By Bruce Morin
The holiday season is in full swing. Christmas is just around the corner and now that the Black Friday shopping frenzy is over, it seems that everyone involved in marketing and retail has started looking at spending numbers. Unfortunately for brick and mortar stores, this year was not stellar. In fact, retailers in the United States gained only 2.3-percent over last year, making this the smallest increase since the last recession.
However, online shopping is another story and a bright spot for retailers, as well as consumers. According to IBM Corp., online sales rose 20-percent from last year on Thanksgiving and 19-percent on Black Friday. This seems to suggest that people are more willing to buy online than to fight the crowds at the mall. People are starting to realize that you can get the same (or better) deals online without the travel and the hassle.
This is great news for online retailers and marketers – in the paid search space, there were huge increases in spending by retailers. In fact, our partner, Kenshoo, reports a 33-percent increase on Thanksgiving and a 21-percent increase on Black Friday over last year.
“Thanksgiving and Black Friday are two of the biggest shopping days and this year both consumers and advertisers had their wallets ready”, said Aaron Goldman, Kenshoo CMO. “Kenshoo saw dramatic increases in paid search ad spend and online sales revenue on these two days signifying the peak shopping season is off to a hot start. With the 2013 calendar condensing the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we expect the torrid pace to continue”.
Not surprisingly, the largest growth was in mobile device activity. According to Kenshoo, marketers spent 79.5-percent of their paid search budgets on computers during the 2012 holiday season and only 11.8 percent on phones and tablets. This year, they spent 60.3-percent on computer ads while spending 21.2 percent on phones and 18.5 percent on tablets.
“It’s clear that the story of the shopping season to date is the mobile migration,” added Goldman. “In fact, this isn’t just a migration we’re seeing, it’s a full on revolution. With phones and tablets accounting for nearly 40% of all paid search ad spend on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, its clear marketers have multi-device strategies in place to lure consumers wherever and whenever they’re shopping”.
These days, retailers who take advantage of paid search on mobile devices are being rewarded. 55.8- percent of all paid search clicks in 2013 were still on computers, but phones and tablets represented almost half of all paid search clicks on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. It will be interesting to see how this trend will affect the financial and insurance industries in 2014.
By Coburn Childs
The chances are high that, like many businesses, you’ve joined the world of online social networking. Whether you’ve gotten onto Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or some other network, there are many benefits for your business in utilizing these tools. But is your business actually taking advantage of the benefits these outlets can offer? And are you even aware of social media best practices that you and other businesses should implement? Let’s take a look at a few of the best practices you can start to utilize through your social networking usage.
If you are going to go through the trouble of signing up for social media accounts, then you should take the time to remain active on those networks. Engage your customers through scheduled posts that are useful to them and relevant to your brand. Also, it will benefit you to be proactive in driving web users to visit your business’ site or other relevant resources; you can do this through blogs, links, videos, and articles that you post across multiple social networks. Lastly, it is highly recommended you always maintain professionalism online, even when showing the “fun side” of your agency or business.
To engage your market base through social networking, it is important to be as interactive as you are proactive. Social media is a great tool for customers to feel their voice is heard, so if you receive a comment or a tweet, it is very important for your business to respond to it. Regardless if the feedback of the comment is negative or positive, it is still essential for you to show that you are listening and you care. Indeed, social media sites can be some of the best platforms for you to demonstrate customer service for the whole world to see.
In order to get other social media users—and potential customers—to engage and interact with you, you need to make yourself a reputable, useful, and unique presence. Nowadays, countless outlets fight for your Twitter followers’ extremely-short attention span, so do what you can to make your posts relevant to your brand, while standing out amongst the white noise. If you’re tweeting tips or featured products you offer, get yourself on a routine and dependable schedule. The same goes for other networks, too! If you’re posting pictures to Instagram, make them unique, or if you’re running a contest on Facebook, make it worthwhile.
As an agency or small business, it may initially seem tough to grow your brand and expand your field of customers. However, with easy social networking tools like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, you now have the entire world at your fingertips with the click of a button. Take advantage of these social media best practices, make them a routine, and you will start seeing results in no time!
By Shawna Arnold
Using a tracking system on your insurance agency’s website is crucial to growing in your inbound marketing efforts. Whether you’re using a free or paid tool, tracking your website is a great way to show you the who, what, when, where, and why of your traffic and visitors.
I recommend Google Analytics to all agencies that I work with. I find that most business owners with websites are using Google Analytics already, whether they or their website provider set it up. If you’re not using Google Analytics, learn more here. The best part about Google Analytics? It’s free!
For those of you using Google Analytics to track your websites (or will be after reading this post!), let’s take a look at five metrics within the platform that are not only easy to find, but can also tell you a lot about your visitors. Remember, with each visit to your website comes the opportunity to sell someone on why working with your agency is what they need, whether the visitor is a prospect or an existing client.
