Countdown to Launch: How to Come Up with Great Testing Ideas

Posted by ChrisDayley

Whether you are working on a landing page or the homepage of your website, you may be asking yourself, “Why aren’t people converting? What elements are helping or hurting my my user experience?”

Those are good questions.

When it comes to website or landing page design, there are dozens — if not hundreds — of potential elements to test. And that’s before you start testing how different combinations of elements affect performance.

Launching a test

The good news is, after running thousands of tests for websites in almost every industry you can imagine, we’ve created a simple way to quickly identify the most important areas of opportunity on your site or landing page.

We call this approach the “launch analysis”.

Why? Well, getting someone to convert is a lot like trying to launch a rocket into outer space. To succeed in either situation, you need to generate enough momentum to overcome any resistance.

To get a rocket into orbit, the propulsion and guidance systems have to overcome gravity and air friction. To get a potential customer to convert, your CTA, content and value proposition have to overcome any diversions, anxiety or responsiveness issues on your site.

So, if you really want your conversion rate to “take off” (see what I did there?), you need to take a hard look at each of these six factors.

Prepping for launch

Before we dive into the launch analysis and start testing, it’s important to take a moment to review 3 important testing factors. After all, no matter how good your analysis is, if your test is fundamentally broken, you’ll never make any progress.

With that in mind, here are three questions to ask yourself before you dive into the launch analysis:

What is my business question?

Every good website or landing page test should answer some sort of important business question. These are usually open-ended questions like “how much content should be on the page to maximize conversions?” or “what does the best-converting above-the-fold experience look like?”

If your test is designed to answer a fundamental business question, every test is a success. Even if your new design doesn’t outperform the original, your test still helps get you get some data around what really matters to your audience.

What is my hypothesis?

Where your business question may be relatively broad, your testing hypothesis should be very specific. A good hypothesis should be an if/then statement that answers the business question (if we do X, Y will happen).

So, if your business question is “how much content should be on the page?”, your hypothesis might be: “if we reduce the amount of content on our page, mobile conversions will increase.” (If you’re interested, this is actually something we studied at Disruptive Advertising.)

What am I measuring?

We hinted at this in the last section, but every good test needs a defined, measurable success metric. For example, “if we reduce the amount of content on our page, people will like our content more” is a perfectly valid hypothesis, but it would be incredibly difficult to define or measure, which would make our test useless.

When it comes to online advertising, there are tons of well-defined, actually measurable metrics you can use (link clicks, time on page, bounce rate, conversion rate, cart abandonment rate, etc.) to determine success or failure. Pick one that makes sense and use it to measure the results of your test.

The launch analysis and countdown

Now that we have the testing basics out of the way, we can dive into the launch analysis. When performing a launch analysis on a page of your site, it is critical that you try to look at your page objectively, and identify potential opportunities instead of immediately jumping into things you need to change. Testing is about discovering what your audience wants, not about making assumptions.

With that being said, let’s countdown to launch!

6. Value proposition

To put it simply, your value proposition is what motivates potential customers to buy.

Have you ever wanted something really badly? Badly enough that you spent days, weeks, or even months figuring out how to get it for an affordable price? If you want something badly enough (or, in other words, if the value proposition is good enough), you’ll conquer any obstacle to get it.

This same principle applies to your website. If you can really sell people on your value proposition, they’ll be motivated enough to overcome a lot of potential obstacles (giving their personal information, dealing with poor navigation, etc.).

For example, a while back, we were helping a college optimize the following page on their site:

It wasn’t a bad page to begin with, but we believed there was opportunity to test some stronger value propositions. “Get Started on the Right Path: Prepare yourself for a better future by earning your degree from Pioneer Pacific College” doesn’t sound all that exciting, does it?

There’s a reason for that.

In business terms, your value proposition can be described as “motivation = perceived benefits – perceived costs.” Pioneer Pacific’s value proposition made it sound like going to all the work to get a degree from their college was just the beginning of a long, hard process. Not only that, but it wasn’t really hitting on any of the potential pain points an aspiring student might have.

In this particular case, the value proposition minimized the perceived benefits while maximizing the perceived costs. That’s not a great way to get someone to sign up.

With that in mind, we decided to try something different. We hypothesized that focusing on the monetary benefits of earning a degree (increased income) would increase the perceived benefits and talking about paying for a degree as an investment would decrease the perceived cost.

So, we rewrote the copy in the box to reflect our revised value proposition and tested it:

As you can see above, simply tweaking the value proposition increased form fills by 49.5%! The form didn’t change, but because our users were more motivated by the value proposition, they were more willing to give out their information.

Unfortunately, many businesses struggle with this essential step.

Some websites lack a clear value proposition. Others have a value proposition, but it makes potential customers think more about the costs than the benefits. Some have a good cost-benefit ratio, but the proposition is poorly communicated, and users struggle to connect with it.

So, if you’re running the launch analysis on your own site or landing page, start by taking a look at your value proposition. Is it easy to find and understand? Does it address the benefits and costs that your audience actually cares about? Could you potentially focus on different aspects of your value propositions to discover what your audience really cares about?

If you think there’s room for improvement, you’ve just identified a great testing opportunity!

5. Call to action

If you’ve been in marketing for a while, you’ve probably heard all about the importance of a good call to action (CTA), so it should come as no surprise that the CTA is a key part of the launch analysis.

In terms of our rocket analogy, your CTA is a lot like a navigation system for your potential customers. All the rocket fuel in the world won’t get you to your destination if you don’t know where you’re going.

In that regard, it’s important to remember that your CTA typically needs to be very explicit (tell them what to do and/or what to expect). After all, your potential customers are depending on your CTA to navigate them to their destination.

