Common Pitfalls of E-Commerce SEO: Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is one of the most common SEO pitfalls that many e-commerce sites struggle with.  And with the growth of a business riding partially on organic success, both regular assessment and proactive SEO work are imperative to give the business its best chance to succeed.

Having spent a few years working for a solely-online retailer, I noticed a few trends in locations where duplicate content issues consistently popped up on our site and those of competitors. Knowing what to keep an eye on can save a lot of time and troubleshooting down the road – so here are some of the repeat offenders to look out for and how to fix them.

Problem Area: Across Categories

The most blatant form of duplicate content on an e-commerce site is at the category level. This happens if multiple categories target the exact same type of product (for example, “Men’s Boots” and “Boots for Men”). This can happen for a variety of well-intended reasons such as wanting to present the category within two different parent categories, trying to appeal to different markets, or even in the name of targeting keywords for SEO.

However, regardless of intent, if the pages are targeting the same topic, Google will not have a clear picture of which page takes priority and will likely not serve either of these pages to users above sites that offer clear structure.

Solution

There are a couple of courses of action that can be taken on this issue depending on whether you are working in more of a preventative or reactive capacity.

If you are lucky enough to be involved in a process before duplicate categories are added, education is the best strategy. Many merchandizers or product teams don’t realize that there is any issue with having multiple landing pages for a product type. Helping them understand what to avoid and why can help reduce the number of duplicates preemptively.

The reactive solution to this issue is to clean up the existing pages to more clearly indicate importance. To locate the most obviously problematic categories, start with a crawl and look for identical or highly similar H1s. Then, if possible, follow that up with a manual check through a list of all live categories, as some duplicate intent (such as with synonyms) would not be as straightforward to find via crawl data.

When searching for duplicate categories on a site, remember that Google also uses on-page content to interpret page intent. So product selection within categories also needs to be considered, as the bulk of the content on most category pages comes from the product titles. Some e-commerce CMSs have a view that allows you to see which products are dual categorized and where; this can be very helpful for locating this particular type of duplicate content.

Once you’ve found the categories, the best course of action is to 301 redirect all but one of the overlapping categories to the one that you have determined to be most valuable (via rankings/traffic/sales/user experience). Alternately, if removing pages isn’t possible (like if they are being used for marketing purposes), you could add noindex tags to the duplicate pages or have them canonical back to the primary page.  I would recommend putting a noindex, nofollow tag on a page that is not linked to from the site, such as a stand-alone landing page for an email, and using canonical tags for pages that live within the site’s navigable structure.

For example, if I found these categories and determined that they all contain mostly the same products:

I would then identify what each page is for, where it is linked from,  and determine the action to take based on those factors:

Problem Area: Filters or Filter Combinations

Even if categories are targeting different product types you can still end up with identical targeting on certain pages when filters are applied. Of course, this issue will only be a significant problem if the filtered pages have unique URLs and are indexable.

To give an example, the site below sells many types of throw pillows, some of which are specific to indoor or outdoor use, and some of which are multi-use.  They have separate categories for “Decorative + Throw Pillows” and “Outdoor Pillows,” which are located in respective /outdoor/ and /decor-pillows/ sections of their site.

At this point these categories are fine. While there may be a bit of overlap in intent, users and Google can both understand how they are differentiated.

However, duplicate content becomes an issue once filters are applied to these categories. Because “Outdoor Pillows” is such a broad term, this category includes a type filter for “Throw Pillow”: 

And since some of the “Decorative + Throw Pillows” are multi-use, that category features one for “Outdoor”:


So now we have two self-canonicalized unique URLs targeting the exact same type of item (and even returning the same specific products).

This example is relatively straightforward, but given the limitless possibilities that some sites have for filter combinations, duplicate content from filters can quickly get out of hand if unaddressed.

Solution

Much like the cross-category duplicate content issue, the preventative solution to this one lies largely with education and process. If merchandising teams know:

  1. That duplicate content is a thing
  2. That it’s a problem
  3. What to look at before creating a filter

Then they can keep these issues from existing in the first place. It may also be helpful to keep lists of similar categories or commonly overlapping filters to check before adding new filters – On sites I’ve worked on in the past, we consistently saw issues in overlap between filters in indoor and outdoor furnishings as well as between furnishing categories for general consumer and commercial clients.

If these filtered duplicates already exist, the solution is to remove them and 301 redirect the URLs to the page that takes precedence. Depending on what the filter was, it may be better to redirect them to one or the other of the parent category pages. However, before you remove anything, be sure to take a peek at any existing rankings or organic traffic that a page may be getting so that you consider any existing value before making a final decision on which to axe.

Problem Area: Product Descriptions

Every product page needs text on it to explain features and product details and add an element of branding. To meet this need, many e-commerce sites will use an unedited description directly from the manufacturer.

While there are obvious reasons behind this practice, including the implied accuracy of the initial description and efficiency of onboarding processes, this is a big problem when it comes to differentiating your site in the SERPs.

Because the manufacturer sends the same information to all brands that it sells through, this leads to many sites having identical text on their product pages. Even big brands are guilty of this. For example, the product description for a specific bookcase is identical to:

Home Depot

Overstock

Amazon

If you are using identical content to compete with a more prominent brand in the SERPs, both Google and users are likely going to prioritize the site with more brand authority.

Another instance where duplicate product descriptions become an issue is when a brand expands the number of platforms they sell through. For example, if an independent company initially sells through their own site, but then decides to list their products on Amazon as well. If this company uses the same descriptions on both sites, it can result in the brand losing the top place in the SERP for their own product, as Amazon has such a high domain authority.

Solution

Unique content is the solution to this problem. High effort though it may be, there is no substitute. This can be from internal teams that have writing skills, or it can be outsourced – different solutions work better for different organizations. The important part is ensuring that the content you are creating is both high quality (proper grammar, no misspellings, etc.) and unique to your site.

Problem Area: Title Tags

Duplicate title tags are an extremely widespread problem across the web in general. When SEO teams say “we need title tags on every page,” often developer teams will find the quickest and easiest solution to this problem: rolling out a standard tag across all pages.

However, title tags are supposed to help both users and Google to understand what a page is about at a high level. And clearly, identical tags on every page help no one identify topics.

Solution

The solution that many come to on this issue is algorithmically generating title tags based on the page’s H1.  If this is feasible, it can be a great way to achieve SEO goals efficiently. However, in most organizations this will require developer resources to accomplish, which can be a significant constraint.

However, if your CMS is configured in such a way that it will accept a bulk upload of meta-data values, this can even be accomplished without dev dependencies by using Excel. If you use Screaming Frog to pull a list of URLs and their corresponding H1s, you can create a template design that will integrate the H1 text.

For example, If I wanted to make title tags that read “Shop *Product Type* | Example Site” I could create the following layout in Excel:

Then, I would use the CONCATENATE function to automatically generate text for all the title tags by inserting the H1 after “Shop” and putting “| Example Site” at the end as shown below.

Apply the formula to the column, and you have a list of unique title tags and their associated URLs:

Problem Area: Blog Posts or Resource Section

Most e-commerce sites these days feature some inspirational or informational content in the form of a blog or resource section. While this can be a great asset, it can also be a bit of a minefield for duplicate content.

Poor quality outsourcing, internal content producers who don’t understand the significance of creative integrity, or even just individuals who don’t know how to cite or refer to a source appropriately can end up producing content that is duplicative of another website’s.

Even if you invest in quality unique content for your site, sometimes it can be “borrowed,” overly quoted, or just straight copied by other sites. And if the site that does this has higher domain authority, the content can be beaten by itself in the SERPs.

Solution

Depending on when you are coming into the content creation process, the first step could be an initial audit of existing content to see if any is duplicate. While much of this must be done more or less manually by doing a quick search for exact matches to sections of your content, there are some tools available that can speed the process up a bit (I like Copyscape). If you find content that is duplicate, assess the value of the topic to your site and the extent of duplication, then either remove or refresh the content piece.

If you are lucky enough to be in on the content creation process from the beginning, ensure that the writers know what duplicate content is, and both how and why it can be a detriment to the site.

Conclusion

While many of these recommendations sound relatively simple, I understand they can be much harder to execute in practice. But if you keep tabs on these specific areas, and work to educate teams and integrate SEO considerations into their processes, your site will be one step closer to organic success.

Common Pitfalls of E-Commerce SEO: Duplicate Content was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

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Google Images Update Removes View Image and Image Search

Update-Removes-View-Image-and-Image-Search

Two months into 2018, Google has been rolling out a slew of updates into their services. All of these updates aim to improve the user experience, and help make Google and its services much more reliable and efficient. Google Images is one of the most popular services that Google has to offer, and the latest update may prove to be divisive for most users.

The newest Google update removes the “View Images” feature, which allows users to be able to access an image without the need to access the website that contains it. This feature has provided convenience to its users, as they can use Google Images as a massive image providing platform that offers the widest variety.

Google-Images-Update

What is the new Google Images Update?

With the new update, users can now only view images through the “Visit” button, which takes them to the webpage that contains the image. This means that users would have to access the website first, before retrieving the image from the internet. While the update might seem like a simple option change, it is one of the most frequently used buttons on the site, as it instantly leads users to the image in fewer clicks. Image search has also been removed as well. However, users would still be able to do a reverse image search on the website to look for images sources.

While the update might seem like a sudden change, it has been something that was bound to happen, due to the charges filed by Getty Images against Google. The accusation was that Google was promoting image piracy by giving users an easier way to access multiple images. This led to Google establishing a partnership with Getty, and updating Google images in order for the charges to be dropped.

What Does This Mean?

With the removal of the “View Image” button, users, must now search for the image, access the website where it came from, and download the image from there. While this will leave some users dissatisfied, this is one way to prevent rampant image piracy across the internet. There have been numerous cases in which images from the internet are copied and altered without the permission of the owner, and this would cause more trouble than it’s worth.

As stated by the Google Search Liaison Twitter account, the update aims to “help connect users and useful websites.” This not only helps users find the most suitable images, but also discover relevant websites that can give them more information and context with regards to the image.

We tried it out ourselves to see if we would be able to access the image through a website. I searched for an image of a sandwich, and see if I would be able to access the website it came from, along with being able to find the image.

Google-Images-Update-View

Google-Images-Update-View-Site

I was able to access the image, along with the image source, which gives me a nice Italian sandwich recipe that looks delicious and healthy. While this may be accurate on certain sites, there have been numerous issues when it comes to certain images and websites. There are instances that websites do not contain the image within the website, while some websites are malicious and may harm your computer. This is an issue that needs a lot of ironing out in the upcoming months, as a lot of users use Google Images as their platform when looking for images.

SEO Implications

Seeing that users must access the website first before accessing the image, this can help increase the traffic that goes in different webpages across the internet. This is an update that can be taken advantage of by SEO practitioners, as optimizing the image text and alt text would make the image easier to look for on search engines, which in turn would help users discover your website.

It is best to make sure that your images are just as searchable as your content, and that a watermark is present to be protected in case of plagiarism or photo manipulation. Images are another effective way to improve your rankings and generate more traffic, as new users would be able to discover your website. Images are a very important element in your content, as it helps set the tone and message of your website.

Key Takeaway

While the update may frustrate a good amount of users during the first few months, it is a change that we have to deal with until another update rolls out. For SEO, this is an update that can be utilized to increase your rankings, and an opportunity to optimize your content to make it easier for users to find you. With more Google updates coming up this 2018, expect more changes in the search engine landscape.

Google Images Update Removes View Image and Image Search was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Related Questions are Joined by ‘People Also Search For’ Refinements; Now Using a Question Graph

meyer lemon related questions

I recently bought a lemon tree and wanted to learn how to care for it. I started asking about it at Google, which provided me with other questions and answers related to caring for a lemon tree. As I clicked upon some of those, others were revealed that gave me more information that was helpful.

