2017 Digital Marketing Trends

2017-linkedin

With Christmas almost upon us, it is time to take a look at 2017. What will this have in store for us? A terrifying prospect considering how 2016 panned out, but let’s stay calm and concentrate on digital marketing for now. Here are seven trends to look out for during the next twelve months:

Display Ads Evolve: Display advertising has had yet another bad year, let down by, if we are honest, some rubbish marketing. Intrusive and poorly targeted ads have seen the rise of ad blockers, so marketers are likely to move towards video marketing (great when done well, awful when done poorly) or native advertising. The bad news? Both are much trickier to execute.

Augmented Reality Will Be Back: Pokémon Go was like a great firework display in 2016 – it started, it soared, everyone went ‘ooooh’ and then it went out. There has been a lack of follow-up in the augmented reality space, but I think that there are companies out there developing games or gamified marketing right now – it will be back in 2017.

Content Marketing Gets Tougher: Content will still be king in 2017, and the fact that virtually every marketer is creating content for their audience means that standing out from the crowd will be increasingly difficult. Consumers see hundreds of adverts per day which means two things: firstly, they are probably bored of them and secondly, they can spot a bad advert from a mile away. Impactful, visual content with a narrative will win in a very busy field in 2017. Early adopters of the relatively new live video streaming will receive an advantage.

Mobile First (yes, again): Rather like ‘content is king’, mobile first is a bit of a cliché when it comes to digital marketing trends. But 2016 was a big year for mobile: as ever Google was leading the way. Google has started to not only drive the speed or mobile websites through its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project, but is starting to really look at mobile SEO and allow it to lead the agenda over desktop. You really need a great mobile website in 2017 but not for Google – for your user.

Internet of Things: Wearable technology was always going to be the first step towards the Internet of Things and it has had mixed success. Devices with a clear purpose and benefit (e.g. Fitbit) have performed well, but the Apple Watch was a bit of a flop. The agenda is moving on with devices like the Amazon Echo becoming more mainstream. It is being advertised as a voice activated entertainment system, but its capability is much greater – will this along with Dash buttons start to change the direction of ecommerce next year?

Hey Google, what’s the future of SEO: Voice search started to grow in 2016 and this is likely to continue into 2017. With people literally asking questions from their search engine, does this mean that the days of true long tail search engine marketing are with us, and what does this mean for PPC advertising? Again, Google are leading the agenda here and they will have a plan to protect their PPC revenue stream – will be interesting to see what it is.

Social Media and the News: Events over the last month or two have brought into focus the role of news in people’s news feeds on social media. The pages that people like and the way that they engage in content should mean that news feeds are a self-fulfilling prophecy, i.e. you should continue to see the content you want to see. But that isn’t necessarily the independently-verified news and who is to say that is what people want to see? Quite how Facebook and other social networks hope to solve this issue remains to be seen, but the political pressure to offer balanced news will grow – which may in time pose a risk to user engagement. Something the social networks cannot afford to jeopardise.

What is your digital marketing prediction for 2016? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

How Content Marketing and SEO Work

The internet has been seen as a great leveller in the world of business. In theory, and certainly in the early days, the playing field was fairly flat – if you had a website and someone who knew how to market it, you could take the fight to the bigger players. And with the rise in popularity of social media in the 2000s, the playing field levelled again – in theory, it might even be easier for a smaller business to start tweeting than a larger one: it doesn’t have to worry about complicated social media policies, tone of voice guidance and permissions, it can just get started.

Content has also been a great leveller. An excellent piece of content can be shared multiple times on social media and appear in a strong search engine page rank position. You don’t need huge budgets to make this happen, just excellent content marketing – and here is how.

How are they linked?

Content marketing and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) are very closely linked – let me take you through why. Back in the early days of the internet, the need for content became very clear very quickly – we know that need to create web pages, but what the hell are we going to put on them?! Then social media arrives and now we really need to create some content – we can’t get away with tweeting about the weather again!

So, lots and lots of content is created. And a lot of it is really crappy. Most of it in fact. So, search engines work really hard to find out ways of quantifying the quality of the content – they start to move on from looking at the frequency of keywords and start trying to actually understand an article. Another metric that search engines start to use is social media shares: what better an endorsement of good quality content than sharing it? Hence, content marketing and SEO are inextricably linked.

What do I write about?

