Medium: Why Bloggers Should Consider Publishing on Medium

Want to position yourself as an authority on a specific subject? Have you considered publishing your blog posts on Medium? To explore how Medium can benefit bloggers and marketers, I interview Dakota Shane. More About This Show The Social Media Marketing podcast is an on-demand talk radio show from Social Media Examiner. It’s designed to […]

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– Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle

4 Things You Should Know About Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation

On July 1, 2014, Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL) went into effect. At that time, companies were given three years to meet compliance standards. With the July 1, 2017 deadline fast-approaching, we sat down with Jennifer Noyes, Lead Delivery Specialist here at VerticalResponse to get the facts on how this legislation affects businesses that send emails. Here’s what you need to know:

1. What Canada’s anti-spam legislation is all about

According to Canada’s anti-spam legislation website, “The law will help to protect Canadians while ensuring that businesses can continue to compete in the global marketplace.” More specifically, CASL regulates the manner in which commercial electronic messages (CEMs) can be sent, requiring organizations to first obtain permission from recipients. 

2. How to comply with the legislation

Noyes shared that CASL requires that your emails comply with these elements:

  1. All email addresses you send to must be permission-based. Subscribers must specifically opt in to receive your communications. If you are not currently doing this, you can use an email signup form to collect permission-based subscribers on your website, blog or social media networks.
  2. All emails must contain an easy-to-find unsubscribe link that is valid for 60 days. All unsubscribe requests must be satisfied within 10 days or less and at no cost to the recipient.
  3. Your subject line must pertain to the content in the email. No part of the email message can be misleading or false.
  4. You must identify your name and business. Your name or the name of anyone else on whose behalf you are sending the message, and a current mailing address must be clearly displayed. Also include a phone number, email address or web address. Ensure that this information is accurate and valid for a minimum of 60 days after sending the message.

If you’re using an email service provider, you’re most likely in compliance. VerticalResponse is compliant with all elements of CASL, and provides tools to help you follow these rules. In fact, VerticalResponse’s anti-spam policy is more strict than what you’ll find in CASL.

3. What you need to understand regarding mailing lists

One difference between CASL and other anti-spam legislation, such as the American CAN-SPAM Act, is that subscribers must have specifically opted in to receive your communications. During the three-year grace period, CASL allowed for what’s known as “implied consent” or permission that is inferred through actions rather than expressly given. However, implied consent expires on the upcoming July 1, 2017 deadline. Additionally, beginning July 1, 2017, legal action can be brought against any individual or organization alleged to be in violation of CASL. This means that you need to be able to prove that all email recipients have explicitly consented to receive your messages.

To mail through VerticalResponse, contacts must have signed up in some way to receive your emails. You cannot use a purchased or rented list, and you can’t use an address you took from a website. Here’s what you need to know and understand about your lists:

  • If you’re using an opt-in form you’re good; you have permission and you have proof of signup if you need it.
  • If you’re mailing to your customers, donors or clients and have been for a while, you’re most likely okay. But you may want to reconfirm consent, especially if you aren’t sure when or where they signed up, or if you don’t have any record, in case you need proof.
  • If you have a list that you’ve never mailed to and have no idea where it came from, then you won’t be able to mail it, either through VerticalResponse or to people in Canada.

If you want to reconfirm your subscribers’ opt-in status, you can do so with a signup form. You may also want to create a list segment that contains only Canadian email addresses, and make sure you know where all the addresses came from. You can do this by searching your lists for email addresses that end in .ca

If you have any doubts about how you obtained an email address, don’t send to it. After the CASL compliance deadline, the government will start enforcing fines for violations.

4. What to do if your business isn’t in Canada

If your business is located outside of Canada, this does not mean you’re exempt. If you’re sending email to anyone who resides in Canada, your sending practices must abide by CASL. As you prepare for the upcoming compliance deadline, check out these helpful resources:

  • Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation site has everything you need to know about the law.
  • A FAQ about CASL.

Finally, here’s a handy infographic created by the Canadian government that further breaks down the law:

 

Note: The information in this post cannot be considered legal advice, and is not legally binding.

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Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in June 2014 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and relevance.

© 2017, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

The post 4 Things You Should Know About Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.


