 Questions to Ask When Designing a Company Logo

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6 Questions To Ask Designing A Company Logo - Eminent SEOWhen starting a business, you want your logo to be legendary, memorable and to make a statement. You want it to create a buzz and help your brand become a household name.

All this is possible if you put in the time and effort as well as ask the right questions before, during and after the design phase. Here are some questions to get you started and push you in the right direction to create the perfect logo for your business.

What Is My Mission?

Any business that has the intent to be successful will first come up with a mission statement – the “why.” Company leaders will begin to refine the goal and the intention of the business, who it is looking to target, and why the business even exists.

It is imperative to revisit your company’s mission when designing a logo. Your logo should not only be memorable, but it should also convey the reason your business exists in the first place. Before you go to any graphic designer, whether in house or outsourced, you must go back to the basics and remind yourself “why” and make sure your mission is crystal clear.

What Type of Logo Do I Want?

There are a few different styles you can approach when your logo is in design. Whatever type you choose, you’ll want to make sure it reflects the personality of your business and is memorable to your audience.

Here are four main styles of logos that could help your company stand out:

1. Watermarks

Think Google, Coca-Cola or Absolut Vodka: All three logos are standalone lettering of the company’s name. All have distinctive lettering, color and graphics to represent the brand. You can probably recall each logo as you are reading this right now. In other cases, an abbreviation of a company’s name can work for this style of logo, too.

2. Letterform

Letterform logos are ones that use one or more letters that stand alone as a symbol of the brand. Some of the most famous letterform marks are McDonalds, Chanel and Honda.

3. Pictorial

Also known as iconic marks, pictorial marks are a personification of the brand. Think about it: You know where someone got their coffee from when you see a green Siren with a crown, or what type of computer a stranger is using when you see an apple on the back, and you know what channel you’re watching when you see the iconic peacock. Starbucks, Apple and NBC have all mastered the art of the pictorial.

4. Abstract

Swoosh. What comes to mind? Nike, of course! This is probably the most successful abstract logo out there. Nike has built such a strong visual identification that it is easily recognized around the world. Other prominent abstract designs include logos representing Chase Bank and Sprint.

Which Color(s) Best Represents My Brand?

Become A Know It All Color Psychology In Logos - Eminent SEOA bit of psychology goes into creating the perfect logo for your business. Human beings have a subconscious recognition of colors and their meaning. If you want to appeal to the senses, you must choose the right color that will mesh with a certain neuro-association of your potential customer.

For example, the color red is associated with:

  • Energy
  • Danger
  • Determination
  • Strength

Yellow represents:

  • Happiness
  • Joy
  • Cheerfulness.

This might be a time to refer back to your corporate mission and decide what exactly you want your customers to feel or take away when they see your logo.

In considering the color(s) of your design, take shape into account as well – whatever best represents your brand and works in tandem with the colors. Brand logos should produce emotion and communicate your message simultaneously.

How Much Is This Going to Cost Me?

There is a reason why cost was not one of the first questions listed to ask. The reason is that designing a logo isn’t a cut-and-dry process, and there are many questions and steps involved from both the clients’ end as well as the designer’s. Of course, you want to get it right the first time. This is not to say that you will never change your logo, but you should want to get it as perfect as you can the first time around so that as time goes on, you are only making minor tweaks.

If you choose to go with a professional design company, you will spend anywhere from $4,000 to $15,000. Instead of one designer working on your project, you will have the benefit of multiple designers working with and for you, which means more creativity and ideas to bring your vision to life.

Don’t Let the Price Tag Discourage You!

If those price figures gave you a mild heart attack, don’t fret. There are options to cut your costs, especially if you are a small business with a small budget. Once you narrow down your options and get a bit more specific with what you want, you can take your ideas to a freelance designer or smaller company that can give you a more accurate quote for your budget.

Expect to pay a minimum of $250, even if you go with the more affordable designer. This is, of course, the lower end of the spectrum and would be for a simple design with two options and about two rounds of revisions. If your design is more complex and requires more detail, you should expect to pay a minimum of $400.

A good designer will include extra services like multiple design options for all merchandise, letterheads, business cards, etc. They will also allow as many revisions as needed to get the job done.

How Long Will This Process Take, and Is It Feasible with My Budget?

When considering cost, you must also be realistic about your budget. If you are spending every last cent of your logo budget on this project, it may be a good idea to hold off until you have more money.

What you pay a designer should be comparable to the time spent on the project. This means that clear communication is key. The more clearly you communicate your vision, the easier it will be to nail it the first go-round. Logo design projects can get extremely difficult when the client and designer have different interpretations of what the design should look like.

Remember, time is money. You certainly don’t want to get stuck with a design you don’t like as well as no money to have it corrected. You reap what you sow. Invest in your business first to enjoy the reward later.

Did I Cover All My Bases?

Many new small business owners make the mistake of not covering all of their bases and researching their competition. Originality matched with your key points and core values are what’s going to make your logo stand out from your competitors. Do your research!

It is imperative that you research the logos of other businesses, especially your competitors, to make sure that yours isn’t the least bit the same. You’ll want to avoid confusing your audience and, even worse, throwing away sales to your competition.

Also, it is wise to take time and consider every space, place, nook and cranny your logo could possibly appear. This could mean:

  • T-shirts
  • Letterheads
  • Pens
  • Windows
  • Billboards
  • Apps
  • Your website
  • Directories
  • Social media
  • Vehicles
  • Cellphone cases
  • Etc.

A photo posted by Eminent SEO (@eminentseo) on

It all depends on what works best for your industry, but you’ll want to consider all possibilities ahead of time. Your logo should translate across multiple avenues of marketing and communicate the same message.

Final Thoughts on Designing a Company Logo

At the end of the day, you want your employees and other to be proud to don your brand. You want your message to be strong and hope that it seeps into the subconscious of all those it comes in contact with. You want to become a household name and make a statement without saying a word.

Designing the perfect logo for your business can be a daunting task and it’s not for the faintest of hearts. Remaining close to your mission and your core values and remembering the “why” is what will help you keep a laser-like focus during the process. Authenticity and transparency are key if you want to create the trust needed to support your brand, so choose wisely.

Need a logo from scratch? Or an update of your current graphic? Eminent SEO can help. We can evaluate your current logo in comparison to your competition and then work closely with you produce a fresh, unique and relevant design. Just call 800.871.4130 to get started, or learn more about our Business Branding Services here.

