Category: News

CandidSky nominated for “Best Use of Search – Finance” at the UK Search Awards 2018

The amazing work of the CandidSky team has been recognised at this year’s UK Search Awards, with a nomination for “Best Use of Search – Finance” for our work with Buddy Loans.

Now in their 8th year, the UK Search Awards are a celebration of expertise, talent and achievements within search marketing. The awards cover SEO, PPC and content marketing, attracting hundreds of entries each year.

CandidSky and Buddy Loans are up against nine other campaigns in the “Best Use of Search – Finance” category, including brands like Direct Line Life Insurance and GoCompare.

The winners will be announced at UK Search Awards’ ceremony on the 29th November in London, and in the meantime, here’s a little more about why this cross-channel search campaign is award worthy…

An award worthy campaign

Buddy Loans are a guarantor lender with ambitious targets. They approached CandidSky to help them reach more potential customers and convert more of their website traffic.

The campaign CandidSky ran for Buddy Loans was a cross-channel campaign with SEO being a prominent area of focus.

Within six months of Buddy Loans working with CandidSky they:

  • Improved in rankings for the term “Guarantor Loans” from position #12 to #3
  • Were the the #1 highest ranked direct lender

And the campaign is still running! CandidSky’s upcoming plans for Buddy Loans will have them reaching more people and smashing their targets.

While the agency’s strongest roots are in SEO, CandidSky has evolved into a truly cross-discipline agency. Our work on the Buddy Loans campaign demonstrates our evolved approach at its best – with SEO, content, and paid media all helping to deliver amazing commercial results for the client – the end result being a 42% increase in funded loans.

Helping our clients grow will always be our greatest reward. But this nomination is an incredible acknowledgement of our forward-thinking approach to achieving those results.

Take a look at some more examples of the great work the CandidSky team are doing – our work.

CandidSky Grows Its Team With A New Head Of Business

Mitesh Patel, Head of Business at CandidSky

Mitesh Patel has become the newest person to join CandidSky. Concentrating on new business development, he brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the agency.

Continuing CandidSky’s recent expansion, Mitesh Patel has become the latest professional to join the team. Previously associate director and head of digital marketing at Web Foundry, Mitesh will focus on new and current business development as our new head of business.

Mitesh is no stranger to working with high-value and larger clients, having previously completed projects for organisations such as both Manchester universities as well as the NHS. We look forward to working with him and strengthening our client relationships – both current and future.

Mitesh has a wealth of experience solving problems for medium-sized and enterprise-level businesses.” Said Simon Fryer, director of CandidSky.

His desire to help clients overcome complex challenges and improve their digital performance makes him a great asset, both to CandidSky and our clients.

For Mitesh, joining CandidSky was a no-brainer as he especially liked David’s (managing director of CandidSky) personality and his vision for where he wanted us to develop. Furthermore, he liked the name. Apparently, he’s always been drawn to organisations with good names.

In his spare time, Mitesh enjoys sports, working out, and physical fitness. Tending to play games such as badminton, squash, cricket, and football, he also enjoys boxing. When he’s not improving himself, he’s focused on improving cars – possessing an interest in vehicle maintenance and bodywork modification.

I love cars, I like technology, and gadgets and especially when they are integrated into one”, Mitesh stated. “I’m not someone who cares just about speed but how the cars look, the interior and how the cars function.

Finally, he’s unique in the company – and the country – as he holds the record for the youngest ever manager of an ASDA store – gaining the position at the tender age of 20.

CandidSky expands with two new specialists

Josh Boot and Ben Young

Josh and Ben

 

Josh Boot (right), SEO consultant, and Ben Young (left), senior paid media consultant, have joined the team at CandidSky.  

Two new starters have joined the team at CandidSky – bringing new skills and expertise to our growing talent pool.  Josh Boot comes aboard as an SEO consultant and Ben Young joins the PPC team as a senior paid media consultant.

Josh Boot – Our new SEO consultant

Josh Boot, new SEO consultant at CandidSkyJosh Boot comes from an SEO background and has worked with such influential clients as BT. Bringing an excellent skill set to the table, he aims to improve the organic visibility of any website he works on and assist in developing their online presence.

He decided to join CandidSky after hearing the director’s (David and Simon) plans for the agency. Moreover, he was impressed by the passion the organic search team showed for SEO and marketing in general. Simply put, working for CandidSky was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

Outside of work, Josh enjoys cooking, mountain biking, and has a big passion for motorsport. He has also brought his enormous Game of Thrones tankard into the office as – wherever you go – Josh feels you should always have your own mug.

Ben Young – Our new senior paid media consultant

Ben Young, new senior paid media consultant at CandidSkyBen Young joins CandidSky as our senior paid media consultant following an impressive career in PPC. Previously working for Hit Search in Liverpool, his role ensures that our paid media team continues to grow and develop – bringing more value and better results for clients in the process.

He decided to join CandidSky after seeing our great working environment and observing how we look after and develop the team. Relocating from Liverpool, Ben felt we had a refreshing approach and it was clear to him that CandidSky would be a great place to work. Out of the other Manchester agencies, we’re flattered he chose to join us.

It was also apparent to him that we care about providing a leading PPC service to clients. Using the skills he gained through his previous occupation as a professional poker player, he can bring a unique analytical and strategic approach to our paid media department.

When he’s not working, Ben enjoys walking his Labrador (Dexter), playing baseball, and spending time with his family.

Hiring them was “an easy decision”

Simon Fryer, search director at CandidSky, was delighted with Josh and Ben joining the team. He stated:

“Josh and Ben both bring unique skills and experience to our team. Their ambition and enthusiasm for what they do really shone through when we first met. This, combined with their belief in our agency strategy, made adding them to our team an easy decision.

By adding them to the team we’ve continued to increase our capabilities and added more experience working with some of the largest brands around. Their addition will add a great deal of value to our campaigns and, most importantly, our clients.”

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.

LinkedIn or LinkedOut – how to get the most out of LinkedIn for your business

With  250 million monthly active users, LinkedIn is a valuable B2B platform which can effectively promote your company, grow revenue, and add value to customers as well as employees. If you’re stumped on how to improve your brand visibility using LinkedIn, here are some tried and tested approaches:

Company Page:
Think of your company page as being as important as your website. For many people, LinkedIn will be the first place they interact with your business. The imagery, content, and style of this page reflects your brand, creating that all-important positive initial impression. Therefore, make sure your company details are all up-to-date and any content on the listing clearly explains your product offering and how you’re superior to competitors.   

You can also publish ‘Showcase Pages’ which are dedicated to specific products and services. That means you can publish content which appeals to different audience segments.

If you want to see a great example of how this works, LinkedIn leads the way with their spectacular showcase. Conveniently, it is also full of great tips and step-by-step instructions to setting up and optimising your company page.

Recruitment firm Hays has also produced a great company page. Their company statement clearly defines what they stand for and they also post regular useful content to aid job hunters.

Paid advertising:

As Facebook changes their algorithms following the Cambridge Analytica scandal and reduces how advertising works on the platform, marketers are understandably looking to focus their spend and efforts on alternatives.

LinkedIn marketing boasts impressive conversion rates in comparison to other social media networks like Facebook and offers a variety of advertising formats such as text ads, sponsored content as well as inbox mail.

These highly targeted advertising options ensure you’re reaching your defined audience and allows you to nurture their development through the buying process.

You can see the approach that Oracle has taken with their sponsored content below, leading with a prominent image and concise text. 

Advertising jobs

A free way to advertise any positions within your business is through posting on your company wall. Although this allows for applicants to approach you directly, there is also the opportunity to use LinkedIn as a wider hiring platform. For example, by using paid postings, you can set job adverts and control these through daily budgets. As a bonus, you’re only charged when a candidate views the post.

As LinkedIn is actively used by job seekers, it is a no-brainer to feature any positions you have on the platform.

Here is how Talk Talk use their Linkedin Company page to host their available positions.



Articles:
LinkedIn has a dedicated ‘Publishing’ section where anyone can publish an article on any topic. Articles can’t be published by a company itself as it has to be from an individual, but there is obviously the connection back to the company as an employee.

This is often called ‘thought leadership’ content you can effectively open up a dialogue with customers and position yourself as an authoritative figure to solve your customers’ problems Articles then remain on the personal profile of the publisher.

