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Remove Unnecessary Steps & Win More Links, Shares, and Conversions – Whiteboard Friday

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Posted by randfish

When creating a product, website, or communication, including a simple user experience is key to success. The easier you make the A to Z process for a user, the more likely they'll be to accomplish the plan you spent time and resources putting together piece by piece. 

In this week's Whiteboard Friday, Rand walks us through user experience and the actions that we can remove from our processes in order to drive more conversions, earn more links, get more social shares. Simplicity, FTW!

This week, we've added a still image of the whiteboard for easier viewing. Do you find this addition helpful? Let us know in the comments! 

Video Transcription

"Howdy, SEOmoz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I want to talk a little bit about user experience and the actions that we can remove from our processes in order to drive more conversions, earn more links, get more social shares. Let me show you what I'm talking about.

In this first example, embed codes, a lot of websites use embed codes all over the place. SlideShare is a good example. When you get to SlideShare, you find a particular presentation, and then you can copy and embed that onto your page.

Bitly is another good example. When you go to Bitly, they've got a little copy and paste sector. You paste in a link. It turns into the short Bitly link. You grab that out.

All sorts of things do this. YouTube does it. Vimeo does it. Any type of infographic that's embeddable, they all have these embed codes.

Embed codes are a phenomenal way to drive links, especially to content that people are likely to put on their own sites. The problem becomes when you make that a multi-step process. In fact, we've seen research and data from several sources now, saying that if you can make this a single click on here, and it says "copy to clipboard"' automatically, as opposed to popping something up like Bitly has started to do, or having to grab the entire embed code, Ctrl A, Ctrl C. I have to copy it myself, that actually will drive more embeds, meaning more links to the places you want with the anchor text that you want.

We remove an unnecessary step, that secondary piece, and make it so one click right in here with you cursor gets you copied to clipboard, a transitional message or a temporal message that pops up that says, "Copy to clipboard," or says below here, "Copy to clipboard." Now, all I have to do is paste, and I'm done. Very, very simple. Very easy.

Number two:  Shorter, more action-oriented emails. We send a lot of emails. We send emails for outreach. We send emails that are in newsletter format that are trying to drive actions back to our websites. We send emails to try and get shares from our friends or our network, those kinds of things. All of these can be made more concise and more actionable. I see a lot of challenges when we sort of go, "Oh, I'm going to start with some nice fluffy introduction. Here's who I am. Here's more about my company. Oh, and now here, here is the final action. This is what I was actually trying to get you to do. I felt like for some reason I had to do all of this."

Email is a medium where heavy communication is great between people you already know, where there are lots of things to say, and you need to have that more complex dialogue. When it's between new people, between strangers, between someone you're reaching out to, I find that the most effective emails I ever get from an outreach perspective are, "Hey, Rand. Love what you're doing over there at Moz. Would you send this over to someone on your product team or someone on your marketing team?" Or, "Hey, we have this app that we think would be great for your events folks. Could you make an intro?" That is something I'm likely to do very, very quickly. Or, "Just check out this new app. It does this." Great. Really quick.

All the press release ones I get are like, "Such and such is a this type of company, and here's all of this. Here's their latest press release. They raised this round of funding. Would you be interested in writing about them or talking to their CEO on the phone?" Dude, all you have to do is have that CEO email me and be like, "Hey, man. I want to connect." I'll be like, "Hey, let's chat. Sounds good. Sounds interesting,"' if it actually does sound interesting. Shorter, more action-oriented emails.

Number three:  Simpler sign-up forms. Oh, my goodness. You do not need to collect all of this data all at once. I need name. I need first name and last name. I've got to get this person's address, or at least the city and state they're in, because of this. You can collect so much of this data in the application later, as they're using it, if they're actually using it. You can collect some of that from IP address, location sensitive IPs, those type of things. You can tell the type of device they're on.

