How Much Does Marketing Cost?


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This is a question that stumps those who are just going into business for themselves more often then not. I know that this does not directly relate to Social Media Marketing, however I thought it was a subject important enough to cover anyway…

I just reviewed an RFP for marketing services. It was a very detailed, well written RFP. And the client was asking for everything. Which is not a problem. Unless you have a limited budget.

Do you know how much marketing costs? How much should it cost? What should you pay for good advice when it comes to your marketing strategy?

I’ll try to unpack the answers to this complex question below. My answers lead to a few more questions, which I’ll have to address in future posts. Read on, and let me know what you think…

How much is a marketing plan?

Just the term “marketing plan” can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. Are you looking for a complete, strategic marketing plan, or do you just need a tactical plan or roadmap to guide your marketing programs for the next few months?

I know an independent consultant (not me) who charged a start-up $25,000 for a full-blown marketing plan. Did they pay too much? Maybe. That all depends on the results.

If you’re shopping for a marketing plan, consider this before opening your checkbook:

What do you hope to achieve with the plan?

Do you need help identifying the right customers, streamlining your product plans and developing competitive strategies? If so, you need someone who specializes in marketing strategy. Look for a consultant who has executive-level marketing experience that relates to your market or industry.

Expect to pay a few thousand dollars ($2,500-$15,000) for a project that will take several weeks or a few months. Plan to be actively involved, providing access to company and customer information and your business strategy. This effort may include customer research, competitive analysis and exploration of things like your sales process, customer relationships and technical capabilities.

Did you have something more basic in mind? Maybe you need help promoting an upcoming seminar, or launching a new service offering. In that case, a tactical plan is more in line with your needs. In fact, you may not even need a formal, plan document. Instead, a solid project plan with budget, timelines and deliverables may be enough.

You can engage a professional marketing consultant for this work,  hire a freelance marketer or call on your agency for assistance. Depending on the scope of your project, an actionable marketing plan like this may run from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars ($750 – $5,000), excluding implementation.

You want me to pay for that?

Don’t be surprised when the consultant or freelancer includes things like a marketing assessment, brand audit or competitive research in their proposal. Understanding the market environment you’re working in is critical to providing sound advice. Scrimp on the foundation, and your strategy will be shaky.

It pays to invest up front so your marketing partners have a strong base of knowledge about your business. This will actually save you money in the long run. A consultant that knows your business will be able to quickly spot trouble areas you might miss, helping you find solutions before you even realize there’s a problem brewing.

Other things that are worth paying for? Professional copywriting, skilled design, SEO analysis and customer feedback, to name a few.

What does a website cost?

This is a common question. I remember paying upwards of $50,000 for web work back in the mid-’90s, knowing I was getting a good deal. Thankfully, technology has become much more accessible, and the availability of exceptional web designers has expanded. (Of course, so has the number if not-so-qualified resources, so be careful.)

The price you pay for a website will depend on a number of factors. You can make your own for free if you’re really stretched, or have a small shop create a simple site based on WordPress to get you going. In fact, WordPress is a pretty powerful CMS (content management system) and many companies are moving to the platform as a viable option for easy to use, highly manageable websites.

Pricing for a basic site will start as low as $1995 and may reach $25,000 depending on size, design and functionality. Add more complexity, and you could be up to $30,000 or more.

What makes the price go up? Adding capabilities like these will cost extra:

  • An ecommerce shopping cart so you can sell merchandise or digital downloads online. From freeware like Zen Cart to more sophisticated solutions, getting the right people to work on your ecommerce capabilities can save a lot of headaches.
  • User interface design, UI or UX (user experience), focuses on the usability of your site and the ability of visitors to complete desired actions. If the objective of your site is to provide shopping, search or membership features, an investment in UX work can pay huge dividends in higher conversion rates and more engaged users.
  • Custom coding, like a specialized database application, image galleries, or recommendation engine. Thankfully, lots of these items have been packaged up as plug-in or third-party solutions that can be added to your site. However, there is a cost for integrating things like live chat, customer reviews and video capabilities.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – While you might think that web designers are experts at SEO, the fact is that most are not (just as many are not well versed in UX). You may need a separate SEO expert to work on your site, ideally partnering with your web team to build in search-friendly structure from the start. Ongoing SEO support starts about $2500/month and goes up, depending on the size and complexity of your site.

