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  • There's SEO Gold in Those PDFs

    Could decreasing your bounce rate be as simple as adding SEO to your PDFs? In the world of Internet search marketing, marketers will often tell you, “Content is King.” But what kind of content is King? As so many rush to make fresh content, we at HoldFast Communications declare, “Move over, King! Quality is now the reigning Queen of Content.” Have you asked yourself how relevant your content is to those searching for your products and solutions? If you really want to know, ask your webmaster about your “bounce rate.” If you don’t know what a bounce rate is, according to Google, “bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page. A high bounce rate indicates that site entrance pages aren’t relevant to your visitors.” It is generally understood that a bounce rate over 40% isn’t great. But have no fear. Decreasing your bounce rate could be as simple as optimizing your online PDF library. The reason is simple. Most of your most relevant and specialized content is withering away in PDFs containing very specific data about your products, like technical specifications, studies, white papers, brochures, and product ingredients. And believe it or not, these details are often your most important selling tools. We’ll just glimpse how to make your PDFs search engine rock stars. Below we show you where you can ‘talk’ to the search engine robots that index your website and explain what your website is about to searchers. By providing valuable metadata and not just letting a robot come up with terms itself, you proactively tell the searcher about your expertise and content. Open that properties tab, and you will see what we mean. Filling these fields in is a start, but selecting the right words matters too for the most effective online content optimization. So give us a call. We’ll share with you how we identify the best words and phrases and explain our overall strategy for turning your online PDF library into an integral part of your Internet marketing strategy. Call us at (207) 712-5606.

  • For Brand Loyalty Please Press 7

    Customer loyalty is an oxymoron. Once disappointed, the most brands can ask for is maybe a second chance. And that's a big "maybe." Case in point: remember when Apple was accused of mistreating Chinese factory workers by an NPR contributor in January 2012? Within a week, the same people who had camped out all night on sidewalks across America waiting to buy the newest iPhone were eagerly tossing Apple under a collective brand bus. Within seconds of the broadcast, thousands of customers shifted their perception from Apple = Innovator to Apple = Corporate Greed. Maybe this is unfair but, the cold, hard truth is that brand trust can’t be bought & sold. It’s more like a glass slipper precariously held out by your customer. Will it fit? Soon we learned, however, that the story was just that; a fabrication concocted by This American Life monologist and entertainer Mike Daisey. By the time Ira Glass issued his on-air apology in March of that same year, 250,000 consumers had signed an anti-Apple petition, and the podcast had been downloaded more than 88,000 times. Obviously, Apple survived, and so did This American Life. I confess, though, I often recall this anecdote whenever I hear Glass’s chipper, sardonic voice or get a message to update my Apple operating system. I trust both brands slightly less than before this happened, but not enough to stop listening to the podcast or buying Apple products. The fact is that both brands had banked a certain amount of trust credits over the years, earned through many years of quality programming and product proof of performance. But most brands aren't Apple and NPR, are they? The cold, hard truth is that most brands need to earn trust each and every time, like a glass slipper precariously being held out by your customer. Will it fit this time?

  • What the Heck is Integrated Marketing?

    Integrated marketing uses diverse methods and venues to influence buyers throughout their complicated customer journeys by finding them online and serving them targeted messages. It's not rocket science, but it's easy to forget that these elements should build upon one another to continue an ongoing dialogue with your customers from before the evaluation stage straight through the post-purchase phase. This approach is critical in sustainability communications, where simplistic or hazy environmental claims can lead to easy attention-grabbing hits. However, using this approach alone, in my opinion, does not lead to long-term brand value but results in a marketplace flooded with confusing "green" claims and jaded and distrustful consumers. And while we all want to take the shortest path to victory, when it comes to sustainability claims, take serious customers seriously; they will be your most valuable brand influencers once converted. The digital levers (e.g., owned, paid, and earned media) may be the same. Still, the content strategy must be evidence-based, including third-party studies, endorsements, and access to transparent and detailed product information. The challenge here is making it enjoyable. Please look at this FilterPave advertisement as an example of how we implemented this approach for our clients. ​ Read more about our method and approach in our blog and see some examples of our work here.

