Google’s algorithm changes in 2021: What do they mean for your Lancaster business?

Google’s algorithm changes in 2021: What do they mean for your Lancaster business?

As a local business, you may not have time to pay close attention to the goings-on at Google. However, changes in Google’s search engine algorithms can affect businesses across the globe, including mom and pop businesses right here in Lancaster County. If any portion of your new customers find your business via an internet search, then your business can be impacted whenever Google makes a change. In this article we’ll summarize the most important changes in Google’s updates through July 2021.

First – the basics

Why do Google updates matter? They matter because Google’s algorithms control what appears in search results. So, if a local consumer types “hardware store near me” into Google, Google decides whether or not your hardware store’s website appears in the list of results and, if it does appear, how high on the list. Google’s algorithms change over time, so while your hardware store might have appeared at the top of the list earlier this year, it might not appear that high on the list after a Google update. Appearing high on the list of search results is important because most consumers don’t scroll past the first page of search results.

There are two types of Google updates, regular updates and core updates. Regular updates are generally unheralded in the mainstream press and have smaller impacts on specific types of searches. Regular updates happen frequently. An example of a regular update was an April 2021 update for search results for product reviews. That type of update would only affect sites that have product reviews, like e-commerce sites. Google also regularly does spam updates to attempt to keep junk websites from appearing in searches. Google also rolled out a page experience update in June, more on that below.

The other type of update is a core update. Core updates only happen a few times a year. Core updates are broad in scope and affect most types of searches. An important Google blog post about core updates can be found here and it is definitely worth a read. As Google explains in that blog post, their focus is on high quality, original, trustworthy content when determining which sites will outrank other sites in search. Google is continually assessing the content of every website in the world to determine if it is relevant, valuable, and useful to searchers. In Google’s perfect world, every time a user searches for something, Google would provide the perfect website as the first result.

Google uses the acronym E-A-T to summarize how it identifies quality websites: E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness.

• Expertise – Google has different expertise requirements for different types of content. For example, a site that has product reviews from ordinary users can rank highly for expertise since these users, even though they don’t have expert credentials, can be considered experts because they have used the product. However, for YMYL sites (Your Money or Your Life) the standards are higher. YMYL sites are focused on content such as health, news, safety, law, finance, and shopping. Google has higher expectations for YMYL sites and will look for site authors to have relevant credentials.

• Authority – Google assesses your site’s authority by looking for links to your site from other sites, as well as mentions of your site on other sites. If your site’s content is widely cited and shared by other sites that’s an indication to Google that your site has authority.

• Trust – Google assesses trust by noting several attributes on your site, such as: privacy policy, terms of service including refunds and exchanges, clear contact information, product specifications (if applicable), product reviews (if applicable), and positive reviews on other sites.

Overall, if you think about the content on your own site from an E-A-T perspective, you’ll have a clear lens through which to assess whether your site’s content meets Google’s definition of quality.

Because Google is always trying to make search results more relevant for users, it needs to do regular updates to its algorithms. So if your store’s website dropped down in search results after a Google update, it’s because something in your website’s content or metadata is no longer considered by Google to be as relevant to that particular search as it used to be. This is actually a good thing in the long run because the more relevant Google’s search results are to users, the more users will trust Google to provide the right information. This means that when your business’s website appears in a Google search results page, consumers will trust that your business will satisfy the need they searched for. However, as you’ll read as in the paragraphs ahead, Google’s updates don’t always work perfectly or predictably.

The best way to increase the likelihood that your business’s site appears in relevant searches is to pay continual attention to your site’s search performance. This is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). You can read more about SEO here and here. Most small to medium sized businesses do not have the resources for an in-house SEO expert. If this is the case for your business, then you should invest in a shared SEO expert through contracting with a Lancaster County digital agency, such as LNP Media Group. While an SEO expert cannot 100% “future proof” your site against Google algorithm changes, an SEO expert will stay on top of Google algorithm changes and will help your site respond appropriately. This will make your site “future responsive” and help your site achieve and maintain good organic search placement over the years.

What has changed in the 2021 updates?

Google does not directly state the detail of changes in their core updates, but resources like Search Engine Journal and SEM Rush publish articles with observations and information from SEO experts. Reviewing multiple such sources revealed the following list of significant changes and impacts from the 2021 updates.

1. Volatility – Many experts report that there has been significant volatility in search rankings (and thus in traffic generated by searches) after the June and July core updates. Experts have indicated that some sites may have gained traffic after the June core update, only to lose it after the July core update, or vice versa. This is because every update may have unintended consequences in search results which, as they become apparent, may require a correction in a succeeding update. If your site’s organic traffic has experienced a sharp dip or boost, it may be because of this post-update volatility. Consult your local SEO expert to understand the specific factors that may be in play on your site.

2. Certain types of sites were more affected than others – According to SEM Rush, the 2021 Google core updates affected almost all industries. However, some industries were slightly more affected than others. If your business is in an YMYL category, your website is more likely to have experienced search/traffic volatility than other types of sites. Generally speaking, Google is especially cautious about content on health, medical and financial sites because searches that produce links to spammy health, medical or financial sites can have a significant negative impact on users. When just looking at the mobile web, sites that are in the industries of real estate, people/society, and beauty/fitness also experienced increased volatility in search rankings after the core updates. The specific reason behind this mobile web volatility is not yet clear. If your site has been affected on mobile, consult a local digital agency for an SEO consultation.

3. Certain sized sites were more affected than others – Also according to SEM Rush, sites with small to medium sized traffic (500k or fewer views per month) were more affected by the core updates than large sites. This is relevant to Lancaster PA businesses because most businesses in our area will have sites with small to medium amounts of traffic.

4. Sites with common content – Sites that publish content that is readily available on other sites (think song lyrics, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and business directories) may experience more volatility than other types of sites as a result of Google core updates. This is because the identical nature of the content makes it hard for Google to determine which sites should rank higher. Although this should not be an issue for local Pennsylvania business sites, a solution to this issue is to always add unique, relevant, value-added content to any pages that have commonly available content.

5. Product reviews – In April 2021 Google released an update focused on sites with product reviews. In essence, this update aimed to reward sites that have high-quality, relevant product reviews, and aimed to penalize sites with thin product reviews. However, the concept of a “thin” product review does not relate to word count, it relates to quality. Product reviews, ideally, should be written by named authors who have expertise in the products they are reviewing. The reviews should be original, helpful, personal, and insightful. Google’s product review update also penalized sites that over-use affiliate links and a lot of ads on their product review pages. This is because Google has accurately determined that users don’t like being overwhelmed by monetization strategies while they are in an information-gathering phase of their shopping journey. You can read more detail about the product reviews update here.

6. People Also Ask – Have you ever done a search and found, just below the first few results, a box that says “People Also Ask” with several questions underneath, all related to your search? That is Google’s People Also Ask (PAA) feature, which was introduced in 2015 and has currently expanded into over half of search results pages, according to SEM Rush. PAA is Google’s way of refining searches, by letting you see related terms/questions other searchers are using. If you click on a PAA box, it will expand and you’ll see a short answer. Google’s latest core updates continue the expansion of PAA into more searches. Worth noting is that Google has stated that requests from businesses to update/remove information in PAA boxes will take longer than other types of update/removal requests. This is because the PAA results are more “indirectly” sourced. The details on this seem scant, but you (or your SEO expert) should pay attention to PAA results as they relate to your business’s website.

7. Less country code top level domain crowding – Country code domain crowding is when several search results have the same domain name listed multiple times but with different international country code extensions. This can happen when an international company has multiple sites with the same top level domain name, but different country codes such as .ca, .uk, .rs, etc. For local businesses in Lancaster PA, this is not an area of concern, but it’s worth noting that Google’s core updates have made this less of an issue for users overall. Conceivably, this could result in a Lancaster County business’s site moving up on the page because there should be fewer repeated international domains taking multiple positions on the page.

8. The impact of page experience – The page experience update was a regular update that rolled out slowly June through August and is not predicted to have a large impact on search ranking. The main point to note about this update is that while Google pays some attention to user experience when determining rankings, content is more important. If your site is mobile-friendly, loads quickly, is secured (using HTTPS instead of HTTP), and doesn’t have disruptive interstitial ads, then your site most likely qualifies as having a good user experience. Google will use page experience as a tiebreaker when determining how to rank several sites with equivalent content. As always, your local Lancaster SEO expert can help you make changes in these areas if needed.

Closing thoughts

With Google frequently changing how it evaluates and ranks sites, what is a local business owner to do about keeping up with and responding to these changes? The best approach is to keep a consistent focus on providing a great user experience. As a site owner, you need to understand what your users want and then deliver it to them. For example, most users now visit websites via their phones, so making sure that your website offers a great mobile experience is critical. You also need to ensure that your site navigation is clear and that there are no dead end pages (404 errors) to frustrate users. Put the time and effort into populating your site’s pages with useful, honest, clear content that provides value to your users.

And, finally, if this all seems too much to worry about while also running your business, consider contacting LNP Media Group to contract for SEO services. SEO is a long-horizon project and requires expertise with Google’s ever changing rules. SEO does not have a payout within a week, it pays out over the course of six months and longer. But, this long term investment pays off when new customers find your business again and again at the top of a crowded Google search results page.

 

Video Production in Lancaster PA

Video Production in Lancaster PA

If you have a small to medium sized business in Lancaster County PA, or in surrounding counties such as Berks, Dauphin, Chester, York, or Lebanon, you may wonder how to secure high-quality videos for your company’s marketing campaigns. Lancaster is not a large metro area like Philadelphia but it’s still very possible to find affordable video marketing services locally. This guide will walk you through three topics:

1. How to find a local video production agency.
2. What to expect during the video production process.
3. Ways you can leverage video in your marketing.

Step 1 – Find the right Lancaster video production company for your business’s needs

To find a video production company that suits your needs, first develop an initial list of requirements for your video project. Your list may evolve after you have found a video production company, but you need to have a starting place.

Here are some considerations for your initial list of requirements:

  • • Video length: A commonly used video length is a 15 to 30 second spot for pre-roll ads, TV ads, or social media. Another common length is a 2 to 3 minute video for branding or how-to instruction. Of course, videos can be much longer as well. You’ll need to think about where your video will be distributed (see below) and the content of your video.
  • • Distribution: Consider where your video will be distributed, for example, on your website, TV, OTT/CTV, Social Media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, LinkedIn, TikTok, etc). If you want your video to be placed as a pre-roll ad, then you’ll need the services of a digital marketing agency. In this case, working with a video production team that is part of a digital agency will save you time and effort.
  • • Topic: The options for video topics are almost limitless, but here are some common examples: a history or narrative of your company and its brand, a short advertising spot to entice customers to buy a product or service, a how-to video about using your products or services, a training video for onboarding new hires, or a testimonial video from customers who are your company’s fans.
  • • Style: Will the video be taken in a single shot? Or will there be multiple shots that are edited together? Will sound need to be recorded, or will there be music or voice-over added in post-production? Do you need actors? Do you need animation or drone footage? Animation and drone piloting are a very specific skills that not all video companies can provide. Drone pilots are required to be certified and the drone itself must be registered with the FAA. In Pennsylvania, drone pilots need to abide by regulations including no-drone zones, altitude restrictions, no surveillance, and more. So if drone footage is a requirement, make sure to find a video production company that has a properly licensed drone pilot.
  • • Location: Videos can be shot on-site or in the studio. Not all video production companies have their own studio, so if you want your video shot in a studio, you’ll need to inquire about facilities. An on-site video could be shot at your location or at another location such as where your products are services are being used. Because video production companies will need to charge for their travel time to the site, in-studio videos are more affordable than on-site videos.
  • • Budget:  Video is an incredibly valuable format for conveying your business’s marketing message in a way that is engaging and accessible. An inexpensive video can cost as little as $500 for a 30 second promo filmed in the studio. A longer affordable video format is two to three minutes that are filmed on-site at a cost of $3,500 to $5,000. These price points are reasonable given the skills and equipment required for the production of high quality videos. Of course, videos can cost much more if they are longer and more complex.

Now that you have your list of requirements, how do you go about finding a local Lancaster County video company? Here are some ideas to help you with your search:

  • • References:  Ask colleagues in your field if they have had videos made by a local Lancaster video production company. Make sure to ask if they were happy with the work and if they have advice for your video project.
  • • Browse your competition: Take a look at competitors’ websites and marketing campaigns. Do they use video and, if so, do you like what you see? A quick call to the competitor may provide you with information on who produced their videos. The value of using a video production company that has worked for a competitor is that the video team will already be familiar with the types of products and services your company offers.
  • • Search engines: Use Google or your favorite search engine to find local video production companies. Use several different search terms to develop different lists of video production companies. Remember to look past the first page of search results; hidden gems can be found further down the list. Use search terms that include your location, such as “Lancaster County PA video production”, in order to find the most relevant companies. You’ll see ads on search results pages too and some of these may be worth checking out.
  • • Review samples:  Video production companies should have samples of their work included on their websites. Take a look at those samples and see if the style and content match up with your needs.

Step 2 – What to expect in the video production process

You’ve found your ideal video production agency and you are ready to start work. What does the video production process look like? This handy guide breaks down the steps, so that you’ll have an idea of what to expect as you get started.