Team Eminent SEO

Eminent SEO provides strategic SEO campaigns with measurable results along with expert website design, development, pay per click, content and social media and organic website marketing. 800.871.4130.

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To App or Not to App: Should You Put More Resources into a Mobile Site or Mobile App?

Mobile Site Or Mobile App - Eminent SEO

“There’s an app for that.”

There’s an app for almost anything now. And this might be a problem.

If your business is ready to ramp up its online and mobile marketing, it may be enticing to jump into the app game. But, before you do that, let’s temper that excitement a bit and take a hard look at exactly the market you’d be getting into.

Smartphone usage continues to climb, but the app craze of the early 2010s appears to have died down to an extent. That’s not to say smartphone users aren’t still loading up their hard drives with apps and that some businesses aren’t excelling on the app front, but your company should be cautious before making the leap into the marketplace.

An alternative to entering the app field is to upgrade your existing website’s mobile experience. In a recent blog post, we explained the rationale and logistics of making a website mobile-friendly. Now, we’ll look at what’s worth more of your time and resources in 2016: a mobile app or your mobile site?

The Mobile Web Landscape

Mobile traffic and search queries began overtaking their desktop counterparts in 2014. It’s worth noting that desktop traffic continuously grew from 1990 to about 2010 and has since leveled off, although it remains consistent.

So, while internet usage via desktop has remained steady over the last few years, mobile web traffic is on a meteoric rise. When comparing mobile web browser traffic to app traffic, mobile websites are seeing more than 2 times the number of unique visitors, according to a 2015 Morgan Stanley report.

However, loyalties to mobile websites aren’t as strong as they are for apps, and that’s both a good and a bad thing for the mobile internet. Smartphone users spend a great amount of time in their apps – 87 percent of their total time on a smartphone, to be exact, according to a 2015 comScore report. This means individual sessions in an app are usually much, much longer than they are on a specific mobile website.

The Mobile App Landscape

Phone Apps - Eminent SEOAlthough mobile apps comprise most of the time we spend on our smartphones, a majority of users aren’t just seeking out the latest and freshest apps to download. Here are some sobering facts to keep in mind as you consider jumping into the app market:

  • Separate reports from Forrester Research and Nielsen over the last couple of years have found that while smartphone owners use an average of about 25 different apps each month, only their top five apps (which differs by person) are getting a lot of love – more than 80 percent of a user’s total time in any app, in fact.
  • As of late 2014, according to Forrester Research, users spent a disproportionately high amount of time in the five following apps: Facebook, YouTube, Maps, Pandora and Gmail. You may have noticed that Google owns three of those properties.
  • The app market is only seeing serious download activity from the top 7 percent of all smartphone owners who download and use apps. This small demographic of serial app downloaders is actually responsible for 50 percent of all download activities.
  • A strong majority (65.5 percent) of smartphone users don’t download a single app over the course of a month, according to a 2014 comScore report. Of those who do make a download within a month’s time, most are only adding 1-3 apps in that span.
  • According to Forrester, social media and communication (WhatsApp, etc.) apps consume 21 percent of all smartphone minutes, not counting phone calls and text messaging. Gaming, streaming video, news, weather, music and sports apps also take up large chunks of smartphone owners’ time.
  • Apps tend to keep much of their traffic contained. This means that smartphone users are generally more hesitant to click a link and leave an app than they would be when on a mobile site, or even the desktop version of a site.

Analyzing Mobile Apps vs. The Mobile Web

You may have seen that apps beat the mobile web by a landslide when it comes to what takes up a user’s time on a smartphone. However, you also learned that mobile websites see much more traffic as a whole than apps do.

There is a quasi-monopoly on the app market. Google and Facebook mobile programs are dominating the competition. Other apps have found success, but they don’t account for nearly the amount of usage that Google and Facebook properties do.

On the other hand, the mobile web seems to be fostering healthier competition. Mobile web users appear to spread their attention over a wider range of properties, and they’re more likely to find a site they’ve never visited before.

Mobile web looks like the clear winner here going forward, but before we discuss how you can get a leg up on the competition with your mobile website, let’s look at a couple of cases where an app might still be worth your time.

Where a Mobile App Would Make Sense

If you run a small local business or a B2B type of company, putting your money and time into an app this year will likely be a waste of resources.

However, for certain businesses, a mobile app could be a great way to extend the experience for someone who has interacted with the company before. This means that the individual has walked into your store or is well acquainted with your website.

A mobile app could enhance the experience a customer has already had with your business. For example, many sandwich and coffee shops have moved from punch cards to an online app when tracking customers’ visits. It’s a sensible upgrade, and very helpful to the customer, when done right.

Schlotzsky’s Lotz4Me app records how many sandwiches you have eaten until you’ve earned a free one, and you can use the app to see the sandwich chain’s menu and all locations.

Schlotzskys Lotz4Me - Eminent SEO

The app also features company news and offers, some of which can get pushed to alert your phone. Mobile websites lack the latter capability. As you might imagine, some of the information from the company’s website (locations, menu and even news) has been repurposed to fit in the app, but it all helps build a better experience than simply seeing how close you are to a free sandwich.

Apps such as these are a logical extension of a business’s normal offerings, whether they usually take place online or face-to-face. A supplemental asset like this helps lead to more purchases down the road, while also building more loyalty to and appreciation of the specific company.

The national sandwich chain example might not be the best one if you own a restaurant or other type of local business with only one physical location. Asking your customers to download an app when you only have one locale might be a stretch, but perhaps you now have a few ideas on what makes for an effective app for the average business.

SaaS Success

It’s worth mentioning that software as a service (SaaS) companies can excel on the app platform, too. If they can get their product in an app form to work as well as their desktop version, then it’s a win for them and their customers. Even so, you’ll notice that this situation still only applies to users who have had prior experience with the company behind the app.

Apps aren’t generally a great way for an existing brand to grow its audience. Users either download your app because they’ve done business with you in some other setting, or they just never even find out or care about your app. The average smartphone user isn’t scrolling through Google Play or the App Store just looking for another app to download. Many have phone storage limitations to worry about, anyway.

If you do go the app route, you may not put up Facebook- or Google-like numbers, but you can still find success on the platform if you’re able to create a worthwhile experience – one that differs from your website – for your existing customer base.

