The Data Dilemma: How To Reach Consumers and Gain Their Trust in Online Advertising

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Business Ethics has become an oxymoron. We can look back at companies like Enron and scrutinize their shady accounting practices that ultimately left thousands of people unemployed in its collapse as a case study of business ethics. Surely we can grow and learn from ethical scandals, and develop checks and balances to prevent future corruption and harm, right? Perhaps so, but in the fast pace boom of tech companies, data collection, and digital advertising, we’re seeing a new set of complex ethical dilemmas surface at an unprecedented pace. And more are yet to be uncovered. It’s difficult to keep up with and truly understand the implications of something that is constantly developing and changing every day, and unfortunately companies like Facebook took advantage of that. Now that we’ve had a glimpse behind the curtain after the Cambridge Analytica scandal and we’re working towards privacy protection, it’s time to assess if this new(ish) method of online advertising is truly dangerous for society.

On a scale of one to five, five being high “2016 rigged election” threat, I would rank our current position at a 3.5. Frankly, there is still too much uncertainty and lack of transparency for me to confidently say that these companies will operate more ethically after the Cambridge scandal. Post-Cambridge, rather than seeing companies like Facebook be more transparent about how their data collection and use their algorithms, the fear is that it could mean less transparency in policy shifts, particularly for marketers interested in using Facebook as an ad network to reach consumers. Why? Simply because they can and not enough people outside of the tech bubble truly understand how to operate in the hot commodity of data. The likely argument is that transparency puts intellectual property at risk, but when you’re facing as much mistrust as these leaders are, there must be checks and balances to regain consumer trust.

However, in all of this negativity, I am an opportunist and believe that there are still methods to conduct ethical online marketing to reach your consumer and it’s up to the rest of us to speak louder and influence through ethical marketing behaviors. So, how do we find the fine line between awareness and annoyance? How do we get in front of target consumers most likely to buy, without overstepping and giving off a creepy impression of always watching?

Do Your Research

One of the cornerstones of any successful marketing campaign is understanding the segment or target audience of your product or service. Get to know your audience and their shopping behaviors. This will allow you to be present in the right time while not overstepping and becoming the creepy omnipresent online marketing we’ve seen lately.

Self-Regulate

There’s always time to course-correct, receive feedback, and ensure the data gathered for targeted advertising isn’t breaching consumer privacy as you try to reach your target audience. Never work in auto-pilot mode. Assess your strategies at every step of your campaign and implement consumer protection policies.

Be Transparent

A great way to make sure you’re keeping in check and self-regulating is by being transparent with the consumer and how you’re intending to protect them. Share privacy policies and let the consumer decide how and when they want to share info with you and how you get your data.

Be Authentic

If you truly believe in your product or service, do your market research, and develop a marketing communications plan, you don’t have to use deceptive or manipulating language to sway consumers. Tap into your consumer base with testimonials and build trust without cutting corners or spreading misinformation.

Tell the Brand Story

Everyone has a story to tell, what is yours? Tying into transparency and authenticity, streamline those characteristics into a killer story about the brand that is consistent across all online ad channels for recognition.

Stay Proactive

Digital advertising and pretty much anything in the online universe is moving faster than any of us can keep up with right now. Rules and regulations are constantly shifting, and so are the perceptions of privacy as a culture. We’re building this plane as we’re taking flight, so stay on top of how these shifts affect your business.

Understand Third Parties

Even if you’re proud to say your business isn’t actively participating in big data collecting and sales, using third party sites still runs the risk of them collecting data unbeknownst to you. Know who you’re working with and research software that helps prevent this.

Don’t Cut Corners & Focus on Your End Goal

Tying into authenticity and telling your story, there are many opportunities in online advertising to “cheat the system” so to speak. Some have established consequences like “keyword stuffing” in search engine optimization, others are only in the process of being established. If you build your business on sup par or murky standards, it will inevitably catch up to you as we’ve seen with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Is that how you want to showcase your hard work in the end?

Sources:
Jumpsix. “Ethical Issues in Digital Marketing.” JumpSIX Marketing, 29 July 2019, jumpsixmarketing.com/ethical-digital-marketing-part-1-issues/.

Samuel, Alexandra. “The Shady Data-Gathering Tactics Used by Cambridge Analytica Were an Open Secret to Online Marketers. I Know, Because I Was One.” The Verge, The Verge, 25 Mar. 2018, www.theverge.com/2018/3/25/17161726/facebook-cambridge-analytica-data-online-marketers.

