Learn About Building Tools w/APIs and WordPress Optimization: #Pubcon

Pubcon is only a few days away and you need to start planning which sessions you will be attending! Our own Brian LaFrance will be speaking in two important sessions you don’t want to miss:

How to Build Tools Using APIs

Wednesday October 8,  10:30a 11:30a –  Salon C

Topics Covered

  • Why you should be using APIs to create your own tools
  • Who should be using APIs
  • How you can use APIs even without knowing how to write code
  • Examples of data mashups
  • How to manage an API for your clients if you are a data provider

WordPress Optimization

Wednesday October 8, 3:50p 04:50pSalon A

Topics Covered

  • How to get set up with the right hosting for your site
  • Security Best Practices
  • Designing for Mobile Users
  • Improve Site Speed
  • Integrating Social

See You There!

Come up and meet the AuthorityLabs crew and participate in our Pubcon Scavenger Hunt!

Check out our Pubcon survival tips

Your Online Marketing Success Begins With Goal-Setting

goal-settingYour days are spent worrying about how to continue delivering a product to your customers without increasing prices or losing market share to hungry, well-funded competitors. Your nights are filled with thoughts of what happens if you cannot continue to meet those ever-increasing demands. How long could you meet payroll? How many people could you layoff without hurting the business? Would you have to look to investors for help?

But at this moment your biggest concern is ,“Why in the hell am I sitting in a 9 am meeting being asked to discuss ‘quarterly goals’ for online marketing?”

We know what you’re thinking:

  • Increase revenue
  • Increase profits from revenue
  • Grow customer base to increase revenue, which makes it possible to increase profits from revenue
  • Repeat

What if we told you that the meeting you’re sitting in could be one of the most important meetings you’ll ever attend? What if we told you that the details you could hash out in the next hour could reshape your company and the role it plays in the current market? What if we told you that goals—not social media, not data, not tools—are what your company needs most desperately as it relates to online marketing?

Well, that’s what we are telling you.

Goals Might Be A Tough Sell, But They Are An Indispensable Asset

Online marketing is a point of emphasis for untold numbers of business, and for good reason: Web visibility can equate to more customers, more products sold and more revenue. But the path to success is far from linear, which is where goals come into play.

The No. 1 question asked by business owners who jump into online marketing is “Where do we start?”

whatThe only viable answer is “with goals.”

I admit, the first time this line of thinking was shared with me—during Mozcon 2013 by Mackenzie Fogelson of Mack Web—I was taken aback. Like many others in the audience, I immediately thought “There has to be more to it.” I was right.

There is much, much more to online marketing. But, goals do come first. Here is why, we are swimming in a sea of information, with more tools and platforms than we’ll ever have time to use. We have data up to our eyeballs, personnel strewn across the planet and enough ideas to fill up a college textbook.

All of this information often leads to the thinking that everything is important. It’s not. There is a clear pecking order as it pertains to what your business should focus on at any given time. Creating clear, definable goals ensures everyone is on the same page at the same time.

What Gets Measured Gets Managed

What you assign importance to becomes the priority.

The process begins with a little exercise:

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • What impact is that likely to have?
  • Who needs to be involved?
  • What will you need to measure to track performance?
  • What constitutes success?
  • What’s the next step after accomplishing this goal?

Let’s say your business is dipping its toe into social media. You’d love to see some movement on what you consider to be the three most important platforms for your business: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Your goals could look something like this:

  • Hire one full-time employee to man social media
  • Grow Twitter followers by 10 percent over the next 90 days
  • See Facebook Likes increase by 15 percent over the next 90 days
  • Grow Instagram engagement by 20 percent in the following 90 days
  • Increase social shares from the company blog by 50 percent in three months

You’ll notice several important elements in this fictional example.

  • Time element: An established time-lime for completing the goal(s) is an imperative. This creates a sense of urgency and of purpose, but mainly it makes everyone aware that the task at hand is the priority for the allotted period of time.
  • Personnel: Your staff needs to be clear on who’s responsible for helping attain this goal. Empowering teams members to help move the needle is ideal, but the key players must have the authority to advance the charge without others second-guessing them. A formal meeting making everyone aware of what’s happening and who the main players are could prove invaluable.
  • How success will be measured: The term goals might sound nebulous, but they are anything but. Assign a value, metric to them, and you can track them with ease. Rigidity is not the priority here. Be realistic about what can be accomplished in the predetermined time frame, while understanding that significant movement in the direction of a specific goal is tantamount to success. (For example, increasing social shares from the blog by 37 percent as opposed to 50 percent could still be viewed as a success.)

