Friday, November 24, 2017

Which of My Competitor's Keywords Should (& Shouldn't ) I Target? - Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

You don't want to try to rank for every one of your competitors' keywords. Like most things with SEO, it's important to be strategic and intentional with your decisions. In today's Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares his recommended process for understanding your funnel, identifying the right competitors to track, and prioritizing which of their keywords you ought to target.

Which of my competitor's keyword should I target?

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. So this week we're chatting about your competitors' keywords and which of those competitive keywords you might want to actually target versus not.

Many folks use tools, like SEMrush and Ahrefs and KeywordSpy and Spyfu and Moz's Keyword Explorer, which now has this feature too, where they look at: What are the keywords that my competitors rank for, that I may be interested in? This is actually a pretty smart way to do keyword research. Not the only way, but a smart way to do it. But the challenge comes in when you start looking at your competitors' keywords and then realizing actually which of these should I go after and in what priority order. In the world of competitive keywords, there's actually a little bit of a difference between classic keyword research.

So here I've plugged in Hammer and Heels, which is a small, online furniture store that has some cool designer furniture, and Dania Furniture, which is a competitor of theirs — they're local in the Seattle area, but carry sort of modern, Scandinavian furniture — and IndustrialHome.com, similar space. So all three of these in a similar space, and you can see sort of keywords that return that several of these, one or more of these rank for. I put together difficulty, volume, and organic click-through rate, which are some of the metrics that you'll find. You'll find these metrics actually in most of the tools that I just mentioned.

Process:

So when I'm looking at this list, which ones do I want to actually go after and not, and how do I choose? Well, this is the process I would recommend.

I. Try and make sure you first understand your keyword to conversion funnel.

So if you've got a classic sort of funnel, you have people buying down here — this is a purchase — and you have people who search for particular keywords up here, and if you understand which people you lose and which people actually make it through the buying process, that's going to be very helpful in knowing which of these terms and phrases and which types of these terms and phrases to actually go after, because in general, when you're prioritizing competitive keywords, you probably don't want to be going after these keywords that send traffic but don't turn into conversions, unless that's actually your goal. If your goal is raw traffic only, maybe because you serve advertising or other things, or because you know that you can capture a lot of folks very well through retargeting, for example maybe Hammer and Heels says, "Hey, the biggest traffic funnel we can get because we know, with our retargeting campaigns, even if a keyword brings us someone who doesn't convert, we can convert them later very successfully," fine. Go ahead.

II. Choose competitors that tend to target the same audience(s).

So the people you plug in here should tend to be competitors that tend to target the same audiences. Otherwise, your relevance and your conversion get really hard. For example, I could have used West Elm, which does generally modern furniture as well, but they're very, very broad. They target just about everyone. I could have done Ethan Allen, which is sort of a very classic, old-school furniture maker. Probably a really different audience than these three websites. I could have done IKEA, which is sort of a low market brand for everybody. Again, not kind of the match. So when you are targeting conversion heavy, assuming that these folks were going after mostly conversion focused or retargeting focused rather than raw traffic, my suggestion would be strongly to go after sites with the same audience as you.

If you're having trouble figuring out who those people are, one suggestion is to check out a tool called SimilarWeb. It's expensive, but very powerful. You can plug in a domain and see what other domains people are likely to visit in that same space and what has audience overlap.

III. The keyword selection process should follow some of these rules:

A. Are easiest first.

So I would go after the ones that tend to be, that I think are going to be most likely for me to be able to rank for easiest. Why do I recommend that? Because it's tough in SEO with a lot of campaigns to get budget and buy-in unless you can show progress early. So any time you can choose the easiest ones first, you're going to be more successful. That's low difficulty, high odds of success, high odds that you actually have the team needed to make the content necessary to rank. I wouldn't go after competitive brands here.

B. Are similar to keywords you target that convert well now.

So if you understand this funnel well, you can use your AdWords campaign particularly well for this. So you look at your paid keywords and which ones send you highly converting traffic, boom. If you see that lighting is really successful for our furniture brand, "Oh, well look, glass globe chandelier, that's got some nice volume. Let's go after that because lighting already works for us."

Of course, you want ones that fit your existing site structure. So if you say, "Oh, we're going to have to make a blog for this, oh we need a news section, oh we need a different type of UI or UX experience before we can successfully target the content for this keyword," I'd push that down a little further.

C. High volume, low difficulty, high organic click-through rate, or SERP features you can reach.

So basically, when you look at difficulty, that's telling you how hard is it for me to rank for this potential keyword. If I look in here and I see some 50 and 60s, but I actually see a good number in the 30s and 40s, I would think that glass globe chandelier, S-shaped couch, industrial home furniture, these are pretty approachable. That's impressive stuff.

Volume, I want as high as I can get, but oftentimes high volume leads to very high difficulty.
Organic click-through rate percentage, this is essentially saying what percent of people click on the 10 blue link style, organic search results. Classic SEO will help get me there. However, if you see low numbers, like a 55% for this type of chair, you might take a look at those search results and see that a lot of images are taking up the other organic click-through, and you might say, "Hey, let's go after image SEO as well." So it's not just organic click-through rate. You can also target SERP features.

D. Are brands you carry/serve, generally not competitor's brand names.

Then last, but not least, I would urge you to go after brands when you carry and serve them, but not when you don't. So if this Ekornes chair is something that your furniture store, that Hammers and Heels actually carries, great. But if it's something that's exclusive to Dania, I wouldn't go after it. I would generally not go after competitors' brand names or branded product names with an exception, and I actually used this site to highlight this. Industrial Home Furniture is both a branded term, because it's the name of this website — Industrial Home Furniture is their brand — and it's also a generic. So in those cases, I would tell you, yes, it probably makes sense to go after a category like that.

If you follow these rules, you can generally use competitive intel on keywords to build up a really nice portfolio of targetable, high potential keywords that can bring you some serious SEO returns.

