Finally got my R-Programming Certificate!

According to McKinsey Consulting, the US companies are facing an imminent shortage of analytical talent.

The United States alone faces a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with analytical expertise and 1.5 million managers and analysts with the skills to understand and make decisions based on the analysis of big data.

Full Article: Big data: The next frontier for competition

Mckinsey _ analyst shortage

Looks like a call to serve and I’m game to “Do my bit”!  My chosen vocation, Digital Marketing is heavily driven by analytics to drive the development and refinement of campaigns. Therefore, I’ve recently enrolled in Johns Hopkins University’s excellent Data Analytics program (available via Coursera here).

Do Your Bit - Data Analytics

I’ve always had a fascination with tools that enable the tabulation and analysis of data, beginning with Excel, then Access and Filemaker Pro, and most recently R, which is an absolutely amazing, free, open-source tool for data analysis.

The JHU program includes an extremely challenging but excellent R Programming course, which I highly recommend. Though at times I felt like putting my head in a blender trying to figure out the programming assignments in the course, that is part of the education, and I was able to succeed by collaborating with peers in the course discussion boards and using online resources like StackOverflow.

I am very proud to have their R Programming certificate, and look forward to using R as a power-tool in my future career as a digital marketing analytics ninja.

R Programming_nickakrueger

For those of you wanting to do your bit and learn R, I also highly recommend the following resources for getting off the ground.


SWIRL (SoftWare Interactive R Learning) – This is a ridiculously awesome and amazing learning tool for R. You install R Studio (available here), install and load SWIRL, and off you go. SWIRL teaches you through interactive text-based lessons within the R console iteself, and feels more like a game than anything. The lessons fly by and are incredibly informative. I would work through them all once or twice before beginning the Johns Hopkins course, which will make the assignments much easier.


I also highly recommend working through Bucky Robert’s series of YouTube videos on R, hosted by The New Boston, a great, free, learning resource site. Bucky is great at explaining the basics in easy-to-understand terms, with a sense of humor to boot. I watched these while on the treadmill in the morning and found they really lubricated the learning process.

R for Marketing Research and Analytics

Lastly I recommend the book, “R for Marketing Research and Analytics” by Chapman and Feit, available on Amazon (here). Unlike the Johns Hopkins course, this book is focused on the use of R in a marketing context, with relevant exercises. My personal goal is to work through the entire text by 01/01/2016.

Ready to “Do your bit”? Good luck to you, and have fun!


Applying the MoR Test to evaluate social media strategy

There is a reason Avinash Kaushik is one of the foremost thought-leaders in the world of digital marketing. With roots in research and analytics, Kaushik quickly cuts to the case, using metrics to quantify the real-world value of specific campaigns.

In his article, “How To Suck At Social Media: An Indispensable Guide For Businesses” Kaushik suggests many firms rush to social media merely because its there, connected to a large audience, without a clear rationale for why it makes sense to do so, resulting in lackluster results. For example:

Google’s Small Business page on Facebook the average “Amplification Rate” (the rate at which their followers share their content with others) is virtually zero – and the “Applause Rate” (Likes per post) is usually under 10. We’re talking Google here, and that’s how low the numbers are.

Google’s AdWords made over $35B last year, and their Facebook page has over 420,000 ‘Likes’, with the team generating new posts every day, yet usually generates zero shares.

Kaushik cites additional examples, including GE, which enjoys KPIs near zero for its own Facebook presence, begging the question, “what business value, brand or performance, was delivered?”


This leads to Kaushik’s proposal of the “MoR Test”, as a first-step in evaluating a firm’s investment in social media strategy, which is defined below.

MoR Test

It is pronounced the more test. It is an acronym for a test I often use in my consulting engagements. It stands for: Money off Roof test.

It is a simple test: Would we create more Social Media activity if we took all the money we are currently investing in Social Media and threw it all off the roof of our office building?

