What Are the Most Popular Home Styles?

From craftsmen bungalows to mid-century ramblers, homes in the U.S are just as unique as the people who inhabit them. The rich architectural history of different regions has continued to be a foundation for modern upgrades. From East to West, you don’t have to be an architect to appreciate the stunning styles of homes on the market.

1. Ranch-Style

The iconic ranch architecture is known for its single-story, low-to-the-ground look, often with an open layout and occasional split level. A ranch can also be called a ‘rambler,’ depending on which region in the country you live in and local terminology.

Looking locally, ranches made up a larger share of homes in Phoenix and Atlanta than any other area, with 36 percent of all listings sold claiming the style in both metros. Portland, Chicago, Denver, and San Diego similarly favored the rambler.

Not only were ranch homes the most popular style of home sold last year, but the style also tended to be more affordable.

2. Craftsman

The beloved craftsman style is prominent in Seattle and Portland. Known for covered front porches with columns to support the roof, these homes bring charm to the Northwest.

Craftsman homes also feature recognizable interior details such as thick trim, prominent beams on the ceiling, and open floor plans.

3. Townhouse

Townhomes were most commonly found in Denver but proved to be most expensive in Boston. With the convenience of spacious layouts, townhomes offer more amenities than the condo styles and are lower maintenance than most residential homes.

The townhomes in Boston are often built from sandstone with red-brown hues. Most notably, the Victorian Brownstone has a classic architectural style with modern updates.

4. Contemporary

Contemporary-style can inspire more variations than modern architecture, taking the lead styles for Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland. These homes also prove to be the priciest, boasting large windows and dramatic exteriors.

5. Modern

An innovative approach, including contemporary and modern homes, was most popular in California. Modern homes are similar to the contemporary style with a stricter style format.

Modern homes typically include progressive elements such as asymmetrical exteriors, flat roofs, and integrated outdoor spaces. Many modern interiors also feature minimal molding and trim, neutral color palettes, and metal accents.

Both modern and contemporary homes sold at higher median prices than most other styles.

6. Colonial

East Coast architecture has maintained its allure with 26 percent of Boston homes showcasing colonial roots. These classic homes are known for old-world charm, ornamental doorways, and symmetrical window placement.

7. Cape Cod Homes

Frequently seen in the Windy City, Cape Cod-style homes are reminiscent of the classic American cottage-style. This type of home design migrated from New England to Chicago, maintaining it’s symmetrical design and central chimney.

Methodology

This is according to a Redfin analysis of approximately 100 metro areas, looking at three-bedroom homes sold in 2018, to find out which styles were most popular. Home types were based on how listing agents categorized them in their local multiple listing service (MLS) databases. It’s important to note that these home-type fields are not mandatory, and therefore not representative of every single listing.

Native & Programmatic… Huh?

While scrolling through my Instagram feed, that is increasingly dominated by trendy, perfectly posed food pictures, my attention was caught by a recipe for gluten free spring rolls. After taking a closer look, I was surprised to find that this recipe was actually a Whole Foods ad that had sublimated itself into my regular content.

We’ve discussed paid social and content marketing in my recent blogs. What if there was a blend between the two? An advertisement disguised as regular content?! Who knew.

Let’s dig a little bit deeper. What if Whole Foods knew that I’m gluten free, I like spring rolls, and I can afford to shop there. *A girl can dream right?*

Now I’m guessing Whole Foods sees me as a pretty valuable customer. Are there more ways for them to reach me besides paid social, SEM, and traditional advertisements? Well, since we are dealing with digital marketing, that mean that the options for reaching your audience are virtually endless. There are two additional types of advertisements that have grown increasingly valuable in the the recent years.

Native Advertising

Traditional advertising has been built upon buying ad space next to editorial content. Native advertising is a relatively new concept in the marketing community that disguises ads into regular content. If that definition turns your brain into mush, think about it this way. Native ads are essentially paid content marketing.

What’s all the hype about? Well, I’m glad you asked. Even though it’s difficult to track the success of native advertising, it has revolutionized the way that brands communicate with consumers. It gives brands a chance to be apart of the conversation.

Is it as cool as Zach Braff in Garden State? Probably not, but it’s worth a shot.

Most of you are probably familiar with Buzzfeed; yes I know, it’s click bait at its finest. What if I told you that the majority of Buzzfeed content is actually sponsored by brands? These seamlessly integrated articles provide consumers with meaningful content that is sponsored by the brands.

Take this donut article for example. (Of course food is my go to choice). After Buzzfeed lures you in with its catchy titles and scrumptious cover photo, you have the option to take a quiz that tells you what kind of donut you are. If you notice at the top of the article, the quiz is conveniently sponsored by Dunkin Donuts.

There is a reason that native advertising has taken off over the last few years. The main reason being that ads such as these get an astonishing amount of earned media attention. However, many brands still have concerns about native because it makes it particularly difficult to measure ROI.

Another reason that native has yet to overcome traditional media is the confusion of whether or not the ads themselves are effective. Many native ads have generated a noticeable amount of buzz due to the hype and controversy of the new strategy.

It still remains unclear if the native ads are producing the positive effects of if the conversations alone are drawing attention to brands. Either way, native ads are becoming more and more integrated with traditional strategies.

Programmatic Advertising

Another up and coming trend in the advertising industry is programmatic advertising. (Programmatic Huh?) Yeah, that’s what I said.

Programmatic ads are highly targeted and automatic ad purchases. In other words, these ads are put into a software used to automate, placement, and optimization of the ads through a bidding system. Ad Week describes programmatic as purchasing ad space in the same way that products are bought on Amazon.

Here is a thoughtful introduction to programmatic from Acuity Ads.

Now that we have a clear picture of what programmatic looks like, let’s take a look at how it’s affecting the industry. The Social Times recently found that 87% of marketers are seeing a greater return from programmatic advertising compared to traditional methods.

This shift in strategy has encouraged marketers to start investing more and more in programmatic and automation. By the end of 2017, programmatic spending is expected to increase to $32 billion. Additionally, 85% of banner ads are predicted to be placed programmatically by 2020.

We can’t deny the drastic increase in programmatic numbers over the last several years. Many creatives are beginning to squirm at the threat of increased automation in the industry. In terms of copywriting and imagery, the creative side of advertising is still critical to producing a quality product.