Isn’t social media free?

Sure, you can sign up for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and hundreds of other social media sites for free. But what is your time worth? As a business professional, you can easily step into social media quicksand if you are not careful about how you manage your time and social media presence.

Here are a few areas where you may want to hire social media help:

  • Social Media Strategy – What are your goals? Where will you invest your time on social media? What is your message? How can you monetize your social media efforts? Are you looking for a hard or soft return on investment (ROI)? A social media strategist can work with you to address these questions and formulate a plan that works for your business. The cost? Usually $500 and up.
  • Social Media Policies – Once you have a plan in place, you need to establish social media policies. These are guidelines for your staff that cover appropriate use, showing employees where they are empowered in social channels, and where they need to exercise caution. Well written policies can be priceless, so its worth investing $250 or more to have your own custom policy created.
  • Social Communications Calendar – When do you post on your bog? What goes on Facebook? How often should you tweet? What do you say? A communications calendar can help you plan social media content that aligns with your strategy, enabling staff to express your messages in the right way at the right time. Monthly management of your social communications plan may run $500/month or more.
  • Outsourced Engagement – Hiring someone to tweet and post on your behalf may sound good, but this is one area I advise clients to be cautious about. There are many risks if you outsource the voice of your business, and the cost to your reputation can be high when things go wrong. With that in mind, if you choose to outsource your tweeting, posting and blogging, hire someone you can work closely with to collaborate on plans and create content. You’ll pay upwards of $50/hour or $500+ a month.

Should I bring it in house?

Based on the prices listed above, you might be thinking that it’s smarter to hire staff to handle your marketing. This is a “yes and no” answer. For things like social engagement (tweeting, Facebook, blogging) I do recommend in house resources. No one knows your business like an employee and this is an area where tight control over content can be essential.

On the other hand, for things like strategy you are probably better off with an experienced consultant. Even if you have a marketing VP or CMO, the insight provided by an expert who brings a broader perspective can help alleviate what I call “marketing myopia.” You might just be too close to the situation to see everything you need to consider.

In these cases, a consultant can help you assess the market environment and plan strategies for success that your team can implement. If you need some additional assistance, hiring a virtual CMO or a contract marketer for a few months can provide the jump-start you need to accelerate your growth.

It’s cheaper to do it myself

DIY is a terrible malady. It can be a chronic disease for entrepreneurs. I know, I suffer from it myself. Whether you’re just starting a business or you’re simply trying to squeeze the most from every penny, it’s easy to think, “that’s easy, I can do it.” And you can. But will the results really be what your business deserves?

Do It Yourself marketing is often slow and slightly off target. It may be good, but usually it’s not great. And it comes with a huge opportunity cost. What would you be doing if you weren’t trying to figure out how to get your site to the top of the search engine rankings? Maybe you’d be closing new business or working on a new product idea.

Instead, there you are pulling your hair out, trying to do something you know you can do, but probably shouldn’t. Think about it…

If you loved writing copy, you would have been a copywriter.

If you were passionate about market research, you would have chosen that field.

And you would have been damn good, I’m sure.

But you didn’t.

So hire someone that did and reap the rewards of their passion and expertise. Then get back to running your business, which is what you do best, right?

Still stuck on the cost? Think about the value of your business. What will it take to realize the ROI of that project? Often, it’s as little as one new customer. Keep your perspective and spend strategically.

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Making the Most of LinkedIn Insights


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Making the most of LinkedIn Insights

Do you have a Company Page on LinkedIn for your brand and business? If not, stop reading and use this guide to take care of that first.

Back already? Ok. Now that you have a LinkedIn Company Page, that means you have a home for your business on LinkedIn. One of benefits of having a Company Page is that you can share Status Updates. Just like your personal LinkedIn account, and any other social network, status updates can include something about you or your business, an article you’ve written, or an article someone else has written that you want to share. On LinkedIn, those status updates can even include files and video andSlideShare presentations.

