Sandstorm Blog

Amanda Heberg
OTA Drupal 8 website

The Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA) is the authoritative source for the treatment and prevention of musculoskeletal injury. So when they came to us with an underperforming website, we made sure they got the best treatment possible.

The Challenge
OTA’s website exhibited a lot of the traditional symptoms of an aging online presence: disorganized content, a lack of information architecture (IA), overall poor member experience, and outdated design and functionality. They were struggling to come up organically in search and it was critical that OTA engage a partner who could quickly get them where they should be in site rankings, and keep them there. OTA planned to rely upon their selected partner not only to redesign their site, but also to help them maintain their site moving forward in a manner that would promote SEO. 

The Solution
Based on OTA’s website goals, technical requirements, API integrations, SEO concerns and content authoring needs, we determined that Drupal 8 would be the recommended content management system (CMS) for the OTA team. With Drupal, we were easily able to implement single sign-on (SSO) through OTA’s association member platform—ACGI. And by utilizing Apache Solr Search, we were able to make the search more robust throughout the site – improving the overall user experience for members. 

To improve the overall usability of the site, and increase organic search rankings, we conducted keyword research and analysis to identify heavily searched terms applicable to their industry, and built the sitemap, navigation and information architecture around the research findings. We designed with user experience (UX) best practices while creating consistent branding throughout the site—expanding the color palette, identifying fonts the OTA brand could differentiate with, and utilized custom imagery. Altogether, this made content easier to find for users and easier to update for the association. 

The Results
Within the first month after launch, OTA’s new website experienced unprecedented results:

  • 986% increase in traffic from Google
  • 497% increase in organic search traffic
  • 54% increase in new users
  • 65% increase in pageviews
  • 22% decrease in bounce rate​
“Planning and implementing a website redesign can be a momentous undertaking, especially for a small staff association. Sandstorm could not have made the process easier for our team.

Their exceptional technical and creative talent, along with the high level of customer service provided throughout the project, made the process as seamless as a website redesign can be. And our new (and very much improved) website has been well received by the Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA) membership!”

– Kathleen Caswell, CAE, Executive Director

Visit the new site:

This blog was posted by Amanda Heberg on January 2.
Amanda Heberg

About the Author

Amanda Heberg

As the VP, Business Development, Amanda leads new business development, sales, partnerships and marketing strategy across Sandstorm. Amanda collaborates closely with new clients to build strong, long-lasting partnerships while aligning Sandstorm's capabilities to solve client business problems.

DCLI Site Launch Makes Waves in Transportation

Over the past several years, DCLI has transformed itself and the intermodal transportation industry. As the largest provider of chassis in the U.S., they’re renowned for their industry-leading technology and logistics expertise.

But DCLI’s web and marketing presence was hindering the company’s growth. That’s why they turned to Sandstorm®.

Engaging Tool Increases Revenue

DCLI first asked us to help them solve an interesting challenge: reduce the burden of high sales-call volume while increasing revenue among potential clients. We jumped at the opportunity.

Through intense collaboration, we were able to develop an automated quote tool that seamlessly integrated into DCLI’s website. The result? Within the first month of its launch, the quote tool generated 49% of all marketing-influenced revenue.

Confident in our ability to deliver proven results, DCLI shifted their focus to two even more ambitious initiatives:

  • Creating marketing campaigns where none had previously existed
  • Designing and developing a new website to showcase their revamped brand

Building Creative Campaigns From the Ground Up

DCLI came to us with aggressive marketing goals. To help them achieve their objectives, we held a marketing workshop with key members of the company. This allowed us to gain insights into their business, and collaborate on a value proposition and strategy statement that positioned DCLI as the most agile intermodal partner around.

Building on this strategic foundation, we created ad concepts, event collateral, infographic, and sell sheets that drove the DCLI brand forward. Most important for DCLI, we implemented tracking within creative so they can begin measuring return on ad spend.

But our most ambitious collaboration was completely redesigning and developing DCLI’s website.

Reimagining DCLI’s Digital Presence

Creating DCLI’s new website engaged nearly every aspect of our expertise. Our unique approach benefitted DCLI in several ways.

