What’s in a URL?

Whats in a URL WordPress

The URL or Uniform Resource Locator is better known as the web address – every page on the web has one and that’s about as much attention as they normally get.

However, there is more to URLs than meets the eye. They influence user behaviour as well as holding one of the keys to effective Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). If you own a website or work on one, here are five things which you should know about URLs:

Search Engine Optimisation: The world of SEO is packed with speculation, but it is widely recognised that the URL plays an important role in SEO rankings. As a general rule, the closer that the keyword is to the protocol (see below), the better that URL will perform. Of course, if the keyword is in the domain name, great.

anatomy-of-a-url

Users: The most important person on the web is the person who you are trying to attract to your website. Simple URLs are the ones which are easy to read for the user – if they look at the URL and they guess what they are going to see, you are doing this bit right. Remember, the URL will show in organic search results so you can influence click through rate by making it simple (and yes, that normally means short-ish too, see below).

Track Results: One of the great things about digital marketing is how measurable everything is. You can tag a URL so that it can feed information into your Google Analytics explain which campaign has delivered the click, really useful when evaluating your activity. Just head over to Google’s URL builder page to find out more: https://ga-dev-tools.appspot.com/campaign-url-builder/ (not a very pretty URL is it?!)

Short is Best? If you start adding parameters to a URL, it can become very long. So a lot of marketers will choose to shorten the URL because shorter is better right? That’s not necessarily true. Short URLs (e.g. http://bit.ly/IqT6zt) don’t give anything away: they could be a link to malware (don’t worry, this one isn’t) or something else that you weren’t expecting, so they are sometimes a bit of a risk to the user. Customise shortened URLs do build up some trust though, e.g. http://bit.ly/whatisinaurl

Don’t Overdo It: Like all principles of SEO, taking URL optimisation too far can do as much damage as not taking it far enough. If you have the keyword in your meta title, meta description and in your URL a couple of times, it all gets a bit much. So try to limit keyword mentions in your URL to one unless you can do it and it doesn’t feel forced.

Introducing Instagram Stories – bad news for Snapchat

Instagram WordPress

A week ago, Instagram launched its brand new feature – well, brand new to Instagram anyway. It is called Stories. Instagram Stories is not to be confused with Snapchat Stories which is easy to do given the fact that their names are the same and the features are pretty much the same too!

Both Instagram Stories and Snapchat Stories allow you to pull together a bunch of photos throughout the day into a story and the story then deletes after 24 hours. You can also choose who is able to view your stories.

Facebook-owned Instagram has already admiringly looked at Snapchat.  In 2012 with Snapchat just a year old, Facebook launched Facebook Poke, an app which featured disappearing photos, exactly the same as Snapchat. However, in that year that Snapchat had been around, it had built up a loyal army of users who were not for switching.
Eventually in 2014, Facebook Poke was put out of its misery.  Mark Zuckerberg dismissed Facebook Poke as ‘more of a joke’, but that is contrary to Instagram’s new feature.

What will the impact be of this direct challenge to Snapchat?

Snapchat is at a crucial time in its life.  It is 5 years old and while investors will be happy with the 150 million daily active users that it attracts, they will be looking for the new advertising platform to start attracting some serious spend.  Instagram has 300 million daily active users and its advertising platform is fully integrated into the mature Facebook advertising platform.  Also, Facebook has chosen not to launch (yet) another app, but integrate the feature into an already hugely popular product, so it is no longer starting from scratch.

Instagram has a very significant audience of a key demographic for advertisers, the financial backing of Facebook and now a feature to rival he spontaneity of Snapchat.
Of course the success of Snapchat will be determined by what new features they have up their sleeve for users and advertisers, but this is a move from a competitor which gives users and advertisers a reason not to visit Snapchat – what every social network dreads.

Do you think that this will impact on the success of Snapchat? Or is Instagram losing credibility by simply copying their key competitor?  Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

5 PPC Mistakes You May Be Making

PPC Mistakes

Google AdWords is one of the most powerful advertising platforms available.

To see why, let’s take a look at one of the challenges of outbound marketing. If you are trying to sell someone a high value item, e.g. a car, you only want to talk to those people when they are in the market for buying a new car. Talking to anyone else is a waste of your money. What is there was an advertising platform where the audience segments itself and you only talk to people asking the right questions?

AdWords users effectively self-segment by the queries that they type into Google so you can ensure that you are only talking to the right people and you only pay for the clicks that you receive, so it drives a response, not just awareness.

