What You Need to Know About Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by willcritchlow

You may have heard the term “AMPs” thrown around lately. What exactly are Accelerated Mobile Pages, what do they mean for search, and how can you prepare for it all? In this week’s British Whiteboard Friday, Will Critchlow and Tom Anthony of Distilled lay out all the important details.

Accelerated Mobile Pages Whiteboard

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Tom: Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to British Whiteboard Friday. We’re filming this in the London HQ of Distilled. This is the founder and CEO, Will Critchlow. I’m Tom Anthony, head of the R&D department, and today we’re going to be talking about Accelerated Mobile Pages.

What is an Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP for short)?

Will: I’m glad you asked, Tom. So an Accelerated Mobile Page (or AMP, for short) is a project from Google and Twitter designed to make really fast mobile pages. At its essence, it’s basically a stripped-down form of HTML, a diet HTML if you will. Tom will talk a little bit more about the actual details on that.

But fundamentally, it’s an HTML page designed to be super lightweight and critically designs really fast loading. So Google, Twitter, a bunch of other companies have rolled this out — kind of in response to projects like the Facebook Instant Articles project from Facebook and Apple News and so forth. This is designed to be the open response. So it’s open source, and there are all kinds of elements of openness to the project.

What makes AMP so fast?

Tom: Absolutely. So as Will said, it’s like a diet HTML. So certain tags of HTML you just can’t use. Things like forms, that are out. You also need to use a streamlined version of CSS. You can use most of CSS, but some parts are falling under best practice and they’re just not allowed to be used. Then JavaScript is basically not allowed at all. You have to use an off-the-shelf JavaScript library that they provide you with, and that provides things like lazy loading.

So the idea is that the whole platform is designed just for pure readability, pure speed. Things such as images don’t load until they’re scrolled into view, and the JavaScript does all that for you. We anticipate they’re going to be at the point where the JavaScript library is built into certain operating systems so you don’t even need that either. And then all of this is designed to be really heavily cached so that Google can host these pages, host your actual content right there, and so they don’t even need to fetch it from you anymore.

Will, you’re going to tell us how that works?

How this works in your mobile device

Will: Yeah, so that’s the diagram we have in the middle here. So we’re all used to this idea of a regular web page. I’ve called this WWW in the diagram. This is the regular desktop version of the page. In the source code, if you have an AMP version, you would designate that with the rel AMP HTML link, which points over to your, what we call “hosted AMP page.

So this is a page on your own domain constructed of this stripped down form of HTML. So if you want to see this in action, I’ve referenced the Guardian here. They were one of the first reference partners. You can put /amp on the end of any news story on the Guardian website and see the AMP HTML. It’s linked in display with the AMP HTML link in the source code.

So that’s the hosted AMP. That has nothing to do with Google. You can just do that, and it is designed to be faster. But they’ve also rolled out this free hosted cached platform part of the deal as well, which is labeled here with the gstatic.

So when you actually see these things showing up in Google search results, which we’ll talk about in a moment, the version that shows up there will typically be hosted on a gstatic.com, in other words a Google-hosted cached version. And critically both of these, both the one you host yourself and the version that is cached around the Internet potentially even by other people as well, both of those would contain the rel=canonical back to the original. It’s similar. It’s like a rel alternative in a mobile world.

So it’s fast because the HTML is cut down, but it’s also potentially designed that these things are bits of content that can be cached potentially by anyone without rel=canonical pointing back to you.

Tom: I think it’s worth saying that even on the cached version of the pages, Google have said that you’re still going to be able to provide your own adverts. We don’t know the details of it yet, but they’ve built a platform where you can serve adverts from AdSense, Outbrain, most of the major advertising platforms, and you’ll still accrue all the revenue. They don’t take any of that stuff.

Also with the cached versions you can use Analytics. At the moment, the rolled-out version you can just use a tracking pixel. But we know they’re working on a platform where it’s a sort of vendor-neutral platform for things like Google Analytics, Omniture, and all of that stuff. So you can still get all of the analytics. You can still provide ads to your pages and everything, even when you’re served via the cached versions of the pages.

Will: Yeah, that’s very important. That’s part of that JavaScript framework that we were talking about, where you get these limited containers, which are a kind of very limited JavaScript functionality that you can use yourself.

Impact on the SERPs

So let’s talk a little bit about how this might actually show up in search results. So first of all, what we know at the moment is it’s looking like it’s mobile only. It’s right there in the name, Accelerated Mobile Pages, which is why I brought along my mobile whiteboard to demonstrate this for you. This is the AMP version showing up on a mobile device, tablet, phablet, not quite sure what format.

Right now it’s mobile only. It’s talking about being mobile. It’s not even rolled out just yet. But in the demo that we’ve seen, it’s showing up as a carousel above the regular blue links, typically for news-related terms, because most of this is focused on obviously reading contents. The people who’ve rolled this out first have been news publishers typically. So you search for a news-related term. You see this carousel of swipeable images above the blue links. Click on one of those, it opens super fast, that’s the whole point, and then you can swipe to another AMP page across the way.

It is actually also displacing or appearing for some terms where you’d expect to see paid search ads. I wouldn’t read too much into that. This is just in the demo at this point. In the long run, maybe there are paid versions of this, who knows.

We’re expecting this to be rolling out soon. Google’s latest official line is maybe February in 2016. But, one way or another, we expect to see this in the world some time pretty soon.

So it’s not there yet, but it will be soon.

What can we do to prepare, Tom?

Tom: So there’s two things. Firstly, you want to be able to start building AMP pages for your site, and you want to make sure that those pages are valid, because as we said, it’s like a diet version of HTML, but it’s very, very strict on how you build the HTML. The tags have to be in certain orders and certain places. You can’t use certain things. And if you do any of that, your AMP page is invalid and they probably won’t be using it.

So to validate your AMP pages, you actually use a tool that’s built into Chrome. So if you open the developer tools in Chrome, there’s a system there — and you can look it up on the AMP project website — where you can actually go to a page and you can ask it to validate, “Is this an AMP page,” and it will tell you any problems with that page.

So one, build AMP pages and make sure you’re doing it well, and the second bit is working out how to streamline building pages. If you’re on a sort of CMS or anything like that, then obviously you want this to be an integral part of your process moving forward. You want AMP pages to be something that all pages or as many pages as possible have an AMP version of those pages. So there’s already — for the most popular CMSs, things like WordPress already have plugins available — that you can go away, you can download that plugin, and basically for a lot of the pages it will do a lot of the work for you in creating those AMP pages. Also, obviously, if you’re building your own CMS, then you should prioritize trying to get similar functionality into that CMS.

Will: And now is the time to do that, because being there at the launch is the time to get the kind of kick, the benefit from when these things roll out. So that’s a lot of the background on it.