For example, another one of our clients was trying to increase eBook downloads. Their original CTA read “Download Now”, but we hypothesized that changing the CTA to emphasize speed might improve their conversion rate.

So, we rephrased the CTA to read “Instant Download” instead. As it turned out, this simple change to the CTA increased downloads by 12.6%!

The download was just as instantaneous in both cases; but, simply by making it clear that users would get immediate access to this content, we were able to drive a lot more conversions.

Of course, there is such a thing as being too explicit. While people want to know what to do next, they also like to feel like they are in the driver’s seat, so sometimes soft CTAs like “Get More Information” can deliver better results than a more direct CTA like “Request a Free Demo Today!”

As you start to play around with CTA testing ideas, it’s important to remember the 2-second rule: If a user can’t figure out what they are supposed to do within two seconds, something needs to change.

To see if your CTA follows this rule, ask a friend or a coworker who has never seen your page or site before to look at it for two seconds and then ask them what they think they are supposed to do next. If they don’t have a ready answer, you just discovered another testing opportunity.

Case in point: On the page below, a client of ours was trying to drive phone calls with the CTA on the right. From a design perspective, the CTA fit the color scheme of the page nicely, but it didn’t really draw much attention.

Since driving calls was a big deal for the client, we decided to revamp the CTA. We made the CTA a contrasting red color and expanded on the value proposition.

The result? Our new, eye-catching CTA increased calls by a whopping 83.8%.

So, if your CTA is hard to find, consider changing the size, location and/or color. If your CTA is vague, try being more explicit (or vice versa). If your CTA doesn’t have a clear value proposition, find a way to make the benefits of converting more obvious. The possibilities are endless.

4. Content

Like your value proposition, your content is a big motivating factor for your users. In fact, great content is how you sell people on your value proposition, so content can make or break your site.

The only problem is, as marketers and business owners, we have a tendency towards egocentrism. There are so many things that we love about our business and that make it special that we often overwhelm users with content that they frankly don’t care about.

Or, alternatively, we fail to include content that will help potential customers along in the conversion process because it isn’t a high priority to us.

To really get the most out of your content, you have to lay your ego and personal preference aside and ask yourself questions like:

  • How much content do my users want?
  • What format do they want the content in?
  • Do mobile and desktop users want different amounts of content?

As a quick example of this, we were working with a healthcare client (an industry that is notoriously long-winded) to maximize eBook downloads on the following page:

As you can see above, the original page included a table of contents-style description of what readers would get when they downloaded the guide.

We hypothesized that this sort of approach, with its wordy chapter titles and and formal feel, did not make the eBook seem like a user-friendly guide. There was so much content that it was hard to get a quick feel for what the eBook was actually about.

To address this, we tried boiling the copy down to a quick, easy-to-read summary of the eBook content:

Incredibly, paring the content down to a very simplified summary increased eBook downloads by 57.82%!

However, when it comes to content, less is not always more.

While working on a pop-up for Social Media Examiner, we tested a couple different variants of the following copy in an effort to increase eBook downloads and subscriptions:

Just like the preceding example, this copy was a bit wordy and hard to read. So, we tried turning the copy into bullet points…

…and even tried boiling it down to the bare essentials:

However, when the test results came in, both of these variants had a lower conversion rate than the original, word-dense content!

These results fly in the face of the whole “less is more” dogma marketers love to preach, which just goes to show how important it is to test your content.

So, when it comes to content, don’t be afraid to try cutting things down. But, you might also try bulking things up in some places — provided that your content is focused on what your potential customers want and need, not just your favorite talking points. Our suggestion: challenge whatever you have on your site. Try less, more, and different variations of the same. It should ultimately be up to your audience!

3. Diversions

Unfortunately, having a great value proposition, CTA and content doesn’t guarantee you a great conversion rate. To get a rocket to its destination, the launch team has to overcome a variety of obstacles.

Same goes for the launch analysis.

Now that we’ve talked about how to maximize motivation, it’s time to talk about ways to reduce obstacles and friction points on your site or page that may be keeping people from converting, starting with diversions.

When it comes to site testing, diversions could be anything that has the potential to distract your user from reaching their destination. Contrasting buttons, images, other offers, menus, links, content, pop ups…like cloud cover on launch day, if it leads people off course, it’s a diversion.

For example, take a look at the page below. There are 5 major elements on the page competing for your attention – none of which are a CTA to view the product – and that’s just above the fold!

What did this client really want people to do? Watch a video? Read a review? Look at the picture? Read the Q&A? Visit their cart?

As it turns out, the answer is “none of the above”.

What the client really wanted was for people to come to their site, look at their products and make a purchase. But, with all the diversions on their site, people were getting lost before they even had a chance to see the client’s products.

To put the focus where it belonged—on the products—we tried eliminating all of the diversions by redesigning the site experience to focus on product call to actions. That way, when people came to the page, they immediately saw Cobra’s products and a simple CTA that said “Shop Our Products”.

The new page design increased revenue (not just conversions) by 69.2%!

We’ve seen similar results with many of our eCommerce clients. For example, we often test to see how removing different elements and offers from a client’s homepage affects their conversion rates (this is called “existence testing”).

Existence testing is one of the easiest, fastest ways to discover what is distracting from conversions and what is helping conversions. If you remove something from your page and conversion rates go down, that item is helpful to the conversion process. If you remove something and conversion rates go up – Bingo! You found a distraction.

The GIF below shows you how this works. Essentially, you just remove a page element and then see which version of the page performs better. Easy enough, right?

For this particular client, we tested to see how removing 8 different elements from their home page would affect their revenue. As it turned out, 6 of the 8 elements were actually decreasing their revenue!

