Women In Product 2019 – Conference Recap

This is the second product conference I’ve been able to attend this year. In particular, the Women In Product conference (WIP) is unique because it brings together women in leadership positions across many different verticals who are doing or leading product initiatives and provides a relatable perspective to other females navigating their career as product leaders.

I feel it’s important to have a conference that’s focused on females in product management because not many young girls think about becoming a leader when they’re young. They’re much more prone to thinking about how to fit in.

Women In Product conference sponsored by Intuit and Macy's

Snapshot of Women In Product 2019 

This one-day conference was primarily for females whose jobs title is product manager. Though there were a few male attendees as well. What follows are insights, tips and inspiration that will help any individual in a product manager role.

Who: Women In Product (Twitter: @womenpm)
What: More than 2,000 product leaders gathered to celebrate the role and contributions of women product managers in the field.
Where: Hilton Union Square
When: Tuesday November 12, 2019

Why: it was an opportunity to connect with other female product leaders, learn from and inspire each other.
How: the day was structured around morning keynote speakers, afternoon breakout sessions and concluded with an evening mixer. Food and beverages were provided throughout the day.

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Product Manager Skills – Top 10 Tactics & Wisdom

  1. Speak up for yourself & ask for what you need for your You may not always get what you want but you will start an important conversation.
  2. Think about the customer journey. Always keep in mind the end-to-end journey you’re solving for. It will help you solve for the right things. Ask yourself: Is there a simpler way?
  3. We’re builders who can change the world; use what “sucks” about a situation you personally have experienced once to inform how to make things better.
  4. Have empathy for the non-normal user; in their world, the small things that drive you crazy can really add up.
  5. Diversity in teams & companies is essential because there is value in having different perspectives that reflect the unique makeup of markets and cultures across the globe.
  6. The concept of giving people honest feedback (straight talk) should come from a place of good intention and caring about their professional development.
    1. Even if it’s a difficult conversation, we owe it to those we lead to give context and feedback that can help make someone better.
  7. Everyone has a super power. Step 1: find yours. Step 2: Tap into it.
    1. “Often, the thing that’s yours is what’s easiest for you.” Lucinda Newcomb Walmart VP of Discovery.
    2. She suggested you can find out what it is by asking other people.
  8. “You can adapt your roadmap to reality. You cannot adapt reality to your roadmap.” Lucinda Newcomb, Walmart VP of Discovery.
  9. A good PM knows the market, the goal of your users, defines target user, defines what needs to be built to achieve company goals (Amanda Richardson, EIR at Goodwater Capital).
  10. Career advancement: leading product like a GM is great experience for becoming a CEO (Jennifer Tejada, CEO of PagerDuty).
    1. Think on behalf of the company. Get in front of what customers need from your product; think about where their world is going?

Becoming a Product Manager – These were some of the best stories

Theme #1: Let’s own our power & use it well

The fireside chat was with fashion designer and creator of the wrap dress, Dianne Von Furstenberg.

What I found interesting about her success was that it was accidental, but all the right ingredients came together. “When I created the wrap dress, all I wanted was to be a woman in charge” she said. “It’s almost always about function: ‘what if I had that? Or that?’” Essentially, her product was very practical and easy.

In spite of success, she remained humble. “Every successful person should feel like a loser at least twice a week. Only losers don’t feel like losers.” But this is a careful tightrope to walk. She also advised against berating yourself too much, “If I doubt my power, I give power to my doubts.”

When asked “who do you design for?” DVF said, “I design for the woman in charge.” She went on to elaborate on her manifesto of being #InCharge.

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She also generously offered attendees an EMAIL to send her ideas and feedback inCharge@dvf.com.

By sharing her own insecurities and challenges with things like imposter syndrome, DVF motivated us with her commitment to the 4 pillars of her manifesto: Connect, Expand, Inspire and Advocate.

“The only thing you have 100% control of is your character. You can lose your health, family, money, freedom, but you can always own your character. That is the core of your strength.” DVF

In “Advocate” she tapped into the essence of the super power within us all saying, “We all have a magic wand. The more you use your wand the more magical it becomes.” For Dianne, it means using her connections. She makes the first two emails of her morning about connecting two people.

Theme #2: Let’s turn our super power (of launching products) on ourselves

My second favorite story was from Jimena Almendares, VP Global Expansion at Intuit. She combined her insights from conversations with various mentees into a practical application of running our own lives as product roadmaps.

She published her talk “Run Your Live Like A Product Roadmap” on LinkedIn Pulse

While the titles of PM’s vary from company to company, what is consistent is the skill of planning and getting things done. Her basic premise, “if it works for the products you launch, it will work for you”.

Her three takeaways:

  1. Life roadmaps don’t follow linear development.
  2. Just like in business, your True North is what matters.
  3. It’s ok to launch, fail, learn and pivot.

 

Psychology of Product

Kristen Berman, co-founder of Irrational Labs, spoke on the concept of behavioral design. She laid out a simple illustration of what customers say one thing and do another. Some companies have over 90% of employees saving for retirement. How did they achieve this? The secret is the form employees fill out when they first get hired; they’re enrolled by default.

There are three types of questions org’s ask: The past, future and why.

  • People tend to underreport things done in the past. Why? We want to give socially acceptable answers. And, we just forget.
  • The future (what will you do): they’re imagining they’re ideal self.
  • Why: tend to be the most misleading questions (why do you save for retirement? b/c I want to save for my future. Reality: auto enroll)

If you can’t trust what people say, trust their actions.

Top Tactics for Product Managers

As a product manager, the role often sits at the intersection of business, technology and design and involves coordinating the efforts of teams across the organization in order to bring a product into the marketplace.

For most product managers, their background is varied. The path to becoming a product manager is developed and attained over time based on other skill sets acquired.

The most difficult part of the job can be deciding which idea to pursue out of a sea of great ideas. What’s needed is the skill of creating business cases and rigorous product review cycles to surface financially viable opportunities.

What follows is the tactical and practical applications to try. Requires understanding the exact environment and how a person could react. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes.

