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Marketing 101: What are microsites? (plus 3 successful microsite examples and 2 missteps)

November 21st, 2019
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

 

Microsites are somewhere in between a single landing page and an entire website. They are small, special-purpose websites for a single, dedicated communication (and conversion) goal set up by companies that already have a full site. They work well for the communication of an idea or product that requires more than a single landing page, for example, an event.

Successful microsite creation requires a clear goal and focus for the microsite and should be built from the ground up optimized for achieving that goal.

Here are a few tips to help you use microsites.

 

Tip #1: Tightly tap into visitor motivations

Microsites can be more focused on an ideal customer subset than a company’s overall website that often must serve multiple audiences. For that reason, microsites can be used to create a more forceful prospect-level value proposition.

For example, MECLABS Institute (parent organization of MarketingSherpa) was engaged in conversion marketing services for a national land and home sales organization for consumers. The company had microsites for individual communities.

In an A/B test of a community’s microsite, the control offered a community guide to prospects and used sales-oriented language like “… learn why [community name anonymized] is Paradise Found.”

 

The treatment offered a community map to prospects and a more helpful tone. The map was described as something that would help prospects. “Be prepared for your visit to …”

By better tapping into the motivations of people interested in visiting the community, the control produced a 326% increase in conversions.

 

Tip #2: Use microsites to target specific locations to garner local search

A large brand that sells warranty and car servicing options was performing well on keywords for the United Kingdom as a whole, but there were towns with service garages where the brand was off the top of the search rankings.

The team at agency DFY Links built three microsites for their client’s least competitive towns — Bath, Chepstow and Swindon. There was a similar technical setup to the main site, but with a heavy focus on the town, and the team went to work building links to these microsites every month. The team chose microsites because any increased effort to help the main site rank in certain areas would dilute the UK search and also reduce rankings in other local areas, according to Brett Downes, SEO Specialist, DFY Links.

“Within a year, Chepstow and Swindon sites featured in [spots] one to five on SERP (search engine results page) results for 90% of keywords we were targeting,” Downes said. “Bath was slightly different, as competition was higher and the other sites had a lot more backlinks. However, we did rank on page one for 50% of [keywords] we were targeting, with around 10-20% ranking in position one to three, especially on long-tail keywords.”

The sites also appeared in the local map pack, the listing of nearby businesses that appear under a map on the main SERP.

“The microsites were minimal in code and very simple. Having a lean site ensured we would have a very fast-loading website, as speed has become more of an important ranking factor (especially on mobile) this has given us the advantage [over] local, bloated sites,” Downes said.

The microsites were completely different sites, not subdomains or subfolders. Local businesses they were competing against usually had less than 50 referring domain links, so the team knew they could match the best competitors within six to nine months of link building.

“We could have used the extra budget and created subfolders on the [main] site and had targeted sections for different locations. This may have diluted the main site; plus with the microsite, the assumed location managed to qualify us for proximity searches,” he said.

However, your business may have a very different competitive mix and that can affect how you consider your URL structure, so read the next tip …

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Marketing 101: What is baking in?

October 3rd, 2019
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

In a recent MarketingSherpa article, ConversionXL Research Director Ben Labay says, “I think we are getting better as an industry at baking in an experimentation process and culture into our organizations.” (from Ask MarketingSherpa: Maturity of conversion rate optimization industry)

That raised the question — what exactly is meant by “baking in” in a business and marketing context?

If you click on that link and read the final article, you’ll see that we chose to include the parenthetical statement “[including as an integral part]” to clarify the term baking in.

Baking in means including, in a sense. But that misses the nuance. When you’re baking something in, you’ve considered it from the get-go. So that’s why we went with “[including as an integral part]” not just “[including.]”

Not just a cherry on top

Just like when learning a new language, understanding the nuance to a term is crucial to speaking the business lingo fluently in an industry. In this case, the nuance is meant to communicate that the thing being discussed is not just included, but included as an essential, core part from the very beginning.

I suspect the analogy comes from baking itself. You could just add icing to the top of a cake. Or a cherry on top.

But when you bake something in, it’s really part of the dessert.

