Portent http://www.shanzhong29.com Digital Marketing Agency - Seattle, WA Sat, 07 Mar 2020 17:16:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.1.1 http://www.shanzhong29.com/images/2018/11/favicon.png Portent http://www.shanzhong29.com 32 32 How to Conduct and Report on Competitor Benchmarking http://www.shanzhong29.com/blog/analytics/how-to-conduct-and-report-on-competitor-benchmarking.htm http://www.shanzhong29.com/blog/analytics/how-to-conduct-and-report-on-competitor-benchmarking.htm#respond Thu, 05 Mar 2020 15:00:33 +0000 http://www.shanzhong29.com/?p=52480 Competitor benchmarking provides an opportunity to judge the performance of your site objectively by helping you understand how your business should be behaving online. This wouldn’t be possible or accurate, however, without following a process that ensures you’re analyzing the right competition and metrics. Competitive benchmarking analysis should be highly curated and scrutinized to avoid […]

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        Competitor benchmarking provides an opportunity to judge the performance of your site objectively by helping you understand how your business should be behaving online.

        This wouldn’t be possible or accurate, however, without following a process that ensures you’re analyzing the right competition and metrics. Competitive benchmarking analysis should be highly curated and scrutinized to avoid undershooting or overpromising from benchmarking against the wrong competitor.

        Why Do Competitive Benchmarking?

        The insights gained from competitive benchmarking allow you to set feasible goals, identify opportunities, and compare your performance against industry standards.

        Set Feasible Goals

        Competitive benchmarking prepares you for initial goal-setting conversations through understanding what metrics and goals may accurately reflect true signs of growth and success for a given business or industry.

        It’s inaccurate to judge the performance of a site against what you’ve “typically seen” from other brands. We can’t compare revenue for a nonprofit against an online retailer. We can’t even compare performance across B2Bs that are in similar industries. This research enables you to educate yourself on how your business actually behaves online versus how you think it should.

        Compare Against Industry Standards

        We get asked all too often, “Is that good or bad?” in response to things like “your conversion rate was 7.5% last month.” Well, that’s pretty amazing for an online retailer but not anything to celebrate for a nonprofit. Competitor analysis involves industry research, so you can be prepared to answer these questions on the spot.

        Make sure you’re aware of what’s “standard” in your industry. There are plenty of credible sources out there that publish studies on standard rates by industry. Research your industry’s standards and make sure the studies were published in more recent years.

        Identify Opportunities

        Ongoing competitive benchmarking analysis is an efficient method of coming up with new ideas and opportunities. Once you have a set list of competitors, you can easily see which ones are ranking for more or fewer keywords than your site is and identify those keywords through tools.

        Identify your top one or two competitors and pull their keyword ranking lists from SEMRush. Check your list of ranking keywords from GSC, SEMRush, or Ahrefs to see if there are entire sets of keywords that your competitors are ranking for that you’re not. Check out this blog post for some more information on keyword research tools.

        Lastly, you can monitor this list to see when competitors start increasing in metrics like Share of Voice (SoV). If you’re keeping a close eye on your competitors’ SoV, you may be quick to identify a new hub page, product offering, or UX changes that are causing these improvements.

        How to Do Competitive Benchmarking

        Conduct competitive benchmarking as a part of your strategic planning meetings and revisit it occasionally outside of these meetings to refresh your competitor list. You can effortlessly monitor competitor performance if you do a thorough setup in the beginning.

        Complete a competitive benchmarking analysis through the following steps:

        1. Conduct industry research for rate metrics
        2. Identify your competitors
        3. Create a report of competitive metrics
        4. Conduct the analysis

        Identify Competitors

        Use a few tools to gather a list of online competitors through your own research and add it to a list of competitors identified internally by your team. Your final list should be three to five competitors and include the following types:

        1. Reach
        2. Immediate
        3. Offline

        Reach Competitors

        Start high-level by identifying target keywords and see who’s always outperforming in your industry. Track this set of keywords in a tool like STAT, which will provide insights into SoV and Top Ten Domains.

        Screenshot of a Share of Voice report from STAT
        Share of Voice: Top 10 Trending Report from STAT
        Screenshot of a Most Frequently in Top 10 report from STAT
        Most Frequently in Top 10 Report from STAT

        The top performers in these reports will be your reach competitors—the sites that are ranking for exactly what your site should be ranking for. Of course, it’s important to be realistic when choosing competitors from these reports. Be sure to check these reports across multiple Data Views or Tabs to get competitors for specific keyword sets.

        Immediate Competitors

        Use competitor research tools like Google Search Console, SEMRush, and Ahrefs to find your immediate competitors who rank for keywords that you already rank for.

        Pull the list of ranking keywords from Google Search Console, clean up the list, and track those in STAT as well. Look at the same two reports, as mentioned in the previous section, to see which sites are ranking most often for the set of keywords you already have visibility for.

        Use SEMRush’s Competitive Research tools to see which sites appear alongside your site most frequently through the ‘Competitive Position Map’ report.

        Screenshot of a Competitive Positioning Map Report in SEMRush
        Competitive Positioning Map Report from SEMRush

        The ‘Organic Competitors’ Report in SEMRush can also provide a general comparison of how many keywords these sites rank for and how much traffic they’re estimated to receive. You can use these numbers to compare your site’s performance against to see if these are realistic competitors.

        Screenshot of a Organic Competitor's Report in SEMRush
        Organic Competitors Report from SEMRush

        Use Ahrefs to take a look at what it has captured as your immediate competitors for Organic and Paid Search. Navigate to the ‘Paid Search’ section of the dashboard and find your list of paid competitors in the ‘Main Paid Competitors’ section.

        Screenshot of a Main Paid Competitors Report in Ahrefs
        Main Paid Competitors Report from Ahrefs

        Offline Competitors

        Don’t forget to include offline competitors—the competitors that you see your business competing with out of the digital space. Offline competitors may be ones that you have direct competition with at your physical location or ones who have booths at the same conferences but may not have the same digital presence. You may, however, still discover that some of these competitors overlap with ones that were found in your own research.

        Do a quick review of the ones that weren’t included to see if they’re sites you want to measure against. For example, a direct offline competitor may have little to no online presence, which we wouldn’t want to compare our performance against.

        Identify Pertinent Competitive Metrics

        You’ll choose the metrics to include in your competitive benchmarking analysis depending on the services provided, but it’s important to look at a mix. It also makes more sense to focus more on ratios or rates over absolutes. For example, your site may be too new to see the same amount of traffic as a competitor’s. Still, you may have an above-baseline conversion rate for your industry, which is a better indication of current success.

        Typically, my competitive benchmarking reports include the following metrics:

        1. Organic Share of Voice (STAT)
        2. Paid Impression Share (Google Ads or Adthena)
        3. Top Ten Domains (STAT)
        4. Domain Authority (Moz)
        5. # of Referring Domains (Ahrefs)
        6. Conversion Rates (Industry Standards)

        When tracking SoV and Top Ten Domains, be sure to consider them for the entire site versus by Data View. You could track sets of keywords that would indicate success for specific goals and monitor those separately.

        Automating Competitive Benchmarking Analysis

        Once you’ve set your competitor list and decided on which metrics are important to keep an eye on, you should keep a regular schedule of checking up on them or set up a report or slide.

        I create slides for competitive metrics within Google Data Studio through connectors to automate my competitive benchmarking analyses. We use them mainly to identify drastic changes in SERPs among our competitors and to identify a high-level area we should dig further into.

        I typically split up my metrics by channel or at least group them into sections. Here’s an example slide for Organic metrics:

        Screenshot of some example organic search metrics reporting using Google Data Studio

        And an example for Paid Search and Outreach metrics:

        Screenshot of some example paid search metrics reporting using Google Data Studio

        I automate as much as possible within these reports so that we can consistently see changes among our explicitly provided competitors and identify new ones that may crop up.

        Anything that has an API is tapped into and set up to pull specific metrics. However, some metrics can be pulled without any additional configurations and others that, unfortunately, can’t be pulled automatically. This is the order I work in, from most preferred to last resort:

        1. Use a built-in connector in Google Sheets, like Supermetrics or the Google Analytics Add-on
        2. Set up a database through the API
        3. Manually export data into a Google Sheet

        I try to set up automatic runs for all three of these options. There are options to schedule your sheets to update in certain increments of days, weeks, or months, even at specific times of the day. Our SQL databases are configured to run on certain days of the month.

        The trickiest part is the exports into Google Sheets. Oftentimes, you may be lucky enough to enable scheduled email reports. However, there will be instances where the data can only be pulled manually. Paid Impression Share, for example, is a metric that’s not customizable through the Google Ads connector and doesn’t offer scheduled emails.

        Once the slides are created, I ask each analyst for their take on what we’re seeing to make sure we’re not reporting SoV for too high-level of a data view or to check if any competitors should be removed from our visualizations and tables.

        We set MoM comparisons on tables and look at change over time in line graphs to make competitor benchmarking an ongoing analysis. Regularly analyzing metrics at this level allows us to understand which of our competitors may be “reach” competitors and when we’ve hit a new level of growth by surpassing one.

        With all the said, competitor benchmarking can be even more customized than what I’ve walked through, so feel free to explore other metrics and platforms for visualizations. Either way, remember to take the extra steps when identifying the right set of competitors and to automate as much as possible to give you more time for analysis.

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        How to Identify the Right YouTube Influencer for Your Brand http://www.shanzhong29.com/blog/internet-marketing/how-to-identify-the-right-youtube-influencer-for-your-brand.htm http://www.shanzhong29.com/blog/internet-marketing/how-to-identify-the-right-youtube-influencer-for-your-brand.htm#respond Tue, 03 Mar 2020 15:00:35 +0000 http://www.shanzhong29.com/?p=52451 Influencer marketing is here to stay. With the gargantuan rise of all things social media in the last decade, the influencers our customers are watching certainly have a lot of…er…influence on what they consume. YouTube, one of the fastest-growing video channels, is no exception. With more than two billion users worldwide, watching over one billion […]

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        Influencer marketing is here to stay. With the gargantuan rise of all things social media in the last decade, the influencers our customers are watching certainly have a lot of…er…influence on what they consume. YouTube, one of the fastest-growing video channels, is no exception. With more than two billion users worldwide, watching over one billion hours of videos a day, everyone wants a piece of that pie. Advertisers can opt for “YouTube Ads” through the Google Ads platform where their ad is played pre-roll in an auction-like bidding system, much like Facebook offers. It’s a pretty good ad platform—the pumpkin pie of YouTube advertising—reliable, but average reach.

        A pre-roll, automatic ad doesn’t have the influence that a host-read, midroll integration, where an influencer is essentially evangelizing your product, has on viewers. We know that most people power through the “Skip” button on those pre-roll automatic ads to get to the meat of the video. But what if your endorsement was in the meat of the video?

        Enter YouTube Influencer Integrations. It’s like the Blueberry Cream of the YouTube pie selection—it’s the best of your advertising options—decadent, intoxicating, and rich. These ads can be powerful and effective, but you want to invest your advertising budget in the right places to reach the right audiences—here’s how to identify the right fit for your brand.

        Why the Right Influencer Matters

        The influencers you choose can make or break your ad. If you are spending thousands on one ad, you want to make sure you’ve vetted your influencer thoroughly. If you don’t, your influencer pie may turn out to be a mincemeat pie when they’re expecting blueberry, and nobody wants that. Below are some guidelines to follow for vetting your influencer list.

        Pick Genres That Fit Your Brand

        An influencer has a lot of sway with their captive audience. And, in general, most of their audience tends to have a lot in common. History buffs gather to watch history YouTube channels; fashion lovers watch fashion channels. As a channel grows, its host gathers more influence and authority in their subject-matter.

        That said, a truly authentic endorsement is important, especially with an on-camera host. When they are looking their viewers directly in the eyes and making an enthusiastic recommendation, authenticity matters. And for what it’s worth, I find that on-camera recommendations tend to be more successful. However, voice-over channels can be effective if the metrics add up, and the host is enthusiastic and engaged.

        Prospecting for and Identifying Target Influencers

        When prospecting for new channels, I tend to use search filters on YouTube to look for my subject matter. For example, searching for history channels, fashion channels, etc. Look for channels that are relevant to your company and product(s).

        Stay Organized, Gather Metrics

        Odds are, you are going to vet a LOT of YouTube channels. It’s important to keep them all straight. Start a spreadsheet to track the following metrics for each influencer with these headings:

        1. Channel Name
        2. Channel URL
        3. # of subscribers
        4. Average views of videos 30 days out
        5. Engagement (ratio of views->subscribers)
        6. Contact email (you may need to hunt this down. See this article for tools to find contact information online)
        7. Rates
        8. Notes

        One of the most telling metrics is the channel’s engagement rate. When evaluating a channel to see if it fits your brand, it’s important to see how engaged the viewers are. This can be seen in a simple math formula:

        average # of views per video / # of channel subscribers

        Calculate the number of average views by averaging the number of views across all the videos that are 30 days out. For instance, if video one aired 30 days ago and had 10,000 views, video two aired about 30 days ago and had 20,000 views, and video three aired about 30 days ago and had 30,000 views, the channel’s average views are 60,000/3, or 20,000 views. If they have 40,000 subscribers, their engagement rate is 0.5.

        High engagement is important, especially if you are paying a flat rate. It means that the odds of having a high number of views of your sponsored video is greater than on less-engaged channels.

