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    An Introduction to Schema.org Markup for Emails

    Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

    Posted by kristihines

    If you are a Gmail user, you have likely received some emails that stand out from the rest with a call to action button within the subject line.

    If you’ve booked a flight recently, your airline may have sent you an email that includes an interactive way to view your travel plans.

    Similarly, Google Inbox app users might have seen emails that look like this.

    These calls to action are courtesy of Schema.org markup for email. Just like Schema.org markup for web pages helps web pages stand out in search results, Schema.org markup for emails helps certain emails stand out from the rest in your inbox.

    The goal of email markup is to allow people to take action on emails as quickly and simply as possible. For marketers, there are both pros and cons of this feature. In this post, we’re going to look at the email markup options currently available, who can use it, and if it’s worth it.

    Should you use email markup?

    Email markup is currently available for Gmail email recipients only. The number of Gmail users was over 350 million in 2012. To determine whether you should use it, you shouldn’t go off a three-year-old statistic, but rather a survey of your own email list or customer database.

    Most email service providers (like GetResponse, shown in the example below) allow you to search your subscriber list for specific criteria. Search yours for emails containing Gmail to determine the number of Gmail addresses your emails reach.

    Of course, this isn’t the whole picture. There are likely more people that use Gmail for business with their own domains. So although their emails do not say Gmail, they open their emails in the Gmail web browser or app.

    Another consideration for using email markup is tracking. If you rely heavily on the ability to track email opens and clicks to trigger autoresponders and other marketing automation actions, you may not want to give your subscribers the option to bypass opening your email and clicking on your link.

    Once you’ve determined the approximate number of Gmail users you reach and whether you need the ability to track email actions, your next job is to see if you qualify to use email markup.

    Register for email markup with Google

    Before you can use email markup, you must register with Google. Google will check to make sure you meet email sender quality guidelines, bulk sender guidelines, and action / schema quality guidelines.

    Here are some of the key guidelines you need to know. Emails must be authenticated via DKIM or SPF. The domain of your from email must match the signed-by or mailed-by header.

    You must send a minimum of a hundred emails per day to Gmail users for a few weeks before applying. Google will want to see that you have a very, very low rate of spam complaints from Gmail recipients.

    Bulk email guidelines include using the same IP address to send bulk mail, using the same from email address, only adding subscribers to your list that have opted in (preferably with a double opt-in or confirmation), and allowing list members to unsubscribe easily. These guidelines will not only help you get approved for use of email markup, but will also help your emails get delivered to more Gmail users without being marked as spam.

    Action / schema guidelines boil down to making sure you use the appropriate action markup when possible. When an action markup is not available, or the process is more complex than can be handled inside Gmail, a go-to action should be used. Go-to actions should link directly to a page where the email recipient can complete the action as labeled on the call to action button.

    An introduction to email markup actions

    Actions created by email markup allow email recipients to interact with your business, product, or service within Gmail. There are currently four types of actions to choose from using email markup.

    One-click actions

    One-click actions are those where a task can be completed with one click within Gmail or Inbox. For example, when someone signs up for an email list, they need to confirm their subscription.

    One-click actions are broken into two categories: confirm actions and save actions. The above example is a confirm action. Save actions can include adding an item to a queue or saving a coupon. Both confirm and save actions can only be interacted with once.

    RSVP actions

    RSVP actions allow email recipients to confirm whether they will attend an event using an invite from Google Calendar. Your email will include the event card you usually see in emails from meeting invites.

    Having people confirm their attendance to your event will help ensure that they don’t forget by getting it on their calendar.

    Review actions

    Review actions allow email recipients to add a star and comment review for your business, products, and services right from the subject line of their email in Gmail.

    You can see an end-to-end example of the scripting necessary to create a review action for a restaurant to get reviews from a Gmail user’s inbox to the Datastore using Python.

    Go-to actions

    Actions that do not fall under the above types are considered go-to actions. These are used when you need to take an email recipient to your website to complete an action that is too complex to be handled within the recipient’s Gmail or Inbox app.

    All of the following are examples of go-to actions that take email recipients to do things on another website.

    The call to action on these can be customized, so you are not limited to just viewing orders, tracking packages, and opening discussions. You can tailor them for specific uses, such as resetting a password, reviewing questionable transactions on your credit cards, and updating payment information.