Words mean what people think they mean

Language is a funny thing. As marketers, we may be trying to convey a certain denotation (literal meaning) or implying a certain connotation (the idea of feeling invoked by a word), but if our audience doesn’t get the essence of what we are trying to communicate, that communication has not happened.

So I wanted to reach out to some others and get their thoughts on the term “baking in” to see how it aligned (or diverged) with my own understanding. And perhaps with yours as well.

It’s a pretty interesting little experiment. We take this business lingo for granted. But miscommunication happens when we assume we know what the other person is talking about, and professionals (especially newer workers in a field) rarely like to admit their ignorance of an inside term.

As you read the responses below, note how we all generally tend to agree on the meaning of the term. And yet, we all add our own little nuances to the meaning. A good example of why we should always confirm that others understand what you’re talking about, especially when using insider lingo.

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Effective Landing Pages: 30 powerful headlines that improved marketing results

August 8th, 2019
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There are 21 psychological elements that power effective web design (see infographic). Of those elements, one of the first your customers will experience is the headline.

21 design elements

(You can download a PDF of this infographic here.)

 

A powerful headline is your make-or-break opportunity to connect with the customer and get them to engage with the rest of your page — and ultimately convert.

We’ll provide you oodles of examples of effective headlines in this MarketingSherpa blog post to help spark ideas as you brainstorm your own headlines. And you can delve deeper into all 21 of those psychological elements in the following videos from MarketingSherpa’s sister brand, MarketingExperiments:

The 21 Psychological Elements that Power Effective Web Design (Part 1)

The 21 Psychological Elements that Power Effective Web Design (Part 2)

The 21 Psychological Elements that Power Effective Web Design (Part 3)

(This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.)

 

Now on to the examples …

Like with your own landing pages, in many of these examples the headline wasn’t the only factor that affected performance. However, a different headline is a pretty significant change on a website and is usually a major contributing factor to a change in performance. The best performing headlines below are bolded.

Before: We’re here to help.
After: Simplifying Medicare for You
Results: 638% more leads

You can read more about the above headline in Landing Page Optimization: How Aetna’s HealthSpire startup generated 638% more leads for its call center

Before: About The GLS
After: Two Days of World-Class Leadership Training
Results: 16% increase in attendance

You can read more about the above headline in Customer-First Marketing: How The Global Leadership Summit grew attendance by 16% to 400,000

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Ask MarketingSherpa: Value proposition layers versus communicating the value prop concisely

August 1st, 2019
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We frequently receive questions from our email subscribers asking marketing advice. Instead of hiding those answers in a one-to-one email communication, we occasionally publish edited excerpts of some of them here on the MarketingSherpa blog so they can help other readers as well. If you have any questions, let us know.

 

Dear MarketingSherpa: Thanks for the great resources. I have been in touch in the hopes of getting some direct support around our value proposition.

We’ve taken insights from the Value Proposition course (and Flint’s new book) and redesigned our site (note, we haven’t yet implemented these new designs).

Is it common to present the value proposition in layers or should it be communicated more concisely? How early in the user journey should the value proposition be presented? Is it typically done on the homepage? Do you have examples of companies successfully implementing the value proposition in this way? How did they guide users through the value prop from the homepage?

Thanks so much for your insights!

 

Dear Reader: Thanks for your email, and glad to hear you’re working on getting some direct support.

I’m also glad to hear you’ve taken some insights from the value prop course and Marketer as Philosopher book for your site redesign. If you’d ever like to share some of that work publicly to help other marketers and product managers and get some recognition for you and your team, please let me know. Happy to consider it for a MarketingSherpa article. Here are some examples:

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Ask MarketingSherpa: How do small businesses find clients?

February 22nd, 2019
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We frequently receive questions from our email subscribers asking marketing advice. Instead of hiding those answers in a one-to-one email communication, we occasionally publish edited excerpts of some of them here on the MarketingSherpa blog so they can help other readers as well. If you have any questions, let us know.

 

Dear MarketingSherpa:  I have a question for you. In this ever more increasing digital age — where pressing palms and getting face time is getting harder and harder. How do small businesses find clients?

