Category: Digital Marketing

What is click through rate and why is it important for Google Ads?

Click-Through Rate (CTR) represents the number of clicks received divided by the number of impressions received.

Your CTR helps indicate:

  1. How helpful and relevant your ads are.
  2. How successful your targeting/keywords are.

Improving your CTR can increase your ad rank – meaning:

  1. Increased impression share. This essentially means that your ads have more visibility – with a bigger portion of the impressions that they are eligible to receive.
  2. An increase in visibility can lead to increased site visits.
  3. Potentially lower cost per clicks (CPCs) for a better position.
  4. Potentially higher conversion rates (CR). CR depends on many factors but in theory:
    – An informative ad means a higher proportion of users will click your ad (increased CTR)
    – With more information at their fingertips, they are more qualified to make a decision about purchasing your product or service after they’ve clicked your ad.

Here are some simple steps to improving your CTR and your overall campaign performance:

1. Include the keyword in the ad copy

Keeping your ad relevant to the users’ search term increases the chance of being clicked.

2. Include a strong call to action to encourage users to take action

For example ‘buy now’, ‘contact us for a quote today’ or ‘sign up now for a free sample’.

3. Change match type

Even after the recent update to exact match, CTR’s are much higher on exact match keywords as the queries that can trigger adverts are very closely linked to the keyword.

Reviewing our client data from the past 12 months, CTR on exact match keywords was on average 105% higher than broad match terms, and conversion rate was 138% higher.

Remember that it’s still important to have a balance of match types (including broad and phrase) to maintain a healthy volume of impressions and clicks.

4. Add negative keywords

Negative keywords enable you to filter out search queries that are less relevant to your keywords.

The broad keyword + red +shoes could trigger an advert for the query “I want to buy red shoes” in addition to “red shoes film”.

Despite being a classic, a search for the 1948 film is very unlikely to result in a click on your ad (never mind a sale), bringing down your CTR.

Adding an extensive list of negative keywords not only improves your CTR by weeding out the irrelevant terms, it also saves you a tonne of budget! When we ran an initial audit for a client recently we found that adding one additional negative keyword saved them over £5000 per month.

5. Provide as much relevant information as possible

Google Ads have recently given us a third headline and a second description – that’s an extra 120 characters to communicate to your potential customers.

Adding ad extensions to your campaigns give users more reason to click on your advert. Taking them to specific, relevant pages via sitelinks or communicating your unique selling points through callout extensions.

Next steps:

If you’d like an in-depth review of your GoogleAds account, call 0161 956 8963 to speak to a paid media expert.

Marketing on a shoestring budget: What key areas to consider

With marketers continually being asked to work with less, and yet drive continued success (or better), taking a step back and identifying a marketing strategy that works with the budget you have available should always be the first step.

It can be tempting to look at bigger competitors and follow suit when in reality their campaign strategy only works due to the huge budget they have at their disposal and the economies of scale they can achieve.

What this article aims to highlight is what considerations should be applied at the early stages of strategising how to spend your ‘shoestring’ budget.

Understand User Behaviour

This can be done through a variety of methods, through commissioned third-party customer research to analysing user behaviour across owned marketing assets such as social media profiles and brand websites.

Website user behavior tracking software like Hotjar or Crazy Egg offers priceless insights into how your customers navigate around your website, identifying clear barriers to conversion, confusing UX and more crucially, what is working well.

Additionally, from experience using Hotjar far more extensively, it is worthwhile making use of the poll functionality available to license holders. There is no quicker way to get useful user feedback than strategically placing polls on the key commercial pages around the website for instant feedback on how users are finding the user journey, and what can be improved on.

Make sure to carefully consider the question, are the questions specific enough to get a suitable enough answer that you can use to improve the website flaws?

The initial investment is not very expensive, and with the improvement in UX potentially driving an increase in sales/applications that will far out way the outlay. Hotjar provides a range of options to suit your budget and business needs so it is definitely worth checking it out.

By ironing out any kinks in the user journey prior to investing the small budget you have for marketing is the investment that could give you an advantage over competitors. User experience (UX) and Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) are areas of marketing that are commonly overlooked, with the main focus directed at solely traffic acquisition. Read our previous blog on how SEO, UX, and CRO can all be used cohesively to achieve success.

Invest in the Right Channels

As previously mentioned, the easy route to follow is to mimic what the other brands in the sector are doing regarding what channels the marketing pounds are being assigned to.

Understanding where your target audience spends their time is paramount to any marketing strategy and as tempting as it may be to jump on the bandwagon of the ‘channel of the moment’, research this stage extensively.

Social media is a good example of a channel which presents vast opportunities in terms of enormous reach and brand awareness potential and at a relatively low cost, but is this the best channel to reach your target audience? If you are after a high valued customer type or targeting a specific niche, then the lure of Facebook might turn out to be the wrong move. Always revert back to your campaign objectives, and ask yourself;

  1. What is my objective?
  2. What message am I trying to promote
  3. What determines success?
  4. Is it the best use of my limited marketing budget?

Listen To Your Customer

Listening to your customer can come from actually getting out in the real world and speaking to people face-to-face, but many companies will often pass up the chance to speak to their customers in person when given the chance.

From a brick and mortar retailer to a car dealership, many brands will engage with customers every day, passing up the opportunity to learn more about their buying habits, what brought them to your place today, and how did they find you. You may find customers are much more honest when asked in person, as opposed to rating something 1 to 10 online.

Again reverting back to my previous point, does the question you ask allow for meaningful answers to be gathered, and for actions to be taken off the back off it?

Resist the urge to rip it up

When a new marketing or brand manager come into a new company, it can be a natural instinct to want to put their own spin on something, completely disregarding what has been done previously. If results as a whole were not great, you may think the natural reaction is to assume everything that was being done did not work.

However, potentially the less fashionable approach of simply building incrementally on the existing strategy might be the right (less glamorous) approach. By nurturing the existing marketing strategy and not ripping it up, you can earn the cumulative benefits that were only achieved by building on what was done before you, not to mention it is the more cost-effective approach a shoestring marketing budget requires.

The important thing to remember is that even if you operate in the same space as many other brands, both big and small, a good strategy is a way of leveling the playing field, and in some cases achieving that competitive advantage that all businesses strive for.

Small marketing budget or not, CandidSky has experience working across a wide range of sectors and marketing budgets, driving continued growth in increasingly competitive markets.

To see what we can do for you, why not get in touch on 0161 956 8963.

Should I work with influencers? And how do I even start?

social media influencer recording a video
Influencers. If you market yourself in the digital space chances are you’ve heard of them. They’re seemingly everywhere. And they’re not just confined to industries like fashion and beauty either. There are influencers working with all types of businesses, from DIY blogs, to sports and nutrition “gurus”, restaurant bloggers, money saving influencers. Whatever your business is, there’s likely to be an influencer who your target audience engages with.

Big brands are increasingly investing more and more of their marketing budgets into working with influencers and a lot of small businesses are following suit too.

So just where do you even start with putting an influencer marketing campaign together? Here’s a guide to follow.

What even is an influencer?

Influencers aren’t a new concept. They’ve been around long before the days on the internet, they just went by a different name: celebrities. Celebrities who found fame through music, sport, acting and other high profile professions, used their fame to work with brands and sell more than just their latest album/film/whatever. Celebrity endorsements is still a huge part of many marketing campaigns.

But what about non-celebrity influencers? Well, you probably have a few in your social circle – that friend who’s always ahead of the curve, buying the latest technology before it becomes popular, being into the newest bands, the trendsetter who’s already visited that new holiday destination and inspired you to do the same.

It’s this “friend” vibe that sets today’s influencers apart from celebrities. Thanks to the intimacy of social media publishing, people can feel like influencers are trusted friends. The official term for this is a parasocial relationship; the audience comes to feel like the influencer is someone whose recommendations they’ll follow, someone they genuinely like and feel an affinity with, even though the influencer doesn’t necessarily directly interact with them, . Today’s online influencers can seem more relatable than a big celebrity with a life so far removed from their audiences.

Is Influencer Marketing The Right Move?

Item 1 on the checklist: should you be doing influencer marketing in the first place? I said earlier there was most likely an influencer who’s reaching the target audience of most business types, no matter how niche. But just because the audience is there, that doesn’t necessarily mean you jump straight in.

Ideally, working with influencers needs to be considered as part of your wider marketing strategy. Unless you have an unlimited marketing budget, chances are you’ve got to choose your campaigns wisely and keep your eye on the return on investment.

Struggling to make a decision on whether to put budget into influencers? Take a step back and start with your marketing goals. Research your target audiences, and consider other ways you could reach them aside from influencers, so you can compare. Can you get a better return on investment using another channel?

I’d also advise doing some competitor research. Are your competitors working with influencers? Is it working? You obviously won’t be able to see the financial results, but the great thing about social media is that brand collaborations are there in place sight for all to see. What’s the engagement like? Do you think you could be doing a better job?

Find the right influencers for you

Ok so you’ve decided influencer marketing is something you’d like to try. Time to find some influencers to work with. Remember, the focus should be on your target audience – whose YouTube videos are they watching? Which Instagrammers are they engaging with? Do the research, ask your existing customers. The responses might surprise you, the “influencers” you had in mind for your campaigns might be completely different to the ones your target audiences are following.

There are tools and searchable databases online which can help you with your search for influencers. Facebook is even trialling an “influencer search engine” for marketers. And if all else fails, run some basic searches across social media channels and the ones which come up first will give you an indication of who’s the most influential on various topics.

Influencer Evaluation

You should hopefully have a shortlist of potential influencers now, and you’ll probably have realised it’s hard to compare. There’s possibly a few on your list with 100s of thousands of followers – they’re probably going to be more expensive to work with than an influencer with 10s of thousands. And perhaps you have some on your list with less than 10,000 followers, or less than 5,000.

The key thing here is to look beyond the numbers. “Fake” influencers are a concern. They’re influencers who have bought followers in bulk to make themselves seem more popular and influential than they really are. Tools like Socialblade offer one way to check for influencers buying followers, but you can also use your common sense. Look at their posts, take a look at how many likes and comments they’re getting. Huge follower numbers with low engagement rates are a red flag.

Mega Influencers or Micro Influencers

Ok let’s go back to the follower numbers for a moment. You’ve probably heard of the term “micro influencers” – this is often used to refer to influencers with a smaller (typically less than 10,000 followers), but heavily engaged following. Mega influencers is a phrase I’m not sure is widely used, but I’m using it here to refer to influencers with big followings, I’m talking 50k+ into the millions.

In an ideal world, you’d have the budget to work with all types of influencers, but in reality, chances are you don’t have that option. So who do you work with?

To make this decision, take it back to the objectives of your campaign. If you want one-time exposure on a huge scale, it might be best to sink all your budget into 2 or 3 mega influencers. If you want longer term exposure to an audience, then a micro influencer might get you the best return on investment.

What are the options for influencer campaigns?

Influencers chosen, now what? How do you want to work with them? What are the options? Just send them some free stuff and hope they’ll write about you? That’s a risky tactic and your offering is likely to get lost in all the other free stuff they’re receiving!

Your first port of call should be to read these guidelines from the Advertising Standards Authority because however you choose to work with influencers, if money, goods or services are exchanged with the influencer in return for something, then you’re going to have to disclose this to their audience.

In terms of options, again I’ll refer you back to your campaign objectives. Decide what you want to achieve and work with your influencers to agree on the best way to get there. I’d advise treating the influencer as if they were a freelancer working for you – set out your brief, work with them, agree on deadlines and payments, and most importantly get everything agreed in writing. This will help keep both you and the influencers on track and ensure a return on investment for both parties.

A few examples of ways to work with influencers include:

  • Offering them products or services to trial in return for creating and sharing social media/YouTube/Blog content about the product or service.
  • Paying them to create and share content about your products.
  • Hosting events to showcase your products/services to influencers

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Celebrating the launch of @1821bar in Shoreditch this week with a delicious @luxardo_uk Cherry Negroni. ? The history of the family-owned Luxardo brand is fascinating (founded nearly 200 years ago) and so is the variety of products they make near Padua in Italy: from Maraschino (a marasca cherry distillate) to Sour Cherry Gin, Amaretto, Limoncello and many more. I love their Maraschino cherries, so good I was eating them straight out the jar! ? You’ll find the pop-up Bar 1821 at 147 Bethnal Green Road (just off Brick Lane) until the 9th September. And the first 50 people to use the code GIULIA1821 at the bar will get a free cocktail (offer valid until 24th August) #LoveLuxardo #drinkresponsibly #ad

A post shared by Giulia Mulè (@mondomulia) on

How do you make contact with them?

Many of the big influencers have “agents” or managers who deal with all the requests they receive. Others run the show on their own, alongside full-time jobs and family commitments. Either way, be professional in your approach, whether the first method of contact is a social media Direct Message, or an email.

You may need to get creative with your opening line to grab their attention. Tom Chapman, CandidSky’s Publishing Specialist, who regularly reaches out to publishers to pitch ideas and collaborations for clients advises:

Get a good understanding of what your influencer enjoys covering. A ‘mummy influencer’ is going to be searching for angles to do with parenting and work/life balances. Search through what they’ve previously covered and try to focus on a unique approach.

“Do this, and you’re already better than the vast majority of offers they receive.”

Final three things to remember

In essence, to get your influencer campaigns flying remember these three things:

  1. Audience Targeting
  2. Setting Objectives
  3. Keeping your return on investment in mind

Checklist complete! Now you’re ready to go. If you’re in need of some ideas and inspiration for how you could be working with influencers, get in touch with the CandidSky strategy team now on 0161 956 8963.

Why you should be using video to attract and retain customers

Video views have surged in the past few years, which is largely due to the advances of smartphones, social media and improved connectivity speeds. However, it is only recently that businesses have capitalised on the emerging opportunity, with 65% of businesses who aren’t currently using video planning to do so in 2018.

But why should businesses invest in video production?

Despite what you may think, it’s not just cat videos that gain high engagement on the internet.

Ask yourself, would you be more likely to buy a product if you are delivered a long blurb about how great a product is or if you had watched an informative video? If you would rather watch a video, you are probably in the 74% of people who have bought a product after watching a high-quality explainer video. In addition, if you are able to create a video which is engaging, informative and relevant to your audience, you are placing yourself as a thought-leader which increases trust and the likelihood of a user converting on your website.

On the other hand, if you are not currently seen as a thought leader in your industry, a great way of gaining exposure is to collaborate with publications and influencers in the industry. Doing this will help increase the audience reach, add unique insights and improve the perceived quality of your video content.

23andMe partnered with Buzzfeed to showcase their product through video

Another benefit of creating videos for your business is the ability to use them across your marketing. For example, you could place an explainer video on your product page, while also using it to attract engagements on social media and improve click-throughs for your email campaigns. A recent study from Hubspot found emails that include videos experience 200-300% increases in click-through rate compared with those that don’t. So by ignoring video, you’re potentially losing a considerable number of customers.

If you want to successfully deliver your message and ensure it sticks in the memory of your audience, you may need to incorporate video in your content strategy. As our brains evolve in this ever changing digital landscape, only 10% of information is retained from text, whereas studies have found that 95% of a message is retained through video. Therefore if you want to improve your awareness, there is probably no better way than creating branded videos.

“I have created a promotional video but it isn’t receiving any views”

Many businesses create outstanding videos but fail to get them viewed by their target audience. This is why it is imperative to have a clear purpose for the video prior to creating it, with measurable goals and a strategy in place to achieve them.

If you are creating a video for promotional purposes, we would recommend hosting it on YouTube, which is the site with the second highest traffic in the world after Google. Not only does this provide an opportunity to reach your audience through the platform, it also provides an opportunity to gain visibility through Google in a video carousel, which has started to appear more since an update in June.

Google SEO video carousel

Improving your search visibility through video will result in a higher possibility of reaching people who are researching for products or services, and allow you to educate a user on why they require your product or service. Plus, once your video is live on YouTube, it is easy to use the video as part of your overall marketing strategy, reaching as relevant a target audience as possible.

In addition, high-quality videos are a great way to engage your existing customers and we would highly recommend publishing videos across your social channels multiple times to reach and engage with as many existing customers as possible. This may result in increased repeat purchase and increased confidence in your brand.

What does the future look like for video?

There are huge opportunities for businesses to capitalise on in an ever-changing digital landscape, not least with Facebook launching 360 degree video functionalities last year, and the growth of Instagram stories and IGTV.

A 360 degree test video in the CandidSky offices

We are also able to create videos which are more creative than ever with tech such as drones and easy to use video editing software. As a result, there is no longer space in the market for poor qulality videos and consumers demands are expected to increase further in the next few years. A recent study showed that 61% of users were put off buying a product due to a poor quality explainer video, which shows the power that video has on a users journey in 2018.    

In addition, there are huge opportunities emerging from advances in AR (augmented reality) technologies, which we expect to have an impact on how we interact with customers in the future, and will undoubtedly have an impact on what customers expect from your business.

Finally, we have witnessed the attention span of users decrease in recent years and millenials are demanding video content that grabs their attention in the first 5 second of a video. As such, when creating a video, we need to ensure it has a powerful message which is delivered in an engaging manner – quickly. This is why we recommend concentrating on quality over quantity when it comes to all content created for business purposes, otherwise, you could be setting yourself up to fail.

How to get started

Video should be a small piece of your overall marketing strategy and should align with your business’ goals and objectives. If you are new to video production, we strongly recommend speaking to an expert, such as CandidSky, to ensure you deliver your message effectively, make sure it aligns with your wider marketing strategy and reflects your brand voice.

Example of some short animations CandidSky created as part of a content marketing strategy for Peninsula.

 

The “Brand purpose” bandwagon – what is it, and should your business jump on it?


As businesses strive to engage with customers in more meaningful and impactful ways, the past few years have seen an increase in brands focusing on “brand purpose.” As an area of marketing strategy designed to grow a brand, its aim is usually to appeal to an audience who believe a company should stand for more than just its products or services.

What is brand purpose?

In simple terms, brand purpose, or “purpose-driven marketing”, is a way for a business to form a relationship with a target audience based on their shared needs and interests – including supporting a worthy cause.

This is not as simple as brands getting behind a cause they think their audience are interested in, but demonstrating how the company’s values and beliefs are also aligned with those causes.

Successful examples of this could be anything from flat-pack giant IKEA’s commitment to more sustainable product packaging by 2020, to outdoor clothing brand Patagonia donating 1% of sales revenue to the preservation and restoration of natural environments.

Why would a brand adopt a purpose?

So why would brands go down this route? Is the the pool of passive consumers dwindling? Can greater brand loyalty be achieved through aligning marketing messages with a particular set of values? What are the benefits for brands focusing on promoting brand purpose as part of their marketing strategy, you might ask?

One key benefit is to grow the brand’s reach to a new audience who may not have heard of, or wanted to buy from, that particular brand previously. If a brand is strongly supporting a cause the consumer also feels passionately about, there is potential to build a strong relationship with that audience.

When is adopting a brand purpose the right strategy?

Brand purpose initiatives have the potential to tap into new audiences, increase brand loyalty and increase customer retention amongst existing audiences.

So how can you tell if launching a brand purpose initiative is the right way for your business to go – and if the timing is right?

Here is what you need to ask yourself:

  1. What objectives does this marketing strategy need to achieve based on your market offering and target audience?
  2. How does the strategy coherently direct your resource in order to achieve these objectives?
  3. What are the tactics needed to successfully execute this?

Many businesses have successfully identified and implemented the above three steps. For example, The Body Shop’s brand purpose was to commit to ‘enriching its people, products and the planet’.

They did so by setting clear, measurable objectives:

  1. Help 40,000 economically vulnerable people access work around the world.
  2. Ensure 100 percent of their natural ingredients are traceable and sustainably sourced, protecting 10,000 hectares of forest and other habitat.
  3. Build bio-bridges, protecting and regenerating 75 million square meters of habitat helping communities to live more sustainably.

