Get More from Search - Trends in Search & Social Media

Social Media is Foundational to Digital Marketing

Love it or hate it, use it or ignore it, profit from it or have your customer service gaffes illuminated by it, social media is buzzing because it has become foundational to digital marketing. User generated content allows people around the world to share ideas with each other. Social media’s reach now outperforms traditional media outlets like TV, radio and print. And while it’s now undeniably part of our culture and marketing disciplines, the growth has really just begun.

Random Social Media Stats

  • In 2010, Gen Y outnumbered Baby Boomers and 96% of them belong to a social network.
  • 78% of people trusting peer recommendations on websites; only 14% trust ads.
  • 25% of search results for the world’s top 20 brands are linked to user-generated content.
  • 1 out of 8 couples married in the U.S. in 2009 met via social media.
  • Facebook has over 500 million active users. 50% of them log in every day. Collectively, 700 billion minutes per month are spent at the site. 70% of users are outside of the U.S. Facebook has over 200 million active mobile users and are 2X as active as non-mobile users.
  • Twitter has 175 million users, generating over 65 million tweets and more than 800,000 searches per day.
  • The second largest search engine in the world is YouTube. The site has over 2 billion viewers daily.
  • 73% of Wikipedia users edit the site’s content because they want to share knowledge.
  • LinkedIn has over 60 million users with 12 million unique visitors per day.
  • People care more about how their social graph ranks products and services  than how Google ranks them.

What Do Strangers Recommend?

Word of mouth is the most popular option for deciding on your next product of service, with 78% of people trusting peer recommendations on websites. The profound influence that strangers have on our decisions is relatively new and remarkable territory. Plain old advertising only impresses 14% of people.

Brand Rankings Succumb to the User Generated Content

As mentioned above, 25% of search results for the world’s top 20 brands are linked to user-generated content. The platform provided by social media combined with sheer numbers of customer contributors outpaces the content that even the world’s largest brands can generate.

This can be a very good thing if your priorities are right. If the preponderance of your customers are saying good things, they will do the marketing for you. If not, or if your company has a bad rap for lack of engagement or courtesy, customer reviews can do more damage than any failed ad campaign. Large brands typically have it more uphill battle to humanize their messages and deal with customers at a one-to-one level. On the other hand, small companies have the most success at finding new customers through social sites.

2011 – Dubbed “The Year of Facebook” for PPC Marketers
2011 will have search marketers delving even deeper as it is anticipated to be the “year of Facebook” according to Covario, a search marketing firm to Fortune 500 companies.

72 percent of active users have two social network accounts on average, with Facebook being the platform of choice with 51 percent of users having an account – the most popular by a landslide.  Integration between search and social media is priority number one for respondents to Covario’s recent search and social media survey. The allure of user-generated inbound links to product sites is a major draw for advertisers.

Paid search advertisements on social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn should also see major upticks – as much as 10% to 20% of PPC budgets – as marketers aim to engage their target audience in the middle of their networking sprees.

Make Social Media a Priority

The takeaway is that consumers now have the largest impact on a brand’s messaging and it is doubtful that we’re going to cede that voice anytime soon. Social media here to stay. So, whatever your feelings are toward connecting with consumers, engaging in social media and integrating it with your digital and offline campaigns needs to a top priority for your business in 2011 and beyond.

Post by Jennifer Gosse.

Focus on the top 10 percent when considering effective affiliate marketing

Vortaloptics custom search engines include revenue components that empower its clients to maximize the return on investment from their engines. Since the engine is completely controllable by the client, they can improve the relevancy of the search results and also place key partners and affiliates into their engines.

Vortaloptics never recommends listing irrelevant content just to profit from clicks, but rather consults our clients to focus on the most relevant content that users are seeking and match advertising, affiliates and partners to the search results pages to those search phrases to build a better user experience.

Because the content on our client results pages is hyper-relevant to the search terms and those results pages provide contextual ad and partner content, the ROI from clickthroughs is typically much higher for our clients than from traditional ads placed on blogs, for instance.  Search results page ads typically outperform regular page advertisements anyway, but because our clients can control the content of their results pages the ROI is on average, 10 times greater.

Affiliate marketing—using one website to drive traffic to another—is a form of online marketing, which is frequently overlooked by advertisers. While search engines, e-mail, and website syndication capture much of the attention of online retailers, affiliate marketing carries a much lower profile. Still, affiliates continue to play a significant role in e-retailers’ marketing strategies.

With clients being able to hone in top performing ads, they can now focus on the search phrases and clickthroughs that pay the most. Optimizing your website revenue is particularly important in a tough economy. One way to do this is to seek out the top affiliate programs and add as organic search content and banner listings.