I am a graphic designer/marketer whose business model is to contract with other small businesses. Much like a General Contractor hires subs when they build or remodel a house.

When I get together with other contractors in the marcom field (web designers, marketers, other designers, branding specialists, etc.) the first question is generally ‘So, how do you find new clients?” The answer is generally referral, but that only provides so much to the pipeline.

We don’t have trade shows where the public can come in and meet us and get to know what options they have in terms of marketing their small business (like a home and garden show where the public comes in and meets the companies that offer home improvement — and all the new tech that goes along with it).

Our local AAF chapter did one about 7 years ago. It was poorly attended and never repeated. I presented. It was a fabulous idea.

We don’t have a Marketing Channel where people ooh and ahh over the latest couple who comes into businesses and turns their branding around and makes it all shiny and new and hands them a marketing plan and clients ready to purchase.

Marketing is the slow burn and a mystery how some succeed and others don’t. People like Shark Tank because it’s a Cinderella story — where the prince bestows upon them the money they think they need to succeed. Success overnight!

Everyone thinks it’s social media — but really that’s just more ad buys. And it’s left to the algorithm to determine how successful you are.

So how do small businesses that are in service industries especially find new clients? Sure we all know to go where our audience is, but our audience/ideal clients are in front of their computers looking for their own ideal clients. Or on the job, or at shows selling their own goods. They don’t scroll Instagram looking for business advice. They aren’t on Facebook reading funny memes. Generally. I mean they are definitely on their phones though.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts on the matter. I mean even your own website when it gives examples, it’s usually really large companies with really large budgets and a full agency behind the A/B testing and research and metrics. Not really applicable on a smaller scale, in most instances. Even people that know they need to content market are buying their content, not generating it themselves or through an agency (buying it from a service that caters to their industry).

OK — thank you for listening, and we all await your response.  🙂

Thanks!

Deanna Taus
Owner
Full Circle Creative, LLC

 

Dear Reader:  Hi Deanna, Thanks for reaching out.

We get this question quite often from small businesses who are engaged in marketing.

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What do you lead with? (MarketingSherpa Podcast Episode #4)

February 12th, 2019
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What is an impactful way to increase conversion?

Or …

How do you grab your customer’s attention?

See, I could have led with either statement. Both statements describe our conversation in the latest MarketingSherpa podcast. But my hypothesis was that the first statement would grab your attention more.

Customer attention is a scarce resource. There is only space for one headline in the print ad, only a set amount of characters in a paid search ad, only six seconds that will be the opening six seconds of your TV commercial. And yet, your product likely has many value attributes.

So what do you lead with? To elucidate (and other fancy words) yourself on this subject, you can listen to this episode below in whichever way is most convenient for you — or click the orange “Subscribe” button to get every episode.

 

 

Listen to the podcast audio: Episode 4 (Right mouse click to download)

More About Episode #4 — Value sequencing

The initial question of the podcast leads to a bigger topic — value sequencing.

What do customers need to know? And when do they need to know it during the buyer’s journey? In addition, which customers need to know which things about your product?

This is true for their entire macro-journey with your brand but equally important at the micro-level within each customer interaction. For a landing page or an email, what do they need to know in the beginning, middle and end?

These are topics Austin and I dove into. Here are the show notes from this episode:

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Marketing 101: What are ad blockers?

February 8th, 2019
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

Ad blockers are software that, as the name suggests, allow web users to block the ads on websites. Ad-blocking software (also known as ad filtering) can take different forms — from a web browser extension or plugin like AdBlock Plus to a standalone browser like Brave.

According to MarketingSherpa research, the top reason American consumers block online ads is because “I dislike large ads that pop up over the entire webpage,” followed closely by “Ads make the webpages load too slow” and “Rollover ads are intrusive.”

While ad blockers have gotten more attention lately, they are not new. For example, MarketingSherpa published a story on them back in 2001 — Should Publishers Worry About Ad Blocking Software? SaveTheFreeWeb.com’s Bill Dimm Explains Reality.

Ad blockers have been a difficult phenomenon to deal with for publishers.

