Become the Conversion Hero in Your Institution’s Marketing and Recruitment Story

The Secrets of Storytelling Webinar: June 19th, 11AM PST

Enrollment numbers are dropping and there is a need for new, innovative strategies.

Top-rated, highly esteemed institutions of higher learning – offering the latest cutting-edge programs and sharpest instructors — have never seen enrollment numbers this bad.

Why is enrollment dropping? How come the tried-and-true tactics don’t work anymore?

In today’s hyper-competitive market, it’s more important than ever for institutions such as yours to connect with prospective students on an emotional level, by shaping a compelling story and brand that works wonders.

How to do that?

Try some top shelf storytelling, courtesy of Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios. What do cartoon characters have to do with recruiting students to your esteemed academic programs you ask?

Trust us, your students know. They’ve spent their childhoods entranced by Pixar’s magic spell. They’ve grown up with the “Incredibles” and “Toy Story” and “Coco” and – note the irony – “Monsters University.”

It’s time to leverage the basics of Pixar’s storytelling secrets — as directly applied to how to fill empty seats with great students you’ll undoubtedly make even greater.

Here’s how:

On Tuesday, June 19th at 11AM PST, join Circa Interactive’s Joseph Lapin and Clayton Dean, and Jessica Gammon and Virginia Bagley from Bluestocking Education, for their expert webinar on “The Secrets of Storytelling” on how to effectively recruit more students to your programs – through imagination, flair and a sense of wonder.

Register Now: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_SH7bU1EvQ1yjzuPbKsT0eg

What You’ll Learn:
  • How to exceed your enrollment goals and provide a better experience for prospective students
  • How to more effectively shape and leverage story to differentiate your program or department
  • How to diagnose a breakdown in story between marketing, recruitment and admissions
  • How to analyze real-life examples of proven storytelling strategies …and missed opportunities
  • How to utilize tools and processes to more effectively align key messages communicated by your marketing and recruitment teams
What you’ll master:
  • Understand why it’s vital for marketing and recruitment to align on story
  • Acquire how to diagnose a breakdown in story in the enrollment funnel
  • Analyze real-life examples of proven strategies and how to avoid missed opportunities
  • Acquire a tool kit of plans and processes to more effectively align your teams

Circa Interactive is the premier digital marketing agency in higher education. Since opening in 2011, Circa Interactive has helped more than 60 degree programs increase lead flow, build brand awareness,and generate more students. To find out how our services could help your institution, please email clayton@circaedu.com. 

7 Tips To Revolutionize Your Cold Email Marketing Strategies

So, you’d like to boost your sales or generate new leads, but your opt-in email marketing strategies just aren’t cutting it. Somehow, you find yourself with a list of leads, or “prospects”, that you’d like to reach out to for the first time but aren’t sure how to build the right process to get them to take an action. The following cold email tips can help drive a response while keeping the reputation of your domain safe. 

What is a Cold Email?

Cold emailing, or “email outreach” is here and it can boost your lead generation. It is the process of reaching out to an individual or organization that you haven’t interacted with before and requesting that they take an action. As long as you play by the rules, this can open up the door to a large number of targeted prospects.

An important piece of cold emailing that is often overlooked is how difficult it can be and how many technical aspects must be considered before you get the results you’re hoping for. For anyone interested in cold email outreach, here are six tips to get you started.

Cold Email Authentication and Trust

First and foremost, become familiar with CAN-SPAM laws and best practices. In short, you must always allow your prospects to unsubscribe at any time and must honor their request. But, it’s good to know that an unsubscribe link counts as a link. As we’ll discuss later on, you’ll learn how your recipient’s email servers will look for the amount of links in your emails. So, an alternative is to leave a quick note at the bottom of your email, letting know people know they can unsubscribe. Remember, you need to include your name and an address too.

Second, you need to authenticate your domain, otherwise known as whitelabeling. Your recipient’s email server has filters, like a gatekeeper whose sole purpose is to keep the user safe. So, when a server gets an email from johnnymarketing@university.com, but sees that it was sent through a different server, it will get suspicious and might potentially block you or mark you as spam. You are a stranger, after all.

This is where you need to go to your email provider’s sender authentication settings and begin the process of authenticating your domain. Your email provider will have instructions, with specific codes that you will need to enter into your website manager and go to your DNS settings. Authenticating your DKIM and CNAME is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that your emails are actually going through. But just so you know, some individuals have very strict servers, and even then – you might not be able to get through.

Another helpful tip is to authenticate through one of the biggest platforms, Google Postmaster Tools. This is an extra set of steps to help Google trust your emails when you’re reaching out to their users. Once authenticated, you can also see their reporting on your spam rate, domain reputation, and more!

Cold Email List Sizes

Third, understand your needs and the differences between Shared IPs and Dedicated IPs. Shared IPs are what your email provider probably has you in, unless you’re sending over 100K emails a month. These are pools of users who circulate IPs as they send their emails. Sometimes, there might be a user in your pool who acts poorly, and damages the IP pool you’re in, affecting your deliverability. It’s very normal, and happens all the time. If you are sending in high volumes, then you might want to consider getting a dedicated IP; a private IP that only you operate out of. This route also means learning how to warm up your IP.

Building a Quality Cold Email List

Fourth, make sure you have solid lists of prospects you’re reaching out to. If your email marketing strategy is targeting unvalidated, unrelated prospects – you will not get the responses you’re looking for and maybe even fall into some account trouble. How to find relevant prospects can be an entire separate post on its own, so for now let’s assume that you already have a list of prospects that are relevant to whatever your outreach is proposing. But, the key point after you have that list is to validate. The more bounces you get back, the less credible you seem. Basically, picture the ISP as security guards who observe everything on the internet. When they see bounced emails, they connect the dots and assume that you’re sending out mass email to people you don’t know. Tools like NeverBounce and BriteVerify will help you weed out the emails that are going to bounce.

Cold Email Segmentation and Drip Campaigns

Fifth, it’s time to create a campaign. Whatever platform you use, if at all, it’s important to come up with a gameplan to your email marketing strategy. Create a timed schedule of emails; sending out X amount of emails every X minutes, to a limit of X emails per day. You can see how this is starting to sound more and more calculated. If you have a domain gmail set up, then you need to remember that if you send a bulk list of emails at once, or even near sending 2,000 emails a day – you’re going to get on their radar and might end up in Google Jail.

It’s important to make sure that your emails, even if segmented, have intervals between them. Personally, I don’t let my emails go out within 100 seconds of each other. This way, Gmail can see my time stamps and see that my emails are not going out within the same minute. No matter how close in time, the timestamps are different for each email.

It’s helpful to create a campaign that runs through about two to three weeks, with five to six follow up emails being sent until the prospect responds. Your time range might change, but the name of the game here is to intermittently follow up on your prospects to let them know you’re interested to get in touch with them, without harassing them. This might mean adjusting how far apart you sequence your follow up emails. But it’s really all about getting a response first.

Writing a Cold Email That Will Get a Response

An important note here, the ISPs keep an eye out on the volume of emails you send out, but also closely watch how many people respond. It’s a big litmus test of trust. The thinking goes, if person A knows person B, then logically, person B would respond. So, follow up emails are incredibly important. Although you must always give people the option to unsubscribe or be taken off of your mailing list – you should have a high priority on getting a response, even if that response is to no longer be contacted.

