Thursday, February 26, 2015

What Harvard Knows About Consultants That You Don’t

Researchers at Harvard Business School sought to understand what makes change and transformation efforts successful. Based on research of strategy models at a variety of a global companies*, they found that 70 to 90 percent of internal execution efforts fail. It seems that companies have a hard time getting internal strategy projects completed.
To boil it down, that means seven to nine of your strategic projects are going to fail this year if you try to complete them in-house.
Let's find out why.

Outside Eyes Give You the Competitive Edge

According to the report, most internal strategists approach strategic projects in the following manner:

Step #1: Identify an opportunity—not hard to do, when you’re constantly swimming in the sea of your own challenges

Step #2: Attain buy-in from executive leadership—challenging, but possible for most internal strategists

Step #3: Execute on the strategy

Step #3 is where most internal strategists can’t bring it home. It’s not that they are at fault—they are simply too busy with all of their other responsibilities to execute on a new strategy.

Get the Competitive Edge

Too often, we think we can do it all ourselves. We don’t want to get outside help, or look to a consultant for an outside opinion, because we think we know our business better than anybody else. But the truth is, outside consultants often give you the competitive edge. They know your market landscape and can provide expertise on how to solve your unique challenges.

This is true for content and content strategy. Often, we are asked to step-in on a project that someone thought they could write internally. Or a social media or content marketing project has been stalled for months, until clients reach out to us for help with implementation. The best part is we see ourselves as your consultative partners, who can help you think through your strategy AND execute on your behalf.

Don’t let 2015 be the year that goes by with seven to nine failed strategic projects.  Reach out to a strategic partner who will lend a fresh set of eyes and a perspective that will position you for big wins this year.
*Kotter, John P. “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail.” Harvard Business Review, January 2007.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Spring Cleaning Your Marketing Strategy: 6 Practices to Shed

With Daylight Saving Time around the corner, many of us are eagerly awaiting the sense of renewal that comes with spring. Along with decluttering closets and planting flowers, now is also a good time to let go of marketing beliefs and practices that are no longer serving your brand, or anyone else’s brand for that matter.

Freshen Up Your Marketing Strategy by Letting Go of These 6 Practices:

1. Organizing content in a Z-shaped pattern: As users’ online viewing habits are becoming more sophisticated, eye tracking studies show they are scanning pages using five distinct patterns. To make sure your most important content gets the exposure it deserves, chunk it out and make sure you favor the left side of the screen.

2. Thinking your app is a marketing strategy: Digital platform guru Josh Clark says it best, “An app is not a strategy. It’s just an app.” Think of your app as a container that helps you deliver content. You can use it to strengthen brand loyalty by applying content in ways that help meet a specific user need, but an app alone does not a marketing strategy make. Check out the healthcare app that Aha Media wrote for a client.

3. Cramming too much information above the fold: Gone are the days of building content for users who don’t scroll: we now know that users are spending as much as 66% of their time below the fold. Your new challenge is to make sure above the fold content is compelling enough to encourage scrolling down for more.

4. Assuming your mobile users are distracted: With 58% of American adults using smartphones, mobile interactions are just as likely to occur from a user’s couch as they are on the go. With features that desktops don’t have, such as cameras, microphones and GPS, mobile users are not only focused, they have tools to interact with your brand in new and interesting ways.

For example, allowing current customers to augment product reviews with their own pictures adds depth, and affords potential customers a first-hand account of what they can expect from your brand.

5. Overestimating the value of homepage traffic: Given advancements in search behavior and search engine ranking algorithms, users who don’t know your brand are far more likely to find your site from blog or video content than your homepage. Use Google Analytics to learn which pages are drawing the most traffic and optimize them to encourage maximum visibility for your brand.

6. Eliminating extra taps and clicks whenever possible: Today’s users want to engage with brands in a meaningful way. When your website encourages them to breeze through using the least possible number of taps and clicks you’re passing up interactions that can strengthen customer loyalty. In fact if you can hold a user’s attention for just three minutes they are twice as likely to return.

Do this by building your site to encourage touch interactions:
  • Building your site to support the ergonomics of using a device with one hand (it’s all about the thumbs!) 
  • Sizing touch targets so they’re easy to use
  • Adding speech recognition capabilities for important features such as search

Did we miss anything? Share your tips with us in the Comments section.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Why Your Web Pages Alienate Your Customers

Did you know we use five different coping strategies to scan a web page? It's just a simple fact of neuroscience: The human eye is built for scanning on digital screens. But you need your customers to read. You want to build web pages that encourage scanning, but also invite them to commit to reading.
There are five different scanning patterns that people use when scanning web pages: F-shaped, Layer cake, Bypassing, Spotted and Commitment. But there are three types of pages that will cause your customers to bounce like rubber balls right off your site. Learn how to avoid them below.