Look forward to your comments and we'll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Stop Obsessing: Here Are 7 Areas Where Perfectionism Hinders Good Writing [Infographic]

Not long after I began working at HubSpot, my manager introduced me to a term that was new to me: analysis paralysis.

How had I never heard of this concept before? I was certainly familiar with what it described: the paralyzing nature of habitually over-analyzing one's work in an unrealistic quest for it to be perfect.

Breaking news: No one's work is perfect. Okay, maybe BeyoncĂ©'s is. But mine certainly isn't.

It's one thing to hold yourself to high standards. As marketers, we all know a thing or two about tearing something down and starting it from scratch again and again because there's something about it that's just not quite there. 

The problem is, as marketers, we also enjoy streamlined processes. And analysis paralysis? Well, that ain't it, folks -- especially when it comes to writing.

Luckily, the talented Henneke Duistermaat of Enchanting Marketing is here to help. Not only has she identified seven key areas of the writing process where our perfectionism tends to get the best of us, but she also compiled it into this extremely helpful -- not to mention, adorable -- infographic that explains simple ways to overcome it.

writing-process-infographic.jpg

5 Super Quick Ways to Get More Messages on Your Facebook Business Page

You’ve probably heard some buzz about Facebook Messenger of late, but most brands still don't understand how to leverage it effectively. With 2.4 billion messages exchanged between businesses and people each month, it's time to make the most out of the channel.

After all, 53% of people who message businesses say they are more likely to shop with a business they can message. And 67% of people say they plan to increase their messaging with businesses over the next 2 years. And, messages you send through Messenger will appear on a user’s locked phone screen -- so your odds of reaching a user are greatly increased from sending a follow up email.

So, how can you make the most of this network? We're outlining five quick wins you can start using today.

5 Ways to Get More Messages on Facebook

1) Optimize your page for messages.

Having a Facebook page that encourages users to message your page is the first -- and easiest -- way to encourage visitors on your business page to message your brand. It seems overly simple, but just optimizing your page to point users towards messaging you can have a huge impact on the number of messages you receive from interested or curious potential customers.

Try:

  1. Setting your default Facebook Page CTA to Message Us.
  2. Prompting visitors to message your page with the copy in your business description.

2) Setup response assistant.

Response assistant is Facebook’s own version of a “baby-bot” and can help you field incoming messages -- even when you aren't around to catch them personally.

Response assistant allows you to: 1) set instant replies 2) stay responsive when you can’t get to your computer or phone and 3) set a messenger greeting. In each of these you can use personalization tokens and greet those who message your page with a personalized message. You can also include a link to your contact us page, FAQ, or even your phone number in these messages.

3) Comment on posts with your m.me link.

Facebook has a new feature that allows you to comment on posts with your brand’s messenger link. If you run a Facebook ad that people are asking questions about, be sure to reply with this link to continue the conversation within Messenger.

4) Run a “Send to Messenger” ad.

Messenger Ads are Facebook’s newest ad type. They allow you to target audiences just like any other ad, but you can encourage them to message you directly from the Ad. Keep in mind, you’ll want to have your inbox modified to ensure it is money well-spent. But, as this is a new Facebook Ad type -- the best time to experiment with these ads is now.

5) Commit to actually using it daily.

The best way to make the most out of Facebook Messenger is to monitor the channel just like you would monitor your own inbox, or your favorite Slack channel. The nature of the conversational channel encourages on-demand action, so the more responsive you can be, the better.

Finally, keep it light on the channel, after all, it is conversational. Messenger is a great opportunity to showcase your brand’s personality using GIFs and emojis that appeal to your audience.

 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

6 Tips For Sending Your Email Newsletter At The Right Time

Have you ever noticed that it seems like every single company seems to send their email newsletter at the same time?

Usually they’re sent very late at night or extra early in the morning.

Which is, funny enough, when most of their audience is sleeping, so we wake up with an overstuffed inbox each morning.

I am guessing that you have also run into this somewhat minor annoyance.

But it literally is one of my biggest pet peeves.

If you are like me, the deleting of most of these newsletters has become part of your morning ritual.

It is pretty refreshing to send them all to your trash folder and get back to inbox zero.

I mean I love reading about data driven marketing tips but not at 7 in the morning.

We are constantly plugged into our email accounts with those supercomputers we call phones.

The days when you would check your email once in the morning and once at night is over.

But, alas, some companies still seem to be sticking to that email schedule.

This strategy is as outdated as that jewel colored iMac or Gateway computer sitting in your basement.

And all the effort you put into great content will be wasted if you pick the wrong time to send.

So I set out to find when the best time to send an email newsletter is, in the most scientific way ever, by signing up for 100 different newsletters and recording all of their send times.

1. Send it from 11-12PM, 1-2PM, or 2-3PM

If you were looking for the best time to send an email I would recommend selecting a time where there is little competition.

Like a time when almost no emails are being sent.

I mean why would you want your newsletter competing for your audience’s attention with a bunch of other emails?

That is just a recipe for low open rates and a drop in subscribers.

So to avoid that I would shoot for a period when no other emails are sent.

In fact, from 11-12PM, 1-2PM and 2-3PM not a single email was sent in our study.

Like not a single one:

Now you may be asking what is the best chunk of time out of those three periods?

And I would have to say that 2-3PM has the most potential.

From 11-12PM and 1-2PM are too close to the lunch hour and could get lost in the shuffle.

Unless your newsletter deals with a fun topic that they would want to read about on that break, I would avoid those two.

Instead try from 2-3PM.

Your audience will most likely be back from lunch by then and feeling a bit recharged.

They have already cleared their emails from the morning and are maybe looking for a little procrastination opportunity.

And boom, your email newsletter is there to help them out.

2. Or from 10-11AM

Now if you don’t want to be the only one sending an email during a certain time period, I have a perfect time for you.