Vertical Response Blog

Should SEOs Care About Internal Links? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Internal links are one of those essential SEO items you have to get right to avoid getting them really wrong. Rand shares 18 tips to help inform your strategy, going into detail about their attributes, internal vs. external links, ideal link structures, and much, much more in this edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Should SEOs Care About Internl Links?

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat a little bit about internal links and internal link structures. Now, it is not the most exciting thing in the SEO world, but it’s something that you have to get right and getting it wrong can actually cause lots of problems.

Attributes of internal links

So let’s start by talking about some of the things that are true about internal links. Internal links, when I say that phrase, what I mean is a link that exists on a website, let’s say ABC.com here, that is linking to a page on the same website, so over here, linking to another page on ABC.com. We’ll do /A and /B. This is actually my shipping routes page. So you can see I’m linking from A to B with the anchor text “shipping routes.”

The idea of an internal link is really initially to drive visitors from one place to another, to show them where they need to go to navigate from one spot on your site to another spot. They’re different from internal links only in that, in the HTML code, you’re pointing to the same fundamental root domain. In the initial early versions of the internet, that didn’t matter all that much, but for SEO, it matters quite a bit because external links are treated very differently from internal links. That is not to say, however, that internal links have no power or no ability to change rankings, to change crawling patterns and to change how a search engine views your site. That’s what we need to chat about.

1. Anchor text is something that can be considered. The search engines have generally minimized its importance, but it’s certainly something that’s in there for internal links.

2. The location on the page actually matters quite a bit, just as it does with external links. Internal links, it’s almost more so in that navigation and footers specifically have attributes around internal links that can be problematic.

Those are essentially when Google in particular sees manipulation in the internal link structure, specifically things like you’ve stuffed anchor text into all of the internal links trying to get this shipping routes page ranking by putting a little link down here in the footer of every single page and then pointing over here trying to game and manipulate us, they hate that. In fact, there is an algorithmic penalty for that kind of stuff, and we can see it very directly.

We’ve actually run tests where we’ve observed that jamming this type of anchor text-rich links into footers or into navigation and then removing it gets a site indexed, well let’s not say indexed, let’s say ranking well and then ranking poorly when you do it. Google reverses that penalty pretty quickly too, which is nice. So if you are not ranking well and you’re like, “Oh no, Rand, I’ve been doing a lot of that,” maybe take it away. Your rankings might come right back. That’s great.

3. The link target matters obviously from one place to another.

4. The importance of the linking page, this is actually a big one with internal links. So it is generally the case that if a page on your website has lots of external links pointing to it, it gains authority and it has more ability to sort of generate a little bit, not nearly as much as external links, but a little bit of ranking power and influence by linking to other pages. So if you have very well-linked two pages on your site, you should make sure to link out from those to pages on your site that a) need it and b) are actually useful for your users. That’s another signal we’ll talk about.

5. The relevance of the link, so pointing to my shipping routes page from a page about other types of shipping information, totally great. Pointing to it from my dog food page, well, it doesn’t make great sense. Unless I’m talking about shipping routes of dog food specifically, it seems like it’s lacking some of that context, and search engines can pick up on that as well.

6. The first link on the page. So this matters mostly in terms of the anchor text, just as it does for external links. Basically, if you are linking in a bunch of different places to this page from this one, Google will usually, at least in all of our experiments so far, count the first anchor text only. So if I have six different links to this and the first link says “Click here,” “Click here” is the anchor text that Google is going to apply, not “Click here” and “shipping routes” and “shipping.” Those subsequent links won’t matter as much.

7. Then the type of link matters too. Obviously, I would recommend that you keep it in the HTML link format rather than trying to do something fancy with JavaScript. Even though Google can technically follow those, it looks to us like they’re not treated with quite the same authority and ranking influence. Text is slightly, slightly better than images in our testing, although that testing is a few years old at this point. So maybe image links are treated exactly the same. Either way, do make sure you have that. If you’re doing image links, by the way, remember that the alt attribute of that image is what becomes the anchor text of that link.

Internal versus external links

A. External links usually give more authority and ranking ability.

That shouldn’t be surprising. An external link is like a vote from an independent, hopefully independent, hopefully editorially given website to your website saying, “This is a good place for you to go for this type of information.” On your own site, it’s like a vote for yourself, so engines don’t treat it the same.