Your first priority is determining what your goals should be, which brings us back to “Where do we start?”

I tell business owners to start with a goal that can significantly impact the business but that won’t sap resources they cannot afford to expend. It could be as simple as posting a weekly blog or as involved as launching a responsive-design website.

Whatever goals you choose, they must comprise three core elements, which I’ve dubbed the “3 M’s Of Goal-Setting”:

  • Measurable: There must be concrete metrics in place by which your team’s performance toward the goal can be measured against. Strive to be as specific and as transparent as possible so everyone knows what they are working toward.
  • Manageable: Refrain from setting goals that are clearly out of the reach, either for the time frame or for the team you have assembled. Make certain to devote the necessary resources to the task.
  • Meaningful: When CEOs ask “Where do we start?” I always answer with “What will have the biggest impact on your business over the next three months?” This helps to identify hot-button issues. I suggest you do the same. Think of (a) what you most need to get done in the next 90 days and (b) what, of the things you could accomplish in that time-frame, would be the biggest positive for the business.

It’s easy to read this post and think, “That sounds too easy. What impact could it really have?” What I love about the goal-identifying/goal-setting-approach is it drives focus inside of an organization. Everyone knows what the priorities are, so it’s much harder for individuals or teams to get off task.

I hope you’ll give this technique the good old college try. I know from first-hand experience how successful it can be.

Google Analytics & Screaming Frog – How to Series – Part 2

At the end of this tuTORIal you will know how to export Screaming Frog data, Google Analytics data, and then bring them together based on whichever value you choose. I will be covering:

  • VLOOKUPs
  • Basic Formatting
  • Conditional Formatting
  • Find and Replace tool
  • Navigating in Google Analytics
  • Navigating in Screaming Frog

Check out part 1 of this series.

ga

Many Internet Marketers have heard of Annie Cushing’s amazing Site Audit Checklist. (If you haven’t checked it out yet, you should.) One of the many tips she released was to make sure that your landing pages are no more than three clicks from the homepage. This level metric is one of the data points we will be pulling in from Screaming Frog, along with Status Codes.

Here is the first part of the video tutorial walk-through. I broke this up into two sections to make it easier for people who have skills in one department over the other. It covers how to export the data you need from Screaming Frog and Google Analytics.

Here is the flip book version!

Step 1 – Enter in the site address you would like to analyze and click start.

step1

Step 2 – Once the report has finished, export the internal tab by selecting the HTML option and then clicking export.

step3

Step 3 –  Export the Organic landing pages from Google Analytics. To do this, navigate to Acquisition > Keywords > Organic > Landing Page. Change the rows option to include all of your rows and then select csv export.

step2

Step 4 – Copy the Google Analytics data and paste it into a Raw Data tab on your dashboard document.

step5.5

Step 5 – Do the same with the Screaming Frog data.

step5

Step 6 – With all the data together, leave the Raw Data tab untouched from formatting or formulas. Next, bring over the data you would like to have in your dashboard.

Screaming Frog: Address, Level, Status Code

GA: Landing Page, Sessions, % New Sessions, Bounce Rate, Avg. Session Duration

step6

Part 2 – Formatting and Formulas

Step 7 – First and foremost, turn off those gridlines! I know, I’m a broken record.

After pulling in the data to the Calculated Data tab, separate them into two tables. In the first data set (GA), add in two columns one for each of the Vlookup formulas.

Next, you’ll need to Find and Replace the http://authoritylabs.com to switch the Screaming Frog export’s URLs to URIs. To do this, press CTRL + F and select the Replace tab.

step4.4

Step 8 – Now you’re ready to write your Vlookup.

  • 1st: Select the value you would like to look for. In this case, it’s the homepage or the URI “/”.
  • 2nd: Select the range of cells you would like to look for this value in. That would be the Data Set 2 table. Lock down those values by selecting M5:U129 and pressing F4.
  • 3rd: Select the column that has the value you would like to retrieve. (In this case it’s the second column.)
  • 4th: Type in the word FALSE which means that you want an exact match.
step12

Step 9 – Repeat the process for the Status Code column. Remember to switch the column number to 4.

step13

Step 10 - Now that you’ve pulled over the data you want. Select the first data set and bring it over to the Dashboard tab. To do this without messing up your formula values, copy and paste special > values only.

step14

Step 12 – Select the data set and format as a table to get the filtering options.

step16

Step 13 – Then filter the levels from smallest to largest. This will put all the “N/A” values at the end of the table.

step17

Step 14 – Delete or Hide the rows that don’t have values.

step18

Step 15 – Select the New Sessions column and under the Home tab select Conditional Formatting > Data bars.