Shewan, Dan. “Ethical Marketing: 5 Examples of Companies with a Conscience.” WordStream, 28 Nov. 2018, www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2017/09/20/ethical-marketing.

Steimer, Sarah. “The Murky Ethics of Data Gathering in a Post-Cambridge Analytica World.” American Marketing Association, 5 Jan. 2018, www.ama.org/marketing-news/the-murky-ethics-of-data-gathering-in-a-post-cambridge-analytica-world/.

What to do when your webpage doesn’t rank?

Now that we’ve covered how to make the perfect landing page to increase conversion, it’s time to ensure people will actually search and find that landing page you’ve carefully crafted. All too often, we invest time into building a beautiful, customized, content-filled website, but after a few months, we’re staring at the analytics page and it’s just not getting the traffic needed to get those sales. What’s happened? Well, a couple of things come into play. Search engine optimization (SEO) is quintessential for leading organic traffic to your webpage. In a world where Google has become a colloquial verb for searching or looking things up, a webpage must be optimized to rank high on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Here are some staggering facts just to highlight how important ranking on the SERP can be (Quicksprout):

  • 93% of experiences on the internet start with a search engine
  • The very top result on Google has a 33% chance of getting clicked
  • 75% of people won’t click past the first page of Google

If you’re not number one or at least in the top 10, your chances of getting discovered or getting any kind of clickthrough rate start to drop a third just by not ranking first and continue to drop at an exponential rate the further down the list your webpage lives. Thankfully, there’s no reason to lose hope – there are tons of great ways to improve your webpage’s ranking just by taking a few strategic steps for SEO optimization.

https://indigothemes.com/

Let’s start with On-site SEO

While we’ve all heard that content is key, using updated, relevant, and unique content will get you a whole lot more. Even further, it’s important to implement a relevant keyword strategy when developing this new wonderful content for your webpage. First, identify what you’re trying to share with the world and then get specific on what kinds of phrases people will use to search for similar content. The more specific you can get, the less likely you’ll find yourself competing for keywords and the more likely you’ll hit a consumer in a later stage of their buying cycle. This strategy of specific keywords is often referred to as using “long-tail keywords.” At this point, you might be thinking about all of the keywords you’re ready to implement on your webpage but before you dive in, you’ll also want to consider placement. Where you put your keywords plays a big part in ranking and relevancy as well!  

URLs and title tags are heavily weighted by search engines when calculating relevancy. An example of keywords being implemented in a URL is from media website Unofficial Networks’ recent article about a new ski pass. I might be a little bias because I happen to work for said ski pass, but it’s a great example all the same. The URL reads: https://unofficialnetworks.com/2019/09/19/best-ski-pass/ which then links to an article about a new pass entering the market this season. Now when people search for “best ski pass” our likelihood of showing up on the first SERP is much higher. While this isn’t a landing page on said ski pass’s site, it also contributes to SERP ranking which I’ll expand on in a bit. Search engines also use header tags <h1> and <h2>, image data (alt text and file name), and anchor text as ways to calculate relevancy and should be thoughtfully chosen in optimizing a webpage. Finally, while it seems like the simplest strategy for maximizing keyword optimization would be the body of the content, it can actually work against you. Search engines will ding you for trying to “keyword stuff” if you overdo it, so there’s a careful balance between all of the places keywords can be used. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

Off-site SEO

Search engines look at more than just relevant keywords and updated content when ranking a webpage, however. Off-site SEO is equally important and encompasses a strategy of “backlinking.”

https://sitechecker.pro/backlinks/

Linking to reliable, high-quality websites will back up your claims and even better, getting those high-ranking sites to link back to your page boosts your ranking through the search engine too. In my example URL above with the ski pass, having a long-established website reference and link to a company website that just launched this year significantly helps SEO for the newer site. In order to increase your webpage’s rank, it’s highly recommended to develop a link building strategy and identify what kinds of high-ranking sites you want to be referred by and decide how you want to leverage from each other. This can come in a variety of forms resource, PR, and guest posting.

So start strategizing how and where you want to be searched. Identify keywords, sprinkle them accordingly on your webpage, and leverage other well-established sites through backlinking!

Sources:
Larson, Jeff, and Stuart Draper. Digital Marketing Essentials. Mimic Pro Bundle.

“34 Ways To Improve SEO Rankings in 2019.” Quicksprout, 29 July 2019, www.quicksprout.com/ways-to-improve-seo-ranking/.

