Posts Tagged ‘United Kingdom’

5 Questions About 2018 Email Marketing Research

2018 email marketing research

For the past 10 years, my friend Loren McDonald (formerly of Silverpop, now an Evangelist at IBM’s Watson Marketing division) has authored an annual email benchmark report, looking at how email programs from different types of company fare around the world.

The 2018 edition of the Email and Mobile Metrics Marketing Benchmark Report is out, and it’s a doozy. This comprehensive guide turns over every rock to show you how you compare to your peers with regard to open rate, click through rate, click-to-open rate, unsubscribe rate, and other metrics associated with push notifications and SMS messaging.

The report includes results from Watson Marketing customers in 40 countries, and across 20 industries.

If you send email AT ALL for business, I very much suggest you download the report.  But, I know that some of you don’t want to flip through a 51-page PDF. That’s why Loren and I partnered on a recent Webinar where we summarized the key findings.

If you send email AT ALL for business, I very much suggest you watch the Webinar replay. But, I know that some of you don’t want to sit through a 60-minute Webinar, even though Loren and I got into some deep exchanges about what the data means, and how marketers should apply it to their own marketing.

So, I’ve also created this article that summarizes the most important data in the 2018 Email Benchmark Report, with five questions you may want to ponder when thinking through your email strategy and frequency.

Question 1: What Will Happen to Open Rates in the USA and Europe, Now That GDPR is a Thing?

The Email Benchmark Report finds that open rates vary significantly by region. The average open rate for a Watson Marketing customer in Canada, for example, is 38%, whereas it’s just 17% in Latin America.

open rates by region

Open Rates by Region

Loren and I believe this is, in part, due to Canada’s adoption a few years ago of the CASL (Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation) provisions, which created better email list hygiene nationally. Today, if Canadians get sent an email by a brand, it’s more likely that it’s an email they truly want. That is less true in other regions.

We feel confident that we will see a similar scenario unfold in the USA and Europe, and open rates for emailers that have cleaned up their lists due to GDPR will see a bump upward in average open rate, since inactive subscribers are likely to have been purged to some degree.

Question 2: Are Open Rates Correlated with Company Type?

It appears that this is at least partially true.

The Email Benchmark Research Report finds that open rates vary significantly by industry. For example, automotive companies see an average open rate of 45%, whereas consumer services companies average just a 15% open rate.

Email Open Rates by Industry

Email open rates by industry – how does your company compare?

Since other high-performing industries include Insurance, Telco, Non-profits, and Energy the assumption is that the role the company (or company type) plays in your life contributes to the likelihood that subscribers will (or will not) open emails consistently.

If your insurance company sends you an email, you’ll probably open it. If your television provider does, perhaps you won’t. It’s a matter of stakes and urgency.

Email open rates vary significantly by industry. For example, automotive companies see an average open rate of 45%, whereas consumer services companies average just a 15% open rate. #WatsonMarketingClick To Tweet
Question 3: Average Open Rates are Very Low for Some Industries. Should They Change Their Strategy?

Maybe. But understand this: every email program is a three-legged stool. Those legs are strategy, execution, and list quality.

Strategy is what you are sending, to whom, and why?
Execution is when do you send, who is the email from, and how are the emails written and designed?
List quality covers who is on your list, how did they get there, and what do they expect?

When trying to improve any email program, you must always test and optimize from the bottom up. The first area of inquiry must always be list quality. If your list is comprised of people who were added 10 years ago, or people who were added when they threw their business card into a fishbowl or something, you aren’t likely to have a fantastically effective email program. It’s just not a fresh, engaged audience.

The second area of inquiry is the execution. This is where you do your heavy testing. From line. Subject line. Time of day. Day of week. Design. Clickable links.

Lastly, if the list quality is decent, and you’ve tested all the execution components, and you still can’t get good results, it may be time to reexamine the fundamental approach and strategy.

improve email marketing

Question 4: Why Don’t Open Rates Correlate with Click-to-Open Rates?

A note first on definition. Open Rate measures the percentage of total subscribers that see or “open” your email. Click-to-Open Rate measures the percentage of people who open the email that subsequently click one or more links in the email.

And it’s manifestly true that these numbers are wildly disparate. For example, automotive companies have an average open rate of 45%. Yet, their click-to-open rate is just 13%. Leisure, sports, and recreation companies see an average open rate of just 19%, but their click-to-open is 17%.

click to open rates by industry

Click-to-open rate measures how effective the CONTENTS of the email are.

In fact, it’s possible for a brand to have a higher click-to-open rate than open rate. How? And why do the numbers differ so much?

It’s because these data points measure entirely different things, despite their confusingly similar names. Open rate measures how effective the PROMISE of the email is. All you see as a subscriber is from name and subject line. That, plus your historical relationship with the company is what determines whether you’ll open that email.

Click-to-open rate measures how effective the CONTENTS of the email are. Once opened, subscribers see the text, graphics,  submit buttons, and everything else contained in that message.