Wrapping up:

Don’t forget that through the analytics section of LinkedIn, you can also gain crucial customer insights into your followers and see how your content is performing in terms of engagement. In turn, you can use this information to improve your marketing strategy.

Armed with this knowledge, we hope you have everything necessary to improve your own company profile and enhance your business’ LinkedIn marketing efforts. Of course, if you’re really stuck, our CandidSky page has some great features.

“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.

How you can gain coverage on the BBC

Gaining television coverage can be an excellent opportunity for your business. As well as the prestige associated with some channels, you’re almost guaranteed to reach large numbers of people. Together with the ever-increasing popularity of catch-up services, you’re no longer limited to just reaching a select group of individuals at a certain time.

Of all the channels out there, one of the most well known and prestigious is the BBC. A staple part of British culture, endorsements from the firm carry significant weight. Getting featured is certainly very challenging but is possible – and shouldn’t cost you a penny.

Help a reporter out

To say journalism is a difficult profession is a bit of an understatement. Although reporters do an important job, it’s common for these experts to work long hours in stressful situations to acquire that all-important story.

Therefore, whatever support you can lend to journalists is always appreciated.

Whenever reporters request help, they typically use a variety of tools. One of these is HARO (Help a reporter out). A subscription service, this sends regular email updates from journalists looking for sources. If you fulfil their requirements, this can be a good way to gain coverage.

However, you can also use the #journorequest hashtag on Twitter. A similar service, reporters will use the social network to ask sources for assistance.

Whichever service you choose – or both – we recommend checking them every day as journalists typically have extremely tight deadlines. If a reporter’s request is more than a day old, the opportunity will have likely passed.

How we got featured on the BBC

We’ve used the journorequest method to gain some great publicity in the past. Recently though, we noticed a reporter from the Victoria Derbyshire programme on BBC 2 enquiring about Eurovision parties:

At the time, CandidSky was preparing a Eurovision-related food party in the office. Employees who opted-in were allocated a random country taking part in the contest and had to bring a dish associated with that location.

As this ticked the requirements, we contacted Anna. Following several chats with BBC researchers, we were booked on the programme.

The next day, the interview took place. Our employees, as well as our creations, were included on the BBC.

Gaining coverage through groups such as the BBC is not a question of what your organisation does but is more related to how you can help out journalists. In this particular situation, we happened to demonstrate our collective enjoyment of Eurovision and highlighted how good a workplace CandidSky is.

What are the benefits?

Appearing on television – and on such a respected programme – translated to an increase in brand awareness and traffic spikes on the website. Our Google Trends data showed a clear hike in search interest around the time of broadcast with a 733% increase.

Although PR agencies will often charge significant prices for getting their clients featured on television, the journorequest method is usually free – and will achieve largely the same results.

Next Steps:

If you’d like to discuss how you can increase your brand awareness, give us a call.

And don’t forget to check out our other blog posts to grow your digital marketing knowledge.

 

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.

5 insider tips to get undercover customer insights

 

Customers, target audiences and user personas have been a hot topic recently in the strategy team here at CandidSky. The end user is the starting point for any good strategy and we’re on a mission to promote user-centred thinking.

But before you can become more user-centred in your thinking, you first need to find out just who the users are in the first place. What makes them tick? What concerns them? What are their motivations for using your products or services?

So just how do you go about getting inside your customers’ heads? Here are 5 tips for discovering customer insights.

Talk to your existing customers

In some businesses, it’s commonplace for the marketing team to have contact with customers, but that’s not always the case, particularly for larger businesses.

There are a number of different ways you can start a dialogue with customers, the first is to go undercover in your Customer Service department. Shadow the team picking up customer calls and live chats, or have a go at answering some queries yourself. You’ll get first-hand experience of what your customers are asking, what they’re complaining about, what they like and don’t like about your product or service.

To get more specific feedback, why not set up a focus group or telephone interviews with a sample of your customers? You can ask them for specific feedback and lead the direction of the conversation. Pick a sample of customers who fit different demographics and you’ll hopefully get a wide range of views.

Don’t forget, a small incentive like vouchers or a discount on future purchases is a great way to thank them for their time.

Analyse live chat transcripts and customer service notes

Another source of useful customer insights is to review live chat transcripts and any notes stored in your company’s CRM. This can be particularly useful if you have the option to download this information; putting your data into a spreadsheet will make it easier to categorise, filter, sort, and quantify what customers are asking.

You can also review communication with your customers and contacts on social media, including both publicly posted messages and private messages.

Search the forums for frank feedback

Online discussion forums can offer a wealth of insights not just from your customers but your potential customers and your competitor’s customers. The key here is finding the online forum that has people from your target audience and utilising the search facility to your advantage.

Some examples of UK online forums I always go to as a starting point are:

At first glance, these forums may seem pretty niche – parenting, entertainment, money saving, but you’ll find a wide range of topics discussed here so give them a try and search for:

  • Your brand name
  • Your competitors’ brand names
  • The service/product you offer

Under the guise of anonymity on a forum, people can be more open and frank sharing what they really think about your industry, what they’re recommending to each other, the good experiences and bad experiences.

One word of warning…you may find yourself getting sucked in. Reading threads with hundreds of replies can be like reading a novel, as you wait to see what the original person decided to do!

Read the reviews far and wide

Your business probably collects customer reviews via services like Trustpilot and Feefo, but these are just the start. It’s worth casting the net wider in your research into your customers’ opinions. Check for reviews on your Google My Business Listing and on social media. It’s also worth running some Google searches for “[your business name] reviews” to dig up any other websites and places where people are leaving reviews.

Survey data and stats

A great way to quantify your customers’ and user’s opinions is to run surveys and opinion polls. In an ideal world, you’d have a budget to run your own surveys and get to the root of exactly what you want to know. But let’s be realistic – research can be expensive and not every marketing budget can justify the cost.

That doesn’t mean you should abandon the idea altogether, it just means you’ll have to get resourceful and find some existing research.

The ONS is a great place to start your search for quantitative data. Their reports are free to access and you can usually download the raw data into an Excel format so you can run your own analysis.

The next place to look is at any trade bodies and organisations related to the industry of the business. These often publish headline stats and then charge a fee for accessing the full reports. Your business may already be a member of a trade body which publishes industry data – so check your memberships and what you can get access to without any extra charges.

Then there’s research conducted by other independent companies and your competitors. To find these, browse through Google News. Survey findings make (sometimes) great news articles. And you can usually find some headline stats and figures that will let you trace back to the source data from a news article.

You’ve got the insider info on your customers…now what?

So you’ve gathered a wealth of information on your customers, now what do you do? If you don’t have customer personas set up already, the next step is to build these based on your findings.

Categorise your customers in the way that’s most appropriate to your business. Perhaps you’ll split them by age because user behaviour differs vastly across each age group. Or maybe you’ll categorise them by how much they spend – eg do most of your big spenders have similar traits?

Once you have your customer personas set up, these can lead the discussions around existing and future campaigns – eg who is the campaign targeting? Does it resonate with multiple personas? Does your messaging need small tweaks based on each persona?

Next Steps:

If you’d like to get more strategic with your marketing and take a more user-centred approach, give us a call.

And don’t forget to check out our other blog posts to see what else we have been up to.

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.

Shopping comes to Instagram

instagram shopping

Instagram has launched a new function for the platform which provides a more immersive experience for users and an exciting opportunity for e-commerce brands.

Shopping for Instagram enables you to tag up to five products per image (20 per carousel) which works in the same way as tagging a friend in an image but provides information on the cost of products.

As a user, you can tap the products for pricing, click for further information, and visit the business’ website when you’re ready to buy.

In 2017, Instagram announced that 120 million users had visited a website or directly contacted a business via the channel (source Instagram). What’s more Sprout Social’s 2017 Index found that 71% of users were more likely to make a purchase from a brand after a positive social experience.

The focus of Instagram is to share beautiful imagery that tells a story to users. Unlike Facebook, users tend to follow people and brands that they genuinely take an interest in and as such can be much more engaged. This new functionality makes it easier for brands to connect with their customers on a more immersive level and creates an easier path to purchase. Brands will start seeing a big increase in organic conversion rate as users will be able to make more informed decisions before they click to the site.

How has Instagram shopping performed?

