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This will be your spot for the latest in depth online marketing news, client case studies and the latest in marketing services, as well as other musings, observations and editorials that can range from world events to the analysis of the latest Marvel Comics cross-over event.

Berardo Marketing Group is an internet marketing agency serving customers worldwide. We combine agency services with world-class campaign execution to deliver superior online marketing results for our clients.

The company’s internet marketing platform combines campaign management with advanced analytics to assist account and client teams in designing, sending and analyzing direct online marketing communications.


How SMBs Use Social Media: 15 New Stats You Should Know


Small- and medium-sized businesses are growing rapidly, contributing over $5.5 trillion in annual revenue to our economy last year. As business grows, so does the “how” of conducting business. In particular, more and more companies are turning to social media networks to market their product, learn about new trends, and interact with customers.

LinkedIn conducted a survey in November 2013 of one thousand North American businesses with revenue ranging from $1 million to $50 million to determine how small- and medium-sized businesses use social media today. I’ve highlighted some of the best takeaways below, but you can take a look at the full presentation if you’re interested in a deep dive on the data.

How SMBs Are Using Social Media: 15 Stats You Should Know

1) SMBs contribute $5.5 trillion in annual revenue to the U.S. economy.

2) Social media is used by over 1 million SMBs in North America.

3) 8 out of 10 SMBs use social media for their business to drive growth. 

4) 94% of SMBs who use social media use it for marketing. 

5) 3 in 5 SMBs say they’ve gained new customers by using social media. 

6) 49% of SMBs use social media for learning, specifically to access a network of peers and to learn from industry experts. 

7) 79% of SMBs say that industry specific news and articles are the most valuable pieces of content they look for on social media, followed by client reviews and testimonials.

8) 64% of SMBs are in growth or “hyper growth” mode — meaning revenue YoY has increased. 

9) 73% of companies in hyper growth mode have also increased their social media spending. 

10) Only 47% of SMBs have increased their spending on offline ads. 

11) 82% of SMBs in “hyper growth” (significant increase in revenue YoY) say that social media is effective for generating leads. 

12) The top social media goals for companies in hyper growth are maintaining a company presence online and delivering content from the company. 

13) 3 out of 4 SMBs believe LinkedIn helps them build credibility. 

14) 2 in 3 SMBs say that LinkedIn gives them the opportunity to connect with vendors and other partners.

15) 88% of SMBs in hyper growth use social media to generate word of mouth about their company. 

Are you an SMB interested in using LinkedIn to improve your business success? LinkedIn recently launched a website specific to the needs of small businesses.


Content Retargeting: A Marketer’s Guide to Getting Started


Retargeting is a paid search marketing strategy whereby website visitors are identified and remarketed to using search or social media ads. In other words, retargeting is a way to reach specific audiences who’ve already shown interest in your business. As online marketing methods converge and we find new and creative ways to stay connected with our audience, retargeting is something every content marketer should do.

SEO has always been an effective lead generation tool for my company, though we identified a need to better connect with the website visitors we were drawing in. The WordStream blog has about half a million visitors each month and has seen a compound monthly growth rate of 8.4% over the last six years, so we certainly weren’t hurting for traffic! A few years ago, however, we noticed a few problematic issues:

  • Low visitor engagement, demonstrated by metrics showing just 1.9 pages per visit, average visit duration of a paltry 1 minute and 34 seconds, and an incredibly high new visitor ratio of 79.2%.
  • Very low conversion rate (under 2%).
  • Too few branded searches — in fact, only 3% of our site visitors were explicitly looking for our brand.

Our issues were not really all that unique — data from Forrester shows that96% of website visitors just don’t convert to a lead or sale. So how do you recapture the interest of these previous visitors and continue to nurture them?

For us, the answer was retargeting.

The Retargeting Process

Basically, site visitors are tagged, then targeted with banner ads for a specific period of time on other websites. These ads might appear on Facebook, Google’s search results pages, or any website that is part of the advertising network in which you participate.


