Friday, July 20, 2018

In Conversion Optimization, The Loser Takes It All

Most of us at some point in our lives have experienced that creeping, irrational fear of failure, of being an imposter in our chosen profession or deemed “a Loser” for not getting something right the first time. marketers who work in A/B testing and conversion optimization.

We are constantly tasked with creating new, better experiences for our company or client and in turn the customers they serve. Yet unlike many business ventures or fire-and-forget ad agency work, we then willingly set out to definitively prove that our new version is better than the old, thus throwing ourselves upon the dual fates of customer decision making and statistical significance.

And that’s when the sense of failure begins to creep in, when you have to present a losing test to well-meaning clients or peers who were so convinced that this was a winner, a surefire hit. The initial illusion they had — that you knew all the right answers — so clinically shattered by that negative percentage sign in front of your results.

Yet of course herein lays the mistake of both the client and peer who understandably need quick, short-term results or the bravado of the marketer who thinks they can always get it right the first time.

A/B testing and conversion optimization, like the scientific method these disciplines apply to marketing, is merely a process to get you to the right answer, and to view it as the answer itself is to mistake the map for the territory.

I was reminded of this the other day when listening to one of my favorite science podcasts, “The Skeptics Guide to the Universe,” hosted by Dr. Steven Novella, which ends each week with a relevant quote. That week they quoted Brazilian-born, English, Nobel Prize-winning zoologist Sir Peter B. Medawar (1915 -1987) from his 1979 book “Advice to a Young Scientist.” In it he stated, “All experimentation is criticism. If an experiment does not hold out the possibility of causing one to revise one’s views, it is hard to see why it should be done at all.”This quote for me captures a lot of the truisms I’ve learnt in my experience as a conversion optimization marketer, as well as addresses a lot of the confusion in many MECLABS Institute Research Partners and colleagues who are less familiar with the nature and process of conversion optimization.

Here are four points to keep in mind if you choose to take a scientific approach to your marketing:

1. If you truly knew what the best customer experience was, then you wouldn’t test

I have previously been asked after presenting a thoroughly researched outline of planned testing, that although the methodic process to learning we had just outlined was greatly appreciated, did we not know a shortcut we could take to get to a big success.

Now, this is a fully understandable sentiment, especially in the business world where time is money and everyone needs to meet their targets yesterday. That said, the question does fundamentally miss the value of conversion optimizing testing, if not the value of the scientific method itself. Remember, this method of inquiry has allowed us — through experimentation and the repeated failure of educated, but ultimately false hypotheses — to finally develop the correct hypothesis and understanding of the available facts. As a result, we are able to cure disease, put humans on the moon and develop better-converting landing pages.

In the same vein, as marketers we can do in-depth data and customer research to get us closer to identifying the correct conversion problems in a marketing funnel and to work out strong hypotheses about what the best solutions are, but ultimately we can’t know the true answer until we test it.

A genuine scientific experiment should be trying to prove itself wrong as much as it is proving itself right. It is only through testing out our false hypothesis that we as marketers can confirm the true hypothesis that represents the correct interpretation of the available data and understanding of our customers that will allow us to get the big success we seek for our clients and customers.

2. If you know the answer, just implement it

This particularly applies to broken elements in your marketing or conversion funnel.

An example of this from my own recent experience with a client was when we noticed in our initial forensic conversion analysis of their site that the design of their cart made it almost impossible to convert on a small mobile or desktop screen if you had more than two products in your cart.

Looking at the data and the results from our own user testing, we could see that this was clearly broken and not just an underperformance. So we just recommended that they fix it, which they did.

We were then able to move on and optimize the now-functioning cart and lower funnel through testing, rather than wasting everyone’s time with a test that was a foregone conclusion.

3. If you see no compelling reason why a potential test would change customer behavior, then don’t do it

When creating the hypothesis (the supposition that can be supported or refuted via the outcome of your test), make sure it is a hypothesis based upon an interpretation of available evidence and a theory about your customer.

Running the test should teach you something about both your interpretation of the data and the empathetic understanding you think you have of your customer.

If running the test will do neither, then it is unlikely to be impactful and probably not worth running.

4. Make sure that the changes you make are big enough and loud enough to impact customer behavior

You might have data to support the changes in your treatment and a well-thought-out customer theory, but if the changes you make are implemented in a way that customers won’t notice them, then you are unlikely to elicit the change you expect to see and have no possibility of learning something.

Failure is a feature, not a bug

So next time you are feeling like a loser, when you are trying to explain why your conversion optimization test lost:

  • Remind your audience that educated failure is an intentional part of the process:
  • Focus on what you learnt about your customer and how you have improved upon your initial understanding of the data.
  • Explain how you helped the client avoid implementing the initial “winning idea” that, it turns out, wasn’t such a winner — and all the money this saved them.

Remember, like all scientific testing, conversion optimization might be slow, methodical and paved with losing tests, but it is ultimately the only guaranteed way to build repeatable, iterative, transferable success across a business.