5 Areas to address in a product review

Anytime you get to talk about your product: do it. It’s good for your product & for your professional advancement. Below are the top 5 areas any product review should cover:

  1. Vision – describe the vision & the features
  2. Problem – address the problem we’re solving (use real customer examples that demonstrate the problem)
  3. Goals – what does winning mean or look like? What are the KPIs?
  4. Roadmap – identify what’s critical to execute first (list the MVP features delivered). Roadmaps need to be in partnership with tech delivery teams. Do not develop them in isolation.
  5. Input – be direct & clear with your manager about where you want feedback.

Lastly, here’s a practical exercise for getting perspective and seeing what you might be missing in the product you’re trying to bring to market: grab a trusted partner and actively try to disprove that we’re right. Often we’re so close to something that we don’t see the “gotchas” so actively taking time to figure out what you could be missing is a helpful exercise.

Working the booth

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I spent the first part of the day (ahem 7:30AM-9AM) on the exhibit hall floor at the Macy’s booth.  I really enjoyed the opportunity to represent the Product team and educate attendees about what “Macy’s tech” (the digital arm of macys.com) does operating out of the corporate digital offices in San Francisco.

 

The opinions, thoughts and perspective expressed in this post are my own. While I am a representative of the company, these are not necessarily the views of my employer.

I Counted 27 Super Bowl Ads Yesterday That Had Celebrities

It’s the day after the biggest advertising day of the year, the Super Bowl. Here are a few advertising stats on the 2019 event:

  • Host network CBS charged a record $5.25 million for a 30-second ad during this year’s game.
  • A total of 54 advertisers shelled out $5.25 million for 30 seconds of screen time during the Super Bowl this year, adding up to 93 ads in total.

Today is largely “national hangover day” since it’s the Monday after the Super Bowl. It’s hard for most of us to remember much of anything about Sunday’s game, especially that brand of cleaning solution whose ad aired in the third quarter.

Alcohol brands and automobiles have arguably the largest budgets when it comes to allocating it towards media buys, creative, production, and paying a celebrity for their time and involvement endorsing said product. But even a great commercial must be something Joe sitting on the couch at home can remember.

The competition for attention is incredibly steep; every advertiser in the program lineup has paid top dollar to put their best foot forward with their 15-30 seconds designed to capture their viewer’s attention.  Traditionally, TV commercials have largely been about brand awareness (as opposed to ROI).  Which is why the Super Bowl is the most advantageous day for well-known brands to continue to solidify the position they occupy in the consumer’s mind.

Are Super Bowl ads worth it?

Everyone has their opinion on which commercials were great and which weren’t.  But I thought instead it would be more interesting to evaluate how many ads enlisted the help of a familiar face in the form of a celebrity.

My hypothesis is that commercials are more memorable when it involves someone you recognize. Therefore, I predict this year, more advertisers will use celebrities.  It begs the question: are Super Bowl Ads worth it?  In my opinion, it’s worth it if the ad causes the audience to remember your brand or it reinforces your existing branding.

I kept track of every commercial break noting the brand name and if any famous people were involved in the commercial as a main actor or cameo. For this experiment, I considered a celebrity to be anyone who was in a TV show, a famous athlete, an actor in a movie, or a musical artist.  I didn’t count any promos for a CBS TV show because it goes without saying, any network would have aired their TV lineup if it had been their turn to host the broadcast on their network. I wanted to get the purest count of paying advertisers during the broadcast who used celebrities.

Let’s see how many ads leveraged the power of a familiar face by incorporating celebrities into their ad. I’ll bet it’s more than you think.


Notes & General disclaimers:

*Please excuse any typos in my spreadsheet below; this was mostly for fun and I was also slightly more concerned about not dropping spinach artichoke dip on my MacBook Pro. 😀

*To clarify: animals can be celebrities too. There were a handful of ads that leveraged well known animals; the GOT dragon in BudLight, the Dalmatian and Clydesdale horses in the Anheuser- Busch commercial, and Mercedes mentioned Lassie.

*Every space denotes when the commercial break started/ended. Brand names that advertised within that quarter are listed in the first column.

*Celeb = 1 means there was one or more celebrities present in the ad. 0 means no celeb was used.


