4 Account Management Tips for Balancing Client and Internal Team Advocacy

Being an advocate for my client is the starting point for what I do here at Portent. Sure, how I serve a client is probably formalized in some boilerplate paragraph in an SOW and quantified in an SLA. But that’s something for two legal teams to be happy with. For me, advocacy is striving to drive business for a client, ultimately becoming an integral part of their team. I relish building that relationship.

However, I also need to be an advocate for my internal team. I want my strategists to feel supported, like they are being set up for success, so they can have fun delivering on our promised goals. Achieving this balance, however, requires understanding what drives business impact for your client, and making sure your internal team feels empowered to apply their expertise to client goals.

In this post, I’ll share some successful account management strategies that keep both your client and team needs in mind.

1. Get to Know Each Other

The best way to start a business relationship off on the right foot is with mutual understanding. It’s important that you learn your client’s needs, pain points, and goals so you can build your strategy accordingly. It’s just as critical that your client is familiar with your internal team, their expertise, and how they will work together to execute on that strategy.

During a kickoff or onboarding call, It’s always a good idea to discuss why you’re all meeting for the first time. This is a good opportunity to dig into the initial sales process: Why were you hired? What is the customer promise here? From there, it’s time to discuss how everyone delivers on that promise.

Understanding Your Client

I’ve worked in some very disparate product verticals. Even if my team and I marketed a similar product before, it’s still wise to ask your client about their teams, products, and processes. During your kick-off meetings, inquire to see if you can get introduced to the heads of the other teams you might not interact with regularly (e.g., product managers, content creators, sales managers) who can provide valuable perspective on the business and impact of marketing campaigns.

If you’re working with the marketing team and your KPIs are MQLs, perhaps request a call with the sales team to understand how they define an SQL. That way, you know what the downstream/down funnel effects of your work are, and how to set expectations across teams. Get to know the product team, too, so you have insights into what’s important in their world. Understanding what a company believes about its products and features can only help as you prepare to market it to potential customers.

Of course, before you can go to market, you need to define those KPIs. In a world of BI, data visualizations, and enough metrics to drown in, coming to an agreement with your client on the most important data points to focus on will set a strong foundation for your relationship and ongoing collaboration. And with KPIs in hand, you can begin formulating your strategy.

Introduce Your Team, Company, and Philosophy

At Portent, we have a set of defined values (which we self-review on) and a marketing stack that defines how we approach our work. These are the foundation for guiding our ongoing client relationships, and we share this information with clients right off the bat.

This introduction provides a basic understanding of our approach to digital marketing and provides a benchmark to revisit throughout a client engagement to reinforce why we may recommend specific channels and pivots in strategy. It sets our entire team up for successful conversations with the client in the months ahead.

2. Set Expectations!

This one is pretty straightforward. Once your client contacts have told you all about their business, you should certainly let them know how your company works most efficiently. The best relationships are based on understanding and trust. So if you’re upfront with a client on when and how you will communicate, you’re setting yourself and your team members up for success. However, it’s a two-way street here. A frank discussion on how you can meld the rhythms of two companies early on will pay dividends later.

3. Proactively Communicate

As I just noted, if you’re proactive in setting communication expectations with your client, you’ll be better for it. Start with talking through what your SLA is for getting a response out to a client touchpoint. Is it four hours? Eight hours? A day?

More often than not, my team responds pretty quickly to client requests. However, I’ll always reach out to PPC, paid social, SEO, and content specialists to confirm when they will be available to respond to a client question or request. From there, one of us can reach back out, letting the client know when we’ll have an answer for them.

Talk to your client about expectations when an emergency happens. You should know what your internal team can do in these situations to ensure that the client’s expectations are realistic. If there’s a gap, be sure to find a way to bring both sides to a resolution. When an emergency does arise, it’s on the account manager to determine what work may need to be waylaid as this unexpected task gets prioritized and to communicate about any changes with the team and the client.

Empower Your Strategists

As an account manager, I strive to empower my strategists to answer questions as they come in without checking with me first. At Portent, we pride ourselves on hiring superior communicators; once that initial rapport has been established, individual strategists are encouraged to respond directly to client requests. This builds confidence and strengthens the relationship between the client and our marketing team.

Do You Speak Client?

Your client has a language all their own. To you, a sales qualified lead might be a form fill or a phone call. Your client, on the other hand, may have specific metrics they use. As an example, a customer phone call may only be valid to them if the call duration is over 60 seconds. When you do get confirmation from the client that they’re only interested in that subset, be sure that you’re not wasting their time and your credibility reporting on unnecessary metrics.

This holds true for your custom reporting dashboards as well. Sure, you’ve got a killer template that you can base your reporting on. However, it really should be tailored to the KPIs they gave you previously. And if they didn’t give you any? Then it’s time to dig in again to see what’s important to their business. You have the data and can likely find a few points that should clearly illustrate the health of their marketing channels.

Learning your client’s language, and adapting your communication style accordingly will help build trust in both your communication and your strategy.

4. Connect the Dots

As mentioned above, let’s say your client is interested in calls originating from their website that were greater than 60 seconds in duration. Let’s also assume that you’re running paid search to this site that features call tracking.

You should be able to tell a story for both the client and your internal marketing specialists that starts at the top of the funnel with impressions, or at the very least clicks to their site. You will likely talk about how your costs per are affecting site visits. From there, you can transition to speaking in greater detail about clicks to the site. What’s the conversion rate of their page? How many calls have your efforts generated? What’s the cost per call, and what’s the ROI (if you know the average revenue per sale)? All of these items are important when telling the story of the primary KPI!

Obviously, connecting the dots should be tied to what’s important to the client. But there’s another side to this coin. During your reporting or check-in calls, be sure to call out all of the work your team is doing to move these KPIs in the right direction: A fun conversation to have!

Managing KPIs: Win, Lose, or Pivot

What if key metrics aren’t moving in the direction you wanted or at the velocity you envisioned? Then it’s time to revisit the work you’re doing and take a look at your implementation recommendations. From there, you can collaborate with the channel specialists to frame the conversation and next steps with your client.

Are you solely responsible for fulfillment of the work? If so, let them know what you did, where it ties into the marketing stack, and the expected outcomes. If you fell short or failed to execute on time, explain why that may have happened.

Does your work involve client input or involvement? If this is the case, regularly thank them for their help. At Portent, we understand that our clients have their own work in addition to approving and executing digital marketing recommendations. When things are going great, we make sure the client is getting credit for all of the help they provided us.

When things get delayed or held up on their end, however, it’s time for a different conversation. We’re all accountable to someone. As a vendor, we’re accountable for the work and to the client. Our client contacts are responsible for ensuring our internal team has what we need to continue to work toward our goals.

If you’re not getting it, it’s on you to find a way to ensure you do… or to pivot. Regardless, be sure to document your decision(s) with the right people. This includes detailing what the impact you foresee will be. If a particular part of the marketing stack will be affected, call this out, as well as where you may potentially alter your strategy. This transparency and straightforward information will not only protect your internal team and reinforce their expertise, but provide the data needed to make a decision and move forward. Once you have agreed on next steps, it’s full steam ahead!

