Jeanne Hopkins, Director of Marketing at Hubspot, taught the 7th class at IMU and she discussed how to optimize website landing pages and calls to action in order to create more conversions. Jeanne was very enthusiastic throughout the class and made the content even more intriguing.

Assignment #7: Take a screenshot of one of your website’s landing pages. Write a blog article about the changes you could make to decrease
friction and increase conversion.

I created the website for Rhode Island College’s Chapter of the American Marketing Association and am going to use this for my homework. I would like to note that while there is tons of room for improvement on that website, it was the first full website I ever created and am proud to say that it earned 3rd place honors in the website competition at the International Collegiate Conference this past April.
(Note: Please pardon the site’s slight outdatedness)

The ultimate goal and purpose of our chapter’s website is to not just gain awareness of our organization, but to gain members. While Rhode Island College is largely a commuter school, it is important for us to have an on-line presence where we can reach out to the students and give them all the information they need.

I’m going to look at a particular travel path of the website, rather than one specific landing page, and then add suggestions for improvements at the end.

Starting with the homepage:

We can see three places for potential members to learn more about our organization. The navigation bar contains an About Us button and there is also a noticeable link that leads to the same page in the body text. Additionally, they can jump to the benefits page, also via a link within the body text. We also have a very visible Facebook button that links to our FB group.

The About Us page:

This shows some text straight from the National AMA’s about page and then my own description of the AMA and what our particular chapter does. After reading this, the potential member is encouraged to learn about why they should join with a link at the bottom of the page. There are also clear, noticeable links in the right column that are straightforward in what information is provided upon clicking.

If the reader clicks on the Why join the AMA? link they are brought here:

This page also comes up when the viewer clicks the Membership button in the top navigation bar. This shows a quick, 3 paragraph explanation of why it is beneficial to join the AMA and our chapter. Again, visible, informative links in the right column include benefits, testimonials, points system, and an application. The one last screenshot I want to show you is the benefits page that is linked from the above page:

I have a link going back to the About Us page just in case the reader arrived at this page from some other travel path. The use of bullet points makes the page an easy and quick read. A visible link on the bottom also explains that the National AMA has listed benefits for joining a collegiate chapter.

Here is where improvements can be made:

On the About Us and Membership pages and all pages that fall underneath those categories, there is a right column containing related links. Below that right column is a lot of blank space that is not being utilized. In this space there can be a large image box that is appealing, has a brief description on what a student gains by joining, and reads “Join Now!” or “Jumpstart Your Career!” at the bottom. The entire image will be clickable and leads to an application form.

Or, the space can be used for quick blurbs of testimonials that highlight key, valuable phrases. Make these clickable as well with a “Read More” link in order to access all of the full-length testimonials.

The Membership page provides a lot of great content, but looks like a lot of text that may turn people away. By applying the bullet structure used on the Benefits page or breaking up the text with relevant underlines, bolds, and links, the page will be more visually appealing and lead to an increase in reading by site visitors.

The Application link leads to a PDF file – a scan of the paper version of our application. Obvious friction exists here as there is little to no instruction on what to do. Instead of hoping people will print it out, fill it out, and come to a meeting, we should make an on-line version of the application. Or, instead of having a full-length application, have a quick way for people to join our e-mail list and then fill out the paper application when they attend a meeting.

These changes would improve the readability of informational content, increase traffic through specific pages, provide greater information in less clicks, and hopefully increase conversions! Thanks for the class and the tips Jeanne!

Next class: Inbound Lead Nurturing

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As part of my experience at Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing University, I have been putting forth the effort to complete the accompanying homework assignments for each respective teacher. They took the time to share their knowledge on a specific topic, so in return I take the time to put their teachings to work and then link them to it via Twitter.