Of course, the ideal is to have both rates be high, but if clicks are what you seek (and that’s not always true), I’d pay more attention to click-to-open rate vs. open rate.

Question 5: How Can We Make Emails More Mobile-Friendly?

The Email Benchmark Research Report 2018 includes statistics that show that more and more subscribers are reading emails on a mobile device. In fact, in the United Kingdom, almost two-thirds of all emails sent by Watson Marketing companies are consumed on a mobile device.

In the United States, 48% of emails are currently consumed on a mobile device, according to this research.

email client usage data - mobile vs desktop

Email client usage by ompany region – mobile leads overall!

A few tips to make your emails more effective for mobile devices.

First, keep your subject lines short. They get cut off after just a couple dozen characters, depending upon which email client a subscriber is using on their smartphone.
Second, keep the email itself short. Nobody likes to scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll.
Third, use big, bold images to capture attention immediately.

On the Webinar, Loren talked about an example he uses in presentations where he shows a picture of himself in front of the Taj Mahal. He shows it for just a few seconds, and then asks the audience to describe what they saw. Then, he shows a slide that includes a two sentence description of him at the Taj Mahal. It takes the audience a LOT longer to process and understand when they have to read.

The same is true in your email. It’s better if you can show it, instead of saying it.

I hope this glimpse into 2018 Email Marketing Research helps you improve what you’re sending, to whom, and when. Don’t forget to grab the free report, as well as the Webinar replay.

The post 5 Questions About 2018 Email Marketing Research appeared first on Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting.

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How to Create Profitable PPC Campaigns for Law Firms (7 Crucial Elements)

unsplash law imageThese seven techniques focusing on PPC for law firms will help you create more profitable AdWords campaigns and generate more clients for your law firm.

This post, with a spotlight on PPC for law firms, is part of a series focusing on specific PPC strategies per industry. While the basic components of every PPC campaign are the same, no two are identical. Consult your industry’s guide for tailored tips!

For law firms, PPC campaigns are the digital marketing holy grail of client acquisition. Get it right, and you can attract new leads with a healthy cost-per-acquisition (CPA).

Indeed, KPIs always vary depending on the nature of your business. In fact, we analyzed 50,000 campaigns in 12 different industries and found striking comparisons from industry-to-industry. But with the rising cost of law-related keywords — not to mention fierce competition — generating leads through AdWords is hard no matter what you offer.

Marketing is already a tricky practice in any industry, but for law firms there are even more hurdles to overcome. For example, in the UK, there are strict rules around unsolicited approaches in person or by telephone.

This is why PPC is such an important channel for law firms, and also why it’s so competitive. So, how do you execute a PPC campaign that attracts your ideal leads while maintaining a healthy ROI?

In this guide, you’ll learn seven crucial techniques your AdWords campaigns must include to succeed in the competitive legal landscape. Once you’ve finished this guide, you’ll know exactly how to target and attract the right clients for your law firm.

1. Target the Right Regions

Targeting the right traffic is the most important step to a profitable PPC campaign. While keywords are key, law firms should start by targeting the right regions. If you’re a PPC veteran, you’ll know how basic this principle is, but many firms still fail to target the right geo locations. As a result, they appear in searches from irrelevant cities and states.

Let’s face it – even if you’re the best in the business, the perfect client won’t travel to you. To set your target regions, head to the “Settings” area from the left-hand menu in AdWords. Then, select your campaign, followed by “Locations:”

adwords screenshot

Next, click on “Advanced search.” In the pop-up box, select the “Radius” option:

adwords screenshot

Here, you can enter a geographical location, followed by the target radius around that location. Add multiple target locations to one campaign or create a single target radius for each. I recommend you do the latter, as it gives you more flexibility when matching your ad creative to your target audience.

As well as location targeting, you may also want to experiment with the time of day you advertise. Read our guide “The Best Time to Advertise by Industry” to learn more, but generally speaking legal professionals should prioritize ads on Mondays and avoid weekends.

2. Focus on Search Intent

Not all keywords are created equal. Depending on what a user searches for, they may be looking for information or an immediate solution. This is called search intent.

The ads you serve for each “intent” must be adjusted – from the ad copy to the landing page you guide them to. Here’s a breakdown of the three categories of intent:

Navigational: The searcher is looking for a brand or specific website. These are often called “branded searches.”
Informational: This is where the user is looking for the answer to a specific question. They may also be looking for in-depth guides on how to overcome a challenge.
Transactional: It’s highly likely the searcher is looking to buy something. As a result, these keywords have high “commercial intent.”

It’s likely most of your best prospects are searching for transactional keywords, like “family lawyer toronto.” These have a lot of competition, but this is a direct correlation to how profitable they are.

But what about informational keywords? Searchers within your target geo may be looking for information to a particular problem – a problem you can solve with content. For example, let’s say someone searches for the keyword “how to hire a family lawyer.” The searcher lives in your target area (e.g., “Toronto”) and would make a great prospect when they’re ready to talk business.

