Changing the marketing mantra in a Digital First Economy

What worked in 2005 and in 2010 will not work in today’s hyperconnected, click obsessed, snapped in real-time, digital economy.

In this article “This Year in Clicks 2016 as Read Online Valley News Web Editor Maggie Cassidy reviews readership performance in 2016 from an interesting perspective – one that can apply to many of us.  

The fact is that the internet in all of its fragmented and hyper-fast glory happened to quickly for most of us to catch up.  It has also made marketing more efficient than it has ever been.  The digital economy has given us the ability to hyper target, personalize, and some say, predict the needs of our customers.  

It has also given us the tools to know exactly what tactics are working to achieve brand awareness, reach and sales.

As Maggie Cassidy says in summarizing 2016 Valley News reader performance:

My mantra is that the Valley News doesn’t need to be the first website to get the news; it needs to be the first website to get the news right — that is, accurately, fairly, and done well — and the stories on our top 10 list for page views did that for readers.

 

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Changing the marketing mantra to adjust to the Digital First economy will allow for continued innovation and growth.  I can guarantee that the Valley News 2016 Mantra for success looked very different in 2010, and even in 2015.

The “Digital First” economy has had an impact that is far reaching.  Business management, sales, marketing, customer relationship management, human resource management, Journalism, politics, and education have all been impacted.

  • Entrepreneurs and small businesses have access to a global audience. There are no limits to a target audience with the ability to sell, ship and communicate anywhere.
  • The general population can now create and share news as it happens, without filters or time to produce stories around it.
  • Learning and innovation has become easier and less expensive to access than ever before.
  • Accuracy in the delivery of messaging has become more efficient, more effective and less expensive.
  • Metrics and data are real time which allows on the fly optimization and adjustments – as well as accuracy in measuring ROI.
  • Anyone can write a book, Blog or create content to publish.

With all that the Internet and mobile connectivity has done to change consumer behaviour, we must re-define the goals and expected results for optimal performance and success. 

Re-define the mantra and find what your business needs to do to pivot into success and results in increasing awareness, reach, sales – and ultimately what your brand stands for.

 

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-1-04-49-pmAbout:

Alicia Whalen is a digital marketing expert, speaker and strategist specializing in the travel and tourism industry. Alicia has spent over a decade driving successful digital marketing campaigns and educating professionals about how to embrace digital and social media.  

Follow @Alicia_Whalen_ on Twitter or on Facebook  or subscribe to learn about upcoming events.

 

Digital First for Business Masterclass Announced for Niagara

I am thrilled to be bringing my first Digital First for Business Masterclass to the Niagara region! The first in a series of classes dedicated to arming professionals with what they need to do to thrive in a digital first economy.

I will provide sales and marketing professionals, business owners and Entrepreneurs what they need to know, with a focus on the website, the fundamentals of the new search engines and Local search, as well as social media, and measurement of ROI on investment in digital media.

I will continue to post updates and information about this Masterclass and others planned for 2017. Until then, check out the information above to learn more and REGISTER HERE to confirm your spot.

Please share, post and register to join me on January 26th from 2:00-5:00 PM in St Catharines to be part of the first Digital First For Business Masterclass group in Niagara!

 

AliciaWhalenMasterclass

2017 Digital Marketing Roadmap: What you need to know

Digital Marketing Expert Alicia Whalen

This is what you need to know before we go any further.

It is not about following the latest technology or social media channel, but more about knowing how your target customers are navigating the internet, where they are most likely to find your brand online, and what it takes to get them to buy.

Here is a rundown on what is happening now in digital marketing for you to use not as a bible, but as a place to start when planning for 2017.  I will focus this post on the most important “Channels” as Google Analytics organizes it.  Driving more traffic to the website with a focus on best referring channels will inevitably result in more sales.

How to benchmark digital marketing performance and prepare your 2017 plan:

Check your Google analytics (or other analytics platform) and do a benchmarking report to compare improvements month over month, and year over year.

aliciawhalen_ideahatching-com_blogpostUsing Google Analytics to benchmark and pivot: You will need to pivot in 2017 as consumer behavior and platform algorithms will change – quickly.

Set up campaign goals and KPI’s including; increases in Organic referral traffic (from Google and Bing), Social referral traffic, and dig deeper into Referring sources of traffic as well.  Also look at decreases in bounce rate, and increases in time-on-site as an indication of user engagement.  Organic traffic typically sees the highest amount of engagement, which is also why it remains an key digital marketing tactic.  Search visibility is critical for any brand, product or service.

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This approach to benchmarking at a macro level can be scaled to any business, whether your website gets 10,000 unique visitors a day or 10, and will help to shift strategy, spend and tactics as needed.  Now we are ready to talk tactics.

Things in the digital space are changing fast, and so is consumer behaviour.  

 

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1. Search: Organic Search, Paid Search (Google Adwords and BING)

 

Google Adwords:

Google Adwords has become expensive. Depending on the conversion, the cost to enter Google paid search may not be as efficient as it once was.  It is highly competitive, and even “long tail” keywords and phrases are now out of reach for many brands to buy.  This makes the cost-per-aquisition higher, and out of reach for businesses who may have seen great ROI in the past.

I recommend a focus on Organic SEO and Local SEO for 2017 – ensuring that at the very least, your brand or business is listed properly in Google Maps and local listings.

Being found in search is paramount, so be sure to run your website through an SEO check. This will ensure that all the basics are covered including; A check for broken links, proper H1 tagging and meta data, site speed, mobile optimization, Google search console and verification and more. Optimize your website first to be sure the taps are open before you worry about anything else.

Next, plan your content according to the primary search terms, phrases and content that your brand needs to be found for.

For example If you make vintage record players, ensure that all of your Youtube video’s, Facebook posts, Blog articles and website content are related both to the product, and the topics that will interest the customer. Blog posts about the resurgence of Vinyl, and where to find records as an example, will speak both to the customer, and to the search engine. Don’t forget to SEO optimize product information and product categories – especially if your product is available on Amazon or other marketplace channels. Make sure also to review product listings for duplicate content.  Google will penalize for duplicate content and broken links.

Website content and social media:

Keep your content calendar for social media channels, articles, Blogs, and videos focused around the target topics, keywords and phrases for your business. Drive links back from social posts for increased “Social Signals,” and tag all of your content. Social Signals are important to SEO.