In Google Analytics, you have five sections under what is called “Standard Reports.” Within these sections is where you’ll find any metrics you need regarding your website:
Five easy metrics to find within these sections are:
- Organic Traffic
The organic traffic tab can be found here:
The organic traffic area will show you some of the keywords you’re getting traffic for. Remember, Google no longer provides this data for all searches. You can take an even deeper dive by adding what are called “secondary dimensions” to see what areas and devices your visitors are coming from or what pages they landed on. Overall, the organic traffic overview should provide you with some insight as to how search visitors are getting to you.
- Referral Traffic
The referral traffic tab can be found here:
The referral traffic area will show you all of the websites (outside of your own) that brought in visitors. This is where you’ll find out if sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, carriers, press release distributors, and more are bringing visitors to your website. This can be helpful in determining how effective your social media posting is in getting visitors to and traction on your website.
- Landing Pages (traffic)
The landing page tab can be found here:
The landing pages area will show you all of the landing pages on your website that are receiving traffic. More often than not, you’ll find that your homepage will receive the most traffic, but this breakdown will give you a look into what insurance product pages and service pages are also bringing in traffic.
The devices tab can be found here:
From a mobile perspective, this area will show you which devices are bringing your website traffic (e.g. iPhones, iPads, Samsung Galaxies, etc.). Mobile web browsing is here to stay. Make sure you have either a responsive website or a mobile version of your website to encourage more mobile users to stay on and interact with your website.
The location tab can be found here:
Within the location tab, you can see what locations across the globe are bringing visitors to your website. You can look as broad as country and as deep as city / town. You can use this data to determine any community related blogging you plan on doing as well as seeing where your clients and prospects are coming from.
Are you using Google Analytics for your insurance agency website? What are the key metrics you’re using in your inbound marketing strategy? Leave feedback in the comments and we’ll see if there are other Google Analytics topics we can elaborate on from there!
About the Author
Shawna Arnold is an Inbound Marketing Manager at Astonish, specializing in SEO and content marketing. She has been with Astonish for five years, allowing her to work closely with a variety of insurance agencies all over the country. She has a passion for SEO, content, social media, and all things inbound marketing. She thrives on educating small businesses and individuals on inbound marketing through blogging, eBooks, white papers, and more.
By Coburn Childs
Due to an exponential spike in Twitter users and a rapid rise in “white noise” and spam tweeting, it is becoming increasingly easy for your tweets to get lost in an overcrowded feed and even harder to actually stand out as relevant and unique. More and more, effective tweeting is becoming important for local insurance agencies and small businesses to utilize, as doing so can increase engagement for your website, not to mention effectively promote your brand to potential customers.
The question of how to use Twitter effectively can be answered by keeping some marketing tips and strategies in mind when tweeting. By focusing on the quality of your tweets and understanding how to engage Twitter followers, you can grow your brand increasingly over time, not to mention expand your agency’s reach through social media engagement. Here are some tips for effective tweeting:
By knowing your audience and understanding where they are coming from, you can better reach them. Start with real followers—not fake accounts that are useless to your business, as they are only hoping to be followed back—by searching hashtags in your industry and engaging with them. It is also useful to appeal to your followers’ interests, whether that means incorporating local events into your tweets or using “buzzy” and relevant hashtags.
Many businesses are using the Vine app to their advantage, as short video snippets can help you establish your brand and provide an interesting glance into your products and services. Utilizing relevant calls to action in the form of pictures and links to insurance news, articles, your own blog posts, or other sources can also help you to engage your followers.
Yes, Twitter is a semi-casual platform, but effective tweeting doesn’t use phrases like “LOL.” Adhere to proper grammar, abbreviate professionally and only when necessary, and focus on shorter posts, rather than meeting the 140-character limit simply for the sake of having a long tweet. You’ll have much higher engagement with tweets that are short, sweet, and to the point. Understand proper hashtag usage, and behave as if you are face-to-face with your potential clients.
Before posting, ask yourself if your tweet is going to be relevant and engaging. Clogging up your followers’ Twitter feeds with spammy content, an exorbitant amount of hashtags, or irrelevant links and facts is the fastest way to get yourself “unfollowed.” Effective tweeting focuses on content that establishes your insurance agency’s brand.
Tweeting during the day will be much more effective than nighttime, while tweeting less often will actually increase your engagement. Also, any more than 4 times per day means you’re overdoing it. Instead, stick to 2 or 3 tweets per day, unless you absolutely must share information that is valuable to your customers. When you do tweet, know that it is OK to ask for retweets from your followers, as that can help you gain more reach in your industry.
Twitter is an extremely useful tool for the local insurance agency and other small businesses. Effective tweeting is not easy, but knowing how to properly use this social media platform amongst such an overcrowded field is essential. Utilizing these marketing tips and practices can pay off for you, so get to work now on tweeting and growing your brand!
About the Author: Coburn Childs is a creative mind and young professional based in Providence, RI. In recent years, he’s blogged on a number of topics, from the insurance industry to Hollywood’s box office trends, from communication theories to religious topics, from food to movies, and everything in between. He’s also a self-described social media nut! Currently, he works as an Inbound Marketing Specialist for Astonish.
