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Why I Spent $500,000 Buying a Blog That Generates No Revenue

Why I Spent $500,000 Buying a Blog That Generates No Revenue

neil patel
(If you are wondering, the image of me above was taken when I used to work at KISSmetrics with Hiten Shah… I used to have hair)

In early January 2017, I purchased the KISSmetrics website for $500,000.

If you go to the site, you’ll notice that it forwards here to NeilPatel.com (which I will get into later in the post).

The $500,000 didn’t get me the company, KISSmetrics, or any of the revenue streams. The parent company, Space Pencil, is continually improving and developing the product.

And on top of that, there are restrictions. I can’t just pop up a competing company or any company on the KISSmetrics site.

So why did they sell me the domain? And why would I pay $500,000 for it?

I can’t fully answer why they sold it, but I do know a lot of their customers came from word of mouth, conferences, paid ads, and other forms of marketing that didn’t include SEO or content marketing.

For that reason, the domain probably wasn’t as valuable to them as it was to me. And of course, who wouldn’t want extra cash?

I’m assuming they are very calculated because they are an analytics company, so they probably ran the numbers on how much revenue the inbound traffic was generating them and came to the conclusion that the $500,000 price tag seemed worth it.

Now, before I get into why I spent $500,000 on the domain, let me first break down my thought process as I am buying out a lot of properties in the marketing space (more to be announced in the future).

Why am I buying sites that aren’t generating revenue?

This wasn’t the first or the last site that I’ll buy in the space.

I recently blogged about how I bought Ubersuggest. And it wasn’t generating a single dollar in revenue.

Well technically, there were ads on the site, but I quickly killed those off.

And eventually, I ported it over to NeilPatel.com.

When I am looking at sites to buy, I am only looking for 1 thing… traffic. And of course, the quality (and relevancy) of that traffic.

See, I already have a revenue stream, which is my ad agency, Neil Patel Digital.

So, my goal is to find as many sites that have a similar traffic profile to NeilPatel.com and leverage them to drive my agency more leads.

How do you know you won’t lose money?

I don’t!

This approach doesn’t guarantee I’ll make more money.

I look at the business as tons of tiny experiments. You don’t build a huge business through one simple marketing strategy or tactic.

You have to combine a lot of little things to get your desired outcome.

And sometimes you’ll make mistakes along the way that will cost you money, which is fine. You have to keep one thing in mind… without testing, you won’t be big.

With my ad agency, we tend to mainly have U.S. clients. Yes, we serve other regions as well… for example, we have an ad agency in Brazil.

neil patel brazil

But I myself mainly focus on driving traffic to the U.S. ad agency, and the other teams just replicate as I don’t speak Portuguese, German, or any of the required languages for the other regions we are in.

So, when I buy companies, I look for traffic that is ideally in the U.S.

Sure, the ad agency can work with companies in Australia, Canada, and even the United Kingdom, but it’s tough.

There’s a huge difference in currency between Australia and the U.S. and the same goes for Canada.

And with the U.K. there is a 5 to 8-hour time zone difference, which makes it a bit more difficult to communicate with clients.

That’s why when I buy a site, I’m ideally looking for U.S. traffic.

When I bought Ubersuggest it had very little U.S. traffic. Indonesia and India were the two most popular regions.

But I bought it because I knew I could build a much better tool and over time grow the U.S. traffic by doing a few email blasts, getting on Product Hunt, and by creating some press.

And I have…

ubersuggest traffic

As you can see from the screenshot above, U.S. is the most popular region followed by India and Brazil.

Over time it shouldn’t be too difficult to 3 or even 4x that number as long as I release more features.

Now, my costs on Ubersuggest have gotten into the 6 figures per month, and I am not generating any income from it.

There is no guarantee that it will generate any revenue, but I have a pretty effective sales funnel, which I will share later in the post. Because of that sales funnel my risk with Ubersuggest is pretty low.

As long as I can grow the traffic enough, I should be able to monetize.

What about KISSmetrics?

As for KISSmetrics, I mainly bought the domain for the blog traffic.

During its peak it was generating 1,260,681 unique visitors per month:

kissmetrics peak

By the time I bought the blog, traffic had dropped to 805,042 unique visitors per month:

kissmetrics purchase

That’s a 36% drop in traffic. Ouch!

And then to make matters worse, I decided that I wanted to cut the traffic even more.

There were so many articles on KISSmetrics that were outdated and irrelevant, so I had no choice but to cut them.

For example, there were articles about Vine (which Twitter purchased and killed), Google Website Optimizer (no longer exists), Mob Wars (a Facebook game that no longer exists)… and the list goes on and on.

In addition to that, I knew that I could never monetize irrelevant traffic. Yes, more traffic is good, but only as long as it is relevant.

I instantly cut the KISSmetrics blog in half by “deleting” over 1,024 blog posts. Now, I didn’t just delete them, I made sure I added 301 redirects to the most relevant pages here on NeilPatel.com.

Once I did that, my traffic dropped again. I was now sitting at 585,783 unique visitors a month.

kissmetrics drop

It sucks, but it had to be done. The last thing I wanted to do was spend time and money maintaining old blog posts that would never drive a dollar in revenue.

I knew that if someone was going to come to my blog to research Vine, there was little to no chance that the person would convert into a 6-figure consulting contract.

After I pruned and cropped the KISSmetrics blog, I naturally followed the same path of Ubersuggest and merged it in to NeilPatel.com.

The merge

The KISSmetrics merge was a bit more complicated than Ubersuggest.

With Ubersuggest, I didn’t have a keyword research tool on NeilPatel.com, so all I had to do was slap on a new design, add a feature or two, and port it over.

With KISSmetrics, a lot of the content was similar to NeilPatel.com. For the ones that were similar, I kept the NeilPatel.com version considering this blog generates more traffic than the KISSmetrics one.

As for all of the content that was unique and different, I ended up moving it over and applying 301 redirects.

If I decided to skip the pruning and cropping stage that I described above, the KISSmetrics blog would have had more traffic. And when I merged it in with NeilPatel.com I would have done even better.

But in marketing you can can’t focus on vanity metrics like how many more unique visitors you are getting per month. You need to keep your eye on the prize.

And for me, that’s leads.

The more leads I generate for my ad agency, the more likely I’ll increase my revenue.

Here’s my lead count for the weeks prior to the KISSmetrics merge:

hubspot leads

When looking at the table above, keep in mind it shows leads from the U.S. only.

The KISSmetrics blog was merged on the 25th. When you add up all of the numbers from the previous week, there were 469 leads in total, of which 61 were marketing qualified leads.

That means there were 61 leads that the sales reps were able to contact as the vast majority of leads are companies that are too small for us to service.

When you look at the week of the 25th, there were a total of 621 leads. 92 where marketing qualified leads.

Just from that one acquisition, I was able to grow my marketing qualified leads by 50.8%. 🙂

I know what you are thinking though. The week after the 25th (7/2) the leads tanked again. Well, you have to keep in mind that the table only shows leads from the U.S. and during that week there was a national holiday, the 4th of July. So, leads were expected to be low.

But still, even with the holiday, we generated 496 leads, 68 of which where marketing qualified. We still generated more marketing qualified leads than when we didn’t have the KISSmetrics traffic.

The early results show that this is going to work out (or so I hope). If you ever want to consider buying up sites that aren’t generating revenue, you need to know your numbers like the back of your hand.

My sales funnel

Some of you are probably wondering how I promote my agency from this site. As I mentioned earlier, I will share my funnel and stats with you.

The way I monetize the traffic is by collecting leads (and my sales reps turn those leads into customers).

On the homepage, you will see a URL box.

neil patel homepage

Once you enter a URL, we do a quick analysis (it’s not 100% accurate all of the time).

neil patel analysis

And then we show you how many technical SEO errors you have and collect your information (this is how you become a lead).

lead form

And assuming we think you are a good fit, you see a screen that allows you to schedule a call (less than 18% of the leads see this).

schedule call

From there, someone on my team will do a discovery call with you.

Assuming things go well, a few of us internally review everything to double check we can really help, we then create projections and a presentation before pitching you for your money (in exchange for services of course).

That’s the funnel on NeilPatel.com in a nutshell… It’s pretty fine-tuned as well.

For example, when someone books a call we send them text reminders using Twilio to show up to the call as we know this increases the odds of you getting on the phone.

We even do subtle things like asking for your “work email” on the lead form. We know that 9 out 10 leads that give us a Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, or any other non-work email are typically not qualified.

And it doesn’t stop there… there are lead forms all over NeilPatel.com for this same funnel.

If you are reading a blog post like this, you’ll see a bar at the top that looks something like:

exit popup

Or if you are about to exit, you will see an exit popup that looks like:

exit popup

You’ll even see a thank you page that promotes my ad agency once you opt-in:

video thanks

And if I don’t convince you to reach out to us for marketing help right then and there, you’ll also receive an email or two from me about my ad agency.

As you can see, I’ve fine-tuned my site for conversions.

So much so, that every 1,000 unique visitors from the U.S. turns into 4.4 leads. And although that may not seem high, keep in mind that my goal isn’t to get as many leads as possible. I’m optimizing for quality over quantity as I don’t want to waste the time of my sales team.

For example, I had 2 reps that had a closing ratio of 50% last month. That means for every 2 deals they pitched, 1 would sign up for a 6-figure contract, which is an extremely high closing ratio.

Hence, I am trying to focus on quality so everyone in sales can get to 50% as it makes the business more efficient and profitable.

The last thing you want to do is pay a sales rep tons of money to talk to 50 people to only find 1 qualified lead. That hurts both you and your sales reps.

Conclusion

The strategy I am using to buy websites may seem risky, but I know my numbers like the back of my hand. From an outsider’s perspective it may seem crazy, but to me, it is super logical.

And the reason I buy sites for their traffic is that I already have a working business model.

So, buying sites based on their traffic is much cheaper than buying sites for their revenue. In addition to that, my return on investment is much larger.

For example, if I wanted to buy KISSmetrics (the whole business), I would have to spend millions and millions of dollars.

I’m looking for deals, it’s how you grow faster without having to raise venture capital.

When you use this strategy, there is no guarantee you will make a return on your investment, but if you spend time understanding the numbers you can reduce your risk.

I knew that going into this KISSmetrics deal that I will generate at least an extra $500,000 in profit from this one acquisition.

Realistically it should be much more than that as the additional leads seem to be of the same quality, and the numbers are penciling out for it to add well into the millions in revenue per year.

But before you pull the trigger and buy up a few sites in your space, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:

  1. Don’t buy sites that rely on 1 traffic source – you don’t want to buy sites that only have Facebook traffic. Or even Google traffic. Ideally, any site you buy should have multiple traffic sources (other than paid ads) as it will reduce your risk in case they lose their traffic from a specific channel.
  2. Buy old sites – sites that are less than 3 years old are risky. Their numbers fluctuate more than older sites.
  3. Spend time understanding the audience – run surveys, dive deep into Google Analytics… do whatever you can to ensure that the site you are buying has an audience that is similar to your current business.
  4. Be patient and look for deals – I hit up hundreds of sites every month. Some people hate my emails and won’t give me the time of day. That’s ok. I’m a big believer and continually pushing forward until I find the right deal. I won’t spend money just because I am getting antsy.
  5. Get creative – a lot of people think their site is worth more than it really is. Try to explain to them what it is really worth using data. I also structure deals in unique ways, such as I gave KISSmetrics up to 6 months before they had to transition to a new domain (and to some extent they are still allowed to use the existing domain for their client login area). You can even work out payment plans, seller based financing, or equity deals… you just have to think outside the box.

So, what do you think about my acquisition strategy? Are you going to try it out?

The post Why I Spent $500,000 Buying a Blog That Generates No Revenue appeared first on Neil Patel.

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Faculty in the Field: Art & Visual Culture Faculty Helle Pagter Showcases Her New Documentary

Faculty in the Field: Art & Visual Culture Faculty Helle Pagter Showcases Her New Documentary

Choreographer-turned filmmaker, and also DIS Art & Visual Culture Faculty, Helle Pagter screened her documentary Travels to the Dance Within (Dansen i os) at this year’s Ballet Festival in Copenhagen.