You could serve them an ad that directs them to the bottom of the funnel, e.g. “schedule a consultation.” Or, you could create content that solves this problem. In this example, you could create a blog post or a whitepaper called “How to Choose The Right Family Lawyer.” Using conversion techniques, like a form or content upgrade, you can then capture the prospect’s details.

From here, use back-end email marketing systems to nurture the relationship. When they are ready to invest in a service, it’s highly likely your brand will come to mind first. You were, after all, the firm that gave value up front.

Clients have more at stake than any other industry – whether that be money, reputation, or even their freedom. Providing educational content to clients is the best way to establish healthy relationships. The lack of client education out there provides you with a great opportunity.

Look at campaigns which target broad keywords. Are there any informational keywords which can be answered with content? If so, create this content and separate informational keywords into separate ad groups. You’ll see your Quality Score (QS), and lead generation efforts soar as a result.

3. Create Compelling Ad Copy

You’ve tightened your ad targeting, and you’re serving the right calls-to-action to the right searchers. Now you need to take that focused attention and drive them to your landing pages. Which brings us to the next step in the funnel: your ad creative.

To drive traffic, you need to compel prospects to click on your ad. This means standing out in a sea of competitors – especially in an industry as competitive as law. Here, I’ll outline five copywriting principles to apply to your PPC campaigns immediately.

Copywriting Tip #1: Get The Basics Right First

Writing copy for AdWords is a delicate art. Unlike landing pages, you’ve got a very limited amount of space to work with. However, you’ve got to keep basic copywriting principles in mind. Remember to check these boxes when writing your ad copy:

Relevancy: A good QS comes from relevancy. Your ad copy must match the target keyword and the messaging of your landing page.
Talk about them: If you’re using “we” more than “you,” go back to the drawing board. You must make your ad copy about the prospect and their pains.
Focus on benefits: Again, forget about what makes your service great. Why do clients decide to do business with you? Focus on these benefits.

serp ad screenshot

Copywriting Tip #2: Use Numbers

Have you generated impressive results for your clients? How many cases have you won in the last month or so?

Using numbers in your copy not only grabs attention, but it can also boost social proof. In fact, according to research by Conductor, headlines that contain numbers are more effective than any other headline format:

conductor graph

Here are some ways you can use numbers in your ad copy:

Your average win-rate
Number of clients
Years in business
Number of won cases

What you can and can’t include in your ad copy will vary from region to region. For example, in many Canadian provinces it’s forbidden to publish your win rate for advertising purposes, while in the US this is more relaxed. Make sure your ads abide by local regulation before going live.

Find ways to link social proof to the power of numbers. Use them in your headlines and see your CTR soar.

google serp screenshot

Copywriting Tip #3: Ask Questions

As I mentioned earlier, searchers are often on the hunt for answers to their questions, and solutions to their challenges.

Show that you get them by rephrasing these questions in your headline. In our family law example from earlier, these headlines would work well:

“Looking For a Family Law Expert?”
“Need Help Choosing a Family Lawyer?”
“Choosing a Family Lawyer? Our Guide Will Help.”

These headlines fit within the “informational” searcher intent. Grab your prospect’s attention by using the same questions they’re already asking in their head.

serp ad screenshot

Copywriting Tip #4: Use Emotional Triggers

You don’t have much room to play with when writing AdWords copy. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use the limited space to spike emotions using triggers and grab attention. Get to the heart of your prospect’s pain by spiking a feeling relevant to the problem they’re looking to solve.

Emotional triggers include:

Trust: Your prospects need to know they can rely on you and that you’re a credible lawyer. How can you reinforce trust in your PPC ads (and your landing pages)?
Value: Buyers are more price-savvy than ever. They’re aware of buyer’s remorse and will avoid it at all costs. Can you add a guarantee or make comparative offers from your competitors?
Instant Gratification: The law is a long game. But people want instant gratification, and in the world of law, this can simply come in the form of easing their immediate woes. Use your copy to make prospects feel like they’re in safe hands.
Hope: This is the emotion that drives us forward in hard times. Paint a picture of a brighter future, even when times are bleak.
Fear: Is the emotion that drives the decision making in the process. If fear is a motivating factor, then all you need to do is show how your service is the right action for prospects to take.

serp ad screenshot

serp ad screenshot

Copywriting Tip #5: Always Be Testing

Of course, you won’t be able to fit all these elements into the same ad.

Which is why it’s important to test different ad variations against each other. To do this, head to the “Ads & extensions” section in your campaign. Click the “pencil” icon next to your highest performing ad copy and select “Copy and edit:”

adwords screenshot

From here, it’s simply a matter of changing certain elements of your ad. Using the Ad Variations feature, you can quickly test different ads against each other. To set them up, head to the bottom of the left-hand menu and select “Drafts & experiments:”

adwords screenshot

Under the “Ad Variations” tab, click “New Ad Variation.” From here, follow the wizard and apply the new variation to your selected campaign. With this powerful feature, you can replace specific text, swap headlines, and update entire sections of your copy with ease.

