Six Key Strategic Priorities for Better Online Marketing in 2017

It’s a New Year, and the online marketing landscape is ever-changing. So I took to the video “airwaves” to share what I think are the six most important areas where your efforts online can bear meaningful “fruit.” Watch now:

I am putting the full text of this video below for your convenience. If you’re interested in considering being part of my Tribe, my Patreon channel is now live here: http://www.patreon.com/jonleland

My Recommendations: Six Online Marketing Priorities for 2017

Happy New Year everybody, and welcome to a brand new year of online marketing. My name is Jon Leland and I’m an online marketing mentor and strategist, and I’m committed to your success online. I’ve got six priorities that are my priorities and they might well be yours for the new year. Let’s get to them.

#1: Consistency

I have to tell you that this has not been my strong suit in the past, but everybody says that this is what you have to do, and I couldn’t agree more. I’m going to be walking my talk this year to be consistent, to do weekly videos, to do regular blog posts and to continue a strong online social presence. Without consistency it’s too hit and miss and you don’t establish a real connection with your audience. That really is a key priority.

#2: Intimacy vis Mobile

We all know that websites need to be mobile-friendly these days, and responsive design has been a main thing for a number of years, but I’m saying you need to be more than mobile-friendly, you need to be intimate. What I mean by that is really thinking about the mobile experience as a primary factor, not just to have Google rank you better but because more than half your visitors are now visiting on some kind of mobile device, and your experience, what you’re communicating and how you’re communicating in a mobile environment, is really a primary factor in how you’re connecting with your audience. Get it together in mobile. Get your website truly mobile-friendly in you could say an intimate kind of way.

#3: Video Proliferation

I’m sure that you’re aware that Facebook Live has become a big thing, but I’m surprised how many people think that online video is still just YouTube. You need to upload your videos native to Facebook, run-and-gun videos on Instagram. Video is everywhere, and not just at the top of the funnel either. It’s frequently thought of just as something that you attract people into your funnel, but at every stage of the funnel you really want to have video be there and create this kind of one-to-one, eyeball-to-eyeball connection that’s possible with video. Think about video through your entire funnel. Think about video on every platform, and do it more often, the way I’m starting to do now.

#4: Be Agile

With mobile technologies, with the ability to shoot video on a smartphone, you can do video anywhere, anytime. I also mean be agile with your websites. I’m doing more and more Squarespace websites because I can do them quickly, I can collaborate with clients, it’s far less complicated than a lot of other platforms. That kind of do things quickly, do them simply, do them well. Don’t turn them into big elaborate game-stopping productions like the way print brochures used to be, or even that websites used to be. Keep it simple, be agile, keep moving, keep creating.

$5: What Happens Next?

A lot of people talk about you get Facebook likes; what happens next? How do you actually engage? I’m thinking about it as a strategist, that conversions are really where the rubber hits the road. Not enough people think strategically in terms of that intention. How do you move from whatever you’re doing in terms of content, from whatever you’re doing in terms of being creative, move that through the channel, move that through the funnel so you truly engage, truly create authentic relationships, and at the end of the day have conversions that you can literally take to the bank?

#6: Build a Tribe

Number six is probably the closest to my heart. I really am going to be engaging with community. I’m going to be creating a Patreon channel. I’ll put that in the description in YouTube or in Facebook or wherever I upload this video ( http://www.patreon.com/jonleland ). Those of you that have heard me speak or have done any of my workshops or playshops know that the bottom line as far as I’m concerned is creating authentic, sustainable relationships. It’s not just about selling stuff, it’s about creating community, about generating a tribe. I’m trying to be as valuable as I can be for free. I want you to give me your feedback, tell me what you want to hear more of. I look forward to your comments and feedback. I hope you’ll become part of my tribe, my virtual community, and I really encourage you to build your own.

And, In Conclusion

I’m wishing you the happiest, most successful 2017 possible. May all of your marketing bear real fruit and may you keep going and keep generating and have fun every step of the way. I’ll be back with more. Thanks for watching.