The function has already been trialing in the US since last year and companies have seen some amazing results:

Tyme increased traffic by 44%

Spearmintlove revenue increased by 8%

Lulus grew their following on Instagram and generated over 1200 orders
Reference

Unfortunately, Instagram Shopping is not currently available for promoted ads – fingers crossed they will open this out for advertisers in future as it will provide huge opportunities for new and growing brands. Are you looking to take up Instagram shopping for your posts?

The feature is currently available for businesses in United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Brazil.

Next steps

If you are looking to grow your social media marketing activity, please get in touch to discuss how we can add value to your business, even if you are just looking for some advice.

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.


What I learned after downloading my Facebook data file

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, I downloaded my Facebook personal data file, in an attempt to better understand the information which similar companies could have on me.

I found the experience to be a troubling one – albeit not exactly surprising. Suffice to say, the file contained more or less everything about me. From the photos I had uploaded to the organisation to reams of messaging history, it was a reminder that the internet – or at least Facebook – apparently never forgets.

How can I download my personal data?

If you want to take the plunge and download your personal data file, you can do so by logging onto Facebook, clicking ‘settings’, and then ‘download a copy of your Facebook data’.

general account settings

Depending on the size of the data file, you’ll receive a copy to your email in hopefully less than 30 minutes. It should resemble something similar to this:

data file

Files of note

There are several folders and files in this download. In my opinion, the ones which are of most interest are:

  • Index – a general snapshot of the information on your profile
  • Messages – a repository of the conversations, images, videos, files etc shared through Facebook
  • HTML – there are several interesting files located here – namely ads, contact_info, and messages. The latter being a thorough history of conversations.

Reviewing these, I learned several interesting things about my personal data.

There are false records

The index file contains more information than I would expect to find. For example, I wouldn’t expect previous relationships to be an important factor worth storing. Reviewing this field, I was surprised to see a name of someone I had never heard of. For the purposes of privacy, I will refer to this woman as Megan.

 

Looking into her own presence on Facebook, I was surprised to see Megan went to the same university I did.

Then it hit me.

Back in university, I was ‘Facebook hacked’. Instead of being some elaborate cybercrime, it was actually my stupid fault for staying logged on through a public computer. These students changed a lot of personal information including my relationship status – adding a name of someone I had never met.

Back at home, I corrected the information and changed my password – thinking nothing of it. Years later, Facebook still thinks Megan and I were in a relationship.

‘Facebook hacking’ was – and probably still is – common at my university. As a result, we can only guess at the number of profiles containing false information. It is also possible that this influences what display adverts appear.

Facebook has an extensive store of my conversation history

I live approximately 200 miles from my parents so I use Facebook messenger to communicate with my family and friends. Although I shouldn’t be shocked that Facebook has stored all these conversations, it is possibly too thorough.

Located under the HTML section, the ‘messages’ file contains all the information you’ve typed into Facebook Messenger. For example, I was able to locate this conversation I had back in 2012:

Also in this folder contains call histories throughout messenger – each one detailing how long the conversation lasted:

 

Although this is trivial information, it stands to reason that Cambridge Analytica could have obtained full transcripts of the conversations people were having through Facebook – personal details which the participants thought would remain private.

At the very least, it doesn’t seem necessary for Facebook to keep in-depth records of these conversations. The purpose of hoarding all this information is unclear as well but it seems likely that these transcripts influenced the construction of buyer and user personas.

Slightly worryingly, Facebook keeps a record of all the telephone numbers of my contacts – many of these details I no longer possess. Located under contact_info in the HTML folder, it would be troubling if advertisers received this information.

There’s a list of keywords to help advertisers target me

Located in the HTML section, the ads file contains several interesting insights. The first section though, ‘Ads Topics’, is a list of keywords which appear to influence the adverts displaying on my feed:

ad topics

 

I’d expect to see some of those phrases as they are accounts which I’ve subscribed to. For example, the Onion and Sarcasm Society. However, as anyone who knows me well enough will tell you – I hate gardening.

There are other disparities in this list as well. Although the organisation seems to think I like Guitar Hero, I haven’t played the game since my early twenties. It certainly wouldn’t be something I’d be interested in now.

Therefore, at least in my case, the information available to advertisers is out of date.

Which advertisers have my contact information?

Available in the same file is a list of advertisers which have my contact information. Most notable are the different branches of Sony Playstation:

advertisers

Why profiling needs context

For marketing professionals, the data collected by Facebook is a goldmine. However, it is only useful if we understand context. For example, if the ads topics are just assigned to me because of articles I clicked on during the commute out of boredom, that research isn’t as useful as it could be.

Furthermore, the incorrect information identified earlier gives the advertiser false details about me – skewing his or her customer analysis. Understanding why a person performed those actions is infinitely more useful than seeing the actions themselves.     

The data collected by Facebook is extensive but without analysis and auditing, is largely irrelevant to marketers. Instead, many users are now only realising how much information is held on them. Understandably, the reaction has been largely negative.

Although the scandal is still developing and will probably lead to additional regulation for social media companies, this exploration into my personal data has highlighted just how much of my data is available online.

Would I delete my Facebook account?

Following the Cambridge Analytica revelations, a #deletefacebook campaign has started to build momentum. As for myself, the answer is no. I use it to keep in touch with people and – as demonstrated – my data is already out there.

Most worrying of all though is this – I still barely use Facebook. I dread to think how large the data files are of more regular users.

 

How to take content inspiration from your competitors

wordpress

Whatever you do, whatever industry you’re in, whatever product you’re trying to push, you will always have a competitor. Either affecting your target market indirectly or on purpose, these organisations can seem like a thorn in your side – especially if their results are better than yours.

Instead of letting their presence hang over you, there is a wealth of information to be learned from competitors. In this guide, we will demonstrate just what can be gained from analysing their content and stealing their ideas.

First, how do I identify my competitors?

If your industry is particularly niche or the company is just getting started, your competitors might be a bit of a mystery. Fortunately, here are two tactics you can use to uncover them:

A simple search in Google

Search engines such as Google can give you a general idea of the organisations you’re competing against. Just use a search term you might use to identify yourself and see what appears. These results can be narrowed down using location-specific elements or – if nothing appears – broadened out with more industry-specific terms.  For example, a car dealer based locally could identify competitors by searching for ‘used cars Manchester’. Just bear in mind that this general search is an inferior method compared to a data-led approach.

Using data

As marketing professionals, data should be at the forefront of everything we do. Gut feelings can only get you so far and must be eventually replaced with statistics. There are a range of tools out there which can be used to identify competitors – such as Semrush or Stat – and these can provide valuable insights. As well as identifying your competitors, the data these tools could help provide the backbone of your marketing strategy and be a good starting point for your content research project.

What can I learn from competitor content?

Now that your competitors have been identified, there are a range of strategies and approaches we can identify. Just looking at their content, we can determine the following:

Who is my target audience?

Social media provides us with a good understanding of what resonates with your audience. Although glancing at competitor accounts can be useful, using the ‘top content’ section of ahrefs can streamline the process. This platform shows how content performs across a variety of networks. If the results of the competitor content audit demonstrates that a competitor gets most of their shares across LinkedIn, it is worth structuring content to appeal more to that target market. In a similar fashion, if a competitor gets most of its shares from Pinterest and Instagram, this suggests image-led content may the best option to connect with your audience.

How can I connect with my target audience?

Competitor social media profiles can be a great way to uncover your target audience but are also instrumental in showing how to connect with these individuals. By looking at what a company posts on Twitter, we can see the posts which gain the most attention and look to replicate them. This also presents an opportunity to review how a competitor handles customer service disputes. Time spent to acknowledge the customer, the tone of the response, the proposed resolution, all of these are useful elements to identify.

What content gets the most attention?

Shares on social media are certainly a valuable metric but backlinks are more important. A vital element of any SEO campaign, achieving these should be one of your key objectives. Using Ahrefs, you can see which of your competitors’ pages achieved the most backlinks. From there, you can determine how these were achieved. For example, if the competitor has created a resource which gathered multiple links, you can design something similar. Alternatively, create a better resource and notify those organisations about the new content. Whatever strategy a competitor has used in their content – from press mentions to sponsorship deals – this analysis will help you understand the sort of materials you should be producing.

 

What content can I repurpose?

Similar to the above, ahrefs can be used to identify broken backlinks pointing to a competitor site. By confirming these backlinks go to a 404 page, you might be able to identify the purpose behind the original piece.