The way it works is that you compute the total cost of your Social Media program: SM employee salaries and benefits, agency fees, content acquisition/production costs, analyst salaries, executive time invested etc. Then, you withdraw that amount of money in $5 bills. Now you take the elevator, or stairs to be healthier, to the roof of your office building. During prime time, say noon, you throw the cash, off the roof. Surely, when cash is floating down from the sky, people will grab it and tweet it, write posts on Facebook, post pictures on Instagram, and of course videos on YouTube. Measure all this Social Media activity.

If the Social Media activity is more than what you are currently getting on your current social platforms, why are you on Social Media? If you simply want buzz, you are better off just throwing cash off your office building once a month. No?

The serious point is that when we choose to invest in Social Media, it comes at a cost. Not just what we are investing on Social Networks, but also what else we are not doing. The opportunity cost . Many companies don’t have mobile friendly websites. Their mobile apps, if they exist, are atrocious. When you search for them, if you find them, you end up on sub-optimal landing pages. Most don’t have decent display advertising strategies with Yahoo!. Their email marketing programs are, literally, leaving money and customer love on the table. Some have the worst lead gen page known to womankind. But. They have a regular presence on Social Networks.

If they fail the MoR test, why not take that money and invest in the aforementioned six ideas? The brand and performance ROI to the company is clear and direct.

Yet Kaushik goes on to highlight a number of cases with companies passing the MoR test including; Innocent, Carphone Warehouse, GoPro, and Mailchimp – providing analysis on each and factors for success (or lack thereof). I highly recommend reading for any social media marketing manager.


Read the full article by Avinash Kaushik “How To Suck At Social Media: An Indispensable Guide For Businesses” (here)

SEO for Non-Experts: What is it, how does it work, is it dead, and why or why not?

What is SEO anyway?

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines.

Major search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo constantly crawl the web, indexing content into massive databases of billions of documents, which are searched with the aim to deliver instant search results that are most relevant and popular. Ranking of results is driven by sophisticated algorithms using hundreds of variables that “sort the wheat from the chaff” (relevance), and then to rank the “wheat” in order of quality (popularity).

See 2015 survey results of top search-engine ranking factors (here).

What good SEO will do for your business?

Websites compete for attention and placement in the search engines, and those with the knowledge and experience to improve their website’s ranking will receive the benefits of increased traffic and visibility, which drives sales.

On average, 71.33% of searches resulted in a page one Google organic click. Page two and three get only 5.59% of the clicks. On the first page alone, the first 5 results account for 67.60% of all the clicks and the results from 6 to 10 account for only 3.73%.

Some Tips from Google and Microsoft

  • Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines. Don’t attempt to deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users, a practice commonly referred to as “cloaking.”
  • Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link
  • Create a useful, keyword and information-rich site, with pages that clearly and accurately describe your content
  • Create clean, keyword-rich, human-friendly URLs

One of the most important elements to building an online marketing strategy around SEO is empathy for your audience. Once you grasp what your target market is looking for, you can more effectively reach and keep those users.

When considering SEO strategy, keep in mind that most searches fall into one of three buckets:

  1. “DO” – Transactional: “I want to buy a plane ticket”
  2. “KNOW” – Informational: “I’m looking for the name of a music group”
  3. “GO” – Navigational: “I’m looking for a web site”

Allowing this to inform content-strategy will result in the search engine serving up your property as a relevant and popular result. Additionally, the following fundamentals continue to benefit search engine rankings.

  • Accessibility
  • Quality Content
  • Quality Design
  • Keyword and Key Phrase Targeting (but don’t overdo it – more on that below)
  • Social Media Integration
  • Link Building

About Link Building (The Light and Dark sides of the Force)

There are a lot of ways to build a catalog of backlinks that impact your SEO performance. However, there is a light side and a dark side to link-building. While there are methods to build a large volume of back-links in a short time, they can actually hurt your performance as they could result in getting downgraded by an updated Google algorithm.