PLANNING

The first phase, naturally, is the planning phase. You should expect to meet with your video agency team members to discuss key points such as:

  • • Audience Profile: The video team will need to know the audience you are trying to reach. The first question will be whether you are trying to reach consumers (B2C) or businesses (B2B). If you are trying to reach consumers, who are they? Retirees? Young parents? Home repair do-it-yourselfers? Fashionistas? If your video will be viewed by other businesses, who are they? Firms in need of legal advice? Companies that need construction services? Manufacturers who need safety compliance consulting? Knowing the audience will help your video team point the project in the right direction.
  • • Brand position: In addition to defining your audience you also need to define your brand. Is your brand identity young and edgy? Is it down-home and comfortable? Does your brand identity include professional certifications or expertise? Is your brand a market leader or an underdog? Is your brand a bargain or a luxury? And, is your brand satisfied with its current position or does your brand need to develop a new identity? Answers to these questions will help the video team understand the tone they need to achieve in your video.
  • • Content Development: Once you have defined the audience and your brand position, you can brainstorm the content of the video. You’ll work with the video team to decide what will be shot and where, as well as the number of shots and how they would need to be threaded together. You’ll decide if there will be people in the video and, if so, who they are. If you’ll be filming people speaking, then you’ll need to have scripts written; your video team will be able to help with this. You’ll also make choices regarding voice-overs, background music, special effects, drone footage, and text on screen. Your finished video will need to be framed with an intro shot and an exit shot, or possibly an exit screen that has written messaging such as your business’s logo, web address or phone number.
  • • Storyboarding: Once all of the content decisions have been made, the video agency team will create a storyboard. A storyboard is a visual, graphical plan, shot by shot, of how your video will flow. The storyboard proceeds in a linear fashion from intro to end with notes about the action, the script, and production. Once the first draft of your storyboard is completed, consider sharing it with members of your team to get their input before shooting starts. A well-developed storyboard will make production faster and will help avoid costly re-shoots.
  • • Production Planning: After the storyboard has been finalized, you will be ready to make a production plan. This plan will include all the details for the shoot, such as dates, times, locations, equipment, props, scripts, and persons. If you are planning an outdoor shoot, you’ll need to consider the time of day/angle of the sun, so as to get the best opportunity for good natural lighting. You’ll also need to plan for rain dates in case of inclement weather.

PRODUCTION

Once planning is complete the next phase is production. With your storyboard and production plan in place, production should proceed smoothly and includes the following elements:

  • • On-site or in-studio shooting: Shooting on-site involves the video team and their equipment traveling to the specified location for the shoot. To save time, ensure that you have the site all set up and ready for the video team’s arrival. Conversely, shooting in the studio means that you’ll need to transport all of your people and items on the designated time/place.
  • • Directing and filming: Your video production team will direct the action as they film it. Having an experienced team directing the action ensures that the storyboard is followed, so that the end product is what was planned. An experienced director will also help navigate any unforeseen last-minute changes that might occur, such as missing props, missing actors, or a cloudy day.
  • • Photography: Consider contracting with your video production agency to have still photographs taken at the same time as the video is being filmed. Still shots can be used on your website, social media, or in ads. Still photographs will be an additional expense because a photographer will need to take the shots while the videographer does the filming. However, if you’ve gone to all the effort of setting up a great plan and a great setup for a video, having still photographs taken at the same time will maximize the value you’ll receive from your efforts.
  • • Lighting and sound: Your Lancaster video agency will bring appropriate lighting and sound equipment with them, according to the needs outlined in the storyboard and production plan. Professional lighting and sound equipment are essential to producing a high-quality video. You may think you can produce a video yourself just using your iPhone, but there is no comparison of visual and audio quality from an iPhone vs. professional equipment. A top quality video is a long-term investment in your business.
  • • Set design and styling: The video team members will also be able to guide you in the design of the set and overall styling. Styling includes the selection, placement and usage of items such as props, costumes, hair, and makeup. Props can be as simple as notepads, laptops, and coffee cups for a conference room video shoot. Or, they can be as complex as having the right vehicles in the background, or pouring the perfect mug of beer. All of these elements need to be aligned with your brand position and intended audience in order for your video to be a success.

POST-PRODUCTION

The video shoot has been completed and now it’s on to post-production. This phase will take your video agency a week or more to complete and involves the following aspects:

  • • Professional Editing: Your video production team will have more footage than needed for the length of your final video. All of the footage needs to be reviewed and the best footage selected for inclusion in your video. Video footage will be rearranged to match the sequence dictated by the storyboard and transitions will be created between clips. Color corrections, filters, and other enhancements will be applied as needed.
  • • Voice over: If voice over is part of your video, it will generally be during the post-production phase using a professional voice actor. Your video team should be able to provide a resource for voice overs. Once the voice over is recorded, the video production team will sync the voice over to the video, so that they work together seamlessly.
  • • Music: Your video team will be able to guide you with regard to music that is legally allowed to be used in your video. Most music is copyrighted, so you can’t just put your favorite songs as background to the video. The video production team should have access to a library of stock background music, much like stock images. However, this music may have a generic feel that is not the right mood for your video. If that is the case, discuss with the video production team if it’s possible to acquire a license to use a copyrighted piece of music. Another alternative is to work with a local Lancaster County musician who would like to sell their music, or perhaps allow you to use for free it in exchange for a credit at the end of the video.
  • • Graphics and animation: If your video production team is part of a digital agency, they will have artists who can design graphics and slides for your video. Animation is a much more difficult skill to find in the Lancaster area. Animation also tends to be expensive, so discuss this with your video production team to decide if it is truly essential to your project.
  • • Color grading: Color correction, mentioned earlier, involves ensuring that the color in the video matches what was naturally present during filming. Color grading is different and is a creative effort to apply color to create a mood or effect. Your video may or may not need color grading, depending on the goal of your video.

Step 3 – Ways to leverage video in your marketing.

Your video is complete and it’s perfect! But how do you get it in front of your target audience? Ideally, the video production team you selected will be part of a Lancaster digital agency. A local digital agency has the expertise to consult with you to find the most targeted and effective digital channels to distribute your new video. Examples of possible channels include the following:

  • • Websites/Blogs: If your video is a branding or testimonial video, posting it on your own website or blog page is a logical choice. Videos on your site are useful for two main reasons. First, video is an easy way for users to learn about your brand, service, and products. Watching videos quickly conveys information in an engaging fashion that text can’t match. Second, Google favors video content, so posting videos can help with your site’s search engine optimization (SEO). However, to ensure best results from having a video on your site make sure you follow all of Google’s best practices when posting your video.
  • • Social media channels: 15 or 30 second videos are perfect to use in social media. You can post your videos on your social media channels organically or you can get extra value out of your video investment through a paid social media marketing campaign. Facebook and other social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter provide options for targeting your desired audience by demographics, hobbies, location, behaviors, and more. Your Lancaster County digital marketing agency will help you with targeting selections, copy-writing, and ad creatives. A local digital agency will also report on campaign performance and will optimize the campaign as needed. Read our social media marketing blog post here:
  • • Targeted emails: Email marketing is another digital campaign type that has many options for audience targeting including location, interest, business category, occupation and more. Video can be embedded within the email body, or the email can contain a link to a web page with the video. Embedding video is a great user experience on most email clients, with the exception of Outlook, which does not support video players. Read our blog post on email marketing here.
  • • TV, OTT, and CTV commercials: TV, OTT and CTV are prime placements for your new video. CTV pre-roll ads allow you to reach people who like to stream content but don’t use cable. OTT ads also reach people who don’t use cable, but have the advantage of being clickable and viewable on phones and tablets. TV, of course, is the traditional video ad channel. All three formats provide targeting options including by day part. Read our blog post primer on OTT and CTV here.
  • • Pre-roll and post-roll: If your video is a 15 to 30 second ad spot, pre-roll and post-roll offer a wealth of placement and targeting possibilities. Your pre-roll/post-roll video ad can be distributed via Google Ads or Youtube and targeted by demographics, interests, affinities, custom intent, and more. Remarketing is an option that will allow your video to be shown to audiences who have previously engaged with your videos. Video pre-roll ads can also be placed on local news media websites that have news videos, such as LancasterOnline. When video is placed as a pre-roll ad on local news videos, you can select the type of video content that you want your pre-roll ad to be associated with. Placement on a local news media site ensures that your video is associated with trusted local news content.

According to Forbes magazine, the use of video for small and medium sized businesses can be summed up in four broad categories. First, it increases social engagement, second, it works well on mobile, third, it boosts SEO on your site, and fourth, it conveys brand personality. All of these reasons, and more, make a compelling argument for investing in video for your local Lancaster business.

LNP Media group is a full service digital agency and video production company. We have an in-house video production staff with years of experience crafting the stories of companies in the Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York area and beyond. We have a certified drone pilot, a state-of-the-art video studio, and full post-production editing capabilities. Once your video is complete, our digital agency team can place your video in a targeted digital campaign such as pre-roll, social media, email marketing, display, or more. Contact us today for a free video strategy session.

The Importance of Setting Goals and Tracking Performance in Digital Marketing

The Importance of Setting Goals and Tracking Performance in Digital Marketing

It goes without saying that all successful digital marketing campaigns start with the digital marketing team settling clear goals. Goal inform the details of the marketing campaign plan (how to get to the goal) and illuminate other objectives to reach. However, if a digital marketing team fails to set a goal properly, the campaign is doomed from the start. As such, it is absolutely critical that every digital marketing campaign have clearly defined and achievable goal; that goal is the foundation upon which the rest of the campaign relies.

But setting a goal properly is no easy task. While it may seem simple, specifying the exact objective of a digital marketing campaign is actually one of the hardest parts of planning the campaign. Therefore, it is vital for digital marketing professionals to understand how to form, analyze, and track their goals.

Choose a SMART Goal

Digital marketing campaign goals should be SMART. SMART is an acronym standing for:

Specific means narrow and clearly defined, not vague, and understood fully by all involved. “Improving sales” is too vague, “increasing by 10% the number of blue widgets sold in Florida by the end of the month” is more specific.

Measurable means having an objectively quantifiable or unambiguously qualifiable target to reach. “Selling a lot more blue widgets” is unclear and unmeasurable, since people will have different ideas about what “a lot” entails. “Increasing blue widget sales by 10%” is measurable.

Attainable means being realistic and not excessively ambitious, but still challenging and worth reaching. “Putting a widget in every home in America” is not attainable, “becoming the leading state distributor of widgets” is attainable.

Relevant means being worthwhile, aligning with company or consumer values, and fulfilling needs. “Lobbying Congress to remove environmental regulations” is not relevant, “finding cost-effective green production methods” is.

Timely means having a deadline or end-date that the goal needs to be completed by. “Releasing a new widget” is not timely, “releasing a new widget by Christmas of next year” is, because there is a clear deadline.

SMART goals have been used for decades in the professional and academic world. Until recently, their success was so self-evident that few even bothered to question them. But recent studies have confirmed what many already knew – SMART goals help people work smarter, not harder. In fact, a 2018 study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, funded by the National Institutes of Health, found that SMART goals can even be helpful in making students smarter. Resident medical students were found to study more after being briefed on SMART goals,

“SMART goals serve as a powerful primer to promote additional self-directed learning,” the study authors wrote in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine. “This intervention can be readily applied to most simulation debriefing sessions and requires little training to be employed effectively.”

But SMART goals aren’t just for medical students. A number of different digital marketing campaign strategies mesh perfectly with SMART goals, which means that it’s smart to use them for digital marketing teams, too. The examples listed above are just a few of the ways that digital marketers can integrate SMART goals into their campaign plan. To really make SMART goals work well in the digital marketing world, however, KPIs are the place to start.

Getting SMART with KPIs

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) measure success against a specific target. Any objective or numerical goal can function as a KPI. Fortunately, SMART goals usually have key performance indicators built into the first two letters of the acronym. However, it is still important to understand KPIs on a deeper level.. As Forbes puts it:

“Too often owners fail to get an understanding of how their business operates. They fail to log any departmental metrics of their operations throughout the year, and they’re stuck with an idling business wondering where problems lay…KPIs are a pertinent part of measuring the successes and failures of your business.”

Because KPIs are data-driven, they are often tied to financial goals that measure profit margins or revenue. Perhaps the most popular and widely known KPI is net profit: the revenue left from a given period after accounting for all expenses in that same period. For many KPI measurements, net profit is converted to a percentage of revenue called the “net profit margin.”

There are many other KPIs and new ones are invented to measure performance in new situations every day. However, there are some ubiquitous tried and true KPIs that have been used for years across a diverse range of different industries. It is important for digital marketing teams to know what these common KPIs are. Even if these KPIs aren’t useful for a campaign right now, learning about these common KPIs can provide insight for designing or selecting other relevant KPIs (and the more common ones might always come in handy some day in the future). Here are some of the most widespread KPI categories and how they are used:

Customer Metrics. KPIs focused on customers tend to cover customer retention (how many repeat customers a business gets), customer satisfaction (usually based on ratings or reviews from customers) or various measures of productivity/efficiency on a per-customer basis. Some common customer metrics include Customer Lifetime Value, or CLV, which is the total quantity of revenue that a customer gives to a business over the whole lifespan of their relationship with the business, and Customer Acquisition Cost, or CAC, which is the total marketing and sales cost necessary on average to get a new customer. Many businesses also get more perspective by comparing CLV and CAC, which can help determine the efficacy of marketing campaigns that are aimed at acquiring more customers.

Process Performance Metrics. These metrics tend to analyze operational performance in an organization. One example is measuring the efficiency of a production process by dividing the total number of defective products by total product output to find out how much waste is in the process. If a significant portion of products a business makes are defective, then waste is losing the company money and that number needs to get cut down. Process performance metrics are useful for this type of analysis, such as Throughput Time which measures how long a particular process takes to run and complete.