In the case of informational content – such as guides or blogs – these can be recreated with the intention of redirecting some of these broken links. By repurposing a competitor’s broken content, you can focus on providing a resource to an already interested customer base.

Does the content have any gaps?

Taking a holistic view of the competitor’s site, you can determine if users are provided with a good experience. If you did not find the information you were looking for – such as facts relating to a product or good instructions – this provides inspiration about what to include on your own site. The opposite is also true. If a competitor provides great content about particular areas, this is something which is worth replicating.

Where can I be unique?

We have spoken a lot about replication and repurposing but analysing your competitors content also allows you to be unique. For example, if a group of competitors are thought leaders in one topic, adding your voice will not be as beneficial as identifying a unique gap which you can fill. Conveying this message to readers should help you build a following faster than if you were just another alternative.

When is the best time to publish content?

An organisation with a good content strategy will keep to a rigorous publishing schedule. Furthermore, this is usually not put together on a whim, research and time will have gone into deciding when is best to publish on what medium.

Investigate their routine and – if interaction rates are better at certain times of the day – replicate their publishing schedule. Eventually, your own content could eclipse your competitors’.

Competitor content analysis works both ways

There are a number of lessons which we can take from analysing competitor content. We have listed some here but there are more things you can discover given time and dedication. Just be aware that – once you become a major player in your industry – your competitors will start taking lessons from you.


Next steps
:

If you need some more advice on your content marketing strategy, 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.

CandidSky welcomes two new members to the team

Scott Bampton, content strategist at CandidSky

Scott Bampton, content strategist, and Vinicius Prado, front end developer, have joined CandidSky

CandidSky is continuing to expand with the addition of Scott and Vini joining the team. Scott recently moved back to the UK from Melbourne where he lived for 10 years, just in time for the ‘beast from the east’ as a welcome to the UK weather! Scott has been self-employed for the past year, working as a copywriter and a content marketing consultant. Prior to that, he worked for Digital360, MediaCom and MPG Havas in Australia. As CandidSky’s first dedicated content strategist, his role will involve developing research-backed strategies to deliver valuable content for our clients’ audiences. Outside of work, Scott plays bass in a rock band called The Capital and is a qualified football coach.

 

Vini has relocated from London where he previously worked as a front end developer for a digital agency, 4MAT. He’s originally from Brazil where he held developer positions at SocialBase and Hoplon. At CandidSky, his main responsibility will be to bring to life innovative and interesting websites that exceed client expectations. Vini commented. “From my first conversations with CandidSky I knew I wanted to be part of the team, and it was a great fit for myself to take the next step in my career”.

David Beharall, managing director, commented, “Scott and Vini bring an excellent skill set to CandidSky. To produce high-quality, valuable content and professional websites for our clients that resonate with their audiences is crucial for them to achieve their marketing strategies. It’s great to have both join us and see the positive impact they will have for our clients.”

Next steps:

If you would like to take the next step in your career and work with a wide variety of clients, take a look at our Careers website for available roles and find out what is like to work here.

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.

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

CandidSky MD joins the CEO Sleepout

 

This event has been postponed to the 8th March 2018

David Beharall, Managing Director at CandidSky, is joining Tyneside’s business leaders for the CEO Sleepout at St James Park on 1st March 2018.

David will spend the evening sleeping outdoors to fundraise and raise awareness of homelessness and poverty across the region. The temperature is due to be in the minuses, with snow forecast as the ‘beast from the east’ hits the UK. According to government figures, homelessness is at a seven year high, 4,751 people slept outside overnight in 2017, up 15% on 2016.

As an ex-professional footballer for Newcastle United, returning to St James Park is particularly poignant, David commented, “St James Park holds many memories for myself, so I’m really keen to return to fundraise for this brilliant charity and the amazing work they do.  I participated in the CEO Sleepout last year and it’s a very humbling experience.”

If you would like to sponsor David, you can do so here

Buddy Loans hit it off with CandidSky

Guarantor loans provider, Buddy Loans, has joined up with CandidSky to increase their online presence with a cross-channel marketing campaign.

Buddy Loans has chosen us to lead a cross-channel marketing campaign to unite paid media, content, organic search, design and user-led conversion rate optimisation, to support the businesses growth plans.

Guarantor loans are growing in popularity, marked by an 160% increase in search interest since 2014. This loan form enables a family member, friend or work colleague to act as a guarantor for up to £7,500, enabling lower interest rates compared to payday loans with flexible payback terms.  Cheadle-based Buddy Loans are regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Simon Fryer, Director at CandidSky, commented, ‘Our cross-channel campaign for Buddy Loans will begin with in-depth research and analysis to develop a customer-centric strategy based on proven data and insights. We’re excited to start working with Nick and his team to help drive them towards ambitious acquisition targets.”

Nick Zapolski, Co-Founder and Director, Buddy Loans, commented, “We recognise that our customers have various touch points whilst they’re researching the guarantor loan market which is why the cross-channel marketing campaign was a logical decision for us. By joining with CandidSky we will benefit from experts in each digital marketing field, and look forward to seeing tangible results.”

Next steps:

Are you considering a cross-channel marketing approach? Contact us today to arrange a call to find out how we can add value to your business.

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.

Why should you use remarketing?

The short answer is to increase your conversions!

Remarketing is a way of reaching out to users that have previously visited your site. Users visit various sites before making a decision to purchase and if you sell high value products, customers may need time to consider or discuss the purchase with friends or partners – this is where remarketing comes in to ensure your company stays at the forefront of their minds.

A remarketing campaign is usually good value since you’re targeting users that have shown interest in your brand in the past – they are unlikely to click your ad for a second time if they aren’t keen to convert. This results in higher quality traffic, a higher CTR and a better conversion rate.

Here are some steps to getting set up with remarketing:

Facebook

  • Use Facebook’s tracking pixel to build lists of users who added items to their basket but did not complete the purchase – you can remarket those specific items through Facebook dynamic ads (for ecommerce brands) and encourage them back to your site.
  • If you’re not an ecommerce brand, you can build lists of users who visited specific pages of your site and manually create an ad that provides further information, includes a special offer, or encourages the user to get in touch.
  • What’s more you can also target existing customers with special offers or upsales by uploading your customer email data

AdWords

  • Use display banners to entice users back to your website – this will dynamically place the ads on other sites that your users visit
  • Create an audience in Google Analytics either for visitors of all pages or specific areas of your site.
  • Use remarketing lists for search ads (RLSAs) – add an Analytics audience list to your existing campaigns and set bid adjustments to favour search users that have visited your site before (bear in mind you will need a list of at least 1,000 cookies to do this)

Let the numbers speak for themselves, here’s some examples of success our clients have seen through remarketing in January 2018:

John Ryan By Design: 4253% ROAS Facebook

Richard Haworth: 647% ROAS Facebook / 294% ROAS AdWords

Next steps:

If you are interested in speaking to CandidSky about running a remarketing campaign, 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.

 

Full Stack Developer and Senior Technical Consultant join CandidSky’s expanded office

We are continuing to add to our pool of talent with two new appointments to start 2018

Deividas, Full Stack Developer joins CandidSky

Nick Druce, Senior Technical Consultant,  and Deividas Ambrazevicius, Full-stack Developer, have joined CandidSky.  Both new additions to the team are integral to the agency’s growth plans.

Deividas has relocated from London to join CandidSky where he worked at a creative agency.  Deividas will be primarily maintaining  websites – building new ones and  improving the functionality behind existing ones.  His goals  include improving websites performance and implementing new technology.

Outside of work , Deividas is a black belt in Kyokushin Karate having practised it for 14 years. Deividas commented, “I am looking forward to bringing my previous technical experience to CandidSky.  I like the company’s vision and goals, and the people are open minded and easy to work with”.

Nick, in his role as Senior Technical Consultant, will be the bridge between interpreting the client needs and requirements into technical specifications for the development team to deliver. He will also be involved in producing proposals, pitches and presentations for new business opportunities. For the past four years Nick has been a freelance website developer and technical project manager.

Nick said, “After meeting with David Beharall, (CandidSky’s Managing Director) and understanding the CandidSky vision,  I can think of no better time to join a very experienced, talented team. I know my technical knowledge and business acumen will be greatly enhanced by working at this growing agency”.

