What is the Best Source of Internet Leads for Mortgage Professionals?

A discussion with an LO on Zillow Long Form by the NREP

Ironic that the NREP released this video this morning, as I have a scheduled call with a Mortgage rep from Zillow today. The part of Zillow Long Form that interest me, is that 60% of the leads are not working with an agent. Therefore, I am able to build relationships with realtors, by referring them business. However, the trick is, converting the lead.

What are your thoughts? Are there better internet leads out there for mortgage brokers?

Thank you NREP

Mortgage Interest Rates Fall to Lowest Level in Nearly Three Years

How low can mortgage rates go?

Mortgage interest rates continued their downward trend in the last week, falling again to the lowest level of the year and the lowest level in nearly three years, Freddie Mac’s latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed.

This marks the second week in a row that mortgage rates dipped to a new yearly low. Last week, Freddie Mac’s report showed that the 30-year mortgage rate fell 12 basis points to 3.59%, which was the lowest since February 2015.

But rates went even lower in the last week, with the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage falling by one basis point to 3.58%. One year ago at this time, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.67%.

This week’s new low of 3.58% is the lowest level that interest rates have reached since May 2013.

"Demand for Treasuries remained high this week, driving yields to their lowest point since February,” Freddie Mac’s chief economist, Sean Becketti said. “In response, the 30-year mortgage rate fell 1 basis point to 3.58 percent. This rate represents yet another low for 2016 and the lowest mark since May 2013."

Also falling was the 15-year FRM, which this week averaged 2.86%, down two basis points from last week, when it average 2.88%. One year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.94%.

Additionally, the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 2.84% this week, up slightly from the week before, when the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid ARM averaged 2.82%. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.88%.

Click the image below for a graphical representation of just how low mortgage rates are right now.

If You're Not Targeting Millennials, Wake Up.


"Millennials are so lazy!"

"I swear Millennials just sit on their phone ALL day, do they even work?"

"What even is Twitter?"

These are frequent statements and questions that flood our businesses today. The Millennial population is often overlooked or laughed at. The fact of the matter is, Millennials are now the dominant species in the business kingdom. They may not be the CEOs or VPs, but they sure as hell will be. Much of the Millennial population are still in college!

Whether you're in real estate or a Fortune Cookie Writer (yes, this is a real profession), it's time to pay attention to the flooding population of Millennials. They will be the next ones purchasing houses, eating fortune cookies, and running our economy. 

Okay, maybe the Fortune Cookie Writer isn't too concerned with the Millennial population. But you real estate professionals, I bet you'll perk up while reading the next paragraph.

Check this out. The National Association of Realtors 2015 report on generational trends found that Millennials make up the largest share of home buyers at 32 percent. Even more striking, millennials now constitute 68 percent of first-time homebuyers. That percentage might soon grow even more: A survey of 1,002 adults by TD Bank released in July found that just under half of millennials will be looking to buy their first home over the next two years.

More than one-in-three American workers today are Millennials (adults ages 18 to 34 in 2015), and this year they surpassed Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce, according to new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. Therefore, it would be bloody ignorant to write off the Millennial population (insert British accent).

This milestone occurred in the first quarter of 2015, as the 53.5 million-strong Millennial workforce has risen rapidly. The Millennial labor force had last year surpassed that of the Baby Boom, which has declined as Boomers retire.

Pew Research Center's new analysis of labor force estimates are based on the monthly Current Population Survey, which serves as the basis for the official unemployment rate and labor force counts announced by the federal government each month.

With its disproportionately large share of immigrants, and at an age of transition from college to the working world, the Millennial generation’s workforce is highly likely to grow even further in the near future.

First, immigration to the U.S. will continue to disproportionately enlarge the ranks of the Millennial labor force. Immigrants coming to the U.S. are disproportionately in their young working years. Relatively speaking, few immigrants come to the U.S. during childhood or during older adulthood. In the past five years, over half of newly arrived immigrant workers have been Millennials.

In addition, a significant chunk of the Millennial population are 18- to 24-year-olds. These are the years when school and college-going are often center-stage, and as a result, labor force participation is suppressed. As the youngest Millennials get older, more of them will be looking for or getting jobs. Just how many more is tough to know, but the behavior of the Gen X population provides some clues.

Generation X’s labor force participation rate peaked in 2008 at 84%. In 1998, Gen Xers were roughly the same ages (18 to 33) as today’s Millennials, and that year, only 80% of the Gen X population was in the labor force. So we can assume that the Millennial labor force still has some room for growth in the years to come.

For Generation X (ages 35 to 50 in 2015), their place as the dominant generation within the labor force was very short-lived – just three years – and, on a chart, might even get missed, as they are sandwiched in between Boomers and Millennials. In 2012, the Gen X labor force (52.9 million) overtook the Baby Boom labor force to become the largest generation in the workforce, but that likely ended this year.

One caveat is that it’s possible that the Gen X labor force might grow. Immigration will add some workers to the Gen X labor force. Also, labor force participation has been diminished due to the Great Recession and modest economic recovery. If the job market continues to improve in the post-recession era, some Gen Xers will likely return to the labor market in stronger numbers. At the same time, though, the Gen X labor force is aging. The oldest Gen Xer is now 50, and thus beginning to age out of the prime working years (25 to 54), and this might counteract any potential growth in the Gen X workforce.

It’s worth noting that the Millennial population as a whole (not just its workforce) is already projected to surpass that of Baby Boomers this year as the nation’s largest living generation, according to the Census Bureau.

In the first quarter of 2015, about 45 million Baby Boomers were in the labor force. The Baby Boom workforce peaked in size at nearly 66 million in 1997. The youngest Boomer is now 51 years old, while the oldest Boomers are approaching age 70. With more Boomers retiring every year and not much immigration to affect their size, the size of the Boomer workforce will continue to shrink.

So, if I must, I will reiterate. Focus your marketing strategies and efforts on Millennials. They are, for the most part, no longer those lazy kids taking selfies every chance they get. They are now a vital piece of our recovering economy and essential to any progressive company/business.

Decoding Real Estate Code

Mortgage Banker, Umpqua Bank NMLS # 1424295

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Buying and selling real estate is a daunting and expensive process. Luckily, there are many experts like lenders, realtors, inspectors, appraisers, escrow agents, and friends and family to help guide you through the process. These experts use many terms and acronyms that to the first-time home buyer make no sense. I call this, real estate code.

Mortgage Lender: "Hey Charles, thanks for sending in all of your information online, I’m thrilled to help you purchase your first home. Looks like you and Becky's FICO scores are excellent and your back-end DTI is under 43%, so you absolutely qualify for this home." A mortgage lender should never talk to an inexperienced borrower(s) in real estate code, but work with me for this example because it does happen.

What in the hell is a FICO score? Or a back-end DTI? As a home buyer, all you've heard is that you absolutely qualify for this home. Awesome! Move on, right? Absolutely not. You should never be afraid to ask questions, that is why you've hired real estate professionals. Leverage their expertise. My motto is that there are no stupid questions, only stupid mistakes. This is, most likely, the biggest purchase of your life. Therefore, don't make a stupid mistake because you're too afraid to ask a simple question. 

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Your savior, me, is here to decode this response from the mortgage lender. A FICO score is essentially your credit score derived from three credit bureaus. Most lenders use the middle score to determine what credit score to attribute to your loan file. Credit score is a huge determinant of your approval status and what interest rate you will pay. A back-end debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is what the borrowers debt-to-income will be once they begin paying their monthly mortgage payment (front-end DTI is what your current debt-to-income is before taking on a mortgage payment, and may include your rent payment, if applicable). If it is 43%, then 43% of the borrower’s income is going towards their proposed debts.

Just because Charles and Becky's back-end DTI is under 43%, does not mean that this mortgage payment is comfortable for their budget. Although, some borrowers, if spoken to in real estate code, freeze up and only hear what they want to hear (we're qualified for this home, yay!). If Charles knew what a FICO score or a back-end DTI was, he might ask the questions: “What were our FICO scores and are they going to negatively impact our interest rate?” and "Well what is our back-end DTI? We're only comfortable if our back-end DTI is under 33% so we do not overextend ourselves.” BAM, Charles just killed the question game. The answers to these questions will give Charles and Becky a way better understanding of their credit profile and loan situation.

Hopefully this example stressed the need to understand the fundamental, often used terms in real estate. You may not understand the entire process until you've bought and sold a few houses, but at least you'll be able to follow along with the lingo being used by real estate professionals so you can ask the right questions.  

Without further ado, here are some basic mortgage terms that every potential home buyer should understand:

Annual Income

This is the combined annual income for you and your co-borrower. Include all income before taxes, including base salary, commissions, bonuses, overtime, tips, rental income, investment income, alimony, child support, etc.

Down Payment

This is the amount of money you will put towards a down payment on the house. Make sure you still have cash left over after the down payment to cover unexpected repairs, financial emergencies, closing costs, and any other unexpected costs associated with buying a house.

Monthly Debt

Include all of you and your co-borrower's monthly debts, including: minimum monthly required credit card payments, car payments, student loans, alimony/child support payments, any house payments (rent or mortgage) other than the new mortgage you are seeking, rental property maintenance, and other personal loans with periodic payments.

Do NOT include: credit card balances you pay off in full each month, existing house payments (rent or mortgage) that will become obsolete as a result of the new mortgage you are seeking, or the new mortgage you are seeking.