Financial Metrics. Metrics focused on the financial performance of a company are also important. One example of this type of KPI is Burn Rate, or the rate that a company is spending money for a given period of time. Financial metrics vary considerably based on the size and type of company, so Burn Rate KPIs (especially short-term ones that cover periods in the week or month range) are most popular among small companies that cannot undertake extensive, large financial analyses but still want to look at how sustainable their expenditures are.

However, digital marketing offers a whole range of its own KPIs that are based on the unique industry they represent. But before choosing KPIs for a digital marketing campaign and learning what KPIs can do to enhance campaign goal setting, it is crucial to understand what KPIs cannot do.

What are the Limits of KPIs?

Digital marketing teams should keep in mind that KPIs are limited in their efficacy, so they shouldn’t be relied on exclusively as the only type of SMART goal that can be set. Some of their limitations are their requirement for non-stop tracking and monitoring (as well as close follow up) to be useful and the fact that they usually need to be measured over a long time to produce meaningful data. Still, their biggest limitation is their effect on workers. Since KPIs are typically numerical and quantitative, they can ignore the qualitative traits that companies need to thrive. For example, a company maximizing the widgets made per month as a KPI can end up making lower quality widgets that break easily or don’t work as intended. KPIs can also force employees to shoot for unrealistic targets, undermining the point of SMART goals and creating unnecessary stress that damages long-term productivity. Workers that are just chasing after a numeric goal are less happy and less fulfilled, which may make them more likely to leave the company for competitors or other fields entirely.

Perhaps worst of all, KPIs have the potential to lead managers to “game the system” to try and appear to meet their performance targets. Although some level of “cooking the books” is an unfortunately widespread practice in many organizations, poorly designed and implemented KPIs can turn minor number tweaking into total falsification, which can spell death for any organization big or small. The importance of getting KPIs right shouldn’t be underestimated; historically it has led to the collapse of entire nations. One classic example is the Soviet Union. After Stalin seized power in the late 1920s, he implemented a series of “Five Year Plans” that were meant to rapidly industrialize the USSR which was still reeling from World War One, the two bloody revolutions and a civil war that followed, and a crushing economic crisis. Five Year Plans, interestingly, made use of KPIs – managers of factories and collective farms were given production targets that had to be supported with measurable data.

During the Five Year Plans, goal success was measured exclusively using these production quotas, and they were the end-all, be-all of the plan. However, the quotas were usually set far too high, and were sometimes impossible to meet. By the 1930s, the pressure to reach production quotas was so high that managers routinely falsified their numbers. As the British National Archives describes it:

“If workers did not achieve their targets, they were punished. Desperate factory managers fiddled the books or committed suicide as the pressure to produce more and more became too great. If the workers succeeded in reaching targets, they might be rewarded with increased wages. But usually their targets were increased as well [leading to] problems with wastage and inefficiency in the plans.”

The lesson here is that the more unrealistic the goal is and the more pressure workers are under to meet it, the more likely they are to fabricate results. As such, when building KPIs into a goal, it is critical to ensure that the goal is reachable and that there are not excessive consequences for failing to meet it. It is almost always better to reward people for meeting KPI goals than to punish them for failing to reach the target. Another important lesson is that significantly raising KPI targets because workers reached the previous target can backfire. The USSR isn’t the only place this this has happened – in the U.S. federal government has this problem too. The “use it or lose it” approach – where agencies risk future budget cuts if they don’t use their entire yearly budget – has led to serious wasteful spending. It is counterproductive to punish people with budget cuts or drastically higher productivity targets. Finally, KPIs should never be the totality of any goal or plan, but rather be used as an objective indicator that helps paint a larger picture. Other methods of goal measurement should be implemented to compensate for the limitations of KPIs.

“Despite having multiple KPIs,” according to Forbes, “every report should tie together into a single flash for the business as a whole. Not every KPI measures the overall performance of the business. They don’t show the totality of a project’s performance.”

What KPIs Work Best for Digital Marketing Campaigns?

For digital marketing campaigns, KPIs are based more on the digital world than the financial or customer service world. While all these areas are of course still important, there are unique circumstances in the digital marketing industry that have led to innovative new ways to measure success. One of those circumstances is social media, and the way individuals can express themselves and tailor the content of their feeds. As such, digital marketing campaign KPIs are as varied and curated as the customers the campaigns are trying to reach. Still, there are some broad goals and KPIs that are often used to measure the success of digital marketing campaigns, such as:

Digital Marketing Return on Investment. Most people who have worked in the business world are familiar with return on investment (ROI), but digital marketing teams face the unique challenge of clients asking “how do we know all this digital marketing stuff even works?” Fortunately, digital marketing return on investment is the answer to that question. Calculating digital marketing ROI is easy as long as the digital marketing team can figure out what new revenue to attribute to their efforts. The equation for calculating this metric is: (Total Revenue From Digital Marketing – Total Digital Marketing Cost) / (Total Digital Marketing Cost)

Conversion Rate. The term conversion refers to users completing a desired action, such as creating an online account, signing up for a free trial, or downloading a file. The importance of conversion lies in the data it generates; every conversion is another entry in a marketing database that helps further analysis. Conversion rate is the percentage of users in a given period of time who complete the action desired and is calculated like this: (Conversions / Total Visitors) x 100%

Cost Per Click (CPC). One of the most common KPIs in digital marketing is CPC, the price paid for each click users make, typically on ads. CPC is useful for measuring the effectiveness of a digital marketing campaign and is commonly used in display campaigns. It illustrates not just whether a campaign is generating clicks, but also whether those clicks are worth the cost of the campaign. It is also useful for comparison between different campaigns. CPC is calculated simply by dividing cost of an ad by total clicks.

Cost Per Acquisition (CPA). CPA is the average cost in marketing and sales for every new customer acquired during a campaign. It is a critical digital marketing KPI since it can make or break a campaign; campaigns that fail to acquire customers efficiently will inevitably be abandoned. CPA doesn’t apply in all circumstances, though. It is most useful when the goal of a campaign is acquiring customers that will have high lifetime value, rather than campaigns that aim to facilitate one-time sales. CPA can be calculated in two ways. The first equation is: (Total Ad Cost) / (Total Conversions). The second is: (Marketing Costs + Sales Costs) / (Number of Customers Acquired).

Cost Per Conversion (CPCon). Though similar to CPA, CPCon is a broader metric. While acquisitions refer specifically to gaining a customer, anything can be called a conversion (a sale, a lead, a download, a subscription to a newsletter, etc.) so CPCon takes a bit of a wider view. It varies and is defined by the business model and type of campaign it’s measuring. CPCon is also calculated in two possible ways, first: (Cost) / (Conversions). Note that in this first equation the term “cost” is vague; that is because the costs being used to calculate CPCon will also vary from campaign to campaign. The second equation is: (CPC) / (Conversion Rate).

Cost Per Lead (CPL). Although it can be tempting to look at the raw number of leads to measure success, that isn’t enough to mark the success of a digital marketing campaign. Lead acquisition costs have to be low enough to maintain a good margin and show significant growth. That’s where CPL comes in. It can be calculated as: (Total Campaign Cost) / (Number of Leads)

Revenue Per Lead (RPL). Measuring CPL is good, but it’s important to consider the other side of things and look at the approximate sales value for each new lead. This metric allows digital marketing teams to predict their future sales based on conversion rates and expected traffic. It also helps reveal where the most profitable leads come from so the team can allocate resources effectively and reinvest in those more profitable channels. It can be calculated as: (Total Revenue Attributed to Campaign) / (Number of Leads)

Email Clickthrough Rate (ECTR). In email marketing campaigns, the email clickthrough rate measures the target audience’s engagement. It shows whether an email is actually getting customers to take a desired action and can help the team discover what aspects of an email do and do not work. It can be calculated as: (Number of Clicks) / (Number of Emails Successfully Delivered) x 100%

Email Open Rate (EOR). It is one thing to measure ECTR and know how many people are taking a desired action, but it is important to compare ECTR to EOR. Why? Because some members of the campaign’s target audience will open an email and then not click through. EOR also shows how effective the email subject lines are at grabbing the attention of potential customers. A big difference between ECTR and EOR demonstrates that an email has an eye-catching title, but the content of the email might be failing to get customers to take the desired action. EOR can be calculated as: (Emails Opened) / (Number of Emails Successfully Delivered). However, it is worth noting that tracking of email open rate is achieved through the use of an invisible pixel on the email which, when downloaded in the email client, informs the email service provided that the email has been opened. In June 2021 Apple announced that, with iOS15, the iPhone mail app would no longer support this type of email open tracking in a bid to assure users that Apple valued user privacy. As of this writing, the impact of this change is not yet clear.

Bounce Rate. Of course, not all emails are delivered successfully. Sometimes things go wrong, such as the email list having incorrect or invalid emails. A high Bounce Rate means it is time to clean up the email list and potentially get more email addresses. The Bounce Rate can be calculated as: (Emails Sent – Emails Delivered) / (Total Emails Sent) x 100%

Cost Per Install (CPI). There are few metrics more significant for mobile app owners to measure than CPI. It is a way of measuring the number of paid installs against organic installs. For companies that are trying to extend their existing business into the mobile world, CPI is a critical indicator of where they need to invest to make sure mobile marketing is effective and reaches out to their target customer base. CPI can be calculated as: (Total Ad Cost) / (Total Installs).

After creating a digital marketing plan and selecting the main KPI metrics that will measure its success, it is time to choose what tool to measure them with.

Choosing Analytics Tools

There are a number of different platforms to manage digital and social media analytics. They fall into three categories: web & SEO tools, social media tools, and email marketing tools.

Web & SEO Analytics Tools

Search Engine Optimization and web analysis is difficult and complex, but fortunately there is an abundance of different tools to help assess the success of efforts in these areas. Here are some of the biggest ones:

Google Analytics. By far the most popular, Google Analytics runs on a freemium model provided directly by Google to help digital marketing teams track various metrics about traffic and other web performance measures. The basic version is free, but the premium version (Google Analytics 360) has a number of additional features that many find well worth the cost.

Google Search Console. This program, which is a part of Google Analytics, offers in-depth SEO reports when linked to a Google Analytics account. The service is completely free to use and does much of the SEO-based analysis that Google Analytics doesn’t offer.

HubSpot. For those looking for inbound marketing and automation, HubSpot can be used to track website traffic, social media channels, landing pages, inbound marketing, calls to action, and more. HubSpot is especially geared toward B2B companies.

Moz. One of the more comprehensive platform for web analytics, Moz offers a broad range of tools for virtually everything a digital marketing team would need to do, including: keyword analysis, SEO competition, SERP features, search volume data, and more.

ClickMeter. As a single virtual platform, ClickMeter aims to be a one-stop shop for businesses seeking to analyze and optimize their marketing links and conversion rates. If Moz is a toolbox, ClickMeter is a comprehensive multi-tool.

SimilarWeb. SimilarWeb is a platform that allows businesses to compare their website to competitors around the world, discover what sources drive traffic to any website (search inquiries, social media, referrals, etc.), and analyze target customer base interests. SimilarWeb has the unique advantage of allowing digital marketing teams to see the organic and paid keywords – even the “Google not-provided” ones – of any website.

Crazy Egg. With a number of unique tools such as Heat Map, Scroll Map, Overlay, and Confetti, Crazy Egg allows heatmap tracking of website usage. Crazy Egg is notable for its visualization features, making it easier to understand the data without getting buried in numbers. Crazy Egg also offers A/B Testing and other editing tools that are designed to help businesses build and modify content features for success.

Ahrefs. Unlike its competitors, Ahrefs is made for maximum ease of use and minimal navigation. A paid SEO software suite, it has various tools for rank tracking, link building, keyword analysis, competitor analysis, and website audits. For many businesses, the biggest draw for Ahrefs is that it is designed specifically to learn why competitors rank highly. Getting that inside information can give companies an edge by showing them what they have to do in order to outrank the competition.

Social Media Marketing Analytics Tools

Social media marketing can seem deceptively simple, but a deeper look reveals that there is much more than meets the eye. There are a handful of good programs to help dig in and gather metrics so help you engage social media users better.

Facebook Business Manager – Facebook Business Manager is your control console for paid Facebook and Instagram marketing campaigns. In Business Manager you’ll build you creatives, add your copy and calls-to-action, set campaign targeting, and set the goals for the campaign. You’ll be able to track progress to goal and see engagement with your paid Facebook promotions.

AdEspresso. Hootsuite’s latest social media management suite, AdEspresso offers a wide range of helpful tools that provide real-time social media performance metrics. Some of the analytics it includes are: engagement, clicks, follow/unfollow statistics, mentions, and the performance of the social media team in responding to visitor messages and comments.

Socialbakers Social Media Analytics. A completely free collection of cutting edge social media analytics tools, Socialbakers is designed to measure social media performance against competitors. It is built on the idea of multi-channel publishing, social media listening, and analyzing competing companies’ social media accounts to learn from them.

Buffer. It can be exhausting to try and keep up with all the different social media accounts that a modern business can have, but Buffer helps by providing a platform to manage them all in one place. Buffer helps social media and digital marketing teams schedule content and publish it automatically, get analytics insights for all social media accounts, and understand how to improve performance. It also has the unique bonus feature of creating reports for managers and clients with pre-designed templates.

Email Marketing Analytics

Email marketing is like Pong: easy to learn, but hard to master. Email marketing analytics fall into several basic categories:

Email service providers (ESPs) – ESPs are the tools you use to design and send out your email marketing. They range from simple, easy to use tools like MailChimp and Constant Contact, up to more sophisticated ESPs like Salesforce and Marketo. ESP analytics generally cover open rate, click rate, unsubscribe rate and bounce rate. ESP analytics will also include details on which links or buttons were clicked and some insight into deliverability.