This is another period where almost zero email newsletters were sent out in our study. In fact there were only one email sent out in that whole time period.

And I think that your email can handle a little competition.

This period happens to be from 10-11AM.

As you can see in the graph above there were a few other periods when only a few emails were sent.

But I do not think that they will be as fruitful as from 10-11AM.

For example, from 9-10AM is when a lot of people’s workday starts and 4-5PM is when it usually ends.

That means you are going to be fighting a lot more for their attention than just a few emails.

So to avoid these outside distractions I would choose from 10-11AM.

By then your readers will be settled into their desk, the coffee has kicked in and they are probably at inbox zero.

It is almost a perfect time for an interesting newsletter to pop up in their mailbox.

Additionally, I do find it a little odd that from 10-11AM has been pushed by experts and thought leaders.

But exactly one email was sent.

It really does not make sense, but it does present a new opportunity for your email newsletter to shine.

3. Never between 6-7PM

After carefully counting on both of my hands I was able to determine the worst time to send an email.

This time period was so crowded that more than 10% of all the emails in the study were sent during this hour chunk each day.

That is almost triple what an average hour should have received.

If you have read the graphs above you saw that 6-7 PM got the most emails of any period.

As you can see in the graph above if you decide to send your newsletter in this time period you are going to have some competition.

So I would avoid sending your newsletters during this period based on the jump in competition.

When you compare it to the times we already highlighted above there are 50x more emails during this period.

Even some of the times that got 5x more emails are looking pretty good to me right now.

Unless you want your open rates to plummet from that increased competition I would avoid sending from 6-7PM.

It does kind of make sense why brands would decide to send their weekly email at this time.

Their audience has made it home from their jobs and starting to relax. They should be pretty open to receiving a newsletter about their hobby, interest or activity.

But again, you are brawling in their inbox with a ton of other well-crafted emails for their attention.

Or it will be ignored and rolled into the next morning’s inbox clearing.

4. And avoid after 9PM or before 7AM

One of the easiest ways to fall into that morning deleting spree is to send your email late at night.

Like when your audience is sleeping, so they will see it in the morning.

I never really got the idea behind this practice.

Other than that brands think we want to read about the newest social media marketing tip at 6am.

I know that is the last thing on my mind at that time.

Now if it was an email about coffee being delivered to my bed that would be a different story.

But alas, I saw a ton of companies using this somewhat outdated topic.

We can access our emails at literally any time, the novelty of waking up to news or a newsletter no longer exists.

Or it is so far down the list in their inbox, they will never even see it.

Between 9PM and 7PM more than 60% of all emails in the study were sent.

With nearly 40% of them were sent between 9PM and 2AM. Or about double of what should have been sent if all things were equal.

That is a lot of emails your newsletter is going to be fighting.

Plus your audience is most likely not even awake, and the people who are up at that time probably don’t want to read your newsletter at that moment.

That means, you guessed it, that it will be put off until the next morning.

From there it goes right into the morning delete spree or simply forgotten about.

And all your hard work on the newsletter goes ignored.

Do not let your content be wasted because you chose the wrong time to send a great email.

5. Wednesdays & Saturdays Have Potential

Just like in the previous sections you are going to want to pick a day that has the least competition.

By sending your email on a day like this it is going to stand out like a beacon of good content.

The best day to send your email is Wednesday, with Saturday coming in at a close second.

As you can see they were some of the days to receive the least emails overall.

In our own tests we have seen Wednesday perform well, with some newsletters getting double the open rate of previous days.

I think that Wednesday is the perfect day to send your email newsletter.

Especially if your newsletter is related to their job or work.

They will feel a lot less guilty about losing themselves in your content for a few minutes.

Plus if it is really amazing they will want to share it with their coworkers!

And that means that if your topic deals with a fun hobby or interest I would send it on a Saturday.

Your audience will a lot more receptive to reading about something they could do later that day.

Or they will have a lot more time to absorb all of your fantastic content.

Either way both of these days are a great point to start testing to find what your own best day!

Before we go on I think it is important to highlight why I did not select Sunday as the best day.

I really think that it is too much of a wildcard day and the email could be lost in the shuffle of that day.

Then it gets pushed into the Monday morning mass inbox cleaning.

And although you may have loved to read the content you just don’t have time to.

This has happened to me too many times to count and I am guessing many people can relate.

6. Thursdays are the Worst Day to Send

Finding the best day to send an email was a little difficult and not very straightforward.

Thankfully the worst day was a lot easier to find.

And that day was Thursday.

thursday is the worst day to send an email newsletter

It received more than double the amount of emails when compared to Wednesday and Saturday.

Exactly 25% of all the emails were sent on a Thursday, with no other days really coming close.

That put it well above the 70 or so emails I received per day on average.

Some experts proclaiming that Tuesday and Thursday are the best days to send a newsletter probably cause this.

I am guessing that people have been blindly following this advice for the past few years.

And now we are in a situation where the best day to send an email has actually become the worst day.

Conclusion

So there you have it, the best and worst times for you to send an email newsletter!

I now need to go click unsubscribe on about 100 different emails.

Or I may just cut my losses with that email address from now on.

But that sacrifice of an email address was definitely worth it because I was able to get some interesting findings.

Those findings will hopefully keep you from sending an email newsletter at the wrong time or day.

Just remember:

  1. Send newsletters during these time blocks: 11-12 PM, 1-2 PM & 2-3 PM.
  2. Between 9 and 11 AM is another great block of time.
  3. If your newsletter is related to their job, send it during the workday.
  4. Do not send newsletters at peak work movement hours, like 8 AM and 5 PM.
  5. Emails sent during the night or early mornings are a bad idea.
  6. Thursday is the worst day to send an email.
  7. Mondays and Fridays should be avoided as well.
  8. But the best day to send a newsletter is on Wednesday.

And finally, it is important to remember to test all of these findings with your audience first. These tips should always be used a testing points for your new emails, not set in stone facts.