Interest Rate

Interest rate is the percentage of the loan that you will pay in monthly payments.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

A standardized method of calculating the cost of a mortgage, stated as a yearly rate, which includes such items as interest, mortgage insurance and certain points or credit costs. Because it includes these other items, it is higher than the interest rate a lender will quote.

Debt-to-Income (DTI)

Your DTI is expressed as a percentage and is your total "minimum" monthly debt divided by your gross monthly income. The conventional limit for DTI is 45% of your monthly income. A DTI of 20% or below is considered excellent.

Income Taxes

This is an annual tax that governments place on individuals' income. It includes federal tax, most states and some local entities. The national average is around 30% but can vary based on income, location, etc.

Property Taxes

Property taxes are an annual tax on homeowners' property and the tax amount is based on the home's value. Property taxes are typically impounded, and paid with your monthly mortgage payment.

Homeowner’s Insurance

Commonly known as hazard insurance, most lenders require insurance to provide damage protection for your home and personal property from a variety of events, including fire, lightning, burglary, vandalism, storms, explosions, and more. All homeowner's insurance policies contain personal liability coverage, which protects against lawsuits involving injuries that occur on and off your property.

Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

Mortgage insurance is required primarily for borrowers with a down payment of less than 20% of the home's purchase price. It protects lenders against some or most of the losses that can occur when a borrower defaults on a mortgage loan. This is also known as PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance).

HOA Dues

Typically, owners of condos or townhomes are required to pay homeowners association dues (known as HOA fees), to cover common amenities or services within the property such as garbage collection, landscaping, snow removal, pool maintenance, and hazard insurance.

Loan Term

This is the length of time you choose to pay off your loan (e.g., 30 years, 20 years, 15 years, etc.)

Appraisal

An analysis of the subject property conducted by a professional appraiser who will look at a property and give an estimated value based on physical inspection and comparable houses that have been sold in recent times.

Points

Factored into the loan's APR, a point equals 1 percent of a mortgage loan. Some lenders charge "origination points" to cover expenses of making a loan. Some borrowers pay "discount points" to reduce the loan's interest rate. Often in order to get a lower interest rate, lenders will allow borrowers to "buy down" the rate by paying points.

Escrow

An account in which a neutral third party holds the documents and money in a real estate transfer until all conditions of a sale are met. Also, an account in which money for property taxes and insurance is held until paid; money is added to the account every time a mortgage payment is made.

Title Insurance

Title insurance is a policy that guarantees that an owner properly has title to a property and can legally transfer title to someone else. Should a problem arise, the title insurer pays any legal damages. A policy may protect the mortgage lender, the home buyer or both.

FICO Score

The most widely used credit scores are FICO Scores, the credit scores created by Fair Isaac Corporation using three credit bureaus to determine scores: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Each FICO Score is based on the information the credit bureau keeps on file about you. These scores typically differ, and most lenders will use the middle score to determine your credit score used for your loan. If there are two or more borrowers on the loan, the lowest FICO score will be used on the loan profile.

To minimize any confusion throughout the loan process, I often ask my borrowers what their level of expertise is with buying and selling real estate. Depending on their answer, I will or will not use real estate code. If they are experienced borrowers, it is perfectly okay and more efficient to talk in real estate code. If they are first-time home buyers, then one should always avoid using real estate code and instead use baby steps through the lending process.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me at (360) 937-0983 or send an email to dylanlangei@umqpuabank.com. Thanks for reading!

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New Product Launch: HomeReady

Umpqua Bank has just rolled out the Fannie Mae HomeReady product - which has undoubtedly solved many issues faced by potential homeowners. The HomeReady product is advantageous for borrowers who have relatives or non-relatives living in the home, who will not be associated with the loan, but would like to leverage their income to qualify for a HomeReady loan.

HomeReady Details:

  • 10/15/20/30-year fixed-rate mortgages and 5/1, 7/1, and 10/1 ARMs available.
  • 1-unit principal residence, including eligible condos, co-ops, PUDs, and manufactured housing or 2- to 4-unit principal residence (no condos, co-ops, or manufactured housing).
  • Minimum down payment: 3%
  • 5% minimum borrower contribution no longer applies. Gifts, grants, Community Seconds and Cash on Hand may be used for entire down payment, closing costs and prepaids.
  • Minimum credit score: 620
  • May have accessory dwelling units: Rental income may be considered in qualifying the borrower per rental income guidelines.
  • No income limits in low-income census tracts.
  • Non-borrower household income may be used (relative or non-relatives). Income must total at least 30% of the total monthly qualifying income being used by the borrower(s). (Note: Income from more than one non-borrower household member may be considered.)
  • 25% MI coverage for LTVs 90.01-97% and standard MI coverage for LTVs of 90% or less.

For more information, feel free to reach out: 

(360) 937-0983

dylanlangei@umpquabank.com

APPLY NOW

This summary is intended for reference only. All criteria are subject to the formal terms and conditions of the Fannie Mae Selling Guide and Servicing Guide. In the event of any conflict with this document, the Selling Guide and/or Servicing Guide will govern. https://www.fanniemae.com/singlefamily/homeready 


4 Differences Between Mobile and Desktop Search

How the Two Vary & How to Become an Effective Mobile Marketer

Written by Dylan Langei

It wasn't too long ago (I even remember these days) that desktops dominated the online platform market. Having a phone with a keyboard was revolutionary, let alone a touchscreen keyboard with internet access. Nowadays with the proliferation of smartphones and success of the tablet, mobile's rise has been undeniable and relentless. By the end of 2013, a full 56% of digital media consumers constituted the 'multi-platform majority' by actively using both a mobile device and a desktop.

There are four fundamental differences between how users interact with desktops and mobile devices. Companies must be aware of these differences, in order to tailor their uses of each appropriately. 

1. Rate of Growth

U.S. smartphone engagement has grown from 131 billion total minutes to 442 billion (237%), while desktop experiences a 429 billion total minutes spent (7% increase). Total mobile activity including mobile browser usage recently eclipsed 60%, as desktop accounts for the remaining 40%. Mobile browser usage has been consistently leveling out, while mobile usage is on an exponential trend. Why? Even though it might not feel like it, cell phones and data plans are getting cheaper. Plus, the majority of cell phone owners have their phone on them 24/7. Personally, I get separation anxiety if my cell phone is more than 10 feet away from me. If you're over 35 or so years old you're probably thinking I'm crazy. Hate to break it to you, but us Millenniums and Boomlets see our smartphones as an extension of our hand. This, however, is not the case with desktops. I don't know too many people carrying their laptop around all day or having a full blown panic attack because their desktop computer is out of sight. Since most cell phone owners have their smartphone on them more often than a desktop, they are more inclined to use their phone - hence, the crazy amount of growth in cell phone use.

2. Activity & Use

Mobile users are on apps 85% of the internet time spent on their phones, while desktop users typically navigate through browsers and control panels. Mobile apps have gotten so advanced that you can perform the same tasks done on desktops, just through specified app platforms. You can hail a cab (Uber), stream music (Soundcloud), watch videos (YouTube), and so much more. However, the majority of mobile app engagement comes from Social Networking and Games and Radio while desktop usage is more tailored to Search and News. This validates that mobile devices are more heavily used for entertainment and communication while desktops are utilized for more "productive" work environments.

3. Advertising Maturity

Apps have not attracted the advertising dollars its audience warrants due to it's immaturity and physical space, in comparison to desktops. Like any emerging advertising medium, it takes time for the ad buying and selling infrastructure to develop. Desktops provide a lot more physical screen space for placing ads. A sidebar of advertising is not as intrusive on a desktop as one on a small 3x3 inch smartphone. This is where native advertising, which I wrote a recent blog on, could have a huge surge in use. Since there is limited room for strategically placed paid advertising on phone screens, companies can begin sponsoring ads in the form of articles on a mobile site. That way the ad consumes less screen space, and feels more authentic. 

4. Conversion Rate

For a desktop, add to cart rate of 8.52% and actual sales conversion rate of 2.78% are higher than smartphones 4.7% and 0.8%, respectively. These are significant statistics, especially if you're an eCommerce business who is trying to implement a mobile site. Is it even worth it? Yes, it is. Why? Well these stats could begin to change in favor of mobile conversions with the recent creation of Apple Pay and various other mobile payment programs. Mobile sites are still a fairly new phenomenon, so it is very difficult to alter a customers behavior. To counteract this, mobile payment programs are insuring security of customers financial information, which is beginning to establish trust between customers and mobile pay. So, once customers become accustomed to using mobile pay as a regular transaction source, and realize the convenience, mobile purchases are projected to increase.

Starbucks's Mobile Success:

Starbucks has effectively gotten over the mobile conversion hump, if you will. After the release of their app, customers now pay for a purchase using a smartphone 7 million times a week, accounting for 16% of total transactions. Now for the important part. How did Starbucks gain so much traction and success? The answer is rewards. Who doesn't love rewards? Due to these rewards, Starbucks has gotten customers accustomed to engaging with them via mobile devices. Starbucks's main reward program, My Starbucks Rewards, allows shoppers to earn special discounts and freebies from making a purchase via their app. Why does Starbucks care so much about increasing mobile purchases? First off, it generates loyalty among customers, and also provides a rich trove of data about their most loyal customers. This data can then be leveraged to shape marketing tactics, promotions, and even store locations. Pretty damn smart right?