Last March, I wrote a post about Related Questions at Google, Google’s Related Questions Patent or ‘People Also Ask’ Questions.

As Barry Schwartz noted recently at Search Engine Land, Google is now also showing alternative query refinements as ‘People Also Search For’ listings, in the post, Google launches new look for ‘people also search for’ search refinements. That was enough to have me look to see if the original “Related Questions” patent was updated by Google. It was. A continuation patent was granted in June of last year, with the same name, but updated claims

The older version of the patent can be found at Generating related questions for search queries

It doesn’t say anything about the changing of the wording of “Related Questions” Some “people also search for” results don’t necessarily take the form of questions, either (so “people also ask” may be very appropriate, and continue to be something we see in the future.) But the claims from the new patent contain some new phrases and language that wasn’t in the old patent. The new patent is at:

Generating related questions for search queries
Inventors: Yossi Matias, Dvir Keysar, Gal Chechik, Ziv Bar-Yossef, and Tomer Shmiel
Assignee: Google Inc.
US Patent: 9,679,027
Granted: June 13, 2017
Filed: December 14, 2015

Abstract

Methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer programs encoded on computer storage media, for identifying related questions for a search query is described. One of the methods includes receiving a search query from a user device; obtaining a plurality of search results for the search query provided by a search engine, wherein each of the search results identifies a respective search result resource; determining one or more respective topic sets for each search result resource, wherein the topic sets for the search result resource are selected from previously submitted search queries that have resulted in users selecting search results identifying the search result resource; selecting related questions from a question database using the topic sets; and transmitting data identifying the related questions to the user device as part of a response to the search query.

The first claim brings a new concept into the world of related questions and answers, which I will highlight in it:

1. A method performed by one or more computers, the method comprising: generating a question graph that includes a respective node for each of a plurality of questions; connecting, with links in the question graph, nodes for questions that are equivalent, comprising: identifying selected resources for each of the plurality of questions based on user selections of search results in response to previous submissions of the question as a search query to a search engine; identifying pairs of questions from the plurality of questions, wherein the questions in each identified pair of questions have at least a first threshold number of common identified selected resources; and for each identified pair, connecting the nodes for the questions in the identified pair with a link in the question graph; receiving a new search query from a user device; obtaining an initial ranking of questions that are related to the new search query; generating a modified ranking of questions that are related to the new search query, comprising, for each question in the initial ranking: determining whether the question is equivalent to any higher-ranked questions in the initial ranking by determining whether a node for the question is connected by a link to any of the nodes for any of the higher-ranked questions in the question graph; and when the question is equivalent to any of the higher-ranked questions, removing the question from the modified ranking; selecting one or more questions from the modified ranking; and transmitting data identifying the selected questions to the user device as part of a response to the new search query.

A question graph would be a semantic approach towards asking and answering questions that are related to each other in meaningful ways.

In addition to the “question graph” that is mentioned in that first claim, we are also told that Google is keeping an eye upon how often it appears that people are selecting these related questions and watching how often people are clicking upon and reading those.

The descriptions and the images in the patent are from the original version of the patent, so there aren’t any that reflect upon what a question graph might look like. For a while, Facebook introduced graph search as a feature that you could use to search on Facebook and that used questions that were related to each other. I found a screen that shows some of those off, and such related questions could be considered from a question graph of related questions. It isn’t quite the same thing as what Google is doing with related questions, but the idea of showing questions that may be related to any initial one in a query, and keeping an eye upon those to see if people are spending time looking at them makes sense. I’ve been seeing a lot of related questions in search results and have been using them. Here are the Facebook graph search questions:

Facebook Graph Search Related questions

As you can see, those questions share some facts, and are considered to be related to each other because they do. This makes them similar to the related questions that are found from a question graph that might mean they could be of interest to a searcher who asks the first query. It is interesting that the new patent claims ask about whether or not the related questions being shown are being clicked upon, and that tells Google if there is any interest on the part of searchers to continue to see related questions. I’ve been finding them easy to click upon and interesting.

Are you working questions and answers into your content?


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Related Questions are Joined by ‘People Also Search For’ Refinements; Now Using a Question Graph was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

To Disavow Links Or Not: Is It Necessary in a Post Real-Time Penguin World?

Link Building

The more relevant sites linking to your domain, the better it is for your rankings, correct? But, what happens to your site when non-relevant (or worse, spam) ones decide to start linking to you instead? These irrelevant sites linking to you could end up pulling down your ranking, and you can get penalized by Google for it. To avoid this, Google gave an amazing solution to this problem via the Disavow Tool in October of 2012. With this, one could separate the good from the bad backlinks.

This is also one of the reasons the launch of Penguin 4.0 on September 23, 2016, was a welcome change among site owners everywhere. While it took quite some time for Google to finally release the update, many would agree that the wait was worth it. In a nutshell, Google released the Penguin update to detect spam automatically. More impressively, the Penguin 4.0 update runs in real time when it comes to recognizing your site cleanup efforts, thereby eliminating the effect of your site being suppressed up until the next time they run the algorithm. That is, Penguin 4.0 stops your site from getting demoted when a spam is detected. Instead, it will just devalue that link and allow you to move on without benefiting (or suffering) from its presence.

While this update is definitely impressive, a crucial question now comes up among site owners: Is it still necessary to disavow links now that we are in a post real-time Penguin era?

What is the Disavow Tool?

The Disavow Tool has long been regarded as a necessary precaution for every site owner. Basically, it gives publishers a voice to tell Google that there are external sites they do not wish to be associated with. This is especially crucial whenever the search engine giant is ranking websites since number and quality of backlinks are two of the factors considered.

What happens is that a site owner creates a file that indicates the URLs or domains they do not approve of backlinking to them, and this is then uploaded to Google. When Google starts to crawl the web and stumbles upon the specific URL or domain included in the disavow file you gave them, these will no longer be included in the calculations when ranking your website. Apart from that, the Penguin algorithm will also disregard the links when it evaluates whether or not you’ve been web spamming.

What is Penguin 4.0 and what does it do?

Google launched Penguin as a webspam algorithm. It does not just specialize in links or domains but evaluates your site’s participation in any web spamming activity. It is essentially a filter exhaustive enough to isolate sites that are engaged in spamming the search results using measures that are against Google’s policies. Penguin is more powerful than the regular spamming methods used by the search engine.

Consequently, sites deemed as “spammy” would be punished regardless of their remedies after their violations. It would only be until the next instance that the algorithm is run that Google would note the changes – a process that could have months in intervals.

The release of Penguin 4.0 completely changed this system.

With the latest update, the corrections and changes from “spammy” sites could be noted in real time. This means that sites tagged with faulty or bad backlinks or domains no longer have to suffer for months until the next time the algorithm is run. So during the regular recrawling and reindexing of pages by Google, the sites could easily and quickly be added or removed from the spam list because Penguin 4.0 provides real-time updates.

Whole websites would no longer be demoted when web spamming activities are detected. Instead of doing this, Google would simply disregard or devalue the spammy links and exclude them in the calculations for site rankings. Ultimately, this latest update eliminated the punitive aspect of the algorithm.

The Dilemma and Google’s Response to the Disavow Tool

With the release of the Penguin 4.0 update, many publishers feel that the Disavow Tool has become redundant. In the beginning, this tool was provided by Google to supplement Penguin. However, the devaluation abilities coupled with the non-demotion of sites caught web spamming push site owners to question the purpose of disavowing.

Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller says that site owners should disavow links when these are incredibly problematic. However, you can simply just not disavow links that are no longer relevant to your site. Mueller basically says that if you are conducting site maintenance or applying some changes to your site, then you no longer need to include disavowing links in your list of things to do. With the launch of Penguin 4.0, site owners would only need to use the Disavow Tool for pressing matters like spotting an alarming link or domain associating with your site.

You also no longer need to disavow for links associated with items or services you no longer offer. Mueller notes that it’s normal to accumulate backlinks from various sites that you may no longer deem relevant right now, but was appropriate to your company’s needs at the time. In short, site owners would only need to focus their disavowing efforts to problematic links and keep the status quo when it comes to previously relevant links.

The Takeaway

In the past years, the SEO landscape has changed considerably. With the release of the Penguin 4.0, disavowing links may have just turned into a thing of the past. However, it never hurts to be absolutely certain that nothing is hurting your rankings. So, disavow when needed, but trust that Penguin 4.0 has your back.

To Disavow Links Or Not: Is It Necessary in a Post Real-Time Penguin World? was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Keep the Pace: Preparing for the Google Speed Update

Loading speed has become an integral part of SEO, being a factor in the overall user experience. It has been proven numerous times that fast loading speeds help users stay longer in a website, ensuring that you have steady traffic and a lower bounce rate. There are a variety of ways to lower loading times, which include using WordPress tools, along with some effective site optimization techniques that keep things fast and smooth.

Having a fast loading website helps improve your search rankings in Google, as they take in page speed as one key element. Mobile usage has also been on a steady upward trend, and emphasis on mobile-first usage is key to gaining more traffic. With that in mind, one of the major upcoming updates arriving this year is the Google Speed Update. Slated to be released in July 2018, here’s what you need to know about the update, and how to keep your website prepared for it.

What is the Google Speed Update?

As announced by Google themselves, the Google Speed Update aims to improve page loading speeds, and use it as another ranking factor in mobile searches. Page loading speed has been a desktop ranking factor since 2010, and it is about time that it has been implemented on mobile search results.

Once a niche option that is available on mobile devices, mobile websites and search results now occupy a high amount of traffic on the internet, with today’s devices becoming more sophisticated and capable of performing the same amount of functions as a personal computer. This, along with the improving internet connectivity across the world, make mobile devices the most convenient platform to access the internet.

With Google seeing the increased mobile usage in the past few years, they want to ensure that users would be able to have a good experience accessing mobile website. This led to the Speed Update, with the intent of improving mobile page loading speeds on some of the slower loading pages. While it has become highly accessible, some mobile websites still have performance issues which cause speed and usability issues.

With the Google Speed update, users would expect better performing pages, and for more SEO companies to focus on their mobile optimization efforts more keenly.

Preparing for Google Speed

With the update coming in July, there are 4 months left until it arrives. This gives you a good amount of time to be able to optimize your mobile webpages, and make sure that it performs well enough by the time loading speed becomes a ranking factor. Here are some of the most effective methods to help you optimize your mobile site for the upcoming update.

Apply AMP

Websites that use AMP have been increasing in number, largely due to the fact that it improves overall page performance, while making it more accessible to mobile users. While it might sound like a complicated process to implement it on your website, it is actually quick and simple when using the right tools.

If you are using WordPress, you can download the AMP plugin, which helps you quickly integrate it within your webpages. After doing so, you can access the website on both desktop and mobile to see the changes in viewability and loading speed. The use of AMP has been highly encouraged by everyone in the SEO industry, including our team here at SEO Hacker. If you want an effective way to optimize your site for mobile, this is the best start.

Content Accessibility Optimization

When users access your mobile website, they will expect that they would be able to access all of the content that would be present in the desktop version. There are many websites that prevent or hinder users from seeing more content on mobile, and this negatively affects their brand image. For our website, we make sure that our users would be able to access the same amount of content on both the desktop and mobile versions.

Having the same amount of content on both desktop and mobile would ensure that your users would be able to have a better experience. For our site, we made sure that our users access the same content for both versions. Restricting content on mobile puts a dent on the user experience, and optimizing your content accessibility would make the experience a good one for people who view your webpages.