Pete Stein at Razorfish explains “Instead of just targeting a specific ad, you can generate content that’s relevant and then use real time to drive attention to it.”

Both native and programmatic advertising are opening doors within the world of digital marketing. Brands can either learn to adapt to changing trends or fall behind in technological advances. However, businesses that continue to evolve their digital strategies with programmatic and native will ultimately connect better with their audience. Thus, creating lasting relationships by delivering rich and meaningful content.

Till we meet again,

Angie

3 Reasons You Should Learn How to Code

You know that feeling you get when you’ve created the perfect email but you just can’t get the formatting quite right? Welcome to every marketer’s nightmare. Luckily, there is an easy solution to all of your formatting problems. We all know that coding can be intimidating for beginners.. but it can make a huge difference in your digital marketing ventures.

Code Academy describes HTML as the skeleton that gives every web page structure. If you know the basic anatomy of the skeleton, your ability to perform digitally will drastically improve.

There are three main reasons that every recent graduate should learn HTML and CSS:

1. It Makes You More Hirable

More and more people are finding themselves at “coding boot camp” these days, especially in Seattle. Even more surprising is that 70% of these new students already have college degrees. You’re telling me that my Sociology degree might not actually land me my dream job?

Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.

Take it from someone who has recently entered the job market – competition is stiff. Bloomberg has found that one of the main reasons for this is because “colleges are preparing students for things that employers were hiring for 15 years ago.”

Not only will learning how to code increase the chances of getting hired in the first place, it will also bump up your salary *Fingers crossed*. Only six months after graduating from General Assembly, 59% of students saw a salary increase that averaged $23,000.

*Cha-ching*

2. HTML Will Help You Become a “Full Stack Marketer”

The competition for jobs is particularly strained in the marketing industry. Even though there has been a growth in the digital community, many smaller startups expect a more well-rounded knowledge base.

A full stack marketer has a “working knowledge of all modern marketing tactics.” In other words, they can do anything general. From SEO to A/B testing, these individuals can offer a whole lot of growth for businesses that are just getting started. One of these skills is basic HTML and CSS knowledge.

There are SO many things that you can do with HTML. Understanding how to make minor changes to emails, online content, and web pages can make you that much more efficient as a marketer.

It’s also helpful to be able to communicate with your UI/UX designers. Knowing HTML allows you to speak the same language. This ensures that your ideas are being properly communicated between the marketing and design departments. If that’s not enough for you, HubSpot found seven instances where you will kick yourself for not knowing HTML.

After learning about what a difference HTML makes in your career, I decided to begin the HTML & CSS course with Code Academy. This site offers FREE lessons on coding fundamentals.

Even though I already have a basic understanding of HTML from past projects, these lessons helped me fine tune my skills. In two short hours, I was able to complete 41% of the tutorial. The course taught me how to properly insert images, include links, and format text for web pages.

The best thing about the course is that you can go at your own pace. It slowly breaks down the basics of coding bit by bit. For those of you who are looking to add HTML skills to your resume, I highly recommend Code Academy. Once you get started, you’ll be a full stack marketer in no time.

3. It Teaches You Basic Web Design

Learning HTML has helped my develop my personal website over the last several months. I chose WordPress because it is heavily focused on blogs while remaining highly customizable. After learning more detailed web design with Code Academy, I decided to give Squarespace a try to practice my new skills.

Everyone loves a good throw pillow. I decided to make an e-commerce site called “Pillow Talk” that sells 100% cotton pillows. After about half an hour of messing around, here is the homepage I developed.

Now there are a couple things I love about Squarespace and several things that can be improved. Here is my review:

Pros:

  • Aesthetically pleasing designs with modern interfaces
  • Wide variety of page styles and layouts
  • Built in stock photo browser and logo generation
  • Analytics to monitor your site’s traffic and progress

Cons:

  • Not highly customizable – designs are rigid and restrictive
  • Difficult to upload and resize images
  • Your site cannot go live until you pay for the service (WordPress offers free versions)

Overall, Squarespace is a great platform to build e-commerce websites. I may be biased but WordPress seems to be more user-friendly because it gives you access to HTML. This gives you the opportunity to fully customize your website to meet your business needs. However, Squarespace is a great option for beginners looking for a visually appealing website.

Stay tuned for updates on the rest of my Code Academy experience as well as additional tips for digital marketers.

Your marketing guru,

Angie

Did You Just Say… Email?

If you haven’t already guessed, I’m a total real estate nerd. I’m constantly searching for ways to stay up to date with the market and trends within the industry. One of the best ways for me to stay in touch is with the emails I receive from businesses such as Zillow and Trulia.

“Did you just say………. email?”

You bet I did. Believe it or not, email is still a common way for businesses to communicate, even with the recent downfall of Blackberry.

Plus email isn’t only for old people (sorry mom). Millennials are the most likely age group to check their email from bed (70%), from the bathroom (57%), or while driving (27%).

Email Marketing

With over 2.5 billion email users worldwide, email is still extremely relevant. In fact, 88% of businesses say that email is generating a positive ROI for their business.

Still not convinced? What if I told you that 81% of US online shoppers are more likely to make purchases as a result of an email. According to Create the Bridge, email marketing is a shocking 40x better at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter.

A study done in 2014 also found that for every $1 spent on email marketing, the average return is $44.25. And guess what? It’s only increased since then.

Wowza.

But one thing we know is that we all hate spam. So how do we cut through the noise and reach our customers in a meaningful way.

Luckily, MailChimp offers an easy guide to building an effective email marketing campaign.

Here is the breakdown:

1. Define Your Audience

Before you even consider what type of content you want to deliver, it’s important to think about your audience. The topic of buyer personas is something I have continually emphasized throughout my blogging journey.

But trust me.. listening to your audience will make or break your marketing efforts. What do you envision they’ll want to read in your emails? After you determine who will be receiving your emails, it’s a lot easier to figure out what to say to them.

When I worked as a Marketing Coordinator at a local RE/MAX office, I had the opportunity to launch a redesign of our monthly newsletter. BuyerMax Inc. already had roughly 8,000 subscribers scattered throughout the Northwest and British Columbia.

After digging further, it was clear that the bulk of our subscribers were from the Whatcom County area. Luckily, these residents were our core target market which gave us the chance to reach potential clients.