The good news is, you can transform your business into a mobile marketing powerhouse as Starbucks has done. To replicate Starbucks' success, you must know what your customer wants out of your app (how, when, where, and why they are interacting with the app), design an attractive and user-friendly app, provide rewards for using the app, and constantly engage with your customers via the app. If you can master these four things, like Starbucks, your business will acquire immense benefits from the exponential growth of mobile marketing.

To see more on building a great mobile site: Click here


Don't Even Bother with Code, Learn Squarespace

If Time is Money - Codecademy Drools and Squarespace Rules

Written by Dylan Langei

VS.

So you're about to build your first website. You have no prior coding or web development background, and you need to make a decision. Do you begin the basic coding lessons on Codecademy and build a website from complete scratch? Or do you use a service like Squarespace with existing web templates? 

Let me bring you back to my junior year of college. I was a young motivated entrepreneur, excited to start my first business and learn the "ropes". A friend and I founded Fuhgedaboudit Supply Co., an eCommerce clothing business that designed and sold snapbacks, shirts, sweatshirts, socks, and various other accessories tailored to the 18-24 year old male demographic. Considering we were strictly online with no brick-and-mortar location (lower overhead), we needed to build a website. I had an acquaintance whom I had met through some friends, that owned his own small web design & development business. So I thought, cool, a small business helping another small business. Maybe even a friend discount thrown in there. When my business partner and I met with him, he quoted us $3,000 for a fairly simple eCommerce website. Our business account currently had $2,700 in it, and we hadn't even manufactured any clothing. I thought my days as an entrepreneur were over. 

I went home that night pondering other options. Do I ask my parents for money? Do we forego building a website and just sell through retailers? I began researching services that allowed inexperienced web developers to build websites. At that time I stumbled upon Shopify, a very well known eCommerce building service. I began the free trial, and ended up building our business a fully functioning eCommerce site in 10 hours for around $30 a month. This was no Diamond Supply Co. website, but it got us online and able to receive orders.

Our first, very rudimentary website:

I would no longer advise using Shopify, as we were eventually not satisfied with the templates and options available. But, the point of this story is, I built a fully functioning website without having to pay $3,000 upfront. If it was not for Shopify, we never would have been able to start Fuhgedaboudit.

A few Fuhgedaboudit products:

Better options to Shopify are Squarespace, Wix, and WordPress. Although, be warned, WordPress does take a little more coding background than the former two. To see the pros and cons of Wix and WordPress, go to this really cool search engine. Squarespace, I'll talk about later on, because I am a full blow Squarespace proponent.

Why is Coding a Good Skill for a Beginning Digital Marketer?

This question may be a bit deceiving, because I do not believe it is a necessary skill for a beginning digital marketer to possess, but it is a concept that is vital for them to understand. Because digital marketing is, well, digital - it is imperative for a digital marketer to understand the framework of how a website is built. Why is this? Let's say you've identified a product page that many customers are leaving without completing a purchase. You've attributed this bounce rate to a landing page that is promoting a price that is too high. Instead of having to bother the web engineers, with a basic understanding of HTML, you could jump into that product page, locate the code <body><p>$19.99</p><body> and lower the price to <body><p>$14.99</p><body>. You've successfully dodged a migraine which would have been caused by the web engineers taking five hours to respond to your maintenance request, and you've built a bit of credibility. 

My Experience Using Codecademy:

I spent two hours on Codecademy going through the HTML Basics training. I completed HTML Basics I and got to step 4/16 on HTML Basics II. I am 14% through the HTML & CSS course, and Codecademy estimates this full lesson takes around 7 hours. Through these lessons I've learned how to add headings, body text, pictures, links, ordered lists, and a few other skills. The "website" I have created in those two hours looks like a 5-year-old's coloring book, I'll be honest. But, I have learned some valuable terminology. Here is proof I spent two hours learning "code":

Beginning:

End:

Now, if someone came up to me and said create an image with a link to another website. I would say, can I look it up on Google? It might just be a personal battle of mine, but online programs like Codecademy are not propitious to my ability to retain information.  For example, you first learn how to link an image to a separate domain, then the next lesson asks you to do it again without any instructions. I still had to look back at the previous lesson to remember the exact code. All in all, this was a waste of my time. However, this is not a waste of everyone's time. My method of learning is more conducive to the "on campus" crash course where an instructor is present to answer any questions and guide me through tutorials. It is important to figure out your personal learning style, and taking on code that way. If you can, start young. 

Pros and Cons of Using Squarespace:

OK, let me start off by saying that I am a full blown Squarespace advocate. This website that you are currently on, was made using Squarespace. I have built a wholesale distribution company a website using Squarespace, along with my second business venture called Cheative. Squarespace kicks ass, but as any other platform providing site, it has it's limitations:

Pros:

  • Cost-effective.
  • Free 14-day trial with no credit card required.
  • Sleek and user-friendly templates.
  • Responsive to mobile devices.
  • Customization and maintenance is simple.
  • Built-in online store.
  • Free URL and hosting is done by Squarespace.
  • Available widgets.
  • SEO capabilities.

Cons:

  • Squarespace Commerce only has one payment option.
  • Not open-source - making quantity of templates and extensions limited.
  • Built in analytics is a bit weak, but you can inject your Google Analytics code into a simple box that integrates it across your entire website.

Recommended Users:

  • Small business owner (coffee shop, restaurant, fashion lines, boutiques, etc.).
  • Person who desires to have an online portfolio to showcase their work (recent graduate, photographers, artists, etc.).

Not Recommended Users:

  • Large organizations (banks, retailers, etc.).

 As I said before I have been an advocate and user of Squarespace for about two years now. I have ran a small business using Squarespace, a personal portfolio (this website), and am starting another small business. The greatest part about Squarespace, is once you get the hang of it, everything is simple and quick. Remember the screenshots above? Those lessons that took me two hours on Codecademy to add a few headings and pictures? I built an entire eCommerce page on Squarespace in 15 minutes. 15 MINUTES PEOPLE. I'm sorry, but time is money and I don't have time for Codecademy. Unless you're a large organization that needs a very secure and customizable website, and you have the means to pay thousands of dollars for a website, Squarespace cannot be touched. 

Before:

After:


Why Companies Should Start Investing in Native Advertising

Why Companies Should Shift Away From Programmatic and Lean Towards Native Advertising

Written by Dylan Langei

word cloud - advertising

What is Programmatic Advertising?

Sounds complex huh? Or at least very calculated, and it is. Programmatic advertising is driving digital media buying practices forward by combining rich customer data with algorithmically driven buying platforms to make digital advertising dollars more effective in reaching target audiences. Whew, that was a mouth full. Programmatic ads are purchased in an auction based method, with the buyer paying whatever price an ad is worth at that given time - using surplus amounts of data to figure out the perfect ad, the right person, and the right time. As you can see, programmatic ads improve targeting while also streamlining ad purchases and transparency when it comes to a transactions particulars. Due to its effectiveness, eMarketer estimates the programmatic ad space will quadruple to $8.7 billion by 2017. Fairly large market for those annoying sidebar ads on your Pandora station, but hey, they're effective.

What is Native Advertising?

Rather than throwing ads next to relevant content, native ads are integrated directly into the content - providing a look and feel of an editorial piece. The most common form of native advertising is publisher-produced brand content, which is similar to a traditional advertorial - essentially a paid placement attempting to replicate that of an article. Meh, still think native ads will just be a passing fad? Business Insider estimates the native advertising market to reach around $18 billion by 2017. Yup, that's about $10 billion more than programmatic advertising by 2017. Oh, so now you're no longer slumped over in your computer chair?

Where Will Advertising Lean?

Advertising is always changing, because users are constantly changing their buying behaviors and how they engage with businesses. Therefore, there is no doubt in my mind that advertising will continue to move away from programmatic, and towards native. This does not mean I think native advertising is the eternal solution, but for now, it's very promising. Native advertising is less obtrusive, and feels more authentic. However, native ads can also be deceiving and pose potential problems for businesses. Even though native ads are meant to provide and feel like an editorial piece, they are still required to clearly state or display that the viewer is experiencing an ad. Failure to do so can destroy brand equity, and bring on legal implications. 

As a user of the internet and any space where ads may appear, wouldn't you rather experience a native ad than a programmatic one? That's what it's all about, user experience - businesses do not choose where advertising moves, consumers do. Personally, I prefer the native ad that is validated by a reputable podcast over a pop up ad that interrupts me from reading a blog post. But hey, I'm just one user.

Where Should Advertisers Migrate Their Ad Dollars?

NATIVE ADVERTISING. If you don't believe the numbers, just think like a consumer. What would you prefer? Nearly seamless integration of ads (native), or ugly boxes injected with advertising that is somewhat related to the content you're viewing (programmatic)? Also with the continuing surge of social media engagement, native advertising will continue to take over. It is very difficult to integrate programmatic advertising on social media outlets like Instagram (which has the most engaged user base), while a native advertising strategy doesn't seem too far fetched. 

Actually, native advertising is extremely prominent on Instagram. As seen above, Instagram has titled the post as "Sponsored" so the user base knows that they are ads. But the pictures and content are very native, in that they explain a scenario or a story - as an editorial would. These ads are not obtrusive, as an Instagram user can simply scroll right by them. They are also no where near ugly or clunky boxes of misleading offers. The growth of social media is the main reason I am fully backing native advertising, and you should too. Ready your troops, because native advertising is here to stay.