Related Resources:

Optimizing Headlines & Subject Lines

Consumer Reports Value Proposition Test: What You Can Learn From A 29% Drop In Clickthrough

MarketingExperiments Research Journal (Q1 2011) — See “Landing Page Optimization: Identifying friction to increase conversion and win a Nobel Prize” starting on page 106

In Conversion Optimization, The Loser Takes It All was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Thursday, July 19, 2018

How Gamification Can Step Up Your Digital Marketing Game

How Gamification Can Step Up Your Digital Marketing Game

Once upon a time, digital media related to gaming was initially thought of as just a niche, a temporary fad that will fade over the years. Fast forward to today, and gaming is now one of the most profitable forms of media worldwide, with millions of dedicated players contributing to the millions earned each passing day.

This makes gaming a very profitable and lucrative industry that can also be a viable marketing tool for various industries. Over the years, we have seen companies try and use gaming media as a part of their digital marketing strategies. On the other end, digital marketing has been really effective in promoting gaming as well, with some of the most ambitious marketing campaigns crafted to promote equally ambitious video games.

With this kind of success on both ends of the spectrum, gamification has turned into a viable element of various digital marketing strategies and has provided an extra degree of interactivity that could not be achieved before. With that in mind, here is how Gamification can help boost your digital marketing game.

Enhance the user experience

Back in the early days of traditional marketing, the amount of interaction that customers can get from a marketing campaign was limited to only physical interactions at live events. This meant that audience participation and interaction was few and far in between. While television commercials greatly contributed to the marketing boom during the past few decades, there was not much in the way of audience interaction.

Through gamification, the audience now has the ability to impact marketing strategies through participation. One of the more common ways brands use gamification is through gaming apps dedicated to marketing the product. These apps not only endorse products and enhance interactivity, but also help generate more audience interest. There are also times that the game becomes popular enough to stand on its own as well, which helps promote a brand to an even wider audience.

Audi A4 Driving Challenge

One of the most popular brands that use gamification was Audi, which launched the successful Audi A4 Driving Challenge. The game involves a series of driving mini-games that allow users to experience what it would feel like to drive an Audi A4. This app not only got downloaded by millions of users but also helped Audi promote their latest car model and boost their sales.

Relay your message and increase awareness

One of the advantages of using gamification is that it will not only boost your sales but also raise brand awareness that helps convey the message of your brand to your audience. The best kind of marketing is marketing that is meaningful and resonates with the audience’s emotions. Gamification can help relay the message much better using inventive and interesting types of games that the audience would find meaningful and fun to play again and again.

A lot of today’s video games explore numerous subject matter, such as politics, religion, morality, and also raise questions about various real-world topics. This helps make a more relatable story that helps players become immersed in the game much better. This is why gamification works to capture the audience’s attention, as you can create a game that promotes the brand and send a positive message as well.

WWF Together

Examples of game apps that promote a meaningful message is WWF Together by the World Wildlife Fund. The game sees players create origami patterns of endangered animals. After creating the origami patterns, players are then presented important information about the animals themselves and get to know them more. This is a great example of how gamification can promote a positive message while being able to help your brand grow at the same time.

Boost your social media presence

Social media has become one of the best platforms to promote your brand and execute effective and successful digital marketing strategies. Nowadays, it is not surprising to see mobile game app advertisements when scrolling on social media sites like Facebook. With the presence of so many game-related apps being advertised on Facebook, it can be a challenge to stand out from the rest of the pack.

However, since your app is representing your brand, that could be the edge that you need to stand out. Being a part of the brand means that you are able to craft a more elaborate social media campaign, which helps you drive more traffic compared to only using paid ads. The audience would not only be aware of what your brand has to offer but also know about your gaming app and its purpose as well.

Some of the most popular gaming apps gained most of their players through social media promotion, which makes gamification a viable route to take when it comes to boosting your social media presence.

Key Takeaway

Gaming has taken so many forms over the years, and gaming apps are another popular form that helps promote the medium to a wider audience. Through gamification, you not only provide another medium for your audience to immerse themselves in but also another way for them to understand your brand much more.


How Gamification Can Step Up Your Digital Marketing Game was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

New Distilled ODN features including SEO friendly URLs for enterprise platforms

If you’re a regular reader of our content, you’ve probably come across our ODN platform which enables both SEO A/B testing and more agile changes to large and enterprise sites.

Earlier this year, we had a quarter where we deployed our platform to two Fortune 100 companies’ sites and to the website of one of the largest private companies in the UK. I’ve written before about the ways that split testing is changing consulting but what we’ve found in these enterprise environments is that we are getting radically different results by adding agility to the mix. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it turns out that sometimes, being able to get stuff done is a differentiator in the enterprise. My research showed that the average SEO at a big company has been waiting over six months for their highest priority technical change and doesn’t anticipate seeing it deployed for at least another six months. Indeed 40+% have been waiting over a year!