Brand name Q1 Celebrity/ General observations Celeb
Bon viv sparkling water no celeb 0
m n m celeb bud I couldn’t place her quickly enough 1
hulu handmaden tail – celebs 1
bumble ad serina williams – don’t wait to make first move 1
Hyundai car – jason bateman 1
Turkish airlines The Journey – ridley scott film 0
Survivor TV bump 0
OLAY sarah michele gellar- spoof horor movie scene; face unlock 1
Doritoz backstreet /insync 1
weather tech
pet comfort
goldent retreiver dog 0
Pepsi half time show TV bump 0
Marvel captain marvel. Lindsey lohan 1
Bud Light new version of thei rperiod ads. Returning Corn syrup – whole idea is it’s not brewed w/ corn syrup 0
fast and furious producers:   Hobs & Shaw movie trailer – the rock, handsome rob 1
Expensify rap video; need receipts for the is video – guy from parks and rec 1
CBS show: FBI 0
Pepsi Steve Carell , Cardi B , lil john 1
Simpli Safe robots doing our jobs 0
T mobile giant long text message 0
Audi grandpa & son, – choaking on cashew nut. Surprise but not memorable 0
Brand name Q2 Celebrity/ General observations
Bud Light GOT season finalie (HBO) 1
avocados from mexico dog show 0
CBS show bump Worlds Best 0
Pringles 0
Google translate most translated words: hello, thank you, I love you 0
Showtime 0
Mercedes lassi get help; if only everything In life listened to you 1
pro clean deep clean. Waste of money 0
Tmobile she drives me crazy song   w/ taco bell 0
Toyota toni harris female athlete – Rav 4 hybrid 1
Planters peanuts Charlie Sheen, A rod. 1
CBS TV bump 0
mint mobile wireless 0
Norwegean cruse line 0
CBS bump – Star Treck tv spin off on spock 0
CBS twilight zone bump 0
Turbo tax robo child; all CPA’s are live people. You’ll never be emotionally complex for the job 0
Stella Artoi Terry Bradshaw, the Dude, XX Man cameo – ” the dude abides” 1
Sprint Bo Jackson (good for guys but I didn’t know who he was) 1
CBS bump 0
CBS bump bionic arm violinist 0
CBS bump young sheldon 0
CBS bump God friended me 0
Showtime bump 0
Yellowtale wine 0
Xfinity (too safe) the future of awesome 0
Draper University 0
Oakers.com 0
(right before half time)
NFL 100 year football fumble off cake, branding play at a dinner party and football is loose 1
Pepsi half time hsow IBM watson drone “love”   “one” 0
Big Boi – outkast ; I love the way you move
Toyota subra it’s back. Sports car 0
ADT home security; home flipping twins / celebs 1
Grammys TV bump – Alisha Keys 0
Toyota college grad buyatoyota.com 0
CBS sports bump 0
DCU checking 0
Celebrity cruise line 0
(replay) Mass Mutual 0
Comcast Internet 0
DCU who is this?Local ad? 0
(halftime commentary)
KIA 0
Bubly Michael Buble – sparkling water 1
NCIS bumper TV bump 0
Brand name Q3 Celebrity/ General observations
Tmobile free lyft ride 0
Wix karkie ross (redone) 1
Netflix One Planet – animals. looks awesome 0
Michelob beer it’s only worth it if you can enjoy it – robot 0
Verizon it’s our job to make sure they get the call; nfll coach 1
Devour frozen foods 0
Grammys Alisha keys hosts 0
Google “jobs for veterans J225” 0
Colgate 0
CBS bump SWAT 0
Amazon prime original content Hanna 1
Sketchers 0
Bud Light driving home not made w corn syrup 0
CBS bump for their show 0
CBS bump The Neighborhood 0
CBS grammys bump 0
Chevvy a little but country a bit rock and roll 0
Hennesy 0
Dietz Nuts celeb – craig robinson. Funny 1
Brand name Q4 Celebrity/ General observations
Microsoft playing video games. They teased it online prior to superbowl 0
WeatherTech cup phone 0
BudLight not made with corn syrup 0
Verizon first responders; shorter version 0
BurgerKing #eatlikeandy 0
Budwieser dalmation; brewed with wind power 1
CBS big bang theory – last season Thursday 0
amazon forest whitker, harrison ford, great one – 1
Scary stories 0
Michelob beer organic form – hawaii ASMR zoe kravitz 1
Late show promo 0
T mobile texting conversation 0
The Washington Post knowing empowers us 0
The Grammys
Patriots win!
Amazon bit more of the same commercial – what does it mean: not every one makes the cut? 1
Total 27

Observations: half of the Super Bowl ads featured a known person or animal

Out of 54 advertisers, I counted 27 ads that ran during the game that used a celebrity or well-known animal personality. That’s about half. Which means half of the ads on the biggest advertising day of the year leveraged some type of recognizable person with which to associate their brand.

I think this is a growing trend because when it comes to advertising — yes, it’s expensive — which is why brands need to tap into the immediate effects of facial recognition and positive association with people who are funny/ cool/ cute/ and inspirational.

So, are Super Bowl ads effective?

Celebrity endorsements are nothing new. But the prominence of how many advertisers built their creative spots around this tactic so that their ad would have the greatest impact during the time when their audience has the shortest attention span confirms the effectiveness of this strategy.

When it comes to Super Bowl Sunday the audience is always going to be incredibly distracted whether they’re watching at home and using their mobile phone or at a loud bar or house party. Brands have two options to make their game day ads count: make us remember you OR remind us who you are.

The most familiar face in football: Tom Brady. Congrats on your 6th win, Patriots!

These are a few of my favorite things about Content Marketing

I get lots of questions about content marketing and how it can be improved using SEO (Search Engine Optimization). I thought I would take a moment to capture the advice I give for the questions I get asked most often on this topic.

Since there are a lot of questions that are tangentially related, I broke this post up into three main sections:

  1. Process & Strategy: Structure, Style, Tone and Keyword Research
  2. Measurement: Success Metrics, Performance Reports, Quality
  3. The million dollar question – How does Google rank content?

Grab a cup of hot chocolate, Holly’s advice starts now. 🙂

 

Process & Strategy: Structure, Style, Tone and Keyword Research

Q: How do you determine the style and tone of voice for a piece of content?

Q: Which tone or style have you seen to be most successful in past projects?

It might sound obvious but a conversational style and tone where correct grammar and punctuation are used (obviously) without sounding like a robot or where the author is writing just to obtain search engine rankings really does resonate with human beings.

In terms of what’s most effective, I’ve found educational, helpful content that solves the user’s problem is the best approach.

It takes a bit of testing and iterating but after researching what people search for that’s related to a the main topic (i.e. “weight loss” or “home entertainment system”),  answering the questions that are being asked is the most effective way to provide useful, relevant and informative content.

Solve real problems. Build trust. Sales will ensue.

Q: How do you decide which content topics to focus on and what format that content should take?

Since I always advocate a customer-focused approach, the smartest thing to do is to start by listening to what consumers in your market want. You do this by getting an understanding of the kinds of content that’s already ranking in Google when you search for your core topic. According to Google, that’s what consumers want to see.

The other variables that help you decide what to focus on are: keyword seasonality, average monthly search volume. You want to align these to your business priorities in terms of the resources you have to optimize existing content versus spending all your time creating new content. It’s faster and easier to improve upon content you already have.

For format, think about how you can make your branded content the most relevant to what consumers are seeking (this is called matching search intent). Does that mean providing a video? Maybe listing steps in a guide? This takes research and examination of the landscape digesting what’s ranking and using that information to improve your contributions.

More on format, it’s helpful to bucket content into two main types so the intent of your pages is clear:

  1. Informational (educational in nature and intent)
  2.  Transactional (which is more product focused)

In this way, your page is designed to either capture rankings for organic searches (i.e. “best queen mattresses”) when consumers are in an awareness and consideration stage. Or it could be to gain rankings for product pages focused on transaction-based searches (i.e. brand+mattress: “Serta mattress”).

Many brands try to create content that gives shopping tips & ideas.  Start by performing keyword research to see the data that’s available on a term especially the estimated monthly search volume. If you pay for an enterprise SEO tool, you can easily get this type of data. Alternatively, one of the best “free” tools available is to sign up for a Google Adwords account. This will require you to enter some form of credit card information but you don’t have to buy ads; you’re there to do research. Just be aware that your cc info is on file.