Continue to do this with different colored bars for Sessions, Bounce Rate, and Avg. Session Duration.

step19

Step 16 – You can do basically the same thing for bounce rate, but instead select the icon set.

step21

Step 17 – Only one problem. Bounce rate has opposite values as positive. So you will need to switch the positives to negatives. Luckily, Excel gives an easy fix to this. Manage Rules > Double-click on the Icon Set > Reverse Icon Order > Okay.

step23

Step 18 – To add in a custom format for scratch, select the column > Conditional Formatting > New Rule > Format only cells that contain.

From there select a cell value that is equal to = 200. 200 is a good status code, so I format it as blue.

step24

Step 19 – You can do the same thing for the Level metric and set the values that were greater than 3 to red.

step29

Step 20 - Now you’re finished! Go forth and make your own awesome report!

AuthorityLabs 2014 Pubcon Vegas Scavenger Hunt

Pubcon-VegasIt is time to return to Vegas and we all want to win! Starting Monday, October 6, we will be posting tasks on Twitter and this page so you have an opportunity to win, without gambling.

The first person to complete each task will win a prize such as cash, free drinks, a free AuthorityLabs account and there is even a grand mystery prize!  If you are not the first person to complete a task, we will still have AuthorityLabs t-shirts, pint glasses, and other goodies to give out until we run out.

Who will beat last year’s winner, Greg Gifford?

The Hunt

The contest will start Monday evening and run through midnight Wednesday night. The first tasks will go live on Twitter around 7 PM Monday. Keep an eye on our feed for more information!

How to Find Us

The AuthorityLabs team will be at the conference and official Pubcon networking events. Team members you can look for include:

We suggest you check out the pictures of our team members so you can find them easily. Team members will be, off and on, at the Breeze Bar in TI (and if anyone wants to pick up tattoos, shirts, hats, pint glasses, etc. find us here before supplies run out). We will also be at Epic Dinner on Monday night and will have some things with us like AuthorityLabs tattoos. You can also find us wondering the halls and sessions at the conference and you can find Brian in these two sessions:

The Prizes

Prizes will include cash, free drinks, AuthorityLabs accounts, a few mystery prizes and a grand prize that we will announce soon. The first person to complete 10 of the items on the list will win an awesome prize.  Prizes for each task will be for the person first to finish and the 2nd and 3rd finishers will get a mystery prize.

More Info Coming Soon

Watch our Twitter feed and our blog for upcoming information!

Check out our Pubcon survival tips

What are the tasks so far?

TaskPrizesWinner
Picture with AL swag in front of the M&M stock car1 Year free Pro AccountLindsay Mineo
Picture jumping with the Bellagio Fountains$50 in chipsAshley Ward
Picture of a large alcoholic drink, better if it’s orangeDrinks on us!*Samara Hart
Pose with a chapel wedding prop in an AL tshirt$50Ashley Ward
Pose your favorite Caesar’s Palace statue1 Year free Pro AccountLindsay Mineo
Tweet a picture with at least 100 orange m&msMystery prizeAshley Ward
Tweet a picture of a Gondola or on a GondolaDrinks on us!*Ashley Ward
A selfie with someone’s hair that won’t fit in the shotMystery prizeDan Bagby
A photo of a performer who has an orange costume$50Dan Bagby
A picture of the AL tattoo the size of the Eiffel TowerDrinks on us!*Greg Gifford
Tweet a picture with an orange poker chip$50 in chipsAshley Ward
A photo with a performer covered in sparklesDrinks on us!*Greg Gifford & Ashley Ward!
Tweet a selfie on the NY-NY rollercoaster1 Year free Pro Account
A photo of the orange leaves at The Palazzo’sMystery prize
A photo with Mike’s AL tattoo next to your AL tattoo$50 Greg Gifford
A photo with a tourist in a hawaiian shirt while wearing your AL shirt 1 Year free Pro Account
A photo of an orange Hard Rock Hotel guitar pick $50 Greg Gifford
A photo of you with a showgirl in AL swag Mystery Prize Ashley Ward
A photo posing like one of the neon signs on the strip $100 Ashley & Lindsay
A photo of two AL employee’s tattoos $100 Greg Gifford

 

*Drinks for you and 3 friends at Breeze Bar

Giving A Damn Is Your Business’s Best Blogging Asset

It’s content marketing’s $64,000 question: “What does my company blog about?” No matter the size of the business, the knowledge of the staff or the access to resources, this question inevitably comes up. It makes sense, when you consider businesses who blog receive 55 percent more web traffic per month than those who do not.