About Kissmetrics

Kissmetrics combines behavioral analytics with email automation. Our software tracks actions of your users across multiple devices allowing you to analyze, segment and engage your customers with automatic, behavior-based emails in one place. We call it Customer Engagement Automation. Get, keep and grow more customers with Kissmetrics.

 

 

About the Author: Ryan McCready went to the University of Arkansas and graduated with a degree in economics and international business. Now instead of studying the economy he writes about everything and enjoys stirring the pot.

No One Trusts Social Media, but They'll Keep Using It Anyway [New Data]

I'll just come right out and say it: The internet has a massive mess to clean up.

You may have heard about it. For instance, earlier this month, you may have followed the testimony from senior leaders at Facebook, Twitter, and Google that outlined, in detail, the quantity and nature of ads purchased and published on their platforms by operatives in Russia and other foreign states.

And yeah, of course -- we all have our take on it, and many of us are clamoring to share it.

But my colleague, HubSpot's own research boss Mimi An, had a better idea: Let's ask everyone else what they think.Click here to learn about using social media in every stage of the funnel.

And so, in light of these recent events, An's team ran a consumer study to gather sentiment data from 1,000 U.S. adults to find out just how they feel about this big, steaming internet mess. 

Here are the results.

A Few Notes on the Data

During the week of October 30, 2017,  three major online content-sharing and discovery platforms -- Facebook, Twitter, and Google -- testified before representatives of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. Because those were the three companies present for the testimony, the questions asked of survey responses focused only on them, despite the possible involvement of other social media networks in ongoing election interference investigation.

When we distribute surveys, we describe in as much detail the exact issue that we want participates to respond to. The language used to phrase the survey questions describes what has taken place so far in a continuously developing situation as factually as possible within such constraints of online surveys as character limits and anonymity -- and, therefore, an inability to follow up with respondents.

1. Ads on Facebook, Twitter, and Google are viewed with distrust.

 

On average, close to half of all respondents would describe ads these platforms as "very untrustworthy," compared to an average of 5.5% who find them to be either somewhat or very trustworthy. Note that this is the sentiment around the ads appearing on these platforms, and not the platforms themselves.

2. Twitter's response generated the least satisfaction, but the sentiment is low across the board.

While respondents were generally unsatisfied with network responses to political ad purchases on their respective platforms, it seems as though they have the least faith in Twitter. (The score for "somewhat satisfied," for instance, was three percentage points lower than those for Facebook and Google.)

It's worth noting that Twitter first testified before U.S. Congress about this same issue prior to the November events were all three companies were present, when it told representatives that it roughly 200 Russian-linked accounts -- a figure that many found to be paltry and underestimated, including Senator Mark Warner, who called these initial efforts "frankly inadequate".

How much influence that initial testimony (and Congressional response) had on survey respondents is uncertain, but it is an important historical point in the context of the particularly low sentiment toward Twitter.

Although the rates of dissatisfaction are fairly equal across the board, this survey was administered prior to a Recode report that Facebook filed comments with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that indicated its support of rules that would require the network to provide greater visibility and transparency around the political ads used on its site.

However, that support is limited in nature, in that Facebook only indicated that it would agree to these terms around ads pertaining to specific candidates, and not issues -- and a significant portion of Russia-bought ads during the 2016 presidential election concerned such highly-contested and somewhat divisive issues as gun control and immigration.

Google, on the other hand, filed comments with the FEC that actively requested more detailed guidelines around issue-based ads, requesting further direction as to how those within its industry can and should better approach organizations attempting to promote propaganda.

Twitter, meanwhile, did file comments, but had little to say other than a request for the FEC to maintain awareness of the network's character limits when establishing rules.

3. Trust in social media networks has been eroded by the political ads controversy.

In addition to ad content appearing on content-sharing and discovery platforms, it would appear that trust has fallen in the platforms themselves. Facebook was particularly hard hit here, with just shy of half of respondents saying that they find this channel to be less trustworthy.

However, an even higher amount of respondents answered with "none of the above," signaling the possibility of no less trust in any of these channels. That data is once again reflected with our findings in other areas of the survey, including respondents' plans to decrease or stop their use of social media -- more on that in a bit.

4. 77% of Americans believe platforms need to vet the ads they sell and display.

Across the board, respondents stated a strong belief that it's the responsibility of the platforms themselves to vet ad content purchased and displayed on their channels. An average of 77% of survey participants agreed with this sentiment, regardless of age, indicating that most social media users expect to see proactive changes in ad policies and best practices.

5. Though Americans are angry about the ads controversy, few plan on using the affected platforms less.

However, despite the general sentiment that these platforms are untrustworthy -- as are the ads displayed on them -- and need to do better about vetting paid or promoted content, the same respondents have indicated that, for the most part, they don't plan to reduce their use of Facebook, Twitter, or Google.

In fact, despite being the least satisfied with Twitter's response to the political ad crisis, less than a quarter of respondents plan to use it less. That number is even lower for Google, and only slightly higher for Facebook.

6. ... and, even fewer Americans plan to stop using the platforms altogether.

Even if some intend to momentarily step away from social media, over 75% of survey respondents say they plan to leave these Facebook, Twitter, or Google altogether.

The last of the three is particularly difficult to give up entirely -- after all, it's commonly referred to as a "search giant" for a reason. But even so, a noticeably small number of survey participants would consider ceasing all use of Facebook and Twitter, as well.

But what does all of this information mean? What does it say about our online behavior and habits, and what are the implications for marketers?

The Takeaways

If nothing else, these numbers -- and where they almost seem to contradict each other -- illustrate a dependence on these contested channels.

Despite the overwhelming distrust in them, as well as the ad content published on them, survey respondents have no plans to curtail or cease using them -- perhaps because they need to use them for work (after all, we are marketers), or because they simply enjoy them too much to step away.

