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Psychology: The Power of Color In Marketing

Psychology: The Power of Color In Marketing

We have recognized the power of color to move and affect us since our earliest civilisations, and as our access to colors developed, and our mastery of them through artwork has grown, so has the sophistication of our associations with them. Some primal color associations remain and are deeply powerful, while others are relatively new and exciting.

Today, I’m going to explore the many psychological impact of color on marketing, sharing resources and insights to help you get the most out of them in your marketing. Colour is one of the most powerful subconscious motivators, and we have discovered many interesting subconscious influences on marketing.

For instance – energetic music makes people eat faster, and smaller floor tiles make people walk slower. In each case, the pace markers in our environment change how we set out rhythms to meet them. Eating popcorn can make you immune to cinema adverts, because you have a simple means of distraction – an immediate reward that requires no new action, unlike the advertisements.

We drink more from short, wide tumblers than tall slim glasses, because we see fullness as a measure of height, not width. Cool temperatures, dim lighting, and soft music are all evidenced to encourage over-indulgence in food, which is why that description sounds like every restaurant you’ve been in. Finally, every movie poster looks the same because blue and orange give us “cool” and “exciting” triggers.

By now you can see that the subconscious is acting on us in powerful ways almost all the time, you must also see that color can be an important tool in leveraging the subconscious to provide us with positive motivation to act. That is the impact of color on marketing in essence.

By understanding the power of color in marketing, we can begin to harness it indirectly actionable ways. Psychologists have long established that colors are tied to our emotion – Goethe first described the “Rose of Temperaments”, charting the allegoric, symbolic and mystic usage of color, in 1798.

Heads up – a lot of these insights have been inspired by material sources, including the great Pantone book Color – Messages & Meanings, which I highly recommend.

Now, we’re going to look at 10 of the most common colors brands use, and how they can be effectively leveraged when creating a brand identity, campaign, or image to evoke the sense you want.

The Power Of Color
1) The Power of the Color Black – Sophistication, Power & Prestige

Black is a blank canvas. It is also rarer than you think – only OLED screens can show true blacks. Meanwhile, the blackest black has only just been discovered, and looks like some kind of optical illusion.

Black is the cover of space, of vastness. It can also be associated with absence and death. It’s also the classic color for ink, making it a favorite of brands that like to look well established.

As a result, black is frequently used by luxury brands to create a blank canvas upon which to hero the item – black creates a superior focus on the product itself, as the only thing lit.

Black, in too large an amount, can begin to feel gloomy and oppressive, so it must be used artfully to create a strong contrast with the hero, like in paintings by the Dutch Masters.

Chanel has long used black as part of its brand, while relative newcomer Hotel Chocolat uses the color to conjure that same luxury feeling. Rolls Royce have a whole campaign around modernising the timeless elegance of black.

Black can also symbolize an institutional quality, and a simple monochrome logo can give people a sense of establishment and trust. Simplicity can engender confidence.

2) The Power of the Color Blue – Trust, Calm & Productivity

Blue is the most common colour in branding, from airlines to tech companies, banks and supermarkets. Used in luxury brands and budget brands, social media and more, blue is the great unifier.

Why? Well, blue is calming, and I believe this has evolutionary roots. After all, blue is the color of a clear sky, the color of a calm sea, or a clean river. All signs were in a rich habitat. Blue, unlike red or green, is unaffected by color deficiencies in processing, meaning everyone who can see can see blue. However, when we’re said to be “feeling blue”, we mean depressed. Do brands what to depress you?

Well, not exactly. They want to calm you. Blue is calming and clean, and importantly, consistent. The sky never disappears. That’s why we like blue, and why we feel ready to trust blue brands. Trust is, in turn, one of the most important factors in consumer decision making, so when choosing what emotions to trigger, blue is a strong choice.

3) The Power of the Color Green – Positivity, Relaxation, Growth

Green is a delightful colour. Green is the color of growth, the color of spring, the color of verdant rolling fields, and the idea of a paradise island. Green is the associated with times of plenty.

When things are green, people are relaxed. Green is the “go” light, the “great job” pen. Green is encouragement and positivity.

More recently, green has become a by-word for the environment – it encourages new concepts such as responsibility, sustainability, cleanliness and friendliness. A green brand is a conscious brand.

As such, green is great for a wide variety of brands. Health and nutrition brands, and brands that wish to promote reliability, like LandRover. Digital brands like Spotify use it to suggest abundance, while disgraced oil company BP used it to instantly reinvent their image.

4) The Power of the Color Orange – Ambition, Warmth & Enthusiasm

Perhaps because of companies like EasyJet, Nickelodeon, Amazon and more, 26% of people now view orange as a cheap color.

I believe this is the wrong way to look it. A warm color, the richer the orange palette becomes, the more energized the brand appears. Orange is a color of zest and juice, of sharp and sweet, of energy and dynamism. It is the color of impulsiveness and adventure.

As such, it can be a great tool in getting those impulse buyers, like EasyJet or Amazon, and it can also be helpful when trying to emphasize your Call To Action, as it instills that sense of eagerness. Similarly, if one of your selling points is low price, you know from these great examples that this color will work for you.

5) The Power of the Color Pink – Kindness, Warmth & Love

Pink is used by brands you’d expect to use pink based on norms established in the 1950s, such as Barbie and Hello Kitty. But the color is much more versatile than that, with LG, T Mobile, and even Taco Bell choosing pink.

That’s because pink can increase our blood pressure and our pulse rate – it’s the color of flushed cheeks, or lips. It is the color of flowers and flamingos – flamboyance in nature. For millions, it has become the color of hope in the fight against breast cancer.

Pink can be fun. Hot pink can be bold and exciting. Pastel pink can be neutral and calming. What’s more, pink can be a surprising, empowering choice that displays a sense of fun and confidence.

6) The Power of the Color Purple – Royalty, Wealth & Status

So, what does the color purple mean? Purple is the color of gods and rulers, worn by Zeus in Greek myth, by magistrates and Caesars in Rome, the emperors of the Byzantine empire, the emperors of Japan, and the British royal family.