How a Google AdWords Certification Makes You the Modern Don Draper

The Fundamentals of the Google AdWords Exam and How to Leverage That in Your Career as a Digital Marketer

Written by Dylan Langei

What is Google AdWords?

Sounds like a board game huh? But no, Google AdWords is no board game - and we all know Google wouldn't develop a board game unless they had a chance at monopolizing the market. Google AdWords certification is a professional accreditation, awarded by...wait for it...Google. An AdWords certification allows an individual to be recognized as an online advertising professional. Who cares? Well businesses do. AdWords campaigns allow businesses to choose where their ad appears, set a budget they're comfortable with, and measure the impact of their ad. 

The Exam...Dun, Dun, Dun:

There are five sections to the Google AdWords exam, covering various aspects of online advertising, essentially making you an online advertising badass. OK, not as badass as Don Draper, but we can all dream. Here are the five:

  1. AdWords Fundamentals: This AdWords Fundamentals exam covers basic and intermediate concepts, including the benefits of online advertising and AdWords, and best practices for managing and optimizing AdWords campaigns.

  2. Search Advertising: The Search Advertising exam covers advanced concepts and  best practices for creating, managing, measuring, and optimizing Search campaigns.

  3. Display Advertising: The Display Advertising exam covers advanced concepts and  best practices for creating, managing, measuring, and optimizing Display campaigns.

  4. Video Advertising: The Video Advertising exam covers basic and advanced concepts, including best practices for creating, managing, measuring, and optimizing video advertising campaigns across YouTube and the web.

  5. Shopping Advertising: The Shopping Advertising exam covers basic and advanced concepts, including creating a Merchant Center account and product data feed, and creating and managing Shopping campaigns.

A Calculated Dive Into Google AdWords:

Google AdWords offers many benefits to a business aiming to gain some traction online with their ads. There are four that really sell this thing:

  1. Target Your Ads: ability to show your ads to reach your "buyer persona" and people with specific interests through keywords, ad locations, demographics, devices, and age/location/language.
  2. Control Your Costs: complete control over how you spend your money. AdWords does not require a minimum dollar amount, making the service manageable for small or large firms. Your business has the ability to select how much you spend per month, day, and per ad while only paying when a user clicks on your ad. 
  3. Measure Your Success: everything on Google AdWords is traceable - from click throughs to purchases - allowing you to see which ads lead to conversions and which do not. This leads to boosting the return on your investment (ROI) through an understanding of the analytics.
  4. Manage Your Campaigns: let's say you are in charge of overseeing 100 various ad campaigns. With Google's My Client Center (MCC) you are able to easily view and manage all of your AdWords accounts from a single location. Also provided is AdWords Editor, a free downloadable app that allows you to edit your campaigns offline, and then upload the changes to AdWords. 

Google also has one of the most extensive advertising networks, I mean, it's goddamn Google we're talking about. Google has two main networks - the Google Search and Google Display Network.  

  1. Google Search Network: includes the behemoth, which is Google Search, along with hundreds of other non-Google search partner websites like AOL. These sites all show AdWords ads that match search results. Say you're searching for running shoes, a Zappos ad might pop up on the side bar, since they are an online shoe company.

  2. Google Display Network: includes a collection for Google websites like Google Finance, Gmail, Blogger, and YouTube. These ads are matched to the content that is being viewed on that particular page. If you're watching a YouTube video on how to design logos on Adobe Illustrator, an ad for a design firm might be displayed somewhere on the page.

You might not believe this, but higher quality ads can lead to lower prices and better ad positions. OK, the better ad position makes sense, but lower prices? This phenomenon will be explained in a second. The positioning of your ad is completely contingent on your Quality Score and Ad Rank. I would attempt to explain this, but I'll just let Hal from Google do the talking. I'm sure he gets paid more than me. Also, please notice the red stapler and comb over - and yes I am making a reference to Office Space.

Getting past Hal looking like Milton, he explains the AdWords Auction fairly well. Although a complex formula, it rewards businesses for putting together quality ads using a fair auction system. Love it.

Applying Google AdWords For a Client:

With a deep understanding of Google AdWords and certification in hand, the Don Draper's of organizations will see you as a valuable asset. Why? Well because EVERYTHING is moving online. Because more people are active online, businesses are moving online. Therefore, advertising is moving online. 

Don Draper would absolutely be scratching his head at this statement, but it's true, the internet is consuming paper advertising. Just read my A/BAMA blog regarding Barack Obama's 2012 reelection campaign, and how he leveraged online advertising to beat out Mitt Romney. If the President of the United States is advertising online for his reelection campaign, you better be comfortable with the digital realm of advertising - or you'll end up defeated by your competitors. Being able to run and manage an effective ad campaign could increase a firms ROI, brand awareness, customer loyalty, and engagement with customers. These are all valuable assets to be able to bring to a business. Shoot, if you are able to effectively translate these benefits to clients and show success, you might just become the next Don Draper. 

To take the Google AdWords exam, sign up for Google Partners.


What Google and The Godfather Have in Common

The Fundamentals of Search Engine Marketing

Written by Dylan Langei

The Godfather, widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, focuses on the powerful Italian-American crime mob family of Don Vito Corleone. The Corleone's were the most powerful mafia family in New York City, participating and controlling almost all gambling, drug trafficking, and corruption. OK, Google is no mob family - and they certainly are not exploiting or indulging in corruption. But, Google does control and essentially own the Search Engine Marketing market - similarly to the Corleone family controlling and owning all illegal activities in New York City. You pay the mob to do business in their city, just like you have to pay Google to get noticed...well, anywhere online.

Why is Google the Godfather of PPC/Paid Search? 

We, the users of Google, made them! As of December 2012, Google held a 65.2% share of web search volume worldwide, with 114.7 billion searches that month. Therefore, it's fairly important to have Google on your side. So if you want to reach your target audience, and they're completing on of those 114.7 billion searches, it is worthwhile to promote your search engine ranking and keywords.

Paid vs. Organic Search

My last blog post How SEO is Becoming Less Techy covers organic search, so I won't spend much time revisiting that topic. Paid search, or Search Engine Marketing (SEM), is the various means of marketing for a website via search engines, and entails both organic search engine optimization and paid search strategies. Paid search allows you to pay a fee to have your website displayed on the search engine results page when someone searches for specific keywords or phrases related to your website. 

How Paid Search Works

The three main components of a paid search campaign are keywords, ads, and landing pages. These campaigns can be run through Google AdWords, one of the most successful paid search campaign services. 

  • Keywords: start out by giving Google a list of keywords, which then tells Google to display your ad when those keywords are searched for.
  • Ads: you must design ads that are relevant to the search query and attractive enough that the searcher feels inclined to click on them.
  • Landing Page: once you've gotten a searcher to click on your ad link, they will be directed to your landing page. The goal of this landing page is to get viewers to convert in some way.

Why Should You Run a Paid Search Campaign With Google Adwords?

Google AdWords is Google's online advertising program that lets you reach new customers and grow your business. You're allowed to choose where your ad appears, set a budget you're comfortable with (you only pay when the ad is clicked on - results based), and you can measure the impact of your ad. 

There are 4 reasons your business should run a Google Adwords campaign:

  1. Organic Rankings Are Volatile: one day you're in the top five for a high-priority keyword, and the next day you're nowhere on that search page. This is because of Google's constant algorithm updates and user-interface changes. With Google AdWords, once you have the right mix of quality score and budget, your ad position is fairly consistent. 
  2. Fairly Low Financial Risk: a campaign on Google AdWords has no minimum budget, can be cancelled at any time, and you are only charged when a user actually clicks on your ad. Therefore, your business is only charged for visits to your landing page, which hopefully lead to conversions. Google AdWords also doesn't require any financial commitment up front. Your business only pays when results are given (users click on the ad), which is a great test bunny for the keywords, ad style, and landing page you have chosen.
  3. Increase Click-Throughs: although clicks are not a measurement of success, they are a prerequisite for conversions. 50% of clicks generated by paid ads are not replaced by organic clicks when the ads are absent and the website has a first position organic search ranking. This shows that paid ads cannot be replaced, even by the best organic search ranking.

4. Increase Probability of Conversion: as stated in #3, click throughs do not guarantee conversions, but they sure as hell help. Some agencies report increases in conversions as high as 200 percent as a result of combining SEO and paid search. That is pretty remarkable, and 200 percent worth the cost of a Google AdWords campaign.

Example of an Effective Google AdWords Campaign

Elance used Google AdWords to promote web development & design on the platform WordPress. This is an effective campaign for 4 reasons:

  1. They have included proof and credibility to their ads (along with numbers) by focusing on the fact that they've had over 25,000 happy customers. That is a significant amount of clients that they've served, and looks very credible to a new customer.
  2. Elance integrates a compelling offer in the ad by offering "top design & development from $99." $99 to build a top-tier website? Sure I'll click on the ad to see what they're offering.
  3. They've also directed the audience to a landing page that is not their home page, but is a custom URL to reinforce what they're offering - "Custom_Design." 
  4. Elance slips in a call-to-action at the end of the ad, "Start Now!" so that users know what to do if they would like to take advantage of this great offer.