Sixth, it’s time to start writing out your email copy. This part can also be an entire separate post in of itself, so I’ll stick to the basics. Keep it short, keep it friendly. If you are going to include links, make sure your links are branded or white labeled.Try to limit your emails to no more than one link. You want to sound like a real person, having a friendly conversation. Do not sound formal, remember that you are in the most basic sense asking a stranger to do a favor.

Cold Email Testing and Tracking

Seven, remember that any kind of tracking is going to show up on your prospect’s radar. For any first touch email, I turn off all forms of tracking. Open/Click tracking often works because your email provider embeds a hidden html image in your email to track. But, images are huge red flags for servers.

Last, it’s important to monitor your emails and data. In addition to honoring your unsubscribe requests, this is a good step to see where your emails are ending up, using tools like GlockApps. Take time each week to send a few tests to analyze and monitor how your emails are performing, if you’re inboxing, and to see if you’ve ended up in any blacklists.

These 7 tips cover a not so brief guide to cold emailing! Remember that each strategy must be adjusted to your goals, what works for me might not work for you at all. But, the basics are always going to be the same: be trustworthy (authenticate everything), be to the point (quick, simple copy with to the point pitches), and be friendly (don’t harass, write conversationally, honor what they say).

Best of luck!

Charlie recently joined the Circa Interactive team and helms our email and outreach strategies. Charlie is a graduate of Biola University and spent prior years as a digital content strategist and copywriter. He is a passionate, strategy-minded marketer that develops our link-building efforts.

Tools and Tricks to Help with Your Link Building Campaign

SEO continues to be a driving force in the marketing world, and as it becomes more integrated in other marketing functions, new roles seem to be popping up everywhere–SEO Analyst, SEO Content Strategist, and SEO Outreach Coordinator are just a few of the new titles we’ve seen lately.

Let’s narrow in on the SEO Content Strategist and the SEO Outreach Coordinator positions. These positions aren’t too surprising to see considering the fact that content and backlinks continue to be on the list of top SEO ranking factors year after year after year.

To oversimplify things, using content to boost rankings is something we can control. It comes down to doing the keyword research, optimizing your content, and tweaking things to get to the position you want–easy peasy, right?

Obtaining links on the other hand, is not as easy to control. You can reach out to as many publishers as you want, but you can’t force them to link to your site–hence the need for someone who specializes in outreach. While one position may seem easier than the other, they’re actually both just as complex, and both necessary for each other’s success.

The Content Strategist must not only focus on creating content that can rank, but also creating content that is engaging and valuable enough to merit links–making it easier for the Outreach Coordinator to earn links. Now, the Outreach Coordinator has to get links back to the content created by the Content Strategist in order to give the site and blog content the boost it needs to rise in the rankings.

Now that we understand how these two positions work together to boost each other up, we’ll go into some specific tools and tricks to help with link building.

Create wow-worthy content

We simplified it in the beginning, but creating great content that is optimized for search engines, but also engaging for people is not an easy task. That being said, you can control the value of the content that you put out.

Use keyword research to figure out what people are searching for–what do they want to know? Take that research and create amazing content that will fill the questions and needs of potential customers.

Finally, make sure that your content is not only optimized for search engines, but also visually pleasing and engaging. Canva is a commonly used tool that marketers use to easily create visual engaging content that increases shares and engagements. Users love it because it’s easy to import your own images and use the templates to make great images for social media posts and ads. Outgrow is another tool that users love for creating quizzes, calculators, and polls that will increase engagement and gather leads.

Increase efficiency with outreach tools

Backlink outreach campaigns can be painful. You can send 1,000 emails and get no response. You could put hours into building relationships with publishers on Twitter, but have zero backlinks to show for it.

While there’s no way to promise backlinks, you can increase the number of pitches you put out with outreach tools. Increasing efficiency is a crucial element of a successful outreach campaign, and below are a couple of suggested tools to try out.

Infusionsoft is a popular tool for sales outreach, but can easily be used for link outreach too. Users love the ability to prioritize contacts based on responsiveness. Buzzsumo is another popular influencer outreach tool. Users like the ability to create lists of influencers in a specific category using the platform itself.

A/B test different outreach emails and content types

Different types of content may have different success rates for earning backlinks. A/B test the different types of content you’re producing to determine which types are best for using in outreach emails. You should also A/B test the language you use in outreach emails to increase your ROI.

Earning links will not be an easy task, but with the right SEO team members working together, you can be sure that your content development and link building efforts are supporting and raising each other up.

Kelsey Reaves is a content-focused Marketing Manager at TrustRadius, a trusted site for B2B software reviews. When she’s not sharing her knowledge on the latest trends in software and B2B news, she nurtures her passion for travel by exploring new cities and binge watching Anthony Bourdain

15 Higher Education Digital Marketing Strategies for 2018

Every day, universities and colleges are coming up with exciting, innovative courses for the millions of motivated students all over the world. The higher education space is being redefined by innovation in design, delivery and employability for many degree programs. Education experts have the resources they need to craft, test and rollout cutting edge online degree programs. That’s why higher education institutions are bringing on board creative communication and marketing professionals to keep their institutions and programs visible and desirable. Here at Circa, we utilize unique higher education marketing strategies that help raise awareness of courses and programs while bringing in high quality students that enable online degree programs to flourish. 

Innovative PPC Strategies

Andrew Glasser and Farzin Espahani

The possibilities for higher ed marketing are seemingly endless when it comes to PPC. It is by and large the most immediate method for generating high-quality leads while broadcasting your brand to qualified individuals, ultimately turning clicks into prospective students. In Search, PPC is a hotbed for student acquisition, with degree-seekers constantly turning to Google and Bing to help them decide their career/academic path. Within Social, PPC offers increasingly advanced tools which we can use to hone in on subgroups of your target audience, fostering lead growth in the student acquisition cycle while simultaneously nurturing your Brand’s reach.

When it comes to paid advertising on social platforms, we notice a clear trend for universities who are marketing online graduate degree programs: All the ads are the same. The ad copy makes it clear that the program is flexible and completely online, and the visuals often convey a happy working professional looking satisfied in their new role. In 2018, it is our focus, mission, and purpose to ensure that colleges and universities make a commitment to standing out from the crowd by showcasing their true story. Students understand that they have basic needs in their degree program, but in 2018, millennials need to have a connection to something bigger. It is important for universities to look at their missions, ideals, and unique value propositions outside of online, flexible, innovative curriculum to begin conveying the information that matters to a student’s personal journey.

Mobile Optimized Search Ads

Studies continue to show that mobile devices are the go-to option for searching the internet. In fact, mobile devices are used more often for searches than desktop computers.  The average person checks their phone 150 times a day, the average time spend on a smartphone is 177 minutes per day, and amazingly, the average mobile session is 70 seconds. This means consumers are using their phones all day, every day, but in short bursts of time. By bidding higher for mobile devices in Google Adwords and Bing ads while utilizing mobile optimized ad extensions we can increase the CTR significantly.

