Revisiting Sun Tzu’s – THE ART OF WAR to compile 10 Digital Marketing Lessons


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Written by Pooja Mehra
on November 10, 2016

Imagine the motivation of a famished army, combating on its last legs in the midst of fire and ashes, hollering vengeful battle cries that sends shivers down the spines of their enemies, a couple of millenniums ago (that’s when this book was written).

Sun Tzu’s classic has not only inspired dynasties, military generals, strategists, tacticians, business leaders, politicians, sports persons and managers (fighting boardroom battles everyday)  across the globe, but has also lent them inspiration to surge ahead despite any circumstances.

Here’s a collection of 10 invaluable gems from The Art of War, from a Digital marketing standpoint-:

1) When Able, Feign Inability …

“ The Way of War is A way of deception
When Able,
Feign Inability,

When Deploying troops
Appear Not to be. ”

Inference : In digital marketing, the best way to market is by not appearing to market at all. Engage with your audience in the most natural manner. When you seem most ordinary, should be the time when you really engage in subtle marketing techniques.

2) If Victory is slow, Men tire, Morale sags

“ In War
Victory should be Swift.
If Victory is slow,
Men tire, Morale sags,
Sieges exhaust strength;
Protracted campaigns strain the public treasury.”


Image Credit : https://www.flickr.com/photos/richardofengland/6788829651

Inference :In digital marketing targets must be achieved in a definite time frame. Because morale, like sand, will slip out of your hands unless you achieve your goal in time. Take quantifiable steps in the beginning, like email marketing campaigns, vigorous online advertising and PPC campaigns, assess the results.

Be quick in diversifying. Save protracted techniques for later use; your procrastinations will only make your competitors stronger.

3) The highest form of warfare Is to attack Strategy itself

“ Ultimate Excellence lies
Not in winning every battle
But in defeating the enemy
Without ever fighting.
The highest form of warfare
Is to attack
Strategy itself  ”

Inference :  Sometimes just the trailer of a movie can sell out tickets for the entire show.  Likewise, on a Digital marketing turf start with giving your potential clients a flavor of what you can do for them. If you’re convincing enough, half the battle is won. Aggressive branding techniques via social media advertising and display advertising will come in handy. When they arrive at your site, give them something free, like an ebook/how-to guide, et.al.

4) Five essentials for Victory

“Know when to fight
And when not to fight;
Understand how to deploy
Large and small Numbers;

Have officers and men who share a single will;
Be ready for the unexpected

Have a capable general,
Unhampered by his sovereign.”

Image Credit  https://www.flickr.com/photos/thecosmopolitan/

Inference : Apart from what—when, when not to and how, should be the questions on your mind while crafting a strategy. Choose your target audience wisely. Your whole team should be on the same page with you. A campaign can hit the bull’s eye or can turn into an eyesore, be ready for surprises. As a leader, you’re expected to use your diligence. Cut your teammates and your strategies some slack at times. Breaks can make it blossom!

5) Difference between the victorious and the defeated army…

“ The victorious army
Is victorious first
And seeks battle later;
The defeated army
Does battle first
And seeks victory later. ”

Inference :  To be in winners shoes, do what winners do. Devise a foolproof digital strategy first (work out all the permutations and combinations), so there are no chances of faltering. Be ready with your arsenal of Online Marketing Campaigns, Online Advertising, PPC, Display Advertising Services, Social Media Advertising, Email Marketing, Conversion. Success is a mindset, achieve it before going into the battle. It helps to foresee.

6) The warrior skilled in Indirect warfare is Infinite…

In the 5th chapter ‘Potential Energy’, Master Sun says

“ The warrior skilled In indirect warfare
Is infinite As Heaven and Earth
Inexhaustible As river and sea,
He ends and begins again Like Sun and Moon,
Dies and is born again
Like the Four Seasons ”

Inference :  Digital marketing and branding exercises, pursued indirectly (not so blatantly) and at irregular intervals by deploying diverse tactics is the best way to go about it. For instance, concentrating on Paid Ads, followed by a lull, then a bombardment of highly targeted Email marketing campaign can take your consumers by surprise.
It’s like a Guerrilla warfare—your power and strength will remain infinite, if you concentrate on the diversity w.r.t time and techniques.

7) Skillfully deployed soldiers are like round boulders Rolling down A mighty mountain… 


“ The Skillful Warrior

Exploits The potential energy;
He does not hold his men Responsible

He deploys his men To their best
But Relies on The potential energy.

He sends his men into battle like a man Rolling logs or boulders.
Skillfully deployed soldiers are like round boulders
Rolling down A mighty mountain ” 

Inference: More than the strategy, it’s the timing and positioning that determines your success. In digital marketing, unleashing your efforts at the opportune moment from a strategic standpoint can bring you the right gains.

For instance, if your firm’s already an established brand. To gain further lead over your competitors you may become a thought leader in your field, especially if you’re running a professional practice, selling a pioneering product et.al. It could be done with effective Content marketing, Infographics, etc.