For more detail reading, we’ve got a few resources here you can go and check out. This is an actual demo of what it might look like in search results. You can try out your own searches on that kind of streamlined Google.

Tom: It’s worth saying at the moment you’ll only see the demo results at this page obviously. So you can only…

Will: Yes, and on a mobile device.

Tom: And on a mobile device, yeah.

Will: And then this is the original, the main project web page where you can find the GitHub repository of code and all those kind of validators and so forth, and we’ve written some more here. This is a link to our website.

So yeah, we would recommend you check it out if you’re into publishing. This is an opportunity for publishers to get a mobile head start.

So thanks for joining us on this Whiteboard Friday. Speak to you soon.

Tom: Bye-bye.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Additional Information and Resources

  • g.co/ampdemo – Demo of what AMPs might look like in search results
  • ampproject.org – The main project web page, where you’ll find a technical intro, tutorial, GitHub repository, and more
  • dis.tl/amp-pages – Further information on AMPs and how they work

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The Day Remarketing Changed Forever

Posted by cmurf

Today, we’re talking about June 25th, 2015: the day Google AdWords changed forever to allow Analytics remarketing audiences to be available for advertisers on search.

In our video blog, we’ll begin by telling you why this is important and explain some problems it solves. We’ll give you some examples of how you can use RLSAs, along with four benefits of using them. We’ve also included a simple example of how you can create one audience. And we’ll conclude with the sequel to The Day Google AdWords Changed Forever.

This video is about 25 minutes long — if this hits your TLDW (too long, didn’t watch) limit, you can check out a shortened, related video on elegant remarketing on search, or read through the summary below.

1. AdWords Problems

Those familiar with Google AdWords will be aware that it is your website’s best (or second-best, behind organic) converting source of traffic. However, that’s not to say that Google AdWords isn’t without its problems.

We term the three most common issues we see with AdWords as:

  1. The Leaky Bucket
  2. The Generic KeyWord Conundrum
  3. You Say Tomato

The Leaky Bucket

The Leaky Bucket refers to instances where your AdWords budget is insufficient to cover all searches for your keywords. This means that you could potentially miss out on conversions due to your ad not showing along a user’s path to purchase.

The Generic Keyword Conundrum

We coined the phrase “Generic KeyWord Conundrum” for keywords that are relevant to your business and which will drive a lot of traffic to your website. However, this traffic can be top-of-funnel and less likely to convert. So, when you have a set budget, it may not always make sense to bid on generic keywords.

You Say Tomato

Then we come to the issue of the keyword itself. The best thing about AdWords is that it’s based on keywords. You choose your keywords, set your bid, and off you go driving traffic to your website. Yet, it can often be difficult to understand the intent behind a user’s search term. For example, if a user searches for “pizza,” it’s difficult to know if they’re searching for “pizza delivery,” a nearby restaurant, or a recipe.

Encapsulating these issues, we can say that the biggest limitation for AdWords has been that we can only target by words (excluding the obvious targeting options of location, device, etc).

2. RLSAs & Google Analytics

We’re always striving to innovate for our clients here at Wolfgang Digital; to this end, we have weekly learning sessions where we discuss the latest changes in AdWords and how we can introduce these to our clients’ accounts. So we were extremely excited when it was announced on June 25th that Analytics audiences would now become available within Remarketing Lists for Search Ads. Up to that point, you could use RLSAs only with your AdWords remarketing tag. This would now mean that we could use over 200 Google Analytics dimensions and metrics to create audiences for RLSAs.

Building out these audiences meant that we could effectively target people at all stages across the purchase funnel.

3. RLSAs & Audience building

Audience of website visitors

We could create an audience for past website visitors on the awareness stage. This means when we bid on keywords, we know that the user has been on our website and are familiar with our products, services, and price range. This user is more qualified and we can now tackle the Generic KeyWord Conundrum and also ensure that we do not suffer from the Leaky Bucket.

We can target Facebook traffic within the interest stage. Facebook drives lots of quality traffic, but it still suffers from lower conversion rates. Capturing this audience in Analytics and remarketing to them on search will allow advertisers to extract more value from their Facebook activity.

Case study 1: Brown Thomas

Our first case study comes from a department store in Dublin who wanted visibility on highly competitive keywords for cosmetic keywords. We knew from past AdWords performance and insights from their Google Analytics that we would have a tough time getting good coverage on these keywords, while keeping the campaigns profitable — so we decided to overlay the campaign with a remarketing list for people who had previously visited the website. This enabled us to improve conversion rate by 1,500% and reduce cost-per-sale by 94%.

Case study 2: iClothing

Our second case study comes from an online clothes retailer called iClothing. We manage their social accounts as well as their AdWords account, and could see that while social conversion rates were low, it was often a touchpoint on a user’s path to purchase. We created a list of users who had come to the iClothing website from one of our Facebook ads. Using this list within AdWords, we were able to show these users specific, Facebook-related ads encouraging them to return to the website to complete their purchase. This strategy allowed us to boost conversion rate by 165%, while reducing cost-per-sale by 84%.

Past purchases & repeat customers

Another smart way to capture an audience is to look at past purchasers and repeat customers. You can define these audiences based on users who have made exactly one purchase as a “past customer,” and users who have made more than 1 purchase as “repeat customers.” There are lots of studies that indicate customers will convert at a higher rate and spend more, so it makes sense to target customers differently than non-customers.

Case study 3: McElhinneys

Based on these studies, as well as our own insights from Google Analytics, we implemented a strategy for another one of our clients, McElhinneys, to break our audience down into 2 distinct categories: one for past customers, and one for users who were yet to purchase from us. This allowed us to target the 2 audiences in different ways and with different messages, as well as allowing us to split our budget as efficiently as possible. The implementation of this strategy led to a 324% boost in conversion rate, a 75% drop in cost-per-sale, and a 300% boost in Return On Ad Spend (ROAS).

Other audiences

There are a few other types of audiences to take note of that you might want to target. These could be cart abandoners, those who’ve visited a certain number of pages, or those who have spent a certain amount of time on your site — these people are more likely to be engaged with your site and your products.

4. How to create an audience

  1. Make sure your Google Analytics account is linked to your Google AdWords account.
  2. Make sure Remarketing is on in the Data Collection setting in your Analytics account (this is essential!).
  3. Go to the “Audiences” settings in the Remarketing section of the Property column on the Admin page of your Google Analytics account.
  4. Click on “+New Audience.”
  5. Select the Analytics view that you want to take this audience from and the AdWords account where you want to use the audience.
  6. You can then either create a new audience based on a number of characteristics, or import an existing segment as an audience.
  7. Once the audience is created, you’ll be able to see it in the Shared Library of your AdWords account.

Creating the audiences is a straightforward process. You need to visit the Remarketing section within Admin in Google Analytics. You then link with the appropriate AdWords account. Next, you can decide whether to use some available audiences, or import some segments already active within your Analytics account — or you can create a new audience.

