The skills we teach deliver real ROI.

December 2014 archive

Who is Using Social Media?

This content was originally posted on

If you’re feeling conflicted these days by reports of who is and who isn’t using which social media networks, then you’re not alone. Just this past year, we heard that all teenage users had left Facebook for Snapchat, and that the biggest rise in social media users came from the animal world – that’s right, people making pages for their pets. We’re not kidding.

So we decided to cut through the noise and decipher where social media users are hanging their virtual hats these days, in hopes of helping you publish more relevant, engaging content to your online communities.

Social media fact: users ages 25-34 dominate most networks.


When it comes to daily teen users, Facebook still has more than any other social network (BI Intelligence). However, users age 25-34 are the highest, and U.S. women are more likely to use this platform than men.


Agile Marketing: Sprint Two

Our second sprint was a mixed bag of challenges and successes.

We faced our first major obstacle: how to account for holidays. 

Going into the end of the year holidays, the group decided to try our hand at a two-week sprint. We typically function in one-week iterations, or sprints as they are called in Agile, but with half our team out the week of 12/22/2014, it made sense to try and plan up front. The idea was to estimate and set all of our tasks for the week of 12/15/2014 and 12/22/2014, so that it would be easier for team members to walk in the door on the second week and be off to the races. This made sense considering Christmas falls on a Thursday, so our office would only be open for two days that week.

This is all very logical on the surface and we were marginally successful. However, what we didn’t account for was that we were attempting to make changes to our processes with a large portion of our team out…not the best way to implement change.

Retrospective lessons learned are adding value

But while we faced challenges, we were also improving as a team. One thing we are already starting to see is that our weekly retrospectives are already adding value. By sharing what we liked, didn’t like, what we need and what we’d like to see changed each week, we are adapting to this Agile marketing transition a lot faster than I would have thought.

For instance, our sprint one retrospective brought to light that we needed a review column and a few other changes to our task board. I personally had created the task board we used for sprint one, and as is typical for me, I cut a few corners on things that I thought were unnecessary to try and keep change to a minimum. Having all sat through the same training with a more traditional task board than the one I made, it was clear in the retrospective that there were value in a few of the things I cut. With just a few lines drawn on the whiteboard, we implemented those changes in sprint two and are before it. It was great to see how easy change could be, and more importantly, how open the team was to it. Since the retrospective is done as a group, all team members openly discussed the changes before they went into effect thus giving them more ownership of them. Instead of dragging their feet, people embraced the changes.

Agile MarketingAgile marketing helps empower your team

The other really great thing from this sprint was how it empowered team members. With folks being out, other team members stepped up to facilitate the daily stand-up meetings. The group that was in the office self-organized and got to work. They looked at where items stood and used the business priorities that we have set as a group to take on our project backlog.

While we have always done this well as a team, it was exciting to see that we now had a process that helped to breed this mentality. It is no longer just an intangible thing that just kind of happens, but is instead a repeatable way of functioning as a team.

Hyper-productivity continues

According to our task board, 497 points worth of tasks were completed. A point in this case, comes from the relative estimating process in Agile, called Planning Poker. To give you an idea, a one-point task from this first sprint was to update pricing on one of our course pages (which equates to a code update on 4 total web pages). Being relative, the value of one point is relative among team members and could be different for different teams. The real value of these points comes in using the points as a way to estimate what can be done for a team in any one sprint.

So for now, until we have more data to go by, we can now say that in a given sprint, our team can complete 497 points of work. What’s great about this system is it automatically takes into account weekly meetings, lunch, bathroom breaks, general social time, etc. because it is not looking at things at a micro level of hour or day. It looks at the team as a whole for the entire sprint.

I continue to be excited by our transition to Agile marketing, and with 2015 only days away, I’m looking forward to the new year.

Content Marketing Campaign of the Week: WestJet’s Christmas Miracle – Spirit of Giving

In the spirit of it being a few days from Christmas, I figured I’d give the update of yet another content marketing gem from WestJet. Earlier this month I detailed how in 2013 WestJet surprised passengers in Canada with their WestJet Christmas Miracle:  Real-Time Giving. This year they took their Real-Time Giving campaign and surpassed it with WestJet Christmas Miracle:  Spirit of Giving.