Test your loading speed

There are many tools available that would be able to track your page loading speed, especially on mobile. The simplest way to do it is by using the Test My Site feature on Think with Google. All you have to do is enter your website’s URL, and wait for around a minute to see the results. The website offers a free assessment of your site, which helps you analyse what you can do to improve your site performance.

Key Takeaway

With Google taking a mobile-first approach, the Google Speed update is meant to enforce that approach. Adding another ranking factor changes things up for mobile SEO, while optimizing the user experience. With these preparation tips, you are guaranteed that you would be able to ready your website for July’s update.

If you have any questions about SEO or mobile optimization, leave a comment below and let’s talk.

Keep the Pace: Preparing for the Google Speed Update was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Marketing Insights from Bob Lachky: Behind the Curtains of the Iconic Anheuser-Busch Campaigns

Marketers Talking Marketing Over Coffee

In today’s episode of Marketers Talking Marketing Over Coffee, we have Robert Lachky, former Chief Creative at Anheuser-Busch. Robert is one of the most well respected creatives in the marketing world and was the man behind  some of the most iconic marketing campaigns over the past 30 years.

Video Transcription

Adam Heitzman: Today, I’m excited to have the man behind some of the most recognizable and iconic marketing campaigns over the past 30 years. From Budweiser Frogs, to ‘Whassup?’, ‘I love you, man.’, and the Real Men of Genius, former chief creative officer at Anheuser Busch, Mr.Bob Lachky. Bob, thanks for being here.

Robert Lachky: Adam, my pleasure. Looking forward to talking to you.

Adam Heitzman: Thank you. Would you mind starting off and telling me a little about your background, how you got started in the marketing and advertising world?

Robert Lachky: Sure. In college, I went to University of Illinois. And I also went to grad school there. I was pretty focused at that time, on a career in advertising. They had a good advertising program. It was kind of unique in the country at the time. I think Michigan State, and there were a couple others schools at that time that had programs like that. That’s what I pursued. When I got out, I started right away at an old line big agency on Michigan Avenue in Chicago called Foote Cone and Belding. They no longer exist. They’ve evolved through all the mergers that happened in the 90’s. But I started there. And I moved over to the original Needham, Harper, and Steers, which slowly but surely became DDP Needham, and etc, all these iterations and new agencies.

I learned the business from the agency side. One of my clients, when I was in my young career as an account executive, I was not a creative person. I knew I had some skill in that area. But I wasn’t as good as a real good writer or an art director would be in the old traditional agency structure. I always wanted to be an account management person. My career took a big change when I actively campaigned for a job at Needham, Harper, and Steers, because they had the McDonald’s account. That’s a business that I really respected. I always followed campaigns. Ever since I was a kid I just was into that. I guess I was a TV person. I watched TV all the time. When I got in McDonald’s, it was a great experience. To me, that was like big time, big time advertiser, great client, being based in Chicago. I was born and raised in Chicago. It was great to work at a company that was based there as well.

But that was pretty short lived. It lasted a year. And we lost the business to Leo Burnett. And it was a whole other story you could write a book about. That’s when I got on to Needham, Harper, and Steers the previous year. But I really didn’t have a place to go. I thought I was going to get let go. Needham, Harper, and Steers, under the tutelage of Keith Reinhard, who is a legend in the advertising business, a creative guy. He actually saved everybody’s jobs that worked on the McDonald’s business and put us to work on pitching a piece of business from Anheuser Busch. Needham, Harper, and Steers at that time did have a small piece of business called Busch Beer. But they were pitching for the new light beer called Budweiser Light. And I worked on that pitch team. And I was young. I was certainly not instrumental in winning the business, which we did. But when we won the business, my job was saved. And I started working on Anheuser Busch, Bud Light.

Adam Heitzman: From an account management?

Robert Lachky: I did that for years. Long story short, coming to an end, finally, we ended up winning the business, changing some campaigns to finally get it into the mainstream. And about that time, Anheuser Busch had a fairly major transition in the late 80’s in their own ranks. They had a bit of a scandal that occurred where some executives were taking kickbacks from [inaudible 00:03:55] And Mr.Busch kind of cleaned house and was very reticent to get marketing people from the inside. He wanted people from the outside. I was about as far outside as you could be and still be in. So the hired me to be the Bud Light brand manager. And the rest is history. I started there in 19, late 88. Fortunately for me, I worked underneath August Busch the 4th from the very beginning. He was my Boss. We worked alongside actually, for the first year or two as he was coming into the company. That was really the greatest lucky I could have had, is to work alongside him first, get to know him. And then as he progressed ahead of me, he brought me along with him.

That’s how I got there. And that’s how I ended up at AB.

Adam Heitzman: Sure. Do you feel like the fact that you were on the agency side first actually benefited you somewhat, starting to work for the brand?

Robert Lachky: Absolutely. That was, to me, the lucky break of all time. My feelings about advertising were just about the creative development process. Although I was an account manager, on the account management side, even today, I would venture in agencies, you’re not really a business manager. You’re really a client liaison. When they recruited me, when they wanted me to come to their company, Anheuser Busch, I was very nervous, very reticent to do it. I really didn’t have the PNL, traditional MBA training that all my counterparts would have. I didn’t know a confidence in myself. They didn’t really care about that. They wanted my advertising skill. That’s what Mr.Busch said when he interviewed me. He said, “I want you to come here. We need help.”

They were having a problem with the Budweiser Light roll out. The brand was not getting traction. Miller Lite was kicking their fanny. I was charged with bringing Bud Light back from an advertising perspective. I was very lucky that was the skill set they wanted as nervous as I was, “Can I handle the business side, and the pricing, and all the things that go along with truly managing a brand?”

Adam Heitzman: Correct me if I’m wrong. You just somewhat mentioned it. Anheuser Busch was not the leader it is today back when you originally started. A lot of that growth happened with a lot of the marketing that was done over the last 20 to 30 years.

Robert Lachky: Actually, yes and no. Yes, in the light category, we were in our infancy, because Miller Lite had a 10 year had start on us. And Coors Light was already on the market as well. As an overall company, yes, AB was still the master, the giant of the industry. But I’ll tell you, they were stagnant in circa 1988, 89. Budweiser was starting to get eaten into by the light beers of which AB did not have. They had Natural Light, which was kind of a college beer at the time. It still is. Natty Light, right?

Adam Heitzman: That’s right. Everybody loved Natty Light.

Robert Lachky: They ended up not having enough volume, and certainly not heading where the business was heading. Budweiser was starting to get knocked around. This is in the late 80’s. Yes, they were still the largest American brewer. There was not really any craft business at all in the country at that time. There were imports, the Heineken of the world, Stella, and all those guys were coming in. But AB’s real problem was not having an established light beer. That was where the problem was at that period in time.

Adam Heitzman: Sure. Shifting focus slightly, you kind of mentioned his name earlier. I don’t know if this would be that person. Who would you consider to be your single biggest influencer as a marketer?

Robert Lachky: It’s really August Busch the 3rd. August Busch the 3rd was the chairman at that time in the succession. It was like a monarchy. For a public company to have that much family influence is kind of remarkable. Many books have been written about it. August Busch the 3rd was really the guy that was instrumental in me coming to Anheuser Busch. He really didn’t know me. I was just an agency guy. I was so far down the chain of his awareness when I was working on his business, servicing his company. When he knew who I was and my skill set, we became good friends, as far as you can be a friend with him. Let’s put it that way. He’s a great guy. But I still see him today.

His son was the next most important influence. Although he’s a little younger, he and I are very good friends. We still are. We learned a lot together. The experience I had over him, in terms of being in business, I helped mentor him a little bit. He taught me a lot. The Busch, as much as there’s been written, or said, or whatever, the good, the bad, have been absolutely influential in my career. Taught me a ton. If it wasn’t for Mr.Busch hiring me, I would have never experienced the things I’ve experienced. I dare not say we would have never done this or that. I don’t know that. I do say the man knew what he wanted. He wanted good marketing. Yeah, I had a lot of battles with him. Yes, he was tough to deal with. But with August the 4th’s help of running air cover for me for 15 years, we were able to get remarkable work produced, and make a great impact for the company.

Adam Heitzman: That brings me to a good question. You just touched on it, about having some of those battles. One of the things that happens, especially in marketing, one of the difficulties is getting by in from superiors on a thought or particular campaign, whatever that marketing campaign is.

Robert Lachky: That’s a great question. It was really a day and night story. The night I’ll give you first, is when I first came in, the advertising process was largely still being approved all the way up to the top level of the company. In other words, you’d be bringing a 12 or 24 frame storyboard from the agency, or the agency would help present it for you. A lot of times you’d be carrying the boards up yourself to the board room. You’d be showing it to a bunch of 60 year old guys. Careful making fun of 60 year old guys. It was like a comedy to be presenting ideas that were intended for a 25 year old target audience to guys that are all sitting in country clubs, and aren’t even drinking beer anymore. You think, “Oh my God. How are we going to get anything approved?”

That was the night. When August the 4th came in, it helped immensely, because his father is going to give his son some leeway. As he was getting coached by me on what we need to do, and himself. He had great instincts. We were able to break the pattern of not having to go upstairs to show ideas. The great first ideas we did together, August the 4th and myself were for Bud Light, right when we were struggling. We’re trying to find our identity again. We had had “Gimme a Light. No, Bud Light.”

As a campaign, you may or may not remember, but it was the positioning of Bud Light that finally got a toe hold against Miller Lite. But that ran out of gas. We were struggling. We knew we had to get back to comedy. When we started doing some work together, August the 4th and I, because he was my boss’s head of Bud family, and I was still the Bud Light brand manager, we started doing stuff without anybody’s approval. Some of it was pretty risky. His dad would forgive us, but he’d beat us over the head for not having approved stuff. We even had problems with the agency, because we had a renegade creative team at DDB Needham by that time. I think they were DDP, who was giving us ideas off the beaten path. And we were going and producing them on our heels of an approved shoot. So August and I would be out in LA and say, “Hey, we got this new director. We got this idea.”

And he goes, “Go. Go get it! Go get it!”

I’m going, “Man, we’re going to get shot if get it, get it.”

So we’re in LA for two more days. We’re shooting commercials without anybody’s authority. Even the agency doesn’t know about it, except my little creative team. That kind of approach is exactly what we needed. We needed to go and do ideas, and get out there. Some of the greatest early work we did was done that way. Granted, we eventually got ourselves into a little bit more of, I wouldn’t say professional, but we kept their management in line, and said, “Look. Here’s what we’re out trying to get.”

We followed this formula of going to get it if our gut was right on a lot of things like the ‘Yes I am.’ Campaign, the ‘Wassup?’ We kind of kept going with that approach, because look, we don’t need anymore interference. The last thing you need in a big company is a committee. You even saw it in the big agencies. They’d have a committee before ideas would spit out of the agency. You can’t believe how much stuff would get killed or modified. Lines that were just right would get changed because some old guy is sticking his nose in the business. Come on, man. You’ve got to cut through it and have stuff that’s edgy, and entertaining, and cutting through. Great question. There was a day and a night, night first. And then daylight hit when we realized we’ve gotta do this on our own. We don’t need anymore interference internally.

Adam Heitzman: And you’ve gotta make sure that you’re communicating. Like you said, if that audience that you’re bringing those ideas to is not your core demographic audience, obviously, there’s a disconnect there.

Robert Lachky: You can see, Adam on … I was watching the Super Bowl this last week. Honest to goodness, I would love to just predict most of the stuff I saw, most of the work I saw, was somebody with a particular point of view, jamming it down somebody else’s throat. Whether it was the choice of a certain celebrity, “You know, I always wanna work with Steven Tyler from Aerosmith.”