Purple is rich, and so are the people who wear it. Perhaps as a historical association with rulers, the color is also associated with wisdom and spiritual practice – two traits the ruling classes traded upon to secure their authority.

Purple is a powerful colour, and as such, it should be used sparingly. Purple brands include Yahoo!, Hallmark and Cadbury – rich indulgences. Similarly, the colour is popular in cosmetics, as the colour of indulgence and elitism.

Brands that use purple need to know that they are sending a powerful statement, and it is best suited to those with an element of prestige and quality about them.

7) The Power of the Color Red – Power, Energy & Passion

Red makes our pulse race. It is the color of blood and wine, of roses and danger. It is the color of the arousal – the ‘red light’ district. It is a color of health and vigor. Put simply, it’s a color of extremes. Whatever is red is exciting. Perhaps this is why the power of color red is still most famous for its association with Ferrari, whose cars make us so excited.

Red stimulates the appetite. YouTube and Netflix use red to fuel your appetite for more content. Heinz and Coca-Cola do the same in food and drink. Marlboro do the same with cigarettes, H&M for disposable fashion… the list goes on and on.

Red is also the color of threat and as such, the color of urgency. It is the color of errors and can encourage people to want to eliminate them. ACT NOW!

Red is the most aggressive, and therefore, the most manipulative colour.

8) The Power of the Color Yellow – Cheer, Youth & Happiness

Yellow is bright as sunshine, and who doesn’t feel great in the sunshine? Yellow logos are used by companies who want to project optimism into people’s lives. IKEA can make you believe you can, and even WANT to, build furniture yourself. McDonald’s can make you believe their food tastes good. Best Buy can make you believe you’re buying the best, not cheapest. Optimism!

Yellow can grab attention, but its closeness to white means it usually needs to be accompanied by an accent color to stand out. The choice of accent can have a big effect too – yellow and black is the color of caution in nature – wasps and bees use it to threaten with their presence.

Yellow is also one of the first colours we begin to perceive after being born, so it’s often used on products aimed at infants and children.

Yellow is not without its institutional heavyweights too. Camera company Nikon and logistics company DHL use it to great effect by relating optimism to confidence – they will deliver for customers.

9) The Power of the Color Brown – Earth, Nature & Simplicity

Brown is the colour of rich soil. Of coffee and chocolate and leather. Of wood. Brown is a color we are evolutionarily more familiar with, though modern life would see us spent our lives looking at grey and magnolia.

Brown is most commonly associated with food brands. Hershey’s use it to as a promise of what’s inside. Mad Men even used it to create an incredible moment in their final season, as the character admits something to strangers he has hidden from everyone closest to him for six seasons. Brown is used by UPS and Kettle Chips and hundreds of independent brewers.

That’s because brown offers us a balance of warmth, familiarity, and comfort. There are depth and richness, and nurturing in brown. There is strength and simplicity. While an understated color compared to many on this list, its power should not be underestimated.

10) The Power of the Color White – Purity, Wholesomeness & Clarity

A wedding dress. A doctor’s coat. God. White has always been the definition of purity. It’s also been repurposed to be the height of modernity, most notably by brands like Apple and Google and Wikipedia. White is also seen as being clean and sanitary, making it a popular choice for dental, health care and child services brands.

Whitespace also creates the sense of a blank canvas, of a perfect or ideal space for the brand to exist in. This has been used to great effect by KitKat and others. Whitespace necessitates a larger canvas, which plays into the idea of conspicuous consumption – deliberate ‘waste’ to create an emphasis on wealth and richness. The product stands out more emphatically for being islanded off from the competition.

Power of Color in 2018: The Role of Gender in Perception

2018 will surely continue 2017’s work of examining gender with a fine-toothed comb. The gender of your audience does indeed affect preferences and perceptions when it comes to colors and marketing.

Fortunately, a huge number of studies have been conducted, and the results thoroughly reported. I’ll summarize them here, so you can focus on taking the information most relevant to your needs.

The most important thing to remember is that the pink vs blue idea of girls vs boys is a big fat myth. The BBC published a breakdown of the social conditioning that produces this fake preference, examining the history of color choice between genders, and discovering that blue is the most popular color with both men and women – thereby proving the universality of the color and its popularity among brands.

Martech created an outstanding infographic breaking down colour preferences – including for things like saturation, pairings and psychological associations – between genders.

If your target audience is defined by gender, then the power of color is an important thing to bear in mind before committing to a visual identity.

Women
Love: Blue, Purple, Green
Hate: Orange, Brown, Grey
Men
Love: Blue, Green, Black
Hate: Brown, Orange, Purple

Colors and Marketing: Refine Your Palette

Make good use of your colors!

By now you should see that colors and marketing are inextricably linked. By using color in marketing, you understand psychology of colors, the importance and power of colour, and recognize their role in creating associations for us subconsciously. These associations can help to motivate emotional responses that can result in sales, brand loyalty, conversion, and lifetime value.

So, where do you go from here? Testing, testing, testing.

Despite blue being a common favorite, there is no one “best” color. People profess to hating brown if you believe Kissmetrics, yet Louis Vuitton bags are the most popular luxury handbag and UPS are a world-renowned delivery service.

You need to test your color schemes, and consider not only what primary brand color you’re going to use, but what pallet of complementary colors will you use to support it.

What’s more, the use of color must be deliberate and evocative. Overuse of color can be distracting, annoying, and even uncomfortable for viewers. Pick a primary, accent and base tone to begin with, and align all your assets around this scheme. When you compose that scheme, always keep the effect in mind. You want to be using color at the right time, not necessarily all the time.

Finally, remember that this is for the audience. You need to consider what you want them to think about your brand and align your colour scheme with the colors whose associations best represent the qualities you are aiming for. It’s not about what color you like!

So, there we have it – an examination of the current data and best practice around the power of color in marketing. I hope this has been illuminating for you, and that you can go on to make bolder color choices as a result.

Have you seen the power of color in changing the performance of your brand? Share your story with us in the comments below.