The film follows a group of teenagers from the Royal Danish Ballet School on their journey to the Beijing Dance Academy in China. While in Beijing, the Danish and Chinese dancers learn a piece inspired by the Danish choreographer August Bournonville (1805 –1879). In order to master the Bournonville-inspired piece, the dancers work together and use creative problem-solving skills. The screening was followed by a Q&A session with Ann Crosset, the choreographer mentoring the girls in the film.

Travels to the Dance Within (Dansen i os) premiered this spring at Le FIFA in Montreal, (Festival International du Film sur l’Art) a festival dedicated exclusively to the worldwide promotion and recognition of films on art and media arts.

At DIS, Helle Pagter co-leads the European Documentary Film course. Outside of DIS, Pagter teaches at The National Danish Film School.

For more information about Travels to the Dance Within (Dansen i os).

For more information on Pagter’s DIS course.

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Writing Content That Is Too In-Depth Is Like Throwing Money Out the Window

Writing Content That Is Too In-Depth Is Like Throwing Money Out the Window

money trash

You’ve heard people telling you that you need to write in-depth content because that’s what Google wants.

And it’s true… the average page that ranks on page 1 of Google contains 1,890 words.

word count

But you already know that.

The question is, should you be writing 2,000-word articles? 5,000? Or maybe even go crazy and create ultimate guides that are 30,000 words?

What’s funny is, I have done it all.

I’ve even tested out adding custom images and illustrations to these in-depth articles to see if that helps.

And of course, I tested if having one super long page with tens of thousands of words or having multiple pages with 4,000 or 5,000 words is better.

So, what do you think? How in-depth should your content be?

Well, let’s first look at my first marketing blog, Quick Sprout.

Short articles don’t rank well

With Quick Sprout, it started off just like any normal blog.

I would write 500 to 1,000-word blog posts and Google loved me.

Just look at my traffic during January 2011.

quicksprout 2011

As you can see, I had a whopping 67,038 unique visitors. That’s not too bad.

Even with the content being short, it did fairly well on Google over the years.

But over time, more marketing blogs started to pop up, competition increased, and I had no choice but to write more detailed content.

I started writing posts that were anywhere from 1,000 to a few thousand words. When I started to do that, I was able to rapidly grow my traffic from 67,038 to 115,759 in one year.

quicksprout 2012

That’s a 72.67% increase in traffic in just 1 year.

It was one of my best years, and all I had to do was write longer content.

So naturally, I kept up with the trend and continually focused on longer content.

But as the competition kept increasing, my traffic started to stagnate, even though I was producing in-depth content.

Here are my traffic stats for November 2012 on Quick Sprout.

quicksprout 2012

I understand that Thanksgiving takes place in November, hence traffic wasn’t as high as it could be. But still, there really wasn’t any growth from January to November of 2012.

In other words, writing in-depth content that was a few thousand words max wasn’t working out.

So what next?

Well, my traffic had plateaued. I had to figure something else out.

Writing longer, more in-depth content had helped me before… so I thought, why not try the 10x formula.

I decided to create content 10 times longer, better, and more in-depth than everyone else. I was going to the extreme because I knew it would reduce the chance of others copying me.

Plus, I was hoping that you would love it as a reader.

So, on January 24, 2013, I released my first in-depth guide.

It was called The Advanced Guide to SEO.

advanced guide to seo

It was so in-depth that it could have been a book.

Literally!

Heck, some say it was even better than a book as I paid someone for custom illustration work.

Now let’s look at the traffic stats for January 2013 when I published the guide.

quicksprout 2013

As you can see my traffic really started to climb again.

I went from 112,681 visitors in November to 244,923 visitors in January. Within 2 months I grew my traffic by 117%.

That’s crazy!!!!

The only difference: I was creating content that was so in-depth that no one else dared to copy to me (at that time).

Sure, some tried and a few were able to create some great content, but it wasn’t like hundreds of competing in-depth guides were coming out each year. Not even close!

Now, when I published the guide I broke it down into multiple chapters like a book because when I tested out making it one long page, it loaded so slow that the user experience was terrible.

Nonetheless, the strategy was effective.

So what did I do next?

I created 12 in-depth guides

I partnered up with other marketers and created over 280,000 words of marketing content. I picked every major subject… from online marketing to landing pages to growth hacking.

I did whatever I could to generate the most traffic within the digital marketing space.

It took a lot of time and money to create all 12 of these guides, but it was worth it.

By January of 2014, my traffic had reached all-time highs.

quicksprout 2014

I was generating 378,434 visitors a month. That’s a lot for a personal blog on marketing.

Heck, that’s a lot for any blog.

In other words, writing 10x content that was super in-depth worked really well. Even when I stopped producing guides, my traffic, continually rose.

Here’s my traffic in January 2015:

quicksprout 2015

And here’s January 2016 for Quick Sprout:

quicksprout 2016

But over time something happened. My traffic didn’t keep growing. And it didn’t stay flat either… it started to drop.

quicksprout 2017

In 2017, my traffic dropped for the first time.

It went from 518,068 monthly visitors to 451,485. It wasn’t a huge drop, but it was a drop.

And in 2018 my traffic dropped even more:

quicksprout 2018

I saw a huge drop in 2018. Traffic went down to just 297,251 monthly visitors.

And sure, part of that is because I shifted my focus to NeilPatel.com, which has become the main place I blog now.

But it’s largely that I learned something new when building up NeilPatel.com.

Longer isn’t always better

Similar to Quick Sprout, I have in-depth guides on NeilPatel.com.

I have guides on online marketing, SEO, Google ads, Facebook ads, and the list goes on and on.

If you happened to click on any of the guides above you’ll notice that they are drastically different than the ones on Quick Sprout.

Here are the main differences:

  • No fancy design – I found with the Quick Sprout experience, people love the fancy designs, but over time content gets old and outdated. To update content when there are so many custom illustrations is tough, which means you probably won’t update it as often as you should. This causes traffic to go down over time because people want to read up-to-date and relevant information.
  • Shorter and to the point – I’ve found that you don’t need super in-depth content. The guides on NeilPatel.com rank in similar positions on Google and cap out at around 10,000 words. They are still in-depth, but I found that after 10,000 or so words there are diminishing returns.

Now let’s look at the stats.

Here’s the traffic to the advanced SEO guide on Quick Sprout over the last 30 days:

quicksprout seo guide

Over 7,842 unique pageviews. There are tons of chapters and as you can see people are going through all of them.

And now let’s look at the NeilPatel.com SEO guide:

neil patel seo guide

I spent a lot less time, energy, and money creating the guide on NeilPatel.com, yet it receives 17,442 unique pageviews per month, which is more than the Quick Sprout guide. That’s a 122% difference!

But how is that possible?

I know what you are thinking. Google wants people to create higher quality content that benefits people.

So how is it that the NeilPatel.com one ranks higher.

Is it because of backlinks?

Well, the guide on Quick Sprout has 850 referring domains:

links quicksprout

And the NeilPatel.com has 831 referring domains:

links neil patel

Plus, they have similar URL ratings and domain ratings according to Ahrefs so that can’t be it.

So, what gives?

Google is a machine. It doesn’t think with emotions, it uses logic. While we as a user look at the guide on Quick Sprout and think that it looks better and is more in-depth, Google focuses on the facts.

See, Google doesn’t determine if one article is better than another by asking people for their opinion. Instead, they look at the data.

For example, they can look at the following metrics:

  • Time on site – which content piece has a better time on site?
  • Bounce rate – which content piece has the lowest bounce rate?
  • Back button – does the article solve all of the visitors’ questions and concerns? So much so they visitor doesn’t have to hit the back button and go back to Google to find another web page?

And those are just a few things that Google looks at from their 200+ ranking factors.

Because of this, I took a different approach to NeilPatel.com, which is why my traffic has continually gone up over time.

Instead of using opinion and spending tons of energy creating content that I think is amazing, I decided to let Google guide me.

With NeilPatel.com, my articles range from 2,000 to 3,000 words. I’ve tried articles with 5,000+ words, but there is no guarantee that the more in-depth content will generate more traffic or that users will love it.

Now to clarify, I’m not trying to be lazy.

Instead, I’m trying to create amazing content while being short and to the point. I want to be efficient with both my time and your time while still delivering immense value.

Here’s the process I use to ensure I am not writing tons of content that people don’t want to read.

Be data driven

Because there is no guarantee that an article or blog post will do well, I focus on writing amazing content that is 2,000 to 3,000-words long.

I stick within that region because it is short enough where you will read it and long enough that I can go in-depth enough to provide value.

Once I release a handful of articles, I then look to see which ones you prefer based on social shares and search traffic.

Now that I have a list of articles that are doing somewhat well, I log into Google Search Console and find those URLs.

You can find a list of URLs within Google Search Console by clicking on “Search Traffic” and then “Search Analytics”.

You’ll see a screen load that looks something like this:

search console queries

From there you’ll want to click on the “pages” button. You should be looking at a screen that looks similar to this:

search console pages

Find the pages that are gaining traction based on total search traffic and social shares and then click on them (you can input URLs into Shared Count to find out social sharing data).

Once you click on the URL, you’ll want to select the “Queries” icon to see which search terms people are finding that article from.

page queries

Now go back to your article and make it more in-depth.

And when I say in-depth, I am not talking about word count like I used to focus on at Quick Sprout.

Instead, I am talking depth… did the article cover everything that the user was looking for?

If you can cover everything in 3,000 words then you are good. If not, you’ll have to make it longer.

The way you do this is by seeing which search queries people are using to find your articles (like in the screenshot above). Keep in mind that people aren’t searching Google in a deliberate effort to land on your site… people use Google because they are looking for a solution to their problem.

Think of those queries that Google Search Console is showing you as “questions” people have.

If your article is in-depth enough to answer all of those questions, then you have done a good job.

If not, you’ll have to go more in-depth.

In essence, you are adding more words to your article, but you aren’t adding fluff.

You’re not keyword stuffing either. You are simply making sure to cover all aspects of the subject within your article.

This is how you write in-depth articles and not waste your time (or money) on word count.

And that’s how I grew NeilPatel.com without writing too many unnecessary words.

Conclusion

If you are writing 10,000-word articles you are wasting your time. Heck, even articles over 5,000 words could be wasting your time if you are only going after as many words as possible and adding tons of fluff along the way.

You don’t know what people want to read. You’re just taking a guess.

The best approach is to write content that is amazing and within the 2,000 word to 3,000-word range.

Once you publish the content, give it a few months and then look at search traffic as well as social sharing data to see what people love.

Take those articles and invest more resources into making them better and ultimately more in-depth (in terms of quality and information, not word count).

The last thing you want to do is write in-depth articles on subjects that very few people care about.

Just look at the Advanced Guide to SEO on Quick Sprout… I made an obvious mistake. I made it super in-depth on “advanced SEO”. But when you search Google for the term “SEO” and you scroll to the bottom to see related queries you see this…

seo related

People are looking for the basics of SEO, not advanced SEO information.

If I wrote a 2,000-word blog post instead of a 20,000-word guide, I could have caught this early on and adapted the article more to what people want versus what I thought they wanted.

That’s a major difference.

So how in-depth are you going to make your content?

The post Writing Content That Is Too In-Depth Is Like Throwing Money Out the Window appeared first on Neil Patel.

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Spring Students Honored with Academic Excellence Awards

Spring Students Honored with Academic Excellence Awards

DIS faculty members select students who exemplify engaged learners to receive the Academic Excellence award for their program.

Last spring, DIS Faculty selected students that demonstrated motivation and intelligence in their courses, fostered collaborative learning environments, and brought class discussions to high academic levels. Each faculty member praised the students for their professionalism inside and outside of class and passion for course topics.

