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IndexNow – new initiative by Microsoft and Yandex to push content to search engines

Google seems to currently not be participating in this initiative.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Reblogged 6 days ago from feeds.searchengineland.com

10-Minute Sales Research with True Competitor

Your sales team has just asked you to hop on a call in 30 minutes with a new prospect, ClowdFyre. Not wanting to sound like an idiot, you pull up ClowdFyre.com and see the following: “ClowdFyre leverages the cloud to ignite blockchain synergies.” Cool, cool… hold on, there’s some sort of diagram. Surely, this will give you some insights:

Or maybe not. I’m exaggerating, of course, but having lived through Web 1.0, Web 2.0, and whatever it is we’re doing now, sometimes this feels a little too close to the truth. Maybe the simpler truth is that we’re just running out of names and the world is changing too fast.

So, how can you hope to quickly figure out what ClowdFyre is all about and sound like you did your homework? I’m going to present two real-world examples of how you can use Moz’s True Competitor research tool to solve this problem in under 10 minutes.

Case #1: From Xero to hero

Xero is a good example of a perfectly nice company with a perfectly uninformative name. Their tagline is: “Accounting software to do your to-do.” Okay, I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I understand what accounting software is.

Let’s see what I can learn from their competitive landscape. I plug them into True Competitor…

…and quickly get back something like this (edited down to the top 10):

For reference, we’ve got the Domain Authority (DA) of Xero.com and the DA, keyword Overlap, and Rivalry (a Moz metric that balances three factors, including DA and Overlap) of each of the top 10 organic search competitors. I can quickly spot a couple of things:

FreshBooks and QuickBooks immediately stand out as familiar brands in the accounting software space, and FreshBooks is in a very similar DA range. These are very likely product competitors and give us a talking point during the call. In addition, note these competitors:

These are content competitors that have significant overlap with Xero and are competing for organic traffic. Our prospect may not think of NerdWallet (just to pick one) as a competitor, but their content could provide key insights into questions potential buyers are asking.

If any are unfamiliar, I can click on them to visit the site. For example, I see that Wave (waveapps.com) is an up-and-coming competitor in the space. I could even feed a couple of these competitors back into True Competitor to paint a more complex picture.

In just a few minutes, I’ve got a sense of Xero’s product competitors, content competitors, and a couple of talking points. At the very least, I hopefully won’t sound like an idiot.

Case #2: A Missguided example

You might not know it from the name, but Missguided is a fashion brand focused on Gen-Z and Millennial women. Let’s put them into True Competitor and see what we can learn.

I’ll skip right to the insights (note that MissguidedUS.com has a DA of 64). I can see right away that Missguided is up against some big players in the retail space, including high-end department stores and Amazon. These competitors are aspirational and might not be a realistic focus, but this is a great topic for conversation. Who do they aspire to compete against and how do they face the reality of being in a market with these big players?

Let’s look at a somewhat different set of competitors:

I don’t know anything about these sites/brands, but my immediate sense is that they’re smaller brands (a sense that’s bolstered by their DA scores) and are trying to evoke an edgier vibe. That raises an interesting talking point — who are the most relevant competitors in this target market of Millennial and Gen-Z women, and what unique challenges does that market pose?

With a couple of clicks through to their sites (and less than a minute of work), I can also see that Aritzia and Tobi seem to be targeting a similar demographic and are likely direct competitors (they’re also much more realistic competitors than Macy’s or Amazon).

Glancing at my watch, I’ve still got a couple of minutes before the meeting, so let’s try something fun (well, I think it’s fun, anyway) — let’s click on those two “edgy” brands and use the [+ Analyze Competitors] feature. I’ll request the full keyword intersect…

… and I can immediately get a quick view of what keywords these sites share:

Obviously, five keywords (or even 500) is just a piece of the puzzle, but in a few minutes I’ve gathered enough pieces to have an intelligent conversation and help seal the deal.

Data-assisted human intelligence

From a product perspective, I believe that the most powerful thing we can do is to assist your human intelligence and help drive insights. Tools like True Competitor are never going to replace your own (or the client’s) industry knowledge, but I hope that — as they continue to evolve — we can empower faster and better decisions that help you do what you’re best at.

Ultimately, you’re not going to be able to spend hours researching every sales call — even if you want to. But by using True Competitor, you can make the little time you do have more productive.

I’d love to hear from anyone who puts this to work in their sales pitches (hit me up on Twitter @dr_pete) or about any ways that research tools help make your SEO prospecting easier.

Reblogged 6 days ago from feedproxy.google.com

Shoppable content: The new way of buying online (and 3 brands doing it right)

For years, consumers have had the option of buying in stores, online, via mobile apps or (in some rare cases) mail-order catalog.

The latest option in the mix? Social commerce.

Numbers show 43% of Gen Z and 49% of Millennials have purchased products or services directly from social media platforms. This is big for brands vying for the attention of younger consumers. And they’re taking heed: Research conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of Sprout Social found that 73% of businesses are currently selling on social media platforms, and another 79% plan to within the next three years.

How are they doing it? By turning social posts into shoppable content. Doing so shortens the sales funnel and converts customers right when they’re inspired to make a purchase.

Let’s explore this more.

What is shoppable content?

Shoppable content is a digital asset, such as a social media post, image, video or ad, that consumers can click through to make a purchase.

There are instances where the customer has to complete their checkout process on the brand’s website, but some shoppable content enables transactions all in one place. Shoppable content on platforms like Facebook, Instagram or TikTok that lets users buy without leaving the app is the backbone of social commerce.

Benefits of shoppable content

The shift away from physical stores to social shopping was always coming. But thanks to the pandemic, it accelerated by roughly five years. In the US, the volume of social commerce sales is expected to reach over $100 million by 2023.

This is a grand opportunity for brands to capitalize on these emerging trends. But be careful: Millennials and Gen Z only want to buy from brands that are authentic and transparent.

As you would with your campaigns, website or physical locations, be sure your shoppable content demonstrates your brand’s values and humanity. If you can create content that connects with your audience, it will become easier to attract and convert them.

Integrating shoppable content into your digital marketing strategy can yield numerous benefits:

Shorter sales funnel

With shoppable videos, social posts and ads, you help buyers get what they want when they want it. No hiccups or delays to extend the sales funnel.

Better customer experience

Millennials and Gen Z already use social media to search for products. So why not meet them where they are?
By creating content that is not only discoverable, but shoppable, you minimize the disruptions that lead to an abandoned shopping cart. In other words, an enhanced customer experience.

Increased brand loyalty

The best way to build trust and loyalty today? Storytelling.

Shoppable content is an opportunity to showcase real stories about real people who’ve used your product. The goal is to show off your product’s value while educating potential customers.

Improved conversion rates

Being in the right place at the right time is what marketing and advertising are all about. With targeted and personalized shoppable ads, you can increase the odds of a conversion.

But how do you make the most of your shoppable content campaigns? There are three key techniques brands can use to get better ROI:

  • Hyper-targeting by partnering with small, but niche, influencers
  • Investing in engaging shoppable content (e.g., Stories vs. static ads)
  • Choosing affordable items to showcase

Tommy Hilfiger and a few others are capitalizing on live streaming shopping events (especially since the pandemic). The brand partnered with celebrities and social influencers, including model Elias Riadi. During the event, viewers could add items to their carts for checkout after.

Walmart has gone all-in with live shopping events, hosted on their Walmart Live platform, YouTube channel and TikTok account. The retail giant regularly partners with influencers and celebrities to showcase new product lines and seasonal favorites.

