Marketing can be described as a chameleon, always in transition and shifting to meet its current needs. In 2011 we saw a major shift toward simplifying information in a way that mimicked Twitter’s short information stream. The rise in image platforms like Tumblr and Pinterest highlight this trend. Even Facebook recently caught on to this with the newly introduced Timelines, which offers more bite-sized information. This essentially led to a two-fold marketing application. First, marketing requires a lot more content, both textual and graphic, in order for it to be relevant and keep audience interest. Second, marketers need to adapt newer platforms that cater to a niche method of delivery but that still appeal to a wide user base. So what’s in store for 2012? Check out our top picks below… Developments in Mobile Technology Mobile needs, especially mobile e-commerce apps, were a huge hit in 2011. Next year, the technology is expected to advance with Near Field Communication that of course will be implemented into iPhones. What this does is let a consumer pay by swiping their phone instead of their credit card. What it means is that more people will be expected to make mobile payments, in turn re-emphasizing the need for your business to be mobile friendly. Marketing is also going mobile with Siri, which was out in 2011 but will really catch on in 2012 as a must have tool. What to Expect with Marketing Platforms Understanding marketing starts with Google Analytics, the lifeline of any website. Absolutely every business needs to have it and understand the metrics because next year the stakes go up with more refined technology that lets you track your visitors. You can monitor site traffic in real-time and instantly respond to needs with software that’s more sensitive to conversions. But there’s a lot more to online marketing than just your website – there’s the whole internet and a bubbling array of creative platforms, including new media channels. New media (which includes social media) isn’t just a trend, but the way we live. This year alone saw at least 2 dozen new platforms pop up on the social horizon. Some are great, some not so much, and some offer a select purpose. But the fact remains that there’s more than just one way to syndicate content and more than enough pools of people to tap into for leads cultivation. 2011 has also seen a rise in software services, especially those that help you manage complex and multi-channel marketing campaigns. Expect more of that in 2012, including competitive service and pricing. If this isn’t your field, then consider how you can take the principles of simplifying your business needs to your own clients. Anticipate their needs, simplify their lives and you’ve got a loyal customer. Do this with intelligent idea management that harnesses the innovation already accruing within your network of associates, partners and employees. Understanding What the Internet Is Really All About The internet is about content. If content is king now, wait till next year when the next wave of iPads and Kindles are expected to come out. Cheaper and more accessible content means customers want more of it. So make sure you’ve got someone who can produce killer content that gets you noticed…and gets your content syndicated through social sharing. Beyond content, the internet has become a sharing hotbed. While social media encouraged sharing, marketers have not just noted an increase in users talking about their products, but that developers have responded by making sharing easier. With this comes the idea of engaging your customers and audience in whatever digital waterhole they flock to.
You may have heard the word before, but in the web world “conversion” doesn’t mean a religious shift. Rather, it means shifting your web audience from inactive members to involved participants. The term is commonplace in e-commerce, where any e-commerce business owner needs traffic to result in a cash transaction. If someone isn’t buying from your site, it’s like someone walking out the door. Conversion reaches beyond e-commerce and is an end-goal of any site that’s designed to get a viewer to take action, either through a donation, subscribing to a newsletter or obtaining a free download. It’s an art that requires steadfast dedication to perfect…and even then it always needs tweaking. But you don’t have to do it alone, since it’s easy to take advantage of several great tools out there to help make the process more streamlined and effective. Google Analytics – Google Analytics can asses everything on your site, from the amount of visitors, to unique hits per page, to peak times, to geographics and more. It can be used in a number of ways to see what efforts are working, and which aren’t. Perhaps the most important metric Google Analytics will reveal is the length of time someone was on your site. Anything less than a minute and you can consider the individual a completely uninterested party. If you’re an Analytics beginner, this is the first thing you have to discern of your site visitors. If you find your visitors are leaving quickly, then consider changing up your home page. It could be the design, the content and even the graphics that are turning people away. Also consider what type of keywords attracted people to your site. If you’re ranking for the wrong keywords, you’re hurting your traffic and site worth. This is where you should take the time to bring on board a trained SEO professional. A popular Google Analytics competitor can be found in Clickdensity, which offers many of the same services but a more targeted assessment of your website. Google Website Optimizer – Once you’ve mastered Google Analytics, you’re naturally poised for the next step…and that’s conducting your own experiments to see which choices work best for your business. Google’s website optimizer lets you have two different versions of a page so you can see which page your visitors prefer. This is called split testing or “A/B testing.” Keep in mind that the process is still very scientific and far exceeds the usual focus group inspired answers. It’s not just about what people like, it’s about what’s making people act. What’s getting you the sale, what’s getting you the membership, the donations, the subscriptions? Something as simple as a graphic switch, a layout change, a color swap and even different keywords can help you determine whether a strategy is effective or not. Userfly - Whether or not you go the Optimizer route, you should be taking advantage of Userfly’s free service of 10 sessions/month. Userfly acts like a digital one way mirror, allowing you to watch visitor movements as they navigate your site. This works best for sites that have more processes or content to go through. Perhaps there’s one section of your site that’s a bottleneck to traffic? Perhaps users give up on lengthy forms half way in or maybe a certain page tends to confuse people? Whatever it is, you’ll be able to pinpoint it with Userfly. E-commerce users will find that most of their conversion fails when it comes to check out. Checkout processes are too long, or there’s some other glitch that customers find frustrating. Even something as simple as not allowing customers to “continue to shop” can deter a final transaction.
