Last Minute Holiday Survival Checklist for the Digital Marketer
The holidays are already here or at least they certainly are when it comes to your budget and campaign strategies. The time to plan for holiday season campaigns is giving way to the timeline for implementation and final optimization.
If you’re feeling behind, here’s a list to help with merriment across your marketing team this holiday season. Even if you’re not in the retail sector, it’s worth checking this list twice and heeding some advice from some experts Josh Thompson, Senior Social Media Strategist, and Max Trotter, PPC Strategist.
Refine, Clarify, and Tune Your Budgets
If you have extra budget, define now how much extra you’re willing to invest in campaigns that perform well. It’s also important to identify how much you want to risk on ad copy tests that might not pan out as planned. A few questions to ask:
Brand vs. Non-Brand Spending
- Talk with your paid advertising specialist and ask: How much campaign spending should be dedicated to brand vs. competitive non-brand terms on key dates?
“If you’re going to spend on anything, it should be brand keywords. It’s more important than ever to protect your brand name during this season, when there are so many bottom-of-funnel purchases,” says Max Trotter. “If you can afford to bid on brand and non-brand, then do it. Right now, you’ll have the highest conversion rate and chance of engaging long-term customers.”
Budget Increases for High Performers
What percentage are you willing to increase your budget if the return on ad spend (ROAS) is performing well?
“Don’t leave money on the table. Most importantly, be ready to be flexible and be aware of your campaign performance,” says Max Trotter. “If daily spend was set at $2,000, ROI is positive, and the campaign is gaining traction with customers, why would you stop now? And if it’s not performing well, then don’t push it harder. Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean you have to spend more.”
Similarly, if you underspend, where do you want the additional budget to go? If you slightly overspend, where could that budget be pulled from?
General Rules for Holiday Budget Changes
Plan to increase your remarketing budget and engage past customers or users who have already have a touch point with your brand. Consider shifting your prospecting and remarketing breakdown from 80% prospecting and 20% remarketing to 65% prospecting and 35% remarketing.
Prioritize Home and Landing Page Changes for Holiday
Dead end homepage takeovers, isolated campaign landing pages, and microsites are about as helpful to your users as an ugly Christmas sweater. Sure, promote product specials, sales, discounts, and events, but make sure everyone has a pathway to get back to your primary content and products too. This is still a time to build brand affinity, and you don’t want to lose an opportunity by directing a user to a disconnected experience. Attract their attention, but tastefully and simply.
If you plan to make any last significant changes to your top landing pages this season, don’t forget to:
- Test the promotional experience and watch colleagues test it.
- “Watch for friction points,” says Josh Thompson. “Checkout using a promotion should be as seamless as possible. If you can, use links that apply discounts automatically at checkout to keep the user engaged.”
- Ensure priority pages are being indexed by Google and Bing by submitting it to Search Console. If your user can’t get to a landing page again by searching for it, they’ll get frustrated.
- Plan in time to test and troubleshoot any new functionality.
- Closely coordinate campaign launch timing, so there isn’t a disconnect between ad copy or email content and what users find on different sections of your site.
- “Use an optimized landing page linked from the homepage to promote a sale. And on products pages add links to specials page,” recommends Max Trotter. “Create a connected experience around the highest potential pages for conversion.”
- Ensure your site and especially new pages are as optimized as possible – you have about 3 seconds to capture someone’s attention. Use this developer-facing checklist to triage your site.
Be bright and engaging for the season, but clear. Prioritize content for your site and your paid campaigns that will answer your user’s questions and keep them engaged while they are busy this holiday season.
Write and Evaluate Your Content Now
Bring some holiday cheer to your product messaging: Even if your business doesn’t have a big, competitive promotion, you can still garner attention with holiday-themed ad copy.
- “If your generic ad is sandwiched between more relevant, seasonal ads, you might lose that potential customer,” warns Max Trotter.
- Use Google Analytics to keep an eye on what content is engaging your users, then prioritize edits for those pages.
- Make sure landing pages are optimized for topics, not only specific keywords. You’ll show up in the SERP when it matters most for brand visibility and conversions.