3 Web Moves to Avoid

  1. Don't Shout: You know those web pages make everything important? They assign no visual hierarchy to pages so that the customer has no idea where to look first. These pages are cluttered with too much content, not enough use of different types and sizes of fonts and no focus. Clean up your pages by working with excellent web designers who understand how to create white space and anchors for the eyes.
  2. Organize: What's the most important thing you want your customer to know after scanning your page? Where's the call to action? Are you using words your customers know? Organizing information for the reader is the most important thing a web writer does. Too often I read web pages where the lede is so buried, it would take 1,000 archaeologists and Indiana Jones to dig it up. Elevate your main point and lose the rest.
  3. Prune: The most beautiful spaces in the world understand the balance between too much and too little. Americans are bombarded by 5,000 messages a day. Your job is to help your customers focus.  So prune out unnecessary side bars or calls to action.
P.S. You can learn more about the 5 patterns we use to scan pages, as well as how to create fantastic web copy that converts by taking one of Ahava's digital copywriting classes. These workshops are custom designed for your company and take your team from a group of print writers to digital writers who understand organic SEO, how to construct and write powerful web pages and calls to action and how to design content marketing campaigns that convert.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Which SEO Factors Will Matter in 2015: Part 3

We hope you are enjoying our three part series on SEO success for 2015. In our last two SEO posts, we covered on-page factors—those things you can do to pages on your site to increase their relevance for search.

Now, we’re going to talk about off-page factors—or those things you can do off your website. People typically think of off-page factors as link-building, but there’s so much more to this part of SEO.

Off-Page Factors You Need to Know

  1. Check your backlinks (those links that point to your website from other web pages): While linking was popular to increase your SEO rankings, we now know search engines are paying less attention to this strategy. Some of the links directed to your content may be spammy or worthless. Check your backlinks. When you find ones that may be harming your SEO, consider asking the site owner to remove them or use Google’s disavow tool.
  2. Use social: We all know how important social media is to our SEO efforts. While Google has said that social is not a major factor in determining search relevance, social media can and should drive traffic to your content. When people engage with your content they tend to share it, which means more people will find it. It’s a win/win for increasing your relevance and converting traffic to customers.
  3. Local listings: When we audit clients, we are surprised to see how often they don’t take advantage of this relatively easy way to increase your relevance in search. Listing on sites like Google Local, Maps, Yahoo Local and Bing Places for Business can impact how often people find you.
Off-page factors and on-page factors will affect your SEO in 2015. Master these concepts and include your larger digital marketing team in your efforts to get ahead using these advanced tactics.

If you need help, consider a forensic SEO audit. We look at all of the factors potentially affecting your SEO and then provide you with some recommendations to jumpstart your efforts.
Contact Ahava today.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

9 Tips for Marketing Your Hospital Using Online Physician Profiles

More than 90 percent of Americans consider choosing a doctor a major life decision. Word of mouth is still a primary influencer, but consumers are now seeking those “words” online. In fact, nearly half of consumers are going online to research doctors before seeking care.

Make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for by leveraging your hospital’s online physician profiles.

Emotions Rule When Choosing a Doctor

When it comes to choosing a doctor, emotional needs play as much a role, if not bigger, than rational thought. To be successful, online profiles need to convey warmth and character, while also trumpeting a doctor’s background and expertise.

What’s more, social media has trained consumers to value other peoples’ experiences when making important decisions. To maximize visibility, physician profile information needs to exist beyond the virtual walls of your organization’s website.

Here are 9 tips for marketing your hospital using online physician profiles:

1.      Focus on experience and certifications: Potential patients care most about whether a doctor is qualified to care for their condition. In fact, eight in 10 say that a doctor’s experience with a specific procedure or treatment is an extremely or very important selection factor.

2.      Always include a professional headshot. Including a professional looking headshot can help new patients put a face to a name and relieve anxiety before their first appointment.

3.      Connect with consumers by using a short video. Video is a great method for getting beyond profile basics and letting a doctor’s personality shine. Another plus is that videos are 53 times more likely than traditional web pages to receive first-page ranking in Google.

4.      Claim and complete profiles on third party review sites. Surprisingly, 62 percent of consumers use online review sites, such as Yelp and Healthgrades, as their first step in finding a new doctor. These sites pull information from licensing databases and public sources, which can lead to incomplete or outdated data, so it’s important to claim these profiles and keep them updated.

5.      Use LinkedIn to improve your findability in search. LinkedIn is likely not the first place consumers go looking for a new doctor. However, healthcare social media gurus, including Dr. Kevin Pho, are singing its praises because LinkedIn profiles get the highest rankings among social media platforms. This can push negative mentions of your brand further down on search engine results pages.

6.      Save information about insurance accepted for other pages. Don’t waste precious profile real estate listing out all the insurance plans with which a doctor participates. Over a quarter of insured patients are willing to go out-of-network if they feel they can get care that better meets their needs. To this end, focus on offering details about expertise and innovative treatments.

7.      Use language that conveys empathy. Users are more likely to make appointments with doctors who convey empathy through their online content. Do this by including words as “compassionate” and “patient-focused”. Learn more about our research in this area and other insights for Creating Better Healthcare Content.