That speaks to the power and influence they hold over users day-to-day. We spend a significant amount of time on these channels -- about a third of Google's visitors are based in the U.S., and on average, we spend about 35 minutes each day on Facebook (for context, that's about 2.4% of the entire day). Thirty-five minutes may not seem like a ton of time, but when you think about how much time you spend on activities that are actually essential to your livelihood -- like eating, for example -- how does it compare?

The point is, the people behind this political content were likely aware of how much time we spend using the platforms where it was displayed. It's no wonder that 126 million Americans were exposed to it -- there's a good amount of content to be consumed in a mere 35 minutes.

The main message to marketers, however, is this: These platforms are extremely useful and effective. In fact, that's why people are highly concerned over the presence of Russian ads -- there's a very good chance that, if the intent behind them was to influence the U.S. presidential election in a certain direction, they worked. That's why these representatives from these platforms are being summoned before a federal body. This level of effectiveness is a big deal.

By no means is this to say that marketers should cease using these channels to promote content and build brand awareness. As I said: It's extremely effective and should continue to be used for growth. But with that effectiveness comes great responsibility, and that growth must be built with a commitment to transparency and truth.

That's how I see it, anyway. 

As always, feel free to chime in. What's your take on this data? Let me know on Twitter, or weigh in with any questions you have about it.

Social Media at Every Stage of the Funnel

  How to Use Social Media at Every Stage of the Funnel E

What is the GDPR? And What Does it Mean for the Marketing Industry?

Disclaimer: This blog post is not legal advice for your company to use in complying with EU data privacy laws like the GDPR. Instead, it provides background information to help you better understand the GDPR. This legal information is not the same as legal advice, where an attorney applies the law to your specific circumstances, so we insist that you consult an attorney if you’d like advice on your interpretation of this information or its accuracy.

In a nutshell, you may not rely on this as legal advice, or as a recommendation of any particular legal understanding.

If you’re a marketer, we expect you’ve heard about the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) coming into force on 25 May 2018. The legislation will have a big impact on the way marketers approach their work and how organizations obtain, store, manage or process the personal data of EU citizens. This post will give some specific examples of what will change, how we’re thinking about it at HubSpot and the wider industry.

To start, we want to highlight research carried out by the HubSpot team, and unfortunately it’s not good news. Just 36% of marketers have heard of GDPR, while 15% of companies have done nothing, and are at risk of non-compliance. We would go as far to say there’s a worrying lack of action, and most companies are not ready for the GDPR. However, we’re optimistic this blog post will act as a conversation starter and inspire action within the industry.

There are two important parts of the Regulation that we want to highlight. First up, even if you’re based outside of the EU but you control or process the data of EU citizens, the GDPR will apply to you. Secondly, the potential penalties for falling foul of GDPR are going to be severe. Depending on the type of violation, companies will incur fines of up to €20 million or 4% of their global annual revenue (whichever is greater). These big penalties show that the regulators mean business and companies cannot afford to ignore the legislation.

On a more upbeat note, we think the legislation is a positive step. It’s an opportunity for good marketers to continue doing positive work in a way that puts people and their concerns at the forefront. It also means marketers will have to work harder to earn attention and gain the right to communicate with people on an ongoing basis.

But hard work won’t be enough: marketers will be forced to up their game and become more creative if they want to succeed. Again, we don’t see that as a bad outcome at all. Anything that gives more power to consumers and makes marketers get better is to be welcomed.

But those companies which have put their own needs ahead of consumers and indulged in shady or outbound tactics are in for a shock. Their world is going to change dramatically as the GDPR will hasten the demise of marketing tactics like buying lists, cold emailing and spam.

Not only are these tactics outdated, they provide a poor experience for the recipient and they’re becoming less and less effective by the day. Inbound marketing has always been the antithesis to these tactics -- it puts the consumer first and attracts them with valuable content. But now, via regulation, others are going to have to adapt their marketing playbook.

Are you GDPR ready? Check out our GDPR checklist.

What impact will the GDPR have on my marketing activities?

You may be asking yourself, “where should I start with GDPR?”. There’s a lot to digest when it comes to the new Regulation so, to help you out, we’ve created a dedicated GDPR web page with a tonne of information about the GDPR, including what it is, why it came about, a glossary of terms and the most important of the changes the GDPR brings to EU data privacy legislation.

With that covered, we're now going to work our way through the inbound marketing methodology and look at the GDPR principles you should consider at the various stages of the inbound marketing methodology:

 

 

Stage 1 - Data Collection

Transparency

The GDPR was designed to ensure that there will be more transparency between the organizations who collect and control the data (the ‘Data Controllers’) and the individuals whose personal data is being collected (the ‘Data Subjects’). This means that any organization which attracts people to its website and wants to collect data via a form must communicate clearly to that person what the data is going to be used for. The individual will need to give their consent to that use and the consent needs to be clear, in plain English and "informed, specific, unambiguous, and revocable". Data subjects also need to be told about their right to withdraw consent.

Example: Meet Amy Meyer. She lives in Germany, has a passion for interior design, and we’re going to use her as an example throughout this post. If Amy downloads an ebook from The Paint Company to research what colours she can combine for the decoration of her new house, The Paint Company will need to make sure that they explain to Amy how they’re going to use her data.

For instance, if The Paint Company is planning to track Amy’s usage of its website, wants to send her more information via email, or is planning to share it with their affiliates outside the EU, they need to communicate that clearly and Amy needs to consent to that use. It won’t be sufficient for The Paint Company to pre-tick the box on a form to send information to Amy by email, as ‘opt-out consent’ will no longer be permitted under the GDPR.

Importantly, if The Paint Company decides they want to use Amy’s data for a new purpose at any point during the relationship, they’ll need consent from Amy to use the data for that new purpose. So while it’s clearly important to be transparent at the time of collection, it’s important that organizations remain open and transparent throughout the marketing process, and in terms of how it manages personal data after the relationship has ended.

