Posted in Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Research, Startups

Basics of Digital Marketing – Social Media Marketing, SEO, Google Adwords

I started learning about digital marketing while I was still in college. There was  so much to read on the web that I generally got confused as to what should I read and what not. Hence, now as I have gone through the basics of digital marketing and have applied it in many situations here is a capsule of information which will give you a basic understanding of the concepts. This is taken from multiple sources so that it gives the most complete knowledge of the concepts.

Google AdWords –

Google AdWords is Google’s advertising system in which advertisers bid on certain keywords in order for their clickable ads to appear in Google’s search results. Since advertisers have to pay for these clicks, this is how Google makes money from search.

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Basic Process

How to advertise with Google AdWords?

Businesses can advertise on Google by opening a Google AdWords account.

How does AdWords bidding work?

The actual position of your ad is determined by your ad rank (Maximum Bid * Quality Score). The highest ad rank gets the 1st ad position. Your actual CPC (Cost per Click) will be determined by the ad rank of the next highest ad below you divided by your Quality Score. The only exception to this rule is when you are the only bidder or the lowest bid in the AdWords auction; then you pay your maximum bid per click! AdWords bidding heavily penalizes advertisers who bid with low-quality scores. Conversely, those with high-Quality Scores get higher ad ranks and lower CPC.

How many times does a Google auction run?

The auction gets run billions of times each month. The results are such that users find ads that are relevant to what they’re looking for, advertisers connect with potential customers at the lowest possible prices.

How does the Google auction work?

Once a query is made on Google, the search engine processes the request and runs the auction which will then determine the ad positions and each advertiser’s CPC.

How do you enter a Google auction?

Your ads are eligible to be entered into an auction whenever you’re bidding on keywords relevant to the user’s search query. Your bids, Quality Score, and relevance will come into play in determining whether your ad qualifies to display on the SERP (Search Engine Result Page).

What gets entered into a Google auction?

Once advertisers identify keywords they want to bid on, Google then enters the keyword from your account that it deems most relevant into the auction with the maximum bid you’ve specified as well as the associated ad.

What is CPC?

CPC, or cost per click, is the amount an advertiser pays each time someone clicks on their AdWords ad.

How does CPC work?

Your CPC is determined by the competitiveness of your keywords, your maximum bids, and your Quality Scores.

What is the average cost per click?

The average amount you spend each time a searcher click on your advertisement.

What is Google Quality Score?

This is a metric Google uses to determine how relevant and useful your ad is to the user, based primarily on your ad’s CTR, keyword relevance, and the quality of your landing page. The higher your Quality Score, the better: high-Quality Score keywords will save you money and earn you better ad rankings.

How does Google determine what you pay?

The price paid by the advertiser is determined by a number of clicks that the company’s advertisement receives.

What is Google ad rank?

Google ad rank is the position of the company’s advertisement on the search engine page based on a combination of the company’s maximum bid and quality score.

Ad rank vs. Quality score

The ad rank is more significant to an advertiser because it determines the how high on the page the advertisement will be displayed. Quality score, on the other hand, is determined by the relevance and usefulness to the searcher and is only a portion of the advertisement positioning process.

Quality score vs. CPC

Quality score and CPC are important because they collective determine the positioning of the advertisement on the search engine results page.

What is ad position in AdWords?

Ad position is the position on the search engine page results where the advertisement appears in relation to all of the other advertisements.

What is Actual CPC?

Actual CPC is the amount an advertiser pays each time a searcher clicks on their advertisement; this number varies depending on the other advertisers in the auction and is always lower than the maximum bidding price.

How does AdWords calculate Actual CPC

Actual CPC is determined by dividing the ad rank of the competitor below them (ad rank to hit) by quality score plus $.01.

What are alternative bidding methods?

Alternative bidding methods include CPM and CPA.

What is CPM bidding?

CPM bidding is based on impressions and can be used alongside CPC bidding.

CPC vs. CPM

CPC is the cost for an advertisement based on how many clicks it receives whereas CPM is the cost for an advertisement based on how many impressions it picks up. Both methods can be used simultaneously.

What are AdWords keywords?