B. Anchor text of internal links generally have less influence.

So, as we mentioned, me pointing to my page with the phrase that I want to rank for isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I shouldn’t do it in a manipulative way. I shouldn’t do it in a way that’s going to look spammy or sketchy to visitors, because if visitors stop clicking around my site or engaging with it or they bounce more, I will definitely lose ranking influence much faster than if I simply make those links credible and usable and useful to visitors. Besides, the anchor text of internal links is not as powerful anyway.

C. A lack of internal links can seriously hamper a page’s ability to get crawled + ranked.

It is, however, the case that a lack of internal links, like an orphan page that doesn’t have many internal or any internal links from the rest of its website, that can really hamper a page’s ability to rank. Sometimes it will happen. External links will point to a page. You’ll see that page in your analytics or in a report about your links from Moz or Ahrefs or Majestic, and then you go, “Oh my gosh, I’m not linking to that page at all from anywhere else on my site.” That’s a bad idea. Don’t do that. That is definitely problematic.

D. It’s still the case, by the way, that, broadly speaking, pages with more links on them will send less link value per link.

So, essentially, you remember the original PageRank formula from Google. It said basically like, “Oh, well, if there are five links, send one-fifth of the PageRank power to each of those, and if there are four links, send one-fourth.” Obviously, one-fourth is bigger than one-fifth. So taking away that fifth link could mean that each of the four pages that you’ve linked to get a little bit more ranking authority and influence in the original PageRank algorithm.

Look, PageRank is old, very, very old at this point, but at least the theories behind it are not completely gone. So it is the case that if you have a page with tons and tons of links on it, that tends to send out less authority and influence than a page with few links on it, which is why it can definitely pay to do some spring cleaning on your website and clear out any rubbish pages or rubbish links, ones that visitors don’t want, that search engines don’t want, that you don’t care about. Clearing that up can actually have a positive influence. We’ve seen that on a number of websites where they’ve cleaned up their information architecture, whittled down their links to just the stuff that matters the most and the pages that matter the most, and then seen increased rankings across the board from all sorts of signals, positive signals, user engagement signals, link signals, context signals that help the engine them rank better.

E. Internal link flow (aka PR sculpting) is rarely effective, and usually has only mild effects… BUT a little of the right internal linking can go a long way.

Then finally, I do want to point out that what was previous called — you probably have heard of it in the SEO world — PageRank sculpting. This was a practice that I’d say from maybe 2003, 2002 to about 2008, 2009, had this life where there would be panel discussions about PageRank sculpting and all these examples of how to do it and software that would crawl your site and show you the ideal PageRank sculpting system to use and which pages to link to and not.

When PageRank was the dominant algorithm inside of Google’s ranking system, yeah, it was the case that PageRank sculpting could have some real effect. These days, that is dramatically reduced. It’s not entirely gone because of some of these other principles that we’ve talked about, just having lots of links on a page for no particularly good reason is generally bad and can have harmful effects and having few carefully chosen ones has good effects. But most of the time, internal linking, optimizing internal linking beyond a certain point is not very valuable, not a great value add.

But a little of what I’m calling the right internal linking, that’s what we’re going to talk about, can go a long way. For example, if you have those orphan pages or pages that are clearly the next step in a process or that users want and they cannot find them or engines can’t find them through the link structure, it’s bad. Fixing that can have a positive impact.

Ideal internal link structures

So ideally, in an internal linking structure system, you want something kind of like this. This is a very rough illustration here. But the homepage, which has maybe 100 links on it to internal pages. One hop away from that, you’ve got your 100 different pages of whatever it is, subcategories or category pages, places that can get folks deeper into your website. Then from there, each of those have maybe a maximum of 100 unique links, and they get you 2 hops away from a homepage, which takes you to 10,000 pages who do the same thing.

I. No page should be more than 3 link “hops” away from another (on most small–>medium sites).

Now, the idea behind this is that basically in one, two, three hops, three links away from the homepage and three links away from any page on the site, I can get to up to a million pages. So when you talk about, “How many clicks do I have to get? How far away is this in terms of link distance from any other page on the site?” a great internal linking structure should be able to get you there in three or fewer link hops. If it’s a lot more, you might have an internal linking structure that’s really creating sort of these long pathways of forcing you to click before you can ever reach something, and that is not ideal, which is why it can make very good sense to build smart categories and subcategories to help people get in there.