2. Content Creation

Now that we’ve determined our audience, it’s time to actually create the content. Consider why your audience signed up for the email in the first place. Are they searching for information? Looking for deals and discounts?

Do you have any content that you’ve already created that might be useful? Blog posts, social media posts, or articles might be the perfect thing to add to your next email.

At BuyerMax, we generated a general email template while still incorporating fresh content in each newsletter. The basic structure of our newsletter included:

MailChimp recommends a few tips to delivering compelling content. One of which is to treat your readers like VIPs. You are privileged to have your users subscribe voluntarily to your emails. Make sure to honor this privilege with special offers, exclusive content, and benefits for your subscribers.

They also remind us to keep it useful, concise, and show some personality. No one wants an email that’s going to slip through the cracks with a lackluster design and average content.

Get inspired for your emails. Make sure to collect content regularly that might be of interest to your audience. Apps such as Pinterest are perfect for generating ideas.

3. Consistency and Scheduling

The frequency of your emails should be dependent on your audience. (Notice a pattern yet?)

ChimpMail recommends sending email communication at least once a month. That way you stay relevant and your audience doesn’t forget they subscribed to you.

The most important thing to remember is that content comes first. If you don’t have anything valuable to say, don’t say anything at all.

Plan your emails far in advance so that you can stay consistent.

Automation

If you’re worried about the amount of time that goes into email marketing, you’re in luck. It’s becoming more and more simple with automation.

Marketing automation is software designed to assists you in streamlining and executing marketing tasks. It will provide you with the extra free time you need to create authentic content which in turn will help you reach your goals faster.

  • Lead nurturing: Automation options inform you how far along your leads are in the marketing funnel. From there, the automation will give suggests of next steps to take to stay in contact with your leads.
  • Real-time updates: Making contact with your leads immediately after they interact with your content is one way to follow up. This will increase engagement with leads by reaching them while you have their attention.
  • Saving money: Instead of requiring multiple software solutions to keep your marketing and sales efforts in order, automation provides an all-in-one fix that can reduce your spending.

Let’s take a look at a real estate firm that was able to successfully implement automation into the business. Smart Touch Interactive (STI) is one of the many platforms that provide automation and is built specifically for real estate.

STI specializes in lead nurturing and determining which leads are ready to buy or sell a home. The leads are essentially given a score that determines how far down the lead is in the marketing funnel.

After the leads are dividing into “sales ready” and “not sales ready”, the system suggests specific content dependent on their readiness. For “not sales ready” leads, this may include additional content about the market or a simply continuing with newsletter. On the other hand, “sales ready leads may receive more specific content regarding listings that they interacted with in previous emails.

The Lakes at Centerra is an urban development in Colorado that began marketing automation with STI. After implementing the campaign, the automation had a positive impact on roughly 60% of the leads. Out of the buyers who had closed, about 50% had experienced the automation system.

There you have it. Marketing automation can make a HUGE difference in your email marketing.

If you’re looking for ways to cut costs and streamline your marketing, there are a few different platforms that may meet your needs. All of these platforms have the capability to improve your email marketing and other inbound communications. Let’s take a look at your options.

Hubspot: We all know that Hubspot is the crown jewel of inbound marketing. What you may not know is that they offer a free trial which is pretty handy. Ranging from $200 to $2400 a month, Hubspot offers the whole package. The platform has social media, SEO, email, and automation capability and focuses on smaller/mid-size businesses communication.

Marketo: On the other hand, Marketo is geared more towards B2B communication by focusing on larger firms. This platform offers more in depth analytical tools which can impose a stronger learning curve. Even though the monthly payments are a little higher at roughly $800/month, Marketo doesn’t charge a start up fee. It provides real-time marketing, automation, customer engagement, and marketing management.

Pardot: Pardot by Salesforce is a platform specializes in B2B which makes it a premium service ranging from $1000-3000 a month. One of the biggest selling points is the built in reports that allow you to take a closer look at your ROI. Since it’s created by Salesforce, it has advanced CRM so that you can closely monitor lead activity.

SharpSpring: In contrast to the other platforms, SharpSpring targets smaller businesses by offering monthly packages starting at $400 a month. Another benefit of SharpSpring is that they offer the packages based on the number of contacts which means no long-term commitments.

Socedo: For us Seattleites, Socedo is a smaller firm that works with B2B communication and social media lead generation. One great thing about Socedo that it only costs about $100/month with no start up fees. (Wow now thats a perk). Now this doesn’t mean that this platform is limited, even big players such as Microsoft use it. In addition to the basic automation features, Socedo also offers CRM integration.

 

Depending on what your company goals are, each of these platforms offer similar products with different focuses. Whether it be real estate or another industry, email marketing is one of the most effective ways to nurture your leads while encouraging them further down the funnel. It can help you retain and extend customer relationships while promoting your business.

Till we meet again,

Angie

Why Bing Never Became a Verb.. Until Now

Okay so I may have exaggerated a bit.. but believe it or not Bing is starting to make a comeback. Even though Google holds roughly 64% of the market share, Bing is still becoming a huge digital advertising platform that we can’t ignore. It may not be established in the English language like Google, but its still made itself a strong contender in the search engine industry with a 21% market share.

Now I know Bing has been easy to write off in the past. Let’s be real, we’ve really only given Bing credit for the unforgettable “Decode” ad campaign with Jay-Z. Even my digital marketing professor, Mark Staton, jokes that it stands for “Because it’s not Google.”

1409

I know, that one got me too.

But in reality, Bing has experienced 43% growth in advertising sales over the last year even though Microsoft has considered it a low priority. And surely with an expected $5.3 billion in revenue this next year, there must be something noteworthy about the lackluster search tool.

After diving into the basics of SEM in my last blog, the next step is choosing your advertising platform. Now that we know Bing is still a promising option, let’s take a look at the key differences between Google and Bing.

Basic Settings

Budget – Google and Bing have many similarities in terms of budgets. Both platforms have a pay-per-click formula that allows you to control how much you’re willing to pay. Even though each site has budgets to control how much you spend, Bing has more flexibility. It allows daily or monthly budgets, compared to Google that only offers a daily feature.

Of course another pro for Bing is the drastic difference in price between the two sites. According to Search Engine Watch, the average cost for a conversion on Bing is 63% less than Google. This is particularly attractive for people that are just dipping their toes into SEM.