        Contacting the Influencer

        Once you’ve found a high-engagement channel (an engagement rate that nears 1.0 is best, but anything bigger than .25 is decent) that you think would be a good fit for your ad, the next step is to contact the influencer that owns that channel. In my experience, for every five influencers you contact, you will only hear from one or two. Be sure to follow up a week after your first email if you haven’t heard back—YouTube influencers seem to be very busy. It’s a small wonder why many of them turn to hiring agents.

        In your introductory email, you can be brief. Simply state that you are interested in a possible partnership and ask if the influencer offers midroll integrations—also referred to as “on-camera ads,” “host-taped ads,” and “sponsored midroll recorded ads.” It’s important that you get on the same page about what you are proposing.

        If they are an experienced host, they will want to know more about your business or product. The majority of influencers won’t pitch ideas to their audience that they don’t believe in. Be prepared to let them try your product or service if you decide to work together.

        Lay out your talking points in a straightforward, easy to read, bullet-pointed list. Make sure you let the host know that you want their ad to be authentic, natural, enthusiastic, and in their own voice. Talking points should cover the selling points of your brand or product, with a clear call to action. If possible, add a promotional offer to sweeten the deal for YouTube viewers who respond to the ad.

        Provide them a soundless reel of your product to talk over if they can.

        Host Interactions – What to Look For

        Be sure to watch along the way for what I call “red flags.” A few common ones that I’ve come across are:

        1. Failure to return an email within two to three days.
        2. Completely “ghosting” you for a week or more.
        3. Failure to adhere to talking points given.
        4. Failure to send a preview for approval before an ad goes live.

        All of these are red flags that might indicate a poor relationship. Trust your instinct and your metrics (subscribers, average views, engagement rate, etc.). Here is a checklist of questions you should ask yourself before you proceed with a contract:

        1. Engagement – how excited are they about your brand?
        2. Responsiveness – do they return emails promptly and professionally?
        3. Audience – is their audience a fit for your brand? Does the host think so?
        4. On-Camera or Voice-Over – is the host on camera? Or do they speak in a voice-over while video plays? Hosts who make eye-contact are more powerful influencers of your brand.
        5. Third-Party – do they have an agent representing them? If so, be prepared for a higher price and a middle man in all your communication, which isn’t always a bad thing.

        Pricing

        A piece of the YouTube pie comes at a price, and you’d be surprised at how widely that price varies. In general, though, the following rules hold true:

        1. Channels with managers tend to be more expensive.
        2. The larger the channel, the higher the rate (despite engagement metrics).
        3. There are pricing platforms available – many can be found here.
        4. Most influencers offer discounts for multiple ads.

        There are some general price guidelines for influencer integrations in 2020. Some influencers, and especially managers of influencers, tend to use proprietary pricing tools and may send you a screenshot of what they think their ad’s value is. Take this with a grain of salt.

        First and foremost, remember this: always, always, always negotiate. We have saved one client over $45,000 in ad fees across six months just by negotiating rates with the influencer. Always ask for discounted prices for multiple ads. Know that most influencers toss out higher prices at first, and many expect pushback and negotiation.

        Contract Best Practices

        We’ve realized over time that there are certain non-negotiables that should be added to any great influencer contract. Each brand’s needs and add-ons will be slightly different, though. When finalizing contracts with YouTube influencers for our clients, we now ask for:

        1. Pre-approval of the ad two business days before the ad is to go live. The influencer should expect feedback and possible changes in the script, etc.
        2. One social promotion on the influencer’s biggest social channel (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) announcing the new video and our client as the sponsor for each sponsored video on YouTube.
        3. Demonetizing a shortlist of our competitors (this prevents a pre-roll automatic ad of a competitor playing before a video in which we’ve sponsored an integration—talk about #awkward).
        4. Connecting their Google Ads account to our ads account for use in remarketing and tracking.
        5. Exclusivity – this is optional but can help prevent competitors from advertising within 30 days of each video we sponsor.

        Evaluate Performance

        If the influencer performs well and delivers on everything you agreed upon, then you’ll want to renew your contract for additional advertising. There are many ways to evaluate performance, and it’s going to depend on the KPIs for your campaign. Calculating your Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) is pretty simple. Divide the price you paid by the number of conversions to get your CPA.

        CPA = Price you paid/# of conversions

        You may only be interested in brand exposure, though, and if this is the case, you’ll want to calculate your cost per video view.

        Cost Per Video View = Price you paid/# of video views

        To supplement this, you may want to get additional metrics from the influencer, such as a report about dropoff (how many people actually kept watching the video long enough to see your ad).

        Cost Per Video View (including dropoff metrics) = Price you paid/(total # of views -# of people who dropped off before the ad)

        In any case, it’s important to set goals and measure performance. Once a couple of sponsored videos have launched, evaluate performance and decide which channels you want to renew for another round of advertising.

        YouTube influencer advertising can be very productive. By choosing the right influencer for your brand, establishing key metrics and staying organized, coming to a mutual agreement on what success looks like, and renewing successful relationships, you can have a steady stream of productive advertisements that move your brand forward. Enjoy your slice of blueberry cream with the rest of us pie lovers.

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        How to Funnel Users Toward A Conversion http://www.shanzhong29.com/blog/internet-marketing/how-to-funnel-users-toward-a-conversion.htm http://www.shanzhong29.com/blog/internet-marketing/how-to-funnel-users-toward-a-conversion.htm#respond Thu, 27 Feb 2020 15:00:16 +0000 http://www.shanzhong29.com/?p=52502 As digital marketers, we know that the best campaign is an intentional, integrated sum of all our design, content, and development efforts. However, when it comes to setting goals and evaluating performance, we can become laser-focused on the impact of a specific channel or new platform and expect stellar conversion results fresh out of the […]

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        As digital marketers, we know that the best campaign is an intentional, integrated sum of all our design, content, and development efforts. However, when it comes to setting goals and evaluating performance, we can become laser-focused on the impact of a specific channel or new platform and expect stellar conversion results fresh out of the gate. It’s all too easy to lose sight of the reality that customer decision journeys are complex, cross-channel, and often non-linear.

        Yet the fact that you can’t control a user pathway shouldn’t stop you from helping a potential customer find their way to your product. This requires being visible to your customers, positioning your brand in the right place at the right time throughout their decision-making journey, and optimizing their interaction with your brand in every stage of the marketing funnel.

        What is the Difference Between Your Marketing Funnel and a Customer Journey?

        A marketing funnel is a visualization of the stages of a customer’s engagement with your brand, from awareness through action. A customer journey is a map of all touchpoints with your brand a customer has, through searches, outbound, inbound, on-site, and off-site experiences. In many industries, the marketing funnel is used to make projections based on qualified leads, while the customer (or user) journey is most often employed to inform content and site design recommendations.

        The example below of a Portent marketing funnel created in Google DataStudio aggregates data on the number of impressions (Awareness), unique visitors (Interest), form completions and calls (Desire), and leads and sales (Action). This dashboard helps the client understand not only their performance tied to funnel stages, but how paid channels are working together to drive awareness and ultimately, sales.

        Digital Funnel Assessment in GDS that correlates levels of the funnel to performance metrics like impressions (awareness), visitors (interest), contact (desire), and leads/sales (action).

        In the past ten years, some businesses have moved away from the marketing funnel—except as tied to their CRM or lead stages—to focus more on a customer lifecycle. However, both of these models should be used together to evaluate an omni-channel marketing strategy for your business and industry. We can help funnel and direct potential customers toward a decision, yet we cannot force them to read a specific blog post or read all of the comparison content on a landing page before completing a form or making a purchase. The key to a successful strategy is introducing your brand to your consumers and then continuing to stay top of mind until they are ready to make a purchase.

        According to McKinsey, “For most marketers, the difficult part is focusing strategies and spending on the most influential touch points. In some cases, the marketing effort’s direction must change, perhaps from focusing brand advertising on the initial-consideration phase to developing Internet properties that help consumers gain a better understanding of the brand when they actively evaluate it.”

        Add to this that customers now expect a more personalized, relevant user experience, and their brand loyalty is waning. This means you need to think carefully about where to invest time and money in your marketing channels and how to evaluate not only performance, but your customer engagement over time.

        How to Assess Your Marketing Funnel

        Although your potential customers most often start engaging with your business at the top of the funnel, it is often easiest to evaluate your funnel and customer lifecycle and the strategies that surround them from the bottom up.

        Illustration of the marketing funnel with an arrow indicating an assessment from the bottom up: action, desire, interest, then awareness.

        Start by asking questions about your primary conversion KPI or, more specifically, a campaign landing page:

        Action

        • What is the goal of my website/digital presence?
        • What conversion action do I want users to take (i.e., complete a form, make a purchase, demo a product, sign up for a newsletter)?
        • How consistently is this action communicated across my marketing channels in headlines and calls to action?

        Desire

        • Is there comparison information I should provide about my brand versus my competitors?
        • How are verified reviews or testimonials included to help solidify the customer’s decision?
        • What award or other trust signal badges could I include?

        Interest

        • Are the product descriptions clear?
        • Is my target audience(s) clear? For example, would the potential customer feel like this landing page is relevant to them?
        • What else does this user need to know about my brand to trust it?

        Awareness

        • Do I answer questions about my product or services?
        • Do I share information about related topics that are relevant to my audience and industry?
        • Is my owned, earned, and paid content reflective of my brand voice and values?

        Supporting Middle of the Funnel Opportunities

        One of the biggest gaps for many marketers is evaluating and developing strategies to support the middle of the funnel opportunities. The awareness and action phases are much clearer and can be more easily attributed to specific channels, yet the interest and desire phases require more targeted communication and nurturing.

        We naturally think about getting customers in the door and closing the sale, but there are phases in the funnel and in the user journey where the customer is still deciding.

        Even if a person is a qualified lead or has a product in their cart, they still have a decision to make that could be supported or influenced by on-site or off-site content. Identify those mid-points in the funnel and decision journey for your product and industry. Then, create content that responds to customer needs in that phase of their decision-making process and promote it. Here are a few examples:

        Position Your Product for Buyer’s Guides

        Many project management software companies create feature-focused content on their own websites. Yet, some also use digital PR to connect with bloggers, influencers, or journalists in their industry to help make their brand visible in the SERP and relevant listings and comparison guides.

        Screenshot of PC Magazine's project management software comparison guide
        Image courtesy https://www.pcmag.com/picks/the-best-project-management-software

        Create Non-Branded Comparison Content That Supports “How Do I Choose” Questions

        In my search for a “trail running checklist,” I saw two featured snippets followed by two organic results: REI’s “Trail Running Gear Guide” and a listing for a specific gear brand, Salomon, linking to a blog post titled: What equipment do you need for trail running? This post is followed by links to a guide and posts on related content: how to choose your trail running shoes, how to choose a running backpack, and how to prepare your trail running backpack.

        Screenshot of the title of a blog post on trail running by Salomon

        Screenshot of the suggested related content on a blog post on trail running by Salomon
        Images courtesy https://www.salomon.com/en-us/running/trail-running-advices/what-equipment-do-you-need-trail-running

        Create Testimonials or Case Studies by Audience or Industry

        Usertesting.com includes a testimonial quote above the fold on their case study page followed by sections for business to consumer, business to business, and agency case studies.

        Screenshot of a testimonial quote on usertesting.com

        Screenshot of a group of B2B case studies grouped together on usertesting.com
        Images courtesy https://www.usertesting.com/resources/case-studies

        What Tools Can You Use to Evaluate Your Marketing Funnel and Customer Journey?

        When it comes to assessing your website content and user journey, there is no shortage of tools to help you understand how your marketing channels are working for you. At Portent, we’ve refined our list to focus on the following reports and research methodologies:

        • Google Analytics Reports
          • Conversions  – Assisted Conversions
          • Conversions – Multi-Channel Funnels – Top Conversion Paths
          • Behavior – Site Content – Exit Pages
          • Google Ads – Campaign Paths – Source/Medium
          • Behavior – Landing Pages – Source/Medium
        • Google Optimize for A/B testing on your top landing pages
        • SEMRush, Ahrefs, and GetSTAT for keyword research and identifying question queries associated with your top products and topics
        • User research through interviews, focus groups, card sorting or usertesting.com

        What Channels Should You Consider When Performing Your Assessment?

        The short answer is all channels. The longer answer is to begin with evaluating the channels where you’re investing the most time and money. Keep in mind that more and more of the user journey is happening on mobile devices. These days, having a site and campaign components that are mobile-friendly is not an option; it’s a requirement.

        How to Optimize Your Marketing Funnel and Decision Journey

        Once you’ve evaluated your strategy and identified gaps, you need to prioritize how you’ll improve your communication with potential customers across all channels.

        Align your existing channels and strategies to stages in the funnel. Regardless of the sales cycle or user journey length, channels consistently align with specific stages. Yet, keep in mind that not every channel will be the most relevant fit for each business or industry.

        For example, the funnel for a B2B company that wants to increase organic search visibility and brand awareness utilizing SEO, paid social and paid search, could look like this:

        Illustration of the marketing funnel with examples of content at each stage to increase organic search and brand visibility. Awareness content includes news articles, blogs, videos, display banner, Facebook prospecting ads. Interest content includes non-branded search, product descriptions/features, industry applications. Desire content includes Facebook remarketing ads, branded search, reviews/testimonials, product comparisons and demos. Action content includes on-site contact form, trial signup, sales team chat.

        Once you’ve identified the priority content and channels, you should build a roadmap that outlines how to connect these channels over time so they best align with a campaign and overall marketing strategy.

        For example, SEO on-page optimizations or interlinking could take months to positively affect your organic search visibility. Yet those strategic content changes need to be implemented well before digital PR, PPC, and paid social campaigns are launched, for the channels to be adequately utilized in collaboration.