Successful content strategy has a clear link between your content with the needs of your audience. That doesn’t mean writing yet another boring product description for the golf clubs that you sell – it means answering questions that the audience has: how to hit a particularly tricky shot from the rough, how golf clubs are made, tips for golf etiquette, articles on golf’s more unusual rules.

Your content should be based on the keyword research that you have already carried out and then shaped around your audience:

  • What are their interests beyond your product? We know they are into golf, but what else are they into?
  • What are their hopes and aspirations? What else do they want from life?
  • What are their problems? Practical issues which are golf related, but also wider concerns and fears?

This is all great, but what about the payback, what’s in it for the content provider? Well, if someone has found your content but they are not yet a customer, when they come to buy a product similar to yours (they are finding your content so they may be close to buying a related product), your business will be at the top of their mind.

Isn’t content marketing about selling?

I appreciate that the last section may have made some people a little nervous. If this activity isn’t directly selling our product, what is the point in doing it? Well, selling has changed and subtlety is a very effective way of driving revenue – if someone has a question and they find your content and it answers that question, this is a means of not only getting your company name in front of that prospective customer, it has prevented them from seeing a competitor. It works, believe me!

Content marketing is here to stay. When done well, it is a great way of driving traffic to your website through social media referrals and SEO. It can get you in front of potential customers by helping them out or entertaining them, not just by shouting about your product. The sooner you start making content work for you, the sooner you will see the positive effect on your bottom line.

Do you use a content strategy? Is it working for you and do you have any tips that you would like to share? Please leave a comment and share your experience.

How Content Marketing and SEO Work Together

Content Marketing and SEO

There has never been a greater requirement for content in marketing than right now. With the internet being in millions of cases the only ‘shop window’ that a business has, it is imperative to make the website as visible and as engaging as possible.

One of the means to achieving that is content marketing which really started to become popular in the early 2000s. The rise of the internet as a commercial platform and the rise of the pioneer social networks meant that there was the need to create interesting web pages and interesting content to share on these social media networks.

However, the way that people use the web has changed a lot in the last 10-15 years. People are asking more questions from search engines, particularly with the introduction of voice-activated search: we are using search engines to solve our problems.

As such, search engines need to find the good quality content – not an easy job when most of the content out there is pretty rubbish! And from that moment, content marketing and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) were linked. Users searching for solutions to their problems offer a good opportunity for businesses to create content which solves that problem.

So how do you know what to write about?

Well, if your content is all about your products and how utterly amazing they are, you haven’t quite got it right yet. Content marketing is about more than just saying how great your product is. It needs to be broader than that because product demonstrations are great when someone is searching for that, but how do they know that your product is the best solution to the problem that they have?

Your content should be based on the keyword research that you have already carried out for your SEO strategy and then shaped around your audience:

  • What are their interests beyond your product? We know they are into your product, but what else are they into?
  • What are their hopes and aspirations? What else do they want from life?
  • What are their problems? Practical issues which are product related, but also wider concerns and fears?

And the payback? The theory is if someone finds your content to solve a problem of theirs, assuming that it is in some way related to your product or marketplace, then when they are in the market for your product, you will be at the top of their mind. And the theory works. Why else would Coke’s VP of Global Advertising Strategy, Jonathan Mildenhall, say “all advertisers need a lot more content so that they can keep the engagement with consumers fresh and relevant”?

Today’s consumers are more and more sophisticated, and are rejecting traditional forms of marketing and even traditional forms of digital marketing (e.g. super-irritating pop-up ads), so marketing needs to become more sophisticated. And content marketing is a great way of getting your content and business in front of potential customers and ahead of competitors.

Google and Mobile SEO

Google and Mobile SEO

Google and Mobile SEO

On 21st April, Google is going to release an update to its algorithm. No surprise there, these updates happen on a very regular basis (just count the grey hairs on anyone who works in SEO!). But whats unique about this update is that it is focusing on mobile.

The update will focus on mobile user-friendliness. Currently around 30% of all traffic on the total web is from a mobile device and the number is growing rapidly, so mobile should already be on your agenda – your analytics package will be able to tell you the split of traffic by device.

Mobile is a more complex website than your desktop website in many ways, especially from a visual perspective: what features do you include on the site, which do you remove, should my site be responsive, should I even have an app?

So, in the face of this complexity, what can you do to ensure your website is ready for this update?