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HTTP vs HTTPS: The Difference And Everything You Need To Know

HTTP vs HTTPS: The Difference And Everything You Need To Know

HTTP vs HTTPS

Many websites use HTTP. However, back in 2014, Google recommended that sites switch to HTTPS. Until then, only sites with e-commerce pages really bothered to use HTTPS. As an incentive for switching over, Google announced that it would be providing HTTPS sites with a minor rankings bump, in effect punishing sites that did not switch over by giving an edge to competitors that did.

Now you’re probably wondering – why is it so important that you switch over to HTTPS? Is it really worth the hassle to do so? What even is the difference between HTTP and HTTPS? Will using one over the other affect your SEO efforts at all? The following guide will break everything down for you, not only answer these common questions but giving you a much better understanding of HTTP vs HTTPS in general.

1) HTTP vs HTTPS: Understanding The Basics

The first thing that we should go over is what HTTP and HTTPS actually are. It’s going to be difficult to understand the impact of switching from one to the other or how to choose between HTTP vs. HTTPS without a general understanding of both.

What Is HTTP?

HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. At it’s most basic, it allows for the communication between different systems. It’s most commonly used to transfer data from a web server to a browser in order to allow users to view web pages. It’s the protocol that was used for basically all early websites.

What Is HTTPS?

HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. The problem with the regular HTTP protocol is that the information that flows from server to browser is not encrypted, which means it can be easily stolen. HTTPS protocols remedy this by using an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate, which helps create a secure encrypted connection between the server and the browser, thereby protecting potentially sensitive information from being stolen as its transferred between the server and the browser.

The Main Difference Between HTTP and HTTPS

The most important difference between the two protocols is the SSL certificate. In fact, HTTPS is basically an HTTP protocol with additional security. However, this additional security can be extremely important, especially for websites that take sensitive data from its users, such as credit card information and passwords.

How HTTPS works? The SSL certificate encrypts the information that users supply to the site, which basically translates the data into a code. Even if someone manages to steal the data being communicated between the sender and the recipient, they would not be able to understand it due to this encryption.

But in addition to adding that extra layer of security, HTTPS is also secured via TLS (Transport Layer Security) protocol. TLS helps provide data integrity, which helps prevent the transfer of data from being modified or corrupted, and authentication, which proves to your users that they are communicating with the intended website.

Users can identify whether a site uses HTTPS protocol by the web address. The very first part of the web address (before the “www”) indicates whether the site uses HTTP or HTTPS protocols.

2) SEO Advantage Of Switching To HTTPS

If you’re looking at the main difference between HTTP and HTTPS, HTTPS obviously has a big advantage. After all, wouldn’t you want your site to be as secure as possible? The thing is, if you don’t have an e-commerce page and you’re not accepting potentially sensitive information from your website’s visitors, then you might be thinking that switching over to an HTTPS site isn’t that necessary and that doing so is a bigger hassle than it’s worth.

However, the security advantage isn’t the only benefit of using HTTPS. In fact, switching over to HTTPS can end up boosting your SEO efforts as well. The following are a few ways in which HTTPS can help to improve your SEO:

Increase Your Website Rankings

HTTPS SEO impact! Besides the fact that Google itself has announced that sites switched to HTTPS will receive a small bump in rankings, doing so can lead to a rankings boost over time in any event because visitors will be more likely to browse through sites that they know are secure.

If your website is new, you can read our guide here on how to increase your website rankings immediately with SEO.

Preserve Referrer Data

The use of an HTTPS site makes Google Analytics more effective. This is because the security data of the website that referred to you is saved with the use of HTTPS – it’s not with HTTP sites. With HTTP sites, referral sources will just appear as “direct traffic”. This gives HTTPS a big advantage for SEO in itself.

Build Trust With Visitors

Because an HTTPS site encrypts all communication, visitors will protect not just sensitive information, like passwords and credit card information, but also their browsing history. Knowing that they will retain their privacy while browsing your site and knowing that anything that they download, sign up for or purchase won’t put them at risk due to a lack of security is going to help you to build trust, which is vital to capturing leads and closing sales.

Additionally, you protect your site from security breaches, which can end up damaging your reputation and even costing you money if they do occur.

Be Able To Use AMP

If you want to be able to use AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), then you’ll need to have HTTPS. AMP was created by Google as a way to load content onto mobile devices at a much faster rate. At its core, AMP is kind of like a stripped down HTML. AMP content features prominently on Google’s SERPs to create a better mobile experience for smartphone and tablet users.

If creating a mobile-friendly website is important to you (and it should be, considering the increasing importance of mobile search rankings and local SEO), then switching to HTTPS is a must.

3) SEO Concerns When Switching To HTTPS

While there are many benefits to switching over from HTTP to HTTPS, there are still a few potential problems that you could run into when doing so. The following are some of the tips you should be sure to keep in mind when switching over to HTTPS to prevent potential SEO-related issues:

Inform Google that you have switched from HTTP to HTTPS.
There’s not some kind of automatic notification that lets them know when you’ve switched, which means that the rankings boost that they have promised may n ot occur until they crawl your site again, which may be a while unless you notify them yourself right away.
There are several certificates other that SSL certificate.
These include Single Domain, Multiple Domain and Wildcard SSL certificates. A Single Domain certificate is issued for one domain or subdomain. A Multiple Domain certificate, which is also known as a Unified Communications certificate, lets you secure a primary domain name and upwards of 99 additional Subject Alternative Names. Wildcard certificate allows you to secure your website URL as well as unlimited subdomains.
Make sure you use relative URLs for any resources.
This is to reside on the same secure domain and protocol relative URLs for all other domains.
Make sure that you’re not preventing Google from crawling your HTTPS site.
If they are unable to use robots.txt. to crawl through your site, it could end up hurting your ability to improve your SEO, thereby hurting your potential search ranking. This generally happens if you forget to update your test server to allow bots.
Make sure that you allow search engines to index your pages.
You have the option of discouraging search engines from doing this, but this could damage your SEO efforts since your page rankings will then be wiped out – and it could take a while for you to regain them.
Be vigilant about tracking your migration from HTTP to HTTPS.
You can do this by using Google Webmaster Tools and other analytics software to ensure that everything goes smoothly and to catch any issues that occur as soon as possible so that they don’t end up hurting your SEO.