The takeaway: Team up with relevant influencers, host a live event and make the checkout process seamless to maximize ROI.

Better competitive data (especially if you’re using a tool like Sprout Social)

The best way to start building shoppable content is to study what works. You do this by analyzing your past campaigns, along with those of your competitors. With Social Sprout, you can identify what posts, hashtags and topics resonate with your audience (based on historical performance).

This performance data, combined with social listening insights, can give you the context needed to build higher-converting social commerce campaigns.

The 4 main types of shoppable media

It’s time to build a shoppable media campaign. Which formats are the best to use?

As with most things in marketing, it depends.Who’s your target customer? What are you selling and in what industry? For example, a video may be better if you’re looking to entertain (while subtly showcasing products). And an Instagram carousel post is ideal if you want to make a collection of outfits or accessories front and center.

There are four common types of shoppable media. Consider testing a mix of each to see what resonates with your audience.

1. Shoppable social posts

You can publish shoppable posts on social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Pinterest. It’s an excellent way to offer a product without disrupting their browsing session.

These posts contain shoppable images, similar to a product catalog—except clickable and immediately obtainable.

But the question is: Do they work? Simple answer…yes. Already today, at least one in four consumers uses social media to purchase products or services. More than half (54%) of Facebook IQ survey respondents said they bought items in the moment or sometime after seeing a product or service on Instagram.

2. Shoppable video

Video is one of the top ways we consume online information. And marketers rank video as the most valuable content type for meeting their goals on social media. So why not turn your video posts into an immersive shopping event?

A recent report found that 84% of people have been convinced to buy a product after watching a brand video.

So imagine the conversion rate if you made it possible for viewers to buy right away. But what makes a good shoppable video? Here are two tips to help you get started:

Tip 1: Tell a story

People don’t watch long-form videos unless they’re relevant and timely. Consumers need context before they’ll invest any amount of time. This is where storytelling comes in handy. You should be able to tell a complete story within 10 minutes. If you can’t, consider breaking it up into a series.

Tip 2: Keep it short and sweet

If you have too much going on, viewers will lose interest quickly—69% prefer to watch a short video. So keep it simple. Focus on a single topic and break up your message using multiple calls to action throughout the video.

If you haven’t seen one, here’s an example of a YouTube video from Milk Makeup.

With more people consuming video content daily, it’s no surprise more businesses are investing in production. Especially when people are twice as likely to share videos with their family and friends than other forms of content.

With 40% of marketers already using shoppable video ads, now is the perfect time to build out your video strategy.

3. Shoppable UGC

What’s the key to gaining your audience’s trust? Earning social proof. This can be in the form of reviews, or in this case, an influencer’s post. We’re not talking large-scale influencers—anyone with a following (or visibility) can influence another user’s purchase.

In fact, consumers say user-generated posts are 76% more trustworthy than branded ads.

This is what makes social media the powerhouse it is today. Users jump on their platform of choice and read posts and comments from others. Some inspire and others promote action. And the most powerful for brands is shoppable user-generated content.

There are two ways to use user-generated content for social commerce:

  • Team up with an influencer to create a shoppable post to share with their followers.
  • Feature shoppable UGC gathered from customers, showcasing them on your own social feeds, website homepage and product pages. User-generated content provides social proof and adds visual inspiration to promote sales.

Here’s an example of how Grove Collaborative elevates a user-generated photo with product information and real customer reviews:

4. Shoppable ads

Afraid consumers are turning a blind eye to your ads? You should be, especially with more users adopting ad blockers. But there’s a better way to advertise: Shoppable ads.

These can be a mix of video and images to gain attention and even entice buyers. That’s because they resemble content on their social media feed. And like a shoppable post, consumers can make a purchase directly through the ad.

There are several types of shoppable ads:

  • Video: A 30-second clip where shoppers can click “buy now”
  • Image: An image that links out to your website
  • Text: Text overlaid over an image or video
  • Interactive scrollables: Allows users to engage by scrolling through the ad and finding products
  • Interactive grids: Similar to interactive scrolls but allows users to engage with each grid/gallery cell individually

These are just some of the ways you can design your ads. Get creative and test variations to see which works the best for your brand and audience.

Shoppable content examples from top brands

Shoppable content works for businesses of all sizes. Here’s a look at several real-world examples to inspire your next campaign.

Barbour increased sales 42% using shoppable Instagram posts

Barbour proved you don’t have to be a newcomer to make a splash on social media. The 125-year-old manufacturer started out selling outerwear for fishermen but now sells apparel for everyone (land and sea).

The brand used Instagram to connect with its audience and later decided to use shoppable Instagram posts to help customers find items to buy. It cut down the customer journey tremendously and increased their traffic by nearly 100% and sales by 42%.

Jane ramped up social sales 80% amid the pandemic

COVID-19 stopped consumers from visiting stores, but it couldn’t stop them from shopping online. And it panned out well for Jane, a boutique fashion shop for women and children.

Their marketing team used a mix of:

  • Shoppable product collections featuring limited-edition products with exclusive price drops for IG followers (this turned into a weekly promotion after gaining popularity)
  • Instagram Live Shopping events showcasing a selection of items (with pins on the items during the livestream for viewers to add to their bag)
  • Stories providing informative guides on how to checkout using IG (these were turned into Highlights featured at the top of their profile)

Using these methods, Jane saw $419,762 in incremental sales and more than 680,618 new visitors between July 2020 and April 2021.

Aerie used YouTube video ads to drive 25% ROI

YouTube is no longer just a social media platform. It’s now one of several sales channels brands can use to promote their products. One way they’re achieving this is by using interactive video ads (with shopping features). Aerie, the apparel retail giant, is one of them.

The company wanted to simultaneously build brand love and omnichannel apparel sales for a Spring 2020 campaign, and decided YouTube would be the perfect platform to do it. The brand used YouTube video ads to connect with potential shoppers and showcase their latest products. The campaign resulted in:

  • Increased brand engagement
  • 25% ROI on ad spend
  • 9x more conversions from the past year

What makes this setup genius is that many users switch between YouTube and search to find information that influences their purchase. So by using YouTube shoppable ads, your customer’s path to purchase is more transparent (thanks to the father-child relationship between Google and YouTube).

Shoppable content is the foundation of your social commerce empire

It’s not too late to adopt social commerce into your digital marketing (and sales) strategy. In fact, YouTube is a newcomer, releasing its own version of shoppable video ads in 2020. And platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Instagram are continuously evolving their e-commerce features.

Social shopping is still fresh, which means there’s plenty of room to stake your claim.

Just make sure you have the right tools in place. Thanks to our integrations with Shopify and Facebook Shops, Sprout helps brands seamlessly publish, track and manage shoppable content, so you can draw a direct line between social and your bottom line.

Ready to make shoppable content a core component of your social strategy? Sign up for a free, 30-day trial today.

The post Shoppable content: The new way of buying online (and 3 brands doing it right) appeared first on Sprout Social.

Reblogged 6 days ago from feedproxy.google.com

The Art of Sharing Milestone Emails with Your Subscribers

Celebrate good times — c’mon! The milestone email is one of the different types of emails you should be sending, and it’s the easiest and most fun message to send out to your customers. You’re celebrating them for doing business with you, and you’re celebrating important company milestones along with them.  Many businesses don’t know…

The post The Art of Sharing Milestone Emails with Your Subscribers appeared first on Benchmark Email.

