Recommended Readings

Posted in A-From SEL, Channel: SEO, Search Marketing Column

From big to small: 5 free image compression tools reviewed

Recently, I’ve found myself focusing more and more on optimizing page load times. Improving page speed is something that is generally pretty easily understood by clients, and it positively impacts user experience and conversion as well as SEO.

The challenge, frequently, can be that some elements of improving page speed can require significant input from development resources (e.g., prioritizing visible content, eliminating render-blocking JavaScript or CSS).

But there’s one element of page speed optimization that even non-technical marketers and content creators can contribute to: image optimization. As Kristine Schachinger points out in her excellent article on image optimization, resizing and compressing images can often be the easiest and highest-impact action for speeding up pages on your site.

Schachinger does a great job of outlining image compression and resizing best practices, but once you know which images need work (or if you just have some new images to add to your site), what’s the best tool for actually compressing images?

Since image compression can be such an easy win, I wanted to test the capabilities of five different free, standalone image compression tools that writers, designers or marketers can use to ensure that they’re keeping their image file size in check.

[Read the full article on Search Engine Land.]

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Posted in Amazon, Channel: Retail, E-Commerce

Report: Prime members now represent 63 percent of Amazon’s US customers

Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) has released a new estimate of the number of Amazon Prime subscribers in the US market. The firm says there are now 90 million members, or 63 percent of US Amazon customers.

That’s up from an estimated 85 million in July and 80 million in April of this year. CIRP has previously estimated Prime members spend almost twice what non-members spend on Amazon purchases.

Amazon Prime Customer Growth

Prime subscribers spend an average of roughly $1,700 per year versus about $700 for non-Prime members, according to the report. That translates into about $117 billion in top-line revenue generated by Prime customers.

Amazon Prime Customers Spend Almost 2x More Annually

Source: CIRP estimates (10/17)

CIRP added that 95 of current Prime members surveyed said that they would “definitely” or “probably” renew their memberships. This matters because there’s a broader halo effect that Prime creates:

Prime is now 12 years old and plays an outsized role the company’s strategy and success. It may well the most successful loyalty program in existence.

Posted in Customer Experience

Why Contextual Relevance Is Everything, Marketers

Back in 2014 my colleague and Forbes contributor Steve Olenski wrote a post entitled The Nine Letter Word Every Marketer Needs To Remember At All Times. The word Steve was referring to was relevance

Part of what Steve wrote is his not-so-subtle reminder what the word means and it’s relevance to marketers: “In case any marketers and advertisers forgot, the word relevance is an adjective meaning having direct bearing on the matter in hand; pertinent. In marketing and advertising terms, it means providing your customer, and prospect for that matter, with content that is relevant to them.”

The Heart of Success

Make no mistake about it contextual relevance is at the heart of Modern Marketing success. For much of history, the focus of retail was all about your store location. If you are conveniently located to the local population, they would stop in and buy. If your locale is not convenient, they would stay away. With the advent of digital channels, your customers can be anywhere and the focus of retail has moved from location alone to context. 

Today’s retail marketer can create more personalized messages, offers and value today by leveraging digital body language signal data such as location, product browse behavior, past purchase occasions, current shopping bag contents and even environmental factors like weather and traffic information.

The success of retailers like Amazon, Blue Apron, Nordstrom and others is not about their location or operational excellence, it is about their ability to recognize, analyze and activate around context to provide a highly relevant experience.

Ramifications Can Be Lethal

In Steve’s Forbes post he shared a chart that even though is from 2014 is still very telling.

As I said very telling, especially when you have nearly 70% of consumers stating they would automatically delete an email that was not relevant to them while another 54% would go even further and unsubscribe altogether! 

But look at the very bottom of the chart, that last bar. 9 out 10 consumers would take one or more of ALL these actions. If that doesn’t cause marketers to sit up and take notice and do everything they can to ensure relevance is king, I don’t know what will. 

And yes I realize the stats are 3 years old but I would argue that these percentages are even higher today. 

Get Personal

Retailers that want to accelerate growth may wish to consider some of what Amazon has done so well. The online retailer undeniably has many strengths, but one area in which it truly excels is delivering personalized communications to its 300 million-plus active customers. 

