How was the year 2014 for you?
2015 has just begun and now is the best time to rewind and take a look at your business’s journey through 2014. You can identify what strategies worked well for your business and the mistakes you made (But should have stayed away from).
This is also the right time to set some New Year’s resolutions that you would like to accomplish before the year ends!!
I asked a couple of well-known industry leaders two questions:
- What is your best learning from 2014?
- What are your resolutions in 2015?
Their learnings and resolutions make an interesting read. Go ahead and take a look:
My experience in 2014 has shown me that no matter what happens, there is always a new and unique tactic that we can find to help us grow our businesses.
One such tactic is the “content upgrade”, this has grown in popularity throughout 2014 and has proven itself to be the most effective way to build an email list.
Instead of their having to be several touch points before a visitor eventually subscribes to your email list, a significant amount can be compelled to sign up straight away simply by offering an exclusive piece of content in exchange for an email address within a blog post.
This can be a checklist, cheat sheet, PDF with bonus advice not featured in the post or just a straight up PDF version of the original post.
Whatever it is, when you make it easy for readers to access it and make calls to action prominent, you can get incredible results.
For an example of this tactic in action, see this post. In the post I have several calls to action and use LeadPages to deliver post specific bonuses directly via email.
Brian Dean found that by using this tactic, he was able to boost his conversions by 529%.
Due to working on a number of time consuming projects, I’ve neglected looking into new promotional strategies. That will be my main focus throughout 2015 and through this, my goal is to double traffic and increase email sign up conversions across my two main sites.
Despite Google’s best efforts, “blackhat” techniques still work and you will likely have to compete against them. Google’s Pigeon update helped a lot of spammy sites, fake addresses, etc. rank well in the local pack results. Press release links still seem to work. SEO companies preaching “real” marketing tactics are still supplementing them with surreal marketing tactics. Spinning service area pages is still around.
Do the right things, of course; but don’t confuse doing the right things with what Google tells you are the right things to do. (Particularly when this kind of thing works.)
As I said in my 2015 Local SEO Predictions post, I am going to publish on my blog more often this year. I got my start in the SEO industry sharing information about my SEO experiences and that paid off really well. In the interim, my consulting business grew and I had less and less time to experiment, think and write. That was what made this industry fun for me and helped me learn. Time to get back to my SEO roots!
When it comes to website traffic, the 80/20 rule is alive and well. In a site with 12,000 articles in it (the site is more than a decade old), about 2,500 articles or 20% account for 80% of the traffic — through search engines, other direct referrals, social media, etc. After that it really drops off fast. The rest are very very long-tail pages.
Interestingly, though, it’s not a case of new versus old. Analyzing traffic analytics shows that page popularity relates more to giving visitors helpful information that they can actually use. Even older articles (sometimes 5, 6, 7 years old) can still be incredibly popular, if they are helpful and on an evergreen topic. We always knew that traffic analytics were important, but in 2014 we kicked our analysis up a notch and it really paid off. We regularly now reverse-engineer our popular articles to see what worked best.
We also measure it over a period of a year, two and three — not just a month or two. That gives a more accurate picture of the long term. We try not to obsess over social sharing, either. An article can have thousands of social shares, but be a “flash in the pan” and popular only for 90 days. Whereas, another article may not be particularly popular as measured by social media shares, but remain incredibly popular for years.
Focus more effort on studying and analyzing traffic sources — and understanding Google Analytics better. That might sound obvious, but we’ve found that we tended to make very shallow use of our Analytics — and I suspect many site owners make the same mistakes we did. We didn’t set up our Analytics precisely enough to do deep dives and really slice and dice the data. We didn’t look at the data long enough or frequently enough. In a couple of case, we set things up wrong and were actually understating our traffic because of the way we set up Analytics for certain parts of the site (or didn’t).
Pay less attention to social sharing counts. Social sharing confuses the picture. What’s popular on social media doesn’t necessarily translate into long-term success. And with social media getting saturated, it doesn’t deliver the “big wins” of 2 or 3 years ago, in terms of driving traffic. Don’t get me wrong. Social media is still important for customer engagement, for brand visibility and so on. We just will place less emphasis on shares in 2015 as a measure of success.
The best learning I took from 2014 was from the latest iteration of Penguin. Penguin is now able to target individual pages and is much more aggressive as it is able to do this, instead of wiping out entire websites.
Aside from Penguin, the other best learning I took from 2014 was the importance of correct and up to date sitemaps with working canonical tags in place. Your website has to be fit for purpose otherwise it will not perform.