    An introduction to email markup Highlights

    Another use for email markup is Highlights. Highlights summarize key information from specific types of email for users of the Inbox app. For example, Highlights are used for these order confirmations to show the products ordered.

    Another example is this flight reservation using Highlights to show the round-trip flights purchased.

    Specifically, there are six Highlights that businesses can use. They are as follows:

    • Flight reservations – Includes options for displaying basic flight confirmation information, boarding pass, check-in, update a flight, cancel a flight, and additional options. This Highlight is also supported in Google Now.
    • Orders – Includes options for displaying basic order information, view order action, and order with billing details.
    • Parcel deliveries – Includes options for displaying basic parcel delivery information and detailed shipping information.
    • Hotel reservations – Includes options for displaying basic hotel reservation information, updating a reservation, and canceling a reservation. This Highlight is also supported in Google Now.
    • Restaurant reservations – Includes options for displaying basic restaurant reservation information, updating a reservation, and canceling a reservation. This Highlight is also supported in Google Now.
    • Event reservation – Includes options for basic event reminders without a ticket, event with ticket & no reserved seating, sports or music event with ticket, event with ticket & reserved seating, multiple tickets, updating an event, and canceling an event. This Highlight is also supported in Google Now.

    Note that while Highlights are a great feature, they only work for Gmail Inbox users. If Google continues to push Gmail users to using Inbox, this user base will grow exponentially.

    Test email markup before sending

    While you are waiting to be registered with Google, or prior to sending out emails with Schema.org markup, you should run some initial tests to ensure that your markup is correct. You can start by copying and pasting your code into the Email Markup Tester to check for basic errors.

    You can also add email markup to emails you send from and to yourself on Gmail. It’s important to test as one of the action / schema guidelines is a low failure rate and fast response for action handling. You can learn how to send test emails to yourself in this tutorial using script.google.com.

    The tutorial gives you some simple code you can copy and paste as directed.

    When you save and run the project as directed, you will immediately get the following result:

    You can then begin to experiment with the code for the email markup you want to use.

    Run your script again and again to produce new emails.

    Any approved business can use the go-to actions to link the subject line of their email to any portion of their website. As you continue to experiment, think of new ways to engage your audience with email markup.

    Final questions to answer

    Here are some final questions you need to answer before you invest in email markup are the following.

    1. Will you get more of your desired results by adding Schema.org actions to your emails? For example, if you use the review action, will you actually get more reviews for your business?
    2. How much time will it take to revise your emails if / when Google standardizes email markup with Schema.org? It might pay to wait until email markup has been standardized and make the time and coding investment all at once.
    3. Will email actions be supported by other email platforms in the future? Schema.org is a collaboration between Google, Bing, Microsoft, Yandex, and Yahoo. So while not guaranteed, it can be assumed that all of the major email platforms on the web could embrace email markup in the future.

    If, after answering these questions, you can see a real need for email markup, then find out if you meet the guidelines set by Google to use it and register.

    If your business uses email markup, be sure to share your experiences and results in the comments!

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    Search Trends: Are Compound Queries the Start of the Shift to Data-Driven Search?

    Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

    Posted by Tom-Anthony

    The Web is an ever-diminishing aspect of our online lives. We increasingly use apps, wearables, smart assistants (Google Now, Siri, Cortana), smart watches, and smart TVs for searches, and none of these are returning 10 blue links. In fact, we usually don’t end up on a website at all.

    Apps are the natural successor, and an increasing amount of time spent optimising search is going to be spent focusing on apps. However, whilst app search is going to be very important, I don’t think it is where the trend stops.

    This post is about where I think the trends take us—towards what I am calling “Data-Driven Search”. Along the way I am going to highlight another phenomenon: “Compound Queries”. I believe these changes will dramatically alter the way search and SEO work over the next 1-3 years, and it is important we begin now to think about how that future could look.

    App indexing is just the beginning

    App Indexing Google is moving beyond the bounds of the web-search paradigm which made them famous. On Android, we are now seeing blue links which are not to web pages but are deep links to open specific pages within apps:

    This is interesting in and of itself, but it is also part of a larger pattern which began with things like the answer box and knowledge graph. With these, we saw that Google was shifting away from sending you somewhere else but was starting to provide the answer you were looking for right there in the SERPs. App Indexing is the next step, which moves Google from simply providing answers to enabling actions—allow you to
    do things.