Cultivate backlinks from these sources to strengthen SEO

  • Business Contacts
  • Forums, social media and websites that are related to yours
  • High Quality Resource Lists
  • News Media and Blogs
  • Social Media Link Acquisition
  • Content Marketing

Distance yourself from these sources which can actually hurt your rankings

  • Reciprocal Link Pages
  • Low Quality Directories
  • Article Marketing
  • Paid Links
  • Forum Spam
  • Link Farms

Remember, you want to stay away from “black hat” SEO tactics that focus only on search engines and not a human audience, and often violate search engine guidelines. While they may have been effective a few years ago, they are likely to incur penalties that punish web site rankings. For a rundown on current dangerous practices, I highly recommend reading Bobby McGill’s “Does My Site Have A Penalty? 27 Risks to Check”. In addition to the previous list, dangerous practices include:

  • Over-optimised anchor text
  • Unnatural guest posting
  • Thin or “scraped” content
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Poor mobile experience

That last one isn’t really a penalty from Google but is imposed by failing to recognize that nearly half of all web interactions are coming from mobile devices. Ensuring a solid user experience on mobile is crucial to maintaining engagement with an audience increasingly on the go.

The REALLY Dark Side (Negative SEO)

The worst kind of black hat SEO isn’t even something you can do, but is something that is done to you by someone else. Also known as ‘Google Bowling’, Negative SEO is the practice of spamming competitive websites with backlinks to devalue them in the search engines. Read an account on a real-life neg-SEO attack on WP Bacon here.

This is a scary practice as there is little the site operator can do to protect the property, other than vigilantly monitor site ranking, immediately investigating sudden drops,  and submitting a disavow file with the offending links to Google.

But, I heard SEO was “Dead”. Is it even still a thing?

Search engine optimization has changed a lot over the years.

When search marketing began in the mid-1990s, manual submission, the meta keywords tag, and keyword stuffing were all regular parts of the tactics necessary to rank well. In 2004, link bombing with anchor text, buying hordes of links from automated blog comment spam injectors, and the construction of inter-linking farms of websites could all be leveraged for traffic.

Today, social media and content marketing are mainstream methods for driving search engine optimization, and search engines have refined their algorithms along with this evolution. Many of the tactics that worked a few years ago can hurt your SEO today.

In fact, there is something of an internet tradition of annually claiming that SEO is dead. A Google search I just performed for “SEO is Dead” returned over 11.5 Million results indicating it remains a lively debate. Driving factors include the increasing role of social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) in generating inbound referrals, and increasingly sophisticated search engine algorithms shutting the door on SEO manipulation tactics.

At the end of the day, it seems to come down to one’s ultimate purpose, and definition for SEO.

Search engine providers want to meet user needs through quality search results that are relevant and authentic. To do so, they are driving an evolution of algorithms that are better and better at giving rank to sites with quality content, over those attempting to game the idiosyncrasies of system.

Does this mean that SEO is really dead, or is it finally getting back to the roots of what quality digital marketing has always been about?

Clearly it’s not SEO that is dead but rather the outdated tactics and strategies. More than ever, SEO is about building a quality website with relevant information and adding to it consistently over time. Of the many things written on the subject, I’m going to quote liberally from Razvan Gavrilas‘ outstanding article, “The Many ‘Deaths’ of #SEO Before 2015”, which you can read in full (here).

Before we decide whether SEO is dead or not, we need to clarify what SEO really means. There are a lot of misunderstandings surrounding what SEO is about, which leads people on the wrong track. If for instance, you think SEO is about tricking search engines, linking schemes, and web spam then yes, SEO is dead.

Since 2011, the Panda algorithm targets websites with too much keyword stuffing, advertising, duplicate content or those that didn’t have quality signals pointing to their sites … and a lot of people believed optimization was no longer possible.

In 2012, it introduced the Penguin algorithms, which focused mainly on web spam updates. Penguin checks the links on a website and if it doesn’t like the links pointing to that website, it “demotes” the site’s ranking significantly.

[And] just like anything else, guest blogging has been abused, so Google began to devalue the links from guest blogging.

Last year, Google rolled out two new updates: Penguin 3.0, which focuses on link building strategies (less quantity, more quality), and Panda 4.0, which prevent sites with poor quality content from reaching Google’s top search results.

Diversify your traffic! Write for humans not for search engine bots! Stay away from link building schemes, they might work on short-term but will surely get you penalized heavily in the long-term. Make your content sharable and interesting. Follow people who have sites similar to yours and create connections with them.