Data Minimisation

When an organization is collecting data from an individual in order to convert a website visitor into a lead, they must remember that, under the GDPR, they are only permitted to collect data that is adequate, relevant, and limited to what is necessary for the intended purpose of collection. Data collected by the organization which is deemed unnecessary or excessive will constitute a breach of the GDPR.

Example: The Paint Company created a landing page for prospects like Amy to download an ebook on living room colour schemes. Before Amy can download the ebook, she will need to complete the fields created by The Paint Company. It’s reasonable that they might want to collect her name, email address and even details about the project Amy is about to undertake. However, if they were to attempt to collect information about Amy’s family (for example, if she is married or how many children she has) or her health, this would be excessive as that data should not be required by a painting and decorating company.

Stage 2 - Data Storage and Processing

Purpose and Usage Limitation

organizations can only use the data collected and stored by them for specified, explicit, and legitimate purposes. They’re not allowed to use it in any way that would be incompatible with the intended purpose for which it was collected. Also, if they plan to transfer or share the data with another company, they need to ensure they have consent from the person to do so.

Example: After Amy Meyer has downloaded the ebook from The Paint Company, Amy decides that she wants to enroll in an online course to learn more about painting and decorating. If the online course is being run by a third party training company on behalf of The Paint Company, they, The Paint Company will need to ensure that the training company have Amy’s consent to use the data. In addition, the training company will not be able to use the data for any other purpose other than the purposes Amy consented to.

Security

Once data is collected, the organization needs to ensure it is stored in a secure manner and in accordance with the Security provisions of the GDPR. This means they must use “appropriate technical and organizational security measures” to protect personal data against unauthorised processing and accidental loss, disclosure, access, destruction, or alteration. Depending on the type of data collected and the ways it is being used, companies may need to consider encrypting the data, using pseudonymization or anonymization methods to protect it or segregating the data from other data in their systems.

Example: Now that Amy Meyer’s data is stored in The Paint Company’s systems, it is the responsibility of The Paint Company to ensure it is kept safe and secure. Before collecting the data, The Paint Company should have assessed the types of data they planned to collect and work with their security team to ensure that it meets the standards of the GDPR.

These standards will differ depending on the kinds of data collected (for instance, security standards will be higher for sensitive data, biometric data or data about children) and how they’ll use that data. Only employees who need to access that data for the intended purpose have access to it and contracts with any vendors touching that data contain the relevant security protections.

Accuracy

People will now be able to ask organizations at any time to correct or update their data if the information is no longer accurate.

Example: Amy Meyer has bought some paint from The Paint Company and has also signed up to their loyalty program to receive discounts and new design ideas via email. Amy has moved to a new email service provider and wants The Paint Company to update her data so she receives emails to her new email address.

Accountability

The organization is responsible for ensuring they comply with their obligations under the GDPR. Not only will they need to keep records to prove compliance (for instance, records of consent for all of the data collected), they’ll also need to ensure they have policies in place governing the collection and use of that data.

They may need to appoint a data protection officer (DPO) and they’ll also need to ensure they implement a ‘Privacy by Design/Default’ policy, to ensure they’re systematically considering the potential impact that a project or initiative might have on the privacy of individuals. Controllers will have to ensure their vendor contracts are updated so that they include the necessary provisions to protect the data being processed by those vendors on their behalf.

Example: The Paint Company decides to run a marketing campaign targeting people like Amy, offering a place at an interior design webinar run by a third party training company. Before running the campaign, The Paint Company will need to ensure their system has the capability to not only obtain Amy’s and the other participant’s consent to all uses of their data (including sharing it with the third party), but also to record that consent. They will also need policies about how they will use that data, and ensure the contract with the training company includes the necessary provisions required in Processor contracts under Article 28 of the GDPR.

Want to find out more about GDPR? Check out our GDPR guide here.

Stage 3 - End of the Relationship

Retention

organizations may only hold on to personal data for as long as is necessary to fulfill the intended purpose of collection. So if the relationship is terminated for any reason, they need to ensure they have a data retention policy in place which outlines how long they will retain that individual’s data for and the business justification for holding on to the data for that specified period.

In drafting their retention policies, organizations will need to consider whether there is any law or regulation which obliges them to hold on to some of that data for specified periods. For example, they may need to retain some financial data for auditing purposes by law. While this is permitted, it should be outlined clearly in their retention policy and made clear to Amy. Again, the principle of transparency is important, even at this stage in the relationship.

Example: After ordering supplies from The Paint Company and decorating her home, Amy no longer requires the services of The Paint Company and closes her account with them. The Paint Company will need to ensure they comply with their own data retention policy if they want to hold on to any of Amy’s data after her account is closed.

Deletion

If the individual requests at any time that their data should be deleted, the data controller has to comply with that request and confirm the deletion, not only from their own systems but from any downward vendors’ systems who were processing that data on behalf of the organization.

Example: After ordering supplies from The Paint Company, Amy has now found out about a competitor that is offering better products and wants her data to be deleted from The Paint Company’s database. She sends an email to request the deletion and the company follows up quickly with the confirmation of her deletion. The company should ensure that Amy’s data is also removed from it’s vendor’s databases.

Why Marketers Should Welcome the GDPR

There’s lots that organizations must do to ensure they comply with the GDPR, but we welcome it. In fact, we see three big changes coming that will boost the marketing industry:

1) People’s attention will be treated with the respect it deserves.

For marketers to succeed when the GDPR comes into force, they’re going to have to focus on providing even more value to customers. This means the job of a marketer is going to get more difficult. They will have to work hard (really hard) to attract consumers and earn the right to speak with people. But they should -- attention is a valuable commodity, and in truth it’s been abused by marketers over the years.

2) Greater transparency between people and the companies that hold their data.