    App Indexing is going to be around for a while—but here I want to focus on this trend towards providing answers and enabling actions.

    Notable technology trends

    Google’s mission is to build the “ultimate assistant”—something that anticipates your needs and facilitates fulfilling them. Google Now is just the beginning of what they are dreaming of.

    So many of the projects and technologies that Google, and their competitors, are working on are converging with the trend towards “answers and actions”, and I think this is going to lead to a really interesting evolution in searches—namely what I am calling “Data-Driven Search”.

    Let’s look at some of the contributing technologies.

    Compound queries: query revisions & chained queries

    There is a lot of talk about conversational search at the moment, and it is fascinating for many reasons, but in this instance I am mostly interested in two specific facets:

    • Query revision
    • Chained queries

    The current model for multiple queries looks like this:

    You do one query (e.g. “recipe books”) and then, after looking at the results of that search, you have a better sense of exactly what it is you are looking for and so you refine your query and run another search (e.g. “vegetarian recipe books”). Notice that you do two distinct searches—with the second one mostly completely separate from the first.

    Conversational search is moving us towards a new model which looks more like this, which I’m calling the
    Compound Query model:

    In this instance, after evaluating the results I got, I don’t make a new query but instead a
    Query Revision which relates back to that initial query. After searching “recipe books”, I might follow up with “just show me the vegetarian ones”. You can already do this with conversational search:

    Example of a “Query Revision”—one type of Compound Query

    Currently, we only see this intent revision model working in conversational search, but I expect we will see it migrate into desktop search as well. There will be a new generation of searchers who won’t have been “trained” to search in the unnatural and stilted keyword-oriented that we have. They’ll be used to conversational search on their phones and will apply the same patterns on desktop machines. I suspect we’ll also see other changes to desktop-based search which will merge in other aspects of how conversational search results are presented. There are also other companies working on radical new interfaces, such as
    Scinet by Etsimo (their interface is quite radical, but the problems it solves and addresses are ones Google will likely also be working on).

    So many SEO paradigms don’t begin to apply in this scenario; things like keyword research and rankings are not compatible with a query model that has multiple phases.

    This new query model has a second application, namely
    Chained Queries, where you perform an initial query, and then on receiving a response you perform a second query on the same topic (the classic example is “How tall is Justin Bieber?” followed by “How old is he?”—the second query is dependent upon the first):

    Example of a Chained Query—the second type of Compound Query

    It might be that in the case of chained queries, the latter queries could be converted to be standalone queries, such that they don’t muddy the SEO waters quite as much as as queries that have revisions. However, I’m not sure that this necessarily stands true, because every query in a chain adds context that makes it much easier for Google to accurately determine your intent in later queries.

    If you are not convinced, consider that in the example above, as is often the case in examples (such as the Justin Bieber example), it is usually clear from the formulation that this is explicitly a chained query. However—there are chained queries where it is not necessarily clear that the current query is chained to the previous. To illustrate this, I’ve borrowed an example which Behshad Behzadi, Director of Conversational Search at Google, showed at SMX Munich last month:

    Example of a “hidden” Chained Query—it is not explicit that the last search refers to the previous one.

    If you didn’t see the first search for “pictures of mario” before the second and third examples, it might not be immediately obvious that the second “pictures of mario” query has taken into account the previous search. There are bound to be far more subtle examples than this.

    New interfaces

    The days of all Google searches coming solely via a desktop-based web browser are already long since dead, but mobile users using voice search are just the start of the change—there is an ongoing divergence of interfaces. I’m focusing here on the
    output interfaces—i.e., how we consume the results from a search on a specific device.

    The primary device category that springs to mind is that of wearables and smart watches, which have a variety of ways in which they communicate with their users:

    • Compact screens—devices like the Apple Watch and Microsoft Band have compact form factor screens, which allow for visual results, but not in the same format as days gone by—a list of web links won’t be helpful.
    • Audio—with Siri, Google Now, and Cortana all becoming available via wearable interfaces (that pair to smart phones) users can also consume results as voice.
    • Vibrations—the Apple Watch can give users directions using vibrations to signal left and right turns without needing to look or listen to the device. Getting directions already covers a number of searches, but you could imagine this also being useful for various yes/no queries (e.g. “is my train on time?”).

