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Resolutions.  There’s nothing better than finishing off a year, so that you can start fresh in a new year.  Every year, I commit to ridding myself of the “junk” drawer (who am I kidding, the junk closet) and every year-end, I’m left wondering where did the time go and why didn’t I tackle that task.  Yet again.

Same goes for certain business tasks.  I know you have a list.  We all do.  We came into 2015 intending to knock that list down, and hopefully we’ve crossed off a few items at least, but there are always those things that linger from year to year.

Usually the things we’ve heard we should do, but don’t have a clue where to start.

And so, 2016 is knocking on the door and the list is staring you down.

Don’t sweat it.  Start fresh.  Give yourself a pat on the back for what you have accomplished (I’m certain it’s a lot) and move forward!

If thoughts of marketing, digital marketing and improving your brand’s image online come to mind, I’d like to add a few things to that new-ish list of yours (sorry!).

There are three factors in digital marketing that I’m fairly certain you’re not doing.  How do I know this?  Because I talk to a lot of you, and I take notes (lots of them!) and I listen and I reflect, and in many cases, after a bit of digging on my part, you’ve told me you’re not doing these things.

As my daughter would say “That is A-Ok.”  That’s why people such as myself exist.  We worry about all that “stuff” so you don’t have to.  But if you’d like to know what I’ll be circling you and your team back to in the coming year, I’m happy to share!

Here’s my list of three digital marketing steps that you didn’t do in 2015 (but should in 2016):

Listening to what the Search Engines Are Trying to Tell You

SEO CloudSometimes SEO gets a bad rap. Sometimes this is deserved. But often it’s not. Many of you are at least thinking about search engine optimization. Wondering how to target those coveted keywords. Wondering how your brand is stacking up against your competitors in online search.

This is wonderful. But …

Before you go too far into the Great Unknown. I’d ask you to consider whether you’ve addressed Steps One and Two of search optimization.  Kind of like Thing One and Thing Two. Only not as cheeky.

Step One – Is your site registered with Webmaster Tools? Both Google and Bing have webmaster tools available online, and free to you! They allow you to review how your site is doing in the eyes of said search engine. For example, GWT will tell you how many pages are being indexed by Google, over time, and insights into top keywords used on your site as found and categorized by Google’s crawler. These are things you want to know, right?

Remember keywords and content are nice, important even, but how your site performs (load times, responsiveness, and such) are important factors as well.  I don’t believe in crafting your online brand solely with SEO in mind, but  if it matters to Google and Bing, it definitely deserves some thought on your part. 

Suggested reading: This overview from Search Engine Watch is an excellent start!

Step Two – Actually utilizing Google Analytics. If they have an active website, with traffic, most of the clients I speak with have Google Analytics installed on their site. However, few are actually doing anything with it. Never mind the more nitty gritty details of integrating with social media or setting goals and advanced tracking data. I find that many business owners install Google Analytics and then forget about it.

Let’s make it a goal for you and your team in 2016, a resolution even, to use Google Analytics. Learn the dashboard, identify basic site usage problems, and get into the digital grove. Because a BIG part of digital marketing is the DATA that we can use to learn about our businesses online!

Suggested reading: Other than Google itself, Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik is THE place to learn all you can about optimizing GA for your site.

Finally Implementing A/B Testing

A/B testingOften referred to in relation to online advertising and email marketing in the 21st century, A/B testing actually has a much longer history (pre-dating much of what we use for marketing tools today).  This is true of much of the theory behind digital marketing and technology, anything worth doing likely has its roots in traditional business practices.  That’s the foundation upon which all good strategy is built (at least if you’re working with me!).

So what exactly is A/B testing and how does it relate to your business?

In Sales and Marketing, A/B testing is the practice of offering two variables on one product to your customers – in the process, “testing” these variants out to see which one of these encourages more sales conversions.

For example, let’s say you are a manufacturer of widgets.  One of your lagging products is called WidgetMaxx.  You might conduct an A/B test by offering two variations of WidgetMaxx – one in red and one in blue.  All other things about the sales of this product would remain static.  You would track sales of the red ones and the blue ones and make an inference about which was more popular based on total sales.  If the red WidgetMaxx sells 1000 units and in the same store with the same advertising the blue WidgetMaxx sells 5000 units, based on the principles of A/B testing you would assume that the blue product is the more favorable one and would produce more of these widgets for your sales team.  Of course other factors might influence this difference in sales numbers (say, for example, your best sales man was assigned to the blue WidgetMaxx).  Therefore, A/B testing is a continuous process, needing to be employed over time and with targeted adjustments to the process as you go along.

 In digital marketing, one place where A/B testing can be easily implemented and just as easily tracked is email marketing.   Let’s say that you are planning your quarterly sales newsletter campaign.  Every campaign comes with a strong, well-thought out email subject line.  What if you tested two variations in your email subject line – to gauge which subject line gets a better open and click through rate from your audience?  The body of the email would remain the same in both, and nothing would be different – except for your subject line.  That’s it.

Let’s say that you normally use a subject line like:

Check out the latest discounts from [Our Company]

That would be email “A.”

Meanwhile, you’ve heard from a friend that they use personalized email subject lines with great success.  You want to try it.  So, your second “B” email subject line might be:

Hi John, have you seen our latest offerings?

You would randomly send email subject line “A” to half of your audience and subject line “B” to the other half.  A 50/50 split.  You would then compare and contrast your campaign results, after

That is A/B testing in its simplest form.

Suggested reading:  Start with some powerhouse brand case studies from Optimizely.

Incorporate Video into Your Content Strategy

Last (but not least) on the list comes video.

Video Drives Search OnlineYouTube is where many people are spending their time online.  Google owns YouTube.  Google drives search.  Great search results are linked to video.

Get the flow there?  Video and marketing and quality digital marketing results have become heavily intertwined in the past two or three years, and it’s only going to grow from there.

This is a facet of my own personal marketing strategy that I’ve let languish on the vine, so don’t feel bad.  But now is the time, my friends.  Time to get serious and get in the game.

According to ReelSEO, videos appear in 55% of Google search results, of these 82% are YouTube videos.

82% of 55% of search results are coming from YouTube.  We don’t have to hold a math session to figure out those numbers.  When you think of the vast number of search results that come through Google, those video numbers are very, very high.  Vine, Vimeo and DailyMotion are all very capable video sites (and Vine can be fun) but they just can’t compete with the numbers that come from YouTube.

Do not panic.  You do not need to compete with the likes of Taylor Swift (or even Stanford University’s Business School) to do well or see results.  Just craft a series of useful videos relevant to your brand and your followers.  You don’t even have to shoot a professional live action video (unless you’re hoping to launch the next big thing since Star Wars).  Many brands and small businesses craft highly engaging and informative videos simply using their laptop and Camtasia (or some other software) which allows them to add audio to a screen capture or recording.  If you plan it right, and think it through, you can get going on a relatively small budget.

Takeaway?  Make a handful of content rich and informative videos on your products or services and upload them to YouTube, post haste, being sure to tag them and identify them appropriately. 

Which means, I’ll be joining you in that process in 2016.  No excuses.

Now go, be merry and get digital!