I’ll give you the most basic example in the world, a traditional blog. In order to reach any post that was published two years ago, I’ve got to click Next, Next, Next, Next, Next, Next through all this pagination until I finally get there. Or if I’ve done a really good job with my categories and my subcategories, I can click on the category of that blog post and I can find it very quickly in a list of the last 50 blog posts in that particular category, great, or by author or by tag, however you’re doing your navigation.

II. Pages should contain links that visitors will find relevant and useful.

If no one ever clicks on a link, that is a bad signal for your site, and it is a bad signal for Google as well. I don’t just mean no one ever. Very, very few people ever and many of them who do click it click the back button because it wasn’t what they wanted. That’s also a bad sign.

III. Just as no two pages should be targeting the same keyword or searcher intent, likewise no two links should be using the same anchor text to point to different pages. Canonicalize!

For example, if over here I had a shipping routes link that pointed to this page and then another shipping routes link, same anchor text pointing to a separate page, page C, why am I doing that? Why am I creating competition between my own two pages? Why am I having two things that serve the same function or at least to visitors would appear to serve the same function and search engines too? I should canonicalize those. Canonicalize those links, canonicalize those pages. If a page is serving the same intent and keywords, keep it together.

IV. Limit use of the rel=”nofollow” to UGC or specific untrusted external links. It won’t help your internal link flow efforts for SEO.

Rel=”nofollow” was sort of the classic way that people had been doing PageRank sculpting that we talked about earlier here. I would strongly recommend against using it for that purpose. Google said that they’ve put in some preventative measures so that rel=”nofollow” links sort of do this leaking PageRank thing, as they call it. I wouldn’t stress too much about that, but I certainly wouldn’t use rel=”nofollow.”

What I would do is if I’m trying to do internal link sculpting, I would just do careful curation of the links and pages that I’ve got. That is the best way to help your internal link flow. That’s things like…

V. Removing low-value content, low-engagement content and creating internal links that people actually do want. That is going to give you the best results.

VI. Don’t orphan! Make sure pages that matter have links to (and from) them. Last, but not least, there should never be an orphan. There should never be a page with no links to it, and certainly there should never be a page that is well linked to that isn’t linking back out to portions of your site that are of interest or value to visitors and to Google.

So following these practices, I think you can do some awesome internal link analysis, internal link optimization and help your SEO efforts and the value visitors get from your site. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How Indie Entrepreneurs Should Plan Vacations (FS216)

Travel can lead to inspiration, vision and clarity for your business. That can mean huge gains when you’re an owner-operator of a small business.

As indie-preneurs and solo-preneurs we can often be the bottleneck for our business. Our mindset can be the leading cause of atrophy or stagnation in our strategies and execution.

Play time, vacation and travel, however, can be used to “knock the barnacles off” and reset our intention and focus so we can see clearly and move with more purpose.

BUT you may not want to put everything on hold and dive right into vacation without planning it through a bit.

So, in this podcast we teach you how successful indie entrepreneurs think through and plan their vacations.

Enjoy!

It’s better to listen on the go!    Subscribe on iTunes 

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“How indie entrepreneurs should plan vacations”
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Different kinds of “Vacation”: First, let’s define our terms a bit. In the episode we talk about the following different kinds of vacation.

  • the staycation or “digital detox”
  • the shorter "do no work" vacation
  • the longer "do some work" vacation
  • sabbatical
  • living abroad
  • paternity/maternity/family leave

Many entrepreneurs have a hard time ALLOWING themselves to let go. Here’s a message from Fizzler Penny Hawes in the Member Community about this:

What is this "vacation" of which you speak?

Seriously, after owning and managing large family run equestrian centers for most of my adult life, there were no vacations. It was 7 days a week, week after week, month after month, and year after year. And even though we were grossing 6 figures, overheads were so high we were barely surviving.

Even after we sold our farm in CT and left our jobs managing a farm here in Virginia, there have always been 2 jobs or a seriously time intensive job and a side hustle.

I get a 2 hour vacation next Tuesday, courtesy of anesthesia…

This is one of my greatest "whys" – I'm sick of working 60 hour weeks where I swap hours for dollars. I'm 58 years old and scared shitless. All of that ends now.

Corbett has a great story about this. For a long time as a new blogger Corbett couldn’t step away from the computer for any significant stretch of time. Then he brought on his first employee, got that employee up to speed and immediately took 5 days away from the computer in Europe. More on that story in the episode.