By eliminating those elements during our test, their revenue-per-visit (RPV) increased by 59%.

Why? Well, once again, we discovered things that were diversions to the user experience (as it turns out, the diversions were other products!).

If you’re curious to see how different page or site elements affect your conversion rate, existence testing can be a great way to go. Simply create a page variant without the element in question and see what happens!

2. Anxiety

Ever have that moment when you’re driving a car and you suddenly get hit by a huge gust of wind? What happens to your heart rate?

Now imagine you’re piloting a multi-billion dollar rocket…

Whether you’re in the driver’s seat or an office chair, anxiety is never a good thing. Unfortunately, when it comes to your site, people are already in a state of high alert. Anything that adds to their stress level (clicking on something that isn’t clickable, feeling confused or swindled) may lead to you losing a customer.

Of course, anxiety-inducing elements on a website are typically more subtle than hurricane-force winds on launch day. It might be as simple as an unintuitive user interface, an overly long form or a page element that doesn’t do what the user expects.

As a quick example, one of our eCommerce clients had a mobile page that forced users to scroll all the the way back up to the top of the page to make a purchase.

So, we decided to try a floating “Buy Now” button that people could use to quickly buy the item once they’d read all about it:

Yes, scrolling to the top of the page seems like a relatively small inconvenience, but eliminating this source of anxiety improved the conversion rate by 6.7%.

Even more importantly, it increased the RPV by $ 1.54.

Given the client’s traffic volume, this was a huge win!

As you can probably imagine, the less confusion, alarm, frustration and work your site creates for users, the more likely they are to convert.

When you get right down to it, conversion should be a seamless, almost brainless process. If a potential customer ever stops to think, “Wait, what?” on their journey to conversion, you’ve got a real problem.

To identify potential anxiety-inducing elements on your site or page, try going through the whole conversion process on your site (better yet, have someone else do it and describe their experience to you). Watch for situations or content that force you to think. Odds are, you’ve just discovered a testing opportunity.

1. Responsiveness

Finally, the last element of the launch analysis is responsiveness—specifically mobile responsiveness.

To be honest, mobile responsiveness is not the same thing as having a mobile responsive site, just like launching a rocket on a rainy day is not the same thing as launching a rocket on a clear day.

The days of making your site “mobile responsive” and calling it good are over. With well over half of internet searches taking place on mobile devices, the question you need to ask yourself isn’t “Is my site mobile responsive?” What you should be asking yourself is, “Is my site customized for mobile?”

For example, here is what one of our clients’ “mobile responsive” pages looks like:

While this page passed Google’s “mobile friendly” test, it wasn’t exactly a “user friendly” experience.

To fix that problem, we decided to test a couple of custom mobile pages:

The results were truly impressive. Both variants clearly outperformed the original “mobile responsive” design and the winning variant increased calls by 84% and booked appointments by 41%!

So, if you haven’t taken the time yet to create a custom mobile experience, you’re probably missing out on a huge opportunity. It might take a few tests to nail down the right design for your mobile users, but most sites can expect big results from a little mobile experience testing.

As you brainstorm ways to test your mobile experience, remember, your mobile users aren’t usually looking for the same things as your desktop users. Most mobile users have very specific goals in mind and they want it to be as easy as possible to achieve those goals.

Launch!

Well, that’s it! You’re ready for launch!

Go through your site or page and take a look at how what you can do to strengthen your value proposition, CTA and content. Then, identify things that may potentially be diversions, anxiety-inducing elements or responsiveness issues that are preventing people from converting.

By the time you finish your launch analysis, you should have tons of testing ideas to try. Put together a plan that focuses on your biggest opportunities or problems first and then refine from there. Happy testing!

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Beyond Google Keyword Planner: 7 Easy-to-Use SEO Research Tools for Generating Content Ideas

As a content marketer, you know that your target audience needs to be at the center of your content strategy. After all, modern content marketing was born to help you create valuable content that satisfies your audience’s quest for answers throughout their customer journey.

However, as the digital landscape becomes increasingly crowded with content — and you feel more and more pressure to create content in less time — you’re likely looking for quick and dirty ways to create SEO-friendly, best-answer content that doesn’t require loads of your precious time. As a result, your first stop on the research train is likely Google’s Keyword Planner tool. But, let’s face it, while it’s an excellent tool, it can only get you so far.

The good news? There are several helpful research tools that can help you uncover real questions your audience is asking around the web — allowing you to gain new audience insights and fill your content plan with relevant, SEO-infused topics. Below we dive into some of those research tools that can help you do just that.

#1 – Answer the Public

Answer the Public brings Google’s auto suggest feature to visual life. Type in any keyword or phrase, and the almost immediately you’ll be served up a visual representation of queries that are organized by specific question modifiers such as who, what, where, when, why, how, will, are and can.

What makes this tool so fantastic is that it not only helps you identify topics, but potentially some of the nuances of intent behind those questions. The best part? It’s completely free and you can sign up for a short email course to help you use the tool “like a pro.”

Answer the Public for Content Planning

#2 – BuzzSumo’s Question Analyzer

BuzzSumo’s recently launched Question Analyzer feature is incredible, allowing you to find the most popular questions being asked from across the web. How? Essentially, BuzzSumo has created a database of real questions from thousands of platforms, including forums, Amazon, Reddit, Quora and other Q&A sites. Just type in a keyword and get a list of related questions sorted by topic, as well as details on volume.

BuzzSumo Question Analyzer

Total access to this tool does require a BuzzSumo Plus subscription; however, you can sign up for a free trial for this feature and try before you buy.