UTM codes – Putting UTM codes on your email CTAs (calls to action) allows you to track how well each CTA does in driving traffic to your site. Using Google’s UTM code builder is the easiest way to generate logical UTM codes. You’ll track UTM codes in your site’s Google Analytics dashboard.

Email deliverability – Deliverability has to do with whether or not your outbound email marketing is being received and, if so, in what tab. If you have a Gmail account you know it has three tabs: Primary, Social and Promotion. Of course, every email marketer would like their outbound email offers to land in recipients’ Primary tabs, but can be difficult to achieve. Use Google Postmaster to monitor your IP and mailing domain reputation for recipients’ Gmail accounts. To assess deliverability across all email clients you can use a tool like Glockapps which will send test emails and measure whether they are delivered or blocked in Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, and more.

Email rendering – Every email client will read your email code slightly differently. This means that your email will look different depending on whether it is received by Gmail, Outlook, AOL, Yahoo, or others. And your email will also look different on an iPhone, Android phone, laptop, desktop, or tablet. Tool like Litmus and Email on Acid will test your email designs across all email clients and viewport sizes to give you clear metrics on how it will look.

Making Digital Marketing Campaigns Work

Often, the reason that digital marketing campaigns don’t succeed is not that they lack quality, creativity, or skilled team members. The actual reason that many campaigns fail is that they do not set the right goals and track the campaign’s performance.

LNP Media Group is a leading Lancaster digital agency with the staff to do all of your digital campaign management in-house. We work with businesses across the Harrisburg-Lebanon-Lancaster-York area as well as businesses up and down in the east coast. During a marketing planning and strategy session we’ll set SMART goals for your campaigns to ensure their success. And, following campaign deployment, we’ll continue to be your partner in mid-campaign optimization and post-campaign analysis. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Digital Display Advertising, the Unsung Hero of Digital Marketing

Digital Display Advertising, the Unsung Hero of Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is a constantly evolving field. Since digital marketing agencies already work in a bewilderingly complicated industry, they sometimes find themselves stuck with old habits. However, the dynamic nature of digital marketing means that digital agencies must keep up with the times and strive to find the hidden strategies that give them an edge over the competition. One of those strategies is display advertising.

Although virtually all experienced digital marketing agencies are at least a little familiar with digital display advertising, it is immensely underrated by many firms. Understanding the potential of display ads can rocket even the smallest digital agency into unparalleled success, making display advertising the unsung hero of digital marketing. If your business needs a hero, it might be time to look into digital display advertising.

What is Display Advertising?

Before explaining exactly why digital display advertising is so effective, it is important to understand what the term entails. Put simply, display advertising refers to any technique used to attract the audience of a website, social media platform, or other online space with an advertising graphic of some kind. Display ads can be text-based, images, or even audiovisual ads. The goal of display advertising is dependent on the campaign strategy.  One of the most common goals is to encouraging the user of the site to click the ad and be directed to a landing page and take a specific action, such as purchasing a product, subscribing to a newsletter, or signing a petition. However, there are other digital display advertising goals to consider, such as branding and overall campaign support.

Display advertising campaigns, like many other online advertising campaigns, can be charged on a “cost per click” (CPC), “cost per thousand” (CPM) or a “cost per day” (CPD) basis.

Cost per click is also sometimes referred to as “pay per click,” depending on which party is talking about it. CPC bidding means that the person buying the ad pays the publisher (such as a search engine or social media platform) for each click on the ad. That means that the person paying for the ad only pays for it if it works, which can be a huge advantage for them. Often clients purchasing CPC bidding campaigns will set a maximum CPC, which is the highest amount they are willing to pay for a click on the ad.

Display advertising campaigns are sometimes used for retargeting campaigns, where ads are delivered to users who have already visited a site, with the goal of “retargeting” them and getting them to return to the site to take the same action or take an action at a later stage of the marketing funnel.

Although display advertising has a modest click-through rate (about 0.05% on average, depending on type of display advertising), it is an important part of a well-rounded marketing strategy. While certain marketing strategies have a better click through rate (such as native advertising or email marketing campaigns), display advertising raises brand awareness every time users see your ads.

Even if they don’t click through, display ads support other campaigns and generally improve the effectiveness of your advertising strategy. In fact, Harvard researchers studying display ads found that display campaigns – when sustained over a longer period of time – significantly increased the conversion of search campaigns.

The Different Kinds of Display Ads

Most digital agencies are familiar to some extent with a few different forms of display ads. However, not all display ads are created equal, and as such it is important to understand the various different forms that display ads take. Since one of the main motivations of display advertising is to reach as many people as possible, using different formats is vital. Having a deeper understanding of the formats allows digital agencies to fit display ads into more spaces, maximizing the reach of the ad campaign and giving a wider range of options to pick from. Here is a list of the main formats that display ads can come in, and some of their unique advantages and disadvantages:

Banner ads

The very first display ad to appear on the internet was a banner ad. On October 27, 1994 – in the era of Netscape Navigator and fax machines – the Wired Magazine website (then known as “HotWired”) uploaded a boldly colored image reading “Have you ever clicked your mouse right HERE? YOU WILL.” Its impact on online advertising was gargantuan. To this day, banner ads are one of the most common ads used by digital agencies. Banner ads that appear on the top of the page, highlighting the offer quite literally above all other content can be advantageous to the advertiser. However ad blocking software can prevent these ads from being displayed.

Interstitial ads

Interstitial ads are interactive, almost always full-screen ads that cover the graphic user interface of the website or app that they appear on. For the most part, interstitial ads appear at natural breaks or transition points between content, such as between levels in a game app (hence the “interstitial” in the name). What makes interstitial ads different is their full coverage of the content that the user came for. To take a specific example, the popular video editing app InShot displays interstitial ads when exporting video footage. Often, the ads are for game apps, and the ad can allow the user to play a demo of the game for 15 to 30 seconds before being able to close the ad and return to InShot. Interstitial ads are highly attention-grabbing. Since they are placed in the natural interstices between content, users do not generally find interstitial ads intrusive or particularly obnoxious. Most of the disadvantages of interstitial ads are technical, such as their potential to negatively impact loading time and search engine optimization.

Pop-up ads

Pop-ups are so ubiquitous that they hardly need explanation. The traditional form of a pop-up ad (which hardly exists nowadays) is a new window opening simultaneously with a user entering a website. Although pop-ups are far less common today than they once were, there are still some reasons to consider them. The traditional “new window” pop-up ads are now blocked by most internet browsers, but some pop-ups are still effective. For instance, pop-ups that open a new tab in the browser, open a sub-window within a page (sometimes referred to as modal pop-ups), or open up a live chat dialogue can be highly valuable in encouraging users to click through. The advantages of these pop-ups is that they are nearly impossible to ignore, they grab attention (50 percent more effectively than banners according to AKA Marketing), and certain kinds of pop-ups are practically invulnerable to ad blocking software. However, there are considerable disadvantages to pop-ups as well. They have a bad reputation due to a historical association with fraud, scams, and adult content, and many users find them extremely obnoxious and intrusive. As such, using pop-up ads can hurt a brand or digital agency’s reputation. They should not be used as a long-term marketing solution, since ad blocker and browser software developers are engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with pop-up designers, but they can be an effective short-term boost.

Unicast ads

Unicast ads are comparable to traditional television commercials. They are videos that play on the browser window, usually lasting somewhere between 10 to 30 seconds. Of course, unlike traditional television commercials, unicast ads are display ads and viewers can click them to get more information. Unicast ads have similar advantages and disadvantages to television commercials, although they do have one unique drawback: they can lay a heavy burden on bandwidth and cause slower loading times, resulting in viewer frustration and a worse user experience.

Contextual advertising

Contextual advertising is a type of targeted advertising where the ad content is based directly on the content of the page. As an example, contextual advertising could take the form of an advertiser placing an ad for airline tickets to France next to an article about travelling through French wine country. Nowadays, contextual advertising is usually organized by semi-automated systems that scan the text of a website or other digital platform for keywords, and then places relevant ads on a page based on those keywords. One major advantage of contextual ads is that users consider them less irritating than traditional ads. Due to the lack of irritation and the targeted nature of contextual advertising, it influences users more efficiently than many other ad types. Contextual advertising has very few disadvantages. Perhaps the only major drawback is that it requires very close cooperation between the digital agency and the publisher/host since the contextual advertising system needs access to a database of content on the site to scan for potential keywords.

Takeover ads

The name takeover ads is an especially accurate one. Takeover ads refer to an advertiser “taking over” the content of a publisher, for instance replacing a website’s homepage primarily with ads (this specific scenario is called a “homepage takeover”). This type of display advertising is usually reserved for successful, high profile brands on very high traffic online publications. Although the specifics of takeover ads vary a lot, in general they involve some portion of a platform’s content being replaced with a digital agency’s content. In recent years, thanks to web development advances, takeover ads are often incorporated into the website background or have interactive features that boost user engagement. The advantages of takeover ads are many: the advertiser becomes associated with popular platforms, the ads grab attention extremely well, and they get a lot of reach. However, takeover ads are usually very expensive and can cause technical difficulties for the host.

How is Display Advertising Efficacy Measured?

For Lancaster County businesses considering using display advertising, it may be important to ensure that the digital agency managing the ads can accurately measure how effective they are. Therefore, it is smart to understand exactly how digital agencies measure display ad efficacy and the basics of the research behind display advertising.

In recent years, the impact of marketing has become far more objectively measurable. Thanks to the digital revolution, computerized metrics can now be automatically measured and analyzed to see whether a campaign is working well or not. On the other hand, that very same digital revolution has made the question of what to measure far more complex. Fortunately, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Europe has developed a set of integrated definitions, measures and metrics for making those measurements, called the Digital Advertising Effectiveness Measurement Framework. The framework covers three main areas of digital advertising effectiveness measurement: effectiveness of sales, brand, and media. For instance, for brand effectiveness, the framework looks into the following key questions to evaluate the influence digital campaigns have on delivering brand outcomes:

  • – Was purchase intent positively impacted?
  • – Has brand favorability been achieved?
  • – Was trust in the brand improved?
  • – What was the ad recall rate (unaided and aided)?
  • – Was brand awareness increased?
  • – Was brand equity improved?

However, it is always good to ensure the effectiveness of an ad campaign before the campaign is launched. Making digital advertising maximally effective requires that digital agencies place their ads in high quality, contextually relevant environments. Brand suitability is crucial for a successful campaign. For instance, if you don’t want your ads appearing next to extremely sensitive content related to COVID-19, certain display ad services can control for that. Often, maximizing effectiveness means learning from past campaigns and seeing what does and doesn’t work – so ensuring the success of future campaigns means looking at ones that are already done. And if brand suitability is not taken into account, then it is virtually impossible to accurately measure whether an ad campaign would or would not have been effective otherwise. Tools like Google’s Brand Lift measurement can help determine what audiences think of an individual ad or ad campaign.

What Makes Display Advertising Work Best?

In 2018, the United Kingdom IAB branch conducted a meta-analysis of a variety of research studies looking at the effectiveness of digital advertising campaigns. The analysis, which covered 675 campaigns, demonstrated that digital display advertising increases (unaided) brand awareness by up to 12 percent compared to controls. The analysis also found that digital display advertising improves public perceptions of brands, and that digital display advertising drives intent to purchase products associated with the brand.

So the question that digital agencies are left with is not whether or not display advertising is effective, the question is what makes display advertising effective and how to maximize that effectiveness. So whether your Lancaster business has an in-house design team or will be hiring a digital agency, it is necessary to ensure the team follows some of the following basic best practices in digital design to stretch every dollar spent on advertising:

Use responsive sizing

In a world that is split between mobile devices and computers, your ads must be responsive and able to properly display on any digital device. Kristanne Roberts, global development director at Kantar, writes that for digital campaigns to succeed they must be carefully tailored to display properly on all formats. Using common sizing for display ads ensures easy trafficking and reduces failed response bugs. Fortunately, there are some standardized sizes for responsive ads that design teams can choose from.

Choose clean design

Minimalistic, uncluttered design is critical to getting your message across. The internet is a place full of fascinating information, a place where your ad is competing for attention with everything from cat videos to breaking news. People will naturally skim past and ignore overly complex ads. Furthermore, digital ad formats on mobile devices are small, so optimize for the mobile world and embrace the “less is more” philosophy. Font choice and font size need to be readable on mobile, so be sure to double check ads on a smartphone.

Be colorful

Making use of colors that reflect your brand’s identity can be immensely helpful in attracting the right audience. The psychology of colors is something everyone in marketing should be familiar with. Different colors are culturally associated with different things, and therefore represent different feelings and ideas. For instance, green represents freshness, growth, vitality, renewal, dependability, practicality, nurturing, adaptability, loyalty and kindness – it is a versatile color that is ideal for portraying feelings of nature or health, particularly environmentally friendly products. Blue represents trust, integrity, responsibility, peace and calm, and helps customers trust businesses which is one reason that blue is so common with IT business and social media logos.

Don’t violate copyright law

It may seem obvious, but it is vital to double check the rights to use images before using them. Never copy and paste an image found on Google, for instance, into an ad. Use professionally taken photos that you own or use image services like Getty. Brands can (and have) gotten into serious legal trouble for violating copyright laws in their marketing campaigns.

Pick the right color mode

The RGB (Red, Green, Blue) color mode is much better suited to digital environments than the CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key/Black) color mode, which is better for print media. The RGB color mode uses what is called “additive mixing” meaning that all colors are formed from adding red, green, and/or blue light on top of black darkness to create the correct color. This reflects how digital screens render color, and is therefore ideal for digital environments.