Better Targeting of Customer Verticals

DCLI needed their website to talk to five separate user groups—motor carriers, ocean carriers, non-vessel-owning common carriers, beneficial cargo owners, and domestic shippers. We designed every aspect of the new website with these users in mind, making it easy for them to self-identify and find the tools and information that matter most to them. We even traveled to one of the nation’s largest terminals so we could showcase the breadth and depth of DCLI’s expansive chassis fleet to potential customers.

Content Optimized for Search Engines

To enable DCLI to capture as much organic traffic as possible, we analyzed current traffic and performed competitive keyword analysis. This allowed us to optimize all content across the new website, which resulted in a 27% increase in organic traffic in the first two months of the launch.

Integrating Marketing Automation

To capture leads at key touch points, we needed to successfully integrate the Pardot CRM platform. That required setting up tracking codes, incorporating the Pardot plugin within the CMS, and styling a custom form template within the CRM. The solutions were a huge success for DCLI, and in the first day of launch, the integration resulted in 7 leads.

In the wake of the successful launch, we’re continuing to test and optimize, and collaborate with DCLI to identify new opportunities across sales and marketing that elevate their brand.

We’re thrilled to help DCLI spotlight all of the innovative ways they help their customers keep cargo moving. See the new DCLI website for yourself!

This blog was posted by on March 20.
Emma Thompson

About the Author

Emma Thompson

As an Associate Digital Strategist, Emma has a background in ad sales and a desire to create strong brand identities.

Analytics, Analytics Strategy, Nick Meshes, Clickstream data, SEM

Analytics are now a standard piece to any project. Our society has evolved into a data-rich environment, allowing for greater consumer insights and in turn smarter analytics strategies. However, some businesses are approaching analytics as an afterthought and as a "nice to have" option. They put a great deal of work into setting up sites, landing pages, campaigns, etc, but are then only looking at analytics as simple measurements of success/failure and not the dynamic journey it should be.

Often times when setting up reporting tools, people take a “set it and forget it” approach. They establish an idea of what data they need, set up a dashboard and some notifications and then it is managed as time allows by someone whose main responsibilities are elsewhere in IT or Marketing. Worse, they don’t even configure the reporting tools and just go with the default settings. They essentially put it on autopilot, and it fails to take into account feedback and doesn’t allow room for shifting strategy due to changing goals.

An effective analytics strategy is a dynamic journey built around the analytical data where the strategy is adjusted accordingly to drive goals and conversions. It is a very agile process of frequent measurement, discovery, strategy, and course adjustment.

Recently, we worked with a client in their higher education industry who ran frequent email, SEM, display, and offline campaigns. As part of the project to help them redefine marketing strategy, we reviewed their analytics for clickstream (Google Analytics), search engine (AdWords), and member data (their CRM system). They were very concerned with increasing new leads, as well as monitoring the established leads down the funnel to drive sales conversions. They had a small marketing team with a wide variety of responsibilities and were looking for ways to measure success without requiring too much time from their team.

We did two things for them: provided analytics training and automated as much of the process as possible. In the training we gave them tools to eliminate unneeded information from their data stream and to track goals accordingly. With automatization we set up message reporting around goals and added attribution and valuation to maximize the mix of offline and online channels. Both of these tactics streamline the process allowing the team to spend less time pulling reports and more time to strategize around the results.

We acknowledge that people will be at different comfort levels with their analytics and data stream, but analytics will only work as hard as you do. Like other parts of business, you need to build an analytics strategy that not only defines goals but continually informs them. Once you have the strategy it is easy to set up a process to track, monitor and adjust your analytics strategy.
If you need help turning your analytics strategy into a dynamic journey, contact Nick at


This blog was posted by Nick on September 14.

About the Author

Nick Meshes

Nick is Sandstorm’s Director of Technology & Data, leading the development, quality assurance, and analytics teams for Sandstorm. He’s boosting our quantitative focus. He’s busy increasing our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, technical SEO, effective SEM and display advertising, privacy, security, business intelligence and personalization.

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Fairy Tale Castle brand story, content strategy, storytelling, writing

Everyone loves a good storyteller, and as Ira Glass once said, "Great stories happen to those who can tell them." Due to their resources, brands are uniquely positioned to tell great stories across a variety of channels.

If you’re not writing your brand’s autobiography, there’s someone out there ready to tell the unauthorized story—whether that’s a competitor, publishers, reviewers, consumers or search engines. Whoever has the best story wins, but you don’t need a seven-figure budget to tell compelling tales across your marketing channels.