What success looks like

In the case of The Body Shop, they don’t commit to achieving too many objectives, but the ones they have are clearly aligned to their customers’ perception of the company and products.

The Body Shop communicates this to its supporters on a daily basis, pushing messages out via mobile and updating till points with the latest fundraising targets. As head of global campaigns at The Body Shop, Jessie Macneil-Brown, says, their brand purpose efforts make it “clear and quantifiable to consumers how each campaign is driving social change.”

However, as with most marketing strategy, the end goal is typically focused on growing revenue -it’s why more and more brands are exploring this avenue of marketing strategy. For The Body Shop, the return to the company’s activist roots was (at least partially) commercially motivated, coming off the back of a slump in sales. And the key to brand purpose success is to ensure the alignment with a cause doesn’t come off as a blatant money-grabbing exercise.

Unfortunately, for every brand purpose marketing campaign that gets this part right, there have been many that don’t hit the mark…

When brand purpose goes bad

Many recent brand purpose initiatives to make the news have proven that even the biggest companies can get it wrong when the tactics aren’t aligned to a strategy, and the strategy isn’t aligned to relevant business objectives. In fact, many failed brand purpose strategies have opened businesses up to harassment, ridicule, and negative publicity.

Notable recent failures include Pepsi trying to solve global disharmony, Starbucks aiming to remove racial tension, Heineken hoping to break down the barriers between transgender people and their critics, or most recently, cosmetic brand Lush targeting the police and shaming them for their infiltration of activists between 1968 and 2008.

As prominent marketer Mark Ritson suggests “Consumers do not want brands to be evil, but they also do not want them to posture about purpose. People are not morons, they can smell the hypocrisy of taking up a purpose while ultimately pushing it for commercial benefit”.

And as European marketing director at Patagonia Alex Weller recently said:

You can’t reverse into a mission and values through marketing. The organisations that are struggling with this are probably the ones that are thinking about marketing first. The role of marketing is to authentically elevate that mission and purpose and engage people in it, but the purpose needs to be the business.

Therefore if customer retention, audience growth, brand loyalty, and revenue growth are your business objectives, there are many other strategies to achieve this, in the event brand purpose isn’t a clear avenue to pursue at this stage.

Tapping into new audiences via an improved keyword strategy, building customer retention through engaging content or growing revenue from your existing audience through conversion rate optimisation are all areas the team at CandidSky excel in, so why not get in touch today and see how we can help you maximise your marketing strategy.

Digital Marketing is like a game of Snakes and Ladders

Running a digital marketing campaign can be like playing a game of Snakes and Ladders. You can plan till your heart’s content, but with a roll of the dice, you could find your campaign flying high, or your fate could change and you find yourself slipping backwards.

The question is, just how well equipped are you to deal with the ups and downs? Are you making the most of opportunities and minimising the damage? Take our quiz to test your digital marketing prowess!


 

Here’s my tips for how you can be best prepared the game!

Remember: there’s a time and a place

Context is hugely important, each part of the web has its own rules. Positive feedback on a consumer forum for example, might not translate so well if you decide to share this on your website, and equally, if you were to go onto that discussion forum and give it the marketing speak then you’d probably get banned!

Think about your target audience and what their expectations are for the space they’re in. One marketing message does not fit all. What tools do you have at your disposal to reach this audience?

Can you spin a negative into a positive?

With the speed of social media, news of any shortcomings can unfortunately spread very quickly. Start with solving the issue – this isn’t just a marketing problem, it’s a customer service issue. Once you have a plan, that’s where your digital strategy will come into play, use your digital channels to get your message out there, and who knows, you might see a surprising conversion rate for your apology email, maybe the brand PPC campaign to your apology landing page diverts traffic away from negative reviews.

Remember – how you deal with problems in the public sphere can set you apart and help you weather the storm.

Plan for your campaigns to fail

What’s the worst thing that could happen? You probably don’t want to think about it, but go beyond the worst case scenario and think about how you’d deal with it. You probably won’t have to put your “worst case” plan in place, but you’ll be better equipped to handle setbacks if you’ve thought through what you’d do. I’d recommend keeping a cross channel mindset for your backup plan – lay out where the intersections are between your campaigns. If something doesn’t work for one channel, can it be helpful to another?

Plan for your campaigns to fly

Prepare for the worst case, but also prepare for the best case. What if your campaign is so successful that you get more budget signed off? How would you keep the momentum up? Keep your goals and objectives in mind all the time so if/when you do have a win, you’ll know where to use it to get you to your goal quicker!

How to turn your snakes into ladders

If you take just one thing away from this article, my final piece of advice for playing the digital marketing game of snakes and ladders is to make sure your marketing channels are working together.

By all means, your campaigns will have individual objectives, but all should be working towards a larger overall marketing objective and you should know where the crossover lies. So if you find yourself halfway up a ladder, you’re not limited to what you can do because you’re stuck in an SEO mindset. Equally, if you find a snake in your path, the answer to your problems may lie in the wider marketing space.

Don’t let your fate be decided by chance waiting to see if you’re going to land on a ladder or a snake. Line up your team and resources so you can avoid the snakes altogether and rise up those ladders.

Technology is about to change your business forever. Yes, again. (pt.2)

In part one of this post, we established the majority of UK small businesses are already struggling to keep up with digital technology; 82% of these firms still do not have a mobile-friendly site, even though the majority of web searches have been conducted on mobile devices since 2015.

In other words, nearly all of the country’s businesses are already three years behind their customers.

That’s a far, far bigger problem than businesses seem to understand; every year, more and more browsing is done on mobile, and more money is spent using mobile devices. That’s not standing still – that’s going backwards.

But it’s nothing compared to what’s in store. Because the next explosion of technological innovation is already underway and it’s frankly terrifying. Bear in mind that every type of technology mentioned in this video is already in use or at least in development:

Ultimately, markets will decide which of these innovations will take off and which die. And markets are people. Markets are customers. Markets are your customers.

What’s certain is technology has proven to be instrumental in shaping consumer habits – so at least some of these innovations will change the way your business operates forever:

Your customers may not want to speak to you

National Australia Bank’s “virtual banker” can already recognise 13,000 variations of 200 common questions from its business banking customers. And in terms of artificial intelligence (AI), that’s nowhere close to its full potential. In fact, many renowned futurists, like Ray Kurzweil, believe AI may become indistinguishable from human intelligence within the next 30 years.

Despite AI’s infancy, a recent Salesforce study found 69% of customers already prefer AI chatbots to human interaction for simple queries. And who wouldn’t? Nobody likes long call queues. And when you do get through, you often end up speaking to a robot-like operator with no knowledge of how to answer the simplest questions.

Even a small technological improvement in AI – fuelled by customers wanting a richer experience – will see an even greater number of people preferring to interact with a robot, which will further fuel innovation, and the cycle of development will repeat. It’s why companies like Google have invested heavily in organisations such as DeepMind (who they acquired for $500m in 2014), which teaches computers to think and learn like humans – including teaching new skills to themselves and then to other computers.

In short, the ability of machines to understand human language and behaviour may change the way businesses interact with customers forever.

There will be no such thing as “using a computer”

This is what a quantum computer looks like:

Well, kind of. That’s just what houses it. You can’t really see a quantum computer, because it works by shining lasers at atoms. Yep, a quantum computer is just a bunch of invisible atoms.

While the technology is too young to be particularly useful, the method it uses to solve equations means these computers could soon be almost infinitely faster than existing computers – while being so tiny, they’ll occupy virtually no physical space.  

Now, are you ready for your head to really hurt? This is what a carbon nanotube looks like.

They’re made from a material called graphene; with a width of just one atom, graphene is technically two-dimensional. It’s so light, even the mildest air current will make it float. It conducts light, electricity, and heat extremely efficiently, and it’s 200 times stronger than steel.

Now, imagine the potential of quantum computers combined with graphene. It would mean everything and anything could be a supercomputer. Your shoelaces. Powerlines. False eyelashes. Literally anything.

So, as much as the computer and the smartphone changed consumer habits, that technology looks seriously antiquated by comparison. You won’t have to make a conscious decision to use a computer, you’ll constantly be using a whole network of computers for everything all the time.

It’s likely that the combination and mass adoption of quantum computers and graphene could completely reshape the physical world as we know it – opening up mind-boggling new business opportunities and challenges.

No more middlemen

Have you heard of Bitcoin? No, we’re not going to try and explain how it works – that’s not important.

What is important is the technology that powers it – the blockchain. No, we’re not going to explain how that works, either. All that matters is to understand which parts of your business it could affect – which is absolutely every part of it.

Put simply, blockchain technology’s strength is that it removes the middlemen from virtually everything that involves data. It’s an unhackable system that anyone can use to directly send any type of data anywhere. Document storage, the transfer of money, and sending contracts could soon be facilitated by blockchain on a mass scale – all of this data could be securely exchanged from person-to-person (or business-to-business) without the need for anyone to manage that process.

Blockchain has the potential to do to the internet what Napster did to the music industry. And early adopters like American Express, BHP Billiton, and Apple are already capitalising on blockchain’s power.

In just a few years, your customers may expect to book, pay for, and receive your goods or services via some kind of blockchain-powered solution. Why? Because it will be quick, secure, and cheap for them – three of the key reasons that drive huge numbers of people to adopt a new technology.

Your competitors will be literally everyone – including the big players

Even if quantum computing hits some kind of wall, the internet will still become far more powerful and far-reaching than its current iteration. Companies who’ve been quick to capitalise on its potential have an enormous head start, and now have the potential to control the space completely.

Take Amazon, for example. Within the next 10-20 years, the idea of the “local business” could be dead – all thanks to Amazon.

Amazon already demonstrated its ability to transform consumer habits (contributing to the demise of the traditional high street) while it was merely an online bookstore. That’s a problem for two reasons:

  1. Amazon is now way, way bigger than you could possibly know
  2. By their own admission, Amazon wants to compete with every business in the world.  Yes, even yours:

Think of literally any product or service. If Amazon were to take its strategy of aggressively acquiring businesses, and combine it with automation, people-less delivery systems (like drones and self-driving vans), and home 3D printing, there would be literally nothing Amazon couldn’t supply to a customer anywhere at any time.

Again, Amazon’s plan is already in full swing, and all of this technology already exists. When they combine, the impact on small businesses around the globe could be profound.

Should you just give up?

Never give up! Don’t be scared of technology, and don’t be intimidated by the big boys like Amazon. Every challenge is also an opportunity, so arm yourself with a future-proof strategy:

  1. Embrace and adopt the technology your customers would benefit from (start by asking them what that is!)
  2. Declare guerilla warfare on big players like Amazon by exploiting their weaknesses (there will always be something you can give your customers that they can’t). Find out what that is, and get in first.
  3. Prioritise the “human” element. Even the smartest machines will never have emotional intelligence – so make sure that’s central to your operations and marketing.

Ready to explore chatbots, future-proof strategy, and emotionally-intelligent marketing? We’re already there! Call 0161 660 6735 to speak to a human being.

Technology is about to change your business forever. Yes, again. (pt.1)

“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”

Lewis Carroll wrote this line in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland roughly 135 years before the dawn of digital marketing.

But the sentiment behind the phrase couldn’t be more relevant to modern marketing. Because as technology progresses and markets shift, businesses must continually work harder just to ensure they are not left behind.

However, there are two common obstacles that often prevent this from happening:

Obstacle 1: Humans are inherently terrible at understanding how quickly technology progresses

Technology’s rate of change is constantly accelerating. This means we hit developmental milestones ever more quickly, with society having less and less time to adapt at each milestone before the next one arrives.

Unfortunately, humans have a really, really bad habit of using the past to predict the future.

That’s because our brains stopped evolving around 10,000 years ago, when we were still hunter-gatherers. Back then, the rate of progress was far slower, steadier, and more predictable. These days, however, society-shifting breakthroughs are coming along more-and-more frequently:

The unfortunate result is our primitive minds expect technology to develop over the next 30 years at around the same rate as it did in the 30 years prior. But what actually happens looks something like this:

Credit: waitbutwhy.com

It makes complete sense when you think about it. In the 30 years since 1988, we’ve gone from corded home phones to mobile phones, to smartphones; the new Samsung S9+ has 10,000 times more RAM than the Tandy 100 TL, a popular PC in 1988. It’s also a camera, a music player, a personal organiser – and a whole lot more.

Could you honestly have predicted owning a pocket-sized device so powerful within 30 years back in 1988? Or in 1998? Or even 2003? Well, over the next 30 years, technology will develop far more quickly than that.

And when you look at how quickly the smartphone changed consumers’ online habits, it’s clear many businesses have underestimated the rate at which modern technology affects marketplaces…

Remember when Google announced that more searches would soon be done on phones than computers? Well, that milestone already came and went way ahead of schedule, back in 2015. That’s why, since around 2013, Google has made a series of well-publicised changes to heavily favour mobile-friendly websites in its search results. Despite this, a 2017 PayPal report found only 18% of UK small businesses have a mobile-friendly site.

Unlike Alice, 8 out of 10 of small business stood still as their world moved around them; between 2016 and 2017, the annual spend on mobile nearly doubled from £13.5 billion to £27 billion. And it’s estimated to hit £43 billion by 2020. If those businesses continue to stand still, will they survive the next 30 years? We’ll take a closer look in part 2 of this post next week.

Obstacle 2: Businesses are awful at reacting to change

Big business has a reputation for struggling with innovation. And when you consider examples like Kodak, Blockbuster, and Woolworth’s, it’s easy to see why. Those companies failed to keep up with marketplaces changed by technology – and they suffered the consequences.

As innovation changed consumer habits, many of these businesses got bogged down by internal red tape, slow decision-making, bureaucracy, and in-fighting while more nimble startups emerged to take their market share.


Credit: New York Times

So does that mean the “agile” approach of startups and their ability to “pivot” is the way forward for business? If we’re talking about the ones that succeed, sure. But aside from being a buzzword-hater’s nightmare, startups have a failure rate of 90%.

So while startups can often react quickly to change, most of them fail for far more basic reasons – the top one being that there is no actual need for what they’re offering. As it turns out, innovation is useless if nobody wants your product.

If big business is slow and archaic, and most startups make stuff nobody wants, who does that leave? It leaves the local plumber. Mid-sized manufacturers. The neighbourhood restaurant. The family hairdresser. And this is where nightmare stories of inadequate online presences are rife. Out of date opening times, disconnected phone numbers, incorrect addresses, unanswered emails – the list is endless. In fact, a 2017 study by Approved Index found that two million British small-to-medium businesses have no website at all – a confronting statistic in an increasingly digital economy.

How you can catch up

Is your business running very fast to at least stay still? If not, it’s impossible to understate how important it is to start – because technology is about to change business again. And that change is coming far quicker than most businesses realise. We’ll explore that in more detail in next week’s post.

For now, focus on getting your online presence up to speed using this checklist (ordered by level of importance):

DIGITAL CATCH-UP CHECKLIST

  1. Get a mobile-friendly website.
  2. Keep your website as simple as possible so you can easily update it.
  3. Do some basic SEO – Google’s webmaster guidelines explain the fundamentals really well.
  4. Sign up for social media – even if you hardly ever post – and keep your business info updated.

Tick these off your list and you’ll be back to running fast to stay still. If you’re more ambitious and want to start overtaking your competitors, be sure to read part two of this post next week. We’ll look at some of the big technological changes we may see in the next few years – and how your business can take advantage of them.

Need a little help checking off your list? Call 0161 660 3827 and we’ll be happy to help.

Why should you care about mobile first? And what is it, anyway?

mobile first

‘Mobile first’ simply means the design and development of a website that prioritises a user’s mobile experience over desktop. In a buying journey, potential customers move across multiple devices and channels when researching and looking for solutions. So your website needs to be responsive (scale up and down) to the device it is being viewed on, to provide the best possible user experience. This also hugely important for SEO, as Google has explicitly said it’s favouring websites that provide a positive user experience on different devices (including mobile).

What is one of the first things you do when you wake up? Check your phone? More people are shopping on their smartphones and the data shows the estimated annual spend on mobile nearly doubled from £13.5 billion (OC&C Strategy Consultants) to £27 billion (Centre for Retail Research) from 2016 to 2017 and it’s estimated to be £43 billion by 2020.

However, according to PayPal only 18% of small businesses in the UK have a website that’s mobile responsive. This means a huge percentage of companies are missing out on a sizeable amount of traffic and potential leads from mobile.

What’s the impact on Search Engine Optimisation when your site is not responsive?

In March 2018 Google announced it had started to introduce mobile first indexing meaning Google will crawl, index and rank a page based on the mobile version of a webpage, instead of the desktop version. This move is in recognition that over half of mobile searches are done on a mobile. This doesn’t mean if you don’t have a mobile version of your website that you won’t be ranked, but it is something to be aware of – if you don’t have a responsive website then you could be losing out to websites that do.  

Responsive websites improve usability for those on mobiles, which in turn leads to better levels of engagement – a factor that Google is known to measure using metrics like time spent on page and bounce rate.

A further SEO benefit of responsive websites is that all your content is stored in a single place, rather than potentially duplicated across desktop and mobile-specific domains which could negatively impact how you rank,  if not managed correctly.


Impact on conversions

Whilst one aim of search engine optimisation is to increase organic traffic and improve rankings, conversions are the bottom line that matter. Generally, mobile conversion rates are lower than on desktop, but they are catching up as ecommerce providers speed up the user registration and payment process. And by taking a cross-channel approach, for example, having an abandoned shopping cart email sent out to a user with a discount to complete their payment can push the customer over the line to payment.

Non-responsive websites can make it harder for a user to use your website, for example tiny buttons that are too close together and having to scroll and zoom in/out/across make it a much more difficult experience for users. These problems simply don’t exist with a responsive design. As Google webmasters tweeted on 14th June 2018:  

 


Is my website mobile friendly?

Google very helpfully have a tool called Mobile-Friendly Test – https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly This will run through your web page and diagnose any potential issues which need to be corrected.  

If you don’t want to miss out on mobile traffic and need to optimise your website, speak to us today!

 

The search engines you are ignoring but your customers aren’t

search button

As soon as you hear the word ‘search engine’, I would guess that Google immediately springs to mind. How often have you said ‘I’ll Google it’?

Have you ever said, ‘I’ll Yahoo it’?

However, it’d be a mistake to think that Google is the only search engine available to your customers when they’re researching solutions/products. We take a look at the others that may not have occurred to you, and how you can increase your visibility on these search engines to reach a wider audience.

YouTube

If it hadn’t occurred to you before, YouTube is the world’s 2nd largest search engine with 1.5 billion monthly users. Not only dominated by cat videos, YouTube is an increasingly popular marketing channel for companies to connect with and attract customers.

When uploading your videos to YouTube, it can be challenging to stand out amongst so much content. Think carefully about your title, thumbnail, and description, as these are all important in attracting your customers’ attention. Also don’t forget to promote your video on your own website and through social media channels. You will have spent a considerable amount of time and budget on video production, so don’t neglect to push it out on as many places as possible!

Bing

Bing is a search engine owned and operated by Microsoft, relaunched in 2009 to take on Google’s market share. Bing’s usage has increased by 5.2% over two years so is worthy of your attention and also has additional services including Bing Maps, Bing Travel, and Bing.

Similar to Google Adwords, Bing offers its own paid advertising platform with text ads available. Considering Google dominates the majority of paid search, competition for keywords is likely to be less – meaning it is a more budget-friendly option.

There are differences between how Google and Bing rank websites so it is worth doing some research into how you can optimise your website for Bing too; Bing is much more straightforward when it comes to search engine optimisation compared to Google. For example, Bing is more reliant on targeted and exact-match keywords whereas Google generally prioritises more comprehensive or related phrases. Bing also uses location tags to accurately place your business in local search result which Google doesn’t. They’re easy to add to your site’s code and won’t negatively affect your Google rankings.