Nick is an avid fan of archery, taking up the sport in early 2017 and already winning his first tournament in January 2018.  When not hitting bullseyes, Nick is a Manchester United fan too.  

To make room for the expanding team, over the festive period CandidSky underwent an office expansion, which has opened up the space within  the Grade II listed building Simon Fryer, Search Director, commented, “Nick and Deividas are both excellent additions to our team, and bring with them new skills and approaches that will help drive us towards our vision. It’s a great start to what it going to be a very exciting year at CandidSky”.  

Next steps:

If you too would like to work at CandidSky and work with a wide variety of clients, take a look at our Careers website for available roles and find out what is like to work here.

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.

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

Finding inner peace with office yoga

Here at CandidSky, our culture places a real importance on people’s physical and mental well-being. With our Managing Director, David Beharall, being an ex-professional footballer, he understands and shares the value of looking after yourself to achieve an optimal performance at work.

With this in mind, every Tuesday after work we practise yoga in our office, led by yoga guru, Harvey Kersh. The class is free for people to participate in. After the festive season of over indulgence, yoga is a great way to strengthen and tone but also to step away from our busy lives to calm the mind and to centre ourselves to appreciate our bodies and our capabilities. Yoga is known to have many other benefits, including a reduction in stress and anxiety, improved posture,  improved immunity and increased energy.

Harvey is a fundamental part of what makes the class enjoyable, with his calm and relaxed demeanour, each class is different using different muscles through stretching, all building up our core strength.  In January 2016 Harvey successfully completed a 200 hour teacher training program in Rishikesh, India and received a certified E-RYT200 teacher specialising in Hatha Vinyasa, Alignment and Meditation.

Each class finishes with Shavasana which uses relaxation and meditation to fully put the mind and body at rest which we all love! Harvey encourages the mastering of our own minds with acceptance and self appreciation of what it means to have a body and mind.

Nazma Noor, Digital Strategist at CandidSky, commented, “I had done some yoga on and off  before starting at CandidSky, and since I joined I have been attending Harvey’s classes regularly. I’ve noticed a real improvement in my flexibility and strength, and it’s also been great at relieving the tension in your body which can build up from working in an office environment . The yoga sessions always leave me feeling positive afterwards”.

We wish you all a happy and positive start to 2018.

Namaste!

Next steps:

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.

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.

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

Add content to design or design to content

Over the years I’ve found that you can almost always guarantee that a client underestimates the work involved in writing and collating content, and then, if using a CMS, entering it all. It sounds easy – write something about a subject you know.

The title of this article also makes the solution sound simple. Either you crack on with a design, and then fill in the holes, or you wait until finally all the content is in a signed off state. It would be easy to say stick to one or the other, but such an answer would simply be an oversimplification.

Content to design

The idea behind fitting content to a design is pretty straight forward. You create a pixel perfect design and then craft your content around it. Simple. Your design is visually perfect throughout. Everything is beautifully consistent. Everything lines up nicely and falls in the perfect place. Those 40-50 words the designer told you to use for each feature block will all look wonderfully balanced and very professional. Everyone is happy!

It can also give you a structure in which to craft your content. It makes life easier to have a starting point after all. Just fill in the holes and done.

It is also nice to get the design process cracking early on. We all like visuals. Seeing a design adds a tangible sense of progress, and can also help form opinions on how content can be approached by how it balances out images or illustrative elements. It provides nice and potentially productive early talking points

However….

Design to content

Mind you, fitting your content to a design covers over some cracks…

All this great design work, however much research has been undertaken to ensure every concept and assumption is rock solid, is still based on content that very possibly doesn’t exist – or even worse, is potentially misunderstood

At the end of the day you are the expert in your area. Great content takes time to craft. It is what people are ultimately coming to your website, brochure or video for, not the attractive imagery and great icons. Add in any copywriting or search engine optimisation services and it is a significant task that should be treated with care and respect.With this in mind, the design should be a tool for making your content sing, balance any SEO requirements and be visually appealing. Customers love content. Google loves content. Content is king! It goes without saying that this should be nailed down first.

Doesn’t it?

But…

There is always a but…

In the real world, there are immovable deadlines, there are changes to specifications, there are feature additions, stakeholder demands, illnesses, curveballs and unexpected twists. With the absolute best will in the world final content cannot always be waited upon.

First draft content can be used to form a solid base for a design if available but this can also change, necessitating design amends or even more time consuming development amends.

Working in this imperfect reality, my key belief is to maintain good levels of communication throughout. Aim for content before design but be realistic. By working together the choppy content waters can be navigated and you can get a great product at the end of it.

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.

 

User Experience – from toilets to taps

A walk through everyday life

User Experience. It’s a term thrown around like confetti at the moment. It’s hard to escape if you are developing a digital product. Everyone you come into contact with, from project managers to designers, developers, strategists and directors will tell you about the importance of User Experience (or UX for short).

If you are not already familiar with the term, this is how the Nielson Norman Group, a leading UX consultancy, describe it

“User Experience” encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”

What is interesting is that this does not specifically refer to DIGITAL products. As a UX designer I look at everyday life through a UX prism. Simple questions we all ask are, in reality, all elements of a User Experience – your personal, every day user experience journey. Why do those icons on the microwave make no sense? Why is the TV remote control like the cockpit of a jet fighter? Notably, the Apple TV remote is the antithesis of these. More on Apple later though.

A personal bug bear of mine is the touch screen interface inside a car? What good is a touch screen you can’t look at? It looks great but is almost impossible to use in a practical, day to day, situation.

With that in mind, here are some other great, and not so great, examples of every day user experience issues and/or solutions.

Toilet Target Practice

Anybody can tell you that men can sometimes lack a certain… precision in the toilet department. That sense of unpleasant resignation is multiplied when you come face to face with another chaps attempt to re-enact Ghostbusters in the only spare urinal.

In the 1990s, Aad Kieboom came up with a solution at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, and it is simple as it is ingenious – he put a small image of a fly INSIDE the urinal.

 

urinal

Source: https://worksthatwork.com/1/urinal-fly

‘Guys are simple-minded and love to play with their urine stream, so you put something in the toilet bowl and they’ll aim at that,’ says Reichardt.

Although there are no hard statistics on the reduction in cleaning required using this trick, some estimates claim it reduced spillage by up to 80%.

Why does this apply to UX? At it’s heart, User Experience is about understanding your users and what their goal is. The guy that is urinating on the fly feels like he has achieved a secondary goal (target practice; the primary goal being to relieve himself!) whilst the following customer of the urinal gets a much cleaner, pleasing experience. As an added bonus, cleaning costs are reduced so the key stake holder (the airport paying the bills) is happy too. Everyone is happy. High fives all round.

This is great UX top to bottom – a problem analysed, solved, and with clear, measurable improvements.

Oh no, I need a parking ticket…

Ah, parking ticket machines! We’ve all had to look at them and wonder what on earth we are meant to be pressing. By now I expect you are thinking about that machine from last Saturday with the big green button and instructions that could have been written by Donald Duck.

My personal favourites are the ones with letter keys top to bottom.

A well known UX consultant called Steve Krug wrote a book in 2005 titled “Don’t Make Me Think.” This is perfect for this type of interface.

As UX designers we know all cultures read from the top down, and most read from left to right. Some might say this is common sense… we are all pretty experienced in this; we’ve been doing it our whole lives.

The obvious failure here is that this interface clearly has not been tested with people who would use the machine. Forcing a user to interact with a design pattern outside of our everyday experience (reading downwards) puts a strong “cognitive load” on the user that does not produce a positive result: frustration and irritation. Sure, we may all eventually get a ticket out of the machine, but it will only induce a sense of “oh no” next time. If this were your website or product, where a someone can click away to a competitor in a fraction of a second, the user could very well decide that coming back is more hassle than your product is worth.

The take away here is that showing a little UX consideration can significantly improve the users experience – and result in a return visit. And while we are on this point, Forester Research shows that, on average, every dollar invested in UX brings 100 dollars in return. The results can be pretty stark.

 

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”
Steve Jobs

 

This brings us full circle. Taps. But not your bathroom taps. Interface taps.
We tap and swipe our smart phones all the time. What once seemed like a foreign concept is now as normal as putting the kettle on.