  • Search Engine Marketing: Understanding the 4 Key Types of Content

    Search engines are built to get people quickly and efficiently to websites where their questions will be answered. Search engine marketing is creating and organizing digital assets to drive relevant traffic to brand content. If you believe everything you hear, it seems that “algorithms” are invisible evildoers setting us all up for a dystopian future. The truth, however, is far less dramatic. Algorithms are simply sets of rules and steps taken to solve a repeatable problem, for example, how to direct a searcher to the correct information, and were invented to protect us from a far more dangerous best: digital marketers. That’s right! There is a natural tension between search engine algorithms and search engine marketers because as soon as the internet began, marketers were obsessed with using content to drive business and sales leads. In contrast, search engines like Google focus on directing searchers to relevant content. This is why the details of Google’s famous search engine algorithms are so secretive and constantly being updated. Ethical marketers know enough about this secret sauce to guide their clients’ digital marketing strategy. This includes the integration of tactics that involve optimizing owned, paid, and earned media content. Not All Content is the Same. There are four main buckets of content you should understand to get going on search engine marketing. These are owned, paid, earned content and meta data. Owned media includes your website, your content on partner sites, and your social network posts. Paid content has your media on all the above digital levers, that is, either paid advertising, paid search engine results, boosted posts on social media, paid placements for video content, and ads that run on popular sites. Earned media is a subset of public relations and involves third-party endorsements, mentions, and credits that promote or verify your brand. Finally, we'll go over a little bit about meta data. Content Type 1: Earned Media Examples of earned digital media include positive online reviews, digital newspaper articles, social posts, resource guides, video segments like the famous “unboxing” YouTube segments, and more. It can easily argue that earned media is the most valuable form of digital content for obvious and not-so-obvious reasons. First, earned digital media will funnel traffic directly to your site from trusted and targeted users. These visitors should be treated as hot leads since they come directly to you from a credible authority who has endorsed your brand. When authoritative websites provide a link to your site, search engines notate that as an indication that your site is also a credible source, which translates into increased rankings and Authority Scores. To make the most of earned media, ensure the links that direct users to your resources are correct. Additionally, post news and links to your earned media on your website newsroom, press release footers on the wire, and social media posts and profiles, with links back to the source adding a “what others are, saying” slider on your site. Hence, visitors automatically recognize your brand as a trusted source. Doing this will help to build an ongoing relationship with the earned media publishers who also appreciate and benefit from backlinks. Type 2: Owned Media My clients often glaze over when I start talking about their website code, and I get it. Of course, I’m not a programmer either, but the simple truth is that if you want to attract new customers in the digital world, you’ll need to understand a few simple facts that impact how search engines direct traffic to your content. Google “organic” search results are the results seen after the Sponsored section at the top of the search results. Most of us know you want to be as close to the top as possible, and getting there depends on your matching, high-quality content. Type 3: Meta Data In my experience, clients state increasing traffic to their site as a top goal and key performance indicator upon which my efforts will be measured. And please excuse the mini-rank. It’s almost always the case that when I ask about getting access to the website or identifying critical missing code, I’m politely escorted back into my lane. Usually, the sites have been built and maintained by a web developer who is paid from a separate budget and is not interested in getting directives from another vendor. In addition, I have found that clients are usually intimated by their web admins because they hold the keys to the kingdom and often have written custom code that only they can adjust. This presents a very challenging situation. Imagine being paid to ensure someone gets to work on time, but you cannot use the car. It’s pretty tough. That said, knowing that this may present a challenge to the success of a campaign, I make sure to include the webmaster in conversations as soon as possible. I explained that my coding expertise is limited. Still, as an SEO marketer, I’d access the website’s backend to post new content and make minor adjustments to the scope to include “meta” data. Adding this metadata to a site is an ongoing process and pretty dull, so usually, the webmaster is more than ok with this arrangement. However, keeping it up to date will improve our Google search engine results, and the entire team will share that success. · #Font styles: tell search engines what’s most important on the page. For example, the phrase above “Search Engine Marketing” is in Heading 1; the Title is in Title, and the rest of this section is in body text style. · #Images: should also add descriptive #Alt text. · #Page Descriptions: Each webpage should add a short description to the code when setting up a site, but many don’t. The good news is that they can be added later. · #Keywords and Phrases: Here’s where things get tricky. Adding keywords to your site in page titles, headings, alt text, and body text is important but at just the right amount. It’s better to find keyword groupings that are related. This will not only help Google understands the content of your site more comprehensively, but it will also be easier for visitors to read your content. In short, don’t write for keywords. Make it genuinely organic. · #Link structure – Search engines need to “crawl” your site structure so. Make it easy to find all the content on your site with links that make sense. · Keywords and keyword targeting – You may have heard that keywords aren’t so important anymore. Alas, this is true and not true. When many marketers started writing for keywords, content integrity suffered. This is referred to as “keyword stuffing .”But, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Instead, write content that makes sense and use synonyms and descriptive text. Write well. In 2018 Google finally launched an algorithm that would give greater value to well-written content. Consider writing thematically instead of narrowly focusing on specific words. For example, if your brand offers solutions for home insulation, include multilayered content in the form of blogs, technical specifications, and videos optimized with transcripts: these images have alt text descriptions and links to 3rd party resources. Also, use your keyword “insulation” in the page title, page description, header text (H1), and at least once in the opening paragraph body text. Type 4: Paid Content and Search We can also pay search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc., to serve up our paid promotions when specific searches are conducted. In that case, we bid against others who want to be seen for those keywords or phrases. These search results will appear either at the top of the search page or on the right. This is called pay-per-click advertising. Again, it can be very costly or inexpensive, depending on the keywords and phrases you target. Social media-boosted posts are another form of paid digital media that is also very affordable in most cases, except for LinkedIn advertising which I’ve found to be much more expensive. Paid contentis a popular option as well. I look for opportunities on online forums, represented nonprofits, and industry-leading content sites. Sometimes, these publishers are eager for blog content and will offer that for free as part of a sponsorship package. One common tactic which is being discouraged by search engines is buying backlinks. This practice was commonly accepted but has fallen out of favor for many. Here’s a great article from Search Engine Journal that describes the pros and cons. But, for me, buying links is similar to going on a fad diet -- it might work in the short term but will most likely have the opposite effect in the long run. Getting backlinks is good, though. You are much better off earning it the old-fashioned way. Consider asking to write a blog linking to your site or being listed as a resource. Not only will the former approach have a longer-lasting positive impact, but it will also actually help you build genuine relationships with other like-minded brands and their customers. One paid model that can work is pay-per-click (PPC), for example, Google Ads. With this approach, you will only pay for clicks you will pay only when someone clicks on your ad and lands on your website. You can spend just about any amount of money on pay-per-click advertising. How much it costs to run an ad or promote your search results will depend primarily on the competition for your keywords. High-competition keywords (i.e., keywords that many people are searching for and that many sites are trying to be found for) will be more expensive, and lower-competition terms will likely cost less. When you set up a pay-per-click campaign, you can also choose whether you want your ad or promoted results to be shown to users worldwide or only within a specific geographic area. According to Google, if you are marketing a brick-and-mortar business, this ability to tailor by location helps you not waste ad dollars serving ads to users who don’t live anywhere near your business, according to Google.