Keywords in AdWords are the words and phrases that advertisers bid on, in hopes that their advertisements will appear on the search engine results page (SERP) when people are searching for those products or services. For example, if you are booking doctor appointments online, you might bid on keywords like “Online doctors” and “dentist in Bangalore.” Keyword research is the process of using tools and data to determine which keywords are most likely to drive relevant traffic to your ads and your site.

How does the Google display network work?

The Google Display Network or GDN is a very large network of sites that allow Google to place display advertisements, which reach over 90% of all Internet users! Advertisers generally find that Display Network clicks are less costly than those on the search network. And depending on your targeting methods, the CTR’s can be high and the CPA’s low.

What is an ad group in Google AdWords? How do ad groups work?

An ad group is a container for your AdWords advertisements, keywords, and landing pages. Google tends to reward advertisers who create AdWords campaigns with tightly structured ad groups. It’s important not to dump all your keywords into the same ad group, but to organize your keywords into themes.

What is ad relevance in AdWords?

Ad relevance is a measure of how related the keyword you’re bidding on is to your advertisements as well as how much your keywords match the message of your ads and landing pages. Higher ad and keyword relevance can improve your click-through rates and Quality Scores.

I advertise on Google. How am I doing?

The easiest way to see how you’re doing at Google PPC is to benchmark your PPC performance against similar advertisers in your industry and spend range.

Search Engine Optimization –

Search engine optimization is the act of improving the visibility of your site or page within a search engine results page through organic methods. This can be done by using search keywords within your content so that a search engine can find and display your site faster and with more accuracy. Site authority and your link profile also play a role in your search engine rankings. Some of the factors are

  • Keyword Quality
  • Landing page content
  • Website Backend – title tag and meta description
  • Links in from other websites
  • Social media impact – sharing and buzz about company
  • Cross Linking the website pages deems it relevant

SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience. Optimizing a website may involve editing its content, HTML and associated coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines. Promoting a site to increase the number of backlinks, or inbound links are SEO tactic.

Google offers Google Webmaster Tools, for which an XML Sitemap feed can be created and submitted for free to ensure that all pages are found, especially pages that are not discoverable by automatically following links.

Search engine optimization is the process of optimizing web pages and their content to be easily discoverable by users searching for terms relevant to your website. The term SEO also describes the process of making web pages easier for search engine indexing software, known as “crawlers,” to find, scan, and index.

Why Should You Care About SEO?

Billions of searches are conducted online every single day. This means an immense amount of specific, high-intent traffic.

Many people search for specific products and services with the intent to pay for these things. These searches are known to have commercial intent, meaning they are clearly indicating with their search that they want to buy something you offer.

What Actually Works for Driving Traffic from Search Engines?

It’s important to note that Google is responsible for the majority of the search engine traffic in the world.

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So how does Google determine which pages to return in response to what people search for?

Google’s algorithm is extremely complex, but at a high level:

  • Google is looking for pages that contain high-quality, relevant information relevant to the searcher’s query.
  • Google’s algorithm determines relevance by “crawling” (or reading) your website’s content and evaluating (algorithmically) whether that content is relevant to what the searcher is looking for, based on the keywords it contains and other factors (known as “ranking signals”).
  • Google determines “quality” by a number of means, but a site’s link profile – the number and quality of other websites that link to a page and site as a whole – is among the most important.

Increasingly, additional ranking signals are being evaluated by Google’s algorithm to determine where a site will rank, such as:

  • How people engage with a site (Do they find the information they need and remain on the site, or do they “bounce” back to the search page and click on another link? Or do they just ignore your listing in search results altogether and never click-through?)
  • A site’s loading speed and “mobile friendliness”
  • How much unique content a site has (versus “thin” or duplicated, low-value content)

There are hundreds of ranking factors that Google’s algorithm considers in response to searches, and Google is constantly updating and refining its process to ensure that it delivers the best possible user experience.

Keyword Research & Keyword Targeting Best Practices

The first step in search engine optimization is to determine what you’re actually optimizing for. This means identifying terms people are searching for, also known as “keywords,” that you want your website to rank for in search engines like Google.

There are several key factors to take into account when determining the keywords you want to target on your site:

  • Search Volume – The first factor to consider is how many people are actually searching for a given keyword. The more people there are searching for a keyword, the bigger the potential audience you stand to reach. Conversely, if no one is searching for a keyword, there is no audience available to find your content through search.
  • Relevance – A term may be frequently searched for, but that does not necessarily mean that it is relevant to your prospects. Keyword relevance, or the connection between content on a site and the user’s search query, is a crucial ranking signal.
  • Competition – Keywords with higher search volume can drive significant amounts of traffic, but competition for premium positioning in the search engine results pages can be intense.