Ad Scheduling – Thanks to Cypress North, I recently learned is that Google AdWords only time zone is only specified by the advertiser. This means that if you set your ads to 9-5pm pacific time, someone on the East coast will only see those ads from 12-9pm.

On the other hand, Bing automatically does the thinking for you. Bing describes that “Targeting times are based on the location of the person searching for or viewing your ad.” Luckily they give you the chance to not have to think about where your target market might be.

Ad Types

Images – Finally, a win for AdWords. Google allows you to include a variety of sizes and formats for image based ads. Unfortunately, Bing ADS don’t offer one image based ad. If you want to include an image in Bing Ads, you have to build an extension to a traditional text ad.

Mobile – If there is one thing I’ve learned about the future of marketing, it’s all about mobile. One thing that Google has done especially well is the transition to mobile advertising. AdWords gives you the option of specifying final URLs that are different for mobiles vs. desktop traffic. Why is this handy? Well it allows you to properly allocate your budget between mobile and desktop.

Bing Ads hasn’t quite hopped on the mobile bandwagon. Some accounts have the feature but they’re slowly integrating it into the platform. Get it together Bing….

Targeting

Keywords – A big portion of digital advertising campaigns are negative keywords. These keywords allow you to focus only on keywords that matter to your customer by excluding particular search terms.

Even though both Bing and Google allow you to build negative keywords into your ad settings, Bing allows keywords to trump negatives. In other words, if a negative keyword is included in one of your target keywords, related queries will still pop up. Google AdWords will block searches for negative keywords even if it means blocking a search for one of your keywords.

Geographic Targeting – Google definitely takes the cake for this one. We all know that location is one of the most effective ways to target with digital advertising. (Apparently Bing doesn’t). Google AdWords allows you to show your ads on your Display Network to the geographic areas that you wish to target. Bing only allows you to show your ads on the Content Network if you’re targeting the entire US population.

This means that with Bing, you have to pick and choose your battles. You can either target by groups or by campaign. Group targeting directly overrides campaign targeting on Bing.

Who Actually Uses Bing?

You would be surprised… quite a few businesses actually use Bing.

Let’s take a look at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. Although we can assume that this Southern hotspot practically advertises itself, there is actually a team working to bring in more traffic. Scott Schult, Executive Vice President of Marketing at the Myrtle Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (Wow that’s a mouthful) has praised Bing for its cost efficient options.

“We might not get as much of the volume as with Google AdWords, but the volume of the traffic that we get converts really well at a lower cost.” – Scott Schult

With only 10% of the marketing budget being allocated towards digital, Myrtle Beach didn’t have a lot of wiggle room to bring in tourists. Scott and his team were able to get the most out of their dollar with Bing Ads. In fact, they noticed that visitors on Bing ads were much more likely to convert than those from Google AdWords.

Take a look at Myrtle Beach’s CPC and conversion rates.

If you noticed, the conversion rates with Bing Ads is a whopping 13% higher than Google AdWords.

 

This isn’t to say that Bing Ads are better than Google AdWords. It truly depends on your buyer persona. Try out both and see which platform works better for your business. Bing may have been better for Myrtle Beach, but maybe Google would be better for Venice Beach.

Overall, we’ve learned that there are many reasons why advertising with Bing would be more enticing compared to Google. Another thing to consider is that competition for ad space on Bing is substantially less than Google which can give your ads a chance to shine.

Although Bing is significantly cheaper than Google, there are still a few kinks that need to be worked out before it surpasses Google as the leading search engine. While I commend Bing for its strong efforts, it may not become a verb anytime soon.

If you need a quick guide to get started. Aborg offers a breakdown of what types of customers are on Bing and Google. Thinking about who your customer is will help you determine which platform to get started on.

Throughout the next week, I will be working towards my Google AdWords certification. Stay tuned for tips on how to master Google Ads to get your brand out there.

Your marketing guru,

Angie

Why Is Everyone Talking About SEM?

It’s finally Sunday and you know what that means.. and no I’m not talking about football. It’s time to curl up on the couch with your hot cocoa and catch up on your favorite HBO series.

If you’ve missed newest dystopian drama about cowboys and robots, it’s time to hop on board. Westworld has made quite an entrance as one of the most visually stunning HBO shows to date.

Wondering what in the world Westworld has to do with SEM? We’ll get there shortly.

 

HBO is known for unconventional advertising strategies that lure in millions of viewers each week. From True Blood’s red fountains to Game of Thrones newspaper spreads, HBO is constantly stepping outside of the box.

However, HBO recognizes that a blend of these tactics and digital strategies are the best way to reach its audience. Paid search has become one of the cornerstones for many of the hit television dramas. We’re going to take a look at how they have built SEM into its digital strategy.

Last week we discussed the importance of organic search and how unpaid natural rankings are the fundamentals of SEO. We learned that SEO is one of the most effective ways to drive traffic to your site. However, we’re still missing a piece of the pie: paid search.

Search engine marketing (SEM) includes both organic search engine optimization and paid search strategies. Hubspot found that 70% of people click on the organic results while only 30% are likely to click on the paid links. If I can get the majority of my clicks through organic, why bother?

Well, that’s a great question. I wondered the same thing until I learned how much time it takes to build your SEO. Paid search is a great option if you’re not ranking well in the organic search alone.

We talked about how 94% of users don’t make it past the first page of search results.

Paid search is a way to guarantee that you’ll make it higher up in results.

On search engine results pages (SERP), you can pay for your URL to appear in certain sections of the results. One of the main benefits of the paid search is that you can move your website up to the top of the page which increases visibility.

Paid search not only gives you the ability to increase visibility, it also is highly targeted, metric-driven, and quantifiable. With these paid ads, you have the option to target geographic regions, segment your audience, and increase brand exposure. If this isn’t enough to convince you, check out Hubspot’s examples of effective paid searchcampaigns.

There are three main components of paid search campaigns – keywords, ads, and landing pages. Paid search is about managing, matching, and optimizing these three things to get the best results.

For those of you that are just getting started, here are some do’s and don’ts of SEM.

Do’s
A/B Testing & Landing Pages

One of the best ways to find the balance between your ads and landing pages is to do A/B testing. Splitting your traffic between two different pages tells you which landing page has the best response from your audience. That way you can test the pages to see which version gives you a higher conversion rate.