8) There are roads not to take. There are armies Not to attack…

“ There are-
Roads Not to Take
Armies, Not to attack
Towns Not to besiege
Terrains Not to contest
Orders Not to obey ”

Inference: Not every strategy or tactic is meant for you. It might serve your competitors beautifully, but be futile for you.
Someone might need PPC, more than content marketing, since their biggest concern is to get more and more leads. Different strokes for different folks!
In fact, indulging in ineffective activities will not only make you squander your resources, but risk your service or product’s future.

9) In killing an individual, It’s necessary to know him beforehand…

“ In striking an army,
In attacking a city,
In killing an individual
It is necessary to know beforehand
The names of the general,
And of his attendants,
His aides,
His doorkeepers,
His bodyguards.
Our spies must be instructed
To discover all of these
In detail. ”

Inference :  Before you set out to unleash your ultimate marketing missile, it’s best to get acquainted with all its elements (pros and cons) so you’re able to predict your audiences’ response. What would happen if you strike the bulls eye, what would happen if you don’t. You should be aware of every little detail. In digital marketing if you’re considering remarketing campaigns, you should be as accurate as possible in predicting how your audience will respond.

 

10) Attack according to the soldier’s spirit

“ The soldier’s spirit
Is keenest In the morning;
By noon It has dulled;
By evening He has begun To think of home

The skillful Warrior
Avoids the keen spirit,
Attacks the dull
And the homesick;
This is Mastery of spirit ”

Inference : Have a go at your target when he’s most vulnerable, not when he’s most alert and strong, otherwise you’ll end up wasting your resources. Your natural proximity to your target would matter highly. It will allow you time to strike with precision.

For example, if you’re concentrating on social media marketing and the target appears too tough to achieve, no need to go at it hammer and tongs. Wait for the right time.

Wrapping Up

Whether it’s a marketing or digital marketing strategy, a clear understanding between; what’s achievable, what’s not; what’s worth going for, what not; what’s near, what’s far; is indispensable for charting out a victory path.

In the past, strategies have been essential for sieges, now they’re needed for clutching projects and leading in the market. If you’ve understood the above principles, it’s time to implement them. Because just as war, in marketing too you have to offer baits to lure the consumer.

army

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Checklist to see if someone sold you a tactic in the name of a Marketing Strategy!


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Written by Harman Bajwa
on September 4, 2016

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

― Sun Tzu, ‘The Art of War’

Though both strategy and tactics have been pivotal to warfare, it’s the former that encompasses the latter. For instance, a commanding officer may employ guerrilla warfare as a tactical move to distract the enemy and gain control over a territory (a strategic move).

Put differently, a tactic is several chunks of a Plan of Action; whereas ‘strategy’ is the larger framework, that’ll eventually lead you to the desired result.

The rules are no different, be it an administrative work taken up by a city Mayor, a game of chess or a Digital Marketing strategy.

Here’s a 5 point checklist to separate the wheat from the chaff and find someone who can offer you a strategy, not a tactic in Digital marketing.

1)    Is your Strategist paying heed to your Target Audience?

It’s vital that your Digital strategist understands what your target audience wants as lucidly as you do (if not better). You would be surprised to know how similar the first meetings of most strategy providers go with a variety of clients. Even Doctors don’t  prescribe the same medicines to all their patients, especially if they have different illnesses.

If someones suggests you to do what they have advised others (even if that’s shown favorable results), get to the bottom of it. It’s most likely a tactic, as had it been a strategy, no two cases should have been similar. Even if it’s a coincidence; then coincidences don’t occur too often!

Rethink it: If they keep egging you on going for Search Engine Optimization or Google Adwords in the first meeting, chances are that’s what you’d likely get since it preoccupies their minds already. This might work for you in the short term, but that’s  NOT a Customized Strategy for long term gains.

 

2)    Can your Strategist offer your customers a compelling reason to buy your product?

Does your strategist know how to motivate your customers to buy your product? How well do they understand your product? Is it meant for businesses or end users? Can it be promoted as a new infrastructure (in offices, residences), can it fix problems or does it offer a superior value over an existing similar product while having no potential risks. These things have to be clear in your strategist’s mind, as it will serve as the premise behind charting out a communication plan for your potential buyers.

If  your strategy provider understands these things only on the surface, then they won’t be able to go far. Their efforts would be reduced to fostering your existing selling drive, as a tactical move. This can be a big marketing mistake which will eventually affect your bottom line. In contrast, a strategy would be to internalize the want for your product and create a new need for the buyers. Can the strategist do that?

Rethink it: Nobody knows your product like you do, so delve deeper into how they perceive it as a buying option. Put yourself into the shoes of the buyer of your own product, you’ll understand how persuasive their plans are.

3)    Does your Strategist care about your Competitors’marketing strategy?

Is knowing your competitors a priority for your strategist? Understanding them better can offer you a yardstick. It should be a part of your strategist’s research and must be done meticulously. It can also give you peek into your competitors’ market spend, and conversely their budget. If your digital strategy provider urges you to take your competitors seriously, it’s only for you to be at an advantage before you start allocating your millions.