 

DIS Stockholm Academic Excellence Award Recipients:

Global Economics
Alexis Jakubowski, Middlebury College

Psychology
Desiree Sim, Skidmore College

 

DIS Copenhagen Academic Excellence Award Recipients:

Art & Visual Culture
Emma Katharine Dreyfuss, Oberlin College

Biomedicine
Cam Nelson Clouse, Colby College

Child Development & Diversity
Sarah Wang, California State University

Communication
Yasaswini Dandu, Georgetown University
Karina Abramowski, Indiana University

Environmental Science of the Arctic
Timothy Burnette, Grinnell College

European Politics
Eleanor Cornell, Barnard College

History
Adeline Helene Sabine du Crest, Wellesley College

Justice and Human Rights
Sabrina Corinne Tannehill, Washington University in Saint Louis

Medical Practice & Policy
Rachel Maurer, Illinois Wesleyan University
Amy Elfond, University of Delaware

Neuroscience
Molly Cate Hurd, University of Vermont

Prostitution & the Sex Trade
Charlotte Brandeis Brewer, Oberlin College

Psychology
Al Gerard Gourrier Jr., Kenyon College

Sustainability
Pauline Elisabeth Grieb, Duke University

Urban Studies
Anna Hurley, The Ohio State University
Theodore Freudenberg, American University

 

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DIS Students Create AIAS Chapter in Copenhagen

DIS Students Create AIAS Chapter in Copenhagen

Even though you are flying across the world to study abroad in Scandinavia, it doesn’t mean you can’t bring your extracurricular interests with you. Spring 2018 student Kate S. not only continued to explore her interest in architecture and design in her Architecture Design Studio Core Course. But, she also established an abroad chapter of AIAS (American Institute of Architecture Students) – an organization that she is involved with at University of Colorado Boulder – called AIAS Abroad:

“AIAS Abroad has been an amazing experience because it has allowed myself and students in the design community to have the opportunity to meet other students, and explore and engage with [Copenhagen] and Danish design. It is always very exciting and rewarding after an event, such as our firm tour with BIG, to see so many students inspired and excited about their future in design.”

–Kate, University of Colorado Boulder

Check out our interview with Kate to learn more about AIAS Abroad!

  

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The Most Vital SEO Strategy I Learned Came From a Google Employee

The Most Vital SEO Strategy I Learned Came From a Google Employee

google

I don’t think I am the best SEO out there. And I am not the most well-known SEO.

But when you have been doing SEO as long as I have, eventually you meet most of the players in the space.

And over the years, I’ve met a lot of Google employees. Some of them were in high positions, while others were not.

Out of all of the Google employees I met, none of them told me anything that shouldn’t be made public. And I also never put anyone in a position that would compromise their job.

But what was crazy is that the SEO advice I got on August 4, 2015, from a Google employee changed my life.

And what’s even crazier is that the advice I got on that particular day, is probably known by almost every SEO out there, but I bet less than .1% of SEOs use this strategy.

In other words, a Google employee shared knowledge that was readily available on any major search blog, yet I was too lazy to implement what I already knew.

So what did I learn?

Well, before I go into what I learned, lets first share the results of this one SEO tactic. The reason I’m doing this is that if I just share the tactic with you, most of you are going to ignore it like I did.

But if I share the stats with you first, hopefully, you’ll be more open to implementing what I am about to teach you.

So here are my traffic stats from August 2015 for NeilPatel.com:

august 2015 traffic

And here are my traffic stats for the trailing few months after I had learned this new strategy:

traffic growth

As you can see from the image above my traffic was growing. I went from roughly 100,493 unique visitors a month to 144,196. Not too bad.

But here is the thing… my traffic was naturally growing from all of my other marketing efforts. And I didn’t even start implementing what I learned from Google until November 28, 2015.

And the results didn’t kick in right away. It took over a year before I really started seeing growth. But once I hit the 21-month mark, things really started to skyrocket.

So, what was the big lesson?

Well, maybe you’ll be able to figure it out by looking at the screenshots below. What’s the big difference in the screenshots below?

Here’s the first one from NeilPatel.com:

neil patel traffic regions

And here’s one from the KISSmetrics blog (which I now own – I’ll blog about this another day):

kissmetrics traffic regions

And here’s one from my older blog, Quick Sprout:

quick sprout traffic regions

What’s the big difference between them?

All three of the blogs are about marketing. The content is similar… so what’s the difference?

KISSmetrics and Quick Sprout generate their traffic from roughly the same regions. But NeilPatel.com, on the other hand, generates traffic from regions like Brazil, Spain, and Germany at a much higher percentage.

So why is this?

Google told me to go multi-lingual

It’s hard to rank on Google.

No matter how many blog posts I write about SEO, most of you won’t rank well because it takes a lot of time and countless hours of work (or money).

But as my friend at Google once told me…

There is already a lot of content in English but not enough in other languages even though the majority of the people in this world don’t speak English.

In other words, you need to translate your content.

On November 28, 2015, I published my first article in Portuguese (if you click the link there is a good chance it keeps you on the English site, so you may have to click the flag next to the Neil Patel logo and select Brazil after you click on the link).

Fast forward to today and I have 4,806 blog posts published on NeilPatel.com of which 1,265 are in Portuguese, 650 are in German, and 721 are in Spanish.

I slowly starting to go after more languages because the strategy is working. Here are my traffic stats in the last 31 days in Brazil:

neil patel brazil

And here are the stats for German:

neil patel germany

And Neil Patel Spanish:

neil patel spanish

It takes time to do well within each region when you localize the content, but it’s worth it because there is literally no competition.

Seriously, no competition!!!

And I know what you are thinking… people in many of these countries don’t have as much money, so the traffic is useless and won’t convert.

If that’s what you are thinking then let me be the first to tell you that you are way off!

You need to look beyond English!

Let’s look at the most popular languages in the world:

languages

Now let’s look at the countries with the largest populations:

countries

And lastly, let’s look at GDP per country:

gdp

The data shows the majority of the world doesn’t live in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, or Australia.

There are so many other countries to focus on.

Not only is there a lot of people in regions like Brazil, but their GDP isn’t too bad. And yes, there isn’t as much money to be made in Brazil as there is to be made in the United States… but in the U.S. you have a lot of competitors.

While in Brazil, it’s much easier to dominate, which means you can probably make as much money in Brazil as you do in the U.S.

To give you an idea, when my ad agency expanded to Brazil, we generated over a million dollars in revenue in less than 12 months when I can’t even speak one word of Portuguese.

Well, technically that’s a lie. I know enough Portuguese to order a water and tell the waiter that I don’t want salt on my food 😉

Just think of it this way, we were able to grow when only 3% of Brazilians speak English. That means I had little to no involvement, yet we still do decently well.

And my efforts look minuscule when you compare them to companies like Amazon. They keep investing in regions like India even though it keeps losing them money. They even announced how they are going to pour in an additional 2 billion dollars.

If you want to grow fast like Amazon, you have to start thinking big.

And international expansion should be one of those big thoughts.

Even if you aren’t able to service some these regions, what’s the harm in spending money to first build up your company’s brand and traffic in those regions? You can then worry about monetization later on.

But you better hurry… time is running out.

It’s like the wild west

During one of my trips to Brazil, I had a meeting with Andre Esteves. The meeting was only supposed to be an hour, but it lasted almost 3, which is a very long time considering he’s worth $2 billion.

andre esteves

In that time, we talked shop, we shared stories from our personal life, he convinced me to stop investing in hedge funds, and to put all of my money back into the web… and best of all — he explained how regions like Brazil are the wild west.

But he didn’t mean that in a negative way. The opposite really.

Instead, he was just explaining how regions like Brazil have little to no competition and are growing fast. Those who are patient will make a lot of money in the long run.

He was spot on!

It’s why Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft focus heavily on internationalization. They all know you can’t build a gigantic business if you only focus on the English-speaking market.

To give you an idea on how much energy these companies spend on globalization, one of my Microsoft friends (who’s an executive), broke down why Microsoft is trying to stop piracy in China.

If everyone in China stopped pirating Microsoft products and paid for them instead, it would add roughly 138 billion dollars to their market cap (according to him).

That’s insane!

Now, of course, if they stopped privacy, not all of those people will pay for their products. But still, it just shows how much more money is to be made by Microsoft in China.

There is even a ton of money to be made overseas for you. You just have to be willing to make the bet.

You’ve already seen my traffic stats and you know I’m growing fast overseas. I’m not monetizing in enough of those regions and that will change as time goes on.

But I made the internationalization bet years ago, and I keep increasing the amount I spend each year.

Here’s how you expand internationally

I’ve done better in Brazil than Germany and all of the Spanish markets. It’s not because I started to go after Brazil first, it’s because I had people on the ground in Brazil from day one.

It took me too long before I started to add people from those regions to the team and expand.

If you don’t speak the language and you don’t understand the culture you won’t do well no matter how good you are at marketing.

This was my biggest lesson I learned, you need people on the ground!

The second lesson I learned is translating your content isn’t enough.

Even if you adapt the content to the region by adjusting everything, you still won’t be successful because people within each region maybe looking for something else.

For example, in the United States, companies are looking for me to write more advanced marketing content. In parts of Latin America, on the other hand, people are looking to learn the fundamentals of online marketing.

For that reason, my team had to start creating new content just for regions like Brazil. This helped tremendously.

brazil content

As you can see from the screenshot above, the most popular piece of content written for Brazil wasn’t a translation (it’s number 2 on the list, number 1 is a tool).

I rank #2 (behind Wikipedia) and before the YouTube results for the popular search term portfolio: 

portfolio

And that image above also gets me to my last point. You need to really build a brand in each region or else you won’t do well.

I speak at more conferences in Brazil than I do in Germany or any Spanish country.

Although people believe there isn’t much money to be made from Brazil, I get paid $25,000 to $50,000 for an hour speaking spot every time I fly out there.

Eventually, I learned better ways to grow my brand internationally than speaking (as that isn’t scalable).

I acquired the tool Ubersuggest for $120,000 as it has a lot of traffic from different parts of the world. Now I am improving the tool and expanding its functionality betting that in the long term it will bring me even more traffic and awareness.

Conclusion

I know the advice my Google friend gave me wasn’t rocket science, but hey, it worked really well.

We tend to forget and even ignore the things that are staring directly at us.

We all know the majority of the world doesn’t speak English, yet we all focus our marketing efforts on the English market.

If I were starting all over again, I wouldn’t create a website in English. Instead, I would pick a region in Europe, like France or Germany, where it isn’t as competitive and where their currency is worth more than the dollar.

Not only would I see results faster, but I would make more money because there wouldn’t be as much competition.

And yes, it did take me a while to see results, but since then I have run many more experiments and if I had to start over again I would:

  • Create separate sites per region – it’s easier to rank a localized site that is hosted within that country than it is to rank a global site. If you already have strong domain authority like me, don’t use subfolders, you are better off using sub-domains (I did this wrong). To give you an idea, when we create brand new sites with their own domain, focused on one region, we typically are able to climb to the top of page 1 within 3 to 4 months.
  • Use hreflang correctly – there are many ways to use hreflang tags. If you aren’t familiar with what they are, in essence, it tells Google which pages focus on which regions. What’s tricky about hreflang tags is that you can either focus on a specific region or language (or both). You have to make sure you pick the right one.
  • Buy instead of creating – if you really want to grow fast, just buy sites within that region that aren’t making much money and then fix them. This is the quickest way to grow.

And I will leave you with one final thought…

Google doesn’t penalize you for duplicate content. Translating your content and using hreflang won’t get you penalized.

Now, if you use an automatic translation software and your translations are done poorly, your user metrics will probably suffer and there is a higher chance you’ll suffer from a Google penalty. So translate your content manually.

Are you going to go global? Or are you going to stand on the sidelines and watch others pass you by?

The post The Most Vital SEO Strategy I Learned Came From a Google Employee appeared first on Neil Patel.

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The Advanced SEO Formula That Helped Me Rank For 477,000 Keywords

The Advanced SEO Formula That Helped Me Rank For 477,000 Keywords

seo neil patel

Can you guess how many keywords I rank for?

Well, you are probably going to say 477,000 because I used that number in the title of this post. 😉

And it’s true, just look at the screenshot from Ahrefs. It shows the number of keywords I rank for.

ahrefs keywords

But what’s crazy is that I am in a super competitive niche… digital marketing.

So, are you wondering how I did it?