Test only one element at a time. Whether that’s the headline or call-to-action, it’s important to pick one. Otherwise, you’ll never know what improved performance in the first place.

4. The Anatomy of High-Converting Landing Pages

You now know how to create compelling ad copy that prospects can’t help but click.

Once clicked, your prospects will be taken to your landing page. And the job of the landing page is to convince prospects to take action. If your landing page isn’t designed for conversions, you’re going to waste money. There’s no point driving traffic to a landing page that doesn’t convert.

Here’s the thing: keywords are expensive. According to figures from SEMrush, the most expensive legal-related keyword is £81.40 (approx. $107) a click:

semrush legal screenshot

Which is why it’s super important your landing pages are engineered to turn as many of those clicks into leads. Here are five inquiry-generating elements that all landing pages must include in order to generate leads for your law firm.

Landing Page Element #1: Remove Navigation

Your landing page must guide prospects toward a specific action. This means removing all elements that distract from this objective. The navigation pane is the first distraction your prospect will see. Allowing them to browse the website will hurt conversions. Here’s an example from our friends at Unbounce:

unbounce screenshot

As you can see, downloading their eBook is the only thing a user can do. The header is clutter-free, while the eye is drawn to other elements on the page.

Landing Page Element #2: Use a Hero Shot

In the example from Unbounce above, they’ve included a large image of the eBook cover. This is known as “the hero shot.” Visual content is key, and when it comes to offering eBooks, white papers, and other content, the hero shot is easy to create. However, you may need to get creative. Service-based offerings don’t lend themselves to visual content, but luckily there’s an alternative.

Landing Page Element #3: Build Trust Using Video

When you can’t visualize with images, then your next best bet is to create video content. Video is one of the best ways to build immediate trust. For law firms, this gives you a chance to put your people and personality forward.

Creating video content is simple: stand in front of the camera and explain what you do. What makes your firm different? What’s the process for working with you? Adam Goodman, a Toronto-based criminal lawyer, is a great example of how simple it can be:

There’s nothing fancy here — just Adam talking about his process and what he can do for his clients. Shoot a video like this and embed it in place of the hero shot on your landing page.

Landing Page Element #4: Single Call-to-Action

Remember, you want your prospects to take one action, and one action only. Traditionally, this action is filling out a form. Your prospect will enter their details to download a whitepaper/request a call-back or consultation. Here’s another example from Unbounce:

unbounce screenshot

The layout is simple. It asks only for the most important details. But most importantly the call-to-action pops-out from the rest of the page. They use an orange button to grab attention. Furthermore, they reinforce the value proposition in the copy (Email Me the Ebook Now).

Form-friction is a term describing when prospects abandon a form due to its length. So, find the right form length for your practice. Ask for only the most critical information to begin a relationship with your new leads.

Landing Page Element #5: Social Proof

Building trust is one of the biggest hurdles to generating new law firm leads, as we mentioned in the ad copy section above. Get over this by including testimonials from happy clients. When acquiring them, ask your clients to be as specific as possible. Include the results, and why they loved working with you.

landing folio screenshot

When applying them to your landing page, include a headshot and a full name. This proves that the testimonial is real and removes skepticism.

5. Streamline Inquiries with Call Extensions

When targeting the right keywords, those with commercial intent are your money makers. And sometimes, your prospects are desperate and want to speak with someone right away. Give them this option by including call extensions in your ads.

Call extensions are simply calls-to-action that appear under your ad when searched for on a mobile device. When a user clicks on the extension, their device automatically dials the number you provide them with.

To set up an extension, head over to “Ads & extensions” in AdWords and click the “Extensions” tab. Then, click on the blue “plus” button, followed by “Call extension”:

call extensions screenshot

You’ll then be taken to the following page:

analytics screenshot

Let’s break down ad extension set up and what they should include:

Add to: Select which campaign or ad group you wish to apply the extension to.
Extension: Keep “Create new” selected.
Country & number: Select your country of residence from the drop-down, followed by the phone number you wish to connect prospects to.
Call reporting: Allows you to measure quantity and duration of calls. Learn more about call reporting from Google here.
Device preference: You may wish to check “Mobile” if you only want the extension to appear on mobile ads. But this is a matter of preference.

Feel free to play with the other options, but we recommend leaving them as is. Once you’ve applied the extension to an ad group, your ad will look like this:

mobile serp screenshot

This provides a faster, more efficient method for your prospect and clients to reach you!

6. Analytics & Call Tracking

You should now have a robust AdWords campaign set up for your law firm. But the work doesn’t end there. You must continuously measure and optimize your PPC efforts to ensure you’re generating the best ROI possible.

