“The Robin Hood of Algorithms”: Why LinkedIn’s New Feed Could Be a Game Changer for Marketers

LinkedIn announced today that it plans to overhaul its feed ranking system to help more creators get better engagement on the content they share.

The changes were spurred when the professional networking site discovered that the top 1% of content creators — also known as “power users,” or perhaps influencers — were receiving the vast majority of engagement with their posts.

Meanwhile, the remaining 98%, the site says, was “receiving less [engagement] than ever.”

Here’s how that skew in engagement happened — and how LinkedIn has changed its algorithm to address the problem.

Why LinkedIn Changed Its Feed Ranking Algorithm

Year over year, LinkedIn has experienced noticeable growth in overal engagement with posts appearing in its feed — an average increase of over 50%, the company says. 

Much of the time, that engagement results in a post going viral — that is, LinkedIn members engage with certain posts to the point where the content earns “tens of millions” of likes, comments, and reshares.

On the surface, that seems like a positive development. But, LinkedIn says, there was a problem: The engagement was not evenly distributed, and the site was “in danger of creating an economy where all the gains in viral actions accrued to the top 1% power users.”

Typically, the most popular posts on any social network tend to gain more visibility, which is what was happening to content shared by top influencers.

Emerging brands and content creators, meanwhile, were actually receiving less and less engagement on their posts.

creatoroptimization2

Source: LinkedIn

Besides the obvious issue of this uneven distribution of causing the “richest” content creators on the site — the influencers who already have a large following — to become “richer,” the lack of engagement with the remaining 98% of followers was actually discouraging them from posting again in the future.

That only exacerbated the virality gap, as less content-sharing altogether from the bottom 98% would lead to more eyes on posts from top influencers.

So, LinkedIn formulated a solution.

Why Linkedin’s New Algorithm Could Be a Game-Changer for Marketers

The changes to LinkedIn’s new ranking criteria is multi-fold.

Prior to this overhaul, the feed would prioritize posts according to how likely a given viewer was to engage with it — to like, comment on, or reshare it. That model also took into account the given viewer’s network, and how likely it was to respond to this content in kind.

What was missing was how likely the creator or poster of that content was to “appreciate” the engagement. To put that discrepancy into context, LinkedIn’s Bonnie Barrilleaux and Dylan Wang — who authored the company’s announcement — explain that for major influencers within “the top 1% of creators, one more like or comment from an unknown follower may not mean much.”

For smaller or emerging content creators, however, these likes and comments go a long away. According to Barrilleaux and Wang’s findings, creators who receive 10 or more likes on their content are 17% more likely to post again in the following week. 

That’s why the feed algorithm has been modified to include signals that indicate how much value the creator will place on viewer feedback received on a post. 

“The effect is that we are redistributing a little bit of the attention in the system from the power users to the other creators, so that no one is left behind,” write Barrilleaux and Wang. “This helps ensure that the ‘small’ creators who create high-quality posts can reach out to the community that cares about them.”

creatoroptimization3

Source: LinkedIn

Additionally, LinkedIn’s algorithm changes appear to be moving in a similar direction as that of Facebook, when the social media giant overhauled its News Feed to prioritize content from family and friends over that from Pages.

We’ve already covered the three pillars that LinkedIn’s new model takes into account when ranking creator content:

  1. How likely a viewer is to engage with a creator’s post
  2. How much that viewer’s network will want to see it
  3. How much the original creator will appreciate the first 10 likes of that post

But there could be a fourth, according to the figure below — which is whether or not the content creator is within the viewer’s network. 

creatoroptimization5

Source: LinkedIn

It’s also possible that these moves from LinkedIn could serve as a subtle nod to the drop in Business Page engagement and reach experienced by brands on Facebook — for some, a decline of 50%. 

LinkedIn’s algorithm change — especially within the context of boosting engagement for smaller, emerging content creators — does spark the question: Is this the company’s way of giving smaller brands and figures a chance to shine on another network, where it may have lost reach on another one?

Perhaps. But more than that, says HubSpot CMO Kipp Bodnar, LinkedIn is also responding to a growing user demand for a relevant, personalized experience.

“LinkedIn’s core job is to great a valuable experience for all users. Once a news feed becomes dominated by a small subset of users, then it starts to become less valuable to the broader community,” Bodnar explains. “The company is trying to deliver more value through more personalization.”

So, what kind of impact will this have on the bigger influencers — the top 1% of content creators on LinkedIn?