Take Action:

 

Bing Organic search has picked up steam in recent months. I have also seen some great success with Bing PPC over the past 12 months.

Why?  Microsoft reached 21.9 percent marketshare in July 2016, up 0.1 percent from June, while Google dropped 0.4 percent to 63.4 percent. This brings Microsoft close to 22 percent market share in the US search business, making it the second most important player after Google.

Take some time to verify your website with BING (as well as Google search console), and budget for some BING PPC for 2017.

 

2. Programmatic Ad buying and Re-Marketing:

 

Digital display and paid search marketing has certainly become smarter, and marketers have learned more about what to do with it. Is a programmatic ad campaign a silver bullet?  Probably not. But used as part of a fully integrated plan to increase reach, website traffic, and even to “steal” reach from a competitor, programmatic media buys have proven to be extremely efficient.

 

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The key is to understand what will work with your target audience, and what it is that you are looking to achieve.

As it is with re-marketing – the general population is on to us. They know we are following them. In some cases they are glad we are, and are happy to allow it – as long as there is a benefit to them.  Benefits include time savings, ease of booking or a special price offered for booking direct.

With programmatic ad campaigns and other display and ppc remarketing buys, the key is to do it well.  If programmatic advertising is “not working” for your brand, I would suggest checking the user experience; the landing pages, and desired conversion point for your campaigns.  If reach or website traffic are your desired KPI’s, then ensure that your spend on programmatic is proportionate compared to your other tactics.  If an increase in sales is the objective, then ensure you are A/B testing campaigns and working with your agency to define objectives.

Most programmatic ad buying platforms can give marketers specific information about “lift” in search terms and other KPI’s outside of just CPM and CPC metrics. Make sure to work with your vendor and agencies to identify specific goals and optimize the user experience to get the best results.

Take Action:

For 2017, you might want to explore programmatic ad buying for a specific campaign, brand launch, as a supplement to another larger multi-media buy.  Try it instead of, or with some of the Google Search Display or PPC allocated Adspend if conversion is your main objective.

 

3. Facebook:

 

Facebook initially drove organic reach and audience engagement in droves – for Free. Then it didn’t. Now it does again – you just need to pay for it.  Not unlike any other digital medium, Facebook has tested the waters with many different monetization models.  Just last month the algorithm removed much of the advertising from newsfeeds, most likely in an attempt to reassure users.

As of this week, it looks like those ads are right back in the newsfeed.  All business and brand pages now need to pay to “boost” their messages to get into user newsfeeds – this has been the case for some time now.  Make sure to allocate adspend to this in 2017.

facebook_aliciawhalen_ideahatchingblog

 

There is no organic reach for Facebook business pages without some kind of paid boost and adspend.  With that said, Facebook has been collecting demographic, psychographic, emoticon reaction data, location data, brand preferences, facial recognition data, relationship status, and the name of our cats, dogs, fish, kids and BFFs for years now – and their advertising platform uses all of this insight to serve its users Ads.  Now, as it was once with Google Adwords, the cost to entry for advertising or boosting Facebook page posts is relatively low compared against some other digital media tactics.

You can read more about Facebook’s changes in my recent article “Facebook Zero: RIP Organic Reach on Facebook.” I would caution that anything can (and will) shift with Facebook over the coming months – including the cost of entry to advertise.

This is still early days and your budget will most likely need to increase over the next year. Now is the time to test what ad units and content work best.

 

Take Action:

If you have not tested Facebook as a paid marketing channel – you are missing a great opportunity.  Set up some content testing and target groups that include friends of friends, interests, geographic region and more.  Video posts tend to get the most reach, followed by photos, and now LIVE content.  Make the content short and sweet – and make sure to link back to landing pages on your website. Those “Social Signals” back to the website are good for SEO.

You might also consider a Facebook Live strategy in 2017 depending on your business.  Make sure that you are not simply repurposing content from Periscope, Meercat or even from YouTube as both Facebook and YouTube will index native content better. (Native content is content produced for the channel and originally posted to the channel, then re-posted somewhere else).

It is good as a general rule to keep content “native” to the channel you are distributing it on whenever possible.

 

 

4. Social Media: Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter

Note that I did not put Facebook in the “Social Media” section of this article.  Facebook is pure marketing channel now, and should be approached this way – outside of measuring the “Social Signals” or referrals back to the website.  Don’t bother with any content on Facebook that is not purposeful – and boosted with ad dollars.

Snapchat

Yes Snapchat – or now “Snap” is a game changer, but unless you are a YouTuber looking to attract more audience, a celebrity, or a brand with a whole bunch of money to throw into a channel that may drive some reach, I would not place budget towards Snapchat just yet.  More on Snap – and other game changers in my next post.

I would however put resources and a plan in place for Instagram.

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Instagram runs on Facebook’s Ad platform, and now with the addition of “Instagram Stories” Instagram is looking to keep their user base growing, and to keep the users who may have moved on to Snapchat as an alternative right where they are.  The jury is out whether or not Instagram stories can be monetized, but with Instagram’s reach and tie into Facebook’s Ad platform, it will become an important channel for both customer acquisition and engagement.

Take Action:

Define a strategy for Instagram and reserve some resources to test adspend in 2017.  

Put a plan in place for leveraging social media and crowd sourced content to drive traffic to the website, or place of conversion.  Consumers will continue to flock to Social media channels with media time spent increasing just as fast as user adoption.

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4. Technology:

The Marketing technology of today has given us a tremendous amount of time and resource savings, workflow efficiencies, creative efficiencies, extension of reach, smarter targeting and more.   I bring this up in this post specifically because technology costs money.

If you are going to adopt technology to improve your marketing efficiencies – ensure that there is a defined ROI that can be associated with each tool.   Marketing technology should allow you the ability to add more dollars towards ad spend, or to maximize resources in driving the bottom line.

Technology is only as good as its implementation. Remember this when looking at adding the new shiny objects to your marketing tool kit.

 

What’s going to blow up in 2017?

Although it is good to have “what’s next” on the radar, ensuring success with your marketing investment for 2017 means staying focused on tactics that move the needle – channels and tactics that have proven successful to drive brand reach and sales.  In my next post, I will highlight what I think will be “game changers” for digital marketing in 2017.  These game changer’s will most likely not make it into your marketing plan until 2018.