4) Process Of Changing From HTTP To HTTPS

How to switch to HTTPS?

Now that you understand the benefits of switching to HTTPS and how to avoid any issues while migrating, it’s time to actually switch from HTTP to HTTPS. The process of switching to HTTPS may take a number of steps to accomplish, but overall, it’s actually not that difficult – just a little bit time-consuming. The following are the steps that you will need to take in order to switch to HTTPS:

It may take a while to get your site completely migrated to HTTPS, but it’s worth it in the end. Just make sure that you double check all of the links throughout your site to make sure that they are properly updated or else they will break after migration.

You want your website to be secure for a number of reasons. Not only do you want to protect potentially sensitive information, but you’ll want to make sure that your visitors are comfortable browsing through your site. These reasons alone are a good reason to switch from HTTP to HTTPS. However, when you consider the effect that switching to HTTPS will have on your SEO, it becomes a no-brainer.

If you have yet to switch your website to HTTPS, then you should take the time to do so. Yes, there are a number of steps involved, but the effort it will take is well worth the result. HTTPS has already become the standard protocol, which means that the longer that you hesitate, the more of a chance there is that you’ll fall behind your competition.

If you have already switched your website to HTTPS, then we’re curious as to whether you’ve seen the results of having done so yet.

We would love to hear about your experience in this HTTP vs HTTPS topic – such as when you migrated to HTTPS, what do you think of the main difference between HTTP and HTTPS, how long it took to see results, what results you’ve seen and what, if any, difficulties you might have encountered. So be sure to letting us all know by leaving your thoughts in the comments below!

This post was originally written by Joanne Chong and published on July 13, 2017. It was most recently updated on July 27, 2018.

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Short Tail Or Long Tail Keywords? — A Side-by-Side Comparison

Short Tail Or Long Tail Keywords? — A Side-by-Side Comparison

Long Tail vs Short Tail Keywords

Image credits: Aida Blakely

When it comes to on-page SEO, keywords are the biggest factor in determining your SEO success or failure. When deciding which keywords to use, you’ll need to do some homework and research before deciding which ones to go for. One question that often arise while doing keyword research remains:

Short Tail or Long Tail Keywords?

The discussion has been raging and the resulting ends are something that anyone doing marketing on the Internet should be made aware of.

What Are Short Tail And Long Tail Keywords?
Short Tail Keywords

Short tail keywords are 3 words or less. Examples include: “athletic apparel,” “DVD player,” or “engagement ring.” Short tail keywords are also known as “head terms”. They may be the first thing you think of when you are deciding where to go to eat (“Chinese food,” “pizza delivery”), what to do (“dance clubs,” “roller coaster park”), or where to worship (“synagogue,” “Catholic church”).

Long Tail Keywords

Long tail keywords however are a little different compared to short tail keywords. Long tail words are more than 3 words. They are definitely a lot more targeted and not as broad. You may not bring in as much search traffic from long tail keywords but the traffic you do bring in is the kind you are looking for.

Examples of long tail keywords include: “summer women’s athletic apparel,” “super Blu Ray HD DVD combo player,” or “white diamond engagement ring.” Long tail keywords are obviously a lot more specific than short tail keywords; as a marketer this actually can work very much in your favor. But there are pros and cons to both types of keywords.

The Long and Short Of Keywords

Which type of keyword you want to use for your marketing is going to depend very much on the type of traffic that you want to drive to your site.

As keywords get longer, search volume becomes lower. However, all other metrics such as conversion rates go in favor of long tail keywords.

Short Tail Keywords

Short tail keywords have several things working for and against them. For example if you are trying to drive a lot of traffic to your site, you should use short tail keywords. The challenge here is that if your site is “new” or if your search efforts are just beginning you are getting at the back of a very long line.

Volume: High

,
When it comes to volume, short tail keyword is going to win long tail keyword every time. The shorter the keyword is, the higher the search volume. If you could rank for a short tail keyword, you’re definitely going to get plenty of organic traffic.

Competition: High

Given the high search volumes, it’s no wonder why everyone is trying to rank for short tail keywords, the reward is high. Competition for short tail keywords is highly competitive.

To give you a clearer picture, for pizza searches, you are behind brands like Pizza Hut, Pizza Pizza, Dominos, Papa John’s as well as all the ranking sites, local searches, and the like.

So if you notice the pattern here, it’s clear that unless your company is huge at the international level, it is really tough to get into the first page of Google search results.

Focus: Low

There is also the issue of your search not being “targeted.” People searching for “DVD” may be looking for a player to buy but they also may be looking for a DVD player to rent, a DVD film, a DVD reproduction service, a list of DVD rentals and the like. You are going up against names like Samsung, Sony, and Amazon when you simply search DVD.

Cost: High

Short tail keywords also have a cost factor involved which is going to get expensive. Google AdWords is going to charge you a pretty penny to get into the short tail keyword business for your common search terms. Because so many other people are buying them you are going to need to pay a premium for your presence in these searches.

Conversion Rate: Low

Finally, the thing which irks most people about short tail keyword is the low conversion rate. Say you have a term that’s searched for a lot. Even if you get 10,000 searches and 100 clicks your conversion rate may be one or two customers.

While those one or two customers may be your bread and butter, the truth is that you may have more luck and less noise if you opted for long tail keywords.

Long Tail Keywords

Long tail keywords are like a bear in the forest. They can lie dormant for a while but when they are used they are typically quite deadly. Like the bear in the forest, there isn’t too much else that competes with these keywords as you’ll see.

Volume: Low

When you are talking about long tail keywords you have to appreciate the level of volume. Your volume of traffic from long tail keywords is going to be far less. For some types of businesses, this may be a bad thing.

However, if you have your wares that you are selling and you are trying to cater to your specific customer, you may not want a lot of beady eyes and sweaty breaths clogging up your virtual storefront.