    Each of these methods is incompatible with the old “title & snippet” method that made up the 10 blue links, but furthermore they are also all different from one another.

    What is clear is that there is going to need to be an increase in the forms in which search engines can respond to an identical query, with responses being adaptive to the way in which the user will consume their result.

    We will also see queries where the query may be “handed off” to another device: imagine me doing a search for a location on my phone and then using my watch to give me direction. Apple already has “Handover”which does this in various contexts, and I expect we’ll see the concept taken further.

    This is related to Google increasingly providing us with encapsulated answers, rather than links to websites—especially true on wearables and smart devices. The interesting phenomenon here is that these answers don’t specify a specific layout, like a webpage does.
    The data and the layout are separated.

    Which leads us to…


    Made popular by Google Now, cards are prevalent in both iOS and Android, as well as on social platforms. They are a
    growing facet of the mobile experience:

    Cards provide small units of information in an accessible chunk, often with a link to dig deeper by flipping a card over or by linking through to an app.

    Cards exactly fit into the paradigm above—they are more concerned with the data you will see and less so about the way in which you will see it. The same cards look different in different places.

    Furthermore, we are entering a point where you can now
    do more and more from a card, rather than it leading you into an app to do more. You can response to messages, reply to tweets, like and re-share, and all sorts of things all from cards, without opening an app; I highly recommend this blog post which explores this phenomenon.

    It seems likely we’ll see Google Now (and mobile search as it
    becomes more like Google Now) allowing you to do more and more right from cards themselves—many of these things will be actions facilitated by other parties (by way of APIs of schema.org actions). In this way Google will become a “junction box” sitting between us and third parties who provide services; they’ll find an API/service provider and return us a snippet of data showing us options and then enable us to pass back data representing our response to the relevant API.

    Shared screens

    The next piece of the puzzle is “shared screens”, which covers several things. This starts with Google Chromecast, which has popularised the ability to “throw” things from one screen to another. At home, any guests I have over who join my wifi are able to “throw” a YouTube video from their mobile phone to my TV via the Chromecast. The same is true for people in the meeting rooms at Distilled offices and in a variety of other public spaces.

    I can natively throw a variety of things: photos, YouTube videos, movies on Netflix etc., etc. How long until that includes searches? How long until I can throw the results of a search on an iPad on to the TV to show my wife the holiday options I’m looking at? Sure we can do that by sharing the whole screen now, but how long until, like photos of YouTube videos, the search results I throw to the TV take on a new layout that is suitable for that larger screen?

    You can immediately see how this links back to the concept of cards and interfaces outlined above;
    I’m moving data from screen to screen, and between devices that provide different interfaces.

    These concepts are all very related to the concept of “fluid mobility” that Microsoft recently presented in their Productivity Future Vision released in February this year.

    An evolution of this is if we reach the point that some people have envisioned, whereby many offices workers, who don’t require huge computational power, no longer have computers at their desks. Instead their desks just house dumb terminals: a display, keyboard and mouse which connect to the phone in their pockets which provides the processing power.

    In this scenario, it becomes even more usual for people to be switching interfaces “mid task” (including searches)—you do a search at your desk at work (powered by your phone), then continue to review the results on the train home on the phone itself before browsing further on your TV at home.

    Email structured markup

    This deserves a quick mention—it is another data point in the trend of “enabling action”. It doesn’t seem to be common knowledge that you can use
    structured markup and schema.org markup in emails, which works in both Gmail and Google Inbox.

    Editor’s note: Stay tuned for more on this in tomorrow’s post!

    The main concepts they introduce are “highlights” and “actions”—sound familiar? You can define actions that become buttons in emails allowing people to confirm, save, review, RSVP, etc. with a single click right in the email.

    Currently, you have to apply to Google for them to whitelist emails you send out in order for them to mark the emails up, but I expect we’ll see this rolling out more and more. It may not seem directly search-related but if you’re building the “ultimate personal assistant”, then merging products like Google Now and Google Inbox would be a good place to start.

