If You Prioritize One Social Media Platform This Month, Make It Google+

By Missy Steinberg

google-plus

Social media is more important to your rankings than ever before thanks to Google’s Hummingbird update, but not all platforms pack the same punch. As emphasized by aimClear’s social advertising director, Merry Morud, in an SES Denver panel discussion, tweets, likes and follows are the new link-building, and a more democratized one at that. So now that the voice of the people will start impacting your rankings, it’s wise to note that some voices will be heard much more loudly than others, specifically those closest to Google’s ears: those on Google+.  Moz made the connection back in 2013 with a scientific correlation study that revealed that a website’s total number of Google +1’s has the second biggest impact on search engine rankings (right after page authority) out of all ranking factors. “Google gets its purest social signals in Google+, and they can often impact SEO more than Facebook,” Morud said.

Aside from Google’s own preferences, the relatively young social network is worth prioritizing for its appeal to Facebook users who are fed up with the platform’s ad-cluttered newsfeed.  “Facebook is getting too busy,” Morud said. “People are outgrowing [the platform]. Google+ being ad-free is going to be a plus for them.”

Despite the saturation of advertisements, the medium might not be as effective as it appears at garnering clicks. Morud cited client cases in which Facebook ad clicks were healthy, but unusually lopsided toward mobile. The disproportion stemmed from users unintentionally tapping ads while scrolling through their newsfeed on small mobile devices, or what Morud calls “fat finger syndrome.”

Because Google+ currently does not allow advertisements, the best way to take advantage of the site is by actively participating, engaging members and sharing your own links. Moz’s report also found that content posted to Google+ is crawled almost instantaneously, so it’s a great place to start pushing your site’s blog. With more frequent crawls and an expected boom in users, Google+ looks like it’s going to be an effective resource to boost rankings and save a bit of your advertising budget,too.

Will Google Rebooting Email Affect Your Marketing Strategy?

By Jason Bauman

How will your emartketing campaigns be impacted by Inbox?Google isn’t afraid to disrupt their own market if they think they’ve discovered a new way of doing things.  While Gmail is arguably the standard when it comes to email platforms, the search giant recently unveiled Inbox, which they hope will replace the traditional email experience.

What is Inbox:

Currently available through an invite only beta program, Inbox aim’s to combine Google’s popular email platform with their digital assistant Google Now service.  The company hopes to provide customers with a simpler browsing experience, applying what they learned by building knowledge graphs in search to your inbox.  In a blog post yesterday, the Gmail team outlined several key features.

  • Bundles: These are similar to the tabs found in your current inbox, grouping messages from companies by promotions, social, and sales.
  • Highlights: If you receive an order confirmation, schedule a flight, or get pictures from a close friend, this will show up here without requiring you open any messages.
  • Reminders: Create a to-do list that will appear at the top of Inbox.  If you have an upcoming event with a contact,it will appear here as well.
  • Snooze: If you don’t have time to read an email or reminder at that moment, you can snooze it for whenever you want.

 

Inbox Assists

From The Official Gmail Blog

What Will This Mean For Email Marketing?

When Google updated the inbox for Gmail in 2013, most email campaign’s were automatically filtered into the new “Promotions” tab.  For a lot of eCommerce sites, this meant that their emails went largely unopened.  Groupon lost nearly 2.6 million in the third quarter of 2013, a loss they partially attribute to this change.

Bundles will allow the user to choose how often they see certain types of emails.  For example, a customer could choose to view all of their promotions emails at the end of their workweek instead of as they come in.  According to Chad White, lead research analyst at Salesforce Marketing Cloud, “Bundles likely mean that marginally engaged subscribers will become even less engaged, while engaged subscribers will become more engaged.”

Highlights is the potentially disruptive feature of the new app, as it will allow users to track their shipments in real time, even if that information is not available in the email itself.  Using their search engine, Google can use the tracking information provided in the email to pull up-to-date information from the web and display it for the customer.

With highlights, open rates will become less important as customers can go right to your sites landing page from the highlight, without ever opening the email.

Time To Adapt

It’s not clear yet exactly how customers will use Inbox, or how it will display current email marketing campaigns. Much like the original Gmail rollout, Google is using an invite system to test the system before pushing it for general release.  The app is also not a replacement to Gmail, which required that users download it in addition to their current email client.  This will slow the adoption rate for the new platform, which will give companies time to adapt their marketing campaigns for Highlights and Bundles.