As long as search engines exist and are trying to provide users with the most relevant results, the ability to make your site the most relevant will exist. If Google and every other search engine along with it collapse and die, then SEO will probably die along with it. But until that happens, until the system breaks or it is replaced by another one, we are going to have SEO.

SEO is always a challenging field, but it doesn’t change all that much. If you’ve been doing the right things, none of these algorithms should be ruining your businesses.

In conclusion, you are always better off optimizing your website content for search engines than ignoring them. They are simply getting better at detecting quality. The attentive SEO manager will embrace the trend and use it to drive continuous improvement of the online property itself, which is really the entire point of it all.

Stick to the fundamentals, and most importantly, produce quality and engaging content. If your audience responds to your website, Google likely will as well.

As with many disciplines, fundamentals never get old.

Source: Search Engine Land (Download Periodic Table of SEO here)

And many thanks to these excellent sources on the state of SEO:

Search Engine Land “What Is SEO / Search Engine Optimization?”

MOZ “The Beginners Guide to SEO”

B2C “Forget Everything You Know About SEO”

Click Z “Is SEO Dead?”

Search Engine Journal “The Many Deaths of #SEO Before 2015”

Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) blurring the line between education and content marketing

For the uninitiated, “MOOC” stands for a Massive Open Online Course.

They are similar to university courses, with lectures and reading materials delivered online, included graded quizzes, assignments, tests, and certificates of completion.

MOOCs are offered by a growing number of educational institutions including; Harvard, MIT, Johns Hopkins, and Northwestern University through online channels including EdX and Coursera. Initially offered for free, institutions are increasingly offering fee-based certificate courses, to both cover the cost of content production as well as monetize the value of their programs, while remaining a low-cost alternative to traditional sections. The University of Illinois even offers a full iMBA degree program, which can be completed entirely through the online program at a much lower cost than traditional or executive M.B.A. programs.

I’ve recently been immersed in three MOOCs myself, concentrated on Digital & Social Media Marketing, and Data Analytics – completing my first R-Programming course through Johns Hopkins University/Coursera yesterday. With two degrees acquired the old-fashioned way (B.S. from the University of Memphis and an M.B.A. from the University of North Texas), I have found the MOOC-model to be extremely effective, in terms of instructional quality, convenience, and cost.

Ironically, I’ve experienced greater collaboration through my MOOC in R programming than in any traditional in-class experience, through participation in online forums where fellow-learners post questions, answers, ideas, and general moral support. Below is a snapshot of the “Study Group” forum, showing the sheer diversity of locales represented by course participants.

Study Groups

MOOCs have the potential to be a win-win for learners and universities alike. For an experienced degree-bearing professional, the ability to select specific courses matched to a career objective has great utility. MOOCs also enable schools to extend the reach of their programs to a global market, with tremendous upside potential.

However, institutions entering the arena of MOOC-based education are, by consequence, becoming content marketers, with a need for savvy in the 4C’s of digital marketing, which involves matching content to the education Consumer’s wants and needs, establishing the right Cost for programs, ensuring Convenience for MOOC participants through effective management of user experience, and strong Communication between course administrators, instructors, and students.

Many universities with worthwhile programs lack the resources and experience required to get their programs online and off the ground. Much as a national retailer may turn to an agency of record to assist them with their content marketing strategy, many universities are finding help by turning to firms such as Academic Partnerships which specialize in the conversion of courses to online formats, as well as managing the marketing, enrollment, and strategic partnerships.

While we are still in the early days of the MOOC, the number of institutions and available programs is exploding, and the education landscape will be forever changed.

The Digital Degree

Read full article at the Economist (here)

A funding crisis has created a shortfall that the universities’ brightest brains are struggling to solve. Institutions’ costs are rising, owing to pricey investments in technology, teachers’ salaries and galloping administrative costs. That comes as governments conclude that they can no longer afford to subsidise universities as generously as they used to. American colleges, in particular, are under pressure: some analysts predict mass bankruptcies within two decades.