    The rise of data-driven search

    There is a common theme running through all of the above technologies and trends, namely data:

    • We are increasingly requesting from Search Engines snippets of data, rather than links to strictly formatted web content
    • We are increasingly being provided the option for direct action without going to an app/website/whatever by providing a snippet of data with our response/request

    I think in the next 2 years small payloads of data will be the new currency of Google. Web search won’t go away anytime soon, but large parts of it will be subsumed into the data driven paradigm. Projects like Knowledge Vault, which aims to dislodge the Freebase/Wikipedia (i.e. manually curated) powered Knowledge Graph by
    pulling facts directly from the text of all pages on the web, will mean mining the web for parcels of data become feasible at scale. This will mean that Google knows where to look for specific bits of data and can extract and return this data directly to the user.

    How all this might change the way users and search engines interact:

    1. The move towards compound queries will mean it becomes more natural for people to use Google to “interact” with data in an iterative process; Google won’t just send us to a set of data somewhere else but will help us sift through it all.
    2. Shared screens will mean that search results will need to be increasingly device agnostic. The next generation of technologies such as Apple Handover and Google Chromecast will mean we increasingly pass results between devices where they may take on a new layout.
    3. Cards will be one part of making that possible by ensuring that results can rendered in various formats. Users will become more and more accustomed to interacting with sets of cards.
    4. The focus on actions will mean that Google plugs directly into APIs such that they can connect users with third party backends and enable that right there in their interface.

    What we should be doing

    I don’t have a good answer to this—which is exactly why we need to talk about it more.

    Firstly, what is obvious is that lots of the old facets of technical SEO are already breaking down. For example, as I mentioned above, things like keyword research and rankings don’t fit well with the conversational search model where compound queries are prevalent. This will only become more and more the case as we go further down the rabbit hole. We need to educate clients and work out what new metrics help us establish how Google perceive us.

    Secondly, I can’t escape the feeling that APIs are not only going to increase further in importance, but also become more “mainstream”. Think how over the years ownership of company websites started in the technical departments and migrated to marketing teams—I think we could see a similar pattern with more core teams being involved in APIs. If Google wants to connect to APIs to retrieve data and help users do things, then more teams within a business are going to want to weigh in on what it can do.

    APIs might seem out of the reach and unnecessary for many businesses (exactly as websites used to…), but structured markup and schema.org are like a “lite API”—enabling programmatic access to your data and even now to actions available via your website. This will provide a nice stepping stone where needed (and might even be sufficient).

    Lastly, if this vision of things does play out, then much of our search behaviour could be imagined to be a sophisticated take on faceted navigation—we do an initial search and then sift through and refine the data we get back to drill down to the exact morsels we were looking for. I could envision “Query Revision” queries where the initial search happens within Google’s index (“science fiction books”) but subsequent searches happen in someone else’s, for example Amazon’s, “index” (‘show me just those with 5 stars and more than 10 reviews that were released in the last 5 years’).

    If that is the case, then what I will be doing is ensuring that Distilled’s clients have a thorough and accurate “indexes” with plenty of supplementary information that users could find useful. A few years ago we started worrying about ensuring our clients’ websites have plenty of unique content, and this would see us worrying about ensuring they have a thorough “index” for their product/service. We should be doing that already, but suddenly it isn’t going to be just a conversion factor, but a ranking factor too (following the same trend as many other signals, in that regard)


    Please jump in the comments, or tweet me at @TomAnthonySEO, with your thoughts. I am sure many of the details for how I have envisioned this may not be perfectly accurate, but directionally I’m confident and I want to hear from others with their ideas.

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    Introducing Buffer for Pinterest: Easily Schedule Your Pins, Manage and Measure

    Monday, April 27th, 2015

    Pinterest is a happening place.

    With more than 70 million users and 50 billion Pins, there’s always something new to cook, craft, buy, read or be inspired by on the visual social network.

    For businesses or individuals looking to build or grow a presence on Pinterest, consistently posting valuable and interesting Pins is a great strategy to help people discover and share your Pins.

    And today we’re thrilled to announce that Buffer is officially partnering with Pinterest to make it even easier to Pin …

    The post Introducing Buffer for Pinterest: Easily Schedule Your Pins, Manage and Measure appeared first on Social.

    How I Manage a Social Media Platform of Over 11 Million Followers Every Day

    Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

    Big or small, influencer or newcomer, everyone looking to get more followers and more likes on social media—more engagement, period—seeks out strategies that work.