Let’s take a look at Westworld for an example. While I may be biased because the brilliant cinematography and epic plot line, I must say the landing page is pretty darn cool. Take a look for yourself.

 

The paid ad on Google leads directly to this interactive landing page. Of course HBO did A/B testing to make sure their audience responded well to the content. If you’re going to bother to pay for people to see your page, make sure its content that will make the landing stick.

Test Keywords

Design your keywords while thinking about your buyer persona. What kinds of words will they search? What kind of language do they use?

Finding the balance between broad and narrow is extremely important for your SEM. Setting your keywords to exact match allows you to target very specific audiences but your target is also defined very narrowly which limits your reach.

Although clever, the “vampire insurance” keywords may be too specific to capture a strong audience. HBO’s paid ad for True Blood brought users directly to the site to watch past episodes or subscribe to the fan base.

Start with a broad match with opens up a wide range of traffic. But make sure to monitor and track quality and not just quantity. You don’t want to continue to pay for irrelevant keywords. Check your Search Terms report to see which keywords convert well.

Google provides a quality score which is determined by an algorithm to see how connected your content is to your keywords. This provides an optimal user experience and helps you determine which keywords are most cost-efficient for your business.

Pay-per-click (PPC)

Rather than paying just for you ads to be shown in the search (CPM cost per thousand impressions), paying per click is the most cost effective way to reap the benefits. CPM means that your ad might be displayed 100,000 times but you might only receive 1 click.

PPC let’s you take matters into your own hands and pay only for users that actual click on the link. Overall, this will give you a better ROI because it’s you are only paying for visitors that are further down the marketing funnel.

Don’ts
Don’t Blow Through Your Budget

Even though it’s temping, don’t spend money every time someone clicks on your ad. Set a budget that will be spread out throughout the day. Especially if you have highly relevant or popular keywords, it’s easy to blow through your budget.

If you dictate how much money Google can spend on ad placements per day, Google won’t exceed those amounts. Daily budget caps can allow you to slowly begin measure success and lead quality. This gives you the chance to try out different strategies before you invest a lot of money.

Avoid Wasting Space

Another important step of paid search is optimizing your ad copy. Search engines such as Google and Bing offer an extremely limited number of characters for your ads which means you need to make every word count.

Google allows only 25 characters for the title and 37 characters for the display (URL). It also has two descriptions per ad: one informs the viewers of what the content is about and the second is typically a call to action.

Even though it’s a different website, this ad is promoting HBO’s new show Westworld. You can see that it provides a brief description of what you can find on the website while including a call-to-action.

Don’t Replace

One thing to keep in mind is that SEM isn’t a replacement for anything, it’s a compliment. HBO’s paid search strategy wouldn’t be nearly as effective if they took away the organic search or other digital strategies.

Widespread coverage in the search engines results drives more traffic. Many marketers recommend doing paid as well as SEO. This allows you to push your competition further down the page while getting yours closer to the top.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of SEM, you can keep your eyes out for ways to increase your search engine traffic. If you’re looking more information to kickstart your paid search, Hubspot offers a simple introduction.

HBO has gained its loyal fanbase by incorporating paid search to get more users to their pages and ultimately create more conversions. Not only does this technique work for larger businesses such as HBO, it’s also a great way to gain exposure for smaller start ups.

Stay tuned for more specifics on how to implement these strategies with Google AdWords.

Your marketing guru,

Angie

How to Get on Google’s Top Ten

Do you remember the days of Myspace top eights? The daunting pressure of being publicly compared by level of popularity. We all dreaded the day that we would log in only to see that were given the boot from a highly coveted position in your crush’s inner circle.

What if I told you that search engines execute the same process?

It may not be a top eight… but Google sure has a top ten. Research demonstrates that 94% of users don’t make it past the first page of search results.We’ve talked about the importance of creating content, now how do we make sure that content is actually seen?

Psst… I’ll give you a hint… *SEO*

The number one goal of search engines is to deliver relevant and useful results to users. Websites compete for attention and placement in the search engines, and those with the knowledge and experience to improve their website’s ranking will receive the benefits of increased traffic and visibility. You bet Google will be this year’s prom queen which means everyone will be fighting for the top ten.

Now that Google has over a billion monthly users, SEO has become a critical component to any growing business. Search engine optimization refers to techniques that help your site get ranked higher in an organic search on sites such as Google or Bing. (Don’t worry Bing, we’re still rooting for you.)

Even with the modern advancement of search engines, they still can’t understand websites as much as humans. As marketers, we must be empathetic and ask ourselves what our consumer is looking for in order to help out the search engines. Are they searching for information? Or are they hoping to book a hotel for their trip to Bali?

Its not about getting more traffic to your site, its about getting the right traffic to your site. Focusing on the consumer can help our content get found by consumers that actually give a damn.

Search engines rank sites based on popularity and relevance. How do we ensure that our site will make the cut? There are a couple of tricks of the trade that give us the leverage to improve our SEO.

Design

Keywords

We all know that search engines retrieve matches based on the words we input in the search bar. Whether you’re searching for the newest Guardians of the Galaxy trailer or Kim Kardashian West, keywords are the building blocks for language and search.

The best way to narrow the competition and improve your ranking is to make sure these keywords are included in titles, text, and metadata of your website.

Now don’t misinterpret this as instruction to shove your keywords anywhere and everywhere on your website. Make sure that your keywords are placed naturally and strategically.

Search engines are smart enough to figure out when sites are being disingenuous. The point of keywords is not to rank highly for every keyword, but to rank highly for keywords when visitors want what your site provides. This means you need to do your research to see what topics and content your customers care about.

Meta Tags

Meta tags allow you to build a proxy for information of your site’s content which give search engines the capability to streamline the search process. For example, meta robots can control search engine crawler activity. (i.e how search engines crawl through your site)

You can also utilize meta descriptions which are short descriptions of page content. This small snippet of text is used beneath the listing results which draws your readers to your site. This shortcut provides you with the opportunity to optimize your search engine results.

HTML

Search engines constantly search for unfriendly HTML elements that would cause the content to be disrupted for consumers. Another way to increase your organic search results is to include rich snippets in your HTML.

Rich snippets allow you to markup your content so that search engines can easily identify what type of content it is. This growing adoption will give you the advantage needed to leverage your content. Not sure how to get started? Google provides a simple guide to embedding rich snippets within your website.

