Watch This Incredible Raleigh Bungalow Addition

1920 Raleigh Bungalow Remodel and Addition. Client comments:

“Very, very good job.”

“I’ve worked with a lot of contractors in my life and I’d have to say that hands down, that this is the best group I’ve ever worked with.”

“Personable, paid a lot of attention to details.”

“I like how Damon gets excited about the little things.”

“I appreciate the attention to detail. I appreciate the friendliness. I really like that I was kept in the loop about decisions and choices.”

“They went out of their way to make me feel like I was part of the process and that’s rare.”

“I am very happy with the work that we got. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”

Asbury Remodeling & Construction, LLC

1002 Towhee Drive

Apex, NC 27502

919-904-4548

http://www.asburyremodeling.com/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP4XMEqHz2U

https://www.youtube.com/user/AsburyRemodeling

The 4 Biggest Pinterest Marketing Mistakes We Made (And How You Can Learn From Them)

I’m a bit embarrassed to share my early Pinterest Pins.

But here they are anyway.

A pin loaded with hashtags, a really odd-sized image, an image with a one-word description, a Pin with no description at all.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes with Pinterest, both in the Pins I’ve created and in the strategies and plans I’ve set forth.

And I’ve come to discover that Pinterest is wholly unique from Twitter and Facebook, and that I’ve had things quite wrong from the start.

All these mistakes have been a wonderful opportunity to learn. I’m grateful for the chance to keep improving my Pinterest strategy, and I’d love to share with you all my mistakes and the new perspectives I’ve gained from researching and experimenting with the best ways to Pin on Pinterest.

Pinterest overview

What we’ve learned about Pinterest marketing

  1. Optimal timing matters less, given Pinterest’s long shelf life
  2. Followers don’t matter (as much)
  3. Pinterest isn’t a social network like Facebook and Twitter
  4. Pinterest is brand-centric

When were gearing up to launch Buffer for Pinterest, I had the great chance to dive deep into Pinterest marketing.

And I brought way too much hubris along with me.

Writing for a social media blog, I think I naturally assumed that all this Pinterest marketing would come intuitively, that the tactics I had learned elsewhere could be copied over to Pinterest without skipping a beat.

I was wrong.

Pinterest has a couple of wonderful phrases that encapsulate a lot of what’s special and unique about the site.

Your most coveted audiences are planning the future.

Take advantage of the world’s largest, most actionable focus group.

"Your most coveted audiences are planning their future." Amazing tip on Pinterest marketing and understanding the Pinterest audience.

It’s unique phrases like these, along with the unique perspectives, that have helped me get my focus on the right track when it comes to Pinterest marketing. Along the way, here are some of the many mistakes I have made.

Why optimal timing on Pinterest matters less

Mistake #1: I was keen to find the best time to post on Pinterest

We love to dig up studies on optimal timing at Buffer as we’ve found it to be a key component to the boost in reach for tweets, Facebook posts, and more.

I assumed the same would be true of Pinterest as well.

And while there is a bit of data about the best time to post on Pinterest, optimal timing is not the most useful strategy for Pinterest marketing.

This is due in large part to Pinterest’s Smart Feed, an algorithm-based feed where content turns up based on high-quality Pins and related Pins, not on ideal timing.

In this way, Pins enjoy a much longer shelf life than the typical social media update. With a well-written, keyword-rich description, a Pin’s traffic can resemble that of an evergreen blog post, with views and repins happening well into the future.

Piquora ran a study analyzing the half-life of Pins and discovered that:

  • 40% of the clicks happen within the first day.
  • 70% of the clicks happen within first 2 days.
  • 30% of clicks happen all the way through 30 days and beyond.

Lag between visit and Pin

The key, Piqora CEO Sharad Verma explained to Venturebeat, is that Pinterest doesn’t share Twitter and Facebook’s emphasis on immediacy. Pinterest visitors browse and search the network in a way that makes it as much like a search engine as a social network.

“In the world of Google, 70 percent of searches are long-tail, composed of four or more words,” Verma says. “Our hypothesis is that the same thing is happening on Pinterest … searching and Pinterest categories resurface the old pins.”

I’ve found this to be the case with a lot of the Pins on the Buffer account.

When looking at the Pinterest stats for our Pins, it’s clear that some of our top-performing Pins have been around for quite some time and continue to gain traffic and engagement.

One of our top post impressions for the past month (over 1,100 views) was a graphic we made for a Peg Fitzpatrick guest post. The post and graphic were shared on April 21. The 1,100 views occurred starting one week later, and they appear as if they’ll continue on well into the future!

Looking at our top posts overall from the past 30 days, four of the top seven posts (more than half) were Pinned prior to the data range—some as much as one year ago!

So ideal timing—whether it’s the day of the week or the time of day—appears to matter less than a well-optimized Pin.

pinterest analytics for Buffer

Courtney shared a great list of tips to optimize your Pin descriptions to capture that all-important long-term search traffic.

  • Make sure all your content has rich, Pinnable, and well-captioned images.
  • Make sure your pins link to a useful and relevant website.
  • Move keywords toward the front of board names and Pin descriptions to make them easy to find.
  • Optimize your headlines and image fields: Buffer pulls in the article’s headline as your Pin’s default description. Pinterest pulls in an image’s caption. (If there is no caption, it pulls alt text instead, and failing that, meta title).
  • Add advice, instructions or how-tos when you can – informative Pins are up to 30% more engaging than other Pins!
  • Prioritize clarity over cleverness in your Pinterest text.
  • Try for a description of between 200 and 310 characters. According to Dan Zarrella, who researched 11,000 pins, that’s the most repinned and commented-upon description range.

And beyond optimal timing, I’ve also been pondering what exactly the effect of frequency has on Pinning. Is there an optimal frequency for Pinterest? Does optimal frequency matter?

Like optimal timing, my sense is that optimal frequency might take a backseat to well-written Pin descriptions and high-quality, well-optimized visuals. The takeaway here could be: It’s not when you Pin or how often you Pin, it’s what you Pin and how well.

Followers is not a key metric on Pinterest

Mistake #2: I focused too much on Pinterest followers

Followers are one of social media’s most touted metrics. Follower count is a big deal to a lot of people (brands and businesses, too) on Twitter and Facebook.

On Pinterest?

It just doesn’t matter as much.

Followers on Pinterest do not make for a significant factor in any key way other than social proof. Whereas on other networks where a large following means a larger megaphone, Pins don’t circulate in the same way on Pinterest.

Again it goes back to Pinterest’s Smart Feed, which places Pins on your homepage according to an algorithm, keyed to your personal Pinterest history and keywords. Followers isn’t taken into account.

The Pin Junkie blog has some great context to the way Smart Feed works:

Instead of seeing pins in chronological order from pinners you follow, Pinterest has introduced algorithms and filters to present pins to you based on three factors:

1.  The highest quality pins from people you follow

2.  Related pins based on what you pin

3.  Interests you’re following

As a result, people are more likely to discover your pins from a search on Pinterest, rather than strictly from pins in their feed.

An algorithm-based home feed? Sounds a bit like Facebook, right? Well again there’s a key difference here between Facebook’s News Feed algorithm and Pinterest’s Smart Feed.

Your Pins can be seen by those who don’t follow you, without your having to pay for increased reach.

(On Facebook, if you’d like your post to appear in the feed of someone who’s yet to like your page, you’ll need to use Facebook Ads.)

And also, following on Pinterest can be quite a misnomer. Users can follow users. Users can also follow individual boards. This removes the following power from the person and places it on the content.

How Pinterest Differs From Twitter and Facebook

Mistake #3: I thought Pinterest was a social network, just like all the others

Technically-speaking, Pinterest is a social network, as its users connect with one another and share as part of a community. That being said, it’s not a social network in the same sense of a Twitter or a Facebook.

Tailwind CEO Daniel Maloney has a great way of putting it from a very high-level.

Twitter is mostly about what I’m doing.

Facebook is about who I am.

Pinterest is about who I want to be.

There’s a fundamental difference there, in the way that each of those networks is used. To a certain degree, the difference is based in time. Twitter and Facebook deal with the present—what I’m doing now, who I am today.

Pinterest is focused on the future.

In this way, Pinterest is more like a Pocket or an Evernote, tools that help you save ideas and articles for a future date.

social media (1)

We can see this in action in the way that users like Stephen Vian have pinned boards for woodworking, or how Anna Zubarev has pinned Blogging Strategies. On our Buffer account, too, we’ve built several boards that are focused on the things that we hope to achieve or to reference later.

buffer travel Pinterest board

There’s an evergreen quality to all of this content, where we can refer to our boards long into the future and continue to find valuable, useful information that we’ve stashed away until the time is right.

People plan on Pinterest. And that in and of itself makes Pinterest unique compared to its social media peers.

The foundation of Pinterest was built by brands

Mistake #4: I assumed brands came late to Pinterest

Did you know: Two-thirds of Pinterest content is pinned by brands.

Brands were the original power Pinners.

Users have come along to repin and spread these Pins virally, adding them to boards and collections of future-oriented wishes or dreams.

It’s always been about the brands on Pinterest.

This is a significant perspective change for me as it differs again from so many other social networks. Social media channels often build their large user bases first, then brands and businesses join later to see how they can best fit in.

Pinterest was brand-focused from the beginning, and brands remain the integral ingredient in the quality, visual content that gets pinned most often.

We can see a bit of the paradigm difference here by comparing Facebook and Pinterest. Facebook added Pages onto its existing network of social connections (people, basically), and it’s now trying to figure out the best way to balance the needs of the individual people—status updates, friend news, birthdays, babies, etc.—with the needs of the businesses—getting their content seen in the News Feed.

Pinterest has had brands involved all along. With two out of every three Pins coming from brands, much of the highly visual, Pinnable content originates from brands and spreads through individuals.

Take a look here at the most popular Pinned posts from last year (more here also).

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 7.50.38 AM Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 7.51.01 AM

Conclusion

Again I find myself coming back to the pair of Pinterest quotes that do such a great job of setting the expectation for how to view and plan for Pinterest marketing.

Your most coveted audiences are planning the future.

Take advantage of the world’s largest, most actionable focus group.

With this in mind, it helps to focus my strategy a bit more. Pinterest is future-focused, in a way that Facebook and Twitter are not. Our usual strategies of optimal timing might be a bit off here, and we have a chance to optimize descriptions and keywords instead.

What have you found to be key to your Pinterest strategies? Does any of this info resonate with you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Image sources: Pablo, UnSplash, IconFinder, Pinterest

The post The 4 Biggest Pinterest Marketing Mistakes We Made (And How You Can Learn From Them) appeared first on Social.

The 7 Hidden Factors of the Most Effective Social Media Ads

I’ve resisted social media advertising for a long time, believing that there are a host of free tools and free strategies that can help your business grow on social media organically.

What I’ve come to find out (and I’d imagine many of you have discovered this already) is this:

If you’re spending money to advertise online, social media ads may very well earn you the biggest returns.

(In some cases, it’s the cheapest way to reach people.) 