You’ll be hard pressed to find many corporations working harder towards world domination than Google. From Android operating systems to Chromebook laptops, the Mountain View-based company most of us associate with internet search certainly has a lot on its plate these days. Some of its latest initiatives got us to wondering if just maybe the G-men are moving too fast. Google Analytics Gets Real-Time Data When it comes to tracking website performance, efficient reporting tools can get a little pricey, to say the least. There are quite a few analytics solutions on the market, but many of them will set you back a pretty penny. The good thing is that many free programs also exist, with Google Analytics being one of the best available. This software has always been effective in the tracking and reporting department, but the one aspect it has lacked is the ability to measure performance up to the moment activity occurs on a website. That is, until now. On September 29, Google rolled out a major update for its analytics tool with the launch of Google Analytics Real-Time. This new feature is essentially a collection of comprehensive reports that shows the user what is happening on their site as it happens, which makes it great for measuring immediate impact. For now, real-time data is only available in the new version of the program, and can be accessed by clicking the “New Version” link at the top right of the interface. According to Google, the reports will be made available to all users over the coming weeks. A Greener Google As one of the biggest players in the internet world, environmentalists could easily point the finger directly at Google for polluting the environment. After all, the company does control a multitude of data centers, servers and energy hungry resources, which are believed to be contributing to global warming and other environmental issues. However, the internet powerhouse has been on an eco-friendly kick for some time now, and recently decided to ramp up its efforts by helping others go green. On September 27, it was announced on the official Google blog that Google had invested $75 million in a partnership with Clean Power Finance, a company that provides software and financing solutions to firms in the solar energy industry. The partnership is designed to bring solar energy to as many as 3,000 homes. This effort marks Google’s second investment in solar energy initiatives for residential environments. The first was a $280 million investment in national leading solar power company SolarCity. To date, it has poured more than $850 million into creating and deploying renewable energy. Page Talks Google’s Full Plate at Zeitgeist Google ended the month of September by holding Zeitgeist, the annual conference it hosts for advertising partners and other clients. Zeitgeist is known for providing an open platform for the tech community to discuss topics ranging from search to social media, and for the most part, the 2011 edition held true to form. However, this year’s event was a bit different as it featured a rare appearance from Google CEO Larry Page. Page took the stage to discuss some of the many projects Google currently has in the pipeline. Specifically, the chief executive talked about the company’s deeper foray into the search game, its fast growing social network Google+ and the pending acquisition of Motorola Mobility and how the deal will help with patent protection. In the process of discussing these individual initiatives, Page gave us all a reminder of just how much the company has on its plate. And for dessert, Google has developed and is currently testing a car that can drive itself. Well, then. That about says it all, doesn’t it?
Make no mistake, the Benchmark writing squad is bus-y! But when they\'re not cooking up content for this blog, they\'re lending expertise to sites across the internets. To keep you in the know on this, we\'re running a monthly recap of outside articles, blog posts and columns in all their glory. Here\'s the first installment of Beyond Benchmark, where we list important outside content and links where you can read it. The Importance of Preheaders on The Email Guide Have you ever spent time on your newsletter pre-header, adjusting it to improve your email campaigns? Probably not, which is why COO Denise Keller brings it with an A+ column on the importance of this little section of email real estate. The piece, published on The Email Guide, got high marks from readers and takes email campaign management to an entirely new level. You can read this eye-opening piece by clicking the link: The Importance & Impact of the Email Preheader. Fend Off Phishing Attacks on iMedia Connection Our CEO Curt Keller is a fountain of knowledge, so when he blogs about phishing attacks and other scams, the audience pays attention. This piece for the award-winning site iMedia Connection details how you can use your business login page to fend off phishing attacks. With so many email addresses falling into the wrong hands, and phishing attacks becoming more and more sophisticated, How to Fend off Phishing Attacks with Your Business Login Page, arms you with invaluable info on protecting your info. Panda/Farmer Algorithm on Search Engine Journal Hal Licino is more than a Benchmark Email writer, he\'s a regular email marketing Yoda. Last month the force was with him big-time and he penned an extremely popular Search Engine Journal piece on how Google\'s Panda Farmer Algorithm could affect email marketing. It\'s an important answer to an important question, especially since the vast majority of people are wondering how this new method will affect websites rather than email campaigns. Read this fascinating column by clicking the link: How Google\'s Panda / Farmer Algorithm Could Affect Email Marketing. Email Marketing with Google Analytics on Search Engine People Writer Daniel Cassady has a knack for bringing new perspectives to the table, and his recent column for Search Engine People breaks down an important, timely topic in a direct, realistic way. Focusing on Google Analytics, his guest blog post, Email Marketing: 4 Great Things Google Analytics Can Tell You shows what a working knowledge of Google can do for your email marketing campaigns. We\'ve all heard how important Google Analytics are, but this piece concretely explains why. We\'ll be back in a month with another episode of Beyond Benchmark, and we\'ve got lots of stuff in the pipeline - so keep an eye on this space!