    And what works with a platform of 11 million followers tends to work for platforms with 100, too.

    Social media is a moving ocean of posts, images, tools, ideas, and content that flows at a fast pace. You can find success by building your own social media strategy and keeping it fluid by checking and rechecking what’s working.

    I’ve had the …

    The post How I Manage a Social Media Platform of Over 11 Million Followers Every Day appeared first on Social.

    How Google’s Evolution is Forcing Marketers to Invest in Loyal Audiences – Whiteboard Friday

    Friday, April 17th, 2015

    Posted by randfish

    Given Google’s recent changes to SERPs and their April 21 mobile deadline, does SEO still come first? In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand walks you through tactics you can use to build a loyal audience before you need to do SEO.

    For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard.

    How Google's Evolution is Forcing Marketers to Invest in Loyal Audiences Whiteboard

    Click on it to open a high resolution image in a new tab!

    Video transcription

    Howdy Moz fans and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting on some of the changes that Google has made that are forcing marketers to invest more and more in building loyal audiences before they do SEO. This is kind of a reverse of years past where we could use SEO as that initial channel where we attracted visits who would become our customers, our email subscribers, our social media fans and followers. All of these things have kind of switched direction.

    Why move SEO later in the process?

    There are some reasons why. First off, Google has for a lot of broad, head of the demand curve queries, they’ve taken some of the value and equity away from those with things like instant answers and Knowledge Graph, along with lots and lots of other verticals.

    Knowledge Graph

    I do a search for “plaid shirts” and I get this instant answer showing me what a plaid shirt looks like and a Knowledge Graph. This is a fake example. I don’t think they actually do this for plaid shirts yet, but they will.


    Personalization by history, we’re seeing a ton of personalization. I think history is one of the biggest influencers on personalization. Google+ still is a little bit, but your search history and what you’ve clicked on in the past tends to be big predictors of this. You can see this in two areas, not just in the results that Google shows, but also in what they’re suggesting to you in your Search Suggest as you type.

    Now, where Google is trying to predictively say, “Hey, we think you’re going to want coffee right now because we see that you stepped out of your office and you live in Seattle, and you are a human being. So you must want coffee.” They have these ranking signals, that are relatively new over the past few years and certainly much stronger than in years past around user and usage data, around search volume and what you searched for using quality raters and human and manual controls. Signals that are heavily correlated with brand, even if brand itself isn’t necessarily a ranking factor.

    Fewer results

    Of course, there are fewer results now. I don’t know if you guys caught this, but I thought one of the most fascinating things that Dr. Pete showed off recently in his MozCast data set was that it used to be the case that Google would show 10 results even if they had a set of images, a news result, and a local pack. Now basically these count as individual results. So you’re not getting 10 results on a page. If you’ve got images and a couple of news things, you’re getting seven results that are web results. Ten domains appear, ten big domains, powerful domains, places like Amazon and Yelp and those kinds of things, at least for U.S. search results, appear on 17% of all page one queries. There are a little fewer results to work with and more results biased to these bigger, better-known sites.

    All of these things are contributing to this world in which doing SEO first and then earning loyalty through two other channels through SEO is really, really hard. It’s making the value of having a loyal audience before you need to do SEO that much more valuable, which is why I figured we’d run through some of the tactics that you can use to build a loyal audience.

    This is actually a question from one of our Whiteboard Friday loyal audience members. Thank you very much. Much appreciated.

    How to build a loyal audience

    Some tactics to build loyalty, we talked about a few of these, but creating an expectation that you can consistently deliver upon is a huge part of how loyalty is created. Humans love to form habits. Thankfully for marketers, we’re terrible at breaking those habits.


    If you can form a habit, you can create a loyal member of your audience, but this is very challenging unless you deliver consistency. That consistency needs to be created through an expectation. That could be when you publish. That could be what you’re going to do. That could be the format of the content that you’re providing. That could be how your solution or problem or product is delivered. But it needs to create those things in order to build that loyal audience.