Managed Placements And Interests

Managed placements is a good strategy when there are specific websites that you think are related to specific program or university where can be visited by a potential student. For example for an online MBA program, we want to place our display ads on education related websites and focus on pages relevant to higher education and career advancement. This will help us to make sure our ads are shown to those more likely to click on the ad to learn more.  

Facebook Retargeting Campaigns

The beauty and effectiveness of retargeting allows you to reach out to users who have already showed interest to your brand or program and to get them to re-engage with your brand. This is a slow but steady and cost effective strategy that converts more students compared to traditional targeting, since users are more likely to engage with ads from brands that they know. The best way to achieve a winner retargeting strategy is to start with a brand awareness ad to simply introduce your brand. Then running a retargeting campaign that shows new ads to those who have already engaged with your previous ad.

Fundamental SEO Strategies

Tyler Cooper

Every month, hundreds of thousands of prospective students are logging onto their computers, opening up Google, and trying to figure out where they should earn their degree. If your website’s SEO strategy is not up to par, chances are you’re missing out on the vast majority of these leads. While you can use Google AdWords to show up for these results, you’re going to be paying a premium for each click. When you rank organically, there is no cost per click. When looking at this from an ROI perspective, the value of SEO is undeniable. Having a large search presence means more organic traffic, more leads, more applicants, and more students. If SEO is not a part of your digital marketing strategy in 2018, you are doing yourself a huge disservice.

Link building

Link building is undoubtedly the most important aspect of your SEO strategy. In order to compete in competitive markets such as higher education, your website will need a steady stream of high-quality and relevant backlinks. There are a number of link building strategies. You can read more about those here.

On-Page SEO

In order to get the most out of your link building campaigns, it’s extremely important that your on-page SEO is in place. Make sure you all of the content on your website is properly optimized for search. This includes keyword rich title tags, relevant meta descriptions, keyword density, optimized header tags, internal linking, and much more.

Technical SEO

While this may require assistance from a web developer, it’s important that your site is technically sound so that it can be properly crawled by Google. The easier it is for Google to crawl and understand your site, the more your website’s pages will be shown in Google’s search results. On the other hand, if your website is full of technical errors, your search rankings will almost certainly suffer. Some things to look for when performing a technical SEO audit are: 404 errors, missing/broken XML sitemaps, slow page load times, duplicate content, irrelevant/thin content, and more! Use a tool like Screaming Frog to identify some of these common issues.

Website Content Strategies

Frederic Lee

Creation of website content (articles, infographics, data visualization, and more) is an essential aspect of any search marketing strategy. The primary reason being that Google favors websites with fresh content. With this in mind, a strategy of continuous creation and publication of content is important for website visibility in Google’s search results. In addition to creating fresh content, here are three core strategies to get the most ROI in this content.

Traffic and Rankings Focused Content

Through careful keyword research with an emphasis on target long-tail variations of your core keywords, content can be created with the best opportunity to rank in the search results. Keyword clusters/pods can be established in order to streamline content creation and may cover many keyword opportunity areas surrounding a long-tail variation. Upon completion and distribution, this content may rank for competitive keywords and either bring in large quantities of industry traffic, or a lesser, more valuable flow of conversion-focused traffic.

Conversion Support Focused Content

Depending on your business goals, conversion support content have a goal of providing detailed information about your product/service and industry. This content is designed to speak directly to individuals in the sales funnel. Through paid and organic social distribution and careful placement on your website, these articles are designed to be a strong touchpoint in the sales process.

Social Signal Focused Content

A portion of the Google algorithm involves having positive social signals pointing towards your website and content. Articles and graphics can be created with this exact goal in mind. A detailed analysis of your target audience and how they interact on social network is a key first step. This content must give them a reason to share and engage. Upon publication, strategic social sharing and promotion can help kick start this content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other relevant networks to your industry.

Creative Digital PR Strategies

George Bradley and Joseph Lapin

In the higher education industry, digital public relations is an important approach for any SEO strategy. Here at Circa, we believe that the faculty are one of a university’s greatest assets, yet in general, many higher ed marketing companies are not utilizing these key stakeholders. By leveraging traditional public relations strategies for the digital world, digital PR not only influences brand awareness and thought leadership for universities, but it also allows us to create high level media opportunities for our professors in publications such as the Washington Post, The Hill and HuffPost. Not only are the professors being placed here, but we are obtaining backlinks to our program pages. This directly influences organic traffic that leads to conversions and new students. In collaboration with on-page SEO elements, content marketing, and other link building strategies, digital PR helps bring prospective students to a university and serves as a significant contributor to a diverse link profile for an authoritative website.

Relationship Building

Professors and reporters/editors are the two key relationships that should be built as part of a higher education digital marketing strategy. By building trusting relationships with faculty, you are able to gain an understanding of their research and passions and also create opportunities that are specifically focused on their expertise. Relationships with reporters can also prove to be greatly beneficial. When you have a reporter who trusts you, they are far more likely to respond to your pitch and come to you for a quote from one of your faculty members.

Creative Pitch Writing

Pitching compelling story lines and sources are the crux of any PR strategy. In the higher education digital marketing space, we leverage the faculty expertise to write pitches that relate to current trending topics in the news. There are often four key components to a pitch, and these are the lead, call to action, unique value proposition, and conclusion. You can find more information on how to write these pitches here.

Stay on Top of the News

Having access to and critically understanding the latest news is imperative because you want to stay ahead of the curve. There are various ways to understand what is happening throughout the world, and you should consider each method to be as important as the next. Understanding stories in the newspaper and tying in our professors is the perfect way to begin the pitching process. All of this comes back to understanding your professors and the people working on relevant stories within the media.

Organic Social Media Marketing

Audrey Wills

In 2018, social media is an imperative part to any digital marketing strategy –– especially for higher education. To put the importance of social media marketing into context, take a look at the graph below. When the Pew Research Center began tracking social media usage in 2005, less than 8% of 18-49 year olds in America used at least one social platform. Today, over 75% of 18-49 year olds are active on at least one social media site, meaning social media is the optimal medium for reaching higher education’s target audience.

While the growth in social media usage is a good thing in the world of higher education digital marketing, this increased usage leads to users being inundated with ads and content marketing. So much so that at the beginning of 2018, Facebook changed its algorithm to prioritize content from user’s inner circles. Thus, making it even more difficult to get content in front of your target audience –– organically at least. So what tactics can you use to ensure you continue to reach your audience and boost enrollment? Let’s take a look.

Know Your Platform

As mentioned before, Facebook changed their algorithm in the beginning of 2018 to prioritize content from a user’s family and friends. This means that whenever you post content, whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you need to post content that best suits that platform.

Facebook’s algorithm favors content that people want to engage with. Think: would I share this with my friends? Content that is made for Twitter should be concise, yet informational. Let your followers know what you’re sharing and why. Do some research and identify the most active hashtags for your industry and use them throughout your tweets to help increase your reach. When creating content for Instagram, think visuals first, and make sure you have an eye-catching graphic that will grab your follower’s attention and get them to stop scrolling.