Much of this can be traced back to the iPhone. Sure, there were similar devices before the iPhone but none genuinely revolutionised the technology industry, created the world’s biggest company and changed the very way we interact with the world around us. That’s pretty fundamental.

With the iPhone’s 10th birthday, and the release of the iPhoneX there has been quite a bit of chatter about whether this new iteration of the iPhone is again revolutionising how we interact with our screens, or moving us backwards to a time before there was an appreciation of how a user interacts with a product.

It is commonly held that the iPhone interface was so easy to understand that anyone could pick it up and understand it with a little patience. As time has gone by, more gestures, taps and swipes have been added that has led to this:

Source: https://www.fastcodesign.com/90150025/the-iphone-x-is-a-user-experience-nightmare – http://www.joannastern.com/ 

“If the iPhone X’s hardware features are the epitome of fluff over function, its new navigation gestures are the epitome of needless complexity over intuition.” (source: http://www.creativebloq.com/web-design/ux-design-patterns-work-91516961)

Time will tell if this is a User Experience disaster, as some are saying, or an inevitable step forward.

In conclusion

The challenges of creating complex interfaces or products that appear visually simple, engaging and enjoyable to use, is something that even companies with the stature of Apple can struggle with. Even though the simplest solution is not always the most attractive, sometimes it can be the most effective. Just don’t get me started on the impracticality of my car’s touch screen user interface.

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.

 

Frequently asked SEO questions

Why have my rankings dropped?

Rankings are the bread and butter of any SEO campaign, therefore monitoring your rankings on a daily basis is essential.

But what do you do if your visibility has decreased overnight and why might this happen?

All is explained below:

The most likely reason that a particular keyword has dropped is due to fluctuation, which is completely natural in organic search. There isn’t a day goes by where we don’t see ranking flux, and you will usually see your rankings improve again in the coming days. If there is a significant drop in rankings, then you may have an underlying issue on your site that needs investigating further.

Secondly, there may have been a quality update by Google, which happens on an almost daily basis. Due to the constantly changing digital landscape, it is essential that you remain up to date with the latest Google updates to ensure that you’re working within Google’s guidelines.

Another possibility is that the ranked page has lost some authority due to a loss of inbound links. Monitoring your backlink profile is something that you should be doing on a regular basis, and doing this religiously will ensure that you spot a problem before it affects your visibility. Our favourite tool for monitoring backlinks is Ahrefs.

If you see a site-wide drop in rankings, you may have been hit by a manual or algorithmic Google penalty. The difference between the two is that a manual penalty is applied by a Google employee, whilst an algorithmic penalty is automatic and usually caused by a Google update. You will know if you’ve been hit by a penalty if you see a harsh drop in your organic traffic, whilst rankings remain stable on other search engines.

If you have been hit by a Google penalty, you can check this in Google Search Console, by visiting ‘manual actions’ – this will give you more information on why you’ve been hit with a penalty, thus helping you to devise a solution.

Finally, there could be technical issues on your site that are hindering your SEO efforts. Technical is often one of the most overlooked aspects of an SEO campaign, yet it is an area where you can reap the highest rewards. We recommend conducting regular technical audits to ensure that your website is in good health which is something we do for each of our clients.

 

search engine

How do we gain visibility for featured snippets?

It’s now been three years since Google launched Featured Snippets in the SERPs, however, many digital marketers have failed to adopt them as part of their SEO campaigns. But why would you not want to rank above everybody else in the organic results? It doesn’t make sense to allow your competitor to gain a higher SERP real estate.

Firstly, you need to understand the opportunities available in your niche, and whether featured snippets are worth your investment. For example, if you’re a local brick and mortar business, we would instead recommend focusing on the organic and map pack results, as these would reap the highest ROI. On the other hand, if you’re in a market where there are a lot of questions, featured snippets will present a huge opportunity.

Once you’ve identified if featured snippets are relevant to your niche, you should begin conducting keyword research and competitor analysis’ to identify where featured snippets exist and if you are able to create content that’s better than what already exists. Alternatively, you can use SEMrush to identify opportunities through their featured snippet analysis tool, or like ourselves, you can use STAT to identify which of your tracked keywords feature an “answer box”.

Once you have identified opportunities within your niche, it’s time to create content focused on acquiring position #0. This content will need to clearly answer the question, have positive user engagement signals and have clean code that is easily digestible for Google.

Does page load speed impact my organic performance?

The answer is simple – page load times absolutely affects your organic performance. Google have indicated that site speed is used in their algorithm over on Webmaster Central Blog and we have seen multiple instances across our SEO campaigns where improving site speed has resulted in improved organic visibility.

Ensuring that pages on your site load quickly is also essential from a user experience perspective. A slower page load speed tends to cause a higher bounce rate, less time spent on a page and ultimately, fewer conversions. We recently wrote an in-depth blog post on how to improve your page load speed, which is definitely worth a read!

 

page load speed

How often should I publish informational content?

Publishing content is something that we touched on in our recent SEO myths article, however, a question that is common relates to how often a business should publish informational content.

The truth is, there is no definitive number of resources you should be publishing in a specific time frame. It is more important to focus on creating informational content that will provide value to the user, capture customers at different stages of the sales funnel and gain exposure in the SERPs.

Creating one piece of exceptional content is much more valuable than 100 resources that provide no value to users or the search engines.

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.

ROI, ROAS, IDK – a guide to PPC terms

 

The benefits of Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising are numerous and through business aligned campaigns, unlike SEO which can take time for the work to come to fruition, PPC can have a quick and measurable impact upon achieving your business goals. PPC offers detailed targeting options, and campaigns can be scaled up or down depending on their success in attracting and converting new customers.

However, the world of PPC is filled with acronyms, and it can quickly become mind boggling if you are not sure what each one stands for or means. Here at CandidSky, we aim to make the complex simple so we have put together a quick reference guide for you get to grips with each term and what it means.

CR: Conversion Rate – the percentage of how many clicks converted into a sale, lead or acquisition

CPA: Cost Per Acquisition – measure’s how much it cost to acquire a customer

CPC: Cost Per Click – determines how much you pay for each time someone clicks on your advert

CTR: Click Through Rate – a percentage used to measure clicks versus how many times your ad is shown

Impression – this is how many times your advert has been shown

QS: Quality Score – Google scores each keyword between 1 (poor) – 10 (highly relevant) to measure the quality and relevancy of your keyword and adverts in relation to your service / product offering

ROI: Return On Investment – Measures the total return you receive from your advertising, including any additional costs

ROAS: Return On Ad Spend – Measures the return you receive direct from your advertising spend

Wrapping things up…

With these terms now on your side, you should have a better idea of what drives PPC advertising and the key terms you should be monitoring. We’re happy to explain any of these terms in more detail, and take you through how to maximise your results with our dedicated PPC team.

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.

 

 

Digital strategist joins CandidSky

Paul Jasper is the newest addition to CandidSky, who joins as a digital strategist. As part of his new position, Paul will be focusing on retaining and growing client accounts with their digital marketing requirements.

Prior to joining CandidSky Paul spent three years at Fast Web Media in Manchester, as a Senior Search Marketing Executive where he worked across numerous accounts from a wide range of industries including Carling, Coors Light, PZ Cussons, Bravissimo, Gfinity & blu.

Outside of work, Paul is a man of red holding a Manchester United season ticket, an avid runner who also enjoys playing golf.

Paul commented, “Joining CandidSky in this new role will enable me to continue to grow my profession, working with an established and ambitious company with a proven track record across multiple sectors. The company vision was also a major factor in deciding to join, and I have no doubt I’ll progress professionally during my time at CandidSky.”

Simon Fryer, Search Director, said, “Paul’s appointment to CandidSky is great news for our clients, and shows our commitment to constantly improving the service we deliver. By having Paul on board we can develop our client relationships and ensure we are meeting and anticipating their requirements, now and in the future.”


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 too 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.

 

CandidSky’s MD joins the Oldham Education Partnership Board

David Beharall, managing director at CandidSky, has been appointed a Board Member of the Oldham Education Partnership Board.

Ex-professional footballer, David Beharall, has joined the Oldham Education Partnership Board to share his commercial insight and bolster the opportunities available for Oldham’s children and young people.

The Oldham Education Partnership has been tasked with the implementation of the Oldham Education and Skills commission report which aims to improve the outcomes for all children and young people in Oldham, to ensure they are school ready, work ready and life ready.