Once you’ve taken the time to understand your prospects, have looked at the keywords driving traffic to your competitors and related sites, and have looked at the terms driving traffic to your own site, you need to work to understand which terms you can conceivably rank for and where the best opportunities actually lie.

On-Page Optimization in brief

Once you have your keyword list, the next step is actually implementing your targeted keywords into your site’s content. Each page on your site should be targeting a core term, as well as a “basket” of related terms.

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Let’s look at a few critical, basic on-page elements you’ll want to understand as you think about how to drive search engine traffic to your website:

Title Tags

The title tag is not your page’s primary headline. The headline you see on the page is typically an H1 (or possibly an H2) HTML element. The title tag is what you can see at the very top of your browser, and is populated by your page’s source code in a meta tag:

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Meta Descriptions

While the title tag is effectively your search listing’s headline, the meta description (another meta HTML element that can be updated in your site’s code, but isn’t seen on your actual page) is effectively your site’s additional ad copy. Here’s an example of a real world meta description showing in search results:

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Body Content

The actual content of your page itself is, of course, very importantThat said, Google has been increasingly favoring certain types of content, and as you build out any of the pages on your site, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Thick & Unique Content
  • Engagement
  • “Sharability”

URL Structure

Your site’s URL structure can be important both from a tracking perspective (you can more easily segment data in reports using a segmented, logical URL structure), and a shareability standpoint (shorter, descriptive URLs are easier to copy and paste and tend to get mistakenly cut off less frequently). Again: don’t work to cram in as many keywords as possible; create a short, descriptive URL.

Schema & Markup

Finally, once you have all of the standard on-page elements taken care of, you can consider going a step further and better helping Google (and other search engines, which also recognize schema) to understand your page.

Schema markup does not make your page show up higher in search results (it’s not a ranking factor, currently). It does give your listing some additional “real estate” in the search results, the way ad extensions do for your AdWords ads.

In some search results, if no one else is using schema, you can get a nice advantage in click-through rate by virtue of the fact that your site is showing things like ratings while others don’t. In other search results, where everyone is using schema, having reviews may be “table stakes” and you might be hurting your CTR by omitting them:

 

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing programs usually center on efforts to create content that attracts attention and encourages readers to share it across their social networks. The resulting electronic word of mouth (eWoM) refers to any statement consumers share via the Internet (e.g., websites, social networks, instant messages, news feeds) about an event, product, service, brand or company.

Social media marketing can help with a number of goals, such as:

  • Website traffic
  • Conversions
  • Brand awareness
  • Creating a brand identity and positive brand association
  • Communication and interaction with key audiences
  • Only by establishing your goals can you measure your social media ROI.

Factors to be kept in mind for SMM

Planning – As discussed previously, building a social media marketing plan is essential. Consider keyword research and brainstorm content ideas that will interest your target audience.

Content is King — Consistent with other areas of online marketing, content reigns king when it comes to social media marketing. Make sure you are offering valuable information that your ideal customers will find interesting. Create a variety of content by implementing social media images, videos, and infographics in addition to classic text-based content.

Consistent Brand Image — using social media for marketing enables your business to project your brand image across a variety of different social media platforms. While each platform has its own unique environment and voice, your business’ core identity should stay consistent.

Links — it’s also great to link to outside articles as well. If other sources provide great, valuable information you think your target audience will enjoy, don’t be shy about linking to them. Linking to outside sources improves trust and reliability, and you may even get some links in return.

Track Competitors — it’s always important to keep an eye on competitors—they can provide valuable data for keyword research, where to get industry-related links and other social media marketing insight. If your competitors are using a certain social media marketing technique that seems to be working for them, do the same thing, but do it better!

Measure Success with Analytics —you can’t determine the success of your social media marketing strategies without tracking data.

Various platform for SMM

Facebook’s casual, friendly environment requires an active social media marketing strategy that begins with creating a Facebook Business Fan Page.  You will want to pay careful attention to layout, as the visual component is a key aspect of the Facebook experience. Social media marketing for business pages revolves around furthering your conversation with audiences by posting industry-related articles, images, videos, etc.