Use GIFs optimally

Animated GIF images can have major benefits over static images. As an example, they can present more information or catch a user’s attention more effectively than a traditional still ad. However, when used improperly, they can overwhelm users with too much movement or information and get glossed over and ignored. If you use GIFs in your display ads, make sure not to overload users to the point that they get annoyed.

Harness the power of HTML5

Back in the day, interactive ads primarily operated off of Flash. However, as Flash became obsolete, HTML5 ads became the standard. HTML5 ads enable animation and interactive content in the same way Flash did, but they have the added benefit of being responsive and looking the same on any device or browser. Any device that can render HTML5 code can render HTML5 ads as well. HTML5 coding is easy to learn and optimize, and there are many tools specifically designed to produce HTML5 ads even with limited coding skills.

Have a clear call to action

The call to action is everything in advertising. Without a clear call to action, even the most eye-catching and otherwise effective ads are useless. Make sure that the call to action is obvious and distinct, and make sure other design elements support the ultimate goal of getting the user to follow through with the call to action.

Targeting Options for Display Advertising

Good targeting is essential to making sure that ads get in front of the right audience. An audience that is interested in photography is far more likely to buy an expensive camera than a general audience. Fortunately, many ad services such as Google Ads offer customizable targeting options that can engage audiences in the right niche. Ad groups can operate off audience targeting, reaching people based on who they are, how they have interacted with similar businesses, interests and habits, and what they are actively researching. For display advertising, here are some common category types that ad services use to reach audiences:

  • – Affinity Reaching users based on what they’re passionate about is one of the most common ways to connect a brand to an audience. Search engines and social media have a wealth of data on the affinity groups that their users belong to, so digital display advertising is ideal for this type of targeting.
  • – Demographics: Reaching users based on long-term life facts is a time-tested method of designing targeting groups.
  • – Life events: Reaching users when they are in the middle of important life milestones can be an extremely effective technique. For instance, a real estate firm might target ads to people who are buying their first house, or a baby product company might target people who are expecting a child.
  • – In-market: Finding a user base from their recent purchase intent has become an extremely common method, especially in recent years. One of the best indicators of whether someone will buy a product or service is having shopped for or bought it previously.
  • – Remarketing: Reaching users that have interacted with your business in the past is effective for reasons similar to in-market targeting. Remarketing is critical to building a base of repeat customers who can develop brand loyalty and essentially serve as free marketing for the business.

Of course, the ultimate goal is not just to use pre-determined targeting categories, but to design a holistic custom audience with a broad range of traits. Ad services such as Google Ads allow digital agencies to set up custom audiences in display advertising campaigns by adding keywords, apps, and website URLs related to the brand. The ads are then shown to audiences with those interests or purchase intentions. Creating custom intent or custom affinity audience types is a fairly new phenomenon, but it has massive potential. For instance, whereas in the past a bicycling gear company may have tried to reach a sports fan affinity audience, they can now reach avid cyclists specifically. With custom audiences, the shoe campaign can define this audience by entering:

  • – Keywords such as “bike race,” “cyclist athlete,” or “mountain biking”
  • – Entering apps in the health and fitness category that an avid cyclist might be interested in, such as Strava, Google Fit, or Endomondo
  • – Entering URLs of web pages with content about cycling, ride schedules, cyclist nutrition, and competitive cycling themes

Why Switch to Display Advertising?

If you still aren’t sure whether display advertising is right for your Lancaster County business, you should understand what advantages display advertising has over other methods. Virtually all modern digital agencies incorporate display adverting as an essential part of their online strategy. Display advertising lets brands creatively connect across the internet to countless potential customers. Unlike email ad campaigns, for instance, display ads’ reach is not limited by a user’s email provider, social channel, or willingness to sign up to an email subscription.

Brands that effectively make use of display advertising can reach consumers across the web anywhere that they could be looking for news, goods, services, recommendations, or any other information. Just the Google Display Network on its own can reach more than 90 percent of total internet users all over the world. Using additional demand-side platforms can increase that reach even more. But even with Google alone, brands are more or less guaranteed to reach more potential customers with display advertising than any other offline or online advertising method.

Display advertising is also far more responsive and ubiquitous than other advertising strategies. Since our modern lives are fully integrated with the digital world, a display ad campaign can let your branding follow a consumer all day – from the morning news checkup, to their workday, to their evening leisure activities.

Retargeting and remarketing allows ads to perform at levels that were thought to be impossible a generation ago. However, the reason why is obvious – users that have a prior interest in a product are more likely to purchase it again. Retarget ads have an excellent click-through rate of 0.7% (compare that figure to 0.07% at the top of the marketing funnel). Retargeting potential repeat customers with display ads is a fantastic method for attracting those customers back to a brand’s site or social media page. This method is ideal for advertising campaigns that are directed more toward conversion. One common example of this is setting up a script-tag on a company checkout page and retargeting with relevant products. This also reduces cart abandonment. Display advertising can even interrupt consumers who are considering going to a competing business and convince the consumer to come to your brand instead. Using search retargeting, companies can go after customers who have looked for products or services on a competitor’s website, and then offer deals for the same product or service at prices that undercut the competition. Brands that don’t use search retargeting in this way are likely having it used against them, so it can be a huge mistake not to.

Another excellent benefit that display ads have over other ad types is its dynamic nature. Display advertising allows designers, advertisers and digital agencies to explore the breadth of their creative potential. As the field continues to grow and evolve, and technology continues to advance, display ads gain more and more features. In recent years, display ads have adopted interactive elements, high quality video, countdowns, live product feeds, and many other new options for designers to take advantage of. In the future, more features will surely come into play. The ability of display advertising to adapt and change over the years means that they are likely to be around for a long time, surviving fluctuations in both the economy and in people’s relationships to the digital world.

Since it is so important to measure marketing performance and know that every dollar spent on advertising is creating a return on investment, many brands that want to know their marketing budget is being used effectively op for display advertising. It is very easy to get a variety of data on the efficacy of display ads, using metrics ranging from how many times ads have been seen, to how many users have clicked the ad and more. Because display ads are best suited for building brand awareness, the number of impressions an ad receives is one of the most important metrics. It is also built in to virtually all display ad services and easily accessible.

Overall, display advertising is an excellent option for any Lancaster County digital agency looking to broaden its reach and maximize impressions with potential customers. Display ads let brands get an edge on the competition, connect with consumers, and build widespread brand awareness and loyalty. In a world so deeply interwoven with the digital domain, brands cannot afford to ignore display advertising.

For more information on display advertising, Google Ads, or any of our other digital services, please contact us.

How to Drive More Business in the Most Important Fourth Quarter Ever

How to Drive More Business in the Most Important Fourth Quarter Ever

When it comes to boosting sales, few times of the year offer more revenue sales opportunities than the fourth quarter. Whether customers are thinking about Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, or New Year’s Day, Lancaster County residents are looking to create special ways to celebrate their traditions. With a little planning and marketing, businesses can find ways to end the year with a bang.

The fourth quarter is a critical time to boost profits and end the year on a high note in any year. It is also when many consumers open up their wallets and start spending more on festive food, luxury goods, and gifts for their loved ones (and themselves!) For some types of businesses, the fourth quarter can account for up to 75% of their annual sales. In challenging years like 2020, not only does the fourth-quarter shopping period hold more importance, but it also offers companies a chance to recoup some of the losses of the past months.

This year, all indicators show that many consumers are ready to buy more in the fourth quarter. Using September of 2020 as an indicator, many experts predict that a variety of retailers and service businesses may be well-positioned to benefit from pent-up demand after months of austerity.

According to Kimberly Amadeo in The Balance,

“The most recent U.S. Retail Sales Report shows that retail sales continued to rebound in September, rising 1.9% since August, and 5.4% since this time last year. Total sales for July through September 2020 were up 3.6% year over year. Sales have been increasing since June after record lows were seen in the spring during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.1″

The events of 2020 showed us how business could change dramatically in just a few months. Consumers became more dependent on digital communications and more open to all kinds of digital commerce, including food delivery, online medicine, and curbside pickup. This means that almost any type of business or retailer can now grow in cost-effective ways by embracing a wide range of digital marketing tools and tactics. During the shelter-in-place order of 2020, online shopping skyrocketed, with 50% of U.S. adults saying they purchased more online than before. The pandemic restrictions motivated many reluctant shoppers to try (and keep using) online shopping tools.

This shift to digital can be good news for small businesses. The wide adoption of digital technologies makes it possible for large and small businesses to get immediate results from tools like email marketing and online advertising, even for companies that lack a sophisticated website.

In fact, with so much change in the air, this is the perfect time for Lancaster County businesses to create (or improve) digital marketing strategies to help their companies get the most out of 2020 and beyond. Moreover, the holiday buying cycle continues to deliver the promise of a robust fourth quarter. From mid-October through early January, each year an extended holiday season motivates consumers to buy holiday gifts. This time of year also encourages people to bake more, cook more, buy more cookware, entertain, improve the look of their home with décor and furnishing, spend more time on personal care, or dress up their wardrobe. In fact, the holiday season provides a limited-time incentive to buy all kinds of goods and services.

This has never been truer than it is in 2020. After months of austerity and isolation, Lancaster County customers are ready for a little seasonal cheer. However, in any year, the holidays are an excellent opportunity to foster feelings of positivity and optimism. Shoppers are showing us that they are ready to celebrate local economies and start shopping locally.

Local is more important than ever. Even though it sometimes seems like big online retailers get all the business, it is not always true. Barron’s has reported that shipping resources are stressed because of the surge in online orders, and major retailers like Walmart and Amazon have not yet been able to staff up to meet the demand. Because of longstanding driver shortages, this challenge will continue long after the pandemic is over. Barron’s reports;

“The nation’s transportation network is already strained, given the major disruption from Covid and other longstanding factors like driver shortages. That could lead to higher costs for shipping companies, retailers, and—possibly—consumers.”

Importantly, during the holiday season, quick delivery is everything. That means this is a perfect time for local retailers to highlight their inventory and the immediate availability of goods. Slow or delayed shipments from big online retailers may give local consumers the incentive they need to lean more heavily on local retailers. This holiday season, shopping may bring different types of opportunities to Lancaster County businesses.

As more and more consumers become frustrated with shipping delays, the fourth quarter is often the perfect time to focus on acquiring new local customers and set your business up for continuing success in the next year.

While getting customers to switch has been a challenge in previous years, customers are now more willing than ever to try something new. According to a McKinsey & Company October 2020 survey,

“With continued pressure on household income, consumers are trying new brands and channels, seeking both better value and convenience. Compared to last year, consumers are more than three times as likely to trade down to lower-cost brands or retailers when shopping a standard basket of goods.”

Of course, consumers are not the only ones who have been hunkering down in the past months. Many businesses have had to close or reduce hours, conduct business digitally, or reduce capacity at their locations. Whether a company is still operating under restrictions or not, the fourth quarter is a great time to reach out to customers and “reset” customer and client relationships.

What can small businesses do to reach their local customers? ‘Tis the season to send out e-newsletters, email updates, promote updated hours or offerings, offer “thank you” deals, give loyalty discounts, preview sales, talk about new products, or offer special hours for loyal customers.

No matter which messages an organization chooses, holiday cheer is an effective way to humanize the business, allowing companies to spread goodwill and joy.

 

Start Marketing for the Holidays now

Whether a business reading this in November or July, the time to start your holiday marketing is now. That is because the best holiday marketing includes both long-term and last-minute components. Companies that take the time build digital marketing into their plans all year round are better prepared to take advantage of digital holiday strategies. However, effective strategies can also be applied to firms who are just starting out with digital marketing efforts.

The first step is for the organization to think about how their consumers buy their type of product or service. For example, restaurants or hair salons with limited capacity can focus on selling gift certificates for future visits. Of course, gift certificates make sense all year long, but they can also be promoted as last-minute gifts. Emails, digital ads, or videos are all effective ways to encourage this type of gift-giving.

Additionally, with some quick planning, businesses can have tremendous sales on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Using LNP Media Group’s suite of digital marketing tools, companies can create curbside pickup deals, online offers, extended hours for less crowded shopping, online-only deals, pay-per-click ads, and unique landing pages. This enables organizations to create promotions and offers that can run for a day, an afternoon, or even an hour.

While a survey by Service Management Group reported that 42% of respondents said that they plan to start their holiday shopping earlier this year, Lancaster County businesses still have time to leverage holiday sales. This survey reports:

“Holiday shopping will start early and be dominated by digital – When you consider the double-digit growth of digital holiday sales in 2019 and how the pandemic is impacting the in-store experience, it’s not surprising that 3 in 4 respondents plan to do most of their holiday shopping online this year. When asked to compare the timing of their holiday shopping to last year, 42 percent of respondents said they’ll start shopping earlier. With 61 percent of respondents planning to do most of their shopping before Thanksgiving, we found just 15 percent of respondents plan to stock up on Black Friday and only seven percent plan to take advantage of Cyber Monday. When we compare the timing of the two groups of shoppers, 62 percent of online shoppers plan to start shopping earlier whereas 44 percent of in-store shoppers indicate they’ll take advantage of Black Friday sales or do most of their shopping in December.”

Thinking beyond Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and even Cyber Monday can help businesses drive sales through the end of the year and beyond. After all, holiday shopping no longer stops on Christmas Eve. Consumers are now showing a growing interest in post-holiday sales when they look to use their gift money and savings on purchases for themselves and their homes.

Ready to start making digital a part of your holiday marketing? If you are looking for specific ideas to help your business boost sales this month and beyond, take a look at our list of holiday marketing strategies developed with Lancaster County businesses in mind.