Making Your Mobile Site Competitive

Eminent SEO Mobile ScreenshotCreating a mobile app only works in specific circumstances, so if those conditions don’t apply to your business, take the resources you were going to put into an app this year and direct them toward your website.

This starts with infusing your website with responsive design. How to test your site’s responsiveness and how to get started on making it mobile-friendly were previously covered in one of our recent blog posts. See here.

Having a mobile-friendly site helps with search engine rankings, and it helps you better compete on the mobile web, where many big opportunities await. From there, it’s all about employing the best SEO practices and keeping your site replenished with plenty of appetizing, worthwhile content.

Instead of spending time having a developer create an app, go back and evaluate how your site looks and functions on various screen sizes. What needs to be present? What can be condensed or hidden? Your content team should get together with your developer and make sure your site is providing the best possible user experience on devices of all sizes.

And finally, your site’s pages need to load fast. Even a 2-second delay can make all the difference between a bounce from your site and a conversion. Google’s PageSpeed Insights will let you know if any pages on your site load slowly and what you can do to speed them up.

Google PageSpeed Insights - ESEO

Speeding Up Your Website

Here are some quick steps you can take to get your website running more smoothly and quickly, especially on mobile devices:

  • Reduce scripts and move them to the bottom of the page.
  • Mitigate the number of plugins your site utilizes. Deactivate and delete any plugins you no longer need.
  • Compress entire pages with tools like Gzip.
  • Enable browser caching, which benefits return visitors.
  • Crop your images to the exact size they’ll be displayed in a desktop browser. Remove any image comments in the file. Reduce the color depth of all images to 150 dpi or lower. Never use BMP or TIFF files.
  • Make sure you don’t have pages using more than one external CSS style sheet. To see if you have more than one external style sheet on any given page, use this tool.
  • If you have any elements that load slowly but are must-haves, consider moving them well below the fold, so at least the top of the page loads quickly.

Conclusion

Although Google has begun indexing content from mobile apps  meaning it can show up in the search results, mobile web still appears to be the clear winner when it comes to where you should invest your marketing dollars in 2016. It behooves you to put your focus into competing on the mobile SERPs (search engine results pages) rather than in the App Store or Google Play.

If users aren’t as loyal to individual websites as they are to their top five apps, that means there’s a good chance they’ll eventually turn their attention to your site and see what you have to offer them. You’ll have a better chance on that front than you will with trying to woo new customers in the app marketplace.

There are some instances where an app makes sense, as mentioned earlier, but in most cases, mobile web appears to be the way to go.

To get help from a team that can make your website mobile-friendly and more competitive in the world of mobile search, talk to the Eminent SEO team. Just call 800.871.4130.

Andrew Gilstrap

Content Manager at Eminent SEO - I enjoy writing, editing and photography. I'm here to make YOUR website read better and rank better!

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What is an SSL Certificate and Why Should Your Website Make the Upgrade?

What Is An SSL Certificate - Eminent SEO

Going off our last post on responsive design, another area where you should try to upgrade your website in 2016 is security.

Just as you likely enjoy logging into certain websites and knowing that your information and passwords are kept secure, so should you try to foster the same experience for each of your online visitors. Especially if your website has a shopping cart, you need to make sure that the sensitive information your customers enter doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Not only could you lose visitors by not having a secure site (even if they only log in to post comments), but many SEO-related ramifications are latent for websites that have yet to upgrade their security.

In this comprehensive blog post, we take a closer look at:

  • What exactly is an SSL certificate
  • The different kinds of security certificates
  • The rationale behind upgrading your site’s security
  • How you can approach the upgrade process

SSL Certificate Definition and its Usefulness

SSL stands for “secure socket(s) layer.” It’s a type of technology that establishes a secure connection between a user’s browser and the hosting server of the website he or she is visiting, so long as the website has a valid SSL certificate. The certificate is made up of a digital computer file or small piece of code. Generally, SSL certificates are only valid for one domain (web address) and corresponding server at a time.

When someone is visiting an SSL-certified website, they are essentially handed their own personal key to unscramble the content of the site and view it normally for the entirety of their desired session. All communication between the user and the website (or the hosting server, more specifically) during this time is encrypted, meaning hackers can’t spy on the user’s session, insert malware and steal personal information.

Besides individual websites, SSL is also valuable for sending and receiving secure email, files, instant messages and other forms of sensitive information.

How to Look for an SSL Certificate

To see if a certain website has an SSL certificate, open up the site and look to the left-hand side of the address bar. Look for a padlock icon and possibly some other information that precedes the actual URL of the site.

Take our site, for example. Your browser should show you the padlock icon and our full company name before the URL. Below is what it looks like in the Firefox browser. The way Chrome displays it is not much different.

Eminent SEO SSL Certificate Icon

 

 

If you actually click in that area, you will be given even more information about the company that operates the website as well as the third-party Certificate Authority (CA) that verified and approved the site’s security.

Eminent SEO SSL Certificate Details

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s how that information is shown in Chrome:

Eminent SEO SSL Certificate Chrome Details

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On some websites, you may only see the padlock icon to denote an SSL certificate. This icon is still clickable and can show you the issuing certificate authority. Take one of our favorite websites for SEO-related news and advice, Moz, for example.

Moz SSL Certificate Icon

 

 

There’s a reason the business’s name doesn’t show up in the address bar ahead of the URL. I’ll get to that phenomenon later.

Another attribute to look for in a secure website is an “s” in the protocol of the URL. In other words, look for “https” instead of the previous standard of “http.” You’re probably seeing dozens, if not hundreds, of sites slightly updating their addresses in this manner. All the HTTPS stands for is “secure hypertext transfer protocol.”

You also might see HTTPS called one of the following:

  • HTTP over TLS
  • HTTP over SSL
  • HTTP Secure

What is Transport Layer Security (TLS)?

SSL has actually long been phased out by a similar technology called transport layer security (TLS). However, it’s still common for techies and certificate authorities to say SSL when referring to either technology. For some reason, the term “TLS certificate” never really caught on.

Both SSL and TLS are also known as cryptographic protocols. If you’re wondering, the internet is now actually up to TLS 1.2, while version 1.3 is supposedly in the works.