It’s About Building Trust

As you work through your campaigns, be sure to circle back and take time to see how it went. Perhaps it’s a simple retrospective. What worked? What didn’t? Maybe you can run a full quarterly business review to talk through your wins, challenges, and opportunities. Not every campaign is going to be a winner, but win or lose, there’s some valuable insight to be shared. Agree with your client and team on what you learned and how you’ll incorporate changes into the next campaign.

If you, your team, and your client can all respect the work to be done, and the impact that being open and honest can have, then you have a strong foundation for building and evolving a marketing program.

The post 4 Account Management Tips for Balancing Client and Internal Team Advocacy appeared first on Portent.

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Digital Marketing News: Coronavirus’ Impact on Marketing Budgets & Social Media Usage, LinkedIn’s New Conversation Ads, & Instagram Story Changes

2020 March 27 MarketingCharts Chart

2020 March 27 MarketingCharts Chart

LinkedIn rolls out Conversation Ads, aimed at improving personalization in messaging
LinkedIn has begun launching its new Conversation Ads, with real-time engagement ad options that include multiple calls-to-action. Conversation Ads are rolling out to all LinkedIn (client) advertisers over the next several weeks, the firm recently announced. Marketing Land

Social Media Consumption Grows Amid Coronavirus
Social media usage has sharply increased in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Certain Instagram #ad campaign post likes have seen an increase of up to 76 percent during the past two weeks, as the majority of workers have shifted to temporary remote work. AList

CX in B2B Marketing: Top-of-Mind Strategy in 2020
54 percent of B2B marketers say their organizations are focusing most on customer experience and loyalty in their marketing efforts, according to newly-released report data examining global B2B customer experience priorities. MarketingProfs

Coronavirus: Emarketer lowers global ad spend projections for 2020
Worldwide ad spending will decrease due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a previously expected $712 billion total being revised to $691 billion for 2020, a 3 percent decrease, according to newly-released forecast data, with many expecting even sharper forthcoming ad spend decreases. Marketing Land

B2B Senior Marketer Survey: The Most Effective Approaches for 2020 [Infographic]
LinkedIn (client) is tops among senior B2B marketers for nurturing leads, with some 84 percent saying the Microsoft-owned platform is the most effective social media channel, followed by Facebook at 43 percent and YouTube at 25 percent, according to recently-released survey data of interest to B2B marketers. MarketingProfs

Facebook Warns of Ad Approval Delays Amid Staff Changes Due to COVID-19 Impacts
Facebook was among the first social media platform to announce that the COVID-19 pandemic would affect how it reviews and approves certain content including ads, with a full slate of Facebook monetized content options being impacted. Social Media Today

2020 March 27 Statistics Image

Sales And Marketing Are Misaligned As Email Lags In B2B Nurture Mix: Study
While some 64 percent of marketing teams said that their organizations use account based marketing (ABM) for at least half of their marketing, 90 percent consider it challenging to successfully use it across multiple channels including sales — two of several findings of interest to digital marketers in recently-released survey data. MediaPost

Instagram’s Testing the Capability to Add Hashtags and Location to Stories Highlights
Marketers may soon be able to add location information and up to four hashtags to the Highlights option of Instagram Stories, which stay active beyond the usual 24-hour active period, according to recent test observations — changes that could eventually bring an array of new targeting options to digital marketers’ toolkits. Social Media Today

Amazon could win big in the post-coronavirus retail economy
Marketers may swivel more ad dollars to Amazon, which has seen sizable demand increases in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The firm announced that it was hiring more than 100,000 new workers, and a jump in ad revenue also appeared likely as some marketers have shifted more spend to the e-commerce giant. Marketing Land

Data Hub: Coronavirus and Marketing
28 percent of industrial marketers plan to shift marketing budgets from trade shows cancelled due to COVID-19 to digital advertising instead, while 14 percent will allot that spending to content marketing — one of several statistics of interest to digital marketers contained in newly-released report data from MarketingCharts. MarketingCharts

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE:

2020 March 27 Marketoonist Comic

A lighthearted look at how not to communicate right now by Marketoonist Tom Fishburne — Marketoonist

Diabolical Mailing List Admin Twirling Mustache and Cackling at Dead “Unsubscribe” Link — The Hard Times

TOPRANK MARKETING & CLIENTS IN THE NEWS:

  • SAP, Dell Technologies — 3 Tips For B2B Marketers When Your Big Trade Show Is Cancelled Due To Coronavirus — Forbes
  • SAP — Event industry and COVID-19: An insider’s point of view — The Future of Commerce
  • Lee Odden — Marketing During a Pandemic – Resources for Small Businesses in the Coronavirus Crisis [Roundup] — Simple Machines

Do you have your own top B2B content marketing or digital advertising stories from the past week? Please let us know in the comments below.

Thank you for taking the time to join us, and please return again next Friday for a new selection of the most relevant B2B and digital marketing industry news. In the meantime, you can follow us at @toprank on Twitter for even more timely daily news. Also, don’t miss the full video summary on our TopRank Marketing TV YouTube Channel.

The post Digital Marketing News: Coronavirus’ Impact on Marketing Budgets & Social Media Usage, LinkedIn’s New Conversation Ads, & Instagram Story Changes appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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A Well-Oiled Machine: Why Every B2B Marketing Team Needs Marketing Operations

Worker with tablet image.

Worker with tablet image.

What makes a B2B marketing campaign great?

Is it a creative theme that catches your attention? Is it the insightful expertise featured within? Is it the number of leads it produced?

Answer: it’s all of those things and more. Great B2B marketing campaigns have great ideas and great execution.

But great execution is hard to achieve. It demands excellent resourcing, swift approvals, streamlined processes, and more. And as you may have noticed, these aren’t marketing functions. They’re operational functions.

For your B2B marketing campaigns to truly be successful, you need someone leading the operational side of things. You need marketing operations.

What Is Marketing Operations?

According to MarketingProfs, marketing operations is “an emerging discipline that increases efficiency and drives consistent results in marketing-focused organizations. It builds a foundation for excellence by reinforcing marketing strategy with metrics, infrastructure, business processes, best practices, budgeting and reporting.”

Our translation? Marketing operations is the act of creating and enforcing processes, regularly assessing scope, allocating team resources, and introducing new martech tools to increase team efficiency and campaign results. It is the umbrella under which B2B marketing campaigns become more efficient and effective.

[bctt tweet=”“For your B2B marketing campaigns to truly be successful, you need someone leading the operational side of things. You need marketing operations.” @annieleuman” username=”toprank”]

Why Do You Need Marketing Operations?

Marketing Operations Increases Efficiency

From martech tools to processes to best practices, there are a handful of ways B2B marketing teams can improve efficiency. However, the owner of those responsibilities is often unclear. Instead, teams tend to divide and conquer. One person is responsible for campaign best practices, another owns martech, and a third might own business processes. Or worse, no owner has been set. As you may have guessed, this is an inefficient way to battle inefficiencies.