It’s been very rewarding to attack this problem directly: our core values have always been skewed towards getting things done above simply identifying what needs to be done. Now we are hearing from our customers things like: the ability to make changes to local store pages has been one of our most successful initiatives this year, we’re up 10% and seeing the impact on footfall (that was from a Fortune 100 company - and +10% is pretty visible and meaningful in that kind of environment).

We have new functionality in the ODN

As part of improving our platform’s value in these kind of situations, we are just finishing up a series of enhancements that will be rolled up into a launch we have internally called REQMOD.

The key things this will enable us to do via the ODN platform are:

  1. Move pages individually or en masse (e.g. to serve content on SEO friendly URLs without parameters and redirect the old pages)
  2. Move sub-domain content into sub-folders
  3. Enable easy SEO A/B testing of full page redesigns

Key benefit #1: Moving pages or folders of content

We often come across enterprise-scale sites built on technologies that rely heavily on parameters. It’s really common to see, for example, e-commerce sites built 5+ years ago with no keywords in the URLs at all and often multiple query-string parameters (e.g. /store/product?id=product_id&style=style_id). In fact, there are myriad ways that URLs can be less-than-perfect for users and search engines.

In general, it’s easy to fix this on small or personal sites. A bit of .htaccess fiddling, some rewriting and a redirect or two is all it takes. The complexity (and what’s at stake) is much greater on enterprise platforms.

Having spoken to a bunch of large sites who’d buy a solution to just this problem, we figured it was a great thing to build into our platform since we have all the moving pieces. So - with this release, our platform:

  • Returns the correct page content on a request for the new (“pretty”) URL exactly as if the origin server was configured to serve it for that request
  • Returns 301 redirects at the individual page level for all the old URLs to the new pretty ones

This feature also makes it easy to create new pages by pulling in the outline of a page you want to base your new page on and updating key information (title / meta information, body content) without having to recreate menus, footers etc. It works in a very similar way to moving a page, but with no associated 301.

Key benefit #2: Move sub-domains to sub-folders

Despite the official line coming out of Google, we know that this is still important:

(The difference between the carefully-worded technical correctness of official Google statements and what happens in the real world is something that’s well-worth being aware of. If you haven’t dug deep into it, I recommend this whiteboard Friday on precisely this topic and history and background here [video for DistilledU subscribers]).

The point being, in the real world, this is something you might well want to do.

It can be tricky though: often sub-domains are created because they run different software stacks and / or use different servers, or even because they point at fully external hosted services. It can be hard or impossible to integrate them into your core web servers and so sometimes the only way to host them from a sub-folder is via technology like the ODN that deploys into the web server stack.

In a similar way to the way that the new features enable the ODN to move pages from one path to another, we can also modify the request to origin to go to a different server entirely, enabling us to move sub-domains into sub-folders, for example:

  • Redirect all pages to
  • When is requested, serve the content from

As per Rand’s tweet above, many sites have seen significant benefit from this kind of change, and deploying our stack will make it super easy to manage.

Key benefit #3: A/B test complete redesigns

Everyone who has ever had to release a major redesign of a bunch of pages that get significant organic search traffic has worried about the potential impact the redesign will have - and rightly so. There are a ton of horror stories about this kind of change going wrong. Some parts are avoidable with diligent processes - there are horror stories of brands moving to entirely JS-rendered content that flummoxes search engines for example, that could be avoided with SEO input to the new design - but some parts remain inevitably nerve-wracking.

When you redesign a page, you almost inevitably change its HTML, and it’s virtually impossible to tell in advance how Google will view it. Even further: in a world where usage signals play a role, it’s clear that it’s only on launch that you’re going to begin getting the feedback loop from new design to users’ response to it to Google’s response to that.

So. Your nerves are wracked. Now what?

Well - the new tech enables to make it easy to roll out the new design to just a small percentage of pages, and so as long as you have enough pages and enough traffic, you can run an A/B test to see how they perform in the search results. This is different to the kind of testing you can do with CRO / UX testing tools as it’s visible to the search engines and specifically designed to measure the impact on search performance.

The first test like this that we ran for a customer was strongly negative. I mean, strongly negative. We knew that this customer liked the new design and wanted to deploy it, but getting this insight about its impact on traffic and revenue enabled an iterative approach to understand what still needed to be tweaked and user-tested and then tested again for search impact before pushing the button to roll it out across the site section.

Much like the sub-domain example above, this piece of functionality can work by routing requests just for the variant pages to a new server while routing the control pages to the existing origin server. Alternatively, depending on your setup and configuration, another option is for our platform to inject a header into the request for variant pages (e.g. x-split-test: variant) and to have the origin server respond with the new template when that is present, and the old template when it’s not.

Get in touch if you want to see the ODN in action

If you work on a site that is suffering from an inability to make these kinds of changes (tidy up URLs, move pages or site sections, transfer content from a sub-domain to a sub-folder and more) then get in touch to see a demo of our platform in action.