Download this new guide from Liveclicker and Oracle Marketing Cloud to learn how to get personal and keep your customers coming back?

Image source: Pexels


Posted in Channel: Retail, E-Commerce, Holiday Retailer, Retail Column

10 tips for delivering holiday magic

Last year, holiday e-commerce sales rose by 17.8 percent, and this year, revenue is set to hit an unprecedented $107 billion, according to eMarketer.

As online demand increases, so does the need for scalable, global-friendly checkout and logistics solutions to ensure each holiday package gets easily shipped to the correct address.

The online experience influences 79 percent of all transactions (both online and offline), according to a UPS study titled “Pulse of the Online Shopper.” Repeat business, however, is mostly influenced by how customers feel after they receive their goods.

With FedEx and UPS handling more than 30 million holiday packages per day combined, delivery gets exponentially more complicated when businesses begin to ship abroad. The rise in internationalization, coupled with an increase in regionally diverse customers, means that e-commerce businesses must align their online purchase experience to complement their offline delivery strategy.

Today’s customer experience starts the moment a shopper lands on your site and continues through to package delivery. By paying close attention to your customer journey, and connecting it with the unique nuances of their region, you can improve your global performance this holiday season and ensure continued prosperity in the year ahead.

Here are some tips from a delivery perspective for optimizing your international business efforts this holiday season.

1. Keep forms short

Form length is one of the key reasons of cart abandonment. The Baymard Institute found that almost a third of all shoppers abandon their checkout as a result of it being too long or complicated. Reducing form fields down to the bare essentials will give you a greater chance of driving purchases through completion.

2. Think about form field labels

Consider label placement, as this can impact a shopper’s behavior. Placing labels above the form field is effective on desktop and even more so on mobile devices.

Ensuring that form fields are well labeled reduces friction and cognitive load on customers trying to complete a purchase.

3. Use type-ahead address verification

A recent study from my company found that when compared with other primary methods of address collection, 84 percent of shoppers prefer type-ahead address verification. Type-ahead makes it quicker and easier for shoppers to search for and enter their address details, including international information, while also verifying the data against local postal databases.

We also found that type-ahead reduces keystrokes by up to 80 percent and ensures that only accurate and valid addresses are captured at the point of entry, improving operations and delivery efficiency.

4. Launch the right keyboard

Launching the right keyboard is essential for optimizing the checkout, especially on mobile devices. It’s important to include the right attributes on your site’s code to fetch the correct keyboard for the input. This makes data input much quicker and easier, reducing the opportunity for cart abandonment.

5. Understand international address formats

When offering international shipping, it’s important to understand the formatting of international address data for a frictionless checkout flow. Adaptive checkout fields that mimic country formatting allow customers to breeze through checkouts without thinking twice about how to input their address.

Another method that’s quickly gaining popularity is a single-line form field. Typing any part of an address on a single line is quicker, takes up less space on your checkout page and provides an interface that’s adaptable to all types of devices and address formats, allowing customers to input their information in whatever order they choose.

6. Make sure you get the right courier for the job

Based on your destination, choose a courier that has strong user reviews and fast delivery speeds. It pays to research different couriers — you might even find regional ones that offer great service and better rates than more well-known brands.

Easyship, ShipGooder and similar sites provide tools to calculate your shipping rate and can be used when calculating international shipping so you can save your customers money and take your business global.

7. Choose a service that offers excellent tracking

Due to the extremely high volume of holiday shipments, it’s likely that delays will occur. It’s important to choose a courier that has frequent tracking updates, as they will cover all the steps in transit (from pickup to arrival/departure in customs to delivery.) This will allow customers to closely monitor their shipments and reduce the risk of loss or frustration.

8. Ensure shipping documentation is accurate and complete

Incorrect and missing information can cause delays and major holiday disappointments. To avoid failed shipments or delays in processing, ensure you collect accurate customer address information and that you understand what’s needed from a documentation and customs perspective.

9. Avoid firm delivery dates

When dealing with lost or delayed packages, avoid giving customers a firm delivery date. Manage expectations, and don’t commit to something that’s out of your control.