  • These Things Must Be Done Delicately: Capturing Customer Value Through Digital Transformation

    If your brand needs to regain market share to capture value among digital natives and other digitally-focused consumers, creating a Facebook and Instagram page, buying some Google Ads, and updating your website homepage may help, but it may not. Half measures on disconnected online platforms usually produce mediocre results that are difficult to measure or justify. Pursuing a digital transformation, on the other hand, can yield measurable results and lead to a winning sales strategy. While I'll share more about what I mean by a "digital transformation" in upcoming posts, it involves a profound company-wide commitment to capturing customer value before, during, and after their purchasing decision-making process by integrating brand messages and engagement using a variety of digital levers. The process, however, starts with comprehensive analysis, social listening, and benchmarking. In a culture of instant gratification, many grow impatient with this process. Still, gathering and analyzing data to set benchmarks, tracking competitors, and setting goals are foundational to winning campaigns. But, as the Wicked Witch of the West points out, these things must be done delicately. For example, let's look at car buyers, who may have as many as 900 digital micro-moments and only two showroom visits before making a purchase (Gevelber, Lisa. 2017). And while we can assume car buying and other larger purchases trigger a greater degree of buyer research, the ability for all consumers to quickly gather information and feedback from influencers throughout their customer journey is unprecedented, with micro-moments occurring before the buyer is even actively researching a purchase. Tools I prefer to use a suite of tools to establish a multi-dimensional digital baseline, including Google Analytics and SEMRUSH, a site that offers competitive analysis and real-time Search Engine Optimization suggestions. Additionally, paid search advertising platforms, including Google Ad Words, META, and LinkedIn, offer free analytics that provides snapshots of your ideal customers and how they may interact with your brand digitally. Enough About Me... What Do You Think of Me? Nearly everyone is expressing themselves in today's social media obsessed culture, and that's good news for marketers who should be listening. Track keywords, brand and competitor mentions, and conversations in newsfeeds and social media platforms. This personalized intelligence allows marketers to create targeted customer experiences that reflect a listening culture that consumers yearn for. In fact, studies show that being heard is a crucial motivator for positive consumer experiences, as echoed in Conduet's 2022 State of the Consumer Experience Report: A Brand Perspective. Here's a snippet from their research findings: “Know Me” – the growth of conversational CX. • Consumers want conversational CX. Human response via digital channels such as chat, text, and email won out to 65% of consumers, compared to 35% for self-service. • “Relate and resolve” is a growing trend among consumers, as 76%prefer dealing with a human to a bot. • 84% of brands believe AI, analytics and bots are critical in driving hyper-personalized consumer interactions, yet only 8% say they are using such technology exceptionally. • 50% of brands have increased focus on training to deliver heightened levels of personalization An active listening campaign can help a brand personalize interactions, customize the content, and allow brand ambassadors to join conversations to manage negative comments in real-time with authenticity, helpfulness, and transparency. Brands will also gain critical insights into their competitors' brand images that can fuel product innovation, customer support, marketing strategy, and more. Social media listening is essential to all customer journey phases, including the initial consideration, functional evaluation, post-purchase, and loyalty loop. During the initial consideration, monitoring can track life events, often precursors to purchasing. For example, if you are a real estate broker, knowing the five life events that often happen before a person decides to buy a house can help them set up a social listening campaign that tracks potential buyers before they are even actively house hunting. And then, of course, we must acknowledge the cookie in the middle of the room, although I will be posting on the subject in January. Until then, let's agree that cookies aren't bad or good but tools that can be used and misused. Tune back next month as we explore the ethics around tracking cookies and possible legal changes that we all need to know more about. Until then... enjoy this Cookie Law Info snapshot, and remember to leave a comment below. About the Author: Mary MacLeod owns Holdfast Communications and has more than 20 years of experience in strategic communications, digital and sustainability marketing. Certificate Program: Yale SOM Executive Education Digital Marketing: A Strategic Perspective