How SEO is Becoming Less Techy

SEO, Link Building, and How Moz Operates.

Written by Dylan Langei

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engines such as Google and Bing! use a process of relevance and popularity to decipher through web pages when a query is submitted. There are three types of queries: do, know, and go. By using algorithms, they are able to sort the wheat from the chaff (relevance), and then to rank the wheat in order of quality (popularity). So how do you provide relevant and popular content? Go back to your buyer persona that you've established, and create content that is tailored to them. In order to tailor your content, you must posses empathy for your audience and be able to see from their perspective. It is not always about the amount of traffic you bring in, but the quality of those visitors. 

There are two subsets of organic SEO, technical and content. The technical aspect deals with XML sitemaps, 404 pages, 301 redirects, efficient coding and technical programming, and canonical programming. The content side includes keywords, title tags, meta descriptions, headlines, images, phrases, and formatting. Traditionally marketing firms that specialized in SEO focused on the technical side, considering it requires some intricate programming. However, once they had optimized the technical side, these SEO agencies would lose a client. Now, by also placing a heavy emphasis on continuous content updates, these agencies are able to retain customers for longer periods of time.

Link Building

Link Building is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own. These links are like spider webs that are all interconnected and lead somewhere. These strands of web are called links, and is a way for users to navigate between pages on the internet. Search engines are constantly "crawling" the web between web pages. Now see why it is so important to establish high-quality links? If your web pages are not along this web, then they will most likely be missed. Once a search engine has crawled the web pages, they are able to extract the content from those pages and add it to their depository indexes. 

Of course this is not an easy process, and many businesses cheat their way out of doing it the organic way. Businesses have been known to buy links, place unrelated links on their web page, or trade links with other businesses. Unfortunately, Google is smart, and will catch you. WordPress is a company that was penalized by Google back in 2005 for playing host to pages from a third-party company that was after higher rankings. WordPress' penalty was that their home page didn't rank for it's name and it's PageRank was reduced from PR8 to nothing. Ouch!

Moz

Previously known as SEOMoz, Moz made a recent transition to expand their efforts to support marketers across all of the inbound marketing universe. SEO was no longer just about coding and technical programming, but an array of marketing tools. Moz now provides services such as Moz Analytics, Fresh Web Explorer, Rank Tracker, On-Page Grader, Keyword Difficulty, Crawl Testing, Open Site Explorer, Follwerwonk, MozBar, Moz Local, and MozCast. Some of Moz's clients include Otter Box, Razorbox, and 99designs. These companies utilize the products that Moz has to offer to optimize their inbound marketing - which integrates SEO and Link Building. Moz's job is to essentially make SEO specialists, directors, and managers lives easier. 


Email Marketing: Isn't Email for Cavemen?

How Email Marketing Leads to an Influx of Inbound Sales

Written by Dylan Langei

Ha! Email marketing leading to more inbound sales? What a ludicrous statement, right? Isn't email for old people and cavemen? This is definitely a common misconception, but I'm not twisting anybody's arm here. As strange as it may sound, my promise to you, is that after reading this blog post you will also be a believer in email marketing. 

 I understand your skepticism, as I was also cynical to the idea that email marketing was still a powerful tool. With all the advanced technology around us today, how could email still be one of the most effective, untapped, and cheapest way to gain more customers? 

First, let's define email marketing and inbound sales, and then dive right into how you can leverage effective email marketing tactics to optimize inbound sales.

What is Email Marketing? 

Yes, email marketing is fairly self-explanatory as it is essentially directly marketing a message to a targeted group of people using email. However, there are integral components that you must consider before sending off an email for marketing purposes. Why is this so important? Well, every $1 spent on email marketing averages a return of $44.25. Email marketing also acquires 40x the customers than that of Facebook and Twitter. Now you're interested.

How to Market via Email:

When deciding to read an email or not, there is a common evaluation process that occurs in the recipients head. You must tailor your message with this process in mind, and put yourself in the recipients shoes.

Evaluation Process

  1. Who is emailing me (and is this spam)?

  2. What do they want?

  3. How long will it take? If you want to get yourself heard, make sure to know the following.

This is where it is essential to have your buyer persona nailed down. You must target your audience and construe your email appropriate to that audience base. 

Crafting the Perfect Message

  • Begin with a subject line that is specific and to the point. Make sure the subject line is neither false nor misleading. It should summarize the message in the email and set expectations properly.

  • Get right to the point in about six to eight words. No need to fluff around here, an email needs to be short, succinct, yet descriptive. No one wants to read a lengthy cluttered email. Think of an email as the executive summary to a business plan. It should summarize key points, capture the readers attention, and propose something worth them investigating further. If it can't do those three things, that email is going straight to the trash bin. 

  • Providing localization however, such as including a city name, does improve open rates. Remember, the subject is the most crucial string in the email since the opening rate of the message depends so much on it.
  • Be able to answer the question "what do you want" from the recipient in three seconds after opening. This means your message must be clear, to the point, and relevant. 

What Are Inbound Sales?

Inbound sales are not as self-explanatory as email marketing. Inbound sales is the process of crafting a sales approach that is personalized to the individual buyers needs, points of pain, frustrations, and/or goals. This then institutes an increase in communication and collaboration between potential customers and your company. 

How Email Marketing Can Lead to Inbound Sales:

To start out, the sales team and the marketing team need to get on the same page. At a lot of companies, they're in different books. Each team blames the other for not creating leads, and it creates this vicious cycle of deflecting blame. To fix this, HubSpot created a term called Smarketing, which aims to align sales and marketing around the same goals and personas. Together, these two departments build an alignment around a buyer persona which drives how the emails are constructed (reference How to Market via Email above). When marketing and sales can work together to construct the ultimate buyer persona, the content embedded in the email is relevant and therefore more likely to drive inbound sales. 

A Company That Kills the Email Marketing Game:

Charity: Water

 

Charity: Water is a non-profit organization that aims to bring clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. Not only do they stand for a great cause, but they have AMAZING email marketing. This is not your traditional sales focused email marketing, because their conversion does not have to do with selling a product. Rather, they are searching for donations. So check this email out:

Not only is this email attractively designed and succinct, but it tells a story (in very few words). The purpose of this email is very clear, Charity: Water would like donations. But it is very personal in the sense that the person donating feels like they are helping a specific girl, Caroline in this case, have access to drinking water. This email puts off the message that you are not just donating for any old cause, but you are providing an underprivileged child hope. A very moving message. 

Now here's another email that is more suited towards targeting an existing customer:

As you can see, Charity: Water has "followed up" with the person who donated via an emailed progress update. This is a phenomenal use of email marketing. Since this person has already donated, Charity: Water knows that they are already emotionally and financially invested in helping this cause. So Charity: Water makes it more personal and shows exactly where that donation has gone, and how much progress has been made. The donator is now more inclined to become a reoccurring customer, due to the personalized message and gratitude that is received after a donation. 

To check out more great email marketing examples visit the HubSpot Blog.


How UX/UI & Landing Pages Are Like Drunk People

The Essential Components of UX/UI & Landing Pages Analogized to Drunk People.

Written by Dylan Langei

WTF is UX/UI and why should I care?

Converging UX (User Experience) and UI (User Interface) is a difficult task faced by many companies. What a company believes they are presenting as an interface, may not reflect the user experience that they expect. A UX designer is primarily concerned with how the product feels - ensuring that the product logically flows from one step to the next. A UI designer focuses on how the product is laid out - visually communicating the path that a UX designer has laid out. This common misconception displayed in the picture above, illustrates that many people see UX/UI designers as solely performing one function, when instead they are completing a multitude of functions to reach an efficient user experience and user interface. Therefore, there are many behind the scenes contributions that must be made to integrate successful UX/UI. 

How do I become a UX wizard?

UX Magazine illustrates four common practices successful UX Executives used, which were quite surprising and seemed unorthodox for the industry. The title "4 Techniques of Successful UX Executives" is fairly cliche, like an article titled "4 Ways to Become a Millionaire." But don't be alarmed, this is not a BuzzFeed article. Of course there are never just four simple steps to guarantee your success as a UX Executive, because then everyone could do it. But here's a good starting point:

  1. Study Those Around You as You Would Study Users: When we are so focused on the users, we sometimes lose sight of who we work with, our partners and stakeholders. In order to get an idea or opinion across regarding UX, take those people into account, along with your users.
  2. Study Isn't Enough - You Must Have Empathy: Once again, tracking back to UX leaders partners - as a UX expert you must be in tune with your partners day-to-day and their pressures and worries. What allows UX leaders to do this is listening to their partners concerns, empathizing with their pressures, and asking how you can help. 
  3. Take the Long View and Build Relationships: Once you have an understanding of empathy, you must leverage that to form trust and long lasting relationships with your partners. This means putting down your ego, and not be constantly combative, as it damages the chances of a long term relationship.
  4. Remember, People May Not Understand UX: Wait, what! I'm working in a field that people might not understand? Yes, unfortunately you are. But, this is a teaching opportunity. Understand your partner's world views and what resonates with them. Grasp that understanding and craft it in a way to introduce them to UX and engage them in the design process.

Why is a landing page essential to my conversion rate?