But Google AdWords, or Pay per Click (PPC) advertising, doesn’t always work out like this. There are some common mistakes which you may be making in your campaigns, and here are 5 that I see all of the time.

Not checking back:

Digital marketing often allows you to amend a campaign while it is in progress, continually optimising to deliver the strongest results. This is the case with PPC: always put a small amount of time, even 10 mins, in your diary every day to check back on your active PPC campaigns – you will not only see which keywords are performing well, you will be able to fine-tune your bidding as well as keep an eye on expensive keywords before they get out of control.

Not checking the type of keyword match:

Before you make your campaign live, you should understand whether you require a broad or exact match keyword setting. Exact match ads will only appear if the exact phrase (or something very close to it) is typed into Google, whereas broad match ads include spelling errors, synonyms and other related and relevant searches. There is no right or wrong answer, it depends what you are looking for and which keywords you are using. You should also be employing negative keywords which exclude unwanted keywords from your campaign.

Ignoring the landing page:

You can have the best designed PPC advert in the world, optimised, delivering an amazing click through rate and great quality traffic to your website. But if your website is a miserable experience, you have wasted your time and money getting the people there. The landing page and subsequent user experience are often ignored in PPC campaigns, but only by campaigns that don’t work: don’t be one of them.

Your ad copy is boring:

To be fair there isn’t a great deal of space in which to unleash your inner Don Draper or Oscar Wilde. The character limits for PPC ads are very small, but that doesn’t mean that you can ignore the ad copy. It is this that will encourage the click, so it is vitally important – include a call to action and have several different versions running at the same time. Your regular monitoring will allow you to see what ad copy is delivering the best results.

Not Measuring:

The amount of data that you can gather from PPC campaigns is very impressive, if not a little overwhelming for some. So you have no excuse not to track the performance of your campaigns through a wide variety of metrics – click through rate, quality score, conversion rate, etc. Linking your AdWords account with your Analytics package will really start to unlock an understanding of keyword level performance, something very powerful indeed.

Are there any common mistakes that you see when running PPC campaigns? If so, leave a comment and share your thoughts!

Image via searchengineland.com

Did My Social Media Advert Work?

Why You Shouldn’t Buy Followers WordPress

There are lots of reports which state that spend on social media advertising is increasing year and year and it is fast becoming to go-to advertising channel. It’s easy to see why: easy to set up, cost efficient and a good opportunity to get creative. However, has your advert actually worked? Tricky question eh?

The answer is not a binary ‘yes its worked’ or ‘no its not’, it’s more complex than that.  As I see it, there are three areas which you need to measure to see if your campaign has worked: advert performance, website performance and conversion.

Advert Performance:

  • Click Through Rate (CTR) is one of the most important metrics here. If your campaign has delivered a disappointing CTR, it may be for one of these reasons:
    • Audience definition: there seems to be some sort of issue between the audience and the advert – it is taking more people than you would like to generate clicks, so it may be that the audience is not relevant
    • Message: possibly the audience is right, but the message that you are communicating is not resonating with the audience
    • Positioning: different networks position their adverts in different places and some of these places deliver a strong click through rate than others

Website Performance:

  • There are three key metrics when looking at how your ad traffic is performing:
    • Bounce rate: This should normally be as low as possible, although it does depend on the content on the page – if you are just hoping for the user to see some information and take and off-line action (e.g. email, telephone), a high bounce rate is OK
    • Pages per visit: As with bounce rate, a good number depends on what you would like the visitor to do. However, if you have unengaging content, the visitor will soon exit and this number will be small
    • Time on site: Like the other two metrics, this is probably going to be slightly less favourable than it would be for a visitor from another source (traffic from adverts tend to be fairly speculative) – but you will have an idea of how long it would take someone to read all of your content and that should be your target

Conversion:

  • This is the biggest payback from the advert – the visitor completing the purchase, making the enquiry or achieving whatever your objective is
  • While this is the ultimate measurement of success, it is important to understand that this is the output of a lot of different variables from the advert and website
  • Linking these three sources of information is challenging, particularly on a budget, but if you are able to do so, this intelligence should make future campaigns even more successful

Do you measure success of your social media campaigns?  If so, what does success look like for your campaigns?