At the same time, a technological revolution is challenging higher education’s business model. An explosion in online learning, much of it free, means that the knowledge once imparted to a lucky few has been released to anyone with a smartphone or laptop. These financial and technological disruptions coincide with a third great change: whereas universities used to educate only a tiny elite, they are now responsible for training and retraining workers throughout their careers. How will they survive this storm—and what will emerge in their place if they don’t?

Massively Open Online Courses appear to be one answer, with implications for not only universities but businesses as well.

MOOC Numbers

Online Learning: Using Educational Content Marketing to Grow Your Audience

Read full article by Mike Hale (here)

Over the last couple years a new form of education has exploded in popularity: the Massive Open Online Course, or “MOOC”. In an age of lifelong learning, MOOCs are available globally to hundreds of thousands of people at a time, anywhere in the world.

Sites like Coursera, edX and Udacity courses are available globally to hundreds of thousands of people at a time. Coursera alone has attracted more than four million students and over $85 Million in funding.

Big universities aren’t the only ones that can benefit from our thirst for knowledge. Making educational content a part of your content marketing efforts can pay off for any sized-business, especially solopreneurs.

What is educational content?

When most people search online, they’re looking for answers to a specific problem. One common tactic is to create content educate people on those issues.

Visitors to your website don’t care about your products or services. They only care about the current problem they’re trying to solve. The goal of educational content is to teach your audience the subject of what you do, not services you offer. When you can do that, your customers begin to look at you as a trusted resource of information.

Creating educational content for your blog is a good way to grow your audience. There are times where you might want to go beyond the blog post, and provide a higher level of education to your readers.

Emerging Trends in MOOC Delivery of Business Education

Read full article by Colin Nelson here.

the majority of MOOCs are still run by universities or other tertiary-level educational institutions, but a growing number of business-related MOOCs are being offered by institutions for whom academics are a less central focus. Evidence for this trend exists even at the most established MOOC platforms. For example, some of the business-related MOOCs available on the edX platform are delivered by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), or the International Monetary Fund (IMF), while Coursera hosts a MOOC delivered by economists from the World Bank Group.

Perhaps the most important development, however, is the increasing appearance of MOOC series that can be pursued for relatively low-cost credentialing options (at least when compared to the cost of a degree). EdX, for example, offers XSeries Certificates for completing a series of three to five related MOOCs, such as the Supply Chain Management XSeries of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Coursera likewise offers Specialization Certificates for completing short sequences of four to nine related MOOCs, usually including a capstone project, such as the Business Foundations Specialization of the Wharton School. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is now taking this evolution one step further, announcing the iMBA program, which will allow students to compile multiple Coursera Specialization Certificates into a full MBA degree, presumably at a fraction of the typical cost.

eLearning Trends to Follow in 2015 [Infographic]

By John Lascaris (source)


5 Surprising A/B Test Results from Ridiculously Successful Entrepreneurs

“Best practices” tell us some of the more conventional things that we should all be testing, like our headlines and calls to action.

But thinking outside the box and running unusual tests is worth it too, even if they go against what the experts are telling you to do.


It’s easy to look at a page and judge it “qualitatively” based on how it looks to you. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. The aesthetic of a page is one thing. But if a beautiful page doesn’t convert, it’s not useful. An ugly page that does convert, though, still makes money.

The “best practice” is to make it immediately clear what your business can do for your visitor. But best practices don’t always win out. Zapier found this in their homepage test, but it applies to any landing page you’re working on. Play with your copy and test variations that provoke your visitor, whether they’re directly about your business or not.


Our A/B testing tool had a bug that delayed the $25 activation fee from being crossed out until a few seconds after the page loaded. This error ended up creating a much larger uplift than having it already crossed out on load, when the bug was fixed. The result now is that the activation fee shows, and then is crossed out after a few seconds.

Get creative with the pricing on your landing pages, and test dynamic flourishes. If you’re offering a discount, try having the discount appear after a few seconds, once the full price has soaked into the visitor’s mind.

Quick Sprout

I used to believe that making the checkout process simple by having everything on one page would always boost conversions. But in one test, I split things up onto two separate pages, and got an increase in conversions by 11%. I was shocked.