This is a great chance to get back in front of people who have already expressed an interest in your content, with messaging that reflects this familiarity with your brand. Retargeting can help you to:

  • Reconnect with people who bounced from your site or even abandoned a cart.
  • Increase brand recognition and recall.
  • Encourage repeat site visits and boost engagement.
  • Increase the effectiveness of your SEO and content marketing tactics.

We chose the Google Display Network for our retargeting campaigns, simply because of the massive network size.

With over 2 million sites in its network plus AdMob mobile targeting, Google’s network is unrivaled in sheer size and scope. In fact, the average marketer using Google’s Display Network for retargeting is able to connect with 84% of the people tagged, 10-18 times per month.

Getting Started With Retargeting

Inbound marketers inherently understand audiences — which is critical to your success in retargeting. Creating different audiences allows you to adjust your bidding strategy and ads for the different types of people you want to reconnect with.


At WordStream, we first identified a few key segments (as shown above):

  • People who visited our blog
  • People who visited our homepage
  • People who visited one of our free tools
  • People who visited anywhere else on our site

It’s safe to assume that on their first visit, these people were looking for different types of information. Why would we now assume they’re all the same and one type of message will draw them all back in?

Audience segmentation also allowed us to bid with various levels of aggression, depending on what we knew about the level of intent of each type of visitor.

For example, a person who used our AdWords Grader tool shows far greater intent as a business lead than a person who read a post on our blog — in the former case, we know for sure they are a) using AdWords and b) looking for help.

Next, you need to decide how long you want to remarket to these people. We initially went with a period of 30-60 days, which some might consider a bit overboard. We tested, though, and that was what worked for our campaign.

Retargeting Tips and Takeaways for Marketers

By now, I hope you understand the “what” and the “why” of retargeting for marketers. Now, how do you go about optimizing a campaign? Well, there’s a handful of ways you can do this:

  • Use ad formats that accomplish two important things: Drive a call-to-action and improve brand recall through creative branding and images.
  • Keep A/B testing with different ad creative to find the most memorable copy and image combos that drive the greatest CTR (aim for 0.4% or higher).
  • Leverage the data you already have at your disposal for more precise targeting (i.e. blog category visitors). You can tell which information category interested a group of visitors, so use that insight to target them with relevant ads.
  • Allocate your budget to retargeting. I actually think it’s kind of crazy to spend the kind of money we do on SEO and content marketing without then retargeting! You might not capture their undivided interest the first time, but you maximize the value of each marketing tactic when you are able to bring a visitor back.
  • Test, test, test, and measure. Understand which metrics matter to your brand before you set out on your remarketing journey, so you’re able to clearly and accurately gauge campaign performance as you go.

Retargeting has been an incredible tool for us — within 20 months, WordStream saw:

  • A 50% increase in repeat site visitors.
  • A 300% increase in engagement (as measured by time on site, which is now approaching 5 minutes per visit!).
  • A 51% increase in website visitor-to-lead-form-submitted conversions.

So marketers: Are you using remarketing to market the content that you produce? Why or why not? If you have tried it, were the results? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


SEO 101: The 5 Parts of Your Site You Should Keyword Optimize

Sketch netbook computer screen business concept with seo word

SEO can sometimes feel like it stands for “Something Extremely Obscure,” especially for busy marketers who just don’t have the time to sit down and figure it all out. There are endlessGoogle algorithm updates to stay on top of to ensure we’re always showing up in search results for our target keywords, but as marketers, we don’t always have time to keep up with those ever-changing rules.

But there’s good news! There’s one simple rule of thumb that remains a tried-and-tested technique for SEO success: optimizing your website with relevant and targeted keywords. By having a well-optimized site, you’ll start to see results like an improved quality of visitor, higher conversion rates, and in the end — more closed customers.

My colleague Rachel Sprung wrote an awesome blog post recently about how to research what keywords you should be using in your inbound marketing, which is a great place to start. For this article, I’m going to talk about how to add those keywords to your website once your research is complete. This article is appropriate for anyone just getting started with SEO, or adjusting their keyword strategy.