Well, it starts with proper keyword research.

See most marketers start their keyword research with tools like SEMrush or Ubersuggest and they type in a keyword like “SEO”. You then get a list back with hundreds of keyword suggestions with cost per click and competition data.

ubersuggest seo

And once you have a list of keywords you like, you probably do what most marketers do, which is to start inserting them into your website or creating content around the keywords.

Does this process sound familiar?

Well, of course, it does because that’s what everyone has been teaching you to do.

But what’s wrong with this?

This process is like gambling… there’s no guarantee that you’ll rank for these new keywords. And even worse, those keywords may not generate you any leads, sales, or revenue.

But thankfully, I have a process for you that will not only help you rank for thousands of keywords, but it will also ensure that this new-found traffic converts into leads, sales, and more revenue.

Here’s the 5-step process that helped me rank for 477,000 keywords.

Step #1: Focus on the pages that drive revenue

Going after the right keywords won’t guarantee you success.

If you rank a page that isn’t converting well, you’ll get more traffic, but your revenue won’t go up.

Sure, you can eventually focus on conversion rate optimization and try to fix that over time, but you are better off driving traffic to pages that are already generating you revenue.

If you haven’t setup goal tracking, watch the video below as it will teach you how.

Assuming you set it correctly, let’s look for the pages that are driving your revenue.

google conversions

You can see from the image above, I sorted the results by conversions.

You now have a list of pages to focus on. But it isn’t as easy as just picking the top page and going from there.

For example, your top page could be a “check out” page, which, of course, won’t do any good if you rank it higher.

Instead, you should focus on:

  • Product pages
  • Service pages
  • Content pages

Once you have a final list of pages, you’ll want to take those URLs and look them up in your Google Search Console.

Step #2: Log into Google Search Console

Once you’re in Google Search Console, you’ll want to click on, “Search Traffic > Search Analysis”.

This will lead you to a report that looks something like this.

top pages

You’ll then want to click on the “Pages” option as it will sort the results by top pages.

At this point, you’ll have to go through your list of pages and find them within Google Search Console.

Once you find one of the pages, click on the URL and then select “Queries” at the top.

This will give you an overview of the specific terms that generate traffic to your high converting pages.

page keywords

Now let’s download the data in CSV format and open it with Excel.

Once you load it up, it should look something like this.

excel

I want you to first sort the data by impressions. Look for the keywords that are generating the highest impression count as those keywords have the potential to drive the most traffic.

If you feel those keywords are relevant to your product or service that you are offering, make sure you include them within the title tag of your website.

You won’t be able to add all of the keywords to your title tag because it is limited to roughly 60 characters, but adding a few of the most popular terms will ensure that you are going to get higher click-through rates, which will boost your overall search rankings.

Once you’ve adjusted your title tag, let’s do the same with your meta description.

Meta descriptions can be longer these days. Google is ok with roughly 300 characters. So, feel free to sprinkle in a few more keywords, but make sure your meta description still flows in a readable sentence.

And before we get back to the Excel sheet, let’s expand your content by adding in some of the keywords you don’t rank high up on page 1 but should.

You can do this by adding more content to your page, or if you can insert the keywords without “stuffing” them in (just make sure your content flows and provides value).

Now let’s head back over to Excel. You should see a filter icon that looks something like this:

excel filter

Select column E, as this will select all of the keywords based on their rankings. Then click on the “sort & filter button” and then select “filter”.

You’ll see a table that pops up. Unselect any numbers that are 1, 2, or 3.

You’ll also want to unselect any number that is 11 or greater. This will show you all of the keywords ranking on page 1 that are NOT in position 1, 2 or 3.

excel filter results

These are the keywords that have the most potential as the top 3 positions generate 20.5%, 13.32%, and 13.14% of the clicks respectfully. You want to be in the top 3 spots as that is where the majority of the clicks are happening.

By, having a list of keywords that are in position 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10… you can now focus on moving them up.

You’ve already done the hardest part which is getting on page 1. It’s not that much more work to get into the top 3 spots (at least for most keywords).

You’ll want to take all of the keywords that are relevant to your page and see if you can blend them into your content or headings without ruining the user experience.

This may mean that you’ll have to re-write your content and make it double the length.

Or if you have a product or service page that you are trying to rank higher, it may mean that you can’t include all of the keywords as it will ruin the user experience and hurt your conversion rate (but you can probably include a few more).

Over time you’ll find that your rankings will slowly climb for keywords that will bring in more revenue.

Step #3: Add in related keywords

You know what’s one thing I love about Google? They are really generous when it comes to giving marketers data. From Google Analytics to Google Search Console… Google has some amazing tools!

Another product I love (technically it’s more of a feature) is that Google shows you all of the related keywords to the ones you are already ranking for.

This is going to be a manual grind, but it’s worth it.

Log into Google Search Console and look at the top 10 keywords that you rank for. You can get this data by clicking on “Search Traffic > Search Analytics”.

search traffic analytics

Make sure you exclude any branded terms and compile a list of your top 10 terms.

Now go to Google, type in each of these keywords manually and scroll to the bottom where it says, “related keywords”.

related keywords

Google gives you a list of other popular terms that people are typing. What is beautiful about this list, is that these keywords are already related to the one you are ranking for and they are typically much easier to rank for.

So, for neilpatel.com, I already rank for the term “SEO.”

So Google is telling me that in addition to the word “SEO,” people are also searching for:

  • what is seo and how it works
  • seo definition
  • what is seo marketing
  • how to do seo
  • seo wiki
  • seo google
  • seo tutorial
  • seo company

As you can see I already integrated some of those phrases to the page on my website that already ranks for SEO.

You should do the same. It’s an easy way to rank for more relevant keywords, boost your traffic, and, eventually, your revenue.

If you do this for your top 10 keywords, you’ll have an additional list of 80 keywords (8 keywords per term).

And by integrating these terms into your site (only when it makes sense, don’t spam) you’ll quickly rank on page 1 for dozens of other terms.

If you want to go crazy like me, you can do this for 1,000 terms, which will then give you suggestions for an additional 80,000 keywords!

But again, don’t force it and ruin your user experience. This will hurt your conversion rate. You should only add keywords when it is natural and makes sense for the user.

And hopefully, you selected keywords from pages that are driving your revenue (remember Step 1!). The last thing you want is to spend time increasing your rankings and find that your revenue isn’t going up.

Step #4: Go after the low-hanging fruit

Have you noticed that there is a huge difference in traffic between the pages on your site that rank on page 2 compared to the content ranking on page 1?

Like most marketers, you probably don’t notice it because your pages that rank on page 2 of Google don’t get much traffic… which causes you to forget about them.

It’s sad but true.

So, let’s fix this!

Log into SEMrush, type in your domain name, and click on “Organic Research > Positions”.

semrush position

You’ll want to look for all of the terms that you rank number 11 or 12 for.

You can do this by using the filter setting (just copy the settings in the screenshot below).

semrush filters

You’ll have a list of keywords that are almost on page one.

Now just make sure those keywords are pointing to pages that are responsible for driving your sales, leads, and revenue (go back to step 1 if you don’t know how to do this).

semrush keywords

For the keywords that aren’t driving sales or leads, you can ignore them for now.

For one the ones pointing to pages that are driving sales or leads, perform a Google search for each of those keywords.

Now compile a list of web pages that are ranking above you.

Take those URLs and plug them into Ahrefs. Once you plug in each URL, click on “Backlinks” in the left navigation bar.

This will show you a list of sites linking to your competition.

ahrefs links

I want you to get in touch with each of those sites and beg for a link. Here’s an email template you can use (you’ll have to modify it to fit your site).

Hey [Insert website owners name],

I noticed that you are linking to [insert competing web page] from [insert the URL of on their website linking to the competition]. Did you know that the page you are linking to isn’t the best resource for your website readers?

It’s missing [insert multiple points on what that competing page lacks].

If you want to provide an even better experience for your website readers, you should consider linking to [insert your URL that you want to rank higher] as it has [insert why your web page better than the competition].

Cheers,

[Insert your name]

You’ll find that after emailing hundreds of sites that only 3% to 5% will link back to you assuming your page is comparable to the competition.

If you can’t get at least 3% to link back it means that you either didn’t do a good job modifying the email template or your page sucks compared to your competition. 🙁

I know this is tedious work, but it’s a great way to boost your traffic.

Just think about this stat when doing the link outreach… 91% of searches never go to page 2. Or as my sales team says, page 2 is the perfect place to bury a dead body.

Step #5: Attract buyers before they are ready to buy

Another reason I love Google is that they have this neat tool called Google Correlate.

google correlate

What Google Correlate does is shows you search patterns. In other words, they show you what your customers are typing in weeks or even months before they become customers.

And if you want to upsell your users, you can use Google Correlate to see what your customers type in weeks or months after they become a customer.

This will help you determine what products or services to offer assuming you want that upsell revenue.

Here’s how it works… let’s say you are selling beard oil. You type in “beard oil” into Google Correlate and you can see what people are typing in before they become customers.

beard oil minus 3

As you can see some of the keywords people are typing in are…

  • beard oil
  • beard oils
  • flannel outfits
  • trek farley
  • sweater crop
  • beard products
  • best beard oil
  • sweater crop top
  • acne studios
  • what is beard

To get those results I got, I selected “-3” weeks.

I am looking at what people typed in 3 weeks before they searched in beard oil. That’s why I put a “-” sign before the number 3 to see what they typed in before they searched for my main keyword.

If you want to attract more customers and build brand loyalty with people who may be interested in beard oil products, I would create content around the best beard oil or flannel outfits that go well with beards.

That’s what I got from the Google Correlate data.

And if I wanted to figure out what products to create in order to upsell my beard oil customers, I would perform the same search on Google Correlate but use a positive number such as “2 weeks.”

beard oil

Based on the data above, I would consider offering beard balm as an upsell as there seems to be a strong correlation.

The cool part about Google Correlate is that you can do this for any keyword and sort the results by the country you are targeting.

Conclusion

I know my method of keyword search is a pain in the butt, but it works.

Just think of it this way…

Creating content on new topics is hard because there is no guarantee a new page on your website will rank for competitive terms.

But if you take web pages that already have traction and you improve them using the techniques I described above, it’s a guaranteed way to generate more search traffic.

Now if you want to create content that focuses on new keywords, by all means, you should do so!

I am not saying that creating new content is a bad idea… heck, I do it all the time.

But consider creating new content after you modify your existing pages that are already driving your traffic and sales.

And when you do go after new terms, don’t forget to use Google Correlate as it will help you gain the right type of traffic (plus your competition isn’t doing it).

So, what do you think of my keyword research and SEO process that I used to rank for thousands of keywords?

The post The Advanced SEO Formula That Helped Me Rank For 477,000 Keywords appeared first on Neil Patel.

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Is Influencer Marketing Dead? A Hard Look at The Newest Data (and What You Can Do Instead)

Is Influencer Marketing Dead? A Hard Look at The Newest Data (and What You Can Do Instead)

Is anyone having deja vu?

Every time a new marketing tactic becomes more mainstream, marketers and researchers inevitably wonder if it has peaked and started to lose its effectiveness.

We’ve seen this before with SEO, email marketing, Facebook marketing, and many others.

is seo dead google search

It’s a fair question to ask, though.

After all, each year brings new trends in marketing, and some tactics can go out of style. It’s worth examining different approaches to see if they’re still effective.

The tactic we’ll evaluate today is influencer marketing.

Though influencer marketing has been around for a very long time, it has only become a popular marketing tactic in recent years.

With the influx of social media in 2004, influencer marketing exploded and became a lot more prevalent.

Now, fast forward 14 years later.

Influencer marketing has seen some incredible successes and even a few massive failures.

That’s why we need to take a closer look at influencer marketing in 2018.

Should you continue to invest in influencer marketing, or is it dead?

The answer isn’t exactly a simple “yes” or “no.”

But recent data can help you decide if influencer marketing has staying power and if it is the right tactic for your brand to implement in 2018.

The complex current state of influencer marketing in 2018

Let’s dive right in.

I’m going to address the million-dollar question that everyone is asking:

“Is influencer marketing dead?”