The thing is, as people browse the web more and more with mobile devices, this guy right here, when I'm on here, I absolutely hate filling out forms. The most I can ever do is an email and password field. A confirm password field really gets me going. It's just infuriating because it's a pain to type those extra letters, especially on something that doesn't have a full keyboard. If you can remove those and ask for that later, remember even if they get their password wrong and they forget it, you have still emailed them. You've got their email address, and you've sent them an email. It says, "Hey, click here to confirm." If they log back in, oh now the password is wrong or they forgot, great, you can fix that later, but you've gotten that initial essential sign-up. That's what you're looking for.

Number four:  I know HTTP is a common protocol. So is GTTP, or at least I'd like to make it one. Get to the point with your content. Get to the point. A lot of the time, I see this stuff tweeted and shared on social networks, put on Inbound.org or Hacker News, where it says, "Hey, conversion rate testing shows that this performs better than that." Cool. Then, I have to scroll and scroll. Where is that? Oh, there's the test. There's that test they were talking about. It's way down deep in the content. I'm not exactly sure why, but a lot of times with blog content, with even infographics, with videos, with stuff that we should be sharing on the web and is good content, we're trying to say, "Here's what I want to tell you, and I'm prioritizing that for some reason above what you actually care about."

What you actually care about should be the primary and potentially only thing on that page. If you really have stuff that you want to tell me, I will go investigate. I'll check out your About page. I'll check out your product pages. I want to see what your company does because it sounds interesting. You've got a cool brand, and you've got a great blog post and that kind of thing. If you really must, you can put it down here below the stuff that I actually care about. I came to your site to watch a video I was told was awesome, to check out an infographic, to see, to learn something about a test, to figure out something, solve some problem. Deliver that to me upfront, please. That will not only make me more likely to come back to your site in the future. I'll have a positive brand association. I'll be more likely to share that content. Just a beautiful thing.

Number five:  You actually see this a lot, and I see tremendous effectiveness when this is done, which is socially sharing links directly to what matters on the page or on an individual site. A lot of times, there will be a product tour section. Then, there's a video, a really interesting video or a demo. I'll see the social shares that are most effective are the ones that point directly. Sometimes, they have a JavaScript field in the URL that has a hash in it or a hash bang system or whatever it is. Those people who share direct do better than the ones who share the broad page. They've gotten into the process and dug around enough to share directly that piece that I care about. You can do this too.

In fact, I have recently seen a test where I essentially had been tweeting a link to something like where we were competing against another company for which company is better at this particular thing. I had been tweeting links to the page. Then you had to scroll down the page quite a ways, and then there was a little voting widget. Then I saw from the voting widget itself, there was actually some hash URL that would link directly to the voting widget on that page. When I tweeted that, it drove way more actions. In fact, like four or five times as many actions. I think something over 100 votes, whereas previously I had shared it a couple times and gotten like 15 or 20 votes from it. That is definitely a way to show that tweeting directly to the thing you want people to do, great way to socially share and to make those shares go further.

Last one, maintaining logged in state. Zappos, Amazon, all do this brilliantly well. Google actually does a pretty solid job of it as well. They maintain a logged in experience for as long as possible. Do you remember back in the day with Twitter? You used to get logged out all the time. They just weren't maintaining cookies and session variables and all that kind of stuff. You were losing your log in. You'd have to log into Twitter, even though you clicked that Remember Me button, you'd have to log in many, many times, every time you came back.

If you have this "Please log in" system here, and it does it even though you clicked "Yes. Please, remember me" down here, remember, please remember. Check. You're killing your conversions. I don't just mean conversions in terms of someone who makes a purchase. I mean someone who might have left a comment, someone who might have participated in your community, someone who might have shared something, someone who might have reached content they otherwise wouldn't have, someone who might have been a lead for you.

