The Most Annoying Things About Brands Content

The Most Annoying Things About Brands Content

What annoys consumers most about content from brands? Which experiences frustrate people most when consuming content in general?

Adobe surveyed 1,000 consumers in the United States and found some answers to those questions.

Some 39% of respondents say they find it annoying when brand content is too wordy or poorly written.

Other top annoyances about brand content include when content is poorly designed (28% find it annoying), when content is personalized to the point of being creepy (25%), when content is old/stale/repetitive (22%), when content isn’t personalized/relevant (22%), when content isn’t optimized for the device that it is being viewed on (21%), when content has no images or video (17%), and when content highlights a promotion for a product already purchased (16%).

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How connected are you to your brand’s customer service?

How connected are you to your brand's customer service?

My last post here generated some great conversations with readers, especially among people who wanted to go deeper into the concept of marketing-as-service and how to make that happen even while you’re dealing with the realities of business life.

This recurring conversation centered on one key point: Service is something we marketers have to have at the core of our lives, professional practice and skill sets. It should be the first thing you pull out of your marketing toolbox.

What I also heard from marketers boiled down to this question: “I get that, but how do I get in touch with the service component at my company? I don’t know where to start because everybody is going off in different directions.”

That’s a great point. You begin by looking at your company and thinking about everybody who has a hand in serving your customers. It begins at the top with your CEO, your founders, your CMO, then looks at  your web and customer support team, other people in marketing and sales and anyone else in your company who comes into direct contact with your customers.

I’m always telling marketers to invest a couple of hours a week in themselves to become smarter marketers. You also can apply this rule to focus on the service component of your job and your customers, too. Invest in your customer base in the same way you want them to invest in your company, whether it’s monetarily or by giving you their primary email address so you have the most dependable way to contact and identify them.

With that objective in mind, here are three easy ways to connect with the service component within your company:

1. Talk to your customer service reps.

When was the last time you sat in with people in your customer service or support department? Maybe you had a short training session when you started at your company, or you served a rotation as a marketing executive where you sat and listened in on the phone.

Your customer service/support group is your primary way to get in touch with your end users, whether you market on the B2B or B2C side. They are on the front lines with your customers every day, and they probably know them better than almost anyone else in your company.

B2B marketers: Sit in with your account execs. It’s an invaluable resource to hear what your customers want, to learn first-hand about their struggles, frustrations and questions.

B2C marketers: Put on a headset and listen to calls. You don’t have to field questions or problems yourself, but you should listen to the interaction – what’s bothering your customers, how they express their questions or frustrations and how your call-center staff people manage solutions and speak to customers.

If you’re truly in that service mindset, where you’re homing in on the age of the customer ideals, then you’ll walk away with two or three programs that you can launch via email to resolve questions.

As a marketer, part of your job is to help reduce call volume from your customer service reps. Finding ways to address issues is one way to achieve that.

Begin by asking your CS people this question: “What are your 10 most regular questions?” These are questions or issues that they can answer in their sleep without having to look at scripts or talking points.

Once you pull a list together, think about how you can solve for them. Can you answer those questions in a transactional message? Develop a trigger that sends a helpful email whenever someone meets a condition?

See if you can collect enough data to help you predict questions, then create content (emails, FAQs, etc.) to address them. This could be as easy as looking at your browse remarketing program and assigning it to a page that’s focused on customer service.

Listening to your customers through your call center (or reviewing bot or online contacts) is essential for heightening the service component of your messaging.

2. Talk to sales.

First, you learned more about your customers when they had questions, problems or complaints. Now it’s time to learn about the people who aren’t your customers yet.

B2B marketers: The best people to help you out are your sales reps. Don’t just chat with your VP of sales, though. Your top sales executives are important, but their status makes it hard for you to get close to the customers.

Like your customer-service people, your sales reps are your front-line troops. Ask them questions like the ones you posed to your CS people: “What are the top 10 questions you get from prospects? What are the top themes you hear? What are the top objections that keep people from doing business with us?”

If you’re in the right service mindset, you’ll come up with automation programs that speak to these objectives, reflect themes or answer questions. You might be able to address them in an onboarding or welcome program or in dedicated emails.

Later on, you can go back to your sales reps and see if these questions keep coming up.

B2C marketers: Talk to your web team – the people who are in charge of developing your site and analyzing the results.