There are so many inspiring digital marketers who are pioneering the best practices and cool strategies for social media advertising. As we dip our toes further into social ads here at Buffer, it’s been fun to discover all the great tips we might try. I’ve collected seven of my favorite ones here in this blog post—a list of simple, actionable tips that drive successful social media ads. 

I’d love to hear in the comments any strategies you might add!

Social Media Advertising Tips

7 of the Best Social Media Advertising Tips

Social Media Advertising Tips and Strategies

1. Create multiple versions of the ad

When we write headlines for Buffer blog posts, we often come up with a big handful of options (15 or more headlines per post when we can manage it) so that we can test and see what works best.

The same idea works with social media ads.

When you read about a successful social media ad, it’s likely that the ad has gone through a few key variations based on these actions:

  1. Write several versions of ad copy
  2. Test different images
  3. Adjust and hone your target audience

In the comments of our post on Facebook advertising budgets, Lucie shared this great tidbit about how to gauge what’s working and what’s not:

I always have several versions of the ad and anything with lower than 1.5% CTR after few hours I deactivate.

The strategy then would look something like this:

  1. Create lots of ad variations
  2. Check often to see what’s working
  3. Deactivate the lowest performers and try something new

In terms of testing out different ad copy, there are many popular recommendations for what might work (including a few ideas I’ll share below). This SlideShare from e-CBD, while a couple years old, has some interesting ideas for things to try: power words, time prompts (“now,” “limited time”), and question marks.

Question Marks in social media ads

For images, you can test things like product pictures, people and faces, even memes.

And when it comes to custom audiences, there are some great tactics on different ways to hone in on a segment that converts (probably enough tactics for a post of its own, which we’d love to cover separately). One bit of advice I’ve found helpful in thinking through things is another useful comment on our Facebook Ads post, from Bill Grunau:

You want to cast a large net, BUT not try to scoop up the entire ocean.

A target audience of 3,000 to 5,000 is very, very small. For FB ads it should be in the high five or six figures as a minimum. If it is many millions then it is likely too big.

2. Use the “Learn More” button

When creating ads for the Facebook News Feed, you get the chance to include one of seven buttons with your ad.

If in doubt, it’s best to choose a button instead of no button.

And the best button of all? The “Learn More” button.

Learn More button

You can add the button in the bottom section of the Facebook Ads editor. These are the seven button options to choose from:

  1. Shop Now
  2. Book Now
  3. Learn More
  4. Sign Up
  5. Download
  6. Watch More
  7. Contact Us

The theory behind why this button works is that it helps focus your ad to an even greater degree, like a Mario mushroom for your already great copy. Adding a button enhances the call-to-action and primes a reader to take the action.

As for which button works best, you’re might notice that one fits your niche particularly well (“Book Now,” for instance, would be great for vacation spots). For the “Learn More” button, there seems to be growing evidence that it’s the best overall bet for engagement.

Noah Kagan found that “Learn More” converted better than the other options and better than using no button at all.

And Facebook ad tool Heyo ran an A/B test to see the effect that the “Learn More” button had, compared to no button at all. The result: a 63.6% increase in conversions and 40% decrease in cost-per-click just from the Learn More.

Heyo Facebook ads test

3. Create a custom landing page

If the goal of your social media ad is conversions—sales, signups, what-have-you—then you’ll want to think not only of the ad itself but also where a person might end up once they click.

Picture social media ads as a two-step process:

  1. Create the ad
  2. Create the destination 

Some of the most successful social media advertising campaigns include custom landing pages, where the copy carries over from the ad and the action crystal clear.

The more targeted your ad, the more targeted your landing page needs to be.

You’ll see this often with e-commerce ads that do a great job targeting a single product and then send the person from the ad to the main product page, full of menus and related products and all sorts of potentially distracting (albeit eminently useful) places to click.

Siddharth Bharath, writing at Unbounce, suggests a click-through landing page, which is an intermediate page between an ad and a final destination (shopping cart, for instance).

This keeps the focus on the offer – the reason the prospect clicked – and leaves them with two options: buy now or lose the deal forever.

As Unbounce describes it:

Videos or product images paired with a description and product benefits help to persuade the visitor to click the call-to-action.

click-through-landing-page-th

Socialmouths shared five key elements of these social media ad landing pages.

  1. Goal-Driven Copy Length
  2. Limited Form Fields
  3. Key Visuals
  4. Responsive, i.e., “Mobile-ready,” Design
  5. A Single Call to Action

Of these, the single call-to-action stands out as a potentially quite key element.

Also of note, the goal-driven copy length suggests the idea that there could be multiple goals for your social media campaign, something like a spectrum from immediate goals to long-term goals or sales/lead-gen to awareness/education. In general, a landing page for an immediate goal has short copy. A landing page for a long-term goal has long copy.

4. Mention price up front

Another interesting tip from Siddharth Bharath involves the idea of pre-qualifying your traffic. Essentially, it works like this:

You only want people clicking through to your ad who are comfortable paying the price for your product. 

The key then is to share your product’s price early.

Udemy price ad

Doing so will help qualify the traffic that heads to your landing page. Instead of filtering out people when they reach your pricing page, you can do so before they even click—thereby saving you pay-per-click costs that wouldn’t have amounted to a conversion.

The goal, in other words, wouldn’t be about people clicking your ad. The goal would be people clicking your ad and eventually buying your product or service.

5. Promote a discount

In a survey of Facebook users, 67 percent of people said they were likely to click on a discount offer. 

A simple strategy for a successful social media ad: Mention a discount in your copy.

In a really cool case study from Hautelook, the clothing website ran a 50% off sale on their Diane Von Furstenberg line. Mentioning a discount in their ads led to a huge sales day—the third largest sales day in company history.

Hautelook discount

And discounts don’t necessarily always need to be tied to huge sales events. At Buffer for instance, we have three different pricing options (free, Awesome, Business), and at the Awesome price the price is lower when paying a year in advance rather than month-to-month. It’s kind of a built-in discount and one we could explore using in our social media ad copy.

6. Filter out mobile traffic

When creating a social media ad, you’ll typically have the option of segmenting the audience by a number of factors, including those using a desktop/laptop versus a mobile device.

To fully optimize your conversion rate, show your ad to those on desktops and laptops. Don’t show your ad on mobile.

This slide deck from Ad Espresso (a Facebook ads management tool) does a great job explaining the differences between types of social media ad placement, particularly on Facebook.

The mobile News Feed is great for mobile app installs and engagement. It’s tough to get website conversions.

Here’s the key slide:

Facebook mobile news feed ads

Noah Kagan also mentions excluding mobile traffic in his steps for getting started with Facebook ads.

Avoid showing your ads to mobile traffic. Most likely your page is not mobile designed and that traffic is less likely to purchase or sign up for an email address. 

That last sentiment seems key here: Mobile visitors are less likely to convert to a sign up or a sale. If conversions are the goal of your social ad campaign, then it might be great to focus solely on the desktop audience.

A couple of additional notes here also:

  1. Not only do the most successful social media ads hone in on the device type, they also keep in mind the location of the ad. Typically sidebar display ads—like those offered by Twitter or Facebook—see lower click through numbers (they’re recommended as a great option for retargeting). The best results are those that appear natively in the News Feed or timeline. Ezra Firestone calls these “advertisements that blend in with the platform.”
  2. Removing mobile display from your ads is an often-recommended strategy, though there’s definitely two sides to the discussion. Brian Honigman, writing at SumAll, mentions that your ads should focus on mobile first in order to capture the huge volume of Facebook traffic that accesses the site from mobile devices.

7. Focus on relevance score

facebook-ad-relevance-score-performance-10

When I wrote about our Facebook Ads experiments a few weeks back, I was so grateful for all the advice and learnings that folks shared in the comments. This bit from Lucie has stuck with me:

I test my ad on a small budget and see the relevance score first. If it is less than 8/10, it means I should adjust my targeting. If it is higher, then I know I hit the nail on the head.

Jon Loomer wrote a detailed breakdown of Facebook’s relevance score, explaining what it is and how it’s calculated.

Briefly, relevance score helps explain the way Facebook views your ad and why it might prefer certain ads you’ve created versus others.

Facebook says they use relevance score to determine “expected” interaction with your ad.

Relevance score is calculated based on actual and expected positive and negative feedback from the ad’s target audience. The score is updated in real-time as users interact with and provide feedback — both positive and negative — with that ad.

Positive feedback includes people liking, commenting, and sharing your ad and also any desired actions taken with your ad (clicks to website for instance).

Negative feedback includes those instances when people hide your ad or ask not to see ads from you.

It’s all delivered on a 1 to 10 scale and based on real interactions with your ad; there’s a 500 daily impressions minimum in order to receive your first score.

From Lucie and Jon’s advice, there are a couple of great takeaways and strategies on how successful social media ads look at relevance score.

  1. Test your ad with a small budget first, to see where your relevance score lies. Once you achieve relevance of 8/10 or higher, then promote the ad more heavily.
  2. Since relevance scores update in real time, check your ads often. If the score dips below 8/10, adjust the ad.

(This second point hints at a higher-level bit of advice with social media ads: Don’t just set ’em and forget ’em. Consistent, active monitoring is key.)

Summary

As we’re in the early stages of testing out social media ads at Buffer, it’s a real privilege to be able to learn from those who have gone before us, trying and testing to see what works in social ads. We’re excited to take all the great advice here and use it in our own experiments and campaigns.

One of the best blueprints I’ve seen for creating a social media ad (particularly a Facebook ad) is this brief list from Noah Kagan, which condenses a lot of the sentiment from the above strategies.

  1. Call to action: Choose “Learn More”
  2. Headline: Give away something for free
  3. Text: Social proof showing why the reader should care
  4. Link Description: Give call to action for them to get benefit

Try to create an ad that uses natural text versus something that seems like an advertisement.

What have you found works well for you with social media ads?

Have you tried any of these strategies? How did they perform?

I’d love the chance to learn from you in the comments!

Image sources: Pablo, Unsplash, IconFinder, Jon Loomer, Unbounce

The post The 7 Hidden Factors of the Most Effective Social Media Ads appeared first on Social.

How to Build Links in Person

Posted by RuthBurrReedy

The important thing to remember when you’re trying to attract links—real, powerful, high-quality, authoritative links—is that behind each of those links is a person. The kinds of links that Google wants you to build are the kinds of links that you get when a real live person decides to share or link to your content.

That great content you’re creating is designed to be the kind of stuff people like to share, but getting people to share it often requires outreach. When you ask someone to read and possibly share your content, even if it’s content you think they’ll really like, you’re essentially asking them to do you a favor. That’s a lot easier to do if it’s somebody who already knows you and likes you.

This is why a relationship-based approach to link building can be so powerful. By connecting with site owners on a personal level, you can start creating a positive association between you and the content you share. Start thinking of a link as something that’s given online by a real live person who also exists outside the Internet, and you can move from being a link builder to being a relationship builder. One moment of link outreach can generate a link, but an ongoing relationship can result in multiple links and shares, not to mention introductions into that person’s network of friends and connections.