Know Your Audience—and Speak to Them

If you think you can make a connection with everyone, you’ll end up appealing to no one. We’re being inundated with thousands of pieces of content every day, and our attention span has diminished to eight seconds. Your message needs to grab attention quickly or it will get buried in the white noise of continuous content.

It pays to know your audience, because you can deliver targeted communications with precision. Sandstorm’s award-winning work with Holden is a perfect example of the impact a brand can have when they know their audience. Holden’s customers saw sales training as ineffective and inefficient. By making the disruptive statement “sales training is over,” Holden communicated how they could relieve this major pain point. The success of this messaging can be measured by the company achieving 106 percent of their annual lead generation goal in the first half of the year.

Step 2: Position Your Brand for Success

It’s exceptionally difficult to tell a compelling narrative about your brand if your brand isn’t compelling. That doesn’t mean you have to become something you’re not, but it does mean that you should be able to easily identify and communicate your value proposition in a way that engages your customer. If your current brand can’t do that, it might be time for a rebrand.

The world’s most valuable brands have well-defined personalities: Apple, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Disney, and GE all have a very clear identity that allows them a shorthand with their customers. And over the years those companies have allowed their brands to evolve and change with their audience.

Step 3: Develop a Content Strategy—and Document It

Content marketing has become ubiquitous in the industry. 93 percent of B2B marketers report that they used content marketing as part of their brand strategy in 2014. Almost every brand is utilizing blogs, videos, e-newsletters, whitepapers, infographics, listicles, or some form of content to meet the needs of their prospects.

Surprisingly, while the majority of marketers claim to have a content marketing strategy in place, very few have actually documented it—only 37 percent among B2C and 32 percent among B2B.

Documentation is essential to getting support from executives and communicating tactics with content writers and creatives. Instead of existing as a nebulous set of ideas, a documented content strategy provides reference material for the organization that can be continually revised and improved, and helps track failed and successful initiatives.

Part of your brand strategy should involve determining what types of content and which channels are right for you. If your audience are predominantly consumers between the ages of 18 and 24, then video content on Snapchat. If your target audience are business people over the age of 35, then you may want to promote white papers and industry blogs on LinkedIn.

Step 4: Optimize For Search

In 1999, Google handled roughly three million searches per day. In 2012, Google stated that they handled over three billion searches per day, accounting for 65 percent of total searches in the United States. Bing and Yahoo make up the majority of the rest with 20.3 percent and 12.7 percent, respectively.

Brands understand that search engines are contributors to their story and reputation, and so are the consumers and writers whose reviews and articles appear at the top of SERPs.

SEO is constantly evolving, so if your content isn’t optimized to meet today’s best practices, you’ll miss out on a massive opportunity for your story to be heard. And search engines can help you identify and develop the right content as well: Google’s Keyword Planner is a great way to find the stories customers want to hear using search queries and long-tail keyword phrases.

Step 5: Work Within Your Means

Over the past several years, content marketing has evolved into brand publishing, with large corporations curating targeted lifestyles via a stream of content that rivals the New York Times in quantity. Red Bull, for example, has dedicated their website to music, fitness, sports and adventure, with only a small ad for their new Red Bull Summer Edition near the footer signifying their existence as a beverage company. And Red Bull’s not alone: Intel’s iQ, Adobe’s, and American Express’s Open Forum are just a few examples of brands acting as publishers.

Most companies don’t have the capital to spend on brand publishing and experiential marketing, and that’s okay. You don’t need to keep up with the quantity of content these brands offer, but you do need to compete against their creativity. All it takes is one great video, one indispensable article, one engaging social media post to capture consumer mindshare.

Sandstorm® has been helping brands craft their narrative through content marketing for almost 20 years. From B2B to B2C, SEO to PPC, we can develop the right content marketing strategy that ensures you’re the one telling the story of your brand.