Different Types, Strengths of SSL Certificates

Not all SSL certificates are created equal. Some companies can even sign their own SSL certificate, although this isn’t the recommended route. Below is an overview of some of the most common SSL certificates on the market:

  • Self-signed certificate: A basic certificate generated for internal purposes and not issued by a certificate authority. This type of certificate obviously isn’t fully authenticated nor as strong as an SSL certificate issued by a CA.
  • Domain validated certificate: A quick verification check is performed to ensure the applicant owns the domain for which he or she wants an SSL certificate. The applicant can get away with not even being a valid business entity, however, which is why this kind is considered an entry level SSL certificate.
  • Fully authenticated SSL certificate: The business needs to pass a number of validation procedures and checks to receive this type of certificate for a domain. These certificates take longer to obtain, but they denote a stronger level of online security.
  • Wildcard certificate: For websites with several subdomains, a wildcard certificate is a sensible option to secure the entire collection. For example, Yahoo’s subdomains show up as sports.yahoo.com, news.yahoo.com, etc. Yahoo is secure domain, and may very well be utilizing a wildcard certificate.
  • SAN (subject alternate name) certificate: This kind of certificate is similar to a wildcard one, but it allows more than one domain to be included in a single SSL certificate. This type works for websites with one or more microsites, but it takes time for each domain to be verified and authenticated before a CA issues the certificate.
  • Extended validation (EV) SSL certificates: Websites with this type of certificate have met the highest standards for authentication. The address bar turns green in most browsers when a user visits an EV SSL-certified website. The true owner of the domain and its country of origin will be displayed in green in the address bar. For reference, check out our site, which recently received its EV SSL certification.

The SEO Value of SSL Certificates

Google is continually making moves to make the web a more secure place. And, by golly, what Google wants, Google usually gets.

HTTPS Pages First

In 2014, websites and individual web pages an HTTPS prefix began to get a leg up in the search engine rankings. Near the end of 2015, Google announced through its Webmaster Central Blog that it will start to index the HTTPS version of web pages first, as we wrote about in our January newsletter. Several websites have HTTPS and HTTP versions of the very same page. Even if a site’s navigation directs a user to only HTTP pages, Google will still soon take the HTTPS version of those pages, if available, and feature those in the search results.

Flagging Unsecured Websites

As reported on Motherboard last month, Google appears set to flag unencrypted sites as insecure in the near future. Presenters at the Enigma security themed conference in San Francisco postulated how this might look on Chrome browsers. As you may have seen on HTTPS sites that are actually not secure, Chrome will display a padlock icon with a red “x” over it to the left of the URLs of unsecured websites.

Here’s what the icon looks like if you enable higher security settings in Chrome.

CNN No SSL Certificate Icon

 

 

As speculated, Google may soon deploy that icon on all HTTP sites across the web for Chrome users.

Motherboard noted that Mozilla and Apple have also jumped on the web encryption train, and that the U.S. government has called for all .gov sites to be upgraded to HTTPS by the end of 2016. Ironically, Motherboard itself is not an HTTPS website, but who’s counting?

Upgrading Your Website to HTTPS

So, all of the big players on the internet already have their sites upgraded to HTTPS, right? Surprisingly, the answer is no.

News organizations seem to be lagging behind when it comes to obtaining their SSL certificate. Big names like CNN, The New York Times, USA Today and more all still have non-secure protocols – as of this writing, at least.

Other major websites are part-HTTP, part-HTTPS. If you type “Amazon.com” in the address bar in Firefox (or if you just search Google for “Amazon”), you will be taken to an HTTP homepage. All navigational and product pages are also non-secure from there.

Amazon HTTP No SSL Certificate

However, as soon as you try to log in or view your shopping cart, you will be taken to an HTTPS page.

Amazon Sign In Security Icon

Amazon actually does work it you type “https” at the start of its URL in Firefox, or if you type just “Amazon.com” in the Chrome address bar, so the company must be in the process, however long, of fully securing its massive site – or at least making sure the user only gets directed to HTTPS pages.

If your website has a shopping cart or any page that asks to user to log in and give some amount of personal information, then you need to look into get those pages secured right away. Users will flee if they can’t trust your website to protect their personal info. A 2014 survey in the U.K. found that 85 percent of online shoppers avoid unsecured websites when making a purchase.

Certificate Authority Options

Now that you’re surely convinced your website needs its SSL certificate, let’s look at some reputable CAs that can vet your company and issue the most reliable seals of approval.

Symantec, producer of the popular Norton AntiVirus software, claims to have secured two-thirds of all websites that have an extended validation SSL certificate. The annual price for Symantec to be your CA is quite high, though. Below are some other CA options, ranked by highest to lowest annual fee for a starter certificate:

Website Security for 2016 and Beyond

While Google has yet to announce that it will no longer feature any HTTP content in its search results, I wouldn’t put it past the web leaders to make such a move in the far-off future. Start upgrading your site’s security today so it won’t get left behind in search if Google ever decides to make such a drastic move.

A legitimate SSL certificate for your website not only helps with organic search engine rankings, but it also lets your visitors know that they have found the authentic domain for your business, rather than a specious alternative that scammers often like to create.

If you’re short on time to undergo the often arduous, long-winded task of receiving an extended validation SSL certificate, Eminent SEO can find and work with a trusted CA on your behalf, as part of our Website Development Services.

In our next post on developments to look for in 2016, we’ll explore the difference between mobile websites and mobile apps and let you know which one is more worthy of your investment going forward.

Andrew Gilstrap

Content Manager at Eminent SEO - I enjoy writing, editing and photography. I'm here to make YOUR website read better and rank better!

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The Cost of Doing Business Versus The Cost of Marketing

BLOG POST PREFACE: I didn’t set out to write a blog, initially I wanted to just collect a few of my thoughts on the subject as I was talking to my team about the challenge we have helping our clients track their marketing ROI accurately. It turned into the blog post you see below when I realized that I want to share my thoughts with other businesses and start a conversation about this topic. I’d really like to hear from you on how you allocate budgets and track ROI, so please share your thoughts in the comment section here or reach out to me on my SEO social platforms:

Twitter (I am most active here and mainly tweet out SEO and marketing stuff)
Facebook (this is my professional page where I share business and marketing posts)
Google+ (I know G+ is dying, but I still find good info in the tech and SEO communities there)

The Cost of Doing Business Versus The Cost of Marketing

Eminent SEO offers a wide array of services to help other businesses find success online. Over the years we have developed and expanded our service offerings in order to accommodate the growing needs of our clients. This includes a lot of business and website services that are not necessarily marketing.