Instead, stay in contact with your courier to find a solution, and update the customer in real time by leveraging push notifications or text messaging.

10. Deliver shipments with prepaid duty

For international shipments, it’s always best practice to deliver a shipment with duty prepaid. While it’s cheaper to leave the duty to your customers, you run the risk of a customer refusing to pay the additional costs and returning the item with a bad feeling about your business. You’ll end up having to handle the payment anyway, or abandon your shipment at customs.

And remember, the most important thing about the holidays is spreading good cheer — whether your customers live down the street or around the world. And with today’s technologies, you have the power to reach more people than ever before.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Posted in Channel: Video, facebook, Facebook: Advertising, Facebook: Video, Social Media Marketing, Social Media Marketing: Advertising, Video

How video makers are programming around Facebook’s ad breaks

Videos on Facebook increasingly resemble TV-style programming — until an ad interrupts the video without a natural break in the action. But that’s beginning to change as media companies within Facebook’s video monetization program experiment with when exactly to insert an ad break in a video.

When Facebook began inserting ads in the middle of videos earlier this year, the experience was jarring. A person in a video may be speaking, then is cut off mid-sentence for a commercial. That contrasts with TV, where the programming flows from show to commercial, often with a host announcing the break or a narrative crescendoing to a climax, pausing and then cutting to black.

But, as Facebook has started to air more TV-style programming on its new Watch tab, the media companies producing those shows as well as traditional feed-based videos that are eligible to carry mid-roll ads, or “ad breaks” in Facebook’s parlance, have started to adopt TV-style strategies on how to keep viewers’ attentions through an ad break, as well as their share of the ad revenue from those mid-roll ads.

Facebook has a few requirements governing publishers’ — media companies and individual creators — use of ad breaks. Videos must be at least 90 seconds long, and an ad break cannot begin within the first 20 seconds of the video. But for the most part, publishers that are part of Facebook’s video monetization program have full control over where an ad should appear.

When uploading a video to Facebook, eligible creators can provide time codes for when they would like an ad break to be inserted, said Joe Caporoso, VP of social media at Whistle Sports, which produces sports-related videos.

Balancing content and commerce

Whistle Sports began inserting ads within its Facebook videos four or five months ago, but the company’s execs said it’s still too early for the company to have identified any hard and fast rules regarding where an ad should appear. “I’m not sure there’s a standard” dictating that an ad break should appear within the front or back half of a video, said Whistle Sports’ VP of Content J. LaLonde. “It depends on the format.”

For example, Whistle Sports produces countdown-style videos that list things like the top 25 trick shots in a given sport. In that case, the company would slot an ad after the first five entries because, by that point, it would have established a viewer’s interest in the video but not yet worn out their attention.

“The great modern challenge we have is to balance creative with commerce. We want to honor the time of the viewer while also making money off that video,” said LaLonde.

Programming around — and for — ad breaks

Digital video network Tastemade has also been trying to strike that delicate balance. Before it began inserting ads within its Facebook videos, the food- and travel-centric company’s videos on the social network often lasted around 50 seconds. But that was well short of Facebook’s 90-second requirement for a video to carry an ad. As a result Tastemade “shifted our programming strategy in a material way to have all videos early on be 90 seconds plus,” said Oren Katzeff, head of programming at Tastemade.

That strategy change was as much about ensuring Tastemade could make money from its videos as forcing its producers to develop new formats to better accommodate the longer length and corresponding ad break. In addition to adding steps to single-recipe videos, the company came up with videos demonstrating multiple ways to make a hot sauce or cook a chicken. While making those videos, Tastemade found spots within the videos that naturally catered to an ad break, such as after a dish has been placed in an oven or between recipes, and that viewers were more likely to stick around when ads were inserted at these pauses.

Beyond editing around an ad break, Tastemade has also tested how to produce videos with the ad break in mind. For its show, “Let’s Taco Bout It,” which premiered on Facebook’s Watch tab two weeks ago, Tastemade adopted the show’s late-night talk show format for its ad strategy. The show’s host, an animated taco, calls out when the show is about to cut to commercial. And for “Food to Die For,” which premiered on Watch in August and follows people who do things like dive with sharks to collect abalone, Tastemade waits until an episode’s plot builds to a climax then cuts to commercial, leaving the audience in suspense and likely to stay tuned in after the ad break. “That tends to be something that works,” said Katzeff.