Creating a new audience is easy. You can build an audience based on demographics, technology, behavior, date of first session, or traffic source. For example, we can create an audience for traffic that arrives from source = Facebook & Medium = CPC and this will create an audience of all Paid Facebook traffic (assuming you use GTMs to tag your Facebook Paid traffic with Medium = CPC).

The next time you visit the Audience section of your AdWords Shared Library, you’ll see your new Analytics audience available.

5. Benefits of RLSAs

Now we’ll look at four benefits of using RLSAs.

Control budget

First up, it allows us to control budget. We can ensure that we place sufficient budget on our best-performing campaigns. We have mentioned using RLSAs for past purchasers — in this case, we can ensure that any campaign targeting past purchasers has full impression share, as this campaign will be most likely to convert.

Control ad message

Our second benefit is that we can control our ad message. For example, after capturing a Facebook audience who has viewed our Spring/Summer dresses, we can tailor our creative by referencing Facebook and a Summer Sale.

Control KPIs

The third benefit is that we can control KPIs. We can now differentiate our campaigns between customer retention and customer acquisition, and designate our KPIs accordingly.

Control targeting

Finally, the fourth benefit allows us to control targeting. We can decide exactly what audiences we are showing our search ads to. We can move beyond mere keyword targeting and now add the layer of an audience, making Google AdWords even more powerful.

6. The Day Adwords Changed Forever: Further developments with RLSAs

But, like all great stories, there is a sequel. The Day AdWords Changed Forever, Part II was when Google moved beyond audience targeting based on Analytics and introduced first-party data with Customer Match. Having witnessed the success of Facebook’s and Twitter’s use of email lists within their platform, it became inevitable that AdWords would allow advertisers to use email lists on search.

Building audiences via Analytics has its limitations. It is cookie-based, so a user could delete their cookies and we would lose them. They also do not cross devices so again we might be missing our audience when they switch devices. This makes email lists much more powerful, as we can now target users across devices when they’re logged into Google.

There are requirements to enable Customer Match, but if you go through the video blog above, we include a way to hack these requirements.

Customer Match

  • Go to the Audiences section of the Shared Library of your Google AdWords account, click on “+Remarketing List” and click on “Customer Emails.”
  • You can then name your list and upload a .csv file with the email addresses on it.
  • You also need to provide a URL where users can unsubscribe from the list.
  • Define the duration of this audience, i.e. how long a user will remain part of this audience.
  • Click “Upload and save list.”
  • Wait until your list has been processed and if there are enough valid email addresses, you can then start to advertise to that list.

Thanks for watching and reading along today. We’d love to hear your thoughts on RLSAs and AdWords — sound off in the comments section below!

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Why Content Strategy Isn’t Enough

Posted by MackenzieFogelson

In 1989, I was conquering the eighth grade with a pair of Hammer pants, big bangs, and a stockpile of Aqua Net hairspray. During class, notes would be passed so friends could arrange to drink Dr. Pepper, eat Skor Bars, and play Debbie Gibson’s Electric Youth album on a ghetto blaster after school. On a real good day, there’d be a message from the guy I was “going with” on the answering machine when I got home.

Source: Antique and Retro Shoppers Map

Luckily for us, since the late 80s, the pace at which technology has evolved is astounding. If I want, I can get fashion advice from people all over the world who share my size and style. If I need to get in touch with a friend, all I need to do is send a quick text. And, if I actually needed it, I could, in fact, order a can of Aqua Net Super-Hold from my mobile phone, sitting on the couch, streaming a Jack Johnson concert, while reading a post on Pocket from Vogue about other uses for Aqua Net when it’s not serving as “an invisible cantilever for implausibly huge heads of hair.”

There’s no doubt that these technological advances have made our world faster, smaller, and more connected. How is it even possible that it took phone companies 89 years to connect 150 million people, where it took Facebook only 8 years to connect 1 billion?

What’s interesting, and actually quite ironic, is that even though the world is more connected than ever, when it comes to companies and their customers, many of the relationships couldn’t be further apart.

Source: Christoph Becker

It’s no wonder there is a ginormous distance wedged between companies and their customers. Many companies — especially in the tech industry — are not being built for the long-haul and they have their priorities in all the wrong places.

For many of today’s companies, growth is emphasized at all costs. Overvalued tech companies are painting an unrealistic illusion of what to strive for as a business.

Source: Nathalie Nahai

In the good old days when I was using Aqua Net, the average time for a Fortune 500 company to reach $1billion in market value was 20 years.

Google did it in 8.
Facebook in 5.
Uber and Whatsapp in 2.
Snapchat: just 22 months.

To expect growth at this speed is unrealistic for most companies, yet that’s the new role model. Working to become the next unicorn pushes companies to value the wrong metrics and lose sight of what’s really important: putting in the time to earn the trust of their customers and building a business that’s worth being connected to.

As marketers, we’re forgetting that it’s not just about the content we produce, it’s about the experience people have with the brand and the company we’re working so hard to build.

As we walk into yet another year, we need to be intentional about building purposeful brands. Without fail, we need to deliver a seamless, authentic experience. And whatever we do, we need to ensure people, not technology, are driving marketing efforts.


Build purposeful brands

Source: Mark Boncheck

All too often, the content that companies are generating is entirely disconnected not only from the needs and desires of their audience, but from the brand and company they aspire to be.

Over the years, content marketing has fallen prey to the “more is better” mentality. Rather than intentionally developing content as an extension of a company’s purpose and promise, content has become a quest for volume.

As more research has been advocating that high volume isn’t necessarily the best strategy, and that there actually is safety in quality over quantity, companies are starting to be more intentional about what they’re producing and why.

Unfortunately, the way many companies still view content strategy is generating a bunch of stuff that’s going to help them rank rather than as an altruistic gesture that builds credibility and serves a true need for their customers and community.

Source: Velocity Partners

There’s no doubt that content strategy is still important and that your content must be the best search result anyone can find, but just because you have great content doesn’t guarantee you anything.

As we continue to lose the ability to organically reach an audience on search and social, as technology increases the opportunity for people to block advertisements, and as avenues for connecting with customers increasingly become more digital, we must build brands so compelling and human that they transcend technology. We must become so real and relatable and true and trustworthy that customers don’t wait for you to come to them, they go looking for you.

Your content — whether that’s the words on your website, the listings on your product pages, the posts on your blog, the promotions in your emails, the exchanges on social media, the conversations with your customers, the design of your packaging, the presence of your team at an offline event, or your actions to remedy conflict — has to be part of a seamless experience across channels and mediums. This should all be part of a marketing strategy that’s working toward building an experience with a purposeful brand.