 

Thanksgiving Digital Marketing Ideas for Lancaster County Businesses

Every year, Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November. This gives businesses plenty of time to ramp up for holiday marketing. Consumers preparing for Thanksgiving are looking for food and cooking supplies, but they also shop for clothes, personal care, linens, furniture, home décor, even carpets, and rugs. Any home furnishing store can tell you that many shoppers request delivery before Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving also kicks off a string of annual sales that have become part of the holiday tradition for many shoppers. Black Friday used to kick off the morning after Thanksgiving. But today, many stores open at midnight, the evening of Thanksgiving, or run “early Black Friday” sales in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Pre-Thanksgiving shoppers look online before they buy. In fact, Google reports that 49% of these early-bird shoppers research before they buy.

What can Lancaster County businesses do to get their share of pre-Thanksgiving shoppers?

1. Serve up Search Engine Marketing or SEM

Not too long ago, SEM was a term used to describe pay-per-click text ads that appeared in search results. Today the definition has become broader and refers to a set of advertising opportunities offered by search engines and most often covers ad platforms provided by Google, the search engine used by almost 90% of all searches. In addition to paid search listings designed to drive website traffic, SEM now includes various ads or sponsored listings that appear on search engines and affiliated sites. Using search engine databases, marketers can place display ads on other sites. Retargeted ads, which send follow up ads to people who have visited a specific page on a website, is often considered a part of search engine marketing.

Businesses who want to use SEM to promote Thanksgiving sales or items can use pay-per-click ads, display ads sent to people who have searched for related terms, and even send retargeted ads to site visitors, offering them exclusive offers on the products they previously viewed on the website.

SEM also offers marketer the opportunity to include in-ad countdown clocks that highlight the limited time offers or sales or count down the time until your next deal, event, or Black Friday offers.

2. Gobble up Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing includes organic (unpaid) posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and more. It also offers paid ads or boosted posts. Social media is a popular way to share ideas and communicate with friends and family, so it is a natural place to place ads to reach people as they’re planning for the holiday. Most social media platforms allow companies to upload your customer lists and market to them (and people like them), but businesses can also choose their audience based on geography and interests such as Thanksgiving, How to Cook a Turkey, Home Décor, Best Sports TV and more.

Most social media platforms are also video-friendly. They can be a great place to post videos of a store, videos showing pre-sale walkthrough, or show employees explaining some of the deals and specials they are offering during the holidays.

Some ad platforms of some social media platforms also allow companies to promote multiple items in a scrolling catalog format, so advertisers do not have to stick to just one item per ad.

3. Video Brings Your Business to Life

When it comes to the holidays, customers want information and inspiration, and nothing does that better than a video. Videos can go on corporate websites or be used in ads or promoted posts. They can even be included in email marketing campaigns!

Working with a local professional video team has become an easy way to show customers how to cook a turkey, develop a menu, or find the best new cooking gadgets for this Thanksgiving. Videos are also a great place to share table-setting ideas, explain how to create a better game-viewing environment, share ideas on what to wear on Thanksgiving, give makeup and hair tips, post tutorials for kids’ crafts, explain how to get the family motivated for a pre-feast game of tag football, and more.

This is also a great time of year to produce a video that features team members giving thanks to customers for their support during these difficult times. After all, Thanksgiving is all about gratitude.

4. Send a Cornucopia of Emails

When it comes to emails, one size does not fit all. The good news is that sending highly targeted messages does not have to be complicated. Companies who work with an experienced email marketing resource like LNP Media Group can launch and analyze email marketing campaigns quickly and efficiently.

Selecting either the firm’s customer email list or by choosing to send to other databases, Lancaster County businesses can send targeted emails to a variety of audiences. Loyal customers may receive thank-you emails that invite them to take advantage of early access for sales and offers. Lapsed customers may get a “we miss you” email that includes a coupon or offer. A potential customer could receive messages promoting pre-thanksgiving sales, promotions, or even offer limited-time offers.

Additionally, today’s emails are more responsive than ever, so they can easily navigate on mobile devices or laptops. It is also easy to include videos, QR codes, or bar codes that enable businesses to track the source of your sales down to the email.

5. We are Grateful for Geo-Targeted Ads

Geofencing is a super-targeted way to reach Lancaster County consumers based on where they are. Marketers can send an ad or marketing message to consumers’ mobile devices after entering a predefined geographic area. These spots can be as small and well-defined as a parking lot, inside a store, or a competitor’s location. Using geo-location, companies can deliver promotions, ads, coupons, and more to mobile phones.

Want some examples of how this works? Using geo-targeted ads, local grocery stores can deliver holiday specials to shoppers, even as they are shopping in a competitor’s store. Retailers who want to attract people shopping down the street can send one-day sale offers to customers when they are in the area. Restaurants can send coupons to people while they attend a nearby event. Auto dealers can send limited-time deals to shoppers while they look at vehicles in a competitor’s lot.

6. Digital Makes Holiday Curbside Pickups Easy

Curbside pickup options have become standard for many types of services. Do your customers know that your business now offers this type of service? It is important to get the word out if you have created online options for curbside pickup orders.

Whether promoting takeout food, veterinary services, or oil changes, curbside service can make a business more accessible, convenient, and safe.

7. Don’t Forget About Print this Thanksgiving!

LNP Media Group offers a range of holiday options and special editions in print. The Thanksgiving edition of LNP is the largest and most anticipated newspaper of the year, stuffed full of holiday deals, coupons, and sales. Lancaster County businesses know that this annual tradition is a favorite with local customers, and print can work in tandem with digital for an even bigger impact.

 

Black Friday: Retail’s Biggest Day of the Year

When it comes to bargain shoppers, Lancaster County has come to expect the biggest and best deals on Black Friday.  As retail traditions continue to change, more Black Friday sales are happening in-store AND on digital media. While crowded sales have been part of the holiday tradition in previous years, when health concerns loom, it is time to develop creative ways to allow customers and clients to access the best deals without facing crowds. Online sales may also bring in more shoppers who were unable (or unwilling) to brave the crowds in years past.

Here are some ways businesses in Lancaster County can make the most of Black Friday using digital media.

1. Combine Search Engine Marketing with F.O.M.O.!

When joining the crowds is not an option, more and more consumers suffer from F.O.M.O. (Fear of Missing Out.) Smart search engine marketing (SEM) ideas can tap into consumers’ need to be a part of the action by posting scarcity counts such as “Only Four Left” or “Only Two Hours Left!

“Don’t want to mess with shipping? Not only can digital marketers program their ads by analyzing search patterns and purchase intent, but they can also limit ad delivery geographically so it’s easy for customers to drive to your location to pick up their purchase.

2. Email Marketing is a Black Friday Staple

Email marketing has been used to promote Black Friday deals for years. Today, new technologies and integrations allow companies to automate countdown emails (“Only 24 hours until the sale starts…”), reminder emails (“Don’t forget, sale ends in two hours”), and abandoned cart emails (“Did you forget something?”).

Best of all, LNP Media Group can offer local lists and help businesses access qualified email lists based on demographics and purchase intent. That means that companies can send their targeted offers directly to the inboxes of potential new customers.

3. Promote Your Deals on Social Media

Social media users expect to be notified of upcoming deals and promotions, especially when it comes to Black Friday. This is a great time for local businesses to invest in Facebook and Instagram ads.

4. Create In-store Excitement With a Walkthrough Video

Want to show your customers your best products? Want to create excitement and anticipation for a visit or online sales? Consider a professionally shot walkthrough video explaining Black Friday deals and showing customers all the great stuff they can access. If health concerns are an issue, it is smart for businesses to use videos to explain what they are doing to keep shoppers safe.

5. 2020 is the Year of the Curbside Pickup

For all those customers who do not want to brave the crowds, curbside pickup is a great way to marry online purchases with retail locations. Curbside pickups make it easy to fulfill orders without investing in complicated shipping programs.

 

Small Business Saturday: Local Business’s Biggest Day of the Year

In past years, local shopping venues have been swamped with Lancaster County shoppers coming out to support their local retailers, restaurants, and businesses. However, the “new normal” requires companies to think beyond in-store sales to keep customers engaged and coming back.

1. Search Engine Marketing for Local Businesses

Many local businesses think search engine marketing is too “big” for their companies, but search marketing is the new phone book. It’s where people go to find shops, services, and food that are “near me.” That is why SEM is such an effective way to promote Small Business Saturday efforts. A good SEM campaign will not only drive people to a business listing, but it can also focus on the uniqueness of a company’s products or services, feature photos of their staff, and even allow organizations to donate a percent of the take to a favorite charity.

2. Local Loves LancasterOnline

When it comes to local advertising in Lancaster County, LancasterOnline is one of the most “local” digital tools you can use. LancasterOnline offers high-impact display ads surrounded by local news, which means the ad message is delivered to the people Lancaster County businesses care about most – local shoppers. Marketers can ask an LNP Media Group rep to demo the reveal ad, a large format ad that appears above the digital masthead.  Sticky anchors stay on the screen even as the user scrolls down. Other high impact formats include skyscraper ads and HTML5 animated ads.

3. Find Your Community on Facebook

When it comes to small communities and groups with shared interests, Facebook is king. Although geographic targeting is available on most social media platforms, Facebook is a favorite place for friends and families to stay in touch. Promoting your local company on Facebook, along with Small Business Saturday offers, special hours, online options, and sales make perfect business sense.

4. Highlight Your Local Presence with Video

Smart local businesses use video to introduce local customers to their business and their neighborhoods! Using LNP Media Group’s professional video production services, companies can show customers their store, their deals, introduce sales people, and even feature customer testimonials.

Best of all, videos can be used on corporate websites, in digital ads, or in promoted posts on social media. They can even be included in email marketing campaigns.

5. Lancaster Loves Print

Lancaster County loves print media. LNP helps customers look for information, offers, and ads from local businesses. LNP usually offers special Small Business Saturday sections or magazines, often part of a holiday marketing package. Ask your LNP Media Group representative for details.

6. Email Marketing Allows Business to Target Local Shoppers

Want to reach people who are most likely to buy local? Need to limit your message by geography or interests?  As a targeted email provider, LNP Media Group can offer clients the option to add or exclude a smaller list of emails from a targeted eblast. These tools may be helpful for organizations that want to target subsets of new users, existing customers, or lapsed customers.

 

Is Your Business Ready to Participate in Cyber Monday?

In 2019 Cyber Monday sales exceeded online sales for Black Friday, according to a report by Adobe. Many of 2019’s sales offered the option to purchase items online and pick up in-store. Although this day seems to be dominated by big players, local businesses can prosper as well.

Any business that is interested in getting more Millennial customers in Lancaster County should consider investing in e-commerce capabilities. After all, Millennials make 60% of their purchases online, according to a recent survey.

Wondering what you can do to make Cyber Monday another big sales day for your organization?

1. Cyber Monday and SEM

Black Friday isn’t the only day that triggers consumers’ F.O.M.O. (Fear of Missing Out.) Search engine marketing (SEM) is a great way to keep consumers updated on inventory counts such as “Only Two Days Remaining” or “Only One Hour Left!” It is also a great way to create online urgency by promoting one-day offers.
And remember that if businesses limit their offers to contained geographic areas, they can ask customers to drive to a local location to pick up their purchases.

2. Combine Cyber and Local with LancasterOnline Campaigns!

There are so many ways to promote Cyber Monday deals on LancasterOnline. And any ad that is placed on this local news and entertainment site is clickable so that potential customers can click through to the purchase page.

3. Cyber Monday Gets Even More Clickable with Email Marketing

Whether a company chooses to create a unique email campaign or sponsor one of LNP Media Group’s e-newsletters, these businesses can reach thousands of online shoppers on Cyber Monday. Sponsoring an e-newsletter ad is an easy way to broadcast Cyber Monday deals, and the email ad will be clickable so that Lancaster County shoppers can click through right to the sponsor’s website and offers.

 

Attract Last-Minute Christmas Shoppers

The days leading up to Christmas are the perfect time to get in front of last-minute shoppers.  Google reports that the average American does about 53% of shopping the week before Christmas.  There are many great ways to take advantage of the rush.

1. Deck the Halls with Social Media Marketing

Social media is a great way to grab consumers’ attention and share information about the latest deals and specials.  Businesses that want to ensure they reach the right people at the right time should create social media ads. Facebook, Instagram, and others have sophisticated targeted tools that allow companies to find their best customers based on geography, interests, and behaviors that are often very detailed, including some purchase history. Social media also allow advertisers to run promotions quickly, even for just one day.

2. Email Marketing Ideas

LNP Media Group offers sponsorships on a variety of daily new emails that are delivered to local shoppers. We are also a targeted email provider, which means Lancaster County businesses can add or exclude a smaller list of emails from a targeted eblast. This may be helpful for organizations that want to target subsets of new users, existing customers, or lapsed customers.

3. Geo-Targeting Offers Precise Delivery Opportunities

When a business needs to reach customers in a very small, defined area, geofencing can help. This ad tools allows companies to send promotions, ads, coupons, and more to mobile phones when the consumer enters a predefined geofenced site. Organizations can get the attention of last-minute shoppers by sending geo-targeted ads to consumers when they are at the mall or in a competitor’s store. Some retailers send offers to people nearby to drive foot traffic to their location.

4. Curbside Pickup Makes Last-Minute Shopping Easy

Having a curbside pickup in place makes digital shopping faster and easier for customers. Make sure your customers know that they can placed an order online, for convenient pickup later.
And remember, when shoppers begin running out of shopping time in the week leading up to Christmas, curbside pickup can offer a valuable shortcut that consumers appreciate.

 

Ring in New Year’s Eve!

New Year’s Eve is a big party night. Whether a business sells food, party supplies, event spaces, or rental limos, digital marketing can help Lancaster County companies be a part of the festivities.