 

Google SEO Update: Your Website MUST Be Mobile-Friendly & How Squarespace Might Help

Having Your Website Be Mobile-Friendly Is No Longer Optional

I’ve been writing about how important mobile-friendly websites are for almost two years. Between smartphones and tablets, my website is seeing almost 20% of its traffic come from mobile devices. Industry standard is more like 30% and often more. That should be reason enough to make sure that your site is optimized for “the mobile experience.”Mobile-friendly websites are no longer

However, now, there’s another major reason to address this issue. Google has just announced (in a relatively unprecedented manner, i.e. in advance) that within the new search engine algorithm update that’s coming on April 21st, 2015, “we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal… (and it) will have a significant impact in our search results.” 

In other words, beyond not being user-friendly to mobile browsers, your website will very likely LOSE web traffic if it is not mobile-friendly. And, this change in search results will be most dramatic among those searching and finding your website via mobile devices.

But none of us wants to lose ANY visitors, do we?

Are You Ready for Mobile-Friendliness and Mobile Search?

There is no single approach to having your website become mobile-friendly. And, the bad news is that most approaches add cost and complexity. The exception is turnkey systems like Squarespace.

Overall, your approach to mobile-friendliness will vary depending on your website authoring and delivery platform, and this is a moving target that few small businesses understand.

If you are using WordPress, for example, there are themes that are “responsive” which means their layout varies depending on the width of the device being used to view the site. This is a good thing, and that’s the way that our ComBridges.com website is currently done. It works, but there can be complications. For example, when you update content or want to make layout changes of almost any kind, you must consider how those changes will look in mobile. It’s an easy thing to overlook, but if you are committed to WordPress, then for many small businesses, responsive is the way to go.

Another approach is to build your website with “mobile first” within the architecture of its construction using CSS components from the ground up (including a custom theme if you are using WordPress). For example, I’m currently supervising design and production of a website pro bono for a large non-profit and I’m very pleased with the results of this approach. It looks great on mobile and on the desktop, but this approach does add significantly to the cost of the site. And, it’s really only viable for new websites or a complete redesign. Because of their limited resources, few small businesses want to make that kind of investment.

And, some businesses actually do a separate version of their website for mobile viewers, sometimes using a mobile plug-in and sometimes a separate app. While this can optimize “the mobile experience,” this also means maintaining a separate version of the site. So, every time you do an update of any magnitude, you have to update the mobile version; thus, the cost for maintaining this kind of website increases. Again, not so good for small businesses with limited resources.

But, there is a low cost solution that is as bullet-proof as any technology will allow…

Squarespace to the Rescue

Recently, I’ve been doing more and more websites for small businesses using Squarespace. I like the simplicity of the system, the elegance of the templates, and now, mobile-friendliness is another key benefit. As Squarespace explains in this 2013 blog post, Mobile Is a Big Deal… Why Isn’t Your Website?:

“Comprehensive website solutions like Squarespace do all the work for you by providing templates that are designed with beautiful, functional mobile use in mind.”

The trade offs are that there are far fewer templates on Squarespace than there are WordPress themes and not all of the bells and whistles features, but most. So, if you agree with me that the templates that Squarespace does have are elegant and modern, then one advantage that you get is that you know your website is built from the ground up (like a more custom mobile site) with mobile-friendliness in mind. And, as you go forward, you can rest assured (within reasonable limits) that your website updates will not break the template or theme, another blessing of operating within a closed system.

Other Actions You Can Take to Address the Google SEO Update

No matter what approach you decide to take, there’s no doubt in my mind that being mobile-friendly is no longer an option. Your organization needs to look good on mobile devices for both mobile browsers and, now, for Google and the other search engines.

No matter how you proceed, I highly recommend you (or your web master) check out this post from Search Engine Land which offers a very practical set of steps you can take to assess and improve your website’s mobile status, starting with a free test. As they say in their post’s title, “Take These 3 Actions To Get Ready For Google’s Mobile Search Update.”

Here’s the “1, 2, 3” bottom line:

  1. Identify & Improve Your Mobile Web Optimization Status including use of Google’s free “Mobile-Friendly Test” tool. Click here to get a mobile-friendly assessment of any webpage.
  2. Assess Your Mobile Web Search Visibility & Traffic Behavior
  3. Establish Your Mobile Web Search Competitiveness & Monitor Your Performance

Tech-savvy details for this kind of evaluation are included in that post.