This blog was posted by on August 15.
Bill Kurland, Copywriter

About the Author

Bill Kurland

Copywriter Extraordinaire

Analytics driving business


Enter the Clickstream

Web analytics tends to start with collecting and analyzing “clickstream” data - the information that can be collected directly from visitors to your webpages using javascript, cookies, images, or other tags that act as tracking codes. Here are 15 questions regarding your visitors (clickstream data) you can answer, examine, and visualize through website analytics tools like Google Analytics: 

  1. Where are visitors entering and exiting your site?
  2. How many people visit specific pages? What content is drawing the most attention?
  3. How many people immediately leave? Which content is failing to retain them?
  4. How many people are first-time or return visitors?
  5. How long do people stay on your site?
  6. Where are your visitors geographically located?
  7. What browsers, operating systems, devices, and screen sizes are they using?
  8. What keywords are driving people to your site through search? What pages are delivering search traffic? 
  9. How do visitors flow through your site? Are they efficient and inefficient paths? Do they see your intended message or offering?
  10. How much response does each call to action get?
  11. What referrers are directing visitors to your site? From which search engines (organic results or marketing campaign), social networks, blogs, web pages, etc? What content are they being directed to?
  12. How fast do your pages load? When and where are the peaks and lows?
  13. How are the specific goals you’ve defined in the analytics tools being met?
  14. How are your pay-per-click campaigns working?
  15. What additional demographic data is available for each of the questions above? 

That's great - But What Do I Do with It?

The answer to each of these questions can help you optimize the user experience, raise your search engines rankings, tailor your message expand your audience or focus on a specific segment, and build data-driven personalized relationships online.

The answers to these questions are often quite valuable to your business. Some are immediately apparent, such as the answer to “How much response does each call to action get?” Others, however, may seem to have less business value, at least at face value. For example, “why do I care where my web visitors are geographically located?”

To use an example, one of our clients has offices in three states. After reviewing their traffic sources, we identified a great deal of traffic from two states where they did not have offices. The visitors from these two states matched their target demographic too. So, analytics helped our client identify potential locations to expand their business. 

Building a Better Business

When it comes to data analytics, clickstream sources are often the most available to business owners. You can use these 15 questions to adjust your business strategy in an informed and insightful manner.

For a more comprehensive view of how you can use analytics, data-driven website optimization, and search engine, Sandstorm offers full consulting and implementation services that support and improve your marketing strategy.

This blog was posted by Nick on February 19.

About the Author

Nick Meshes

Nick is Sandstorm’s Director of Technology & Data, leading the development, quality assurance, and analytics teams for Sandstorm. He’s boosting our quantitative focus. He’s busy increasing our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, technical SEO, effective SEM and display advertising, privacy, security, business intelligence and personalization.

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What is SEO and SEM?

We’ve all been there. People talk about Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimization and we just nod and smile. We then wonder, “What is Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimization?” Well, here’s an overview and why you should care.

What is Search Engine Optimization?

When you have a website, or even just a page, you want to make sure people can find you. If you’re selling a product, a service, retail, wholesale, or soliciting nonprofit donations, Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, helps bring people to your website.

How does that work?

Search engines like Bing, Google, and Yahoo! (the “SE” in SEO) regularly index the Internet, crawling around and noting what kind of content is on websites across the web. Whenever someone searches for “socks” or “melamine,” search engines look for websites with those keywords and phrases and display them on their results pages. This is sometimes called organic optimization because the result order happens by way of natural or “organic” indexing of sites. These positions cannot be purchased, but can be influenced by optimization.

Okay, so how do I “optimize?”

Keywords and key phrases! If you’re selling melamine sock organizers, it helps to periodically research what words and phrases your potential customer uses in searches. Do they look for “melamine sock caddy” more often? Perhaps they’ve adopted slang or creative spellings such as “sox” or phrases like “getting my socks in a row.”

When you’ve identified the keywords and key phrases your customers and potential clients are searching for, you can start making sure they’re included in your website pages, blog posts, social media posts, and any company profiles you have on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, or other websites.

So, what is Search Engine Marketing?

Search Engine Marketing, or SEM, is the umbrella term for, well, all forms of search engine marketing. Whereas SEO focuses only on organic search results, SEM includes paid advertising on search engines. Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and others sell advertising space in the form of search results.

When someone searches for “socks” or “melamine,” they will find ads beside the organic results, organized by keyword bids and ranking in addition to relevance. These ads are typically at the top of search results, before the organic spots, or in a sidebar to the right.

So, how does that work?

There are a couple different services search engines offer. Perhaps the most commonly known service is Pay-Per-Click, or PPC. This displays ads alongside search results for a set period of time and within your budget.