  • Shouldn’t Planned Obsolescence be Obsolete?

    In 2007, it seemed all good. Then "it" happened in December of 2007. The Great Recession officially hit "home." With previously easy credit as our rocket fuel, many of us were instantly propelled headlong into an orbit of debt. For me, it was that mortgage. Just a babe in ARMS, my interest rate was scheduled to adjust to 24% in months, threatening to suck me into a fiscal black hole for years. Miraculously in 2009, I was able to refinance with only days to spare. I counted myself as one of the lucky few. A few months later, however, as if by design, my new washer, drier, lawn mower, mini rototiller, three printers, fax machine, and copier all stopped working. Was this some cosmic joke? Was there some secret plan to make sure I would stay in debt? And the environmental burden of those "durable goods" being thrown in a landfill…it all made me sick. And then, one evening, while fumbling through my junk drawer for string, wire, tape, and glue to hold these appliances together, I got angry. That's when I heard a resounding, malevolent voice echo from the past, from the bottom of an abandoned well, whisper, "it's called Planned Obsolescence." "Who's there?" I stammered. "I'm the ghost of Bernard London, the author of Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence. Google it," he commanded. That's when things got creepy. In the book, London outlined a plan to "put the entire country on the road to recovery." "Briefly stated, the essence of my plan for accomplishing these much-to-be-desired-ends is to chart the obsolesce of capital and consumption goods at the time of their production." -- Bernard London, Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence He suggests, for example, that "the Government assign a lease of life to shoes and homes and machines, to all products of manufacture, mining, and agriculture, when they are first created, and they would be sold and used within the term of their existence known by the consumer. Then, after the allotted time had expired, these things would be legally "dead." They would be controlled by the duly appointed governmental agency and destroyed… and the wheels of industry would be kept going and employment regularized and assured for the masses." Come on! An economy where people lease their shoes from the Government and where your refrigerator will be declared legally dead is crazy. That would be like living in a continuously looping Habitrail of debt as we do. Of course, the real-world execution is slightly different, e.g., shoes are bought with revolving credit, and refrigerators designed to die within five years never actually get issued a death certificate, but we are close enough, right? I want a new crazy idea to help us move beyond this disposable culture we currently 'enjoy' to create a joyful and sustainable future where quality, craftsmanship, and durability are measured and valued. Why, for example, can't we have a consumer durability index and own things for life? Ok, maybe that wouldn't work, but some new idea has to emerge at some point that frees us from Mr. London's rat trap. Please share your thoughts here. When I return home from buying a new smartphone, I'll check out your new ideas. I dropped the one I bought last year in the snow this morning, and it both shattered and melted simultaneously. Now, that's smart!

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