An efficient way to correct course is to set ownership of those responsibilities to a marketing operations role or department. This is a more focused approach that makes accountability clear. Plus, with increasing efficiency as a primary responsibility of marketing operations, instead of a secondary one, you can be certain that efficiency is a priority, not a nice-to-have.

Want to make your marketing more productive? Check out these marketing productivity tips.

Marketing Operations Improves Clarity

There’s a process for everything. For communicating internally or externally. For creating a social image. For drafting a blog post. How many of your processes are documented? How many of them are followed step by step? With so many processes to juggle in B2B marketing, it’s understandable that not every process is going to have 100% adoption.

That changes with marketing operations woven into your organization.

As a function that is dedicated to making sure processes are defined, documented, followed, and iterated on, marketing teams have increased clarity into what needs to happen, when it needs to happen, and who is responsible. This enables your team to move at faster speeds with confidence that the best, most optimized process is being followed.

Marketing Operations Enables Scalability

Take a look across your past marketing campaigns. Are they consistently executed upon? Or does each campaign have slight deviations from the norm? Save that mental picture. Now, imagine what happens to your consistency when you topple on another 10 to 20 campaigns or projects. It could get chaotic.

But if you can do it once, you can do it a thousand times.

Marketing operations allows your organization to quickly scale across campaigns and projects. With proven, documented approaches to each project and campaign type, your team can quickly kick off and launch their campaigns. Marketing operations does this by consistently assessing campaign scope, performance, and lift and using those findings to create the optimal campaign or project.

[bctt tweet=”“Marketing operations allows your organization to quickly scale across campaigns and projects. With proven, documented approaches to each project and campaign type, your team can quickly kick off and launch their campaigns.” @annieleuman” username=”toprank”]

Marketing Operations Optimizes Campaigns

Optimization is nothing new to a marketer.

From on page content and SEO to social images and digital advertising campaigns, there’s always something to optimize in the realm of marketing. But what about the campaigns themselves? Are you optimizing your workflows? And what about your scopes?

Part of the marketing operations role is to track and analyze marketing campaign budgets, burn rate, workflows, and results to find opportunities for optimization. Powered with this information, they can then optimize campaign structure, resources, and scope for maximum impact in minimal time. The end result is a campaign or project that drives great results, reduces costs, and increases profits. Talk about a big benefit.

For actionable tips on how to optimize your B2B campaigns, read this guide on how to maximize your B2B content marketing campaign investments.

Execute. Execute. Execute.

B2B marketing greatness requires both creative ideas and efficient execution. Do your B2B marketing campaigns have both?

Marketing operations leads to better campaigns, better workflows, and, ultimately, better results. If you’re lacking great execution that is timely, transparent, and repeatable, you need to make marketing operations a priority within your organization. Ensure there is someone at the helm of process management, martech tools, and resourcing, and your marketing machine will run better than ever.

For more operational tips for B2B marketers, check out our project management tips for B2B marketers.

 

The post A Well-Oiled Machine: Why Every B2B Marketing Team Needs Marketing Operations appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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50+ Top B2B Marketing Insights From Recent Emerging Trend Reports

Leaf emerging from center of tree stump image.

Leaf emerging from center of tree stump image.

Even though the “Roaring Twenties” moniker of a century ago today takes on a more menacing new tone in light of today’s COVID-19 pandemic, smart B2B marketers are still hard at work and looking ahead.

The B2B marketing world of tomorrow will be shaped by the emerging marketing trends we have seen during the beginning of 2020, and we already have a wealth of insight to learn from new research data that has come out in recent marketing reports.

We’ll take a look at:

  • Impressive Results in a Growing Influencer Marketing Industry
  • Social Media Changes & The Rising Importance of Trust
  • The Global Impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • The Role of Emerging Digital Interfaces in B2B Marketing
  • How Voice & Conversational Search are Reworking Traditional Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • How One-To-Few Publishing is Poised for B2B Emergence

With all these and more, let’s dig in and examine over 50 of the emerging marketing trends and statistics that are likely to play important roles in the B2B marketing world of tomorrow.

[bctt tweet=”“It’s vitally important to make connections between emerging trends, your industry and society, especially this year as we reach a tipping point for a number of technologies and trends that will shape the world of tomorrow.” @amywebb” username=”toprank”]

Social Media Changes & The Rising Importance of Trust

We’ve written about the rising challenges B2B marketers have faced in light of the diminishing trust today’s social-media-saturated consumers place in marketing in general, and we’ve also explored a variety of tactics to help overcome them.

In light of this, the recently-released Future Today Institute’s 2020 Tech Trends Report¹ expects that social media users will increasingly place greater importance on trust and credibility.

Another new study, the Rival IQ 2020 Social Media Industry Benchmark Report², has shown that social media engagement rates have fallen on Instagram, while those for Facebook and Twitter have remained largely unchanged.

We’ll look at influencer marketing trends more closely in a separate dedicated section, however when it comes to social media engagement rates, influencers saw the second-highest engagement rate across all industries in Rival IQ’s report, as shown here.

RivalIQFBChart

The report shows that while making social media marketing inroads on Facebook has been a challenge for brands, those using influencer marketing have fared better than those using traditional social media campaigns.

B2B marketers in industries seeking to engage with younger consumers may want to start or increase their brand presence on Snapchat, as seventy-three percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 24 now use Snapchat

The overall rate of social media posting frequency is down, with brands posting slightly less often on every channel in 2019, the RivalIQ report shows.²

B2B marketers looking to tap into some of the most successful social media hashtags may want to consider implementing relevant giveaways and contests, as two of the most popular hashtags across all of the industries the RivalIQ report examined were those relating to contests and giveaways.²

Aside from influencer marketing, multiple-photo image carousels were also shown to have particularly high engagement across industries, especially those on Instagram, which will re-serve carousels to users who didn’t initially engage.²

Even so, engagement rates on Instagram were uniformly down, with an all-industry median that fell by 23 percent from 1.60 percent to 1.22 percent, as the following Rival IQ chart shows.²

RivalIQIGChart

B2B marketers running campaigns on Twitter may wish to stay the course, as social media engagement on the platform stayed the same for the third year in a row.²

Impressive Results in a Growing Influencer Marketing Industry

Recent report data has shown that influencer marketing has garnered impressive results, helping lead the way to swift growth in the industry.

Influencer marketing is expected to grow to some $9.7 billion in 2020, representing an increase of more than 50 percent for each year since 2016, according to the recently-published Influencer Marketing Hub 2020 Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report.³

The report’s estimated year-over-year growth for influencer marketing is shown below.