- Update metadata to align with the new content, sending a signal to Google and searchers about what’s on your landing pages. A helpful, relevant meta description can attract a busy potential customer to your site over a competitor’s.
- Employ a tool like Grammarly or Hemingway to avoid any embarrassing typos in your new content or changing ad copy
- And Keep your paid campaign content simple and connected to your landing page content.
And on that last point: “Don’t include discount codes in your ad copy. Promote the offer and give customers the right link that applies a discount at checkout.” Josh Thompson reminds us. “You can’t copy and paste from a Facebook ad. Keep thinking about having the least amount of friction as possible in your user experience. People are going to make a purchase during this season. If they don’t have time for you, they will buy from someone else.”
Know What You Want for Christmas
Keep your Goals and KPIs top-of-mind when making decisions about campaign changes. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the holiday hustle and bustle and say “yes” to too many opportunities, campaigns or last minute changes.
- Double check your progress and trends in Google Analytics, Google Ads, Bing Ads, and keyword tracking tools.
- Watch for red flags but don’t get too distracted. Focused effort during this influx of traffic and final stretch toward year-end goals and influx of traffic can help you clearly identify new campaign, testing, and budget opportunities for the New Year.
- Check in weekly to identify barriers to progress. Stay focused on your primary goals and the steps you and your team need to take to meet them.
- “With paid social, it’s OK to push the budget threshold, but don’t make changes too frequently,” says Josh Thompson. “You need to give the Facebook algorithm time to optimize. Make a change once and a maximum of twice during a busy campaign day. Over-optimizing hurts way more than it helps.”
- “For PPC, changing bids once a week is ideal, unless the campaign is spending insane amounts of money,” says Max Trotter. “You need to take time for more analysis and informed decisions before bid shifts.”
- Celebrate successes along the way. Keeping teams and partners motivated during the holiday season can take extra effort. Over communication and recognition about the impact of their time and energy on progress toward goals is always worth the time.
Keep The Lights On
No matter how much you plan for every scenario, there’s always the potential for technology or human error that could have a dramatic effect on your site or campaign platform.
- Find out who’s on call from your team, your agencies and your development and hosting partners? Make sure everyone on your team has the contact list and knows who’s responsible for each channel and solution. The last thing you want on a busy holiday is confusion about who’s in charge and who can make a final decision.
- Create a backup plan for when the site or server goes down. This approach should be consistent across site sections and platforms so users don’t get confused by mixed messages or changing landing pages.
- Build a checklist of campaigns to be paused if issues arise with site performance. There’s no need to burn budget or frustrate your audience by directing them to a page that’s not functioning properly. Save money and customer service inquiries by taking swift action and communicating clearly through these pauses.
You can survive the holiday season, learn about your customers, and achieve your goals. Clarity and over-communication with your teams about expectations will always make the difference when roadblocks and distractions arise. I hope this checklist is a good starting point for your marketing team and collaboration with an agency this holiday season.
The post Last Minute Holiday Survival Checklist for the Digital Marketer appeared first on Portent.
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Amazon Stores: Benefits and Tradeoffs to Building One For Your Brand
Amazon recently announced an entire blog dedicated to its “Amazon Stores” feature, which made us think it’s the right time to give this brand outpost more thought. Amazon Stores is an interesting concept in that advertisers, who are historically faceless and arguably commoditized on Amazon now have the opportunity and a dedicated space within this vast site to tell shoppers why their brand is one worth remembering.
At the surface, this seems like a fantastic, benevolent move by Amazon, and it’s a great opportunity for individual brands or even multi-brand retailers to tell their story to one of the largest shopping audiences in the world.
But it doesn’t come without effort, and there are real tradeoffs to consider.
Should I Set Up An Amazon Store?
If you aren’t currently selling your products on Amazon and you can barely wrangle the content on your website and your paid, owned, and earned channels, you should probably stop there until you get those aspects of your digital presence in a solid place.
If you feel like you do have a good grasp on your content already and want to use your resources to expand your brand name via Amazon, we definitely recommend looking into Amazon Stores. These multi-layered mini websites are free, self-controlled, and fairly easy to create. They roughly mirror the merchandising and positioning opportunity of a brand’s own site, and much like a good branded e-commerce site, they offer the ease of a streamlined online shopping experience.