It’s like, “What? For Kia? What are you doing?”

“Danny Devito. He’s great. I loved him on Taxi.”

What? Who’s Danny Devito? I know who he is. I know who Steven Tyler is. But when you try to marry stuff like that up … Or, “I really think we need a politically correct message for this and that.”

Yeah, but you’re T-Mobile. What are you doing? This has nothing to do with advancing your … You see the landscape littered with these bizarre, unbelievably twisted messages with no strategy on the biggest stage you could possibly have as an advertiser. And all you’re doing is wasting money, and leaving people scratching their head, or angering people. I see that as an offshoot of not clarity as to what you’re trying to do. Are you really on a strategy? Sometimes people get in this play room called doing the creative. Man, they gotta touch it. That’s the danger.

Adam Heitzman: In terms of strategy, what did your ideation process look like? How did you know when you had a winning idea?

Robert Lachky: That’s a great question. We were in such desperate straights in the late 80’s. When I got in there, I was actually hired to get rid of Spuds Mackenzie too. Spuds Mackenzie was an idea that Bud Light had that was … It’s a long story on the evolution of where it came from. But it was a really genius idea, and it ran out of gas pretty quickly, about a year once the government stepped in and said, “Hey, you’re trying to appeal to children.”

That was never the idea. But the fact that the brewery started producing stuffed dolls of Spuds Mackenzie, not a good idea. That does look like you’re advertising to children. Not even on anybody’s radar screen. When I got in there, I knew that Spuds Mackenzie was dead as well. I had been at the agency prior to that producing Spuds Mackenzie commercials. It was a high ride for us. It was like, “Wow, People Magazine is following us on shoots with Spuds. And it’s such a novelty.”

But we got chopped off at the knees pretty quick. You start to realize that you’ve got to have a plan. And our problem on Bud Light was very simple. We’ve got to get back to a personality that’s different than Budweiser. We can no longer be seen as just a flanker with a one off idea like the dog. What is our idea? And the idea was really nurtured out of Spuds and from the original ‘Gimme a Light’ campaign. It’s like, “Look, we have to have preference strategy. We have to have a strategy about people want a Bud Light for no reason other than that’s the best one there is.”

This was the backdrop of Miller Lite being the dominant presence in the market. We had to tell people that they had a choice. You could go into bars across America at that time, and you’d ask for Light. They owned the bar call, and it was on their label. Any bartender in his right mind, “You mean Miller Lite.”

We had to get people asking for Bud Light, and to make it distinctive from Miller Lite. They had a brilliant campaign at the time, which featured retired athletes and pseudo celebrities. It was brilliant. They walked away from it. I don’t know why they did it. They probably just got tired of it. That’s when our opportunity to get back and return to humor opened up. It not only was a strategy of people going to great lengths, a preference strategy, but it was an executional strategy as well that had to be adhered to. It was, “Whatever you do, you’re going for Bud Light, and it’s gotta be surprising, and fun, and hilarious. You gotta create a Bud Light world that nobody else can create. It’s gotta be so preposterous, yet semi believable. You’re always winking at the customer with this.”

That was the well thought out strategy. It was only validated by doing some work, testing it, seeing what took. We realized there were certain mistakes we were making at times, where it was really too stupid, or it was too sophomoric. You’d always run that line. Some people like ‘The Three Stooges.’ Some think they’re repulsive. Comedy is very hard. It can’t be foul. You want it to be funny mainstream. That’s the battle that was the Odyssey. 15 years, that’s what I protected with my heart. Every new brand manager I had always wanted to come in and play around with it. It’s like, “No. You’re a shepard. You just keep shepherding the sheep along. Nobody needs to change the main deal here.”

That’s the battle you have. Now Bud on the other hand, the thing we had to do is, we had a lot of ‘your dad’s beer’ type of things going on. That’s why we had to take the Clydesdales off the hitch, and start giving them more human personalities. Although the Clydesdales was not your own campaign, the only thing you did for Budweiser. It was a corporate campaign as well. But that was a critical eye opener for us, that we could play with the hitch. We could take the horses off. They could develop personalities. Today, I’m proud to say, that’s at least something that’s continued on. The shocking thing to me is how the current owners of the company don’t even put the Clydesdales in the Super Bowl anymore. Blows me away. To me, the Clydesdales was always the umbrella for the entire company. It helped sell Budweiser. It helped sell Bud Light. It helped the wholesalers, the local distributes. It was America. Blows me away that these guys lost that thing. That’s their deal, not mine.

That’s kind of it. It’s not twelve pieces of paper. I saw creative briefs from people. We’d get a brand manager from some other company package goods train. They’d be in there pontificating with a binder. They’d give the creative team a binder. It’s like, “Get rid of that thing. Throw that away.”

If this thing isn’t stated in a page, you’re not going to get any ideas. You’re never going to get the ‘Was sup?’ You’re never going to get ‘Real Men of Genius,’ if you think that way. The key here is, you get an idea. It’s not change it every year. That’s what drives me nuts is, I see great campaigns that are brilliant. And they suddenly change. I know exactly why it changed. Some new knucklehead got in there. He’s changed it, or she’s changed it. Change for change’s sake in marketing is death. You can evolve it. Most of the time, you can evolve it.

Adam Heitzman: One of my favorite campaigns of all time is the ‘Real Men of Genius.’ But I know, probably from a general audience stand point, correct me if I’m wrong, what won the Gold Lion award was the ‘Wassup?’ How did that idea come about?

Robert Lachky: That’s a great question. ‘Real Men of Genius,’ we were starting to hit our stride again. This is circa late 1999 or so. We were doing well with the television advertising on Bud Light. But radio was always a battle for us. How can you create more of a theater of the mind? The guys actually came up with a precursor to this that ran for maybe half a year, with Charlton Heston. We had done an ‘I love you, man’ commercial with Charlton Heston of all things. Why, I don’t know to this day. He was funny. And they put him in radio as the voice over. It was a very funny idea. A guy, kind of a drone like voice, “Well, I was standing in the line at the theater.”

And then you’d hear Charlton Heston’s voice, “He was standing in the line at the theater!”

And the guy goes, “Uh, yeah. And then I was … “

So you’re getting this dialogue between this slacker and Charlton Heston pontificating. And somehow, Bud Light gets into the story. And it was very funny. It was kind of, we saw it as cenergy to the fact that we were running Charlton Heston on TV in a couple of these, ‘I love you, man.’ Commercials. We realized that he starting to have issues. I don’t think he got the campaign. He was a nice man. We had him to our convention. He’s obviously a legend. With all due respect, he’s just the best. He was wonderful for us, and funny. It was good. We just started thinking, “Is there something else we can do?”

That forced us. The guys came up with an idea that was originally termed, ‘Real American Heroes.’ That was the name of the campaign. And it was done exactly in this format. The sung voice from the guy from Foreigner. That’s the band. I can’t remember his name. He was the lead singer. He’s a great guy. And the voice that you hear very often, is the main delivery voice. It was very good counterpoint, just parodying people in life. It worked. The problem was, when the campaign had just launched, that’s when 9/11 hit. We knew, “Oh my goodness. These are not real American heroes. We’ve got to change this.”

We thought we were gonna have to change the whole thing. We thought, “Oh my goodness. This is so disrespectful to use a line at this terrible time in our country.”

The guys made a real simple fix. It seems like, “Wow. It must have been there all the time.”

We just called it ‘Real Men of Genius.’ Grammatically, it didn’t sound right. It was kind of like, “What? What?”

We just went with it because we loved the format of the singing and the very deep voiced announcer that we thought, “Well, let’s just go with it.”

The rest is history. I think we did over 450 of these things. It ran for how many years until, again, new owners in all their genius just decided to the campaign was no good anymore, that it wasn’t selling beer. It’s like, “Alright, idiots.”

It was something that was so good. We ran it forever. We also adapted it for television, which was kind of an ill fated venture, because when you start showing people, the bald guy or whatever, the nudist colony man, it’s like, “What? We can’t do that, because you know everything is going to go to slow motion. Fat people jiggling. No. We don’t need to do that.”

But I was told, “You have to do it.”

By my senior guy, the chairman of the board, because he heard from somebody that’d be good on TV. You do it on TV and it doesn’t make it as funny, because the theater of the mind goes away. We ran a couple of those for a month and realized, this isn’t funny. It’s hurting the radio campaign, because you’re revealing too much. You’re pulling too much of the curtain back. Long winded, but that’s the story of ‘Real Men of Genius.’

Adam Heitzman: You talked a little about this as well. It seemed like you all had hit after hit with campaign. How did you know when it was time to cut that campaign off, and sunset it, and move on to the next version?

Robert Lachky: That’s a kind complement. It was always with anxiety. I knew this stuff would burn out pretty fast. It always made you worry that, where do we go next? On Bud Light, I wasn’t as worried, because I knew the strategy was right. I knew we were going to be okay as long as we got funny spots. The way we managed that was, we made sure that we were hitting topical things as we went through time. Any creative team could come in and pick up and put their signature on it.

We created our own celebrities. For example, the guys wanted to come up with an idea with Kings of Comedy. Kings of Comedy was not a real well known cable thing that was going on at the beginning. But Cedric the Entertainer was starting to emerge as a key piece of Kings of Comedy. We ended up getting Cedric to do a spot that launched a four or five spot pool with Cedric that ran for two years. That was a great discovery. Not a celebrity for celebrity sake. But a celebrity that could be helped by this. Catapult his fame, because he started doing movies after the Bud Light gig. The fact that he brought so much, but it was always about Bud Light. And another guy we found that could deliver our Bud Light message was Carlos Mencia from ‘Mind of Mencia.’ It was a Cable thing that was starting to become popular. Those are some examples there.

But also doing things like, we had a spot called ‘Robo Bash.’ When these electronic robot battle reality TV things were starting to occur, we did our version of it. We did one spot. We moved on. We were always trying to tap into popular culture with Bud Light. What’s hot now? Let’s try that. What’s fashionable? What programs are people out there talking about? On the Bud Light side, for me it was easier to do. It was much easier to figure out how to stay on the tracks. Bud was a little different. It was difficult because we were starting to his some home runs with some of the things we discovered through other means. ‘Was sup’ is a great example. ‘Wuss up’ is great because the guys found it on an independent film festival. They saw this thing called ‘Wuss up.’ Exactly the way it’s produced was exactly the way it was filmed without Bud by the original director, Charles Stone the 3rd. They showed me the tape. I’ll never forget this. They said, “Well, you gotta see this.”

It was funny. It was cool. I said, “Okay, what do you want to do with it?”

“We want to insert Bud into it.”

I go, “How are you gonna do that?”

They said, “Well just ‘Hey B, what are you doing?’ ‘Nothing. Just watching. Was sup?!’”

That was the way it was. And said, “Just having a Bud and watching TV.”

And they always had a Bud. I said, “Well yeah. That’s cool. So you’re going to call this guy that did it?”

“Oh no. We’re going to rip it off.”

I go, “No you’re not gonna rip it off. You can’t rip it off. You can’t do that. This is this guy’s property. And it’s not going to be as funny if this guy didn’t do it. Plus, those people are perfect. Why don’t we just get those guys to work with us?”

The agency was not really wanting to do that. They swallowed their pride, went and contacted Charles. Charles agreed to do it. As we were going through the process creatively, it was funny how the guys kept trying to put in new people. We said, “No! What are you doing?”