8.      Optimize profile pages on your website for search. Don’t forget to optimize profile pages on your organization’s website for search. If any of your doctors have a strong reputation, consider using their name as a keyword since consumers may be searching for them this way.

9.      Keep profiles current. Visit profiles periodically to verify information and make updates as necessary.

Did we miss anything? Add your suggestions and feedback in the Comments section below.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Assess Your Online Reputation Using 5 Simple Steps

When you Google your business name, information on the first search engine report page (SERP) can tell you a lot about your online reputation. But keep going.

According to experts, 3 out of 4 users click on results within the first three SERPs. From indifferent or negative online reviews to blogs that don’t sing your brand’s praises, there really is such thing as bad publicity. Know where you stand by assessing your online reputation.

Before we get started, it’s important to understand the two most significant online reputation influences:
  • Organic search is how people who don’t know exactly what they might be looking for find you. Factors such as keywords, visitor traffic and social sharing determine organic search rankings. This can be a boon to brands that have great content; it also means unflattering content can outrank it.
  • Social media affects your online reputation even more than the number of followers you have. This is because Google treats Facebook and Twitter like normal web pages. Every tweet, status update, and share mentioning your brand that shows up in search can be just as impactful as the pages on your website.

Given how fluid the web is, organic search and social media can build up your brand’s reputation or unravel it in just a matter of hours. Your best defense is to regularly assess your online reputation. Here’s how:

5 Simple Steps for Assessing Your Online Reputation

1. Become anonymous: Given advancements in personalized search, search engines keep detailed records of your preferences, including location, industry and company. To get the most accurate results when you’re assessing your online reputation, be sure to log out of search engine accounts and disable personalized search.

2. Start searching: Use organic search to find out what people are saying and what content is being associated with your brand. Conduct multiple searches using keywords including:

  • Your company name, brand name(s), product names and names of key personnel
  • Common misspellings of your company name or brand name(s)
  • Your brand in a positive light, “best brownies, Bloom Organic Bakery”
  • Your brand in a negative light, “worst brownies, Bloom Organic Bakery”

3. More ways to search: Don’t limit yourself to web pages on Google. Your online reputation includes any content on any search engine.
  • Conduct the searches mentioned above in Google Images and Google Video.
  • Try multiple search engines. The major ones are Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.
  • Try searching metasearch engines, such as Dogpile, Clutsy and ZapMeta.

4. Monitor social media mentions: Use these tools to streamline monitoring across more than 400 social media channels:
  • HootSuite: Offers a robust dashboard allowing you to check every social media site
  • Reviewpush: Monitors online review activity and compiles statistics allowing you to compare positive, negative and neutral reviews
  • Social Mention: Monitors multiple social media channels and tells you which keywords people use when talking about your brand

5. Evaluate your findings: There’s no golden rule in determining whether you have a “good” or “bad” online reputation. Generally speaking, if the top 10 search results for your brand include listings that are either negative or have nothing to do with your brand, there’s room for improvement.   

For more blogs on this topic, learn more about why You Cannot Afford a Bad Reputation. For an online reputation that dazzles, follow our 9 Tips for Online Reputation Management. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Which SEO Factors Will Matter in 2015: Part 2

When writing content for the web, there’s so much you have to juggle: How users search for information, how they read content online and how those patterns have changed with mobile consumption.

Evolving patterns in search are trends you need to understand and master. In Part 1: Which SEO Factors Will Matter in 2015, we talked about on-page factors that will help juice your organic SEO in 2015. On-page factors refer to what you can actually do to the pages of your website to improve their relevancy.

We're going to explore a few more now, and then time, we will explore off-page factors (things you can do off-site to help boost your traffic).


Rockstar SEO On-page Factors

Here are three more on-page factors to consider:

  1. Use rich snippets: Rich snippets allow developers to add specially coded elements to their websites. These elements appear in search—think of a video, an image or the name of an author that comes up when you search. These coded elements will improve your click-through-rate (CTR), an important factor for search engines. After all, the more people that click on search results that lead to your pages, the more relevant your content seems to the search engines’ algorithms.
  2. Optimize your images: Make sure the pictures and graphics you use have alt-tags or image tags. These will help with SEO and also improve your customers’ overall experience. Try this free alt-tag checker to find images that may be missing tags.
  3. Check your page load times: People want fast-loading web pages when they click on a search link, which is why the search engines really care about how fast your pages will load. 50% of people expect a page to load in two seconds or less; 80% abandon pages if it takes more than three seconds to load. You can use the Page Speed tool from Google to check your pages. Talk to your IT team to see what you can do to influence page load times.

Spend some time with these advanced concepts, so you’re not practicing SEO like it’s 2008. In fact, we recently did a forensic SEO audit that revealed some easy, quick fixes that rocketed our client’s SEO up over 100% improvement in traffic in some cases.

Master these ideas, and you will see the same results. Or give us a call so we can help you out.