Look for an update to this post as our team delves further into Inbox and how our clients can utilize it for their e-Marketing campaigns.

Online Shopping Reigns Supreme This Holiday Season

By Katherine Pietrangelo

Holiday Shopping Goes Online (1)

Online retailers, rejoice! This upcoming holiday season looks like it’s going to be a good one. According to a recent survey by National Retail Federation (NRF), 44.4% of consumers will do their holiday shopping online this approaching season.

Looking at the year as a whole (not just between November and December, the months that the NRF considers to be the holiday shopping season) sees a total of 56% of shoppers planning to make their purchases online this year. That is an increase of 4.5%, up from the 51.5% of last year’s survey.

If we break down those numbers into how those consumers will be making their online purchases, it’s not surprising that mobile shopping makes up a large chunk.

According to the survey, 55.7% of smartphone users will do some part of their holiday shopping on their phone, up from 53.8% last year. 35.8% of smartphone users will research products and prices on their phones, and 19.1% (an all-time high) of smartphone users will make the actual purchase via their mobile device.

Tablet users will also be making moves this holiday season, with 47.4% of tablet users doing their product research online, and 33% said they will buy something using their tablet.

Why the gaining popularity? 25% of survey takers said that an uncomplicated and convenient mobile site is a huge determining factor of where they will make their online purchases.

If you or your company were looking to branch into ecommerce, now would be the time to do it.

What’s all the Penguin 3.0 Fuss About?

By John Nicholson

For those of you keeping track, before last Friday it had been a little over a year since Google released a Penguin update. Which is somewhat surprising considering the steady stream of updates previously. But it’s here now, so let’s dive right in.

This, the sixth iteration of the Penguin filter — deemed Penguin 3.0 by Search Engine Land — has been developed and upgraded in order to better fight websites that rely on spammy tactics to get ahead in the rankings. This element shouldn’t be much of a surprise considering Google constantly works toward a pristine search field, but the occasion is especially noteworthy when you think about how long Google’s team has been developing this algorithm upgrade.

So Who Will be Affected Most by Penguin 3.0?

The short answer: those in violation of Google’s linking guidelines. As far as SEOs and researchers can tell, the filter has been set up to scrutinize and penalize spammy links into and out of a website.

Penguin is unforgiving. If your site was penalized with 2013’s algorithm change, you’ve had to wait until Penguin 3.0’s release in order to see if your site updates actually worked. That said, there’s no doubt sites and publishers who were hit have been anxiously awaiting their chance to see if the changes they’ve made appease Google. Whether by eliminating spammy links or creating more original on-site content, let’s hope those down-trodden webmasters are rejoicing. Otherwise they’ll have to wait until the next Penguin release.

Penguin 3.0 Nuances

There are a few other things to keep in mind as we move into the Penguin 3.0 world.

  1. If you’ve disavowed links within the past three weeks, don’t expect a change in rankings. It was a valiant effort, but unfortunately it was too late to be considered by Google’s algorithm shift.
  2. As previously mentioned, bad links will not be tolerated by Google bots. This means sites will probably not be penalized for the sub-optimal links, but will most likely see a drop in rankings, as crawlers discount those links’ credit. Visibility will undoubtedly suffer.
  3. Apparently, Google has also mentioned a new system that promotes more frequent refreshes. As the roll out continues over the next couple weeks, we’ll see if that’s true.

Tablet Shoppers use Mobile for Research, Purchase In-Store

By Jessica Herbine

Although tablet sales will see only an 11% increase in year-over-year growth in 2014, retailers can still bank on 229 million tablet devices being sold worldwide this year. And according to a new study from Chadwick Martin Bailey, if those brick and mortar stores offering tablets aren’t yet catering to mobile shoppers, they’d better start. The market research and consulting firm surveyed customers ages 18 and up in their study “The Tablet Path to Purchase: The Mobile, Social and Online Journey“, and found that 66% of tablet shoppers use mobile devices at some point throughout their buying cycle.

Nowadays, consumers are known to check price comparisons, reviews and product information via mobile while shopping; however, these mobile, social and online factors influence tablet shoppers at different stages in their purchase journey. Only 8% of buyers complete their tablet purchase through mobile, which means an overwhelming majority of buyers are headed in store to fulfill their order.

tablet-shopping

So, how might retailers leverage their customer interactions and online offerings to entice potential customers?

