MAKE YOUR SEO SIZZLE IN 2018

Staying on top of Google algorithm changes can seem a laborious task, even for the most seasoned of marketing professionals. So let me summarise for you what has happened in 2017 and what the SEO future has in store for content marketers.

Make your content mobile friendly

2017 started with Google introducing a mobile intrusive interstitials penalty. Showing a pop-up on mobile covering the main content of the main page will hit your rankings. If you do not fall foul of this rule, though, pop-ups on a landing page can be a smart part of your inbound strategy. After all, inbound marketers love to generate leads for their sales teams!

Google rolled out its Mobilegeddon algorithm update in the spring of 2015. Since then it has been using mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. So in 2018 more than ever, you should put in place a responsive website which renders well on mobile devices.

Serve growing demand for voice-based search queries

At least one out of five queries on Google’s mobile app and on Android devices are voice searches now. Queries are becoming more and more conversational and longer tail. This means that you should focus less on a handful of lead keywords and more on relevant topics. Then invest in creating high-quality content on these topics in a conversational style. This will also take care of any relevant longer tail searches.

Offer a secure browsing experience

October 2017 saw the launch of version 62 of Google’s browser Chrome. This marks HTTP sites with password or credit card fields as “not secure” in the address bar. As a result, companies with an HTTPS site carry a significant SEO advantage over those with HTTP sites.

Get the basics right

In this fast-moving world, you will still get the best results investing in “classical” SEO. Here is a roundup of the most important ones:

  1. Focus on quality rather than quantity of inbound links. Invest in high-quality content which will make people want to link to it. Bad inbound links should also be high on your SEO to-do list. You should at least disavow them and get them removed completely, if possible.
  2. Meta descriptions have no bearing on search ranking but do affect click-through rates. Make sure you make them descriptive and inviting to the user.
  3. The H1 is no longer as important as it used to be for SEO. Search engine algorithms recognise these days the primary purpose of an H1 tag, that being to reference font styling and size. It is far more important to place your most important concepts and message at the top of your content.
  4. Images represent a huge SEO opportunity. Give them an alt text and relevant file name to ensure Google know what the image is about.

All of these factors combined will give your SEO scorecard a massive boost and should set you up for success in 2018.

TWITTER’S 280 CHARACTERS, WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR BRANDS?

You may have noticed recently, social media network Twitter has allowed all users to write up to 280 characters in a tweet, doubling the original 140 character limit. This was an intriguing move from Twitter, given that it has built its brand on users sharing content in this bitesize form.

Users’ reaction to this move has been mixed, with a lot of people mentioning the fact the most requested feature – to be able to edit tweets – has been ignored and has instead been replaced with a feature no one has asked for. You can see in this article that people were quick to utilise the 280 characters to express their desire for an ‘edit’ button.

“All we wanted was an edit button”

Upon announcing the expanded limit, Twitter rolled out the update to a select few users for a trial period, before rolling it out to the masses. Their findings helped them justify the update and it is now here to stay. Here is what Twitter had to say when it was eventually rolled out to everyone last week:

Tweeting made easier.

The justification for the update are all fair – we have all at some point had to try and make some grammatical sin when we’ve hit the character limit. Also, when you are curating content, trying to stick to the 116 character limit is always a challenge. Twitter released their findings here:

Giving you more characters to express yourself

Now you are probably wondering, as a B2B marketer, how you can best utilise the 280 characters to take your Twitter game to the next level. There are a few things you can do, but you also have to be wary of how it could damage your brand, if not done right.

It is probably not the best idea to try to reach the 280 character limit in every single tweet. Not only does this create more work for yourself, but this could actually be quite damaging to your brand. With Twitter content being produced in a greater volume and regularity, there is so much content being shared on people’s feeds. Twitter recently shifted to an algorithmic feed, rather than a chronological one (unless you use Tweetdeck) meaning that users will only see content from people they are regularly interacting with. If your tweets are constantly hitting the 280 limit, users may not pay attention to the whole tweet and potentially skip past it. This will happen more regularly as more users start to use the expanded tweet limit.