David commented, “I have always had a vested interest in Oldham and working within the community to grow the success of the region. In 2010 I founded the Oldham Business Network, an active online network dedicated to supporting the Oldham business community with over 1,400 active members. I have also worked with Oldham Council and Oldham school sports partnerships on a number of successful projects. I am pleased to be able to contribute to the Oldham Education Partnership Board to help Oldham’s youth take advantage of the opportunities available”.

Adrian Calvert, Education Partnership Leader, Oldham Education Partnership, said, “It is a great addition for David join the board. He will bring invaluable insight and actions from a non educational perspective into improving the outcomes for the children and young people in Oldham. ”

For more information about the Oldham Education Partnership Board click here.

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.

Yoast SEO auto-applying ‘disallow all’ to robots.txt

man stressed at an office desk

Yoast is the most common SEO plugin for WordPress, with 40 million downloads to date. The plugin allows you to customise your meta tags, have complete control over breadcrumbs, ensure your content is readable and much more.

One of the advanced features available on Yoast SEO allows you to generate a robots.txt and sitemap.xml file. Both of these files provide guidance to bots on how you want them to crawl your website, however, as they’re often auto-generated, technical issues can arise.

This morning, we recognised a crawling issue on multiple websites that use WordPress, in which Yoast had auto-applied a disallow rule to the robots.txt file (see screenshot below) – the result being that search bots are blocked from crawling every page on the website, which poses obvious problems from an organic perspective. Luckily, we spotted this early meaning that none of the websites we manage have been affected, however, it could’ve been a totally different story had this been missed, and organic visibility could’ve dropped off completely.

Yoast Robots.txt example

Whilst we have investigated possible reasons for this occurring on some WordPress websites, but not others, we were unable to pinpoint the source of the issue or recognise any patterns.

How do I check if my site has been affected?

The easiest way to check if your website has been affected is the robots.txt checker in Google Search Console – this tool will allow you to check for any errors and test specific bots to see if they’re able to crawl a specific page on your website. For this purpose, we would set the test to see if Googlebot can crawl your homepage.

If Google can’t crawl my website, what do I do?

If the test results come back negative, you will need to take immediate action, however, it should be a simple fix by following a few simple steps – these are outlined below:

  1. Login to the CMS of the affected website
  2. Navigate to Yoast & choose ‘Edit files’ or ‘Tools’ (depending on your version of Yoast SEO)
  3. If your version of Yoast uses ‘Edit files’, you will be able to update your robots.txt from the page that opens, however, if your version of Yoast displays ‘Tools’, you will need to click ‘File Editor’ in the next window.
  4. Now you will need to edit the robots.txt file – you can either copy the template below or use one of the many tools available online to generate the content of the file.
  5. Hit ‘save changes to robots.txt’.
  6. Your robots.txt file is now updated on the server, however, there is one more step – you will now need to go back to the robots.txt Tester in Google Search Console and submit your new robots.txt file.
  7. As always, you should test that your file has updated and that Google recognise this by refreshing the page a few minutes later.

Almost half of all WordPress websites we manage were affected by Yoast SEO auto-applying disallow rules and we believe that this could be a widespread issue affecting many websites – so if you have any friends, colleagues or people in your network that you know are running a website on WordPress, let them know and be sure to share the article to help others.

Can you help?

We have created a PDF to create a single resource for investigation by Yoast. At this time we do not have enough of a pattern to pinpoint the cause of this issue, but if you experience the same, please share here.

You should probably download the Pantone Studio app

All the colours of the rainbow

Unless you’re a designer, you’ve might have heard of Pantone, but probably have no idea what they actually do. This article has your back.

“They’re the colour guys, right??”

In the 50s, M&J Levine Advertising of New York City hired a young chemist named Lawrence Herbert. Having an unstoppable compulsive need to organise things (I feel you, Lawrence), he set about cataloging and numbering all the pigments in the print shop.

In 1962, done organising, he bought out the division he worked in and called his new company Pantone.

All the colours of the rainbow!

Does Pantone own colour?

Kinda. The company’s main product is the Pantone Matching System (PMS), which is a near-universal system for colour. PMS allowed designers, printers and colour-lovers all over the world to go from “It should be redder, with some muddy brown mixed in” to “It should be Pantone 3523 CP”.

Much like the (much bloodier) move from hand cannons (China, 1271 AD) to precision targeting rifles, it helps designers hit what they’re aiming for.

Pantone share their matching system in small booklets called Color Guides. Each shows a wide rainbow of colours, and printing companies can exactly replicate each one (on your business cards!).

But then computers came along and messed things up?

Typical! Yeah, when you’re looking at colour on screen it’s got a big ol’ backlight behind it, so it’s bright compared to print.

This means things on screen never look like right when you print them. Our bright and fun CandidSky Blue (#17CDE6) comes out sad and stormy on most printers.

Designers picking colours in 2016 will start by choosing a digital palette first, and then use a Pantone Color Guide to find print colours that feel right.

Unfortunately Pantone Color Guides cost in excess of £100, and need to be replaced every couple of years as the colours yellow over time (not ideal!).

Colour explosions are, sadly, one of the leading causes of designer deaths

Tell me about this app already!

If you’ve ever gone into the menu on a computer monitor, you’ll know it’s a deep hell of fiddly controls.

One of the great things about phones is they do away with that nightmare and just show you your stuff. As a result, colours on phone screens are more standardised and calibrated than the hodgepodge of monitors you see in most offices.

In particular the iPhone 7 comes with a ISP wide-colour gamut that makes colour reproduction more accurate than ever!

This is why the Pantone Studio app is such a strong idea: it enables you to create a digital palette on the device you own that has the best colour rendering.

Tell me some features!

The app has three main features:

  1. Picking colours — the ‘Colors’ area of the app makes choosing colours fun — just hold down on any colour you like and drag it to a ‘stash’ area at the bottom of the screen, until you’ve built a palette that looks (and feels) great
  2. Pull colours from photos — automatically scan images on your phone to build a colour palette (in case you see an inspiring colour when you’re out and about)
  3. See how it looks — use the ‘Studio’ area of the app to quickly see how those colours combine for typography, graphics, home decor, and in fabric (amazingly you can ‘jiggle’ the fabric to see how it flows!)

This isn’t the first app Pantone have made, but it’s the first really great one. It doesn’t fully replace expensive colour guides, but it comes close. Next time you need colours for a project give it a try!

The Panettone Matching System is simpler — if it matches panettone, it gets eaten!!

CandidSky welcomes new Search Marketing Executive

We’re delighted to welcome the newest member of our award winning Search Marketing team, Aadil Seedat, to his role as Search Marketing Executive.

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Due to recent client wins and ever growing client accounts, Aadil joins at a very exciting time for us.

Simon Fryer, our Search Director, is particularly thrilled to see the Search Marketing team rapidly growing: “Our team consistently deliver first class results, keeping our partners coming back for more and attracting new accounts all the time. Aadil will help maintain high quality delivery across our SEO and PPC services in line with our 2016/17 growth plans.

“Attracting and retaining the right talent is very important to us, I’m positive Aadil is a great fit for our team and look forward to showing him how we do things at CandidSky.”

Aadil joins from Vision Support Services and Notch where he gained a wealth of experience supporting online business growth in the hospitality, pharmaceutical and life sciences industries.

The man himself was good enough to offer some very kind words for this blog:

“I decided I wanted to work with key players in the industry, somewhere I could learn to be the best… and my research led me to CandidSky. I was immediately impressed with their knowledge and expertise and set my sights on becoming part of the team.”

Thanks Aadil!

You can connect with Aadil to say hello on Linkedin.

CandidSky’s Project Manager shines on the Royal Albert Hall stage

We’ve a star in our ranks…

After months of solid evening rehearsals our new Project Manager, Ciaran, took part in the National Brass Band Championships as a key member of the renowned Brighouse & Rastrick Band – currently ranked third in the world!

Ciaran’s certainly no stranger to the baritone horn and has been performing in world class competitions for going on 10 years now. We were thrilled to hear, after a long day’s tooting, Brighouse & Rastrick finished in a very impressive third place overall – hats off to you, sir!

[UPDATE] – Check out Ciaran’s live performance on BBC’s Children In Need Special.

oOur man Ciaran, immediate right of centre, in front of the Royal Albert Hall

Of course, we were also extremely keen to hear Ciaran’s experience of the day and how he manages to handle the pressure of performing at the very top level.