But if a strategy provider stresses a lot over what your competitors are doing, it can be a tactic (to emulate their ways). In contrast, taking it as a starting point and building on it to move ahead could count as a strategy.

Rethink it: If a strategy provider is harping way too much over studying your competitors, it can be because of their shallow understanding of your product or business. You’ll smell the rat when it happens.

4)    Is  your Strategist stressing on revenue on a micro level instead of talking about CSFs , KPIs, metrics, leading up to a larger Goal?

A smart strategist, even before opening a discussion around data or tools, will have a well-defined goal for your digital marketing strategy. If your strategist can’t distinguish  between your Goal, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Critical Success Factors (CSFs) etc., it’s already a botched up affair. Goals for one, are above your commercial metrics or marketing performance indicators. All your effort and use of metrics must ensure you’re inching towards it. An example of a goal could be- to offer the best customer service in your industry.

If your strategist leans towards tools, metrics and data it might be a tactic for offering you a quick ROI, but the longevity of it remains questionable. On the other hand a strategy would be to work around defining your (in a descending order of priority), Vision -> Goals -> Objectives -> CSFs and KPIS -> Metrics and Measures. 

Rethink it: If your strategy provider doesn’t speak to you in the aforesaid language, either they’re deliberately doing so or they’re incapable of it. And both the cases are hazardous for your brand/product. Apart from growing your sales, the idea should be to focus on engagement with your potential customers and creating an awareness for the new visitors. It would all lead to REVENUE only, eventually.

5)    Picking the right Tactics, to build  your strategy, is the real McCoy!

It’s no mean feat to decide upon the tactics your strategy will have. Whether your strategy needs Email marketing, SEO, Display advertisements, Adwords, Video marketing, Social media advertising (on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), or Content marketing.; it would need analysis.  For instance, if you think Television was the best bet to pursue 18-34 year olds in the United States, you might be luckier in reaching them through YouTube.

If your strategist is going hammer and tongs after one (or two) such tactic(s), s/he is only trying to untangle the last part of the puzzle. A strategy, on the contrary will be about engaging your customers in a holistic manner, spreading a good word about you while meeting the surrounding issues head-on.

Rethink it: A digital strategy works best with a top-down approach. If your strategist’s starting points are any of these marketing tactics, they are taking the bottom up approach; which is fundamentally INCORRECT.

Wrapping Up

Look a little deeper, and you’ll realize why a strategist is trying hard to promote one or two tactics. They either hold an expertise in it or they have seen success because of those.

However, it’s nothing short of blatant maneuvering. But it gets worse when those ill chosen tactics starts meddling with the positioning of your brand and underestimating your customers.

What if your Digital strategist was a highway motorist whose lone skill is to put the pedal to the metal, with no destination plan, no gas and no time limit to reach―you might surely get somewhere.

Or,would you rather rely on luck or hand over the keys to a DIGITAL MARKETING expert who possesses a foresight?

The ball is in your court!

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LinkedIn invites you to the club extraordinaire : Be an ‘Influencer’!


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Written by Pooja Mehra
on February 26, 2014

Now LinkedIn intends to catapult all the followers’ into the league of followed, by letting them share the platform with opinion makers like Barrack Obama, Bill Gates, Meg Whitman, Sir Richard Branson, etc.

Simply put, LinkedIn is extending the access of its publishing platform to all its existing users.

Having approx. 227 million users (and growing), with 2 new members joining every second, covering a Geographical reach of 200 nations and territories, available in 20 languageswhat LinkedIn’s witnessed is no short of a big bang, in just over a decade’s existence.

And this announcement comes as a defining moment in its evolution.

The Beginnings!

On 29th April, 2010, LinkedIn allowed its users to follow companies’ profiles and receive real-time alerts on their activities; a close replica of following someone on Twitter or becoming someone’s fan on Facebook.

After approximately two years of this, a major development surfaced.

At a time when Google was going hammer and tongs about original content production, admonishing malpractices, imposing penalties on spammers for hoodwinking the average Internet user; LinkedIn cracked the code to a path breaking invention. It got the most renowned thought leaders of the world on its Network to share their ideas and thoughts through long form content, and allowed all the LinkedIn members to follow their posts.

The announcement was made on 2ndOct, 2012 and included the likes of none other than, President Barack Obama, Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins, Arianna Huffington, Richard Branson, Governor Mitt RomneyDavid Cameron, Bill Gates, etc.This elite category of contributors was christened‘Influencers’.These Influencers then began sharing their exceptional knowledge and insights with LinkedIn members. Initially they were 150 in strength, later on they became 500.

The ANNOUNCEMENT  Now

The phenomenal success of the Influencer program saw an average post receive 80-plus comments, 250 likes and 31,000 views; which egged on LinkedIn to extend the service to 25,000 members for now. It would be extended to all its members in the following weeks and months.

The idea is to disseminate the valuable experiences, knowledge and expertise of all its users that haven’t been captured as yet.

Moreover,  if a member publishes a post on LinkedIn, their unique content would be considered as a part of their professional profile and would be shared within their network.

Likewise, members will receive content according to their interests, profile and their network.