One good time, I can honestly say myself, and August, and the brand team blocked these guys from making mistakes just so they could have creative, … It’s not their idea. It’s his idea. The company will benefit more and more from the good positive PR, if nothing else that we let this guy do his idea for Budweiser. I don’t care what the creative awards program say about you ripping something off. This is a great idea. As a result, we were vindicated by that. The guys even wanted to change. My guys wanted to change the line from, true to right on. I go, “Right on? That’s like a 1970’s Billy Dee Williams move. Are you out of your mind? It’s true.”

“Well, we didn’t think you knew what it meant.”

“Give me a break. I know what it means. I get it. I get it. It means right on. But we’re not saying right on, okay?”

And then poor Charles, he’s sitting in the middle wondering, “Why am I getting into this with these guys?”

He was very grateful to us at the brewery for protecting the idea. They kept trying to change it. My guys are brilliant and did so much great work at DDP. This was one time I was shocked at how they didn’t get it. It was more about, “We want to get credit for this.”

No. You take credit with this man. You brought it to life for him. That was a tough one. A different one is ‘Frogs’ where you see a one off idea, and you just go get it. You know the thing’s not going to run for more than a year or two. The brilliance of what we did there, I think, was we said, “Okay, we know we can’t keep having frogs say, ‘Bud-wise-er.’ You’ve got them talking to each other. They’re riding an alligator. How many more things can we have ‘Bud-wise-er’ do? Not much.”

We’re fortunate by the way we structured our agencies at that time. We had more than one agency. The primary agency didn’t like it, but it saved us. Goodby Silverstein was the secondary agency. They came up with an idea. We asked, “Is there a way you guys can evolve ‘Frogs?’”

And Goodby’s idea was, “Yeah. Let’s have other jealous swamp creatures try to get in the Bud commercial.”

I go, “What? What do you mean, jealous swamp creatures?”

He goes, “Well, you know, like weasels, or lizards, or whatever.”

And honest to goodness, that’s how we came up with ‘Louie the Lizard.’ And the whole idea of their intro to it, that almost got me fired, was to assassinate the frogs on the Super Bowl. The electrocute them in their frog bar. When you still think back to the story boards, you go, “Are you, are you kidding me? We can’t do assassinations.”

“Oh, it’s just a commercial, man.”

And it’s like, “Okay.”

You’re buying into this, and you realize, “I’m going to get killed here.”

We went through it. We did it. They unsuccessfully didn’t electrocute the frogs on national television on the Super Bowl. But it did launch ‘Louie the Lizard,’ which was brilliant. And it got us at least three more years of ‘Louie the Lizard.’ TV spots for sure. But the other brilliant thing about ‘Louie the Lizard’, it worked on radio, because the voices of Louie and Frank, which at the time, ‘Sopranos’ was so big. Again, borrowing from the influence of what’s going on. We got two guys out of Queens who were stage actors that talked like thugs, hilarious. And on radio, they were even better than TV, because they were like, “Aye, Frankie.”

It was just like, “Oh my God. This is exactly what we tried to do on Bud Light. And now we’re doing it on Bud.”

If you can evolve and idea and be open minded enough to say, “Maybe this thing can leapfrog.”

I think you start saying, “Look, I’ve got about a year, year and a half. As soon as I get tired of it, it may be too late, because you’ve got to get out before the customer gets tired of it.”

So maybe we jumped early on some things. But I always felt we made good calls on evolving it. Even when ‘Was sup’ ran out of gas, and it was only a year, it was more driven by the fact that Charles Stone didn’t really want to do this anymore. That was okay. He’s a good guy. We started producing ‘Was sup’ spots ourselves. We decided, “Well, is there another way to say, ‘Was sup’?”

And then we started doing parodies of ‘Wassup’. How do gangsters say ‘Was sup’? They go “How you doin’?”

“How you doin’? How you doin’? How you doin’?”

We started doing evolutions of ‘Wassup’. And the consumer followed us. We got through that. We probably extended the idea another couple years because of that. That’s how you do it, I think. If something is so wickedly popular, and you can slowly get the customer to the next place by an evolution that they understand, then why wouldn’t you do it? A company is doing great right now, a couple companies, is the insurance sector. When you look at Progressive, whether you like Flow or hate her. Farmer’s insurance. These guys are evolving. Geico, my God. It’s the greatest. Geico is doing what we done. I always admired Geico when I was working at the brewery. They’ve been doing it forever. They do have the 15 minutes. “You give me 15 minutes, we’ll give you 15%.”

I get it. I get it. I get it. But I’m always entertained, and I get a good feeling out of their marketing. I think that’s the plan. Evolve. Don’t blow it up. If you have to blow it up, it’s going to be hard to get back on those tracks.

Adam Heitzman: Since you date back to even the mid 80’s ish. Obviously, a lot of digital components and digital campaigns, that’s where everything’s at nowadays for the most part.

Robert Lachky: I agree.

Adam Heitzman: There’s a lot in TV and radio for sure. Is a good campaign a good campaign no matter what platform it’s on?

Robert Lachky: Yeah. I think. I experienced that with ‘Wassup.’ When ‘Was sup’ came out, we originally debuted it on Christmas day. NBA always has a Christmas day basketball game. We had a 60. And the 60 seconds of “Wassup? Wassup? Wassup?” Was like whoa. You have to be a real fan to like that much ‘Was sup.’ And I loved it. August the 4th loved it. His dad was like, “Oh, I don’t know, man. You guys are running out of, … Four African American guys like, all over your, …”

And it was awesome. They’re the coolest looking guys, guys you want to be buddies with. That’s the way we looked at it. But when you’re talking to old wholesalers at Anheuser Busch, all over the country, black and white going, “What are you guys? Are you guys nuts?”

They found it repulsive and we were in trouble. When we launched that, within a week, we were getting crushed. We had just put a call center phone number on our can, packages. And our call center was getting inundated by people who hated the idea. We very quickly, and thank goodness for Mr.Busch as our leader, the 3rd, he allowed us to do some quick fixing. I took the 60 of the air right away. We moved it to 30’s. We had 30’s cut. We had a couple other renditions of it cut where we focused on a single character. And it nullified a little bit of the outrage of that 60 seconds in your face. Within two weeks, because we ran ‘Was sup’ on the Super Bowl three weeks, four weeks later. Within a couple weeks already, you were getting Katie Couric on ‘Today Show’ and Howard Stern, two totally opposite people saying, “Hey, did you see that thing for Budweiser? The guy’s going ‘Wassup’. Isn’t that cool?”

And you’re like, “Oh my God. This is what we need.”

And you started getting people now, and this was the beginning of video content sharing to your original question. We were getting parodies within two and a half weeks of ‘Wassup.’ And we tracked one Iceland. We got one out of Israel. We had this worldwide thing where we had rabbis doing it. We had ladies planting tulips in a garden doing. And they were mocking it, and aping the idea, and sending it. We were getting these videos. We were like, “Oh my God. This thing is taking on.”

And all the negative criticism from our own system, we got thrown out of a few accounts across the country. But the wholesalers backed us, because they started to realize this was a very cool young idea. And it’s about, it doesn’t matter what race you are. This is about friends. We stuck to our guns. Video content, and the sharing of it on the internet, even this was year 2000 I believe. That’s when it was really hitting a zenith. People were ripping the thing. And it was awesome. And that saved us for sure. This is in the space of a month.

Adam Heitzman: Right. That’s crazy. What are you up to now days?

Robert Lachky: I’ve been consulting a little bit in talking to smaller, more privately held companies. It makes it a little easier. I do a lot of speaking engagements and things. People like to hear about what we used to do. You start to feel a little old doing that. I think there’s some really tried and true strategies that we followed, and other great companies have followed. You see many doing it now, like in the insurance category, following, being true to their brands. Not getting mesmerized by hiring a celebrity or doing whatever you think is cool, or following too much of a current production technique. For us, at our era, I’d say early 90’s, it was, we called it the cinema verite. The camera is moving around, trying to find the right- It’s like, “Give me a break. Let’s focus on a certain style that benefits us. And let’s not chase technique. Let’s chase our strategy.”

That’s kind of what I advise when I go. I got to be honest. A lot of people call and say, “Wow. You can help us because of Budweiser.”

It’s like, “Look, you don’t need Bud. You need a good digital strategy. You need a good online thing.”

I have a group of guys that I work with. We do more rebuilding websites, making sure they have suitable video content. Basically front end. That they have a strategy. I guess they think since I just did funny commercials, I never thought about it. It’s always about doing a spot analysis to me, at the front. You absolutely have to know, what are you trying to do? What are your strengths, weakness, and opportunities? What are your threats? You’ve got to understand that. I can’t believe how many small or mid sized companies that I’ve worked with who really are kind of making money and don’t know how, or why, or how they can sustain it. That to me, is the shocking thing. Believe me, nothing that’s too taxing. I had enough of that in one lifetime. That’s about where I’m at these days.

Adam Heitzman: Well, that’s great to hear. Bob, I really enjoyed speaking with you today. It’s been very enlightening. Your stories are awesome. Thank you again, for your time. Like I said, thanks. It’s just been an absolute pleasure.

Robert Lachky: Thanks, Adam. I appreciate it. I really enjoyed it. And good luck to you.

Adam Heitzman: Thank you.

Robert Lachky: Take care.

Adam Heitzman: Bye.

Marketing Insights from Bob Lachky: Behind the Curtains of the Iconic Anheuser-Busch Campaigns was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Lead Gen: How conversion optimization for call centers is similar to (and different from) online conversion

While much of what we publish on MarketingExperiments focuses on digital marketing, our Lead Generation group works with many of our Research Partners on the development of nurture campaigns focused mainly on verbal phone conversations.

As a result of all the great work our Leads Group does on a daily basis, we also engage in phone- and conversation-based testing.

This website has expounded before on the many different ways our Conversion Sequence Heuristic can be applied to any aspect of a funnel, but I’d like to take some time to explain how it can be applied to verbal conversations with the customer. In many sales situations, conversations with the customer take place over the phone, but most of the concepts I want to discuss can be applied to any verbal sales pitch.

To remind everyone, the Conversion Heuristic is:

Motivation

How it’s the same as digital marketing

Motivation online is always the part of the heuristic we have no real control over. Most people enter the funnel with a set level of motivation. There are some customers that will convert no matter how difficult or confusing the process is, and there are some who will never convert no matter how simple we make the funnel. While all of the above is true for telephone conversations, there are ways motivation can be subverted on the phone that do not exist on the world wide web.

How it’s different

Most notably, list source. Online we are driving visitors to our sites with PPC ads, banners and organic search results. In these situations, the customer has the opportunity to make a slightly informed decision about their interest in the product or value we are pushing their way.

On the phone, however, we are rather metaphorically stepping into their personal space. Unless you are using a list that was generated by choice on your site (and sometimes even if you aren’t), be sure to indicate how the customer’s phone number ended up on your call list. No matter how motivated your customer is to purchase your product, if they don’t know how you got their information, they might never convert. 

Closely related to list source is timing. Online the customer chooses when to shop, and they can easily walk away from the computer to make a sandwich, come back and complete the funnel process without you (the marketer) being any the wiser. On the phone, the customer generally must be engaged for the duration of the conversation. If not engaged, then they at least must be aware of the conversation.  Even the most highly motivated customer can fail to convert if the call comes at an inopportune time.

On the positive side, there are more opportunities to match motivation on the phone. For example, online there may only be one chance via a landing page to match motivation, and you have to guess at the motivation. However, the phone is the ultimate interactive tool. You can ask the customer what motivates them and then switch the nature of the conversation to ensure you’re doing as much as possible to match the motivation.

Value

How it’s the same

Value is the first part of the heuristic that we can control online, and this is equally true during a phone conversation. Online, value is most commonly exchanged through written copy, although MECLABS recommends creating congruence on the page with a set of collaborative value elements.