Here are some of the main reasons business owners hire us:

  • They want to increase their website traffic and leads (SEO, organic and/or paid marketing).
  • They need a new or refreshed website (design, content, development).
  • They need help with their brand (brand development and management).
  • They need help with an issue (audits, website cleanup, penalty resolution).

Before we begin, we ask: What are your needs and goals?

  • A new logo or site design?
  • Tools to track your efforts?
  • An audit of your SEO to see where you stand?
  • Help with your bad reputation?
  • Updated website content?
  • A new social media campaign?
  • Expert advice on overcoming a Google penalty?

We offer different services depending on your specific needs. Many of our solutions are marketing, but some of our services also fall into the categories of website management, creative work, preventative services or business expenses as well.

For example, is website hosting really marketing? Or, is it a necessary expense in order for your business to be online?

What about design? Although website design does enhance the user experience and can definitely help your website traffic convert, design in itself is not a marketing effort.

So, what are the differences in our services? What IS marketing, what is NOT?

 To keep it simple we have grouped our services into two buckets:

  1. Operations – The Cost of Doing Business Online
  2. Marketing – The Cost of Getting Traffic, Form Fills, Phone Calls and Conversions

Business Operations Versus Marketing - Eminent SEO

Clearly there is a lot of overlap, but this should help give you a better understanding of the intent behind each service.

So, how do we measure results?

Each service comes with its own measure of success, including operations and marketing tasks. Not all services are intended to have the same outcome, so there isn’t one single point of data or one single tool that can tell the whole story.

Lower-OnPageSEO

We suggest a combination of the following to properly track your marketing:

  • Google Analytics for traffic and visitor data
  • Google Analytics Goal Tracking for website conversions
  • Gravity Forms, fed to Google Analytics for form tracking (website form fills)
  • Call Tracking Metrics for calls and call conversion tracking (check them out, they are pretty rad)

The above tools will collect data that we can combine into a report to show you:

  • Changes to website traffic, by source (organic, referral, direct, paid, social, etc.)
  • Changes to user behavior (time on site, page views, top landing pages, etc.)
  • Where the traffic for the forms is coming from, and what action they took (subscribed to newsletter, filled out the contact form, downloaded your eBook, etc.)
  • Where the website conversions are coming from and how many conversions you received
  • Where your calls are coming from and (if you use the tool to enter in call sentiment and conversion data) what sources are driving the calls that convert

The data then helps us better understand:

  • What is working, what isn’t (with the site and the marketing)
  • What content/pages get the best visibility
  • What lead sources drive the best leads
  • What marketing channel converts the highest
  • What your ROI (return on investment) or ROAS (return on ad spend) is, per source
  • Where you should be focusing your efforts moving forward
  • How you should allocate your marketing budgets in the future

However, we would like to point out that no matter how many experts you have working on your team, no matter how many tools you have collecting data, and no matter how much time you spend evaluating the campaigns, there is no such thing as PERFECT reporting.

Why?

NONE of the tools are perfect, not even Google Analytics. Marketers report on inaccuracies all of the time. Sometimes it’s the implementation of the tool. Sometimes Google samples data. Sometimes third-party tools buy their data from someone other than Google. Some reports even say that Google only gives you about 70% of what they see. There are a million reasons, but the point is NO tools are perfect, and therefore you cannot expect to get perfect data from them.

Lead sources are never perfect. Even if you have cookies and sophisticated tracking methods, the lead source is only the first or last point of entry. For example, a visitor could find you on Facebook, follow your fan page and engage with your posts – having never clicked a link to your site. Later, when they decide to look you up they might go to Google and search for your brand. From there they could click a pay per click ad, your map (Google My Business listing) or your site in the organic results. What source gets credit for the lead?

Online Marketing Campaigns don’t come with clear parameters. At first, evaluating website and call tracking data seems pretty straightforward. If you see visits and calls from one lead source and not another, that must mean the second one isn’t working, right? Not necessarily. Big brands didn’t become household names by only focusing on the measurable data. They understand that it takes a multi-channel approach to get big results. For example, you will likely never be able to attribute a lead or call to a clean logo and website design. But, you know that your professional website helps users trust your company, leading to increased conversions. The same goes for blogging, social and even press. Although they CAN give you direct clicks (referral traffic) and phone calls, they are really part of a bigger marketing strategy intended to help your brand and website gain visibility with the search engines.

Branding is impossible to measure perfectly. I would almost never use the word “impossible,” but in this case, I feel confident saying it. Why? Your brand awareness began the first time you handed out a business card or sent your first company email. Your brand includes any mention of your company name and any image of your logo, online and off. Raising awareness for your brand doesn’t start and stop with marketing: It can be TV, billboards, radio, mailers, brochures, wearables, handing out your business card, emails, comments on blogs, listings on directories, the yellow pages, social media platforms, apps, blogs, press, attending events, newsletters, referrals, your storefront, signs, partnerships, etc. The list goes on and on. If you are using tools to track your lead sources, keep in mind that just because the tool shows one source, that doesn’t mean that the other campaigns and efforts didn’t contribute to the lead/conversion.creation-hosting

The Bottom Line

  • Website and online business services are not necessarily “marketing” and therefore should not be included in your tracking efforts as marketing, but rather the cost of doing business.
  • When budgeting for the year, always develop a separate budget dedicated to website changes, fixing issues, adding content, etc. Trust me, you need it.
  • When analyzing the effectiveness of your online marketing campaigns, don’t forget there is no such thing as perfect tracking and reporting. Don’t get so caught up in the details that you lose sight of the bigger picture. What’s most important is that your overall conversions are increasing… because that is why you are really investing into marketing in the first place, isn’t it?

Need Help?

If you have a question about business services verses marketing services and how to effectively track and measure results, give us a call at 800.871.4130, comment below or drop us a note. Team Eminent SEO is here to support you, your business AND marketing needs by working together to achieve the best strategy and reporting for you.

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Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing work in 2005. I'm a {very} busy mom of 4 and I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I love coffee, wine, food and other people who enjoy the adventure of seeking out the best places to eat and drink. In my free time (what's that?) you'll most likely find me studying philosophy and spirituality, cooking for my family or relaxing with a nice glass of wine, a funny movie and the people I love.

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Ad Blocking is Changing up the Marketing Game

Ad Blocking Changing Marketing - Advertising - Eminent SEO

We all hate invasive advertisements when we’re browsing online. Well, most of us do. Companies behind the advertisements are putting themselves out there in hopes of making a profit on their ad spend. On the other side of the coin, some websites rely on the revenue that comes not from advertising themselves elsewhere, but on hosting ads from other companies.