        Once you have created your roadmap, implement it and evaluate your “marketing mix,” then A/B test and iterate on those tests. Keep an eye on specific channel ROI, yet look for signs that channels are working together.

        Why Should You Keep The Marketing Funnel and Customer Journey Top of Mind?

        Few customers will find your product all on their own: it has to be visible at multiple points during their journey. Even fewer people will find it and purchase it without distraction or further research. Competition is increasing, advertising platforms are becoming more crowded, and brand loyalty is waning.

        Paying for traffic or investing in PR campaigns will only carry you so far if your website doesn’t build trust with your customers. Likewise, if your site content is thorough but the social media campaign and outbound communication it’s associated with is disjointed, you could lose loyal or potential customers.

        To remain relevant and build trust with your audience, it’s essential to own and promote your brand and similarly create non-branded content on topics aligned with your brand and values.

        The Wrap Up

        Here are a few takeaways:

        1. Build your marketing funnel and customer journey as a framework from which to plan your campaign strategies. Know they both will evolve over time.
        2. Evaluate the performance of your marketing mix, not only individual channels, on a monthly and quarterly basis.
        3. Seek customer insights through A/B testing and feedback from your target audience and teams in communication with them. Apply what you learn to your content, budgets, and active channels.
        4. If you’re not sure where to start, ask for help:
          • Hire an agency to help with auditing your marketing channels, assessing your content strategy and building your marketing funnel and user journey
          • Work with internal teams who can provide qualitative or quantitative insight into customer engagement. Facilitate a brainstorm meeting with your product managers or ask your customer service team what is resonating in conversations with customers and where there are content gaps on your website.

        As you plan and forecast your budget and assess your marketing strategy this year, remember to keep both your user’s journey and your marketing funnel in mind.

        Invest time in building cross-channel content and a customer-centric approach for each marketing channel, and it will affect engagement with your brand and visibility on search engines.

        The post How to Funnel Users Toward A Conversion appeared first on Portent.

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        Responsive Search Ads: What They Are, and How to Use Them http://www.shanzhong29.com/blog/ppc/responsive-search-ads-what-they-are-and-how-to-use-them.htm http://www.shanzhong29.com/blog/ppc/responsive-search-ads-what-they-are-and-how-to-use-them.htm#respond Tue, 25 Feb 2020 15:00:06 +0000 http://www.shanzhong29.com/?p=52427 Google is always adding new options and beta features to Google Ads. From expanded text to custom intent audiences to the new lead form extensions, there are plenty of new things to try out and test in your account. One of the latest and most radical changes is the addition of responsive search ads. Responsive […]

        The post Responsive Search Ads: What They Are, and How to Use Them appeared first on Portent.

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        Google is always adding new options and beta features to Google Ads. From expanded text to custom intent audiences to the new lead form extensions, there are plenty of new things to try out and test in your account. One of the latest and most radical changes is the addition of responsive search ads.

        Responsive search ads are one of the most significant additions to Google Ads to-date and have the potential to improve your cost per click, clickthrough rate, and conversions. In this blog post, I’ll outline what responsive search ads are, how to use them, and share some examples of best practices.

        What Are Responsive Search Ads?

        Responsive search ads (RSAs) are a new form of search ad that allows you to input as many as 15 headlines and four descriptions into the ad. Google then automatically tests different combinations of ad copy and slowly begins to favor the highest performing combinations. This is much more customizable than traditional expanded text ads, which limited headlines and descriptions to two and one, respectively.

        Additionally, Google is even offering extra incentives for using them. By using RSAs, Google will show combinations of up to three headlines and two descriptions, compared to just two headlines and one description in traditional expanded text ads. That doesn’t mean it will always be showing all three headlines and both descriptions, because Google tests all different ad variations, including those with fewer headlines/descriptions.

        How To Set Up Responsive Search Ads

        Setting up RSAs is easy. To create RSAs in your account, navigate to the “Ads” tab. Click on the blue plus sign and find “Responsive Search Ads.”

        Screenshot of the ads tab in Google Ads

        You’ll be taken to the ad creation page, which looks like this:

        Screenshot of ad creation page in Google Ads

        In these fields, you can enter up to 15 headlines and four descriptions. If you already have expanded text ads created in the account, Google will auto-populate your existing headlines and descriptions into these fields.

        As you’re creating the ads, you’ll see this preview field on the right side of the page:

        Screenshot of the ad preview field in Google Ads

        As you’re filling out the headlines and descriptions, the preview field will show you what you’re ad will look like in the SERP. It will also determine your ad strength and give you suggestions and best practices to improve your ads, which leads us to my next point.

        Best Practices for Responsive Search Ads

        Just like expanded text ads, RSAs perform the best when you follow certain best practices.

        Fill Out All Fields

        The main benefit of RSAs is the sheer amount of content you can have in one ad. That benefit is wasted if you’re not utilizing the full amount of headlines and descriptions that Google provides. Having at least ten headlines and three descriptions will allow the ads to work to their highest potential.

        Use Unique Messaging in Each Field

        Similarly, the potential of RSAs is wasted if you’re saying the same thing in slightly different ways. A rule of thumb is to have your messages be unique enough so that any of them can be displayed together, and the ad still makes sense. You wouldn’t want three headlines that are extremely similar used in the same ad, so be sure to differentiate between all of your headlines and descriptions.

        Use CTAs (Calls to Action)

        Now that you have more ad real estate to work with, it’s easier than ever to include a CTA in your ad without skimping on your brand messaging. Test out different CTAs (Subscribe, Call, Learn More, etc.) and see which ones perform the best.

        Test One RSA in Every Ad Group

        While RSAs seem like a groundbreaking addition to Google Ads that provide more variation and ease of testing than ever before, it’s not time to abandon traditional ads quite yet. Due to the nature of the machine-learning aspect of RSAs, their performance can be pretty variable compared to standard expanded text ads. Sometimes, non-optimal variations of ads will be initially created, leading to lower CTR and higher CPC. This will eventually correct itself, but it can lead to decreased performance early on. This is why we recommend testing one RSA in every ad group alongside your normal ads.

        This gives you more variation in your campaigns and gives you a nice benchmark to compare your RSA performance against.

        Responsive search ads are a potentially revolutionary addition to the world of pay-per-click advertising. The level of customization mixed with Google’s machine-learning gives this ad format the possibility of performing extremely well. By using the best practices mentioned above and not over-committing to the format (only one per ad group!), you can level up your Google Ads account with more targeted and customizable ads to help improve your KPIs.

        The post Responsive Search Ads: What They Are, and How to Use Them appeared first on Portent.

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        Social Media Advertising: Selecting the Best Platform for Your Business http://www.shanzhong29.com/blog/social-media/social-media-advertising-selecting-the-best-platform-for-your-business.htm http://www.shanzhong29.com/blog/social-media/social-media-advertising-selecting-the-best-platform-for-your-business.htm#comments Thu, 20 Feb 2020 15:00:38 +0000 http://www.shanzhong29.com/?p=52443 Two questions that our agency regularly gets from clients are how to choose a social platform, and how to split their advertising investment between multiple channels. Performance data provides great insights into which platforms deliver the best ROI, and ideally, every business should be using this information to determine where to invest their social ad […]

        The post Social Media Advertising: Selecting the Best Platform for Your Business appeared first on Portent.

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        Two questions that our agency regularly gets from clients are how to choose a social platform, and how to split their advertising investment between multiple channels. Performance data provides great insights into which platforms deliver the best ROI, and ideally, every business should be using this information to determine where to invest their social ad dollars. However, to get to that point, you first need to know where to start.

        This post provides recommendations on how to leverage each social media advertising platform based on your vertical, whether you’re just starting out, or looking for additional platforms to integrate into your existing digital advertising strategy to expand your reach. However, two methods of paid social advertising not included in this article are YouTube and Influencer marketing. We generally consider advertising dollars spent on YouTube to fall under a programmatic media buy, and influencer marketing a separate social strategy altogether. If you’re interested in learning more about YouTube influencer marketing, we’ve got a blog post that talks about finding the right YouTube influencer for your brand.

        E-Commerce and Retail

        For e-commerce and retail businesses, you want to focus your ad spend on platforms that offer the most robust audience targeting and advertising programs.

        Facebook

        Facebook (including Instagram, Messenger, and Audience Network) is a must-use for businesses that have e-commerce capabilities. It is the most advanced of the social platforms when it comes to targeting and available creative formats, and it has the largest user base with 2.45 billion monthly users worldwide. For new businesses or those with low brand awareness, Facebook’s audience modeling and demographic segments are the most powerful of the platforms.

        Well-established businesses will benefit from Facebook’s audience matching capabilities, which regularly have the highest match rates we have seen across platforms. For e-commerce brands, I suggest allocating at least 75% of your social ad budget to Facebook as you test the viability of other platforms.

        Pinterest

        For businesses looking to spread their investment across platforms or reach their audience in new ways, Pinterest has made significant improvements to their ad platform. Users on Pinterest have shown a high level of purchase intent, with 66% of users saying that they have made a purchase after seeing branded content on Pinterest.

        ""

        Since it acts as more of a discovery platform than a traditional social channel, Pinterest provides the capability to target via audience segments or bid on keywords. The shopping capabilities of Pinterest have increased dramatically as well, and the ad formats allow for product details not seen on other platforms. Businesses can directly translate their paid search strategy to Pinterest, significantly decreasing the initial time investment to advertise. To top it off, CPMs and click costs on Pinterest are low compared to Facebook, and now is the time to invest in a built-out presence: between 2018 and 2019, Pinterest’s global user base grew 28% YoY and that growth is expected to continue in 2020.

        Business-To-Business

        Business-to-business (B2B) companies will benefit from social platforms with targeting capabilities that help identify decision-makers based on things like job title and industry.

        LinkedIn

        LinkedIn should always be included in the social channel mix of a B2B company. The primary reason is the targeting capabilities that are specific to the platform. Targeting by job title, company, and industry allow for businesses with a small customer list to accurately build out audiences that aren’t available anywhere else. This personal information is more likely to be given on LinkedIn than on other platforms, and more likely to be kept up-to-date. Advertisers on LinkedIn can get reporting on these audience segments as well, something that is not available on platforms like Facebook.

        Facebook

        Facebook is not typically the first thought for a B2B company, but those advertisers have recently become a target for Facebook. Facebook has allocated more resources to building out its B2B offering, such as additional relevant targeting segments. I typically recommend allocating at least 25% of a B2B ad budget to testing Facebook as a complement to your LinkedIn strategy. Although the targeting options are not as strong, the target audience members of a B2B company are likely Facebook users and spend on average 44x more time per month on Facebook than LinkedIn.

        Professional Services

        Professional service brands should take advantage of social platforms that allow them to build out their business listing and contact/appointment booking options.

        Facebook

        Facebook is a natural pick for professional services companies. Although users may not be able to purchase directly from the platform, both lead generation and appointment booking capabilities are the most seamless on Facebook compared to other platforms. Additionally, since reviews live on a Facebook page, references are easily discoverable. I recommend that professional service brands allocate at least 60% of your social ad budget to Facebook.

        Pinterest

        One of the biggest challenges for Professional Services companies is getting their content in front of relevant audiences at the right time, especially if it requires a significant investment. But since the majority of the content on Pinterest is DIY, including recipes, art projects, home improvement, and personal improvement, this provides a unique opportunity for professional services companies to advertise content that naturally aligns with the other content on the platform.

        For example, a plumbing company can repurpose or produce blog content that users will see when searching for home improvement projects. And since Pinterest allows users to save content by category, those users can quickly return to that content at the right time without having to perform additional research.

        Continue to Reevaluate Your Strategy

        As existing social channels mature and new ones emerge, it is important to reevaluate your advertising investment regularly. And keep in mind that if your target audience is a specific age range, social media habits change as new users enter the pool. Staying up-to-date on new features can be time-consuming, but one update can make a platform that was previously off-limits the next best performer.

        Regardless of your vertical, there is a social channel mix that will work for your business. And if you aren’t sure where to start, we always recommend testing multiple channels to determine which ones will have the highest ROI.

        The post Social Media Advertising: Selecting the Best Platform for Your Business appeared first on Portent.

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        Portent’s SERP Preview Tool Now a Progressive Web App http://www.shanzhong29.com/blog/design-dev/serp-preview-tool-now-progressive-web-app.htm http://www.shanzhong29.com/blog/design-dev/serp-preview-tool-now-progressive-web-app.htm#respond Tue, 18 Feb 2020 15:00:24 +0000 http://www.shanzhong29.com/?p=52297 This announcement is late in the making, but I’m excited to share that Portent has launched a major update to the SERP Preview Tool. One of our most popular pages and tools, it was time to create a new look and extend its functionality. Our SEO team, who consistently keeps up with Google’s SERP changes, […]

        The post Portent’s SERP Preview Tool Now a Progressive Web App appeared first on Portent.

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        This announcement is late in the making, but I’m excited to share that Portent has launched a major update to the SERP Preview Tool. One of our most popular pages and tools, it was time to create a new look and extend its functionality. Our SEO team, who consistently keeps up with Google’s SERP changes, collaborated closely with the development team to make sure those considerations were installed in this new app.

        Let’s dive into the upgrades and new features of our updated SERP Preview Tool.

        Portent's SERP Preview Tool screen shot

        Creating a Progressive Web App (PWA)

        One of our first major decisions for this project was creating a progressive web app (PWA), to ensure a fast, reliable, and engaging user experience. A PWA is application software developed for the web, intended to deliver a native app experience–just like any app you use on your phone or tablet. Initially conceived by Google, PWAs have recently received support from all major browsers, at least for service workers, which are a core feature in PWAs.