InfluencerMarketingHubChart01

Influencer marketing has seen high advertising dollar values, a trend that continued in 2019, with average earned media value that increased to $5.78 from 2018’s level of $5.20, as shown here.³

InfluencerMarketingHubChart03

Influencer-marketing-savvy businesses have seen even higher returns, as much as $18 in earned media value for each dollar spent on influencer marketing

Large brands have seen a continued shift to using micro-influencers, and the most recent Influencer Marketing Hub report shows that during 2019 these firms utilized some 300 percent more micro-influencers than in 2016.³

With the strong performance seen in 2019 by influencer marketing, it should come as no surprise that 79 percent of respondents in the same report said that they plan to dedicate a budget to influencer marketing in 2020, as shown here.³

InfluencerMarketingHubChart04

The portion of marketing budget dollars brands are spending on influencer marketing has also risen, with some 80 percent noting that they intend to spend at least 10 percent of their entire marketing budget on influencer marketing

Others said that they will spend nearly 40 percent of their marketing budget on influencer marketing, as outlined below.

InfluencerMarketingHubChart05

A full 91 percent of survey respondents saw influencer marketing as an effective form of marketing, with the most common gauge of influencer marketing success being conversions and sales, according to the report.³

As with social media marketing, influencer marketing has been shown to be particularly partial to Instagram, with some 87 percent using the platform.³

When it comes to B2B marketing, however, LinkedIn has remained far and away the most-used platform, as a similar 87 percent of Inc. 500 firms used LinkedIn for social media during 2019, topping a list of how the fastest-growing U.S. firms are using social media, outlined in a recent UMass Dartmouth report.

Influencer marketing has seen significant grown over the past year, as the Influencer Marketing Hub report reveals 380 new influencer-marketing-related platforms and agencies entered the market over the last 12 months, which is outlined below.³

InfluencerMarketingHubChart02

The influx of new influencer marketing platforms and agencies is a testament to the trust-building — and ultimately the success rates — of influencer marketing, yet those focused specifically on B2B influencer marketing are exceedingly rare.

Luckily for B2B brands seeking top-caliber B2B marketing agencies specializing in influencer marketing, market research firm Forrester has maintained a report, and TopRank Marketing was honored to be listed as the only B2B marketing agency offering influencer marketing as a top capability in its “B2B Marketing Agencies, North America, Q1 2019” report.

Additional influencer marketing report data shows that:

  • Along with rising use of micro-influencers, nano-influencers — with under 1,000 followers — have seen impressive results, especially on Instagram, where they have seven times the engagement rate (7.2 percent) than mega-influencers who have more than 100,000 followers (1.1 percent).³
  • Twitter nano-influencers saw 1.4 percent engagement, while mega-influencers saw only 0.3 percent of their followers providing tweet engagement.³
  • 84 percent said that they had increased the volume of content they created over the past two years
  • 72 percent said that they found the quality of customers gained through influencer marketing as better than from any other form of marketing
  • Some 40 percent said that they used third-party influencer marketing platforms.³

A primary challenge faced by those using influencer marketing has unsurprisingly remained finding good influencers. 23 percent found the task very difficult, 62 percent said it was of medium difficulty, and just 14 percent said finding appropriate influencers was easy.³ Our CEO Lee Odden recently shared “5 Key Traits of the Best B2B Influencers,” a helpful resource for B2B brands looking to get started in influencer marketing.

[bctt tweet=”“B2B influencer marketing is activating internal and external subject matter experts with engaged networks to advocate and co-create content of mutual value that drives measurable business goals.” @LeeOdden” username=”toprank”]

What marketers hope to achieve through influencer marketing was also examined in the Influencer Marketing Hub report, with 40 percent looking to increase brand awareness, 36 percent to drive sales, and 24 percent to help build a resource library of user-generated content.³

The same report also looked into how marketers measure influencer marketing success, with 39 percent seeing conversions and sales as the primary benchmark, 34 percent viewing engagement campaign metrics, and 27 percent seeing success from views, reach, and impression figures, and outlined below.³

InfluencerMarketingHubChart06

Rival IQ’s recent report data also shed some light on the success of influencer marketing, showing that as we previously mentioned in our social media observations, influencers increased their engagement rates on the often-tricky Facebook platform.

A 10 percent increase in photo post engagement among influencers helped achieve the rise in Facebook engagement rate.²

Influencers also achieved above-median performance on Instagram, in spite of seeing a 25 percent drop in engagement on the platform, and consistent Twitter performance as shown below.²

RivalIQTWChart

Videos and status updates were the most engaging types of tweets on Twitter among influencers according to the Rival IQ report, topping photo and link tweets, as shown here.

RivalIQInfluencersTWChart

The Global Impact of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence will continue to have a global impact in the future, according to the Future Today Institute report, which found that:

  • Between 2020 and 2024 the global AI market is expected to grow 20 percent annually between 2020 and 2024.¹
  • Worldwide economic growth generated by AI may hit an astounding $16 trillion by the end of the 2020s.¹
  • A daily data-creation total of some 463 exabytes is expected by 2025, roughly the same as 77 billion Netflix movie streams.¹ Sorting through and utilizing vast amounts of data is likely to continue as a prime challenge to B2B marketers in the years ahead. By the end of the decade some 50 billion devices may also be online, generating huge amounts of data.¹
  • By 2022 the AI chip market is expected to quadruple, to $6.7 billion, up from $1.66 billion in 2018.¹
  • Significant funding is being invested for AI initiatives around the world, including Softbank, which in 2019 launched a $108 billion fund targeting AI startups.¹

The Role of Emerging Digital Interfaces in B2B Marketing

In coming months and years B2B marketers will see greater opportunities in the realm of emerging digital interfaces including augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR), devices that we increasingly wear instead of just carry, and other technology that can help take experiential content to the next level.

The Future Today Institute report data shows the following trends of interest to B2B marketers:

  • $18.8 billion is expected to be spent on AR and VR in 2020, climbing to some $200 billion by 2024.¹
  • Over 1,000 wearable devices are presently available.¹
  • $370 million in wearable device sales is forecast by the end of 2020.¹

Questions such as how B2B firms can interact with consumers via wearables and what relevant data can be gathered about them will only grow as marketers enter largely uncharted wearable data usage territory.

[bctt tweet=”“In coming months and years B2B marketers will see greater opportunities in the realm of emerging digital interfaces including augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR), devices that we increasingly wear instead of just carry.” @lanerellis” username=”toprank”]

Voice & Conversational Search Rework Traditional SEO

B2B marketers face challenges in making their content discoverable to audiences using changing technologies, and some of the new report data shows the following opportunities and trends:

  • Traditional SEO is increasingly expanding into new realms, such as with voice search optimization (VSO)
  • Search query intent and searches based on conversation or even what a consumer is looking at are new challenges in search.¹
  • New types of searches will require B2B firms to implement new forms of optimization in coming years.¹

One-To-Few Publishing Poised for B2B Emergence

B2B marketers are likely to see an increased demand for digital methods to make more meaningful connections with smaller, relevant, and loyal audiences:

  • The use of more personalized content in the form of newsletters, podcasts and niche networks will increase, especially those that are infused with authenticity.¹
  • Closer online communities such as those in Facebook and LinkedIn groups will become more important than ever.¹
  • Limited-edition content such as pop-up collaborative newsrooms focusing on hyper-relevant and specialized topics are expected to become increasingly important.¹

How Will You Implement Emerging B2B Marketing Trends?