Google+ is the new Facebook competitor, and it promotes the same fun, casual atmosphere. On Google+, you can upload and share photos, videos, links, and view all your +1s. Also take advantage of Google+ circles, which allow you to segment your followers into smaller groups, enabling you to share information with some followers while barring others. For example, you might try creating a “super-fan” circle, and share special discounts and exclusive offers only with that group.

Pinterest is the latest in social media marketing trends. Pinterest’s image-centered platform is ideal for retail, but anyone can benefit from using Pinterest for social media purposes.

Pinterest allows small businesses to showcase their own product offerings while also developing their own brand’s personality with some unique pinboards.

Twitter is the social media marketing tool that lets you broadcast your updates across the web. Follow tweeters in your industry or related fields, and you should gain a steady stream of followers in return.

Mix up your official-related tweets about specials, discounts, and news updates with some fun and quirky tweets interspersed.

LinkedIn is one of the more professional social media marketing sites. LinkedIn Groups is a great venue for entering into a professional dialog with people in similar industries and provides a place to share content with like-minded individuals.

YouTube is the number one place for creating video content, with can be an incredibly powerful social media marketing tool. Many businesses try to create video content with the aim of having their video “go viral,” but in reality, those chances are pretty slim.

Reddit, or similar social media platforms such as Stumble Upon or Digg, are ideal for sharing compelling content. With over 2 billion page views a month, Reddit has incredible social media marketing potential, but marketers should be warned that only truly unique, interesting content will be welcomed. Posting on Reddit is playing with fire—submit spams or overtly sales-focused content and your business could get berated by this extremely tech-savvy community.

Using social media in marketing does more than improving site traffic and help businesses reach more customers; it provides a valuable venue for better understanding and learning from your target audiences. Hopefully, this guide has helped you better understand how using social media for marketing can improve your business.

Hope tis helped you in getting the baisc grasp of things. If you think this was beneficial, please share it with your peers who may be interested.

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Startups

4 years of startups learnings culminated

Greatness or nothing

Over last few years I have worked with many start-ups and entrepreneurs. Over a period, I have learned many things which make complete sense but are generally overlooked and start-ups fall in same pitfalls again and again. This is not to say that I am a guru or any better than anyone. But the things mentioned below are just the culmination of thoughts from last few years.

Data is oil

Not knowing about how your users use the product is like driving in dark without brakes and it is not at all cool. Someone said to me “what gets measured gets improved”. Generally, people think that installing google analytics and seeing some numbers is measurement. It goes much beyond it. It’s about knowing what your users are doing on your product and what are the pain points you are solving.

“Trust is good but control is better”

Decisions based on the wrong or half-baked data can be disastrous for the business and kill the business. Start-ups are always full of energy and pumped up, and unrealistic revenue projection can lead to a wrong hiring decision which can kill the business and there are thousands of examples like this.

Hence make sure you measure whatever you do; right from the product usage to the effort people put in, to all the output metrics for the business.

Growth vs Experience

Now you have your data in place and hence you can take the right decision. You come to know that certain features of a product are not showing the expected behavior but you have a growth target. Now generally people get into a dilemma.

I must show growth to a certain set of people, but if I do that new user should go through the broken experience which can lead to a bad experience and restrict growth. Believe me, people have gone behind growth and eventually came back to fixing the consumer experience. So here is your answer.

If you keep spending money on growth while having a bad experience, you have a better chance of winning by putting all your money in a bet with 50% chance of winning.

User Retention

In the new age businesses, all people want to show is the number of website visits, app downloads etc. rather than repeat and paying customers. Given a choice of 10 paying customers and 10000 visits, what would you select? I hope the latter as it is the money which runs the business.

If you agree with above, then why we spend hefty amounts on marketing and acquiring new users on websites and app rather than optimizing the product to retain the users. Closing the gap between the patterns among people who churn and people who don’t will create a lot of impact on the business.

Experiments are key to success

If we stop experimenting, we stop being innovative in finding the solution to the people’s problem and hence we lose out on so many opportunities. Experimentation must become routine as we learn more from our failures than success.

Empowerment

Founders generally want to control everything at the start which is good and helps as no one knows the product and its philosophy better than you. But there comes a time where you should let go and if you don’t you lag in the race and lose out on many things. Hence always prepare a second in command to move up the ladder and make sure that you are running at a decent speed.