At the time of this writing, Hubspot Blogs is featuring a survey on its site that asks, “Which Type of Ad is Most Annoying?” The choices are:

  • Auto-playing online video ads
  • Direct mail advertisements or promotions
  • Pop-up online ads
  • Sponsored Twitter ads
  • Television commercials

The overwhelming top choice at this time is auto-playing online videos, with about 60 percent of the vote. In second place, pop-up online ads currently has been clicked on 23 percent of the time. At the moment, Twitter ads and television commercials seem to bother users the least, according to the poll.

So, yes, most of us seem to loathe advertisements, but the HubSpot survey doesn’t really get at what percentage of us feel this way. A recent report by PageFair and Adobe sheds light on how many people claim to be annoyed by online advertising, as well how many people are using ad-blocking extensions and how they’re impacting the advertising industry.

Why Users are Blocking Ads, if at All

The PageFair-Adobe report included the results of a survey of 400 people in the U.S. Surprisingly, about 1 in 4 respondents between the ages of 35 and 49 who aren’t currently blocking ads said they have no plans to ever start using ad-blocking software. However, of those who aren’t blocking ads now but may do so in the future, half of them said the misuse of personal information to customize the ads would be their primary reason to start using a software that blocks such solicitations. The millennials in that non-ad-blocking group said that a sheer increase in the number of ads would be their top reason for eventually taking advantage of a blocking software.

The Rise of Ad-Blocking Extensions, even on Mobile Devices

The same report said ad block usage in the U.S. had increased 48 percent year-over-year, reaching 45 million monthly active users during the second quarter of 2015. The rise of Google Chrome usage played a big part in this, as it is easy to install an ad-blocking extension on the browser. The survey found that ad block usage on Chrome jumped 51 percent from the second quarter of 2014 to the second quarter of 2015. Ad block usage on Firefox increased during that time by 17 percent. What’s ironic is that many ad-blocking extensions can filter out pay-per-click ads in Google search, all while more users are browsing with Google Chrome and taking advantage of such an extension.

Ad blocking on mobile devices is underdeveloped, but is expected to become more of a force in the near future. The App Store on Apple phones first introduced several ad-blocking applications when iOS 9 rolled out this year. The PageFair-Adobe report said Firefox and Chrome currently comprise 93 percent of all mobile ad blocking, but that not a large percentage of overall mobile users have an ad-blocking feature enabled on their devices at this time. Presently, mobile Chrome users can manually install the AdBlock Plus app to stop seeing most or all online advertisements, although the app is no longer available in Google’s Play Store.

What Ad Blocking is Costing the Advertising Industry

Ad-blocking software has completely shaken up the advertising industry. The PageFair-Adobe study found that ad-blocking extensions will cause an estimated loss in revenue globally of $21.8 billion in 2015.

It’s only going to get worse. The report estimates that lost advertising revenue will jump to $41.4 billion in 2016. In the United States alone, the estimated figures of lost revenue from 2014 to 2016 are as follows:

  • 2014: loss of $5.8 billion
  • 2015: loss of $10.7 billion
  • 2016: loss of $20.3 billion

AdBlock and Adblock Plus (no relation) are the most popular browser plug-ins of their kind. A new app for Apple mobile devices, Been Choice, claims to block in-app advertisements, too, even in Facebook’s mobile application. Watch out, advertisers.

How to Combat Loss of Revenue from Ad Blocking

Many websites generate revenue by hosting ads and getting paid per number of impressions. Even if nobody is clicking on a certain ad, the website could still be raking in some revenue if it attracts a high volume of traffic. When visitors to the site have ad blocking enabled, that usually means an impression is lost. Thus, revenue is lost.

So, how do companies that rely on advertising adjust to this wave of ad block popularity? Some webmasters have taken extreme measures such as coding their sites in ways that withholds content until visitors disable any ad-blocking extensions. Other companies, large ones such as Google and Twitter, have been approached by Adblock Plus to become a part of its “Acceptable Ads” program, which means the extension has the ability to overlook ads on certain domains, especially ones that belong to preferred partners.

When all else fails, there’s always good ol’ SEO. If you rely on advertising to drive traffic to your website and increase sales opportunities, you don’t necessarily have to ditch any ongoing PPC campaigns, but now’s the time to ramp up the optimization of your website. There is a litany of elements that goes into optimizing a site for organic traffic. Below is just a sampling of the SEO-related steps you should take:

It’s Time to Optimize

In short, you should focus on making your website into all-around strong user experience, which includes engaging content and clear-cut navigation. Search engine optimization is a complex and ongoing process, and not every company is equipped to keep up with it effectively. Therefore, it never hurts to turn your SEO duties over to a marketing firm that specializes in the trade. Eminent SEO is a full-service digital marketing firm that has bolstered the traffic and conversions of thousands of websites. Click here to learn more about our SEO services or call us today at 800-871-4130.

Andrew Gilstrap

Content Manager at Eminent SEO - I enjoy writing, editing and photography. I'm here to make YOUR website read better and rank better!

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Top Red Flags to Watch Out for When Hiring an SEO Agency

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seo agency

There are a lot of deceitful SEO agencies out there that try manipulate companies into thinking their strategies are completely “white hat”, meaning they’re up to par with Google’s quality guidelines. However, that’s not always the case. A lot of SEO agencies have given the SEO industry a bad reputation because of how they make unrealistic promises and perform spammy SEO tactics just to win your money. How can you tell if an SEO agency is legit?

Below are some red flags to help you determine if an agency is legit or not:

#1 Rankings Guaranteed

For one, no company can ever guarantee any sort of rankings. If a company is saying that they can guarantee you to the top of Google, don’t hire them. I mean what company out there can control Google, besides Google themselves? My point exactly.

Not Looking at Your Website and Marketing as a Whole

Truth is, SEO is much more than backlinks and on-page optimization. It’s content marketing, branding, social media, and design all working cohesively to create a solid reputation and brand presence on the web. If an SEO agency says that you only need backlinks and on-page SEO, you should be concerned.

Any legitimate agency is going to request an initial audit up front if you have an established website. That way they can assess your current website and marketing strategies including existing backlinks, your website structure, content, reputation, etc. Any challenges should be clearly laid out before any SEO or marketing even begins. For example, let’s say you have a foundation for organic presence, but you’re losing users once they hit the website. The SEO agency should point this out in the audit and then in the strategy suggest you restructure and properly optimize the pages of the site that are losing those potential leads.