These are only some of the emerging marketing trends that will combine to play important roles in B2B marketing beyond 2020, with others such as our “Top 10 B2B Digital Marketing Trends in 2020” also offering helpful insight to guide your efforts.

We hope you’ve found the trend data from the Future Today Institute’s 2020 Tech Trends Report, Rival IQ’s 2020 Social Media Industry Benchmark Report, and Influencer Marketing Hub’s 2020 Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report to be helpful.

Forming a smart and successful B2B marketing foundation takes significant amounts of time and effort, which leads some brands to work with a top B2B marketing agency such as TopRank Marketing. Check out our B2B marketing resources and discover why leading brands such as Adobe, LinkedIn, Dell, 3M, Slack, and Monday.com have chosen to work with TopRank Marketing.

Sources:

¹ Future Today Institute’s 2020 Tech Trends Report

² Rival IQ 2020 Social Media Industry Benchmark Report

³ Influencer Marketing Hub 2020 Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report

The post 50+ Top B2B Marketing Insights From Recent Emerging Trend Reports appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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Everything You Need to Know About Facebook’s Learning Phase

Facebook uses machine learning to gain insights on the best users and placements to show an ad. With each impression, Facebook’s delivery system gets slightly better at optimizing ad performance.

In late 2017, Facebook unveiled the learning phase. This ad set-level metric gives advertisers a pulse check on any algorithmic optimizations occurring behind the scenes each time an ad is served.

If you’ve pushed an ad set live between the rollout of this delivery insight and the present day, you’ve likely seen this message in your Ads Manager dashboard.

In the Delivery column, Facebook indicates which ad sets are actively gathering learnings and lets you monitor progress as your ads get closer to reaching the recommended 50 conversion events.

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Regardless of your campaign objective, Facebook relies on the learning phase to gather as much data as it can to figure out the most effective way to deliver an ad set. The delivery system is looking for around 50 conversion events in a seven-day window to gather the insights it needs to stabilize performance, and ad sets will remain in the learning phase until the necessary number of conversion events have been reached.

During that time, though, you can expect your performance to fluctuate. Ad sets in the learning phase generally see higher CPAs than stabilized ad sets, so it’s important to wait for your ad sets to exit the learning phase before jumping to any conclusions about the performance of your campaigns.

In this graph, you can see the correlation between the amount of ad spend in the learning phase and both conversions and CPA. In this graph, you can see the correlation between the amount of ad spend in the learning phase and both conversions and CPA.

According to Facebook, “advertisers with ~20% of spend in the learning phase (2nd decile) see 17% more conversions and 15% lower CPA than advertisers with ~80% of spend in the learning phase (6th decile).”

With that in mind, your ad sets would ideally spend the least amount of time necessary in the learning phase before performance stabilizes. Sometimes though, that’s not the case. If a week has gone by and your ad set still hasn’t exited the learning phase, you’ll see the “Learning Limited” insight in the Delivery column.

Learning Limited

The Learning Limited status indicates that your ads could not generate the recommended number of conversions during the initial seven-day learning phase.

In this screenshot from Facebook Ads Manager, you can check the Delivery column to see if your ads are Active, in the Learning Phase, or flagged as Learning LimitedIn this screenshot from Facebook Ads Manager, you can check the Delivery column to see if your ads are Active, in the Learning Phase, or flagged as Learning Limited

As a result, the Facebook delivery system won’t be able to optimize performance, meaning your ads won’t see full results or may encounter issues spending your budget in its entirety.

If your ads seem to be stuck between Learning and Learning Limited status, you’re probably wondering what gives. If that’s the case, it’s important to step back and make sure you’re not inhibiting Facebook during the learning phase. This means you should avoid:

  • Budgets that skew too large or too small. You need enough ad spend to get you the recommended 50 conversions, but an inflated budget can impact the way the delivery system optimizes.
  • Edits to your ad set or ads.
  • High ad volumes. This can unintentionally force your ad sets and ads into competition, resulting in fewer learnings for each ad set and ad.

If you’re obeying Facebook best practices and still seeing “Learning Limited” in the Delivery column within Ads Manager, try troubleshooting by testing some of the strategies below.

Mitigate Audience Overlap

Without distinct targeting parameters, your ad sets may be unintentionally overlapping. Not only can this lead to higher costs, but it plays a big role in the delivery of your ads, too. When audiences are used across ad sets or share similarities, Facebook prioritizes the top performer to mitigate competition within a single account. This means the other ad sets won’t fully deliver; as a result, they may be forced into Learning Limited status.

To combat this, combine ad sets with relevant targeting to minimize overlap. You can get more insight into any potential crossover with the “Show Audience Overlap” setting within the Audience tab of the Assets section.

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Consolidate Ad Sets

If remedying targeting overlap still leaves you with an excessive number of ad sets, Facebook recommends account simplification through the consolidation of ad sets. When too many ad sets are live at once, the ads within them are served less often, resulting in more time in the learning phase.

Advertisers can work around this by consolidating relevant ad sets. For example, using automatic placements eliminates the need to break out ad sets by placement; opting for multiple languages in a single ad set means you don’t need to create a unique ad set for a single language.

Expand Your Targeting

If your audience is too small to begin with, there’s a high likelihood that’s a factor that’s limiting your ad sets’ ability to win auctions.

Audience definition directly impacts the effectiveness of your targeting, especially for organizations that sell niche products or services. Keeping your budget in mind, make targeting adjustments that give your audience pool more breadth.

By expanding your targeting, you’re giving Facebook a wider pool to more accurately search for the users that are most likely to take the desired action from your ads. Make sure you’re keeping audiences sizes consistent across ad sets, though. Campaign Budget Optimization will typically prioritize the delivery of the ad set with the largest audience, which could unintentionally impact the learning phase of your other ad sets.

This message from Facebook Ads Manager alerts you that your audience size may affect budget distribution. If your audiences are significantly different in size, ad sets with the largest audiences will likely receive the most budget.This message from Facebook Ads Manager alerts you that your audience size may affect budget distribution. If your audiences are significantly different in size, ad sets with the largest audiences will likely receive the most budget.

Readjust Your Optimization Event

If your audience is too small to begin with, there’s a high likelihood that’s a factor that’s limiting your ad sets’ ability to win auctions.

Audience definition directly impacts the effectiveness of your targeting, especially for organizations that sell niche products or services. Keeping your budget in mind, make targeting adjustments that give your audience pool more breadth.

By expanding your targeting, you’re giving Facebook a wider pool to more accurately search for the users that are most likely to take the desired action from your ads. Make sure you’re keeping audiences sizes consistent across ad sets, though. Campaign Budget Optimization will typically prioritize the delivery of the ad set with the largest audience, which could unintentionally impact the learning phase of your other ad sets.

The post Everything You Need to Know About Facebook’s Learning Phase appeared first on Portent.