Start With a Site Audit

Once you’ve identified the keywords you’re going to target, you need to start adding them to your site. The methodology I’m outlining is one to keep with you as you add new site content in the future — but is also good for a one-time SEO overhaul.

The first step in this process is to identify which pages should target which phrases. This is a good time to do an audit of your site pages, which will surface any other issues you may have, like duplicate content. (You can learn more about why duplicate content is bad for your SEO and how to fix it in ourSEO video tip series here. The experts over at Dejan SEO will bring you through the steps of performing your own SEO site audit.) But if you’re looking for the quick and dirty, here’s what you can do:

  • Export all your site pages into an Excel spreadsheet.
  • Sort by the most frequently visited pages.
  • Decide which keyword category each one falls into, and add that category into a column beside the page name.
  • Add another column in your spreadsheet to add more specific keywords that you want to add to that page. Keep in mind that they must be relevant to the content on that page, as well as terms your target audience would be searching for.

Here’s an example of what this might look like:


Once you’ve completed this process for all of your pages — or at least the most important ones if you have a ton of pages — you can jump into your site to start adding keywords.

Start Adding Keywords to Your Site

When optimizing your site for new keywords, you need to include those keywords on your site. (Duh, right?) Here are some of the most important places to optimize for your chosen keywords on your site:

  • Titles
  • Descriptions
  • Headings and Content
  • Image file names
  • URLs

If you haven’t optimized these sections of your site in the past, you have some work to do — but make your life easier by starting on the pages that get the most traffic. Then, as you create more pages, be sure to optimize as you go.


Titles are shown in the browser tab and search results, and have a direct impact on searcher clickthrough rates (CTRs) and search rankings. When writing a title, try to keep it below about 65 characters, and include one of your target keywords or phrases so it’s easier for searchers to identify that your results are relevant to other query.


Descriptions are also shown in search results and can help increase CTR — but remember that nowadays, they don’t have a direct impact on rankings. They exist to tell searchers why they should click on your result. Use one of your target keywords or phrases in your meta description so they know your content is relevant to their query, but make it attractive to the viewer, too. This is great real estate for selling the benefits of clicking through to that page’s content.

Bonus: You can use this cool tool from Dejan SEO to preview what your search result would look like before deciding on what description to use.

Headings and Content

It’s important to use your keywords in your headings and content, as visitors are much more likely to stay on a page if they can see the terms they had searched for on it. However, it’s critical you use these keywords naturally — so write for readers first, not search engines.

Using keywords in your content is also used by Google as a ranking factor, so doing this can help improve your SERP placement. Although you should include keywords in multiple locations across your site, you should also avoid over-using keywords for the sake of SEO. If they’re used too frequently, it can appear manipulative and result in your site being demoted in search results. And hey, no one wants to read content like that, anyway.

Image Titles and Alt Text

You can also look at including keywords in a natural way in your image titles and alt text. This seems minor — and it isn’t going to impact your search rankings as much as other things on this list — but it helps Google find your site in image searches, improves accessibililty for people with poor vision using screen readers, and is also used as a minor search ranking factor.

Again, rather than adding keywords to image titles and alt text for the sake of SEO, try and be as accurate and descriptive as possible with your images.


It’s a good idea to include keywords in your URL if they accurately describe the page contents. This is particularly important for businesses that do a lot of blogging — there’s a huge opportunity to optimize your URLs on every post you publish, as every post lives on its own unique URL.

But beware — search engines will penalize exact match domains that are keyword stuffed. So if you’re thinking of starting up, think again. Keep it to, and you should be fine.

Avoid Search Penalties

There are a couple of things you should also avoid when optimizing your site for keywords, so be careful of the following sketchy SEO practices some people (mind-bogglingly) still use:

1) Never hide keywords. Whether by using the same color background as you do for the text, hiding them behind images, or off to the side using CSS. (I know, I can’t believe I have to say it.) Doing this is not approved by search engines and can result in penalties, and just simply won’t be effective.