Here’s the answer: not really.

But, I have to admit, its future is uncertain.

At the moment, marketers are continuing to focus on influencer marketing as a viable and essential marketing tactic in 2018.

In fact, in the survey below, marketers picked it as the “fastest-growing online customer-acquisition method” over organic search, email, paid search, and more.

fastest growing customer acquisition method

There’s no questioning the popularity of influencer marketing, especially in recent years.

Marketers seem to be searching for new ways to involve influencers on a variety of campaigns.

And they’re investing in their influencer marketing campaigns, too. The influencer marketing industry is booming.

Projections show that marketers will spend $2.38 billion on influencer marketing on Instagram in 2019. That’s more than a $700 million increase from 2018!

instagram influencer marketing

But it doesn’t matter if marketers are fans of influencer marketing. We need to look at the data to see if it works.

Is it truly effective? Are you getting a bang for your buck?

The answer to both questions is still “yes.”

Data shows that influencer marketing is still providing marketers with a strong return on investment. Let’s take a look.

revenue per $1 spent on influencer marketing

The data shows that influencer marketing generates $6.50 for every dollar a company invests. Approximately 70% of companies earn $2 or more for every dollar, and 13% of companies earn $20 or more.

That’s valuable.

But you might not always be so lucky.

If you look closely, you’ll see that 18% of businesses didn’t receive any return on investment at all. When you factor this into how much a campaign can cost, things can get a little pricey.

This is one reason that many marketers (including myself) wonder how long influencer marketing will remain a viable tactic.

Many factors make the future of influencer marketing uncertain, too.

First, the FTC introduced regulations to “improve disclosures” in 2017. This helps consumers understand which posts are promotional, even if they are coming from an influencer.

While the regulations are needed, additional ones may cause some brands to stray away from influencer marketing due to the risk of malpractice.

Plus, influencer marketing campaigns are starting to get more expensive.

cost estimates of influencers

Mid-range influencers with 50,000 – 500,000 followers can charge anywhere from $400 to $2,500 for a post.

Influencers with a following in the millions can charge between $30,000 and $187,500 per post.

With such a large investment in a single post, marketers are expecting a huge ROI.

But there’s only one problem:

Many don’t know how to accurately measure the ROI from their influencer marketing campaigns.

An overwhelming majority (76%) of marketers agree that the biggest challenge of influencer marketing is determining the ROI of campaigns.

top influencer marketing challenges

How can you improve something if you don’t measure it? Worse yet, how can you even know if it’s working?

But the problem isn’t just with marketers.

Consumers are evolving, too.

The scale has tipped, and millennials are now trusting influencers less than they were in previous years.

millennial trust in influecers

Can you blame them, though? After all, think back to the Fyre Festival influencer marketing gaffe.

Influencers including Kendall Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski, Whitney Fransway, and many others promoted the event. But it didn’t live up to expectations.

girl sitting in private jet sharing on instagram

As a result of this failure, 94% of marketers stated they were “not likely” or “very unlikely” to seek out big-name influencers for future projects.

All of these factors play into the unstable future of influencer marketing.

As you continue with influencer marketing campaigns for now, you should also begin to test, expand, and optimize other areas of your marketing strategy.

Here are the alternatives to influencer marketing that you should be focusing on in 2018 to help accelerate the growth of your business.

1. Focus on experiential marketing for live events

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget there’s a whole world “out there.”

Your customers aren’t always online.

Live events can provide a unique touchpoint for your customers that influencer marketing can’t.

And they’re effective, too.

According to a recent study, “79% of brand respondents said they would execute more experiential programs this year compared to last.”

Take Clif Bar as an example.

They focused on creating an experiential marketing activation at Pitchfork Music Festival last year. Their activation included a tattoo parlor, photo booth, and more.

tattoo parlor pitchfork festival

At the event, they distributed 26,000 CLIF bars, and one in 20 social posts with the tag #Pitchforkfest also featured the CLIF bar activation.

Live events provide a unique experience in real life, and their impact often expands onto social media.

HBO tapped into its live event playbook when they debuted their interactive Westworld event at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.

Participants boarded buses and went right outside the city limits for an immersive experience that brought to life the fictional Westworld town from the hit TV series.

The experience was highly detailed and highly personalized. Participants could get their picture printed on a western “Wanted” poster, which aligned well with the brand.

wanted jon woods poster

People constantly shared experience on social media during SXSW. It stole the show and earned 62% of the entertainment brand mentions at SXSW.

Live events are an important marketing tactic to help you connect with your customers in a meaningful and authentic way. Influencers simply can’t do that for you.

2. Invest in video content to share your company’s narrative

Video marketing isn’t just flashy, and it isn’t a fad.

It is here to stay, and it can drive serious growth for your business.

Most importantly, though, is that it is becoming mainstream and responsible for a bulk of Internet traffic.

According to estimates, video will make up more than 80% of all consumer Internet traffic by 2021.

Hopefully, you already use video as a part of your content strategy. If not, you’re going to fall behind soon.

In a recent survey, 49.5% of marketers said that video will be a focal point for their marketing.

video marketing survey

That’s nearly half of all marketers.

Now, I know what you might be thinking: “My influencer campaigns already use video, so I’m all set.”

Unfortunately, you’re wrong.

You’re missing the chance to focus on everyday people and create meaningful, evergreen content that showcases your brand’s values and embodies your mission.

You can’t rely on influencers to create content that resonates with your audience. You have to do it yourself.

After all, brands often miss opportunities to connect with their customers. A study found that 78% of people feel that brands never connect with them emotionally.

But LinkedIn recently did this well in a documentary-style integrated video campaign. They used the hashtag #InItTogether for it.

Campaign Director Stacy Peralta talked about the impact of the campaign. She said, “I knew from the first reading of the boards that this was one of those rare opportunities.”

She added, “They asked us to tell real stories about real people, they wanted it shot in black and white, and they wanted energy, enthusiasm and candor from the people involved.”

That campaign generated great content for LinkedIn to share with their audience.

But where should you share your video content after you finish creating it? Well, consumers watch and engage with branded content in different ways on different platforms.

It’s important to know which works best for your business, but here are some generalizations across all social platforms for consumer viewing and engagement habits:

consumer viewing and engagement habits

As you can see, Facebook has the highest viewership as well as engagement numbers (60% and 49%, respectively), while Twitter has the least (41% and 22%).

The interesting part, though, is that there is only a 2% difference in viewership among the top three platforms: Facebook, Instagram (Video), and Snapchat. YouTube and Twitter fall close behind.

On the engagement side of things, it is much different. Facebook is the clear winner (49%) with YouTube (32%) coming in second. That’s a 17% difference.

So that gives you an idea of where you should be sharing your content. But now, you might be wondering how long your videos should be.

Thankfully, there is data to support the ideal length, and the conclusions are clear as day. Here’s the basic principle:

Make them short.

Approximately 56% of all videos that users shared in 2017 were less than two minutes long.

Viewers will lose interest and likely leave if a video is longer than two minutes.

average engagement vs video length

If you aren’t yet certain that video content can be effective in marketing, look at this experiment from HubSpot. They examined the difference between acquiring customers with video content and non-video content.

They tried switching to video content as opposed to blogs and whitepapers.

As they optimized and emphasized their videos, their views and engagement rates skyrocketed. Here were their engagement rates with their old strategy:

hubspot old engagement rates

Now, here were their engagement rates after they started emphasizing their video content:

hubspot new engagement rates

Before this experiment, their videos averaged 50,000 views per month. But in their first month of optimizing and promoting their video content, they achieved 1 million views. Those are clear results!

Another great example is BakedNYC’s video campaign.

baked nyc facebook

BakedNYC used video to capture emails, and their results were fantastic.

Through this campaign, they achieved a 40% increase in pie sales, a 68% increase in leads, and a 30% decrease in cost per lead.

Video content presents a huge opportunity for your brand. But creating quality videos might feel like a daunting task.

Don’t fret if don’t think that you can do this alone. You don’t have to be Steven Spielberg.

There are plenty of tools that can help you create engaging video content on a low budget in a tight timeframe.

One of them is Promo.

promo homepage 2018

I love Promo because they have over 12.5 million clips that you can customize. You can add music, text, and even your logo to personalize the clips and make them your own.

Magisto is another great tool to use.

magisto homepage in 2018

The cool thing about Magisto is that it has a smart video editor, which makes it incredibly easy to cut and edit your videos online.

These tools can help create great video content that will drive sales on your website.

If you want to get the most out of your marketing efforts in 2018, spend time crafting video promotional campaigns and fine-tuning your video content strategy.

3. Initiate an affiliate marketing program

Not having an effective affiliate marketing program in place is simply leaving money on the table.

Affiliate marketing can bring in a lot of money for your business. To put it in perspective, 15% of the digital media industry’s revenue comes from affiliate marketing.

With affiliate marketing, you’re letting related sites and partners do the work for you.

So, where do you begin?

There are three types of affiliate programs that you can implement:

  • Pay-per-sale: The merchant pays the affiliate in relation to the number of sales that they received from their site.
  • Pay-per-click: The merchant pays the affiliate in relation to the number of clicks that visitors performed while browsing the affiliate’s site.
  • Pay-per-lead: The merchant pays the affiliates in relation to the number of people who sign up.

Affiliate programs succeed in ways that influencer marketing doesn’t. First, it’s usually a win-win for both the affiliate and the merchant because you share the same business goals.

Sites want to send you traffic so that they can earn money. You want the same thing because the affiliate will send you new customers. It’s a win for both of you.

In some cases, influencers don’t share the same mission. They might be just looking for a quick payout, which could lead them to share your campaign in a way that isn’t authentic or true to their brand or yours.

The Points Guy is an example of a company that has a strong affiliate marketing program in place.

He started his site as a place to show people how to travel by using points they’ve amassed from purchases. Now, the site is an affiliate site for credit cards, hotels, and flights.

In his AMA, he confirmed that he receives “2.5 million monthly unique views and gets $50-$400 per credit card someone signs up for.”

the points guy reviews in 2018

As a business, you can harness the traffic that is already in place for a well-oiled site. By giving them a little kickback, you both win.

They’ll make money, and you’ll acquire a new customer. It’s really a no-brainer.

4. Be responsive on social media and circulate user-generated content

If you’re reading this blog, I’d go out on a limb to say you have, at the very least, a presence on social media.

While influencers typically utilize social media to propel their efforts, sometimes taking matters into your own hands can retain customers and have a more profound impact on your sales.

Social media marketing has been an important part of any marketing strategy over the years, and it only continues to evolve in 2018.

most effective digital marketing tactic for 2018

Your customers are already hanging out on there. New data shows that a majority of Americans are now on Facebook and YouTube.

majority of american now use facebook and youtube

Once again, this fact reinforces your need for video content.

But how else can you use social media to grow your audience and increase sales? One important answer is quite simple:

By being responsive.

Data shows that companies can make a dramatic effect on their bottom lines if they are responsive and engaging on social media.

Consumers say that the best way for a brand to get them to make a purchase is by simply being responsive.

brand actions that promote purchases

If you respond on social media, people will talk about your positive customer service interactions. Studies found that approximately 48% of people tell their friends about a good customer experience on social media.

This creates a powerful form of word-of-mouth marketing. Your customers’ friends can soon become your new customers.

Facebook understand how impatient people are. They’re now labeling pages with badges that designate their response times.

facebook page about

To get the coveted “Very responsive to messages” badge, you need to achieve two things over the course of seven days:

  1. A response rate of 90%
  2. A response time of 15 minutes

But what if you get a lot of inquiries? How should you keep up with all of them?

Mention is a tool that can help you streamline your customer experience operations on social media.

mention homepage in 2018

It can provide assistance and organize your mentions in an easy-to-read way so that you aren’t overwhelmed.

An example of exemplary customer service on social media would be JetBlue.

jetblue interaction with customer on twitter

Before things got out of hand, they moved quickly and efficiently to resolve the situation, resulting in a happy, satisfied customer who might buy again.

But that’s not all. JetBlue cares so much about their customer service that they announced a partnership and investment in the customer service startup Gladly.