As you can imagine, the Spirit of Giving goes beyond the Western expectations of Christmas presents and surprises WestJet accomplished last year during a cross-country flight. In this year’s surprise, WestJet travelled to the Dominican Republic. They set up a sleigh in what looks like a run-down town and asked each person who came aboard what they wanted. While not a surprise for viewers if they’ve seen the previous WestJet campaign, the surprise was emotional for the Dominicans in that town.

What is interesting to see is the difference of what people ask for between the Canadian version and the Dominican Republic version. It’s not surprising when you think about it; while the Canadian wish list was just that – things they don’t need but want in their life for pleasure – the Dominican wish list included what many people would say are needs:  a crib for a baby, washing machine, motor to run the taxi and earn a living. Even the kids ask for simple toys like a skateboard and a doll.

Not only was it presents for all, with bins for every family, they gave those kids a snowball fight! WestJet created an experience for this small town with a Christmas tree and fireworks too. And if you didn’t have watery eyes before, then they reveal the new town playground to kids who looked like they’d never seen a slide before.

Simply put, in the spirit of giving, WestJet earned a lot of goodwill with delving out presents that allow people to earn a living and truly enrich their lives.

But back to the return on investment.

Although it’s not a completely new idea, this content marketing campaign capitalizes on what was successful previously and adds more. (Talk about a great example of an Agile Marketing iteration!). Last year’s video had more than 37 million views, and garnered 13 million by Christmas. It’s been about two weeks since The Spirit of Giving video was released and it’s statistically behind its predecessor with only 2.8 million views. Is the disparity because it took place in the Dominican which is a destination for the carrier instead of a hub or routine flight? Is it because in Canada, every person in that airport had their smartphone recording and shared it with everyone they knew? I don’t know.

I’m doubtful this campaign will reach the same magnitude, but it’s still a win in the content marketing campaign of the week for me. Why? WestJet is generating views, they’re continuing a tradition that customers and viewers will come back for because it’s memorable, and they are definitely earning a positive brand reputation. Plus, anything that makes you cry in a good way is going to win.

So, if you’re reading this on your iPad (version one – gasp) or Galaxy 4, and were thinking how much you wanted the newest version this holiday season, maybe think about how nice it was to have a playground when you were a kid and get to that true meaning of Christmas mindset. And remember, tis better to give than it is to receive.

Happy holidays y’all!

Tips for Advertising on Facebook

Advertising on FacebookGoogle is not the only game in town when it comes to advertising.  Facebook has a viable platform for advertising considering it’s user base is well over 1 billion people.  Before you jump on this platform with your advertising dollars, consider some of these tips for advertising on Facebook.

Drive leads to your website….

There are multiple options for advertising on Facebook and a common goal for advertisers is to drive leads to their websites.  They want users to learn more about their brand and the website is the place to do that.  Simple ads for driving website traffic are seen on the right column.  Advertisers choose the title, description, and URL to display.  Another option for website traffic is the promoted post which has more options for display, including the user’s news feed and mobile devices.  When the ad runs in the newsfeed, it can include a large image that will help get the user’s attention.  In addition to your picture and a URL, remember to give them a reason to visit your website from the Facebook ad.

… or not

If driving leads to your website is not your goal of a Facebook ad, that is okay.  You may prefer to gain more likes on your page or more engagement with your page.  Know what your goals of a Facebook campaign are before you create your ads.


Google Analytics for Mobile Apps


After a mobile app is developed, the next steps include marketing to find users, learning about the users who use it, and how they navigate it.  It is also important to find the most valuable users in terms of revenue and other conversion metrics.  With analytics tracking code in the app, owners can collect data on users and sessions.  Analytics reports accessed within AdMob – another Google product – make it easy for mobile app developers to measure performance.

Generating Revenue

One goal for many app developers is generating revenue with their app.  A common method comes in the form of paid downloads which charge a one-time fee.  Many developers use the strategy of a freemium model so users can test features before paying for the premium version.  They could also sell through in-app purchases or in the real world through traditional e-commerce.  Revenue can also be generated by display ads for other apps, often in the form of a small banner along the bottom of screen or by displaying a full screen when the app is first opened.  Although this second option offers a very visual way of getting the user’s attention, it can disrupt experience.  It is okay to try multiple revenue models and use analytics to see which one works the best.