Having a blog not only makes it possible for you to engage with and share content with your audience, it also allows you to educate prospects about your products and services as a means of priming the pump: When they are ready to buy, they think of your business, the one whose content they have encountered, whose website they have visited and whose products and/or services they are now familiar with.

The Benefits Of Blogging

(Image courtesy of HubSpot)

Successful Blogging Starts With Giving A Damn

The success or failure of your blog, however, rests on a decision you make—or choose not to make—well before you ever put words on a page.

You must decide to give a damn. You must be so committed to placing your prospects’ and existing clients’ needs ahead of your business’s needs that you use their goals as a beacon for any and all content efforts.

One of the dirty little secrets of content marketing is tactics and strategy alone don’t win. Yes, they help get the ball down the field, but tactics and strategy have to be guided by something.

That something is a commitment to…

  • Better knowing your audience
  • Better interacting with your audience
  • Better serving your audience

The way to meaningfully get noticed is to care more about meeting your audience’s needs than the competition. Several months ago, while putting together a content strategy for a large health and fitness brand, I was asked “What about the blog? What should we blog about?”

The company was rebranding and adding a consumer blog to the website. I shared with the global marketing manager that the surest way to gain ground on the competition and build up good will with prospects was to deliver information that added value to the latter’s lives, and that meant putting them first early and often.

Instead of blogs about the company or its products, blogs would be written about people.

  • “How Janet McMillan Prepares For A Marathon Less Than Three Months After The Birth Of Her Fourth Child.”
  • Not “Ways Our Products Can Help You Prepare For Your Next Race.”

Which one would you read? The one that shows you the business gives a damn, right?

To win your customers over and score big in the content marketing race, commit to giving a damn before you do anything else.

Find out…

  •  Who they are.
  •  What they care about.
  •  How your business can help them accomplish their goals.

Early on, this process is rather easy and simplistic.  Spend some time brainstorming about the people who would potentially be your customers.

Are they men or women? Where do they likely live? What income do they likely enjoy? Where do they spend the majority of their non-work-related time?

From there, you’d place yourself in their shoes, looking to discern what makes them tick: Family? Sports? Career? Travel? Etc.

Give A Damn(Photo credit: ShellyS via photopin cc)

Customers Are Waiting For Brands To Talk To Them, Not At Them

Keep in mind that this process is wholly iterative. You will refine and revise this approach with time and as you gather more information. The goal is to harness enough information for you to market intelligently to prospects.

So, when you sit down to write a blog the process takes shape naturally:

  • Who am I writing this for?
  • What are his/her needs?
  • How can our brand make him/her the hero?

In the case of the fitness brand, the answers looked something like this:

  • A 32-year-old mother of two girls
  • The ability to train in her home
  • By offering a low-cost exercise option that can be used in the home but stores easily and requires less than 45 minutes a day to get a training effect.

As you can imagine, blog content began to flow easily from team members.

  • “How To Exercise For 3o Minutes A Day Without Leaving Your Home”
  • “Ways To Get Your Before-Baby Body Without Leaving Home To Exercise”
  • “Work Up A Sweat While The Kiddies Are Napping”

What began as “What should we blog about? took shape as Who are we talking to? What are their needs? How can we help them?” Your company can follow a similar outline. All it requires is that you you give a damn and drop the brand-first thinking.

What do you say? Ready to give it a try?

Steal Mike King’s Ideas To Get Your Feet Wet With Personas

If you’ve ever seen a grown man reduced to tears, you know it’s not pretty. There’s lots of sniffling and “uh-huh-huhs,” in addition to the bits of spittle that fly everywhere as they attempt to talk through the episode. So, you can imagine my discomfort at sitting in a room with the senior vice president of a midsize company as he grilled a contractor —an SEO recommended by one of his friends— about the information, or lack thereof, he’d presented.

“You aren’t telling me anything I don’t know,” said the SVP, who headed up marketing and advertising, but whose background was in data. “This report is something I can generate myself. And don’t give me some B.S. about competitive analysis. I’m asking you about my customers … Who are they? Answer that. You can’t, can you? Because if you could you wouldn’t have spent—what is it now?—24 minutes of my time going over B.S. metrics, analytics, keywords and other worthless s**t! You’re supposed to help me define my customers, and to this point you have not.”