Therefore, when optimising for Bing, it might be more advantageous to use exact match keywords in your headings and metadata. Yet, be sure to do this sparingly or your position in Google could be adversely affected.

searching with a magnifying glass

 

Yahoo

Launched in 1995, Yahoo was one of the first search engines on the market. In 2009, Yahoo announced it would use Bing as its search engine and handle their advertisements. Therefore, by advertising and optimising for Bing, you should increase your visibility on Yahoo.

Consequently, the same rules when it comes to search engine optimisation apply here. It is also worth noting that Yahoo/Bing prioritises the age of a website when it comes to rankings.

Twitter

Twitter, the quickfire social media network, also comes with a search function that should not be ignored or underestimated. With a growing number of monthly users tipping 336 million at the beginning of 2018 (Source:Statista) Twitter can be an outlet for latest company news, product launches, and showcasing your company culture.

By using relevant hashtags, you can increase the visibility of your company and extend the reach of your content. Whilst social shares don’t directly affect rankings, they can have a positive knock-on effect for search engine optimisation.

Tools like Hootsuite can help you schedule in tweets in advance so you have continuity in the frequency when you post. 

Wrapping up

By only focusing on Google as a search engine, you are missing out on a huge audience. It is definitely worth investing your marketing spend and time on the other search engines – putting your eggs in various baskets, so to speak.

Google frequently implements new algorithm changes which can have a detrimental effect on your rankings. Although a skilled agency can help you recover, exploring other search engines can help to spread the risk.

Next steps

If you wish to speak to our team about increasing your presence on other search engines, contact us today.

Take a look at our other blog posts to increase your digital knowledge.

 

“Let’s go viral!” and other phrases you should fire your marketing agency for using

Canon

At a different agency, my employer was quite fond of ‘blue-sky thinking’ and having ‘bonnet meetings’. The latter was a fancy way to describe delivering quick pitches outside a car and – to this day – I have no idea what blue-sky thinking means.

Whether using jargon, legalise, or even just using a word incorrectly, not speaking plain English is one of my biggest gripes. Although jargon can be fine among the informed, a lack of clear communication can be detrimental to all those involved in a campaign.

Unfortunately, some marketing agencies love jargon – to the point they start to alienate their customers and clients through overly-complicated language. However, there are some phrases which are sometimes used to confuse, hide an absence of knowledge, or just don’t make any sense.

If any of your marketing team starts using these phrases, it might be an idea to look for a more plain-speaking group elsewhere.

Let’s go viral

It’s hard to believe the word ‘viral’ has a negative meaning. If a disease goes viral, it becomes an outbreak and the ramifications can be terrifying. Yet, these days, ‘viral’ describes an advertising campaign which spreads rapidly throughout the internet.

“Let’s go viral” is generally useless as an objective. ‘Viral’ cannot be measured and is typically used by teams with no clear social media strategy. Furthermore, too many viral pieces are structured around what would work for an internet audience instead of an organisation’s customers. Therefore, even if a piece does go ‘viral’, it rarely leads to conversions.

However, if the intention is to gain more followers on social media, acquire page views, or increase the number of shares, all of these can be quantified. They can also be completed without creating a potentially expensive piece of viral content.

Agile marketing

‘Agile marketing’ is a phrase commonly used to describe several different teams working towards the same goal. However, some agencies also use the word ‘agile’ to represent their ability to react quickly to changing deadlines and focuses.

‘Agile’ is used as a buzzword all too frequently with many perpetrators not completely understanding what it means. Therefore, if this word crops up in your strategy, always request clarification as to what it entails.

Growth hacking

‘Growth hacking’ refers to a specific service accountable for business growth. In this situation, a designated ‘hacker’ will be responsible for growing an organisation. Yet, every aspect of a firm should be contributing to this.

As well as being a redundant service, ‘growth hacking’ is a phrase generally used by amateur agencies to sound more advanced.

A Team

A-Team

If something goes wrong in a marketing campaign, some agencies will send in their ‘A-Team’. Alternatively, I’ve heard of marketing SWAT units or simply the ‘best of the best’ being deployed to solve the problem.

While this might conjure images of armed professionals abseiling from a military chopper, the reality is somewhat different. Mostly, this will entail marketers meeting in a boardroom to discuss solving the problem.

As a result, this is somewhat patronising to the client but a mythical A-Team shouldn’t exist anyway. In a competent agency, everyone is good at what they do. There is no need to hold some higher than others as it devalues the wider team’s efforts.

When something goes wrong, I’d rather have a professional tell me how to fix it. Otherwise, it’s unlikely the plan will come together.

Ideation

‘Ideation’ is an ostentatious way of describing coming up with an idea. It seems to have originated from merging the words ‘idea’ with ‘creation’ and has been used without question by many marketing teams.

Yet, the word ideation already existed beforehand and was used by psychologists. Therefore, it has many meanings which we won’t cover here.

Ideation is often used to confuse the uninformed as opposed to assisting them. In a similar vein, ideation appears to have spawned the phrase ‘idea shower’. This creepy term is – again – trying to make the process of idea generation seem more impressive.

Holistic

Similar to viral and ideation, holistic is another medical term which has made it into marketing. While we can speculate as to the number of marketers who wanted to be doctors, holistic marketing relates to how connected strategy is.

For example, this could involve multiple departments working towards the same goal or every aspect of a company – from customers to shareholders – being considered in an organisation’s development.

Yet, as we have seen with ‘agile’, the definition of holistic marketing differs from agency to agency. As a result, it has largely ceased to have any meaning. Therefore, if this phrase is used, always seek clarification.

Gurus and ninjas

The title ‘expert’ is earned. It is a statement which clearly marks someone as being more experienced than others in the industry. In a similar fashion, ‘guru’ is someone who is recognised as a teacher or master in their field.

Unfortunately, too many marketers use the title to make themselves seem superior. Not everyone can be an expert, but automatically claiming so without evidence betrays a lack of original thought and devalues how genuine professionals are perceived.

Similar to ‘A-Team’, other marketing job titles are there only to make the profession seem more exciting or fun, such as ‘ninja’ or ‘rockstar’. This is quite common in startups as this ‘fun’ portrayal is believed to separate them from the competition. Instead, it is only a fantasy which threatens to devalue their services.

 

Labs

Labs

Data is becoming increasingly important in this modern age and all marketers must adapt to better interpret this information. However, in an effort to make themselves appear more specialist, some agencies claim they possess marketing labs with dedicated data scientists.

Often, this is ostentatious messaging to disguise their lacklustre abilities.

Some marketers have also been known to claim their office is similar to a different location – such as a marketing garage. As we have seen above with startup culture, this ‘fun’ portrayal has the potential to undermine their services.

Fancy a conversation in plain English?

Jargon and buzzwords are quite common in marketing but we prefer to have conversations in plain English. As a result, we will happily keep you informed without trying to confuse you with bizarre terminology.

And there isn’t a guru or ninja amongst them.

If you want to discuss your marketing needs, get in touch with us today.

Three ways emotional intelligence helps you understand your customers

When you get home after working the 9 – 5 and discover a bunch of fliers on your doormat advertising local restaurants, I’m betting you grumble, pick these up, and put them in the bin. If that sounds like you, you’ve just seen a marketer fail to use emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to notice as well as manage your own emotions and do the same in others. In the case of our flier distributor, that person has failed to recognise your own feelings after coming back from work and hasn’t achieved a conversion as a result.

It’s not just limited to this example though. One study conducted by IBM and Econsultancy showed that just 35% of individuals felt their favourite companies sent them “usually relevant” messages.

Fortunately, emotional intelligence can change that. By understanding how your customers think and feel, you can better target these individuals and achieve greater results. Here’s three ways EI can make you a better marketer.

1. Selling value, not the product

Taking our pamphleteer as an example, starting with a sell generally isn’t the way to achieve a conversion. Instead, understanding the emotions of his or her customer basis will achieve better results.

For instance, people will search for food when they are hungry or planning a night out. Focusing on local SEO and helping to generate positive Google My Business reviews will go a long way to sell the company – not the food or the prices.

As a result, when a customer is looking for food at that time, that eatery’s marketing efforts will help them convert.

Understanding the customers frustration at receiving unwanted fliers at an inappropriate time and providing value at an appropriate time has good hallmarks of EI.

By bringing value and helping convince them of your worthiness, you will go a long way in convincing them that you’re the real deal.

Once that’s done, then focus on the sale.

2. Greater Empathy

We’ve all been there, a client complains or makes an unreasonable demand. First instinct is to grumble to your colleagues about that person before knuckling down and getting the job done. In few cases, we actually explore why the client is making that demand.
By using emotional intelligence and listening to what that client wants, you can better understand their point of view. Emphasise with them and maybe you can achieve better results – and prevent the negative incident from occurring again.

This also applies to you. Control your EI and you’re less likely to lose it in a meeting.

3. Become more productive and efficient

In the business world, it’s a common misconception that those who work the longest achieve the best results. This couldn’t be further from the truth. People more in touch with their EI recognise the effects of their emotions and can better control them. Consequently, they are able to better handle the effects of stress and recognise when it’s time to take a break. Ultimately, they are more productive and efficient over the long term and achieve better results.

However, there is more to this; decisions are often made with more empathy, marketers are better at motivating themselves and others, they can also move on from scenarios which trigger negative sentiment quicker.

This helps make them not just a better person – but a better colleague.

Understand EI and become a better marketer

Understanding emotional intelligence is critical to becoming a better marketer. Furthermore, by recognising the emotions of others, you’ll not only improve yourself but also have a greater understanding of your customers and colleagues. In turn, this makes for a much stronger business.

 

*This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

Closing Wetherspoons’ social media accounts – madness or genius?

social media

 

Last week, pub chain Wetherspoons used Twitter to announce it was quitting social media, closing their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. With more than 100,000 followers on Facebook and 44,000 on Twitter, why wouldn’t Wetherspoons want to communicate with their customers?  Social media is one of the main avenues of customer communication in the 21st Century, so how could such a move be justified?

Quite easily apparently.

In interviews with the BBC, Chairman Tim Martin appeared to give two main reasons for his decision:

  1. Public backlash against social media

Mr Martin stated on radio that if people “limited their social media to half an hour a day, they’d be mentally and physically better off”. Furthermore, the decision was reportedly influenced by bad publicity regarding the networks. For example, data misuse, potential addiction, and internet trolls.

  1. Social media didn’t work for Wetherspoons

According to Mr Martin, “We were also concerned that pub managers were being side-tracked from the real job of serving customers” by using social media for advertising. Moreover, at least 90% of Wetherspoons’ pub managers reportedly felt that these platforms were not beneficial for the business.

In my opinion, the decision to close social media accounts for the ‘greater good’ seems a little weak, seeing as people will still use social media regardless if Wetherspoons is active on these channels or not.

However, when it comes to poor returns, that sort of makes sense.

What could Wetherspoons have done differently?

When considering social media as an effective marketing tool, it’s extremely common to find a variety of conflicting statements and viewpoints. Our profession is no different. Indeed, strategies are often written off as ‘dead’ or not working as well as they used to.

Sometimes, this is indisputably true. Yet, in most of these situations, that person has just not been doing this strategy correctly. In the case of Wetherspoons, they could have improved their actions through social media by making a few alterations:

Employing a dedicated social media expert

Many of Wetherspoons’ estimated 900 pubs had their own separate Facebook pages. Mr Martin’s statement suggests the accounts were run by the managers themselves. These individuals were trained to keep pubs operational, not run a social media account.

Perhaps this is why the organisation’s actions on social media didn’t gather much attention. According to Marketing Week, the average tweet from Wetherspoons generated six retweets and four likes. To put this in perspective, the firm serves three million pints every week.

Clearly, social media wasn’t working as well as it could for the organisation. A dedicated social media expert could have turned this around.

Centralising accounts

Each pub having a dedicated Facebook page creates an operational nightmare, requiring a large team to keep updated. It might have been more beneficial for these accounts to centralise into one dedicated Wetherspoons feed.

This would have made social media much easier to manage and allowed staff to focus on serving customers. Furthermore, as many of the individual pub pages on Facebook had fewer than 1,000 likes, combining these into a central account would have increased followers – making social media posts more likely to be seen across newsfeeds.

 

Resolving poor reviews and bad press

Many of Wetherspoons’ individual pub pages on Facebook were dominated by poor reviews. Some of these discussing poor quality of service, problems with food, or complaints about staff. While this empowered the public, it didn’t do the chain any favours.

Based on this reason alone, shutting down social media accounts could be a wise move. Furthermore, the organisation has had to deal with a variety of ‘fake news’ online. For example, last year, a spoof account on Twitter claimed Wetherspoons staff had been prohibited from wearing Remembrance Day poppies.

Deciding on a social media strategy

While an expert would have ensured this, Wetherspoons did not seem to have a dedicated social media strategy in place. This would have revealed effective metrics to measure as well as the aims of using these networks. Instead, the organisation seemed to be largely using social media as an additional way to communicate with customers.

Will this decision backfire?

Shutting down Wetherspoons’ social media accounts was a brave business decision. However, given the levels of interaction which the organisation achieved online, it’s unlikely to lose customers. With a few changes though, their social media strategy could have been so much more.

Competitors should pay close attention to this choice and look to their own actions across the networks. Potentially, there could be an opportunity to prove just how effective a marketing tool for pubs these could be.

The real danger comes in the form of SEO. When Wetherspoons shuts down its social media accounts, it will create thousands of broken links. Assuming redirects aren’t implemented, savvy competitors could attempt to get these links pointing to them instead.

Furthermore, as we have already seen, hoax accounts could appear claiming to be Wetherspoons. Without a dedicated social media team, it will be difficult to police and combat these threats.

Regardless, these are all potential problems for Wetherspoons to sort out. It will take months to determine if deactivating social media worked for them.

Will more companies start to delete their social media channels?

Businesses and social media appear to, at times, have an increasingly antagonistic relationship. For example, Unilever threatened to withdraw their adverts from platforms such as Facebook due to the presence of extremist and illegal material.

Other incidents include Microsoft’s chatbot ‘Tay’ being taught racism and HMV’s social media team live-tweeting a mass firing.

However, social media can do a lot of good if managed properly. If Wetherspoons devoted more thought to this, their accounts could have performed much better. The right strategy in place could have been deeply beneficial – it would also have highlighted which networks work best for customer interaction.

This decision – much like Wetherspoons itself – has been a controversial one. Time will reveal if it was the right one.

Why you should adopt a cross-channel marketing strategy

With today’s audiences being more connected than ever before, seamlessly switching between marketing channel and device, multiple times a day is now considered the norm. Throw in the rise of voice search over the past couple of years into the mix and catering for ever changing consumer preferences and behaviour becomes that bit more challenging.

Most companies will be implementing a multi-channel marketing strategy, however what elevates a good marketing strategy to a great marketing strategy is the implementation of cross-channel marketing (sometimes referred to as omni-channel marketing).

Although cross-channel marketing is not exactly a new phenomenon, evolving consumer behaviour is continually putting a greater emphasis on brands needing to nail this area of marketing strategy.

What’s the difference between multi-channel and cross-channel marketing?

Two marketing strategies that can be easily confused, multi-channel marketing is the implementation of marketing activity across more than one channel, typically with no synergy and cohesion between the channels, and owning their own set of KPI’s to determine success.

Cross channel marketing on the other hand, is very much the coordination and cohesion of consumer touchpoints across multiple marketing channels, switching the focus from ‘how do we make each marketing channel work?’ to ‘how do we interact with each user?’, regardless of the marketing channel.

No longer do consumers expect to be shown irrelevant marketing messages, and with personalisation at the heart of their expectations, what better way to build brand advocacy than to continue building your relationship with consumers by continually adding value.

Examples of cross-channel marketing could be as simple as an email campaign aimed at consumers who have abandoned their shopping basket with an incentive to complete the purchase or implementing a retargeting display campaign to users who have viewed particular commercial pages on your website.

Check out these 5 examples of global brands finding success implementing cross-channel marketing campaigns.


What are the long-term benefits of cross channel marketing? 

Increased engagement

A key benefit of cross-channel marketing is the increase in potential engagement levels gained when compared to multi-channel marketing. Being able to target consumers based on their stage in the purchasing cycle is a priceless advantage, that not only eliminates the risk of irrelevant advertising, but increases the chance of nurturing that consumer further down the sales funnel.

Loyalty/Brand Advocacy

It is widely recognised that word of mouth advertising is one of the most powerful marketing tools when it comes to influencing consumer purchases, with driving loyalty and brand advocacy the first step in achieving this form of marketing.

The more consumers have a positive experience when engaging with a brand, the stronger the relationship becomes, increasing the chances of endorsing the brand to their community.

Source: https://moderncomment.com/customer-feedback-stats

What are the barriers to overcome?

Whilst implementing cross-channel marketing feels like a no-brainer, the reality is there are still barriers to overcome in order for this to be effective.

The creation of a single customer view (SCV)

When implementing a multi-channel marketing campaign, a by-product of this is typically resulting in siloed data. This is where large amounts of customer data has been gathered and segmented by channel behaviour as opposed to more useful insights such as stage in the buying process.

Without a SCV, irrelevant and fractured marketing messaging can appear, having a detrimental impact on driving brand loyalty and engagement.
Experian does a great job at explaining the benefits of SCV and is definitely worth checking out (Remember to download the PDF at the end for future reference).

Breaking down silos

As mentioned above, siloed marketing channels leads to siloed marketing data which limits the value that can be gathered from it. Working towards a set of KPIs to determine success focused on the user journey as opposed to the marketing channel is a good first step to take.

This change in strategy should lead to a wider discussion around campaign measurement and channel attribution. Focusing on the consumer journey should lead to more analysis on various touchpoints and a greater understanding of the role each channel plays in a conversion (micro and macro). For more information on marketing attribution models why not check this article out.

Our Approach

Take a look at our 4-step approach to implementing your cross-channel marketing strategy:

1. Analyse your customer data

An effective cross-channel strategy has customer data at the heart of it. Too much guesswork exists when it comes to analysing customer behaviour, when in fact the smart play is to build systems around what your customers actually do.

How valuable would it be to answer:

  • Which consumers are using which devices to interact with the brand?
  • How far along the buying process do certain channels become more effective?
  • Which channels move a user through the buying process most effectively?
  • What messaging on each channel drives the best engagement?
  • What channels drive the most meaningful engagement?

Understanding your customer’s habits and behaviours is achieved by analysing customer data.

 

2. Integrate your marketing channels

The Data & Marketing Association define ‘Integrated Marketing’ as;

“Integrated Marketing is an approach to creating a unified and seamless experience for consumers to interact with the brand/enterprise; it attempts to meld all aspects of marketing communication such as advertising, sales promotion, public relations, direct marketing, and social media, through their respective mix of tactics, methods, channels, media, and activities, so that all work together as a unified force. It is a process designed to ensure that all messaging and communications strategies are consistent across all channels and are centered on the customer”

Granted, it’s a bit wordy, however I couldn’t write it better myself and highlights the one thing that is imperative to a successful cross-channel strategy… the consumer. Ever seen a promotion ad incentivising you to click on it, with the expectation of being able to take advantage of the promotion, to only find out the promotion has ended? Integrating your marketing channels ensures this doesn’t happen. Consumers fed irrelevant and inaccurate messaging is frankly the exact opposite of what a consumer’s expectations represent in 2018.  Successful channel integration should seamlessly direct a consumer down the sales funnel making it easier to drive revenue.

3. Personalise your cross-channel campaigns

With today’s consumers bombarded daily by multiple brand messages across multiple platforms 24/7 365, standing out in the crowd is no easy feat. With an on-demand mentality now adopted generation-wide, consumers do not want to be shown standardised, generic messaging that is somehow meant to persuade them enough to take immediate action. Personalisation is one of the few ways to separate your business from the competition. You want to offer a different experience that benefits the consumer and adds value they don’t get elsewhere.

“Cross-channel marketing is about building meaningful experiences and using fine-grain personalization to deliver the right message, at the right time, across the right channel, and to the right individual. It’s also important to stress the concept of delivering messages at the right time, which may not necessarily equate to real time,” states Stephanie Maziol, senior product marketing manager at Adobe.