Considerations and Guidance If You’re Going to Create an Amazon Store
You MUST Put Time and Thought Into It
If you decide to create an Amazon Store, it’s yet another place you have to build a thoughtful presence. And developing the right positioning and messaging for any specific channel takes time and effort.
This is not a place to copy and paste the masthead paragraph from your home page. Nor should you put an intern to the task of imagining what this new store should look like.
Many brand owners fall into the trap of thinking I must be on this platform just because it exists, even if I don’t have time to manage it. Think about social media. How many businesses have you seen create a Facebook page only to stop publishing for months on end? Oftentimes, these are businesses that shouldn’t even have a Facebook page in the first place. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Facebook updates from my dentist. I go twice a year and that’s all the contact that I need.
The same thing applies to Amazon Stores. Just because everyone’s doing it, doesn’t mean you should jump on the bandwagon. Make sure it makes sense for your brand, that you already have enough products on Amazon to make this worthwhile, and that you have the bandwidth and resources to properly create your store.
As a marketer or business owner, there’s a lot to accomplish every single day. Adding more content creation and ongoing upkeep or governance into the mix could be more than your team can realistically handle right now. Or worse, you may stretch yourself too thin to get this new platform launched and let overall quality suffer. That’s certainly not a guarantee, but it’s a real consideration.
If creating an Amazon Store lines up with your business goals and it’s high on your priority list, consider doing the following before you set out:
- See if your competitors have Amazon Stores
- Research other brands’ stores. To determine if a brand has an Amazon store, go to https://www.amazon.com /brandname. For example, https://www.amazon.com/Guess/. Note: Currently, there isn’t a way to find these just by browsing
- Meet with your team and determine how many resources you will need
- Estimate how much time setting up and maintaining the store will take
- Evaluate whether you have the expertise to optimize this content for user experience and discoverability in-house, or if you’ll need an agency partner
Be realistic about what you can accomplish. Building a store may look simpler than it actually is. You don’t need to have any coding skills, but if you want to do it well, it’s not as straightforward as plugging in a few images and product descriptions.
Create Unique Content
Content and SEO 101: It’s important that you create unique content for your Amazon Store.
Beyond concerns about accidentally causing Amazon to outrank you for your own brand terms (more below) one of the big reasons unique content is a requirement here is that Amazon has certain rules for Brand Stores as well as individual products, and how they evaluate content.
In order to maintain consistency across a huge number of businesses clamoring to sell within their marketplace, Amazon imposes strict guidelines on what you say, how you say it, and where you say it. Just like any setup of an online marketplace, you have to think about strict page templates, unique fulfillment considerations, and any specific user guidelines.
According to an article on Digiday about the challenges of selling on Amazon, one marketer expressed the following concern:
“There are mixed feelings at the top whether we use it as a customer brand awareness platform. One thing is photography. To put a product on Amazon, we have to reshoot it specifically for them.”
At first glance, it may seem easy to upload a few product photos, but be cautious that you’ll need to build in extra time to do it within Amazon’s guidelines.
Duplicate Content and Amazon Stores
Another reason why you want to create unique content is to avoid duplicate content issues. If you’re a marketer strapped for time, it would be easy to take copy from your website and paste it into your Amazon Store, but this is a not a good idea.
Requisite PSA for folks reading this post who are totally unfamiliar with SEO: duplicate content is bad. To grossly oversimplify, if a search engine sees duplicate content on two or more sites it has to make a decision about which site to show in search results. Or worse, the search engine could perceive malicious intent from the duplicate content and actually penalize the site they perceive to be in the wrong. For more on this, here’s a great exploration of duplicate content considerations.
Chances are that you don’t have a higher domain authority than Amazon. This means that for any search (non-branded OR branded) there’s a risk that Google will show a link from Amazon, leaving you suddenly competing against yourself in the SERPs.
Think About Which Parts of Your Brand Story to Tell Fast-Moving Shoppers
If executed correctly, Amazon Stores allows you to tell your brand story in a way that you weren’t previously able to on the platform.