Done-For-You vs Done-WITH-You

And, for those of you who may not have heard, if you are interested in a Squarespace website, ComBridges is pioneering a collaborative process we call “1-to-1 Get It Done Websites.” It saves money and time. Please click here to learn more about this innovative approach.

And thanks for reading!

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Are You Missing the Boat on Online Video Advertising?

[A Quick Catch Up on Online Video’s Reinvention of Advertising]
As most of my readers know, I’ve been an “evangelist” for the digital video revolution, especially as it applies to the democratization of media, for many years. By now, the explosion and importance of online video via YouTube and other hosting platforms (from Wistia and Vimeo to Brightcove and Ooyala, among others) should be obvious to everyone. What is not so apparent to many people is the opportunity to use online video advertising as a highly-targeted attraction engine.

The game changer over the past few years has been the move to online, streaming video for virtually every kind of communication and entertainment. Advancements in video technology mean huge benefits for society as the power of video is now in everyone’s hands—quite literally due to smart phones, on both the video creation and video consumption side of things. These advancements combined with mobile video’s remarkable reach means even bigger benefits for advertisers. 

In fact, the shift from desktop online video advertising to mobile advertising has been nothing short of astonishing. To give you a sense of how big this shift is, consider this: In the fourth quarter of 2013, the number of ads showing on tablets was almost tripled from the previous quarter, according to a FreeWheel TV report in USA Today. Plus, that leap in growth was ten times (10x!) faster than the consumption of video ads on desktops.

Bottom line, this is just the beginning. Mobile is still in its infancy. The original iPad was just introduced four years ago.

Multiple Types of Video Content and Placements

Vine growth statsOne of the more fascinating aspects of online video advertising is the wide variety of video types that advertisers are starting to use. The traditional broadcast video advertisement, which is served up in 30-second segments and interrupts consumers’ viewing to blatantly peddle a product or service (in a format that is frequently skipped via DVRs), is not what is working in the same ways any longer. In fact, the exact opposite is what is thriving online. YouTube, for example, is full of informative, how-to videos that are less “commercial” and more informative. This approach connects with my marketing philosophy of attracting and engaging, rather than straight sales pitches.

The way video and entertainment is consumed has also driven the adoption of new types of videos that are working in other ways. Skyword reports that a Mobile Marketing Association study showed that video ads of 15 seconds or less and non-skippable were viewed in their entirety 92 percent of the time. If the ads are skippable, only 9 percent were completed. Whether the ad is virtually embedded within an informative clip that “leads with value”( as I like to say), or is delivered in an non-skippable format, these advertising options, again, are just the beginning of a new world that, in my considered opinion, any serious online marketer needs to consider.

In addition, the shorter video formats are getting more popular on stand-alone social video platforms. Between Instagram video and Vine (just to name two), the public is getting more and more accustomed to digesting their video in shorter formats. Few people who are not active on social media realize the reach of these platforms. Some even call Vine “the fastest growing app in the world.”

More Bandwidth Means Higher Quality Video

Another advancement that has made online video an ever increasing opportunity to be considered as part of your advertising budget is the increased broadband data access speeds that consumers are now able to afford. With faster speeds comes better quality video. With mobile comes any where, any time access. Without the distractions of constant buffering, viewers are able to watch longer videos, and companies are willing to invest in better production quality. For example, a large company like LifeLock invested wisely to produce higher quality online exclusive, more informative videos for its target audience to let them know how they can protect themselves and their identity online.

Jacking into Untapped Potential

In many instances, little difference in quality exists between what you would see on television and what is being shown on the Web. And, frequently what’s online is more interesting, more personal, and certainly more highly targeted than what’s on TV. And, in terms of variety, the Internet offers so much more. But perhaps even more significant is online video’s interface options.

According to streamingmedia.com, interactivity is the main function that makes online video consumption different from television. However, many advertisers are still missing the boat on this opportunity. Right now, 85 percent of online video advertisements are simply the same content that could have also run on traditional television, where the audience simply sits back and takes it in. By allowing the consumer to get more involved in the ad or the original content, and by being able to place advertising videos (whether ads or informative content marketing clips) in MUCH more relevant contexts, viewers naturally become more involved and connected to the product or service, and thus, more willing to make a purchase.