Here’s what Bonny Simi, the president of JetBlue’s corporate venture group, said about their customer service strategy:

“People just don’t want to call in anymore, so we are aiming for omnichannel communication that is on at all hours.”

He added, “[This communication should] take advantage of AI to resolve customers’ issues as quickly as possible, and that will work with all of the important messenger apps.”

As you work on being responsive on social media, you’ll want to circulate the incredible content (photos, videos, and comments) and great accolades that your users are sharing. User-generated content is incredibly valuable.

Sponsors generally pay influencers to post about their products or content. User-generated content, on the other hand, has no financial incentive.

It makes your brand more authentic.

which statement do you agree with

And it’s needed now more than ever.

Research shows that “92 percent of consumers trust organic, user-generated content (UGC) more than they trust traditional advertising.”

Currently, Southwest Airlines is running a user-generated campaign that they call 175 Stories. This integrated campaign invites customers to share their seat story using the hashtag #175Stories.

They even launched a microsite to further share the content.

southwest airlines explore the stories

Judging by a quick hashtag search, the campaign seems to be effective.

Encouraging users to act as your own photographers and share their content can have a positive impact on your business’s growth.

An active presence on social media is not only beneficial to your customers. It can also do wonders for your brand awareness and revenue.

5. Leverage social messaging apps to reach more customers and connect with existing ones

Mobile messaging marketing has emerged as a new trend in 2018.

It seems like social messaging apps (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and many others) are all the craze these days.

And honestly, they should be.

Influencer marketing shares one message with many people. By using social messaging apps, you can send numerous highly-personalized messages to many people.

Users and businesses on Facebook send approximately 8 billion messages on Messenger every month.

The best part is that they usually have high open and click-through rates, too.

The growth of these messaging apps has skyrocketed in recent years. In 2017, over 76% of smartphone users worldwide used messaging apps.

mobile phone message app users worldwide

The graph also shows that, according to current projections, there will be 2.48 billion mobile phone messaging app users by 2021.

If you want to be where your customers are, then you should think about how you’re leveraging your messaging app strategy.

But what’s interesting is that not all marketers, for some reason or another, aren’t using this as a marketing tactic.

The State of Social 2018” study found that, despite the increase in interest and adoption of messaging apps, nearly 80% of businesses don’t market through them at all.

has your business used messaging apps for marketing

That’s bad for them, but it’s great for you.

Fewer businesses promoting their messages means a greater chance of yours cutting through the clutter.

Messaging apps are a great place to distribute content and offer promotional deals directly to your customers.

Look at how DigitalMarketer used a chatbot to distribute their “Ending the War Between Sales & Marketing” report.

Those interested in the report could connect their Facebook with just a simple click. Then, an automated message would arrive in their Messenger account with a link to the report.

It’s quick, easy, and even feels a little personal.

digitalmarketer chatbot

But this isn’t just a flashy way to distribute content.

It gets results, too.

For example, look at this retargeting campaign that used a chatbot to allow customers to “unlock a special discount.”

The results were incredible. They achieved a 48.2x ROAS (up from 5.6x) and a 1133% conversion rate increase.

HolidayPirates saw incredible success when they used a chatbot to deliver a promotion code to their customers.

They have over nine million digital followers, and they wanted to interact with them on social messaging platforms and send them a holiday promotion.

They grew their WhatsApp following to 750,000+ and achieved open rates of 50-60% and 90% click-through rates for the campaign.

holidaypirates how we attract subscribers

A 90% click-through rate?

That’s something you don’t see every day.

To get a chatbot set up, you just need to follow a few easy steps.

For this example, I’m going to use itsalive.io.

First, visit their homepage and click on “Get Started for Free.”

its alive get started

Then, fill out the information they ask for to register your account.

its alive register

From there, choose your plan and hit “Next.”

its alive choose your plan

Name and describe your bot, and then hit “Create this bot.”

its alive new bot

Click on the pencil icon to edit the test bot that you get by default.

is alive edit bot

Add your trigger and text. Triggers can vary from keywords to events. You can then program what you’d like the bot to do.

You can add as many triggers and texts as you’d like.

In this case, I am setting up the bot to answer FAQs.

is alive bot faq

Then, click the back button and select “Link to Facebook” in the menu.

From there, you’ll want to “Connect to your Facebook account” and select your business page.

Take special note of the test code as well. You will have to add that four-character code when you test your bot.

its alive link to facebook

Then, you can test your bot and see it in action for yourself.

its alive testing bot

Continue to tweak your bot until it accomplishes your business objectives.

Due to the widespread adoption of messaging apps and the generally untapped potential of social messaging marketing, your business could cut directly through the clutter with this tactic.

You should really consider how you can leverage it to reach new customers.

6. Continue to invest in your email marketing strategy

You might be thinking, “Email marketing. That’s so old school.”

While that may be true, it’s still a viable marketing tactic that you should double down on.

One advantage is that you can control and target your audience with email marketing better than you can with influencer marketing.

Emails are part of everyday life, and using them as a marketing medium gets results. After all, users send 149,000+ emails each day.

That might sound like a lot of clutter, and it is. But it’s important that you keep your business top of mind in your customers’ inboxes.

But why?

Email still has the highest ROI when you compare it to any other marketing tactic.

For every $1 businesses spend on email marketing, they average a $38 return.

email delivers highest roi

Notice how email marketing soars ahead of affiliate marketing, paid search, display ads, videos, social media marketing, and traditional marketing tactics.

If you want to assess the ROI of your email marketing campaigns, I recommend this email marketing ROI tool.

It’s very easy to use and can provide great insights into your current email marketing efforts.

Marketers even collectively agree that email has staying power in 2018.

In one survey, marketing professionals rated the effectiveness of digital marketing channels. Approximately 35% gave email marketing a “good” rating, and 18% rated it as “excellent.”

effectiveness of digital media channels

This put email marketing in the lead as one of the most effective digital marketing channels according to marketers.

In 2018, you need to have an email marketing strategy in place and execute highly-personalized and targeted campaigns.

Customers are expecting this in all marketing tactics, but especially in email. If you haven’t targeted your email, they’ll consider it irrelevant to them. You can bet they’ll delete it.

Even worse, they might not open it.

effects of personalization in the shopping experience

A total of 49% of shoppers said that personalization “has led shoppers to purchase an item that wasn’t planned.”

By personalizing your copy, messaging, design, and even your pricing structure, you can encourage conversions and move customers to buy.

You can do this by segmenting your lists (separating your lists to ensure the correct campaign is going to the right audience) and using dynamic copy or pricing.

segment your list convert

How do you make sure that you’ve personalized your email campaigns and that you’re sending them to the right people?

That’s what the men’s shirt company Twillory had to answer.

The team initiated an email campaign when they moved into a larger warehouse. They sent the below email to their first-tier recipients and achieved a 48.5% open rate and an 8% CTR.

twillory

To their less-engaged tier, they stripped the graphic away and took a simpler, personalized, text-based approach.

all text email

This resulted in “a 33% open rate and 11% click-through rate with a group of people who had not engaged in over 270 days.”

That’s a significant impact for their email marketing efforts.

If you want to effectively reach your customers, then deploy smart, personalized, and targeted email marketing campaigns.

Conclusion

Influencer marketing isn’t dead.

At least, it isn’t dead yet.

For now, it still can perform as a viable part of your marketing strategy. The influencer marketing industry is still booming, and it’s still profitable in many cases.

But it may not be around for much longer. It’s becoming increasingly expensive, there’s no guarantee of results, it’s difficult to track the ROI of campaigns, and users are beginning to trust influencers less.

You need to prepare for alternate ways to acquire customers.

Turn to video content to share a compelling narrative about your brand or help put a product on display.

Engage with customers directly on social media. Go out of your way to provide out-of-this-world service experiences that will turn your customers into passionate fans.

Focus on messenger marketing and directly share content, promotions, and solutions through messaging apps.

Finally, double down on email marketing. But as you do so, make sure that you target the right audience and personalize your messages with dynamic content.

If you do all of this, you’ll be ready if the days of influencer marketing come to an end.

What marketing tactics will you use in place of influencer marketing in 2018?

The post Is Influencer Marketing Dead? A Hard Look at The Newest Data (and What You Can Do Instead) appeared first on Neil Patel.

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Why Businesses Can’t Ignore Google AMP Stories

Why Businesses Can’t Ignore Google AMP Stories

The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project was launched by Google in February of 2016 with the goal of putting mobile performance above everything else on the web.

And Google definitely met their goal.

AMP powers more than two billion mobile pages and 900,000 different domains. Pages with AMP now load twice as fast as pages without added AMP elements.

If you think you can ignore AMP, you’re wrong. AMP has some pretty awesome features and benefits that can take your content creation efforts to the next level.

If you don’t take the time to understand or use AMP stories, you’re missing out.

Here’s why businesses can’t afford to ignore them.

But first, let’s analyze what AMP stories truly are.

What are AMP Stories?

Google’s AMP stories features allow publishers to create content that is very similar to Instagram stories, designed with mobile websites in mind.

But the content created with AMP doesn’t get added to an app. Instead, it’s placed right in search results pages.

AMP is an open-source project that was created in response to the fact that mobile users now spend more time on apps than in websites.

77% of their time, to be exact, according to Statista data.

mobile users spend most time on top three apps

With AMP, content loads extremely fast, which helps keep mobile users on those pages and off of their apps.

Instead of regular search engine results, users receive a swipeable story that’s easy to navigate. The UX is somewhat similar to the popular dating app, Tinder.

swiping through cnn AMP stories from Google

AMP partners include CNN, Mic, Wired, The Washington Post, Mashable, and People.

AMP partners

Beyond loading at lightning fast speeds, AMP Stories can also be shared in the same way news articles are shared.

Here’s a breakdown of how they work.

How Accelerated Mobile Pages Work

Today, JavaScript can be used on almost any web page to modify any portion of it.

But it also slows the loading and rendering of pages. And since page speed is so important (we’ll talk more about that later), that’s something you want to avoid.

AMP only allows for asynchronous JavaScript to run on pages, meaning that the JavaScript code won’t block any other code present on your site.

asynchronous javascript on AMP

JavaScript written by the webmaster is forbidden on AMP stories, and interactive pages must only contain custom AMP elements.

Custom elements can consist of JavaScript at their core, but they must be specifically designed to make sure that they don’t cause any restrictions on the overall performance of a page.

Third-party JavaScript is also allowed with AMP, but it cannot block page rendering.

AMP also does not allow for any kind of extension mechanisms to block page rendering, but it can be used for Instagram embeds, tweets, or lightboxes.

Because of this, users can swipe through mobile-optimized content on AMP pages without all of the unnecessary distractions.

AMP vs non-AMP story

As you can already tell, there are a lot of reasons why AMP stories are growing fast.

Why Should You Use AMP Stories?

Some of your competition is probably consistently using AMP.

If you aren’t, you might as well be accepting defeat.

On the other hand, if you start using AMP protocols before your competitors, you’ll differentiate yourself as a frontrunner in your industry.

Why? Because AMP features can help you tell stories, and storytelling is powerful.

Storytelling is Powerful

Everyone loves a good story.

At least 100,500 digital words are consumed by the average U.S. citizen in one day, while 92% of consumers want to view and read ads that feel like stories.

amount of words americans consume

There is some evidence out there that suggests that people view AMP stories much longer than they view traditional alternatives.

This could be because faster loading times make it easier to view more content for a longer period of time.

AMP lets you tell stories in a powerful, fast, unique way. And when you tell a good story well, you’ll be able to reach your audience effectively.

Speak to your readers’ needs, give each piece an interesting arc, and don’t forget to add in all of the hard data needed to prove your point.

Page speed plays a huge role in AMPs success, too.

Page Speed is Important

Site speed is important. Pages that take a long time to load can kill your conversions. If your site takes a while to load, you’ll rack up less and less conversions.

conversion rates and load time

Luckily, AMP pages load about twice as fast as regular mobile pages.

AMP pages load faster

With such quick loading times, customers will be able to get to your content faster than ever before.