For publishers, ad blockers threaten to steal advertising revenue. Some online publishers have adapted by either forcing visitors to allow ads or pay for a subscription to see their content. Here is an example from WIRED magazine.

ad blocker notice Wired mag

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Mobile: Device or segment? (MarketingSherpa Podcast Episode #2)

January 7th, 2019
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You might be reading this blog post on a smartphone. Or perhaps you’re about to listen to this podcast on your phone. Because mobile has taken over. We have all become cyborgs now — part human, part machine.

Don’t believe me? Just trying going without your phone for 24 hours. Go ahead, I dare you.

As a marketer, these societal changes should spark some curiosity questions. How do these customer behavior changes help you help the customer make the best decisions? How can you better serve customers on mobile devices and increase marketing performance?

And really, what is mobile anyway? Is it a device — just the same people we’re trying to reach on the desktop but with less screen space? Or is it a segment — people’s behaviors (and perhaps even the people) are so different when they’re on a smartphone that we need to approach them in an entirely different way.

We cover this topic in MarketingSherpa Podcast Episode #2. You can listen to this episode below in whichever way is most convenient for you or click the orange “Subscribe” button to get every episode sent right to, let’s face it, your phone.

 

 

Listen to the podcast audio: Episode 2 (Right mouse click to download)

More about episode #2 – You must consider the human behind the device

Mobile marketing is a hot topic, but don’t just think about it in terms of technology. Or usability.

As with any other human communication mechanism — from the caveman grunt to the printing press to the secret handshake to the telegraph, radio, email, you name it — using the mechanism correctly is just table stakes. It’s all in the nuance of how you use it.

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MarketingSherpa Podcast Episode #1: The role of the human connection in your marketing

December 6th, 2018
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Marketing and technology go hand-in-hand these days. And the addition of technology has created some incredibly powerful abilities for marketers.

But…

We’re still just human beings trying to get a message out to other human beings.

So what role should that human connection play in your marketing? It’s a topic we cover in MarketingSherpa Podcast Episode #1 — you can listen to below in whichever way is most convenient for you or click the orange subscribe button to get every episode.

 

 

Listen to the podcast audio: Episode 1 (Right mouse click to download)

Welcome to the new MarketingSherpa podcast

I can’t say this is the first MarketingSherpa podcast. Long-time readers know that MarketingSherpa has been publishing and producing helpful content since the early days of marketing and has had a podcast before. In fact, MarketingSherpa has written about marketing for so long that our first article about podcasting was published three months before Apple added formal support for podcasts in iTunes (If you’re curious, see Integrated Ad Campaign Results – Podcast + Avatar Banners + NYC Bar Coasters published on March 22, 2005).

But this new iteration of the MarketingSherpa podcast is our latest attempt to provide you the insights and information to help you do your job better. Plus, we attempted to make this a fun and lively discussion.

We’re not sure if we’re going to do a podcast long-term, but we figured it was worth a 90-day experiment (so if you have any feedback, please let us know).

A little insight into our thinking

Since you’re marketers as well, we thought you might be interested in some of our thinking behind the reason we are deciding to experiment with this format for our audience.

When deciding what channels to embrace, it is important to understand if your ideal customer is there and using it already. It’s all too easy to follow the hype. After all, even if a channel is “free” like social media or podcasting because it doesn’t require an immediate monetary outlay, nothing is ever truly free. As MECLABS Institute Managing Director and CEO Flint McGlaughlin said in a recent MarketingSherpa blog post, Burn your “also(s).”  Every new channel you invest in, every new social media account you open, every new content type you create diverts your team’s limited time and attention from something else. (That’s why we’re launching this 90-day experiment to gauge if the podcast is a worthwhile investment of our time and attention long term).

In MarketingSherpa’s case, we have a business audience (marketers), and the data says that a large group of business people listen to podcasts. Most notably, 44% of business people in a senior role who know what a podcast is are listening to podcasts, according to LinkedIn data published on MarketingCharts.com (only 8% of respondents didn’t know what a podcast is, so this constitutes a lot of senior role department heads, VPs, owners and C-suite execs listening to podcasts).

