Here is a collection of miscellaneous words and thoughts. Read on.

Beige Is Boring: Be Bold With Your Brand

Being polarizing isn’t a bad thing – it’s necessary. One of the most common sayings in the KW2 halls is that if you’re designing a campaign, a website or a social channel to talk to everybody, you’re really talking to no one. Look around the marketplace at some of the most sought-after brands, you can glance at their logo, their TV spots and their website, and know exactly who they are for and if you’re their intended target audience.

Humans are hardwired to categorize everything. In an effort to understand the world, it’s necessary for humans to put everything in buckets and map things into what are called “semantic neighborhoods.” People’s brains will compare two like items (Citibank versus Bank of America) in the same neighborhood; this extends to how we view ourselves. The most surefire way to give consumers an affinity towards your brand before purchase is to enable them to park themselves in the same semantic neighborhood as your brand. The consumer needs to see herself in your brand and to do that your brand needs a strong identity.

How does this work in the real world? The “most inclusive” global event is happening this summer and its lackluster logo is a prime example of how designing for everyone fails. The 2016 Rio Olympics logo is a dated and watered-down version of the “contagious energy” and “exuberant nature” of the Carioca* soul it claims to represent. The worst part is, it’s not alone. Olympic logos have a grand tradition of being a snoozefest. The only recent exception was 2012’s London Olympics logo. Like it or not – it’s memorable and was polarizing.


Whether or not their brand identity speaks to you, a great example of polarizing branding is Sports Clips. Sports Clips is unabashedly “Haircuts for Men.” It’s not enough to feature sports channels on multiple screens at the barber and have a website that shouts “It’s good to be a guy!” It’s necessary for them to exclude women in their advertising – thus ensuring macho men can get their “mini Man Break” with likeminded individuals. Whether or not you agree with the stance, it’s a strong brand that allows the company’s target audience identify with Sports Clips. And it’s working; they’ve been alive, well and franchising since 1995.

Southwest Airlines is another polarizing brand. Their drive to be THE low-cost airline requires them to attract people who don’t take themselves too seriously – both as customers and as employees. Southwest’s refusal to assign seats, their practice of assigning boarding order based on when you checked in for your flight, and their free-baggage check combine to ensure that they’re attracting laidback travelers and keeping them that way. The airline also encourages flight attendants to go “off script” for safety announcements and terminal crew members to play basketball in their down time. This does not attract the elite traveler, but does resonate with folks who want to get where they’re going with as few frills and headaches as possible.

If you close your eyes and think of a modern successful brand, you’ll most likely begin to visualize specific color sets, products and attitudes associated with that brand. This isn’t an accident. In order to have a target audience that parks itself in the same semantic neighborhood as your brand, you need to take a stance. Beige is forgettable. Be bold with your brand.



KW2’s Guide to Paid Search: Part 1 of 3

How do I make kale chips? Should I go with an Apple Watch or Android Wear? How can I increase sales on my website? Across the planet, we search trillions of things each year across a sea of topics. Some searches are focused and functional. Others are more exploratory. So what does this mean for your business? The answer is simple: opportunity.

Paid search advertising puts you in touch with customers who have expressed a need, evidenced by their search. We can think of these users as qualified leads. In this three-part series, we’ll explore important concepts every marketer should consider before embarking on a paid search campaign. Some businesses are savvy to the many benefits of investing in a pay-per-click (PPC) strategy, but many are looking for new ways to reach quality leads.

First things first. Toss out your industry slang, your company lingo, and what you assume users are searching for related to your service or product. Identify how people search (their verbiage) and what they search for (perhaps more general in scope than you think). It’s important to acknowledge the potential gap between what you offer and what users actually search for. That’s okay. The key is to find the sweet spot—the overlap between the two. Paid search is a great way to serve attractive, relevant ads to an already-searching audience. It can help boost awareness as an ancillary benefit, but it’s not a tactic designed to explain a complex process or offering. Think of paid search as a highly effective foot-in-the-door.