Keep up-to-date on social media marketing by attending a conference: http://circaedu.com/hemj/13-higher-education-marketing-conferences-in-2018/  

Live Video

One tactic that all social media algorithm’s love is Live Video. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter enable you to leverage live video to interact with prospective students. My favorite tactic for utilizing live video is hosting live Q&A info sessions to address general program FAQs and provide prospective students the opportunity to ask questions and receive answers in real-time. Hosting a series of Q&A info sessions that address different areas of your program. To give students a better feel for your program, have different team members host each session. Anyone from an alumni, a current student, a faculty member, or even dean are perfect candidates to provide their own perspective and create a connection with the prospective students.

Chatbots At Your Service

Social media has changed the way we all communicate, and chatbots are taking our new forms of communication one step further. Chatbots provide a modern way for students to get questions answered instantaneously. Implementing chatbots into your recruitment strategy can help your admissions team speed up the enrollment process by weeding out unqualified candidates, answering questions in seconds, not hours, and even following up with potential students to ensure they finish their applications before the enrollment deadline.

Circa Interactive is the premier digital marketing agency in higher education. Since opening in 2011, Circa Interactive has helped more than 60 degree programs increase lead flow, build brand awareness,and generate more students. To find out how our services could help your institution, please email clayton@circaedu.com. 

 

Understanding the Value of A/B Testing

What is A/B Testing?

Have you ever wondered if a certain piece of content on your website is performing to its full potential? If the subject line on your email campaign is compelling enough to maximize open rates, or even if a button on your website is the best color to attract a user to click? Many businesses and their marketing teams ask these and similar questions every day. Thankfully these questions can be answered by utilizing A/B testing.

A/B testing, or split testing, as some people like to call it, is a controlled experiment whereby two or more variants are tested against each other to find which performs better. This commonly used approach allows marketers to make the most of existing traffic that has usually taken a lot of time and money to get in the first place.

The Stages of A/B Tests

There are a handful of stages when running a successful A/B test. These stages can vary depending on who you ask but in general, four show up time and time again. These stages can be represented in four questions.

Do I need to conduct an A/B test?

Testing random ideas just for the fun of it will more than likely be a waste of time. For this reason, it is highly advised to create a hypothesis first. This hypothesis must be based on research into where the problem lives. For example, “if I make this change I expect to see this result”. This will help you gain information on not only what needs to change on your site but valuable information on your customers and their behavior.  

What metrics will define the success of this test?

This stage is the most important, and thus should be given the most time and focus. It is important to define what metric which will be used to measure if the experiment group is better than the control group or not. To help you decide this, you need to ask yourself what are you going to use the metrics for. There are two main categories of use that you will be using your metric for; Invariant checking, variants that should not change across your experiment and control, and evaluation of metrics and evaluation. These can be either high level such as increase in revenue or percent of market share. On the other hand, matrices can be more finer and look at user experience.  

It is important to note that some metrics may not be able to be completely measure correctly due to factors such as technology and demographics used. For example, Java may not run on certain web browsers resulting in incorrect CTR. As a result, filters may be needed to ensure data is not skewed and the metrics chosen can actually measure correctly.

How to design an experiment?

Designing the experiment includes deciding on a unit of diversion, deciding on the size and characteristics of the population and how long the experiment will run for.  

  • The unit of diversion is what units you are going to run the test on and comparing. Commonly, these can be event based (e.g. pageview) or anonymous ID (e.g. cookie id) or user ID. It’s important to ensure when you have a user visibility change to assign people instead of events. This is so the user will not get confused if they see a change, refresh the page and then see that the change has disappeared. If measuring latency change, other metrics like event level diversion might be enough.
  • The population of subjects that are eligible for this test is then selected. Everyone who visits your site may not be eligible for this experiment as you might be only looking at US traffic, of wanting only students depending on what and why you are experimenting.
  • Timing in a/b testing can be a deciding factor whether the experiment has been carried out correctly or not. When best suits to run the experiment? During the holidays? At night? Weekdays vs the weekend? This will depend on who the population is and what you’re looking to achieve. Making sure the experiments run long enough to gather a sufficient amount of data but not too long to miss out on the opportunity to use the better performing page with all of your site visitors.
How to analyze data?

Tests can end in three different ways, either the control wins, the experiment wins or there is no change. Reading this much is for the most part easy but it is important not to pat yourself on the back just yet. It is essential to dig deeper into these results and find out more about the behavior of your customers. As Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal explains “Only with A/B testing can you close the gap between customer logic and company logic and, gradually, over time, match the internal thought sequence that is going on in your customers’ heads when they are considering your offer on your landing page or within your app.”

A/B Testing Examples

MVMT

The Retention of customers is an issue for many watch companies as a customer is usually only in the market for a watch every few years. MVMT faced this issue and introduced a selection of interchangeable watch straps to their site. To ensure these straps increased consumer retention the way in which they were presented on the site was tested. The control in this experiment was with no cross selling of the straps with two test variations, one with the straps above the watches and one with the straps below the watches. By doing this test, MVMT were able to increase conversions by 5.5% for mobile shoppers and 2.2% for shoppers on desktop.

ASANA  

Teamwork-trafficking software Asana used a/b testing to successfully redesign and rebrand their website, improving user experience along the way. To ensure consumers were not surprised with a big website design, Asana implemented these changes slowly over time to gradually optimize the site for the best user experience. By breaking their tasks into two categories, Asana’s product team were able to first focus on core functionality features, implementing them once they had performed well in their test segments. After this, their rebranding team implemented the overall new look of the site and new branded look.

A/B testing is just one of the way’s that our PPC team ensures our clients campaigns are optimized and operating to their fullest potential. You can check out or PPC services here.

Aidan graduated with a Master’s in Digital Marketing from the National University of Ireland, Galway in 2016 where he gained a strong understanding of online marketing strategies, and marketing performance and productivity. Prior to his move to the US to work with Circa interactive, Aidan gained his experience in a variety of industries from festivals to medical devices. His current role within the Circa team is as the Jr. Digital marketing specialist, working with both the SEO team and the Marketing Analytics team, ensuring the service we provide is above the high standard expected from our clients.

How to Get Published Online: Guest Articles

Having a guest article published on an industry-specific or national news site can be a great way to build on your thought leadership and promote your brand. However, it’s not always an easy feat, as editors receive hundreds of submissions every day from others clamoring for the same opportunity. It’s easy to understand, then, why publications must be stringent in their submission and review process–they must ensure that only the most high-quality and valuable content makes it through. For this reason, it’s critical to have a well-executed strategy in place before you begin writing or submitting an article for consideration. So what can you do to successfully get published online? Having had dozens of articles published on behalf of clients and my team, I’ve listed some top tips that you should consider when trying to obtain a guest article placement.

Leverage a Relevant Time or News Peg

An article is much more powerful and engaging if there is a relevant news peg tied to it. This means leveraging a trend or story currently taking place in the news (whether it be mainstream or industry-specific) and tying it into the focus of your article. An editor will be much more likely to publish your story if it ties into a larger theme and conversation that is of interest to their target audience. For example, if you are a marketing and branding expert with a focus on social media, it would be wise to use the latest Facebook algorithm change to discuss how this shift in users’ newsfeed could impact brands and organic reach. Time pegs are another very effective way to add relevancy and a sense of urgency to your story. For example, MLK Day or Engineers Week are both examples of time pegs that could be leveraged for an article.  

