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.

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.

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.