#3 – Übersuggest

Like Answer the Public, Übersuggest pulls in various Google’s auto suggest keyword queries. And while the tool doesn’t create the same kind of visual representation of questions, the Word Cloud feature does help you connect the dots in a more visual way. In addition, each keyword query allows you to select “Google Trends” so you can get a closer look at seasonality — which is great for future planning. Finally, Übersuggest prides itself on being a tool that can help you uncover new keywords that aren’t available in Google’s Keyword Planner tool.

#4 – KewordTool.io

Of course, we can’t mention Answer the Public or Übersuggest without mentioning KeywordTool.io. Like the former two tools, KeywordTool.io also uses Google’s auto suggest queries as its data source. In addition, like Übersuggest, KeywordTool.io allows you to tap into Google Trends and find keywords that aren’t readily displayed in Google Keyword Planner. So, on the surface, the main differentiator between these tools is user experience.

However, from what I can tell, KeywordTool.io’s paid version, Keyword Tool Pro, offers a little something different than the others. According to the website, “Keyword Tool Pro will not only give you keywords that are hidden from everyone else but will also provide you with necessary data to sort and rank the newly discovered keywords. You will be able to see how often people search for a keyword on Google (Search Volume), how competitive (AdWords Competition), and lucrative (CPC) the keywords are.”

KewordTool.io for Content Marketing

For many marketers, the final benefit may be the most intriguing, as we’re always looking to connect business value to our efforts.

#5 – Google Search Console

Google Search Console, formerly Google Webmaster Tools, is one of the most helpful SEO and content planning tools out there. From a technical standpoint, Google Search Console enables you to monitor and maintain your entire website’s presence in Google search results. But from a content planning perspective, Google Search Console allows you to see which queries actually caused your site’s content to appear in search results.

The best part? You can filter by page, allowing you to see how a specific piece of content is drawing visibility. This means you can not only find opportunities to optimize existing content with other related keywords it’s coming up for, but also identify gaps and related topics that can spawn additional content.

Google Search Console for Content Research

#6 – Ahrefs

Back in 2011, Ahrefs launched as an backlinks analysis tool. Since then, the tool has grown into a helpful competitive analysis tool, allowing users to get a deeper understanding of how and why their competitors are ranking — and how they may be able to leapfrog them in the SERPs.

When it comes to generating SEO-infused content ideas, there are a few features that are useful. For starters, the Keywords Explorer allows you to find keywords, analyze their ranking difficulty and calculate the potential traffic you could achieve. Then you have the Content Explorer, which helps you find the most popular content for any topics based on backlinks, organic traffic and social shares. Finally, the Content Gap feature allows you to explore the keywords that your competitors are ranking for, but you don’t.

Ahrefs for Content Marketing Research

While this tool isn’t free, you can sign up for a free trial. If you like it, there are a handful of monthly subscription options at different price points.

#7 – SEMrush

Generally speaking, SEMrush offers a lot of the same benefits as Ahrefs — from discovering and analyzing keywords to conducting competitive analysis. But one feature that is particularly interesting and helpful is the Social Media Tracker.

These days, social media marketing is an important and necessary part of any digital marketing strategy, serving as an engagement and content dissemination platform. With the Social Media Tracker, you’re able to compare your engagement trends to that of your competitors, as well as see the best-performing posts in terms of engagement. You can then use these insights to craft better, more relevant content that will get more traction on your social pages.

SEMrush Social Media Tracker

How Do You Choose Which Tools Are Right for You?

Your industry, budget, internal resources and unique business objectives are all deserving of consideration when selecting research tools that will be a good fit. But, with nearly all of these tools offering free usage or free trials, you certainly have nothing to lose by carving out a little time to test them out. So, choose one to start with and go from there.

What are some of your go-to research tools for generating interesting and relevant content ideas? Tell us in the comments section below.


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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2017. | Beyond Google Keyword Planner: 7 Easy-to-Use SEO Research Tools for Generating Content Ideas | http://www.toprankblog.com

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Blog Post Ideas: Maximize Your Reach with the Right Topics – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

With the ubiquity of blogs, one of the questions we hear the most is how to come up with the right topics for new posts. In today’s episode of Whiteboard Friday, Rand explores six different paths to great blog topic ideas, and tells you what you need to keep in mind before you start.

Blog post ideas

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we’re going to chat about blog post ideas, how to have great ones, how to make sure that the topics that you’re covering on your blog actually accomplish the goals that you want, and how to not run out of ideas as well.

The goals of your blog

So let’s start with the goals of a blog and then what an individual post needs to do, and then I’ll walk you through kind of six formats for coming up with great ideas for what to blog about. But generally speaking, you have created a blog, either on your company’s website or your personal website or for the project that you’re working on, because you want to:

  • Attract a certain audience, which is great.
  • Capture the attention and amplification, the sharing of certain types of influencers, so that you can grow that audience.
  • Rank highly in search engines. That’s not just necessarily a goal for the blog’s content itself. But one of the reasons that you started a blog is to grow the authority, the ranking signals, the ability to rank for the website as a whole, and the blog hopefully is helping with that.
  • Inspire some trust, some likeability, loyalty, and maybe even some evangelism from your readers.
  • Provide a reference point for their opinions. So if you are a writer, an author, a journalist, a contributor to all sorts of sources, a speaker, whatever it is, you’re trying to provide a home for your ideas and your content, potentially your opinions too.
  • Covert our audience to take an action. Then, finally, many times a blog is crafted with the idea that it is a first step in capturing an audience that will then take an action. That could be buy something from you, sign up for an email list, potentially take a free trial of something, maybe take some action. A political blog might be about, “Call your Congress person.” But those types of actions.

What should an individual post do?