According to Barrilleaux and Wang, it won’t be much, pointing back to the overall growth in engagement received by all posts in LinkedIn’s feed.

“Taking 8% of the likes away from the top 0.1% still leaves them better off than they were a year ago,” they write. “These changes just help ensure that the rising tide is lifting all the boats in a fair and equitable fashion.”

But should this trend continue, LinkedIn could move further in the direction of Facebook, and re-allocate a growing amount of post engagement from top creators to emerging ones.

“This might not be a huge impact on top creators today but I think that over time they will continue to push in this direction,” says Bodnar. “The audience for posts from top creators could continue to decrease.”

LinkedIn says it will continue to observe and optimize its algorithm as these changes take effect.

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6 Ways to Optimize Landing Pages

Inbound marketingThere’s a lot that goes into creating and running your digital marketing ads. Fully optimized ads include strong copy that leads directly to a page about that specific product or service. That page is called a landing page. Many businesses don’t realize the power of leading someone who clicks on an ad about a specific service to a landing page for that particular service, and instead, they just send them to their complete services page or their contact page.

Sure, those can work sometimes, but if you want to fully optimize your digital ads and increase conversions, you need a landing page.

More than that, you also need an optimized landing page.

What goes into a landing page?

A landing page is not an extremely complex thing to build. You can easily create one within your own website, or you can utilize tools like Leadpages and Clickfunnels, that have been created specifically to help create optimized landing pages.

Your landing page, whether it’s for a product, service, webinar, lead magnet, etc., should have copy that further explains what the page is for and an opt-in form, sign up form, or check-out option (specifically for lower-priced products included in shopping ads).

You want your landing page to be visually appealing with quality design and photos/graphics, but the main two elements are your copy and your form.

How do you optimize a landing page?

Let’s dive into how you create a landing page that’s both visually appealing and that works to generate leads and conversions. The most important part of your landing page is that it does its job after someone clicks to it from an advertisement. If your ad is showing great performance and a ton of people are clicking, but no one is converting, the problem is not with your ad; it’s with your landing page.

Here are six ways to optimize landing pages.

1. Align your landing page with your campaign goals.

If you’re running Google ads, their performance is also partially based on how relevant your landing page is to your advertisement. You need to have some of the same language or else Google will think the page you’re leading visitors to after they click is not relevant to the actual ad.

Furthermore, if you have several different ads promoting specific services, it’s a good idea to create a landing page specific to that service, rather than sending visitors to your overall services page. You want to give people exactly what they’re looking for when it comes to your landing page. If they clicked on an ad for HVAC replacement, you don’t want to send them to a page that also talks about plumbing if that’s another service your business offers.

Instead, you want to focus on what your goals are for your campaign: getting someone to request information on a specific service, growing your email list, selling a product, etc. Then, create a landing page that caters to those specific goals.

2. Create compelling headlines and copy.

You want your headlines to be simple and straight to the point. This is not the place to put fluffy, creative language. Instead, you want it to convey precisely what your visitors are going to find on that page.

You also want your copy to be straightforward. Copywriting is an art form in its own right. It’s different from blogging and creative writing because there is much less personality involved. Instead, it’s meant to sell. You’re letting visitors know exactly what your business does, how you do it well, and why they should hire you to do it for them.

3. Use visually appealing images.

Again, design is important. It’s the first impression that your visitors see. You want to make sure it’s a good one. Use graphics or photos that relate to your product/service but are still pleasing to the eye. Make sure they’re not too busy or overcrowding your landing page. Strategically place them near your form to capture eyes even more. 

Inbound marketing4. Craft a strong call to action (CTA).

This is one of the most important parts of your landing page: getting someone to take action. You’ve already gotten them to this landing page from an ad, so you’re almost all the way there. Now, you need to really entice your landing page visitor to fill out your form or buy now.

Use a large, brightly colored button with actionable text on it, like “Give me the top secrets to X now!” or “Yes, I need to learn more about X service.”

5. Place your form above the fold.

You want the opt-in form to be one of the first things that people see when they land on your page. If someone clicks through your ad, ready to go, you don’t want them to have to scroll around the page figuring out where they’re supposed to put their information to get a callback.

No, you want the form to be front and center (well, technically right-aligned performs best), and one of the first things that your audience is able to spot.

Above the fold means that landing page visitors can see it without having to scroll, so it should be in the first or second section within the page. If your page includes a lot of copy and necessary information, there’s absolutely no harm in having a second form at the bottom of your landing page to capture even more leads. But make sure you have one at the very top.