Moz actually did this. We have this as a conversion killer, and we can show the data. It was about 18 months ago, I think, that Casey and the inbound engineering team did a bunch of work to make sure, that most of the time, you're logged into your account. You wouldn't be logged out as quickly. I still find some challenges with it, but it's way better than it used to be. The data shows. You can see more comments per post view. You can see more people checking out and filling out their accounts. All that type of activity, that UGC that's driving long tail traffic, just a beautiful thing by maintaining this logged in state.

All of these are specific examples. The big takeaway message here is you don't need unnecessary steps. You don't need to be taking actions and requiring things of your visitors that they don't need to do, especially with the rise in mobile browsing and with the advantages that we've seen from web page speed increasing. We know, as web users and as people who build for the web, that visitors care tremendously about accomplishing tasks quickly. They're getting more and more used to it on their phones, on their desktops, on their laptops, on their tablets. We need to deliver that in order to be successful at marketing as well.

All right, everyone. Hope you've enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. We'll see you again next week. Take care."

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Bruce Clay, Inc. Will Be At SMX Sydney & SMX Advanced

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Bruce Clay, Inc. Will Be At SMX Sydney & SMX Advanced was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

G’day, mates! Did you know Bruce Clay Australia is returning to SMX Sydney (April 3-4) as an exhibitor and a sponsor for the fourth year in a row? Crikey!

Directors of Bruce Clay Australia Jeremy Bolt and Kate Gamble will be featured speakers at next week’s two-day conference.  Bolt will speak on maximizing enterprise SEO, conversions and landing pages, and personas and CRO. Gamble will discuss the ins and outs of local search. Attendees will have the chance to win free SEO training, a full CRO Audit of up to 100 pages of content or an All-In-One SEO for Dummies book. To enter the drawing and to meet the Bruce Clay Australia team, head to booth 10.

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Are you bound for next week’s SMX Sydney?

SMX Sydney  provides a great opportunity for anyone who uses online marketing and pays attention to the ROI to learn about attracting more people to a website and converting that traffic.

And then, in June, it’s time for SMX Advanced in Seattle (June 11-12)! Plan on attending? If so, today is the last day to nab the super early bird rate. If you miss today’s deadline, you can use a Bruce Clay discount code WS-ISS10 for 10 percent off beginning  April 1 (no joke!). With fast-paced, informative and often controversial sessions,  this conference is for the experienced SEO. Make sure to stop by the Bruce Clay booth if you’re there!

Unable to attend SMX Advanced? Fear not. We’ll be on hand liveblogging.

Are you attending SMX Sydney or SMX Advanced? What are you hoping to take away? Let us know in the comments.

 

Bruce Clay Blog

SMX West 2013 Liveblog Schedule & Where We’ll Be

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SMX West 2013 Liveblog Schedule & Where We’ll Be was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Holy heatmap have you seen the SMX West agenda? This is some next level content. Getting to attend an educational series like the one going down next week in San Jose is truly one of the perks of the job. Of course it’s not all fun times and smart insights while at SMX; I earn my keep by liveblogging. And with an agenda like this, picking the sessions to attend has been the hardest part! But I did it, and after the fold down you’ll see the SMX West sessions you’ll find on the blog next week. Ad retargeting, YouTube PPC, Google Knowledge Graph, Facebook Graph Search, authorship and online identity — it’s all here! Before that, some details you should know if you’re lucky like me and will be at the conference!

How to Meet with Bruce Clay, Inc. at SMX West 2013

If you’re attending the conference, let’s connect. Here’s where we’ll be next week.