The most basic elements of a paid search campaign are the keywords on which you bid. The catch (and difficulty) is finding the right ones. If you’re a new shoe company bidding on “gel flexor 15s,” but folks are actually searching for “nike free running shoe alternatives,” chances are good that you’re missing out on reaching your target consumers.

That’s why KW2 begins with Keyword Research, an in-depth analysis of your industry, your company, your offerings, and the volume and competition of potential search terms. Our first deliverable to you is a comprehensive list of search terms and phrases that are most relevant to your target and most affordable for you.

In part two of this series, we’ll explore how to nurture a live paid search campaign, reviewing some key optimizations essential to campaign health and continued improvement. Can’t wait? Give us a call at 608-232-2300 or email hello@kw2ideas.com to speak with a paid search expert at KW2.

And still looking for that kale chips secret? Here you go: remove the stalks, don’t skip the olive oil, and keep the temperature low for even baking. Perfect kale chips. (We searched.)



How Putting Your Product in the Back Seat May Increase Profits

The old school of thought when it comes to web content is that it should look like your brand, focus around the benefits of your brand and be just disruptive enough to get people’s attention. There’s been a new kid in town with inbound marketing – it’s not about saying why YOU’RE the best, it’s about helping your customers be THEIR best.

Given the rate people consume online content, and the exponentially larger amount of data available online, it’s virtually impossible to get consumers’ eyes on your content – unless you’re giving them what they’re looking for. Odds are, consumers aren’t looking for your product by name unless you’re the top dog in your field. There’s a better chance they’re looking for information on how best to use your, or your competitors’, product or service.

A YouTube campaign called “Little Beasts” executed in October of 2014 by Ziploc educates users on alternative uses for their product, but the product itself is only ancillary to the videos’ storylines and branding is virtually non-existent.

By creating valuable minimally branded content that helps consumers identify their problem and then assist them with a solution, you’re creating value for the consumer. These helpful videos, blog posts, third-party hosted articles, and social media interactions are all part of an “inbound marketing” strategy.

It may be more cost effective to create positive associations with your brand by putting your customer in the driver’s seat by supplying them with helpful content, and letting your product or service take the back seat. By creating helpful content in the area where you are the expert, you’re able to prove yourself as a leader in the field and connect consumers’ perception of your brand with helpfulness and positive results. Over time, these interactions with your brand instill trust and positive associations in consumers which result in a greater propensity to buy and increased profits for you.



3 advertising tools to connect with customers in 2015

Entertainment has come to the forefront in new ways. And therefore, so too has advertising. Regardless of company size or budget, it’s important to stay on top of every tool in the advertising tool kit. How can you spread brand awareness? Tell stories. Listen. And join the conversation. Here are three advertising tactics to keep in mind during 2015.

Telling longer stories through video. In an age of bite-sized content through Vine, Instagram and Pinterest, some brands produce ads that fit faster and shorter media. But with the trend towards fast and short, longer-form ads still work. YouTube reported that its top ten ads of 2014 have an average length of three minutes. Taking minutes instead of seconds to develop a story around your product or brand can garner attention like nothing else. Last year, World Cup fans watched over one billion minutes of World Cup ads alone on YouTube. Beats by Dre packed a punch with its ad that chronicled “the game before the game,” exposing the human side of global sports figures. Thailand mobile operator True move-H has inspired millions globally with its powerful stories of giving unconditionally. Lesson learned? In this age of “instant” entertainment, consider an online video presence to tell longer stories and make deeper connections.

Keeping an ear to social media. Remember the iconic “Oreo moment” a couple years back, during the Super Bowl blackout of 2013? Real-time marketing is not new, but now it’s becoming a requirement for some brands today. Brand newsrooms – teams on-hand to instantly react – are becoming more popular to harness the “It’s happening now!” moments. Nationally- or globally-televised events are not the only opportunities either. Being always-on is time-consuming and difficult to do well. But it means you can foster good will among a customer base, like Citi Bike and JCrew did for a fallen biker. Social listening and reacting even in small ways, is customer service with incredible potential.