(Note: that first employee of Corbett’s was Caleb Wojcik, who we just released a Founder Story interview with to Fizzle Members!)


Reset your mind about what vacation is for. Keep your mindset healthy around vacation. Try to see it as an investment in your creativity and business, as opposed to shirking your responsibilities (which always leads to guilt). A fresh brain is often an open channel for new ideas and fresh inspiration. You may feel like Steph when she says, “I work MUCH faster when I’m rested and positive (vs. ground into a pulp and fatigued!).” So, the first step is to think about vacation as a BUSINESS ASSET.

Create a pre-vacation game plan. Define projects you want done before you leave. Be intentional with what you're committed to so you can allow yourself to TRULY release when you're on vacation. As Chase says, “It’s a really big asset for my business when I can completely disengage, experience something new and then come back to my work with clear eyes and optimism. From that perspective, with fresh eyes, I can see all sorts of things in my work that I was blind to before!” It might mean working ahead, batching tasks, outsourcing, leaning on teammates — but no matter what, you gotta have a game plan for stepping away.

Note: you can use the Energizer Project Planning Method to figure out exactly what the most critical projects are before you leave.

Learn to travel simple. One of the things we most love to experience in travel is serendipity, those moments you didn’t plan for, the random, beautiful stuff you just kind of fell into. Part of making yourself open to that is lightness in travel. As Chase says, “Now, i can get more technical here: I literally carry one carry-on backpack; that’s all I allow myself. I love this for so many reasons — freedom, agility, presence — but one of my favorite side effects (and likely the reason I’m so addicted to this kind of travel) is that it equates to MENTAL states of freedom and presence. So, it’s not just ‘I don’t have a lot of stuff with me,’ it’s also ‘I’m literally thinking and behaving with more freedom,’ and that can change your damn life.”

Note: Corbett and Chase share a little moment of glee in the episode when this comes up. You can almost hear Corbett squeal in delight.

Another Note: Chase is so taken with traveling lightly that he has a whole youtube channel devoted to it. And it’s growing, too!

What have you learned about traveling as an entrepreneur? Share what you’ve learned in the comments below because we’d love to hear them!

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Today’s episode is sponsored by Aaptive: Fizzle members can get 30 days free when you go to Fizzle.co/aaptive and use the code “FIZZLE” when you signup.


Fizzle

7 Social Media Metrics Marketers Should Track

Do you want to track the effectiveness of your social media marketing? Wondering which social media tactics are paying off? By defining and tracking a few key data points, you can determine whether your marketing is on target. In this article, you’ll discover seven social media metrics to help you gauge your marketing’s effectiveness. #1: […]

This post 7 Social Media Metrics Marketers Should Track first appeared on .
– Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle

Mitch Joel on Why Agencies Should Care About Conversion Rate Optimization [INTERVIEW]

Move over Don Draper, the modern day agency marketer needs to be more of a Renaissance (wo)man.

Sure, they need to be creative enough to craft a compelling pitch.

But they also need to be data-driven. They need to be well versed in analytics and the latest MarTech trends. And when budgets get tight, agency marketers need to be able to convince their clients to not cut out conversion rate optimization.

Few people know this better than Mitch Joel, president of Mirum, a global digital marketing agency operating in 20 different countries. Mitch is a best-selling business author, international speaker and agency thought leader. But he’s also a full-stack marketer who has been doing display advertising for longer than Google itself.

Mitch Joel, president of global digital agency Mirum and author of Six Pixels of Separation and CTRL ALT Delete.Image source.

Since Mitch entered the digital marketing world, a helluvalot has changed — and not just in agencyland. As technology evolves, so too are consumers and the way they interact with our brands. At the Call to Action Conference in June, Mitch’s keynote, Algorhythm: How Technology Connects Consumers To Brands Like Never Before, will dive into how to future-proof your brand and embrace disruption to become a digital leader.

PSST. Hey blog reader, we like the cut of your jib. Get 15% off Call to Action Conference tickets by using discount code “blogsentme” at checkout. Offer expires May 12th.

Ugh, why can’t it be June already?