Simple isn’t always better. Sometimes making your landing page visitors work harder to convert can work in your favor. Experiment with adding additional pages, form fields and steps to your signup process.


It’s often a plain text link these days that gets you the clean download [ed. note: meaning that the link isn’t an ad or malware]. We could be experiencing “seasoned internet user” behavior on the download page.

Boring doesn’t necessarily mean bad. Text links on your landing page could be a great way to gain your visitors’ trust in a world full of big, colorful buttons competing for their attention. But you gotta test.


When we added just a single form field on the homepage, versus just the button, our conversions went up 36.5%.

Try asking your landing page visitors for information that’s different from what everyone else is asking for. We’re used to seeing forms that ask for our name and email address, but if you ask for something unconventional like a URL, it may catch your visitors’ attention.

Hopefully these five case studies have given you ideas for your own unconventional tests. Give them a try… you might just be surprised.

By on October 13th, 2015 in A/B Testing

View full article here.


Mike Vacanti is a fitness expert, publisher and blogger, where he explains his take on affiliate marketing which, like the Force, has a light side and a big fat dark side.

Read full article on Mike’s blog here.

Affiliate marketing matters to the buyer because it is important for you to know that influencers are often getting paid to recommend products.

While this does not invalidate their recommendations, it would be disadvantageous for you NOT to question the authenticity of each suggestion.

The morality of affiliate marketing is dictated by who is doing it and how they are doing it. It is about the presence of honesty or deception in four key areas:

1. Disclosure: Does the buyer know you are making a commission?

2. Product Matches Audience: Do you truly believe the product will serve it’s intended purpose and meet your audience’s needs?

3. Forthright Sales CopyAre you promising 30 pounds of muscle in 20 days? Or any other physiologically impossible feats?

4. Miscellaneous Scumbaggary: What are you promoting? Is it a “free service” that starts billing on day 30, but don’t worry you can cancel*

*Please send a copy of your birth certificate and three notarized bank statements sealed with dragon blood by direct mail to this shady address in Taiwan

Conclusion: affiliate marketing is not immoral.

Though, writing this section is reminding me of the subjectivity of morality.

Documentary- The Story of Content: Rise of the New Marketing

Technology has changed the game. Consumers can ignore advertising and marketing at will. To break through the clutter, brands need to tell remarkable stories worth listening to and become the media in the process.

The Story of Content: Rise of the New Marketing, a new documentary by the Content Marketing Institute, is the first comprehensive film of its kind for the industry. It explores the evolution of content marketing through the eyes of the world’s biggest leading brands such as Red Bull, Kraft and Marriott; and marketing influencers, including Joe Pulizzi, Ann Handley, Scott Stratten, Jay Baer and more. Featuring case studies from early pioneers to today’s marketing innovators, you’ll learn how content marketing has been–and will continue– to change business and media forever.

“There is no such thing as digital marketing. There is marketing — most of which happens to be digital.”

PepsiCo’s Brad Jakeman Suggests Shops Have Not Kept Pace With Change

Excerpts from Jakeman’s presentation at the Association of National Advertising’s annual “Masters of Marketing” conference in Orlando, Fla.

Brad Jakeman

“The agency model that I grew up with largely has not changed today,” he said, noting that he has been in the ad industry for 25 years. “Yet agency CEOs are sitting there watching retainers disappear … they are looking at clients being way more promiscuous with their agencies than they ever have.”

And he pointed out that big consumer packaged good companies still measure marketing spending as a percentage of net revenue. “That assumes that paid media is the only way to build brands,” he said. But that is wrong because content generated by others on a brand’s behalf, for instance, “doesn’t cost us a cent,” he added.

We are still talking about the 30-second TV spot. Seriously?
Mr. Jakeman called digital marketing the “most ridiculous term I’ve ever heard.” He added: “There is no such thing as digital marketing. There is marketing — most of which happens to be digital.” He urged marketers to create digital cultures, not digital departments. “We ‘ghettoize’ digital as though it’s the life raft tethered to the big ocean liner. And we have to move on from that.”