After you’ve been sharing updates for a while and have attracted some followers to your Company Page, you’re going to want to start paying attention to the analytics that LinkedIn provides. These are called Insights, just like on Facebook Pages. LinkedIn actually provides three sets of statistics: Per Post, Follower and Page.

Per Post Insights

Per Post Insights are specific to each status update. Simply go to your Company Page and scroll down through your previous updates. Below each update, you will see information detailing how many followers viewed that post, how many times it was clicked, and what that percentage is in regard to engagement.

For example, here’s a post from a few days ago to The Social Media Hat on LinkedIn. This post was one of our articles and as you can see, the post received 29 impressions, 4 clicks, and a result of 13.79% engagement. The engagement percentage is based completely on the ratio of clicks to impressions. So while the information does not tell you how many followers you had at that time (we had 78-80 at the time of that post), the engagement metric is unrelated to the number of Company Page followers.

LinkedIn Per Post Insights

Also note that the update states “Shared with all followers.” If you create a status update and choose to target specific follower demographics, this will be reflected in that line.

Follower Insights

To the right of the status update field, you will see a link to get to Follower Insights. The Follower Insights page provides an extensive look at not only how many followers you page has, but your growth and engagement rates, and demographic information about your followers.

LinkedIn Follower Insights

At A Glance

The report quickly illustrates how many followers your page has and how many have been added within the last 7 days. It goes on to tell you how many impressions your page has received total, and your average impressions per status update. You can review how many updates you’ve shared within the last week, and your average engagement per update as well.

Company Update Engagement

Below that, is a useful graph called Company Update Engagement. This graph demonstrates how your company page has done month-to-month.

LinkedIn Company Update Engagement

As you can see, the graph demonstrates how many clicks, comments, likes, shares and average engagement for each month. It shows 6 months at a time so if your page is older than six months, use the navigation arrows just below the graph to scroll back and forth.

Follower Demographics

The Follower Demographic is an example of where LinkedIn really shines.

LinkedIn Follower Demographics

Broken into tabs for Seniority, Industry, Function, Region, Company Size and Employee, you can see exactly what kinds of people are following your brand. These segments are also similar to the options you have when choosing to target new status updates.

Company Update Impressions

This simply demonstrates the total number of impressions for all your status updates, per month. As with any monthly statistic, you have to ignore the current month since the numbers will be incomplete. And since total impressions is a factor of both your number of followers and your number of posts per month, this graph does not seem to provide much value.

Recent Followers

The Recent Followers area lets you know specifically who has followed your company recently, providing their name, title, profile image, geographic location and their connection to you personally (1st degree, etc.).

Members Following & New Followers

Members Following and New Followers both display how your Company Page followers have grown month-to-month, simply shown in different graph styles.

LinkedIn Members Following

LinkedIn New Followers

Obviously you want to see not only growth in the number of followers, but increasing levels of growth each month.


So what can we distill from the information LinkedIn is providing here?

First, you can see how effective your efforts to promote your Company Page have been. Are you regularly adding new followers, or not? Have you done anything recently to recommend people follow your page, and if so, what were the results?

Second, you can take a closer look at the people who are actually following you. Are they the kinds of LinkedIn users that, frankly, you want to target for your business? If so, then continue to do what you’re doing. If not, then you may need to reevaluate the content that you’re sharing, frequency, or how you’re promoting your LinkedIn Company Page.

Page Insights

Your Page Insights is about the visits and activity on your page, regardless of whether or not the visitor was already a follower.

It starts with how many page views you’ve received you received in the past week, as well as percentage comparison to the previous week. It then illustrates how many unique visitors and how many page clicks.

Page Views

The Page Views graph gives you a great sense of how much traffic your LinkedIn Company Page gets on a month-to-month basis. You can tab between the entire company page, or just your Career or Products & Services sections (if you have them).

LinkedIn Page Views

Likeany website, your hope is that page views will increase each and every month.

Page Visitor Demographics

Just like the Follower Demographics chart, your Page Visitor Demographics will illustrate for you the kinds of people who are viewing your Company Page and where they come from.

LinkedIn Page Visitor Demographics

One interesting exercise for businesses would be to dig into the demographics of Followers and Visitors and compare them, as well as Page Views compared to New Followers. You will always have far more people who view your page than follow it, but that ratio, and the demographics of those followers, is something you should hope to improve.