Reblogged 1 week ago from www.benchmarkemail.com

'EastEnders,' looking like a celebrity, Phoebe Bridgers, and other things that went viral on TikTok this week

While you were sitting around

The audio “That’s the difference between me and you. Cuz while you were sitting around waiting doing niche, I was out, making moves” gained popularity this week. There are now more than 10,000 videos under the sound. The audio is pulled from EastEnders, a British soap that’s been on BBC One since 1985. The episode that the viral TikTok audio is from aired Sept. 17, 2012.

The audio is very dramatic and in a British accent, which makes these videos really funny. Users pair the soapy audio with videos shot in two times speed where they use crisp, dramatic gestures. The videos all have relatable text that doesn’t warrant the theatrical audio, which makes them all the more absurd. For example, @dolewhipfloat’s video reads, “when i stand up on the train and walk to the door before it gets to my stop so i’m the first one off.”

It is relatable.

It is relatable.
Credit: tiktok / dolewhipfloat

When it comes to a drink

On Sept. 29, black creator @chunkychicaaaa posted the audio, “Aaaand let me just say this, when it comes to a drink Imma have it,” with the text “When my man tell me to chill with the drinking.” The audio took off and now has over 33,000 videos of people making jokes about everything from iced coffee to strawberry lemonade to drinking at a wedding. The audio is in African American Vernacular English (AAVE), and white people’s exaggerated use of the audio has spurred black creators to speak out about cultural appropriation on TikTok.

On Oct. 5, @rvyna made a video to the sound with the text “POV: You’re watching another yt woman turn into an exaggerated caricature just bc they hear a black woman on an audio.” In the video, she mimics the way white women have been using the sound. Her video has over 185,000 likes and nearly a million views. @kierabreaugh stitched @rvyna’s video and posed the question, “when you come on this app, how often do you see white women white women-ing versus how much do you see white women black women-ing badly?” @kierabreaugh urged white women to be their authentic selves on TikTok.

@rvyna points out white women's offensive use of this audio.

@rvyna points out white women’s offensive use of this audio.
Credit: tiktok / rvyna

Another black creator, @tylamadeit, made an alternate audio with the same message that isn’t in AAVE for white women to use. She posted it with the text, “making a new audio for all the white girlies so y’all don’t have to pretend to be a caricature of black women anymore.” Her new audio goes, “And let me just be crystal clear, when it comes to a drinkity drink, I am going to have one.” The audio is just as funny as the original and the exact same jokes can be made to it, without the cultural appropriation. The new audio has just over 850 videos made to it.

This trend is only one of many instances of cultural appropriation on TikTok. To echo @kierabreaugh, white people, be your authentic selves on the app.

Popular Songs

Two popular songs on TikTok this week are “Rock With It” by Saucy Santana and “Don’t Want to Fall In Love” by Kyle.

“Rock With It” has over 160,000 videos made to the song. The “Rock With It” trend relies on users looking like unexpected or undesirable celebrities or characters. The trend begins with users lip-synching the lyrics, “Oh I am curious,” while the text on the screen reads something like, “You look like that one celebrity.” Then, the user flashes an image of a celebrity and flips the camera back to them just in time to lip-synch the lyrics, “Bitch you serious?”

The trend is engaging because it allows you to guess the celebrity the user looks like, see the reveal, and decide if you agree all within a 15-second video. The trend is at its best when the user really looks like a celebrity or character that is super out of left field, like @lowlyworms_’s video, where he compares himself to Roddy in Flushed Away.

Who does he look like?
Credit: tiktok / lowlyworm_

No one wants to be told they look like a character in “Flushed Away.”
Credit: tiktok / lowlyworm_

When users pick a universally beloved or absurdly attractive celebrity, the trend it misses the point, comes off as braggy, and elicits an eye roll from me.

The “Don’t Want to Fall In Love” trend is based around an audio created by @_king.e on Sept. 29 that now has over 90,000 videos made to it. The audio begins with someone breathing and transitions into “Don’t Want to Fall In Love” by Kyle.

The audio was first used by @_king.e to shoot a classic transition video, but has since become the audio for a trend where users list their most attractive qualities during the breathing part of the audio. When the song hits, users slump over and list their least attractive quality. The idea is that the final quality they list ruins all the previously listed good things about them.

One example of this trend was posted by @annaxsitar. It reads, “wholesome, blonde, smart, 5’6”, good sense of humor, ambitious, loves dogs,” and is followed by “can’t stop talking.”

This video has over 180,000 likes.
Credit: tiktok / annaxsitar

There are over 90,000 videos like this.
Credit: tiktok / annaxsitar

I have yet to see a particularly funny example of the trend, but nonetheless, it is all over my fyp.

This kind of thing takes off on TikTok pretty frequently because people love to talk about themselves. It’s reminiscent of a trend popular earlier this year where users would list something embarrassing or undesirable about themselves while pretending to get shot by that quality.

Another variation of the trend is girls describing how undesirable they are during the breathing part, then slumping over during the singing part to reveal their hot boyfriend behind them. This variation is even less funny than the original trend.

C’mon Phoebe

OK, this might not be the most viral trend on TikTok, but it is the perfect trend for spooky season. On Sept. 13, the iconic TikTokker @tannertan36 posted a video on his spam account @tanman99 of Goofy dressed in his skeleton Halloween costume at Disneyland. He calls out to Goofy and sings, “C’mon you are sick and you are married. Girl c’mon Phoebe, Phoebe.”

SEE ALSO: Best places to watch cartoons online: Why we love Boomerang, Crunchyroll, and more

He calls Goofy Phoebe in reference to Phoebe Bridgers, who is known to perform dressed in a skeleton costume, and sings lyrics from her track “Moon Song.” The video is a masterpiece. He takes a depressing lyric, “You are sick and you are married” and sings it at Disneyland of all places, and he hypes up Goofy with the “Girl c’mon Phoebe.”

Users have been pairing the audio with any skeleton decoration or costume they see out in the wild. As Halloween draws nearer, I hope to see many more of these videos on my fyp.

Reblogged 1 week ago from feeds.mashable.com

Tips And Tricks For Evaluating UX/UI Designers

When a company’s digital representation lacks a dedicated UX/UI design team, it can be hard to produce something that stands out from the crowd. The best designers and agencies have a touch of magic about them, transforming your company’s goals, customers’ demands, user specifications, and design instruments into a beneficial experience for both users and businesses. It may seem enchanting how well-designed apps or websites can boost your sales, but it takes far more than a handful of fairy dust to make users enjoy their interactions.

The reason we pay so much attention to design (as we do to any other detail in the process of project completion) is that it plays one of the crucial roles in your business success. To get decent ROI in the digital sphere, you need both a great product and a great design. The two are interdependent. If your design is flawless but your service lacks essential features, don’t expect design to cover for them. And vice versa.

Yet, providing your customers with a well-designed digital solution gives them a chance to appreciate your product to its fullest. That happens when your app/website/system is efficient. And memorable. And easy to understand. And reliable. And carefully arranged. And elaborate. And forms an immediate emotional connection with the users. And urges them to come back again. That’s why you need a good UI/UX designer. Or, better yet, a team.

This article is about the essentials of evaluating potential designers and design agencies you wish to hire. Getting this right is more important than ever, for a couple of reasons:

  1. The global pandemic situation has reshaped the way business is conducted, especially online.
  2. Even once COVID-driven economic conditions cease to exist in the (hopefully) near future, outsourcing will remain a better option for many companies, both in terms of financial resources and worldwide talent engagement.