At the heart of every powerful brand and an effective marketing strategy is a company’s meaning beyond money. Many companies, not just startups, struggle with first identifying this meaning and then understanding how it integrates into their positioning. They’re not quite so sure what sets them apart from their competitors or who the right audience is for their product. When you don’t have clarity on these things, no matter how big your budget is, it’s going to make it really difficult to connect with your customers.

Arielle Jackson offers some questions and a simple framework to make sure your positioning is solid by using the prompts: For, Who, That, and Unlike:

Source: Arielle Jackson via First Round

With this formula you can quickly, clearly — and most importantly, in a very human way — communicate your positioning and your purpose. This is Harley Davidson’s:

Source: Arielle Jackson via First Round

To start, and in order to populate the prompts in the framework, Arielle recommends answering these questions:

Source: Arielle Jackson via First Round

She also recommends that when developing or evolving more meaningful positioning, it needs to come from the mark your company wants to make on the world.

Source: Arielle Jackson via First Round

In your positioning, you must identify where you fit in this world and also answer the question:

Source: Arielle Jackson via First Round

Knowing why your company exists and what it’s here to do will not only help you build a purposeful brand, but also make a remarkable difference in your marketing strategy and the connection with your customers and community.

Several years ago, Dove redefined their purpose and discovered a more significant meaning around which to build their brand.

Source: Arielle Jackson via First Round

Since 2004, the driving force behind Dove’s brand, their meaning beyond money, has been expressed through many mediums inside the Campaign for Real Beauty movement. From ads with real customers:

Source: Dove.us

…to billboards around the world that ignite engagement and thought:

Source: Dove.us

Since starting a conversation around what beauty really looks like more than 11 years ago, the way they’ve been communicating the message has continued to evolve so that it remains relevant. With this approach, Dove has earned brand advocacy, loyalty, many awards, and a hefty climb in profit from $2.5 to $4 billion.

Although their approach has received a great deal of press questioning its authenticity, Dove has made sure they aren’t just spreading awareness but putting action toward the meaning behind their message. Partnering with Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Club, and Girls, Inc, Dove has funded and supported activities that bring awareness to bullying as well as discussions about what it means to be beautiful.

Ultimately, far beyond profit, the greatest result Dove has experienced is actually working toward achieving their purpose: helping more women love and feel good about their bodies.

What you stand for as a company and a brand drives your products, your actions as a company, and also your marketing. More importantly, it will be the spark that ignites a connection with the people in your community.

When it comes down to it, people will continue to have access to more: more content, more products, and more choice. The need to build meaningful relationships with your customers is not an optional approach, but a requirement. Identifying and communicating your purpose as a brand is just one part of making this happen. The rest is delivering a seamless, authentic experience.


Deliver a seamless, authentic experience

Source: Mark Boncheck

In Joseph Pine’s TED talk on What Consumers Want, he discusses how we’ve hit a new level of value in our economy. In this “experience economy,” we must go beyond goods and services to a create a memorable event. An experience. This isn’t a new concept and many companies have used experiential marketing very successfully.

But the most important piece of Pine’s talk explains how the experience needs to come from an authentic company. That authenticity has become the new consumer buying criteria. In other words, who you’re going to buy from and what you’re going to buy has everything to do with how authentic the company is. This authenticity can’t be faked through your advertising or any components of your brand’s identity. 63% of consumers would rather buy from a company they consider to be authentic over the competition. Bottom line: If you say you’re authentic, you’d better be authentic.

Authenticity means that the things we say, and especially our actions, communicate the things that we actually believe. So instead of companies saying what the demographics data tells them consumers want to hear, authentic companies — their employees and all — actually live and breathe, with conviction, their meaning beyond money, across all channels and mediums.

Take Wear Your Label for example. A fairly young brand, Wear Your Label is striking up conversations about mental health with clothing. Their mission as a company is to remove the stigma of mental illness one piece of clothing at a time.

Source: Maya Sherwood Photography – MTV News

Wear Your Label lives and breathes their meaning and authenticity, which is apparent in everything they do — on- and offline. They create an inclusive, welcoming, empowering experience. Even the labels on their clothes exude their purpose. Instead of washing instructions, all clothing has a self-care reminder:

On the Wear Your Label website, instead of hiring models to showcase their clothing, they use role models who are brave enough to share their own stories of mental illness and how it’s affected their lives. There are no height or weight requirements, they simply ask people to share their experiences.

Source: Wear Your Label

On their blog, Wear Your Label is transparent about how they make their clothes and have a community of advocates who write their content.

Offline, Wear Your Label sticks with being real. When they were asked to put together a show for New York Fashion Week, instead of solely pulling from a supermodel cast, they featured an open call to pull three customer role models onto the runway. When they spoke at Youth Day 2015 in Toronto, they went experiential by setting up a pop-up shop, having 15 volunteers hand out conversation cards to the crowd, and giving a dollar of every purchase to a partnering mental health organization.

On social, their feed is refreshingly human. On Twitter there’s a balance between self-promotion and igniting a connection. It’s real people wearing their clothes, providing daily self-care reminders, and everything is a reflection of their purpose. Wear Your Label is off to a great start as a brand and is doing a ton of good stuff to earn credibility and build relationships that will, over time, result in a strong community and a profitable customer base.

But here’s the thing. Creating this presence is fairly simple from a marketing standpoint. Any brand can do this. Any brand can ask people to tell their stories and put emotional videos up on their website. Any brand can post some helpful, heart-filled tweets on social media. But an online presence is only a fraction of the authenticity equation.

The most telling pieces will come from the quality of their product: how it wears and washes. How easy it is to order online across devices. What it’s like to deal with a return if something wasn’t a great fit. Whether they respect email preferences. When they say that order volume is high and delaying shipping, do they honor the window of 5-10 additional days as published on the site, or do they fail to communicate when they need to break this commitment?

Source: Wear Your Label

When a brand follows through, this is the stuff that builds a seamless experience, proves that they are authentic, and fosters trust and connection. In order to earn the loyalty and advocacy of their customers, like every brand, Wear Your Label has got to deliver. No matter where. No matter what. And at every touchpoint they have the opportunity to win over their customers and community. I have confidence that Wear Your Label will continue to be successful in their growth and be one of the good ones.

Source: Ekaterina Walter

Many marketers and CMOs are wondering where to put more marketing dollars. Put those dollars where your experience falters. You may not control “the funnel,” but you do control how you behave every time a customer or community member interacts with your brand throughout the lifecycle.

You can control how authentic you are, the quality of your customer service, how much time you spend improving your product, and the value the customer gets from your product once they’ve taken it home. If you’re blowing it at any stop along the way, invest your money there. By ensuring your customers have a seamless experience with your brand, the closer you’ll get to achieving your brand and revenue goals.

Source: Help Scout

The fact of the matter is that your actions as a company are what afford you a runway with your customers. If there is a disconnect in the experience you’re providing at any point, you’ve either lost a customer entirely, or you’ve just dissolved trust that has previously been built and will negatively affect your customer’s purchasing decisions and advocacy behaviors.