        I’ll discuss progressive web apps in more detail later in this post, but first, we’ll see how they work in a broadly interactive sense.

        How Do PWAs work?

        When a user initially visits a page in their browser where a PWA is present, they will usually be prompted to add the app to their home screen (although this will vary depending on your device and the browser you are using).

        Add PWA to Home Screen

        Once added, an icon representing the PWA will be placed on the home screen, providing access to it like any other app.

        Progressive Web App home screen icon

        When running a PWA, most browsers will deliver a full-screen (no URL bar, browser options, etc.) experience, just like native apps. The functionality of a PWA may change based on connectivity, but the app should work in some fashion when a user is offline. Portent’s SERP Preview Tool does not need any connectivity to work, other than the sharing feature.

        Portent's SERP Tool PWA on Android screenshot

        Creating a Mobile-Friendly Tool

        Another major upgrade we made was mobile-friendliness. The previous version of the tool was from a time long ago, back when something called “responsive design” was nothing more than a whisper. The new look is a mobile-first design, stripped down and straight forward. Even if you aren’t using the PWA, you’re guaranteed a more streamlined experience on a mobile device.

        Providing Screen Size Previews

        The last large update we developed is a screen selector which toggles the size of the preview mode. This allows users to get an idea of what their page search results will look like on various devices.

        Portent's SERP Tool screen selector

        The Future of PWAs

        With the adoption of service workers by all the major browsers, progressive web apps are only getting more popularand rightfully so. Why pay for multiple development projects in a web app, an iOS app, and an Android app, when a single progressive web app is a solution for all?

        That said, there are features of PWAs, not yet supported by all major browsers on all major operating systems. One of those features is the Push API. Native apps allow push notifications and granular control of them, but adoption of the Push API is a work in progress, with iOS being the largest obstacle. There have been some whispers that push notifications will become a feature in Webkit, but nothing tangible has been announced.

        There are a lot of details regarding PWAs. For a deeper dive, check out this article. And to see what a difference a PWA can make, read about the one we developed for Kalon Surf.

        The post Portent’s SERP Preview Tool Now a Progressive Web App appeared first on Portent.

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        Digital Marketing for Nonprofits: A Step-By-Step Guide http://www.shanzhong29.com/blog/internet-marketing/digital-marketing-for-nonprofits-a-step-by-step-guide.htm http://www.shanzhong29.com/blog/internet-marketing/digital-marketing-for-nonprofits-a-step-by-step-guide.htm#respond Thu, 13 Feb 2020 15:00:18 +0000 http://www.shanzhong29.com/?p=52325 Digital marketing is an inescapable resource for any nonprofit that wants to optimize its growth. Take a moment to consider the last time you donated online to a nonprofit. What spurred your actions? Perhaps it was an emotionally charged tweet or Facebook post. Maybe a “Donate Now” advertisement filtered into your Instagram feed or popped […]

        The post Digital Marketing for Nonprofits: A Step-By-Step Guide appeared first on Portent.

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        Digital marketing is an inescapable resource for any nonprofit that wants to optimize its growth.

        Take a moment to consider the last time you donated online to a nonprofit. What spurred your actions?

        Perhaps it was an emotionally charged tweet or Facebook post. Maybe a “Donate Now” advertisement filtered into your Instagram feed or popped up in your Google search results. It could be that you got a personalized email about a cause you hold dear, and you felt obligated to click the “Help Us Out” call-to-action.

        Chances are, digital marketing influenced your choice.

        In 2018, online donations generated about 8.5 percent of all fundraising revenue for nonprofits, excluding grants. Roughly one percent of website visitors made an online donation, with an average one-time donation of $106 and an average monthly donation of $23. This trend resulted in year-over-year online revenue growth of 1–1.2 percent.¹²

        Compared to 2017, online fundraising revenue for large nonprofits ($10 million-plus) decreased by 0.5 percent in 2018. However, medium-sized ($1–10 million) and small (less than $1 million) nonprofits saw a 3.7 percent and 0.7 percent increase in online donations, respectively.¹²

        What You’ll Learn In This Post

        Most small- and medium-sized nonprofits we’ve worked with know they should be doing digital marketing. Still, they’re reluctant to dip their toes into the dark, unknown waters because they don’t know where to start, how to optimize their current efforts, or if the investment will pay off.

        This guide unravels the mystery to teach you the concepts, processes, and tools necessary to set up and optimize your organization’s digital marketing strategy.

        I don’t want to bore or overwhelm you by diving into the minute details about how to complete each tiny step throughout the process. This post would be colossal and unreadable if I did. Instead, whenever we discuss a task you should perform, you’ll find hyperlinks to the resources you need to learn how to perform the recommended process.

        I also want to cleanse the angst about the costs associated with digital marketing. All the tools recommended in this guide are free or offer discounts to 501c(3) organizations.

        In the following chapters, you’ll learn about:

        One more note before we dive into the nuts-and-bolts. If you’re setting up your company’s digital marketing services for the first time, I recommend starting with the Analytics section and then working your way through the post in order.

        The preamble is complete. Let’s get started!

        Analytics

        An analytics program is the foundation your digital marketing strategy is built upon. With analytics data, you can accurately measure who is visiting your website, what they’re doing, and how effective your marketing efforts are.

        I recommend you use Google Analytics (GA) because it is the easiest analytics platform to understand, and it’s free. Plus, GA is the most commonly used analytics platform, so there is a chance somebody at your organization has prior experience with it.

        Step One: Get Google Analytics

        If you already have a Google Analytics account set up, go ahead and skip to Step Three: Establish Goals in Google Analytics. Otherwise, your first step is to sign up for Google Analytics.

        After you’ve created a GA account, you should set up your website as a “property” in Google Analytics so you can begin collecting data about your website’s visitors. Afterward, you’ll need to create your first GA “reporting view.” Views let you analyze the data you’re collecting. And last, you must add the analytics tracking tag to your website.

        Optional Step: Join Google for Nonprofits

        Google for Nonprofits is Google’s way to level the playing field for non-profit businesses. The program offers free Google platforms, like G-Suite, Google Ad Grants, and the YouTube Nonprofit Program. Google also provides in-depth tutorials that show nonprofits how to get the most out of each Google service.

        Step Two: Learn Analytics Terminology

        After you’ve signed up for Google Analytics and set up your account, the next step is to begin exploring the tool. While you do this, you’re presented with a lot of new terms and concepts. Loves Data put together a comprehensive Google Analytics Glossary to learn the terms you’ll see in GA.

        Step Three: Establish Goals in Google Analytics

        In analytics-speak, a “goal” is synonymous with a website conversion: any kind of meaningful action a user can take on your site. This engagement could be a video view, pledge signature, contact form fill, newsletter subscription, etc.

        Most non-profit websites create goals focused on three things:

        1. Convincing people to give money to the cause — donations;
        2. Convincing people to give time to the cause — volunteering; or
        3. Connecting with people who need your organization’s help.

        To understand how effective your website is at achieving these objectives, each path needs to be mapped to a goal in GA.

        The simplest way to do this is to configure a “destination goal” in Google Analytics to understand how many unique visitors make it to a thank you page after giving money, filling out a form, or supplying contact information. The destination goal, in combination with content performance KPIs, can paint a vivid picture displaying how users interact with your website.

        If you don’t have a thank you page, you can use Google Tag Manager (GTM) to set up event tracking that will serve as your goal data. Step four explains what GTM is and how you can use it to supplement GA.

        Step Four: Set Up Google Tag Manager

        Tag Manager puts the power of analytics deployment in the hands of marketers, instead of developers or IT. Google Tag Manager is free and allows you to ensure GA is set up to measure all content on your site. It also helps you set up event tracking for all form fills and link clicks on the site.

        Note: If you choose to deploy GA via Google Tag Manager, make sure to remove any previous instance of the GA tracking script you installed on your site back in Step One. This removal prevents you from seeing duplicate visits. If you choose not to deploy GA via GTM, then leave the tracking script in place.

        In the nonprofit world, it’s vital that small marketing teams hold all the keys to the kingdom in terms of enabling tracking, which Tag Manager accomplishes. If they don’t, getting outside developer help can get expensive quickly.

        Through GTM, you can:

        1. Track clicks off to third-party sites where the conversion occurs; or
        2. Observe form submissions on any page, even forms that don’t submit to a thank you page.

        Learn how to perform both of those methods in this Google tutorial.

        Thank you pages and GTM tracking cover the essential conversions. But you should also know how visitors engage with off-site content that leads up to donation and volunteer action. If you’ve embedded a YouTube video explaining what your non-profit does, GTM allows you to send events to GA around plays and completions of that video. This correlation helps you know what content resonates with users.

        If you have printable resources that visitors can share to spread the word about your cause, you can track usage of those with the aforementioned link click tracking.

        The last thing to consider is tagging your campaigns. Many nonprofits have email lists and social media followings that they’ve spent years gathering and rely on for annual giving seasons. Properly tagging links from those emails and social media posts to your website using UTM parameters will let you know how effective they are at driving revenue.

        For a broader list of things that can and should fall under the banner of goals from an analytics perspective, check out this article on analytics goal tracking on Portent’s blog.

        Step Five: Keep Learning

        Google Analytics is a robust platform that can revolutionize how well you understand your website users. If you’d like to learn more about how to best use Google Analytics, I strongly encourage you to register for Google’s free Analytics Academy. The program has a variety of self-serve courses for people of all analytics knowledge levels.

        Step Six: Implement Additional Analytics Tools

        One area where GA lacks is in providing a visual understanding of how customers are engaging with a page layout, which is useful when you evaluate how to optimize existing content. Hotjar is a great tool for visual mapping, as it allows for comprehensive heat mapping, hover mapping, and scroll mapping of your content. And again, it’s free with some reasonable limitations (you can only heatmap up to three pages at a time on the free plan).

        Back to table of contents

        Content Strategy

        Content strategy helps determine what message your website communicates and how. With content strategy, you can plan your website around the needs of your users. This approach lets your online platforms cultivate a positive and enriching experience that simultaneously helps people and achieves your company’s goals.

        In the context of content strategy, “content” means anything on your website that communicates an idea to a user. Here are a few common content types:

        • Landing pages (products, services, donation forms, contact us pages, etc.)
        • Blog posts
        • Resource guides
        • Images
        • Videos
        • Podcasts
        • Accountability reports

        In the following steps, the term “content” is referencing all types of content your nonprofit might produce.

        Step One: Determine the Objective of Your Website

        Your website should have clearly defined expectations and goals, such as increasing donations, building brand awareness, and getting people to volunteer. Every content strategy decision you make should further these goals.

        If you don’t know what your organization is trying to achieve with the website, now is the time to define it. We suggest reading the goal-setting guide by Blitz Media Design if you want a template or ideas for how to establish your website’s goals and objectives.

        Step Two: Evaluate (And Fix) Your Navigation

        The navigation and sub-navigation should accurately reflect your website’s content and the user journey you’re trying to create. If you want examples of how to build a user journey map, HubSpot has an excellent guide.

        The navigation should also relate to the goals you established in step one. For example, let’s say you run an animal adoption shelter and the website has four goals:

        1. Adopt homeless animals
        2. Acquire donations
        3. Attract volunteers
        4. Build community awareness about pet-related issues

        Your navigation should present the opportunity for users to interact with all four objectives. It should have labels for open adoptions, a donation icon, a call out for volunteers, and an “about us” or “how we help” section. Below is an example from the Humane Society showing how their navigation approaches this scenario.

        Screenshot of the top nav of the Utah Humane Society's website
        Source: Utah Humane Society

        If your navigation does not reflect the goals established in step one, if it doesn’t accurately capture your existing content, or it doesn’t help people find the information they’re looking for, then I suggest you fix the navigation.

        First, learn how to decide what goes in the navigation. Next, learn how to write descriptive navigation labels. Last, ensure your navigation is mobile-friendly and responsive.

        Step Three: Be Intentional With Hero Images

        Hero images set the mood and theme for a given page. On your homepage, the hero should emphasize what your brand does, a current promotion, or a long-term goal. The image should be brand or campaign relevant, easy to understand, and emotionally persuasive.

        On a landing page, such as volunteer sign up, event announcement, or blog post, the hero image should emphasize the subject matter being discussed.

        Below is an example of how a hero image emphasizes what the Environmental Defense Fund does while also promoting a campaign.

        Screenshot of the Environmental Defense Fund's hero image of a polar bear walking on thinning ice
        Source: Environmental Defense Fund

        The simple, emotional image works incredibly well from multiple standpoints. The polar bear is walking between thinning ice sheets and just barely making it, symbolizing it needs help. The bear’s face points directly at the Give Now button. The button itself is bright blue and easily distinguishable. Plus, because the image is static, rather than a video or carousel, this scene is the user’s sole focus when first visiting the page.

        Step Four: Use Descriptive Labels

        Descriptive calls to action, anchor texts, or navigation labels are vital to the success of your website because they show users what to expect upon clicking a link or button. By setting clear expectations, the copy leaves no room for interpretation and users can navigate your website with minimal frustration.

        When you write an interactive label, perform a quick test. If you wrote the copy on a blank piece of paper and showed it to a stranger, would they understand what you are talking about? Is it descriptive enough that they would understand the context and have reasonable expectations about the content to follow?

        Step Five: Set Up a Donation Platform

        Online donation processing is among the more challenging aspects of running a nonprofit. A quality, customizable payment processing platform that integrates into your existing content management system (WordPress, HubSpot, Drupal, etc.) is a lifesaver for small-to-medium nonprofits.