How it’s different

On the phone, value is expressed throughout the conversation, and the actual value exchange of a call could make up more than 90% of the conversation. As a result, many of the elements of value (appeal, exclusivity, clarity and credibility) carry more weight individually than they would online.

Value on the phone is more linear than on a landing page. Online, the entirety of the value exchange exists all at once. On the phone, we are expressing the value over time and if we mention something early in the call that is important, it could be forgotten by the time we get to the “call-to-action.”  This is where the old saying “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you told them” can become important. Reiterating key value points can make an impact, especially when done directly before any kind of macro-yes question.

Friction

 How it’s the same:

Friction is still the psychological resistance in the sales process. Length and difficulty still remain, although, they relate more directly to calls (length of the call and the difficulty of the ask).

How it’s different:

The examples of friction can be very different from an online conversion process, and so the strategy to reduce friction must be very different. Here are some examples:

  • Asking qualifying questions
  • Requesting that the customer perform a task (i.e., Can you go to this website?)
  • Attempting to schedule an appointment
  • Requesting detailed information that might need to be looked up (i.e., when the doctor’s office asks for your insurance plan number)

When planning out a call guide, think through what you’re going to ask the customer to do and consider how difficult the requests might be or how much length it could add to the call.

Anxiety

 How it’s the same:

Anxiety is still the psychological concern in the sales process. And the ways to reduce anxiety are the same but must, of course, be adapted to the phone. For example, credibility indicators must be spoken, and proximity is about sentence structure instead of physical distance.

How it’s different:

Much like with friction, the examples of anxiety, and thus the reduction strategy, often need to be different. Some example anxieties that would be more prevalent in a phone call than online are:

  • Are you who you say you are?
  • Is my information safe with you?
  • How did you get my number?

Ambiguity is also more heavily weighted on calls than online. Being intentionally vague on a call can be compared to trying for curiosity clicks online. However, ambiguity is hypothesized to have better potential results on the phone. This has not yet been successfully tested.

Incentive

How it’s the same:

It is exactly the same.

How it’s different:

So far, incentive has not been proven to display any differences when used on the phone.

Demeanor

This is not in the Conversion Sequence Heuristic, and it is only applicable to phone calls and other verbal conversations.

One of Flint McGlaughlin’s favorite adages is “People don’t buy from companies, from stores or from websites; people buy from people.” This is doubly true of any conversion attempted over the phone.

Online, the customer is able to imply the tone and inflection of any copy provided for them to read. We can attempt to influence their interpretation with punctuation, but they hear our words in their own heads, in their own voice. On the phone, the caller’s demeanor can have an impact on the probability of conversion.

When I used to work at a call center, they would actually put a mirror on our computer monitors so we could make sure we were smiling during the conversations. It really did make a difference.

Related Resources

Landing Page Optimization online certification course – Get an in-depth understanding of how to use the Conversion Sequence Heuristic to improve the probability of conversion

Call Center Optimization: How The Globe and Mail cut number of calls in half while increasing sales per hour

Call Center Optimization: How A Nonprofit Increased Donation Rate 29% With Call Center Testing

MarketingSherpa Lead Gen Summit Wrap-Up: Top 7 lead capture, qualification and nurturing takeaways

Lead Gen: How conversion optimization for call centers is similar to (and different from) online conversion was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Love is in the Air: Why We Love SEO

The month of February is also the month of hearts, which means love will surely be in the air. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, it is worth taking some time to look back and see what made us love what we do.

SEO is a profession that requires a great amount of time and effort in order to be successful. All of this effort culminates into something that is truly rewarding and excites you to do more. We have helped numerous clients get to the first page of the Google search results over the years and will continue to do so in the following years. Here are some wonderful and reasons we love SEO.

We have a supportive and passionate community

As SEO grows into a bigger industry in the upcoming years, so as its community. The SEO community is a network full of like-minded and passionate individuals and groups that aim to not only succeed, but also help others reach new heights as well. SEO professionals and beginners alike help find the best techniques, strategies, and advice in various forums and discussions across the internet.

Some even establish events like seminars and workshops to teach new skills to the rest of the community. With a community this supportive and passionate, it is no wonder that SEO is an industry that is continuously growing and improving.

It is highly rewarding

The main goal of SEO is to be able to help webpages rank in the first page of Google search results pages. It is a task that is easier said than done all of the time and requires a lot of time and energy to accomplish. Our team does a complete effort to be able to get their rankings up, from social media marketing, link building, content marketing and management, and even website development and optimization.

This process takes months to pull off, and seeing the successful and result would always be fulfilling and rewarding. The best part is that these results are for the long term and will help keep your client’s brand relevant and visible. Grit and commitment to what you will do will always give you great rewards, and this rings true for SEO as well.

The learning never stops

Learning is a lifelong process that happens every day, whether it be at home, work, or school. Humans never truly stop learning, and SEO is another skill and industry where you get to experience new things every day. From constant Google updates, new SEO tools, and the latest techniques and strategies, SEO is an industry that keeps you on your toes and offers something new day by day.

Based on my experience, SEO truly is a trial and error process that rewards experimentation, as those processes help us create the best results that we can achieve. When it comes to learning, SEO offers a lot of lessons that you can apply for a long time.

Setting the trend

With the increased importance of technology in our daily lives, SEO is an industry that is setting the trend on how digital marketing works. Being an SEO professional means that you are helping develop the future of marketing and advertising, while providing users with quality content. Marketing has evolved over the course  of just a few years, and now that search engines and social media have taken over a large share of internet time, it  is up to us SEO professionals to help websites  and businesses establish their presence.

It is a life skill

The two most common things that people do on the internet is check social media and use a search engine. The latter shows how important search engines are in daily life, as it has now become much easier to acquire information across different websites. With that in mind, SEO has not only become a skill that one can use at work, it is also a life skill that anyone with a computer can do. Learning how to do SEO is just a search away, and with so many resources and tutorials on how to do it, someone would be able to begin from scratch.

SEO is a growing industry with an increasing number of professionals, and it would not be surprising to see the average person do it on a regular basis.

Key Takeaway

SEO is a skill and profession that just grows and rewards you constantly, which is why we people in the industry pour our hearts into it. It might be challenging at first, but SEO is a long term investment gives us rewards that we all surely love. In celebration of Valentine’s Day, let us give SEO some love that it deserves.

Love is in the Air: Why We Love SEO was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Unconventional Content: PR Stunts for SEO

 

Why would a stunt work for SEO?

SEO is ever evolving and, we have been looking at more interesting and unusual types of creative to generate brand awareness.

Here at Distilled, we are growing our creative outputs as the Google Gods get ever more powerful and all-seeing. One of the ways we’ve done this is with PR stunts. A stunt is a great way to involve your target audiences, create a dialogue, increase social engagement and, contribute to your branded search volume. Larger companies with decent audiences on social will benefit best from this type of play.

What was our idea?

This post is about the whys and hows of a stunt we created for Interflora (the UK’s largest flower delivery network) for World Kindness Day. We asked members of the general public to pass on a rose to a stranger, all in the name of kindness. The clients’ goals were:

Goals

  • Organic performance (through brand awareness and links)
  • Brand awareness

Primary KPI’s

  • Social impressions
  • Page views

Secondary KPI’s

  • Editorial links from top-tier publications

How do I create a stunt that works for my brand?

Your stunt will need to have a product or brand message tie-in, or both.

Fortunately for us, we were able to give away flowers during the stunt – if your product is cars or yachts, you might have to think up a different approach. Your stunt doesn’t have to feature your product, but it must feature your brand message/ethos in some way, whatever that might be e.g.:

  • Green living, clear conscience
  • Fast broadband, spend time on the things that matter
  • Reaching your personal best is all you need

How did our idea tie in with Interflora’s brand message?

Flowers are all about reactions. Flowers are given to make another feel happy, loved, or even reflective. Instead of spreading happiness just to those close to us, we decided to widen the net, and show how a gesture of kindness to a stranger could make someone feel better. London can sometimes feel like a cold unfeeling city, everyone is in a rush and often people are sceptical when approached by a stranger.

But when challenged we found this facade dropped and people were genuinely warmed by our experiment. We found this warmth and conversation continued online, into trackable and measurable KPI’s. People even went as far as to talk to us about their own small gestures of kindness.

How to find a narrative for your stunt

People need to feel a connection to the characters in your video, to empathise with their plight, to be willing them on, wishing for them to succeed (or fail, if that is more amusing). Like all great stories, you need a beginning, a middle (the reveal) and an end. To add greater depth and meaning to our narrative we interviewed a psychologist specialising in “kindness” and elements of this were interspersed throughout the video and related press releases.

Questions to ask yourself to make sure your stunt hits those KPI’s

  • What emotions are your viewers going to feel? 
    Sadness, empathy, elation, informed, moved, empowered, nostalgic?
  • What is going to spur your audience into taking action? 
    Liking, tweeting, commenting, challenging a friend, or following your brand.
  • Not always easily trackable but later on, at the bottom of the funnel, the purchase. If you can make your audience feel something, your brand will be front of mind when it comes to the crunch. We remember emotions. Stunts can even inspire action from your audience.  

But isn’t a stunt a risky thing to do?

Carrying out a stunt can seem risky, there are lots of variables and a lot of time and money invested in something that relies on the participation of the general public. Promising a client a viral video, saying ‘oh sorry the stunt didn’t work’ is never going to cut it. Don’t worry, there are things that you can put in place to ensure your project is a success.

Plan for each eventuality meticulously

Plan for the worst case scenario and hope for the best. Within reason, always overcompensate, whether that is with time or the number of products you need. We had 200 roses on the day of our shoot. For the shots we used, we only needed 50, but many others were required for those shots that didn’t quite work. The roses that were left over at the end we were able to distribute to the general public during the 5 pm rush hour. These stems now made their way into the hands of loved ones houses within the commuter belt, again reinforcing the brand; so nothing lost there.

  • Plan early
    To shoot on a ‘red route’ and in the borough of The City of London, we needed to have two permits, which had a 2 week processing times. These are not costly, but early prep means you can be sure your location is free for shooting.
  • Allow lots of time to work with the general public
    Working with the general public takes time. You will need to explain to them the purpose of their participation. Often numerous takes are required, they are not actors and can not be expected to be fantastic on camera first time. After the footage has been captured get a consent form signed, so there is a paper trail, just in case any appearances are disputed at a later date.
  • Be aware of unavoidable eventualities
    During the rush hour on London Bridge people were much less likely to get involved, they were busy rushing to work. Whereas the stampede of people was great for those ‘masses of people holding yellow roses in a sea of grey shots’ it was not so great for getting people to participate in giving out a rose.  
  • Plan for bad weather
    Shooting on location or outdoors has many more variables than a narrative that just requires a studio. We got a licence to shoot on two days to double our chances of a dry day. Logistically this was tough, the actors and film crew also had to be on standby for a second day of filming. Luckily the weather was in our favour.

  • Don’t stick to the script
    Plan a narrative, but be open to new ones on the day, you never know what could happen. Your camera team will need to be agile, to capture the idiosyncrasies of the general public, who will become the characters in your story. We had one man who took some time to approach someone with his rose. Watching his plight helped entertain the viewer through the full video. They were willing him to succeed, willing him to find that someone’s day to brighten.
  • Let the brand do what they know best
    Interflora was, of course, in charge of the flowers. The flowers arrived at our base at 5 am and were specially treated to ensure long-lasting freshness. The roses had been processed so that they were just the right amount of open to ensure they lasted for a good amount of time in peoples homes and looked great on camera (the real key here).
  • Be prepared for the unknowns
    When the roses arrived in buckets we were surprised at how long the stems were. The buckets looked half empty and the stems looked as if they would topple out they were so long. Action stations! Commence 5 am trimming of 200 rose stems. The roses needed to look the right height in the branded buckets on camera, and the quantity needed to make the buckets feel full.