Top 10 Google Algorithm Changes of 2014

Ever year Google changes its search algorithm around 600 times. Does that mean that every time there’s a change you need to panic and re-do all of your SEO? Absolutely not. Most of these changes are minor and you will never see their affect on your site. However, there are normally a couple major updates a year that might affect some sites significantly. It’s because of these updates that the SEO has become more of a strategic position rather than a tactical position. The SEO must learn to anticipate Google’s next moves. In order to understand how the algorithm might change in the future, the SEO first needs to understand what it looks like right now.

Here is a list of the top 10 Google algorithm changes from 2014 that had the biggest impact on search:

1.  Panda 4.1 (SEO) — September, 2014

Google announced a significant Panda update, which included an algorithmic component. They estimated the impact at 3-5% of queries affected. Google said this is friendly to smaller sites, “greater diversity of high-quality small- and medium-sized sites ranking higher,”

2.  Adwords Callouts Addition – (PPC) September, 2014

The callout ad extension lets you include additional text with your search ads that provide detailed information about your business, including products and services you offer.

Callouts appear in ads at the top and bottom of Google search results. You can add callouts when you create your campaign. You can edit your descriptive text, and see how ads that contain callouts perform in the Ad extensions tab.

3. Authorship Removed (SEO) — August, 2014

Following up on the June 28th drop of authorship photos, Google announced that they would be completely removing authorship markup (and would no longer process it). By the next morning, authorship bylines had disappeared from all SERPs.

4.  HTTPS/SSL Update (SEO) — August, 2014

After months of speculation, Google announced that they would be giving preference to secure sites, and that adding encryption would provide a “lightweight” rankings boost.

They stressed that this boost would start out small, but implied it might increase if the changed proved to be positive.

5.  Pigeon (SEO) — July, 2014

Local Listing Packs: One of the major changes noticed is a significant reduction in the number of queries which include a local listing pack on search engine results pages (SERPs).

6. Extensions affecting Quality Score (PPC) – July 2014

As a result of the changes (and success of extensions), the new algorithm adds a new ingredient into the pot. Google AdWords Ad Rank Algorithm will now be based on:

Maximum bid x Quality score + extension experience = your Ad Rank.

7.  Payday Loan 3.0 (SEO) — June, 2014

Official statements suggested that 2.0 targeted specific sites, while 3.0 targeted spammy queries.

8.  Google Shopping Campaigns Live (PPC) – February, 2014

On February 18th, Google announced that Shopping campaigns are officially out of beta and available to all advertisers around the world. The new campaign type provides a more retail centric way of targeting products, more robust reporting, and competitive insights.

9.  Advanced Conversion Reporting (PPC) – February, 2014

At the end of February, you should have noticed a few new terms in your Adwords account. What was the conversions (one-per-click) and conversions (many-per-click) columns got replaced with converted clicks and conversions columns. This new way of counting conversions gives businesses the flexibility they need to report on what matters to them.

10.  New Ad Formats  (PPC) – July 2014

There are now new ad formats for Trueview on the AdMob network as well as new anchor ad formats for mobile devices.

Mobile-Friendly Label Comes to Google Search Results

For the past few years, Google has been promising to deliver SEO ranking signals to websites that offer up a mobile-friendly experience. While this behind-the-scenes work has given us indications that this is in fact correct, it isn’t until now that we can physically see mobile-friendly websites become the benefactors of Google’s mobile search algorithm.

Google’s Latest Influence on Mobile Search

It used to be that mobile search users were left to their own devices when it came to finding a website that was actually functional (that is, no zooming/pinching needed, no scrolling left to right required to read text, etc.). This no doubt led to increased bounce rates for websites that were not optimized for mobile, abandoned shopping carts from frustrated customers, and an overall poor user experience.

Fortunately, Google is seeking to improve the situation with the introduction of mobile-friendly labels for its mobile search results. By assigning the label to eligible websites, Google helps searchers quickly identify sites that are designed with the mobile user in mind.

Mobile Friendly Search Results

To be eligible for a mobile-friendly label, websites must meet certain criteria. According to Google, this includes:

  • Avoiding software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
  • Using text that is readable without zooming
  • Sizing content to the screen, so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  • Placing links far enough apart, so that the correct one can be easily tapped

What does this mean for websites already designed for mobile? It means checking for inconsistencies with the criteria above, and accounting for them when making edits to mobile sites. For websites that are not configured for mobile devices, there has never been a better time to make the update.