It also gives you the time and precious real-estate to tell your brand story in an otherwise transactional environment, and to provide those conversion points a little lower down the page. However, It’s important to think about what aspects of your story are actually going to hook consumers who are looking to purchase a product immediately.
For example, will your brand story tell users why your product is higher-quality or more reliable or will it tell a compelling personal story?
Let’s look at TOMS as an example:
Their backstory is a huge part of their brand and why people would buy their shoes vs. a competitor’s. Their Amazon Store allows them to both tell consumers what they’re about, as well as merchandising their products without rushing to get the conversion.
Again, notice that TOMS doesn’t just dive into the products right away. You have to scroll through some of their lifestyle and positioning imagery before you get to the individual products.
This isn’t a prescription, but it’s a good lesson. You need to think through what specific facets of your brand make sense to showcase in this specific channel.
What route you choose to go will likely depend on whether your brand is well-known and whether you have a truly compelling story behind it. Not everyone has such a feel good, purposeful marketing story as TOMS. But that’s okay. If your biggest differentiator is that you have high-quality products that far outlast your competitors’, then you should showcase that in your Amazon Store. Reading reviews that discuss product details such as durability and other parts of product quality is commonplace on Amazon, so telling a story with that angle could really work in your favor.
Before diving too deep into how you want to tell your story, we recommend starting at a few of the following places:
- Your products.
- Your competitors’ related products.
- Common questions.
Determine which products you want to highlight and include in your store
Look at your competitors and determine whether or not they have a store. If so, how are they writing about their products and their brand?
Determine what questions real shoppers are asking and then answer some of those questions in the copy in your Amazon Store. These questions indicate what customers care about
Pro-Tip: You MUST Properly Label and Organize Your Navigation
We advise most of our clients who sell on Amazon to not use a standard eCommerce navigation in their Amazon Store. You should avoid “Solutions” “Products,” “Wholesale,” etc. Amazon is singularly focused on selling products and your navigation should reflect that.
At Portent, we often talk about the importance of descriptive navigation. For example, if your site sells yoga gear, it’s better to label your navigation “yoga gear” than “products.” This not only helps with SEO, it makes for a richer, more intuitive user experience on your website.
Although we can’t claim to know whether navigational labels affect Amazon’s A9 search algorithm, it still makes for a better and more intuitive user experience.
This may be tough to visualize in writing. Let’s take a look at another example from Listerine:
Their navigational labels are clear and to the point, which makes it easy to browse. Users know exactly where they’ll land when they click on “Floss.”
Notice that their Amazon Store’s navigational labels are different than their website’s. For example, instead of having a label for “Products” or “Gums & Gum Disease,” they have labels such as “Classic Mouthwash” and “Extra Benefits Mouthwash,” which showcases the products and gets right to the point.
You can also use your navigation to push seasonal products.
Maybelline created a seasonal nav label for Halloween called “Halloween Looks.” From there, they were able to create an immersive online shopping experience that not only featured products, but step-by-step directions on how to do your makeup for Halloween.
However, it’s important that you update your navigation. At the initial time of writing this blog post, they still had the Halloween nav item up, some days after the relevant window had passed. Make sure that if you change your store seasonally, you don’t set it and forget it!
It’s impossible to ignore Amazon’s reach and the potential business you can bring in for your brand. However, that doesn’t mean that creating another brand outpost (an Amazon-based microsite with your own copy and content) is right for everyone. We hope you’ll carefully consider some of the points above about what it takes to get this brand outpost “right” before making a decision. And of course let us know if you decide to create an Amazon Store for your brand and want to share that experience in the comments.
The post Amazon Stores: Benefits and Tradeoffs to Building One For Your Brand appeared first on Portent.
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How to: Check Your Site For Spam Links Using Screaming Frog
I have this friend. Some neanderthal hacked their site and sprayed spam links all over their blog, 2008-style.
So this friend had two problems:
- Find all the spam links
- Detect new spam links as they occur
I My friend came up with a relatively simple process using ScreamingFrog. Here it is:
Yeah, yeah, it was us. I won’t detail how. It’s embarrassing, and I don’t want to get beat up on the nerd playground.