2) Avoid keyword stuffing. Avoid stuffing keywords in titles, headings, descriptions page content, and URLs. This appears spammy and is not approved by search engines.

3) Don’t force keywords where they don’t belong. This isn’t quite the same as stuffing a lot of keywords into a post. This is more about not forcing a keyword in — even if it’s just one — if it doesn’t belong, contextually. (Note: If you can’t figure out a place to put a keyword in a piece of content, it’s often a sign the content isn’t that well-aligned with what your personas need, anyway.)

You’re a busy marketer with a lot of things on your plate. SEO need not fall to the bottom of your priority list because of a lack of knowledge, or worse — fear you’re doing it wrong. The most important thing to consider is your visitor’s user experience. Think about them first, and search engines second, and you’ll be alright.


How Marketing Automation Perfected the Art of Lead Qualification: A History


If there’s one defining buzzword of the 21st century, it’s “innovation.” Whether you live in Silicon Valley or the Fox Valley (look it up; it’s in Wisconsin), business people everywhere seem obsessed with the idea that innovation is what grows businesses—and for good reason!

If you’re in marketing, this isn’t news. For ages, marketers have known that the only way to get ahead is to be more creative, more hardworking, and more, well, “innovative” than competitors. Just think back to the heyday of newspapers. In the 1890s, every headline was optimized to peak attention; often creativity became sensationalism, and eventually newsboys were shouting all sorts of “creative” topics, whether they resembled news or not.

Luckily, marketers have managed to diversify their media since then. Today, every new medium for marketing increases the possibilities for creativity, and opens up new opportunities for inexperienced companies to take advantage and grow their audience. But while marketers have reveled in the creativity that has drives our field, we’ve also historically faced two constant struggles that limit our impact for business:

1) Measuring Marketing’s Return on Investment (ROI)

As new, creative methods were invented in the 20th century, it wasn’t always easy to accurately measure their impact. For instance, back in the 1950s, after the first televised commercials aired, companies found that they had very little ability to track the efficacy of the new advertising medium. The metrics for marketing ROI in TV were limited to sales results, which meant that understanding the success of one marketing method or another was virtually impossible.

2) Optimizing the Marketing-to-Sales Handoff

In addition, marketing between the point of attraction and sales took a lot of work. With few targeted ways of interacting with an audience, the seemingly most effective option was one-to-one interaction. In essence—cold calling was the best method of follow-up marketing.


As you can probably imagine, marketers never settled with these challenges. Throughout the late 20th century, marketers have been in constant pursuit of 1) creating accurate measurements of marketing impact, and 2) developing methods for decreasing the amount of work needed to nurture leads. Fortunately for marketers today, these challenges were eventually answered by the evolution of marketing automation.

Looking at software tools like HubSpot, it’s important to remember that from the beginning marketing automation has always been about solving these two goals together. When people think automation is just about work reduction or just measuring results, that’s when negative misconceptions arise for automation software. In reality, marketing automation synthesizes lead attraction and marketing measurement, enabling what has revolutionized marketing’s effectiveness: the ability for companies to qualify leads.

The Precursor: CRM & Sales

Old-timers might argue that they’ve been able to qualify leads for a while. They’ll point back to their choice of CRM, and begin rattling off how great Salesforce or Oracle works for them. But I’m not talking about qualifying leads for sales; marketing automation has enabled companies to qualifying leads earlier in your engagement process. Marketers with automation are able to segment their audience, know where to direct their marketing effort and monitor how effective their tactics prove to be.

When the CRM software developed at the turn of the century, its impact was huge because CRM services enabled professionals to finally organize their sales-ready leads and make offers that close the sale. What wasn’t ready yet were the pathways to reach out to users between initial engagement and the sale. CRMs didn’t remove cold calling or other tactics; but it did inform salespeople before making the call.

Email & Social Media: The Catalysts

Everything changed when email matured and the Internet gave birth to social media. The first free email system—Hotmail—was offered in 1996, but it took a while before email became the dominant form of communication that it is today. As email grew and grew by the 2000s, marketers caught on that it could also be the perfect delivery system for marketing outreach.