Earning the mobile-friendly label is going to be an important step for websites that want to stand out in a sea of search results pages and enjoy a share of the increasing mobile search volume, which is expected to surpass desktop by 2015.

Strategies for Using Google Plus

Google PlusMy initial “strategy” with Google Plus was to ignore it with the hopes of it going away.  I was already managing my business and client accounts on the big ones – Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn – and did not like the idea of yet one more channel.  As of now though, it does not seem that Google Plus will simply go away.  It may be more than a short-term trend that all brands need to pay attention to.  After all, it is owned by the search giant so I finally realized it may be time to pay work with this channel a bit.  If you too have decided it may not be a channel you can ignore anymore, here are some tips for getting started with Google Plus.

Set Up a Personal Profile

Once you have a Google Account, you can setup your Google Plus profile.  When you setup your profile, use the photo that you have in other places so you are easily recognized online.  For example, if you already have Twitter account that you use professionally, use the same picture on Google Plus that you use on Twitter.  Fill out everything requested on the Google Plus profile page, especially the tagline as it is used in your profile’s meta description.  Also take the time for a complete introduction since this is a good first impression and explains what you are about.  People are less likely to follow an incomplete profile because they do not know anything about the user.

Set Up a Business Page


Agile Marketing: Week One…Sprint One

Agile Marketing Task Board


In a previous post, I wrote about our marketing team’s transition to Agile Marketing and what we hoped to achieve. As part of the retrospective process in Agile marketing, we will continue to post about how things are going…so here goes.

Week one in Agile marketing, our first sprint, was incredibly eye opening. There was very little left in our first sprint’s backlog or in our blocked column. We were hyper-productive. It will be interesting to see how next week’s holiday vacations impact our productivity.

What was really exciting was that it was clear this week that the team is bought in to this Agile marketing transition. Our designer was correcting people’s Agile terminology, when they slipped into old habits and we had people correct each other when individual focuses were allowed to trump the team’s focus. To explain, the statement, “I have all of my tasks done for the week. Should I move to stuff for next week?” was responded to with “Well what’s the next most important thing for the team tackle?” It was exciting to see the team come together and start putting the team’s collective need over their own individual need.

Another exciting development was others outside the department took notice. They would come over and look at our task board to see what we were working on or where things stood. We weren’t even through our first sprint and our transparency was already improving with stakeholders.

All in all, week one, sprint one, was a success.

One of the keys to our success was that we didn’t get caught up in trying to tackle everything right off the bat. We continued to use our normal one-week focus as our sprint length, even though traditionally teams use two-weeks. This helps us minimize the change we were taking on from the start. We will be attempting a two-week sprint next week because of the holidays, so we will see how that works out.

Another thing that contributed to our success was that we jumped right in. Monday morning the team came into a task board setup with that week’s tasks and we got to work. We definitely cut some corners, we never had an estimating session and we didn’t get all of our daily stand-ups in, but we did however keep our momentum from class. We also had our first retrospective after this week’s work, which was exciting. We talked through some of this week’s positives and negatives as a group and we will be incorporating some of that feedback into next week’s sprint.

The team is off to a great start, but we face an interesting challenge next week in much of the team being out for Christmas and New Year’s vacations. Hopefully we can stay on pace, but I’m excited by the value we’ve shown in just the first week.

Google AdWords for Local Business

Google AdWords

Google AdWords gives you a broad reach of potential customers for your business.  You can advertise to prospects around the world which can be powerful for an online retailer or service provider.  However, there are some businesses who want to reach only people in their county, or maybe even their zip code, and as a result need a more targeted strategy.  With these tips, they can maximize their budget for local business only.

Target by Location

With Google AdWords, you can be granular in your choice of location where your ads are displayed.  Select the county or zip code of the area you want to serve so you are not paying for clicks from people who are not potential customers.  It can also be helpful to exclude locations you specifically do not want to serve.

Include Location in the Ad

Your ad can catch the eye of the searcher if your location, such as your city, is also one of the keywords used in the ad.  Someone in Tampa could land on an ad that highlights “10 years of local experience”.  What would be more appealing is “10 years of Tampa experience”.  Although that essentially says the same thing, use of the city name in the ad is another signal that you have what they need in their community.