Choose your use of the limit carefully. For many of the reasons above, you should try to avoid bombarding your followers with 280 character tweets, but it can also be very useful if used sparingly and with good intent. If you want to see some good and bad ways that brands have used the limit so far, this list will give you all the examples you need:

Other than being careful with your use of the new limit, I think it is a fantastic way for brands to expand the way they communicate their messages to their followers. Ensure your content is still focused and relevant, but at least now you will have more flexibility with the content you post.

If you would like to have a chat with us about how your brand can best utilise social channels, and the new 280 Twitter limit, get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.

LEAD YOUR PAID MEDIA PLANNING WITH COST PER LEAD

Here’s the story of the ultimate chicken and egg in the world of paid media lead generation: how do you forecast your cost per lead (CPL) when you don’t have any historical account data as a benchmark?

Let’s establish why it’s important to set firm CPL targets in the first place, even where no prior data exists. First, a concrete plan to achieve expected revenue or profit goals will focus everyone’s mind and provide a tangible target to work towards. Including a CPL target is an integral part of this plan – after all, if you don’t have this defined there is very little basis determining the level of budget you should be using to achieve your business targets.

Planning any paid media campaign without a CPL target is like driving blind (and without any sat nav to guide you).

There are numerous blog posts and other sources on the internet which will at least give you a rough idea of a typical CPL benchmark for your vertical, or tap into your LinkedIn network or peer groups to get hold of this information.

A second important aspect to note here is that CPL varies considerably by channel for instance, across AdWords, Bing Ads, LinkedIn or Twitter advertising, so don’t assume one size CPL fits all. Thirdly, consider the type of brief your paid media campaign is working to – prospecting will require a much bigger investment per lead than remarketing. And fourth and finally, do make sure your conversion tracking is set up correctly before your campaign launches.

Once you have worked out this detail it is critical to devise a good strategy for how you are actually going to achieve your CPL target – for example by continuously adjusting your bids based on campaign performance, so that you are not paying top dollar for traffic which doesn’t deliver on efficient conversion.

Fast forward a week or two: you’ve written your battle plan including a CPL target; you have launched your campaign – now you can use the data that is streaming in to resolve initial challenges, helping you to troubleshoot and fix them early on in the campaign cycle. For example, is your CPL a lot higher than you had anticipated? Is this driven by a particularly costly but under-performing keyword? Are you using engaging and relevant ad copy? Are you making it as easy as possible for your potential customers to turn into a lead?

Based on the performance data the forecasting should be adjusted on a quarterly or ideally monthly basis. There will be external factors such as advertiser competition which will affect your cost per click (CPC) and ultimately your CPL, so it is, therefore, important to tweak your targets and be as relevant and realistic with it.

It’s a simple story, in the end, to plan based on CPL. But don’t just make yours a work of fiction – bear in mind that an ambitious CPL target can spur you on, but an unrealistic is more often counterproductive for you and the business in the end.

INBOUND 17: COURAGEOUS CREATIVITY IS CONTAGIOUS.

It’s day one of Inbound 2017, the marketing and sales event designed to inspire, educate, connect and transform businesses today. Held in Boston, it’s visited by over 20,000 professionals from all corners of the world, from all industries, and this year I am lucky enough to be attending.

Today has been a whirlwind of information and inspiration. I’ve seen and heard a ton of great tips and tricks from the industries leading professionals, but some particularly stood out. Here’s my roundup of the best bits:

‘Play creates trust’ – Piera Gelardi, Refinery29.

The opening keynote was from the inspirational co-founder of Refinery29, Piera Gelardi. She’s a woman who fights the status quo. Who champions creativity and empowerment. Who doesn’t ‘fight the systems that exist, but creates new ones’.

And she believes that creativity, the lifeblood of our profession, stems from courage – the courage to know our strengths and weaknesses and never stop growing.