You only pay when your ads are clicked on by users and you can set a budget that fits your business. (So, you don’t end up owing a search engine your first born.) If your budget is set at $20 per month, the search engine will offer up your ad until you reach your limit. When the $20 worth of clicks are achieved, the ad stops showing and you won’t be charged further.

You should care!

Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing are important foundational pieces in your marketing activities. Search engines are a pivotal driver of traffic to websites. More traffic means more opportunity for sales, donations, new clients, or readers.

If you don’t have an expert in-house you can easily find a partner to help get your SEO and SEM campaigns off the ground, or steer them in a more focused and effective direction. No matter what your target, business model, or traffic goals are, SEO and SEM can effectively scale your digital presence.

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Jason Dabrowski

About the Author

Jason Dabrowski

Jason is one of Sandstorm’s designers and also helps keep the office running smoothly. As a veteran of the theatre—from acting to directing, lighting to set design—he knows the value of hard work and a positive attitude. Look for his unique voice on the blog.

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Emily Kodner
Top 4 Reasons You Hate Managing Content on Your Web Site

Some content managers love their jobs. Some content managers hate their jobs. If you are in the second category, maybe it’s because of these reasons.

1. You have no strategy.

You are just updating the same old copy that somebody originally wrote fifteen years ago. Maybe you’re babysitting a “helpful links” page. Stop filling orders rather than seeking and producing content with a defined purpose.

Take time to make a real content strategy. Involve key stakeholders for their great ideas (and more importantly, their buy-in). Identify your target audiences. Define your users’ goals and your organization’s goals for the site and figure out how you are going to use your site’s content to meet those goals. Select topics that will bring you the right traffic. Establish your site’s voice. The strategy is your filter. It tells you what to spend time on and what to say no to. It tells you what content to cut and what content to create.

2. You have no style guide.

You (and other people) are always finding style inconsistencies throughout your site. Where does your company stand on the Oxford comma? Are page titles in sentence case or title case? Depending on the reviewer or writer you seem to be constantly fixing or unfixing things.

Select a style guide. Preferably one aligned with your industry and intended for web writing. Create an organic style guide to keep track of all of your industry and company specific terms.

3. You have no content governance plan.

Every time you make a content change you have too many, too few, or just the wrong people review it.  This means it takes forever to make changes or you end up with sub-par (maybe even inaccurate) content on your site.

Create a governance plan that makes it clear and transparent who is responsible for each section of the site. After much experimentation, I have had much success with an adapted version of this model.

4. You are looking at the wrong analytics.

You spend hours and hours each week (or each month, or just when somebody asks) putting together reports, but you’re just making reports for the sake of making reports.

Are you reporting average time spent on site? How are you evaluating that? Is it a short time win or a sign that your site is impossible to navigate?

Isolate the site’s goals and define key performance indicators that align to each goal.

Create dashboards or custom reports where possible to reduce your time manually manipulating your Google Analytics data pulls in Excel. Review the reports with other people regularly AND isolate improvements you can make. Identify the things you should do more of because they’re working so well.

Take a step back and take some time to improve your process. The steps outlined above can improve your personal workflow and make sure you’re aligned with the rest of your team.

This blog was posted by Emily Kodner on February 28.
Emily Kodner

About the Author

Emily Kodner

Emily is our Senior Director of Client Delivery. She consults with clients, leads projects and works alongside our team of creatives and developers to provide solutions to complex business challenges.

Crowds cheer for Sandstorm social media strategy

The big game is this Sunday. It’s going to be cold. There will be a lot of parties. It’s sure to be a great matchup between the Seahawks and the Broncos with a number of memorable commercials. But between cold brews and bowls of flamin’ hot nachos, fans will use this major media event to get their thoughts out on social media.

Both teams are supported by very outspoken fanbases, on the field and in front of TVs across the country. These are true blue fans who are constantly advocating their team (or should we say brand). Even on social media, their fans are constantly liking, commenting and even defending.

So they’re football teams, what does that mean for you? You too can create superfans for your brand. It takes time and effort, but these four points will help direct your initiative to the endzone.

1. Make a Conversation NOT a Speech

It’s all about social engagement. Think about it in terms of a party (not a football party, one with more mingling). What are the most memorable experiences? Ones where you are involved in a conversation or where you’re forced to listen while someone expounds? It’s probably the former, and chances are that you were so involved that you lost track of time, too.