 

 

How to un-tap social media and measure ROI with technology

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I was recently asked what technology or innovation in digital marketing that I was most excited about. Although I am biased in my answer, I am always excited to see the results when technology can provide both innovation, and results in the bottom line.  

There are many successful case studies of brands leveraging user-generated social content to tell their stories. Early adopters have been rewarded with deeper relationships with influencers, powerful website and marketing content that is so captivating to their audiences that they are staying connected to the brand website longer.

The longer that eyes remain engaged with the content, the more meaningful the  experience will be in learning about the product, service or experiences that a brand offers.

 

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The technology behind user generated content marketing is not new. However, executing the strategy around the technology to fully leverage the thousands of images and video content being created around every brand, product or experience, is the key to ensuring that an investment in technology or software generates the return on investment that it should.

How to un-tap the power of social media

Greatwaterway.com

Ontario’s www.thegreatwaterway.com invites visitors to become part of their story.

There are hundreds and maybe thousands of pieces of content being created and shared about your brand every day.  Consider the amount of social content being posted and shared by these two popular brands, just in the last 30 days:

HashtagSearch_Hashtagio

 

This is the “visual word of mouth” that the socially connected consumer has created, and that wise marketers have untapped in helping them to reach, capture and retain both new influencers who will be their best brand ambassador’s, but also more engaged customers – at the point of transaction.

What should marketers be thinking about when determining a technology platform and  strategy to capture and un-tap crowd-sourced content as part of the marketing mix?

 

Influencer marketing

Photos, videos and brand stories are being created and shared by Instagrammers, top influencers on Twitter and YouTube stars who have an engaged community of followers en mass. Rewarding influencers with a shout out, a follow, or a reward, and featuring their content alongside other brand messages is a means of not only generating good content – but also in building an army of powerful brand ambassadors.

The future of influencer marketing is to be able to build and engage with a wider net of influencers, who may have niche communities and a smaller audience as a whole – but powerful content and more targeted reach. Marketers must find a way to manage and measure this in order to gain reach.

Social Media Contesting

Social media contesting works to engage new Fans on Facebook, but are these leads being nurtured and developed into a perspective customer or brand ambassador?  How do you determine a return on your investment when the transaction or lead generation has occurred outside of the brand web asset?

The idea is to pull the contest to a landing page on the website instead of running it through Facebook or YouTube, and manage both the content assets, as well as the entries to ensure that the lead generation you are looking for is not simply lead gen for Facebook. Leverage social media channels as the powerful marketing vehicles they are – and drive your customers back to the point of conversion.

 

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Nova Scotia tourism was recently named by SKIFT as one of the Top 25 Destination Websites in the World, with a specific mention of the creative use of crowd-sourced content.

 

Managing permissions and rights for images and videos

All UGC marketing platforms, or social media aggregators of content worth looking at should have the ability to pull in and re-publish social media content and provide an automated permissions request built in. Outside of the obvious reasons to obtain permissions to use content posted on Facebook or Instagram, asking permission also gives marketers the opportunity to initiate a conversation with posters of content, encourage more content submissions and increase the number of shares. This also allows the brand to build an arsenal of images and videos that can be re-published to become part of the brand marketing strategy.

Adding fresh social media content to the website will immediately improve the stickiness of the website and keep customers close to your point of conversion longer. Consider nurturing relationships with professional photographers who use Instagram as a means of promoting themselves. Work with them to showcase their work – and tell your story. Follows and shares are the currency of the social media economy, and content creators will be thrilled to be recognized and supported by your brand.

Social data asset development and management

Sourcing photography and video production from vendors can be an expensive hit to your bottom line. In addition, research shows that user generated content is more engaging and more trusted than professionally produced content. It is important for marketers to start to build asset libraries of user generated social media images and videos to add into the marketing mix to keep it fresh and vibrant. In addition, keeping image and video assets sorted and categorized by content type increases marketing automation and efficiency.

Lead capture and measuring ROI on social media

Many companies struggle to find their ROI from social media, but believe it or not, you can gauge the return on your social media investment. By using technology and analytics, marketers are now able to track conversions on a sign up, App download, purchase, or page visit as a means to measure the impact that social media content has on their sales.

They key is to use social media channels as marketing tactics to drive users back to the point of conversion, not send them back out to Instagram once you have the customer on the website.

SEO and Website content

Website bounce rates, time on site, and average  number of pages per visits have been illustrating to marketers for quite some time that websites are not engaging or as good at closing the sale as they once were.

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Consumer user behaviour has changed, but most brand websites have not kept up to ensure that their storefront is engaging to a new kind of customer.

Consumers spend more time on Social Media channels than ever before, and less time on websites. By showcasing social stories on the website,  visitors are able to engage and share social media content from the website, and are more likely to remain on the website, instead of bouncing out to Facebook or Instagram. By giving users a similar experience they get on Instagram or Facebook – brands will keep customers on the website longer, and have the chance to further engage them to sign up or buy.

In addition, “Social signals” – or referring traffic back from a social network have also become a key factor in Google’s search ranking. Marketers need to continue to add links to social media posts to encourage users to go back to the website and engage with the brand. By providing similar content on the website, marketers can capture and retain that lead longer, and also increase the amount of fresh SEO friendly content added to the website.

 

What’s next in the technology behind UGC marketing platforms?

 

Personalized delivery of social content upon returning to the website, within marketing messages – and in emails.

This can be done now with platforms such as Hashtagio, allowing brands to tag and categorize UGC content to be searched and re-published at any time, to any place.

Automated tagging of visual content via AI technology

Although this is the not so distant future, I would caution that many brands are not even fully leveraging crowd sourced content now.   There are only a few brands that are fully un-tapping the potential in injecting social stories into the marketing mix.  Testing how crowd sourced content can impact the website performance and sales should be the first step before investing in automating the tagging of content.

It is the curation and categorizing of the content itself, as well as the implementation and measurement of success that is more of a priority for most brands.

 

UGCmarketing

Technology and marketing automation are on the minds of marketers more than ever before.