The new social media. Snapchat. Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp. Viber. Tango. Kik. Even Vine. They’re all at the forefront of messaging apps. If mobile is the new frontier, then messaging apps are the covered wagons bravely trekking ahead. BI Intelligence reports messaging apps as the fastest growing category within mobile apps. These apps highlight the divide between social networks for communicating with family, and more private options for communicating with friends on-the-go. The tough part is staying in the loop in terms of brand presence. These are new platforms, unsaturated with ads. But they’re not necessarily off-limits to brands. Virgin Mobile does a nice job with this by soliciting already Vine-famous users to “take over” their Vine channel for a period of time. These users create content that appeals to a captive audience, and Virgin Mobile spreads further awareness of its brand. First, you need to investigate your target audience’s presence on the platform. Ensure that social interactions on the network relate to your business goals. Then carefully strategize how you will interact with your target audience for your brand to join the conversation and spread brand awareness.

Staying up to date on the latest advertising options helps your brand stay authentic and relatable to your customer base. These days, that often means entertaining to remain memorable and valuable to your audience. Which outlets are right for 2015? Let your budget and your audience decide.


illustration of magician's hat and deceptive marketing practices

(Dis)honest Principles: Treating Users with Sincerity

Have you ever clicked a download button that resulted in an unexpected file? Has a site ever snuck an extra item into your cart? It doesn’t feel honest. Certain interfaces deceive people into taking actions they would not have taken otherwise. Deceived users will lose respect and take their business elsewhere. In short, deceitful interfaces are unfair.

These interfaces trick people into clicking ads and accepting hidden costs. Duped users answer trick questions and allow services to post on their behalf. Additionally, a popular tactic allows users to sign up for a service with ease, but proves difficult when users want out. Many of these deceptions classify as bait and switch or misdirection tactics. In other words, elements appear one way when a user scans a web page, but mean something else when read with more careful parsing. While I’m not against a magician’s deceptions, I believe it is unethical to gain profits from anyone fooled unaware.

Why do these practices exist? A small percentage of misled users do not notice until it’s too late, while others notice but are too busy to take action. Furthermore, certain workplaces rely on excessive metrics and conversion rates for decision-making. Viewing users as giant dollar signs can lead to exploitative, disrespectful, and unethical behavior.

I’d like to share a few simple ideas that help us at KW2 stay as sincere as possible:

  • Convey your information in the clearest possible manner.
  • Be the best example to your community and to those who look up to you.
  • Give users what they want instead of what you think they want.

If users feel as if a service is manipulating them, they will find another provider. While metrics may show beneficial short-term growth from these practices, users will catch on and abandon ship. Moreover, treating people with kindness and respect is reciprocal. People deserve honesty and clarification, not exploits and trickery. Above all, when providing any service, realize the users come first. Period. Also, don’t let David Blaine design your site.

What ideas do you have to stay honest with users?



Fundamentals of SEO – Part 2: Developing a Killer Keyword Plan

In our previous post on the basics of using Google Analytics to define successful searches, we talked about how to use site analytics to determine which search terms brought visitors to a website. In this post, help you capture more of the kinds of visitors you want by creating an effective keyword plan:

1.     Define your website strategy

2.     Set clear, measurable goals

3.     Evaluate possible terms

4.     Choose the best place on your website for each term (coming up in Part 3!)


1. Define Website Strategy

At KW2, we typically serve two types of clients: those with goals to incite long-term behavior or social change, and those with sales or conversion goals. To develop a successful keyword plan, our approach is to first define the high-level strategy of this website or service: conversions, or “brand-building.” Brand-building is best used in quotes here because the term also incorporates things along the lines of public health, public safety and education.