Usability

Since search engines put a heavy emphasis on providing links that are useful, usability is an important factor in the algorithm. If you missed my post on UI/UX design, check out for tips on how to build a user friendly website. Moz found that search engines look for sites that are:

  1. Easy to use and navigate
  2. Provide direct and actionable information
  3. Professionally designed and accessible to modern browsers
  4. Deliver high quality, legitimate, and credible content

Creating a thoughtful website will increase potential share-ability as well as encourage return visitors. Search engines monitor usability by checking up on engagement metrics, site ratings, and linking patterns.

Each search a user performs is with the intent to either “learn, solve, buy, fix, treat, or understand.” Aiming to meet these objectives will help you craft original content that meets your typical user’s expectations.

Link Building

If you take a look at Moz’s search ranking factors, you can see that link features play a huge role in search engine algorithms. Taking links into consideration allows search engines to consider how trustworthy the sites are because trustworthy sites tend to link other trustworthy sites.

Not only do search engines rank links based on authenticity, links are also ranked based on popularity, anchor text, freshness, and social sharing. Continuously updating content, remaining active on social media, and monitoring our progress can drastically improve our link ranking.

Moz found that there are a few ways that you can build your links in order to improve your SEO. All of these methods spread your content and increase the likelihood of getting noticed.

  1. Get customers to link to you
  2. Create a company blog
  3. Create content for natural linking
  4. Be newsworthy

Now that we know the basics of building a SEO strategy, what can we expect for the future? Search engines are constantly advancing which continually changes organic search. Hubspot predicts that search patterns will drastically change over the next several years due to mobile search, social search, and voice search.

Even though web search remains the top search method for users around the globe, we must constantly analyze and monitor our progress. What’s working for your business and what isn’t?

If you want to pave your way to Google’s top ten, I highly recommended planning in advance. Finding innovative ways to optimize your website design, usability, and links will keep your business popular AND relevant regardless of the search methods in the future.

Stay relevant,

Angie

Landing a Date With Netflix.com

It’s Saturday night… you just got back from the store with your signature pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. You decide that it’s the perfect opportunity for a date night with Netflix. After cozying up in bed with your thousand calorie treat, you pop open your laptop to dive right back into your Breaking Bad binge.

Oh sh*t. Your ex finally booted you off of their account..

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Don’t worry friends, Netflix has paved the way for you to cut ties, sign up, and start perfecting your independent queue.

I’m sure you’re wondering how the popular video service has managed to capture 3 million new subscribers within the last year. And no, I’m not just talking about the unbeatable original content. (Btw I highly recommend Narcos)

Netflix has been able to deliver simplicity to its audience.

Design 101

Whether you’re using the mobile app or the online website, the Netflix interface is one of the easiest to navigate. From simple sign ups, a straight-forward interface, and content suggestions, Netflix always does the thinking for us. In general, user design is incredibly important when encourage your customer to continue down the marketing funnel.

Before getting to the nitty gritty of the design fundamentals, let’s define a couple of terms. From landing pages to navigating bars, every detail of user design effects how customers interact with our content. UX and UI designers work together to deliver a seamless product for users, there are a few differences between the two.

UX (User Experience)

The main goal of UX designers is to focus on how the product feels. For Netflix, this would be analyzing how you browse through the genres to make your selection. The designers watch your behavior as you move throughout the website in order to fix any roadblocks you may experience. They want to ensure that the you are having an enjoyable experience on the site.

I bet the UX designers spent countless hours perfecting the experience for the new rebrand.

UI (User Interface)

On the other hand, UI designers are focused less on how the product feels and more on how the product is laid out. They design each individual page to make sure that the interface is communicating the same path that the UX team planned. By focusing on the details and layouts of each page, UI designers can create a cohesive style throughout the website. In other words, the UI executes the plan that the UX designers have developed through user research.

Conversion Process

Now we know that the UI/UX designers have the capability to develop successful interfaces, let’s talk specifics. The overall focus of the website is to convert visitors into leads during the convert stage of inbound methodology.

There are three main components of the conversion process. All of these assets work together to complete one cycle of the process. UI/UX designers also make sure that these components are designed to promote effective engagements with the website.

1. Call to Action

CTAs kick off the conversion process which is one of the best ways to generate leads. What exactly does a strong call to action look like? Typically, the CTA can be found on a landing page. (We’ll get there in a moment.) However, they can also be found throughout the website to encourage your visitors to provide contact info, download content, or request trials. Great calls to action are attention grabbing so that visitors know to click on it.

Now back to the dilemma.. You have to make a new account. Well guess what? Netflix makes it nice and easy right from the homepage.

Netflix’s “Start your free month” CTA is action-oriented with ideal page placement. The visitor’s eye goes right to that blue icon that takes them to the next step. The overall goal CTAs is to gain a 1-2% click rate. The best way to reach that metric is to A/B testdifferent varieties to see what colors, formats, and placement work best with your target market.

2. Landing Pages

Now onto the good stuff. You know how everyone says first impressions count? They do. Landing pages can make or break your conversions. Hubspot describes landing pages as your “digital sales rep”. In other words, successful landing pages sell your product for you.

Landing pages are a critical component of the conversion process because it urges visitors to provide information about themselves. This information is how we can convert visitors into leads. Hubspot has found that companies with 30 or more landing pages generate seven times that amount of leads compared to companies with 10 or less.

More landing pages = more leads

For instance, say that you decide to skip the movie and go right for dessert. The Garnished Company offers a simple landing page with an option to enter your email for the new website launch. By minimizing the navigational options, the page entices visitors to quickly provide contact information. The elegant and tasteful design caters to their buyer persona.

 

Still need some inspiration? Check out a few examples from Unbounce. All successful landing pages are simple layouts with designs that align with the brand.

3. Thank You Pages

Lastly, we want to thank our new leads and provide additional direction. By giving the lead something they were hoping for such as more content or information, we can encourage our leads to become customers.

Thank you pages should deliver an offer to give visitors something to look forward to. Making it easy with a link can increase the chances of your leads interacting further with your site. For those of you who prefer Hulu to Netflix, *eyeroll* here is the page that pops up after you register.