Competition: Low

The competition among others is also lower when you have decided on a long tail keyword. When you have a search term like “RV camper power cord hatch cover” or “baseball card holder sheets” you are getting traffic. The good news for you if you’re selling these things is that there are few others who are selling the same thing. The search is going to be geared towards whatever it is you are selling and the competition for this specific traffic will be low.

Focus: High

Just like the low competition made evident, the targeted nature of the search traffic you get will, for most businesses selling specific things, be ideal. You will pretty well only have people who are looking for “toddler ballerina shoes with ribbon” or “cheap loveseat recliner covers,” coming to your store. That means you’re a lot more likely to have the customers you are looking for, looking for you!

Cost: Low

Another added benefit to the lower traffic long tail keywords is that you are going to pay a lot less for them. Google AdWords has got a reduced price for searches that are specific and contain more terms. This means that you won’t show up nearly as high in general searches (until you become the preeminent name in your industry) but you will have a lot lower cost to get you there.

For small businesses who may have a PPC arrangement, this is going to be huge for your monthly cost. When you are selling more things to fewer customers that will be even better!

Conversion Rates: High

One last point about long tail keywords is the increased conversion rates. If you have people seeking out such specific things as discussed above, you will have a far easier time converting the traffic you generate. These conversion numbers are obviously going go vary depending on what it is you’re selling and where, but the numbers point very strongly in favor of long tail keyword selection.

Moreover, if your customer likes what they see from your long tail conversion selection, even if they don’t buy the first time around they are far more likely to come back to your online store when they do buy simply because your site spoke to their specific needs.

Which Is Better?

To simplify this entire article into a simple table, you’ll see that long tail keywords are the far better choice and rightly so.

At the end of the day, you need to do what is best for you and your small business. Of course you want to save money and you want to have as large a web presence as you possibly can.

At the same time you need to remember that the point of your having a web business isn’t (generally) to get people to click to your site and walk away unsatisfied with the results their search has given them; the idea is that they spend money!

Getting your customers to drop that dime and try out your business is the whole point. If you want to increase your conversion and make that sale then you should be directing traffic to your specific type of widget, whatever that may be.

In this day and age of online searches short tail keywords are very difficult break into the rankings of. As discussed earlier it is almost impossible for small or even medium sized businesses to rank among the big boys.

So if this is not a fight that you are even able to have, why would you want to try?

If you have a huge body of content, a very specific but general item, or strong brand and domain authority then maybe the short tail keywords will still work for you.

However if you are looking for higher conversion rate, lower cost, lower competition, and volume that is specifically after what it is that you are selling, the long tail keyword game is one that you should be in.

This post was originally written by Zhi Yuan and published on Nov 18, 2015. It was most recently updated on July 27, 2018.

Related Links:

How To Decide Which Keywords To Use? — Comprehensive Keyword Research Guide
How To Increase Conversion Rate By 113% Using Retargeting Ads
Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing – Which Is More Effective?

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Why AI and international paid media is a match made in hell

When looking back on summer 2018, it’s hard to ignore the optimism that’s been in the air. Sunny weather? Check. England football triumph? Almost! AI as the next big thing in digital marketing? Try and count the number of articles, blog posts and sound bites that you’ve encountered over the last month which cite AI in a hype-tastic way.

Now we’re all for a bit of well-reasoned optimism, and there is no doubt that AI is an extremely powerful toolkit that will positively impact all kinds of socio-economic activity. But we’re not so sure about the true value of AI in the context of digital marketing, and specifically for international paid media.

Back to basics

Cutting through the hype, let’s start by looking at exactly how AI and machine learning work in the context of international paid media. For example, on a keyword level, how much and what kind of data are needed for AI to make a good decision?

Well, Google’s machine learning product Smart Bidding states that it “enables you to tailor bids based on each user’s context. Smart Bidding includes important signals like device, location and remarketing lists for better automation and performance”.

This implies that the signals required by the algorithm can be culled from the sum of users’ behavior, and that its “learning capabilities quickly maximize the accuracy of your bidding models to improve how you optimize the long-tail [by evaluating] patterns in your campaign structure, landing pages, ad text, product information, keyword phrases and many more to identify more relevant similarities across bidding items to effectively borrow learnings between them”.

This suggests that the ‘go to’ source of data is our own campaign. But what are these patterns, how long is ‘quickly’, and how on earth can landing page data would help with bid management?

Staying with bid management as an example, we think it works like this:

Primary data: the algorithm looks back at historic direct interactions with a keyword within a client campaign, and makes a cost/position decision based on pre-defined goals like ROI or CTR, and of enough data.
One way to address a possible data volume problem would be to look back a long way. But this would ignore seasonality, promotions and changes in consumer behaviors over time.
Secondary data – the algorithm has insufficient data to make a ‘good’ decision on the primary basis, so uses corroborative data (performance indicators from other campaigns which have similar characteristics (e.g. same vertical, same language) to make decisions.

Do we even have enough data?

The question is if, aside from very high-volume big category campaigns (think car insurance, credit cards), there is enough primary data to power effective AI decision making. AI needs a huge amount of data to be effective. When IBM’s Deep Blue learned chess, for instance, the developer relied on 5 million data sets. Most industry experts believe that AI’s biggest limitation will be access to high-quality data of enough scale.

We also have no idea what a ‘good’ volume of data looks like. This is even more unlikely for international PPC, where campaigns are often very granular, multi-language, and designed to include lots of long tail keywords (which by definition do not have much volume).

When it comes to secondary data, how relevant can the corroborative data be? For maximum relevance, taking CLIENT X as an example, we’d have to assume that the algorithm is quickly assimilating data from CLIENT X’s direct competitors and using that to better inform the bid management strategy.

Surely that kind of cross-fertilized data would power all auction players’ bid tactics, creating a loop where no player has an advantage?

If competitor data is not used, then what kind of secondary data is sufficiently relevant to power good AI decisions. This would easier if we knew definitively how the rules of the algorithms were constructed, but of course, we never will.