Conversion Strategy

Conversion goals include things like purchases, form completions, calls, downloads, and other measurable on-site interactions.

Brand-Building Strategy

Branding goals include awareness, perception change, or off-site behavior change such as reduced rates of obesity, tobacco-related deaths and traffic incidents.


Clearly outlining the purpose of this strategy will help with keyword research in terms of how much context is needed, how direct or strong to be with language, and how certain phrases should be prioritized.

Some clients will want to pursue both of these strategies. In those cases it’s important to define what success will look like, to the benefit of all parties involved. It’s also important to define a clear priority between the two. A strategy that’s 80% brand and 20% conversion will look quite different than a strategy with the opposite priority.


2. Set Clear, Measurable Goals

Along those lines, defining goals of this SEO exercise is extremely important. Clearly defining measurable goals makes it possible to assess the efficacy of an SEO strategy, and it provides a baseline from which to optimize.

At KW2, we take a collaborative approach to helping a client define the success metrics of a campaign or website. Possible goals for a conversion-based website include:

  • Increase the number of purchases
  • Increase the average monetary value of purchases
  • Increase the number of on-site communication conversions (form completions, calls, etc.)

Possible goals for a brand-building project include:

  • Increase search engine ranking for our goal keywords
  • Increase page ranking for our goal keywords
  • Increase awareness of the campaign/product/service/issue among the target audience

We place great value not only on developing solid plans, but also on consistent and frequent evaluation of these plans. Secondary research can go a long way in informing a great SEO strategy, but in the end we hold ourselves accountable for optimizing toward our client’s goals. More on that in Part 3 on SEO fundamentals, which covers ways to optimize and evaluate your on-site SEO.


3.   Evaluate Possible Terms

The final step in creating a great keyword strategy is to evaluate how well proposed terms fit the goals outlined above. We look at many criteria, but we grade each keyword or phrase on the following components:

  • Average monthly searches in the geography in question (this is also known as search volume).
  • Competition score – How many others are vying for the top rank for this word? Is the competition using paid methods or organic? Do we stand a chance at a higher ranking?
  • Relevance – Is the phrase relevant in context of what the business or organization actually does and offers? Also, does the site currently talk about this topic anywhere? If not, should we consider creating a space where you can do so?
  • Specificity – Does this person know exactly what they are looking for, or are they browsing options?  For example, “Madison ad” and “Madison Wi advertising agency” are both relevant to KW2, but the second is a more specific search.
  • Intent  – Does the term indicate the person is far down the purchase funnel, or is he or she in the information-gathering process? For example, a person searching for “what do ad agencies do” would likely be looking for broad information, while someone who searched for “how to hire an ad agency” could presumably be closer to making a decision.

Taking the time to truly assess the purpose of your SEO strategy – brand/issue awareness, conversions, or both – and the defined goals for the finished product and a clear plan for evaluating performance based on those goals, and finally evaluating possible terms, is a proven process for building a great keyword strategy. This method is based on industry best practices and published processes from SEO’s finest. It’s also our way of doing things, because we’ve found it to be the most striking way to accommodate our wide variety of clients’ needs in terms of on-site SEO.

In the next part of this series we’ll discuss how to map keywords to the right landing pages, key on-site places to make sure your SEO is solid, and a few tips on optimization.


Next up in our series on building great SEO strategies:

  • Fundamentals of SEO – Part Three: Keyword Optimization and On-Site Implementation

Or, check out our previous post:



Fundamentals of SEO – Part 1: Using Analytics to Define Successful Searches

We see a lot of clients who want and need help with Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Moz, one of the leading SEO experts, describes SEO as “the practice of improving and promoting a web site in order to increase the number of visitors the site receives from search engines. There are many aspects to SEO, from the words on your page to the way other sites link to you on the web.” This series will focus on the “words on your page,” or “On-Site SEO.”