Source: Mathew Sweezey

The pressure is on for brands. Not that companies have to be perfect. We’re all human and we make mistakes. But in order to build deeper relationships with customers, we have to do what we say and genuinely show that we care. Companies who are willing to invest in building this level of trust will not only profit from it, but outlast their competition.


Let people, not technology, drive marketing efforts

Source: Robert Safian

These same authentic companies who are out making their mark on our world operate entirely differently from the companies my parents worked for when I was using Aqua Net and wearing Hammer pants. Companies who have had success building relationships, connecting, and earning trust from their customers in our extremely digital world know that it hasn’t come solely from their marketing strategy.

They’ve successfully presented a very human experience for their customers because it’s a passion and a mindset that’s breathing life from inside their very core. And their entire company, not just their marketing department, is feeding it. Internally they know how to break down silos, communicate, and effectively align their organization to their goals so they can deliver what their customers and community really need. They may use technology like HipChat or Slack to be more efficient internally, but they don’t allow it to take the place of face-to-face when it’s needed most.

Source: Mathew Sweezey

As companies get their bearings in our rapidly changing world and make the necessary adjustments to stay alive, marketing can no longer operate separately from other teams.

Doesn’t the shipping or product team need to work closely with the website and social teams to communicate real-time delays or bugs to customers? Wouldn’t the marketing and engineering team benefit from the feedback customer support is receiving? Shouldn’t the social and community teams work alongside sales to nurture relationships on- and offline? In order for companies to be fully authentic, they cannot mislead by presenting a unified presence on the outside that is completely disconnected from what it’s really like on the inside.

It’s also impossible for companies to deliver a seamless experience if the people — on both internal and external teams — cannot collaborate, align with co-workers, or focus together on achieving the overarching vision of the company. Just as you must build trust with your customers, the people on your teams need opportunities to do the same.

Teams need to be given the tools to self-manage, empower each other to be leaders on many levels, and have the courage to more effectively communicate with their peers. Changing the way your organization operates internally certainly gives your employees the opportunity to figure out how to work better together, but on a much grander scale, it affects the trajectory of the company.

Your entire organization is responsible for the customer experience at every touchpoint, which means giving your employees the power to take initiative and collaborate across teams allows more people in the company to focus on the customer. Similarly they can recognize the challenges you’re facing as a company and take the initiative to collaboratively find solutions to fix them. All of these actions affect your bottom line.

Source: Gary Vaynerchuk

It’s also up to every person in your entire company to find ways to relate to your customers. In Max Lenderman’s book Experience the Message, he tells the story of the Ritz Carlton approach not just to customer service, but customer data. Each day the doormen and concierges are given a check-in manifest that they memorize. Guests are personally greeted — by name — by the staff.

As the hotel staff learns the likes, dislikes, and habits of their guests, they make note of these characteristics in a customer relationship management (CRM) database. The more often someone stays at the hotel, the more personal their experience becomes. Their guests return. A lot. The average Ritz Carlton guest spends $100,000 over a lifetime.

But having this data is not what builds the trust and relationship with their customers. It’s how the Ritz Carlton staff apply it in their very caring and personal interactions one-on-one with their guests. It’s in the values that serve as their staff training tool. It’s in the way they use the data not to exploit their guests but to make their experience better.

Source: Rita J. King

Technology is unfortunately a double-edged sword. It certainly benefits us tremendously, but it’s also what’s causing the insatiable desire for companies to be more real and human. We think a CRM system or marketing automation platform is going to help us talk to someone at the right time and the right place and make the sale for us. That’s not for a machine to do. That’s where we — as people — win. Those systems are only tools and a tool is not a solution. They are to be leveraged to create better experiences and ultimately help brands become more human.


Let’s build better companies

The way our world is evolving heavily affects how companies should shape and market. Content strategy isn’t enough because with the quick-wins marketing approach we have now, we’re losing our connection to people. We’re trying to force control over a journey with our customers in which we have very little influence. We’re thinking technology is going to build our relationships for us and that couldn’t be further from the truth.

But although these are huge challenges, they’re also huge opportunities. They give us the chance to stand above the level of mediocrity that consumers — and even other brands — contend with every day.

Content will always be extremely important. And when building your content strategy, you must have the entire cross-channel experience in mind, and that should guide the tools you use to effectively and authentically engage with your audience. But just producing great content won’t work unless you also prove yourself to be the worthwhile company your customers desire.

The characteristics of an authentic company are harder to prove results from. And building a purposeful brand takes a great deal more work and time to earn a customer base. But it’s also what will keep your customers around longer. It’s what will motivate them to tell their friends about you. And it’s what your competition can’t build overnight. The companies who are willing to do this work are going to be the ones who win over the next many years.

And these are the companies we need to build. The ones who will stand out from the rest. If you invest the time to build a genuine brand, people will hear about you. And they will come find you. Hammer pants and all.


A special thanks to Olivia Roat, Mike Soderholm, Beth Etter, Rebecca Gilmore, and Courtney Brown for their support in writing this post.

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Great SEO Starts with Your Brand

Posted by RuthBurrReedy

There’s a lot of talk about branding in the search marketing industry of late, and there’s good reason for that: Taking the time to really understand and define your brand allows you to be much more intentional and focused about the way you market your business online (and off, but this is a digital marketing blog so that’s what we’re talking about today). I recently spoke at the Dallas Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association’s annual State of Search conference on how to incorporate brand strategy into your digital strategy (and vice versa), and wanted to share what we’ve learned with the Moz community.

I’ve found that since we started making it a practice to help clients truly understand their own brands, we’ve been able to do much higher-quality work for them; we can connect businesses with their target audiences better, and really plan for the entire funnel.

What is a brand?

When many businesses think about defining their brands, they think about things like:

  • Brand name
  • Logo
  • Colors
  • Fonts
  • Editorial voice
  • Imagery
  • Look and feel

If you’ve taken the time to define these things, congratulations: you have a style guide! A style guide can be a useful component of brand marketing, but it’s only one piece of a much larger whole.

Photo via Pixabay

If your customer is a fish, your brand is the water they swim through. Every interaction people have with your business, from the first blog post they read to the coffee you serve in your office to their interactions with your customer service team, affects their overall perception of your brand. Not only that, but your brand is also affected by the things people say about you when you’re not around. To really curate a strong brand presence, you need to think about how your core values come across in every customer touchpoint.

Is brand a ranking factor?

Rand had a great Whiteboard Friday a while back about this very subject. In short, “brand” isn’t a ranking factor in the traditional sense; there is likely no algorithmic input that measures brand strength. That said, strong brands tend to give off the relevancy and authority signals that Google likes, so we often see websites associated with popular brands ranking highly, even if they haven’t done many SEO fundamentals well.