This process uses Screaming Frog. You can use another crawler, but Screaming Frog is a bucket of awesome.
Here’s what you’ll do:
- Crawl your site
- Clean up the bad links
- Do a “clean crawl”
- A few days/weeks later, do a new crawl and compare that to the previous one, looking for new, suspicious links
- Repeat 2 and 3
Step 1: Crawl
First, crawl your site:
- Open Screaming Frog (I know, I know, it’s obvious, but I like to be comprehensive in my step-by-step).
- Click Configuration >> Spider
- Make sure ‘Follow External “nofollow”’ is not checked.
- Optional: If your site has tens of thousands or more pages, and your computer has a solid state drive, consider going to Configuration >> System >> Storage and switching to Database Storage.
- Start your crawl. If you have a big site, have a coffee or something. Your computer’s fan may start to shriek in protest. It’s OK. Just keep a fire extinguisher handy.
- Set up an exclusion filter. See “Set Up An Exclusion Filter,” below.
- Save the completed crawl. Your computer worked hard. It’s the least you can do.
Set Up An Exclusion Filter
Most crawls generate a long list of external links. You can make life easier by filtering out links to Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. In theory, links to those sites are legitimate. A good filter is a sanity-saver. It can reduce the list of links you have to review by 70–80%. Screaming Frog has a handy exclusion tool for that very purpose.
- In Screaming Frog, click Configuration >> Exclude
- Type whatever URLs you want to exclude
Screaming Frog’s filter uses regular expressions. Here’s what our regex genius, Matthew Henry, came up with:
https?://(?:[^/.]+.)*domainname.com/.* will filter www.domainname.com and domainname.com.
https?://(?:[^/.]+.)*twitter.com/.* filters out https://www.twitter.com/whatever and https://twitter.com/whatever
Here’s how the exclusion filter looks once you’ve entered a few domains:
You can use the “Test” tab to see whether your filter works.
You can see our filter list here. If you want to, download it, copy it, and paste it right into the Exclude field. Note this list is perfect for us, but you’ll need to customize yours over time. Or live with a less-relevant exclusion filter based on our outgoing link profile.
Save your exclusion filter!!! You’re going to run regular crawls. Save the filter. Don’t lose it.
What You’ve Got
With the crawl complete, you’ve got a complete list of external links, minus the filtered domains. Click the “External Links” tab, and you’ll see something like this:
Time to get to work.
Step 2: Clean Up The Bad Links
You’re going to have to look at all those links.
In case you’re wondering, yes, that’s hellaciously tedious. We tried all kinds of automation. None of it was accurate, and we need as close to 100% accuracy as possible. We forged ahead. You will, too.
Don’t give up. After this first cleanup, you can automate detection.
- In the External Links tab, clean things up a bit. Look to the right of the column labels. Click the “+” sign.
- I always uncheck “Content,” “Status,” and “Crawl Depth.” It makes skimming through the links easier and keeps your exports cleaner.
- Start scrolling through the list of links.
- As you scroll, look at the info pane at the bottom left of Screaming Frog.
The info pane shows the link type, the source page, and the target. It also shows (and this is important) the anchor and ALT text. Look at those, and the spam jumps out at you. Look at this example:
That’s a link from the HTML version of Conversation Marketing. It points to Cooper.com. The anchor text is “Cooper.com.” I was suspicious, but a glance at the “from” page showed it was legit. We sifted through all the links, looking for:
- Moronic anchor text
- Links to irrelevant content. You can usually figure that out by looking at the source and destination URLs
- Links to SEO agencies we didn’t recognize
By the way, if you’re an SEO agency, don’t hack other marketing companies’ sites for links. It’s like jacking a police car full of angry, mace-bearing trainees all anxious to prove themselves. There are only a couple of endings. None are good for you. The only reason I’m not listing you all in this post and subscribing your webmaster address to every porn site on the internet is the very, very slim chance someone else placed these links.
When you find a spam link, note the “From” page. That’s the linking page on your site—you’ll go there to delete the link. Now, remove all those links! It’s very satisfying.