The best place to start with any SEO based exercise is not with a search engine – it’s with the user. So spend some time getting into the head of the mobile visitor of your website. Spend some time actually on the site and try to complete the simple tasks that you want the user to complete – find contact details, navigate around your product / service pages, complete an enquiry form. Objectively ask yourself, how easy is it to complete these tasks? And take a look at how your site renders on different devices – you can check on your analytics package what devices people are using, so check the website out from that screen (there are lots of developer tools to enable you to do this).

Then visit Google’s developer page to test the mobile friendliness of your website: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/ This will highlight any issues that Google is particularly concerned with, making it a good place to start getting into some of the technical side of mobile optimisation.

Then start challenging your website with the following questions:

  • Site speed – This is notoriously an issue in mobile websites, but how long does your mobile site take to load? More than a couple of seconds, and you’re losing visitors.
  • Flash – If you are using Flash, your content is not supported by Apple mobile devices, and is really slow on Android devices: not a great user experience. Try HTML5.
  • Mobile Site Maps – Like your desktop site, you should put a site map in place to allow Google to crawl your mobile site easily. Crawl errors incidentally are another reason for a bad experience, so use the Google developer tools to check these.
  • Be Local – A large number of mobile web searches have local intent, so if you have a local element to your business, make sure that you are registered on Google’s My Business.
  • Meta Data – Mobile screens are smaller than desktop screens, so this should be reflected in your meta description and title. Keep your title to under 60 characters, and your description under 90 characters.

What about an app though? This is a standalone application and is not subject to Google algorithms. But that does not make it a cheaper or better solution. Apps can be eye-wateringly expensive, and the majority do not deliver a positive ROI. You need to be very confident that you have the user need for an app before launching it as a mobile website alternative.

Good luck in getting ready for the update, it will be interesting to see what impact this has on search results – according to Google it will be, rather ominously, ‘significant’….

Maximising Social SEO

Social Media SEO

Social Media SEO

The link between social media and search engine optimisation has been growing for a number of years now.  For search engines, the millions of social media users help to validate the best content by engaging with it, so using this as a factor in search engine results makes a lot of sense.

It’s for this reason that you should spend some time making sure that your social profiles and content are optimised for search engines.  Here are some handy pointers for the major B2C social networks to make your profile work for people and algorithms:

Twitter

  • Background image – Opportunity to express your creative side, it appears behind your new feed.  Good chance to showcase your product or service
  • Profile image – This will appear next to your tweets, so it requires some thought.  It also appears very small on-screen, so a simple image or message is enough
  • Header image – This image appears on your ‘Me’ page and displays your bio behind it, so it should be as dark an image as possible (the text overlay is white)
  • Bio – Your bio can be used for search in Twitter and on Twitter related applications, so don’t be too salesy and use the limited space to say what is unique about your brand.  Use your full URL: bit.ly or other short URLs shouldn’t be used here

Facebook

  • Cover photo – This is a chance to reflect what is going on with your business right now.  It should be eye-catching and can be a collage of images, photos of your team, the change of seasons, etc.
  • Profile – This is normally a logo as it will appear alongside your posts
  • About section completed – An opportunity to use keywords in descriptions where you can.  There are long and short descriptions on Facebook, so make sure you use the words that your customers would use when searching for you and your competition
  • Photos into albums – On public pages (all business pages are public), these are searchable, so name, tag and organise your images correctly

YouTube

  • Profile Info – In your profile information, use the keywords which you want to be associated with
  • Social channels – You can display links to your other social networks on your profile page, so make sure you add them all on
  • Video tags – So many excellent videos don’t have the right tags – this will make your video searchable in YouTube and on its bigger cousin Google
  • Playlists to increase engagement – Even though this won’t necessarily help from an SEO perspective, organising your videos into playlists is likely to increase user engagement on your channel

Pinterest

  • Complete your profile – The keywords that your customers use should be included here.  It forms part of the search function in Pinterest, so important to mention the industry you operate within
  • Name images – You should always change the name of your images instead of using the default name (e.g. IMG_1234) – it helps with search
  • Use Captions – Instead of just posting the image, add a caption that is another searchable piece of text associated with the image
  • Back-links – While their SEO value is debatable, adding a link to your Pinterest pins will ensure that people who see the image have the opportunity to visit your website

Instagram

  • Brand Profile – As with other social networks, make this section snappy, explaining what your brand is all about and include those all important keywords
  • Embed Instagram photos and videos – You can use the smart and very recognisable design of Instagram and put it onto your website: as with all embedding, it’s very easy to do
  • Link other social media accounts – Give people who are engaged with you on Instagram to engage with you elsewhere on social media
  • Use hashtags – They are an easy way to engage with new audiences by taking the conversation to them
Image via thenextweb.com

Why You Need a Digital Marketing Audit

Digital Marketing Audit

Digital Marketing AuditSo, 2015 is under-way and you are looking at your plan for the year and working out where to start.  I think that regardless of what your 2015 plan looks like, one of the first tasks of the New Year is to conduct a digital marketing audit.