It’s likely that many of your inquiries will come in the form of phone calls. Which is why I recommend you set up two forms of tracking:

Google Analytics
Call Tracking

Let’s start by linking AdWords with Google Analytics (GA). To do this, head to your GA account and navigate to Acquisition > AdWords > Campaigns. You’ll be presented with the following wizard:

link adwords and analytics screenshot

Click on “Get started” and follow the steps. Once completed, head back to Acquisition > AdWords > Campaigns. Over time, your AdWords data will appear here:

adwords analytics connection screenshot

Then there’s call tracking. This technology allows you to measure where your calls come from, as well as the duration and overall quality. There are several solutions, depending on where in the world you are. Here are a few tools we recommend looking into:

CallRail
ResponseTap

Each system is different, but here’s a summary of how they work:

A “dynamic” phone number is added to your website. This phone number changes for each visitor, provided from a “pool” of available numbers.
When a user dials the number, it goes through the call tracking system.
The platform then records where the call came from (PPC, organic search, etc.), the duration, and can record the call. Call recording allows business development managers to measure the performance of their teams.

With these two technologies in place, you can measure and optimize your AdWords efforts on an ongoing basis. Do this by testing new ad copy, creating ad groups for each of your highest performing keywords, and optimizing your landing pages for higher conversion rates.

7. Advanced Law Firm PPC Techniques

We’ve covered the basics of creating and executing a successful law firm PPC strategy. To end this guide, I’ll share two advanced techniques with you. These simple approaches will lead you towards better, more optimized AdWords campaigns and a greater ROI.

Advanced Technique #1: Exclude Competitor Clicks

It’s likely your competitors are keeping tabs on you (as you should them!) and regularly searching for your company name in Google. Which means they’re probably clicking on your search ads. This leads to wasted budget, as your competitors are not your ideal clients. Luckily, there’s a way you can put a stop this.

First, find their IP address by signing up for their email list. Using Gmail, open one of their newsletters, select the drop-down followed by “Show original”:gmail screenshot

Hit ctrl+f and search for “Received: from” in the source. This will show the IP address the email was sent from (data censored for privacy):

source code screenshot

This is the IP you’ll exclude from your campaigns. To do this, head to the Settings of your AdWords campaign, click “Additional settings,” followed by “IP exclusions.”  Enter your competitor’s IP addresses in the following text box:

adwords settings screenshot

Now, whenever a competitor clicks your ads, you won’t pay for it.

Advanced Technique #2: Optimize Headlines to Increase Quality Score

Quality Score is arguably one of the most important PPC factors to optimize. Indeed, a higher QS means a lower CPC and a higher CTR. The quickest “win” for optimizing QS usually starts at the headline. Here are a few ways you can optimize your PPC headlines for a higher Quality Score:

Include the keyword: To do this, create a separate Ad Group for each of your most important keywords as we mentioned above. Use that target keyword as early on in your headline as possible.
Use punctuation: Punctuation can help you stand out, but be weary of AdWords best practices. This will make sure your copy doesn’t look a mess when the first line begins after your headline.
Keep it up-to-date: What happens recently gets more attention. For example, you could include the number of clients you’ve served over the last year, or better, the last month.
Include location: As well as keywords, add the city/region you’re targeting. This works best if you have created different ad groups for each of your target locations.

Of course, a good QS is the result of having all your ducks in order: target keywords, ad copy, landing page, etc. But the headline is a quick and easy place to start, and often yields the best rewards.

Putting It Together

These seven techniques will help you create more profitable AdWords campaigns and generate more clients for your law firm. To wrap-up this article, let’s look at the six stage funnel that ties it all together.

Stage 1: Laser-Focused Targeting
Make sure you’re attracting the right traffic. The first step is to get your geo-targeting set up correctly. Make sure you’re serving ads to the cities and regions that you serve.
Stage 2: Pick the Right Keywords
In the beginning, you’ll likely target several keywords that don’t yield a return. But you must still ensure your targeting is as accurate as possible. This goes back to geo-targeting using phrases like “law firm toronto” coupled with specialized keywords like “family law toronto.”
Stage 3: Create Individual Ad Groups
To generate as much traffic while spending as little as possible, you must optimize your Quality Score (QS). The first step to this is ensuring your keyword and ad copy are as relevant as possible. The best way to do this is to create ad groups for each of your highest performing keywords.
Stage 4: Compelling & Attention-Grabbing Copy
You need to stand out from your competitors when a prospect searches for a target keyword. Do this with client-driven copy that focuses on their needs.
Stage 5: Use Ad Extensions
Ad Extensions are add-ons you can use in your ads to provide more information or give more actions for prospects to take. Use the Call Extension to allow prospects to reach you directly.
Stage 6: Conversion-Driven Landing Pages
Once your prospect clicks, it’s up to your landing page to turn them into inquiries. Conversion-driven copy and a compelling call-to-action are among many elements your landing pages need to turn prospects into leads.

As you can see, everything taught in this guide fits into this six-stage funnel. You must create a journey that guides your prospects to becoming a client. Do this by focusing on their challenges, building trust, and educating them.

Your Turn…

How are you currently using AdWords to grow your practice? Are there any successful techniques or approaches we’ve missed? Share your experiences in the comments below!