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8 Virtual SEO Conferences for B2B Marketers

8 Virtual SEO Conferences for B2B Marketers

8 Virtual SEO Conferences for B2B Marketers

It’s the beginning of our second week of social distancing here in Minnesota. I’ve already cleaned my house no fewer than 10 times, cleaned and organized closets, and gone on approximately 100 walks. I’m about 24 hours away from dressing my cats in costumes and putting on a (very sharp, bitey) show. But if that’s what it takes to keep spirits up and minds occupied at home, that’s what we will do.

Among the uncertainty and boredom we all face in these unprecedented times, we tend to take solace in the familiar. Keeping ourselves busy with ideas, concepts and work that nourish our minds is one thing we can do to stay sane and focus on the things we can impact.

While many of our favorite search conferences are being postponed to later dates, there are still plenty of excellent virtual conferences to attend in the meantime. If you, like me, are looking for something tangible and productive to put your mind to, this list of 8 virtual search engine optimization (SEO) conferences may be just the ticket for you.

[bctt tweet=”“While many of our favorite search conferences are being postponed to later dates, there are still plenty of excellent virtual conferences to attend in the meantime.” @Tiffani_Allen” username=”toprank”]


The CMC 2020 Digital Experience: The 2020 Content Marketing Conference has been relocated to their online CMC Academy this year. Conference sessions will be available beginning April 21st including session recordings and workshops from speakers like:

They are also offering a free ticket to next year’s CMC 2021 LIVE for CMC 2020 ticket holders so you can make connections and meet in person next year!


Midwest Digital Marketing Conference: This popular conference has moved online this year. Join the live, two-day virtual marketing summit on Wednesday, May 20th and Thursday, May 21st to hear from speakers like:

If you aren’t able to make those days work, the on-demand experience will be available online for a year following the event.


Adobe Summit: Get the latest insights into customer experience, which is an important factor for every SEO, at the first-ever digital Adobe Summit. The full lineup has yet to be announced, but you can register here for updates about the March 31 event.


Atomicon: This year’s Atomicon conference has gone fully virtual this year to bring insights from the world of content marketing, social media and search engine optimization. The conference takes place on April 28, 2020 featuring sessions from speakers like:

Not all the sessions are SEO specific, but every session touches on a digital marketing tactic that’s integral to making the whole digital mix successful.


SMX Munich: The first of the SMX series to move online, coming at you from Munich with everything you need to know about trends in PPC, SEO and search marketing overall. Speakers include:


Confab: This content strategy conference is a must-see for search marketers, and the virtual experience will be live on May 17-May 20. Search absolutely needs (and deserves) a seat at the content strategy table, and vice versa. The details are not yet finalized for the online version of this conference, but they should be coming soon! Some speakers to note:


SEMRush Live Webinars: SEMRush has compiled live webinars from some heavy hitters in the SEO and content marketing industry to provide advice, tips and other educational nuggets for marketers. Some webinars that look promising include:

Of course, there are many other past events to view on-demand as well.


Search Engine Journal Webinars: Browse on-demand and upcoming live webinars on topics ranking from BERT to boosting lead volume. A few that I found exciting were:

Stay Connected and Learn at Virtual Conferences

Attending conferences – even in a virtual setting – is a great way to stay connected to the marketing and SEO community. And, we could all use some human connection right now. Take some time to build your skills, renew your passion for search marketing, and avoid skin and eyeball risking activities like cat costume parties.

Did I miss an event you’re looking forward to? Leave me a note in the comments or tweet us @toprank.

The post 8 Virtual SEO Conferences for B2B Marketers appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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How Facebook Marketing Can Transform Your Financial Business

by Robert Clough

People can’t stop using Facebook. 74% of Facebook users log in daily. 51% even log in several times a day. If you want a new way to engage your target audience and build your bank’s brand, it’s time to head online.

Facebook marketing allows you to compete with top financial companies around the world. With these six tips, you can reach your target audience and get them interested in your bank. As you build brand awareness and strengthen your online reputation, you can stand out from the competition.

Ready to get started? Use these Facebook marketing tips to compete with the top financial services companies in the world today!

topfinancialcompanies.jpg

Engage Millennials

Banking can seem like a very boring topic, especially to younger audiences. However, you’re going to want to engage those younger audiences if you intend on building your brand. Otherwise, you’re missing out on a huge chunk of possible customers. 

One of the best ways to engage millennials online is to cover a range of topics using social media. For example, you can offer financial tips, post quotes, or offer fun facts. 

Social media allows you to connect with your audience where they’re spending the bulk of their time. Make sure you know who your target audience is and what channels they’re using. If you’re targeting millennials, you might want to focus on removing banking jargon.

Instead, focus on the help you can offer them. 

A consumer’s attention span lasts shorter than a goldfish’s–approximately eight seconds. If you want to use social media to your advantage, start using chatbots.

When people have questions, they want clear, concise, and immediate answers. Chatbots allow you to keep your followers engaged regardless of the time of day. You can use chatbots on your Facebook page as well as on your website, giving yourself more opportunities to reach your target audience.

Use Visuals

Another way to get your audience engaged is by using visuals. Your visual content can help showcase your brand. A strong, cohesive brand can make you look like one of the top financial companies in the world.

Make sure your brand communicates your value. Why should consumers choose your bank over another?

As you start creating visuals, make sure your brand imagery is cohesive. A brand that lacks cohesiveness could confuse customers. A cohesive brand, on the other hand, improves brand recognition on every marketing channel.

To use Facebook marketing to your advantage, create unique visuals for your Facebook audience. For example, you might want to use a mix of images and videos. Videos are a great way to communicate your brand while engaging views.

Finish your videos off with a call-to-action. For example, you might want to encourage people to fill out a form or visit a landing page.

Finishing your visual content with a strong call-to-action will help you generate more conversions. 

Focus on Customer Service

The top financial services company all focus on customer service. When your customers are happy, they’re more likely to stick around. They’re also more likely to talk about their happy experience with friends and family.

That can help you reach more customers through word of mouth. 

You can use chatbots to improve your current customer service strategy. Make sure to respond to your customers promptly. If they have a problem, help them discover an easy solution. 

Strong customer service will help set you apart as one of the top financial companies. If you neglect your customers and their needs, however, customers won’t likely forgive you for it. 

Invite Influencers

Many of the top financial services companies use influencers to boost their brand. For example, you might have seen Serena Williams complete an ad for Chase. Chase has also used other popular athletes in their brands to attract attention to their services. 

If you want your Facebook marketing strategy to reach more people, consider using an influencer.

Influencers already have a strong social media following. You can leverage their existing brand to strengthen your own. Your influencer’s support can help highlight the benefits of choosing your bank from another. 

If you can’t snag a big-time celebrity, focus on locals. For example, you might look for a local retired athlete who calls your city their hometown. Using an influencer in your social media content will help you stand out from the crowd.

Educate Your Audience

One of the best ways to show your target audience the value of choosing your bank is to educate them. What information can you provide about finances? Make sure to consider your target audience and their unique needs.

For example, if you’re targeting a younger audience, maybe you want to talk about debt financing.

You can create videos, infographics, and how-to guides to cover a range of topics. Consider using Google Trends and Keyword Planner to research what your audience is searching about. Then, cover those topics in your content to show them you’re there to help. 