Every selection process starts with understanding how important it is to have an expert who “gets” your end-users, who can collect all the needs, don’ts, wants, shoulds, and must-haves to ensure you communicate with customers fluently. Then, you start wondering HOW to find out if you have chosen the right person for the job.

NB: Following your gut may be helpful in making some business decisions, BUT this is not the case here.

The ultimate goal is to ensure your app/website can provide its users with the most value possible as seamlessly as possible. So, you expect your designer/design agency to be equally as efficient, cutting, and customer-centered in terms of design and UX.

When it comes to the decision-making process, many businesses make the same mistake over and over again. They apply the same methods used to hire entirely different roles, or allow themselves to trust their instincts.

This article exists to prevent those things from happening. Intuition is not the best adviser when selecting or outsourcing a UX/UI designer. The key to successful hiring requires a different strategy: a list of strict requirements and versatile aspects to assess. The latter would help you pass a more objective and qualified verdict on the candidate’s ability to help your company thrive.

Know What YOU Want Before Evaluating A Designer

I don’t want to give you a set of “designer evaluation criteria” straight away, and the reason is this: it’s not the best place to start. Stage one is about identifying what your company needs from a certain digital product. Before selecting a UX/UI designer/design agency, you have to sit down and list all the requirements and deliverables. This will help you understand what qualities you are actually looking for in your future employee.

Where deliverables are concerned, include the ones you may have in both the research and the production phase of your collaboration. The former may require user experience research, user behavior analysis, brand positioning, and market niche analysis. The latter will include prototyping, usability, and interaction design testing, as well as building wireframes and exploring user journeys.

Using such tools is financially effective, helping to reduce your costs of service by 15-20%. Mapping out user journeys in detail helps to track both minor and global issues inherent in your company, as well as analyze your target audience preferences, attitudes, dislikes, and fads. This creates a whole new pool of production and marketing opportunities for your business.

At present, customer satisfaction is certainly a priority. In 2021, it’s not just advisable, but compulsory to invest in customer experience as with high-quality software development available literally anywhere and at different costs, successful interaction with your customer is the real game-changer.

To be more precise in terms of software requirements, try to define:

  • the type of the software itself and the environments where it will be applied;
  • tasks, features, and functions your software should be able to perform;
  • similar apps/websites/platforms that might prompt what you like and what you would or wouldn’t expect to get.

In addition, keep in mind usability and affordability reconciliation as well as checking if you meet both standards. Finally, highlight the project’s scope, define timelines, and prepare all the legal papers to be fully armed before you move on.

Once the actual cooperation begins, you and your designer/design agency will have to adjust, revise, and re-define these deliverables and requirements in a more precise manner. So, why bother now? If this seems either too strenuous or irrelevant at this point, remember this: the more specifications you provide to your potential designing partner, the easier the selection process will appear. And the fewer obstacles you will encounter when you work together.

Skill Sets For Evaluation

The next step is finalizing a list of hard and soft skills you wish your designer to have. This step, if carefully planned, is essential to the success of your project. The main obstacle at this stage is the variety of skills and their importance in the course of project implementation. Thus, we have made a downloadable cheatsheet for you to use in the course of the transparent assessment of:

How or where can you use them efficiently? Through analyzing the designers’ previous projects, asking questions at the interviews, or analyzing test tasks and preliminary proposals. The key focus should be on the level of the necessary skills a potential candidate has. By rating them you can make a data-driven decision and base it on the factual representation of the desired qualities.

UX Processes

To start with, here’s a set of the universal UX processes crucial to the successful completion of any design-based project whether or not it is carried out by a remote-work team.

To make your evaluation more accurate, here’s a brief explanation of the processes themselves, reasons why they are necessary, and tips on how to check them. You can use this table to mark the level of their excellence in your potential candidate/agency.

Process What to evaluate Why is it important How to assess
User research Understanding the needs, emotions, perception, and experience of the end-users. Examine target audiences in detail (their age, background, qualifications, interests, possible disability issues etc.) Minimizes the risk of designing the wrong product for the wrong people. Ask what research methods they use and how they affect the final outcome.
Information architecture Presenting information efficiently for users, anticipating their future actions to make navigation through apps and websites easy. This makes users’ interactions with your digital product easy and enjoyable. Check the designer’s previous works to see how the parts fit together. Examine how relevant or compatible they are.
Visual design Using visual elements (fonts, color, background, size, etc) through contrast, proximity, or repetition to convey the functionality of a particular page. Allows you to accentuate and prioritize tasks and messages. Opt for designers you admire, respect, trust, and feel they take into consideration your thoughts on the visual design as well as guide you since it is not a rare occasion that what you want as a client does not always work best for the end-customer.
Prototyping Creating a concept to make adjustments and receive feedback from experts involved. Testing the elements of a digital product before it is finalized is essential, giving you examples of how the app/website will work and look. Ask the designers if their clients have access to a clickable prototype.
Usability evaluation Testing the product to make sure the maximum level of understanding has been reached. Allows you to identify any failures or shortcomings and improve them. Ask designers for examples of how they test their products to check they fit the end-users.
Interaction design Designing how the end-product may feel, look, and interact with the customer. Creates a feedback loop for how beneficial or wanted different features may be to the end-user. Examine previous works and see if the design makes sense and behaves in the expected way.

Bear in mind that although it seems rather optional for the UX/UI designer to master development skills, they appear to be quite handy when it comes to a holistic approach. It is advisable for your designer team to have at least basic knowledge of HTML/CSS and understand how front-end/code/styles work, as well as to be able to use the console and make any adjustments if necessary. All this helps ensure the designing process runs smoothly without rough interruptions, missing significant points, or misunderstanding between the development and the design teams.

These skills may seem purely technical. In fact, they are first and foremost focused on creating a user-oriented digital solution driven by understanding. In terms of its value for your company, according to recent statistics, the top 10 most empathetic companies managed to increase their value more than twice. Surprisingly, in the goal-oriented and pragmatic world of the 21st century, empathy appears to be in high demand. No wonder involving emotional impact into your business activities contributes to enhanced employee relations, higher productivity, and, finally, more revenue. Creating an emphatic environment in which company culture and values, leadership, ethical issues, and brand representation in the public eye matter means investing in your future as a viable and prospective manager.

To sum up, first, you study the processes mentioned above and examine how they are represented in the designer’s works and vision. Next, you check if their qualities correspond to the project requirements you have previously defined. If so, you will reach the highest degree of understanding. What we see as the background for successful cooperation with your designer/agency is clearly defined by one of our clients in the following feedback.

Project Skills

The second list examines project management. They turn out to be even more influential when you think of outsourcing services. That is because the efficient functioning of a remote team demands a higher degree of understanding of the following issues.