5 key types of marketing personalisation that most brand are implementing in one way or another are;

  • Using customer details
  • Behavioural triggered emails
  • Product recommendations on the website
  • Personalised call-to-actions
  • Customer profiling

4. Measure & Optimise Performance

“Customers who interact with more than one marketing channel have a 30% higher Lifetime Value than those who shop on only one” (2015 study by IDC)

Just how would we know this? Through measuring the behaviour of our consumers and continually optimising the campaigns that’s how. Simply creating a cross-channel strategy is not the end of the line but using the performance data and making insightful observations, and using those observations to make strategic decisions is where the real continual value is found.

In order to measure correctly it is important to set out a list of KPIs that will determine of your objective has been met. This also ties into the barriers of cross-channel marketing mentioned previously. Breaking down silo departments, normally split by marketing channel with their own set of KPIs is a requirement to ensure all departments are singing off the same hymn sheet when it comes to determining success and failure.

Following this process can help ensure that all marketing channels are not only pulling in the right direction but has the consumer at the heart of all decision making which is imperative to a successful marketing strategy.

Next steps:

If you are interested in improving your digital strategy and working with CandidSky to achieve your business objectives, contact us today to arrange a call.

If you would like to work at CandidSky and develop your career prospects, take a look at our Careers website for available roles and find out what is like to work here.

And finally, take a look at our other blog posts to see what else we have been up to.

 

9 common SEO mistakes to avoid

To say that search engine optimisation is a challenging task is a bit of an understatement. The algorithms for platforms such as Bing as well as Google are constantly changing and require trained minds to understand how best to adjust strategies accordingly.

Despite this, numerous business leaders hear about the benefits of SEO and view it as a simple profit-generating venture. Consequently, they make errors which have the opposite effect – costing them traffic and conversions.

The good news is many of these common mistakes can be fixed and agencies such as CandidSky will be there to help businesses resolve them. Yet, if you’re wondering if your SEO campaign is on the right track, I have detailed some mistakes which I’ve seen individuals make. I’ll explain each in more detail below, but in summary these are 10 most common SEO mistakes to avoid:

  1. Preventing crawls from taking place
  2. Believing link building (or any strategy) is dead
  3. Investing in link earning, rather than intentional link building
  4. Excessively using keywords
  5. Neglecting mobile users
  6. Creating orphan pages
  7. Reusing content
  8. Neglecting local search
  9. Abandoning a strategy too soon

Preventing crawls from taking place

The robots.txt file is a vital part of any website and specifies pages you don’t want accessed by crawlers. When put like that, it’s tempting to prevent all robots from visiting your website. However, it’s worth remembering that search engines use crawlers to find relevant pages.

Consequently, if all robots are prevented from accessing your site, you won’t appear in search results. In this situation, it won’t matter how much effort you put into your SEO campaign, your website might as well be invisible.

If you want to learn more about robots.txt files, take a look at this resource.

Believing link building is dead

To borrow a routinely used phrase, there’s a lot of “fake news” out there. This is also true when it comes to the SEO industry. Partly spread by people who haven’t given a strategy the time it deserves, they then post articles online claiming what they were doing is ineffective.

Link building is one of the most frequent tactics described as dead whereas it is still a viable – and essential – part of any SEO campaign. This dismissiveness might be due to how link building has evolved over the years and I’ve linked to a post explaining some good strategies to use.

Regardless, if you see an article stating that a particular tactic is dead, don’t completely take it at face value. Gather multiple sources and trial several strategies before writing it off. Chances are, the author of that piece has just been doing it wrong.

Investing in link earning, not building

Link earning is a phrase which tends to differ in meaning depending on the person who uses it. While some definitions involve creating quality content and assuming people will read it, others favour some degree of promotion and getting automatic backlinks as a result.

Sadly, this strategy is not as effective as actual link building. When publishing content on your site, always invest suitable time in content promotion. In fact, Social Triggers states that, when generating content, 20% of your time should be spent on creation – 80% should be allocated to promotion.

Excessively using keywords

In the early days of SEO, using as many mentions of a keyword as possible greatly benefited your campaign. For example, webmasters wanting to rank highly for “cheap used cars” generally had to include that phrase more than their competitors to succeed. Eventually, it got to a stage when SEO-targeted content became challenging to read and looked like this:

Are you looking for cheap used cars? Great, we have a fantastic selection of cheap used cars in our online store. Browse our selection of cheap used cars and find a cheap used car to suit your needs. Speak to us today about finding a cheap used car.

Thankfully, this strategy does not work anymore. Yet excessive keyword use is still prevalent within some SEO campaigns. These days, relevance and variation is vital when targeting a particular phrase. Not only is this better for improving visibility but – from a UX point of view – it helps the user as well.

Neglecting mobile users

The browsing habits of users has changed dramatically over the years. Whereas people were once limited to desktops, now they can access the internet through mobile. In fact, in 2016, the number of internet users on mobile and tablet exceeded desktop for the first time.

However, despite the importance of mobile optimisation, research conducted by PayPal this year suggested that just 18% of UK small businesses had a website which was correctly optimised for mobile.

Needless to say, by neglecting mobile users, companies are missing out on a substantial number of customers.

Creating orphan pages

When a webpage is not linked to from anywhere else on the site, this creates what we call an orphan page. By not having these connections, it becomes very challenging for both users and search engines to find – signifying to a search engine that this page is not a high priority. Similarly, internal links are vital for the flow of SEO value (gained from building an authoritative domain) around a website.

When adding a new page, it’s essential that it is well linked to with a strong internal linking structure. This can include in-content links (links within the copy), navigational links (links within menu structures), or breadcrumbs. Otherwise, even if this new resource contains amazing content, it will struggle to rank well.
Reusing content

When managing a large website, the idea of creating unique content for each and every page can seem daunting. Either on purpose or through accident, it is not uncommon to see remarkably similar content throughout several pages of one website. Perhaps it is no surprise that a study published in 2015 revealed that almost 30% of websites suffered from duplicate content issues.

This creates a problem for crawlers where, when faced with multiple identical pages, they can struggle to identify the original. As a result, this traditionally leads to decreased rankings and traffic.

Neglecting local search

A study conducted by Google in 2014 revealed that more than 60% of smartphone owners used their device to access local information stored on adverts. Moreover, the organisation revealed half of consumers who used local search visited a store that same day.

Although this aspect of search is deeply important, some webmasters don’t rate local optimisation that highly. As a result, they won’t focus on their Google My Business listing, NAP data, or local schema. However, by doing so, they could be missing out on an audience base close to home.

Scrapping strategies quickly

One misconception with SEO is the amount of time it takes for results to manifest. All too often, companies will cease strategies after several weeks – accusing them of being ineffective. However, the effects of search engine optimisation can take several months to materialise and should continue to improve as time goes on.

When running an SEO campaign, perseverance and patience are two very important qualities to possess.

5 key things missing from your digital marketing strategy

It’s easy to get stuck down in the detail of your digital marketing campaigns, particularly if you’re running a marketing team that covers multiple channels, managing campaigns both in-house or through digital marketing agencies.

You might not always have the time to step back and review if your digital strategy is really achieving the objectives, and even if you do have time to review, it’s not always easy to spot what’s missing.

As a Digital Strategist here at CandidSky, I work across digital strategy for a broad range of clients and sectors, so here’s my view on the top 5 things that could be missing from your digital marketing strategy.

1. Wider Market Analysis

Regular competitor reviews are probably part of your campaign planning, but there’s lots you can learn by conducting a wider market analysis, particularly if you’re looking for ways to really stand out from your competitors.

Seek out non-competing companies who are going after the same target audience as you, and look at their marketing activity. Your research in this area could offer up some new channels to trial, different ways to utilise your existing channels and perhaps even lead to some very beneficial partnership opportunities with these companies.

2. Offline Considerations

Understanding your customer behaviour is a key part of forming a digital strategy, and whilst there’s a wealth of easily accessible data on their digital activities and interactions with your brand, you shouldn’t neglect their offline activities.

Review all the offline touchpoints your customers have with your brand, for example perhaps you have a physical location they can visit pre-purchase, maybe the first offline touch point is when you send out the products they’ve ordered, perhaps you’re an estate agent the first touch point could be the “For Sale” sign they see outside a property.

Each of these offline touchpoints could present an opportunity to help achieve your objectives. For example by encouraging a repeat purchase, prompting someone to leave a review of your product, or to share their experience with your brand on social media.

3. Digital Campaign Benchmarks

What does success look like for your business? What does average look like? How about not quite good enough? If your overall objective is very broad, for example “improve year on year performance” it’s worth defining this further for your digital campaigns.

Setting a benchmark and defining what “good” looks like can really help keep your strategy on track. Once you know the good, the bad and all that’s in between, it offers something really tangible to measure up against when you’re reviewing campaigns and deciding where and how to optimise.

4. Brand Consistency

Very few online transactions occur after just one interaction with a company, so the chances are your digital marketing strategy will include multiple channels.

I’m a huge believer in the importance of brand and ensuring brand consistency across your marketing channels. Having a strong brand can help set you apart from your competitors, especially in overpopulated digital spaces, and consistency can help build trust between you and your customers.

Creating a set of brand guidelines and ensuring your campaign delivery teams stick to these is a good starting point if you don’t have these already. If you do have your brand defined with a solid set of brand guidelines, then ideally brand should be something that is key at the strategy planning stage and embedded in your digital campaigns from the start.

5. Opportune Timing

You’ll hopefully already be taking into account seasonality when planning your digital marketing campaigns, and you might have data which can tell you the best days of the week and even hours in the day when customers convert.

The next step to take, to inform your digital strategy, is to factor in the timings of your customer buying cycle. For high value items, like furniture for example, the customer buying cycle could include an extended period of research, followed by your customer speaking to their spouse before making the final purchase decision, in some cases this other person could end up making the actual purchase despite having little interaction with the brand themselves. Or perhaps your products are of a lower value and typically purchased in an emergency.

Using this information when planning your digital strategy can not only help increase conversions, but it can potentially help you plan when and where to focus your budgets, what messaging you should be deploying at each stage and the frequency of these messages.

Next steps:

If you are interested in improving your digital strategy and working with CandidSky to achieve your business objectives, contact us today to arrange a call.

If you would like to work at CandidSky and grow your career prospects, take a look at our Careers website for available roles and find out what is like to work here.

And finally, take a look at our other blog posts to see what else we have been up to.

 

Local SEO Guide – The Ultimate Checklist

Search marketing shop front and mobile

Introduction

Whether you’re a small, medium or large business, it is essential that you understand Local SEO.

By ignoring it, you are not only losing out on local demand for your products or services, but also missing an opportunity for increased visibility in the SERPs.

Throughout this guide we will discuss key factors and techniques to ensure that you have a thorough understanding of Local SEO, which will help you generate more website traffic, enquiries, physical visits and boost your company’s reputation. We have also put together a comprehensive Local SEO Checklist to ensure that you can audit your website performance for local search and strategise accordingly.

So, what is Local SEO?

Local SEO isn’t all that different from traditional SEO, however, it focuses solely on generating exposure for searches with local intent.

By focusing on local searches, your aim is to appear in both the organic listings and local pack, therefore generating a higher SERP real estate. For example, if you’re a local Chinese restaurant, you will want to appear in both the organic listings and map pack whenever somebody enters a query such as ‘Chinese restaurant in…’, ‘Chinese restaurant near me’ etc.

If you aren’t running a Local SEO campaign, you’re missing out on over 56% of mobile searches, which is only set to increase further with advances in technology.

Let’s get started…

Whether you already have a thorough understanding of Local SEO factors or you’re a complete novice, this guide aims to help increase your knowledge.

Some of the factors are backed up with facts, whilst others are controversial and arise from influencer speculation. As with everything in this industry, nothing is set in stone, but let’s get started…

External Factors

  • Authority of inbound links to the domain: Links have always been the primary trust signal that Google use and local rankings are no different. The authority of inbound links are still the number 1 ranking factor. You can take a look at your backlink profile using Ahrefs, which is arguably the best software for backlink analysis.
  • Authority of inbound links to Google My Business landing page URL: Google places particular importance on the Google My Business landing page (usually the homepage), therefore the quality of inbound links to this URL should be prioritised. You should aim to gain authoritative links with a high domain authority (DA) for the best results.
  • Diversity of inbound links: Since Penguin, a domain’s link profile has had increased importance, with Google favouring diverse link profiles. The days of having thousands of guest posts or reciprocal links have long gone, your SEO strategy now needs to acquire links from multiple sources in a natural manner.
  • Inbound links from locally relevant domains: Many SEOs overlook the importance of links from locally relevant domains, meaning that this is an area to exploit for many local businesses – for example; an inbound link from a local church could be just as valuable as a high authority link when it comes to local visibility.
  • Topical keywords used in anchor text of inbound links: Whilst exploiting keyword rich anchor text links will result in a penalty from Google and land you in a messy situation, it can still be extremely powerful if done correctly. Your link profile should include a mixture of keyword rich, branded and generic anchors from a variety of sources.
  • Distance between address and search location: If your business’ physical address is in close proximity to that of the searcher, you’re more than likely to appear higher in the SERPs.
  • Business Address is in the city of search: Many businesses have struggled with Local SEO due to being located outside of a city’s borders. As a result of the Google Possum update, this has changed and many businesses outside of borders have seen an increase in local rankings, however, it still seems that Google favours those based within a specific location.
  • Branded search volume: A recent study from Tom Capper outlined that branded search volume has a higher correlation with rankings than domain authority. As a result, increased social media advertising and PR could have a positive effect on your Local SEO strategy.
  • WHOIS information: Ensuring that your WHOis information is consistent across the web can cause a slight ranking boost for both local and non-local searches. Research shows that if your information is inconsistent, or even worse hidden, your rankings could suffer. You can read more about this here.
  • Authority of third party reviews: Whilst acquiring reviews on Google should be the primary objective, third-party reviews on websites such as Yelp, Yell, and Trustpilot can also boost your local visibility. Third party reviews can also act as a trust signal, provide referral traffic, and be marked up using Schema to display rich snippets.

Google My Business Factors

  • Verified listing: Not only does verifying your Google My Business page allow you to manage your listing, but studies have also shown that Google gives a small ranking boost to businesses when their listing is verified.
  • Category associations: Correctly selecting a Google category can often be one of the deciding factors whether a website shows in the local map pack; it really is that important. Your category should be what your company is, not what it provides. It is recommended that you’re as descriptive as possible when categorising your business and Google recommend choosing as few categories as possible, however, if you feel that more than a couple of categories are necessary, it is more than likely that Google will too.
  • Google My Business title: It is recommended that your product/service keyword is included in your GMB title, however, it is important that this doesn’t appear spammy. If you over-optimise it can have an adverse effect on click-through-rates and hinder your local SEO performance.
  • Age of listing: Ultimately, the more mature your Google My Business listing, the more Google trusts the company. As a result, Google is more likely to place you higher in the map pack and organic results for searches with local intent if your page is older than that of a competitor’s.
  • Quantity of Google reviews: Google wants users to use their review feature and 90% of customers state that buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. Due to this, Google uses the number of a business’ reviews in their native reviews as a factor in their local algorithm.
  • Quality of Google reviews: “Quality over quantity” is definitely relevant when speaking about reviews. Users don’t want to see hundreds of 4-5 star reviews with no context and neither do Google; therefore Google will prioritise lengthy, topical and contextual reviews. These will carry greater weight when ranking a website and also appear higher than reviews that Google deem ‘low quality’.
  • Including a local area code: Google’s guidelines suggest that you should always include the local area code within your business listing. Tip: this should match your NAP on both your site and third-party websites.
  • Adding relevant photos: Google favour businesses with photos from both the company and (if applicable) customers. Not only this, but new users will also have a better experience when they land on your GMB profile, particularly if there are high-quality images rather than a screenshot from Google Maps. This only takes a few minutes to upload if you already have images and could provide a quick win for your local SEO campaign.
  • Having a visible address: By hiding your address in Google My Business, you’re instantly shooting yourself in the foot when it comes to Local SEO. The primary focus of Local SEO is to gain a local presence, however, if you’re hiding vital information Google is likely to rank a competitor that’s being transparent higher in the local listings.
  • Listing hours of operation: You don’t want potential customers arriving at your premises to find shutters down, so why would Google? By listing your hours of operation you are giving Google more information and providing a better customer experience.
  • Correctly placed map marker: A simple mistake can be costly and that’s definitely the case here. By incorrectly placing a map marker, you could be directing users to the completely wrong location, which could result in a poor user experience, loss of revenue and even poor reviews.
  • Add posts to GMB: An update to Google My Business in the last quarter of 2017 allows you to add posts to your profile; these can be used to promote events, promotions, products, and your general services. The rich content will be delivered to users when they find your business listing on Google and is an excellent way to increase CTR. It is unknown whether Google will give a ranking boost to businesses using posts, but even if they don’t, they can still be a great way to drive interactions.
  • Respond to negative reviews: Although it is not concrete whether or not this is actually used as a local ranking factor, it should be imperative for business owners to interact with, and try to resolve negative reviews. By doing this regularly, you are not only showing new users that you care about customer satisfaction, but you’re also increasing the possibility of resolving the issues with that customer, resulting in the negative review being removed.
  • Duplicate listings: Just as duplicate content has been an issue in SEO for years, duplicate Google My Business listings pose the same issue. If you have two listings for the same location and business, Google will often see this as spam and filter out one of the listings. It is also worth noting that if you are at a shared location where two companies have the same category, Google will often filter out one of the company listings.
  • Legitimate business address: Using a fake business address is something that Google has been tackling aggressively due to it being exploited to gain an advantage in the local search results. They’re tackling this by doing random spot checks on registered addresses and if you’re found to be violating the terms and conditions, your listing could be removed. In the past, fraudsters have registered P.O boxes to receive a postcard from Google, before verifying and changing their location within that geographical area, however, this is much less likely to work today.

Site Factors

  • Domain Authority: As one of the leading contributing SEO ranking factors, domain authority isn’t something that should be overlooked when undertaking a local SEO campaign. Although competition is bound to be less than a national or international campaign, to dominate your local field you need a high DA and trust from Google.
  • Topical Keyword in the domain: The days of keyword rich domains are over since Google tackled the growing issue in 2012, however, a study from Canirank found that keyword rich domains still rank 11% higher than branded domains. The main reason for this is that Google believes that the website has a higher relevancy, combined with inbound links including the keyword in your business name, e.g. https://hotels.com/.
  • NAP address is featured sitewide: If you are a company with less than 10 physical addresses then you should have each address added to your website’s footer. This should be the same as your NAP in Google My Business, third-party websites for consistency and marked up using Schema.
  • Phone number structure: If your website is optimised for conversions, it is highly likely that you will have a phone number present in the header, footer and on the contact page. Your phone number should include the local area code, be clickable on mobile, be marked up using structured data and match other citations.
  • Outbound link quality: The outbound links from your website should all be of a high quality. If Google deems your outbound links to be of a poor quality then you could see this harm both your local and non-local rankings.
  • Outbound link themes: Relevance is just as important as quality when it comes to outbound links. As with inbound links, each outbound link should relevant to that page, whilst linking to local pages also sends out signals to Google for local results.
  • Outbound link volume: Whilst outbound links are important, it is also imperative that you aren’t linking too much or too little. If there aren’t enough outbound links on a page, you could be losing out on opportunities, whilst if you have too many outbound links, Google could deem this spammy which could negatively affect organic performance.
  • Presence of malware: Malware on your website will seriously harm your organic performance and can result in a manual penalty from Google. If you have malware present on your website you may aswell say goodbye to both your local and non-local rankings until the issue is resolved.