If the GDPR is successful it will provide greater transparency and control to EU citizens over how their data is being used by organizations. Transparency is key. Today, few people see the benefits of sharing data, but they often do because they want to use a service or product. Forcing companies that collect data to become transparent means they will need to communicate and provide value to the person. We expect greater communication and transparency around data collection will lead to better understanding about why people should share data.

3) A higher bar for marketers has been set.

Let’s not fool ourselves -- the GDPR is going to (forcibly) raise the bar for marketers. Tactics which don’t have GDPR-compliant consent mechanisms built in will be consigned to the history books. This means marketers will need fresh thinking and have to innovate. The end result is that to succeed in this new reality and comply with the GDPR, we’re going to see better, more creative and thoughtful marketing.

We see the GDPR as a watershed moment for the marketing industry. It’s rightly causing many organizations to rethink how they approach marketing, but it’s also a huge opportunity for businesses to articulate the importance of people sharing their data and how it leads to greater personalization, better products and services, and a more efficient data economy. For too long businesses have remained silent on this issue. A discussion is long overdue and we’re excited to help shape it.

Want to find out more about GDPR? Check out our GDPR website here.

AMP-lify Your Digital Marketing in 2018

Posted by EricEnge

Should you AMP-lify your site in 2018?

This is a question on the mind of many publishers. To help answer it, this post is going to dive into case studies and examples showing results different companies had with AMP.

If you’re not familiar with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), it’s an open-source project aimed at allowing mobile website content to render nearly instantly. This initiative that has Google as a sponsor, but it is not a program owned by Google, and it’s also supported by Bing, Baidu, Twitter, Pinterest, and many other parties.


Some initial background

Since its inception in 2015, AMP has come a long way. When it first hit the scene, AMP was laser-focused on media sites. The reason those types of publishers wanted to participate in AMP was clear: It would make their mobile sites much faster, AND Google was offering a great deal of incremental exposure in Google Search through the “Top Stories news carousel.”

Basically, you can only get in the Top Stories carousel on a mobile device if your page is implemented in AMP, and that made AMP a big deal for news sites. But if you’re not a news site, what’s in it for you? Simple: providing a better user experience online can lead to more positive website metrics and revenue.

We know that fast-loading websites are better for the user. But what you may not be aware of is how speed can impact the bottom line. Google-sponsored research shows that AMP leads to an average of a 2X increase in time spent on page (details can be seen here). The data also shows e-commerce sites experience an average 20 percent increase in sales conversions compared to non-AMP web pages.

Stepping outside the world of AMP for a moment, data from Amazon, Walmart, and Yahoo show a compelling impact of page load time on metrics like traffic, conversion and sales:

You can see that for Amazon, a mere one-tenth of a second increase in page load time (so one-tenth of a second slower) would drive a $1.3 billion drop in sales. So, page speed can have a direct impact on revenue. That should count for something.

What do users say about AMP? 9to5Google.com recently conducted a poll where they asked users: “Are you more inclined to click on an AMP link than a regular one?” The majority of people (51.14 percent) said yes to that question. Here are the detailed results:

This poll suggests that even for non-news sites, there is a very compelling reason to do AMP for SEO. Not because it increases your rankings, per se, but because you may get more click-throughs (more traffic) from the organic search results. Getting more traffic from organic search, after all, is the goal of SEO. In addition, you’re likely to get more time on site and more conversions.


How the actual implementation of AMP impacts your results

Before adopting any new technology, you need understand what you’re getting into.

At Stone Temple Consulting, we performed a research study that included 10 different types of websites that adopted AMP to see what results they had and what challenges they ran into. (Go here to see more details from the study.)

Let’s get right to the results. One site, Thrillist, converted 90 percent of their web pages over a four-week period of time. They saw a 70 percent lift in organic search traffic to their site — 50 percent of that growth came from AMP.

One anonymous participant in the study, another large media publisher, converted 95 percent of their web pages to AMP, and once again the development effort as approximately four weeks long. They saw a 67 percent lift in organic search traffic on one of their sites, and a 30% lift on another site.

So, media sites do well, but we knew that would be the case. What about e-commerce sites? Consider the case of Myntra, a company that is the largest fashion retailer in India. Their implementation took about 11 days of effort.

This implementation covered all of their main landing pages from Google, covering between 85% and 90% of their organic search traffic. For their remaining pages (such as the individual product pages) they implemented a Progressive Web App, which helps those pages perform better as well. They saw a 40% reduction in bounce rate on their pages, as well as a lift in their overall e-commerce results. You can see detailed results here.

Then there is the case of Event Tickets Center. They implemented 99.9% of their pages in AMP, and opted to create an AMP-immersive experience. Page load times on their site dropped from five to six seconds to one second.

They saw improvements in user engagement metrics, with a drop in bounce rate of 10%, an increase in pages per session of 6%, and session duration of 13%. But, the stunning stat is that they report a whopping 100% increase in e-commerce conversions. You can see the full case study here.

But it’s not always the case that AMP adopters will see a huge lift in results. When that’s not the case, there’s likely one culprit: not taking the time to implement AMP thoroughly. A big key to AMP is not to simply use a plugin, set it, and forget it.

To get good results, you’ll need to invest the time to make the AMP version of your pages substantially similar (if not identical) to your normal responsive mobile pages, and with today’s AMP, for the majority of publishers, that is absolutely possible to do. In addition to this being critical to the performance of AMP pages, on November 16, 2017, Google announced that they will exclude pages from the AMP carousel if the content on your AMP page is not substantially similar to that of your mobile responsive page.

This typically means creating brand-new templates for the major landing pages of your site, or if you are using a plugin, using their custom styling options (most of them allow this). If you’re going to take on AMP, it’s imperative that you take the time to get this right.

From our research, you can see in the slide below the results from the 10 sites that adopted AMP. Eight of those sites are colored in green, and those are the sites that saw strong results from their AMP implementation.