We are exhibiting at SMX West
  • If you’re getting into town Sunday, have a drink on us! BCI co-sponsors the Meet & Greet this Sunday from 6-7:30 and we’d love to see you there, get pumped for the conference and nerd out marketing style.
  • The team will be stationed at booth #406 in the expo hall. Visit us to enter to win a free seat in our 3-day SEO training course in Simi Valley, CA. We’ll also be giving away $ 400 off the cost of our 3-day SEO training in 2013 for you and 6 friends, so stop by!
  • Bruce will be in Theater A explaining Google ranking penalties and how businesses can get back in Google’s good graces on Monday at 12:00.
  • Register for the SEO Workshop on Thursday, March 14 for a search optimization intensive you can use to take your business’s optimization efforts from 0 to 100. The last two SEO Workshops Bruce presented at SMX conferences last year sold out. If you have any questions about SEO, Bruce answers any questions in face-to-face workshop and equips you with a comprehensive and fundamental understanding of SEO. (P.S. You can deduct the cost of the workshop from our full SEO training course in Southern California if one day isn’t enough!)
  • If you decide to go to SMX, save yourself 10% with code SMXW13bruceclay.

Liveblogging SMX West

Day 1: Monday, March 11

Time BCI Liveblog Coverage
9:00 a.m. Essential SEO Analytics: The Performance Metrics That Truly Count
10:45 a.m. Ready, Aim, Fire… Then Retarget!
3:30 p.m. The Search Police: Matt & Duane’s Excellent Search Engine Adventure
5:00 p.m. Enhancing AdWords For A Constantly Connected World

 

Day 2: Tuesday, March 12

Time BCI Liveblog Coverage
9:00 a.m. Keynote Conversation: Grady Burnett, Facebook
10:45 a.m. Meet Facebook Graph Search
3:30 p.m. From Authorship To Authority: Why Claiming Your Identity Matters
5:00 p.m. Inside Google’s Game-Changing Knowledge Graph

 

Day 3: Wednesday, March 13

Time BCI Liveblog Coverage
10:45 a.m. YouTube Words: Tying Your PPC Campaigns To YouTube
1:00 p.m. Social Media Ads
2:30 p.m. Google Enhanced Campaigns: What You Really Need To Know

 

Bruce Clay Blog

Announcing Moz’s 2012 Metrics, Acquisition of AudienceWise, & Opening of Our Portland Office

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Posted by randfish

2012 was an amazing year at SEOmoz. We grew tremendously in members, revenue, and employees; finally raised a second round of funding; added some cool features to PRO; and acquired three companies (though, until today, we've only publicly talked about two of those). In this blog post, I'm going to cover our 2012 numbers in some detail and tell you about our very exciting, final acquisition of the year, AudienceWise.

The blog post is broken into several sections for those who'd like to jump around:

Moz's Acquisition of AudienceWise

I first met Matthew Brown along with his partner-in-crime at Define, Marshall Simmonds, in Xiamen, China. I was with my grandfather, Si, speaking at SES Xiamen, and the NYTimes' SEO team was hosting us for dinner. I still remember my Grandfather commenting that he'd been a subscriber to the Times for 50 years, and it was about time they took him out to dinner :-)

Since then, Matthew's gone on to start his own consultancy, AudienceWise, with Tim Resnik, former CEO of a gaming startup and a tremendously accomplished marketer & data junkie. Both have been frequently involved in the Moz community – Matt spoke at Mozcon two years ago and will again. Tim and he are both quiet lurkers on the blog, but with this transaction, I expect that to change a bit. Over the past couple years, we've talked extensively about recruiting them to the SEOmoz team. They were on our list of potential acquisitions for our failed funding round in summer 2011, and part of the "use of funds" we spoke about with Brad Feld in our April 2012 round.

Matt and Tim are really here at Moz to help us scale our in-house marketing and product expertise. Both have built software products in the past (Matt worked with Marshall on SearchCLU, Tim on an online poker subscription service) and have tremendous depth-of-knowledge in the fields of both inbound and paid marketing. We have a lot of phenomenal talent at SEOmoz, but only a few of us are deep into the fields of SEO, social media, content marketing, email, CRO, etc. Matt and Tim are here to help serve as mentors and as internal-consultant experts to our entire team, a role that I've been far too busy to fill effectively the last 18 months.