On-page Factors

  • Length of content: On average, a page which ranks on the first page of Google has 1,890 words according to a study carried out using SEMRush data. It is recommended that you take a look over competitor websites to get a true gauge of what is required in your industry and look to better their content in terms of both length and quality. We always conduct a content audit at the beginning of our SEO campaign’s to ensure that there is sufficient copy and to identify low-hanging-fruit.
  • Site-wide content relevance: If you’re a local business, the content on all your pages should be not only relevant to keywords you’re targeting, but also reference locality. This can be achieved through techniques such as in-content links to local websites and including references of your target areas within the copy where applicable.
  • Content relevance on GMB landing page: The content on your Google My Business landing page is imperative for success in the local map pack. The content on this page (usually the homepage) should be relevant to the category you’ve selected and be locally relevant for the best success.
  • Google My Business landing page title: Title tags (also known as meta titles) are one of the key elements for on-page SEO. As a result, you should ensure that the title tag for your Google My Business landing page is relevant both topically and locally. Tip: Remember that your title tag will appear in the SERP’s. If your title appears spammy it can harm CTR.
  • Header tag relevance: Header tags carry more weight than the rest of the text on a page, therefore it is important that all of these are optimised. For Local SEO it is best practice to try to include both your primary keyword and area in your H1 heading.
  • HTML NAP matches Google My Business: Your NAP (Name, address, phone number) should be consistent across the web, however the most important is that your Google My Business NAP matches that which appears on your website. It is also recommended that you markup all relevant information using Schema/JSON-LD to ensure that Google recognises the data.
  • Optimise for ‘near me’ searches: ‘Near me’ searches are growing rapidly as more people perform local searches on portable devices. As such, it is important that your website is optimised for these, which can be achieved by tailoring your content, ensuring that your GMB signals are perfect and managing citations/links.

Social Media Factors

  • Facebook page likes: Page likes act as an authoritative signal for Local SEO, with Google more likely to trust a business which has 4000 page likes, as opposed to one with just a few hundred. Not only this, but the larger your Facebook following, the more users you are reaching out to with every post, which can increase shares (another trust signal).
  • Age of Facebook page: Just as humans are more likely to trust an adult over a child, Google trust a Facebook page the more mature it is.
  • Facebook shares: Share-worthy content is a must for any successful campaign and there has been speculation dating back to 2010 between social shares and organic rankings. Many tests have been carried out over the years and although nobody are certain, a recent study by Larry Kim confirmed that by having more Facebook shares, your page is more likely to rank in the top 10 results for both local and non-local searches. By attracting more Facebook shares, you are also increasing your potential audience and the possible attention of influencers, who could provide invaluable inbound links.
  • Facebook reviews: As mentioned earlier in the guide, Google uses reviews as a trust signal and Facebook’s reviews act as one of the major third-party review signals. Although not as important as Google reviews, Facebook reviews are an important Local SEO ranking factor and can increase the chance of a conversion for new users. Recently, Google has also started displaying third-party display data alongside your Google My Business listing.
  • Twitter followers: Just like Facebook page likes, Twitter followers are a trust signal that Google uses when analysing a business’ online presence. The more you have, the more likely it is that Google will recognise you as a trustworthy local business.
  • Twitter engagement: Likes, Retweets, mentions and replies are all metrics that business owners use to judge the success of a Twitter campaign and the same is true with Google. Not only this, but if you have a tweet that performs particularly well, it can actually display in the SERP’s as a structured snippet and can be great bait for generating inbound links.
  • Snapchat Geofilter’s: Although Snapchat provides no crawlable content, it is a great tool for local businesses to advertise and should be integrated into every local SEO campaign. Once you have created your Geofilter and it’s been approved by Snapchat, you can expect buzz from other social media outlets and should also reach out to local media outlets, with the aim of generating invaluable local inbound links to your website. For the best outreach results, it is also recommended that you have a landing page on your website that is relevant to what it is you’re promoting.
  • Social Links to and from your site: There is no point investing resources in your social channels if search engines can’t link them to your website, therefore it is recommended that you link to your social pages on every page of the website (usually within the header/footer) and link to your website from your social pages.
  • Topical bio: Your social media bios are a great opportunity to add both topical and locally relevant content. It is recommended that the content is unique and tailored to your audience on each channel, for example, your bio on Linkedin should be different to that on Twitter due to both of these having a different audience.
  • Consistent NAP references: You’re probably bored of reading about your NAP by now, but it really is that important for a successful Local SEO campaign. Social media pages provide further opportunities for unstructured NAP’s and should be consistent with the rest of your references.
  • Interaction: Engage, engage, engage is what you hear from all Social Media experts and this is also true if you want to drive a successful SEO campaign. By engaging with relevant users, you are much more likely gain more social shares, therefore increasing the possibility of inbound links and increased rankings.
  • Apple Maps Connect: A bit off track with this one, but it’s something that is missed by a lot of local business owners. Although Apple Maps aren’t generally used for non-branded searches, they’re still a great way to capture local branded traffic. By listing your business using Apple Maps Connect, you can ensure that firstly, your company will show in Apple Maps, and secondly, that you can manage your listing.

Citation Factors

  • Consistency of Citations: Consistency is key when building citations and if you get it wrong, it could confuse Google and have an adverse effect on your local rankings. Initially, we would recommend building citations through directories such as Yell, Yelp, Foursquare and Thomson Local. By stepping into Google’s shoes, it’s easy to understand why they would be more confident displaying a website which has 40+ consistent citations over one which is sending mixed signals.
  • Quality/Authority of Structured Citations: When selecting where to place your structured citations, you should think about both the quality and authority of the website you’re placing them. A study from Search Engine Land showed that the most important aspects to look at are industry relevance, local relevance, domain authority and the number of competitors that are listed.
  • Quality/Authority of Unstructured Citations: While structured citations are most important, you shouldn’t overlook the importance of unstructured citations. These are citations which come from sources such as newspaper articles, blog posts, government websites and industry associations. If you want to dominate the local pack in your niche, it is unstructured citations which can give you the competitive edge.
  • Citations from locally relevant domains: Where better to place your NAP than on a website that relates directly to your geographical area. These websites include local news outlets, blogs and community websites.

Technical Factors

  • Relevant landing pages: For the best results you need landing pages which are relevant both topically and locally. Without a relevant landing page for each of your products and services, it is increasingly difficult to send the signals to Google of what you do. If you are trying to target too many topics on one page, it is likely that you won’t succeed due to the optimisation being diluted.
  • Mobile-friendly website: Since the mobile-friendly and Mobilegeddon updates, Google has been pushing for every website to be designed for mobile. If your website is mobile friendly then Google will give you a small ranking boost and it is expected that Google will roll out the mobile-first index imminently, which will see websites that aren’t mobile-friendly drop for both local and non-local results.
  • Site architecture: High-quality internal linking is just as important as inbound links. Internal links pass authority from page to page, therefore if a page is deep in your link structure, Google will deem it to be a low priority which will affect rankings. It is recommended that no priority landing page is more than 3 clicks from the homepage, with the highest priority pages featuring in the primary navigation. Methods for improved internal linking include adding structured breadcrumbs, including in-content links and having a flat site-architecture.
  • Structured data markup: While not directly affecting rankings, structured data is something which you can’t ignore if you want to increase your organic visibility. If you markup information using structured data then it can be used by the search engines to generate rich snippets and gain you a higher SERP real estate. For local businesses, the most popular schema markup includes address, opening hours, price range, reviews, and breadcrumbs – you can see a full list of structured data options on Schema.org.
  • Duplicate content: One of the biggest issues for SEO is duplicate content, which can single-handedly cause huge problems for a campaign. If your content isn’t unique and is a direct copy from elsewhere on your website or an external website, it is highly likely that performance will be less than impressive. Instead, you are likely to get a cannibalisation issue in which you have pages competing against each other for the same phrases, which will cause rankings to fluctuate. For many local businesses who don’t have a lot of services, this is likely to be less of an issue, but for a website with many pages, it can be harder to manage.
  • Canonical tags: A canonical is a HTML tag that is placed in the <head> section of a page to prevent duplicate content issues. Each page should include a canonical tag to ensure that the canonical URL is indexed by the search engines – this should either be a self-referring canonical or a canonical to the preferred URL. For local retailers that have an e-commerce website this is particularly important, however, it is also important if your website displays multiple versions of the same URL. An example is that https://www.test.com/Men/clothing.php?sessionid=273749 is the same as https://www.test.com/Men/clothing.php, therefore to manage this you would have to specify the canonical URL in the page’s source code.
  • URL structure: URL’s are a touchy subject with webmasters, however for local SEO the best structure to follow is always using a single domain or subdomain, followed by a keyword rich slug. When possible it is recommended that you exclude dynamic URL’s, use less than 60 characters (where possible) and try to match URLs with your H1 tag. For Local SEO, it is always preferable to use the topic of the page as the slug, followed by the area where applicable.
  • SSL certificate: Since January 2017, SSL encryption has been a factor in Google’s core algorithm, meaning that websites that utilise SSL technology get a slight ranking boost. For local businesses fighting for less competitive keywords, switching to SSL could provide a boost that will see your rankings rise and it should be fairly easy to implement with the help of a developer or hosting company
  • Hreflang attribute: The hreflang attribute tells the search engines what language you are targeting on a specific page, which helps them serve the page to users searching in that language. It is particularly important if you have various versions of the same page, which serve different countries. For example, if you have two versions of a page targeting both the Republic of Ireland and the UK, you would need to implement hreflang tags to tell Google which page to serve in each location. Without being correctly implemented you could experience cannibalisation issues, high bounce rates, and low conversion rates.
  • Server location/site speed: Google states that the third most important geo-targeting metric is server location. It is recommended that your server is located in the same country as the majority of your customers – this is more of an issue if your server is slow and you have a long TTFB which will increase bounce rate and cause usability issues. If you are a local business in a competitive industry, users aren’t going to wait around forever so you want your site speed to be as quick as possible!
  • Country code top-level domains (ccTLDs): ccTLDs are generally utilised to indicate that a website is relevant to a particular country or region, for example, if your website is targeting the UK you should use the following ccTLD: .uk. Google says that this is the strongest signal you can send that your content is targeting a specific country, and as such is particularly important if you’re running a Local SEO campaign. If you correctly implement ccTLDs, hreflang attributes and have your server in your targeted country, you are sending all of the right signals to Google.

Behaviour Factors

  • Click-through-rate (CTR): You can calculate CTR by dividing the number of impressions by the number of clicks. This data is available to all webmasters through Google Search Console. Google uses this data to establish whether or not your website is relevant to the user intent, which can then be used as part of their algorithm to rank you for a particular keyword. For example, if you are a local Chinese takeaway and your CTR is low for ‘Chinese takeaway near me’, it is likely that your rankings will decrease for that query. In order to increase CTR, you should ensure that your titles and meta descriptions include USP’s and are written in a way to stand out. You can also use schema markup to show structured snippets in the SERPs.
  • Time spent on page: Due to Google using time spent on a page to define Ad Rank in AdWords, it is also speculated that they use the same metric for organic results. Moreover, you should ensure that when a user lands on your website that they have a positive experience, and spend some time browsing the available content. You can increase the time a user spends on your page by adding visual content, creating engaging text and ensuring your landing page is relevant to the query.
  • Bounce rate: Bounce rate is a metric that Google uses to measure whether somebody stays on the page, or leaves without navigating to another page. If you have a high bounce rate, it is likely that there is an issue with page load time, there are usability issues or the page isn’t relevant for the query. If you have a high bounce rate (which can be viewed in Google Analytics), it is likely that Google will presume there is a usability issue and therefore won’t want to send users to the site, thus resulting in lower rankings.
  • Number of clicks to call: Users can call a business directly from the map pack and Google has access to all of that data! As a result, if your business receives many calls in comparison to impressions, Google is more likely to believe that you are a trusted local business and rank your website higher as a result.
  • Directions to business clicks: Most local businesses will want customers to visit their premises and Google collects data both from directions to business clicks. The data which they announced they gather includes driving logs to review counts, temporal signals, and direction information, which can all then be used to help deem the rankings of your local business in the SERP’s. For example, if Google can see that people are willing to travel further to your business than one of your competitors, it shows them that it is a popular, trusted business.

Time to conclude…

So what are you waiting for, grab a coffee and begin to put your Local SEO knowledge to use!

It’s easy to identify where you can improve your local presence by working through our Local SEO checklist – it will help you identify areas for improvement & strategise a plan to blast the local competition out of the water.

We hope you enjoyed our comprehensive local SEO guide, and if you have any qustions please feel free to get in touch.

The rise of voice search and how to optimise for it

The implications of voice search

Hailed as a game changer, voice search allows us to trawl through web results by speech. Designed to improve how we have access to information, statistics illustrate just how quickly this medium has taken off.

In 2010, Google announced that 25% of Android searches in the United States were initiated through voice search. Years later, the organisation also published research stating that 55% of American teens used voice search more than once a day.

This raises an interesting question, these stats, while still frequently quoted, were originally published years ago. Furthermore, if voice search has continued to grow, why isn’t it an everyday part of our lives yet? One explanation could be that such a large technological shift requires years to be properly adopted. For example, despite elements of this research being around seven-years-old, it’s only recently that devices such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home have entered the mainstream market.

Voice search is a new avenue to access information. It might take time but eventually – much like mobile browsing – it could be an everyday part of our lives.

voice recognition

What are the benefits of voice search?

For years, identifying information was a simple matter of just typing it into a search engine and trawling through the data to find exactly what you needed. Now, voice-related queries are becoming increasingly common aided by the arrival of devices such as Google Home and Amazon Echo. In fact, VoiceLabs estimates that there are now 33 million voice-first devices currently in circulation.

For users, the benefits of voice search are aimed around easier access to information. Whether this is on the move or while doing another task, individuals can use the voice function to speed up their access to data. Validity is not in question either as research demonstrated that 87% of users thought mobile voice search results were accurate.

Following a similar strategy of making data easier to access, we’ve seen other organisations look to integrate voice. One example is Adobe Photoshop. Whereas it takes considerable training to use the software, Adobe Sensei should allow users to make complex changes by simply asking.

For companies, the benefits of targeting voice search are all about appealing to customers. Simply put, if 33 million compatible devices are on the market, firms could be missing out on an extremely large customer base. Therefore, we are left asking the following questions:

Why do we use voice search?

To first answer the voice search optimisation problem, we need to understand how people use it. The Internet Trends Report 2016 highlighted that people ask queries in four distinct ways:

• To seek local information
• For fun and entertainment
• Seeking general information
• Using the personal assistant function

How do I optimise for voice search?

Armed with this research above, there are two key strategies which should pay dividends when looking to optimise for voice search.

Think local

According to research published by Marketing Profs, voice searches conducted through mobile are three times more likely than text-based queries to be local-related. Consequently, those with an effective local SEO strategy should be in a good position to reap the rewards offered by voice search.

This means having an up-to-date complete Google My Business listing and ensuring all citations are as accurate as possible. This is also a key opportunity to start working on improving your business reviews. Simply put, those with a higher business rating are more likely to receive greater local visibility than those held in lower esteem.

With the advent of voice search, the importance of thinking local cannot be understated. By combining all the above elements into an effective strategy, you should be well poised to target these queries.

Target frequently asked questions

To further enhance chances of appearing for a vocal query, it is worth understanding how these terms are made. Voice search is conducted conversationally and usually in the form of a question. Therefore, gearing content towards more natural phrases could be an effective way to target this consumer base.

For example, for furniture retailers, instead of typing “leather sofa” into a search engine, someone asking vocally might state “where can I buy a leather sofa?”. Similarly, questions may be asked around the topic, such as “how do I clean a leather sofa?”.

This presents a change to keyword research where those desiring visibility for voice search could benefit by employing a more conversational tone. However, although this could make identifying phrases easier, it’s very important to still bear desktop and text searchers in mind – and not to leave them on the sidelines.

Laptop

Can voice search by commercially viable?

The main challenge for SEO will not be ‘how do I optimise for this?’ but instead will ask how voice search can be made commercially viable. If a robot directly obtains the answer for the user without that person visiting the related page, he or she will not contribute to the website’s traffic or conversions.

Therefore, voice search could create an attribution problem and may lead to declines in traffic as its popularity increases.

Although a gloomy prospect, it is worth remembering that the strategies used to target voice search are fundamentally good SEO. Other channels will likely improve and may even off-set the negatives brought about by this new technology.

Next steps:

If you are interested in working with CandidSky and seeing how we can help to grow your business online, contact us today to arrange a call.

If you would like to work at CandidSky and grow your career prospects, take a look at our Careers website for available roles and find out what is like to work here.

And finally, take a look at our other blog posts to see what else we have been up to.

How long will it take to see results on AdWords? Your AdWords questions answered

How long will it take to see results on AdWords?

Depending on the level of demand for your keywords, we would usually expect to start seeing impressions and click data in the first day of running ads.

Generating leads or conversions can be more difficult to predict but we would expect them to increase over time with continual optimisation.

We can provide an estimated number of conversions based on industry metrics and the expected click through rate from your keywords. However, there are multiple factors that can affect conversion rate – these can include the product being sold, the ease and feel of your website, the offering of your competitors, your ad visibility and more.

Why is my daily spend not consistent on AdWords?

If your spend is going over the daily budget it is likely that there was an increase in demand for that day, meaning that more people were searching for and clicking on your ad. AdWords automatically shows your ads more when search volume increases.

You will not be charged more in a month than your daily budget multiplied by 30.4 (the average number of days in a month).

If search traffic is low, you may not spend your full daily budget, to counteract this, budgets can be opened wider to account for days that do have a high demand and will spend more – it is important to monitor the spend manually to ensure costs do not exceed the monthly budget.

 

Google Adwords

How can I reduce costs?  

The more clicks the campaign gets, the more money it is going to spend. While more traffic is likely to result in a higher number of conversions, there are always ways to make the Cost Per Click (CPC) cheaper.

  1. Lower your bids – this is the easiest option but the campaign may receive less impressions as a result. AdWords will only charge you 1p above competitors up to your max CPC so if your bids are much lower than competitors, the ads will receive less visibility.
  2. Improve quality score (explained below): this can be done by improving the landing page experience and ensuring the keywords and ads are relevant to user search terms.
  3. Reduce wastage – focus on the low cost/high converting keywords and pause high cost/low converting keywords
  4. Change match types – When keywords are set to ‘broad match’ they will gain increased visibility but may pick up less relevant search queries. Changing the keyword to exact match will ensure that ads only pick up users searching for that exact query, resulting in a lower volume of impressions but a higher CTR from a more targeted audience.

Budget

What is quality score and how is it calculated?

A score between 1(bad) and 10 (good) that determines the quality of your keywords in relation to your ads and website. This is determined through multiple factors including:

  1. The landing page experience – is the content relevant to the user’s search query and the ad? Does the site have a fast page load speed? Can the user navigate through the page easily?
  2. Ad relevance – does the ad answer the query that the user is searching for? Is it linking to the correct landing page?
  3. Expected CTR – does the ad offer a call to action and relevant information to encourage the user to click?

How can I increase my impression share?

The google definition of impressions share is:

The impressions that you’ve received on the Search Network, divided by the estimated number of impressions that you were eligible to receive.

The impression share shows how competitive your ads are. You can increase the number of impressions in a number of ways:

  1. Increase your cost per click – AdWords will only charge you 1p more than your competitors are bidding so you need your budgets to be high enough to stay 1 step (or penny) ahead of the game.
  2. Increase your budget – your keywords may be popular but your ads will not show as often as they could if the budget is limited. You can use the column ‘Search Lost Due To Budget’ to see which campaigns are most affected.
  3. Improve your ad rank – your ad rank is calculated by the max cpc x quality score.
  4. Change your keyword match types – by making your keywords more specific you may decrease the number of impressions you are eligible to receive. If your ads are relevant enough and your CPC is competitive, you are likely to generate a higher impression share

Next steps:

If you are interested in working with CandidSky and seeing how we can help to grow your business online, contact us today to arrange a call.

If you would like to work at CandidSky and grow your career prospects, take a look at our Careers website for available roles and find out what is like to work here.

And finally, take a look at our other blog posts to see what else we have been up to.