6. Optimize your form fields.

If your landing page is a top-of-the-funnel inbound marketing strategy, you don’t want to require a lot of information within your form. The further people get into the funnel, the more information you can request. However, at first, it’s best to stick with name and one essential method of communication, whether you prefer phone or email. (We recommend email so you can also add them to your email list.)

In a middle-of-the-funnel landing page, you can ask for two methods of communication, company name (for B2B), and other secondary information. In a landing page towards the bottom-of-the-funnel, you can include even more fields. 

The more likely someone is to work with your business, the more willing they are to give out more and more information, and spend more time filling out your forms.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to optimize your landing pages, contact us and we’d be happy to help!

 

Facebook Wants You to Think False News Efforts Are Working, But 52% of People Aren’t So Sure

Facebook today announced that three independent studies have found that the company’s efforts to fight the spread of false news on its site might be working.

The three studies — conducted respectively by New York University and Stanford University researchers, the University of Michigan, and French fact-checking organization Les Décodeurs — each found that the volume of false news on Facebook has decreased. Some found that, amongthe false news content present on the site, engagement with it had also gone down.

We recently ran a survey to see if users were noticing less spam on the social network, and despite today’s announcement, it seems like misinformation might not be totally eradicated just yet.

Here’s what each study found, and how it compares to what users report seeing on their News Feeds.

Three Studies of Facebook’s Fight Against False News

“Trends in the Diffusion of Misinformation on Social Media”

The first study — conducted by New York University’s Hunt Allcott, along with Stanford University’s Matthew Gentzkow, and Chuan Yu — observed the amount of engagement on Facebook and Twitter with content from 570 publishers that had been labeled as “false news,” according to earlier studies and reports. And while the study cites where it obtained this list of 570 sites, it doesn’t actually indicate what they are.

The team them used content sharing and tracking platform BuzzSumo to measure how much engagement — shares, comments, and such reactions as Likes — was received by all stories published by these sites between January 2015 and July 2018 on Facebook and Twitter.

The results: Following November 2016, interactions with this content fell by over 50% on Facebook. The study also indicated, however that shares of this content on Twitter increased.

Screen Shot 2018-10-19 at 9.53.00 AM

Source: Alcott, Gentzkow and Yu

It’s important to note that a U.S. presidential election took place in November 2016, for which Facebook was weaponized by foreign actors in a misinformation campaign with the intention of influencing the election’s outcome. 

Since then, Facebook has widely publicized its fight against the spread of such misinformation — which includes false news — and points to this study as evidence of that fight’s success.

“Iffy Quotient: A Platform Health Metric for Misinformation”

The second study, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, relied a measure of false news engagement referred to as the “Iffy Quotient” — which takes into account how much content from sites known for publishing misinformation is “amplified” on social media.

Why such a non-committal word, like “iffy”? According to the study, the name is a tribute to the often mixed, subjective definitions of what constitutes “false news.” In this case, it includes “sites that have frequently published misinformation and hoaxes in the past,” as measured by such fact-checking bodies as Media Bias/Fact Check and Open Sources.

This study largely utilized NewsWhip: a site that measures the most popular links shared on social, as well as the engagement — again, shares, comments, and such reactions as Likes — received by each link. 

The researchers then isolated the links from NewsWhip that were classified as “iffy,” examining how much engagement they received over time, between January 2016 and September 2018. 

Screen Shot 2018-10-19 at 10.17.51 AM

Source: University of Michigan

The results, according to the study’s authors, aligned with those of the first study, showing “a long-term decline in Facebook’s Iffy Quotient since March 2017.”

“False Information Circulates Less and Less on Facebook”

Finally, a study conducted by Les Décodeurs — a fact-checking division of  French newspaper Le Monde — concluded that Facebook engagement with content from publishers classified as “unreliable or dubious sites” has decreased by half within France since 2015. 

Screen Shot 2018-10-19 at 10.37.23 AM

Source: Les DécodeursTranslation: “The weight of unreliable and doubtful sites has decreased in three years. Share of different categories of sites in the commitment (shares, comments, “likes”) on Facebook. “Sites peu fiables” = “unreliable websites.” “Sites douteux” = “doubtful websites.

What Do Users Report Seeing on Facebook?

While the above three studies point to the possible success of Facebook’s efforts to curb the spread of false news and misinformation, the group of users we surveyed might not yet be seeing the impact of Facebook’s anti-spam measures.

We asked 831 internet users across the U.S., UK, and Canada: In the past six months, have you noticed more or less spam on your Facebook News Feed?