Provide a Unique Angle

While it’s incredibly important to tie your article into a larger narrative or trending story happening in the news, you must also be sure to provide a unique angle to that story. You never want to simply regurgitate what has already been said. One method to help ensure that you’re not writing something that has already been covered is to do a quick search of related topics on a publication’s site to determine whether they’ve already written about the story you’re pitching/writing. This will help you to fine-tune your idea and shift the angle if needed.

Understand the Publication’s Audience

It might seem obvious, but even the most well-written, interesting article will go ignored if the topic and angle doesn’t appeal to a publication’s audience. It’s important to understand what an audience (and editor) will be drawn to. For example, if you write a guide on the best educational teaching tools out there, but the audience of the publication is primarily students, it won’t be of any use or interest to them, despite the fact that they both pertain to the same industry. You must tailor your content and angle to something that the audience will find beneficial and worthwhile in order to be seriously considered.

Make Sure to Follow any Submission Guidelines

Few things will disqualify you more quickly in the eyes of an editor than completely disregarding clear directions for writing and submitting an article for consideration. This can turn you and your article into more of a nuisance than anything else and cause an editor to overlook the hard work you’ve put into the actual content. With this in mind, take note of their submission requirements and follow them as closely as possible.

Also, unless they explicitly say otherwise, it’s usually a good idea to send the editor a short pitch outlining your article idea before you begin writing it. If it’s not in line with what they’re looking for, this tactic will allow you to either pivot your angle or focus your time and effort on other publications instead.

Have Sources to Back Up Your Claims

Although contributed articles tend to be opinion pieces, it’s still important to include credible sources that help to support and back up your claims and position. Adding in these sources will only strengthen your stance and illustrate that you’ve put in the time and effort to provide a piece of content that has merit and which goes beyond your own personal ramblings. Citing stats or studies but failing to hyperlink to the sources can also prolong the publication process, so it’s important to properly reference and link to any sources used from the get-go. Keep in mind that news sites (almost always) prefer hyperlinks to sources over more traditional APA citations and footnotes.

To learn more about our digital PR services, read here: Digital PR.

Caroline-Black-and-White-tan-3-4Caroline brings a wealth of knowledge in communications, marketing, and account management to the Circa Interactive team, and she has worked with partners such as HP, Cisco, and Adobe. Graduating with honors in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Oregon in 2011, Caroline now plays a key role in Circa Interactive’s digital PR strategy by building long term relationships with internationally recognized media outlets on behalf of our clients.

How to Use Digital PR to Influence Organic Rankings

Public relations has always played an integral role in helping businesses and nonprofits to achieve their goals. But in today’s search-engine-reliant world, digital PR know-how has the potential to explode organizations’ visibility before the eyes of prospective customers. Unfortunately, too few PR pros understand how backlinking and search-engine optimization (SEO) work, and their importance in achieving their clients’ aims. By way of providing an introduction to this complex and rapidly evolving aspect of PR, I’m going to offer some insight into how we’ve helped enhance the visibility (and improved the bottom lines) of our clients.

Why Should PR Experts also be SEO Experts?

At Circa, our clients are institutions of higher learning, and much of our work involves elevating our clients’ professors and teachers as thought leaders. We do this, in part, by using traditional PR skills and tools to reach out to publications to arrange interviews with these professors and publish their content. Not only does this achieve the goal of increasing brand awareness, but it also accomplishes an increasingly critical goal for any successful business in the digital age: improved search engine visibility and rankings.

Our clients share a straightforward goal: to enroll more students into their university programs. In order to achieve this goal, they need to increase their brand awareness, and increasing awareness requires accomplishing two very specific tasks: showcasing the university’s value and also boosting its digital presence. By following our specific link-building strategy, we not only establish more credibility among our target audience, but we also rank higher in relevant keyword searches conducted by prospective students. Our strategy is one that could apply to any business that relies on PR to increase its overall brand awareness.

How to Leverage Digital PR to Gain More Digital Visibility

In the digital world, links are critical. Links help to boost a webpage’s rankings and ensure that search engines like Google recognize the page as genuine and credible. In the past, it was possible to buy or acquire links of little relevance from low quality websites in order to achieve a high search-engine ranking. That’s no longer possible. These days, web pages need to feature a select amount of natural keywords and links from other viable and relevant sites from high quality sources. The focus is quality of links. Acquiring these types of links can be challenging, especially since it requires establishing relationships between various content sources. However, this is a task that PR professionals are naturally equipped to tackle.

Using traditional tactics, PR professionals can actually generate significant digital results for their clients. For instance, a PR pro can pitch a reputable publication or website—one that’s relevant to the client’s specific interests—with the hopes of landing interviews or media placements. Once the PR professional is able to successfully land an interview or place a client-written byline in a publication, then it’s up to the PR professional to also achieve the crucial end-goal of acquiring the link to the desired webpage within the media placement.

Obtaining a link back to a desired page can be challenging depending on the publication, but it is certainly possible in many instances. Oftentimes, the best way to gain a link is through commonsense approaches. For example, a PR professional can ask a publication to link back to a specific site as a means of attribution. Additionally, the link shouldn’t be overtly self-serving—it shouldn’t take a viewer to a landing page, for instance, that pushes them to purchase something. Instead, the link should feature valuable, useful and relevant content.

If the client is a college, for example, and a PR professional is able to arrange an interview with one of the college’s professors to appear in a publication, then the link placed on the interview page should take the viewer back to the program’s homepage, giving the viewer a chance to learn more about the institution and potentially sign up for more information. This type of link placement strategy is fairly effective: the client receives a form of attribution and a natural link, but the publication won’t feel that it’s promoting the institution in an obvious or attention-grabbing way. When it comes to placing links, it’s all about common sense: PR professionals should use their networking and communication skills to ensure that their clients are properly attributed within the specific content.

The Data

In our experience, using expert commentary and byline opportunities coupled with keyword-based search campaigns and SEO-optimized webpage content efforts has helped to generate impressive results for our clients. For instance, our expert commentary efforts in publications like the Huffington Post resulted in over 2,000 social shares and 10 backlinks for one client, and the University of Wisconsin saw program inquiries jump by 33 percent because of our use of SEO-optimized content efforts .

In short, PR professionals can use their tried-and-true PR tools to not only boost their clients’ brand, but also influence search engine rankings. As long as PR professionals are willing to remain flexible and adapt to the demands of the digital world, they will be able to leverage their valuable communication skills to generate their desired results.

joeJoseph Lapin M.F.A. is an author, creative director, and journalist, and his writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Narratively, Salon, Slate, and more. He is a former adjunct professor at Florida International University, and he has worked on PR campaigns for Ernst & Young, Brentwood Associates, and more.

6 Tips to Start and Master Your College’s Blog in 2018

At Circa Interactive we’re fortunate to work with a few outstanding partners. Below, our friends over at Finalsite put together six useful tips for your college’s blog to become successful. Enjoy!

While you already know that your school needs a blog, the usual roadblocks–time and staffing–are probably standing in your way. Whatever you do, don’t allow these to become constraints. Blogging has the potential to grow your school’s brand, engage your community, and recruit right-fit students to your schools, so it’s definitely worth the effort. If you’re ready to dive in to starting your college’s blog in the new year, here are a few steps to guide your success.

