Monday, January 23, 2017

Inside Predictive Analytics: Or How I Knew You Were Going to Read This.

Web Retailers would love to somehow tell buyers from shoppers. With predictive analytics, they can.

Depending upon the site and the products and services offered, some website visitors will purchase a product, fill out a form for more info, or schedule a demo.  Most however, will take no action. 

Conventional website analytics can tell you where those visitors are coming from, what browser they’re using and other well, useless information for a digital marketer. Other software will tell you which Calls To Actions (CTAs) performed best, while some others (like heat maps) will tell you where their eyes focus when they peruse your site. All valuable information but still no way of telling buyers from the window shoppers.

Leave your tarot cards and crystal ball at home, predictive analytics uses data mining, statistics, modeling, machine learning, and/or artificial intelligence to analyze historical data to make calculated predictions about the future. It’s been around for years of course. Mortgage companies use it to decide how much to lend, doctors use it to determine the likelihood of developing certain diseases. Where it is new is in digital marketing. Those advertisers who do use it right now not only will have the winning hand, they will have the upper hand on their competitors.

First the basics: when you browse the Internet you leave a trail creating a map of where you’ve been, what you’ve seen, and what you clicked on from “cookies” or tags that sites use to identify you.  This creates a profile and your preferences.  The practice of serving you ads based upon your profile is called “remarketing.” Still not there at predictive analytics for digital marketing. but we’re getting close.

Remember all those people I mentioned who visited your website? Well some got there by clicking the wrong link, or liked your photo, or was doing research, or a school project, or a full deck of missteps and arbitrary visits. Others likely got there and changed their mind: not a fit. Some though, do want your product – just not right now due to budget schedules or inadequate revenues when it’s B2B. Or maybe it’s the wrong size, color, or flavor if it’s B2C?  Regardless, the timing isn’t right. 

Predictive analytics in digital marketing does a few things. First it analyzes your history against those of others, more importantly, others who purchased. Buyers have patterns so when they came, what the clicked on, how many visits they made before they purchased. It works from the inside out, painting a picture of all buyers and seeing how closely you align to the profile.  Amazon is a great example of B2C best practices. It shows me ads for vitamins, 29 days after I received my order of 30 capsules. And last week I purchased new pillows. Today Amazon showed me bed linens figuring I would need those as well. Well played, Amazon. Well played.

But what about B2B where leads come in through website visits and forms? You have all these prospects, leads, and a lead is a lead, right? But which ones are the buyers and who should sales call first – or at all? You can sometimes check out their company based on their emails even isolate IP addresses, but you still don’t know who to call first. Enter predictive analytics that acts as lead scoring taking into such things as the number of visits made, the total time spent on your site, which pages were visited, whether they downloaded an eBook, whether or done it all before, job title, their company size compared with current customer company size.  You are only limited by your data and/or the database of your digital marketing agency.

Predictive analytic practices are not without their critics. The Big Brother factor turns a lot of people off in this increasingly connected world wherein privacy is a commodity.  But the intent is rarely malicious and that’s why trusted vendors mean more than ever. Face it.  Advertising cannot easily be escaped either on or offline.  So rather than condemn retailers who strive to learn my preferences and buying habits, I commend them.  Show me ads for paraphernalia of my football team, serve me coupons to my favorite restaurants, and save the ads for medicines for ailments I don’t have, for chips I don’t eat, and video games I won’t play.  Learn me. Know me. Deal me in.

Frank Bocchino is marketing communications manager for Revana Digital, a Digital Marketing agency leveraging paid search conversion rate optimization, SEO, and industry-innovative predictive analytics and geo-targeting that result in sales.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Top Spot on Google: Tougher than an Olympic Gold Medal?

Winning an Olympic medal is an amazing achievement by athletes who have dedicated years to win the highest honor in their chosen sport. For businesses, the Top spot on a Google search in their product or service is now viewed as their digital Gold Medal. With talent, proper training, great coaching, and perseverance over time, finishing in the gold for an Olympic athlete is possible. Getting to the top of a common Google search may not be tougher, but it certainly isn't as straightforward.

Longevity weighs heavy in Google algorithms for search engine results page (SERP) placement. If you have been established selling your product on the web longer than anyone, that bodes well for you.

The main factor is of course relevance.  In addition to your website's age is it's relative content.  Then add in the basics of the desired keyword in your domain name, several other meta data factors, and the relevant companies and organizations that link, but that's just the basics.