 

Image Credits

Feature Image: Unsplash / Sebastian Pichler
All screenshots by author, taken June 2018.
Image 1, 2, 9-10, 15-16, 22: Screenshot via AdWords
Image 3, 5-6, 7-8, 17: Screenshot of Google SERPs
Image 4: Conductor
Image 11: SEMrush
Image 12-13: Unbounce
Image 14: LandingFolio
Image 18-19: Google Analytics
Image 20-21: Gmail

The post How to Create Profitable PPC Campaigns for Law Firms (7 Crucial Elements) appeared first on Acquisio Blog.

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What Facebook’s Algorithm Change Means for Hotels on Social Media

When the focus is on engagement, hotels on social media need to keep up-to-date on the latest best practices. Facebook made that a little more difficult this week. The social network grabbed headlines with two big algorithm changes that aim to reward high-quality content.

The first algorithm change puts a greater emphasis on engagement time, or how long people tend to spend on a given post. As a result, engagement stems from more than likes or comments on a post–it also now draws data that Facebook has been collecting on how long people spend on Instant Articles or clicked through its mobile browser. Now, Facebook can prioritize a user’s News Feed based on how long that user has spent on similar posts from an author or publisher in the past.

The second adjustment will reduce how often Facebook users see several posts from the same publisher in a row, a response to user complaints that their Timeline content is becoming repetitive and boring.

Facebook claims that publishers like hotels will only see a very small increase or decrease in traffic and that no significant changes are expected. In all, the social network states, the shift is a move toward quality over quantity and should reduce the amount of clickbait we see in our News Feeds. But, many publishers are already wary of Facebook’s algorithm, with some alleging that referral traffic from the social media giant to their brand websites has dipped 20% over the past months.

So what does this mean for hotels on social media? It doesn’t mean that hotels should give up on trying to reach their guests on Facebook or any other social network. Instead, hotels should focus more on creating and sharing content that provides value to their guests and prospective guests. Here are some tips that Facebook posted to its blog:

Hotels on Social Media: Tips for Engaging with Guests on Facebook
1. Share photos and videos

Photos and videos can drive up engagement, which will allow your channel to be more visible to your followers. You can also upload videos directly to Facebook, which, according to the new algorithm, will drive up engagement even further.

By uploading videos to Facebook directly, you can also take advantage of these two benefits:

Your videos will play automatically in News Feed – Native videos start playing immediately as people scroll through their Feed. Videos initially play silently, but people can tap the video to play it with sound in full screen.
Your videos will have view counts – Public videos from people and Pages will now show view counts to help people discover them.

2. Find your voice

Let your brand voice shine in your social posts. It’s important to note that being conversational, personal, and authentic can go a long way toward engaging and making a connection with your guests and prospective guests online. Take the time to post directly to your Facebook page in your own voice. Your content will be more meaningful if it reminds your audience of their experience with your brand.

3. Respond to your audience

In the same way that it can be good to be personal in your posts, hotels on social media should also reply personally to people who comment on posts. Your guests and prospective guests will be thrilled to know that you’re listening.

4. Share exclusive content

Your hotel’s fans will love to see exclusives, sneak peaks, and behind-the-scenes posts that can’t be found anywhere else. For example, The Charles Hotel in Cambridge Massachusetts posted this to their Facebook page to promote the new rooms following a renovation.

author

The hotel executed this post perfectly – it showcases the newly renovated rooms in a way that feels behind-the-scenes and exclusive, and it followed up with people who commented in a personal way.

5. Mix it up

Post a variety of content to see better results. For example, hotels on social media can take inspiration from English singer-songwriter and musician Ed Sheeran. He posted a photo of a heartwarming letter from a fan.

Britains Natural Environment Research Council

A hotel could do the same with a heartfelt review or social media post from a past guest. This is a great way to engage guests and prospective guests on Facebook, and therefore make your content more visible to your audience.

6. Use hashtags to join the discussion

It used to be that hashtags didn’t work on Facebook, but that changed in 2013. Now, hashtags are a great way to make your posts more discoverable and relevant.

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When deciding what hashtags to use, you can try a couple of different things. You can look at trending topics and hop on the hashtag for a current event. You can also try something like the post from the Whitney Peak Hotel above – they used #biggestlittlecity, which is a hashtag that locals and tourists use when referring to their surrounding area in Reno, Nevada.

7. Crowdsource responsibly

If you have a solid following, one way to increase engagement is to ask for content from your guests. When you ask for user-generated content, make the prompt clear and explain how the information will be used. Feature the best content on your page and follow up with a reply to the people who participated.

For example, Mike Rowe got a ton of engagement on his page when he asked fans to help him name his new puppy. (Side note – the Revinate team has spotted Mike and the puppy in the neighborhood of our San Francisco offices on a couple of occasions. Yes, he walks his own dog! #celebcrush)

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On crowdsourcing, there is one thing to be aware of – the Internet has a sense of humor. Britain’s Natural Environment Research Council learned this the hard way this month when it launched a public poll to name its new $300 million research vessel. The good people of the Internet decided that “Boaty McBoatface” was the most appropriate name. Science Minister Jo Johnson decided that the ship needed a more “suitable” name.