On May 19th, I completed the 3rd class on Social Media and Building Community taught by Chris Brogan. I did the assigned homework and Tweeted him with the link:

8 minutes later:

My immediate thought was *OH CRAP!* Why “Oh Crap” and not “YES!! WOOHOO!!”? I’ll show you why:

Normally, this would make for a phenomenal morning. Surely, my blog was going to receive a lot of hits from Chris’ tweets. The problem is I wasn’t ready. Sure I have good content in my blog posts, but the current state of my blog is not close to where I want it to be, yet. As soon as I saw Chris’ reply I came here and was scrambling around making tiny changes everywhere in order to make myself more presentable. I even changed my theme for a few minutes, but changed it back to the current theme after realizing I didn’t like it. Mainly, my bio page was out of date. The information displayed on my About Bryan page was from well over a year ago when this started out as more of a personal outlet and not so much a professional, career-building tool. I changed and deleted various parts of that page in order to give a better representation of who I am, what I do, and what I want to do in the future. Here’s what Chris did to my views graph that day:

This brings me to my final two points:

  1. Always be prepared – I was caught a little off guard as I am still in the process of creating my ideal blog/website and by not being 100% ready I may have missed out on potential opportunities. I’ve always believed that good luck comes to those who are ready to embrace it. You may know someone who seems to always catch a break and get awesome opportunities personally or professionally – but chances are they made the necessary preparations to take advantage of such opportunities when they came along.
  2. The Power of Twitter is Undeniable – All I did was send my homework to my teacher and my blog views per day skyrocketed (1800% increase if I did the math right).  It didn’t stop there – one of Chris Brogan’s followers came to my blog, found my post that was directed to a potential internship opportunity and offered me an internship. Crazy right? You never know who’s going to find you! Prepare yourself, expand your network, then recognize and embrace all opportunities!

Thanks Chris!

I believe this would be inbound marketing FTW!

Have you been hit by the Chris Brogan effect? Or has something similar happened to you because of one thing a social media giant did or said? Care to share your story?

IMU’s 6th class was taught by Rand Fishkin, the CEO and Co-Founder of SEOmoz, and he discussed advanced SEO techniques and tricks for optimizing a website and increasing web rankings.

Assignment #6: Write a blog article explaining how you could use both on-page and off-page SEO to rank for a specific keyword, and how that would help your inbound marketing efforts.

Search Engine Optimization is really the core of inbound marketing. By improving your website’s ranking on search engines you vastly increase the chances of people finding you.

In order to rank higher in search engines for specific keywords you can use on-page and off-page tactics. The biggest factor in on-page SEO is the keyword itself. According to the experts, using the keyword in your page’s title tag has a very strong impact on your search engine ranking. Additionally, using the keyword(s) as the first word(s) in the title tag also provides a very strong impact. This is a really simple concept – determine the keywords on each page of your website and use those in the title tag in order to reach your target. You should also be consistent and use these keywords in the headline tags, this will lead to accurate links on the search engine results pages.

The most significant factor of off-page SEO is your link popularity. This is where you want to reach out to the Linkerati, people on the web who have a high influence on web traffic because of their eagerness to share links. Provide great, important content, and valuable resources to the Linkerati and your site will gain many inbound links. Some Linkerati member examples would be journalists, forum posters, and bloggers. By creating valuable content to the Linkerati, you encourage a heavy amount of link-creating that all comes back to you, thus optimizing search engine results.

Thanks for the class Rand!

Off to learn about Calls to Action and Landing Page Best Practices!

The fifth class at IMU was taught by David Meerman Scott who is a marketing strategist, as well as the author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR and World Wide Rave. In this class he discussed tips for creating viral ideas and how to make them spread on their own.

Assignment #5: Come up with a remarkable idea. How would you launch that idea to create a world wide rave around your business?

First of all, this is the most thought-provoking homework assignment yet, thanks David. I’m also a little reluctant to share any remarkable ideas with the world in fear of someone stealing it or me not being ready to back it. However, as your course said – lose control.