1. Determine a Focus for Your College’s Blog

Many colleges and universities don’t blog at all, and those that do often limit themselves to ones written by the college president, department heads and admissions directors–a pretty narrow focus.  Since your blog will be a traffic-driver and will help to fill your recruitment funnel among other things, put the focus on where you shine: your culture. Showcasing what makes you unique, like the programs you specialize in, your awesome students, and incredible careers of graduates allows you to broaden your focus and bring in students, faculty, coaches, current parents, alumni and others to contribute content.

2. Gather a Group of Dedicated Writers

In order to make an impact with your blog, you need to be consistent about posting. And while it seems simple to assign the task to one person to keep the blog’s tone and voice the same, gathering more content contributors makes it easier to produce content on a consistent basis.

To choose this group, start by polling your community. Ask faculty, students, staff, alumni and parents to share their ideas on posts they’d like to write, or topics they think would be beneficial to prospective and current students and their families, or alumni. Current student bloggers are a great source of content (especially English majors!) as it’s a great resume booster for them to see their work published online, so they’ll love to blog frequently. And, prospective students love to hear firsthand from current students.

Vanguard University does a great job of sharing content from students in a variety of stages and programs to give real-life insight into the student experience (and it looks pretty cool, too!).

An example of how to use student contributors for your college's blog.

A Student’s Guest Post on Vanguard University’s Blog

And while you may want to have different blogs for special programs, like study abroad or athletics, these should be maintained in addition to your college’s main blog. Use a tool that lets you categorize your posts so that they can be dynamically published to all related categories, letting you maximize the impact of your content with less effort.

Remember-it only takes two blog posts per week to improve your website traffic!

3. Create a Content Calendar

Once your group of writers is formed, work with them to create a content calendar that works.

Determine which days you want blog posts to be published, which topics are timely, and which topics are evergreen (can be posted any time.) If you’re only going to blog twice a week, take into consideration that Monday mornings rank highest for visits and Thursdays rank highest for social shares, so focus on those days to get the most traction.

4. Determine an Editing Process

At Finalsite, we use the “press call” concept. Each day at the same time, the marketing team receives an email with all the content that’s scheduled for the next day, including blog posts, and shares their edits with our content marketing manager, who inputs them, and prepares content for publishing.  This system works for us, and now our team expects and prepares for press call each day. Your editing team might be made up of content contributors, marketing or admissions staffers, or others with a critical eye.  

5. Write Simply and with Intent

If your intent is to inform, blogs are meant to be easy-to-read, conversational pieces, but your content contributors might be self-conscious about writing. If your blog is simple and written with intent, it will always be well-received.

Here are few tips for making this happen:

  • Write in lists. It makes content easy to digest and gives readers key takeaways.
  • Write your blog post title first (you can always go back and fine-tune it later!) A title gives your post focus.
  • Write in chunks or sections. Blogs shouldn’t be written like an essay, but should be segmented by different thoughts or ideas.
  • Use a textual hierarchy to break up your post and make it easy to read.
  • Numbered posts are really effective: “The Top Five Reasons to Major in Business,” “Three Reasons Greek Life isn’t What Think it is?”
  • Always incorporate photos in your posts. We recommend one image near the top, and several images throughout the post.
  • End all blogs with a call-to-action.
  • Encourage content contributors to be themselves and use an authentic voice.

6. Share Your Post via Social Media and Subscriptions

“Is anyone out there?” It’s a common fear that you and your content contributors could spend hours on posts that no one sees. But when you follow a few simple steps, your blogs will be seen, appreciated, and shared.

First: Create a way for readers to subscribe to your posts via email. This way, they’ll get the blog posts delivered right to their inbox.

Second: Each time you post a blog on your website, share it on your social feeds. This is a pivotal piece for your inbound marketing strategy! You can also share older blog posts that are still relevant on social media, too! Be sure to always include a photo in your tweets and Facebook posts, as posts with images are more likely to get clicked.

Third: Add links to your blog in the online newsletters that you’re already sending. If you have a monthly newsletter that goes out, include this month’s best posts as a way to drive readership and subscriptions.

Fourth: Use blog posts as inbound marketing content. When sending communications to students in the admission funnel, consider which blog posts you have, and use them as your inbound content. For example, if a student wrote a post on their experience as a student athlete, it would be great to share that with all applicants interested in your athletic programs.

 

Pulling it All Together

Your blog won’t appear overnight, and neither will differences in website traffic — so don’t get discouraged. A blog takes weeks to really get up and running and months to really make a difference. However, with the right people and plans in place, it will quickly become a central piece of your inbound strategy and school culture.

For more tips and strategies for a high-converting website, download Finalsite’s eBook “The Ultimate Website Guide for Colleges and Universities.”

 Hadley RosenAfter more than a decade working in schools in roles in the classroom, communications and advancement, Hadley joined Finalsite in 2013 as Marketing and Communications Manager. She loves meeting Finalsite’s amazing family members around the world and learning about trends impacting schools. She’s a big fan of travel to places near and far with her growing family, cooking cuisines of all kinds, and working on her French fluency.

Three of the Best Books to Transform Your Digital Marketing Company

Over the last few years, our team has been looking for ways to transform our company, push our creative abilities, and ensure that we are constantly evolving to provide better results for our higher education clients. So, our leadership team asked a tough question: How do we ensure that we’re not getting stagnant? Well, the solution was pretty simple. We needed to learn from other professionals, inside and outside of digital marketing. We’re not in the higher education space simply because we believe there is an opportunity in the industry to provide better marketing efforts; we’re in higher education because we believe in the power of higher education. Therefore, we personally challenge ourselves and all of our employees to never stop learning, and I have read a few books that I think are important to help transform any digital marketing company.

1. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

deep-work-cal-newport

Cal Newport, an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, asks a simple question in his new book, Deep Work: How can an invidual focus on the tasks that matter most? This is a question I have been pondering for a while. In the digital world, there are so many distractions, and our clients’ goals are big (rank #1 for computer science online), and they take sustained effort and creativity.

But when you break down the types of work that digital marketers have, it comes down to deep and shallow tasks. Shallow work consists of all the emails, the admin, the busy work that is necessary but doesn’t require a lot of brain power, and Deep Work consists of the big tasks that can move a company forward. For example, filing a report for your client on how many links you built in Q3 is a necessary task, but it’s somewhat superficial work. However, creating a strategy overview that will help that same client rank number one for a relevant student-generating keyword can directly impact a company’s bottom line.

Cal Naughton examines how to build a working life where there is more focus on the deep work. Some of the biggest takeaways from his book are as follows:

  • Social media is a distraction: Yes, I know this sounds like blasphemy. Even though digital marketers need to have a social presence and maintain the knowledge of trends, the constant chirps of tweets and notifications from Facebook and other platforms will distract you from deep, focused work. Turn off your notifications—or completely remove yourself from social media when you’re under a deadline or working on a big project.
  • Slack and other workplace communication platforms can be great, but they can also kill your productivity. If you’re on Slack, then you are probably aware of how many times you’re interrupted by a notification or a message. This constant form of communication helps teams stay connected, but it also distracts individuals. Turn off the Slack function or hit the snooze button and allow your mind to stay immersed in the bigger projects.
  • It’s important to think about focus as a muscle. It’s something you can train. The more you focus on deep work, the more your mind develops. You’re literally developing your neural circuitry. If you can focus on a task, you’re not just being more productive, you’re working on the very structure of your mind to perform at a higher level. Time productivity sessions and follow the Pomodoro technique.
  • While there is a lot of focus on being productive and efficient in the workplace, it’s important to take the same lessons for deep work in the office and apply them to your personal life. For example, Cal Naughton mentions that your mind isn’t like your bicep, which tires after exercise. Your mind never stops, but what it needs is different forms of activity. So, while you might have an important deadline to meet with your client, it’s important to take the time away from your work and focus deeply on relaxing or another activity. Give your mind a break and schedule “free” time for your mind to wander.