If you have physical locations, head out to one or more. Walk around, and watch people as they shop. Talk to the manager and employees and find out what they see as the demographics of your company, what people ask about and what they say when they return purchases.

Talking to the people who sell to your customers will help you understand better how to craft your message. As an example, you might learn ways to use headlines, images, product descriptions and disclaimers more effectively.

3. Talk to your customers.

No, I’m not telling you to set up a focus group. Focus groups are expensive and tricky to set up. You have to structure them correctly to be sure your participants tell you what you need to know instead of what they think you want to hear.

Instead, pull a panel together from the people who have bought from you, such as customers in your loyalty group or shoppers in your local stores. Then, meet with them in person several times over a year or longer so that you get to know and trust each other. A panel like this will deliver richer, less structured information than you can get from a focus group or survey.

This isn’t as much a focus group so much as a gateway for customers to talk to you openly during the lifecycle and an idea lab for testing out ideas. For you to bounce ideas off of.  They’re not the end all and be all of your decision process, but can provide insight and opinion on your terms.

Find the time, it’s there

Over the last couple of columns, I’ve asked you to do more in your job than you think you have time for. Marketer after marketer tells me they don’t have enough time, resources or money.

I get it. I’ve been there on the front lines. I’ve run and consulted for massive email operations for major retailers with brick-and-mortar locations.

The noise of the day permeates all that we do. We get into a monotonous cycle of spinning stuff out because the goal is doing a job instead of elevating a channel.

But, think a moment about what I want you to do. It’s a low-threshold ask, just an hour a month or week. It’s there if you look for it.

On average, people spend about four or five hours a day on the work they’re actually paid to do. The time is there if you look for it. And, it’s important. You don’t need a statistic or a motivational quote to justify spending that time.

Finding better ways to serve your customers is enough of a reason to make the time.

I can tell you from my own experience in real life that it’s worth it. It works. And it will make you a better, smarter marketer.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Ryan Phelan is co-founder of Origin Email and brings nearly two decades of worldwide online marketing and email experience. Ryan is a respected thought leader and nationally distinguished speaker with a history of experience from Adestra, Acxiom, BlueHornet, Sears Holdings, Responsys and infoUSA. In 2013 he was named one of the top 30 strategists in online marketing and is the Chairman Emeritus of the EEC Advisory Board. Ryan also works with start-up companies as an advisor, board member and investor.

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Common technical SEO issues and fixes for aggregators and finance brands Search Engine Watch

Common technical SEO issues and fixes, for aggregators and finance brands

Common technical SEO issues and fixes, for aggregators and finance brands

As most of you know the aggregator market is a competitive one, with the popularity in comparison sites rising.

Comparison companies are some of the most well-known and commonly used brands today. With external marketing and advertising efforts at an all-time high, people turn to the world wide web for these services. So, who is championing the online market?

In an investigation we carried out, we found brands such as MoneySuperMarket and MoneySavingExpert are the kings of the organic market.

graph on comparison websites

It’s hard to remember a world without comparison sites. It turns out that comparison websites have been around for quite some time. In fact, some of the most popular aggregator domain names have been available since 1999.

Yes 1999, two years after Google launched.

Think back to 1999 and how SEO has adapted. Now think about what websites have had to consider, keeping up with high customer demands, new functionality, site migrations, introduction to JavaScript, site speed, the list is endless.

The lifespan and longevity of these sites mean that over time issues start to build up, especially in the technical SEO department. Many of us SEOs are aware of the benefits that come with spending time on technical SEO issues — not to mention the great return on investment.

As comparison sites are so popular and relied upon by users, simple technical issues can result in a poor user experience damaging customer relationships. Or worse, users seeking assistance elsewhere.

Running comparison crawls have identified the common technical SEO issues across the market leaders. Find out what these issues are and how they will be harming their SEO — and see if they correlate with your own website.

1. Keyword cannibalization

When developing and creating new pages it is easy to forget about keyword cannibalization. Duplicating templates can easily leave metadata and headings unchanged, all confusing search engines on which page to rank for that keyword.

Here is an example from GoCompare.

Example of Keyword cannibalization in the h1 and h2 tags

The page on the left has the cannibalizing first heading. This is because the page’s h1 is situated in the top banner. This should target the long-tail opportunity “how to make your own electricity at home” which has been placed in an h2 tag directly under the banner.