Google’s most recent Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines sum it up well: “A very positive reputation can be the reason for using the High rating for an otherwise Medium page.” They also direct quality raters to look for expertise, authority and trustworthiness in a high-quality site — all qualities shared by most strong brands.

Building a great brand will also help with some of the usage signals that are likely contributing to Google’s machine learning about what makes a good SERP. Having a recognizable brand presence will contribute to increased click-through rate from SERPs, foster visitor engagement and loyalty, and may also help Google better understand the entity relationships between your business and the products and services you provide.

Taking the time to define your target audiences and their paths to purchase will also help you build a content strategy. If your business is having trouble competing with huge companies on head terms, defining your brand will help you carve out a niche and figure out which long-tail keywords to target to drive top-of-funnel traffic, so by the time someone is ready to buy, they’re more likely to come to you.

Define your brand

There are entire books on the subject of figuring out your brand; we won’t go that in-depth for the purposes of this blog post (if you’re interested in learning more about how to define your brand, HubSpot recently released a guide to brand identity for marketers), but here are a few things you’ll need to nail down.

  • Your core differentiators. What makes you different from your competitors, in your market or online? Why might someone choose to buy from you, instead of them? Look beyond easy answers like “customer service” — every business thinks they have great customer service, so if you’re going to try to differentiate on customer service, you’d better have unbelievably amazing customer service that blows everyone away. Instead, try asking yourself why you do what you do. How does that translate into how your customers experience your business?
  • Your unique values. What is most important to you, as an organization? I recommend having your entire staff do a card-sorting exercise to find the things they think your business values most. Here’s a free set of values cards, and there are lots of others available online. Go through the exercise a few times, narrowing down each time, until you come to a core set of values that represents your company. One question to ask here is “what wouldn’t we compromise on, even if someone was willing to pay us to?” Moz’s TAGFEE values are a great example of this.

Photo via Pixabay

  • Your customer personas. Create a profile for each major audience segment you’re targeting. Who is your ideal customer? Nail down as much information about her as you can, including demographic information and what her own values might be. The more you understand your customers’ needs, fears, and values, the more you’ll be able to create content that really resonates them. Buffer has a great beginner’s guide to marketing personas over on their blog.
  • Your customers’ journeys. Map out the steps someone might take throughout their relationship with you, from the first time they encounter your brand, through consideration and purchase, and into retention. What are their needs and concerns at each step?
  • Your brand personality. Your values will heavily influence your personality, which in turn will affect your style guide. Is your brand more playful or professional? Empathetic or irreverent? Think about how your personality will interact with those of your target personas.
  • Be honest. Brands are like people — we all have our weaknesses and flaws. Make sure you’re taking the time to acknowledge the things you don’t do well, or the areas in which your competitors are doing better. If you don’t acknowledge your flaws, you won’t be able to fix them. It’s OK to be aspirational with your brand, but if you’re going that route, make sure you have concrete steps in place for how you’re going to get better at walking that talk before you put it out there. People aren’t stupid — if you’re saying something about yourself that isn’t true, it will come across in their interactions with you, and that will undermine the very trust you’re trying to build.

Think about the whole task

People don’t just get on the Internet and Google things for fun — they’re trying to complete a task or solve a problem. Think about your customers. What problems are they trying to solve? If your site sells dishwashers, remember that “I need a dishwasher” isn’t the problem — it’s the solution to a larger problem. Maybe your customers just bought a new house and the dishwasher went with the previous owners. Maybe their water bill is too high, or they’re trying to reduce their carbon footprint. Maybe their current dishwasher keeps flooding their kitchen and they’re at their wit’s end. All of these problems could potentially be solved with the exact same product, but if you’re only targeting keywords around specific types of dishwashers, you’ve missed an opportunity to build a relationship.

Start doing some niche keyword research. The idea is to create pieces of content that will draw people in on their first information-gathering search and point them toward in-depth, definitive guides that will help them solve their problems. This is commonly called a hub and spoke model, and is a great way to build the expertise and authority that search engines — and people — are looking for.

Don’t limit your research to Google’s Keyword Planner. It’s a tool designed for paid search, which usually isn’t used to target this kind of top-of-funnel traffic. Instead, get creative! One of my favorite places to look for problem-related keywords is in forums. Once you’ve defined your audience personas, you can figure out the types of websites and forums they might frequent, and start seeing the kind of questions they might be trying to answer. Here’s a screenshot from a DIY forum:

There are one thousand threads on dishwashers alone, on this one site! Check out the SERPs for the questions people are asking and find the areas where no great piece of content is currently ranking — there’s your editorial calendar.

You can also use tools like Facebook’s ad targeting tool to find your target audience’s overlapping interests. Ian Lurie has talked a lot about how to do this — watch his Whiteboard Friday on the IdeaGraph for the full rundown. You can use this data on affinities to create fun, interesting pieces of content that your audience will want to read and share. These pieces are more likely to attract links, and they push that first interaction with your customer even earlier, to before they have a problem — so when they’re searching, they’ve already heard of you and know what you’re about. This data will also help you find the kind of websites your customers frequent, giving you a list of influencers in those spaces to target for link outreach.

Don’t forget about PR! I’m talking public relations, here, not PageRank. Real PR involves building relationships with media outlets and then doing newsworthy things to earn their attention (it does not involve putting a link in a press release and then blasting it out all over the Internet). PR has been a core component of brand building since before the Internet even existed, and by doing it well, you’ll start accruing some links and mentions from reputable news sites, building your own reputation as well.

Meanwhile, use the information on people’s concerns and fears at each step of the buying process that you gathered during your persona research, and create guides that address each of these questions. Doing so will draw people deeper in to your site, and help them feel like they’re making the right decision. By anticipating their needs and addressing them in an authentic way, you build trust. Plus, since you’ve defined your brand values, you can use this content to show your prospective audience the ways in which your values align with theirs.

Brand building and information architecture

Now that you know who your audience is, what their problems are, and how you’re uniquely positioned to solve them, it’s time to build all of that into your website. The degree to which you’re able to do this will depend, of course, on how much you’re able to make changes to your existing site architecture. In situations where you’re building a new site or extensively overhauling your existing site (something which often coincides with a rebrand), however, you can build those customer journeys directly into your user experience. For each page of your site:

  • Map out which of your personas will be served by/interested in that page.
  • Understand where in their decision-making process they’re most likely to be when they see it, and what questions or concerns they might have at that stage.
  • Use page copy to address those concerns and provide the answers to those questions, and/or:
  • Link internally to additional resources to help them complete their task.
  • Provide conversion points that make sense at that stage. For pages that target the awareness-building, information-gathering part of the process, that conversion may not be a purchase; it may be something like watching an informational video, signing up for a newsletter or downloading product specs.
  • Don’t forget about customer loyalty and retention — what do you do after the sale to preserve that customer relationship?