Some enterprise tools also show Seasonality data (i.e for a fluid term like “flowers” it’s at its peek in January/February due to the Valentines day holiday). This is helpful to know because it indicates the time of year of when your content is going to be the most relevant to someone searching for it online.

It also indicates when teams should begin refreshing content for upcoming seasonally relevant searches. Especially helpful if you manage an internal content team or external writers as part of your content resource.

Here are a few quick ideas of the places I check when I’m researching the landscape and brainstorming the kind of content that will be most effective.  The process involves researching metrics using several free & paid tools:

  • Identify missing topics and search intent using tools like AnswerThePublic.com and Moz Insights.
  • Check the Google SERP to see what questions appear in People Also Ask boxes.
  • Identify the first 20 short head terms related to the topic which have a significant search volume (no lower than 1K) and a second list of another 20 terms which are long tail terms. Prioritize these as tier 1 and 2.
  • Check Buzzsumo for trending topics related to the category page for opportunities to provide content competitors are not covering.

Ideally, your research and methodology needs a combination of qualitative and quantitative data. You’ll be manually evaluating the quality of your competitor’s content and using data to improve your own pages.

Q: What is a good process for proofreading?

Q: Can you describe a process for creating and updating style and copy guidelines?

My process is largely based on ensuring the content meets the user’s intent and provides value: it solves a problem with information or provides a solution that solves the problem a human is experiencing.  Bottom line, if the content is not useful the searcher will go elsewhere. There is so much “noise” online so the most effective content must deliver value.

A good process for creating or updating style and copy guidelines is similar to a gap analysis (what’s missing from our competitor pages that you can talk about) is to reference the Google Quality Rater Guidelines. Google began publishing this information in 2013 so that more webmasters would have a blueprint for what Google considers to be quality. One of the key elements is a component called E-A-T. Online content should demonstrate Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness.  It’s worth downloading a copy of the PDF and looking through it on a Sunday afternoon building the insights into your style guide to share with broader teams and writers.

Q: How would you structure a content calendar to compete with a brand’s main vertical competitors?

Q: What is the process of a competitive analysis to identify gaps and content opportunities?

Broadly speaking, every business has three main types of competitors that they compete with for consumer attention. It’s helpful to think of classifying these as:

  • direct
  • indirect
  • informational

Here is a framework for you so you can begin to group the brand names and think about a mini business SWOT analysis against your main vertical competitors:

Direct Competitors Indirect Competitors Informational Competitors
(physical retailers who offer similar products to your store’s main categories) (vertical retailers who sell similar categories your brand also sells, some may be online-only) (these are websites that publish content from a non-retail source on how to buy things your brand sells)
brand name 1

brand name 2

brand name 1…etc. brand name 1… etc.

The process for structuring a content calendar to compete with your brand’s vertical competitors takes time. Quite honestly, it’s a topic for another post. At a high level, though, it starts with research to establish a baseline of these components:

  • keyword topics
  • a gap analysis of competitor pages on a URL-to-URL level basis to determine the type of content that will be most effective against competitive pages and holds value to searchers.
  • prioritizing internal and external resources and identifying where your brand wants to invest in building out value-based content that inspires customers.
  • determine baseline performance KPIs you want to see from the published content. This will inform where and how you make future optimizations on underperforming pages.
  • building measurement dashboards using a combination of KPIs that account for user engagement and rankings.

The key to this strategy is to prioritize improving existing content so that it delivers a ton of value instead of pumping out a bunch of new content that first has to get crawled and indexed and might not give enough value. An editorial calendar designed around quality and location based searches is a unique advantage against competitors that think the answer is quantity and volume.

Onto the second question of addressing the process of a competitive analysis to identify gaps and content opportunities.  In a nutshell, here are the high level components:

  • identify your main topic keywords; the pillar content your site wants to rank for.
  • include several long tail search terms
  • assess the search intent by analyzing the top 10 organic results (5 if you have less time): are people seeking guides? how to pages? Are tips and lists surfacing most? The goal is to get a sense for the format that people want to consume content.
  • manually access how difficult it would be to rank via on page factors; what content does your page need to outperform the one that’s ranking?

I will say this, trying to rank for high search volume terms (i.e. 20K+) is largely a waste of time. For most brands, it’s better to adopt a keyword strategy that lets you create content around core terms, long tail searches that drive specific intent, and questions your brand can answer succinctly (hint: b/c Featured Snippets & Answer Boxes are as good as Position 1 of a paid search ad but you obtain them organically – $free.99, people).

 

Measurement: Success Metrics, Performance Reports, Quality

Strap in. These are some of the more hard-to-define questions.

Q: What makes content/copy “successful”?

Q: How do you know if content has performed well or not?

Q: What are the types of measurement for success analytics?

It depends 🙂

Content success metrics can be defined in many different ways. That’s the good news. The bad news is, there are many metrics to choose from.

Like any goal, the best ones clearly define when success has been achieved. They’re SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.

Content is successful it’s when measured against the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you develop as your guideposts for what you want the content to achieve based on what’s important to your business and within a designated timeframe. For e-commerce sites especially, this is a balance of improving on-page content to generate revenue and improving organic rankings.

Simply put, that could mean “these 20 product pages that receive the most organic traffic in a given month will be successful if 3 out of 5 visitors makes a transaction.” Or, “these four category pages that each have a total of 10 non-brand keywords will ideally rank for upwards of 200 terms after we make the on-page optimizations over these next four weeks.”

See how the SMART framework gives a bit more definition to the term “successful” by making things measurable?

Here’s a small framework for thinking about and identifying qualitative, vanity metrics and quantitative, data-driven ones. Aim to have three total using a combination of these two types:

Vanity Metrics SEO Metrics
(These are more indicators of quality but are hard to measure b/c they don’t directly translate to contributing to a goal like sales) (These are data points are quantifiable b/c they have a number)
  • Positive or negative sentiment in blog or social comments
  • Content is so good it earns a ranking as a Direct Answer box or Featured Snippet.
  • New users acquired to the brand’s social media accounts after the content was published or revamped.
  • Engagement on Social:
    • Likes or other emoji faces
    • Re-tweets
    • Shares across social platforms
  • Mentions and backlinks from a reputable source that are generating X amount of referral traffic to the page.
  • Improving page rank (getting it onto page 1 or within striking distance of moving onto the 1st page)
  • Increasing the number of organic keywords ranking on the page. Think non-brand, generic search terms that a human being would type into Google.
  • Number of page 1 ranking URLs your brand has compared to competitors.