I’m sure this has been discussed before, but I don’t think there is any mainstream form of it. You know when you’re in the dentist’s chair with your mouth wide open and it’s loaded with cotton rolls and scary looking utensils? You know how your dentist expects you to answer questions while in this state? I’m sure these tooth professionals understand why we cannot answer questions that require more than a yes or no shake of the head, but wouldn’t they benefit from easy communication?

Take a look at the typical dentist’s chair:
Dentist Chair

Now add this:
Dry Erase Board and Marker

Now we have a way for patients with a mouth full to communicate. Dry erase marker boards are very cheap, and will easily hook on to the left side of the chair for easy access. Even better, you can doodle to try to pass the time or distract yourself from the pain. Dentists can write a pain scale from 1-10 on the board and have the patient circle the number of their choice, or point to it, at any time. This of course will become obsolete when we have mind-reading machines that verbalize our thoughts; but we aren’t there yet.

Here are the steps to turning this into a world wide rave:

  • Create a comedic video of the marker board in use – show examples of dentists asking unanswerable questions, then show how the marker board comes in handy, but use funny questions that would never be asked and use over-exaggerated facial expressions/sound effects. Also show patients doodling or playing tic-tac-toe. Upload video to YouTube.
  • Seek out the most influential (far-reaching) dentist bloggers. A Google Search brings up plenty of opportunities. Send them a short, informational e-mail including a link to the video.
  • Do the same as above for Twitter.
  • Send sample marker boards with introductory letters to famous/popular dentists around the country (U.S.).
  • Then see what happens!
  • Again, this idea may have been mentioned by someone else at some point in time, but I couldn’t find anything related. Either way, this brought a couple more dentist ideas into my head!

    Next class: Advanced SEO Tactics

    The fourth IMU class was taught by Elyse Tager, a social media strategist and founder of Elymedia. She discussed the various uses and needs of Facebook and LinkedIn for businesses.

    Assignment #4: Write a blog article that explains three benefits of creating a Facebook Fan Page and three benefits of creating a LinkedIn Group.
    Which would you include in your marketing plan?

    For clarity, I’m going to list benefits of a business person within a company creating their own LinkedIn profile, rather than a group for that company itself.

    Facebook Fan Page Benefits:

    • Connect: with people (business partners, customers, etc) who are relevant to you and your company and keep them engaged. Engagement leads to conversations, conversation leads to conversion.
    • Metrics: of your fan page that are easy to read. You receive statistics on fan interaction, post quality, click-thru rate, and media consumption. These measurements give you the ability to make the necessary changes in order to increase engagement with your fans.
    • Events: easily set up events for group members and get a simple RSVP list, allow members to invite their friends, allows for discussion, allows for photo/video uploads of event – all great engagement opportunities
    • Ads: Facebook’s ad program is very user-friendly, and very targeted. You can target your audience very specifically for a very low price and then receive an estimated reach of how many people will see, and click, your ad.

    LinkedIn Benefits:

    • Answering questions: by providing knowledge to others and displaying your expertise you are helping others while indirectly promoting your company. If you build up a reputation of great, or expert, answers in a specific industry or category, you are likely to gain visitors to your profile, visitors to your company’s group profile, and most importantly – connections.
    • Recommendations: by receiving impressive recommendations from others regarding your work, you are allowing others to promote you and your company to all of LinkedIn (depending on your privacy settings).
    • Shared Connections: after uploading  all your contacts from various databases and creating your network you are able to view shared connections (friends of friends) and even ask for introductions through your current connections. This is one of LinkedIn’s greatest features as it allows you to easily expand your network effectively.

    Both of these platforms have their benefits, but which one should you use in your marketing plan? I think it depends on what kind of company you are and in which industry. I view Facebook as a better B2C channel and LinkedIn as the better B2B channel.

    Facebook gives companies extreme potential in engaging directly with their fans and the customers who care about them most. It’s also done on a platform that hundreds of millions of people know how to use.