Similarly, if you have a redesign of a large site section coming up, and you’re nervous about the impact on organic performance of deploying a totally new template across hundreds or thousands of pages then you should check out our ability to split-test at the template level and see how it performs on a smaller number of pages before you hit the big scary button.

New Distilled ODN features including SEO friendly URLs for enterprise platforms was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Serpstat: An In-depth Look

Serpstat: An In-depth Look

The SEO Hacker Toolbox contains some of the best SEO Tools available. Whether it be free or premium, we always ensure that we have the best tools that can help make our jobs much easier. We have covered a good number of these tools recently, which includes, Link Cheetah, Ahrefs, Mangools Online Tools, and even

Despite the amazing array of tools that we already have, we are always on the lookout for more tools that can optimize our services and generate better results. One of the latest tools that we have been trying out recently is Serpstat, which is another versatile SEO tool that enables us to monitor an array of data and statistics.

With that in mind, let’s see what Serpstat can do:

Setting up a Project

One of the first things that you can do in Serpstat is set up projects for each of the websites that you are handling. This makes it much easier to track each website and asses their performance. As an SEO company, we tend to handle a high number of clients on a regular basis, which makes this feature a very useful one.

SERPStat New Project

To add a project, all you have to do is to click “Add new project” and input the details, which include the website URL, name of the project, and the group where you want to place your project in. The process takes less than 5 minutes, and you can readily view data, such as SEO and PPC keywords, referring domain and pages, and be readily able to start a website audit. Another important feature is the option to track keyword rankings live, which ensures that you are able to keep watch of all of the keywords in your websites. These two features make Serpstat perform functions that SEO professionals have to purchase separate tools for.

Site Audit

Starting a site audit is as simple as starting a new project, all you have to do is to click “Start Audit” and set a limit to how many pages of your website will be audited, and set the scanning speed. Depending on your plan, you can audit hundreds of pages with a single click.

Serpstat Audit

The audit can take a while depending on the number of pages, but once done, it will look like this:

Serpstat Audit Results

You get a detailed set of data, that allows you to review and asses website performance, and check out important elements such as meta descriptions, title tags, H1 headers, and even duplicate content. As someone who was experienced in using website audit tools, I can say that the data presented by Serpstat is helpful when it comes to optimizing websites.

Serpstat Audit Results 2

Position Tracking

Position Tracking allows you to track down keyword rankings live, which is a very important feature that allows us to keep us on our toes when it comes to ranking fluctuations and algorithm updates.

Serpstat Position Tracking Information

To begin tracking, all you have to do is to input details such as the project name, competitors, the search engine you want to track, keywords, the length of time that you will be tracking, and where will you share this data. Serpstat provides search data from Google and Yandex, which makes this a good tool to use when tracking keywords for websites in Russia and their nearby neighbors that use the search engine.

For the keywords, Serpstat will automatically scan the list of keywords in your website, which makes it a quicker process compared to typing each one manually. Sharing allows you to select a specific number of people that can view the data, which provides more privacy and security.

Serpstat Position Tracking

After putting in all of the necessary information, you get to view a list of keywords and their position and volume. A nifty feature that I like is having the option to export data, which comes in handy when a client asks for a report on how their keywords are performing. Overall, the position tracking feature works well and allows us to track rankings in a single place without the need to switch to other tools.

Website and Domain Analysis

Website and Domain analysis provide a look into a variety of data and statistics that indicate how well your website is performing. You can view a summary of all of this data in the overview page, which is quite detailed yet concise enough to be able to get a general impression.

SERPStat Overview

The overview presents initial data such as search traffic, organic keywords, and a list of keyword positions and volume.

Keyword Research

 Serpstat Keyword Position Distribution

Next is the keyword position distribution, which shows the average position of keywords. This helps visualize how well your keywords are performing.

Visibility Trend

The next important statistic is the Visibility Trend, which is a visual indicator of how much your web pages show up in search results pages. To summarize this, the higher the trend, the better the visibility.

Serpstat Keywords Trend

Next up is the Keywords Trend, which shows your domain’s keyword pool history. This shows how many possible keywords can lead to your website. Since our website talks about new trends and strategies in SEO, it is evident that new keywords and search terms just keeps expanding.

Serpstat Pages With Highest Visibility

Pages with the highest visibility show you pages that get searched and seen the most. This helps you see pages that perform the best, which helps you analyze further on what makes them gain that amount of traffic.

Competitor Analysis

You can also view your competitors through organic search, search graphs, and even through ads. This helps you see how well your website is performing compared to your closest competitors. This really comes in handy, as we have clients in very competitive industries aiming to outdo one another. Being able to see their data helps in giving us the edge when it comes to crafting quality strategies.

Backlinks Analysis

Serpstat Backlinks Analysis

Along with website audit and keyword research features, Serpstat also allows you to track backlinks within your website. This allows you to view the amount of referring domains and pages, track the amount of new and lost backlinks, and even view the most frequently used anchor texts.