In the past six months, have you noticed more or less spam on your Facebook News Feed_

Over half of respondents report seeing more spam in their News Feeds over the past six months: a figure up from the 47% who reported seeing more spam in their feeds in July 2018, when we ran a preliminary survey.

During that same time, we ran another survey in which over 78% of respondents indicated that they would include “fake news” in spam content.

These combined findings raise a question: If independent research, which Facebook says it did not fund, points to such success in its efforts to curb the spread of false news, why does a growing number of users report seeing more of it in the News Feed?

There could be a number of explanations, one being heightened awareness. Since first discovering that it was weaponized for a coordinated misinformation campaign leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Facebook has been more forthcoming about further evidence it finds of bad actors misusing its site for similar purposes.

In fact, the Wall Street Journal reported today that — according to its sources — the bad actors behind a September data attack that scraped the personal information of 30 million Facebook users were “spammers that present[ed] themselves as a digital marketing company … looking to make money through deceptive advertising.”

With such stories continuing to make headlines, it could be that Facebook users are more attuned and sensitive to the possible misleading or spammy nature of the content they see in their News Feeds, causing them to report seeing more misinformation.

That sensitivity could be compounded by the looming days remaining before the 2018 midterm elections in the U.S., where the highest percentage of respondents in our survey reported seeing more spam in their news feeds.

Responses by Region (2)-1

The imminent timing of such a pivotal event could also heighten user awareness, as the topic of the midterm elections continues to dominate headlines, national dialogue, and televised ads. Consider, too, that our research also shows that about a third of internet users don’t believe that Facebook’s efforts to prevent election meddling will work at all. 

But as Facebook’s various efforts — or, at the very least, the attention the company strives to draw to them — continue, so will our measuring of user sentiment be ongoing. Stay tuned.

Email Sign Up Forms: How to Increase Email Sign Ups With Better Forms

In 2017, there were 3.7 billion email users across the globe. That number is expected to reach 4.3 billion by 2022. With half of the world’s population on email, and the ability to reach people at any time of day, email marketing remains a crucial technique to build a customer base.

So how do you attract people to your email list? There are a few important steps, but it all starts with an email sign up forms.

What Is An Email Sign Up Form?

An email sign up form is used to collect email addresses from leads and potential customers. These forms are are embedded on a webpage where a visitor can enter their email address in a form field to be added to your email newsletter. 

A lead might provide their email address for any number of reasons — to receive details about sales, blog post notifications, a discount code or information about your business. Either way, that makes your email sign up form one of the most important things on your site. And while they’re simple to create with the help of a form builder, you’ll still need to put some time and thought into how you build, format and embed your form. 

Let’s go over some ways to create a sign up form that will get more leads on your email list.

5 Email Sign Up Form Best Practices

Whether you’re looking to reach ten people or ten million, you’ll need to create a sign up form that gets people excited to sign up.. Here are some best practices that will help you create a high-converting email sign up form

1. Make the Value Exchange Clear

Your leads should be able to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” when they complete your form. An email address is a valuable commodity and it should be worth their while to sign up. Add a short description to the top of your email sign up form that describes what your lead will get in return for signing up and make it good. For example, instead of saying, ”Sign up for our weekly newsletter” you should say, “sign up for our newsletter and receive exclusive deals and offers.” A strong incentive means your website visitors are more likely to convert.

2. Use a Double Opt-In

You don’t necessarily need more sign-ups as you need quality sign-ups. You need people who actually want to receive your emails — more is not always better. Ensuring quality sign-ups means less fake leads wasting your time and less chances that you’ll end up in the SPAM folder or blacklisted

To ensure quality sign-ups on your form, consider using a double opt-in. This is the type of email subscription that confirms your lead wants to be added to your email list twice. The first time is when the lead enters and submits their information using your web form, and the second time requires the lead to click an additional CTA (usually in their inbox) that confirms their submission. A double confirmation means a high-quality relationship with your leads.

3. Keep It Simple

A lead should be able to look at the form, enter their information, hit “submit” and carry on with their lives within a matter of seconds. Successful email sign up forms are straightforward and clear. If your form is too complex, you risk losing the interest of your website visitors.

Don’t get greedy and ask for too much information right away — if you do, there is a large chance you will turn people off and drive them away from your website. Keep your email sign up form as a way for visitors to sign up for emails.

4. Consider Place and Time

The placement of your email sign up form on your website matters. You should think about how you want your website visitors to find your form. For example, do you want your form to pop-up on the page the second someone lands on your website? Do you want them to scroll down to the bottom of your homepage to find your form? Or do they need to land on a specific page on your site?