Members will also be allowed to follow those who are not in their network as well as create their own group of followers. This will include, sharing images, posts, videos on Slideshare too.

Ryan Roslansky, the Head of Content Products at LinkedIn told USA Today that,”We want LinkedIn to be a place members come to be more effective and successful, not just when they are looking for a job or looking for people. We believe that content is a way to do that.” 

Yes, there are advantages, Something for EVERYONE

The long form content has been around for quite some time to target niche audiences and drive a high level of engagement.

Google’s Indepth Articles is a case in point. It stresses on the creation of elaborate, content on broader topics.

LinkedIn’s publishing platform is also to do with knowledge sharing, but it has a  different perspective.

1)     Everyone gets to share the stage– By putting a pen in everyone’s hand, LinkedIn has truly empowered all its users to contribute, discuss, share their views on a serious platform (unlike Facebook or Twitter). Here’s an overview to LinkedIn’s Publishing platform.

2)     A shot in the arm for the HR – This one goes without saying. LinkendIn draws 55% of its revenue formTalent solutions. HR leaders throughout the globe can now scrutinize the content produced by their prospective employees’ to comprehend them better. As for LinkedIn, it’ll greatly help in growing its revenue.

3)     A surefire way to reach out – Many a times even after producing the right content, things go awry at the publishing stage, as it fails to reach the right audience.With LinkedIn’s stepping in, serving up the content to the right audience gets addressed due to its various distribution channels.

4)     Access to the Analytics – Move over Google’s analytics, Linkedin’s analytics shows you everything (in the form of charts, graphs, etc.) about your followers, on parameters of industries, seniority, regions et. al. This way you’ll able to see how your content is communicating with your audience, to guide you in the right direction.

Final Thoughts

Having started by roping in the big guns, LinkedIn has undoubtedly positioned itself as a niche content contributor on the web. The content running so far on LinkedIn has got rave reviews primarily because it comes from the crème de la crème, heading Industries (and nations).

On the other hand, there are apprehensions about dilution of this rich quality due to an influx of less useful, low quality, self promotional content; an issue Google is still grappling with. To think that all its 277 million users would provide value sure seems like wishful thinking.

But, LinkedIn seems to have one thing going for itsince the produced content would be attached to the professional identity of every user, it’d inspire the members to bring the best out of them.

“When words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain.”

—Shakespeare (Richard II)

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Google Helpouts: Real Time help transformed-Forever!


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Written by Pooja Mehra
on January 14, 2014

How Google Helpout helping small businessmen to find out Customers

It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.
–Napoleon Hill

Looking for a quick rescue from a ‘chocolate making-gone gooey’ situation, tinkering with your forlorn grandfather Piano for the right notes, gearing up for the most effective lower abdominal workout or if it’s about grasping the subtext of an English classic–with a mantra,‘real help from real people in real time’, Google Helpouts is all set to get you sorted.

Call it an avatar of what Google is already known for (providing information), the step is a giant leap in answering people’s queries and guiding them in the right direction.
Udi Manber, the VP of Engineering at Google, broke the news on their official blog on 4th Nov 2013. Google Helpouts is reportedly a unique synthesis of Google Wallet and Hangouts. Simply put, the platform has its roots in video chatting, a la Google Hangouts. It currently lists over 1,000 experts for 8 broad categories namely Cooking, Computers and Electronics, Arts and Music, Fitness and Nutrition, Health, Fashion and Beauty, Home and Garden, Education and Careers.

What it’s got  

Users will get to converse with individuals who’ll sort out their doubts, but for a price. Secondly, you get to pick and choose whose help you wish to take based on their ratings, price, reviews and availability.

Five aspects pivotal to the service are–

a) To easily find individuals having the right expertise, that users need the instant they require it.

b) To be able to book schedules easily and readily depending on the user’s schedule.

c) To have flexibility in the prices, so users can take their pick out of a per minute or a flat fee.

d) To allow users to go over past Helpouts and get notifications for the upcoming ones.

e) To let users share their experiences with friends and other people through Google+.

How it Works 

a) For Users

Helpouts is being projected as a suggestions bazaar for users, where the USP of the product is customized real-time advice/solutions. Therefore, as opposed to ineffective (inexact) suggestions of friends over phone /social networking sites/video chats and unlike one sided video tutorials, you’d get precise solutions.

The service is accompanied with a ‘Satisfaction Guarantee’ policy. If the users aren’t happy with the help they get, their money would be refunded.

Users can offer feedbacks to rate the service they get. This will influence the visibility of the provider, the best ones’ will appear on the top of the lists. Stringent safety measures are in place, so users can stop the video if they find something abusive or harassing. You can watch an introductory clip  and start right away if you’ve got a Google account. Till now it’s only available for Android and Desktop PCs.

b) For Service Providers

The over 1,000 providers are not only individuals, but small/medium/large businesses who have dedicated teams for all the listings.

These listings would vary in cost which is set by the provider of the particular service. The payment can be made according to the task, by minutes or for a set period of time.
The providers’ prominence will largely depend on the quality of service they provide.