The best course of action here would be to tweak the template, removing the banner and placing the call to action in the article body and placing the targeted keyword in a first heading tag.

Comparison sites are prime candidates for keyword cannibalization with the duplication of templates, services, and offers which results in cannibalization issues sitewide.

The fix

Run a crawl of your domain, gathering all the duplicated first headings tags, you can use tools such as Sitebulb for this. Decipher between which is the original page and which is the duplicate, then gather your keyword data to find a better keyword alternative for that duplicate page.

Top tip

Talk to your SEO expert when creating new pages, they will be able to provide recommendations on URL structure, first headings, and titles. It is worth having an SEO at the start of the planning process when rolling out new pages.

2. Internal redirects

Numerous changes can result in internal redirects, primary causes are redundant pages, upgrades to a site’s functionality, and furthermore, the dreaded site migration.

When Google urged sites to accelerate to HTTPs in January 2017, with the ideal methodology to 301 redirect HTTP pages to HTTPs, it’s painful to think about the mass number of internal redirects.

Here’s an example.

Example of internal redirects

Comparison sites specifically need to be aware of this. Just like ecommerce sites, products and services become unavailable. The normal behavior seems to be to then to redirect that product either to an alternative page or, in most cases, back to the parent directory.

This can then cause internal redirects across the site that need immediate attention.

The fix

To tackle this issue, gather all the internal redirected URLs from your crawler.

Once you’ve done this find the link on the parent page by inspecting the page on Google Developer tools.

Find where the link is and recommend to your development team that it changes the href attribute target within the link anchor to the final destination of the redirect.

3. Cleaning up the sitemap

With loads of changes happening across aggregator sites all the time, it is likely that the sitemap gets neglected.

However, it’s imperative you don’t allow this to happen! Search engines such as Google might ignore sitemaps that return “invalid” URLs.

Here’s an example.

Snapshot of the 404 error

Usually, a site’s 400/500 status code pages are on the development teams’ radar to fix. However, it isn’t always best practice as that these pages still sit in the sitemap. As they might be set live, orphaned and no indexed, or redirected elsewhere, that leaves some less severe issues within the Sitemap file.

Aggregators currently have to deal with sites changing product ranges, releasing new and, even, discontinuing services on a regular basis. New pages, therefore, have to be set up, redirects are then applied and sometimes issues are missed.

The fix

First, you need to identify errors within the sitemap. Search Console is perfect for this. Go to the coverage section, and filter with the drop down. Select your sitemaps with “Filter to Sitemaps” to inspect the errors that are within these.

Snapshot of canonical errors and redirects

If your sitemap has 400 or 500 status code pages, then this is more of a priority, if it has the odd redirect or canonical issue, focus on sorting these out first.

Top tip

Check your sitemap weekly or even more frequently. It is also a great way of checking your broken pages across the site.

4. Subdomains are causing index bloat

Behind any great comparison site is a quotation functionality. This allows users to place personal information about a quote and being able to revisit previously saved data kind of like a shopping cart on most ecommerce websites.

However, these are usually hosted on subdomains and can get indexed, which you don’t really want. These are mostly thin content pages, a useless page in Google index equaling index bloat.

Here’s an example.

Example of subdomains

The fix

The solution is to add the “noindex” meta attribute to the quotation domains to stop them from being indexed. You can also include the subdomains in your robots.txt file to stop them from being crawled. Just make sure they aren’t in the search engines’ index before you place them in the file as they won’t drop out of the SERPs.

5. Spreading link equity to irrelevant pages

Internal linking is important. However, passing link equity thinly across pages can cause a loss in value. Think of a pyramid, and how the homepage spreads equity to the directory and then down to the subdirectories through keyword targeted anchor text.

Example of how authority pages spread link equity across a website

These pages where equity is passed should hold the value and only link out to relevant pages that might be of relevance.

As comparison sites target a range of products and opportunities it is important to include them within the site architecture, but not spread the equity thinly.

How do we do this?

1. Consider the architecture of your site. For example:

“Fixed rate mortgages” has different yearly offerings, most sites sit these under a mortgage subdirectory, but this could easily have its own directory. This would benefit the site architecture as it lowers the click depth for those important pages and stops the thin spread of equity.