Skill What to evaluate Why it is important How to assess
Problem setting and strategic thinking If the designer/design agency can identify and prioritize problems. You can’t fix problems that haven’t been spotted. An eye for them allows you to be proactive in finding solutions. Ask if certain “must-do” issues are valid or not. The experiences they have will show how versatile their vision is.
Systematic approach Whether the candidate understands how products should both meet a need and fit into the user’s life. All the pieces need to fit together for a product to excel. Having a front-to-back outlook helps make that possible. Evaluate their attention to details as well as the bigger picture. Do they connect smoothly?
Innovation, idea generation, and creativity What the designer/design agency considers creative or innovative in their previous works and how they see your project implementation. Processes are important, but so too is lateral thinking. You need to know they can think outside the box while still incorporating your vision. Designers should explain their ideas and solutions in a “why-what for-so what” mode to help you understand the validity of our design decisions.
Proactivity How the designer (or a team leader) initiates ideas, motivates workers, coordinates the remote team, and interacts with your in-house employees. A healthy working culture leads to better work (and happier people). You want those who collaborate, motivate, and inspire. Keep a close eye on whether your approaches towards work management are compatible enough. Otherwise you may get an opponent rather than a partner.
Experience If the designer/design agency has enough experience both in UX/UI design and the area of your interest. As in any line of work, you want people who know what they’re doing, who you trust to bring something to the table you can’t. The indicators for this skill are not the number of years or projects completed but the actual digital solutions produced. Think quality, not quantity. A talented, inexperienced team can still offer great solutions.

Good UX/UI designers look for a special approach towards every client and audience, as well as the solution to the task. They never explore just one path but study a number of options that may make your users’ lives easier.

In order to make your judgment as objective as possible, do not forget that you may engage your team for versatile opinions. Also, try assessing the skill sets during interviews by inquiring, discussing, and comparing your visions of the issues.

Personal Qualities

To make outsourcing cooperation both efficient and effective, never underestimate personal qualities. If anything, they could be the decision triggers in the final stage of your evaluation. The following points will help you understand if you wish to work with a certain remote designer/team and if they can bring value to your company.

How or where can you evaluate these criteria efficiently? Through online interviews, team presentations, back-and-forth messaging, and work sessions.

For those who doubt the value of personal qualities, here are some numbers. Forbes points out that companies excelling at user experience have 1.5 times more engaged employees than those who are less customer-focused. Certainly, it is difficult to analyze such requirements as these are not easily translated into revenue numbers. Yet, to stand out from hundreds of competitors, you need to get out of the so-called “commodity trap” with dozens of similar (if not the same) products and services available here and now. Here, customer experience seems to be the only option to the rescue.

So, what customer-oriented skills need to be assessed are as follows.

Skill What to evaluate Why it is important How to assess
Communication The ability to present and explain ideas clearly and concisely, listening to and following conversations. In short, to work in an agile environment. These qualities indicate whether your team will be easy to reach, understand, and exchange feedback with. It is important to adjust to ever-changing requirements, and in a timely manner. If the designer/team can articulate their ideas to you, they can “talk” to your customers and translate your needs into a digital solution.
Collaboration and empathy How they cooperate with other team members; how they deal with conflicts and resolve disagreements; how flexible and open to feedback they are. If they have these traits, they will be able work with all the people involved in the work process, promote their decisions, support users, and make the product correspond to their needs. Empathy is the core ingredient in creating a successful UX design. Remember it is the end-user who will interact and enjoy (or not) the outcome of their work. Will candidates meet those needs?
Cultural contribution They understand, respect, and represent your company’s values. They are passionate about working with you. A good team is capable of inspiring people they work with. If their vision of values is too different from yours, the product will be far from what you expect. As a sign of respect towards a new client, we show our interest by studying the company and its brand values in advance.

Now you are fully equipped with the refined lists of skills and qualities you should pay attention to in your evaluation. Once you study or even edit them to suit your needs and ideas, you are ready for the next stage.

Navigating Interviews

Once you have the game plan for precise evaluation, your next step is the actual face-to-face (or, rather, camera-to-camera) discussion. In order to filter the talent pool efficiently, start the interview prepared. Remote hiring goes far beyond random inquiries about the candidate’s qualities and experience. It requires a structured list of questions, issues, and topics to discuss.

Beware also of possible technical failures like poor internet connection or not preparing relevant data in advance. Assign times and meeting links to all candidates. Be there on time. Such details will help keep the whole process smooth.

What concerns the list of questions you may ask, always think of their content as well as:

  • The number of questions.
    Have enough to allow for substantive discussions while still keeping to the interview window.
  • Giving the proper chance for the candidates to talk themselves.
    This way they wouldn’t feel like they are being interrogated.

The latter is crucial. In our company, we like to provide candidates with the opportunity to give as much input as possible. Examine your potential designer’s speech to see how good they are at explaining their tasks or technical specifications. Our experience shows that the better designers present their vision orally, the more usability they will bring to the product.

Here are several more points that are much more tricky in their essence.

  • Many articles on this topic tell you to ask about the tools and workflow of the designer/agency. However, do not expect to get a clear checklist to validate the right candidate. On the contrary, you should just make sure the tools match the ones your team prefers. While the workflow is examined to see if your approaches are compatible.
  • Ask the designer/team to present a project or product they really enjoyed. This will show how passionate they are about the design in general and working on your project in particular. Your potential employee would be thrilled to give very specific details. Even better, if they explain how this experience might relate to your cooperation.
  • Never underestimate the designer’s questions about your company/project in return. If they are truly interested, they want to know detailed and relevant(!) information on the target audience, main KPIs, business models, testing methods you apply, and much more.

Mistakes To Avoid

Our experience of providing outsourcing services before, during, and hopefully after the COVID-19 era has provided us with a number of insights. Here are some ideas on what to steer clear of in your evaluation.

  • If your budget is big enough, opt for an agency.
    When compared to freelancers, the former will definitely offer more expertise. Once you vote for an all-in-one option, this person should be either in charge of every stage and process or you may get a limited amount of functions performed.
  • Questions you ask are valuable.
    Sensible re-defining or re-stating may be the key to getting the clarity we need. Sometimes, even the source of new discoveries.
  • Look for initiative as well humility.
    The latter is usually presented as one of the most valuable qualities of a UX/UI designer. However, its significance could be exaggerated. In some cases, it is vital for the designer/team to take the initiative in introducing ideas or justifying important decisions.
  • Prioritizing skills is a dead-end approach.
    You need to evaluate all the necessary skills. Yet, a comprehensive vision is the key to success. Rather than focus on many specific traits, evaluate their combination and compatibility as a whole set.
  • Overestimating portfolios is risky.
    The number of projects does not correspond to the level of expertise. At LinkUp Studio, we offer our clients an overview of the cases related to their project and urge them to look at qualitative achievements. The problems we have solved, the insights and solutions we have offered, and how the latter altered one’s business. Such presentations help future work partners see our holistic approach and the value we bring to their ideas.
  • Do not confuse the initial proposal with the in-depth research which comes after you sign up with the agency.
    Some clients wish to get a preliminary analysis of their project. And that makes sense. A commercial offer presents rough project scope and cost estimation. That is justified for both parties in the process of negotiations. However, further analysis (a.k.a. discovery stage) involves a range of experts like business analysts, designers, developers. So, it should not be expected free of charge as a part of your ballpark estimate.

We hope our experience and useful tips uncovered will fully equip you for a conscious designer evaluation. All in all, the keys to making a successful hire are strict criteria to follow a holistic approach towards the assessment process which includes the following stages:

  1. Identify your company’s precise requirements and deliverables.
  2. Make the lists of hard and soft skills your designers should possess as well as rate their importance for a particular project in mind.
  3. Prepare for and conduct interviews to make the right choice.
  4. Enjoy your cooperation.

Choosing the proper UI/UX designer is the key to providing your customers with an excellent user experience through incorporating your company’s aims and your client’s needs into the design process. The latter being efficient, understandable, reliable, emotionally appealing, and properly devised is the very task of a UI/UX designer you are about to start evaluating.

To help you make this process pain- and stress-free, we have developed a cheat sheet to come in handy during the selection and assessment process. You can download it here.