Time for a reality check

To recap, if we knew that 10, 100 or even 1,000 interactions were enough to deliver superior efficiency via AI, we’d be delighted. Campaigns could be planned and executed to use the optimum blend of AI and human capabilities, with best results for ad platforms, agencies and clients. AI could focus on brand and category level interactions, with human oversight and detailed management of long tail.

It seems unlikely that adequate transparency as to how AI actually works, how much data is needed, how the ‘rules’ work, will be forthcoming unless significant changes in business models or practices occur.

Instead, AI is optimistically overhyped as digital’s next big thing while blithely ignoring the basic premise of AI and the current practicalities of both domestic and international digital paid media

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What do dolphins eat? Lessons from how kids search

What do dolphins eat? Lessons from how kids search

I recently came across a couple of fascinating papers (here and here) all about how kids search. I found it fascinating in its own right, and also found it thought-provoking in the new ways of searching it showed that had simply never occurred to me. Here are some of the most interesting things I found (though it’s remarkably accessible, and you should totally read the whole thing).

The researchers studied children aged 7-11, and of varying degrees of experience and comfort with the web and with computer-based research. In the course of their study, they identified seven “search roles” (almost like personas) that children display when seeking information:

Many of these are fairly self-explanatory on the surface (though it’s always interesting to read the details) and you may even identify with some of them yourself, as an adult. One of the most interesting to me was what they called the visual searcher.

People don’t all think like you

This was a mode of search that I had rarely found myself in, and had barely even considered could be a thing outside of certain forms of specific image search (e.g. [microsoft logo]). What they found was a cohort of children who turned first to image search for a wide range of their information-gathering needs. In some cases, this appeared to be motivated by discomfort with text and with reading, or at least with scanning and reading fast. In others, though, it seemed to be about veracity and trusting only what you have seen with your own eyes. For those of us who know people who write on the internet, maybe this isn’t the craziest instinct.

One example that has stayed in my mind since I read about it is the experience of certain kids when asked to answer the question what do dolphins eat?

The anecdote that stood out for me was the child who not only turned to image search to answer the question, but did the one-word image search [dolphin] and then scrolled down through pages of results until, having found a picture of a dolphin eating something, turned to the researcher to declare triumphantly that dolphins eat fish.

The lesson here is clearly about the power of observing real-world users. This is the kind of insight that is hard to glean from the raw data of keyword research. Even if you figure out that there is image search volume for [dolphin], you’re some way from the insight that someone is searching for information about what they eat.

This era (the research was published in 2010) was marked by a wide range of qualitative research coming out of Google. I might dive deeper into some other research in another post, but for now, onto the next insight.

There are searches that are hard, and people are failing to complete them

In my presentation and post the next trillion searches, I talked about the incremental search volume available in the coming years as technology progresses to the point that it can satisfy intents, and answer questions that current technology cannot:

One of the things I didn’t talk about in that post was the times that current searcher intent is not fulfilled even though the information is out there and today’s technology is more than capable of finding it. To understand more about what I mean here, let’s take another look at search challenges for kids:

For a start, it’s worth noting that Google can’t answer this query outright. Unlike with more and more factual queries, Google is not able to return a one-box with any answer, never mind the correct answer.

Unsurprisingly, kids struggled with this one (as I suspect would many adults). It tests their ability to string together a sequence of queries, each one building on the last, to discover the answer at the end of the rainbow. And along the way, they have to be sceptical of the information they come across and not get distracted by the pots of fools’ gold:

At certain points along the way, our intrepid searcher may come across pages that purport to give the answer, but which in fact do not for a variety of reasons (not least, as with the example above, that this information can fall easily out of date).

So it combines the ability to break down a question into structured thoughts, achieve complex stringing together of queries, and avoid pitfalls of incorrect and misleading information along the way. How many adults do you know who might trip up on this?

Amazingly, some of the older kids in the study managed to find the correct answer.

If you have kids in your life, try this out

If you have kids, or you have younger siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, etc. I’d strongly encourage anyone interested in search to sit and watch them take on relatively undirected searching tasks while you watch. I think it’s pretty educational (for them!), but I also think there’s a good chance you will learn a good deal. In particular, since this research was done in 2010, it appears to have been entirely desktop-driven. I’d be interested in the mobile-first version if anyone wants to run it and write it up!

Anyway, it turns out my kids are (roughly) in the right age range – at the time of experimenting, my daughter was just turned 8, and my son was 5. My daughter was therefore in the age range, and it was interesting to see how she fared:

Rachel aged 8

She found it fairly easy to find out what dolphins eat. Google coped fine with her misspelling of “dolfin” and she wasn’t fazed by the results coming back for the correct spelling. She didn’t bother reading the “showing results for…” section (nor the paid ad, natch) and skipped straight to the one-box. She scanned it without reading aloud and then answered the question: telling me some things dolphins eat. In the process she went from an unmotivated searcher to a motivated searcher: she got intrigued by what a cephalopod is (it is mentioned in the one-box) and set of on an unprompted search to find out.

The next task was too much for her. She’s British, so I decided to go with prime minister, as I didn’t think she’d know what or who the vice president was. It turns out she wasn’t entirely clear on what a prime minister is either, searching for primeinister. She composed a search that could have worked as a stand-alone query: Google corrected it to [when is the prime minister’s birthday next year]. In fact, Google couldn’t answer this directly, and since it wasn’t quite the actual answer to the question as asked, she got stuck at this point, unable to structure the query quite how she wanted it.

Actually, she probably went slightly too far in the first jump. She probably should have gone with something like [when is the prime minister’s birthday] and followed with [what day is <date> next year] but she didn’t make that logical leap unprompted.

Even though my son was a little young, we thought it’d be fun to see how he fared on the “dolphin” question. The date one was a little too much of a stretch:

Adam aged 5

Interestingly, he spelled “dolfin” the same way as his sister (this must be our failing as parents!) but also went with the phonetic “wat” instead of “what”. Nonetheless, Google was quite happy interpreting his search as [what do dolphins eat] so he got the same one-box as his sister.

Just like her, he skipped everything else on the page to go straight to the one-box. This is probably not that surprising in either of their cases – it’s most likely what adults do, and it’s clearly designed to draw attention with the bright image high up on the page.