8. Use Page Insights

Once 30 people like your hotel’s Facebook page, you can use Insights to help you figure out what’s working and what isn’t. Insights include demographics about your page’s audience, a list of the most popular posts, and details about videos that you upload to Facebook.

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9. Send the right message to the right audience

Just as with email marketing, hotels on social media should use any targeting tools at their disposal to increase the relevance of their posts to their audience. For example, you can target posts by language to the people most interested in your content. Targeted posts will still be visible to everyone on your Page, but will only appear in News Feed for the audience that you select.

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One caveat – there is a minimum spend for targeted posts based on the amount of reach you have in your targeted area, so evaluate your hotel’s marketing budget carefully to see whether you have the dollars to spend on a social media experiment.

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE to access our on-demand webinar Hotel Marketing Tips for 2016 in which we dive into further detail on best practices for hotels on social media.

The post What Facebook’s Algorithm Change Means for Hotels on Social Media appeared first on Revinate.

Read more: revinate.com

How to Curate Images for Content Marketing

Content marketing doesn’t work without a strong aesthetic. People need optical cues and stimuli to stay inspired, engaged, and moving toward conversion. And on the flip side, brands need their own visual language – one that’s unique to their service, mission, and values, and expressed through thoughtfully curated images.

These days, the careless use of crummy stock photos isn’t going to cut it, and delivering content that’s void of visuals just isn’t an option. Consumers have cultivated too sophisticated of an eye, and, as a result, they expect better.

The thing is, it’s not that hard to deliver. With so much visual material available online, most of us have enough resources at hand to start moving in the right direction. So it’s not about where to start looking, but how.

When it comes to curating images, what makes the most sense for your brand and what you’re trying to convey? And why does it matter? Have a look at these best practices – along with a few incredible, image-driven stats – and you’ll be well on your way to elevating your content marketing strategy with beautifully curated visuals. 

Use high-quality photography

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If you don’t have a full-time photographer or arsenal of stunning original images on hand, don’t worry. Today, paid and even free stock photo libraries have high-quality resources that make it easy to bring to life a visual-forward content marketing strategy via blogs, newsletterssocial media posts, and beyond. Break down your branding guidelines and decide how to cultivate your own visual language. Is your brand open and personable? Exclusive and luxe? Fair and dependable? Every image you publish helps tell your story and communicate who you are to the world, while also motivating viewers to share your content. Make sure you curate wisely.

Know: Studies have shown that articles that contain images receive 94 percent more views than those without.

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Do: Commit to including more photos, illustrations, or other visuals in your content creation, promotion, and distribution strategies. Experiment and see what kind of image-headline pairings gain more or less traction across platforms. According to Outbrain, it’s important to get creative and come up with several pairings (it recommends 6-10), which in turn improves a “campaign’s click-through rates and ability to optimize based on performance.” In fact, the content discovery platform says that “testing many combinations of both [headlines and images] is the smartest strategy for achieving the best content marketing results.”

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If it’s not a part of your current style guide or content marketing strategy, create an additional set of written standards that cover your brand’s visual language – what your audience can expect to see and what contributors need to follow. Keeping a folder, board, or some kind of growing collection of appropriate, on-brand, ready-to-use images is also a good idea. And while not every company thinks about going for a certain look or mood in the imagery it publishes, many stand to benefit from taking their design and photography more seriously with this kind of curatorial approach.

Don’t: Avoid using trite, low-quality images just for the sake of having a visual, and be careful of using too many of the same images as other brands in your industry or beyond. Try throwing a photo you’d like to use into a reverse Google image search and see where and how often it appears. If it’s super-popular and coming up on sites and blogs across the board, it’s better to keep searching. Registering an otherwise great image as an overused stock photo can be a big turnoff for your audience.

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Get creative with subject matter

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Let’s face it: most of us don’t have the budget for an in-house content studio. But gone are the days of canned portraits and, yes, woman laughing with salad – or at least they should be. The B2B blog space, however, has been particularly slow to evolve on this front, and while we are seeing some improvement, many still hesitate to put in that extra bit of effort. But consider:

Know: In analyzing more than 1 million articles, BuzzSumo found that those with an image every 75 to 100 words got twice the social shares as articles with fewer photos.

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Do: Break up your blog posts – along with long-form content, e-books, case studies, whitepapers, and more – with infographics, screenshots, videos, and other visual aids. Start thinking outside the box when it comes to relating abstract business concepts through visual language. When you begin to look in new ways, you’ll find that all kinds of high-quality photography can be used as a powerful engagement and illustrative tool.

Market growth coverage, for instance, might be depicted through lush foliage and blooming landscapes instead of literal charts and arrows. Meanwhile, a metrics-based piece could align with food and lifestyle photography – a shot of spoons or bowls with spices, perhaps, or something bold, bright, and measurable in a way that’s decidedly unrelated to marketing, like this series of umbrellas on a beach.