From there, we get into an individual post. An individual post is supposed to help with these goals, but on its own doesn’t do all of them. It certainly doesn’t need to do more than one at a time. It can hopefully do some. But one of those is, generally speaking, a great blog post will do one of these four things and hopefully two or even three.

I. Help readers to accomplish a goal that they have.

So if I’m trying to figure out which hybrid electric vehicle should I buy and I read a great blog post from someone who’s very, very knowledgeable in the field, and they have two or three recommendations to help me narrow down my search, that is wonderful. It helps me accomplish my goal of figuring out which hybrid car to buy. That accomplishment of goal, that helping of people hits a bunch of these very, very nicely.

II. Designed to inform people and/or entertain them.

So it doesn’t have to be purely informational. It doesn’t have to be purely entertainment, but some combination of those, or one of the two, about a particular topic. So you might be trying to make someone excited about something or give them knowledge around it. It may be knowledge that they didn’t previously know that they wanted, and they may not actually be trying to accomplish a goal, but they are interested in the information or interested in finding the humor.

III. Inspiring some amplification and linking.

So you’re trying to earn signals to your site that will help you rank in search engines, that will help you grow your audience, that will help you reach more influencers. Thus, inspiring that amplification behavior by creating content that is designed to be shared, designed to be referenced and linked to is another big goal.

IV. Creating a more positive association with the brand.

So you might have a post that doesn’t really do any of these things. Maybe it touches a little on informational or entertaining. But it is really about crafting a personal story, or sharing an experience that then draws the reader closer to you and creates that association of what we talked about up here — loyalty, trust, evangelism, likeability.

6 paths to great blog topic ideas

So knowing what our blog needs to do and what our individual posts are trying to do, what are some great ways that we can come up with the ideas, the actual topics that we should be covering? I have kind of six paths. These six paths actually cover almost everything you will read in every other article about how to come up with blog post ideas. But I think that’s what’s great. These frameworks will get you into the mindset that will lead you to the path that can give you an infinite number of blog post ideas.

1. Are there any unanswered or poorly answered questions that are in your field, that your audience already has/is asking, and do you have a way to provide great answers to those?

So that’s basically this process of I’m going to research my audience through a bunch of methodologies, going to come up with topics that I know I could cover. I could deliver something that would answer their preexisting questions, and I could come up with those through…

  • Surveys of my readers.
  • In-person meetings or emails or interviews.
  • Informal conversations just in passing around events, or if I’m interacting with members of my audience in any way, social settings.
  • Keyword research, especially questions.

So if you’re using a tool like Moz’s Keyword Explorer, or I think some of the other ones out there, Ahrefs might have this as well, where you can filter by only questions. There are also free tools like Answer the Public, which many folks like, that show you what people are typing into Google, specifically in the form of questions, “Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Do?” etc.

So I’m not just going to walk you through the ideas. I’m also going to challenge myself to give you some examples. So I’ve got two — one less challenging, one much more challenging. Two websites, both have blogs, and coming up with topic ideas based on this.

So one is called Remoters. It’s remoters.net. It’s run by Aleyda Solis, who many of you in the SEO world might know. They talk about remote work, so people who are working remotely. It’s a content platform for them and a service for them. Then, the second one is a company, I think, called Schweiss Doors. They run hydraulicdoors.com. Very B2B. Very, very niche. Pretty challenging to come up with good blog topics, but I think we’ve got some.

Remote Worker: I might say here, “You know what? One of the questions that’s asked very often by remote workers, but is not well-answered on the internet yet is: ‘How do I conduct myself in a remote interview and present myself as a remote worker in a way that I can be competitive with people who are actually, physically on premises and in the room? That is a big challenge. I feel like I’m always losing out to them. Remote workers, it seems, don’t get the benefits of being there in person.'” So a piece of content on how to sell yourself on a remote interview or as a remote worker could work great here.

Hydraulic doors: One of the big things that I see many people asking about online, both in forums which actually rank well for it, the questions that are asked in forums around this do rank around costs and prices for hydraulic doors. Therefore, I think this is something that many companies are uncomfortable answering right online. But if you can be transparent where no one else can, I think these Schweiss Doors guys have a shot at doing really well with that. So how much do hydraulic doors cost versus alternatives? There you go.

2. Do you have access to unique types of assets that other people don’t?

That could be research. It could be data. It could be insights. It might be stories or narratives, experiences that can help you stand out in a topic area. This is a great way to come up with blog post content. So basically, the idea is you could say, “Gosh, for our quarterly internal report, we had to prepare some data on the state of the market. Actually, some of that data, if we got permission to share it, would be fascinating.”

We can see through keyword research that people are talking about this or querying Google for it already. So we’re going to transform it into a piece of blog content, and we’re going to delight many, many people, except for maybe this guy. He seems unhappy about it. I don’t know what his problem is. We won’t worry about him. Wait. I can fix it. Look at that. So happy. Ignore that he kind of looks like the Joker now.

We can get these through a bunch of methodologies:

  • Research, so statistical research, quantitative research.
  • Crowdsourcing. That could be through audiences that you’ve already got through email or Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn.
  • Insider interviews, interviews with people on your sales team or your product team or your marketing team, people in your industry, buyers of yours.
  • Proprietary data, like what you’ve collected for your internal annual reports.
  • Curation of public data. So if there’s stuff out there on the web and it just needs to be publicly curated, you can figure out what that is. You can visit all those websites. You could use an extraction tool, or you could manually extract that data, or you could pay an intern to go extract that data for you, and then synthesize that in a useful way.
  • Multimedia talent. Maybe you have someone, like we happen to here at Moz, who has great talent with video production, or with audio production, or with design of visuals or photography, or whatever that might be in the multimedia realm that you could do.
  • Special access to people or information, or experiences that no one else does and you can present that.