A landing page is like a first impression. You know when you go to a party and you meet an extremely intoxicated guy perspiring out of every gland in his body, and spit spraying out of his mouth after every enunciated syllable? Pretty hard to forget this fellow. The next time you see him, you put your head down and walk the other way. A bad landing page is like this drunk guy. No customer or person wants to interact with them, because they are annoying, sloppy, unattractive, and do not satisfy the customers needs. 

A killer landing page is like the cool guy from your high school. He's got his older brothers ID to buy all the booze, throws the coolest parties, and invites the hottest chicks. He maintains his composure during the party, incrementally drinks throughout the night, and never loses sight of optimizing his conversion rate. Get booze (UX path), throw a party (UX path), and end up with the cheer captain in his room at the end of the night (Conversion Rate) - a logical UX path. You meet this guy, and you idolize him. Girls are hanging all over him, because he embodies everything the "customer" wants. The cool guy analogizes an elegant and effective landing page by possessing fundamental components that it's customers' desire, and leads the customer directly to the conversion rate that the business, or cool guy, is looking for. It must be clean, simple-to-use, offer a clear call to action, robust incentives, design attractive, and click-ready.

What company has a  "sweaty drunk guy" landing page?

Please welcome Safety BLR, the sweaty drunk guy at the party. 

Safety BLR is a safety training & compliance company that simplifies compliance with state and federal legal requirements. They may simplify compliance, but they sure do not simplify navigating their website. There is no clear call-to-action, the page is cluttered with words, and there is unused space on the bottom right hand corner. We can assume Safety BLR's conversion is for you to buy their software, but the only call-to-action on this is the very tiny "Request Demo" and "Free Trial" at the top. This should be smack dab in the middle of the page, with a design that draws a customers eyes right to those links. 

What company has a "cool drunk guy" landing page?

Please welcome Karma, the cool high school jock who gets all the ladies.

Now this is a kick ass landing page. This page actually has a demo video playing at all times (visit link or click on the image above), displaying the products use. According to Mashable, including a demo video on the landing page can increase conversions by 10-20%. Karma does it flawlessly - while also providing a link to the full film right on the front page. They also make it very clear what their product does, by using the tagline "Take WiFi with you everywhere," while stimulating a bit of curiosity from onlookers. A potential customer might wonder, well how is this possible? I want to take WiFi everywhere! I am always going over my data plan! Right away Karma is solving a problem faced by many, while also providing easy call-to-actions in the top banner ("Buy Now", "How It Works", etc.). 

Lastly, I will leave you with a few reminders on how to establish an elegant and effective landing page:

  • Make it clean and simple-to-use.
  • Select a call-to-action that leads directly to your desired conversion using robust incentives.
  • Make it clear what your product is/does or provide an easy-to-see link that will describe what it does.
  • Don't be the drunk sweaty guy at the party.

It's Not About the Selfies

How Selfies Are Corrupting the Comprehension of Social Media Strategy

Written by Dylan Langei

Unfortunately I am simply a pawn of a generation whom possess a misconceived interpretation of social media strategy. A common thought is, if I strategically angle the front facing camera of my iPhone 6 Plus to capture the good half of my face in the most flattering light, I will receive more Instagram likes. Strategy! On a social media platform! If it were that simple, MOZ wouldn't have written a 71-page Beginner's Guide to Social Media. Oddly enough, the beginner's guide did not mention perfecting selfie angles to amplify your like count once *insert sarcastic tone*. 

What is Social Media?

Well, social media is essentially any platform that allows users to interact online. It is called social media because users engage with and around it in a social context. The most well-known and popular social media platforms are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, and Tumblr. Although each platform has various uses and purposes, they all share the attribute of connecting users virtually. 

Why Should Businesses Use Social Media?

Let me start off by saying customer experience nor the brand starts with social media, but it should take your brand and solidify it, galvanize it, and bolster it. First off, by actively participating in social media platforms, a business is awarded with tons of opportunity to add value by engaging in conversations and turning customers into brand advocates. You do this by providing a great place of engagement for your community and help build valuable, authentic resources for your brand's niche.

Active participation in social media can also foster product development. At times customer feedback can be inconsistent or unreliable, but you should always listen to feedback provided through social media, take it in the context of everything else you know about your product and brand, and internalize it.

Social media can also encourage employee engagement, find and connect with new recruits, and even help with retention. HubSpot also mentions, when necessary, being able to publicly deal with customer problems. Some might see publicly addressing issues as detrimental to their brands image, why would you want others to know you made a mistake? However, if an issue is addressed properly, that customer may share their customer service experience with others on social media. This can lead to customer retention, and even new customer leads. Social media sounds pretty great now, right? 

How Should Businesses Use Social Media?

To begin social presence and implement the correct social media tactics, a business first must answer these questions. What is our brand voice and personality? What do we stand for, and what do we represent? What is our value proposition and differentiating factors? What are our defined visual branding elements (logo, font, colors, etc.)? These are essential questions to becoming successful with your social media platforms.

You must also have a solid idea of your buyer persona so that you may tailor your posts to that audience. You want your social media outlets to sound authentic and human, so that your audience can relate to your posts. Another essential component is tailoring your posts to the social media platform you are using. Twitter only allows for 140 character posts while LinkedIn has no character limit. These two posts are going to differ in length, and also the context of the post. LinkedIn should have a more serious tone compared to Twitter, because the user base on LinkedIn is more the business professional interested in informative posts, while most Twitter users are searching for entertainment. Write for your audience. This, once again, stems from understanding your buyer personas, what platforms they are using, and why. Once this is analyzed and understood you can create content that is either to learn and improve, explore and discover, or question and answer. 

What Companies Effectively Use Social Media?

With all this great talk about how valuable active participation in social media can be, you may be thinking, OK let's see the proof. There are many companies who are absolute social media gods in the virtual world. Many of them are well-known for their participation in a particular platform. Let's take a look.

YouTube - Old Spice: Old Spice is the epitome of a brand that knows how to leverage viral videos. With 452,378 subscribers to their YouTube channel, all enjoying their funny commercials to short video clips of why Old Spice deodorant and body wash makes you a man's man. Old Spice is actively posting videos (usually five a week) which keeps their audience constantly engaged with the brand.

Twitter - PizzaHut: PizzaHut knows how to create a very human-like Twitter feed to allow customers to relate to the brand. They are constantly engaging with Twitter followers through retweets and even following loyal customers back. PizzaHut follows over 80k users while being followed by over 1 million. On a regular basis their tweets look something like "Work now. Pizza later. #MotivationMonday." They are also quick to jump on Twitter trending hashtags like #NationalHighFiveDay and #EarthDay to provide their audience creative and funny pictures that connect the hashtag to their products. PizzaHut also integrates a bit of humor around well-known dates, like tax season:

Facebook - T-Mobile: T-Mobile is known for their customer service responses through Facebook. It is said that they have a response rate of 86%, the second overall best response rate behind KLM. With 5.1 million followers, this is a huge audience base to keep happy. This social devotion via Facebook has paid off, as T-Mobile is recognized as a leader in customer service. This is a bit out of the norm as the cell phone industry is not necessarily known for their quality customer service. This is a point of difference that T-Mobile is trying to prove, and they are doing it well.

There are many social media strategies, but remember, your strategy is contingent on your buyer persona. So don't forget to ask yourself: What is our brand voice and personality? What do we stand for, and what do we represent? What is our value proposition and differentiating factors? What are our defined visual branding elements (logo, font, colors, etc.)? Once you've answered these questions, you are ready to post selfies! Well, if that's what your audience wants.


How to Become a Content Marketing Wizard

Written by Dylan Langei

 
 

I'm here today to speak on behalf of content marketing. A slight hint of irony ingrained in this blog post since blogging is a fundamental component of content marketing. So let's hope I capture your attention. First, I'll cover snippets of information I've gathered from various articles and multimedia sources on successful content marketing. Then, I'll dive into the fundamentals of blogging. Lastly, I've tracked down an absolute content marketing wizard, in hopes that you may replicate their methods to become your own content marketing wizard.

Successful Content Marketing

According to Steven MacDonald from the Content Marketing Institute, there are five fundamental steps when achieving successful content marketing. I have also injected some of my own dialogue and facets from HubSpot's video class on Creating Content with a Purpose. The five steps are:

1. Understand Your Audience: Your audience includes your current customers, any potential customers, and people who would find your content useful. You may ask, well how do I do this? This tasks is completed through building buyer personas. Buyer personas are fictitious people (think Sim City characters) that are types of customers your business has and wants. These are your IDEAL customers, the ones that you will tailor your content for. 

2. Map the Content to the Sales Cycle: This is an extremely important stage of successful content marketing and requires the content creator to be very in tune to where their customers are along the sales cycle. This map is called the buyers journey and incorporates three stages: Awareness (content to increase brand awareness), Consideration (content to increase number of marketing qualified leads), and Decision (content to turn marketing qualified lead into a sales qualified lead). Through these cycles it is imperative to tailor the content to where the customer is located on the map. This is done through six types of content: white papers, cases studies, video, detailed tech guides, info graphics, and/or blogs.

3. Create the Content: Now it is time to get your hands dirty. Many would think that short succinct posts would be the best content - time is money, right? However, longer content receives more inbound links, a better rank on Google, and more social shares. Before reading this I was thinking the magic word count was around 500, but that is wrong. To rank in the top 10, it is 2,000. To me, this seemed way too much content for the busy individual to read through. Who has time to read 2,000 words of content? Well they don't, if you do not capture their attention. That is why HubSpot stresses the importance of an intriguing title, and implementing a short 140 character synopsis to provide an overview of the content to fully capture the readers attention.