Six Content Markeing Tips for Boring Industries

Content for boring industries wordpress

In my last blog about social media myths, I mentioned that no product or industry is too boring for social media. I stand by this, but it is a lot easier to say than to do.
So here are six content marketing ideas for products or industries which (on the surface at least) are less than thrilling.

Tell the company’s history: Stories of how companies are formed tend to be interesting. They are normally to be stories of individuals taking risks and creating extraordinary things out of a single idea – these stories are interesting and an opportunity to talk about the foundations of the company and what it stands for today.

What else can my product do: It is possible that your product has a very specific purpose. But what else could it be used for? Applying your piece of technology in different scenarios could make for an interesting alternative way of displaying your key product features. Once you’ve seen one smoothie created you’ve seen them all – so why not blend an iPhone?

At least it’s visually interesting: I appreciate that this blog is not a good example of this, but rich media can add interest to otherwise not so interesting content. Video, images, sound files can all increase engagement in your content.

Tell interesting individual stories: Every organisation consists of people and behind people are interesting and personal stories. Choosing a handful of people and telling their story is a great way to engage your audience.

Watch your language: Every industry that I have worked in has suffered with technical terminology and TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms). These can turn interesting content into a confusing mess, so it is best to avoid it and write as if you are describing it to a layperson. This should allow you to explain what your company or product actually means to a layperson as well: what is the chain of events which connects your industry to people’s lives?

Don’t skip too much detail: It is likely that you audience will have at least a passing interest in your industry or product, so while you don’t want to make it very technical, you do want to go into some detail. Difficult balance, but the language that you choose and the medium that you use to communicate with become important here – a picture paints a thousand words….hopefully ones that people understand and engage with.

Do you work in a ‘boring’ industry? Have you had success with content marketing in spite of this / because of this?!  Leave a comment and share your experience.

Image courtesy of geralt at Pixabay

5 Social Media Myths Debunked

myths-and-facts wordpress

There is an awful lot written about social media.

In one article, it is the saviour of the planet, in another it is the start of the demise of mankind. Regardless of your point of view (probably somewhere in between these two I guess), there is a lot of nonsense written about social media. I am hoping not to add to that today!

I have chosen five widely believed social media ‘facts’ and in the best traditions of social media, I will tear them part!

My audience isn’t on social media: This is often heard but not often true. With more than one billion daily active users (yes, daily), chances are that your audience have a Facebook account – it is just a case of trying to find them and engage them. But this is somewhat oversimplifying matters. Perhaps a better question would be ‘will my audience be responsive on social media’? If you are selling fashion online, the answer is probably yes – if you are selling bespoke drilling machinery to companies, the answer is possibly not (but do see next myth).

Our product is too boring for social media: There is no such thing as a boring industry – every industry and company is interesting as long as you are talking to the right audience and using the right angle in your content. I am sure that before some great work on YouTube, trying to sell a blender or raise the profile of hydraulic presses was deemed pretty boring – Blendtec and Hydraulic Press Channel have over 2m YouTube subscribers between them today.

Social media is complicated: It’s not as complicated as you think. All social networks are based on the principles of informing or entertaining audiences with interesting content, whether that is text-based, and image, sound file or video. The way that the content is viewed and shared may differ, but the principles of good content and the right audience are simple (not easy!) and pretty much universal.

I’m too old for social media: This is often used as a justification for when a social media account for a company is being run by the owner’s 14 year old (I have seen this happen before!). Not to say that the 14 year old is not a marketing genius, it’s just that youth doesn’t guarantee knowledge of how to manage social media any more than any other demographic does. You’re not too old: 40 is the new 14.

Measurement of social media is too fluffy: It really isn’t. In fact, there are not too many marketing channels which you can measure as closely as social media. From one post you can track impressions (how many times it has been seen), how many people engaged in it, how many people clicked on it, what they did when they got to your website and whether that achieved your original objective. Often if there is an issue with measurement, the objective has not been clearly and SMART-ly defined. If your objective is clear, the important metrics will become very clear.

Do you have a favourite social media myth that you’d like to put an end to?  Leave a comment and share your experience.

What does the future hold for Twitter?

twitter_character_limit wordpres

The rumours of Twitter increasing its character limit have been discussed around the internet for some time.  Since the IPO in 2013, Twitter has been under increasing pressure from shareholders to drive its number of accounts and the amount of time that people spend on the site.

One of the changes that Twitter has introduced in the last week has been to the 140 character limit: media files, links and @ mentions will no longer count in your 140 character limit.