All of them are carefully examined by Google and have been included by invitation only.
Service providers in the healthcare section, have been authenticated by a 3rd party. Some of the providers already on board are- Sephora, Rosetta Stone,Weight Watchers, Red Beacon, Home Advisor, One Medical.

It’s also open to providers who are willing to share their expertise for free.

c) For Google

Google will charge a 20% cut for every successful service provided. As of now the payment can be made only through Google Wallet.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Google’s 20% charge does not apply for the health care category due to the complexity of the service, since it involves counseling on a number of things like nutrition, psychology etc., which are apparently immeasurable services.

Google’s also saying that their Healthcare service is in agreement with HIPAA, but is being extra cautious in its dealings due to privacy concerns. Till now no insurance coverage is in place, but Google feels it might become a part of  their healthcare service in future.

Can it withstand the test of time?   

There’s no denying that the platform will have to stand stiff competition from all the free help available to users. Social networking sites, help from personal friends, YouTube tutorials (they have the strongest hold), forums,Yahoo answers, etc. If you are a Twitter/ Facebook user, you’re probably used to taking suggestions from your followers/ friends.

Apart from that, video chatting will heavily depend on your Internet connectivity, i.e., your data rate transfer. Likewise, help, in an outdoor situation will solely depend on your phone Internet speed, which won’t be up to the mark in all the places you’d go to.
We’ve all had our share of Skype and Hangout sessions–once gone bad, forever abandoned.

Also you need a device that can be transferred between the rooms. People don’t keep home PC’s in their kitchens. All these factors can severely cripple its reach and usability.

On the brighter side, it can bring in an unprecedented change, since it places professional help at your beck and call, from the best talent. Secondly, people many a times are reluctant to seek help from their best of friends, relatives or acquaintances out of being embarrassed or judged. Here nobody would judge you, since they don’t know you, but they do know what you’re looking for, quite precisely. Google has been there and done that. It can do it again.

Final Thoughts

If you see the readers’ comments under Google’s official blog where the announcement first surfaced, you’ll see that people are quite elated already.

Quite surely, the aspect of sales must be of concern to Google, but it is definitely not desperate to mint money. The product is seemingly people oriented, targeted towards focused learning.

Most importantly, there is a whole new window of opportunity for those who stay in far flung areas and want to learn something not offered near them.
But, its most unbeatable feature remains the two way interaction, an unstated admission by Google that real help can’t be served only wrapped in search algorithms!

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Google’s In Depth Articles:Can you leverage from the change?


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Written by Pooja Mehra
on October 16, 2013

At a time when short, punchy content, laden with crispy one liners (private only to copywriters earlier) was charming the readers, boosting their web appetite; Google turned over anew leaf on 6thAug 2013.

Away from all the earlier modifications to bring out search results, this time Google unearthed in-depth articles which it felt users were feeling deprived of. These in-depth article results are restricted to only broader topics and themes for now and available only on Google.com (i.e., only in the U.S, not in any other country).

How Search Engines changed !

The first week saw a slew of good quality content from top brands and publishers making it to the 1st page of the searches. We ran a small experiment on five keywords.

KEYWORDS  In Depth Articles
1)     Microsoft Vanity Fair, The Verge, Business Week
2)     New York Nymag.com, Wired.com ,The New York Times
3)     Family Planning The Daily Beast, The New York Times,Mother Jones
4)     Pyramids BBC, Discover Magazine, Smithsonian.com
5)     Advertising Fast Company, The Economist, Harvard Business Review

Three in depth articles emerged at the bottom of every search page under the heading-In-Depth Articles. All of them shared the same attributes. Most were news publications, which meant they were original, non-commercial, thoughtful and thoroughly researched. Besides, most of the content was considerably elaborate i.e., no less than 2000 words.

It is the 10th search result, listed after the 9th organic result (apart from the news).

Even though Google had declared that the results would also contain good articles from lesser known blogs and publishers, it’s mostly the big names ruling the roost until now.

What’s in store for Businesses?

Put the word ‘Business’ in the search field, you’d get three In-depth articles

In-depth articles

The results aren’t too inspiring. For someone who really doesn’t know the meaning of the term, the results may lead him/her into multiple directions.

If you refine the search and make it- ‘Business Strategy or ‘Business Plan’, there are no In-depth articles. Does that mean none exists on these topics? Of course not!

One guess could be that Google’s semantic search for broader terms is supposed to work this way only. Since the person searching does not point in a specific direction, Google takes it upon itself and gives a direction to the search. It might also mean that something is underway.

So, if you’re writing elaborate articles as a part of your content marketing strategy, it’s nothing to be discouraged of. Who knows in time, In-depth articles may be available for long tail keywords too.

You can still take a shot! Here’s how

In months or a couple of years from now, it is going to become a very competitive spot.

Sure a lot will depend on your Page Rank and Brand name, but even if you are a smaller publication, a powerful in-depth content can showcase your prowess in the field of content generation.

The main qualifier for the game seems to be the content length (no less than 2,000 words). Secondly, while you follow the usual rules of engagement, try to include a strong Schema markup into your plan.