Matt and Tim Visiting the Mozplex

The AudienceWisers have been by the Mozplex several times, but in their first official visit as employees, they impressed a lot of folks on our team and have already jumped into a ton of projects. For example, Tim is working on visiting our rankings data & how we'll build reports for rankings going forward, and reviewing a big secret project that I'm not allowed to talk about on the blog. Meanwhile, Matt's working with Erica to head up our search for great Mozcon speakers, co-piloting the 2013 ranking factors work with Dr. Matt Peters (as an aside, doesn't Matt & Dr. Matt sound like a good sitcom title?), helping with the new version of the Mozbar, working with the product and engineering teams on the web classification system, and much more. 

I particularly loved the email Matt sent on the allstaff thread welcoming him and Tim:

Matt's email to team

Some notes on the acquisition:

  • The total acquisition price (including salary, stock, and deferred payments) is in the low seven figures.
  • SEOmoz is acquiring AudienceWise's process & products (including some research work and software Matt & Tim have built), the team itself, but NOT the consulting business. Matt & Tim will continue to do a small amount of consulting outside of SEOmoz, and our business will continue to remain free from services revenue.
  • The AudienceWise Portland offices only hold three people, so we're getting some new space (more on that below).
  • Technically, the deal closed in mid-December, but we wanted to wait to announce until Matt & Tim had wrapped up their other obligations and started at Moz full time (which happened last Monday, Jan. 14).
  • Matt will be reporting to me with the title "Head of Special Projects," while Tim will be on Adam Feldstein's product team as "Principal Product Strategist." We're doing more with titles in the next couple months at Moz, so these may change. Neither will have any direct reports, but both will be contributing as consultants/advisors/project leads on a number of teams.

I'm sure that Matt & Tim would love to hear from you and are happy to take questions in the comments of this post, so feel free to leave them, and please join me in welcoming them to the Moz team!

The Opening of Our Portland Office (aka Mozlandia)

We Mozzers have long loved Portland from our perch in the Emerald city. We visit on weekends to sample their insanely weird and tasty food carts and restaurants. We stay extra nights after conferences to tour their far-too-cool-for-Seattle clothing stores. We rant jealously about their much lower cost-of-living and their lack of a state sales tax (which adds to the retail goodness). And, of course, we poke fun at their hipsterdom.

Portlandia on IFC

In fact, after watching three seasons of Portlandia, and experiencing the magic that city has to offer, we could no longer resist its pull. Starting in April of this year (probably, maybe May or June depending on lease details), SEOmoz will be opening only its second office ever in Portland, Oregon, nicknamed "Mozlandia."

We've already created a poster of our own:

Mozlandia

Pictured from left to right: Peter Bray (FollowerWonk), Matthew Brown and Tim Resnik (AudienceWise), Galen Huntington (FollowerWonk), and David Mihm (GetListed).

I'm pretty sure this picture alone means our Portland office is going to be an amazing place to work (honestly, Galen looks WAY more "Portland" than his counterpart in the IFC photo). We'll start recruiting more formally soon, but in the meantime, feel free to check out any of the open positions at Moz, many of which teams may be open to staffing in Portland. We will continue to offer our $ 12,000 referral and signing bonus for software engineering positions in both cities.

2012 Moz Financials

It was a good year for the company financially, despite our focus being on a lot of other issues. We ended the year at $ 21.9mm in revenue – nearly doubling from 2011's $ 11.4mm.

I think 2012 and 2013 are going to go down in our history as "investments in the foundation" years. After our funding round closed in April, we spent the vast majority of the year building products that have yet to launch (stay tuned), building up recruiting and onboarding processes, bolstering our product and team with acquisitions, experimenting with how to handle a much larger big data product (Mozscape – sadly most of our efforts to dramatically grow size & increase freshness in 2012 failed, but we believe we now know enough to have success in 2013), and managing culture at a mid-size company (which went pretty well and led to some nice kudos like Seattle's Best Place to Work).