    Reach your audience where they are

    Secondly, provide your content through the channels, the apps, the accounts, the formats that your audience is already using. If I say, “Hey, in order to get Whiteboard Friday, you need to sign up for a Moz account first,” the viewability of Whiteboard Friday is going to go down. If on the other hand, which we don’t have this but we really should have it, there was a subscribe on iTunes and you could get each Whiteboard Friday as a podcast, gosh, that is something that many Whiteboard Friday viewers, in fact, many people in the technology and marketing worlds already have access to. Therefore it reduces the friction of subscribing to Whiteboard Friday. We might build more people into our loyal audience.

    This is definitely something to think about. You need to be able to identify those channels and then be there.

    Where SEO fits

    I’m saying don’t start with SEO as your primary web marketing tactic anymore. I think we have to build into it. These challenges are too great. Not only are they too great, I think they could be overcome today, but they are growing. All of them are growing so substantially, instant answers and Knowledge Graph are becoming a bigger and bigger part of search results. Google Now is something that Google is pushing on so incredibly hard. I think they’re going to be pushing it with new devices. They’re clearly pushing it with app results inside of search results. I think these ranking signals are only going to get stronger. I think there’s going to be more personalization. I think every one of these you can see an up and to the right trend.

    Therefore, when we do SEO, we have to think about it as, “How do I earn a loyal audience and then use their amplification to help me perform in search?” Rather than, “How do I do SEO for my website to earn visitors that I can convert into a loyal audience?” That’s a new a challenge, a new paradigm for us.

    Be unique and memorable

    Craft a stylistically unique and memorable approach to solving your audience’s problem. One of the things that I find is challenging in a lot of businesses that we talk to, that I get to interact with is that they think, “Hey, we’re the best player in this field. We’re the best at doing this. Therefore, we should be able to earn a great customer audience.” I think this ignores why marketing exists and ignores the power that marketing has and the power of influencing human beings overall.

    The best really is not necessarily enough. We are not perfectly logical creatures where we go, “Hey, I am thinking about a new social media monitoring solution. I need to watch Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Instagram for my business. Therefore I’m going to create my criteria. I’m going to evaluate all 716 providers that are in the market today that fit my price range and those criteria. Then I’m going to choose effectively the best one. No, we’re biased by the ones we’ve heard of, the ones our friends recommend, the ones we stumble across versus don’t stumble across, the ones that have a loud voice, the ones that have a credible voice. These things bias us. Therefore, being stylistically unique and memorable have outsized power to determine whether people will become part of your loyal audience.

    More isn’t necessarily better

    I’ve talked about this a few times, but I’m strongly of the opinion, especially when it comes to loyalty, that more content may actually be worse than better content. Moz publishes between 7 and 10 blog posts a week. That’s a lot of content. I think there are weeks where we published 12 blog posts. For me to say this is a little odd. But the challenge here is prior to building a loyal audience. Once you have a loyal audience, you can start to expand that audience by reaching out and broadening the spectrum of content that you create, and you can afford to be a little more risk taking in that. When you are trying to build loyalty early on, you need to have that consistency of quality.

    People are going to return because you keep delivering great stuff again and again. When that suffers, your audience will suffer as well. If I watch my first three Whiteboard Fridays and then the fourth one is not great, I expect to lose a ton of those viewers. But if I have tens of thousands of people who are watching Whiteboard Friday and I deliver one bad one out of twenty, maybe I have a little more room to play there.

    Focus your efforts

    Focus. This is a big challenge because I think a lot of us think very broadly about who we want to appeal to, the types of content we want to create, the types of marketing we want to do. This is very challenging from a loyalty perspective because passionate fans tend to congregate around very, very focused causes and very focused creators of content or focused brands or focused organizations. Its much tougher to build that passion into a group of users if you’re trying to appeal to a very broad set. That’s just how it is.

    Don’t forget engagement

    Lastly, but not least, this is very tactical, but I found it extremely powerful when a brand is starting out, when a project is starting out, to engage and respond as much as possible with your customers. That could be over social channels, that could be in comments, that could be in emails, that could be directly in outreach, whatever it is. But if you see someone who you can reach out to engaging with you, replying to them, talking to them, conversing with them in some way, forming a connection is extremely powerful. It especially is important for first interactions.

    I’m not going to say, “You need to respond to everything all the time, always.” If you can identify, “This is the first interaction that we’ve had with this person,” if you interact and if that interaction is positive, it can create loyalty just on its own. That’s a lovely way to start scaling up from a small starting point.

    All right everyone, hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. We’ll see you again next week. Take care.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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