This adds yet another new dimension to the already versatile tool, as you have a link building tool that helps monitor backlinks with efficiency and ensures that you don’t miss any of your links.

Rank Tracker

Serpstat Rank Tracker

The last important feature is Rank Tracker, which provides you an in-depth look into the positions of your keywords. This is a more detailed look at the position tracking feature and allows you to look into the history, and even the keywords of your competitors. You also have the option of tracking the performance of your landing pages as well. Once again, a solid feature that makes this tool even more versatile.


Functionality and versatility are elements that help create a quality SEO tool, and Serpstat definitely has both. With a variety of functions that help us make work more efficient, it is definitely a great addition to our SEO toolbox. This is a toll that we will surely recommend to SEO newcomers and professionals alike, as it has the right features that make it work well.

Key Takeaway

Once again, we have found another helpful and versatile tool that makes our SEO much more effective. Tools like Serpstat prove that a tool can be simple in design and purpose yet be effective at the same time.

If you have questions and inquiries about SEO tools and SEO in general, leave a comment below and let’s talk.

Serpstat: An In-depth Look was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Monday, July 16, 2018

Learning to Rank

My last Post was Five Years of Google Ranking Signals, and I start that post by saying that there are other posts about ranking signals that have some issues. But, I don’t want to turn people away from looking at one recent post that did contain a lot of useful information.

Cyrus Shepard recently published a post about Google Sucess Factors on which I would recommend that you also check out.

Cyrus did a video with Ross Hudgins on Seige Media where he talked about those Ranking signals with Cyrus, called Google Ranking Factors with Cyrus Shepard. I’m keeping this post short on purpose, to make the discussion about ranking the focus of this post, and the star. There is some really good information in the Video and in the post from Cyrus. Cyrus takes a different approach on writing about ranking signals from what I wrote, but it’s worth the time visiting and listening and watching.

And have fun learning to rank.

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Learning to Rank was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Customer Motivation: How a craft brewery tapped into the element that most affects conversion

If you want conversion rate increases, the No. 1 factor to consider is customer motivation, according to the Conversion Sequence Heuristic from MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingExperiments).

That’s why the letter “m” has the biggest multiplier (4) in the heuristic.

When we talk about motivation, we often talk at a granular level — understanding where traffic is coming from or where customers are in the thought sequence to help your landing page optimization.

I recently came across a great example of an entire product built solely on customer motivation: A small brand went up against a giant competitor by tapping deeply into customer motivation. You may not be able to go this far with your products, but extreme examples like this are nice because they help us brainstorm possible outside-the-box ideas we can do with our own marketing.

“It begins with an ancient story”

Our story begins with the 2017 AFC Championship football game. The Jacksonville Jaguars versus the New England Patriots. David versus Goliath. If you’re unfamiliar with this part of the story, John Malkovich tells it far better than I can.

Except, when David slew Goliath, there were no referees involved to influence the outcome. In the case of the Jaguars versus the Patriots, a controversial call by the refs decided the outcome of the game. Goliath (the Pats) went on to the Super Bowl, and David (the Jags) was sent into a long offseason.

In case you’re unfamiliar with football, I’ll briefly overexplain what happened. If you’re totally uninterested in football, feel free to skip the next two paragraphs.

The most controversial call in the game came when Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack stripped the ball (took it away) from Patriots running back Dion Lewis in the fourth quarter of the game. After stripping the ball, Jack got up and started running to the end zone for a touchdown. But he stopped because the refs blew the whistle, in effect saying he was touched by Lewis, meaning he was down by contact and the play was over.

However, upon looking at the slow-motion replay, it appears that Lewis didn’t touch Jack, and therefore Jack wasn’t down. However, once a play is blown dead by the refs’ whistle in the NFL, they can’t overturn the call from the instant replay. If the refs had waited on the whistle, allowed the play to run its course, Jack likely would have scored a touchdown, the replay would have shown he was never touched and therefore never down, the Jaguars would have had an insurmountable lead and headed to their first Super Bowl.

Instead, Goliath won.

This botched call became a thing. A meme. It went viral. Whatever you want to call it, it created a deep and abiding motivation in a large percentage of people living in the Jacksonville area.

Which also created an opportunity.

Every marketer faces their own Goliath

Before I complete the story, let’s jump to a challenge you likely face — how to compete with a larger rival. How do you defeat your industry’s Goliath? Unless your brand dominates its market, you likely have to face a larger competitor. In ecommerce, that competitor is Amazon. In B2B, it might be IBM. In the beer industry, that company is Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV and its $246.13 billion in assets.

Intuition Ale Works is a Jacksonville-based craft brewery and taproom. I don’t know the value of its assets, but it is significantly less than AB InBev.

So how to compete?

You need a compelling story powered by a forceful value proposition because you’re fighting against a whole lot of money. Money that can drive logistical efficiencies that allow your bigger competitor to be profitable at a much lower cost than you can bear. Money that can buy loads of advertising and sponsorships and endorsement and expertise.