Below is a look at overall product revenue growth from 2007-2012:

SEOmoz Revenue 2007-2012

More than 90% of total revenue comes from SEOmoz PRO subscriptions, with additional contributions from the SEOmoz API (these are combined in the "product revenue" chart above). Mozcon tickets sales and DVD sales are not included in this graph, nor is consulting revenue, which ended in 2009.

I did, however, want to show our expenses for 2012, compare them to 2011, and break them down by category so you can get a better sense of what's in our costs (and see how we're spending that fancy VC money!). I didn't have a great way to show this as a visual graph (pie charts over time are funky – I guess I could have done the stacked graph, but they're also funky), yet the chart conveys the data pretty well:

SEOmoz Company Expenses 2011-2012

There are a few interesting takeaways from the above:

  • Personnel as a percentage remains the same, and I'd guess it will go up a small amount in 2013.
  • Hosting is where most of our COGS (Cost of Goods Sold) and pain comes from. It should be going down as we reach larger scales, but in 2012, we chose to invest in building faster rather than going slow and finding solutions to our declining margins. That will change in 2013, and while this year as a whole will probably still be high, we're predicting that our total hosting costs will be ~50% of what they are today (~650K/month) by Q4.
  • Contractors are a resource we've leaned on heavily in the past, particularly on the development front. That number will probably remain similar in 2013, though eventually we plan to bring the vast majority of production in-house, and rely on contractors only for specialized needs.
  • Facilities is one that will, hopefully, take a huge leap up in 2013. We need a new office here in Seattle, and while we've been a bit stymied on our first six months exploring spaces (we've had two offices we wanted fall through on us), we want to be moving to a much larger headquarters as soon as possible. In the meantime, Mozlandia will help us grow a bit in Portland.
  • Not a believer in inbound marketing? If this data doesn't convince you, nothing will. The incredibly low percent of costs that go to attracting traffic and acquiring customers (on the "marketing" line – remember that SEOmoz has no sales team or costs) are a testament to SEOmoz drinking our own Kool-Aid, and investing in sources like content, organic search, social media, email, CRO, and word-of-mouth to spread our brand. It means we can invest much more in research, product, and data. Check out traffic from the last 6 quarters:

SEOmoz & OSE traffic 2011-2012

Some spikiness from viral content skews the trendline a bit, but in general, we're seeing healthy growth from every channel.

If you have questions about this stuff, feel free to ask in the comments and myself or Sarah Bird (our COO) can answer.

2012 Employee & Customer Growth Data

The financials tell part of the story, but a few other data points felt interesting to me and may be to you as well. First up is our growth in employee count from our first year as a software company to today:

SEOmoz Employee Headcount 2007-2012

The chart shows headcount of full time employees at the end of each year. We've obviously had a ton of growth here in 2012, and we're budgeting to add another 66 team members in 2013 (though a lack of new office space may slow that down). What amazes me the most is how well our culture has managed to handle this growth. I feel better about the persistence of TAGFEE and the other cultural aspects at SEOmoz today than I did when we were at 50 people, 25, or 5. To be honest, that's not what I expected. I thought things would get invariably harder and worse at this scale, but given the trend, I'm incredibly optimistic about 150, 250, even 500! Though, I know all of those will take incredible effort to succeed.

Next is our customer growth:

SEOmoz PRO Subscribers

18,731 was the final count of paid PRO subscribers on Jan. 1st, 2013 (our historical numbers for prior years were less precise, hence the rounding).

It's pretty remarkable and truly humbling to have nearly 20,000 paid customers using our product. But we know that we've got a long way to go. In 2012, we had four pretty severe incidents and several smaller ones where critical customer data like rankings, crawl info, or Mozscape index updates were missing or late. We launched a few cool features at the end of 2011 and very beginning of 2012 (social analytics, historical link analysis, universal SERPs tracking, and custom reports) but with the exception of Followerwonk (which is a huge addition to PRO, and continues to develop new features itself), it was a very quiet year for features.