Take the world "Olympics" for example. You can take all the money in the world outbid every bidder in Google Ads and have flawlessly optimized your website, and you will never reach the top. That's because the Olympics is a brand and the Olympics® will always be awarded the top spot due to relevance. This applies to virtually every well known organization and brand. 

I was once asked to interview to run the SEO department by a bank with very deep pockets. It's site was ell optimized but they were late to the digital game with thousands of competitors who had spent years trying to place for the same. Management had one question: "When will you get us to the top spot in Google search for the term 'mortgage'?  My answer: "Never. And no one else can get you there either." Needless to say I didn't get the job and no, they still haven't gotten the top spot.

I know what you're thinking: if they had such deep pockets why not spend a fortune on paid search? Believe it or not, relevancy weighs [almost] as much in paid search as it does in organic. Because the web surfer is Google's client long before they are yours. And they give the customer what they want. No relevancy and your ads become more expensive -- that is if they ever get shown.

So is every top spot untouchable? No. Here's a few ways companies get that Gold.
  1. Their champ falters. Just like a heavyweight that lets his guard down, the same can happen to your competition. If they ignore their SEO, and/or get more clicks and visitors for a product you both sell, you will rise. 
  2. They invent a new "sport". Water Polo with Ping Pong balls? The top spot is likely yours. Same goes for new products. Let's say you invent a time machine, or a solution that actually turns a sow's ear into a silk purse? Or you can microfocus. Instead of trying to place for widgets nationally, optimize a page for best metal widgets in Washington.
  3. They cheat. The Olympics disqualifies athletes for steroid use; Google does the same to businesses who deploy "Black Hat" practices. They will catch you eventually. Just don't do it. Choose your vendors and those who run your paid search carefully or you can get banned. (Really? Banned by Google?) Yep. I've seen it happen and it's a nightmare.
Winning the top spot on Google does not mean it's engaging content with great calls-to-action. Nor does it guarantee closed sales or increased revenues, more click through rates and higher form conversion rates. And for digital businesses, that's what the finish line is all about.  

Frank Bocchino is marketing communications manager for Revana Digital, a Digital Marketing agency leveraging paid search SEM, conversion rate optimization, SEO, and industry-innovative predictive analytics and geo-targeting that result in sales.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Social Media: Avoid Bad Tweets and Recover When You Don't

In Alfred Hitchcock's classic horror film The Birds, a town is paralyzed when birds viciously attack unsuspecting citizens. A remake of sorts is being done online and it's called The Tweets. Designed to give the common man a voice to be heard, Twitter has now become a loaded gun for politicians and celebrities with which to shoot their feet. Everyday, bad tweets seem be pecking their way into the media creating more havoc and ill-will than promotion.

Certainly some are bigger offenders than others, but it's not just the orange-crested loons making bad tweets. It's companies too. So what's a bad tweet and how do you rebound from them?

Think of Twitter as a ticker tape to the world. It's a great way to quickly communicate with customers, vendors, fans, etc. Recently a well known marketing automation company released a tweet with "four-letter" words. It was trying to stand out with a catchy play on words, maybe appeal to a younger crowd I suppose, (As if only young people curse?) But in a business to business community to me that seems to go too far. Some try to slip through the cracks but they are always caught.  At its core, Tweeting is another form of advertising and should not include anything you wouldn't say on broadcast television or to your grandma. That said:
  • Don't use vulgar words or sexy images
  • Avoid taking sides politically
  • Avoid religious or racial stereotypes
  • You can use humor, don't make it edgy
The best advice I can give is wait. What might sound cool and clever when you think of it might sound incendiary the next day.  So what if you don't wait and impulsively Tweet something off color or controversial?
  1. Delete the tweet. No it doesn't make it go away forever but it will slow the burn.
  2. Explain and apologize. Hit the wrong button? A victim of auto correct? Tell us what happened and we may believe you.
  3. Don't explain and apologize. Sometimes we're just plain wrong. It happens. Bite the bullet, admit fault, and move on. 
Finally, entrust your social media posting to someone you'd tell your bank PIN. Yes, it's that important. One celebrity may be facing jail time for posting a photo of an unsuspecting guest in a gym locker room, another in hot water for tweeting a racial slur, so if you choose to take flight on Twitter, take it seriously. Otherwise your company may be starring in its own horror story of its own.