The markup assists Google in comprehending the elements of your page and pick out particular elements to use in‘Search Engine Result Pages’ or on other platforms like G+.

In fact, Google itself suggests using the following to better your prospects for the coveted position-

  • Headline
  • AlternativeHeadline
  • Image (should be crawlable)
  • Description
  • DatePublished
  • ArticleBody 

Not just good content, but TimelessContent

The hoopla around content generation isn’t a cliché yet, but has definitely gotten very close to it. However, the key to entering the In-depth article slot is timeless, effective storytelling.

Your aim should be to create content that has a long life, that can stay relevant till at least a couple of years.

Compared  to news based or  trend based content, this kind of content is a risk free endeavor. So, even if you miss the slot on Google search page, it can still be beneficial to get you quality traffic over time.

Support your created content with the omnipresent Google suggestion tool, Adwords to see what terms are being searched for. Also, Google trends will help you get acquainted with some hot topics.

Besides, you can always gauge which post of yours is gaining how much popularity on Google Analytics.

Final Thoughts

In 2012, Google had attempted a low-key experiment to shape the future of searches. It was christened the Daily Information Need Study and was centered on digging out information that mostly went ‘unGoogled’.

It was found out that at least ten percent of people wanted more than just fast info. This laid the foundation of including In-depth articles in searches.

Currently, around 60% of results in In-depth articles are 6 months to 2 years old, indicating that Google is favoring those who can withstand the test of time.

Our final tip-create great content and length does affect rankings and conversions. Think like a philanthropist; disseminating good information won’t harm you.

Your readers are ubiquitous. And you have a duty towards them. They’ll be there before your brand becomes a Brand and after it.

It’s all connected!

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Demystifying a Heady Concoction: Unnatural Links, Penguin & Panda


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Written by Amit pankaj
on May 16, 2013

Numbers seem to be fast disappearing. Clients forsaking you. Delayed payments. Walking past your seo team (who had earlier worked wonders for you) gets you queasy.

Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonhurd/1506968422

No, you aren’t underperforming due to sickness, struck by lightening or something, you’re instead struck by Google’s constant updates- Penguin, Unnatural links or Panda.

So, before you come down to any radical conclusions, we suggest you once take up the mantle yourself. Just once. Especially if you too are caught up in the maze of what’s what.

The Basics

Chances are, once (found guilty) hit by Penguin, Unnatural links or Panda, your site would be thrown mercilessly at the rear end of search results.

Let’s take up the cause and clear the air from them, one by one.

Panda & Penguin Updates
Penguin –
  24th April 2012- The very first battle cry against webspam flashed on Google’s blog.. The algo was named ‘The Webspam Algo’, but later on was rechristened to- ‘Penguin’. This algo spelled the death knell for sites having keyword stuffings as well as link schemes. In his tweet, Matt Cuts also indicated that links should be monitored.  As a result most SEO professionals were lead to believe the biggest cause of Penguin was when sites get easy links, carrying keywords as anchor text from low quality sources.

Unnatural Links

Unlike Penguin, unnatural links are manually imposed penalties. You read it right. It happens when Google sees through your attempts of creating links by maneuvering and channelizing the search engine results in your favor.

So, why me? (In case you’re wondering)

Most webmasters feel, if a spam report is filed against you by anyone, it makes your website eligible for a manual assessment. It is also believed the more competitive niche you have, more stringent would be Google’s scrutiny.  Nothing hard and fast though.

Below is a typical mail sent by a Google for unnatural links warning.

Panda

On 24th February 2011, Panda by Google dawned upon us. It was brought out to reprimand those who had low quality content on their site. It came at a time, when culled out content or extremely thin (very less) content on webpages had become a flavor of the season.

The time when Panda came, it did not have a name.

However, a clear distinction was that it wasn’t aimed at unnatural links. It only dealt with content that affected the On-Page quality due to duplication or less content. So the moment any copied content was found by Google, it saw enough reason to downgrade the site in the search results.

Distinguishing between Unnatural Links and Penguin!

As indicated, link schemes are the bone of contention when it comes to Penguin and Unnatural links. Excess keywords being used as anchor text can be one of the causes, but the real differentiator between the two is that Penguin is algorithm driven, unnatural links is a penalty imposed by human intervention.  An unnatural link can be a reported to Google by your competitor. Also, Unnatural Links aren’t date specific. They can happen any time after your link strategy is exposed to Google and somebody from Google’s Webspam Department comes down hard on your site. While, Penguin, being automatic, on the other hand takes effect on the very day it’s updated. So, for those SEOs who think Penguin can affect any time of the year, we’d say the possibility is less. However, it’s still in the midst of a lot of speculation, so nothing can be ruled out either.

Image Credit : https://www.flickr.com/photos/smithser/3870653508

Does all three affect my complete site or just a part of it?

Penguin- It doesn’t usually affect the whole site, it only affects a page. Like if there’s a page pqrs.com/forexample/ and you have been making links on the anchor text “for example”. So, in case you’re hit by Penguin, the said page would fall down in ranks for “for example”.