The reason I think an audit is important is because it is very difficult to find time to devote to reviewing what you already have in place – in digital marketing, there are new tools and techniques available all the time and the focus is often on what will be happening next.

But by spending some time looking at what you have done, you will learn more about how to maximise the opportunities of tomorrow.  So, what should be included in your audit, and what questions should you be asking?

Social Media:
Why?  This is the channel where you can interact with your customer base, and offer a persona for your business – it’s often seen as a customer service line too!

  • Is my profile optimised – i.e. including my URL, keywords, etc.
  • Are editor permissions correct – has anyone left the company who should be removed?
  • What were the best performing posts of the year – what made these posts unique: timing, content, format, etc.

Content:
Why?  This is what is persuading your potential customers to become customers

  • Typos and mistakes – with most CMSs not having a decent spell-check, there is not a quick way of doing this!
  • Changes in policy / promotion – while these are often time-sensitive, they are not always removed from view, so check for these
  • Correct images – as a picture paints a thousand words, make sure that the images that you are displaying are up-to-date

Email:
Why?  It is still one of the easiest and most effective communication tools around

  • How has your database performed – is your delivery rate still at an acceptable level?
  • New features from your email provider – most email providers offer new services all the time, so make sure you are exploiting these
  • Are your delivered / open / click rates improving – if not, address this

Pay Per Click:
Why?  When used effectively, PPC is a great way to get onto a search engine’s front page – if not used well, you can spend a lot of money in a short amount of time with very little return.

  • Are you using all of the enhanced features which Google offers – including PPC on mobile
  • Is the way that people are searching your product changing – do you need to review your current keywords?
  • Are there any new affiliate or display opportunities that you should be testing?

Search Engine Optimisation:
Why?  Search engines account for hundreds of millions of searches per day – it differs by industry but it’s likely that SEO will play an important role in your digital plan

  • Are you aware of the latest algorithm updates, and what is your plan for keeping up to date with them throughout the year?
  • Have you written your content plan for the year, with a balance of informative, entertaining and promotional content?
  • Consider new ways of displaying your content, e.g. podcasts?

Competitor Analysis:
Why?  The vast majority of companies operate in a competitive environment, so why wouldn’t you take a look to see what your competition are up to for some ideas.

  • Across all digital channels, which tools are they using and how are they using them?
  • Take a look through your competitor’s website and see how they are using conversion rate optimisation techniques to drive their effectiveness – are any of these relevant to your website?
  • What are they doing differently to you – be honest, is it better than your current offering?

Good luck in 2015, and I hope that you find this check-list useful!

Is Guest Blogging Dead?

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Earlier this week, Matt Cutts, Google’s Head of Web Spam announced that ‘guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy’. Here I will try to answer some of people’s immediate concerns.

Has this come as a surprise? Well, no – it is a system which is open to abuse and in some cases simply wasn’t working – lots of requests from people to post their article on your website was spamming in itself.  In addition, Google has been discussing guest blogging for some time, so to the SEO community at least, thus was not a shock.

Is guest blogging actually dead? No, not really. Guest blogging when done well is a great way of increasing your reach and building an online community, and Google is all for that. However, when it has been used for purely SEO purposes, that’s when Google got upset. And rightly so: irrelevant off-topic guest posts are purely there for links and it doesn’t so any of the positive things guest blogging can do.

So what’s changed? The focus for Google is always to deliver the most
relevant search results for their audience – it’s an audience focused approach. So if you want to keep Google happy, your approach should be the same. If you write guest blogs or host guest blogs and genuinely feel that their content is adding value to your audience, then you should carry on.

What do I do now? If you have been using guest blogging for SEO
purposes then you should stop right now. Google have given you a fair warning, and I think the penalties will start to hit offenders by the middle of February. But if you are doing the right thing, then you should carry on. You should remember that the whole point of SEO is to drive traffic – so your focus should be on that and not building up as many links as possible – that approach is the cart leading the horse.

What do you think about these changes? Is this going to change your approach to SEO? Leave a comment and let me know.