When it comes to New Year’s Eve, Millennials are the biggest spenders. According to Anna Hecht for CNBC.com,

“Millennials love to splurge on experiences. They’re often more willing to spend their hard-earned dollars on making memories than on buying tangible things. New Year’s Eve is no exception. For a fun night out to celebrate the start of 2020, millennials (defined here as those 23 to 38) are willing to spend an average of $228.10, according to a recent survey from ticketing site Eventbrite. The poll was conducted online from Dec. 5 to Dec. 9, 2019, with 2,086 U.S. adults 18 or older. Even though millennials are known to spend less than previous generations, the amount they’re willing to put toward a New Year’s outing is about $42 more than the average amount Americans as a whole say they’re willing to spend, $185.60.”

Millennials are also the group that is most likely to start their shopping process online. So if a business wants to reach Millennials getting ready for New Year’s Eve, this is a great time to invest in digital marketing.

1. Start the Celebration with SEM Ideas

Use search engine marketing to promote end-of-year sales. It is an excellent time to run promotions urging Lancaster County Millennials to spend their newly acquired gift cards or exchange unwanted gifts. Create a special landing page for deals shoppers can get when they use gift card sales or do returns.

2. Social Media Marketing Ideas

Social media offers the chance to use photos, videos, or slideshows to showcase a business. Whether the company is offering special New Year’s Eve dinners, snack ideas, the latest fashions, bags, or games for kids, social media can help. Create ads, place posts in feeds, utilize Facebook Marketplace, or create live events like Facebook Live to notify their customers of sales, limited-supply, or special deals.

3. Email Marketing Ideas

Want to fill up a venue? Need to collect RSVPs for your upcoming event? Email marketing offers dozens of ways to communicate event details, share event pages, and even collect RSVPs. Emails also provide easy ways to upsell existing customers by reminding them of add-ons or accessories to complement their initial purchases.

4. Curbside Pickup Ideas

More and more people are celebrating New Year’s Eve at home, so this is the perfect time to offer curbside pickup of meals, catering, party supplies, or even clean up services. Make sure to promote the fact that your business makes it easy and safe to shop via curbside pickup.

 

Are You Ready to Get Digital This Holiday Season?

The world is changing fast, and digital is becoming a more critical part of the shopping journey. From researching future purchases to buying something in-store, apps, websites, emails, and social media all play a role in most shoppers’ consideration process.

More and more, even old-fashioned holiday shopping includes digital components. Consumers look online to see when the tree farm is open, where Santa is appearing, where to get cookie decorating supplies, how to get tickets for the Polar Express, and even to find hand-knitted stockings for the hearth. The fact is, whether customers are looking for old-fashioned nostalgia or the latest electronics, they start their search online.

Whether a company has a digital marketing program in place or if they need to build it from scratch, LNP Media Group has the digital marketing expertise needed to build and maintain robust digital marketing programs designed to increase our clients’ sales without killing their margins.

Make an appointment to talk with our experienced digital marketing team.  We have a wide range of programs that make it easy for your business to build a website, improve your SEO, market on search engines, create professional videos, begin email marketing, and more.

How to Choose a Lancaster County Digital Marketing Agency

How to Choose a Lancaster County Digital Marketing Agency

It doesn’t matter if you live in Lancaster or other parts of the country. Businesses everywhere have recognized that the marketing world is changing fast, and digital marketing companies are at the heart of this exciting time. Thousands of companies in Pennsylvania and beyond are trying to adapt their sales funnels in ways that take advantage of digital marketing. The COVID-19 pandemic made digital communications more critical than ever, and companies quickly pivoted to offer online orders, better websites, click to order features, and enhanced social media marketing programs.

Technology can be pretty complicated, and digital advertising is no exception. That’s why so many business owners can get overwhelmed when they try to master this medium. Even companies that are highly skilled at using technology, computers, and apps can quickly get frustrated when it comes to digital marketing. And no wonder. Digital marketing services are one of the fastest moving industries in the world right now, and that means practitioners must continuously learn new ways to achieve results.

According to the 2019 Digital Marketing Report from Promethean Research,

“Digital agency competition has grown dramatically in recent years, and we expect it to continue throughout the next 3-5 years. This increase in competition is due in large part to a few key shifts in the industry…the days of just being present in the marketplace being enough to build a business are coming to an end. Brands are demanding specialists, and as technological prowess becomes an even greater differentiator, we’re seeing the market shake out the less capable agencies.”

Thanks to ever-changing technology and ad platforms, even a marketing agency can find it hard to stay up-to-date. That’s why so many businesses are now initiating searches for a reliable digital marketing agency to help them navigate through the recent explosion in online marketing tools and ad platforms. A competent digital marketing agency will not only manage your marketing, they’ll also help you stay on top of news regarding evolving technology audiences, which digital platforms they are using, what advertising tools are available, and how to get the best results from each digital media.

Add regulatory and international political issues to the mix, and things really get complicated. Because digital services are so widespread and are often so effective, it’s been used for good and bad purposes. In attempts to prevent abuse, regulators can force ad platforms to change in an instant. Recently (as-of August 2020) TikTok struggled with political accusations that almost resulted in losing the American audience and American advertisers. Facebook continues to deal with requests to remove or revise sensitive ad targeting data. And American and international legislators persist in their efforts to place restrictions on digital properties.On June 7, 2020, Elizabeth Schultz from CNBC reported,

“The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, has imposed a combined $9.5 billion in antitrust fines against Google since 2017, and its boss hints Amazon and Apple might be next in line. Facebook, meanwhile, has been subject to probes from competition and data protection authorities across the E.U. since the region’s strict new set of privacy rules called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect last year. As U.S. regulators and lawmakers step up their efforts to rein in big tech companies, Europe offers some valuable lessons.”

This can be pretty heavy stuff. So it’s not surprising that digital marketing agencies are continually learning and evolving to keep up with the breakneck pace of change. And to make things even more complex, the backend ad platforms for digital properties such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter are changing even faster than consumer-facing interfaces.

But don’t let this complexity scare you. Digital marketing agencies are available to help Lancaster County businesses make sense of this fast-moving and sometimes confusing world. Whether you sell pizza, Porsches, or pediatric care, you need a smart marketing company to help you create flawless interactions with customers, clients, and patients online. No business is exempt.

According to an article by J. Clement in Statista,

“The Internet has become one of the most vital tools for communication, information, and entertainment in today’s globalized world. As of 2020, more than half of the global population is connected to the Internet, and while some regions still lack the infrastructure that is needed to provide sufficient online coverage, others are seeing internet penetration rates of close to 100 percent.”

Whether you’re considering placing ads on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Google ads, YouTube, or another digital ad platform, a digital agency can help. A full-service marketing agency knows what’s happening with the programming environment, how audience parameters are changing, why advertising methodologies are shifting, and who is coming out with the next big advertising innovation.

The advertising rules are changing every day. No wonder big and small companies in Lancaster County are seeking skilled experts to stay on top of these continual changes. When an organization hires a digital marketing agency, it is letting external specialists focus on time-consuming marketing tasks so that the organization can stay focused on other parts of their business.

How Can a Digital Marketing Agency Help Your Business?

The best digital agencies are ones that can act as a true marketing partner. These marketing companies understand how to reach their client’s short-term and long term goals. In order to help firms grow profitably, the digital marketing agency must have a “When you win, we win” mentality.

Good marketing services have many traits in common, including:

1. The marketing company knows how to find the newest and best ways to reach your customers.

Any good digital agency understands that the world is always changing. While it can be hard to keep up, this also means that new opportunities are popping up everywhere. A skilled marketing company keeps track of innovations and continually evaluates them for their clients.

2. Digital marketing is never a one-size-fits-all proposition.

Experienced digital agencies know that marketing services may need to stop or start quickly and are structured to meet these needs. They can scale marketing services up or down quickly, as needed. If a digital marketing agency tries to convince you to use a standardized program, that’s a red flag.

3. Responsible marketing agencies stay informed.

Your marketing agency must understand the value of new digital innovations quickly. They should be able to evaluate and suggest improved approaches or strategies proactively.

4. Your marketing company is producing the right content for the right platform or application.

Each platform uses different interfaces that train users to interact with ads in different ways. A smart digital marketing agency knows how to create content that is adapted to the preferences of each platform to maximize results.

5. The digital marketing company supplies rigorous reporting and optimization so you can make the most of your investment.

Reports are critical if you want to understand how well your investment is working. When your marketing services provide clear ROI, you have the information you need to increase or decrease marketing budgets confidently.

Look for an Experienced Digital Marketing Agency

Digital agencies are popping up everywhere. In fact, digital marketing agencies are one of the fastest-growing segments in business. But how do you find one that’s right for you?

Start by digging into their track record. Are they stable? Can they provide credible client references? Have they been in business for more than a few years? Looks for a digital marketing company that has a history of satisfied customers and a good track record helping companies to grow and succeed.

It’s also important to share your goals with your potential marketing company. Digital marketing guru Neil Patel gives this advice,

“Every business is different, as is every digital marketing agency. Digital marketing agencies usually specialize in one or two areas. And while many of them are “full-service,” they typically prefer projects within their specialty. So the first step in choosing the right digital marketing agency is understanding your goals and what you hope to achieve by working with one. It may be easier to break this down into deliverables, the goal of those deliverables, and the outcome you hope to achieve. Knowing these things helps you communicate what you wish to get out of the project. And when an agency knows what you’re looking for, they know whether they can actually help you without wasting anyone’s time.”

Case studies are another tool a digital marketing company will use to demonstrate their experience. Any marketing agency should be able to supply case studies and convincingly justify their expertise. Do they have certifications such as Google Analytics I.Q., Google Ads Certified, YouTube Certification, or Facebook Blueprint Certification?

Finally, ask about staffing. In a world filled with remote workers and freelance contractors, it’s smart to ask whether the digital marketing agency completes work in-house or if work is outsourced. Do they keep regular business hours? What will your digital marketing company team look like, what are their qualifications, and will you have direct access to them?  Will your team be easily reached for questions and change requests?

What Do Digital Marketing Agencies Cost?

If you’ve never worked with a digital marketing agency before, you may be concerned about the costs. However, a good marketing agency will balance those costs by creating new revenue streams and by building your reputation in ways that attract more business. So before you hire an outside agency, make sure you understand your marketing goals and the value of that additional revenue.

The fees from a full-service marketing agency will vary, and will incorporate fees they are charged by Facebook, Google, and others. Pricing changes based on the marketing channels used, the types of services you need from your digital marketing company, their experience and expertise, and more. A young startup may be cheaper, but they may not be able to match the results of a more experienced marketing partner.

When considering cost, weigh your investment against the digital marketing agency’s expertise, flexibility, and track record. The scope of work is also a critical consideration. Scope of work, or a statement of work, should be a written document developed prior to the start of work, that includes the deliverables you are getting from your digital marketing company, the type of work they are doing, and the number of channels they are using.

As a general rule, the more time it takes to complete the work, the more the marketing agency will charge. Using more digital tools and platforms is usually more complicated and time-consuming, and therefore costs more.

However, the best way to gauge costs is to compare your investment to expected results. Any marketing effort should be a tool to increase revenue. It doesn’t matter whether your digital marketing agency is expensive or cheap. If they can’t improve your bottom line, they’re not worth it.

What do Digital Marketing Agencies Do?

While every digital agency is different, most lists of marketing services include some or all of the following specialties. Even if they don’t provide the services in-house, they may partner with trusted resources who specialize in one area of digital marketing services.  Here are some of the core competencies clients need.

Customized Marketing Plans

Some marketing agencies offer prebuilt plans that they use for every client. While this can be a cost-efficient marketing strategy, a one-size-fits-all approach rarely gives clients precisely what they need to meet their marketing goals. Digital marketing services should be able to create a unique plan of action designed to improve your results. Every Pennsylvania business has unique challenges and opportunities.

When you work with a digital marketing agency that creates customized plans for each client, you’ll pay for the services you need, and built in ways designed to help you succeed. Look for a full-service digital marketing agency that has cultivated several long-term relationships. Ongoing relationships are often a sign of competency and effectiveness.

In Lancaster County, it makes sense to look for a comprehensive marketing company with strong local ties, like LNP Media Group. As a full-service digital marketing agency, we create plans that use printdigitalvideo, and more to meet all your marketing needs.

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization

If you want people to visit your website, SEO is absolutely critical. In the digital age, the website is the hub of a company’s communications. A hardworking website can be your best salesperson, biggest catalog, most helpful brochure, and most responsive customer service. And SEO is the most effective way to lead people to your site.

Ranking high on a search engine isn’t easy.

  • More than 7.8 billion searches occur each day.
  • Over 4 million blog posts are published on the Internet every day.
  • As of 2019, there were approximately 1.94 billion websites in the world.
  • More than 5 billion pages are currently indexed on the web.

With smart SEO techniques, your digital marketing agency can dramatically increase the visibility of your website and drive more qualified leads to click on your site.

When you interview digital marketing agencies, make sure they understand SEO and are able to execute SEO strategies such as creating interlinking and inbound links, website optimization, increasing indexability of files, performing technical optimization, increasing your sites mobile-friendliness, optimizing for local and “near me” terms, optimizing meta tags, and creating content in ways that increase your website’s search ranking.

Google Search Ads

Many full-service digital marketing agencies offer paid search advertising, also called pay-per-click or PPC. That’s because many businesses have found that paid search is one of the most effective ways to drive more qualified traffic to their website. When your full-service digital marketing agency effectively combines paid search with other marketing tools, your company can increase sales, awareness, and conversion results across the board.

