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The Psychology of the Searcher: How knowing how our prospects search can help us to optimize our campaigns

July 27th, 2015 4 comments

As marketers, most of us are familiar with the basics of search engine optimization, and how we can leverage certain industry-specific keywords and headlines in order to increase page visibility for our target audience.

Without a robust understanding of how prospects are actually interacting with search engines, how can we be confident that our SEO strategies are grounded in reality, rather than based on hunches or our own individual search biases?

Blue Nile Research recently carried out a study to discover how real customers are actually searching the Internet. How long are their queries? What form do they take? Are there universal patterns in the way that people search?

For this study, a sample of randomly selected test subjects were asked to search for solutions to three routine scenarios:

  • A technical problem (broken coffee pot)
  • A health issue (injured ankle)
  • An ecommerce scenario (buying a new laptop)

When testing was complete and researchers aggregated all of the search queries, the most interesting finding wasn’t that one search pattern outperformed another. Rather, researchers were fascinated to find that few underlying patterns existed at all in the search data.

Instead of there being a learned, established protocol for the way people search, the search terms, length and form that subjects used appear to be the intimate expression of the individual human that created it.

It seems that, just as our genetic makeup is unique to each of us individually, so is the way in which we choose to search the Internet.

 

Key Findings

When analyzing the data, Blue Nile found that subjects were split evenly in terms of searching in short fragments (“sore ankle”) versus fully-formed terms (“causes of sore ankle”). This suggests that users are equally predisposed toward either speed of search (fragments) or depth of search (more specific terms).

 

 When analyzing query length, no specific number of words dramatically outperformed any other.

 

Researchers found a larger split between users who search in statements versus those who search in the form of a question. 73% of subjects favored statements (“broken Folgers coffee pot”), while 27% tend to input their searches in the form of a question (“How to fix a broken Folgers coffee pot”).

 

Of the users who favor query-based searches, “how” was the most popular question type, followed by “why,” “where,” “which” and “what.”

 

Key Takeaways

As marketers, in addition to leveraging the right keywords, it is vital that we understand how our prospects choose to search in order to develop effective search and content strategies. We must be prepared to be visible in search results as varied and unique as individual customers themselves.

Because search habits are so deeply personal, it may be easy for us to put too much weight behind our own personal search biases when planning our search campaigns. Just because we have a specific way of searching (“sprained ankle symptoms”) does not mean that others will perform similar searches (“how can I tell if my ankle has been broken?”).

Blue Nile’s study underscores the deep importance of market-based research to supplement automated keyword creation.

Tools like Google’s Keyword Planner are certainly valuable for discovering new keywords, but tools have a hard time thinking outside the box like we can as humans.

For example, using Keyword Planner to find keywords for a long-tailed phrase “Samsung DVD player won’t play disc” will generate mostly irrelevant results, such as “DVD player,” “Best DVD player,” “Buy DVD players” and “DVD player reviews.”

In closing, I’ll leave you with three simple tips to help better align our search strategies to the wide variety of queries our prospects will likely use to find us:

  • Get together with colleagues or friends to brainstorm different search queries that may be used to search for our product or service. Based on Blue Nile’s research, you’ll likely be surprised by the variety and breadth of different answers you discover. As a secondary measure, you can also build an Excel spreadsheet to automatically match/fill question modifiers to your keywords.
  • Based on the above exercise, leverage the most likely question-based query in your headline in order to help shoot your page up the search rankings (e.g. “How to fix a broken coffee pot”).
  • If feasible, survey your customers about their unique search patterns. Even though Blue Nile did not find statistically significant patterns in search queries from the general population, you may discover patterns or trends among your own unique, market-specific user base.

You can follow Ken Bowen, Manager of Editorial Content, MECLABS Institute, on Twitter at @KenBowenJax.

 

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Marketing Research Chart: To improve SEO effectiveness, content is king [From MarketingSherpa]

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Bet on Horses, Not Customer Assumptions: How the Kentucky Derby tested content for relevance with customers

July 23rd, 2015 1 comment

Assumptions can be a dangerous territory — especially when it comes to being relevant with your customers.

When a brand has a large gap between purchases, keeping customers engaged becomes a consistent concern.

The team at the Kentucky Derby faced that issue when they decided to use the weekly newsletter to identify and validate customer segments.

“When we look to grow a brand like the Kentucky Derby, that breadth of engagement is really core to our growth path,” Jeff Koleba, Vice President of Marketing and Programming, Kentucky Derby, said in this session from MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015.

To solve this issue, Jeff and Kate Ellis, Marketing Analyst, Kentucky Derby, decided to begin segmenting and directing content directly towards the customers who wanted it most. Within its established customer personas, the Derby focused testing on three segments:

  • Social content interests
  • Equine enthusiasts
  • Betting/wagering information

Once they set up segmentation and supported it with relevant content, the team began optimizing for maximum engagement.

Read more…

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Website Optimization: How to reduce friction in purchase and registration processes

July 20th, 2015 1 comment

Sometimes getting consumers to the landing page is the easy part.