    LinkedIn  is much more effective in building your professional contacts that will lead to improved business (eg. partnerships, joint ventures, shared connections, advice/knowledge sharing).

    Personally, I’d use both.

    Next class:  Viral Marketing and World Wide Raves!

    The third class at IMU was taught by a social media giant, Chris Brogan, his blog is ranked 2nd in AdAge’s Power 150 list. This man has a lot of valuable thoughts as I’ve read a lot of what he has said around various areas of the internet. After discussing social media and building community, here’s my homework:

    Assignment #3: Create a step-by-step plan for how you could develop a community around your company on a social networking site of your choice.

    Chris laid out the basic steps to doing this in his class so this will involve some regurgitation of his words.

    1. Listening – This is the first step, it’s not about me, it’s about them. I suggest reading Chris’ steps to Growing Bigger Ears in 10 Minutes. I need to figure out what others are saying about me, my brand, and determine what it is that they want. If I had the money to spend, I’d invest in Scout Labs which is a tremendous “listening/analyzing” tool for social media.
    2. But where? – I very much doubt there will be any community revolving around me that was created by other people. I don’t have my own company or anything, yet. However, if I did and there was some form of third-party community I would most certainly join. Additionally, I would create my own community (an off-shoot of my main website) to invite them to; I would want to have the control necessary for proper ROI measurements and the ability to implement new community features.
    3. Equip, don’t sell – One of the biggest points I took from this class was this phrase. I’ve understood for a while that you don’t want to just come out selling your stuff, but what’s the best thing to do instead? Provide value to your community members, equip them with something that will be beneficial to them. Example: Provide free resources that help lead them or their company to greater success. (HubSpot). If the community revolved around advertising how could I provide value to them? I could offer them a platform in which their work may receive more views than on their own website, an expert corner where industry experts are encouraged to chime in with tips and advice, or even get them a discounted version of Advertising Age somehow.
    4. Celebrate them – Recognition, recognition, recognition! Everyone loves to be recognized! Although I’m sure there are few exceptions. Regardless, I would be sure that my community provides opportunities for members to be noticed and show off their accomplishments. Let’s say it was an advertising community that had a section for members to upload their own work – I would hold monthly contests where everyone can vote for their favorite ads in specific categories and the winners receive some sort of badge to show off (along with free goodies that are paid for by advertisers).  Even a simple ranking system in the forums where members receive an additional star for X amount of posts is something people enjoy.

    Yes there are more steps to the entire process, but these are the most important to me and what I thought was the most valuable information taken from the class. Thanks Chris!

    Next class: Successful Business Uses for Facebook and LinkedIn

    My second class at IMU was taught by Lee Odden who is the CEO of TopRank Marketing, a strategic internet marketing agency that specializes in search engine optimization (the topic of the course).

    Assignment #2: Write a blog article that explains why a marketer would want to include SEO in his or her web marketing.

    I’m going to answer this in bullet form because I like bullets, the structurally-organized kind, not the gun kind.

    A smart marketer would want to include SEO in his/her web marketing for the following reasons:

    • Forbes 2009 ad effectiveness survey claims that SEO is the most effective on-line marketing tactic for generating conversions
    • If done right, you can increase sales while decreasing marketing spending
    • Gain a competitive advantage over competition that’s not very findable
    • Many tools available to measure its effectiveness
    • Makes you or your company visible to a humongous world – the internet

    Those reasons are enough to convince me! Thanks Lee!

    Next class: Social Media and Building Community

    Along with the 16 on-line courses at Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing University there are homework assignments for each one. I decided to try my best to do each and every one of them.

    Assignment #1: Write a blog post about three best practices that you will adopt into your blogging strategy.