Form placement isn’t one-size-fits-all. Think about where most visitors land on your site, how your buyer personas want to interact with your brand and the overall user experience.

Consider questions like, “Will my target audience get frustrated with a pop-up the second they enter our site, or will they find it helpful?”

5. Send a Kickback Email After Submission

Once someone completes your form, thank and welcome them. 

A kickback email is an email that gives your new lead something in return for their information. In the case of an email sign up form kickback email, you’ll want to welcome your new lead and perhaps offer them links to useful content. Thank them for their interest and get them excited about their decision to give you their personal information. This is also where you can provide your new leads with their discount codes, details on future sales, why you value their interest in your business, and how you will support them in the future.

Five Great Email Newsletter Signup Form Examples

Now that we’ve reviewed email sign up form best practices, let’s dive into some examples to provide you with some inspiration while creating your own form.

HubSpot’s Marketing Blog

hubspot-marketing-blog
SourceHubSpot
 
HubSpot’s marketing blog has an email sign up
form with clear benefit statement. Any website visitor could look at this subscription landing page and understand what they will get from signing up in a matter of seconds.

By using a separate landing page for this form, HubSpot is able to eliminate any confusion about what leads are signing up for.

There is also a feature on the form that requires leads to determine whether or not they want to sign up for a daily or weekly subscription. This provides clarity for the lead signing up and ensures a quality subscription for HubSpot.

theSkimm 

the-skimm-sign-up-form

Source: theSkimm

When you head to theSkimm’s website, the first thing you see is their email sign up form. That’s because their entire business revolves around a subscription. theSkimm is a daily email about the top news stories around the globe, so it would only make sense for their homepage to contain their sign up form. 

Above their email sign up, there is a short, straightforward description about how theSkimm works. They provide leads with social proof by mentioning the “millions” of other people who have subscribed to their emails. And lastly, they show a bit of personality and humor with a line beneath the form that says “Still on the fence?” and allows potential leads to read their latest newsletter as well as check out a few celebrity Tweets about how great theSkimm is. 

the-skimm-sign-up-form

Source: theSkimm

Anthropologie

anthropologie-sign-up-form

Source: Anthropologie

Anthropologie places their email sign up form towards the bottom of their homepage after users have had a chance to look around and become familiar with the site. Their signup form has a short description about what leads can expect once they sign up . Anthropologie also respects their visitors’ time by simply asking for an email address to sign up.

Lulus

lulus-sign-up-form

Source: Lulus

Lulus form is located towards the bottom of their homepage. Their email sign up form gets website visitors excited about converting with an offer: a 10% discount code upon sign up. The form is simple and only requires an email address. After form submission, new leads receive a kickback email that welcomes them and also provides them with the code, as promised.

Quest Nutrition 

quest-nutrition-sign-up-form
SourceQuest Nutrition

Quest Nutrition’s form is in a pop-up window that dims the background, eliminating any distractions. The form offers incentives like recipes, discounts and surprises for visitors to sign up. Only an email address is required to sign up. Website visitors have the option to bypass the pop-up and look around the site instead.

Conclusion

Email sign up forms are a simple, efficient and effective way to obtain leads, create more conversions, and increase your overall sales. You’ll reach your audience with email sign up forms that are straightforward and embedded on a convenient location on your website. So, take a few minutes to create your own email sign up form and get started broadening your customer base, developing relationships with your potential customers and increasing your number of leads today. 

What is an Early Adopter? A 3-Minute Rundown

In 2011, there were 150 marketing technology companies scrambling to convince the business world that digital was the future of marketing. Today, that number has exploded to nearly 7,000 companies. And they’re all battling each other to win a spot in the technology stack of almost every business in the world.

By now, digital marketing doesn’t need to be categorized. It’s just marketing. But what happened in the last seven years that took digital from fun, little side projects to most companies’ main form of marketing?

Obviously, the rising popularity of the internet, social media, and smartphones played a huge role in taking digital marketing mainstream. But there was also a pivotal group of companies who drove its momentum: the early adopters of marketing technology.

Acquiring early adopters is a crucial step in the development and potential of an early-stage product or technology. Early adopters can provide a lot of helpful feedback about a product’s or technology’s pros and cons. They also inject these companies with revenue that funds the research and development needed to enhance the product or technology enough to gain widespread adoption.