This article is Part 1 in our series on Building a Great SEO Strategy. The series will focus on on-site tactics to help your company or organization with SEO. Part 1 focuses on how Google Analytics can provide the fundamentals of a great SEO strategy.

At KW2, our SEO team looks at data in Google Analytics to find out what the client’s current site users have in common to provide a starting point for SEO. Let’s examine further at what data we look at, how we help businesses define their SEO objectives, and how we build keyword categories to help our clients enhance their online presence for future success.

Weeding Out Searches That Include the Company Name

We put the most value on the search terms that do not include the company or brand name, since these words are what someone searches for when they aren’t already familiar with the company. These are the kinds of site visits and search terms our team wants to learn more about, so we can use information to capture more searches like them.

This information helps us find common trends among new visitors and their behavior on-site. Keep in mind, the way someone interacts with a website is very different depending on whether they have been there many times, or never before. For many of our clients, one key area of growth is the website’s ability to bring in new potential customers. Therefore, we want to understand as much as we can about someone who landed on KW2 by searching for “local advertising agency,” and we place less emphasis on someone who landed on our site after typing in “KW2 Ideas in Madison Wisconsin.”

Time On-Site and Bounce Rate by Keyword

Once we’ve narrowed our Analytics view to people who just learned about the organization (“advertising agency” rather than “KW2”), we sort the remaining keywords to find those with the best time on-site and the lowest bounce rate. This information helps us find out—of the people entering terms that bring up the site—which of these people thought the site’s content was relevant to their search, and which of these people exited because they did not find what they were looking for.

If a keyword consistently results in a high bounce rate, we can assume that users have something different in mind when they enter that keyword. For a more detailed look at what this looks like within Google Analytics or how we’d suggest improving it, check out our blog post that illustrates a working example.

On-Site Actions and Goal Conversions by Keyword and by Keyword Category

Next, KW2 uses site analytics to find out which keywords (or categories of keywords) consistently produce desired on-site user actions. Do searches within one category of terms consistently bring in new social media follows? Does one keyword category usually result in the visitor filling out a contact form? If so, KW2 suggests exploring these terms more to bring in similar types of traffic.


Want to learn more about how to use Google Analytics to find out about how potential customers are searching for you? Contact Us or leave a comment below.

Next up in our series on Building Great SEO Strategies:


Fundamentals of SEO Example: Successful (and unsuccessful) Search Terms

In a previous post we discussed how to spot problematic keyword phrases using information from Google Analytics. Here’s a detailed example of what that might look like, and what we’d suggest to do about it.

In this example we’ll consider an organization that raises awareness about types of child abuse and neglect, and provides services and education to help reduce these types of abuse. This example is not based on any real client of KW2 and is meant to help illustrate a concept regardless of industry or topic area.

Fundamentals of SEOOver time this scenario would hurt the organization’s website ranking because Google sees high bounce rates as a sign of site irrelevance. However, that doesn’t mean the organization should avoid talking about stress—it just means they should start talking about it in clearer ways. Here are some tips KW2 would offer this organization to help filter out the wrong searches, and bring in the right searches:

o   When talking about “stress” on-site, always use “toxic stress” in the phrase, never just “stress” on its own.

o   Add crucial on-site SEO elements: Page Titles, meta-descriptions and alt attributes for images.

  • Page Titles for this example should mention the nonprofit’s name, and should include a phrase such as “Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect” in the page title. This will appear in search results, and will help people understand what this website covers.
  • Meta-Descriptions usually appear below the page title in search results, and can help users learn more about what’s on the page before they click. This is usually 150 characters and summarizes the content on the page.
  • Alt Attributes in images will not appear to most users, but they help Google classify your page. For example, the images of infants found on the site in this example should be labeled “toxic stress in infants.” Google will then “know” that the site talks about type of stress in infants, not stress in the workplace.


Want to learn more about how to use Google Analytics to find out about how potential customers are searching for you? Contact Us or leave a comment below.

Looking for more?