        An embedded platform increases conversions during the donation stage because users stay on the same domain and can donate through multiple trusted methods, such as PayPal, Apple Pay, or Google Pay. Some platforms also allow you to receive donations in foreign currency and harvest donor data, letting you personally thank donors or send annual donation reminders.

        I recommend Donorbox for small-to-medium organizations. The platform is robust, reputable, and has quality customer support. Plus, Donorbox is free to use for the first $1,000 you collect each month. The platform charges 1.5% on donations after $1,000.

        Below is an example of how the Donorbox payment form can look, via one of Portent’s pro bono clients, Rise Up School of Dance.

        Screenshot of Rise Up School of Dance's donor box
        Source: Rise Up School of Dance

        Step Six: Optimize Your Donation Page and Form

        The donation page and experience should be simple and focused only on donations. Keep events, programs, and other non-donation-related content off the donation page.

        Below is an example of a great donation form and experience.

        Screenshot of the donation form experience on NRDC's website
        Source: National Resource Defense Council

        This form and page accomplish eight crucial donation form best practices:

        1. The “Donate” hero image clearly identifies where users are and the purpose of this page.
        2. The form pre-selects a donation amount, which can improve form performance and increase the average donation.
        3. The form lets users choose if they want to donate once or set up a recurring donation.
        4. The form requires only necessary information.
        5. The copy tells users how their donation is being used and emphasizes the donation is tax-deductible.
        6. The page offers social proof with a Charity Navigator Badge.
        7. The sidebar includes additional donation formats, in case users want to donate in more ways than cash.
        8. After a user completes the form, they are directed to a Thank You page.

        If possible, ensure your donation form meets the eight best practices in the above list. If you’d like to go further in optimizing your donation form or landing page, check out this guide.

        Step Seven: Use Visually Distinct Donation Buttons

        Donations are the bread-and-butter of every NGO, and users expect to be able to locate a donation button from any page within a few seconds. The industry standard is to have the donation button in the top-right navigation. You should also make the donate button a bright color to clash against the rest of the design.

        Screenshot of the Defenders Of Wildlife website with a bright orange "donate now" button
        Source: Defenders of Wildlife

        Step Eight: Evaluate (And Fix) Your Footer

        The purpose of the footer is to provide easy-to-find information, boost organic search results, and build internal links. The footer navigation shouldn’t be a catch-all spot to plug extra links you want to promote. Instead, it’s important to keep this section of your website clean, concise, and readable.

        The footer should be home to hard-to-find content and commonly expected information, such as contact options, careers, brand partners, testimonials or awards, and social media profiles.

        Below are two examples of nonprofits that have clean, optimized footer navigations:

        Screenshot of the WWF's website footer showing easy to read blue text on a white background, clear of clutter, and concise.
        Source: World Wildlife Fund
        Screenshot of Unicef's website footer showing easy to read white text on a blue background, clear of clutter, and concise.
        Source: Unicef

        For more in-depth information, the Nielsen Norman Group has an in-depth guide on how to optimize your footer.

        Step Nine: Create User-Centric Content

        Creating content your users care about is a never-ending step. To remain relevant in search results and maintain your user’s interest, you need to publish high-quality content on a regular basis.

        High-quality content always focuses on a user’s need and achieves the following three attributes:

        1. Answers an argument or question: It provides a clear, definitive answer to a question or argument a user has.
        2. Prescriptive and tactically actionable: The content should have at least one tactical takeaway that can be executed by the intended audience, such as signing a petition, volunteering, or donating.
        3. Self-contained: The prescriptive action or answer must include all necessary information so that the reader can act or deliver that answer without additional research. If you have existing content that could clarify an answer, you should link to it. Ask yourself: Could the reader comfortably act on your advice without using Google?

        How you decide what content to produce should depend on two things:

        1. Your website objectives and business goals
        2. What your users want from your website

        Ideally, you should blend both options when making content.

        For example, if you want to increase dog adoptions, you’ll create a page for each adoptable dog. On that page, write about the dog’s personality and answer common questions people ask in-person. Also provide multiple photos of the pooch, and let people know when and where they can meet her. Last, include links to resources about the adoption process, and the lifestyle people should be prepared for if they adopt a dog.

        Content production can be a long and tricky process, but it’s necessary if you want to provide a positive user experience. When you’re ready, the following guides will walk you through content ideation and creation:

        Step 10: Monitor Your Content

        The last step is also one that never ends. You should evaluate your content’s performance on a regular basis to know if it’s performing to your expectations. The first step is to choose content KPIs to evaluate. Next, determine how often you want to audit your content. Last, update any underperforming content so it better abides by the high-quality guidelines in step nine. If the content can’t be updated, remove it from the website and set up a 301 redirect to a relevant page.

        If you have existing content and want to check its performance, try Animalz Revive, a free tool that syncs with your Google Analytics data to highlight blog posts and other web pages that suffer from content decay (stale, stagnated, or out-of-date content) and should be updated.

        If you want to dive deeper into content strategy, here are two more of our favorite resources:

        Back to table of contents

        Pay-Per-Click Advertising

        PPC advertising is a crucial tool to drive user engagement, increase donations, and build brand recognition. PPC allows nonprofits to target potential donors, volunteers, or advocates while they browse search engine results, explore a website, or watch a video.

        Best of all, non-profit businesses are eligible for the Google Ads Grants program, which awards $10,000 per month to advertise on Google’s search network.

        Step One: Sign Up for a Google Ads Account

        Sign up for Google Ads, formerly known as Google Adwords. It’s free, and Google has the most robust paid advertising platform around.

        If you’ve never used Google Ads or any PPC platform, I suggest enrolling in Google’s free paid advertising academy, which teaches newcomers everything they need to know about Google Ads.

        Step Two: Sign Up for Google Ad Grants

        As previously mentioned, non-profit businesses are eligible for the Google Ad Grants program. You should sign up for it. Small-to-medium nonprofits may not even eclipse the $10,000 per month the grant provides, effectively letting you run a PPC campaign for free.

        There are terms and conditions which you must agree to, and there are strict guidelines you must abide by if you use this program (e.g., quality score requirements, CTR requirements, click cost ceilings).

        Step Three: Download Google Ads Desktop Editor

        Google has a free desktop editor program which makes bulk changes easy. The software’s bulk edit option is much faster than applying changes one-by-one in the browser-based user interface.

        Step Four: Determine the Goal of Your PPC Campaign

        In 2018, nonprofits grew their digital ad budgets by 144% and invested roughly 10% of earned online revenue into digital ads.¹ Every dollar earned and spent online should be part of a larger plan.

        Before allocating any money to a campaign, you need to ask yourself one question: what is the goal of this specific campaign?

        For most nonprofits, the best goal is to efficiently acquire direct leads to a donation or volunteer page. Hopefully, this exposure gets new potential members or donors introduced to your organization.

        If you choose this goal, the ads you run should show users why your organization is important, how it affects causes they care about, and encourages them to keep in touch to get more involved.

        Step Five: Learn PPC Lingo

        Much like Analytics and SEO, PPC has its own lingo, and knowing common phrases will make creating ads and going through Google Academy significantly easier. Below are the most important terms for you to know.

        Metrics

        CPC: cost per click (cost divided by clicks)

        CTR: click-through rate (clicks divided by impressions)

        CVR: conversion rate (leads or conversions divided by clicks)

        CPA or CPL: cost per acquisition or cost per lead (cost divided by leads or conversions)

        Impression Share: your visibility or “share of voice” (impressions divided by total search volume)

        Other Key Terms

        Campaign: a collection of ad groups that has a daily budget assigned to it. These are typically differentiated systematically by keyword category (for example)

        Ad group: a collection of keywords and the corresponding text ads which are eligible to show to users when one of those keywords is triggered by a user’s search query

        Quality Score: a measurement of a keyword’s quality (ranging from 1-10) that directly factors into how much you pay for a click

        Ad Rank: a value assigned by Google in an auction which determines your ad’s position on a SERP (or if it shows up at all)

        Bid Strategy: an automated bidding option offered by Google. There are several; advertisers can choose those that make the most sense based on their campaigns’ goals

        Step Six: Brainstorm Keywords

        After you’ve determined the campaign goal, your next step is to consider which phrases people will most likely search for that are relevant to your organization and can result in a lead.

        I recommend that you work your way from the bottom of the funnel to the top. Users who search for your organization’s name are typically the most likely to convert, so start with these branded phrases.

        After accounting for branded search terms, take a look at your website and use your main category pages (navigation categories, core product or service pages, etc.) as starting points. Each of these categories can be their own PPC campaign. Plus, you can evaluate the organic keywords that are directly relevant to each category to get inspiration for your paid keyword strategy.

        For example, let’s say you run a local food shelter and need more volunteers. Your website has a volunteer page, which contains all the information users need to sign up for volunteer work. You can create a PPC campaign focused on keywords potential volunteers might search for, such as “food shelter volunteer.” The ads would send users to the volunteer page on your website and hopefully get new sign-ups.

        Step Seven: Verify PPC Keywords

        Once you have a list of initial keyword ideas, use Google Ads’ keyword planner to determine if those terms are searched for in volume. Ideally, you want to target keywords that have high volume and low competition scores. Afterward, you can sort the chosen keywords into ad groups and campaigns, which you can then add to your Google Ads account and expand upon.

        Before you move to step eight, read this keyword volume guide by WordStream. The resource delves into everything you need to know about keyword search volume, which is relevant for PPC and SEO.

        Step Eight: Add More Keywords

        After you’ve determined the base keyword list, including branded terms, you’ll want to move up the funnel and expand your keyword selection to target concepts tangentially relevant to your organization.

        Consider what phrases are applicable to your user demographic but not directly related to your nonprofit. If you want to target users who are interested in food scarcity but don’t currently volunteer, you might research the keyword volume for terms like “hunger statistics in Seattle,” and then build campaigns around the results.

        Keep repeating this process until you’ve exhausted your keyword opportunities or surpassed your target budgets.

        If you want a more in-depth look, read WordStream’s guide to researching and developing a PPC keyword strategy.

        Step Nine: Choose Destinations for the Ads

        If you have a great website with robust content and high conversion rates, it’s feasible to use topically relevant pages on your site as landing pages for your PPC campaigns. However, if your site is lacking content specific to a campaign topic, then you should consider developing a custom PPC landing page.

        Unbounce has a good guide you should read if you are interested in developing custom PPC landing pages.

        Step 10: Choose Your Ad Types

        In 2018, nonprofits spent about 55% of their online ad budget on direct fundraising, such as a “give now” banner ad that directs people to a donation page. Lead generation and advocacy, like signing a petition or completing a survey, accounted for 23% of their digital ad budget. The last 21% of digital ad budgets went toward branding, awareness, and education campaigns.¹

        The ad format directly affects click-through rates, conversion rates, cost per lead, and cost per acquisition. Which format you choose and how much budget you dedicate to each method depends on four factors:

        1. Online advertising budget
        2. Campaign goals
        3. Keyword volume and competition
        4. Remarketing efforts

        For display advertising, like banner and video ads, how much money a nonprofit spends to earn a donation depends largely on organization size, reputation, and recognition.

        In 2018, nonprofits spent an average of $359 to convert a single donor with display advertising. Small nonprofits reported around $1,170 cost per donation, while medium and large nonprofits averaged around $170 cost per donation.¹

        The significant difference boils down to budget and name recognition. Smaller nonprofits have less recognition and users often perform more research before donating to the cause, whereas large nonprofits already have an established trust factor and require less scrutiny.

        For small nonprofits, display ads are best used to build brand awareness or remarket users who have previously interacted with your website. Check out PPC Hero’s guide for more information about remarketing purposes and strategies.

        If your campaign goal is to target high-intent users who are looking for a specific cause or nonprofit, you’ll want to use search ads.

        To acquire donors via search ads, nonprofits spent an average of $33 in 2018.1 Small nonprofits experienced a cost per donor of $83, while medium or large nonprofits spent $27 and $21, respectively.¹ Again, name recognition and trust are the likely factors causing this discrepancy.

        Although search clicks are more expensive for small nonprofits, the conversion rate and donation per donor will likely be better.

        Because small nonprofits also likely have small search pools with limited keywords and low to moderate keyword volume, I recommend they max out their budget on the best search keywords and search campaigns. Despite the average cost of $83 per conversion, the conversion rate will likely be higher because the leads are more qualified and lower-funnel. If search alone proves to be too cost-prohibitive or if you’re competing in an extremely competitive space, a blend of display and search ads can be a viable solution.

        After you’ve optimized your search opportunities, use remarketing to target users with display ads.

        Step 11: Write the Ad Copy

        Once you have your campaigns planned out, make sure you write ad copy that speaks directly to the terms present in each ad group. The copy should be concise, convincing, and have a clear call to action so the users know what to expect if they click your ad.

        If you use Google Grants, you need to maintain a high CTR threshold, so ensure your ad copy is relevant and direct. Read this Google ad copy best practice guide by Unbounce and Portent’s blog post on ad directness to make sure your ad copy is in tip-top shape.

        Step 12: Publish the Ads and Monitor Results

        Publish the Google Ads campaigns that you want to run. Once your campaigns begin generating impressions, clicks, and (hopefully) leads, you want to analyze and optimize the campaigns.

        Does one specific campaign have lots of clicks but no leads? Consider decreasing this campaign’s daily budget, change its bid amounts or bidding strategy, alter keyword match types, or pause a keyword that’s wasting money, and so on. Eventually, you should see your conversion metrics improve and your profitability increase.