I know, it’s a lot. It’s helpful to determine your success metrics using a balance of qualitative input and quantitative data.

Q: After you have published your content, how would you promote it?

One of my favorite examples is from GaryVee: How to Grow and Distribute Your Brand’s Social Media Content.  It’s is a reverse pyramid where one piece of long form “pillar content” (like a video, infographic, powerful keynote or interview) is created and then repurposed by social teams into smaller pieces of content and distributed across the primary social media platforms: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Quora in a way that’s contextually relevant to users on each platform.

Seriously, re-read that last part. Contextually relevant is key to getting attention and engagement in social. No one wants to see the same message across all their platforms, that’s when your brand starts to get tuned out because your message looks like a mass media advertisement.

It’s important to continually test and evaluate which pieces of short-form content are resonating best on each of the platforms. Story features are different from IG to IGTV to FB. Keep testing in order to get the best headline that resonates with your audience.

The Million Dollar Question – How Does Google Rank Content?

Q: How does Google rank content?

Without a doubt, that is the million-dollar question.

Google has upwards of 200+ ranking factors that it uses to evaluate which 8-10 organic links get to appear on page 1. If everyone knew how Google ranked content, they’d be doing it. That’s why we have to stay curious and be aware of the clues in the data we have and structure of the SERPs.

The search engine giant doesn’t make a habit of announcing when and how it updates its algorithm but when it does, it’s usually around improving the quality of content in order to continue providing the best user experience.

There are specific content guidelines published in the Quality Rater Guidelines. Google is especially critical of websites whose business is to help people make decisions that impact their health and finances; Your-Money-or-Your-Life content (YMYL). It’s also scrutinizing what constitutes “quality” where websites are a known online authority for having topic Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness (E-A-T) in their field.

Now, quality is even harder to measure than “successful content” because there are many factors involved. But if you’re like me and always looking for some kind of baseline, I have heard other SEO’s comment that it’s measured in links and mentions. Basically, what other authoritative websites say about your brand.

Q: What are Google’s primary algorithms relevant to content/copy writing?

Q: What doesn’t Google like in regard to content? What types of bad content practices could lead to removal or suppression in search results?

Q: Alternatively, what does Google like in content/copy, which makes it rank well in search results? What are a couple of best practices for excellent SEO and optimization for users?

Q: What tools are used for finding keywords, content opportunities and topic analysis to enhance SEO?

There are a few things to unpack here. The primary algorithms related to content are Panda and I would also name the more recent the quality updates in March, April and August (confirmed by Google) as part of their broad core update. Seems Google was busy in 2018.

Google’s Panda update was first released in February 2011. The change targeted “low-quality sites” or “sites with thin content” pushing them farther down in search results page. In particular, “content farms” lost rankings and higher-quality sites became visible near the top of the search results.

Second to making money, Google’s goal is to provide the best user experience. Pages that rank on page 1 are there because they’re considered to be relevant to the query and meet the user’s search intent.

Google does not reward pages with content that misleads users. This is what’s known as “black hat” tactics that are designed to lure people to your website. These are some of the bad tactics that lead to getting a manual penalty from Google:

  • publishing malicious, offensive or inappropriate content
  • phishing scams
  • having too many advertisements on the page
  • having intrusive pop-ups that cover the main content and are especially annoying on smaller, mobile screens
  • thin or low quality content
  • keyword stuffing on pages

This can all be avoided by creating high quality sites in line with demonstrating Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness relevant to the industry you’re in. Karma exists online too, folks. Do right by each other.

What other kinds of content does Google like to rank?  Images! In fact, according to a recent study by Spark Toro, “Google Images accounts for more than 20% of all queries American performed in 2018.” Demand for images in the SERP is huge and that’s where Google is putting them (instead of under the “Images” tab).

Lastly, in regard to tools, there are some great enterprise SEO tools on the market. The big three are BrightEdge, Conductor and Searchmetrics. Other paid tools I use regularly for topic analysis and data on search volumes are Buzzsumo, SEMRush, Moz, STAT Analytics.  I also love referencing free the website Answerthepublic.com to get a sense of how questions are being asked.

Don’t forget, the Google SERP itself is a fantastic place to identify trending content and opportunities: People Also Ask (PAA) boxes, Related Searches, and predictive searches all provide a great resource for writing content based on what. people. search. for.

The bots are going to think I’m keyword stuffing, I say it so much 😉

Q: What are some good ways to get other people to link to your content?

It sounds really simple but the key is to invest the time to make YOUR content great and worthy of being shared. Great content is memorable, helpful, insightful, inspiring, funny – it resonates with your audience. It can be hard to quantify but if you research the questions people are asking and see what information competitors are putting out there, you can fill the content gap with your content that’s better than anything else out there.

The second side of this coin are the tactics you deploy to promote your great content. This is a combination of leveraging off-site channels like as micro influencers on social media, drumming up authentic PR, and creating email marketing campaigns.

Last tip: Make sure your most fabulous content lives on your domain (.com); there’s nothing worse than driving traffic and eyeballs to a place that’s not owned and managed by your brand.

Q: Can you briefly describe best practices for internal linking and benefits for SEO?

Links are votes of confidence on the web. Internal links help visitors find content that’s related to the reason why they’re reading your blog or browsing your site.

Best practices for internal linking gets into taxonomy and site hierarchy.  A few top level things to include are:

  • submitting XML and HTML sitemaps to GSC so crawlers have a roadmap of all your site pages
  • evaluating and creating unique anchor text enhances the link value
  • running crawls on the site to evaluate which pages are strongest and should therefore link out to other internal “weaker” pages.

The benefit of having a clean, internal linking structure is an SEO benefit in two ways. Firstly, it helps search engines to crawl and index the most important pages of your website (very important when you have thousands of pages). Secondly, it contributes to a good user experience because it means humans can easily navigate your site finding and consuming content they’re interested in.

In conclusion, I now need more hot chocolate.