I witnessed this train wreck first-hand. It was as shocking as it was telling, leading me to come away with three thoughts:

  1. Don’t position yourself as a “data-focused SEO who can help you identify and market to your target audience” unless you have the chops to back it up.
  2. Know your client’s “m*!$@#^$*&^+g audience!”
  3. A few hours spent reading and researching Mike King’s work could have saved the poor guy a lot of heartache and embarrassment.

I’ve written before that I’ve stolen, er, appropriated, numerous ideas from the work of Mike King, a brilliant digital marketer who understands how to develop buyer personas as well, or better, than anyone whose work I’ve read.

If you’ve seen Mike present, you know he’s entertaining and a wealth of knowledge.

What I appreciate more than anything about his work is (a) it pulls folks away from the silliness of single-mindedly focusing on keywords and (b) it provides a simple (though not necessarily easy) framework for companies to clearly discern the audience they should be targeting, which is a far cry from the “guess-and-miss” approach I see all too many businesses employ.

“When you target everyone you actually target no one,” he says.

I’m on record as saying keywords do not play a huge role in any of the work that I do for clients. As a content strategist, my role is to help companies use content to reach their long-term business goals. The last thing I’m interested in doing is giving them information they can hire pretty much any junior SEO or junior content person to provide.

Rather, what I spend my time doing is getting my hands in the squishy places where others aren’t interested to go, but that the business desperately needs to delve into.

One of those places is buyer persona development, which makes businesses aware of who buys from them and why. This is an effort your business needs to undertake.

Before you roll your eyes and click to another page, hear me on this:

Understanding who your core prospect is, in addition to why they buy from you will make you more money than you could have ever imagined. It’ll also save you more money than you could imagine.

Here’s how:

  1. If you know who your customers are, it’s much easier to figure out where they congregate online, then market to them with a message that will resonate, anywhere online, including on your website.
  2. Unlike the competition, which is likely taking a spray-and-pray approach, you aren’t wasting money on content (e.g., web design, copywriting, PPC, etc.) that’s 70 percent guesswork.

Now do I have your attention?

If you’ve read any of King’s work, you know it’s involved, thorough and has the depth of a Calc II textbook.

That’s not where we are going to start, however.

In my experience, the easiest way to get a company energized about buyer persona development is to get everyone’s hands dirty simultaneously, and that’s by taking the qualitative route.

Here’s how that process looks for your company:

  • Create. One of the biggest energy sappers for staff members is the constant genericising of information about their users and prospective users. Not here, though. Have a member of your team pull the data on three to five of your customers, while ensuring that the sampling is representative of the breadth of your customers. Then, get in a room with a whiteboard and begin mocking up each person, creating a demographic profile that highlights everything from age and sex to income, employer and residence. Keep in mind that this is not science, so some of this information can be assumed based on known factors. This is my preferred method for rudimentary persona development, and I refer to it as “going from specific to general,” for you are looking to market to cohorts of the specific person you’ve profiled.
  • Test: Begin creating content for these personas based around their assumed needs. That is, blogs should “speak” to prospects in a way that matches their education, interests and goals for interacting with the business. Web pages should be clear, uncluttered and compelling, sure, but they must also instantly deliver the message your personas expect to encounter and would be amenable to. What’s more PPC ads, too, should mimic the style, voice and tone reflected in your persona discovery process. The more clear and aligned this process is, the better and more relevant the information you’ll receive.
  • Analyze: After a pre-determined amount of time, put the team back together and analyze the data. What messages seemed to perform best? How could they be enhanced? What changes should be made? What form those changes should take?.
  • Tweak: Resist the urge to make wholesale changes only because you didn’t receive the feedback you hoped for in the allotted amount of time. If your persona models are accurate, or even close, maintain the course and only change what looks like a clear loser. For example, if the homepage looks like a dud, applying a heat map or conducting an A/B test could prevent you from making changes for changes sake.
  • Repeat: The goal is to continue refining the process as more information becomes available. The key here is accurate information, however. The more prospects reach out to and interact with the brand, the more opportunities you have for meaningful data-gathering. In this way, you’re acting as a baker leavening bread, continuing to fold in those essential elements.

This qualitative approach could be deemed elementary. But I love it for getting buy-in from stakeholders and for energizing brand managers about the need to gather as much accurate information as possible about their target audience.

I’d love for you to give it a try and let me know what you think.