Blogging, when done well, can be a great asset to your agency’s digital marketing efforts. In fact, recent studies have shown that businesses posting at least 15 blogs per month typically receive about five times more traffic than non-blogging companies.
That’s a huge difference! However, it’s not just the quantity of blog posts that matter, it’s also the quality. Compelling, relevant, and unique blog posts drive even more traffic to the site, since people are more likely to share them with others. So, the problem most agencies battle is trying to figure out how to increase traffic to their website, since coming up with enough compelling content can seem impossible.
Well, a great way to add some intrigue to your posts is to relate what you are posting about (in this case, insurance) to relevant and trending pop culture topics. This tactic not only makes your content stand out among others, but it is more compelling for people to read since it is more “fun” than a typical insurance topic may be. Also, by tying an insurance topic into a trending or well-known popular culture topic, it makes your topic more relevant to a larger audience who will be more likely to share it. It’s a win-win!
So, if you’re wondering how to increase traffic and create more compelling posts, just follow these simple steps and you’ll be on your way to blog posts that really “pop”!
1. When choosing your pop culture topic, current trends on Google can be a great source of relevant ideas to gain inspiration from.
2. As you choose your pop culture topic, don’t forget to consider which ones will be the most interesting and relevant to your target market. For example, writing a blog about a trending reality show won’t be as effective if your target market doesn’t typically watch reality TV.
3. Don’t give up! Although it may seem impossible to link a trending TV show or movie to insurance, it’s definitely possible. You may need to think a little outside of the box, but that only makes your post more creative and compelling! Also, try writing about pieces of pop culture that you are already familiar with, or are passionate about. Writing about what your favorite movie can teach readers about insurance will not only be fun and easy for you to write about, but will probably result in better content that others will also enjoy.
4. If for some reason you can’t make the connection work between insurance and a certain trending topic, don’t force it! A forced pop culture connection won’t be nearly as creative, interesting, or share-worthy as one that flows naturally.
Presenting the same old insurance topics in a new, exciting, and even trending way will increase the likelihood of your posts being shared, and therefore improve your agency’s website traffic. There are only so many typical how-to or question and answer type posts people will read, and online users are always looking for new, fresh, and interesting content. So, why not give them just that?
What you should and shouldn’t believe about SEO.
It can be tough to determine what you should believe about SEO (search engine optimization) and what you shouldn’t. There are plenty of people out there who will essentially lead you to believe that SEO is a magical entity that will bring your website endless traffic, the highest of search rankings, and bucketfuls of conversions. The truth of the matter is, a great deal of effort is required for you to have a successful web presence.
Don’t buy into it – the following legends are far from the truth.
Smoking is healthy. Pam Anderson is all natural. Milli Vanilli were talented musicians. These things are simply not true. Want to know what’s not true about SEO?
- SEO works quickly. False. The amount of time it takes for a strategy to become effective is entirely different from website to website. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can start a brand new website and see major results after a couple of months. That’s a rare occurrence. Be prepared to work your tush off in order to start seeing traction even a year out. If someone is telling you that immediate results are coming your way, they are either lying or engaging in black hat tactics.
- SEO is a one time activity. Not even close. Many factors play into the success of your online presence: the history of your domain, the strength of your brand, the quality and frequency of content you publish, your offsite efforts, and a few hundred other factors. SEO is impacted by just about every element of your website and online presence – and your efforts toward improvement cannot end.
Understand the change – the following were once effective but have transitioned into myths.
Times change, and so do the search engines. Similar to how we once believed Amy Pohler and Will Arnett would last forever or that bowl cuts and big bangs were the coolest hairstyles, we too must come to accept that certain tactics that were once helpful SEO strategies are no longer.
- Using keywords as many times as possible on your website is an effective SEO strategy. The days of stuffing tons of related terms onto your landing page are gone. But that’s a good thing! The search engines are WAY smarter than they used to be – they can identify synonyms, and they can understand the topic of your content even if you don’t write with exact match phrases. This allows us to write content the way it’s supposed to be written…naturally.
- Many pages of short content will help your website rank well. Let’s put the kibash on this one. Google and the other search engines are aiming for a good user experience, so if you are throwing a bunch of content on your website that it not helpful to the visitor, then you are doing yourself a disservice. Instead, focus on creating robust content that is actually valuable to visitors and portrays you as a reputable resource.
Pluto is a planet. Debunked. I know, bummer. We don’t have to be happy about disproving all of the myths, mysteries, and legends associated with SEO, but we do have to accept them. Search engine optimization is far from a concrete and consistent set of processes; it involves a slew of ever-evolving activities and refinements. It can be a little mysterious at times. If you can embrace the fact that you need to stay on your toes and be able to update your strategy when needed, you’ll save yourself a pinch of frustration. Just because something worked for one website does not mean it will work for yours – and something that worked for you 6 months ago may not be successful today. Keep at it and remain compliant with webmaster guidelines.
Have questions about other common SEO myths? Leave a comment and we can address it in a future post.