Keep this advice in mind when researching solutions for managing user generated content, or any other software or technology for that matter. Software bells and whistles will not be the key to tapping into the power of crowd-sourced content. Take the time and deploy resources to the right implementation strategy. The results will be improved efficiencies in social media marketing, proven ROI and of course, increased sales.

 

By Alicia Whalen

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 3.17.50 PMAlicia Whalen is a blogger, speaker and Chief Evangelist for Hashtagio the platform pulls in social content by Hashtag, Location or @handle. Content is tagged and searchable and can be republished on brand websites, in emails, and in other media. The Hashtagio UGC marketing platform provides automated rights management to obtain permissions to use images, and advanced analytics to brands build direct connects with Instagrammers, tweeters and Youtubers. Hashtagio is a social data asset management tool, a UCG marketing platform, and a website marketing automation tool that allows brands to fully leverage social media stories.  

The Next Gen Influencers for Travel

With 76 percent of travellers posting vacation photos to social networks, and 50 percent of people confirming that travel content on their social feeds influenced their travel plans, it’s clear that social media has had an impact on the travel path to purchase.

If we know this to be true, then the obvious conclusion is that travel marketers must not look just to Bloggers and YouTuber’s with followers in the thousands to help build reach and engagement with “influencer marketing campaigns”, but also look to the army of influencers who don’t all have followers in the thousands, but are already sharing their brand stories today.

Search for destination specific Hashtags on Instagram and see for yourself.  144, 579 tagged and posted images in Instagram for #Cannonbeach – a popular tourist destination near Portland Oregon.

CannonBeach_Instagram

A search in Instagram for #Cannonbeach presents 144,579 results

 

Travel as a category has the most potential to leverage specific content being tagged with Hashtags, and shared across social media channels – with or without the official prompting from a DMO or tourism operator.

In preparing for a discussion I will lead at the upcoming DigMe16 Summit in Philadelphia, on “The State of Influencer Marketing,” I reached out to some of my travel industry colleagues to discuss how influencer marketing has evolved, and what makes a campaign a success for them.  I have learned that even since 2015, “influencer marketing” has shifted to become more expensive, and harder to track return on investment – even with a big win in engaging with a well known Instagrammer or Blogger.

Engaging a high profile Instagrammer, who will also contribute a travel blog, some extra video and Snapchat content to a highly targeted audience is certainly providing valuable content and lift for destination marketers, but this type of influencer is becoming more difficult to get to, and more expensive to secure, even over the same time last year.

 

Influencer marketing can be extremely effective, but the compensation expectations of influencers means travel marketers are going to have to get more creative if they want results.

 

What I can conclude is that it is becoming harder for brands with small to medium sized budgets to achieve impactful campaign reach through traditional influencer marketing programs that worked in the past.  It is also a slippery slope when engaging “transactionally” with influencers as social media is a medium that demands transparency and authenticity, both to consumers – and to advertisers.

The state of Florida recently announced that they would be reviewing marketing spending because of unclear ROI, and a lack of transparency in engaging high profile personalities to visit or endorse the state. (Source: Skift)

So what does next generation influencer marketing look like?

Few travel brands are leveraging the power of social stories that are being created day in and day out by brand ambassadors that already on mass follow, engage and share content on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and many other social channels.

 

Perhaps the user-generated content shared by existing and future brand influencers, those who may not have millions of followers, but who’s content tells a good story, is relevant and trusted, and is generally shared with positive sentiment is the silver bullet in Next Gen influencer marketing? 

 

Consider that in mass, these stories become part of a larger story that a brand can tell leveraging their army of influencers – instead of focussing on one or two heavy hitters.  When content is good – it is re-shared no matter how large the original follower base is.  Here lies the next generation of influencers. Your social media army.

The opportunity that travel marketers should be looking at next is how to showcase powerful stories shared by brand champions, how to reward and engage creatively with every day Instagrammers and Snapchatter’s – and how encourage more sharing of content using Hashtags that are already organically being used.

Travel marketers that will win with the next generation of Influencers are already planning strategies to creatively engage and reward their social media army’s – in addition to securing quick wins with super star social personalities of the moment.

7 Must Do’s before you re-build or migrate your website

 

It must be that time of the year. Are you having the February “I hate my website” blahs?

 

Your website is your cash register. Whether your website has 30 pages, or 300 pages. Whether it is ugly, or just hasn’t been updated since your first born University Grad finished grade 8, there are some important steps to take before you decide on your next website developer, CMS platform, consultant or creative agency:

  1. Understand your goals: How will your website update improve your overall marketing and sales efforts?

Your website is your point of sale. How will it support all of your digital marketing efforts including search, social media, offline marketing, and review management and brand awareness?

I too have undergone a website refresh.  I wish that I had considered many of the items on this list before I changed my wordpress theme – and then subsequently had to comb through 7 years of posts to update broken links and long lost plug ins.

  1. What functions to you expect your website to have and why to you need those functions to improve conversions? 

Do you need a Blog? Do you want to integrate social content to your website? Do you need a better check-out function?

This is an important exercise as the website CMS you choose will need to have the flexibility to work with your ecommerce solution, mapping functionality (if applicable), social plug-ins, and other functions of your website.

If your mandate with the new website is to improve website conversions, then your chosen developer or platform will need to accommodate by having social media plug in’s, a Blog platform, RSS feed, or a gallery.

If you are limited in resources to manage updates and creative changes, as well as the financial resources to continue to “add on” –  you will need a platform that is easy to update and manage without a team or agency support.  There are “do-it-yourself” solutions that may cost more initially, or monthly – but may save you some costly headaches in the future.

In my case, what I needed what a WordPress theme that was not different than the original theme I had used.  A learning curve in understanding how to update your own website is not ideal.

“A learning curve in understanding how to update your own website is not ideal”.

 

  1. Document current website performance for future benchmarking

Use Google Analytics (and any other analytics tool in addition) to understand what is working and what needs improvement with the new website.