2013 is going to be very different. Our first major launch since Wonk is only a few weeks away, and spring should see the start of many more. We also have an entire team of five engineers, under the leadership of Shawn Edwards, focused on uptime and reliability. The levels of unreliability we've had in the past are unacceptable, and the speed of product improvement is, too. In our reviews for each other this month, Sarah and I were chatting about a large release we've been working on since late 2011, and Sarah told me, "If we haven't launched by June, we should both fire each other." I couldn't put it better myself. This year, we need to kick ass for our customers and be more deserving of the incredible support and growth you've enabled for our team.


January 2013 marks my 11th anniversary working in this job (prior to 2004, I worked with my Mom, Gillian, at the web design/marketing company that would become SEOmoz). I've never been more amazed by what the company's accomplished than I am today, but I know every day from now forward presents the challenge to all of us at Moz – to prove we're worthy of the fantastic things we have (customers, revenue, investors, supporters) and to not be trapped by the mistakes of the past, nor fall prey to the pitfalls of the future.

Matt & Tim will be a huge help, as the teams from FollowerWonk and Getlisted have been already. Mozlandia is going to be an exciting new experiment for us. And 2012 was a great year, but honestly, I can't wait for 2013 to get going, and for us Mozzers to be able to show all of you what the remarkable team we've built can do.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

YouTube & Calculus: A Video Marketing Love Story (Plus Tips for Bootstrappers!)

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YouTube & Calculus: A Video Marketing Love Story (Plus Tips for Bootstrappers!) was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Five years ago I graduated from Notre Dame and started my first “real” job. About four years ago, it was clear to me that the corporate world was not everything I’d dreamed it would be. I simply was not cut out for cubicle life. I think most people last longer before reaching my same level of quiet desperation; I guess I just got lucky.

All I could think about was quitting and traveling around the world, but I didn’t know how to do that and pay my student loans at the same time, so I did a YouTube search for “make money doing what you love”. It became obvious to me that I had to start an online business. After all, how else was I going to get away with working from anywhere in the world?

A Graphical Representation of Passion, Love and Time

I started a couple websites that turned into nothing before I figured out what I really wanted to do. It seems crazy to most people, but calculus video tutorials were the right product for me because I love helping people get better at calculus. And I used to tutor other students back in college as a side gig. So I started integralCALC.com

I didn’t really know what I was doing at first. I managed to put up a website and make a YouTube channel. I was filming my videos with an old pocket camera, setting it on the coffee table in my living room and pointing it roughly at myself and my whiteboard. And I just kept filming and filming and filming, every spare minute I got on nights and weekends. I knew I wanted to help people, and I didn’t know how to build a business, so I just kept filming.

Since then, it’s been sheer determination that’s kept me going, and a long series of wrong turns that have landed me in the place I’m at today, which is a pretty great place to be. To date, people have watched millions of minutes of my videos, and the growing success of my business has allowed me to move down to part-time work. By next year, I plan to leave my day job and focus full time on integralCALC … and travel.

Here’s a quick example of the type of videos I create (this is an intro to one of my mini lectures on YouTube):

Since I started off as a bootstrapper myself, I learned a lot about video marketing from trial and error. Today, I’m going to share my lessons of video marketing, community and tips on how to make great videos for marketing when you don’t have a giant budget.

Video Marketing Lessons Learned

Video Matters

Written content may still have an edge when it comes to search engine algorithms, but video content can’t be beat when it comes to building community and social networks. Invariably, short videos posted to my Facebook or Twitter page get more likes and retweets than text posts.

Quality Matters

I’ll watch almost any video if it’s very well done. Yet despite that fact that it’s easier and more affordable than ever to create high-quality video content, most people don’t invest time into that extra layer of polish. In today’s online marketplace, you can still find a competitive edge by investing in video and audio quality, even if your competitors currently have you beat in viewers, subscribers or anything else.