Reblogged 1 week ago from smashingmagazine.com

The ROI of SEO

Search marketers can’t get our important work implemented if we can’t prove that it’s worth the investment to our higher-ups. 

With that in mind, Moz’s own SEO Manager, Kavi Kardos, is going to give you the numbers and the talking points you need to justify the return on investment of your SEO work.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a larger version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hi, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m Kavi Kardos. I’m the SEO Manager here at Moz, which means I’m responsible for Moz.com’s own SEO strategy and implementation along with the other SEO subject matter experts who you’ve seen many times before here on Whiteboard Friday.

The ROI of SEO

I’m going to talk to you today about the ROI of SEO, which is an important topic for website and business owners themselves to understand, but maybe even more important for the in-house and agency marketers who work on those websites to understand. The reason for that, as you probably are already well familiar with if you are one of those in-house or agency marketers with managers or clients to answer to, is that we as search marketers can’t get our important and lucrative work implemented if we can’t prove that it is lucrative.

People in positions like a CMO or a head of the marketing department or a small business owner have a lot to worry about all the time, and they often have to make really tough decisions about how to allocate really limited budget or other resources. So if I’m talking to you as the person who is responsible for making those tough decisions yourself, I’m going to help you understand why SEO is worth that resource expenditure.

If you’re the person who has to do the convincing, I’m going to give you the numbers and the talking points you need to justify that return on investment. 

Calculating potential profit

So I mentioned numbers, and you can see that there is some math going on, on this whiteboard behind me, but don’t freak out. I am not a math person myself, but I do understand that a head of marketing or a small business owner, who has a really tight budget to deal with, needs to understand the actual potential profit if they’re going to go all in on an SEO strategy.

Even here, working at an organization whose entire jam is SEO, I still have to justify the SEO projects I want to work on, the experiments I want to run, and the tools I want to use in terms of their potential to actually generate revenue, either directly or indirectly. You can do the same thing if you can identify a fairly solid key performance indicator for whatever it is you’re proposing with some math that’s actually pretty simple.

So let’s look at our example website, widgets.com, which is currently ranking number three in this SERP for one of their most relevant and lucrative search terms “extra fine blue widgets.” So we know that on average the organic click-through rate for a web page that’s sitting in the third position on a SERP for a transactional search query like this is about 7%.

In this example, our KPIs are organic SERP ranking and also click-through rate. Yours might be slightly different, but those are pretty average concerns for SEOs. So right now, with that 7% click-through rate, this page is generating 500 monthly organic click-throughs on average, and once a customer actually arrives on that product page, they have about a 3% tendency to convert or actually purchase that widget.

That’s on the high end of average for e-commerce. With that widget costing $50, we are looking at an average monthly revenue from organic search of $750 a month currently for that page. 

So this is the beginning of our math. I hope you’re still with me. 

Chelsea, the SEO manager for widgets.com, wants to convince her boss to subscribe to an all-in-one SEO tool that’s going to help her do in-depth keyword research, competitive analysis, identify potential link targets, and that’s going to help her write some really solid on-page content, run her technical audits, and maybe earn some new, high-quality links pointing to the entire website and this product page in particular.

So her boss, of course, wants to know how much this is going to cost the company. So Chelsea does her research and finds a tool that can do all of that for $179 per month. So she gets to work after her boss signs off on that, and she is able to bump this page in the SERPs from the third position for this query, “extra fine blue widgets,” up to position number two.

Now, we know that a transactional search query like this, the page that’s in the second position in the SERP earns about an 11% organic click-through. So now this page is drawing in 785 organic click-throughs per month. We’re going to keep this 3% conversion rate once the customer is on the page constant, just for simplicity’s sake.

But, of course, we know that Chelsea’s good work on that product description and user experience on the page could very well bump up that conversion rate too, which is great. But just to keep it simple, we’ll leave that conversion rate constant. It still costs $50 to buy this widget. So now this page is bringing in $1,200 from organic search every month. That is currently a $450 increase per month over when this page was ranking number three. If we take out the cost of the tool that Chelsea is using, we end up with a profit per month of $270, and that works out to about $3,000 in profits per year.

We can run those numbers again and assume that Chelsea is able to get this page to rank number one for this particular SERP, thereby earning it a 22% average click-through rate.

If she can do that, then that much greater increase in organic click-throughs, with that constant conversion rate and the price of the widget, is going to get us an extra $1,600 per month in profits. Again, if we take out the cost of that tool, that is going to come out to $17,000 per year. 

So now $179 a month for some tool sounds pretty good, right?

I know that’s a lot of math that I just threw at you. But imagine if widgets.com sells hundreds of products and she’s able to get even a small percentage of those to improve in search ranking. Even if you have glazed over the specifics a little bit, you can sort of get the idea here. 

So in reality, the average return on investment in SEO for an e-commerce company is about $2.75 for every dollar that you spend.

Your mileage is obviously going to vary based on your industry and the website metrics that you have to start out with in actuality and your competitive landscape. If you’re working on a website that is not e-commerce, it’s going to be a little bit harder sometimes to work out the dollar value of the work that you’re doing. If you’re working on a lead gen site, you’ll need to figure out an approximate dollar value for every lead that you generate.

Or if it’s a content publisher, maybe it’s the ad space that you were able to sell or whatever your site’s moneymaker is. But this basic model will work regardless of industry or your competitive landscape. 

Forecasting and proving ROI

So moving over here, I want to remind you that one of the most useful and effective tools that you have in your toolkit for forecasting and proving return on investment is something that you’re probably already using for SEO, and that is Google Analytics.

So if you don’t have your Analytics account set up to track the goals and conversions that are important to your business, you’re missing out on a free and relatively simple way of showing exactly how much your SEO work is affecting your bottom line. You can set up your goals in your View Settings of your Google Analytics account, and you can customize those so that every time a user completes an action, like scrolling down a page to a certain point, clicking on a button, or obviously making a purchase, that gets recorded as a goal completion in Analytics.

You can see all of your goal completions for whatever time period you want within the Conversions menu of your dashboard. If you have a dollar value attached to some or all of those goals, you can filter this down to just organic traffic so that you can see exactly how much money each of those goal completions is bringing in per month.

This can still work if you’re able to attach some kind of dollar value to your completions or your goals even if they’re not e-commerce related necessarily. If you do sell products, though, the E-commerce menu under Conversions is going to have some other really great insights, like how well each of your products is performing each month and which of your coupon or affiliate codes is performing the best month over month.

Compared to the competition

So sometimes the best way to convince yourself or your managers that investing in something like SEO is a good idea is by talking about it in terms of dollars and profits, like we just did. But sometimes you want to recognize that your competition is already doing this thing that you’re considering and already seeing success.

At this point, any organization with a website that’s not investing in SEO is far behind the curve. So 60% of marketers currently say that SEO is their number one concern when it comes to inbound marketing. Forbes tells us that over $80 billion is being spent each year just in the U.S. on SEO, and that number is going up all the time.

So, obviously, if you want to contend with your competitors who are taking up space in those SERPs, you need to be able and willing to play the same game as they are. 

But here’s something else that’s interesting. We saw a recent study that said that only 49% of small businesses say that they invest in SEO. So this is interesting because almost 100% of purchases these days involve organic search in some way, and yet less than half of American small businesses are doing the work that it takes to become part of that buyer journey. So if you are a small business or if you’re an agency that works with SMBs, then, yes, your biggest competitors are absolutely already investing in SEO.