There were some key themes running throughout her keynote. Firstly, the power of knowing who you are and staying true to your values. Secondly, the importance of knowing what works for you, and how laughter brings out brilliance. And thirdly, why we should embrace the uncomfortable and combat frustration with imagination. Reframing problems to unlock solutions.

She also came out with my quote of the day: ‘courageous creativity is contagious’.

‘Emotive stories drive action’ – Lisa Gerber, Big Leap Creative

‘Aren’t we all trying to figure out how to get people who have never heard of us to go through the buyer journey?’

Story, when done effectively, does exactly this. As a content marketer, you can probably understand why this was my favourite session of the day. Having worked with numerous clients to produce a vast range of content, I truly believe that effective storytelling is one of the most powerful allies a business can have in the marketing journey. Unfortunately, I think too few appreciate its real value.

Too many focus on churning out blog posts and making sure an email campaign goes live, but not enough on the people behind it. As Lisa Gerber puts it, a story should be the ‘connective tissue’.

‘Start with facts and figures, but end with an emotive connection. Put yourself in the mind of the buyer and match the story to the buyer journey.’

As a content conjurer, this point stood out. ‘Stories carry more information than facts and data’. While facts and data are important and needed to back things up, a story that influences action mixes them with emotion. Unfortunately, and regularly in the B2B industry, businesses so frequently leave out the human connection piece.

‘Starting is easier than ever. Scaling is harder than ever’ – Brian Halligan, HubSpot

Finishing off my roundup is the keynote from HubSpot founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah – two guys who coined the term ‘Inbound Marketing’. Brian quickly highlighted a key point: When it comes to (buzzword alert!) customer experience, ‘delighted customers not only pay you, but market for you’. Food for thought. ‘Your customers are a better marketing tool than anything else you own’. Pretty punchy, right?

He went on to look at customer experience industry disrupters: Uber, Apple and Netflix. They have three things in common:

1) They are more about how they sell than what they sell.
2) A light touch and automation beats a heavy touch and humans.
3) Word of mouth is 10x more valuable than the word of a seller.

Given the importance of customer experience on growth, I think many businesses can learn from these points.

‘Whenever a billion people do anything, it’s time to pay attention’ – Dharmesh Shah, HubSpot

Dharmesh then began to discuss the stages of HubSpot’s marketing funnel: attract, engage, delight. He believes these must be thought of as a continuous cycle, rather than linear stages. And, at the very heart of that cycle is a marketing automation platform.

Additionally, he examined content creation. Many businesses have become obsessed with content creation, but forget to add value. Given the abundance of corporate content filling the internet, I totally agree. His tip? Double down on content and focus on quality rather than quantity.

Lastly, he wants businesses to engage with customers ‘however they want, whenever they want, with whatever they want’. If they tweet you, tweet back. If they Facebook you, Facebook back. If they email you, email back. It is the age of omnichannel customer experience, after all.

Talking of Facebook, these statistics are staggering: There are now 1.2 billion Facebook Messenger users (300 million more than last year). And, astonishingly, 1 billion messages a month are sent to businesses. Dharmesh believes its essential for businesses to have a presence on messenger applications. It’s hard to argue against the stats…

To finish, I’ve pulled out a few quotes that resonated from the numerous sessions today:

‘A tale well told is nature’s way of seducing us into paying attention to it’ – Lisa Cron, Wired for Story.

‘Almost 70% of customers are influenced by reviews, and they are 12x more trusted than branded content’ – Lisa Gerber, Big Leap Creative.

‘There are two types of campaign objectives – direct response and branding. The goal of direct response is to drive action. The goal of branding is to drive awareness’ – Rex Gelb, HubSpot.

Day two beckons and it begins with the keynote – former First Lady, Michelle Obama. Excited much? Yes, I am.

See our video recap here

 

 

IS BING DIGITAL ADVERTISING GAINING GROUND ON GOOGLE?