 

 

Because our audience is professional marketers, they tend to like visiting our website from the workplace. In fact, looking at our website analytics reminds me of the gently rolling waves of Jacksonville Beach (which is where I prefer to spend my weekends rather than reading marketing content online, so I can’t blame you for reading more during the week). Look at the clear dips in pageviews on the weekend.

 

Read more…

The Marketing Thank You Box: 12 reasons modern marketers can be thankful

November 15th, 2018
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I hate to admit it. But as I’ve advanced in my career, I’ve become a little cranky.

Sometimes I can be like a marketing version of Grandpa on “The Simpsons” — “I remember when everything was print so there were real deadlines, not like a landing page which you have to constantly optimize. And we’d write ads for The Wall Street Journal, not for phones. Phones were actually for making phone calls. And another thing …”

But when I look outside my office this month, I see the Thank You Box.

It’s an effort to show appreciation for others in the office here at MECLABS Institute. Simply write a note about why you’re thankful for someone.

So, in this month of gratitude, here are 12 elements of modern marketing I’m thankful for:

  1. That email is a two-way street — It’s a feature that can be overlooked in email marketing, but the customers you serve can reply to your email messages. Let them. Don’t send “no reply” emails. When we email newsletters and content from MarketingSherpa, we always allow replies.

    This is customer intelligence we learn from. These are email subscribers we can help. There are even people who reply to inquire about services from MarketingSherpa’s parent research organization, MECLABS Institute. And we even get nice replies, like this …

    “I love your stuff. I share it with my small business clients.”

    I’m thankful for those notes. Numbers matter. But hearing from humans you’re serving is especially fulfilling.

    1. Digital A/B testing — Sure, you could test with direct mail as well. But not this cheaply. And not this quickly. It’s a great way to learn from your customers’ behavior.
    2. Content marketing — Another tactic that didn’t start with the invention of the internet. But it sure has exploded with the growth of digital — from blogs to videos to push-button publishing — partly thanks to the power of social media and organic search. No longer does marketing only have to be an “ask.” Now it can also be a “give.” A very effective tactic.

      1. The “Referrals” tab on Google Analytics — I love to see who thinks our content is valuable enough to send us traffic.
      2. LinkedIn and Twitter — A great way to interact with and learn from other marketers I’ve never met. Especially helpful for an introvert like me.
      3. Marketing memes — C’mon, how fun are they?

      (The above meme is from the article Ecommerce Marketing Research: To be truly successful, you must step out of the ecommerce bubble)

      1. The democratization of marketing — Large brands still have a huge advantage over smaller brands thanks to their massive budgets, but not the dominance they once enjoyed when they were the only ones who could truly afford significant media buys. Never before has a truly great idea that can serve a customer need have a chance to break through and disrupt an industry that has overlooked serving the customer for too long (mattresses, landline phones, movies, grocery stores, the list goes on).
      2. Transparency reins — It’s harder to mislead customers when every customer is also a publisher. Which means the truly customer-first brands are the ones that succeed.
      3. Marketing automation platforms — What a great way to get a better understanding of the customer and their journey with your website and brand.
      4. Online customer reviews — There’s gold in here for copywriters. You can hear how customers talk about your brand and products in their own words.
      5. The big idea — Brainstorming and concepting aren’t new to the digital era. But they tap into the heart of marketing and feed a marketer’s soul. This is why I’m in marketing. All the technology is just a means to an end. There is nothing as fulfilling as coming up with that core concept that taps into an essential truth of a brand and helps customers perceive its true value.
      6. Measuring and testing the big idea — Because, learning what works leads to even better ideas.

      What are you thankful for?

      I created a post in MarketingSherpa’s LinkedIn Group so you can share what you’re thankful for as well. Do it! Gratitude improves physical and psychological health and increases mental strength, according to psychologists. And that leads to more effective marketing. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

      You can follow Daniel Burstein, Senior Director of Content and Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @DanielBurstein.

      You might also like …

      Lead your team to breakthrough results with A Model of your Customer’s Mind: These 21 concepts and tools have helped capture more than $500 million in (carefully measured) test wins.

      The Last Blog Post: How to succeed in an era of Transparent Marketing

      Marketing Career: Can you explain your job to a six-year-old?

      Why You Should Thank Your Competitors