What was interesting and different was that he didn’t read the whole thing. At the time of the experiment, he was obviously a less confident reader, and preferred to read aloud rather than in his head. He didn’t scan the one-box for the answer and report it, but interestingly, nor did he read the one-box aloud. Instead, he read only the words in bold.

This isn’t the most obviously crazy strategy (at least in the mind of a 5 year old): it isn’t crazy to think that Google would have bolded the words that are the answers to the question you asked, though search professionals know that’s not what’s really going on here. It started okay but then went a little bit off the rails. Here’s what he read out as the answer to [what do dolphins eat?]:

Fishes
Herring
Killer whales
Mammals

He got a bit confused at “killer whales” and knew he was off-track, but wasn’t sure what had gone wrong.

I think the lesson here is that even though people may primarily use the obvious tools and affordances presented to them, they will also make potentially incorrect assumptions and risk being led astray by well-intentioned sign-posts in the UI.

Some other kids’ misconceptions

One child apparently thought that the autosuggest was a list of answers to the query he was typing. That doesn’t always work perfectly:

But to be fair, it’s not immediately obvious that UX like “people also ask” (which does come with embedded answers where possible):

Is entirely different to related searches which are not necessarily even suggested sensible questions:

And finally, to end on a light-hearted anecdote from the research, probably my favourite story was the child (not mine!) who looked for both dolphins and information about the Vice President of the United States on the SpongeBob SquarePants website.

Presumably unsuccessfully, at least in the case of the VP’s birthday.

If you liked this post, check out the whole session from my recent SearchLove talk in San Diego (all you need to do is create a Distilled account to access it for free). You can also check out the slides from my presentation below. Enjoy!

WATCH THE VIDEO

SearchLove San Diego 2018 | Will Critchlow | From the Horse’s Mouth: What We Can Learn from Google’s Own Words from Distilled

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How To Create Content That Really Converts

How To Create Content That Really Converts

“Content” is a catch-all term when it comes to internet marketing, covering anything that isn’t explicit advertising.

I use the word explicit deliberately. Content is, of course, designed to advertise a brand, but in a more subtle and accessible way. Indeed, this form of advertising is known to some as passive marketing, as opposed to active marketing, such as traditional advertising.

I prefer a different definition. Traditional advertising, whether it be commercials, pop-up ads or sponsored links, interrupts what you’re doing, demands your attention, and gets in the way. In that way, this can be thought of as intrusive marketing. As a business, you are going to the consumer. And they hate it.

By contrast, content marketing allows people to find it when looking for answers to their problems online. For that reason, we can think of content marketing as a form of organic marketing. The consumer comes to you.

Are you pushing messages to your target audience or attracting them?

The primary way this work is through the other intention of content marketing: content marketing is designed to help. Whether that’s through advice, recommendations, reviews, how to’s, expert knowledge or more eclectic ideas such as panel discussions. The list goes on and on. But every piece of content used for content marketing is designed to solve a problem.

When people look for the solution, they find the content marketing, which introduces them to the business, and when done well, encourages them to buy from that company.

Three Intentions of Content

Awareness – of the brand, the resident expertise, the product and so forth
Assistance – with problems people commonly face within the world of the product or service
Conversion – encouraging those people to see the upside of the offer, and buy

The first two parts are easy – awareness will happen naturally as a result of assistance. But conversion is a different animal altogether, and requires a careful balancing act.

After all, give too much away and there is no need to buy. Explain too little and you only frustrate your reader. Be too promotional and they feel tricked into reading an ad, and will punish you for it.

Strike balance between the amount of content to be shared and avoid being overly promotional. It’s difficult but you can do it.

You need to strike the balance, and that means any promotional aspect to the content must be storified and subconscious. Fortunately, that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about today.

Here are my five golden rules to creating content that really converts.

1. Feel Pain and Build Trust

We spend our lives trying to avoid pain. It’s the reason consumerism has taken over the globe. We see products as solutions to our problems, and ultimately, all our problems give us pain. It’s why we refer to consumer challenges as ‘pain points’.

You might think that pain isn’t something you should be inflicting if you want to sell products, and you’re right. Narrowly, but right. You shouldn’t be vindictive, or upsetting, or controversial in an attempt to hurt people. That will always fail.

But empathy, empathy is the foundation of sales. And by telling the story of pain, by evoking it instead of inflicting it, you can create a sense of kinship with your reader.

Let them know you care about them.

Pain is real, and it is human. No machine feels pain. Anything that makes your content look written by a real, genuine human is good. So what pain does your product or service alleviate? That’s where you start. That’s your strategy. Evoke that pain. Tell the story of that pain.

When people see that you understand personally, viscerally, what that pain, frustration, torment or insecurity feels like? They will start to trust you. And once you start to develop trust, you can start to convert sales.

2. Gain Respect By Watching Your Neighbors

Always keep your eyes on the market changes

In order for people to trust you they have to respect you, and to respect you, they need to feel like you’re an industry leader. Thought leadership is an increasingly common trend, and that’s all about getting out in front of competitors and defining a compelling, hopeful vision for the future of the business you’re in.

So, if you want to be both trusted and respected, and you’ll need to be if people are going to buy, then you need to be on top of your competitors at all times. You need your finger on the pulse of your industry and you need to be current. Watch out the market changes.

#AmazonGo opens on Monday, January 22 in Seattle. Get the app to enter the store. See you soon! https://t.co/jt7quQ4rke pic.twitter.com/shIyrifZyk

— Amazon.com (@amazon) January 21, 2018

You do not want to be the last one to know right! if your competitor is opening a new branch few blocks away from you.

That isn’t just about branch opening, share prices or product releases either. You need to be attuned to their communication. It’s a sad fact that every writer feels they can see the problems in another’s work, but for you that can be a blessing and a guide. Seeing what they’re doing, whether it’s good or bad, can give you something to emulate or something to develop. You can do what they do, or differentiate yourself depending on how successful it is.