Using this information to create complete customer journeys makes SEO a much more complex, robust marketing process. Instead of simply assigning keywords to pages:

We’re treating every page as part of a holistic marketing message:

Isn’t that a lot of work?

YES. Yes it is. It is a lot of work, and that’s why you should do it! Most of your competitors simply aren’t going to take the time to build site experiences that target the complete customer journey. By investing that time and effort, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

Tracking brand-driven SEO

Of course, since this is going to take a lot of time and effort, you’ll want to make sure you’re tracking how well it’s all going:

  • Invest in CRM: You’re going to need a Customer Relationship Management tool to help you, you know, manage customer relationships. Make sure you’re able to track multiple interactions, so you can understand which activities on your site are more likely to attract, convert, and retain customers.
  • Enable demographic tracking: Persona work involves a lot of hypotheses, so use demographic tracking in Google Analytics to check on whether your customers are who you think they are, and do what you think they’ll do (this may involve updating your privacy policy).
  • Track user paths: Use the Users Flow report in Google Analytics to find places where your users behave in ways you didn’t expect; this will help you pinpoint areas where you’re not giving them what they need.
  • Change attribution models: Brand building means that people are more likely to convert on branded terms, or even direct traffic. If you’re using last-click attribution, all that work you did to get people there won’t get any credit for the final purchase. Switch to a linear, position-based or time-decay model so you can better understand conversion assists. For more on this topic, check out Google’s AdWords Help on attribution modeling.
  • Monitor brand mentions: Use a tool like HootSuite, Google Alerts, or IFTT to track mentions of your brand, and join conversations where appropriate.
  • Track co-occurrence: One of the signals we’re ultimately hoping to build with this whole-funnel campaign is co-occurrence: people searching for your products/services along with your brand name. Co-occurrence tends to correlate with higher rank, and can lead to branded suggested searches from Google as well. Use a tool like KeywordTool.io to track what words people search for along with your brand name. This will help you find and combat negative brand associations, as well.

Understand the timeline

Starting early can be a powerful relationship-building strategy, but it’s also one that takes time to start generating results. Be realistic about how long it might take someone to travel all the way through their customer journey to purchase. Make sure you’re also investing in marketing strategies that will pay off in the short- to medium-term, like PPC marketing, and don’t neglect your high-converting head terms while you’re building out this longer-tail strategy.

Over time, your brand will become a flywheel that’s turning faster and faster on its own, but make sure you’re giving yourself some room and some time for that to happen. When it does happen, you’ll have stronger relationships with your customers, rank for a whole host of long-tail terms, and have built the kind of quality signals Google likes to see. Search engines, your customers, and your business: it’s a win/win/win.

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6 Techniques to Dramatically Upgrade the Quality of Your Presentation

Posted by randfish

Presentations are so much better when your audience isn’t bored — when they’re engaged with what you’re saying, and attentive, and wowed. But what’s the secret formula to giving a great talk? Where do you start? In this week’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand will help you boost your presentations to the next level with six tips that have spelled success for him.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat a little bit about presentation creation and presentation delivery. Why? Well, because so many of us, as marketers, need to go and make pitches to our teams, to our clients, to our companies, and externally.

My experience has been that an overwhelming majority of marketers have some interest in being able to give great public talks, and so I want to help you do that today. I want to help you feel less uncomfortable. Look, these are techniques that I’ve used to, generally speaking, upgrade and do well with my presentations. I think you’ll find a lot of these apply to you as well.

#1: Eliminate or race through well-known or highly obvious information.

The first one is really important. So this is, basically, when I deliver information here on Whiteboard Friday, one of the things that you might notice is that I try deliberately not to present stuff that is super obvious and already well-known throughout the industry. My goal is really to say, “Hey, what is something that less than 20% of the audience who’s going to be watching Whiteboard Friday is already aware of? Now let me try and present that information.” Because it’s really not interesting if the tips that I gave you today, for example, were things like work on your disfluency so that you don’t stutter and say “um.” Make sure you practice the night before. Make sure that your font is at least 30 point type. You should turn off this video.

It’s not that it’s bad advice. It’s fine advice. It’s even good advice. But you already know it, and so it’s annoying to have to listen to it again and again. This is true in your presentations as well.

So many folks, when they’re asked to give a talk about something in the web marketing space, start with the fundamentals and the basics, the things that everybody already knows or that are so intuitive that they’re just not that helpful.

Let’s say this is a conversion rate optimization presentation. So my little friend over here, Bob the Not-So-Good-Presenter, is giving a talk, and he’s got this slide called “Make Clear Calls-to-Action.” Then he shows an ugly thing where you can’t really see what the call-to-action is and one that’s a very clear call-to-action. Super obvious advice, advice that anyone who has done any degree of optimization around conversion rates knows and learned years ago. This presentation, unless it is to someone who has no experience with web marketing, is probably going to put you to sleep or drive you to get on your phone or go out of the room.

On the other hand — this is something I caught today from Joanna Wiebe on Copy Hackers — “Test text link calls to action versus buttons on your mobile sites in particular.” Oh, really? Text link calls to action? I would think a button would convert better, but it turns out there’s some data out there that suggests that, in some cases, it looks like the text link works better. You better try it. Maybe that’s something to add to your testing repertoire in the future. Aha, that is new information. I did not know that before.

So this obvious information turns people off. It makes you disconnect from the presentation. This new information, new, non-obvious — it’s awesome. It’s heaven. That’s what we’re all looking for when we try and get content. This is not just true, by the way, for presentations. It’s particularly powerful for presentations, but this is true of virtually any content you create that is designed to be educational or informative.

#2: Never show multiple elements of info on a slide before you talk about them.

Second, never show multiple elements of information on a slide before you talk about them. Unfortunately, I can’t do that with Whiteboard Friday. So Whiteboard Friday, all the information’s already up there. You could read ahead. I’m going to count on you not to.

But in a presentation, this gets so, so annoying, and it really distracts from a speaker when they put up a slide like this: “Here are the different public relations channels that you should test,” and they’ve got them listed out. The person, Bob, my bad presenter, is talking about number one. But what are we all doing? We’re all reading number four. We’re all reading ahead. We’re like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, Bob, we already know. You put up the slide, so we’ve read ahead. We don’t care what you have to say about one through four. We’re disconnecting.”

Instead, Bob could do one of two things. Either he could show only one and not show two, three and four and then animate in two, three and four. Like, “Here, I’m going to talk about this one. Now we’re done talking about that, and, look, here’s number two. Now, we’re going to start talking about that one.”

Or — and I like this way better because you just get so much more room to be visual and to present something well — you can say, “Hey, we’re going to talk about four public relations channels you should test.” Slide one shows off number one. Maybe I can call it out specifically. I’m going to show you product hunt, and I’m going to show you how submission works. I’m going to show you how the voting systems work and how people try to game it and it doesn’t work, and da da da. That is a great way to go.