For Intuition Ale Works, part of its value proposition is beer brewed in Jacksonville. But actually, that isn’t unique. AB InBev also has a brewery in Jacksonville.

Another part of its value prop is that Intuition has a greater degree of intimacy with its customers. It is better able to tap into their motivations.

“We try to keep a close eye on the buying patterns of our customers,” Brad Lange, Chief Operating Officer, Intuition Ale Works said. “Every morning our sales team reviews updated metrics that show how our core beers are performing. (Core beers are available year-round in package and draft format throughout Jacksonville, as opposed to seasonal, specialty and limited-release beers that have shorter lifespans). We also check the previous day’s sales report in our taproom.”

He continued, “This gives us insight into how our seasonal and specialty beers have been selling. I’d say that we are obsessed with data, at least when it comes to consumer interest in our beers. Part of this interest is business related. But at a deeper level, we want to provide Intuition drinkers with beer that they are excited about. We let the sales numbers tell us what consumers like and what they don’t.”

Customers vote for their motivations with their wallets

Intuition had a new beer in the works, brewed by owner and founder Ben Davis, that needed a name. “Our brand is typically more outdoorsy and Florida-related, and the beer names are simple and straightforward. For example, Jon Boat Coastal Ale, I-10 IPA, and King Street Stout,” Lange told me.

However, they knew the whistle heard around the city had an undeniable allure to their customers. So they decided to stray from the brand in order to tap into the customer’s motivations. The customer’s motivations trumped the company-derived brand.

“As most people in Jacksonville know by now, the phrase ‘Myles Jack Wasn’t Down’ has gone viral locally. It’s become a rallying cry, of sorts. Ben mentioned it and we all thought it was great, even though it is completely off-brand in terms of how we normally name our beers,” Lange said.

And so Myles Jack Wasn’t Down! became the name of the brewery’s latest product.

Not all purchases are logical. Customers aren’t dismal scientists, coldly calculating how supply and demand affect their decisions. The purchases that tap most deeply into their motivations are based less on product features and benefits and more on an ability to express themselves in a cold, noisy and overpowering world. “I’m here. I matter. And this is what matters to me.”

Apple understood that with its legendary Think Different campaign. “I’m a misfit, I’m a rebel, I can’t buy a PC.”

Patagonia has tapped deeply into customer motivations with its environmental activism (probably less as a marketing strategy and more as a core belief). As a result, revenue and profit have quadrupled over the past 10 years, and the company now sells about $1 billion per year in outdoor clothing and gear.

It’s difficult for a customer to logically compare the features and functions of every jacket on the market and determine which will best serve their short- and long-term needs. However, it’s easy for a customer to understand that they have a deep motivation to support public lands. And they see Patagonia is fighting for public lands against Goliath (even though the refs are being unfair). So they subconsciously think, “While I might be a mere speck of dust in this universe, I’m going to stand with Patagonia and public lands and the environment by buying this jacket.”

And so it is with beer as well. While the actual product and the football play really have nothing to do with each other, the Myles Jack Wasn’t Down! beer name has had an undeniable effect. “It has sold incredibly well. We don’t try to actively market our beers. But once we announced the name, it sort of took on a life of its own. People came in right away to try it. A lot of them have been wearing Jaguars gear. It has been a pleasant surprise for sure. Myles Jack’s family actually contacted us and are planning on stopping by to try it,” Lange said.

While Lange says they don’t actively market their beers, I will disagree. Sure, in the typical business connotation they don’t. They don’t buy advertising, hold focus groups or build an official marketing plan. They don’t have a drip campaign built into their marketing automation platform.

But customer-first marketing doesn’t always look like the traditional definition of marketing at first glance. The core of customer-first marketing is understanding and serving a customer and then creating messaging so the customer perceives that your product will serve them. All that other stuff is just a means to get that message to your ideal customer. And in that sense, I think Lange and his team engage in some serious marketing.

It’s not always sunny in Jacksonville, Florida

I could have ended the story right there, on an up note. But the sun doesn’t always shine in the Sunshine State. As we’ve seen, David doesn’t always defeat Goliath. And sometimes, dark clouds form around products as well.

Part of customer intimacy and deeply understanding customer motivations is being able to say goodbye to products. Customer motivations aren’t static. They change. As your customers age. As new technology is developed. As competitors get a better fix on what customers want. As the shifting tide of trends and public opinions ebbs and flows.

For example, Intuition recently decided to retire one of its first beers.

“This was a really difficult decision because it played such a key role in the development of our brand the past seven-and-a-half years. When a beer doesn’t sell as well as it once did, it tells us that something has changed. Maybe a style isn’t that popular in the market anymore. Or we’ve developed a similar beer that just tastes better, and our customers prefer it. It’s our job to figure out why sales fell off and then to create something different that our customers will be excited about,” Lange said.