If you’re still reading, I love you. You deserve a cookie. Definitely a good stretch after consuming so much (great!) content. 🙂

Now it’s over to you: What did I miss? What is your $0.02 and feedback for me? How would you answer these questions differently? What was helpful or sparked some ideas for how you’re navigating SEO and content production?

Comment below and let me know.

 

Free Digital Marketing Advice: Why You Should Care About Search Engines

The short answer is, because search engines are the gateway to paying customers.

Aside from the glaring fact that 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine and there are over two billion people online (that’s roughly 40% of the world’s population). The reality is, a majority of your customer base is hanging out online.

More to the point, I’ll answer that question with another question. Have you ever gotten lost in the woods?

Now, if you haven’t, consider yourself lucky. But if you have, you know the only thing in the world you want (aside from a cheeseburger) is to be found.

Picture yourself alone in the woods. Completely alone and lost. When it happens, you start doing everything in your power to make sure someone finds you.

You put on any bright clothing you have.

You waive your arms and shout at anything that even remotely resembles a human being.

You start trying to build a fire to make smoke signals.

You pull out something reflective from your bag to flash at airplanes.

You start building large man-made structures (AKA ducks) to attract attention.

You locate the highest point possible or try to find open space so you can be spotted.

The point is, you fight to be found.

You fight because your very life depends on it.

But it’s only when you’re in that kind of extreme situation that you fight. You’re trying to get someone—anyone’s—attention.

Attention is currency. Especially online.

Now, instead of you alone in the woods picture that it’s your business or your blog that’s trying to be found online. Your one job as a listing on the first page is to grab someone’s attention, hook them on your story, and sell to them.

The search engine results page (SERP) is your wilderness.

Screen Shot 2017-12-01 at 8.34.21 PM.png
search for “what is content marketing.”  What would you click on?

The simple fact is that search engines process questions posed by real people (who have real money too!). Google processes over 3.5 billion searches every day.

It’s time to realize what it takes to be found online. And the fight is already at your doorstep. Between Google’s Mobile First index initiative and smart, connected devices everywhere, getting found is only the beginning of surviving in the digital age.

The Secret to Great Content Marketing: Q&A with Scott Stratten

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

That’s never been more true for content marketers than it is today. Thankfully, there are unconventional marketers living and speaking (read: ranting) among us to guide the way and keep us honest about what really matters in business and to people. Scott Stratten is one of them.  Scott is the author of “UnMarketing: Everything Has Changed and Nothing is Different.” He is also a dynamic speaker.

I first heard of Scott and his work when I was interviewing a number of speakers from Content Marketing World earlier this year.  I was curious to get his perspective on how he consistently creates quality content. While I wasn’t able to meet Scott in person, he very kindly responded to my interview questions via email.

His answers delighted and informed me. I hope you enjoy his wit and wisdom too:

(HM) What information does your audience most want to read about? And how do you deliver on that?

(SS) We’re pretty unique in that we focus mainly on bad business instead of good. The UnPodcast is “The Business Show For The Fed-Up”. We’ve become the magnet for when a brand does wrong, our army of followers send it to us. You never want to be the name in the message “Did you guys see this?”

We deliver it through our weekly UnPodcast, blog (rarely), 5 books and 60 keynote talks at conferences per year.

(HM) How do you know what to write about? 

(SS) If we find it interesting, then so does our audience. We’ve always put out content we enjoyed, and then the audience qualifies itself.

(HM) How do you say current with industry trends in content marketing?

(SS) Always be consuming. To be a good content marketer, you have to be an insatiable content consumer. I never stop reading/watching/listening. That’s my only job. Strong newsletter subscriptions, Google news alerts and even smarter friends/colleagues/fans that curate great content, both directly to us and in their own feeds.

(HM) What combination of platforms are you using to curate and create content?

(SS) Weekly UnPodcast, blog, 5 books and 60 keynote talks at conferences per year. Post weekly on UnMarketing Facebook page (on average, no set frequency), tweet when we feel like it and wonder weekly why we use LinkedIn.

(HM) What are some of the problems that aren’t being addressed by larger companies in the area of content marketing?

(SS) Content is contextual based on the platform it’s published on. We uploaded a video of one of my rants. It got 250k views, which is great but should have been better. Knowing the context of Facebook video (versus YouTube) that you have to catch a potential viewer in a scroll on their news feeds, we re-uploaded the same clip, with a letterboxed view, complete with an attention grabbing headline that stayed on the video. It received over 14,000,000 views. No changes except the words on it.

(HM) What’s a common question you get asked a lot from your clients relating to content?

(SS) No idea, we have no clients 🙂

(HM) In your opinion, what is the most important element of storytelling?

(SS) There’s a reason most great stories are from humans instead of brands: companies can’t get themselves away from the mirror and realize it’s about the person consuming the story, not the one telling it.

(HM) What is your biggest content related challenge?

(SS) The debate between frequency and quality. We send a newsletter out every 6 months, but we should do it a lot more.

(HM) What does your research process look like when you’re writing about a topic you don’t know anything about?

(SS) Google 🙂

(HM) How do you see content evolving over the next 3-5 years?

(SS) Not much. Most people are predicting we’ll consume everything in VR/AR have a vested interested in it.

Bio

Scott Stratten is the President of UnMarketing. He is an expert in Viral, Social, and Authentic Marketing which he calls UnMarketing. Formerly a music industry marketer, national sales training manager and a Professor at the Sheridan College School of Business, he ran his “UnAgency” for a nearly a decade before solely focusing on speaking at events for companies like PepsiCo, Adobe, Red Cross, Hard Rock Cafe, Cirque du Soleil, Saks Fifth Avenue, Deloitte and Fidelity Investments when they need help guiding their way through the viral/social media and relationship marketing landscape. He now has over 175,000 people follow his daily rantings on Twitter and was named one of the top 5 social media influencers in the world on Forbes.com.

He has written four best-selling business books, the newest being “UnSelling: The New Customer Experience” which was just named “Sales Book of the Year” by 1-800 CEOREAD.

His passion comes out most when speaking on stage, preaching engagement and becoming one of the most sought-out speakers on the subject. Along with Alison Kramer, their UnPodcast has been signed by the CBS network as their premier business podcast to launch their new digital network.