To tide you over, here’s a fascinating interview with Mitch from the Call to Action Podcast. Unbounce Director of Content Dan Levy sat down with Mitch to discuss:

  • How the agency world has evolved over the past 15 years.
  • Mitch’s experience selling his independent agency to the largest holding company in the world.
  • How everything from search results to PPC and even the talent you hire for your agency are all extensions of your brand.

Check out some highlights from the interview below. (This transcript has been edited for length. Listen to the full episode on iTunes.)

Dan Levy: You’re known as a bestselling business author, speaker and agency thought leader, but you got your start in the online marketing trenches doing ad sales and even PPC marketing for a site called Mamma.com. Can you take us back to that time? What did the online marketing landscape look like and what did you learn from that experience?

Mitch Joel: Actually, yes, I did do that. But my start in digital came much earlier when I was publishing music magazines in the late 80s and early 90s. I actually was tangentially at the same time very engaged in digital media: first web browser, BBSs, stuff like that. And I actually put those magazines on the “internet” — like air quote internet — because back then, there wasn’t even really an internet.

I remember one of the cover stories for my alternative, cool, fun publication was called, “The Net.” The innovation at that time was hyperlinks. I literally was posting things on the internet from the magazine that couldn’t have hyperlinks. You couldn’t link from one page to the other. That really kept me on the trajectory where eventually I helped launch the sales channel of what at the time was one of the largest meta search engines on the internet. And again, it’s hard to imagine a world before Google. But this was pre-Google. And so the meta search engine would basically grab search results from engines like Yahoo, AOL, Lycos, and create a meta — or a better — search result that we could actually aggregate faster.

My role back then was selling sponsorships on the homepage, it was selling banner advertising. And it was also very early days of selling — literally the first time of being able to take a search result and having a banner that’s related to the search show up in the search result. And to tell you how early and nascent it was, I had to physically go into the code of the search engine to code the banner in. I don’t recommend that in this day in age. Like I don’t think anyone at Google is going into the master code to embed a search result. But that’s how early the times were back then.

DL: Wow. What did you learn from that experience that you brought forth?

MJ: Well I learned to take chances. I can tell you that when they approached me about the opportunity, my first question was, “What’s online advertising?” I mean, we are talking about a time when that first banner ad on HotWired — which became Wired — had just run.

The first banner ad, ever. Image source: Wired.

I didn’t even know what it looked like, what it felt like, what it could be. I think my pedigree in selling traditional print ads and having a construct of what it means to run a media company is what pushed me there. So it was — to this day, it was a great move. And I’m so grateful, I still have a lot of friends in my life now who came from there. A lot of people who’ve become — who’ve ascended in this industry to run major, major web initiatives are people that I hired. People that I brought into the industry. So I have a lot of pride in that.

And I also learned that — again, when I think about it, I don’t know why I took the job. All logic would dictate that at the time, I should not have taken that job. But I took the job and it wound up being great for me because it brought together what I was doing professionally on one side. And on the other side, it brought together my passion for digital. I often say that I was very early into many things. And when we started Mirum, which back then was Twist Image in 2000 (I joined in 2002). At that point in my career I said, even though I might be a little early in this space, I’m going to ride it out.

DL: Performance marketing and brand marketing are often seen as being on different sides of the digital marketing spectrum. Do you think that’s true? Do you see those two disciplines as coming closer together in an age where Facebook has gone from a social media network to just another performance marketing channel?

MJ: I think you’re right. The evolution — and by the way, Google structured themselves — for a long while, and they may still — around brand and performance. And that’s common. Where I think the confusion comes from is that within real behavioral performance-based marketing, there are heavy and hefty living around brand and experience that we often dismiss because we think that performance is still about getting the right search word, getting them to the right page.

But actually if you step back from that, the meta message is that it has to be a very relevant and cohesive brand experience. And I was somebody who wasn’t just buying generic brand keywords back in the day, to just keep that going. I actually believe that — a saying I’ve used since the early 2000s is that the first page of search results is a brand experience.


You can’t separate PPC & brand marketing. The 1st page of search is part of your brand experience.
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So there’s that. That sort of dismisses the idea that performance is not about branding. And you’re right — fast forwarding to today, a lot of my clients and a lot of people I meet when I do speaking events will say that social media is primarily a paid channel, because of what Facebook has done to throttle the content and have you pay against reach. Which I think by the way is a great model and clearly the market would agree with that idea.