Why not replicate that with your social media presence? If you create something that asks questions or welcomes discourse, you’re putting forth a memorable experience for your users.

2. Be Fueled by Your Focus

Do what you set out to do. If your goal is to sell a service or product, be sure that your interaction supports that. Your social media presence should be positioned to support your business, not just to support itself.

If you are posting just funny pictures, comics, or non sequiter posts, what does that do for your business? They can relate to you with some copy, but you need to make sure that what you put in front of your users is reflective of your business. [If you want to read more about making sure your content fits your brand, I wrote a post on Voice and Tone.]

3. Make a Game Plan

You don’t find social success by luck. You need to examine the field, size up your competitors, and find out what makes your users tick. Success comes from practice and preparation. By setting up a strategy you have a plan to keep your momentum. A well executed Social Media strategy can assist with how you respond to user comments as well.[To learn more on the importance of thinking, check out this post from Laura.]

4. Keep It Personal

The social aspect of social media is the instant human connection. Traditional media created campaigns that presented ideas, feelings, products with a passive connection to the user. Content, ads, articles, commercials, were seen and read.  Social media is interactive. Whereas with a commercial, a user might be part of an invisible conversation based on the business’ assumptions. Now you can promote and present useful content on a platform ready for consumer reaction.

As opposed to having your brands message as part of a TV program or in a magazine, your content is within your users feed of personal information. So, you’ll be interspersed with personal contacts, family photos, and old high school crushes. With that their likes and comments are open for their network (and yours to see). Ensure you are creating a conversation where your user would be open to comment and like in an open, personal forum.

What’s Your Next Play?

After 10 years of Social Media, it’s a mainstay of our lives and businesses. With some preparation and thoughtfulness you can mold your brand’s online presence into an important part of their social media experiences. To create super fans, you have to first create something super. If you can get them cheering, the eventual results will make you cheer, too.

This blog was posted by on January 31.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

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Five steps to better SEO & SEM campaigns

Launching AdWords campaigns can be a frustrating, pocket-draining initiative if you’re not careful. However, it can also bring in traffic and conversions that quickly make the whole thing worthwhile. Here are five quick tips if you are just getting started and don’t know where to, well, start.

1. Plan ahead

Work with your internal team and your agency to define what your expectations are and create some realistic goals. A good way to do this is to assess what you are doing now. How much are you spending for leads and conversions using your existing marketing tactics? How much can you allocate to AdWords campaigns? What are your customers or clients really looking for when they turn to a search engine for help?

2. Optimize

Dedicate some time and resources to optimizing your web site’s landing pages to increase the Quality Score of your ads. Google is successful because it thinks about its users (and this focus keeps users coming back for more and more). In regards to AdWords, Google wants to make sure that it is sending its users to the places where they can actually find relevant content.

Google rewards you for sending people to right place. Having better content helps bring you a higher ranking and can lead to a lower cost-per-click. It’s worth the upfront costs and effort to create a great experience for users on your web site and landing pages before bidding on ads.

3. Play Chess, Not Battleship

While there is some guessing when it comes to the auction process, you can make educated bids. With high keyword limits, AdWords allows 20,000 per ad group, it seems like the options are endless. Why not have every variation of the terms related to your business and see what happens? If this is your approach, I’m not surprised if SEM is the bane of your marketing existence.

Instead, do research, be relevant. Imagine what your customer is thinking and searching for, then use terms and phrases they would naturally use or what they will be looking for in the future. You are paying for each visit, make the most of them. Tactically, if your product or service is commonly misspelled, use the broad match keyword approach and let Google’s mechanics take care the rest. You can cast a wide net to improve your ad’s impressions but focus a majority of your resources on high-quality keywords that will bring the right customers with real conversions.

4. Be Patient

While this process can seem laborious and not yield immediate results, stick with it. SEM is an ever-evolving marketing tool. You won’t run perfect campaigns every time (I’m not sure that such a thing even exists). After a month or so of running ads, take a look under the hood and see what’s working and what’s not. This will help you learn more about what Google AdWords and your users are looking for with your ads. Remember, one click could be the conversion that covers the cost of the entire campaign.

5. Have Flexibility

After reviewing what’s working, investigate why. Is it bid amounts, budget, keywords, ads? AdWords is full of analytics, use them. If it’s not working, do something different. This platform is one of the only marketing tools available that can quickly be changed with little or no cost.