 

Regardless of what your thank you page includes, make sure that the goal is to guide your visitor further down the marketing funnel. Hulu includes an additional CTA to encourage their visitors to download the mobile app. In addition, there is a link to “start watching now” and continue on to the rest of the site.

If you notice the second step of the thank you page, there is an option to “tell friends.” This includes the opportunity to share this information on social media which can boost your business’s social engagement. Whether it be an additional CTA or extra content, you always want to give your visitor options.

Now that we know the basics of website design, let’s get started. Take a look at your current layout. Does it make sense? Does it attract the buyer persona of your business? Make sure that it includes call to actions, a strong landing page, and a thank you page. These components will further promote interaction between your visitors and your content.

Cheers to you, friends. Kick back, relax, and carry on with your pint.

Until next time,

Angie

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Easy, Breezy, Beautiful….Social

Well folks, it has been an interesting week over here in the U.S. From Trump’s personal crisis to stormageddons in the Northwest, there has yet to be a dull moment in 2016. My personal favorite moment of last week’s shocking events is the recent reveal of the newest COVERGIRL.

Don’t worry, we’ll get there momentarily..

First, I want to introduce the concept of paid social. In my last post, we discussed how to create effective social media posts to help you build your business. What I failed to mention is that these organic posts don’t always reach our whole audience.

I know, I know, I should have told you. But don’t be discouraged. This doesn’t mean that social media isn’t an extremely effective way of capturing our audience. All the information in my last post still holds true. We just need to figure out the right formula for your business to generate the highest ROI and conversion rates.

As these social media channels became more and more saturated with content, organic reach isn’t enough to break through the noise. The truth is that only 10% of organically posted tweets are popping up in your follower’s feeds. Facebook posts also have an alarming organic engagement rate of only 2.27%.

Over the next year, consumers are expected to spend $327 billion online which mean our digital presence is becoming more and more critical to building business. With the rapid growth of social media advertising, companies around the globe are starting to implement paid social strategies.

Where do we begin with paid social?

1. Have a Gameplan

While building your paid social strategy, it’s extremely important to keep your end goal in mind. What are you trying to achieve by increasing engagements? This will help you calculate how much of your budget needs to be allocated in order to be successful. Here are some objectives to get your mind flowing:

  • Awareness: Build your brand
  • Consideration: Drive intent with high-value prospects
  • Conversion: Acquire new customers by finding people who are most like your best customers
  • Loyalty: Cross-sell and upsell to recent purchasers

Once you’ve decided what your overall goal is, it’s time to consider what type of ads you’re planning on running. How will these ads assist you in reaching your objective?

Will these be cold traffic or will you start with content and retarget?

For example, you might have a video on Facebook that provides rich content by teaching your audience something new. Facebook has the capability to target users based on how far they get into the video. This allows you to segment users based on how connected they were to your content.

Retargeting is particularly effective because it allows you to target consumers that are further down the marketing funnel.

Whichever type of advertisement you’re planning on posting, make sure that the content matches the goal. If you’re hoping to build brand loyalty, focus on consumers that you recently received a conversion from. If you’re looking to increase awareness, build a plan that introduces your products or services to new consumers.

2. Choose Your Audience

After deciding your objective, the next step is to find the right audience to meet your goals. There are a three different types of audiences you can build for your paid social reach. Facebook offers a blueprint to beginning your paid social strategies. This guide includes courses on how to choose your audience, particularly with Facebook.

Core Audiences:

One simple way to break up your audience is to look at basic breakdowns such as location, demographics, interests, and behaviors. This data is pulled from the information from your social media profiles and the behaviors you exhibit on your platform.

More specifically, Facebook has the ability to combine data from these categories and combines it with other syndicated data services. This data can then be broken up into more specific segments for potential targeting.

Custom Audiences:

Another option is to combine your own data with data from the platforms to produce a customized audience. These type of audiences work most effectively when you are looking to target a particular group of your customers. This allows you to leverage what you already know about your customers and target messaging that can drive action.

Creating your customs based on where your audience is in the marketing funnel is especially efficient. Targeting consumers based on behavior is one of the most practical ways to deliver content because you can reach consumers by considering how and where they’re interacting with your brand.

A recent example of building a custom audience is a campaign implemented by Olivia Rose. The popular YouTube channel targets “women who have afro hair and would like to learn about styling and maintenance.” The overall objective of the campaign was to promote the video content channel.

The brand combined data from its recent viewers on YouTube, as well as Facebook’s Power Editor. They were able to target exclusively females between the ages of 13-40 in particular locations. These are the results from the campaign with a custom audience:

  • 1,758 new Instagram followers
  • 1,784 new YouTube subscribers
  • 15,647 new Facebook fans

Lookalike Audiences:

Lastly, another strategy is targeting people that are similar to your existing customers. This method allows you to reach new consumers that are particularly valuable because they are more likely to be interested in your content. Creating a “seed” audience is a profile of your typical customer.

By targeting consumers that are especially valuable to your business, you can gain a more effective reach. For example, if the majority of your customers have searched gluten free food in the last twelve months, targeting new consumers with the same searches might spark additional interest in your product.

3. Pick Your Platform

Once you’ve determined which audience to target, we cycle back to the basic fundamental of social media, platforms. Different audiences connect with platforms in a variety of ways. For a breakdown of the pros and cons of each platform, check out Bitaly’s guide to finding the right social media channel.

Just last week, COVERGIRL brilliantly utilized paid social to reach its target audience on Instagram. With a heavy emphasis on visuals, Instagram currently has roughly 500 million active users a month. More than half of these users are between the ages of 18-29 which made it the ideal platform for COVERGIRL’s big reveal.

The popular beauty brand named its first male model, James Charles. Although controversial, the native advertisement had a wide reach with an exceptional amount of earned media. COVERGIRL found that its audience was searching for more authenticity from beauty brands.
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In addition, COVERGIRL strategically wants to focus on reaching the Generation Z, people who were born after 1988. The brand recognized that Instagram would be the most effective platform for the paid social reveal. Because of its younger demographic and focus on visual content, Instagram was the ideal place for the sponsored content.

Now that social engagements are “off the charts”, COVERGIRL can retarget consumers that interacted with the content. Whether it be on Instagram or another platform, these posts generate a massive amount of data. This data can be recycled for other paid social posts or other forms of inbound marketing.

It’s easy, it’s breezy, AND it’s beautiful.