        As you bound further down the optimization burrow, read the following blog posts for more PPC strategies and techniques:

        Back to table of contents

        Paid Social Media

        Paid social media advertising is a powerful way to introduce your brand to a pool of new but relevant users. You can use paid social to target users who fit your target demographic or interact with your company’s social media profile by using personalized and interactive creative content.

        Although PPC and paid social use similar strategies, PPC is a “push channel” while paid social is a “pull channel.” Unlike PPC, which targets people’s intent and pushes them toward taking action, social media users aren’t actively looking for a certain nonprofit or want to learn about a specific cause. But you can pull users toward your brand by serving them the right creative at the right time. Using this tactic, you can convert these users into new donors, volunteers, or advocates.

        Step One: Choose What Social Media Platforms to Use

        Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are the best social platforms for nonprofits to use for paid advertising.

        What type of content your users find engaging is the most important consideration when you choose a social media platform because each platform is tailored for specific content. We suggest you chat with your donors, volunteers, and staff about what content they want to interact with, and then decide if you have the resources to produce that tailored content.

        While you’re doing this research, here are a few pros and cons to keep in mind for each social platform.

        Facebook/Instagram Pros

        Both platforms have a huge audience and frequent users — Instagram has more than 1 billion users and 2.23 billion people log on Facebook each month. The content you publish is longer lasting than Twitter. Emotional or eye-catching photos and videos tend to perform best on Facebook and Instagram. The platforms are easy to use and familiar to most people. And Facebook provides lots of free resources for nonprofits to get started.

        Facebook/Instagram Cons

        Organic reach has fallen dramatically compared to what it used to be. For a non-profit that doesn’t already have a presence on Facebook, it will be difficult to build an audience without putting ad dollars behind the account.

        Twitter Pros

        Easy to communicate with users. Twitter has lots of daily users, and it’s growing in popularity. Plus, with hashtags and trends, it’s easy to find trending topics and join relevant conversations.

        Twitter Cons

        Tweets age out after a few minutes because so much content is being published to a user’s timeline at once.

        If you want more information about the types of social media ads and how each platform uses them, read Hootsuite’s social media advertising guide.

        When you decide which platforms to use, also keep in mind brand persona consistency. The brand should feel similar across each social channel, including the account name, imagery, and tone and voice. Although the content is unique on each platform, users should be able to follow your different accounts and still tell the content comes from the same company.

        Step Two: Determine Platform Goals

        Before you dive into developing a social media strategy, you should determine what your main goal for each platform is, such as customer service, community building, lead generation, event promotion, etc. The strategy doesn’t need to be the same for every platform, nor does each platform need to get equal attention. However, the goals you choose should influence your decisions in the following steps.

        Buffer provides a great overview of common social media advertising goals and metrics that you could consider. Check out their guide if you want to dive into this subject further.

        Step Three: Get Verified

        If you choose to use and advertise on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll need to get your profile verified and sign additional terms and conditions. Both platforms have different ad guidelines for companies that promote ads on topics of “national importance.” Because most non-profits are mission-based, following these guidelines is crucial. Without verification, your ads could be denied because your account isn’t approved to discuss certain topics.

        Step Four: Sign Up for Facebook Charitable Giving

        Another resource to take advantage of during the early stages of your social strategy is Facebook’s Charitable Giving program, which lets users donate to your organization directly from Facebook profiles or feeds. The program also lets Facebook users set up fundraising campaigns on their personal profiles for your organization.

        Step Five: Sign Up for Instagram Donations

        After you’re approved to use the Facebook Charitable Giving program, you should set up Instagram’s donation button and stickers, which let users donate up to $2,500 through the platform.

        Step Six: Set a Realistic Budget

        Unfortunately, unlike PPC, nonprofits don’t get free advertising money each month from social media platforms. It’s important you establish a realistic campaign budget to make your money stretch its furthest and get the most value from every cent.

        There are a lot of guides to read about establishing social advertising budgets. Buffer provides a great guide about how to run a social campaign with a $100 budget. Medium-sized nonprofits with more advertising money and content resources should read Hootsuite’s guide, which helps you plan out all the budget considerations you’ll encounter.

        Step Seven: Establish Your Campaign KPIs

        Think back to the platform goals you established in step two. Now, before you begin building each campaign, you should determine how you’ll measure if those goals are being met.

        To figure out the nuts-and-bolts of KPIs, I recommend reading Unbounce’s excellent guide on establishing and measuring social media campaign KPIs.

        Step Eight: Determine What Content to Promote

        Step one advised thinking about the types of content you’d promote for each platform. Now, it’s time to create that content and put it to use.

        I encourage you to mix different media types for your social media content. Most of your posts should incorporate blog posts, educational resources, as well as images and videos to tell personal stories about your community and your nonprofit’s impact.

        If you have a consistent content production schedule as part of your content strategy, you can resurface that content on social media and alleviate the amount of content you’d otherwise need to produce. If you don’t have a steady stream of content being produced, you’ll need to develop content specifically for your social platforms. Refer back to the research you did in step one, alongside the KPIs you’ve established, to help decide what content you should produce.

        Step Nine: Make Fast, Mobile-Friendly Landing Pages

        In 2018, users on mobile devices accounted for 48% of traffic to nonprofit websites and finally surpassed desktop users, which made up 44% of traffic.¹ Mobile users, particularly those engaging with social media content, expect landing pages to load almost instantly. If the page takes more than four seconds to load, 38% of users will abandon the journey and rarely return.

        Mobile page speed is also more important for paid social campaigns because advertisers are paying for impressions and link clicks. When users abandon the page before it loads, advertisers lose money without users ever seeing the landing page content.

        It’s crucial that any landing page your social campaign uses is optimized for mobile, including site speed. Wordstream has a guide that will teach you how to design and optimize a mobile landing page. And although I’ll discuss site speed more in the SEO section, if you want to skip ahead and get started early, Portent’s ultimate guide to site speed will cover everything you need to know.

        Step 10: Create the Campaign Plan

        After you identify the content you want to build and promote, the next step is to plan your campaign. Before you write the ads, make sure you know the following information:

        Campaign Title: Make sure you have a campaign title to discuss the campaign both internally and with users.

        Identify a Campaign Team: Know who is going to manage posting, monitoring, and tweaking the campaign content.

        Campaign Budget and Length: To stay within budget and hit your KPIs, you must have an idea of how long your campaign should go on. Here are a few tips on choosing campaign length, in case you’re not sure where to start.

        Content Schedule: Know what content you’re publishing, when you’re publishing it, and whom you’re targeting. Also know which landing pages are paired with your scheduled content.

        Step 11: Write the Ads

        There are several schools of thought for how to write great social media ad copy. Below are a few resources to get you started:

        Non-profit organizations also need to be aware of the language they use on social media. Social users are not afraid to provide feedback—either positive or negative—to a non-profit that stands for specific values. These comments or reviews can hold a lot of sway over users that are considering engaging with a small nonprofit. To maintain consistent language use across platforms and minimize the risk of user blowback, make sure to do three things with every ad:

        1. Follow your organization’s voice and tone guide
        2. Tailor ad copy to the best practices of each platform
        3. Be clear and concise with your CTAs

        Optional Step 12: Choose Hashtags

        If you choose to use hashtags in your social posts or paid social ads, the most important concept to keep top-of-mind is hashtag relevancy. It is better to use one hashtag that is extremely relevant than 20 that are not. If popular or trending hashtags are not relevant to your campaign, service, or industry, then don’t include them in your ads or posts.

        Optional Step 13: Consider Using a Content Management System

        Managing social media campaigns for multiple platforms can take considerable amounts of time and resources. If you plan to advertise or promote content on more than one platform, consider using a content management system, such as Hootsuite, Buffer, or SocialOomph. These programs help manage and maintain your social media channels in one location, and many companies offer free basic accounts. Business software site Capterra has a good guide on social media CMS if you’d like to learn more.

        Back to table of contents

        Search Engine Optimization

        Optimizing your website and its content for search engines allows people to discover your organization when they search online for relevant queries. SEO for nonprofits is practically the same as SEO for any other organization, except that local-focused nonprofits should double-down on their local SEO efforts.

        Your ultimate SEO goal is to appear in the top three Google search results for search queries relevant to your cause or brand name. You want to aim for the first three Google results because they get 75.1% of all clicks, with the first result getting an average click-through rate of 31.7%, which is 10x more likely to receive a click compared to a page in the tenth position.

        Without proper SEO, websites generally struggle to get discovered unless somebody searches with a site-specific or branded query. But a full-throttle SEO campaign is resource-intense and never-ending. Instead of tackling all 200 ranking factors, I suggest you focus on the following eight areas of improvement. These tasks are among the most important ranking factors and can significantly improve your website’s chances of ranking well:

        1. Secure your site with HTTPS
        2. Make your site mobile-friendly
        3. Improve page load speed
        4. Produce quality content
        5. Include the correct schema markup
        6. Promote your site on social platforms
        7. Establish a strong local SEO strategy
        8. Earn quality backlinks

        You can learn the high-level concepts for most of these ranking factors with a beginner-friendly SEO guide from OptinMonster. In the steps below, I’ll walk you through what you need to do to establish a strong foothold in SEO and set yourself up for success to implement these steps.

        Step One: Sign Up for Google Search Console

        Sign up for Google Search Console (GSC), a free tool from Google to monitor Google traffic, search engine rankings, and discover any technical website errors. Search Console also lets you submit any new web pages, sitemaps, and robots.txt to Google’s web index. It’s an invaluable SEO tool.

        There are a lot of features, tips, and tricks to Search Console. You can learn the ins-and-outs of the tool from Backlinko, which has one of the most comprehensive and user-friendly GSC guides available. Ahrefs also has a great GSC guide, in case you want a second option.

        Step Two: Learn Common SEO Terms and Concepts

        SEO is full of niche terms and concepts. Moz has a great guide that covers the most important SEO terms you should know.

        Step Three: Secure Your Website with HTTPS

        HTTPS is a must for any website with forms, e-commerce, donations, or other privacy vulnerabilities. Plus, HTTPS is a vital SEO ranking factor.

        If you don’t have knowledge of website encryption and server configuration, setting up HTTPS can be a bit intimidating. The multi-step process requires coordinating with different parties, and a lot of the steps simply sound confusing. Fortunately, SmashingMagazine has a robust guide to swapping your website from HTTP to HTTPS. Portent does as well, if you want more information on HTTPS migration.

        Step Four: Optimize for Mobile

        Mobile traffic continues to overtake desktop traffic for most websites, which means nonprofits must consider the mobile experience. In 2018, mobile users made up about half of all web traffic to nonprofit websites. Despite this, mobile users only had a 9% conversion rate and accounted for 30% of gifts and 21% of revenue.¹ An optimized mobile experience can improve how often users engage with your website and ultimately convert.

        Mobile-friendly websites and design branches into many different schools of thought. The minimum you need for SEO is a website that’s “responsive” to the user’s device. A responsive website automatically scales content to fit the screen size and device type.

        Below are a few different guides that cover everything you need to know. Some of the guides have varying strategies, but all of them are viable, so choose which ones best align with your resources:

        When you’re done with the changes to your website, remember to double-check if your site is mobile-friendly with Google’s free tool.

        Step Five: Increase Site Speed

        Now that your website is mobile-friendly, the next task is to make sure everything loads fast, particularly images. As we discuss in the social media section, mobile users are impatient and bounce from websites that take more than three seconds to fully load.

        Portent’s ultimate guide to site speed will cover everything you need to know, starting with the basics and transitioning into more advanced techniques.

        Step Six: Sign Up for Moz Keyword Explorer

        SEO tools are invaluable for an SEO campaign, but they’re generally expensive. We suggest you sign up for Moz Keyword Explorer because they offer a version of the tool that lets you search for keyword volume and difficulty for a few keywords every day, for free.

        If your organization is diving deeper into its SEO efforts, we suggest you either purchase a subscription to MOZ or consider similar SEO tools like Ahrefs and SEMRush. Both tools also have free versions but you run into the paywall faster than with Moz Keyword Explorer.

        Step Seven: Perform Keyword Research

        Keyword research determines what words, phrases, and topics people search for online. You’ll use this information to determine what content to write and how you write it. Learning how to do keyword research for the first time can quickly get overwhelming. Fortunately, keyword research is a bit like riding a bike; once you’ve done it once, it’s easier the next time.

        Backlinko has the best keyword research guide I’ve read. It’s up-to-date, beginner-friendly, and covers almost everything you need to know. Give yourself at least two hours to read the guide and perform your first round of research. If you don’t like the Backlinko guide, Moz also has an excellent option.

        While you read the guide, keep in mind that you’ll also want to focus on local keywords to target people directly in your community. These folks will use location-focused keywords, such as “animal shelter near me” or “at-risk teen mentoring in Seattle.”

        In addition to the techniques and strategies you’ll learn in the Backlinko or Moz guides, I recommend you perform local keyword research using a local-focused tool such as Bright Local or Grepword’s hyper local tool. Neither of these tools is completely free but Bright Local does offer a free trial, and Grepword’s basic plan is $15 a month. Both tools provide insights about niche, local keywords, and their search volume, which many of the larger keyword tools don’t track.

        Below are two additional free keyword research and SEO tools to help you:

        • Answer The Public — Learn what people search for online and how they phrase questions.
        • CanIRank — Dissolve the convoluted aspects of keyword difficulty and discover how difficult it is for your website to rank for a term.

        Step Eight: Identify Where to Incorporate Keywords

        After you’ve decided on the keywords you want to use, you need to either write copy using these terms or strategically insert the keywords into existing content. If you’re adding keywords to existing content, you should have identified those pages in the keyword research stage.