Spam went from a manageable trickle to a flood. By 2003, the CAN-SPAM act was passed in desperation to regulate how email could be used for marketing. Today, email marketing is still rated as the most effective tactic for increasing site visits among all other forms of lead generation.

Similarly, social media became a second pathway that direct messaging to target prospects is possible. With innovations like HootSuite, Klout, and various other kinds of social messaging clients, the move toward automation has been extremely natural.

Marketing Automation Fully Realized

With these developments in media, software developers have made the leap, and marketing automation now enables outreach and lead nurturing via email and social media that was never possible before. More importantly, automation allows you to take in lead information from site visits and conversion forms, and segment the audience by targets.

The power to qualify leads based on their marketing potential is what every company should be doing. No longer is it valuable to stretch to reach a giant audience just to bring in a sliver of the group for sales. Instead, marketers have to aim for quality relationship building that will increase the number sales by knowing who you’re marketing to better.

…and Beyond!

Marketing automation has made this process—lead qualification—an art that any company can take advantage of. Whether its HubSpot or another service, automation isn’t about cutting corners; it’s not about speed. It’s about being effective, whether in lead attraction, audience segmentation, or the final point of sale.


55% of Visitors Spend Fewer Than 15 Seconds on Your Website. Should You Care?


According to data by Tony Haile of Chartbeat, I’ve only got 15 seconds to capture your attention … so I guess I better make it quick. His data shows that people aren’t reading content on the web the way we think they are, and the whole measurement system might be broken. Instead of tracking article views, we should focus on reading time and page engagement.

As a person who makes a living off of people reading, clicking, and sharing content, I was initially terrified. This couldn’t possibly be true — otherwise everything I know about content is pretty much a lie! To quell my panic, I took a little closer look at the data — it seemed to be mostly from media companies.

In an email exchange, Chartbeat confirmed my suspicions. “The sample we used for our research is a random sample of the clients for whom we have permission to aggregate and anonymize their data,” said Lauryn Bennett, Head of Brand at Chartbeat. “There are blog posts and the like included in the articles but most are traditional news/media posts, as we work with mostly media sites. Also, the term “articles” doesn’t include homepages or landing pages; they’re the news/content/media posts, pages, stories.”

Even though we’re all trying to be media companies, there are times where we aren’t exact copycats. We have different business models. We have different challenges. We have different goals. We should both be working toward being like each other, but the reality is that we’re not there just yet.

So I dug through Chartbeat’s data to see what kind of takeaways folks like me who are trying to grow a business through content should know. I’ll outline the three most important data points I found in the article and then explain what that data means for anyone trying to use content to grow their business.

At this point, at least a third of you have clicked away from this post — thanks to those of you sticking around for the good stuff — so hopefully you’ll stick around a little bit longer. The data is captivating, and the insights could make you think about your job a little differently. I hope you read to the end (for both of our sakes).

Data Point #1: People Engage With Newsworthy Content More Than Evergreen Content

The Chartbeat team looked at a random sample of 2 billion pageviews generated by over a half a million articles on 2,000 sites to see which types of topics got more engagement. In an email exchange, Chartbeat defined engagement as “the amount of time, measured in seconds, that a person is actively interacting with their browser. While a user is reading a page, we count up the amount of time s/he spends with the page in an active browser tab — a foregrounded tab where the user has scrolled, typed, navigated, or moved their mouse in the last few seconds.”

According to the TIME article, “Articles that were clicked on and engaged with tended to be actual news. In August, the best performers were Obamacare, Edward Snowden, Syria and George Zimmerman, while in January the debates around Woody Allen and Richard Sherman dominated.” On the flip side, articles with little engagement were those with generic, evergreen topics. “In August, the worst performers included Top, Best, Biggest, Fictional etc. while in January the worst performers included Hairstyles, Positions, Nude and, for some reason, Virginia. That’s data for you.”