Consistency Matters

People check your site when they’re expecting to hear from you. If they don’t know when you’ll publish, they don’t know when to visit you, so they just won’t. Communicating your publishing schedule and sticking to it makes it easy for your followers to follow you. Why wouldn’t you want do that? Make sure that you also prompt your users to sign up for your newsletter, subscribe to your channel, or connect with you on social networks. Give them plenty of opportunities to do so on your website, or on the end screen of your videos.

Viewers Matter

Every time I’ve asked my followers for feedback on something I’ve done, or input on something I’m going to do, I’m always surprised by their eagerness to share their ideas and opinions. And I often find that they disagree with the direction I’m heading. Don’t abandon your purpose for the sake of pleasing your audience, but be willing to give a little. Use your audience as a course correction tool to make sure you’re giving them what they want. If you’re curious about what they’ll think or what they’ll like, just ask; they’re happy to enlighten you.

Process Matters

I used to film my videos with a regular camera, then transfer the file to my computer, edit, export and upload. Switching to screencasting means I save myself the file transfer and the import into the editing software. Cutting out little steps like this can save you a ton of time, especially if you’re a frequent publisher. Look at every step in your process and decide whether it’s absolutely essential to meeting your primary objectives, or whether it can be eliminated.

Here’s a still shot of one of my oldest videos compared to one of my newest, so you can see how it’s evolved over the years:

integralCALC Before and After Video Still Shot

5 Video Marketing Must-Haves

  1. You. Know yourself, and don’t try to be someone you’re not. Write blog posts if you like writing; film videos if you like being in front of the camera. Your audience can sense immediately when you’re uncomfortable, and they don’t want to see you that way!
  2. But not too much you. My YouTube analytics consistently show me that people are more likely to click play on a shorter video, and more likely to stick with the video if the end is in sight. For example, if I publish a six-minute video, people will stop watching at the four-minute mark, but they’ll stay to the end of a five-minute video. Always be as concise as possible. Your viewers appreciate it.
  3. Great audio. I mentioned earlier that quality matters. For a long time, I invested in quality video, while ignoring quality audio, but I know now that ignoring audio quality is a huge mistake. I’m much more likely to watch something with so-so video quality and great audio, than I am to watch something with great video and awful audio. I use a Yeti microphone by Blue, because it’s a good mix of quality and affordability.
  4. Accountability. I’m not the best at keeping myself accountable. I’m passionate about what I do and I have a sense of purpose and determination, but sometimes it’s still hard to stay focused and put in the time. Make sure you have something or someone who keeps you accountable. This is one of the most important must-haves in my opinion, because a great idea or a great product doesn’t matter if you don’t keep going and execute. If you’re self-motivated, then set goals and timelines and stick to them. If not, involve someone you can trust to help keep you on track. Or, you can always use an option like Google Chrome’s StayFocused to deter procrastination.
  5. Knowledge. Don’t spend so much time learning that you neglect real progress in your business. Instead, set aside a predefined amount of time daily or weekly to stay up-to-date. “That was soooo last year” is now “That was soooo three months ago,” so it’s important to make sure you’re taking advantage of the latest and greatest, when it offers significant benefit to your business.

For example, when the “Sh*t so and so never says” meme hit the Internet, I knew I could use it as a way to connect with my audience, so I jumped on the trend right away. I produced the “Sh*t Calculus Students Never Say” video below in less than a week from discovering the meme.

More than anything, I want new entrepreneurs to know that success depends solely on your level of determination. I was unprepared to start a business. I am often intimidated by the amount of opportunity in front of me, and by the amount of work required to take advantage of it. Many times I’ve thought that I would never get this far. Now I know that all I have to do is keep going, and no matter how many wrong turns I make, it only gets better from here.

You can check out and subscribe to integralCALC videos on YouTube and on integralCALC.com. To stay up-to-date on Krista and integralCALC, check out integralCALC on Facebook and on Twitter @integralCALC.

Bruce Clay Blog