“Preparing for a contest like this involves three solid weeks of evening rehearsals and personal practice,” he explains. “That means playing the same piece of music over and over until it’s systematically precise. Without this level of dedication, I would be nowhere near as confident to be on stage in front of hundreds of people.  

“On the day, you have to be able to concentrate and focus on the basics of playing, such as breathing well, staying relaxed and listening to the band around me. This ability to stay calm under pressure is probably why I cope well with project management!”
o

rah2016Brighouse & Rastrick Band performing on stage

What’s next for the band?

The show’s not over just yet. Ciaran’s back at the Royal Albert Hall in November to play at the Children In Need ROCKS concert, rubbing shoulders with Take That, Ellie Goulding, Olly Murs and many others. He’s even promised us a few nice autographs for the office…

 

CandidSky welcomes new Project Manager

Our team continues to bloom with its latest addition, Ciaran Young.

Ciaran, a highly experienced Project Manager, has recently relocated from Leeds where previously worked on accounts such as JD Williams, TATE, Red Bull and McArthurGlen. We’re delighted at his decision to cross the Pennines to join our rapidly expanding team.

ciaran-young-candidsky

Ciaran has settled in to the office extremely quickly, mostly owing to his own brand of cheeky chappy Irish humour. He has a love for cycling and a very impressive set of lungs trained over many years mastering the baritone horn, including multiple performances at the Albert Hall with his band! More on that to come…

Dave Houlbrooke, Head of Digital, commented, “It’s fantastic to have Ciaran on board, he has already proved his value by quickly implementing some great PM wizardry to improve our project processes further, and free up extra time for the team to conceptualise the best solution for our partners”.

“We’re all looking forward to the coming months, we’ll be continuing to grow and strengthen the team by making key appointments to support delivery and operations”.

CandidSky turns 10!

It was an absolute pleasure to celebrate joining the double digits club with our nearest and dearest – in style, of course.

candidsky-group

Before we get into it, let’s travel back in time.

We’ve landed in 2006. It’s a year after my knee injury and early retirement from professional football. I’m sitting in a small office in Manchester, unwrapping a new laptop and jotting down my plans for world domination.

Back then, I was just getting into the business of ecommerce and website design. It quickly proved to be a worthwhile venture and led to plenty of valuable contacts. It also afforded me the opportunity to branch out into other areas of digital marketing, which is where today’s CandidSky started to build its reputation.

Fast forward to 2016.

CandidSky has evolved to become a key player in Manchester’s digital scene. Our team has grown every year without fail and our services now cover all aspects of digital marketing – from technical SEO, to content, to conversion optimisation. 

For this, I’d like to thank the whole team for all their hard work and development over the years. I am so lucky to have such a fantastic bunch of people to share my time with and I still learn so much by coming into the office every day. Special thanks to my business partner, Tom Lambert, who has been instrumental in our growth. CandidSky wouldn’t be the company it is today without his efforts.

The big ‘1-0’.

Conavon Court – aka CandidSky HQ – has become the perfect environment for us to progress, so we decided to transform the office space into a custom hangout spot complete with bar, dancefloor and graphic projections, for one night only.

It looked pretty awesome, I have to say, and it was great to have so many friendly faces turn out for the occasion. Setting up a business has a massive impact on others around you, so it’s important to share in success with friends and family wherever possible. I’d like to thank my family for their continued support (especially my wife, Samantha!) as I really could not have come this far without them. 

Check out our photo reel below…

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I’d also like to thank our clients for their continued faith and trust in our expertise. Without this, we simply don’t have a business. The work we undertake for clients allows us to challenge ourselves, push boundaries and keep us at the forefront of digital. We are incredibly grateful for these opportunities.

Not only do we remain committed to supporting the growth of local businesses, we now also work closely with national brands such as Sage, Royal Mail and Peninsula. Both our trophy cabinet and portfolio have seen a massive improvement off the back of this – something I’m incredibly proud of.

Just one more thing…

Ten years on from our beginning and it really is an exciting time to be a digital company in the city of Manchester. The digital community is thriving here and will continue to be a key factor in the growth of our Northern economy for years to come. It’s wonderful to be right in the mix of it all.

Once more I’d like to extend the biggest of thanks to all those who joined us in celebration on the weekend, and to all those who have supported our cause over the past ten years – friends, family, colleagues and clients. I’m proud to say that, together, all of these people have made CandidSky who we are today.

Here’s to the next decade, we’ve got an exciting few years ahead!

 

CandidSky win ‘Best Use of Search & CRO’ at 2016 Big Chip Awards

An award for conversion optimisation

What a night!

The plush Midland Hotel in Manchester played host to the 18th annual Big Chip Awards last week – the longest running digital industry awards in the UK. We were over the moon to scoop ‘Best Use of Search & CRO’ for our work with Peninsula Business Services, beating off stiff competition in the process. 

The judging panel were particularly impressed with the quality of results our search and conversion optimisation teams produced in partnership with Peninsula in such a short space of time.

Big Chip celebrates the best and brightest digital talent in the northern reaches of the UK and has an unrivalled reputation for judging consistency and integrity. This makes placing the award on our mantelpiece all the more special…

big-chip-award-traophy

 

What the judges had to say

‘A happy client whose feedback said it all. Great example of the results that can be achieved when strategy and content are combined at the heart of a project.’

If you want to find out more about other awards check out the Big Chip Awards: Winners article in the MEN.

Once again congratulations to the winners, nominees and all involved in again making the event one of the stand-out events in the digital industry calendar.

CandidSky announced as finalist for RAR Digital Awards 2016

CandidSky has been announced as a finalist for 3 RAR Digital Awards – ‘Best Search’, ‘Best Client Service’ and ‘Best Value for Money’.

We hold the RAR Digital Awards in particularly high esteem – being shortlisted means being recognised by the people who matter most – our clients.

rar-blog

How it works

Recommended Agency Register (RAR) is the place brands look for a trusted, high-performing agency. We became finalists very much like this:

  1. RAR contacted our clients and asked them to rate us on a range criteria
  2. All of our clients gave us excellent ratings
  3. We beat over 7,000 registered agencies to become RAR Digital Award Finalists in 3 categories!

Thank you

We’re no strangers to the RAR Digital Awards – this is the third time we’ve been nominated for ‘Best Search’ and the second for ‘Best Client Service’.

It’s very humbling to be nominated for our digital services and performance again. We’d like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to all of our digital partners – we literally couldn’t be here without you!

The Awards

We’ll be donning our black ties in The Lancaster, London, on Thursday 16th June for the main event! Watch this space for our winners announcement on the 29th…

 

CandidSky shortlisted for ‘Best Digital Agency’ at the Big Chip Awards 2016

It’s been a landmark year for us here at CandidSky.

And we’re honoured to have our hard graft recognised with two nominations at the prestigious Big Chip Awards 2016, including ‘Best Digital Agency’ and ‘Best use of Search and CRO’.

Now in its 18th year, Big Chip is the longest running digital industry awards in the UK and the largest held outside of London. The event celebrates excellence in the digital sector and has gradually built an unrivalled reputation over the years for judging consistency and integrity, and recognising first class achievements.

big-chip-awards-blog

Best Digital Agency

We are incredibly proud to be recognised as one of the North’s leading digital agencies. For us, this award represents a lot of team effort, exceptional results and close-knit relationships with our clients.

We’ve come a long way already, but we will continue to evolve our digital services so long as it adds value to the businesses we work with, and keeps our staff healthy, happy and proud of what they do.

Best use of Search and CRO

CandidSky impressed the notoriously tough panel following our ongoing work and partnership with Peninsula Business Services, the UK’s leading HR and employment law consultancy firm.

Our strategy for website development and technical SEO quickly saw massive improvements in search exposure, online visibility and revenue, and led us to be named Peninsula’s primary digital partner across all branches of the organisation.

Here’s what Peninsula had to say about us…

PBS

23 June: The results are in!

The awards ceremony takes place on 23 June at the Midland Hotel, Manchester.

Best of luck to all on the night and, fingers crossed, we might be taking home a few more additions to our trophy cabinet.

*Update – we’ve also been nominated for three gongs at the RAR Digital Awards 2016!