Plus, you might make a friend!

nasa robots making friends

Photo via Pixabay

A few caveats

In-person link outreach is not for everybody. There are a few reasons why building links in person might not work for you.

  • No budget: Like many content building and link outreach strategies, some of the in-person link building tactics I outline below will require a financial outlay, which not everybody can swing.
  • No time: In-person link outreach takes a lot of time, and some of it will almost certainly need to be spent outside of work hours (or during work hours, but not at work).
  • Too far away: If you’re not located in the same city/state/country as your client, it’s going to be harder for you to build links for them in person.
  • Not a people person: If you dread talking to people, especially people you don’t know, this strategy is going to be massively unpleasant for you.

Yes, you still have to build good content. Like any good strategy to attract links, building links in person is only going to work if you’re also taking the time to build linkable, shareable resources that people will want to link to (need some help building content for your industry? Check out Ronell Smith’s guide to creating content for boring industries). As you’re laying the foundation for your link outreach relationships, you should also be planning your content calendar—that way, by the time you’ve got a great linkable asset ready to share, you’ve gotten to know some people who can share it.

Don’t be creepy. The point of in-person link building is not to lie, cheat, or manipulate people into being friends with you in order to secretly use them for their sweet, sweet links. The point is to form strong, genuine professional relationships with people who will appreciate the awesome work you do. You’ll be a stronger marketer for it, and maybe even meet your next boss or BFF.

All right! Let’s make some friends.

Where to build links in person

Trade shows and conferences. This is the “budget outlay” item that I mentioned earlier: if you can swing it, attend some trade shows and conferences in your/your client’s industry. Of course, this is easier to do if you’re in-house, or only building links for a few clients, than if you have a whole roster of different sites in different industries under your care.

If your clients are in your area, make sure they let you know when they’ll be attending or exhibiting at events, and see if you can tag along. Events like a home and garden show usually have tickets for under $20. In-house marketers should also see if they can be part of the booth staff at trade shows where their clients are exhibiting. If there’s a relevant conference or trade show in your area and your client isn’t exhibiting, see if you can get an expo-only pass for free or a reduced rate.

Marketing conferences can be a great place to hone your SEO skills, but they can also be a great place to connect with other marketers. If you’re attending a marketing/SEO conference, take a look at the attendee list and see if there are other marketers from your industry who will be attending (especially if they don’t work for competitors). Another SEO is going to understand why you might be asking them to share or link to your content, so it’s worth your while to cultivate relationships with other SEOs who might have access to topically-related sites. A marketing conference is a great way for SEOs with a lot of different clients to build link relationships across multiple industries, too.

attendees at MozCon

Shane Macomber Photography

Meetups and trade associations. In addition to higher-dollar industry events, most metro areas have a variety of meetups, clubs and associations, many of which are free to join. If your client is a member of an industry association, see if you can tag along to an event that’s open to the public; even closed-membership groups tend to have a mixer or two every year to let potential new members experience the group.

Check sites like Meetup, LinkedIn, Facebook and yes, Google+, for groups in your area. There may be groups focused on your client’s industry/ies, but it’s also worthwhile to start attending local events around marketing, PR, advertising, social media, etc. to connect with other local marketers. Inbound links from sites in the same local area can be quite valuable for websites with a strong local focus, so building link relationships within your local community is definitely worth doing—and is another way to build link relationships for multiple clients at once.

Assessing link relationships

Of course, just because you’ve met someone in person doesn’t mean they’re going to link to you, or even that you’d necessarily want a link from them. Try to do some recon before heading to the event, so you can keep an eye out for your dream link targets.

Wherever possible, get a list of people who will be attending the event; this will help you pick out a few people with whom you’d really like to connect. If you can’t get a list beforehand, compile a list of the people you met afterward and do some research.

Don’t forget that attendees are people, not just businesses—you’ll want to take some time to check attendees out on social media and LinkedIn, too. A person may have a business card from one company but actually work with multiple businesses. Someone with no website of their own might be a regular contributor to an industry blog, or just fantastically well-connected in the community you’re trying to join and still worth getting to know. A person’s position within a company will matter, too—you’re more likely to get a link from a marketing/web person (who has access to the website) than, e.g., the manufacturing plant supervisor (who probably doesn’t, and also has other things to do).

Take some time to evaluate sites like you would any other link prospect. Stay away from sites that appear at risk for a penalty, or are sleazy enough that you don’t want to associate your client’s brand with them. That doesn’t mean they’re not still worth getting to know as people (you should certainly never shun people at conferences, that’s just rude), it just means that they won’t be a focus of your link outreach later.

Make the connection

When you meet someone with whom you’d like to build a link-based relationship, don’t start out asking for the link, any more than you would online. If you’re at a networking or industry event, there’s a basic understanding that people are there to make professional connections—there’s no need to be more specific than that and say you’re there to make connections that might result in links (nobody wants to feel like they’re being used for their links).

After your research, you’ll probably have a few people who you want to make sure you meet, but don’t seek them out at the expense of forming other connections. Remember that your goal here is more than just a link—it’s a relationship, which could be mutually beneficial to both of you. Ask people questions about themselves, their work and what they think about the event. Just like on social media, you don’t want to talk only about yourself—your main success metric for these events should be engagement.

When a networking conversation is drawing to a natural close, excuse yourself (if you need an excuse, getting more food or drink is usually a good bet)—but make sure to get a business card, or social media info from your new professional connection. As you follow your new friends on Twitter or G+, add them to a list or circle for people from the event or group you’ve attended so you have them all in one place later.

Follow up

By the end of the event, you should have a list of new friends who might link to or share your content. Your next step is not to ask them to do so, however (unless you have a specific content piece that came up in your conversation that they were interested in). Your next step is to nurture that connection.

Start with a quick tweet or email the next morning that says it was great to meet them and maybe references something in your conversation. If your only point of contact for them is email, use it very sparingly—nobody likes aggressive emails. Your best best in this case is to try to see them again at the next event, to continue nurturing your relationship in person. You could also see if they want to meet for coffee or lunch to talk shop.

nurturing a relationship over the phone

Photo via Pixabay

If you’ve added your new connections on social media, take some time every day to check in with your list. Talk to them—they’re your new friends! Reply to their tweets, answer questions they might ask, and above all, share their content when they post it. You’re showing them that you’re a connection worth having by bringing value to their conversations. Make sure to switch up the time of day you’re doing this, since different people use social media at different times of day. If you get into a conversation with some of their followers, make sure to add them to your list, too.

Over time, it will become clear which people are turning into real connections and which are just not going to respond to you. You’ll also see some of your new pals sharing the content you post, without you even having to ask them—that’s a great sign that they’re seeing you and your content as valuable.

When your feel your relationship with someone is at a point where you can ask them for a favor without it being weird, go ahead and ask them to share or link to a piece of content of yours. Make sure the content in question is actually relevant to what they do/like; one awesome thing about relationship-based link building is that you may actually get content ideas by listening to what your new friends have to say. Be cool about it—a simple “Hey, I thought you’d like this, check it out” is often enough.

All of this relationship building can also be done online—people do it all the time. However, in my experience, meeting someone in person can drastically reduce the amount of time and the number of interactions it can take to build trust with someone and get to the point where you’re happy to share each other’s content. As with most link-building strategies, a time investment up-front can pay dividends down the line.

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The Biggest Social Media Science Study: What 4.8 Million Tweets Say About the Best Time to Tweet

Imagine removing all guesswork when you schedule your tweets, knowing the times that work for maximum clicks and maximum engagement.

As someone who shares frequently to social media, this info would be fantastic to have! We’re always eager to dig up new research into social media best practices—things like length and frequency and timing.

The timing element, in particular, feels like one where we’d love to dig deeper. And we just so happen to have a host of data on this from the 2 million users who have signed up for Buffer!

With a big hand from our data team, we analyzed over 4.8 million tweets across 10,000 profiles, pulling the stats on how clicks and engagement and timing occur throughout the day and in different time zones. We’d love to share with you what we found!

best time for twitter

The best time to tweet: Our 4.8 million-tweet research study

Our key learnings

Wow, we learned so much looking at the awesome stats from those who use Buffer! Here were some of the takeaways we came up with. I’d love to hear what catches your eye, too!

  • Early mornings are the best time to tweet in order to get clicks.
  • Evenings and late at night are the best time, on average, for total engagement with your tweets
  • In some cases, the most popular times to post are opposite of the best times to post.
  • Popular times and best times to tweet differ across time zones.

The most popular time to tweet:

Noon to 1:00 p.m.

We’ve taken the data from all tweets sent through Buffer to find the most popular times for posting to Twitter. Looking at all tweets sent across all major time zones, here is an overview of the most popular times to tweet.

  • Noon to 1:00 p.m. local time, on average for each time zone, is the most popular time to tweet
  • The highest volume of tweets occurs between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., peaking between noon and 1:00 p.m.
  • The fewest tweets are sent between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m.

Here’s the chart for the most popular times worldwide, taken from an average of 10 major time zones (the times represent local time).

Most Popular Time to Tweet Worldwide

Here is the graph for the most popular times to tweet in each of the four major U.S. time zones. 

Buffer social media science study - US popular times to tweet

(We normalized the data to account for daylight’s savings in the U.S. as well.)

Here are the charts for the major time zones in Europe and Africa.

Most Popular Time to Tweet Europe

(Note: The London (GMT) time zone used to be the default time zone for new Buffer users, so our data for GMT is not as clean as we would like it to be. We’ve omitted any takeaways for GMT from the research results here.)

Here are the charts for the major time zones in Asia and Australia.

Most Popular Time to Tweet Australia Asia

It’s interesting to see how the most popular time to tweet varies across the time zones. We’ve shared Buffer’s 10 most popular time zones in the charts above. Here’s a list of each most popular hour for the 10 major time zones.

  • Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc. (Pacific Time): 9:00 a.m.
  • Denver (Mountain Time): noon
  • Chicago (Central Time): noon
  • New York, Boston, Atlanta, Miami, etc. (Eastern Time): noon
  • Madrid, Rome, Paris, etc. (Central European): 4:00 p.m.
  • Cape Town, Cairo, Helsinki, etc. (Eastern European): 8:00 p.m.
  • Sydney (Australian Eastern): 10:00 p.m.
  • Hong Kong (Hong Kong Time): 8:00 a.m.
  • Tokyo (Japan Time): 2:00 a.m.
  • Shanghai, Taipei, etc. (China Time): noon

For any clarification on this or the other research throughout this article, feel free to leave a comment and we’ll get right back to you.

Takeaways & thoughts:

  • The most popular time to post could be due to a number of factors: This is when most people have access to Twitter (perhaps at a work computer), this is when online audiences are most likely to be connected (see Burrito Principle), etc.
  • Should you post during the most popular times? That’s one possibility. Also, you may find success posting at non-peak times, when the volume of tweets is lower.
  • If you have a large international audience on Twitter, you may wish to locate the particular part of the world where they’re from, and adjust your schedule accordingly. You can find the times when your audience may be online with tools like Followerwonk and Crowdfire.