As an example, Speedy Cash is launching a new affiliate program with one of the highest commissions per lead in the financial payday loans industry. Vortaloptics’ local search clients could signup for the Speedy Cash affiliate program and insert banners, text links and search results into their search engine for this payday loans affiliate program. When users search for or click on the financial services subcategory, the Speedy Cash program can receive prominent placement.

Being able to maximize revenue efforts by focusing on the top paying affiliate, partner and advertising initiatives makes good business sense. A well placed $85/lead link is worth the effort over a $1/lead program. Vortaloptics provides the technology to help administrators quickly focus their efforts on the top ROI programs and provide better value to their users.

Post by David Gosse.

From Our Company, With Heart

Posted on October 19th, 2007. About Miscellaneous, Social Media.

If ever there was a time to engage and reach out to your customers, it’s now. There are so many ways of letting your good customer practices shine. Yes, social media and customer-centric practices can be uncomfortable to step into, but the end product can mean loyal customer partners for life.

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Take in this real-life story about a company with heart – and get some inspiration for your own sincerely driven efforts to positively impact the lives of your customers. Zappos’ uncalled for sympathy, as reported by Zaz Lamarr in her personal blog, “Writing, Cooking, Life,” has sparked a lot of publicity online. We doubt that was the end intention of Zappos, but rather that it was a random act of kindness. There were people at the company thinking from the heart rather than the head who went beyond the rules to let a customer know they really care.

I Heart Zappos

I really do.

One bright, extraordinary note in all of the sad stuff of the last few weeks – in May we had ordered several pairs of shoes from Zappos for my mom. She’d lost a lot of weight, and her old shoes were all too big. She had a whole new wardrobe of clothes in pretty colors, that fit, so I wanted her to have some pretty shoes that fit, too, when I took her up to Oregon to stay where her sister is. Out of seven pairs, only two fit. Not bad considering she’d never been this thin, so I was winging it, and the return shipping is free.

The rest were here waiting to be returned. Because of various circumstances – lost label, my mom being hospitalized and me being away, the shoes were never sent back. There’s a time limit on the return of 15 days. Remember this. When you do a return to them, they pay the shipping, but you have to get the shoes to UPS yourself. Remember this, also.

When I came home this last time, I had an email from Zappos asking about the shoes, since they hadn’t received them. I was just back and not ready to deal with that, so I replied that my mom had died but that I’d send the shoes as soon as I could. They emailed back that they had arranged with UPS to pick up the shoes, so I wouldn’t have to take the time to do it myself. I was so touched. That’s going against corporate policy.

Yesterday, when I came home from town, a florist delivery man was just leaving. It was a beautiful arrangement in a basket with white lilies and roses and carnations. Big and lush and fragrant. I opened the card, and it was from Zappos. I burst into tears. I’m a sucker for kindness, and if that isn’t one of the nicest things I’ve ever had happen to me, I don’t know what is. So…

IF YOU BUY SHOES ONLINE, GET THEM FROM ZAPPOS.

With hearts like theirs, you know they’re good to do business with.

You’ve inspired us all, Zappos. We encourage all companies to think outside the sometimes stuffy lines of corporate-to-consumer relations and think like a human, with heart.

Post by David Gosse.

Designing for Longer and More Productive Site Visits

Posted on April 16th, 2007. About Articles, Local Search, Miscellaneous, Search News, Site Search, Vortaloptics.

Our attention spans are shorter these days. With the immediate answers available from search engines, we’ve come to expect more from the websites we visit. As such, we’re all guilty of nibbling on site after site, looking for the right combination of design, content and product that will stop us in our tracks and engage our busy minds.

Your website visitors follow this same pattern. If, for instance, your website takes too long to load, they’ll just continue onto another site. Your goal as a website owner is to slow visitors down, giving them time to absorb your message and let your product or service make a lasting impression. So how do you capture their attention without frustrating them?

Simple is better. If you give people too many choices they will become overwhelmed and will go to a site that will make it easier for them to choose. Even if your company prides itself on a plethora of products and services, your bottom line will be better served by putting the spotlight on a few timely, best-selling products and guiding visitors to learn more about those products. A little bit of information can go a long way. Don’t overwhelm users with the details. Instead, focus on the information that is important to them – often the key benefits and purchase-critical information (shipping, privacy, guarantees, customer service, etc.). If you provide them with too much information it will confuse them instead of clarifying the offering.

Relevant content is great, but too much or the wrong content is great at driving people away. You’re the expert in your field, but don’t expect your visitors to read protracted discourses on your company’s virtues. Those are better left for business plans, not for websites. Remember the simple is better philosophy and always be relevant. Strive for engaging, succinct editorial that invites an action. Try call-outs in the sidebars with various call to action items to cater to various personalities – make sure that your visitors can get to know and get in touch with your company in the method they’re most comfortable with.