2. Only link to what is relevant.

Let’s take the below example. The targeted keyword here is “bad credit mortgages.” then supplies a load of internal links at the bottom of the page that aren’t relevant to the keyword intent. Therefore, the equity is spread to these pages resulting in the page losing value.

Example of linking to relevant pages for link equity


The fix

Review the internal linking structure. You can do this by running pages through Screaming Frog, which identifies pages that have a click depth greater than two and evaluates the outgoing links. If there are a lot, this could be a good indicator that pages might be spreading the equity thinly. Manually evaluate the pages to find there the links are going to and remove any that might be irrelevant spreading equity unnecessarily.

6. Orphaned pages

Following on from the above point, pages that are orphaned, or poorly linked to, will receive low equity. Comparison sites are prime candidates for this.

MoneySuperMarket has several orphaned pages, especially located in the blog section of the site.

Example of orphaned pages

The fix

Use Sitebulb to crawl the site and discover orphaned pages. Spend time evaluating these, it might be that these pages should be orphaned. However, if they are present in the sitemap that indicates either one of two problems given below.

  • The pages should be linked to through the internal architecture
  • The page shouldn’t be indexable or in the sitemap

If the pages are redundant, make them “no indexable.” However, if they should be linked to, evaluate your site’s internal architecture to work out a perfect linking strategy for these pages.

Top tip

It is very easy for blog posts to get orphaned, using methods such as topic clustering can help benefit your content marketing efforts while making sure your pages aren’t being orphaned.

Last ditch tips

A lot of these issues occur across a range of different sites and many sectors, as comparison sites undergo a lot of changes and development work with a vast product range and loads to aggregate. It is very hard to keep up-to-date with SEO tech issues.

Be vigilant and delegate resources sensibly. SEO tech issues shouldn’t be ignored, actively monitor and run crawls and checks after any site development work has been rolled out, this can save your organic performance and keep your technical SEO game strong.

Tom Wilkinson is Search & Data Lead at Zazzle Media.

Related reading

How can brands utilize SEO to capture new users and markets
A quick guide to SEO in 2019
luxury marketing search strategy, part one: consumer mindset
Google's RankBrain: Clearing up myths and misconceptions

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How customer-obsessed brands are pulling ahead in the emotion economy

How customer-obsessed brands are pulling ahead in the emotion economy

How customer-obsessed brands are pulling ahead in the emotion economy

Glossier and the power of customer connection

When Emily Weiss launched her beauty blog Into the Gloss back in 2010, it was because she wanted a platform for storytelling. There were no products, and the pioneering beauty brand we know as Glossier was yet to be born.

But within a few short years, Weiss leveraged her cult following from the blog and parlayed it into a line of Direct to Consumer (DTC) beauty products, which quickly produced a 10,000 person wait list for Glossier’s two (yes, just two) initial beauty products.

How customer-obsessed brands are pulling ahead in the emotion economy
A snap from Glossier’s flagship brick and mortar story in NYC.

Since then, the beauty brand has expanded to experiment with short and long-term retail locations, has achieved multi-million dollar rounds of funding and boasts 275% annual growth—not to mention its network of high-impact influencers, brand ambassadors, and hopelessly devoted customers.

How customer-obsessed brands are pulling ahead in the emotion economy
Image source.

So how’d they accomplish all of this?

By putting their customers at the core of everything they do.

The reality is that customer-obsessed brands like Glossier are winning in the marketplace—and they’re doing that by working tirelessly to understand who their customers are, why they behave the way they do, and by finding out how they can provide more value. Often times, this is thanks to harnessing rich customer data and translating it into ideal customer experiences.

Today’s marketers are shifting from the attention economy to the emotion economy. It isn’t simply enough to catch the eyes of customers; it’s also important to deliver happiness and win their hearts. Buying is often an emotional decision, and customer experiences have to trigger the right emotions to get them to buy — and keep buying. When customers are engaged emotionally, they are much more compelled to take the actions that drive business.

Over the next few months, we’ll investigate several disruptive brands like Glossier who are disrupting industries and look at what can we learn and adopt from them to stay competitive.

The rise of customer experience as a competitive battleground

For modern merchants, it’s not enough to have the best product photos or to offer the fastest shipping. Most of the time, it’s not even enough to be the cheapest.