Fundamentals of SEO – Part One: Using Analytics to Define Successful Searches

Fundamentals of SEO – Part Two: Developing a Keyword Strategy (coming soon)

Fundamentals of SEO – Part Three: Keyword Optimization and On-Site Implementation (coming soon)



Why we got rid of the snack table: A lesson in collaboration

What do snacks have to do with teamwork? It turns out when your entire company culture is centered on collaboration, your coworkers don’t need to be lured with tasty treats.

Back at KW2’s old location, the two-story former church with a garden view on Old Middleton Road, the Digital Department was burrowed away in the back corner known as the West Wing. We had a sneaky little entrance where we bikers could secure our ride, go straight to our desk and start working. Some mornings, I wouldn’t even say hello to the folks working up front until my first cup of coffee around 9:30AM. Not because I didn’t want to see them, but simply because I didn’t have any business in that part of the building.

Maybe it’s because our work was independent, or maybe it’s because we’re typically unkempt and quite strange, but we didn’t get many visitors from the front of the building in those days either.

One day, to encourage more smiling faces and interaction with the rest of the agency, we decided to develop and maintain a snack table. We loaded it with treats from dark chocolates to trail mix to Goldfish crackers, and saw our visitors increase sevenfold. Time in the West Wing increased by an average of 2:00 per visitor, and the number of unique interactions increased. However, our bounce rate remained high. People came for the snacks, stayed for a little conversation, then left. Word-of-mouth seemed to be our highest traffic source, especially on days when we had a new shipment of sea salt caramels.


Fast forward to today, in our new one-story space at 2010 Eastwood Drive (you should visit us sometime; the view is to die for). Our layout still has the Account Service team’s offices nearest to the front entrance, but the more open space encourages foot traffic between the Account, Digital and Creative departments. Big windows and wide hallways and standing tables all encourage us to stand and talk, sit and talk—just, talk. To keep up with tradition, we originally met to discuss where the snack table should live in our new space, and what our first treat offering should be. However, our move wasn’t the only change that happened last fall.

The entire company was also invigorated, excited, and ready to start a new journey—together. We were inspired to be a part of a more collaborative advertising agency. As a result, we found a new interest back and forth among the departments, a crossing over of expertise and knowledge. Folks started helping out on things we previously wouldn’t have touched, or even known about. It didn’t come from the new building’s layout alone, but it was primarily a factor of our new philosophy of growing together as an agency for good. We had made a new commitment to collaborate.

Suddenly, I didn’t need a reason to visit “up front” like coffee or to see some sunlight. And people stopped by my place, not for chocolates or the promise of an afternoon crunch, but for sincere, great discussions about each others’ clients and projects.

We got rid of the snack table because we, as an agency, don’t need a lure anymore to work together. We’ve realized that seamless integration of brand strategy, creative thinking and digital strategy is the key to our success. This kind of cross-discipline thinking helped us win Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, our biggest client yet, and it will only help us serve our clients better and better in the months and years to come. The result: everybody learns, and everybody gets better.


At KW2, doing Good for our clients means putting them first, giving them the best thinking, and producing the best work possible. We’ve realized that this kind of thinking comes only when we work together, naturally, using our combined talents, experience and abilities. So while we still bring in treats from time to time, they’re placed in the community kitchen where they belong. The creative and strategic thinking fills in all the spaces around that, in a colleague’s office or on the sunny patio, in the cozy workshop or the focus-friendly conference room. Collaboration is all around us now, and we think that’s a good thing.

What’s your office culture like? Do you have any tips on how to encourage collaboration? We’d love to hear from you.



Calling all burning digital questions

We’re on a quest to answer your web-related questions. Want to know how responsive design works? Need some help with email marketing? Want to know more about how Google AdWords can work for your business? Ask us a question in the comments section below or email us at hello@kw2ideas.com

Our team will post the most common and the best-of-the-best to get you the marketing help you need.