This is great news, since the probability of a bounce increases by 32% if a mobile page takes as long as three seconds to load.

If it takes five seconds, the probability of a bounce increases by 90%.

Because of the quick loading times provided by AMP, users will be more likely to go ahead and buy from you.

When they know they can interact with your brand without any friction or wait time, they’ll be willing to trust you with their money.

To make the case for AMP even stronger, Google tends to give faster loading mobile pages special treatment and better rankings.

Take advantage of the creative design features offered by AMP to keep viewers engaged and intrigued.

Take Advantage of Creative Design

In case you didn’t already know, design is important. And AMP pages let you add in creative elements that take your content to the next level.

Don’t be afraid to add forms, buttons, videos, images, shopping options, or links to your AMP stories.

Your site will look much more sleek and functional, giving you tons of opportunities to attract, engage, and hold your viewers’ attention.

AMP on google and the layout of AMP

AMP can give your site the SEO boost it needs.

AMP Helps SEO

AMPs give your site a huge visibility boost.

As of right now, a page with AMP protocols won’t increase your site’s page authority or domain authority.

That being said, it does give the page a chance to be featured in the AMP carousel that appears above traditional Google search results.

AMP carousel

This means that if your site shows up in the carousel, it will appear before the number one placement.

It doesn’t get any better than placing before the number one spot, does it?

This can give you the big boost in organic search results that you need, bringing more traffic to your site than ever before.

Next, let’s break down all of the moving parts that make AMPs so great.

Introducing the AMP Story Features

Traditional AMP content relies solely on text, but the new and improved format includes videos, animation, and images to give users a full experience.

For publishers, you can:

  • Embed your stories across apps and websites
  • Access stories via both desktop and mobile
  • Tell stories without needing to have a ton of technical knowledge

The best part? AMPs are free for everyone to try.

Let’s examine all of the parts involved in completing an AMP story.

Parts of an AMP story

Before you can create your first AMP story, you have to master all of its components.

Every story is structured with individual pages. Each page consists of individual layers that are made up of a combination of HTML code and AMP elements.

Here’s how the components will look when added to your code:

Story = amp-story
Page = amp-story-page
Layers = amp-story-grid-layer

When added to a page, the code might look something like this:

AMP story code

The story component contains your entire AMP story, while the page component contains each specific page that exists within your story.

The layers component contains all of the elements that are present on a page.

Here are some examples of a few AMP stories.

Examples of Google AMP Stories

It’s no secret that Google will link to AMP versions of web pages over traditional ones any time that they’re available because Google prefers them.

Because of this, every AMP partner has used the feature of the service to suit their strengths.

The most commonly known AMP adapters were news organizations since they could use AMPs to get information out quickly and effectively to searchers.

Here are examples of how CNN has utilized AMP stories to share and amplify breaking news:

CNN AMP stories

Some publishers have even written AMP stories over the exact same kinds of content (with the same cover photo):

same content on AMP

But AMPs aren’t just for news sites. You can turn your long-form content into an AMP if you want to. And you should.

What are people saying about AMP, overall?

What People Are Saying About It

AMP Product Manager Rudy Galfi recently told AdWeek that AMP stories “should make for a really engaging ad format.”

But what does everyone else seem to think about publishing content with AMP?

Econsultancy writer Stuart Shaw says that while AMP pages require some maintenance, the payoff and exposure that they provide is well worth it.

In an April 2018 post, he wrote:

“Sure, all you’ve done is improve things for your mobile users – and only on the few scant pages that you’ve implemented AMP on…But optimization isn’t about making things perfect in an instant It’s a gradual process that must adapt to the ever-changing ‘techscape’ that is search.”

In general, reactions to AMP on sites like Twitter are fairly positive. Some people are calling AMP one of the most important trends of 2018.

AMP trend to watch 2018

Others really love the recent changes and updates to AMP, like Gumpo, who says “We love this as a way of delivering interactive content with rich visuals.”

Gump Web Marketing AMP tweet

In September of 2017, SEO company Optimising had this to say about AMPs on Facebook:

optimising facebook post about AMP

“We love Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) here at Optimising.”

The experts at Search Engine Journal have some awesome tips on how implementing AMP for eCommerce sites can help improve users’ experience and boost conversions.”

Overall, it looks like AMP is here to stay.

Here’s how you can get started creating your own AMP stories.

How to Get Started With Google AMP Stories

Now that you know what AMP stories are, how they work, why you should use them, and what people are saying about them, you can get down to business creating your own.

To get started, download the code.

1. Download the code

In order for Google to pick up on the AMP version of your articles, you have to modify the code of the article page.

The original article must have the following tag, which is an AMP canonical tag:

<link rel=”amphtml” href=”http://www.example.com/blog-post/amp/”>

If you want all of the AMP code you need all from one page, click over to the amp-wp GitHub page and select the “Download ZIP” button.

download AMP

Then, install this code on your WordPress site just like any WordPress plugin.

Alternatively, you can also download the following code from AMP directly and save it to a file with a .html extension.

AMP code

Once your code is downloaded and added, you can run the sample page.

2. Run the sample page

In order to test out your sample page, you’ll need to access your files from a server.

There are a few ways you can create a temporary local web server to help you test it:

AMP recommends that you use HTTPS, here, for added security.

After you set up a local web server, you can access your sample article by heading to this URL:
http://localhost:8000/article.html.

If everything looks good, go ahead and create the cover page.

3. Create the cover page

Your cover page is represented with the tag.

You can have more than one components within a story, which contain each of the individual screens for that story.

But the first page that you specify will act as the cover page.

To create a cover page, assign a unique ID for your cover to the first page:

<amp-story standalone>
<amp-story-page id=”cover”>
</amp-story-page>
</amp-story>

That code acts as a shell for your cover page. But you need to specify at least one layer to make it valid.

layers on AMP

Layers in AMP work similarly to layers in graphics: they consist of different elements stacked on top of one another.

In the example above, layer one contains the image that serves as the cover photo, while layer two contains the title and byline of the story.

To create layer one, add the <amp-story-grid-layer> element to <amp-story-page>.

If you want the image to fill the screen, add the template=”fill” attribute to the amp-story-grid-layer tag.

Inside the layer, add the <amp-image> element for a cover.jpg file and make sure it’s responsive by adding the tag layout=”responsive”.

Here’s what the code for the first layer should look like when it’s all said and done:

layer code for AMP

Check how the page displays before moving on.

To add a second layer, use the “vertical template” instead of the “fill template” found here.

AMP vertical template

Once your cover page is complete, you can add more pages.

4. Add more pages

Adding more pages is similar to adding your sample page and cover page.

The code you use will depend on the template you choose.

To add text to a layer with the vertical template, add something similar to the following elements:

  • An <h1> element containing the title
  • A responsive amp-img
  • A <q> element that contains all of your text

Your new page should come out looking something like this:

cats AMP page

You can also add animating elements to enhance your story.

5. Add animating elements

If you want to take your story to the next level, you can make your title drop into a page, fade in, twirl in, and so on.

The AMP framework currently includes the following preset animating elements:

AMP animating elements

If you want to add an animation to an element, add animate-in=”animationpresetcodehere”.

For example, to use the pulse animation, your code might look like this:

<amp-story-page id=”page3″>

<amp-story-grid-layer template=”vertical”>
<p animate-in=”pulse”>Pulse this text into the page </p>
</amp-story-page>

Once you’ve added animating elements, you’re ready to create the bookend.

6. Create the bookend

The “bookend” is the last screen that wraps up your story.

You can use it to add related links or social sharing links, too.

In your amp-story elements, add the bookend-config-src attribute. Then, point it toward the bookend.json file.

<amp-story standalone
bookend-config-src=”bookend.json”>

</amp-story>

Your bookend should look something like this when you’re finished:

AMP bookend

Finally, you’re ready to validate your AMP HTML.

7. Validate your AMP HTML

There are a number of ways to validate your AMP pages.

For example, you can use the Chrome DevTools console:

  1. Open your page in a browser
  2. Add “#development=1” to your URL
  3. Open the Chrome DevTools console and check for any validation errors

validation errors in google chrome inspector

You can also use the AMP Validator browser extension.

AMP validator browser extension

Both tools will show you any issues with your AMP code and describe ways to repair them.

Here are three quick tips to keep in mind when creating AMP stories.

3 Quick Tips

To make a great AMP story, you’ll need to add videos, text, pictures, or all of the above.

Here are some quick and easy ways to save yourself some time in the process.

For videos

It’s not uncommon to add a click-to-play overlay on videos across the web. You can use it to add a custom play icon that matches your page’s style along with the title of your video.

video overlay on AMP

AMP stories don’t come with this feature automatically added.

However, you can easily add it with a tag like:

<div id=”myOverlay”
class=”click-to-play-overlay”>

For text, you may want to manage the size or fit to make certain text fit within a specified area.

For text

The amp-fit-text component lets you manage the size or fit of text within a specified area, which is perfect if you don’t want to play around with font sizes all day.

The component finds the best font size to fit content in the available space automatically, so you don’t have to.

best font size fit to scale

Some HTML image tags can become problematic when it comes to AMP.

For pictures

Most HTML tags can be added directly in AMP HTML.

That being said, some tags (like the <img> tag) are sometimes replaced with enhanced AMP HTML tags. A few problematic HTML tags are banned completely.

Instead of the <img> tag, be sure to use <amp-img>, which has an end tag.

You can view the full list of AMP tag conversions here.

HTML img tags for AMP

Conclusion

AMP was created by Google to put mobile first in search engine results pages and across the web.

AMP stories are similar to Instagram stories, and tons of well-known companies are dominating the Internet with them. If you think you can ignore them, you’re wrong.

Billions of mobile pages are powered by AMPs. Those pages load twice as fast as before because JavaScript code isn’t allowed to slow them down.

There are plenty of reasons to use AMP stories. They can help improve your storytelling efforts, boost page speeds, improve your site’s creative design, and help SEO efforts.

There are three parts to an AMP story: the story, the page(s), and the layer(s).

Huge media sites like CNN are using AMPs to share breaking news, while other sites are using them to share their long-form or video content.

And the reactions to AMP are positive overall. Most people are calling it the next big thing of 2018. Publishers love it.

To get started creating AMP stories, download the code, run a sample page, create your cover page, add more pages and animating elements, create the bookend, and validate your HTML.

If any issues are uncovered when you validate your AMP code, fix them immediately.

To save some time, there are a few quick tips and tricks you can use when adding videos, text, and pictures to your stories.

Add a custom click-to-play overlay for videos, use the amp-fit-text component to automatically size your text, and never try to use <img> tags. Instead, use <amp-img>.

Now, go forward and put mobile users first on your site, too.

Which piece of content are you going to turn into an AMP story first?

The post Why Businesses Can’t Ignore Google AMP Stories appeared first on Neil Patel.

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Why Good Site Architecture Is The Only CRO You Need

Why Good Site Architecture Is The Only CRO You Need

When you hear the words “site architecture,” the first thing that comes to mind is probably SEO.

It doesn’t take much digging into SEO best practice to learn that Google loves a site with clearly defined architecture that’s easy to crawl and index.

But if you stopped your site architecture planning with just your SEO, then you’ve missed out on the greater picture.

Site architecture isn’t just an effort to game search engines into ranking your site higher.

It does help with SEO, but it’s so much more than that.

Ultimately, your site architecture should be a strategic effort that allows your organic or paid visitors to navigate easily and use your site for its intended purpose.

That means that site architecture is the older brother of conversion rate optimization.

So in this post, I want to show you exactly how site architecture simultaneously supersedes and enables traditional conversion rate optimization efforts.

And to start things off, I want to dig a little deeper into why so many conversion rate optimization efforts fail.

Why conversion rate optimization doesn’t always work

When dialing in your conversion rate optimization, it’s easy to want to focus on the more traditional efforts.

Typical conversion rate optimization efforts require brands to set up competing versions of the same page in order to see how they can improve them.

how a/b testing works

It’s like a battle royale for website pages.

After a week or two of waiting and measuring, the best performing page wins.

One of them stays up, while the others are discarded for all eternity.

From there, more experimentation occurs based on the winning page’s performance to see if anything else can be improved.