    After listening to Ann Handley and Mack Collier discuss effective business blogging, I took away three key points that I wish to incorporate into my blog at some point:

    1. Header – It is clear that my blog template needs a face lift in order to have a more professional/business appeal. This includes a new header or banner that will display my name and/or logo very prominently.
    2. Sidebar – Along with the new layout, a sidebar for information may prove beneficial. Typically, all of the links (Archives/blogroll) at the bottom of my blog, are in the sidebar for other bloggers. This makes navigation more user-friendly, but I may like this clean, one column look better.
    3. Guest Bloggers – Ann and Mack discussed businesses who hire people to blog for them. This brought me to the idea of guest blogging. A lot of the popular, heavy-traffic blogs will invite guests to blog about a particular topic. It seems to me this wouldn’t be very effective until I have gained some sort of positive reputation. However, maybe some form of interview with a popular blogger can help boost my “ratings”.

    I’m off to class #2 to learn a little more about Search Engine Optimization!

    If you were the teacher, how would you grade my homework?

    Hey Mr. Merrow

    May 17, 2010

    While still searching for a valuable internship for this summer I came across the Merrow Sewing Machine Company. Admittedly, I have never heard of them before, and if I had, I forgot (considering I’m not part of their target audience this is understandable). However, after reviewing their website and reading some of their blog posts, I have realized how reputable this brand actually is.

    In order to be the best it is wise to learn from and work with the best. This is why I have decided to apply to such an influential brand in their respective industry.

    Owen and Charlie Merrow – I have put together a list of the top 10 reasons why you should look no further on your intern search:

    • I will get the job done by any means necessary
    • I play well with dogs (Proof: My last internship had two dogs as well and there were no bites or bruises – I’d get along with Sable & Pilot just fine)
    • I am extremely interested in branding and am continuously learning about all aspects of marketing (Proof: This blog, daily check of Ads of the World.com, currently enrolled in Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing University)
    • Creative: the most commonly used word  others use in describing me
    • I took 5 years of French in high school (per free translation.com:  Je me souviens de quelque français)
    • I have a strong desire to be the best;  at everything
    • The amount of energy I exude is not the result of energy drinks
    • I have proven I can handle a large amount of responsibility (Proof: Spring 2010 semester included 5 group projects out of 6 courses and I achieved my first 4.0 semester)
    • I have a lot of experience and skill in time management (Proof: Last summer I experienced smooth sailing during two simultaneous internships, working at Panera Bread, two summer courses, and AMA responsibilities)
    • Have you Googled “Merrow” lately? Try it out…look around.

    Just so anyone reading this understands, I sent my resume and cover letter to Mr. Owen Merrow tonight and directed them to my blog for further insight into who I am. I’m trying something different, and I hope they like it. Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how it turns out.

    (Note – if you are not located in RI or MA, #10 on the list will not work for you, but it will for the Merrows) 🙂

    Never Stop Learning

    May 16, 2010

    Now that the Spring semester has come to a close for 2010, I no longer have to attend classes everyday and listen to lectures, review slides from PowerPoint presentations, perform research, or do homework assignments for the next few months. While this is a pleasing fact it also leads to a problem; I won’t be learning.

    In order to improve oneself and continue to succeed you must never stop learning. We’ve all heard the sayings “knowledge is power” and “never stop asking questions”; these sayings hold a lot of truth and reason to them and that’s why people keep repeating them.

    Absorbing information from different domains and gaining insight into new possibilities provides oneself with opportunities. Taking advantage of opportunities is how you move forward on the path to success rather than standing comfortably in one spot. In an effort to to build on my knowledge and add value to my personal brand I have decided to attend Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing University.

    Attending IMU

    This certification program consists of 16 on-line classes, taught by very reputable professors, that educate students on inbound marketing. After going through the one hour courses you have the opportunity to take the exam, if you receive a 75% or better you are inbound marketing certified.

    This will be the first of my goals to be accomplished over the course of this summer. I intend on being certified by Sunday June 6th. And yes, you can hold me to it.