Those assets can become the topic of great content that can turn into really great blog posts and great post ideas.

Remote Workers: They might say, “Well, gosh, we have access to data on the destinations people go and the budgets that they have around those destinations when they’re staying and working remotely, because of how our service interacts with them. Therefore, we can craft things like the most and least expensive places to work remotely on the planet,” which is very cool. That’s content that a lot of people are very interested in.

Hydraulic doors: We can look at, “Hey, you know what? We actually have a visual overlay tool that helps an architect or a building owner visualize what it will look like if a hydraulic door were put into place. We can go use that in our downtime to come up with we can see how notable locations in the city might look with hydraulic doors or notable locations around the world. We could potentially even create a tool, where you could upload your own visual, photograph, and then see how the hydraulic door looked on there.” So now we can create images that will help you share.

3. Relating a personal experience or passion to your topic in a resonant way.

I like this and I think that many personal bloggers use it well. I think far too few business bloggers do, but it can be quite powerful, and we’ve used it here at Moz, which is relating a personal experience you have or a passion to your topic in some way that resonates. So, for example, you have an interaction that is very complex, very nuanced, very passionate, perhaps even very angry. From that experience, you can craft a compelling story and a headline that draws people in, that creates intrigue and that describes something with an amount of emotion that is resonant, that makes them want to connect with it. Because of that, you can inspire people to further connect with the brand and potentially to inform and entertain.

There’s a lot of value from that. Usually, it comes from your own personal creativity around experiences that you’ve had. I say “you,” you, the writer or the author, but it could be anyone in your organization too. Some resources I really like for that are:

  • Photos. Especially, if you are someone who photographs a reasonable portion of your life on your mobile device, that can help inspire you to remember things.
  • A journal can also do the same thing.
  • Conversations that you have can do that, conversations in person, over email, on social media.
  • Travel. I think any time you are outside your comfort zone, that tends to be those unique things.

Remote workers: I visited an artist collective in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and I realized that, “My gosh, one of the most frustrating parts of remote work is that if you’re not just about remote working with a laptop and your brain, you’re almost removed from the experience. How can you do remote work if you require specialized equipment?” But in fact, there are ways. There are maker labs and artist labs in cities all over the planet at this point. So I think this is a topic that potentially hasn’t been well-covered, has a lot of interest, and that personal experience that I, the writer, had could dig into that.

Hydraulic doors: So I’ve had some conversations with do-it-yourselfers, people who are very, very passionate about DIY stuff. It turns out, hydraulic doors, this is not a thing that most DIYers can do. In fact, this is a very, very dramatic investment. That is an intense type of project. Ninety-nine percent of DIYers will not do it, but it turns out there’s actually search volume for this.

People do want to, or at least want to learn how to, DIY their own hydraulic doors. One of my favorite things, after realizing this, I searched, and then I found that Schweiss Doors actually created a product where they will ship you a DIY kit to build your own hydraulic door. So they did recognize this need. I thought that was very, very impressive. They didn’t just create a blog post for it. They even served it with a product. Super-impressive.

4. Covering a topic that is “hot” in your field or trending in your field or in the news or on other blogs.

The great part about this is it builds in the amplification piece. Because you’re talking about something that other people are already talking about and potentially you’re writing about what they’ve written about, you are including an element of pre-built-in amplification. Because if I write about what Darren Rowse at ProBlogger has written about last week, or what Danny Sullivan wrote about on Search Engine Land two weeks ago, now it’s not just my audience that I can reach, but it’s theirs as well. Potentially, they have some incentive to check out what I’ve written about them and share that.

So I could see that someone potentially maybe posted something very interesting or inflammatory, or wrong, or really right on Twitter, and then I could say, “Oh, I agree with that,” or, “disagree,” or, “I have nuance,” or, “I have some exceptions to that.” Or, “Actually, I think that’s an interesting conversation to which I can add even more value,” and then I create content from that. Certainly, social networks like:

  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Forums
  • Subreddits. I really like Pocket for this, where I’ll save a bunch of articles, and then I’ll see which one might be very interesting to cover or write about in the future. News aggregators are great for this too. So that could be a Techmeme in the technology space, or a Memeorandum in the political space, or many others.

Remote workers: You might note, well, health care, last week in the United States and for many months now, has been very hot in the political arena. So for remoters, that is a big problem and a big question, because if your health insurance is tied to your employer again, as it was before the American Care Act, then you could be in real trouble. Then you might have a lot of problems and challenges. So what does the politics of health care mean for remote workers? Great. Now, you’ve created a real connection, and that could be something that other outlets would cover and that people who’ve written about health care might be willing to link to your piece.

Hydraulic doors: One of the things that you might note is that Eater, which is a big blog in the restaurant space, has written about indoor and outdoor space trends in the restaurant industry. So you could, with the data that you’ve got and the hydraulic doors that you provide, which are very, very common, well moderately common, at least in the restaurant indoor/outdoor seating space, potentially cover that. That’s a great way to tie in your audience and Eater’s audience into something that’s interesting. Eater might be willing to cover that and link to you and talk about it, etc.

The last two, I’m not going to go too into depth, because they’re a little more basic.

5. Pure keyword research-driven.

So this is using Google AdWords or keywordtool.io, or Moz’s Keyword Explorer, or any of the other keyword research tools that you like to figure out: What are people searching for around my topic? Can I cover it? Can I make great content there?

6. Readers who care about my topics also care about ______________?

Essentially taking any of these topics, but applying one level of abstraction. What I mean by that is there are people who care about your topic, but also there’s an overlap of people who care about this other topic and who also care about yours.

hydraulic doors: People who care about restaurant building trends and hydraulic doors has a considerable overlap, and that is quite interesting.