With so much competition around price and product, brands are turning to customer experience (CX) as the competitive differentiator that sets their business apart. In fact, Gartner data shows that 81% of brands expect to be competing mostly or completely on the basis of CX by as soon as 2020.

As a result, customer expectations around experience have risen as well. Deloitte found that the consumer’s decision to buy a product or service is impacted by their overall enjoyment of their individual experience, while ThinkJar research indicates 55% of customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience.

But it doesn’t stop there. When it comes to customer retention, customer experience plays a major role as well. Temkin data shows that 86% of customers who had an excellent interaction with a brand were likely to make another purchase, 77% were likely to recommend the brand, and 79% were likely to trust the brand. Not bad, right?

How customer-obsessed brands are pulling ahead in the emotion economy
Image source.

What does all of this data tell us? That CX matters more than ever before.

Focusing on customer interactions and optimizing experiences across all brand touchpoints isn’t a ‘nice to have.’ It’s a must-have.

And that’s where data plays a major role.

The how: Gathering and leveraging the right data

Every ideal customer experience program hinges on in-depth customer data, and is the result of an ongoing optimization process (not a one-and-done) that encompasses different departments, channels, and formats. The key is to gather actionable information around who the customer is, why they behave the way they do, and how more value can be provided to them.

The question, however, is: Where do you find that information so you can put it to good use?

Customer data can be found in a variety of different ways, including:

  • Surveys/feedback collection: From quick Net Promoter Score ratings to customer satisfaction surveys with open-ended responses, ongoing survey efforts can give your customers a voice and provide valuable context around your current customer experience.
  • Customer outreach: You can take the feedback collection a step further by doing outreach to individual customers or customer groups that meet specific criteria (such as number of purchases, average lifetime customer value, etc.)
  • Review mining: Looking to customer reviews on individual products and across social channels can provide insights into what’s working for your brand as well as areas for improvement.
  • Analytics: The numbers don’t lie. Looking to important KPIs like conversion rate, customer acquisition cost, lifetime value of a customer, average order value, and other revenue-related metrics will provide actionable benchmarks that help you make smarter, more data-backed choices around your customer experience optimization efforts.
  • Experimentation: Testing different variations of your digital experiences is a necessity if you want to better understand what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to creating a delightful customer experience. If possible, you should always run experiments to validate your customer research. Qualitative data often provides powerful insights, but if you can validate those insights across a much larger sample size, this is one of the best ways to find winning strategies that drive results.

Case Study

Discover how one organization is translating customer research into an ideal customer experience

For one SaaS company, in-depth customer research—including customer surveys, interviews, and an analytics deep-dive—led to 3 consecutive winning experiments, each generating +15% lift. Get the full story >>

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to data collection, but it’s a good starting place. We’ll be diving deeper into this topic in future editions of this series.

Brands executing stellar CX (and what we can learn)

When you hear about brands associated with stellar CX execution, Glossier is a name that crops up again and again, along with others like Casper and Outdoor Voices.

The common theme between all three of these brands? They’re 100% customer obsessed.

They are also consistently improving and never let their efforts become static. Instead, their customer experience programs involve continuous experimentation and evolve based on data and input from customer feedback loops.

Glossier, for example, employs a team of data scientists who conduct experiments that study improvements in different metrics, and have built a self-proclaimed culture of hypothesis-driven development. “We’re frequently running experiments to learn more about our customers and how we can improve their experience on our e-commerce platform,” wrote Glossier’s Meghan Heintz.

And it’s paying off:

These three companies aren’t the only ones hyper-focusing on their customers, either. Other brands are following suit, and that means there are implications for retailers across all industries as this approach becomes the norm rather than the exception.

In coming editions of this series, we’ll get into the nuts and bolts of customer obsession and look at how different brands are executing customer-centric experiences via data-driven marketing, feedback collection, customer support insights, analytics, and experimentation.

If you’re curious about how to step up your company’s customer experience strategy and get on the level of brands making waves (and money), stay tuned and sign up to get future editions in your inbox.


How customer-obsessed brands are pulling ahead in the emotion economy

Kaleigh Moore

Freelance Writer

In this 22-page guide, jam-packed with scientific theory and real-world examples, learn how to create an emotionally resonant customer experience.

Get your guide now

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