Early adopters’ experience with and pending endorsement of a new product or technology is vital for determining whether or not the majority of the population will accept the new product or technology. Their support and word-of-mouth marketing for a new product or technology can bolster its reputation and help the company acquire more customers.

But early adopters aren’t helping out ambitious start-ups for altruistic reasons — this partnership is mutually beneficial and produces synergy. For instance, by providing companies with the vital feedback and revenues that can refine their product or technology and take it mainstream, early adopters get unique access to a potentially advantageous new product or technology.

Early adopters also receive first-class customer support, like a dedicated employee to help implement and run the product or technology, or generous discounts and terms and conditions, in exchange for dealing with the bugs that most early-stage products and technology have.

This mutually beneficial relationship doesn’t offset the risk that early adopters face for adopting a new product or technology, though. Even though customers get generous discounts, the newly released product or technology is usually still expensive. It also might be incompatible with an early adopter’s products or the trend the technology is trying to leverage could die out.

For example, early adopters of content marketing software bet that content would be the future of marketing. Fortunately, they won that bet. But early adopters of artificial intelligence and virtual reality risk losing a lot of time and resources on a technology that could just be all hype.

Technology Adoption Curve

The term “early adopters” comes from the technology adoption curve, which was popularized by the 1962 book Diffusion of Innovations, written by Everett Rogers, a professor of communications at Ohio State University.

The technology adoption curve shows the acceptance process of a new product or technology, according to the demographics and psychographics of each group in a population. The curve has a normal distribution.

Image Credit: On Digital Marketing

As you can see from the graphic, early adopters are the second group to adopt a new technology or product. The first group is called innovators, and the ones who adopt the technology after the early adopters are the early majority, late majority, and laggards, respectively.

Each group has unique characteristics, which influences their decision to adopt new technologies before or after they became mainstream. Here’s a general description of each group:

Innovators

  • Youngest group of consumers or companies
  • Most prosperous
  • Most connected to outside sources and innovators
  • Most risk-taking
  • More educated
  • Respected in the community

Early Adopters

  • Younger groups of consumers or companies
  • More prosperous
  • Well connected with the community
  • More progressive
  • Most educated
  • Thought leaders of the community — opinions are held in high regard

Early Majority

  • Older group of consumers or companies
  • Above-average to average prosperity
  • Connected with early adopters
  • More conservative but open to new ideas
  • Above average to average education
  • Above average to average activity and influence in the community

Late Majority

  • Older group of consumers or companies
  • Average to below average prosperity
  • Connected with the early majority
  • Staunchly conservative — approach innovation with a lot of skepticism and will only adopt technologies if they’re proven and the majority of the community has adopted the technology
  • Average to below average education
  • Average to below average influence in the community

Laggards

  • Oldest group of consumers or companies
  • Least prosperous
  • Virtually no connection with the community
  • Extremely conservative and traditional — will adopt technology when its the only remaining option to complete a task
  • Least educated
  • Little to no influence in the community

From Hype to Reality

Early adopters played a key role in taking digital marketing technology from hype to reality. And if you’ve just developed a new product or technology, no matter what industry you’re trying to penetrate, recruiting a loyal group of early adopters could do the same for you too.

A Simple Explanation of Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Employees

There are two types of employees — “exempt” and “non-exempt”. You might’ve seen these terms on job postings, or heard them in conversation.

If you aren’t sure what they mean, don’t worry — here, we’re going to break them down.

Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Employees

One of the biggest differences between exempt and non-exempt employees is overtime pay. An exempt employee is not entitled overtime pay by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Instead, exempt employees are given a salary, and they are expected to finish the tasks required of them, whether it takes 30 hours or 50. Exempt employees are also excluded from other FLSA protections afforded non-exempt employees.

To be exempt, an employee must earn a minimum of $455 per week, or $23,660 per year, in the form of a salary, instead of on an hourly basis.

The most common roles considered exempt include professional, executive, outside sales, and administrative.

On the flip side, non-exempt employees must be paid overtime — one-and-a-half times their hourly rate, for any hours worked beyond 40 each week. As the name implies, they are not exempt from FLSA regulations.

Most non-exempt employees must be paid federal minimum wage ($7.25 in 2018). Non-exempt employees can be paid either a salary or an hourly wage.

Let’s consider this example to demonstrate the difference between exempt and non-exempt:

Sarah, who is an exempt employee, is stressed because she hasn’t finished her proposal due Monday. She spends most of Friday night tweaking it and finishing it up, staying at the office until late. On Monday, she gets her paycheck — the same amount of money she would’ve gotten if she hadn’t stayed late.