In a different scenario if there are too many anchor text links for multiple keywords directed to your homepage, then your homepage wouldn’t rank on those many keywords. That said- your whole site per se (though it may seem so), doesn’t get affected.

Unnatural Links- A real time penalty imposed by someone sitting at the Google’s Webmasters office can have an effect on your complete website, a webpage, or a single keyword. The result can range from a site’s total disappearance from Google’s Index, to not appearing in the first ten pages for a single keyword to just being affected mildly for one or two keywords.

Panda-  It may affect the complete website or a specific part, like the blog. By nature, Panda usually doesn’t target any single pages of a website. So for instance, your site had good content interspersed with bad (duplicate or thin) content, then Panda can create trouble for the ranking of your whole site, not just the bad content pages.

The Art of Revival

Penguin-  Many SEO enthusiasts feel you can’t fully come out of a Penguin hit, it isn’t possible. So, while you keep taking measures, in reality it only gets better when the next update of penguin arrives.

Be that as it may. Here’s what you can perhaps do. For the penalized page  pqrs.com/forexample/ you may create a fresh page like pqrs.com/justforexample/ and start afresh.

Multiple factors count, so little can be pinpointed really. Having said that, updates do play a pivotal role, but efforts must be taken. And they matter.

Using the Disavow Tool could be another option to get rid of bad links, though ideally-it is for Unnatural Links. So, only waiting is not what we recommend.  Recovering from Penguin may require a longer discussion, which is beyond purview of this post.

Unnatural Links- Hearing about your reassessment plea from Google may take anywhere between 3 days to 2 weeks. When Disavow Tool came in, it was bombarded with requests of link removal, so many a times it even took 6 weeks or more.

However, it largely depends on how harsh  the imposed penalty is, it may take much longer as well, up to several months.

Some sites get the penalty lifted, but doesn’t see much improvement in the ranks. This mostly happens when you’ve got no good links left to pull your site up. Like, if all your links have been disavowed, then some good quality links would be needed to move your site up the ladder.

There are cases when a site continues to look penalized even after a manual penalty is taken off. This happens when your site’s still under Penguin effect. Often, the efforts taken to revive from Unnatural Links also assists you in coping-up with the Penguin trouble.

Panda- There are ways to deal with Panda but that calls for a broader, separate discussion. For now we can tell you that fix your content first, don’t just remove the duplicacy or thinness, but try to put as good and as relevant content as you can. That is done, wait patiently for the Panda update. In case you’re wondering why your site didn’t climb up in the next update, the answer is one update may not be enough for your site to come up. That also happens!

As in a recent video by Matt Cutts, he cited that Panda won’t indulge in frequent updates, instead it would incorporate the changes in their algo itself, so you don’t have to wait for a Panda update for your site to recuperate.

Wrapping up

With this post, we hope we’ve put at least some of your misconceptions about Penguin, Panda and Unnatural Links, to rest. If you feel like dropping a line or adding something to make it a discussion – be our guest.

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Extend Your Digital Marketing Outreach Through Simplified User Experience


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Written by Amit pankaj
on May 10, 2013

In digital marketing, the importance of succinct and effective methods to enhance user experience cannot be stressed enough. To improve conversion rate, achieve higher number of links and get shared on social media, we could eliminate many procedural actions and steps.

Following are some marketing tactics that help stay short and simple:

Embed Codes

Embed codes are a powerful way to increase links, particularly to content you would want to host on your own website. Say, on Bitly, you find a small box wherein you paste a link. Bitly shortens the link for you. However, a lengthy process with numerous steps is apparently complicated and cumbersome. Selecting the entire embed code, copying and pasting is still a couple of steps too many. Instead, an automatic pop-up, or pointing to a sector to copy to will make it far easier. All one has to do is paste the link, and the job is done.

Shorter, action-oriented emails

It makes sense to send out emails without fluff, especially at a time when most communication is accessed on mobile devices. Lengthy emails with complex dialogue is helpful between known stakeholders and when there are a lot of things to say. For outreach, it helps to talk upfront about the features, benefits and call-to-action.

Simpler sign-up forms

These do not need to require a lot of details. To start with, the website will do well to require just the first name, last name and email address. Even with this minimum input, much information can be collected later through IP address, location sensitive IPs etc. Filling in a long sign-up form can be uncomfortable, especially for those using mobile devices. All that matters is getting the essential initial sign-up.

Get to the point

As marketers, we may have a lot of things to share, like infographics, videos, blog posts etc. However, the reader should not be made to scroll up and down to locate the key message we are trying to convey. A lot of times, the readers will be keen on seeing impressive results from different campaigns that websites claim, and very quickly. Filling in the page with a lot of auxiliary content will likely confuse the readers than helping them. Bring the key point you are trying to convey upfront. It will aid return visits to the website, while also ensuring a positive brand association.

Sharing links that matter

Most of the effective social shares are the ones that point to the link directly, and not to the broad page.  For instance, when tweeting a link to a competitive survey, a marketer picked the URL to the voting widget, instead of the entire page. This drove four or five times as many actions as would have by linking to the broad page.