For instance, in February and March The Social Media Hat received about 100 views a month. In February there were 18 new followers but in March, with about the same number of views, there were 33 new followers. We can then go back and compare the status updates posted in February to the ones post in March and look for differences and improvements to emulate in the future.

Unique Visitors

This graph simply illustrates how many unique visitors you’ve had each month.

Products & Services Page: Clicks

Out of all of your page clicks, this graph shows you how many clicks were for your Products & Services Page.

Careers Page: Clicks

Out of all of your page clicks, this graph shows you how many clicks were for your Careers Page.

Note:all statistics are reflective through the previous day.


As mentioned above, these statistics can really help you identify not only how many new followers you’re gaining each month, but what kinds of followers you’re gaining and whether or not the things that you’re doing to promote your page are working.

The nice thing about LinkedIn Insights is that the information is presented in easy to digest graphs that take just moments to digest. Anyone from the CEO and business owner to the social media manager or agency can regularly review these analytics and pull relevant information from them.

Reviewing them regularly though is the key. If you wait until March to review how you did in December, you certainly aren’t going to remember anything special that you did four months ago and you’re going to have to do some digging to determine what you posted, where you promoted the Company Page, and so on.

A quick note about LinkedIn Company Page promotion…

I mentioned several times that you can and should be promoting your Company Page. While LinkedIn does not currently allow Company Pages to participate in discussions, there are a number of ways that you can promote your page, including:

  • Display a link or icon to your LinkedIn Company Page on your website
  • Include a link or icon in your email signature
  • Occasionally promote the Company Page on Facebook, Twitterand Google+
  • Send a note to other LinkedIn members who fit your customer profile
  • Maintain your own LinkedIn Group and occasionally promote your Company Page
  • Mention your Company in LinkedIn Status Updates where appropriate

Why Your Facebook Ads Absolutely Stink


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For the last 6 years I’ve run ads on Facebook (yes, all the way back to Facebook Flyers in early 2007), and it was fun to go head-to-head against traditional PPC players.

They would create hundreds and hundreds of ads meticulously over days, just like they’d do on AdWords, while I’d just create one ad in 10 minutes.

We’d wallop them every time.

No amount of multiplication of headline, image, and body would make up for poor targeting and copy that wasn’t clever. One well-placed ad could drive more fans, better CTR, or whatever metric you wanted.

Using job title targeting, Facebook search ads, custom audience targeting, and all other forms of micro-targeting made it an unfair game to compete against folks who were used to selecting keywords as their only target.

The search guys would make their large batches of ads and then let them sit. The “set it and forget it” tactic works well in AdWords, since it’s not the same people searching those keywords from day to day. But on Facebook, we knew we had to rotate our ads every few days.

But in the last year, things have changed.

The newsfeed has become so important, as well as sponsored stories, conversion spec, the offsite pixel, putting paid media behind ad dollars, open graph integrations, email collection paths to conversion, and so forth. And the traffic costs a lot more now– no more penny fans, at least not in the US.

The newsfeed has forced us to become publishers who have to constantly write fresh “ads”. They’re not even ads, so much as genuinely interesting content that is worth sharing– or at least interesting enough to warrant filling out a form to get more info.

And because it’s so much harder to get into the newsfeed, we have to pay our way in. Then we have to run page post story ads to amplify user interactions on top of our page post ads. One of these is to get into the newsfeed– the follow-on is to amplify interactions from that exposure.

The net result of these interests multiplied against multiple postings and put into sponsored story combos is that we have to now create hundreds of ads if we’re going to be effective. Posts in the newsfeed live for 60 minutes, as opposed to a whole day, so we have to keep producing. We have to chain ads together to create impact.

Some people call this “programmatic ad buying”– the idea that we now need computer systems to generate ads based on rules, and that fuzzy logic can automatically find the look-alike audiences that we’d never be able to create manually.

We’re running ads for a fast food chain where the ads are triggered by the temperature hitting a threshold in any of the hundreds of cities they have stores in. We’re pulling in weather API data to trigger these targeted messages.

Another client has ads that automatically amplify posts that are especially engaging. We call this “throwing gasoline on the fire”. Nobody has the time to watch every post and hit the button if things get hot.