Try using an education, analytical tone in your social media posts. Show you’re followers that you have industry insights and helpful suggestions regarding their banking. By educating your audience, you can become a go-to resource for all of their banking needs.

Use Interactive Content

Facebook marketing allows you to get followers engaged with your brand. One way to boost engagement is to use fun, interactive pieces of content.

For example, you might consider creating a quiz to test their banking expertise. You can also create caption contests and encourage people to comment on your posts.

Contests, giveaways, and challenges are all fun ways to boost your brand. At the same time, you’re standing out from the crowd and connecting with your audience. Try different forms of interactive content to see what they love most!

Bank on It: Facebook Marketing Tips to Help You Join Top Financial Companies in the Industry

Bank on the success of your Facebook marketing. With these tips, you can join the top financial companies in your industry and stand out from the pack.

Searching for more Facebook marketing tips for your bank? Check out the Facebook section of the blog today!

Be sure and visit our small business news site.

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Marketing During a Pandemnic: Stop Pushing and Start Pulling with SEO

Top 10 SEO Trends 2020

Top 10 SEO Trends 2020
Customer empathy is at the forefront of the best marketing and tone deaf promotions as if things were normal during the COVID-19 pandemic are probably some of the worst.

When it comes to understanding the customer state of mind right now, I think Dean Shaw from SAS summed it up well on Twitter:

And while we know many of these personal concerns are top of mind, we also know that in many ways, the work continues.

So how can marketers meet the information needs of customers in an environment where push advertising and marketing seems so out of place?

The customer empathy model I’ve always used to keep content and context relevant is Discover, Engage, Action.

Where are buyers finding their information? What formats create the best experience and which triggers inspire action? Answer these questions and you’ll be on the road to providing the kind of authentic content that customers want, where they want it and in a way that drives satisfaction for all.

Right now one channel for information discovery that is firing hot are search engines. Instead of being tone deaf or completely opportunistic about marketing, companies can double down on their SEO efforts to become the best answer for customers at the very moment they need a solution. Whether you do fresh technical SEO, or content SEO or link audits – companies would do well to make sure that it’s as easy and relevant as possible for customers to pull themselves to brand content through search. SEO helps customers solve information problems on their terms, instead of alienating people with opportunism or status quo marketing.

SEO helps customers surface information on their terms, instead of alienating people with opportunism or tone deaf marketing.

To point marketers in the right direction for SEO, here is a new infographic featuring 10 SEO best practices from some of the top SEO minds in the industry including:

  • Barry Schwartz – President of Rusty Brick, Executive Editor at Search Engine Roundtable, News Editor at Search Engine Land
  • Jono Alderson – Digital Marketing Strategist and Special Ops at Yoast
  • Aleyda Solis – SEO Consultant and Founder at Orainti
  • Jesse McDonald – Global SEO Strategist at IBM
  • Britney Muller – Senior SEO Scientist at Moz
  • Ayat Shukairy – Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Invest
  • Dixon Jones – CEO at inLinks.net
  • Hamlet Batista – CEO at RankSense
  • Tiffany Allen – Associate Director of Search and Analytics at TopRank Marketing

SEO Trends 2020

You can download a full size PDF of the SEO trends 2020 infographic here.

As you consider how to be more empathetic about what’s really on your customers’ minds right now, hopefully these SEO trends will give you some direction in terms of how to optimize content to attract, engage and inspire action with more of a pull approach than push.

The post Marketing During a Pandemnic: Stop Pushing and Start Pulling with SEO appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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Digital Marketing News: B2B Brand Personalization & Revenue Alignment Studies, Coronavirus Ad Spend Impact, & Facebook’s New Horizon VR

2020 March 20 MarketingCharts Chart

2020 March 20 MarketingCharts Chart

Some B2B Brands Are Falling Short On Personalization: Study
Some 42 percent of B2B marketers see their marketing efforts as not being fully personalized, despite 77 percent seeing personalized marketing as delivering better customer relationships — two of several insights relevant to digital marketers contained in recently-released study data. MediaPost

YouTube to automate more video reviews in light of staffing challenges caused by coronavirus
Caronavirus concerns have led YouTube and other social media platforms to turn partially to artificial intelligence (AI) for flagging troublesome content, as temporary in-house human staff shortages have arisen. The temporary measures include possible delays in appeals processes, and increased instances of falsely-flagged content, YouTube and other social networking firms have announced this week. Marketing Land

Facebook’s Testing a New Option to Cross-Post Facebook Stories to Instagram
Digital marketers may eventually be able to enjoy the type of easy brand message cross-posting from Facebook to Instagram that they have been able to do for some time in the opposite direction, as Facebook has begun testing the new cross-posting functionality, the social media giant recently announced. Social Media Today

2020 Budget Reductions Driven By Coronavirus Concerns Could Cost Media Around $3B In Ad Spend
As much as $3.1 billion in lost advertising media revenue could accumulate due to coronavirus concerns, with a minimum of around $1 billion in losses, according to newly-released forecast report data from Myers. MediaPost

New Report Looks at Social Platform Performance Benchmarks by Industry
Overall brand engagement rates on Instagram fell by 23 percent in 2019, according to recently-released RivalIQ report data of interest to digital marketers. The firm’s annual Social Media Industry Benchmark Report also showed that the median posting frequency across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter dropped for all industries by some five percent during 2019. Social Media Today


.

2020 March 20 Statistics Image

Most site content (69%) not seen by customers and prospects, study finds
Nearly 70 percent of the web’s content is not seen by consumers, according to recently-released report data examining nine verticals. The 2020 Digital Experience Benchmark report also shows that while organic activity accounts for the most traffic, a large majority of online content has remained unseen. Marketing Land

The Top Challenges Facing Creative Teams That Develop Content
Unhealthy working pace and too many work expectations top the list of challenges confronting creative marketing teams, according to recently-released content creation report data. The report also shows that 65 percent of creative projects are approved within three to five rounds of review.MarketingProfs

Facebook Begins User Testing of New ‘Horizon’ VR Social Platform
Facebook has been testing a virtual reality (VR) social networking app called Horizon, the social media giant has noted, with a recent beta test offering a glimpse of a future advertising platform that some marketers will eventually to target. Social Media Today

Can Revenue Operations Align B2B Professionals?
84 percent of B2B professionals see shared revenue responsibility resting with marketing and sales, and most want to boost interactivity between sales, marketing, and customer success teams, according to recently-released B2B revenue operations study data of interest to online marketers. MarketingCharts

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE:

2020 March 20 Marketoonist Comic

A lighthearted look at virtual collaboration by Marketoonist Tom Fishburne — Marketoonist

Employee Working From Home Frantically Trying To Finish Report By End Of Days — The Onion

TOPRANK MARKETING & CLIENTS IN THE NEWS:

  • Lee Odden — Round-up: CoronaVirus and Email Marketing — Only Influencers
  • Lee Odden — Bra att veta om B2B influencer marketing 2020 (infograf) [In Swedish] — Pontus Staunstrup

Do you have your own top B2B content marketing or digital advertising stories from the past week? Please let us know in the comments below.