The digital advertising space has become very competitive over the last few years. As more and more advertisers weigh in and Cost per Click’s (CPCs) are rising, marketers are looking for viable alternatives to the behemoth that is Google.

Bing Ads has emerged as an attractive contender for many who are looking for a high return on ad spend and comparatively low CPCs.

Here is a quick recap of how Bing Ads evolved(1): Microsoft was the last of the “big three” search engines (the two others being Google and Yahoo!) to develop its system for delivering PPC ads. Until the beginning of 2006, all of the ads displayed on Microsoft’s MSN Search engine were supplied by Overture (and later Yahoo!).

As search marketing grew, Microsoft began developing its system, MSN adCenter, for selling PPC advertisements directly to advertisers. As the system was phased in, MSN Search (now Bing) showed Yahoo! and adCenter advertising in its search results. In June 2006, the contract between Yahoo! and Microsoft expired and Microsoft was displaying only ads from adCenter until 2010.

In January 2010, Microsoft announced a deal in which it would take over the functional operation of Yahoo! Search, and set up a joint venture to sell advertising on both Yahoo! Search and Bing, known as the Microsoft Search Alliance. A complete transition of all Yahoo! sponsored ad clients to Microsoft adCenter occurred in October 2010.

On 10 September 2012, adCenter was renamed Bing Ads, and the Search Alliance renamed the Yahoo! Bing Network.

In April 2015, the Yahoo! partnership was modified; Yahoo! Search now only has to feature Bing results on the “majority” of desktop traffic. Additionally, Microsoft took over as the exclusive seller of ads delivered through Bing; Yahoo! now sells its ads through its in-house Gemini platform.

In September 2016 Comscore reported that Bing had surpassed 20 per cent market share in the UK, outpacing Google for growth, making it a force to be reckoned with for UK digital marketers (2).

Setting up campaigns on Bing used to be cumbersome and laborious, but that is a thing of the past now with the capability to easily and quickly import campaigns from Google AdWords. A word of warning though: not all campaign types offered on AdWords are also supported on Bing Ads, for example, Dynamic Search Ads or Smart Display campaigns. Remarketing lists can also not simply be shared between the two platforms. I have also found that daily budgets are not always imported correctly. Apart from these caveats, this functionality is a great time-saver.

When it comes to editing the campaigns once they have been imported, the latest version of Bing Ad Editor is also fast and intuitive to use. So even for the most task-rich, time-poor digital marketer, there are quick wins here, and a few hours spent copying your most profitable campaigns over to Bing could be a very shrewd investment.

 

Sources

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bing_Ads#cite_note-tc-changes-14, accessed on 5 September 2017
(2) http://www.netimperative.com/2016/09/bing-gains-google-20-uk-market-share/, accessed on 5 September 2017

KICKING OFF A NEW CAMPAIGN? 11 STEPS FOR A PERFECT FORMATION

As the new football season approaches, and our favourite teams embark on another campaign of ups and down, the same old questions all fans have remain the same. Who’s in, and who’s out before the transfer window closes? Will Mr. Wenger finally silence his critics? And who’ll be the first managerial casualty?!

Whatever happens from now until the start of the season, one thing’s for sure; from the coaching staff to the players on the pitch, the setup and strategy will be paramount to their success. The same can be said for businesses of all shapes and sizes that are embarking on a new marketing campaign. The preparation and planning required to succeed can boil down to a range of factors, all of which need careful attention long before the first ball is kicked.

As a demand generation agency, we often work closely with our clients on not only the execution but the planning and implementation in the build-up to the big event. There’s a lot to consider, and not all of it will be areas every team is comfortable in tackling. Luckily, that’s where we come in, and below is our ‘one-to-eleven’ that covers some of the main areas you’ll need to consider. And, as with all good footy teams, we’ll start from the back with possibly the most important aspect of all. Strategy.