The Future of Online Video

The Globe and Mail claims that big things are on the horizon for online video advertising in 2014. Smaller companies that had been hesitant to hop on board will see the light and start spending on the medium. And, speaking of spending, I don’t think there is any doubt that this will be the year that more companies start shifting their advertising dollars from traditional television to social media and online video. Another shift will be that online video production will become more of a specialty for agencies. With the differences between traditional and online video becoming more apparent, through the inclusion of interactivity and highly-targeted contexts, for example, more production companies and marketing agencies will specialize in online video production and distribution (yes, as ComBridges has been doing for some time).

Obviously, the ComBridges team is here to help if you are interested; but more importantly, I wonder whether it will be you or your competition that will take the lead by leveraging the amazing power of online video and online video advertising.

I’ve seen again and again that it’s those market leaders who stick their necks out to engage with these leading edge trends that grab a significant competitive advantage, especially over time. “A word to the wise” should be sufficient. Yes?

Take Advantage: Social Media & Mobile Marketing Lead the Way for Black Friday, Cyber Monday Offers & Deals

Are you taking advantage of the major trends in online e-commerce by connecting with your customers where and when they want to do business?

Social media and mobile lead this seasons's online shopping

The year-over-year growth in the popularity of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals illustrates why your mobile and social marketing strategies are more important than ever!

As the venture capitalist, Fred Wilson recently said in a blog post (with chart) showing how “Mobile is Eating the World“:

“The jump from 2012 to 2013 should be terrifying to anyone who has a business based anywhere but mobile.”

As we enter this year’s holiday season, there’s no doubt that online shopping will play a bigger role. Last year, the big Cyber Monday sales climbed 30 percent higher (2012 compared to 2011). In fact, in 2012, Cyber Monday ranked as the best day of the year for online shopping, besting any day in December. This is largely due to people using their smartphones to shop. Approximately 12 percent more users bought items from a smartphone in 2012 than 2011, while 18 percent of total Cyber Monday sales came from smart phones, as reported by the 2012 IBM Software Report.

Mobile Friendly Marketing

People are discovering and ultimately buying products and services from what they see on the smartphone. They may text a friend just after visiting a marketer’s Facebook page and/or after viewing a new online store. And social media platforms are becoming synonymous with phone usage. In actuality, 78 percent of Facebook users are accessing the social media platform from a mobile device, and Facebook earns 40 percent of its revenue from mobile users, CEO Mark Zuckerberg told TechCrunch. This confirms the importance of merging Cyber Monday promotions with the popularity and widespread use of social media. How is your business doing in this regard?

And, perhaps even more importantly, social media is built on sharing. Some 2.5 billion pieces of content are shared each and every day on Facebook. Only through effective, authentic social media marketing can marketers hope to get a small piece of this lucrative pie.

Directly Targeted Social Media

Popular, successful online specialty retailers set the pace by directly engaging with Cyber Monday via guerilla style marketing campaigns. For example, Tanga showcases a line-up of half-off products, and its direct social media efforts, including a staff of members posting about the savings, is just one method employed in the company’s completely online effort.

Integrating the power of “bricks and clicks,” the popular retailer Macy’s is taking full advantage of social media. Its popular ‘buy one, see another donated’ campaign is bringing increased attention to its social media feeds. Thousands are sharing the donation campaign to their respective followers on Facebook.

Twitter Hashags Push the Envelope

Facebook is not getting all the attention. Here’s an actionable tip for you: Cyber Monday marketers are also using the #blackfriday Twitter hashtag for added exposure. Going a step further, Shopping Blog has even implemented a distinct Black Friday Twitter account to fully realize the potential of its Cyber Monday and Black Friday promotions.

Strategic Marketing Plans Benefit All

Many companies have taken their long term social media strategies to a new level by thinking strategically about holiday shoppers. As we advocate and do when help companies with their marketing strategies, many online marketers have outlined detailed plans. For example, ReadWrite details how brands create a social media playbook that gives explicit ‘why’ answers and builds a goal plan hierarchy for continued success. Because social media has so many facets, companies need to outline exact strategies for harnessing its potential. Otherwise, the old axiom comes true:

“A failure to plan is a plan to fail.”

Cyber Monday, in particular, only accounts for a small component of the much larger Internet marketing, social media and mobile game plans. But it’s a great place to start. Please let us know if we can help.

Wishing you every success as well as a peaceful, nurturing and satisfying holiday season.