His clients’ viral marketing videos have been viewed over 60 million times and he’s recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, USA Today, Entrepreneur Magazine, CNN.com, Inc.com and Fast Company and was named one of “America’s 10 Marketing Gurus” by Business Review USA. That plus $5 gets him a coffee anywhere in the world.


Follow UnMarketing on Facebook  or on Twitter at @unmarketing.

The Best Marketing Advice From The Most Unlikely Source: Heist Movies

Admittedly, I’m a movie buff and one of my favorite genera’s are heist movies. I’m also a big fan of well-executed marketing campaigns. Based on my real-world experience as a modern marketer, I have a few parallels to draw between heist films and creating marketing strategies that work.

The heist film…focuses on the planning, execution, and aftermath of a theft. Versions with dominant or prominent comic elements are often called caper movies. They could be described as the analogues of caper stories in film history.  Wikipedia.org – “what is a heist movie”

Why am I telling you this? It’s not that I want you to become a thief of your customer’s money. But if you want to build a great brand, you will want to consider that you have to (figuratively) steal their hearts and minds.

Think about your favorite heist movie and why you like it. For me, it’s stories like Ocean’s Eleven, Inception, The Italian Job, The Inside Man and The Usual Suspects. Using this list of great heist films as my inspiration, here are the five things marketers can learn from the best heist movies.

1. Plan all the way through to the end

Plan everything. Even if your team or co-workers only see the high level points of your strategy, open up a bottle of red wine one quiet evening and plaaaaaaan. “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Plan for failure too. What are some of the things that could go wrong with the campaign? Doing so can minimize setbacks along the way.

Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Inception (2010)
Eames: You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling. [Pulls out a grenade launcher]
Thinking through how you actually deliver a service to your customers is key. From their search needing a product or service to you fulfilling that need. I like to think about it in the sense of a treasure map. Marketer’s should make it stupid easy for people to find the treasure (i.e. your product). Savvy? Ok, sorry for the Pirates of the Caribbean reference but, planning really involves thinking through the content that’s relevant to the search your users are doing and creating content servicing that need.

2. Everyone has their own unique strengths

Combine them. That’s right, you heard me, combine them. As a marketer, it’s in your best interest to nurture a team leveraging the unique qualities of each person.  This is how you build productive teams. There’s no real process for operating a great team, the secret is letting each individual do what they do well. That’s how you win together.

Ocean's 11 (2001)
Turk Malloy: [intentionally arguing to each other extend the time needed for their balloons to block the security camera’s view] Watch it, bud. Virgil Malloy: Who you calling bud, pal? Turk Malloy: Who you calling pal, friend? Virgil Malloy: Who you calling friend, jackass? Turk Malloy: Don’t call me a jackass. Virgil Malloy: I just did call you a jackass.
3. Look out for one another

Teams are like family; they stick together and have each other’s backs. The lesson here for marketers is that brands that really care and demonstrate they understand their customers will win and retain their customer base much better than the typical “kthanksby” for your purchase experience.

Inside Man (2006)
Keith Frazier: Oh, please, do not say proposals… my girlfriend… she wants a proposal from me. Dalton Russell: You think you’re too young to get married? Keith Frazier: No, I’m not too young… too broke. Maybe I should rob a bank. Dalton Russell: Do you love each other? Keith Frazier: Yeah, yeah, we do. Dalton Russell: Then money shouldn’t really matter. Keith Frazier: Thank you, bank robber!

4. Ringleaders adapt to stay in control of the progression of events

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan (see the above section on planning for failure). And that’s OK. But the reason why we like Dominick Cobb or Danny Ocean is because they seem in control.

As marketers, we know it’s not possible to remain completely in control of the outcome with such a fragmented landscape. We have to contend with things like show-rooming where people try things in store then buy online, or worse yet they snag a discounted Groupon-type engagement with your product or service. Again, that’s why planning comes in handy. Stay in touch with the customer-facing teams, like sales and customer support, so that you can use all of the data input you have to build a story line of what’s happening. Where are your customers buying and how can you (the authentic brand) be there instead to earn the sale?

Inception (2010)

5. The masterminds always gets what they want

Don’t you just want to be that person too!? I mean, how is it that they always get what they want? Because it’s by design.

For modern marketers, this means finding your true customers and continuing to bring value to them. You can also pay it forward; doing the unexpected is…well unexpected. It can even be delightful.

But it’s all by design.

Inception (2010) directed by Christopher Nolen

The Usual Suspects (1995) - Kevin Spacey. Directed by Bryan Singer

Are Enterprise SEO’s a Dying Breed?

Imagine you’re a physician. You’re traveling home on a flight back from a week-long conference where you had to renew your certification. You met many new and old connections and came away knowing your industry is alive and well.  The plane loudly hums along through the air while you review your session notes. Then you begin to hear some commotion from the other passengers a few rows behind you.

One voice. “Can we get her some water?”

Another voice. “She’s having trouble breathing…”

The flight attendant call button sounds in the cabin “ding!” You remain seated. Ears pricked up but waiting.

Your eyes are just returning to your notes when the pilot comes over the loud speaker, “Sorry for the disturbance folks. If there is a doctor on board, please make yourself known to a flight attendant.”

Out of commitment to your field, you are obligated to get involved. Out of personal passion, you have chosen this field. Either way, you are required to help and try to restore that human being back to health. And because of this, people listen to you.

I often feel like I’m a doctor making as many helpful recommendations as I can when it comes to corporate SEO initiatives. But there are so many different parties involved; it can be hard to meet everyone’s needs equally – time involved, level of effort, impact on improving organic traffic, all while staying on top of industry fluctuations. For such improvements to make an impact site-wide, it takes a village.

My parents are both in the medical field. When I was young, I was actually dissuaded from becoming a doctor. But I still have this inherent desire to help and to fix things.

When I hear digital challenges like “why did organic traffic drop on this date,” or “why are these pages not converting” I like the investigation. I thrive on it.  I look at the symptoms the website or a page is exhibiting and I try to gauge that against what I know of Google’s standard for user experience and content that’s relevant to the intent behind the search query.

But I have to be careful not to go too deep down the rabbit hole on what factors might be the cause of the issue. Today, the algorithms are working in real time and we can never be fully confident in the knowledge that a single factor is the cause.