Now I go to slide two. That shows the next piece of information. I can’t tell you the percentage of presenters who screw this up and show a list of bullet points, God forbid, or even just this visual system where they put all the information that they’re going to talk about for five minutes on one slide. It just kills it. It kills it. Makes us all read ahead and destroys the drama and the attention.

#3: Customize your examples to be relevant to your audience, geography, or shared passions.

Third one. If you possibly can, when you’re speaking to an audience, try to customize your example specifically to them rather than saying, “Hey, I’m just going to take a broad approach.” I know this is tough. I struggle with this myself because I give presentations over and over again.

But what I’m generally urging you to do is to find intersections of one of three things. Things that are highly relevant to your audience that could be relevant in terms of it’s relevant to their professional work or to the website or the organization they work with.

It could be relevant to their geography. I find that this works tremendously well when I go places and I have examples that are specific to their geography. I was speaking in Raleigh recently, Raleigh, North Carolina, which is near Duke University in Durham, and they have the Duke Lemur Center. I actually went and visited the Lemur Center. I got to see lots of awesome lemurs jumping around. Very cool. So I talked about this in my presentation in Raleigh, which got people like, “Wow, cool.” They were tweeting about it, and it was great.

Or shared passions, things that you know you share in common. We have a collective love of grilling steak, and so I am going to talk about grilling steak because I think that’s an example that could be relevant and speaks to many people — apologies to my vegetarian and vegan friends out there.

These examples can be done in a bunch of ways. You can do them with your search queries that you might show off. You can do them with good versus bad practices that you might be showing off. You can do it just as a pure visual tool. If you have geographic stuff that is relevant to the area you’re in and you need visuals for your presentation, that’s a good way to go. Social accounts that you’re doing, content examples that you’re doing, whatever it is, you can make it relevant to that audience. Make it feel like there’s some resonance. Make it feel like you cared enough to change up or to customize your presentation to speak to them specifically.

Just one caveat on this. Don’t pander. Be very cautious against pandering or against assuming that you understand something. So if I’m going to a foreign country and I know very little about it, I don’t assume. I just say, “Hey, I looked up things to do in Milan or in Venice, and I found this particular art show. So I went there, and here is my experience around it.” Rather than saying, “Oh well, I know you Italians love pasta and so . . .” Don’t assume, don’t pander. Be careful about getting generic or racist.

#4: Create a conflict in your story with a villain, hero, and struggle.

In your presentations, try to create conflict. I know a lot of us have conflict avoidance. But what you want to do is you want to create a storyline, a storyline people can pay attention to, that they care about, that they’re interested in. That means if you can craft your story, or even some part of your presentation, to have a villain, a hero, and a struggle between them. These can be metaphorical heroes and villains. We don’t literally need Darth Vader and Luke. From there, we can follow that classic story arc where we introduce the characters, we talk about the conflict and introduce that. We make the case of why the hero is winning or should win against the villain or what the hero can do or what the hero did do, and then we suggest action or close out with some recommendation around our presentation to help make it actionable.

Villains can be a lot of things. Villains can be a lack of data. It could be poor communication. Villains could be unmotivated people on a team or people who don’t care about your problem. They could be a crap strategy or a literal villain, like a competitor or a market behemoth in your field, all those kinds of things.

Heroes could be tools. They could be your team or you yourself. They could be a new process. A hero could be an organization or hopefully something that people can cheer for, that they want to be like, “Oh man, I want to see the Duke Lemur Center have lots of success because lemurs are adorable and they’re endangered.” Nobody doesn’t cheer for lemurs. Lemur, good hero, bad villain, FYI.

#5: Give actionable takeaways. Avoid broad, generic advice.

Number five is give actionable takeaways. If you can, avoid broad, generic advice. I see presenters do this in virtually every field. They get up on stage and they talk about, “Hey, here is this problem.” Maybe they even do a great job with creating that conflict, and they talk about it. Then they get to their suggestions section, their takeaways and it is, “Better communication is good. You should work on better communication.” What are you telling me? How does that help me? Versus, I saw this great piece a couple of days ago on Twitter. It was a talk that was given, at First Round Capital or OpenView Venture Partners, about radical candor. What was great about it was that the woman who was giving it had drawn a diagram of how when you combine caring personally about the people on your team with challenging them directly, you get this radical candor. It’s both empathetic and very transparent, and that improves communication.

So now you’ve not told me to do this. You’ve told me how to do it, and you’ve shown me the terrible ways not to do it, like don’t not care personally, but do challenge directly. That’s just obnoxious, aggressive behavior. Don’t just care personally, but not challenge directly, that’s ruinous empathy. Great examples all across here.

I like this format. If you can fill in these blanks, I think you’re going to have success here. “You used to do X, but after I share Y, you’ll switch to doing Z and get better results. You’ll use Y to do Z and get better results than what you were getting with X.” If you can answer this sentence, you’re going to be in great shape.

#6: Assume knowledge and ask folks to raise their hand if they don’t understand.

Last one here. I try to always assume knowledge rather than assuming that people don’t know something. One of the things that I found is that, as I’m giving a presentation, if I start to explain the deep technical aspects of something without just assuming that my audience knows it or that they can get by without it, that it gets boring. It gets boring fast, and the presentation moves slowly. It’s just not fun to listen to. It’s annoying.

So what I’ve started doing over the last few years is essentially assuming that knowledge, but then calling it out specifically. So let’s say I’m presenting a slide like this, talking about how pogo-sticking, long clicks versus short clicks and that kind of stuff, could be hurting your site on SEO, and then I’ll say, “Is anyone in the audience not familiar or hasn’t heard of pogo-sticking before? Just raise your hand.” Look around. If there are a few hands that go up, I’ll say, “Oh, okay. Great. Let me give a brief explanation.”

Even when I am speaking to an audience where I’m confident, highly confident that 90% or 70% of the audience has never heard of pogo-sticking, because they’re not deep into SEO or whatever, I still do this. The reason is that that 30% who does know what it is, they are way more understanding, way more empathetic, way more welcoming of a discussion that takes two or three minutes for me about what pogo-sticking is after I’ve called it out like, “Hey, are there people who don’t know?” Then they see fellow audience members, and they’re like, “Oh, good. Well, it’s good that he’s explaining it to everyone, and I appreciate that.” As opposed to like, “Oh, God, he’s going to drone on about this thing that I’ve already heard 10 times and I totally know what it is. Why is he wasting my time?”

It’s about creating that relationship with the audience and between the audience members to draw on that empathy and to keep that presentation flowing.

All right, gang. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed these, and I actually have a list of a bunch more for you in another blog post that I’m going to share at the end of this Whiteboard Friday. So you can check that out. It has some of my presentation acts for getting better scores. And we will see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Further reading:

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