Sometimes, brands will even get brave and conduct some multivariate tests to see if changing multiple elements can yield improvement.

how multivariate testing works

Much like a traditional A/B test, the results hinge on a last-man-standing approach.

Brands can be the loser, and the winner stays up as the subject of more experimentation.

All of this is an ongoing effort to see how you can improve conversions over time.

Many frequently blog about this practice, which even has its own career field in the marketing industry.

But these types of tests aren’t always the most dependable for small brands that need to optimize as efficiently as possible.

And even some large businesses fall prey to common A/B testing mistakes.

For example, elements like sample size can drastically skew the results of conversion rate testing.

testing thresholds

Simply put, if you’re not getting enough traffic, then you’ll be making changes and concluding off of insufficient amounts of data.

That means you could be making the wrong moves and ultimately hurting your brand’s performance.

Or you could also be testing something silly, like colors on your website.

To put it in ConversionXL’s Ott Niggulis’ words:

“There is no universal best color. What works on one site, doesn’t necessarily work on another.”

And that’s part of the point as well.

Many conversion rate optimization trends rise on the backs of a brand or two saying they saw good results from a particular experiment.

Then everyone does it, and confusion results when improvement doesn’t follow.

And then to make matters worse, many brands often don’t allow a proper amount of time to see if their results end up sticking.

conversion rate over time

If your variable regresses back to your control’s average, then there’s a good chance that dropping your control could be a bad idea.

Many brands will prematurely make a decision on the first few days, which ultimately hurts them in the long run.

People call this the small win mentality. It ultimately leads to poor optimization and potentially undermines your results.

what changed results in 5% increase in conversion rates

So with all of the potential pitfalls of traditional conversion rate optimization, can site architecture create a more foolproof way to ensure that your website sees plenty of conversions?

To answer that, I want to break down some of the basics of site architecture and show you how it correlates to your conversion rate optimization.

How site architecture creates conversions

Your site’s architecture focuses on building a platform that is easier for your users to navigate.

When you look into what site architecture actually is, you’ll typically see a graph that offers a genealogy-like depiction of how pages on your site interact.

how pages interact

While there’s a good chance no two sites will be exactly alike, this hierarchy style is a pretty standard example.

You start from a homepage and then navigate through a series of categories and subcategories until you’ve found what you’re looking for.

If this process is fluid, as in the graph above, then your users will have no issues.

But if the architecture is muddled, and it’s hard to find a page that should fall under a natural category, then it’s increasingly more likely that your users will leave.

In other words, the idea is to create a fluid user experience that ultimately leads to trackable and accurate conversion testing.

what equals conversion optimization

If you implement this correctly, you’ll have a site that’s easier to improve on in the long run.

But does site architecture have a genuinely positive effect on your conversions?

A brand called Voicer reported a 75% increase in conversions by correcting some “small” user experience flaws in their site.

If they can see that kind of improvement from small changes, imagine what would happen on a site that has significant user experience problems.

And yet another brand reported a 112% increase in revenue by improving the usability of their site.

So, good site architecture that leads to good user experience can clearly act as a solid basis for conversion rate optimization.

But breaking down the user experience of your website isn’t a simple process.

It requires a great deal of data gathering and analyzing to get to a point where you can indeed create a site architecture that works well for conversions.

Thankfully, there’s a method called the honeycomb model that shows you how exactly user experience can be broken down to help optimize your conversion rates.

honeycomb model

This methodology provides a simple framework that helps brands create websites with the following characteristics:

  • Useful: Serve the purpose for they created it.
  • Usability: Simple and easy to use.
  • Accessible: Anyone can use it.
  • Desirable: Provides positive emotion and is pleasant to use.
  • Findable: Navigation is intuitive, and solutions are easy to find.
  • Credible: Conveys in a believable or trustworthy manner.
  • Valuable: Delivers on a promised value.

If you can fulfill all of the requirements in the honeycomb model, then you optimize your sales funnel paths naturally for conversions.

So for the rest of the article, I want to show you some ways that you draw a direct line between user experience, site architecture, and conversion rate optimization.

You’ll see without a doubt that site architecture is a viable path to increase your lead generation.

Reason #1: It gives your site utility

The first steps of the honeycomb model rely on creating a website that is useful and usable.

This addresses the utility and the function of your site in a few ideas that are easy to understand.

But just because they’re easy to understand doesn’t mean they’re easy to implement.

When building out your site’s architecture, you need to create an experience that helps your user find what they came for.

This natural flow is the first place to start when addressing the usability and usefulness of your website.

natural flow

This ultimately determines how people interact with your website.

And how they interact with your website will, in turn, determine how many conversions you get in the long run.

Think of it in terms of an example involving a site that sells power tools.

On a well-designed website, this would be a logical flow of thought:

logical flow of though in site architecture

Users can navigate based on the type of tool that they want to find. The site then presents individual products according to whether they are cordless, electric, or gas powered.

Now imagine if you were to switch some of the products around.

switching products in site structure

In this case, if you were trying to find a gas powered saw, you would naturally look under the gas powered tools.

If you misplace this in your site’s architecture, a user might navigate to the logical page but still be unable to find a product you actually have.

That means no matter how much you optimize the page, your organic traffic will struggle to navigate your site and may ultimately leave.

So when linking site architecture to conversion rates, the first place most brands start is with a mockup of what they want their users to achieve.

The purpose is to base the entire website design process on actual data and user behavior.

In the words of Paypal UX designer Larry Sawyer:

“They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but a mock-up is worth even more than that.”

So this design process typically follows a flow of testing, analysis, definition, ideating, prototyping, and then validating.

design process flow

If you follow this particular model, you’ll be able to create a website that is usable by anyone in your audience and thus inherently useful to all parties.

So your initial goal is to optimize your site according to what visitors are doing.

You then take that information and analyze their behavior to see what stands out.

How they use your site defines what is essential, which further provides you the ideas you need to test if you want to improve your conversions.

From this information, you create a prototype of your website, and then validate your findings with additional testing.

If the prototype is invalid, you rinse and repeat until your site is in complete working order.

Keep in mind that this style of UX design does typically involve more design than just site architecture.

But for our purposes, we want to focus on the bigger picture.

So when finally creating your site’s architecture mockup, many brands start with a comprehensive markup of how the elements of every page contribute to the user experience.

how pages contribute to user experience

As this professional breakdown demonstrates, you can draw out and improve every aspect of your site.

From this exercise, you can create a basic outline of what your users should achieve on every page of your site.

overall view of site architecture

The purpose here is to take a vast amount of data from your original design and then strip it away until only a series of user actions remain.

This, in turn, dictates your site’s architecture as it is a direct representation of how you want your user to use your site.

From this simplified design, one then typically creates a more comprehensive wireframe mockup.

comprehensive wireframe mockup

Once you’ve completed the wireframe, you only need to finalize your imagery, copy, and calls to action.

You can then test your new prototype site to see if your user experience is positively affected.

If this simplifies the actions your users take, then you truly aligned your site’s architecture with the intent of your audience, thus fulfilling the usefulness and usability criteria.

This process can be tedious, but it’s a great illustration of how data-backed and conversion oriented your site architecture really is.

If you can successfully do this with your site, you’ll be one step closer to creating a better overall conversion funnel that will help your brand for years to come.

Reason #2: It creates positive momentum

As we move deeper into the user experience and site architecture connection, the next layer according to the honeycomb model hinges on creating positive momentum.

That means according to the honeycomb model it needs to be desirable, accessible, and findable.

So once you’ve established a flow and created a site that’s usable on any device, the next step is to move beyond and create a pleasant experience.

It may surprise you to learn that one in three users will leave a site because they can’t find a product.

That means your site architecture can hurt conversions in a very direct way.

So your goal at this point should be to create a site that’s both easy to navigate and that builds natural forward momentum.

If you strive to emphasize the architecture of your site with compelling storytelling, the natural result will be that more users complete actions on your site.

That means finding a way to create a site whose architecture naturally lends itself to being informative, interactive, and even at times entertaining.

Consider the example of the site My Grandmother’s Lingo.

my grandmothers lingo

This award-winning website helps users learn new words from one of the oldest language in the world.

The creators designed the website for use and utility but even took that effort a step further by making it compelling and engaging.

The tantalizing idea of learning something both old and new hooks the user, and then sends them on a 10-minute journey where they learn something.

In the end, the primary goal is to help spread awareness of these ancient languages and provide a platform for future preservation.

How do they achieve this? Through vivid storytelling and a clear site architecture that’s geared toward positive momentum.

But momentum isn’t just about storytelling.

It also relies on where you position yourself, like on mobile.

More than ever, users are browsing with a mobile device.

That means that the architecture of your site needs to be conducive to both a desktop user and a mobile user.

If you only focus on one or the other, you are missing a significant portion of your potential audience, and thus you are losing conversions.

And if someone comes to your mobile site only to find it isn’t optimized, then all positive momentum is gone.

But momentum has to start even further back with your SEO.

And site architecture plays a critical role in bringing organic traffic to your site and providing forward momentum.

In one study, a brand was able to increase their site’s organic traffic from 800 visits per month to over 3,600 per month by focusing on the user experience their website gave.

That’s a growth of 350%.

350 percent growth

They achieved this by focusing entirely on the information architecture of their site and its contents.

So it’s clear that site architecture can lead to more traffic.

If your traffic can access across any device, then your momentum continues.

Moreover, if your storytelling is engaging, you further the momentum again.

And all of this links back to your site’s architecture and how well both Google and your audience utilize it.

Reason #3: It ultimately clarifies value

The final reason that links your site’s architecture to your efforts concerning conversion rate optimization hinges on your site being credible and valuable.

Another way you could say that is, “How does your site’s architecture help you deliver on your promise?”

If you fail to deliver a promise by creating a muddled and confusing site, then you’re never going to be able to see any real improvement from an A/B test.

And according to the LIFT model of CRO, the clarity and relevance of your value proposition will ultimately take your brand to new heights.

value proposition plane

The key to remember here is that users don’t always come to your website via your homepage.

There’s a good chance they could enter at any given point, so long as they have the right URL.

For example, how do you potentially sell – via your site’s architecture – to a visitor who first visited your blog?

If you don’t have a way for them to get their bearings and navigate your site immediately, you could potentially lose a lead before the process even begins.

Your goal then, with your site’s architecture, is to provide value at every stage.

provide value in site architecture

That means that when someone comes to your site, they should immediately know where they are.

Elements such as your permalink structure even play a role in helping your visitor understand where they are and what value your site offers.

If you parse your site out into easily understandable silos, like the example above, users will see your site as much more credible and ultimately more useful.

Take for example the Merge and Purge case study that sought to boost organic traffic and improve user experience.

plateau of pain boost organic traffic

In this case, the focus was on taking disparate pieces of content created over many years and compiling them into understandable content silos.

When the site was simplified, they saw a 32% increase in organic traffic.

And as we’ve already seen, organic traffic is the part of the site architecture conversion machine.

So in this case, by clarifying the value of their site by creating a cleaner content architecture, the brand was able to achieve a big win.

Brands should always seek to clarify their value proposition, and in this case, the answer is simple:

Your site architecture is the best place to start.

Conclusion

Conversion rate optimization is a nuanced and technical field.

It takes a lot of time and effort to learn the ins and outs of what works and what doesn’t, and that often trips up brands that seek to experiment and grow their online presence.

A/B tests fail very often, and the resulting frustration often turns businesses away from conversion rate optimization as a whole.

But if you were to focus on creating a robust site architecture, the results can be very different in the best possible way.

Site architecture is the backbone of conversions, and following the honeycomb model to help improve your user experience is the best course of action.

If you do, your site will have much more utility, and your site’s users will be able to navigate with ease.

From there, you can use your architecture to build positive momentum and keep people engaged with your brand.

And finally, you’ll have a clearer and more appealing value proposition that users can find from any entry point.

You’ll be much better suited to grow and convert new leads by merely creating a solid site architecture.

How has your site’s architecture helped or hurt your brand?

The post Why Good Site Architecture Is The Only CRO You Need appeared first on Neil Patel.

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