A qualified digital marketing agency can help create paid search plans that are fast, flexible, and customized to your business needs. Whether you’re looking to increase awareness, leads, sales, or inquiries, paid search is one of the best ways to identify and convert qualified prospects.

Google is the largest search engine, accounting for almost 90% of all search traffic. So it makes sense to look for a digital marketing agency that is Google Certified or a Google Partner.

Google Display Ads

While paid search ads are effective, Google Display ads are another powerful tool to include in your marketing arsenal. A skilled digital marketing agency can use Google Display ads to offer a compelling way to engage with your website. Display ads appear on some of the millions of popular websites at a relatively low cost-per-click. Smart digital marketing teams will also help you determine if retargeted ads are appropriate for your business and can program ad delivery in ways that prevent your ads from appearing on websites that are not good fits with your company.

Integrated Campaigns

While some digital marketing agencies like to recommend only one digital medium, good marketing agencies will use a range of tools in ways that integrate with other online and offline marketing tactics, including print ads, social media marketing, and more. A skilled digital agency can provide consistent, integrated campaigns across all channels that help your enterprise meet its marketing goals.

Retargeting Ads

A retargeting ad follows a website’s visitors as they travel to other websites, intending to attract users back to their site, even after they’ve left. An effective digital marketing company can re-engage potential customers by delivering ads that encourage them to return and convert. This kind of consistent retargeting is an effective way to promote repeat visits to websites.

LancasterOnline

LancasterOnline is the #1 news website in Lancaster County, with over 1 million unique visitors each month, and over 10,000 paid subscribers. Digital ads on LancasterOnline ensure your company’s messages are surrounded by well-read, credible, respected content. A skilled full-service digital marketing agency can recommend the best ways to leverage this digital powerhouse, including interactive quizzes, sweepstakes, sponsored content, and contests. Sponsored (or collaborative) content from LancasterOnline is a way for advertisers to seamlessly integrate brand promotions in engaging and informative articles written by the LNP Media Group team. Marketing agencies can also help the client create business directory ads, reveal ads, homepage takeovers, sponsorships, and e-newsletter sponsorships. Your agency will identify the smartest way to reach highly-engaged, local audiences.

Social Media Management and Advertising

The majority of your customers already use Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube or Twitter. Social media is a powerful marketing tool and continues to grow in influence and usage. In fact, social media marketing has become one of the most influential media available. Experienced digital marketing agencies will leverage social media marketing tools such as laser-focused audience targeting tools, tracking pixels, retargeting pixels, video marketing, in-app advertising, custom audiences, and lookalike audiences.

Advanced Audience Targeting

Using sophisticated targeting capabilities on Facebook, Instagram, Google Display, Twitter, YouTube, and more, your digital marketing company should be able to create precise, customized social media audiences who are most likely to make purchases from your business. By selecting the right combinations of demographics, interests, hobbies, locations, behaviors, and even your own email lists, social media ads can be delivered to highly-qualified audiences. A capable marketing company will monitor and optimize social media ads using a/b testing, detailed analytics, and performance dashboards.

Video Advertising

Video is fast becoming one of the most effective ways to share information and persuade people on social media. Online consumers spend almost six hours per day in front of videos. 85% of the U.S. online audience watches videos. Millennials watch more video vs. other age groups. And there’s a lot to view. In fact, more than 8 billion video views occur on Facebook alone, every day.

So it’s no surprise that video marketing is one of the most effective ways to drive consumer engagement. Social video ads are the #1 way consumers discover new businesses from which they later make purchases.

An experienced full-service digital marketing agency will be able to help you create high-quality, affordable video. LNP Media Group’s video team can shoot on location or in our state-of-the-art video studio in the heart of downtown Lancaster. We create videos on behalf of our digital marketing clients, but we also produce videos for other marketing agencies.

Mobile Marketing and Geo-fencing

All digital agencies should demonstrate a deep understanding of mobile marketing. Mobile internet use has exploded in recent years. Advances in internet speed, mobile display, and cell phone costs mean that mobile use will continue to grow in the coming years.

CNBC correspondent Lucy Handler reported,

“Almost three quarters (72.6 percent) of internet users will access the web solely via their smartphones by 2025, equivalent to nearly 3.7 billion people…2 billion people currently access the internet via only their smartphone, which equates to 51 percent of the global base of 3.9 mobile users.”

In addition to ensuring a mobile-friendly website, mobile marketing includes mobile-only ad delivery. Savvy digital marketing agencies use geo-targeted mobile advertising, or geo-fencing, to target audiences based on virtual geographic boundaries. Geo-fencing allows a marketing agency to identify where your target audience will be, then deliver ads to their mobile device once they enter or leave the geo-fenced location.

Content Marketing

Today’s full-service marketing agency must understand how to leverage content marketing strategies. In addition to creating consistent, compelling messaging, content marketing is a long-term strategy that focuses on building strong relationships through relevant, high-quality content.

Adept digital agencies should be able to develop and execute marketing campaigns that include professional, engaging content that leverages your business’s key selling points. These marketing agencies will use content to drive people to your website, social media page, or a customized landing page. Whether you want your prospects to fill out a form, opt-in to email newsletters, enter a contest, take a quiz, or request an appointment, top-level content keeps your customers moving through the sales funnel.

Your digital marketing agency should be able to integrate content marketing with blogs, videos, infographics, email marketing, paid ads, and user-generated content.

Email Marketing

Some digital marketing agencies don’t bother with email marketing. They don’t understand that email marketing is an effective and efficient digital strategy if you can reach highly-qualified prospects. In fact, people like reading about your offers in emails. 60% of consumers prefer to be contacted by brands through email. When recipients opt-in to receive email marketing, it’s not only 100% CAN-SPAM compliant, but also more effective: every $1 spent on email marketing has an expected ROI of $44.

A smart full-service marketing agency will ensure your email message reaches valuable prospects. For example, LNP Media Group offers access to 200 million highly-targeted, specific “intenders” who are ready to engage with your offer.

Make sure your agency’s marketing services include guaranteed performance.  LNP Media Group guarantees a minimum open rate of 8% or a click rate of 1%. If not met, the campaign will be delivered again at no charge.

Custom Landing Page Design

The average landing page conversion is about 2.35%, but well-designed landing pages can convert 11% or more. Make sure your agency’s digital marketing services include designing and programming custom landing pages to complement conversion-driven campaigns.

The most effective landing pages may include forms to capture leads and user data. Email or retargeting ads can drive to a landing page with a call-to-action and engaging content to drive conversions. Your digital marketing company should understand how to design useful landing pages and have experience with exceptional conversion rates.

Web Design and Optimization

A website is the beating heart of your digital marketing program. It’s one of the most potent and influential communications your prospects and customers will see, so make sure it’s working well and programmed to meet your marketing goals.

Today’s digital consumer expects a vibrant, professional, easy-to-navigate website. Slow load times, difficult navigation, non-working links, small text, and mobile issues can convince your prospect to leave your site and look for other options. If your agency’s digital services don’t include continual optimizations of your website, you’re missing a significant sales and marketing opportunity.

A good digital marketing agency not only creates attractive websites, but they also understand how to program for SEO, are skilled at including conversion tools such as forms or click-to-call buttons, and they know how to drive qualified users to your website.

If your website isn’t operating at optimal efficiency, it may be time to update or replace it. Choose a digital marketing agency with a history of building hardworking websites. Make sure your marketing agency can demonstrate that their sites are visited frequently and are meeting client objectives.

E-Commerce

Online commerce is more common than ever. More and more people are going online to buy everything from coffee to Corvettes. However, building an online commerce site requires deep expertise in online catalogs, SEO, e-commerce platforms, exceptional reporting, and associated marketing programs to attract or retarget site visitors.

When you’re looking for a digital marketing agency to help you create or improve your e-commerce, make sure they have a significant team at their disposal. Online commerce is rarely a one-person job. Ask about their experience building or optimizing other e-commerce sites, and make sure the digital marketing company has worked extensively with e-commerce platforms like WooCommerce, Shopify, Big Commerce, and Weebly.

Finally, ask about reporting procedures. Discuss your e-commerce goals, your limitations, what you need to know, and how you prefer to get reports. Any e-commerce program will need to be regularly monitored and optimized, so avoid marketing agencies with a “set it and forget it” attitude.

OTT and CTV

As any good full-service digital marketing agency can tell you, digital marketing isn’t limited to computers and mobile phones. More and more smart TVs are getting into the game with OTT and CTV.

OTT is an acronym for “over-the-top.” Marketing agencies use the term to describe the delivery of film, video, and TV content via the Internet and “over-the-top” of cable, in addition to or instead of standard cable or satellite services.

Connected TV, or CTV, is the term used by digital marketing agencies to describe the integration of Internet and enhanced web features that can be seen on new-generation TV sets and include streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, YouTubeTV, and Disney +.

Despite its rapid growth, OTT and CTV advertising can be confusing, even for seasoned marketers. An experienced digital marketing agency will understand how to adapt creative and messaging while continually tracking analytics and budgets.

Whether you choose OTT, CVT, or both, make sure your marketing agency provides transparency, measurement, and skilled media targeting.

Transparent Reports

When you’re looking for a full-service digital marketing agency to manage your SEO, social media, website, e-commerce, email marketing, and marketing strategies, you want to find a partner who can help you reach more customers and generate more revenue. Efficient, transparent reporting plays a critical role in determining how well your digital agency is achieving your goals. .

A skilled digital marketing company will measure the performance of your digital campaigns by tracking a variety of measurements that can include clicks, views, shares, conversions, and even sales. By combining tools such as Google Search Console, Google Analytics, tracking code, UTM codes, and digital dashboards, a smart digital agency will accurately track your campaign metrics in detail and provide you with recommendations for improvement.

How a Digital Agency Knows if Your Campaign is Working

Before you choose a marketing agency, take time to discuss measurements. Your business deserves regular reporting delivered in an easy-to-understand format. All reports should include conversions or goals and connect performance back to fees and investments. However, each platform offers different types of reporting. Here’s an overview of basic reporting parameters.

Website Reporting

Your marketing agency should deliver website reports at least once a month. Those reports should include key metrics, including unique visitors or users. A unique user is a single person who visits a site. This number will differ from total visits, which includes multiple visits from a single person.

A responsible digital marketing company will also include details of those visits that should consist of time spent on the site, the average time spent on a page, how many pages were viewed on average per visit, and the traffic source (another website, search, social, etc.)

Your digital agency must share the bounce rate (people who visit then immediately leave) and the click-through rate (people who click on links to key destinations.) Ask for numbers of new and returning visitors.  And if your website features e-commerce, links to e-commerce, or submits leads, ask your marketing services to include an ROI for click-throughs.

Social Media Key Metrics

All social media platforms provide a variety of measurement tools, which allows your digital agency to provide detailed reporting. Social media reports should include unique visitors to your page, number of followers, and increases or decreases compared to the previous month. Platform reports should also include views, comments, likes, or shares.

For organic posts, smart digital marketing agencies will report on the best-performing content and make recommendations for future content.

Digital services need to analyze cost per click, costs per thousand reach or impressions, and the click-through rate in all social media ad reports.

Email Marketing Metrics

When you work with a full-service marketing agency on email marketing, reports will include and open rate, clicks, and cost per clicks. Good marketing services will compare your campaign’s performance to industry averages. And if clicks are associated with sales, leads, or participation, your digital agency should provide real ROI.  If your agency provided the email list, make sure your reports include evaluations of list quality and, when appropriate, recommendations to improve targeting or list quality.

SEO and Search Marketing Metrics

Digital agencies use SEO and search marketing to increase site traffic, so any report should include clear measurements on increases in site traffic. Effective SEO will move you up the search engine rankings, so make sure your reports map out the ranking per keyword, as well as views, organic traffic, direct traffic, and details on the number of calls and how locations requests were completed.

e-Commerce Metrics

When you invest in an e-commerce program, you’re looking for sales. Any digital marketing agency should provide clear, concise reports for online sales, including conversion values and revenue. Your digital agency needs to include clicks and views in their reports, as well as data on new and return customer traffic.

Which Lancaster Digital Marketing Agency is Right for You?

We all know digital activity has exploded. In the last decade, billions of consumers have installed in-home Wi-Fi, visited websites, read blogs, opened social media accounts, clicked on emails, viewed online videos, watched CTV and OTT ads, and purchased online. Digital marketing is mainstream. Your grandma has a smartphone and Facebook account, and your two-year-old spends time on an iPad.

At the 2017 Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Annual Leadership Meeting, P&G’s Chief Brand Officer, Marc Pritchard, told audiences in Hollywood, Florida, “The days of digital getting a pass are over.” After spending time explaining why digital marketing agencies must get better at reporting, he made it clear that digital advertising must make direct connections between marketing efforts and business impact.

However, three years later, many digital marketing agencies still don’t explain how their digital strategies are helping their clients’ business.

When you’re looking for a marketing agency, make sure your agency team is able to report on clicks and impressions. Challenge your digital marketing agency to tie marketing to tangible business outcomes.

How can you do that? Make sure your marketing agency is staffed with seasoned experts who understand the entire marketing journey, not just the task at hand. Discuss turnover and the stability of the company.  Ask questions. Look at reports from other clients. Find people who fit well with your team, your business, and your working style.

When you’re ready to look for a new marketing agency, consider LNP Media Group. We’re part of a 200-year-old tradition of content creation and advertising. We’re backed by a trustworthy company with deep employee reserves and reliable resources. We know Pennsylvania and Lancaster County, but we also understand business strategy, e-commerce, web development, video, social media, content marketing, offline marketing, and more. Ready to talk? Click here to set up a time to talk about what we can do to help you grow your business.

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