Thanks for taking the time to join us, and we hope you’ll come back again next Friday for a new array of the most relevant B2B and digital marketing industry news. In the meantime, you can follow us at @toprank on Twitter for even more timely daily news. Also, don’t miss the full video summary on our TopRank Marketing TV YouTube Channel.

The post Digital Marketing News: B2B Brand Personalization & Revenue Alignment Studies, Coronavirus Ad Spend Impact, & Facebook’s New Horizon VR appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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Decorative Images: How to Identify and Tag Them For Accessibility

The web is a space rich with imagery. Images, icons, and illustrations are ubiquitous in web design; ubiquitous to the point that it can be easy to forget that every single placement is not there to inform. If you are a visual user, it is likely easy for you to soak in the tone and presence an image provides and tie it to the context of what you are reading. That link does not mean the images are informative or necessary.

In this post, I am going to cover why marking an image as decorative is important for user experience and necessary for compliance, provide some guidelines for deciding when an image is decorative, and how to mark it as such to meet image accessibility standards.

Decorative Images and Accessibility

I do not have to use a screen reader to get around. But from time to time, I will use VoiceOver on my Mac to dig into complex layouts or test my work. As a result, I can empathize with anyone using a screen reader to complete tasks on the web. Images can be added noise when trying to navigate a website with a screen reader. And unnecessary images with all manner of awkward or missing ALT text only complicate the process further.

If an image is just a decoration, no matter how thorough your musing in the ALT text, it will come off as a non sequitur when read aloud by a screen reader. In one sentence you may be talking about market conditions and then immediately afterward describing a photo of a woman eating a banana while she looks desperately at a bar graph. Likely not the bridge you are expecting to build from one paragraph to another.

Proper decorative image markup is also required to meet WCAG criteria 1.1.1. The W3C defines pure decoration “as serving only an aesthetic purpose, providing no information, and having no functionality.” The full criteria are available under WCAG 1.1.1 – Non-text Content in the spec for WCAG 2.0

ALT = “”

Marking an image as decorative is quite easy. However, making an image decorative may also work against years of process on your part.

You must always supply an ALT attribute for an image, but that does not mean you have to provide a description. To mark an image as decorative, all that is required is that you supply an empty ALT attribute.

To do this, simply provide ALT text of “” to indicate an empty ALT attribute. This will signal a screen reader to skip over the image, taking it out of the reading flow. Now, it’s important to note that if you do not supply an ALT attribute at all, a user will likely hear the screen reader recite the full path and file name of the image.

ALT = “” is the preferred method for marking a decorative image, and I recommend this as the only approach you need. However, there is another way to mark an image decorative that I would like to introduce so that you know what to do should you encounter it.

Role = “Presentation”

The presentation role supplied by ARIA can be used to hide elements from assistive technology, like screen readers. If you want to ensure some extra coverage, you can use both Role = “presentation” and ALT = “” together; however, only in that configuration.

You cannot mark an image with the presentation role and then supply a description through the ALT attribute. This combination would be akin to wearing a clown costume to a wedding and telling everyone not to look at you.

Role = “presentation” overall is redundant for an image, but there is no downside to using it correctly.

Decorative Image Examples

You now know how to mark images as decorative. Next, let’s talk about how to recognize the difference between a decorative image versus an instructive one. The following examples I have for you are ones I find very common in the type of work marketers do. There is always room for a friendly debate around semantics, so you can use these rules as a baseline to make decisions.

Icons Next to Text

Before we get too deep here, let me immediately contradict myself… There is no debate to be had in this example. Icons next to text are decorative. Period.

  • Twitter bird icon next to a link that says “Follow us on Twitter”? Decorative.
  • Magnifying glass icon next to a field labeled “Search”? Decorative.
  • Icon of an interobang next to an inflammatory headline? Most people don’t know what that is anyway… decorative.
Highlighted in this screen grab of walmart.com’s homepage are three decorative icons above text titles (icons are circled in green) If these icons were removed the titles below them could still be fully understood. This means the icons should be marked as decorative images, and in this case, they are.Highlighted in this screen grab of walmart.com’s homepage are three decorative icons above text titles (icons are circled in green) If these icons were removed the titles below them could still be fully understood. This means the icons should be marked as decorative images, and in this case, they are.
Image courtesy of walmart.com

Pretty easy. As a rule of thumb, an icon next to text is decorative.

Stock Photography / Flavor / Flair

Putting some fancy photo of a person lying dead from an overwhelming existential crisis at the top of your next work/life balance blog post? If you do, it is very possible that the image is only for decoration.

Images like this are often used at the very beginning of, or peppered throughout a long-form piece of content. If you are familiar with WordPress, the ‘Featured Image’ (post thumbnail) is usually this style of image as well. We use images like this to set the mood or suggest a deeper context. And If you are like me, you are using it as a way to provide a visual pun that won’t make sense until hours later.

To continue the work/life balance blog post example, I would anticipate such an article to provide tactics on how not to expire from said existential dread. This means that the image may set the mood for users that can see itperhaps an image of death checking off a to-do listhowever, if that image were removed altogether, the content and its meaning would be unchanged and remain fully understood.

This screen shot taken from a blog post on princesslodges.com shows a collection of books photographed from a top down view. The image contains no specific information. It is only a visual to compliment the blog title of ‘6 Books For Your Alaska Reading List’. This image is decorative because it could be removed and the full context would be understood.This screen shot taken from a blog post on princesslodges.com shows a collection of books photographed from a top down view. The image contains no specific information. It is only a visual to compliment the blog title of ‘6 Books For Your Alaska Reading List’. This image is decorative because it could be removed and the full context would be understood.
Image courtesy of princesslodges.com

Regardless of the intent, a stock image used for flavor should not be necessary to understand your content. If it is, I recommend moving that context to your text and just using the image to punch things up for visual users. Give it the ALT = “” treatment.

Illustrations

My explanation of illustrations is similar to the stock photo description from the previous section. It is common to have small blocks of text adjacent to an illustration that may provide additional context. For example, imagine a bank’s website that features a description of a financial service with a stylized coin to the left or right of the text. The depiction of money could be relevant to a region (using a euro instead of a penny) and incorporate brand style guidelines. In this instance, the coin is decorative; by itself it does not describe the content next to it, nor should the content be any less understandable if it were removed.

In Conclusion

Not every picture is worth a thousand words. Many of the images that make up pages on the web are just eye candy: bits of line and color that provide rhythm or interest to what is otherwise a text document. If you find it difficult to decide if an image is decorative vs. instructive, read your page or article out loud to another person. If they can understand what you are saying without describing the images, then you can feel assured they are decorative.

The list of examples in this blog post is not exhaustive; the subject of decorative versus informative imagery for websites is expansive. But hopefully, the information provided can give you a solid understanding to start with. If you’re interested in learning more about web accessibility, you can check out my Quick Start Guide for Accessible Web Content.

The post Decorative Images: How to Identify and Tag Them For Accessibility appeared first on Portent.

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