But you can’t have any results — whether you’re paying for it or it’s organic — unless it’s a really good experience.

Whether or not that’s through a search result, an email marketing initiative, a great landing page *hint hint wink wink* to you guys, or a good old piece of content. I really don’t care. I’m actually agnostic to that.

DL: Where do performance channels like PPC and landing page optimization and conversion rate optimization come into the picture with the kinds of big brands that you work with? Are those things part of your offer? Do you factor them into how you pitch and bill clients?

MJ: Well it depends on whether someone’s going full bore with us or not. Like any other agency, we work on specific campaigns, specific projects, longer initiatives and then full-on mandates. And even the full-on mandates have sort of splits and fits and starts.

The way we started our company, we only wanted to work with large national and multinational brands and we’ve stuck to that model for what’s coming up onto 17 years. Because of that, being of startup size back in the early 2000s, most brands already had large media companies at play. And those media companies even back then were feeling very threatened by digital and would make those offerings.

So we would come in and grab pieces and parts of it and really focus on the behavioral side. Let us handle the drive to optimization, landing page, unique spaces, unique experience while the media companies were really checking boxes around “online video,” “search,” affiliate marketing” and stuff like that. So from my pedigree, I stand very firmly and aligned with what performance can do in terms of optimizations and moving things forward. I feel like I’m banging against the wall when everyone says, “Well we do that.” I think people do do that, but they don’t really do it.

I still really believe that a lot of the work we see is what I call “rearview mirror.” You know, we did it, we’re running these keywords to a landing page, and let’s see how it did. Post. I believe, and I know that Mirum as an agency believes it, all of that optimization, all of that data, all of that opportunity is now in the passenger seat. When you do it well and you actually are optimizing and driving and creating unique experiences on landing pages and stuff like that, you’ve moved it from the rearview mirror to the passenger’s seat and you can fix it and go so that there always is a positive result, not a result that says, “Oh, that campaign just didn’t work.” I can’t believe we still use that language in business today!

DL: Right, as if a campaign or an experience is a success or a failure — only if it meets your hypothesis. And the learnings aren’t a factor or don’t have anything to do with it at all.

MJ: Right and it’s frustrating for me because I feel like we often lose business or can’t grab the business because there’s a sentiment that we already have someone doing that work. But when you dig into what that work is, you see that there actually isn’t a lot of that stuff that we’re really talking about. They say they do that, it’s on their decks, and it’s on their site. But — and I don’t know if it’s a failure of the brand or a failure of the agency. I’m not sure where it happens. But there is a vast majority of very powerful brands really not doing enough.

DL: Do you think the problem is that optimization is seen as a discipline or a branch of marketing instead of just a mindset?

MJ: Yeah. One of my close friends is Bryan Eisenberg, who I really believe is one of the forefathers of this optimization space. He’s written books about it, “Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?” and intent and scent and all that.

My relationship with Bryan is going on for close to 20 years at this point. And he would often say things like, “You know, here we are talking about all this stuff. And the first thing a brand will cut on a budget is the optimization. Hands down.

And it’s mind-numbing and it’s mind-blowing to both of us — and years later it still remains the same — because that’s actually where you make money. And I don’t know why brands, agencies don’t get it. I don’t get how they don’t get it.

DL: Can you talk about the role content played in getting Twist on the map? I imagine that your book and your blog and your podcast were all part of ultimately attracting the attention of WPP and making that acquisition happen.

MJ: It’s a yes and no story.

It’s a yes story in the sense that it’s very interesting when they’re doing financial and product assessments to see an agency that has been so consistent for a decade. Creating the blog, the podcast, Six Pixels of Separation, that lead to 50-60 paid speaking events a year. That lead to two best selling books — and I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but represented by a major New York literary agent, onto a major — largest book publisher in the world, onto the global deal. And other things that come from media appearances and stuff like that.

DL: Yeah, I think that from my perspective, Twist Image and Mitch Joel were kind of one and the same.

MJ: Totally. And we built it that way. We always saw from day one, back in 2003ish, when we started the blog, that Twist Image (at the time — now Mirum) would be managing three brands:

  1. that Mirum brand,
  2. Six Pixels of Separation (which we sort of considered the sort of “content engine” — so blog, podcast, articles, speaking, books)
  3. and then Mitch Joel, this media face. This warm, hopefully friendly and personable face to an agency, which again, now seems very obvious.