Excerpted from full article at Ad Age. Read at this link.

Small Business Internet Marketing: 4 Do’s and 3 Don’ts

Launching an online marketing campaign can be quite a challenge for most companies. Many companies hire experts to help them achieve their rankings, boost their profits and optimize conversion funnels. Hiring someone to take care of all these things is a common struggle among small and medium businesses, who often have to work with a limited budget in place.

The following are tips from Internet marketing expert Ben Oren, Director of Web Marketing at WhiteWeb. With over a decade of experience under his belt, he specializes in helping brands strengthen their online presence using both traditional and innovative marketing techniques. His clients include Caesar’s Entertainment (WSOP), Babylon, Bouclair Home and more (including many start-ups).

His insight can help make the most of a startup’s marketing budget, including do’s and don’ts for any website as well as the areas to focus on when launching an online marketing campaign.

Four Things Any Small Business Should Do

  1. Open a Google Business account. “Follow Google’s instructions, which are pretty straightforward,” he said. This is a relatively simple way to gain some exposure for your business, not only in Google search results, but also in Google Maps, Google Local and Google +.
  2. Make sure your website is search engine-friendly. He suggested to check out this list from the Search Engine Journal, on how to improve a site’s optimization. Ben said these advanced on-page SEO techniques will do wonders for your organic visibility online. These strategies “will improve your rankings even without a large number of incoming links,” he said.
  3. Read at least one post about internet marketing per day. Ben, whose specialty is marketing of the creative variety, believes that reading will open your mind to new ideas and best practices. It will “give you a better handling on the subject matter when you decide to launch a campaign,” he added. Start with these high authority sites: MOZ blog, SEJ and Search Engine Land.
  4. Reach out to major publications in your niche. He said the purpose of this is to offer to write a post on a relevant topic for an e-magazine or a top blog. “You’d be surprised how many authoritative sites out there are searching for quality content to publish, which could help businesses like yours immeasurably,” he said. With that, he came up with two simple steps to follow. First, find blogs in your niche. He advised to check out this list for the leading search modifiers. This makes Google work like a scalpel, instead of a club. The second step is to use a web scraper to gather a list into CSV. “I use Find reviews of each site, find contact info and email a pitch. This is called outreach, and it’s important you bring something new to the table. Something you heard and read about that is ‘up-and-coming’. Big publishers love that kind of approach.” he added.

Three Typical Small Business Mistakes

There’s a lot of information on the web about SEO, and it’s not all accurate. The following are the most common, widespread, misleading information. These often results in some very costly and time consuming mistakes.

  1. Content stuffing: this is the act of generating short pieces of content for the sake of cultivating a ‘content strategy’ targeting various search keywords. This method stopped working very early on, around 2006, and it certainly doesn’t work nowadays. Actually, publishing short, superficial and uninteresting texts will be detrimental to any web marketing effort, by putting the site at risk of receiving a Google penalty. If you’re going to invest in content, it’s best to invest in quality over quantity – nix short, generic pieces, instead publish few but highly relevant, thorough, interesting and engaging pieces your site’s target audience will enjoy.
  2. Treating SEO as a separate marketing channel: times have changed, and nowadays SEO is an integral part of a business’ online marketing strategy. Online and offline marketing channels should be as streamlined and in synch as possible, meaning that the business’ marketing messages should be uniform throughout a potential client’s funnel, from exposure-to-conversion. Essentially, this means that all your marketing channels – PPC, social media, PR, TV – should have common goals, a common language, and a common look & feel.
  3. Doing the bare minimum: treating online marketing as a necessary evil is the most common form of wasting time and money among small businesses. Online marketing is no longer about a series of technical actions; it requires a lot of creativity, forethought, attention to detail and impeccable execution. By opting to hire a low cost marketing firm, employee or intern to cover the bases, some small businesses are setting themselves up for failure. Online marketing is not cheap, but when done right, it can be a major stepping stone for any business.

Excerpted from full article:Ben Oren: How to Avoid the Most Common Marketing Mistakes SMB Commit” by Jonha Revesencio at Huff Post. Click here to view full article.