2. The Undoing Project: A FRIENDSHIP THAT CHANGED OUR MINDS.

9780393254594_198Michael Lewis is, of course, famous for many books, including Money Ball, but what Lewis didn’t know when he wrote Money Ball was that he was going to miss something critical to the history and logic of his most famous book. In the beginning of the book, readers learn that Lewis owed many of the lessons in Money Ball to two Nobel Prize winners and Israeli psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky.

Basically, the book is about how Kahneman and Tversky created a Nobel Prize-winning theory and how that theory altered our perception of reality. It sounds complicated but there is a key lesson that digital marketers can take from the book: Humans are inherently emotional, not logical. What Kahneman and Tversky were able to show through their studies was that people were making poor judgments in uncertain situations, and they relied on their gut rather than data and logic.

So, what does this have to do with digital marketing? It comes down to a key lesson in communication that can help digital marketers talk to their clients and co-workers. Since individuals make decisions based on emotion, it’s important to recognize how issues are framed. Kahneman and Tversky’s studies showed that people changed the way they responded to situations depending on how it was framed. This is an important lesson for digital marketers. If we can think about how to frame strategies, ads, content, etc., to our clients or to the marketplace, then we may be able to push initiatives that are risky yet rewarding and help educate our clients on the benefits of a digitally focused strategy in the world of higher education.

3. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

creativity_incOut of all the books, Creativity, Inc. might have been the most enjoyable. It’s not just because it’s an unbelievable treasure trove of advice on how to build a creative organization, but it also goes into great detail about how Pixar was created as well as behind-the-scenes insight into their movies.

Storytelling is the root of great digital marketing campaigns, and Pixar and Disney are the best storytellers in our world. What is key about the book is that in order to build an organization that is focused on quality storytelling in their messaging, it’s essential to build candor and positive feedback into their organization. If a company does not share the ability to be candid with each other because of hierarchies that stranglehold opinions, then the organization will never grow.

Everyone in the Pixar building, according to Ed Catmull, from the janitor to the director, has the ability to create an idea that will move a project forward. (Think about Ratatouille and the expression: “Anyone can cook.”)

In our organization, we’re trying to find ways to strengthen the structure that breeds candid and constructive feedback. One suggestion in the book is to hold “Notes Meetings.” It’s a simple concept. Individuals in the company submit questions to a leadership team on things they are struggling with. It doesn’t have to relate to a specific department, and the leadership picks the questions and sends them to the team. Then they have a meeting where everyone freely tries to problem solve the issue. This is an opportunity to improve the way feedback is delivered and develop candor. Great ideas can not become great unless they are challenged by people who care about mutual success.

21122451_10100725895142291_2139116181006518570_o (1)

Joseph Lapin M.F.A. is an author, creative director, and journalist, and his writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Narratively, Salon, Slate, and more. He is a former adjunct professor at Florida International University, and he has worked on PR campaigns for Ernst & Young, Brentwood Associates, and more.

SEO Link Building Strategies: Three Evergreen Content Ideas

In the world of search engine optimization and ranking factors, the most important correlation to search engine result page (SERP) rankings was found to be the number of backlinks and overall link authority. With over 70% of users clicking on first page results, universities are always looking for ways to get their programs to jump up the rankings. So you may be asking, ‘How can I create content that naturally attracts backlinks and will rise in the SERPs?’ Today you’re in luck because I’m about to take you through the entire process from starting a link-building strategy to developing evergreen content ideas that attract SEO backlinks, but first, we need to understand a few SEO basic ideas before we can fully understand the immense value of evergreen.  

Learning SEO Basics

Before I dive into the world of developing evergreen content ideas, I’d like to lay out a few search engine optimization basics for any of the readers who may not fully know what these terms or tactics mean.

What is link-building?

Link-building can simply be described as a process to acquire valuable SEO backlinks or hyperlinks from other websites to your pages. As a marketer, we see these links as the Holy Grail and let me tell you why. SEO backlinks are a major component of Google’s PageRank algorithm which is considered to be one of the most important factors of Google’s SERP. The PageRank factor measures the importance of content and helps Google determine whether it should rank for a specific user’s intent. It is able to do this by analyzing a web page’s backlink structure as it takes in more factors such as the number of backlinks, link diversity, quality of links and other proprietary information.

 

Here is a quick excerpt from Google explaining their ranking philosophy.

“Google search works because it relies on the millions of individuals posting links on websites to help determine which other sites offer content of value. We assess the importance of every web page using more than 200 signals and a variety of techniques, including our patented PageRank™ algorithm, which analyzes which sites have been “voted” to be the best sources of information by other pages across the web.”

 

Though there are a number of factors that go into the SERP, in order to increase online visibility and improve search engine positioning, your business will need to achieve a higher PageRank. To do this, you’ll need a team focused on creating a tactical digital marketing plan with the essential objective being a SEO backlinking strategy through evergreen content marketing.

SEO Backlinking Strategy

It is important to note that a backlinking strategy is not made up of one technique or skill, but rather a wide range of skill sets including content creation, research, competitive analysis, email outreach and nurturing editorial relationships. The strategy begins by strategically producing evergreen, valuable, high-quality content that’s targeted for high volume search intent and your customer base. The word content has been pounded into our minds for years as digital marketers, but it’s no surprise because that’s what Google search is all about. It is a search engine that matches a user’s intent with the most relevant and quality content possible, such as “what’s the value of an online MED.” Hence, the importance of developing evergreen content ideas to attract SEO backlinks.

What is evergreen content?

Typically, evergreen content is based on popular topics, high volume search terms or niche specific keywords, and is content created with the intent to be informational and provide an instructional viewpoint on your topic of interest. Evergreen content does not lose its value over time and is commonly created for utilization purpose. This means the content is developed with the idea that searchers will reference the content multiple times, which in return increases your web traffic, on-page time, brand awareness and top-of-mind recall for specific niches.  

In order to create evergreen topics, you must first understand the search intent of your target audience and then strategically construct a topic that matches the user’s intent. So stop creating general, boring regurgitated content! This isn’t the Age of Fluff, this is the Age of Information for a reason.

So without further ado, I present to you three types of evergreen content ideas that can be implemented right here, right now.