Focuses Quantity Over Quality Backlinks

Red flag for sure. It may have worked back in 2011, but since Penguin released, it’s extremely hard to rank organically when you have even a small amount of backlinks that aren’t even relevant to your brand. If part of the strategy is saying that you will receive 1,000+ backlinks in a short time frame, chances are they aren’t going to be quality links.

There’s really no way to guarantee a specific amount of links as every link is different. Ideally you’d have a combination of brand mentions, social signals, press releases, directory listings, etc. that all serve an individual purposes. Any company that’s offering you a specific number of a specific type of links, for example200 directory links in one month, is most likely still practicing outdated techniques that are now considered spammy.

What you want to look out for is a company that’s promising quality, not specific link types and quantities. Realistically a company can’t guarantee any links because they want your backlink profile to be as natural as possible. So, when the agency is flexible with the budget and says they can’t always guarantee a certain amount of links that month, but they will use the budget to create a blog post or something relative to your services, that is actually more ideal.

Fails to Mention Anything Regarding Social Media

If building your brand is primarily done online, why is social media not part of the SEO strategy? Like I said before, SEO is much more than building links and having keywords in your content, it’s building your brand online. Social media plays a major factor in building brand awareness. Social signals are also a key ranking factor in most algorithms. So, if this part is completely ignored by the agency, chances are they are overlooking an important part of any effective SEO strategy.

Fails to Mention Anything Regarding Technical SEO

Professional SEO agencies are advanced in technical SEO and understand what search engines need to see in order to easily crawl and index pages. The list can go on but it would include some of the following elements to really ensure your website is technically correct for SEO:

  • Website navigation is siloed properly
  • 404 errors are reduced by 301 redirecting broken links
  • Duplicate content is found and eliminated
  • Any HTML code warnings that are causing pages not to be indexed are found and fixed
  • Site loading speed is reviewed and issues are addressed to speed it up if needed

Bottom line, your website needs to be set up properly in order to achieve your organic ranking goals. These are just a touch on the technical issues that can go wrong with a website and prevent the crawlers to index your pages properly. Another reason why you can see SEO is more than just content and links!

In Conclusion

You want to make sure you’re hiring the best of the best right? If any of the red flags mentioned above come up when you’re looking over a proposal or speaking with a consultant, you might want to do more research on them in order to fully trust they know what they are doing and not just taking your money. Some questions to consider may be:

  • Does their website appear to be SEO friendly and mobile ready?
  • Do they have a strong brand and social media presence for their company?
  • Are they blogging and is their content high in quality?
  • Are they able to talk technically on the phone and point out issues that need to be addressed on the fly?
  • Can they address the other items outlined above?

Those are some things I would be asking myself if I was shopping around for the perfect SEO agency. However, why even look any further? You are already in the right place – our team has your back! We offer both consulting and professional SEO services with over 20 years of combined experience. Check out our services here!

Lacey Chic

Account Manager at Eminent SEO - Passionate About Digital Marketing. I love music, pitbulls, traveling, hiking, yoga, and learning.

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Online Advertising Agency – Focus on industry niche(s)

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In my experience since about 1994 I have been working for an online advertising agency before the Internet got white hot and Netscape was all the rage and the browser wars were in full bloom.  I had been working in direct response advertising for fifteen plus years and in the “direct marketing” world and the direct marketing disciplines was the step child divisions of the big ad agencies.  However, the financial guys noticed that the direct marketing guys were holding their own with the general agencies in terms of profits.

Fast forward to 2012 and almost anyone who is a web designer can technically call him or herself an online advertising agency.  But if we go back in time in this Wikipedia citation in 1864, ad agencies had to be flexible and “create demand,” i.e. William James Carlton began selling advertising space in religious magazines.  James Walter Thompson joined this firm in 1868. Thompson rapidly became their best salesman, purchasing the company in 1877 and renaming it the James Walter Thompson Company, which today is the oldest American advertising agency. Realizing that he could sell more space if the company provided the service of developing content for advertisers, Thompson hired writers and artists to form the first known Creative Department in an advertising agency. He is credited as the “father of modern magazine advertising” in the US.

The distinction here is that the “true ad agencies” not only bought media for their clients they also created content as described above.  Today we see some of the very same similarities where an online ad agency will create content such as a video, game, widget or maybe an infographic then place these bits of content on various outlets and hope the viral buzz of social media can pick it up.  The challenge for both client and online advertising agency is that this really is not “bought media” but more like bought content with the hopes of getting some viral distribution.

There is a very distinct cultural divide between general print and TV ad agencies vs. an online ad agency.  In my experience the online guys tend to move a little quicker and also tend to be a little more willing to learn and take on new challenges just because in the online world change happens at a much faster clip.

Back in the late 1990’s many of the large multinationals felt the need to supplement their advertising spends by hiring smaller interactive and online advertising agencies just because their larger general agencies just weren’t up to speed with digital and online advertising.  However, it did not take long for the “big boys” to get up to speed by not only hiring away some of the best talent in the smaller firms but just outright acquiring firms like Modem Media at record pace.

While many of these smaller online advertising agencies could provide “online advertising” for just about anyone, in my experience the larger ad agencies broke down some of their skill sets into “healthcare advertising niches.”  Having this level of focus allows the ad agency to focus on some of the technical aspects of HIPAA, OTC and DTC regulations especially when it came to pharmaceuticals and privacy.   This can be extremely important because when the regulators come into play and liabilities for the clients.  A lot of this type of online and offline advertising requires different writing and editing skills for “normal advertising.”

In summary if you are considering hiring an online advertising agency see if they have been working in your niche industry because this can help shorten the learning curve for testing different marketing strategies.  At the same time even if the online advertising agency does not have experience in your field it always helps if they have experience in media buying in print, tv and radio and the traditional standby’s.  The biggest reason I think this is important is I think you can usually test online advertising for a lot less than traditional media and should you want to go to tradition media since your online advertising is so successful it is an easier pathway having the same agency involved in both online and offline.  For any questions or immediate pricing call Jim Peake @ SpeechRep Media, Inc. 781-990-8844.

Direct Response Media – How Sprint Does Direct Response

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John Wanamaker came up with one of the greatest business quotes ever in my opinion, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Back in the day there were only a few big advertising methods, print/newspapers, TV, radio and catalogues or direct mail.