Why 140 characters in the first place?  The number is now synonymous with Twitter but the original idea came from SMS text messages.  They were limited to 160 characters, so Twitter set the limit to 140 to allow for people to mention a user name in their tweet.  This feature is now what makes Twitter, well, Twitter.

What difference will this make?  It is no secret that this move is designed to encourage two things: interaction and rich media.  Removing the @ mention form the character limit is designed to allow people to say more when they are having a tweet chat with another user.  And the use of rich media is critical to Twitter: most of their competition has been focused on rich media for some time and rich media based networks (Snapchat, Instagram) are still experiencing massive user growth, something Twitter isn’t achieving.

Is this the thin end of the wedge?  Twitter has admitted that they have considered character limit changes for some time – 10,000 characters was apparently on the agenda, but such a change would fundamentally change Twitter.  So, the character limit may change in the future, but it has to be very careful about removing the one feature which is unique to Twitter.

What was the point?  Images, sound and video are key to social media success – and we have known this for some time.  But rich media is not part of the fabric of Twitter in the same way that it is for some of the newer social networks such as Snapchat, Instagram, so Twitter needs to try and subtly force the point.  Twitter’s commitment to rich media shouldn’t be underestimated though: earlier in 2016, they signed a $10m deal with the NFL to stream games.

So, there should be some interesting times ahead for the world’s third largest social network.  What do you think the future holds for Twitter?

How to Improve Your Email Open Rate

Email Marketing Basics

Email Marketing Basics

Despite all of the developments which alter the way that people execute their digital marketing, email marketing is still one of the most popular channels. It is low cost, most people understand how email works and its effectiveness is highly measurable.  Note that measurable doesn’t always mean successful though!

One of the first hurdles that an email campaign can fall at is whether the email is opened or not.  There are a number of factors which can affect this, and in this week’s blog, I will focus on five of the most important.

Did it get to the inbox?  Most email marketing software tries its hardest to get your email to the inbox, but some emails will get caught in the email provider’s spam filter. This is normally because there is a characteristic of the email which has raised a red flag – is the email just one big image (this is very poor practice), does it contain spam trigger words (e.g. earn $, cash, medical or drug terminology, 100% free, act now, etc.), is your HTML coded correctly, etc.

Who is the email from?  Assuming that your email has made it through the spam filter, the user has two key pieces of information at their disposal: the subject line and who has sent the email. You have a choice as to how the ‘name’ of the sender is displayed and this is crucial to the open rate: should you have the personal touch and include a name, should it be from the organisation, should it be from a particular department?  It depends on what is in the email and who your audience is, but emails from ‘Sales’ or ‘Info’ are very common and very off-putting!

What is the email about?  The subject line is the perfect mix of art and science. It needs to be enough to entice the user to click on the email to find out more, so it should be pretty short and give a reason to open the email. It may be appropriate for you to use humour or even emojis in your subject line: it depends on who your audience is and what your industry is. You should test different subject lines to build up some intelligence as to what works with your audience.

How often do I send emails?  Past performance can also impact on email open rate. If you receive frequent emails from a particular organisation, this is likely to lower the overall open rate (although the frequency may make overall actual opens higher), whereas less frequent emails are more likely to have a better open rate. Your industry and the volume of interesting content are key factors in getting the frequency right.

When should I send the email?  The day of the week and time of day are critical to your open rate. You may not know the best time yet, but you will certainly be able to have a think about when the best to time talk to your recipient is: would they be interested in your product during the week or at the weekend? Would they be interested to see your email in a lunch break or at work or in the evening? The best way to find out is to keep testing and monitoring open rates.

Do you have any email open rate tips? Have you tried changing one element of your email marketing and seen your open rate improve? Leave a comment and share your experience!

Seven Content Marketing Tips

Content Marketing Tips Worpress

Following on from my blog a couple of weeks ago about content marketing, I thought I would share some tips about actually how to do content marketing.