Look at a typical month, as well as a year-over-year comparison over a period of time and identify key metrics that include:

  • Number of unique visitors per month Bounce rate.  The bounce rate should be under 40% at a minimum.
  • Time on site (2 minutes, or preferably more than 2 min. per user session)
  • Current SEO keywords used to find the site.  If your website was verified in Google’s Search console, you will see this in Google Analytics.
  • % of overall traffic coming from organic search and top performing referral traffic.
  • Device usage breakdown – this illustrates how much of your traffic is coming from desktop, mobile or tablet devices. This is important to know when re-designing a website or moving to another platform. You must design for your user, and most of us are spending much of our time on mobile devices and tablets.
  1. Website asset inventory: Create a site map – or road map of all pages of the website.

Inventory your website assets that include content pages, images, video’s, blog posts etc.  Using Google analytics, determine high performing content pages, and highly indexed pages in search, and ensure you have a site map of all pages in the website.

If you are migrating to a new website platform, create a 301 re-direct plan to give your new website developer or platform provider. This will ensure that you carry over pages that were indexed in Google to the new website.

TIP: Many web designers miss this important step. Ensure that a 301 re-direct strategy plan is completed before you pull the plug on your current website. If you are working with a SAAS based platform, make sure that there are resources available to assist you with this as you make the transition.

  1. Checklist – Must have functionalities for best performing websites:

Template designs, or pre-formatted design websites (for those of us who cannot code to save a life) are both cost effective and proven.   CMS platforms, Design and theme layouts become templates because they have been used successfully for other similar businesses. Remember, the website has to be functional and visually pleasing. Consider this when working with your next website developer. New design is not always the best route to take.

“Take a consumer first approach to your website.  Build what they like, and they will come.”

 

Prepare an action list for the new website. This should include:

  • Mobile optimized website option included. (This should not be an add-on as any website/theme today must function well on a mobile device)
  • Mobile responsive design option.
  • SEO plug in or CMS platform that is SEO friendly (every page of a website should have unique on-page keywords, and back end meta-data to show the search engines the site is relevant and should be indexed for those keywords)
  • Rich media asset manager: Check for storage, ease of use.
  • Plug in’s to Marketing Automation tools

Note: Some photos and video asset manager’s are cloud based, and some may be included as part of a full digital marketing platform where photos and video’s can be pushed out to the website, as well as other digital marketing platforms including social media, and other online directories. Ensure you have taken the steps above to understand what you expect from your website to understand what you need to efficiently manage your content.

  • Easy to use CMS: A website that is easy to update on the fly – with or without a designer or programmer is easy to find. Simple website updates should not incur additional costs to update on a regular basis.
  • Google Analytics plug in or place for the code: All websites should be tracked via Google analytics. This is a universal and free analytics platform. Make sure that your analytics is set up under your property Gmail account so that you may carry your analytics data with you if you migrate to another website again. If you are working with an agency to support you with analytics, ensure that you have a second Google Analytics code added that is your own.
  • Social media plug ins and share tools.
  1. Once the website is live:

Ensure that the 301 redirect plan has been applied so that none of the pages on the previous website become “broken links”.  Google does not like broken links and will penalize.  Verify your website with Google and BING search console. This will give you access to your SEO tools in Google analytics, and also may speed up the re-indexing of your new website in search.

       7.  Benchmark Improvements

Measure your new website month-over-month to benchmark improvements in search visibility, website user engagement (metrics like time on site increases and reduced bounce rates) and of course increases in sales.

A website is never done. Continuously optimize and adjust your website content based on best performing content pages, successful content shares in social media that drive traffic back to the website, user feedback and of course – increases in sales.

It’s that simple! 😉

 

 

Deck the halls with acoupleofchicks

We are in the festive spirit!  Enjoy our take on a holiday favourite!

  

Deck the Halls with Digital Marketing

‘Tis the Season to start Vine-ing

Don we now our Facebook updates…

Sing our love of keyword #Hashtags –  Info-graph’s…in-the-Cloud…and Tagging too.

*****

See the latest YouTube Video 

Watch it trend on mash–able…

While I tell of Pinterest treasures… Ins-ta-gram?Tw-i-i-i-ter?…

How ready are you?

Fast away Google’s algorithm changes….

Key-word Search… Panda’s… and Penguins too.

 

*****

A special wish for the holidays

from @acoupleofchicks…and the whole coop too!

 

 

A Couple of Chicks Talk Travel: A Guide to Traveling Newfoundland

On the road to Trinity, NewfoundlandAs a Chick, specializing in digital marketing for tourism, I pride myself on being able to plan a pretty great vacation – when I am actually taking one and not working.  I have been across Canada and the US and experienced amazing tourism destinations, but I had never been to Newfoundland.

Like many others, I have been intrigued and drawn into the commercials and YouTube videos for Newfoundland and Labrador.  I can now confirm that the magical place depicted in the commercials does in fact exist.

As a first time visitor, referred to as a CFA, or “come from away”, I did have some help in pre-planning my trip.  The “townies” from Destination St. John’s were the perfect hosts, and provided recommendations that ensured that I did see the most beautiful places in Newfoundland, had a warm meal at the end of a day of traveling, a cold pint of beer, and somewhere to sleep with the sounds of the ocean floating through my windows.

I share with you some of my experiences in this beautiful Canadian province, and give to you some of my “need to know before you go” insights.  This part of Canada is a must do, and you need to plan ahead to make the most of your experience.

From what I had thought, pre-season mid-May, before the long weekend, would provide the best experience as tourists would not be overtaking St. John’s, and the operators in the remote towns on the Island would be happy to see early visitors just as the season was about to kick off.

I started planning my itinerary about a month in advance, and through my experience I have summarized some tips to ensure you get the most out of your visit.

Flying into St John’s from Toronto is easy as St. John’s has direct air access from many Canadian cities including Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and as far west as Calgary.  Direct air access is also available from some major US cities, and some European destinations such as London.

Explore the city of St. John’s, more specifically; George and Water streets.   The streets are alive with tourists and locals, live music, restaurants and bars, and of course a pub or 2, or 20.

Signal Hill, NewfoundlandA walk up Historic Signal Hill is a must do.  You can also drive to the top if the hike uphill is too much.  Signal Hill was not an easy climb after walking across downtown to get there, but well worth the hike to the top.  The view of St. John’s, the iconic painted houses, Cape Spear, and the ocean is spectacular.

Yellowbelly Pub and Brewery on Water Street was one of my favorite stops.  Their beer was also served on tap in many other restaurants and bars in St. John’s and across the Island.