 

SEO myths – revealing the false claims

Over the years, it’s safe to say that we’ve heard and rebuffed hundreds of SEO myths. Often these come from new clients that have unfortunately been provided out-of-date, or plainly inaccurate information in the past. But why is there so much false information being shared?

The truth is that the digital landscape is constantly evolving, therefore something that worked in the past, may not work today. It’s essential to remain up-to-date, relevant and ahead of Google’s updates to truly succeed in SEO, but by listening to false SEO myths, you could be harming your organic performance.

Some of the common myths we’ve heard (in no particular order) are discussed below;

1) Create amazing content and outrank your competition

Since Panda was introduced in 2011, there has been a frenzy about creating high quality content. We’ve even heard people stating that your website will be penalised if your content is deemed low quality by Google. This is definitely FALSE.

Whilst creating high quality content is important, it isn’t enough by itself. A recent study from Brian Dean explains how creating amazing content is just the beginning of your journey.

Once you have created your content it is time to promote. Here are a few ideas:

  • Social media – whether you already have a loyal social following, or you promote your content through targeted ads, social media shouldn’t be overlooked. If you can get your content shared by influencers, you could earn valuable links.
  • Influencer marketing – the Kardashians are living proof that influencer marketing is a huge industry and one that shouldn’t be ignored. Whilst it’s unlikely that you’ll get somebody that big to engage with your content, there are influencers in every niche that you can get to promote your content. By interacting with influencers you are increasing your reach, gaining loyal customers and increasing the authority of your website.
  • Build backlinks – Google may advise against intentionally building backlinks, however, your content won’t reach its full potential if it can’t attract inbound links from authoritative and relevant sites. On the other hand, link building is a time-consuming and highly skilled task, therefore if you get it wrong you could be in trouble. For that reason, we recommend using a reputable SEO agency (such as ourselves) to build high quality links.

The final step is crucial…

Once you’ve created an amazing piece of content and increased the page’s authority, you will need to monitor progress through a rank tracker (our favourite is STAT), Analytics tool (Google Analytics) and backlink monitor (Ahrefs).

These tools will help you to improve your content and monitor the progress of all your hard work!

2) Meta tags aren’t important for SEO

Meta tags are snippets that appear in the <head> section of a page’s code and are generally used to communicate information about the topic of a page with the search engines.

The most common meta tags are:

  • Title tag – the title of your page; this appears at the top of your browser and in the SERPs.
  • Meta description – a brief description (up to 160 characters) that describes the page.
  • Meta keywords – a list of keywords that you deem relevant to the page.
  • Meta robots – a rule for the search engine crawlers of what to do when they land on your page.

When we hear this statement, we assume that individuals are referring to meta descriptions and meta keywords, as it is common knowledge that the title tag is one of the most important on-page elements, whilst meta robots are required on every page.

We will start with the meta description…

Whilst meta descriptions don’t directly contribute to your organic rankings, they are an essential element for driving click-throughs from the search engine results page (SERPs). Many recent studies also suggest that pages with a high click-through-rate (CTR) receive a ranking boost by Google, thus increasing your organic visibility over time.

Your meta descriptions should include a brief description of the page, USPs (unique selling points), CTAs (call to actions) and a semantically linked keyword (this will be emphasised in the SERPs).

Now onto meta keywords…

For SEO newbies, you won’t remember the days when Google used meta keywords in their core algorithm – this was eliminated as webmasters spammed the feature by inputting hundreds of variations of the same keyword!

In 2017, Google ignores meta keywords, but this doesn’t mean they’re dead. Other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo still use meta keywords in their algorithms, therefore by adding in a few relevant phrases on each page, you are increasing your organic footprint.

Third party directories can also use them to determine and categorise a page on your site.

3) The more pages on a site, the better your rankings will be

Quality over quantity is definitely true when it comes to the number of pages on your website. A common misconception is that you require hundreds, or even thousands of pages to be deemed a high quality site, however, this is just another common SEO myth!

Less is more 99% of the time.

We recently worked with a client on restructuring their informational content, which resulted in removing hundreds of pages! Although it wasn’t an idea that was initially welcomed, it has resulted in fewer, but higher quality pages, less cannibalisation (two pages competing against each other) and increased engagement.

The moral of the story; concentrate on generating high-quality pages that will deliver value to the user, rather than a number of low-quality pages for SEO purposes.

4) Your website will get penalised for duplicate content

Whilst duplicate content can hinder your organic performance, it certainly won’t result in a penalty from Google, despite what you may have been told. This was confirmed back in 2013 by Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts, who announced that it’s nothing to stress about unless you have spammy duplicate content.

A much more likely outcome of having duplicate content on your website is cannibalising pages, which could result in high ranking fluctuations, or a page not ranking due to being deemed low quality.

If you’re facing a duplicate content issue, feel free to get in touch and speak to an expert!

5) Nofollow links have no value

Any digital marketer worth their salt would know that nofollow links are an essential component of an SEO campaign. Whilst they do not pass authority from one website to another, there are huge benefits of acquiring nofollow links including;

  • Having a healthy link profile: if you are building links, you need to have a healthy mixture of both follow and nofollow inbound links in order to avoid possible penalties from Google. If your link profile looks unnatural to an SEO, it is also going to appear unnatural to Google which could land you in serious trouble.
  • Referrals: many major publications only use nofollow links, however, these links are still likely to pass huge value to your website through referrals. As if an influx in referral traffic isn’t enough, by being featured on well-regarded websites you are further increasing your brand image.
  • Linkbait: you can use nofollow links as bait to attract dofollow links to your site, which will pass through that all-important link juice. This is a completely natural way to acquire links!

6) Running a PPC campaign will improve your organic results

It’s surprising how many times this has been discussed, despite nobody that is a reputable source implying that it’s true.

AdWords and organic are completely separate entities that don’t affect each other’s performance, and for most industries, we would recommend running an SEO and PPC campaign alongside one another for the best results.

So if you were thinking of spending thousands on AdWords in an attempt to increase your organic rankings, please resist and instead speak to an expert about the benefits of both mediums!

7) Your website platform makes a difference to your organic performance

As a digital agency, we have experience with a range of Content Management Systems (CMS), the most popular being WordPress and Magento. A common SEO myth is that you need to have a website built on a certain platform to ensure that you can perform well in the search engines, however, this is just another myth.

Providing that you have access to the code and a skilled web developer, you can ensure that your website is built for maximum organic performance. Our only advice would be to choose your developer wisely and avoid website builders such as Wix and Divi, as these will almost certainly hold back your SEO efforts regardless of budget.

8) You need X% keyword density to rank for a particular search term

This myth is a blast from the past, but fortunately, the times of aiming for 3-5% keyword density are long gone!

As Google’s algorithms have developed and become more sophisticated, they’re able to better understand natural language and deliver a better experience for the user. This has ultimately resulted in the death of keyword stuffing and if you or your SEO agency are still discussing this concept, it’s definitely time for a rethink!

Instead of aiming for a particular keyword density, you should instead be creating content that is relevant, high quality and uses semantic keyword targeting.

Wrapping things up…

These are just a selection of SEO myths that we’ve been questioned about recently, however, there are hundreds more we could’ve touched on.

If you want to discuss any information you’ve received, feel free to get in touch with our SEO team, join us for a coffee or have a chat with myself.

If you would like to work at CandidSky and grow your career prospects, take a look at our Careers website for available roles and find out what is like to work here.

And finally, take a look at our other blog posts to see what else we have been up to.

Earning links – the good and the bad

We are all aware that a website need links to rank well, but the big question is, what is a good link and what is a bad one? Google’s guidelines will tell you that you need to build links naturally, which is true to an extent, however we will guide you through the do’s and the don’ts when acquiring links.

The Good

When analysing a company’s link profile, the first thing the search engine crawler will analyse is whether it looks natural. Is there a spike in referring domains? Is there a spurt of links from one IP? Does it look like a PBN? These are all things that need to be considered, and if your link profile does look unnatural, we recommend speaking to an SEO expert.

It’s true that building links in the right way does take more time and there is a lot more skill involved, but the rewards are much more prevalent. If you get it wrong, it can often be time consuming and costly to fix.

Create Visual Assets
Everyone worth their salt knows that visual assets are great link bait. The primary reason that every time somebody shares your infographic, image, diagram etc. you get a link back, which isn’t the case when you display the same information as text.

Visuals aren’t only beneficial for link building though – they are proven to increase the time a user spends on a particular page (which case studies show Google use as a ranking signal) and they can be used across your social channels to drive engagement, whilst generating shares and reactions.

Create The Ultimate Guide
If you are an expert in your industry, there’s no reason why you can’t create the ultimate guide! This means that you essentially create a great resource that tells the user everything there is to know about a topic relevant to your niche.

Once you have chosen a topic to create the ultimate resource, it’s time to generate something that’s engaging, packed with information and most importantly, share-worthy.

Despite the myth, creating amazing content isn’t enough alone. You need to promote that content and get it seen by the right people, which is where good old fashioned outreach comes into play.

Guest Blogging
The days of churning out poorly written, keyword rich content and placing it on a third party website is long gone, however, if guest blogging is done correctly, it can still be an effective method for boosting your website’s rankings and authority.

In today’s environment, it is imperative that these articles are written to provide value to the user and not solely for the acquisition of links. If you are guest blogging for the sole intention of creating links, it is almost guaranteed that this technique won’t work and could potentially harm your rankings.

Due to Google penalising sites that use guest posting as a link building technique, we would instead recommend planning cautiously and using the technique to boost your brand awareness, as well as reaching out to a wider audience in your niche. If you can do this well, then you will see inbound links start to flurry in as a result!

Niche Directories
Going back a few years, directories were king when it came to link building. Unfortunately for many marketers, this technique was buried when Google rolled out Penguin and many sites that were listed in thousands of directories were penalised.

Despite this, niche directories can be an extremely valuable link source. These aren’t technically traditional looking directories that list multiple website’s under a specific category, but instead could be networking groups, industry specific associations or trade organisations websites.

Here are a few things to consider:

Does the directory accept anybody that pays a fee? Avoid.
Does the directory publish content from the source that can be indexed? Avoid.
Does the directory regularly assess their outbound links to ensure all sites are still live? Consider.
Does the directory have a low spam score? Consider.
Does the directory have feature a lot of keyword rich anchor text? Avoid.

 

The Bad

Link building is an art that requires practice, skill, patience and most importantly, time. If you use the wrong techniques then you can expect to have wasted a lot of resources and could even incur a penalty from Google.

Below are some of the link building techniques that you should avoid at all costs.

Private Blog Networks
Since Penguin arrived, we have seen Google penalise private blog networks (PBNs) and the sites that they link to. Back in 2014 Google started to send out thousands of manual action notifications to webmasters that participate in these schemes, and continue to do so to this day.

Many bloggers have reported using PBNs for short-term gains, however, if you are serious about promoting your business’ online presence in the long term, you should steer clear. It’s easy for Google to recognise these networks and once they do, you will be hit with an instant penalty which will cause serious headaches.

Comment & Forum Spam
Some business owners may consider posting a link to their website on forums and comment sections of blogs, however, from an SEO perspective, this technique is going to do a lot more harm than good.

Not only does it damage the perception and value of the brand, but this technique is also likely to pass on no benefit in terms of links, due to most forums and comment sections utilising “rel=nofollow” for all outbound links.

By using this technique you are playing with fire – there are little benefits to be had, whilst you are risking a link-based penalty.

Automated Link Schemes
Link networks continue to be a problem despite Google aggressively tackling the matter for a number of years. Despite there being a high chance that your website will be penalised if you join such a scheme, many unknowing business owners sign up to automated services that result in thousands of unrelated, spammy incoming links – we can assure you that it isn’t a simple process to rectify either!

Ads that state things such as “Boost your rankings quickly” or “Get 1000 backlinks for $50” are the most obvious signs that you’re signing up to an automated link network, however, many dud SEO agencies also use them for quick results. Instead, we often see that pages are penalised, or even worse, the website is de-indexed and doesn’t appear in the SERP’s at all until the links are disavowed.

In order to avoid automated link schemes, it is important to consult with a knowledgeable SEO expert.

Sitewide Links
The best practice for link building is to place the anchor text naturally in a body of relevant text. By placing a link in a sites footer, header or sidebar, it is automatically given less weight by Google due to webmasters spamming these locations in the past.

In general, Google’s algorithm will either completely ignore inbound sitewide links or pass very little weight. The guidelines recommend that sitewide links which appear as a result things like advertisements and royalties are nofollow.

Wrapping things up…
Links are still the most important ranking factor in Google’s algorithm, however, if you get it wrong you could be in serious trouble and face a penalty.

We would love to speak to you regarding your digital strategy and offer our expert advice. If you would like to discuss your requirements, feel free to drop us a message or pop in for a coffee and discuss all things digital.

Five top tips for Google Analytics beginners

Google Analytics is a powerful website performance analysis tool for webmasters.

So powerful, in fact, that it provides approximately 80 unique reports as standard, with the potential to create hundreds more custom reports.

But all that data can be overwhelming if you don’t spend much time getting to grips with it. That’s why we’ve put together five top tips for understanding your Google Analytics account better…

1. Don’t focus on your total sessions

If you’re a local business that can only provide a service or deliver to a limited area, or you only have physical brick and mortar stores in a particular area (e.g. the North West) then pay less attention to your total number of sessions. Instead, place more emphasis on the number of sessions coming from people in the local area using the Location report.

After all, what good is it if you’re receiving tonnes of traffic from London but have no way of providing a service to these people. It’s more important to measure (and improve) the number of users in your local service delivery area who are finding and interacting with your business online.

Pro tip: if you don’t already, then it’s worth checking out your Google My Business account for the data Google provides on how users have interacted with your knowledge graph, including the number of calls and driving direction requests.

2. Always consider context

Despite being described fantastically well by Avinash Kaushik as a “sexy metric to measure the number of people who came to your website, saw it, puked, and left”¹, bounce rate alone is not the be all and end all.

Bounce rates in GA’s Landing Pages report are great at pointing out which pages on your website require some attention, but there is a misconception that high bounce rates are inherently bad. Not at all. In fact, a high bounce rate can indicate that a user came to your site, got exactly what they wanted straight away and left. This means you’ve satisfied the user’s original intent, kudos!

This is why it’s important to always consider context when interpreting the data from Google Analytics. GA is great at providing all sorts of quantitative data, but it’s up to you to provide the explanation for why the data is like that. So next time you go into the Landing Pages report, don’t immediately start to worry if your top landing pages are getting high bounce rates. Consider instead what questions a user landing on this page may have, and whether that question is being answered straight away. Herein lies the context, and it’s vital to separating pages which are under performing, and ones which provide all the information a user needs without having to navigate the rest of the site.

3. There are two ways to calculate ‘conversion rate’

At its core, conversion rate is a really simple, useful and actionable metric which shows how well a website is persuading users to complete a target objective. Though be aware that conversion rates in Google Analytics are calculated based on the total number of sessions by default:

(Total Conversions/Total Sessions) × 100 = Conversion Rate (%)

It’s important to note that every user can have multiple sessions, which means the above equation is fine to use if you’re an e-commerce platform that could reasonably expect a user to make a purchase every time they visit the site, e.g. clothing retailers or supermarkets.

However, let’s say you sell beds. Buying the perfect bed requires a lot of research, so a user may browse your site numerous times before they settle on a bed they like and decide to purchase, creating multiple sessions in the process. In this instance, it doesn’t make sense to then calculate your conversion rate based on the total number of sessions. You’ll get a much more accurate reading of how well your site is converting by using the total number of unique users instead (referred to as ‘New Users’ in GA).

(Total Conversions/Total New Users) × 100 = Conversion Rate (%)

GA doesn’t provide the option to change how its metrics are calculated, so unfortunately anyone wanting to work out Conversion Rate using the second equation will have to do it manually. But, if this is the best fit for your business then it’s certainly worth doing.

4. Segment by device

The number of Google searches performed on mobile devices surpassed the number on desktop some time ago now². Furthermore, Google’s Gary Illyes recently announced that a mobile-only index is coming, and will likely be launched within months³. So if you aren’t already optimising your site for mobile users then now really is the time to start. And an important part of any optimisation process is the measurement of existing behaviour.

So how do you analyse the behaviour of mobile users on your website? Start by segmenting them. Fortunately, Google Analytics comes ready-loaded with an advanced segment for mobile traffic. Apply the segment, then spend time running through each report in detail. Often, you’ll find mobile users interact with your site completely different to desktop users, and this will help you identify where improvements can be made.

Perhaps the data shows that mobile users don’t convert as well as desktop users, so are you sure that contact form is working properly on mobile? Maybe they don’t spend much time on a page where you’d expect otherwise, is that video content loading correctly? You get the point.

Final thought on this one – advanced segments are the most powerful part of Google Analytics. We’ve only focused on how they can be used for mobile optimisation here, but don’t let that stop you from using other segments to really dig into user behaviour and website performance.

5. Keep it simple

Each report and metric in Google Analytics serves some purpose. There’s no doubt that some are more important and provide more insight than others, but nonetheless I’ve yet to come across a completely useless piece of data provided by the tool.

With this in mind, it’s a good idea to try and cut through this jungle of data to find the most important bits for you and your business, which really depends on your aims and objectives. The best advice I can give you is that for whichever data or metrics you choose to focus on, make sure they’re simple to understand and, most importantly, actionable – Ben Yoskovitv4 makes a great point that if a metric isn’t actionable, then it won’t change the way you behave, so move on and measure something else.

Final thought

Getting comfortable with Google Analytics should be a key part of any marketer’s role. It doesn’t matter if you’re the CMO, head of department, or an office assistant, being able to analyse and interpret website data is a massively useful skill. How do you justify all that spend on an SEO or PPC campaign to the board? Who are your audience, does that match up with who you thought your audience were? Where do you start with your mobile marketing optimisation? These are just a small sample of the kinds of questions a marketer needs Google Analytics in order to answer.

If you haven’t spent much time with GA in the past, we hope our tips give you a few pointers to start with. Ultimately though, there’s no better substitute for diving into the data head first and seeing what you find.

Good luck!

References

1Web Analytics 2.0 – The art of online accountability & science of customer centricity’, Avinash Kaushik, 2009.
Building for the next moment’, Jerry Dischler, Google Adwords Blog, May 2015.
Within months, Google to divide its index, giving mobile users better & fresher content’, Barry Schwartz, Search Engine Land, October 2016.
Measuring what matters: How to pick a good metric’, Ben Yoskovitz, OnStartups.com, March 2013.

Supporting multi-device customer journeys

The way consumers shop online is constantly changing

With 67% of all users navigating between multiple devices before making an online transaction, it has become evidently clear how important a consistent cross-device customer journey is.

According to Google, 65% of consumers start a purchase on their smartphone but complete the transaction on another device, and 33% of desktop transactions involve browsing on mobile prior to purchase. In a connected world, this leads to the need to create connected experiences – contextual, highly relevant and in real-time.

Read on to find out how to keep users satisfied across multi-device journeys.

business-perspective_articles_lg

1. Pay attention to contextual user data

Your customers tend to use different devices and channels while interacting with your business, and their behaviour often differs based on contextual use. Being able to understand when and why customers are using different devices and channels for different parts of their journey is the first step in being able to meet their needs.

     2. Design a consistent user and customer experience across devices and channels

With customer journeys being spread across multiple devices and channels, businesses need to ensure that they are designing a consistent user experience that meets their customer’s immediate requirements. This not only applies to the surface-level appearance but also to deeper layers such as how content is organised. Device specific features and calls to action also make the journey that bit smoother.

     3. Creating device-specific user experiences

By using device-specific features and functionality, the experience on that particular device can be enhanced. Think of how mobile device features like Touch ID, GPS, cameras, microphones and sensors can be used to improve the user experience (UX). A great example of this is being able to use a smartphone’s fingerprint scanner to complete a purchase, instead of inputting card or bank details.