AdWords allows you to amend your account as frequently as you want, or if you are a data-lover and want to be able to examine trends, make less frequent, measured changes. Study the board, do your research and be willing to adjust your game plan.

Ads in the Right Place at the Right Time

Unlike some other marketing efforts, AdWords allows customers to see your information when they expect to see it, at the time when they are actively searching for what you offer. It’s a worthwhile program to boost your business, but it requires attention and upkeep for success. Stay focused and watch the clicks turn to conversions.

This blog was posted by on January 24.
Megan Culligan

About the Author

Megan Culligan

Megan knows the importance of picking a winner. With a background in politics and PR, she knows that a successful marketing campaign requires coordination of many moving pieces and a team focused on achieving a great goal. You’ll see her analytical point of view on the blog, providing insight and tactics for success.

Trust in the age of big data

Big data isn’t new, but it has been on our minds for the last several months. So, we thought now was as good a time as any to talk about it.

Big data in the news

In September, the New York Times ran an article that piqued our interest. In short: Acxiom Corporation, one of the world’s largest marketing technology companies, had launched – a website that lets consumers see what information (or ‘Big Data’) the company is collecting and analyzing about them.

The pitch was simple: If you want to get the best advertising delivered to you, based on your actual interests, start here. Tell us who you are so we can show you the information used to fuel many of the marketing offers you receive from advertisers using Acxiom’s digital marketing data.

What information is out there?

More and more, companies are beginning to invest in Big Data solutions as a means of achieving a more effective reach, but investing in this kind of data is not without its challenges. For example, here’s what some Sandstormers had to say when they registered with AboutTheData for a look behind the data mining curtain:

“Characteristic data was spot-on except for the child I didn’t know I have. Household vehicle data: only insurance renewal, nothing about past vehicles I’ve owned (10!). Household economic data: accurate, but light.”

“The only thing accurate about my home was the year it was built. There was absolutely no data found on our cars. For household interests, they had gourmet cooking which is really quite funny since we order most from Pizza Hut… None of the data they had on me felt invasive, probably because the most personal pieces of data were simply not us.”

 “The results were disturbingly specific and correct in many cases. In other cases they were completely wrong. They knew everything about my condo purchase, which isn’t hard info to get. They know when my condo and car insurance policies are up for renewal. They knew my age (down to a two year window). Were close enough on my profession. They were pretty far off on my household income and purchasing habits.”

A constant work-in-progress

As our Sandstormers and media outlets have reported, Acxiom still has a few kinks to work out, and chief among them may be accuracy.

“One point I want to make is that this is the first release of the website,” says Nicholas Meshes, an engineering lead at Acxiom who oversees a team of developers who work on the project. “There will be subsequent releases that mean more information, improved usability, and more resources and control around how data is being used.”

It’s for more personalized relationships

He adds: “The fact is, corporations want to have more personalized relationships with consumers, and what we’re trying to do is create trust among consumers by letting them see and specify what information is being shared. People who use the website have places to go to give direct feedback, and can opt in or out of most elements we have on file about them. There are also features in the AboutTheData that direct you back to the Acxiom website to show you how we are using your data. Whatever you specify becomes our highest priority.” Whether you opt in or out, you are likely going to be marketed to regardless, “so it may as well be relevant to you.”

One of many tools

Okay. It’s a good idea driven by well-meaning intent, but the Acxiom project and the skepticism with which it has been met underscores one of the biggest challenges faced by marketing companies whose success continues to be influenced by big data: You can’t have trust without accuracy. Even if the data is accurate, it’s just one tool in your marketing toolbox.

Addressing the challenges

Big data is not the marketing panacea, but it can be a fantastic tool to create better experiences for your customers. Using big data effectively requires thoughtful decisions about how you want to engage your target market and providing them with the appropriate control mechanisms to build trust. This is a process and a large component of utilizing big data effectively to address marketing challenges.

This blog was posted by on December 12.
Meaghan Glennan

About the Author

Meaghan Glennan

Meaghan is a storyteller. From the Granite State to the City of Broad Shoulders, she's created impactful true-life tales about people, places, businesses and events. As she guides Sandstorm's story by directing our marketing communications, you'll see a lot of her unique perspective and style.