  1. Strategy

Get your strategy right and the rest will follow. It’s important to gain a deep understanding of your buyers and unravel what truly matters to them, to define buyer personas, mix in your objectives and then plan and translate your goals into long-life marketing programmes. Why? To help you build momentum over time and ensure you get from where you are to where you want to be, taking prospects and buyers along every step of the way.

  1. Content

Content marketing demands a value exchange – you have to offer your audience something helpful in order to earn a click. And it’s not about what’s important to you; it’s about what’s important to your buyers. Content can help you connect with buyer needs, present answers to their questions and help them find solutions. If your content is half-baked, we can help you turn up the heat.

  1. Design

Good design serves a greater purpose than to just look pretty. It inspires thought and action, emotionally engaging audiences to drive an action. That’s why we take it seriously. It’s important to honour the principles of design in order to develop creative concepts that catch the eye, complement content and visually communicate your messages and values.

  1. Inbound

Ensuring the right potential buyers actually see your content is as important as developing compelling content in the first place. We build targeted paid and organic acquisition programmes for search and social marketing to connect you with buyers that choose to ‘opt-in’. SEO then ensures your digital infrastructure is at the top of its game and implements ongoing strategy to build authority and compete for the traffic you want.

  1. Outbound

‘Batch and blast’ tactics have long since expired and relying on email alone is a fast way to go nowhere with buyers. There’s a place for outbound, but careful segmentation and strategy for developing nurture and trigger emails is vital. Scintillating email subject lines and crisp copy are still important, but timing and targeting are also crucial. And it doesn’t have to be just email. An outbound call to qualify a prospect in or out is a powerful way to accelerate progress and improve conversion.

  1. Lead Generation

Delivering a constant stream of high-quality marketing leads (MQLs) can be a challenge for marketing teams, but it isn’t impossible. We know the hard sell doesn’t work, and you have to allow buyers to self-select into your sales funnel. You can use content for inbound acquisition to capture the imagination and interest, then engage and nurture prospects through the stages of the buyer journey with planned content, all the while qualifying their readiness to buy.

  1. Web & Digital

Content marketing goes hand in hand with digital. A ‘fit-for-purpose’ website is essential to engaging buyers beyond a landing page, delivering the information they seek and inviting them through a content journey. Analytics provide the critical visibility to track buyer behaviour and to benchmark and monitor ongoing marketing performance. It’s important to also connect and select the right tools and technologies to see what’s happening with your marketing and to make informed decisions.

  1. Social

If you’re still not sure social has a place in B2B, stop reading now. We think it’s transformative. Consider social as the new alternative to email, helping you raise awareness, extend your reach and acquire the right audiences, including C-level, and to build segmented paid and organic outbound campaigns that deliver your message through opt-in channels.

  1. Events

Seen by some as an old-school form of marketing, events are still an effective way of engaging with your customers, both past, present and future. Plus, events these days come in a number of guises. Webinars and live streams are becoming ever more popular and if a more traditional face-to-face event doesn’t fit with your strategy then perhaps a more digital approach would work better? They can also align with other channels such as social and email, providing great content in unison.

  1. Email

Still an important marketing tool, and alongside social and paid-for it can provide invaluable support as part of an ongoing campaign. It is still to this day a low-cost marketing tool, helping you to communicate with fans of your brand that have at some stage taken the conscious decision to receive communications from you. They’re easy to create, share and analyse and can run simultaneously with other channels such as social media that will feed off of your content plan.

  1. Marketing Automation

Last but not least is marketing automation. With all of the above to think about, putting it all together can often be the final hurdle for many marketing departments. Marketing automation is here to help with that and consists of software that helps automate such tasks as email, social media, and sales in a more joined-up and cohesive way. Ultimately, marketing automation allows companies to nurture prospects and convert them into customers so as to generate new revenue and a far better return on the investment.

 

So, there you have it. It’s by no means an extensive list, and your formation could be a defensive 5-4-1 or a more attacking 3-3-4, but either way be sure to start from the back and get your strategy right. The rest should then fall nicely into place.