When an ad should appear

“The thought process behind where an ad break goes is as important as any other consideration,” Katzeff said. “If there’s a hole in the storytelling, people can tell. If an ad is unnaturally placed, if you’re forcing it in at the 20-second mark because you want to get it in there just for the sake of monetizing, it’s not going to work.”

That being said, waiting until the end of a video to show an ad isn’t likely to work either. Not only may viewers feel like there will be less of a payoff for staying tuned in at that point, but there are typically fewer viewers as a video approaches its denouement. “When you’re trying to monetize, you want [the ad break] closer to the beginning than the end,” said Katzeff.

However, when it comes to keeping viewers through an ad break, Food Network’s and HGTV’s parent company, Scripps Networks Interactive, has seen the most success when its ad breaks appear later. “We really focus on delaying a little further out where that ad break occurs and that’s been important because we want to make sure that the audience that is there is fully committed,” said Vikki Neil, senior VP and general manager at Scripps Lifestyle Studios.

To help video makers understand when an ad break worked or did not work, Facebook provides companies in its video monetization program with analytics showing viewership retention throughout individual videos, as well as where the ad break appeared, so that companies can evaluate their videos’ watch-through rates, or the percentage of viewers that continue to watch a video after an ad break. Neil monitors the videos’ watch-through rates closely and holds weekly meetings to discuss the latest stats, though she, as well as execs from Tastemade and Whistle Sports, declined to share the figures for this article.

According to a Facebook spokesperson, as of August 2017, when Facebook has inserted a 15-second or shorter ad within videos on its social network and other publishers’ properties through its Audience Network ad network, people watch the ad to completion more than 70 percent of time.

Posted in A-From SEL, Channel: SEO, Search Marketing Column

Dealing with duplicate content

The words “duplicate content” strike fear into the hearts of many webmasters and SEOs. But the truth is, not all duplicate content is created equal.

Since content is a core element of good SEO, many have tried to manipulate the result by using the old “copy and paste” approach. Google punishes this method, so it should strike fear into your heart.

But if you have unintentionally created some duplicate content on your site, don’t freak out. Below, we will look at how Google treats duplicate material, and I’ll share a few tips you can use to ensure that your site’s content is fresh and unique.

[Read the full article on Search Engine Land.]

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Posted in A-From MTT, Channel: Martech: Marketing, Martech Column

The great martech debate: Build vs. buy

I recently worked with a very well-known “unicorn” (a private company valued at more than $1 billion by investors).

The unicorn’s founder proudly told me that they were building their own AdWords campaign management software and that they had even hired an engineer from Google’s AdWords team (because, you know, one engineer probably knows the entire AdWords code set…). I did my best to dissuade the company from this strategy, but my arguments were ignored.

It’s possible that the unicorn will build an amazing piece of software that will outperform any other tool ever invented, but it’s more likely that the company will waste millions of dollars, hours of precious engineering time and lots of advertising dollars before they come to the conclusion that they should never have tried to build their own campaign management software in the first place.

My experience suggests that it almost never makes sense to build your own martech software. In this article, I’ll explain the strong arguments against “build,” why you should be in favor of “buy,” and detail the limited use cases where building is a good strategy.

[Read the full article on MarTech Today.]

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Posted in A-From SEL, Channel: SEM, Google, Google: Maps & Local

Ignoring these 6 SEO strategies could come back to haunt you

Halloween is just around the corner. Soon you’ll be seeing little ghosts, goblins, witches and Donald Trump wannabes wandering your street in search of treats. SEO is a lot like these trick-or-treaters: If you’re brave enough to go into the scary dark night and knock on strangers’ doors, you could be rewarded with goodies! The difference? For SEO professionals, this means higher rankings on search engine result pages (not full-sized candy bars).

This month, in honor of Halloween, I thought it would be ghoulishly fun to talk about some SEO strategies that you should start implementing — or face the nightmarish consequences.

[Read the full article on Search Engine Land.]

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.