Every single person in the team should be involved in growing the company on a weekly basis. Challenge everyone to come up with experiments within their own responsibilities and let them challenges others ideas.

Diversification

Never put all your eggs in one basket. You have developed an awesome product and you are generating good revenues from it. But there is saturation in every market and hence of you don’t diversify at the right time you can be in trouble. Hence having at least 2-3 options in whatever you do will always give you an upper hand.

Revenues are validation

If somebody is paying you means they are finding the value in you and this is the biggest validation of what you are doing. This makes the business sustainable in long term. If you only focus on growth you may end up becoming a billion-dollar company but in the real-world valuations are nothing and revenues are everything and hence you should have revenue model from day one. If your users don’t want to pay from what you should offer, then either you are targeting wrong customers or the business is not sustainable.

Customer Support is the key

Generally, start-ups believe in acquiring new customers but in a way, do not focus much on the existing one if the product is very easy and do not require support. The one who build the product always finds it easy but that may not be the case. Some of the start-ups who have grown substantially are the ones who always focussed on customer experience.

In a cut-throat, competitive market, it’s the experience that makes your growth exponential but all you need is patience which every one of us lacks.

It’s ok if you don’t know something

The know it all attitude is something which is common in most new generation entrepreneurs. At times, it may be necessary to pretend that things are working but never lie. Truth can be ugly sometimes but in long-term, it will always help.

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Startups

Why Entrepreneurship has become a style statement but it shouldn’t be…

entrepreneurThe word Entrepreneurship has changed its meaning in the recent times. From few entrepreneurs in traditional business to many of them in new age business. I think entrepreneurship is in vogue  because of a few factors:

  1. It’s been glamorized.
    IPL glamorize cricket and similarly movies, media coverage and platforms to massage one’s ego glamorized the field of entrepreneurship. The rise in the number of young billionaires starting from Mark Zuckerberg to Bansal and Goyal’s changing the way industry works sound pretty awesome, isn’t it?
  2. Entry barriers have greatly reduced
    Easy access to capital from VC’s and Angels, start-up and networking events, the rise of the smartphone population and increase in the user appetite for experimentation and ease has greatly reduced the entry problems in the business world.

There are books, articles, blogs written on what are the steps to become next Elon Musk. Also, the rise in a number of incubators and co-working spaces which give a cost-effective way to start and hence further reduce the entry barrier.

Today to prototype and test an idea it is very easy. Platforms like WordPress, Magento gives you all the basic work done. You just need to carry out the idea and move on.

The risk used to be a big reason to stop people from entering this field has been mitigated with many people sharing the load together.

  1. There are a great number of success stories (Selection Bias)
    Facebook, Instagram, Groupon, Ola, Flipkart etc now dominate our day-to-day life and their success is enough to push people towards this field. They’re a plethora of stories we can tell that glamorizes entrepreneurship and inspire ourselves and others that entrepreneurship ‘doesn’t look that hard.’ The stories we’re exposed to seem to make the recipe for success seem effortless.But no one tells us the other side of the story.
    Just add Uber in your idea as Uber of X, with a bit of funding and incubator and here you are on a journey to become next Steve Jobs.

Unfortunately, entrepreneurship has been commoditized which was once a rare possession one could boast of. Wannabe entrepreneurs think they just need an app and a website get a funding and then sell themselves off. If we are starting with this mindset are we building a long-term business?

People seem to miss the true meaning of entrepreneurship. It has to be more challenging, taking risks, solving a true problem and build a sustainable business. Yet today anyone will learn coding start something, we have turned it into a commonplace and not something original and creative.

We hear only good things about start-ups and we forget to understand that it’s a choice bias as only 1 in thousand start-ups is successful. The other 999 do not see the light as they don’t make the stories which sell.start-ups and we forget to understand that it’s a choice bias as only 1 in thousand start-ups is successful. The other 999 do not see the light as they don’t make the stories which sell.

The dark side of entreprenureship

As a result, people have a rosy picture that everyone becoming an entrepreneur are succeeding and getting millions . This leads people to assume that start-ups are easier than they are and that if you just worked hard, you could become rich and famous. It’s kind of like why people want to become successful movie stars. But trust me, it’s not.