Remote workers: It could be something like, “I care about remote work. I also care about the gear that I use, my laptop and my bag, and those kinds of things.” So gear trends could be a very interesting intersect. Then, you can apply any of these other four processes, five processes onto that intersection or one level of an abstraction.

All right, everyone. We have done a tremendous amount here to cover a lot about blog topics. But I think you will have some great ideas from this, and I look forward to hearing about other processes that you’ve got in the comments. Hopefully, we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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Moz Blog

10 retail marketing ideas to boost sales

Savvy retailers know that maximizing profits means smart marketing; however, it can be challenging to devote as much time to marketing as you need to, to market more efficiently. To support that effort, we assembled ten retail marketing ideas to help bring increased sales and more loyal customers.

1. Track every marketing campaign

Do you know what your return on investment (ROI) was for the last marketing campaign you launched? If so, was the campaign a success? Did you set specific and measurable goals? It’s important to set campaign goals and then develop mechanisms to track those goals for every marketing campaign you launch, online or off. What are you trying to accomplish with your campaign? Is it more visits to your website, revenue driven by purchases or online post-purchase reviews?

Whatever your goal, do a post-campaign check-in to measure performance so you can use that information to shape your next campaign. A big piece of strategy is knowing what not to do, and if something doesn’t work, you may choose not to do it again, or make some tweaks and retry it another time.

2. Free marketing opportunities

Do you use the social media sites your customers frequent? Do you place posters and flyers on community bulletin boards, or banners at busy intersections? Have you contacted other local companies who share your target customer base but don’t directly compete with you to develop unique package plans in which all of you market and sell for each other? For example, your retail shop could partner with a restaurant and spa to offer a Mother’s Day package: a gift from your shop, a trip to the spa and dinner for two.

Free marketing ideas such as these abound; and yes, you might have to pay for printing, but distribution can be had for free. You can also send these offers out via an email marketing campaign.

Check out these 9 Emails Your Business Should Be Sending.

3. Repetition

Many retailers send a single direct-mail postcard and are disappointed by the results, never to market with postcards (or other direct-mail tools) again. That’s a mistake because repetition sells. You’ve probably heard of the rule of seven – a customer has to see an offer seven times to buy. Following this principle doesn’t mean you need to send seven different postcards, but two or three won’t hurt, especially when used in conjunction with banners, flyers, ads and digital marketing.

4. Follow-up

Do you follow up with your customers after they’ve made purchases? Rewarding customers for their loyalty is a great way to build relationships and earn more sales. Send new customers a special gift, such as a ten percent off coupon (which you can track), to encourage them to visit again. Use these four ways to keep customers coming back again and again.

5. Become a resource

Never miss the opportunity to greet your customers and engage them with an open-ended question about how you can help them. You might ask who they’re shopping for and what that person likes so you can make personalized suggestions. Help customers find the perfect gift (for others or themselves) and become a reliable resource for the future. Providing valuable content in the form of help, advice, tips and how-tos can also help your business stay top of mind with customers.

6. Employee training

You probably spend a lot of time training employees to work the register, open and close, and keep items stocked – but how much time do you devote to training employees to sell? Training employees to sell well is crucial to your success. When employees are knowledgeable, capable and efficient, they can help keep your customers happy and loyal.

7. Test

To maximize your ROI, you should try to test multiple versions of your marketing materials against each other to see which performs best. Pick small segments of your mailing list to test your different versions on, then send the winning version to your entire list. This is also an effective strategy for direct mail, email marketing and landing pages.

8. Target

Do you know what traits are shared by your three best customers? If not, it will be difficult to target the people most likely to be your most profitable customers. Find out everything you can about your very best customers to develop a customer profile; then, target your mailing lists to reach those who match those demographics. Once you have your best customers down, you can create multiple customer profiles for different types of customers for targeting purposes.

9. Build customer relationships

Personal interaction with customers is a great way to establish relationships and encourage long-term customer loyalty. Your marketing can be a natural extension of this, which means you don’t always have to be selling. Send out thank you and birthday emails, anniversary greetings and other relationship-building communications.

10. PR

Public relations and marketing might not be identical, but the end-goal is often similar: to make customers aware of your company, products, and services. When you have a new product, sale, hire, event, charitable contribution or another newsworthy announcement, draft a quick press release to send to local newspapers, TV stations, radio stations, websites and bloggers. You won’t always earn coverage, but it only takes a few minutes to write a press release and email it to media members.

Getting covered just once in your local paper can be enough to boost sales. To get more ideas, check out this 7 Tools to Get Free Publicity for Your Business.

These ten simple but effective retail marketing tips should help you give your sales a boost and be more efficient with your marketing.

Spend less time reaching more customers

Try VerticalResponse today

(It’s free!)

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published by Brian Morris for Bags & Bows and has been edited and repurposed for use by VerticalResponse. This blog post was originally published by VerticalResponse in April 2015 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and relevance.

© 2017, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

The post 10 retail marketing ideas to boost sales appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.


Vertical Response Blog

Current Ideas in Small Business, Q1 2017 (FS206)

We’ve got some articles, some books, some podcasts and some videos that can help you with your vision, motivation, productivity and all the other good stuff you need to succeed in modern indie business.

Give the podcast episode a listen if you’re not already subscribed… the context on each of these is fun, inspiring and meaningful.

Enjoy!