4. Promote Content: We all wish this wasn't the case, who wants to pay money to promote content that should organically succeed? Unfortunately, sometimes even the most groundbreaking content does not reach a surplus of viewers eyes without a little help. The three most effective promotional efforts are Google AdWords campaigns, social media campaigns, and email marketing. Yes, I said it, email marketing. Oh the insanity! Didn't cavemen use email to sign up for Geico insurance? Although email is often viewed as a decrepit method of communication, it still remains as one of the most effective marketing tools. Think about this, how many people have all of their emails synced together and sent directly to their phone? I know I do. Now, how many people have every single tweet or Facebook post notify their phone? I sure as hell know I would never do that.

5. Measure and Analyze: Now that you've created all this great content and promoted it, you must measure and analyze it's progress. Maybe you've been targeting the wrong audience or demographic. Maybe your audience checks their Facebook more than their email. Here is where you look at the amount of page views, number of shares, what was read the most, keywords used to find the content, and how many leads were generated. The end goal is to see which channels or methods provide the most amount of conversion rates - whether that's sales or subscriptions, that's up to you. 

Fundamentals of Blogging:

HubSpot does a killer job articulating the fundamentals of effective blogging. Before watching The Fundamentals of Blogging video, I saw blogging as a way to express an opinion, using various sources, about said topic. Now I've been exposed to the etiquette and tricks of blogging. Here they are:

  • As referred to earlier, blogs must possess compelling titles with keywords (55 characters), a meta description (140 characters), and be optimized for mobile use. There are several types of blog titles (actionable, keyword conscious, brief, clear, definitive, and intriguing), in which the creator must choose based on the audience they are attempting to attract and the topic their content addresses. Do not provide misleading titles, that will only aggravate your audience and eradicate your credibility and the loyalty to your content. A meta description should be a synopsis of your content in the length of a tweet. If you can't summarize your content in 140 characters, then you may need to narrow your scope.
  • Focus on one topic! Too many times blogs will proceed to go off on a tangent, and completely neglect the main subject. Your main subject is why someone clicked on your blog, not some irrelevant facet of information. So, if your blog post is an informative piece on real estate market trends, do not begin blabbing about the banker who wouldn't refinance your home. Somewhat related, but your audience is reading to gain a perspective on when to buy or not buy a home. They do not care why Jeff from Bank ABC is an asshole. 
  • Blog, blog, blog, and blog some more. The more index pages on your website, the more chances you have to be found online because of keywords, new leads, and inbound links. This is an SEO home run, and it is free.  But remember, it is important to blog about recent industry and industry-related news that is directed at your customer persona and their common questions. These blog posts can be articulated in a negative or positive tone. If a current industry issue pisses you off, blog about it. It is likely pissing someone else off too. 

The Content Marketing God

Now for the section you've all been waiting for. I'm sure you've had some assumptions about who I was going to name as the Content Marketing God. Maybe Arianna Huffington (founder of The Huffington Post) or Michael Arringtons (founder of TechCrunch). But no, I wanted to take an unorthodox approach to crowning the Content Marketing Wizard. Meet Mario Armando Lavandeir, Jr. - more famously known as Perez Hilton.

 


Perez Hilton's website is essentially a celebrity gossip blog. Once dubbed 'Hollywood's Most Hated Website' for scrawling rude and obscene articles about celebrities, Perez Hilton is ranked #6 in The Guardian's 50 Most Powerful Blogs. How could I, right? Name Perez Hilton the Content Marketing Wizard?! Although unorthodox in his approach to blogging, Perez provides his audience with the content they want. Perez Hilton has effectively identified his audience and their needs, and consistently satisfies those needs through blog postings and various other media related content. According to Quantcast, Perez Hilton's web demographics show his predominate audience base to be females ages 18-44. No offense to the females out there, but what do females ages 18-44 typically like to do when they congregate? Maybe while sharing a bottle of wine? Gossip, and especially about celebrities. Perez, being the smart content blogger he is, registered this desire to have gossip-worthy news regarding celebrities, and began writing. The rest is history. 


The 2012 A/BAMA Campaign

Written by Dylan Langei

According to Optimizely, A/B testing, in essence, is a method to validate that any new design or alteration to the content on a webpage, email, newsletter, and/or person-to-person script is improving your conversion rate before making the actual content change. A/B testing provides you with a measurement tool and real data so that business decisions can move from "we think" to "we know." An A/B test involves testing two versions - version A (the control) and version B (the variation) - utilizing live traffic and measuring the effect each version has on your conversion rate.

Our soon to be guest, Amelia Showalter, who was the director of digital analytics for the 2012 Barack Obama campaign, utilized A/B testing with her team to market the reelection of President Obama. Considering Obama was reelected in 2012, we have much to learn from Amelia and her team's tactics. The articles from Businessweek & TechPresident provide details on the campaigns approach of leveraging A/B testing to listen, experiment, and analyze. The campaign mainly utilized A/B testing for emails to see if people were more receptive to one method over another. The interesting part was that they would create around 18 variations with differing subject lines, amount of money asked for, formatting, and even the message themselves - yet even the best writers, analysts and managers could not identify which of the variations would perform the best and worst. This relates to the concept of HiPPO (Highest Paid Person's Opinion) and why it is so ineffective. Many businesses can learn from this, as HiPPO is often a method still practiced. Many businesses figure, well he/she is a top-level executive who makes three times as much as the normal employee, so they have the best decision-making skills. Well this is incorrect, it is impossible to predict what A/B testing measurements provide - accurate and concrete data so businesses can know what content will drive conversion rates. However, Amelia's team was provided with many resources, which allowed them to scale more easily than a traditional business might. Therefore, it would be difficult for a traditional business to send out as many emails as Amelia's team did, or engage in as many person-to-person interactions.

There are thousands if not millions of businesses using optimization to gather actionable data, track conversion rates, and discover winning combinations across a range of ideas. LifeProof is one of these businesses. LifeProof manufactures and markets SmartPhone and Tablet PC cases for all-environmental protection, functionality and interactivity. Lifeproof's goal was to implement a testing culture and launch a series of tests on the site's product pages. LifeProof tested various landing pages with original CTAs like "Buy Now" and "Learn More" to less direction options like "Purchase" and "Explore," and more explanatory options like "Choose Your Case" and "Find Out More." LifeProof also learned through testing failures. In an effort to increase the purchase of the Total Water Protection (TWP) feature, the team wanted to automatically pre-check that upsell on the product page. However, the team learned that pre-checking TWP was causing more harm than benefit. Pre-checking this item equated to an 11% decrease in monthly revenue projections. In the end, LifeProof experienced a 19% life in revenue, scaleable testing program, and strengthened branding. 


Duracell + Deafness + Super Bowl XLVIII = Inbound Marketing

Written by Dylan Langei

On February 2nd, 2014 the Seattle Seahawks blew out the Denver Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII to claim their first ever Super Bowl title in franchise history. The showdown between the Seahawks' number one defense and the Broncos' number one offense was the most-watched program in U.S. history with 111.5 million viewers. According to experts, the Seahawks were the underdogs going into the championship game, but clearly proved that offense merely sells tickets and defense wins championships.

Super Bowl XLVIII Highlights: Seahawks vs. Broncos

During the road to this monumental victory, Duracell saw an opportunity to leverage this emotional path by releasing a commercial featuring deaf Seattle Seahawk Fullback, Derrick Coleman. According to "Inbound" by Marketo, it can actually be quite challenging to get noticed during a big event, like a Super Bowl win. To overcome this challenge and adequately pursue inbound marketing, a company must create content that is unique with a fresh point of view. With this in mind, Duracell created the Trust Your Power (#TrustYourPower) campaign.

The Trust Your Power commercial is very emotional and inspiring, while also providing content that is relevant to Duracell's prospective buyers. Let's be honest, batteries are not all that sexy or cool, but what they provide is remarkable. By featuring an athlete that relies on Duracell's products to overcome his lifelong challenge of deafness and achieve his greatest aspiration of playing in the NFL, valuable content is created. Through this content, Duracell reminded prospective clients how important batteries really are. In three weeks, the 60-second commercial went viral and had 13 million views alone on YouTube. This inbound marketing strategy clearly made its mark by creating such intriguing content that millions of people felt it was worth sharing via social media outlets. Now let me remind you, Derrick Coleman is not some hot shot NFL player like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning who demands millions of dollars for commercial appearances and endorsement deals. Instead, Duracell targeted a no name player who had overcome severe challenges in part because Duracell powered his hearing aids. Trust Your Power is literally the epitome of inbound marketing - inspiring content that is worth sharing, unobtrusive, and focused on prospects' problems and concerns rather than the product or solution. Through the Trust Your Power campaign, Duracell successfully leveraged the miraculous story of Derrick Coleman and the Super Bowl run of the Seattle Seahawks to pursue inbound marketing. BOOM, there you have it folks, inbound marketing.