  • Make helpful user reviews and comments readily available. On the whole, consumers give more weight to reviews from their peers than to reviews provided by technology experts. You can bet that those customers doing research on their mobile devices are utilizing your site as well as third-party domains to read about users’ thoughts on the product’s design and performance. Help those shoppers along by making it easy to locate reviews on your website or mobile app so that they won’t feel the need to leave your page. If your online store is lacking in reviews, you might consider how to entice customers to share their opinions publicly after making a purchase.
  • Ensure sales associates can speak knowledgeably and comfortably about a range of products. According to CMB, 25% of all tablet shoppers will seek information or advice from a sales representative throughout their purchase journey. Whether they connect in person, online or over the phone, it’s important that their interaction prove to be courteous and insightful, as this H2H correspondence will heavily weigh into the individual’s overall feelings about the retailer; especially when it comes to value and trustworthiness.
  • Optimize your website for mobile shopping and intuitive navigation. A minimal 13% of consumers use mobile apps in-store while tablet shopping, and only 12% will turn to your social media channels for guidance. Those visitors who use their mobile devices during the purchase journey are using good, old-fashioned web browsing to compare prices, check online reviews and read up on special features and sales. It is of utmost importance that your website be optimized for mobile use and display enough information for customers to shop with confidence, while retaining a clean design that’s easy to navigate and explore.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of in-store experiences. As mentioned earlier, over 90% of all customers will buy their tablets in-store vs. online. While most of their research and evaluations may be done beforehand, that doesn’t mean your visitors shouldn’t be wowed by a sensational in-store experience topped with excellent customer service. VP of Tech Practice at CMB, Chris Neal believes that “Tablet shoppers are indeed quite commonly show-rooming when they are in physical retail stores browsing for tablets, and … this is a behavior that will only increase in the future” – so ensure that every tablet shopper who enters your storefront is provided with the data, intelligence and variety of products he or she needs to make an informed purchase.

 

 

The Next Big Thing In eCommerce Is Customer Experience

By Jason Bauman

Is your company making Customer Experience A Priority?A  common misconception in retail is that customers are only motivated by their sensitivity to the price and perceived value of products.  As a company, it’s easy to assume that all you need to do to beat out your competitors is to offer your products at the best possible value, even if we know that this isn’t the case.

I know that, even though it’s a little pricier than its competitors, I still go to the same coffee shop every morning on my way to work.  It’s not hard for anyone to think of somewhere they shop even when that venue isn’t the “best value.” We choose these favorite spots, not for the prices they offer, but for the experience we have as a customer.

Customer experience can mean several things. Specifically, it can be the service you receive, how stressful the checkout process is, or what type of environment the products are presented in. Laura McLellen at Gartner pulled together 10 different surveys that showed the industry pivoting so that it could focus on customer experience.  The entire list is worth reading, but here are three key takeaways.

Customers Get Mad If You Make It Hard For Them To Purchase

According to Accenture‘s 2013 Global Consumer Pulse Survey, 85% of customers became frustrated when a company’s website made it hard to purchase from.  More than 58% of respondents said that inconsistencies between channels made them less likely to buy. Furthermore, 84% said that they found it difficult to deal with companies who would promise one thing and then deliver another.

Your eCommerce site can have the best prices anywhere, but if your customer get’s frustrated in the checkout process, you’ll lose out on countless sales.  Make sure your “sales cart” experience is as seamless as possible, even when that means considering alternative payment methods (such as Apple Pay).

A Customer First Strategy

In 2013, IBM‘s Customer-Activated Enterprise study found that 39% of companies that are performing better than their peers have a fully developed an integrated digital-physical customer strategy. And when Gartner asked CMO’s what improvements their companies were investing in, they said that nearly 18% of their total marketing expense was spent on customer service in the last fiscal year and that their company’s innovation teams were focused on customer experience for 2015.

The Rise Of The Chief Customer Officer

Gartner found that in companies with revenue’s in excess of $500 million a year, more than 65% had a chief customer service officer, or an equivalent.  This individual reports equally to the chief market officer and CEO on strategies to improve the experience of customers at all their locations.  In fact, these large companies are so certain of the importance of customer experience that 89% of them plan to to make it their competitive priority by 2016.

When Oracle asked what was the most critical factor tho their company’s success 97% of chief executives answered experience.  While customers are more careful with their money than ever, these large companies understand that competing solely on the value of your product means that your customers could abandon you as soon as someone figures out a way to get the price lower.  By focusing on your company’s experience instead of just revenue, you’ll be increasing the value of your image in the minds of consumers, which will make your revenue far less sensitive to fluctuations in price.