While receiving a Montgomery Ward or Sears Catalog was not the sexiest form of advertising they were one of the early adopters of “direct response media.” Eventually these catalog type of operations transformed into direct mail and direct response marketing, mostly through print.

Over the decades however direct response media has certainly grown and expanded in to other types of media especially the internet and all things electronic like e-mail. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out why direct mail eventually surpassed TV in media dollars spent on advertising, it surpassed it because it is measurable on a much more granular level than TV. You can customize the “media” to individual consumers, 1:1 marketing.

With multiple different measurement points or multiple variables (think multivariate testing) we can finely tune the offer, finely tune the customer profile who we are sending the offer to, finely tune the tracking of the responses and when we do this we can ultimately know what works and what does not work.

Knowing what our customers like and don’t like allow us to determine where we need to spend our advertising dollars. Like Wanamaker implied, he wanted to spend his advertising dollars on the half that generated the results for him.

If you are reading this you are probably familiar with cookies and website tracking with unique visitors, basically we know who you are and where you have been…..but we don’t know who you are when you visit us from a website search query for the first time. We have to take a few guesses and ask the user to register on the site or sign up for our newsletter or take some other specific form of unique identifier direct response trackable action.

Sprint.com is taking direct response media to a whole new level by asking the user who they are by category before they enter the site. Actually when they enter the site they are entering 4 different customized sites, 1 for each type of visitor:

Current Customer
Personal Account
Business Account
Just Browsing Sprint.com
Personal Account
Business Account

The opening message says: “Welcome let us know a little bit more about you so we can help you better.”

This is direct response media on steroids. There is not a better opening to a business….period. The guy who wrote this is nothing short of genius. Tell us who you are (which gives the business the ability to direct target the customer or non-customer and whether they are personal or business) and oh by the way it is for YOUR (customer) benefit if you tell us who you are.

In this Sprint.com example it only shows the “on-page” direct response example but there are literally dozens of other direct response opportunities that they can deploy after the users come into the website. As a direct response website consultant I would make sure that they are collecting e-mail addresses for continuity programs. I would make sure they get their cell phone numbers for SMS Text promotions. I would add a drip campaign sequence to collect all of their unique identification information so we can consistently provide them with multi-channel communications. This about adding them as fans to Facebook and followers on Twitter the points of contact are endless.

PPC Alternatives

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Google has been called a 1 trick pony over the years but as Eric Schmidt has said it is one hell of a trick. I have to agree with Mr. Schmidt 100%. At the same time Google is developing a lot of PPC alternatives to their one trick pony. What Google has more than any other business is traffic to their homepage, millions of users per day looking and researching different subjects, basically everything under the sun and over the sun.

What Google has going for it is unmistakable, they have traffic and relevancy. If you are looking for blue lampshades you can find them on Google and if you are willing to bid on “blue lampshades” as a key term Google is willing to rent that first page and that first position if and only if you are willing to pay for it. While it is possible to use SEO to rank for blue lampshades, SEO takes time and there are no guaranteed that you or anyone else will rank in the first position for blue lampshades in their organic search results. This is why PPC is so powerful; you can get immediate results, if you have the money.

So the challenge is to find other PPC alternatives that can boost your traffic with relevant clients. I think that while you might be able to use Facebook’s PPC solution I’m not so sure that the folks on Facebook are in buying mode when they are the social media site as they are in buying mode when they are on Google. So let’s take a look at 3 other so called PPC Alternatives that will get you immediate traffic and relevant traffic.

1) Direct mail –still the 800# gorilla
2) Newsletter ads – targeted audience
3) E-mail Marketing – listing building is essential for any business

Direct Mail Marketing

With direct mail we can rent a mailing list from a list rental company like InfoUSA. We can select the list based on the users’ preferences. Let’s say our current client base has an income of $86,000, female between the age of 35 -50 and they live in metro areas like New York City. We can ask InfoUSA to pull a list from their database and see how many people come up based on those demographics and preferences.
If too many people come up in the list we might want to narrow the geographic area or the age range we are selecting. In terms of testing I probably would test a list of 5,000 names to mail to and mail to them 5-7 times. Sending out 1 postcard or direct mail brochure just does not do the trick, we need multiple “impressions” in order to be heard from the client.

Next I would make sure that I drive the prospects to a 800# and a landing page, more specifically a “personalized landing page” known as PURL. This way we can track the people who chose to visit the landing page and track the people who call us. One of the other suggestions is to make sure that there is a call to action on the PURL, or make that multiple calls to actions. We want the user to call, add themselves to our newsletter, follow us on our Twitter account, become a fan of our Facebook Fan page, in other words we want them to TAKE ACTION!

Direct mail marketing will drive traffic to you quickly and with relevancy.

Newsletter Ads

Newsletter ads are great because like direct mail we are reaching a targeted audience. I would recommend finding the magazines and websites that your audience reads and visits and then contacting those publications. Once you contact those publications ask them about their demographics. Do their demographics map back to yours? Ask them about their open rates. If they have a list of 10,000 and an open rate of 20% then you might have 2,000 people view your ad. So the real number you are going to be in front of is 2,000, not 10,000.

The same goes here as in direct mail. You need multiple impressions in front of these folks. If the publication mails once per month you might want to buy a 3 or 6 month spend, this way your ad is repetitive 3 to 6 times over the next few months. You can easily track click through rates back to your web site as well as phone calls from this source of traffic using something like a Keymetrics tracking system.

E-mail marketing

E-mail marketing is the holy grail. It costs virtually next to nothing to manage and send. I use Infusionsoft for most of my e-mail marketing. However, e-mail marketing does require maintaining and fine tuning. Every business if they aren’t already should be building their list both in e-mail and direct mail. List building and PR or public relations are the 2 most cost effective ways to market and build a business. If you don’t have a list go into your contact manager and make one. Find 100 people who can use your products and services. Add them you your list and start building and mailing. Ask them to opt in to your new list about blue lampshades. You will be surprised at how many people actually appreciate that you stay in touch with them.

It is interesting sending out e-mail to your list. You might not think that your customers and prospects read them and some don’t but you still might get a call anyway because they see the mail come in and it reminds them to call you on a completely different topic. I try and mail not so much on a regular basis but only when I think I have something of value to offer my readers.

If you have any questions please feel free to comment below or call 781-990-8844.