  • Don’t let uncertainty tame your message/idea
    Don’t let unknowns scare you into choosing a tamer or all-round less interesting concept. Throughout the planning and production of your piece always go back to the message, what it is you are trying to capture/ say/ make people feel. Retaining that message is key. And remember, sometimes the bigger the risk, the greater the payoff.

How can timing affect the launch of your stunt?

Recently we made a piece to push out on World Curry day, only to find when we spoke to a journalist at The Mirror that he had already been approached by 30 other content marketers with every content type and angle under the sun. Tying in with a day, especially the biggest days of the year, e.g. Christmas day or Mother’s day, just really doesn’t make you that original. It also gives you one stab at success. Danger! That said more obscure days can give some tie-in, with less competition, World Kindness day worked for us.

Fanfare: Announcing our very own Jono Alderson’s ridiculous and very comprehensive list of all the possible days you could ever dream of.

Why would people care?

Creating a stunt is a great way to drum up attention and social experiments lead audiences to wonder ‘What will happen? We’re all inherently interested and entertained by the behaviour of other people. A stunt also shows your audience that you are experimental as a brand and willing to try new things.

How successful was our stunt?

Within one week of launch, our stunt was the top viewed video on Interflora’s Facebook page receiving over 150k views. It also garnered:

  • 1.7k Likes
  • 100+ comments
  • 300+ shares
  • Coverage in The Evening Standard (DA 85), Huffington Post (DA 87), BT.com (DA 85)

Here are examples of the types of comments the piece received:

  • ‘I’ve been doing ‘Pay it forwards’ all year. It’s amazing and reminds you that even a small act of kindness can make someone’s day.’ – Laura Preston
  • ‘Giving is so much better than anything else, giving with a true heart is a blessing, watch the smiles grow.’ – Ruth Marshall

How do I maximise the content’s traction online?

Always have a ‘Tease’, ‘Launch’, and ‘Post’ strategy for your content. How will you ramp up the excitement and what will your content calendar look like surrounding the piece to get as much engagement over as long a period as possible? Ask yourself ‘What assets can I make?’ and ‘What questions can I ask the audience to keep the conversation flowing?’ We worked with a press photographer to capture high-quality photography of the day too, these assets were invaluable on both Interflora social channels and for press coverage.

Stunts don’t have to be scary or risky and, as we saw, they can really pay off. Have you created a stunt? What were the lessons you learned?

Unconventional Content: PR Stunts for SEO was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

30 Content Marketing Statistics, Trends & Data for Your 2018 Strategy

Content

While content marketing can evoke various meanings, depending on the context, it is defined as gently marketing products and services with content shared through blog posts, videos, social media and more.

Since there are an increasing number of online publishers, the competition is fierce in terms of attracting consumers’ short attention spans. In addition, publishers are driving innovation as they seek fresh methods for bringing in their target audiences.

As a result, it is critical for publishers to have a deep understanding of where the industry is moving and why. The objective is to monitor your competition and the industry. If you don’t know where or how the content marketing industry is moving, you won’t grasp how and when to change your own content marketing strategy.

To get you started in the right direction, we have curated 30 marketing stats to help guide your new strategy and to use when presenting a case to CFOs, CMOs and CEOs for an updated budget. Continue reading to learn more.

  1. 72 percent of B2B marketers measure their ROI. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)

While content marketers want to understand their ROI, many don’t have the right tools to accurately do so. In fact, 52% of B2B content marketers find ROI measurements one of their biggest challenges. This eMarketer study shows that 6 out 10 small businesses can’t track ROI from their social media efforts.

Yet, accurate measurement leads to successful content marketing. You also want to gain an understanding of the proper keyword density for SEO.

Nonetheless, many businesses don’t even have basic analytics tools. Here are a few thoughts from experts on the topic:

“Exposure and engagement is key when it comes to measuring content marketing ROI. Simply publishing a blog post isn’t enough of a success. You have to go deeper and pay attention to things like social share metrics, engagement metrics, and actual conversions that can be tied to the content you’re producing.” — Colin Mathews, Co-founder, Content Marketer

“Metrics never tell the whole story, which is why we ask every new blog subscriber and customer how they found us. The data is anecdotal but it gives us a deeper understanding of the customer journey. Two customers rarely follow identical paths so it’s always worth asking.” — Jimmy Daly, Head of Content, Vero

Basic analytics tools include:

  • Google Analytics
  • SEMrush
  • A/B testing on your calls-to-action (CTAs)
  • BuzzSum
  1. In 2016, 75 percent of businesses increased their content marketing budget. (Source: Curata)

Content marketing is a universal tactic, with a wide variety of platforms, for offering relevant outreach to target audiences. Of course, you can’t appeal to your C-suite executives without a documented strategy or statistics to support your request for a budget increase.

Since 2009, marketing budgets have either remained consistent or have gone up relative to previous years. Educational content can be expensive, but brands must continue to act as data portals to keep their customers informed and to become trusted advisors.

  1. With leads, long-form posts are 9X more effective than short-form posts. (Source: com)

These are articles longer than 2,000 words. Since long-form posts are more in-depth, the target reader perceives them as more valuable and worth their time.

In addition, search engines worship long-form content–pieces with over 20,000 keywords. Moreover, if you can hold a reader’s attention for more than three minutes, then you have a higher chance of that visitor returning to your website. The last thing you want is to get devalued by Google.

  1. People spend an average of 37 seconds reading an article. (Source: com)

The consumer attention span is getting increasingly shorter. So, content needs to be easily digestible and relevant to the target persona. Structuring should include italics, bolding and bullet points to highlight the most important sections.

Remember, you’re dealing with attention spans shorter than even a goldfish.

This is mainly due to the trend towards mobile content viewing. Consumers grab their smartphones to look something up, buy products and more–then, the ease and convenience starts to become a priority.

Still, it’s not impossible to achieve content marketing success under these types of conditions. The trick is to instantly provide relevance and capture the attention of your target audience–give them what they want immediately.

  1. 60 percent of marketers publish one piece of content per day. (Source: eMarketer)

To increase customer satisfaction, and loyalty, online publishers must be consistent–always. McKinsey & Company states it succinctly:

“the 3 Cs of customer satisfaction” are “consistency, consistency, and consistency.”

To reap the rewards, you must put in the effort. The leads will start to pour in, but only if you are consistent.

  1. Content marketing offers three times the leads of traditional marketing, while costing around 62 percent less. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)

Putting more resources and effort into content marketing will increase leads while also decreasing costs. Audiences are gravitating away from celebrity endorsements and aggressive sales tactics. Instead, the modern consumer wants more transparency and friendlier branding tactics.

In a consumer-led market, audiences know they can easily click away from an ad. So, content marketing was created to focus on the intended reader

  1. 58 percent of marketers agree that “original written content” is more effective than visuals and videos. (Source: Social Media Examiner)

 

Image source

 Even with an increased focus on visuals, most marketers have found original written content to product the best results. This is great news because if you don’t have time to create media, you can still generate traffic with original content.

And, flashy visuals can be expensive. So, just continue creating relevant and original content, and the traffic will come.

  1. 72 percent of marketers view branded content as producing a better ROI over magazine advertisements. (Source: Luma Partners, LLC)

Image source

With fewer consumers reading traditional magazines and newspapers, more focus is being placed on web content. While branded content is not a new concept, it is certainly trending. Customers enjoy the informative and interactive aspect.

Branded content puts people first and the product second. Not to mention, branded content is shareable, which equates to the potential for more traffic.

  1. 64 percent of B2B marketers outsource their writing. (Source: TopRankBlog)

To reach the next level of content marketing productivity, help is required in the form of skilled and proficient writers. If you plan to reach thousands of readers, or more, you should not try to write the content all by yourself.

Since you already understand that consistent, original and relevant content increases traffic, then you can easily double that just by hiring several skilled writers.

There is no reason to try to spend 16 hours a day writing when you can focus on other aspects of your content marketing strategy. Let your writers handle this facet of it for you.

  1. 63 percent of marketers create content by buyer persona. (Source: Hubspot)

It is imperative to write with your buyer persona in mind. Each piece of content must be relevant and with an end goal. Start with figuring out who your target consumers are. These are general representations of your target audience.

With buyer personas, you can tailor your content to topics they would love to learn more about. Furthermore, your content should address customer pain points throughout their purchase journey.

A buyer persona looks at what your ideal customer’s goals are and what they are trying to achieve. It also defines how they might behave throughout the sales process. You can create your specific buyer persona by utilizing both market and independent research to reveal trends in your market. Details you should describe include:

  • Pain points
  • Purchase role
  • How they consume content
  • Job title and career
  • Family life
  • Income
  • Budget
  1. 20 percent of searches on Android devices and Google’s mobile app are voice searches. (Source: SearchEngineLand).

Image source

Voice searches are on the rise. So, content marketers must consider the types of headlines and titles that might be included in a voice search.

There isn’t any question that voice search will affect content marketing. The use of voice search tools, such as Siri and Alexa, are on the rise. Most smartphone’s also have a voice assistant. It’s not something to worry about, but you should think of how people use their voice to search for something and what they expect to find.

For instance, a voice query might ask: “How many times have the Eagles won the Super Bowl.” If the same person were to type that query, they might type this instead: “Times the Eagles won the Super Bowl.” As you can see, voice queries are a bit more detailed–it is just like talking versus texting.

  1. By 2019, 72 percent of US digital ad spend will come from mobile. (Source: eMarketer)

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Content marketers must direct more company spend and efforts towards the mobile medium as this is where their audiences are. Mobile ad spend must also go up.

According to Google research, over 50 percent of all global web traffic comes from mobile devices. And, these types of numbers will continue to increase. So, now is the time to focus on mobile content marketing.

In fact, mobile device content reading went up 10 percent in 2014. The limits have been removed; anything can be read and viewed on a mobile device.

  1. 87 percent of marketers use social media for content delivery. (Source: CMI)

Social media platforms like Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have changed the content marketing industry forever. The way we communicate with customers is a lot different from how we interacted even a decade ago.

Social media networks are popular because they are free to join, and you can reach millions of people with your content. So, mix things up. Consider how to target different generations on social media.

Make sure your content meets the needs of your target audience. And, engage with your customers directly through social media.

  1. 70 percent of marketers do not have a consistent strategy. (Source: Altimeter)

It is 2018, and you need an integrated marketing strategy right now. Content marketing works, and 80 percent of decision makers prefer to get their brand information through written articles as opposed to advertising. You can start by learning how to be a better content writer.

You just won’t want to jump into content marketing without a documented strategy. When you think about how you distribute your content–through social media, blog posts, guides and more– then, you must remember the importance of having similarities with your content.

You don’t want to confuse your audience.

And, it’s easy to be all over the place when you don’t have a strategy to direct your efforts. Also, a documented content marketing strategy is conducive towards achieving a strong brand identity.

Consumers are saturated with content. To stand out from the masses, you need a strategy to set your brand apart.

As mentioned earlier, measuring ROI can lead to content marketing success. With a strategy, you encourage productivity and efficiency. Plus, it can help to ensure a better ROI.

  1. 48 percent of marketers create dedicated content for three to five buying stages. (Source: LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community)

Before a purchase, consumers often go through a sales funnel. These are stages that the prospect goes through before making their final purchase. To illustrate, the first step might be checking out your site for the first time.

The next step might be subscribing to your newsletter. The third step might be talking to one of your sales reps and so on. The term “sales funnel,” and its accompanying definition, has been around for decades. All your prospects will be at different points in the funnel.