If you’d like to chat about planning for your next big campaign, please feel free to get in touch at hello@hitfirstbase.com or call us directly on 0203 542 6644.

 

3 IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS FOR YOUR FIRST PPC CAMPAIGN

While Paid Per Click (PPC) might be sounding more fantastic by the minute — not so fast! If you think you’re ready to dive into the world of PPC, here are a few considerations to explore before you start:

1 – You need to know your product
To sell a product successfully you should know it well. Your landing page needs to reflect that knowledge. Your goal is to build trust with potential customers. If you don’t know your product well then how can you sell that product to others?

2 – Harvest local keywords
Keyword research should reflect the local culture of your target market. It is important to understand which words have the most positive association and are the most “clickable” in the given context and location. The best way is to capture actual search queries and turn those into effective keywords.

3 – Focus on the right metrics.
Lack of tracking or focusing on the wrong metrics can be detrimental to any campaign. Regardless of industry and business type, tracking, analysis and testing should always form a big part of the equation. Without these components, a PPC campaign can easily fail.

So, are you beginning to see how PPC is a viable marketing channel for your brand? Even if you’ve never done it before, throw caution to the wind and test it out in 2017.

If you are thinking about implementing a PPC campaign and aren’t sure of the best way to do so, drop us a line at hello@hitfirstbase.com and we’ll be happy to have a chat with you.

INCORPORATING VLOGGING INTO YOUR CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGY

Want to start a video content marketing strategy but not sure where to start? Start a vlog.

Video is one of the most engaging forms of content. Four times as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it[1], and companies are increasingly integrating it into their content strategy. However you may be stuck on what video content to create, and if this is the case then you may want to consider vlogging.

What is a vlog?

A vlog (video blog) is a blog that contains video content.

So a vlog can really be anything you want it to be, but the overall premise is to make a story out of things that are going on at your business. This means it is a process of documenting rather than having to plan out and create a story.

How do I create one?

Creating a vlog is quite an easy process; you could have a member of your team walk around the office with a camera or smartphone to give your customers an insight into how you work and what you do. This gives your clients a personal and relatable connection with you and your company. This new connection will allow you to reach new prospects or spark interest in customers that may have otherwise become disengaged.

Engagement

A vlog is a very easy way of driving engagement as you can make your marketing more personable, and if it is something you haven’t done before, people will ask you questions. This is fantastic for your clients, who can see into your business more and understand more about your product or service. Consumers of today like to see transparency and human faces in brands, and having a vlog is an incredibly effective way to do this.

Other types of videos you could make

Client testimonials

Instead of writing a testimonial, try getting your clients to speak on camera about their experience. This will be far more engaging and give your audience a much better idea of how you work and the experience your client has had with you.

Q&A’s

Question and Answer videos are one of the best tools for engagement, as your clients will get to enquire about all sorts of industry specific topics and will receive a more personalised answer with the response.

Meet the Team

To build trust and empathy with your brand, adding faces and people to associate with it can be done with this type of video. Capture a different member of your team on video each week, introduce them and let them talk about the job that they do.

Day in the life of “x”

This can be shot in a similar way to a ‘Meet the Team’ style video, but you could always mix it up to add more variety and have more content. Follow a member of your staff round for a day to see what they get up to and how they work. People from all industries like seeing how other people work, and you can often get a few tips and tricks along the way.

Top Tips/Blog Style

One of the easiest types of videos involve converting your regular written blog posts into video form. Sit down with a camera in front of one of a team member and get them to speak about the topic in question. Top 5 lists and advice videos are great to make and will provide extra value to clients or prospects.

So with some ideas here on what you can create, why not get started?

If you think that you might want to use video in your content marketing but want a helping hand, drop us a line at hello@hitfirstbase.com and we can talk you through it.

 

[1] https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics?_ga=2.174862114.1603844825.1497441754-1545221559.1497267691