O’Reileys Irish Newfoundland pub also did not disappoint, with live music starting late afternoon and continuing into the evening, and featuring traditional Newfoundland music, and even some tap dancing.  Ok, one lone tap dancer, but I digress.

The city also offers some fantastic finer dining venues.  After pub fish and chips, or as Newfoundlanders refer to it as “brown food,” a restaurant like Portobello’s provided for a perfect evening.  The scallops and trout were outstanding, but it was the appetizer of cod tongue with scrunchions (crispy pieces of salted side pork) and tarter that was the surprise favorite for me.

Although there are many smaller Inns and hotels to stay in around St. John’s, the Delta St. John’s was home base. A great location just at the entrance to George and Water Street, the hub of St. John’s – which according to Wikipedia, offers the most pubs and bars per square foot of any street in North America.

I can confirm that this could possibly be the truth.

 

After a weekend in St. John’s, it was time to see some of those vistas of the Atlantic Ocean; waves crashing up against rugged rocks, flowing clotheslines, coloured houses, and small inlet towns around the Island.

My friends at Destination St. John’s, the official visitor and convention bureau for the city, were quick to advise me of a few things as I planned my trip prior to my arrival in St. John’s.  It was technically pre-season for the island and we “CFA’s” need the help.

 

I had been dreaming of the cool breezes off of the Atlantic, and eating lobster fresh from the Bay since seeing Newfoundland and Labrador commercials and YouTube video’s.  As a digital marketing specialist for Travel, it is my job to ensure that the images, video’s and websites tell the story of what a visitor might expect when traveling.  The experiences I had in Newfoundland were everything that I had imagined and more.

As such, I have prepared a list of  “Things to know before you go to Newfoundland,” as I did encounter some surprises along the way, ones that can be avoided with the right kind of planning.

Newfoundland Chicks’ Trip Tips Preface: (try saying that 5 times!)

Cape Bonevista, NewfoundlandI consider myself to be an experienced traveler.  I have pretty good knowledge of how to plan travel online, and I had some help that prevented travel misfortunes (which may have included driving to Cape St. Mary’s, home to the popular Ecological Reserve – instead of St. Mary’s Bay, where I had reserved accommodations – 1.5 hours away).  To my defence, when one Google’s “Cape St. Mary’s,” the 3rd search result is a Tripadvisor listing and reviews for the “Claddagh Inn St Mary’s.”

OK so that happened.  Make sure you know exactly which place you are trying to get to.  Google clearly does not know everything.

These are not the typical “things to do and see.” My list instead is “people to meet, and how to get to the right places, with a full stomach and a place to sleep.”  This list summarizes some of my experiences and highlights, with points of note for planning a trip to really experience Newfoundland as I did.

Book a car in advance:  Especially in pre-season.  Newfoundland is an island accessible by boat or plane.  Although the ferry access allows for cars, many tourists opt to fly in and rent a car.

There is no other way to get around the Island to experience drives like the “Irish Loop,” or to see remote town’s living on the edge of the Atlantic without a car, or a boat.  If you plan on taking in the coves and inlets along the coast, or you are planning a visit to Gros Morne National Park, or any of the many other spectacular sites, then you will need to rent a car.

In addition, be forewarned that some of the roads are still quite rough coming off of the winter season, and there is not a gas station or diner, or even convenience store on every corner once you veer off of the TransCanada 1 Highway.  This of course is part of the charm.

Book all accommodations (and some meals) in advance:  Innkeepers like Patrick and Carol, who run the Claddagh Inn in St. Mary’s Bay have done such an amazing job in telling the “story” of the experience through Tripadvisor and Facebook, that tourists are making this small fishing village located directly along the Irish Loop a preferred resting point.

St. Mary’s Bay is not a bustling tourist area – at any point in the season.  That being said, the experience that Innkeepers Patrick and Carol have created is well worth the stop.  The stories allow you to get a sense for the community, and what other small communities around the island are like for those who live there.

I was welcomed with a pint of Yellowbelly Irish Red in the small quaint pub before checking into my guestroom.  The Inn has 6 rooms, and Innkeepers Pat and Carol prepare and serve a homemade 3-course dinner for their guests, as well as a full breakfast.   Dinner included Crab from the Bay that was brought in that morning, homemade pea soup, and a window table to watch the sunset.

Pat and Carol shared stories about the town, the history of the Inn, and their adventures since taking over the Inn two years ago, in a town of people that had lived and worked there all of their lives.  The town mayor even stopped in for a Scotch and a chat.

Past guests of the Inn rave about the Claddagh experience online, so much so that they are booked months in advance for rooms, and with limited (or no other) accommodation available in St. Mary’s Bay.  Drop-ins in August, or even just stops for dinner without reservations are almost impossible as the dining room primarily caters to guests of the Inn.

Planning your journey around the Island is a must do for anyone looking to explore the small inlets and coastal towns, and make sure to pre-book not only your accommodations, but also your meals.  Those of us who are used to booking hotels on the day of, or waiting for last minute specials will not get the chance to experience the charming Inn’s and B&B’s in the smaller towns without reservations.

Reserving accommodations and even dining where you plan to stop will allow you to truly enjoy the ocean views, the people, the stories, and the peace and quiet of these small coastal towns and villages.  The Claddagh Inn provided a relaxing and quiet retreat after two days in St. John’s.  It also provided the cool ocean breeze through the window.

I found the Artisan Inn, located on the eastern shore in picturesque Trinity, by searching Google for “must go places” in Newfoundland.

The Inn and the town certainly deserved the accolades.  Trinity, a well-preserved and still populated town, surrounded by the Atlantic, and on route to Cape Bonavista, is reminiscent of a European village.  The town is a popular tourist destination in the summer, and the Inn and surrounding area have been the site for the filming of many movies.

Innkeeper Tineke Gow has been managing the Inn for 22 years, and is just as passionate about Trinity and the surrounding area as if it was her first.  Tineke’s daughter Marieke, who is a trained sommelier and very involved in the local tourism community, manages the Inn with her.  The passion for this place by those who live and manage it is inspiring.

Eastern Newfoundland was recently named a National Geographic Geotourism Destination www.nlgeotourism.com.  The Inn’s restaurant, The Twine Loft is also recommended and awarded an additional star in “Where to Eat in Canada” published annually by Oberon Press.