Types of Evergreen Content:

  • Infographic Visuals
  • Industry Expert Roundups
  • Informative and High Utility Content

Infographic Visuals

Infographics are a fantastic way to build links to program specific pages, which will help increase your overall Google rankings. If you didn’t know already, the number of backlinks linking to a specific page has the strongest correlation with rankings compared to any other factor. This includes domain history, title tags, and optimized keyword pages. When infographics are built with reliable statistics and appealing design, these visuals resources will make you appear as a thought leader within specific industries and enable you to naturally gain links. Evergreen infographics are based on newsworthy, current trends and show in-depth statistics on specific topics that relate to a university’s program curriculum. When a university builds an infographic around trending news stories or case studies, they are able to take what may seem like a complex idea or boring subject and turn it into an easy to understand visualization. Below I have provided some fascinating facts from Kissmetrics on why infographics perform so well in this digital age;

  • High-quality infographics are 30 times more likely to be read than text articles.
  • 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text.
  • Infographics are 40 times more likely to be shared on social networks.

In your opinion, what looks better, Image 1 or Image 2?

Image 1 is a journal study explaining the challenges of storing medical imaging data

Image 2 is a medical imaging infographic explaining the same information.

Image 1

digital imaging journal

Image 2

imaging archives infographic

If I do say so myself, Image 2 is softer on the eyes and helps to break down this complex information so any non-technical reader can understand it. The icons give the viewer a great understanding of what the subject is about without having to read the detailed material.

Now that we understand why publications post these visual resources, the next step is to understand how to build an infographic around a topic that is considered link worthy.  As we discussed above, the best performing infographics are built around newsworthy time pegs and trending current events. To identify newsworthy time pegs, I believe our creative director, Joseph Lapin, has the best approach. He tells our team to consistently look at the front page of the newspaper to find out what editors from top publications, such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, seem to be the major stories in the U.S. and throughout the world. If these publications are putting these stories on their front page, then it shows insight on what topics are most newsworthy while showcasing developing trends within the news curve. Once you understand which topics are repeatedly gaining traction, you can build infographics based on these trending stories and immediately pitch them to publications. With graphics built around such hot topics, they can be leveraged throughout the whole news cycle which can help program pages gain a number of valuable links.

news curve

Infographics should be built using studies and statistics from a number of publications ranging from high-level organizations to niche blogs. Each source should be seen as a link building and relationship development opportunity because the publication you use as sources are very likely to share the infographic with their audience. If we step back and think about this for a second, we can understand why it would be more valuable to have 20 sources instead of 10. In the end, it is a numbers game and the more sources used, the more link building opportunities there are! For instance, Circa Interactive created an infographic on Creative Ways to Make Higher Education More Affordable. In each visualization, sources are included at the bottom of the graphic.

source link building

For each source, an outreach message should be sent to the editor at that site. Here is a real outreach email I used to gain links through from infographic sources.

outreach for source links

Helpful infographic resources:

Industry Expert Roundups

In marketing and communication, a roundup is a term that is used to describe the collection of popular resources that are highlighted to build one article. Expert roundups are no different, except that instead of using popular informative resources, industry experts are utilized to create a comprehensive analysis on a particular subject. Expert roundups are relatively easy to structure and publish, but there is some groundwork needed in the beginning. First, your content creation team will need creatively come up with a keyword rich question that your experts will answer. The question needs to be based on a keyword that your program wants to rank on Google’s first page. This is important because when searchers view your page and see the expert knowledge being freely shared than they are more likely to link back and reference to a collection of experts compared to a personal opinion. Here is a quick example: Let’s say you want to rank for the keyword “future of artificial intelligence” and the blog post title is ‘32 Expert’s Future Vision of Artificial Intelligence’. A great question to ask your industry experts could be “What is one or two major advancements you envision happening within artificial intelligence over the next 5 years?”

Having developed the question, the next step is to scour the web looking for industry experts talking about similar topics in the artificial intelligence industry. You’ll want to create an outreach list that is three or four times the number of your intended expert commentaries that will be placed in your blog. The best way to identify potential experts in your industry is by using Google News and Followerwonk.

followerwonk

I used Followerwonk for this example, a tool that searches through Twitter bios and highlights the top users related to specific keywords. Within the top six results, there are two great artificial intelligence experts who should be added to your list. They are both executives within the big data and artificial intelligence field with a high number of followers. Keep in mind that your intent is to gain a link back and social shares from these experts because you are freely sharing their expertise. We want to show our own personal audiences that we are featured on another site so we can get the recognition we think we deserve.

Once you identify the top industry experts and build your list, it is time to send your outreach message. The outreach message should be a short blurb complementing their expertise and asking them if they would be interested in being featured in your post. If you don’t get a response back from them, follow up a week later and emphasis the benefit they are getting by giving you a quick one to three sentence response.

 

joey outreach


Once you begin to receive responses, structure the blog with the experts who were quick to respond to your question towards the top of the article. This will flatter them because you chose to feature them within your top ten experts. The next focus should be adding the experts who you expect to get a link back from. The best way to actually gain a link is by not directly asking them to link to the article. I know it sounds crazy, but by simply thanking them for their time and expertise, the flattery works a lot better than aggressively begging for a link. When sending the experts the “thank you” message, it is extremely similar to the infographic source email. The main difference in this outreach is to create a pre-populated tweet with in the email so all the expert has to do is press one button to share with their follower base. Free services such as 
ClicktoTweet allow you to create tweets in quickly. Feel free to use my email below as your template.

joey outreach 2

Helpful expert roundups examples:

 

Informative and High Utility Content

Recent studies have shown that longer pieces of content between 1,700 and 2,000 words rank higher in Google position. The average first page results having at 1,890 words.

length of content and rankings

There are a few ranking factors that also correlate with longer posts, which include time on page, more social shares, and lower bounce rates because more users will browse other content on your site. Still, these long post must be made of high-quality content because if not, they are worthless words and filling up cyberspace. That is something Google hates to see. 

What determines quality you may ask? It all comes down to whether the content is informative to the audience and has some form of usability that can be implemented by your readers. According to Brian Dean, one of the top link-building marketers of our time, longer, high utility content strikes a sense of awe into the audience, meaning that when a reader visits a page that has a lot of useful information they understand how much work was put into that post and they are more likely to return to that site over and over again seeking similar content.

brian backlinko quote
Here at Circa Interactive, our team likes to produce a multitude of content ideas because different audiences respond to different types of articles including listicles, how to guides, and in-depth evergreen content. I’d like to show you a recent example of evergreen content that was created by our own Chief SEO Analyst, Tyler Cooper.

The Ultimate Guide to On-Page SEO
This is a great example of high quality, informative content that focuses on a specific audience and the knowledge inside this article can be applied immediately regardless of your knowledge of on-page SEO. In total, this ultimate guide article has a total of 3909 words. Content length has a direct impact on the number of average shares and links a piece of content receives. Moz conducted research on 489,000 text based articles. Here are their findings:

moz content length


As you can see, it is apparent that content length is incredibly important when developing content for your site. So when creating content do not forget these three types of evergreen content that will enable you to build links back to your university pages.


If you found this article helpful in any way do not hesitate to leave a comment below. I would love to hear any feedback you may have about a topic and know what type of evergreen content ideas you use in your organization. Additionally, if you need advice or have questions on link building feeling free to connect with me below.

 

andersonidea

Austin Anderson is a forward-thinking, motivated marketing specialist. Before Circa, Austin ran an e-commerce business and managed online marketing for startups in San Diego. Austin strives to be a future influencer in the world of digital marketingConnect with Austin on LinkedIn and Twitter @andersonidea.