Meanwhile, John, who is a non-exempt employee, chooses to take extra shifts and work overtime on Friday’s. He doesn’t have to — he could leave at 5 p.m. if he wanted to, but on Monday when he receives his paycheck, he knows he’ll receive extra money from the overtime hours worked.

Overcoming Blockers: How to Build Your Red Tape Toolkit – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by HeatherPhysioc

Have you ever made SEO recommendations that just don’t go anywhere? Maybe you run into a lack of budget, or you can’t get buy-in from your boss or colleagues. Maybe your work just keeps getting deprioritized in favor of other initiatives. Whatever the case, it’s important to set yourself up for success when it comes to the tangled web of red tape that’s part and parcel of most organizations.

In this week’s Whiteboard Friday, Heather Physioc shares her tried-and-true methods for building yourself a toolkit that’ll help you tear through roadblocks and bureaucracy to get your work implemented.

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/dt90vuraym?seo=false&videoFoam=true

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What up, Moz fans? This is Heather Physioc. I’m the Director of the Discoverability Group at VML, headquartered in Kansas City. So today we’re going to talk about how to build your red tape toolkit to overcome obstacles to getting your search work implemented. So do you ever feel like your recommendations are overlooked, ignored, forgotten, deprioritized, or otherwise just not getting implemented?

Common roadblocks to implementing SEO recommendations

#SEOprobs

If so, you’re not alone. So I asked 140-plus of our industry colleagues the blockers that they run into and how they overcome them.

  • Low knowledge. So if you’re anything like every other SEO ever, you might be running into low knowledge and understanding of search, either on the client side or within your own agency.
  • Low buy-in. You may be running into low buy-in. People don’t care about SEO as much as you do.
  • Poor prioritization. So other things frequently come to the top of the list while SEO keeps falling further behind.
  • High bureaucracy. So a lot of red tape or slow approvals or no advocacy within the organization.
  • Not enough budget. A lot of times it’s not enough budget, not enough resources to get the work done.
  • Unclear and overcomplicated process. So people don’t know where they fit or even how to get started implementing your SEO work.
  • Bottlenecks. And finally bottlenecks where you’re just hitting blockers at every step along the way.

So if you’re in-house, you probably said that not enough budget and resources was your biggest problem. But on the agency side or individual practitioners, they said low understanding or knowledge of search on the client side was their biggest blocker.

So a lot of the time when we run into these blockers and it seems like nothing is getting done, we start to play the blame game. We start to complain that it’s the client who hung up the project or if the client had only listened or it’s something wrong with the client’s business.

Build out your red tape toolkit

But I don’t buy it. So we’re going to not do that. We’re going to build out our red tape toolkit. So here are some of the suggestions that came out of that survey.

1. Assess client maturity

First is to assess your client’s maturity. This could include their knowledge and capabilities for doing SEO, but also their organizational search program, the people, process, ability to plan, knowledge, capacity.

These are the problems that tend to stand in the way of getting our best work done. So I’m not going to go in-depth here because we’ve actually put out a full-length article on the Moz blog and another Whiteboard Friday. So if you need to pause, watch that and come back, no problem.

2. Speak your client’s language

So the next thing to put in your toolkit is to speak your client’s language. I think a lot of times we’re guilty of talking to fellow SEOs instead of the CMOs and CEOs who buy into our work. So unless your client is a super technical mind or they have a strong search background, it’s in our best interests to lift up and stay at 30,000 feet. Let’s talk about things that they care about, and I promise you that is not canonicalization or SSL encryption and HTTPS.

They’re thinking about ROI and their customers and operational costs. Let’s translate and speak their language. Now this could also mean using analogies that they can relate to or visual examples and data visualizations that tell the story of search better than words ever could. Help them understand. Meet them in the middle.

3. Seek greater perspective

Now let’s seek greater perspective. So what this means is SEO does not or should not operate in a silo. We’re one small piece of your client’s much larger marketing mix. They have to think about the big picture. A lot of times our clients aren’t just dedicated to SEO. They’re not even dedicated to just digital sometimes. A lot of times they have to think about how all the pieces fit together. So we need to have the humility to understand where search fits into that and ladder our SEO goals up to the brand goals, campaign goals, business and revenue goals. We also need to understand that every SEO project we recommend comes with a time and a cost associated with it.

Everything we recommend to a CMO is an opportunity cost as well for something else that they could be working on. So we need to show them where search fits into that and how to make those hard choices. Sometimes SEO doesn’t need to be the leader. Sometimes we’re the follower, and that’s okay.