But if you go back 10+ years, nobody was really doing that. They didn’t really have that. So the fact that we were sharing content, having conversations with people who just didn’t have a voice before — you know, we were having hour-long conversations with business or marketing thought leaders. That you didn’t get an hour with. You’d be lucky if you had one famous enough to get 10 minutes on Charlie Rose. Suddenly, someone is spending an hour with them, having a conversation like they would over a coffee, and publishing it to the world.

There were these assets there that were built over time, and again, I do know that when it came to the opportunity for us to be acquired, one of the metrics was the fact that there is revenue generation that comes out of the content engine. That doesn’t just create media attention and a level of fame, whatever that might be. But that there actually was revenue behind this thing. And that was very surprising and shocking to them.

DL: Meaning what? It gets clients in the door?

MJ: I mean, yeah, think about it. You pitch for business development, you spend weeks, months pitching. And business development is a cost center. It costs every agency a lot of money to business develop. You don’t win every pitch. It’s a very small percentage. And you hope that the ones you win make up for all the money you spent. When you’re offsetting that cost with speaking gigs, book deals, article writing and stuff like that, it’s really interesting that you’re creating this voice and building a platform and it actually is driving business, it’s driving revenue — both in terms of client and raw revenue. We get dollars to speak and write books. It’s not vanity.

It was always about creating equity in the brand, that would have one of two roles. That one day, we would be acquired. Or if we’re never acquired, we’re running this business in a way where all of the top players would want to acquire it. And there would be extreme value in the brand.

I like building businesses that build equity as they grow. And this channel of speaking, writing, etc — it wasn’t a core component of what we were acquired for, but it was definitely on the list.

DL: It reminds me of the Rolling Stones model, where you’re the front man, but ultimately, you share those profits evenly. I know they’ve credited that as their longevity for them as a band. It sounds like the same thing for the longevity of Twist, and now Mirum.

MJ: Yeah, and I try to not have it be ego-driven. I look at it like — my job, as a media entity, is to be extremely personable. And to know that I’m managing Mirum, Six Pixels and Mitch Joel. And I conduct myself accordingly. If you look me up on Facebook, there isn’t a ton of personal stuff. There’s a ton of personable stuff.

DL: If you had to give agencies who are looking to set themselves apart from the crowd and spur growth for both their clients and their own business one piece of advice, what would it be?

MJ: I really think it is much like a great book. A great book works not because the topic is unique. I feel like more often than not you’re reading a topic that somebody else covered in one shape or form.

It’s the voice. I don’t see that much in terms of agencies having that unique voice. Do I think we achieved it? Partially. And I think it’s because it’s a journey — you’re constantly changing it, moving it along. But if I were to go across — and we did this exercise when we were trying to figure out the branding for Mirum, Twist Image — I would jokingly tell people, “You could take the website of all our biggest competitors, take off the logos, throw them in the air, and whatever website they fall on, you’d still be pretty much right.” The services, types of case studies, type of work we do. And still to this day, I think that story rings true.

The ones that stand out, though, are the ones that have a unique voice. It could be a unique individual — I’m thinking of people like Bob Greenberg at R/GA. It could just be a unique story to tell. So if you look at an agency like WK, the fact that they’ve been large and independent, the type of work that they’ve done it’s like the voice of the agency is the work that they do. That type of thing is the only component of your business that you can have that is the defendable against a competitor. It’s how you express yourself, tell your stories, the type of team members you bring in, the type of work that you do, the stories you tell in the marketplace, where you network, what you attend. That’s the big one.

The secondary one is get involved in your industry. What  drove this business at Mirum was the fact that we got involved in places like Shop.org, the National Retail Federation, Canadian Marketing Association, Interactive Advertising — I could go on and on. And we didn’t just join and become members. We got involved. In fact, we just had a conversation at lunch about an association that I’m super interested in. And the answer we all came to was: “Not unless we can get deeply involved.” So, what you find out is that by giving (because you love this industry and you want it to be better), you do wind up in some way receiving. We don’t get involved to get results. By getting involved and being active, it just happens.

DL: Well Mitch, it’s always a real treat to talk shop with you. Thank you so much for taking the time.

MJ: My pleasure! Thanks for having me.

This transcript has been edited for length. Listen to the full episode on iTunes.


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