At breakfast, I spotted a seal in Trinity Bay just outside the window.  Not something you see over coffee and croissants in Ontario.

Trinity Travel Tip: Don’t miss breakfast or Tineke will remind you throughout the day of what you missed.  Freshly baked muffins and fruit are always a nice way to start the day.

Planning your driving route:  My advice is simple. Don’t count on Google Maps or GPS.  Ask the locals, and refer to the good old fashion printed map.  It is kind of fun to pull out the big paper map (preferably without hitting the driver next to you in the head).

A kind of throwback to childhood road trips before Google maps and GPS existed.

One pleasant surprise was the availability of satellite radio in the rental car, and in restaurants and pubs across the island.  This allowed for a customized soundtrack for the longer drives from town to town.

Access to cellular networks: To sum it up, if you are with Bell Canada or TELUS you are A OK for most of the populated area’s around Newfoundland. Rogers – not so much. This is where the access to WIFI in the Inns around the Island really came in handy as SKYPE or Facetime work to communicate – if you absolutely have to.

The experience and hospitality of the people of Newfoundland is unique and special. The people of Newfoundland are incredibly welcoming and proud of their Province, and will make it easy once you arrive “from away.”

On the Eastern shore of Newfoundland

As a coastal tourism destination, Newfoundland is still fairly raw – which is part of the charm and the authenticity of the experience.  A slower pace of life, friendly people with unique accents, live music, fresh seafood, breathtaking scenery, unpredictable weather, and charming tours from fishing boats, with local guides that are passionate about home are what made Newfoundland for me.

There are a few highlights that I won’t soon forget. 

 

The crisp moist Atlantic Ocean air mixed with the smell of lumber and campfire.

The goats.  I like goats, especially this one.

Watching the ocean crash against the rocks at Cape Bonavista, surrounded by nothing but the ocean and rocks.

Tales of lost coastal inlet towns from locals like Bruce Miller.

Alicia and Bruce Miller having some screetchBruce operates a unique tour of the Eastern shores around Old Bonaventure. With his fishing boat and stories of his life, he speaks passionately about the ocean, fishing communities, and the people of Newfoundland.

He speaks authentically of life in small fishing communities, and about his family who have lived in the area for decades, taking travelers by boat to pockets where small fishing towns no longer exist.   He started doing tours of the area 2 years ago so that he would be able to remain in Old Bonaventure, when many locals have been forced to leave for work.

 

Just don’t ask Bruce how long it would take by boat to get to Ireland, the first land from Newfoundland’s east coast you will hit by water.  He told me we didn’t have enough gas.

  A few other Chick Travel Tips:

1. Don’t ask the tour operators to “Guarantee” that you will see a Whale, a Puffin, or a Moose.  They don’t appear on command.

2. Eat the pea soup and try Cod Tongue

3. Get “Screeched In” on George Street.

4. Enjoy the fresh Lobster and Crab.

5.  Stop at the Bonavista Social Club.  It is completely off the beaten path, but so worth it.  I did not try the Moose burger, but I wish I had.

6. Plan your driving route, and where you will stop along the way.

7. Book in advance.

8.  If you are near Trinity or Bonavista, take the boat tour with Bruce, but don’t ask to use the bathroom.

9. Try the local diners.  The food is home cooking comfort food.

10. Take the lack of cellular service as a sign to totally disconnect.

11. Be ready to hit the treadmill when you return.  So worth it.

These are the real experiences that are reflective of Newfoundland for me.  It is the passion of people that really make an experience, and a tourism destination like Newfoundland so special.

The scenery is not so bad either.

 

 

the evolution of an online marketing agency

Reflecting on the past 6 years, it is amazing just how much the online world has changed. When Patricia and I started A Couple of Chicks eMarketing over lunch in September 2005 (now that is another story!), we were inspired by a great idea and a passion for sharing what we knew about how the internet was changing how we reach our customers.

It was our mission to make sense of how the internet was going to change marketing and distribution, to demystify online marketing, and to provide a fun and non-intimidating approach to educating brands about the power of the web.

At the time, our primary focus was on developing strategies for marketing websites, and above all for making sure that websites could be found in the search engines.  It was all about search engine optimization (SEO), paid search marketing (PPC), and website usability – and specifically about showing marketers how to leverage this new powerful distribution channel to reach their customers.

Today, 6 years later we are living in a world where consumers are not simply going online, but living online. The pace of change has been fast and new media has pushed marketers to keep up in an ever evolving online ecosystem that now includes Social Media, Wifi Mobile access from devices such as smart phones and tablets, Cloud computing, instant messaging, Video sharing, VOIP technology and so much more.

It has been quite a ride! On behalf of Patricia, and our entire team of 14, thank you for sharing in our adventure – and specifically thank you to all of our clients who have allowed us to share in their growth and success.

We look forward to what the next 6 years brings!

The Buck (Doesn`t) Stop Here

Guest Post by Patti Ellis

Surviving Today`s Online Wilderness
They say opposites attract, and in this case, it couldn’t be more true.  I’m geekaliciously nerdy with a fond appreciation for any type of electronic gadget that is connected to the Internet.  I love to travel, and have a penchant for room service and fine wine.  My husband, on the other hand, would actually prefer to be wearing camo and living outside several hundred miles from civilization; living off the land as it were, cooking on an open fire whilst sharing tales of yesteryear with his hunting and fishing buddies and enjoying a brewski or two…

It’s deer hunting season here in Nova Scotia, and I received a rare invitation to spend this past weekend in a dilapidated camp in, well, I’m not sure where really, as I was blindfolded and permitted entry only after consuming several shots of Zambuca and successfully passing a hazing exercise that I am to never speak of again.

Let me set the scene for you, and relay to you why I feel this story is even remotely related to being worthy of a Chick blog post…

The hunters in this area have been hunting there for 20-30 years.  For many, it’s generational.  Their grandfathers, fathers and now their sons – and a few wives and daughters – now participate in the experience.  It’s competitive and very strategic, they tell me.   And, now it’s all about the technology.