Here are three of the links we caught, and why:
- A link to another SEO agency pointed at www.agencyname.com/seo-[city] page with the anchor text “SEO-[cityname]” from a 2014 blog post about SEO analytics. It made zero sense. That was easy.
- A link to a greeting card company (?!!!) from a blog post about digital marketing strategy to the “leaving cards” page on their site with the anchor text “leaving cards.” Okaaaayyyy.
- A link to an SEO agency with the anchor text “[city in Australia] SEO.” I’m sure [city] is beautiful, but we’d use better anchor text than that if we suddenly decided to start reviewing Australian SEO agencies.
Why Not Use Link Data?
You can use the link metrics provided by tools like Moz, ahrefs, and Majestic to score the spamminess of a link. That can save you oodles of time, and we tried it. We discovered that many of the target pages appeared legitimate — for example, one of the links we found pointed at a site with a spam score of 1%.
If a spam link points at a perfectly normal page, link metrics won’t flag it.
Step 2a (Optional): Update Your Exclusion List
If you find many external links to a single legitimate domain, add that domain to your exclusion list. It’ll make future crawls and reviews easier, and keep crawl files under control.
After our first review, we copied all domains we knew were OK, used some search-and-replace, and added those domains to our exclusion list. It cut the next crawl export in half.
What You’ve Got
You now have a clean site. You can do a clean crawl.
Step 3: Run and save another crawl
Now, run another crawl using the same exclusion filter. You saved the filter, right?
Once the crawl’s done:
- Clean things up a bit. Look to the right of the column labels. Click the “+” sign.
- Uncheck everything except “Address.”
- Click the “Export” button. It’s next to the Filter drop-down. Save the result.
I convert the result from a csv to a text file. It’s a one-column list. Why get complicated?
You’ll compare your next crawl to this one and never, ever have to hand-review thousands of links again.
Step 4: Run A New Crawl And Compare
Run a new crawl and save it, just as you did in Step 3. I keep my old crawls and organize files by date. Compulsive. I know.
Now for the fun part! You’re going to compare the most recent crawl to the new one, looking for new links. Don’t fret — you don’t have to do this by hand. While computers suck at finding spam links, they excel at finding differences between files.
Tons of tools let you compare files. If you want something simple, I like Mergely.
Here’s what a comparison of the last and latest crawls looks like in Mergely:
The highlighted line is a new link. Easy!
Mergely might bog down with humungous files, though.
So I use the command line. On Linux, this command works like a charm:
‘comm –13 [oldfile] [newfile]’
That command compares oldfile to newfile, showing new stuff in newfile. Try File Compare (FC) on Windows. Your results may vary.
Here’s what a comparison of the last and latest crawls looks like in comm:
It’s fussier than Mergely, so you may get some false positives.
Review any new links. If they’re spam, you know what to do.
This is an excellent time to update your exclusion filter, too. See Step 2a, above.
Step 5: Repeat
Save the last crawl as your new baseline. When you run the next crawl, you’ll compare it to the last one. And so on. Repeat steps 3–5 as desired.
I run crawls every two to three weeks. If you have a faster-growing site, run crawls more often. It’ll make step 5 easier by reducing potential differences and delivering shorter lists of new links.
Our site is about 5700 pages. With the exclusion filter, our crawl generated a list of 2300 links. Hand-reviewing those isn’t all that bad. I divided it into chunks of 100, passed them around the office, and we finished reasonably quickly. If your site is millions of pages, you may need to use a crawler like Deepcrawl or OnCrawl.
You may need to look at machine learning as a spam link detection tool (there I said “machine learning” so this is now a legitimate marketing article). However, machine learning gets sticky when you’re sniffing for spam links that point at not-spammy pages.
Is all this work worth it?
Google won’t penalize you for trash links pointing to other sites. Probably. The linked sites don’t benefit from these links. Much.
It boils down to pettiness. I’m a petty person. I have an intense hatred of sleaze. Every spammer we found had “acquired” links from other sites. We contacted all those site owners. Then we reported every linked site to Google.
I have no idea if it’ll have an impact. But I sure feel better.
The post How to: Check Your Site For Spam Links Using Screaming Frog appeared first on Portent.
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