The best times to tweet to get more clicks

We were excited to dig into the specific metrics for each of these tweets, too, in hopes of coming up with some recommendations and best practices to test out for your Twitter strategy.

First up, the best time to tweet for clicks.

Looking at the data, we found the following trends for maximizing your chance to get more clicks:

  • Tweets sent between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. earn the most clicks on average
  • The highest number of clicks per tweet occurs between 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m., peaking between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m.
  • The fewest clicks per tweet happen in the morning (when tweet volume is particularly high), between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m..

The data in the below chart is the worldwide average, calculated for the local time in each time zone. So the peak at the 2:00 a.m. hour would hold true as the overall top time no matter which time zone you’re in—2:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, New York, Cape Town, Hong Kong, etc.Best Times to Tweet for Clicks Worldwide

For the specifics on each of the best time to tweet for clicks in each of the major time zones in Buffer, here’s a breakdown.

  • Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc. (Pacific Time): 2:00 a.m.
  • Denver (Mountain Time): 7:00 p.m.
  • Chicago (Central Time): 2:00 a.m.
  • New York, Boston, Atlanta, Miami, etc. (Eastern Time): 11:00 p.m.
  • Madrid, Rome, Paris, Berlin, etc. (Central European): 2:00 a.m.
  • Cape Town, Cairo, Istanbul, etc. (Eastern European): 8:00 p.m.
  • Sydney (Australian Eastern): 2:00 a.m.
  • Hong Kong (Hong Kong Time): 5:00 a.m.
  • Shanghai, Taipei, etc. (China Time): noon
  • Tokyo (Japan Time): 8:00 a.m.

Best Times to Tweet for Clicks - by time zone

Takeaways & thoughts:

  • Clicks was far and away the largest engagement metric that we tracked in this study (compared to retweets, replies, and favorites).
  • Some of the recommended best times for individual time zones show that non-peak hours are the top time to tweet for clicks. This data may reflect some particularly high-achieving posts—some outliers—that bring up the average when the volume of tweets is lowest. Still, it’d be a great one to test for your profile to see what results you get.
  • One neat thing to keep in mind is that a non-peak hour in, say, Los Angeles may correspond to a peak hour in London or Paris. The worldwide audience is definitely one to consider when finding the best time to tweet.

The best times for overall engagement with your tweet

We define engagement as clicks plus retweets, favorites, and replies. When looking at all these interactions together, we found the following trends for maximizing your chance to get the most engagement on your tweets:

  • Tweets sent between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. earn the most total engagement on average
  • The highest amount of engagement per tweet occurs between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., peaking between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m.
  • The smallest amount of engagement happens during traditional work hours, between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

Best Times to Tweet for Engagement

Takeaways & thoughts:

  • The best times to tweet for engagement are quite the inverse of the most popular times to tweet. (The late-night infomercial effect—tweet when fewer people are tweeting—seems to be the case here.)

The best times for retweets and favorites on your tweets

Adding together two of the most common engagement metrics, we found some interesting trends for maximizing the retweets and favorites on your tweets, especially for those with a U.S. audience.

Looking at 1.1 million tweets from U.S. Buffer users from January through March 2015, here were some of the notable takeaways we found:

  • Tweets sent at the 9:00 p.m. hour in the U.S. earn the most retweets and favorites on average
  • The highest number of retweets and favorites occurs between 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., peaking between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m.
  • The lowest retweet-favorite engagement happens at 3:00 a.m.

(Interesting to note, the takeaways from this data compared to the worldwide engagement data differ slightly for a couple reasons: 1) clicks represent a huge portion of overall engagement, and 2) the worldwide vs. US datasets vary.)

Best Times to Tweet for Engagement USA

We’d love to make it easy for you to share these results with your audience, your friends, your clients—anyone you think might benefit from them.

>> Download every chart from this post (.zip) <<

The methodology for our research

We studied all tweets ever sent through Buffer—4.8 million tweets since October 2010!

Based on this sample set, we looked at the number of clicks per tweet, favorites per tweet, retweets per tweet, and replies per tweet, in accordance with the time of day that the tweet was posted to Twitter.

Further, we segmented the results according to time zones, based on the assumption that the learnings might be more actionable if they could be specific to exactly where you live and work.

We had an interesting opportunity to consider whether median or average would be the better metric to use for our insights. It turns out that so many tweets in the dataset receive minimal engagement that the median was often zero. For this reason, we chose to display the average.

Over to you: What are your takeaways?

We’re so grateful for the chance to dig into the stats from the many tweets that people choose to share with Buffer. The data is super insightful, both for sharing with others and for impacting our own social media marketing plans!

What did you notice from the stats here?

Did any of the results surprise you or get you thinking about your plans in a different way?

I’d love to hear your take on this! Feel free to share any thoughts at all in the comments!

Image sources: IconFinder, Blurgrounds, Death to the Stock Photo, UnSplash

The post The Biggest Social Media Science Study: What 4.8 Million Tweets Say About the Best Time to Tweet appeared first on Social.

The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics

Posted by kristihines

If you don’t know what Google Analytics is, haven’t installed it on your website, or have installed it but never look at your data, then this post is for you. While it’s hard for many to believe, there are still websites that are not using Google Analytics (or any analytics, for that matter) to measure their traffic. In this post, we’re going to look at Google Analytics from the absolute beginner’s point of view. Why you need it, how to get it, how to use it, and workarounds to common problems.

Why every website owner needs Google Analytics

Do you have a blog? Do you have a static website? If the answer is yes, whether they are for personal or business use, then you need Google Analytics. Here are just a few of the many questions about your website that you can answer using Google Analytics.

  • How many people visit my website?
  • Where do my visitors live?
  • Do I need a mobile-friendly website?
  • What websites send traffic to my website?
  • What marketing tactics drive the most traffic to my website?
  • Which pages on my website are the most popular?
  • How many visitors have I converted into leads or customers?
  • Where did my converting visitors come from and go on my website?
  • How can I improve my website’s speed?
  • What blog content do my visitors like the most?

There are many, many additional questions that Google Analytics can answer, but these are the ones that are most important for most website owners. Now let’s look at how you can get Google Analytics on your website.

How to install Google Analytics

First, you need a Google Analytics account. If you have a primary Google account that you use for other services like Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Google+, or YouTube, then you should set up your Google Analytics using that Google account. Or you will need to create a new one.

This should be a Google account you plan to keep forever and that only you have access to. You can always grant access to your Google Analytics to other people down the road, but you don’t want someone else to have full control over it.

Big tip: don’t let your anyone (your web designer, web developer, web host, SEO person, etc.) create your website’s Google Analytics account under their own Google account so they can “manage” it for you. If you and this person part ways, they will take your Google Analytics data with them, and you will have to start all over.

Set up your account and property

Once you have a Google account, you can go to Google Analytics and click the Sign into Google Analytics button. You will then be greeted with the three steps you must take to set up Google Analytics.

google analytics setup

After you click the Sign Up button, you will fill out information for your website.

setting up a new account in google analytics

Google Analytics offers hierarchies to organize your account. You can have up to 100 Google Analytics accounts under one Google account. You can have up to 50 website properties under one Google Analytics account. You can have up to 25 views under one website property.

Here are a few scenarios.

  • SCENARIO 1: If you have one website, you only need one Google Analytics account with one website property.
  • SCENARIO 2: If you have two websites, such as one for your business and one for your personal use, you might want to create two accounts, naming one “123Business” and one “Personal”. Then you will set up your business website under the 123Business account and your personal website under your Personal account.
  • SCENARIO 3: If you have several businesses, but less than 50, and each of them has one website, you might want to put them all under a Business account. Then have a Personal account for your personal websites.
  • SCENARIO 4: If you have several businesses and each of them has dozens of websites, for a total of more than 50 websites, you might want to put each business under its own account, such as 123Business account, 124Business account, and so on.

There are no right or wrong ways to set up your Google Analytics account—it’s just a matter of how you want to organize your sites. You can always rename your accounts or properties down the road. Note that you can’t move a property (website) from one Google Analytics account to another—you would have to set up a new property under the new account and lose the historical data you collected from the original property.

For the absolute beginner’s guide, we’re going to assume you have one website and only need one view (the default, all data view. The setup would look something like this.

new account information google analytics

Beneath this, you will have the option to configure where your Google Analytics data can be shared.

configuring shared info for google analytics

Install your tracking code

Once you are finished, you will click the Get Tracking ID button. You will get a popup of the Google Analytics terms and conditions, which you have to agree to. Then you will get your Google Analytics code.

find google analytics tracking code

This must be installed on every page on your website. The installation will depend on what type of website you have. For example, I have a WordPress website on my own domain using the Genesis Framework. This framework has a specific area to add header and footer scripts to my website.

installing google analytics tracking code wordpress genesis

Alternatively, if you have a WordPress on your own domain, you can use the Google Analytics by Yoast plugin to install your code easily no matter what theme or framework you are using.

If you have a website built with HTML files, you will add the tracking code before the </head> tag on each of your pages. You can do this by using a text editor program (such as TextEdit for Mac or Notepad for Windows) and then uploading the file to your web host using an FTP program (such as FileZilla).

adding google analytics tracking code to head tag

If you have a Shopify e-commerce store, you will go to your Online Store settings and paste in your tracking code where specified.

adding google analytics tracking code to shopify account

If you have a blog on Tumblr, you will go to your blog, click the Edit Theme button at the top right of your blog, and then enter just the Google Analytics ID in your settings.

adding google analytics tracking code to tumblr

As you can see, the installation of Google Analytics varies based on the platform you use (content management system, website builder, e-commerce software, etc.), the theme you use, and the plugins you use. You should be able to find easy instructions to install Google Analytics on any website by doing a web search for your platform + how to install Google Analytics.

Set up goals

After you install your tracking code on your website, you will want to configure a small (but very useful) setting in your website’s profile on Google Analytics. This is your Goals setting. You can find it by clicking on the Admin link at the top of your Google Analytics and then clicking on Goals under your website’s View column.

setting up goals in google analytics

Goals will tell Google Analytics when something important has happened on your website. For example, if you have a website where you generate leads through a contact form, you will want to find (or create) a thank you page that visitors end upon once they have submitted their contact information. Or, if you have a website where you sell products, you will want to find (or create) a final thank you or confirmation page for visitors to land upon once they have completed a purchase.

That URL will likely look something like this.

In Google Analytics, you will click on the New Goal button.

adding a new goal to google analytics

You will choose the Custom option (unless one of the other options are more applicable to your website) and click the Next Step button.

setting custom goals in google analytics

You will name your goal something you will remember, select Destination, and then click the Next Step button.

naming a goal in google analytics

You will enter your thank you or confirmation page’s URL after the .com of your website in the Destination field and change the drop-down to “Begins with”.

setting goal details google analytics

You will then toggle the value and enter a specific dollar value for that conversion (if applicable) and click Create Goal to complete the setup.