Leveraging Google Analytics to Crush the Competition

Written by Dylan Langei

After viewing countless videos with Google's Evangelist, Justin Cutroni, I feel a more captivating opening line would be, "Hi and welcome, my name is Justin Cutroni, and I'll be your instructor throughout this course. In my role as a Digital Analytics Evangelist at Google I try to help people understand how to leverage the Google Analytics platform to optimize their data collection, processing, configuration, and reporting to whoop the competition's ass." Then obviously proceed to show the awesome gif below featuring two cats on a treadmill and pose the question, "Would you rather your business be the light colored cat who has successfully mastered and integrated Google Analytics? Or the darker colored cat that has not integrated any form of digital analytics?"

An analogy like this would certainly catch my attention. Of course I'd want my business to be the light colored cat! The light colored cat looks like they've been training with Usain Bolt while the darker cat looks like, well, anyone that has ever competed against Usain Bolt. To remind you...

In all seriousness, the Google Analytics Platform Principles training highlights the many benefits of Google Analytics to a business' data collection, processing, configuration, and reporting techniques. These platform fundamentals allow for adequate interpretation of the data you're provided on the platform to make informed decisions to strengthen your competitive position. Through transforming and aggregating data, Google Analytics provides filters, goals, and grouping. Filters exclude, include or can change data, while goals track certain conversions to meet business objectives, and grouping aggregates data together to analyze channels and content related groups. These methods, along with report sampling, reduce latency while maintaining high accuracy for timely answers to business operations. By saving time and money, businesses are more effective and better suited to meet their strategic business objectives. However, according to Avinash Kaushik, Author of Digital Marketing Evangelist - Google, 90% of the failures in web analytics is because businesses do not have DUMB objectives. DUMB objectives are doable, understandable, manageable, and beneficial. Therefore, it is not just enough to integrate Google Analytics and think, OK great we're going to meet all of our strategic business objectives! Kaushik gives many good tactics to break down desirable outcomes so they may be dissected into actionable steps towards your business objectives. For example, if a company wants to improve marketing effectiveness, they must 1. identify broken things in m, 2. figure out how to do n, and 3. experiment with p type of campaigns. Once a company has deciphered the actionable steps to reach their desired outcome, they may leverage Google Analytics to provide data that will assist them in fulfilling their strategic business objectives. Now that, is what you call getting a leg up on the competition.


Sorry Nike, Just Google It.

Written by Dylan Langei

So what is all this hype around digital analytics, and more specifically Google Analytics? To be honest, you could Google it. But, since you're already here, I suggest reading on. Digital analytics are a fundamental component of marketing. With nearly everything moving online, the "digital" part of "marketing" is becoming implied. The term "digital marketing" may almost become obsolete, not because the digital part will become unimportant, but everything having to do with marketing will become digital. Through this digitization, many purchases are occurring online, therefore allowing consumers activity and behavior to be tracked. Nowadays, businesses don't have to assign an employee to stand at the door manually reporting customer traffic.

As stated in Forrester's Report, web analytics provide data handling, metrics, reporting, usability, integration, service, predictive analytics, and real-time data. The Big Six, if you will - Adobe, IBM, Webtrends, AT Internet, Google, SAS Institute - possess various strengths and weaknesses in the web analytics market. These vendors are sought out by numerous enterprises based on these strengths and weaknesses, and integrated accordingly. So why Google Analytics? Why become certified? Well, Google has immense brand recognition (Google is a verb for heavens sake), it is a marketable credential, and it will probably be the only chance I'll have at placing "Google" anywhere on my resume (not trying to downplay my potential, but come on, I'm a realist and Googles hiring rate is 0.2% - and yes I did Google that). Even though my chances of employment at Google are only slightly better than winning the lottery, I can become Google Analytic certified to increase the attractiveness of my resume. Why is this an attractive component of a resume you may ask? According to E-Nor, 51% of Fortune 500 companies use Google Analytics. Obama's campaign team even leveraged Google Analytics for the 2012 re-election campaign in order to engage supporters, reach and influence persuadable voters, and activate supporters to vote. This alone proves that Google Analytics is a very powerful and highly accredited tool. Therefore, becoming competent in a digital analytic platform like Google Analytics will provide me with a competitive edge over other job applicants. I will be able to understand web traffic, customer behavior, online campaigns, best customer location, what users are searching, what people click on the most, and various other components provided by Google Analytics. With this understanding, I then will be able to act on these insights by comparing different marketing approaches and move forward with the one that performs the best. Fusing business objectives and strategies with a comprehensive understanding of analytics is an invaluable trait in this digitize era of ours, in which I hope to possess after the Google Analytics certification. 


Digital Marketing by Dylan

Written by Dylan Langei

About Me:

Greetings onlookers, I am Dylan. Originally from Santa Rosa, California my parents decided that 360 days of rain better suited our family and we relocated to Bellingham, Washington after a short stint in Orlando, Florida. I am currently undergoing Western Washington University’s one year Accelerated MBA Program, and this past June I earned a Business Administration, Management degree from Western. My professional experience is limited, but I am currently maintaining jobs at both Whatcom Educational Credit Union (WECU) and Western. I have enjoyed five splendid years at WECU, and just began last year at Western as a Graduate Assistant. After graduation I am stuffing a 70 liter backpack and embarking on a journey around Europe for two months. Post my return, a relocation to Seattle is in order to pursue a career in the field of real estate.

Why Digital Marketing?

I chose to enroll in this course as I have discovered a strong passion for marketing while in the MBA program. Digital marketing is an essential component of marketing as a whole, as the movement towards the Internet & electronics is inevitable. Due to this, I would like to expand my knowledge of engaging stakeholders via social media and various electronic devices. I hope to leverage this expansion of knowledge while applying for jobs and/or escalating my position at a company.

Learning Objectives:

I would like to of course become certified in Google Analytics, Google Adwords, Hootsuite, and Inbound Marketing. I am particularly interested in Search Engine Optimizations (SEO) as I currently dabble in web development. In my dabbling I have built myself a personal website and my friend’s business a website. SEO is a facet of web development I have not yet mastered, and is on my “bucket list” if you will.

Article Discussions:

Soft skills vs. hard skills. Meta-skills vs. technical skills. Which should we soon-to-be college graduates focus on to enhance our personal branding come job searching time? The article Knowledge and Skill Requirements for Marketing Jobs in the 21st Century provides a quantitative study that aims to answer this. Our academic system is an obvious Belieber of promoting the development of technical skills over meta-skills, and many academic studies have supported this belief. However, the areas of marketing knowledge where there were no significant differences between job levels are marketing research, selling, Internet marketing, promotion/advertising, public relations, and merchandising. This means that no matter the marketing position, subject knowledge in these areas are equally as important. Suddenly a silver lining begins to appear. Many recent graduates are well-versed in the use of technology, in which they may leverage to become competent in said skills above. Technology has provided us with tools to master marketing research, selling, Internet marketing, promotion/advertising, public relations, and merchandising. Social media ad campaigns, marketing automation software, and the ability to create viral videos are just some uses to leverage technology and prove acquisition of these vastly required skills. According to Radius, the year 2015 is in the growth cycle of marketing technology. I find this relieving for our generation, as most of us are technologically competent. As technology matures we will mature with it and continue to leverage its advantages to maintain marketing jobs in the 21st century.

Mobile ads will continue to surpass email and social, society will continue to adopt mobile commerce, and social media spending will continue to increase. These are not revolutionary assumptions brought to our attention by US Interactive Marketing Forecast, 2011 to 2016 – but are certainty vital to how marketers are transitioning themselves away from traditional marketing and into interactive marketing. Consumers are beginning to demand relationship management where transactions are not merely a monetary exchange, but a conversation takes place. According to Gravoc, interactivity takes place when consumers can control when they view the products and what type of products they are viewing, the pace at which they review products, and the ability to order or request information directly. Because customers have the Internet to compare products and make informed purchasing decisions, businesses are forced to provide the customers more control. Interactive marketing combats this transition of power that has been given to the customer. Direct sales are becoming too costly and unwanted by consumers. This might just be me, but I always ignore pushy door-to-door sales visits from the CUTCO Cutlery salesperson (except for this My Wonder Cleaner Salesman – he is awesome). Now, marketers are forced to leverage interactive marketing through mobile ads, mobile commerce, and social media to engage consumers in a non-threatening discussion. Consumers feel safe on their mobile phones and computer, and therefore more inclined to make a purchase.

There is an obvious disconnect between what job applicants believe they are qualified for, and what an employer expects from an applicant. It is illustrated in the State of Digital Marketing Talent article that organizations are experiencing significant challenges in locating talent due to inconsistency indicated in performance expectations and an over reliance on subjective referrals. This is because the current job matching services and application forms ignore fundamental components to screen for a long-term employee. Many job applications request a resume, cover letter, and various other ambiguous details. Yes, work history and reasoning behind a person applying is important, but is not enough to conclude prolonged employee retention. Companies must consider components such as; work environment preferences, personality, behaviors, and interests. Establishing these mechanisms within the hiring process will build a more cohesive match between an applicant and the company. Employee turnover is an enormous cost burden on a company as well, equating anywhere from 16-213% of an employees salary according to the Center for American Progress. Businesses need to shy away from such a heavy reliance on resumes, as they only suggest exposure to various experiences but do not always translate to on-the-job abilities. An applicant’s resume could suggest they are completely competent in analytics, but if the work environment is not conducive to their preferences, they may become unable to produce satisfactory work. That is why it is essential to integrate culture meshing criteria in job searching efforts.