In a very Sopranos-esque type of sit-down, they meet at the end of the day and compare their notes and discuss at great length any sightings, tracks or scrapings.  Then, they whip out their daily-collected SD cards and view them on laptops or digital cameras to see who visited what, where and at what time, and to check lineage (something to do with antlers and points).  They use high tech walkie talkies to communicate while they are out and about, and they use their GPS to keep track of landmarks, and their Blackberries to check the wind, weather conditions and temperature.  And, they drive big, expensive four wheelers that have names like “The Grizz” which ironically sounds very much like my first car, which was a muffler-less Chevette and very similar in size, I might add.

And, yet, with all of these tools, the elusive buck manages to sneak in unseen and unheard.  He has a six-course meal of apple after apple all the while seemingly knowing and not caring that every movement is being flashed at and recorded by high-definition game cameras.  He’s smart, selective and he’s been around the block a few times.

I *had* to interject myself into the conversation at this point, much to the group’s delight.  I suggested to this pack of Survivormen that they consider changing their strategies as they all hunt, nap and eat at the same time every day. Any self-respecting deer could easily figure their schedule out; perhaps offer something else up for dinner? Maybe some carrots or a Hosta side-salad would do the trick; afterall, isn’t using apples for bait the same as using direct mail?

Ok, perhaps I lost them with that last point, but what struck me is the similarity with which they were doing the tried and true albeit with the latest in technology.  We as Internet marketers, do the same thing only our tools are websites, mobile phones, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

Consumers are getting smarter, and not only do we need to use technology in innovative new ways, we also need to ensure we’re actually reaching the consumer (i.e. that they’re actually eating a mixture of apples, carrots or the Hosta side-salad).

So, where do we invest our 2011 marketing dollars?  Download our 11 Tips for Budgeting in 2011 to learn how to get the most, ummmmm, bang for your buck.

Chicks…and Butterflies?

As Week #1 as the newest Chick comes to a close, I’m reflecting on the irony in being asked to write a piece for the official Chick blog on the topic of “The Social Butterfly”.  While I‘m typically more of a behind-the-scenes kind of gal – the opposite of a social butterfly in the traditional sense – just thinking about writing a Blog is actually causing me to have butterflies; huge-winged moth-like Jurassic creatures are literally wreaking havoc on my insides.

Can I write anything of relevance using more than 140 characters? (I’m a seasoned Twitter-er.) What if no one reads this?  What if everyone reads this?  Do I have anything important to say?  What if there is criticism, and I‘m attacked by the grammar-hammers?  And, more importantly, what if The Chicks think I suck???  Lot’s of what-if angst…

[insert deep breath here]

In Chick-dom we refer to “The Social Butterfly” as most commonly found between the age range of 15-25 and being big influencers on buying decisions.  Social butterflies “fly” or “flit” from site to site based on popularity or what’s cool amongst their peers – wherever the nectar is the sweetest.

Butterflies are sharing their experiences through sites like YouTube, MySpace and Facebook.  This group has grown up online and is comfortable sharing personal information and interacting with other online users.  I know this from personal experience with having a 15 (going on 25) year-old; as I’m constantly amazed at how they can chat, text, take photo’s and video’s, and put together a Christmas list (with links to the products and their websites) – all at the same time (yet the simple task of cleaning her bedroom is simply overwhelming!).  This is the same kid who put together a Powerpoint presentation at the age of 12 on why she should be allowed to go to a bon-fire party with no parents.

My point being that butterflies are multi-taskers and have a zero-tolerance attention span.  They do their research online and value the opinions of those within their online community through ‘word of mouse‘.  As marketers to said butterflies, we need to go where they are.  Must-haves include the capability for uploading media, personalizing their space and being able to invite their friends to visit; we need to accommodate the thirst and inherent need to socialize.

In January 2010 a Facebook Fan Page for “If you remember the L’OrealKids FISH SHAPED SHAMPOO BOTTLE” was created and to date there are almost 1.2 million fans.  Fans have uploaded pictures of L’Oreal products, and pictures of themselves holding L’Oreal products.

The page does not look like an official L’Oreal page, and the page creator goes by the name “Tanner Be”.  Tanner Be might be just a highly creative teenager with a lot of time on his hands, or he/she might just be a cleverly-disguised digital marketer (hey…we do what we have to) for L’Oreal.

This is a perfect example of a brand “being social”, whether intentional on the brand’s behalf or not.  This also illustrates the glaring fact that you need to brand yourself, or someone else will most certainly do it for you.

Get your butterfly nets out, and remember to have fun along the way!

Online revealed Niagara Falls 2009 begins!

I have spent the morning thus far updating LinkedIn, Twitter and various Facebook communities welcoming delegates to Niagara Falls (home to the 4th annual Canadian internet marketing event), posting links to the Conference mobile agenda.

www.QuickMobile.com/online, updating the Online Revealed Twitter page, and reminding those who could not attend to follow (and join!) the Twitter conversation remotely using a twitter tag #orc09.

Chick Note: adding this tag to a Tweet will allow you to post comments to Twitter which will be added to the ORC chat room like discussion that will ensue when conference attendees post updates to Twitter.com, and those that are following comment. You can also do a Twitter search for Online Revealed to find the updates and follow live throughout the 2 day event.

It is amazing that in just four years this Conference, which will bring together tourism professionals from all across Canada and beyond, has evolved to be a true community both online and offline.  Over 300 attendees this year will meet over the next few days in Niagara Falls to share, debate, learn and educate about marketing online while hundreds more may be learning virtually through online channels such as Twitter and Facebook.

Although I will not be posting live updates to ideahatching.com, I invite you to join us in Niagara Falls over the next few days virtually!

Check out the mobile conference agenda here www.QuickMobile.com/online

For those who are not able to be in Niagara – follow us on Twitter:
www.twitter.com/orcconference – or follow my Twitter posts at www.twitter.com/acoupleofchicks

Follow the Twitter conversation here: http://www.tinker.com/event/online_revealed_canada_3
(the conference Hash Tag is #orc09 – join us!)

And if I have totally confused you and this post looks like it was written in Greek – stay tuned for Online Revealed TV (orctv.com) – we will be releasing workshop segments and discussions on our new online TV platform next month!

[tags] linkedin, social media marketing, marketing online, web marketing conference, tourism, online revealed canada conference, internet marketing community, mobile marketing [/tags]

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
alicia.whalen@gmail.com
905-401-2249

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