I’m talking about their offer. I’m talking about their framing. Their call to action. Their landing page design. Their pitch. The way the content flows. It’s all there to be understood, you just have to analyse it, and with enough regularity that you don’t fall behind. This is a rapidly evolving discipline.

Follow the trends quickly and aggressively until you’re caught up on them, then take the understanding that’s given you and forge ahead. Lead the field. Consumers will follow the leader.

3. Tell A Compelling Story With Catharsis

This is everything, really. Anything that’s ever been successful did so because it told a story people wanted to hear. Every successful brand tells a good story, so make yours one of them.

4 Key elements to build a thoughtful, unique and emotional brand story:

Find your common ground – Know your key consumer insights and where to connect them.
Know your origin – Why you started the business and what is the main issue you are trying to solve.
Keep it positive – Be consistent and positive throughout the journey.
Stay on brand – All sort of visible perception of your market efforts and outreach are aligned with your brand.

Storytelling allows you to make your promotion indirect, and subconscious. It allows people to create a distance that allows them to invest more readily. Do you remember what I said about pain, and how our lives are spent avoiding it? That’s why we don’t want direct advertising, but seeing someone else struggle is the basis of every movie or TV show we’ve ever watched.

4 elements to tell a compelling brand story.

The Greeks invented theatre as a way to separate people from their emotions, so they could watch their pain simulated at a safe distance, and experience the release, or catharsis, that comes from their suffering ending. This “feeling box” has evolved, but it’s most concisely captured in Inception. He talks about how positive motivation is the most powerful way to implant an idea. Reconciliation with an estranged parent is a powerful motivator.

Of course, your motivator may not be THAT powerful, but you’re not in a conceptual sci fi blockbuster either – you’re trying to sell a product.

So put a cipher for your audience at the centre of the story – this can be a previous client, an apocryphal person, or the writer themselves. Explain how they feel, what they want, what they struggle with, and how the product came along and lifted that curse, provided the release from pain, the catharsis. Build up the emotions then release them.

One of the most fundamental examples is an extraordinary proposition for an advert: transform hate into love. Take all the worst parts of something and change them, and the world, for the better. Reframe hate as a seed from which love can grow. Of course, it was Honda.

Hate is one of the most powerful and destructive and upsetting emotions to evoke, and this ad makes it light and airy and constructive and positive. That’s a journey, and that’s what story is. Change.

4. Use Emotional Intelligence To Convert

Consumers make their decisions based on emotion. So all the cool facts in the world won’t matter if you don’t feel it. That’s thanks to something called the Basal Ganglia, which responds to what we feel but only communicates with the GI tract, and is totally disconnected from the rational part of the brain. It’s why we have to feel things.

So what are you waiting for? Start to evoke their emotion now!

My favourite feeling is frisson. A sudden rush of excitement, which also comes with a sense of recognition. How many times have you thought or heard, “I don’t know what I want, but I’ll know when I see it?” That.

By using evoking pain using storytelling, by having a unique perspective on that struggle through your thought leadership, and by providing a solution that is genuinely helpful, nurturing and altruistic, you become the modern equivalent of a spirit guide. The only difference is the language you use.

Which shoe looks more premium to you?

Contrasts that create surprise. These juxtapositions are the essence of a joke. It leads you down a path of expectation and flips it at the end. More on that here.

Be surprising, and you can shake people out of apathy and get them paying attention. There’s nothing worse than having your expectations fulfilled with no imagination.

There’s a totally fake quote out there, that Henry Ford said if he’d have given people what they WANTED, he’d have given them faster horses. That still exists because it’s such a wonderful image for us. But you really can’t ask them what they want and give it to them. There has to be more.

Instead, Ford invented the car. That’s the level of “wow” you should aspire to when revealing the twist in your tale. Your solution should be so beyond the initial crisis that it solves problems people didn’t even know they had. Like how buying a GoPro makes you an elite adventurer by selling you a lifestyle.

Surprise, recognition, frisson.

5. Use Testimonial Or Case Studies

Testimonials, comments and reviews matters!

Reality TV isn’t reality. Documentaries are edited for story. But we LOVE them, and we love them because we get to believe they’re real. As the X-Files told us, we want to believe.

The case study, and even better, the testimonial, are the ‘documentary’ of content marketing. They can be more powerful and more compelling than more general content because they’re written about or by people who already fit the consumer profile for the product.

What your client would talk about you?

What’s more, they storify their struggles and your solutions, making your arguments for you.

The authenticity is immediate and undeniable. Third parties have no reason to shill your product, so they must be responding out of genuine gratitude with a genuine recommendation.

But how do you get the most from them?

When you reach out to get testimonials and reviews, you need to provide prompts that will get your writers “on the rails” – give them a short feedback form. Ask:

Did they like it? What did they like the most?
How do they evaluate your service? Have they used competitors?
Would they recommend the product or service?

Then you can use pull-quotes, like movie posters, from the people who submit feedback.

If you need more control than that, or you work with larger clients who don’t have time to rub your belly in public, you can use case studies of your work on behalf of clients, storifying the process and inputting the hard facts into a classic structure will help you spin thrilling tales of your derring do to your audiences, without it ever feeling like you’re just showing off.

These forms of storytelling can vastly increase the confidence of a prospect on your product or service. After all, people sell to people is the oldest maxim in the marketing handbook.

The Go-Home

Remember, the call to action needs to fit the tone of the piece. You can’t write a beautiful and affecting and genuinely helpful piece of content then put a flashing BuyNow.Gif at the end. It won’t work and it’ll sour the whole experience.

Be helpful, be valuable. Be expert. You will gain trust and respect, which will make converting to sales gentler and easier.

And remember, this is a process. You need to constantly evaluate your content, using A/B testing, Google Analytics and other tools to track how successful your different ideas and approaches are, and make improvements based on data. All of this is just advice, and you still have to find the right way to execute it. I wish you luck.

Had a success story? Put in our comments section below!

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Checklist: Are You Providing What Your Readers Love Reading?

The ultimate checklist for every content marketer.
Learn what makes your readers tick
Get more new readers and traffic with this step-by-step checklist
20 tips included to help you create compelling content that readers love

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