But if you join them, you may be able to beat out some of those smaller guys who didn’t make the smart choice to invest. There is a lot of opportunity in this statistic. 

Cost of inaction

So the opposite of return on investment is the cost of not investing or the cost of inaction. We just went over one of those costs — losing out in the SERPs to your competition.

But another cost that you face if you choose not to invest in that tool suite, not to hire the SEO agency, or not to let your team focus on SEO work is letting your website stagnate or at worst letting your website deteriorate as a result of lack of attention being paid to routine SEO maintenance. Your internal links can quickly become outdated if products get removed from your catalog.

On-page content can also really easily become outdated. If you had some valuable traffic being sent to your website from other sites that were linking to you externally, if your site changes, then those links could become outdated, or they might just choose to remove them and you wouldn’t even notice. If you have to go through something like an entire site migration or a restructuring of your internal architecture, those results can be disastrous if you don’t pay attention to the important SEO concerns that are at play there.

So if you were ever considering hiring an in-house SEO or an agency, it’s probably because you knew that you didn’t have time to pay attention to that kind of routine maintenance on your own. So the odds are that if you don’t make the commitment to that investment and get someone in there to help you, your site is going to suffer.

Final thoughts

So the most important caveat in all of this, to remind yourself or to convey to your managers, is that SEO, of course, takes time. It can be really exciting when you’re thinking about dollars and projecting those profits to get excited about the potential results. But remember that in our example earlier it took time for Chelsea to do the work that was necessary to improve those pages that she was working on.

Then it took even more time for Google to do its job and for that work to actually affect those SERP rankings and the click-through rate as a result. So there’s a gap between where we spent the money on that tool suite and where we actually saw the return. That can be really frustrating for business owners and especially for the SEOs who are trying to justify their work.

That’s why it’s so important to manage expectations around timing and the plausibility of your results during that sign-off process, before that check is signed, so that you can minimize the frustration that can come from waiting. But if you can get your stakeholders on the same page as you are about your SEO work and use all the really great tactics that you’ve learned to get the best and most effective results possible, you will earn that buy-in, you will make your bosses happy, and it will be that much easier for them to sign off on the next project that you propose.

So thank you so much again for watching this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I hope this was useful to you. Again, I’m Kavi Kardos. You can find me on LinkedIn under my name or on Twitter @therarevos and tell me your favorite ways to demonstrate ROI. I’ll see you next time.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Reblogged 1 week ago from feedproxy.google.com

How to Avoid Becoming a Negative Blogger

The post How to Avoid Becoming a Negative Blogger appeared first on ProBlogger.

 

How to Avoid Becoming a Negative Blogger

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

Recently we’ve been looking at a variety of ways that bloggers let their blogs ‘slip’ over time. So far we’ve looked at mainly things that are pretty easy to identify – but today I want to look at something that creeps into the attitude of many bloggers over time without them realizing it.

This ‘poison’ comes into most of our lives at one point or another and it has the power to bring our blogs (and lives) to a grinding halt if we’re not careful – it’s the poison of ‘negativity’.

Bloggers have a bit of a reputation for being cynical and grumpy types – however I’m not talking about our occasional rants or critique posts – I’m talking about a condition that creeps into the lives of many bloggers from time to time – ‘Grumpy Old Blogger Syndrome‘.

Before I go on – let me give a small disclaimer. You see there are a number of very successful blogs going around that have a perpetually negative or snarky tone to them. These blogs have build this negativity into their brand and people actually read them because of the voice that they’re written in.

However in my opinion these blogs are the exception and are a rare breed.

Problem:

1. Negativity can kill your passion for your topic – If all you ever write about your niche has a negative flavor to it then it’s very easy to become overly cynical and to loose your passion for your topic. Blogs are long term ventures, you need to be able to write on a topic for years before you become established. I don’t know about you but if I was to write something negative every day for a year on any topic I’d be ready to throw that blog in at that point.

2. Negativity creates a culture that readers pick up on – look at the comments section of any successful blog and you’ll learn something about the blogger/s behind the blog. You won’t learn it from the comments that the bloggers leave themselves, but the tone of the comments from readers. Readers pick up on the tone that bloggers write in and mirror it. If you write a negative, angry, snarky blog – expect to see your readers mimic this. Not only this – you’ll find other bloggers pick up the same tone when they write about you. Sure, you’ll get the occasional angry comment on a positively written blog but in the main YOU as the blogger will set the tone for your blog’s community.

3. Negativity can hurt your reputation in your niche – if you are blogging to build your own profile and reputation in your chosen field of expertise then you need to seriously consider the voice that you write in. While the occasional rant can enhance your reputation as a someone who is not afraid to say things like it is – if your blog ‘turns’ and continually take a negative view of the world this can impact the way you’re viewed by others. Personally I look up to and admire those who are constructive with what they say and do more than those who just moan, tear down others and complain.

Tips for Overcoming Negative Blogger Syndrome:

Please don’t hear me as arguing for all bloggers to suddenly become cheesy, sweet, optimistic sorts who only view the world through rose colored glasses. I’m not. What I’m really arguing for is balance. Do write in your own voice, do say things as they are and do not be afraid to critique or rant when the time is right for it – however don’t let your blog become a cesspool of negativity. A few last tips:

Say Something Constructive – before you hit publish on your next post, ask yourself if you’ve said anything constructive that your readers can take away? It doesn’t have to be a happy optimistic post – but have you given your readers something that they can go away and apply? Have you give a solution? Have you added value to their lives in some way? I find that blogs that enhance the lives of their readers are the blogs people keep coming back to again and again.

Have an Accountability Buddy – I have a couple of bloggers that I’ve given permission to pull me up on my own bad behavior on my blogs. Occasionally they’ll email or IM me and ask me about a post that I’ve written on a comment that I’ve made which signaled to them that I’m exhibiting Grumpy Old Blogger Syndrome. More often than not they pick up that I’m in a rut before I do myself.

Take Breaks – My own grumpiness is cyclical and usually is in the inverse to the time off that I have as a blogger. Take vacations, take days off, don’t work all night – look after yourself.

Get it Out – Still feeling negative? Can’t hold it in? Why not have a post once in a while that gets it off your chest. There’s nothing wrong with an occasional negative Rant. In fact when done well they can actually stimulate some great discussion and buzz on your blog. The key is to not let your normally positive blog get all rant like in every post. Focus your negative energy into an occasional rant and then let the rest of your blogging be in your normal style.

Further Reading: For a few more thoughts on how NOT to be a grumpy old blogger.

 

This post was first published on June 25, 2008 and updated 14 October, 2021

The post How to Avoid Becoming a Negative Blogger appeared first on ProBlogger.

     

Reblogged 1 week ago from feedproxy.google.com

What does Google’s infinite scroll on mobile mean for advertisers?

Advertisers may see more mobile impressions and a lower CTR on Search, Shopping, and Local Ads.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Reblogged 1 week ago from feeds.searchengineland.com

8 top business intelligence tools to help you make more informed decisions

Pop quiz: are you using business intelligence tools to make decisions?

It’s no secret that companies today are pushing to become more “data-driven.”

But understanding the moving pieces of your business’ data is daunting.

Revenue. Lead sources. Marketing performance. The list goes on.

Food for thought: nearly two-thirds of businesses struggle to make sense of their company data, citing major gaps between sources.

This speaks to the importance of business intelligence software that not only aligns your company’s key metrics but also translates them into actionable insights.