If you have other similar goals / conversions you would like to track on your website, you can follow these steps again. You can create up to 20 goals on your website. Be sure that the ones you create are highly important to your business. These goals (for most businesses) include lead form submissions, email list sign ups, and purchase completions. Depending on your website and its purpose, your goals may vary.

Note that this is the simplest of all conversion tracking in Google Analytics. You can review the documentation in Google Analytics support to learn more about setting up goal tracking.

Set up site search

Another thing you can set up really quickly that will give you valuable data down the road is Site Search. This is for any website with a search box on it, like the search box at the top of the Moz Blog.

site search moz

First, run a search on your website. Then keep the tab open. You will need the URL momentarily.

site search query parameter

Go to your Google Analytics Admin menu again, and in the View column, click on View Settings.

setting up search query parameter in google analytics

Scroll down until you see Site Settings and toggle it to On.

site search settings in google analytics

Look back at your URL for your search results. Enter the query parameter (usually s or q) and click Save. On Moz, for example, the query parameter is q.

entering the query parameter in google analytics site search

This will allow Google Analytics to track any searches made on your website so you can learn more about what your visitors are looking for on specific pages.

Add additional accounts and properties

If you want to add a new Google Analytics account, you can do so by going to your Admin menu, clicking on the drop-down under the Account column, and clicking the Create New Account link.

add account google analytics

Likewise, if you want to add a new website under your Google Analytics account, you can do so by going to your Admin menu, clicking on the drop-down under the Property column, and clicking the Create New Property link.

create new property google analytics

Then you will continue through all of the above-mentioned steps.

Once you’ve installed Google Analytics on your website(s), set up your goals, and set up site search(es), you should wait about 24 hours for it to start getting data. Then you will be able to start viewing your data.

How to view Google Analytics data

Once you start getting in Google Analytics data, you can start learning about your website traffic. Each time you log in to Google Analytics, you will be taken to your Audience Overview report. Alternatively, if you have more than one website, you will be taken to your list of websites to choose from, and then taken to the Audience Overview report for that website. This is the first of over 50 reports that are available to you in Google Analytics. You can also access these reports by clicking on the Reporting link at the top.

viewing google analytics

Standard report features

Most of the standard reports within Google Analytics will look similar to this. At the top right, you can click on the drop-down arrow next to your website to switch to different websites within all of your Google Analytics accounts. Or you can click the Home link at the top.

google analytics audience overview

In the report at the top right, you can click on the dates to change the date range of the data you are viewing. You can also check the Compare box to compare your data from one date range (such as this month) to a previous date range (such as last month) to view your data.

google analytics date range select

You can hover over a variety of areas on your Google Analytics reports to get more information. For example, in the Audience Overview, hovering over the line on the graph will give you the number of sessions for a particular day. Hovering over the metrics beneath the graph will tell you what each one means.

google analytics hover

Beneath the main metrics, you will see reports that you can switch through to see the top ten languages, countries, cities, browsers, operating systems, services providers, and screen resolutions of your visitors.

screen resolution report google analytics

You can click the full report link on each to see the full reports. Or you can click on any of the top ten links to see more details. For example, clicking on the United States in Countries will take you to the full Location report, focused in on visitors from states within the US.

location report google analytics

In this view, you can hover over each state to see the number of visitors from that state. You can scroll down to the table and hover over each column name to learn more about each metric.

visitors by state google analytics

You can also click on the name of each state to see visitors from cities within the state. Effectively, any time you see a clickable link or a ? next to something, you can click on it or hover over it to learn more. The deeper you dive into your analytics, the more interesting information you will find.

Types of Google Analytics reports

Speaking of reports, here is quick summary of what you will find in each of the standard Google Analytics reporting sections, accessible in the left sidebar.

types of google analytics reports

Everything in (parenthesis) is a specific report or set of reports within the following sections that you can refer to.

Audience reports

These reports tell you everything you want to know about your visitors. In them, you will find detailed reports for your visitors’ age and gender (Demographics), what their general interests are (Interests), where they come from (Geo > Location) and what language they speak (Geo > Language), how often they visit your website (Behavior), and the technology they use to view your website (Technology and Mobile).

Acquisition reports

These reports will tell you everything you want to know about what drove visitors to your website (All Traffic). You will see your traffic broken down by main categories (All Traffic > Channels) and specific sources (All Traffic > Source/Medium).

You can learn everything about traffic from social networks (Social). You can also connect Google Analytics to AdWords to learn more about PPC campaigns and to Google Webmaster Tools / Search Console to learn more about search traffic (Search Engine Optimization)

Behavior reports

These reports will tell you everything you want to know about your content. Particularly, the top pages on your website (Site Content > All Pages), the top entry pages on your website (Site Content > Landing Pages), and the top exit pages on your website (Site Content > Exit Pages).

If you set up Site Search, you will be able to see what terms are searched for (Site Search > Search Terms) and the pages they are searched upon (Site Search > Pages).

You can also learn how fast your website loads (Site Speed) as well as find specific suggestions from Google on how to make your website faster (Site Speed > Speed Suggestions).

Conversions

If you set up Goals within your Google Analytics, you can see how many conversions your website has received (Goals > Overview) and what URLs they happened upon (Goals > Goal URLs). You can also see the path that visitors took to complete the conversion (Goals > Reverse Goal Path).

Speaking of goals and conversions, most of the tables within Google Analytics standard reports will tie specific data to your conversions. For example, you can see the number of conversions made by visitors from California in the Audience > Geo > Location report. You can see the number of conversions made by visitors from Facebook in the Acquisitions > All Traffic > Source/Medium report. You can see the number of conversions made by visitors who landed on specific pages in the Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages report.

google analytics conversions

If you have multiple goals, you can use the dropdown at the top of that section of data to switch to the goal you want to view or all of your goals if you prefer.

Shortcuts and emails

While you won’t need every report within Google Analytics, you should explore them all to see what they have to offer. When you find some that you want to visit again and again, use the Shortcut link at the top of the report to add them to the Shortcuts in your left sidebar for faster access.

google analytics shortcuts

Or, use the email button to have them emailed to you (or others on your team) on a regular basis.

google analytics emailed reports

If you choose to send emails to someone outside of your organization, be sure to regularly check your emails by going to your Admin menu and clicking on the Scheduled Emails box under the View column to ensure only people working with your company are getting your data.

google analytics admin window

Answers to common questions about Google Analytics

Got a few questions? Here are some of the common ones that come up with Google Analytics.

How do I share my Google Analytics data with someone?

You don’t have to give your Google account information over to someone who needs access to your Google Analytics data. You just need to go to your Admin menu and under the Account, Property (website) or View you want someone to see, click the User Management menu.

adding user to google analytics

From there, you can add the email address of anyone you would like to view your Google Analytics data and choose the permissions you would like them to have.

user permissions google analytics

I don’t like viewing the reports in Google Analytics. Can someone just summarize the data for me?

Yes! Quill Engage is a service that will take your Google Analytics data and summarize it in an easy-to-read report for you. Best of all, it’s free for up to ten profiles (websites).

quill engage summary report google analytics

I have a dozen websites, and I don’t want to check each of their Google Analytics on a daily basis. What do I do?

You have two options in this scenario. You start by going to the Home screen of Google Analytics. There, you will find a listing of all your websites and an overview of the top metrics—sessions, average session duration, bounce rate, and conversion rate.

google analytics home screen

You can also try business dashboard solutions like Cyfe. For $19 a month, you can create unlimited dashboards with unlimited widgets, including a large selection of data from Google Analytics, alongside data from your social media networks, keyword rankings, Moz stats, and more.

cyfe dashboard google analytics

This solution significantly cuts down on the time spent looking at analytics across the board for your entire business.

Google Analytics says that 90%+ of my organic keywords are (not provided). Where can I find that information?

(not provided) is Google’s way of protecting search engine user’s privacy by hiding the keywords they use to discover your website in search results. Tools like Google Webmaster Tools (now Search Console, free), Authority Lab’s Now Provided Reports (paid), and Hittail (paid) can all help you uncover some of those keywords.

search analytics keyword data

They won’t be linked to your conversions or other Google Analytics data, but at least you will have some clue what keywords searchers are using to find your website.

How do I use Custom Reports, Dashboards, and Segments?

If you’re ready to move to the next level in Google Analytics, Custom Reports, Dashboards, and Segments are the way to go.

Custom Reports (under the Customization menu at the top) allow you to create reports that look similar to the standard Google Analytics reports with the metrics you want to view.

custom report google analytics

Dashboards allow you to view your Google Analytics data in a dashboard format. You can access them at the top of the left sidebar.

google analytics dashboard

Segments allow you to view all of your Google Analytics data based on a specific dimension, such as all of your Google Analytics data based on visitors from the United States. You can also use them to compare up to four segments of data, such as United States versus United Kingdom traffic, search versus social traffic, mobile versus desktop traffic, and more. You can access Segments in each of your reports.

audience comparison google analytics

The nice part about these is that you don’t have to create them from scratch. You can start by using pre-defined Custom Reports, Dashboards, and Segments from the Google Solutions Gallery.

google solutions gallery

There, you will find lots of Custom Reports, Dashboards, Segments, and other solutions that you can import into your Google Analytics and edit to fit your needs. Edit Custom Reports with the Edit button at the top.

edit custom reports google analytics

Edit Dashboards using the Add Widget or Customize Dashboard buttons at the top.

Edit Segments by clicking the Action button inside the Segments selector box and choosing Edit.

edit segments google analytics

Or, when you have applied Segments to your reports, use the drop-down arrow at the top right to find the Edit option.

As you get used to editing Custom Reports, Dashboards, and Segments, you will get more familiar with the way each works so you can create new ones on your own.

In conclusion

I hope you’ve enjoyed this beginner’s introduction to Google Analytics for beginners. If you’re a beginner and have a burning questions, please ask in the comments. I’ll be happy to help!

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The Colossus Update: Waking The Giant

Posted by Dr-Pete

Yesterday morning, we woke up to a historically massive temperature spike on MozCast, after an unusually quiet weekend. The 10-day weather looked like this:

That’s 101.8°F, one of the hottest verified days on record, second only to a series of unconfirmed spikes in June of 2013. For reference, the first Penguin update clocked in at 93.1°.

Unfortunately, trying to determine how the algorithm changed from looking at individual keywords (even thousands of them) is more art than science, and even the art is more often Ms. Johnson’s Kindergarten class than Picasso. Sometimes, though, we catch a break and spot something.

The First Clue: HTTPS

When you watch enough SERPs, you start to realize that change is normal. So, the trick is to find the queries that changed a lot on the day in question but are historically quiet. Looking at a few of these, I noticed some apparent shake-ups in HTTP vs. HTTPS (secure) URLs. So, the question becomes: are these anecdotes, or do they represent a pattern?

I dove in and looked at how many URLs for our 10,000 page-1 SERPs were HTTPS over the past few days, and I saw this:

On the morning of June 17, HTTPS URLs on page 1 jumped from 16.9% to 18.4% (a 9.9% day-over-day increase), after trending up for a few days. This represents the total real-estate occupied by HTTPS URLs, but how did rankings fare? Here are the average rankings across all HTTPS results:

HTTPS URLs also seem to have gotten a rankings boost – dropping (with “dropping” being a positive thing) from an average of 2.96 to 2.79 in the space of 24 hours.