Continue to ensure that all websites are technically sound, useful to the user and deliver a pleasant journey to the end product. These things are the most important factors to begin with, without it; your online story will suffer. This includes mobile journeys too as the importance of mobile is becoming larger and larger as Google continues to refine how it handles mobile queries and SERPs.
2014 was a huge year in a lot of ways, but one lesson that really stands out is the value of professional networking. I really focused on building my LinkedIn network this year and saw great results – 4x increased traffic from LinkedIn to WordStream’s website, hundreds of new endorsements each week, and tens of thousands of view on content published straight to LinkedIn. The combined power of PR, publishing and marketing on LinkedIn has proven incredibly valuable for my business and professional online presence.
Google tests and adds so many new AdWords features each year, I resolve each January to just stay on top of them. We have access to a massive amount of data through our PPC analysis tools at WordStream and can get a really high-level view of which AdWords features and functions are most effective. There are big advantages for first-adopter marketers; those who can use the lesser known AdWords features to get a leg up on their competition. This year, I plan to continue evaluating AdWords updates as they become available so we can share informed advice and tips with WordStream’s clients and readers. Also, I posted a few other resolutions here.
My best learning from 2014 was to get back to the basics. I tried doing a lot of unique content marketing campaigns such as quizzes and animated graphics, but none of them worked as well as the basics. The basics being just producing good content and sharing it with the world.
Quizzes and animated graphics do well, but the cost to produce them is extremely high compared to the results.
As for my 2015 resolution, it’s to build up my personal blog, NeilPatel.com/blog to over 100,000 unique visitors a month.
I’d say my main takeaway from 2014 is to always think months to years in advance. In previous years, there were a lot of hear and now tactics that SEOs could implemented for quick wins. My personal clients always wanted something to happen “now”. Any Full-time positions I took on wanted to go after quick wins before long-term strategy. This was always annoying to me, as it seemed like “lipstick on a pig” so to speak.
Luckily, Google’s algorithmic shifts have weakened a lot of immediate tactics, forcing marketers to look at long term strategies. I think is something a lot of people in the industry are having a hard time accepting. In the end, we’ll have to start focusing efforts in this way to keep going and I think we’ll all see more benefits as a result.
As for my 2015 resolution, I really want to focus on more bottom of the funnel tactics. I’ve only recently realized how gigantic the benefit is from focusing on customer retention. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and am excited to learn more about.
I think I learned a few big things in 2014, but not all of them are marketing related. Here’s a brief sample:
- The cost of communication and organizational friction is such that larger organizations often cannot accomplish as much (or do things as well) as smaller organizations. For every entrepreneur or marketer who wonders whether you can “beat the big guys” the answer is yes — it’s just a matter of exploiting your strength over their weaknesses.
- Rankings continue to matter more and more for SEO, despite my sense a few years back that they were on the way out. I think this is largely due to the continuing trend of data loss from (not provided) and from increasing search referrals showing as “direct” traffic and thus being impossible to attribute properly.
- In marketing, many times correlation is as important as or more important than causation. Understanding the inputs to complex systems or the factors that successful people/sites/rankings/accounts have that less successful ones don’t have is incredibly enlightening.
- Blog more.
- Focus on things I can control rather than worrying about things I cannot.
- Try a 3-day fast, as per http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/10878625/Fasting-for-three-days-can-regenerate-entire-immune-system-study-finds.html
What I’ve learned most in 2014 is that you can’t stop innovating. Content wise it’s easy to stick to regimens of “create infographic and then promote”. It’s the companies who move past that and create real marketing campaigns utilizing several different content types and techniques that will win the day. The ones who stick with basic, overused strategies will become extinct.
I don’t have resolutions, but I do have Q1 goals for 2015. 🙂 My goals include reading 6 books, content creation volume goals for our team, and content quality goals in terms of KPIs they help us and our clients hit (social following, emails, links, traffic, etc).
As always, the lesson is that time is more precious than anything… which means you need to spend it wisely — both personally and business wise.
Don’t spread yourself too thin and make things more complicating for yourself. Only focus your efforts on the end goal and what’s making the most money (or success) for you right now.
For 2015 I will be putting my efforts into less projects, but higher value. This includes my latest project at http://blogging.org, which helps others learn how to start a blog, brand and business of their own. At the same time I will also be expanding the reach of my various other sites and my personal brand. While this may seem simple enough, it’s actually quite complex and keeping focus on these sole projects will be a mission in itself — which makes it a good 2015 resolution! 🙂
I want to thank all the tech leaders for participating in this round-up. I will come up with the 2nd part soon!