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Whereas distribution-focused content may feature images of roads, maps, or abstracted shapes and digital design, data-driven articles may go the route of puzzles, patterns, textiles, or abstract repetition. And for thought leadership posts, try some natural wonder and wanderlust on for size, as well as powerful light sources and, where appropriate, perhaps the use of well-known works of art and photography from the public domain.

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Don’t: Steer clear of flat white backgrounds and stock photos that look like they came off of a ’90s grade school project. That’s where they belong. Although at times these types of images may seem like the most literal translation of the business ideas you’re discussing, trust that your audience can make the connection and start experimenting with more abstracted and elevated visuals.

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Select authentic and relevant images

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Audiences want to see real people in marketing and advertising, but who those people are vary among different target audiences. Large businesses and corporations know that localized content is of the essence when it comes to pushing content across international and domestic borders. And while high-quality translation is a top priority for such projects, so is making sure that the visuals match the market.

Know: People have been found to retain 65 percent of information if it’s presented alongside relevant visuals. Only 10 percent of information is remembered when delivered as text alone.  

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Do: When marketing to different audiences, companies need to make an emotional connection with viewers through some regional or cultural relevance while still maintaining global appeal. And that takes constant research, study, and understanding – but there are lots of places to look. Every year, for instance, Getty Images releases a helpful compendium of visual trends and insights into consumer behavior from around the world with analyses of search terms, current events, and modern culture in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Japan, and beyond.

Do your homework and really get to know your audience – whoever and wherever they may be – and leverage their talents while you’re at it. There’s nothing more authentic than user-generated visuals, but whether you’re going for UGC, stock, or sourcing elsewhere, be sure to curate images that capture a real moment in time and truly reflect how people live their lives today.

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Above all, tune in to the moment, practice sensitivity, and be brave, because even if you think your brand or customers aren’t ready, “It’s necessary to take risks,” Getty Images Director of Visual Trends Pam Grossman shared in The Power of Visual Storytelling. “Even if they may alienate some of your audience, it’s always good business practice to be progressive and assume that people are going to catch up.” Why not be the brand that leads the way, instead of the one that follows?

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Don’t: Forget about supermodels and over-produced, posed photo shoots for now. Individuals clicking on photos of real-life people are twice as likely to convert to a sale. Cater to them and deliver on the side of diversity, with depictions of real bodies, different skin tones, assorted beliefs and practices, and all the varied lives that make the world such an interesting and beautiful place.

 

Keep composition in mind

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Various images serve different purposes. Some allude to the topic at hand, while others actually illustrate the details of a story. Whatever the case, each visual will have its own unique composition that moves a viewer’s eye (like toward a CTA, perhaps), and that’s something to consider during your curation process. Compositional elements include color, line, shape, form, pattern, and texture in any combination. The trick is finding what works for you, and what stands out.

Know: Social media posts get way more shares when a photo’s attached. On Facebook, image posts see 2.3 times more engagement as those without visuals, and on Twitter, images lead to 150 percent more retweets. 

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Do: Start looking at pictures in a new way, noticing the different elements of design and how they influence how one processes an image. Consider how cropping or close-ups change the impact of a certain shot, how color can psychologically influence perception, and how different angles or other aesthetic choices can alter your messaging. Keep abreast of best practices, like creating depth, framing, and following the rule of thirds, in which the most important parts of an image are positioned to the side(s) instead of centered. See this guide from Outbrain:

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Narrow down what you’re looking for and specify your image searches with keywords relating to vantage point (like “aerial,” “zoom,” or “first-person view”), light source (“night” versus “direct sun” or “sun spots”), number of people (“two” or a “crowd”), room for copy (“blank” or “negative space”), and whatever else happens to come to mind. If you have a vision, run with it and see what images you can find to match. And if you’re out of ideas, that’s okay, too – a simple search with more general terms can leave you refueled and inspired in less than 60 seconds.

Don’t: There’s a time and a place for the ridiculous, but a shot like this is usually cringe-worthy no matter its context. Besides the problematic background and Santa suit, it’s good practice to avoid using images in which a person is making eye contact with the camera. That’s because viewers tend to lock eyes with the subject instead of paying attention to what it is you when them to. Remember: a carefully placed line or pattern can lead the eye wherever you want it to go.

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Still not sure where to start? PexelsUnsplash, and Shutterstock offer copyright-free image and video collections that run the gamut of visual storytelling, while collections from the likes of Getty deliver the best and most varied creative and editorial work being produced today. (All the photos used in this article were sourced from Pexels and Unsplash.

Dive into what they offer and don’t be discouraged by the ephemeral nature of 21st-century content and technology. Just because certain images on blogs or social media may not last forever doesn’t mean they can’t create a real emotional impact when they’re seen. But to do so, they have to have thoughtful, quality work behind them.

 

Anastasia Dyakovskaya is a NewsCred Contributor.

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