Jones, Kristopher. “4 Reasons Why Your Content Isn’t Ranking.” Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Journal, 26 Aug. 2019, www.searchenginejournal.com/why-content-isnt-ranking/317917/#close.

5 Ways to Increase Landing Page Conversion

Welcome to the era of instant stimulation and accessibility in digital marketing, advertising, and eCommerce. At the click of a button, you can have pretty much anything you want delivered to your front door without ever having to leave your house! As a marketer or advertiser, this leaves a huge opportunity for leveraging stellar websites and landing pages to entice consumers and ultimately lead to conversion. Conversion is the quintessential goal of a landing page, yet it doesn’t always mean to sell. If you’re familiar with Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross and his famous ABC line “Always Be Closing” in reference to sales, landing page design should “Always Be Converting.” Continue to ask yourself, “What are you offering? Why should I pick you? What do you want me to do next?” (Larson)

via GIPHY

If you hop on your favorite search engine (let’s be honest, it’s Google) and look for ways to increase landing page conversion, you’ll find an endless supply of advice and the latest “hacks” for optimization. Whatever Buzzfeed-like list you land on, ultimately all of those latest tips and tricks can be boiled down and segmented into to five concepts that every marketer, advertiser, designer, or web developer should have memorized:

Purposeful and Popping Design

There are a lot of elements to unpack when it comes to designing a landing page, but let’s face it – design matters. It is the first impression, a psychological motivator to stay engaged, and even helps remind consumers why they’ve landed on the page in the first place. Some key things to consider in designing an effective landing page include:

  • Simplicity: Embrace white space and don’t overwhelm/clutter the viewer’s experience. (Simon) They need a place to rest their eyes and process the content. With that, comes scanability i.e. icons and bullet-point lists over lengthy copy blocks. (Larson)
  • Stand-out CTA buttons and directional ques: Along the line of simplicity, CTA buttons should be front and center, clear as day, and never a guessing game for where it’ll take you. Straight forward labeling and high contrast buttons lead consumers down your sales funnel and remind consumers why they’ve landed on that page. (Quick Sprout)
  • Hierarchy: Ensure that all the important content you want to stick with your consumer is above the fold. (Simon)

Favor Form Fills

Forms are a great way to convert and capture consumers in your database and help them return to your site again at a later date. They don’t have to be boring either. Adding imagery and clear CTA buttons can entice consumers to engage and give information. Here’s a great example of a form refresh that helped increase cellphone donations by 53%! (Quick Sprout)

Share Your Cred

In the digital era, word of mouth marketing still holds strong. Consumers are more likely to trust like-minded individuals and friends before trusting your online business. How do you navigate that online presence and get consumers to believe in your brand? Trust symbols, video demos, testimonials, social media presence, and return policies all play into how a consumer perceives your brand and if you’re worth their dollar. A great example of credibility implemented on a landing page is Backcountry, a third-party retailer for outdoor wear brands. Below the displayed product, they have a variety of customer reviews plus a section that displays what customers ultimately bought and why so as the consumer, you feel safe knowing you’re getting the best product.

Get Visual

Humans by nature are visual beings and we’ve all heard the saying “A picture is worth 1,000 words.” We process messages in images quicker than a copy block and that is only expedited in video media. Professional-looking imagery and videography can significantly increase conversion, video alone can cause an 86% increase in conversion rates! (Simon)

Test and Test Again

The key to a successful landing page is continuing to test out what works and what doesn’t in a strategic way through A/B Testing. As you drive traffic to your landing pages, examine certain elements in the data gathered to see what is successful and what is not. It may be tempting to scratch the page and start over completely, however more likely than not a single tweak to a CTA button may end up being a more effective solution! There are several ways and resources available to test out your landing page including heatmaps and Google Analytics. (Quick Sprout & Simon) There are a lot of ways to take the above advice and turn it into something great, and there are just as many ways to take that advice and turn it into something not so great. The only way you’ll know if you’re landing page is successful is to test and test again as you gather data!

Sources

“Create a Website.” Quicksprout, 16 Jan. 2019, www.quicksprout.com/landing-page-optimization/.

Larson, Jeff, and Stuart Draper. Digital Marketing Essentials. Mimic Pro Bundle.

Simon, Sha Drena. “The Top 11 Landing Page Optimization Best Practices (2019).” Yokel Local Inbound Marketing Agency, 11 Dec. 2018, www.yokellocal.com/blog/landing-page-optimization-best-practices.