However, before you get started with your content marketing, there is something that you should know – a lot of it doesn’t work. But don’t worry, they often fail because they have not taken into account one of the following areas. Do your content marketing a favour and have a think about the following:

  • Create a content plan: Make sure that you have done your homework – namely worked on developing some really important keywords and spoken to a wide range of customers who have told you about their interests, hopes and concerns. You should integrate this into other key dates from your industry / society and you will never be staring at that blank screen again wondering what to write about.
  • What format should my content be in? This is an important question. It is easy to think of content as a written article like this, but it doesn’t have to be that – it could be an image (e.g. an infographic), a video, a slide-share, an audio file, etc. Your audience should help you decide which format is right – which one will resonate best with them?
  • How long should my content be? If you choose to write an article, then how long should it be? Look at it from the two important perspectives of SEO – the user and the search engine. From the user’s perspective, if you can make your point and achieve your objective succinctly, then you should do that. If it needs to be longer, that is OK too. From the search engine’s perspective, the picture isn’t as clear. There have been numerous studies into finding the perfect word length and conclusions are often conflicting. However, in my experience, articles which are between 800 and 1,500 words seem to work best
  • Make your content visually attractive: This sounds obvious, but not every piece of content is good to look at. Video and images are content in their own right, but they can also support a written article to make it more interesting. When articles which have a featured image are shared on social media, often that image forms part of the post – which makes the post more attractive and yet more shareable. A virtuous circle!
  • Consider where your audience will see your content: Are your audience likely to be seeing your content in business hours and on a desktop / laptop computer or will it be seen on the move on a tablet or smartphone? You should make sure that your content looks great regardless of the device on which it is being seen.
  • Always optimise your content: This is a really simple one, but it is overlooked a surprisingly large amount of the time. Make sure that the following are optimised:
    • your URL
    • the description of the page contains the keywords you are targeting
    • your web page structure contains H1, H2 headings – search engines still use this to navigate pages
    • any images that are used have the appropriate alt tags added
  • Have a plan for the distribution of the content: Are you going to segment your audience and promote your content differently to different people? Are you going to post it on social media? Are you going to advertise your content on social media too to drive the number of impressions? Are you going to share your content with the influencers that you have engaged on social media (this is part of your content strategy, right?). All important considerations for your content.

Do you have any content marketing tips?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Seven Mistakes That Your Social Media Ads Should Avoid

Social media advertising is one of the most powerful marketing mediums you can use. The adverts are easy to set up (Facebook and Twitter have got shareholders to keep happy, remember) and relatively low cost, so the barriers to someone placing a social media advert are pretty low. Which is good news, right?

Well, not necessarily.

The ease with which you can create a social media advert means that there are a lot of people who are running advertising for the first time – and some of them are making mistakes.

So, I have identified seven of the most popular mistakes so that you don’t have to make them.

The Right Network: Trying to find the right network is not as easy as you would think. For example, I work in higher education, so is that something that people regard as part of their personal life (in which case, Facebook would be a good network) or their professional life (LinkedIn), or is it both? Just because over a billion people are on Facebook doesn’t mean that is the best network for your organisation – do your research and find out where your audience are.

Audience Profile: In the first paragraph I said that social media is one of the most powerful marketing mediums you can use. I say that because of the level of audience segmentation that you can perform. Before online advertising, being able to create an audience profile by age, location and interests was very difficult and expensive. So, spend some time defining your audience and don’t define your audience too broadly if you can help it.

Copy: Your copy will need to be pretty snappy – you will probably only have 150 or so characters to communicate your message. And within that, you will need to include a compelling reason for someone to click as well as a call to action. Not an easy task, but spending some time getting this right will see your advert effectiveness soar.

Image: It is likely that the image will be the part of your advert which grabs the audience’s attention (or doesn’t). So you should steer well clear of cheesy and boring stock images, you can spot them a mile off. Your image should be exciting but also relevant – again, not easy but your image can make or break your campaign.

Manage Campaigns: One of the key advantages of social media advertising over print advertising is the fact that you can manage your campaign – if after running for a day the campaign feels like it is heading in the wrong direction, change something: bid, image, copy, audience, etc. Getting the campaign up and running and leaving it to run its course with no management while it is running is so 1990s.

Landing Page: Sending advertising traffic to a home page is the wrong thing to do 99% of the time. In an ideal world, you would have a specific landing page designed for that campaign, but in the absence of that, the landing page should be specific to the product / service / message which you are communicating to the advert. Sending traffic to the home page and expecting people to navigate to the right page will not work.

Track Success: Before you start your social media advertising campaign, you should define what success looks like. Is it driving traffic to your website? If so, will you be tracking the number of conversions, bounce rate and on-page engagement? Or is it to grow your social media audience across a particular demographic? Make sure you don’t do this stage retrospectively (that’s cheating!).

What are the common mistakes which you see?  Or have you made a social media advertising mistake that you are prepared to admit to?!