Maintaining a logged-in experience

Logging the users out after they leave the page or after each session can be conversion killers. Also, there will be a strong likelihood of losing details of a visit by someone who might have left a comment, participated in your community or better still, been a lead for you.

While all of the above have been specific examples, the key takeaway is we can do without unnecessary steps. As web users and people who build for the web, we know that visitors are particular about accomplishing their tasks very quickly. It is in our best interest to get as specific as possible in our digital marketing efforts.

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Top 5 Small Business Forums


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Written by Amit pankaj
on February 12, 2013

Designed to function as valuable online resource pools, small business forums are value packed and highly charged platforms for entrepreneurs and business owners looking for reliable information and networking opportunities ……and are completely free!

Activities on these forums provide access to productive resources, knowledge banks and business information, catering to a particular industry or subject — which can help go a long way in generating better bottom line figures. Apart from providing readymade solutions, online small business forums help participants use search engine marketing techniques and provide the most innovative ecommerce solutions.

Top 5 Small Business Forums

1.      On Startups (Ref: http://answers.onstartups.com )

Extremely easy and intuitive to use, On Startups is one of the strongest online communities with an active forum designed to answer most questions within two hours.


2.     
Business.com (Ref: http://answers.business.com)

One of the most sought after small business forums of contemporary times, Business.com is a favorite amongst young entrepreneurs, leaders, marketers and business owners alike.

3.      Young Entrepreneur Forums (Ref: http://www.youngentrepreneur.com/forum)

Reputed as one of the strongest forums with over 250,000 posts till date, Young Entrepreneur Forums has an overly active message board and global participants.

4.      Econnect by Entrepreneur.com (Ref: http://econnect.entrepreneur.com/ )

This popular business forum contains some of the most informative self promotional posts along with a mix of good solutions to queries posted by enthusiastic users.

5.      Startupnation.com (Ref: http://www.startupnation.com/business-forum/)

With over 120,000 entrepreneurs accessing its resources, StartupNation.com serves as one of the best hubs for networking, advice and building business contacts.

Small Business Forums in Vancouver, Seattle and Toronto

Vancouver business Network Forum is one of the largest multicultural business groups with smart global connections. With sophisticated tools and options to make business networking and marketing more effective, participants on this forum look forward to surging ahead in their entreprenual ventures in more ways than one.

(Ref: www.vbnf.com)

Puget Sound American Marketing Association is the most comprehensive professional marketing forums for small businesses in Seattle. Its active timetable includes monthly luncheons, workshops and networking events along with exclusive resources for members and student chapters.

(Ref: http://www.psama.org)

Created to provide innovative solutions and resourcing of programs and services tailored for small businesses and entrepreneurs of Toronto, “Enterprise Toronto” helps in developing management capabilities and helping decision making in the start up phase.

(Ref: http://www.enterprisetoronto.com)

Serving as collaborative resource hubs, online communities help in showcasing the skills and competencies of business owners along with their products and services. Small business forums offer vocal and vibrant communities with extensive scope for exchanging ideas, seeking advice, making friends or simply leaving behind digital footprints to augment the success of business ventures.

SEO Vancouver

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The No. 1 Marketing mistake which hits your Bottom Line


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Written by Amit pankaj
on December 13, 2012

No. 1 Marketing
Marketing Strategy VancouverQuick, logical and action oriented decisions taken by CEOs in regards to finding solutions for failing marketing techniques, often fall flat on their faces. This is because they end up being directed towards areas which have a low probability of results rather than dealing with the real problem on hand.

The competitive decision mode of CEOs inspires them to increase the resources and frequency dedicated to marketing tasks rather than finding and correcting loopholes in the existing ones. This certainly puts the business and the heads behind it, in a disadvantageous position when dealing with customers.

The rudimentary requirements and needs of contemporary consumers, which include features and benefits connected with the marketed product or service, far surpasses their psychological needs which encompass identity, affiliation and aspiration. For best results, companies and small business houses should understand and include the competitive thinking patterns and point of view of consumers and integrate the same in their business modules and marketing strategies.

The behavioral patterns of the consumers, both on the conscious and sub conscious levels, are oft avoided by the marketing ideas and strategies undertaken by small and medium business owners and their think tanks. The incline towards finding quantitative rather than qualitative solutions for their marketing issues, lunges them in the depths of metric lust, spreadsheet based opinions and numerical conclusions. Its time they understood that mere dependence on likes, hits, followers, impressions and clicks should give way to connections, emotions, inspirations and affiliations connected with the human side of marketing strategies. This will encourage and attract higher traffic and fruitful conversions.

Marketing SuccessThe trick is simple. CEOs just need to initiate mending jobs on the existing marketing techniques and create more engaging and compelling experiences which manage to net consumers and touch their feelings in the right way.

Analysis and re-engineering of the frustrating and exciting pointers in marketing techniques, from the view point of consumers, is bound to go a long way in creating an emotional bondage. This in turn promises higher returns and profits in comparison to market techniques which rely on regularly quoted corporate values and generic mission statements.

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