You could run ads that trigger when a competitor becomes active, so you could surf on their popularity. I’m sure you have some ideas in your head on what criteria you’d have your own ads trigger.

Dorothy, isn’t this a long ways from Kansas?

What Google’s Hummingbird Update Means for Small Business


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“Hummingbird’s emphasis on conversational search queries and natural language parallels the growth voice powered search via iPhones and Android devices,” said Amy Leefe, a digital marketing consultant at Arketi Group, a high-tech B2B public relations and digital marketing agency. “Google has been driving toward deeper support for long-tail queries for some time, and Hummingbird takes this further by concentrating on answers versus data.”


This is because the keywords people use to search the Internet do not always reflect what they are actually looking for, unlike in real life or when using a voice search on mobile devices.

“For example, people may type things like ‘buy yoga mat Buckhead’ in Google on a browser, but would say a command verbally such as, ‘What’s the closest place to buy a yoga mat to my home?'” Leefe said. “A traditional search engine might focus on finding matches for keywords, such as finding a page that says ‘buy’ and ‘yoga mat,’ for example.”

Instead, Hummingbird helps Google understand the meaning behind those words to deliver better search results, Leefe said.

“It may better understand the actual location of your home, if you’ve shared that with Google,” she said. “It might understand that ‘place’ means you want a brick-and-mortar store. It might get that ‘yoga mat’ is a particular type of workout supply carried by certain stores. Knowing all these meanings may help Google go beyond just finding pages with matching words.”

It’s up to businesses, however, to help Hummingbird tell Google that their page is the page users are looking for.

It’s up to businesses, however, to help Hummingbird tell Google that their page is the page users are looking for.

“Businesses need to consider as many queries as possible, and what the searcher could really be asking,” said Bill Sebald, owner of Greenlane Search Marketing, a search engine optimization consulting group. “If your business is relevant for a search like, ‘the best plasma TV to buy,’ are consumers looking for bang for their buck in this case? Or rationale as to why it’s the best? Popular opinion? Content should now expand to cover as many meanings as possible to be more appetizing to the Hummingbird algorithm.”

As an added benefit, the Hummingbird update also gives businesses more topics to write about and provides an opportunity to update older, evergreen content that suffers from short-sighted tunnel vision, Sebald said.

“Content for the sake of ‘words on a page’ doesn’t have the base value it once had,” Sebald said. “Now, your content really has to answer something. This should move content strategy higher on the list of business marketing objectives; it’s now even more important for desktop and mobile SEO.”

The Dark Side: Is Google Stealing My Data?

One of the biggest changes Hummingbird has to offer is search content displayed right on search pages.

“Say you were searching for Total Recall because you can’t remember what year it came out. If you type in ‘Total Recall,’ Google will bring you back the results it normally does, but on the side, where there was normally blank white space, it will show you the IMDB picture, description, release year, actors, etc.,” said Mike Evans, owner of Boost Rank SEO, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based SEO company.

Although this is helpful for users, it can do a disservice to businesses, Evans said. With this feature, Google not only scrapes content from other websites to display information on search pages, but the process also promotes a Google-only user experience.

“Basically, what Google is doing is trying to keep you on their properties as long as possible,” Evans said. Instead of visiting a website for the information, Google makes the data readily available.

“Imagine you were and someone searched for ‘Miami Heat score.’ Google would scrape your site, take your information and display it on the search page. So instead of driving visitors to your site to check the scores, now they have all the information they need and go about their day — and you just lost a visitor,” he said.

In the case of Total Recall, Google also provides a “Watch It Now” link that will take users to Google Play, if applicable, Evans said. Similarly, a search for “flights to Los Angeles” will display airfares that direct users to Google Flight Search, and a search for Staples Center takes you to a Google event ticket search when you click on an event.

“Whenever possible, Google will try to route you to one of their properties, such as YouTube, Play, Picasa, etc.,” he said.

So what should businesses do when Google takes your data and uses it to prevent customers from visiting your website? Adapt, Evans said. “Businesses are going to have to offer something else to their visitors to make it worth the click for them to go to the site.” Although Google does not tolerate content scraping, Evans said businesses have to roll with the punches.