In this guide, we’ll break down why BI tools should be a top priority and which tools can level up your business’ decision-making.

What is business intelligence, anyway?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s kick things off with a quick definition.

Business intelligence represents the data and systems implemented by companies to analyze information.

Business intelligence tools are responsible for gathering, organizing and presenting that data in a way that makes sense to employees. Some of the key data points analyzed by such tools include:

  • Financial information (revenue, quarterly sales, best-selling products)
  • Customer interactions (marketing engagement, lead sources, traffic)
  • Productivity (time or money spent on a task, employee engagement)

When you’re juggling a massive tech stack and tons of customers, analyzing all of the above manually is a tall order. Uniting your company data via BI software gives you a complete, holistic view of your business minus the legwork of crunching numbers yourself.

What are the benefits of adopting business intelligence tools?

The concept of business intelligence isn’t just reserved for the enterprise: we’re seeing businesses both big and small invest in business intelligence tools.

Why, though? Consider these three key benefits of business intelligence software:

1. Eliminate data silos once and for all

This is the big one. No department or higher-up should be solely responsible for your company data.

That said, data silos are an unfortunate phenomenon that many companies deal with. According to the most recent Sprout Social Index, 50% of marketers say they maintain occasional communication and collaboration with other teams while 17% operate in complete silos.

Yikes.

From marketing and sales to IT and HR, business intelligence tools encourage a sense of unity and transparency. This puts a stop to informational bottlenecks that otherwise slow workers down or keeps them in the dark.

2. Visualize data for stakeholders and team members

Getting rid of data silos results in companies sharing their data around.

But doing so means minding how that data is presented. Making sense of complex metrics and KPIs is easier said than done, especially for cross-team collaboration.

Most modern business intelligence tools have features that make it a cinch to present and share reports. This includes a variety of data visualizations, chart types and built-in sharing options (think: email, Slack and so on).

3. Make informed decisions and accurate projections

Beyond assessing your company data, business intelligence tools are likewise capable of identifying trends and opportunities related to marketing and sales.

For example, which factors contributed to your highest-earning month? What are your top-performing marketing channels and best-selling products? Which campaigns are lagging behind?

The ability to understand these trends gives you a sense of confidence and encourages more informed decision-making. Additionally, some BI tools are powered by machine learning and can actually come up with projections and sales forecasts for you.

8 of the best business intelligence tools for you to try

Below is our list of eight top business intelligence tools to wrangle your company data and translate it into action.

From enterprise software to free tools, there’s something on this list that can help regardless of your company’s size, scope or goals.

1. Databox

Databox is an awesome, all-in-one tool for connecting your company’s data sources and visualizing your business’ data.

The platform boasts 70+ native integrations including your CRM major digital marketing tools, payment processors and more. Databox keeps you from bouncing between tools by consolidating your key metrics into a single dashboard.

Selecting data sources and metrics to watch is a cinch, too. The drag-and-drop functionality of Databox means you can customize your dashboards and reports based on your specific priorities.

databox business intelligence dashboard

Speaking of customization, the platform also boasts 200+ pre-built templates and visualization options. These charts, graphs and tables are a far cry from old-school spreadsheets and are perfect for presenting to your team.

databox business intelligence visualization

Oh, and the fact that Databox has a forever-free plan is a huge point in their favor. If you’re totally new to business intelligence tools, this is a great place to start.

2. Domo

Domo’s suite of BI tools is tailor-made for enterprise companies with serious revenue and big customer bases.

The tool shines when it comes to looking at financial interactions and company-wide trends. Domo encourages you to put each of your metrics under the microscope while also hooking users up with 150+ chart types to choose from.

domo business intelligence dashboard

Predictive analytics via advanced AI and machine learning is ideal for large companies looking to project revenue and dig into margins. Additional features such as goal-setting and alerts mean that companies can intervene before problems have a chance to snowball.

Domo business intelligence alert

 

3. Sprout Social

The need for social business intelligence is crystal clear.

In fact, 51% of executives note that social media is the top indicator for business trends and opportunities.

And tools like Sprout Social can highlight those opportunities in no time flat. Features such as social listening and sentiment analysis highlight how well your company engages customers and which interactions are resulting in revenue.

Plus, our social media reporting capabilities make it easy to understand and share data among teams.

sprout social dashboard

Features baked into Sprout Social also highlight how your social media efforts contribute to company-wide marketing campaigns. Given that social is such an invaluable source of leads, tracking your performance is a key piece of business intelligence at large.

social business intelligence example with Sprout Social listening

4. Audiense

The importance of social listening tools can’t be overstated.

Tools like Audiense dig deep into ad campaigns and audience-specific data for social media. Identifying and segmenting audiences automatically, the platform identifies demographics, customer traits and other information to inform your overall business strategy.

Remember: the “intelligence” in BI is only as smart as the data you’re able to gather. The more in-depth and granular that data is, the more targeted your campaigns can be.

audiense customer insights dashboard

5. Grow.com

A self-proclaimed no-code business analytics software, Grow.com is a powerful BI tool with a serious sense of style.

The platform connects with tools including Salesforce, Google Analytics or your ecommerce platform of choice (think: WooCommerce or Shopify) to pull data directly and generate customizable dashboards. Features such as roles and permissions make collaboration a breeze, as does the ability to share metrics directly in Slack.

You can build your dashboards from scratch or start from one of their own role-specific templates. To highlight the diversity of business intelligence tools and what Grow.com can do, some sample dashboards include:

  • Company health
  • Sales projection
  • Ecommerce sales
  • Clinical effectiveness
grow.com dashboard

Figuring out which metrics to focus on is overwhelming by itself. Thanks to Grow.com’s templates and pre-build dashboards, newbies to analysis can get started with BI without analysis paralysis.

6. Holistics

Holistics’ self-service platform is ideal for BI-savvy companies that want to tear down data silos. One of the tool’s main goals is to reduce the need for data requests, empowering users to access their data directly.

Although the platform might be a bit much if you don’t work with SQL, Holistics offers users easy-to-build data visualizations. Affordable pricing and quick setup are also two major points in the platform’s favor.

holistics dashboard

7. Google Data Studio

With Google Data Studio, companies can get their feet wet with business intelligence reporting for free.

The platform lets you pull data from internal sources such as Google Sheets and Analytics. Alternatively, you can upload your own CSV data or connect an SQL database. From there, you can create visualizations based on your Google’s own community submissions or build your own templates.

Google Data Studio

 

8. ActivTrak

ActivTrak is unique among our business intelligence solutions because it focuses heavily on individual employee data.

That said, the performance and productivity of individual employees have massive implications for your company at large.

The platform is capable of spotting trends and bottlenecks alike, including inefficiencies, time-consuming tasks and attention shifts. This highlights how BI goes hand in hand with not only doing better business but building a more proactive, healthy company culture.

activtrak productivity dashboard

Another notable feature of ActivTrak is SaaS license management. For example, the platform identifies which apps are most important to your team and how they impact productivity. These insights can be eye-opening in terms of which tools are actually worth their investment and what’s bogging your employees down.

Which business intelligence tools are on your radar?

Listen: investing in BI can be a game-changer for any given business.

That’s because they identify trends and opportunities that would otherwise be impossible to spot yourself.

If you want a more comprehensive understanding of how your business actually works, business intelligence tools can do the trick. They should be a top priority for companies moving forward.

And if you haven’t already, make sure to test-drive a trial of Sprout Social to understand how your social media metrics can support your company’s growth and big-picture business goals.

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