Limit distractions. There’s always the potential that an engaged visitor one second will become another site’s visitor or customer the next. Incorporating third-party ads can be a great income generator, but they can also invite site hopping. Go for ad serving technologies where you can control the ad content and disable competitive messaging whenever possible. Your goal is to keep visitors on your site as long as possible because the longer they stay; the more likely they are to purchase a product or service.

Remove the stumbling blocks. Leaving the prospect with the potential for too many decisions will send a 90% closed sale into a missed opportunity. Once a visitor turns into a prospect, you’ve got to make absolutely certain that they have all the decision making pieces in full view (i.e. price) or within one pop-up window away of “Buy now” or “Contact us.”  Abandonment is often due to not enough of the right information and that’s just an unnecessary faux pas.   

Design for easy navigation. Keep your page design fairly consistent to minimize confusion. Site visitors look for critical information in the top menu of a website – so make sure the most important pages and action items are always visible.

Not driving visitors away from your site means slowing them down long enough to understand your message and learn why they should buy your product or service. To do this, incorporate these principles:  keep it simple, relevant, non-distracting, decision-making friendly and easily navigable. By doing this, you’ll convert visitors who really want to learn and enter into a purchase. The people who are just nibbling aren’t ready to convert – but your site will be memorable and who knows, they just might come back when they’re ready to stay.

Post by David Gosse.

Advertising Campaigns: Display Ads or Online Video

Online video is the rising star in the advertising community. Why then do so many large companies continue to advertise with display ads? According to data from TNS Media Intelligence Vonage, AT&T and Dell spent a combined $489 million on display ads in 2006. Display ads hold 21% of the market share with US online advertisers while online video only holds 8% of the market share. That places display ads with triple the amount of market share over online video. This doesn’t mean that marketers are dissing online video, however. While advertising spending for display ads will remain flat over the next few years, online video will steadily increase until by 2011 they will have 17% of the market share for online advertisers.

Companies are finding that the more diversified you make your advertising the more effective your campaign will be. A study was released in December 2006 by comScore Networks that determined that if companies utilize both search and display advertising their campaign will be more engaging and effective than companies that use a single type of advertising campaign. Per the study, online users who were exposed to both display and search advertising increased their page views compared to competing sites by 68% and increased their time on the sites by 66%. Among those exposed also increased their purchases of the advertisers products and services by 244% online and 89% offline when compared to online users with similar behavior who didn’t view the ads.

Diversifying your marketing campaigns take planning, but an engaging multimedia campaign will pay you back with better ROI and make you look like the company rock star. All advertising is important; you just have to research what truly works best for your company and utilize the outlets that best connect with and influence your future customers.

Post by David Gosse.

“What we have here, is a failure to communicate”

How did you develop the information at your website? Did you use offline material or spin off content from press releases, news items or your internal communications? Then, did you layer on some graphics, maybe a little Flash animation to jazz it up some programming and think that your audience would get the message?

In actuality, your website may be failing to communicate the message you really intend to offer to your visitors. You need to open a dialog to effectively communicate – and you can start by thinking of your visitors as an audience that gives feedback, instead of just customers with credit cards in hand. Doing so can create a more enjoyable user experience, and will keep them at your site longer, engaged with your brand. This in turn creates the end goal you desire: more sales from a more loyal customer base.

It begs the question, “how do I go about creating an interesting website that will engage my precious site visitors, turn them into an audience and then into customers?” very successful method is to create a website that blends information, entertainment and community.

While the written word is the foundation for your website, it is also necessary for search engine optimization and it engages the reader types among your audience. Yet,  some Web 2.0 tools are within reach for most companies and offer so much benefit for the investment.

One tool that can help do that is web video. Video has a lot going for it, providing a platform to showcase your products, employees, customers or affiliated events in a rich media experience that is becoming commonplace. Video presentations need to have enough value to them that people want to share them with others and both the presentations and content must create a memorable experience that entertains the individual.

Video is not the place to lay on the sales pitch – your audience is looking to be entertained, not hit over the head with a self-serving show. Instead, create short videos that work together in creating a subtle brand campaign – engaging enough to keep their interest – and fresh enough to keep them coming back to find out what happens next. The underlying theme is your product, but the consumer is being entertained in the process. Buy-ready consumers are more likely to remember brands that entertained them.

Look to the Internet for other successful campaigns, Video sharing sites (i.e. www.youtube.com) and Web advertising awards (i.e. www.webbyawards.com) are a great place to start for what’s viral and what’s got the attention of consumers and brand marketers alike.

To improve your website, start the thought process from scratch – how can you best communicate with your online audience? Web users form an opinion about your company within seconds of reaching a website. Capture them with fresh content and keep them coming back with engagement tools like video. Stop talking (about your company). Instead, start communicating.

Post by David Gosse.
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