Grab your slingshot and go into battle

If your brand is facing down its own Goliath, I hope this story provided a bit of inspiration in your day. Remember, size isn’t everything.

Your slingshot is your understanding of the customer — whether you’re using data analysis or A/B testing, sales reports or in-person customer interviews.

Whichever brand understands customer motivations best, wins.

Related Resources

Five Questions to Ask to Understand Customer Motivation

Analyzing Customer Motivation to Create Campaign Incentives that Resonate

Harnessing Customer Motivation: How one company increased conversion by 65% by aligning page elements with customer desire

Customer Motivation: How a craft brewery tapped into the element that most affects conversion was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Thursday, July 12, 2018

SEO Writing: Creating SEO Friendly Content in 6 Easy Steps


Looking for guidance on how to write content that improves your chances of moving up in the SERPS?

Then today is your lucky day!

This guide is aimed at answering your questions like: “What’s is SEO Writing?” and “How Do I make content SEO Friendly?”.

But that’s not it, I’ll also walk you through a step by step process of developing an SEO content strategy and how to put that strategy into action so that you can call yourself SEO writers!

So let’s jump in.

What is SEO Writing?

SEO writing refers to the skill of composing text in a rational manner that provides context and value to both website visitors and search engines.

That’s right…it’s a skill. It doesn’t mean for writers to just create an article or blog post that is cluttered and has tons of keyword stuffing in it.

It means to create quality content that is so helpful and valuable that Google has no option other than to include it because it enriches the search results.

How to Develop Your Content Strategy?

To be able to write content that is more effective in Google, you must start by performing the necessary research.

You can’t expect to just write different types of content and have it rank. There is pre-planning involved to be able to ensure what you compose actually warrants Google to rank you.

To be able to pre-plan, start creating an outline by answering the following questions:

1. Who’s Your Audience?

Think about it, how can you write about a topic if you aren’t sure who your audience is.

Go to Google Analytics…Audience…and pull both Demographic & Interest data.

Once you have this information you are able to understand who your target audience is and you can make sure your copy is catered to them.

2. What Are You Writing About?

Now that you know who you are writing for…you need to know what you’re going to write about.

The foundation of any successful SEO content is keyword research.

The purpose of this guide is not to teach you how to perform keyword research, that can be found on this helpful guide from Ahrefs’ (Why reinvent the wheel).

Keyword research can provide you with insight into how topics are searched for, what their wants & needs are, and ultimately you’ll understand your audience better.

3. What Questions Must Be Answered?

So you have a primary keyword that you want to cover. The next phase of your pre-planning research should be focused around understanding user intent.

To understand user intent you need to know if your topic is Informational or Transactional?

Informational means that the keyword is broader and that the user typing that into Google is searching for more information to help guide them (hence the name).

An example of this would be: “How to Ride a Bicycle”

Notice that the results for this term are primarily videos and articles explaining the process of learning to ride a bicycle. There are no listings of websites that try to sell anything because Google understands the user intent is trying to get an answer.

Transactional means that the topic indicates there is an intent to make a purchase or complete a purchase or transaction.

An example of this would be: “Mongoose Bicycle”.

Notice how sponsored shopping ads are being displayed, followed by organic results of websites that sell Mongoose bicycles. Google understands based on the history that users that type this query in, people are typically looking to make a purchase.

Now that we know what Informational & Transactional mean, why is this important for SEO?

To effectively write content that can perform well in the SERPS it is imperative to know user intent. This is essentially Google telling you the type of content that must be written to have a chance at success.

Using the example above for “mongoose bicycle”. By taking a look at the organic listings I can immediately tell this is transactional so I will want to make sure the copy I create is written to focus on a consumer who is looking to make a purchase instead of simply writing about the history of the mongoose bicycle.

There are other clues that you can take from the organic listings as well that help in answering users questions:

Notice how Google displays types of bikes, prices, reviews, & parts. Knowing that Google is connecting those terms with the main topic, I want to make sure in my writing, I talk about those descriptors.

4. How Comprehensive Is My Topic?

As mentioned above, when creating content you want to make it so helpful that Google has no option but to rank you because you have covered this topic better than anyone else.

Based on this you need to know how comprehensive a particular topic is. One of the best ways of researching this is to analyze the Page 1 organic listings and identify the length of their text. I then average out the length of that copy.

How do find this?

While there are several tools that do this, my favorite is SEMRush’s SEO Content Template.

After inputting a primary topic or keyword, SEMRush does most of the work for you. They scan the top 10 ranking sites and spit out the average text length.

While this is not a hard and fast metric, it should be used as a directional metric.

This is helpful because if the Top 10 ranking sites average text length is 3000 words and I write a piece of content that is 400 words, there is a good chance Google won’t view my coverage of the topic as comprehensive enough.

This can sometimes be construed the opposite though as well. It also doesn’t mean that by writing 10,000 words you will be viewed as the best.

Make sure you try to answer the user intent and do so as thoroughly as possible.