     4. Maintain continuity and consistency across devices

Allow customers to pick up where they left off, even if it was on another channel. One such example is how readers can stop reading an Amazon Kindle book in their phone app and continue exactly where they left off on their Kindle device, then finish the book on their laptop.

    5. Start thinking about wearables

Wearable devices are no longer just for early adopters. With that in mind, at a minimum, look at how you can design your customer experiences (CX) to support wearable devices, or taking it further how you can enhance the customer experience using sensors within wearable devices.

wearablech-tech-vr

Final thought

Over the past few years, there has been a major shift in how consumers browse, research and ultimately buy items online. With smartphones, wearables, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers, a new breed of hyper-connected shoppers has developed where browsing and shopping is done across multiple devices.

In the near future, customers will expect completely new shopping and browsing experiences. With advancements in technology such as virtual reality, cloud applications, in-store displays and data glasses, the customer will instantaneously be brought into the universe of a brand. They might even access a wider range of offerings or develop their own designs, tailored to their own specific needs…

Multi Channel Attribution: What’s it all about?

Single channel conversion attribution doesn’t work.

To paint a real picture of how your customers interact with your website, it’s time to look at how multiple channels contribute to your buying cycle.

The most popular analytics platform, Google Analytics, uses a “last touch” model; a conversion – whether it’s a lead, a transaction, or a signup – is attributed to the last interaction between your company and your customer. Let’s take a look at why this is such a poor model for evaluating ROI from each of your channels.

Here’s an example of the journey a customer went through before signing up:

Multi-channel process

Using Google Analytics, the signup would be attributed to the final stage of the process; a branded search. Now, anyone who works in marketing knows that a branded search represents nothing more than a user looking for a company they are already familiar with, primarily with the intention of converting.

Would you say the branded search deserves the credit for the signup? No. Just no. Before returning to the site using a branded search, this customer viewed a display ad, clicked a paid ad, and viewed a comparison website. Even if we were to assign value equally to each of these touch-points are they truly equal?

Two of these touch points – the product review and product comparison – were persuasive interactions; experiences that convinced the customer this product was right for them, so surely they deserve as much, if not more credit for generating the conversion?

Other attribution models

Now, it’s fair to accept that the last-click model is unjust and (whilst it pains me as an SEO to say this) branded organic search receives far more credit than it deserves. I’ll be covering how to differentiate between branded and non-branded search in my next post, but for now let’s look at some of the other attribution models available.

For the purpose of this example, we’ve sold a product worth £100.

First interaction

First click

100% of the credit is applied to the first interaction. This is a better representation than the last-click model as it values the initial interaction more highly. Winners of the first interaction model tend to be paid advertising, be it display, search, or social. However, this still doesn’t address the persuasive interactions. 

In this case, £100 is assigned to our first interaction.

blog - first

Notice how our Paid Search Cost-per-acquisition (CPA) is £338, whilst our Display CPA is £1,193?  Clearly Paid Search tends to be an initial touch-point. 

Time decay

Time decay

Weighting steadily increases for touch-points closer to the final conversion. In this model the paid ad, comparrison website, and branded search receive the most credit. This is particularly beneficial for companies with long buying cycles as it weights the final few touch points before the conversion. But do we still want a branded search to get the majority of the credit?

In this case, £50 is applied to organic search, £30 is applied to our product comparrison site, and £20 is applied to our paid ad.

Blog - time decay

Now take a look at those CPA’s again. Display has increased to £455, whilst our Paid search CPA has increased to £2,224? Clearly neither are close to the final point of conversion. 

Linear

Linear

Value is assigned equally to every interaction involved in the process. If we have 5 touch-points, that’s £20 allocated to each channel. If you’re looking for an easy way to assess your attribution, this is your best bet.

Blog - linear

Now we’re hitting the middle ground. Paid Search CPA has reduced enormously to £986, whilst Display has also decreased to £409. That’s because Display is often a mid-journey touchpoint.

Position based

Postition

Weighting is applied to the first and last interactions. In this case, the blog post and branded search. Whilst this may seem a little more balanced, it ignores the entire nurturing process between initial engagement and final conversion. If your buying cycle involves a long lead nurturing process, steer clear of this one.

In this case, £50 is applied to our blog post and £50 is applied to our branded search

Blog - position based

Our Paid Search CPA has shot up; clearly it’s rarely the first or last touch-point, whilst Display has reduced considerably.  

Custom model

The fact you’re reading this article suggests you may not be ready for a custom model. Using a custom attribution model you’re able to manually apply value to each interaction, but be warned, this requires an in-depth analysis of not only your “planned” buying cycle, but the actual pattern users go through. In terms of accuracy, this is the ideal. However, the overheads in producing an accurate custom model are significant, and not a worthwhile use of internal time for most small to medium-sized businesses.

Another option?

By now I’ve probably scared you to the extent that you’re happy sticking with Google Analytics’ default model, but fear not; there is another way, and it’s call assisted conversions.

Under the assisted conversion model, credit is assigned to the final conversion touch-point, but an assisted conversion is assigned to all channels which contributed to the conversion.

In this case, £100 is applied to branded search, whilst all other channels contributed to our sale.

Blog assisted

So what’s right for you?

Sorry to disappoint. As you’ve probably already gathered, mapping out an accurate attribution model is a complex challenge, but it’s important in understanding your ROI from various channels. There’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution, but if you’d rather not invest too much time in mapping your buying cycles, I’d suggest using a Linear, First interaction, or Assisted Conversions models for simplicity.

Hopefully this article explains just how much our perception and interpretation of channels can change depending on the model we’re using. So before you reduce or increase investment in the specific channel, have a play with some of Google Analytics’ attribution models to make sure you’re making an informed decision.

 

Measure Twice, Cut Once: The importance of measuring data

More often than not we struggle to understand what exactly made a project successful.

In this post we explore how to end the epidemic of guesswork by measuring your data effectively.

Those who have worked in the building or carpentry trade know the importance of the phrase measure twice, cut once. It means you should always double-check your measurements for absolute accuracy before cutting a piece of material; otherwise it may be necessary to cut again, wasting time and resources.

Many businesses do not heed this message enough in the digital world, yet the benefits of following its meaning are huge. If we do not know how to measure data accurately, it is very difficult to pinpoint what we did to produce a particular result, never mind analyse and evaluate the result to understand how to replicate or improve it.

measure-tape-blog

 

Measuring the right data

The process of deciding what data to measure highlights what is important to any business. One way to approach data collection is to:

  • List everything you can measure
  • Assess the benefit of measuring each piece of data
  • Create a final set of metrics to record
  • Define targets to hit that become the benchmark of success.

Most businesses understand the importance of targets and set them at the start of every year. What we often forget to do is measure the data that contributes to the success, or failure, of hitting these targets.

Every business has different targets, so the data we measure to assess performance will differ depending on the company. However, the principle of measuring the data remains the same.

How do we measure our data?

CandidSky measures success across departments with different targets. For the purpose of this example, let’s concentrate on our brand marketing targets:

  • Website users and session
  • Social success (reach, engagement, impressions, subscribers…)
  • Leads generated
  • Awards won
  • Press secured.

To successfully measure our brand marketing performance, we first created a marketing dashboard. Our dashboard links directly to Google Analytics data, our telephone data service and our press monitoring service.

It lets us see how we are performing against our monthly, quarterly and annual targets – in real time.

The true power of our dashboard lies in the deeper data it collects. We collect information about key pages on our website: including average time spent, bounce rate and exit rate. It means that if we are not performing as well as we would like for our ‘website sessions’ target, then we can very easily see where the leaks are and plug them to improve time spent on a specific page.

Another example is by measuring telephone enquiries and online form submissions our dashboard highlights data that allows us to quickly shift focus and place emphasis on online form submissions. Phone enquiries are reduced and staff time is freed up to spend elsewhere, thus improving efficiency.

Data tells us how to optimise our operations without compromising our targets. If we did not measure this data, the validity of our decision-making would be greatly diminished.

data-ipad

What measuring data has helped us do so far

So far, our data has given us vital insight on how to:

  • Increase the amount of users visiting our site
  • Increase the time an average user spends on our site
  • Increase the amount of online enquiries we receive
  • Highlight our most important social tools and channel resource in to them
  • Highlight areas we need to improve on to stay on course to hit our 2016 targets.

Final thoughts

Data is powerful. Even if you don’t yet know what the most important data for your business to measure is, or what it will tell you, it is crucial to start collecting data where you can.

Eventually, that data you have collected can be mined to tell a story directly related to business performance. This is vital ammunition for any organisation looking to improve their decision-making ability.

Simply put, there is no better way to highlight key digital opportunities, or to clearly identify barriers to success.

Customer feedback: THE bottom line

We all hope we know what is best for our customer, that we understand what they want. Only the customer really knows what is best for them, truly understands what they want.

That’s why it is incredibly important to give your customers an easy way to talk to you. By giving your customer a platform you can use the power of their voice to your advantage whether it is positive or negative. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you, the employer or employee knows everything. This is particularly relevant when looking at making changes to your website.

In this article we will cover the following areas in regards to customer feedback:

  • It’s importance
  • Collection methods
  • Key dialogues
  • Decision maker buy-in.

The Importance of Customer Feedback

Customer feedback is extremely important because it can help guide your decision-making behaviour. If you know what your customers really want, and it makes business sense, then you can implement it. By listening to their feedback and taking an action, you display empathy which makes a customer feel valued. A valued customer is a happy customer who will continue to buy your product or service; Equally they are far more likely to become a brand evangelist and preach your good word, creating a whole new active marketing division with untold reach.

happy-customer

Collecting the data

There are a few methods used to obtain online customer feedback, we will discuss customer surveys, usability testing and social monitoring as they are relatively straightforward to set up and gleam insights from.

  • Surveys

Survey give you an opportunity to ask direct questions. Survey design in itself is a massive theoretical subject, but don’t get too bogged down in that. Use a common sense approach. Ask people questions in a straightforward manner they will understand.

It is important not to lead the customer. Put your opinions aside when writing the questions, you want their input, not a mirror of the office outlook. If you can, offer an incentive for completing your survey, it will increase participation levels.

The most important thing about surveys is remembering why you are going to all the effort of designing, incentivising and releasing one.

You are collecting customer data to analyse and use to improve your product and/or service! – Vital information.

  • User Testing

Running user testing sessions can help to obtain even higher quality feedback from your visitors as elements of bias and consciousness are removed from the decision-making process. This can be a bit more difficult to implement yourself, which is why we are employed by our clients to constantly run usability tests optimising their digital marketplace to improve profitability.

We use a number of techniques that include heat mapping, video recording and form abandonment analysis. This is used to produce data which eventually give us insights into user behaviour allowing us to tweak particular elements and maximise customer experience.

  • Social Monitoring

There are simple things you can do to ensure you manage your social reputation professionally. Dedicate someone to answering direct messages promptly on your social channels, use a free social management tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite and set up alerts for your products and most importantly engage. If a comment is a negative, go out of your way to converting customers negative experience into a positive one. 9 times out of 10 they will appreciate the effort and become a brand advocate for your mature approach.

Key Questions

From my experience as a user testing consultant the following questions have really helped me gain valuable insight into what customers say about the brands I investigate. Although you may not need to use all of these questions, they are useful to consider:

  • What are your first impressions of the website?
  • How easy was the website to use?
  • Did you locate the product/information you needed?
  • What information would you like adding or removing?
  • Was there anything confusing about the website, did you require more clarification?
  • How likely would you be to show the website to a colleague or friend?
  • Describe the website/company in one word?

Remember, the key is gathering good data, analysing it and then using it to draw conclusions about a live situation.

analyse-data

Getting the boss on side

This all sounds great I hear you cry, but my boss will never agree to it. Bosses worry about the bottom line (as you would hope), well, customers are the bottom line!
You might face a few objections, here’s a couple of common ones and some ideas on how to counter them:

  • “There will be spies from other companies skewing the data” – You must screen customers and gather enough data to be statistically significant.
  • “We will have to do what they ask” – Customers are with you because they like your ethos and vision if you spend time explaining why something can not be done they will understand.
  • “It will take a lot of time to gather feedback” – So does changing something without any knowledge of what is most important to your customer. You will most likely have to revisit the same project six months later when revenue does not increase as much as was expected, or email sign ups have not increased.

A famous quote which should not be misquoted when talking about customer feedback is that of Henry Ford, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. This is excellent customer feedback. The aim is to collate feedback, understand it and create an innovative solution with a product or service to deliver something they never believed was possible.

Summary

Have an open dialogue with your customers. Listen to the good, the bad and the ugly and where necessary shift your focus to improve your standing in the market based on such feedback. Who are we to dictate how other people feel? We wouldn’t presume to dictate whether our friend wants a tea or coffee, whether they prefer blue or green or how many times a day they should go to the bathroom, so why do we think their interaction with our brand is any different.

8 WordPress security tips to keep your website safe

Photograph of the Wordpress website

Over 23% of all websites use WordPress, a popular open source CMS. Whilst it’s an incredibly powerful platform, it’s popularity (and publicly available code) means that WordPress-based systems are heavily targeted by hackers. Whilst you can’t prevent people trying to exploit vulnerabilities in your website, you can make it harder for them to succeed.

We’ve put together 8 WordPress security tips you can implement today to reduce the risk of hackers accessing your website.

1. Backup your website regularly

The most important thing to do first is to save a copy of your website. If anything were to happen to your site, such as any malicious code injected into your Wordress files, plugins or theme files, at least you have a backup in place to restore your website to full working order.

There are many free and paid services available to backup your WordPress site:

  • VaultPress — This is a great solution if you want to fully backup and secure your WordPress site. VaultPress also performs daily security scans of your website automated backups, and restores when necessary. VaultPress comes with a small monthly cost, however the investment is well worth it.
  • BackWPup Free — This is a free plugin from WordPress that allows you to schedule and perform automatic backups of your WordPress website.

2. Use secure hosting

Many webmasters don’t think too much about their hosting provider. Don’t just go for the cheapest package available; do your research and make sure you use a reputable provider.

When it comes down to it, paying that little bit extra can save you a headache in the future.

3. Update to the latest version of WordPress

WordPress are constantly updating their software. Every new update that WordPress releases contains bug fixes, patches and other security updates that keep your website safe.

It’s important to update your website to the latest version of WordPress. Many hackers specifically target older versions to gain access, creating all kinds of security problems.

4. Create stronger passwords

This may sound self-explanatory, but you will be amazed at how many webmasters have simple and easy passwords. Try to avoid using the same password on multiple sites.

When creating your password make sure you use a combination of numbers, capitalised and non-capitalised letters. Avoid using passwords like your name, or abc123.

  • LastPass — Remembers and stores all your passwords so you don’t have to worry about remembering them again. LastPass has a password strength generator that chooses secure passwords for you with ease.

5. Don’t use ‘admin’ as your username & limit login attempts

Choosing your username is just as important as choosing your password. We know all too well that webmasters tend to use ‘admin’ as their username. This increases the effectiveness of brute-force attacks by providing the first half of your login credentials.

We recommend you create a new user account and delete your old ‘admin’ account.

6. Hide Your Login information from the Author Archive

Hackers can still find your username by viewing your author archives – a default part of any WordPress site. The best solution is to delete your username from the archive, or remove the archive entirely.

To remove your author archive, you can install a plugin called WP biographia that will do all the hard work for you.

7. Enable Secure Socket Layer login pages

Secure Socket Layer (SSL) adds an extra layer of protection by encrypting data sent between a user’s browser and the server. Whilst this is essential for sites that capture a user’s personal information, we also recommend protecting your own data by using SSL on website login pages. To emphasize the importance of data security Google recently announced ‘rankings boosts’ for sites using SSL. Your hosting provider should be able to provide you with an SSL certificate or a shared SSL.

8. Don’t reveal your WordPress Plugins

By default all your plugins are shown in the index file. Third party plugins which have not been properly maintained by the developer could include vulnerabilities which allow hackers to inject code into your site.

To prevent this from happening we recommend putting a blank index.html file into your wp-content/plugins/ folder. Doing so will show a blank page, hiding any plugins that you use.

Conclusion

The idea behind this post is not to scare you, but to leave you one step ahead of potential hackers. Whilst we (and millions of other people) LOVE WordPress, it’s important to be aware of the potential security issues. If you manage your own website and want to keep it safe, we recommend starting with these tips.

 

Traffic Generation For B2B Companies

In our first article on Digital Marketing for B2B companies  Tom explained that many businesses who relied on conventional promotion techniques were struggling to generate enough leads. We explained our approach to digital marketing, centred around the end-to-end process; from the design and development of your site to generating online traffic, converting your visitors, keeping your customers and analysing the whole process.

Some businesses (particularly in the legal and financial sectors) have gone about business by purchasing leads from marketing and customer acquisition businesses who would offer them at a premium price. This approach can work but there is always a danger that the leads may be unqualified or of questionable quality. There’s also the possibility that you’re paying much more for a lead than you would if you were to develop your own marketing strategies, or hire the expertise of a digital agency to work on your behalf. We’ve seen our clients’ cost per lead decrease by up to 80% by switching from a lead generation company to investing in their own marketing.

In this blog we’re going to be looking at ‘Traffic Generation’. As the title would indicate the objective of this stage is to drive visitors from other sources through to your point of conversion, typically a website.

Quality over quantity

Traffic generation isn’t as simple as sending as many people as possible to your site. Every visitor comes with a cost whether that’s your investment in inbound marketing, advertising spend, our man-hours to complete outreach. Therefore the relevance of your traffic is absolutely key.

‘More traffic and more customers’ isn’t always the best way to improve revenue and generate a return on investment. Identifying your most valuable audience is vital to running a targeted marketing campaign, as one of these visitors may be worth ten others put together.

What are the options for traffic generation?

By now you have probably heard of ‘inbound’ or ‘earned’ marketing, and it’s counterpart ‘outbound’ or ‘paid’ marketing. If you haven’t I would recommend you read Tom’s explanation of inbound and outbound. 

First of all lets look at how new visitors could arrive at your website.

  1. Direct visits – they heard of you elsewhere.
  2. Social media referrals – they found you on a social media platform and clicked through to your website.
  3. Organic website referrals – they followed a natural link from another website to yours.
  4. Paid website referrals – they clicked on a display advert, affiliate link, or Google Adsense or Remarketing advert on another website.
  5. Organic search engine traffic – they carried out a search, and you were the organic result they chose.
  6. Paid search traffic – they clicked on one of your paid search ads, either in the form of a textual advert or Product Listing Ad.
  7. Email traffic – they received an email from your business, were interested in the offer, and clicked through to find out more.

Bear in mind that not all of these sources are equal. Their value to your business will depend on your market and audience. In addition to this, some sources might drive high levels of traffic but low conversions, and vice versa. That said, there are some clear front runners, as this recent article on customer acquisition explains. This study identified that, whilst there are many sources that drive traffic, search marketing (paid & organic search) and email marketing were the overall drivers of online transactions and customer acquisition. One thing they share in common is that they scale very well.

For these reasons, SEO, Paid search, and email marketing are the cornerstone of our digital marketing campaigns, and each of them takes a different approach to traffic generation.

Organic SEO

SEO marketing is a long term strategy. It takes research, planning, very high levels of expertise, and above all, time. If you want leads immediately and you’re willing to pay for them, then SEO – and inbound marketing – are probably not the right choice for you. However if you’re planning ahead and are willing to wait to reap the fruits of your labor SEO can provide one of the highest returns on investment in comparison to other online marketing strategies.

Search results are also highly relevant. When someone searches for “buy blue widgets” or “PPI claim” it’s highly likely that they are going to complete a transaction or become a lead if the offer is right.

In addition to this the tactics for improving your organic search results are highly holistic, involving the planning and delivery of your content marketing, and distribution of your communications through social media. As such it provides a number of collateral benefits, and is becoming an all-encompassing strategy which extends far beyond the search engine results page (SERP).