Seems pretty convincing, right? Here’s the problem: rankings don’t just change because Google changes the algorithm. We are, collectively, changing the web every minute of the day. Often, those changes are just background noise (and there’s a lot of noise), but sometimes a giant awakens.

The Second Clue: Wikipedia

Anecdotally, I noticed that some Wikipedia URLs seemed to be flipping from HTTP to HTTPS. I ran a quick count, and this wasn’t just a fluke. It turns out that Wikipedia started switching their entire site to HTTPS around June 12 (hat tip to Jan Dunlop). This change is expected to take a couple of weeks.

It’s just one site, though, right? Well, historically, this one site is the #1 largest land-holder across the SERP real-estate we track, with over 5% of the total page-1 URLs in our tracking data (5.19% as of June 17). Wikipedia is a giant, and its movements can shake the entire web.

So, how do we tease this apart? If Wikipedia’s URLs had simply flipped from HTTP to HTTPS, we should see a pretty standard pattern of shake-up. Those URLs would look to have changed, but the SERPS around them would be quiet. So, I ran an analysis of what the temperature would’ve been if we ignored the protocol (treating HTTP/HTTPS as the same). While slightly lower, that temperature was still a scorching 96.6°F.

Is it possible that Wikipedia moving to HTTPS also made the site eligible for a rankings boost from previous algorithm updates, thus disrupting page 1 without any code changes on Google’s end? Yes, it is possible – even a relatively small rankings boost for Wikipedia from the original HTTPS algorithm update could have a broad impact.

The Third Clue: Google?

So far, Google has only said that this was not a Panda update. There have been rumors that the HTTPS update would get a boost, as recently as SMX Advanced earlier this month, but no timeline was given for when that might happen.

Is it possible that Wikipedia’s publicly announced switch finally gave Google the confidence to boost the HTTPS signal? Again, yes, it’s possible, but we can only speculate at this point.

My gut feeling is that this was more than just a waking giant, even as powerful of a SERP force as Wikipedia has become. We should know more as their HTTPS roll-out continues and their index settles down. In the meantime, I think we can expect Google to become increasingly serious about HTTPS, even if what we saw yesterday turns out not to have been an algorithm update.

In the meantime, I’m going to melodramatically name this “The Colossus Update” because, well, it sounds cool. If this indeed was an algorithm update, I’m sure Google would prefer something sensible, like “HTTPS Update 2” or “Securageddon” (sorry, Gary).

Update from Google: Gary Illyes said that he’s not aware of an HTTPS update (via Twitter):

No comment on other updates, or the potential impact of a Wikipedia change. I feel strongly that there is an HTTPS connection in the data, but as I said – that doesn’t necessarily mean the algorithm changed.

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How to Align Your Entire Company with Your Marketing Strategy

Posted by MackenzieFogelson

It’s no secret that building and executing integrated marketing strategies is the responsibility of your marketing team. The problem with that is the actions of everyone in your organization affect your marketing.

Marketing isn’t just what your customers see on the outside. It’s what happens when they get your product home. It’s the experience they have with any one person in your company at any given time and through any specific touchpoint. Whether or not you’re aware, all of the individuals on every team in your organization are contributing to your marketing on a daily basis.

That being the case, it would certainly be ideal to get everyone in your company focused on and aligned with:

    • Your marketing goals
    • The greater good that the company is working to accomplish
    • The real reasons you’re different from your competition
    • The value you provide your customers and community
    • The customers you’re working so hard to earn and keep
    • The most important strategic priorities your marketing team is working to accomplish so that your company will continue to thrive

We recently built a simple tool that has been helping our clients and their teams stay focused in their marketing efforts and also hurdle communication and goal alignment challenges. We call it the Focus Canvas and I’m going to show you how to build one of your very own (you’re so lucky).


The elements of your Focus Canvas

There are 8 key elements to your Focus Canvas. In a nutshell, here’s how they break down:

  1. Timeframe

    How long you’ll focus on the specific components you will identify in your Focus Canvas.

  2. Our Meaning Beyond Money

    The higher purpose your company is meant to achieve.

  3. Why We’re Different

    A short list that defines the valuable characteristics unique to your company.

  4. The Value We Provide

    A clearly communicated statement that helps your customers understand what you do and gives them reason to choose you over your competition.

  5. What We’re Trying to Accomplish

    The goals your teams (and company) are working to accomplish.

  6. Who Our Customers Are

    The very specific audience groups you’re working to earn and retain.

  7. How We’re Helping Our Customers

    The things you’re doing to remain relevant in your customers’ lives.

  8. What’s Important Now

    The most important things (up to three) that you need to focus on over the next 90 days in order to accomplish goals and move the company forward.

And here’s where each of those pieces are going to fit:

Focus Canvas Template

What follows is a breakdown of each piece of the Focus Canvas, why it’s important, some examples, and the resources necessary to develop each component of your very own.

If you wish, at this juncture, you may download your very own Focus Canvas skeleton and work through it as you read this guide.

Download your Focus Canvas

Okay, kids, let’s get started.


Building your Focus Canvas

Timeframe

Focus Canvas Timeframe

Why it’s important

One of the most important characteristics of your Focus Canvas is that it’s meant to be a dynamic, living, and breathing thing. At the top left, you’ll find a spot to place the date range for the duration in which you’re focusing on the things that you’ve identified in your Focus Canvas.

Ideally, you will stay focused on the specific components of your Focus Canvas for 90 days at a time. Keep in mind, however, that not all of the elements will change every quarter. Some — like your meaning beyond money, your goals, and your audience groups may remain the same across many iterations of your Focus Canvas.

After you’ve used your Focus Canvas to drive a few strategy cycles, you can decide on your frequency for updating. Just make sure that you continue to revisit and evolve it as your company, your customers, and your strategy progresses.


Our meaning beyond money

Focus Canvas Meaning Beyond Money

Why it’s important

Your meaning beyond money is the cornerstone of your Focus Canvas. It’s the reason your company exists. It’s the higher purpose your company is serving by being in business and doing what it does every day.

Your meaning beyond money is an extremely important component to all of your marketing efforts because it’s the essence of your entire brand and it’s why people are attracted to your community. If this isn’t something your company has defined, or isn’t leveraging in your marketing, it’s time to start.

companies with purpose quote brian solis

Operating from your meaning beyond money provides many benefits to your company and your team. The most important is that employees are more engaged in purpose-driven companies because they know the work they do means something.

When it comes down to it, leading with meaning beyond money is what makes your company human. And the more you have the courage to be real, authentic, and genuine in everything your company does both on- and offline, the bigger the strategic advantage you’ll gain over your competition.

Examples

Here are a couple of examples of how meaning beyond money can be communicated effectively through marketing:

Patagonia

Patagonia’s meaning beyond money is working to be a responsible company: both socially and environmentally. They are probably one of the best examples of a company that leads with purpose, and it bleeds through everything they do, especially in their marketing.

patagonia's meaning beyond money

In the recent months, Patagonia has been building an experience with their brand through an integrated campaign called “Worn Wear.” With Worn Wear, you can have your Patagonia gear repaired to help it last longer—which means the people who do this are helping Patagonia leave less of a footprint on our world, living up to the higher purpose they have as an environmentally responsible company.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/7muOgpX8vaQ

Patagonia lives their meaning beyond money so much so that they have been driving across country in a bio-diesel truck to spread the word. When they came through Fort Collins, I got a taste first-hand. And sure enough, they had people inside their bio-diesel truck repairing gear. Some of it wasn’t even made by Patagonia. That’s how deeply they believe in achieving their higher purpose (and it has helped their company to continue to be profitable).

patagonia fix-it bus

Traveling Vineyard

Serving a very different purpose as a company than Patagonia, Traveling Vineyard is a direct selling organization that sells wine. Their meaning beyond money is to help the people who sell wine for them find more personal and professional satisfaction in their lives.

Before profit comes Traveling Vineyard’s desire to support their Wine Guides in finding their passion and providing them with the resources and training necessary to build their own businesses, no matter what the bottom line looks like.

traveling vineyard's meaning beyond money

One of the ways Traveling Vineyard conveys their meaning beyond money is by telling the stories of the real people in their community and how their careers have changed their lives.

http://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/0qqitox1ov?videoFoam=true

The biggest impact of a company’s meaning beyond money is the fact that it doesn’t have to be at scale. You can use your company as an agent for change one person at a time.

Whatever your company determines your higher purpose to be, this part of your Focus Canvas will keep your teams focused on accomplishing that greater meaning. Then it’s clear to them that this needs to guide the decisions they make since they are part of a company that stands for something bigger than simply making money.

Resources

As you prepare your meaning beyond money for your Focus Canvas, these resources may help your company define what that is (or compel you to become more purpose-driven):


Why we’re different

focus canvas why we're different

All of the elements of your Focus Canvas are interdependent, but the next two will build on each other. The reasons that you’re different will inform the value that you provide your customers.

Why it’s important

It’s rare that companies find themselves in markets that are not saturated by steep competition. As a result, it’s imperative that you identify, and that everyone in your company understands, how to effectively communicate the reasons your company is different from your competition. Why should someone choose to be your customer? Why not just choose the other guy?

When completing this part of your Focus Canvas, list up to five unique characteristics that you know to be true only to your company (and that make you valuable and relevant to your specific customers). Be careful that you’re not just listing all of the stuff that every company in your industry offers vs. what truly makes you stand out. This will also help keep your teams focused on delivering those very important promises of value.

Examples

Warby Parker

Warby Parker has many unique selling propositions (or USPs and sometimes may even be called a UVP or unique value proposition). The most noteworthy is the fact that they’ve disrupted the entire eyewear industry by using non-traditional methods to make glasses so that their product could be the alternative. They not only compete on price but also by giving back (for every pair you buy, they give to a pair to someone in need).

warby parker uvp

M&Ms

If you happen to like M&Ms (peanut kind, please), one of the USPs of their product is that it won’t melt in your hands. Lucky for you, they made this sweet commercial about it in 1981 (and you get to re-live the magic now).

https://www.youtube.com/embed/RRESIYTRZzU

Moz

One of Moz’s USPs is how they infuse their TAGFEE values into everything they do. It’s become an unmistakable part of their identity which their customers know they can’t get anywhere else. Same with Roger (as a mascot) and Rand (as a thought leader and approachable personality).

Moz TAGFEE code

This is my favorite example of a USP because it’s not solely functionality or product based. Many companies list technical components of their products as USPs, but that means they’re continually playing the competitor catch-up game; revising their USPs every time their competitors match functionality or features.

Although you definitely want to broadcast key features that your company alone has cornered the market on, look for ways to communicate USPs that won’t go out of style and also tie back into your meaning beyond money.

Resources

Here are some additional USP resources for y’all:


The value we provide

focus canvas the value we provide

Why it’s important

This spot on your Focus Canvas is for the full version of your value proposition (which is inclusive of the unique characteristics you defined in your USPs above). This will help your team properly communicate what you do and how it benefits your customers.