The ingrained friction the buying, and even registration, processes create for users can cause them to hesitate in completing the process. After all, you don’t visit a site to register; you come to consume whatever information they have to offer. The registration part gets in the way.

When the registration process seems unusually long, you give up and leave the site. The value beyond the registration no longer outweighs the time and effort needed to get to it.

The same goes for purchases. When we create additional friction through design, copy and overall experience, it can push a customer to abandon their cart instead of pushing through the mental resistance certain elements create in their mind.

The good news is that we can indeed reduce the friction present in the conversion process. We can do that in two ways: length and difficulty.

For length-oriented friction, look at:

  • the length of your process as a whole
  • the layout of fields
  • the number of fields

For difficulty-oriented friction, examine:

  • the format of your pages
  • the number of options provided and how they’re displayed
  • the button design and placement

Sometimes it can be hard to look at a page and immediately pinpoint these things, so we’ve designed a checklist of sorts for you to go through while analyzing your processes.

We’ve also included some “Not this, but this” examples to show you possible alternatives. Remember, what might work with one audience doesn’t always work with another. That means you’ll want to test your changes to make sure you’ve found the best process for your customers.

Read more…

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From 300 to 5,000 Twitter Followers in Three Weeks: An interview with a growth hacker

July 13th, 2015 6 comments

Karan Thakkar (@geekykaran) is not a marketer. He is a coder.

That gives him a unique perspective on marketing, especially since his first foray into marketing rightly earned him the title of amateur “growth hacker.”

Growth hacking is a way to grow a business/website/social profile as fast as possible with the least effort possible. It usually involves coding.

Karan considers himself a growth hacker because he used simple tactics and a few programming scripts to grow his Twitter following from 300 to 5,000 in three weeks as documented on Medium.com.

When I read the article on Medium, I immediately wanted to interview him to see if I could get any additional behind-the-scenes information on his Twitter growth strategies. Across a series of questions I sent him via email, he gave me a few gems on the specific tactics he used, and how he was able to hack the Twitter growth process.

 

1. Can you give us a quick idea of your background and why you wanted to grow your Twitter followers?

I am a part of the front end team at Crowdfire [a social media and content platform] … The reason why I wanted to grow my twitter audience/outreach was majorly because of a competition we had within the company called “Crowdfire Twitter Premier League.”

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Why Selfishness Is the Key to Successful Marketing

July 9th, 2015 No comments

Philosophers [must] become kings … or those now called kings [must] … genuinely and adequately philosophize.” —Plato

Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director and CEO, MECLABS Institute, remarked about Plato’s quote in The Marketer as Philosopher — “One might substitute the term ‘marketer’ for the term ‘king.’”

In order to best communicate as marketers, we need to sometimes slow down and ask “why” we are doing the “what.” This includes considering the reasons for the various elements of brand collateral, images, calls-to-action and testimonials we insert onto our pages.

I recently came across a test that highlighted for me some of these challenges that marketers often face when balancing the “why” and the “what.”

That’s why in this post I want to show how we can use the MECLABS Conversion Heuristic to really drill down on these specific elements while giving you a process in which you can apply a methodology to creating and optimizing all of your marketing collateral.

 

MECLABS Conversion Heuristic

 

This heuristic is just that — a heuristic. This means it is simply a mental shorthand used to convey an idea or approach. This is not a mathematical equation and you cannot solve it. However, it does work similarly to an equation in the idea that the coefficient preceding the letters indicates that value’s level of importance.

Therefore, motivation, with a coefficient of four, is more important in the conversion than anxiety, which only has a coefficient of two.

With that being said, let’s start by evaluating the customer’s motivation on a page and how each element can cater to that motivation.

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The Importance of Customer Centricity in Evolving A/B Testing

June 29th, 2015 2 comments

When we talk about A/B testing, we often think about it on a test-by-test basis. While this singular focus is beneficial, it overlooks testing’s role as an ongoing system for optimization.

At MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015, Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa, sat down with Lauren Wagner, Senior Manager, and Tessa Srebro, Lead Generation and Marketing Associate, both of VolunteerMatch, to discuss how to utilize A/B testing to constantly evolve programs.

Lauren and Tessa’s company, VolunteerMatch, is a nonprofit organization that is the world’s largest volunteering network. It also has an interesting funding model. The company sells a Software as a Service (SaaS) product to companies to help fund its organization and, so far, this model has generated almost $1 billion in social value each year through its work with nonprofits and volunteers. VolunteerMatch is also more than familiar with the benefits of testing, as evidenced by the subject line test it ran with MarketingExperiments.

Watch the excerpt below from the MarketingSherpa Media Center to learn how keeping up with current trends and thinking like a consumer can help evolve your testing and your company.

 

Keep up with current trends and your customers

Keeping up with current customer trends is one of the most important pieces of advice Lauren Wagner gave when asked how to keep a company’s A/B testing constantly evolving. Be sure that you’re keeping up with current trends in the marketplace, but don’t forget to take the time to learn about your customers.

Read more…

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