In terms of content marketing, it is your job to motivate them to move along the funnel to finally make a purchase. So, you should create a content marketing strategy around that funnel. Here are questions to answer:

  • What would you write to enhance awareness at the beginning of the funnel?
  • How can you help inform your prospects of your products and services while they are in the middle of the funnel and evaluating their options?
  • What types of content would motivate your prospects to buy when they are finally ready to make a purchase?

Depending on your products and services, the sales funnel process could move either very quickly or relatively slowly. With a B2C customer, the process might be quick. With a B2B customer, they might require more nurturing in the form of articles, guides, whitepapers and more.

  1. 61 percent of marketers want to improve their organic presence. (Source: Hubspot)

Take a look at this review of the top seven toolbars. Organic marketing is about getting customers to your site naturally. This can be a long process, but it also leads to better customer engagement, loyalty and traffic.

Consumers are much more savvy and rarely pay attention to paid ads. While you won’t be spending on paid ads, organic marketing still requires effort as it is a form of marketing from the ground up. It requires careful attention to your content and social media channels.

Furthermore, you must incorporate more accurate SEO. Instead of paying for sponsored results, organic marketing depends on SEO. When it comes to search ads, the average click-through-rate is lower than 5 percent. On the other hand, the average CTR for organic marketing results can vary between 22 and 30 percent.

  1. The desire for infographics has gone up by 800 percent. (Source: Unbounce)

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Humans are visually wired. As a result, we demand infographics. This can be especially true in an age of information overload. Today, we receive five times more information than we did in 1986. And, the brain needs time to digest every bit of information we consume.

With an infographic, your business can present data in a way that is visually stimulating and easy to digest. Infographics also induce a lot of social sharing–especially if it is a beautiful infographic with a great design.

You can use infographics to convey specific types of information. They can also drive targeted traffic to your site. So, if you don’t have a contract with a graphic designer, now is the time to start one.

  1. Only 10 percent of marketers use gamification. (Source: CMI)

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Gamification is the use of games, surveys, puzzles, quizzes and more to encourage user interaction. When you incorporate interactive content, you can increase time spent on your site.

Also, it helps to break up your content marketing strategy from having strictly content. Consumers want a variety of choices for how they consume their content.

Yet, only 10 percent of marketers incorporate gamification. The reason for a limited number of marketers using gamification might be due to the cost and resources required.

If you have the ability, it can improve traffic when you invest in gamification. This isn’t just about running contests periodically. The objective should be to foster motivational campaigns that takes your target buyer on an interactive journey. And, this starts by having a pre-determined goal in mind.

If you are interested in maximizing revenue, then how can a customized game contribute toward achieving that goal? Consumers are already busy, so you want a strategic method that they will find worthy of their time.

Then, you must consider your metrics. How can you tell if your games are working? You must set up metrics to determine gamification success.

Customers enjoy the instant gratification aspect of gamified elements such as badges, leaderboards, points and even rewards they can use for real products and services. People are also motivated by a need to accomplish goals. So, your games can set specific and achievable targets to build on that momentum.

“Games are the only force in the known universe that can get people to take actions against their self-interest, in a predictable way, without using force.” ― Gabe Zichermann

Also, since consumers are now more involved in the process, they are also more likely to remember the content. For instance, say they can accumulate points through your game that they can use for discounts and special offers.

So, perhaps one of your “goals” would be to have them read content and answer a short quiz. Once they have completed that successfully, they get more points.

  1. When researching a company, 95 percent of B2B buyers view content as trustworthy. (Source: DemandGen)

As opposed to direct advertising, content marketing can truly build trust with your target audience–and, once you have achieved that, you have struck gold. You are conveying the story of your brand in a way that is non-salesly.

Since hundreds of posts are created every minute, it is critical to remember how you can stand out. It really boils down to creating content that builds trust with your buyer persona. When a consumer trusts your company, they are more likely to continue visiting your site and engaging with your content.

You have something unique to share with the world, but audiences must believe your content is authentic. There are several ways to do this including:

  • Keeping a schedule (Consumers value consistency)
  • Maintaining the same voice (builds a connection)
  • Link to your sources and statistics (helps to prove credibility)
  • Share real-life examples of success with actual customers
  • Produce high-quality and relevant content

If you follow the above suggestions, your site will earn trust and a loyal following too.

  1. 69 percent of marketers prefer content to public relations and direct mail. (Source: Custom Content Council)

There isn’t anything wrong with increasing your company’s brand awareness through sending out direct mail pieces and PR kits. Yet, for a long-term marketing strategy, content marketing is your best bet. With a direct mail piece, you might convert a few prospects. Consequently, once your direct mail piece is sent out–it often gets thrown away.

In addition, you’ll have to change the design frequently just to garner a bit of excitement. If you are getting a good ROI, then there isn’t anything particularly wrong with this marketing approach. The same is true of PR kits.

But, in the long-term, content marketing is a powerhouse. With consistent content marketing, you increase your domain authority (DA) and online real estate. The more articles you have, the better your chances are of being found online.

Plus, it builds trust when you have a long-standing blog. Also, by linking your pieces to other blog posts on your site, you can continually attract new traffic.

If you have high-quality content, then it can improve conversions–especially with the right CTAs. And, you can increase revenue by selling eBooks. With content marketing, you compound on returns.

  1. 94 percent of B2B marketers prefer LinkedIn for content distribution. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)

In terms of content distribution, LinkedIn is the place to be. It really does pay to produce relevant content on LinkedIn.

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Taking the time and commitment to post content on LinkedIn does pay off–whether they be trends, quick tips or guides based on your field of expertise. You can easily share your blog posts with all your connections.

Plus, the posts become connected to your profile. When people search for your profile, they see your blog posts. Also, you can increase your influence since public posts allow LinkedIn users to follow you.

When you amass a series of relevant posts, you can also quickly accumulate a large following.

And, with each publication, all your connections receive a notification through their flag icon.

  1. 90 percent of B2C companies used content marketing in 2016. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)

 

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There isn’t anything that can level the playing field like content marketing. Both small and enterprise businesses can utilize content marketing to increase traffic, engagement and brand awareness. This subtle marketing approach keeps your visitors informed without being too pushy.

When visitors realize they don’t have to endure a hard sell, then they will want to buy your products and services that are relevant to their needs and wants. This is why 90 percent of companies used content marketing in 2016, and that number will only go up. The long-term benefits can’t be ignored.

For example, once your page is ranked well in the search engines, it stays there for an extended period. Plus, around 70 to 80 percent of web users ignore paid ads. Instead, content marketing can be used to promote your products without being overly aggressive.

  1. 78 percent of businesses are not satisfied with their conversion rates. (Source: eConsultancy)

In terms of marketing, it is important to know what not to do when curating content. You also need to understand how content marketing can affect conversion rates.

With more pages, you get more opportunities. Each piece of content is a new page. And, search engines can then easily index your pages.

Moreover, websites with over 40 unique pages get 12 times more leads than sites with five or fewer pages. And, with your buyer personas, you can tailor your content to ensure your customers are five times more likely to convert.

With the right content marketing strategy, you can effectively guide and motivate your buyers throughout the sales funnel.

  1. 97 percent of B2B buyers prefer prescriptive content. (Source: DemandGen 2017 Report)

Prescriptive content helps target readers to optimize their processes by offering strategic suggestions. Furthermore, prescriptive content can be used to predict outcomes through incorporating specific data points and metrics.

An example of prescriptive content might be a guide on trends to pay attention to in 2018. Additionally, prescriptive content answers questions that prospective buyers have like the ROI for investing in a cloud storage solution or how to implement a new ERP system.

  1. Current blog posts average around 1,142 words. (Source: Orbit Media)

There was a time when a 500-word blog post was all your site needed to get ranked on various search engines like Google and Bing. Well, those days have disappeared in the ether of history.

Since 90 percent of businesses are using content marketing, on top of all the other blog sites and media sites found online, the space for first-page rankings is insanely competitive. So, Google now looks for length in terms of filtering for quality.

And, according to SerpIQ, top ranked content usually has around 2,400 words. What’s the takeaway? For starters, you must increase the word count of your content. At a minimum, make your posts 1,200 words.

  1. 78 percent of CMOs are investing in custom content. (Source: DemandMetric)

“The easiest way to turn off your community members is to broadcast the same message across multiple channels. Instead, determine the kind of content that interests the members of your community in a way that is useful to them.” — Joe Pulizzi, Founder, Content Marketing Institute

CMOs understand they must grow and evolve to stay ahead of the competition and above all the social media noise. To do so, you must segment your audiences by demographics, their point in the sales funnel, their budget and more.

Custom content is a type of hyper-personalization of content. It takes a deep understanding of your target buyer and where they are in their purchasing process. It also requires an understanding of their pain points, along with what makes them tick.

You can learn more about your target customers by spending time in forums and on social media where they are sharing with their counterparts. Then, create custom content with a specific persona in mind.

It’s difficult to trust advertising, but it is easy to trust a brand who can offer real solutions to specific pain points.

  1. 78 percent of buyers consume case studies before making purchase. (Source: DemandGen 2017 Report)

Case studies are comprehensively effective. Within a case study, you paint a picture and tug at emotions. It is storytelling at its finest, with a marketing twist. Within a case study, you have three major parts:

  • A problem
  • Solution offerings
  • Proven results

And, the case study is always written from the perspective of the buyer persona. You should publish more case studies simply because they are highly targeted.

Each case study conveys a specific goal related to your products and services. Also, through factual claims, you can build your brand as an authority in your industry.

  1. Four out of Five sites use blogs and email newsletters. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)

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You already understand the significance of blog posts. Yet, email marketing is also an important aspect of content marketing. You can generate $38 in ROI for every $1 spent.

You must incorporate targeted emails within your content marketing strategy. According to Radicati, there are around 4.9 billion global email accounts.

Consider how you interact with websites. Whenever you sign up for anything, you need to enter an email address. Case in point: email addresses and messages aren’t going away anytime soon. Everyone who engages with the Internet has an active email address.

In addition, there are more email accounts than there are Twitter and Facebook accounts. Then, there is the fact that 90 percent of email gets delivered to your prospect’s inbox. Not to mention, Facebook continues to limit how widely your posts are distributed.

  1. Companies can increase their conversion rates five times higher than companies that don’t use content marketing. (Source: Aberdeen)

You want your readers to accomplish to goal set up with each piece of your content. This happens with a call to action, where you tell your visitors exactly what you would like them to do.

The best place for a call to action is at the end of your post. Also, it must be attractive to your readers. So, keep their demands in mind.

  1. 73 percent of technology companies have a content strategy point person. (Source: CMI)

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It is difficult for one person to do everything a customer expects. Since you now understand how effective content marketing can be, it is time to hand over your content strategy to a content marketing specialist.

This doesn’t mean you take a completely hands-off approach. Since it is your brand, you still want to be involved. But, it helps to focus on tasks that reap revenue.

And, you can’t be in all places at once. Since your content represents your organization, you must be careful about who you hire as your content marketing specialist.

It should be someone who understands and easily aligns with your vision. They must discover and create the types of content your target buyer wants to see. Then, they must retain and attract readers. On top of everything, their content and strategy must drive profitability and sales.

Final thought

We are living in the era of the “informed customer.” Prospects know they have access to information that helps them make more thoughtful decisions. Therefore, brands must then align themselves, and their content marketing strategy, with the needs and wants of their customers.

To maintain a competitive edge, you must produce the type of content that serves as informative and trusted resources for your customers. This starts with understanding your customers, following their path and customizing content based on their specific personas.

30 Content Marketing Statistics, Trends & Data for Your 2018 Strategy was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing