2/24 Coding

Pretty much anything in our day-to-day lives that displays information to us, is built upon countless lines of code. Whether we are shooting off an email to the boss, or checking the latest celebrity tweets when we should have been working, code is the backbone of our modern, technological world. It is this prevalence that leads me to believe that maybe this is something we should start teaching our children in school. Coding can be a valuable asset to anyone, as it provides a core understanding of just how all this information is displayed to us,

Digital marketers of any experience level would benefit greatly from even a basic understanding of common Internet coding formats. Even just basic HTML and CSS knowledge will help the marketer to see how webpages and advertisements are presented to their audience. That same knowledge can help the marketer to make their page or ad more visually appealing, increasing their effectiveness. Marketers who are code-savvy could also more easily integrate analytic tools into their websites or ads. Perhaps even A/B testing could be incorporated into a webpage using some code that delivers different versions of your page, based on developer determined factors such as geographic location or the page the visitor came from.

Codeacademy

Prior to being prompted to use Codeacademy.com for this class, I had a little bit of coding experience thanks to the days of myspace and more recently via online forums. However the code I used on forums was aided greatly by the forum software, so for the most part I am still a coding beginner. I had always been interested in learning how to code, and I have known about Codeacademy for a while, but I never took the plunge and actually started to learn. I’m glad this class forced me to actually take that first step.

I spent a couple hours on Codeacademy, dipping my toes into the world of HTML and CSS, and in that time I was able complete HTML Basics I & II, Build Your Own Webpage and Social Networking Profile. The time flew by because CA makes the courses very easy to follow and learn from, with plenty of reinforcement of what you are learning through repetition, but not so much that it became tedious. The topics, pictures and examples they use in the tutorial are also pretty entertaining which helps to keep your interest. They also allow you to write whatever you want for your code, which also helps to keep you interested because you are coding about something you care about.

Overall I greatly enjoyed the time I spent on Codeacademy, and I plan on continuing through the lessons as I was left with a longing to keep going. I’m sure coding gets much more intense the further you get into it but I’m not really worried because Codeacademy makes it so easy to learn code.

Chemical and Wetware computing

With Moore’s law still holding strong after over 30 years, computer engineers are looking for a viable alternative to traditional silicone chips. The Nautilus article listed some possible alternatives derived from nature such as chemical and wetware computing.

To me, neither seems like they are quick or efficient enough to outright replace our current computer chips, but I can see some potential uses for both in conjunction with our current chips. Chemical computing could be useful in the field of chemistry as it uses chemical reactions to carry out its processes. I could see this being used in a machine that takes in chemical samples, processes them based on several factors, and outputs several situations based on the reactions that took place.

Wetware computing could be useful in the medical field, perhaps in a machine that takes in a single blood sample and checks it for various different attributes. Allowing patients to have less blood drawn at a time, and give doctors a faster way to diagnose blood borne illnesses.

Advertisements

Thursday 2/19: Paid Search: a.k.a. PPC or Search Engine Marketing

Sponsored ads, you’ve seen them before, usually lingering to the side of a webpage or sometimes disguising themselves as the top hit for whatever you just searched for. Paid advertisements are usually tailored to what you are searching for at that moment or have searched for recently, and from time to time can feel like an invasion of privacy. (But then again, privacy is a loose term in this day and age)

In the past, I had often ignored these paid ads, especially if they were on a webpage other than Google search results. I simply thought that since any old ad could be placed there, why would one that is displaying what I just searched for be worth a click? After all, they were just feeding off my browser’s cookies. I often chose to ignore the paid ads that show up at the top of search results as well. Even if the ad took me to the very same place as the top result. I guess it was just my way of fighting the establishment.

Now, as I dive deeper into the world of digital marketing, I can see the error of my ways. It turns out that companies actually pay good money to put those ads out there, and by not clicking on them, I was actually robbing my fellow digital marketers from not only clicks, but valuable analytical data as well.

Paid advertisements are a great way for businesses to reach a greater number of consumers, especially if that business isn’t exactly performing well with organic searches. A business should engineer their paid ads to reflect what the majority of their customers are searching for. So that when an organic search is made using those keywords, your ad will rank highly and be one of the first things the searcher will see, even if organic searches usually exclude you.

Even though paid advertisements are a great way to increase traffic and conversions to your business, they aren’t exactly the most popular things amongst Internet searchers. In fact, according to Hubspot only about 30% of people are likely to click on paid advertisements. So it would appear to me that many people feel the same way that I used to. They likely see these ads as slightly invasive and almost to perfect to be worth a click, but perhaps if more people realize that these ads likely take them to where they want to go, we can increase just how effective they are.

Tuesday 2/17 Search Engine Optimization

Now at this point in the digital marketing journey, your website should be performing quite nicely. Your social media efforts are attracting new customers and your landing pages are converting them into leads, while your ongoing email marketing allows you to foster long lasting relationships, and convert those customers into repeat customers. But this is not enough for your now-expanding business; there are always opportunities you might not be realizing.

One area where you should be focusing a great amount of attention towards is Search Engine Optimization. Sure you may already be optimized for people who know they are looking for your business, but there is always the opportunity to inform a new audience to your product or service, especially to someone who doesn’t know they need it. SEO allows you to inform the internet audience that you provide a solution to their problem, that they might not have considered until it showed up in their search results.

One way this can be accomplished is by incorporating a few of these SEO tips:

Google:

  • Don’t create your webpages with the search engine in mind, create it for your customers so that what is presented by your webpage, is the same as what the search engine sees.
  • Make every page on your site reachable by at least one static link
  • Make sure that pages are written in a way that clearly and accurately describes your content. Ensure your title and ALT elements are descriptive and accurate in order to create an information-rich site.
  • Use keywords to make your URL’s more descriptive and human-friendly.

Bing:

  • Use a URL structure that is clean yet keyword-rich.
  • Don’t bury content within rich media such as Flash or Java
  • Produce fresh content regularly and match keywords to what people search for.
  • Don’t hide indexable text within images, such as text for an address instead of a logo.

Thursday 2/5 Email Marketing

So at this point in the digital marketing evolution, your website should be pretty solid. It is optimized for search engines, has attention-grabbing landing pages that beg the customer for their next click, and you bring in a constant flow of customers through your expansive social media strategy. But there is always room for improvement, there are always more potential customers out there that you might not be engaging.

One way to expand your reach is to utilize proper email marketing, and that doesn’t mean simply bombarding every one of your email leads with promotions and coupons. That’s a good way to get lost in the clutter that is your client’s inbox, but you can avoid this dilemma by incorporating a few of these email marketing tips:

  • Prove your Value to the Customer: Don’t keep sending them coupons they probably won’t use. Instead send content they will want to read and share among their friends, content such as industry insight through an article or even just sending them a free e-book will show them you are thinking about more than just sales.
  • Give your Customers Options: Don’t just blanket your customers with emails about anything and everything, let them choose the topics they are interested in, and the frequency at which they receive those emails. This makes your emails seem less harassing, and lets your customers hear from you on a schedule that works for them.
  • Treat your Email Contacts as People: When people sign up for your email list, it shows that they want to hear more from you, and what you have to offer. Instead of treating them as simply a name on a list, use this opportunity to nurture a relationship with that customer. Prove to them that they matter to your business. This can be done by educating new customers about your business and focusing on repeat sales and rewards for long-time customers.

Tuesday 2/3 — Landing Pages

OK, so we’ve covered some pretty good ways to attract customers to your website through various means of inbound marketing, search engine optimization and building a strong presence on social media. Let’s say all of your time and hard work has paid off and you are now getting a considerable amount of traffic to your website, but how do you turn that traffic into revenue?

The first step in converting your website patrons from viewers to purchasers is to have an attractive landing page, one that will grab their attention and garner more interest in your business, product or cause. Your landing page is the first thing that customers will see, so you want it to make a good impression.

Here are some tips and practices that any good business should incorporate into their landing page:

  • Keep it Simple: Your landing page should be very straight forward, and reflect the overall theme or image that your brand is trying to accomplish. Too much clutter can distract customers and drive away potential sales.
  • Catch their eye: The design of your landing page should be attractive and garner interest from the customer wherever they look. Using animations to demonstrate your product or open up to more information can help the customer learn more about you or your product without leaving the page.
  • Call to Action: Have an obvious next step on your landing page, whether it be purchasing or learning more about your brand. There should be a clearly defined option, begging for that next click.
  • Product Demo: Having a video on your landing page to demonstrate your product or inform about your company is a surefire way to increase conversions. It offers the page viewer a chance to learn more about your product without any additional clicks.
  • Targeted Ads: In order to get past the usual “banner blindness” of the everyday online consumer, use targeted advertisements that will make the customer feel like they were designed specifically for them. Using geo-specific ads to present promotions to the customer can help drive sales.

These are just a few of the various tactics to employ on your landing page to help drive sales. A properly optimized landing page will do most of the sales work for you, allowing customers to develop interest in the product at their own pace

Tuesday 1/20

According to Scribe, in their ebook (more like a big pamphlet on why you should be using their software): The Business Case for Agile Content Marketing, “the job of any smart marketer is to enter a conversation that’s already taking place, and channel existing desire for solutions and benefits onto a specific solution.” I actually like this metaphor as it accurately describes the role of a content marketer.

In this case, the conversation is the want or need that a potential customer has. This conversation is “already taking place” because at this point the customer has expressed their want with an Internet search. The role of the content marketer then is to optimize their content in a way that not only reaches their customers and fulfills that need, but also does so in the most efficient way possible. This is done by creating content that speaks the same language as your audience while also resulting in a strong ranking among search engine results.

However, strong search engine results are not enough to succeed in today’s online business environment, the content of your website and how you handle it play an equal, if not larger role in getting customers to your desired resolution. Content marketers who do no pick up on current or upcoming trends will fail to strive. Content Harmony listed several trends to take advantage of in the upcoming year, and compared them to the old trends that drive away customers.

The first is to have a mixed content strategy, with plenty of info, visuals and graphics to present more visually appealing content to your audience. The second trend is to choose your battles on the social media front, instead of having an all-you-can-eat, use every social-site strategy. Another trend is to have structured microdata on only the metrics that are important to your business and not marking up everything on your site as it can lead to wasted time and resources.

One trend that I found interesting was the use of print content marketing. I previously thought that this form of marketing would be dying out but Content Harmony makes a strong case for using printed marketing. Handing out a magazine at a tradeshow might seem to old school for today’s marketing climate but if that magazine is well organized and grabs the audience’s attention, it can give your potential customers something that is physical and lasts, and helps your business in segments it might be struggling in.

http://www.contentharmony.com/blog/2015-content-marketing-trends/#

http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2015/01/5-pillars-successful-content-marketing/

https://markstaton.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/the-business-case-for-content-marketing.pdf

Thursday 1/15

Today I learned where the slang term “limey” (used to describe someone originating from the United Kingdom) came from and it was surprisingly not from my England-born grandmother. This bit of insight actually came from the Microsoft study about not listening to the HiPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion), in which they described a 17th century ship captain looking to help his nation’s navy overcome the scourge of scurvy. To find out why his nation’s seamen were so prone to getting this debilitating disease when compared to the navy of Mediterranean countries, he risked half of his crew in a controlled experiment. One half was given limes in addition to their daily rations, and the other half of his crew was left unchanged. The half given limes had shown a considerable decrease in the disease. The fact that he was willing to risk half of his crew shows just how important controlled experiments can be, especially when that experiment is looking at challenging the status quo. If he did not conduct this experiment, he could have very well lost his entire crew to scurvy.

The same mindset can be applied to digital marketing in today’s world. Say, for example a company is doing just well, but they are wondering if changing the look or layout of their website would result in more sales. The HiPPO in most cases might not want to conduct any type of experiment, because they are worried that anything other than the way they have been conducting business would drive away customers. The beauty of today’s modern world is that the company would not have to sacrifice those potential customers because they would be able to retain their current website as a control variable, and then introduce the new and improved website, perhaps to a new market. This type of testing would give the HiPPO definitive evidence on whether the new look helps or hurts business.

This type of hypothesis testing, often referred to as A/B testing, is a small but very important slice of the website optimization pie. With the countless sources of input on the Internet, battling for our attention, clicks and money, an aesthetically pleasing website can make all the difference in the world. The right layout, font choice and even color palette can be the deciding factor in grasping a customer’s attention, as internet users tend to make snap judgments of websites they visit in a fraction of a second. Even the color of the checkout button on a shopping website can make a difference in sales as certain colors will trigger responses in the mind of the consumer. For example, a red button might drive away sales due to the color’s association with stopping and danger. A green button could provide the exact opposite response. The only way to know which website design works the best, is through A/B testing, which would give empirical evidence to the HiPPO that says “hey, maybe change isn’t so bad after all.” The key to a successful website is through evolution of it’s design, as trends change, so should your website.