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“Current Events in Small Business, Q1 2017”
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Steph’s Stuff:

1. I completed Season One of Courage + Clarity! Lots of people listening know we decided to start another podcast under the Fizzle umbrella called Courage & Clarity, which delivers one part inspiration and one part instruction to go after what you love in business and in life. I set out to create 12 episodes of this show with 6 guests, and the conversations turned out to be much deeper, more meaningful and more helpful than I could have hoped. We’ve made the decision to continue with Season 2, which is already very deep in production as we speak. It feels amazing to connect with so many people who are looking for courage and clarity in their own lives, and I’ve had a blast losing myself in these conversations with amazing women.

2. Mari Andrew (@bymariandrew) • Instagram photos and videos —  So Mari Andrew is this amazing illustrator who I found through Brene Brown. Once Brene mentioned her I immediately started following because so much of what Mari publishes literally stops me from scrolling and sometimes I even say, “Oh, wow” aloud. Her illustrations capture concepts like grief and vulnerability almost painfully well, and a few of these have prompted journal entries for me and helped me reframe how I look at things. I’m a conceptual learner, meaning analogies and ideas really help me process, so the way Mari presents her topics visually is super compelling.

3. Netflix: The Minimalists. Okay, so I’ve known about minimalism for a while and have been vaguely interested in it, but hey I’ve got a kid and kids have a lot of stuff! I read the life-changing magic of tidying up by marie kondo a while back and started folding my clothes differently, maybe got rid of a few garbage bags of clothes. I think there’s been a quiet voice in me that’s urged me to explore a more drastic version of this concept. But once you get past all the novelty of all this minimalism buzz, I’m finding a lot of substance: creating simplicity in my home has shown me that I’m actually very adversely affected by clutter and extraneous items. On top of that, thee’s a whole ecological, sustainability, responsibility to the planet side of things that has come to light for me. Like, it’s so easy to just grab whatever off of Amazon. Lately, I’ve found myself trying to source things I need second-hand, giving some items a second life instead of adding to the pile of crap that’s going to sit in landfills. John and I live in a condo in the city and people are constantly asking us when we’re going to move to upgrade and get more space, but the truth is we’re getting really into living in a smaller space and it feels really cool!


Corbett’s Stuff:

1. To Motivate Employees, Show Them How They’re Helping Customers – In one field study, Adam Grant of the Wharton School found that fundraisers who were attempting to secure scholarship donations felt more motivated when they had contact with scholarship recipients. In another study, Grant found that lifeguards were more vigilant after reading stories about people whose lives have been saved by lifeguards. In fact, the words of beneficiaries of one’s assistance can be more motivating than those of inspirational leaders, Grant showed in another series of studies with his colleague Dave Hofmann of the University of North Caroline at Chapel Hill. Similarly, when cooks see those who will be eating their food, they feel more motivated and work harder, Harvard Business School’s Ryan Buell and colleagues found.

Across these studies, the key factor that improved worker motivation was a direct connection to those who benefit from one’s work, including customers and clients.

2. Marketers Are Blogging 800% More but Getting Nearly 100% Fewer Shares – TrackMaven’s report shows that between September 2011 and August 2012, brands posted fewer than 10 times on average and saw approximately 3,000 social shares per post. In the most recent period measured, from September 2015 to August 2016, brands posted in excess of 60 times per month with fewer than 500 social shares per post. “Marketers are struggling to be heard across competition. There’s so much content out there, not just from other brands, but you’re competing against Buzzfeed, Vox, The New York Times​ and other major media companies,” she says. “There’s a finite amount of user attention and way too much content to get processed.”

3. Sonos’s Weird-Looking New Speaker Solves A Living Room Design Problem – Like many consumer products, Sonos’s newest smart speaker began with plenty of consumer research. But in studying the way that people live and interact with entertainment technology at home, the company discovered a fact that seemed to undermine its own approach: Most people—a full 70%, by Sonos’s count—do not mount their television sets on the wall, preferring to sit them on top of a piece of furniture instead. It’s a statistic that contradicts the popularity of home theater sound bars like Sonos’s own Playbar, which tend to be designed with the wall-mounted setup in mind. At the same time, it suggested an opportunity.

After countless iterations, testing and retunings, the Sonos Playbase was born. The 58-millimeter-high device doesn’t look much like a speaker, but it packs all the sonic fidelity of other Sonos products like the Playbar and Play:5. The new Wi-Fi-enabled speaker, which starts shipping on April 4th, takes on a somewhat odd, oblong, flat shape designed to sit comfortably and inconspicuously beneath most standard television sets.


Chase’s Stuff:

1. Abraham Hicks Interviewed by Oprah Winfrey About Law of attraction — There’s a lot that’s weird and scandalous in what I can’t help but call new-age spirituality, but I, personally, am experiencing a lot of “sustainable awesome” from what I’m learning from a teacher called Abraham. This video I linked to at the beginning of this paragraph is a good place to get started. Then I’d get the Audible version of this book. The gist is this: I can pay more attention to how I want to feel. You want to be an entrepreneur? How do you want that to feel? I get into this in depth in this training on journaling for vision and motivation if you want to hear more from me on this.

2. Exponential growth devours and corrupts — David Heinemeier Hansson created the programing language Ruby on Rails and co-founded one of my favorite companies (37signals), and in this scathing article he makes a good argument for how "growth" as a motivator corrupts. He pulls the curtain and reframes some central business terms like "engagement" and "fiduciary responsibility." My advice: read this every year.

3. Beyond Success – Ram Dass Full Lecture 1987 – YouTube — Ram Dass on success? Yes please! I've been listening to a lot of Ram Dass the past year and, on a personal note, spending time with this guy's recordings while I go on walks or drive home from my son's school has completely changed my life. This talk in particular is relevant to us business folks because, well, success can bamboozle us and take us off course. I love the way this guy thinks. You just might also.


Fizzle