        There are two crucial rules for inserting keywords:

        1. The keywords must appear natural. Don’t force a keyword into a sentence where it doesn’t naturally fit. It’s obvious to readers and search engines, and neither will appreciate it.
        2. Avoid keyword stuffing. Don’t shoehorn keywords repetitively in the copy. Doing so can negatively affect your site’s search rankings, or cause your content to be removed from search listings altogether. There is no rule of thumb for the number of times a keyword should be used. Again, the goal is to make sure the writing sounds natural.

        Step Nine: Monitor Your Results

        The reason digital marketing is successful is that you can monitor everything. Data is King. But to ascend to the throne, you need to collect that data and understand it.

        You’ll combine what you learned about Google Search Console and Google Analytics to track if your SEO efforts are successful. The best SEO metrics to monitor are:

        • Impressions
        • Organic Sessions
        • Organic Conversions
        • Organic Click-Through Rate
        • Pageviews
        • Time on Page
        • Bounce Rate
        • Topic and Keyword Rankings
        • Share of Voice
        • Backlinks
        • Page Load Speed
        • Number of Pages Indexed
        • Crawl Errors
        • Moz Domain Authority

        Read Portent’s blog post, How to Measure SEO Performance: Vital Metrics & KPIs to learn more about these metrics, how you measure them, and why.

        Step 10: Build Backlinks

        Backlinks (when somebody links to your website from theirs) from authoritative websites are a positive ranking factor, and help people discover your content and brand. Generally, nonprofits have an easier time earning backlinks because people are more willing to link to nonprofit sites than for-profit business sites.
        Link building is an enormous part of the SEO industry and there are dozens of different tactics to try. I linked two of my favorite guides below, but you likely won’t need to put much effort into acquiring links beyond the following three steps:

        1. Ask local news organizations that cover your cause, events, or organization to provide a link back to your website. A link to the home page, about page, or cause-focused content are often the best options.
        2. When you publish a high-quality blog post or educational resource, ask other websites that discuss similar topics to link to your blog article.
        3. Produce quality content that follows the steps in the content strategy and SEO sections. If you invest your time and resources to make useful, quality content and it begins ranking for relevant keywords, you’ll naturally acquire backlinks.

        Link building guides for more information:

        Optional Step 11: Set Up Google My Business

        If your non-profit organization services the local community, you need to sign up for a Google My Business (GMB) account. GMB is a free tool from Google that improves local rankings and visibility on desktop and mobile.

        The platform lets you manage how your business appears in Google’s Knowledge Panel sidebar. Through GMB, you can display your nonprofit’s name, physical location, and hours. It also lets you monitor and reply to user reviews.

        For setting up GMB using best practices, I recommend HubSpot’s beginner-friendly GMB guide. Afterward, take a look at Google’s advanced tips to further optimize your local online presence.

        Optional Step 12: Give Your Developer Our SEO for Developers Guide

        If your organization has access to a web developer, Portent has a comprehensive guide for developers to execute on the SEO needs you’ll bring them. If you don’t have a developer and are running into technical roadblocks when trying to implement my recommendations, you might find some solutions in the guide, too.

        Back to table of contents

        And That’s A Wrap

        At the beginning of this guide, you may have been reluctant to dip your toes into the previously murky waters of marketing. You still might be, and that’s O.K. After all, digital marketing requires a lot of time—a resource nonprofits always need more of.

        But if you decide to dive into the deep end, I hope the steps you read illuminated the depths of what you need to accomplish to build a digital presence from the ground up. And if you have the resources to implement the techniques and strategies I discuss, please dedicate that time and energy. The investment pays off, and you’ll be in a better position to fight for the causes you care about.

        Quick and Dirty Resource List

        Analytics

        Content Strategy

        PPC

        Social Media Advertising

        SEO

        Sources

        Studies cited in this guide:

        1. 2019 M+R Benchmarks Study
        2. Blackbaud 2018 charitable giving report

        Portent team members who contributed subject-matter expertise to this guide:

        Caleb Cosper
        Lauren Clawson
        Michael Wiegand
        Ryan Moothart

        The post Digital Marketing for Nonprofits: A Step-By-Step Guide appeared first on Portent.

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        How to Build a Media List for Content Promotion http://www.shanzhong29.com/blog/internet-marketing/how-to-build-a-media-list-for-content-promotion.htm http://www.shanzhong29.com/blog/internet-marketing/how-to-build-a-media-list-for-content-promotion.htm#comments Tue, 11 Feb 2020 15:00:39 +0000 http://www.shanzhong29.com/?p=52263 More than 4.4 million blog posts are published online every day, and more than 500 hours of video content are uploaded to Youtube every minute. Competition is high for online content, and with so much of it produced each day, it’s easy for your content to get lost. It’s like you’ve created the perfect taco, […]

        The post How to Build a Media List for Content Promotion appeared first on Portent.

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        More than 4.4 million blog posts are published online every day, and more than 500 hours of video content are uploaded to Youtube every minute. Competition is high for online content, and with so much of it produced each day, it’s easy for your content to get lost. It’s like you’ve created the perfect taco, but no one can find your taco stand. Even if you create the most amazing content, people may not find it—unless they have a little bit of help.

        Promoting your content can help you get it seen, so it can generate valuable backlinks and increase brand awareness. And to properly distribute your content, you’ll need to create media lists.

        Why Do I Need Media Lists?

        Media lists are an extremely important part of content promotion. Your street tacos may smell good, but even that ultimate taco stand needs Uncle George on the street corner, wearing a giant taco costume and waving a big sign that points hungry folks to your stand, right? Media lists contain contact information for journalists, reporters, editors, bloggers, and other online writers. Their purpose is to get your content in front of people—the right people—who will share it on their websites and link back to you.

        Your media lists should be targeted and specific. You’re trying to reach people who will share and link to your content, and they’ll only do that if your content is relevant to them in some way. Media lists should always target relevant contacts. When they do, you have a greater chance of getting coverage and links. Furthermore, the coverage will be relevant to your website and help you build more authority and credibility in your industry.

        How to Build Your Media Lists

        Follow the steps below to build targeted media lists for your content, and get you the links and coverage you deserve!

        Figure Out Which Verticals to Target

        The first thing you should do is look at your piece and decide which verticals it fits with. Start by asking yourself, “what audience(s) will be interested in this piece?” Make a list of these verticals. Keep in mind that each vertical you choose should be relevant to your piece in some way, even if it’s only tangentially relevant. When you’re trying to sell tacos, you want to target people who are hungry and like tacos. If someone is walking by your stand with a burger in their hand, it will be harder to convince them to buy your tacos, so it’s better to focus your efforts where they’ll be effective.

        Common verticals to think about are:

        • Technology
        • Finance
        • Travel
        • Health and Wellness
        • Business
        • Lifestyle
        • Fashion
        • Sports
        • Parenting
        • General News

        Create a Separate Media List for Each Target Vertical

        Instead of lumping all of your contacts into one giant media list, it’s best to separate them. To stay organized, create a media list for each vertical you’ll be targeting. Since each vertical has a separate focus and needs its own email pitch, this will help you send the right pitch to the right vertical. The best ways to build media lists are in spreadsheets or a digital PR platform like Buzzstream. Both of these allow you to keep multiple media lists in one place, add to them continually, and filter or sort them quickly.

        Spreadsheets

        If you’re going to use a spreadsheet for your media lists, create a workbook for each campaign. Within each workbook, you should have a sheet/tab for every target vertical. The columns in each sheet should include (at the bare minimum):

        • Website Name
        • Website Domain
        • First Name of Contact (you’ll want this when it’s time to send email pitches)
        • Last Name of Contact (you’ll want to tell all the Lisa’s apart from each other)
        • Email Address
        • Notes (another thing that will come in handy for email pitches)

        Additional columns you may choose to include:

        • Writer vertical
        • Job title (assignment editor, reporter, site owner, etc.)
        • Location (country, state, city)
        • Relevant content (an article they’ve written or covered that is relative to your piece of content)

        screenshot of an example of a media contact list in a spreadsheet

        Buzzstream

        Like a spreadsheet, Buzzstream has columns for each field of information above. It also gives you the option to create your own field to help you filter your contacts, like location, vertical, etc. Buzzstream also has different “views” where you can toggle between looking at websites or individual people.

        screenshot of an example of a media contact list in Buzzstream

        Unlike a spreadsheet, it has a browser plugin that allows you to add contact information and notes directly from any webpage. It also allows users to easily upload contact information from a spreadsheet and keep multiple media lists in one place. Buzzstream also doubles as a platform to manage all of your pitches and email communications.

        However you decide to organize your media lists, keep them separated by vertical, and make them easy to filter through so you can use them effectively.

        How to Find Relevant Websites and Contacts

        You need to find people hungry for your content. Even if Uncle George was willing to put on that costume and get some attention, you need to find the people that want your kind of content. There’s not one single way nor tool you should use to find relevant media contacts. Rather, there are multiple ways to search for them and various tools that can assist you. Here are some of the best tools and methods for finding websites and contacts you can add to your media lists.

        Google Search

        Search the name of the vertical in Google to find which sites write about topics in that vertical. Try out multiple queries and experiment with advanced searches. Don’t stop at the results on the first page for each search query—keep going. You might even reach the 10th, 30th, or 50th page of search results.

        Example search queries:

        • [keyword/vertical] writer
        • inurl:[keyword/vertical]
        • “[keyword/vertical] news”

        Google Alerts

        Set Google alerts for keywords related to your piece. You’ll get email notifications that show you who is writing about those keywords and what websites have content related to them.

        Check Backlinks to Similar Content

        Find a piece of content that’s similar to the one you’re promoting, but on another website. Check the backlinks of the URL of the content piece to see who covered and linked to it—they may cover it again, especially if your content is new and updated. You can check for backlinks by using tools like Buzzsumo and Ahrefs.

        Cision

        Cision is a PR platform that has tons of media contacts. It allows you to search for media contacts and websites by vertical, job role, location, and many other parameters. Cision will return tens, hundreds, or even thousands of websites or contacts based on your search criteria and export the list as a spreadsheet.

        How to Find Emails for Your Contacts

        There are a variety of tools out there that can help make finding email addresses for your media contacts a piece of cake.

        Search the website

        Take a look around the website. See if they have a “contact” item in the navigation. If they don’t, see if they have an “about” tab. You may need to scroll to the very bottom of the page to find a better view of the menu options.

        Hunter.io

        Hunter.io scrapes websites to find email addresses. All you need to do is search the URL of a website, and it will return all of the email addresses associated with the website. It also has a browser plugin that will show you the email addresses of whichever site you’re on.

        Google search

        Search the name of the editor/reporter/writer in Google and see what comes up.

        Cision

        As mentioned before, Cision gives you the option to search the name of a media contact. You can just search the name of a reporter, editor, blogger, etc. and if they’re in Cision, it will bring up their profile with any contact information.

        RocketReach

        RocketReach is similar to Cision—you can search a name, vertical, or even the LinkedIn URL of someone, and it will give you contact information for a website or person.

        Skrapp.io

        Skrapp.io will find emails for you, like Hunter.io, if you search the first and last name and the website or company name of that person. It also has a browser plugin to make things quicker and more convenient.

        What to Do with Your Media Lists

        The best media list does nothing if you don’t use it the right way. Here’s how you can get the best results from your media lists.

        Write the Best Email Pitch

        Write an email pitch that’s tailored to each vertical. You’re trying to convince your media list contacts to write about and link to your content, so you need to show them that it’s relevant to their site and that their readers will be interested in it.

        Personalize, Personalize, Personalize

        This is where you’ll need to know the first name of each contact, and you’ll use any notes you’ve taken on them. Address each contact by name and send a pitch that is relevant to them. You may even want to mention one of their articles that you enjoyed reading.

        Re-Outreach

        If you’ve already promoted a piece of content, it doesn’t mean you’re done with that piece forever. A few months down the road, you may want to try promoting that same piece again. Find more media contacts and create or update your media lists, then write new pitches and send out those personalized emails!

        Update Frequently

        Be diligent in updating your media lists. It’s a good idea to go over them before you launch each new campaign, or at least every few months. There can be high turnover at online publications, and it’s common for editors and journalists to move around between publications, so you’ll want to make sure you know where each of them is working and what verticals and topics they’re currently covering.

        When editors and journalists do move to another publication, many of them will have an auto-response email set up letting you know what their new role is and how to reach them. Remove them from your list or change their information accordingly whenever you receive such an email.

        If you’re updating your lists and you aren’t sure if an email address is still working or valid, use MailTester to check it out. Just enter the email address you want to test, and it will let you know whether or not it’s functional.

        Get Promoting!

        Now that you know how to build media lists, it’s time to get to work! Building media lists can take time, so it’s a good idea to start now. Your media lists can be reused over and over again, so take care to find the most relevant contacts and keep their information updated. Your efforts will not be in vain, as building these lists will help you get links on links on links. And have everyone rushing to check out your taco stand.

        The post How to Build a Media List for Content Promotion appeared first on Portent.

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        Podcast Advertising: The Pros and Cons of Geo-Targeting http://www.shanzhong29.com/blog/internet-marketing/podcast-advertising-the-pros-and-cons-of-geo-targeting.htm http://www.shanzhong29.com/blog/internet-marketing/podcast-advertising-the-pros-and-cons-of-geo-targeting.htm#comments Thu, 06 Feb 2020 15:00:01 +0000 http://www.shanzhong29.com/?p=52227 Thanks to mobile devices and major streaming platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify, podcast creators now have a rather holistic breakdown of their listeners – including their geographical location. And while the podcasting industry is still deciphering and fine-tuning their internal targeting capabilities, podcasting networks have started partnering with third-party data providers to reach even […]

        The post Podcast Advertising: The Pros and Cons of Geo-Targeting appeared first on Portent.