Then there are two listed in yellow. Those are the sites that have not yet seen good results. In both of those cases, there were implementation problems. One of the sites (the Lead Gen site above) launched pages with a broken hamburger menu, and a UI that was not up to par with the responsive mobile pages, and their metrics are weak.

We’ve been working with them to fix that and their metrics are steadily improving. The first round of fixes brought the user engagement metrics much closer to that of the mobile responsive pages, but there is still more work to do.

The other site (the retail site in yellow above) launched AMP pages without their normal faceted navigation, and also without a main menu, saw really bad results, and pulled it back down. They're working on a better AMP implementation now, and hope to relaunch soon.

So, when you think about implementing AMP, you have to go all the way with it and invest the time to do a complete job. That will make it harder, for sure, but that’s OK — you’ll be far better off in the end.


How we did it at Stone Temple (and what we found)

Here at Stone Temple Consulting, we experimented with AMP ourselves, using an AMP plugin versus a hand-coded AMP web page. I’ll share the results of that next.

Experiment No. 1: WordPress AMP plugin

Our site is on WordPress, and there are plugins that make the task of doing AMP easier if you have a WordPress site — however, that doesn’t mean install the plugin, turn it on, and you’re done.

Below you can see a comparison of the standard StoneTemple.com mobile page on the left contrasted with the default StoneTemple.com page that comes out of the AMP plugin that we used on the site called AMP by Automatic.

You’ll see that the look and feel is dramatically different between the two, but to be fair to the plugin, we did what I just said you shouldn’t do. We turned it on, did no customization, and thought we were done.

As a result, there’s no hamburger menu. The logo is gone. It turns out that by default, the link at the top (“Stone Temple”) goes to StoneTemple.com/amp, but there’s no page for that, so it returns a 404 error, and the list of problems goes on. As noted, we had not used the customization options available in the plugin, which can be used to rectify most (if not all) of these problems, and the pages can be customized to look a lot better. As part of an ongoing project, we’re working on that.

It’s a lot faster, yes… but is it a better user experience? Looking at the data, we can see the impact of this broken implementation of AMP. The metrics are not good.

Looking at the middle line highlighted in orange, you’ll see the standard mobile page metrics. On the top line, you’ll see the AMP page metrics — and they’re all worse: higher bounce rate, fewer pages per session, and lower average session time.

Looking back to the image of the two web pages, you can see why. We were offering an inferior user interface because we weren’t giving the user any opportunities to interact. Therefore, we got predictable results.

Experiment No. 2: Hand-coded AMP web page

One of the common myths about AMP is that an AMP page needs to be a stripped-down version of your site to succeed. To explore whether or not that was true, we took the time at Stone Temple Consulting to hand-code a version of one of our article pages for AMP. Here is a look at how that came out:

As you can see from the screenshots above, we created a version of the page that looked nearly identical to the original. We also added a bit of extra functionality with a toggle sidebar feature. With that, we felt we made something that had even better usability than the original page.

The result of these changes? The engagement metrics for the AMP pages on StoneTemple.com went up dramatically. For the record, here are our metrics including the handcrafted AMP pages:

As you can see, the metrics have improved dramatically. We still have more that we can do with the handcrafted page as well, and we believe we can get these metrics to be better than that of the standard mobile responsive page. At this point in time, total effort on the handcrafted page template was about 40 hours.

Note: We do believe that we can get engagement on the AMP by Automatic plugin version to go way up, too. One of the reasons we did the hand-coded version was to get hands-on experience with AMP coding. We’re working on a better custom implementation of the AMP by Automatic pages in parallel.


Bonus challenge: AMP analytics

Aside from the actual implementation of AMP, there is a second major issue to be concerned about if you want to be successful: the tracking. The default tracking in Google Analytics for AMP pages is broken, and you’ll need to patch it.

Just to explain what the issue is, let’s look at the following illustration:

The way AMP works (and one of the things that helps with speeding up your web pages) is that your content is served out of a cache on Google. When a user clicks on the AMP link in the search results, that page lives in Google’s cache (on Google.com). That’s the web page that gets sent to the user.

The problem occurs when a user is viewing your web page on Google’s cache, and then clicks on a link within that page (say, to the home page of your site). This action means they leave the Google.com page and get the next page delivered from your server (in the example above, I’m using the StoneTemple.com server.)

From a web analytics point of view, those are two different websites. The analytics for StoneTemple.com is going to view that person who clicked on the AMP page in the Google cache as a visitor from a third-party website, and not a visitor from search. In other words, the analytics for StoneTemple.com won’t record it as a continuation of the same session; it’ll be tracked as a new session.

You can (and should) set up analytics for your AMP pages (the ones running on Google.com), but those are normally going to run as a separate set of analytics. Nearly every action on your pages in the Google cache will result in the user leaving the Google cache, and that will be seen as leaving the site that the AMP analytics is tracking. The result is that in the analytics for your AMP pages running on Google.com:

  • Your pages per session will be about one
  • Bounce rate will be very high (greater than 90 percent)
  • Session times will be very short

Then, for the AMP analytics on your domain, your number of visitors will not reflect any of the people who arrive on an AMP page first, and will only include those who view a second page on the site (on your main domain). If you try fixing this by adding your AMP analytics visit count to your main site analytics count, you’ll be double counting people that click through from one to the other.

There is a fix for this, and it’s referred to as “session stitching.” This is a really important fix to implement, and Google has provided it by creating an API that allows you to share the client ID information from AMP analytics with your regular website analytics. As a result, the analytics can piece together that it’s a continuation of the same session.

For more, you can see how to implement the fix to remedy both basic and advanced metrics tracking in my article on session stitching here.


Wrapping up

AMP can offer some really powerful benefits — improved site speed, better user experience and more revenue — but only for those publishers that take the time to implement the AMP version of their AMP site thoroughly, and also address the tracking issue in analytics so they can see the true results.


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