Paid search marketing

Paid search is perfect for businesses who are in the habit of buying leads. The only difference is that you’ll probably get them much cheaper than you would when purchasing them from another company; you’re only paying for advertising, not someone else’s overheads. It’s also perfect for testing the opportunities in search, using a limited budget to test keywords and landing pages.You can then use this information to improve your paid campaign and help plan your long term SEO strategy. For a more in depth explanation you can read my previous post on SEO and PPC. The executive summary: use both!

Email marketing

Email is the most direct of all the traffic generation techniques. There are several types of email marketing which I believe fall in to the ‘Conversion’ and ‘Customer Retention’ categories, such as lead nurturing campaigns and newsletters. We’re talking about new visitors here, so we’re talking about outbound mailshots. They have received bad press over the years because, to be honest, it’s usually done very poorly because of the low cost vs large reach. Well planned outbound email can be highly effective but you need some enticing sales copy, a solid value proposition, a highly targeted contact list, and a measurable conversion. Neglecting any of these aspects will undermine your campaign.

What did I miss?

Many marketers might ask why I haven’t mentioned content marketing or social media as key methods for traffic generation, after all, they’re all the rage at the moment. My response would be that they are highly dependent on the type of service on offer, that for many businesses the time and effort to get them working and pulling in visitors will outweigh the returns.

For a B2B business I view content and social media marketing as part of your conversion and customer retention stages above all else. We’ll be going in to more detail on these stages in future articles.

Remember, generating website traffic is just the first stage of your marketing process. A successful campaign needs to account for every step.

Do you have any questions about generating traffic for your site? Leave a comment and we will get back to you.

Digital Marketing for B2B Companies

shutterstock_114808651

Lately, we’ve been hearing from a lot of B2B companies reporting a slump in lead generation and sales figures. They’re finding that, while in the past their reputation was enough to secure new business, the modern marketing landscape has changed.

Traditionally, B2B companies have used conventional promotion techniques to secure a steady stream of leads. These may have included

  • Relying on reputation: using word of mouth.
  • Outbound sales: cold calling.
  • Print advertising: flyers, posters, press/media, billboards.
  • Sponsorship: local teams or buildings.
  • Other offline marketing

However, in many cases this is no longer enough to attract a steady stream of new business. Digital marketing has provided a new platform for emerging companies to communicate their services and attract new business in a far more effective way than those reliant solely on traditional marketing techniques.

This has been supported by Buyersphere’s latest B2B report, which illustrates the most influential processes in B2B purchasing decisions. 73% of respondents stated that they used supplier websites before purchasing, with web searches and supplier emails also increasing in importance – a strong indication that digital marketing will continue to be a hugely influential force.

Many B2B companies have taken a few tentative steps into digital marketing through a website, social media or sporadic email marketing. This is where the problem lies; without a strategy, some companies are missing out on attention from potential customers. When they are able to attract customers they often fail to communicate their value effectively. No matter how great the services your company provide or the expertise your team offers, without effective communication this won’t come across to your audience.

The Solution

The first step towards a solution is recognizing the fact that your company may no longer be able to survive on only reputation and word of mouth. The second is to consider the process of how online marketing works.

Businesses often focus only on the first stage of the process; setting up a basic website or social media presence. Without thinking about how to generate traffic, these assets will only be seen by a few people – those who are already familiar with your business and website, or those who have received printer material, for example.

ourapproach

An effective digital marketing plan should involve the following steps:

Design and Development: building a website that best communicates your value proposition

Traffic Generation: utilising inbound marketing techniques in order to attract traffic. Content marketing, PPC and SEO for example.

Conversion: convincing customers to take an action. E.g. Make a purchase, make a call or enter their contact details.

Retention: engaging customers in a dialogue in order to keep them informed or engaged. This could include email marketing or social media.

Measurement & Analysis: recording statistics about how your marketing has performed, informing the marketing decisions you make in the future.

Methods

So, you know you need to think carefully about digital marketing and how it can impact your business. You know you need to conduct your marketing in a planned, strategic way. But how do you actually do it?

I’m afraid we’re going to leave that one on a cliffhanger – we’ll be covering it in the next installment of this series. The post will include some actionable steps as well as hints and tips on how to make the most of your company’s marketing strategy.

An Introduction to Video Marketing

The marketing world is witnessing a video marketing frenzy, particularly with the advent of Vine and, of course, Instagram’s development into the video sphere. It seems as though the whole world has gone video crazy! From businesses to consumers, it is important to understand the relevance of video as a marketing tool and here’s why.

Let’s begin by comparing video utilisation against standard text. Recent research has shown that video content is at least 1.5 times more engaging than text alone. It’s obvious when you think of it, people are more willing to watch a video on their chosen topic, rather than read a lengthy article on the same issue. In fact,  people are willing to spend an extra two seconds on a page that has video when compared to a plain text article. That means an extra two seconds of their attention to promote your product or business, ultimatelty an extra two seconds of engagement with your potential customer.

Let’s now have a look at how video can help improve your SEO. Since Google bought YouTube in 2006, video marketing entered a whole new arena as videos became a tool for SEO. Thus, one of video’s greatest assets is that they are part of the webs second biggest search engine – YouTube. This is great because it means you have another way to optimise your videos, through the captions that you add to describe your video. Google has also recently altered it’s searches to include videos, (think Googling ‘fix my TV’ and a video of how to fix your TV pops up), which means there’s an even bigger opportunity to improve your search engine visibility. It’s important to realise that improving your video’s SEO can also be done by adding a written transcript to your video, like subtitles, that Google is then able to read and quantify. Double points!

 

Not only this, but videos are easily shared and are extremely mobile. As social media has made the transition from our laptop screens onto our phones and tablets, so has video. Facebook and Twitter engage with a huge amount of video data being shared, tweeted and retweeted by people at any given moment throughout their day. This completely opens up your audience, as you have cross channel utilisation, which reaches a wider spectrum of people. It is therefore easy to use video marketing as part of an ongoing media strategy, where engagement is crucial.

Speaking of engagement, videos are a great tool to hone in on your customer base and their needs. For example, if your company produces a’ Frequently Asked Questions’ video, customers can have their problems answered in a clear and concise manner in an innovativ and engaging way. It’s true, people prefer being shown how to overcome their problems and seeing someone deal with their questions, rather than having to read about them. This works especially well for drawn out processes. For example, cooking videos are some of the most viewed videos on YouTube, as people want a step by step guide on how to do things. This is essentially educating your consumer  in a way that will entice them to buy your product or use your company in a much softer, human approach. It’s a great way to communicate with your target audience.

Cake videos

Videos are also a long term investment, particularly if you use them well. Very rarely will a video go ‘out of date’ and you could therefore have a potentially limitless audience outreach. This works well for educational videos, the types of videos that people will continually search for. This means that your video will have a longer shelf life if it’s helping people. There’s ultimately a growing audience out there just waiting to watch your video.

So is video the future of marketing? Not completely on it’s own, no, but it looks like it has a place to stay in a world that we’d rather watch spin, than read about spinning.

Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at how you can use video to promote your business.

 

8 tips for planning a digital marketing campaign

Tom posted an article this month on the difference between inbound and outbound marketing which explains some applications of each technique as part of a digital strategy. In this post I’d like to give you some helpful tips on how to plan your own digital marketing campaign.

1. Set goals

Your digital strategy should be built based on what it is you’re trying to achieve. If you have ambitious aims you need to invest the right amount of time and effort needed to achieve them. If they are less ambitious then you may be able to allocate a lower budget. You need to know where you’re going to work out how to get there!

2. Know your sales cycle

An inbound marketing campaign aims to fill the top of your sales funnel and to move your leads down through the funnel at the right time, in the right way. Analyse your sales cycles to find out how your content can educate and nurture leads at each individual stage.

3. Use your strengths

Work out what you’re good at and what you aren’t. There’s no sense in investing in things you don’t do well. Play to your strengths to get the most from your digital marketing campaigns.

4. Gather your assets

If you’ve been in business for a while, you may have produced guides, brochures and other documents you can use as assets. Create a list of all your available resources to work out how you can use them, squeezing as much value as possible from each piece of content.

5. Find your proposition

Why should people buy from you? If you can’t answer this question your visitors won’t be able to either. This message should be reinforced throughout your website and campaign content.

6. Set KPI’s

I can’t reinforce this point strongly enough. Digital marketing thrives on it’s ability to be measured. Unlike traditional broadcast based campaigns, you can tweak your strategy on an ongoing basis according to what’s working and what isn’t. Here are some handy guides on how to measure your digital channels:

7. Create a content strategy

It’s important to develop a sustainable content strategy to produce content on an ongoing basis. You need to be able to commit to it and maintain it, even when you’re being showered with new business. If you can’t sustain it in the long-term then you’ll need to have a plan for outsourcing it, or adding new staff to your roster to make sure you don’t disappoint your (now huge) audience.

8. Create buyer personas

Buyer personas will allow you to segment your target audiences and create strategies to hit each user group. It’s crucial in helping you understand who it is you’re selling to. Here’s a great resource on how to create buyer personas.

Inbound and Outbound Marketing Explained

inbound vs outbound

Marketing is a hugely broad discipline and, as such, covers a wide variety of methods and approaches. Breaking these methods down a little further can help us to understand their purpose, when it’s appropriate to use them and how they fit into a wider campaign.

inbound vs outbound

Outbound

Broadly speaking, outbound marketing can be described as pushing marketing messages to consumers using ‘broadcast mediums’. It’s considered to be the traditional way of marketing because it was popularised by mediums such as direct mail, TV and radio. This has been taken online in the form of paid advertising (affiliate schemes) and paid search.

For the duration of an outbound marketing campaign, every click or impression has a cost. When the budget runs out or the campaign ends, the marketing stops and so does the benefit you get from it.

Some examples of outbound marketing:

  • Paid search (paid traffic from search engines)
  • Emailing bought lists
  • Affiliate ads (paid traffic from other sites)
  • Retargeting (keeping track of people who visit your site and displaying ads to them on other sites)
  • Any form of broadcast advertising

The benefits of outbound marketing are that it can be spun up quickly and if done correctly can leverage lots of leads in a short space of time.

However, because you’re often interrupting what a consumer is doing at that moment in time, outbound marketing methods can be seen to be ‘salesy’, ‘spammy’, distracting or simply annoying. Paid search advertising is an exception to this, as it’s designed to be relevant to the term the user has searched for, and can therefore, potentially, add value. Although it is an outbound method, it shares some of the characteristics of inbound.

Inbound

Conversely, inbound marketing can be defined as any type of marketing which generates an organic source of traffic without needing to be paid for. Effectively, you are pulling customers into your world by offering them relevant and valuable content, engaging with them creatively, or responding to a demand.

Here are some examples:

  • Organic search (SEO)
  • Content marketing (blogs, infographics, video, online PR)
  • Social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Ning, forums, Q&A sessions, boards)
  • Email marketing
  • Premium offers (enticing sales offers and promotions)
  • Link building (direct links from external sites)
  • Podcasts
  • Word of mouth

These methods are sometimes referred to as ‘earned media’ because the cost is in the effort it takes to plan, research, produce and distribute content. It can take quite a bit of time and effort before the actions leverage any return, not to mention the effort in building up an audience and industry relationships.

The benefits of inbound are that once you have built a level of authority and expertise, content you produce can carry on working for you long after original publication. Think of it like a bank account. Once you’ve deposited your time and effort, it continues to  pay dividends in traffic, links and leads.

Inbound marketing is all about permission. It lets buyers choose when and where they are going to interact with your brand. For instance, they may subscribe to your blog or email newsletter, like you on Facebook or listen to a podcast. This is beneficial in a number of ways. If someone is already searching for a service, they’re already engaged and interested, and therefore far more likely to respond to your business. This means you’re not wasting your money and time targeting consumers who’d never use your services – only those who would.

Retention Marketing (honourable mention)

There are also some methods that technically fall into another category known as retention marketing. This is where existing leads become known and can be interacted with directly in order to pull them back into marketing sources.

  • Transactional emails (Event driven emails)
  • Email marketing to existing customers
  • Customer service
  • Social media

Conclusion

Different types of campaigns require different approaches to digital marketing.  We believe that a healthy balance of inbound, outbound and retention marketing can produce the best results. Outbound marketing certainly has its place – testing or kick starting a campaign’s traffic – but ultimately the real value to digital marketing is creating authentic, relevant value to customers. This is where inbound marketing comes in. Not only will inbound continue to generate leads far after your outbound budget has run out, but the quality of the leads tends to be much higher, as well at a lower cost, than outbound marketing.

Understanding Your Analytics Using Custom Advanced Segments

Google Analytics is arguably the most powerful reporting tool available when it comes to understanding how visitors are using your website. The data provided is unrivaled among other tools and can provide valuable information for any site owner, whether you’re a small business or a corporate colossus.

The problem with Analytics (and yes, there are many problems) is that because it provides information to such a vast array of user groups, being able to find the data that’s meaningful to you can be difficult. More often than not people revert to looking at overall traffic and content metrics. This paints a good picture of how your site is performing overall, but it makes it very difficult to extract actionable data on how you can nourish visitors and increase conversions.

Using overall, entry-level data in Analytics simply won’t achieve this for you, which is why, being a generous soul, I’ve written this post on how custom advanced segments can help you measure your success.

What on earth Are Custom Advanced Segments?

Allow me to explain. You’ve got an e-commerce website. You’ve probably looked at how many visitors your blog attracts. You probably know how many sales you generate per month. But, do you know how many of the people that found you via your blog actually bought something? Without knowing this, can you truly evaluate how well your blog is performing?

Custom segments can help you. What’s more, they can provide the most valuable, actionable data you can imagine from Analytics. These segments carry all the way through Analytics.  This means that when I segment out my visitors that come from search engines, all the data in the rest of Analytics will be for search engine visitors only – this means content, conversions, demographics; the whole lot.

Sounds awesome, now how the Hell do I use custom segments?

Fear not, brave Analytics adventurer; help is on hand. Surprisingly, custom segments are incredibly easy to use once you’ve learned how to set them up.

First, head to your audience overview and select ‘Advanced Segments’ at the top.

 

The standard segments allow you to view user groups, such as paid search traffic, referral traffic etc. Now I wouldn’t be surprised if you hadn’t seen these already and were like ‘wow, these are amazing’. If this is you, then you’re welcome…enjoy! We’re going to be going a little deeper and creating some more interesting segments:

Head over to ‘New custom segment’ and we’ll get stuck in.

 #1: Is My Blog Making Me Any Money?

  1. Set the first option to ‘include’
  2. Set the second option to ‘landing page’
  3. Set the third option to ‘containing’
  4. Set the URL path

The URL path needs to the the first part of the URLs for any page contained on your blog. In most cases this will be www.mywebsite.com/blog/……

Because we’re setting option 3 to ‘containing’ the segment will include any landing pages which feature this URL path, such as /blog/post-one or /blog/post-two.

Now name the segment and save it. In this case I’ve named the segment ‘Blog Entrances’

You may need to refresh your browser for the change to come in to effect, but now you should see your brand new segment in the ‘custom segments’ section

Now all the data you see in Analytics whilst this is selected will refer only to visits which began on a blog page.

If you have an e-commerce website now you’ll be able to head to the conversions section get this kind of data:

 

I accept that I’m data geek, but even if you hate Analytics you must admit that this is some very sexy data.

If you’re assessing whether or not to invest more in blogging, whether you should outsource the work, or how much you should spend, you no longer need to guess. Now your decisions can be made based on facts.

#2 Is Facebook Making Me Any Money?

Time to create a new custom segment.

  1. Set the first option to ‘include’
  2. Set the second option to ‘Source’
  3. Set the third option to ‘containing’’
  4. Type in ‘Facebook’

When you enter the 4th option you’ll notice that a few variants might pop up, such as www.facebook.com and m.facebook.com – these are just the standard and mobile variants. Again, by using ‘containing’ in option 3 you’re specifying that it should be any source which contains the word ‘facebook’, thus capturing both of the sources.

Now head down to your e-commerce section and voila. Now you have the answer to this question.

If you want to include all the other social platforms you can use the ‘OR’ options in the custom segments menu to add as many as you want. You can even create an individual segment for each one to measure them against eachother.

Some more examples:

Have a look at the options within the custom segments menu. You’ll see that they are almost endless. What this represents is an enormous opportunity to dig deeper in to your Analytics and get the top drawer information. Here are some examples of other custom segments you could use:

How do visitors from my local city use my website?Include -> City -> Containing -> [city name]

How do people from other countries/continents use my website?Include -> Country/Continent -> Conaining -> [country/continent]

If you really wanted to, you could see how iPhone usage on your site differs from Android usage, how users entering on a specific keyword are using the site, and so on and so forth.

There are far too many options to be able to list them all. If you’re interested in finding out how to segment out specific information in your Analytics account, ask in the comments below or feel free to email me at Simon@candidsky.com and I’ll give you the tools to make data driven decisions.

Reporting & control: how to use metrics effectively

Creating a success depends on being well informed about your own business. This is achieved by creating and using effective metrics. Ultimately metrics tell us where a company has been, where it’s going, and whether or not something may have gone wrong. The same logic applies to any given department, team, project, or initiative; you can’t control what you don’t measure.

A lack of knowledge is too often the cause of businesses failing. Whether it’s customer retention, marketing, or production, you can’t act on problems if you aren’t already aware of them. Monitoring these things carefully may help keep a business on the rails, but it might also uncover golden opportunities for you to take advantage of.

So what do metrics give us?

  • Control – they allow us to control and evaluate performance
  • Reporting – we use them to report to ourselves, our superiors, and external bodies.
  • Communication – they tell people internally and externally what our key success factors are and what motivates us.
  • Opportunities for Improvement – they uncover gaps between performance and expectation.
  • Expectations – they frame expectations internally and externally. They help form what the customer expects.

How to decide which metrics to use

Defining the metrics you want to use to measure success isn’t always easy. It’s important to cut to the core of what you’re trying to achieve in order to make sure you get the benefits you’re looking for, and also to implement strategies with specific goals.

For example, for an online retail site, we might assume that the best metric to track could be would be sales, therefore our target would be to increase sales by X amount, or X percent. As an overarching target this might help and should certainly be monitored, but won’t provide much focus for the people acting upon it.Monitoring data is only valuable if metrics that are relevant to a company are being tracked, analysed, and then applied strategically. Each company will have different needs, disadvantages, and opportunities.In cases like this, it’s much better to dig deeper and investigate how you’re gaining sales, where you’re losing them, and what specific aspects of the sales pipeline can be improved. If you’ve already been monitoring your metrics, this task can be simple. You might discover that, whilst you are bringing in plenty of new sales, your customer retention is particularly low. By using this information to set a target linked to customer retention your strategy will achieve much more definition; now you might think that your customer aftercare needs to be improved, and this could lead to a far greater number of repeat orders. Suddenly you have a specific and actionable plan which you can implement, measure, and report on.

How to use your metrics

Establishing and monitoring key metrics will help you work in a more efficient way, by defining the process you’re going to measure, making changes, and then reviewing the impact. This is summed up in the ‘Agile’ Method:

  1. Define key performance indicators
  2. Implement improvements
  3. Measure success
  4. Create new improvements
  5. Prioritize improvements based on your returns and capabilities

Whilst you’re measuring the success of some brilliant strategy you’ve just come up with, make sure you account for any other factors that might impact the metric you’re using – the only thing worse than having no metrics is having ill-informed ones.

Example – Social Media

Metrics and control apply to every interaction a business has. Social business is important today, and is likely to be even more important in the future. Like other tactics that impact brand exposure and opinion, all too often social engagement is considered to be qualitative, but analysing this information in quantitative way will provide far more value to the business owner. Below are some of the ways you may choose to analyze your social performance, depending on what it is you hope to achieve from using social tools.

  • Social media leads
  • Engagement duration
  • Membership increase and active network size
  • Conversions
  • Brand mentions in social media
  • Loyalty
  • Virality
  • Blog interaction

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p>Hopefully this has provided you with a bit more information on the importance of using metrics to measure your success. Remember, if it’s important, measure it!