4. Get buy-in

The next tool in your toolkit is to get buy-in. So there are two kinds of buy-in you can get.

Horizontal buy-in

One is horizontal buy-in. So a lot of times search is dependent on other disciplines to get our work implemented. We need copywriters. We need developers. So the number-one complaint SEOs have is not being brought in early. That’s the same complaint all your teammates on development and copywriting and everywhere else have.

Respect the expertise and the value that they bring to this project and bring them to the table early. Let them weigh in on how this project can get done. Build mockups together. Put together a plan together. Estimate the level of effort together.

Vertical buy-in

Which leads us to vertical buy-in. Vertical is up and down. When you do this horizontal buy-in first, you’re able to go to the client with a much smarter, better vetted recommendation. So a lot of times your day-to-day client isn’t the final decision maker. They have to sell this opportunity internally. So give them the tools and the voice that they need to do that by the really strong recommendation you put together with your peers and make it easy for them to take it up to their boss and their CMO and their CEO. Then you really increase the likelihood that you’re going to get that work done.

5. Build a bulletproof plan

Next, build a bulletproof plan.

Case studies

So the number-one recommendation that came out of this survey was case studies. Case studies are great. They talk about the challenge that you tried to overcome, the solution, how you actually tackled it, and the results you got out of that.

Clients love case studies. They show that you have the chops to do the work. They better explain the outcomes and the benefits of doing this kind of work, and you took the risk on that kind of project with someone else’s money first. So that’s going to reduce the perceived risk in the client’s mind and increase the likelihood that they’re going to do the work.

Make your plan simple and clear, with timelines

Another thing that helps here is building a really simple, clear plan so it’s stupid-easy for everybody who needs to be a part of it to know where they fit in and what they’re responsible for. So do the due diligence to put together a step-by-step plan and assign ownership to each step and put timelines to it so they know what pace they should be following.

Forecast ROI

Finally, forecast ROI. This is not optional. So a lot of times I think SEOs are hesitant to forecast the potential outcomes or ROI of a project because of the sheer volume of unknowns.

We live in a world of theory, and it’s very hard to commit to something that we can’t be certain about. But we have to give the client some sense of return. We have to know why we are recommending this project over others. There’s a wealth of resources out there to do that for even heavily caveated and conservative estimate, including case studies that others have published online.

Show the cost of inaction

Now sometimes forecasting the opportunity of ROI isn’t enough to light a fire for clients. Sometimes we need to show them the cost of inaction. I find that with clients the risk is not so much that they’re going to make the wrong move. It’s that they’ll make no move at all. So a lot of times we will visualize what that might look like. So we’ll show them this is the kind of growth we think that you can get if you invest and you follow this plan we put together.

Here’s what it will look like if you invest just a little to monitor and maintain, but you’re not aggressively investing in search. Oh, and here, dropping down and to the right, is what happens when you don’t invest at all. You stagnate and you get surpassed by your competitors. That can be really helpful for clients to contrast those different levels of investment and convince them to do the work that you’re recommending.

6. Use headlines & soundbites

Next use headlines, taglines, and sound bites. What we recommend is really complicated to some clients. So let’s help translate that into simple, usable language that’s memorable so they can go repeat those lines to their colleagues and their bosses and get that work sold internally. We also need to help them prioritize.

So if you’re anything like me, you love it when the list of SEO action items is about a mile long. But when we dump that in their laps, it’s too much. They get overwhelmed and bombarded, and they tune out. So instead, you are the expert consultant. Use what you know about search and know about your client to help them prioritize the single most important thing that they should be focusing on.

7. Patience, persistence, and parallel paths

Last in your toolkit, patience, persistence, and parallel paths. So getting this work done is a combination of communication, follow-up, patience, and persistence. While you’ve got your client working on this one big thing that you recommended, you can be building parallel paths, things that have fewer obstacles that you can own and run with.

They may not be as high impact as the one big thing, but you can start to get small wins that get your client excited and build momentum for more of the big stuff. But the number one thing out of all of the responses in the survey that our colleagues recommended to you is to stay strong. Have empathy and understanding for the hard decisions that your client has to make. But come with a strong, confident point of view on where to go next.

All right, gang, these are a lot of great tips to start your red tape toolkit and overcome obstacles to get your best search work done. Try these out. Let us know what you think. If you have other great ideas on how you overcome obstacles to get your best work done with clients, let us know down in the comments. Thank you so much for watching, and we’ll see you next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday.

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