According to ConversionXL, your value proposition is a clear statement that:

    • Explains how your product solves customers’ problems or improves their situation (relevancy),
    • Delivers specific benefits (quantified value),
    • Tells the ideal customer why they should buy from you and not from the competition (unique differentiation).

Try to keep this sucker brief at 2-3 sentences (with possibly a few USP bullet points to support).

Examples

Here’s one of the value proposition examples that Peep provides from Campaign Monitor. This example makes it very easy to tell what they do, who they do it for, and how that’s unique to them:

campaign monitor value proposition

Help Scout also has some great guidance on how to create great value propositions that work well. They provide these two examples of value propositions for Stripe and Synthesis:

help scout value propositions

synthesis value proposition

The biggest thing about your value proposition is that it needs to be incredibly clear and very easy to understand. Sometimes that can be easier to do on your website because you can take all the time you need to craft the perfect words, place the perfect images, and test how this affects your customers.

Where your value proposition really gets put to the test is how your employees use it in person when people ask them what they do. Your Focus Canvas is a great spot for this. Provide your team with a very brief, value-fueled elevator pitch that helps them to communicate the right things in their daily interactions with customers, colleagues, and friends.

Resources

For your convenience, here are the posts I mentioned above, plus some additional resources that will help you to build or revise your existing value proposition (that’s informed by your USPs):


What we’re trying to accomplish

focus canvas what we're trying to accomplish

Why it’s important

When you’re aligning teams, getting everyone on the same page, and working toward the visionary goal of the company, things can get messy. This requires a great deal of collaboration across channels and teams of people, all with their own agendas, goals, and expectations of results. All the more reason to use your Focus Canvas as a tool for…wait for it…focus and alignment.

Keep in mind that when you’re identifying what you’re trying to accomplish, your teams can have different goals, but ultimately everyone should be working toward achieving the overarching vision of the company.

Before you place your goals into your Focus Canvas, make sure you’re using your meaning beyond money to inform them. Those goals will then help you build an integrated marketing strategy that determines the tools and tactics you’ll use (like content, SEO, video, social, email marketing, paid channels, etc.). That way, your teams will be working on accomplishing the right things in the short term in order to reach your long-term goals.

focus canvas goals core tactics

Ultimately, everything you’re producing in your marketing strategy is working toward becoming the company you’re meant to be, and at the same time, connecting your community to your higher purpose and more fully to your brand.

Examples

When looking at what you’re trying to accomplish, consider three categories of goals: visionary, business, and brand. Place these goals on your Focus Canvas so that you can continue to work towards these goals until you’ve accomplished them. As mentioned, your goals (especially visionary goals) will most likely carry over several cycles as you revise and refresh your Focus Canvas.

Visionary

Visionary goals are the longer term ones that your entire company is working toward. It’s the bigger, more audacious goals that may take 2-3 years (or longer) to complete. If you’re using this Focus Canvas inside of a large company, you can set a visionary goal for your team or division. Just make sure it’s aligned with the greater visionary goal of the company as a whole.

If it helps, as a company, Mack Web has two visionary goals:

    • Change the way companies build their brands
    • Change the way marketing is measured

Ultimately we exist to help companies build better businesses, so our visionary goals are part of making this happen.

Business

Business goals are the stuff that’s related to your team and company’s financial goals. When identifying these goals, consider the financial benchmarks that must be accomplished in order to reach your department’s, and ultimately your company’s, revenue goals.

Currently, Mack Web’s business goals are to:

    • Diversify revenue streams (we specify actual numbers per stream internally)
    • Work with responsive, purpose-driven companies
    • Keep Mack Web running smoothly and profitably

Brand

Brand goals are the qualitative benchmarks that your team is held accountable for. When identifying these goals, consider questions like:

    • What is your meaning beyond money?
    • Who does your company really want to become?
    • How does the above inform your team’s goals?
    • How does all of this fit into the vision of your company’s brand?

Mack Web has many brand goals that we’re working to accomplish:

    • Help our clients feel valued
    • Ensure clients are reaching their goals
    • Earn long-term partnerships and mentorships
    • Earn reputable speaking and blogging gigs
    • Attract companies who align with our values and approach

Essentially, if Mack Web accomplishes our brand and business goals, we will be well on our way to accomplishing our visionary goals, and most importantly, realizing our higher purpose and the reason we exist as a company.

Resources

One of the ways we often get to goals (and also tactics to accomplish those goals) is by working through a visioning exercise we learned from working with the Paterson Process. Here’s how that works:

Where are you today?

In the first part of this exercise, you’re going to paint the picture of where your team or company stands today. Are you having a lot of conflict and roadblocks? Are you finding synergy? Are you short-handed? Do you have everything you need to be great? Are you lacking resources or training? Paint the picture, positive or negative, of your team’s status as it stands today.

where are you today

Where are you going?

Now you want to think about where you want your team (and company) to be in a year. In two years. In three years. What does that mountain look like that you want your team to stand on? Is everyone certified in Google Analytics? Have you reached a certain level of profitability and brand awareness? Did you develop a tool or resource for your customers? Paint the picture of that mountain that you’d like to summit. These desires will become your goals that you will categorize into visionary, business, and brand as detailed above.

where are you going

How will you get there?

Lastly comes the action. How the heck are you gonna make that stuff happen? What needs to be put into place? Do you need training? Do you need to hire more people? Do you need better communication with other teams? Write down all of the things that will help your team get up your mountain. As you work to build your integrated strategy, these things will become the tactics that you execute.

how will you get there

Once you’ve worked through these exercises and worked with your team(s) to identify goals, you can place your visionary, business, and brand goals on your Focus Canvas. Next, we’ll focus on your customers.


Who our customers are

focus canvas who are your customers

Why it’s important

When you’re considering how you’re going to reach your goals, it’s probably a good idea that everyone, not only those on your team but also in your company, knows who they’re talking to. Getting to know your audience is an in-depth, ongoing process of connecting, validating, and refining so that you’re continually giving your audience what they need.

When identifying who your customers are, it’s important to remember that it’s not everyone. Earning and retaining customers requires a great deal of bandwidth and resources from your team. If they know which audience groups are a priority, they can focus their strategy and efforts there, making it more likely that they’ll accomplish goals.

Examples

If you haven’t yet done so, take a long look at this slide deck from Mike King. It’s got some really important stuff in it about validating personas (and not just guessing that who you’ve identified as personas are the people you think you’re talking to).

As Mike would put it:

quantitative v qualitative

The entire deck is full of instructions on how to build data-driven persona that will help you verify whether these people are actually coming to your website, or other touchpoints in their experience, and whether you’re giving them what they need.

persona

Once you’ve identified your top three customer groups, you can place their details in your Focus Canvas (perhaps with a link to any additional context you may want to provide). Your teams can then build their strategies and focus their efforts around them.

Resources

Here are some additional resources for you that will help you identify your top three customer groups (in addition to Mike’s deck):


How we’re helping our customers

focus canvas how we're helping customers

This part of your Focus Canvas is going to evolve as you continually work to create the resources that are relevant to your customers’ lives.

What you see on your Focus Canvas skeleton are just some sample phases of a possible customer’s journey. You’ll want to identify what these phases are for your customers before you can decide the resources that will fulfill their needs during each phase and where you will need to provide them (on your website, on social, via email, offline, etc.).

Like personas, how you’re helping your customers requires continuous effort and validation. And, with other parts of this Focus Canvas, how you’re helping your customers must change based on the data you collect and the experiences you have with them.

Why it’s important

When it comes down to it, your company exists to help other people; to improve their lives in some way. In order to do this, you’ve got to continually stay relevant in their lives. Each phase in your customer’s journey is going to require a different level of support in order to earn their trust and business. Being adaptive to their needs ongoing is what will keep them with you long term.

Examples

One very simple way to help your customers is to identify each of the stages of their experience with your company, and then determine what questions you may need to answer (or resources you need to develop) during each phase. Joanna Lord has developed a very simple and effective guide that will take you through how to do this. You can then map those phases, questions, and their touchpoints in this spreadsheet, and then place the ones you’re focusing on in your Focus Canvas.

customer touchpoints chart

If you haven’t already identified customer touchpoints, then you’ll want to first look at your customer’s behavior phases and then determine the questions they may ask (or wouldn’t have enough knowledge to ask) during those phases. It may take you a few cycles to get through all of the questions, but you can use your Focus Canvas to keep track of the ones you’re focused on answering.

If you’ve already done this, then you can focus your team’s efforts elsewhere, like developing resources your customers can download and use. Whatever the task, place it in the Focus Canvas so that you can easily communicate what the focus is at this time.

Resources

In addition to Joanna’s guide, these resources will help you map your customer’s journey and identify some important things that you can be doing to better serve them:


What’s important now

focus canvas what's important now

Why it’s important

Knowing what to focus on in order to accomplish your company’s goals is probably one of the toughest parts of strategy. Within every company, no matter how big or small, there are always many things that are broken, stuff that has to get done to earn customers, and an ever-changing world to contend with.

The difficulty this presents is the temptation to do too many things at once, which will only dilute your efforts, keep you focused on nothing, and ultimately get you nowhere.

oliver emberton quote multitasking

At the bottom of your Focus Canvas you’ll find three spots to identify the most important things to focus on now, over the next 90 days. These are your strategic priorities; the things you need to cross off your list so that your team and company can get closer to getting up that mountain and achieving its goals.

Notice that there are only three spots on your canvas. If one of your strategic priorities is really big, you can even choose to focus on just one of them. The point is to focus. And, as you’re executing your integrated strategy and shiny things start to surface, come back to your Focus Canvas, all of the elements, and especially your strategic priorities, to determine whether it’s more important to take that detour or exercise some self-control and stay focused right where you are.

Examples

Right now, Mack Web has two pretty big strategic priorities that we’re working through: a rebrand and the improvement of our company operating system (we’re testing and implementing some holacracy components). These two things alone are plenty for us to chew on, so we’re capping our strategic priorities, or what’s important now, for the next 90 days on only these two things.

mack web focus canvas

These things are communicated on our Focus Canvas so that when unexpected challenges arise or shiny things present themselves, we can weigh them against what we’ve identified as priorities and either say “no” or “not now.” And, because what we’re focusing on is recorded on the Focus Canvas, it helps to take the emotion out of decisions and keep us on track.

Resources

If you need a little assistance figuring out where your focus should be for the next 90 days, we’ve adapted an exercise we learned from the Paterson Center called Four Helpful Lists.

four helpful lists

In a nutshell, here’s how it works (if you’d like some additional guidance, this post will help you better understand how we’ve worked through this exercise and applied it with our team):

Start with a question

Before we break down what’s most important to focus on, we start with a strategic question so that we can get to the underlying issues that need to surface (and then we can work on them). So, for example, if your team is challenged with available resources, instead of asking, “who are we going to hire next?” we would ask, “how is the team functioning?” That way, we can then go right into each of the prompts in the lists: what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s missing, and what’s confused.