“The Big G gets to make up their own rules,” he said. “If they want to take your data, they do. As an Internet marketer, I’ve learned that’s just part of the game. You’ve got to adapt and roll with it.”


Brought to you by Marshable the social media go to guys

5 Ways to Incorporate Social Media into Your Mailing List


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Want to get more mileage and benefits from your mailing list? Then be sure to socialize your updates and newsletters. The following tips will help you simultaneously grow your list and your social media audience.

1. Add social profile links to each newsletter.

Want to increase a particular social media audience, such as your Facebook fans or Twitter followers? If so, include a link to to it in each of your e-mail updates and newsletters. You can try focusing on building each audience one at a time or include both.

When it comes to the verbiage, be specific. Include a link or image that says “Become a fan on Facebook” or “Follow us on Twitter” in order to increase the likelihood that people will do just those things.

2. Encourage social sharing.

If your mailing list service provider allows it, include social sharing options in your newsletter itself. As people share your latest newsletter with their friends, their friends will be tempted to sign up to it as well.

Also be sure to encourage that people forward the newsletter to their friends. To increase the odds of people signing up for your newsletter when it has been shared, include a link to the signup page for your newsletter.

3. Share your newsletter on your social profiles.

Take the web-based version of your best newsletters and share the link to them on your main social profiles. For example, if you have a great deal for mailing list subscribers, be sure to tweet about it so people can jump on your mailing list to get it.

Another great way to share your newsletter on social media besides tweets and Facebook posts is to pin an image from your newsletter to Pinterest. Then, you can capitalize on Pinterest traffic to your newsletter and hopefully convert it into subscribers.

4. Add ClicktoTweet to tweetable quotes.

People love to tweet little snippets, quotes, and facts. ClicktoTweetallows you to create a custom status update that people can share just by clicking on the link provided by the tool. So if you have a tweetable bite in your newsletter, make a quick “Tweet this” link so that people will share the text and a link to your newsletter.

5. Direct e-mail readers to discuss on your social profiles.

Don’t let your e-mails become a one-way street. To increase the chances of mailing list subscribers becoming Facebook fans, create a discussion on your Facebook page and include the link to that post on your wall in the newsletter. This way, you not only gain fans and boost the engagement on your Facebook page, but you also show your subscribers that you care about them and what they have to say.

Last But Not Least, Don’t Forget to Measure Your Results

If you’re using MailChimp, Constant Contact, or SendGrid, you can sign up for a free trial account on SumAll and connect your mailing list service provider along with your social networks.

This way, you can measure the boost in fans or followers after your mailing list goes out. Or, if you encouraged engagement from your newsletter to your social profile, you can correlate the change in advocacy.

Businesses to Begin Selling on Yelp


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In what could be a boon to small-business owners, Yelp is now allowing some businesses to make sales right on their Yelp pages — a move that could eventually transform the company from an informational service into an ecommerce powerhouse. Businesses will not need to opt into the new feature, nor will they need to pay for it, said Vince Sollitto, a Yelp spokesperson, in an email.

The new offering, Yelp Platform, will roll out category by category, starting with food pickup and delivery and expanding to other service businesses. Yelp will partner with third-party service providers, such as Eat24 and, and their existing customers will be brought into Yelp Platform. Food ordering is now available through Yelp’s iOS app as well its mobile and desktop websites, and an Android app update is coming soon.

The new initiative draws on Yelp’s extensive, search-friendly web listings of local businesses, which net more than 100 million unique visitors each month. Consumers will now be able to transact directly on the business listings they visit, Sollitto says.Yelp will get a cut of revenue from its partners for transactions completed through its website, Sollitto says. He declined to disclose the percentage.

This is the second time in recent weeks that Yelp has added a new sales feature for businesses. Last month, Yelp debuted a Call to Action tool for advertisers only, which allows businesses to highlight a particular transaction on their Yelp pages, such as a special deal on a hotel room. Yelp Platform and Call to Action both help to convert browsers into buyers, Sollitto says, but while the latter encourages consumers to take a specific action on the merchant’s website, Yelp Platform allows ecommerce to happen seamlessly without clicking away to another site.

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