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        Thanks to mobile devices and major streaming platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify, podcast creators now have a rather holistic breakdown of their listeners – including their geographical location. And while the podcasting industry is still deciphering and fine-tuning their internal targeting capabilities, podcasting networks have started partnering with third-party data providers to reach even more specific audiences; right down to those that reside in a given zip code.

        In this blog post, we’ll share everything we currently know about geo-targeting through podcasts, in hopes of helping you decide if this is right for you and your brand.

        What is Geo-Targeting?

        Geo-targeting enables brands to target consumers based on their geographic location. This means that a company can target-and customize-their marketing efforts to an audience based on their country, state, metro area, and zip code.

        While location-based targeting isn’t a novel idea, the practice in relation to podcast advertising is not yet very well understood. Additionally, the nature of how podcasts are consumed creates some potential limitations of geo-targeting. Unlike a typical ad, podcast ads are not always served in real-time. Listeners can download a podcast on the go and listen to it at a different time and in an entirely new location – which may cause podcast geo-targeting to be a little skewed. Despite this, geo-targeting podcast ad placement is still on the rise, with brands taking advantage of the opportunity to customize a campaign for a very specific audience based on where they live.

        Geo-Targeting Ad Placement Formats

        In our blog post on podcast advertising formats, we explained the difference between the two types of ad placement formats: baked-in and dynamic. If you’d like to experiment with both ad placements for your geo-targeting campaign, here’s what we recommend:

        • Baked-in – work with hosts that have a strong local following (think of your local radio station or a well-known sports team).
        • Dynamic – work with podcast networks that have geo-targeting capabilities.

        Keep in mind, finding podcasts that cater to a local demographic takes some work. If you’re short on time or don’t have the capacity to research local podcasts, dynamic ad placement with podcast networks is the next best thing. And while your ad may not get the host-read endorsement of a baked-in ad, podcast networks allow you to distribute your message to a much larger audience, without the vetting hassle.

        Maximizing Your Geo-Targeting Reach

        As mentioned above, working with hosts that have a strong local following can be incredibly time-consuming. To identify podcasts that are a good fit for your ad, you may be required to do a lot of manual vetting and outreach. And even once you’ve done all of that leg work, there’s no guarantee that their audience size will be substantial enough for a campaign.

        If geo-targeting is your primary campaign objective, consider working with podcast networks to maximize your reach. Based on our research and experience, here are the networks that we’d recommend:

        Depending on which network you choose and what other campaign objectives you’d like to target, here are some of the other targeting parameters in addition to geographic location that those networks can offer:

        • Age
        • Gender
        • Income
        • Education
        • Marital status
        • Interest (e.g., business, history, science, sports, true crime, etc.)

        But keep in mind, the more targeting parameters you choose to include in your campaign, the smaller your reach will be. And smaller targeting pools often lead to a higher ad spend.

        Is Geo-Targeting Right For You?

        If you’re not quite sure if geo-targeting should be your primary campaign objective, consider the following geo-targeting pros and cons:

        The Pros of Geo-Targeting with Podcasts

        • Grows local presence
        • Drives traffic to brick and mortar stores
        • Great for brands that are impacted by seasonality
        • Creates hyper-targeted audience segments

        The Cons of Geo-Targeting with Podcasts

        • Hyper-targeting audience segments tend to be more expensive
        • Baked-in ad options are limited
        • Host-read endorsements are more rare
        • Podcast networks are still figuring out how it’s done

        In Conclusion

        If you think that podcast geo-targeting might be the next step in your advertising strategy, working with a podcast network may be a worthy investment to reach a new audience. With the help of podcast networks, advertisers are able to geo-target podcast listeners at scale. And while the ad read may not always result in an organic host endorsement, podcast networks allow you to test different audience segments and learn whom your brand resonates with the most.

        And again, geo-targeting for podcast advertising is still gaining momentum; we’ll continue to watch how podcast networks can leverage geo-targeting to maximize the success of advertising campaigns.

        Still trying to decide if podcast advertising is right for you? Check out our Digital Marketer’s Guide to Podcast Advertising for more information.

        The post Podcast Advertising: The Pros and Cons of Geo-Targeting appeared first on Portent.

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        How to Optimize for Google’s Position Zero http://www.shanzhong29.com/blog/seo/how-to-optimize-for-googles-position-zero.htm http://www.shanzhong29.com/blog/seo/how-to-optimize-for-googles-position-zero.htm#comments Tue, 04 Feb 2020 17:10:43 +0000 http://www.shanzhong29.com/?p=52269 Early on, Google was so confident in their ability to answer our queries that they added a button that said “I’m Feeling Lucky” to their homepage. The button skipped the search results page entirely and took us to the first organic result. Google still has the button on their homepage, and they’re still confident they […]

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        Early on, Google was so confident in their ability to answer our queries that they added a button that said “I’m Feeling Lucky” to their homepage. The button skipped the search results page entirely and took us to the first organic result.

        Google still has the button on their homepage, and they’re still confident they can immediately deliver an answer. Only now they think they don’t need to take us to another page at all. The trend over the last few years has been to put the answer to our questions directly in the search results page in “position zero.”

        What Is Position Zero?

        The search results that come after ads and before the classic ten blue links are what we’re calling “position zero.” Google’s aim with these results is to provide an answer to the user’s query directly in the SERP, without them needing to click on anything.

        Since users don’t need to click on a result to get an answer, position zero results are also pretty important to Google Assistant, their replacement for Google Voice Search.

        What Occupies Position Zero?

        There are three main types of search results that occupy position zero: featured snippets, Knowledge Graph cards, and answer boxes.

        Featured snippets are excerpts of text taken from a page ranking in the first ten basic search results. They come in three flavors: paragraph, list, and table. Google chooses the text excerpt it thinks is most likely to answer the user’s query.

        Screenshot of Google's featured snippet for how to season cast iron

        Google’s Knowledge Graph is a database of facts and relationships about entities Google extracts from content on the web. Knowledge Graph results are the bits of information Google thinks will directly answer the query. You will often see these in position zero when you search for things like “when was the great Seattle fire?”

        Screenshot of Google Knowledge Graph result for the query "when was the great Seattle fire"

        The position zero that brands are mostly concerned with are Google’s answer box results. These are the app-like widgets that come in a variety of flavors. There are answer boxes for weather, song lyrics, definitions, hotel booking, job listings, stock prices, calculators, sports league standings, time zone clocks, and many more.

        The content for these widgets either comes from Google themselves, like flight schedules and calculators, or Google finds a reliable source of information like with definitions and song lyrics. Other answer boxes are sourced from multiple websites using rich data markup, such as job listings. There are even ad-driven answer boxes like Google Flights and Hotels Search.

        Screenshot of Google's answer box for what time it is in New Delhi

        The Zero-Click Crisis

        Featured snippets and answer boxes are great for users. They offer immediate information on mobile, desktop, voice search, and Google Assistant queries. However, publishers are worried that Google is sending fewer users down the SERP when the answer is available above the fold. And they’re right! 2019 was the first year where less than half of searches resulted in a click.

        Screenshot of a pie chart that breaks down Google searches in 2019 as 4.42% searches with ad clicks, 45.25% searches with organic clicks, and 50.33% zero-click searches
        Image courtesy of SparkToro

        I have a client in one of the spaces heavily affected by Google’s position zero results, and they are hurting. Their traffic is down year-over-year for two years in a row. Their rankings are fine, their site speed is pretty good, and their impressions in Google Search Console are up a little year over year. The problem is their click-through rate on desktop and mobile is in a gradual slide downward from fewer clicks.

        Screenshot of a graph showing a gradual click-through rate decrease from September 2018 through December 2019

        As I dig into their traffic and look for an alternative explanation, I can’t find one. When I look at their STAT account, I see their share of voice for answer boxes continues to move upward while featured snippets decline. They are still answering the questions their users are looking for, but Google is now making them available without having to click through to their site.

        How to Deal With Zero-Click Getting Worse

        The situation isn’t going to get better for most verticals. In fact, we should expect it to get worse. As Google improves its Knowledge Graph and develops more widgets to place in position zero, more industries are going to have year-over-year decreases in available organic traffic from Google.

        What’s even more unfortunate, there isn’t anything we can do to reverse this trend. Google has a dominating share of the search engine market, and users aren’t switching. All hope is not lost, however. Below are some ways to work around Google’s position zero results and even take advantage of the search features.

        Offer Deeper Content

        If users are getting the answer to their query directly in the SERP, why are they still clicking on search results? Google’s answer boxes aren’t stealing all of our clicks, just the clicks from users who are least likely to spend time on our pages.

        If a user gets the basic answer from Google and then clicks on an organic result, they want more information. Our job as SEOs is to determine what that next bit of information is and deliver it to them.

        Publishers that make money by serving ads definitely need more in-depth content when zero-click searches are increasing. If we can increase our average pages per session from 1.25 to 1.5, that could mean a potential increase of 20% in ad revenue.

        If you’re in the song lyrics or dictionary space, the information the user wants could be closely related, like the meaning of the lyrics or how to use the word in a sentence. For instance, I use Google’s answer box when I want just the lyrics, but I’ll go to Genius or Song Meanings if I want to know what the popular interpretation of the song is.

        Optimize for More Profitable Keywords

        Not every keyword has the answer to the query directly in the search results. If you’re finding that Google’s answer boxes are siphoning off too many clicks, then maybe it’s time to look for new territory.

        Get your favorite SEO toolset and begin researching keywords based on SERP features. Ahrefs will allow you to exclude keywords where the SERP has answer boxes, but they call the feature a “Knowledge card.”

        Screenshot showing how to apply a knowledge card filter in Ahrefs

        SEMRush has a similar filter in their Keyword Magic Tool, but you’ll need to exclude “Instant Answers” and include the rest:

        Screenshot showing how to filter instant answer features in SEMRush keyword magic tool

        Many of the keywords you’ll find this way will have a featured snippet instead of an answer box, but at least you’ll have the possibility of capturing the snippet. And, don’t forget the value in researching keywords the old fashioned way: human analysis of SERPs.

        Capture the Featured Snippet

        The best search feature you should target to take advantage of position zero is the featured snippet. Optimizing for featured snippets is just like on-page SEO, only at a smaller scale. As the first and most prominent organic result in the SERP, it’s also likely to get the best click-through rate. It’s pretty much a super snippet.

        I’ve had clients express fears about featured snippets increasing the zero-click rate of Google’s search results and conclude they aren’t worth capturing. I think that’s the wrong way to look at it. Roughly 23% of all search result pages include a featured snippet, so they’re kind of hard to avoid. And then, if an important keyword has a featured snippet, would we rather have our competitor occupy it instead of us? It’s still valuable real estate.

        Google just recently started to “deduplicate” featured snippet source pages. This makes having a featured snippet a little less valuable than before because the source page isn’t also collecting clicks, but having the first organic result on the page is still better than anything lower on the page.

        Don’t Count on Knowledge Graph or Answer Box Attribution

        While featured snippets generate traffic for the source page with a big attribution link, sources of Knowledge Graph and answer box results don’t get very good attribution.

        Google sources the data in its Knowledge Graph from a variety of sources and doesn’t always say where they sourced the fact from. Their justification for this could be that many facts are “common knowledge” and don’t need attribution.

        Screenshot showing Google's Knowledge Graph answer to the query "how tall is smith tower" showing no data source

        Knowledge Graph results without attribution are generally not something you should spend time strategizing around. Google has pretty firm ownership of this space in the SERP.

        Some answer boxes have source attribution, but it’s often a small link below the box. Weather boxes link to The Weather Channel, song lyrics are sourced from LyricsFind, movie reviews link back to sites like IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, and there are many more. These aren’t great targets for getting the attribution link, though. Google tends to pick one or two big players in the space for the answer box and changes them infrequently.

        Screenshot of a Google answer box for song lyrics, with a blue arrow pointing to the source attribution LyricFind

        The Featured Snippet That Is Also the Knowledge Graph

        There is a featured snippet variant that lives in the Knowledge Panel on the side of desktop SERPs and in position zero on mobile. The text part works like a regular featured snippet, but it’s embedded in a Knowledge Graph panel with image search results above and links to SERPs for related topics below.

        Screenshot of the Google SERP for a query about YouTube ads that embeds featured snippet text within a Knowledge Graph panel with image search results and related topic links

        In this Twitter thread, Danny Sullivan said the sidebar knowledge panel results are going to be moving to position zero on desktop results, so it will be a position zero search result on desktop and mobile pretty soon.

        I mostly see Wikipedia used as the source for these featured snippets, but not every industry is like that. I found that digital marketing topics rarely use Wikipedia, such as the screenshot above. If your industry is like mine and this featured snippet variant isn’t dominated by Wikipedia, then these featured snippets might be the easiest Knowledge Graph feature to get link attribution from.

        It’s not yet clear how Google chooses the source for these featured snippets, but there will be a lot of scrutiny after they move into position zero.

        Position Zero Will Continue to Change

        It’s reasonable to expect Google to continue expanding their position zero results. Users like them, and they keep coming back to Google for future searches. This is exactly what Google wants in a search product to serve ads on.

        We should also expect Google to get more sophisticated. Every year they announce a new advance in natural language processing, and they’re a little closer to writing their own featured snippets. It won’t be long until they won’t need organic links at all. But until that time comes, these methods can help you work around the zero-click crisis and keep your organic traffic afloat.

        The post How to Optimize for Google’s Position Zero appeared first on Portent.

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