This was one of those takeaways that knocked me on my feet — after all, evergreen articles contribute a huge chunk of leads and blog post views every month. But, on a deeper look, it’s not all that surprising. If you’re just looking at single month snapshots, newsworthy content will definitely be on top — it’s still relevant. But, if I had to take a guess, this trend wouldn’t look the same if you looked at a longer period of time.

I’d bet that story traffic and engagement rates spike when it’s newsworthy, then plummets when it’s “old news.” Evergreen content, on the other hand, would be a slow growth (including engagement). I’d speculate that if you measure both types of articles over a year, their average engagement numbers would be strikingly similar. They’re two different plays — one forlongterm, sustainable growth, the other for quick splashes of traffic.

Of course, I don’t have access to the data, so this could be utter fluff, but the takeaway here should not be to double down on newsworthy content. You’re concerned with longterm, sustainable traffic to your site that converts into sustainable growth for your business — not content that brings you business one month and then trickles off. That being said, if you’re looking to reach short-term traffic and lead gen goals, trying to newsjack could help you attain them.

Data Point #2: Social Media Has Little Effect on Reading Engagement

The Chartbeat data on social media’s influence on reading engagement was also pretty dire. Out of 10,000 articles shared on social media, they found that there was no relationship whatsoever between the amount a piece of content is shared and the amount of attention an average reader will give that content. The chart below can show you want that means, visually:


Kinda dismal, right? You’d think that because social media helps businesses get traffic, leads, and customers to people’s websites, a majority of those would be engaged visitors.

So maybe you refocus your social efforts to engage only the most avid readers — if you’re a HubSpot customer using Social Inbox, you can get a better idea of who you’re talking to and where you’re spending your time. Maybe you find that leads are those who consume the most content, so you choose to spend more time sending them articles.

Or maybe you can think about the larger picture. People who come through social media to your site most likely stumble on the link randomly and something specific piques their interest. They passively found your link, so it’s no wonder that they might not be your most engaged reader.

On the other hand, people who find your content through search engines are in active search mode already — they’re looking for a specific answer and are committed to taking the time to find it, which may make them more engaged visitors. If that’s the metric you’re trying to move on your content, you should focus on more SEO optimization. This data doesn’t mean all social is hopeless — it just means you might have to rethink how you’re using those platforms and maybe reallocate your time to other marketing activities.

Data Point #3: Banner Ads Don’t Work

Chartbeat just comes out and says it: Banner ads are on the outs. “Click-through rates are now averaging less than 0.1% and you’ll hear the wordsbanner blindness thrown about with abandon,” Haile says in TIME.

But Haile offers a solution. Since 66% of attention on a normal media page is spent below the fold, and people spending at least 20 seconds on a page with an ad are 20-30% more likely to recall that ad afterwards, advertisers should just focus on placing their ads in places people look, and on getting them to look at the ads for a while.

He’s not suggesting that advertising be kicked in the pants, just that advertisers should use metrics like time and attention instead of views and clicks. And by focusing on new metrics, advertisers can get better ROI and media sites can focus on what really matters: creating quality content that gets people to stick around.

So what do these recommendations actually mean for your business? Spend more money on advertising to get better marketing ROI? Not quite.

First, I’d argue that switching up the placement of ads won’t impact reader behavior in the long run. That “banner blindness” thing is actually a studied phenomenon. According to user testing by the Nielsen Norman Group, no matter what the engagement level, people ignore banner ads. They say, “If users are looking for a quick fact, they want to get done and aren’t diverted by banners; and if users are engrossed in a story, they’re not going to look away from the content.” Which brings me to my next point — if the solution is to create quality, engaging content, banner ads could be even less effective.

Instead of buying up ads, just focus on creating your own quality content. Be the content on the page that keeps people engaged — not the ad on the side that’s either interrupting an experience or getting ignored. Get the pageviews on your site instead of renting out others’.

At the end of the day these stats give us a fascinating look into the media world — the folks we’re all trying to model our content after. We shouldn’t take every piece of data with a grain of salt, but with a little digging and extra analysis, we can walk away with some tangible takeaways for our business.

What do you think of this data? I’d love to hear your perspective in the comments.