Which is why, we as SEO’s make recommendations to the best of our knowledge, we test and we watch. If the patient (website) improves, we know we addressed the right aspect of the problem. This is why SEO is a long term game. There are no shortcuts to quality. It’s an investment in the right things making sure you empower other teams to help you along the way.

“There is a new breed of SEO manager who is politically savvy and gifted at collaborating with and mobilizing non-SEO teams. If SEO-integration isn’t on your roadmap, you’d better hope it’s not on your competitors’ maps either–otherwise they’ll have gold, and you won’t.”  The Executive SEO Playbook, by Jessica Bowman

Why do doctors never give up? Because they care. And it might also have something to do with taking a Hippocratic Oath 😉

How can enterprise-level SEO’s be as effective? My prescription is the following:

  1. Have more productive SEO-based conversations with stakeholders.
  2. Make SEO easy to implement and actionable for each team.
  3. Foster connections with other trusted, in-house SEO’s and seek their advice regularly.
  4. Read Jessica’s book!

 

Email Marketing: A Little Known Way To Remain Relevant In Their Inbox

I thought this was a great and rather unique example of an email that aims to re-calibrate the level of engagement. Essentially proactively saying, we noticed you may need less communication: “We haven’t heard from you in a while, how can we adjust the frequency of our communication so you don’t unsubscribe completely.”

Ok, I’ll bite and open your email. I admit, I’ve been away from my personal inbox a bit more lately actively engaging in the physical world (#girlswhotrain). And also trying to be diligent about saving a bit of cash not buying every new Reebok shoe that comes on the market.

This email has a great approach because it taps into why I connect with the Spartan brand, reminding me of the mindset of never giving up. And the fact that they noticed I haven’t been clicking through to the website (clearly a diligent marketer leveraging their data & ESP). We, the brand, respect your training time and mental capacity so let’s actively provide you with a way to adjust the frequency of emails accordingly. I love how they use the illustration of buckets as a CTA to continue to engage with the brand at my own pace.

Screen Shot 2017-01-22 at 1.12.33 PM.png

How can you show your non-engaged consumers that you notice them? What can you do to ask them how they want to be communicated to or how often they want to hear from you?

The Inversion Point is Coming – Is Your Mobile Site Ready To Handle Business?

As Joe DeMike, Principal Marketing Consultant at Google explained at IMPACT14 this September, there is an inversion point that’s coming with regard to mobile devices.  Simply put, there will come a point in the very near future where traffic from mobile devices to your company website will overtake that of traffic from desktop (and we’re talking organic traffic). Companies need to be ready and they need to be able to provide a seamless, frictionless experience on the customer path to purchase.

Case in point, I used two types of car services to get me to and from the airport while traveling to the Impact14 conference in Las Vegas this year. I booked an Uber from my office to the airport and I took a cab from LAX back to my office.

Here’s the key difference in my choice of words which, I’ll explain, simultaneously illustrates the difference between companies that are optimizing for mobile experiences versus those that are not: I booked the Uber—implying preference in my transportation arrangements whereas I had to “take” a cab from the airport because Uber drivers are no longer allowed to pick up from the airport…Lame.

Read on and see which seamless and frictionless experience you would prefer:

The Uber

  • Exiting my office building, I open the Uber app and use the pinpoint location to alert a nearby driver I would like to be picked up.
  • Moments later, I get a text message saying my driver is en route and the expected wait time is less than 5 minutes.
  • The driver pleasantly greeted me. He offered me bottled water and gum upon getting settled inside his clean, well-kept vehicle.
  • The driver used the company-provided smartphone to input my desired location.
  • We chatted back and forth during the entire ride to the airport.
  • Since my payment details are on file with Uber, there was no swiping of my credit card or fishing through my purse for cash—even tip is factored into the Uber rides.
  • In short, I arrived at my destination and left the car feeling happy and knowing that I would use Uber’s services again.

The Cab

  • Exited baggage claim at LAX and climbed into the cab giving the driver the exact office address for my destination. He did nothing with the information except nod, start the meter and shift the car into drive.
  • We spend the next minute debating the state of traffic conditions on the freeway versus side streets. When it becomes apparent to me that the cab driver does not know which route is faster, I pull out my smart phone. A quick look on sigalert.com ends the discussion; we will take the freeway (where is his smartphone?).
  • No conversation.
  • I advise the cab driver to exit the freeway and proceed to Pico to make a quick left and then right using back roads to the office (seriously, where is his smart phone?). He is flustered saying “but you said it was on Olympic?…” I say, “this method takes the back roads, it’s OK.”
  • The cab pulls up outside the office. This being the part where we exchange money for his service, I tell the cab driver I will be paying with a credit card and would like a receipt. His reaction is one of visible displeasure that I don’t have cash to give him.
  • I swipe my card into the machine and tip him 20% (since I’m such an inconvenience). The machine doesn’t work and I have to repeat the process again (seriously?!). Finally, receipt in hand, I silently vow not to take a cab again unless I absolutely have to.

These two experiences are night and day and, to a large degree, illuminate the disparity between companies that have optimized their websites to handle mobile engagement and transactions versus those that have yet to. A snippet from DeMike’s presentation, “mobile users will notice and be delighted by the small things you do for them to enhance their experience.” Some of the unique user needs (Read: mobile optimization principles) included:

  • Optimize your entire site for mobile
  • Don’t make users pinch-to-zoom
  • Make product images expandable
  • Tell users which screen orientation works best (if applicable)
  • Keep your user in a single browser window
  • Be clear why you need a user’s location

As it stands, there is a big disparity between the companies that are ahead of the game and those still thinking of getting on board the mobile bandwagon. The time for thinking has past. It’s time for action. I agree, the inversion point will happen and when it does, upon finishing an experience with a brand on a mobile device, marketers will want their customers feeling happy and knowing they’ll use the brand’s services again.

For your viewing pleasure, here are a few snapshots of what this years presenters had to say on mobile.  The IMPACT14 conference is an annual event hosted by the Internet Marketing Association.

Joe DeMike's technical check list
mobile commerce
build best in class experience
Cross device compatability
build app that enhances site

Please visit the event photo gallery for more photos of the event.