How Big Data Can Help Your Business Thrive

Big Data Matters

If you truly want to make an impact on your company’s bottom line, you need to know what type of people are interested in it. Being privy to this information will allow you to preempt their needs and meet them head-on through strategic targeting.

One example of this exists in the gaming industry, where effectively marketing their product towards those customers who would be most interested in their product. An unfocused marketing campaign that targets a very general audience would be ineffective, and can cost a company thousands in lost marketing dollars.

So where do they get this information? Information aggregation services employ analytics experts, or data scientists, who interpret customer behavior from reams of raw data. With this information, changes can be made with the aim of maximizing revenue. In one case, a game manufacturer was able to double its revenue to over $100 million dollars through simple tweaks to game design that targeted common customer characteristics.

The important thing is to pay attention to your customers and make the appropriate changes, and that’s what makes “big data” so exciting: it can be extremely lucrative, regardless of your specific business niche.

The Growth of Big Data

With the explosive growth of social media and the Internet in general, marketers began to realize the power of harnessing both to increase brand awareness. Later, they discovered that they could learn a lot about their customers’ spending habits and interests by monitoring their online activities.

However, with over 9,000 tweets sent per second, it can seem impractical to dedicate time to understanding and interpreting customer behavior through such a vast amount of data. Even Google had attempted the enormous feat of indexing tweets back in 2011, but ultimately failed.

Even worse, some financial officers may be cross to budget for social media departments due to the department’s inability to provide a tangible ROI. In fact, many social media departments are shut down entirely due to not having set goals. If the department can’t prove that it’s making a difference in returns, it doesn’t have a chance of survival.

And that, sadly, is where many companies get it wrong. You can’t simply jump on the social media bandwagon and specifically assign a team to do just that. Rather, an integrated approach that utilizes all facets of big data would effectively cover all of your bases and provide you the valuable insight to make informed decisions.

Psychographics Fill in the Gaps

Where demographics cover the basic physical traits of a customer base, psychographics go one step further by observing customer behavior. In essence, it takes into consideration the customer’s social identity and modifying marketing efforts to meet that identity. Where demographics can be lifted from readily available tools, psychographics are not.

The basic goals of psychographics are to retrieve customer insight by:

  • Getting to know them
  • Observing their behavior.
  • Asking questions.

As the previously mentioned game manufacturer clearly displayed, customer behaviors were observed, studied and met with relevant changes to game design that netted double their normal revenue.

Even better, the natural steps that come from studying psychographics also generate brand loyalty. When a company takes proactive steps towards connecting with their customer, the latter will feel more valued and will likely recommend the business to their friends and family.

Word-of-mouth recommendations are also very powerful at creating brand awareness and helps companies avoid the old school and inefficient method of “cold calling” potential customers.

Examining and acting upon what motivates your customers will generate more accurate leads than simply pandering to what’s shown in a demographics spreadsheet. Just because your customers share the same age group or income level doesn’t mean that they have the same interests.

Instead, find out what motivates them and where they interact most.

Examples of Big Data in Action

Where using big data can help a company effectively connect with their customers, it can also be used in other areas, such as company expansion. For example, Wendy’s recently utilized a GIS service called Esri to help them determine where to build new stores. When ran, the system gives planners demographic information on nearby residents and sales records, mostly pulled from public records.

After the economic downturn of the economy in 2008, many companies have turned to services like Esri to reduce the risk that comes with a serious investment like expansion. However, it has also been used in more customer-centric approaches as well, like with Ascena Retail Group, Inc., which owns brands Maurice’s, Dress Barn & Justice. All three of these brands cater to three distinct audiences, and through the use of big data, Ascena Retail was able to stratify all three brands and effectively plan for their integration based on socioeconomic information.

Regardless of your application, big data can help you significantly reduce your risk and help you make informed decisions in regards to marketing and planning. The chances of a return are much greater if you make a genuine connection with your customers, and part of that is fulfilling a need before any of them knew they had one.

This excerpt is from the Innovation Excellence. To view the whole article click here.