Complete the four lists

Each of the four lists will help you uncover a variety of things that your team or company needs to focus on in order to accomplish your goals. The columns work this way:

  1. What’s right

    Always start with what’s going right. Exhaust all of the positive aspects of your current situation.

  2. What’s wrong

    This is anything that is typically putting up roadblocks. Or it’s the stuff that is taking you way off track that you probably need to consider putting on pause.

  3. What’s missing

    These are the opportunities you can explore, and also the things you wish you had. A lot of times we find what’s missing are things like processes, systems, and resources.

  4. What’s confused

    This is what you’ll need to get figured out in order to move forward. It’s what requires additional info in certain places in order to proceed.

Once you’ve gone through each list, you can then map out the items that are the most important to handle in order to move the company forward. You then choose three that will become your strategic priorities for the next 90 days. Make sure the priorities you’ve selected match your goals and align with the other elements of your Focus Canvas.


What’s next?

As you work through building your Focus Canvas, you may have unearthed some things that have been holding your team or company back. You may have noticed some gaps in many of these simple elements. That’s okay. One of your strategic priorities could be working on resolving the holes so that you know you’re focusing on the right things. Just know that it could take a few months to fully develop your first Focus Canvas.

Once you’ve got your Focus Canvas in place, you can meet with the other teams in your company to help them understand all of these important elements. Even better, maybe those teams will be inspired to be part of building the next one, or even build one that’s specific to their team but that also aligns with the focus of the marketing department.

With the awareness of what your company is here to do, who they’re doing it for, and what’s important to do now, you’re ready to develop a strategy that aligns with all of these components. We typically build strategies that recycle and reset every 90 days (this post will help you better understand how that works). You’ll want to test whatever works best for your team and company.

Final words

Not many companies work on focus because it’s hard. It means you probably have to face some conflict and work through challenges with the people on your team and in your company. It can be tough at first, but putting in the effort to get your teams focused and aligned will make a huge impact on your company.

As you work on developing and integrating your Focus Canvas within your company, I’m happy to answer any additional questions you have. Please ping me in the comments below.


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Why You Should Share to Social Media in the Afternoon + More of the Latest Social Media Research

I love to see new stats and research about how to best share to social media.

If it’s research-backed or numbers-driven, sign me up. These actionable tips are what drive a lot of our experiments at Buffer as we’re keen to see if the best advice from these studies meshes with our experience, too.

And there’s a lot of new info to go off of.

I’ve collected 10 of the latest surprising, revealing studies on social media here in this post, with takeaways and insight into social media timing, Instagram sharing, Facebook users, and more. If you’ve seen a recent study worth mentioning, I’d love to hear from you!

Social Media research

1. The peak performance of social sharing

Late afternoon to nighttime is the best time to reach people on social

Social traffic substantially underperforms overall traffic from about 5 a.m. to noon, and social substantially overperforms overall traffic from about 3 p.m. until 1 a.m.

Chartbeat reported on the data of the sites it tracks, looking at how social media sharing corresponds to site traffic. The general trend seemed to follow: Traffic and social sharing both increase throughout the early morning, peak midday, then lessen into the evening.

The unique finding here was in the subtle difference in exactly where each metric peaks.

Social traffic outperforms website traffic from 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time to 1:00 a.m.

Chartbeat social trfafic web traffic research

2. What the average Facebook user looks like

The very male, college-educated, heavily IT, somewhat liberal demographic

Only two publishers–BuzzFeed and Yahoo!–have more women than men in their audiences at 51% and 56% respectively.

Only two publishers–Forbes and Wired–exceed a 10% likelihood in their audiences working at management level.

Fractl and BuzzStream collaborated on a study of 20 publishers’s Facebook audiences, looking at the Audience Insights for publishers like The Guardian, Wired, BuzzFeed, Yahoo, Huffington Post, and more.

In the case of these audiences, the results skewed heavily in a few directions:

  • 18 of the 20 publishers had an audience that was more male than female.
  • The majority of active users on these pages has graduated from college.
  • All but one publisher had an audience makeup of more IT workers than the U.S. Facebook average.

Facebook Audience Insights for 20 major publishers

Comparisons might be a little tricky to draw between these pages and yours, though the research does point to the value of understanding your audience. My best guess at the demographics of some of these publishers would be that the audience was more female (I was wrong) and perhaps not as IT focused.

3. Instagram vs. Facebook

Instagram a more engaged platform than Facebook, Twitter

Instagram leads social platforms for engagement with 2.81% of audiences engaging with a post.

Locowise studied 2,500 Instagram profiles from April 2015 to measure a wide assortment of different engagement metrics and content strategies. One of the big takeaways was how engagement on Instagram far outperforms Facebook and Twitter.

Instagram research - Engagement compared to Twitter Facebook

Average engagement per post on Instagram was 2.81%.

On Facebook, engagement was 0.25%.

On Twitter, engagement was 0.21%.

(For Instagram engagement—as you can see from the graph above—the best results still come from photos versus video.)

Other interesting takeaways from the Locowise study include:

  • Likes account for 96% of all engagements (comments account for the other 3%)
  • Brands post 2.3 times per day to Instagram
  • The largest profiles post 7.24 times per day, the smallest profiles post 1.68 times
  • Average follower growth month-over-month is 1.95%, meaning that if you had 1,000 followers in March, you could expect to gain 19 new followers in April.

4. Interactions and Instagram

More interactions happen on Instagram—5 likes or comments for every 100 followers

The average interaction % on Instagram is up to 10 times higher than on Facebook.

Quintly analyzed over 5,000 Instagram accounts (and broke those accounts into buckets of followers, too) to see the current trends in engagement, content type, and strategy. One of the main takeaways from the study: Interactions are amazingly high on Instagram.

Quintly measured Interaction Rate, which is interactions per post divided by number of followers. They found that Instagram’s Interaction Rate was 4.80 interactions per 100 followers. Facebook’s rate is 0.72.

Further, Quintly also shared the average interactions per post for Instagram photos or videos, along with a breakdown of what you might expect at varying follower levels.

Quintly Instagram report - Interactions

5. Where is social media marketing headed?

Survey says Twitter, YouTube, & LinkedIn

Social Media Examiner surveyed over 3,700 marketers on their social media strategies, goals, and plans, ending up with some truly fascinating results on where social media marketing may be headed.

A significant 66% of marketers plan on increasing their use of Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

Future use - social networks via Social Media Examiner

Additional cool findings from the Social Media Examiner survey include:

  • Marketers are most keen to learn about Facebook
  • Nearly 3 out of every 4 marketers plans to increase video usage
  • Facebook and LinkedIn are the two most important networks for marketers
  • Most marketers aren’t sure their Facebook marketing is effective

6. On reposting content

How to get more engagement with a second tweet

We’ve written much before about the case for reposing content, sharing an article more than once on social media. A research team from Cornell investigated this strategy, looking at the effect of wording on sending multiple messages through Twitter.

The researchers developed an algorithm that could successfully predict which variation of the same tweet would receive more retweets. (You can try out the free tool that is based on the algorithm.)

Here are the factors that researchers identified as being helpful for reposted content. (The most significant factors are highlighted in bold.)

  • Ask people to share – Use words like “RT, Retweet, spread, please”
  • Informativeness helps – Focus on length, nouns, and verbs (and not so much @-mentions or hashtags)
  • Make your language align with both community norms and with your prior messages
  • Mimic news headlines
  • Use positive and/or negative words (both seemed to work equally well)
  • Use third-person singular – He, she, it, and one
  • Generality helps – Use indefinite articles like a, an

7. Twitter images for smaller accounts

The 9x increase in retweets just by adding an image

In a huge Twitter analysis by Stone Temple Consulting—over 2 million tweets analyzed for eight different factors, including unique things like domain authority and Followerwonk social authority—the authors discovered a few insightful trends, perhaps none more actionable than the power of tweets with images.

5-images-increase-rts-favorites1

According to Stone Temple’s study, adding an image to your tweet doubles the likelihood that your tweet will receive a retweet or favorite.

And for those with low-level social authority—low follower counts, just getting started on Twitter, or otherwise—adding an image to your tweet generates 5 to 9 times as many retweets and 4 to 12 times as many favorites in total.

28-total-rts-images1

From Eric Enge of Stone Temple:

At lower authority levels including an image will get you 5 to 9 times as many Retweets and 4 to 12 times as many favorites than you will if your tweets don’t include an image. Hopefully, you were sitting down when you read that. Note that high authority levels also benefit as well, though for the 90-99 range the gain is relatively modest. For those high authority accounts, people are already hanging on their every word.

8. The top social networks

The surprising result at #1, plus the unique spot for Twitter

The Global Web Index’s most recent quarterly report (a survey of more than 40,000 Internet users) looked at social media usage and came out with a couple keen insights.

  1. More Internet users visit YouTube than Facebook.
  2. YouTube and Twitter have significantly more visitors than active users. 

Social media active use and visits

So in case you had yet to consider YouTube as a possible channel to meet your audience, there seems to be solid evidence here that your audience is quite familiar and comfortable with hanging out at YouTube. (We’ve got some tips on how to make videos for your brand also, if that’d be interesting for you!)

And as for the drop in active users for YouTube and Twitter, I like to think of this in terms of consumption versus sharing. Someone may be on Twitter to hear the latest news, click some links, see what’s happening—they may still be engaged with your Twitter stream without contributing anything of their own to Twitter.

We covered a series of social media personality types awhile back, and these folks seem to fit well into the lurker category—still a valuable addition to your network, just with their own personal tastes when it comes to being involved.

9. How people spend their time on social

Twitter is for news, Facebook is for friends

Another interesting takeaway from the Global Web Index report is in the survey responses about how people spend their time on social media sites. For Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, the report found the following:

  • The most popular activity on Twitter is reading a news story
  • The most popular activity on Facebook is clicking the “Like” button

Here’s how the rest of the activity breaks down. Note how many of the top Twitter activities deal with reading the news or catching up on what’s been happening whereas many of Facebook’s top activities involve connecting with friends.

User activity on Twitter Facebook Googlt+

10. Make waves by responding quickly

5 in 6 messages that need responses are not answered by brands

Sprout Social regularly shares insights from its data, making particular note about the way that brands and businesses listen and respond on social media. Their 2013 benchmark study showed great room for brands to improve, and Sprout’s followup study in 2014 had many of the same takeaways.

There is great opportunity for you to stand out on social media by simply replying to everyone. 

The data from Sprout Social showed that businesses are learning how to reply quicker to responses (we’ve mentioned before that response expectations on Twitter typically hover under 60 minutes). However, they’re replying to a smaller percentage of the volume of messages they receive.

Response study - Sprout Social

  • Response rate: 17% (was 21% one year ago)
  • Response time: 5% improvement from previous year

Over to you

Which of these stats stand out to you? 

Is there anything here that seemed particularly surprising or true from your experience? 

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! Feel free to leave any input you might have, it’d be great to hear from you.

Image sources: Pablo, IconFinder, UnSplashNew social media research

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