After integrating paid social into your digital strategies, make sure to analyze your data and listen to your results. Continue to retarget in order to meet consumers further down the marketing funnel.

The more paid social you incorporate into your business, the more effective your ads will become. Ultimately, the best way to improve your paid social and maximize ROI is to practice. Stay tuned for more tips on digital marketing strategies.

Until next time,

Angie

The Digital Soapbox

In the wise words of Yeezus himself, “I was never really good at anything, except my ability to learn.” If finding your social media rhythm has been a challenge for your business, there are several tips available to improve your engagements. Kanye feels especially comfortable on his his soapbox, so why can’t we? Stay tuned for a guide on how to amplify your social media presence.

There are more than two billion active social media users worldwide with an expected increase of 25% each year. Social media has become a fundamental business practice because it provides the chance to communicate directly with your audience. Even more than that, it humanizes brands. Trust me, this guide will be worth it.

Before I breakdown how to effectively build social media into your business, let’s discuss the positive impact it can have on your brand. First and foremost, you are building and engaging a community. It creates the ability to establish responsive communication with your consumers. This communication can encourage three things:

  • Relationships: As businesses, our ultimately goal should be to grow relationships with our consumers. Relationships can lead to brand loyalty and advocacy while growing your retention rate. If you want consumers to stand by you through the ups and downs of your business, relationships should be the end goal for your business.
  • Feedback: Social media also opens up the opportunity for two way communication between consumers and the brand. It gives us the chance to listen to our consumer’s opinions, thoughts, and concerns. We can directly communicate information to our consumer so that they receive it quickly and accurately.
  • Integration: Integrating social media into your marketing plan allows you to communicate a seamless message across multiple platforms. Delivering a uniform brand identity across multiple touch points can increase awareness and engagement.

If you missed my last post on content and inbound marketing, be sure to catch up because content is necessary for inbound which makes it essential for social. Users that interact with your content on social media are already searching for your product. This gives us the chance to reach consumers that are further down the marketing funnel.

Are you inspired yet? Before you start building your brand on your digital soapbox, make sure you can properly implement your social media strategy. Here are five ways to amplify your business through social media:

1. Make a Plan

Before you become active on social media its important to consider a few questions. First, start by asking yourself what your objective is. For example, if you’re hope is to promote a new line of products, consider which platforms would be most effective. It’s also critical that you consider what type of investment is required to get your social media presence up and running.

Your plan should also be sure to set goals for your social media strategy. Don’t remember SMART goals from your intro to marketing course? Check out this cheatsheet from HubSpot. The key is to make sure that your goals will help you accomplish your objective.

 2. Creative Content

Wanna know how Yeezus has so many followers on twitter? Well TBH he either knows his audience really well or he simply doesn’t care. Either way, Kanye is earning a hell of a lot of earned media.

For those of us that aren’t as fascinating as our dear Mr. West, we need to learn how to optimize our posts. There are few fundamentals that we must consider when taking a stand on our digital soapbox.

Platform: We should always consider that our users interact with social media platforms in different ways. Optimizing each post requires understanding the purpose of each platform. We also need to find out which platforms our buyer personas are most active on. You don’t have to be everywhere on social media, you just have to be somewhere.

For instance, Twitter is ideal for witty interactions and real-time marketing that encourage quick user interaction. In some cases, it even allows room for brands to communicate with each other to entertain our users. We constantly see brands taking advantage of the most active days on social media, including the Oscars.

Message: It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Always leave room for creativity and call to actions while still appealing to your audience. Your message will vary based on what is most important to your target audience.

We all know that utilizing social media for promotional purposes can be effective. However, we want to make sure we’re providing our users with a variety of content to dive into. Make sure to think outside of the box and include other content that may peak their interest. Try adding value to your posts by incorporating humor or informational content on relevant topics.

Visuals: Eye-catching visuals are also essential to increase engagements and encourage users to share your content. MOZ recently found that images with your posts receive 94% more engagement. Even posts that contain video are shared 1200% more than text and links combined.

If this isn’t enough to convince you that visuals can drive results, check out the Instagram account for Sh*t That I Knit. Christina Fagan, the founder and knitting queen for the recent startup, discovered that pictures of her product were enough to gain momentum for the brand. In a matter of time, the demand for Fagan’s product was enough to give her carpal tunnel.

She’s expected to sell roughly $30,000-$40,000 worth of merchandise during the upcoming holiday season. Her success is mainly founded upon her aesthetically pleasing Instagram posts. With a variety of hashtags and quirky captions, these visually stunning posts make it easy for consumers to engage with the content.

3. Consistency is Key

Many businesses struggle with the question: “How often to I post?” It’s necessary for you to find what time of day is best for your audience. More importantly, the frequency of your posts must be consistent.

Research based on your consumers appetite for your content will help you determine how often you should post. If you don’t have anything of value to add to the conversation, wait until you do. Keep tabs on how long your consumers are engaging with your content in order to find the sweet spot for your intervals.

4. Evaluate & Repeat

As businesses, we must constantly evaluate our work and search for opportunities for growth. One of the biggest perks of social media is the ability to carefully monitor our performance to see if there is room for improvement.

We want to drive traffic, generate leads, and build community. The beauty of these digital interactions is that we can measure practically everything that we do. Taking a closer look at these categories can help us evaluate how our social presence is effecting our ROI.

Measurement: We always want to be able to measure our engagements and growth. Keep track of increases in engagements such as likes, follows, and reach in order to see which strategies are most effective.

Listening and Insights: Listening to what our consumers have to say allows us to break down the massive flow of information into meaningful insights. Evaluating these consumer responses can shed light on ways to improve social media strategies.

Monitoring and Response: Tools such as Hootsuite and Sprout Social allow you to efficiently monitor your platforms while responding to consumers. Responses to comments or concerns will promote consumer confidence and reliability.

These three categories will help you find out what works with your audience and what doesn’t. Use these insights to adjust your strategy to meet the needs of your traffic. Then try again!

Now that you know the fundamentals of having a powerful social media presence, it’s time to evaluate your current practices. Ad Age found that 35% of businesses plan to expand social media efforts over the next year. This gives us the opportunity to experiment with new ways of reaching our audiences.

Get inspired, get creative, and get on that soapbox. And remember…..

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Until next time,

Angie