5. What’s Your Unique Value?

The last step in developing your content strategy for individual page optimization is identifying your unique value.

  • What have the top sites failed to cover?
  • Where have they covered but not extensively enough?
  • Could the reader benefit from seeing visuals within the copy to better understand?
  • Do you have a special understanding of a topic better than most where you can give more insight than a layman?

There are many scenarios where one could cover the same topic as many others but tie in their unique value.

Unfortunately, there are no magic tools that do this for you. One must analyze by manually reviewing the competing pages to find those opportunities or gaps.

But finding your unique value is the difference between everyone else and the best in class.

How do you make content SEO Friendly?

Now that you have researched and developed the pre-planning strategy of your content, now comes the actual writing.

There are 6 steps you will want to follow to make sure your content is written with search engine optimization in mind:

Step 1: Create a catchy Title (Headline) that incorporates your primary keyword

Not all Titles are created equal. Outside of the content itself, a quality headline is arguably the biggest difference between successful engagement and a flopper.

This is the first thing that a user will see when performing a search. In fact, on average 5 Times as many people read the headline as the body copy.

Best practice is to try to incorporate your primary keyword towards the front of your Title if at all possible.

The Title should be no longer than 600 Pixels in length. (if you use WordPress and have Yoast installed they tell you this when creating the page. If you don’t have WordPress, I’d recommend using the Moz Title Tag Preview Tool.)

It takes time to write an engaging headline. One of the fastest ways to do this is to use the Coschedule Headline Analyzer.

After inputting your Title, it will score your text and provide suggestions on how to make it better.

Do this until you have found a winning combination and achieved at least a score of 80 or higher if possible.

Step 2: Write a compelling meta description

A meta description is used to summarize the content of a page. Search engines typically show the meta description as a snippet of text in the results pages.

While not a direct search engine ranking factor, meta descriptions are vital to gaining high click-through-rates from the SERPs.

It is a best practice to try to incorporate your primary keyword(s) within the description in a natural, non-spammy way. Always ask yourself, is this how a person would talk? If no, you might want to consider writing it more instinctive way.

While Google can truncate your snippet, it is also recommended to try and stay below 300 characters.

One way to test or preview a meta description is to use Portent’s handy SERP Preview Tool:

You simply enter in your description idea and see how it fits character wise and also looks in the preview.

Step 3: Write the Content using your pre-planned outline

This step is pretty self-explanatory. This is where you actually write the content using all of the elements you previously gathered in your analysis.

I find it helpful to just write and once I feel like I have covered the topic completely, then go back and edit where necessary.

You don’t want to feel too boxed in and have it alter your creative freedom.

Step 4: Make sure your Content answers your audience’s questions

Briefly discussed in the content strategy above, you want to make sure your content answers the common questions your audience might have.

Incorporating this ensures your copy is comprehensive in nature.

So, how do you find this?

There are many tools to help, but I’m going to give you the few that I use based on personal preference:

  • Google – The first thing I do is type in my primary keyword(s). At the bottom of the results you will see a section titled “Searches related to”
  • Google – The second thing I look for is to see if that same results page has a section called: “People also ask”
  • Ahrefs Keyword Explorer – There are many keyword research tools available but I tend to lean towards Ahrefs. If you enter a keyword and click on “questions”, they will provide you a list of the search queries that include the primary term you entered.

Once I have the common questions, I look to ensure my content has answers to the most common questions related to my topic.

Step 5: Incorporate semantic keywords to enrich your text

When it comes to “search”, semantic essentially means related. As it relates to the contextual meaning of a word.

From an SEO perspective, having semantically related terms to your “primary keyword(s)” helps provide a more connected and complete understanding of your topic.

So how do you do this?

By now the content should be written. This is important because to get the most accurate data back, you want to analyze the copy you just wrote against the copy of the top ranking websites for your primary keyword(s).

There are several great tools you can use to do this, but I tend to use Ryte’s Content Success tool.

If you click on “optimize your content” you can literally enter in all the copy you wrote and specify your primary keyword and Ryte will do the analysis for you based off researching the top ranking sites.

It will tell you what keywords to incorporate more within your text, which ones to reduce, and which ones to remove altogether.

As you update your copy you can continuously re-check for completeness. While this doesn’t guarantee you will rank, it helps ensure your content is topically in-line with your competitors.

Step 6: Review the final content to ensure its readability

The final step is to look at your content from a subjective point of view. If you were to come across this content, how easy would it be to read?

Have you checked for:

  • Grammatical errors
  • Spelling errors
  • Sentence structure
  • Etc.

The question you must ask yourself is, is your content fitting for your target audience?


Writing effective SEO content takes thorough analysis &  planning. But when done properly, the results speak for themselves. Take the extra time to do it right because releasing low-quality or thin content that doesn’t provide value only hurts your site in the long run.

Happy writing!

SEO Writing: Creating SEO Friendly Content in 6 Easy Steps was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing